United aircraft & headquarters, free tickets for delays, all-inclusive pricing, Qantas woes & Wi-Fi, Virgin & Delta and GDS news

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

  • Analysts expect United Airlines to place a major aircraft order early next year for as many as 200 narrowbody aircraft, possibly splitting it up between Airbus and Boeing. In a much better financial position for such a large order than American, I would anticipate these new birds would eventually replace the 757 fleet and oldest A319 and A320s. Separately, United’s old world headquarters in Elk Grove Village, IL remains up for sale with no takers for the past two years. One real estate agent claims no corporation wants such a sprawling campus anymore and cites a changing workplace that desires “open, lots of light in a cubed environment.” Actually, that’s exactly what those buildings have. I worked in two of the buildings and while there are offices, the majority of the layout is open & light filled.
  • For severe delays, United has historically sent a proactive email with compensation choices, but easyJet in Europe is taking a remarkably different approach. Here, if you’ve paid for the full ‘Flexi fare’ ticket and your flight is delayed more than 15 minutes, you’ll get a free ticket anywhere the carrier flies. Pretty generous, although their route network only goes so far as it’s more of an intra-Europe Southwest-style airline.
  • Additional consumer protection rules for airline advertising will begin January 24, 2012 whereby airlines will be required to display advertised prices inclusive of all taxes and fees. Allegiant, Southwest and Spirit challenged the Department of Transportation claiming it would create an undue burden on internal systems and create confusion in the minds of travelers. Their motion for a stay was denied. Also coming in January will be the free 24-hour hold or cancellation policy for carriers who don’t have it today, notification on e-ticket receipts spelling out baggage allowances and fees, and a rule prohibiting post-purchase increases in airfares.
  • Good and bad news for Qantas this week. The carrier announced it will begin offering in-flight internet on their flagship Airbus A380 aircraft early next year on a trial basis. Qantas’ former CEO John Borghetti promised onboard Wi-Fi back in 2007 for the superjumbo, which will also include internet and email access via the seat-back screens. For the bad news, Qantas experienced two days of strikes this past week by ground staff forcing them to cancel 30 flights on Tuesday and a few on Friday. Other flights were delayed anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour.
  • Delta Air Lines and Virgin Australia’s codeshare agreement has won approval to officially begin selling each other’s flights on a limited amount of routes, extend lounge access to members of both frequent flyer programs and co-locate operations. In Los Angeles, V Australia flights will now arrive and depart from Delta’s Terminal 5 at LAX, which will undergo a renovation during the next several years. Delta is looking to modernize the terminal, lounge and boarding gates and will cover nearly $12 million in costs of the overall $229 million terminal refresh.
  • Finally, American keeps losing battles in court with regard to restricting Online Travel Agencies from selling the carriers flight unless they adopt a direct connect system to bypass GDSs. This week an appellate court ruled American must allow Orbitz to sell the carrier’s flight as “Customers searching for travel packages want to book the flights they find.” Separately, a court date has finally been set to hear the arguments between American Airlines and Sabre where the airline alleges the GDS sponsored a boycott of the carrier and other anticompetitive practices. Both sides will present their cases beginning June 13, 2012.

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