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Hartford skyline, Hartford, Connecticut (Photo: Laura Stone/iStockphoto)

Many in Hartford bemoaned the loss of their beloved Whalers years ago, but now the Insurance Capital of the World may be landing a whale of a different sort: JetBlue.

The Hartford Courant reports that JetBlue is considering a move to Hartford's Bradley International Airport (actually located in nearby Windsor Locks, Connecticut) in the near future, with likely service to Florida and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Adding Hartford would give JetBlue a presence in pretty much every main market in New England, from Boston to Burlington to Portland, Maine....read more»

Airport - Departure screen full of canceled flights (Photo: iStockPhoto/Simon Smith)

A volcano eruption in southern Iceland has resulted in massive flight cancellations across Europe. The AP reports that flights into London's Heathrow airport is closed, as airspace over Iceland and northern Europe, including Norway, Finland, and Sweden, has been deemed unsafe. It is not yet known when flights at Heathrow will resume.

Delays have also spread to other major hubs on the Continent, including Paris, Brussels, and Amsterdam, largely due to large numbers of redirected Heathrow-bound flights.

Oddly, flights into and out of Reykjavik's Keflavik Airport have not been disrupted....read more»

Ryanair aircraft close up (Photo: Ryanair)

The Associated Press (AP) is reporting that "budget airline Ryanair says aircraft manufacturer Boeing Co. does not want to fulfill its request for planes with more seats and fewer toilets because it believes that would compromise passenger safety." This plan would coincide with the airline's dream of one day charging passengers to use the lavatory.

Boeing did not offer a comment on the issue. Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary apparently still thinks he can convince Boeing that trading restrooms for seats is a good idea.

My sense, or hope, is no self-respecting aircraft manufacturer, certainly not one of Boeing's stature, would participate in such an absurd scheme. Quite frankly I hope I never see the words "Ryanair" and "bathroom" in the same sentence again....read more»

Capitol Building (Photo: Hisham F. Ibrahim)

The Washington Times reports that senators Benjamin Cardin of Maryland and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana have sponsored a bill that would ban airlines from charging carry-on fees. The senators said carry-on bags should be off-limits from fees, because many travelers bring medicine, eyeglasses, and other essentials onboard.

In a statement, Senator Cardin said, "At this point, only one airline has announced plans to charge for carry-on item fees, but we cannot allow these floodgates to open."

While the spirit and possible impact of the bill will probably make consumers happy, the logic of it is a bit flawed....read more»

Spirit Airlines aircraft on runway (Photo: Spirit Airlines)

Spirit Airlines really, really, really wants you to like it's new carry-on fee. To that end, the airline just posted an open letter to its customers. Let's give it a read, shall we?

To our valued customers,

We have all seen how carry-on baggage has gotten out of control.  Longer security lines and boarding process, injuries due to overcrowded overhead bins, delayed flights and passenger frustration [have] become commonplace.

At Spirit, we are always looking for new ways to save you money and improve the customer experience.  We recently announced our latest innovation, which is designed to relieve the carry-on crisis, saving you time and money.

(I'm just going to butt in here to point highlight this line: "At Spirit, we are always looking for new ways to save you money." Their plan to do this, apparently, is by charging you new fees....read more»

Frontier jet flying over water  (Photo: Airbus S.A.S. )

Republic Airways, which owns both Frontier and Midwest and plans to merge the two, announced that it will retain the Frontier brand for the unified carrier.

In a release, Bryan Bedford, president, chairman and CEO of Republic Airways Holdings, Inc., said, "While the research showed that customers preferred the Frontier brand, they also expressed a strong loyalty to both brands based on affordability, convenience, destinations, and delivery of a differentiated experience. As we work to integrate these two brands into a unified Frontier Airlines, you can expect to see a lot of influence from the Midwest brand. This will include the introduction of the iconic Midwest Airlines chocolate chip cookie on all Frontier flights this summer."

So: The cookie stays in the picture....read more»

Continental plane flying over mountains (Photo: Continental)

Many have speculated that the reported merger talks between United and US Airways were merely a ploy to draw Continental back into the fold after it rebuffed United's merger offer a year back. Well, that narrative seems to be playing out, with the news that Continental is expected to make an offer for United.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that an offer, while not yet a sure thing, makes a ton of sense. Continental is by far the strongest of the three when it comes to finances, but would find itself a distant fourth in terms of airline size if the merger went through (behind Delta, a merged United/US Airways, and American). However, if it merged with United, the combined carrier would be the world's largest, with a far-reaching network that currently features little overlap, meaning regulatory approval would be somewhat easier to earn. None of this is lost on United, of course, which would likely prefer Continental over US Airways.

This whole story rings of a junior-high love melodrama: United crushes on Continental, but Continental "just wants to be friends"—nothing romantic, just, you know, hanging out in star alliance and stuff. So United starts flirting with US Airways to get back at Continental, even wearing US Airways' varsity jacket around school and holding hands in the hallway. Continental pretends not to care, but privately wonders if it screwed things up, then starts showing up at United's house late at night weeping and throwing pebbles at the window. (Also, they're all teenage vampires.)...read more»

Photo: United Airlines

United Airlines announced it will eliminate traditional free standby in favor of a paid model. Travelers will now have the option of paying $50 for unconfirmed same-day standby, or $75 for a confirmed same-day seat on an alternate flight. The change affects tickets purchased on or after April 10 for travel on or after April 28.

The unconfirmed seat option is pretty similar to traditional standby, with the obvious exception of the $50 fee. Passengers put their name on the standby list for their desired flight, and only pay the fee if they make it onboard.

The confirmed option is similar to programs other airlines have implemented in place of old-fashioned standby. You'll have to call United or visit an airport ticket desk or self-service kiosk and request a confirmed standby seat on an alternate United flight (same routing, etc., as your scheduled flight) within three hours of the time of your request. If a seat is available, you're all set—once you pay your $75.

Elite frequent flyers and travelers flying on fully refundable tickets are exempt from paying the fees....read more»

Roman Forum (Photo: iStockPhoto.com/Hedda Gjerpen)

Last month I introduced you to our research on when to book peak-season airfare to Europe. This month, you'll need to seriously consider sealing the deal. Regardless of whether your summer Europe plans include towers, cathedrals, or canals, we're quickly approaching the season, so you'll need to start nailing down plans if you want to make this trip happen....read more»

Airplane taking off at dusk (Photo: iStockPhoto/Stephen Strathdee)

2009 was a great year for getting to your destination on time and with your bags in tow. According to the Associated Press (AP), "Last year, with nearly 70 million fewer passengers boarding planes [since 2007], airlines did a much better job as measured by such basics as on-time performance, mishandled bags, bumpings due to overbooking and consumer complaints."

The AP story describes information from the Airline Quality Rating (AQR), which regularly issues rankings based upon the above criteria....read more»

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