Several smaller stories in the airline, hotel & travel industry caught my attention this week and I’ve summarized them below:
- A Canadian couple sued Air Canada and won an award of C$12,000 (plus an apology) from the airline failing to serve them “in French” aboard their flights to the United States. Records show the passenger, Mr. Thibodeau, a Canadian federal government employee, is fluently bilingual and critics claim him to be the “equivalent of a compulsive coupon clipper” demanding the Canadian law of providing airline services in both French and English be upheld at all times. (Hmm, would this equate to a Skykit on United?)
- Attention all Priority Club members, Crown Plaza London-The City now offers a “snore-absorbing” room for those pesky people with an obnoxiously loud issue upon falling asleep. The room features soundproof material on the walls and headboards, plus a white-noise machine and “anti-snoring bed wedge” to assist guests to fall into a calm REM rest while encouraging them to sleep on their sides or upright.
- The FAA is investigating a report where an ATC controller in the Denver Center tested positive for alcohol while on duty. The center in Longmount, Colorado immediately removed him/her upon failing the random testing and forwarded the results to the FAA. Air Traffic Controllers are also held to the same strict standards as pilots where anything at or above a 0.02 is against FAA guidelines.
- Identity theft has been rampant in the past decade and now thieves are targeting your hard-earned frequent flyer miles. The research firm Kaspersky Lab identified phishing scams targeting Brazilian nationals where one customer lost approximately $7,600 worth of airline miles. As is common with all such scams, these came in the form of emails that offered bonuses or other prizes after logging into a fake website with their frequent flyer data.
- Alaska Airlines announced this week new service between San Diego and Honolulu beginning November 17, 2011. The single daily nonstop in each direction will be operated with a Boeing 737 and offers direct competition with an existing Hawaiian Airlines flight between the city pairs. I’m all for a fare war to Hawaii, so my hope is this will bring down fares from (sort-of) nearby Los Angeles. That’s a lie. Having worked in United’s Revenue Management department, I know they’d only tinker with the direct SAN-HNL fare structure and leave LAX out of it.
- United Airlines (and Continental Airlines by default) signed a new multi-year agreement with Travelocity to continue their existing relationship with the Online Travel Agency (OTA). Largely a PR release by both companies, it basically means United will continue to offer its fares & schedules as usual via a Global Distribution System (GDS) to the OTA. Not really surprising in my mind as OTAs still generate a significant amount of revenue for airlines, but I still think all airlines are keen on American’s initial undertaking to challenge the distribution model. My prediction is we’ll see dramatic changes in the next 5-10 years in that model.
- And finally, while on the subject of United Airlines, they posted a second quarter 2011 profit of $538 million yesterday beating analyst expectations. Even with the revenue hit due to the Japanese earthquake & tsunami, a 30% rise in fuel costs from the same period a year ago, and $39 million in merger-related costs, United shined in the second quarter. Congrats to my preferred carrier… keep it going please!