United & ARC excel, TSA PreCheck expands, airport PFCs, Alaska’s new routes, idiot of the week & more news

In other airline and travel industry news last week…

  • United Airlines reported its January 2012 operational performance and enjoyed another month of increased consolidated passenger revenue per available seat mile (PRASM) – up 8.5 to 9.5 percent. On-time performance and the number of flights successfully completed also grew about 1.1 percentage points from a year prior to 82.2% and 98.9%, respectively.
  • Staying with January performance figures, Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC) saw its strongest January in air ticket sales since 2001, realizing a 10.7% increase from 2011 and a 22.3% gain over 2010. ARC acts as a clearinghouse between travel agencies, airlines, and other companies that sell airline tickets to ensure funds are settled as expected. Adding to the good news was the fact that total transactions were up 3.2% vs. declining transaction figures the entire previous year.
  • The TSA announced they will significantly expand the PreCheck trusted traveler program to include more than 15 new airports in the near future. The program is currently limited to select frequent flyers flying out of Atlanta, Dallas, Detroit, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami and Minneapolis. American and Delta were the launch airlines, but the program has since expanded to other carriers. I’m hoping to soon receive notice from United that they’ll be participating at my home airport, LAX.
  • Airport administrators across the country have a love-hate relationship with the newly passed long-term FAA funding reauthorization bill. While they are happy with the stability it brings, many airports are balking since the bill didn’t include an increase to passenger facility charges (PFCs), the funds they use for airport improvements. The current cap is $4.50 per flight segment, originally set in 2000, and they feel it no longer covers the increases seen in construction costs during the last decade.
  • Alaska Airlines announced two new nonstops from their Seattle hub this week. Beginning June 11, they will launch daily service from Sea-Tac to Philadelphia in direct competition with US Airways, and on July 16, commence service to Ft. Lauderdale. The new Ft. Lauderdale flight will replace existing service to Miami. According to Joe Sprague, Alaska’s VP of Marketing, “By redirecting our flight to the lower-cost Fort Lauderdale airport, we can serve the same geographic area and continue to offer our customers low fares.”
  • I think I need to start a new series here on Frequently Flying devoted to the airline-traveling idiot of the week. This past week, a passenger attempted to bring a hallowed-out grenade through security in his (or her – the article is gender neutral) carry-on bag. The TSA caught it (unlike previous items), confiscated it and the passenger was denied boarding. (S)he is now also under investigation by the TSA.

And finally, here are some Quick Hits:



  1. 20 years ago the airports didn’t get any PFC charge at all. Then it was $3. Then they got a 50% increase. There’s been close to zero inflation in the past 10 years, and the airports don’t need an increased tax on passengers. They don’t really put those funds to good use anyway; instead they build monuments to their boards, projects for their construction unions and developers, and attempts to create retail malls. Don’t further raise the costs of air travel by creating higher mandatory fees.

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