Airlines Information, May 2008

Airlines Up Change Fees, Institute Minimum Stay Requirement

In airlines ongoing quest for additional revenues in the face of $120-a-barrel oil, several network carriers have upped their change fees and re-instituted Saturday night stay and/or minimum stay requirements.

Airlines

United Airlines increased its change fees by 50 percent to $150 and added a Saturday night stay requirement on routes in about 65 percent of its markets.

Continental upped its change fee to $150 for domestic and $250 for international flights. US Airways upped the cost of its change fees by $50, to $150 for domestic and $250 for international flights.In some instances, top customers, such as elite members of airline loyalty programs, are exempt from these fees.

In addition, United, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, Northwest Airlines and Continental have instituted minimum stay requirements on all or many of their routes.

Meanwhile, most network carriers and some low cost carriers, including JetBlue and AirTran have added fees for checking a second bag; fees range from$10 to $25. (Source: airline press releases).

Compensation Doubles for Involuntary Bumping
If you’re involuntarily bumped from your flight, you’ll get twice as much as you used to get. Effective this month, if you’re bumped you can receive up to $400 if you’re rescheduled to arrive within two hours of your original arrival time on domestic flights, four hours on international flights, and up to $800 if you’re not rerouted within that time frame.

The rule now covers aircraft seating 30 people or more; it previously covered flights with 60 seats and up. Reimbursement is determined by the price of the ticket, its refundability and the length of the delay. (Source: DOT press release).

DOT, FAA Announce Plans Designed to Ease Congestion
Even though airlines are reducing their domestic capacity, many by as much as five percent, aviation congestion remains a problem.

The Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration have announced a new routing alternative that will provide an “escape route” into Canadian airspace so that aircraft can fly around summer thunderstorms and high winds. And, the FAA is opening a second westbound route for aircraft, which will provide a parallel route along a heavily traveled corridor, which should cut westbound delays out of New York.

The DOT has also proposed auctioning off a limited amount of slots-the number of flights airlines can operate in a single day-at LaGuardia. The Air Transport Association, an airline trade group, is opposing such market-based solutions, saying that the DOT doesn’t have the authority to institute auctions and congestion pricing and that they are inconsistent with international practices. (Source: DOT, ATA press releases.)

Fare Expert Finds Majority of Airline Attempts to Hike Fares Are ticking
When Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines announced their proposed merger, they said that stratospheric oil prices have fundamentally changed the economics of aviation.

Oil prices are fueling mergers and other alliance, bankruptcies (more than a half dozen this spring, with the latest being the premium transatlantic carrier Eos), capacity reductions and ongoing fare hikes.

Rick Seaney, CEO of the airfare monitoring site FareCompare.com, has been tracking airline fare increases and reports that the airlines have attempted 14 price hikes so far this year; nine have been successful.

Summer demand and soaring fuel prices are making airlines comfortable with these increases, meaning travelers need to lock in summer travel now. (Source: FareCompare.com)

Virgin Atlantic Adds Second Dulles-London Flight for Summer
Virgin Atlantic has begun a second daily flight between Washington Dulles International and London Heathrow. The flight will operate until October 26. (Source: Virgin Atlantic press release).