Tuesday, November 29, 2011

American Airlines parent seeks Ch. 11 protection

AP – 10 mins ago

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — American Airlines and its parent company are filing for bankruptcy protection as they seek to cut costs and unload massive debt built up by years of high jet fuel prices and labor struggles.

The third-largest U.S. airline also said Tuesday that CEO Gerard Arpey had stepped down and was replaced by company president Thomas W. Horton.

AMR Corp. has continued to lose money while other U.S. airlines returned to profitability in the last two years.

Horton said the board of directors unanimously decided to file for bankruptcy after meeting Monday in New York and again by conference call on Monday night.

American said it would operate normally while it reorganizes in bankruptcy. The airline said it would continue to operate flights, honor tickets and take reservations. It said the AAdvantage frequent-flier program would not be affected.

Horton said, however, that as the company goes through a restructuring it will probably reduce the flight schedule "modestly," with corresponding cuts in jobs.

The company will delay the spin-off of its regional airline operation, American Eagle, which was expected in early 2012. AMR Eagle Holding Corp. also filed for bankruptcy.

American was the only major U.S. airline that didn't file for bankruptcy protection in the aftermath of the 2001 terrorist attacks that triggered a deep slump in the airline industry. The last major airline to file for bankruptcy protection was Delta in 2005.

Speculation about an AMR bankruptcy grew in recent weeks, however, as negotiations with pilots and other workers over cost-saving labor contracts seemed to stall. The company said that labor-contract rules forced it to spend at least $600 million more per year than other airlines.

Horton said, however, that there was no single factor that led to the bankruptcy filing. He said the company needed to cut costs in view of the weak global economy and high, volatile fuel prices. The average price of jet fuel has risen more than 50 percent in the past five years.

American was the world's biggest airline as recently as 2008, but has fallen behind United and Delta after those two companies bought other airlines.

Fort Worth-based AMR lost $162 million in the third quarter and has posted losses in 14 of the last 16 quarters.
AMR has about $4 billion in cash and has announced plans to order 460 new narrow-body planes used primarily in the U.S., plus other jets for longer flights.

American was founded in 1930 from the combination of more than 80 smaller carriers. It now flies about 240,000 passengers per day and has about 78,000 employees.

The airline operates out of five major hubs in New York, Los Angeles, Dallas/Fort Worth, Chicago, and Miami. It has major international partnerships with British Airways and Japan Airlines.
Bomkamp reported from New York.

Monday, November 28, 2011

NYPD cop intervenes in scuffle on JetBlue flight

AP – 8 hrs ago

Wed, Nov 23, 2011See latest photos »NEW YORK (AP) — An off-duty New York City police officer subdued and handcuffed an intoxicated passenger who attacked a flight attendant Sunday during a scuffle aboard a JetBlue plane.

Officer Anibal Mercado intervened after Antonio Ynoa of Brooklyn punched a flight attendant in the face early Sunday on JetBlue Flight 832 from the Dominican Republic to John F. Kennedy International Airport, the NYPD said.
About a half hour before the plane was scheduled to land at about 12:30 a.m., the flight attendant approached Ynoa and told him to stop drinking duty-free alcohol, police said. Ynoa became angry and punched the attendant in the face, police said.
Mercado, a patrol cop in the Bronx, told reporters that he felt compelled to intervene.

"Everybody was very alarmed," Mercado said. "I could see the fear in the passengers' faces."
Mercado told Ynoa that he was a police officer, then wrestled him to the ground and restrained him with a pair of plastic handcuffs stored on the aircraft, police said.

"He struck me a few times in the face as I was trying to restrain him," said Mercado, who is an 18-year veteran of the police force. "He was still yelling profanities. I was just telling him to calm down."

A JetBlue spokesman said the plane landed safely. When the flight landed, Ynoa was escorted off the plane by the FBI. The FBI says Ynoa, 22, will be arraigned Monday in federal court in Brooklyn on charges of assault and interference with a flight crew.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Delta cutting international routes
Monday, November 21, 2011

By Kelly Yamanouchi
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Just as Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport prepares to open a gleaming new international terminal next year, its flagship carrier Delta Air Lines is cutting back on international routes.
It's unfortunate timing that Atlanta's Maynard H. Jackson International Terminal will open as international travel is on the decline, with Atlanta-based Delta trimming overseas routes amid high fuel prices and economic uncertainty.

Delta plans to discontinue several routes from Atlanta, including its route to Shanghai that garnered much attention when it launched with daily service in 2008. Since then, Delta has tried cutting back on the route and discontinued it in 2009. It then resumed the Atlanta-Shanghai route last year with just two flights a week, only to find that the route has still "performed poorly," according to Delta. That led to the decision to once again suspend the service as of Jan. 18.

The airline will also discontinue five other routes from Atlanta -- to Athens, Greece; Copenhagen, Denmark; Moscow; Prague; and Tel Aviv, Israel -- that it had earlier cut back to seasonal service but now will not resume next summer as previously planned.

The cuts are part of Delta's previously announced plan to cut its flight capacity by 2 percent next year, with much of the reduction concentrated in weak trans-Atlantic markets.

Delta said it will continue to fly to nearly 70 international destinations from Atlanta next summer and is "excited" about the new international terminal opening next year. The new terminal will "provide a great foundation for Delta's continued long-term international growth," Delta spokesman Trebor Banstetter said.

Hartsfield-Jackson General Manager Louis Miller said in a written statement that the international terminal is for expected "international growth for the Atlanta region over the next two decades," and airport management is confident Delta will grow in the future.

The airline also said travelers will still be able to reach all the cities by connecting through other hubs or on Delta's partner carriers, and it will assist passengers on the discontinued routes.

"We're hopeful that we'll be able to resume service in the future," Banstetter said in a written statement, "and we'll continue to look for opportunities to begin successful new international service from Atlanta in the future."

Several seasonal routes from New York will also be cut by Delta, including routes to Manchester, U.K.; Budapest, Hungary; and Berlin.
Meanwhile, Delta plans to start a new seasonal international route from Detroit to Paris next summer, and it is taking over a Seattle-Paris route previously operated by its joint venture partner Air France.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Travelers forget everything from passports to false teeth

By Gary Stoller, USA TODAY
Updated 7h 37m ago

Frequent business traveler Joyce Gioia forgot more than $20,000 worth of jewelry in her hotel room in Italy last year.

Luckily for Gioia, the jewelry was in a room safe, and staff at the Rome Marriott Grand Hotel Flora shipped the items to her home in Austin.

"I had done such a dumb thing, and I was very happy to get the jewelry back," says Gioia, a management consultant.

Travelers annually leave millions of personally important items such as wallets, keys, cellphones and eyeglasses behind in hotels, airports, airplanes and rental cars. Fortunately for the forgetful, many belongings — including very valuable and unusual ones such as Gioia's jewelry — are returned.

Many, however, aren't, and they are given away or sold if their owners don't retrieve them or their owners cannot be found.

Gioia and other travelers scold themselves for their forgetfulness, but psychologists say it's commonplace even among the most veteran of travelers.

"When traveling, people tend to have lots on their minds, and there are often many unexpected distractions," says David Meyer, a University of Michigan psychology professor. "The combination of too much to keep track of, limited attention for doing so and being in relatively unusual circumstances outside familiar work and home locations promote forgetting about the small stuff being carried along the way."

Forgot something?

Travelers leave practically everything imaginable behind in airports, on planes and in hotel rooms, say airports, airlines and hotels. Among what they’ve found:

Dallas/Fort Worth airport: Bowling pins, bowling balls, a chain saw, a dog, a cooler full of frozen fish.

Detroit airport: Bicycles, a set of Eastern European dolls.

Las Vegas airport: Human ashes, a prosthetic leg.

Oregon’s Portland airport: A dog, a baked potato cooking in a crock pot, a stair climber and tools for a fire dancer.

Southwest Airlines: A cooked Thanksgiving turkey, human ashes in an urn, a pink marble sink, prosthetic limbs, a suitcase filled with boxes of cereal.

Hawaiian Airlines: A birth certificate, breast pump equipment.

Virgin America: An embalmed baby shark, bullhorns.

Candlewood Suites in Cleveland: French coins, human ashes.

Candlewood Suites Polaris in Columbus, Ohio: A saddle, a 2-foot-tall Buddha statue.

Country Inns & Suites in Brooklyn Center, Minn.: Huge Styrofoam lollipops.

Country Inns & Suites in Bloomington, Minn.: A litter of kittens.

Crowne Plaza in downtown Orlando: A pet snake.

Fearrington House Inn in Pittsboro, N.C.: One shoe, “strange” chargers for electronic devices.

Grand Hyatt San Francisco: Dentures, toupees.

Grand Hyatt Seattle: $16,000 in cash, two dogs, human ashes, a lizard.

Hotel St. Germain in Dallas: Sleep masks, small keys for handcuffs, a five-year sobriety coin from Alcoholics Anonymous left next to an empty champagne bottle, unusual lingerie, boxes of live sleeping butterflies, a mannequin head, a toupee.

Hyatt Regency Chicago: Adult toys, intimate apparel.

Hyatt Regency Resort & Spa in Scottsdale, Ariz.: Firearms.

New York Marriott Marquis: A prosthetic leg.

Radisson Plaza Minneapolis Hotel: A bloody ax costume prop.

The Surrey in New York: A coin collection.

USA TODAY contacted several airlines, airports, hotels and car-rental companies and, among other things, asked how many items are left behind by their customers yearly.

Southwest Airlines, which carried 88 million passengers last year, reported the largest number. The airline takes possession of up to 10,000 items a month that are left behind at airports and in planes, says spokeswoman Katie McDonald.

Books, cellphones, clothing and reading glasses are the most common items left behind, she says.

The most valuable items? A $10,000 diamond engagement ring, an NFL Super Bowl ring and professional video equipment — which all were returned to their owners.

Southwest stores items in a 4,000-square-foot area within a Dallas warehouse. Unclaimed items stay there 30 to 90 days, and the majority is then donated to the Salvation Army, McDonald says.

Most items left behind don't contain an owner's contact information and aren't reported lost, she says. Also, many electronic devices are locked, making it difficult to determine who owns them.

Airport security

American Airlines tries to reunite items with their owners "for several weeks," says airline spokesman Tim Smith. And, if that cannot be done, he says, items are sold to a salvage company.

The cost of returning items to owners is "significant," he says, much more than the income received from the salvage company. "Lost and found is a customer service — not a money maker," Smith says.

McCarran airport in Las Vegas says about 30,000 items — an average of 82 a day — are left behind each year.

Most are left at Transportation Security Administration checkpoints and turned over to the airport, says McCarran spokeswoman Candice Seeley. The most common forgotten items: cellphones, eyeglasses, belts, watches, wallets and other belongings that "travelers shed in preparation for screening," Seeley says.

Most of the 15,936 items logged into the lost-and-found office at Oregon's Portland International Airport last year also were left at TSA checkpoints, says airport spokesman Steve Johnson.
After 30 days, many unclaimed items are donated to charity, he says. Items valued at more than $100 are kept for 90 days, then auctioned at a state surplus website.

The airport employs a full-time worker to handle lost items and incurs mailing costs of $10,000 to $20,000 yearly to return items, Johnson says.

Many hotels told USA TODAY that at least one item a day is left behind by guests.

Many see more. The Hyatt Regency in Chicago reports about 7,300 items a year, or about 20 a day, are left, according to Shaheryar Adil, a manager at the hotel.

At Hyatt hotels generally, passports, credit cards, state ID cards, computers, wedding rings and other jewelry, MP3 players and cash are most often left behind, says Hyatt spokeswoman Lori Alexander.

Other hotels see other trends. Novotel last year surveyed its 31 hotels in Britain and found that more mobile phone chargers were left behind by guests than any other item.

Phone chargers apparently are easily forgotten. Matthew Humphreys, an assistant manager at the Grand Hyatt in San Francisco, says he's worked at nine Hyatt hotels and the housekeeping staff in each had a large box of chargers.

"If you are traveling and find yourself in need of a phone charger, definitely call down and ask housekeeping," Humphreys says.

Next to chargers, Novotel found underwear was most forgotten, followed by false teeth and hearing aids, shoes and clothing, keys, toiletries, adult toys, electric toothbrushes, laptops and jewelry.

"We continue to be mystified by the random collection of items left in our rooms by guests," says Melissa Micallef, Novotel's marketing manager. "Our lost property departments really are treasure troves."

Respecting privacy

Many hotels say they respect guests' privacy and won't return an item unless the owner asks for it. That prevents them from getting caught in such sticky situations as a spouse learning that a mate may have spent the night with someone else.

Considering that "intimate apparel" and "adult toys," according to Adil, are some of the most unusual items left behind at the Chicago Hyatt Regency, the policy may make sense.

The Surrey hotel in New York reaches out to people who leave valuables behind, says Shan Kanagasingham, general manager of the hotel.

About 30% of the roughly 500 items left at the luxury hotel each year are returned, he says. Items are kept for three months. If they can't be returned, they're given to the people who found them.

The Ritz-Carlton, which only returns items requested by guests, keeps items up to 120 days, depending on value, and gives unclaimed items to the employees who found them, says Sandra Estornell, the chain's corporate director of rooms' development.

Many hotels charge guests for returning items because the costs of returning them can run high.

A mess contributes to forgetting  It's easy to understand why belongings are left.

Claire Heymann, owner of the small luxury Hotel St. Germain in Dallas, says some rooms are in "such disarray" that guests don't see an item before leaving and some items are hidden for "safekeeping" and then forgotten.

A guest once lost a $1 million earring in the courtyard during an evening cocktail reception, but it was found, Heymann says.

Among other items left there: sleep masks, keys for handcuffs, boxes of live sleeping butterflies, a mannequin head, a toupee and a five-year sobriety coin from Alcoholics Anonymous left next to an empty bottle of champagne.

Hertz spokeswoman Paula Rivera says "thousands" of items are left behind in Hertz cars annually, particularly mobile phones, laptops and cameras.

Every Hertz location has a person responsible for lost items, and about 75% are returned to their owners, she says. Unclaimed items are donated to charity.

Travel disrupts a person's habits at home or work, where a coat, keys and briefcase may regularly be placed in a particular place, says Robert Bjork, a UCLA psychology professor.
"We do things in a certain order as we depart from home or work," Bjork says. "Those habits protect us from forgetting things, and they are disrupted by travel."

Frequent business traveler Lori DeFurio of Jordan, N.Y., calls herself "the queen of leaving stuff behind."

In December, she left a new winter coat and leather gloves in the overhead bin on a Southwest jet.

"I remembered five minutes after I left the airport," says DeFurio, who works in the computer software industry. "I called the airline from the taxi and had the concierge at the hotel keep trying, but I never got it back."

Some frequent business travelers have formulated strategies, or routines, to prevent leaving things behind.

Flight attendant Jennifer Welch of Hillsborough, Calif., says her last actions before checking out are shutting off her computer and then conducting "a sweep" of the room.

"I've noticed that on the occasions when I forgot items, it happened when I was tired and did things in a different order than I normally would," she says.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Southwest Airlines Pilots Approve Seniority Integration Agreement

DALLAS, Nov. 7, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Today pilots from Southwest Airlines and AirTran Airways voted to approve an agreement that will merge the two carriers' pilot seniority lists into one. Southwest pilots approved this deal by 83.56 percent with 95.1 percent of their pilots voting. AirTran's pilots approved the new agreement by 83.58 percent with 93.99 percent voting. Southwest Airlines' purchase of AirTran was finalized on May 2, 2011.

"I am extremely proud of our negotiators' efforts to preserve and enhance the career value of every Southwest Airlines pilot and proud of our membership for demonstrating leadership by voting in favor of this negotiated list," said SWAPA President, Captain Steve Chase. "While SWAPA's preference will always be for fleet growth and not growth through acquisition, we trust that our company leaders will continue to take us in a profitable direction. Gary Kelly has stated that in combining these airlines 'one plus one should equal more than two.' Now with the certainty of an integrated seniority list, we are all looking forward to the continued success and growth of Southwest Airlines."

Airline acquisitions require the task of merging the seniority lists of work groups. The integration of the lists determines the order in which the pilots are placed. A pilot's position on a company's seniority list can determine career aspects such as earnings, city base and days worked. With an agreement finalized between the pilots, Southwest Airlines has one less roadblock toward full integration of the two airlines.

"The history of seniority list integrations is a contentious one and the combination of work groups brings with it significant challenges," continued Captain Chase. "The fact that these two pilot groups were able to set aside differences, dedicate themselves to this formidable task and come to an agreement that ensures the success of Southwest Airlines is remarkable and rare in our industry."

Pilots from AirTran will spend the next three years transitioning from AirTran operations to Southwest. Groups of pilots will be transitioned into Southwest training classes in a process expected to last through the end of 2014. Soon leaders from both pilot groups will begin work with the many transitional and union representational issues that are still required moving forward.

Located in Dallas, Texas, the Southwest Airlines Pilots' Association (SWAPA) is a non-profit employee organization representing the more than 6,100 pilots of Southwest Airlines. SWAPA works to provide a secure and rewarding career for Southwest pilots and their families through negotiating contracts, defending contractual rights and actively promoting professionalism and safety. For more information on the Southwest Airlines Pilots' Association, visit www.swapa.org