Skift Breaking News Blog

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

Airlines

U.S. Unveils New Airline Customer Service Portal

4 weeks 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.

(DOT)

“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

Online Travel

Google Travel Grabs Larger Share of U.S. Desktop Traffic During Pandemic

2 months ago

Google Travel’s flight and hotel offerings gained the most desktop traffic market share in the U.S. during the pandemic while Tripadvisor lost the most on a percentage basis, according to Similarweb’s June data.

“Google Travel now owns one-fourth of all (U.S.) desktop visits to top travel sites,” Similarweb said.

Similarweb

In its earnings call about second quarter financials Tuesday, Google said travel and retail were the drivers of its advertising revenue during the period.

The following chart shows Google Travel’s U.S. desktop market share increased 6 percentage points to 24 percent in the first half of 2022 compared to the first half of pre-pandemic 2019.

U.S. Desktop Market Share Traffic Gains/Losses H1 2019 Versus H1 2022

Site20192022
Google Travel18%24%
Booking.com14%16%
Airbnb14%15%
Expedia13%13%
Southwest6%6%
Vrbo4%6%
Marriott5%5%
Delta8%4%
TripAdvisor9%4%

Source: Simillarweb

“Booking has also gained 2 percentage points of share in the U.S., and only Kayak (-1 percentage point), Delta (-4 percentage points), and TripAdvisor (-5 percentage points) have lost share,” Similarweb said.

There are two points to keep in mind: These numbers don’t include traffic from mobile devices, and traffic to Google Travel often gets sent along to online travel agency advertisers.

Airlines

Spirit Airlines Wins More Newark Flights After More Than 2 Year Fight

3 months ago

Spirit Airlines’ two-and-a-half year saga to expand at Newark Liberty International Airport has a happy ending. Late on Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded the discounter 16 peak “runway timings” — in short, rights to takeoff and land at an airport during a given hour — that Spirit sued for in December 2019.

The DOT said the award of the timings, which were only available to budget airlines, would boost “low-cost service options” and improve competition at the New York City-area airport. Alaska Airlines and JetBlue Airways also sought the takeoff and landing rights, according to the regulator.

(Friscocali/Flickr)

Newark is a major hub for United Airlines, which operates more than 70 percent of all flights at the airport. The timings were previously used by Southwest Airlines until the carrier ended flights to Newark in 2019. And Southwest acquired them in 2010 as a condition of United’s merger with Continental Airlines.

The award comes amid a three-way war of words between JetBlue, Spirit, and United over congestion at Newark. JetBlue and Spirit blame United, and the Federal Aviation Administration, for over scheduling the already congested airport, whereas United has repeatedly made the argument that its much smaller competitors were the problem. In June, United cut its schedule at Newark by roughly 50 daily flights from July 1 through the end of the summer to combat delays.

In an interesting twist, the DOT may need to re-award the timings if JetBlue wins its hostile bid for Spirit. The former carrier has pledged to divest all of Spirit’s assets in Boston and New York — including Newark — if shareholders approve its plan over a competing proposal from Frontier Airlines. Spirit shareholders vote on the Frontier proposal Friday.

Airlines

Strong Travel Demand Lifts Southwest Airlines, JetBlue

4 months ago

Southwest Airlines and JetBlue Airways have both seen travel demand improve since their last second-quarter guidance update in April.

Southwest expects operating revenues to be 12-15 percent higher than in 2019, which is either the upper limit of its previous guidance or three-points higher, the Dallas-based carrier said Thursday. The airline “expects solid profits and operating margins, excluding special items, in second quarter 2022 and for the remainder of this year.”

And JetBlue expects revenues to come in at the high end of the up 11-16 percent year-over-three-years range it previously provided, the New York-based carrier said Thursday. And in June, unit revenues — a measure of how much it makes per seat mile flown — are “shaping up to be meaningfully better” than April and May with an increase of 20 percent compared to 2019.

“The demand environment continues to be strong,” JetBlue said.

Airlines

Southwest to Start Testing Free Wifi on Flights

5 months ago

Free wifi on flights is a perennial issue that comes up in news every year or two. Delta has tested it on and off since 2019 and JetBlue has been providing free-if-slow wifi on its planes for a few years now. Now CNBC is reporting that Southwest will temporarily offer travelers free Wi-Fi on 40 of its Boeing 737s flights starting this week, as part of an upgrade to the hardware on these planes.

It will be available from May 4 through June 10 on certain flights in the western U.S, as part of its trial. It currently offers Wi-Fi for $8 per day and blocks access to video sites such as Netflix, HBO Max and Zoom.

This comes after Hawaiian Airlines said last month that it will start providing free wifi from early next year using SpaceX’s Starlink service.

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