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Spirit Airlines, the anti-customer Ryanair of North America, has used fees to rack up reliable profits, triggering a consumer backlash that by all accounts will have exactly zero impact on how they do business (although in fairness, the airline did delay until October its $2 kiosk fee, which is essentially a $2 paper charge, so it's not like they're monsters!)
It was only a matter of time before the airline industry brainstormed fresh ways to nickle-and-dime customers. This new one is kind of inspired, and comes from a survey conducted by fare-tracking site Airfarewatchdog. Apparently about one out of every six passengers would be willing to pay a fee to deplane faster by jumping to the front of the line. Because why not?
Airline Industry / Airline News / Ryanair / Aer Lingus / Turkish Airlines / Etihad / Olympic Air / Aegean Airlines / → All Tags
Gather around children, as we spin a fable about the magic that is European airline industry regulation. In early 2011, the European Union was in the midst of an airline merger blocking spree. Regulators rejected a proposed merger between Olympic Air and Aegean Airlines because they declared it would leave the resulting airline dominating the Greek market. Then Olympic went out of business because it was unsustainablehence the need for the merger in the first placeputting a lot of people out of work and leaving Aegean dominating the Greek market anyway. The End.
It bears mentioning that around the time when regulators were putting Olympic on a path to insolvency, they also rejected an attempted takeover of Aer Lingus by Ryanair. Now Ryanair is trying again and forecasters predictperhaps in light of the Olympic fiasco or perhaps because of the challenging economy or perhaps simply a function of the changing industrythat its odds "of clearing competition hurdles...have improved."
Airline Industry / Baggage Fees / Fees / Spirit Airlines / LCCs / Checked Baggage Fees / Carry-on Baggage Fees / Bad Ideas / → All Tags
Airline industry watchers awoke Thursday to a Fox News story about the latest Spirit Airlines clusterfark, wherein the airline is refusing to refund the $197 ticket of a dying Vietnam vet who was banned by his doctor from flying. The mess involves typically grating behavior from the deeply obnoxious airline, so that's not what was notable about the writeup.
Instead what got people's attention was that Kate Hanni, executive director of Flyers Rights, has apparently chosen to inject herself into the controversy and to start throwing around language about "meat in a seat" and "history of cruelty." This is... disconcerting.
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Spirit Airlines has declared itself proud to be the Ryanair of North America, and you have to admit that the airline works hard to protect its title. Airline industry scientists have spent years trying to untangle what it means to follow in the footsteps of the notoriously grating Irish LCC, and they've discovered at least 5 criteria: (1) obnoxious fees (2) pride in those obnoxious fees (3) arm-waving "look at me" advertising (4) a general air of petulance whenever something doesn't go the airline's way, and (5) unblinking, reflexive, utterly unapologetic disrespect for customers.
Spirit recently doubled down on their customer-screwing fees, announcing that they consider it a badge of honor to be the "poster child" for airline fees and adding that their customers like the fees too. That takes care of criteria 1, 2, and 5. The petulance stuff is covered by the temper tantrum they threw about new fee transparency rules they didn't like, which leaves only the advertising thing. All of which brings us to Spirit's most recent travel advertising campaign.
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When it comes to inventing new fees and in-flight purchases for their passengers, it goes without saying that Ryanair is a leading... innovator. Sometimes those fees are so egregious they get ruled illegal, so the Irish LCC has to continuously brainstorm. There's a reason that the airline is swimming in profits.
Last time it was porn. This time it's audiences with Pope. Where it not for how simply tiresome this entire act is becoming, we'd almost admire Ryanair's utter disregard for even the barest hint of shame. Almost.
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General Electric. Pratt & Whitney. Rolls Royce. Sound familiar? Sure, as appliances and cars, maybe, but these companies are also very much into the business of manufacturing airplane engines. And just like when airplanes go into a hangar for maintenance, so too do their engines have a special work area.
It's really odd to stand in a room so clean it's almost sterile, and be surrounded by machines that not only cost something like $13 million each, but are responsible for hundreds or thousands of lives every day, each again. You know, we could walk into Harry Winston on Fifth Avenue and look at velvet-lined trays of jewelry worth just as much and more, but the pendants and tiaras don't do anything. Next to an engine, however, we were left with a profound sense that here, right here, is a real machine, something worth every raw cent spent on it and every cent (sometimes $3 million) spent to keep it in tiptop condition.
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Last week, JetBlue completed the ridiculously crazy process of transferring system operations from a building in Forest Hills, Queens, NY to another building only several miles down the street in Long Island City, Queens, NY. It was a yearlong project of the utmost detail, a far cry from the last time they moved in 2003 and "balanced computer monitors on chairs to cross the street."
For the historical and political side of what convinced JetBlue to cozy up closer to Manhattan, see our previous post. Right now, however, let's take a look inside the new digs where people work every day to manage 14,000 crew and passenger numbers of greater proportions.
There’s all kinds of ways in which this might not be the most slick of ideas, but if things work out Delta might just be laughing all the way to the bank. The world’s former largest airline—United now holds that crown—is thinking about a pretty unique way to pay for all that airplane gas it needs.
They’re going about it through the purchase of their very own oil refinery. We’d imagine that airline officials know a little bit more about planes and passengers than petroleum, but they must be pretty confident that they know what they’re doing.
It sounds like everything is still very much on the drawing board at this point, but Delta is thinking about placing a bid for a ConocoPhillips refinery in Pennsylvania. Reports indicate that the airline’s board has met a couple of times to discuss this idea, and they might just be moving forward sooner than later. Obviously making your own oil—well, kind of—would be a great way to hedge fuel costs, but there’s definitely plenty of things that could go wrong or just get out of hand. The refinery is probably going to be up for sale for another month or two, and smarty-pants analysts are thinking that the place could sell for around $100 million.
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While flying certainly can still be done without an iPad, the little gadget is seriously making life easier for the thousands of pilots already given them to aid in navigation and flight planning. We know that American Airlines and British Airways are passing out the pads, but it's United who has partnered up with Apple to show exactly how the whole aviation + mobile tech thing works.
The beautiful video:
Airline News / Allegiant Air / Airline Industry / LCCs / Baggage Fees / Carry-on Baggage Fees / Baggage / Luggage / → All Tags
2012 has been one sad disappointment after another when it comes to Allegiant Air. The Las Vegas-based LCC started the year by teasing a huge announcement that got everyone excited about potential Hawaii service, only to unveil some underwhelming routes into and out of Oakland. Then they got tagged by the Department of Transportation for cheating on DOT's new price advertising rules, which are supposed to include all government taxes and which capped years of work on, among other things, hidden baggage fees.
In what feels like kind of a petulant followup, Allegiant just announced that they're going to start charging for carry-on bags. Passengers who prepay online will have to pay $10 to use the overhead bin, while travelers who wait until the airport will get hit with a $35 charge.
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"Terrain challenged" isn't exactly what you want to hear about the airport where your flight will be landing, but thanks to technology (thanks, technology!), it's now a cause for excitement rather than worry. Add this acronym to your travel vocabulary: RNP, or "Required Navigation Performance."
RNP is the hip, new navigation system that uses satellites and 3D calculations to devise the best route into an airport. Alaska Airlines, Southwest, Qantas and a couple others are old hats at using RNP by now, but LAN only made the switch in February to using the technology for the entire flight.
The lucky inaugural RNP route: Cusco-Lima, Peru. Though passengers onboard were more concerned with taking snapshots of the dramatic Andean scenery out the window, the pilots up front were enjoying 30.5 km shorter flying distance, 6.3 fewer minutes in the air, 644 kg less CO2 released into the air and 67.5 gallons of fuel savedand that's just on a single flight!
Airfares / Airline Industry / Delta / United / American Airlines / US Airways / Southwest / → All Tags
It took U.S. airlines all of eleven days to increase ticket prices in 2012, with Delta announcing on the second Wednesday of the year that it was hiking some round-trip fares $20. United,, American Airlines, and US Airways promptly followed and then Southwest increased their one-way fares by $10. Dryly opined the USA Today's Travel section in response: "Fare increases often don't last because carriers don't want to price themselves too high...a low-cost carrier matching is a good indicator that [the hike] will stick."
Airlines had spent the 2011 holiday season and the very end of the year trying and failing to make airfare increases stick (and before you think that increasing holiday airfares is just how the airline industry works, no it isn't). So it was kind of a big deal when Delta managed to get the industry to follow along last January. Unfortunately the airlines seem to have figured out this "rate hike" trick, since the FAA just announced that air fares are likely to stay high "throughout this decade." Terrific.