In international airline news, the Canadian government finds fault with plans for a joint venture between United Continental and Air Canada; Skytrax names the top global airlines in results of its annual traveler survey; and Lufthansa debuts a new iPad app.
Air Travel News
In international airline news last week, Continental announced a new route to Germany; Lufthansa said it is overhauling the first class cabins in its 747-400 fleet; JAL is increasing the checked bag allowance for premium travelers; and Cathay Pacific plans a major aircraft purchase.
In U.S. airline news, American has issued a new app for users of smart phones based on the Android operating system; JetBlue will add another transcontinental route this spring; and US Airways is increasing its overweight and excess baggage charges.
• Noting that it has already seen more than a million downloads of its iPhone and iPad application, American Airlines has now released an app for Android users after testing it with hundreds of top-level AAdvantage elites. For details, go to www.aa.com/app or see a video demonstration at www.youtube.com/americanairlines. The app requires only one entry of login and password, and it will push details of the user’s upcoming flights to the screen. Users can also employ the app to set a reminder of where they parked; watch a flight’s standby list; check their progress toward elite status; get mobile boarding passes; use GPS to find the nearest airport served by American; and even play Sudoku. Users can create flight status notifications, enroll in AAdvantage, get AAdvantage account data; and access their contact information.
• JetBlue Airways announced plans to add one more transcontinental route this spring. The airline said it will begin one daily roundtrip between Boston and Portland, Ore. effective May 26. JetBlue noted that its Boston operations grew by 30 percent last year and are expected to grow by another 30 percent this year, to 100 flights a day by this summer. In June, JetBlue said, it will also add service three times a week from Boston to Santiago, Dominican Republic. The only other non-stop service currently offered in the Portland-Boston market is by Alaska Airlines.
• On March 1, US Airways will boost fees for excess and overweight checked baggage. The fee for bags that weigh 51 to 70 pounds will increase from $50 to $90, and the charge for bags weighing in at 75 to 100 pounds jumps from $100 to $175. The fee for oversized bags – 62 to 80 total linear inches – increases from $100 to $175. Those fees are in addition to the airline’s regular checked bag fees of $25 for the first piece and $35 for the second. Checking more than two bags? That fee goes up to $125 per extra bag, from the current $100.
In international airline news, in-flight Internet access may soon expand to overseas routes of U.S. airlines; premium-cabin passenger traffic kept growing in October; and a couple of new routes from American and Continental are being delayed.
—The trade publication Air Transport Intelligence reports that Aircell, the provider of the Gogo In-flight Internet service offered by several large U.S. airlines on domestic routes, is gearing up to go international. It quoted an Aircell executive as saying that the company is close to finalizing plans with some airlines to extend the service to overseas flights, using a satellite-based transmission system instead of the current air-to-ground technology. Lufthansa recently became the first airline to offer in-flight WiFi on transatlantic routes, in a partnership with Panasonic.
—The number of passengers in business and first class cabins on international routes increased 10.9 percent year-over-year in October, according to the latest monthly tally from the International Air Transport Association. Economy travel grew by 7.6 percent for the month. For the first 10 months of 2010, the growth rate for premium cabin traffic was 9.2 percent vs. the same period of 2009, IATA said. Growth has been strongest on routes to and within the Far East and South Pacific, and within South America, exceeding 20 percent. On North Atlantic routes, premium traffic growth was up just 4.6 percent for the first 10 months of the year, IATA reported.
—American Airlines, which had announced plans to begin its new route between New York JFK and Tokyo's close-in Haneda Airport on January 20, has filed with the Transportation Department for permission to delay the start of service until March 1. Meanwhile, Continental Airlines said it will postpone the launch of its planned Houston-Auckland, New Zealand non-stops from November 2011 until sometime in 2012 as it waits for delivery of Boeing's often-delayed 787 Dreamliners.
In news of U.S. airlines, Delta is installing more first class seats, Continental’s debit card drops a bag fee waiver, and carriers’ revenues jump for an 11th straight month.
International airline news this week includes Cathay Pacific's introduction of new business class seats, Lufthansa's and Singapore's deployment of the Airbus super-jumbo on U.S. routes, a new international partnership for Virgin America, the end of mag-stripe boarding passes, and a new role for Sir Richard Branson - in drag.