November 12, 2010

Weekly Airline News Roundup – Security

Image courtesy of madaboutshanghai on Flickr

Security emerged as a major theme in the airline industry this week. Due in part to Veterans Day and the recent changes to the TSA screenings, safety and security seemed to be the dominant topic.

After the recent cargo bomb scare, the U.S. announced this week that it will hold a Senate panel hearing to discuss airline cargo safety. In the meantime, the U.S. has banned all large printer toner ink cartridges from flying. Watch out for a possible paperless epidemic! As another result, Emirates and Etihad airlines halted all cargo from Yemen.

The new TSA screening rules are causing a stir, with pilots banding together to protest, Sikhs speaking out against what they’re calling racial profiling, and the general public questioning whether the body scanners and pat-downs are a bit too invasive for an innocuous trip to see grandma in Florida.

Speaking of security breaches, who could forget the alarming (and somehow somewhat charming) tale of the Hong Kong man who disguised himself as an elderly Caucasian man to illegally enter Canadian ? The incident has sparked a debate about what security protocol could prevent future such brazen acts of false identity. In what was another frightening safety concern, a knife was found under a seat on a Delta flight to Japan. The Asia theme (and accompanying image) is completely coincidental.

Safety in the mechanical realm was also a big new topic this week, following the emergency return of a Qantas A380 flight, and the subsequent grounding of its entire A380 fleet, pending an investigation of a possible oil leak. Lufthansa is also changing one of its A380 engines, though says it’s not related to Qantas’ problems (they have different engines than Qantas). And Boeing this week had to halt 787 test flights after cabin smoke.

Conversely, Emirates this week restarted flying its double decker A380s to New York. In more optimistic news this week, the DOT announced this week that the tarmac delay rule has helped to significantly decrease overall airline delays (they don’t, though, mention cancellations as a result of the rule), Google is sponsoring free in-flight WiFi as a holiday treat, and US Airways is bringing back 500 furloughed pilots and flight attendants. Also good news this week is word that the FAA plans to restructure flight patterns to alleviate air traffic congestion by routing hundreds of flights over New Jersey (well, at least airlines may be happy, but New Jersey residents are pissed).

Not great for anyone, less the folks selling oil, reports this week show that fuel rose 7% in September. If only we could purchase electric planes!

In what we’ll call neutral news this week (could be good or bad depending on who you are), Mexicana Airlines, which declared bankruptcy and has since grounded all flights, says it hopes to make a return to the skies by the end of the year as a smaller airline. Latin American airlines Copa and Avianca-TACA are joining the Star Alliance, and the U.S. gave the green light on a joint venture between United, Continental and Japanese airline, ANA.

Virgin America, meanwhile, announced its first-ever quarterly profit this week, Delta may add a premium coach section, and American and Southwest are adding new markets. Aer Lingus’ operating profits rose a significant 35%, Republic Airways profits soar, and Southwest says its “no fees” campaign is working well.

Perhaps most exciting this week was news that Jake Pavelka, formerly of The Bachelor, is reaching for the stars, this time in a plane on his return to his job as a pilot.

This week was an eventful one for us at JetBlue. We celebrated the first birthday of our loyalty program TrueBlue, with lots of merriment and some awesome giveaways, welcomed new board member General Stanley McChrystal to our ranks, and held a Veterans Day event at our new home in the nation’s capital at Reagan National.

As always, safe travels and have a great weekend. Thanks for reading!

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