Saturday, December 26, 2009

Internet Airline News #15

New airline rules address tarmac delays, retroactive contract changes, disclosures

Our friends at the Transportation Department have unleashed a blizzard of airline rule changes on us this morning. They’re being characterized as an early Christmas present for air travelers — particularly those with lengthy tarmac delays. And the government is not done yet. But read the actual rule, and the DOT’s nuanced discussion of its final rulemaking (PDF), and a different picture emerges.

DOT Mandates Passenger Bill of Rights and I’m Not Happy

Yesterday, the DOT decided to issue a final ruling that will effectively require airlines to have a passenger bill of rights. This includes a 3 hour limit on the amount of time you spend on the ground on a domestic flight. While I’m sure that Kate Hanni and friends are thrilled, I am not.

Seattle startup gets 14 airlines to sign on to biofuel agreement

Moving to cut dependence on petroleum for jet fuel, 14 airlines, including Alaska, have signed an agreement for the potential purchase of plant-based fuel from a Seattle company that plans to build a production facility in Anacortes.

American Airlines and the OJ Incident PR Fail

It looks like American Airlines (AMR) hasn’t learned from the Mr X incident. A recent viral blog post about an orange juice-related incident gave American the opportunity to respond once again. It hasn’t, and instead continues to study the issue while opinions continue to form.

Delta Offers Gold Status To Victims Of Pyschotic American Airlines Stewardess

Delta has offered Gold status to anyone who was on the ill-fated American Airlines flight where a stewardess screamed at a first class passenger who had the gall to ask for orange juice, and had him given a written warning by the captain.

United, Continental and ANA apply for antitrust immunity

Star Alliance partners United Airlines, All Nippon Airways and Continental Airlines said Wednesday they've applied for antitrust immunity "to enable the three carriers to create a more efficient and comprehensive trans-Pacific network, generating substantial service and pricing benefits for consumers."

American, Southwest honored by Business Traveler magazine

Business Traveler magazine has handed out its "2009 Best in Business Travel Awards," and our two North Texas airlines fared well. American Airlines was named "Best North American Airline for First-Class Service" and "Best Airline for North American Travel," while Southwest Airlines was picked as "Best Low-Cost Airline in North America."

Peak Travel Day Surcharge Chart: Breakdown by Date & Airline

You may recall that the Peak Travel Day surcharge is no longer just about Christmas and New Year’s (although travel dates around those holidays will be affected). Multiple carriers have added surcharges of varying costs to peak travel dates all the way into October of 2010.

Virgin America’s CEO is “Cautiously Optimistic About 2010″

Virgin America began service when it was especially tough to be an airline start-up, first with high fuel, and now with a recession. So, many were surprised when the San Francisco-based airline recently announced that it had turned its first operating profit ($5.1 million) in the third quarter. That compares to a $54 million operating loss for the same quarter a year ago. The carrier did post a net loss of $5.9 million, however.

Three Reasons Why Delta Slashed First Class Fares Between New York and the West Coast

It looks like Delta (DAL) is sick of watching premium passengers between New York and both LA and San Francisco fly on other airlines. They’ve recently upgrade the aircraft on those routes to have their international BusinessElite product, and now, they’ve dramatically slashed fares for those comfy seats.

Southwest Loses Its Social Media Guru, All Eyes on the Transition

Anyone in the social media space who deals with the airline industry knows Paula Berg. For the last few years, Paula has been the social media guru (or, uh Manager of Emerging Media) for Southwest Airlines (LUV), an unqualified leader in the social media space. Paula has now left for greener pastures (literally - she’s trading the dusty brown Dallas landscape for the picturesque Rocky Mountains)

Flying Too High On Airline Fees

As airlines continue their enthusiastic embrace of fare unbundling and new fees as a revenue-raising savior, they had better heed some warning signs – or at least keep in mind some recent history.

The Big Business of Baggage Fees

The Bureau of Transportation Statistics reports that airline fees topped $2 billion in the third quarter, up 36% from the same period of 2008. Baggage fees carried the load. Ancillary revenue, which includes baggage fees, reservation change fees, sales of frequent flier miles to business partners, pet fees and standby passenger fees, constituted 6.9% of total airline operating revenue, BTS said. Last year in the third quarter, ancillary revenue amounted to 4.1% of total operating revenue. BTS doesn’t count onboard sales of food or seating assignments in those numbers.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Internet Airline News #14

Think a Lot of People are Using Wifi In the Air? Think Again

In the past, airborne wireless usage numbers have been tough to come by. Wifi provider Row 44 has been more forthcoming than AirCell, but Row 44 has such a small footprint right now that it’s not necessarily indicative of broader numbers. Virgin America has said it’s seeing good usage, but you would expect that on an airline that targets the Silicon Valley crowd. Now, we’re getting some numbers from AirCell that indicate what most have thought - usage isn’t good.

The problem with free in-flight internet

For a while now I’ve been a rather strong proponent of the theory that paid in-flight internet isn’t going to attract enough business to survive, at least not with the current pricing scheme.  I just don’t think that there are enough people out there willing to pay $8 or more per flight for the access that is available. [Ed. – Theoretically Alaska Air WiFi should not have this problem]

United Airlines offers a free "try before you buy" Wi-Fi session on all p.s. flights

Passengers on the United Airlines p.s. premium transcontinental service can enjoy one free Gogo Inflight Wi-Fi session. The promotion is done as a "try before you buy", which is a great way to get introduced to the joy of inflight Internet access.

Four pieces of great inflight WiFi news from Gogo

Inflight Internet provider Aircell released not one, but four different pieces of good news yesterday afternoon. We've translated all the PR-speak into the stuff you need to know if you want to stay up to date on the latest developments of Internet in the skies.

Allegiant Fights AirTran, Enters Orlando

For years we’ve heard Allegiant proclaim that they don’t really like competition. They’ve often boasted about how few of their routes have competitors, and they’ve had no qualms about walking away from a route that suddenly performs poorly thanks to new entrants (Greensboro comes to mind).

US Airways Adds Cash for the Next Couple Winters, Defers Airplanes

I hope our US readers had a nice Thanksgiving yesterday. Certainly the financial whizzes at US Airways (LCC) must have had a particularly satisfying meal yesterday. First they bulked up their airline with cash on Tuesday, and then they bulked up themselves with turkey.

Airports want passenger fee charge increased

If U.S. airports get their wish, air travelers will pay a few more dollars per trip next year. Citing escalating construction costs, airports have been lobbying Congress to raise the cap on the "passenger facility charge" that fliers pay as part of their airline tickets.

Inside Virgin America's "Stay Golden" launch event (photos)

I looked around and tried to absorb what was unfolding before me.VIP's and Virgin employees mingled on the patio of the beachfront W Fort Lauderdale. Nearby, a reality TV crew set up a shot for a new series about the lives of Virgin America flight attendants. Lights and loud music infiltrated the senses. It was a perfect backdrop for television, even though it didn't quite feel like reality.
And in a sense, it wasn't reality; but merely a splash of Richard Branson's reality.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Internet Airline News #12

ROW 13: Why some airlines have it and others do not

Of course this makes sense. There are a lot of passengers who fear flying and the number "13″ doesn't have the most positive thoughts attached to it. This explains why airlines have their entire fleets with or without a 13th row, but I wondered, why did Alaska Airlines have a 13th row in all planes except their Boeing 737-800's?

Geoff Pettis, Manager of Interior Engineering with Alaska Airlines, cleared up my confusion…

British Airways and Iberia Agree to Merge

British Airways and Iberia have reached an agreement on a merger plan for the two carriers. If the

merger occurs, the combined carrier would serve 205 destinations with 419 aircraft.

American's Firing of Mr X Becoming a Social Media Black Eye

Thanks to the Mr. X incident, American Airlines is about to get a dose of what United recently experienced when it broke guitars - a wave of negative social media coverage. Not sure who Mr. X is? Read on, and see why I think they’re making a mistake in the way they’re handling this.

What Virgin America's doing right

USA TODAY'S David Grossman recently scored an interview with David Cush, Virgin America's CEO, and came away with some interesting details about how the airline sees itself. Mr Cush is a former American Airlines employee, but he says Virgin doesn't look at his former employer for inspiration…

Qantas plans 'Airport of the Future,' premium service upgrades

Qantas plans to introduce an Airport of the Future concept in major domestic markets next year that it said will reduce dramatically time spent at check-in and in security queues and speed baggage collection.

Domestic passengers will be issued new RFID cards that will replace both the standard boarding pass and baggage tags and give instant recognition to security agents.

Alaska Airlines Bucks Industry Trends To Build Profits From Operations And Cash Flow

When Alaska Air Group CEO Bill Ayer rang the New York Stock Exchange opening bell on Nov. 10, he might as well have rung it to celebrate the end of a fantastic quarter for the airline. Alaska reported a third-quarter profit of $87.6 million, in a period when most U.S. mainline carriers bled red ink.

Worried About Losing Tax Revenue, Congress to Investigate Airlines’ Fees

Congress has been furrowing its collective brow at the practice. An investigation is under way, and could lead to changes in this increasingly popular tactic that airlines use to bring in more revenue without raising fares.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Internet Airline News #11

Vengeance? Karma? Bad luck? United loses the luggage of the “United Breaks Guitars” guy

After famously breaking his guitar, United Airlines has managed to cause further trouble for David Carroll by losing his luggage — just as the Canadian singer-songwriter was en route to deliver a speech about customer service.

Ontario Airport's High Costs Showcase Missed Opportunity

Just last week I wrote about the anger increasingly being directed toward LA World Airports by Ontario Airport stakeholders. Now, it appears that Ontario is getting more serious as the city looks at potential alternatives for the airport, something that might involve taking management away from LAWA. Looking at some numbers, it seems incredibly clear that they should very seriously consider doing just that. Their costs could and should be dramatically lowered.

If You Want to Try Wifi Onboard, You’ll Have Plenty of Free Chances

It’s no surprise that when you make something completely free, people use it a lot more often than if you make them pay. Duh. And that’s why it’s not surprising to see airlines scrambling to find a way to offer wireless internet for free. Just in the last few days, we’ve seen three promotions that will let anyone log on from 30,000 feet without paying a dime.

Midwest and Frontier Start Swapping Airplanes in the Middle of the Day

We’ve talked about how Republic’s acquisition of Frontier and Midwest has given the carrier tremendous flexibility in moving its airplanes around between its different subsidiaries. We’ve already seen announcements that Frontier will operate aircraft under the Midwest name, and some of the Republic-operated Embraer aircraft will come to Denver to operate for Frontier. Now, we’re seeing something even more interesting. Republic will have a single airplane operate for both airlines on the same exact day.

Southwest Airlines web site has high load factors

"The popularity of our 72-hour fare sale is generating a lot of interest in," Southwest is putting on its web site. "The web experience might be slower than usual. Thanks for your patience."

Airplane Part Falls on Suburban Lawn

It was a rather large piece of metal (3′ X 4′) shaped like a cone - and, according to the cops, it came from a commercial airplane. At this point, nobody knows what airline it belonged to but if anyone’s missing anything, you can contact the Roosevelt P.D.

JetBlue's All-You-Can-Jet Pass Considered a Success

You likely could have figured out from the early press it got that JetBlue’s All-You-Can-Jet pass would be a success, but now we have JetBlue Senior VP Marketing & Commercial Marty St George talking about it in more detail. This was a rock star of a promotion.

Alaska's Profits Heat Up

Alaska Airlines continues to stand out as a bright spot in the struggling U.S. airline industry. The carrier had the highest profit margin of the nine largest U.S. airlines during the first nine months of 2009, notes airline analyst Michael Derchin of FTN Equity Capital. Alaska's pre-tax margin of 6% beat out AirTran Airways (5%), JetBlue Airways (3%), and Southwest Airlines (1%). United Airlines finished at the bottom of the pack, with a pre-tax margin of negative 8%.

Are the economics of Twitter airfares worth it?

More and more budget-travel tipsters are pointing towards Twitter, Facebook and social media outlets as the source for wild cheap airfares these days. And it's true, in a way. By subscribing to the pundit feeds online it's possible to get the inside scoop on a few good routes, often saving a few shekels on a future itinerary.

Internet Airline News #10

An Onboard Wifi Update

I’m at the National Business Travel Association (NBTA) conference this week, and I spent awhile chatting with the folks at AirCell (provider of wifi fun) yesterday. That made me think it was a good time for a wifi update, especially since there has been so much news lately.

The Safest Airlines to Fly On

There's no accounting for terrible fate and random events, but The Daily Beast wants you to see how major and regional airlines rank in accidents and incidents. It's worth a peek before booking your next flight.

Continental’s Overnight Excursion in Rochester, Minnesota

I haven’t commented on the ridiculousness that is Continental #2816 yet, and I’ve received plenty of emails asking me why that hasn’t happened. You know the flight; that’s the one where the passengers got stuck on their little regional jet all night long after diverting from Minneapolis/St Paul to Rochester, Minnesota because of bad weather. I decided to wait to write a post until I could get full information, and I simply couldn’t get it. But now that the initial report is out from the DOT, I’ve got enough to start talking. Surprisingly, it points to Delta Connection carrier Mesaba as the real problem here, though they are denying it.

One Airline Gets It: Sun Country to Limit “Time on Tarmac”

The CEO of the Minnesota-based Sun Country Airlines believes his airline is the first to do this: setting a limit on how much time passengers will spend sitting on a plane, when the plane isn’t going anywhere. The new limit is four hours maximum - then the plane and passengers have to return to the terminal (and of course, can do so sooner).

Alaska’s Monthly Investor Update

Alaska releases a monthly update with some traffic and financial data, and it’s always interesting to take a look. First, let’s look at revenue. PRASM was down 1.3% year-over-year and RASM was actually up 0.7%. That’s great, right? Well, not so fast.

Southwest’s Sweet E-Mail Marketing

I’m heading to San Diego in a little less than a month for the National Business Travel Association conference (which I’m really looking forward to), and I’m flying down on Southwest. Last week, I received this e-mail:

Summer Reading: Flying High In a Competitive Industry

First, I’d like to say that this is not a book for airplane geeks, or at least not all of them. The book reads like a business case study for students, which makes perfect sense since it’s published by McGraw-Hill Education.

Schedule Capacity Changes: Keep abreast of weekly schedule changes by airline brand and for the top 25 US airports.
Airport Top Ten O&D Markets: This snapshot will give you the top ten O&D markets for any airport for the latest reported quarter of data
Market O&D Traffic Data: This snapshot gives you the total O&D for any market you choose to enter, for the latest quarter
Nonstop Segment Financial Performance: This snapshot gives you the composition of passengers and prorated yields for a given segment, for the latest quarter

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Just Fooling Around

Sometimes you just need to try things.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Internet Airline News #9

What will Denver look like in two years?

Frontier's going to get out of bankruptcy protection pronto. They're making operational profits that are based on lower expenses and they've got a corporate parent with some resources, but not a huge war chest to wage a long-term fare battle.

LAX Rent Increase Ruled Not Discriminatory, But Fight Continues

There was interesting ruling out of the appeals courts last week. LAX’s efforts to jack up rent for some airlines and not others was ruled to be not discriminatory. But that doesn’t mean this fight is over.

Airlines Update Their Social Media Efforts

Anyone who’s a regular reader of this blog knows about my interest in all things social media.  And I’ve been following how airlines are using it to communication and expand their brands.  Today’s Aviation Daily includes my story (subscribers only) on the efforts of Continental Airlines, Southwest Airlines and American Airlines when it comes to social media.

How Budget Airlines Undercut the Majors (Spoiler: Infographics)

Personal theory: Man has a natural propensity to question what he reads but believe anything he sees in neat infographic form. And this is one heck of an infographic, comparing budget airlines (like Southwest) to traditional companies like Delta.

Flightcaster Tells You When Your Flight Is Delayed Hours Before The Airline Will

“ON TIME”. It’s the first thing we look for when we arrive at the airport — oftentimes we’ll even check a flight’s status before leaving home to make sure things are proceeding as planned. But as anyone who has done extensive traveling could tell you, that ‘On Time’ indicator isn’t exactly honest.

Deconstructing United Airlines: Where Customers are Transactions

If you’re a loyalty marketer and look at my United profile, you find something that would make you 4.5 on a scale of 5.0 when it comes to warm and fuzzy.   You’d see hundreds of thousands of United Airlines frequent flier (FF) miles; a pattern that suggests that I fly exclusively…

Small Cities Pay to Keep Air Travel

With airlines cutting back service in a weak economy, some cities that are too big to qualify for federal help but too small to keep the planes flying in have stepped up with ways to hang on: paying the airlines, either directly or indirectly.

Random Dude with a Laptop Called Up to Cockpit to Help Pilots Plot a New Course

I've heard pilots ask if there's a doctor on board in the event of a medical emergency on an airplane, but to ask if there's a guy with a Wi-Fi-equipped laptop on board? That's a new one to me.

Dave Carroll's "Truly Inspired" 'United Breaks Guitars' Sequel

You know Dave. The man who grabbed more than five million sets of eyeballs to YouTube with his original hit, "United Breaks Guitars." Yes, well, Dave's back.

How new legislation will affect air safety

Late last month, a bipartisan group of House lawmakers introduced legislation designed to improve air safety. The move, led by Aviation Subcommittee chair Jerry Costello, D-Ill., comes in response to February's crash of a Colgan Air regional plane outside Buffalo, N.Y. Fifty people were killed when the Dash-8 Q400 went down on final approach.

Virgin America Announces Bag Fee Changes

Virgin America today announced changes to the airline's baggage fees. Effective for all bookings made on or after Aug. 21, 2009, for travel starting on or after Sept. 10, 2009, the airline has changed its baggage fee to a flat $20 rate for all checked items (excluding the first and second bag for First Class travelers; and the first bag for Main Cabin Select and Refundable Fare travelers.)

Clever Marketing Moves the Needle on Market Share

Remember our earlier post about JetBlue’s “All You Can Jet Pass” that’s good for travel anywhere from Sept. 8 through Oct. 8? It was a clever stunt that became a “trending topic” on Twitter.

Southwest to offer wi-fi on all flights by 2010

To add to its cheap fares, no-extra-fees policy, and wise-cracking flight attendants, Southwest Airlines is giving us one more reason to love the low-cost carrier. Southwest says that, by the first quarter of 2010, wi-fi internet will be available on all flights.

Airlines and social media: dialogue waiting to happen

Social media means that airlines just have another place where they can be raked over the coals. We complain to ticket agents. We complain to gate agents. We complain to customer service reps. And now, we can complain to the world, thanks to the likes of Twitter. [Read the comments –Ed]

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Internet Airline News #8

Row 44 wins permanent FCC authority (let the games begin)

I gotta jump out of my jolly holiday to tell you this - Row 44 has won permanent authority from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to offer its Ku-band-based connectivity service to airlines.

Does Your Seatmate Need “Internetiquette”?

In case you’re wondering, “Internetiquette” is a new etiquette guide from AirTran - part of an ad campaign to publicize an AirTran milestone: all its jets now offer wireless internet service. [Might be worth checking into for Row44 –Ed]

Upgrd 29: Alaska...Mystery

The Alaska Airlines Board Room lounge, Status and earning levels on AS, Upgrades and their first class product. [ Alaska topic starts 16 minutes in –Ed]

Tweeting Airports

I think the airlines that have been tweeting successfully have received plenty of coverage of late, so I wanted to look into some of the airports that have been doing so. I really haven’t seen much coverage in that area, except for this excellent post on Fish’s blog.

The Legacies Start Using Social Media Effectively

When one is asked about airlines that have been using social media effectively, long-time favorites like Southwest and JetBlue come to mind. But, much to my surprise, some other carries have caught up, like American and United.

Things With Wings Podcast: Airlines And Social Media

Late last month at a low-cost carrier conference in Miami, I sat down with airline marketing and branding strategist Shashank Nigam of SimpliFlying to talk about airline use of social media--or the lack thereof. Listen to this Things With Wings podcast (14:44) to hear Nigam explain:

The fine print on Twitter-only fares

Since the world has gone ga-ga for Twitter, corporations have been trying to figure out how to take advantage of the popularity of the micro-blogging service. Some airlines are trying out Twitter-only discounted airfares to fill seats. (United calls them “Twares.” JetBlue calls theirs “Cheeps.” I’m sure there are others, but it’s still not the norm for airlines to offer these.)

Engagement Checkup: Airlines on YouTube

In this week’s engagement checkup, we examine how airlines are using the video-sharing site to recruit, inform and entertain potential passengers. In true YouTube fashion, results range from the banal to the outrageous.

Delta And The Soft Sell

On Twitter, one Jon Berry found a Delta video travel short about Las Vegas on YouTube, put together by airline employees; Delta tweets back about the collection of around 20 they have online. They're quick low-fidelity clips that give a good quick taste.

Guess Who's Looking for a Social Media Manager?

One of my social media geek friends sent me a chat message on my Facebook account telling me that Continental Airlines is looking for a manager of social media.  You can see the job link here.

American Airlines tests mobile bag check-in at Boston Logan Airport

While other airlines are dissuading customers from transacting business at the airport, by imposing penalty fees, American Airlines is looking to smoothe things for passengers at the counter. At Boston Logan Airport, the airline is testing a new set of mobile check-in devices.

Republic, Frontier, and Southwest: More Questions Than Answers
As you’ve probably all heard, Republic ended up getting Frontier in the end, and to be honest, that’s not the result I expected. I did write about this topic last evening, but I posted about 15 minutes after the press releases came out.
Interviewing Virgin America CEO David Cush

I am going to be attending the National Business Travel Association conference in San Diego in a few days, and I have been trying to arrange a few interviews. I contacted Abby Lunardini, Virgin America’s Director of Corporate Communications, and she offered an interview with the company’s CEO, David Cush. Sadly, though, he was only available the day I’m flying back home. But, Abby worked her magic and I was able to score an interview on Tuesday! So thanks to Abby for arranging this and thanks to David for willing to give me some of his time.

If You Think Capacity Is Tight Now...

Yesterday Bloomberg sat down Robert Herbst of to update the state of the airline industry. No big surprises here—Herbst notes that leisure demand is probably as high as it's every been, with low fares, but there is not enough premium- or biz-class traffic to keep the airlines healthy.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Internet Airline News #7

Woo Boy, it’s been awhile since I published #6. Still working through my backlog. The amount of interesting things I’m doing at work is not helping out much either. Here without further ado..

Your Take: Customer Experience Planning & Development

If you’re one of our frequent customers you probably spend a lot of time in one of our airports on your way to your next meeting. And while you were there, have you found yourself thinking “Why can’t I…” or “I wish I could (fill in the blank)”. [Read the comments for some interesting ideas from Delta customers…-Ed]

Volaris Lands in Los Angeles, First Destination North of the Border

Volaris is now flying a single daily trip from LAX to Toluca (outside Mexico City) and another one to Guadalajara. They’ll be starting flights to those cities from Oakland as well, and at the press conference yesterday, Volaris Managing Director and CEO Enrique Beltranena (bottom left in the picture, though I’ll certainly understand if you’re distracted by those flight attendants) announced that they had just received approval to fly from Oakland to Tijuana as well. He also said that he expects Volaris to be flying to more than 10 cities in the US in the next two and a half years. So this is no small plan.

Ryanair Wants To Let People Bring Unlimited Carry On Bags

It’s incredible to think about how the title of a post or article really sets the tone for a story. For example, if you saw the recent Dow Jones article entitled “Ryanair To Ban Check-In Baggage And Airport Check-In,” you might be surprised to know that it’s referencing the exact same piece of news that I’m discussing here today. The only difference? I see some good in this idea while Dow Jones is clearly going for the sensational, eye-catching headline. [As cranky says, it will probably never happen, but it’s interesting…reminds me of another airlines a la carte baggage service. –Ed]

A Bon-Bon for Richard: Why Delta Should Buy Alaska ASAP . . .

Delta is in the middle of digesting Northwest, quite a meal. For dessert, we suggest Alaska Airlines, which should be sweeter for Delta than for any other airline in the US.

British Airways Builds Fee Comparison and Southwest Should Take It Further

I never thought we’d see the day where British Airways does something that Southwest should follow, but that day has come. British Airways has rolled out a value calculator on its website showing how much more BA includes in its fares than Ryanair or easyJet.

Virgin America Makes Progress on Costs

Earlier today, I talked about Virgin America’s poor revenue performance, but there is a silver lining. They significantly reduced their costs in the quarter. Unit costs declined from 11.12 cents in the fourth quarter to 8.99 cents in the first quarter.

Great Communication on Southwest, Not on JetBlue (Trip Report)

We had a quick trip this weekend up to San Francisco, and man, was this a lesson in the importance of communication. We flew JetBlue up from Long Beach and had a miserable experience. On the other hand, our flight home to Los Angeles on Southwest was excellent. Both flights were delayed, so what made the difference? Quality communication.

TSA Paperless Boarding Pass Pilot Expanding

We’ve talked about this before, but the paperless boarding pass pilot program is picking up steam and I thought I’d give you an update.

Analyst sees AMR, UAL with $1 billion-plus losses in 2009

In an interesting note, Derchin sees five of the top nine U.S. carriers losing money, but four of them making money. The five losers collectively would lose $3.85 billion, while the three winners collectively would earn $490 million.

Computer problems snarl United's Chicago flights

Computer problems have disrupted United Airlines flights at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport on Thursday. This is no minor matter -- O'Hare is United's biggest hub and is key to both its domestic and international route system. Let's hope the problem is resolved quickly.

Alaska Airlines begins Portland-Maui service Friday

Alaska Airlines will begin service between Portland and Maui on Friday. Flights operate three times a week. The Portland-Maui flight leaves Portland at 9:50 a.m. Pacific time on Wednesday, Fridays and Sundays, and will arrive at Kahului Airport at 12:45 p.m. Hawaii time.

Southwest Airlines rapper raps up NY service

Southwest Airlines flight attendant David Holmes, who has become a mini-personality for his rapping preflight announcements on Southwest flights, performed Sunday to kick off Southwest's service at New York LaGuardia. [More viral marketing from YouTube for WN… –Ed]

Republic Airways -- another day, another airline

Republic Airways announced Tuesday it was buying Midwest Airlines from TPG Capital for a relative pittance…This follows on Monday's announcement that Republic is buying Frontier Airlines Holdings Inc. for just under $109 million. That would make the new Republic bigger than No. 9 Alaska (1.50 billion ASMs) or spurned Midwest bidder No. 8 AirTran (1.54 billion ASMs).

Alaska’s Aviation Geek Night

Alaska Airlines is still a relative newcomer to the social media scene, but it’s been using it effectively basically from the get-go in my opinion, which is a lot better compared to other carriers. I think one very good example is the airline’s utilization of Twitter to get the word out about service disruptions due the eruption of Mt. Redoubt

AAAE Session: Enhancing Airline and Airport Partnerships (Part 2)

Next, someone asked about common use terminals (especially at small airports) and what the panelists thought of them. All three seemed to like the idea as a cost-saving measure, but seemed a bit skeptical on it working (Korbey from UA said he’s seen a system like this advertised for years). From what they were saying, it seems that the IT angle is what’s slowing this down.

The next question I really found interesting was on the future of check-in counters. Rhett of US said that the airline took a field trip up to Seattle and Anchorage to see what Alaska had been doing to their ticket counters to increase output (I’ll have to ask the folks over at AS what they’ve been doing).

US Airways Unveils Beta Version of Website

I usually don’t use the US Airways website because, well, I haven’t flown them in ages. But, I had a book a flight for next week a couple of days ago, and my dad was flying them yesterday. When I saw this window come up suggesting I try the new website I figured, sure, why not?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Internet Airline News #6

JetBlue Uses New Media To Its Advantage, Other Airlines Should Take Note

More and more airlines are starting to involve themselves with new media, but I’m not convinced that many of them know what they’re doing. I don’t need a bunch of tweets about a new fare sale to Zimbabwe, but I do need fast answers to questions and good access to the people who have those answers.

Dueling Videos

Some airlines host their own channels on YouTube, which I occasionally raid for all your blog-entertainment needs. But it struck me that the American Airlines video (from March, and yes American posts less frequently) on its "Road Warrior" competition and a Southwest vid promoting new coffee definitely projected their separate corporate identities, or at least how their ad agencies want to present them.

US Airways Now Scanning Bags at Planeside, Improving Bag Tracking

I had the chance to sit down with US Airways’ Managing Director of Customer Strategy Tim Lindeman and Director of Customer Strategy, Melody Anderson (yes, the customer strategy group needs a lot of “directing”) to talk about what US Airways is doing in the world of baggage. You might be surprised to know that it’s pretty cool.
[-Ed… See this Malcolm Gladwell article in the New Yorker where he talks with TIBCO Founder Vivek Randive… “We’ve been working with some airlines,” he said. “You know, when you get on a plane and your bag doesn’t, they actually know right away that it’s not there. But no one tells you, and a big part of that is that they don’t have all their information in one place.]

Cellphone industry wants cellphones on airplanes

The wireless industry is fighting legislation that would prevent the use of mobile phones to make calls on airplanes.

US Airways customer service director: À la carte fees are the only way forward

John Romantic is the director of customer relations and central baggage resolution at US Airways. But he'd prefer that you simply think of him as your advocate at the airline. For the last nine months, he's had the unenviable job of improving the carrier's checkered reputation for customer service. I asked him how he's doing it.

Alaska Airlines: No Pillows and Blankets Means Cleanliness

I read with interest that Alaska Airlines was going to discontinue pillows and blankets for passengers in all of its 114 planes to reduce the spread of swine flu. Apparently keeping pillows and blankets on board means they could be infected with swine flu germs, which could make people sick. Pillows and blankets might get passed around, spreading the virus, so it’s better if they’re no longer an option, right?

Alaska Plays With Its Route Map

The airline has announced a 37% cut in Mexico capacity starting July 2. The timing for this seems a bit off to me. Last week, other airlines announced capacity cuts in this focusing on May and June. US Airways actually announced that it hopes to have a full schedule to Mexico again on the same day. I’m sure there’s a reason, but it just seems a bit weird to wait to cut capacity for so long.

US Airways Wants More Cash

Looks like US Airways wants to boost its liquidity and get some extra cash, which sounds like a good idea.

Airlines report less traffic, less capacity, higher loads

The biggest U.S. airlines as a group are reporting that their traffic shrank slower than their capacity in April, resulting in higher load factors

What’s Up With Southwest’s Traffic? (And Other Traffic Statistics)

So Southwest posted a 4.4 point increase in load factor in April to 77 percent, thanks to a 4.1% increase in RPMs and a 1.9% decrease in ASMs. Revenue passengers were also down 1.5%. Wait what?

Photo of Presidential Plane on New York Flyover Released

Well, in spite of all the hubbub this flight caused, the picture did turn out pretty nice.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Internet Airline News #5

Through year-end, luggage on Alaska Airlines will likely be on time

Alaska Airlines is taking a page from the Domino’s Pizza playbook and offering a delivery guarantee. But it’s not for pizza, it’s for checked bags.

Dare to dream: American and Delta want to charge money for access to their schedule info

American Airlines’ CEO Gerard Arpey dared to dream. He slipped a comment into their recent earnings call which seemed rather off the wall, until Delta CEO Richard Anderson effectively repeated the idea. The proposal? Instead of paying commissions to agencies and websites that sell their fares, airlines would charge those agencies a fee for the right to display and sell their fares.

Which Airlines Are Potentially Exposed the Most to Mexico Risk?

Gary Chase, airline analyst with Barclays, issued a note this morning in which he listed the exposure of different airlines to the potential short-term risk of passengers curtailing travel to Mexico.

United Responds: Two Airfare Increase Attempts Rolled into One Weekend

The activity actually began Thursday evening with a United “attempted” airfare hike (only for travel late June thru early August), followed by one instigated by Continental on Friday morning which had enough overlap to look very similar to partial matching - so over the weekend, we actually saw two airfare hike attempts, and some of the most ridiculous airfare filings I have ever tried to review as matching and rollbacks for both complicated matters tremendously, that and the fact the hike was targeted originally for July departures only.

Southwest's Load Planning System Improves Baggage Processes

When I visited Southwest’s operation at Dallas/Love Field last month, it wasn’t a normal day. It just happened to be the first day that the airline had launched its Load Planning System at Love and elsewhere in the system. This new system has the ability to really significantly improve Southwest’s baggage handling.

FAA Opens Access to the National Wildlife Strike Database

You can now download in MS Access format. [No wonder they didn’t want to release it. –Ed]

Adios, Mexico (somewhat)

US Airways and United Airlines have added their names to the carriers who are saying they'll be doing less Mexico for a while.

CEO base pay for 2008

US Airways put a chart in its proxy statement Thursday comparing the base pay of its CEO, Doug Parker, to other U.S. carriers.

Forget Doom & Gloom, Richard Branson’s Here (Get this Party Started!)

And now, the man who built the Virgin empire - which includes Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Blue and the U.S. based Virgin America (love that crazy mood-lighting) - has just brought the party to Orange County, California.

Airlines Return Gingerly to Oil Hedging

Airlines are tiptoeing back into fuel hedging after being burned by last year's wild swings in oil prices. (Subscription Required)

Was Southwest’s Mystery City Sale Deceptive?

For four days, Southwest has revealed a city (or in yesterday’s case, an area) that would have a 50% discount on Wanna Get Away fares on all flights. Friday was Philadelphia, Saturday was Nashville, Sunday was Albuquerque, and Monday all Bay Area airports (SFO, OAK, SJC) were on sale.

One More Post on That Southwest Sale

I already posted on the Southwest Mystery Sale and why I didn’t like it, but thanks to ftnoob on FlyerTalk I have a bit more on what happened.

787 - Roll Out!

Boeing confirms the first 787, ZA001, has moved to the flight line, and that fuel testing will begin in the next few days. AW&ST understands the schedule calls for this to start on May

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Internet Airline News Links #4

Expedia and Travelocity Drop Booking Fees (Temporarily)

There’s good news out there for those of you who like to book your travel using online travel agents. Expedia and Travelocity have both followed in Priceline’s footsteps and dropped all booking fees for flights. There don’t appear to be any catches, but this is a temporary move. Flights must be booked by May 31.

Upgrade & Standby List on

When I came across this thread on FlyerTalk entitled,”When is Delta going to add the upgrade list to their online system?”, the functionality to view the upgrade standby list on was already moving into our pre-production environment for final testing.

FLTAdvisor Tells You If Your Flight is Really On Time

FLTAdvisor’s goal is to find out if a flight is really going to be on time, despite what the airline says. The idea is great, but can they pull it off? So far, so good, but keep in mind that you will have to pay for it. (More that later.)

Your Airline Wants to Get to Know You

An airline loses your bag or cancels your flight because of a mechanical problem. The next time you show up at the airport, an agent personally apologizes and offers a free pass to an airport lounge for your troubles. [Steve Jarvis gets mentioned. –Ed]

Use Twitter to Stay Updated on Alaska Airlines/Volcano

This is one of the better uses of Twitter that I’ve seen.  Alaska Airlines is inviting you to sign up for Twitter updates regarding volcano activity.

Virgin America’s Smart E-Mail Marketing

E-mail marketing can be very effective. Generic fare sales can certainly be nice, but I also like it when companies reach out to individual groups. I joined Virgin America’s frequent flyer program Elevate when it first came out to become a “founding member,” to see if that would bring about any perks.

Virgin America Adds New Bag Fee ($15 for first checked-bag)

And another one bites the dust…Yes, no more free checked-bags on Virgin America. Like most of the other U.S. carriers, Virgin will now charge $15 for a first piece of checked luggage.

Answer of Virgin America to Motion of Alaska Airlines

Alaska has raised nothing new in its Motion, and just like in its initial Petition, no reason to institute a public proceeding exists. Nothing unforeseen to the Department has occurred, and Virgin America has met and continues to meet all of its notification requirements.

Icelandair Announces Seattle

Yesterday, Icelandair announced that it will be launching flights to Seattle in Jully, with four flights a week.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Internet Airline News Links #3


Southwest Air Considering Food Sales to Boost Revenue
March 12 (Bloomberg) -- Southwest Airlines Co., the discount carrier that made free peanuts a symbol of no-frills flying, may start selling food to boost revenue as travel demand dwindles.

JetBlue, Southwest Among Top Twitterers
Brand-management company Electric Artists came up with a Twitter tracker that ranks accounts by followers--that is, how many users have clicked on a specific account to follow its Tweets. Here's their blog. JetBlue's ranks in third place, with 161,000+, and Southwest is in seventh with 15,600+.  For context note that the top brand is Whole Foods, with 218,000.  A separate Media tracker has CNN breaking news (one that I follow) on top with around 464,000 followers. (My new Things With Wings account has 68. So, less).8550d

Airline Twitter List
My colleague and digital ace Benet Wilson tweeted earlier today this list at of airlines with Twitter accounts, put together last summer. Kudos to the site that compiled it. A lot of them are  dormant accounts, including the American Airlines page with a grand total of three posts, all on Aug. 21 last year.

U.S. Investors Sell Virgin America Stakes (subscr reqd)
The U.S.-based investors in Virgin America, the discount airline founded by Sir Richard Branson, recently cashed in their stakes in the startup carrier, according to people familiar with the situation -- raising new questions about whether the airline can continue to comply with U.S. airline "citizenship" rules.

Virgin UnAmerica(n)
Today the Wall Street Journal ran a story which seems to confirm what we had assumed was going to happen, as we had discussed in PlaneBusiness Banter a number of times over the last several months.
The two "U.S." firms that invested in Richard Branson's Virgin America operation have apparently taken advantage of the fine print in their investing agreement with the airline and headed for the hills.

Virgin America halves fourth-quarter operating loss
Virgin America reported limited 2008 fourth-quarter financial figures yesterday and said it posted a $27 million operating loss, narrowed from the $59.9 million deficit in the year-ago period, its first full operating quarter. Revenue more than tripled to $109.7 million and expenses rose 42.5% to $136.7 million. Load factor soared 19.1 points to 81.2%, unit revenue was up 86.7% to 9.28 cents and operating CASM fell 12.7% to 11.57 cents. VX released limited nine-month figures last month (ATWOnline, Feb. 3). It now operates 28 A320s.

Alaska Airlines challenges Virgin America's Americaness, Part II
Armed with fresh press clippings, Alaska Airlines again urged the U.S. Department of Transportation to investigation Virgin America and whether its foreign ownership exceeds the 25 percent legal limit.

Alaska Sees Rising Costs on Capacity Cuts
At the JP Morgan Aviation & Transportation Conference, Alaska gave us some numbers on the rising unit costs that we knew would result from capacity cuts. The cost increase shows why you only cut capacity if it’s absolutely necessary. Clearly, it’s absolutely necessary right now.

Airlines May Suffer From Increasing Danger in Mexico
Most Americans have now heard about the increasing drug violence occurring along the Mexican border towns. While it hasn’t spread to resort towns, the negative publicity is already starting to hurt Mexican tourism. Airlines are bound to suffer from this, and some will suffer more than others. [Ed. Note: I just booked my PVR timeshare for July.]

News and Notes From United's 10-K
The hit parade just keeps coming. Today I’m taking a slightly deeper look at United’s annual report. Here are some interesting bits for you.

Why Exactly Did United End E-fare Emails?
According to Today in the Sky, United is no longer going to send E-fare emails to its customers. E-fares, the ones that are for last minute weekend travel, will still be around on the United website, but they just won’t proactively tell you about them anymore. So what’s up with the customer unfriendly policy? I’m guessing it’s related to United’s new corporate motto, “If it’s broke, don’t fix it.”

American Pulls Out of Dallas/Love Field, Turns on the Spin Machine
Why would they bother to renew a lease on the terminal if they clearly don’t want to be there for the next four years? Well it all goes back to the whole Love Field fight. When DFW opened, traffic restrictions were put in place at Love Field (by the Wright Amendment) to force airlines to move to DFW. Southwest refused to move, and the battle was born.

Deciphering Hawaiian’s February Traffic
I think I’ve discussed why Hawaiian’s results can look kind of weird in the past, but I wanted to re-visit the topic since the February traffic numbers were just released. Passengers carried in February 2009 were up 15.1% compared to the same month in 2009, but RPMs are only up 0.9%, and ASMs were up 2.4%, bringing load factor down 1.2 points to 83%. What gives? It’s because of the way load factor is calculated.

Spring Break in Moscow - $200 Roundtrip
At 1:00am this morning American added another 100 cities (all the smaller ones in their route system) to the list with these once in a lifetime prices — maybe it isn’t a mistake …Recently Hillary was handing out “Reset” buttons to thaw relations with Russia
, but this is ridiculous.

TSA to Require More Info from Travelers Soon
I know, I know - it already feels like we’re under a microscope.
But starting soon (no dates have been announced), the Transportation Security Administration, better known as the TSA, will be taking over the responsibility of the “Watch List” from the airlines.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Internet Airline News Links #2

WiFi Is Working on Alaska Airlines But How Much Would You Pay?
While we have no idea what the heck is up with Air Canada's WiFi, we do know that Alaska Airline's internet service is real and it is mostly spectacular. Harriet Baskas, who writes Stuck at the Airport tipped us off to her in-flight WiFi experience yesterday as she rode Alaska Airlines from Seattle to Orange County and back.

Conficker targeting of Southwest Airlines a red herring
The Conficker virus threatened to overload Southwest Airline’s website next Friday according to security experts. The reports appear on the surface to answer the long-running question of what damage the virus will actually do, but that may not be the case.

TripAdvisor Creates Metasearch Site That Includes Fees in Comparison
Well, hello TripAdvisor. A couple of weeks ago, showed us a travel search site that looked a lot like Kayak and didn’t add any real functionality. When I saw that TripAdvisor was also launching a metasearch site, I rolled my eyes and figured, “here we go again.” Boy was I wrong. This could be my new favorite site since it actually includes fees in the comparison, if you ask it to do so.

World's Most Admired Companies (Airline Category)
Which companies have the best reputations? With admiration in such short supply these days, it's more valuable than ever. Apple tops the list for the second year in a row. Who else made the top 50 this year?

Lasers vs. Seattle Planes - And Yes, They CAN Do Damage
You’ve probably heard by now that Seattle police are investigating an incident in which a green laser was aimed at a Horizon flight this past Sunday - fortunately, the plane landed without incident.

Alaska’s “Say for Pay” Idea
Quite often executives are criticized for how much money they make, and the airline industry is no different. Now, shareholders of Alaska will be allowed to vote on the pay of the five highest-paid executives beginning with this year’s proxy statement, which was a resolution on last year’s proxy statement.

Virgin America trusts in US investors, impending profitability
Virgin America is denying adamantly that it is in danger of losing the financial support of its US-based investors and claims that it may be profitable by year end.

Wired's Take On Airspace Redesign
Wired ran an in-depth story last week about the benefits of re-designing airspace around the New York metro region as a way to improve life while we all wait for NextGen to kick in (and be paid for).

Sunday, March 01, 2009

The Need for an Enterprise Social Platform


I’ve had a twitter account for more than a year now. In that short amount of time, I’ve had conversations with people who are working on some pretty cool things. These usually trigger some wild ideas. If I need to know more about something, there is usually a person to follow who keeps me updated.

Below is a picture of my social computing universe, or at least that is what I’m calling it.


Site Type What It’s Used For How I Use It
micro-blog To communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing? Let people know what I’m up to, as well as find out what other people are up to, or what interesting things they have found
facebook social networking service Helps you connect and share with the people in your life. To stay in touch with family, friends
linkedin social networking service Serious professional business network To research job candidates, communicate with outside people in a business context
blogger blog publishing Share your thoughts, photos, and more with your friends and the world. I use it for writing posts like this.
flickr photo content sharing Share your photos and watch the world Put up photos I want to share with people, and look at other people’s content
delicious social bookmarking Save your bookmarks and see what others are saving To bookmark blog posts or other interesting websites
bloglines rss feed reader Track your favorite news, blogs, weather, and classifieds so that you don't have to To subscribe to rss feeds
gmail mail provider A new kind of web-based email email
msn messenger instant messaging makes it easier than ever to stay connected to the people you care about instant messaging and online presence
friendfeed content aggregator helps you discover and discuss interesting stuff that your friends and family find on the web Aggregate most of my content to a single feed and setup rooms to monitor friends, trends and other interesting things.


The Enterprise Today

Now, think about the company you work for…How do you meet people? How do you find out about new projects? How do you get your ideas heard? If your company is like mine, you rely on email, networking, attending meetings and hallway conversations. Even using these limited tools you still may not; meet the right people, find out what is really going on, or get your great ideas to the right person. There are always barriers to break down or silos to bridge.

We’ve always heard the same chant, “Breaking Down Silos”. In fact Google Suggest offers 459,000 search results on that phrase alone. We hear it everywhere. Why? Because it’s a common problem.

What’s the solution? Create an Internal Social Networking Platform.

Use Social Networking, Open Conversations and Transparency to blow up the limited communication paths that have been entrenched in corporate life. Bridge the silos between the cube dwellers and the front line staff, cross the chasm of Marketing and Operations.

I’ve known people who have worked in the same building for years and have never met or conversed once. This isn’t necessarily their fault, throughout the day, you don’t  get much of an opportunity to get up and out of your area to meet other people.

Social Computing makes this possible, there is a common meeting place where ideas, thoughts, problems and aspirations both mundane and strategic can be shared.  Where we can hear from our co-workers, leaders and teammates and open up the opaque world of traditional meetings to transparent conversations. And best of all the meeting place is right in front of you, on your computer or phone. The method of entry is just a click away.

There is a problem with this however. The  mainstream social networking tools; Twitter, FaceBook, LinkedIn etc, are all public. If I wanted to share something about what I’m working on within my company, whether it be an idea, a problem or a frustration, I really don’t want to share it with people outside the company. What is needed is an internal Social Computing Platform.

Components of a Enterprise Social Platform

I’ve drawn up what I think are the basic components of an Enterprise Social Platform. Some of these are more traditional, such as Email and an Intranet. The rest are more Enterprisey 2.0 components.


Next Time

In my next post, I’ll talk about what some candidate implementations for each of these components.

Internet Airline News Links #1

I’ve been posting these internally, but no reason not to just post them here.

Alaska Files an 8-K; Tests Wi-Fi; Joins Twitter
On Wednesday, Alaska filed an 8-K, and I was just going to post about that, but some other interesting news came from Alaska this week so I figured I might as well lump everything together. :D

Ryanair Hints at Charging for Toilets
It’s not clear whether he was serious. O’Leary’s fond of making outrageous statements designed to drum up publicity and reinforce the airline’s image as a bargain-basement transport option, a strategy that’s worked in the past. And later on Friday, Ryanair issued a statement saying “Michael makes a lot of this stuff up as he goes along and while this has been discussed internally there are no immediate plans to introduce it.”

[Hmm...reminds me of this -Ed]

Downadup worm may hammer Southwest Airlines URL March 13
Computers infected by the Downadup worm will "phone home" to several legitimate URLs this month, including one owned by Southwest Airlines, potentially disrupting those sites, a security researcher said Sunday.

Here's Official Ammunition: Airline Hubs Have Lost Their Cost Advantage In Terms of Airline Profitability
In a new working paper the two have published entitled, "Tracing the Woes: An Empirical Analysis of the Airline Industry, " they confirm that it used to be cheaper for an airline to place a passenger on a connecting flight -- rather than a direct one. But by 2006, that advantage had gone away. Why? One simple answer: the increasing cost of fuel.

Open Skies negotiations resume, but European airlines won’t be flying US domestic routes anytime soon
When the “Open Skies” treaty was signed between the United States and the European Union, the most immediate change was that airlines from both sides of the pond could fly internationally into many more airports. A French airline could fly from London to Los Angeles. A British airline could fly from New York to Amsterdam. And a number of American airlines could fly into London-Heathrow, which had previously been tightly limited to a small oligopoly.

A Look at US Airline CEO Compensation Through a Different Lens
Last week, Andrew Compart writing on Aviation Week’s blog, Things With Wings, posted a piece entitled Executive Pay And U.S. Airlines.  After reading Mr. Compart’s piece, I was left wanting more – a deeper look at airline CEO compensation.