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Skift Travel News Blog

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

Airlines

Europe Approves World-Leading Sustainable Aviation Fuel Mandate

7 months ago

The European Parliament has passed one of the first sustainable aviation fuel, or SAF, mandates that would force production of the low-carbon fuels to ramp up quickly in the coming decades.

The legislature approved what are known as the “ReFuelEU Aviation” standards Thursday that lay out a rapid ramp up in SAF adoption in five-year increments through 2050. In just three years, 2 percent of all aviation fuel in the bloc will need to be SAF, with the percentage rising to 85 percent by 2050.

In a win for environmental groups, the parliament approved higher mandates than most airlines wanted. SAF must make up 6 percent of all aviation fuel in Europe by 2030, with 2 percent of that coming from synthetic sources — also known as e-kerosene. Airline trade group Airlines for Europe (A4E) and many of its members had supported a 5 percent mandate by the end of the decade, while International Airlines Group backed the 6 percent requirement.

An Iberia aircraft is fueled with SAF. (Iberia)

The European parliament also removed palm oil byproducts from the list of approved SAF feedstocks. Production of palm oil is notably carbon intensive.

“If we are serious about fighting climate change and de-carbonizing aviation, Europe needs to make more choices like the one we witnessed today,” advocacy group Transport & Environment Aviation Policy Officer Matteo Mirolo said in a statement. “EU lawmakers have gone a good way towards a definition of SAFs that is positive for our planet and the credibility of aviation’s green future.” 

The SAF mandates, however, are not a done deal yet. They still need to be finalized across the branches of the EU government, including the parliament and European Commission, before a planned implementation target of January 2023. 

Tourism

Ireland Risks Becoming Too Costly for Tourists, Says Report

7 months ago

The Irish Tourism Industry Confederation (ITIC) published an eye-catching report on Thursday that found that Ireland was among the top five costliest European destinations when it comes to accommodation, food, beverages, and getting from place to place domestically. That’s not good news if Ireland wants to win back its full share of tourism in the post-pandemic recovery.

Ireland is the priciest European nation for alcohol, more than twice the European average. It’s the second most expensive for transport; the third-most expensive for food and non-alcoholic beverages; and the fourth most expensive for restaurants and hotels.

For example, the average cost of Irish hotels has risen by 21.4 percent from €136.71 in May 2019 to €165.97 in May 2022, according to global hospitality analytics company STR.

Costs are partly being driven up by a reduced supply post-pandemic and from the housing of Ukrainian refugees, reduced staffing because of a labor crunch which means not all occupancy can be served, and soaring costs for energy that are being passed along to consumers.

“”With the reduced tourism VAT rate of 9% scheduled to revert to 13.5% in February 2023, Ireland will be amongst the top rate for visitors on accommodation and food across Europe.” — ITIC report

The Irish Tourism Competitiveness Report (Free, no downloads)

Airlines

India’s Newest Airline Akasa Air Cleared For Takeoff

7 months ago

It’s official: India has a new airline. The government granted Akasa Air its air operator certificate, without which the startup could not begin revenue flights, on Thursday, and allowing passenger service to begin later this month.

“We now look forward to opening our flights for sale, leading to the start of commercial operations by late July. This will begin our journey towards building India’s greenest, most dependable, and most affordable airline,” Akasa founder and CEO Vinay Dube said in a statement.

Dube, in an interview with Skift earlier in July, said the airline aimed to increase the number of Indians who fly — rather than take the train or buses — when they travel around the country, rather than capture marketshare from competitors, including market leader IndiGo and Tata-owned Air India. This strategy has proven very successful in other developing markets, for example, in Mexico where discounter Volaris has become the country’s largest airline with a business model focused on shifting bus riders to flyers.

Akasa will launch with two Boeing 737 Max aircraft, and plans to grow by one aircraft per month through the end of the 2023 fiscal year. The airline plans to operate 72 aircraft within five years.

(Boeing/Akasa Air)

Travel Technology

Netcetera Group Buys Travel Tech Firm RouteRank

7 months ago

Netcetera Group, a Swiss IT player, said on Thursday that it had acquired RouteRank, a door-to-door travel planning company.

The companies didn’t disclose financial terms. RouteRank had only raised a modest amount of funding, according to Crunchbase.

RouteRank, founded in 2006 and based in Switzerland, has long offered both business-to-business-to-consumer services, with customers being travel and mobility providers such as Alturos Destinations and MaaS Global, and business-to-business, with customers being employers, helping their employees’ mobility, via partners like BCD Travel and Concur.

Netcetera, which is 26 years old and has more than 800 employees worldwide, makes bespoke software for clients in many verticals. RouteRank’s tech will add to the group’s offering for transport clients.

RouteRank’s multimodal routing and booking can now combine with Netcetera’s payment and traveler information capabilities. Together, they have a more unified offering for tasks like the provision of travel information and ticketing, efforts to help companies minimize their carbon dioxide emissions, and other mobility services.

Airlines

Aviation Tech Provider SITA Raises $400 Million In ‘Green Financing’

7 months ago

SITA, a global technology provider for the aviation industry, has raised $400 million in so-called green financing.

As Skift described in its 2022 Megatrends report, green financing is an emerging trend where investments are made in companies that support or provide planet-friendly practices or products.

Four new banks have now signed up to support SITA with a sustainability-linked revolving credit facility, which has a minimum three-year term, the company said on Thursday.

The new funds will be directly linked to pre-agreed environmental key performance indicators and yearly targets, with a bonus (or penalty charge) on the interest margin depending on SITA’s performance. Performance against the targets will be externally audited.

The cash will go towards supporting the company’s general business needs, “such as developing new solutions and strategies to alleviate the air transport industry’s challenges of today and in the future,” it said in the statement.

SITA said it had ramped up its emission reduction efforts in recent years, achieving carbon neutral status under The CarbonNeutral Protocol in 2021. More recently it announced its commitment to setting science-based targets via the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) to join other leading companies to combat climate change aligned to net-zero and the 1.5C scenario of the Paris Agreement.

SITA’s five existing banking partners also participated in the raise.

“Sustainability is high on our agenda and we are deeply committed to ensuring a sustainable future for all, including for our employees, customers, and partners,” said Nicolas Husson, SITA’s chief financial officer. “We are delighted to secure financing that is directly linked to the performance of our sustainability ambitions.”

Speaking at Skift’s Sustainable Tourism Summit at the end of June, Intrepid’s chairman revealed that the tour operator recently received a large investment from a family-owned private equity firm because of its sustainability stance.

Saudi Arabia is also aiming to prop up its Red Sea tourism project with an up to $2.7 billion loan in green financing.

During the pandemic, SITA’s CEO said the tech provider had weathered the storm. but the private company will undoubtedly have been impacted by poor performances from its airports and airline customers as the pandemic continued to hammer travel.

“We contained our fall in revenue to -27% for the year, at $1.34 billion, compared to the previous year’s $1.8 billion,” said Barbara Dalibard in her 2020 report. “In reacting quickly to the crisis, we decreased our cost base in 2020 by 18 percent versus prior year, while reducing external support by 50 percent.”

It also achieved $300 million in cost reductions.

SITA was formerly known as Société Internationale de Télécommunications Aéronautiques, and was founded by 11 airlines more than a decade ago. The company’s board includes executives from several airlines.

Hotels

Marriott Has Fallen Victim to Another Cyber Attack

7 months ago

Hotel giant Marriott International has suffered a data breach, with hackers stealing 20 gigabytes of sensitive information, including guests’ credit card information.

In 2020, Marriott notified 5 million guests their information was compromised through an app used to provide services at hotels.

This event is on a smaller scale, as according to a report by DataBreaches the incident, which took place in June, saw an as-yet unidentified group claim they used “social engineering” — where hackers trick someone into performing an action or divulging confidential information — to access a computer at the BWI Airport Marriott Maryland.

The hotel is described as “modern, convenient and superbly situated” and is a popular layover for flight crews — leaked documents include reservations made by airlines for their employees.

Names and details of other guests, including credit card information used to make bookings, have also been leaked, and Marriott is reportedly notifying up to 400 individuals of the attack, although it’s unclear if they are mostly guests or Marriott’s own staff.

“Marriott International is aware of a threat actor who used social engineering to trick one associate at a single Marriott hotel into providing access to the associate’s computer. The threat actor did not gain access to Marriott’s core network,” a Marriott spokesperson told TechCrunch.

It is unclear whether ransom money was demanded.

Earlier this month Israel’s Gol Tours Ltd suffered a cyber attack that saw 30,000 profiles leaked.

UPDATE: In a statement to Skift on Thursday, a Marriott International spokesperson said:

“Marriott International is aware of a threat actor who used social engineering to trick one associate at a single Marriott hotel into providing access to the associate’s computer. The threat actor did not gain access to Marriott’s core network. Our investigation determined that the information accessed primarily contained non-sensitive internal business files regarding the operation of the property. The incident was contained to a short period of time. Marriott identified and was investigating the incident before the threat actor contacted the company in an extortion attempt, which Marriott did not pay. The company is preparing to notify 300-400 individuals regarding the incident. Marriott has also notified law enforcement and is supporting their investigation.”

Airlines

U.S. Airfares Are Priced Fairly Relative to the Alternative of Driving, Says Analyst

7 months ago

Nerds, take comfort. Experts say that the “time value” of flying is still higher than it is for driving — suggesting that airfares aren’t too outrageously high.

Many Americans are complaining about the price of airfares today. But if one looks at U.S. government data on the consumer prices paid by urban consumers for U.S. flights, airfares are only slightly higher than the average between 2010 and 2014 on a seasonally adjusted basis. (See the chart of data collected by the St. Louis Federal Reserve, here.)

What’s more, economists like to compare the cost of a product or service with its alternative substitute as a way of measuring price fairness.

In the case of flying, driving by car is the most common second-best option. Jennifer Saba at Reuters Breakingviews ran some numbers for a sample trip to see how pricing compared:

“A round-trip ticket from New York LaGuardia Airport to Charleston, South Carolina, for instance, cost nearly $300 for one passenger, according to the cheapest fares searched on Kayak. Throw in a reasonable estimate for parking or an Uber to the airport, and the all-in transportation cost adds up to around $435. Meantime at $4.84 per gallon, a driver would have to shell out about $230 to make the 1,500-mile round trip from the Big Apple to the Holy City and back in a Honda CRV.”

“But on a quick holiday weekend, there’s some value that a traveler ascribes to time. Assuming it takes about 11 hours to get to and from Charleston by plane, including the parking, security, boarding and unboarding process, a person pays about $40 an hour. That’s five times more than someone pays on the 28-hour round trip drive from New York to Charleston.”

In other words, if one measures the value of one’s time as it relates to the cost of a trip, flying still retains its value. Unless your flight is endlessly delayed. By Saba’s math: “If a flight is delayed for five hours, for example, air travel is only about 3 times more valuable than driving.” (.You’ll find Saba’s article on Reuters, here.)

So whether you’re flying or taking a road trip this year, don’t think only about “airmaggedon.” Also take comfort in the time you’re still saving by getting to your destination via the air, even if there are some delays. And take comfort from Skift’s analysis of why flying is so chaotic this summer.

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

British Airways Cancels At Least 1,000 More Summer Flights

7 months ago

Flying in Europe is a mess this summer. British Airways has cancelled more than 1,000 additional flights through October amid increasing flight delays and cancellations across the continent.

The Oneworld Alliance carrier is cancelling roughly 1 percent of its schedule from July though October, which equals a little over 1,000 flights according to Cirium schedules. The cuts are on top of the 10 percent reduction that British Airways made to the period in May. An airline spokesperson described this summer’s recovery as the “most challenging period” in the aviation industry’s history.

(Martin Deutsch/Flickr)

EasyJet, KLM, Lufthansa, and Swiss International Air Lines have all been forced to cut schedules in recent weeks due to operational difficulties with staffing, at airports, or with air traffic control. And that was before a pilot strike at Scandinavian airline SAS forced it to cancel as much as 76 percent of its schedule on Tuesday, FlightAware data show, and file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the U.S.

British Airways is in a unique situation. Executives have placed the blame for operational issues on what they view as understaffing by the operator of London’s Heathrow airport, but politicians have cited both the airline and airport. In addition, a dispute with two of British Airways’ unions has raised the threat of a strike by check-in staff at Heathrow later this summer.