Archive: April, 2010
And then there were just four. That's the number of legacy airlines, those in business 32 years ago when the industry was deregulated, that are likely to still be around once Continental and United complete a merger.
Neither airline has confirmed on the record that such a deal is imminent, just three weeks after the two started talking about it, but leaks by sources who should know, to every major news organization that cares, say the two will announce Monday that they're swapping stock to form the world's largest airline.
Among the plugged-in is the Chicago Tribune's airline reporter. She says the name of the behemoth will be United and the headquarters will be in Chicago, where United is now based. Read more about it here.
Continental's board was reported yesterday to be meeting to discuss its possible merger with United. Of more interest to airline customers should be what has happened to the amount of service, and ultimately air fares, when airlines merged in recent years. A very good analysis by veteran columnist Bill McGee was published in USA Today.
As most travelers know from blanket media coverage, the U.S. Department of Transportation's new rules for treating passengers decently during long delays on airport tarmacs take effect today. The basics of why DOT felt compelled to adopt the tough penalities airlines would pay for violations, and just what the rules are, are explained in this AP story.
I was out on the reporting trail yesterday, at US Airways annual media day at its Tempe, Ariz., headquarters, and its executives talked about how they plan to comply with the rules. US Airways and Continental are the two airlines that have publicly outlined what they will do, including returning a plane to a gate within 2 1/2 hours (Continental within two hours), and serving water and snacks at the two-hour mark, to make sure they're in compliance.
US Airways chief operating officer Robert Isom noted that the airline had adopted the new procedures early this month after detailed planning on handling various airport scenarios during long delays, the great majority of which are caused by weather. The airline is likely to cancel more flights preemptively if it believes they may be delayed once leaving a gate, the officials said.
Inquirer airline reporter Linda Loyd took a fascinating, bumpy ride from Atlantic City to the air over PHL and back yesterday to see a demonstration of the latest in GPS-based air traffic control technology. The FAA flight showed reporters how coming Next Generation control techology will help pilots and controllers keep better track of other aircraft positions, making use of the available air space more efficient. Read how the ride went (Linda did not have to use the air-sickness bag -- that was another reporter) and how the technology works at this link.
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) said today it was fining Southwest Airlines $200,000 for violating federal rules regarding passengers bumped from oversold flights. DOT said in a statement that up to $20,000 of the civil penalty "may be used by the carrier to develop methods beyond what DOT requires to provide prominent notice to passengers of the carrier’s oversales policies and the rights of bumped passengers." The feds have specific compensation rules for passengers involuntarily bumped, and airlines have to give those affected a written statement describing their rights.
The department said its Aviation Enforcement Office’s investigated Southwest’s compliance with the bumping rule, including a review of consumer complaints sent to the carrier and a site inspection at the airline’s headquarters during 2009. "The investigation revealed numerous instances in which Southwest denied boarding to passengers but did not comply with provisions of the bumping rule," the statement said.
No comment yet from Southwest. If we get some, this post will be updated but it will take a day or so, since the Wing Man is traveling the rest of the day.
The European Union has responded to the week-long shutdown of air traffic across much of the continental with a promise to help airlines recover from an estimated $3.3 billion in losses. This brings to mind the aftermath of 9/11, when air traffic was halted for five days and the U.S. government helped our airlines with emergency financial aid and low-cost loans. Details of the EU's plans are in this story.
PHL's air-traffic control tower became a pioneering test site yesterday for the Federal Aviation Administration's Next Generation satellite-based system for keeping airplanes flying safely. PHL is one of four test sites for the developing system, which is aimed at replacing the World War II-era ground-based radar system for traffic control by 2018. Read airline reporter Linda Loyd's story about it here.
US Airways reported a $45 million first-quarter loss today, better than analysts expected and a significant improvement over the same three months of 2009. The airline, PHL's biggest by a wide margin, said its loss would have been even smaller were it not for the winter storms that disrupted travel on the East Coast and a big jump in fuel costs.
United Airlines also reported a much-improved quarter, a $92 million first-quarter loss and its first operating profit for the first three months of a year since 2000.