FAA rules on pilot fatigue have changed little since the heyday of the DC-3, despite the increased strains on pilots due to terrorism, advanced technology, and the greater potential for jet lag when crossing multiple time zones in a relatively short period. In his Fast Lane blog this morning, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said his department would propose new rules today requiring that pilots have an opportunity for at least nine hours of rest before a flight (an hour longer than current rules), at least 30 consecutive hours off duty every week (a 25 percent increase), and new weekly and monthly duty limits.
Expect some backlash from the airline industry.
You may have seen some of my rants here or in the print edition of T+L about the outrageous fees and surcharges the airlines tack onto their base airfares. The airline industry says the surcharges allow consumers to pick and choose the additional services they want rather than forcing them to pay for perks they don't need. I say baloney. They're doing it out of greed. The base airfares they advertise are deceptively low, and can increase by 30 percent or more when you tack on all the extras, like fees for carry-on baggage, checked baggage, telephone reservations, select seat assignments, meals, et al ad nauseam. What's worse, it's often difficult to find out about these charges until a consumer pays for the tickets or, in some cases, until he arrives at the airport.
Now some big guns are marshaling their cumulative power to challenge the airlines on these hidden fees by creating a new website called madashellabouthiddenfees.com.
Travel Pulse | Air France-KLM is considering starting a low-cost domestic carrier in order to compete with low-cost rivals, according to press reports. The company would not comment, but the French news agency AF reported that the airline is considering setting up a new entity within the airline that could compete with low-cost carriers that are eating into the airline’s market share.
In Los Angeles or San Francisco? It’s a good day to multitask. How often can you save Chihuahuas, eat tacos, and score a very affordable Mexican vacation all at the same time?
Virgin America has just announced new service to Cabo and Cancun from LAX and SFO starting this December. To celebrate, they’re offering everyone special $129 fares from those airports to Mexico for the next three days.
USA Today | You might be flying in coach, but increasingly, passengers in the back of the plane can grab a taste of premium comfort—from more legroom to better meals. But you'll pay a price.
Giving fliers in coach a taste of first class is the latest ripple in the à la carte pricing trend that has swept the airline industry. While many carriers started out charging passengers for essentials, such as checking bags, many now offer perks and privileges for a fee.
Don't want to be smashed into a middle seat in the back of the plane? Purchase a perch in the exit row. Afraid the overhead bins will be full before you board? Pay a few dollars and walk on the plane right behind those with elite status. A growing number of carriers offer in-flight Internet access. And many airlines are selling day passes to their lounges so passengers can relax in a space shut off from the more hectic boarding areas.
USA Today | Lots of luck catching another flight if you've been bumped or miss a connection.
Commercial airlines in the USA have never been so full. Seven of them—Delta, American, United, Continental, US Airways, AirTran and Alaska—reported filling at least 87% of their seats in July. Even Southwest, always the industry's laggard in load factor, beat the industry's average over the previous six Julys of 84.6% by filling 84.9% of its seats.
That leaves precious few spots available if you've been bumped off a full flight or miss a connecting flight. And because airlines are scheduling fewer flights than five years ago, travelers could face long waits for a direct flight to their destinations or have to settle for circuitous reroutings to get there.
Travel fiends rejoice! JetBlue is bringing back its "All You Can Jet" promotion. Whereas last time, $599 bought you 30 days of unlimited flight anywhere JetBlue flies, this time they're offering passengers two options: for $699, you can purchase an unlimited pass that will allow travel any day of the week. But if you're looking to save a few—or, y'know, 200—dollars, you can opt for the $499 pass. You'll still be able to travel anywhere JetBlue goes, as often as you want, but you won't be allowed to fly on Fridays or Sundays.
Mashable.com | Delta Air Lines has launched The Delta Ticket Window, a Facebook (Facebook) application that lets members find, book and share flights via the “Book a Trip” tab on the airline’s Facebook Page.
Delta aims to reach travelers with Facebook-happy trigger fingers when it comes to travel booking. The application was built to keep the user on Delta’s Facebook Page for the duration of the booking process, as well as give them the opportunity to share their booked flight with friends.
How did three children manage to buy tickets and board a Southwest airliner from Jacksonville to Nashville last Tuesday without identification or parental permission? That’s the question on many parents’ minds as the incident begins to get the sort of publicity you might expect.
The three—ages 15, 13, and 11—apparently had $700 in babysitting earnings, took a taxi to the airport, and managed to buy the tickets and get through security without showing I.D. Their goal was to visit Dollywood, but when they arrived in Nashville and discovered that the amusement park was several hundred miles further away, they became disenchanted by their escapade and phoned a relative, who paid for their return airfare.
New York Times | Airlines should no longer allow children under the age of 2 to fly in the laps of adults, according to a recommendation by the National Transportation Safety Board sent to the Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday. The group urged the F.A.A. to require that every occupant of an airplane, regardless of age, have a seat on all flights—commercial, charter and private planes. Photo credit: iStock.