JetBlue Leaves Open Skies for Sabre
The Open Skies system may be simple, but it no longer provides what many low cost carriers need. That’s why it’s Sabre time.
Abandoned Airport Looks to Solar Energy
Palmdale Airport may not work as an actual airport, but a solar energy farm? Now we’re talking.
JetBlue Offers Refunds For Those Who Lose Their Jobs
JetBlue says not to worry about losing your job, because they’ll give your money back if you do . . . with several restrictions.
Aircraft Demand Continues to Drop
Drive by Marana or Mojave and you’re likely to see plenty more airplanes collecting dust than at this time last year. The trend isn’t changing either.
Delta Replaces Northwest from Los Angeles to Las Vegas
Northwest has flown Vegas to LA for years to feed people from Tokyo and other Asian cities, but that’s ending. Delta is taking it over and changing the times.
Large Aircraft Security Proposal Threatens to Strangle General Aviation
The TSA is at it again. This time, they’re trying to slap commercial aviation-style security on general aviation. Uh oh.
Sabre Allows Travel Agents to Sell United’s Economy Plus
It took them long off, but United and Sabre have finally teamed together to allow travel agents using Sabre to sell Economy Plus upgrades on United.
Alaska Gets Its Wireless Internet Test Up and Running
Alaska now has one plane test flying with onboard internet. When will one of these test airlines actually commit?
Browsing Posts published in February, 2009
JetBlue Leaves Open Skies for Sabre
All the Ryanair buzz this morning is about some casual comments made by Michael O’Leary suggesting he wants to charge people to use the lav onboard. Well of course he does. Even if he is successful in this plot, it’s not nearly as big of a deal as the announcement earlier this week that Ryanair will ditch ticket counters at airports to save money. That could have much larger consequences for travelers than simply having to pay to pee.
This scheme certainly brings up plenty of questions. First of all, how do you check a bag? Fear not, there will still be a bag drop for the anticipated 1 in 5 people that need to check a bag, but that’s about it. I think the plan is to have people check their bags online, tag them, and then drop them off and be done with it. You won’t be able to do anything else until you’re behind security, but the cost savings here may spur Ryanair to actually reduce the bag check fees.
There are undoubtedly going to be some major hiccups here in the short term as they settle into this new routine. Only 75% of people check in online now, so those remaining 25% will have to change their behavior or be out of luck. The communication piece on this change is critical, and I imagine that Ryanair’s best efforts won’t be nearly enough to get 100% compliance.
The good news is that you can check in online up to 14 days in advance. So the excuse of not having internet access for two straight weeks before your flight seems highly unlikely. But what if you happen to forget or you didn’t read the fine print saying you have to check in at home? Will you still be able to check in at the airport on a kiosk? Even if you can, what if you get stuck on a delayed train (if you’re in London, that’s just a given), and you miss your flight? Can you still get through security with your expired boarding pass? Or will you be stuck and out of luck?
There are plenty of scenarios like these that may happen infrequently, but they still will happen. Over the first few months of this plan, Ryanair is going to have to learn about these corner cases, and it’s not going to be a pleasant learning experience for the passenger. Of course, if you buy your ticket for a penny, you’ll suck it up and deal with it.
It’s basically going to be like a bus now, except they’ll frisk you before you get to the door and you can’t pay your fare onboard. But like the bus, nobody will be around to help you figure things out beforehand. You’ll just have to be good at getting around on your own. If you aren’t, well, Ryanair will probably tell you to fly someone else.
Something tells me the cost savings will be worth it for them.
Several months ago, Continental announced a partnership with LiveTV that would bring the company’s next generation entertainment system onboard much of Continental’s narrowbody fleet. But there hasn’t been anything to show for it yet, and one reader came looking for answers. Fortunately, I have some.
I fly Continental cross country to get to and from USC, and when I heard they were going to begin offering LiveTV and wifi I was pretty excited. Have you heard when this service will actually start, versus their January 2009 “trial” date?
For this, I went straight to Continental. The first airplane (a 737-900) has received the system and it’s now going through the FAA certification process. Right now, it looks like the first regular flight for passengers will be in mid-March.
After that, they will try to install the system on “more than 10 aircraft each month.” This will go on to all 737-700/800/900 aircraft as well as the 757-300, and the install will be completed by mid 2010.
Once it’s done, only the older 737-300/500 fleets that fly shorter routes will be without in seat video (along with Express aircraft, of course). The 757-200 aircraft are used primarily for international, so while those won’t have television, they do have on-demand video in each seat.
I tried to follow up with Continental to ask whether they would outfit one fleet first or if it would simply be a mix, but they did not respond.
US airlines have done an excellent job of holding back on capacity lately, and that has left them with at least somewhat decent results considering the state of the economy. But not everyone has been so disciplined. Emirates recently announced that it would grow 14% in 2009 despite some seriously worrying signs from its hometown of Dubai. Is this smart? Probably not, but who cares? It will likely lead to some great deals for travelers.
You would think the management team at Emirates would be getting nervous right now. Dubai’s economy is really getting hit hard. The Dubai stock market has plunged more than 75%, real estate prices have tanked, and jobs are disappearing. Just this week, the United Arab Emirates said it would buy $10 billion worth of bonds from Dubai in order to prop it up.
Considering that backdrop, Emirates seems like it’s from a different world. The airline still expects to take on 58 A380s, more than a quarter of all A380s ordered worldwide, and it placed an additional order for 60 smaller Airbus widebodies less than a year ago. During the airline’s fiscal year (which runs April 1, 2009 to March 31, 2010), Emirates will take on a new passenger widebody every 20 days, including 7 A380s. Surrounded by a collapsing economy, where will they put these planes?
Many of those A380s were expected to be outfitted with massive numbers of Economy seats to shuttle workers between labor-rich India and Dubai, but now there will be fewer people going back and forth. And with fewer visitors coming to Dubai in general, demand will be dropping dramatically from that angle as well. They will apparently focus the new aircraft on “on routes where there is a greater demand from our customers. All of our new capacity will be deployed in markets where we see growth potential, particularly Africa and the Middle East,” though from what I can see, there will be increases to just about every region of the globe, including North America which will see increased frequencies in San Francisco and LA.
So what does this really mean? There is going to be tremendous price pressure on Emirates in the near future until the economy is able to catch up. Keep an eye out to see if any massive discounting happens. It’s likely only a matter of time, and it could make for some great deals.
Over the weekend, US Airways said it would stop charging for soda, water, coffee, and tea on March 1. You’ve probably read about this elsewhere by now, but it’s interesting to think about why they’re finally relenting on something that they held out on for months. It appears that this is a big shift in the US Airways strategy. The airline is now admitting that perception is important, and it is taking some seemingly small but actually big steps to fix their image problem.
In a world where airlines gladly charge for anything they can, US Airways surprisingly went it alone on this drink charge. No other major airline followed the lead to charge for soda and water. The airline resisted changing back despite all the criticism . . . until now. In the words of CEO Doug Parker:
We know customers don’t buy an airline ticket based on whether or not they will get a free soda onboard, but with US Airways being the only large network carrier to charge for drinks, we are at a disadvantage. More importantly, this difference in our service has become a focal point that detracts from all of the outstanding improvements in on-time performance and baggage handling that all of us have worked so hard to achieve over the past year.
This really is a big change, despite what they’re saying. It was just last September that the airline explained how happy it was with the change. President Scott Kirby went so far as to say that the flight attendants would “riot” if they went back to the old way. Talk about a change of direction, huh?
It appears that the airlines reputation and high level of consumer complaints have caused the about-face. US Airways has made excellent strides with its on-time performance lately, and overall reliability has been quite good, yet the airline still ranks toward the bottom of the list when it comes to complaints. In December, for example, US Airways had the second best on-time performance behind perennial leader Hawaiian Airlines. The airline canceled only 2.1% of flights in the very difficult month (poor weather) and reported fewer mishandled bags than the industry average. But when it comes to complaints, the airline finished next to last, just ahead of cellar-dweller United. So what’s going on?
At last year’s media day, the management claimed that they needed to focus on reliability, appearance, and convenience. Apparently, management has now realized that it’s not enough. They actually need to do more than that to keep people happy. They must have been receiving a fair number of complaints about charging for water and soda, so they relented. They’ll lose some money on this, but people will be happier. And that has now strangely become important to them. What a pleasant surprise.
They are also looking to address other sore spots. Instead of just being happy with a strong on time performance, they’ve actually decided they need to tell people about it. This is an airline that has really avoided brand advertising for years. But now they are actually finding some value in it, and they’re promoting their on time performance in several different types of media.
It’s a very interesting move for an airline that had been moving to a true a la carte model and had not put stock in brand advertising for many years. Personally, I would have thought that simply not charging for water would have been plenty. As long as people can get something to drink, they’ll be fine. But US Airways has decided to remove the charges from soda, coffee, and tea as well in order to boost the airline’s image. It will be interesting to see if the consumer complaint number starts to drop after this move.