Tag: Alaska Airlines

Airline Industry to be Re-Regulated?

deregulationThe USA Today reports that while United Airlines and Continental appear to be clear for merger take-off, some politicians who oppose the merger have threatened they might try to re-regulate the industry.

Chairman of the Houst Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, James Oberstar (D-Minn.), and Jerry Costello (D-Ill.) are considering “legislation (that) would impose federal regulation of airline pricing and re-establish a government gatekeeper role similar to that played by the old Civil Aeronautics Board prior to deregulation in 1978.”

Deregulation has been credited with making airline travel affordable for the average American.  But Oberstar pointed to the $2.7 billion the airlines earned in baggage fees in 2009 as evidence that consumers are no longer benefiting from the system.  He said he believes there’s support in the House for re-regulation.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • San Francisco International Airport today said it would roll out free Wi-Fi.  Its terminals will switch from T-Mobile’s paid service to free access on September 1.
  • Credit cards for Delta and Continental Airlines now offer cardholders one free checked bag for up to nine people when reservations are charged to these cards.
  • By the end of the year, 18 more airports will deploy Advanced Imaging Technology as part of their airport security tool-set.  The machines – which are already in place in 32 other airports – use either electromagnetic waves or X-rays to render a nude image of the body.  Fear not weary traveler, the images are blurred to eliminate facial features.

AA Flight Attendants Vote to Strike

AA Strike

American Airlines flight attendants authorized their union leaders today to call a strike against the second-largest U.S. carrier if they are freed from further negotiations.  According to the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, about 97 percent of those voting cast ballots to support a walkout.

The vote is a signal to American’s management that the attendants will push toward a strike unless contract issues including compensation and retiree benefits are resolved.  A walkout can’t occur until the union and American complete several additional steps required under a federal law governing airline labor talks.

Contract discussions resumed yesterday, about a month after the National Mediation Board ordered the two sides back to the bargaining table.  Flight attendants had asked the board to find talks at an impasse and trigger a 30-day cooling off period that must come before a strike.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Alaska Airlines is offering passengers free wireless Internet through July 31 as the airline launches Wi-Fi service today on six Boeing 737-800s.  Through an airline agreement with Visa, passengers can sign up to use the service free by entering the promotional code ALASKAVISA on the login screen. See www.alaskaair.comfor details.  After July 31, cost on flights within the continental United States will be $4.95 per flight for flights up to 1.5 hours; $9.95 for laptops and $7.95 for mobile devices for flights of 1.5-3 hours; and $12.95 for laptops and $7.95 for mobile access for flights longer than three hours.
  • Spirit Airlines is warning employees that the airline might have to “shut down operations permanently” if its pilots union goes on strike, as it is threatening to do as early as June 12, adding more tension to what could become a high-stakes showdown.  Spirit considers ultra-low fares to be its brand, using ancillary revenue and industry-leading low unit costs to help fuel its profits.  But the leader of the Spirit union says pilots want a new contract that brings them closer to parity with pay at carriers such as JetBlue and AirTran, which is 20% to 30% higher.
  • Frontier Airlines said it is ending its frequent-flyer partnership with AirTran Airways as of July 16.  The partnership, launched in November 2006, allowed passengers on one of the two airlines to use their miles to fly on the other.  No specific reason for ending the partnership was given.  However, Denver-hubbed Frontier is in the process of merging with Milwaukee-based Midwest Airlines, which has a history of fierce competition with Orlando, Fla.-based AirTran.

3 Horses

According to recently released data from the U.S. DOT,  Southwest Airlines, American Airlines and Delta Air Lines carried the most passengers in 2009.  Southwest carried 101 million passengers, followed by American with 85 million and Delta with 67 million.

According to the 2009 year-end data, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport held onto its coveted title of world’s busiest airport.  Chicago’s O’Hare came in second and Los Angeles ranked third in the list of top 10 largest airports.

Also worth noting is the fact that U.S. airlines carried 5.2 percent fewer domestic passengers (618.1 million) in 2009 and 6.3 percent fewer international passengers (85.8 million) than in 2008.

If you’re a travel geek and want to see the complete air travel statistics for 2009, click here.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • US Airways passengers who check in online will now find more than a seat assignment and group number on their boarding passes.  Just in time for the spring-break travel rush, the airline has started including advertisements, weather and other tourist information on the boarding documents.  This leaves United as the last major carrier to hold out from printing the adds on customers’ boarding passes.  Anyone want to fathom a guess as to when United will fall in line?  The person closest to the actual date will get a $10 Starbucks gift card, courtesy of Yapta.
  • If you live in Seattle, this news if for you:  Alaska Airlines announced that it will allow passengers to earn and use its Mileage Plan miles on Seattle’s Kenmore Air and book Kenmore tickets through Alaska.  Mileage Plan members will earn 250 miles for each Kenmore Air flight starting April 15, with Double Miles for Kenmore flights between April 15 and May 31. Members can redeem miles for award travel starting in June, with one roundtrip award ticket on Kenmore Air between Seattle and any Washington destination or Victoria, B.C., for 10,000 miles, or between Seattle and any other Kenmore destination in British Columbia for 15,000 miles.
  • According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the airline industry globally is expected to bounce back to its pre-recession traffic levels in two or three months.   I’m hoping this news means that airlines will pull some planes out of the desert and increase capacity.

WestJet

WestJet Airlines, Canada’s second-largest airline, has finally launched its long-awaited loyalty program.  Passengers can now earn WestJet “dollars” if they sign up for its credit card program with Royal Bank of Canada and MasterCard, or through the airline’s Frequent Guest program.

According to WestJet, the dollars can be used as cash to pay for a flight on any date to any destination.  There are no points, redemption grids, advance bookings, blackouts or seat restrictions.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • U.S. air passenger travel will increase by 0.5 percent this year and then at an average of 2.5 percent per year through 2030, the Federal Aviation Administration predicted in a forecast released today.  The FAA also predicts that total airport operations would decrease 2.7 percent, to 51.5 million, this year and then grow at an average annual rate of 1.5 percent, reaching 69.6 million in 2030.  It said the number of passengers on U.S. airlines domestically and internationally would rise from 704 million in 2009 to 1.21 billion by 2030.
  • AirTran Airways announced a sale today with fares as low as $44 one way, plus taxes and fees, for travel from March 19th through Nov. 16th.  The sale doesn’t include travel on Fridays and Sundays, and there are 28 blackout dates.
  • Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air today announced the launch of three mobile applications designed for iPhone, BlackBerry and Windows Mobile users. The free applications are available for download at http://www.alaskaair.com/mobile.  The applications provide customers flight status information, flight schedules, flight alerts and a link to Web check-in. Customers can also log in to “My Trips” to view their itineraries, change seats, check their upgrade status, and add an Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan number to a reservation. The applications also give customers access to download electronic boarding passes.

The Last Airfare Sales of 2009

airfare saleHere’s a quick look at some of the last airfare sales of 2009:

  • Virgin America is conducting one more sale before the end of the year. One-way fares start as low as $39 from Los Angeles to San Francisco or $59 to Seattle.  Act quickly; it’s a 48-hour sale.  You can grab seats through Feb. 28 with only one-day advance purchase.
  • Southwest Airlines also kicked-off a winter airfare sale with flights as low as $59 each way to / from cities across the U.S.  Purchase your airline ticket by 11:59 pm PT Jan. 4, 2010 for travel from Jan. 12 to March 9, 2010.  These airfare deals are good for travel on all days of the week.
  • Continental Airlines has made fares as low as $178 round-trip to destinations within the United States.  Round-trip fares to European destinations are starting at $486 round-trip, and fares to Latin America are starting at $227.
  • American Airlines has launched “The Great American New Year Sale” offering deep discounts on flights from London Heathrow and Manchester to a number of major U.S. cities such as New York, Boston, Chicago, Miami, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Orlando and Las Vegas.  Bookings must be made by 26 January 2010 in order to take advantage of the sale prices.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air, which fly about half of all passengers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, said they will waive baggage fees for items checked as baggage that the passenger otherwise would have taken aboard as carry-on baggage from Mexico or Canada.  The only items allowed on board will be “small purses, cameras, coats, items needed for infants, laptop computers, diplomatic or consular bags, crutches, canes, walkers, containers carrying life sustaining items, medication or medical devices, musical instruments, or a special needs item.  Passengers with non-exempt carry-on items will be denied access through the checkpoint.”
  • With the new air travel restrictions – including no bathroom visits or lap items during the last hour of flight – flying with children just became a whole lot more difficult.  The New York Times blog, Motherlode, asked: “So, what is a parent to do? …Any thoughts on how to keep youngsters calm and entertained whitough your usual tools?”  Readers didn’t seem to have many suggestions – but they had a lot of strong opinions.

BA plane

British Airways is bracing for a 12-day strike by union employees that will likely ruin Christmas travel plans for over 1 million passengers with the cancellation of 7,000 flights.  The walkout is planned to last from December 22nd thru January 2nd, making it the longest  strike in UK airline history.

Because of certain code sharing arrangements, some Qantas flights were also thought to be impacted, though Qantas officials say that will not be the case and only British Airlines passengers would be affected.

Meanwhile, Virgin Atlantic, EasyJet and Ryanair are all now making plans to capitalize on British Airways’ woes.  Virgin will add 1,600 seats by deploying larger planes for service to New York, Washington and Boston.  EasyJet and Ryanair are working to schedule extra flights.  Regardless of what airline British Airways customers choose as their alternate carrier, they will likely be charged a premium.  BusinessWeek reports that as of Dec. 14th, “the lowest economy return fare on the world’s premier intercontinental air route, Heathrow to New York JFK, on the first day of the strike, rose to £3,300. Other flights had more than doubled in price.”

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner left the runway for the first time in Everett, Wa. – exactly 6 years after the Boeing board gave the go-ahead to offer the jet for sale.  There was a series of big delays that had pushed this first flight out 28 months, so seeing this plane get off the ground has generated a lot of excitement – especially here in the state of Washington.  The 787, which utilizes lightweight composite materials, is popular with airline customers (such as Japan’s All Nippon Airways) because it enables them to save about 20% on fuel compared to current aircraft.
  • JetBlue announced today that it will restore daily nonstop flights between San Jose and Boston beginning May 13.  Connecting two of the nation’s high-tech capitals, the San Jose-to-Boston flight will be another version of the so-called “nerd bird” flights, which is what frequent fliers call the twice-daily Alaska Airlines flights that connect Silicon Valley and Austin, Texas.  (Note: If you’re flyingJetBlue, be sure to use Yapta as your airfare tracker. JetBlue has an excellent guaranteed airfare policy that entitles you to a credit for the full difference in price if your flight becomes available for less.)Dead MacBook
  • Okay, this one is totally bizarre.  A couple of border security guards apparently didn’t like the answers a young American traveler had during her travels through Jerusalem, so they put three bullets through her suspicious MacBook, handed it back to her and allowed her to go on her way.  The amazing part is that not a single piece of information was destroyed: The bullets miraculously missed the MacBook’s hard drive.  (Now, do you think a PC can dodge bullets?  Do ya feel lucky?  Well, do ya… punk!) The MacBook owner, Lilly Sussman, blogged about her experience here.

Crazy Week of Cockpit Carelessness

Less than a week after a high-profile safety mix up where a Delta plane landed on the airport taxiway at the world’s busiest airport, rather than the parallel runway – there’s been another instance of cockpit carelessness reported by The Wall Street Journal:Flown off course

“Federal officials are working to sort out whether pilots of a Northwest Airlines flight dozed off or were simply distracted Wednesday night when they fell out of contact with air-traffic controllers for more than an hour and overshot their destination by 150 miles.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating, among other things, whether the two pilots fell asleep at the controls. The pair told law-enforcement officials who interviewed them upon landing in Minneapolis — and apparently told fellow pilots later — that they had been engaged in a “heated discussion over airline policy and they lost situational awareness,” according to the NTSB.

Whatever the reason, the plane may have flown out of range of one air-traffic-control center and failed to take steps to get back on course and resume radio contact with controllers, according to industry and government officials close to the situation.

During the 78-minute radio silence, controllers became so concerned about the fate of the 149 people aboard that they asked pilots of other aircraft in the vicinity to see if they could rouse the Northwest crew, according to industry and government officials. When that failed, the Federal Aviation Administration and military official began to consider having fighter jets scrambled to intercept the twin-jet Airbus A320, these officials said.

When an aircraft fails to respond for such a long time, it is routine procedure to send fighters to try to determine the problem.”

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • The New York Times blog InTransit notes that Club Med is offering seven nights for the price of three. The Seven-Day Weekend deal starts at $799 a person and is available at any of Club Med’s all-inclusive resorts in the Bahamas, the Caribbean, Mexico and Florida.
  • A Utah congressman upset he had to go through extra screening is shown in newly released video footage going through airport security.  Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, says screeners at the Salt Lake City airport targeted him for an additional search because he refused to go through a whole-body imaging machine.  The union representing airport security workers says he was trying to kick start a confrontation.
  • Alaska Airlines began nonstop daily service today between Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.  Flights leave Seattle at 9:10 a.m. and arrive in Atlanta at 5:10 p.m. local time.  Return flights leave Atlanta at 6:10 p.m. and arrive in Seattle at 8:30 p.m.