Cattle car in the skies
Airlines are pushing creativity to the max when it comes to revenue generation. Fees for baggage, snacks, pillows and blankets, surcharges for booking by telephone have become commonplace in the industry.
Earlier this year Ryanair Chief Executive Officer Michael O'Leary said he was considering putting coin slots on lavatory doors and charging passengers to use the toilet. The Irish airline has since dropped the idea.
Now comes word, via the Los Angeles Times, that a low-cost carrier in Shanghai wants to run its Airbus A320 planes with standing room in order to squeeze 40 percent more passengers on a flight.
Spring Airlines says having passengers stand on short-distance flights would cut costs by 20 percent. For a lower fare, the plane would essentially become an airborne bus with no luggage, food or water service. Passengers would be strapped to a special stool during take off and landing.
Airbus has reportedly studied the concept and said it is safe.
As colleague Chris Dupin quipped, 'How much do they charge for wing walking?'
KLM pilots double as baggage agents
KLM has come up with an inventive way to cut costs as demand for air travel wanes with the global economy.
The Dutch partner in the Air France-KLM group has asked its under-used pilots to fill airport ground functions to spare the company from hiring seasonal help for baggage recovery agents and hospitality agents in the airline's business class lounges, according to the Financial Times.
Under the voluntary scheme, pilots can also fill vacancies to operate jet bridges that connect planes to the terminal, or work in the boarding area taking oversize baggage and strollers from passengers and placing them in the underneath hold. The pilots wouldn't receive any extra pay for their altruism. They will be paid the same amount as those who stay at home because of flight cutbacks.
At least 100 pilots have agreed to the new assignments. They may not be directly saving their jobs, but if they can help keep the airline from going under during tough economic times they will continue to be gainfully employed.
Meanwhile, Air France-KLM expects to reduce headcount by 2,500 to 3,000 by not replacing workers who retire or quit the company. So far it has avoided cutting back working hours.
Lufthansa Cargo goes to Guadalajara
Lufthansa's cargo arm plans to extend its network into Mexico July 22 with the start of freighter service to Guadalajara.
The airline will connect to the large industrial city once per week using an MD-11 freighter that has operated between Frankfurt, Germany, and Dallas-Fort Worth. The flight will continue from Dallas to Guadalajara and then back to the U.S. city before returning to Germany.
Lufthansa Cargo already operates MD-11 freighters to Mexico City twice per week and offers cargo capacity on its 747-400 passenger planes.
Canada fines Qantas in air cargo scam
Qantas Airways pleaded guilty in Canada to fixing air cargo prices and was fined CA$155,000 ($133,620), Canada's Competition Bureau said July 7.
Quantas admitted its freight division conspired to set prices on air cargo that was exported by truck to the United States for air shipment to Australia and other destinations from May 2002 to February 2006.
Two weeks earlier, Dutch cargo airline Martinair, Air France and KLM also pleaded guilty to price fixing and were fined a combined CA$10 million ($8.6 million). The three carriers were penalized for communicating with competitors about the amount and timing of fuel surcharges. The Competition Bureau estimates the companies imposed surcharges of $31.5 million during the period of the conspiracy. Cooperation by the airlines forestalled much harsher penalties, it said. The fines were $4 million for Air France, $5 million for KLM and $1 million for Martinair.
The bureau is continuing its investigation into the conduct of other air carriers. Air Canada has publicly said its cargo practices are under investigation.
Airlines have been ensnared in multiple criminal probes of cargo price fixing by law enforcement authorities around the world.
Last year, a former Qantas freight executive reached a plea deal with U.S. prosecutors for his role in the price-fixing scheme. He served eight months in jail and paid a $20,000 fine.
Qantas, with headquarters just outside Sydney, agreed in November 2007 to pay a $61 million fine to settle U.S. charges of conspiracy in the price-fixing scheme.
A former Martinair executive recently pleaded guilty to U.S. charges of fixing international cargo rates.
So far, 15 airlines and four executives have plead or agreed to plead guilty to colluding to set cargo rates on certain routes. Collectively, the airlines have paid more than $1.6 billion in fines and three executives have been sentenced to jail time in the United States.
British Airways and Korean Air Lines were hit by large penalties from British competition authorities in 2007 and the European Union is also investigating cargo price collusion among airlines.
DHS ready to pre-clear flights from Ireland
A new aviation agreement that allows U.S. Customs officers to pre-clear passengers, crew and cargo on commercial aircraft for entry into the United States prior to departing Ireland will go into effect July 29 at Shannon International Airport, Department of Homeland Security officials said.
The accord, signed last November, broadens an existing pre-clearance check for immigration status to include all customs and agriculture documentation and inspection requirements, as well as screening aircraft for radiological and nuclear threats.
The pre-clearance initiative will expand to Dublin next year. The United States has similar pre-clearance arrangements with Canada and Bermuda.
Inspecting people and cargo before departure enables the United States to catch any potential security threats before crossing the border while also improving the efficiency of the arrival process.
Passengers benefit from the system because they can get all of their inspections completed prior to arrival in the United States, which is especially convenient for people making connecting flights.
Ireland benefits in that it makes the country an attractive stopover for passengers and cargo that want expedited entry without having to compete with other flights at the U.S. destination.