Tag: United Airlines

Flying Coach Is About To Get a Little More Cramped

small airplane seats

If you think flying coach sucks is a cramped and claustrophobic experience, then you’re going to hate what’s coming in the months ahead.  An increasing number of airlines are starting to install more paid-legroom seats on their planes (because people buy them), eating into the legroom of the standard coach seat – which we all know is already limited.

Airlines such as JetBlue, American, United, Frontier, and Spirit are introducing a new class of roomier seats with names such as Economy Plus (United) and Classic Plus (Frontier) that offer passengers more space to spread out but at a higher price tag.  To make room on the plane for these pricier seats, the standard coach experience gets a little more cramped.

In the past, the economy section on an average long-haul plane represented about 90% of the seats, with first-class seats making up the balance.  Today, 10% to 30% of the spots on a major airline are extra-roomy economy seats. To make room for the new seats, airlines have eliminated 10 to 40 standard economy seats per plane.  On some airlines, many of the remaining economy seats got pushed closer together.

Get ready to love thy neighbor.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • There could be changes on the horizon for how you buy an airplane ticket online. Starting next year, a group of airline carriers agreed to start using a new system that could lead to personalized pricing for flyers.  Airlines will begin asking customers for more personal information, travel history, frequent flyer membership and credit card use.  Using this detailed information, they will then produce a customized ticket price.
  • The Chicago Tribune warns, “Procrastinators beware: Don’t put off booking holiday airline travel this year, unless you want to pay more and get stuck in a middle seat in coach.  Holiday ticket prices will generally rise from here. Count on paying $3 more per seat for every day you put off booking.”
  • ABC News revealed that many of the country’s busiest airports also rank at the top for TSA employees fired for theft.  Sixteen of the top 20 airports for theft firings are also in the top 20 airports in terms of passengers passing through.

The Best Customer Service Providers in Travel

Customer service feedback

J.D. Power recently announced its 2011 “Customer Service Champions” including those from the travel industry. According to J.D. Power, these are the companies that do more than deliver on their customers’ expectations – they exceed those expectations and, in the process, raise the bar for their competition.

The travel companies recognized among the Customer Service Champions were: Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, JetBlue Airways, The Ritz-Carlton, Southwest Airlines and Canada’s WestJet.  These awards were based on surveys done over the past year of consumers who had used a product or service, J.D. Power says.  It reflects the entire customer experience.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • United Airlines announced Wednesday that mobile boarding passes, already valid for domestic travel at 62 U.S. airports, will now be extended to international flights. In addition, the paperless option will be available to passengers boarding flights in eight major foreign markets, including London, Munich and Osaka.
  • Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International remains the world’s busiest airport, but Beijing’s Capital International is closing in.  Beijing surpassed London’s Heathrow Airport in passenger traffic last year, becoming the second busiest airport in the world, according to a preliminary report released Tuesday by Airports Council International.
  • The website AskMen.com recently compiled a list of the top 10 wine destinations for those keen to travel for the grape.  Here’s the run-down: (1) Burgundy, France; (2) Champagne, France; (3) Tuscany, Italy; (4) Bordeaux, France; (5) Mosel, Germany; (6) Napa Valley, California; (7) Piedmont, Italy; (8) Ribera del Duero, Spain; (9) Barossa Valley, Australia; (10) California’s Central Coast and the South of France.  What?  No Yakima, Washington?
  • Lastly, we’re honored that Lead411.com recognized Yapta among  the ”2011 Hottest Seattle Companies“.  We were recognized among other cool Seattle-based companies like AudienceScience, Popcap Games, Mixpo, Rootmetrics, Avvo and Tableau Software.

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.

AABoardingPass
The USA Today reports that American Airlines agents who roam airport check-in lobbies with a handheld computing device can now print boarding passes.

To prevent long lines at check-in counters and self-service kiosks, the carrier began experimenting with the device — called Your Assistance Delivered Anywhere — in October at Boston Logan.  They’re now available for agents at nine airports:  Dallas/Fort Worth, Albuquerque, Boston, Chicago, New York JFK, New York LaGuardia, Miami, St. Louis and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The device can also check flight status, provide connecting information, display maps of other airports and print baggage tags for customers checking luggage.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Continental Airlines announced that it has partnered with Stirrings, a cocktail-mixer brand, and will begin selling “specialty cocktails” on its flights.  The airline will offer a mojito and pomegranate martini.  Continental also teamed with Red Bull to offer the energy drink.  All three are offered with alcohol for $9 apiece or without for $3.  (Maybe it’s me, but an energy drink while strapped in the middle seat at 30,000 feet doesn’t sound appealing.)
  • This ABC News article outlines the 5 biggest mistakes when buying airfare.  Here’s the Cliff’s notes: (1) Buying tickets on the weekend, (2) Flying on Fridays and Saturdays, (3) Checking bags, (4) Forgetting about Facebook & Twitter, (5) Not accounting for fuel surcharges.
  • Flights resumed this week on JFK Airport’s “Bay Runway,” after a four-month closing for construction.  The $348.1 million project to widen and resurface the runway, which is the longest and busiest in the region, was completed on budget and ahead of schedule.  Some were worried about the delays this project might cause for summer travelers, but not us.
  • The Feds have proposed fines of nearly $2.5 million for safety violations against two regional air carriers that operate commuter flights for United Airlines and US Airways.  The FAA said today that it wants to fine Trans States Airlines and GoJet Airlines for violating maintenance procedures and operating nine jets on 320 flights when the planes were not in compliance with safety regulations.

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.

united us airways mergerAccording to the New York Times, United Airlines and US Airways are reportedly in talks on a potential merger that would create one of the biggest carriers in the world.  No announcement of any deal would be expected for at least several weeks – and talks may still collapse, according to the Times.

Combining United, the third-largest US carrier, with No. 6 US Airways would create one of the world’s largest airlines, with an extensive route network. United has hubs in Chicago, Denver, San Francisco, and at Washington Dulles International Airport, while US Airways has hubs in Philadelphia, Phoenix, and Charlotte, N.C.

This isn’t the first time the two airlines have considered merging.  In 2000, Chicago-based United and US Airways announced a $4.3 billion deal, only to withdraw.  And in 2008, the two carriers held talks again on a merger before abandoning the effort, less than two months after Delta Air Lines Inc. agreed to acquire Northwest Airlines Corp., making it the world’s biggest airline.  The previous talks between United and US Airways were held up because of the complexity of putting together the various union contracts covering each airlines’ employees, as well as sorting out which union would represent workers and how to account for their seniority.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Low-cost carrier, Spirit Airlines announced Tuesday that it will charge passengers as much as $45 for each piece of carry-on luggage.  This move goes beyond the baggage fees that other airlines that have instituted on checked luggage.  According to Spirit’s new policy, carry-ons that fit in the overhead bin will cost fliers $45 ($30 if paid online).  Fare club members pay $20 for each carry-on bag.  There is no charge for carry-on items that fit under the seat.  The carry-on bag fee is in effect for reservations made after Monday for travel on or after Aug. 1st.  Will this move prompt other airlines to do the same?  Only time will tell.
  • iPad owners will get a small reprieve when going through airport security.  According an AP report, the TSA said that iPads generally do not need to be removed from carry-on luggage when going through X-ray screening.  Since the iPad is much smaller and thinner than laptops, it’s easier to see on the scanner.  Also, the organization said that iPad users generally would not be carrying multiple bulky accessories, such as hard drives and chargers, which might otherwise obstruct a clear view of the device as it passes through X-ray equipment.
  • This last news item is right out of the film, “Weekend at Bernies”:  Two women were arrested in the UK for allegedly trying to smuggle a dead man on an EasyJet flight from Liverpool to Berlin.   The women apparently brought the man to the airport in a taxi and then tried to check him in on the flight.  The man was seated in a wheelchair and had sunglasses on.  The women claim they thought he was sleeping.  However airport staff soon noticed that something was seriously wrong and alerted security.

Summer Airfare Sales Have Arrived

SALE

It may only be March, but the first Summer airfare sales are already here.  AirTran, US Airways, United, Delta and American Airlines are all offering sale prices on flights through November 16th.  That’s right, November 16th!  That’s like 200 days!

So what’s the catch?  Well, the airfare sale period only lasts for 2-days.  In general, tickets have to be purchased by midnight Thursday.  There are also blackout dates around Memorial Day and other holidays.   Also, you may need to make a connection or travel to a smaller, alternative airport to get the lowest fares.

We made note of AirTran’s sale yesterday.  However, if you want dig around for the other sale prices (and you will have to dig a bit), you can find them here:

U.S. Airways

United Airlines

Delta Air Lines

American Airlines

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • If you’re a fan of “The Bachelor” on ABC and are wondering where Jason and Molly are heading for their honeymoon -  our friends at Down Under Answers are booking their trip and are telling all.  Check out their new Web page that has all the honeymoon details.
  • Have you’ve ever been curious about the U.S. govenment’s mysterious “no-fly” list – including how people get on or off the list?  Well, the Associated Press has revealed some of the Voodoo behind it all.  You might say that some people are dying to be de-listed, but never will be.  (Envision wringing hands and maniacal laughter.)

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.

Delta Increases Baggage Fees

baggageToday Delta Air Lines boosted its baggage fees for domestic travel to $23 for the first checked bag and $32 for the second one, up from $15 and $25, respectively.  Of course, that’s if you pay in advance online.  If you check your bags at the airport (which I’m assuming most people do), Delta is going to sting you for $25 on the first bag and $35 for the second one.

This fee hike shouldn’t come as any surprise for frequent Delta customers as it’s clearly the most aggressive carrier in it’s fee-collection activities.   A recent report from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics reveals that Delta’s ancillary revenue efforts – which brought in $447.5 million in Q3 2009 – has no rival.  American Airlines was a distant second with $261.2 million for the quarter.  Plus, when you take into account that Delta and its subsidiary, Northwest Airlines report their numbers separately, then the combined ancillary revenue is a whopping $670.8 million.

So, how can you avoid these fees?  Well, here’s some tips:

1. Pack light so that everything fits in a single carry-on suitcase.  Check out websites like OneBag.com for suggested packing lists that can help you cut down on your luggage.

2. Ship excess clothes ahead of time.  A large priority mail flat-rate package will hold two-thirds of what a carry-on does for about $14.50.

3. Fly JetBlue or Southwest – which don’t charge for the first checked bag.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • USAToday business travel columnist, David Grossman has noted that, “2010 may prove to be a less turbulent and more benign year for air travelers.”  Wondering why?  Well, to find out, read the eight factors that are likely to affect air travel this year for business travelers.
  • Late last week, a three-year-old boy took a frightening and unusual journey at Copenhagen Airport, travelling through the entire baggage belt system before being rescued.  The boy and his mother were checking in for a flight when the boy hopped onto an unattended baggage belt at the check-in area.  His mother was distracted while looking for her travel documents, and neither she nor airline staff noticed the boy’s departure down the baggage belt.  The boy travelled right through the system, including the baggage x-ray machine, which directed him to an area for bags to be handled manually because he had no baggage identification tag.  At this point, an airport worker heard his cries and rescued him from the machinery.
  • The National Transportation Safety Board said today it is investigating Sunday’s emergency landing of a United Airlines flight at Newark Liberty International Airport after a landing gear malfunction.  One early discovery thus far: The radio system used by the gound rescue team crashed just when it was needed most.  But by the time rescue teams were in place, their radios went dead, apparently because of utility work nearby.