A sampling of industry news that caught my attention today:
– Follow Darren Booth on Twitter, @FrequentlyFlyin, for more airline, hotel and travel industry news, reviews and opinions.
I posted previously about the TSA PreCheck identifier beginning to appear on boarding passes for those who qualify for the program. And having just checked in for my United flights, I can report a slight change from what the TSA announced.
From the TSA blog (bolding mine):
Eligible passengers will see a TSA Pre✓™ indicator on all boarding passes, even when flying out of an airport where TSA Pre✓™ is not available.
But on United, at least, the PreCheck indicator only appears on my boarding passes (both mobile and paper) from departure airports where PreCheck is available.
Paper Boarding Passes With & Without PreCheck ID
Mobile Boarding Pass Without PreCheck ID
Mobile Boarding Pass WITH PreCheck ID
This isn’t anything earth-shattering for those of us in the know, but it should help eliminate confusion for the infrequent, yet PreCheck-approved fliers.
TSA PreCheck for International Itineraries to Begin, Plus More
United MileagePlus, TSA Secure Flight Names Must Now Match
There’s good news out of the TSA today that those of us approved for PreCheck will no longer be denied access to the lanes if we’re on an international itinerary. Well, I should say most international itineraries.
According to their announcement today (bolding mine):
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced today that beginning May 7, 2013, in addition to domestic travel, TSA Pre✓™ participants will be eligible for expedited screening on select international travel itineraries.
The TSA, of course, didn’t expand on what “select” encompasses. Also from the release, inbound passengers to the U.S. with PreCheck will be able to use the lanes after clearing customs:
In addition, passengers with connecting domestic flights who arrive in the United States on an international flight may use the TSA Pre✓™ lanes when going through the screening process at participating airports after being cleared by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
Also, the new identifier on printed and most mobile boarding passes denoting PreCheck acceptance should be in place for Delta, United and US Airways fliers by this week.
TSA PreCheck Boarding Pass Identifier
I’m flying United later in the week and should be able to confirm. Have you seen it on your boarding passes yet?
In other airline and travel industry news last week…
- United Airlines reported its January 2012 operational performance and enjoyed another month of increased consolidated passenger revenue per available seat mile (PRASM) – up 8.5 to 9.5 percent. On-time performance and the number of flights successfully completed also grew about 1.1 percentage points from a year prior to 82.2% and 98.9%, respectively.
- Staying with January performance figures, Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC) saw its strongest January in air ticket sales since 2001, realizing a 10.7% increase from 2011 and a 22.3% gain over 2010. ARC acts as a clearinghouse between travel agencies, airlines, and other companies that sell airline tickets to ensure funds are settled as expected. Adding to the good news was the fact that total transactions were up 3.2% vs. declining transaction figures the entire previous year.
- The TSA announced they will significantly expand the PreCheck trusted traveler program to include more than 15 new airports in the near future. The program is currently limited to select frequent flyers flying out of Atlanta, Dallas, Detroit, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami and Minneapolis. American and Delta were the launch airlines, but the program has since expanded to other carriers. I’m hoping to soon receive notice from United that they’ll be participating at my home airport, LAX.
- Airport administrators across the country have a love-hate relationship with the newly passed long-term FAA funding reauthorization bill. While they are happy with the stability it brings, many airports are balking since the bill didn’t include an increase to passenger facility charges (PFCs), the funds they use for airport improvements. The current cap is $4.50 per flight segment, originally set in 2000, and they feel it no longer covers the increases seen in construction costs during the last decade.
- Alaska Airlines announced two new nonstops from their Seattle hub this week. Beginning June 11, they will launch daily service from Sea-Tac to Philadelphia in direct competition with US Airways, and on July 16, commence service to Ft. Lauderdale. The new Ft. Lauderdale flight will replace existing service to Miami. According to Joe Sprague, Alaska’s VP of Marketing, “By redirecting our flight to the lower-cost Fort Lauderdale airport, we can serve the same geographic area and continue to offer our customers low fares.”
- I think I need to start a new series here on Frequently Flying devoted to the airline-traveling idiot of the week. This past week, a passenger attempted to bring a hallowed-out grenade through security in his (or her – the article is gender neutral) carry-on bag. The TSA caught it (unlike previous items), confiscated it and the passenger was denied boarding. (S)he is now also under investigation by the TSA.
And finally, here are some Quick Hits:
In other airline, hotel and travel industry news this week…
- EVA Airways has come out and acknowledged they are “in aggressive talks” to join either the oneworld or Star Alliance by 2013. Here in the U.S. they fly to Anchorage, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York’s JFK. To me, Star seems more fitting with United Airlines’ stellar connection opportunities from LAX, SFO and SEA. American would have a slight advantage at JFK, but I feel the West coast presence would be the biggest draw. They also have a huge presence in China with service to 25 cities via their Taipei hub. It’s gotta be Star.
- The U.S. Department of Transportation is keeping a close eye on airlines and their social media outreach on Twitter. Current rules requiring tax and fee disclosures must be adhered to even with the 140-character limit. Airlines must link any tweets with airfare advertisements to “a place on a separate screen where the nature and amount of taxes and fees are prominently and immediately displayed.” Come January 24, 2012, all-in fares inclusive of all taxes and mandatory fees will be required on all advertising, no matter the medium.
- The DOT also this week granted antitrust immunity to American Airlines and Qantas. Both carriers can now set prices, schedule flights and provide enhanced benefits, connections and other services to travelers between the U.S. and Australia. An interesting tidbit from the article reveals that Qantas holds a 40% share of the U.S.-Australia market, followed by United Airlines & Air New Zealand holding 27% and Delta Air Lines and V Australia with 22%.
- AAdvantage geek was first to report that American Airlines introduced new Flagship Check-in at Los Angeles International Airport with a rather hilarious “illustration” of the new layout at LAX. It’s available to Concierge Key, paid First Class and those who buy American’s Five-Star Service travel assistance. I have a feeling I’ll try it out for a couple of reasons. One, I love the elitist experience (yes, I’m that shallow) and two, just to review it for my blog.
- American also expanded their agreement with the Transportation Security Administration and the trusted traveler program with the inclusion of additional airports. Las Vegas McCarran, Los Angeles International and Minneapolis-Saint Paul airports will be included next month in the test program to expedite “vetted” travelers through security. I received an invitation, but will pass since I’m gung-ho on achieving United million-miler status next year and won’t be flying American with any regularity.
- American also launched an aggressive new television campaign with online contests and more, but I came across a neat non-contest ad featuring one of my favorite actors, Kevin Spacey. There are three new ads starring Mr. Spacey that highlight the “philosophy of understanding the individual flyer.” Here’s one of them:
- Global Distribution Systems are a hot topic in the airline industry this year with American being the forefront challenger of their traditional booking methodology. Those issues aside, GDSs are making bank and two of them this week reported stellar third quarter results. Amadeus posted a net income of €136.8 million, or approximately $186.4 million, and Travelport (Apollo, Worldspan & Galileo) enjoyed a $51 million net income this past quarter. Not too shabby.
- Finally, Asiana Airlines is reporting it will expand its long-haul routes and desires to become a world top-10 carrier in revenue and profit by 2015. A Star Alliance carrier, Asiana will take delivery of its first Airbus A380 in 2014 that will be used on Seoul to U.S.A. routes. I’m certainly saving some of my miles for an opportunity to ride on an OZ A380 and hope they don’t restrict award space on that bird in premium cabins as so many other carriers do. Separately, I’m flying Asiana in First and Business Class later this month, so look for a trip report soon.
In other airline, hotel and travel industry news this week…
- The Transportation Security Administration has officially started a “trusted traveler” program this week. According to the TSA, “This pilot program will help assess measures designed to enhance security by placing more focus on pre-screening individuals who volunteer information about themselves prior to flying in order to potentially expedite the travel experience.” I was actually offered an invitation to participate in this program, but declined since it currently only covers domestic passengers flying out of Atlanta, Detroit, Dallas and Miami. I fully look forward to such a permanent program and will definitely apply.
- Our air traffic control system here in the United States is totally antiquated with even Jeff Smisek, CEO of United Airlines, poking jabs at it. Eventually it will be satellite-based offering efficiency unmatched by current ground radar capabilities. The $2.1 billion enhancement is still underway, but the FAA this week has stated “software problems” exist that will delay full deployment. The NextGen system was scheduled to go into effect by the end of 2012, but now won’t likely be a reality until 2014.
- Rising airfares are always a hot topic and the mainstream media is quick to note when fares increase or when airlines add additional surcharges, such as those seen around the holidays. We are still, however, paying relatively much less when looking at it from a historical perspective. A Wall Street Journal reporter notes, “Average domestic airfares, adjusted for inflation, have fallen 16% since 1995.” When demand for air travel falls, such as it did post-9/11, airfares are noticeably cheaper. There are still, of course, sales and periods of the year when prices are incredibly cheap (January & February), but we all should recognize just how inexpensive it remains to travel hugely far distances in a matter of hours. Do I like it when fares rise? Of course not, but if you really think of the incredibility of what air travel offers, a rise in airfare shouldn’t be such an earth-shattering shock.
- American Airlines was largely in the news this week due to its nearly 40% drop in stock price and rumors over a possible bankruptcy filing. Also, as you might recall, the carrier placed one of the largest aircraft orders in history recently. I’ve read so many articles claiming “yes they should,” or “no they wont” file Chapter 11, but do any of us really know? It’s all speculation and I think had they filed back when many of the other majors did, they’d be posting profits akin to what Delta Air Lines and United Airlines are today. Once I hit million-miler status with United, I might likely jump ship and become loyal to American as they really impressed me this year.
- Advertisements are everywhere. Just today inside the United Club at LAX I noticed a huge ad appearing on one wall. Medford airport in Oregon is looking for additional revenue through offering up the placement of ads on its control tower. Exposure would be significant both for people at the airport and those driving nearby as the picture in the article shows. Can’t we go anywhere without ads? Yes, you can just ignore them, but I’m tired of being bombarded by them. I absolutely love that Wimbledon has consistently disallowed ads appearing around the courts. It’s so refreshing. There is one brand seen… Rolex on the clock, but otherwise it’s a clean ad-free environment.
- I seem to write about this every week, but it’s worth mentioning again. Qantas once again has cancelled and delayed flights this week due to labor unrest. I’ll give unions credit for championing in the benefits even we non-union workers enjoy, but I think the disruptions they cause in events such as this is just ridiculous. On a more positive note for Qantas, the carrier will begin daily Sydney to Dallas service – up from four times weekly – beginning in July 2012. The Boeing 747s on that route will feature the fully-flat Skybed seats in business class and Recaro Premium Economy seats.
- It’s common for airlines to be fined for false or misleading advertising or failure to comply with government standards, but this is the first time I’ve read that an Online Travel Agency (OTA) got dinged. France has fined Expedia $484,000 for “misleading marketing practices.” Among the charges, France claims Expedia showed hotels as being fully booked when they weren’t, incorrectly displaying hotel phone numbers and advertising prices as promotional rates when they were just standard prices. Half a million dollars, though? Ouch!