Sept. 19-25: DOJ Investigates Investors over Fare Collusion; DOT to Review Airline Security; Airlines Post Largest Quarter in 8 Years; & more

This week’s round-up brings the latest airline and travel news – from fare collusion investigation includes investors, DOT to review airline security, and airlines post largest quarter in eight years, to Air India for world’s longest flight, European flights to get in-flight Wi-Fi, and flight delayed over pilots’ disagreement. Enjoy!

DOJ Investigation Investors Over Fare Collusion

The Department of Justice’s (DOJ) antitrust investigation in whether the four largest airlines in the U.S. have colluded to keep ticket prices inflated are now including the airlines’ investors as part of their investigation. Two academic reports, including one from Harvard Law School, have argued that when there’s an overlap in ownership of different companies by the same investors, consumers are the ones that pay the price. According to one of the studies, common ownership can cause ticket prices to go up by as much as 11 percent. The investigation will look into the supposed illegal coordination to control seat inventory, which in turn artificially raises ticket prices.

DOT to Review Airline Security

Following the request of U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) will begin to look into whether the security and hiring procedures are stringent enough. This came about in the aftermath of the crash of a Germanwings plane back in March, which officials believe was intentionally caused by co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, who suffered from severe depression. The investigation will also look into “what steps FAA takes to evaluate the psychological health of pilots.”

Airlines Post Largest Quarter in Eight Years

Fuel prices are down 30 percent from last year. Travel is up 10 percent. Coach seats are continuously shrinking. Ancillary fees are here to stay. It should come as no surprise that the combined 26 U.S. airlines have reported an after-tax net profit of $5.5 billion in the quarter between April and June of this year, making it the ninth consecutive quarter the carriers have reported an after-tax profit, as well as the most profitable quarter since 2007. According to the DOT, the airlines collected $962 million in bag fees and $773 million from reservation change fees. With all that profit, when will the airlines offer lower ticket prices? And no, I’m not talking about the budget airlines crazy weekly sales.

Air India for World’s Longest Flight

This past August we mentioned that Emirates is planning to start a nonstop service between Dubai and Panama City in February 2016, which would make it the world’s longest flight, taking 17 hours and 35 minutes, beating the current title holder, Qantas’ nonstop from Sydney to Dallas, by 35 minutes. However, it looks like Air India might beat both those flights if their plans to offer flights between Bengaluru, India’s counterpart to Silicon Valley, and San Francisco pans out. Bengaluru and San Francisco are approximately 8,700 miles and the nonstop flight could take up to 18 hours. Currently a nonstop flight from Sydney to Dallas covers about 8,530 miles and takes about 17 hours, and Dubai is 8,550 miles from to Panama City.

European Flights to Get In-Flight Wi-Fi

If you fly within Europe a lot, you may soon have access to in-flight Wi-Fi, thanks to a partnership between Britain’s Inmarsat and Germany’s Deutsche Telekom. Unlike the U.S., which has in-flight Wi-Fi since 2008, inter-Europe flights don’t currently offer the service, even though it has some of the densest air routes in the world. In a joint press conference, the two companies claim that the data speeds offered will be “comparable to home broadband services,” and Lufthansa will begin testing the service on 180 of its planes serving Europe in 2017. Deutsche Telekom will spend approximately $112 million to build 300 high-capacity 4G base stations across Europe, each with a 50-mile range, and the service will switch over to an Inmarsat satellite when the flight was over the sea.

Random News Story of the Week: Flight Delayed Over Pilots’ Disagreement

Imagine waiting for your flight to find out it is “delayed due to crew availability,” apparently that is code for the pilots got into an argument. This was the unfortunate scenario for United Express passengers trying to get from Lubbock, Texas, to Houston. According to a spokesman for ExpressJet, the regional carrier that operated the plane, “There was a disagreement among crew members. There was no fight … there was no physical altercation thankfully.” Jarek Beem, the spokesman didn’t divulge what the argument was about, but an eyewitness said the police were called. The one-hour flight left five hours later with a brand new crew. While this may be a new reason on why a flight is delayed here in the U.S., it has happened recently in China and India.

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