Tag: Southwest Airlines

Memorial Day traditionally marks the start of the busy Summer travel season.  So with Memorial Day just around the corner, TheStreet.com did some summer vacation scrounging and came up with 10 destinations that won’t break budget-conscious travelers.  Here’s the Cliff’s Notes version:

Summer Vacation 2011

1.) Costa Rica
2.) Aruba
3.) Bonaire
4.) Curacao
5.) Aspen, CO
6.) A cruise
7.) Orlando, FL
8.) Las Vegas, NV
9.) Dominican Republic
10.) Victoria, B.C.

1.) Costa Rica

2.) Aruba

3.) Bonaire

4.) Curacao

5.) Aspen, CO

6.) A cruise

7.) Orlando, FL

8.) Las Vegas, NV

9.) Dominican Republic

10.) Victoria, B.C.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • A JetBlue flight was zapped by lightning this morning just before it landed at JFK Airport.  The flight was packed with 151 passengers and five crew members, but landed without any problems during the morning downpour and taxied to a normal unloading gate.  The electrifying episode caused passengers and crew to smell smoke on board, leading the pilot to ask that emergency vehicles meet the plane upon landing.
  • The world’s largest model airport/railway, the Knuffingen Airport, has gone on display in Germany. The incredible model is based on Hamburg Airport and features 40 planes and 90 vehicles that autonomously move around the airport. It took seven years to build and cost a staggering $4.8 million.
  • According to a new survey published in the June issue of Consumer Reports, Southwest Airlines is the best airline and U.S. Airways is worst in terms of comfort and the experience of flying. The publication surveyed 15,000 of its readers — who it says are more educated and affluent than the general population — and found that in terms of overall experience, travelers preferred Southwest, Jet Blue, Alaska and Frontier airlines, giving them high marks for check-in ease, cabin crew service and baggage handling. They disliked American, Delta, United and U.S. Airways, giving them low grades, especially for seating comfort and in-flight entertainment.

New Air Passenger Protection Rules Coming

The government plans to announce today a new set of passenger protections to address travelers’ growing frustration over airline fees.
Among the rules, airlines must clearly state baggage fees in advertisements and on their Web sites. Other provisions increase the amount carriers must pay passengers who are involuntarily bumped from flights — from up to $800 to as much as $1,300 for the longest delays.
They also require the airlines to refund checked baggage fees if luggage is lost, and require airlines to promptly notify customers of delays over 30 minutes.
Provisions imposed last June a four-hour limit on time spent on the tarmac for delayed international flights, expanding a policy that has been in place for domestic flights for a year.

billofrights

The government plans to announce today a new set of passenger protections to address travelers’ growing frustration over airline fees.

Among the rules, airlines must clearly state baggage fees in advertisements and on their Web sites. Other provisions increase the amount carriers must pay passengers who are involuntarily bumped from flights — from up to $800 to as much as $1,300 for the longest delays.

They also require the airlines to refund checked baggage fees if luggage is lost, and require airlines to promptly notify customers of delays over 30 minutes.

The provisions also impose a four-hour limit on time spent on the tarmac for delayed international flights, expanding a policy that has been in place for domestic flights for approximately a year.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Southwest Airlines raised all of its round-trip ticket prices by $10 yesterday – which may spark an industry-wide domestic airfare hike.  If so, this would be the seventh time this year that domestic airlines have raised their fares.
  • Long lines, mobs of people, delays and invasive security measures can make for a stressful experience at the airport.  The New York Daily News recently outlined some simple steps that you can take that make the airport experience a little less hairy.  Give it a read.
  • Atlanta, Denver, Indianapolis, Milwaukee and Detroit are just a few cities pursuing the trend of trying to build an “aerotropolis” – or a small city around their airport.  The vision is for aviation authorities to partner with private companies to cohesively and systematically develop land near their airports to attract office space, warehouses, logistical centers, retail stores, recreational facilities and apartments. Officials see aerotropolises as a way to boost non-avaiation revenue.  Real estate projects promise a steady stream of rent and parking fees that can offset declining income from tight-fisted airline tenants.


Airfare Flash Sales From Low-Cost Carriers

welcomeToFlashSales

When low cost carriers compete, that’s your chance to snare a really cheap airfare.  That time is now – but you’ve got to be quick as many are expiring soon.

To launch its new service from Newark Liberty International Airport, Southwest is offering one-way fares as low as $69 to and from Baltimore, $119 to and from Denver, and $139 to and from Houston and Phoenix.

Meanwhile, JetBlue Airways launched The-Deals-Are-In-The-Air Sale, valid on routes throughout the country for those who book by today. One-way fares are as low as $39 one-way to and from Las Vegas and Long Beach, Calif. and Burbank, Calif.

Lastly, AirTran Airways is conducting the “Take Yourself To A Ballgame” sale where it’s offering travel to all of the airline’s destinations with special low fares available through April 14th.  The lowest price sale fares are valid for travel on Tuesdays and Wednesdays with other sale fares available for travel on all other days of the week.

Here’s some more news you can use:

  • American Airlines late Tuesday filed a lawsuit against Orbitz Worldwide and its prime stakeholder Travelport Ltd, claiming the travel agents have established a costly stranglehold over the way the airline’s airfares are distributed and seeking damages related to their “monopoly.” Travelport controls three out of the five companies that distribute tickets globally, but American says their distribution channel is costly and the airline has developed AA Direct Connect as an alternative.
  • And as if Orbitz didn’t have enough airline tussles, today they informed partners that, “at the direction of US Airways, effective April 14, 2011, Orbitz Worldwide will no longer be able to provide US Airways fares, schedules, or seat availability.”  This goes for all Orbitz subsidiaries as well, including Cheaptickets.com.  Similar to American Airlines, this is over distribution costs.
  • This video of a TSA agent giving a 6-year old girl a serious pat-down is causing quite a stir – and rightfully so.  Not only did the girl get super-frisked, but she was then lead to another area of the security checkpoint to have a drug test perform.  You can’t help but shake your head.

Smaller Airports Earning Bigger Smiles from Travelers

bigsmile

The USA TODAY recently asked its panel of frequent-flying “Road Warriors,” who log millions of miles each year, mostly for business, about their favorite regional airports.  These airports may not offer as many flights or destinations as their big counterparts, but for many frequent fliers, the nation’s smaller regional airports provide a more pleasant travel experience.  Parking is typically close, the lines for check-in and security are often shorter – and they provide a higher level of customer service.  Here’s some of the regional airports that made the grade:

Appleton, Wis. (ATW)

Erie, Pa. (ERI)

Richmond, Va. (RIC)

Green Bay, Wis. (GRB)

Chattanooga, Tenn. (CHA)

Santa Barbara, Calif. (SBA)

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Southwest Airlines has imposed its third airfare hike in a month, leading the way in airfare increases amongst many airlines, including American, Delta, United, Continental, US Airways , and Frontier.  Southwest raised prices $2 each way on trips up to 500 miles, $3 for 501 to 1,000 miles, and $5 each way on longer flights.  The reason for these price increases is simple.  Travel is so cold during January and February that the airlines must warm their hands in your pockets.
  • American Airlines recently told Dow Jones Newswires that, “Customers looking to compare flights or fares online should visit travel sites such as Kayak.com or Priceline.com for the most accurate and up-to-date information.”  That’s because Expedia is no longer showing AA flights as part of their search results.  It’s a big pissing match, but the Cliff’s Notes says that AA is looking to cut out the middle man (Expedia) to save on distribution costs.  That’s why they recently broke it off with Orbitz too.  The important thing to know is that Yapta’s airfare search is powered by Kayak – so you’ll always find AA flights among our search results.
  • Would you believe that Arianna Huffington, the 60-year-old founder of the Huffington Post, had to be escorted from an airplane by security after she mixed it up with a fellow passenger?  Apparently it all started when Huffington refused to turn off her Crackberry before take-off.  She continued to use the phone during and after take-off which greatly antagonized nearby fellow passenger, Ellis Bellodof, 53, to the point where he wanted to put the smack down.  Eventually, the two “caused a disturbance” so loud that security was called immediately after the plane landed at New York’s LaGuardia Airport, and both were escorted off the plane for a private AARP cage fight – er, questioning.

Zagat Rates the Airlines

Zagat Rated Web icon

According to a new travel survey released today by Zagat, Virgin America is the carrier of choice for frequent flyers.  The airline was named the poll’s top overall carrier for it’s coach and premium classes on both domestic and international routes.  More than 8,000 frequent flyers were asked how well airlines delivered on comfort, service and food.

Other winners in the annual poll included:
•Continental Airlines, which ranked first of big U.S. airlines for coach and premium classes on domestic and international flights. Continental is merging with United Airlines.
•Southwest Airlines, which was cited for the best website of all U.S. and foreign airlines. On domestic routes, Southwest also was cited for the best value, the best luggage policy, the best check-in experience and the best on-time flight estimates for consumers.
•Singapore Airlines, which was named No. 1 for coach and premium classes on international flights.
•JetBlue Airways and Virgin Atlantic, which ranked No. 1 for in-flight entertainment for their respective domestic and international flights.

Other winners in the annual poll included:

- Continental Airlines – which ranked first among “big” U.S. airlines for coach and premium classes on domestic and international flights.  Continental is merging with United Airlines.

- Southwest Airlines – which was recognized for the best website of all U.S. and foreign airlines.  On domestic routes, Southwest also was cited for the best value, the best luggage policy, the best check-in experience and the best on-time flight estimates for consumers.

- Singapore Airlines – which was named number one for coach and premium classes on international flights.

- JetBlue & Virgin Atlantic – which ranked number one for in-flight entertainment for their respective domestic and international flights.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Earlier today, JetBlue unveiled its “Top Secret Sale” where you can book up to nine different vacation packages starting at $99 per person, including airfare and a 3-day hotel stay.  Travel between Dec. 5-14, 2010.  You pick the destination and the flight, JetBlue picks the hotel.  Even though you can’t pick your hotel, the airline guarantees it is a three-to-five star hotel.  Taxes and airline fees are extra.
  • Passengers on a Delta flight from Chicago to New York  got an eye-full over the Thanksgiving weekend after an “emotionally disturbed” woman stripped naked and created a ruckus.  As flight attendants tried to calm her down and cover her with blankets, she allegedly shouted, “No! No! No!”  She was eventually taken into custody, but not charged.
  • Airlines are adding seats and flights, cautiously betting that the optimistic travel outlook the industry has had for much of the year will continue.  Most carriers are adding seats by increasing the number of flights, or by moving to bigger planes.  JetBlue has added the most with a 7.6% increase; and Delta has added 5%.  With increased supply, there’s hope that cheaper airfares are on the horizon.  If you’re planning to fly in 2011, this is a good year to track for airfare decreases with Yapta.

There’s Drama in Online Travel

V

In a press release  issued early today, Expedia, Kayak and Travelocity announced that they have formed FairSearch.org, a coalition of large online travel sites and travel technology companies, banded together in an effort to urge the Justice Department to challenge Google’s proposed $700 million purchase of ITA Software.

ITA powers some of the Web’s most popular airline-ticket search and booking sites, including Kayak.com and Hotwire.com.  Expedia (owner of Hotwire and Expedia.com) as well as Kayak and Microsoft, whose Bing search engine relies on ITA for airfare searches, argued to Justice Department antitrust lawyers that with ITA’s data and technology Google could gain an unfair competitive advantage because it would, “enable Google to manipulate and dominate the online air travel marketplace.  The end result could be higher travel prices, fewer travel choices for consumers and businesses, and less innovation in online travel search.”

It didn’t take Google long to respond from it’s blog, stating that the deal would not result in higher travel prices or fewer choices for consumers because ITA and Google aren’t competitors, and that ITA doesn’t set ticket prices for sell tickets and Google doesn’t plan to either.  Google also noted that the three most popular travel websites in the U.S. – Expedia, Priceline and Travelocity – all use data provided by ITAs competitors. (Doh!)

Google said that it won’t be “choosing winners and losers in online travel” because its goal is to build tools that drive more traffic to airline and online travel agency sites and that those tools will create more overall online sales for those sites.   And by combining ITA’s ability to analyze data on seat availability and pricing with Google’s search engine could end the “frustrating experience” today’s airfare search, where a “simple two-city itinerary involves literally thousands of different options.”

Sounds a lot like the plot to the popular TV mini-series “V”.  The one where aliens move in and say they come in peace, but actually have sinister motives.  They claim to only need a small amount of Earth’s resources, in exchange for which they will share their advanced technological and medical knowledge.  As a small number of humans begin to doubt the sincerity of the seemingly benevolent aliens, it’s discovered that the aliens have spent decades infiltrating human governments and businesses and are threatening to take over the Earth.

Awesome.  Can’t wait to see how the real-life version plays out.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Earlier today Southwest Airlines announced a winter airfare sale with some one-way tickets as low as $30.   The sale lasts until Thursday, and like any fare sale, there are restrictions.  With this sale, customers can buy one-way tickets for $30, $60, $90 or $120 based on length of travel.  Travel dates are good between December 1 and December 15 and January 4, 2011 and February 16, 2011.  Sundays are not included in this fare sale.
  • Virgin America also announced a “No Tricks, Just Treats” fare sale today. Virgin America is now offering low one-day advance purchase fares to all of its destinations for travel between Oct. 26 through Oct. 31, 2010.  Tickets are on sale today and can be purchased via Virgin America’s Web site (www.virginamerica.com) and at 1.877.FLY.VIRGIN (1.877.359.8474). Restrictions, taxes and fees apply. Tickets must be purchased by Oct 30, 2010, and travel must occur between Oct. 26 and Oct. 31, 2010.
  • Starting next month, federal regulators will start cracking down on a new rule that requires air passengers to submit personal identification data when booking for flights and show a recognized government ID at the airport that matches the information. The rule was introduced last year, but the Transportation Security Administration imposed a year-long grace period that ends at the end of the month.

Today’s Special: Fee Soup

fly soup

The USA Today reports that Southwest Airlines (the airline famous for it’s “bags fly free” campaign) plans to launch an ad campaign attacking the “change fees” charged by its rivals.  Change fees are, of course, the fee for changing an existing reservation.  Nearly every U.S. airline other than Southwest charges customers a penalty for making a change to most non-refundable tickets.  Change fees on domestic flights can range from $75 to $150 at a number of airlines, including American, Continental, Delta, United and US Airways.

Here at Yapta, we pay close attention to change fees.  You see, most airlines will charge a change fee before crediting you the difference on a booked flight that suddenly becomes available for less.  (Yeah, you can actually get an airline credit when that flight you booked drops in price.  It’s called the “Guaranteed Airfare” rule.  Nearly every major U.S. carrier has it as part of its Contract of Carriage.)  Yapta’s airfare refund alerts take these change fees into account so that we’re only alerting our early-booking travelers to net savings.

But here’s where it get’s confusing:  Some airlines make a distinction between change fees and “re-booking fees” – adding yet another noodle to the bowl of fee-soup.  Take for example, JetBlue, a key rival of Southwest Airlines.  They charge you nothing ($0, zilch, nada) to “re-book” your flight at a lower available price – and they’re very good about issuing a credit for the difference.  However, they will charge you $100 to “change” or “cancel” your itinerary.  (Change meaning a new flight time or destination.)  Alaska Airlines will also charge you $100 to “change” a ticket by phone, but nothing to “re-book” the same flight at a lower price.   Southwest doesn’t charge a “re-booking fee” either – but their not likely to call out this out for you in their ads.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • British Airways has announced a Fall Travel Sale that offers terrific fares on flights from 19 U.S. cities direct to London.  Not only are the airfares almost too good to be true – British Airways is also throwing in 2 free nights at a hotel in London.  The offer expires Oct. 26th – so if you’ve ever wanted to tour London, now may be your chance.
  • Getting a cheap flight out of Boston’s Logan International Airport is pretty common these days.  While airfares nationally have risen 19 percent year-over-year, airfares out of Boston have only risen about 5 percent.  And get this:  Thanksgiving week fares out of Logan are down 11 percent from 2009; nationwide, prices are up 9 percent.  So what gives?  Low-cost carriers like JetBlue, Southwest, AirTran and Virgin are all competing heavily for this market – and it’s even forcing the legacy carriers (like U.S. Airways) to drop their prices.
  • Last Friday (10/15), a pilot for ExpressJet Airlines, was not permitted to pass security at Memphis International Airport because he refused to allow TSA agents to use Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) to scan his body.  He had been crossing this particular security point each week for the past four and a half years without incident – and until now, TSA never required to have a scanned image of what was under his clothes.   Anyway, the TSA contacted his employer and now his job is at risk.

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.

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.