Keeping United international first class

Should the new United Airlines have international first class, like the old United, or not, like the old Continental Airlines? Most frequent fliers expect a decision in favor of one of the two models, but why not go with a mixed model? Why not keep first class on routes where it makes business sense, and fly two-cabin planes where it doesn’t?

Since the two carriers’ merger was announced in May, there have been many opinions in online travel forums advocating just coach and business class, but it’s hard to see the world’s largest airline without long-haul first class at all. Continental may call its premium cabin BusinessFirst, but it’s business class…

New Lufthansa business class in a year

Lufthansa appears to have listened to the recent criticism of its decision to install its old angled business-class seats on the newly arrived Airbus 380 aircraft — finally, truly flat seats are planned when its first Boeing 747-800 enters service in late 2011.

Many Lufthansa customers were puzzled and disappointed when the German carrier didn’t bother to introduce fully flat beds on the A380. It was the perfect opportunity — the current seats have been inferior to those of many competitors for years and don’t quite fit the image of a leading airline, which Lufthansa certainly is. In addition, it rolled out brand-new first-class seats on the A380…

Predicting flight delays and cancellations

Are you one of those travelers who wait until they get to the airport to find out that their flight has been delayed or canceled? It’s time to become a proactive flier and learn how to predict disruptions, so you can get rebooked before anyone else on your flight, with a minimum impact on your travel plans.

Although there is no guarantee that your prediction success rate will be 100 percent, because airlines often swap aircraft, the method I’ve adopted works most of the time. It’s actually rather simple: I track the planes assigned to my flights by matching arrival and departure gates. Continental Airlines makes it even easier by providing the most advanced data in the industry, but more on that later…

‘Tweaking’ airlines’ yield management

Have you been accused by airline agents of trying to “game the system” by asking if they could open up for mileage redemption seats they obviously won’t sell for cash? Now a top airline executive is encouraging fliers to alert agents when the system fails in its predictability, so it can be “tweaked.”

Before you do that, however, make sure you know what you are talking about — learn all booking codes used by the respective carrier, if you haven’t already, and be able to access and understand its inventory data. Just because there are dozens of open business-class seats months before a flight doesn’t mean you are entitled to an upgrade or an “award” ticket…

Airlines refuse to honor mistake fares

How would you like to fly to Australia in Qantas Airways’ luxurious first class on its new Airbus A380 aircraft for $1,200? You could actually buy such a ticket last week, but as regular readers of this column might have guessed, that was yet another case of a mistake fare.

Just like 2009, the new year began with a major airline making an error when filing a fare, and then deciding not to honor the issued tickets. As I wrote last January, Swiss International Air Lines published a $300 business-class fare from Toronto to several European and Indian cities. In November, British Airways filed a $560 round-trip coach fare from the United States to India…

Lufthansa agent’s ‘mistake’ stacks up

We all think we know that for a flight to depart and arrive on time, dozens of people have to do their jobs perfectly. It seems, however, that the only time we truly appreciate that is when something goes wrong and we feel the consequences long after landing.

In an attempt to encourage more people to travel — particularly overseas — I’ve been trying to dissuade them from believing the common perception that travel is a hassle. With online check-in and the ease of achieving elite airline status, thanks to unprecedented promotions this year, you can avoid long lines at the airport and almost breeze onto the plane. That’s how I feel most of the time…

U.S., EU face off over travel, again

Why is it that most major disputes between the United States and the European Union have to do with travel? First it was the war between Boeing and Airbus, then the furor over personal passenger data, and now it’s a new fee Washington is about to impose on visa-free travelers to the United States.

It was stunning to read a public statement by the EU’s top diplomat in Washington earlier this month that was anything but diplomatic and compared America to Alice’s Wonderland. It seems the Europeans have had it. They can’t quite understand why Washington is so intent on making traveling to America more difficult for them year after year, coming up with one policy or requirement after another…

Flu controls surprise travelers

How would you feel if you were detained for more than a week upon arrival in a foreign country for reasons that had nothing to do with you — and you missed your meeting or never even made it to your destination?

Thousands of passengers to Asia, where governments have implemented the most draconian measures to prevent the spread of swine flu, have been facing that prospect every day for two weeks. Unfortunately, in most cases, they were not given all the information they needed in advance so they could plan accordingly. Beginning April 28, dozens of planes arriving daily in Japan from North America have been held after landing until a team of health inspectors…

What to do with empty premium seats?

Have you flown in business or first class lately? How many empty seats did you count? With so-called premium traffic falling faster that airlines can cut capacity, what should they do with the growing number of unsold seats?

Should they drastically lower the high prices they charge for them? Should they open up more seats for mileage redemption? Or should they offer free upgrades to their most loyal customers? First and business-class fares have come down somewhat, but a wide dramatic decrease is yet to be seen. Many carriers have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years to install expensive lie-flat seats and entertainment systems, so they rightly want a return on those investments…

Aviation meets community service

It’s no secret that times are rough for the airline industry, and the glamor once associated with it is long gone. Many children, however, still dream of a life in the sky. Should they be encouraged?

The answer of Cathay Pacific Airways, Hong Kong’s main airline, is a resounding yes. In 2003, it started a program for high school students called “I Can Fly,” which teaches young aviation enthusiasts the basics of the industry at no cost — from piloting and engineering to marketing and customer service. About 3,000 students have graduated from the three programs in Hong Kong so far, said Elsa Leung, Cathay’s corporate communication manager…