Southwest Airlines Says Assigned Seats For Passengers A Possibility


Southwest Airlines is known for not assigning seats, but that could change in the future — maybe

“Could we one day need to take back up the assigned-seating question? I think we may have to do that,” Bob Jordan, the airline’s incoming CEO recently said in a Southwest Business virtual town hall meeting, Travel Weekly reports.

Jordan, who previously was the airline’s executive vice president of corporate services and will take over as CEO on February 1, then took pains to note there are no current plans at Southwest to make the change. However, he did say the airline needs to examine whether or not seat assignments could positively impact aircraft turnaround time.

“Just know this: We are committed to continuing to look at our product, making sure it’s relevant,” Jordan said.

Southwest uses unassigned seats as a way to make itself stand out from competitors. Indeed, its slogan is “Pick a seat, any seat.”

“At Southwest, we let you sit where you like,” the airline explains. “We don’t assign seats on our flights, so feel free to sit in any available seat once you board the plane.”

Moving Forward

In many respects, Jordan has his work cut out for him.

For instance, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s analysis, Southwest Airlines’ flights were ontime 83.03 percent of the time from July 2019 to July 2021. Conversely, 16.97 percent of Southwest’s flights were late or canceled.

“We need to get back to the point where you can set your watch by the reliability of our operations,” Jordan said.

Toward that end, one of the first priorities for Southwest this year is to hire between 8,000 and 10,000 workers. Jordan says that adding that staff will help the airline get aircraft back in the sky sooner.

Jordan also noted that Southwest expanded its service to 18 new markets and increased service to Hawaii during the COVID-19 pandemic. While Southwest currently uses 120 aircraft to support that expansion, it does have plans to take delivery of 114 aircraft this year.

Even so, it’s going to take a while for the airline to resume frequency levels Southwest experienced before the pandemic.

“It’s going to take into 2023 to restore the network completely back to where we were in 2019,” Jordan said.

For more about airlines’ ontime arrival records, be sure to read The 10 U.S. Airlines With The Most Flight Delays And Cancelations.

If you’d like to learn more about airport arrival records, be sure to read up on the airports with the fewest and most delays and cancelations.



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American Airlines: Business Travel Recovering As Leisure Lines Blur


American Airlines’ bookings are “recovering quickly” after the Covid-19 omicron variant triggered a drop-off in December, incoming CEO Robert Isom said Thursday during an American earnings call. 

The small and midsize business segment remained strong in the fourth quarter and was roughly 80 percent recovered compared with the same period in 2019, while the larger corporate travel segment was only about 40 percent recovered, said Isom and American chief revenue officer Vasu Raja. 

That imbalance means there’s been a shift in revenue share. Historically, 40 percent of revenues came from business travel, with large companies’ share representing about 15 percentage points of that piece and the balance from small and midsize companies. Now, less than 10 points of that 40 percent are from managed corporate, and SMEs have closer to 30 points, Raja explained. 

American remains optimistic that overall corporate travel will return this year in a significant way as companies come back more fully to the office and get back on the road. However, “as we are developing our plan to forecast for this year, we are working to build an airline that can be profitable even without the full return of managed corporate travel,” Isom said. 

He did not elaborate on what that would mean for corporate travelers or travel managers, but he noted that the company was refocusing its network around the “most profitable flying,” which is in line with one of his main goals for 2022: to return the carrier to profitability.

The Changing Business Traveler

Leisure, particularly in the United States and short-haul international markets “remains very strong and is approaching 100 percent recovery,” Isom said. But American is seeing leisure travelers flying for reasons beyond just a vacation. “They may fly to a beach or mountain destination, but they are going to work remotely for a week,” he said. “The lines between leisure and business travel are definitely blurring. … Business travel will come back in a different way, and by that I mean the overall mix of the business customer, how they travel and how we serve them.”

Additionally, the SME segment’s growing share of business travel volume compared with managed corporate is reflected in changing traveler behavior, Raja said. 

“It’s an opportunity we look upon favorably,” Raja said, noting SME travelers often originate in markets in the center of the U.S., are willing to stay over on a Saturday night and often fly on flights with lower load factors, all in contrast to travelers from larger corporates.

“Importantly, [SME bookings] come in at the same level of yield as large corporate businesses, but at a fraction of the cost of sales,” Raja said. “The cost of sales looks a lot more like what leisure is. As we see small businesses traveling, there are more people traveling for a blend of  business/leisure purposes. More people are willing to go buy themselves a premium fare product when a cheaper one is available. We have seen a lot of opportunity as the world changes, and we are going to position ourselves to execute on that.”

Metrics and Outlook

American reported a fourth-quarter net loss of $931 million on revenue of $9.4 billion, down 17 percent compared with the same period in 2019 on a 13 percent reduction in total available seat miles. Full-year 2021 net loss was $2 billion. Excluding net special items, the fourth-quarter net loss was $921 million, with a full-year net loss of $5.4 billion. 

Passenger revenue was $8.4 billion for the quarter—down from $10.3 billion reported in the fourth quarter of 2019— and $26.1 billion for the full year. American transported more than 165 million passengers in 2021, up from the nearly 156 million reported for 2019.

The company anticipates total capacity to be down 8 percent to 10 percent for the first quarter compared with Q1 2019 and down about 5 percent for the full year versus 2019. It expects revenues for the first quarter to be down 20 percent to 22 percent compared with the same period in 2019.

Executives on the call noted the challenging labor environment that has affected the entire industry. American hired 16,000 employees last year and has plans to hire another 18,000 in 2022, said outgoing CEO Doug Parker.

RELATED: American Airlines Q3 earnings



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American Airlines, travel website The Points Guy trade lawsuits over tracking loyalty points


Fort Worth-based American Airlines is countersuing travel website The Points Guy and its parent company because of an app that collects loyalty points across airlines and stores them in one central location.

The Points Guy, which American describes in its countersuit as a “powerhouse” lifestyle media brand, is receiving the ire of one of the world’s largest air carriers because of its mobile phone app that collects loyalty point totals.

American says the app, which debuted in September, encourages members to give up their user information and passwords so that The Points Guy can “invade American’s servers, access users’ accounts, and collect and expropriate the proprietary data that AAdvantage has developed, maintained, stored and protected over many years.”

The lawsuit begs the question of who owns user data, usernames and passwords and what a consumer can do with that information.

Passengers exit the inter-terminal Skylink people mover at DFW International Airport.

Airlines

American Airlines suing reservations company Sabre for new service that favors Delta

Fort Worth-based American Airlines is suing neighboring reservations technology provider Sabre Holdings for rolling out a new portal that the carrier says favors competitors such as Delta.In a lawsuit filed this week in Tarrant County, American claims that a “New Airline Storefront” by Southlake-based reservations firm Sabre hurts American with “inaccurate and misleading” information on the airline’s products and that gives extra incentives to travel agencies to book higher-end tickets on Delta.

The Points Guy app lets users track their loyalty status and points from hundreds of airline, hotel and travel programs by letting them enter their usernames and passwords from the various programs.

Competing airlines such as Delta, United and Dallas-based Southwest are also listed on the app, although The Points Guy has not mentioned any pushback from those companies.

The app was “created to empower consumers to travel smarter by helping them make the most of their well-earned points and miles,” TPG said in a statement.

“Launched in September 2021, the free app demystifies the complexities of award travel by helping users learn about points, miles and loyalty programs; maximize their earning potential; and discover how to efficiently use those earned points and miles to see the world,” The Points Guy’s statement said.

But that’s not the way American Airlines sees it.

American’s AAdvantage program, which the company values at as much as $10 billion and was even used in 2020 to secure federal government loans, is one of the company’s biggest moneymakers, using frequent flyer points to help it secure credit card deals.

American Airlines recently sent The Points Guy a cease-and-desist letter, prompting the travel website to sue the airline in The Superior Court of the State of Delaware. American, in turn, countersued in federal court in North Texas.

“Red Ventures is accessing AA.com and AAdvantage customer account data in a way that does not comply with our standards for use of confidential information,” American Airlines spokeswoman Andrea Koos said in a statement. “We have been in discussions with Red Ventures, hoping to amicably resolve the issues, and we were surprised when Red Ventures filed its lawsuit last Tuesday. We take customer data and proprietary information incredibly seriously, and want to make sure it is protected and secure.”

Besides The Points Guy, Charlotte, N.C.-based Red Ventures also operates financial, technology and travel sites such as Bankrate, C|Net, Creditcards.com, Healthline, Lonely Planet and TV Guide.

The conflict comes down to whether a third-party app is allowed to access information from another company. American has licensed out this type of access in the past to companies such as Awards Wallet, a similar point-tracking program, according to the Viewfromthewing.com blog.

Starting in 2013, American came to a deal with Awards Wallet in which the airline “worked closely with AwardWallet to design an offering that meets our security requirements while offering our customers a one-stop shop for tracking all of their loyalty affiliations, including AAdvantage,” according to a statement the two sides released in 2013.

But as of December, that deal is no longer valid, ViewfromtheWing.com reported, and American Airlines is now encouraging travelers to use its app to track frequent flyer loyalty points.

“American wants to control (and by extension, limit) what you can do with your rewards, and they’re trying everything in their power to stop us from helping you, the consumer, including countersuing us,” The Points Guys founder Brian Kelly wrote in a letter on a webpage dedicated to the battle against American. “We believe that you have worked hard to earn your points and miles and have the right to choose whether you share personal information with a third-party app that will make your life easier.”

American Airlines planes taxi from gates at DFW International Airport as aircraft from Delta, Alaska and JetBlue are parked nearby.

Airlines

Biden administration sues over American Airlines-JetBlue partnership, citing fear of higher prices

The Biden Administration’s Justice Department is filing an antitrust lawsuit to challenge the partnership between American Airlines and JetBlue that links the two carrier’s operations tightly at four of the busiest airports in the Northeast, saying the tie-up will reduce competition and drive fares higher.The deal between American Airlines and JetBlue was previously approved by former President Donald Trump’s Department of Transportation but now faces the scrutiny of prosecutors in a new presidential administration that has taken a much harder stance on antitrust issues.



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United Airlines (UAL) expects omicron surge to further delay recovery


An aircraft takes off from O’Hare International Airport on January 18, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois.

Scott Olson | Getty Images

United Airlines said the surge in Covid-19 infections has hurt bookings in recent weeks and will further delay its recovery from the pandemic.

The Chicago-based airline said it expects first-quarter revenue to be 20% to 25% below the same period in 2019 when it generated $9.59 billion.

United lowered its 2022 growth forecast, saying it would fly less this year than it did three years ago, scrapping its plan to increase capacity by 5% from pre-pandemic levels. Costs for the first quarter would be up by as much as 15%, excluding fuel, and capacity down by 16% to 18% from three years earlier.

United’s shares were off more than 2% in after-hours trading.

The airline said that bookings for spring and summer are strong, however.

“The United team has been fighting through unprecedented obstacles to, once again, overcome the new and daunting challenges that COVID-19 is bringing to aviation, and I am grateful to each one of them for their commitment to taking care of our customers,” United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby said in an earnings release. “Omicron is impacting near term demand, we remain optimistic about the spring and excited about the summer and beyond.”

Delta Air Lines last week also said the omicron variant dented early 2022 bookings early this year and that it would drive it to a first-quarter loss, but that it expected to be profitable by March, forecasting a rebound in travel demand.

American Airlines reports before the market opens on Thursday.

United posted a net loss of $646 million, compared with a $641 million profit in the fourth quarter of 2019 but a smaller loss than the $1.9 billion it lost in the same quarter of 2020.

Revenue in the last three months of the year came in at $8.19 billion, off nearly 25% from 2019 but it was its strongest quarter of the pandemic thanks to robust holiday bookings. It was ahead of analysts’ estimates of $7.97 billion.

Adjusting for one-time items, United had a loss per share of $1.60, better than the $2.11 analysts estimated.

Here’s how United performed in the fourth quarter compared with what Wall Street expected, based on average estimates compiled by Refinitiv:

  • Adjusted results per share: a loss of $1.60 versus an expected loss of $2.11
  • Total revenue: $8.19 billion versus expected $7.97 billion.

United executives will hold a call with analysts and media on Thursday at 10:30 a.m. ET.



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Airlines warn 5G rollout could cause “catastrophic disruption” to travel and shipping


The chief executives of America’s largest airlines warned of a “catastrophic disruption” to travel and shipping operations if telecommunication companies roll out their 5G technology as planned Wednesday without limiting the technology near U.S. airports. 

On Tuesday, AT&T and Verizon both confirmed to CBS News that they have voluntarily agreed to postpone turning on a limited amount of towers around certain airports. 

“We are frustrated by the FAA’s inability to do what nearly 40 countries have done, which is to safely deploy 5G technology without disrupting aviation services, and we urge it to do so in a timely manner,” an AT&T spokesperson said in a statement, reiterating that the rest of their 5G launch will continue as planned.

Verizon and AT&T had already delayed the launch of their new C-Band 5G service twice due to warnings from airlines and aircraft manufacturers concerned that the new system might interfere with the devices planes use to measure altitude.

The executives, writing to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and other U.S. government officials, highlighted the risk of “economic calamity” should Verizon and AT&T proceed with deploying the new technology before the necessary upgrades and changes have been made to aviation equipment.

“We are writing with urgency to request that 5G be implemented everywhere in the country except within the approximate two miles of airport runways as defined by the FAA on January 19, 2022,” the CEOs said in a Monday letter obtained by CBS News and several other news organizations. 

“To be blunt, the nation’s commerce will grind to a halt,” they said.

The Federal Aviation Administration said Sunday it had approved some transponders to be safely operated within areas where 5G will be deployed, clearing “as many as 48 of the 88 airports most directly affected by 5G C-Band interference.”

But the airlines are worried that remaining limitations at those airports, as well as a large amount of equipment still uncertified, could trigger a crisis including the grounding of thousands of flights.

“In addition to the chaos caused domestically,” the letter continues, the lack of certified planes “could potentially strand tens of thousands of Americans overseas.”

The Reuters news agency reports that carriers late on Monday were thinking of scrapping some international flights due to get to the U.S. on Wednesday.

In a statement, United Airlines said, “The federal government’s current 5G rollout plan will have a devastating impact on aviation, negatively affecting an estimated 1.25 million United passengers, at least 15,000 flights and much-needed goods and tons of cargo traveling through more than 40 of the largest airports in the country annually.”

In addition to the transport secretary, their letter was addressed to the head of the FAA, the head of the Federal Communications Commission and the White House’s National Economic Council.

U.S. airlines also have protested against the potential costs incurred.

The executives called on authorities to “take whatever action necessary to ensure that 5G is deployed except when towers are too close to airport runways until the FAA can determine how that can be safely accomplished without catastrophic disruption.”

The letter was signed by CEOs of major airlines including American, United, Delta and Southwest, as well as the leaders of shipping giants FedEx and UPS.

“Immediate intervention is needed to avoid significant operational disruption to air passengers, shippers, supply chain and delivery of needed medical supplies,” they wrote.

The FAA released a brief statement Monday apparently seeking to allay concerns about the 5G rollout’s impact on aviation, but it stopped short of declaring any concrete next steps in the process.

“With safety as its core mission, the FAA will continue to ensure that the traveling public is safe as wireless companies deploy 5G,” the agency said.

“The FAA continues to work with the aviation industry and wireless companies to try to limit 5G-related flight delays and cancellations.”

Verizon and AT&T won contracts worth tens of billions of dollars last February to operate 5G in the 3.7-3.98 GHz frequency bands, and the rollout of the service was due to begin December 5.

Unless the major telecommunications companies are blocked by federal regulators or reach an agreement with the airlines, they are now scheduled to turn on their 5G service nationwide on January 19.





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Frontier Airlines announce affordable nonstop flights at Hobby airport to 3 top travel destinations


HOUSTON – Frontier Airlines announced several new additions Tuesday at Hobby Airport that will provide affordable routes for its passengers to three popular destinations around the U.S and Mexico.

Domestic International Sales Manager at Frontier Airlines, Alfredo Gonzalez, announced the new routes out of Hobby that will start at $39 are Cancun, Mexico; Las Vegas; and Orland, Florida.

Starting on May 26, Gonzalez said they will start nonstop service to the city of Cancun three times a week, with an introductory rate of $79 and on May 27, service to Las Vegas four times with a starting rate at $59 and also staring on May 27, they will begin nonstop service four times a week to Orlando with a starting rate at $39.

“We’re excited to expand in Houston and add William P. Hobby Airport to our route map with three nonstop routes beginning this May,” said Josh Flyr, vice president of network and operational design. “Frontier takes low fares to heart – it’s the core of our business – and today’s announcement of new flights to Cancun, Las Vegas and Orlando furthers our mission to make flying more accessible and affordable for everyone. We look forward to launching service at HOU and bringing increased air service competition to the market.”

Copyright 2022 by KPRC Click2Houston – All rights reserved.



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News Wrap: Major U.S. airlines warn 5G could ground planes, disrupt travel


In our news wrap Monday, major U.S. airlines and cargo lines warned of a crisis when cellphone providers deploy new, faster 5G wireless internet service on Wednesday. Australia and New Zealand sent out surveillance flights to Tonga in the wake of an enormous undersea volcano eruption on Saturday. The U.S. and its Asian allies condemned North Korea’s fourth firing of ballistic missiles in January.



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Travel update: Turkish Airlines will not require PCR tests on some flights – News


Turkey lifts testing requirements for unvaccinated in certain areas



By Reuters

Published: Sat 15 Jan 2022, 5:58 PM

Turkish Airlines CEO Bilal Eksi said on Twitter that the carrier will not require PCR tests on domestic flights.

Turkey will no longer require unvaccinated individuals to take a PCR test for Covid-19 before using planes, buses or other transportation, or before attending events such as concerts, plays or movies, the state-owned Anadolu Agency said on Saturday.

Citing the interior ministry, Anadolu said unvaccinated civil servants, private-sector employees and school personnel will also not be required to take a PCR test.

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Emerald Airlines expands at Belfast City Airport


Emerald Airlines is expanding at Belfast City Airport to provide more choice to travellers in the region.

The carrier, which is the exclusive operator of the Aer Lingus Regional route network, plans to operate “high-frequency routes” from the airport to Birmingham, Edinburgh, Exeter, Leeds Bradford and Manchester.

The new routes are part of a long-term deal with Belfast City Airport to establish a new home-based carrier there with additional routes to be announced this year. 

Conor McCarthy, CEO of Emerald Airlines, said: “We want to be the airline of choice for customers travelling from Belfast City Airport and we’re eager to build upon our announcement today, with new flights and destinations to follow in the near future.

“We are in advanced talks with British Airways and Aer Lingus regarding code sharing and other cooperation so that we can maintain the continuity and benefits of the current services offered by both airlines at Belfast City Airport. Operational set-up continues at pace, with the Belfast City Base, our UK AOC and employee recruitment progressing extremely well. 

“We’re confident this news will be welcomed by the business community across the region which depends on connectivity more than ever as the recovery continues.”

Matthew Hall, CEO at Belfast City Airport, said: “We are very pleased to secure a long-term partnership with Emerald Airlines that will see the return of the Aer Lingus Regional product to Belfast later this year. Emerald’s commitment to Northern Ireland will ensure not only the continuity of these regional routes that have been operated by mainline Aer Lingus and British Airways since last summer 2021, but also presents a significant opportunity for new routes and additional frequency.  

“As the pandemic subsides, we do expect to see an increased demand for travel – both to and from Belfast – and this ensures we are in a strong position to meet this demand.”  

Aer Lingus and British Airways services to London Heathrow and London City from Belfast City Airport continue as normal.  

Emerald Airlines and Aer Lingus announced in December that they had brought forward plans to relaunch regional flights by almost a year.



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Southwest Airlines issues travel advisory ahead of Midwest winter weather this weekend


ST. LOUIS – There is a little snow in the forecast Friday night into Saturday for the St. Louis area. However, the system could bring snow across the Midwest and that has Southwest Airlines issuing a travel advisory ahead of the potential weather.

The airline says based on the forecast service for the following cities could be disrupted on Jan. 14- Jan. 15:

  • Des Moines, IA (DSM)
  • Kansas City, MO (MCI)
  • Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN (MSP)
  • Omaha, NE (OMA)
  • St. Louis, MO (STL)

Customers with reservations to/from/through these cities may rebook in the original class of service or travel standby (within 14 days of their original date of travel between the original city-pairs and in accordance with our accommodation procedures) without paying any additional charge.

Customers who purchased their itinerary via Southwest.com or our mobile app are eligible to reschedule their travel plans online or from their mobile device.

Customers who did not purchase a ticket via Southwest.com can call 1-800-435-9792 to speak with a Customer Representative.

Customers in the U.S. scheduled to travel internationally must call 1-800-435-9792 to speak with a Customer Representative for assistance with rebooking.



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