TRAVEL ALERTS FOR THE DAY
Only Two Weeks Remain: Support AA's New Route to China
Northwest Provides Q&A on Flight Attendants
Q & A
Now that flight attendants may engage in limited job activities starting August 25, will flights be affected or cancelled?
How do you plan to replace the flight attendants if they take job action or strike?
Will Northwest experience a shortage of flight attendants?
Will there be any noticeable changes to the in-flight service Northwest provides?
If a work action or strike does take place, will you cut back the number of flights or close operations in any market, state or district?
Do you expect other unions to engage in sympathy strikes or refuse to cross AFA picket lines?
Will you give refunds or otherwise accommodate customers who wish to change or cancel their trips?
Will it be safe to fly Northwest if its flight attendants take a job action or strike?
If your plans to fly a normal schedule fail, will you compensate for delays or cancellations?
Please visit www.nwa.com for additional information.
Air Travel Affected by Terror Threat
Due to the increased security threat, we are issuing the following talking points that can be used with your customers or with members of the media.
U.S Rules for Carry-on Luggage and Security Checkpoints
Based on the latest terrorist threat, the U.S. government has issued new regulations with regards to air travel.
No Electronics or Carry-on Baggage on All Flights Originating in U.K.
No hand baggage can be carried on board of any aircraft departing any United Kingdom airport. The U.K. government has advised that this will apply to all airlines operating from U.K. airports.
Electronic or battery operated items, such as: computer laptops, DVD players, mobile phones, iPods, camera equipment and any other electronic items must be part of your checked baggage.
Items that may be carried on board in a single (ideally transparent) plastic bag are:
Every other item must be carried in customer’s checked luggage.
Advise Customers on Steps to Take
Our travel agents routinely counsel and advise their customers on matters of safety while traveling, whether domestically or internationally. We provide them with the facts, as we know them, so that travelers may make informed decisions. With access to the latest State Department Travel Warnings and Public Announcements, as well as up-to-the-minute information from our travel partners, we can help our customers navigate the changing travel landscape, should additional travel warnings or restrictions take place.
For those customers traveling abroad who have provided contact information during their travels, we will be contacting them to make sure they are aware of the new restrictions and provide any assistance needed.
We are also advising customers who are scheduled to travel internationally to consider the practicality of traveling with their laptop and other electronic equipment before departing for the airport.
Travel is many times a necessary part of daily life. We are here for our customers as a resource, so they can carry on with their normal daily activities.
U.S. Government is Vigilant
The United States currently has the safest air transportation system in the world. When consumers hear that the Department of Homeland Security has raised the national threat level from an elevated to high risk of terrorist attack, they should keep that fact in mind
A380 superjumbo passes key evacuation test
Both the European Aviation and Safety Agency and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration approved the A380’s performance in an emergency evacuation drill conducted in a darkened aircraft hangar Sunday with 853 volunteers and 20 on-board staff.
One volunteer broke a leg and about 30 others sustained minor injuries during the drill in Hamburg, Germany, when all 873 participants evacuated the plane in under 80 seconds, using only eight of its 16 exits.
Airbus Chief Operating Officer Charles Champion said in a statement that the A380 had “passed a major milestone on the road to certification.”
Airbus aims to deliver the first two superjumbos to its launch customer Singapore Airlines by the end of this year — about six months behind the original production schedule.
The Toulouse, France-based jetmaker is majority owned by European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co.
By Marilyn Adams, USA TODAY - The rising tide of protectionism that killed the Dubai ports deal threatens to swamp another major transportation proposal: removal of 62-year-old limits on air service between Europe and the USA.
If European Union transport ministers approve the move at a meeting scheduled for June, any U.S. airline could fly to any of the European Union's 25 nations. Likewise, any European airline could fly from anywhere in Europe to anywhere in the USA.
Supporters of so-called Open Skies say it would allow airlines to step up competition for an estimated 17 million new passengers annually, making a trans-Atlantic market already valued at $22 billion a year even more lucrative. For travelers, Open Skies could mean more flights, more convenient routes and cheaper fares across the Atlantic.
But Open Skies has been controversial since negotiators for the U.S. departments of State and Transportation and other agencies began talking to the EU in 2003 about dropping arcane restrictions that limit air service between the continents.
In the USA, the Bush administration backs Open Skies because officials believe it would lower fares and benefit U.S. carriers. No. 2 United Airlines and No. 3 Delta Air Lines support it as a welcome step toward globalization of the industry.
Just as adamantly, Houston-based Continental Airlines argues that the promised benefits are illusory. Open Skies has also drawn vehement opposition from labor groups that fear American jobs might be lost.
"Giving away another vital U.S. industry to foreign interests is one more example of globalization run amok," says the AFL-CIO's Edward Wytkind.
Open Skies was no sure thing even before the political flare-up that killed the plan to turn over management of five major U.S. ports to Dubai Ports World, a company based in the United Arab Emirates. Now some of the same arguments used to thwart that deal are being used to attack Open Skies.
Opponents are aiming criticism not at Open Skies directly, but at a proposed change in rules that govern ownership of U.S. airlines. EU transport ministers aren't inclined to approve Open Skies unless the U.S. first relaxes restrictions on foreign control of U.S. airlines to better reflect foreign ownership rules for European airlines.
The House has approved a non-binding measure to delay the DOT proposal to relax foreign ownership rules. Separately, 163 House members have co-sponsored a bill to delay or veto the DOT rule change. The Senate has similar legislation pending. If enacted, Open Skies could be stalled indefinitely.
Roots of foreign restrictions
Tight restrictions on foreign control of U.S. airlines date back to the 1920s, when memories of World War I were still fresh. Even today, no U.S. airline is permitted to have foreign interests control more than 25% of its voting stock or more than one-third of its board of directors.
In addition, foreign investors may not currently exert "actual control" over any aspect of a U.S. airline by, for example, having a majority of votes on a board committee or a company president who is American but beholden to them.
U.S. citizens must control an airline's safety, security, routes, fares — everything. To invite foreign investment and to pave the way for Open Skies, the DOT now proposes changing this rule so foreign investors could exert control over purely "commercial" decisions, such as fares and routes.
Only U.S. citizens would make decisions on safety and security, the proposal says. Limits on stock ownership and board control wouldn't change. Loosening foreign-control restrictions is not formally linked to Open Skies, but EU officials say one follows the other.
Daniel Calleja, air transport director for the European Commission, said in an interview from Spain that Americans don't face the same restrictions on investments in European airlines. Companies in the EU want "the possibility to invest in the American (aviation) market." In Europe, foreigners can own up to 49% of voting stock.
If the U.S. refuses to loosen its rule on airlines, "The EU ministers would have to re-examine the situation, and I think there would be no agreement," Calleja said.
Reaction in the USA to the foreign-control proposal has been swift and severe. Changing the U.S. rule would open the door to investment not only from Europe but also from anywhere else. Critics have not forgotten that U.S. oil company Unocal was nearly sold last year to CNOOC of China before a U.S. political backlash prompted withdrawal of the Chinese offer.
U.S. labor leaders fear foreign investment could threaten airline jobs at a time when tens of thousands of airline workers already have been laid off amid heavy losses and bankruptcies. U.S. pilots on trans-Atlantic flights could be replaced with foreign pilots, or more U.S. jet maintenance could be farmed out to foreign companies.
Reps. James Oberstar, D-Minn., and Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J., sponsors of the House bill to block the easing of ownership restrictions, are sounding alarms about homeland security and national defense. During war, the Pentagon pays U.S. airlines to transport troops in the airlines' jets. Critics of the rule change say foreign investors might resist allowing aircraft use in a war they oppose.
"Allowing the daily operations of our airlines to be controlled by competing — and potentially unfriendly — foreign interests could significantly undermine homeland security," LoBiondo says.
Critics also say the DOT is trying to make an end run around Congress by changing the rule administratively. "If they straight up asked Congress to amend the law, it would fail," says Duane Woerth, national president of the Air Line Pilots Association.
But DOT officials say they have the legal authority to revise the ownership rules and are prepared to defend their actions in court.
"I am a little surprised by the ferocity" of the criticism, says Jeff Shane, the DOT undersecretary for policy. He chafes at opponents' likening the Dubai ports deal to foreign investment in airlines.
"The two cases are dramatically different," he says. In the foreign-investment proposal, "We have walled off security issues entirely" from foreign influence.
Restrictions on trans-Atlantic air service are almost as old as those on foreign investment. In the final years of World War II, the U.S., with the world's largest commercial fleet, wanted to fly anywhere.
But at a 1944 meeting in Chicago, the United Kingdom and other nations refused, citing their competitive disadvantage. The countries agreed instead on a system of individual agreements between nations regulating air service.
Although the U.S. has since negotiated individual Open Skies agreements with 15 European countries, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Spain, Greece and several Eastern European countries are not among them. They still restrict service to protect their own interests.
For example, only two U.S. airlines, American and United, have the legal right to take off and land at London's Heathrow Airport, the world's busiest international gateway. United, however, is not allowed to fly from Heathrow to all of its U.S. hub airports: Heathrow-Denver flights are prohibited.
Open Skies would end that.
"Those would be significant openings," says Michael Whitaker, vice president of United, which supports the changes. "It would get government out of those decisions."
It would also lift restrictions on European airlines, allowing them to fly between the USA and European cities outside their home countries for the first time.
"Instead of just Alitalia flying to the U.S. from Rome, you might see Air France, KLM or Lufthansa offering non-stop service to the U.S." from there, says Washington, D.C., aviation consultant Mark Gerchick.
U.S. airlines' responses
Delta Air Lines has come out publicly for Open Skies, but No. 1 American Airlines has been quiet, as have others. Continental, the only U.S. airline to come out publicly against Open Skies, has gone so far as to threaten litigation.
Continental President Jeff Smisek calls it "ludicrous" to think an airline could wall off safety and security decisions from a major foreign investor. And he says Open Skies would not be all its supporters promise. U.S. carriers already operate so many trans-Atlantic flights that "the only thing they really need in Europe is access to Heathrow," he says.
Open Skies would technically make it possible for any U.S. airline to fly to Heathrow, but the agreement would not automatically make it possible to land there. Heathrow is so congested that takeoff and landing times must be owned. Although slots there may be bought and sold, they are costly.
If Open Skies is signed, Continental, which now flies to London's Gatwick Airport, would be locked out of the more popular Heathrow until it could buy slots and gate facilities there. Getting enough slots might take years.
Meanwhile, London-based British Airways could launch Heathrow service to Continental's home base of Houston if it wished. British Airways already flies between Heathrow and Continental's hub airport of Newark, N.J., but Continental can't compete. "If a U.S. carrier can't actually serve Heathrow, Open Skies is a worthless piece of paper," Smisek says.
Shane acknowledges Heathrow slots are costly and may not be readily available. But, he says, "Anyone who thinks we can live with the status quo should think long and hard."
The next move is up to the Bush administration. The DOT is scheduled to issue its decision on foreign control next month. The EU's transport ministers are scheduled to meet on Open Skies in June, when they could ratify it. U.S. and EU leaders could sign Open Skies in August.
Meanwhile, criticism in the USA shows no sign of relenting. "Some of the rhetoric has been embarrassing, even xenophobic," United's Whitaker says.
Arpey's AMR Ups India Service, Shanghai Flights
New York - See America First, the 1920s travel-industry slogan went. But for AMR, that's a tad out-of-date.
Led by Chairman and Chief Executive Gerard Arpey, AMR is the parent of American Airlines, whose news this week highlights how the industry is changing.
According to Indian Internet site Daily News & Analysis, American has initiated "tele-bookings" for customers flying from the Subcontinent. With the launch of this service, the report says, passengers can now make reservations, itinerary changes, book and process transactions by calling American directly, toll-free. (Indian steel billionaire Lakshmi Mittal probably has someone to call for him.)
And Arpey's firm has its sights set even further east. Born as the air-mail company employing Charles Lindbergh in 1926, American announced Tuesday that it'll launch nonstop service on April 2, from Chicago O'Hare International Airport to Shanghai Pu Dong International Airport. Fliers may be excused for occasionally mistaking O'Hare for Shanghai--but the teeming Chinese town is probably better organized.
AMR has the jump in opening up a Chinese sphere of influence: Rivals must wait for limited flying rights to become available starting in 2007. Continental Airlines and UAL unit United Airlines are expected to fight fiercely for the lucrative rights.
But that's south and east Asia. What of the U.S.? Delta Air Lines and others have expanded international service and cut domestic routes. And according to the Dallas Business Journal, a quiet omen appeared Wednesday that may signify even more of the same for AMR.
The Journal cites a filing with the Texas Workforce Commission, saying that American is cutting 25 jobs in the Lone Star State's town of Austin, effective April 3. Based in Fort Worth, the carrier is axing 11 part-time passenger service agents, five full-time fleet service clerks and nine part-time fleet service clerks at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. An AMR spokeswoman said the layoffs are related to restructuring--and some 50% of the axed employees are taking other jobs within the company.
Worldwide Caution Public Announcement
The Department of State remains concerned about the continued threat of terrorist attacks, demonstrations and other violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests overseas. Ongoing events in Iraq have resulted in demonstrations and associated violence in several countries. Americans are reminded that demonstrations and rioting can occur with little or no warning.
Current information suggests that al-Qa'ida and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks against U.S. interests in multiple regions, including Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. These attacks may employ a wide variety of tactics to include assassinations, kidnappings, hijackings and bombings.
Extremists may elect to use conventional or non-conventional weapons, and target both official and private interests. The hotel bombings in Jordan in early November illustrate how terrorists exploit vulnerabilities associated with soft targets. Additional examples of such targets include residential areas, business offices, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, schools, public areas and locales where Americans gather in large numbers, including during holidays.
In the wake of the July 2005 London bombings and the March 2004 train attacks in Madrid, Americans are reminded of the potential for terrorists to attack public transportation systems. In addition, extremists may also select aviation and maritime services as possible targets.
U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to maintain a high level of vigilance, be aware of local events, and take the appropriate steps to bolster their personal security.
U.S. Government facilities worldwide remain at a heightened state of alert. These facilities may temporarily close or periodically suspend public services to assess their security posture. In those instances, U.S. embassies and consulates will make every effort to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens. Americans abroad are urged to monitor the local news and maintain contact with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
As the Department continues to develop information on any potential security threats to U.S. citizens overseas, it shares credible threat information through its Consular Information Program documents, available on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov. In addition to information on the Internet, travelers may obtain up-to-date information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. or outside the U.S. and Canada on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.
Airport Security Changes For Travelers
Avoiding Ugly Airline Fees
Travelers may search high and low for that great fare, only to get slammed at the airport with these added fees. Airlines use them as a way to keep fares low while still gaining some much-needed revenue, says Josh Roberts, managing editor of SmarterTravel.com, a travel advice web site. The nine major U.S. airlines cleared nearly $500 million for excess baggage and change fees (to cancel or alter a reservation) during the first half of 2005 alone, according to Consumer Reports. That's a 250% increase from the same period in 1995.
Here are five surprise fees — along with advice on how to avoid them.
Solution: Book online, directly through the airline, advises Harrell. That's the one "fee-free transaction," he says.
And when flying domestically, be prepared to pay extra for an unaccompanied minor as well. Some airlines — like Continental Airlines and Northwest Airlines — will charge a fee of $40 or more in such situations.
Solution: For lap-held babies, look for an airline with a fee of no more than 10% and some added perks. Both Virgin Atlantic and British Airways, for example, assess a 10% fee, but offer extra services such as travel bassinets, baby food and extras necessities such as bottles and diapers, according to Frommer's.
Consumer Reports recommends that parents with babies consider buying their infant his or her own seat. (Heaven knows, the folks sitting next to you will appreciate that.) It may not be quite as expensive as you think: Many airlines offer discounted "child in seat" fares for infants. United, for example, discounts the fare by 50%. It also means that your infant can check two bags — things like that baby stroller, which could otherwise generate an extra-baggage fee (see below), if the parent already has two other bags to check.
As for unaccompanied minors, look for kid-friendly airlines, like Southwest Airlines that won't charge. You might also check the guidelines — some airlines only charge the fee for minors of a certain age, say 12 and younger.
Solution: To avoid these airline fees, check first with your airline about baggage restrictions, which you can find this information on the carrier's web site. Heavy bags are an easy problem to fix. Just put your belongings in two smaller bags instead of one large one, or divert some items to your carry-on bag. (Most airlines restrict your carry-on to 45 pounds or less, says Foster, but they rarely check.) Finally, weigh your luggage before leaving the house.
Curb-Side Check-In Fees
Solution: Ask if there's a fee before you wait in line. If there is, you can always check in inside free of charge. To beat the line and get your luggage checked quickly, SmarterTravel's Roberts recommends considering an airline like Jet Blue Airways, which allows online check-in from your home's computer. When you get to the airport, you can then drop your bags at the airline's self-service/bag drop counter.
Solution: Pack your own amenities, says Foster. She recommends investing in your own travel pillow and blanket — you don't have to spend a lot to get good quality, and you can use the items every time you travel. As for food, Foster advises packing your own at home, especially if you're yearning for a sandwich or salad. "I have yet to be on a domestic flight where the airline is selling anything other than junk food," she says.
How to safeguard
your guests from being the next identity theft victims?
• Training is the most important rule. Hotel personnel should never announce out loud the guest’s name and room number at the front desk during check-in or in the food and beverage outlets in the hotel or facility. If during the check-in process, you or any of your employees overhears a guestroom number being announced, immediately assign a different room for the guest. In addition, instruct your wait staff not to request a guest’s room number out loud in restaurants. Have the guest write it on a piece of paper then destroy the paper. Never, ever say the room number out loud. Believe it or not, this is still happening at hotels and motels across America.
• Instruct your housekeeping staff to leave a kind note for the guest reminding them to never leave important papers containing personal information in plain view in your guestroom, the lobby, any of the food and beverage outlets or in any meeting room space. Remind them to put all personal information, such as airplane tickets, passports, etc. in the in-room safe located in the guestroom when absent from the room.
• Remind guests, and meeting planners so they can advise their attendees, to make sure all computers, including laptops and PDAs (which usually contain valuable and personal information) are secured in all meeting rooms or hand carried by the owner from the guestroom or meeting room space.
• Have your front office and accounting office procedures that address your efforts to safeguard guests’ personal information in writing and available for your guests to see. Find out if there are any leaks or holes in your process. Who has access to guests’ data and is it secured? Are the employees trained on maintaining the privacy of guests, and how so and how often? How secure are your fax machines? Does personal guest information lie around for anyone walking by to see? Hotels and motels need to focus on these issues and if you haven’t, you need to do so immediately.
• Do not place calls directly to guestrooms without the caller knowing the name of the guest assigned to the guestroom for that day. Although your telephone operators want to be helpful to callers, they should never give out names or partial names of any guests to outside callers.
• Do not slip guestroom folios under the guestroom doors the evening prior to checkout. Mistakes by your night shift hotel staff can and do happen and valuable personal information may find it’s way into another guestroom or worse yet, stranded in the middle of the hallway for all guests and employees to see.
• Check the credit card receipts printed from all outlets in your hotel, such as retail shops and restaurants. Some receipts still print the entire credit card numbers. Others only print the last four digits of the credit card number. Having the entire number printed on the receipt can be hazardous to your guests’ financial health. This is usually a simple software programming issue and it will protect your guests if you promptly remedy this situation.
• Remind all meeting attendees to remove their convention badges outside the meeting venue as it provides immediate personal information to any stranger the attendee passes by. Also, remind meeting planners to be careful as to what information is stored on the back side of the convention badges because if it is lost or misplaced, the information displayed, albeit intended for the ease and convenience of the attendee (such as cell phone numbers of colleagues), can end up in the wrong hands.
• Inspect your wastepaper refuse system or trash dumpsters for your hotel or facility. It is in a secure area? Is it inaccessible to the general public? Does a fence or wall surround it? If thieves will go through your personal household trash receptacles to gain personal information, imagine what they could find if they gained access to the waste paper dumpster located at your hotel or motel. Some thieves have admitted that they go dumpster diving at accounting and law offices to gain proprietary information. What will they find if they dive into your dumpsters?
• Be aware of the potential for identity theft with your hotel if you engage shoptalk or shop call systems. This is when you contract with a third party provider to record live reservation calls for purposes of spot checking the reservation agents for compliance efforts and for training purposes. These audio recordings which include names, addresses and credit card information are now in the hands of someone, other than the hotel staff, that can abuse the process and use this information to steal personal information. Make sure you have written agreements with these companies, together with clear and precise language in the contracts prohibiting any type of use of the information contained on the tapes. The information on the tapes should be limited to hotel use only.
• In case one or more of your guests’ identity has been stolen during their stay at your hotel or motel, be prepared to offer assistance by sharing with them the FTC hotline for identity theft at 1-877-IDTHEFT (438-4338) and their accompanying website www.consumer.gov/idtheft. This will enable them to get a head start on the process to regain control of their identity.
Beginner's guide to