March 18, 2011

Weekly Airline News Roundup – Evaluation

Image courtesy of seatbelt67 on Flickr

In some senses it was an action-packed week in the airline industry, particularly with regard to the devastating acts of nature in Japan, which caused first the halting of flights, followed by a return to air travel, and then a scramble to add flights to help people get out of the country.

In most other aviation news this week, especially in the West, the majority of the headlines took on a flavor of evaluation and scrutiny, an industry that spent the week taking a good look at itself and its policies.

Analysts in the U.S. this week pontificated on the probable loss of revenues generated by Japanese tourists who have more important things to worry about right now than vacationing in the U.S. to photograph the Statue of Liberty (the Japanese apparently make up the fourth largest group of visitors to the U.S.).

A new report this week produced by a U.S. Travel Association panel is calling for a ban on fees for first checked bags. The Boston Globe took an in-depth look at how airlines handle weather events, from in-house planning to proactive cancellations. Also this week came news that a study is underway to determine whether jet engine certification should include considerations for flocks of large birds (who have the occasional misfortune of untimely death by plane engine). And speaking of potentially unfortunate, the FAA is seeing push back from having recently pulled the emergency oxygen from on-board bathrooms in the name of security. Don’t worry, though, it’s not the general air circulation that was cut off, but rather the emergency oxygen (we know the thought of no air flow in a bathroom is more than anyone should have to endure).

Alaska is united this week as its House and Senate called on the TSA to reconsider the ramifications of full-body pat-downs (we know what you’re thinking – so NOT a hot Saturday night date!). Speaking of security, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano spoke this week of the “airport of tomorrow,” a proposed (though still hypothetical) airport security process that would involve things like allowing you to remain fully dressed and keep your first-born son.

The FAA this week announced it is taking a long, hard look at how in-flight Wi-Fi may or may not be interfering with avionics. And TSA this week is taking a long hard look at the full-body scanners to make sure they aren’t producing harmful radiation. With all the technology out there in the world, there’s still nothing quite like the warm, personal greeting of an actual human being, as showcased by the praise “Airport Navigators” are getting in Phoenix.

The most unfortunate news to come out of the West this week was the crash of a small plane in Long Beach, which killed five people and left one in critical condition. In unrelated large news of sorts, Boeing announced this week it might fly its largest jumbo jet this weekend, the 747-8,  which carries up to 467 people. Boeing may also get crackin’ on a third version of its 787 Dreamliner fleet, and Lufthansa announced this week it will be buying 35 new planes.

American this week announced it is lightening its load by replacing drink carts, seat bins, and TV monitors in efforts to cut costs with the rising price of fuel. American is lightening its load in a different way as well by asking flight attendants for a voluntary leave of absence. United may respond to the high cost of fuel by grounding aircraft, and Alaska Airlines made an oopsy when it thought that Orthodox Jewish men davening, or praying, on the plane was actually terrorist activity. They did a good job of apologizing though.

This week is JetBlue news, we celebrated National Potato Chip Day as well as St. Patrick’s Day, announced our partnership with Broadway’s new show, “Catch Me If You Can” and won the About.com Reader’s Choice Award for Best U.S. Budget Airline.

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

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