Airlines and Security Updates for May

Air Travel Demand Falls Fifth Month in a Row
The Air Transport Association of America reported that passenger revenue fell 23 percent in March 2009 versus the same month in 2008 – the fifth consecutive month in which passenger revenue has fallen from the prior year.

March passenger traffic on U.S. airlines fell by 10 percent, while the overall cost to fly one mile fell by 13 percent. Declines extended beyond the mainland United States to transatlantic, transpacific and Latin markets. (Source: Air Transport Association press release).

Airlines Cut Fares
JetBlue Airways trimmed $100 off some of its nonrefundable fares. Air France introduced a lower priced business “leisure” fare for the summer and Continental Airlines cut BusinessFirst fares to Asia. JetBlue dropped nonrefundable fares from $599 to $499 on 24 of its transcontinental routes.

Air France is offering a 60-day advance purchase business fare to 25 popular destinations in Europe and the Middle East. Sample roundtrip fares: New York-Paris, $2,222, Houston-Madrid, $2,622 and Chicago-Zurich, $2,458. Continental is now offering fares from the New York area to Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong and Tokyo starting at $3,076. (Source: Air France, Continental, JetBlue press releases).

Delta, Northwest Merge Frequent Flyer Programs in SkyMiles Card

A marketing campaign to build awareness for the SkyMiles cards in key Delta hubs that were formerly Northwest hubs within the U.S. including Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul and Memphis.

The Northwest WorldPerks and Delta SkyMiles frequent flyer programs are merging, but Northwest members will have to apply for a Delta SkyMiles Credit Card to continue earning miles both from credit card purchases and from flying. They are expanding benefits in the program, so that card members can earn and redeem miles in more ways and places, including the ability to earn double miles on all Delta and Northwest operated flights.

Gold and Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit card members and Delta Reserve card members, who now earn Double Miles on virtually every dollar of spend with Delta, can also earn Double Miles on all purchases made with Delta’s wholly-owned subsidiary, Northwest.

The Pay with Miles feature, which currently allows Gold, Platinum and Reserve card members to book Delta flights with no black-out dates or inventory restrictions on delta.com, will also be expanded to all Northwest-operated flights. (Source: press release).

Corporate America Curtails Travel to Mexico
Forty-seven percent of members of the Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE) responding to a survey of the impact of the swine flu on their company’s travel said that their companies have restricted business travel to Mexico.

Three percent have restricted travel to the U.S. and Mexico, while 7 percent are restricting travel to any country with reported cases of H1N1 swine influenza. One percent reported restricting travel to the U.S. only. Forty-two percent are claiming no travel restrictions at all. Excluding travel to Mexico, only 11 percent of respondents cited travel restrictions.

Meanwhile, the International Air Transport Association said airlines were prepared for dealing with swine flu, saying IATA has worked with WHO to prepare guidance materials for front-line staff at airlines, including cabin crew, maintenance workers, cleaners, passenger agents and cargo/baggage handlers. WHO advises there should be no restriction of regular travel or closure of borders.

It is considered prudent for people who are ill to delay international travel and for people developing symptoms following international travel to seek medical attention, in line with guidance from national authorities. (Source: ACTE, IATA press releases).

Security

Customs Deactivates Older NEXUS Cards
U.S. Customs and Border Protection canceled old NEXUS cards for current NEXUS members on May 1. CBP has been mailing new NEXUS cards, a card that simplifies border crossing for pre-approved, low-risk travelers, to all members since November. The new cards have enhanced security features and allow U.S. and Canadian citizen cardholders to comply with the documentary requirements of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative.

All members must activate their new cards within 30 days, verify and update their U.S. mailing address by going to https://goes-app.cbp.dhs.gov/.
NEXUS members should destroy their old cards after activating their new ones.
(Source: Customs press release).

Business travel & Delta Northwest Merger News

Delta Airlines

North American Carriers Are Single Bright Spot in Dismal Global Aviation Market
The International Air Transport Association revised its outlook for global aviation last month, forecasting $4.7 billion loss for 2009, a bigger loss than the $2.5 billion it projected in December. But it said that North American carriers were doing the best and forecasting a $100 million combined profit for the year for them.

IATA said they had matched a 7.5 percent fall in demand with 7.5 percent in capacity cuts. It also said they benefited management and lower spot fuel prices. The current economic turmoil is hitting Asia Pacific carriers the hardest.

The Middle East is the only region to see demand grow, and capacity grew more.  European carriers are expected to lose $1 billion. An expected 2.9 percent drop in the Europe’s GDP probably will cause demand to drop 6.5 percent. (Source: IATA press release).

Delta Phases Out Northwest Signs
Delta Air Lines absorption of Northwest has moved to the frontline. Nearly 40,000 flight attendants, pilots, airport lounge  representatives, ticket counter and gate agents now are wearing Delta livery.

New Delta signs are now up at more than 400 ticket counters, gates and baggage claim areas at three hub airports in Detroit, Memphis and Minneapolis-St. Paul. Delta has already rebranded 119 other airports worldwide.

By the end of next year, all Northwest planes will be painted Delta colors.
The two carriers have already synchronized flight schedules and route maps. (Source: Delta press release).

Delta Offers Up To Triple Miles through June 15
Delta Air Lines is offering SkyMiles and Northwest WorldPerks members up to triple flown miles toward elite status on select fares purchased for travel through June 15.

Travelers will earn triple miles on first, business and premium economy fares; double miles on discounted economy fares. Travelers will earn actual miles on deeply discounted fares.

The bonus applies only to miles counting towards Medallion or Elite status.  Medallion and Elite Qualification Segments—another way to qualify for elite status—are not included.

To qualify for Medallion status, fliers must earn 25,000 qualified
miles. (Source: Delta press release).

American to Install Wi-Fi on 300 more Planes over Next Two Years
It’s getting easier to stay connected in flight. American Airlines will install  Gogo Inflight Internet on more than 300 domestic aircraft over the next two years.

It already has Wi-Fi on 15 of its 767-200s, which are primarily used on nonstops between New York’s JFK and San Francisco, Los Angeles and Miami.

It will install the service on 150 MD-80 aircraft this year and then move on to its Boeing 737-800 fleet. The cost is $12.95 for flights more than three hours, $9.95 for flights three hours or less and $7.95 for a pass for customers using a handheld device on flights of any length (Source: American press release).

Southwest Continues Adding Priority Security Access for Business Select, Rapid Rewards Customers
Southwest Airlines has introduced priority security lane access for its Business Select and Rapid Reward A-list customer at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

It’s already in place at several other Southwest airports, including Baltimore/Washington International, Dallas Love Field, Phoenix Sky Harbor International, Orange County John Wayne, Denver International, San Francisco International, and Los Angeles International. It will continue to add it as needed. (Source: Southwest press release).

Amtrak Offers Lower Acela Fares
Amtrak is offering new low fares on Acela Express trains, saving passengers up to 25 percent on previous lowest fares. Acela Business class tickets start at $99 between Washington, DC (WAS) and New York (NYP), and $79 between New York and Boston (BOS).

A 14-day advance purchase policy applies, and availability is limited. Fares are available through June 26. The tickets are one-way and nonrefundable, but can be exchanged. (Source: Amtrak press release).

Airlines Travel News Updates

Airplane at take off.
International Travel Keeps Dropping
Demand for international travel fell 5.6 percent year over year in January, a full percentage point more than the 4.6 percent drop in December and the fifth consecutive month that traffic fell, according to the International Air Transport Association.

Demand continues to fall faster than airlines can cut capacity; capacity cuts were two percent. The decline was biggest in Asia, 8.4 percent; North America was second with 6.2 percent.

The Middle East was the only region to see traffic grow, 3.1 percent. There was one bit of good news: the fact that fuel prices remain well below last year’s levels. But IATA projects that airline revenues will drop $35 billion to $500 billion this year. (Source: IATA press release).

Southwest Offers Free Wi-Fi on Four Planes
Southwest Airlines expects to have four aircraft with in-flight Wi-Fi this month –you’ll be able to tell if you’re aboard one from the placards you see upon boarding and onboard instruction sheets.

Southwest is offering the service for free during the test period. Passengers will be able to log on using Wi-Fi enabled devices such as laptops, iPhones and smart phones. Southwest is also offering an in-flight homepage with the service. It includes an in-flight homepage with a flight tracker and local news and information.

Passengers can follow the plane’s flight path and view points of interest they’re flying over. Cellular technology will not work. (Source: Southwest press release).

More Airlines Go Cash-Free
United Airlines and American Airlines are phasing out cash in flight and will only accept major credit cards and debit cards after a transition period. United is introducing EasyPurchase March 23.

After a brief transition, it will only accept credit and debit cards on flights within the United States, including Hawaii, and on flights to and from Canada, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. It will continue to accept cash on flights to and from Europe, Asia, the Middle East and South America. On United Express, it will continue to accept cash.

American will begin its transition to credit and debit cards only this summer on flights within the United States and to and from Canada. (Source: United, American press releases).

Delta Enables Mileage Transfers Between Sky Miles, Worldperks
Delta Air Lines said that Delta SkyMiles and Northwest WorldPerks members now can link frequent flyer accounts and transfer miles between both accounts at no charge. Members who link their accounts before March 15, 2009 will earn 500 bonus miles.

This means members who have SkyMiles and WorldPerks accounts can visit delta.com to link their accounts and transfer any amount of miles into either account on an unlimited basis. Both accounts will remain open and functioning until late 2009 when Delta plans to merge the two programs. (Source: Delta press release).

More Accidents But Fewer Fatalities in 2008
On the bright side, aviation safety performance improved, with the total number of aviation fatalities dropping from 692 in 2007 to 502 in 2008, a 56 percent improvement in the fatality rate, according to IATA.

There were more accidents in 2008—109 compared to 100—and the number of fatal accidents increased from 20 in 2007 to 23 in 2008. There were regional differences. North Asia had zero losses.

North America, Europe and the Asia Pacific performed better than the global average; Africa’s accident rate was 2.6 times worse than the world average, but that was a vast improvement over 2005, when it was the worst in the world. Separately, the U.S. Department of Transportation said that the U.S. has seen a 65 percent reduction in the aviation fatal accident rate between 1997 and 2006.

Before the fatal crash in Buffalo last month, the DOT said that there had been no fatal commercial accidents for more than two years. (Source: IATA, DOT press releases).