American’s financials, Delta’s legroom, United’s new pilot rep, Google Hotel Finder and more airline & travel industry news

In other airline, hotel & travel industry news last week…

  • An airline analyst predicts American Airlines could file bankruptcy in 2012. He points to the fact that American is “on track to lose $1.2 – $1.4 billion in 2011 and $1 – $1.3 billion in 2012.” The carrier’s cash position is also less than ideal and while I had a fantastic experience flying with them this year, I will not continue flying AA in part because of their financial situation and otherwise because I’m so close to million-miler status with United Airlines.
  • Delta Air Lines is accelerating their addition of coach seats with extra pitch and revealed this week they will install their “Economy Comfort” seats on more than 800 aircraft by the summer of 2012. As is common in the industry today, those seats will be available for purchase to non-elite passengers for an additional fee between $19 and $99 depending on the flight distance.
  • United Airlines has elected a new Air Line Pilots Association chairman as the carrier’s union representative. Jay Heppner will replace Wendy Morse in the position in January and he has been with United for 26 years & currently captains Boeing 777s. He states, “This election is not about our new contract (United & Continental).” He continues, “There are assuredly other issues that need to be resolved in parallel, but none so critical” as a joint contract.
  • I previously reviewed Google’s Hotel Finder tool and they have now expanded it to include European cities. It’s a unique feature and allows you to search for hotels with the power of Google’s map capabilities. It still refers you to Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) to complete a hotel purchase with the option to visit the hotel’s own website. I’ll be monitoring how Google proceeds with this tool and their currently underwhelming Flight Search feature.
  • Orbitz, another OTA, has been fined $60,000 for “failing to adequately disclose taxes and fees in certain airfare advertisements in early 2011.” The fine comes from the U.S. Department of Transportation who claims Orbitz had ads on their homepage that would only reveal full tax & fee information after clicking into an alternate page. Orbitz claims they have rectified the error and are currently in compliance.
  • Looking for a job in the travel industry? Priceline is reportedly adding more than 500 call center positions in the U.S over the next five years. The new hires will work in the OTA’s call center in Michigan and primarily focus on Priceline’s Booking.com branch. Priceline currently employs 750 people in the U.S. and 2,650 overseas.
  • Finally, there’s a bunch of articles from the past week about Lufthansa and Frankfurt Airport. Lufthansa will adopt the full-fare advertising requirement here in the U.S. on November 1st, earlier than the required January 24, 2012 date. The carrier also claims the recent court ruling disallowing night flights at FRAport will cost the carrier “double digit million of euros.” The new rule bans flights at the airport from 11:00pm to 5:00am. On a more positive note for FRA, they’ve opened a new $1.05 billion fourth runway last Friday. Before Friday, the airport had two parallel main runways that couldn’t be used simultaneously given their proximity, so the new runway will ease congestion and delays.

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