What to Know Now

Scarcely a day goes by at the Skift Business Traveler headquarters in which our staff doesn’t see another story about ultra-profitable airlines. Fact of the matter is, airlines got so good at squeezing every dollar out of their passengers when oil was high that now, with oil low, they’re using cash for padding in their slimline seats.

Strangely, the price of fuel has also put their airlines on a more level playing field. Back during the oil boom, Southwest had a leg up on all of their competitors because of their lucrative oil hedge. With business back as usual, they no longer have that advantage. This means fewer disruptions from the Texas-based airline and more industry norms along the lines of fees.

It also means that with less competition, airfare can go up. So much for lower oil prices helping the air traveler.

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Airlines

United’s Seat Squeeze Equals 14 Additional Aircraft: Why order new aircraft when you can cram in additional, thinner seats? Read more at Skift

Spring Air Soars in First Chinese Airline IPO in More Than a Decade: Spring Airlines Co. rose by the exchange-imposed limit on the Shanghai bourse after staging the first initial public offering of a Chinese airline since 2002 to help meet surging demand in Asia’s largest economy. Read more at Skift

Luxury on a Budget: The Best Boutique Airlines for an Economy Long-Haul Flight: Is there such a thing as a boutique airline? Well, now there is. Read more at Skift

Why Finding the Perfect Airline Seat Takes Detective Work: Most people have a few things they won’t board a plane without. For Randy Petersen, it’s a tape measure. Read more at Skift

Inside terminal three of LAX, TSA officers with black bands over their badges in honor of slain TSA officer Gerardo Hernandez, pass near a memorial for Hernandez on November 3, 2013, in Los Angeles, California. (Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times/MCT)

Airports

American Airlines’ Maintenance Workers Claim Airline Lax on Safety: A union group is suing American Airlines, claiming supervisors are pressuring mechanics to release planes before they are safe to fly. Read more at Skift

Student Stopped by TSA in 2009 for Studying Arabic Gets $25K Settlement: A college student detained at an airport for five hours in 2009 over Arabic language flashcards in his pocket that included the words “bomb” and “to kill” has won a $25,000 settlement from the Justice Department. Read more at Skift

Teleporter tester with Oculus Rift virtual reality headset

Tech

Expedia Acquires Travelocity for $280 Million: As expected after the early termination of a Federal Trade Commission antitrust review two weeks ago, Expedia Inc. acquired Travelocity outright for an underwhelming $280 million in cash. Read more at Skift

Facebook’s Best Product for Travel Brands May Not Be Facebook: In a two-year period, Facebook acquired two mobile applications, Instagram and WhatsApp, and a virtual reality device, Oculus Rift. Read more at Skift

Dish’s Sling TV Begins Inviting Users To Test Out Its $20/Month Streaming Video Service: Dish’s streaming video subscription service Sling TV will become available to consumers tomorrow, giving subscribers access to a small portion of live, traditional cable TV content for just $20 a month. Read more at TechCrunch

FAA Wants Airlines to Be Worried About Risk From E-Cigarettes: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, which already bans flammables and explosives in checked airplane baggage, is now advising airlines to consider the potential fire risk from e-cigarettes. Read more at Skift

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Hotels

Marriott Will Open 50 Hotels In India Over 5 Years: Marriott International Inc. plans to operate about 50 hotels in India within five years as the U.S. company seeks to benefit from a large and growing economy. Read more at Skift

Marriott Hopes Small Rooms Are Big Draw: Moxy Will Feature Industrial Design to Lure Younger Travelers. Read more at the Wall Street Journal

Interview: Preferred Hotels Group CEO on Adapting to Consumer Habits: Preferred Hotel Group was formed in 1968 by 12 North American hoteliers as a referral organization for hotels. It went through a global expansion phase as well as several changes, including a shift from a non-profit to for-profit corporation, before coming under ownership of the Ueberroth family. Read more at Skift

Hackers Hijack Starwood Preferred Guest Loyalty Programs: Pretty much any collection of online security tips will remind you not to use the same password across multiple accounts, and this week’s news that scammers have managed to hijack and steal points from large numbers of Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty accounts offers another example of why. Read more at ConsumerAffairs

Your Turn

Last week’s inquiry into your feelings about the current state of United struck quite the chord. Among the feedback I got were a wide range of stories talking about the slow decline of United, from continuously botched operations to “surly” flight attendants.

I’ve collected a wide swath of your thoughts over in another post here. Thanks to all for your honest input.

Tips and Comments

Can be sent to gm@skift.com and @grantkmartin. We publish the Business Newsletter twice a week on Tuesday and Thursday, but sometimes on Friday.

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Photo Credit: American Airlines planes sit at their gates while others taxi for arrival and departure at O'Hare International airport in Chicago. Frank Polich / Reuters