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Skift Travel News Blog

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

Airlines

United Airlines Joins Delta Citing Air Traffic Control for Delays

7 months ago

More U.S. airlines are placing blame on the Federal Aviation Administration for the flight disruptions that are plaguing the industry this summer. On Tuesday, United Airlines Chief Operating Officer Jon Roitman called out the regulator, saying: “There are just more flights scheduled industrywide than the ATC staffing system can handle (particularly in [New York] and [Florida]).”

“Until that is resolved, we expect the U.S. aviation system will remain challenged this summer and beyond,” Roitman continued. “We’re eager to do our part and will continue to stay in touch with the federal government on possible solutions that will positively impact customers.”

(Cliff Owen/The Associated Press)

Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian, in an employee town hall on June 29, made similar comments about air traffic control staffing, calling the organization the “most stressed” among aviation industry stakeholders. Those stakeholders also include airlines themselves, airports, and the Transportation Security Administration.

Roitman’s comments are the latest in a war of words between the Department of Transportation, which includes the FAA, and airlines over flight disruptions this summer. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has denied that air traffic control staffing is an issue and pointed the finger at airlines, while the industry has said that their issues are compounded by the air traffic control issues.

Either way, travelers can likely expect further travel delays and disruptions when they fly this summer.

Airlines

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

7 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

Hopper Forecasts 12.9 Million U.S. Flyers Over July Fourth Holiday

7 months ago

The July Fourth holiday in the U.S. kicks off with this week with vacationers expected to begin hitting the road en mass on Thursday. That’s when an estimated up to 2.7 million daily travelers are expected to take to the sky with a robust 12.9 million flyers over the entire long weekend, according to a new forecast from Hopper.

To put the numbers in perspective, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) busiest day to date since the beginning of the pandemic was June 26 when agent’s screened 2.46 million people. Hopper’s estimate sees almost another 300,000 flyers traveling through airports across the country on Thursday and Friday, and an average of 2.6 million daily over the long weekend — or the five days from June 30 to July 4 — even as airlines and airports are already struggling with the surge of summer travelers.

(Hopper)

“With flight delay and cancelation rates well above 2019 averages, travelers should prepare for potential disruptions traveling over the long weekend,” Hopper said. However, with many airlines proactively cancelling flights ahead of time, the number of delays has decreased in recent days.

The busiest airports are of no surprise: Atlanta, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Denver — mega-hubs for Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, and United Airlines, respectively — top Hopper’s list. Los Angeles is also forecast among the busiest.

Airlines

United Airlines Pilots to Get Nearly 15 Percent Pay Raise

7 months ago

Pilots at United Airlines could get a big raise if they ratify a new contract approved by leadership at their union, the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA).

Pay increases would total 14.5 percent over 18 months with the improvements backdated to January 1, as well as other overtime pay and quality of life improvements, ALPA said Friday. The two-year accord also includes eight weeks paid maternity leave but has no mention of paternity leave for a pilot ranks that is still overwhelmingly male. Voting will conclude on July 15.

united pilots november 2020 source united
(United Airlines)

The contract comes as many smaller U.S. airlines face a shortage of pilots. United, and other mainline carriers like American Airlines and Delta Air Lines, say they do not face hiring issues but the situation is pressuring their regional affiliates. United affiliate SkyWest Airlines recently unveiled a plan to launch a new airline, SkyWest Charter, to expand the pool of pilots in order to continue flying to smaller cities.

The contract follows a tentative agreement between ALPA and United in May.

Airlines

United Airlines Cancels Newark Flights to Reduce Delays

7 months ago

United Airlines is joining the growing ranks of U.S. airlines cutting flights this summer in order to provide travelers with some semblance of a reliable operation.

The Chicago-based carrier is pulling roughly 50 daily flights from its schedule at Newark Liberty International Airport from July 1 through the end of the summer in order to “help minimize excessive delays and improve on-time performance,” United Chief Operations Officer Jon Roitman told staff in a memo Friday viewed by Skift. He emphasized that the cuts are unrelated too staffing, and that United has “the planes, pilots, crews, and staff to support our Newark schedule.” The cuts will only affect domestic flights and no nonstop routes will be suspended.

(Anthony Dolce/Flickr)

Alaska Airlines, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue Airways, and Spirit Airlines have all been forced to cut their schedules this summer due to a myriad of operational issues, ranging from air traffic control delays to staffing and weather. Others, including American Airlines and Southwest Airlines, loaded smaller-than-hoped-for schedules with the acknowledgement of operational challenges during the peak summer months.

United’s Newark reductions come after months of back-and-forth with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, which oversees flight operations at Newark, and competitors JetBlue and Spirit over delays at the airport. United alleges that delays are due to the two smaller airlines scheduling too many flights at peak times, whereas JetBlue and Spirit point the finger at United that operates roughly 72 percent of all flights at Newark.

The FAA granted United a waiver that will allow it to keep its “runway timings” at Newark despite not operating the roughly 50 flights this summer. The waiver extends through the end of the airline “summer” season, which concludes on October 29.

Airlines

United’s MileagePlus Adds Unique Airline Partner, JSX

8 months ago

Travelers on private jet-like airline JSX just got another perk beyond skipping busy airport terminals and security queues: they can now earn points in United Airlines’ MileagePlus loyalty program.

JSX flyers can earn up to 100 percent of the miles flown in MileagePlus under the new partnership unveiled Thursday. The pact is the first for United’s loyalty program with a non-traditional airline operator, and the second for JSX, which already partners with JetBlue Airways’ TrueBlue program.

(JSX)

“This unique agreement presents an unmatched opportunity for JSX customers to earn MileagePlus miles and redeem them for travel to United’s global network of destinations,” said Luc Bondar, president of MileagePlus at United, in a statement.

JSX and United said “more cooperation” is planned and will be announced later this year.

JSX describes itself as providing “hop-on jet service.” In practice, the airline sells a premium onboard product on 30-seat Embraer regional jets that fly to and from private jet terminals, which allows travelers to avoid busy airport terminals. It also provides private jet charters. JSX primarily flies between airports in northern and southern California, but also offers a growing network in Colorado, Florida, and Texas.

Airlines

United Launches New Ad Campaign Showing Off Its Pandemic-Earned Goodwill

9 months ago

United Airlines has earned a lot of goodwill in this pandemic, especially in being one of the first airlines to mandate vaccines for its employees months before a federal mandate and sticking to it despite lots of vocal backlash. Now it is launching a big new national ad campaign – “Good Leads The Way” – that tells the story of “United’s leadership in areas like customer service, diversity and sustainability, and captures the optimism fueling the airline’s large ambitions at a time of unprecedented demand in air travel,” the company said today at the launch of this campaign.

“Good Leads The Way”: United’s New Campaign Celebrates Employees Doing the Right Thing for Customers and Communities

This is the first campaign with its new creative agency of record 72andSunny, and includes more than 150 different pieces of video, digital, social and out-of-home content and features more than 60 employees, it said.

Here’s how Scott Kirby, United CEO, describes the new campaign: “In the past few years, United has emerged as a force for good and an industry leader. We’re taking actions that inspire pride among our employees and customers – everything from historic investments to fight climate change and training more women and people of color to become pilots to getting rid of change fees and upgrading our fleet with 500 new planes. This campaign serves not only as an exclamation point on our recent actions, but also as a commitment to how United Airlines intends to show up in the future.”

Their main anthemic 60-second video ad, below:

Then there are shorter ads highlighting different aspects of the airline:

Airlines

United Airlines And Pilots Union Reach Tentative Agreement

9 months ago

United Airlines and its pilots union, the Air Lines Pilot Association (ALPA), reached an agreement in principal on a new contract Friday. The deal is the first among the three largest U.S. airlines, including American Airlines and Delta Air Lines, and their pilots, all of which have open contracts.

“United and Air Line Pilots Association share a goal of making United the biggest and the best airline in the history of aviation — and that shared purpose is why we are uniquely able to get deals done,” United CEO Scott Kirby in a post on LinkedIn.

Details of the accord were not released. However, past contracts have included wage increases and other work rule changes. A typically hot topic, the number of regional jets flown by United Express affiliates, is not expected to change with this agreement amid the staffing issues following the pandemic.

Before the agreement can go to pilots for a ratification vote, ALPA must finalize the language of the agreement and the master executive council of its United chapter approve the accord. This process typically takes at least several weeks.

United Master Executive Council Chair Captain Michael Hamilton said in a statement that the agreement “recognizes our contributions to the current and future success of United Airlines.”

Airlines

JetBlue Fires Back at United Over Newark Airport

9 months ago

United Airlines should look in the “proverbial mirror” when it comes to its allegations that poor operations at Newark Liberty International Airport are the the fault of smaller competitors, JetBlue Airways said Monday.

“Instead of criticizing low-fare/low-cost carriers, United should look in the proverbial mirror first when seeking a carrier to blame for operational issues and congestion at [Newark]: United, with 72 percent of operations at [Newark], is far and away the leading carrier at [Newark] with the most responsibility for operations at the airport,” JetBlue Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Robert Land said in a letter to U.S. Department of Transportation officials.

The airline’s arguments mirror those made by Spirit Airlines, both of which United has blamed for a recent spike delays and cancellations at Newark. Spirit Vice President of Network Planning John Kirby recently told Airline Weekly that United was taking “liberties” in blaming its competitors when the mainline carrier so clearly dominates Newark.

JetBlue offers several proposals to improve operations at Newark. For one, the airline says officials should wait for the new Terminal A to open later this year, and see if the facility — plus the end of construction — improve operations. If that does not work, the Federal Aviation Administration should “convene a schedule reduction meeting” to ensure that there are no more than the recommended maximum of 79 flights per hour. Other recommendations include the approval of simultaneous dual approaches on Newark’s two main runways to increase throughput.

No matter what comes of the war of words between United, and JetBlue and Spirit one thing is clear: travelers best be prepared for flight delays and cancellations at Newark this summer.

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