Monthly Archives: April 2011

WestJet Looks to Take Down Porter

WestJet announced that it will launch 10 daily flights between Toronto & Montreal, and 9 flights between Toronto & Ottawa. They’ve also announce a service guarantee where they’ll take 50% off your next fare if your flight is delayed more than 30 minutes.

This move comes on the heels of Air Canada’s launch of 15 daily roundtrip flights between Montreal and Toronto’s downtown island airport, where upstart Porter Airlines is based. Porter flies to a whole bunch of cities from downtown Toronto, but Air Canada and WestJet are clearly looking to try to bring the airline down by going after the lucrative business traveler in the Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal triangle.

Business travelers benefit from the competition, of course, with the WestJet service guarantee, free cappuccino at the ferry terminal, Starbucks coffee on Porter’s flights and (from my count) 67 daily flights from Toronto to Montreal between the 3 airlines.

Is 67 daily flights sustainable? I don’t know – but we’ve got to be hitting the point where it doesn’t make sense. It does make sense if their goal is to get Porter out of there. However, Porter has a lot of goodwill from travelers – and business travelers appreciate the downtown Toronto airport. And since we haven’t seen any of the 3 drop fares to unsustainable levels, there may be room for all 3.

$9 Flights on JetBlue from Newark to Boston

Today only, JetBlue is offering $9 flights (plus tax – it comes to about $19) between Newark and Boston for flights May 4 through June 15th. Flights are available Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. As of now, at least, there’s still lots of availability left.

6-Night, 4-City Package to China: $999

(Via Travelzoo) is offering a $999 package ($1100 with taxes) to China that includes flights from Los Angeles, intra-China flights, 3 nights in Beijing, 1 night in Suzhou, 2 nights in Shanghai and a day in Wuxi. Plus, breakfast and lunch is included (though let’s be real – wouldn’t you rather find your own food? You’re in China, for God’s sake…) How good a deal is this? Flights alone are more than $1200 if you booked by yourself.

Dates are available in November and December.

Airlines Starting to Drop Flights, Destinations Due to Fuel Costs

With oil prices continuing to skyrocket, airlines are beginning to drop frequencies and destinations to reign in costs. American Airlines announced that it will be dropping one of its two daily Dallas-Tokyo-Narita flights (yes, the earthquake didn’t help) as well as its only recently launched nonstop from New York JFK to Tokyo-Haneda. American is supposedly only suspending the flights to Haneda, but I’d be surprised if they came back.

Delta, meanwhile, posted a $318 million loss for the first quarter, blaming Japan, fuel, and too much capacity going to Europe. They announced they’ll trim 8-10% of their Transatlantic seats after Labor Day, and drop another 20 planes from the fleet (in addition to the 120 they’ve announced previously). We saw this same situation in 2008 when fuel prices jumped — airlines began cutting some of their dog routes and going seasonal on others where it made sense. Back then, Delta had just rolled out its extensive expansion to secondary cities in Europe (Valencia, etc) and dropped many of those routes while going seasonal on others. We’ll see the same announcement from other carriers soon enough.

…A Small Aside: Techcrunch, Please Stop Whining About Airlines

AOL’s Techcrunch, a site focused on the minutia of the tech startup world, has included a couple of pieces recently where their writers whine about airlines. Yesterday, one of their writers, under the headline @AmericanAir, You Suck, told of his experience flying home on American from Chicago to New York over the weekend. It’s worth reading if only because I am continually amazed at the myriad things people will complain about when it comes to airlines.

In short, he was flying home over the busy holiday weekend and his flight was canceled due to weather. And oh did the airline owe him for that: “Never once was I offered a hotel stay, a flight voucher or an upgrade.” FOR A WEATHER CANCELLATION. Yes, because when a blizzard blows through town and cancels flights for 2 days, the airline should hand out 37,000 free ticket vouchers.

Since there were 5 of them traveling and, as you might imagine over Easter, most flights were full so they were only offered an early morning flight, which, while traveling with kids, is not ideal. The writer was already upset because he was not emailed or texted when the flight was canceled – he only received a phone call. He was upset that the rez agent could not pull 5 seats out of thin air. Then he was upset that when he tweeted (and the airline responded nearly immediately) that they could not pull 5 seats out of thin air.

Then, he says, “the worst was yet to come.” The worst, we find out, was that there was no cushion on his seat, so he had to switch seats. Yes, that was the worst.

Also, there was a mechanical issue and they had to go back to the gate where, and perhaps this is the “worst,” they let everyone off the plane to stretch their legs.

Yep, sounds like a flight from hell. No cushion!!

JetBlue Offers 20% Coupon for September, October Flights

JetBlue is offering 20% off all flights from September 7 to October 29th when you use code FALL2011 during checkout. Blackout dates: October 7-10.

(thanks, D-lux!)

US Airlines Must Now Refund Lost Bag Fees; Give 24 Hours to Cancel Flight; Display Fees Upfront, and More…

The US Department of Transportation is rolling out a host of new regulations for airlines that are designed to be customer-friendly initiatives that give both greater transparency to consumers and also help clarify some customer service issues. You can read the full text here, but in short:

– International airlines and US are now required to return to the gate if their aircraft sits on the tarmac at a US airport for 4 hours for an international flight. This augments the current 3-hour rule for US flights.

– US and International airlines must now reimburse customers for the bag fee they charged if the airline loses the bag. Stories in the popular press are leading with this new rule, but the stories I’ve read have not been clear: you only get the fee refunded if they LOSE your bag, not if they get it to you the next day.

– If you paid added fees for, say, preboarding and your flight is canceled, the airline has to reimburse those fees.

– Provided you are booking at least a week in advance, you have 24 hours to cancel your flight without penalty.

– Increases involuntary bump penalty to $1300 from $650 (including for those flying on frequent flyer tickets).

– Airlines must now include a link to baggage fees on the fare display pages of their website. Also, and this is helpful, they must tell you the difference in fees between their airline and the airline actually carrying you on the flight (ie, a codeshare partner). In addition, airlines must give 3 months notice if they want to change baggage fees (this feels unnecessarily regulatory to me…)

– Airlines must alert passengers if their flight will be delayed by 30 minutes or more (and they have 30 minutes to do this once they find out about the delay)

There you go…the stories I’ve read about this focus on having to show the baggage fees up front, but this isn’t as big a deal, as the airlines can just place a link on their site to the bag fees. I think the biggest change is the ability to cancel a reservation within 24 hours (Spirit had pushed back on this rule as it was originally proposed, which led to them modifying it so it’s only on fares booked a week in advance). All the other regulations, while customer friendly, are pretty much outlier situations. But the ability to cancel (which some airlines to already offer), is a helpful feature to passengers without being too draconian for airlines. I’m surprised the government has actually come through with these – they tend to side with the airlines.

Austrian Airlines to Launch Baghdad Flights in June

I’m always fascinated when airlines launch flights back into Baghdad, so I wanted to pass along that Austrian Airlines will return to the city after a 21 year absence. They’ll fly 3 flights a week into Baghdad from Vienna (spending 1 hour on the ground, then getting the hell out). Worth noting that as part of the Star Alliance, you can use your Continental, United and US Airways miles to get to Baghdad on Austrian. The carrier has flown to Erbil in northern Iraq since 2006.

Norwegian Air Shuttle: Yes, the Scandanavians Sure Do Love Their Free Wi-Fi

Just a quick little factoid: Norwegian Air Shuttle, which is the only European airline to offer free wi-fi, said that on some of its routes nearly 50% of passengers use the service (US airlines that charge for the service reportedly see uptake rates in the single digits. Oslo Gardermoen-Geneva has the highest uptake rates.

The airline will have all of its aircraft equipped with wi-fi by the end of 2012.

Ryanair to Test Pre-Assigned Seating

Ryanair, which has offered priority boarding for 4 Euros allowing passengers to board early, is now catching up with much of the rest of the world by offering pre-assigned seats for 10 Euro (about $14) on a handful of routes.

Although the airline threatens constantly to start charging for bathroom usage, that is just a bunch of nonsense, especially considering they haven’t even begun to tap into the pre-assigned seat market. Many passengers have said that they won’t fly the airline because of the lack of pre-assigned seats (among other reasons, of course), but this should make their incredibly low fares a bit more bearable (for some).

Seating will be available on flights between Dublin & Malaga and Dublin & London-Gatwick beginning May 16.