Skift Travel News Blog

Short stories and posts about the daily news happenings around the travel industry.


Copa Airlines Raises Global Distribution Surcharge to $18

2 months ago

Panama’s Copa Airlines is increasing its surcharge for tickets issued in Amadeus, Sabre and Travelport from $12 to $18 per direction.

The fee hike takes effect from April 3, 2023 — coinciding with when American Airlines removes 40 percent of its own airfares from these same retail channels

In both cases, the airlines are pushing travel agencies and other retailers to move towards so-called New Distribution Capability. This is a technology standard developed by the International Air Transport Association, and it aims to give airlines more control over their airfares, rather than rely on global distribution systems, such as Sabre, Amadeus and Travelport.

What’s interesting is that up until now, Europe’s airlines were the ones adding expensive fees to encourage adoption. Now it seems to be catching on in the Americas region.  

In March 2022, Copa Airlines said that Copa Connect would be the best way for travel agencies to access its fares, schedules, and other content. “Through Copa Connect, agencies will be able to provide their clients better offers in a more innovative and efficient way. Among the benefits are: access to better fares, exclusive sales promotions, access to ancillary products, and others,” it said.

Since September it has added a $12 Distribution Cost Recovery Surcharge. Reports on social media suggest the increase to $18 will apply April 3.

Copa Airlines’ website reflects that: “A fixed amount of $18 will be charged per direction (or each “one-way” of the trip) whenever Copa Airlines participates as the marketing carrier regardless of the operating or ticketing carrier,” says its FAQ document.

The American Society of Travel Advisors, which represents 160,000 travel agency workers, this month asked American Airlines to push back its move date to the end of the year. It argues that withholding such a substantial portion of its fares from “critical independent distribution channels” will have a negative impact on corporate travelers.

Copa Airlines recently expanded its direct connection partnership, through New Distribution Capability, with Envision Tecnologia, according to reports.

It’s currently one of the world’s most profitable carriers too, thanks in part to the location of its Panama City hub.


American Airlines Begins Layoffs in Corporate Travel Department

3 months ago

American Airlines’ restructuring of its global sales team will involve the departure of three experienced senior leaders, Skift has learned.

The reorganization impacts its U.S operations and includes a number of layoffs. Other global regions are set to follow, with the cuts coming just weeks ahead of its move to shift more of its airfares to direct retail channels, including its own website.

“… I want to let you know that we are going to be a more streamlined sales team going forward, doing much more focused and deliberate work in areas where customers need us, and operating with greater efficiency and effectiveness,” wrote Thomas Rajan, vice president of global sales, in an internal memo viewed by Skift.

According to the communication, three leaders will “transition out of their roles” due to the new structure. They are Michael Albers, interim managing director, central and southwest divisions and Canada; Louis de Joux, managing director, leisure and OTA; and Shane Hodges, managing director, sales Western division and Asia Pacific.

Jim Carter, the airline’s managing director of the Eastern Division, announced his retirement last week. In January this year, American Airlines announced chief customer officer Alison Taylor was retiring.

The memo said the airline would look at the “subsequent layers of the domestic sales organization to align with our new world of work and structure.”

Rajan wrote: “To be upfront with you, that will mean reductions across the team.” Regions including Asia Pacific, and Europe, Middle East and Africa, will also be affected.

“We’re continuously evaluating how best to serve our customers’ evolving preferences. For example, a big portion of them have shown us they want to interact directly with American. Others have needs to interact with us through intermediaries,” the memo, which was dated Feb. 16, added.

American Airlines told Skift that it emailed its corporate partners on Feb. 16,  announcing it was reorganizing its North American-based sales team “to give us the ability to more quickly adapt to this evolving marketplace. This structure also allows us to deliver simpler solutions to intermediaries as well as provide a heightened focus for our customers’ entire travel ecosystem.”

Its email added: “As a result of these changes, we’re also evaluating our account management structure and will have more information to share in the coming weeks. In the meantime, please continue to partner with your dedicated account manager.”


Former American Airlines CEO Doug Parker Steps Down as Chairman

3 months ago

Former American Airlines CEO Doug Parker will step down as chairman and leave the carrier’s board of directors in April. The move ends his decade-long tenure in at the airline that began in 2013 after he successfully orchestrated American’s merger with US Airways.

Current board member Greg Smith will replace Parker as the independent chairman of American’s board effective April 30, the Fort Worth, Texas-based airline said Thursday. The transition from Parker to Smith is part of the board’s long-term succession plans, American added.

Doug Parker Portrait
Doug Parker will step down as American’s chairman in April. (American Airlines)

“The American Airlines team will be forever grateful to Doug for building our airline into what it is today,” CEO Robert Isom said. “On a personal note, I’m thankful for Doug’s partnership over the past year as I took on the CEO role. I look forward to continuing to work with the board and Greg in his new role as we shape the American Airlines of the future.”

Parker has been chairman of American’s board since June 2014. He was CEO until last March when he stepped down and passed the reins to Isom, who was then president of American. Prior to Parker taking the lead of American in December 2013, he was CEO of US Airways and America West Airlines dating back to 2001.

It is not uncommon for a former airline CEO to chair a carrier’s board after they step down from the top management job, and then depart after about a year. For example, Oscar Munoz, who led United Airlines from 2015 to 2020, chaired the carrier’s board for exactly a year after passing the CEO job to Scott Kirby.

Smith joined American’s board as a director in January 2022. Prior to that, he was the chief financial officer of Boeing.


American and JetBlue-Backed Startup Cleared to Fly Hydrogen-Powered Plane

4 months ago

Hydrogen-powered flight is one step closer to reality. Universal Hydrogen, which is developing a hydrogen fuel-cell powered commercial aircraft engine, has a green light from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to begin test flights.

While a little later than hoped — Universal Hydrogen had aimed for the first flight of its powertrain late last year — the news is a positive step forward in the aviation industry’s quest to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Universal Hydrogen’s technology, which transmits power directly from the fuel cells to the engine without the need for a weighty battery, is being tested on a mid-sized turboprop, a De Havilland Dash 8-300, with the aim of introducing it commercially on the ATR 72 by 2025.

Tests flights will initially take place in Moses Lake, Wash.

Universal Hydrogen's testbed for its fuel cell engine technology
Universal Hydrogen will test its hydrogen fuel-cell engine technology on a Dash 8-300 turboprop. (Universal Hydrogen)

JF Tessier, head of commercial for the Americas & East Asia at Universal Hydrogen, said last September that hydrogen, whether in used directly as fuel or in fuel-cell form, could be ideal to significantly reduce or eliminate emissions from smaller aircraft. He referred to both regional planes, like the ATR that Universal Hydrogen plans to introduce its technology on, up to ubiquitous mid-size airliners like the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737. For larger planes flying longer routes, sustainable aviation fuel is likely the best method to cut emissions.

Universal Hydrogen is just one of many companies — new and old — working to cut emissions from commercial aircraft. Others include Airbus, Archer Aviation, Eviation, and Heart Aerospace to name a few.

American Airlines and JetBlue Ventures are both investors in Universal Hydrogen.


American Airlines Customer Chief to Depart

4 months ago

American Airlines Chief Customer Officer Alison Taylor is retiring. Her departure will leave the Fort Worth, Texas- based carrier with no C-suite executive whose sole purview is customers.

Taylor’s duties at American will be split between Chief Commercial Officer Vasu Raja and Scott Laurence, the carrier’s senior vice president of global partnerships and international, the airline said Friday.

Taylor, who joined American in 2016 from Starwood Hotels & Resorts, is credited with a number of customer facing improvements. One of her latest were the new premium cabins for the airline’s Airbus A321neo and Boeing 787 aircraft. While flyers won’t see the product until 2024, the project will see the carrier significantly boost the percentage of premium seats on both planes — taking advantage, in part, of the surge in premium leisure travel the industry has seen since the pandemic. Taylor is also credited for upgrades to American’s facilities at airports, including the new concourse at its Washington Reagan National hub that opened in 2021.

“Alison’s career has been nothing short of legendary,” Raja said. She lead “the work to create a world-class experience at every step of the customer journey.”

Taylor and her husband plan to move back to their native Australia, American said. She will continue in an advisory role at the airline.

American Airlines' new business class suites
American unveiled a major investment in new business class suites during Alison Taylor’s tenure as chief customer officer. (American Airlines)


American Airlines Sues Sabre for 11 Years of Legal Fees

6 months ago

Following a legal battle that lasted 11 years, American Airlines Group wants to force defendant Sabre Corp to pay its legal fees. 

U.S. law firm O’Melveny & Myers filed a lawsuit on behalf of American Airlines on Friday, saying the Texas-based global distribution system should pay American’s fees.

Those fees could amount to at least tens of millions of dollars. The 11-year litigation included two trials and an appeal. The filing did not identify an amount, but a O’Melveny partner previously said in court that the fees were “very, very substantial.”

American Airlines was awarded $1 in May as the winner of an antitrust trial against Sabre.

The dispute was over practices Sabre used to force airlines to use its services, and prevent carriers from reaching out to travel agents and business travelers more directly. American inherited the case when it acquired US Airways in 2013. US Airways had sued Sabre in 2011.

The result in May found that Sabre’s practices did not cause American Airlines any financial harm.

Friday’s filing shows that the two companies tried to resolve the fee dispute without involving the court but did not reach an agreement.


Newark Airport Sets Opening Date for First New Terminal in 34 Years

7 months ago

It’s not often that travelers have something to look forward to at Newark Liberty International Airport. The new $2.7 billion Terminal A will open in December, the latest in a series of major airport projects opening around the U.S. this year.

The first 21 gates of the 33-gate facility will open on December 8, officials said Tuesday. The remaining gates open in 2023. Air Canada, American Airlines, JetBlue Airways, and United Airlines will operate from the terminal initially, and Delta Air Lines will join them next year. The old Terminal A, which opened in 1973, will be demolished.

The last new terminal to open at Newark airport was Terminal C in 1988.

Inside the new Terminal A at Newark airport
The security checkpoint in the new Terminal A at Newark airport. (PANYNJ)

United, which has a large hub at Newark, will use up to 15 gates in the new Terminal A. The airline plans to operate flights to around 23 destinations — including to Atlanta, Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, Nashville, Raleigh-Durham, San Diego, and Seattle-Tacoma — from the facility, Newark Chief Pilot Captain Fabian Garcia said in September.

The new terminal at Newark is the latest in a series of big airport investments around the U.S. this year. New or expanded facilities at Denver, Los Angeles, New York LaGuardia, Orlando, Phoenix Sky Harbor, Seattle-Tacoma, and Washington Dulles airports have all opened in recent months.

Construction of Terminal A at Newark began in 2018.


U.S. Unveils New Airline Customer Service Portal

9 months ago

Air travelers in the U.S. now have a one-stop shop when it comes to knowing what airlines will provide them with in the event of a lengthy flight delay or cancellation.

The new Airline Customer Service Dashboard by the Department of Transportation is designed to “ensure the traveling public has easy access” to airline commitments in the event of a disrupted trip, the regulator said Thursday. The commitments, which are largely a list of existing airline policies compiled together in one place, only apply to “controllable” events, or one where the airline is at fault, for example staff shortages.


“Passengers deserve transparency and clarity on what to expect from an airline when there is a cancelation or disruption,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said. “This dashboard collects that information in one place so travelers can easily understand their rights, compare airline practices, and make informed decisions.”

For example, if a travelers flight is delayed more than three hours due to a mechanical problem with the aircraft, the dashboard shows that they are guaranteed a meal voucher on almost all major airlines except Allegiant Air. However, if their flight is cancelled, only American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, and United Airlines will rebook them on another carrier.

“Carriers welcome opportunities to simplify travel policies, clarify existing practices and increase transparency for travelers,” a spokesperson for trade group Airlines for America said.

The new dashboard follows a spike in flight delays and cancellations earlier this year that resulted in a blame game between airlines and authorities. While acknowledging their own staffing issues, airlines have claimed that air traffic control staffing has exacerbated the situation while the DOT has argued that the situation is primarily the fault airlines and weather. Whatever the reason, the regulator has moved to improve airline passenger protections, including a new rule that would guarantee cash refunds.

View the Airline Customer Service Dashboard


American Airlines Plans to Buy Boom Supersonic Aircraft

10 months ago

American Airlines flyers could travel faster than the speed of sound by the end of a decade aboard Boom’s planned supersonic aircraft.

The Fort Worth, Texas-based carrier has ordered up to 60 of Boom’s Overture aircraft, including a deposit on the first 20, American said Tuesday. As proposed, the Overture seats 65-80 passengers and travel at Mach 1.7, or faster than the speed of sound. Boom plans to roll out the first test aircraft in 2025 and begin delivering it to airlines in 2029.

“Looking to the future, supersonic travel will be an important part of our ability to deliver for our customers,” American Chief Financial Officer Derek Kerr said. “We are excited about how Boom will shape the future of travel.”

American is the third carrier, after United Airlines and Japan Airlines, to commit to the Overture.

(Boom Supersonic)

The Overture remains very much a work in progress. Boom does not have an engine for the aircraft, a critical component that without which the plane is dead-on-arrival. Speaking at the Farnborough Air Show in July, Boom CEO Blake Scholl deflected questions on an engine saying the planemaker would discuss the matter further in the “near future.” He cited progress under a 2020 partnership with Rolls-Royce.

But in a recent interview with The Air Current, when asked about the Boom partnership Rolls-Royce CEO Warren East said: “We’re not making anything speculative for anybody … We’re not spending our dollars on new engine development. Our new engine developments are around our business jet engines and our UltraFan. That’s it.”

There is no available or in-development supersonic engine for commercial aircraft. The only supersonic engines in production are for military aircraft, and the multi-year timeframe needed to develop and certify a new engine makes the target of an Overture first flight in 2026 highly speculative.


American Airlines Computer Glitch Temporarily Threatens 12,000 Flights

11 months ago

An American Airlines computer glitch threatened to cause more disruption for U.S. airports during the July 4 weekend.

A problem in the carrier’s system that enables pilots to add, drop, or trade routes briefly wiped out 12,000 flights scheduled to depart in July. American said in a statement on Saturday it was reinstating most of those flights, adding it didn’t expect the issue to impact its operations.

However, the Allied Pilots Association, the labor union that represents American’s pilots, said on Sunday that it’s discussing extra pay for pilots whose flights were mistakenly cancelled because of the glitch. The union also told pilots that adding those flights back to the pilots’ schedules violated its contract, but it would work with American to tackle the issue and find solutions to what it describes as an overwhelming scheduling system.

American and the APA are in process of negotiating a new contract, and the carrier offered its pilots a roughly 17 percent pay raise on July 30.

Courtesy: Aero Pixels, Wikimedia Commons




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