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December 12, 2017

Air Travel: The Return of Supersonic Flights? + CA Fires

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Photo by Pefostudio/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

From a plan to bring back supersonic flights to new apps for wearable devices, here’s a look at the latest air travel news affecting the meetings and events industry. 

Japan Airlines Looks to Bring Back Supersonic Flights

Japan Airlines (JAL) has announced a new partnership aimed at bringing back supersonic air travel.

The airline has announced a strategic partnership with Boom Supersonic, which says it is developing a next-generation supersonic aircraft capable of flying at Mach 2.2. That speed would cut average flight times in half, Boom said. JAL said that the agreement would allow it to provide its knowledge and experience as an airline to support Boom in the new aircraft’s development.

As part of the agreement, JAL invested $10 million in Boom, and is collaborating with the company to refine the aircraft’s design. JAL can also purchase up to 20 Boom aircraft through a pre-order arrangement.

United Issues Flight Waiver Due to CA Fires

United Airlines has issued a flight change waiver for customers traveling through Santa Barbara due to the California wildfires, which are now burning into their second week, our partner publication Travel Agent reports.

United Airlines is waiving the change fee and any difference in fare for customers traveling through Santa Barbara December 12 – 15, on new flights departing on or before December 20. Rescheduled travel must tack place in the originally ticketed cabin (any fare class) and between the same cities as originally ticketed.

DOT Withdraws Ancillary Fee Rule

The Department of Transportation (DOT) has withdrawn two Notices of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) regarding airline ancillary fees.

The NPRM, which was first issued in 2011 during the Obama administration, would have collected detailed revenue information on airline ancillary fees, such as those for checked baggage. A second, supplemental NPRM issued this past January would have required the disclosure of such fees at all points of sale, including by travel agents.

In announcing its decision the DOT said that it believes existing regulations already provide consumers some information regarding fees for ancillary services. It also cited an executive order by President Donald Trump aimed at reducing government regulations.

United Adds New Apps for Google Assistant, Fitbit

United Airlines has rolled out a number of new features for customers using the Google Assistant on their phone, Google Home or the Fitbit Ionic smartwatch.

United said it is the first airline to allow customers to use apps via the Google Assistant and Fitbit Ionic smartwatch for access to information and check in for flights.

The new United app on the Google Assistant lets customers use smart speakers like Google Home, and eligible Android and iPhone devices to stay up-to-date on their flight. Once customers have linked their MileagePlus account to the Google Assistant, users can say "talk to United" to hear their flight status, check amenities and check in for their upcoming flight. The new app also allows Google Assistant users to check their MileagePlus account balances, hear their last account activity, check in for their United domestic U.S. flights and hear flight information.

Fitbit has announced additions to its App Gallery that allows owners of the Ionic smartwatch to choose from more than 60 apps and 100+ clock faces to personalize their watch. United, which is the first airline app coming to Fitbit Ionic, will allow customers to receive flight status information and their boarding pass on the device with no need to pull out their phone. To access the United app on the Ionic smartwatch, customers can connect their MileagePlus account in the United app settings within the Fitbit mobile app, and sync Ionic to update the watch.

In September, United became the first U.S.-based airline to allow customers to offer an Amazon Alexa skill which allows customers to check in for their trips and receive flight information on Alexa-enabled devices.

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