Enjoy Every Moment at The Biltmore Estate
Who doesn’t love the pace of summer, when the sun seems to take its time sinking into the horizon, and each extra minute of daylight feels like a gift? I invite you to visit to take advantage of the unique generosity of this wonderful season. By day, you can explore Biltmore House (with a new audio tour) and find adventure in our 8,000–acre back yard. Stay on to enjoy an evening of shopping, dining, and other fun at Antler Hill Village, and extended hours at the Winery. Or take in an unforgettable concert performed against a magical mountain backdrop with our Biltmore Concert Series. See you soon!
Dini Cecil Pickering
Vice Chair of Biltmore’s Board of Directors, and
George Vanderbilt’s great-granddaughter
Boston Logan International Airport is open, and flights are operating as normal, but British Airways, Delta and American have announced two or three days’ grace for passengers booked on flights to and from the city.
British Airways, which operates up to four flights a day to the city, is allowing both outbound and inbound passengers to change the date of their flight or use the money to buy another flight up to and including Thursday 18 April.
Delta Air Lines has also issued a waiver to allow passengers to adjust travel plans until 17 April, and to rebook flights no later than 20 April. American Airlines, which stopped flying from the UK to Boston a few weeks ago, is allowing passengers on internal flights within the US to change their booking to a later date (16-20 April) or receive a refund of American Airlines vouchers.
However, Virgin Atlantic said its normal £50 penalty charge will apply to passengers booked on its London-Boston flight today (16 April) who do not want to fly. Passengers affected by its Boston-London flight on 15 April, which was delayed by 24 hours, can claim a refund or rebook if they don’t want to travel out of Boston today. The airline said it has received no cancellation requests.
Tour operator DialAFlight, which sent 2,500 passengers to Boston in 2012, said it has contacted every client whose travel has been affected. “We are also going through every airline policy regarding refunds or alterations to their routes, and are actively contacting airlines who have yet to release a policy to find out what can be done for our clients.”
Hotels are also open as usual. Starwood Hotels has increased security measures at its hotels in Boston, New York and Washington. The group’s Westin Copley Place and Sheraton Boston hotels are near the finish line of the Boston Marathon but were not damaged by the explosions, contrary to early reports. In a statement Starwood said: “Both hotels are providing support to authorities as well as runners, area workers and others in addition to guests. With the marathon closed at mile 26, many runners were directed to the Sheraton nearby and the hotel was providing water, towels and other assistance.”
The Fairmont Copley Plaza, two blocks away from the Marathon finish line, is open but only allowing registered guests and staff into the hotel, and has heightened security checks.
In Boston, the area around Copley Square has been cordoned off, but the Massachusetts Office of Travel Tourism said: “Other than this area we expect the city to be open. We anticipate the city will be back to business as usual as soon as is possible.”
The Foreign Office is advising visitors to “exercise vigilance and caution, monitoring local media and following the advice of local authorities”. Additional information can be obtained through the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency. The police have also set up an emergency hotline for friends and relatives: +1 617 635 4500.
Hawaiian Airlines was tops for on-time performance in February, and the Honolulu-based airline was also No. 1 among airlines for the fewest number of flight cancellations.
Hawaiian, a subsidiary of Hawaiian Holdings Inc. (Nasdaq: HA), was No. 1 among the 16 major airlines with 91.8 percent of its flights arriving on time, according to the monthly report from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Alaska Airlines (NYSE: ALK) was No. 2 with 90.6 percent of its flights arriving on time. Virgin America, which plans to begin flights to Hawaii in 2015, was third with 88.5 percent of arrivals on time, followed by Delta Air Lines (NYSE: DAL) with 86.2 percent of arrivals on time.
Hawaiian only had seven flight cancellations in February, ranking it tops among the airlines in that category. Alaska, Virgin America and Delta followed Hawaiian in the same order as the arrival rankings.
The 2013 Airline Quality Ratings (AQR) report — released on Monday, April 8 — shows that the U.S. Department of Transportation received a total of 11,445 complaints from disgruntled passengers in 2012, up from 9,414 in 2011.
Most of the common complaints concern what the report categorizes as “Flight Problems.” This includes issues such as flight cancellations and delays. The second highest number of complaints has to do with reservation, ticketing and boarding issues, while the third usually involves dissatisfaction with customer service.
Dr. Dean Headley, associate professor of marketing at Wichita State University and co-author of the AQR report, partially attributes the increase in complaint rate to the rising number of Americans traveling by air. Mindset plays a role, too: “The actual number of complaints is much higher because customers seem more willing to complain,” he said.
Headley speculates that the growing number of consumer complaints directly relates to the American airline industry’s economic growth. “Airlines have finally figured out supply and demand,” he said, acknowledging airlines’ efforts to reduce the number of available seats in order to improve their profit margin. “But it’s a Catch-22. It’s a good thing to have higher demand, but you’ll make more people upset.”
Other revenue-boosting efforts have also helped improve certain aspects of air travel. “Only after [airlines] started charging for bags did the baggage-handling service improve,” Headley noted. Customer complaints and mishandled baggage account for two of the four criteria used by Headley and his co-author, Dr. Brent Bowen, head of the Department of Aviation Technology at Purdue University, to calculate the airline quality ratings. The report also evaluates each airline’s on-time arrival performance and involuntary denied boarding rate (the number of times an airline “bumps” a passenger). Fourteen American carriers were assessed on these four criteria for the 2013 edition of the AQR report.
But whether or not the aviation industry will continue to grow their profits while satisfying flyer needs has yet to be seen. An unsteady economy and the possibility of sequester-related budget cuts to air traffic control services could threaten future progress. “Our system can only handle so much,” Headley said. “When there’s lower pressure on the system, everything works better. We’ve had a few good years — the key is to keep it there while satisfying demand.”
Despite Headley’s positive outlook, the 2013 AQR report shows that some airlines could stand to improve. The carriers listed below received this year’s lowest AQR scores, earning them a place on U.S. News Travel‘s annual list of America’s “meanest” airlines.
Note: The Airline Quality Ratings (AQR) report does not categorize airlines as major or regional carriers.
[In Pictures: Full list of America's Best and Worst Airlines 2013]
America’s Meanest Regional Carriers
3. American Eagle Airlines
AQR Score: -1.78
American Airlines’s regional carrier saw improvement across all four of the categories evaluated for the 2013 AQR report. American Eagle Airlines has managed to better its punctuality, with 81.6 percent of flights making it to the gate on time in 2012 compared to only 76.3 percent in 2011. The carrier’s denied boarding rate has also steadily declined. In 2010, American Eagle bumped 4.02 out of every 10,000 passengers; that number dropped to 1.07 in 2012. The airline has also reduced the number of bags mishandled per 1,000 passengers from 7.32 in 2011 to 5.8 in 2012; however, American Eagle still claims the highest mishandled luggage rate of all 14 major and regional airlines evaluated in the 2013 AQR Report.
2. SkyWest Airlines
AQR Score: -1.88
SkyWest (which works with such major airlines as United Airlines, US Airways and Delta) saw an increase in the number of consumer complaints per every 100,000 passengers — from 0.73 in 2011 to 0.88 in 2012. The uptick is understandable given the carrier’s rising mishandled baggage and involuntary denied boarding rates. The rate at which SkyWest bumps flyers jumped from 0.68 instances per every 10,000 passengers in 2011 to 2.32 in 2012. The airline improved its timeliness, with 2.3 percent more flights arriving on schedule in 2012 compared to 2011, but that doesn’t make up for the number of passengers who weren’t allowed to board their plane.
AQR Score: -1.95
The AQR report shows that this regional carrier — operating under American Airlines, Delta and United Airlines — has some work to do in terms of improving its customer care. The airline tied with American Airlines for the worst on-time arrival performance, with a whopping 23 percent of its flights failing to land on schedule. ExpressJet could also stand to better its track record with checked luggage. The airline reported 5.52 instances of mishandled baggage per every 1,000 passengers in 2012.
America’s Meanest Major Carriers
5. Frontier Airlines
AQR Score: -0.78
Frontier Airlines would benefit from better time-management practices. In 2012, the carrier’s on-time arrival percentage fell just below that of the industry, with roughly 22 percent of Frontier flights landing late. But while it may let punctuality slide, Frontier trumps several other airlines when it comes to effectively handling luggage (only 2.22 bags per 1,000 passengers were lost or damaged in 2012) and making sure that passengers are not bumped from their flights. The airline reported a denied boarding rate of 0.78 instances per every 10,000 passengers in 2012.
4. Southwest Airlines
AQR Score: -0.81
Very few flyers feel the need to gripe about Southwest Airlines. The bargain-rate carrier received fewer than 0.25 complaints per every 100,000 passengers in 2012. Compared to the rest of the industry, Southwest also performed above average in terms of timeliness and denied boarding rate. However, Headley’s theory that checked-luggage fees lead to better baggage handling is proven here. The airline allows passengers to check two bags per person, free of charge, roughly three bags per every 1,000 passengers were lost or damaged in 2012, placing the carrier’s mishandled baggage rate above that of the overall industry.
[See: Snakes on a Plane?]
3. US Airways
AQR Score: -0.87
US Airways has shown significant signs of improvement in its overall performance over the past couple of years. The carrier’s on-time arrival performance jumped to 85.9 percent in 2012 from 79.8 percent in 2011. US Airways also decreased its denied boarding rates from 0.94 per every 10,000 passengers in 2011 to 0.68 in 2012 (better than the industry average). But US Airways still received the third-lowest AQR score of the 11 major carriers included in the 2013 report, and chances are that the airline will see its progress taper over the next couple of years due to its recent merge with American Airlines.
2. American Airlines
AQR Score: -1.11
American Airlines has taken great strides to improve its reputation among flyers, bettering both its involuntary denied boarding rate and the number of bags lost or damaged in 2012. However, the 2013 AQR report shows a rising number of customer complaints and a slipping on-time performance average. In 2012, only 76.9 percent of American Airlines flights made it to the gate on time, down from 77.8 percent in 2011. As a result, the carrier received the second-lowest AQR score of the 11 major carriers evaluated in the 2013 AQR report. What’s more, Headley speculates that American Airlines will to see its overall AQR score drop in the coming years due to its recent merge with US Airways.
1. United Airlines
AQR Score: -2.18
United Airlines received the lowest AQR score out of all 14 major and regional airlines evaluated in the 2013 report, making it this year’s “meanest” airline. The carrier saw its number of customer complaints per 100,000 passengers nearly double from 2.21 in 2011 to 4.24 in 2012. The carrier’s increase in customer complains is likely the result of its merger with Continental Airlines (which was finalized in 2010). “This data year was the first data year following United’s total absorption of Continental,” Headley explained. “There are always kinks to work out, and these issues seem to be ones consumers feel are worth complaining about.” United saw its performance deteriorate across the board in 2012, with its on-time arrival percentage dropping and its denied boarding and mishandled baggage rates climbing.
[In Pictures: Full List of America's Best and Worst Airlines 2013]
–Miriam B. Weiner
A senior official with the Hawaii Tourism Authority will meet with United Airlines executives this week, just as United is preparing to scale back its nonstop from Washington D.C.
Few state officials have more critical assignments than David Uchiyama, vice president for brand management of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, whose job includes regular meetings with airline executives to hear their plans and concerns and to ask how Hawaii can help.
“We are very sensitive about keeping and improving our connectivity not just for tourism but for our residents, as well as helping develop other commerce,” Uchiyama said in an email from the road.
Hawaii air connections, the most in years, are increasingly vulnerable to cutbacks if they don’t fly full enough, so Hawaii officials are working with the airlines to help them prosper.
Uchiyama is flying to Chicago for a meeting Wednesday with United Airlines executives, gving him a timely opportunity to make sure United officials know that Hawaii tourism marketers, including private partners like hoteliers and attractions, sometimes do targeted marketing with the express intention of helping airlines improve yields on new routes. He was in Atlanta Monday for meetings at Delta Air Lines headquarters.
HawaiiNewsNow reported Monday that United Airlines has decided to cut back its daily D.C. nonstop to once a week at the end of the summer. Airlines typically do not announce cutbacks. The information was simply fed into the reservations computer network all the travel agents use.
The news came just days after Allegiant Travel decided to call all but two of its new Hawaii routes “seasonal” and stop them at the end of the summer. Only the Las Vegas and Bellingham, Wash., routes will fly past then.
A source in the Hawaii Visitors Convention Bureau, the private entity that holds the tourism authority contract for marketing Hawaii to North America, said, “We are working with both these carriers to reassess their deployment,” and pointed out that while the Washington D.C. route proved to be highly seasonal, “the Washington area has a huge population and they don’t all work inside the Beltway,” meaning, for the federal government, which has curtailed business travel.
The daily nonstop from Washington Dulles, in the Virginia suburbs of the nation’s capital, has been flying far from empty. Even in slack periods it has usually been better than 70 percent full, and in peak periods it has been profitable. But airlines operate on very tight margins nowadays, when jet fuel bills often exceed payroll, and one or two full-price seats can make the difference between profit and loss on a flight.
In evaluating new service like the UAL nonstop from D.C. and the Hawaiian Airlines “Flight Five-0″ service to New York JFK, both of which started last June, airline number crunchers have to consider not merely the cost of fuel and the number of seats but also the fares charged.
“When they started they were charging about the same to go to New York as to California,” noted Thom Nulty, former Executive Vice President of Aloha Airlines, about the Hawaiian service to New York. “Hawaii has the best product but there is the travel time and cost factor. Selling East Coast people on Hawaii is a hard sell.”
Washington D.C. has traditionally been a good source of Hawaii visitors, in part because more than 100,000 military personnel in Washington have Hawaii ties after deployments in the islands. Despite its reputation as the company town for the federal government, Washington is also a large employment center for Internet backbone providers and biotech research enterprises.
United Airlines flies more seats to Hawaii than most carriers, and is developing Big Island tourism with its LAX flghts to Hilo, the only direct West Coast flights to the volcano side of the Big Island by any airline.
Copyright 2013 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.