In aviation news, complaints against airlines continue to decline despite deteriorating on-time performance. However, it should be noted that this particular decline refers to complaints logged to federal regulators, meaning that airlines, which are not interested in disclosing such information, may very well continue to receive a high number of complaints. Also, despite record profits from airlines, fares remain at a stalemate due to competition from low-cost carriers. More likely, airlines will invest profits into making the traveling experience more comfortable… and price said comforts accordingly. Additionally, airlines continue to make changes that intend to reduce consumption and protect the environment.
Negotiations over the future of Ontario Airport have reached an impasse, setting in motion a renewed court battle that could wrest control from Los Angeles World Airports to the City of Ontario. This was in fact the second attempt at settling the issue out of court, since the lawsuit, filed last June, is ongoing. Ontario believes LAWA has not done its best to stem the decrease in passenger levels, while LAWA contends that changes in the airline industry favoring large hub airports and the recession are to blame. During the negotiations, Ontario pledged that it would assume all debts related to the airport and pay any costs for a transfer of ownership.
With restrictions on takeoffs and landings at Love Field in Texas set to expire, Southwest is ready to expand into new markets, starting with additional non-stop service from Love Field to LAX this October. Later on, the airline will begin service to Reagan International Airport, as will JetBlue. Both airlines bought their slots at Reagan International when the merger of American Airlines and US Airways prompted a judicial inquiry that led to the two airlines selling their slots at the airport. In relation to this (and perhaps to no one’s surprise), low-cost carriers like Southwest and JetBlue have fewer complaints than legacy carriers according to a study, largely because low-cost airline passengers simply have fewer expectations.
In other aviation news, a joint venture hopes to design a table tray on airplane seats that canmake space for tablets. One high-end hotel is dispensing with the practice of charging hefty fees for wi-fi access and instead will offer faster wi-fi at a daily rate while allowing slower wi-fi access for free. Also, in response to a Los Angeles Times piece on the condition of LaGuardia Airport in New York City, one reader describes LAX with similar negativity while extolling Ontario Airport for its cleanliness and straightforward design.
Baggage fees are the number one most hated fees, according to a passenger survey. Airlines worldwide collected $27 million in such fees last year. This was followed by flight change and cancellation fees, advance seat selection fees and reservation-by-phone fees.
After languishing for several years, international passenger numbers are going up at LAX. The aviation gateway to Pacific destinations reported handling 17.8 million foreign travelers in 2013. Overall, total passenger volume reached 66.7 million travelers that year, just short of the record of 67.3 million travelers set in 2000, before the September 11 attacks and the Great Recession. Note, however, that LAX is also undergoing renovations to improve passenger comfort. This is a far cry from what is going on in New York City’s long-neglected LaGuardia Airport. The airport lacks space for expansion and its cramped terminals are in dire need of repairs. Moreover, the airport has no rail access of any kind, a far cry from what is offered at JFK and Newark Liberty. A $3.6 billion modernization project is set to start, but won’t finish until 2021.
Who thinks airline mergers are a good thing? Certainly the employees of the newly merged American Airlines and US Airways, who will receive bonuses when their employers reach certain goals over competing carriers. This will prove especially important in the near future, now that Southwest Airlines announced it will launch international service to destinations in the Caribbean this July. Surprisingly, however, passengers are the other beneficiaries of airline mergers, according to a new study. The theory goes that mergers reduce redundant routes that in turn are filled in by low-cost carriers. Mergers also encourage airlines to purchase and operate fuel-efficient aircraft, according to researchers.
Remember our November 5, 2013 issue of our eNewsletter, which mentioned the increased prevalence of thinner seats on airlines as a means to shoehorn more passengers and, in turn, more revenue? Well, a new survey revealed that 83% of the sampled passengers who have knowingly used the seats were dissatisfied. Airlines contend that the new seats will become more comfortable over time. Curiously, even as the economic uptick has aided in the resurgence of business travel, most travelers are seeking cheaper meals found at Starbucks and McDonald’s according to another survey.
However, other news is not-so-positive. For example, the City of Los Angeles is suing American Airlines for $21.5 million, alleging that the airline has underpaid the airport since December 2010. In 2006, LAX adopted a calculation that increased costs for maintenance and operating fees for airlines that operate out of LAX. The airport reached long-term agreements with all airlines except American in 2012, and the airline continued paying a lower fee from a prior interim agreement. The parent company of American Airlines filed for bankruptcy on Nov. 29, 2011.
There are plenty of positive tidings coming from the airline industry. 2013 turned out to be one of the safest years on record. 29 accidents were reported across the globe, causing to a record-low 265 fatalities. The deadliest accident occurred in Russia, when a commercial airplane crashed upon landing, killing 50 people. Closer to home, the deadliest crash in 2013 came from the Asiana Airlines at SFO, where 3 people were killed. Meanwhile, airplane manufacturers also had some good news, as European-based Airbus took in orders totaling $225 billion last year. Airbus is in a dead-heat competition with rival Boeing when it comes to delivering planes, which Boeing continues to lead.
Some of Delta’s narrow-bodied planes are in for a major makeover. These planes will receive larger bathrooms and overhead bins, more economy seats, and seats with power outlets! Additionally, Delta plans on installing in-seat video screens and satellite TV for most of its passengers. Up until 2016, the airlines plan on investing $770 million on 225 of its narrow aircraft, the ones typically designated for short flights in North America.
New regulations from the Federal Communications Commission may soon allow cellphone use during flights. However, even before a requisite public comment period has commenced, a survey revealed that travelers are opposed to the concept. (The FCC website provides more information on the proposed regulation.) Also, the Transportation Security Administration uncovered 1,828 firearms across all airports in 2013, a 20% increase over last year, with about 84% of these loaded upon detection.