Downgraded: Prospects for carrying on liquids in the European Union
While the European Union’s European Commission is aiming to allow you to carry on liquids again — as we reported back in October — airports and airlines are actually fighting the EC and lobbying to keep the nearly five-year liquid restrictions in carry-on luggage:

In recent months, trade groups representing hundreds of airports and dozens of airlines have quietly stepped up the pressure on the European Commission to abandon its plan for a gradual easing of restrictions. From April 29, the change would allow passengers passing through Europe from a third country to carry liquids, aerosols and gels purchased either at an airport duty-free shop or on board a non-European airline. They are calling instead for the ban to remain in place until 2013, when Brussels has vowed to eliminate all cabin restrictions on such goods.

“The existing technology is not fit for the purpose,” said Olivier Jankovec, the director general of the Airports Council International Europe, a lobbying group based in Brussels that represents more than 400 airports. “We risk paralyzing the big hubs.”
[...]
But the intense lobbying has so far failed to sway the commission, which committed two years ago to simplifying the often onerous security screening process. It remains a source of frustration for passengers who are forced to jettison drink containers, toothpaste, skin creams and even jars of marmalade before boarding planes.

Aides to Siim Kallas, the European transportation commissioner, said he remained unconvinced by the industry’s arguments and was satisfied by the performance standards set by European regulators for liquid-explosive detectors. Moreover, they said, the numbers of transfer passengers likely to be affected by this first phase of the plan should be manageable.

Upgraded: AA miles on Facebook
It’s a spin of the wheel, essentially, but you could earn a random number of American AAdvantage miles — between 100 and 1,000,000 — if you “like” the AAdvantage program on their Facebook page. I think these “like” campaigns are kind of lame, but hey, if you’re a Facebooker, have some free miles. Full details here.

Upgraded: Atlanta Braves parking for Delta SkyMiles Medallion members
I guess this is a thinking-outside-the-box perk for upper-tier Delta elite frequent fliers: Medallion-level members get access to a special parking area within the Green Lot for Atlanta Braves games at Turner Field. It’s not free parking — normal rates apply. I’ve never been to a game at Turner Field, but the Green Lot looks like it’s as convenient as it’s going to get.

Upgraded: Taiwanese analysis of American aviation
For those who appreciate the kitschy animations of global news by the Taiwanese animators at Next Media Animation, please enjoy this cartoon analysis of American aviation’s obsession with fees. Note the not-so-subtle digs at the age of U.S. flight attendants (ouch) and the ragging on US Airways in particular, going so far as to use their logo. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the video celebrates the triumphant Asian airline industry, singling out Cathay Pacific. Who knows, maybe Cathay paid for this episode. Watch it below.


delta Great news for infrequent travelers: Delta SkyMiles no longer expire
This is big news: In an era of increasing fees, nickel-and-diming, and shifting frequent flier mile award charts, Delta is going the opposite direction. Retroactive to January 1, 2011, Delta SkyMiles no longer expire.

Until now, you needed to engage in some sort of activity every 24 months — either by earning or redeeming miles — in order to keep your account alive. If you didn’t, poof!, your miles disappeared.

This move is primarily a change for the better for the infrequent Delta traveler. After all, if you were a regular Delta (or SkyTeam) customer, you weren’t really worried about the expiration date, since you kept racking them up.

Rather, this helps the little guy and is bound to build up a great deal of goodwill.

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economy comfort1 Delta starts offering more legroom in international economy, for a price
Delta is launching a small premium seating section in the economy cabin on longhaul international flights: Dubbed “Economy Comfort,” the new section of the plane will feature the same physical seats as the rest of economy, but with “up to” four inches of more legroom and 50% increased recline.

The service comes with a promise of more service, too:

In addition to more leg room and recline, customers seated in Economy Comfort will board early and enjoy complimentary spirits throughout the flight. These benefits are in addition to Delta’s standard international Economy class amenities, including complimentary meals, beer, wine, entertainment, blankets and pillows. In-seat power will also be available on aircraft equipped with personal entertainment systems which come with free HBO programming and other for-fee content. The seats will be designated with a specially designed seat cover.

Food, drinks, legroom, and recline? Feels like a throwback to international travel in 1988!

Of course, there’s a velvet rope:

Customers who have purchased an international Economy ticket on Delta will be able to choose Economy Comfort seats for an additional fee of $80-$160 one-way through delta.com, kiosks and Delta reservations beginning in May for travel this summer. Complimentary access to Economy Comfort seats will be available to all SkyMiles Diamond and Platinum Medallions; up to eight companions traveling in the same reservation with Diamond and Platinum Medallions; and customers purchasing full-fare Economy class tickets. Gold and Silver Medallions will enjoy 50 and 25 percent discounts on the Economy Comfort seat fees, respectively.

The key for Delta frequent travelers is the fact that seats in Economy Comfort will be complimentary for SkyMiles Diamond and Platinum level members. But not the entry- and mid-level elites (Silver and Gold), who still have to pay up, albeit at a discount.

The fact that you need to fly at least 75,000 miles before you get extra legroom distinguishes the program from United, which offers its Economy Plus seats to all its elites at no additional cost. UA Economy Plus is a lot easier to attain — only 25,000 miles, not 75,000 — and it’s available on domestic flights as well as international. Sure, Delta throws in some free drinks, but it takes a lot more flying to earn that complimentary cocktail.

Also, remember: This isn’t the same as a true premium economy class, as you find on, say, Virgin Atlantic, Air New Zealand, or JAL. Those products actually have different, wider seats, and not just more legroom.

30
Nov
2010

delta connection Upgraded: Delta brings inflight wi fi to regional jets
Good news for travelers on Delta’s larger regional jets: You’ll soon be able to surf the internet at 35,000 feet.

Delta Air Lines (NYSE: DAL) today announced it will add onboard Wi-Fi to 223 regional jet aircraft operated by Delta Connection carriers, expanding by 40 percent the number of Delta aircraft featuring Gogo Inflight Internet service. Delta will be the first domestic carrier to deploy Wi-Fi across its entire mainline and regional aircraft fleets with two classes of service.
[...]
Installations of Wi-Fi on Delta Connection jets will begin in January and will be complete by the end of 2011. Once complete, customers flying on all Delta domestic flights with a First Class cabin will enjoy Wi-Fi access, including service on every Delta Shuttle flight between New York-LaGuardia and Boston, Chicago-O’Hare and Washington, D.C.
[...]
Delta Connection aircraft featuring First Class cabins include Embraer 175, Bombardier CRJ700 and Bombardier CRJ900 models operated by Delta Connection. The aircraft feature between nine and 12 seats in First Class and between 56 and 64 seats in Economy.

This is an interesting move. First, it makes the regional jet experience a little more tolerable, by providing an option for inflight entertainment or productivity that wasn’t there before. With regional jets traveling on routes that have traditionally been handled by larger aircraft, it’s good to see Delta making the regional jets a little more “real.”

But perhaps more interestingly, the introduction of wi-fi actually brings a product typically only found on mainline jets to the subcontractors. These aren’t Delta’s planes. Sure, they fly with the Delta logo, but flights labeled “Delta Connection” are operated by a litany of regional airlines.

The only downside, for the time being, is the lack of wi-fi on the smaller jets. Sure, some of those 50-seat CRJ’s and ERJ-145s are just going to fly from Atlanta to Savannah, but some of those planes are for two-hour flights, regrettably. The people in the flying soda cans need distractions, too!

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The national anger at the TSA is not just taking a toll on passengers’ patience — and rights. It’s now also taking a toll on airlines’ bottom lines: In the abstract, of course, some people will be dissuaded from traveling because of the bad press the airline experience is getting. But now Delta is, in limited cases, refunding passengers’ tickets even when the tickets were purchased as nonrefundable.

That’s a big deal.

Delta spokeswoman Susan Elliott said Monday that her airline is issuing refunds on a case-by-case basis for customers worried about the new screening steps. The move, however, does not constitute a new refund policy at the airline.

Their competitors haven’t bit yet. No other airlines are cutting passengers any slack. Perhaps that’s because they (and Delta, actually) aren’t actually raising a red flag yet:

The Delta and American officials said they were not seeing large numbers of cancelations related to the new security checks, but they had no specific numbers.

“I can’t say no one has canceled,” [American Airlines spokesman Tim] Smith said, adding that it’s “just not a trend.”

Hmm. Well, if it’s not a trend, then why is Delta giving anyone any refunds for this reason? …and why are they admitting it to journalists?! I suspect that Delta’s admission is a tell, and that we’ll hear more in coming weeks about how the TSA’s rules are affecting the airlines’ businesses. Not this week — planes are full for the Thanksgiving holiday — and maybe not even in December, as other holiday travel ramps up. But if public anger is still high in January (and it very well could be if changes are slow in coming) then expect to see airlines lobbying to change the TSA gropefest.


northwest 787 Upgrades and Downgrades: Delta 787s, crocodiles on planes, cruises, Expedia, more
Downgraded: 787s on Delta
For those who thought that Delta would soon by flying the Boeing 787, thanks to their takeover of Northwest, prepare for a decade of disappointment. Northwest was an early buyer (in May 2005) of the 787 and was originally scheduled to take delivery between 2008 and 2010. Thanks to delays, that delivery timetable is over two years out of whack. But now Delta has pushed the delivery back even further: Now, Delta will receive the planes between 2020 and 2022. That’s a long deferment.

Upgraded: Ideas for bad Hollywood movies
Downgraded: Congolese carry-on inspections

Headline: “Crocodile on plane kills 19 passengers“… I immediately had visions of a crocodile biting its way through the passenger list. But the truth is more unfortunate. A crocodile hidden in a carry-on bag gets loose, people panic, plane goes out of balance, aircraft crashes. Very sad. And preventable.

Downgraded: Cruise ship pricing
The cruise ship lines are taking a page from the airlines and going a la carte with their services, slowly but surely whittling away at the “all-inclusive” pricing plans that were the hallmark of cruising. Sure, there have been upcharges for shore excursions, but now you have to pay up for certain meals, services, and options. Looks like easyCruise‘s fully-a-la-carte model may not be so farfetched after all. (Thanks, Bill!)

Upgraded: Cross-selling of Hotwire inventory on Expedia
Expedia is now widely selling Hotwire’s hotel inventory as “unpublished rates.” Like on Hotwire, the hotels won’t be listed by name, just by star-level and city zone. Since Expedia and Hotwire are part of the same parent company, I’m surprised it’s taken this long.

Upgraded: The last frontier of domestic inflight wifi
Aircell’s Gogo service has launched inflight wifi within the state of Alaska, for those traveling on Alaska Airlines. For now, the service only exists between Anchorage and Fairbanks, and Alaska Airlines is giving it away for free. It’s slated to be complimentary until the entire state is blanketed with signal availability.

Upgraded: Traveler seat-selection stereotypes
The folks at Hunch have found significant personality and life-experience differences between those who prefer aisle seats vs. window seats. It’s based on poll data. ME, I prefer the window seat, not just because it makes napping easier, because I never tire of looking out the window and staring down from 35,000 feet. And yet, my vita reads much more like the aisle passenger’s. Call me an outlier.