Security Musings

Security Musings

Information Security Travel Guide

Stephen Northcutt, an Information Security Researcher, United Airlines 1k, Writer and Instructor, documents the struggles of the travel and hospitality industries as we all face continually increasing energy costs. He and his peers share their travel experiences and give you quick tips and short reviews of the companies they do business with as they travel. If you came across this article because of a Google search, what you want is probably here, just use find with your browser (CTRL - F), it is easier than reading from top to bottom; however, you may get some useful tips if you stick around and read. Each major cluster of trips is documented in a separate file.

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United Airlines News


By Stephen Northcutt

[December 13, 2011] As the bankruptcy of American Airlines progresses, consequences for passengers are beginning to come to light. At Chicago's O'Hare Airport, the airline is likely to cut flying capacity 10% to 20%. These cuts will be on top of the 15% American has already cut from Chicago since 2007. United Continental Holdings, Inc. is also likely to make further cuts at Chicago as United and Continental continue their merging process. What does this mean for you and me? You guessed it - higher ticket prices. According to Crain's Chicago Business, "Fewer seats will mean even higher ticket prices at O'Hare, where the average fare has climbed at about twice the national rate since 2007." Capacity cuts may also hinder O'Hare's $8.6 billion expansion project. Since American and United flights account for 75% of the passenger traffic at O'Hare, the deeper the cuts, the less likely they will be to support the final stage of the expansion.

[December 1, 2011]
In the aftermath of the announcement of American Airlines (AMR) filing for bankruptcy, analysts are busy trying to anticipate the long term effects. American Airlines was the only major U.S. airline that did not file for bankruptcy last decade. However, it seems such an event was inevitable and, according to MarketWatch.com, their bankruptcy became the second largest airline filing in U.S. history, after United Airline's bankruptcy in 2002. American Airlines has sought shelter under Chapter 11 while they attempt to reorganize and get their bearings without creditors bearing down on them. In the meantime, American will continue to fly at a lower capacity than before, which could prove to be very good news for their competitors. J.P. Morgan analyst, Jamie Baker, noted, “We are modeling for a 10% AMR capacity cut. This equates to a 1% to 3% revenue improvement per competitor in 2012.” Gary Chase, a Barclays analyst, went further, naming United Continental Holdings Inc. and Delta as most likely to be the "immediate and longer-term beneficiaries of today’s actions by AMR on the capacity front and on the cost front.” It is also speculated that we may see yet another airline merger as American restructures. Rumors are flying that the slighted U.S. Airways is looking to merge with American Airlines. U.S. Airways lost out in a fight to merge with Delta and was also left out of United's merger with Continental. Time will tell whether U.S. Airways will finally find a partner. While many seem hopeful about American's outlook, some say the airline waited too long to file for bankruptcy. Bankruptcy worked out well for major players like United and Delta. However, other airlines did not fare so well. Among those who never flew the skies again were Pan Am, Trans World Airlines and Eastern Airlines. Whether American Airlines will be able to rise from the ashes or whether they are in an irreversible nose dive remains to be seen.

[August 19, 2011]
A call to awareness for the treatment of disabled passengers has been raised after a man received his wheelchair back from United Airlines in pieces. Jason Price was returning to Oklahoma City after a business trip to Washington D.C. He had been invited there to help a federal administration write a book about people with disabilities becoming employed and self-sufficient. However, when he returned to Oklahoma City, his $20,000 power wheelchair, which had been placed in the luggage compartment, was "nothing more than a seat and a set of wheels." Power wheelchairs sometimes need to be disassembled in order to be stowed. However, the Department of Transportation regulations clearly state: "When wheelchairs or other assistive devices are disassembled by the carrier for stowage, the carrier shall reassemble them and ensure their prompt return to the individual with a disability. Wheelchairs and other assistive devices shall be returned to the passenger in the condition received by the carrier." It cost Mr. Price $1,200 to repair the damages made to his wheelchair by United. According to Asbury Medical Supply Repair Department Manager, Tamara Hargrove, this is not an isolated incident. She sees this happen quite frequently, and she said when airlines do this to disabled passengers, it is like "taking his legs and dismantling them and then giving them back broken." United responded to the incident by saying, "We sincerely regret the damage that occurred to our customer's wheelchair. We have apologized for the inconvenience and will reimburse the customer for the entire cost of the repairs needed to the assistive device." While Price is glad United is picking up the bill for their mistake, he pointed out this is about a lack of respect on the part of the airline. Price remarked, "This type of indignity cannot be ignored."

July 14, 2011] Earlier this week, after disembarking from a United flight in Chicago, Thomas Stuker was greeted by no less than United CEO Jeff Smisek to acknowledge Mr. Stuker's VERY frequent flying with United Airlines. My goodness, that is a lot of flying! In 29 years of traveling, Thomas has been on somewhere around 6,000 United flights.

[June 1, 2011]
Around 10:45PM on Sunday night, United Airlines Flight 990 took off from Washington Dulles International Airport headed for Accra, Ghana. A half hour into the flight, passengers on the Boeing 767 were settling in, most of them hoping to sleep for the better part of their 11-hour trip. Unfortunately, one passenger settled in a little too far. As he reclined his seat back, he entered the "personal space" of the passenger behind him. That person did not appreciate the encroachment and expressed his dissatisfaction by slapping the reclined passenger on the back of the head. A fistfight ensued, and another passengers and crew member stepped in to separate the brawling neighbors. Rather than continuing on with disgruntled passengers, the pilot decided to return to the airport. However, since they were flying over Washington D.C. things were a little complicated. As the United flight re-entered Washington airspace, two F-16 fighter jets scrambled from Andrews Air Force Base to escort them back to the airport. The plane was also carrying a full load of fuel and had to dump the majority of it into the Atlantic Ocean to land safely. Washington police met the flight at the gate, and despite the major disturbance and expense of the incident, they did not arrest or charge either of the passengers involved. After 18 hours, the aircraft took off again for Ghana, arriving 19 hours late.

[May 17, 2011] United Airlines Flight 5837, being operated by ExpressJet Airlines, was diverted to Richmond International Airport last night. After the jet took off from Washington Dulles International Airport, the crew noticed an unsafe gear indication. Instead of continuing on to Rochester, NY, the crew decided to divert to Richmond, VA. While approaching, the crew declared an emergency, and they were unsure whether all of the landing gear and brakes would work properly. Thankfully, the jet landed safely and the passengers were put on another plane to continue their journey to Rochester.

[May 16, 2011] The Boeing Company is introducing a new jumbo jet to its line-up. The Boeing 747-8 will be a more economical version of the original 747, but it will still maintain its massive size and passenger capacity. The new jet is currently undergoing certification tests, and in April, the Boeing Test and Evaluation team made one of the most critical certification tests for a new plane - the simulation of the ultimate rejected takeoff (RTO). Captain Kirk Vining, a test pilot for Boeing, explained, "In the emergency event that we have to make a rejected takeoff at these heavy weights, it takes a long distance for the airplane to stop." For the sake of this test, crews loaded the plane above its maximum take-off weight and installed a set of completely worn-out brakes. Captain Vining then taxied the airplane to the start of the runway and pushed all four engines to maximum thrust. When the airplane was going just over 200 miles per hour, Captain Vining slammed on the brakes. Andy Hammer, the 747-8 flight test manager, explained, "The whole intent is to demonstrate that under the worst conditions you can safely bring the airplane to a stop." The plane performed better than anticipated, stopping more than 700 feet before the intended target. However, this was not the end of the test. According to Boeing.com, "The kinetic energy from the moving airplane was transferred to the brakes in the form of tremendous heat, estimated to be more than 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit or 1,400 degrees Celsius. As expected, the brakes glowed a bright orange as smoke poured out." Firefighters stood by, but they were not able to do anything for five minutes, simulating how long it may take for firefighter crews to arrive at a situation on a runway. As the tires heated up, special fuse plugs in the tires activated and the tires deflated before they exploded. Once the five minute waiting period was over, the firefighters doused the tires with water. In the end, the tires and brakes were damaged, but the rest of the airplane was in great condition. Andy Hammer commented, "This was the worst case. So when the airplane is in service, you can be assured that at 975,000 pounds, with worn brakes, worst center of gravity, and worst cut speed that you actually can stop the airplane." The 747-8 should be available early next year.

[May 13, 2011] While United Continental Holdings is working to combine United and Continental Airlines into one company, the two airlines operate separately at this stage in the process. With that in mind, the company is asking for flexibility from its flight attendants to avoid furloughs next year. In 2012, United flight attendants who have been on voluntary furlough will return to work, and United Airlines will be overstaffed by 1,795 workers. Meanwhile, Continental Airlines will need 900 more flight attendants when they receive the new Boeing 787 and 737s next year. The problem is flight attendants at United and Continental still have separate unions, and their contracts do not allow them to work on each other's flights. The company is hoping to change that policy to avoid involuntary furloughs next year. United Continental Holdings stated, "We want to do everything we can to ensure all of our flight attendants who want to work have the opportunity to do so, and reduce the possibility of involuntary furloughs for our United flight attendants." However, the Association of Flight Attendants, which represents United's flight attendants, is skeptical about the idea. Christopher Clarke, a spokesman for AFA, said, "You can't just take a worker out of United and plop them over at Continental. There are repercussions and ramifications. We need to make sure it works for flight attendants. Right now, they don't want to work out a contract with us, but they want to balance their flying. We're happy to meet with them and do everything we can to make this merger work, but it has to work for us." Flight attendants from both airlines are scheduled to vote on unified union representation starting on May 17th.

[May 12, 2011] It looks as though United, Continental and American Airlines have been caught in a lie regarding their commitment to environmental responsibility. According to the Huffington Post, while the airlines recently proclaimed their commitment to going green, they also brought a lawsuit against the EU's efforts to reduce carbon pollution resulting from the airline industry. United and Continental Airlines are running an Eco-Skies campaign claiming, "At United Continental Holdings, we are committed to leading commercial aviation as an environmentally responsible company by taking actions today that shape an environmentally sustainable future..." However, the company is attempting to stop a European Union program requiring all airlines flying to, from and within Europe to reduce their carbon pollution. In a letter to United Continental Holdings, NRDC, Environmental Defense Fund, Center for Biological Diversity, Earthjustice, Environment America, and the Sierra Club wrote, "If in fact United Continental Holdings is committed to protecting the earth, it makes no sense to spend your customers’ money on lawyers and lobbyists in an effort to thwart a crucial anti-pollution program. The European Union deserves kudos, not lawsuits, for acting to reduce airline pollution..." In a letter to American Airlines, the environmental groups pointed out the dichotomy between the airline's claimed commitment to reducing their environmental impact, and the fact that the company is "...suing in the European Court of Justice"We want to do everything we can to ensure all of our flight attendants who want to work have the opportunity to do so, and reduce the possibility of involuntary furloughs for our United flight attendants,""We want to do everything we can to ensure all of our flight attendants who want to work have the opportunity to do so, and reduce the possibility of involuntary furloughs for our United flight attendants,""We want to do everything we can to ensure all of our flight attendants who want to work have the opportunity to do so, and reduce the possibility of involuntary furloughs for our United flight attendants," to block a new European law that holds all airlines accountable for their global warming pollution..." The EU program is scheduled to take effect in 2012.

[May 10, 2011] 16 major U.S. airlines collectively reported a slightly worse on-time rate in March 2011, compared to a year ago. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, last March 80% of flights were on-time, while this year 79.2% arrived on-time. Hawaiian Airlines had the best on-time rate with 88.4%, United Airlines was next with 84%, and JetBlue had the worst rate with 71.3%. While airlines are struggling with being punctual, they have improved significantly regarding lengthy tarmac delays. Of the 526,687 flights operated by U.S. carriers in March, none of them had a tarmac delay of more than three hours. Last year, 25 flights reported long delays during the same period. Tarmac delays in general have been significantly cut down since the Transportation Department began threatening fees up to $27,500 per passenger for airlines leaving planes on the tarmac for more than three hours without letting the passengers disembark. From May 2010 through March 2011, there were only 16 three-hour plus delays, compared to 689 from the same period a year before.

[May 9, 2011] Three mid-air security scares occurred on Mother's Day on three different airlines. Continental Airlines Flight 546 was en route from Houston to Chicago Sunday afternoon when a man rushed to the front of the plane and tried to open a cabin door. The man said he had to get off the plane, and after shoving a flight attendant out of his way, he reached for a door handle. Several passengers tackled him to the ground, including Tony Harris, a U.S. Army veteran who jumped on his back and held in a mixed-martial arts chokehold. The plane was diverted to Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, where officers arrested the man. Harris later told authorities that the man said wanted off the plane because "he had a rough Mother's Day." After law enforcement inspected the plane for explosives, the flight was cleared to continue on to Chicago.
A Delta Air Lines flight was diverted after a flight attendant found a threatening note in the lavatory. Delta Flight 1706 was on its way to San Diego from Detroit when the flight attendant found a note with the word "bomb" written in it. The flight attendant notified the pilot, who decided to divert the plane to Albuquerque International Sunport. FBI agents met the plane in Albuquerque where the 137 passengers and six crew members disembarked and were questioned. The plane and luggage were searched and nothing unusual was found. Six and a half hours later, the plane took off again for San Diego.
American Airlines Flight 1561 was nearly at its destination when a man began screaming unintelligibly and pounding on the cockpit door. 28 year-old Rageit Almurisi resisted "violently" when a flight attendant tried to stop him, and he was then wrestled to the ground by several passengers. One passenger who helped subdue him was a retired San Mateo police officer and one was a retired Secret Service agent. When the flight landed in San Francisco, Almurisi was arrested for interfering with a flight crew and taken to San Mateo County Jail. Investigators said Almurisi does not have any clear or known ties to terrorism, and it is still uncertain whether any of these incidents were related to Osama bin Laden's death.

[May 6, 2011] United Continental Holdings Inc. reported an increase in traffic last month, finally breaking the pattern of decline or slowed growth since the United and Continental merger in October 2010. Traffic for the world's largest airline rose 1.1% in April, as international travel increased 6.7% and domestic travel declined 2.5%. Traffic across the Atlantic grew 18.3%, while traffic across the Pacific fell 8.4%, reflecting the drop in demand for flights to Japan after the earthquake and tsunami. The company also estimated that passenger revenue per available seat mile (PRASM) rose 8% to 9% last month. PRASM is considered a "key measure of profitability".

[May 5, 2011] Many of us have had the unpleasant experience of airlines losing our luggage. We understand the frustration and the fear of never retrieving the items we entrusted to those at the ticket counter. However, as upsetting as losing luggage may be, it is nothing compared to what Martha Elena Flores Cura went through. After her common-law husband passed away in 2009, Ms. Cura had his remains transported from Atlanta to McAllen airport in Texas on Continental Airlines. Unfortunately, the casket was "misplaced". As the story goes, a family member of the deceased Humberto Rivera hired a driver to pick up the casket at the McAllen-Miller International Airport and transport it to Monterrey, Mexico for the funeral. However, the driver was told the flight was delayed three days. The day before the flight was to arrive, the driver met with a Continental representative only to learn that someone had already picked up the casket. The driver was then told it was "not Continental's problem" that the body was missing. Since Continental would not help, the driver filed a police report, and the body was found 11 hours later at a funeral home in Brownsville, Texas. Reuters put it well when they said, "Basically, the deceased’s family not only had to deal with the loss of a loved one, they had to deal with him actually being lost. Way to go, Continental. As per usual, your sympathy is outstanding." Martha Elena Flores Cura and Ludivina Rivera, the niece of the deceased, filed a lawsuit against Continental Airlines on April 13th, and a hearing is set for June 8th.

[May 3, 2011] Families of 9/11 victims continue to speak out and express mixed emotions after receiving news that the man responsible for the death of their loved ones has been killed. Some are experiencing revived fear as they worry about retaliation from al-Queda. Ann Simpkin, who lost her daughter, Jane Simpkin when United Airlines Flight 175 hit the World Trade Center, responded, "...I’m just worried about the repercussions. I think a lot of people are just fanatical." She continued, "I was expecting to feel this joy, and it’s not that. I’m glad that it’s over, but it’s not over. It’s never going to be over for the 9/11 family members. There’s still that huge loss. I’m glad that he’s gone. I think that’s terrific for the people who got him. It’s a very mixed feeling." Mary Bavis, whose son, Mark Bavis, also died on UA Flight 175, expressed her concern about al-Queda wanting revenge. She said, "It doesn’t bring my son back, and I do almost want to scream out ‘Do not go to sleep,’ because you know they’re out for us." The Bavis family still has a pending wrongful-death lawsuit, and they are scheduled to go to court later this year. State Senator Brian Birdwell was working at the Pentagon when one of the hijacked planes hit the building. He survived, but was burned so badly, he had to undergo 30 surgeries and numerous skin grafts. Birdwell responded to Osama bin Laden's death, saying, "Scripture tells us to love your enemies. That is an exceedingly difficult standard to live up to that the Lord gave us. Any attempt to try to love your enemy does not assuage the requirement for justice." Many 9/11 families are thankful for a sense of justice, although bin Laden's death has not taken away the pain of their loss.

[May 2, 2011] Americans are reacting with waves of emotions to the news of the death of al-Qaida leader, Osama bin Laden. Osama bin Laden was largely responsible for the 9/11 attacks, killing almost 3,000 people in one horrific morning. For some, his death brings a sense of long-awaited justice and victory. Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo exclaimed, "Anyone who witnessed the events of 9/11 wanted to see a day of justice. This is that day." Ralph Beaven, who lost his brother, Alan Beaven, on 9/11, said, "It's not closure for Alan's memory. But the fact that the person who masterminded these attacks is dead means justice has prevailed." Alice Hoagland lost her son, Mark Bingham, when United Flight 93 crashed. Her son was one of the people who charged the cockpit, forcing the plane to land in a field in Pennsylvania instead of its intended target. She said, "It's a great catharsis and release. My son was killed on September 11, and the lives of so many people were snuffed out on that day and it's such a glorious thing that a measure of justice has been reaped today." Sandy Dahl, the widow of Jason Dahl, co-pilot of Flight 93, also felt closure and celebrated the terrorist's death. She reacted by saying, "I am thrilled that the military continued and persevered and looked for this man and was not going to let him get away with what he did to us on 9/11 and that his reign of terror is over."
However, not everyone affected by 9/11 has found comfort in bin Laden's death. Gene Yancey's daughter, Kathryn LaBorie, was a flight attendant on United Airlines Flight 175 when it crashed into the World Trade Center. Yancey said he found no closure as he and his family continues to deal with the loss of his daughter. Kathryn's husband, Eric LaBorie, was flooded with scores of raw emotions when he heard the news. He responded, "I did not think it would affect me this much, but it really brings back a lot of harsh memories that I'm having a hard time dealing with." Jack Grandcolas' wife, Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas was three months pregnant with their first child when she was killed on Flight 93. Grandcolas had mixed reactions to bin Laden's death, feeling relieved but continuing to grapple with the pain of his loss. He hoped the terrorist's death would serve to bring people together. He said, "I know it’s going to be more symbolic because terrorism is not going away, but I hope that the symbolism is a beacon for generations to realize that we don’t need to kill each other out of hate, because hatred caused all this." Grandcolas continued, "...Maybe this will be an impetus for understanding and peace. Love is much stronger than hate and maybe this is something that will bring people together. Get to know your neighbor, get to know other people. Hate makes no sense. Look at what happened. This wonderful woman gets on a plane and loses her life, for what? Why?" Grandcolas also said, "I worry a little bit about the euphoria getting out of control. This should be a solemn moment. We shouldn’t glorify the death of man who was like a Hitler."
Lauren's father, Larry Catuzzi, reacted with gratitude that his daughter's death had not been forgotten. Catuzzi commented, "I can only say that I thank the military and the intelligence for staying with it." Catuzzi created Lauren's Garden in Houston, Texas, a park honoring the victims of Flight 93. His family also started a foundation in memory of his daughter. Catuzzi is also on the board creating the Flight 93 memorial in Pennsylvania. According to ABC.com, the memorial will serve as "a permanent reminder that Osama bin Laden did not win, and that the heroism shown on that day by so many who died will never be forgotten."

[April 29, 2011] Continental Airlines Flight 007 was forced to make an emergency landing yesterday after an unexplained chemical odor was detected. The flight left San Antonio, Texas around 8:45AM Thursday morning and was less than halfway to Houston when the odor was noticed. The pilot returned to San Antonio International Airport and landed away from the main terminal. A ramp was brought to the aircraft, and firefighters wearing hazardous material suits entered the plane. Over 150 passengers and crew exited the aircraft and were examined by paramedics at the scene. At least four people were treated for respiratory distress, and one flight attendant was taken to the hospital for further examination. The cause of the odor is yet unknown.

[April 28, 2011] The family of Mark Bavis, a victim on the second plane to hit the World Trade Center in the 9/11 attacks, has waited nearly nine years to go to trial in a wrongful-death lawsuit. The Bavis family is suing United Airlines, the Massachusetts Port Authority and an airline security company, claiming each of these parties showed negligence in allowing the terrorists to board United Airlines Flight 175 in Boston. This is the last remaining wrongful-death lawsuit related to the attacks. 95 other lawsuits were filed on behalf of 96 victims, and thousands of other families avoided court by receiving payment through a victims' compensation fund established by Congress. The Bavis family rejected several attempts at a settlement, wanting the case to be heard. The long awaited trial is scheduled to begin later this year; however, the judge added an unexpected twist in the way the trial will run. U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein has set a time limit on the trial, giving both sides the same number of hours to present their cases. Hellerstein explained, “The time is going to be expressed not in days, but in minutes. Everything the party wishes to do from openings through summations.” The prosecution and the defense have expressed their frustration at the imposed time limit. Donald Migliori, the lawyer for the Bavis family, said, “The person that is affected the most is my client. We’re talking about millions of pages of documents. We’re talking about distilling one of the most important stories in American history.” It is estimated that each side will have 50 to 60 hours to present their case, making the trial about a month long. According to The Boston Globe, by setting a time limit, the judge is seeking to avoid having the trial "roll on interminably as the details, minutiae, and technical arguments pile up and wants to keep the jury focused and interested."

[April 27, 2011] Jeff Smisek, president and CEO of United Continental Holdings Inc., spoke at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University on Tuesday. As a part of the View from the Top Dean's Speaker Series, Smisek shared his views on leadership with students. Smisek spoke about the main challenge facing airlines right now - skyrocketing fuel prices - but he also talked about the excitement of being in an industry where you never know what will come next. He said, “We’re constantly in crisis. But you have to remain calm and collected. You have to be able to work your way through it.” Smisek encouraged students to find their passion and pursue it. He became a chief corporate lawyer for Continental Airlines in 1995, and he briefly was Continental’s CEO before becoming CEO of the world's largest airline last year. Smisek commented, "If you like the business of business, there is no business like the airline business. If you like making money, then it’s not for you. I’m in a business that hasn’t earned an adequate return since the Wright Brothers." Regardless of that, Smisek doesn't seem to be doing too poorly for himself. In the beginning of 2010, when he was still Continental's CEO, he vowed he would not accept a salary or bonuses until the company earned a full-year profit. After a profitable year following the merger, Continental paid his $791,250 salary retroactively, plus he was given $3.6 million in other incentives, totally 4.4 million dollars for the year.

[April 26, 2011] According to the latest developments in the United Airlines Flight 497 investigation, the pilots did not follow procedure and unintentionally disabled vital electrical systems while responding to a faulty fire-warning sensor. The flight made an emergency landing in New Orleans after the pilots declared they had "lost all our instruments". After the plane touched down, it proceeded to slide off the runway because there was not enough electrical power to steer the plane's nose gear or supply anti-skid protection for the brakes. The National Transportation Safety Board stated that after the warning went off, the pilots skipped a portion of a checklist and failed to restore power to some equipment, making the emergency landing all the more difficult. As reported in the Wall Street Journal, "The incident illustrates the challenges of dealing with an onboard fire emergency, and the complications that can result from swiftly running through a checklist that entails shutting off and then possibly restarting electrical circuits." Investigators are still trying to determine why the cockpit-voice recorder is missing 12 minutes of conversation from the flight.

[April 25, 2011] Three passengers on United Airlines Flight 593 were escorted off the plane shortly after boarding. After the aircraft left the gate at Denver International Airport, a man reported concerns about a few passengers acting suspiciously, and the flight crew requested the removal of three passengers before the flight took off. The man who made the report and the passengers under suspicion were interviewed by law enforcement officers separately. Authorities did not say what sparked the concerns and the passengers in question were later released. The aircraft was inspected, and when nothing unusual was found, it departed for Santa Ana, California after a two and a half hour delay.
Alaska Airlines also had its share of suspicious activity last Friday on the way to the same destination. A white substance was discovered in the back lavatory of Alaska Airlines Flight 508 shortly after take-off. The unknown substance raised alarm, and during the flight from Seattle to Santa Ana, the flight crew notified authorities and asked for help. When the plane landed at John Wayne Airport, it was met by fire department crews, law enforcement officers and a hazardous-materials team. After the 151 passengers and six crew members disembarked, the authorities boarded the plane to test the suspicious substance. After careful testing by the experts, the mysterious white dust was determined to be a "cellulose fiber"...also known as...toilet paper.

[April 21, 2011] Despite all of the fare hikes and extra fees, United Continental Holdings reported a $213 million loss for the first quarter of 2011. The company's revenue climbed 11% to $8.2 billion (thanks to those high ticket prices and extra fees), however that did not make up for the nearly 35% increase in fuel prices compared to last year. Jeff Smisek, United CEO, commented, "Fuel prices remained very high and volatile. During the first quarter, they rose to levels not seen since 2008. We saw our first-quarter fuel expense excluding the impact of hedges rise $725 million compared to the same period of 2010. These are very tough times." According to the Air Transport Association, U.S. airlines have collectively paid about $3 billion more for fuel this year. United Continental Holdings plans to halt growth plans and cut capacity even further as fuel prices continue to rise. The airline also attributed about $30 million of their loss to the decrease in demand for travel to Japan following the devastating earthquake and tsunami. Southwest Airlines, beating all odds, reported a $5 million profit for the first quarter, down from $11 million last year. American Airlines posted a grim $436 million loss.

[April 20, 2011] Yet another airfare hike was initiated this week. Delta Airlines began this round of price increases on Monday, and, so far, American Airlines, JetBlue and United Airlines have matched the $10 round-trip hike. Even Southwest joined in this time, indicating that this hike will most likely succeed in sticking. According to CNNMoney.com, "In the past five years, no industrywide attempt to raise fares failed when Southwest was on-board." With the continually rising fuel prices, FareCompare's CEO, Rick Seaney, said it would be possible to see a fare hike each week for the next month. Also, between June 9th and August 21st, airlines will charge additional summer premiums. As long as demand for air travel remains strong, airlines can continue to increase prices.

[April 18, 2011] On March 27, 2010, United Airlines Flight 889 took off from San Francisco International Airport, carrying 268 people en route to Beijing. As the Boeing 777 climbed, a single-engine propeller plane was flying a few hundred feet above it. The Traffic and Collision Avoidance System issued a traffic advisory in the cockpit, and the pilot pushed down the nose of the jet to stop its climb, as instructed by the onboard safety system. The small Cessna aircraft flew overhead, with the United pilots "seeing only the underside of the airplane". The planes were separated by only 350 feet vertically and less than 480 feet laterally. FAA mandates the minimum separation required was 500 feet vertically and 1.5 miles laterally. According to a report later detailing the incident, three air traffic controllers were on duty when the near-collision occurred. The controller in charge was busy with administrative duties. Another controller was distracted by taxiing aircraft when he gave the go-ahead for the United flight to take off, and failed to check the radar for potential airborne conflicts. The third controller was a trainee, who later said she didn't recognize the problem before it occurred. Incidents like this do not bode well for the air traffic control system, already under scrutiny for its sleepy controllers. In this situation, three controllers were wide awake when they cleared the giant jet for take-off, resulting in close call.

[April 15, 2011] United and Continental Airlines are working toward aligning their frequent flier programs by adding heaps of fees to most Continental members and a small helping of new fees to United members. In an email to its frequent-flier members, United said, "As we continue the changes under way at United Airlines and Continental Airlines, we're revising certain Mileage Plus and OnePass award fees to make them consistent across both programs." Beginning on June 15th, Continental Airlines will raise its fees for redepositing frequent flier miles to passengers who cancel their flights. The redeposit fee will rise from $25 to $100 for gold elite members, from $50 to $125 for silver elite members and will double to $150 for general members. Platinum elite members will not be charged for redepositing miles. United, now charging most members $150 to redeposit canceled miles, will lower some fees to match Continental's sliding scale. United will also decrease its fee to change trip origin, destination or connecting cities from $150 to $75 for non-elite members. Global Services and 1K members will not be charged. United will begin charging non-elite members $75 to book awards tickets within 21 days of a flight. Premier-level frequent fliers will be charged $50 for last-minute bookings, and Premier Executive members will be charged $25. That service will remain free for United's Global Services and 1K members.

[April 14, 2011] United Airlines has partnered with yet another baseball team. This time the world's largest airline is teaming up with the defending World Series Champions, the San Francisco Giants. In addition to flying the team to away games, United will be spreading its logo throughout AT&T Park and on the Giant's website. United operates more than 250 daily departures from San Francisco International Airport. Mark Bergsrud, senior vice president of marketing for United, stated, "As the Bay Area's largest airline, United is proud to serve San Francisco and partner with the World Series Champion San Francisco Giants. We look forward to being part of the team experience, both in San Francisco and at every road game, for both players and fans."

[April 13, 2011] Two more air traffic controllers were caught sleeping on the job this week. One controller has been suspended for falling asleep during his Monday morning shift at Boeing Field/King County International Airport in Seattle. The latest incident, occurring earlier today, involved a controller who was out of communication for 16 minutes at Reno-Tahoe International Airport in Nevada. According to the FAA, this controller was sleeping while a medical flight carrying a sick patient was trying to land. The pilot of that flight was able to get in contact with another FAA facility and land safely. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood reacted, saying, "I am totally outraged by these incidents. This is unacceptable. The American public trusts us to run a safe system. Safety is our number one priority and I am committed to working 24/7 until these problems are corrected." Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Randy Babbitt also expressed his disapproval, saying, "Air traffic controllers are responsible for making sure aircraft safely reach their destinations. We absolutely cannot and will not tolerate sleeping on the job. This type of unprofessional behavior does not meet our high safety standards." LaHood and Babbitt also announced that an additional air traffic controller will immediately be added to the midnight shift at 27 control towers nationwide.

[April 12, 2011] The results of the Airline Quality Rating (AQR) have been released, and United Airlines takes the undesirable title of being the worst major airline in America, although American Eagle ranked the worst of the worst. AirTran topped the list for best airline, taking over Hawaiian Airline's title as being #1. The AQR, which is sponsored by Purdue University and Wichita State University, analyzes Department of Transportation information, ranking16 airlines based on four categories: on-time arrivals, mishandled baggage, bumping due to overbooking and consumer complaints. Overall, airline performance improved in 2010, with fewer lost bags, more on-time flights and fewer bumped passengers. However, complaints to the Department of Transportation about airlines increased 28%. The rise in complaints is likely due to increased fees by the airlines, capacity cuts, (and probably because the DOT made it easier to file air travel complaints). Southwest Airlines, which ranked 5th overall, had the least amount of complaints. Delta Airlines received the most complaints, although they didn’t top United's overall score.

[April 11, 2011] The outlook for airlines this year continues to look grim, as crude oil reached over $113 for the first time in 30 months. In response, the 10th attempt to raise fares this year was initiated by U.S. Airways late last week. Delta, American and Continental Airlines shortly followed, but, United Airlines held back on this round. According to some analysts, even with ever-rising ticket prices, airlines will be hard pressed to make a profit. Dahlman Rose analyst, Helen Becker, commented that higher fares may actually hurt airlines' hopes for profitability by squashing demand. Becker stated, "In an environment of higher energy prices, we believe it will be difficult for airline company equities to outperform the market. Higher average ticket prices will likely cause demand destruction, and although we expect airlines to reduce capacity to offset reduced demand, we are concerned that their [second-half 2011] reductions will be insufficient."

[April 8, 2011] In the preliminary investigation of the dramatic emergency landing of United Airlines Flight 497 at Louis Armstrong International Airport, the National Transportation Safety Board reported there were no signs of burning or indications of smoke in the cockpit. The pilots, who had reported having "a smoke issue", were responding to an avionics smoke warning message. The warning was accompanied by instructions to land, which the pilots promptly followed. According to the NTSB, “The crew reported that the first officer’s display screens went blank, the ECAM messages disappeared, the cockpit to cabin intercom stopped functioning, and the air-driven emergency generator deployed. The captain said that he took control of the airplane at this point and managed the radios while the first officer opened the cockpit door to advise the flight attendants of the emergency and their return to New Orleans airport.” The NTSB also reported that the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder both stopped recording before the plane landed. Once the plane was on the ground, it slid off the runway, passengers were told to leave the plane via the inflation slides. However, the forward right slide did not properly inflate. The passengers were able to disembark using the remaining slides.

[April 7, 2011] United Airlines celebrated its 85th birthday yesterday with the unveiling of a jet painted in retro colors. The celebratory plane was painted in a 1970's "Friend Ship" paint scheme and will be touring different airport hubs for United and Continental. United Continental Holdings remembered its humble beginnings as a Swallow biplane which completing the first airmail delivery on April 6, 1926. The owner, Walter Varney, seized the opportunity to turn his achievement into a company, originally called Varney Air Service, and secured an airmail contract the same year. Later on, Varney sold the business to United Aircraft and Transport, which changed its name to United Air Lines in 1933. In 1934, Varney and Louise Mueller began a new company called Varney Speed Lines, which was sold and renamed Continental Airlines in 1937. With the 2010 merger, United Continental Holdings is now the world's largest airline. Jeff Smisek, United's president and CEO, said, "We are proud to celebrate United's 85th anniversary with the more than 85,000 co-workers and thousands of retirees who have built the world's leading airline."

[April 6, 2011] The Federal Aviation Administration has yet another problem on their hands after reports surfaced of a second air traffic controller found sleeping on the job. This time, the worker "intentionally" slept for five hours during his midnight shift at McGhee Tyson Airport in Knoxville, Tennessee. A fellow controller, working in another room, handled both the radar and tower positions, helping seven planes land during the five hour period while the other controller was "unresponsive". This incident, coming to light during an FAA budget meeting, is being treated differently than the incident at Reagan National Airport, where a 20-year veteran supervisor admitted to accidently nodding off during his shift. Federal Aviation Administration chief Randy Babbitt said the incident in Tennessee was not an accident caused by fatigue. “This is someone who, in our investigation, just went in and prepared to go to sleep, take a nap, and that’s absolutely not acceptable.” Since the Tennessee controller slept "willfully", action is being taken to have the worker fired. The FAA stated it "will not tolerate this type of unprofessional and inappropriate behavior. The agency is committed to ensuring the safety of the traveling public and is conducting a nationwide review of the air traffic control system, including overnight staffing at selected airports around the country."

[April 5, 2011] Today the FAA officially ordered emergency inspections of the most heavily used 737 aircraft worldwide. Eventually, the FAA wants checks done on 400 to 500 "classic" Boeing 737s. Engineers from Boeing said they originally believed these planes would not need inspections for at least 60,000 take-off and landing cycles, however, the Southwest jet with a five-foot hole in it had only logged 39,000 cycles. According to Boeing and the FAA, inspections of 737-300s, 737-400s and 737-500s now must be performed beginning at 30,000 cycles. Boeing chief 737 engineer Paul Richter said: "I would say that it's regrettable that we had to accelerate our plans to recommend inspections based on an event of this nature." Southwest Airlines has already completed its inspections of their Boeing 737-300 fleet, finding cracks in 5 jets. According to a Southwest spokesperson, "Minor subsurface cracking was found in five aircraft that will remain out of service until Boeing recommends appropriate repairs and those repairs have been completed." Although Southwest has resumed its normal flight schedule, United Airlines is offering Southwest customers seats on their planes...for $150 each way.

[April 4, 2011] It was a rough weekend for many travelers, as several emergency landings were made, the latest one occurring this morning. United Airlines Flight 497 en route from New Orleans to San Francisco was forced to return to Louis Armstrong International Airport after the pilot reported smoke in the cockpit. The plane reportedly lost all electronics, and the pilots landed the plane on back-up systems, with "minimal steering and braking ability". During the turbulent landing, the plane ran off the runway and blew a tire. Once on the ground, passengers were told to leave everything and "get out!". Passengers and crew then evacuated via the emergency slides at the front and back of the plane. Minor injuries were reported and some passengers needed medical attention due to smoke inhalation, but overall everyone was safe. Sunday night, a Southwest plane was diverted due to an electrical smell in the cabin. Flight 1588 was traveling from Oakland to San Diego when it landed in Los Angeles "out of an abundance of caution" according to Southwest spokesman, Brad Hawkins. That caution was prompted by the most dramatic of the weekend's incidents. On Friday night, a five-foot hole was ripped out of the roof of a Boeing 737 operated by Southwest Airlines. The jet was carrying 118 passengers when the fuselage ruptured during the flight, causing cabin pressure to drop rapidly and oxygen masks to deploy. The pilots were forced into an emergency landing at an Arizona military base. Many people reported pain in the eardrum from the rapid descent, although nobody was seriously injured. Following the incident, Southwest canceled hundreds of flights and grounded 79 planes for inspection, finding cracks on three additional jets. The National Transportation Safety Board responded, "As a result of the findings from our investigation to date and the results of the Southwest Airlines inspections, Boeing has indicated that they will be drafting a service bulletin to describe the inspection techniques that they would recommend be accomplished on similar airplanes." The FAA has also responded by ordering additional inspections of older Boeing 737s. The inspections will begin with approximately 175 planes, 80 of which are registered in the United States. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood commented, "Safety is our number one priority. Last Friday's incident was very serious and could result in additional action depending on the outcome of the investigation."

[April 1, 2011] United Continental Holdings is cutting passenger capacity for Japan-bound flights by 10% in April and 14% in May. In the wake of the earthquake, tsunami and continuing nuclear crisis, the airline said there is a measurable decline in demand for traveling to Japan. Delta Airlines and American Airlines have also reduced their services to Japan. Delta has suspended flights to Haneda airport, and American is halting two of its six daily flights to Japan. Hawaiian Airlines, however, has reaffirmed its commitment to Japan, by maintaining its normal schedule and its intentions to launch a new service to Osaka in July. President and Chief Executive Officer of Hawaiian Airlines, Mark Dunkerley, said, "All of us at Hawaiian send our deepest sympathy to those who have lost loved ones and who themselves face an uncertain future as the process of rebuilding gets underway. As a company, and as citizens of an ocean side community with close ties to Japan, we have a special connection to those in need in Japan and we are engaged in a broad array of efforts aimed at supporting them as they rebuild their lives. We wish we could do more."

In other news, while United Continental Holdings is moving towards unifying the combined company, flight attendants from each airline are still represented by different unions. However, based on a decision by the National Mediation Board, flight attendants of United and Continental Airlines are now closer to a union election. The federal labor board will set the date of the election within 14 days. The Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) currently represents 15,000 crew members at United, while the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) represents about 9,000 workers from Continental. AFA International President, Veda Shook, said, "Today is a watershed moment in our union and an exciting day for the thousands of Flight Attendants at the 'new' United Airlines who are ready to advance our careers with AFA representation. AFA sought this election because we want to unite Flight Attendants as quickly as possible in order to take maximum advantage of the leverage we have from the merger." Representatives of IAM are also thrilled about prospect of an election. IAM Newark, NJ President Joey Guider remarked, "This election is about good wages, pensions, job security and flexible work rules - four things IAM Flight Attendants at Continental have and United Flight Attendants want." Continental flight attendants currently represented by IAM earn up to $52.53 per hour base pay, which is 32.2% higher than United's top pay rate.

[March 30, 2011] United Airlines Flight 251 en route from Washington D.C. to Portland, Oregon, was diverted due to "disruptive" passengers. Three passengers were causing flight attendants so much grief that the crew decided to land early in order to remove them from the plane. It is unsure at this time exactly what happened, but a passenger may have feigned a medical emergency, blocking the aisle in the back of the plane and refusing to follow flight crew instructions. One passenger aboard said, "They just told us there were some strange goings on in the back of the plane." When the flight landed at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, the plane was met by local law enforcement, FBI agents and TSA officials. The disruptive people were removed, and the other 131 passengers disembarked and were re-screened through security. The plane was also swept by TSA, though nothing unusual was found. The plane left about three hours later, without the unruly passengers.

[March 29, 2011] United Airlines seems to be taking the baseball world by storm. That's right, United is the official airline of the Chicago Cubs and the Los Angeles Dodgers. I can't say that fans will approve of having United colors hanging in rival stadiums, but money talks, and the deals have been made. United will transport the team and staff for all away games, totally about 38,000 miles during the season. Dodger Stadium will also display new signs featuring the United brand, and will dedicate certain luxury suites to the airline. Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times, who isn't thrilled about the concept of the "United Club" luxury suites, commented, "If you can’t fly the friendly skies, you can hang out in their suites. Won’t have to pay to check your bag or anything." The newly re-named suites mark the first time a portion of Dodger Stadium has used a different title. With the fear of Dodger Stadium going the way of other California stadiums, such as PETCO Park or AT&T Park, Dodger owner Frank McCourt promises this will not act as a precursor to renaming the stadium after a corporate sponsor. In regards to displaying United signage around the stadium, Michael Young, Chief Revenue Officer of the Dodgers, said, "The premium brand experience of the new airline that has resulted from the merger of United and Continental is consistent with not only the premium seating experience at Dodger Stadium, but also the aesthetic we have for this level of the stadium. The United team worked closely with the Dodgers to establish new branded entry signage that will greet fans as they enter the level in addition to United branded items within the Club Suites."

[March 28, 2011]
United Airlines has signed a three-year exclusive agreement with the Chicago Cubs to become the official airline of the team and of Wrigley Field. As part of the agreement, the Cubs will re-name Wrigley Field's Stadium Club as the United Club. The club is located along the first base line, and serves as a VIP gathering area. Mark Bergsrud, senior vice president of marketing for United, said, "As Chicago's hometown airline, we are thrilled to partner with the Cubs - a true Chicago icon. We look forward to being a part of the team experience, both in Chicago and at every away game, for both players and fans." Wally Hayward, executive vice president, chief sales and marketing officer of the Chicago Cubs, praised the agreement, saying he looked forward to working with "a global company with local roots". United Airlines also purchased the rights to advertise on a highly-visible rooftop sign outside of Wrigley Field. The rooftop is beyond the left-field bleachers on Waveland Avenue.

[March 25, 2011] The air traffic controller involved in Wednesday night's incident admitted to investigators that he had fallen asleep. The controller was a veteran FAA supervisor with 20 years experience. He was on his fourth consecutive night shift when he fell asleep, leaving no one to monitor air traffic for almost half an hour. U.S. aviation regulators have now ordered a nationwide review of the air traffic control system. FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt, who was "outraged" at the air traffic controller, stated, "I am determined to make sure we do not repeat Wednesday’s unacceptable event." This incident has renewed the debate regarding appropriate controller staffing. While the Federal Aviation Administration added another staff member at Ronald Reagan National Airport, 30 airport towers across the nation are staffed with only a single air traffic controller after midnight, begging the question of the safety of those airports. Paul Rinaldi, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, said, "The administration (FAA) inherited an unsafe policy of staffing to budget instead of putting safety first."

[March 24, 2011] An air traffic controller has been suspended after not responding to two passenger planes attempting to land at Ronald Reagan National Airport. An American Airlines flight and a United Airlines flight approaching the airport were unable to reach the air traffic controller, and landed without assistance from the tower. It is now presumed that the lone air traffic controller, working the midnight to 6am shift, was probably asleep. After countless failed attempts to reach the controller, the two planes followed emergency protocol and landed safely. The incident caused major concern, especially since it occurred only a few miles from the White House and the Capitol building. US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has demanded a second controller always be present on the midnight shift at the Washington D.C. airport. He stated, "It is not acceptable to have just one controller in the tower managing air traffic in this critical air space. I have also asked FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt to study staffing levels at other airports around the country." Fatigue has long been a problem for air traffic controllers, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. In 2007, the lone controller on duty in Lexington, Kentucky had slept only two of the previous 24 hours when a plane used the wrong runway and crashed, killing 49 people on board. The air traffic controller union applauded LaHood's order for a second controller at the Reagan airport, stating, "One-person shifts are unsafe. Period."

March 23, 2011] New changes are coming our way from United Continental Holdings. First, the company signed a letter of intent with in-flight entertainment provider LiveTV to offer Wi-Fi service on over 200 Continental planes. The service will begin next year, and will be available on domestic Boeing 737 and 757 planes that are currently outfitted with DirecTV service. The price for Wi-Fi via Ka-band has not been announced, although the service typically starts around $5 for short flights. United currently offers in-flight Wi-Fi through Aircell's Gogo on only 14 planes. Continental Airlines also announced that all of its Boeing 757 aircraft are now equipped with lie-flat seats in business class. United Senior Vice President of Marketing Mark Bergsrud, commented, "With reconfigurations completed on 116 aircraft, United and Continental together offer more flat-bed premium cabin seats than any other U.S. airline. The flat-bed seats and advanced audio/video on-demand offer our customers an unmatched onboard experience."

[March 22, 2011] The results of an investigation involving a United Airlines flight have been released, revealing that the company knew there was a problem with the plane and still let it fly without repairing it. According to the National Transportation Safety Board, on May 16, 2010, the Boeing 757 took off from New York on its way to San Francisco when, 30 minutes into the flight, pilots heard a hissing sound followed by 14-16 inch flames shooting from the cockpit window. Captain Boyd Hammack grabbed a fire extinguisher and put out the flames, but they quickly reignited. A flight attendant brought the captain a second fire extinguisher, and the captain doused the flames again. Shortly before making an emergency landing at Washington Dulles International Airport, the inner pane of a window shattered. The aircraft landed safely, and thankfully no one was injured in the incident. However, this was not the first time that plane had problems. The day before, another United captain reported fumes and an overheated electrical connection, showing a mechanic an electrical connection at the window that appeared charred and was hot. The plane had also made an emergency landing in Las Vegas, due to smoke and fumes in the cockpit. The mechanic involved said he "OK'd the plane to fly without repairs because United's maintenance manual says planes can be flown another 50 hours after a blackened or burned window heater electrical connector had been found." United Airlines spokeswoman, Megan McCarthy commented, "We did a full inspection and believed the plane was flight worthy." Investigators determined the problem was caused by a simple loose screw, which could have easily been addressed before fire broke out on the plane carrying 112 people. United's only response was that the company has made "enhancements to our maintenance program."

[March 21, 2011] In a very quick turn of events, the lawsuit issued by United Airlines customer service director Kathyrn Williams against Jonathan Rhys Meyers has been dropped. William's attorney, Elliot Budashewitz, confirmed that the complaint has been withdrawn, and also stated that "allegations of physical contact are inaccurate." The attorney issued a statement explaining, "There is no claim that Mr Meyers made any physical contact with Ms Williams or that she sustained any 'physical' bodily injury as a result of any physical contact. Any inconvenience caused [to] Mr Meyers by any misinterpretation of the complaint to the contrary was certainly unintended." That is a drastic reversal from the statement released on Friday, and no other information was available to explain the retracted accusations.

[March 18, 2011] United Airlines flight attendants are supporting the relief effort in Japan by collecting donations, food, water and supplies for disaster victims and bringing them to the devastated area. So far, flight attendants have hand carried over a thousand pounds of relief supplies to Japan. Greg Davidowitch, president of the Association of Flight Attendants at United Airlines, expressed his gratitude to the flight attendants, saying, "This experience reflects the indomitable spirit of United Flight Attendants who see a crisis and work to provide immediate assistance to those in need. This is what we do, and who we are. Ushering evacuees to safety and transporting emergency workers and supplies into Japan – Flight Attendants are heroes." Radiation levels are continually being monitored and contingency plans are in place if it becomes unsafe to fly into Tokyo. However, many United flight attendants have been eager to work on flights headed to Japan in order to be a part of the relief effort.

In other news, a United Airlines jet slid off the runway into muddy grass after landing at the Akron-Canton Airport in Ohio. United Flight 5916 was coming from Chicago carrying 43 passengers and 3 crew members when it veered left instead of sticking to its right hand landing pattern, and came to a stop approximately 200 feet off the edge of the runway. According to passengers, the airplane did not slow down after touchdown. No one was hurt in this incident, and passengers were bused to the terminal after disembarking onto the grass. An investigation is underway to determine the cause of the accident.

Also, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, the 33-year-old Irish actor, is being sued by a United Airlines employee. On May 7, 2010, Meyers launched into a drunken tirade after not being allowed on a flight at JFK airport, verbally abusing and physically assaulting United customer service director, Kathyrn Williams. The incident initially resulted in Meyers being banned from United Airlines for life and put in rehab. Williams is now suing Meyers for over $15,000 in damages, saying the incident left her with "permanent physical damage and severe emotional distress". The recently filed lawsuit stated, the actor "willfully, maliciously, wantonly and without any just cause or provocation assaulted and battered plaintiff Kathryn Williams."

[March 17, 2011] Radiation detectors were reportedly triggered as travelers arriving from Tokyo passed through customs at O'Hare International Airport. It is not certain yet whether these reports are accurate, however, it was confirmed that trace amounts of radiation were found on luggage and cargo aboard five or six planes in Chicago. A United Airlines jet and two American Airlines planes coming from Japan have also tested positive for radiation. Mayor Daley and other Chicago city officials would not provide any details, but according to the Department of Homeland Security, the radiation levels detected are not harmful. Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection are both closely monitoring radiation levels on flights and passengers from Japan. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said, "In an exercise of caution and just to make sure that everyone remains safe, we are doing screening of passengers and cargo if there happens to be even a blip in terms of radiation." Customs and Border Protection spokeswoman Cherise Miles also commented, "U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is monitoring developments in Japan carefully and is specifically assessing the potential for radiological contamination associated with the ongoing impact of the earthquake and tsunami to Japan's nuclear facilities." As the nuclear crisis continues to intensify, the U.S. federal government has reportedly begun providing charter flights to evacuate U.S. citizens from Japan . Delta Airlines has stopped service to Tokyo’s Haneda airport, although it continues to fly in and out of Narita airport. So far, United Airlines continues to fly its normal schedule. Andrew Ferraro, a spokesman for United Continental Holdings said the company “will continue to provide the level of service that is warranted by demand and which can be operated safely.”

[March 16, 2011] As the nuclear crisis in Japan continues to worsen, panic is hitting the hearts of many, and functioning airports are being flooded with people trying to leave the country. ABC News reports "the international and domestic terminals at Narita International Airport were crammed with passengers leaving the capital after a small spike in radiation levels were detected in Tokyo following a reactor fire..." As stated yesterday, many European and Asian airlines have made changes to their schedules, either diverting flights or cancelling them entirely. However, Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. added two additional flights from Tokyo to Hong Kong, offering an extra 730 seats. Chief Operating Officer, John Slosar said, “We are experiencing rapidly increasing demand from people wishing to return home. We understand the uncertainty and concern felt by some crew and believe the decision to stop overnight stays for our crew in Tokyo is appropriate at this time.” United, Continental, Delta and American Airlines continue to fly into Tokyo's airports, although the FAA is advising carriers to reroute when necessary to meet the airspace restrictions around the volatile power plant. The no-fly zone, extending 90 miles around the plant, is in place to prevent civilian planes from getting close to the affected areas and possibly spread contamination. 50 workers remain at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi Nuclear power plant, trying desperately to prevent a complete nuclear disaster. These brave people, referred to as the faceless 50 or the Fukushima 50, are facing fire, explosions and likely lethal amounts of radiation to keep the crippled reactors under control. This small group is being hailed as Japan's last hope. Our prayers are with them.

[March 15, 2011] In the aftermath of the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami in Japan, fears are rising regarding the risk of radiation exposure and a possible nuclear meltdown. The Japanese government has issued a warning concerning the potentially hazardous radiation levels around the unstable nuclear power plant in Fukushima Dai-Ichi. Airlines are bracing for flight changes if the situation escalates, but so far, most U.S. airlines continue to fly into Tokyo, which is about 135 miles away from the damaged power plant. A statement by the FAA was given, saying, "If the situation at Fukushima worsens and we see credible indications that radiological hazards to civil aviation exist beyond the flight restriction areas ... the FAA is prepared to take air traffic management measures, including the rerouting of air traffic." However, Germany's Deutsche Lufthansa AG (LHA) has already stopped flying to Tokyo because of the "risk of radioactive fallout", and has rerouted its services to Nagoya and Osaka. Along with Air France-KLM and Austrian Airlines, Lufthansa is stopping over in Seoul for crew changes to avoid having staff members stay overnight in Japan. Air China has cancelled flights from Beijing and Shanghai to Tokyo, and Taiwan's EVA Airways says it will not fly to Tokyo and Sapporo for the rest of the month. Delta, United and Continental continue scheduled operations, but have begun offering refunds on tickets for some flights to Japan. American Airlines, so far, is only waiving change fees.
In the meantime, many U.S. airlines have partnered with the American Red Cross to help bring relief to the disaster victims in Japan. United Continental Holdings is offering 250 bonus miles for a $50 donation, or 500 miles for a $100 donation to the American Red Cross Japan and Pacific Tsunami Fund. Sonya Jackson, the United Airlines Foundation president, stated, “Our thoughts go out to those living and working in Japan, including more than 1,000 of our own co-workers, as they deal with this tragic event. Our customers always step up in times like these, and we are proud to do our part by offering a mileage bonus incentive to our Mileage Plus and OnePass members who are supporting this critical humanitarian relief effort.” Delta, American and All Nippon Airways are all offering similar rewards for those who give to the American Red Cross.

[March 14, 2011] United Airlines, American Airlines and the City of Chicago have finally come to an agreement regarding the O'Hare modernization project. The parties agreed upon a scaled-back plan costing $1.17 billion instead of the proposed $3.4 billion, allowing the project to move forward and ending the lawsuit the airlines issued against Chicago in January. According to The Wall Street Journal, "the new funding will come from $517 million in Federal Aviation Administration grants, $365 million from passenger fees and $298 million in proceeds from general airport revenue bonds, which the carriers will guarantee." The plan will allow for a new runway to be built, among other improvements, which will hopefully prevent the escalation of flight delays at the bustling airport. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who was crucial in facilitating the agreement, responded to the new plan by saying, "This is a landmark achievement that will benefit air travelers throughout the entire nation. Making improvements to O'Hare will not only reduce flight delays and improve service for air passengers across America, it will ensure one of our busiest airports continues to thrive economically in the future." Jeff Smisek, president and CEO of United Airlines, very civilly replied, "I want to thank Mayor Daley for working with us to reach an agreement that helps fulfill our shared vision for a world-class airport for our hometown, while recognizing the economic realities we all face. I also want to thank Secretary LaHood and his team who worked tirelessly with the airlines and the Mayor's team to bring us together." As part of the deal, the airlines and city officials will meet no later than March 1, 2013 to discuss the remaining portions of the project.

[March 11, 2011] The massive earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan yesterday have caused widespread destruction and devastation. Tokyo's Narita International Airport was closed, leaving nearly 14,000 people stranded at the airport. 10,000 people were stranded at Haneda Airport, although it reportedly re-opened several runways. Sendai Airport, which was closest to the epicenter of the earthquake, was submerged in water and heavily damaged in the tsunami. Flights that were en route to Japan when the earthquake and tsunami occurred were diverted to airports around the Pacific Rim. Delta Airlines, the largest transpacific operator among U.S. airlines, has cancelled 29 flights into and out of Tokyo. United and Continental have cancelled 11 flights and diverted nine others. American Airlines has cancelled all Japan transpacific flights for today, and is unsure whether its schedule will resume tomorrow. Since flight operations over the weekend and early next week are uncertain, major airlines waived the change fee for passengers booked on flights to or from Japan through Monday or Tuesday. A full assessment of the damage to the country and loss of life is not yet known. My prayers are with those who are affected by this tragedy.

[March 10, 2011] Aircell, the provider for Gogo's in-flight Wi-Fi on airlines such as United, American and Delta, announced plans to upgrade its service for faster connectivity, and introduce Wi-Fi on international flights. Aircell's Gogo Wi-Fi service currently uses a land-based system, where base stations connect with Wi-Fi hotspots on aircraft. The company intends on improving its air-to-ground network to allow for faster connections. This upgrade will take effect in the first half of 2012. Aircell will also begin using Ka-band satellite technology, which will be available in the continental United States in 2013 and globally by 2015. In-flight Wi-Fi is a growing demand among business travelers, and is also gaining popularity among passengers with smartphones. Michael Small, president and chief executive of Aircell, commented, "Between business and commercial aviation, there are currently more than 6,000 Aircell-equipped aircraft across ATG and satellite technology platforms. We're thrilled to be the only in-flight connectivity provider that can meet our partners' full fleet needs in the United States today. With this announcement we strengthen our offerings domestically and begin to extend our leadership globally."

[March 9, 2011] As lawmakers decide whether to give more federal funds for the 9/11 memorial in Pennsylvania, families of the victims of United Airlines Flight 93 are asking Congress not to forget those who sacrificed their lives to protect the nation's capitol. According to the 9/11 Commission, the target of Flight 93 was most likely the White House or the Capitol building, but the terrorists' goal was thwarted by the passengers and crew who fought back. Family members of those aboard Flight 93 are reminding members of Congress that they could have been among the victims on that harrowing day if it hadn't been for the heroism of the people on that flight. Calvin Wilson, whose brother-in-law, LeRoy Homer, Jr., was first officer on the flight, said, "So many times they forget they were the target and that these heroes we are trying to memorialize helped them live another day." A memorial on the crash site in Pennsylvania is being built, and the first phase will be dedicated this year on the 10th anniversary. The memorial is expected to cost $60 million. Congress has given $10 million, the state of Pennsylvania is contributing $18.5 million, and $20 million has been raised privately. Family members are meeting with members of Congress to urge the approval of the additional $3.7 million that President Barack Obama allocated for this project in his new budget. The memorial will be a 3.5 square mile park, with a chapel featuring 40 chimes symbolizing the 40 victims, and a wall with the names of the victims.

[March 8, 2011] In addition to raising ticket prices, adding fuel surcharges and taking away complimentary snacks, United Continental Holdings Inc. will be scaling down its growth plans for 2011. The company had intended to increase international capacity by 4.5% to 5.5%, and cut domestic capacity by 0.5% to 1.5%. However, in light of the skyrocketing fuel prices, United plans to increase international capacity only by 2.5% or 3.5%, and cut domestic capacity by up to 2.5%. United Continental Holdings stated, "The capacity reductions will come from reducing flight frequencies, indefinitely postponing the start of certain markets and exiting less profitable routes, primarily in our domestic schedule. The modest increase in international capacity allocates our aircraft on more profitable routes." The airline may also remove less fuel-efficient aircraft from its fleet. American and Delta Airlines have already made reductions to their projected growth plans.

[March 4, 2011] In an effort to make the skies a more unfriendly place to fly, Continental Airlines has stopped serving free snacks to coach passengers. Continental spokesman, Andrew Ferraro, commented, “We’ve removed the beverage snacks — pretzels and Biscoff — in an effort to reduce costs and align ourselves with the rest of the industry. Our partner, United Airlines, has the same policy.” The airline claims it will save approximately $2.5 million a year by discontinuing its complimentary snack service. Henry Harteveldt, an airline and travel analyst for Forrester Research, put it well when he said, “This is clearly a reflection of standardizing the onboard experience between United and Continental. Sadly, instead of elevating the United onboard experience, Continental has chosen the lowest common denominator.” American Airlines and US Airways also discontinued the service. Fortunately, not everyone is following in their footsteps. Delta, AirTran, Alaska Airlines and JetBlue continue to serve a variety of complimentary snacks. Frontier Airlines even bakes and serves free chocolate chip cookies to all of its passengers after 10:00a.m. And, of course, Southwest Airlines, the passenger's best buddy, still doles out free snacks to everyone onboard. In 2010, Southwest handed out 19 million complimentary bags of pretzels, 87.6 million bags of peanuts, 18.4 million Select-A-Snacks and 29 million other snacks. Spokesman Brad Hawkins remarked, "We’re always looking at enhancements and new offerings." Continental and United, on the other hand, are clearly looking for more ways to upset customers and spoil their flying experience.

[March 2, 2011] A small triumph for air travelers is being reported today, as major airlines cut their latest fare hike in half. The $20 round-trip fare increase initiated last week by United Airlines has been resisted by Southwest, JetBlue, AirTran and Frontier Airlines. These discount carriers only increased their prices by $10 round-trip, forcing the larger airlines, such as American, United and Delta, to scale down their increase in order to stay competitive. Unfortunately, some of the airlines have already found a way to make up for part of the price cut. According to Farecompare.com's CEO, Rick Seaney, "Undeterred by the partial domestic rollback U.S. and Canadian carriers took the opportunity to increase base prices to Hawaii and Canada by $20 round-trip." Seaney also predicted that airlines will continue to test the market to discern the tolerance level of travelers. Indeed, it looks to be a volatile year for airfares.

[March 1, 2011] A United Airlines flight landed safely at Kona International Airport after mechanical problems forced the pilot to shut down one of the plane's engines. United Flight 57, with 84 passengers and crew aboard, was en route from Los Angeles to the Big Island, when an oil pressure warning light came on. Approximately 50 minutes before arrival, the pilot of the Boeing 757-200 contacted the airport, telling them he needed to shut down one of the two engines. Kona Airport fire crews, along with Hawaii County paramedics and police stood by as a precaution, but the plane landed without incident.

[February 28, 2011]
Soaring oil prices are continuing to cause airline costs to rise and stocks to fall. Political instability in several countries in the Middle East is causing widespread worry about the tenuous state of the airline industry's profitability. According to The Detroit News, the rising airfares demonstrate "airline officials' fears that already volatile prices could skyrocket as violence in Libya and elsewhere in the region could threaten oil production." United Airlines spokesman, Mike Trevino, commented, "Fuel is our single highest cost. For every $1 increase in the price of oil per barrel, it means a $100 million increase in our fuel cost on an annual basis." With oil prices surging to at least $100 a barrel, the most it has been since 2008, some airlines seem to be hitting the panic button. However, David Tyerman, Canaccord Genuity analyst, is much more optimistic regarding the airline industry's outlook than most investors. In light of the recovering economy, he sees the rising oil prices as an opportunity for airlines to test "the upper threshold of where higher fares begin to diminish demand." Tylerman claims, "We believe most consumers would expect airlines to raise ticket prices to cover higher fuel costs. In an improving supply-demand environment, higher fuel costs may provide the perfect cover to raise ticket prices to cover increased fuel costs and widen margins.” Unfortunately, that does not help those of us who are left with a grossly swollen bill every time we fly.

[February 25, 2011] A man was arrested at O'Hare International Airport today after a loaded gun was found in his carry-on bag. John W. Barnak was passing through security before planning to board a United Airlines flight to Cancun, when a TSA security screener found a .25 caliber semiautomatic handgun and a loaded magazine in his bag. Barnak admitted that the bag and the weapon belonged to him, and claimed he “forgot the gun was in the bag when he packed for his trip." He is currently being held on charges of unlawful possession of a weapon and carrying a firearm without a valid identification card. Bail was set for $25,000.

[February 24, 2011] United Continental Holdings unveiled its first Boeing 747 with the new livery today. The 374-seat jumbo jet displays the United brand in a new sans serif font, and the Continental-style globe on the tail. United has painted more than 20% of its fleet since the merger in October. Unfortunately, the price for riding on any United plane has risen yet again. In light of the ever rising fuel prices and turmoil in the Middle East, United and Continental Airlines initiated another price hike yesterday, with American Airlines following closely in their footsteps. The new hike adds $20 per round trip to most domestic flights, and travelers are being warned to brace for even more price increases.

[February 23, 2011] Today the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in New York City introduced an interactive web-based timeline of the tragic events of 9/11. According to AOL News, "The chronological timeline offers audio recordings of phone calls from victims to their loved ones, the oral history of survivors, and video and photographs of some of the day's most vivid and terrifying moments." Joe Daniels, president of the museum, said he hopes this feature will help educate younger generations about what occurred that day. Much of the material on the site is painful and disturbing, and the curators wanted to respectfully present that material, without glossing over it. In an attempt to do so, thumbnails and descriptions of the videos and clips are available to visitors before viewing the footage, giving them a chance to prepare for what they are going to hear or see. Daniels explained, "We try to present the material as sensitively as possible and not sensationalize it. Things aren't popping up on your screen. We try to give people the tools to modulate their experience on the site. At the same time, there is no getting around the fact that the material in this event was simply wrenching. The people who got up that morning and became a part of this event were just like the rest of us, and they should have been able to go home at the end of the day just like the rest of us." The timeline begins at 5:45AM on September 11th showing two of the terrorists passing through security in Boston's Logan Airport, and ends with President Bush's address to the nation at 8:30PM. The timeline is available for viewing at timeline.national911memorial.org. The National September 11 Memorial and Museum is scheduled to open this year on the 10th anniversary of the attacks.

[February 22, 2011] A new set of fare hikes is rippling through the airline industry. This time, the poster child for discount airfare, Southwest Airlines, set the effect in motion. Reacting to rising fuel costs, Southwest spokeswoman, Ashley Dillon, explained, "We implemented a modest system wide fare increase of $5 one-way to offset higher fuel costs." According to USA Today, jet fuel prices have risen nearly 50 percent in the past year, making the airline worry about what is to come. While Southwest is keeping their fare hike "modest", the larger carriers, including United Airlines, are raising their prices by $20 to $60 round trip. According to Rick Seaney, CEO of FareCompare, Southwest has become the measuring rod for raising fares. Unfortunately, when Southwest takes an inch, the larger carriers take a mile. Many airlines have already raised their prices five times since December, but when Southwest did not participate in two of those five rounds, the others backed down. However, with Southwest leading the pack this time, the new fare hike is likely to be around for awhile.

[February 18, 2011] Finally a triumph for passengers! United Continental Holdings has decided to extend United's popular Economy Plus seating to Continental planes. The company has been debating whether to add more seats on United planes or remove seats from Continental planes in an effort to make the coach sections the same. Jim Compton, executive vice president and chief revenue officer of United Continental Holdings said "the revenue generated by the elite frequent-fliers who occupy those seats, plus that from fliers who pay for the privilege, outweighs the theoretical loss of revenue from having fewer seats on the planes." Economy Plus adds up to five inches of legroom to several rows of seats in the front of coach cabins. Doing away with this section would likely have caused an uproar from United's elite frequent fliers, like myself, who are automatically - and without an extra charge - assigned to the roomier seats when they fly coach. It also may have upset non-elite passengers who enjoyed the option of paying extra for more legroom. As Ben Schlappig, another frequent flier, wrote, "Finally there's a positive thing we can look forward to after the merger." Economy Plus seats will be added to Continental's 350 mainline jets next year. When the project is done, more than 850 planes in the combined fleet will have the roomier section.

[February 17, 2011] United Airlines operations have returned to normal after all of their 757 jets were abruptly grounded for emergency safety checks. As the story goes, United was "scrambling to comply with a 2004 FAA airworthiness directive" regarding software and hardware changes for the air data computer systems. According to the FAA directive, "This action is necessary to ensure that the flight crew is able to silence an erroneous overspeed or stall aural warning" - basically allowing the pilots to turn off an alarm that would cause needless panic if set off. The airline installed the required software back in 2004, however, during an internal quality assurance audit, they discovered the proper steps hadn't been taken during the installation. United decided to ground the planes and check the software, rather than wait for the FAA to make a formal request or start issuing fines. If United had flown the planes knowing they were out of compliance with the FAA airworthiness directive, they would have been liable for fines of $25,000 per flight.

[February 16, 2011] United Airlines voluntarily grounded its entire fleet of Boeing 757 jets for "critical maintenance checks". After a problem was found on one plane during a routine check yesterday, United has been performing emergency maintenance on all 96 of its 757s. According to United spokesman Charlie Hobart, the air data computers on the aircraft were recently modified, and checks were necessary to ensure the software was working correctly. The checks take 60 to 90 minutes each. United spokeswoman, Megan McCarthy, commented further by saying, "The computers, which handle data such as air pressure and temperature, recently underwent upgrades in which some steps needed to return the units to service weren’t completed or were performed out of sequence." So far, all of the computers involved in the checkups have been working normally. Although United arranged for other aircraft to pick up the workload of the grounded 757s, thousands of passengers still felt the effects of the ensuing delays.

[February 15, 2011]
United Airlines flight 306 en route from Los Angeles to Baltimore, MD made an emergency landing in Grand Junction, CO today after the crew reported indications of smoke in the cargo hold. The plane landed safely and none of the 109 passengers were injured. Emergency services found no traces of smoke or fire, and the passengers are now scheduled to arrive in Baltimore 4 hours late.

[February 14, 2011]
United Continental Holdings spread some love this Valentine's Day by handing out $224 million in profit-sharing checks to about 80,000 employees. Continental has a long-standing tradition of giving out bonus checks to employees at airports, however, they haven't had any profit to share since 2008. Last year, United's net profit was $1.6 billion, excluding $765 million of costs related to the merger. With those costs added in, United's profits stood at $253 million. Today, Jeff Smisek handed out profit-sharing checks at United's hubs at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston and Chicago O'Hare International Airport. Other United officers flew to different locations throughout United's system to present the checks. At Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, Continental employees received their checks at a celebration held at the Continental ticket counter. Jeff Smisek commented, "The United and Continental teams did a great job in 2010. Profit-sharing shows that when we work together, we win together."

[February 11, 2011]
The latest update regarding the O'Hare expansion saga is that the lawsuit filed by United and American Airlines will be temporarily delayed. A Cook County judge granted a request by the Department of Transportation for a five-day delay in the court proceedings of the lawsuit. Illinois Senators Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk praised the temporary delay, saying, “This development allows for more time to find common ground and could prevent a costly legal battle and construction delays. Finding a solution that ensures project construction -- which supports thousands of local jobs -- continues is essential to future economic growth in Chicago.” The Senators are holding onto hope that an agreement between the City of Chicago and the disgruntled airlines can be made out of court. However, if a compromise is not reached, Cook County Circuit Court Judge Richard Billik will hear arguments on a city motion to dismiss the suit on February 22, and the hearing is scheduled to begin on March 1st.

[February 10, 2011]
A food trolley was used to smuggle packages of cocaine off a United Airlines flight at Sydney's international airport. The packages were hidden in a toilet rubbish bin during the flight from Los Angeles, and when the plane landed, two alleged co-conspirators, Matthew Robert Hay and his colleague, worked together to smuggle the drugs off the plane. While Hay restocked the plane, the colleague recovered the packages, put them on a food trolley and wheeled the trolley onto a Gate Gourmet catering truck. Shortly afterwards, the men were arrested on the tarmac. Nearly 1kg of white powder, containing 250.7 grams of pure cocaine was found in the vehicle. Both men pleaded not guilty to conspiring to import cocaine and Hay pleaded not guilty to possessing marketable quantity of cocaine. They are now standing trial at Sydney's District Court.

[February 9, 2011]
Negotiation talks regarding the O'Hare modernization project are underway between Mayor Daley of Chicago, Jeff Smisek of United Airlines, Gerard Arpey of American Airlines, and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. So far, no agreement has been reached, although the discussions were characterized as being "very, very extensive" and "candid". The airline executives reiterated their support for eventually completing the second phase of the expansion project, but stated that nothing was offered "that would permit us to suspend our litigation seeking to stop the City from proceeding with financing (on the remaining work) without our legally required notice and approval." It was agreed that the possibility of using federal funding could be explored, although the U.S Department of Transportation has already invested over $1 billion on the O'Hare expansion project, more than any other airport project. At this stage, LaHood's plan is to keep everyone talking until a deal is reached.

[February 8, 2011]
Mayor Daley finally has a new date set to discuss the O'Hare expansion project with the CEOs of United and American Airlines. The meeting is scheduled for tomorrow, and this time it will be held in Washington D.C. under the watchful eye of the Secretary of the Department of Transportation, Ray LaHood. After finding out LaHood would be hosting this meeting, Senators Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk of Illinois sent letters to the DOT secretary stressing the importance of finding a compromise on the project. The Senators wrote, "The Department of Transportation can play an important role in getting both sides of this dispute to come to an agreement to keep the O'Hare Modernization Project on track to completion. The final phase of the O'Hare Modernization Project will support thousands of local jobs, and making sure we continue the construction with this project is essential to future economic growth in Chicago." It is hoped the parties involved will quickly resolve their differences regarding the future of the project, and avoid a lengthy and costly court battle.

[February 7, 2011]
United Continental Holdings announced today that it will cut up to 500 jobs at the Houston headquarters of Continental Airlines. Layoffs will only affect those in management and administrative positions, as stated by Jeff Smisek when the airlines merged last October. Between the two airlines, there are currently 6,000 management and administrative positions being held. Some employees who will be affected have already volunteered for the airline's early-out program, which offers incentives such as severance, health care and travel benefits for a limited time. The layoffs are expected to begin April 1st and could last through the end of June. While this will significantly affect the workforce, the Houston headquarters will remain operational. Jeff Moseley, president and CEO of Greater Houston Partnership, commented, “The loss of these jobs was not unexpected. Ultimately, the Greater Houston Partnership is confident that the merger between United and Continental will result in a positive net growth in jobs for our region. We are pleased that George Bush Intercontinental Airport will be the largest hub of the world’s largest airline. This foundation will allow us to grow jobs over time to make up for the initial losses. Houston’s friendly and attractive business climate, compared to other major cities, will always be appealing to United/Continental Holdings as it continues its integration and operates as one airline.”

[February 4, 2011] As a promotion for GoGo Inflight Internet, seven airlines, including United, are offering free in-flight access to Facebook this month. Facebook is reportedly the most visited site through GoGo, which serves about 3,800 flights per day. If passengers want to wander off Facebook, they can pay $4.95 for general access to in-flight Wi-Fi on short flights and up to $12.95 for longer ones. The service is currently available to North American passengers traveling across the continental United States.
United Airlines is also introducing the digEplayer L7 Handheld In-flight Entertainment Device for passengers in United First and United Business class. The device offers a wider range of entertainment options, including 25 movies, 100 television programs and more music choices. The devices are Wi-Fi capable, as well.

[February 3, 2011]
While weather worries are easing up in Chicago, the fate of the O'Hare expansion project continues to worry Mayor Daley after the CEO's of United and American Airlines abruptly canceled an appointment with him today. Initially, city officials believed the cancelation was due to the weather, although now they are viewing it as an attempt to stall discussions regarding the expansion project at the city's largest airport. Mayor Daley stated that after the meeting was canceled, he offered to meet with the two airline executives any day from next Sunday to Thursday, and again the following Sunday and Monday. All of his offers were rejected. Mayor Daley felt the rejection acutely as he noted this was the first time in 22 years he offered to meet anyone on a Sunday. A spokeswoman for American Airlines only responded that the meeting was canceled due to "weather and the severe impact on our flight schedule" and she had no idea when the meeting would be rescheduled.

[February 2, 2011] Thousands of flights have been canceled due to another massive winter storm. Estimates of up to 13,000 flights have already been canceled since yesterday, including 850 flights by United Airlines and 600 flights by Continental. American Airlines seems to be affected the most so far, with more than half of its schedule canceled or diverted yesterday. In light of the fiasco associated with the December blizzard, affecting millions of travelers, the airlines tried a more assertive approach to dealing with wild weather by canceling flights before the storms hit. One passenger, who was scheduled to fly today, landed safely in his destination yesterday after being warned about the impending storm. He said, "Delta Airlines issued an advisory, so we're allowed to change our flight plan and they did it at no charge, so here we are...a day early." Unfortunately, not everyone could be accommodated before the ice and snow arrived. The storm is forecasted to cover one third of the U.S., from the Rockies to New England, with two feet of snow predicted in some areas. Chicago may face a blizzard of historic proportions, and most airlines have indicated they will have little to no flight operations out of O'Hare today. If you're planning to fly anywhere in the next week, check with your airline before heading to the airport to avoid being stranded.

[February 1, 2011] Another very frequent flier is upset with United Airlines, and I happen to know the blogger, Craig Wright, pretty well - he's earned a lot of certifications from GIAC. Also, I do know that the last time I flew United business class to London, the seat was broken and would not even begin to lie flat, sadly similar to Craig's experience. Seems to me that if United wants to attract more business fare payers, they need to pay attention to customer reviews as well as do a better job at satisfying those paid customers when they actually have them on the plane - that is certainly the best opportunity for improving an airline's customer service reputation.

[January 28, 2011] United Airlines is earning the reputation of being about as family friendly as a rabid wolf after kicking a mother and her baby off a flight in San Francisco. Melissa Bradley, a mother of four children, including a 1-year-old daughter, was forced off a United Airlines flight after a dispute regarding an economy-class seat too narrow to fit the infant carrier for her child. This is the second time in the course of a month that Bradley has had trouble fitting her ("airline-approved") infant carrier aboard a flight. The first time was on a Skywest flight from Aspen to San Francisco, although she wasn't asked to leave the plane in that instance. When she reported that incident, the FAA asked if she had pictures to prove her claim, which she did not. This time United claims Bradley was removed from the flight because she was "causing a disruption by taking pictures". Hmm. United spokesman Rahsaan Johnson acknowledged the rows were too close together to accommodate the carrier, but Bradley wasn't moved to a wider row because those seats were full. That sounds like a poor excuse - I've been aboard enough flights to know most people would switch seats to accommodate a mother and her child when asked. The excuse sounds even more flimsy knowing Bradley called two weeks ahead of time to make sure she could use the infant carrier, for which she bought a separate ticket. United's customer service told her to let the airline employees know about her needs when she checked in...which she did. United may want to rethink its excuses and its seat sizes, considering the National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman is campaigning for regulations requiring all infants and young children to ride in child seats on planes rather than in parent's laps. FlyersRights.org also offers the reminder that FAA guidelines state, "No aircraft operator may prohibit a child from using an approved CRS when the parent/guardian purchases a seat for the child. If an approved CRS for which a ticket has been purchased, does not fit in a particular seat on the aircraft, the aircraft operator has the responsibility to accommodate the CRS in another seat in the same class of service." Get on board, United, and let the kids get on board, too.

In a more triumphant report, a man who fought tooth-and-nail with United Airlines for a refund won his case, before it hit court. Tom Smith and his wife had tickets for a flight with United on November 13, 2010, but the flight was canceled and Smith's refund was nowhere to be found. After corresponding by phone and email with United, the airline stated it would only refund him $45 for each ticket, a far cry from the $350 owed to Smith. He then filed a lawsuit against United, and the day before he was set to go to court, a check arrived in the mail for $415. The extra $65 was meant for covering court costs.

[January 27, 2011] It looks like the lawsuit issued by United and American Airlines against the city of Chicago is getting attention and ruffling feathers in the windy city. As a response the lawsuit so far, Chicago has put financing for the O'Hare expansion project on hold indefinitely. The city and the airlines remain completely at odds in respect to the value of the expansion project. Mayor Daley claims the airlines are being short-sighted and need to build for the future now, while the airlines want to wait for a complete economic rebound before agreeing to a $2 billion bill.

[January 26, 2011]
The results for the 2010 fourth-quarter are in, showing the effects of the United Continental merger in numbers. United ended with a net loss of $325 million, although when the $485 million of merger-related costs and charges are taken out of the equation, United earned $160 million. United's executive vice president and chief revenue officer, Jim Compton, said unit revenue has risen since 2009, owing largely to a 20% increase in customers flying first and business class worldwide. Overall, United reports an increase in sales and continued growth in new accounts. United Continental Holdings is looking forward to this year, when, as CEO Jeff Smisek states, "Our customers will experience a measurable difference in our brand’s appearance and the consistency of service across our two carriers.” The new United plans to introduce its airport lounge, the United Club, during the 3rd quarter of this year, and will combine the loyalty programs of United and Continental in 2012. US Airways also had a successful quarter with a net income of $28 million, a remarkable improvement compared to 2009's fourth-quarter loss of $79 million.

[January 25, 2011] A United Express plane, being operated by Atlantic Southeast Airlines, made an emergency landing in Vermont yesterday after taking off for Washington, D.C. The unexpected landing was prompted by reports of steering problems in addition to a light in the plane's cockpit indicating a passenger door being open. The plane, carrying 43 people, was met by firefighters, police officers and ambulance crews from more than a dozen agencies when it landed at Burlington International Airport. Thankfully, the plane landed safely, no injuries have been reported, and the passengers were taken to their destination on other D.C-bound flights throughout the day. United is investigating the cause of the incident.

[January 24, 2011] A tragedy in Russia occurred today after an explosion went off at Moscow's busiest airport, killing 35 and wounding over 150 people. At least one suicide bomber was involved in the bombing at the International Terminal of Domodedovo airport. Reports say residents of Slovakia, Italy and France were injured in the blast, and two British citizens were killed. The deadly incident is being regarded as a terrorist attack. According to the Guardian, "The precise circumstances of the explosion are still unclear but all the signs are that Islamist militants in Russia's volatile North Caucasus region have brought their fight back to Moscow." President Dmitry Medvedev offered his condolences to the families of the victims and ordered special security measures at Russian airports. He also postponed his trip to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos in order to assist in dealing with the aftermath of the attack. Condolences are pouring in from around the globe, and world leaders are condemning the tragic attack.

Further questions regarding airport security are being raised in light of the bombing. San Jose International Airport spokesman, David Vossbrink, said, “It gives everyone in our industry a pause to review security.” Since the 9/11 attacks, security has heightened dramatically for passengers and airlines, but not necessarily for airports themselves. The argument being raised now is that before the checkpoint, airports are very vulnerable. Philip Baum, editor of Aviation Security International commented, "This is a major security loophole. The industry has missed the bigger picture and instead got on with addressing the last-known risk, not the risk to come. We are always reactive." Claude Moniquet, the director of the Brussels-based European Strategic Intelligence and Security Center, wrote, "In the last years, worldwide, huge amounts of time, money and technical means were spent on airlines' and passengers' security, but airport security is still a weak point in the global chain of air transport security."

[January 20, 2011] "Can you put me in a suitcase and send me down the baggage belt?" That is not exactly the average question a ticket agent receives, but it was asked in all seriousness by a would-be passenger earlier this week. After being denied TSA screening because he had no photo ID, Edward Hall went behind the United ticket counter and hopped on a moving baggage belt in an attempt to reach his plane. Upon being arrested 20 minutes later for trespassing, he told the police, "I just wanted to make my flight." Hall researches behavioral economics and "human impatience" at Columbia University.

[January 19, 2011] United Airlines is experiencing growing pains both internally and externally. From within, conflicts continue between flight attendant groups from United and Continental Airlines as they attempt to unify. The Association of Flight Attendants currently represents 15,000 workers from United, while the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers represent 9,300 Continental workers. After the Machinists rejected requests to work together on contract discussions last year, the AFA is now pushing for a vote to determine representation. The AFA filed an application for the National Mediation Board to declare that the United/Continental merger has created a single transportation system, thus triggering a union election for the combined flight attendant workforce. With United's workers holding over 60% of the vote, the AFA is confident they will come out victorious. Sara Nelson, AFA international vice president, commented, “Flight attendants have not been able to capitalize on the incredible opportunities that are available in this merger. What’s standing in the way is resolving this representation issue, so we don’t want to wait another day.” The AFA United President, Greg Davidowitch, also stated, "Joined together in AFA, we can ensure flight attendants are full partners in the merger with compensation that reflects our key role in the success of the new United Airlines." Representatives from the Machinists believe this election would be premature.

United Airlines is also involved with American Airlines in a joint lawsuit against Chicago. As previously reported, Mayor Daley is attempting to continue the expansion project at O'Hare International Airport, however United and American are not willing to foot the bill. The two airlines filed suit to postpone the project's $3.4 billion second phase for up to 7-9 years. Executives from the airlines stated, "It would burden us and our customers with costs we simply cannot afford to pay for a project we do not need and will not need for many years. Moreover, these cost increases would inherently restrict our ability to grow and expand air service into and out of Chicago." However, representatives of the City of Chicago claim this project is crucially important. Chicago Department of Aviation Commissioner Rosemarie Andolino said, "The O'Hare Modernization Program is creating jobs and stimulating the region's economy at a time when it is critically needed. We remain willing to discuss modernizing O'Hare with the airlines that serve the airport; however timing is essential."

[January 5, 2011] There's nothing like an aromatic cup of steaming coffee to bring down a plane and put the defense department on alert. Apparently, the emergency landing of United Airlines flight 940 was caused by a cup of coffee spilled on the plane's communications equipment. This caused distress signals to be sent out, including code 7500, indicating hijacking or unlawful interference. Canada's defense department was subsequently notified, but fortunately, with the help of United Airlines dispatch staff, the flight crew confirmed it to be a communication issue and not a hijacking. United has not had much to say regarding the errant beverage, but the diverted passengers were put on another plane to Frankfurt, and will arrive in Europe a day late.

[January 4, 2011] The unfortunate theme for United is continuing, although odors were not the cause of last night's emergency landing. United Airlines flight 940, en route from Chicago to Frankfurt, was diverted to Toronto's Pearson International Airport due to a communication system malfunction. United spokesman Rahsaan Johnson said that while the flight did not lose contact with air traffic controllers, the captain decided the issues needed to be fixed before crossing the Atlantic. The Boeing 777 landed safely in Toronto with 241 passengers and 14 crew onboard. The passengers were flown back to Chicago and lodged in a hotel for the night. Additional flights have been arranged to fly them to Frankfurt today.

[January 3, 2011] The world's biggest airline is kicking off the New Year with strange odors and emergency landings. Only three days into 2011, and United has already grounded two planes due to suspicious smells. The first was on New Year's Day itself, on a flight from Tucson International Airport to LAX. Someone noticed the smell of electrical smoke and the plane returned to Tuscon 20 minutes after its departure. The flight was cancelled and the cause of the smell is unknown. The second odorous incident occurred this morning on United Airlines flight 243 en route from Denver to Las Vegas. This time the crew noticed an unusual smell in the cockpit and the plane returned to Denver. Both planes landed safely and their respective odors are being investigated.

[December 30, 2010] The airline industry is feeling the true cost of all its corner-cutting this week. As most airlines are still scrambling to accommodate stranded passengers, many people are joining the outcry that the weather isn't the only thing to blame for this week's travel disaster. Karen Cumming, who slept on the floor of New York's JFK airport for two days, explained, "What people find so appalling is the complete lack of communication of any kind with the passengers." And a spokesman for the Association for Airline Passenger Rights reiterated, "We don't blame the airlines or airports for bad weather, but it's their responsibility to be prepared." With all of the cuts airlines have undergone in recent years, they were not remotely prepared for such a large scale aviation crisis. For instance, United Airlines once had 17 reservation offices, but now only has three. In February, Continental Airlines cut 600 of its 2,600 reservation employees. With these drastic cuts, they are unable to deal with the massive amount of calls from people trying to rebook, and customer service has completely fallen by the wayside. Instead of talking to a representative, customers are put on hold for hours as an endless telephone loop is played. Some customers found more information through Twitter than the airlines websites, reservation agents on the phone or ticketing agents at the airport. "In one instance, a New Yorker received a refund and a trip back home in less than an hour after Tweeting a message to JetBlue's Twitter account. He was waiting five hours before sending that message." Airlines have also eliminated flights and grounded planes. The leaner schedules earned airlines a major profit over the summer, but left them unable to handle the backlog of passengers. Darryl Jenkins, a Virginia-based aviation industry consultant, explained, “When your planes are all 90 percent full and you cancel a flight, it’s going to take you another 10 flights to re- accommodate all those passengers.” Airport traffic has finally begun again, but it will still be days before all of the affected passengers are brought to their final destinations.

[December 29, 2010] The nightmare continues for over 1 million travelers affected by the blizzard in the Northeast. As the backlog of stranded passengers continues to grow, and flight availability remains minimal, tempers are the only things flying at many airports. While most people are reasonable enough to realize the airlines can't control the weather, they are frustrated with the way the airlines are handling the situation. One traveler waited in an 8-10 hour line at LAX just to talk to ticketing agent, and was then told there were no flights available to the East Coast until after the New Year. Another woman spent three days on the phone trying to get a hold of Continental Airlines in order to rebook her daughter's cancelled flight. Besides poor communication with customers, airlines may be paying for their poor communication to airports. The U.S. Department of Transportation is looking into the details of flight delays to determine if some could have been avoided, and if the airlines will be fined for excessive tarmac delays. Six international flights to JFK are being investigated after the planes landed with no gate to dock at, and passengers were stuck on the tarmac for up to 12 hours. Steve Coleman, a Port Authority spokesman, said, "It is an airline's responsibility to make sure before they leave their point of origin that they have a gate assignment. These airlines did not. So they got to the airport and had no place to dock." The airline industry is already predicted to lose upwards of $150 million in light of this week, and the threat of hefty fines could raise that number significantly.

[December 28, 2010] If you are looking for an after-Christmas bargain, don't turn to the skies. Holiday traveling woes continue as airlines raise their fares in response to a surge in oil prices. The cost of oil was fairly steady at $70 per barrel most of this year, but it rose to $91 per barrel in the last week. According to ABC news, "Several airlines confirmed Tuesday that they are raising prices on many domestic routes by $10 one way and $20 per round trip, even as snowbound passengers remain stranded at New York City-area airports." United Airlines was reportedly the first to introduce this fare hike, with Continental, American and Delta following its lead. United is calling its new fee the "peak travel day" surcharge, although it has apparently been added to all future travel dates.

[December 27, 2010] Snow arrived to provide many with an unprecedented White Christmas, but it did not stop there. Blizzards in the Northeast are causing flight cancellations and delays across the entire country. From San Francisco to Dallas to Orlando, travelers are feeling the ill-effects of the continuing storms. JFK, LaGuardia and Newark Liberty International Airports were all shut down due to the severe weather on Sunday, and are now slowly beginning to move planes again. Philadelphia International Airport remained open with one working runway, and Boston's Logan International Airport was also open, although many of the flights there were cancelled. Continental and United Airlines reportedly cancelled nearly 1,000 flights due to the storms. JetBlue Airways, whose main hub is at JFK airport, was forced to cancel all of its flights into and out of New York, and are hoping to begin a recovery process on Tuesday. Unfortunately, because of the incredible backlog in flights, it may take up to five days to accommodate all of the stranded passengers. With over 7,000 cancellations collectively since Sunday throughout the U.S., hundreds of thousands of passengers are waiting for a flight home.

[December 23, 2010] With storms sweeping across the country, many cities will experience a white Christmas this year. Snow is expected across the South and the East Coast in New York City, Boston, Nashville and Charlotte. Even Atlanta, which hasn't seen snow on Christmas since 1882, may be turned into a winter wonderland. Unfortunately, the severe weather may cause delays for Christmas travelers. For those flying to, from or through Washington Dulles or New York / Newark Liberty International Airport, some delays and/or cancellations are expected. Traveling through Chicago is still difficult as well. United and Continental Airlines are yet again waiving the ticket change fee for those affected by the forecasted storms. Wherever you may be this weekend, stay safe and have a very Merry Christmas.

[December 22, 2010] Bah humbug. That seems to be the motto of the FAA this year. Falling in step with spirit of Ebenezer Scrooge, they're doling out fines just in time for Christmas. They have proposed a $275,000 fine for Continental Airlines and a $330,000 fine for American Eagle. Both airlines have been accused of operating planes that were not in compliance with federal regulations. I'm all for safety, but these alleged mechanical mishaps were from 2009 for Continental and 2008 for American Eagle, so waiting until 3 days before Christmas a year or two years later seems a little Grinch-like. Both airlines have 30 days to contest the penalties, and American Eagle has already stated they will challenge the FAA, claiming the penalties are "excessive".
In the meantime, United is attempting to off-set some of the seasonal stress by using a new software called “LineBuster”. Using handheld units, airline agents can scan boarding passes or credit cards to obtain passenger information while travelers are standing in the check-in line. The agents can then determine whether the passenger needs to continue to wait and talk to a representative, or if they can check in at a self-service kiosk. According to Guy Zalel, the project manager for airport strategy at United, "two agents using the units cleared a line of about 100 people in 20 minutes on a Saturday at O’Hare International Airport."

[December 20, 2010] Holiday travelers across Europe are facing frustrating delays in the wake of unexpectedly heavy snow storms. According to The Washington Post, "Some of the European problems stemmed from woes at Heathrow, where furious passengers, hundreds of whom had spent up to two nights sleeping on the floor, besieged staff at the airport, which has struggled to operate since five inches of snow fell in the space of an hour Saturday." Passengers are not the only ones expressing anger regarding the delays in London. Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, irritably commented: "It can't be beyond the wit of man, surely, to find the shovels, the diggers, the snowplows or whatever it takes to clear the snow out from under the planes, to get the planes moving and to have more than one runway going." Also, Lord Adonis, the former Labour transport secretary, expressed his disgust with the efforts at Heathrow, saying, "BAA needs to get a grip on the situation and the Government should be on its case, not simply blaming the weather." Despite many such accusations and outcries, the BAA is warning passengers that things are not going to get better soon. A spokesperson said, "Passengers should anticipate further delays and cancellations in the following days and potentially beyond Christmas Day." In the meantime, the thousands of stranded passengers are "waiting for a miracle" to get out of the airport and en route to their Christmas destinations. For those booked on United or Continental Airlines, the change fee is being waived for affected passengers choosing to change their reservations.

[December 17, 2010] As the world's biggest airline company, United Continental Holdings Inc. offers flight services to a vast array of destinations worldwide. As Christmas approaches, United and Continental are bringing together those who wish each other "Nollaig Shona Dhuit" in Ireland, "Joyeux Noel" in France, " Buone Feste Natalizie" in Italy, "Shinnen omedeto, kurisumasu omedeto" in Japan, and "Saint Dan Fai Lok" in Hong Kong. Next year, Continental Airlines will help those wishing each other "Mele Kalikimaka" by introducing a non-stop flight from California to the Big Island of Hawaii. Continental will fly from Hilo International Airport to San Francisco weekly and Los Angeles daily. This will be the only flight to offer direct service from Hilo to the mainland. For now, all flights stop in Honolulu before continuing to their final destination. Jim Compton, Executive Vice President of United Continental Holdings commented, "We are excited to provide customers the only direct flights to Hilo from the mainland." Mike McCartney, Hawaii Tourism Authority president and CEO, is also happy about the new flight schedule, saying, “The addition of the two routes is welcome news for Hawaii Island and the entire state, and a result of the momentum established by our tourism industry to lead Hawaii’s tourism recovery.” The flights are set to begin June 9, 2011.

[December 16, 2010] Today marks the 50th anniversary of an aviation tragedy which shattered many lives, and sparked much needed changes in aviation safety. On December 16, 1960, a United Airlines jet and a TWA propeller plane collided in mid-air over New York, killing all 128 people aboard the planes. The United plane crashed into the Park Slope neighborhood in Brooklyn, destroying at least 10 buildings and killing 6 more people on the ground. The TWA plane crashed into a military air base on Staten Island. One young boy, Stephen Baltz, initially survived the United crash, but his injuries were too extensive, and he died the next day. In the investigation following the crash, the planes' "black boxes" were used extensively for the first time, and the air control system was revamped to prevent future tragedies. Today a memorial was held at Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery. During the ceremony, an 8-foot marble monument bearing a bronze plaque with the names of the 134 victims and the story of the day's events was unveiled. A letter was also read from the brother of Stephen Baltz. The letter said that while the boy was at the hospital, he told his father, "Daddy, next time I fly, I want to fly my own plane, I want to be the pilot." Many relatives of the victims were among the people who attended the ceremony.

[December 15, 2010] This story sounds a little too reminiscent of the movie "Catch me if you can". We'll see if you concur. William Hamman, a United Airlines pilot, and "one of the nation's top cardiologists", has been exposed as a fraud. Hamman is indeed a pilot, but he is not the doctor he's been claiming to be. He went to medical school for awhile, but he did not complete his degree. However, that did not stop him from becoming a respected cardiologist who gave lectures, trained staff and wrote grants for medical research. His 15+ year charade came to an end last summer when suspicions led to an investigation resulting with his exposure. The doctors who worked with him were stunned. Dr. W. Douglas Weaver was president of the cardiology group when it gave Hamman a contract for up to $250,000 a few years ago to train doctors how to communicate with others in medical emergencies by working with computerized mannequins and models. In response to Hamman's exposure as a fake, he said, "I was shocked to hear the news. He was totally dedicated to what he was doing, and there is a real need for team-based education in medicine." Interestingly, even after his cover was blown, the medical community did not initially want to give him up. According to the Associated Press, "Even after learning of Hamman's deception, the American Medical Association was going to let him lead a seminar that had been in the works, altering his biography and switching his title from 'Dr.' to 'Captain' on course materials. It was canceled after top officials found out." Apparently, he did not need to be a doctor to be an educator, but his lie cost him everything. He resigned from his position at William Beaumont Hospital, and United Airlines reportedly grounded him after hearing about his falsehoods. My question is, who forgot to check his resume 2 decades ago?

[December 14, 2010] Don't you hate being nickel-and-dimed by airlines? Well, the airlines are loving it! In baggage fees alone, major U.S. airlines collectively made $906.4 million this quarter, with that number rising to $1.49 billion when you add in ticket change fees. Delta topped the list for raking in the most fees, totaling $259.4 million from bags and $183.3 million from reservation changes. American Airlines was a distant second with $151.1 million of our nickels and dimes from baggage fees and $117.7 million for ticket changes. Continental Airlines has come up with the newest fee to hit passengers, called FareLock. They will be charging a $5 fee to put a 72-hour hold on a fare without any commitment to buy a ticket, or a $9 fee will allow customers to lock in a fare for 7 days. Continental claims it will still offer the standard 24-hour fare hold for free, so far. Perhaps Continental is hoping to rank higher than 4th place on next year's list of the most fee-gauging airlines.

[December 13, 2010] "Oh the weather outside is frightful" is an under-statement this year. Dreadful weather is causing travel delays that do not seem to have an end in sight for many travelers. After Sunday's snowstorm in the Midwest that caused the Metrodome roof to collapse in Minneapolis and 1,700 flights at Chicago airports to be grounded, more flights are being canceled or delayed due to frigid temperatures and icy winds moving down the Eastern Seaboard. Chicago's airports are attempting to recover from yesterday's storm, but the problem is being compounded by thousands of stranded passengers who are competing to find a seat on any flight available. According to the National Weather Service, a winter weather advisory is still in effect until midnight tonight. United, Continental and Delta Airlines are encouraging passengers to avoid traveling right now if at all possible. They will be waiving the normal change fee for those who chose to re-route or postpone their travel plans.

[December 9, 2010] Despite TSA's best efforts to scare everyone away from airports, last month United and Continental's traffic was up by 4.8%. In fact, most U.S. airlines are seeing an improvement in traffic compared to the last two years. Jeff Smisek, United Continental Holding's CEO, is looking to gain an edge in the recovering market by making more international alliances. He is looking into partnering with airlines in Latin America and Canada, seeing joint ventures as a "powerful competitive tool". Smisek commented that, “Latin America is an area that we're keenly interested in. We're also looking at potentially having a transborder joint venture with our friends at Air Canada.” The carriers must receive federal approval before they can operate jointly. Such approval is expected to be given late next year.

[December 8, 2010] United Continental Holdings Inc. and PGA have signed a 5 year agreement making United the new "Official Airline" of the PGA Tour. Delta Airlines held that title for 25 years, but beginning in 2011, United will have its turn. The new partnership will allow frequent-flier members of United and Continental special perks including unique PGA TOUR player experiences and access to the PGA Tour’s TPC Network of golf facilities and courses. Members of the PGA Tour, Champions Tour and Nationwide Tour will enjoy the privileges of the frequent flier program's elite status and free access to over 50 airport lounges worldwide. Tom Wade, the chief marketing officer for the PGA TOUR, remarked, "We are extremely pleased to announce this new long-term agreement with United Continental Holdings and are very excited about the consumer and player programs that will be initiated through our partnership. The combined hub system and route network align extremely well with our Tour schedules, which is very beneficial to our members, as well as to the frequent fliers who might take advantage of the special PGA TOUR promotional programs." The combination of United and Continental's hubs correspond to golf tournaments in Houston, Chicago, Cleveland, Newark, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington D.C.

[December 7, 2010] Today's headlines are full of bad news... continually rising airfares, lawsuits and delays in promised services... but this one struck me as the worst of the worst. Burglars broke into a building containing items that were being used in a fundraiser for the memorial of United Flight 93, one of the hijacked flights that crashed on 9/11. The burglary occurred in Akron, Ohio at an office of Deitrick & Associates. Last week a fundraising auction was held for the 93 Cents for Flight 93 campaign, and the items involved in the auction were being kept in that office before being shipped to the winning bidders. Thieves punched a hole in the wall to enter the office and stole jewelry, cash, and sports collectibles. The most painful loss was seven Flight 93 silver medallions that were considered priceless because only 60 were ever minted. 53 went to families who had lost loved ones in the crash and the last seven were a part of the fundraising effort for next year's 10th anniversary memorial. Sharon Deitrick, who was leading the campaign, said, "We are beyond devastation." Amidst her shock and devastation, however, she found an ounce of pity for the thieves themselves, reportedly saying, "I think if anyone is that desperate for survival, I feel very sorry for them. I've been praying for them." The police do not yet have any leads regarding the break-in.

[December 6, 2010] Employees of United Airlines have been raising money all year for a special event to take about 60 children to the North Pole. This Saturday, United is getting into the Christmas spirit by providing a festive flight for seriously ill children and their siblings. The flight, called Santa’s Fantasy Sleigh Ride, will take off from Denver International Airport, fly over Denver for 30 minutes, and land at a United hanger decorated like the North Pole. Santa will be making an appearance and gifts will be given to the children. This event is a part of Starlight Foundation’s Great Escapes program which provides families an opportunity to spend memorable time together outside of the hospital. Becky Gutrich, chairman of the board for Starlight commented, “Our Santa’s Fantasy Sleigh Ride delivers a playful, fun experience for children, which is in line with our mission to provide positive experiences for seriously ill children.”

[December 2, 2010] Boingo Wireless has signed an agreement providing T-Mobile users access to Wi-Fi hotspots at airports and hotels. According to WirelessWeek.com, "T-Mobile Hotspot and postpaid mobile broadband subscribers will now have Wi-Fi access at no additional charge at 53 Boingo airport locations in the United States and Canada." The new agreement includes major airports in New York and Chicago, and Washington State Ferries in the Seattle area. It will also allow Boingo subscribers expanded access at T-Mobile HotSpot airline club locations, including the airline clubs of United Airlines and Delta Airlines, among others.

[December 1, 2010] With the Northeast being hammered by heavy rain and winds up to 60 mph, United and Continental Airlines are waiving change fees for passengers flying through the affected airports today and tomorrow. The longest delays are being reported in the New York area at Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark Liberty airports. Travelers at LaGuardia seems to be suffering the worst, with an average delay of over 5 hours. Philadelphia is also seeing delays of over an hour, while the Washington-Baltimore area is experiencing a reprieve from the storms. The severe-weather waiver from United and Continental allows passengers to make one change without being charged the standard fee for ticket changes.

[November 30, 2010] United may not have ranked well with Zagat, but they have won a place as the healthiest airline. In a survey conducted by Dietdetective.com, which examined 8 different airlines, United earned four stars, and can now boast of offering the healthiest food options in the sky. The favorite snack choice was the Tapas snack box, which includes almonds, olives, hummus and bruschetta. If you're looking for something a little more substantial, they recommend the Turkey Sandwich, although I've tried it a couple of times and personally have not enjoyed it. It may be low on calories, but it's also low on taste. JetBlue came in second on the survey, with three and a quarter stars. Continental did not fare so well, ending up in 5th place with only two and a half stars.

[November 29, 2010] The results of Zagat's new airline survey have been released. The survey covered 16 domestic and 74 international airlines and involved over 8,000 frequent fliers who rated the companies on service, comfort, food and websites. For the third straight year, Continental Airlines took first place among the large airlines for Premium-Class Service. Continental also did well in Economy-Class Service and Best In-Flight Entertainment. United was not a favorite in the survey, with low rankings for luggage policy and check-in experience. They surpassed Continental only in the Best On-Time category for domestic flights, taking second place. Hopefully as the two airlines continue their merging process, some of Continental's good habits will rub off on United. Southwest Airlines was the star of the survey, claiming first place in 5 categories, including Best Value, Best Luggage Policy and Best Check-in Experience. Southwest also ranked well in Top Frequent-Flier Programs and Economy-Class Service. Virgin Airlines was another favorite, winning in service categories and tying for first place with Southwest for Top Website. Among U.S. airports rated in the survey, Portland International Airport took first place, New York's LaGuardia took last and our own Seattle-Tacoma International Airport tied for an unimpressive 12th place.

[November 24, 2010] So far today, security lines at most airports are moving smoothly, despite the campaign against the body scanners and enhanced pat downs. Protesters have shown up at airports displaying signs or passing out brochures informing people of the possible health risks and obvious intrusions of the new security procedures, but they have been peaceful and no major disruptions have occurred. In fact, Reuters reports that both passengers and TSA agents are on their best behavior. With so much anticipation of long lines and surly confrontations, most travelers arrived at airports early and well prepared, making things run smoother than normal at busy airports like O'Hare and LaGuardia. At Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, some protesters passed out leaflets against the TSA screenings, but they did not affect the movement of the security lines. Unfortunately, the weather in the Northwest is not being as cooperative. Many people missed their flights in Seattle due to unsafe road conditions, and a record level of snow at the airport. Storms are also causing road closures and flight cancellations throughout the Rockies, and a blizzard warning is in effect for Utah. Here's wishing traveling mercies for all who are flying this week. Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

[November 23, 2010] The outlook has not improved for United Airlines since yesterday. Two more United flights, this time operated by SkyWest, were forced to make emergency landings. A flight from Tucson, Arizona headed to San Francisco was diverted to Fresno, CA after a problem with its hydraulic system was discovered. The plane landed safely and the 37 passengers and 3 crew members were bused to San Francisco. Another SkyWest plane, also bound for San Francisco, was forced to return to Redding Municipal Airport after take-off due to an indicator light signaling smoke in the cargo hold. The plane landed safely in Redding and no fire was found on the aircraft. In addition to United's woes, a fully loaded ammunition clip was found on the cabin floor of a Southwest flight. Apparently the clip belonged to a law enforcement officer who had dropped it on a previous flight aboard that plane. Amidst all of the security tension happening right now, this incident did not help matters, to say the least. Tomorrow will be another interesting day at airports, as National Opt Out Day is still planned to take place. Protesters against TSA's controversial new body scanners are expected to create even longer lines and delays on one of the busiest travelling days of the year. Kathy and I try to avoid travelling on or around holidays, but we can't always choose. We're thankful we're not flying anywhere in the next couple of days. The security drama coupled with these storms in the Northwest is going to make flying a challenge for many.

[November 22, 2010] Besides being on Consumer Reports' Naughty List, and the increasing anger regarding security, United Airlines is facing plenty of trouble on its own at the brink of this holiday season. Hundreds of United and Continental pilots marched in protest this morning against the outsourcing of jobs to other airlines. At Newark Liberty International Airport, the first protest in a three-day demonstration was underway as pilots spoke out against the proposed contract that would allow 70-seat jets and pilots to be outsourced. Pilots are expected to picket at Houston later this week and Chicago next week.
The protests followed a rocky weekend for United after Flight 881 made an emergency landing due to a cracked windshield. The plane carrying 176 passengers en route from Boston to Chicago was forced to land in Buffalo Sunday morning. Thankfully the plane landed safely without decompression problems, and the passengers were provided with another flight to Chicago.

[November 18, 2010] United Continental Holdings Inc. is introducing daily flights from Chicago to Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, Florida. Continental Airlines will offer two daily non-stop flights to Fort Lauderdale and one daily non-stop flight to West Palm Beach. Continental will also offer non-stop service between Denver International Airport and Fort Lauderdale. The new flight options will be operated by 737's and are set for launch February 17, 2011, in time for the great Spring Break migration.

[November 16, 2010] A next generation Boeing 737-800 in United's livery passed its first flight test last week. The new design of the 737 includes changes in wheel fairings, wing surfaces and anti-collision lights to improve aerodynamics, as well as an engine enhancement system. These changes will contribute to the reduction of fuel consumption by 2 percent. Over the course of a year, that 2% will save approximately $120,000 per airplane. Unfortunately, the savings are unlikely to be passed along to the passengers. In fact, they may be surpassed by increases in future fuel prices - but, at least they're trying. Changes to the interior of the airplane include larger stowage bins, and it is said the cabin has a more open, modern feel. Boeing will continue to test the new 737's through April 2011, and will incorporate the changes into general production between summer of 2011 and spring of 2012.

[November 15, 2010] Passengers across the country are expressing their outrage and disgust with the newest security measures TSA has put into place. The 300 full-body scanners introduced at 60 U.S. airports just in time for the holidays are being met with strong opposition from passengers and pilots alike. The new Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) graphically shows the contours of the body and emits low-level radiation. Those who refuse the body scan are subjected to an "enhanced" pat down, which is so invasive many people are equating it to sexual assault. In response to people's concerns about health and privacy, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano unapologetically says, "It's all about security. It's all about everybody recognizing their role." However, many people are claiming government officials have gone too far this time. After one Californian, John Tyner, posted his negative experience at San Diego International Airport online, more and more people are speaking out against the scanners and pat downs. OptOutDay.com, which is calling for a national protest of the scanners on November 24th, says, "This country needs security measures in place that not only keep us safe but also do not grossly violate privacy or constitute an unreasonable search, like the current protocol." Civil liberties groups, travel business groups, and airline pilot and flight attendant unions are also joining the chorus of angry voices. Since the threat of terrorism is not lessening, the Department of Homeland Security is calling for continued patience from travelers, however complaints continue to pour in from Americans who are tired of being hassled every time they fly.

[November 12, 2010] United flight 931 en route from London to San Francisco made an unscheduled stop in Iceland today after a passenger on board became ill. The plane landed at Keflavik International Airport to allow the passenger to get medical treatment at a hospital. The condition of the passenger is unknown at this time. United reported that flight 931 will resume its journey shortly. This is the second time United has used Iceland as an emergency landing pad within the past 30 days.

[November 11, 2010] The last hurdle for the joint venture between United, Continental and All Nippon Airways was cleared today. The U.S. Department of Transportation gave a final order approving anti-trust immunity for the airlines. Once the new trans-Pacific venture takes off, travelling between the Americas and Asia should be smoother due to a broader choice of flight and fare options. Jeff Smisek of United Continental Holdings said: "Today's final approval by DOT enables us to begin working toward a more convenient, more seamless experience for travelers on both sides of the Pacific. We thank the DOT for their thoughtful review." American Airlines and Japan Airlines have also been given anti-trust immunity, and all of the airlines involved hope to begin their new flight schedules in the spring.

[November 10, 2010] United Airlines is spreading holiday cheer this year by giving away 1,000 bonus frequent flier miles. Through the end of the year, Mileage Plus bonus miles are being offered for those who use United's mobile check-in service for domestic flights at the nearly 40 U.S. airports that accept paperless boarding passes. Customers can check in on united.com using a mobile device starting 24 hours before their departure time. After checking in, travelers at participating airports will then receive an email link to access their paperless boarding pass. United customers must register at united.com/mobilebonus before their accounts will be eligible to receive the free miles.

[November 9, 2010] For anyone who would rather hit the beach than hit the slopes this winter, United and Continental are both offering discounted fares to Honolulu. Between now and December 15th, you can fly round trip to Oahu for $418 during the week and an extra $35 for weekend travel. If you would rather slip away for Easter, the airlines are offering flights for $438 from April 12th to June 9th.

[November 8, 2010] Cheers to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport for being one of the best airports for on-time departures. It ranked 5th in a list of the world's 50 busiest airports for departures, with 86% of flights leaving as scheduled. Tokyo's Haneda Airport sat at the top of the list with 94.1% of timely departures. Seattle-Tacoma based Alaska Airlines also ranked well among U.S. major air carriers for on-time take-off, ranking second with 87.43% of flights arriving on time. United surpassed them with over 89% of flights being punctual.

After over a million people from 200 different countries cast their votes on their favorite on frequent flier programs, United's Mileage Plus Program won for having the best Elite-Level Program in the Americas at this year's Frequent Traveler Awards. Impressive as that may be, I am remarkably unimpressed with the answers United provided to questions regarding the fate of our frequent flier miles in light of the merger. An unfruitful meeting between United executives and members of the online forum, "FlyerTalkers", occurred last week, during which many elite-level members of United's frequent flier program were hoping to find answers. However, the United executives remained tight-lipped regarding the future of our miles. Giving no details on what to expect, the United representatives said United and Continental programs will remain separate in 2011, though some streamlining may take place, and a complete combination of the programs is expected to occur in 2012. Maybe. Thanks, United, for a lesson in ambiguity.

[November 5, 2010] In response to last week's terrorism scare, airport security is being reviewed around the world. It has been reported that the Interior Minister of France said the bomb found in a UPS cargo plane in England was defused only 17 minutes before it was set to explode. The bomb was hidden in the ink cartridge of a printer, wired to a cell phone without a SIM card - indicating that the cell phone's alarm was meant to set off the explosives. The bombs were intercepted after a tip from a detained Al-Quaeda member. Military and intelligence operations are underway in Yemen to track down the persons responsible for the thwarted attack. Meanwhile, some countries have ceased all passenger flights to Yemen. Captain Abdulkhaleq Al-Kadi, chairman of Yemenia, also stated, "We have decided to suspend all cargo to Europe carried by Yemenia airlines, to make our friends in Europe comfortable. At the meantime, we review the government procedures and how we can handle cargo from Yemen to Europe. Once we are satisfied, our clients are satisfied and security in other country are happy about us, we will go back and carry cargo. Right now it is suspended for the sake of safety." In a recent development, Al Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen has claimed responsibility for the parcel bomb plot, as well as for a UPS plane crash in Dubai in early September.

Glenn Tilton, former chairman, president and CEO of United Airlines, and current chairman of United Continental Holdings, Inc., received a distinguished honor from the American Cancer Society today. Tilton was presented with the CEO of the Year Award -- Excellence in Leadership and Impact as a part of the American Cancer Society's Corporate Impact Award Series. Tilton has served as chair of the Illinois Chapter of the ACS's CEOs Against Cancer group, as well as co-chair of the national group. Under Tilton's leadership, United helped raise over 148 million airline miles and nearly $500,000 through their Hugyou Teddy Bear Family program for cancer patients and their families who need to travel for treatment. Also, with his wife Jackie at his side, Tilton consistently supports the annual American Cancer Society Discovery Ball, which raised more than $2 million dollars in 2008. John R. Seffrin, Ph.D., the American Cancer Society's CEO stated, "Glenn understands the tremendous impact CEOs can have on the fight against cancer. He continues to lead and to give generously in so many ways to help create a world with less cancer and more birthdays." The CEO of the ACS's Illinois Division, Steven M. Derks, commented, "We are extremely proud to call Jackie and Glenn our partners and friends here in Illinois and with the American Cancer Society nationwide. They are truly leaders in the fight against cancer, and their passion for our mission is invaluable."

[November 4, 2010] United Airlines and the Oprah Winfrey Show have teamed up to commemorate the talk show host's last season. At Chicago O'Hare Airport today, United unveiled a Boeing 757 with "Oprah: The Farewell Season" painted on its side and Oprah's signature painted on the nose and the tail. The interior is also specially decorated with Oprah regalia and the passengers will be greeted with a welcome video from Oprah herself. At today's send-off event, one passenger will receive enough United Mileage Plus miles to fly around the world. Each customer on the first flight will also receive a monogrammed "Oprah 25" fleece blanket. Along with the unveiling of the Oprah plane, United is launching its United Million Mile Giveaway, a sweepstakes giving one million United Mileage Plus miles to a winner each month through May 2011. Senior vice president of marketing for United, Mark Bergsrud, said: "As Chicago's hometown airline, United is proud to celebrate The Oprah Winfrey Show's Farewell Season with our customers, employees and 'Oprah' show fans. This unique plane represents the global reach of two great Chicago icons." United will fly the Oprah Farewell Season Plane domestically until May of next year.

[November 2, 2010] Last week, two explosive packages originating from Yemen and headed for Chicago were intercepted in England and Dubai. One of the explosive devices, containing 400 grams of PETN, was discovered at Midlands Airport on board a UPS cargo plane. The other bomb contained 300 grams of PETN hidden inside components of a printer, and was found in a FedEx package after having traveled on a Qatar Airways passenger flight. Terrorists have attempted to use PETN on at least two occasions in the past, but both times previously the explosives were brought on board the plane. This is the first time cargo planes were used as conduits for the bombs. In 2007 a law was passed requiring all cargo transported on domestic flights and passenger planes flying into the U.S. to pass through security screening, however, cargo planes are not covered by that law. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is now calling on security regulators around the globe to work together to help make the skies a safer place. The chief of IATA is also calling for an accelerated development of better cargo scanning technology. In a statement yesterday, Janet Napolitano, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security said, "We've put a ground halt on all cargo emanating out of Yemen, until they can be inspected."

[November 1, 2010] Missing a flight can be stressful and losing your luggage is a pain, but here is a lesson in what NOT to do if you're at the end of your rope while traveling. Sergei Berejnoi earned himself a trip to the Denver jail Saturday night by saying the most foolish thing you can say in an airport these days. After narrowly missing his flight in Denver, he became irate and told the gate crew he needed to get his bag off the plane...because he had a bomb inside it. The plane returned to the gate and his bag was check, but no explosives were found. The flight, being operated by SkyWest Airlines, was delayed an hour by the search and Berejnoi was arrested for suspicion of endangering public transportation. He is now in jail, with bail set at $15,000, and the possibility of serving 12 years in jail plus a $750,000 fine.

[October 28, 2010] Delta Airlines now holds the singular title of being the America's Meanest Airline. The Airline Quality Rating Report (AQR) is in, and Delta takes the cake for being the Worst Major Airline out there. It ranked number one in delays, as well as in consumer complaints, with an overall AQR score of -1.73. United Airlines came in second, due to terrible meals and rude flight attendants. Alaska Airlines, American Airlines and US Airways trailed closely behind, making the list of the top 5 worst airlines. American Eagle won the title of Worst Regional Airline for the most incidents of mishandled bags and second most delays, with the worst overall ranking and the painful score of -2.83 on the AQR scale. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Hawaiian Airlines deserves some accolade for claiming the title of best airline, followed by AirTran, JetBlue and Southwest.

[October 27, 2010] United Airlines is facing a new class-action lawsuit from the National Federation of the Blind and three blind individuals who have a history of flying with United. The NFB is accusing United of discrimination because of touchscreen kiosks that cannot be used by blind passengers. In a strong statement against United, the President of the National Federation of the Blind, Dr. Marc Mauer, accuses the airline of purposeful discrimination by saying, "The airline industry has an unfortunate history of discriminating against blind passengers, and now United Airlines is repeating that history by deploying inaccessible technology that we cannot use. United is engaging in this blatant discrimination even though the technology to make its kiosks accessible is readily available, has been deployed by others, and will involve little cost to the company...We will not tolerate a separate and unequal experience for blind passengers and demand that United cease its discrimination against us as soon as practicable." One of the individuals involved in the lawsuit, Tina Thomas, remarked, "I find it extremely ironic that United, which touts itself as the official airline of the U.S. Paralympic Team, discriminates against me as a member of that team and as a blind person. I sincerely hope that United will make a more serious and tangible commitment to treating passengers with disabilities equally." Another individual involved, Mike May, explained, "I have been working in the adaptive technology field for twenty years, and I know well that it is easy and practical for United to make its kiosks accessible. There is simply no excuse for the long wait and inconvenience that other blind United passengers and I continue to experience at airports." The third individual involved, Michael Hingson, hopes this lawsuit will serve as a wake-up call to United Airlines to be more conscious of the needs of the blind community.

[October 26, 2010] United had to make another emergency landing this week. A flight from Chicago bound for Shanghai made an unscheduled stop in Winnipeg after smoke was reported in the cockpit. The Boeing 777 landed safely and the 194 passengers spent the night in Winnipeg. A replacement plane was sent to Winnipeg, and the passengers should be back in the air this afternoon.

[October 25, 2010] A memorandum of understanding on the historic "Open Skies" agreement was signed today by the United States and Japan. The agreement was signed by Japanese transport minister Sumio Mabuchi and U.S. Ambassador to Japan, John Roos. With the treaty in place, limitations on flights between the two countries will be eradicated. After the signing, United Continental Holdings Inc. remarked, "The open skies agreement will fully liberalize this important aviation market, allowing for new air services between the two countries and enabling consumers to benefit from greater choices and competition." Newly coordinated flights between All Nippon Airways and United/Continental are set to be launched in the spring.

[October 22, 2010] United has racked up an impressive new repertoire of flight paths in the last week. To start off with, United Continental Holdings Inc. have been given antitrust immunity in conjunction with All Nippon Airways Cp. Ltd. for trans-Pacific flights between Japan and the U.S. On the domestic side, United will be offering a non-stop flight from Reno-Tahoe International Airport to Houston's Bush Intercontinental beginning in February. In April, non-stop flights from Tulsa International Airport to Washington D.C.'s Dulles International Airport will begin. United also has plans to resume non-stop flights from Bakersfield to Houston, and commence non-stop flights between Dallas Love Field and Denver. After a successful 3rd quarter, the company hopes its revenue continues to rise as its coverage spreads.

[October 21, 2010] Keep your eyes open for a new gourmet feature on United's Business Class in-flight menu. United has teamed up with celebrity Chef Curtis Stone to prepare a new healthy and organic meal option. The meal starts with a salad & appetizer combo of grilled range-free chicken, crisp slaw mixture and a ginger sesame vinaigrette, and finishes with an entree featuring Niman Ranch braised beef short ribs. Chef Stone gave this commentary on his inspiring new dish, "As a frequent traveler, I understand the importance of in-flight meals to the overall travel experience. These menu options reflect my desire to create meals that taste great and also leave travelers feeling refreshed and rejuvenated." Bon appetit!

[October 20, 2010] A *former* United Airlines employee has been charged with wire fraud and sentenced to 30 months in prison. Mercedes Stafford, also known as "Sadistic Sadie", the former president of the Cincinnati Roller Girls, plead guilty in June to fraudulently obtaining and selling airline tickets while working for United Airlines. From May 2007 to October 2009, Stafford illegally obtained approximately 525 tickets, worth more than $850,000. She fraudulently bought "involuntary tickets", which United issued when a flight was canceled or delayed, then created fake ticket numbers she used to buy real tickets for herself, her family and her roller derby pals. Stafford also admitted that she received over $50,000 from the people who benefited from her ticket scam.

[October 19, 2010] Mixed feelings have been expressed in response to United Airline's fly by during San Francisco's annual Fleet Week, which occurred October 9th and 10th. No complaints were received during the actual event, but as videos and pictures have arrived on the web since then, people's responses have become a bit more varied. During the celebration, a United Boeing 747 flew close to the Golden Gate Bridge, under the direction of an air traffic controller. In certain videos now being shared online, it looks as if the plane flew over the bridge and was dangerously close to it. However, the FAA says the plane flew safely along side the bridge and the blames the angle of the video for making appear dangerous. Many people were upset with the pictures, saying they reminded them of images from 9/11. A United spokesperson said the company was "showcasing one of its 747s to celebrate its longstanding partnership with San Francisco" and "the fly-by was conducted as part of a well-publicized air show and with the utmost consideration to the safety of the public and the aircraft."

[October 18, 2010] United Airlines flight 931 en route from London to San Francisco made an unexpected landing in Iceland on Saturday. Smoke was detected at the rear of the cabin as the Boeing 777 making its way across the Atlantic. The plane was nearing Iceland when the decision was made to land and see what the problem was. The 285 passengers were taken to hotels and spent a night in the capital region while repairs were performed on the airplane. The air conditioning unit was the odorous culprit, and maintenance was able to fix the problem. After a 24 hour delay, the passengers arrived safely in San Francisco.

[October 15, 2010] Denny Fitch, a United Airlines hero, has been diagnosed with brain cancer, and is working to raise brain cancer awareness. In 1989, Fitch, a United pilot, was aboard United Flight 232 as a passenger when the plane's tail engine exploded. Fitch grabbed the throttles and helped the pilot crash land the plane in Sioux City, Iowa. Thanks to his help, 184 of the 296 people aboard survived. This January, Fitch learned he has brain cancer, and he is being treated at Chicago's Northwestern Memorial Hospital. According to the Chicago Tribune, "Oncologist Ann Mellott says Fitch has lived every day since the crash like it could be his last, and is using that positive attitude in his battle against cancer."

[October 14, 2010] Well, that was quick! The DOT has already approved United's proposal to launch non-stop flights from Los Angeles to Shanghai next May. A delighted United spokesperson remarked, "We are pleased that DOT approved the application so quickly, and we believe travelers will be pleased with this service, as it will connect Shanghai with more points in North America than any other airline can." Look out American Airlines! United's secret plot to take over the world is rapidly being realized.

[October 13, 2010] United Airlines seeks to broaden its horizons, yet again, by asking the Dept. of Transportation for permission to fly non-stop from Los Angeles to Shanghai beginning next May. United intends to operate the flights with a Boeing 777, offering passengers seats in United First ., United Business . and United Economy .. American Airlines received permission last week for the same route starting in April. According to the Wall Street Journal, "The prospect of American and United on the route also sets up a three-way battle between the global airline alliances that dominate the industry on the busiest route between the U.S. and Shanghai." One blogger mused that with United's decision to join the route so shortly after American gained it, "United may have felt a need to blunt its smaller rival." However, American Airlines doesn't seem to be worried. An American Airlines spokesperson confidently stated, "We compete successfully versus United Airlines on Chicago-Shanghai and Chicago-Beijing, and we will compete successfully with United Airlines on Los Angeles-Shanghai as well." United currently flies daily to Shanghai from Chicago and San Francisco, while Continental flies daily to Shanghai from Newark, NJ.

[October 12, 2010] Only one flight was reported to have a tarmac delay exceeding three hours in August, compared to 66 flights last August. Our own United Airlines was the unlucky carrier to break the new rule and face the Dept. of Transportation's $27,000 per passenger fine for a flight on August 5th. That particular flight was diverted because of a thunderstorm, and the passengers could not leave the aircraft for 3 hours and 20 minutes because the ramp was closed. Since the rule was set in place, lengthy tarmac delays dropped from 529 occurances in May-August 2009, to only 8 in the same period this year. The DOT is very pleased with this dramatic drop. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood stated, "These numbers show that the tarmac delay rule is protecting passengers from being trapped indefinitely aboard an airplane - with little or no increase in canceled flights. With the summer travel season behind us, it appears that the rule is working as planned."

[October 11, 2010] The United Airlines operation center has a new home. The first steps are being taken to relocate United employees from Elk Grove Village to Willis Tower in Chicago (formerly known as the Sears Tower). This first phase of the move involves 280 employees, and it is projected that they will move a total of 1,000 employees by the end of the year. United plans to occupy 12 floors of the Willis Tower and also plans to employ over 13,000 people in Chicago. Regarding moving day, Jeff Smisek commented, "This is a very exciting day for us as we welcome our co-workers from both Elk Grove and Houston to their new offices downtown. We are pleased to move into this state of the art building, a move which will make United the largest private employer in Chicago." United hopes to have all of its employees relocated to the new operations center within 18 months.

[October 7, 2010] United is continuing its profitable connections theme this week. The U.S. Department of Transportation just released a proposal to allow antitrust immunity for U.S. and Japanese airline alliances. If the proposal is approved, it would give Star Alliance members (United, Continental and All Tippon Airways) and Oneworld alliance members (American Airlines and Japan Airlines) antitrust immunity (ATI). The Dept. of Transportation believes ATI would result in increased services and lower fares on more routes, amidst other consumer benefits. It also believes competition between the alliances will increase for trans-Pacific flights. The ATI hinges on the formal signing of an Open Skies agreement between the U.S. and Japan, which would effectively allow air carries from both countries to coordinate flights "without the limitations of the number of US or Japanese carriers that can fly between the two countries or the number of flights they can operate". United Airlines has also made an agreement with Air Canada for a revenue sharing joint venture. This agreement will help both airlines expand their flight territories. Air Canada's current presence in 59 U.S. cities will expand to include the 210 airports United serves, and United's current network of 16 Canadian cities will grow to include the 59 airports at which Air Canada operates.

[October 6, 2010]
A heroic United Airlines pilot passed away on Monday at the age of 81. Dave Cronin became a pilot for United in 1954, and in February of 1989, on his second-to-last flight before retiring, he was faced with a dire situation. While operating United Flight 811, a Boeing 747 en route from Honolulu International Airport to Auckland, New Zealand, a cargo door blew out while the plane was between 22,000 and 23,000 feet. Two rows of seats were immediately ripped out of the plane when the door blew, and two of the four engines on the plane stopped working. Despite this, Cronin was able to turn the plane around and safely land in Honolulu 25 minutes later. Nine passengers were killed during the initial blow out of the cargo door, but Cronin saved the lives of the other 328 passengers and 15 flight crew members on board. When asked how he was able to deal with such a frightful situation, he said, “I prayed, then went to work.” After his retirement, Cronin flew at the Reno National Championship Air Races for several years in a Lancair Legacy plane he named "For God's Glory". Cronin was well loved and respected in the airline community. He is survived by his four daughters.

[October 5, 2010] It's good to be king. The recently initiated CEO of the world's largest airline seems to be relishing his new position. Jefff Smisek, former chief of Continental Airlines, will be receiving more than double his previous paycheck, and the promise of millions more in bonuses. I agree with David Schepp in his sentiments that, "one can only hope that such salary inflation works its way down the corporate ladder. Then, maybe, just maybe, travelers might get a smile from an airline employee -- if not an on-board meal or a pillow." In the meantime, Smisek has expressed his glee at his new airborne empire by saying “if you are an airline geek, it doesn’t get any better than this: bringing these two carriers together…..They are the perfect marriage, the perfect fit. I think we are creating a tremendous carrier here.” Hopefully some of his gilded enthusiasm will help calm some of the fires he is facing from Continental flight attendants and other growing pains of the new company.

[October 4, 2010] A heightened terror alert was issued yesterday by the U.S. State Department and British government for air travelers throughout Europe. The new alert falls one step short of warning American citizens against traveling to Europe, but it advices them to take precautions during their journeys. United, Continental and Delta Airlines have not reported any significant amount of cancellations or delays in response to the alert. It was reported the airlines were not waiving fees for travelers who wished to change their itineraries in light of the terror alert, since it is considered a general alert rather than a serious warning.

[October 1, 2010]
So long Continental Airlines! Say hello to the new United. That's right folks, the merger is finally complete, and today marks the birthday of the world's biggest airline company. The proud new parent company, United Continental Holdings, Inc., will boast of being able to operate 5,800 flights a day to 371 airports in 59 countries. Jeff Smisek, the company's new president and CEO said, "We are delighted to announce the successful completion of this merger. With great people, an unparalleled global network, the best new aircraft order book among U.S. network carriers and a commitment to superior products and services, United is well positioned for a bright future." Southwest is happily riding on the coat-tails of this merger as it makes its plans with AirTran, while Delta mourns the loss of its title as the world's largest air carrier. American is left to contemplate its newly acquired position at the bottom of the airline totem pole, while holding onto its dwindling confidence in its solitude.

We have more posts from Q3 2010 and even 2008-2009.

[April 29, 2011] Continental Airlines Flight 007 was forced to make an emergency landing yesterday after an unexplained chemical odor was detected. The flight left San Antonio, Texas around 8:45AM Thursday morning and was less than halfway to Houston when the odor was noticed. The pilot returned to San Antonio International Airport and landed away from the main terminal. A ramp was brought to the aircraft, and firefighters wearing hazardous material suits entered the plane. Over 150 passengers and crew exited the aircraft and were examined by paramedics at the scene. At least four people were treated for respiratory distress, and one flight attendant was taken to the hospital for further examination. The cause of the odor is yet unknown.

[April 28, 2011] The family of Mark Bavis, a victim on the second plane to hit the World Trade Center in the 9/11 attacks, has waited nearly nine years to go to trial in a wrongful-death lawsuit. The Bavis family is suing United Airlines, the Massachusetts Port Authority and an airline security company, claiming each of these parties showed negligence in allowing the terrorists to board United Airlines Flight 175 in Boston. This is the last remaining wrongful-death lawsuit related to the attacks. 95 other lawsuits were filed on behalf of 96 victims, and thousands of other families avoided court by receiving payment through a victims' compensation fund established by Congress. The Bavis family rejected several attempts at a settlement, wanting the case to be heard. The long awaited trial is scheduled to begin later this year; however, the judge added an unexpected twist in the way the trial will run. U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein has set a time limit on the trial, giving both sides the same number of hours to present their cases. Hellerstein explained, “The time is going to be expressed not in days, but in minutes. Everything the party wishes to do from openings through summations.” The prosecution and the defense have expressed their frustration at the imposed time limit. Donald Migliori, the lawyer for the Bavis family, said, “The person that is affected the most is my client. We’re talking about millions of pages of documents. We’re talking about distilling one of the most important stories in American history.” It is estimated that each side will have 50 to 60 hours to present their case, making the trial about a month long. According to The Boston Globe, by setting a time limit, the judge is seeking to avoid having the trial "roll on interminably as the details, minutiae, and technical arguments pile up and wants to keep the jury focused and interested."

[April 27, 2011] Jeff Smisek, president and CEO of United Continental Holdings Inc., spoke at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University on Tuesday. As a part of the View from the Top Dean's Speaker Series, Smisek shared his views on leadership with students. Smisek spoke about the main challenge facing airlines right now - skyrocketing fuel prices - but he also talked about the excitement of being in an industry where you never know what will come next. He said, “We’re constantly in crisis. But you have to remain calm and collected. You have to be able to work your way through it.” Smisek encouraged students to find their passion and pursue it. He became a chief corporate lawyer for Continental Airlines in 1995, and he briefly was Continental’s CEO before becoming CEO of the world's largest airline last year. Smisek commented, "If you like the business of business, there is no business like the airline business. If you like making money, then it’s not for you. I’m in a business that hasn’t earned an adequate return since the Wright Brothers." Regardless of that, Smisek doesn't seem to be doing too poorly for himself. In the beginning of 2010, when he was still Continental's CEO, he vowed he would not accept a salary or bonuses until the company earned a full-year profit. After a profitable year following the merger, Continental paid his $791,250 salary retroactively, plus he was given $3.6 million in other incentives, totally 4.4 million dollars for the year.

[April 26, 2011] According to the latest developments in the United Airlines Flight 497 investigation, the pilots did not follow procedure and unintentionally disabled vital electrical systems while responding to a faulty fire-warning sensor. The flight made an emergency landing in New Orleans after the pilots declared they had "lost all our instruments". After the plane touched down, it proceeded to slide off the runway because there was not enough electrical power to steer the plane's nose gear or supply anti-skid protection for the brakes. The National Transportation Safety Board stated that after the warning went off, the pilots skipped a portion of a checklist and failed to restore power to some equipment, making the emergency landing all the more difficult. As reported in the Wall Street Journal, "The incident illustrates the challenges of dealing with an onboard fire emergency, and the complications that can result from swiftly running through a checklist that entails shutting off and then possibly restarting electrical circuits." Investigators are still trying to determine why the cockpit-voice recorder is missing 12 minutes of conversation from the flight.

[April 25, 2011] Three passengers on United Airlines Flight 593 were escorted off the plane shortly after boarding. After the aircraft left the gate at Denver International Airport, a man reported concerns about a few passengers acting suspiciously, and the flight crew requested the removal of three passengers before the flight took off. The man who made the report and the passengers under suspicion were interviewed by law enforcement officers separately. Authorities did not say what sparked the concerns and the passengers in question were later released. The aircraft was inspected, and when nothing unusual was found, it departed for Santa Ana, California after a two and a half hour delay.
Alaska Airlines also had its share of suspicious activity last Friday on the way to the same destination. A white substance was discovered in the back lavatory of Alaska Airlines Flight 508 shortly after take-off. The unknown substance raised alarm, and during the flight from Seattle to Santa Ana, the flight crew notified authorities and asked for help. When the plane landed at John Wayne Airport, it was met by fire department crews, law enforcement officers and a hazardous-materials team. After the 151 passengers and six crew members disembarked, the authorities boarded the plane to test the suspicious substance. After careful testing by the experts, the mysterious white dust was determined to be a "cellulose fiber"...also known as...toilet paper.

[April 21, 2011] Despite all of the fare hikes and extra fees, United Continental Holdings reported a $213 million loss for the first quarter of 2011. The company's revenue climbed 11% to $8.2 billion (thanks to those high ticket prices and extra fees), however that did not make up for the nearly 35% increase in fuel prices compared to last year. Jeff Smisek, United CEO, commented, "Fuel prices remained very high and volatile. During the first quarter, they rose to levels not seen since 2008. We saw our first-quarter fuel expense excluding the impact of hedges rise $725 million compared to the same period of 2010. These are very tough times." According to the Air Transport Association, U.S. airlines have collectively paid about $3 billion more for fuel this year. United Continental Holdings plans to halt growth plans and cut capacity even further as fuel prices continue to rise. The airline also attributed about $30 million of their loss to the decrease in demand for travel to Japan following the devastating earthquake and tsunami. Southwest Airlines, beating all odds, reported a $5 million profit for the first quarter, down from $11 million last year. American Airlines posted a grim $436 million loss.

[April 20, 2011] Yet another airfare hike was initiated this week. Delta Airlines began this round of price increases on Monday, and, so far, American Airlines, JetBlue and United Airlines have matched the $10 round-trip hike. Even Southwest joined in this time, indicating that this hike will most likely succeed in sticking. According to CNNMoney.com, "In the past five years, no industrywide attempt to raise fares failed when Southwest was on-board." With the continually rising fuel prices, FareCompare's CEO, Rick Seaney, said it would be possible to see a fare hike each week for the next month. Also, between June 9th and August 21st, airlines will charge additional summer premiums. As long as demand for air travel remains strong, airlines can continue to increase prices.

[April 18, 2011] On March 27, 2010, United Airlines Flight 889 took off from San Francisco International Airport, carrying 268 people en route to Beijing. As the Boeing 777 climbed, a single-engine propeller plane was flying a few hundred feet above it. The Traffic and Collision Avoidance System issued a traffic advisory in the cockpit, and the pilot pushed down the nose of the jet to stop its climb, as instructed by the onboard safety system. The small Cessna aircraft flew overhead, with the United pilots "seeing only the underside of the airplane". The planes were separated by only 350 feet vertically and less than 480 feet laterally. FAA mandates the minimum separation required was 500 feet vertically and 1.5 miles laterally. According to a report later detailing the incident, three air traffic controllers were on duty when the near-collision occurred. The controller in charge was busy with administrative duties. Another controller was distracted by taxiing aircraft when he gave the go-ahead for the United flight to take off, and failed to check the radar for potential airborne conflicts. The third controller was a trainee, who later said she didn't recognize the problem before it occurred. Incidents like this do not bode well for the air traffic control system, already under scrutiny for its sleepy controllers. In this situation, three controllers were wide awake when they cleared the giant jet for take-off, resulting in close call.

[April 15, 2011] United and Continental Airlines are working toward aligning their frequent flier programs by adding heaps of fees to most Continental members and a small helping of new fees to United members. In an email to its frequent-flier members, United said, "As we continue the changes under way at United Airlines and Continental Airlines, we're revising certain Mileage Plus and OnePass award fees to make them consistent across both programs." Beginning on June 15th, Continental Airlines will raise its fees for redepositing frequent flier miles to passengers who cancel their flights. The redeposit fee will rise from $25 to $100 for gold elite members, from $50 to $125 for silver elite members and will double to $150 for general members. Platinum elite members will not be charged for redepositing miles. United, now charging most members $150 to redeposit canceled miles, will lower some fees to match Continental's sliding scale. United will also decrease its fee to change trip origin, destination or connecting cities from $150 to $75 for non-elite members. Global Services and 1K members will not be charged. United will begin charging non-elite members $75 to book awards tickets within 21 days of a flight. Premier-level frequent fliers will be charged $50 for last-minute bookings, and Premier Executive members will be charged $25. That service will remain free for United's Global Services and 1K members.

[April 14, 2011] United Airlines has partnered with yet another baseball team. This time the world's largest airline is teaming up with the defending World Series Champions, the San Francisco Giants. In addition to flying the team to away games, United will be spreading its logo throughout AT&T Park and on the Giant's website. United operates more than 250 daily departures from San Francisco International Airport. Mark Bergsrud, senior vice president of marketing for United, stated, "As the Bay Area's largest airline, United is proud to serve San Francisco and partner with the World Series Champion San Francisco Giants. We look forward to being part of the team experience, both in San Francisco and at every road game, for both players and fans."

[April 13, 2011] Two more air traffic controllers were caught sleeping on the job this week. One controller has been suspended for falling asleep during his Monday morning shift at Boeing Field/King County International Airport in Seattle. The latest incident, occurring earlier today, involved a controller who was out of communication for 16 minutes at Reno-Tahoe International Airport in Nevada. According to the FAA, this controller was sleeping while a medical flight carrying a sick patient was trying to land. The pilot of that flight was able to get in contact with another FAA facility and land safely. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood reacted, saying, "I am totally outraged by these incidents. This is unacceptable. The American public trusts us to run a safe system. Safety is our number one priority and I am committed to working 24/7 until these problems are corrected." Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Randy Babbitt also expressed his disapproval, saying, "Air traffic controllers are responsible for making sure aircraft safely reach their destinations. We absolutely cannot and will not tolerate sleeping on the job. This type of unprofessional behavior does not meet our high safety standards." LaHood and Babbitt also announced that an additional air traffic controller will immediately be added to the midnight shift at 27 control towers nationwide.

[April 12, 2011] The results of the Airline Quality Rating (AQR) have been released, and United Airlines takes the undesirable title of being the worst major airline in America, although American Eagle ranked the worst of the worst. AirTran topped the list for best airline, taking over Hawaiian Airline's title as being #1. The AQR, which is sponsored by Purdue University and Wichita State University, analyzes Department of Transportation information, ranking16 airlines based on four categories: on-time arrivals, mishandled baggage, bumping due to overbooking and consumer complaints. Overall, airline performance improved in 2010, with fewer lost bags, more on-time flights and fewer bumped passengers. However, complaints to the Department of Transportation about airlines increased 28%. The rise in complaints is likely due to increased fees by the airlines, capacity cuts, (and probably because the DOT made it easier to file air travel complaints). Southwest Airlines, which ranked 5th overall, had the least amount of complaints. Delta Airlines received the most complaints, although they didn’t top United's overall score.

[April 11, 2011] The outlook for airlines this year continues to look grim, as crude oil reached over $113 for the first time in 30 months. In response, the 10th attempt to raise fares this year was initiated by U.S. Airways late last week. Delta, American and Continental Airlines shortly followed, but, United Airlines held back on this round. According to some analysts, even with ever-rising ticket prices, airlines will be hard pressed to make a profit. Dahlman Rose analyst, Helen Becker, commented that higher fares may actually hurt airlines' hopes for profitability by squashing demand. Becker stated, "In an environment of higher energy prices, we believe it will be difficult for airline company equities to outperform the market. Higher average ticket prices will likely cause demand destruction, and although we expect airlines to reduce capacity to offset reduced demand, we are concerned that their [second-half 2011] reductions will be insufficient."

[April 8, 2011] In the preliminary investigation of the dramatic emergency landing of United Airlines Flight 497 at Louis Armstrong International Airport, the National Transportation Safety Board reported there were no signs of burning or indications of smoke in the cockpit. The pilots, who had reported having "a smoke issue", were responding to an avionics smoke warning message. The warning was accompanied by instructions to land, which the pilots promptly followed. According to the NTSB, “The crew reported that the first officer’s display screens went blank, the ECAM messages disappeared, the cockpit to cabin intercom stopped functioning, and the air-driven emergency generator deployed. The captain said that he took control of the airplane at this point and managed the radios while the first officer opened the cockpit door to advise the flight attendants of the emergency and their return to New Orleans airport.” The NTSB also reported that the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder both stopped recording before the plane landed. Once the plane was on the ground, it slid off the runway, passengers were told to leave the plane via the inflation slides. However, the forward right slide did not properly inflate. The passengers were able to disembark using the remaining slides.

[April 7, 2011] United Airlines celebrated its 85th birthday yesterday with the unveiling of a jet painted in retro colors. The celebratory plane was painted in a 1970's "Friend Ship" paint scheme and will be touring different airport hubs for United and Continental. United Continental Holdings remembered its humble beginnings as a Swallow biplane which completing the first airmail delivery on April 6, 1926. The owner, Walter Varney, seized the opportunity to turn his achievement into a company, originally called Varney Air Service, and secured an airmail contract the same year. Later on, Varney sold the business to United Aircraft and Transport, which changed its name to United Air Lines in 1933. In 1934, Varney and Louise Mueller began a new company called Varney Speed Lines, which was sold and renamed Continental Airlines in 1937. With the 2010 merger, United Continental Holdings is now the world's largest airline. Jeff Smisek, United's president and CEO, said, "We are proud to celebrate United's 85th anniversary with the more than 85,000 co-workers and thousands of retirees who have built the world's leading airline."

[April 6, 2011] The Federal Aviation Administration has yet another problem on their hands after reports surfaced of a second air traffic controller found sleeping on the job. This time, the worker "intentionally" slept for five hours during his midnight shift at McGhee Tyson Airport in Knoxville, Tennessee. A fellow controller, working in another room, handled both the radar and tower positions, helping seven planes land during the five hour period while the other controller was "unresponsive". This incident, coming to light during an FAA budget meeting, is being treated differently than the incident at Reagan National Airport, where a 20-year veteran supervisor admitted to accidently nodding off during his shift. Federal Aviation Administration chief Randy Babbitt said the incident in Tennessee was not an accident caused by fatigue. “This is someone who, in our investigation, just went in and prepared to go to sleep, take a nap, and that’s absolutely not acceptable.” Since the Tennessee controller slept "willfully", action is being taken to have the worker fired. The FAA stated it "will not tolerate this type of unprofessional and inappropriate behavior. The agency is committed to ensuring the safety of the traveling public and is conducting a nationwide review of the air traffic control system, including overnight staffing at selected airports around the country."

[April 5, 2011] Today the FAA officially ordered emergency inspections of the most heavily used 737 aircraft worldwide. Eventually, the FAA wants checks done on 400 to 500 "classic" Boeing 737s. Engineers from Boeing said they originally believed these planes would not need inspections for at least 60,000 take-off and landing cycles, however, the Southwest jet with a five-foot hole in it had only logged 39,000 cycles. According to Boeing and the FAA, inspections of 737-300s, 737-400s and 737-500s now must be performed beginning at 30,000 cycles. Boeing chief 737 engineer Paul Richter said: "I would say that it's regrettable that we had to accelerate our plans to recommend inspections based on an event of this nature." Southwest Airlines has already completed its inspections of their Boeing 737-300 fleet, finding cracks in 5 jets. According to a Southwest spokesperson, "Minor subsurface cracking was found in five aircraft that will remain out of service until Boeing recommends appropriate repairs and those repairs have been completed." Although Southwest has resumed its normal flight schedule, United Airlines is offering Southwest customers seats on their planes...for $150 each way.

[April 4, 2011] It was a rough weekend for many travelers, as several emergency landings were made, the latest one occurring this morning. United Airlines Flight 497 en route from New Orleans to San Francisco was forced to return to Louis Armstrong International Airport after the pilot reported smoke in the cockpit. The plane reportedly lost all electronics, and the pilots landed the plane on back-up systems, with "minimal steering and braking ability". During the turbulent landing, the plane ran off the runway and blew a tire. Once on the ground, passengers were told to leave everything and "get out!". Passengers and crew then evacuated via the emergency slides at the front and back of the plane. Minor injuries were reported and some passengers needed medical attention due to smoke inhalation, but overall everyone was safe. Sunday night, a Southwest plane was diverted due to an electrical smell in the cabin. Flight 1588 was traveling from Oakland to San Diego when it landed in Los Angeles "out of an abundance of caution" according to Southwest spokesman, Brad Hawkins. That caution was prompted by the most dramatic of the weekend's incidents. On Friday night, a five-foot hole was ripped out of the roof of a Boeing 737 operated by Southwest Airlines. The jet was carrying 118 passengers when the fuselage ruptured during the flight, causing cabin pressure to drop rapidly and oxygen masks to deploy. The pilots were forced into an emergency landing at an Arizona military base. Many people reported pain in the eardrum from the rapid descent, although nobody was seriously injured. Following the incident, Southwest canceled hundreds of flights and grounded 79 planes for inspection, finding cracks on three additional jets. The National Transportation Safety Board responded, "As a result of the findings from our investigation to date and the results of the Southwest Airlines inspections, Boeing has indicated that they will be drafting a service bulletin to describe the inspection techniques that they would recommend be accomplished on similar airplanes." The FAA has also responded by ordering additional inspections of older Boeing 737s. The inspections will begin with approximately 175 planes, 80 of which are registered in the United States. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood commented, "Safety is our number one priority. Last Friday's incident was very serious and could result in additional action depending on the outcome of the investigation."

[April 1, 2011] United Continental Holdings is cutting passenger capacity for Japan-bound flights by 10% in April and 14% in May. In the wake of the earthquake, tsunami and continuing nuclear crisis, the airline said there is a measurable decline in demand for traveling to Japan. Delta Airlines and American Airlines have also reduced their services to Japan. Delta has suspended flights to Haneda airport, and American is halting two of its six daily flights to Japan. Hawaiian Airlines, however, has reaffirmed its commitment to Japan, by maintaining its normal schedule and its intentions to launch a new service to Osaka in July. President and Chief Executive Officer of Hawaiian Airlines, Mark Dunkerley, said, "All of us at Hawaiian send our deepest sympathy to those who have lost loved ones and who themselves face an uncertain future as the process of rebuilding gets underway. As a company, and as citizens of an ocean side community with close ties to Japan, we have a special connection to those in need in Japan and we are engaged in a broad array of efforts aimed at supporting them as they rebuild their lives. We wish we could do more."

In other news, while United Continental Holdings is moving towards unifying the combined company, flight attendants from each airline are still represented by different unions. However, based on a decision by the National Mediation Board, flight attendants of United and Continental Airlines are now closer to a union election. The federal labor board will set the date of the election within 14 days. The Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) currently represents 15,000 crew members at United, while the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) represents about 9,000 workers from Continental. AFA International President, Veda Shook, said, "Today is a watershed moment in our union and an exciting day for the thousands of Flight Attendants at the 'new' United Airlines who are ready to advance our careers with AFA representation. AFA sought this election because we want to unite Flight Attendants as quickly as possible in order to take maximum advantage of the leverage we have from the merger." Representatives of IAM are also thrilled about prospect of an election. IAM Newark, NJ President Joey Guider remarked, "This election is about good wages, pensions, job security and flexible work rules - four things IAM Flight Attendants at Continental have and United Flight Attendants want." Continental flight attendants currently represented by IAM earn up to $52.53 per hour base pay, which is 32.2% higher than United's top pay rate.

[March 30, 2011] United Airlines Flight 251 en route from Washington D.C. to Portland, Oregon, was diverted due to "disruptive" passengers. Three passengers were causing flight attendants so much grief that the crew decided to land early in order to remove them from the plane. It is unsure at this time exactly what happened, but a passenger may have feigned a medical emergency, blocking the aisle in the back of the plane and refusing to follow flight crew instructions. One passenger aboard said, "They just told us there were some strange goings on in the back of the plane." When the flight landed at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, the plane was met by local law enforcement, FBI agents and TSA officials. The disruptive people were removed, and the other 131 passengers disembarked and were re-screened through security. The plane was also swept by TSA, though nothing unusual was found. The plane left about three hours later, without the unruly passengers.

[March 29, 2011] United Airlines seems to be taking the baseball world by storm. That's right, United is the official airline of the Chicago Cubs and the Los Angeles Dodgers. I can't say that fans will approve of having United colors hanging in rival stadiums, but money talks, and the deals have been made. United will transport the team and staff for all away games, totally about 38,000 miles during the season. Dodger Stadium will also display new signs featuring the United brand, and will dedicate certain luxury suites to the airline. Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times, who isn't thrilled about the concept of the "United Club" luxury suites, commented, "If you can’t fly the friendly skies, you can hang out in their suites. Won’t have to pay to check your bag or anything." The newly re-named suites mark the first time a portion of Dodger Stadium has used a different title. With the fear of Dodger Stadium going the way of other California stadiums, such as PETCO Park or AT&T Park, Dodger owner Frank McCourt promises this will not act as a precursor to renaming the stadium after a corporate sponsor. In regards to displaying United signage around the stadium, Michael Young, Chief Revenue Officer of the Dodgers, said, "The premium brand experience of the new airline that has resulted from the merger of United and Continental is consistent with not only the premium seating experience at Dodger Stadium, but also the aesthetic we have for this level of the stadium. The United team worked closely with the Dodgers to establish new branded entry signage that will greet fans as they enter the level in addition to United branded items within the Club Suites."

[March 28, 2011]
United Airlines has signed a three-year exclusive agreement with the Chicago Cubs to become the official airline of the team and of Wrigley Field. As part of the agreement, the Cubs will re-name Wrigley Field's Stadium Club as the United Club. The club is located along the first base line, and serves as a VIP gathering area. Mark Bergsrud, senior vice president of marketing for United, said, "As Chicago's hometown airline, we are thrilled to partner with the Cubs - a true Chicago icon. We look forward to being a part of the team experience, both in Chicago and at every away game, for both players and fans." Wally Hayward, executive vice president, chief sales and marketing officer of the Chicago Cubs, praised the agreement, saying he looked forward to working with "a global company with local roots". United Airlines also purchased the rights to advertise on a highly-visible rooftop sign outside of Wrigley Field. The rooftop is beyond the left-field bleachers on Waveland Avenue.

[March 25, 2011] The air traffic controller involved in Wednesday night's incident admitted to investigators that he had fallen asleep. The controller was a veteran FAA supervisor with 20 years experience. He was on his fourth consecutive night shift when he fell asleep, leaving no one to monitor air traffic for almost half an hour. U.S. aviation regulators have now ordered a nationwide review of the air traffic control system. FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt, who was "outraged" at the air traffic controller, stated, "I am determined to make sure we do not repeat Wednesday’s unacceptable event." This incident has renewed the debate regarding appropriate controller staffing. While the Federal Aviation Administration added another staff member at Ronald Reagan National Airport, 30 airport towers across the nation are staffed with only a single air traffic controller after midnight, begging the question of the safety of those airports. Paul Rinaldi, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, said, "The administration (FAA) inherited an unsafe policy of staffing to budget instead of putting safety first."

[March 24, 2011] An air traffic controller has been suspended after not responding to two passenger planes attempting to land at Ronald Reagan National Airport. An American Airlines flight and a United Airlines flight approaching the airport were unable to reach the air traffic controller, and landed without assistance from the tower. It is now presumed that the lone air traffic controller, working the midnight to 6am shift, was probably asleep. After countless failed attempts to reach the controller, the two planes followed emergency protocol and landed safely. The incident caused major concern, especially since it occurred only a few miles from the White House and the Capitol building. US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has demanded a second controller always be present on the midnight shift at the Washington D.C. airport. He stated, "It is not acceptable to have just one controller in the tower managing air traffic in this critical air space. I have also asked FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt to study staffing levels at other airports around the country." Fatigue has long been a problem for air traffic controllers, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. In 2007, the lone controller on duty in Lexington, Kentucky had slept only two of the previous 24 hours when a plane used the wrong runway and crashed, killing 49 people on board. The air traffic controller union applauded LaHood's order for a second controller at the Reagan airport, stating, "One-person shifts are unsafe. Period."

March 23, 2011] New changes are coming our way from United Continental Holdings. First, the company signed a letter of intent with in-flight entertainment provider LiveTV to offer Wi-Fi service on over 200 Continental planes. The service will begin next year, and will be available on domestic Boeing 737 and 757 planes that are currently outfitted with DirecTV service. The price for Wi-Fi via Ka-band has not been announced, although the service typically starts around $5 for short flights. United currently offers in-flight Wi-Fi through Aircell's Gogo on only 14 planes. Continental Airlines also announced that all of its Boeing 757 aircraft are now equipped with lie-flat seats in business class. United Senior Vice President of Marketing Mark Bergsrud, commented, "With reconfigurations completed on 116 aircraft, United and Continental together offer more flat-bed premium cabin seats than any other U.S. airline. The flat-bed seats and advanced audio/video on-demand offer our customers an unmatched onboard experience."

[March 22, 2011] The results of an investigation involving a United Airlines flight have been released, revealing that the company knew there was a problem with the plane and still let it fly without repairing it. According to the National Transportation Safety Board, on May 16, 2010, the Boeing 757 took off from New York on its way to San Francisco when, 30 minutes into the flight, pilots heard a hissing sound followed by 14-16 inch flames shooting from the cockpit window. Captain Boyd Hammack grabbed a fire extinguisher and put out the flames, but they quickly reignited. A flight attendant brought the captain a second fire extinguisher, and the captain doused the flames again. Shortly before making an emergency landing at Washington Dulles International Airport, the inner pane of a window shattered. The aircraft landed safely, and thankfully no one was injured in the incident. However, this was not the first time that plane had problems. The day before, another United captain reported fumes and an overheated electrical connection, showing a mechanic an electrical connection at the window that appeared charred and was hot. The plane had also made an emergency landing in Las Vegas, due to smoke and fumes in the cockpit. The mechanic involved said he "OK'd the plane to fly without repairs because United's maintenance manual says planes can be flown another 50 hours after a blackened or burned window heater electrical connector had been found." United Airlines spokeswoman, Megan McCarthy commented, "We did a full inspection and believed the plane was flight worthy." Investigators determined the problem was caused by a simple loose screw, which could have easily been addressed before fire broke out on the plane carrying 112 people. United's only response was that the company has made "enhancements to our maintenance program."

[March 21, 2011] In a very quick turn of events, the lawsuit issued by United Airlines customer service director Kathyrn Williams against Jonathan Rhys Meyers has been dropped. William's attorney, Elliot Budashewitz, confirmed that the complaint has been withdrawn, and also stated that "allegations of physical contact are inaccurate." The attorney issued a statement explaining, "There is no claim that Mr Meyers made any physical contact with Ms Williams or that she sustained any 'physical' bodily injury as a result of any physical contact. Any inconvenience caused [to] Mr Meyers by any misinterpretation of the complaint to the contrary was certainly unintended." That is a drastic reversal from the statement released on Friday, and no other information was available to explain the retracted accusations.

[March 18, 2011] United Airlines flight attendants are supporting the relief effort in Japan by collecting donations, food, water and supplies for disaster victims and bringing them to the devastated area. So far, flight attendants have hand carried over a thousand pounds of relief supplies to Japan. Greg Davidowitch, president of the Association of Flight Attendants at United Airlines, expressed his gratitude to the flight attendants, saying, "This experience reflects the indomitable spirit of United Flight Attendants who see a crisis and work to provide immediate assistance to those in need. This is what we do, and who we are. Ushering evacuees to safety and transporting emergency workers and supplies into Japan – Flight Attendants are heroes." Radiation levels are continually being monitored and contingency plans are in place if it becomes unsafe to fly into Tokyo. However, many United flight attendants have been eager to work on flights headed to Japan in order to be a part of the relief effort.

In other news, a United Airlines jet slid off the runway into muddy grass after landing at the Akron-Canton Airport in Ohio. United Flight 5916 was coming from Chicago carrying 43 passengers and 3 crew members when it veered left instead of sticking to its right hand landing pattern, and came to a stop approximately 200 feet off the edge of the runway. According to passengers, the airplane did not slow down after touchdown. No one was hurt in this incident, and passengers were bused to the terminal after disembarking onto the grass. An investigation is underway to determine the cause of the accident.

Also, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, the 33-year-old Irish actor, is being sued by a United Airlines employee. On May 7, 2010, Meyers launched into a drunken tirade after not being allowed on a flight at JFK airport, verbally abusing and physically assaulting United customer service director, Kathyrn Williams. The incident initially resulted in Meyers being banned from United Airlines for life and put in rehab. Williams is now suing Meyers for over $15,000 in damages, saying the incident left her with "permanent physical damage and severe emotional distress". The recently filed lawsuit stated, the actor "willfully, maliciously, wantonly and without any just cause or provocation assaulted and battered plaintiff Kathryn Williams."

[March 17, 2011] Radiation detectors were reportedly triggered as travelers arriving from Tokyo passed through customs at O'Hare International Airport. It is not certain yet whether these reports are accurate, however, it was confirmed that trace amounts of radiation were found on luggage and cargo aboard five or six planes in Chicago. A United Airlines jet and two American Airlines planes coming from Japan have also tested positive for radiation. Mayor Daley and other Chicago city officials would not provide any details, but according to the Department of Homeland Security, the radiation levels detected are not harmful. Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection are both closely monitoring radiation levels on flights and passengers from Japan. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said, "In an exercise of caution and just to make sure that everyone remains safe, we are doing screening of passengers and cargo if there happens to be even a blip in terms of radiation." Customs and Border Protection spokeswoman Cherise Miles also commented, "U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is monitoring developments in Japan carefully and is specifically assessing the potential for radiological contamination associated with the ongoing impact of the earthquake and tsunami to Japan's nuclear facilities." As the nuclear crisis continues to intensify, the U.S. federal government has reportedly begun providing charter flights to evacuate U.S. citizens from Japan . Delta Airlines has stopped service to Tokyo’s Haneda airport, although it continues to fly in and out of Narita airport. So far, United Airlines continues to fly its normal schedule. Andrew Ferraro, a spokesman for United Continental Holdings said the company “will continue to provide the level of service that is warranted by demand and which can be operated safely.”

[March 16, 2011] As the nuclear crisis in Japan continues to worsen, panic is hitting the hearts of many, and functioning airports are being flooded with people trying to leave the country. ABC News reports "the international and domestic terminals at Narita International Airport were crammed with passengers leaving the capital after a small spike in radiation levels were detected in Tokyo following a reactor fire..." As stated yesterday, many European and Asian airlines have made changes to their schedules, either diverting flights or cancelling them entirely. However, Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. added two additional flights from Tokyo to Hong Kong, offering an extra 730 seats. Chief Operating Officer, John Slosar said, “We are experiencing rapidly increasing demand from people wishing to return home. We understand the uncertainty and concern felt by some crew and believe the decision to stop overnight stays for our crew in Tokyo is appropriate at this time.” United, Continental, Delta and American Airlines continue to fly into Tokyo's airports, although the FAA is advising carriers to reroute when necessary to meet the airspace restrictions around the volatile power plant. The no-fly zone, extending 90 miles around the plant, is in place to prevent civilian planes from getting close to the affected areas and possibly spread contamination. 50 workers remain at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi Nuclear power plant, trying desperately to prevent a complete nuclear disaster. These brave people, referred to as the faceless 50 or the Fukushima 50, are facing fire, explosions and likely lethal amounts of radiation to keep the crippled reactors under control. This small group is being hailed as Japan's last hope. Our prayers are with them.

[March 15, 2011] In the aftermath of the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami in Japan, fears are rising regarding the risk of radiation exposure and a possible nuclear meltdown. The Japanese government has issued a warning concerning the potentially hazardous radiation levels around the unstable nuclear power plant in Fukushima Dai-Ichi. Airlines are bracing for flight changes if the situation escalates, but so far, most U.S. airlines continue to fly into Tokyo, which is about 135 miles away from the damaged power plant. A statement by the FAA was given, saying, "If the situation at Fukushima worsens and we see credible indications that radiological hazards to civil aviation exist beyond the flight restriction areas ... the FAA is prepared to take air traffic management measures, including the rerouting of air traffic." However, Germany's Deutsche Lufthansa AG (LHA) has already stopped flying to Tokyo because of the "risk of radioactive fallout", and has rerouted its services to Nagoya and Osaka. Along with Air France-KLM and Austrian Airlines, Lufthansa is stopping over in Seoul for crew changes to avoid having staff members stay overnight in Japan. Air China has cancelled flights from Beijing and Shanghai to Tokyo, and Taiwan's EVA Airways says it will not fly to Tokyo and Sapporo for the rest of the month. Delta, United and Continental continue scheduled operations, but have begun offering refunds on tickets for some flights to Japan. American Airlines, so far, is only waiving change fees.
In the meantime, many U.S. airlines have partnered with the American Red Cross to help bring relief to the disaster victims in Japan. United Continental Holdings is offering 250 bonus miles for a $50 donation, or 500 miles for a $100 donation to the American Red Cross Japan and Pacific Tsunami Fund. Sonya Jackson, the United Airlines Foundation president, stated, “Our thoughts go out to those living and working in Japan, including more than 1,000 of our own co-workers, as they deal with this tragic event. Our customers always step up in times like these, and we are proud to do our part by offering a mileage bonus incentive to our Mileage Plus and OnePass members who are supporting this critical humanitarian relief effort.” Delta, American and All Nippon Airways are all offering similar rewards for those who give to the American Red Cross.

[March 14, 2011] United Airlines, American Airlines and the City of Chicago have finally come to an agreement regarding the O'Hare modernization project. The parties agreed upon a scaled-back plan costing $1.17 billion instead of the proposed $3.4 billion, allowing the project to move forward and ending the lawsuit the airlines issued against Chicago in January. According to The Wall Street Journal, "the new funding will come from $517 million in Federal Aviation Administration grants, $365 million from passenger fees and $298 million in proceeds from general airport revenue bonds, which the carriers will guarantee." The plan will allow for a new runway to be built, among other improvements, which will hopefully prevent the escalation of flight delays at the bustling airport. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who was crucial in facilitating the agreement, responded to the new plan by saying, "This is a landmark achievement that will benefit air travelers throughout the entire nation. Making improvements to O'Hare will not only reduce flight delays and improve service for air passengers across America, it will ensure one of our busiest airports continues to thrive economically in the future." Jeff Smisek, president and CEO of United Airlines, very civilly replied, "I want to thank Mayor Daley for working with us to reach an agreement that helps fulfill our shared vision for a world-class airport for our hometown, while recognizing the economic realities we all face. I also want to thank Secretary LaHood and his team who worked tirelessly with the airlines and the Mayor's team to bring us together." As part of the deal, the airlines and city officials will meet no later than March 1, 2013 to discuss the remaining portions of the project.

[March 11, 2011] The massive earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan yesterday have caused widespread destruction and devastation. Tokyo's Narita International Airport was closed, leaving nearly 14,000 people stranded at the airport. 10,000 people were stranded at Haneda Airport, although it reportedly re-opened several runways. Sendai Airport, which was closest to the epicenter of the earthquake, was submerged in water and heavily damaged in the tsunami. Flights that were en route to Japan when the earthquake and tsunami occurred were diverted to airports around the Pacific Rim. Delta Airlines, the largest transpacific operator among U.S. airlines, has cancelled 29 flights into and out of Tokyo. United and Continental have cancelled 11 flights and diverted nine others. American Airlines has cancelled all Japan transpacific flights for today, and is unsure whether its schedule will resume tomorrow. Since flight operations over the weekend and early next week are uncertain, major airlines waived the change fee for passengers booked on flights to or from Japan through Monday or Tuesday. A full assessment of the damage to the country and loss of life is not yet known. My prayers are with those who are affected by this tragedy.

[March 10, 2011] Aircell, the provider for Gogo's in-flight Wi-Fi on airlines such as United, American and Delta, announced plans to upgrade its service for faster connectivity, and introduce Wi-Fi on international flights. Aircell's Gogo Wi-Fi service currently uses a land-based system, where base stations connect with Wi-Fi hotspots on aircraft. The company intends on improving its air-to-ground network to allow for faster connections. This upgrade will take effect in the first half of 2012. Aircell will also begin using Ka-band satellite technology, which will be available in the continental United States in 2013 and globally by 2015. In-flight Wi-Fi is a growing demand among business travelers, and is also gaining popularity among passengers with smartphones. Michael Small, president and chief executive of Aircell, commented, "Between business and commercial aviation, there are currently more than 6,000 Aircell-equipped aircraft across ATG and satellite technology platforms. We're thrilled to be the only in-flight connectivity provider that can meet our partners' full fleet needs in the United States today. With this announcement we strengthen our offerings domestically and begin to extend our leadership globally."

[March 9, 2011] As lawmakers decide whether to give more federal funds for the 9/11 memorial in Pennsylvania, families of the victims of United Airlines Flight 93 are asking Congress not to forget those who sacrificed their lives to protect the nation's capitol. According to the 9/11 Commission, the target of Flight 93 was most likely the White House or the Capitol building, but the terrorists' goal was thwarted by the passengers and crew who fought back. Family members of those aboard Flight 93 are reminding members of Congress that they could have been among the victims on that harrowing day if it hadn't been for the heroism of the people on that flight. Calvin Wilson, whose brother-in-law, LeRoy Homer, Jr., was first officer on the flight, said, "So many times they forget they were the target and that these heroes we are trying to memorialize helped them live another day." A memorial on the crash site in Pennsylvania is being built, and the first phase will be dedicated this year on the 10th anniversary. The memorial is expected to cost $60 million. Congress has given $10 million, the state of Pennsylvania is contributing $18.5 million, and $20 million has been raised privately. Family members are meeting with members of Congress to urge the approval of the additional $3.7 million that President Barack Obama allocated for this project in his new budget. The memorial will be a 3.5 square mile park, with a chapel featuring 40 chimes symbolizing the 40 victims, and a wall with the names of the victims.

[March 8, 2011] In addition to raising ticket prices, adding fuel surcharges and taking away complimentary snacks, United Continental Holdings Inc. will be scaling down its growth plans for 2011. The company had intended to increase international capacity by 4.5% to 5.5%, and cut domestic capacity by 0.5% to 1.5%. However, in light of the skyrocketing fuel prices, United plans to increase international capacity only by 2.5% or 3.5%, and cut domestic capacity by up to 2.5%. United Continental Holdings stated, "The capacity reductions will come from reducing flight frequencies, indefinitely postponing the start of certain markets and exiting less profitable routes, primarily in our domestic schedule. The modest increase in international capacity allocates our aircraft on more profitable routes." The airline may also remove less fuel-efficient aircraft from its fleet. American and Delta Airlines have already made reductions to their projected growth plans.

[March 4, 2011] In an effort to make the skies a more unfriendly place to fly, Continental Airlines has stopped serving free snacks to coach passengers. Continental spokesman, Andrew Ferraro, commented, “We’ve removed the beverage snacks — pretzels and Biscoff — in an effort to reduce costs and align ourselves with the rest of the industry. Our partner, United Airlines, has the same policy.” The airline claims it will save approximately $2.5 million a year by discontinuing its complimentary snack service. Henry Harteveldt, an airline and travel analyst for Forrester Research, put it well when he said, “This is clearly a reflection of standardizing the onboard experience between United and Continental. Sadly, instead of elevating the United onboard experience, Continental has chosen the lowest common denominator.” American Airlines and US Airways also discontinued the service. Fortunately, not everyone is following in their footsteps. Delta, AirTran, Alaska Airlines and JetBlue continue to serve a variety of complimentary snacks. Frontier Airlines even bakes and serves free chocolate chip cookies to all of its passengers after 10:00a.m. And, of course, Southwest Airlines, the passenger's best buddy, still doles out free snacks to everyone onboard. In 2010, Southwest handed out 19 million complimentary bags of pretzels, 87.6 million bags of peanuts, 18.4 million Select-A-Snacks and 29 million other snacks. Spokesman Brad Hawkins remarked, "We’re always looking at enhancements and new offerings." Continental and United, on the other hand, are clearly looking for more ways to upset customers and spoil their flying experience.

[March 2, 2011] A small triumph for air travelers is being reported today, as major airlines cut their latest fare hike in half. The $20 round-trip fare increase initiated last week by United Airlines has been resisted by Southwest, JetBlue, AirTran and Frontier Airlines. These discount carriers only increased their prices by $10 round-trip, forcing the larger airlines, such as American, United and Delta, to scale down their increase in order to stay competitive. Unfortunately, some of the airlines have already found a way to make up for part of the price cut. According to Farecompare.com's CEO, Rick Seaney, "Undeterred by the partial domestic rollback U.S. and Canadian carriers took the opportunity to increase base prices to Hawaii and Canada by $20 round-trip." Seaney also predicted that airlines will continue to test the market to discern the tolerance level of travelers. Indeed, it looks to be a volatile year for airfares.

[March 1, 2011] A United Airlines flight landed safely at Kona International Airport after mechanical problems forced the pilot to shut down one of the plane's engines. United Flight 57, with 84 passengers and crew aboard, was en route from Los Angeles to the Big Island, when an oil pressure warning light came on. Approximately 50 minutes before arrival, the pilot of the Boeing 757-200 contacted the airport, telling them he needed to shut down one of the two engines. Kona Airport fire crews, along with Hawaii County paramedics and police stood by as a precaution, but the plane landed without incident.

[February 28, 2011]
Soaring oil prices are continuing to cause airline costs to rise and stocks to fall. Political instability in several countries in the Middle East is causing widespread worry about the tenuous state of the airline industry's profitability. According to The Detroit News, the rising airfares demonstrate "airline officials' fears that already volatile prices could skyrocket as violence in Libya and elsewhere in the region could threaten oil production." United Airlines spokesman, Mike Trevino, commented, "Fuel is our single highest cost. For every $1 increase in the price of oil per barrel, it means a $100 million increase in our fuel cost on an annual basis." With oil prices surging to at least $100 a barrel, the most it has been since 2008, some airlines seem to be hitting the panic button. However, David Tyerman, Canaccord Genuity analyst, is much more optimistic regarding the airline industry's outlook than most investors. In light of the recovering economy, he sees the rising oil prices as an opportunity for airlines to test "the upper threshold of where higher fares begin to diminish demand." Tylerman claims, "We believe most consumers would expect airlines to raise ticket prices to cover higher fuel costs. In an improving supply-demand environment, higher fuel costs may provide the perfect cover to raise ticket prices to cover increased fuel costs and widen margins.” Unfortunately, that does not help those of us who are left with a grossly swollen bill every time we fly.

[February 25, 2011] A man was arrested at O'Hare International Airport today after a loaded gun was found in his carry-on bag. John W. Barnak was passing through security before planning to board a United Airlines flight to Cancun, when a TSA security screener found a .25 caliber semiautomatic handgun and a loaded magazine in his bag. Barnak admitted that the bag and the weapon belonged to him, and claimed he “forgot the gun was in the bag when he packed for his trip." He is currently being held on charges of unlawful possession of a weapon and carrying a firearm without a valid identification card. Bail was set for $25,000.

[February 24, 2011] United Continental Holdings unveiled its first Boeing 747 with the new livery today. The 374-seat jumbo jet displays the United brand in a new sans serif font, and the Continental-style globe on the tail. United has painted more than 20% of its fleet since the merger in October. Unfortunately, the price for riding on any United plane has risen yet again. In light of the ever rising fuel prices and turmoil in the Middle East, United and Continental Airlines initiated another price hike yesterday, with American Airlines following closely in their footsteps. The new hike adds $20 per round trip to most domestic flights, and travelers are being warned to brace for even more price increases.

[February 23, 2011] Today the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in New York City introduced an interactive web-based timeline of the tragic events of 9/11. According to AOL News, "The chronological timeline offers audio recordings of phone calls from victims to their loved ones, the oral history of survivors, and video and photographs of some of the day's most vivid and terrifying moments." Joe Daniels, president of the museum, said he hopes this feature will help educate younger generations about what occurred that day. Much of the material on the site is painful and disturbing, and the curators wanted to respectfully present that material, without glossing over it. In an attempt to do so, thumbnails and descriptions of the videos and clips are available to visitors before viewing the footage, giving them a chance to prepare for what they are going to hear or see. Daniels explained, "We try to present the material as sensitively as possible and not sensationalize it. Things aren't popping up on your screen. We try to give people the tools to modulate their experience on the site. At the same time, there is no getting around the fact that the material in this event was simply wrenching. The people who got up that morning and became a part of this event were just like the rest of us, and they should have been able to go home at the end of the day just like the rest of us." The timeline begins at 5:45AM on September 11th showing two of the terrorists passing through security in Boston's Logan Airport, and ends with President Bush's address to the nation at 8:30PM. The timeline is available for viewing at timeline.national911memorial.org. The National September 11 Memorial and Museum is scheduled to open this year on the 10th anniversary of the attacks.

[February 22, 2011] A new set of fare hikes is rippling through the airline industry. This time, the poster child for discount airfare, Southwest Airlines, set the effect in motion. Reacting to rising fuel costs, Southwest spokeswoman, Ashley Dillon, explained, "We implemented a modest system wide fare increase of $5 one-way to offset higher fuel costs." According to USA Today, jet fuel prices have risen nearly 50 percent in the past year, making the airline worry about what is to come. While Southwest is keeping their fare hike "modest", the larger carriers, including United Airlines, are raising their prices by $20 to $60 round trip. According to Rick Seaney, CEO of FareCompare, Southwest has become the measuring rod for raising fares. Unfortunately, when Southwest takes an inch, the larger carriers take a mile. Many airlines have already raised their prices five times since December, but when Southwest did not participate in two of those five rounds, the others backed down. However, with Southwest leading the pack this time, the new fare hike is likely to be around for awhile.

[February 18, 2011] Finally a triumph for passengers! United Continental Holdings has decided to extend United's popular Economy Plus seating to Continental planes. The company has been debating whether to add more seats on United planes or remove seats from Continental planes in an effort to make the coach sections the same. Jim Compton, executive vice president and chief revenue officer of United Continental Holdings said "the revenue generated by the elite frequent-fliers who occupy those seats, plus that from fliers who pay for the privilege, outweighs the theoretical loss of revenue from having fewer seats on the planes." Economy Plus adds up to five inches of legroom to several rows of seats in the front of coach cabins. Doing away with this section would likely have caused an uproar from United's elite frequent fliers, like myself, who are automatically - and without an extra charge - assigned to the roomier seats when they fly coach. It also may have upset non-elite passengers who enjoyed the option of paying extra for more legroom. As Ben Schlappig, another frequent flier, wrote, "Finally there's a positive thing we can look forward to after the merger." Economy Plus seats will be added to Continental's 350 mainline jets next year. When the project is done, more than 850 planes in the combined fleet will have the roomier section.

[February 17, 2011] United Airlines operations have returned to normal after all of their 757 jets were abruptly grounded for emergency safety checks. As the story goes, United was "scrambling to comply with a 2004 FAA airworthiness directive" regarding software and hardware changes for the air data computer systems. According to the FAA directive, "This action is necessary to ensure that the flight crew is able to silence an erroneous overspeed or stall aural warning" - basically allowing the pilots to turn off an alarm that would cause needless panic if set off. The airline installed the required software back in 2004, however, during an internal quality assurance audit, they discovered the proper steps hadn't been taken during the installation. United decided to ground the planes and check the software, rather than wait for the FAA to make a formal request or start issuing fines. If United had flown the planes knowing they were out of compliance with the FAA airworthiness directive, they would have been liable for fines of $25,000 per flight.

[February 16, 2011] United Airlines voluntarily grounded its entire fleet of Boeing 757 jets for "critical maintenance checks". After a problem was found on one plane during a routine check yesterday, United has been performing emergency maintenance on all 96 of its 757s. According to United spokesman Charlie Hobart, the air data computers on the aircraft were recently modified, and checks were necessary to ensure the software was working correctly. The checks take 60 to 90 minutes each. United spokeswoman, Megan McCarthy, commented further by saying, "The computers, which handle data such as air pressure and temperature, recently underwent upgrades in which some steps needed to return the units to service weren’t completed or were performed out of sequence." So far, all of the computers involved in the checkups have been working normally. Although United arranged for other aircraft to pick up the workload of the grounded 757s, thousands of passengers still felt the effects of the ensuing delays.

[February 15, 2011]
United Airlines flight 306 en route from Los Angeles to Baltimore, MD made an emergency landing in Grand Junction, CO today after the crew reported indications of smoke in the cargo hold. The plane landed safely and none of the 109 passengers were injured. Emergency services found no traces of smoke or fire, and the passengers are now scheduled to arrive in Baltimore 4 hours late.

[February 14, 2011]
United Continental Holdings spread some love this Valentine's Day by handing out $224 million in profit-sharing checks to about 80,000 employees. Continental has a long-standing tradition of giving out bonus checks to employees at airports, however, they haven't had any profit to share since 2008. Last year, United's net profit was $1.6 billion, excluding $765 million of costs related to the merger. With those costs added in, United's profits stood at $253 million. Today, Jeff Smisek handed out profit-sharing checks at United's hubs at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston and Chicago O'Hare International Airport. Other United officers flew to different locations throughout United's system to present the checks. At Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, Continental employees received their checks at a celebration held at the Continental ticket counter. Jeff Smisek commented, "The United and Continental teams did a great job in 2010. Profit-sharing shows that when we work together, we win together."

[February 11, 2011]
The latest update regarding the O'Hare expansion saga is that the lawsuit filed by United and American Airlines will be temporarily delayed. A Cook County judge granted a request by the Department of Transportation for a five-day delay in the court proceedings of the lawsuit. Illinois Senators Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk praised the temporary delay, saying, “This development allows for more time to find common ground and could prevent a costly legal battle and construction delays. Finding a solution that ensures project construction -- which supports thousands of local jobs -- continues is essential to future economic growth in Chicago.” The Senators are holding onto hope that an agreement between the City of Chicago and the disgruntled airlines can be made out of court. However, if a compromise is not reached, Cook County Circuit Court Judge Richard Billik will hear arguments on a city motion to dismiss the suit on February 22, and the hearing is scheduled to begin on March 1st.

[February 10, 2011]
A food trolley was used to smuggle packages of cocaine off a United Airlines flight at Sydney's international airport. The packages were hidden in a toilet rubbish bin during the flight from Los Angeles, and when the plane landed, two alleged co-conspirators, Matthew Robert Hay and his colleague, worked together to smuggle the drugs off the plane. While Hay restocked the plane, the colleague recovered the packages, put them on a food trolley and wheeled the trolley onto a Gate Gourmet catering truck. Shortly afterwards, the men were arrested on the tarmac. Nearly 1kg of white powder, containing 250.7 grams of pure cocaine was found in the vehicle. Both men pleaded not guilty to conspiring to import cocaine and Hay pleaded not guilty to possessing marketable quantity of cocaine. They are now standing trial at Sydney's District Court.

[February 9, 2011]
Negotiation talks regarding the O'Hare modernization project are underway between Mayor Daley of Chicago, Jeff Smisek of United Airlines, Gerard Arpey of American Airlines, and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. So far, no agreement has been reached, although the discussions were characterized as being "very, very extensive" and "candid". The airline executives reiterated their support for eventually completing the second phase of the expansion project, but stated that nothing was offered "that would permit us to suspend our litigation seeking to stop the City from proceeding with financing (on the remaining work) without our legally required notice and approval." It was agreed that the possibility of using federal funding could be explored, although the U.S Department of Transportation has already invested over $1 billion on the O'Hare expansion project, more than any other airport project. At this stage, LaHood's plan is to keep everyone talking until a deal is reached.

[February 8, 2011]
Mayor Daley finally has a new date set to discuss the O'Hare expansion project with the CEOs of United and American Airlines. The meeting is scheduled for tomorrow, and this time it will be held in Washington D.C. under the watchful eye of the Secretary of the Department of Transportation, Ray LaHood. After finding out LaHood would be hosting this meeting, Senators Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk of Illinois sent letters to the DOT secretary stressing the importance of finding a compromise on the project. The Senators wrote, "The Department of Transportation can play an important role in getting both sides of this dispute to come to an agreement to keep the O'Hare Modernization Project on track to completion. The final phase of the O'Hare Modernization Project will support thousands of local jobs, and making sure we continue the construction with this project is essential to future economic growth in Chicago." It is hoped the parties involved will quickly resolve their differences regarding the future of the project, and avoid a lengthy and costly court battle.

[February 7, 2011]
United Continental Holdings announced today that it will cut up to 500 jobs at the Houston headquarters of Continental Airlines. Layoffs will only affect those in management and administrative positions, as stated by Jeff Smisek when the airlines merged last October. Between the two airlines, there are currently 6,000 management and administrative positions being held. Some employees who will be affected have already volunteered for the airline's early-out program, which offers incentives such as severance, health care and travel benefits for a limited time. The layoffs are expected to begin April 1st and could last through the end of June. While this will significantly affect the workforce, the Houston headquarters will remain operational. Jeff Moseley, president and CEO of Greater Houston Partnership, commented, “The loss of these jobs was not unexpected. Ultimately, the Greater Houston Partnership is confident that the merger between United and Continental will result in a positive net growth in jobs for our region. We are pleased that George Bush Intercontinental Airport will be the largest hub of the world’s largest airline. This foundation will allow us to grow jobs over time to make up for the initial losses. Houston’s friendly and attractive business climate, compared to other major cities, will always be appealing to United/Continental Holdings as it continues its integration and operates as one airline.”

[February 4, 2011] As a promotion for GoGo Inflight Internet, seven airlines, including United, are offering free in-flight access to Facebook this month. Facebook is reportedly the most visited site through GoGo, which serves about 3,800 flights per day. If passengers want to wander off Facebook, they can pay $4.95 for general access to in-flight Wi-Fi on short flights and up to $12.95 for longer ones. The service is currently available to North American passengers traveling across the continental United States.
United Airlines is also introducing the digEplayer L7 Handheld In-flight Entertainment Device for passengers in United First and United Business class. The device offers a wider range of entertainment options, including 25 movies, 100 television programs and more music choices. The devices are Wi-Fi capable, as well.

[February 3, 2011]
While weather worries are easing up in Chicago, the fate of the O'Hare expansion project continues to worry Mayor Daley after the CEO's of United and American Airlines abruptly canceled an appointment with him today. Initially, city officials believed the cancelation was due to the weather, although now they are viewing it as an attempt to stall discussions regarding the expansion project at the city's largest airport. Mayor Daley stated that after the meeting was canceled, he offered to meet with the two airline executives any day from next Sunday to Thursday, and again the following Sunday and Monday. All of his offers were rejected. Mayor Daley felt the rejection acutely as he noted this was the first time in 22 years he offered to meet anyone on a Sunday. A spokeswoman for American Airlines only responded that the meeting was canceled due to "weather and the severe impact on our flight schedule" and she had no idea when the meeting would be rescheduled.

[February 2, 2011] Thousands of flights have been canceled due to another massive winter storm. Estimates of up to 13,000 flights have already been canceled since yesterday, including 850 flights by United Airlines and 600 flights by Continental. American Airlines seems to be affected the most so far, with more than half of its schedule canceled or diverted yesterday. In light of the fiasco associated with the December blizzard, affecting millions of travelers, the airlines tried a more assertive approach to dealing with wild weather by canceling flights before the storms hit. One passenger, who was scheduled to fly today, landed safely in his destination yesterday after being warned about the impending storm. He said, "Delta Airlines issued an advisory, so we're allowed to change our flight plan and they did it at no charge, so here we are...a day early." Unfortunately, not everyone could be accommodated before the ice and snow arrived. The storm is forecasted to cover one third of the U.S., from the Rockies to New England, with two feet of snow predicted in some areas. Chicago may face a blizzard of historic proportions, and most airlines have indicated they will have little to no flight operations out of O'Hare today. If you're planning to fly anywhere in the next week, check with your airline before heading to the airport to avoid being stranded.

[February 1, 2011] Another very frequent flier is upset with United Airlines, and I happen to know the blogger, Craig Wright, pretty well - he's earned a lot of certifications from GIAC. Also, I do know that the last time I flew United business class to London, the seat was broken and would not even begin to lie flat, sadly similar to Craig's experience. Seems to me that if United wants to attract more business fare payers, they need to pay attention to customer reviews as well as do a better job at satisfying those paid customers when they actually have them on the plane - that is certainly the best opportunity for improving an airline's customer service reputation.

[January 28, 2011] United Airlines is earning the reputation of being about as family friendly as a rabid wolf after kicking a mother and her baby off a flight in San Francisco. Melissa Bradley, a mother of four children, including a 1-year-old daughter, was forced off a United Airlines flight after a dispute regarding an economy-class seat too narrow to fit the infant carrier for her child. This is the second time in the course of a month that Bradley has had trouble fitting her ("airline-approved") infant carrier aboard a flight. The first time was on a Skywest flight from Aspen to San Francisco, although she wasn't asked to leave the plane in that instance. When she reported that incident, the FAA asked if she had pictures to prove her claim, which she did not. This time United claims Bradley was removed from the flight because she was "causing a disruption by taking pictures". Hmm. United spokesman Rahsaan Johnson acknowledged the rows were too close together to accommodate the carrier, but Bradley wasn't moved to a wider row because those seats were full. That sounds like a poor excuse - I've been aboard enough flights to know most people would switch seats to accommodate a mother and her child when asked. The excuse sounds even more flimsy knowing Bradley called two weeks ahead of time to make sure she could use the infant carrier, for which she bought a separate ticket. United's customer service told her to let the airline employees know about her needs when she checked in...which she did. United may want to rethink its excuses and its seat sizes, considering the National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman is campaigning for regulations requiring all infants and young children to ride in child seats on planes rather than in parent's laps. FlyersRights.org also offers the reminder that FAA guidelines state, "No aircraft operator may prohibit a child from using an approved CRS when the parent/guardian purchases a seat for the child. If an approved CRS for which a ticket has been purchased, does not fit in a particular seat on the aircraft, the aircraft operator has the responsibility to accommodate the CRS in another seat in the same class of service." Get on board, United, and let the kids get on board, too.

In a more triumphant report, a man who fought tooth-and-nail with United Airlines for a refund won his case, before it hit court. Tom Smith and his wife had tickets for a flight with United on November 13, 2010, but the flight was canceled and Smith's refund was nowhere to be found. After corresponding by phone and email with United, the airline stated it would only refund him $45 for each ticket, a far cry from the $350 owed to Smith. He then filed a lawsuit against United, and the day before he was set to go to court, a check arrived in the mail for $415. The extra $65 was meant for covering court costs.

[January 27, 2011] It looks like the lawsuit issued by United and American Airlines against the city of Chicago is getting attention and ruffling feathers in the windy city. As a response the lawsuit so far, Chicago has put financing for the O'Hare expansion project on hold indefinitely. The city and the airlines remain completely at odds in respect to the value of the expansion project. Mayor Daley claims the airlines are being short-sighted and need to build for the future now, while the airlines want to wait for a complete economic rebound before agreeing to a $2 billion bill.

[January 26, 2011]
The results for the 2010 fourth-quarter are in, showing the effects of the United Continental merger in numbers. United ended with a net loss of $325 million, although when the $485 million of merger-related costs and charges are taken out of the equation, United earned $160 million. United's executive vice president and chief revenue officer, Jim Compton, said unit revenue has risen since 2009, owing largely to a 20% increase in customers flying first and business class worldwide. Overall, United reports an increase in sales and continued growth in new accounts. United Continental Holdings is looking forward to this year, when, as CEO Jeff Smisek states, "Our customers will experience a measurable difference in our brand’s appearance and the consistency of service across our two carriers.” The new United plans to introduce its airport lounge, the United Club, during the 3rd quarter of this year, and will combine the loyalty programs of United and Continental in 2012. US Airways also had a successful quarter with a net income of $28 million, a remarkable improvement compared to 2009's fourth-quarter loss of $79 million.

[January 25, 2011] A United Express plane, being operated by Atlantic Southeast Airlines, made an emergency landing in Vermont yesterday after taking off for Washington, D.C. The unexpected landing was prompted by reports of steering problems in addition to a light in the plane's cockpit indicating a passenger door being open. The plane, carrying 43 people, was met by firefighters, police officers and ambulance crews from more than a dozen agencies when it landed at Burlington International Airport. Thankfully, the plane landed safely, no injuries have been reported, and the passengers were taken to their destination on other D.C-bound flights throughout the day. United is investigating the cause of the incident.

[January 24, 2011] A tragedy in Russia occurred today after an explosion went off at Moscow's busiest airport, killing 35 and wounding over 150 people. At least one suicide bomber was involved in the bombing at the International Terminal of Domodedovo airport. Reports say residents of Slovakia, Italy and France were injured in the blast, and two British citizens were killed. The deadly incident is being regarded as a terrorist attack. According to the Guardian, "The precise circumstances of the explosion are still unclear but all the signs are that Islamist militants in Russia's volatile North Caucasus region have brought their fight back to Moscow." President Dmitry Medvedev offered his condolences to the families of the victims and ordered special security measures at Russian airports. He also postponed his trip to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos in order to assist in dealing with the aftermath of the attack. Condolences are pouring in from around the globe, and world leaders are condemning the tragic attack.

Further questions regarding airport security are being raised in light of the bombing. San Jose International Airport spokesman, David Vossbrink, said, “It gives everyone in our industry a pause to review security.” Since the 9/11 attacks, security has heightened dramatically for passengers and airlines, but not necessarily for airports themselves. The argument being raised now is that before the checkpoint, airports are very vulnerable. Philip Baum, editor of Aviation Security International commented, "This is a major security loophole. The industry has missed the bigger picture and instead got on with addressing the last-known risk, not the risk to come. We are always reactive." Claude Moniquet, the director of the Brussels-based European Strategic Intelligence and Security Center, wrote, "In the last years, worldwide, huge amounts of time, money and technical means were spent on airlines' and passengers' security, but airport security is still a weak point in the global chain of air transport security."

[January 20, 2011] "Can you put me in a suitcase and send me down the baggage belt?" That is not exactly the average question a ticket agent receives, but it was asked in all seriousness by a would-be passenger earlier this week. After being denied TSA screening because he had no photo ID, Edward Hall went behind the United ticket counter and hopped on a moving baggage belt in an attempt to reach his plane. Upon being arrested 20 minutes later for trespassing, he told the police, "I just wanted to make my flight." Hall researches behavioral economics and "human impatience" at Columbia University.

[January 19, 2011] United Airlines is experiencing growing pains both internally and externally. From within, conflicts continue between flight attendant groups from United and Continental Airlines as they attempt to unify. The Association of Flight Attendants currently represents 15,000 workers from United, while the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers represent 9,300 Continental workers. After the Machinists rejected requests to work together on contract discussions last year, the AFA is now pushing for a vote to determine representation. The AFA filed an application for the National Mediation Board to declare that the United/Continental merger has created a single transportation system, thus triggering a union election for the combined flight attendant workforce. With United's workers holding over 60% of the vote, the AFA is confident they will come out victorious. Sara Nelson, AFA international vice president, commented, “Flight attendants have not been able to capitalize on the incredible opportunities that are available in this merger. What’s standing in the way is resolving this representation issue, so we don’t want to wait another day.” The AFA United President, Greg Davidowitch, also stated, "Joined together in AFA, we can ensure flight attendants are full partners in the merger with compensation that reflects our key role in the success of the new United Airlines." Representatives from the Machinists believe this election would be premature.

United Airlines is also involved with American Airlines in a joint lawsuit against Chicago. As previously reported, Mayor Daley is attempting to continue the expansion project at O'Hare International Airport, however United and American are not willing to foot the bill. The two airlines filed suit to postpone the project's $3.4 billion second phase for up to 7-9 years. Executives from the airlines stated, "It would burden us and our customers with costs we simply cannot afford to pay for a project we do not need and will not need for many years. Moreover, these cost increases would inherently restrict our ability to grow and expand air service into and out of Chicago." However, representatives of the City of Chicago claim this project is crucially important. Chicago Department of Aviation Commissioner Rosemarie Andolino said, "The O'Hare Modernization Program is creating jobs and stimulating the region's economy at a time when it is critically needed. We remain willing to discuss modernizing O'Hare with the airlines that serve the airport; however timing is essential."

[January 5, 2011] There's nothing like an aromatic cup of steaming coffee to bring down a plane and put the defense department on alert. Apparently, the emergency landing of United Airlines flight 940 was caused by a cup of coffee spilled on the plane's communications equipment. This caused distress signals to be sent out, including code 7500, indicating hijacking or unlawful interference. Canada's defense department was subsequently notified, but fortunately, with the help of United Airlines dispatch staff, the flight crew confirmed it to be a communication issue and not a hijacking. United has not had much to say regarding the errant beverage, but the diverted passengers were put on another plane to Frankfurt, and will arrive in Europe a day late.

[January 4, 2011] The unfortunate theme for United is continuing, although odors were not the cause of last night's emergency landing. United Airlines flight 940, en route from Chicago to Frankfurt, was diverted to Toronto's Pearson International Airport due to a communication system malfunction. United spokesman Rahsaan Johnson said that while the flight did not lose contact with air traffic controllers, the captain decided the issues needed to be fixed before crossing the Atlantic. The Boeing 777 landed safely in Toronto with 241 passengers and 14 crew onboard. The passengers were flown back to Chicago and lodged in a hotel for the night. Additional flights have been arranged to fly them to Frankfurt today.

[January 3, 2011] The world's biggest airline is kicking off the New Year with strange odors and emergency landings. Only three days into 2011, and United has already grounded two planes due to suspicious smells. The first was on New Year's Day itself, on a flight from Tucson International Airport to LAX. Someone noticed the smell of electrical smoke and the plane returned to Tuscon 20 minutes after its departure. The flight was cancelled and the cause of the smell is unknown. The second odorous incident occurred this morning on United Airlines flight 243 en route from Denver to Las Vegas. This time the crew noticed an unusual smell in the cockpit and the plane returned to Denver. Both planes landed safely and their respective odors are being investigated.

[December 30, 2010] The airline industry is feeling the true cost of all its corner-cutting this week. As most airlines are still scrambling to accommodate stranded passengers, many people are joining the outcry that the weather isn't the only thing to blame for this week's travel disaster. Karen Cumming, who slept on the floor of New York's JFK airport for two days, explained, "What people find so appalling is the complete lack of communication of any kind with the passengers." And a spokesman for the Association for Airline Passenger Rights reiterated, "We don't blame the airlines or airports for bad weather, but it's their responsibility to be prepared." With all of the cuts airlines have undergone in recent years, they were not remotely prepared for such a large scale aviation crisis. For instance, United Airlines once had 17 reservation offices, but now only has three. In February, Continental Airlines cut 600 of its 2,600 reservation employees. With these drastic cuts, they are unable to deal with the massive amount of calls from people trying to rebook, and customer service has completely fallen by the wayside. Instead of talking to a representative, customers are put on hold for hours as an endless telephone loop is played. Some customers found more information through Twitter than the airlines websites, reservation agents on the phone or ticketing agents at the airport. "In one instance, a New Yorker received a refund and a trip back home in less than an hour after Tweeting a message to JetBlue's Twitter account. He was waiting five hours before sending that message." Airlines have also eliminated flights and grounded planes. The leaner schedules earned airlines a major profit over the summer, but left them unable to handle the backlog of passengers. Darryl Jenkins, a Virginia-based aviation industry consultant, explained, “When your planes are all 90 percent full and you cancel a flight, it’s going to take you another 10 flights to re- accommodate all those passengers.” Airport traffic has finally begun again, but it will still be days before all of the affected passengers are brought to their final destinations.

[December 29, 2010] The nightmare continues for over 1 million travelers affected by the blizzard in the Northeast. As the backlog of stranded passengers continues to grow, and flight availability remains minimal, tempers are the only things flying at many airports. While most people are reasonable enough to realize the airlines can't control the weather, they are frustrated with the way the airlines are handling the situation. One traveler waited in an 8-10 hour line at LAX just to talk to ticketing agent, and was then told there were no flights available to the East Coast until after the New Year. Another woman spent three days on the phone trying to get a hold of Continental Airlines in order to rebook her daughter's cancelled flight. Besides poor communication with customers, airlines may be paying for their poor communication to airports. The U.S. Department of Transportation is looking into the details of flight delays to determine if some could have been avoided, and if the airlines will be fined for excessive tarmac delays. Six international flights to JFK are being investigated after the planes landed with no gate to dock at, and passengers were stuck on the tarmac for up to 12 hours. Steve Coleman, a Port Authority spokesman, said, "It is an airline's responsibility to make sure before they leave their point of origin that they have a gate assignment. These airlines did not. So they got to the airport and had no place to dock." The airline industry is already predicted to lose upwards of $150 million in light of this week, and the threat of hefty fines could raise that number significantly.

[December 28, 2010] If you are looking for an after-Christmas bargain, don't turn to the skies. Holiday traveling woes continue as airlines raise their fares in response to a surge in oil prices. The cost of oil was fairly steady at $70 per barrel most of this year, but it rose to $91 per barrel in the last week. According to ABC news, "Several airlines confirmed Tuesday that they are raising prices on many domestic routes by $10 one way and $20 per round trip, even as snowbound passengers remain stranded at New York City-area airports." United Airlines was reportedly the first to introduce this fare hike, with Continental, American and Delta following its lead. United is calling its new fee the "peak travel day" surcharge, although it has apparently been added to all future travel dates.

[December 27, 2010] Snow arrived to provide many with an unprecedented White Christmas, but it did not stop there. Blizzards in the Northeast are causing flight cancellations and delays across the entire country. From San Francisco to Dallas to Orlando, travelers are feeling the ill-effects of the continuing storms. JFK, LaGuardia and Newark Liberty International Airports were all shut down due to the severe weather on Sunday, and are now slowly beginning to move planes again. Philadelphia International Airport remained open with one working runway, and Boston's Logan International Airport was also open, although many of the flights there were cancelled. Continental and United Airlines reportedly cancelled nearly 1,000 flights due to the storms. JetBlue Airways, whose main hub is at JFK airport, was forced to cancel all of its flights into and out of New York, and are hoping to begin a recovery process on Tuesday. Unfortunately, because of the incredible backlog in flights, it may take up to five days to accommodate all of the stranded passengers. With over 7,000 cancellations collectively since Sunday throughout the U.S., hundreds of thousands of passengers are waiting for a flight home.

[December 23, 2010] With storms sweeping across the country, many cities will experience a white Christmas this year. Snow is expected across the South and the East Coast in New York City, Boston, Nashville and Charlotte. Even Atlanta, which hasn't seen snow on Christmas since 1882, may be turned into a winter wonderland. Unfortunately, the severe weather may cause delays for Christmas travelers. For those flying to, from or through Washington Dulles or New York / Newark Liberty International Airport, some delays and/or cancellations are expected. Traveling through Chicago is still difficult as well. United and Continental Airlines are yet again waiving the ticket change fee for those affected by the forecasted storms. Wherever you may be this weekend, stay safe and have a very Merry Christmas.

[December 22, 2010] Bah humbug. That seems to be the motto of the FAA this year. Falling in step with spirit of Ebenezer Scrooge, they're doling out fines just in time for Christmas. They have proposed a $275,000 fine for Continental Airlines and a $330,000 fine for American Eagle. Both airlines have been accused of operating planes that were not in compliance with federal regulations. I'm all for safety, but these alleged mechanical mishaps were from 2009 for Continental and 2008 for American Eagle, so waiting until 3 days before Christmas a year or two years later seems a little Grinch-like. Both airlines have 30 days to contest the penalties, and American Eagle has already stated they will challenge the FAA, claiming the penalties are "excessive".
In the meantime, United is attempting to off-set some of the seasonal stress by using a new software called “LineBuster”. Using handheld units, airline agents can scan boarding passes or credit cards to obtain passenger information while travelers are standing in the check-in line. The agents can then determine whether the passenger needs to continue to wait and talk to a representative, or if they can check in at a self-service kiosk. According to Guy Zalel, the project manager for airport strategy at United, "two agents using the units cleared a line of about 100 people in 20 minutes on a Saturday at O’Hare International Airport."

[December 20, 2010] Holiday travelers across Europe are facing frustrating delays in the wake of unexpectedly heavy snow storms. According to The Washington Post, "Some of the European problems stemmed from woes at Heathrow, where furious passengers, hundreds of whom had spent up to two nights sleeping on the floor, besieged staff at the airport, which has struggled to operate since five inches of snow fell in the space of an hour Saturday." Passengers are not the only ones expressing anger regarding the delays in London. Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, irritably commented: "It can't be beyond the wit of man, surely, to find the shovels, the diggers, the snowplows or whatever it takes to clear the snow out from under the planes, to get the planes moving and to have more than one runway going." Also, Lord Adonis, the former Labour transport secretary, expressed his disgust with the efforts at Heathrow, saying, "BAA needs to get a grip on the situation and the Government should be on its case, not simply blaming the weather." Despite many such accusations and outcries, the BAA is warning passengers that things are not going to get better soon. A spokesperson said, "Passengers should anticipate further delays and cancellations in the following days and potentially beyond Christmas Day." In the meantime, the thousands of stranded passengers are "waiting for a miracle" to get out of the airport and en route to their Christmas destinations. For those booked on United or Continental Airlines, the change fee is being waived for affected passengers choosing to change their reservations.

[December 17, 2010] As the world's biggest airline company, United Continental Holdings Inc. offers flight services to a vast array of destinations worldwide. As Christmas approaches, United and Continental are bringing together those who wish each other "Nollaig Shona Dhuit" in Ireland, "Joyeux Noel" in France, " Buone Feste Natalizie" in Italy, "Shinnen omedeto, kurisumasu omedeto" in Japan, and "Saint Dan Fai Lok" in Hong Kong. Next year, Continental Airlines will help those wishing each other "Mele Kalikimaka" by introducing a non-stop flight from California to the Big Island of Hawaii. Continental will fly from Hilo International Airport to San Francisco weekly and Los Angeles daily. This will be the only flight to offer direct service from Hilo to the mainland. For now, all flights stop in Honolulu before continuing to their final destination. Jim Compton, Executive Vice President of United Continental Holdings commented, "We are excited to provide customers the only direct flights to Hilo from the mainland." Mike McCartney, Hawaii Tourism Authority president and CEO, is also happy about the new flight schedule, saying, “The addition of the two routes is welcome news for Hawaii Island and the entire state, and a result of the momentum established by our tourism industry to lead Hawaii’s tourism recovery.” The flights are set to begin June 9, 2011.

[December 16, 2010] Today marks the 50th anniversary of an aviation tragedy which shattered many lives, and sparked much needed changes in aviation safety. On December 16, 1960, a United Airlines jet and a TWA propeller plane collided in mid-air over New York, killing all 128 people aboard the planes. The United plane crashed into the Park Slope neighborhood in Brooklyn, destroying at least 10 buildings and killing 6 more people on the ground. The TWA plane crashed into a military air base on Staten Island. One young boy, Stephen Baltz, initially survived the United crash, but his injuries were too extensive, and he died the next day. In the investigation following the crash, the planes' "black boxes" were used extensively for the first time, and the air control system was revamped to prevent future tragedies. Today a memorial was held at Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery. During the ceremony, an 8-foot marble monument bearing a bronze plaque with the names of the 134 victims and the story of the day's events was unveiled. A letter was also read from the brother of Stephen Baltz. The letter said that while the boy was at the hospital, he told his father, "Daddy, next time I fly, I want to fly my own plane, I want to be the pilot." Many relatives of the victims were among the people who attended the ceremony.

[December 15, 2010] This story sounds a little too reminiscent of the movie "Catch me if you can". We'll see if you concur. William Hamman, a United Airlines pilot, and "one of the nation's top cardiologists", has been exposed as a fraud. Hamman is indeed a pilot, but he is not the doctor he's been claiming to be. He went to medical school for awhile, but he did not complete his degree. However, that did not stop him from becoming a respected cardiologist who gave lectures, trained staff and wrote grants for medical research. His 15+ year charade came to an end last summer when suspicions led to an investigation resulting with his exposure. The doctors who worked with him were stunned. Dr. W. Douglas Weaver was president of the cardiology group when it gave Hamman a contract for up to $250,000 a few years ago to train doctors how to communicate with others in medical emergencies by working with computerized mannequins and models. In response to Hamman's exposure as a fake, he said, "I was shocked to hear the news. He was totally dedicated to what he was doing, and there is a real need for team-based education in medicine." Interestingly, even after his cover was blown, the medical community did not initially want to give him up. According to the Associated Press, "Even after learning of Hamman's deception, the American Medical Association was going to let him lead a seminar that had been in the works, altering his biography and switching his title from 'Dr.' to 'Captain' on course materials. It was canceled after top officials found out." Apparently, he did not need to be a doctor to be an educator, but his lie cost him everything. He resigned from his position at William Beaumont Hospital, and United Airlines reportedly grounded him after hearing about his falsehoods. My question is, who forgot to check his resume 2 decades ago?

[December 14, 2010] Don't you hate being nickel-and-dimed by airlines? Well, the airlines are loving it! In baggage fees alone, major U.S. airlines collectively made $906.4 million this quarter, with that number rising to $1.49 billion when you add in ticket change fees. Delta topped the list for raking in the most fees, totaling $259.4 million from bags and $183.3 million from reservation changes. American Airlines was a distant second with $151.1 million of our nickels and dimes from baggage fees and $117.7 million for ticket changes. Continental Airlines has come up with the newest fee to hit passengers, called FareLock. They will be charging a $5 fee to put a 72-hour hold on a fare without any commitment to buy a ticket, or a $9 fee will allow customers to lock in a fare for 7 days. Continental claims it will still offer the standard 24-hour fare hold for free, so far. Perhaps Continental is hoping to rank higher than 4th place on next year's list of the most fee-gauging airlines.

[December 13, 2010] "Oh the weather outside is frightful" is an under-statement this year. Dreadful weather is causing travel delays that do not seem to have an end in sight for many travelers. After Sunday's snowstorm in the Midwest that caused the Metrodome roof to collapse in Minneapolis and 1,700 flights at Chicago airports to be grounded, more flights are being canceled or delayed due to frigid temperatures and icy winds moving down the Eastern Seaboard. Chicago's airports are attempting to recover from yesterday's storm, but the problem is being compounded by thousands of stranded passengers who are competing to find a seat on any flight available. According to the National Weather Service, a winter weather advisory is still in effect until midnight tonight. United, Continental and Delta Airlines are encouraging passengers to avoid traveling right now if at all possible. They will be waiving the normal change fee for those who chose to re-route or postpone their travel plans.

[December 9, 2010] Despite TSA's best efforts to scare everyone away from airports, last month United and Continental's traffic was up by 4.8%. In fact, most U.S. airlines are seeing an improvement in traffic compared to the last two years. Jeff Smisek, United Continental Holding's CEO, is looking to gain an edge in the recovering market by making more international alliances. He is looking into partnering with airlines in Latin America and Canada, seeing joint ventures as a "powerful competitive tool". Smisek commented that, “Latin America is an area that we're keenly interested in. We're also looking at potentially having a transborder joint venture with our friends at Air Canada.” The carriers must receive federal approval before they can operate jointly. Such approval is expected to be given late next year.

[December 8, 2010] United Continental Holdings Inc. and PGA have signed a 5 year agreement making United the new "Official Airline" of the PGA Tour. Delta Airlines held that title for 25 years, but beginning in 2011, United will have its turn. The new partnership will allow frequent-flier members of United and Continental special perks including unique PGA TOUR player experiences and access to the PGA Tour’s TPC Network of golf facilities and courses. Members of the PGA Tour, Champions Tour and Nationwide Tour will enjoy the privileges of the frequent flier program's elite status and free access to over 50 airport lounges worldwide. Tom Wade, the chief marketing officer for the PGA TOUR, remarked, "We are extremely pleased to announce this new long-term agreement with United Continental Holdings and are very excited about the consumer and player programs that will be initiated through our partnership. The combined hub system and route network align extremely well with our Tour schedules, which is very beneficial to our members, as well as to the frequent fliers who might take advantage of the special PGA TOUR promotional programs." The combination of United and Continental's hubs correspond to golf tournaments in Houston, Chicago, Cleveland, Newark, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington D.C.

[December 7, 2010] Today's headlines are full of bad news... continually rising airfares, lawsuits and delays in promised services... but this one struck me as the worst of the worst. Burglars broke into a building containing items that were being used in a fundraiser for the memorial of United Flight 93, one of the hijacked flights that crashed on 9/11. The burglary occurred in Akron, Ohio at an office of Deitrick & Associates. Last week a fundraising auction was held for the 93 Cents for Flight 93 campaign, and the items involved in the auction were being kept in that office before being shipped to the winning bidders. Thieves punched a hole in the wall to enter the office and stole jewelry, cash, and sports collectibles. The most painful loss was seven Flight 93 silver medallions that were considered priceless because only 60 were ever minted. 53 went to families who had lost loved ones in the crash and the last seven were a part of the fundraising effort for next year's 10th anniversary memorial. Sharon Deitrick, who was leading the campaign, said, "We are beyond devastation." Amidst her shock and devastation, however, she found an ounce of pity for the thieves themselves, reportedly saying, "I think if anyone is that desperate for survival, I feel very sorry for them. I've been praying for them." The police do not yet have any leads regarding the break-in.

[December 6, 2010] Employees of United Airlines have been raising money all year for a special event to take about 60 children to the North Pole. This Saturday, United is getting into the Christmas spirit by providing a festive flight for seriously ill children and their siblings. The flight, called Santa’s Fantasy Sleigh Ride, will take off from Denver International Airport, fly over Denver for 30 minutes, and land at a United hanger decorated like the North Pole. Santa will be making an appearance and gifts will be given to the children. This event is a part of Starlight Foundation’s Great Escapes program which provides families an opportunity to spend memorable time together outside of the hospital. Becky Gutrich, chairman of the board for Starlight commented, “Our Santa’s Fantasy Sleigh Ride delivers a playful, fun experience for children, which is in line with our mission to provide positive experiences for seriously ill children.”

[December 2, 2010] Boingo Wireless has signed an agreement providing T-Mobile users access to Wi-Fi hotspots at airports and hotels. According to WirelessWeek.com, "T-Mobile Hotspot and postpaid mobile broadband subscribers will now have Wi-Fi access at no additional charge at 53 Boingo airport locations in the United States and Canada." The new agreement includes major airports in New York and Chicago, and Washington State Ferries in the Seattle area. It will also allow Boingo subscribers expanded access at T-Mobile HotSpot airline club locations, including the airline clubs of United Airlines and Delta Airlines, among others.

[December 1, 2010] With the Northeast being hammered by heavy rain and winds up to 60 mph, United and Continental Airlines are waiving change fees for passengers flying through the affected airports today and tomorrow. The longest delays are being reported in the New York area at Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark Liberty airports. Travelers at LaGuardia seems to be suffering the worst, with an average delay of over 5 hours. Philadelphia is also seeing delays of over an hour, while the Washington-Baltimore area is experiencing a reprieve from the storms. The severe-weather waiver from United and Continental allows passengers to make one change without being charged the standard fee for ticket changes.

[November 30, 2010] United may not have ranked well with Zagat, but they have won a place as the healthiest airline. In a survey conducted by Dietdetective.com, which examined 8 different airlines, United earned four stars, and can now boast of offering the healthiest food options in the sky. The favorite snack choice was the Tapas snack box, which includes almonds, olives, hummus and bruschetta. If you're looking for something a little more substantial, they recommend the Turkey Sandwich, although I've tried it a couple of times and personally have not enjoyed it. It may be low on calories, but it's also low on taste. JetBlue came in second on the survey, with three and a quarter stars. Continental did not fare so well, ending up in 5th place with only two and a half stars.

[November 29, 2010] The results of Zagat's new airline survey have been released. The survey covered 16 domestic and 74 international airlines and involved over 8,000 frequent fliers who rated the companies on service, comfort, food and websites. For the third straight year, Continental Airlines took first place among the large airlines for Premium-Class Service. Continental also did well in Economy-Class Service and Best In-Flight Entertainment. United was not a favorite in the survey, with low rankings for luggage policy and check-in experience. They surpassed Continental only in the Best On-Time category for domestic flights, taking second place. Hopefully as the two airlines continue their merging process, some of Continental's good habits will rub off on United. Southwest Airlines was the star of the survey, claiming first place in 5 categories, including Best Value, Best Luggage Policy and Best Check-in Experience. Southwest also ranked well in Top Frequent-Flier Programs and Economy-Class Service. Virgin Airlines was another favorite, winning in service categories and tying for first place with Southwest for Top Website. Among U.S. airports rated in the survey, Portland International Airport took first place, New York's LaGuardia took last and our own Seattle-Tacoma International Airport tied for an unimpressive 12th place.

[November 24, 2010] So far today, security lines at most airports are moving smoothly, despite the campaign against the body scanners and enhanced pat downs. Protesters have shown up at airports displaying signs or passing out brochures informing people of the possible health risks and obvious intrusions of the new security procedures, but they have been peaceful and no major disruptions have occurred. In fact, Reuters reports that both passengers and TSA agents are on their best behavior. With so much anticipation of long lines and surly confrontations, most travelers arrived at airports early and well prepared, making things run smoother than normal at busy airports like O'Hare and LaGuardia. At Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, some protesters passed out leaflets against the TSA screenings, but they did not affect the movement of the security lines. Unfortunately, the weather in the Northwest is not being as cooperative. Many people missed their flights in Seattle due to unsafe road conditions, and a record level of snow at the airport. Storms are also causing road closures and flight cancellations throughout the Rockies, and a blizzard warning is in effect for Utah. Here's wishing traveling mercies for all who are flying this week. Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

[November 23, 2010] The outlook has not improved for United Airlines since yesterday. Two more United flights, this time operated by SkyWest, were forced to make emergency landings. A flight from Tucson, Arizona headed to San Francisco was diverted to Fresno, CA after a problem with its hydraulic system was discovered. The plane landed safely and the 37 passengers and 3 crew members were bused to San Francisco. Another SkyWest plane, also bound for San Francisco, was forced to return to Redding Municipal Airport after take-off due to an indicator light signaling smoke in the cargo hold. The plane landed safely in Redding and no fire was found on the aircraft. In addition to United's woes, a fully loaded ammunition clip was found on the cabin floor of a Southwest flight. Apparently the clip belonged to a law enforcement officer who had dropped it on a previous flight aboard that plane. Amidst all of the security tension happening right now, this incident did not help matters, to say the least. Tomorrow will be another interesting day at airports, as National Opt Out Day is still planned to take place. Protesters against TSA's controversial new body scanners are expected to create even longer lines and delays on one of the busiest travelling days of the year. Kathy and I try to avoid travelling on or around holidays, but we can't always choose. We're thankful we're not flying anywhere in the next couple of days. The security drama coupled with these storms in the Northwest is going to make flying a challenge for many.

[November 22, 2010] Besides being on Consumer Reports' Naughty List, and the increasing anger regarding security, United Airlines is facing plenty of trouble on its own at the brink of this holiday season. Hundreds of United and Continental pilots marched in protest this morning against the outsourcing of jobs to other airlines. At Newark Liberty International Airport, the first protest in a three-day demonstration was underway as pilots spoke out against the proposed contract that would allow 70-seat jets and pilots to be outsourced. Pilots are expected to picket at Houston later this week and Chicago next week.
The protests followed a rocky weekend for United after Flight 881 made an emergency landing due to a cracked windshield. The plane carrying 176 passengers en route from Boston to Chicago was forced to land in Buffalo Sunday morning. Thankfully the plane landed safely without decompression problems, and the passengers were provided with another flight to Chicago.

[November 18, 2010] United Continental Holdings Inc. is introducing daily flights from Chicago to Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, Florida. Continental Airlines will offer two daily non-stop flights to Fort Lauderdale and one daily non-stop flight to West Palm Beach. Continental will also offer non-stop service between Denver International Airport and Fort Lauderdale. The new flight options will be operated by 737's and are set for launch February 17, 2011, in time for the great Spring Break migration.

[November 16, 2010] A next generation Boeing 737-800 in United's livery passed its first flight test last week. The new design of the 737 includes changes in wheel fairings, wing surfaces and anti-collision lights to improve aerodynamics, as well as an engine enhancement system. These changes will contribute to the reduction of fuel consumption by 2 percent. Over the course of a year, that 2% will save approximately $120,000 per airplane. Unfortunately, the savings are unlikely to be passed along to the passengers. In fact, they may be surpassed by increases in future fuel prices - but, at least they're trying. Changes to the interior of the airplane include larger stowage bins, and it is said the cabin has a more open, modern feel. Boeing will continue to test the new 737's through April 2011, and will incorporate the changes into general production between summer of 2011 and spring of 2012.

[November 15, 2010] Passengers across the country are expressing their outrage and disgust with the newest security measures TSA has put into place. The 300 full-body scanners introduced at 60 U.S. airports just in time for the holidays are being met with strong opposition from passengers and pilots alike. The new Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) graphically shows the contours of the body and emits low-level radiation. Those who refuse the body scan are subjected to an "enhanced" pat down, which is so invasive many people are equating it to sexual assault. In response to people's concerns about health and privacy, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano unapologetically says, "It's all about security. It's all about everybody recognizing their role." However, many people are claiming government officials have gone too far this time. After one Californian, John Tyner, posted his negative experience at San Diego International Airport online, more and more people are speaking out against the scanners and pat downs. OptOutDay.com, which is calling for a national protest of the scanners on November 24th, says, "This country needs security measures in place that not only keep us safe but also do not grossly violate privacy or constitute an unreasonable search, like the current protocol." Civil liberties groups, travel business groups, and airline pilot and flight attendant unions are also joining the chorus of angry voices. Since the threat of terrorism is not lessening, the Department of Homeland Security is calling for continued patience from travelers, however complaints continue to pour in from Americans who are tired of being hassled every time they fly.

[November 12, 2010] United flight 931 en route from London to San Francisco made an unscheduled stop in Iceland today after a passenger on board became ill. The plane landed at Keflavik International Airport to allow the passenger to get medical treatment at a hospital. The condition of the passenger is unknown at this time. United reported that flight 931 will resume its journey shortly. This is the second time United has used Iceland as an emergency landing pad within the past 30 days.

[November 11, 2010] The last hurdle for the joint venture between United, Continental and All Nippon Airways was cleared today. The U.S. Department of Transportation gave a final order approving anti-trust immunity for the airlines. Once the new trans-Pacific venture takes off, travelling between the Americas and Asia should be smoother due to a broader choice of flight and fare options. Jeff Smisek of United Continental Holdings said: "Today's final approval by DOT enables us to begin working toward a more convenient, more seamless experience for travelers on both sides of the Pacific. We thank the DOT for their thoughtful review." American Airlines and Japan Airlines have also been given anti-trust immunity, and all of the airlines involved hope to begin their new flight schedules in the spring.

[November 10, 2010] United Airlines is spreading holiday cheer this year by giving away 1,000 bonus frequent flier miles. Through the end of the year, Mileage Plus bonus miles are being offered for those who use United's mobile check-in service for domestic flights at the nearly 40 U.S. airports that accept paperless boarding passes. Customers can check in on united.com using a mobile device starting 24 hours before their departure time. After checking in, travelers at participating airports will then receive an email link to access their paperless boarding pass. United customers must register at united.com/mobilebonus before their accounts will be eligible to receive the free miles.

[November 9, 2010] For anyone who would rather hit the beach than hit the slopes this winter, United and Continental are both offering discounted fares to Honolulu. Between now and December 15th, you can fly round trip to Oahu for $418 during the week and an extra $35 for weekend travel. If you would rather slip away for Easter, the airlines are offering flights for $438 from April 12th to June 9th.

[November 8, 2010] Cheers to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport for being one of the best airports for on-time departures. It ranked 5th in a list of the world's 50 busiest airports for departures, with 86% of flights leaving as scheduled. Tokyo's Haneda Airport sat at the top of the list with 94.1% of timely departures. Seattle-Tacoma based Alaska Airlines also ranked well among U.S. major air carriers for on-time take-off, ranking second with 87.43% of flights arriving on time. United surpassed them with over 89% of flights being punctual.

After over a million people from 200 different countries cast their votes on their favorite on frequent flier programs, United's Mileage Plus Program won for having the best Elite-Level Program in the Americas at this year's Frequent Traveler Awards. Impressive as that may be, I am remarkably unimpressed with the answers United provided to questions regarding the fate of our frequent flier miles in light of the merger. An unfruitful meeting between United executives and members of the online forum, "FlyerTalkers", occurred last week, during which many elite-level members of United's frequent flier program were hoping to find answers. However, the United executives remained tight-lipped regarding the future of our miles. Giving no details on what to expect, the United representatives said United and Continental programs will remain separate in 2011, though some streamlining may take place, and a complete combination of the programs is expected to occur in 2012. Maybe. Thanks, United, for a lesson in ambiguity.

[November 5, 2010] In response to last week's terrorism scare, airport security is being reviewed around the world. It has been reported that the Interior Minister of France said the bomb found in a UPS cargo plane in England was defused only 17 minutes before it was set to explode. The bomb was hidden in the ink cartridge of a printer, wired to a cell phone without a SIM card - indicating that the cell phone's alarm was meant to set off the explosives. The bombs were intercepted after a tip from a detained Al-Quaeda member. Military and intelligence operations are underway in Yemen to track down the persons responsible for the thwarted attack. Meanwhile, some countries have ceased all passenger flights to Yemen. Captain Abdulkhaleq Al-Kadi, chairman of Yemenia, also stated, "We have decided to suspend all cargo to Europe carried by Yemenia airlines, to make our friends in Europe comfortable. At the meantime, we review the government procedures and how we can handle cargo from Yemen to Europe. Once we are satisfied, our clients are satisfied and security in other country are happy about us, we will go back and carry cargo. Right now it is suspended for the sake of safety." In a recent development, Al Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen has claimed responsibility for the parcel bomb plot, as well as for a UPS plane crash in Dubai in early September.

Glenn Tilton, former chairman, president and CEO of United Airlines, and current chairman of United Continental Holdings, Inc., received a distinguished honor from the American Cancer Society today. Tilton was presented with the CEO of the Year Award -- Excellence in Leadership and Impact as a part of the American Cancer Society's Corporate Impact Award Series. Tilton has served as chair of the Illinois Chapter of the ACS's CEOs Against Cancer group, as well as co-chair of the national group. Under Tilton's leadership, United helped raise over 148 million airline miles and nearly $500,000 through their Hugyou Teddy Bear Family program for cancer patients and their families who need to travel for treatment. Also, with his wife Jackie at his side, Tilton consistently supports the annual American Cancer Society Discovery Ball, which raised more than $2 million dollars in 2008. John R. Seffrin, Ph.D., the American Cancer Society's CEO stated, "Glenn understands the tremendous impact CEOs can have on the fight against cancer. He continues to lead and to give generously in so many ways to help create a world with less cancer and more birthdays." The CEO of the ACS's Illinois Division, Steven M. Derks, commented, "We are extremely proud to call Jackie and Glenn our partners and friends here in Illinois and with the American Cancer Society nationwide. They are truly leaders in the fight against cancer, and their passion for our mission is invaluable."

[November 4, 2010] United Airlines and the Oprah Winfrey Show have teamed up to commemorate the talk show host's last season. At Chicago O'Hare Airport today, United unveiled a Boeing 757 with "Oprah: The Farewell Season" painted on its side and Oprah's signature painted on the nose and the tail. The interior is also specially decorated with Oprah regalia and the passengers will be greeted with a welcome video from Oprah herself. At today's send-off event, one passenger will receive enough United Mileage Plus miles to fly around the world. Each customer on the first flight will also receive a monogrammed "Oprah 25" fleece blanket. Along with the unveiling of the Oprah plane, United is launching its United Million Mile Giveaway, a sweepstakes giving one million United Mileage Plus miles to a winner each month through May 2011. Senior vice president of marketing for United, Mark Bergsrud, said: "As Chicago's hometown airline, United is proud to celebrate The Oprah Winfrey Show's Farewell Season with our customers, employees and 'Oprah' show fans. This unique plane represents the global reach of two great Chicago icons." United will fly the Oprah Farewell Season Plane domestically until May of next year.

[November 2, 2010] Last week, two explosive packages originating from Yemen and headed for Chicago were intercepted in England and Dubai. One of the explosive devices, containing 400 grams of PETN, was discovered at Midlands Airport on board a UPS cargo plane. The other bomb contained 300 grams of PETN hidden inside components of a printer, and was found in a FedEx package after having traveled on a Qatar Airways passenger flight. Terrorists have attempted to use PETN on at least two occasions in the past, but both times previously the explosives were brought on board the plane. This is the first time cargo planes were used as conduits for the bombs. In 2007 a law was passed requiring all cargo transported on domestic flights and passenger planes flying into the U.S. to pass through security screening, however, cargo planes are not covered by that law. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is now calling on security regulators around the globe to work together to help make the skies a safer place. The chief of IATA is also calling for an accelerated development of better cargo scanning technology. In a statement yesterday, Janet Napolitano, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security said, "We've put a ground halt on all cargo emanating out of Yemen, until they can be inspected."

[November 1, 2010] Missing a flight can be stressful and losing your luggage is a pain, but here is a lesson in what NOT to do if you're at the end of your rope while traveling. Sergei Berejnoi earned himself a trip to the Denver jail Saturday night by saying the most foolish thing you can say in an airport these days. After narrowly missing his flight in Denver, he became irate and told the gate crew he needed to get his bag off the plane...because he had a bomb inside it. The plane returned to the gate and his bag was check, but no explosives were found. The flight, being operated by SkyWest Airlines, was delayed an hour by the search and Berejnoi was arrested for suspicion of endangering public transportation. He is now in jail, with bail set at $15,000, and the possibility of serving 12 years in jail plus a $750,000 fine.

[October 28, 2010] Delta Airlines now holds the singular title of being the America's Meanest Airline. The Airline Quality Rating Report (AQR) is in, and Delta takes the cake for being the Worst Major Airline out there. It ranked number one in delays, as well as in consumer complaints, with an overall AQR score of -1.73. United Airlines came in second, due to terrible meals and rude flight attendants. Alaska Airlines, American Airlines and US Airways trailed closely behind, making the list of the top 5 worst airlines. American Eagle won the title of Worst Regional Airline for the most incidents of mishandled bags and second most delays, with the worst overall ranking and the painful score of -2.83 on the AQR scale. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Hawaiian Airlines deserves some accolade for claiming the title of best airline, followed by AirTran, JetBlue and Southwest.

[October 27, 2010] United Airlines is facing a new class-action lawsuit from the National Federation of the Blind and three blind individuals who have a history of flying with United. The NFB is accusing United of discrimination because of touchscreen kiosks that cannot be used by blind passengers. In a strong statement against United, the President of the National Federation of the Blind, Dr. Marc Mauer, accuses the airline of purposeful discrimination by saying, "The airline industry has an unfortunate history of discriminating against blind passengers, and now United Airlines is repeating that history by deploying inaccessible technology that we cannot use. United is engaging in this blatant discrimination even though the technology to make its kiosks accessible is readily available, has been deployed by others, and will involve little cost to the company...We will not tolerate a separate and unequal experience for blind passengers and demand that United cease its discrimination against us as soon as practicable." One of the individuals involved in the lawsuit, Tina Thomas, remarked, "I find it extremely ironic that United, which touts itself as the official airline of the U.S. Paralympic Team, discriminates against me as a member of that team and as a blind person. I sincerely hope that United will make a more serious and tangible commitment to treating passengers with disabilities equally." Another individual involved, Mike May, explained, "I have been working in the adaptive technology field for twenty years, and I know well that it is easy and practical for United to make its kiosks accessible. There is simply no excuse for the long wait and inconvenience that other blind United passengers and I continue to experience at airports." The third individual involved, Michael Hingson, hopes this lawsuit will serve as a wake-up call to United Airlines to be more conscious of the needs of the blind community.

[October 26, 2010] United had to make another emergency landing this week. A flight from Chicago bound for Shanghai made an unscheduled stop in Winnipeg after smoke was reported in the cockpit. The Boeing 777 landed safely and the 194 passengers spent the night in Winnipeg. A replacement plane was sent to Winnipeg, and the passengers should be back in the air this afternoon.

[October 25, 2010] A memorandum of understanding on the historic "Open Skies" agreement was signed today by the United States and Japan. The agreement was signed by Japanese transport minister Sumio Mabuchi and U.S. Ambassador to Japan, John Roos. With the treaty in place, limitations on flights between the two countries will be eradicated. After the signing, United Continental Holdings Inc. remarked, "The open skies agreement will fully liberalize this important aviation market, allowing for new air services between the two countries and enabling consumers to benefit from greater choices and competition." Newly coordinated flights between All Nippon Airways and United/Continental are set to be launched in the spring.

[October 22, 2010] United has racked up an impressive new repertoire of flight paths in the last week. To start off with, United Continental Holdings Inc. have been given antitrust immunity in conjunction with All Nippon Airways Cp. Ltd. for trans-Pacific flights between Japan and the U.S. On the domestic side, United will be offering a non-stop flight from Reno-Tahoe International Airport to Houston's Bush Intercontinental beginning in February. In April, non-stop flights from Tulsa International Airport to Washington D.C.'s Dulles International Airport will begin. United also has plans to resume non-stop flights from Bakersfield to Houston, and commence non-stop flights between Dallas Love Field and Denver. After a successful 3rd quarter, the company hopes its revenue continues to rise as its coverage spreads.

[October 21, 2010] Keep your eyes open for a new gourmet feature on United's Business Class in-flight menu. United has teamed up with celebrity Chef Curtis Stone to prepare a new healthy and organic meal option. The meal starts with a salad & appetizer combo of grilled range-free chicken, crisp slaw mixture and a ginger sesame vinaigrette, and finishes with an entree featuring Niman Ranch braised beef short ribs. Chef Stone gave this commentary on his inspiring new dish, "As a frequent traveler, I understand the importance of in-flight meals to the overall travel experience. These menu options reflect my desire to create meals that taste great and also leave travelers feeling refreshed and rejuvenated." Bon appetit!

[October 20, 2010] A *former* United Airlines employee has been charged with wire fraud and sentenced to 30 months in prison. Mercedes Stafford, also known as "Sadistic Sadie", the former president of the Cincinnati Roller Girls, plead guilty in June to fraudulently obtaining and selling airline tickets while working for United Airlines. From May 2007 to October 2009, Stafford illegally obtained approximately 525 tickets, worth more than $850,000. She fraudulently bought "involuntary tickets", which United issued when a flight was canceled or delayed, then created fake ticket numbers she used to buy real tickets for herself, her family and her roller derby pals. Stafford also admitted that she received over $50,000 from the people who benefited from her ticket scam.

[October 19, 2010] Mixed feelings have been expressed in response to United Airline's fly by during San Francisco's annual Fleet Week, which occurred October 9th and 10th. No complaints were received during the actual event, but as videos and pictures have arrived on the web since then, people's responses have become a bit more varied. During the celebration, a United Boeing 747 flew close to the Golden Gate Bridge, under the direction of an air traffic controller. In certain videos now being shared online, it looks as if the plane flew over the bridge and was dangerously close to it. However, the FAA says the plane flew safely along side the bridge and the blames the angle of the video for making appear dangerous. Many people were upset with the pictures, saying they reminded them of images from 9/11. A United spokesperson said the company was "showcasing one of its 747s to celebrate its longstanding partnership with San Francisco" and "the fly-by was conducted as part of a well-publicized air show and with the utmost consideration to the safety of the public and the aircraft."

[October 18, 2010] United Airlines flight 931 en route from London to San Francisco made an unexpected landing in Iceland on Saturday. Smoke was detected at the rear of the cabin as the Boeing 777 making its way across the Atlantic. The plane was nearing Iceland when the decision was made to land and see what the problem was. The 285 passengers were taken to hotels and spent a night in the capital region while repairs were performed on the airplane. The air conditioning unit was the odorous culprit, and maintenance was able to fix the problem. After a 24 hour delay, the passengers arrived safely in San Francisco.

[October 15, 2010] Denny Fitch, a United Airlines hero, has been diagnosed with brain cancer, and is working to raise brain cancer awareness. In 1989, Fitch, a United pilot, was aboard United Flight 232 as a passenger when the plane's tail engine exploded. Fitch grabbed the throttles and helped the pilot crash land the plane in Sioux City, Iowa. Thanks to his help, 184 of the 296 people aboard survived. This January, Fitch learned he has brain cancer, and he is being treated at Chicago's Northwestern Memorial Hospital. According to the Chicago Tribune, "Oncologist Ann Mellott says Fitch has lived every day since the crash like it could be his last, and is using that positive attitude in his battle against cancer."

[October 14, 2010] Well, that was quick! The DOT has already approved United's proposal to launch non-stop flights from Los Angeles to Shanghai next May. A delighted United spokesperson remarked, "We are pleased that DOT approved the application so quickly, and we believe travelers will be pleased with this service, as it will connect Shanghai with more points in North America than any other airline can." Look out American Airlines! United's secret plot to take over the world is rapidly being realized.

[October 13, 2010] United Airlines seeks to broaden its horizons, yet again, by asking the Dept. of Transportation for permission to fly non-stop from Los Angeles to Shanghai beginning next May. United intends to operate the flights with a Boeing 777, offering passengers seats in United First ., United Business . and United Economy .. American Airlines received permission last week for the same route starting in April. According to the Wall Street Journal, "The prospect of American and United on the route also sets up a three-way battle between the global airline alliances that dominate the industry on the busiest route between the U.S. and Shanghai." One blogger mused that with United's decision to join the route so shortly after American gained it, "United may have felt a need to blunt its smaller rival." However, American Airlines doesn't seem to be worried. An American Airlines spokesperson confidently stated, "We compete successfully versus United Airlines on Chicago-Shanghai and Chicago-Beijing, and we will compete successfully with United Airlines on Los Angeles-Shanghai as well." United currently flies daily to Shanghai from Chicago and San Francisco, while Continental flies daily to Shanghai from Newark, NJ.

[October 12, 2010] Only one flight was reported to have a tarmac delay exceeding three hours in August, compared to 66 flights last August. Our own United Airlines was the unlucky carrier to break the new rule and face the Dept. of Transportation's $27,000 per passenger fine for a flight on August 5th. That particular flight was diverted because of a thunderstorm, and the passengers could not leave the aircraft for 3 hours and 20 minutes because the ramp was closed. Since the rule was set in place, lengthy tarmac delays dropped from 529 occurances in May-August 2009, to only 8 in the same period this year. The DOT is very pleased with this dramatic drop. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood stated, "These numbers show that the tarmac delay rule is protecting passengers from being trapped indefinitely aboard an airplane - with little or no increase in canceled flights. With the summer travel season behind us, it appears that the rule is working as planned."

[October 11, 2010] The United Airlines operation center has a new home. The first steps are being taken to relocate United employees from Elk Grove Village to Willis Tower in Chicago (formerly known as the Sears Tower). This first phase of the move involves 280 employees, and it is projected that they will move a total of 1,000 employees by the end of the year. United plans to occupy 12 floors of the Willis Tower and also plans to employ over 13,000 people in Chicago. Regarding moving day, Jeff Smisek commented, "This is a very exciting day for us as we welcome our co-workers from both Elk Grove and Houston to their new offices downtown. We are pleased to move into this state of the art building, a move which will make United the largest private employer in Chicago." United hopes to have all of its employees relocated to the new operations center within 18 months.

[October 7, 2010] United is continuing its profitable connections theme this week. The U.S. Department of Transportation just released a proposal to allow antitrust immunity for U.S. and Japanese airline alliances. If the proposal is approved, it would give Star Alliance members (United, Continental and All Tippon Airways) and Oneworld alliance members (American Airlines and Japan Airlines) antitrust immunity (ATI). The Dept. of Transportation believes ATI would result in increased services and lower fares on more routes, amidst other consumer benefits. It also believes competition between the alliances will increase for trans-Pacific flights. The ATI hinges on the formal signing of an Open Skies agreement between the U.S. and Japan, which would effectively allow air carries from both countries to coordinate flights "without the limitations of the number of US or Japanese carriers that can fly between the two countries or the number of flights they can operate". United Airlines has also made an agreement with Air Canada for a revenue sharing joint venture. This agreement will help both airlines expand their flight territories. Air Canada's current presence in 59 U.S. cities will expand to include the 210 airports United serves, and United's current network of 16 Canadian cities will grow to include the 59 airports at which Air Canada operates.

[October 6, 2010]
A heroic United Airlines pilot passed away on Monday at the age of 81. Dave Cronin became a pilot for United in 1954, and in February of 1989, on his second-to-last flight before retiring, he was faced with a dire situation. While operating United Flight 811, a Boeing 747 en route from Honolulu International Airport to Auckland, New Zealand, a cargo door blew out while the plane was between 22,000 and 23,000 feet. Two rows of seats were immediately ripped out of the plane when the door blew, and two of the four engines on the plane stopped working. Despite this, Cronin was able to turn the plane around and safely land in Honolulu 25 minutes later. Nine passengers were killed during the initial blow out of the cargo door, but Cronin saved the lives of the other 328 passengers and 15 flight crew members on board. When asked how he was able to deal with such a frightful situation, he said, “I prayed, then went to work.” After his retirement, Cronin flew at the Reno National Championship Air Races for several years in a Lancair Legacy plane he named "For God's Glory". Cronin was well loved and respected in the airline community. He is survived by his four daughters.

[October 5, 2010] It's good to be king. The recently initiated CEO of the world's largest airline seems to be relishing his new position. Jefff Smisek, former chief of Continental Airlines, will be receiving more than double his previous paycheck, and the promise of millions more in bonuses. I agree with David Schepp in his sentiments that, "one can only hope that such salary inflation works its way down the corporate ladder. Then, maybe, just maybe, travelers might get a smile from an airline employee -- if not an on-board meal or a pillow." In the meantime, Smisek has expressed his glee at his new airborne empire by saying “if you are an airline geek, it doesn’t get any better than this: bringing these two carriers together…..They are the perfect marriage, the perfect fit. I think we are creating a tremendous carrier here.” Hopefully some of his gilded enthusiasm will help calm some of the fires he is facing from Continental flight attendants and other growing pains of the new company.

[October 4, 2010] A heightened terror alert was issued yesterday by the U.S. State Department and British government for air travelers throughout Europe. The new alert falls one step short of warning American citizens against traveling to Europe, but it advices them to take precautions during their journeys. United, Continental and Delta Airlines have not reported any significant amount of cancellations or delays in response to the alert. It was reported the airlines were not waiving fees for travelers who wished to change their itineraries in light of the terror alert, since it is considered a general alert rather than a serious warning.

[October 1, 2010]
So long Continental Airlines! Say hello to the new United. That's right folks, the merger is finally complete, and today marks the birthday of the world's biggest airline company. The proud new parent company, United Continental Holdings, Inc., will boast of being able to operate 5,800 flights a day to 371 airports in 59 countries. Jeff Smisek, the company's new president and CEO said, "We are delighted to announce the successful completion of this merger. With great people, an unparalleled global network, the best new aircraft order book among U.S. network carriers and a commitment to superior products and services, United is well positioned for a bright future." Southwest is happily riding on the coat-tails of this merger as it makes its plans with AirTran, while Delta mourns the loss of its title as the world's largest air carrier. American is left to contemplate its newly acquired position at the bottom of the airline totem pole, while holding onto its dwindling confidence in its solitude.

We have more posts from Q3 2010 and even 2008-2009.
[May 3, 2011] Families of 9/11 victims continue to speak out and express mixed emotions after receiving news that the man responsible for the death of their loved ones has been killed. Some are experiencing revived fear as they worry about retaliation from al-Queda. Ann Simpkin, who lost her daughter, Jane Simpkin when United Airlines Flight 175 hit the World Trade Center, responded, "...I’m just worried about the repercussions. I think a lot of people are just fanatical." She continued, "I was expecting to feel this joy, and it’s not that. I’m glad that it’s over, but it’s not over. It’s never going to be over for the 9/11 family members. There’s still that huge loss. I’m glad that he’s gone. I think that’s terrific for the people who got him. It’s a very mixed feeling." Mary Bavis, whose son, Mark Bavis, also died on UA Flight 175, expressed her concern about al-Queda wanting revenge. She said, "It doesn’t bring my son back, and I do almost want to scream out ‘Do not go to sleep,’ because you know they’re out for us." The Bavis family still has a pending wrongful-death lawsuit, and they are scheduled to go to court later this year. State Senator Brian Birdwell was working at the Pentagon when one of the hijacked planes hit the building. He survived, but was burned so badly, he had to undergo 30 surgeries and numerous skin grafts. Birdwell responded to Osama bin Laden's death, saying, "Scripture tells us to love your enemies. That is an exceedingly difficult standard to live up to that the Lord gave us. Any attempt to try to love your enemy does not assuage the requirement for justice." Many 9/11 families are thankful for a sense of justice, although bin Laden's death has not taken away the pain of their loss.

[May 2, 2011] Americans are reacting with waves of emotions to the news of the death of al-Qaida leader, Osama bin Laden. Osama bin Laden was largely responsible for the 9/11 attacks, killing almost 3,000 people in one horrific morning. For some, his death brings a sense of long-awaited justice and victory. Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo exclaimed, "Anyone who witnessed the events of 9/11 wanted to see a day of justice. This is that day." Ralph Beaven, who lost his brother, Alan Beaven, on 9/11, said, "It's not closure for Alan's memory. But the fact that the person who masterminded these attacks is dead means justice has prevailed." Alice Hoagland lost her son, Mark Bingham, when United Flight 93 crashed. Her son was one of the people who charged the cockpit, forcing the plane to land in a field in Pennsylvania instead of its intended target. She said, "It's a great catharsis and release. My son was killed on September 11, and the lives of so many people were snuffed out on that day and it's such a glorious thing that a measure of justice has been reaped today." Sandy Dahl, the widow of Jason Dahl, co-pilot of Flight 93, also felt closure and celebrated the terrorist's death. She reacted by saying, "I am thrilled that the military continued and persevered and looked for this man and was not going to let him get away with what he did to us on 9/11 and that his reign of terror is over."
However, not everyone affected by 9/11 has found comfort in bin Laden's death. Gene Yancey's daughter, Kathryn LaBorie, was a flight attendant on United Airlines Flight 175 when it crashed into the World Trade Center. Yancey said he found no closure as he and his family continues to deal with the loss of his daughter. Kathryn's husband, Eric LaBorie, was flooded with scores of raw emotions when he heard the news. He responded, "I did not think it would affect me this much, but it really brings back a lot of harsh memories that I'm having a hard time dealing with." Jack Grandcolas' wife, Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas was three months pregnant with their first child when she was killed on Flight 93. Grandcolas had mixed reactions to bin Laden's death, feeling relieved but continuing to grapple with the pain of his loss. He hoped the terrorist's death would serve to bring people together. He said, "I know it’s going to be more symbolic because terrorism is not going away, but I hope that the symbolism is a beacon for generations to realize that we don’t need to kill each other out of hate, because hatred caused all this." Grandcolas continued, "...Maybe this will be an impetus for understanding and peace. Love is much stronger than hate and maybe this is something that will bring people together. Get to know your neighbor, get to know other people. Hate makes no sense. Look at what happened. This wonderful woman gets on a plane and loses her life, for what? Why?" Grandcolas also said, "I worry a little bit about the euphoria getting out of control. This should be a solemn moment. We shouldn’t glorify the death of man who was like a Hitler."
Lauren's father, Larry Catuzzi, reacted with gratitude that his daughter's death had not been forgotten. Catuzzi commented, "I can only say that I thank the military and the intelligence for staying with it." Catuzzi created Lauren's Garden in Houston, Texas, a park honoring the victims of Flight 93. His family also started a foundation in memory of his daughter. Catuzzi is also on the board creating the Flight 93 memorial in Pennsylvania. According to ABC.com, the memorial will serve as "a permanent reminder that Osama bin Laden did not win, and that the heroism shown on that day by so many who died will never be forgotten."

[April 29, 2011] Continental Airlines Flight 007 was forced to make an emergency landing yesterday after an unexplained chemical odor was detected. The flight left San Antonio, Texas around 8:45AM Thursday morning and was less than halfway to Houston when the odor was noticed. The pilot returned to San Antonio International Airport and landed away from the main terminal. A ramp was brought to the aircraft, and firefighters wearing hazardous material suits entered the plane. Over 150 passengers and crew exited the aircraft and were examined by paramedics at the scene. At least four people were treated for respiratory distress, and one flight attendant was taken to the hospital for further examination. The cause of the odor is yet unknown.

[April 28, 2011] The family of Mark Bavis, a victim on the second plane to hit the World Trade Center in the 9/11 attacks, has waited nearly nine years to go to trial in a wrongful-death lawsuit. The Bavis family is suing United Airlines, the Massachusetts Port Authority and an airline security company, claiming each of these parties showed negligence in allowing the terrorists to board United Airlines Flight 175 in Boston. This is the last remaining wrongful-death lawsuit related to the attacks. 95 other lawsuits were filed on behalf of 96 victims, and thousands of other families avoided court by receiving payment through a victims' compensation fund established by Congress. The Bavis family rejected several attempts at a settlement, wanting the case to be heard. The long awaited trial is scheduled to begin later this year; however, the judge added an unexpected twist in the way the trial will run. U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein has set a time limit on the trial, giving both sides the same number of hours to present their cases. Hellerstein explained, “The time is going to be expressed not in days, but in minutes. Everything the party wishes to do from openings through summations.” The prosecution and the defense have expressed their frustration at the imposed time limit. Donald Migliori, the lawyer for the Bavis family, said, “The person that is affected the most is my client. We’re talking about millions of pages of documents. We’re talking about distilling one of the most important stories in American history.” It is estimated that each side will have 50 to 60 hours to present their case, making the trial about a month long. According to The Boston Globe, by setting a time limit, the judge is seeking to avoid having the trial "roll on interminably as the details, minutiae, and technical arguments pile up and wants to keep the jury focused and interested."

[April 27, 2011] Jeff Smisek, president and CEO of United Continental Holdings Inc., spoke at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University on Tuesday. As a part of the View from the Top Dean's Speaker Series, Smisek shared his views on leadership with students. Smisek spoke about the main challenge facing airlines right now - skyrocketing fuel prices - but he also talked about the excitement of being in an industry where you never know what will come next. He said, “We’re constantly in crisis. But you have to remain calm and collected. You have to be able to work your way through it.” Smisek encouraged students to find their passion and pursue it. He became a chief corporate lawyer for Continental Airlines in 1995, and he briefly was Continental’s CEO before becoming CEO of the world's largest airline last year. Smisek commented, "If you like the business of business, there is no business like the airline business. If you like making money, then it’s not for you. I’m in a business that hasn’t earned an adequate return since the Wright Brothers." Regardless of that, Smisek doesn't seem to be doing too poorly for himself. In the beginning of 2010, when he was still Continental's CEO, he vowed he would not accept a salary or bonuses until the company earned a full-year profit. After a profitable year following the merger, Continental paid his $791,250 salary retroactively, plus he was given $3.6 million in other incentives, totally 4.4 million dollars for the year.

[April 26, 2011] According to the latest developments in the United Airlines Flight 497 investigation, the pilots did not follow procedure and unintentionally disabled vital electrical systems while responding to a faulty fire-warning sensor. The flight made an emergency landing in New Orleans after the pilots declared they had "lost all our instruments". After the plane touched down, it proceeded to slide off the runway because there was not enough electrical power to steer the plane's nose gear or supply anti-skid protection for the brakes. The National Transportation Safety Board stated that after the warning went off, the pilots skipped a portion of a checklist and failed to restore power to some equipment, making the emergency landing all the more difficult. As reported in the Wall Street Journal, "The incident illustrates the challenges of dealing with an onboard fire emergency, and the complications that can result from swiftly running through a checklist that entails shutting off and then possibly restarting electrical circuits." Investigators are still trying to determine why the cockpit-voice recorder is missing 12 minutes of conversation from the flight.

[April 25, 2011] Three passengers on United Airlines Flight 593 were escorted off the plane shortly after boarding. After the aircraft left the gate at Denver International Airport, a man reported concerns about a few passengers acting suspiciously, and the flight crew requested the removal of three passengers before the flight took off. The man who made the report and the passengers under suspicion were interviewed by law enforcement officers separately. Authorities did not say what sparked the concerns and the passengers in question were later released. The aircraft was inspected, and when nothing unusual was found, it departed for Santa Ana, California after a two and a half hour delay.
Alaska Airlines also had its share of suspicious activity last Friday on the way to the same destination. A white substance was discovered in the back lavatory of Alaska Airlines Flight 508 shortly after take-off. The unknown substance raised alarm, and during the flight from Seattle to Santa Ana, the flight crew notified authorities and asked for help. When the plane landed at John Wayne Airport, it was met by fire department crews, law enforcement officers and a hazardous-materials team. After the 151 passengers and six crew members disembarked, the authorities boarded the plane to test the suspicious substance. After careful testing by the experts, the mysterious white dust was determined to be a "cellulose fiber"...also known as...toilet paper.

[April 21, 2011] Despite all of the fare hikes and extra fees, United Continental Holdings reported a $213 million loss for the first quarter of 2011. The company's revenue climbed 11% to $8.2 billion (thanks to those high ticket prices and extra fees), however that did not make up for the nearly 35% increase in fuel prices compared to last year. Jeff Smisek, United CEO, commented, "Fuel prices remained very high and volatile. During the first quarter, they rose to levels not seen since 2008. We saw our first-quarter fuel expense excluding the impact of hedges rise $725 million compared to the same period of 2010. These are very tough times." According to the Air Transport Association, U.S. airlines have collectively paid about $3 billion more for fuel this year. United Continental Holdings plans to halt growth plans and cut capacity even further as fuel prices continue to rise. The airline also attributed about $30 million of their loss to the decrease in demand for travel to Japan following the devastating earthquake and tsunami. Southwest Airlines, beating all odds, reported a $5 million profit for the first quarter, down from $11 million last year. American Airlines posted a grim $436 million loss.

[April 20, 2011] Yet another airfare hike was initiated this week. Delta Airlines began this round of price increases on Monday, and, so far, American Airlines, JetBlue and United Airlines have matched the $10 round-trip hike. Even Southwest joined in this time, indicating that this hike will most likely succeed in sticking. According to CNNMoney.com, "In the past five years, no industrywide attempt to raise fares failed when Southwest was on-board." With the continually rising fuel prices, FareCompare's CEO, Rick Seaney, said it would be possible to see a fare hike each week for the next month. Also, between June 9th and August 21st, airlines will charge additional summer premiums. As long as demand for air travel remains strong, airlines can continue to increase prices.

[April 18, 2011] On March 27, 2010, United Airlines Flight 889 took off from San Francisco International Airport, carrying 268 people en route to Beijing. As the Boeing 777 climbed, a single-engine propeller plane was flying a few hundred feet above it. The Traffic and Collision Avoidance System issued a traffic advisory in the cockpit, and the pilot pushed down the nose of the jet to stop its climb, as instructed by the onboard safety system. The small Cessna aircraft flew overhead, with the United pilots "seeing only the underside of the airplane". The planes were separated by only 350 feet vertically and less than 480 feet laterally. FAA mandates the minimum separation required was 500 feet vertically and 1.5 miles laterally. According to a report later detailing the incident, three air traffic controllers were on duty when the near-collision occurred. The controller in charge was busy with administrative duties. Another controller was distracted by taxiing aircraft when he gave the go-ahead for the United flight to take off, and failed to check the radar for potential airborne conflicts. The third controller was a trainee, who later said she didn't recognize the problem before it occurred. Incidents like this do not bode well for the air traffic control system, already under scrutiny for its sleepy controllers. In this situation, three controllers were wide awake when they cleared the giant jet for take-off, resulting in close call.

[April 15, 2011] United and Continental Airlines are working toward aligning their frequent flier programs by adding heaps of fees to most Continental members and a small helping of new fees to United members. In an email to its frequent-flier members, United said, "As we continue the changes under way at United Airlines and Continental Airlines, we're revising certain Mileage Plus and OnePass award fees to make them consistent across both programs." Beginning on June 15th, Continental Airlines will raise its fees for redepositing frequent flier miles to passengers who cancel their flights. The redeposit fee will rise from $25 to $100 for gold elite members, from $50 to $125 for silver elite members and will double to $150 for general members. Platinum elite members will not be charged for redepositing miles. United, now charging most members $150 to redeposit canceled miles, will lower some fees to match Continental's sliding scale. United will also decrease its fee to change trip origin, destination or connecting cities from $150 to $75 for non-elite members. Global Services and 1K members will not be charged. United will begin charging non-elite members $75 to book awards tickets within 21 days of a flight. Premier-level frequent fliers will be charged $50 for last-minute bookings, and Premier Executive members will be charged $25. That service will remain free for United's Global Services and 1K members.

[April 14, 2011] United Airlines has partnered with yet another baseball team. This time the world's largest airline is teaming up with the defending World Series Champions, the San Francisco Giants. In addition to flying the team to away games, United will be spreading its logo throughout AT&T Park and on the Giant's website. United operates more than 250 daily departures from San Francisco International Airport. Mark Bergsrud, senior vice president of marketing for United, stated, "As the Bay Area's largest airline, United is proud to serve San Francisco and partner with the World Series Champion San Francisco Giants. We look forward to being part of the team experience, both in San Francisco and at every road game, for both players and fans."

[April 13, 2011] Two more air traffic controllers were caught sleeping on the job this week. One controller has been suspended for falling asleep during his Monday morning shift at Boeing Field/King County International Airport in Seattle. The latest incident, occurring earlier today, involved a controller who was out of communication for 16 minutes at Reno-Tahoe International Airport in Nevada. According to the FAA, this controller was sleeping while a medical flight carrying a sick patient was trying to land. The pilot of that flight was able to get in contact with another FAA facility and land safely. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood reacted, saying, "I am totally outraged by these incidents. This is unacceptable. The American public trusts us to run a safe system. Safety is our number one priority and I am committed to working 24/7 until these problems are corrected." Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Randy Babbitt also expressed his disapproval, saying, "Air traffic controllers are responsible for making sure aircraft safely reach their destinations. We absolutely cannot and will not tolerate sleeping on the job. This type of unprofessional behavior does not meet our high safety standards." LaHood and Babbitt also announced that an additional air traffic controller will immediately be added to the midnight shift at 27 control towers nationwide.

[April 12, 2011] The results of the Airline Quality Rating (AQR) have been released, and United Airlines takes the undesirable title of being the worst major airline in America, although American Eagle ranked the worst of the worst. AirTran topped the list for best airline, taking over Hawaiian Airline's title as being #1. The AQR, which is sponsored by Purdue University and Wichita State University, analyzes Department of Transportation information, ranking16 airlines based on four categories: on-time arrivals, mishandled baggage, bumping due to overbooking and consumer complaints. Overall, airline performance improved in 2010, with fewer lost bags, more on-time flights and fewer bumped passengers. However, complaints to the Department of Transportation about airlines increased 28%. The rise in complaints is likely due to increased fees by the airlines, capacity cuts, (and probably because the DOT made it easier to file air travel complaints). Southwest Airlines, which ranked 5th overall, had the least amount of complaints. Delta Airlines received the most complaints, although they didn’t top United's overall score.

[April 11, 2011] The outlook for airlines this year continues to look grim, as crude oil reached over $113 for the first time in 30 months. In response, the 10th attempt to raise fares this year was initiated by U.S. Airways late last week. Delta, American and Continental Airlines shortly followed, but, United Airlines held back on this round. According to some analysts, even with ever-rising ticket prices, airlines will be hard pressed to make a profit. Dahlman Rose analyst, Helen Becker, commented that higher fares may actually hurt airlines' hopes for profitability by squashing demand. Becker stated, "In an environment of higher energy prices, we believe it will be difficult for airline company equities to outperform the market. Higher average ticket prices will likely cause demand destruction, and although we expect airlines to reduce capacity to offset reduced demand, we are concerned that their [second-half 2011] reductions will be insufficient."

[April 8, 2011] In the preliminary investigation of the dramatic emergency landing of United Airlines Flight 497 at Louis Armstrong International Airport, the National Transportation Safety Board reported there were no signs of burning or indications of smoke in the cockpit. The pilots, who had reported having "a smoke issue", were responding to an avionics smoke warning message. The warning was accompanied by instructions to land, which the pilots promptly followed. According to the NTSB, “The crew reported that the first officer’s display screens went blank, the ECAM messages disappeared, the cockpit to cabin intercom stopped functioning, and the air-driven emergency generator deployed. The captain said that he took control of the airplane at this point and managed the radios while the first officer opened the cockpit door to advise the flight attendants of the emergency and their return to New Orleans airport.” The NTSB also reported that the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder both stopped recording before the plane landed. Once the plane was on the ground, it slid off the runway, passengers were told to leave the plane via the inflation slides. However, the forward right slide did not properly inflate. The passengers were able to disembark using the remaining slides.

[April 7, 2011] United Airlines celebrated its 85th birthday yesterday with the unveiling of a jet painted in retro colors. The celebratory plane was painted in a 1970's "Friend Ship" paint scheme and will be touring different airport hubs for United and Continental. United Continental Holdings remembered its humble beginnings as a Swallow biplane which completing the first airmail delivery on April 6, 1926. The owner, Walter Varney, seized the opportunity to turn his achievement into a company, originally called Varney Air Service, and secured an airmail contract the same year. Later on, Varney sold the business to United Aircraft and Transport, which changed its name to United Air Lines in 1933. In 1934, Varney and Louise Mueller began a new company called Varney Speed Lines, which was sold and renamed Continental Airlines in 1937. With the 2010 merger, United Continental Holdings is now the world's largest airline. Jeff Smisek, United's president and CEO, said, "We are proud to celebrate United's 85th anniversary with the more than 85,000 co-workers and thousands of retirees who have built the world's leading airline."

[April 6, 2011] The Federal Aviation Administration has yet another problem on their hands after reports surfaced of a second air traffic controller found sleeping on the job. This time, the worker "intentionally" slept for five hours during his midnight shift at McGhee Tyson Airport in Knoxville, Tennessee. A fellow controller, working in another room, handled both the radar and tower positions, helping seven planes land during the five hour period while the other controller was "unresponsive". This incident, coming to light during an FAA budget meeting, is being treated differently than the incident at Reagan National Airport, where a 20-year veteran supervisor admitted to accidently nodding off during his shift. Federal Aviation Administration chief Randy Babbitt said the incident in Tennessee was not an accident caused by fatigue. “This is someone who, in our investigation, just went in and prepared to go to sleep, take a nap, and that’s absolutely not acceptable.” Since the Tennessee controller slept "willfully", action is being taken to have the worker fired. The FAA stated it "will not tolerate this type of unprofessional and inappropriate behavior. The agency is committed to ensuring the safety of the traveling public and is conducting a nationwide review of the air traffic control system, including overnight staffing at selected airports around the country."

[April 5, 2011] Today the FAA officially ordered emergency inspections of the most heavily used 737 aircraft worldwide. Eventually, the FAA wants checks done on 400 to 500 "classic" Boeing 737s. Engineers from Boeing said they originally believed these planes would not need inspections for at least 60,000 take-off and landing cycles, however, the Southwest jet with a five-foot hole in it had only logged 39,000 cycles. According to Boeing and the FAA, inspections of 737-300s, 737-400s and 737-500s now must be performed beginning at 30,000 cycles. Boeing chief 737 engineer Paul Richter said: "I would say that it's regrettable that we had to accelerate our plans to recommend inspections based on an event of this nature." Southwest Airlines has already completed its inspections of their Boeing 737-300 fleet, finding cracks in 5 jets. According to a Southwest spokesperson, "Minor subsurface cracking was found in five aircraft that will remain out of service until Boeing recommends appropriate repairs and those repairs have been completed." Although Southwest has resumed its normal flight schedule, United Airlines is offering Southwest customers seats on their planes...for $150 each way.

[April 4, 2011] It was a rough weekend for many travelers, as several emergency landings were made, the latest one occurring this morning. United Airlines Flight 497 en route from New Orleans to San Francisco was forced to return to Louis Armstrong International Airport after the pilot reported smoke in the cockpit. The plane reportedly lost all electronics, and the pilots landed the plane on back-up systems, with "minimal steering and braking ability". During the turbulent landing, the plane ran off the runway and blew a tire. Once on the ground, passengers were told to leave everything and "get out!". Passengers and crew then evacuated via the emergency slides at the front and back of the plane. Minor injuries were reported and some passengers needed medical attention due to smoke inhalation, but overall everyone was safe. Sunday night, a Southwest plane was diverted due to an electrical smell in the cabin. Flight 1588 was traveling from Oakland to San Diego when it landed in Los Angeles "out of an abundance of caution" according to Southwest spokesman, Brad Hawkins. That caution was prompted by the most dramatic of the weekend's incidents. On Friday night, a five-foot hole was ripped out of the roof of a Boeing 737 operated by Southwest Airlines. The jet was carrying 118 passengers when the fuselage ruptured during the flight, causing cabin pressure to drop rapidly and oxygen masks to deploy. The pilots were forced into an emergency landing at an Arizona military base. Many people reported pain in the eardrum from the rapid descent, although nobody was seriously injured. Following the incident, Southwest canceled hundreds of flights and grounded 79 planes for inspection, finding cracks on three additional jets. The National Transportation Safety Board responded, "As a result of the findings from our investigation to date and the results of the Southwest Airlines inspections, Boeing has indicated that they will be drafting a service bulletin to describe the inspection techniques that they would recommend be accomplished on similar airplanes." The FAA has also responded by ordering additional inspections of older Boeing 737s. The inspections will begin with approximately 175 planes, 80 of which are registered in the United States. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood commented, "Safety is our number one priority. Last Friday's incident was very serious and could result in additional action depending on the outcome of the investigation."

[April 1, 2011] United Continental Holdings is cutting passenger capacity for Japan-bound flights by 10% in April and 14% in May. In the wake of the earthquake, tsunami and continuing nuclear crisis, the airline said there is a measurable decline in demand for traveling to Japan. Delta Airlines and American Airlines have also reduced their services to Japan. Delta has suspended flights to Haneda airport, and American is halting two of its six daily flights to Japan. Hawaiian Airlines, however, has reaffirmed its commitment to Japan, by maintaining its normal schedule and its intentions to launch a new service to Osaka in July. President and Chief Executive Officer of Hawaiian Airlines, Mark Dunkerley, said, "All of us at Hawaiian send our deepest sympathy to those who have lost loved ones and who themselves face an uncertain future as the process of rebuilding gets underway. As a company, and as citizens of an ocean side community with close ties to Japan, we have a special connection to those in need in Japan and we are engaged in a broad array of efforts aimed at supporting them as they rebuild their lives. We wish we could do more."

In other news, while United Continental Holdings is moving towards unifying the combined company, flight attendants from each airline are still represented by different unions. However, based on a decision by the National Mediation Board, flight attendants of United and Continental Airlines are now closer to a union election. The federal labor board will set the date of the election within 14 days. The Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) currently represents 15,000 crew members at United, while the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) represents about 9,000 workers from Continental. AFA International President, Veda Shook, said, "Today is a watershed moment in our union and an exciting day for the thousands of Flight Attendants at the 'new' United Airlines who are ready to advance our careers with AFA representation. AFA sought this election because we want to unite Flight Attendants as quickly as possible in order to take maximum advantage of the leverage we have from the merger." Representatives of IAM are also thrilled about prospect of an election. IAM Newark, NJ President Joey Guider remarked, "This election is about good wages, pensions, job security and flexible work rules - four things IAM Flight Attendants at Continental have and United Flight Attendants want." Continental flight attendants currently represented by IAM earn up to $52.53 per hour base pay, which is 32.2% higher than United's top pay rate.

[March 30, 2011] United Airlines Flight 251 en route from Washington D.C. to Portland, Oregon, was diverted due to "disruptive" passengers. Three passengers were causing flight attendants so much grief that the crew decided to land early in order to remove them from the plane. It is unsure at this time exactly what happened, but a passenger may have feigned a medical emergency, blocking the aisle in the back of the plane and refusing to follow flight crew instructions. One passenger aboard said, "They just told us there were some strange goings on in the back of the plane." When the flight landed at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, the plane was met by local law enforcement, FBI agents and TSA officials. The disruptive people were removed, and the other 131 passengers disembarked and were re-screened through security. The plane was also swept by TSA, though nothing unusual was found. The plane left about three hours later, without the unruly passengers.

[March 29, 2011] United Airlines seems to be taking the baseball world by storm. That's right, United is the official airline of the Chicago Cubs and the Los Angeles Dodgers. I can't say that fans will approve of having United colors hanging in rival stadiums, but money talks, and the deals have been made. United will transport the team and staff for all away games, totally about 38,000 miles during the season. Dodger Stadium will also display new signs featuring the United brand, and will dedicate certain luxury suites to the airline. Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times, who isn't thrilled about the concept of the "United Club" luxury suites, commented, "If you can’t fly the friendly skies, you can hang out in their suites. Won’t have to pay to check your bag or anything." The newly re-named suites mark the first time a portion of Dodger Stadium has used a different title. With the fear of Dodger Stadium going the way of other California stadiums, such as PETCO Park or AT&T Park, Dodger owner Frank McCourt promises this will not act as a precursor to renaming the stadium after a corporate sponsor. In regards to displaying United signage around the stadium, Michael Young, Chief Revenue Officer of the Dodgers, said, "The premium brand experience of the new airline that has resulted from the merger of United and Continental is consistent with not only the premium seating experience at Dodger Stadium, but also the aesthetic we have for this level of the stadium. The United team worked closely with the Dodgers to establish new branded entry signage that will greet fans as they enter the level in addition to United branded items within the Club Suites."

[March 28, 2011]
United Airlines has signed a three-year exclusive agreement with the Chicago Cubs to become the official airline of the team and of Wrigley Field. As part of the agreement, the Cubs will re-name Wrigley Field's Stadium Club as the United Club. The club is located along the first base line, and serves as a VIP gathering area. Mark Bergsrud, senior vice president of marketing for United, said, "As Chicago's hometown airline, we are thrilled to partner with the Cubs - a true Chicago icon. We look forward to being a part of the team experience, both in Chicago and at every away game, for both players and fans." Wally Hayward, executive vice president, chief sales and marketing officer of the Chicago Cubs, praised the agreement, saying he looked forward to working with "a global company with local roots". United Airlines also purchased the rights to advertise on a highly-visible rooftop sign outside of Wrigley Field. The rooftop is beyond the left-field bleachers on Waveland Avenue.

[March 25, 2011] The air traffic controller involved in Wednesday night's incident admitted to investigators that he had fallen asleep. The controller was a veteran FAA supervisor with 20 years experience. He was on his fourth consecutive night shift when he fell asleep, leaving no one to monitor air traffic for almost half an hour. U.S. aviation regulators have now ordered a nationwide review of the air traffic control system. FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt, who was "outraged" at the air traffic controller, stated, "I am determined to make sure we do not repeat Wednesday’s unacceptable event." This incident has renewed the debate regarding appropriate controller staffing. While the Federal Aviation Administration added another staff member at Ronald Reagan National Airport, 30 airport towers across the nation are staffed with only a single air traffic controller after midnight, begging the question of the safety of those airports. Paul Rinaldi, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, said, "The administration (FAA) inherited an unsafe policy of staffing to budget instead of putting safety first."

[March 24, 2011] An air traffic controller has been suspended after not responding to two passenger planes attempting to land at Ronald Reagan National Airport. An American Airlines flight and a United Airlines flight approaching the airport were unable to reach the air traffic controller, and landed without assistance from the tower. It is now presumed that the lone air traffic controller, working the midnight to 6am shift, was probably asleep. After countless failed attempts to reach the controller, the two planes followed emergency protocol and landed safely. The incident caused major concern, especially since it occurred only a few miles from the White House and the Capitol building. US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has demanded a second controller always be present on the midnight shift at the Washington D.C. airport. He stated, "It is not acceptable to have just one controller in the tower managing air traffic in this critical air space. I have also asked FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt to study staffing levels at other airports around the country." Fatigue has long been a problem for air traffic controllers, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. In 2007, the lone controller on duty in Lexington, Kentucky had slept only two of the previous 24 hours when a plane used the wrong runway and crashed, killing 49 people on board. The air traffic controller union applauded LaHood's order for a second controller at the Reagan airport, stating, "One-person shifts are unsafe. Period."

March 23, 2011] New changes are coming our way from United Continental Holdings. First, the company signed a letter of intent with in-flight entertainment provider LiveTV to offer Wi-Fi service on over 200 Continental planes. The service will begin next year, and will be available on domestic Boeing 737 and 757 planes that are currently outfitted with DirecTV service. The price for Wi-Fi via Ka-band has not been announced, although the service typically starts around $5 for short flights. United currently offers in-flight Wi-Fi through Aircell's Gogo on only 14 planes. Continental Airlines also announced that all of its Boeing 757 aircraft are now equipped with lie-flat seats in business class. United Senior Vice President of Marketing Mark Bergsrud, commented, "With reconfigurations completed on 116 aircraft, United and Continental together offer more flat-bed premium cabin seats than any other U.S. airline. The flat-bed seats and advanced audio/video on-demand offer our customers an unmatched onboard experience."

[March 22, 2011] The results of an investigation involving a United Airlines flight have been released, revealing that the company knew there was a problem with the plane and still let it fly without repairing it. According to the National Transportation Safety Board, on May 16, 2010, the Boeing 757 took off from New York on its way to San Francisco when, 30 minutes into the flight, pilots heard a hissing sound followed by 14-16 inch flames shooting from the cockpit window. Captain Boyd Hammack grabbed a fire extinguisher and put out the flames, but they quickly reignited. A flight attendant brought the captain a second fire extinguisher, and the captain doused the flames again. Shortly before making an emergency landing at Washington Dulles International Airport, the inner pane of a window shattered. The aircraft landed safely, and thankfully no one was injured in the incident. However, this was not the first time that plane had problems. The day before, another United captain reported fumes and an overheated electrical connection, showing a mechanic an electrical connection at the window that appeared charred and was hot. The plane had also made an emergency landing in Las Vegas, due to smoke and fumes in the cockpit. The mechanic involved said he "OK'd the plane to fly without repairs because United's maintenance manual says planes can be flown another 50 hours after a blackened or burned window heater electrical connector had been found." United Airlines spokeswoman, Megan McCarthy commented, "We did a full inspection and believed the plane was flight worthy." Investigators determined the problem was caused by a simple loose screw, which could have easily been addressed before fire broke out on the plane carrying 112 people. United's only response was that the company has made "enhancements to our maintenance program."

[March 21, 2011] In a very quick turn of events, the lawsuit issued by United Airlines customer service director Kathyrn Williams against Jonathan Rhys Meyers has been dropped. William's attorney, Elliot Budashewitz, confirmed that the complaint has been withdrawn, and also stated that "allegations of physical contact are inaccurate." The attorney issued a statement explaining, "There is no claim that Mr Meyers made any physical contact with Ms Williams or that she sustained any 'physical' bodily injury as a result of any physical contact. Any inconvenience caused [to] Mr Meyers by any misinterpretation of the complaint to the contrary was certainly unintended." That is a drastic reversal from the statement released on Friday, and no other information was available to explain the retracted accusations.

[March 18, 2011] United Airlines flight attendants are supporting the relief effort in Japan by collecting donations, food, water and supplies for disaster victims and bringing them to the devastated area. So far, flight attendants have hand carried over a thousand pounds of relief supplies to Japan. Greg Davidowitch, president of the Association of Flight Attendants at United Airlines, expressed his gratitude to the flight attendants, saying, "This experience reflects the indomitable spirit of United Flight Attendants who see a crisis and work to provide immediate assistance to those in need. This is what we do, and who we are. Ushering evacuees to safety and transporting emergency workers and supplies into Japan – Flight Attendants are heroes." Radiation levels are continually being monitored and contingency plans are in place if it becomes unsafe to fly into Tokyo. However, many United flight attendants have been eager to work on flights headed to Japan in order to be a part of the relief effort.

In other news, a United Airlines jet slid off the runway into muddy grass after landing at the Akron-Canton Airport in Ohio. United Flight 5916 was coming from Chicago carrying 43 passengers and 3 crew members when it veered left instead of sticking to its right hand landing pattern, and came to a stop approximately 200 feet off the edge of the runway. According to passengers, the airplane did not slow down after touchdown. No one was hurt in this incident, and passengers were bused to the terminal after disembarking onto the grass. An investigation is underway to determine the cause of the accident.

Also, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, the 33-year-old Irish actor, is being sued by a United Airlines employee. On May 7, 2010, Meyers launched into a drunken tirade after not being allowed on a flight at JFK airport, verbally abusing and physically assaulting United customer service director, Kathyrn Williams. The incident initially resulted in Meyers being banned from United Airlines for life and put in rehab. Williams is now suing Meyers for over $15,000 in damages, saying the incident left her with "permanent physical damage and severe emotional distress". The recently filed lawsuit stated, the actor "willfully, maliciously, wantonly and without any just cause or provocation assaulted and battered plaintiff Kathryn Williams."

[March 17, 2011] Radiation detectors were reportedly triggered as travelers arriving from Tokyo passed through customs at O'Hare International Airport. It is not certain yet whether these reports are accurate, however, it was confirmed that trace amounts of radiation were found on luggage and cargo aboard five or six planes in Chicago. A United Airlines jet and two American Airlines planes coming from Japan have also tested positive for radiation. Mayor Daley and other Chicago city officials would not provide any details, but according to the Department of Homeland Security, the radiation levels detected are not harmful. Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection are both closely monitoring radiation levels on flights and passengers from Japan. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said, "In an exercise of caution and just to make sure that everyone remains safe, we are doing screening of passengers and cargo if there happens to be even a blip in terms of radiation." Customs and Border Protection spokeswoman Cherise Miles also commented, "U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is monitoring developments in Japan carefully and is specifically assessing the potential for radiological contamination associated with the ongoing impact of the earthquake and tsunami to Japan's nuclear facilities." As the nuclear crisis continues to intensify, the U.S. federal government has reportedly begun providing charter flights to evacuate U.S. citizens from Japan . Delta Airlines has stopped service to Tokyo’s Haneda airport, although it continues to fly in and out of Narita airport. So far, United Airlines continues to fly its normal schedule. Andrew Ferraro, a spokesman for United Continental Holdings said the company “will continue to provide the level of service that is warranted by demand and which can be operated safely.”

[March 16, 2011] As the nuclear crisis in Japan continues to worsen, panic is hitting the hearts of many, and functioning airports are being flooded with people trying to leave the country. ABC News reports "the international and domestic terminals at Narita International Airport were crammed with passengers leaving the capital after a small spike in radiation levels were detected in Tokyo following a reactor fire..." As stated yesterday, many European and Asian airlines have made changes to their schedules, either diverting flights or cancelling them entirely. However, Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. added two additional flights from Tokyo to Hong Kong, offering an extra 730 seats. Chief Operating Officer, John Slosar said, “We are experiencing rapidly increasing demand from people wishing to return home. We understand the uncertainty and concern felt by some crew and believe the decision to stop overnight stays for our crew in Tokyo is appropriate at this time.” United, Continental, Delta and American Airlines continue to fly into Tokyo's airports, although the FAA is advising carriers to reroute when necessary to meet the airspace restrictions around the volatile power plant. The no-fly zone, extending 90 miles around the plant, is in place to prevent civilian planes from getting close to the affected areas and possibly spread contamination. 50 workers remain at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi Nuclear power plant, trying desperately to prevent a complete nuclear disaster. These brave people, referred to as the faceless 50 or the Fukushima 50, are facing fire, explosions and likely lethal amounts of radiation to keep the crippled reactors under control. This small group is being hailed as Japan's last hope. Our prayers are with them.

[March 15, 2011] In the aftermath of the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami in Japan, fears are rising regarding the risk of radiation exposure and a possible nuclear meltdown. The Japanese government has issued a warning concerning the potentially hazardous radiation levels around the unstable nuclear power plant in Fukushima Dai-Ichi. Airlines are bracing for flight changes if the situation escalates, but so far, most U.S. airlines continue to fly into Tokyo, which is about 135 miles away from the damaged power plant. A statement by the FAA was given, saying, "If the situation at Fukushima worsens and we see credible indications that radiological hazards to civil aviation exist beyond the flight restriction areas ... the FAA is prepared to take air traffic management measures, including the rerouting of air traffic." However, Germany's Deutsche Lufthansa AG (LHA) has already stopped flying to Tokyo because of the "risk of radioactive fallout", and has rerouted its services to Nagoya and Osaka. Along with Air France-KLM and Austrian Airlines, Lufthansa is stopping over in Seoul for crew changes to avoid having staff members stay overnight in Japan. Air China has cancelled flights from Beijing and Shanghai to Tokyo, and Taiwan's EVA Airways says it will not fly to Tokyo and Sapporo for the rest of the month. Delta, United and Continental continue scheduled operations, but have begun offering refunds on tickets for some flights to Japan. American Airlines, so far, is only waiving change fees.
In the meantime, many U.S. airlines have partnered with the American Red Cross to help bring relief to the disaster victims in Japan. United Continental Holdings is offering 250 bonus miles for a $50 donation, or 500 miles for a $100 donation to the American Red Cross Japan and Pacific Tsunami Fund. Sonya Jackson, the United Airlines Foundation president, stated, “Our thoughts go out to those living and working in Japan, including more than 1,000 of our own co-workers, as they deal with this tragic event. Our customers always step up in times like these, and we are proud to do our part by offering a mileage bonus incentive to our Mileage Plus and OnePass members who are supporting this critical humanitarian relief effort.” Delta, American and All Nippon Airways are all offering similar rewards for those who give to the American Red Cross.

[March 14, 2011] United Airlines, American Airlines and the City of Chicago have finally come to an agreement regarding the O'Hare modernization project. The parties agreed upon a scaled-back plan costing $1.17 billion instead of the proposed $3.4 billion, allowing the project to move forward and ending the lawsuit the airlines issued against Chicago in January. According to The Wall Street Journal, "the new funding will come from $517 million in Federal Aviation Administration grants, $365 million from passenger fees and $298 million in proceeds from general airport revenue bonds, which the carriers will guarantee." The plan will allow for a new runway to be built, among other improvements, which will hopefully prevent the escalation of flight delays at the bustling airport. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who was crucial in facilitating the agreement, responded to the new plan by saying, "This is a landmark achievement that will benefit air travelers throughout the entire nation. Making improvements to O'Hare will not only reduce flight delays and improve service for air passengers across America, it will ensure one of our busiest airports continues to thrive economically in the future." Jeff Smisek, president and CEO of United Airlines, very civilly replied, "I want to thank Mayor Daley for working with us to reach an agreement that helps fulfill our shared vision for a world-class airport for our hometown, while recognizing the economic realities we all face. I also want to thank Secretary LaHood and his team who worked tirelessly with the airlines and the Mayor's team to bring us together." As part of the deal, the airlines and city officials will meet no later than March 1, 2013 to discuss the remaining portions of the project.

[March 11, 2011] The massive earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan yesterday have caused widespread destruction and devastation. Tokyo's Narita International Airport was closed, leaving nearly 14,000 people stranded at the airport. 10,000 people were stranded at Haneda Airport, although it reportedly re-opened several runways. Sendai Airport, which was closest to the epicenter of the earthquake, was submerged in water and heavily damaged in the tsunami. Flights that were en route to Japan when the earthquake and tsunami occurred were diverted to airports around the Pacific Rim. Delta Airlines, the largest transpacific operator among U.S. airlines, has cancelled 29 flights into and out of Tokyo. United and Continental have cancelled 11 flights and diverted nine others. American Airlines has cancelled all Japan transpacific flights for today, and is unsure whether its schedule will resume tomorrow. Since flight operations over the weekend and early next week are uncertain, major airlines waived the change fee for passengers booked on flights to or from Japan through Monday or Tuesday. A full assessment of the damage to the country and loss of life is not yet known. My prayers are with those who are affected by this tragedy.

[March 10, 2011] Aircell, the provider for Gogo's in-flight Wi-Fi on airlines such as United, American and Delta, announced plans to upgrade its service for faster connectivity, and introduce Wi-Fi on international flights. Aircell's Gogo Wi-Fi service currently uses a land-based system, where base stations connect with Wi-Fi hotspots on aircraft. The company intends on improving its air-to-ground network to allow for faster connections. This upgrade will take effect in the first half of 2012. Aircell will also begin using Ka-band satellite technology, which will be available in the continental United States in 2013 and globally by 2015. In-flight Wi-Fi is a growing demand among business travelers, and is also gaining popularity among passengers with smartphones. Michael Small, president and chief executive of Aircell, commented, "Between business and commercial aviation, there are currently more than 6,000 Aircell-equipped aircraft across ATG and satellite technology platforms. We're thrilled to be the only in-flight connectivity provider that can meet our partners' full fleet needs in the United States today. With this announcement we strengthen our offerings domestically and begin to extend our leadership globally."

[March 9, 2011] As lawmakers decide whether to give more federal funds for the 9/11 memorial in Pennsylvania, families of the victims of United Airlines Flight 93 are asking Congress not to forget those who sacrificed their lives to protect the nation's capitol. According to the 9/11 Commission, the target of Flight 93 was most likely the White House or the Capitol building, but the terrorists' goal was thwarted by the passengers and crew who fought back. Family members of those aboard Flight 93 are reminding members of Congress that they could have been among the victims on that harrowing day if it hadn't been for the heroism of the people on that flight. Calvin Wilson, whose brother-in-law, LeRoy Homer, Jr., was first officer on the flight, said, "So many times they forget they were the target and that these heroes we are trying to memorialize helped them live another day." A memorial on the crash site in Pennsylvania is being built, and the first phase will be dedicated this year on the 10th anniversary. The memorial is expected to cost $60 million. Congress has given $10 million, the state of Pennsylvania is contributing $18.5 million, and $20 million has been raised privately. Family members are meeting with members of Congress to urge the approval of the additional $3.7 million that President Barack Obama allocated for this project in his new budget. The memorial will be a 3.5 square mile park, with a chapel featuring 40 chimes symbolizing the 40 victims, and a wall with the names of the victims.

[March 8, 2011] In addition to raising ticket prices, adding fuel surcharges and taking away complimentary snacks, United Continental Holdings Inc. will be scaling down its growth plans for 2011. The company had intended to increase international capacity by 4.5% to 5.5%, and cut domestic capacity by 0.5% to 1.5%. However, in light of the skyrocketing fuel prices, United plans to increase international capacity only by 2.5% or 3.5%, and cut domestic capacity by up to 2.5%. United Continental Holdings stated, "The capacity reductions will come from reducing flight frequencies, indefinitely postponing the start of certain markets and exiting less profitable routes, primarily in our domestic schedule. The modest increase in international capacity allocates our aircraft on more profitable routes." The airline may also remove less fuel-efficient aircraft from its fleet. American and Delta Airlines have already made reductions to their projected growth plans.

[March 4, 2011] In an effort to make the skies a more unfriendly place to fly, Continental Airlines has stopped serving free snacks to coach passengers. Continental spokesman, Andrew Ferraro, commented, “We’ve removed the beverage snacks — pretzels and Biscoff — in an effort to reduce costs and align ourselves with the rest of the industry. Our partner, United Airlines, has the same policy.” The airline claims it will save approximately $2.5 million a year by discontinuing its complimentary snack service. Henry Harteveldt, an airline and travel analyst for Forrester Research, put it well when he said, “This is clearly a reflection of standardizing the onboard experience between United and Continental. Sadly, instead of elevating the United onboard experience, Continental has chosen the lowest common denominator.” American Airlines and US Airways also discontinued the service. Fortunately, not everyone is following in their footsteps. Delta, AirTran, Alaska Airlines and JetBlue continue to serve a variety of complimentary snacks. Frontier Airlines even bakes and serves free chocolate chip cookies to all of its passengers after 10:00a.m. And, of course, Southwest Airlines, the passenger's best buddy, still doles out free snacks to everyone onboard. In 2010, Southwest handed out 19 million complimentary bags of pretzels, 87.6 million bags of peanuts, 18.4 million Select-A-Snacks and 29 million other snacks. Spokesman Brad Hawkins remarked, "We’re always looking at enhancements and new offerings." Continental and United, on the other hand, are clearly looking for more ways to upset customers and spoil their flying experience.

[March 2, 2011] A small triumph for air travelers is being reported today, as major airlines cut their latest fare hike in half. The $20 round-trip fare increase initiated last week by United Airlines has been resisted by Southwest, JetBlue, AirTran and Frontier Airlines. These discount carriers only increased their prices by $10 round-trip, forcing the larger airlines, such as American, United and Delta, to scale down their increase in order to stay competitive. Unfortunately, some of the airlines have already found a way to make up for part of the price cut. According to Farecompare.com's CEO, Rick Seaney, "Undeterred by the partial domestic rollback U.S. and Canadian carriers took the opportunity to increase base prices to Hawaii and Canada by $20 round-trip." Seaney also predicted that airlines will continue to test the market to discern the tolerance level of travelers. Indeed, it looks to be a volatile year for airfares.

[March 1, 2011] A United Airlines flight landed safely at Kona International Airport after mechanical problems forced the pilot to shut down one of the plane's engines. United Flight 57, with 84 passengers and crew aboard, was en route from Los Angeles to the Big Island, when an oil pressure warning light came on. Approximately 50 minutes before arrival, the pilot of the Boeing 757-200 contacted the airport, telling them he needed to shut down one of the two engines. Kona Airport fire crews, along with Hawaii County paramedics and police stood by as a precaution, but the plane landed without incident.

[February 28, 2011]
Soaring oil prices are continuing to cause airline costs to rise and stocks to fall. Political instability in several countries in the Middle East is causing widespread worry about the tenuous state of the airline industry's profitability. According to The Detroit News, the rising airfares demonstrate "airline officials' fears that already volatile prices could skyrocket as violence in Libya and elsewhere in the region could threaten oil production." United Airlines spokesman, Mike Trevino, commented, "Fuel is our single highest cost. For every $1 increase in the price of oil per barrel, it means a $100 million increase in our fuel cost on an annual basis." With oil prices surging to at least $100 a barrel, the most it has been since 2008, some airlines seem to be hitting the panic button. However, David Tyerman, Canaccord Genuity analyst, is much more optimistic regarding the airline industry's outlook than most investors. In light of the recovering economy, he sees the rising oil prices as an opportunity for airlines to test "the upper threshold of where higher fares begin to diminish demand." Tylerman claims, "We believe most consumers would expect airlines to raise ticket prices to cover higher fuel costs. In an improving supply-demand environment, higher fuel costs may provide the perfect cover to raise ticket prices to cover increased fuel costs and widen margins.” Unfortunately, that does not help those of us who are left with a grossly swollen bill every time we fly.

[February 25, 2011] A man was arrested at O'Hare International Airport today after a loaded gun was found in his carry-on bag. John W. Barnak was passing through security before planning to board a United Airlines flight to Cancun, when a TSA security screener found a .25 caliber semiautomatic handgun and a loaded magazine in his bag. Barnak admitted that the bag and the weapon belonged to him, and claimed he “forgot the gun was in the bag when he packed for his trip." He is currently being held on charges of unlawful possession of a weapon and carrying a firearm without a valid identification card. Bail was set for $25,000.

[February 24, 2011] United Continental Holdings unveiled its first Boeing 747 with the new livery today. The 374-seat jumbo jet displays the United brand in a new sans serif font, and the Continental-style globe on the tail. United has painted more than 20% of its fleet since the merger in October. Unfortunately, the price for riding on any United plane has risen yet again. In light of the ever rising fuel prices and turmoil in the Middle East, United and Continental Airlines initiated another price hike yesterday, with American Airlines following closely in their footsteps. The new hike adds $20 per round trip to most domestic flights, and travelers are being warned to brace for even more price increases.

[February 23, 2011] Today the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in New York City introduced an interactive web-based timeline of the tragic events of 9/11. According to AOL News, "The chronological timeline offers audio recordings of phone calls from victims to their loved ones, the oral history of survivors, and video and photographs of some of the day's most vivid and terrifying moments." Joe Daniels, president of the museum, said he hopes this feature will help educate younger generations about what occurred that day. Much of the material on the site is painful and disturbing, and the curators wanted to respectfully present that material, without glossing over it. In an attempt to do so, thumbnails and descriptions of the videos and clips are available to visitors before viewing the footage, giving them a chance to prepare for what they are going to hear or see. Daniels explained, "We try to present the material as sensitively as possible and not sensationalize it. Things aren't popping up on your screen. We try to give people the tools to modulate their experience on the site. At the same time, there is no getting around the fact that the material in this event was simply wrenching. The people who got up that morning and became a part of this event were just like the rest of us, and they should have been able to go home at the end of the day just like the rest of us." The timeline begins at 5:45AM on September 11th showing two of the terrorists passing through security in Boston's Logan Airport, and ends with President Bush's address to the nation at 8:30PM. The timeline is available for viewing at timeline.national911memorial.org. The National September 11 Memorial and Museum is scheduled to open this year on the 10th anniversary of the attacks.

[February 22, 2011] A new set of fare hikes is rippling through the airline industry. This time, the poster child for discount airfare, Southwest Airlines, set the effect in motion. Reacting to rising fuel costs, Southwest spokeswoman, Ashley Dillon, explained, "We implemented a modest system wide fare increase of $5 one-way to offset higher fuel costs." According to USA Today, jet fuel prices have risen nearly 50 percent in the past year, making the airline worry about what is to come. While Southwest is keeping their fare hike "modest", the larger carriers, including United Airlines, are raising their prices by $20 to $60 round trip. According to Rick Seaney, CEO of FareCompare, Southwest has become the measuring rod for raising fares. Unfortunately, when Southwest takes an inch, the larger carriers take a mile. Many airlines have already raised their prices five times since December, but when Southwest did not participate in two of those five rounds, the others backed down. However, with Southwest leading the pack this time, the new fare hike is likely to be around for awhile.

[February 18, 2011] Finally a triumph for passengers! United Continental Holdings has decided to extend United's popular Economy Plus seating to Continental planes. The company has been debating whether to add more seats on United planes or remove seats from Continental planes in an effort to make the coach sections the same. Jim Compton, executive vice president and chief revenue officer of United Continental Holdings said "the revenue generated by the elite frequent-fliers who occupy those seats, plus that from fliers who pay for the privilege, outweighs the theoretical loss of revenue from having fewer seats on the planes." Economy Plus adds up to five inches of legroom to several rows of seats in the front of coach cabins. Doing away with this section would likely have caused an uproar from United's elite frequent fliers, like myself, who are automatically - and without an extra charge - assigned to the roomier seats when they fly coach. It also may have upset non-elite passengers who enjoyed the option of paying extra for more legroom. As Ben Schlappig, another frequent flier, wrote, "Finally there's a positive thing we can look forward to after the merger." Economy Plus seats will be added to Continental's 350 mainline jets next year. When the project is done, more than 850 planes in the combined fleet will have the roomier section.

[February 17, 2011] United Airlines operations have returned to normal after all of their 757 jets were abruptly grounded for emergency safety checks. As the story goes, United was "scrambling to comply with a 2004 FAA airworthiness directive" regarding software and hardware changes for the air data computer systems. According to the FAA directive, "This action is necessary to ensure that the flight crew is able to silence an erroneous overspeed or stall aural warning" - basically allowing the pilots to turn off an alarm that would cause needless panic if set off. The airline installed the required software back in 2004, however, during an internal quality assurance audit, they discovered the proper steps hadn't been taken during the installation. United decided to ground the planes and check the software, rather than wait for the FAA to make a formal request or start issuing fines. If United had flown the planes knowing they were out of compliance with the FAA airworthiness directive, they would have been liable for fines of $25,000 per flight.

[February 16, 2011] United Airlines voluntarily grounded its entire fleet of Boeing 757 jets for "critical maintenance checks". After a problem was found on one plane during a routine check yesterday, United has been performing emergency maintenance on all 96 of its 757s. According to United spokesman Charlie Hobart, the air data computers on the aircraft were recently modified, and checks were necessary to ensure the software was working correctly. The checks take 60 to 90 minutes each. United spokeswoman, Megan McCarthy, commented further by saying, "The computers, which handle data such as air pressure and temperature, recently underwent upgrades in which some steps needed to return the units to service weren’t completed or were performed out of sequence." So far, all of the computers involved in the checkups have been working normally. Although United arranged for other aircraft to pick up the workload of the grounded 757s, thousands of passengers still felt the effects of the ensuing delays.

[February 15, 2011]
United Airlines flight 306 en route from Los Angeles to Baltimore, MD made an emergency landing in Grand Junction, CO today after the crew reported indications of smoke in the cargo hold. The plane landed safely and none of the 109 passengers were injured. Emergency services found no traces of smoke or fire, and the passengers are now scheduled to arrive in Baltimore 4 hours late.

[February 14, 2011]
United Continental Holdings spread some love this Valentine's Day by handing out $224 million in profit-sharing checks to about 80,000 employees. Continental has a long-standing tradition of giving out bonus checks to employees at airports, however, they haven't had any profit to share since 2008. Last year, United's net profit was $1.6 billion, excluding $765 million of costs related to the merger. With those costs added in, United's profits stood at $253 million. Today, Jeff Smisek handed out profit-sharing checks at United's hubs at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston and Chicago O'Hare International Airport. Other United officers flew to different locations throughout United's system to present the checks. At Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, Continental employees received their checks at a celebration held at the Continental ticket counter. Jeff Smisek commented, "The United and Continental teams did a great job in 2010. Profit-sharing shows that when we work together, we win together."

[February 11, 2011]
The latest update regarding the O'Hare expansion saga is that the lawsuit filed by United and American Airlines will be temporarily delayed. A Cook County judge granted a request by the Department of Transportation for a five-day delay in the court proceedings of the lawsuit. Illinois Senators Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk praised the temporary delay, saying, “This development allows for more time to find common ground and could prevent a costly legal battle and construction delays. Finding a solution that ensures project construction -- which supports thousands of local jobs -- continues is essential to future economic growth in Chicago.” The Senators are holding onto hope that an agreement between the City of Chicago and the disgruntled airlines can be made out of court. However, if a compromise is not reached, Cook County Circuit Court Judge Richard Billik will hear arguments on a city motion to dismiss the suit on February 22, and the hearing is scheduled to begin on March 1st.

[February 10, 2011]
A food trolley was used to smuggle packages of cocaine off a United Airlines flight at Sydney's international airport. The packages were hidden in a toilet rubbish bin during the flight from Los Angeles, and when the plane landed, two alleged co-conspirators, Matthew Robert Hay and his colleague, worked together to smuggle the drugs off the plane. While Hay restocked the plane, the colleague recovered the packages, put them on a food trolley and wheeled the trolley onto a Gate Gourmet catering truck. Shortly afterwards, the men were arrested on the tarmac. Nearly 1kg of white powder, containing 250.7 grams of pure cocaine was found in the vehicle. Both men pleaded not guilty to conspiring to import cocaine and Hay pleaded not guilty to possessing marketable quantity of cocaine. They are now standing trial at Sydney's District Court.

[February 9, 2011]
Negotiation talks regarding the O'Hare modernization project are underway between Mayor Daley of Chicago, Jeff Smisek of United Airlines, Gerard Arpey of American Airlines, and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. So far, no agreement has been reached, although the discussions were characterized as being "very, very extensive" and "candid". The airline executives reiterated their support for eventually completing the second phase of the expansion project, but stated that nothing was offered "that would permit us to suspend our litigation seeking to stop the City from proceeding with financing (on the remaining work) without our legally required notice and approval." It was agreed that the possibility of using federal funding could be explored, although the U.S Department of Transportation has already invested over $1 billion on the O'Hare expansion project, more than any other airport project. At this stage, LaHood's plan is to keep everyone talking until a deal is reached.

[February 8, 2011]
Mayor Daley finally has a new date set to discuss the O'Hare expansion project with the CEOs of United and American Airlines. The meeting is scheduled for tomorrow, and this time it will be held in Washington D.C. under the watchful eye of the Secretary of the Department of Transportation, Ray LaHood. After finding out LaHood would be hosting this meeting, Senators Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk of Illinois sent letters to the DOT secretary stressing the importance of finding a compromise on the project. The Senators wrote, "The Department of Transportation can play an important role in getting both sides of this dispute to come to an agreement to keep the O'Hare Modernization Project on track to completion. The final phase of the O'Hare Modernization Project will support thousands of local jobs, and making sure we continue the construction with this project is essential to future economic growth in Chicago." It is hoped the parties involved will quickly resolve their differences regarding the future of the project, and avoid a lengthy and costly court battle.

[February 7, 2011]
United Continental Holdings announced today that it will cut up to 500 jobs at the Houston headquarters of Continental Airlines. Layoffs will only affect those in management and administrative positions, as stated by Jeff Smisek when the airlines merged last October. Between the two airlines, there are currently 6,000 management and administrative positions being held. Some employees who will be affected have already volunteered for the airline's early-out program, which offers incentives such as severance, health care and travel benefits for a limited time. The layoffs are expected to begin April 1st and could last through the end of June. While this will significantly affect the workforce, the Houston headquarters will remain operational. Jeff Moseley, president and CEO of Greater Houston Partnership, commented, “The loss of these jobs was not unexpected. Ultimately, the Greater Houston Partnership is confident that the merger between United and Continental will result in a positive net growth in jobs for our region. We are pleased that George Bush Intercontinental Airport will be the largest hub of the world’s largest airline. This foundation will allow us to grow jobs over time to make up for the initial losses. Houston’s friendly and attractive business climate, compared to other major cities, will always be appealing to United/Continental Holdings as it continues its integration and operates as one airline.”

[February 4, 2011] As a promotion for GoGo Inflight Internet, seven airlines, including United, are offering free in-flight access to Facebook this month. Facebook is reportedly the most visited site through GoGo, which serves about 3,800 flights per day. If passengers want to wander off Facebook, they can pay $4.95 for general access to in-flight Wi-Fi on short flights and up to $12.95 for longer ones. The service is currently available to North American passengers traveling across the continental United States.
United Airlines is also introducing the digEplayer L7 Handheld In-flight Entertainment Device for passengers in United First and United Business class. The device offers a wider range of entertainment options, including 25 movies, 100 television programs and more music choices. The devices are Wi-Fi capable, as well.

[February 3, 2011]
While weather worries are easing up in Chicago, the fate of the O'Hare expansion project continues to worry Mayor Daley after the CEO's of United and American Airlines abruptly canceled an appointment with him today. Initially, city officials believed the cancelation was due to the weather, although now they are viewing it as an attempt to stall discussions regarding the expansion project at the city's largest airport. Mayor Daley stated that after the meeting was canceled, he offered to meet with the two airline executives any day from next Sunday to Thursday, and again the following Sunday and Monday. All of his offers were rejected. Mayor Daley felt the rejection acutely as he noted this was the first time in 22 years he offered to meet anyone on a Sunday. A spokeswoman for American Airlines only responded that the meeting was canceled due to "weather and the severe impact on our flight schedule" and she had no idea when the meeting would be rescheduled.

[February 2, 2011] Thousands of flights have been canceled due to another massive winter storm. Estimates of up to 13,000 flights have already been canceled since yesterday, including 850 flights by United Airlines and 600 flights by Continental. American Airlines seems to be affected the most so far, with more than half of its schedule canceled or diverted yesterday. In light of the fiasco associated with the December blizzard, affecting millions of travelers, the airlines tried a more assertive approach to dealing with wild weather by canceling flights before the storms hit. One passenger, who was scheduled to fly today, landed safely in his destination yesterday after being warned about the impending storm. He said, "Delta Airlines issued an advisory, so we're allowed to change our flight plan and they did it at no charge, so here we are...a day early." Unfortunately, not everyone could be accommodated before the ice and snow arrived. The storm is forecasted to cover one third of the U.S., from the Rockies to New England, with two feet of snow predicted in some areas. Chicago may face a blizzard of historic proportions, and most airlines have indicated they will have little to no flight operations out of O'Hare today. If you're planning to fly anywhere in the next week, check with your airline before heading to the airport to avoid being stranded.

[February 1, 2011] Another very frequent flier is upset with United Airlines, and I happen to know the blogger, Craig Wright, pretty well - he's earned a lot of certifications from GIAC. Also, I do know that the last time I flew United business class to London, the seat was broken and would not even begin to lie flat, sadly similar to Craig's experience. Seems to me that if United wants to attract more business fare payers, they need to pay attention to customer reviews as well as do a better job at satisfying those paid customers when they actually have them on the plane - that is certainly the best opportunity for improving an airline's customer service reputation.

[January 28, 2011] United Airlines is earning the reputation of being about as family friendly as a rabid wolf after kicking a mother and her baby off a flight in San Francisco. Melissa Bradley, a mother of four children, including a 1-year-old daughter, was forced off a United Airlines flight after a dispute regarding an economy-class seat too narrow to fit the infant carrier for her child. This is the second time in the course of a month that Bradley has had trouble fitting her ("airline-approved") infant carrier aboard a flight. The first time was on a Skywest flight from Aspen to San Francisco, although she wasn't asked to leave the plane in that instance. When she reported that incident, the FAA asked if she had pictures to prove her claim, which she did not. This time United claims Bradley was removed from the flight because she was "causing a disruption by taking pictures". Hmm. United spokesman Rahsaan Johnson acknowledged the rows were too close together to accommodate the carrier, but Bradley wasn't moved to a wider row because those seats were full. That sounds like a poor excuse - I've been aboard enough flights to know most people would switch seats to accommodate a mother and her child when asked. The excuse sounds even more flimsy knowing Bradley called two weeks ahead of time to make sure she could use the infant carrier, for which she bought a separate ticket. United's customer service told her to let the airline employees know about her needs when she checked in...which she did. United may want to rethink its excuses and its seat sizes, considering the National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman is campaigning for regulations requiring all infants and young children to ride in child seats on planes rather than in parent's laps. FlyersRights.org also offers the reminder that FAA guidelines state, "No aircraft operator may prohibit a child from using an approved CRS when the parent/guardian purchases a seat for the child. If an approved CRS for which a ticket has been purchased, does not fit in a particular seat on the aircraft, the aircraft operator has the responsibility to accommodate the CRS in another seat in the same class of service." Get on board, United, and let the kids get on board, too.

In a more triumphant report, a man who fought tooth-and-nail with United Airlines for a refund won his case, before it hit court. Tom Smith and his wife had tickets for a flight with United on November 13, 2010, but the flight was canceled and Smith's refund was nowhere to be found. After corresponding by phone and email with United, the airline stated it would only refund him $45 for each ticket, a far cry from the $350 owed to Smith. He then filed a lawsuit against United, and the day before he was set to go to court, a check arrived in the mail for $415. The extra $65 was meant for covering court costs.

[January 27, 2011] It looks like the lawsuit issued by United and American Airlines against the city of Chicago is getting attention and ruffling feathers in the windy city. As a response the lawsuit so far, Chicago has put financing for the O'Hare expansion project on hold indefinitely. The city and the airlines remain completely at odds in respect to the value of the expansion project. Mayor Daley claims the airlines are being short-sighted and need to build for the future now, while the airlines want to wait for a complete economic rebound before agreeing to a $2 billion bill.

[January 26, 2011]
The results for the 2010 fourth-quarter are in, showing the effects of the United Continental merger in numbers. United ended with a net loss of $325 million, although when the $485 million of merger-related costs and charges are taken out of the equation, United earned $160 million. United's executive vice president and chief revenue officer, Jim Compton, said unit revenue has risen since 2009, owing largely to a 20% increase in customers flying first and business class worldwide. Overall, United reports an increase in sales and continued growth in new accounts. United Continental Holdings is looking forward to this year, when, as CEO Jeff Smisek states, "Our customers will experience a measurable difference in our brand’s appearance and the consistency of service across our two carriers.” The new United plans to introduce its airport lounge, the United Club, during the 3rd quarter of this year, and will combine the loyalty programs of United and Continental in 2012. US Airways also had a successful quarter with a net income of $28 million, a remarkable improvement compared to 2009's fourth-quarter loss of $79 million.

[January 25, 2011] A United Express plane, being operated by Atlantic Southeast Airlines, made an emergency landing in Vermont yesterday after taking off for Washington, D.C. The unexpected landing was prompted by reports of steering problems in addition to a light in the plane's cockpit indicating a passenger door being open. The plane, carrying 43 people, was met by firefighters, police officers and ambulance crews from more than a dozen agencies when it landed at Burlington International Airport. Thankfully, the plane landed safely, no injuries have been reported, and the passengers were taken to their destination on other D.C-bound flights throughout the day. United is investigating the cause of the incident.

[January 24, 2011] A tragedy in Russia occurred today after an explosion went off at Moscow's busiest airport, killing 35 and wounding over 150 people. At least one suicide bomber was involved in the bombing at the International Terminal of Domodedovo airport. Reports say residents of Slovakia, Italy and France were injured in the blast, and two British citizens were killed. The deadly incident is being regarded as a terrorist attack. According to the Guardian, "The precise circumstances of the explosion are still unclear but all the signs are that Islamist militants in Russia's volatile North Caucasus region have brought their fight back to Moscow." President Dmitry Medvedev offered his condolences to the families of the victims and ordered special security measures at Russian airports. He also postponed his trip to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos in order to assist in dealing with the aftermath of the attack. Condolences are pouring in from around the globe, and world leaders are condemning the tragic attack.

Further questions regarding airport security are being raised in light of the bombing. San Jose International Airport spokesman, David Vossbrink, said, “It gives everyone in our industry a pause to review security.” Since the 9/11 attacks, security has heightened dramatically for passengers and airlines, but not necessarily for airports themselves. The argument being raised now is that before the checkpoint, airports are very vulnerable. Philip Baum, editor of Aviation Security International commented, "This is a major security loophole. The industry has missed the bigger picture and instead got on with addressing the last-known risk, not the risk to come. We are always reactive." Claude Moniquet, the director of the Brussels-based European Strategic Intelligence and Security Center, wrote, "In the last years, worldwide, huge amounts of time, money and technical means were spent on airlines' and passengers' security, but airport security is still a weak point in the global chain of air transport security."

[January 20, 2011] "Can you put me in a suitcase and send me down the baggage belt?" That is not exactly the average question a ticket agent receives, but it was asked in all seriousness by a would-be passenger earlier this week. After being denied TSA screening because he had no photo ID, Edward Hall went behind the United ticket counter and hopped on a moving baggage belt in an attempt to reach his plane. Upon being arrested 20 minutes later for trespassing, he told the police, "I just wanted to make my flight." Hall researches behavioral economics and "human impatience" at Columbia University.

[January 19, 2011] United Airlines is experiencing growing pains both internally and externally. From within, conflicts continue between flight attendant groups from United and Continental Airlines as they attempt to unify. The Association of Flight Attendants currently represents 15,000 workers from United, while the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers represent 9,300 Continental workers. After the Machinists rejected requests to work together on contract discussions last year, the AFA is now pushing for a vote to determine representation. The AFA filed an application for the National Mediation Board to declare that the United/Continental merger has created a single transportation system, thus triggering a union election for the combined flight attendant workforce. With United's workers holding over 60% of the vote, the AFA is confident they will come out victorious. Sara Nelson, AFA international vice president, commented, “Flight attendants have not been able to capitalize on the incredible opportunities that are available in this merger. What’s standing in the way is resolving this representation issue, so we don’t want to wait another day.” The AFA United President, Greg Davidowitch, also stated, "Joined together in AFA, we can ensure flight attendants are full partners in the merger with compensation that reflects our key role in the success of the new United Airlines." Representatives from the Machinists believe this election would be premature.

United Airlines is also involved with American Airlines in a joint lawsuit against Chicago. As previously reported, Mayor Daley is attempting to continue the expansion project at O'Hare International Airport, however United and American are not willing to foot the bill. The two airlines filed suit to postpone the project's $3.4 billion second phase for up to 7-9 years. Executives from the airlines stated, "It would burden us and our customers with costs we simply cannot afford to pay for a project we do not need and will not need for many years. Moreover, these cost increases would inherently restrict our ability to grow and expand air service into and out of Chicago." However, representatives of the City of Chicago claim this project is crucially important. Chicago Department of Aviation Commissioner Rosemarie Andolino said, "The O'Hare Modernization Program is creating jobs and stimulating the region's economy at a time when it is critically needed. We remain willing to discuss modernizing O'Hare with the airlines that serve the airport; however timing is essential."

[January 5, 2011] There's nothing like an aromatic cup of steaming coffee to bring down a plane and put the defense department on alert. Apparently, the emergency landing of United Airlines flight 940 was caused by a cup of coffee spilled on the plane's communications equipment. This caused distress signals to be sent out, including code 7500, indicating hijacking or unlawful interference. Canada's defense department was subsequently notified, but fortunately, with the help of United Airlines dispatch staff, the flight crew confirmed it to be a communication issue and not a hijacking. United has not had much to say regarding the errant beverage, but the diverted passengers were put on another plane to Frankfurt, and will arrive in Europe a day late.

[January 4, 2011] The unfortunate theme for United is continuing, although odors were not the cause of last night's emergency landing. United Airlines flight 940, en route from Chicago to Frankfurt, was diverted to Toronto's Pearson International Airport due to a communication system malfunction. United spokesman Rahsaan Johnson said that while the flight did not lose contact with air traffic controllers, the captain decided the issues needed to be fixed before crossing the Atlantic. The Boeing 777 landed safely in Toronto with 241 passengers and 14 crew onboard. The passengers were flown back to Chicago and lodged in a hotel for the night. Additional flights have been arranged to fly them to Frankfurt today.

[January 3, 2011] The world's biggest airline is kicking off the New Year with strange odors and emergency landings. Only three days into 2011, and United has already grounded two planes due to suspicious smells. The first was on New Year's Day itself, on a flight from Tucson International Airport to LAX. Someone noticed the smell of electrical smoke and the plane returned to Tuscon 20 minutes after its departure. The flight was cancelled and the cause of the smell is unknown. The second odorous incident occurred this morning on United Airlines flight 243 en route from Denver to Las Vegas. This time the crew noticed an unusual smell in the cockpit and the plane returned to Denver. Both planes landed safely and their respective odors are being investigated.

[December 30, 2010] The airline industry is feeling the true cost of all its corner-cutting this week. As most airlines are still scrambling to accommodate stranded passengers, many people are joining the outcry that the weather isn't the only thing to blame for this week's travel disaster. Karen Cumming, who slept on the floor of New York's JFK airport for two days, explained, "What people find so appalling is the complete lack of communication of any kind with the passengers." And a spokesman for the Association for Airline Passenger Rights reiterated, "We don't blame the airlines or airports for bad weather, but it's their responsibility to be prepared." With all of the cuts airlines have undergone in recent years, they were not remotely prepared for such a large scale aviation crisis. For instance, United Airlines once had 17 reservation offices, but now only has three. In February, Continental Airlines cut 600 of its 2,600 reservation employees. With these drastic cuts, they are unable to deal with the massive amount of calls from people trying to rebook, and customer service has completely fallen by the wayside. Instead of talking to a representative, customers are put on hold for hours as an endless telephone loop is played. Some customers found more information through Twitter than the airlines websites, reservation agents on the phone or ticketing agents at the airport. "In one instance, a New Yorker received a refund and a trip back home in less than an hour after Tweeting a message to JetBlue's Twitter account. He was waiting five hours before sending that message." Airlines have also eliminated flights and grounded planes. The leaner schedules earned airlines a major profit over the summer, but left them unable to handle the backlog of passengers. Darryl Jenkins, a Virginia-based aviation industry consultant, explained, “When your planes are all 90 percent full and you cancel a flight, it’s going to take you another 10 flights to re- accommodate all those passengers.” Airport traffic has finally begun again, but it will still be days before all of the affected passengers are brought to their final destinations.

[December 29, 2010] The nightmare continues for over 1 million travelers affected by the blizzard in the Northeast. As the backlog of stranded passengers continues to grow, and flight availability remains minimal, tempers are the only things flying at many airports. While most people are reasonable enough to realize the airlines can't control the weather, they are frustrated with the way the airlines are handling the situation. One traveler waited in an 8-10 hour line at LAX just to talk to ticketing agent, and was then told there were no flights available to the East Coast until after the New Year. Another woman spent three days on the phone trying to get a hold of Continental Airlines in order to rebook her daughter's cancelled flight. Besides poor communication with customers, airlines may be paying for their poor communication to airports. The U.S. Department of Transportation is looking into the details of flight delays to determine if some could have been avoided, and if the airlines will be fined for excessive tarmac delays. Six international flights to JFK are being investigated after the planes landed with no gate to dock at, and passengers were stuck on the tarmac for up to 12 hours. Steve Coleman, a Port Authority spokesman, said, "It is an airline's responsibility to make sure before they leave their point of origin that they have a gate assignment. These airlines did not. So they got to the airport and had no place to dock." The airline industry is already predicted to lose upwards of $150 million in light of this week, and the threat of hefty fines could raise that number significantly.

[December 28, 2010] If you are looking for an after-Christmas bargain, don't turn to the skies. Holiday traveling woes continue as airlines raise their fares in response to a surge in oil prices. The cost of oil was fairly steady at $70 per barrel most of this year, but it rose to $91 per barrel in the last week. According to ABC news, "Several airlines confirmed Tuesday that they are raising prices on many domestic routes by $10 one way and $20 per round trip, even as snowbound passengers remain stranded at New York City-area airports." United Airlines was reportedly the first to introduce this fare hike, with Continental, American and Delta following its lead. United is calling its new fee the "peak travel day" surcharge, although it has apparently been added to all future travel dates.

[December 27, 2010] Snow arrived to provide many with an unprecedented White Christmas, but it did not stop there. Blizzards in the Northeast are causing flight cancellations and delays across the entire country. From San Francisco to Dallas to Orlando, travelers are feeling the ill-effects of the continuing storms. JFK, LaGuardia and Newark Liberty International Airports were all shut down due to the severe weather on Sunday, and are now slowly beginning to move planes again. Philadelphia International Airport remained open with one working runway, and Boston's Logan International Airport was also open, although many of the flights there were cancelled. Continental and United Airlines reportedly cancelled nearly 1,000 flights due to the storms. JetBlue Airways, whose main hub is at JFK airport, was forced to cancel all of its flights into and out of New York, and are hoping to begin a recovery process on Tuesday. Unfortunately, because of the incredible backlog in flights, it may take up to five days to accommodate all of the stranded passengers. With over 7,000 cancellations collectively since Sunday throughout the U.S., hundreds of thousands of passengers are waiting for a flight home.

[December 23, 2010] With storms sweeping across the country, many cities will experience a white Christmas this year. Snow is expected across the South and the East Coast in New York City, Boston, Nashville and Charlotte. Even Atlanta, which hasn't seen snow on Christmas since 1882, may be turned into a winter wonderland. Unfortunately, the severe weather may cause delays for Christmas travelers. For those flying to, from or through Washington Dulles or New York / Newark Liberty International Airport, some delays and/or cancellations are expected. Traveling through Chicago is still difficult as well. United and Continental Airlines are yet again waiving the ticket change fee for those affected by the forecasted storms. Wherever you may be this weekend, stay safe and have a very Merry Christmas.

[December 22, 2010] Bah humbug. That seems to be the motto of the FAA this year. Falling in step with spirit of Ebenezer Scrooge, they're doling out fines just in time for Christmas. They have proposed a $275,000 fine for Continental Airlines and a $330,000 fine for American Eagle. Both airlines have been accused of operating planes that were not in compliance with federal regulations. I'm all for safety, but these alleged mechanical mishaps were from 2009 for Continental and 2008 for American Eagle, so waiting until 3 days before Christmas a year or two years later seems a little Grinch-like. Both airlines have 30 days to contest the penalties, and American Eagle has already stated they will challenge the FAA, claiming the penalties are "excessive".
In the meantime, United is attempting to off-set some of the seasonal stress by using a new software called “LineBuster”. Using handheld units, airline agents can scan boarding passes or credit cards to obtain passenger information while travelers are standing in the check-in line. The agents can then determine whether the passenger needs to continue to wait and talk to a representative, or if they can check in at a self-service kiosk. According to Guy Zalel, the project manager for airport strategy at United, "two agents using the units cleared a line of about 100 people in 20 minutes on a Saturday at O’Hare International Airport."

[December 20, 2010] Holiday travelers across Europe are facing frustrating delays in the wake of unexpectedly heavy snow storms. According to The Washington Post, "Some of the European problems stemmed from woes at Heathrow, where furious passengers, hundreds of whom had spent up to two nights sleeping on the floor, besieged staff at the airport, which has struggled to operate since five inches of snow fell in the space of an hour Saturday." Passengers are not the only ones expressing anger regarding the delays in London. Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, irritably commented: "It can't be beyond the wit of man, surely, to find the shovels, the diggers, the snowplows or whatever it takes to clear the snow out from under the planes, to get the planes moving and to have more than one runway going." Also, Lord Adonis, the former Labour transport secretary, expressed his disgust with the efforts at Heathrow, saying, "BAA needs to get a grip on the situation and the Government should be on its case, not simply blaming the weather." Despite many such accusations and outcries, the BAA is warning passengers that things are not going to get better soon. A spokesperson said, "Passengers should anticipate further delays and cancellations in the following days and potentially beyond Christmas Day." In the meantime, the thousands of stranded passengers are "waiting for a miracle" to get out of the airport and en route to their Christmas destinations. For those booked on United or Continental Airlines, the change fee is being waived for affected passengers choosing to change their reservations.

[December 17, 2010] As the world's biggest airline company, United Continental Holdings Inc. offers flight services to a vast array of destinations worldwide. As Christmas approaches, United and Continental are bringing together those who wish each other "Nollaig Shona Dhuit" in Ireland, "Joyeux Noel" in France, " Buone Feste Natalizie" in Italy, "Shinnen omedeto, kurisumasu omedeto" in Japan, and "Saint Dan Fai Lok" in Hong Kong. Next year, Continental Airlines will help those wishing each other "Mele Kalikimaka" by introducing a non-stop flight from California to the Big Island of Hawaii. Continental will fly from Hilo International Airport to San Francisco weekly and Los Angeles daily. This will be the only flight to offer direct service from Hilo to the mainland. For now, all flights stop in Honolulu before continuing to their final destination. Jim Compton, Executive Vice President of United Continental Holdings commented, "We are excited to provide customers the only direct flights to Hilo from the mainland." Mike McCartney, Hawaii Tourism Authority president and CEO, is also happy about the new flight schedule, saying, “The addition of the two routes is welcome news for Hawaii Island and the entire state, and a result of the momentum established by our tourism industry to lead Hawaii’s tourism recovery.” The flights are set to begin June 9, 2011.

[December 16, 2010] Today marks the 50th anniversary of an aviation tragedy which shattered many lives, and sparked much needed changes in aviation safety. On December 16, 1960, a United Airlines jet and a TWA propeller plane collided in mid-air over New York, killing all 128 people aboard the planes. The United plane crashed into the Park Slope neighborhood in Brooklyn, destroying at least 10 buildings and killing 6 more people on the ground. The TWA plane crashed into a military air base on Staten Island. One young boy, Stephen Baltz, initially survived the United crash, but his injuries were too extensive, and he died the next day. In the investigation following the crash, the planes' "black boxes" were used extensively for the first time, and the air control system was revamped to prevent future tragedies. Today a memorial was held at Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery. During the ceremony, an 8-foot marble monument bearing a bronze plaque with the names of the 134 victims and the story of the day's events was unveiled. A letter was also read from the brother of Stephen Baltz. The letter said that while the boy was at the hospital, he told his father, "Daddy, next time I fly, I want to fly my own plane, I want to be the pilot." Many relatives of the victims were among the people who attended the ceremony.

[December 15, 2010] This story sounds a little too reminiscent of the movie "Catch me if you can". We'll see if you concur. William Hamman, a United Airlines pilot, and "one of the nation's top cardiologists", has been exposed as a fraud. Hamman is indeed a pilot, but he is not the doctor he's been claiming to be. He went to medical school for awhile, but he did not complete his degree. However, that did not stop him from becoming a respected cardiologist who gave lectures, trained staff and wrote grants for medical research. His 15+ year charade came to an end last summer when suspicions led to an investigation resulting with his exposure. The doctors who worked with him were stunned. Dr. W. Douglas Weaver was president of the cardiology group when it gave Hamman a contract for up to $250,000 a few years ago to train doctors how to communicate with others in medical emergencies by working with computerized mannequins and models. In response to Hamman's exposure as a fake, he said, "I was shocked to hear the news. He was totally dedicated to what he was doing, and there is a real need for team-based education in medicine." Interestingly, even after his cover was blown, the medical community did not initially want to give him up. According to the Associated Press, "Even after learning of Hamman's deception, the American Medical Association was going to let him lead a seminar that had been in the works, altering his biography and switching his title from 'Dr.' to 'Captain' on course materials. It was canceled after top officials found out." Apparently, he did not need to be a doctor to be an educator, but his lie cost him everything. He resigned from his position at William Beaumont Hospital, and United Airlines reportedly grounded him after hearing about his falsehoods. My question is, who forgot to check his resume 2 decades ago?

[December 14, 2010] Don't you hate being nickel-and-dimed by airlines? Well, the airlines are loving it! In baggage fees alone, major U.S. airlines collectively made $906.4 million this quarter, with that number rising to $1.49 billion when you add in ticket change fees. Delta topped the list for raking in the most fees, totaling $259.4 million from bags and $183.3 million from reservation changes. American Airlines was a distant second with $151.1 million of our nickels and dimes from baggage fees and $117.7 million for ticket changes. Continental Airlines has come up with the newest fee to hit passengers, called FareLock. They will be charging a $5 fee to put a 72-hour hold on a fare without any commitment to buy a ticket, or a $9 fee will allow customers to lock in a fare for 7 days. Continental claims it will still offer the standard 24-hour fare hold for free, so far. Perhaps Continental is hoping to rank higher than 4th place on next year's list of the most fee-gauging airlines.

[December 13, 2010] "Oh the weather outside is frightful" is an under-statement this year. Dreadful weather is causing travel delays that do not seem to have an end in sight for many travelers. After Sunday's snowstorm in the Midwest that caused the Metrodome roof to collapse in Minneapolis and 1,700 flights at Chicago airports to be grounded, more flights are being canceled or delayed due to frigid temperatures and icy winds moving down the Eastern Seaboard. Chicago's airports are attempting to recover from yesterday's storm, but the problem is being compounded by thousands of stranded passengers who are competing to find a seat on any flight available. According to the National Weather Service, a winter weather advisory is still in effect until midnight tonight. United, Continental and Delta Airlines are encouraging passengers to avoid traveling right now if at all possible. They will be waiving the normal change fee for those who chose to re-route or postpone their travel plans.

[December 9, 2010] Despite TSA's best efforts to scare everyone away from airports, last month United and Continental's traffic was up by 4.8%. In fact, most U.S. airlines are seeing an improvement in traffic compared to the last two years. Jeff Smisek, United Continental Holding's CEO, is looking to gain an edge in the recovering market by making more international alliances. He is looking into partnering with airlines in Latin America and Canada, seeing joint ventures as a "powerful competitive tool". Smisek commented that, “Latin America is an area that we're keenly interested in. We're also looking at potentially having a transborder joint venture with our friends at Air Canada.” The carriers must receive federal approval before they can operate jointly. Such approval is expected to be given late next year.

[December 8, 2010] United Continental Holdings Inc. and PGA have signed a 5 year agreement making United the new "Official Airline" of the PGA Tour. Delta Airlines held that title for 25 years, but beginning in 2011, United will have its turn. The new partnership will allow frequent-flier members of United and Continental special perks including unique PGA TOUR player experiences and access to the PGA Tour’s TPC Network of golf facilities and courses. Members of the PGA Tour, Champions Tour and Nationwide Tour will enjoy the privileges of the frequent flier program's elite status and free access to over 50 airport lounges worldwide. Tom Wade, the chief marketing officer for the PGA TOUR, remarked, "We are extremely pleased to announce this new long-term agreement with United Continental Holdings and are very excited about the consumer and player programs that will be initiated through our partnership. The combined hub system and route network align extremely well with our Tour schedules, which is very beneficial to our members, as well as to the frequent fliers who might take advantage of the special PGA TOUR promotional programs." The combination of United and Continental's hubs correspond to golf tournaments in Houston, Chicago, Cleveland, Newark, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington D.C.

[December 7, 2010] Today's headlines are full of bad news... continually rising airfares, lawsuits and delays in promised services... but this one struck me as the worst of the worst. Burglars broke into a building containing items that were being used in a fundraiser for the memorial of United Flight 93, one of the hijacked flights that crashed on 9/11. The burglary occurred in Akron, Ohio at an office of Deitrick & Associates. Last week a fundraising auction was held for the 93 Cents for Flight 93 campaign, and the items involved in the auction were being kept in that office before being shipped to the winning bidders. Thieves punched a hole in the wall to enter the office and stole jewelry, cash, and sports collectibles. The most painful loss was seven Flight 93 silver medallions that were considered priceless because only 60 were ever minted. 53 went to families who had lost loved ones in the crash and the last seven were a part of the fundraising effort for next year's 10th anniversary memorial. Sharon Deitrick, who was leading the campaign, said, "We are beyond devastation." Amidst her shock and devastation, however, she found an ounce of pity for the thieves themselves, reportedly saying, "I think if anyone is that desperate for survival, I feel very sorry for them. I've been praying for them." The police do not yet have any leads regarding the break-in.

[December 6, 2010] Employees of United Airlines have been raising money all year for a special event to take about 60 children to the North Pole. This Saturday, United is getting into the Christmas spirit by providing a festive flight for seriously ill children and their siblings. The flight, called Santa’s Fantasy Sleigh Ride, will take off from Denver International Airport, fly over Denver for 30 minutes, and land at a United hanger decorated like the North Pole. Santa will be making an appearance and gifts will be given to the children. This event is a part of Starlight Foundation’s Great Escapes program which provides families an opportunity to spend memorable time together outside of the hospital. Becky Gutrich, chairman of the board for Starlight commented, “Our Santa’s Fantasy Sleigh Ride delivers a playful, fun experience for children, which is in line with our mission to provide positive experiences for seriously ill children.”

[December 2, 2010] Boingo Wireless has signed an agreement providing T-Mobile users access to Wi-Fi hotspots at airports and hotels. According to WirelessWeek.com, "T-Mobile Hotspot and postpaid mobile broadband subscribers will now have Wi-Fi access at no additional charge at 53 Boingo airport locations in the United States and Canada." The new agreement includes major airports in New York and Chicago, and Washington State Ferries in the Seattle area. It will also allow Boingo subscribers expanded access at T-Mobile HotSpot airline club locations, including the airline clubs of United Airlines and Delta Airlines, among others.

[December 1, 2010] With the Northeast being hammered by heavy rain and winds up to 60 mph, United and Continental Airlines are waiving change fees for passengers flying through the affected airports today and tomorrow. The longest delays are being reported in the New York area at Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark Liberty airports. Travelers at LaGuardia seems to be suffering the worst, with an average delay of over 5 hours. Philadelphia is also seeing delays of over an hour, while the Washington-Baltimore area is experiencing a reprieve from the storms. The severe-weather waiver from United and Continental allows passengers to make one change without being charged the standard fee for ticket changes.

[November 30, 2010] United may not have ranked well with Zagat, but they have won a place as the healthiest airline. In a survey conducted by Dietdetective.com, which examined 8 different airlines, United earned four stars, and can now boast of offering the healthiest food options in the sky. The favorite snack choice was the Tapas snack box, which includes almonds, olives, hummus and bruschetta. If you're looking for something a little more substantial, they recommend the Turkey Sandwich, although I've tried it a couple of times and personally have not enjoyed it. It may be low on calories, but it's also low on taste. JetBlue came in second on the survey, with three and a quarter stars. Continental did not fare so well, ending up in 5th place with only two and a half stars.

[November 29, 2010] The results of Zagat's new airline survey have been released. The survey covered 16 domestic and 74 international airlines and involved over 8,000 frequent fliers who rated the companies on service, comfort, food and websites. For the third straight year, Continental Airlines took first place among the large airlines for Premium-Class Service. Continental also did well in Economy-Class Service and Best In-Flight Entertainment. United was not a favorite in the survey, with low rankings for luggage policy and check-in experience. They surpassed Continental only in the Best On-Time category for domestic flights, taking second place. Hopefully as the two airlines continue their merging process, some of Continental's good habits will rub off on United. Southwest Airlines was the star of the survey, claiming first place in 5 categories, including Best Value, Best Luggage Policy and Best Check-in Experience. Southwest also ranked well in Top Frequent-Flier Programs and Economy-Class Service. Virgin Airlines was another favorite, winning in service categories and tying for first place with Southwest for Top Website. Among U.S. airports rated in the survey, Portland International Airport took first place, New York's LaGuardia took last and our own Seattle-Tacoma International Airport tied for an unimpressive 12th place.

[November 24, 2010] So far today, security lines at most airports are moving smoothly, despite the campaign against the body scanners and enhanced pat downs. Protesters have shown up at airports displaying signs or passing out brochures informing people of the possible health risks and obvious intrusions of the new security procedures, but they have been peaceful and no major disruptions have occurred. In fact, Reuters reports that both passengers and TSA agents are on their best behavior. With so much anticipation of long lines and surly confrontations, most travelers arrived at airports early and well prepared, making things run smoother than normal at busy airports like O'Hare and LaGuardia. At Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, some protesters passed out leaflets against the TSA screenings, but they did not affect the movement of the security lines. Unfortunately, the weather in the Northwest is not being as cooperative. Many people missed their flights in Seattle due to unsafe road conditions, and a record level of snow at the airport. Storms are also causing road closures and flight cancellations throughout the Rockies, and a blizzard warning is in effect for Utah. Here's wishing traveling mercies for all who are flying this week. Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

[November 23, 2010] The outlook has not improved for United Airlines since yesterday. Two more United flights, this time operated by SkyWest, were forced to make emergency landings. A flight from Tucson, Arizona headed to San Francisco was diverted to Fresno, CA after a problem with its hydraulic system was discovered. The plane landed safely and the 37 passengers and 3 crew members were bused to San Francisco. Another SkyWest plane, also bound for San Francisco, was forced to return to Redding Municipal Airport after take-off due to an indicator light signaling smoke in the cargo hold. The plane landed safely in Redding and no fire was found on the aircraft. In addition to United's woes, a fully loaded ammunition clip was found on the cabin floor of a Southwest flight. Apparently the clip belonged to a law enforcement officer who had dropped it on a previous flight aboard that plane. Amidst all of the security tension happening right now, this incident did not help matters, to say the least. Tomorrow will be another interesting day at airports, as National Opt Out Day is still planned to take place. Protesters against TSA's controversial new body scanners are expected to create even longer lines and delays on one of the busiest travelling days of the year. Kathy and I try to avoid travelling on or around holidays, but we can't always choose. We're thankful we're not flying anywhere in the next couple of days. The security drama coupled with these storms in the Northwest is going to make flying a challenge for many.

[November 22, 2010] Besides being on Consumer Reports' Naughty List, and the increasing anger regarding security, United Airlines is facing plenty of trouble on its own at the brink of this holiday season. Hundreds of United and Continental pilots marched in protest this morning against the outsourcing of jobs to other airlines. At Newark Liberty International Airport, the first protest in a three-day demonstration was underway as pilots spoke out against the proposed contract that would allow 70-seat jets and pilots to be outsourced. Pilots are expected to picket at Houston later this week and Chicago next week.
The protests followed a rocky weekend for United after Flight 881 made an emergency landing due to a cracked windshield. The plane carrying 176 passengers en route from Boston to Chicago was forced to land in Buffalo Sunday morning. Thankfully the plane landed safely without decompression problems, and the passengers were provided with another flight to Chicago.

[November 18, 2010] United Continental Holdings Inc. is introducing daily flights from Chicago to Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, Florida. Continental Airlines will offer two daily non-stop flights to Fort Lauderdale and one daily non-stop flight to West Palm Beach. Continental will also offer non-stop service between Denver International Airport and Fort Lauderdale. The new flight options will be operated by 737's and are set for launch February 17, 2011, in time for the great Spring Break migration.

[November 16, 2010] A next generation Boeing 737-800 in United's livery passed its first flight test last week. The new design of the 737 includes changes in wheel fairings, wing surfaces and anti-collision lights to improve aerodynamics, as well as an engine enhancement system. These changes will contribute to the reduction of fuel consumption by 2 percent. Over the course of a year, that 2% will save approximately $120,000 per airplane. Unfortunately, the savings are unlikely to be passed along to the passengers. In fact, they may be surpassed by increases in future fuel prices - but, at least they're trying. Changes to the interior of the airplane include larger stowage bins, and it is said the cabin has a more open, modern feel. Boeing will continue to test the new 737's through April 2011, and will incorporate the changes into general production between summer of 2011 and spring of 2012.

[November 15, 2010] Passengers across the country are expressing their outrage and disgust with the newest security measures TSA has put into place. The 300 full-body scanners introduced at 60 U.S. airports just in time for the holidays are being met with strong opposition from passengers and pilots alike. The new Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) graphically shows the contours of the body and emits low-level radiation. Those who refuse the body scan are subjected to an "enhanced" pat down, which is so invasive many people are equating it to sexual assault. In response to people's concerns about health and privacy, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano unapologetically says, "It's all about security. It's all about everybody recognizing their role." However, many people are claiming government officials have gone too far this time. After one Californian, John Tyner, posted his negative experience at San Diego International Airport online, more and more people are speaking out against the scanners and pat downs. OptOutDay.com, which is calling for a national protest of the scanners on November 24th, says, "This country needs security measures in place that not only keep us safe but also do not grossly violate privacy or constitute an unreasonable search, like the current protocol." Civil liberties groups, travel business groups, and airline pilot and flight attendant unions are also joining the chorus of angry voices. Since the threat of terrorism is not lessening, the Department of Homeland Security is calling for continued patience from travelers, however complaints continue to pour in from Americans who are tired of being hassled every time they fly.

[November 12, 2010] United flight 931 en route from London to San Francisco made an unscheduled stop in Iceland today after a passenger on board became ill. The plane landed at Keflavik International Airport to allow the passenger to get medical treatment at a hospital. The condition of the passenger is unknown at this time. United reported that flight 931 will resume its journey shortly. This is the second time United has used Iceland as an emergency landing pad within the past 30 days.

[November 11, 2010] The last hurdle for the joint venture between United, Continental and All Nippon Airways was cleared today. The U.S. Department of Transportation gave a final order approving anti-trust immunity for the airlines. Once the new trans-Pacific venture takes off, travelling between the Americas and Asia should be smoother due to a broader choice of flight and fare options. Jeff Smisek of United Continental Holdings said: "Today's final approval by DOT enables us to begin working toward a more convenient, more seamless experience for travelers on both sides of the Pacific. We thank the DOT for their thoughtful review." American Airlines and Japan Airlines have also been given anti-trust immunity, and all of the airlines involved hope to begin their new flight schedules in the spring.

[November 10, 2010] United Airlines is spreading holiday cheer this year by giving away 1,000 bonus frequent flier miles. Through the end of the year, Mileage Plus bonus miles are being offered for those who use United's mobile check-in service for domestic flights at the nearly 40 U.S. airports that accept paperless boarding passes. Customers can check in on united.com using a mobile device starting 24 hours before their departure time. After checking in, travelers at participating airports will then receive an email link to access their paperless boarding pass. United customers must register at united.com/mobilebonus before their accounts will be eligible to receive the free miles.

[November 9, 2010] For anyone who would rather hit the beach than hit the slopes this winter, United and Continental are both offering discounted fares to Honolulu. Between now and December 15th, you can fly round trip to Oahu for $418 during the week and an extra $35 for weekend travel. If you would rather slip away for Easter, the airlines are offering flights for $438 from April 12th to June 9th.

[November 8, 2010] Cheers to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport for being one of the best airports for on-time departures. It ranked 5th in a list of the world's 50 busiest airports for departures, with 86% of flights leaving as scheduled. Tokyo's Haneda Airport sat at the top of the list with 94.1% of timely departures. Seattle-Tacoma based Alaska Airlines also ranked well among U.S. major air carriers for on-time take-off, ranking second with 87.43% of flights arriving on time. United surpassed them with over 89% of flights being punctual.

After over a million people from 200 different countries cast their votes on their favorite on frequent flier programs, United's Mileage Plus Program won for having the best Elite-Level Program in the Americas at this year's Frequent Traveler Awards. Impressive as that may be, I am remarkably unimpressed with the answers United provided to questions regarding the fate of our frequent flier miles in light of the merger. An unfruitful meeting between United executives and members of the online forum, "FlyerTalkers", occurred last week, during which many elite-level members of United's frequent flier program were hoping to find answers. However, the United executives remained tight-lipped regarding the future of our miles. Giving no details on what to expect, the United representatives said United and Continental programs will remain separate in 2011, though some streamlining may take place, and a complete combination of the programs is expected to occur in 2012. Maybe. Thanks, United, for a lesson in ambiguity.

[November 5, 2010] In response to last week's terrorism scare, airport security is being reviewed around the world. It has been reported that the Interior Minister of France said the bomb found in a UPS cargo plane in England was defused only 17 minutes before it was set to explode. The bomb was hidden in the ink cartridge of a printer, wired to a cell phone without a SIM card - indicating that the cell phone's alarm was meant to set off the explosives. The bombs were intercepted after a tip from a detained Al-Quaeda member. Military and intelligence operations are underway in Yemen to track down the persons responsible for the thwarted attack. Meanwhile, some countries have ceased all passenger flights to Yemen. Captain Abdulkhaleq Al-Kadi, chairman of Yemenia, also stated, "We have decided to suspend all cargo to Europe carried by Yemenia airlines, to make our friends in Europe comfortable. At the meantime, we review the government procedures and how we can handle cargo from Yemen to Europe. Once we are satisfied, our clients are satisfied and security in other country are happy about us, we will go back and carry cargo. Right now it is suspended for the sake of safety." In a recent development, Al Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen has claimed responsibility for the parcel bomb plot, as well as for a UPS plane crash in Dubai in early September.

Glenn Tilton, former chairman, president and CEO of United Airlines, and current chairman of United Continental Holdings, Inc., received a distinguished honor from the American Cancer Society today. Tilton was presented with the CEO of the Year Award -- Excellence in Leadership and Impact as a part of the American Cancer Society's Corporate Impact Award Series. Tilton has served as chair of the Illinois Chapter of the ACS's CEOs Against Cancer group, as well as co-chair of the national group. Under Tilton's leadership, United helped raise over 148 million airline miles and nearly $500,000 through their Hugyou Teddy Bear Family program for cancer patients and their families who need to travel for treatment. Also, with his wife Jackie at his side, Tilton consistently supports the annual American Cancer Society Discovery Ball, which raised more than $2 million dollars in 2008. John R. Seffrin, Ph.D., the American Cancer Society's CEO stated, "Glenn understands the tremendous impact CEOs can have on the fight against cancer. He continues to lead and to give generously in so many ways to help create a world with less cancer and more birthdays." The CEO of the ACS's Illinois Division, Steven M. Derks, commented, "We are extremely proud to call Jackie and Glenn our partners and friends here in Illinois and with the American Cancer Society nationwide. They are truly leaders in the fight against cancer, and their passion for our mission is invaluable."

[November 4, 2010] United Airlines and the Oprah Winfrey Show have teamed up to commemorate the talk show host's last season. At Chicago O'Hare Airport today, United unveiled a Boeing 757 with "Oprah: The Farewell Season" painted on its side and Oprah's signature painted on the nose and the tail. The interior is also specially decorated with Oprah regalia and the passengers will be greeted with a welcome video from Oprah herself. At today's send-off event, one passenger will receive enough United Mileage Plus miles to fly around the world. Each customer on the first flight will also receive a monogrammed "Oprah 25" fleece blanket. Along with the unveiling of the Oprah plane, United is launching its United Million Mile Giveaway, a sweepstakes giving one million United Mileage Plus miles to a winner each month through May 2011. Senior vice president of marketing for United, Mark Bergsrud, said: "As Chicago's hometown airline, United is proud to celebrate The Oprah Winfrey Show's Farewell Season with our customers, employees and 'Oprah' show fans. This unique plane represents the global reach of two great Chicago icons." United will fly the Oprah Farewell Season Plane domestically until May of next year.

[November 2, 2010] Last week, two explosive packages originating from Yemen and headed for Chicago were intercepted in England and Dubai. One of the explosive devices, containing 400 grams of PETN, was discovered at Midlands Airport on board a UPS cargo plane. The other bomb contained 300 grams of PETN hidden inside components of a printer, and was found in a FedEx package after having traveled on a Qatar Airways passenger flight. Terrorists have attempted to use PETN on at least two occasions in the past, but both times previously the explosives were brought on board the plane. This is the first time cargo planes were used as conduits for the bombs. In 2007 a law was passed requiring all cargo transported on domestic flights and passenger planes flying into the U.S. to pass through security screening, however, cargo planes are not covered by that law. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is now calling on security regulators around the globe to work together to help make the skies a safer place. The chief of IATA is also calling for an accelerated development of better cargo scanning technology. In a statement yesterday, Janet Napolitano, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security said, "We've put a ground halt on all cargo emanating out of Yemen, until they can be inspected."

[November 1, 2010] Missing a flight can be stressful and losing your luggage is a pain, but here is a lesson in what NOT to do if you're at the end of your rope while traveling. Sergei Berejnoi earned himself a trip to the Denver jail Saturday night by saying the most foolish thing you can say in an airport these days. After narrowly missing his flight in Denver, he became irate and told the gate crew he needed to get his bag off the plane...because he had a bomb inside it. The plane returned to the gate and his bag was check, but no explosives were found. The flight, being operated by SkyWest Airlines, was delayed an hour by the search and Berejnoi was arrested for suspicion of endangering public transportation. He is now in jail, with bail set at $15,000, and the possibility of serving 12 years in jail plus a $750,000 fine.

[October 28, 2010] Delta Airlines now holds the singular title of being the America's Meanest Airline. The Airline Quality Rating Report (AQR) is in, and Delta takes the cake for being the Worst Major Airline out there. It ranked number one in delays, as well as in consumer complaints, with an overall AQR score of -1.73. United Airlines came in second, due to terrible meals and rude flight attendants. Alaska Airlines, American Airlines and US Airways trailed closely behind, making the list of the top 5 worst airlines. American Eagle won the title of Worst Regional Airline for the most incidents of mishandled bags and second most delays, with the worst overall ranking and the painful score of -2.83 on the AQR scale. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Hawaiian Airlines deserves some accolade for claiming the title of best airline, followed by AirTran, JetBlue and Southwest.

[October 27, 2010] United Airlines is facing a new class-action lawsuit from the National Federation of the Blind and three blind individuals who have a history of flying with United. The NFB is accusing United of discrimination because of touchscreen kiosks that cannot be used by blind passengers. In a strong statement against United, the President of the National Federation of the Blind, Dr. Marc Mauer, accuses the airline of purposeful discrimination by saying, "The airline industry has an unfortunate history of discriminating against blind passengers, and now United Airlines is repeating that history by deploying inaccessible technology that we cannot use. United is engaging in this blatant discrimination even though the technology to make its kiosks accessible is readily available, has been deployed by others, and will involve little cost to the company...We will not tolerate a separate and unequal experience for blind passengers and demand that United cease its discrimination against us as soon as practicable." One of the individuals involved in the lawsuit, Tina Thomas, remarked, "I find it extremely ironic that United, which touts itself as the official airline of the U.S. Paralympic Team, discriminates against me as a member of that team and as a blind person. I sincerely hope that United will make a more serious and tangible commitment to treating passengers with disabilities equally." Another individual involved, Mike May, explained, "I have been working in the adaptive technology field for twenty years, and I know well that it is easy and practical for United to make its kiosks accessible. There is simply no excuse for the long wait and inconvenience that other blind United passengers and I continue to experience at airports." The third individual involved, Michael Hingson, hopes this lawsuit will serve as a wake-up call to United Airlines to be more conscious of the needs of the blind community.

[October 26, 2010] United had to make another emergency landing this week. A flight from Chicago bound for Shanghai made an unscheduled stop in Winnipeg after smoke was reported in the cockpit. The Boeing 777 landed safely and the 194 passengers spent the night in Winnipeg. A replacement plane was sent to Winnipeg, and the passengers should be back in the air this afternoon.

[October 25, 2010] A memorandum of understanding on the historic "Open Skies" agreement was signed today by the United States and Japan. The agreement was signed by Japanese transport minister Sumio Mabuchi and U.S. Ambassador to Japan, John Roos. With the treaty in place, limitations on flights between the two countries will be eradicated. After the signing, United Continental Holdings Inc. remarked, "The open skies agreement will fully liberalize this important aviation market, allowing for new air services between the two countries and enabling consumers to benefit from greater choices and competition." Newly coordinated flights between All Nippon Airways and United/Continental are set to be launched in the spring.

[October 22, 2010] United has racked up an impressive new repertoire of flight paths in the last week. To start off with, United Continental Holdings Inc. have been given antitrust immunity in conjunction with All Nippon Airways Cp. Ltd. for trans-Pacific flights between Japan and the U.S. On the domestic side, United will be offering a non-stop flight from Reno-Tahoe International Airport to Houston's Bush Intercontinental beginning in February. In April, non-stop flights from Tulsa International Airport to Washington D.C.'s Dulles International Airport will begin. United also has plans to resume non-stop flights from Bakersfield to Houston, and commence non-stop flights between Dallas Love Field and Denver. After a successful 3rd quarter, the company hopes its revenue continues to rise as its coverage spreads.

[October 21, 2010] Keep your eyes open for a new gourmet feature on United's Business Class in-flight menu. United has teamed up with celebrity Chef Curtis Stone to prepare a new healthy and organic meal option. The meal starts with a salad & appetizer combo of grilled range-free chicken, crisp slaw mixture and a ginger sesame vinaigrette, and finishes with an entree featuring Niman Ranch braised beef short ribs. Chef Stone gave this commentary on his inspiring new dish, "As a frequent traveler, I understand the importance of in-flight meals to the overall travel experience. These menu options reflect my desire to create meals that taste great and also leave travelers feeling refreshed and rejuvenated." Bon appetit!

[October 20, 2010] A *former* United Airlines employee has been charged with wire fraud and sentenced to 30 months in prison. Mercedes Stafford, also known as "Sadistic Sadie", the former president of the Cincinnati Roller Girls, plead guilty in June to fraudulently obtaining and selling airline tickets while working for United Airlines. From May 2007 to October 2009, Stafford illegally obtained approximately 525 tickets, worth more than $850,000. She fraudulently bought "involuntary tickets", which United issued when a flight was canceled or delayed, then created fake ticket numbers she used to buy real tickets for herself, her family and her roller derby pals. Stafford also admitted that she received over $50,000 from the people who benefited from her ticket scam.

[October 19, 2010] Mixed feelings have been expressed in response to United Airline's fly by during San Francisco's annual Fleet Week, which occurred October 9th and 10th. No complaints were received during the actual event, but as videos and pictures have arrived on the web since then, people's responses have become a bit more varied. During the celebration, a United Boeing 747 flew close to the Golden Gate Bridge, under the direction of an air traffic controller. In certain videos now being shared online, it looks as if the plane flew over the bridge and was dangerously close to it. However, the FAA says the plane flew safely along side the bridge and the blames the angle of the video for making appear dangerous. Many people were upset with the pictures, saying they reminded them of images from 9/11. A United spokesperson said the company was "showcasing one of its 747s to celebrate its longstanding partnership with San Francisco" and "the fly-by was conducted as part of a well-publicized air show and with the utmost consideration to the safety of the public and the aircraft."

[October 18, 2010] United Airlines flight 931 en route from London to San Francisco made an unexpected landing in Iceland on Saturday. Smoke was detected at the rear of the cabin as the Boeing 777 making its way across the Atlantic. The plane was nearing Iceland when the decision was made to land and see what the problem was. The 285 passengers were taken to hotels and spent a night in the capital region while repairs were performed on the airplane. The air conditioning unit was the odorous culprit, and maintenance was able to fix the problem. After a 24 hour delay, the passengers arrived safely in San Francisco.

[October 15, 2010] Denny Fitch, a United Airlines hero, has been diagnosed with brain cancer, and is working to raise brain cancer awareness. In 1989, Fitch, a United pilot, was aboard United Flight 232 as a passenger when the plane's tail engine exploded. Fitch grabbed the throttles and helped the pilot crash land the plane in Sioux City, Iowa. Thanks to his help, 184 of the 296 people aboard survived. This January, Fitch learned he has brain cancer, and he is being treated at Chicago's Northwestern Memorial Hospital. According to the Chicago Tribune, "Oncologist Ann Mellott says Fitch has lived every day since the crash like it could be his last, and is using that positive attitude in his battle against cancer."

[October 14, 2010] Well, that was quick! The DOT has already approved United's proposal to launch non-stop flights from Los Angeles to Shanghai next May. A delighted United spokesperson remarked, "We are pleased that DOT approved the application so quickly, and we believe travelers will be pleased with this service, as it will connect Shanghai with more points in North America than any other airline can." Look out American Airlines! United's secret plot to take over the world is rapidly being realized.

[October 13, 2010] United Airlines seeks to broaden its horizons, yet again, by asking the Dept. of Transportation for permission to fly non-stop from Los Angeles to Shanghai beginning next May. United intends to operate the flights with a Boeing 777, offering passengers seats in United First ., United Business . and United Economy .. American Airlines received permission last week for the same route starting in April. According to the Wall Street Journal, "The prospect of American and United on the route also sets up a three-way battle between the global airline alliances that dominate the industry on the busiest route between the U.S. and Shanghai." One blogger mused that with United's decision to join the route so shortly after American gained it, "United may have felt a need to blunt its smaller rival." However, American Airlines doesn't seem to be worried. An American Airlines spokesperson confidently stated, "We compete successfully versus United Airlines on Chicago-Shanghai and Chicago-Beijing, and we will compete successfully with United Airlines on Los Angeles-Shanghai as well." United currently flies daily to Shanghai from Chicago and San Francisco, while Continental flies daily to Shanghai from Newark, NJ.

[October 12, 2010] Only one flight was reported to have a tarmac delay exceeding three hours in August, compared to 66 flights last August. Our own United Airlines was the unlucky carrier to break the new rule and face the Dept. of Transportation's $27,000 per passenger fine for a flight on August 5th. That particular flight was diverted because of a thunderstorm, and the passengers could not leave the aircraft for 3 hours and 20 minutes because the ramp was closed. Since the rule was set in place, lengthy tarmac delays dropped from 529 occurances in May-August 2009, to only 8 in the same period this year. The DOT is very pleased with this dramatic drop. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood stated, "These numbers show that the tarmac delay rule is protecting passengers from being trapped indefinitely aboard an airplane - with little or no increase in canceled flights. With the summer travel season behind us, it appears that the rule is working as planned."

[October 11, 2010] The United Airlines operation center has a new home. The first steps are being taken to relocate United employees from Elk Grove Village to Willis Tower in Chicago (formerly known as the Sears Tower). This first phase of the move involves 280 employees, and it is projected that they will move a total of 1,000 employees by the end of the year. United plans to occupy 12 floors of the Willis Tower and also plans to employ over 13,000 people in Chicago. Regarding moving day, Jeff Smisek commented, "This is a very exciting day for us as we welcome our co-workers from both Elk Grove and Houston to their new offices downtown. We are pleased to move into this state of the art building, a move which will make United the largest private employer in Chicago." United hopes to have all of its employees relocated to the new operations center within 18 months.

[October 7, 2010] United is continuing its profitable connections theme this week. The U.S. Department of Transportation just released a proposal to allow antitrust immunity for U.S. and Japanese airline alliances. If the proposal is approved, it would give Star Alliance members (United, Continental and All Tippon Airways) and Oneworld alliance members (American Airlines and Japan Airlines) antitrust immunity (ATI). The Dept. of Transportation believes ATI would result in increased services and lower fares on more routes, amidst other consumer benefits. It also believes competition between the alliances will increase for trans-Pacific flights. The ATI hinges on the formal signing of an Open Skies agreement between the U.S. and Japan, which would effectively allow air carries from both countries to coordinate flights "without the limitations of the number of US or Japanese carriers that can fly between the two countries or the number of flights they can operate". United Airlines has also made an agreement with Air Canada for a revenue sharing joint venture. This agreement will help both airlines expand their flight territories. Air Canada's current presence in 59 U.S. cities will expand to include the 210 airports United serves, and United's current network of 16 Canadian cities will grow to include the 59 airports at which Air Canada operates.

[October 6, 2010]
A heroic United Airlines pilot passed away on Monday at the age of 81. Dave Cronin became a pilot for United in 1954, and in February of 1989, on his second-to-last flight before retiring, he was faced with a dire situation. While operating United Flight 811, a Boeing 747 en route from Honolulu International Airport to Auckland, New Zealand, a cargo door blew out while the plane was between 22,000 and 23,000 feet. Two rows of seats were immediately ripped out of the plane when the door blew, and two of the four engines on the plane stopped working. Despite this, Cronin was able to turn the plane around and safely land in Honolulu 25 minutes later. Nine passengers were killed during the initial blow out of the cargo door, but Cronin saved the lives of the other 328 passengers and 15 flight crew members on board. When asked how he was able to deal with such a frightful situation, he said, “I prayed, then went to work.” After his retirement, Cronin flew at the Reno National Championship Air Races for several years in a Lancair Legacy plane he named "For God's Glory". Cronin was well loved and respected in the airline community. He is survived by his four daughters.

[October 5, 2010] It's good to be king. The recently initiated CEO of the world's largest airline seems to be relishing his new position. Jefff Smisek, former chief of Continental Airlines, will be receiving more than double his previous paycheck, and the promise of millions more in bonuses. I agree with David Schepp in his sentiments that, "one can only hope that such salary inflation works its way down the corporate ladder. Then, maybe, just maybe, travelers might get a smile from an airline employee -- if not an on-board meal or a pillow." In the meantime, Smisek has expressed his glee at his new airborne empire by saying “if you are an airline geek, it doesn’t get any better than this: bringing these two carriers together…..They are the perfect marriage, the perfect fit. I think we are creating a tremendous carrier here.” Hopefully some of his gilded enthusiasm will help calm some of the fires he is facing from Continental flight attendants and other growing pains of the new company.

[October 4, 2010] A heightened terror alert was issued yesterday by the U.S. State Department and British government for air travelers throughout Europe. The new alert falls one step short of warning American citizens against traveling to Europe, but it advices them to take precautions during their journeys. United, Continental and Delta Airlines have not reported any significant amount of cancellations or delays in response to the alert. It was reported the airlines were not waiving fees for travelers who wished to change their itineraries in light of the terror alert, since it is considered a general alert rather than a serious warning.

[October 1, 2010]
So long Continental Airlines! Say hello to the new United. That's right folks, the merger is finally complete, and today marks the birthday of the world's biggest airline company. The proud new parent company, United Continental Holdings, Inc., will boast of being able to operate 5,800 flights a day to 371 airports in 59 countries. Jeff Smisek, the company's new president and CEO said, "We are delighted to announce the successful completion of this merger. With great people, an unparalleled global network, the best new aircraft order book among U.S. network carriers and a commitment to superior products and services, United is well positioned for a bright future." Southwest is happily riding on the coat-tails of this merger as it makes its plans with AirTran, while Delta mourns the loss of its title as the world's largest air carrier. American is left to contemplate its newly acquired position at the bottom of the airline totem pole, while holding onto its dwindling confidence in its solitude.

We have more posts from Q3 2010 and even 2008-2009.

[April 29, 2011] Continental Airlines Flight 007 was forced to make an emergency landing yesterday after an unexplained chemical odor was detected. The flight left San Antonio, Texas around 8:45AM Thursday morning and was less than halfway to Houston when the odor was noticed. The pilot returned to San Antonio International Airport and landed away from the main terminal. A ramp was brought to the aircraft, and firefighters wearing hazardous material suits entered the plane. Over 150 passengers and crew exited the aircraft and were examined by paramedics at the scene. At least four people were treated for respiratory distress, and one flight attendant was taken to the hospital for further examination. The cause of the odor is yet unknown.

[April 28, 2011] The family of Mark Bavis, a victim on the second plane to hit the World Trade Center in the 9/11 attacks, has waited nearly nine years to go to trial in a wrongful-death lawsuit. The Bavis family is suing United Airlines, the Massachusetts Port Authority and an airline security company, claiming each of these parties showed negligence in allowing the terrorists to board United Airlines Flight 175 in Boston. This is the last remaining wrongful-death lawsuit related to the attacks. 95 other lawsuits were filed on behalf of 96 victims, and thousands of other families avoided court by receiving payment through a victims' compensation fund established by Congress. The Bavis family rejected several attempts at a settlement, wanting the case to be heard. The long awaited trial is scheduled to begin later this year; however, the judge added an unexpected twist in the way the trial will run. U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein has set a time limit on the trial, giving both sides the same number of hours to present their cases. Hellerstein explained, “The time is going to be expressed not in days, but in minutes. Everything the party wishes to do from openings through summations.” The prosecution and the defense have expressed their frustration at the imposed time limit. Donald Migliori, the lawyer for the Bavis family, said, “The person that is affected the most is my client. We’re talking about millions of pages of documents. We’re talking about distilling one of the most important stories in American history.” It is estimated that each side will have 50 to 60 hours to present their case, making the trial about a month long. According to The Boston Globe, by setting a time limit, the judge is seeking to avoid having the trial "roll on interminably as the details, minutiae, and technical arguments pile up and wants to keep the jury focused and interested."

[April 27, 2011] Jeff Smisek, president and CEO of United Continental Holdings Inc., spoke at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University on Tuesday. As a part of the View from the Top Dean's Speaker Series, Smisek shared his views on leadership with students. Smisek spoke about the main challenge facing airlines right now - skyrocketing fuel prices - but he also talked about the excitement of being in an industry where you never know what will come next. He said, “We’re constantly in crisis. But you have to remain calm and collected. You have to be able to work your way through it.” Smisek encouraged students to find their passion and pursue it. He became a chief corporate lawyer for Continental Airlines in 1995, and he briefly was Continental’s CEO before becoming CEO of the world's largest airline last year. Smisek commented, "If you like the business of business, there is no business like the airline business. If you like making money, then it’s not for you. I’m in a business that hasn’t earned an adequate return since the Wright Brothers." Regardless of that, Smisek doesn't seem to be doing too poorly for himself. In the beginning of 2010, when he was still Continental's CEO, he vowed he would not accept a salary or bonuses until the company earned a full-year profit. After a profitable year following the merger, Continental paid his $791,250 salary retroactively, plus he was given $3.6 million in other incentives, totally 4.4 million dollars for the year.

[April 26, 2011] According to the latest developments in the United Airlines Flight 497 investigation, the pilots did not follow procedure and unintentionally disabled vital electrical systems while responding to a faulty fire-warning sensor. The flight made an emergency landing in New Orleans after the pilots declared they had "lost all our instruments". After the plane touched down, it proceeded to slide off the runway because there was not enough electrical power to steer the plane's nose gear or supply anti-skid protection for the brakes. The National Transportation Safety Board stated that after the warning went off, the pilots skipped a portion of a checklist and failed to restore power to some equipment, making the emergency landing all the more difficult. As reported in the Wall Street Journal, "The incident illustrates the challenges of dealing with an onboard fire emergency, and the complications that can result from swiftly running through a checklist that entails shutting off and then possibly restarting electrical circuits." Investigators are still trying to determine why the cockpit-voice recorder is missing 12 minutes of conversation from the flight.

[April 25, 2011] Three passengers on United Airlines Flight 593 were escorted off the plane shortly after boarding. After the aircraft left the gate at Denver International Airport, a man reported concerns about a few passengers acting suspiciously, and the flight crew requested the removal of three passengers before the flight took off. The man who made the report and the passengers under suspicion were interviewed by law enforcement officers separately. Authorities did not say what sparked the concerns and the passengers in question were later released. The aircraft was inspected, and when nothing unusual was found, it departed for Santa Ana, California after a two and a half hour delay.
Alaska Airlines also had its share of suspicious activity last Friday on the way to the same destination. A white substance was discovered in the back lavatory of Alaska Airlines Flight 508 shortly after take-off. The unknown substance raised alarm, and during the flight from Seattle to Santa Ana, the flight crew notified authorities and asked for help. When the plane landed at John Wayne Airport, it was met by fire department crews, law enforcement officers and a hazardous-materials team. After the 151 passengers and six crew members disembarked, the authorities boarded the plane to test the suspicious substance. After careful testing by the experts, the mysterious white dust was determined to be a "cellulose fiber"...also known as...toilet paper.

[April 21, 2011] Despite all of the fare hikes and extra fees, United Continental Holdings reported a $213 million loss for the first quarter of 2011. The company's revenue climbed 11% to $8.2 billion (thanks to those high ticket prices and extra fees), however that did not make up for the nearly 35% increase in fuel prices compared to last year. Jeff Smisek, United CEO, commented, "Fuel prices remained very high and volatile. During the first quarter, they rose to levels not seen since 2008. We saw our first-quarter fuel expense excluding the impact of hedges rise $725 million compared to the same period of 2010. These are very tough times." According to the Air Transport Association, U.S. airlines have collectively paid about $3 billion more for fuel this year. United Continental Holdings plans to halt growth plans and cut capacity even further as fuel prices continue to rise. The airline also attributed about $30 million of their loss to the decrease in demand for travel to Japan following the devastating earthquake and tsunami. Southwest Airlines, beating all odds, reported a $5 million profit for the first quarter, down from $11 million last year. American Airlines posted a grim $436 million loss.

[April 20, 2011] Yet another airfare hike was initiated this week. Delta Airlines began this round of price increases on Monday, and, so far, American Airlines, JetBlue and United Airlines have matched the $10 round-trip hike. Even Southwest joined in this time, indicating that this hike will most likely succeed in sticking. According to CNNMoney.com, "In the past five years, no industrywide attempt to raise fares failed when Southwest was on-board." With the continually rising fuel prices, FareCompare's CEO, Rick Seaney, said it would be possible to see a fare hike each week for the next month. Also, between June 9th and August 21st, airlines will charge additional summer premiums. As long as demand for air travel remains strong, airlines can continue to increase prices.

[April 18, 2011] On March 27, 2010, United Airlines Flight 889 took off from San Francisco International Airport, carrying 268 people en route to Beijing. As the Boeing 777 climbed, a single-engine propeller plane was flying a few hundred feet above it. The Traffic and Collision Avoidance System issued a traffic advisory in the cockpit, and the pilot pushed down the nose of the jet to stop its climb, as instructed by the onboard safety system. The small Cessna aircraft flew overhead, with the United pilots "seeing only the underside of the airplane". The planes were separated by only 350 feet vertically and less than 480 feet laterally. FAA mandates the minimum separation required was 500 feet vertically and 1.5 miles laterally. According to a report later detailing the incident, three air traffic controllers were on duty when the near-collision occurred. The controller in charge was busy with administrative duties. Another controller was distracted by taxiing aircraft when he gave the go-ahead for the United flight to take off, and failed to check the radar for potential airborne conflicts. The third controller was a trainee, who later said she didn't recognize the problem before it occurred. Incidents like this do not bode well for the air traffic control system, already under scrutiny for its sleepy controllers. In this situation, three controllers were wide awake when they cleared the giant jet for take-off, resulting in close call.

[April 15, 2011] United and Continental Airlines are working toward aligning their frequent flier programs by adding heaps of fees to most Continental members and a small helping of new fees to United members. In an email to its frequent-flier members, United said, "As we continue the changes under way at United Airlines and Continental Airlines, we're revising certain Mileage Plus and OnePass award fees to make them consistent across both programs." Beginning on June 15th, Continental Airlines will raise its fees for redepositing frequent flier miles to passengers who cancel their flights. The redeposit fee will rise from $25 to $100 for gold elite members, from $50 to $125 for silver elite members and will double to $150 for general members. Platinum elite members will not be charged for redepositing miles. United, now charging most members $150 to redeposit canceled miles, will lower some fees to match Continental's sliding scale. United will also decrease its fee to change trip origin, destination or connecting cities from $150 to $75 for non-elite members. Global Services and 1K members will not be charged. United will begin charging non-elite members $75 to book awards tickets within 21 days of a flight. Premier-level frequent fliers will be charged $50 for last-minute bookings, and Premier Executive members will be charged $25. That service will remain free for United's Global Services and 1K members.

[April 14, 2011] United Airlines has partnered with yet another baseball team. This time the world's largest airline is teaming up with the defending World Series Champions, the San Francisco Giants. In addition to flying the team to away games, United will be spreading its logo throughout AT&T Park and on the Giant's website. United operates more than 250 daily departures from San Francisco International Airport. Mark Bergsrud, senior vice president of marketing for United, stated, "As the Bay Area's largest airline, United is proud to serve San Francisco and partner with the World Series Champion San Francisco Giants. We look forward to being part of the team experience, both in San Francisco and at every road game, for both players and fans."

[April 13, 2011] Two more air traffic controllers were caught sleeping on the job this week. One controller has been suspended for falling asleep during his Monday morning shift at Boeing Field/King County International Airport in Seattle. The latest incident, occurring earlier today, involved a controller who was out of communication for 16 minutes at Reno-Tahoe International Airport in Nevada. According to the FAA, this controller was sleeping while a medical flight carrying a sick patient was trying to land. The pilot of that flight was able to get in contact with another FAA facility and land safely. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood reacted, saying, "I am totally outraged by these incidents. This is unacceptable. The American public trusts us to run a safe system. Safety is our number one priority and I am committed to working 24/7 until these problems are corrected." Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Randy Babbitt also expressed his disapproval, saying, "Air traffic controllers are responsible for making sure aircraft safely reach their destinations. We absolutely cannot and will not tolerate sleeping on the job. This type of unprofessional behavior does not meet our high safety standards." LaHood and Babbitt also announced that an additional air traffic controller will immediately be added to the midnight shift at 27 control towers nationwide.

[April 12, 2011] The results of the Airline Quality Rating (AQR) have been released, and United Airlines takes the undesirable title of being the worst major airline in America, although American Eagle ranked the worst of the worst. AirTran topped the list for best airline, taking over Hawaiian Airline's title as being #1. The AQR, which is sponsored by Purdue University and Wichita State University, analyzes Department of Transportation information, ranking16 airlines based on four categories: on-time arrivals, mishandled baggage, bumping due to overbooking and consumer complaints. Overall, airline performance improved in 2010, with fewer lost bags, more on-time flights and fewer bumped passengers. However, complaints to the Department of Transportation about airlines increased 28%. The rise in complaints is likely due to increased fees by the airlines, capacity cuts, (and probably because the DOT made it easier to file air travel complaints). Southwest Airlines, which ranked 5th overall, had the least amount of complaints. Delta Airlines received the most complaints, although they didn’t top United's overall score.

[April 11, 2011] The outlook for airlines this year continues to look grim, as crude oil reached over $113 for the first time in 30 months. In response, the 10th attempt to raise fares this year was initiated by U.S. Airways late last week. Delta, American and Continental Airlines shortly followed, but, United Airlines held back on this round. According to some analysts, even with ever-rising ticket prices, airlines will be hard pressed to make a profit. Dahlman Rose analyst, Helen Becker, commented that higher fares may actually hurt airlines' hopes for profitability by squashing demand. Becker stated, "In an environment of higher energy prices, we believe it will be difficult for airline company equities to outperform the market. Higher average ticket prices will likely cause demand destruction, and although we expect airlines to reduce capacity to offset reduced demand, we are concerned that their [second-half 2011] reductions will be insufficient."

[April 8, 2011] In the preliminary investigation of the dramatic emergency landing of United Airlines Flight 497 at Louis Armstrong International Airport, the National Transportation Safety Board reported there were no signs of burning or indications of smoke in the cockpit. The pilots, who had reported having "a smoke issue", were responding to an avionics smoke warning message. The warning was accompanied by instructions to land, which the pilots promptly followed. According to the NTSB, “The crew reported that the first officer’s display screens went blank, the ECAM messages disappeared, the cockpit to cabin intercom stopped functioning, and the air-driven emergency generator deployed. The captain said that he took control of the airplane at this point and managed the radios while the first officer opened the cockpit door to advise the flight attendants of the emergency and their return to New Orleans airport.” The NTSB also reported that the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder both stopped recording before the plane landed. Once the plane was on the ground, it slid off the runway, passengers were told to leave the plane via the inflation slides. However, the forward right slide did not properly inflate. The passengers were able to disembark using the remaining slides.

[April 7, 2011] United Airlines celebrated its 85th birthday yesterday with the unveiling of a jet painted in retro colors. The celebratory plane was painted in a 1970's "Friend Ship" paint scheme and will be touring different airport hubs for United and Continental. United Continental Holdings remembered its humble beginnings as a Swallow biplane which completing the first airmail delivery on April 6, 1926. The owner, Walter Varney, seized the opportunity to turn his achievement into a company, originally called Varney Air Service, and secured an airmail contract the same year. Later on, Varney sold the business to United Aircraft and Transport, which changed its name to United Air Lines in 1933. In 1934, Varney and Louise Mueller began a new company called Varney Speed Lines, which was sold and renamed Continental Airlines in 1937. With the 2010 merger, United Continental Holdings is now the world's largest airline. Jeff Smisek, United's president and CEO, said, "We are proud to celebrate United's 85th anniversary with the more than 85,000 co-workers and thousands of retirees who have built the world's leading airline."

[April 6, 2011] The Federal Aviation Administration has yet another problem on their hands after reports surfaced of a second air traffic controller found sleeping on the job. This time, the worker "intentionally" slept for five hours during his midnight shift at McGhee Tyson Airport in Knoxville, Tennessee. A fellow controller, working in another room, handled both the radar and tower positions, helping seven planes land during the five hour period while the other controller was "unresponsive". This incident, coming to light during an FAA budget meeting, is being treated differently than the incident at Reagan National Airport, where a 20-year veteran supervisor admitted to accidently nodding off during his shift. Federal Aviation Administration chief Randy Babbitt said the incident in Tennessee was not an accident caused by fatigue. “This is someone who, in our investigation, just went in and prepared to go to sleep, take a nap, and that’s absolutely not acceptable.” Since the Tennessee controller slept "willfully", action is being taken to have the worker fired. The FAA stated it "will not tolerate this type of unprofessional and inappropriate behavior. The agency is committed to ensuring the safety of the traveling public and is conducting a nationwide review of the air traffic control system, including overnight staffing at selected airports around the country."

[April 5, 2011] Today the FAA officially ordered emergency inspections of the most heavily used 737 aircraft worldwide. Eventually, the FAA wants checks done on 400 to 500 "classic" Boeing 737s. Engineers from Boeing said they originally believed these planes would not need inspections for at least 60,000 take-off and landing cycles, however, the Southwest jet with a five-foot hole in it had only logged 39,000 cycles. According to Boeing and the FAA, inspections of 737-300s, 737-400s and 737-500s now must be performed beginning at 30,000 cycles. Boeing chief 737 engineer Paul Richter said: "I would say that it's regrettable that we had to accelerate our plans to recommend inspections based on an event of this nature." Southwest Airlines has already completed its inspections of their Boeing 737-300 fleet, finding cracks in 5 jets. According to a Southwest spokesperson, "Minor subsurface cracking was found in five aircraft that will remain out of service until Boeing recommends appropriate repairs and those repairs have been completed." Although Southwest has resumed its normal flight schedule, United Airlines is offering Southwest customers seats on their planes...for $150 each way.