Flight Blog

February 22, 2016

 

LITHIUM BATTERY CONCERNS

 

Safety concerns over lithium batteries continue to grow. The Federal Aviation Administration has issued a safety alert urging cargo and commercial airlines “to conduct a safety risk assessment to manage the risks associated with transporting lithium batteries as cargo.”

 

The problem with lithium batteries is the risk of fire and explosion. Have you heard about the so called “hoverboards” that burst into flames? They have lithium batteries.  As a result, American, Delta, and United have banned hoverboards from all aircraft.

 

There's conflicting infomation about whether all lithium batteries are a concern, but the larger ones (as measured by "watt hours") seem to be singled out. Check out these shipping guidelines from United Parcel Service.

 

 

AMERICAN ADDING GATES AT O'HARE

 

Chicago O’Hare airport (ORD) is the airport a lot people love to hate — perhaps the most common O’Hare complaints: congestion and flight delays.

 

Those of you who fly to Chicago a lot will be glad to know that American Airlines is adding five additional gates — scheduled for completion by 2018. Read more about it from ch-aviation.

 

The additional gates are part of a bigger plan that the city of Chicago has to improve things at O'Hare. You'd think that improvements would please everyone ... well ... not everyone, sort of.

 

 

 

 

 

 

NO-FRILL FARES

 

Seasoned air travelers have likely heard about, or noticed, the fare wars going on at some major hub airports between the legacy airlines (American, Delta, and United), and low-cost airlines (mainly Spirit and Frontier).

 

The low cost guys are waging the war with no frill fares. Here’s how Spirit Airlines defines no frills: “Our fares are fully unbundled. No “free” bag. No “free” drink. Other airlines bake those options right into their ticket price. We don’t. A ticket with us gets you and a personal item from A to B.”

 

The legacies are now making plans for their own no frills fares — the New York Times offers this analysis of the no frills plans of American, Delta, and United.

 

All this talk about no frill fares sounds interesting enough, but will they eventually make their way down to smaller air markets such as Springfield? We hate to say it, but no.

 

No frill fares will only exist in select large air markets where low cost airlines fly. The current business models of Spirit and Frontier dictate that they serve large markets only. By “large” we mean markets that fly millions of customers a year. The Springfield market generates less than a million customers a year.

 

 

 

Posted in: Airlines, Airports, Fares | 0 Comment(s) ››

February 16, 2016

 

AUTUMN IN HAVANA?

 

An agreement approving airline service between the United States and Cuba was signed this morning in Havana.

 

If all goes as expected U.S. airlines should begin Cuban service this fall. Before the ink on the agreement was dry United Airlines announced its intent to start service between some of its hubs and Havana.

 

Get more details from the Dallas Morning News.

 

 

 

AIRFARES LOWEST AVERAGE PRICE SINCE 2010

 

The federal government’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) says the average round trip domestic fare was $372 in the third quarter of 2015 — that’s down 6.2 percent compared to 2014. That headline sounds great, but there’s a lot more to it. CNN Money covers most of the bases in this story.

 

While consumer groups, politicians, and some media outlets claim credit for forcing the average base fare down, it probably has more to do with good old-fashioned competition — especially at large hub airports such as Chicago O’Hare, and Dallas/Ft. Worth. BTS data says the average fare at O’Hare was down 19.4%. At Dallas it was down 14.5%.

 

The competition at those airports is fierce between the ultra-low cost airlines, such as Frontier and Spirit, and the legacy airlines, American, Delta, and United.

 

Speaking of fares —

 

The New York Times offers its take on the best way to find cheap flights, well,  … sort of —

 

Here’s the deal: figuring out the best way to find cheap fare is the holy grail of air travel.  If you’re trying to figure it out, good luck! You wanna know what half the problem is? What’s a “good” fare to one person is a “terrible” fair to someone else. Just what is a good fare? It depends on who you ask.

 

Our best advice: if you find a “good” fare you’d better buy it quick before it goes away.

 

You can read the BTS report here.

 

 

AMERICAN OFFERS REFRESHMENTS DURING DELAYS

 

American hopes to make long waits a little easier for passengers with a new test program at New York’s JFK Airport that brings free food to delayed customers.” That news comes from the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram.

 

Whether the airline expands the test to other airports (including small airports like Springfield) seems to be an open question. Interestingly enough, Delta offers refreshments in Springfield to delayed customers and has done so for some time.

 

The takeaway: this is another sign that the airlines are making efforts to improve customer service.

 

 

BAN E-CIGS ON PLANES?

 

 

Should electronic cigarettes be banned from planes? That's a hot topic right now in Congress.

 

No telling where this congressional argument will go. As USA Today reports, one lawmaker “argued that lawmakers would next try to ban hot air, bad breath and body odor.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in: Airlines, American, Customer Service, Delta, Frontier Airlines, United | 0 Comment(s) ››

February 8, 2016

Need a passport, or is the one you have expiring soon? If so, the U.S. State Department urges renewal ASAP. That's because the department expects an avalanche of renewals this year and next — so many that it may take longer than the typical six weeks to get a new passport.

 

Why the avalanche? Passports are good for ten years. And it was about ten years ago that a new U.S. law required citizens to use a passport to travel to the Caribbean, Mexico, Bermuda, and Canada. All those ten year old passports are starting to expire.

 

Get the lowdown on passport renewal by clicking here.

 

 

 

ROCK 'EM SOCK 'EM AIRLINES

 

Delta and American airlines are at war, so to speak. That's according to the widely read industry publication, Airline Weekly :

 

"They are the two largest airlines in the world and — in terms of total dollars — the most profitable too. And they are at each other's throats."

 

Well that's all fine and dandy, but what does it mean for consumers? A lot it turns out —

 

Among other things:

 

  • Delta has significantly improved its on-time performance. Last September it began offering an on-time guarantee to business travelers.
     
  • Both airlines are phasing out small jets (50-seats). The resulting bigger planes means more customer comfort and, in some cases, the return of a first class section.
     
  • American has brought back free snacks.

But something more fundamental is going on — with the return of a profitable airline industry we seem to be witnessing a return of airline civility — and we're speaking of airlines in general now. Overall, the industry seems better behaved.

 

Just a few short years ago, when airlines were bleeding red ink, merging, and going out of business, surly airline employees seemed ubiquitous. Sometimes flights were cancelled, at the drop of a snow flake, to save money. Airlines were so busy trying to stay alive they didn’t even seem to care what the other guy was doing.

 

Now days airline employees seem generally happier. Rather than cancelling flights on a whim, airlines brag on their operational performance. And rather than ignoring the other guy, airlines are actually paying attention to the competition.

 

Does the industry still give people heart burn? You bet it does — but things are definitely improving — and airline warfare is one of the telltale signs.

 

 


MONTHLY FEE, UNLIMITED FLIGHTS?

 

A new app launched last week hopes to upend the way some of us buy airline tickets. OneGo says it’s “the first booking app for subscription-based flying on major airlines.” In other words, get unlimited flights for a monthly fee.

 

It’s aimed at business travelers. Give it a look by clicking here.

 

 


WHY NOT MINOT?

 

And here’s one from someone who has WAY too much time on their hands. It’s Apex Airways — “the global carrier that touches you personally.”

 

With twin hubs in Minot, ND, and Branson, MO, the airline is proud of its 50-seat jet that features “an all lie-flat bed configuration in a reverse herringbone layout … [and] the first on-board shower available on a regional aircraft anywhere. Used primarily on our longer trans-Pacific routes.”

 

Yes, it’s the spoof that goes long and deep — it features accompanying websites, a Facebook page, and a Twitter account.

 

Spend your time wisely: http://www.apexairways.com/

 

 

Posted in: Airlines, American, Customer Service, Delta | 0 Comment(s) ››

February 1, 2016


PreCheck starts at SGF February 17. That word comes from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

 

If you’re approved for PreCheck you’ll be able to use a dedicated lane at the security check point and receive “expedited screening.” That’s jargon that means you won’t have to remove your shoes, belt, or “light jacket.” And you don’t have to take liquids and computers out of the bag.

 

To use PreCheck you have to apply to, and receive approval from, the TSA. The cost is $85. Find more information on the TSA website:  www.tsa.gov/tsa-precheck

 


FARE WARS

The first three months of the year are SLOW ones in the airline business.  To drum up business airlines cut prices and engage in fare war — in the past couple of weeks we’ve seen the following fares:

 

  • $228 round trip from Springfield to Chicago on American
  • $185 round trip from Springfield to Chicago on Delta
  • $167 round trip from Springfield to Chicago on United
  • $354 round trip from Springfield to Cancun on Delta
  • $170 round trip from Springfield to Atlanta on American

Before you go hunting these fares down there are a couple of things to know:  1) don’t expect to find the low fares with your first search. You nearly always have to hunt for them. 2) More often than not airlines offer low fares for weekend travel, and for odd ball day pairs. For example – you probably won’t find a low fare with a Monday departure, paired with a Wednesday return. A more likely pairing would be a Tuesday departure, paired with a Saturday return.

 

Bottom line: you have to be flexible.

 


FIXING O’HARE

Over the weekend the city of Chicago announced big plans to upgrade the airport nearly everyone loves to hate: Chicago O’Hare.

 

Details of the big plans: the city and the airlines have reached agreement on a new $1.3 billon runway. City officials say the project will lead to terminal improvements and new gates —though they wouldn’t say what kind of improvements, or how many gates — those details apparently still have to be worked out with the airlines. The ultimate goal is to reduce congestion and delays.

 

By the way — Both American and United airlines offer daily, non-stop service between Springfield and O'Hare.

 

Find more details about the improvements here: http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20160130/BLOGS02/160129759/-1-3-billion-deal-reached-for-new-ohare-runway

 


FREE SNACKS MAKE A COMEBACK


Today American Airlines brings back “free snacks in the economy section and more free entertainment options on some aircraft.” That word comes from the Associated Press. The AP reports that American hasn’t offered free snacks since 2003.
Read the rest of the story here: http://bigstory.ap.org/article/e9b187e44dbf480e92eaed05ac7d26e3/airlines-restore-tiny-perks-pretzels-pacify-fliers

Posted in: Airlines, American, Delta, Fares, TSA, United | 0 Comment(s) ››

January 12, 2016

2015 was a record year at the Springfield airport — the total passenger count was 919,044. It demolishes the old record set in 2005 of 888,738, and is a 9% increase over 2014 passenger numbers.

 

Here’s another way of putting it: over 70,000 more passengers used the airport last year than in 2014. Why the huge growth? It’s a sign that the southwest Missouri economy is much improved — when the economy does poorly, fewer people fly. When it does better, more people fly because they have more expendable income.

 

2015 was marked not only by a record number of passengers, but also by several air service improvements —

American Airlines started new twice-daily service to its major hub in Charlotte, and all the airlines are using some bigger planes at Springfield. Demand is so high that over the past four years airlines have increased the number of seats for sale in Springfield by nearly 16%.

 

Ok, ok — what everyone really wants to know is how will growth improve air service, or change the airport? There are no exact answers, but here’s what may generally happen —

Within the next two to three years the airport will likely have more than a million total passengers. A million passengers is a big deal because once an airport hits that number, the business playing field starts to change. As numbers grow beyond a million, more than one restaurant may be willing to set up shop at the airport. That’s important to some customers because as they tell us, “we want more restaurant choices.”

 

What about more non-stop destinations? Convincing an airline to add destinations is always a tough sell, but beyond the million mark, it may get a bit easier. Much depends on the economy, the price of jet fuel, and the general business climate in the airline industry.

 

As some of you have noticed, growth does bring challenges — last year the airport’s parking lots frequently ran out of space — there were more cars than spaces! We should have parking lot expansion projects under construction later this year.

 

All in all 2015 was a great year — here’s to another in 2016!

 

Posted in: Airlines, Airports, How the Airport Works | 0 Comment(s) ››

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