Tuesday, August 31, 2010

CONTINENTAL AIRLINES B737-824 (N35236/28801/367) Few changes will kick in at the start
If shareholders approve merger, passengers won't see many changes at Continental and United till spring
By JENALIA MORENO Copyright 2010
Houston Chronicle
Aug. 30, 2010, 11:57PM

The government has approved Continental Airlines' merger with United Airlines, but even if the deal closes in October as expected, passengers won't notice many changes until spring.

On May 3, Houston-based Continental and Chicago-based United announced their plans to create the world's largest airline. The merged airline will be called United, have its headquarters in Chicago and be led by Continental CEO Jeff Smisek.

On Friday, the Department of Justice announced its approval of the merger. Continental had to give Dallas-based Southwest Airlines 18 of its round-trip flight slots out of Newark Liberty International Airport to address one of the merger's biggest hurdles: concerns that it would stifle competition.

Shareholders for Continental and United must still approve the merger at meetings on Sept. 17.

In an employee bulletin Monday,
Continental said the two airlines expect to close the merger on Oct. 1 but will operate as two separate airlines for at least a year.

The first big change after closing day will be the move to Chicago of Smisek and other Continental managers selected to help lead the merged company. And in the months after the closing, the United name will begin to appear on Continental's planes.

But in the short term, the two airlines will run their own customer service and marketing operations, use Continental and United flight numbers, and maintain separate frequent-flier programs and airport lounges. Airport signs will stay the same.

Sometime in spring of 2011, on what the airlines have dubbed Customer Day One, the companies' reservations systems, websites and kiosks will be linked. And employees for either airline should be able to check in passengers, collect fees and give upgrades regardless of which company operates a flight.

About a year after the October closing, the merged company expects to receive its single operating certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration so the two airlines can operate as one, with employees using the same procedures and manuals.

The merged company will start to produce new uniforms for its more than 80,000 employees by early 2012, and employee benefits will be integrated sometime that year.


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The sign indicating the headquarters of AMR Co... Emirates's Clark Says Buying Stake in American Makes No Sense
By Stefania Bianchi - Aug 30, 2010 1:18 PM MT

Emirates, the biggest airline by international traffic, said it has no plan to acquire a stake in AMR Corp., denying speculation of a linkup with the parent of American Airlines.

“We certainly wouldn’t be doing that,” Emirates President Tim Clark said in a telephone interview today. “Us buying a stake in AMR? It wouldn’t make sense.”

U.S. law limits foreign ownership of domestic carriers to no more than 25 percent of voting stock. American sat out the two recent big U.S. mergers, as Delta Air Lines Inc. bought Northwest Airlines Corp. in 2008 and UAL Corp.’s United Airlines agreed in May to combine with Continental Airlines Inc.

AMR gained as much as 6.8 percent after Theflyonthewall.com reported that Dubai-based Emirates was in talks with the Justice Department to acquire a 49 percent stake. The shares of Fort Worth, Texas-based AMR rose 13 cents, or 2.2 percent, to $6.17 at 4 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading.

Roger Frizzell, a spokesman for AMR, declined to comment.

In June, Emirates ordered 32 additional Airbus SAS A380s valued at $11 billion. That order would give the 25-year-old company 70 more superjumbos than any other airline, funneling passengers through its Dubai base in a challenge to network carriers including Deutsche Lufthansa AG, Air France-KLM Group and Singapore Airlines Ltd.

Emirates ranked only 24th among international airlines as recently as 2000, putting it on a par with Sabena SA, the state- owned Belgian carrier that went bust a year later.

In the intervening period the Gulf carrier has achieved a sixfold increase in traffic, overtaking Lufthansa last year to become the biggest carrier on international flights, according to the International Air Transport Association, which counts Air France and KLM as two airlines.

“You’ve got to be careful of market speculation but it’s flattering that people are talking about us,” Clark said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stefania Bianchi in Dubai at sbianchi10@bloomberg.net

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Image representing TheStreet as depicted in Cr... JetBlue-Southwest Battle at Newark?
By Ted Reed 08/31/10 - 01:49 PM EDT

In case Southwest(LUV) is thinking about using its new Newark slots to fly to Boston Logan, maybe it should think again.

(JBLU) said Tuesday it will begin Boston-Newark service starting in May 2011, with four daily departures. JetBlue is already the largest domestic carrier at Boston, serving 39 non-stop destinations, including New York's Kennedy Airport.

The announcement comes just four days after Southwest gained access to Newark as part of a deal that enabled United(UAUA) and Continental(CAL) to win regulatory approval for a planned merger.

Continental agreed to lease 36 slots, enough for 18 daily round trips, to Southwest. Southwest said it could begin service in March and operate a full schedule by June, but did not identify the markets it would serve.

In recent years, Boston Logan has become an airport with a major low-cost carrier presence, but so far the Newark route has been spared from intrusions.

The average Boston-Newark fare in the first quarter of 2010 was $280, Jet Blue said, adding that the new service will bring "the only low-fare competition into a notoriously high-fare market."

Massport Director of Aviation Ed Freni added: "With JetBlue entering the Newark market, another major destination from Boston will be served by a low cost carrier, and that means competition will lower fares and our customers will win."

Newark is not the only competitor's hub where JetBlue is adding Boston service. This fall it will add service to US Airways'(LCC) hub in Phoenix. Starting Nov. 1, it will add seven daily non-stops to Washington's Reagan National Airport, another US Airways stronghold.
-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C. .

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Sunday, August 29, 2010

British Airways Boeing 747-400 G-CIVI with spe...Image via Wikipedia American Airlines, British Airways, Iberia ready to work closely together
12:00 AM CDT on Sunday, August 29, 2010

By TERRY MAXON / The Dallas Morning News tmaxon@dallasnews.com

For more than a decade, American Airlines Inc. and British Airways PLC have been talking about what they'd do if regulators would just let them work closely together.

In a few months, consumers may finally find out what's in it for them.

American, British Airways and Iberia, whose joint business agreement was approved by U.S. and European regulators last month, will start the integration process this fall with their frequent-flier programs.

"Today, our frequent-flier programs across the Atlantic aren't reciprocal, aren't coordinated," said American Airlines president Tom Horton. "Starting in October, they will be."

Although the carriers are all members of the Oneworld alliance, they didn't have antitrust law immunity, which would have let them coordinate their offerings, including their frequent-flier programs. Now they do.

At present, if you earn your miles on American, you can't use them on British Airways. Earn them on Iberia, you can't get a trip on American. That will change, Horton said.

"You can earn and burn on American or BA [and Iberia] and be indifferent what airplane you fly on," Horton said.

Of course, the programs are not identical, forcing the partners to devise tweaks to make them comparable.

"There's still a lot of work that's being done in the back side," said José Maria Alvarado, Iberia's general manager for the U.S. and Canada.

"For example, in my case with Iberia Plus, you earn points," he said. "But with American AAdvantage, you earn miles. There are a lot of technical issues that have to be worked out, and we have a group that is precisely looking at those issues."

Bigger changes
Fliers will have to wait a while longer for the airlines to make other changes, such as coordinating their pricing and schedules to attract more travelers.

Approval of the joint business agreement by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the European Commission in July came too late for the three carriers to make substantive changes in their winter 2010 schedules, which begin Oct. 31.

But schedulers at all three airlines are conferring to see how they can make the timetables work better for them and customers beginning in 2011.

Simon Talling-Smith, BA's executive vice president for the Americas, said the airlines will be able to implement some of the changes in the summer 2011 schedule, which goes into effect in late March.

The bigger changes won't be seen until the Oneworld partners release their winter 2011 schedule in October 2011, he said.

But when the scheduling coordination is done, the Oneworld offerings will be much more convenient for travelers, the carriers said.

Horton cited the schedules out of New York's Kennedy International Airport for Heathrow as an example of where American and British Airways overlap.

In the morning, an American and BA flight depart within 10 minutes of each other. In early evening, they have flights departing within five minutes of each other. Later, they have another pair of flights departing only 10 minutes apart.

"In the future, after we have sat together and talked about coordinating our schedule, we can create a pattern of service so that in the evenings, we've got a flight every half an hour," Horton said.

"That's pretty powerful if you're a New York-based business traveler and you want to just hop on the next kind of shuttle service to London," he said.

Horton said American has plans – which it's not ready to announce – to add flights across the Atlantic now that it has approval to work with BA and Iberia. The alliance should make American more profitable, allowing it to grow somewhat, he said.

Along the same lines, American's new partnership with Air Berlin should allow American to add flights into Germany. Air Berlin is expected to join Oneworld in 2012.

"In the past, we've flown Berlin. We've flown Düsseldorf. We were financially unsuccessful and wound up pulling out," Horton said.

"Well, in the future, if we have a partner with a hub in Düsseldorf and Berlin, I would bet we could make a go of that and make that financially successful," Horton said.

The partners are also working on being able to price their tickets together, including offering "combinability" – the ability to take one airline one direction and another airline coming back.

At present, that usually requires a pair of expensive one-way tickets. As planned, customers would be able to get round-trip fares, regardless of which carrier is offering the flight.
"The aim of the alliance is to make it seamless in moving from one airline to another so they might easily fly across the Atlantic on one carrier and back on the other carrier," Talling-Smith said.

Corporate travel
The airlines also hope to make themselves more attractive to corporate travelers. For several years, American has complained that it and its Oneworld cohorts were being penalized because they couldn't jointly sell their services to corporate customers, while airlines in rivals Star Alliance and SkyTeam could.

Kurt Stache, American's vice president of international, said that in recent years, "most of the corporations that have a contract with us are large corporations that want the global network.
"It's not just about D/FW or Dallas. It's absolutely critical to be able to offer Dallas to the rest of the world."

More corporations are asking for bids from alliances, not just from individual airlines.
"The other alliances have really stepped up to that. Our plan is to catch up very quickly," Stache said.

As Wall Street has muttered about parent AMR Corp.'s continuing losses, American executives have said they expect their alliances to add more than $500 million annually to AMR's bottom line.

That includes the impact of the joint business agreement with Iberia and British Airways, plus a similar partnership proposed across the Pacific with Japan Airlines, also a Oneworld member.
Opponents of the trans-Atlantic partnership, most loudly Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd., argued vigorously that the deal would hurt consumers and competitors, and urged regulators to reject the application or impose heavy restrictions.

Horton said the partnership will be good for the airlines and should also be good for fliers.

"Obviously from the airline companies' perspective, it allows us to do a lot of things to compete with the other two alliances. We can coordinate our schedules. We can coordinate our pricing. We can coordinate our product offerings. We can go jointly sell to corporations," he said.

"All of those things are important to the company. But when you flip it around, for most every one of those, there's also a benefit to the customer," he said.

"And if we make it work for the customer, we make it work for the company," Horton said. "If we don't make it work for the customer, then it's not going to work out well for the company." Iberia, British Airways and American Airlines, whose joint business agreement has been approved, will start integrating their frequent-flier programs this fall. Travelers will have to wait a bit longer for the airlines to make other changes, such as coordinating their pricing and schedules."

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Friday, August 27, 2010

NEWARK, NJ - JUNE 18:   Continental Airlines F...
Justice Dept signs off on United-Continental deal

Justice Department says no more antitrust concerns about United-Continental deal

Southwest Gets Newark Slots

Joshua Freed and David Koenig, AP Airlines Writers, On Friday August 27, 2010, 6:36 pm EDT

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- United and Continental airlines moved a big step closer to their proposed combination on Friday, with the Justice Department saying it has no more antitrust concerns about the deal.

On Friday, the two airlines said they would lease takeoff and landing slots in Newark to Southwest Airlines. The Justice Department says that clears up its main competitive concern.
Shareholders at Continental Airlines Inc. and United parent UAL Corp. are set to vote on the deal on Sept. 17. The combination would create the world's biggest airline.

The Justice Department says the two airlines overlap on a limited number of routes. The biggest overlap was at Newark (N.J.) Liberty International Airport.

Continental and United operate 442 daily roundtrip flights in and out of Newark. Under the deal announced Friday, Southwest would get enough slots from Continental to operate up to 18 roundtrip flights there by June 2011.

The move increases competition for Continental at its Newark hub, as well as for United. Currently, Southwest operates a few flights at New York's LaGuardia Airport but none at Newark or Kennedy.

Mike Boyd, an airline and airport consultant in Colorado, said giving up a few slots at Newark was an easy decision for the combining giants.

"United and Continental want to get this merger done," Boyd said, and if federal regulators "stick their nose in there and say, 'Give something up,' they're going to give it up."
Bob Jordan, Southwest's executive vice president for strategy, said Newark would complement his airline's service at LaGuardia and increase competition in the New York market. Southwest said it was still deciding what cities it would serve from Newark. From LaGuardia, it flies only to Chicago and Baltimore.

Koenig reported from Dallas.

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An American Airlines Boeing 757-223 landing at... Pay It Forward: Airline Front Seat Fees Hardly Worth It
August 18, 2010, 4:54 PM ET

By Scott McCartney

American Airlines has joined the pay-it-forward seating plan by asking customers to pony up an additional $19-$39 just to sit in the first several rows of the coach cabin on domestic flights. That includes bulkhead seats, which won’t be available to elite-level frequent fliers unless they pay extra, too.

American’s “Express Seats’’ offer is similar to the preferred seating payment option at US Airways. Airlines know that seats at the front are preferable to many travelers – you get off the plane faster, and you likely get served your beverage first. So they charge for the privilege, and give you the added perk of boarding in an early group so you’ll be sure to find empty overhead bin space available.

Is it worth it? I generally think sitting in row 6 (behind first class) instead of row 20 isn’t worth an extra $30—I’d rather have a nice dinner at my destination than get off the plane four minutes faster. I do think it’s worth paying extra for better seating when it is actually better seating, such as the extra legroom you get with United’s “Economy Plus’’ and jetBlue’s front rows that have ample legroom. With American and US Airways, there’s no extra legroom. Just a different row number (and earlier boarding).

Bulkhead seats, too, aren’t the great space they used to be. Airlines have squeezed some of the legroom out of first-row seating in the coach cabin, and sometimes it can be quite cramped up against the bulkhead. On American, you also can’t store anything under your seat—it all has to go into an overhead bin when you are in a bulkhead row. And the seats are a bit skinnier because the tray tables are stored in the armrests, not on the back of the seat in front of you.

SeatGuru.com notes that on American’s 737s, 767s and MD-80s, legroom “can be restricted’’ in the bulkhead rows. On the 757-200, however, the coach bulkhead row, which is also an exit row, has extra legroom. But it’s not included in the “Express Seats’’ offer.

All in all, it might be worth $30 to you if that’s the only way to avoid a middle seat on a long flight. Otherwise, just remember that the back of the plane gets to your destination at the same time as the front of the plane.
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American Airlines logo Not Yet Time to Worry About an AA Strike
By Scott McCartney

The rejection of a tentative contract agreement by American Airlines mechanics was expected – even union leadership that negotiated the offer declined to support it. And now that the union is saying the vote amounts to strike authorization, is it time for travelers to worry about canceled flights?

Not yet. Any strike would likely be a long time off.

In the airline industry, unions can’t strike until the National Mediation Board releases them from negotiations, and that hasn’t happened yet for any of American’s unions. The NMB will likely put the Transport Workers Union and the company back together at the bargaining table for some months to come. If the talks get nowhere, the NMB can declare an impasse and begin a 30-day cooling off period. After that, workers can strike.

Airline labor negotiations are excruciatingly slow under the Railway Labor Act, and prolonged showdowns typically lead to unhappy workers and even poor customer service. The Railway Labor Act is designed to avoid and postpone disruptions, but it often makes reaching an agreement difficult as well. Unions frequently have chosen to reject the first tentative contract with management – both sides know there likely will be a later showdown when a better deal is offered.

American is in contract negotiations with all its major unions – pilots, flight attendants and mechanics. The NMB gets to decide, in effect, which group will get to a contract showdown first, and has clearly focused on the TWU.

That union has strong leadership that has worked more closely with management and is focused largely on job preservation. Most of its competitors have outsourced their repair work—American has kept the jobs in-house. The company has tried to make that a selling point, and CEO Gerard Arpey talks passionately about how it is the right thing to do. The TWU knows that if it pushes too far, jobs could be outsourced.

So the likelihood of getting a deal is probably greater with the TWU than with American’s pilots and flight attendants. Once the first group gets a new contract, a benchmark is set that could influence the other labor groups and their expectations.

If you had to handicap the progress, you might look for a cooling off period in January or February – a slow-travel period the NMB has used before for labor showdowns. Travelers need to stay alert for the first mention of establishing a 30-day cooling off period. That’s when you need to be careful about buying tickets into a possible strike.
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A Delta Air Lines Boeing 767-300ER in 1997-200... Flight attendants union sues Delta ahead of expected vote
Wed, Aug 25 2010

ATLANTA Aug 26 (Reuters) - The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA union has sued Delta Air Lines Inc (DAL.N), saying the world's biggest carrier is violating the bargaining agreement that covers more than 7,000 flight attendants who worked for Northwest Airlines.

The complaint, filed in federal court in Washington, D.C., states Delta "is unwilling to resolve disputes" with the union, and adds contract breaches involve such issues as scheduling and pay.
Carmen Parcelli, attorney for the flight attendants union, said on Thursday that the lawsuit was filed on Aug. 19. It seeks unspecified damages and an order halting contract breaches.

The complaint comes ahead of an expected election that would determine whether more than 20,000 flight attendants at Delta will be represented by the flight attendants union. Delta was largely nonunion before it acquired Northwest in 2008.

"We believe this lawsuit has no merit and can only presume it is meant to divide flight attendants and distract them from the upcoming representation election," Delta spokeswoman Gina Laughlin said in an emailed statement.

The union filed with the National Mediation Board to start the election process earlier this summer, and must now deliver evidence to the board showing significant interest from flight attendants to have a vote. Should the National Mediation Board determine there is enough interest, it will schedule an election.

The case is Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO vs. Delta Air Lines Inc, 1:10-cv-01404-RWR, United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
(Reporting by
Karen Jacobs; Editing by Phil Berlowitz
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Mexicana Airbus A320 at Benito Juárez Internat... Mexicana airlines group to suspend all flights
(AFP) – 2 hours ago

MEXICO CITY — Mexicana, Mexico's second biggest airline, will suspend all flights from Saturday due to serious financial problems, Communications and Transport Minister Juan Molinar said Friday.

"Mexicana Group indefinitely suspends its operations" from midday (1700 GMT) Saturday, a company statement said.

The suspension includes flights on Mexicana, as well its low cost subsidiaries Click and Link, it said.

The group, which already partially suspended flights after seeking bankruptcy protection at the start of the month, said it had failed to reach viable, long-term financing deals.

A Mexican consortium last week said it would take over 95 percent of the group's capital, with the remaining five percent under control of the national pilot's union.

But the Tenedora K consortium failed to reach a deal to secure the future of Nuevo Grupo Aeronautico, the holding company controlling Mexicana and its two low cost subsidiaries.
"Nuevo Grupo Aeronautico will keep seeking alternatives to give long-term viability to the company," the statement said.

Mexicana initially blamed its financial woes on the high cost of labor, after failing to reach a deal with unions on major cost-cutting.

The company's fleet comprises 65 aircraft from European manufacturer Airbus and two US-made 767 from Boeing, and transports some 22,000 passengers on 220 daily flights, according to Mexicana.

Mexicana, which has been nationalized several times in its 89-year history, was bought in 2005 by hotel group Grupo Posadas.
Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved.

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Seal of the United States Department of Justice DOJ clears UAL-Continental merger

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department says it has closed its investigation into the proposed merger of UAL Corp. and Continental Airlines Inc.

Friday's announcement follows an agreement by United and Continental to transfer takeoff and landing slots and other assets at Newark, N.J.,
Liberty Airport to Southwest Airlines Co.
The department says the proposed merger would combine largely complementary networks of the two airlines, resulting in overlap on a limited number of routes. The deal with Southwest resolves the Justice Department's main concerns over competition.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Image representing TheStreet as depicted in Cr... 2 Airline Stocks to Buy, 2 to Watch
By Ted Reed 08/25/10 - 08:00 AM EDT

(TheStreet) -- Although airlines are getting close to the slack post-Labor Day travel period, their outlook continues to be bolstered by fuel price trends and a continuing commitment to reduced capacity.

In a negative scenario, the economy slows and travel falls off a cliff after Labor Day, leading to yields that decline beyond anticipated reduced levels. Even this scenario has a silver lining, however, because capacity would remain tight and fuel prices could decline further.

In a report issued Tuesday, Stifel Nicolaus analyst Hunter Keay said he remains bullish despite projected tepid growth in passenger revenue per available seat mile during 2011, a result of difficult year-over-year comparisons and "a higher likelihood of a slow and at times painful return to economic normalcy." He assumes just 2.2% PRASM growth for the full year, based on GDP growth of negative 2%.

Nevertheless, Keay wrote, "we remain bullish on the space and still see meaningful upside over the next 12 months as the cycle recovery story gains momentum, though [the next three months] could be relatively stagnant due to a likely data vacuum and fewer trading catalysts."
So far this year, airline shares are up about 15%, while the S&P 500 Index is down about 5%. The sector has been helped by run-ups in the shares of Continental(CAL) and United(UAUA), partners in a pending merger.

But analysts like Helane Becker of Dahlman Rose say that now United, the surviving company, faces a year of integration spending.

Becker prefers Delta(DAL) (see stock chart above), which is now getting the most of the synergies from its 2008 merger with Northwest.

The sector's leader this year, US Airways(LCC), is up about 90%. Analysts including Becker, Keay and Avondale Partners' Bob McAdoo continue to include both US Airways and Delta among their favorites.

In late July, before it pulled back due to the recent surge in concerns about the economy, US Airways stock was up 115%. That's when four insiders sold about 185,000 shares at prices ranging between $10 and $11 a share. But the carrier's high margins, the highest in the industry, still holds an appeal.

Recently, Alaska(ALK) has led the sector down. The carrier reported a disappointing gain in July passenger revenue per available seat miles on Thursday, Aug. 19, and has watched its shares fall by about 15% since then.

In a report on Alaska on Monday, CRT Capital Group analyst Mike Derchin said he revised his estimates downward after the PRASM filing. "We are now assuming that 3Q PRASM for Alaska increases 6% compared with our previous projection of 7%," Derchin wrote. Nevertheless, Derchin maintains his $58 price target, noting "valuations are already at the low end of the range for network airlines."

Of course, recent trends make everybody wary. An Aug. 19 report by the Air Transport Association, pegged July revenue gains for U.S. carriers at about 20%. "Demand for air travel remains well above last year's depressed levels," said ATA CEO Jim May, in a prepared statement. "But the industry is mindful of cautionary notes about the health of the overall economy."

Meanwhile, American remains the industry's biggest question mark. Is it on the cusp of a breakthrough, after finally gaining access to enhanced revenue from trans-Atlantic immunity with its partners, or is it in a downward spiral in relationship to competitors with broader networks and higher efficiencies of scale?

Keay, in an interview, said "American has a great network, a lot of strong alliance partners, and a very extensive Latin network." Going forward, the airline is expected to benefit substantially from the new revenue.

McAdoo, however, said the airline is simply not making enough progress. In terms of second quarter results, most carriers slipped between 2007 and 2010, reflecting the impact of an economic reversal during the interlude. But the changes were not dramatic and some carriers improved.

American, however, lost $10.7 million in the second quarter of 2010 after earning $317 million in the second quarter of 2007. It reported a 2010 loss of three cents a share compared with a 2007 gain of $1.08. "These other carriers didn't get worse since 2007, but American did," McAdoo said, in an interview. "I don't know why that is, but some organizations are just not oriented towards change."
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Sunday, August 22, 2010

A Delta Air Lines Boeing 767-300ER in 1997-200... Delta to Recall, Hire Attendants as Carrier Expands

Friday, August 20, 2010Aug. 20 (Bloomberg)

Delta Air Lines Inc., the world's largest carrier,said it will recall furloughed attendants and hire an undetermined number of new workers as it adds flights. The airline expects to begin training the attendants in January and havethem flying by mid-2011, Chief Executive Officer Richard Anderson toldemployees in a recorded message today.

He didn't say how many flight-attendant jobs the Atlanta- based carrier will fill.Delta is adding international flights as the economy recovers and businessesresume travel. The airline said Aug. 4 that its passenger traffic across thePacific Ocean rose 13 percent this year through July, while Latin Americantraffic increased 5.3 percent from the year-earlier period.

"We need lots of folks with language skills, given the extensive nature of our international network and the need to be able to communicate with passengers in their own language," Anderson said.

Airline labor agreements generally require furloughed employees be given achance to return before new workers are hired. Delta follows the same policy even though its flight attendants don't belong to a union. About 700 of theairline's flight attendants remain on furlough, said Gina Laughlin, acompany spokeswoman.The carrier is adding flights between London and its hubs at Detroit and Atlanta starting Oct. 31, and is expanding facilities at New York's Kennedyairport for international routes.

Airline Employment
Delta said last month it would fill 1,000 jobs at its 25 biggest U.S. airports to help with planes flying at near-record capacity and better cope with weather disruptions. Delta, with about 81,000 workers, has also announced plans to hire 240 pilots.

US Airways Group Inc., the smallest of the U.S. full-fare carriers, is recalling 300 employees, including 80 pilots and 220 flight attendants. Employment among all U.S. airlines fell 2.4 percent in June from a year earlier, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics. It was the 24th straight monthly decline.--Editors: James Langford, Steve Walsh
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Thursday, August 19, 2010

American Airlines logoTexas plane cleaner accused of stealing lost items

American Airlines fires plane cleaner charged with stealing items left behind by passengers 

 Jamie Stengle, Associated Press Writer, On Thursday August 19, 2010, 3:34 pm EDT

DALLAS (AP) -- American Airlines has fired a worker charged with theft after police searching his home found thousands of dollars worth of items that passengers left on planes at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, the airline said Thursday.

Henry Ibarra, 59, who cleaned planes, had worked for Fort Worth-based American for 41 years, the airline said.

Airport police in July traced a cell phone that a passenger had accidentally left on a plane to Ibarra's Fort Worth home. While at the home with a search warrant, officers also saw what they believed were other passengers' lost belongings, including electronics, cameras, iPods and sunglasses.

Officers with a second search warrant also found items belonging to American Airlines in the garage.

Ibarra, who was arrested on a theft charge July 15 and later released, did not immediately return calls Thursday from The Associated Press.

Authorities have so far estimated the value of half of the 171 recovered items at $7,500, airport spokesman David Magana said Thursday. Officials are working to find the owners.

"The investigation is still unfolding," Magana said.

When officers originally searched the house for the missing cell phone, Ibarra said he'd forgotten to return it after picking it up and putting it in his pocket. Investigators found the phone in Ibarra's son's bedroom with its information erased and Ibarra's son's named entered into it.

The phone's serial number matched that of the one reported lost.

American, a subsidiary of AMR Corp., worked closely with police on the matter, spokesman Tim Smith said.

"While the majority of our 24,000 North Texas employees are honest and hardworking, we have no tolerance for any dishonest behavior and will take appropriate action as necessary," Smith said.
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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

JFK International AirportAmerican: Protecting its New York Turf

By Ted Reed 08/18/10 - 01:53 PM EDT

DALLAS (TheStreet) -- After 84 years of operating in New York, American Airlines(AMR) is not backing down in the face of dramatic expansion by its competitors.

"It's a major issue for us to protect our turf here," said Art Torno, a 31-year American veteran who took over as vice president for New York in March. A big advantage for American, Torno said, is the $1.3 billion terminal the carrier opened at Kennedy Airport in 2007. "That terminal is the place to be, one of the finest in the country," he said. "It's modern, state of the art and roomy."

Now American is trying to squeeze more synergies out of the terminal. (Kennedy is among the few airports where terminals can be dedicated to a single airline.) For instance, it will move in more alliance partners now that regulators have approved a trans-Atlantic joint venture and may soon approve a trans-Pacific joint venture as well. American also wants to boost its level of cooperation with JetBlue(JBLU), Kennedy's largest domestic carrier, to enhance the feed to its international flights.

One thing American cannot afford to do is stand still, because competitors are ramping up dramatically in New York. Delta(DAL), already growing in New York, said last week it will spend $1.2 billion to upgrade its terminal at Kennedy.

Meanwhile, United(UAUA) awaits regulatory approval for a planned merger with Continental(CAL). Perhaps the biggest single prize in the merger is Continental's Newark hub, which will become the New York gateway for the world's biggest airline.

The Newark hub means that "Continental is in the driver's seat" in New York, said Stifel Nicolaus analyst Hunter Keay.

But the region is too important for any Big Three airline to step back. "No one has retreated," said consultant George Hamlin. At LaGuardia, US Airways(LCC) sought to tactically pull back by trading slots to Delta in exchange for slots at Washington Reagan National, but regulators blocked that deal.

Kennedy is the epicenter because three of New York's four principal airlines operate hubs there. In March, American signed a deal with JetBlue that included an interline agreement and some slot trades. Now efforts are underway to expand on that. For instance, as TheStreet reported previously, American and JetBlue are talking about a code share, an extremely close cooperative agreement in which carriers can write tickets on one another's flights.

Unfortunately, the lack of a shared terminal means 90-minute connect times between flights, when an hour or less is typical for dual-airline connects. At Kennedy, connecting passengers must take a bus between terminals and pass through security a second time. But Torno said American and JetBlue envision a bus that would keep connecting passengers on the sterile side of security, reducing the connect time to 60 minutes. Conceivably, the bus will begin running whenever the code share starts, but the two carriers are not rushing to expand the agreement. "We're taking baby steps to make sure what we are doing makes sense," Torno said.

As far as American's partners in the Oneworld alliance, they too could be housed in American's terminal. Currently, partners including AirBerlin, Finnair and Malev are occupants. "We would like to see a facility that is the Oneworld New York gateway," Torno said. "We're in deep negotiations with British Airways to come in, [although] we're not close to finalizing them." Iberia could also be an occupant, as could Japan Air Lines, assuming an application for trans-Pacific joint immunity is approved.

Similarly, American's joint venture partners are moving to house their sales teams in a single midtown office building. "We will co-locate in one office, with fully-integrated sales forces working side by side." Torno said. "When we go to negotiate a deal, we will go in together."

As for LaGuardia, the close-in New York airport, American ranks second to Delta. In 2009, according to figures compiled for TheStreet by OAG Consulting, the combined passenger total for Delta, Northwest and regional affiliates was about 6 million passengers. American and American Eagle carried 4.7 million passengers. Third-place US Airways and regional affiliates carried 4.2 million passengers.

November schedules show that Delta will provide 33% of LaGuardia capacity, while American will provide 20% and US Airways will provide 19%, said OAG. American has been building its LaGuardia schedule, adding American Eagle flights to Minneapolis, Atlanta, Raleigh-Durham and Charlotte on CRJ-700 regional jets that have first class cabins, as well as increased mainline service to Miami and Chicago.

Despite all the improvements, Avondale Partners analyst Bob McAdoo said he views American as New York's no. 4 carrier. The Kennedy terminal is spacious and imposing, but American doesn't utilize it sufficiently -- which is why alliance partners are being welcomed with open arms.

Additionally, he said, American has not sought to provide the type of classic hub that Delta has. While Delta has 876 weekly departures from Kennedy, not only to major cities but also to Akron, Burlington, Vt., and Indianapolis, American has just 426. "I look at the number of cities one guy brings to town versus another, the number of possible connections," McAdoo said. "It's one thing to say 'New York to London Heathrow is wonderful' and 'I have some good markets.' It's another to say, 'I have a hub.'"

Torno said the American strategy in New York, as elsewhere, is to serve the best, most profitable routes, such as Heathrow and Los Angeles and Chicago, and, in January, Tokyo Haneda as well as Tokyo Narita.

"We may not be the biggest in New York," he said. "But we are big where it counts."

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.
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An American Airlines Boeing 757-223 landing at...American Airlines to charge for front-row seats

American Airlines to start charging $19-$39 for seats in the first few rows of coach cabin 
Samantha Bomkamp, AP Airlines Writer, On Wednesday August 18, 2010, 3:56 pm EDT

NEW YORK (AP) -- American Airlines has found another fee.

The Fort Worth, Texas, airline said Wednesday it's now charging between $19 and $39 for "Express Seats" -- those spots in the first few rows of coach that include bulkhead seats.
American said the price of the seats includes getting on the plane in the first "general boarding" group of passengers. The seats that will cost extra are in the first two or three rows of the coach cabin, depending on the size of the plane.

Anne Banas, executive editor of SmarterTravel.com, thinks passengers will see more packaged fees like this in the future -- where benefits like free standby or boarding perks are included.

The carrier, which is operated by parent AMR Corp., is following in the footsteps of several other airlines who already charge for special seats. UAL Corp.'s United Airlines, Continental Airlines, US Airways, JetBlue, Frontier, Spirit and AirTran all have some seats that cost extra.

The American seats don't give passengers much extra for their money, said Steven Hall of CompareAirlineFees.com. Most of the other airlines' premium seats offer more legroom. But it is a benefit for passengers to be among the first to board the plane, he added.

The seats on American can only be bought at airport kiosks between 24 hours to 50 minutes before the flight for travel within the U.S.

American, the country's second-largest airline behind Delta Air Lines, still provides its elite frequent fliers those seats for no extra charge. American also charges fees for checked bags, priority boarding, booking on the phone or in person, "sleep sets," unaccompanied minors and pets.

On Tuesday, AirTran raised its fee for the first checked bag by $5 to $20 for travel starting in September. The cost is now on par with bigger airlines.

U.S. airlines collected about $1.9 billion from fees in the first quarter, the most recent period for which data is available from the Transportation Department. American's share of that was $261.1 million.

AP Airlines Writer David Koenig in Dallas contributed to this report.

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Stewardess in a Swiss flight filling orangejui...Flight attendants: Bartenders or bad cops?

Hard-working airline crews juggling conflicting responsibilities
updated 8/17/2010 9:48:58 AM ET

Morris MacMatzen / Reuters

Given the agitation among both paying customers and the uniformed personnel, should the airlines formally and forcefully reaffirm the authority of flight attendants?By Bill Briggs 

Steven Slater’s intercom-cussing, double-fisted slide into resignation — has launched a fresh examination of the two-faced persona all flight attendants are asked to master: grinning snack server one moment, frowning rules enforcer the next.

From bartender to bad cop in a snap.

In an era of “current threat levels,” and within a tense flying environment that gives new meaning to “cabin pressure," is it smart to ask airline crews to juggle such outwardly conflicting responsibilities?

Flight attendants have recently demanded and won heftier federal fines for unruly customers, and have been officially designated “first responders” — someone certified to provide pre-hospital care in a medical emergency — by the Department of Homeland Security.

Yet they are earning less and sleeping less, harder-worked and higher-stressed — all while tending to a seemingly rising number of passengers who board toting an edgy “sense of entitlement,” according to associations representing both U.S. airlines and flight attendants.
While the trade groups carefully veer around the central question — does fluffing pillows and dishing pretzels erode a cabin crews’ vital onboard authority — one former flight attendant believes that’s precisely the psychology taking root in the minds of some fliers.

“Yes, in a way, the service that people see day in and day out does make people forget and it does undermine the ... responsibility that the crew members have for the safety and well being of the passengers,” said Carolyn Paddock, a Delta Air Lines flight attendant for 17 years.

.“At times, it is difficult to balance being helpful and a good host, and then having to police people,” added Paddock, who left Delta about three years ago, launching InFlightInsider.com, a website offering tips on traveling smart and stylishly.

But as flight attendants shove massive snack carts through the aisles, they offer passengers just a tiny glimpse of jobs that have gained deep complexity since Sept. 11 — jobs that pay an average of $35,000 a year, according to Corey Caldwell, spokeswoman for Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, a labor union representing more than 50,000 flight attendants at 22 airlines. "However," Caldwell noted, "most newly hired flight attendants and those who have only been at their carrier for just a few short years often make less than $20,000 a year."

“What [travelers] never see, and what they’re not supposed to see,” Paddock said, “are the inner workings of what it takes to make a flight safe, secure, and work well.”

So what happens behind the curtain? “In the interest of your safety, I cannot reveal what goes on,” Paddock said. “But trust me when I tell you that there is more that meets the eye ... What I can say is the crew is making assessments. Who are the passengers most likely to help in an emergency? Who is acting or looks suspicious? Who looks unwell? Are they unwell enough to fly? Who is sitting next to that little unaccompanied minor and is she OK sitting next to that passenger? ... At times, being underestimated works to the crew's advantage.”

That “underestimation” — or, put bluntly, lack of respect — also reflects what flight crews see on the clock and off, at their hotels, at the mall, on the freeway, or in their neighborhood grocery store: a self-involved, me-first mentality, said David Castelveter, vice president of communications at the Air Transport Association of America. (The ATA is the nation’s oldest and largest airline trade group.)

“More than ever before, there’s a sense of entitlement in society and that’s what creates the challenges for these flight crew members,” Castelveter said. “At the end of day, we’re in the customer service business and the old adage ‘the customer is always right’ is still the norm. But we have to find that balance between the customer being right and [a flier who] does something that creates a potential hazard or inconvenience for another passenger.”

Msnbc.com contacted three domestic airlines to discuss the state of flight attendant authority. Southwest spokesperson Paul Flanigan said he would not discuss whether the Slater incident indicated that U.S. airlines, in general, needed to re-examine or address the command or clout held by flight attendants inside the cabin. "We, to date, have declined all media inquiries regarding the JetBlue incident," he said, and referred questions to ATA. United and JetBlue, meanwhile, did not respond to interview requests on the topic.

“It’s absolutely a rising factor,” said Beth Blair, a Southwest Airlines flight attendant until 2004 and now a travel writer whose job has put her in the sky as often as three times a month. “There are the people who are always looking for anything free. For example, passengers assume they deserve a complimentary upgrade just because a seat is available or they should be granted a free drink because their flight was slightly delayed.”

When such accommodations are not met, some passengers “simply stew in their seats while others react with an outburst which may or may not make the news,” Blair added.

The worst offenders? “Frequent fliers,” Blair said. They are “most likely to break safety rules such as cell phone use or not paying attention to safety briefings.”

Amid these ill-mannered trends — and following Slater’s famous meltdown last week (which may or may not have been sparked by bad passenger behavior) — has the time come for airlines to take pre-emptive action? Must they formally remind passengers of who is in charge in the cabin, and that it’s a federal crime, now punishable by a $25,000 fine, to disobey or interfere with flight attendants?

That question comes with two critical caveats. First, due to post-9/11 union concessions that helped keep airlines in business, flight attendants are paid about 30 percent less than they were before the attacks and they are working about 40 percent more. Fatigue and stress among flight crews are both high, industry experts acknowledge. Couple that with the anxieties many passengers are carrying: strenuous security checks, fewer flight options, jam-packed planes and general worries about terrorism.

“I’m not sure I would say [they must take] official steps,” said Caldwell of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA. “On a whole, the traveling public understands the role of flight attendants. [But] it certainly doesn’t hurt to remind them again — that flight attendants are certified safety professionals who are required to enforce federal aviation regulations.”

"Remember, their primary responsibility is to ensure the safety of the traveling public," ATA's Castelveter said. "If any passenger is interfering with the duties of the flight crew member, it's a federal crime."

Caldwell concedes, however, that she can envision a day when the service slice of the flight crews’ job is substantially reduced and attendants ride purely to keep the peace and enforce the safety rules.

“That’s definitely a possibility,” Caldwell said. “If you look at the current business model that airline management has sort of set up, yeah that could be a possibility.”

Although, she added, flight attendants always will remain the face of the airlines and, as such, “there will always be just that little customer service angle. It’s the flight attendants who are in the steel tube at 40,000 feet with the passengers.”

Perhaps some airlines ultimately will find the need to designate certain flight crew members as “hospitality” attendants and others as “safety monitors” — both squads with clearly separate duties, perhaps even wearing different attire. That’s unlikely to occur until the economy rebounds, said flight-attendant-turned-writer Blair.

“I think an onboard safety team is a great idea because it does give the crew members a specific role,” Blair said. “I’m not sure, though, if the airlines will see it as practical or financially feasible.”

Still, fliers already recognize that the “service” elements offered by flight crews are dwindling as pillows and blankets become scarce, and as beverages and snacks are cut or switched to pay-only, pre-boxed meals.

“Other flight attendants, pilots and I used to joke that one day vending machines would replace the galley,” Blair said. “It seems like we may be heading in that direction.”

© 2010 msnbc.com Reprints

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Fans celebrating the upcoming 2010 FIFA World ...Airlines start lining up for Africa take-off

By Jeremy Lemer

Published: August 17 2010 18:14
Last updated: August 17 2010 18:14

The football World Cup is over, the vuvuzelas have been consigned to the dustbin and fans have turned their attention from Africa to Brazil, host of the 2014 contest. But for one group at least, the continent remains in sharp focus: international airlines.

According to the International Air Transport Association, airlines increased the amount of flying capacity to and from Africa by 8.6 per cent over the year to the end of June compared to 2009, more than any other region except for the Middle East.

While US and European airlines have been cautiously adding capacity to Africa for years, the drive has picked up in intensity in recent months, leading industry executives to talk of a new “scramble for Africa” as airlines position themselves for the future.

Executives point to high growth levels that suggest an increasing need, and ability to pay, for travel by air. Africa’s real gross domestic product was $1,600bn in 2008, having grown 4.9 per cent per year since 2000 – more than twice as fast as in the 1980s and 1990s.

Much of that can be put down to Africa’s large mineral reserves – which have become a focus of fast-growing Asian economies. Traffic between Asia-Pacific and Africa is forecast to grow at 9 per cent per year over the next decade according to some estimates.

US and European airlines are also boosting their connections to resource-rich regions. In June, Delta Air Lines started a service between Atlanta and Accra and aims to add services to Liberia, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, and Kenya in the near future.

Lufthansa, Europe’s biggest airline group and a key provider to Africa, has ramped up its connections, adding two new services in west and central Africa and expanding several more since 2008. The group now has 222 flights a week to 33 destinations in Africa.

A recent report by McKinsey Global Institute, entitled Lions On The Move, suggests that the economic foundations of Africa’s recent success are broader and therefore will have more “staying power”.

Natural resources accounted directly for only a quarter of Africa’s GDP growth over the decade while “the rest came from other sectors, including wholesale and retail, trade and transportation, telecoms and manufacturing”.

Indeed, Airbus, the European aircraft maker, predicts the recent aviation ramp-up will be sustained. Over the next 20 years the amount of filled capacity on flights between Africa and other parts of the world will grow at 5.6 per cent each year, albeit from a low base.

“There is a lot of money in Africa right now,” says Glen Hauenstein, head of network planning at Delta Air Lines, the world’s largest airline by revenues. “GDP is small in absolute terms but it is rapidly expanding as political stability spreads.”

In this newly competitive environment, US airlines are playing catch-up. While European carriers have offered direct services for decades, non-stop flights from North America to Africa have traditionally been limited, and slumped after the industry recession following the September 2001 terrorist attacks.

Mr Hauenstein says Delta began experimenting with flights to Africa in 2006 with a connection between its hub in Atlanta, Georgia, and the tourist destination of Johannesburg in South Africa, via Dakar, Senegal.

The success of that route has led Delta to try others, with an emphasis on west and sub-Saharan Africa where avoiding European connections can save US travellers time.

Part of the problem was aircraft technology, says Greg Hart, vice-president of network strategy at Continental.

Until the Boeing 777 was developed in the mid-1990s, many destinations in Africa were too far from the US for direct connections, and even then the 777 was too big to make some routes profitable. With the arrival of Boeing’s much delayed 787, due around the turn of the year, Mr Hart says that many airlines will for the first time have the right aircraft for the job. Continental plans to connect the energy capitals of Houston and Lagos with a service starting in November 2011. Still, considerable obstacles must be overcome.

According to a 2009 World Bank report on Africa’s aviation infrastructure, while the continent is fairly well served by airports, lack of taxi-ways and terminal facilities and “inadequate” air traffic control systems are limiting capacity growth.

Safety is another concern. Last year, Africa had the worst record of any region, according to Iata statistics. While most problems relate to aircraft operated by local airlines, several reports have blamed Africa’s weak regulatory oversight, which raises wider issues.

In response, airlines have worked closely with government authorities and spent time and money to upgrade local infrastructure for their new services. Continental will help to upgrade the electrical facilities in Lagos airport to receive the Boeing 787.

In spite of those hurdles the airlines remain confident that the efforts will pay off. “The 787 is going to be the pride of our fleet and we are going to put it into Africa. That speaks volumes of our level of interest,” says Continental’s Mr Hart.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2010. You may share using our article tools.

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Terminals B and C of Ronald Reagan Washington ...If you're bumped from a flight, you may be stuck

By Evan Eile, USA TODAY

A power outage at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on July 15 delayed flights and closed security checkpoints for hundreds of travelers. Such a delay can cause a domino effect, bumping passengers.


Flights on domestic routes are more full than ever. Share of seats filled:
2005 77%
2006 79%

2007 80%
2008 80%

2009 81%
Source: Air Transport Association
 Dan Reed, USA TODAY

Lots of luck catching another flight if you've been bumped or miss a connection.

Commercial airlines in the USA have never been so full. Seven of them — Delta, American, United, Continental, US Airways, AirTran and Alaska — reported filling at least 87% of their seats in July. Even Southwest, always the industry's laggard in load factor, beat the industry's average over the previous six Julys of 84.6% by filling 84.9% of its seats.

That leaves precious few spots available if you've been bumped off a full flight or miss a connecting flight. And because airlines are scheduling fewer flights than five years ago, travelers could face long waits for a direct flight to their destinations or have to settle for circuitous reroutings to get there.

Some travelers, such as Robert Beilstein, consider themselves lucky if a missed flight doesn't cost more than a day's time. Beilstein, a supply-chain software consultant from North Syracuse, N.Y., twice recently missed connections to San Antonio at Baltimore-Washington International Airport. He made it to San Antonio both times, after being rerouted via Denver.

"I did lose a day's worth of consulting revenue," he says. "But at least I did manage to get there in one day and didn't lose two days of revenue." He says he's even more "lucky" he hasn't been bumped from a flight lately.

For those who've been bumped off flights against their wishes, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has proposed increasing the maximum compensation from $800 to $1,300. The proposal is included in a package of "fliers' rights" rules that LaHood wants to impose this fall. The Air Transport Association, the trade group that represents the nation's biggest airlines, says it won't object to raising the compensation. Missing a connecting flight as Beilstein did is far more common than being bumped as a result of an airline selling more tickets for a flight than the plane has seats.

However, most delays leading to missed connections are caused by weather. And unlike overbooking, the weather is outside airlines' control. Most passengers who miss a connecting flight aren't owed anything, although airlines sometimes provide vouchers for meals and hotel rooms. LaHood isn't proposing to change that.

Most airlines automatically reschedule passengers with computer software that often predicts missed connections before a plane has landed. The airlines say this lets them speed people who've missed flights to destinations as quickly as possible.
Some travelers aren't convinced.

"Airlines do not care at all anymore if passengers are inconvenienced," says Jill Naas, a project manager from Seattle who flies at least monthly. She has been able to get other flights after missing connections, she says. But, she says, she's "had to fight like hell" and "emphasize" her elite-level frequent-flier status with airlines to do it.

A growing problem

Bumping, known as "denied boarding" in the industry, isn't a big problem, statistically speaking. In 2009, 69,416 passengers were involuntarily bumped, out of 584 million passengers boarded in the USA. An additional 695,510 were coaxed into giving up their seats by offers of discounts on future travel. The rate of involuntary bumping in 2009 was minuscule: 1.19 per 10,000 passengers boarded.

However, it's a growing problem. In the first half of this year, the rate rose to 1.37 per 10,000 boardings, the highest first-half rate of people involuntarily denied boarding in 16 years. The rise in involuntary bumpings is a byproduct of U.S. airlines' record-high passenger loads. That's the result of the airlines cutting capacity, or the number of seats available, by 12% since 2005 by reducing the number of flights or moving to smaller planes.

"The people who volunteer (to be bumped) ... tend not to be all that upset about it," says Ira Gershkoff, a former airline scheduler who develops software for SlipStream Aviation Software that helps airlines better match capacity to fluctuating travel demand. "They brag to their friends about the compensation they got. But those who are involuntarily bumped are upset. They ... had to be somewhere."

Ed Perkins, a contributing editor at SmarterTravel.com, says airlines for the most part handle the job of bumping passengers off a flight fairly well, though he thinks that passengers who are forced off flights against their will often aren't compensated sufficiently for the inconvenience.

"(Airlines) are able to take care of roughly nine out of 10 cases of bumping by offering people some kind of goody," says Perkins, who was Consumer Reports' travel editor for four decades. "But times do come when nobody wants to get off the airplane."

In addition to providing a seat on a later flight, carriers must pay involuntarily bumped passengers — in cash or by check — an amount equal to the price of their ticket, or $400, whichever is lowest. If the passenger arrives more than two hours late, the compensation cap rises to $800.

But the average domestic ticket in the USA in the first quarter of the year was $328. Few involuntarily bumped travelers ever get paid the full $800, or even $400. Typically, only those who buy first- or business-class tickets or full-price coach fares qualify for the maximum payout. The budget traveler flying on a $139 ticket gets only $139.

LaHood wants to raise the caps to $800 and $1,300. But Perkins says the formula, not the actual amount of compensation, is what's wrong.

"I see no reason why the dollar compensation should have anything to do with how much you paid for your ticket, because that doesn't have anything to do with the amount of inconvenience," he says. "The compensation should be a fixed amount. And for a lot of travelers, the money may not be near as important as fixing their trip. There ought to be more focus on that."

He says airlines should be required to put involuntarily bumped travelers on the next available seat to their destination, even if it means paying another airline to carry them.

Most airlines say they won't hesitate to put bumped fliers on competitors' planes if that's the best solution.

Monte Ford, chief information officer at American Airlines, says, "We have become more progressive in our thinking about how and when we put somebody on some other airline's aircraft. In a disruptive situation, we'll put somebody on someone else's airplane in a minute."
But critics such as Perkins say that's often done only as a last resort — often after a bumped passenger's frustration boils over into an ugly confrontation.

Missing connections

Airlines don't have to report the number of passengers who miss connecting flights. But Gershkoff, who is researching the issue, thinks about 7% of all passengers miss their connections.
On the surface, absorbing those fliers shouldn't be a problem.

Despite fuller flights, airlines still can't fill about 20% of their seats over the course of a year. But missed connections don't happen at a steady pace. They come in bunches, often when bad weather throws flights off schedule at one or more big airport hubs.

Delays, which often lead to missed connections, also tend to have a ripple effect. An hour's delay on one plane in Dallas in the morning becomes a 90-minute disruption in New York by noon, a three-hour nightmare in Chicago by 5 p.m., and a five-hour-late arrival on the West Coast by the end of the day. Along the way, 500 passengers scheduled to fly on that one plane have their travel schedules thrown into chaos. Chances are if one plane is affected, 30 others are, too.

"A 30-minute fog event at one airport can throw the rest of the day off," says Michael Baiada, president of ATH Group, a consulting group that does time-flow management consulting work for airlines. "The flights using that plane throughout the day just go later and later and later."
More than 1.9 million passengers board flights on U.S. airlines on the average day. If just 10% miss connecting flights or can't begin their trips on time because travel is disrupted elsewhere, about 125,000 people could be forced to compete for the few remaining unsold seats that day. (Schedulers estimate that about a third ofpassengers who miss flights are leaving from their home airport and go home to wait a day before flying or simply give up their travel plans.)

And there are fewer flights to get on than five years ago.

For example, travelers who missed United Airlines' first flight from Chicago O'Hare to Raleigh-Durham in August 2005 had six more United flights that day to choose from, a USA TODAY analysis of flight schedule data provided by OAG Aviation Solutions shows. Today, there are only four flights total each day.

Five years ago, Continental flew four times a day from Cleveland to South Bend, Ind., the data show. Today, it has three flights. American has cut the number of daily flights from Dallas/Fort Worth to Huntsville, Ala., to three from six. In 2005, Northwest flew eight times a day from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to Minneapolis-St. Paul. Delta, which bought Northwest in 2008, flies the route five times a day now.

As a result, it can take travelers a day or more to reach destinations. It can cost hours of scrambling on the phone, extra expense and stress. It's also why travelers say it's important how airlines and airline workers treat them when things go wrong.

Mitchell Fong, a financial services industry executive from Mill Valley, Calif., who flies 200,000 miles a year, recalls a day last winter when his flight into Chicago arrived too late to make his connection to Milwaukee. United's computer system automatically rebooked him on the next available flight — the next morning. Fong would have missed his meeting in Milwaukee. Luckily, he hitched a ride that night with an associate who happened to be driving there.

"United was not sympathetic, did not offer any compensation and did not offer extras or perks to ease my situation," Fong says.

U.S. airlines' aren't obligated to provide anything beyond rebooking to travelers who miss connections for reasons beyond airlines' control, such as weather.Being an elite member of a carrier's frequent-flier program may be the single best way to avoid being bumped, and of getting one of the few available seats on the next flight. But it's no guarantee.
Airlines consider the price paid by each disrupted passenger for their ticket; whether any have health issues that require special attention or are unaccompanied minors; whether passengers are part of a group; and most important, which passengers will be the most inconvenienced, or delayed the longest, if they don't get the next available seat.
It also helps to check in early. Check-in times can be the tie-breaker.
Rahsaan Johnson, a spokesman for United, says the difficulty in getting a seat nowadays is overstated. And, he says, getting one shouldn't be thought of as a contest between passengers.

"Every day of the week, there are airline employees and retirees who are at the bottom of the stand-by list, who do get onboard planes and enjoy a flight," he says. "It's a fallacy that with 85% load factors, you can't get a seat. Statistically, it is more difficult. But it is done all the time."

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