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Inquirer Daily News

POSTED: Tuesday, February 28, 2012, 2:43 PM

The most recent attempt to raise fares on major airlines fell flat when Southwest declined to match the effort started by United-Continental. Read a little more about it here ....

POSTED: Monday, February 27, 2012, 5:37 PM

Airlines and governments around the world are fighting the European Union's progam aimed at reducing CO2 emissions from airline flights. The program has been widely criticized as the wrong approach to trying to slow down global climate change (remember when that was an issue in this country?). An editorial supporting what the EU has done appeared in the New York Times today. Find it here .... and don't be surprised if there is a continued, hard pushback from the airlines on this. 

POSTED: Friday, February 24, 2012, 11:38 AM

Back in the summer of 2008, speculation by commodities traders drove up oil prices, peaking one day at more than $140 a barrel before falling back. Airlines, staring ruin in the face, took advantage of the situation to first add fuel surcharges to fares and then to "unbundle" their fares, beginning the era of a la carte pricing in which fees are charged for things previously included in the ticket price. Airlines also have reduced capacity substantially since then as a way to stay profitable.

We now seeing history repeat itself in rising oil prices, so don't be surprised when airlines say they must raise fares and fees to cover their costs. Already this year, the major carriers have pushed through two base-fare increases and are working on a third.  Here's a smart story on the current oil-price situation and why it doesn't have much to do with drilling for more ... 

POSTED: Monday, February 20, 2012, 12:10 PM

At various times in the three decades I have written about travel, old-fashioned brick-and-mortar travel agents have taken me to task for seeming to favor online travel agencies (Expedia, Orbitz, etc) when searching for the lowest air fares. I don't have a bias for or against either method of booking, but maybe I should -- in favor of the human beings. Read this good Frugal Traveler column from yesterday's Times and tell me what you think about the conclusions the writer found. 

POSTED: Monday, February 20, 2012, 11:55 AM

The most comprehensive news story I have seen on the ongoing, now-worldwide debate over the European Union's efforts to combat climate change with rules on airline carbon emissions was published this weekend. Airlines around the globe now appear to be uniting to oppose the EU scheme. Find the New York Times story here ... 

POSTED: Thursday, February 16, 2012, 4:39 PM

You're payijng more to fill your gas tank and airlines are paying more for jet fuel, prompting carriers to raise their base fares again, according to this AP story. As the story points out, many fare increases can be followed by fare sales, so the average fare in 2011, despite a dozen increases in the base prices, was up 7 percent at Southwest, the largest carrier in passengers carried.

POSTED: Wednesday, February 15, 2012, 5:59 PM

The Department of Transportation's Bureau of Transportation Statistics released air service reports for 2011 that show airlines operated the fewest flights in a decade and had one of their best on-time records in recent years. Among the big local carriers, US Airways did well against the other airlines it considers its direct competitors, American, Delta, Continental and United. Here are two news stories about the results, one about the on-time peformance and other service measures; and another about the number of flights declining last year. You can look at the complete DOT air service report for December and all of 2011 at this link.

POSTED: Tuesday, February 14, 2012, 12:55 PM

The Obama administration is trying again, as it did last fall, to require airlines and their passengers to help offset some of the cost of government services they use -- something that is already routine and seemingly widely accepted by travelers. The administration's fiscal 2013 budget proposal, released yesterday, includes a request to Congress to raise the $2.50 per segment fee for aviation security to $5, and then gradually increase it to $7.50 over five years. The proposal also seeks a $100 per flight fee on all aircraft takeoffs to help defray the costs of air-traffic control and to help reduce the federal deficit. Once again, the airlines are vehemently opposed to such increases.  

The airlines' opposition to increasing fees is no surprise, but as I recently explored in some depth in a trade magazine article I wrote, the industry has been called hypocritical as it argues against the increases. The airlines contend that raising fees modestly will be a killer, leading to higher prices that will mean fewer customers, which in turn will lead to canceled service and abandonment of some routes and eventually to large job losses in the travel indstry. As my article asks: OK, so what has the effect been on travel from the airlines' own fees imposed over the last three years? And what was the impact on air traffic been of a dozen base fare increases in 2011? Which would have a greater negative effect, paying $2.50 or $5 more for security or paying $50 to $100 more per flight if you want to check a bag and sit in a specific aisle seat? Read my article in Business Travel Executive to learn more.

In the meantime, in case you're worried about the financial health of the always-fragile airline industry, a Wall Street analyst's report this morning estimates that industry revenue for every available seat it flies one mile will be up 9 percent or better in January and February and 7.5 percent in March vs. a year ago. I'm finding it hard to feel sorry for the airlines right now.  How about you? 

About this blog
Tom Belden has been reporting about Philadelphia International Airport and other air travel subjects for more than 20 years, writing columns for The Inquirer's Travel and Business sections. His reporting (with colleague Craig McCoy) on baggage handling problems in Philadelphia have been credited with helping to improve the system. His previous blog was called Road Warrior. He can reached at tbelden@phillynews.com. Reach Tom at tbelden@phillynews.com.

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