April 2-8: Senate Says “No” to Regulating Seat Size; Alaska buys Virgin America; Emergency Slide Deployed on Two Separate Incidents; & More

This week’s round-up brings the latest airline and travel news – from Senate voting against regulating seat size, Alaska Airlines buys Virgin America for $2.6 billion, and American drops free hold policy, to legacy airlines change rules on multi-city tickets, and emergency slide deployed on two separate incidents. Enjoy!

Senate Says “No” to Regulating Seat Size

If you’ve been dreaming about coach seats that are bigger, you’re going to have to keep dreaming. On Thursday, the Senate voted against setting a minimum standard on seat sizes by a vote of 54-42. The proposal, introduced by Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, wasn’t meant to set a standardized size for seats but rather to prevent the airlines from shrinking the seats more. It would also require the airlines to list the seat sizes on their websites so travelers will know what they are getting. And while we laugh at the prospect of standing seats, it will no doubt be a reality at some point. The question now is: Who will introduce it first?

Alaska Air buys Virgin America

Well that was quick! Last week rumors started swirling regarding the prospect of Alaska Airlines or JetBlue Airways buying Virgin America. And on Monday, Alaska Airlines announced they are going to purchase Virgin America for $2.6 billion at $57 per share. If you happen to own stock in Virgin America, that’s certainly good news for you because its value went up 40 percent. Both airlines combined will have 1,200 daily departures, 280 aircraft, with hubs in Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Anchorage, Alaska, and Portland, Ore. This merger means Alaska has eliminated a direct competitor on many of its routes along the West coast, and we’ll have to wait and see if this will have any effect on pricing along those routes.

American Drops Free Hold Policy

Up until this week, American Airlines was one of the few airlines that allowed travelers to put a ticket on hold and lock in the price for 24 hours, while the other airlines opted for the option to allow tickets to be canceled at no charge within 24 hours of purchase. Apparently, American’s policy has caused enough confusion among its users that they finally switched over to the latter. The new policy went into effect last Friday, but travelers can still use the 24-hour hold option when using their reward miles or when they use American’s website. So the mystery question here is: who still calls an airline to book a ticket?

Airline Rule Change on Multi-City Tickets

If you typically buy separate one-way tickets from the same airline to save some money over buying a standard one-way ticket with a layover, be ready for a rude awakening. American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines recently, and quietly, made a change to how multi-city trips are priced, which may raise the price of those tickets by six or seven times. In the example provided, American charges $289 for a one-way flight between New Orleans and Los Angeles with a layover in Dallas. However, if you were to purchase two one-way tickets, New Orleans-Dallas and Dallas-Los Angeles, it’ll cost $173, saving you $116. In an attempt to combat that practice, the three legacy airlines now no longer allows nonrefundable tickets to be combined, instead only providing the option to purchase fully refundable tickets. This new pricing structure introduced by all three carriers at the same time has caught the attention of the Business Travel Coalition, who accused them of “illegally coordinating on this ‘complicated and comprehensive scheme.’” The group has requested the Department of Justice to add this to its ongoing investigation of possible airline collusion.

Random News of the Week: Emergency Slide Deployed on Two Separate Incidents

For anyone who’s been onboard a plane, it’s pretty easy to identify an emergency exit. However, that was not the case for a first-time flyer onboard a China Southern Airlines last week. As the plane was preparing to depart Chongqing International Airport, a 50-year old woman, who was not identified, accidentally opened the emergency exit and deployed the emergency slide because she thought it was the door to the toilet. Passengers were ushered off the plane and had to wait a few hours while the technical crew put the slide away. The woman was interviewed by the police and was not allowed to reboard the plane.

Meanwhile, back in the U.S., after a United Airlines flight landed at Houston Bush Intercontinental Airport, a flight attendant decided to open the emergency door, make her way down the slide and walk away. While no reason has been given for the flight attendant’s actions, she has been fired by the airline. In a statement, the airline called the behavior “unacceptable and does not represent the more than 20,000 flight attendants who ensure the safety of our customers.” In case you forgot, a similar incident happened back in 2010, when a former JetBlue flight attendant reached his breaking point with an unruly passenger, release a tirade of obscenities over the public address system, grabbed two beers, and exited to the right.

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