Palm Springs International Airport is growing

Passenger traffic in Palm Springs is growing, though it remains highly seasonal. Photo: Paul Sableman, via Creative Commons.

Passenger traffic in Palm Springs is growing, though it remains highly seasonal. Photo: Paul Sableman, via Creative Commons.

Just about every airport of its size in the country is steadily losing passengers, but not Palm Springs International Airport.

According to a story today in the Desert Sun, passenger traffic was up 7 percent in the first three months of 2014, compared to the same period last year. Palm Springs even has seasonal service to the Midwest — Chicago on American Airlines — and the East Coast, with once-weekly flights to New York on Virgin America. It also has flights to Canada on Westjet.

Yes, it’s no LAX. But compared to L.A./Ontario International Airport, which is 74 miles to the west, Palm Springs is in pretty good shape. (There are a bunch of reasons Palm Springs is doing better, but one of them is that Palm Springs is more of a destination people want to travel to. Being a tourism hub has its benefits.)

PSP weatherThat’s the good news. The less good news? Palm Springs is one of the most seasonal destinations in the nation. Airlines add flights starting in the fall and start to drop them off in May. You probably know why. But in case you don’t, take a look at this week’s weather report, and you’ll figure it out. Palm Spring is not a happy place to be in the summer. In Yiddish, we call it a shvitz.

Here are some of the airlines now pulling back, according to the Desert Sun.

Virgin America already suspended its daily Palm Springs-to-San Francisco route and weekly service into John F. Kennedy International in New York, while American Airlines will close its nonstop route into Chicago in early June. Frontier Airlines will end its seasonal flights to Denver on Wednesday, said Kate O’Malley, manager of corporate communications for Frontier.

Alaska Airlines also alters its summer Palm Springs schedule, a spokeswoman told the newspaper.

“Palm Springs demand is very seasonal, with traffic shrinking substantially in the summer months,” Lindsey continued, via email. “In order to maintain acceptable performance levels and more accurately match supply to demand, we seasonally reduce our PSP flying during the summer.”

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Virgin America wins gates at Dallas Love Field; LAX flights planned

Virgin America 3
You will soon be able to fly Virgin America from Los Angeles to Dallas Love Field.

You might not be excited by this, especially since Virgin now flies from LAX to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. But Virgin is stoked.

With two gates at the airport, obtained from American Airlines, Virgin will be able to operate a mini focus city at Love Field, which is considerably closer to downtown Dallas than DFW. I don’t profess to know much about the Dallas market, but given the way that Southwest, Delta and Virgin fought over which carrier would receive these gates, a lot of folks seem to think Love Field is a lucrative airport.

Virgin plans to fly to San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington Reagan and New York LaGuardia.

For more complete coverage, including details on the local Dallas politics impacting this choice, your best bets are the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram and the Dallas Morning News.

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AP: Bill to revert to old system of advertising airfare moving ahead at “mach” speed

Should airlines be allowed to advertised fares that do not include taxes and fees? Screengrab: Kayak.

Should airlines be allowed to advertised fares that do not include taxes and fees? Screengrab: Kayak.

We may have some bad news for those of you who like straight-forward airfares.

According to the Associated Press, a bill favored by the airline industry that would allow carriers to revert to their old practice of advertising fares without taxes is moving through Congress at “mach speed.”

As you know, a lot of bills tend to just languish in Congress. And when I wrote about the “Transparent Airfares Act of 2014 — last month for our newspapers, I figured this bill would be the same. Consumers, who are also voters, don’t like it. I figured the proposed legislation would just die, perhaps to be reintroduced in a future Congress.

But apparently Washington watchers think otherwise. The AP seems to be suggest that the bill could become law. That would mean an airline could once again advertise a $99 fare, without saying that the actual ticket would end up costing about $35 more, due to all those taxes and government fees.

The AP says the airlines have stepped up their lobbying game in recent years.

“Thirty airlines spent nearly $30 million on lobbying and employed 213 lobbyists last year, according to the political money-tracking website OpenSecrets.org,” reporter Joan Lowy wrote.

The story also notes that bill sponsor Bill Shuster, R-Pa., the  House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman, …”has received $64,900 in airline contributions so far in this election season, making him the top congressional recipient of airline contributions.” On top of that, he has taken $22,500 from air transport unions, according to the story.

What do you think? Will this bill become law? Might it languish in the Senate? Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., has already announce that he wants to try to block it.

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New York Times checks in on premium airline travel

British Airways is one of many airlines investing in its premium cabins. Photo: British Airways.

British Airways is one of many airlines investing in premium cabins. Photo: British Airways.

My editor has banned me from writing any more stories about the bells and whistles that airlines are using to attract first and business class customers. He says most of our newspaper’s readers fly in coach and don’t care all that much about what happens in front of the curtain. The man does have a point.

But luckily, the New York Times has no such limits.

Hence, this week, we get to digest yet another story on the arms race of premium class travel — “Piling On the Luxury” by Jad Mouawad. “Flat beds and fluffy pillows, fancy wines and four-course meals, designer-brand pajamas and luxurious vanity kits — these options have become the staple of business-class travel these days,” he writes.

Air France has been one of the last airlines to adopt flat bed seats in business class and super luxurious seats in first class. But Alexandre de Juniac, Air France’s chairman and chief executive, told the Times he felt like he had no choice. Air France, he said, had to compete with Asian and Middle Eastern carriers.

“Our only weapons, since we can’t lower our costs to the same level as theirs, is to fight back with our own quality services,” he told the Times.

This is probably not new news for readers here, but the Times article has a pretty good roundup on the latest premium class travel trends on a bunch of major airlines, from British Airways, to Delta, to Emirates to Lufthansa.

But just remember, whatever seat is the best of the pack now probably will be obsolete pretty soon.

“It’s a catch-up game,” TAM’s CEO told the Times. “You can have the best seat ever for two years. But guess what? Someone else will come up with a better seat.”

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Airlines offered a business class sale to Europe last month. Why wasn’t it advertised?

Last month, several airlines, including United and Delta, offered deeply discounted business class tickets from many U.S. cities to Europe. In a lot of cases, the business class fares — flat seats and all — were cheaper than coach. I know this in part because I grabbed one for my honeymoon this summer.

But the airlines didn’t advertise these discount fares. You either had to get lucky — maybe you were just searching that day — or had to learn about it from a friend. From what I could tell, these fare sales were available twice, for about one day each. If you thought too much about buying, the tickets disappeared.

Why weren’t these flights advertised? Joe Brancatelli, the respected business travel columnist, has the answer. He wrote a fascinating story on these flash sales. Here’s what one airline executive told him:

“Our legal team claims you must have at least 10 percent [of seats] available at the advertised price and you can’t change fares or terms after the promotion starts,” is how one airline marketing executive explained it to me. “Now we dump what we deem appropriate into the system and don’t talk about it. Then we can pull inventory or change restrictions without repercussions. It makes the lawyers happy.”

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