Airline social media, lawsuits, leaky engines, top rankings & retiring birds

Here are a few more noteworthy news items from the airline industry in the past week:

  • Airlines have wholly embraced Facebook and Twitter as important marketing and social media portals, and some are expanding it to include flight searches and bookings like Delta Air Lines has already done. Taking it a step further, though, is Malaysia Airlines who this week launched an expanded application within Facebook.  It includes seat selection, check-in, and the ability to see if any of your friends are on the same flight. In a sort-of related news item, you can now stay in touch with Frequently Flying on Facebook and Twitter.
  • A former United Airlines flight attendant is suing the carrier alleging they fired her for being French and gay, instead of the officially recorded reason of “misusing company travel vouchers.” Apparently her supervisor told her that it is “not right to be gay,” which sounds preposterous to me that such a viewpoint would exist in the airline industry. I think we would have heard by now of similar suits from the (dare-I-generalize) ranks of other gay flight attendants at United if this were true. Interesting, to say the least.
  • The Airbus A380’s image is taking more unjustified hits with news stories surfacing that several Rolls-Royce engines have had additional problems. Qantas had a couple of flights in February with power loss and oil leak issues on their Trent 900 version of the RR engine. Also being reported this week, Singapore Airlines has confirmed five cases of oil leaks on the same model Trent 900 engine. Qantas is in negotiations with Rolls Royce to determine appropriate financial compensation for the hit the carrier is taking on its overall image. No word if Airbus itself is also seeking any type of damages for similar reasons.
  • Emirates is now the world’s third largest carrier in terms of available seat miles (ASMs) behind Delta Air Lines and American Airlines. ASMs are calculated by multiplying the amount of available seats by the distance flown. This actually doesn’t come as too much of a surprise, as Emirates is taking delivery of more A380s and the average stage length of its flights from the carrier’s Dubai hub are far greater than the other carriers’ figures. Larger airplanes on longer routes pushes them up the list here, but look for the combined Continental Airlines and United Airlines to overtake Emirates once officially merged. The carriers are currently 6th and 4th respectively.
  • Once the largest operators of Boeing 747 aircraft, Japan Airlines retired its last Queen of the Skies on March 2nd, marking the end of a four-decade relationship with the bird. The carrier has been struggling financially in recent years, and is now relying on the reduced capacity and more fuel efficient Boeing 767 and eventual 787.

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