American Airlines aircraft tail (Photo: American Airlines)

American is making a fairly significant upgrade to its fleet of Boeing 737 aircraft, especially in this era of ever-increasing bag fees: More overhead bin space. Twice as much space, to be specific.

Bins in the refurbished planes will be able to store six bags instead of three, thanks to a clever design. According to ABC News, "The bins themselves stay the same but American is adding doors that curve outward and a slight ramp at the front edge of the bin. That allows roller bags to slip in wheels first and tilt slightly upward to fit right into the curve of the new door. Voila, space is magically doubled."

I'll admit I can't quite picture how that works, but it sounds pretty good! Unless, of course, the expanded overhead capacity leads to people bringing more and larger carry-on bags more»

Photo: JetBlue

Something's heating up in Jersey.

Just days after Southwest announced plans to lease slots at Newark Liberty International Airport, JetBlue is out with news that it will add a Boston-Newark route in early May 2011. JetBlue already flies from Newark to destinations in Florida, with connections to the Caribbean.

In its release, JetBlue boasts that it will "introduce competition and low fares to the Boston-Newark market," and claims the current average fare between the two cities—$280 round-trip—"is higher than the average fare paid by Boston travelers on any of the six coast-to-coast routes operated by JetBlue from Logan." more»

Virgin America tail (Photo: Virgin America)

Virgin America announced today that it will launch service to Los Cabos and Cancun this winter. The airline will fly to both destinations from San Francisco, and serve Cancun from Los Angeles.

The launch schedule is as follows:

  • San Francisco-Los Cabos: December 16
  • Los Angeles-Cancun: January 19
  • San Francisco-Cancun: January 20

Introductory sale fares start at $129. Today only, Virgin customers can get two-for-one fares when they check in using Loopt Star at SFO, LAX or select mobile taco shops in San Francisco and L.A. Proceeds from taco sales support the City of San Francisco’s Animal Care and Control Chihuahua rescue efforts. Somehow, that seems like the sort of deal only Virgin America would think of, and I'm not suggesting that's a bad thing. Details are in the press more»

AirTran Airways' Boeing 737-700 (Photo courtesy of AirTran)

The Department of Transportation (DOT) has levied a $500,000 fine against AirTran for violating procedures regarding disabled passengers. In a statement, the DOT said its investigation "revealed a number of violations of the requirement for boarding assistance. In addition, the carrier’s complaint files showed that it frequently did not provide an adequate written response to complaints from passengers. AirTran also failed to properly categorize disability complaints in reports filed with the Department, the Aviation Enforcement Office found."

The DOT said $200,000 of the $500,000 fine may be used by AirTran to improve its service to disabled passengers "beyond what is required by law." More specifically, the DOT says "up to $60,000 may be used to establish a council to help the carrier comply with federal disability rules and hire a manager for disability accommodations. Up to $140,000 may be used to develop and employ an automated wheelchair tracking system at AirTran’s major hub airports within one year that will generate real-time reports of the carrier’s wheelchair assistance performance." more»

Photo: British Airways

It seems odd air travel stories come in bunches, and the past few days have been no different. With that in mind, I thought I'd round up a couple recent weird and wacky tales. Here goes!

Tiger in the Bag?

A woman flying aboard Thai Airways was caught trying to smuggle a baby tiger in her bag. According to Reuters, "Airport customs in Bangkok found a two-month-old tiger stashed in a bag, filled with stuffed tiger toys, which was checked-in for an international passenger flight." more»

Photo: United Airlines

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has signed off on the merger between United and Continental, saying it has no antitrust concerns regarding the deal.

No doubt that a deal announced Friday, in which Continental will lease 36 slots at Newark to Southwest, played a role. Newark is a major hub for Continental, and the DOJ was reportedly concerned that the merger could result in reduced competition at such a large, international airport. Bringing in Southwest, which presently doesn't serve Newark, was apparently enough to satisfy the government.

As for the merger, both sides can now proceed toward closing the deal. Both sets of shareholders need to vote, and are scheduled to do so September 17. The Department of Transportation (DOT) also needs to give its OK, as do several state attorneys general. The airlines are hoping to close the deal October more»

Photo: PhotoDisc

Troubled airline Mexicana ceased operations this weekend, less than a month after filing for bankruptcy protection. The ensuing weeks have been marked by suspended flights and customer confusion, along with some shady business practices as the company tried to save itself. But despite getting $50 million in cash just last week, the airline says it no longer has enough money to fly, and ceased operations this weekend.

Here's what passengers need to more»

Waiting in line at the airport (Photo: Xavi Arnau/

Boarding a flight ranks high on the list of frustrating travel experiences. Break the boarding process down and you'll find irritation after irritation: passengers slowing down the line by trying to sneak in ahead of their boarding group, seating delays caused by travelers trying to wedge oversized bags into overhead bins, people who wait until they're blocking traffic to decide what they want out of their carry-ons.

Sure, a deep breath and a bit of perspective can help the exasperation that comes with funneling hundreds of people (and their stuff) down a single aisle. But there are plenty of ways that we as passengers can improve the boarding process, too. Like rush-hour traffic, little interruptions add up to longer delays, so small improvements can make a big more»

Photo: Southwest Airlines

Southwest announced today that it has leased 36 slots at Newark Liberty International Airport from Continental, enough to operate 18 daily round-trip flights. The lease is contingent on Continental closing its merger with United by November 30.

If all goes according to plan, Southwest will launch service from Newark in March, with a full schedule in place by June. Southwest says the slots are spread out throughout the day, which it claims will allow for easy connections to its route more»

Family with two children in pool (Photo: iStockPhoto/Christian Michael)

AAA is predicting a nearly 10 percent increase in travel this Labor Day holiday, with approximately 34.4 million people expected to take a trip. That's an increase of 10 percent over last year, but still falls short of 2008's 45 million mark. Last year was one of the slowest on record.

Some 91 percent of all travelers will drive, and the average trip distance is expected to be around 635 miles. Gas should be reasonable, between $2.65 and $2.75 per more»