Airlines Reap Record Profits, and Passengers Get Peanuts

Luggage Cars ORD
Luggage Cars ORD

There are real consequences to corporations constantly consolidating, and becoming de facto monopolies in particular markets. Cable/internet companies are one such example, and so are airlines. Most routes are served by one or two airlines, so there isn’t a push towards lowering ticket prices to capture market share. Instead, the airlines just give executives big bonuses…

Helped by falling oil prices, airlines are reporting record profits, but for many passengers this sudden bonanza has meant little more than extra bags of free peanuts and pretzels.

The four biggest domestic carriers — American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines — together earned about $22 billion in profits last year, a stunning turnaround after a decade of losses, bankruptcies and cutbacks. A big reason for this is the plunging price of jet fuel, which now costs only a third of what it did just two years ago.

But that windfall is only slowly finding its way down the aisles. Days after reporting record profits, for instance, two of the nation’s biggest airlines brought back free snacks in coach.

United said it would begin serving complimentary stroopwafels, which it described as “Dutch-made toasted waffle treats,” and American said it would offer free meals in economy class on flights between Dallas and Hawaii, and free snacks on all domestic flights.

Airfares, however, have remained stubbornly high.

(click here to continue reading Airlines Reap Record Profits, and Passengers Get Peanuts – The New York Times.)

Chicago At Night, Number 553
Chicago At Night, Number 553


Where Germs Lurk on Planes

Waiting, 3 AM, Milano Airport
Waiting, 3 AM, Milano Airport

Flying is stressful enough, but getting sick as a result of traveling is even worse.

Air travelers suffer higher rates of disease infection, research has shown. One study pegged the increased risk for catching a cold as high as 20%. And the holidays are a particularly infectious time of year, with planes packed full of families with all their presents—and all those germs.

Air that is recirculated throughout the cabin is most often blamed. But studies have shown that high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters on most jets today can capture 99.97% of bacterial and virus-carrying particles. That said, when air circulation is shut down, which sometimes happens during long waits on the ground or for short periods when passengers are boarding or exiting, infections can spread like wildfire.

One well-known study in 1979 found that when a plane sat three hours with its engines off and no air circulating, 72% of the 54 people on board got sick within two days. The flu strain they had was traced to one passenger. For that reason, the Federal Aviation Administration issued an advisory in 2003 to airlines saying that passengers should be removed from planes within 30 minutes if there’s no air circulation, but compliance isn’t mandatory.

Much of the danger comes from the mouths, noses and hands of passengers sitting nearby. The hot zone for exposure is generally two seats beside, in front of and behind you, according to a study in July in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

(click here to continue reading Where Germs Lurk on Planes –

and even the security check-in area is a pit of filth and disease:

You think the plane is bad? Security checkpoints harbor a host of hazards as well, researchers say.

Jason SchneiderAirport security areas can make it easy to get sick. People are crowded together, and plastic storage bins that hold personal effects are not cleaned after each screening.
People get bunched up in lines, where there is plenty of coughing and sneezing. Shoes are removed and placed with other belongings into plastic security bins, which typically don’t get cleaned after they go through the scanner.

Layers of Weakness

Layers of Weakness

So, other than having a healthy immune system, what to do?

According to Scott McCartney:

  • Drink lots of water. Dry air is a ideal place for viruses, and plane air has hardly any humidity. You can go so far as to spray your own nasal passages to keep them moist.
  • Clean your hands frequently.
  • Avoid touching the seat-back pockets. Who knows what lurks there? Likewise be wary of the tray tables. Some viral particles can live for 24 hours.
  • Aim your air vent in front of your face – it can keep airborne particles from landing on you. Well, possibly.
  • Avoid airline pillows and blankets – they are rarely, if ever, sanitized.

Or else, be part of the 1%, and get a private plane…


Expedia and Orbitz versus American Airline

Aircraft Wing and Clouds Number 49

Weird little business battle raging right now, sort of like the periodic battles cable television providers have with networks over fees. There’s no requirement that travel sites have all flights, Southwest Air has never been a member of Orbitz or Expedia, and SWA seems to do all right. However, seems like AA will lose some business by being recalcitrant, we shall see.

The standoff between American Airlines Inc. and online travel agencies intensified Thursday when changed how it displays American’s airfare search results.

American Airlines wants travel distribution providers to use its Direct Connect technology to book travel, giving it a more direct relationship with customers so it can lower its distribution costs. Expedia calls the new model ‘anti- consumer.’ Fort Worth-based American’s fares no longer appear on Orbitz .com after those two companies couldn’t agree on a contract this week. In an apparent move to support Orbitz’s stance in that dispute, Expedia dropped American’s flight prices from its display screen and moved American’s results to the far right side of its search results.

That’s important because most online travel sites show fare search results by listing the cheapest flights starting on the left side of the screen. Expedia’s changes hurt American’s display in the rankings and could push more bookings to other carriers, even if American’s fares were the cheapest on a given search.

If more airlines opt out of online travel agencies in hopes of luring fliers to book directly, consumers would face a confusing fare-shopping landscape. Consumer advocates fear that fare comparisons would be harder to make among carriers if only some airlines participated in different travel sites.

(click to continue reading Expedia joins Orbitz in obscuring listings of American Airline fares | News for Dallas, Texas | Dallas Morning News | Headline | National News.)