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Airline information on-line on the Internet FAQ

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* January 2006 update

The US airline industry is still in lousy shape, with some airlines in much better shape than others, but about half of the US industry now bankrupt. The post-Katrina runup in fuel prices has hit the industry hard, particularly the already fragile carriers who don't have fuel price hedges, although prices have retreated, giving them a small amount of breathing room.

Planes are fairly full, schedules about back to the level of 2001. Low fare carriers Southwest, Jet Blue, Frontier, and Airtran have been profitable in recent quarters, with Alaska, American, and Continental also making profit in the April-June 2005 second quarter.

National, Midway and Vanguard Airlines are out of business, United, ATA, and now Northwest, Delta, and Aloha are flying in bankruptcy. Independence Air threw in the towel and stopped operating as of Jan 5.

United was turned down for government assistance three time and is hanging on, trying to get out of bankruptcy. In the second quarter they lost an amazing $1.43 billion (albeit mostly in accounting items that didn't affect the all-important cash position), and pushed back their predicted date to emerge from bankruptcy yet again, making it ever more questionable whether there's a light at the end of their tunnel, with current target date being around February. They have such valuable international routes that they'll be reincarnated as something even if they go.

Northwest and Delta went into Chapter 11 within minutes of each other in early September. Of the two, Delta is in worse shape having hocked everything in sight before finally throwing in the towel. Speculation abounds on what will happen; one possibility is Continental picking up some pieces of Delta with the rest being merged into the smaller but healthier Northwest. Northwest's mechanics union is locked out, and has rejected a proposed contract in December, but the critical pilots and flight attendants are not honoring picket lines and they've hired replacement workers that look to be permanent, so most NW flights are operating as well as they ever do. Delta has wrung givebacks from the pilots union and other employees, which has limited the bleeding a little.

Hawaiian has emerged from bankruptcy, but it's still soon to tell for Aloha. Maybe they'll merge and die together.

US Airways slogged through its second bankruptcy, which makes me so thrilled that I have Gold Elite frequent flyer status this year. They've merged with America West, with the combined company to be called US Airways but run by the management of profitable America West, which hasn't been bankrupt for a couple of years. For now they're operating separately, to be integrated during 2006.

ATA made a surprise deal with Southwest to provide codeshare service between Midway and places Southwest doesn't go, such as New York LaGuardia.

Air Canada emerged from bankruptcy in OK but not great shape, and has been modestly profitable, making it look like a survivor, particularly since low-cost competitor JetsGo turned out to be so low cost that it ran out of cash and died.

Passengers are subject to much more extensive screening than in the past, including screening of checked baggage at check-in time, and, according to news reports pat downs that approach groping. Airlines recommend arriving at least an hour earlier than before. In my experience the extra delay is rarely more than 15 minutes, even with the extra baggage screening, although I usually fly out of smaller airports, not big hubs where you can get the killer two hour lines. The TSA has taken over screening at most airports but the inconsistency in procedures from one airport to another, particularly with respect to your shoes, is worse than ever. I've gone through the metal detector, it beeped, I went back and took my shoes off, walked through again, it beeped again, and they didn't notice (so neither did I, since I'm pretty sure I have no plans to blow up any planes.) The TSA has a web site with estimated wait times ( based on averages in previous months, not real time numbers. Foreign airlines are flying to and from the U.S. normally.

Other changes include: some airports have stopped curb-side baggage check, anything vaguely resembling a knife or lighter may or may not be confiscated, you're often only allowed one carry-on plus a purse, briefcase, diaper bag or the like, non-passengers aren't allowed past security without a gate pass from an airline, all passengers must have a document that looks like a boarding pass at most airports to get past security, some parking areas close to terminals are closed. But check-in clerks no longer have to ask you whether you packed your own suitcase.

* What's in this document?

There's an enormous amount of information available on the Web about airlines and aviation. This FAQ concentrates on two things: schedules, fares, reservations, and tickets for commercial airlines, and on-line travel agents. We list both airline-sponsored and independent information.

The first parts of this FAQ discuss on-line sources of airline schedules and fares, of which there are several general-purpose services.

After that it lists airlines that have any of online schedules, fares, reservations, ticket sales, and flight status.

Next comes a listing of on-line specials, sources of special fares and other deals available over the net. Many airlines have short-notice specials which are worth checking out.

(Continued on next part...)

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Airline information on-line on the Internet FAQ