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September 5, 2017

Air Travel: Hurricane Irma Disrupts Flights + United Adds Alexa

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Hurricane Irma and United’s new Alexa partnership lead this week’s air travel news affecting the meetings and events industry. 

Hurricane Irma Disrupts Flights

Hurricane Irma, which is now tied for the second-strongest Atlantic hurricane on record, is disrupting flights in the Caribbean, our partner publication Travel Agent reports. 

The Category 5 storm is poised to bring life-threatening wind, rain and flooding to the northern Caribbean toward midweek, and could make landfall anywhere in an area ranging from Florida to the Carolinas this weekend or early next week. 

The storm has prompted a number of airlines, including American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta, Southwest Airlines and JetBlue, to issue change waivers for travelers impacted by the storm. 

Houston Airports Resume Service Following Hurricane Harvey

In Texas, Houston-area airports began to resume limited service late last week after Hurricane Harvey brought catastrophic flooding to the region, Travel Agent reports. Service was brought back in phases, with full service resumed by the weekend. 

United Airlines Integrates Amazon Alexa for Hands Free Check-In

In technology news, United Airlines has announced its newest option for customers to check in and learn about their flights—this time, without the touch of a finger. Starting today, travelers can use the all-new United skill for Amazon Alexa to check in and obtain information about their upcoming flight.

United is the first U.S.-based airline to provide an Alexa skill for Alexa-enabled devices, such as the Amazon Echo and the Amazon Echo Dot. With this new skill, customers can make requests and ask a number of specific questions about their flights.

Sleeping Pods and New Terminals Are Coming to Mexico's Airports

In airport news, the Benito Juarez International Airport in Mexico City and the Cancun International Airport are getting a number of major upgrades. 

Benito Juarez is adding sleeping pods where travelers can rest. They can be rented hourly or for the full night, and include the use of bathroom, locker and a shower with towels. 

Meanwhile, Cancun’s Terminal Four is being prepped for an October opening as the airport’s Terminal One begins to close. The transition is estimated to take between six months and a year. 

Ethiopian to Upgrade Sao Paolo Service to Non-Stop, Direct Flights

In flight news, Ethiopian Airlines GroupAfrica’s largest airline—has announced the finalization of preparations to begin nonstop direct service to Sao Paulo, Brazil, the largest city south of the equator. Ethiopian’s current service to Sao Paulo operates via Lome, Togo; the upgraded service will be effective starting September 16, 2017.

Singapore and Alaska Airlines to Launch Codeshare Agreement

Finally, Singapore Airlines has signed an agreement to codeshare on flights operated by Alaska Airlines, as jointly announced by the two airlines earlier this week. The agreement aims to expand Singapore Airlines’ footprint in the North American market, and will take effect on September 27.

Once the agreement takes place, Singapore Airlines will add its ‘SQ’ designator code to Alaska Airlines-operated flights, which will be traveling routes serving 18 different destinations within the U.S. and Mexico. The codeshare agreement also extends to existing codeshare flights operated by Virgin America on routes serving 19 destinations within the U.S., as Virgin America was acquired by Alaska Air Group in 2016.

Members of both Singapore Airlines and Alaska Airlines’ frequent flyer programs—KrisFlyer and Mileage Plan, respectively—will also be able to earn miles when traveling on flights operated by either of the two carriers starting September 27. Members of either club will be able to redeem travel miles for flights at a later date operated by the partner airline. 

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