In other airline, hotel and travel industry news last week…
- Southwest Airlines acquired AirTran in May last year and received a single operating certificate from the FAA last month, but each carrier remains an independent operation for the time being meaning AirTran’s baggage and other fees will remain intact. Unlike the relatively faster integration between Delta & Northwest and United & Continental, Southwest says it will take, “several years to fully transition AirTran into Southwest Airlines to become one airline.” The fees will continue through at least the end of 2013 and possibly into 2014.
- US Airways is expanding its Gogo Wi-Fi service across their entire Airbus fleet and Embraer 190 aircraft, eventually bringing onboard internet capabilities to 90 percent of its domestic mainline fleet. Regional carrier Republic Airlines will also add the service to its Express Embrarer 170 and 175 aircraft. Gogo Vision will be included where passengers have the option to download movies, TV shows and other content directly to their Wi-Fi enabled devices.
- Lufthansa announced their new Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental aircraft will be deployed on the Frankfurt to Washington Dulles route shortly after deliveries begin April 23. It will replace the existing 747-400 flights, LH 418 and LH 419. All of Lufthansa’s 747-8 aircraft will feature the new business and first class product, as well as 787-style overhead bins and LED lighting. I look forward to burning some miles to fly this bird in a premium cabin later this year.
- Japan Airlines took delivery of its first two Boeing 787-8s this past week making it the second airline to receive the long-delayed Dreamliner. The airline is expected to begin 787 flights to Boston this month and to San Diego later this year. I may have to start building up my American AAdvantage miles for a future redemption.
- Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel predicts Chicago O’Hare’s newest runway will be built and in use by 2015. The city will rely on financial help from both American and United to get it built and predicts once in use, it will reduce delays by 80 percent and allow for 300,000 more passengers annually.
- My “air traveling idiot of the week” award goes to a woman onboard US Airways flight 1697 from Charlotte to Fort Myers who, in an allegedly intoxicated state, kicked, scratched and spit on flight attendants, even knocking one to the ground. Unlike other recent incidents, the flight didn’t divert and continued to Fort Myers after she was restrained with the help of an off-duty sheriff’s deputy.
Finally, here are some other noteworthy items deserving of a click-through:
In other airline, hotel and travel industry news this week…
- Delta Air Lines will be laying off 200 employees, the majority of which from their headquarters in Atlanta. This combined with another 2,000 employees taking voluntary buyouts, the airline claims soft demand, fuel prices and reduced capacity make the workforce reductions necessary.
- Engineers at Qantas have proceeded with one-hour work stoppages causing 17 flights to be delayed or cancelled this past Monday. Brisbane was the first city where the mini-strikes were held, with Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne planned to follow. I didn’t, however, read of any other cancellations or delays for the rest of the week. As they should, the carrier is refusing to pay engineers overtime pay for the planned hour work stoppage. Come on unions… stop being so childish.
- The first Boeing 747-8 in Lufthansa colors rolled out of the Boeing paint shop. She’s a sexy bird in my opinion and I’ll look forward to booking a trip on it as the 747 is still my favorite airplane. Lufty ordered a total of 20 of the now longest passenger jet in the world and will begin taking delivery of them next spring.
- The first Disney property opened in Hawaii last week on the western side of Oahu about 25 miles from resort heavy Waikiki. Obviously catering to families, the price point for the Aulani resort is pretty steep with the lowest rates in October being $549 per night for a single as compared to the nearby JW Marriott Ihilani resort of $269 to $459 per night. The first ever teen-only spa at the property features frozen yogurt, Xbox Kinect fitness activites and even manicures and pedicures.
- While American Airlines and Sabre have extended their content agreement, the carrier filed a new complaint with the courts alleging the GDS “organized an unlawful group boycott against American.” The papers are heavily redacted, so there’s no publicly available detail into exactly what that supposed boycott entailed. No court date has been set for the original complaint that claims Sabre biased fares, blocked direct connect abilities and raised booking fees among other items.
- U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano claims we’ll eventually be able to leave our shoes on here in America when passing through security. Many news outlets jumped on the story and I’m afraid some of them made it sound like it would be happening very soon. The original plan was to have a shoe scanner system in airports by 2015, but no decision has been made as to whether or not they’ll proceed with that technology.
- The U.S. Transportation Security Adminisration will be continuing full speed ahead with the Federal Air Marshal (FAM) and federal flight deck officer programs (FFDO). While no actual threats have been averted due to the programs, the TSA claims both are “success stories” and part of the “nation’s multi-layered approach to transportation security.” I’m all for the volunteer pilots who carry weapons, but think it should be extended to international flights. Restrictions by foreign countries prohibit the practice.
- US Airways is in talks with Airbus to see if the A321neo (new engine option) could be modified to become the replacement for the carrier’s aging 757 fleet. Currently, the A321 doesn’t have the range, power and fuel capacity for some of the carrier’s longest haul markets such as Phoenix-Honolulu, Charlotte-Dublin and Philadephia-Lisbon.
Since I volunteered my seat on United Airlines this morning and scored another $400 in vouchers, I have a bit of time to recap additional news items from the week.
- Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental. The longest passenger aircraft in the world took its maiden flight this past Sunday. As I previously posted, only Lufthansa and Korean Air have orders in for the passenger version, so opportunities are at a minimum to fly on the fourth-generation ‘Queen of the Skies’. The Airline Reporter provides an excellent summary of the event, and links to additional stories, videos and posts.
- Chase Debit rewards ending at United & Continental. Effective July 12, 2011, holders (including myself) of Chase co-branded debit cards with United Airlines or Continental Airlines will no longer earn miles when using their cards. And beginning April 1st, you lose the “first checked bag free” benefit. Chase & other banks issuing Visa and MasterCard debit cards are a bit upset the fees they collect on the cards will be slashed courtesy of the Durbin Amendment. As a result, we lose the incentive benefits as consumers and will only now be able to earn miles with a mileage-earning credit card vs. one linked to a bank checking account.
- United Airlines mobile check-in. You can now check-in on your mobile device for worldwide United and United Express-operated flights. Don’t get too excited if you’re already overseas and want to check-in. Presently, only the following non-U.S. airports accept mobile boarding documents: Amsterdam, Brussels, Geneva, London Heathrow, Moscow, Munich, Osaka, and Zurich.
- Continental Airlines adds onboard Wi-Fi. Internet will be coming soon to Continentals’ fleet of domestic Boeing 737s and Boeing 757s that already have the DirecTV service. About 200 planes in total will receive the capability, and United has Wi-Fi available on all of the premium service p.s. aircraft on the JFK-Los Angeles and JFK-San Francisco routes, as well as one additional 757 in the standard domestic configuration. Jeff Smisek this week acknowledged how far behind United is lagging in this capacity, and mentioned it will be a priority in the future to roll it out fleet-wide.
- Hilton HHonors Grand Nights promotion. Hilton announced their second quarter promotion this week, which earns you 1,000 extra HHonors points for each night stayed between April 1 and June 30, 2011. Registration is required and the offer does not apply on certain categories, including many advance purchase rates.
- Air France & Airbus search for wreckage. A new search is underway for Air France flight 447 which crashed into the Atlantic Ocean on June 1, 2009. The flight took off from Rio de Janeiro bound for Paris, but was never heard from after a series of automated radio messages were sent notifying the airline of numerous problems and warning indications. Pieces of the downed Airbus A330-200 were recovered from the ocean, but this new operation hopes to recover the flight data recorders and other debris.
Here’s a summary of some hot news items from this week covering airlines, airfares, airplanes and hotels.
- Delta Air Lines: Delta announced that retroactive to January 1, 2011, there is no longer an expiration policy to frequent flyer miles earned in the SkyMiles program. This makes Delta the first major carrier to offer such an olive branch to the infrequent traveler whose miles may sit inactive for extended periods of time. Continental’s OnePass program states that “miles currently have no expiry date,” but your account would be subject to cancellation if no activity occurred in 18 months (same thing in my book). Also announced at Delta is their Gold Medallion level (those who fly 50,000 miles and/or 60 segments annually) will receive SkyTeam Elite Plus status. This brings them in line with other carriers’ mid-level programs, and when flying internationally, provides lounge access, priority baggage handling and oversell protection options.
- Airfares: Ack! I’ve had a busy week and missed a pretty incredible airfare mistake on Delta. Several East Coast to Europe fares were available for between $150 to $250 roundtrip all-in! Insanely cheap pricing and even though I’m not a Delta flyer, how could you not book a trip that cheap? It was quickly discovered and within hours shut down, but many Flyertalkers cashed in. On the domestic side, though, I’ve seen some “decent” deals expanded through May now, and while not in the 3 cpm mileage running range, they’re pretty good deals to most major markets. Think Tuesday & Wednesday travel, though!
Image courtesy The Boeing Company
Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental: Now the longest jetliner in the world, the newest generation of Boeing’s flagship was officially unveiled this week in Everett, Washington. Stretched an additional 18.3 feet from previous 747 models, it features an expanded upper-deck, redesigned wings, larger windows, reconfigured overhead bins, and many more enhancements. Sadly, orders for the passenger version are small, and currently Lufthansa has 20 on order, and Korean Air 5. She’s a sexy bird, in my opinion, and I’ll definitely be booking a ride when Lufthansa has them in service.
- Club Carlson: The Carlson group of hotels (Radisson, Country Inn & Suites, Park Inn, and Park Plaza) is getting a loyalty program overhaul. GoldPoints Plus is changing to Club Carlson beginning March 31, 2011. While the exact program hasn’t been announced publicly, Ric Garrido over at Loyalty Traveler provides a few headlines, namely a new top-tier Concierge level and some earning & redemption point-level changes. I’ve been planning on switching my loyalty to Hilton, and once the full program is announced, will likely make a unique posting and make my final decision then.