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:
I’ve updated the airline travel waiver summary I posted earlier in the week, as many airlines have extended the date ranges due to the events in Japan. As always, it is recommended that you call your airline directly for assistance with rebooking and/or canceling your trip.
The updated chart is in the original post, which can be found here.
The U.S. State Department had previously issued a travel alert advising citizens to avoid non-essential travel to Japan through at least April 1, 2011 due to the earthquake. That advisory has been lifted, but all airlines have some type of travel waiver in place to enable rebooking or cancelling current trips to Japan for a full refund, and I have compiled a summary below. Please note this is a fluid situation and you should contact your airline to confirm the waiver. I will attempt to update this chart as frequently as possible.
[Above chart updated Friday March 25, 2011]
Let me break down, for example, the first row. If you have a ticket on American to Tokyo between March 19th and April 30th, and you purchased your ticket on or before March 24th, you’re entitled to a full refund in the form of a travel voucher. If you still want to travel, you can change your ticket without a change fee (fare differences apply) if you travel by July 10th.
Also, notice American, Delta and Japan Airlines only covers flights to Tokyo (both Narita and Haneda airports) for a full refund, whereas ANA, Continental, Singapore and United cover the entire country. Continental is generously waiving both change fees and fare differences through April 30th, and American had done the same through March 18th. United is waiving the change fee and *may* waive the fare difference.
These waivers may continue to be adjusted with the changing conditions in Japan, and I’ll do my best to keep this chart updated. My deepest thoughts and support continue to be for everyone impacted by this awful tragedy.
Here are a few more noteworthy news items from the airline industry in the past week:
- Airlines have wholly embraced Facebook and Twitter as important marketing and social media portals, and some are expanding it to include flight searches and bookings like Delta Air Lines has already done. Taking it a step further, though, is Malaysia Airlines who this week launched an expanded application within Facebook. It includes seat selection, check-in, and the ability to see if any of your friends are on the same flight. In a sort-of related news item, you can now stay in touch with Frequently Flying on Facebook and Twitter.
- A former United Airlines flight attendant is suing the carrier alleging they fired her for being French and gay, instead of the officially recorded reason of “misusing company travel vouchers.” Apparently her supervisor told her that it is “not right to be gay,” which sounds preposterous to me that such a viewpoint would exist in the airline industry. I think we would have heard by now of similar suits from the (dare-I-generalize) ranks of other gay flight attendants at United if this were true. Interesting, to say the least.
- The Airbus A380’s image is taking more unjustified hits with news stories surfacing that several Rolls-Royce engines have had additional problems. Qantas had a couple of flights in February with power loss and oil leak issues on their Trent 900 version of the RR engine. Also being reported this week, Singapore Airlines has confirmed five cases of oil leaks on the same model Trent 900 engine. Qantas is in negotiations with Rolls Royce to determine appropriate financial compensation for the hit the carrier is taking on its overall image. No word if Airbus itself is also seeking any type of damages for similar reasons.
- Emirates is now the world’s third largest carrier in terms of available seat miles (ASMs) behind Delta Air Lines and American Airlines. ASMs are calculated by multiplying the amount of available seats by the distance flown. This actually doesn’t come as too much of a surprise, as Emirates is taking delivery of more A380s and the average stage length of its flights from the carrier’s Dubai hub are far greater than the other carriers’ figures. Larger airplanes on longer routes pushes them up the list here, but look for the combined Continental Airlines and United Airlines to overtake Emirates once officially merged. The carriers are currently 6th and 4th respectively.
- Once the largest operators of Boeing 747 aircraft, Japan Airlines retired its last Queen of the Skies on March 2nd, marking the end of a four-decade relationship with the bird. The carrier has been struggling financially in recent years, and is now relying on the reduced capacity and more fuel efficient Boeing 767 and eventual 787.