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Morning travel notes: $1.1b in bag fees; airlines on-time numbers improve

Posted by Paul Makishima, Globe Assistant Sunday Editor  May 13, 2009 09:18 AM

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I wrote a story in this morning's Globe about the industry's expansion of Wi-Fi. There are a couple of reasons but one of the big ones is that "ancillaries'' (read fees for baggage, blankets, headsets, talking to humans etc.) are becoming a bigger and bigger piece of airline revenue.
Lest you think I joking witness this Bloomberg News piece in today's Business section:

American Airlines and US Airways Group Inc. led US carriers in collecting a record $1.1 billion in bag fees in 2008 as they began charging to check all luggage to defray fuel costs.
Industrywide collections more than doubled from 2007, when the fees were levied chiefly on fliers who had heavy baggage or checked more than two pieces, the US Transportation Department said yesterday. Last year's total was the most since the agency started keeping track in 1990.
The data gave the first glimpse of US carriers' extra revenue, because they didn't detail the baggage money in year-end earnings releases. With jet fuel retreating from 2008's peak, the cash is helping soften the blow from a plunge in travel during the recession.
"These small fees really add up," said Matthew Jacob, a Majestic Research LLC analyst.

And the latest government figures are showing that US airlines' on-time performance and baggage handling got better in March compared with the same period a year ago, but was worse than in February of this year. This from the AP:

Atlantic Southeast Airlines, a unit of SkyWest Inc., based out of St. George, Utah, and a feeder carrier for Delta Air Lines Inc., had the worst on-time performance in March, while Hawaiian Airlines had the best on-time performance in the month.
Nineteen carriers recorded an overall on-time arrival rate of 78.4 percent in March, better than the 71.6 percent rate of March 2008 but down from the 82.6 percent recorded in February of this year, according to the Department of Transportation.
The carriers reported that 7.29 percent of their flights in March were delayed by aviation system delays, compared with 6.58 percent in February; 6.49 percent by late-arriving aircraft, compared with 4.79 percent in February; and 4.84 percent by factors within the airline's control, such as maintenance or crew problems, compared with 4.17 percent in February.
In March, the carriers canceled 2.1 percent of their scheduled domestic flights, a lower rate than the 2.6 percent cancellation rate of March 2008 but higher than the 1.2 percent rate posted in February of this year.
The airlines overall had a mishandled baggage rate of 4.12 reports per 1,000 passengers in March, an improvement over March 2008's rate of 6.66 reports per 1,000 passengers but higher than the rate of 3.56 reports per 1,000 passengers posted in February of this year. The DOT said that in March it received 705 complaints about airline service from consumers, down 30.3 percent from the 1,011 complaints filed in March 2008 but 22.4 percent more than the total of 576 complaints received in February 2009.

If you're of the wonkish tribe and you'd like to see the actual report this piece is based on, you can find it here.


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