Tag Archives: American Airlines

What’s Up with Airline Regulations??

So after the recent debacles with United and American, the government is getting heavy.  Finally, we are seeing the government recognizing that consolidation is creating an arrogance in service and in amenities.  After deregulation in 1978, industry charges like baggage fees and bumping passengers have been pretty much left to the airlines.  And 80% of USA domestic business is now in the frightening hands of four airlines. Power to the few and less power to the consumer.

Airlines claim that overbooking helps keep fares low and provides less risk so more choice for consumers.  Understood, but you have to be nice too!  Honestly, whoever comes off a plane and says that they had a fab and fun experience?  Now United are going to have to put their money where their mouth is.  Dragging a guy down the aisle sounds like a bad wedding arrangement.  It nearly cost them their business.  CEO Munoz stated that he is committed to making things better and now overbooking as a policy is going to be phased out.  Southwest, the darling of consumers, actually has the highest overbooking of any airline. They were just smarter and nicer about it.

We all get that overbooking creates more flexibility for airlines and lots take advantage of the compensation.  It doesn’t take much but being nice and being smart makes the difference.  Having a positive attitude and being customer friendly is key.  That’s all we ask for.  We are not cattle.

Basement Bargains Abroad

There is good news out there for international travel. The RyanAir, Southwest airline, Easy Jet model has moved into long haul. You get food of course, but instead of departing from a major hub like Boston, you fly from Providence and the price difference on a transatlantic flight to Germany can be over $1000.

No way! Yes!

And here’s the deal. If you think airlines you’ve never heard of, like Condor, are going to force British Airways or Lufthansa to change their fare structure, think again. The big guys are figuring that you don’t want to fly from an airport that’s 30 miles from where you originally wanted to fly to, even for bargain travel. And the chances are that you didn’t check the routing thoroughly enough on Expedia. If you want to fly from Boston to Frankfurt, that’s what you’re going to get, prices from Boston to Frankfurt. So you’ve got to be smart and outsmart the technology, which is going to auto-populate and drive you to the bigger hubs.

Furthermore, business class is cheap on these airlines; baggage fees are waived and the booze is still free. So drink up, enjoy the Euro and look for Condor expanding beyond Seattle, Las Vegas, Ft. Lauderdale and Baltimore. And in case you’re looking for nonstop from New York, Chicago or LA on second-tier airlines – good luck, you’re not going to find them. Happy Travels! Oh, and guess what, the secret’s out Condor is actually owned by Lufthansa.

How desirable is where you live, from an airline point of view?

There are hubs, and spokes, and then there are places that used to be hubs, but now are back waters. It’s not that where you live is not a desirable place but, from an airlines point of view, it’s a not a desirable place. Take Key West, for example; that seems pretty desirable. Who wouldn’t want to live there? Catch the sunsets, drink the tequila, and sit on the white sand while, in the distance, Cuba beckons. But 43% of Key West flights have been removed – disappeared, gone forever, along with Cleveland, Milwaukee, and La Crosse, Wisconsin.

The other day I was trying to fly from Boston to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Practically impossible. Not just difficult to get to, involving multiple stops, but over $600 round trip, compared to $300 round trip to Philadelphia. What’s happening?! Are airline executives angry about your bucolic country style living and just want to punish you? It’s all about shrinking flight schedules, boosting prices, consolidation. And none of it is good for us.

The truth is, it’s good for the airlines and the rental car companies. Smaller hubs have taken big hits and the smaller aircraft have been removed from the fleet. If you want to fly from Harrisburg to Boston, be prepared to pay top dollar and be inconvenienced with terrible connections. It can even be cheaper to take an Uber! It even encouraged me to drive the 6 hours, because by the time I rented the car from Philadelphia, it really provided me with no great benefit. This is the world of giant airlines; 8 have merged into 4. And smaller hubs have been removed or reduced down to practically nothing. The good news is that if you live in Seattle there are 25% more flights than there used to be. Westward ho!

The new world could mean a move back to cars (and trains if you’re lucky). Or just simply uprooting your entire hippy family from Key West, Florida and moving to midland Odessa, Texas, where there is a 20% increase in flights. That’s gonna be a great fit for you!

It’s not all doom and gloom, of course. Practically every hub in Hawaii has increased service, which brings me back to Key West, Florida. It’s just simply too close to Miami for anybody but the rich and famous. And Orlando, as a megahub, shows increases across the board. Disney just beat out the sunsets.

Image credited to: http://www.barnabu.co.uk/

Flight Congestions

Tough Connections

Ever wondered how your life could get worse in an airport as you connect between planes? Well guess what, it just did.

American Airlines is deliberately spacing flights closer together. The reason being economics. They are loading more and more flights into their schedule. Making tough connections more common among travelers. The peaks and valleys that airlines shunned are now being embraced. Bottom line, if you fill more seats, have more flights, make more money, and create more margins, you can succeed in an industry that is plagued by non-profitability and loss.

For the poor traveler facing inevitable delays as planes are bunched up in the air, and terminal hubs become choked, it just means that you need to put your skates on to connect between flights and terminals. Will that mean that the minimal connection time will go down? You bet.

The airlines are gambling that they can fill their planes to optimal levels, and if one or two of us are left behind, no worries, there will probably be a plane six hours later! On the other hand, the airports, if all goes well, will sell less paraphernalia to us. You can bet your life that you are going to have to abandon the Starbucks coffee and the inevitable twenty minute line. So the shops will lose what the airlines might gain and passengers will just sweat a little bit more than they used to!

On the Subject of Seating…

On the Subject of Seating… have you ever wondered why you feel like a million dollars when you get an upgrade to business or first class? Is it because you have escaped the back of the plane? Well, partly of course. Who really wants to sit cramped up for 8 hours playing elbow war with your fellow passengers? Or worse still, knee war with the person in front of you who actually thinks that it’s cool to lower his seat so you can barely breathe or function. But the reality is that this feeling of elation as you settle into your semi luxurious environment and as you watch the coach passengers cramped into their seats has been carefully stage managed. After all, it is still the same long tube. Imagine if I said, “How about a hotel night for $24,000 with a lousy meal and your bed is a single bed and you’ll be sleeping next to someone you don’t know who snores all night?”


So, architects have to create a dream or illusion. A great article in the New Yorker called “Game of Thrones” by David Owen tells the story of how it all started. In 1995, British Airways was the first airline to introduce fully flat beds in first class. From then on in, horizontal sleeping in airplanes became a competitive war of out-maneuvering and upping the ante, eventually spreading to business class while the poor coach fliers felt their knees touching the backseat of the passenger in front of them more and more. I recently went to an Emirates launch where they boasted of having showers for first class passengers.

One of the amazing things about the experience of flying in comfort is that it becomes addictive and can often be the highlight of the trip. A company based in the Shoreditch area of London designs airline seats for both Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific. James Park, its founder, started the company in 1974. His job is to create a space that is compliant with the safety regulations with a cool entertainment system and seating that can be acceptable in coach and astonishing in first class. All of this comes at an enormous cost. One of the amazing things is that the small video screen in coach which serves as your in-flight entertainment can cost around $1,000 per inch. That means that it’s roughly $10,000 per screen in coach alone. Not a bad precaution as it ensures that there are no cross wires so that somebody in 33C is not suddenly flying the plane. Seats have to be refreshed and ready for immediate re-boarding. Think of a wine spill or something even more grotesque!

Both Singapore and Cathay have been number one and number two in alternating years in airline comfort and first class/business class travelers’ choice for many years. The amount of design that goes into creating the space that you are sitting in is where the architects make their money. If you are flying on Alitalia in “Magnifica” class, then you know that they did not spend any money on their interior architecture. If you fly Delta, United, or American, for the most part you will not experience that same dream sequence as Singapore, Cathay, or Emirates. These are the big players in comfort zones and it stretches from the front to the back of the plane. No detail is left behind. You can even sleep with your wife in a double bed with a private curtain if you want to.


British Airways reaches for a place in the upper hierarchy and even though their fleet has been upgraded, it is still miles away from the design and style of those three airlines. The fishbone-style seating in Virgin is cramped and out of date. Even on American Airlines, which has just upped the ante on its New York – London route by refitting its first class cabins, it misses the most important aspect of all of flying which is the service, the attentiveness, and the enthusiasm of the flight attendants from the top to the bottom of the plane.

Ultimately, you can spend all the money you want on refitting a plane but the flight attendants have the potential to undo it all in one second. That is the most reassuring part of the ever-changing tube we spend our lives flying in. No matter how fancy they make it inside, the fact is that the winning formula has to have the human element. The smile, the special attention, and imagining that every single person especially in coach is doing this for the first time and you have only one chance to make a first impression.

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