Skift Travel News Blog

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


IDEAS: United to Launch Enhanced Digital Services for Personal Wheelchair Users

5 months ago

United Airlines has announced that it will launch a suite of new tools and policies at the end of 2023 that have been designed to improve the travel experience for customers who use a wheelchair.

Credit: United Airlines

The new accessibility initiative will include a digital filter on that will allow travelers to identify aircraft that can accommodate different sized chairs, and a revised refund policy that will adapt flight fares in the event that customers are required to purchase a higher-fare ticket to accommodate a specific wheelchair size. 

“By offering customers an easy way to know if their personal wheelchair fits on a particular airplane, we can give them the peace of mind they deserve when they fly with us,” said Linda Jojo, executive vice president and chief customer officer for United. 

“Plus, collecting this information ahead of time ensures our team can handle these special items with proper care and attention.”

United will also begin a six-month pilot program later this year at George Bush Houston Intercontinental Airport to explore ways in which it can support customers in the event their wheelchair has been damaged or delayed while traveling, in collaboration with its Accessible Travel Advisory Board.

United and the U.S. Department of Transportation will deliver these initiatives through a mutual agreement to increase accessibility for customers who require the use of a wheelchair.

Skift Ideas uncovers the most creative and forward-thinking innovations happening across travel. We celebrate innovation through our Skift IDEA Awards and hear from leaders on our Ideas podcast.

You can listen and subscribe to the Skift Ideas Podcast through your favorite podcast app here.


United Pilots Approve Contract with 40% Wage Increases

5 months ago

Pilots at United Airlines have ratified a new contract with up to 40% pay increases.

The four-year accord, worth roughly $10 billion over its term, was approved by 82% of United’s more than 16,000 pilots, the Air Line Pilots Association said Friday. Ninety-seven percent of pilots voted on the pact.

“I’m happy to give them a great contract that ensures we can continue the United Next growth that is creating great careers for everyone here at United Airlines,” said Scott Kirby, CEO of the Chicago-based carrier, on LinkedIn Friday.

United Airlines Airbus plane
Pilots at United have ratified a new four-year accord worth some $10 billion. (BOSSHEP/Flickr)

Pilots at United are the last of the Big Three U.S. carriers to ratify a new contract. Cockpit crew members at American Airlines approved a new agreement in August, and pilots at Delta Air Lines in March. All three accords have snap up clauses that make pilot pay rates equal among the carriers.

While deals give airlines stability with their pilots, flight attendants at at least American, Southwest Airlines, and United remain locked in contentious negotiations. And cabin crew members at American have approved a strike if their union, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), cannot reach a mediated deal with the airline.

The new pilot deals at the Big Three, while lucrative for staff, are also driving up costs at the airlines amid increased questions over the travel demand outlook. Neither American, Delta, nor United have reported any worsening but some of their budget competitors, including Breeze Airways, JetBlue Airways, and Spirit Airlines have.

The winter is the period of the lowest travel demand for the major U.S. airlines.


TSA Expects U.S. Summer Flier Numbers to Beat 262 Million Record

6 months ago

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration expects the number of travelers passing through airport checkpoints to beat, if only slightly, the record of 262 million set four years ago.

The TSA screened nearly 228 million travelers from Memorial Day through August 29, or an average or roughly 2.5 million people a day, it said on Tuesday. The agency forecasts another 14 million more travelers passing through airport checkpoints over the six-day Labor Day holiday weekend from September 1-6. That equals roughly 242 million travelers from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

The balance of screenings needed to exceed 2019 numbers by roughly 1% — the agency’s growth forecast — are likely to come from adjustments between initial reports and final volumes, a TSA spokesperson said.

BWI TSA Security
A TSA checkpoint at Baltimore-Washington International Airport. (Edward Russell/Skift)

For the Labor Day weekend holiday, the unofficial end of summer in the U.S., the TSA expects 11% more screenings than last year, Administrator David Pekoske said.

“We are prepared for the increase in travel volumes and are working closely with our airline and airport partners to make sure we are maintaining our wait time standards of 30 minutes and under for standard screening lanes, and 10 minutes and under for TSA PreCheck lanes,” he said. “There are occasions where wait times may be longer, so we encourage you to arrive early, pack your patience and reach out to us before arriving to the airport if you have any questions on our security procedures or items you may bring.”

American Airlines forecasts carrying 3.5 million travelers from August 31 through September 5, and Untied Airlines 2.8 million travelers over the same period.


Devastating Maui Fires Likely to Dampen Airline Demand for Extended Period

6 months ago

The deadly wildfires on the island of Maui are likely to affect visitor — and airline — demand to the island for the “foreseeable future,” analysts at T.D. Cowen said Friday.

“Resort destinations in Maui are likely to disappear from plans for the foreseeable future, but we believe Hawaii overall will remain an aspirational vacation destination for travelers,” they wrote in a report. The analysts expect the recovery to “take years,” citing as an example the two-year recovery in air travel demand to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Irma hit the island in 2017.

The wildfires, believed to have been fueled by high winds from a hurricane that passed near the Hawaiian islands, leveled the historic town of Lahaina, killing at least 55 people and displacing thousands on Wednesday. The region of West Maui affected is isolated with just one road in and out.

Relief supplies for Maui being loaded on a Hawaiian Airlines plane. (Hawaiian Airlines)

The outlook is tough news for Hawaiian Airlines, which is the largest airline on the island and operates a secondary hub at Maui’s main airport of Kahului. T.D. Cowen expects the impact the be “meaningful” for the carrier. Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, and Alaska Airlines — the second, third, and fourth largest airlines to the island — are also likely to feel the affect of less demand to Maui.

“We expect capacity to shift away from Maui as a destination and to Oahu, [and] the Big Island,” the T.D. Cowen analysts wrote. “Kauai may also benefit.”

Most airlines have stopped carrying non-essential travelers — or all passengers in some cases — to Maui. Instead, they have been transporting supplies to the island from the mainland U.S., and filling departing flights with those eager to leave the island after the fires. Hawaiian and Southwest are offering seats for just $19 between Kahului and Honolulu.

Airlines have all waived change fees for certain previously booked tickets to Maui, and some are offering rebooking flexibility, including allowing travelers to change their destination in Hawaii free of charge. As of Friday morning, American Airlines‘ waiver applied to trips scheduled by August 13; Alaska and Delta Air Lines by August 15; Hawaiian and United by August 31; and Southwest by September 4.

Non-essential travel to Maui is strongly discouraged for the time being.


IDEAS: United Airlines Appeals to Families with Sesame Street Travel Kits

7 months ago

United Airlines has unveiled Children’s Travel Kits in collaboration with Sesame Workshop.

The kits feature an Oscar the Grouch color and activity book with crayons, Oscar the Grouch slide puzzle, and a sensory calming strip designed to help soothe anxiety and fidgeting. All of these activities aim to keep kids occupied in the air and will be available onboard during select flights for flyers ages 2-12.

Courtesy of United Airlines

United had previously announced Oscar the Grouch as the airline’s Chief Trash Officer, who serves as an expert on how sustainable aviation fuel is created from waste like “banana peels, leftover cooking oil, woody biomass and, yep, trash.”

United has also recently revealed wellness-driven amenity kits, featuring products from Venus Williams’ brand, Asutra.

Skift Ideas uncovers the most creative and forward-thinking innovations happening across travel. We celebrate innovation through our Skift IDEA Awards and hear from leaders on our Ideas podcast.

You can listen and subscribe to the Skift Ideas Podcast through your favorite podcast app here.


IDEAS: United Partners with Venus Williams-Backed Brand to Revamp Amenity Kits

7 months ago

Travelers flying with United Business will now be provided with new amenity kits featuring exclusive products from Asutra, the Venus Williams backed wellness brand. 

Credit: United Airlines

The new amenity kits – which will be offered on United’s premium transcontinental domestic routes – feature cruelty-free skincare that is devoid of parabens, phthalates, or petroleum, and includes a cleansing face towelette, lip balm and hand lotion. Each kit is provided in a reusable Asutra pouch – which contains a bamboo toothbrush, toothpaste, eye mask, and earplugs – with the pouch and eye mask made from recycled materials.

“As a women-owned, Chicago-based company, we are thrilled to partner with our hometown airline, United Airlines. Our mission at Asutra is to make self-care a possibility for everyone through accessible wellness products,” said Stephanie Morimoto, Asutra owner and CEO.

“From personal experience, I know that taking care of yourself intentionally while traveling can be challenging. This new amenity kit gives travelers an easy, enjoyable way to take care of themselves while on their journey and arrive refreshed.”

These new amenity kits are another enhancement to United’s premium cabins, following the launch of its new United First seats last month.

Skift Ideas uncovers the most creative and forward-thinking innovations happening across travel. We celebrate innovation through our Skift IDEA Awards and hear from leaders on our Ideas podcast.

You can listen and subscribe to the Skift Ideas Podcast through your favorite podcast app here.


IDEAS: United Introduces Braille to Improve Aircraft Cabin Accessibility

7 months ago

United has introduced Braille markings on its aircraft interiors – becoming the first U.S. airline to do so – giving travelers with visual impairments the opportunity to navigate aircraft cabins independently.

The carrier states that it has already equipped around 12 aircraft with Braille labels, which are in place to indicate individual rows, seat numbers and information in and around the lavatories. 

Credit: United

United has stated it plans to extend the Braille implementation across its entire mainline fleet over the next three years. 

“Finding your seat on a plane or getting to the restroom is something most of us take for granted, but for millions of our customers, it can be a challenge to do independently. By adding more tactile signage throughout our interiors, we’re making the flying experience more inclusive and accessible, and that’s good for everyone,” said Linda Jojo, executive vice president, chief customer officer at United. 

The introduction of Braille is part of an ongoing partnership between United, the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and the American Council of the Blind (ACB), which aims to explore additional ways to support visually impaired travelers on board its flights. 

“We applaud United for taking an important step toward making its aircraft more accessible to blind passengers. The flight experience is often frustrating for a number of reasons, one of which is the amount of information that is available exclusively through printed signs and other visual indicators. We hope to continue working with United to explore additional ways to make flying more accessible and less stressful for blind passengers,” said Mark Riccobono, president at the National Federation of the Blind.

United joins other carriers, like Delta, which recently revealed a new concept seat for wheelchair users, in a continuing effort to make travel more inclusive and accessible to all passengers.

Skift Ideas uncovers the most creative and forward-thinking innovations happening across travel. We celebrate innovation through our Skift IDEA Awards and hear from leaders on our Ideas podcast.

You can listen and subscribe to the Skift Ideas Podcast through your favorite podcast app here.


IDEAS: United’s New Domestic First-Class Seat Designs

7 months ago

United has revealed its United First seat, marking the first update to a domestic first class seat design from the airline since 2015.

The seat, which features a wireless charging station in every arm rest, vegan leather upholstery, 13-inch seatback screens and 18-inch tray tables, is set to make its debut on the airline’s Boeing 737 this month, with the seat expected to be introduced on 200 planes across the fleet by 2026. 

Credit: United Airlines

The new seat joins a line of recently announced seat upgrades as airlines vie for the attention of travelers.

“This new United First seat is designed around the modern traveler – more charging options, bigger spaces for devices, food, drinks and personal items and extra privacy,” said Mark Muren, managing director of identity, product and loyalty at United.

 “As we evolve the onboard experience, we’re upending old industry norms and anticipating future needs to accommodate the new ways people live and travel.”

The airline is also planning on updating its existing offering on planes that will not get the new seat with new seat cushions, vegan leather upholstery and winged headrests.

At Skift, we are looking to unearth the most creative and forward-thinking innovations in travel through our Skift Ideas Franchise, which includes the Skift IDEA Awards, Skift Editorial Hub and the Skift Ideas Podcast.

You can listen and subscribe to the Skift Ideas Podcast through your favorite podcast app here.


IDEAS: United is First U.S. Airline to Support Live Activities for iPhone

9 months ago

Starting in May, United is the first U.S. airline to provide updates via Live Activities for iPhone, giving passengers real-time updates to gate info, boarding pass, seats, and a countdown clock to departure time without opening the airline’s app.

“We’re seeing soaring demand for travel this summer, and Live Activities puts all the flight information you need right at your fingertips, whether your iPhone is locked or you’re doing something else like checking email, listening to music or texting friends,” said Linda Jojo, Chief Customer Officer for United. “This new feature is another way United is leveraging technology to improve our customers’ travel journey. It’s going to save passengers a lot of time, and we think they’re going to love it, especially during a busy travel season.”

Courtesy of United Airlines

At the 2023 Skift IDEA Awards, we are looking for the most innovative airline projects defining the future of aviation, airlines, and the traveler experience.

Do you have an innovative project that deserves recognition? Head to the Skift IDEA Awards and start your submission today.


Frontier Is Latest Airline to Improve Family Seating

12 months ago

Frontier Airlines is now automatically seating children with a family member or adult in their party for free.

It announced the new measure on Tuesday, and said it applies to children under the age of 14.

Its booking engine now automatically assigns seats based on family members’ ages before the check-in window opens.

The new feature follows United Airlines’ launch of a new seat map and policy that allows passengers to switch flights for free — amid calls to remove unfair fees.

“We recognize the importance of seating children next to an adult with whom they are traveling,” said Daniel Shurz, senior vice president, commercial, at Frontier.