Southwest buys jets, American leads oneworld, Cathay opens SFO lounge, Qantas’ woes, FAA certs, theft, fraud and GDSs

In other airline and travel industry news last week…

  • Southwest Airlines placed a monumental order for 208 Boeing 737 aircraft this week that includes 150 of the manufacturer’s newest Max version, making the carrier the official launch customer. The first delivery to Southwest won’t occur until 2017. At list prices, the order value is $19 billion and $4.7 billion for the aircraft and engines respectively.
  • In addition to his new role as CEO of American Airlines, Tom Horton has been elected Chairman of the oneworld alliance this week. He offered to have another of the alliance carriers’ executives take the post, but “the unanimous view was that the alliance would benefit greatly at this time from the continuity in our leadership that Tom represents – while at the same time underlining the commitment of oneworld to American while it undergoes its restructuring.”
  • Cathay Pacific opened their new lounge at San Francisco’s International Airport, the first CX-owned facility in the United States. A grand opening reception was held this past Thursday and Loyalty Traveler has a great review of it. The carrier also introduced details of its new Premium Economy Class product that will be rolled out beginning in March next year. The seats will feature 38 inches of pitch, enhanced recline, footrests, in-seat power and much more.
  • Hearings for the dispute between Qantas and the pilots union won’t occur until June next year due in part to the complexity of the matter. The carrier has until March 19th to submit key witness statements and expert evidence to the panel of “workplace umpires,” while the pilots union has to do the same by April 30th. Other hearings will take place earlier between the carrier and baggage handler and engineer unions.
  • The FAA granted certification to the passenger Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental this week, green lighting deliveries to begin early next year. Lufthansa is the launch customer for the passenger version. The FAA also approved extended operations (ETOPS) of Boeing 777s to 330-minutes, up from 240-minutes this week. This will allow carriers to fly more direct routes between airports and reduce carbon emissions.
  • On the passenger front, a Frenchman was arrested this week for his excessive pilfering of items from Air France First Class cabins, which he then resold online. Among the items stolen were napkins, glasses, plates and blankets. The article claims he made about 10,000 euros off the sales of the items during the past three years. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t take a glass or two over the years, but I never resell the tiny amount of stuff I’ve taken. 😉
  • Speaking of fraud, the Airlines Reporting Corporation has seen a “marked increase” in unauthorized airline tickets issued. Last year, 18 of these incidents were reported, but the figure to-date for 2011 is 113 and those tickets are valued at more than $1 million. Phishing scams are the main culprit where travel agents receive what they think is official communication from trusted GDS companies and click the link to enter their credentials.
  • Finally, staying on the GDS front, Travelport will begin charging travel agencies more for services they currently use for free. Beginning January 1st, the company’s Agility program that allows agents to use certain client databases, PNR search capabilities, fulfillment services, queues and more will come with a $35 fee per terminal per month. Agency incentives for using GDS technology still remain, but new costs such as this are pointing to a changing landscape in the GDS-Agency relationship.

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