Should airlines be allowed to advertise fares without including taxes and fees?

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.

Are you familiar with the Transparent Airfares Act of 2014?

The proposed bill in Congress would allow airlines to go back to the practice of advertising their airfares without taxes. So a carrier could advertise a $99 fare online, but then customers would be hit with additional taxes. The actual ticket would cost a good deal more than the advertised price.

I’m no Washington, D.C. insider, so I can’t tell you if the bill, introduced by Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Penn.) has a chance of becoming law. I do know that Airlines 4 America, the trade group for major airlines, including American, Delta, Southwest and United, supports it.

On April 9, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee moved to support the bill.

“We thank Chairman Shuster and Representative DeFazio (D, Ore.) for their leadership in promoting government transparency, protecting customers and holding Washington accountable for the taxes they impose on air travel,” “A4A President and CEO Nicholas E. Calio said a statement after the committee moved the bill.

This would essentially move the industry back to where it was prior to 2012, when the DOT instigated a rule requiring airlines to include all taxes and fees in their advertised fare. The goal then was transparency.

But here’s the airline industry’s argument. It believes it is unfairly taxed, and it argues that current rules hide this fact from the public. The industry gives as an example a $300 airplane ticket. On that ticket, airlines say the consumer pays $61 in federal taxes, or about 20 percent. Because the government has raised the TSA passenger security tax starting in July, that number will soon rise to $63. The airlines also argue that few other industries have similar advertising rules. Other than gas stations, can you name an industry that advertises an all-in-one price?

The airline industry is suggesting that if the public is more aware of these taxes, people might begin to push back against them. Others, however, believe this is part of a ploy among airlines to raise ticket prices. What do you think?

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FAA seeks to fine Hawaiian Airlines $547,500 for failing to inspect Boeing 767

How does Hawaiian Airline schedule its flight attendants and pilots? Photo: Wikimedia commons/Dylan Ashe.

The FAA wants to fine Hawaiian Airlines$547,500.  Photo: Wikimedia commons/Dylan Ashe.

The Federal Aviation Administration wants to fine Hawaiian Airlines $547,500 after the carrier failed to inspect a Boeing 767-300 in compliance with a July 2000 Airworthiness Directive, the agency said in a Monday in a release.

According to the FAA, the directive was designed to ensure that a portion of the thrust reverser would not come off during flight. Had this happened, the FAA said, there would have been a rapid decompression.

“The AD required initial and repetitive inspections of the components to detect damage and wear, and corrective actions if necessary,” the FAA said in the release. “It required replacement of the components with new and improved parts within four years of the AD taking effect.”

Hawaiian spokeswoman Alision Croyled emailed this statement. ”We don’t comment on pending litigation. Hawaiian’s first commitment is always to safety. We have requested an informal conference with the FAA to discuss the matter.”

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Why you can’t sell your frequent flier miles

Do you know it's generally against the rules to sell frequent flier miles and other airline perks?

Do you know it’s generally against the rules to sell frequent flier miles and other airline perks?

What should you do if your airline audits you?

This is something Gary Leff, the talented blogger at View from the Wing, explored Monday in a blog post. But before we explore his advice, perhaps you’re a bit puzzled about why an airline might audit you. It gets complicated, but most audits are triggered when the airline believes that you have sold someone else a benefit that was only supposed to go to you.

Some examples:

  • You redeem a free ticket using miles. You sell that “free” ticket to someone else for cash. (Giving the ticket to a friend or relative for free is usually OK.)  
  • Airline often give their best customers chits for free premium class upgrades. But customers also cannot sell these.

As we learned from the Minneapolis rabbi who had his account closed by Delta after he complained too much, airlines have complete control over your miles. And according to Leff, their auditing departments can be thorough. Sometimes, the airlines will confront travelers while on they are on their journey to question if they’ve purchased something that should have been free. More often, airlines will probe the person they’ve accused of selling the ticket or upgrade. In the worst cases, an airline can close your account.

Leff has a thorough explanation of exactly what to do on his blog. But here’s his advice in brief:

If you’ve broken program rules, offer a contrite apology. You might lose some points, you might even be asked to pay the cost of a ticket that was obtained contrary to program rules. But unless your conduct was large scale and ongoing you’ll probably be invited to continue participating in the program

When it comes to frequent flier programs, Leff knows his stuff. You might consider following him on Twitter.

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First United Airlines Boeing 787-9 is almost ready

United's first 787-9, which it will fly from L.A. to Melbourne, is just about ready to fly for the carrier. Photo: United.

United’s first 787-9, which it will fly from L.A. to Melbourne, is just about ready to fly for the carrier. Photo: United.

The first United Airlines Boeing 787-9 has rolled off the assembly line in Everett, Wash., the carrier said this week.

This will be the airplane United uses on the Los Angeles to Melbourne, Australia route, a flight the airline intends to begin in October. It will be operated six times per week.

Yes, United already has 787s, but those are 787-8s. This is a new version. It’s 20 feet longer than United’s current 787 fleet, and it carries 30 more passengers. It also has slightly longer range. It can fly an additional 300 nautical miles, according to United.

Boeing is actually using the United airplane to secure certification for the 787-9 program. It’s one of five airplanes being used that way, United said.

According to Forbes, the L.A.-Melbourne route will be the world’s longest 787 flight, at 7,927 miles.

Air New Zealand is officially the launch customer for the new model. Boeing published some photos of Air New Zealand’s first plane earlier this week.

Air New Zealand Boeing 787-9

 

air-new-zealand-787-9-dreamliner-black-livery-3

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Aviation jobs: We interview Jetblue’s LAX general manager

Paula Minniti pic

In another installment of the “Aviation Jobs” feature, we interview Paula Minniti, who runs Jetblue’s operation at Los Angeles International Airport. Minniti is in charge of 38 “crew members” and four supervisors, though she said those numbers are growing.

I asked her if she could tell us a little bit about what a station manager does for Jetblue. Here’s our interview, which we conducted via email. I have condensed it slightly.

Tell us a little bit about your typical day. 

My day might consist of working with regulatory agencies (TSA, FAA, FBI, DOT, Airport and Los Angeles Police) LAWA representatives, other airline management, and JetBlue departments that support us, etc. I complete reports, I hire crewmembers, and I make sure we are following procedures and policies set forth by JetBlue and regulatory agencies. I hire and manage our business partners. I document and maintain accurate training records. I take responsibility for both internal and external compliance audits of all sorts. I physically check on the operation to make sure things are safe, secure and running smoothly. I am the local spokesperson for JetBlue and I make sure that we get what we need to have a smooth operation.

I am empowered to make decisions on my company’s behalf using our company values (Safety, Integrity, Caring, Passion and Fun.) I treat my station like it is my franchise and make the best decisions I can keeping my company values in mind.

Jetblue

What’s your favorite part of your job?

My favorite part of my job is that it is never the same. Every day I learn something new, I meet new people, and I get to go to the airport every day! I also like the fact that I get to see the result of most tasks that I complete.

What’s your least favorite part of your job?

The least favorite part of my job is that there are many things out of my control. For example: aircraft sometimes have maintenance issues, or weather 3,000 miles away can affect our operation.

With not that many gates in Terminal 3, how do you schedule which flights arrive and depart from which gates. I imagine it’s a finely tuned operation. How many flights per day does each gate handle?

Gates at Terminal 3 are assigned by the LAWA “gate assignment team.” When our flights depart from their origin, and a definite arrival time is determined, my supervisors call this team and a gate is assigned. We usually operate out of gate 33B, but that can change depending on arrival time into LAX. You’re correct when you say that it is a “finely tuned operation.” The LAWA gate assignment team juggles aircraft so that they make the best usage of all gates at Terminal 3.

One gate can handle approximately 8 trans-con turns per day. However, due to the fact that we are a common use terminal and that LAWA will assign the gates as efficiently as possible, there are a lot of scenarios that determine which gate we will be assigned. Some of the reasons we might have to go to another gate (other than the gate we usually operate out of) are: late arriving aircraft, aircraft mechanical delays (which delay an aircraft from vacating a gate), or weather/ATC delays. At the same time, we must keep in mind inflight and flight-ops duty rules, tarmac delay rules (which dictate that we can’t leave an aircraft with customers on the tarmac for very long), gate delay rules (which dictate that customers must be able to exit an aircraft that is parked at the gate if they should choose to), etc.

Sometimes you and your colleagues must deal with passengers who are upset. What’s the best way you’ve found to defuse what could be a volatile situation?

Due to safety or security reasons, there are many times we have to deliver a “no” message to our customers. However, we all know that it’s about how you deliver that message! My crewmembers know that the success of our company depends upon retaining our current customers and upon our current customers’ word-of-mouth recommendations to their friends and family. Most of the time, if our customers are upset, they just want to be listened to in a respectful manner.

Of course, sometimes my crewmembers need the help of a Supervisor and that’s when my Supervisors will step in to assist. Customer recovery is a big part of a Supervisor’s job and they usually resolve issues by listening, communicating clearly, and doing their best to come to an agreeable resolution.

What was your first airline job? How did the job prepare you for where you are today?

My first (and only) airline job has been with JetBlue. I have been with JetBlue for almost twelve years. After raising three children, I began my career with JetBlue at Long Beach Airport. While at LGB, I was promoted to Supervisor. When JetBlue began service at LAX in June, 2009, I was promoted to General Manager and opened up the JetBlue-LAX station.

I have been allowed to implement my vision for JetBlue-LAX by setting the tone of a respectful, safe, secure, and fun place to work. This makes for a happy team that has a terrific product, resulting in satisfied customers.

Want to learn about more airline jobs? My earlier interviews have been a Southwest Airlines flight dispatcher, a Hawaiian Airlines crew scheduler, an a low-cost airline fight attendant. 

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