August 9, 2022

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Oakland airport starts online parking reservations

9 min read

In this week’s news, Oakland International travelers can now book a parking space online; London Heathrow imposes a cap on passenger numbers, asking airlines to stop taking bookings for flights through mid-September; KLM and Lufthansa cancel more flights as summer chaos continues; DOT warns airlines to seat family members together and not charge extra for it; Buttigieg says his agency will take action against carriers that aren’t providing refunds to eligible customers; Delta puts new Airbus A321neos into more domestic markets; Hawaiian is dropping a Florida route while JSX and Spirit add new ones; American will expand service to Cuba and Mexico City; Cayman Airways comes to LAX; Korean Air, Virgin Atlantic, Air New Zealand and Qantas all have news on their international routes; Spirit installs high-speed Wi-Fi on its A320s and A321s; the Spirit-Frontier merger vote is delayed once again; and United’s Star Alliance reveals details of its new German Rail membership.

As passenger numbers continue to grow, Oakland International Airport this week rolled out a new online parking reservations system. Travelers can use the site to book space up to two hours before arrival at the airport’s daily, premier, economy and hourly parking lots. Users can simply enter their entry and exit dates, choose their preferred parking lot, and enter contact and payment information. Taxes and fees are included in the quoted price, and the system may offer special online-only discounts. “Once the booking is complete, customers will receive a confirmation email with an easy-to-use QR code, which they will scan to enter and exit the parking lots — no ticket needed,” an airport spokesperson said. Reservations can be canceled up to four hours before arrival. 

Travelers wait in a long queue to pass through the security check at Heathrow on June 1, 2022, in London.

Travelers wait in a long queue to pass through the security check at Heathrow on June 1, 2022, in London.

Carl Court/Getty Images

Last week, we reported on major problems of staff shortages creating passenger and baggage congestion at London Heathrow — the primary trans-Atlantic gateway for U.S. travelers — and now Heathrow officials have taken the drastic step of imposing a cap on capacity, effective now through Sept. 11, and asking airlines serving the airport to halt summer ticket sales. Airport officials said the total number of seats currently scheduled to depart out of Heathrow for the rest of the summer averages 104,000 a day, which is already 4,000 more than the airport can handle given the staff available. “On average only about 1,500 of these 4,000 (excess) daily seats have currently been sold to passengers, and we are asking our airline partners to stop selling summer tickets to limit the impact on passengers,” the airport said. “We recognize that this will mean some summer journeys will either be moved to another day, another airport, or be canceled, and we apologize to those whose travel plans are affected.”

According to one media report, staffing shortages at LHR are so bad that some British Airways flights have been taking off without any food for passengers, because there aren’t enough security officers to monitor the catering trucks that service the planes. And Delta tried to help angry customers whose checked luggage got stranded at Heathrow by flying an A330 from London to Detroit loaded with 1,000 lost or delayed bags, instead of passengers.

A KLM Boeing 737-300 in the air on Feb. 10, 2022. 

A KLM Boeing 737-300 in the air on Feb. 10, 2022. 

Mondadori Portfolio/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Im

Heathrow is following in the footsteps of Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, which imposed its own capacity cap back in June. Last week, KLM said it plans to cancel 10 to 20 intra-European flights every day through late August. “We will also strongly restrict the sale of remaining seats on KLM and KLM Cityhopper flights to European destinations,” the airline said. “This will free up space for customers who are rebooked if their flight is cancelled. This measure will supplement the existing restriction on sales, in order to accommodate passengers who have to be rebooked after missing their flight due to long queues at Schiphol and to comply with restrictions Schiphol has imposed on the number of passengers boarding locally.” Passenger services are such a mess at Schiphol that Icelandair has reportedly started putting its own baggage handlers on its flights to Amsterdam to make sure customers get their bags after landing. In Germany, meanwhile, Lufthansa scratched another 2,000 flights from its July and August schedules, bringing its total cancellations for the summer to 6,000 — mainly domestic and European flights, rather than intercontinental.


Noting that customer complaints against airlines are up 300% over pre-pandemic levels, the U.S. Department of Transportation this week introduced some new consumer protection initiatives, including notifying airlines that they should do “everything in their power” to make sure children aged 13 or younger are seated next to an accompanying adult at no additional charge. Although it receives relatively few consumer complaints about family seating, “there continue to be complaints of instances where young children, including a child as young as 11 months, are not seated next to an accompanying adult,” said the agency’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection. The agency said it will review airline policies and consumer complaints regarding child seating four months from now. If it finds continued problems, it will “consider additional action consistent with its authorities.” 

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg speaks during a TV interview at the White House on March 1, 2022. 

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg speaks during a TV interview at the White House on March 1, 2022. 

Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

DOT has also issued a Bill of Rights for airline passengers with disabilities. The document doesn’t list any new rights, instead summarizing ones already extended to passengers under various existing laws, such as the Air Carrier Access Act. The list includes the right to be treated with dignity and respect, to receive information about aircraft capabilities and limitations and to travel with a service animal or assistive device.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in an interview on Fox News that airlines have made some progress in recent days on their recurring problems with flight cancellations and delays, but “not to an acceptable level.” Too often, he said, airlines that cancel flights do not provide passengers with required refunds. The DOT has just wrapped up investigations of 10 airlines for passenger refund problems, he said, and is proceeding with 10 more, with plans to begin enforcement actions against the airlines in the coming weeks. When the host asked if the government should reconsider its rule that commercial airline pilots retire at age 65, based on airline complaints about a pilot shortage, Buttigieg demurred. “These retirement ages are there for a reason, and the reason is safety. I’m not going to be on board with anything that could compromise safety,” he said, arguing that the government and the airline industry should cooperate in recruiting and training a new generation of pilots, instead.

A Delta Airlines airplane takes off from Humberto Delgado International Airport on May 17, 2022, in Lisbon, Portugal.

A Delta Airlines airplane takes off from Humberto Delgado International Airport on May 17, 2022, in Lisbon, Portugal.

Horacio Villalobos/Corbis via Getty Images

Delta, which introduced its new Airbus A321neo on the San Francisco-Boston and Atlanta-Boston routes in May, is now deploying the aircraft in additional markets. This week, it put the A321neo into service between San Diego-Boston and Denver-Boston. In August, the plane is slated to start flying between Boston and Seattle, and in mid-September it should enter service from Seattle to New York JFK and from Seattle to Kahului, Maui. In other domestic route news, Hawaiian Airlines will discontinue the only nonstop flight between Florida and Hawaii when it terminates its twice-weekly Orlando-Honolulu flights on Sept. 8. On Aug. 18, California-based regional carrier JSX will introduce twice-daily flights from San Diego to Phoenix Sky Harbor using its 30-seat jets; it already flies to PHX from Oakland and Las Vegas. Finally, Spirit Airlines will put San Antonio on its route map on Nov. 17, launching daily flights from the Texas city to Las Vegas and Orlando.  

The U.S. Transportation Department has approved American Airlines’ request to resume service to five cities in Cuba — routes that had been banned by the Trump Administration. The airline said it expects to start flying in early November from its Miami hub to Camaguey, Holguin, Matanzas/Varadero, Santa Clara and Santiago de Cuba. It plans to operate two daily flights to Santa Clara and one each to the other cities. American also said it will begin daily flights from New York JFK to Mexico City on Nov. 3; it already serves Mexico City from five other hubs. The airline announced it will end its JFK-Bogota to Colombia route on Nov. 3, and will increase flights on its Miami-Tel Aviv route from three a week to daily service starting Oct. 29.

An employee closes a door on American Airlines Flight 903 as it is prepared to push back from the gate, becoming the first commercial flight from Miami to Cuba in 55 years on Sept. 7, 2016, in Miami. 

An employee closes a door on American Airlines Flight 903 as it is prepared to push back from the gate, becoming the first commercial flight from Miami to Cuba in 55 years on Sept. 7, 2016, in Miami. 

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

In other international route developments, the first scheduled airline service from the West Coast to the Cayman Islands is due to begin on Nov. 5, when Cayman Airways begins new 737 flights to Los Angeles International, though they have yet to announce how frequently it will operate. The airline already flies from Grand Cayman to Denver once a week. Korean Air, meanwhile, has resumed service from Las Vegas to Seoul Incheon three times a week; the airline is now operating flights to every U.S. destination on its pre-pandemic route map. Virgin Atlantic announced last week that it will add a new U.S. route on Nov. 3 when it begins service from London Heathrow to Tampa with four weekly flights; Virgin already flies to Miami and Orlando, and recently added new flights between London and Austin. Air New Zealand, which resumed service to San Francisco in April, this month revived Auckland-Honolulu and Auckland-Houston operations with three flights a week in each market. As we reported last week, Australia has dropped its COVID-19 vaccination requirement for inbound international travelers. Now, effective July 19, Qantas will end its vaccination mandate for international passengers, although it will still require masks to be worn on some flights. 

Spirit Airlines is bringing in-flight high-speed Wi-Fi to its customers — on some aircraft, at least. The company said it is adding FlytLIVE internet from European vendor Thales to its A320 and A321 aircraft. They should be connected to new satellite communications by September, giving them “the fastest Wi-Fi service of any U.S.-based airline.” (No word yet on when the airline’s A319s might be equipped.) Passengers will use their own devices for the service on flights starting Aug. 24, which can be purchased in-flight, or pre-purchased online starting July 13 or via the mobile app as of Aug. 10. The pre-purchase options provide voucher codes to be entered into the online Wi-Fi portal on the aircraft. Rates for basic web browsing, email, chat and social media usage start at $2.99, while high-speed service the airline claims is fast enough for streaming starts at $5.99. 

An aerial view shows Spirit Airlines jets parked at Harry Reid International Airport on May 21, 2020, in Las Vegas.

An aerial view shows Spirit Airlines jets parked at Harry Reid International Airport on May 21, 2020, in Las Vegas.

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The merger of Spirit Airlines and Frontier Airlines may never happen, as a competing offer for Spirit from JetBlue waits in the wings. For the third time in three weeks, Spirit has postponed a shareholder vote on the Frontier proposal, which has the strong backing of the Spirit board of directors. This time, the vote was delayed from July 10 to July 27. “Spirit will continue to solicit proxies from its stockholders with respect to the proposed merger with Frontier and will continue discussions with Frontier and JetBlue Airways Corporation,” Spirit said. Frontier reportedly told Spirit officials this week that it has no intention of increasing or revising its bid, calling the current proposal its “last, best and final offer.” JetBlue said this week it is “encouraged by the significant progress made in our ongoing discussions with Spirit,” and said Spirit shareholders’ reluctance to get on board with the Frontier deal constitutes an acknowledgement “that JetBlue’s latest proposal is clearly superior in every respect.”

The Star Alliance — a global airline group that includes United, Lufthansa and others — has released details of its newest membership addition, which will bring the German rail network Deutsche Bahn into the alliance effective Aug. 1. The Star Alliance membership builds on the existing Lufthansa Express Rail program, which provides for interline ticketing and seamless transfers between aircraft and trains at Frankfurt Airport’s rail station. “In the future, in addition to Lufthansa, all 25 other Star Alliance member airlines will be able to include [Deutsche Bahn’s] ICE trains (i.e., inter-city express) as flight numbers in their booking engine,” Star Alliance said. Travelers will be able to book a single ticket for combined air-rail journeys, enjoy priority baggage handling in the AiRail check-in area at Frankfurt Airport and earn miles or points on their preferred airline for the rail portion of their trip. Passengers with first or business class flight tickets will also have access to Deutsche Bahn lounges. Star Alliance said it expects to add more non-airline partners in the future.

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