It’s been a mighty eventful week for the airline industry, with aid to Haiti taking the front row. There was a great deal of confusion last week when misleading tweeters with slippery fingers announced that airlines were sending relief workers down to Haiti, which was swiftly followed by retractions and then additional clarification from those that were, in fact, sending down cargo and relief workers to aid in the relief efforts. JetBlue raised more than $100K for Haiti relief efforts and also sent select Crewmembers down to Santo Domingo to provide additional support for our Customers and Crew down there. In addition, we’ve made all available seats for relief workers and are working with other aid organizations to provide assistance where we can. Some airlines flying to Haiti were returning with empty planes because the screening equipment at the Port-au-Prince airport was down and fears of allowing terrorists through were enough to keep flights from going out. Many airlines had to cancel flights to Haiti because the air traffic control tower was decimated from the earthquake that struck 7 on the Richter scale (so momentous that it already has its own Wikipedia entry).
Meanwhile this week, Japan Airlines filed for bankruptcy and some major U.S. airlines are rivaling over ownership. Perhaps a failed airline is suddenly so appealing because they have renewed faith that with a pro-bono Buddhist priest for a CEO, things will fare better for them all. Things aren’t faring well, though, for obese travelers, as announcements were made by more airlines requiring the purchasing of two seats for passengers that cannot fit into one. This news begs the question — one would think — of just how large does one need to be in order to qualify as an obese customer? The good news is that some airlines will refund folks for the additional seat if the flight is not fully booked.
Speaking of extra baggage, more airlines jumped on the band wagon this week to increase their checked luggage fees, while some reports acknowledge the accessibility of airlines like JetBlue (plug!) that still do not charge a single dime for the first checked bag.
Also, the numbers are in and the ATA reported that airline revenue fell by more than 18 percent in 2009, with a six percent drop in passenger volume. “The global recession” is what ATA President and CEO James C. May blames the poor travel year on.
And it’s not even Friday yet.