Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Is It Really Safe to Use a Cellphone on a Plane?


By BRIAN ROSS (@brianross) and AVNI PATEL

June 9, 2011

Like most airline passengers, you probably have serious doubts about those pre-flight announcements asking you to turn off your cellphones, blackberries, iPods and anything else electronic.

The announcements are flat-out ignored by many frequent fliers, who are skeptical that so-called "personal electronic devices" pose any safety threat to airplane. Some passengers openly rebel, like New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, who cursed out one flight attendant who demanded he turn off his cellphone.

But a confidential industry study obtained by ABC News indicates there really could be serious safety issues related to cellphones and other PEDs.

A report by the International Air Transport Association, a trade group representing more 230 passenger and cargo airlines worldwide, documents 75 separate incidents of possible electronic interference that airline pilots and other crew members believed were linked to mobile phones and other electronic devices. The report covers the years 2003 to 2009 and is based on survey responses from 125 airlines that account for a quarter of the world's air traffic.

A confidential airline industry report obtained by ABC News documents 75 separate incidents that aircraft pilots and engineers think are linked to cellphones or other electronic devices. Danger of Cell Phones During Takeoff and Landing Watch Video

Twenty-six of the incidents in the report affected the flight controls, including the autopilot, autothrust and landing gear. Seventeen affected navigation systems, while 15 affected communication systems. Thirteen of the incidents produced electronic warnings, including "engine indications." The type of personal device most often suspected in the incidents were cell phones, linked to four out of ten.

The report, which stresses that it is not verifying that the incidents were caused by PEDs, includes a sampling of the narratives provided by pilots and crewmembers who believed they were experiencing electronic interference.

"Auto pilot was engaged," reads one. "At about 4500 ft, the autopilot disengaged by itself and the associated warnings/indications came on. [Flight attendants] were immediately advised to look out for PAX [passengers] operating electronic devices. ... [Attendants] reported that there were 4 PAX operated electronic devices (1 handphone and 3 iPods)." The crew used the public address system to advise the passengers to shut off electronic devices "for their safety and the safety of the flight," after which the aircraft proceeded "without any further incident."

In other events described in the report, a clock spun backwards and a GPS in cabin read incorrectly while two laptops were being used nearby. During another flight, the altitude control readings changed rapidly until a crew member asked passengers to turn off their electronic devices. The readings returned to normal. "After an hour, changes were noticed again . . . Purser made a second announcement and the phenomena stopped."

Dave Carson of Boeing, the co-chair of a federal advisory committee that investigated the problem of electronic interference from portable devices, says that PEDs radiate signals that can hit and disrupt highly sensitive electronic sensors hidden in the plane's passenger area, including those for an instrument landing system used in bad weather.

"It could be you that you were to the right of the runway when in fact, you were to the left of the runway," said Carson, "or just completely wipe out the signal so that you didn't get any indication of where you are coming in."

Asked if a cellphone's signal could really be that powerful, Carson said, "It is when it goes in the right place at the right time."

To prove his point, Carson took ABC News inside Boeing's electronic test chamber in Seattle, where engineers demonstrated the hidden signals from several electronic devices that were well over what Boeing considers the acceptable limit for aircraft equipment. A Blackberry and an iPhone were both over the limit, but the worst offender was an iPad. There are still doubters, including ABC News's own aviation expert, John Nance.

"There is a lot of anecdotal evidence out there, but it's not evidence at all," said Nance, a former Air Force and commercial pilot. "It's pilots, like myself, who thought they saw something but they couldn't pin it to anything in particular. And those stories are not rampant enough, considering 32,000 flights a day over the U.S., to be convincing."

Nance thinks there are alternate explanations for the events. "If an airplane is properly hardened, in terms of the sheathing of the electronics, there's no way interference can occur."

But Boeing engineers told us that signals from PEDs could disrupt the navigation and communication frequencies on older planes, which are not as well shielded as the newer models. And anything that distracts the pilots in the cockpit is considered a true threat to safety.

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Sunday, June 19, 2011

New, elongated Boeing 747-8 debuts in Paris

In standard layout, it will have 467 seats, 51 more than its predecessor

The new Boeing 747-8 was done up in red and orange livery to symbolize the importance of the fast-growing Asian aircraft market. By Kyle Peterson

E BOURGET, France — Boeing Co's 747-8 Intercontinental, the new elongated passenger version of its legendary jumbo jet, made its international debut on Sunday, showing its distinctive silhouette abroad for the first time.
The high-profile landing of Boeing's new 747 at the Paris Air Show — three months after its first flight — marks a show of engineering strength by the world's second-largest plane maker in a competition for control of the wide-body market.

"We've seen a great deal of interest in the last six to eight months as the market has gotten better," Randy Tinseth, Boeing's vice president of marketing at Boeing's commercial division, told Reuters.
In Boeing's standard layout, the new 747-8 will have 467 seats, 51 more than its predecessor, but fewer than the 525 of its main competitor, the A380 made by EADS unit Airbus. The actual seat number, however, will be determined by the airlines.
Boeing has taken 33 orders for the 747-8 Intercontinental, which will be joined in Paris on Monday by the better-selling freighter version of the plane, which has received 76 orders.

The new 747-8 — in red and orange livery to symbolize the importance of the fast-growing Asian aircraft market — flew to Paris without passengers but was stuffed with computers, test equipment and barrels of water to simulate passenger weight and to test balance.

The Paris Air Show is the venue of choice for aerospace and defense companies to strut their stuff, to the delight of aviation enthusiasts around the world.

The new 747-8 is more than 18 feet longer than its predecessor, with the added length mainly noticeable by the extended hump. The upper deck in the hump traditionally houses the business class section.
Plane spotters looking for other differences with the 747 will notice the jagged, clam-shell look of the 747-8's engine casing, which reduces noise. The 747-8 also lacks the upwards-curving winglets at the wingtip, but has raked wings that sweep slightly upwards. Boeing says the raked wings reduce wind resistance and enhance fuel efficiency.

The plane also features bigger windows and some design elements of the new 787 Dreamliner, such as interior lighting that changes colors to help passengers adjust more easily to time changes as the plane crosses time zones.

The first 747 made its maiden flight 42 years ago. Since then, the jumbo jet, with its distinctive hump, has become the world's most recognizable plane.

The 747 was the world's largest airplane until 2005, when Airbus unveiled its A380. The 747-8 Intercontinental, however, is more than 10 percent lighter per seat than the Airbus A380 and consumes 11 percent less fuel, Boeing says.

The Intercontinental lists at $317.5 million. Germany's Lufthansa has ordered 20 of the planes, and is set to be the first airline to bring the new jumbo into service early next year. Boeing says a VIP customer will take first delivery of an Intercontinental in the fourth quarter of this year.
Production of the 747-8 has been delayed, as has the mid-sized 787 Dreamliner, a carbon-composite plane, which represents a bigger leap in technology than the revamped 747-8.

Although the 747-8 and A380 will compete directly for years to come, analysts say airlines are mostly interested in lighter, wide-bodied planes in the 200- to 350-seat range, like the 787 and the future Airbus A350, which are designed to bypass crowded hubs and take passengers closer to their final destination.

Copyright 2011 Thomson Reuters.
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Seal of the United States Transportation Secur...
Man suspected of using fake identity to land flight attendant jobBy the CNN Wire Staff

June 19, 2011 9:26 a.m. EDT

Jophan Porter, 38, is suspected of using a fake ID to get a job with American Eagle Airlines.

"We don't really know who he is," assistant state attorney says

Federal official downplays the severity of the alleged breach

Employee is currently being held on a $1 million bond

Immigration and Customs Enforcement says it will deport him

Miami (CNN) -- Federal and local authorities are investigating an apparent airline security breach after an American Eagle Airlines employee allegedly used another man's identity to get a job as a flight attendant.

Jophan Porter, 38, has been charged with six counts of identity theft and three counts of forgery, among a lengthy list of other charges, according to the Miami-Dade corrections website.
American Eagle says the incident did not involve a customer and that they are involved in an investigation that includes the FBI, according to a statement from the airline.

When arrested at Miami International Airport on Friday, Porter -- a native of Guyana -- was carrying multiple forms of phony identity, including driver's licenses, a passport and a Department of Transportation identification card, CNN affiliate WSVN reported, citing the arrest report.

The presiding judge raised bail to $1 million after prosecutors described Porter as a flight risk, noting that authorities "don't know who he's connected to."

"We don't really know who he is," the assistant state attorney said. "When you are refusing to identify yourself to the FBI and you're working in an airline, that's a concern."

A spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the agency plans to deport Porter, though he would not comment on Porter's residency status or where he will be sent.
"ICE lodged a detainer against him," said Ivan Ortiz-Delgado. "We will begin removal procedures once his criminal proceedings are complete."

Police: Fake ID used to get airline job Having an airline identification card or being an airline employee does not allow a person to circumvent security, according to the Transportation Security Administration.

Flight attendants' names are checked against the terror watch list, but it is the responsibility of airlines to verify potential employees' identities, including their legal status, the TSA said.

Meanwhile, airport traveler Camilla Diaz said she didn't understand how the apparent breach occurred.

"A big company like that -- they have to check that before," she told WSVN.
Others appeared stunned. "Wow that's incredible," Alejandro Hernandez told the network.

Porter is currently being held in Miami-Dade County jail and is represented by a public defender, who could not be immediately reached for comment.

CNN's Ross Levitt and Cristy Lenz contributed to this report.
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Friday, June 10, 2011

US Airways headquarters in Tempe, Arizona - Fo...
Down computer systems causing delays for US Airways

Phoenix Business Journal - by Mike Sunnucks, Phoenix Business Journal

Date: Friday, June 10, 2011, 6:13pm MST - Last Modified: Friday, June 10, 2011, 6:16pm MST

US Airways officials reported Friday evening that some of the airline's computer and online systems were down and that was causing some flight delays. The Tempe-based airline (NYSE: LCC) said in a statement the system outage occurred in its hometown market and efforts were underway to restore the down systems.

"Early reports indicate that the systems outage is the result of a power outage near one of the airline's data centers in Phoenix. Some airport computer systems are coming back online now and we are working to restore operational order," the airline said in a statement.
A US Airways official said the Phoenix outage was impacting the airline's systems nationwide and was causing some flight delays. The official confirmed some systems were coming back up but did not have a timetable for when US Airways' operations would return to normal.
US Airways officials reported Friday evening that some of the airline's computer and online systems were down and that was causing some flight delays. The Tempe-based airline (NYSE: LCC) said in a statement the system outage occurred in its hometown market and efforts were underway to restore the down systems.

"Early reports indicate that the systems outage is the result of a power outage near one of the airline's data centers in Phoenix. Some airport computer systems are coming back online now and we are working to restore operational order," the airline said in a statement.

A US Airways official said the Phoenix outage was impacting the airline's systems nationwide and was causing some flight delays. The official confirmed some systems were coming back up but did not have a timetable for when US Airways' operations would return to normal.

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Thursday, June 09, 2011

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Official ...
Flight attendants: Bartenders or bad cops?

Hard-working airline crews juggling conflicting responsibilities

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


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?
The 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.”

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.”

© 2011 msnbc.com
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The logo of the American Broadcasting Company ...
Hang up and fly right: More evidence of in-flight interference

By Rob Lovitt, msnbc.com contributor

Maybe you really should turn off your cell phone when the flight attendant tells you to. No, really.

According to a confidential report obtained by ABC News, interference from cell phones and other personal electronic devices (PEDs) may, in fact, present serious safety concerns for aircraft.

The report from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the global industry trade group, surveyed commercial pilots and crewmembers and cited 75 incidents in which the respondents believed PEDs may have created electronic interference that impacted flight systems.

Twenty-six incidents affected flight controls, while 17 affected navigation systems and 15 affected communication systems. Thirteen, says ABC, produced “engine indications” and other warnings. According to respondents, activated electronic devices caused GPS and altitude-control readings to read incorrectly and change rapidly.

“It could be that you were to the right of the runway when in fact, you were to the left of the runway,” Dave Carson of Boeing told ABC.

Although the report doesn’t confirm that the incidents were caused by PEDs, it does note that in several instances, instrument readings returned to normal after crewmembers made passengers turn off their devices.

"We can't say categorically that these devices cause interference," IATA spokesman Chris Goater told msnbc.com, "but there are enough anecdotal reports from pilots to raise the question."

Finding that direct link may only get more difficult, especially as the number and variety of PEDs increase and airplanes rely more heavily on “fly-by-wire,” or electric systems that may be more susceptible to interference than the mechanical systems found in older planes.

“The upshot is that those PEDs emit energy that could interfere with the signals from the control column to the control surfaces,” said aviation safety consultant Steve Cowell of SRC Aviation LLC. “There’s quite a bit of shielding, but it’s also possible that it may not be enough.”
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Boeing 787 Dreamliner at roll-out ceremony
Saving Boeing's Bacon

By Rich Smith
June 9, 2011

Newsflash: Air India may just have saved Boeing's (NYSE: BA ) bacon.

As you know, Boeing's just about ready to deliver its first 787 Dreamliner to inaugural airline customer All-Nippon Airways. On the surface, that's good news, but two days ago, I described how it could turn into bad news for Boeing. As the company begins deliveries of the long overdue aircraft, the official amount of delay could become "fixed in time," permitting lawyers to draft their complaints and begin demanding penalty payments from Boeing.

Already, 787 suppliers like Spirit AeroSystems (NYSE: SPR ) have begun demanding penalties from Boeing. Now its customers are hitting up the company for payouts, too. One customer in particular, Air India, has publicly charged that Boeing's tardiness cost it $1.32 billion in lost revenues. If AI decides to seek redress from Boeing, it could imperil the 787's ability to earn a profit.

Or not

That's why this morning's news is so very good for Boeing. Citing a cash-crunch and consequent inability to pay for new planes, Air India is reportedly planning to ask Boeing to delay delivery of its 787s even more. The decision isn't official yet, but if this is the way it goes, it would echo a similar postponement by Delta (NYSE: DAL ) announced last year. And it would be great news for Boeing, for two reasons:

First, by stepping out of the receiving line for 787s -- however briefly -- Air India will allow other customers to move ahead. Thus customers such as AMR (NYSE: AMR ) and United Continental (NYSE: UAL ) could receive their 787s earlier than expected. This will make for both happier customers and lower penalty payments for Boeing.

And speaking of penalties, Air India alone is said to be seeking $840 million worth of 'em for its $1.32 billion revenue loss. This amounts to 10.4% of the value of AI's $8.1 billion 787 order. It's a number big enough to wipe out Boeing's 9.4% operating profit margin on commercial aircraft, and transform the 787 from "most successful airplane ever" into "Boeing's biggest loser."

Foolish takeaway

Worst case, by initiating a delay of its own, Air India should permit Boeing to offset some of the penalties it owes for late delivery to one customer, and reduce the risk of paying penalties to customers like AMR and United. Best case, Air India could undermine its case for demanding penalties at all -- and give Boeing a fighting chance at earning a profit on the 787.

Will Air India follow through, and delay delivery? Add Boeing to your Fool Watchlist and stay informed.
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JetBlue Airways logo Category:Airline logos
AMR Is Said to Be in Talks With JetBlue Airways to Widen Booking Agreement

By Mary Schlangenstein - Jun 9, 2011 10:59 AM MT
American Airlines and JetBlue Airways Corp. (JBLU) are in talks to add more cities outside the U.S. to their joint booking and frequent-flier agreement, two people familiar with the discussions said.

An expanded accord would help AMR Corp. (AMR)’s American fill more seats on international flights from New York and Boston, and let JetBlue win domestic passengers by offering destinations it can’t reach with its own planes, said the people, who declined to be identified because the discussions are private.

New York is home to JetBlue’s headquarters and biggest base and American’s chief East Coast hub for trans-Atlantic flights. American is fighting for market share there after being eclipsed by the merger of United and Continental airlines and Delta Air Lines Inc. (DAL)’s purchase of Northwest Airlines.
“If they want to be a bigger player, they are going to need more presence and more feed,” said James M. Higgins, an analyst with New York-based Ticonderoga Securities LLC. “JetBlue is a way to get that.”

There is no timeline for Fort Worth, Texas-based American and JetBlue to decide on broadening their 15-month-old interline agreement, the people said.
The existing accord lets each airline sell tickets on specific partner flights and check bags on a full itinerary, with the revenue going to the flight’s operator. JetBlue travelers can book on American to 15 foreign cities from New York and Boston, while fliers to the two destinations on American jets from abroad can reach 26 U.S. cities via JetBlue.
JetBlue’s Interest

While those JetBlue airports aren’t in competition with markets served by American, JetBlue would like to expand the relationship to cities where the carriers do compete, one of the people said. JetBlue’s main U.S. airport is New York’s Kennedy, where American serves destinations such as London and Paris.

Spokesmen for American and JetBlue declined to comment on the talks.

“American and JetBlue continue to explore opportunities to expand commercial cooperation where it makes sense for both airlines,” American’s Sean Collins said. Alison Croyle, a JetBlue spokeswoman, said the airline would like to add more cities outside the U.S. to the agreement.

Deeper ties between the carriers may lead to an eventual merger, possibly in about two years, said Ticonderoga’s Higgins, who recommends buying JetBlue and holding AMR.

‘Further Cooperation’

It definitely furthers cooperation between them,” Higgins said of the current discussions. “If the benefits to AMR of the JetBlue tie-up are as good as I think they’ll be, I also believe it increases the odds there may be a merger down the road.”

The challenge for American is to first resolve contract talks with its three largest unions, Higgins said. The current labor negotiations date back as far as September 2006, when bargaining began with pilots.

American and JetBlue unveiled their accord two months before United and Continental agreed to the tie-up creating United Continental Holdings Inc. The new United Airlines is the world’s biggest carrier by traffic, ahead of Delta, which overtook American with the 2008 Northwest acquisition.

After sitting out consolidation that included those deals and Southwest Airlines Co. (LUV)’s May 2 purchase of AirTran Holdings Inc. (AAI), AMR is the only large U.S. airline company likely to post a 2011 loss, based on analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

Declining Shares

AMR tumbled 27 percent this year in New York Stock Exchange composite trading through yesterday, and JetBlue fell 17 percent on the Nasdaq Stock Market, joining declines for most of the U.S. industry.
While interline accords are common among U.S. carriers, the American and JetBlue linkage is unusual because it connects a carrier that collects travelers at hub airports to one focused on point-to-point flights. Interline agreements are used in cases such as an airline scrubbing flights and being unable to rebook passengers on one of its own planes.

Will Randow, a Citigroup Inc. analyst, expects that the carriers’ current accord may evolve into a so-called code-share arrangement, in which airlines agree to share some revenue for joint bookings, and stop far short of a combination.
Moving JetBlue employees to American’s higher union wage rates would be too costly and blending different aircraft fleets would be difficult, said Randow, who has hold ratings on JetBlue and AMR. JetBlue’s planes are from Airbus SAS and Embraer SA, while American’s main jet fleet is from Boeing Co. (BA)

‘Strong Presence’

“JetBlue’s strong presence at JFK can bolster American’s position and extend their network, which is a good thing,” Randow said. “American’s strategic vision is to solidify that relationship as much as possible.”

JetBlue has 10 interline agreements, two with U.S.-based carriers. It has two code-share arrangements, including one with its largest shareholder, Germany’s Deutsche Lufthansa AG. The code shares allow the international partners to put their designation on certain JetBlue flights.
American also agreed as part of the original accord to give eight pairs of takeoff and landing rights at Washington’s Ronald Reagan National to JetBlue in exchange for 12 pairs at Kennedy. The trade allowed JetBlue to initiate service at Reagan.

JetBlue has focused over the past two years on building its network in Boston and the Caribbean, markets where American has reduced service.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mary Schlangenstein in Dallas at maryc.s@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Ed Dufner at edufner@bloomberg.net

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Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Air France A330-200 F-GZCP lands at Paris-Char...

Air France black box: Air France Flight 447 was brought down by a combination of faulty speed sensors and confusion in the cockpit, according to a preliminary analysis by French investigators.

One of the two flight recorders from the Rio-Paris Air France Flight 447 which crashed in 2009 is displayed for the media before a news conference at the BEA headquarters in Le Bourget, northern Paris, in this May 12 file photo. Pilots wrestled with the controls of the Air France airliner for 3.5-minutes before it plunged into the Atlantic with its nose up, killing all 228 people on board in 2009, French investigators said on May 27.

By Christa Case Bryant, Staff writer / May 27, 2011

A preliminary report on the Air France Flight 447 crash in the Atlantic Ocean two years ago suggests that while some equipment malfunctioned, the pilots’ inability to respond properly to key instruments sent the plane into a 3.5-minute plunge that killed all 228 people aboard.

Air France Flight 447 wreckage (but no black box) found in Atlantic Air France crash prompts changes in Airbus speed sensors Air France crash: Probe into two other A330 incidents The findings by France's Bureau of Investigations and Analyses, based on data recently recovered from the Airbus 330’s black boxes, bolster early suspicions that speed sensors known as Pitot tubes had iced over and malfunctioned. This was a problem on Airbus planes that Air France had been aware of at the time of the crash, which occurred en route from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to Paris.

But the findings indicate that it wasn't the malfunctioning speed sensors alone that brought the plane down. They also suggest that pilots had enough information at their fingertips to determine what was happening, suggesting that they were not experienced or not prepared to deal with the sudden crisis that developed two hours into the transatlantic flight. Cockpit displays remained accurate and the engines remained fully functional and responsive to the pilots throughout the flight.

When a plane such as the Airbus 330 in question gets conflicting information from various speed sensors, the autopilot and auto-thrust systems shut down – handing control over to the pilot.

That’s precisely what happened two hours and 10 minutes after Flight 447 left Rio, less than 10 minutes after the captain had left the cockpit for a routine break. He was quickly called back to the cabin to try to help the copilots respond to repeated warnings as the plane stalled, and began falling toward the ocean.

However, it was a 32-year-old co-pilot – the least experienced of three pilots on board – who was at the controls until the final minute of the flight. The plane hit the ocean 4-1/2 minutes after the autosystems disengaged, falling at a rate of nearly 11,000 feet per minute.

The Air France pilots apparently tried to bring the nose of the plane up when it stalled, contrary to the conventional wisdom that pushing the nose down will help increase airspeed and bring an aircraft out of a stall, according to an aviation expert quoted by Bloomberg.

“The question is why the pilot kept giving nose-up inputs when the plane was in a stall,” said Paul Hayes, director of safety at Ascend Worldwide Ltd., a London-based aviation consultant company. “You should put the nose down to recover speed.”

Air France praised the professionalism of the pilots in the final moments of the flights, but numerous reports suggest that the airline had failed to give them the training necessary to respond to such a crisis at high altitude – a fault it is now trying to remedy with new training procedures.
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A Delta Air Lines L-1011
Delta bag fees for soldiers ignites backlash

Delta Air Lines' $2,800 in bag fees for Army unit returning from Afghanistan ignites backlash

Reacting to public outcry, Delta said Wednesday, June 8, 2011, it will allow members of the military to check four bags for free. The news came after two Army soldiers returning from Afghanistan complained in an online video that Delta charged their unit a total of $2,800 when some of them checked a fourth bag.(AP Photo/Paul Sancya, file)

Joan Lowy and Joshua Freed, Associated Press, On Wednesday June 8, 2011, 7:00 pm EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Delta Air Lines hastily changed its baggage fees for troops Wednesday after a YouTube video showed soldiers complaining that they had to pay $200 apiece to check extra bags as they made their way home from Afghanistan.

The video was posted Tuesday and was viewed almost 200,000 times before it was removed the next day by the person who put it up. By Wednesday afternoon, a Facebook page called Boycott Delta for Soldiers had sprung up, and the airline was backpedaling and apologizing to the soldiers.

In the video, titled "Delta Airlines Welcomes Soldiers Home," two Army staff sergeants say their unit was told it would cost $200 apiece to check a fourth bag on a Tuesday morning flight from the Baltimore-Washington airport to Atlanta -- a total bill of more than $2,800.

The Defense Department typically reimburses such costs, which the soldiers may not have known before they made their displeasure known. The airline said late Wednesday that it would refund the fees if the government doesn't cover the bill. By then, the public relations damage to Delta was done.
In the video, one sergeant, Robert O'Hair, wearing a camouflage uniform and sitting inside the plane, says his fourth bag was a weapons case containing an M4 carbine rifle, a grenade launcher and a 9-millimeter pistol that he had used in Afghanistan.

"The tools I used to protect myself and Afghan citizens while I was deployed," O'Hair says.

With a bite to his voice, the other sergeant -- Fred Hilliker of Allendale, Mich. -- closes the video: "Good business model, Delta. Thank you. We're actually happy to be back to America. God bless America. Not happy, not happy at all. Appreciate it. Thank you."
The soldiers say in the video that they had already endured an 18-hour layover and had Army authorization to carry four bags.

Initially, Delta apologized to the soldiers but didn't change its policy. It posted a blog item attributed to an anonymous customer service representative explaining that Delta allows troops traveling in economy class up to three bags free but charges for the fourth.

As the storm of online complaints about the incident grew, the airline posted a new blog item Wednesday saying fourth bags will now be free for troops traveling in economy class and five bags will be free for those traveling in business class.
In a blog post, Delta said it regretted "that this experience caused these soldiers to feel anything but welcome on their return home." Airline officials declined to answer further questions.

One sergeant in the video said the unit was returning from Afghanistan to Fort Polk in Louisiana. Paul Boyce, a spokesman for Army Forces Command, said the soldiers who made the video weren't available for interviews.
"I don't know if Delta is going to reimburse these individual soldiers or not, but I do know that we would," Boyce said. "In the past, the airlines, if there's been some sort of a misunderstanding, have done that."

At least some of the soldiers traveling on the flight were with an Army Reserve unit based in Oklahoma, Boyce said. He said troops on the plane were returning from a military training center in Kabul. He did not have the name of their unit.

It was not clear why the video was removed from YouTube. The soldiers in the video also did not explain the total bill of more than $2,800 in detail.

It's not unusual for returning soldiers to check weapons when flying on a commercial airline if the weapons have been certified as unloaded, said Joe Davis, a spokesman for the Veterans of Foreign Wars' Washington office, who was critical of the fee.

"A $200 bill for extra baggage by a government-contracted airline is the worst welcome home any soldier could receive," Davis said. He acknowledged the troops would be reimbursed but said, "The shock of even being charged is enough to make most servicemen and women simply shake their heads and wonder who or what it is they are protecting."

The incident underscored how quickly a company's reputation can be tarnished when a Web video, online picture or posting goes viral. And airline passengers have made no secret of their hatred of baggage fees, which have become common in recent years.

The lesson, said Jonathan Bernstein, president of Bernstein Crisis Management Inc., is that companies should let airline workers make decisions in the name of good customer service. In this case, the Delta employee who handled the fee was just following the rules of Delta Air Lines Inc.

"Then those situations never have to escalate into crises," Bernstein said. "They (Delta) end up with a hit on their reputation that they could have avoided."

On YouTube, Facebook and other websites, posts were overwhelmingly critical of the airline, some suggesting that Delta was insensitive to the tough conditions troops face in Afghanistan and that flying them home completely free was the least the airline could do.
At least one congressman joined the fray. Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, called on Delta to immediately reimburse the soldiers.

"Since being elected to Congress, I have logged hundreds of thousands of miles on Delta -- the only carrier serving my home airport in Waterloo," Braley said in a statement. "If Delta doesn't reimburse these soldiers and reconsider its approach to servicing our troops, I'll have to reconsider using their service."

Other airlines have policies similar to the one that got Delta in trouble. United and American both allow three checked bags for free for active duty military personnel.

Freed reported from Minneapolis. Associated Press writer Kimberly Hefling in Washington contributed to this report.
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