Your Weekend Reads for February 23, 2017


When it comes to the investment world, Warren Buffett is like that old commercial: “When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen.” So the airline industry was most certainly listening after Business Insider reported that the Sage of Omaha’s latest investment brings his stake to $10 billion. That breaks down to $2.1 billion in American, $2.2 billion in United, $2.4 billion in Southwest and $3 billion in Delta.

 

Three of the big four U.S. airlines — American, Delta and United — have been in an ongoing battle to stop the expansion of the Big Three Middle East carriers — Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways — in the U.S., claiming the latter receive government subsidies that create an unfair playing field. And now data from the U.S. National Travel and Tourism Office finds that foreign airlines increasingly took market share from U.S. airlines on their own turf, reports Skift. The data found that Qatar Airways’ passenger traffic to and from the U.S. soared by 46.5 percent in 2016, while Emirates flew 3.5 million people to and from U.S. airports, a 15.4 percent increase over 2015.

Anyone who knows me knows that I believe that allowing cell phone calls on flights will be tantamount to another circle of hell. I expressed my opposition to this back in 2013 in this opinion piece for CNN. The U.S. Department of Transportation received more than 7,000 comments on a proposal continue to ban inflight phone calls, reports the Los Angeles Times. The cast majority of commenters were against allowing inflight calls.

I’m a big fan of Twitter, and I’ve been impressed by how airlines including JetBlue, Delta, American and KLM have embraced it to connect with their customers. The Transportation Security Administration has taken a page from the airlines’ book and uses its own @AskTSA Twitter account to put a human face on the agency and answer travelers’ questions, reports the Wall Street Journal (subscribers only).

Photo courtesy of Air Canada

In October 2004, Air Canada tapped award-winning singer and national treasure Celine Dion to help launch its major rebranding effort. Thirteen years later, Canada’s flag carrier has done it again, and Skift spoke with Tyler Brûlé of Monocle and London-based branding consultancy Winkreative to discuss the airline’s latest new look. “Brûlé says the change was catalyzed by Air Canada President Ben Smith, who wanted to position the brand as premium across the globe, with the ‘desire for cut-through and to stand out on tarmacs around the world,’” wrote Skift.

Industry insiders know that airlines make their money from passengers who pay for premium cabin seating. We’ve also seen how carriers have been adding and taking away amenities for those sitting in economy class. The struggle to find the best balance in serving coach passengers while still watching the bottom line continues, according to FutureTravelExperience.com. “While we are a million miles away from a golden age of economy class travel, recent developments suggest that some carriers are making efforts to distance themselves from the so-called `race to the bottom,’” it writes. It notes Delta Air Lines’ plan to bring back free coach meals on 12 of its longest domestic routes, while British Airways has gotten pushback after it decided to remove free meals from short-haul economy flights.

 

Jason jpg

Earlier this week, aviation writer Jason Rabinowitz tweeted about the warnings that travelers see when they book the new bare-bones Basic Economy fares on American, Delta and United. In exchange for much lower fares, passengers don’t get to choose their seats, there are no refunds, they board last and can’t use overhead bins. I replied on Twiter that despite all the warnings, there would still be passengers upset over the terms, and this article in Inc. magazine has proven my point. Despite the airlines emphasizing that Basic Economy travelers can’t choose their seats, the writer complains about one of United’s stipulations: “Please note that customers traveling in a group, including families, will not be able to sit together.”

 

If you happen to be stuck in Basic Economy with no place to put your stuff, you may want to consider buying the hottest thing since wheeled luggage: The Airport Jacket, which was launched on Kickstarter. For $180, you get a jacket that has 14 pockets, two detachable compartments and a duffel bag that the designers say can hold a laptop, iPad, two pairs of shoes, a pair of jeans, three T-shirts, two pairs of shorts, underwear, a light sweater, a dress, a liquids bag, wallet, phone and passport.

Here are my five picks for more stories you should read over the weekend. Enjoy!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Benét J. Wilson is a freelance aviation/travel writer based in Baltimore who is available for your writing and branded content/content marketing projects. She’s the Air Travel Expert for About.com. Follow her travel-related magazines on Flipboard: Best of About Travel, a joint curation venture with her fellow About Travel Experts; Travel-Go! There’s Nothing Stopping You, all about the passenger experience on the ground and in the air; and Aviation Geek, a joint magazine sharing everything you need to know about the commercial aviation industry. Check out her travel-related boards on Pinterest and follow her on Twitter at @AvQueenBenet, on her Aviation Queen Facebook Page and on Instagram at aviationqueen.

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