Travel Buzz – March 2, 2012

American Airlines will add a premium section with more legroom to its economy cabin

“American says the enhanced coach-class seats will first be offered beginning this spring on its new Boeing 777-300ER aircraft. AA says the seating will eventually be rolled out through its mainline fleet of jets.

The Main Cabin Extra seats will be located in the front portion of AA’s economy section, a layout AA says will permit “easier boarding and deplaning.”

With the move, American joins an ever-growing list of airlines across the globe that offer premium seats in coach. United has long-offered such a product (Economy Plus), and Delta also is adding its own (Economy Comfort). Even some low-cost carriers, such as JetBlue (Even More Space seats) and Frontier (STRETCH seating) offer some sort of enhanced economy seating.”

The Department of Transportation has approved additional slots from Washington’s Reagan National Airport beyond its usual perimeter of 1,250 miles

“Four will go to airlines that don’t currently serve Washington National or have only limited service. The other four will go to incumbents that already fly there. They’ll use existing takeoff and landing slots to transfer to the new flights.

Those four are American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Air Lines and US Airways, and three of them have spelled out where they plan to fly from Washington National:

American Airlines will fly to Los Angeles, beginning June 14. It didn’t disclose the source of the slots.

Delta Air Lines will fly to Salt Lake City, beginning June 7. It will utilize slots currently used for a Washington National-New York LaGuardia round trip.

United Airlines will fly to San Francisco, beginning May 14. It is utilizing slots currently used for a Washington National-Chicago round trip.

US Airways hasn’t revealed any plans for its one flight that it can add.”

The Transportation Security Administration continues to attempt to expands its reach, this time to the nation’s highway system

“In the dead of night, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) administratively reclassified airport security screeners as Transportation Security Officers. The TSA then moved to administratively upgrade TSOs uniforms to resemble those of a federal law enforcement officer. They further completed the makeover with metal law enforcement badges. Not surprisingly, government bureaucrats at the TSA left out one crucial component during the artificial makeover – actual federal law enforcement training as is required of Federal Air Marshalls.

While TSOs may have the appearance of a federal law enforcement officer they have neither the authority nor the power. If a passenger brings a loaded gun or an explosive device into an airport screening area there is nothing a TSO can do until the local police step in to save the day.”

 Higher oil prices are driving up airfares

“Travel buffs are just beginning to solidify their spring break and summer vacation plans. As they do, comparison shopping may show that such hikes have already started to take their toll on the cost of airfare.

“[R]ising jet fuel costs put significant cost pressure on the airline industry,” Steve Lott, vice present of communications for Airlines for America told CBSDC. “Regarding fuel, it was the airline industry’s largest expense in 2011, representing 35 percent of total costs. In 2011, the price of jet fuel reached a record high of $3.00 per gallon for the year.”

He continued, “It is even higher for the first two months of 2012.”

Some U.S.-based airline pilots are finding opportunities with Chinese carriers

“Everyone is facing a pilot shortage,” said Shen Wei, head of pilot recruitment at Shanghai-based budget carrier Spring Airlines (TPRINZ). “Foreign pilots are the quickest option.”

To help lure overseas crew members, Spring Air pays foreign pilots 30 percent more than domestic staff, Shen said, without elaboration.

Air China Ltd. (753), the nation’s largest international carrier, was offering $198,000 a year net plus bonuses for Airbus SAS A330 pilots, according to an advertisement on the website of Wasinc International, the recruitment company that helped run the job fair. During the two-day Miami event, which featured about a dozen Chinese airlines, about 70 pilots got provisional job offers, said Scott Snow, a spokesman.”

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