Baggage Handler Caught Stealing; Justice is Served

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports this week that an American Airlines baggage handler lifted four new articles of clothing from a passenger’s bag at Philadelphia International Airport. As it turns out the pieces still had their Nordstrom price tags on them, totalling $550 in value. After a quick call to the local Nordstroms, inspectors were able to pinpoint the items, the thief who returned them, and promptly arrested perpetrator, Christopher Shaw, on two theft charges. Justice is served and another rat is thrown out of the airline nest.

Another Creative Campaign from jetBlue

Ad image courtesy of jetBlue

Ad image courtesy of jetBlue

I know we have been writing about them often, but jetBlue is in the news again this week with their latest ad campaign, Welcome Aboard Bigwigs campaign.Hoping to steal business from private jet companies, jetBlue is welcoming CFO’s not wanting to claim a charter flight on their expense report, broke hedge fund managers who aren’t used to flying commercial and any other big-wig wanted to dabble in the public domain.

Woman Misses Her Flight From Hong Kong to SFO

I have missed my flight back home to San Francisco in the past, so I can relate to this woman. If you have not seen this video on the news or YouTube, you may view it here. The first 30 seconds are really all you need..
I imagine TSA and airline employees who are viewing this don’t understand the big deal as they see this reaction every day!

Optimism in Airline Industry?

With the high gas prices, decrease in demand for air travel and the “Staycation” trend of 2008 in our rearview mirror, some analysts are hopeful that 2009 will be a better year for the airline industry.

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, author Paulo Prada reports that we have already accepted the losses reported by AMR and UAL and are now looking for a better 2009.

According to the article, cheaper fuel, better projections of demand, grounded aircraft and a reduction in flights should help airlines stay in business, despite the current economic recession. That is, as long as fuel prices remain low.

TSA Opens 33 Self-Select Lanes This Summer

At the start of summer, we reported that the TSA was instituting “self-segregation” airport security lines at twelve airports across the country.

For the un-initiated, this means that you as a traveler get to decide which line you should be in: Family/Special Needs, Casual, or Expert. Here is a video tutorial from the TSA.

The program seems to be a success in places like Denver and Salt Lake City, with record numbers of people passing through these airports everyday. The end of summer report is in, and believe it or not,  32 US airports already offer self-segregation, with the 33rd announced today at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix. I fly through in two weeks and am excited to test it out. Is it presumptuous to assume the Expert Lane?

Anyway, we think this is great and truly applaud the TSA for engaging with travelers to work towards a solution to make travel fast, safe, efficient and fun again!

Formula for Unhappy Frequent Fliers

For those of you hoping to cash in your frequent flier miles this summer for “free” travel, you are in for a big surprise. In case you haven’t heard, airline companies are hurting and looking for any way possible to re-coup dollars lost at the pump this year.

Sarah Nassauer and Stephanie Chen reported in the Wall Street Journal this week that airlines are increasing the number of miles required for flights, plus charging extra fees when travelers are cashing in their miles for travel.

Other factors are contributing to a gloomy situation for so-called loyalty programs. Here is the simple formula which highlights the current state of affairs:

Increase in Fuel Costs Oil jumps to over $125 barrel. Low-cost airlines need new sources of revenue to compete.
+ Decrease in Flights Airlines cancel flights due to decreased demand
+ Increase in Points Awarded Airlines form loyalty partnerships with credit cards and others which leads to increase in point allocations that outpace flight and seat availability
+ No change in %-age of seats for loyalty passengers Most airlines have actually decreased number of seats allocated to frequent fliers, making
+ Increase in Surcharges Fees include “convenience” (online, on the phone) domestic, international and fuel surcharges that range from $25-$50 each.
= Unhappy Fliers Unhappy Frequent Fliers Less Seats for More Points, Plus Fees means it will cost you more to use your miles, if you can even get a seat!

Airlines are conflicted by the situation. Although they would rather not have to charge for everything from peanuts and soda to blankets and “convenience fees,” they are completely exposed and jockeying to stay alive.

It’s affecting travelers across all the brackets of loyalty programs. I tried to book a ticket to NY only last week with my United miles. It was going to cost me 50,000 miles, plus a $100 surcharge plus a $25 booking fee for speaking to an agent! Had I booked the same ticket online last month it would have cost me only 25,000 miles.

Here’s the skinny on exactly who’s doing – or not doing – what:

US Airways – Effective immediately, will no longer offer bonus miles to elite frequent fliers and will begin charging $25 to $50 for booking award tickets.

Delta Airlines - Effective August 15th, a $25 to $50 fuel surcharge will be added to all award tickets based on US/Canada or other destinations.

Northwest Airlines will add a fuel surcharge of $25 to $100 to WorldPerks tickets issued in North America, starting on September 15th.

On August 17th, Continental Airlines will increase fees for booking award tickets close to the date of travel.

The Flybags.net take:

It is painful for airlines to hit their most loyal patrons with unexpected fees, but if the alternative is to charge more for a ticket up front (or bankruptcy), we are willing to pay the small amounts when we need to.

Laptop Found with Clear Applicant’s Data

The laptop with the 30,000 new applicant’s personal information that went missing at the office of Verified Identity Pass in San Francisco was found Tuesday morning, reports the Associated Press. No word yet as to how TSA will respond in lifting the suspension on enrollment. Stay tuned..

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