Category Archives: Airlines

Icelandair’s New Free Stopover Buddy Offer

Connect with a local pal this winter.

Icelandair-logoIcelandair has long offered no-extra-charge stopovers in Iceland to passengers flying to Europe on Icelandair. This winter and spring, they can request a Stopover Buddy with similar interests such as hiking, nature, food, culture or just city sightseeing.

The assigned local Buddy will tailor a trip to Iceland based on their shared interests. As Icelandair puts it, “Check out a favorite swimming pool, café or boutique. Go hiking on a secret trail, practice yoga at a secluded hot spring, or explore a favorite spot to view the northern lights. The time spent together is up to the passenger and their Buddy.”

Among the Icelanders who are Buddies is 41-year-old Birkir Holm Gudnason, the airline’s CEO. He offers passengers a tour of his hometown and a day of backcountry skiing. Where else would an airline boss take the time to pal around with passengers? Other Buddies include Margret, 64, a flight attendant of 30 years who is an expert on geothermal springs. Enjoy a cooking lesson in traditional Icelandic fish dishes with travel consultant, Inga, 45. Passengers wanting to keep active on their stopover may find themselves on a running or cycling tour with fitness enthusiast Dagur, 51, who has worked in Icelandair’s IT department for 20 years. The more adventurous guests can spend time with pilot Sigrun, 44, whose passion is bike racing down icy mountains.

The Stopover Buddy service just started and is available free of charge through April 30. Visit our website to find out more about the Icelandair Stopover Buddy service  or taking an Icelandair Stopover. FoMoInfo:  www.icelandair.com or 877-I-FLY-ICE.

Valentine’s Day Freebie from Delta

Sweets & bubbles on some transcontinental flights.

Delta-logoWho says that US airlines don’t include any extras for back-cabin passengers anymore? Of course, it’s mostly true — unless you count the little bag of pretzels on Southwest. But for one day and on limited flights, Delta is offering sweet extras.

On Valentine’s Day, Delta passengers flying to or from JFK via SFO and LAX will be treated to what the airline calls “festive delights to make their transcontinental flights…more special. Each each passenger gets a 3-pack of holiday-inspired Baked by Melissa cupcakes paired and a mini bottle of Veuve du Vernay Rosé sparkling wine, while Delta One passengers get this sparkling wine by the glass. I wouldn’t be surprised if the cupcakes are Melissa’s micro-treats, each the size of a quarter, and the wine is in a thimble-size bottle. It’s not much, but better than the usual nothing

Allegiant: Low Fare + No Air

Allegiant passengers forced onto aircraft wing upon landing in Boise.

AllegiantAirLogoWho ever expects that an airline ticket will include unbreathable cabin “air”? Some passengers on Allegiant Air that landed in Boise the other day, who ended up standing on the aircraft wing, found out that it could happen. According to a report in the Idaho Statesman, “Passengers were forced to escape onto the wing of an Allegiant Air plane after fumes leaked into the cabin on landing. The worrying incident happened after Flight 330 had landed at Boise Airport in Idaho, U.S. from Los Angeles.”

Passengers waiting on the wing of a just-landed Allegiant Air plane after foul cabin air forced them to except. It happened in Boise. Good that it wasn't winter or windy. The carrier reportedly compensated them with $50 for the inconvenience.
Passengers waiting on the wing of a just-landed Allegiant Air plane after foul cabin air forced them to except. It happened in Boise. Good that it wasn’t winter or windy. The carrier reportedly compensated them with $50 for the inconvenience.

Passengers reported smoke and a smell of fuel in the cabin the plane taxied to the gate in Boise. Some of the 163 passengers escaped onto the wing after fumes leaked into the cabin upon landing. Even after the emergency evacuation, some were dismayed at the way the airline dealt with the situation. “Passengers Criticize Allegiant Air’s Handling of the Evacuation.”

This follows another Allegiant Air emergency landing in Clearwater, Florida just a week earlier, when minutes after takeoff, the crew reported smoke in the cabin and was forced to return to the airport. Four passengers and one flight attendant reportedly sustained injuries that time.

According to a press released issued by BerlinRosen Public Affairs on behalf of a client that I can’t seem to identify, “Allegiant pilots have been raising concerns about the airline’s bare-minimum approach that’s infused all aspect of its operation. Earlier this year, Teamsters Aviation Mechanics Coalition (TAMC) released a report that shows the airline experiences a high rate of air returns and diversions due to mechanical issues. Between January and March of 2015 alone, there were 38 new instances of fixable mechanical issues such as engines failing, pressurization problems, smoke in the cockpit, radar being inoperable and anti-ice devices on windshields failing.” T

his follows another Allegiant Air emergency landing in Clearwater, Florida, just a week earlier, when minutes after takeoff, the crew reported smoke in the cabin and was forced to return to the airport in Clearwater. Four passengers and one flight attendant sustained injuries.  This is a result of what I think of as the Walmartization of America, turning us into a nation of bottom-feeders.  Cut costs to the bone, no matter what the possible consequences.  It is fortunate that there were only survivable injuries in the Clearwater incident and none reported in Boise, where BTW, Allegiant reportedly gave each affected passenger a $50 certificate. I wonder how many people will actually use it. I wouldn’t.

JetBlue to Offer JFK-Havana Service

FlagWeekly flights to start this summer.

I recently returned from Cuba, flying a Sun Country charter between Miami and Havana. Charter flights are something of a sham to get around the shrinking prohibitions against American travel to Cuba. Here’s another crack in the travel restrictions, and it’s great news. JetBlue has announced that it is inaugurating scheduled service between New York and Havana beginning on July 3. The new flight will be between New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport, departing New York each Friday at 12 noon and returning from Havana to at 4:30 p.m. Reservations need to be made through Cuba Travel Service. Back in the charter camp, Island Tours is offering itineraries from Miami, Tampa and starting in July, from Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

First look at Cuba from the air.
First look at Cuba from the air.

This big break for independent travelers comes soon after Airbnb announced that it is now booking accommodations in Cuba. It started last month listing “only” about 1,000 properties, mostly in picturesque Old Havana. Budget-wise and people-to-people-wise, a stay in somebody’s home costs less than a hotel and also directly promotes travel in a way that that “won’t pave over Cuba’s unique character, forged by decades of isolation from its northern neighbor,” said Nathan Blecharczyk, Airbnb cofounder and chief technology officer. Challenging Internet access and a separate tourist currency (the CUC) do not appear to be great hurdles to booking or staying.

He added that “the idea here is to support growth in travel that isn’t disruptive, that actually celebrates and preserves Cuba as a distinct destination. The Airbnb style of travel was already thriving.” Even before Airbnb appeared on the scene, the concept of staying in a casa particular was entrenched, and “Room for Rent” signs appear on many an Old Havana building.

Icelandair’s New Northern Lights Aircraft

Natural wonder in the sky replicated on planes interior and exterior.

Icelandair-logoLast fall, flying Icelandair, we were alerted  by the flight attendant that the Northern Lights were visible from the left side of the aircraft. Now, Icelandair has commissioned interior and exterior design of its aircraft.

hekla-aurora-exterior-night

The world’s first Aurora Borealis-themed plane‘s exterior is painted with luminescent colors and the cabin is outfitted with mood lighting that mimics the Northern Lights. The plane is named Hekla Aurora (a reference to one of Iceland’s most popular names and also the name of an active volcano in the country), the brilliant Boeing 757 airplane is the newest addition to Iceland’s ongoing and the #MyStopover campaign promoting seven-day layovers, free of charge, to those flying between Europe and North America.

Airlines’ Extra Fees Are Windfall Worth Billions

Top revenue source, surprisingly, isn’t passengers but banks.

FrequentFlyerIf you need any reason to fly Southwest, it is the staggering amount of money airlines are raking in by charging for everything other than your seat, lavatory access and maybe a cheap beverage (water, coffee, tea) and a little bag of peanuts or pretzels. Not long ago, travel authority Peter Greenberg dissected the outrageous revenues carriers are extracting from travelers in a blog post called “How Much Are Airlines Making from Ancillary Revenue?”

According to the site,  “Ancillary revenue for the entire airline community—international and domestic—hit $31.5 billion in 2013. The top 5 U.S. airlines earned over $13.5 billion alone….The folks at IdeaWorks, a company that tracks these things, has projected that ancillary revenue will climb to $49.9 billion worldwide in 2014—a 17.2 percent increase from 2013.”

As annoying as the add-on fees are to aggrieved passengers, I was very surprised to learn that what we are paying isn’t the largest ancillary revenue source for carriers. It’s banks. According to PeterGreenberg.com, “The largest contributor is the sale of frequent flyer miles—when the bank pays the airline to redeem your frequent flyer miles accrued through a credit card. This makes up 55 percent of profits from ancillary revenue, and has earned airlines $27.45 billion in 2013.”

Are you as surprised as I?

Wow Fare on WOW Air

Ultra-cheap airline to offer $99 fare to Iceland

WOWAirThe latest à la carte airline offering super-cheap base fares is WOW Air, an Iceland-based carrier that I never herd of — even when I was in Iceland. It recently announced that this coming March, it will begin non-stop service from both Boston and Baltimore to Reykjavik for introductory fares as low as $99 one-way and one-stop flights onward to London and Copenhagen starting at $228 round-trip. The airline will begin offering the flights next March.

Like every other deep-discount carrier, a ticket on WOW Air will buy a seat, a mini-tray table and an 11-pound carry-on limit. Everything else will cost extra. A carry-on heavier than 11 pounds will be $29 additional when booked online or $48 at the airport. Checked luggage will be even more expensive,  each piece  adds an extra $48 online or $67 at check-in. And extra leg room, pre-assigned seats and food will add to the total cost of a the journey. Flying round-trip? Multiply by 2.

WOW Air says that it will be able to cross the Atlantic for so little thanks to some built-in efficiencies. Online sales and marketing enable it to avoid paying booking engines or travel agents. This is similar to other low-fare carriers and even Southwest. It currently a mini-fleet of only four aircraft. In theory, by refueling in Iceland, WOW can fly smaller planes, which is fuel-saving. Another fuel benefit is that planes don’t need to carry sufficient fuel for the entire transatlantic flight.

In addition to intra-European and US, Norwegian Air started flying cheap London-New York flights over the summer, but flights were reportedly plagued with delays, which could be a real issue for small-fleet WOW. Once a small-fleet airline’s flights get off schedule, there’s little redundancy and therefore difficult to get back on track again.  Discount airlines currently control nearly 0ne-third of the Noth American market (that must include Southwest) and more than one-third of it in Europe, but only Norwegian flies the transatlantic.

There’s room for growth but also for miscalculation.

 

Hawaii’s Mokulele to Add Flights

New inter-island carrier serving additional Hawaii airfields.

MokulelAirlinesMokulele Airlines is increasing inter-island service with four new routes beginning on October 20: between Kalaeloa (Oahu) and Molokai, Kalaeloa and Kapalua (Maui), Kapalua and Molokai, and Kapalua and Hana (Maui). On July 1, Mokulele began service from Kalaeloa Airport, the former Barber’s Point Naval Air Base John Rogers Field, to improve inter-island travel for residents and visitors on west Oahu. Current fares are $39 to $59 one-way. Reservations are free if made on-line and $15 otherwise. At this time, bags are free between Lanai and Kahululi. Otherwise, the first checked bag is $15  Seats are assigned at the departure airport.

Finnair Flight on Biofuel

Environment-friendly alternative to aviation fuel.

Finnair-logoFinnair operated its February 23 Helsinki to New York flight powering an Airbus A330 with environmentally sustainable biofuel, coinciding with the UN Climate Summit in New York on September 23, to make a statement and to prove that it is a viable fuel. As a leader in the sustainable development of commercial aviation, the airline believes strongly in proactive measures to manage what it calls “environmental performance.”

Kindness to the environment comes at a cost, of course. According to Finnair, “Aviation biofuel is a proven and exhaustively tested technology…but at more than twice the price of conventionally produced jet fuel, it is not yet economically viable for any airline to operate with exclusively. This demonstration flight is made possible thanks in part to cooperation with Airbus and SkyNRG Nordic.”

Most of an airline’s environmental impact arises from aircraft emissions during flight, and switching to a more sustainable fuel source can reduce net CO2 emissions by between 50 and 80 per cent. The biofuel powering the flight to New York, provided by SkyNRG Nordic…is partly manufactured from cooking oil recycled from restaurants, an example of a biofuel alternative to ordinary jet fuel that significantly reduces net greenhouse gas emissions while also being sustainable in its own right. Finnair and its partners insist on the cultivation of biofuel sources that neither compete with food production nor damage biodiversity.”

“The UN Climate Summit is an important gathering to fight climate change, and we wanted to take this opportunity to highlight the climate benefits of more widespread adoption of environmentally sustainable biofuels in aviation,” says Finnair’s Vice President of Sustainable Development Kati Ihamäki. “Finnair is committed to working further with industry partners and government bodies alike to help develop the biofuel supply chain and bring down the cost of sustainable biofuel for everyday use.”

“As air traffic contributes 2 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions, it is very important to have this trial with the use of biofuels,” says Finland’s Minister for International Development Pekka Haavisto. “If the price of oil rises and biofuels become cheaper, there will hopefully be a day when we’ll be able to replace at least some of the fossil fuels with fuels made of renewable and waste material. I’m happy that Finnair is showing leadership in this development.”

To that end, Finnair and its partners are currently investigating the possibility of establishing a biofuel hub at Helsinki Airport. Finnair is active as well in the Nordic Initiative for Sustainable Aviation, a group of airlines, airport operators, manufacturers and government ministries working to accelerate the development of sustainable biofuel for aviation in the Nordic countries. Scandinavian countries and businesses always — or at least usually — seem to take the long view toward doing the right thing for people and the planet.

Thai Airways Ups Baggage Allowance

All classes of service are affected.

ThaiAirways-logoGenerally, whenever an airline changes some policy or another, it’s to charge more or provide less — or both. Thai Airways is doing the opposite by increasing allowances for free checked baggage. Royal First Class passengers may now check-in 50 kilograms, up from 40 kilograms previously. Royal Silk Class passengers (business class) are now allowed 40 kilograms, up from 30 kilograms. Even Economy Class get a break with 30 kilograms of free checked baggage, up from 20 kilograms previously. Royal Orchid Plus members are also entitled additional baggage allowance based on their respective member status. A kilogram equals is 2.2 pounds. You do the math.