Delta aircraft on the ground and taking off (Photo: Delta)

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The Bureau of Transportation Statistics released bag and change fee data for the third quarter of this year, and let me tell you, the airlines are raking in some serious fee cash.

First up: bag fees. For the quarter, airlines took in a collective $906 million, up from last quarter's $891 million. For the year, the industry has amassed $2.56 billion in bag fees.

Last year, the industry took home $739 million in bag fees during the third quarter. That's an increase of nearly $170 million year-over-year, or 23 percent....read more»

Continental plane flying over mountains (Photo: Continental)

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Continental announced a new perk today, called FareLock, which allows passengers to hold reservations beyond the customary 24 hours that airlines currently offer. With FareLock, customers can hold bookings for 72 hours or seven days without completing the purchase.

The perk's cost (you didn't think it was free, did you?) starts at $5 for a 72-hour hold and $9 for a seven-day hold. Continental says the actual price "will vary based on a number of factors such as the itinerary, number of days to departure and the length of the hold." Presumably customers will pay more for flights departing sooner and for higher demand itineraries.

I priced a few options from Boston, and found prices ranging from $9 to $15 for the 72-hour window, and $19 to $29 for the seven-day window. Unsurprisingly, I didn't get any base price options, and I imagine you'd have to dig around to find one. What did surprise me is that the shortest flight, Boston to Newark in early January, came with the most expensive FareLock costs....read more»

Photo: iStockphoto

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Last month, the body of a 16-year-old boy landed in Milton, Massachusetts. Yes: landed, as if it had fallen from the sky. Investigators posited that the boy may have fallen from a plane, but the idea seemed far-fetched. But not too far-fetched, it seems, to be true.

Authorities now believe the boy, Delvonte Tisdale, breached security in Charlotte Douglas International Airport in Charlotte, N.C., sneaked into the wheel well of a Boeing 737 heading for Boston, died mid-route, and fell from the plane when the wheel well opened prior to landing.

It's a tragic story on many levels, but I want to focus on what this incident reveals about airport security. Investigators don't know for certain, but it seems unlikely Tisdale would have passed through passenger security in the terminal. Rather, he would have accessed the tarmac directly, either fooling his way though a security screening or circumventing it somehow.

Thing is, the screening procedure for tarmac workers is much different from what happens in the terminal. Namely: There's no screening at all....read more»

Air: Security - Shoes in Bin (Photo: Thinkstock/Creatas)

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India has called the pat down of one of its diplomats "unacceptable," and called for an apology from the U.S. 60-year-old Meera Shankar, an Indian ambassador traveling through Jackson-Evers International Airport in Jackson, Mississippi, earlier this week, was reportedly selected for a pat down because of her clothing.

According to USA Today, witnesses told a local paper "Shankar was singled out of a group flying out of the airport for a thorough pat-down, despite having shown her diplomatic papers. She was told she was chosen because she was wearing a sari, a traditional Indian robe. The witnesses included an entourage from Mississippi State University, which hosted the visit."...read more»

Photo: US Airways

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Still think fees may someday go away? Think again. The Dallas Morning News' Airline Biz blog reports US Airways' recent profits are due entirely to its ancillary fees and charges. In fact, without fees, US Airways might be in the red right now.

"Speaking at the Hudson Securities conference Wednesday," the blog's Terry Maxon reports, "US Airways president Scott Kirby noted that US Airways this year expects to bring in $500 million in ancillary fees: bag fees, change fees, etc....read more»

Photo: iStockphoto

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The Associated Press (AP) reports the FAA has lost or misplaced enormous amounts of registration data for small private and commercial jets. In total, 119,000 planes have either incomplete registration information or none at all, leading to fears that improperly registered aircraft could easily fall into the hands of terrorists or drug smugglers.

The FAA has ordered all aircraft owners, including major carriers, to re-register their planes. It will begin canceling registrations next year as a way of forcing people to sign up again. Air Transport Association spokesman David Castelveter told the AP the move could "wreak havoc on the commercial air transportation system."...read more»

Air: Security - Man Being Patted Down (Photo: Thinkstock/Hemera)

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In what is by far the most substantive and insightful interview TSA chief John Pistole has given recently, the embattled FBI veteran opens up, finally, about the limitations and challenges facing his agency. Speaking to the Atlantic's James Fallows and Jeffrey Goldberg, Pistole talks about the pros and cons of profiling, the reasons he thinks the TSA needs to "address yesterday's threats," and concedes "the next attack is inevitable."

It's a long interview and I strongly suggest reading it, especially if you are at all concerned about airport security and the recent controversy related to privacy issues. You may not agree with Pistole's choices or justifications (I don't, on most counts), but this is the closest I've seen anyone come to getting relatively straightforward explanations for why the TSA does what it does....read more»

Photo: IndexOpen

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Things have been going pretty well for the airlines, in case you haven't noticed, and according to the airlines themselves, the good times should continue to roll. The Dallas Morning News' Terry Maxon reports airlines are "cautiously optimistic" about the near future.

The reason for caution, however, is simple: Fuel prices. The cost of jet fuel has risen slowly but steadily throughout the year, but more importantly, has risen dramatically after plummeting early in the recession. In fact, at nearly $100 per barrel, jet fuel is at its highest point since just before the Great Fuel Price Spike of 2008, which effectively sparked the onslaught of extra fees and charges we're still dealing with today....read more»

Photo: PhotoDisc

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Protests stemming from a disputed election in Haiti have forced the closing of the airport in Port-au-Prince, the New York Times reports. According to the Times, the protests come after a popular presidential candidate finished third in the first round of elections, prompting accusations of vote-rigging.

American Airlines had already suspended flights before the closing was announced. The Associated Press (AP) reported, "Airport employees were unable to get to work Wednesday because of the demonstrations," but American had hoped to resume flights soon. With the airport now closed, flights may be on hold for some time....read more»

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

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AirTran will launch daily, seasonal service to Bermuda starting this spring. The low-cost carrier will fly from Baltimore beginning April 7, and Atlanta beginning May 26. Service will stop for the season on September 6 from Atlanta, and October 24 from Baltimore.

For AirTran, this makes six international destinations: Aruba, Cancun, Montego Bay, Nassau, Punta Cana, and now Bermuda....read more»

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