Tag: Continental Airlines

fight-club

With four major airlines looking to grab market share at three airports, New York will be one of the most competitively priced destinations in the country this year.  And of course, where there’s intense airline competition, there are sure to be happy travelers that like to fly frugal.

Southwest Airlines will begin flying out of Newark on March 27th, and the discount carrier will officially join the fray for air supremacy over the Big Apple.  Southwest and competitors Delta, Continental, American and JetBlue will be vying to steal customers from each other at New York and New Jersey airports.  They will be in a dogfight at all three international airports — Newark Liberty, La Guardia and John F. Kennedy — the nation’s most hotly contested airspace.

Passengers can expect fare wars on flights to Chicago, Phoenix, Denver and Houston – all routes that Southwest will also have out of Newark.  Southwest could become the pricing leader in New York and New Jersey because the discount carrier will now compete at two major airports in the region, Newark and La Guardia.

Southwest expects to offer 18 daily flights out of Newark by June.  Meanwhile, the airline is already offering Newark-to-Chicago fares of $88 one way this spring.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • For the third time in four years, U.S. commercial airlines have gone 12 months without a single death. For all of 2010, a year that saw more than 10 million flights and 700 million passengers, the National Transportation Safety Board recorded no major airline accidents. Yep, they’re gettin’ ya there in one piece.
  • Open Allies for AirFare Transparency – a coalition of 117 founding members & corporations, including online travel agencies Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity - launched late last week with a mission to force airlines to make fare and ancillary fees available on every distribution channel in which they operate.  Good luck with that.
  • Delta is not picking sides in the Super Bowl.  The airline has added non-stop flights from both Pittsburgh and Green Bay (and Milwaukee) to Dallas / Fort Worth.  The airline will fly three nonstop flights between Pittsburgh and Dallas around the first weekend of February.  It  will also operate special nonstop flights from Austin Straubel International Airport in Green Bay and General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee on Feb. 3, 4 and 7.  Get there if you can.  It should be a good game.

last-minute

The holiday season may be in full force, but it’s not impossible to book a quick winter vacation without paying through the teeth.  The CBS Early Show outlined a handful of tips to get the best deals on winter trips, even booked now at this late stage in the season.

“You can’t get any more last-minute than December 20th,” says Early Show Travel Editor, Peter Greenberg, adding there are still some great deals out there.  Here are a few of Greenberg’s tips:

1.) Don’t go where everyone else is going:  There are some great deals along the Atlantic seaboard with hotels (like the Sheraton Atlantic Beach) starting rates as low as $79 per night.

2.) Avoid the obvious:  While everyone else is heading to the beach, you can get some great deals and beat the lines at wine tasting tours or ski resorts for instance.

3.) Want the beach?  Think Jamaica or the Bahamas.  Peter spotlighted deals at The Wyndham Nassau & the Richmond Hill Inn in Jamaica.

4.) Check dates:  Even just a few days difference in your plans can result in a huge drop in prices such as air fare.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

Continental Airlines said Monday it will introduce a new fee for passengers that allows them to lock in a fare for up to a week and then cancel without further penalty.
The FareLock service is a first for the U.S. airline industry but mirrors similar fare option fees used by European carriers including the KLM arm of Air France-KLM SA (AFLYY, AF.FR), and is part of a broader unbundling of services in the industry to boost ancillary revenue.
FareLock went live on Continental’s website Monday, but a spokeswoman couldn’t comment on when it might be extend to merger partner United Airlines. The two merged on Oct. 1 to form United Continental Holdings Inc. (UAL), but will operate independently until they receive a joint operating certificate, which is targeted for the end of 2011.
Continental’s version allows a traveler to lock in ticket prices on “some” domestic and international itineraries. A three-day option costs $5, and a seven-day option costs $9.
The airline will continue to allow passengers to cancel a reservation within 24 hours at no cost. This flexibility is one provision of proposed new consumer rights regulations for U.S. airline passengers.
  • Last week Continental Airlines introduced a new fee for passengers that allows them to lock in a fare for up to a week and then cancel without further penalty.  The idea behind the new “FareLock” is simple:  Pay a fee to lock in the fare for 72 hours or seven days, depending on how long you need to mull the flight purchase.  If the airline hikes its price in that time, you’re protected.  The service starts at $5 for a 72-hour hold and $9 for a week.  The cost is variable based on the number of days until departure, the itinerary and the length of the hold.  The FareLock service is a first for the U.S. airline industry but mirrors similar fare option fees used by European carriers and is part of a broader un-bundling of services in the industry to boost ancillary revenue.
  • The Wall Street Journal recently noted that “competition among credit-card companies and a shake up in airline promotional partnerships due to mergers have led to a sweetening of travel rewards.  To get consumers to switch allegiance, several cards now offer double miles on all purchases, plus rich sign-up bonuses that make it quicker to land free tickets.  And playing off consumers’ unhappiness over fees, American Express now offers cards that cover baggage fees, change fees and even on-board sandwiches.”  Bottom line:  It’s a good time to reassess your card choice, but be careful to pick a card suited to your travel needs.  Read this article for more details.
  • International airline passengers on edge about making their connections when their flights into the United States are late may have reason to relax when they’re headed to Chicago and New York, where federal authorities are using new procedures to help travelers bypass long, snarled customs lines.  As soon as an airline knows a plane is late – sometimes even before it takes off for the U.S. – staff scan passenger lists to see who has a connecting flight and when.  They flag those passengers who look like they may be in danger of missing their connections.  Once the plane lands, arrival-gate attendants hand them bright-orange cards that allow them into the short, fast-moving customs lines.  The program could be introduced at other major U.S. airports with large numbers of international flights.  Los Angeles International Airport and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport are among those that have expressed interest.

American Airlines Ripe for a Merger with JetBlue?

Merge Ahead

With the recent flurry of airline mergers between Delta & Northwest, AirTran & Southwest, and United & Continental, airline industry analysts are now speculating that American Airlines may be the next to merge in order to compete with these mega-carriers.  But with who?

According to a Forbes blog post, analysts from Morningstar believe that American Airlines “needs to make a big splash” to remain a player in an increasingly competitive market.

“Once the industry’s largest carrier, [American Airlines] is now the third-largest…and any scale advantage it may have garnered is gone,” the Morningstar analysts write. “Ironically, AMR is at a substantial disadvantage, given that it steered clear of bankruptcy during the recession,” [Basili] Alukos and [Adam] Fleck say, pointing out that American’s labor rate is the industry’s highest on an equivalent basis.”

Given that it lags behind United-Continental and Delta, Morningstar figures American is ripe for consolidation and would make a solid fit for partner JetBlue.  The two cooperate on domestic and international flights at JFK and Boston’s Logan Airport, and JetBlue’s lighter cost structure would help American be more competitive while beefing up the combined company’s international business.

Late last month JetBlue CEO Dave Barger said his airline does not need to find a merger partner to remain competitive with rival Southwest.  Time will ultimately tell as Southwest’s pending merger with AirTran will certainly enable them to apply some competitive pressure in JetBlue’s key expansion markets like Boston and the Caribbean.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • The tarmac rule imposed earlier this year seems to have had the desired affect — with only one delay exceeding 3 hours in the entire month of August, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.  Last year, 66 flights sat on runways for at least 3 hours in the month of August, according to the DOT.  The department added that the new rule has had no impact on cancellation rates in August, with the rate of 1% unchanged compared to the prior year.  The tarmac rule has been broken eight times since it was imposed earlier this year on April 29 through the end of August, according to the DOT. That’s compared to 529 runway delays exceeding three hours, during the same time period in 2009.
  • Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic on Sunday completed its first manned free flight of a spaceship intended to eventually take customers on commercial space flights.  A seat on Branson’s spaceship will cost $200,000 per person, with refundable deposits starting at $20,000.  Thus far, Virgin Galactic has managed to sell 700 seats.  While you can’t yet track the price of these flights on Yapta, we don’t expect prices to drop anytime soon.
  • Budget Travel published a list of the “Weirdest Travel Gear” that included products like GasBGone, a flatulence filter that comes in a pillow or an undergarment form.

Holiday Airfares Up From 2009 – So Book Early!

moneyarrow

Airfares for the holiday season are up about 17 percent from last year, and prices aren’t expected to drop anytime soon.

With Christmas less than 90 days away and Thanksgiving practically right around the corner, holiday fliers should be shopping right now and preparing to buy tickets in the next few weeks.  Airlines, including the low-cost ones, have raised their base fares.  Even the sales offered this fall for nonholiday travel were not as cheap as last year.

So what are you to do?  For one, check out airfares in the next few weeks, then plan on buying tickets for Thanksgiving by mid-October.  For Christmas travel, plan on buying no later than early November.  And of course, continue to track the price of your flight with Yapta – to ensure you get the lowest price.

Here’s some more news you can use:

  • United Airlines and Continental Airlines announced this morning that they have closed on their $3.2 billion merger of equals, creating the world’s largest carrier. The airlines will continue to operate as separate entities for at least a year until granted a single operating certificate by the Federal Aviation Administration.
  • If you’re willing to upload an “oops,” “yikes” or non-Kodak-moment family vacation shot or even give your opinion on other goofy families, you can get one-third off airfare to Orlando, Fla. , on Virgin America — and maybe even score some free tickets.
  • Hawaii’s hotel occupancy topped 74 percent last week, but room rates remained flat (averaging $167.60 a night) as visitors to Hawaii continue to be driven by bargains and discounts, according to a report compiled by Smith Travel Research and Hospitality Advisors.

Southwest Gay TravelThe DC Gay Travel Examiner, Troy Petenbrink, reports that the pending merger of AirTran and Southwest airlines (announced this week)  appears to be a big win for gay travelers.

While AirTran has generally remained at the terminal when it comes to marketing to gay travelers and supporting the gay community, Southwest has been flying sky high. Southwest is a member of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association and has been a supporter of many gay events, including Washington, DC’s Capital Pride.

In addition, Southwest operates a corporate-wide gay-specific micro-site: www.southwest.com/gaytravel.  On the site the company states, “Southwest Airlines is a Company that works hard every day to provide Positively Outrageous Customer Service, regardless of race, religion, and sexuality.  It’s in our DNA and goes to the heart of our Culture of Freedom, inclusiveness, and living and practicing the Golden Rule.”

Assuming that Southwest retains AirTran’s current gates, the merger will result in Southwest serving some new popular gay-friendly destinations and expanding its presence in others.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Starting on October 10th, Continental Airlines will no longer provide complimentary meals and snacks to economy class passengers on domestic flights shorter than 6.5 hours and some international flights.  Instead, Continental will start charging for food, ending its holdout as one of the last major carriers to serve free meals in economy class.  The airline’s new menu will include an Asian-style noodle salad, gourmet fruit plates and other a la carte items.  Prices will range from $1.50 for Pringles potato chips to $8.25 for grilled chicken spinach salad.
  • If you’ve flown JetBlue you know they offer satellite television from DirecTV in every seat free-of-charge. Now you might want to take a few more flights asDirecTV announced they will add NFL Sunday Ticket to JetBlue’s channel lineup. Up to 14 live games will be available every Sunday starting Oct. 3 through Jan. 2, 2011.  (Sweeeeeet!)
  • American Airlines announced that beginning Friday, it will offer free wine, beer and spirits to visitors at its domestic Admirals Clubs.  American also announced that it was equipping its Admirals Club locations with new Hewlett-Packard computers for visitors, and it now offers free Wi-Fi in the airport lounges.

Continental Airlines Testing Self-Boarding

turnstileAccording to the USA Today, Continental Airlines, which was the first to offer passengers paperless boarding in 2008, is now testing “self-boarding” in which travelers use CTA-type turnstiles to check their boarding passes and enter the plane.

Continental is the first U.S. airline to try self-serve boarding, joining 14 international airlines including Lufthansa, Air France, Korean Air, Japan Airlines and Air New Zealand.

Continental says it’s testing self-boarding at one gate in its hub in Houston Intercontinental airport.  The airline’s primary goal is to free agents from the mundane task of scanning boarding passes and allow them to handle other customer issues that require individual attention, such as upgrading seats.

In order for self-boarding to proliferate, airlines will first need to adopt boarding passes with  ”two-dimensional” barcodes, which contain more traveler information than magnetic strips or traditional barcodes.  Airlines have agreed to phase out magnetic strips by the end of the year.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Check out these futuristic designs for airplane interiors using a “Step-Seat model” that emphasized cost efficiency and passenger comfort, two seemingly polar opposites.  These designs are technically certifiable by the FAA, and can be implemented in airplanes already in use.
  • Jet Blue is conducting a fall airfare sale through tomorrow, July 30th.  The sale, which allows travel from September 7th to December 15th, applies to cities such as Austin, Chicago, and New York, L.A. and many places in between.  According to The Huffington Post,  you can fly from NYC to Barbados for $99, or from San Francisco to Boston for $149.  Also, if you buy a ticket during the sale your first bag travels for free.
  • Southwest Airlines, the same airline that felt actor Kevin Smith was “too fat” to fly on a SWA flight one year ago, has now reportedly bumped a woman from a flight to make room for a plus-sized teen who required two seats.  According to reports, a woman who was flying standby from Las Vegas to Sacramento, was in her seat ready for take off when a teen passenger arrived late to the gate.  Flight attendants said she would have to deplane to make room for the teen.  The woman expressed irritation about the situation and said that SWA employees began to “berate” her for complaining.

bumper carsThe Obama administration’s recent proposal to significantly increase compensation for airline passengers bumped from a flight means that airlines will have a lot more incentive to persuade passengers to give up their seats willingly.

Currently, passengers who are forced to give up their seat and don’t arrive at their destination within two hours (four hours for international flights) of their original scheduled time receive a $400 check.  They receive $800 if they land later than that.

Under the new proposal, which would go into effect later this year, passengers denied boarding would receive between $650 and $1,300.  A $1,300 check suddenly makes getting involuntarily bumped seem a lot more palatable.  And a lot less likely to happen.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Spirit Airlines has canceled all flights through June 15 after pilots went on strike over the weekend.  According to the airline’s website, passengers scheduled to fly through June 15 would be credited the full amount of their purchased tickets, plus $100 for future flights.  Pilots said they are seeking pay on par with low- fare competitors Jet Blue, AirTran, and Southwest Airlines.
  • Continental Airlines introduced the benefit last fall on its Chase credit card, followed by Delta with its premium Skymiles American Express card.  Both cards waive the fee for a flier’s first checked bag – a $50 charge on a round trip — for up to nine people traveling together on the cardmember’s reservation.  It sounds like a good deal, but there’s a catch: another fee.  In the case of Continental, it’s the $85 annual fee for the OnePass Plus card, and for Delta it’s $95 for the Gold Skymiles card.
  • Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. and Air France-KLM Group have begun introducing seatbelt-mounted airbags in their economy-class cabins as authorities tighten regulations aimed at reducing the risk of fatalities in plane crashes.

airline fare saleThere are a few airfare sales that are piquing a lot of interest:

JetBlue is celebrating its 10th anniversary by offering one-way fares starting at $29 – or for 5,000 TrueBlue points.  In order to take advantage of this sale, you need to book by April 18th for travel between April 22 – June 16, 2010.

American Airlines is conducting a sale on flights to the Caribbean and Latin America.  Flights start at $78 one-way for travel through early June.  The sale ends April 14th, so act now if you want to get these sale prices.

AirTran’s latest fare sale encourages travelers to “book a sweet deal from Point A to Point B.” You can find airfare deals to/from a variety of U.S. cities, as well as specials to international destinations including Aruba, Montego Bay, and Cancun.  Purchase your airline ticket by 11:59 pm ET on April 20 for travel through November 10, 2010.  The lowest sale airfares are good for travel on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.  A 10-day advance purchase is required, and there are blackout dates.

And finally, Southwest Airlines has launched a 72-hour sale.  Flights start at $39 one-way or $78 round-trip, and destinations include Chicago, Dallas, Las Vegas, and Orlando, among many others. More than 1,000 routes are on sale, but if you don’t book by Thurs., April 15th, you’ll miss out.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Republic Airways officials announced this morning that Frontier will be the operating brand name for Republic’s Frontier and Midwest carriers. The announcement followed months of speculation about the future of the Frontier and Midwest brands after Indianapolis-based Republic Airways bought the airlines last year. As a concession to Midwest, Republic officials said chocolate chip cookies will be served on all flights, a trademark amenity of Midwest.
  • The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Continental Airlines is expected to bid to acquire United Airlines, after reports that United and US Airways were in merger talks.  Continental and United discussed merging in 2008, until Continental walked away.  A combined United-Continental would create the world’s largest airline, ahead of Delta Air Lines, now the largest after acquiring Northwest Airlines in 2008. A combined US Airways-United would be the second-biggest U.S. carrier. Delta and Air France-KLM are larger worldwide.  A United-Continental merger would also face less regulatory scrutiny because the carriers have fewer overlapping city pairs – 9, whereas United and US Airways have 14.

exit row seat

Starting March 17, Continental Airlines will start offering coach passengers the option of paying extra to get an exit-row seat, which offers 7 to 12 inches more legroom, depending on the type of plane.  Fees will vary based on the flight, but a Houston-to-New York flight might cost $59 more for an exit-row seat.  According to the airline, passengers who belong to Continental’s frequent-flier program and fly at least 25,000 miles a year, and those traveling with them, will continue being able to select those seats at no additional cost.  Currently, United Airlines, Spirit Airlines, JetBlue, Frontier and AirTran all charge varying amounts for additional legroom.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • The New York Times’ “In Transit” blog reports that airline call centers are slower than ever due to staff cuts and increased call volumes that stem from flight cancellations.  The Times offers a few tips on how to navigate the bottle neck:  (1) have your confirmation numbers handy, (2) call from a land line if possible to avoid dropped calls, and (3) get as much information as you can about alternate routes.  (Suggestion: Use Yapta in advance of your flight to track pricing on alternate routes.  That way, you’ll have them at your fingertips when you need them.)
  • Las Vegas McCarran Airport officials are considering a plan to become the first U.S. airport to install a liquor store in the baggage-claim area.  Many airports sell liquor at bars and duty-free stores, but the proposal is aiming to capture revenue from arriving passengers who are headed into Sin City.  I love Vegas.
  • An FAA air traffic controller and supervisor were placed on administrative leave Wednesday after allowing a child to direct flights at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on Feb. 17.  The agency also suspended all unofficial visits to air traffic control towers pending an investigation of the incident. The FAA will review its policy on allowing visitors into the towers.

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Airlines Raise Fuel Surcharges on Flights to Europe

airplane fuelDelta Air Lines, United Airlines, American Airlines and Continental Airlines have all raised fuel surcharges on travel to Europe by $20 per round-trip – and have added conditions that could cause travelers to pay higher fares.  ABC News reports that, “surcharges to Paris, Frankfurt and most cities on the Continent were raised to $280 per round-trip and to $242 for London.”

And what about the “added conditions”?  Well, some airlines that previously required only a seven-day advance purchase for the lowest coach fares are now requiring a 14-day advance purchase.

With heightened security, steeper fuel surcharges, and tighter booking windows, international travel just keeps gets better and better every day.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Yesterday we noted that Delta had hiked its baggage fees.  What we failed to mention was that Continental Airlines had also hiked their baggage fees – matching Delta.  And as if the parade wasn’t long enough, today we learned that United Airlines has also raised its baggage fee – matching Delta & Continental.  United boosted the charge for the first piece of checked luggage 53 percent to $23.  A second bag will cost $32, up from $25.  The prices apply to online check-ins only, with airport transactions $2 more for the first bag and $3 more for the second.
  • According to the annual Travel Trends survey conducted by the Travel Leaders Franchise Group, Orlando, Fla. is now the top tourist destination in the United States.  Vegas had been the country’s No. 1 tourist destination for the past seven years, but the report released this week found that tourists who were surveyed late last year preferred the family-oriented attractions in Orlando.  After Orlando and Las Vegas, an Alaskan cruise; New York City; Maui and Honolulu, Hawaii; Chicago; Phoenix; Washington, D.C.; and Los Angeles rounded out the top 10.