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Oct 17

Around The Industry: Tuesday Tidbits

JetBlue Is Enhancing Boarding

Waiting in line to board?

Finding the fastest way to board an aircraft has proven to be the Gordian Knot of the airline industry. Just about every method has been tried, with every attempt generating roughly the same level of success (or failure, as the case may be). The airlines could take a big step toward solving the problem by eliminating pre-boarding, but that would not go over well with its premium passengers.

Earlier this year, JetBlue took a shot at improving boarding by setting up a special queue for Mosaic and Mint passengers. They now appear to be looking into a process that I’ve long advocated: Instead of boarding passengers by “descriptive” groups (e.g., all Mosaic passengers, rows 15-20, exit rows, people with blue eyes, etc.), they are just going to establish boarding groups, which I will assume are based on the number system that most airlines use. I’ve always been amazed at how the guy who didn’t realize that row 16 does not fall between rows 20 and 30 is able to figure out the process when there is a big number on his boarding pass telling him what his group number is (Yes, it’s always men who commit this particular sin.). According to the press release:

Designed to reduce congestion on the jet bridge and in the aisles—and get you on your way faster than ever—our new group boarding process uses a method based on the entire length of the aircraft and seat assignments. This is more efficient than the back-to-front boarding model we’ve been using, and is just one of the steps we’re taking to make the JetBlue Experience better for everyone.

Since the traditional back-to-front model is what the airline has been using, I’m curious to see what they have up their sleeves. JetBlue is, by far, the most creative airline so if anyone can fix the problem, they can.

Just One More Problem for United

As if United doesn’t have enough going on with its perennial turnaround plans, its credit card relationships may also be hampering its financials. Per Flyertalk (via Skift), the airline is increasingly concerned that they need their credit card partner Chase more than the bank needs them, which is an unusual situation in these days of credit card wars.*

Chase is simply killing it with its Sapphire brand credit cards, among others. Sapphire offers proprietary Chase points, which can be converted to miles at any number of airlines, as well as cash. As consumers use their credit card points for non-mileage redemptions, United will sell fewer miles to Chase. Ruh roh. American and Delta renegotiated their contracts with the banks early. I’m not sure that United will get the same privilege.

LVAir to Launch The Next Bankrupt Airline

bellagio

The Bellagio hotel

Again, per Flyertalk, LVAir is attempting to launch a luxury charter service to Las Vegas and you’ll get to watch the entire failure live, as a web series will follow the entire event. The airline will have to pull off the impossible tasks of raising money from investors, getting regulatory approval, hiring a staff and figuring out how to make money by flying to a leisure destination, all within about twelve months.

Needless to say, of course I’ll be watching.

Delta Bans The National Anthem?

According to a Georgia passenger, a Delta employee stopped her from singing the national anthem while aboard a Delta flight. The airline asked passengers to wait quietly in their seats while an honor guard escorted the casket of a special forces soldier who had been killed in Niger. The policy is respectful and common in the industry.

The “problem” began when the passenger began to sing the national anthem and, apparently, asked others to join her. A flight attendant came over and first told her to stop because she might make passengers from other countries uncomfortable, and that singing the national anthem was “against company policy.” **

Someday, somebody is going to have to show me the big book where airlines keep their company policies, given that it has become a catch-all excuse for airline employees whenever they have a situation that they don’t like. I can’t think of any other industry where front-line workers make up rules as often as they do in the airline business (with the possible exception of the TSA). Whether the FA’s intentions were good is irrelevant; it’s hard to find anything disrespectful about singing the anthem while an honor guard carries the body of a fallen soldier.

Having said that, the passenger seems to be enjoying her unwanted fame a little too much, stating, “‘I’m not real thrilled with the attention to myself.'” It’s generally best not to post videos or speak to the media if you really don’t want the attention.


*Beginner’s Hint: Airlines make a big chunk of change by selling miles to credit card companies. The card companies then uses those miles to pay you when you earn rewards. The industry is mum on just how much the credit card companies pay per mile, but I’ve long believed it to be about 0.7 cents per mile.

**There is, of course, no such policy.

 

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