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What's Going on with the Airlines
By Ed Perkins
The combination of a lousy economy, increasing fuel prices, and intense competition is creating unprecedented turmoil in the airline marketplace. Although no single event warrants a full column, several are important enough to cover.
EPITAPH FOR A GRAND IDEA.
The saddest current news is the demise of the last "superior product at the regular coach fare" proponent.
Ambitious upstart JetAmerica, slated to start flying between Toledo and Newark on July 14 (and other routes soon afterward), announced a delay in its startup schedule. Now, says the line, it will start its ultra-low-fare flights on Aug. 14.
JetAmerica blames trouble arranging slots at Newark for its problem, but some industry-watchers believe that the whole idea might not fly. The company is still taking reservations for flights after Aug. 14, and if you find a flight and fare that works for you, you might give it a try -- but be sure to buy with a credit card and have a "Plan B" in mind.
MORE TAKEOFF TROUBLE.
Already more than a year late with its revolutionary "Dreamliner" 787,
BETTER COACH SEATS?
Several airlines, including Delta, are looking at a new type of coach seat that staggers seats a few inches apart, front to rear, and promises more side-to-side room for each passenger. The idea looks good on paper, but raises some issues about getting in and out of window and middle seats that I don't see as being addressed. The supplier says airlines can use that extra space either to keep the number of seats in each row the same and increase passenger comfort or to add a seat in each row of a wide-body plane while preserving current perceived "comfort." I'll give you one guess about what the airlines will decide.
FOR THIS THEY NEEDED A SURVEY?
A survey commissioned by
CUBA SI -- SORT OF.
Cuba Travel Services, of Los Angeles, offers weekly nonstops between Los Angeles and Havana, with round-trip fares starting at $689. The chartered flights (on Continental) were made possible by recent relaxation in U.S. rules about travel to Cuba. The tour operator expects most of its business will be "friends and relatives," but rules have also been relaxed for some other travel so expect similar flights from other cities. As yet, however, ordinary tourists are still not eligible.
Just about all the airlines are eliminating routes as demand continues to be soft.
Cutbacks range from small communities (Delta drops Dubuque) to big ones (Virgin Atlantic drops Chicago). If you've ticketed ahead, keep alert for any route or schedule changes that might affect you.
© Ed Perkins Distributed by Tribune Media Services, Inc.
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