Monday, December 21, 2009

'Three-Hour Rule' To Address Tarmac Delays

Sunday, November 22, 2009

World is small for mileage millionaires

"The only way I can earn miles is whenever I fly back home to Malaysia... what can I do with those miles? A roundtrip ticket from Penang to Singapore...."

By A. Pawlowski, CNN

November 20, 2009 2:25 p.m. EST

Gary Leff and his wife, Shanna Follansbee, spent 670,000 airline and hotel points when they got married.
Gary Leff and his wife, Shanna Follansbee, spent 670,000 airline and hotel points when they got married

(CNN) -- It can take years to snag a reservation at El Bulli, a restaurant in Spain that's been called the best in the world, so when Gary Leff got the word that he'd finally gotten in, he whisked his wife across the Atlantic -- just for dinner.

Leff is a millionaire. A frequent-flier mile millionaire, that is.

He estimates that he's accumulated 7 million frequent-flier miles across different programs over his lifetime, thanks to his love of travel, lots of airline-affiliated credit card purchases and careful monitoring of mile promotions.

"It's nice to be able to know that I can get on virtually any airplane in the world without worrying about the money," said Leff, 35, the chief financial officer for a university research center, who lives in Arlington, Virginia.

"The world is so much smaller, and that's incredibly liberating."

Hollywood is taking interest in multimillion-milers like Leff with the upcoming movie "Up in the Air," which stars George Clooney as an extreme frequent flier on the cusp of reaching 10 million miles.

For those lucky or busy enough to receive airline statements with lots of zeros, it's a world of first-class upgrades, airport lounge attendants who know their names and access to luxury unimaginable for most air travelers.

Plane with private suites

Gene Gibbs still remembers the champagne, caviar and multicourse meals he feasted on when he and his partner spent 360,000 miles for two first-class tickets from New York to Dubai on Emirates, the airline of the United Arab Emirates.

"It was amazing, incredible," Gibbs, 40, said. "They had private suites with doors that slide closed, unparalleled privacy."

Gibbs, a pension consulting actuary in San Francisco, California, estimates that he and his partner have earned 10 million frequent-flier miles in the past five years, mostly through extensive leisure travel that has them jetting off every weekend. They burn more than a million miles a year, Gibbs said.

"The ultimate goal is to spend them all in business or first class on the best carriers you can find in the world," he added.

Gibbs is planning a trip to Athens, Greece, in November and a flight to Singapore in December, all on frequent-flier miles.

Cherished customers

Such award tickets may be hard to imagine for people who feel like it takes an eternity just to accumulate enough miles for a free coach seat, but mileage millionaires aren't as rare as you might think.

It pains me when I see the big dip in my balance after cashing in several hundred thousand miles.

Airlines are tight-lipped about the exact number, but it's estimated that more than 300,000 people have earned at least 1 million miles in a single frequent-flier program, said Randy Petersen, editor and publisher of Inside Flyer magazine.

Airlines woo mileage millionaires carefully and are protective of their identities and demographics so as not to lose their best customers to their competitors.

"It's kind of like Las Vegas: Casinos don't identify their largest gamblers," Petersen said.

For Charles Witt, the biggest perk of having accumulated millions of miles is being taken care of while globetrotting, he said. He also likes being able to splurge on travel for himself and his friends.

Witt, 41, who is a U.S. government employee in Washington and travels all over the world on business, gave himself a trip on the Concorde as a birthday present in 1994. He spent 240,000 miles for a special promotion that let him fly first class on a regular plane from Washington to London and return on the supersonic jet.

This Christmas, he's planning a first-class trip with his girlfriend to Taipei, Taiwan, purchased with his miles. They'll spend New Year's in Tokyo, Japan.

"It's one of those nice things that you can do for special trips with the people you really like spending time with and you can do it in a special way," Witt said.

Big splurges

It's a feeling shared by some of the other million milers.

Leff, the frequent flier who hopped across the pond to Spain with his wife in business class at a cost of 100,000 miles per ticket just to have dinner at El Bulli, took advantage of his account in a really big way when he got married four years ago in Seattle, Washington.

He spent a grand total of 670,000 points, which helped pay for hotel rooms for out-of-town guests and for his honeymoon in Bora Bora and Australia.

Like most frequent fliers, Leff knows that unused miles can easily lose value, so he likes to spend them despite feeling a bit disappointed when his next statement arrives.

"It pains me when I see the big dip in my balance after cashing in several hundred thousand miles," Leff said. "At the same time, that does not ever convince me not to spend the points, because they'll never be worth more tomorrow than they're worth today."

Next on his itinerary: Thanksgiving in Paris, France, and New Year's in the Caribbean. It's good to be a mileage millionaire.

Monday, October 26, 2009

In One Man's Garage, Pan Am Still Makes the Going Great

Fliers nostalgic for the golden era of air travel might want to book a trip to Anthony Toth's garage.

Mr. Toth has built a precise replica of a first-class cabin from a Pan Am World Airways 747 in the garage of his two-bedroom condo in Redondo Beach, Calif. The setup includes almost everything fliers in the late 1970s and 1980s would have found onboard: pairs of red-and-blue reclining seats, original overhead luggage bins and a curved, red-carpeted staircase.

Brian L. Frank for The Wall Street Journal

A coffee maker with a Pan Am logo sits in the replica cabin Anthony Toth built in his Redondo Beach, Calif., home

Once comfortably ensconced, Mr. Toth's visitors can sip beverages from the long-defunct airline's glasses, served with Pan Am logo swizzle sticks and napkins, plus salted almonds sealed in Pan Am wrappers. They can even peel open a set of plastic-wrapped, vintage Pan Am headphones and listen to original in-flight audio recordings from the era, piped in through the armrests.

Mr. Toth, a 42-year-old global sales director at United Airlines, has spent more than 20 years on his elaborate recreation of a Pan Am cabin, which includes a few economy-class seats, too. All told, Mr. Toth estimates he has spent as much as $50,000 on the project, which he hopes someday to turn into a museum.

"The brand was so powerful, he says. "They had this uncompromising standard of service."

[PanAm Bag]

To find artifacts from the airline, which ceased operation in 1991, Mr. Toth spends his vacations trekking out to an area in the Mojave Desert known as the airplane boneyard, where retired aircraft are stripped for parts. When he can't buy an original Pan Am item in good condition, like seat covers, he recruits professionals to create suitable stand-ins.

Julie Fisher, a friend of Mr. Toth's, says one time she got a call from Mr. Toth saying he'd heard about a source for headsets in Bangkok. A few days later, the two of them hopped a plane to Thailand for the weekend to track them down. (As an airline employee, Mr. Toth can usually fly himself and a friend for free if space is available.)

In the 1930s, Pan Am became the first U.S. airline to fly internationally, and in the 1970s, the first to fly Boeing 747 jumbo jets. Pan Am was once synonymous with international jet-setting, with upper-deck dining rooms and flight attendants decked out in crisp blue uniforms, high heels and white gloves. First-class travelers were served out of silver-plated martini pitchers. A parade of linen-covered food carts made its way down the aisle at dinnertime.

The airline began struggling financially in the 1970s as fuel prices soared and competition on international routes escalated. Still, Pan Am made few cutbacks to its first-class service.

In 1988, a Pan Am flight was bombed by terrorists above Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people. The airline declared bankruptcy in 1991. A commuter airline called Pan Am Clipper Connection operated out of New Hampshire using the company's blue globe logo until last year. United Airlines, Mr. Toth's current employer, purchased the Pacific division of Pan Am in 1985.

Hopping On Board Pan Am


Anthony Toth has been working on his replica of a first-class Pan Am cabin for 20 years. Candace Jackson tours Toth's homage to the golden era of air travel.

M. Kelly Cusack, a fellow Pan Am enthusiast and memorabilia collector who worked for the airline from 1980 to 1991, runs a Web site that chronicles the airline's history. He met Mr. Toth several years ago while working at United and says he doesn't know of many other collectors who've gone as far in reconstructing an actual airplane cabin in their home.

Mr. Toth's obsession with Pan Am began in the 1970s when he was growing up in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, about 45 minutes from Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. Every summer, he and his family traveled to see relatives in Rome and Budapest, where his parents were from, usually flying in Pan Am's coach class. "There was no other aircraft I could walk on board that intrigued me more than the Pan Am cabin," he says. "Everything symbolized something. That meant something to me as a youngster."

As a child, Mr. Toth would save items that most passengers considered to be trash, such as cardboard coasters and paper tray linings from coach meal services. On every flight, he would carry a camera and shoot three or four rolls of film documenting the aircraft's interior. He lugged a boxy tape recorder to capture in-flight audio by cranking the dial on his armrest up to level 12 and placing the microphone to the earphones so he could listen to the airline's music selection back home.

For his 10th birthday, Mr. Toth says he persuaded his parents to sign him up for an annual subscription to the Official Airline Guide, which lists flight timetables and is typically used by travel agents. When he was 12, he created a 20-foot mock-up of the interior of a Pan Am first-class cabin in his family's basement, making seats out of wood. "This consumed my world," he says.

Since his 20s, Mr. Toth has worked for United in a variety of positions and places, including Chicago, Raleigh, N.C., and San Francisco. He created early versions of his airline cabin in the living rooms of various apartments and houses he rented when he was in his 20s and 30s.

Brian L. Frank for The Wall Street Journal

Anthony Toth built a replica Pan Am first-class cabin in his garage.

Two years ago, Mr. Toth, who is single, purchased his first home. He says he looked at nearly 50 apartments before finding one with a slightly oversize garage that would have enough space for his cabin configuration.

There's one modern update: Mr. Toth installed a flat-panel TV instead of the old projection version that would have been used in the 1980s so he could watch movies and TV using his Pan Am headphones. Airline buffs will notice that the walls actually are from a DC-10 aircraft, not a 747, though he hopes to change that soon.

While the cabin isn't open to the public, friends and fellow airline enthusiasts frequently hang out there, he says. Beverage service is included in a visit, as is a custom souvenir boarding pass and first-class luggage tags that look identical to Pan Am's from the early 1980s. Occasionally, he'll prepare a meal in the galley, though usually he orders takeout and serves it on his vintage Pan Am china and serving trays. Mr. Toth has even hosted his United colleagues for corporate meetings.

"His passion for the industry goes well beyond what [he has] at home," says Mr. Toth's boss, Jeff Foland, senior vice president of world-wide sales and distribution for United.

Today's first-class cabins, with reclining, lie-flat seats, on-demand gourmet meals and individual televisions have advanced far beyond the lower-tech cabins of the 1970s and 1980s. But today's airline service and branding just aren't the same, says Mr. Toth.

In the good old days, "I didn't want to sleep when I flew," he says. "I wanted to spend every minute enjoying everything that was happening."

Sunday, September 27, 2009

British Airways sets seat charges

Opinion: BA can afford to do this when they have control of a route. I doubt they will be able to retain customer loyalty on the more competitive routes as this move is not ideal for travel groups

BBC: Friday, 25 September 2009
A BA plane
British Airways said seat charges will give customers "more control"

British Airways passengers will have to pay to choose their seats before they travel from October, the airline says.

The charges will affect those seeking to ensure they sit together on a flight and people with a preference for window, aisle or emergency exit seats.

Prices range from £10 per person for European economy flights, to £60 for long haul trips in business class.

Consumer group Which? said it was "disappointing to see British Airways jumping on the bandwagon".

BA said it would "give customers more control over their seating options". The new charges will come into force on 7 October.

'Extra charges'

The airline currently allows passengers to reserve seats in the 24 hours prior to departure.

We know from our members that people really don't like these extra charges - they'd much rather see a headline price that includes everything
Which? Holiday

The new charge - aimed at passengers wanting to reserve seats earlier than this - will be £20 on long-haul economy or short flights in business class, while a seat in an emergency exit row will cost £50.

This can be booked between 10 and four days before take-off.

A BA spokeswoman said: "Customers frequently request specific seats, but in the past we've only been able to confirm them 24 hours in advance or on the day.

"We know people want to secure them in advance and have real control over their flying experience. This will allow them to do that."

Rochelle Turner, head of research at Which? Holiday, said travellers had become used to budget airlines charging them for a service that used to be included in the "headline price".

"We know from our members that people really don't like these extra charges - they'd much rather see a headline price that includes everything," she said.

"BA is still giving some people the chance to reserve their seat for free in the 24 hours before departure, but if you aren't quick enough off the mark, you could find yourself sitting on the other side of the plane from your family or partner.

"It's no way to start a holiday."

The move comes as the airline attempts to bolster its balance sheet after a £401m loss in the last financial year.

And it follows BA's decision to cut luggage allowances and abolish free meals on short flights.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Iconic Greyhound bus on track for UK launch

View: I've been on the Greyhound 3 or 4 times (before Greyhound was sold to a UK company in 2007), all I can say is that you can meet all sorts of people, some are not pleasant. So this is indeed a fresh perspective for the British traveler, how long will it be before this luxury service hits the US? I think it will be very limited due to the geography that favors air travel

LONDON, England (CNN) -- For almost a century, the old dog has traversed landscapes across the United States, with weary, budget-conscious travelers peeking out of its windows.

Greyhound bus services will run from London to cities such as Portsmouth and Southampton.

Greyhound bus services will run from London to cities such as Portsmouth and Southampton.

Now, the iconic Greyhound is taking to the road in Britain. The company will run hourly bus services from London to select cities, starting Monday.

In contrast to its U.S. services, however, the buses are glitzier and more luxurious.

"The UK service will have wireless Internet, spacious leather seats, more leg room and free newspapers," said Alex Warner, managing director of Greyhound UK. "Obviously, we wanted our services to reflect the nature of UK passengers."

For inaugural Greyhound service in Britain, the company aimed to start with the best the United States has to offer, Warner added.

In North America, the same services are available from New York and Washington to select cities such as Boston and Toronto, Canada.

"There are plans to expand that. Americans should watch closely. We will introduce more of these services based on how well they are received in the UK," Warner said.

Despite the added benefits, fares will still target the budget-conscious traveler in Britain, according to Warner.

The service starts with a few cities -- from London to Portsmouth and Southampton, he said. The approximately 120-kilometer (80-mile) trip will cost £1 ($1.60) if a ticket is bought in advance, Warner said. Prices will go up to £4 or £5, depending on time of purchase.

"We are planning to keep the prices within that range," Warner said.

Greyhound Lines is owned by British transport company FirstGroup, which bought it from its U.S. parent in 2007. It was founded in 1914, and has services in Mexico and Canada, according to its Web site.

In a nod to its cameos in American movies and songs, such as the 1969 film "Midnight Cowboy" and Simon and Garfunkel's 1972 hit "America," Greyhound plans to keep at least one tie to its U.S. origins. Buses in Britain will be named after classic American songs.

The names include "Sweet Caroline" and "Good Golly Miss Molly," Warner said.

Now, everyone in US will know Malaysia better

View: Wow! Air Asia X is pushing new frontiers! That is an interesting route, I checked but it still doesn't have pricing yet

By LIM AI LEE - The Star

OAKLAND (California): AirAsia X has arrived in the United States with “Xcellence” - its Airbus A340 - touching down here on Monday morning.

The no-frills airline is the first from Asia to associate itself with a performance driven National Football League team, the Oakland Raiders.

Newly-appointed Malaysian Ambassador Datuk Seri Dr Jamaludin Jarjis, who was at the Oakland International Airport to witness the touchdown, congratulated AirAsia for promoting a Malaysian brand in the US.

“This is a great step in building bilateral ties and contribute to the development of the tourism industry in this part of the world and in Malaysia,” Dr Jamaludin said at his first official function since presenting his credentials to Deputy State Secretary Dr James B. Steinberg in Washington on Friday.

Also present were the city’s Mayor Ron Dellums, Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis and CEO Amy Trask, AirAsia X CEO Azran Osman-Rani and director Datuk Lim Kian Onn.

“With AirAsia, we will see new business opportunities in the services sector,”he said.

Dr Jamaludin said he hoped relations between Malaysia and the US would be further enhanced under his tenure.

There are 5,428 Malaysians studying in over 250 universities in the US and AirAsia would provide them with an affordable means of transport.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Airline industry lost over $6 billion in 1st half

Airlines group says global industry lost over $6 billion in first half, some signs of recovery
On Tuesday September 1, 2009, 9:22 am EDT

GENEVA (AP) -- Airline companies lost more than $6 billion during the first half of the year due to the economic crisis, even as fresh figures showed some signs of recovery in the passenger and freight business, an industry group said Tuesday.

A sample of more than 50 airlines found their losses declined to $2 billion in the second quarter from $4 billion in the first quarter, the International Air Transport Association said, noting that the April-June period is usually a strong one for the industry.

"Since the sample of airlines is incomplete, total industry losses in the first half of 2009 are likely to have been in excess of the reported $6 billion," IATA said.

The Geneva-based group, which represents 230 airlines worldwide, said seat occupancy in international markets stabilized in July -- the first time in over a year -- but added that airlines need to further cut capacity to meet demand.

Freight capacity also still exceeds demand despite an 8.1 percent capacity cut in July, IATA said.
"With excess capacity continuing through Q2 it was not surprising that freight rates were down more than 20 percent over the year," it said.

Overall, the industry outlook remains volatile, IATA said.
Airlines are still adding to their fleet because of long-term orders committed to before the downturn.

Figures show companies increased their aircraft numbers by a net of 487, or about 2 percent of their overall fleet."Replacement and expansion of the fleet has delivered significant fuel efficiency savings," IATA said.
The group noted that rising fuel prices are once again eating into airlines' cash reserves.
Airline shares have risen 7.4 percent since the start of the year, lagging behind overall market improvements of 23 percent.
"Nonetheless, stronger equity markets gave airlines an opportunity to raise more -- much needed -- cash," IATA said.
Airlines have raised $3 billion of equity and $12 billion from new debt issues since the start of the year, it said.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Driven to driving a taxi despite having a PhD

Saturday August 29, 2009 - THESTAR.COM.MY


Bio-chemist Dr Cai Minnjie who failed to land another research position after losing his job last year now happily prowls the streets as a cabbie.

SINGAPORE’S fraternity of taxi drivers, with its fair share of retrenched executives, has now an exalted new member – a PhD bio-chemist from Stanford University.

Prowling the streets of Singapore today is 57-year-old unemployed scientist Dr Cai Mingjie who lost his job at Singapore’s premier A-Star biomedical research institute last year.

The China-born naturalised citizen with 16 years of research accomplishments said he began driving a taxi last October after failed efforts to land another job.

The news shocked this nation, which holds an unshakable faith in the power of an advanced university education.

One surprised white-collar worker said he had believed that such a doctorate and experience was as good as life-long employment and success.

“If he has to drive a taxi, what chances do ordinary people like us have?” he asked.

I have met a number of highly qualified taxi drivers in recent years, including former managers and a retrenched engineer.

One cheerful driver – a former stock-broker – surprised me one day in giving me detailed reasons on what stocks to buy or avoid.

“At a time like this, the taxi business is probably the only business in Singapore that still actively recruits people,” said Dr Cai.

To me, his plight is taking Singapore into a new chapter.

“(I am) probably the only taxi driver in the world with a PhD from Stanford and a proven track record of scientific accomplishments ...,” blogged Dr Cai.

“I have been forced out of my research job at the height of my scientific career” and was unable to find another job “for reasons I can only describe as something uniquely Singapore”.

The story quickly spread far and wide over the Internet. Most Singaporeans expressed admiration for his ability to adapt so quickly to his new life. Two young Singaporeans asked for his taxi number, saying they would love to travel in his cab and talk to him.

“There’s so much he can pass on to me,” one said.

Others questioned why, despite his tremendous scientific experience, he is unable to find a teaching job.

His unhappy exit is generally attributed to a personal cause (he has alleged chaotic management by research heads) rather than any decline in Singapore’s bio-tech project, which appears to be surviving the downturn.

The case highlights a general weakening of the R and D (research and development) market in smallish Singapore.

“The bad economy means not many firms are hiring professional scientists,” one surfer said. “Academia isn’t much of a help – there’s a long history of too many PhDs chasing too few jobs.”

While the image of taxi drivers has received a tremendous boost, the same cannot be said of Singapore’s biomedical project – particularly its efforts to nourish home-grown research talent.

“It may turn more Singaporeans away from Life Sciences as a career,” said one blogger.

One writer said: “In my opinion, PhDs are useless, especially in Singapore. It’s just another certificate and doesn’t mean much.”

Another added: “The US is in a worse situation. Many are coming here to look for jobs.”

“I won’t want my child to study for years to end up driving a taxi,” said a housewife with a teenage daughter.

The naturalised Singaporean citizen underwent his PhD training at Stanford University, the majority of his work revolving around the study of yeast proteins.

His case is not unique. US research-scientist Douglas Prasher, who isolated the gene that creates the green fluorescent protein (and just missed the 2008 Chemistry Nobel Prize) faced similar straits.

Prasher moved from one research institution to another when his funding dried up, and he eventually quit science – to drive a courtesy shuttle in Alabama.

“Still, he remains humble and happy and seems content with his minivan driver job,” said a surfer.

With an evolving job market as more employers resort to multi-tasking and short-term contracts, more Singaporeans are chasing after split degrees, like accountancy and law or computer and business.

Others avoid post-graduate studies or specialised courses of a fixed discipline in favour of general or multi-discipline studies. “Experience is king” is the watchword; there has been a rush for no-pay internships.

“The future favours graduates with multiple skills and career flexibility, people who are able to adapt to different types of work,” one business executive said.

During the past few years, as globalisation deepened, there has been a growing disconnect between what Singaporeans studied in university and their subsequent careers.

It follows the trend in the developed world where old businesses disappear – almost overnight – and new ones spring up, which poses problems for graduates with an inflexible job expectation.

I know of a young man who graduated from one of America’s top civil engineering universities abandoning the construction hard hat for a teaching gown.

Another engineer I met is running his father’s lucrative coffee shop. Lawyers have become musicians or journalists, and so on.

Cases of people working in jobs unrelated to their university training have become so common that interviewers have stopped asking candidates questions like “Why should a trained scientist like you want to work as a junior executive with us?”

In the past, parents would crack their heads pondering what their children should study – accountancy or law or engineering, the so-called secure careers – and see them move single-mindedly into these professions.

A doctor was then a doctor, a biologist generally worked in the lab and a lawyer argued cases in courts – square pegs in square holes, so to speak.

Today the world is slowly moving away from this neat pattern.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Ryanair closing Manchester routes

View: Ryanair being a large airline seems to be using its muscle to squeeze for lower operating costs. Airports tend to loose out if major airlines pack and leave, but an airport's ability to draw the passengers will determine who wins this battle on costs

BBC Monday, 17 August 2009 17:15 UK

Ryanair is to switch or close nine of the 10 routes it currently operates from Manchester Airport, blaming the airport's refusal to lower its charges.

The firm said most affected flights would be switched to East Midlands, Leeds Bradford, and Liverpool airports.

Ryanair said the change would result in the loss of up to 600 local jobs, a claim disputed by the airport.

The airport told BBC News job losses would be limited, but said the budget airline's decision was "regrettable".

"We also have all but one service that Ryanair offers, served by other airlines that operate at Manchester," said chief executive of Manchester Airport Group, Geoff Muirhead.

"So the damage will be limited."

Full refund

Ryanair's announcement comes a month after it said it would cut flights from London Stansted by 30% over the winter period, also as a result of a dispute over airport charges.

We've consistently cut our charges for the last 15 years even when faced with increased costs such as security
Manchester Airport spokesman

The nine routes from Manchester that will close are those to Barcelona (Girona), Bremen, Brussels (Charleroi), Cagliari, Dusseldorf (Weeze), Frankfurt (Hahn), Marseille, Milan (Bergamo) and Shannon.

The changes, affecting 44 flights a week, will take effect from 1 October.

The airline said passengers affected by the changes would be e-mailed and, "provided with a full refund, or the alternative of flying to some destinations" from East Midlands, Leeds Bradford and Liverpool.

Ryanair said it had offered Manchester an additional 28 weekly flights if the airport agreed to reduce its charges, but that it had rejected the offer.

However, a spokesman for Manchester Airport said it did not "believe that charges as low as £3 per passenger are unreasonable".

"We've consistently cut our charges for the last 15 years even when faced with increased costs such as security," he added.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

JetBlue offers all-you-can-fly plan for $599

Unlimited flight pass valid for trips between Sept. 8 and Oct. 8.

By Julianne Pepitone, contributing writer

NEW YORK ( -- JetBlue Airways will offer an "all-you-can-jet" pass for $599 in which passengers can book an unlimited amount of flights within a one-month span, the airline said Wednesday.

Pass holders can fly to any of JetBlue's (JBLU) 56 destinations between Sept. 8 and Oct. 8, with no seat limitations or blackout dates, the company said in a release.

Airline equities analyst Bob McAdoo, of Avondale Partners, said he "has never seen a promotion like this before."

In fact, Air Canada had a similar promotion in 2007, where it offered an unlimited flight pass starting at $1,657 per month.

Still, with JetBlue flights already slashed as low as $100, customers might have to fly 6 or 7 times in a month before they break even.

"This is a way to get people to pay attention, with publicity that doesn't cost the company much," McAdoo said. "They're doing this at a time when there are probably a lot of seats available anyway."

Customers must buy the $599 pass by Aug. 21, and they can book flights within three days of the departure date. All travel using the pass must be booked between Aug. 12 and Oct. 5.

Taxes and fees are included for domestic flights, and changes or cancellations made less than three days before departure cost $100. To top of page

Friday, July 10, 2009

More airlines embracing furry travelers

By Stephanie Chen

(CNN) -- A few weeks ago, Tony Hoard, a 57-year-old manufacturing worker in Indiana, boarded a flight on Midwest Airlines to Las Vegas, Nevada, with his Australian Shepherd. The flight attendant smiled at the two and said, "Welcome aboard."

Midwest Airlines allows some of its canine customers to be seated in the cabin.

Midwest Airlines allows some of its canine customers to be seated in the cabin.

Pet Airlines, a pet-only airline flying to five cities across the U.S., is scheduled to launch this month.

Pet Airlines, a pet-only airline flying to five cities across the U.S., is scheduled to launch this month.

Hoard has flown with Rory, his furry 40-pound companion, in coach more than 15 times on Midwest, the Wisconsin-based airline that boasts "The Best Care in the Air." Each time they fly, Rory wears a harness and sits strapped into a seat.

"Rory gets the window seat," said Hoard, whose dog has won a series of Frisbee competitions. "He likes to look out the window when the plane takes off and naps the rest of the way."

Blame America's pet obsession, but in recent years, more members of the airline industry are embracing dogs and cats on board. Midwest Airlines may be an extreme example, letting select dogs sit in the same seats as humans, but other airlines are relaxing their pet policies by letting smaller cats and dogs come into the cabin area.

About a year ago, Midwest began allowing certain "celebrity" dogs that appear in canine competitions, shows or advertisements to sit in seats.

"They are just passengers with four legs instead of two," said Susan Kerwin, who oversees the pet program at Midwest Airlines.

The pet travel frenzy has spurred the creation of an airline catering exclusively to pets. This month, Pet Airways, the nation's first pet-only airline, will begin flying in five major cities, including New York and Los Angeles, California. It's an alternative to shipping larger pets in the cargo area of a plane, where there have been pet injuries and even deaths. Chart: Compare some of the common airline fees

"The owners can check a bag with them," explained Alyse Tognotti, a spokeswoman for Pet Airways. "Or if they have a special blanket or toy, basically anything that will take stress out of traveling."

On each Pet Airways flight, services include potty breaks and experienced animal handlers checking up on the animals every 15 minutes. Nervous parents can track their pets online.

Southwest Airlines was the latest airline to join the pet-loving bandwagon in May, when it permitted small dogs and cats to travel in the cabin area. The pets must sit in an approved kennel that fits under the seat.

"I wasn't going to fly Southwest Airlines," said Katie Chapman, 37, of Louisville, Kentucky, who is mom to a friendly 18-pound Cairn Terrier that resembles Toto from "The Wizard of Oz." Since the airline has changed its policy, she plans to take her puppy on a Southwest flight to California this fall. "I'm so glad now that she will be able to go with me."

Each year, airlines transport hundreds of thousands of pets in the cargo and cabin areas. Continental reported moving 270,000 pets last year in cabin and cargo, more than triple the number moved before the airline's pet program officially kicked off eight years ago.

The Federal Aviation Administration doesn't have restrictions on whether animals can be in the cabin area, but airlines must allow service dogs for the disabled on board. Only cats and dogs are allowed in the cabin areas on most airlines. In the cargo area, other pets like rabbits, birds and lizards can be stowed.

The cost of flying your furry friend ranges from $75 to nearly $300 each leg. It's a hefty price tag, but profit-bleeding airlines are happy to offer the option.

Pets can even rack up frequent flier miles. After three flights with Midwest, the pet can earn a fourth flight free. Continental and JetBlue Airways' programs credit the pet's trip on the owner's frequent flier account.

But one airline is catering to allergy-ridden customers who don't want pets in the cabin. Last year, Frontier Airlines banned pets from the cabin area because officials said pet allergies are common among their customers.

Ann Kerns, a 63-year-old teacher in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, experienced continuous wheezing on a four-hour US Airways flight to Phoenix, Arizona. At the end of the flight, she was shocked to find that there had been a cat sitting under her seat.

"What would have happened if I went into an attack at 35,000 feet in the air?" she asked.

In 2008, the American College of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology wrote letters to Congress expressing concern about pets riding in the cabin area after some patients became ill from their flights. The letters didn't go very far, officials said.

Airlines say they have had few allergy injuries on board. The airlines limit the number of pets in the cargo area to about five. The aircraft is disinfected and cleaned routinely, so dander and hairs aren't a problem, airline officials say.

But not every traveler has had smooth experiences with pets on board.

Terry Trippler, a travel expert, recalls an unpleasant incident years ago when a dog had diarrhea three rows in front of him.

"You could certainly smell it," he wrote in an e-mail. "The only real way to solve the problem is no pets in the cabin."

Airline Fee Comparison (US)

Fees have mounted from U.S. airline companies over the past few years. Here are some of the most common charges -- for one-way flights -- passengers can expect to pay.











US Airways
First bag $15 $15 $15 $15 Economy ticket: $15
Other ticket types: Free
Free $15 Online: $19
Airport: $25
Free Online: $15
Airport: $20
Online: $15
Airport: $20
Second bag $25 $25 $25 $25 Economy ticket: $25
Other ticket types: Free
$30 $25 Online and airport: $25 Free Online: $25
Airport: $30
Online: $25
Airport: $30
Seat selection $6 for an assigned seat on sale fares
Exit row: $20
N/A N/A N/A N/A Extra leg room: $10 N/A Exit row: $15
Aisle: $10
Middle: $5
N/A Extra leg room starting at $14 Aisle and window seats starting at $5
Wi-fi Starting at $9.95 for lap tops; $7.95 for mobile devices Starting at $9.95 for lap tops; $7.95 for mobile devices Free in first class; $6 in economy class (selected aircraft) Starting at $9.95 for lap tops; $7.95 for mobile devices No wireless Limited trial access on select aircraft No wireless No wireless Limited trial access on select aircraft No wireless No wireless
Unaccompanied minors $39 $100 $75 non-stop flights
$100 connecting flights
$100 $50 $75 $50 non-stop flights
$75 connecting flights
$100 $25 $99 $100
Telephone booking $15 $20 $15 $20 $25 $15 $25 $4.90 (online booking charge as well) Free $25 $25
Pets Cargo not available
Cabin: $69
Cargo: $150
Cabin: $100
Cargo: Starting at $149
Cabin: $125
Cargo: $275
Cabin: $150
Cargo: $100
Cabin not available
Cargo not available
Cabin: $100
Cargo: $150
Cabin: $125
Cargo not available
Cabin: $100
Cargo not available
Cabin: $75
Cargo: $250
Cabin: $125
Cargo not available
Cabin: $100
Flight change $49 per leg or fly standby for no charge $50 $150 $150 Depends on ticket type $100 $50 $100 Free $150 $150

Friday, June 26, 2009

Airline policies juggle larger passengers

VIEW: I've not yet experienced sitting close to a large passenger, but I've seen other passengers struggling for arm space when their neighbour is much larger. This problem wouldn't happen in places where people watch their diet and keep a healthy lifestyle.

By Stephanie Chen - CNN

(CNN) -- You pay for checking your baggage, for snacks and for extra legroom. Word is one airline has even toyed with charging you to use the toilet. So it makes perfect sense to some fliers that heavier passengers should pay for spilling over into the next seat.

Earlier this year, United Airlines formalized a policy that charges some larger passengers for a second seat.

Earlier this year, United Airlines formalized a policy that charges some larger passengers for a second seat.

Frequent flier Ross Murphy, 54, has been sandwiched between larger fliers in coach, and he believes they should have to shell out for a second seat.

"They have a right to sit in the seat next to me," said Murphy, who travels cross-country at least 15 times a year to watch his sons' sporting matches. "But they don't have a right to sit in my lap."

A growing number of airlines are forcing bigger passengers to pay more as they cope with the costly and uncomfortable quandary that arises when obese passengers cannot squeeze into a single coach seat.

With airlines trimming flight schedules -- meaning fuller passenger loads this summer -- the issue is bound to spur some awkward encounters. Chart: Compare some of the common airline fees

"It's a growing problem, no pun intended," said George Hobica, president of, a site that is part of Smarter Travel Media LLC, which provides airfare deals and advice. "Everyone suffers. The obese people suffer and the people who are skinny and get spilled over on suffer as well."

U.S. obesity rates have mushroomed during the last 25 years, but the width of a coach airplane seat has changed little, remaining between 17 and 18 inches in most commercial planes. More than one-third of Americans fall into the obese category, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This makes traveling in tight spaces vexing for airlines trying to bolster profits by selling the maximum number of seats.

The Federal Aviation Administration does not regulate seat width, but it does require passengers be able to sit belted and with both arm rests down to comply with safety standards.

In April, UAL Corp.'s United Airlines formalized a policy that says passengers who are unable to safely fit into one seat must pay full price for a second seat. They may receive it free if the plane has vacant seats. Flight attendants on the airlines are responsible for making sure passengers are fitting in their seats and may ask a heavier passengers requiring two seats to pay extra.

Robin Urbanski, a spokeswoman for United, said the company received 700 complaints in 2008 from passengers who were upset because a larger passenger encroached on his or her seat.

"This new policy was created for the comfort and well-being of all our guests on board," Urbanski said.

A survey conducted this year by Europe's low-fare airline Ryanair found a third of the 100,000 passengers polled believed a "fat tax" should be instituted, requiring heavier passengers to pay more.

Most U.S. airlines have a policy or plan for dealing with heavier passengers, though some are not formalized like United's. Officials worry heavier passengers squished into one seat may pose a safety hazard when a plane must be evacuated during an emergency.

Southwest Airlines has had a "customer of size policy" for more than 20 years, requiring passengers to buy a second seat on a full plane if their body crosses the armrest boundary.

The company will issue refunds if unoccupied seats are available, which they say is the case 97 percent of the time.

Airlines with open seating policies such as Southwest find it easier to relocate passengers in need of an extra seat. On all airlines, passengers can buy first-class or business-class seats, which are wider. But those tickets cost more than a coach seat.

Experts at Boeing Company, an aircraft manufacturer, say 17-inch seats can accommodate 95 percent of the traveling public. They say studies have found most seat space invasions happen because of wider shoulders and not derrieres.

Still, some larger passengers who need more than one seat believe being charged extra is discriminatory and the airlines are not accommodating the growing American waistline.

"The airlines need to be making bigger seats," said Peggy Howell, a spokeswoman for the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, a group based in San Francisco, California. "It's not safe to be cramming us into two seats."

Lawsuits have been filed by heavier passengers and by those who complain about large passengers encroaching on their space. The courts have ruled the airline policies are within their rights. In the United States, there aren't any discrimination laws to protect obese people, attorneys say. (In some employment discrimination cases, attorneys have been able to win by proving obesity was a genetic disease beyond the person's control.)

In 2003, the issue of passenger weight surfaced when a commuter plane crashed on takeoff from Charlotte, North Carolina, because of excess weight and a maintenance error. The accident prompted the FAA to increase the estimated weight per passenger by 10 pounds, including 20 pounds of carry-on luggage. For example, the average weight for a passenger traveling in the summer (including carry-on luggage) went from 180 pounds in 1995 to 190 pounds in 2003.

"We realized after that accident that the weights we were using probably didn't reflect the current state of the American traveling public," said Les Dorr, a spokesman with aviation safety at the FAA.

In 2004, a CDC scientist studied the effects of obesity on the airline industry. The scientist calculated his findings based on data revealing the average weight of an American had increased by 10 pounds in the 1990s. He estimated the extra weight cost airlines $275 million extra for fuel in 2000. The figures are likely higher today, with fuel costs rising.

Scott Cluthe, 57, who works in the radio industry in Houston, Texas, a city known for its obesity epidemic, said average-sized passengers should not have to incur the higher fuel cost caused by the airline's heavier customers.

"A small child needs to pay for a flight, so why wouldn't an obese person?" said Cluthe, who flies several times a year, mostly in coach, for personal trips. "I'm not a discriminatory person, but we have to look at the reality of the situation. It's getting a little crowded in here."

Some larger passengers don't mind paying for the second seat. Other heavier fliers argue while tall passengers pay a fee for legroom, the fees are only a fraction of the price of a entire seat. Air France offers obese passengers booking a second seat up to 33 percent off the ticket price, depending on the type of seat and availability.

Mike Vasey of Cheyenne, Wyoming says even some normal-sized people can't fly comfortably when they are packed in the cabin like sardines. Vasey, 45, who considers himself a large guy at 400 pounds and over six feet tall, usually pays for two seats.

"I'd rather be comfortable first ," he said, "and worry about discrimination later."

The Metro Crash: The US's Aging Transit System

'King of Pop' Michael Jackson is dead

Dear MJ, may you now find the peace you have been searching for... Thanks for the music and the good memories during my childhood!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

US April Truck Tonnage Plunges 13.2%

Updated: 5/27/2009 9:00:00 AM Transport Topics

Drop Is Biggest in 13 Years; Reading Is Lowest Since 2001

Truck tonnage decreased 13.2% in April compared with a year ago, falling to the lowest level in seven-and-a-half years, American Trucking Associations said.

The decline in the for-hire seasonally adjusted truck tonnage index was the biggest in 13 years and left tonnage at a reading of 99.2, its lowest level since November 2001.

The index fell 2.2% from March, the second consecutive month-to-month decrease, ATA said late Tuesday.

Without accounting for seasonal adjustment, the index fell 2.9% from March, while March’s tonnage level had dropped 12.2% from a year earlier.

ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said trucking is being hit by both the recession and businesses’ efforts to decrease inventory.

“While most key economic indictors are decreasing at a slower rate, the year-over-year contractions in truck tonnage accelerated because businesses are right-sizing their inventories, which means fewer truck shipments,” Costello said.

“Until this correction is complete, freight will be tough for motor carriers,” he said in a statement.

ATA calculates the tonnage each month based on reports by its member trucking companies.

By Transport Topics

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Honda CEO says 2009/10 is floor for earnings

Fri May 15, 2009 8:01am EDT REUTERS By Chang-Ran Kim and Nobuhiro Kubo

TOKYO (Reuters) - Honda Motor Co's earnings will hit bottom this year and improve beyond that as demand in the United States returns in the second half, the Japanese automaker's chief executive said on Friday.

"The last (January-March) quarter was the nadir, and things will gradually start to improve in the first two quarters (of this year)," Takeo Fukui told Reuters in an interview.

"I'm definitely expecting the second half to turn up, and on an annual basis I think this year will be the floor."

Battered by a sales slump in the United States, its biggest market, Japan's No.2 automaker lost a net 186 billion yen ($1.95 billion) in the fourth quarter of 2008/09, a reversal from a profit of 25.4 billion yen a year earlier. For the year to March 2010, Honda has forecast a 71 percent drop in net profit to 40 billion yen.

A key element in the earnings deterioration across the industry in the past year has been a double-digit sales slide in the United States, which lost its claim to being the world's biggest auto market to China this year. But Fukui said he believed the U.S. market had also reached a bottom, projecting a recovery in the latter half of 2009.

"A 10 million-unit (a year) market is abnormal for the United States," he said. "I think there's latent demand for 13 to 14 million units annually, and we'll get back to that level at some point."

One worry was the possible disruption if Chrysler, which filed for bankruptcy protection last month, dumped its cars on to the market from its inventory, Fukui said.

While Fukui said he hoped that Chrysler's bigger rival, General Motors Corp, would avoid Chapter 11, he said Honda -- and probably the rest of the industry -- was making necessary preparations for the possibility.

"You can't just assume that it won't happen and hope for the best," he said.


Honda was the only top Japanese carmaker to stay in the black last year as Toyota Motor Corp and Nissan Motor Co lost money, and executives have cited its profitable and world-leading motorcycle business as a major boost.

But Fukui said another factor that gets little mention was the vast drop in warranty and other costs last year after a lengthy process of fixing quality issues finally began to bear fruit.

"The initiative started during my predecessor's tenure and it's been a long and painstaking process. We finally saw the results of that last year," said Fukui, who will step down as CEO next month after six years at the helm.

"The improvement will grow from here onwards."

Airlines 'to make bigger losses'

Tuesday, 24 March 2009 BBC

A plane
IATA predicts passenger traffic in 2009 will fall for the first time since 2001

The International Air Transport Association says airlines will make losses of $4.7bn (£3.2bn) in 2009, 88% more than the body's initial forecast.

In December, Iata said the global air transport industry would make a loss of $2.5bn this year.

Iata said passenger demand had deteriorated more than expected and demand for air cargo was even weaker.

However, the body said that the industry's prospects might begin to improve by the end of the year.

The international airline industry lost $8.5bn last year, more than its initial estimate of $5bn, as the final three months of 2008 saw a sharp fall in first-class and business-class passengers and cargo traffic.

The new projection comes as passenger traffic is expected to slide by 5.7% over the year.

Europe - $1bn loss
Asia-Pacific - $1.7bn loss
North America - $100m profit
Latin America - $600m loss
Africa - $600m loss
Middle East - $900m loss
Source: Iata

Industry revenues are forecast to fall by 12% to $62bn, worse than the 7% fall in the wake of the 11 September 2001 attacks on the US.

"The state of the airline industry today is grim," said Iata director general Giovanni Bisignani.

"Demand has deteriorated much more rapidly with the economic slowdown than could have been anticipated even a few months ago."

Airlines in Europe and Asia will be particularly hard hit, with North American airlines expected to fare better.

"We used to see Asia as the star, but unfortunately China, India and Japan have big problems," Mr Bisignani told the BBC's World Business Report.

However, it said that low fuel prices were the one piece of good news for the industry.

It expected oil to average $50 a barrel in 2009, down from $99 in 2008.

Mr Bisignani said that there was little to suggest an early end to the downturn.

"While prospects may improve towards the end of the year, expecting a significant recovery in 2010 would require more optimism than realism," he said.

Emirates airline profits down 72%

Friday, 22 May 2009 13:06 UK BBC

Emirates plane
The airline continues to expand its fleet

The Emirates group, the largest airline in the Middle East, has reported a fall in profits of 72% for the 2008/09 fiscal year.

The group, like many others around the world, has been hit hard by the global slowdown and high fuel prices.

Its profit of 1.49bn dirhams ($406m; £255m) for the year to March 31 compared with a 5.3bn dirham profit for the previous year.

Also on Friday, British Airways reported a record loss of £401m.

Rising sales - thanks partly to the addition of new routes - and lower costs helped it remain in profit, Emirates group, which includes the Emirates airline as well as Dnata, an airport operations company, and other businesses.

Total group revenue was 46.249bn dirham, a 10.4% increase on the previous year.

"No one could have predicted the scale of the worldwide recession which is now impacting every country on earth," Sheik Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the company's chairman and chief executive said in a statement.

"Emirates has worked hard to cope with this downturn by maintaining our agility and responsiveness in a volatile economic environment," he added.

"Although fuel prices are dropping, demand for business and first class traffic is still weak in many markets," he said.

Emirates is the largest customer for the Airbus A380, with 58 aircraft orders.

It expects to receive 18 planes from Boeing and Airbus in the coming year.

High costs fuel record loss at BA

Friday, 22 May 2009 15:51 UK, BBC

British Airways has announced the biggest loss since the company was privatised in 1987.

BA reported a loss before tax of £401m for the year to 31 March, after seeing its results hit by a weak pound and higher fuel costs.

The airline made a revised profit of £922m in the previous year.

BA also offered staff the option of taking unpaid leave or working part-time. Chief executive Willie Walsh said he would work for no pay in July.

Mr Walsh said: "I certainly want to make a contribution in recognition of the extremely challenging position we face. This is no stunt. I do not easily give up anything I have earned."

Mr Walsh earns £735,000 a year.

Finance director Keith Williams, who is paid £440,000, will also forgo his pay for the month of July.

Fuel pressures

Although revenues increased to almost £9bn, BA faced a near-£3bn fuel bill.

Mr Walsh said he saw "no signs of recovery anywhere".

It's difficult to avoid the impression that at least part of BA's agony, its descent in just 12 months from record profits to record losses, was of its own making
Robert Peston, BBC business editor

Fuel costs rose 44.5% after the price of oil soared last year. The weaker pound also contributed to rising costs as fuel is bought in US dollars.

But the airline said it expected lower fuel prices to reduce its fuel costs by about £400m in the year ahead.

The results also included redundancy-related costs of £78m.

BA said it had cut more than 2,500 jobs since last summer and added that it was in talks with unions about "pay and productivity changes".

'Self-inflicted wounds'

Despite BA's claims that it has been a victim of a downturn in global conditions, analysts say the airline is not entirely blameless for its poor results.

Tom Symonds

Tom Symonds, BBC transport correspondent

One of BA's biggest problems is the drop in numbers by 13% of the airline's real earners - the business passengers.

The airline is doing all it can to keep them flying, including in recent months a Buy One Get One Free offer.

It is much harder for BA to take on the likes of easyJet and Ryanair when it comes to offering cheap economy seats. And easyJet in particular is deliberately punting for business passengers forced to travel on a budget.

The other big problem is an old one. BA's fuel bills have soared by 44.5% in the last year.

The real problem is that the world's airlines buy their fuel in dollars, and the exchange rate against the pound is not good for BA.

"The first half of the year really was [a period of] self-inflicted wounds from the Terminal 5 opening problems," said airline consultant John Strickland.

Travel writer Simon Calder added that BA had been particularly hit by a fall in premium traffic - business class and first class passengers - which was down 13%.

"The premium traffic which accounts for half their income has simply dried up," he said.

"They base their business on the fact that there will be plenty of businesses wanting to fly and businesses are simply cutting back.

"British Airways has been losing £7 every second for the past year, which is pretty grim."

The BBC's business editor Robert Peston said that BA's loss was a result of "a lamentable rise in costs", including engineering and aircraft costs, landing fees and staff costs.

Fewer passengers

Shares in the airline were down 4.5% to 155 pence in afternoon trading, having lost as much as 7% earlier in the day.

However, BA said that it had seen a "significantly better" operational performance, and that it had received record customer satisfaction ratings.

The total number of passengers carried fell 4.3% to 33.1m.

The results also included the impact of the airline's first full year of operations at Heathrow Terminal 5, and BA said more than 24 million passengers had flown through Terminal 5.

BA added that it had had to take "significant pricing actions" to stimulate non-premium sales, which were broadly unchanged on the previous year.

"Fares have been going down and will continue to be very competitive," Mr Walsh told the BBC. "I don't expect to see any increase in fares in the coming year."

BA's share price

Tough year ahead

BA said the outlook for the airline industry was tough and it would not be paying a dividend this year.

It plans to reduce capacity by 4% over the winter by not flying up to 16 aircraft.

BA is not the only airline suffering in the global recession, as higher fuel prices and a drop in demand for air travel have affected the whole industry.

Also on Friday, the Emirates group reported a 72% fall in profits.

On Wednesday Air France-KLM revealed a net loss of 505m euros ($705m; £444m) in the three months to 31 March, compared with a 534m euro loss in the same period a year earlier.