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Airlines line up for rights to fly to Cuba

U.S. carriers appear set for a dogfight over newly opened flight rights to Havana, but their interest in other Cuban destinations appears to be lukewarm.

Airlines had until the close of business on Wednesday to apply to the U.S. Department of Transportation for the U.S.-Cuba flight rights. That comes after a February agreementpaved the way for the first regularly scheduled, non-charter passenger airline flights between the nations in five decades. The pact gives U.S. airlines access to 110 daily flights to Cuba.

But only 20 of those will be allowed to go to Havana, Cuba’s capital and most high-profile destination. And those routes are in high demand.

LISTHere are the Cuba routes U.S. airlines want

American Airlines alone has requested 14 daily flights to Havana plus two additional weekend-only flights. That’s more than any other carrier. Close behind was JetBlue, which proposed 12. Southwest had proposed nine. Delta and small regional carrier Silver Airways each requested the equivalent of five daily round-trip flights to Havana.

Alaska Airlines, which was one of the first to go public with its Cuba plans, proposed two daily round-trip flights between Havana and Los Angeles. Spirit hadn’t yet revealed its plans, though it was expected to request flights to Havana, too.

One surprisingly robust bid for Havana flights came from Denver-based low-cost carrier Frontier, which is seeking rights to fly three daily round-trip flights to Havana from Miami and one from Denver.

All that indicated a dogfight for Havana flight routes. Combined, U.S. carriers had collectively applied for the equivalent of at least 51 daily flights to Havana. Only 20 are on the table.

Beyond the 20 allocated for Havana, there will be 10 daily flights allowed on routes to each of Cuba’s nine other international airports.

Nearly all of the big carriers applying for Havana flights also sought rights on routes to some of those cities, as well. United and Alaska were among the exceptions, seeking only rights to fly to Havana.

United proposed most of its Havana service would come from its hub at Newark Liberty, where it hopes to operate one daily round-trip flight to Havana with a second daily flight on Saturdays. United would fly only one flight a week to Havana from three other cities, proposing one round trip each Saturday from Chicago O’Hare, Houston Bush Intercontinental and Washington Dulles.

“This is a historic moment for our company, our employees and, most importantly, our customers,” United CEO Oscar Munoz said in a statement. “We want to be the first choice for passengers traveling between the U.S. and Cuba. We’re able to offer customers the best access, convenience and connections to and from Havana through our industry-leading global route network, and we’re excited to compete for this important service.”

Before U.S. airlines can begin their flights, their route authority applications must win approval by the DOT. The airlines then must reach service agreements with Cuban aviation authorities. It’s thought that flights under the agreement could begin by this fall.

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Saudi king cuts short holiday after beach closure upset

Saudi King Salman has cut short a holiday on the French Riviera where the closure of a beach for his security caused widespread upset.

After only eight days of what was planned as a three-week stay, the king flew on to Morocco, officials said.

With him were at least half of his 1,000-strong entourage, regional official Philippe Castanet added.

He told AFP news agency that the beach would reopen to the public this morning.

More than 100,000 people signed a petition against the closure of the public Mirandole beach at Vallauris which French officials had agreed to seal off for the monarch’s security.

A Saudi source quoted by Reuters said the king’s departure was part of his holiday programme and not connected to the media coverage the visit had attracted.

These are the five best and worst deals in American air travel

Photo: Richard Moross/Flickr

With oil prices down, the airline industry is enjoying record profits. While airfares will reportedly drop (barely) in the near future, right now they’re exactly where they were when the price of gas was at a record high. Any way you want to spin it, these airlines are making out like bandits.

Joshua Schank, president of the Eno Center for Transportation, a Washington think tank, told The Washington Post:

“Airline Economics 101 is that prices are set by origins and destinations, not by the cost structure, so cost plays a very small role in the actual setting of the price. That’s why you get all those crazy pricing things in the airline industry where sometimes a shorter flight will cost you way more than a longer flight.”

This explains why flying between Atlanta and Charlotte will cost you, on average, $286. That’s for a one-way ticket, a journey of 226 miles. That means the flight costs $1.27/mile, which is the most expensive figure out of any U.S. route. In contrast, the median cost per mile on U.S. flights is just 23 cents. That’s Southern pride for you – they’ll pay five times more to stay below the Mason-Dixon Line than to fly anywhere else!

Interestingly, the next four most expensive flights are also regional. Here are the top five:

1. Atlanta-Charlotte – $1.27/mile
2. Austin-Houston – $1.23/mile
3. Chicago-Indianapolis – $1.20/mile
4. Chicago-Cincinnati – $1.15/mile
5. Portland-Seattle – $1.01/mile

The reason these flights are so expensive is because they’re so short that there’s no competition. The ones that do make the trips take advantage of the lack of competition and jack up the fare, even though costs are relatively low. This might leave you wondering, who would be willing to pay that kind of markup? People who aren’t picking the tab, of course. These five flights all connect business destinations. Airlines will almost always increase the price of business-oriented flights because they know business travelers will pay it.

In contrast, the five cheapest flights in the U.S. all connect to major tourist destinations:

1. Las Vegas-Philadelphia – 0.096¢/mile
2. Atlantic City-Tampa – 0.101¢/mile
3. Las Vegas-Washington – 0.101¢/mile
4. Miami-Plattsburgh, N.Y. – 0.102¢/mile
5. Las Vegas-Peoria – 0.102¢/mile

Airlines know that most tourists book their tickets months in advance, scouring the Internet for the lowest possible fare and exploiting every loophole to save. The bean counters at major airlines know it’s not worth their trouble to try and up-sell these fliers – they know a price war is the only way they’ll win their business.

Is there a lesson to be learned from all this information? Yes, but it may not be that helpful. If you want to save money on airfares, you just have to fly like a tourist. Better yet, only fly into and out of Las Vegas. Word of warning though: you’ll save money on flying, but you’ll lose it all in the casino. No matter what, you’re going broke.

Santa Monica gets tough with harsh anti-Airbnb law

Tough new laws enacted in the California beach town of Santa Monica cracking down on short-term vacation rental operators could wipe out about 80% of listings on home-sharing sites like Airbnb and HomeAway.

Due to come into effect today, Santa Monica’s new law says home owners can only rent out space in their homes if they themselves are staying there.

City Hall estimates that could affect as many as 1,400 of the 1,700 short-term rental listings.

The rules, some of the strictest in the country, have been passed to stop businesses from managing multiple homes purely for short-term rental income, decreasing the housing supply and sending real estate prices and rents even higher.

“Our city council thought that it was important to intervene and return rentals to the housing market,” said Salvador Valles, assistant director of planning and community development.

Any homeowner violating the rule will be hit by a $500 fine, Valdes said.

Hosts are required to apply for a business license at no cost and business tax would not be levied on rental income below $40,000 a year.

However hosts would still pay 14% occupancy tax.

Lawmakers have agreed to a ‘grace period’ and will not enforce the rule immediately as many bookings have already been taken for the summer at homes that would likely fall foul of the new law.

The law has been described as “a tragic mistake and a missed opportunity” by Robert St. Genis of the Los Angeles Short Term Rental Alliance.

“The law hurts a lot of people that it’s not intended to hurt. It hurts the family that’s used to being able to take a vacation using the money from renting out their home for the summer.”

“There have been vacation rentals by the beach as long as there have been houses by the beach.”

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Awesome – Student changes name to avoid paying Ryanair booking amendment fee

Student changes name to avoid paying Ryanair booking amendment fee

A student booked on a Ryanair flight under the wrong name decided to change his name by deed poll and buy a new passport because it was cheaper than paying the booking amendment fee.

Adam Armstrong, 19, told the Sun newspaper he faced a £220 charge to change the booking, which had been mistakenly made by his girlfriend’s stepfather under the wrong name.

But it was actually cheaper for him to change his name by deed poll, for free, and to pay £103 for a new passport.

Armstrong, a Batman fan, had used the name Adam West on Facebook after an actor who played Batman on television.

His girlfriend’s stepfather had mistakenly used that name to make the booking, according to the Sun.

Ryanair was going to charge £110 to change the name, and the passenger believed he would have to pay it twice because his girlfriend was on the same booking. In fact, they were on separate bookings.

The charge is designed to stop people buying flights and then selling them on for a profit.

“Customers are asked to ensure that the details they enter at the time of booking are correct before completing their booking and we offer a 24-hour ‘grace period’ to correct minor booking errors,” said a Ryanair spokesman.

“A name change fee is charged in order to discourage and prevent unauthorised online travel agents from ‘screenscraping’ Ryanair’s cheapest fares and reselling them on to unwitting consumers at hugely inflated costs.”

United Airlines pulling out of JFK

In a major shift in strategy, United Airlines is relocating all its transcontinental flights from New York JFK to its Newark hub.

Due to take effect in October, the premium cross-country flights will depart and arrive at Newark, made possible by a slot swap with Delta Air Lines.

United has agreed to trade its JFK landing slots with Delta in exchange for more slots at Newark, subject to regulatory approvals.

United says it has been losing money at JFK for years, losing lucrative business traffic as it did not offer any onward connections at JFK.

Travellers had to head over to Newark to board transatlantic flights or other mainline connections.

United also plans to upgrade its Terminal C lobby and renovate airport lounges at Newark and from October 25 will add more Boeing 757s to its Newark-California fleet which could grow to 32 flights a day by mid-2016.

“It makes us even stronger in the New York-New Jersey market,” said Jim Compton, United’s chief revenue officer.

“Our customers have asked for this service into our premier hub. We are investing in the three critical components of the travel experience for our customers – our network, our product and our facilities.”

Airlines reach agreement on size of carry-on bags

Airlines have agreed an ‘optimum size’ guideline for carry-on bags designed to make the best use of cabin storage space.

A size of 55 x 35 x 20 cm (or 21.5 x 13.5 x 7.5 inches) means that “theoretically” everyone should have a chance to store their carry-on bags on board aircraft of 120 seats or larger, according to Iata.

An ‘Iata Cabin OK’ logo to signify to airline staff that a bag meets the agreed size guidelines has been developed.

A number of major international airlines will soon be introducing the guidelines into their operations.

Airlines reach agreement on size of carry-on bags

Bags carrying the identifying label are expected start to become available to buy later this year.

Recognition of the logo is expected to grow with time as more airlines join the initiative.

Iata is working with baggage tracking solutions provider Okoban to manage the approval process of luggage manufacturers.

Each bag meeting the dimensions of the specifications will carry a special joint label featuring Iata and Okoban as well as a unique identification code that signals to airline staff that the bag complies with the optimum size guidelines.

Several major baggage manufacturers have developed products in line with the optimum size guidelines.

Iata senior vice president for airport, passenger, cargo and security, Tom Windmuller, said: “The development of an agreed optimal cabin bag size will bring common sense and order to the problem of differing sizes for carry-on bags.

“We know the current situation can be frustrating for passengers. This work will help to iron out inconsistencies and lead to an improved passenger experience.

Eastern Air Lines is back. Hoping they do better than Pan Am part II

The 'new' Eastern Air Lines' first plane, a Boeing

A current reincarnation of the iconic U.S. airline brand flew its first flight with paying passengers Thursday afternoon, operating a charter flight from Miami to Havana, Cuba, The Miami Herald reports.

That marked the first revenue flight for the “new” Eastern, which is flying Boeing 737-800 aircraft. The company purchased the rights to the old Eastern name and logo earlier this decade. It plans a base in Miami, just as the old Eastern had done.

BOOKMARK: Add Today in the Sky to your favorites

But customers hoping to buy tickets for traditional commercial airline service are out of luck – at least for now. Eastern is getting its start by operating Cuba charters in partnership with the HavanaAir charter company.

U.S. airlines can fly on routes between the U.S. and Cuba, but they must do so in conjunction with tour companies that are authorized by the U.S. to sell travel on U.S.-Cuba itineraries. Similarly, since travel must be sold by authorized tour companies, flights by U.S. airlines operate as charter flights sold via the tour-company.

Eastern plans to move into regularly scheduled commercial service that most U.S. passengers are familiar with. Ed Wegel, the CEO heading Eastern’s start-up effort,told the Herald earlier this year he hoped to position Eastern “somewhere in between” the ultra-low-cost carrier niche — which includes airlines like Spirit and Frontier — and the traditional legacy carriers, such as American, United and Delta.

TODAY IN THE SKY: Eastern Air Lines hopes to launch flights in mid-March(January 2015)
TODAY IN THE SKY: Eastern Airlines returns to Miami with first Boeing 737(December 2014)

For now, though, Eastern will focus on charter operations. Wegel tells the Herald that non-charter flights are likely at least a year off.

Starting slowly could help Eastern succeed where many others have failed, saysChris Sloan, editor in chief and publisher of Airways News.

“They’re going to get their operations straight, generate revenue on charters before venturing to scheduled service,” Sloan says to the Herald. “That, to me, is encouraging that they’re not leaping with both feet in. Virtually everyone else who has resurrected a name has failed at it. They’ve all done it completely differently than Eastern is.”

Is it me, or are people doing dumber things while traveling?

Passenger detained for penning ‘threatening’ suicide note aboard plane

A passenger was removed from an Austin-bound flight about to take off from San Francisco after a quick thinking seatmate alerted flight crew to a potential suicide threat.

Passenger Vicki Riffe noticed a man scribbling furiously into a notebook that he planned to kill himself and take others with him.

“He started writing extremely fast — with anger. I was scared to death,” Riffe told the NY Daily News.

After alerting crew, the plane returned to the gate and the man was removed by police.

Sniffer dogs were also deployed in the cabin before it was given the all-clear to fly.

Virgin America confirmed the incident with a statement: “Just after taxi out, a Virgin America flight carrying 108 guests returned to the gate at SFO due to onboard reports from guests concerned about the behavior of a fellow passenger.”

“Preliminary reports indicate that the guest made no threat to the safety of the aircraft or any other passenger onboard.”

After fellow passengers were fully informed of the nature of the hold-up, about a dozen opted not to travel.

The plane then took off about one hour behind schedule and landed in Austin without incident.

San Francisco police said the man is being medically evaluated.

Had to share this – Idiot calls in airport bomb threat so girlfriend won’t miss her flight

Bordeaux airport

There are countless smartphone apps that can get you to the airport on time and then there’s the old-fashioned analog method of just checking your watch. But quite possibly the worst way to ensure that your departure flight won’t leave without you is to call in a bomb threat to the airport. That’s what a tremendously misguided man in France did, allegedly phoning in a threat to the Bordeaux-Merignac regional airport, all because his girlfriend thought that she was running late.

When he called the airport authorities, the 33-year-old suspect went with the unmistakably direct option, saying only “There is a bomb.” According to AFP, parts of the airport were immediately closed and the armed forces were called to search the terminal. After a swift investigation – which found zero explosives – the caller was identified and arrested about 12 miles from the airport.

It seems like most people – even the dumb ones – would’ve figured out that neither airports nor the authorities take kindly to bomb jokes, but situations like this (and the German woman whopracticed her own bomb-themed comedy routine in a security line) still happen. Here’s a tip: STOP IT.

As for that terrible Bordeaux boyfriend, he has a newly scheduled court date and is facing a fine of up to €30,000 (around $33,000). There’s no word on whether he needs to find a new girlfriend.