March 21-27: New Cockpit Rule, Arming TSA Agents, New Passenger Traffic Record, Alaska’s Improved Service, Paying It Forward & Airline Flies With Cooking Oil

This week’s round-up brings the latest airline travel news — from airlines enforce new cockpit rule, arming TSA agents, and business travelers against airport fee hike, to new passenger traffic record, Alaska’s improved service, paying it forward and airline flies with cooking oil. Enjoy!

Airlines Rush to Enforce Two Person Cockpit Rule

Following the news of the potential cause of Germanwings flight 9525’s tragedy, airlines around the world are starting to put in place and enforce the rule where two crew members are required to be in the cockpit at all times. Norwegian Air Shuttle, easyJet, Air Canada, Air Berlin and Lufthansa (parent company of Germanwings), all introduced the new requirement. The Canadian government took a step further by issuing an immediate order that all Canadian airlines comply with the rule. The U.S. already has this rule in place following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Some airlines, such as Ryanair, already have the rule on their planes.

Union Wants to Arm TSA Agents

In light of several recent attacks at airports, the American Federation of Government Employees, a union representing the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), wants to train and arm TSA agents to be able to better respond to situations like the recent machete attack at New Orleans Airport. The union made a similar plea back in 2013 after a shooting at the Los Angeles Airport.

Business Travelers Also Against Proposed Airport Fee Raise

Two business traveler groups, the Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE) and Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), have joined Airlines for America in opposing the proposed raising of the airport fee, or Passenger Facility Charge (PFC), from $4.50 to $8. Both groups voiced their disapproval of the fee hike due to the other revenue streams airports have.

Airlines Breaks Record for Passenger Traffic

2014 was a busy year for airlines around the world, as 848.1 million passengers took to the skies last year, breaking the 2007 record of 838.4 million passengers. Delta Air Lines was the top carrier with 129.2 million passengers, followed by Southwest Airlines and United Airlines. The percentage of seats filled however, was down in 2014 to 82.7 percent, from the 2013 record of 82.8 percent. This had to do with airlines squeezing in more seats in coach or flying newer and larger planes.

Alaska Goes Beyond with New Service

On Thursday, Alaska Airlines launched “Alaska Beyond,” a new service upgrade offering improved inflight experience with the hopes to keep customers loyal. Among the service upgrades are more comfortable seats with in-seat charging, new wine and food selection from an award winning Seattle chef, free entertainment streamed to the passengers own devices, as well as Windows table for rent for premium movies and other entertainment. The new service has been in the works since 2013, and Alaska hopes to have the service on 70 percent of its fleet of Boeing 737s by mid-April.

Random Stories of the Week
Alaska Employee Buys Ticket for Stranded Passenger

Talk about excellent customer service! Miriam Thomas has the bad luck of being stranded in Ontario, California, when her original Delta flight was cancelled, and Delta offered her an alternative flight the next morning. After Ms. Thomas tweeted her frustration about being stuck overnight, an Alaska Airlines employee used her own money and bought a ticket for Ms. Thomas to get home. Ms. Thomas said the Alaska employee, only identified as Judy, was “paying it forward,” something she hope to do someday.

Airline Flies with Cooking Oil

Hainan Airlines on Saturday became the first airline in China to fly a commercial flight using biofuel on a flight Shanghai to Beijing. Boeing issued a statement that the 737 plane used a combination of jet fuel and biofuel made from “waste cooking oil collected from restaurants in China.” The first ever flight to use biofuel took place in 2012 on a flight from Ottawa, Canada, in hopes of cleaner air travel.

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