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June 30, 2017

Air Travel: British Airways Strike, No Laptop Ban

british airways

A British Airways strike through July 16 and new security rules aimed at averting an expanded laptop ban are the top air travel stories impacting the meetings industry this week.

British Airways Strike Cancels Flights

British Airways cabin crew represented by the Mixed Fleet Unite union are set to strike starting Saturday, July 1, through July 16, over a pay dispute, our partner publication Travel Agent reports. According to the latest statement from the airline, all British Airways customers will be able to fly to their destinations, and the airline is planning to operate all flights to and from London Gatwick, London City and Stansted as normal, as well as British Airways’ recently launched weekend-only Mediterranean services to and from Birmingham, Bristol and Manchester. Additionally, the vast majority of flights to and from London Heathrow will operate as normal, the airline said.

Some flight cancellations due to the British Airways strike began earlier this week, including between Heathrow and Doha; Abuja, Nigeria; and Muscat. Passengers on flights to Doha will instead be accommodated on flights operated by Qatar Airways, which owns part of British Airways’ parent company, IAG.

British Airways has asked passengers with current bookings to ensure that their email and phone details are up to date using the Manage My Booking section on the British Airways website in order to receive flight updates.

DHS Issues New Airport Security Rules to Avoid Laptop Ban Expansion

As reported by our partner publication Travel Agent, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has released new airport security rules aimed at avoiding expanding the laptop ban to additional airports. The DHS has said that if the 10 airports in the Middle East and North Africa currently under the ban adopt the new measures, the ban could be lifted, although there is no word yet on how long that would take.

In a statement announcing the new measures, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly said that the new security measures will be applied over time to all commercial flights coming into the United States, and will include elements both visible and invisible to passengers. New procedures will include enhanced screening of electronic devices, more thorough passenger vetting, and new measures designed to mitigate the potential threat of insider attacks.

“Terrorist groups continue to target passenger aircraft, and we have seen a ‘spider web’ of threats to commercial aviation as terrorists pursue new attack methods,” the DHS said in an FAQ for travelers on its website. “Based on these concerns, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is working with our international partners to raise the baseline of global aviation security to keep the traveling public safe.”

Good to know: The DHS said that the new rules do not involve changes to items allowed in carry-on and checked baggage. However, passengers flying to the U.S. may experience additional screening of their person and property.

South African Airways Introduces New Aircraft With New D.C. Route

In service news, South African Airways is now offering daily flights to Washington, D.C. on its new state-of-the-art aircraft.

The company’s new Airbus A330-300 provides new flights on the Washington, D.C.-Dulles to Accra, Ghana, route – a route that compliments its existing route between Washington, D.C. and Dakar, Senegal, which the new aircraft will also fly on.

The interior design of the aircraft offers travelers a comfortable environment during long flights with warm, neutral colors, textures and finishes meant to compliment the airline’s African culture and heritage.

Travelers using South African Airways can also take advantage of the company’s Step-up program to experience the new Premium Business Class product, which offers a 180-degree flat-bed, direct aisle access, gourmet meals, South African wine, an on-demand entertainment system, noise canceling headphones, power and USB ports at every seat, as well as increased privacy.

United to Revamp Flights at Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport

In Texas, United Airlines has announced that, beginning this fall, it will begin new initiatives to enhance customer experiences at Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport. The airline carrier said that it promises to offer customers short, more convenient connection times and improved access to more destinations. 

This effort, referred to as “rebanking,” will consolidate flight banks from 10 to eight. Houston serves as a connection point for east-to-west travel across the U.S. and Latin America. With the new restructuring, flights are designed to run more efficiently.  

The plan, which will begin October 29, will enable the airline to better utilize the approximately 90 gates at the Houston airport as well as improving service by making adjustments to the flight schedule. 

There will also be an increase in staffing as well as additional lobby check-in kiosks.

Iberia Airlines Orders New Short- and Medium-Haul Airplanes

In Europe, Spanish airline Iberia has announced that it will acquire 20 new Airbus A320neo planes in order to modernize its short- and medium-haul fleet. Announced by the company’s Chairman and CEO Luis Gallego, the planes are expected to begin arriving between 2018 through 2021. 

This acquisition is a continuation of Iberia’s modernization plan. Beginning in 2013, the airline has planned for 39 new long-haul crafts to join its feel through 2021, including 16 new-generation Airbus A350-900s. The first are scheduled to be delivered next year.

The new A320neo represent a major advance in fuel economy, reducing emissions, as well as creating less noise, Iberia said. The larger A350-900s combine added passenger comfort with maximum operational efficiency. 

Delta and Korean Air to Create Trans-Pacific Joint Venture

Finally, Delta and Korean Air have reached an agreement to create a joint effort to expand trans-Pacific network. The joint venture will expand travel options for travelers, creating a network of more than 290 destinations in the Americas and more than 80 in Asia.  

The agreement is the latest expansion of the partnership between Delta and Korean Air, which began in 2000 when both carriers became co-founders of the SkyTeam global airline alliance. 

Subject to regulatory approval, this venture is expected to:

  • Expand codesharing in the trans-Pacific market 
  • Create joint sales and marketing initiatives in Asia and the United States 
  • Allow for seamless passenger and baggage transit experiences 
  • Enhance frequent flyer benefits, providing customers of both airlines the ability to earn and redeem miles on Delta's SkyMiles and Korean Air's SKYPASS programs 
  • Increased belly cargo cooperation across the trans-Pacific 

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