Browsing Tag: FAA

The first Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental landing at Boeing Field after her first flight.

The first Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental after landing at Boeing Field after her first flight.

Some media outlets are reporting that the FAA partial shutdown could affect the certification of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the 747-8 Freighter and 747-8 Intercontinental. According to Boeing, as of now, the partial shut down will not affect the certification of the aircraft, but could affect airports looking to be certified to operate the new 747-8.

“The FAA says airplane certification activities will continue– so we don’t expect any impact there,” Boeing spokesperson Doug Alder Jr explained to “As for airport certification, if furloughed FAA personnel don’t return to work in time to finish the remaining airport approvals for the 747-8, customers wouldn’t be able to fly the airplane into certain airports until that work is complete (SFO, Newark, O’Hare and Houston are the major ones).”

This is just another reason to be angry at the partial FAA shutdown.

I wanted to find a sad and picture that made me feel disapointed. I think this one does nicely.

I wanted to find a sad picture that made me feel disapointed. I think this one does nicely. That is an old TWA 707 nose and landing gear located in Tuscon, AZ.

While US House leaders start summer recess today, there are still 4,000 Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) employees that will remain furloughed and about 70,000 construction and support workers that will not have jobs until the the recess concludes on September 6th. Of course there are no guarantees that congress can even come to an agreement when they return. Due to the lack of cooperation, the FAA will continue to lose about $30million per day totaling over $1billion during the recess.

According to CNN, representatives continued to argue, “over an issue they said was the real subject of the dispute — new National Mediation Board rules that make it easier for airlines to unionize. Democrats favor the new rules; Republicans oppose them.”

While the country has been concerned about the raising of the debt ceiling, not as much attention has been given to the funding issues facing the FAA. Not everyone is losing due to the shutdown — at least for the short term. As part of the shut down, FAA taxes are not longer being collected by airlines and some have decided to pass the savings on to passengers, while others decided to keep the additional funds to offset the increase in fuel prices. While it seems that passengers and airlines are celebrating the savings, long-term it will only end up hurting airline infrastructure.

If passengers purchased tickets for travel after July 23rd and paid the taxes, they have the option to request a refund from the IRS. Delta Air Lines is hoping to make the process much easier, by offering the IRS tax refund directly though them.

Part of me wants to support the effort of passengers getting their refunds, since it is the government who messed up and they should be “punished” by having to give tax money back. However, the airline part of me feels that asking for a refund will just further hurt the airline industry and I rather “donate” my taxes I already paid.

This story is extremely angering and is NOT okay. The airline infrastructure and hard working employees should not be suffering while members of our political system go on holiday. I do not think that most politicians realize that their school-yard politics actually affects real people and this inability to work together will have a negative impact that will be felt for a long time.


Image: Telstar Logistics

As of midnight last night, part of the FAA shut down due to fun politics. Part of the shutdown was not having the ability to renew FAA taxes on airline ticket sales. Some airlines are taking advantage of this and offering lower fares, others are using this as a chance to earn a little extra dough.

It makes sense for airlines to go both directions. One is really just your classic sale promotion and using the timing of the taxes. For the others, I would assume that most consumers do not understand that there are no taxes and are not aware that even though the taxes are removed, most airlines have just raised fares to compensate.

UPDATE 1: I have confirmed that Spirit Airlines is passing the savings on to customers. I have heard rumors that Frontier is as well, but waiting to confirm.

UPDATE 2: Hawaiian Airlines is also sharing the love with customers.

UPDATE 3 (7/24 2pm PDT): Frontier Airlines is also sharing the love. American and JetBlue have raised their fares.

UPDATE 4 (7/25 7:45am PDT): It looks like some airlines might have had a change of heart. Working to confirm, but appears that Virgin America and Frontier might have stopped passing on their savings and have raised fares. For now I am changing Virgin America and Frontier to “unknown.” Also checking in with Alaska, Spirit and Hawaiian to see their thoughts.

UPDATE 5 (7/25 8:55am PDT): Spirit Airlines has confirmed they are still offering lower fares. Virgin America has raised some of their fares, but not all of them.

Currently Alaska Airlines and Virgin America are the only two passing the FAA tax savings to customers.

Currently, only a few airlines are passing the FAA tax savings to customers.

I am trying to talk directly to US airlines through out the day and will be updating. I am hearing somethings from reliable sources, others are more like rumors and I am being sure to indicate each:

ALASKA AIRLINES- Sharing the Love
Alaska Airlines is advertising on their main page that they are having cheaper prices due to no FAA taxes. A spokesperson with Alaska explained via email, “We’re not raising fares.  We’ll continue to pass the savings on to customers.”

SPIRIT AIRLINES- Sharing the Love
I have confirmed directly with Spirit that they are passing down the savings and have no plans to stop.

As of 6:30pm PST on 7/24 there is no information about their “Spirit Airlines is Giving Customers Their Share of $200 Million Per Week in Tax Savings!” deal on their webpage, but an email was sent out to their VIP customers (thanks John B for sharing). In the email they state, “Spirit has become a model for transparency, ensuring customers are not impacted by hidden fees as practiced by other airlines and the government.”

Hawaiian Airlines is promoting saving money via the FAA Taxes on Twitter: “Some major federal taxes on airline tickets have taken the weekend off. BOOK NOW.”

VIRGIN AMERICA- Sharing Some of the Love
Over the weekend, Virgin America ran a special “Evade Taxes. Take Flight,” campaign, but now the website is changed. As of 10:40pm last night they were advertising fares with lower federal taxes. As of Monday morning, they have raised some of their fares. “Yes, we were automatically passing on the equivalent discount (down to the decimal) across the board through the weekend ’“ and encouraging guests to grab the discount early,” Abby Lunardini with Virgin America Communications explained over email.  But, given the dynamic nature of fares, with the Monday morning fare load ’“ some fares have changed and/or moved up, but some of the discounts have held.”

As of Monday morning I am hearing rumors that Frontier has raised their prices. Emails, calls and messages sent via Twitter have not yet been returned to confirm.

DELTA AIR LINES- Keeping the Money
It seemed earlier in the day that Delta was going to share the love, but it has been decided to raise fares.

“Southwest and AirTran implemented a system wide fare increase of $4 each-way to help offset industry cost pressures ’“ such as the rising expense of fuel,” Brad Hawkins with Southwest Communications explained over email.  “Our current ticket prices will remain the same (Customers will not see an increase in fares), as the 7.5% excise tax will not be collected. These decisions were made in light of the recent industry change in aviation tax collections, and we made a business decisions to remain competitive in these economically challenging times.”

UNITED AIRLINES- Keeping the Money
United has decided to match the taxes and have increased fares.

AMERICAN AIRLINES- Keeping the Money
According to the LA Times, American Airlines and JetBlue have raised their fares and are keeping the extra FAA tax money. “So in effect the taxes are not being collected, but the price paid by the customer remains the same,” American’s Tim Smith told the LA Times.

JETBLUE- Keeping the Money
JetBlue has decided to raise fairs and a spokesperson told, “We’re working with the Federal Government to determine how the recent expiration of the Federal Excise Tax, and other taxes, will impact our operation. We have participated in an industry-wide fare increase in order to remain competitive.”


The FAA gets dissed.

The FAA gets dissed.

Since politicians were not able to come to an agreement over extending the operating authority of the FAA as of midnight tonight, about 4,000 people will be out of work and federal airline ticket tax will no longer be collected. The shutdown will not affect airline safety, but it will stop airlines from collecting about $200million per week in ticket taxes that would help to to fund FAA programs. In the short term, passengers might celebrate since they will be able to save money by not paying taxes, but this means that projects will be delayed and costs might end up being higher in the long run.

At this time it seems unclear exactly how this partial shutdown will affect the airline industry. Although confusing, I am willing to bet that Spirit Airlines will come up with some fancy advertising campaign about the FAA shutdown. Although I normally celebrate an airline’s unique advertising campaign, it seems odd to celebrate a failure in politics, which will end up hurting airline-related projects, but I am sure it will happen.

Update 1: looks like Virgin America jumped on the tax-themed sale already.

Update 2: Boeing confirmed via email to that 787 Dreamliner and 747-8 certifications will not be affected by the FAA partial shut down.

Update 3: Alaska Airlines is also advertising (see screen shot) lower fares from the FAA partial shut down on their homepage. Still nothing from Spirit Airlines — guess I was way off on that one.

Here is the direct copy and paste of the FAA’s press release as well as some information from Alaska Airlines how these changes will change their fares…

From the official FAA Press release:
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt expressed disappointment today after Congress adjourned for the week without passing a clean FAA reauthorization extension. Because of Congress’ inaction, many states will have to bear a significant economic burden and many airport projects will be halted.

’œI’m very disappointed that Congress adjourned today without passing a clean extension of the FAA bill,’ said Secretary LaHood. ’œBecause of their inaction, states and airports won’t be able to work on their construction projects, and too many people will have to go without a paycheck. This is no way to run the best aviation system in the world.’

The current FAA reauthorization expires at midnight tonight, Friday, July 22, 2011. Congress has extended the FAA’s authorization 20 separate times without controversy. Without an extension, the FAA will be forced to furlough nearly 4,000 employees and will be unable to move forward on important airport construction projects and other critical airport activities.

While this lapse in FAA’s authorization affects thousands of public and private sector jobs, it is important to note that the safety of the flying public will not be compromised.
’œThe FAA employees who will be furloughed perform critical work for our nation’s aviation system and our economy,’ said FAA Administrator Babbitt. ’œThese are real people with families who do not deserve to be put out of work during these tough economic times.’

The Airport Improvement Program has already stopped processing new airport grants in anticipation of a furlough. The program, which provides construction project grants to airports, will be shut down and unable to provide roughly $2.5 billion for airport projects in all 50 states that could put thousands of people to work in good paying jobs.

For example:
* Orlando International Airport in Orlando, Florida is still waiting on funding to rehabilitate a major taxiway
* St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport in St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Florida is still waiting on funding to rehabilitate Runway 04/22
* Cambridge Municipal Airport in Cambridge, Ohio is still waiting on funding to acquire snow removal equipment and conduct a survey to develop an instrument approach procedure
* Houghton County Memorial Airport in Hancock, Michigan is still waiting on funding to modify their terminal building and discourage wildlife from entering the active airfield
* Richmond International Airport in Richmond, Virginia is still waiting on funding to proceed with construction of a new apron for terminal concourse A
* Henderson City-County Airport in Henderson, Kentucky is still waiting on funding to rehabilitate Runway 09/27
* Clovis Municipal Airport in Clovis, New Mexico is still waiting on funding to relocate the localizer equipment due to a runway extension construction. This equipment is out of service on the main runway until the project can proceed
* Lubbock International Airport in Lubbock, Texas is still waiting on funding to begin the third phase of a critical runway rehabilitation
* Adams Field in Little Rock, Arkansas is still waiting on funding to begin the rehabilitation of taxiway lighting, construction of a Runway Safety Area, and the installation of Precision Approach Path Indicator

Additionally, the FAA will be forced to withhold money for states and individual airports as a result of the lapse in authorization. For example, Florida airports will not have access to over $40 million in funding and the state of California cannot use nearly $38 million. The FAA also cannot give the state of Ohio over $10 million in airport grant money or the state of Virginia over $16 million for which they are eligible.

Up to 4,000 FAA employees in 35 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico will be furloughed and forced to go without pay. Large numbers of employees in New Jersey, New York, California, Georgia, Oklahoma, Texas, Washington, Illinois and the District of Columbia will be affected. This includes many of FAA’s engineers, scientists, research analysts, administrative assistants, computer specialists, program managers and analysts, environmental protection specialists, and community planners.

Specific Details from Alaska Airlines:
For tickets sold on starting 12 a.m., Saturday, July 23, 2011, the following taxes will not be collected until congress votes to reinstate them:
* The 7.5% tax generally applicable to domestic transportation (as well the7.5% tax on amounts received from the sale of ’œfrequent flier miles’.)
* The $3.70 domestic segment tax.
* The $16.30 international arrival/departure tax.
* The $8.20 departure tax for flights between Alaska/Hawaii and the mainland US.

For example, on Alaska this represents a savings of approximately $44 off a $300 roundtrip ticket, or about 14 percent. All other taxes and fees will continue to apply.

Cockpit of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Cockpit of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Uh oh, is that electronic device authorized?

“Sit down, shut up and turn off your electronic devices!” Okay, it is not really that bad, but sometimes I get pretty annoyed when I have to turn off my personal electronic device (PED) during taxi. I am a spoiled American and if we are delayed on the tarmac for take off, not having access to my precious electronic devices is difficult. So why the heck are you required to turn your devices off anyhow? And can they really bring down a plane?

If something happens to the plane and you are on above 10,000 feet, you have time. Time to try to navigate to an airport, time to put your toys away before landing. When you are below 10,000 feet things need to happen quickly and it is more dangerous.

One of the important reasons you have your devices off, is to make sure you are paying attention. First you need to pay attention to the flight attendants giving their safety announcement (they don’t do it for fun). Secondly, you should be paying attention to your surroundings. If the plane catches on fire while taxiing out, you need to be ready to react, not listening to the newest Justin Bieber song (is he still “cool” — I dunno). You also need to be able to get out of the plane as soon as possible. If there are cords and cables in the way and your neighbor is distracted, that can slow things down, causing people injury or possibly death.

Next are those pesky electronic signals. All electronic devices give off some sort of signal that could interfere with the cockpit. Even the Federal Aviation Administration isn’t too sure how much these signals affect the avionics in an airliner, but are playing it safe. The FAA’s website states site, ’œthere are still unknowns about the radio signals that portable electronic devices and cell phones give off.’

Airplane manufacturers, airlines and the FAA work together to make sure that any electronic equipment that might go into an airplane will not cause it harm. According to Flight Global, recently on board Wi-Fi tests resulted in some Honeywell avionics to react adversely. This goes to show that yes, electronic equipment can affect instruments, but it also shows that rigorous testing by all those involved make sure that these sort of things won’t happen past the testing phase. Currently all those involved are working together to find the cause and a solution.

Yes, it might be annoying to put your devices away, but I think there are some very valid reasons for doing so. Next time you are on a flight and you hear the call to turn off your devices, be a good sport and do as you are told.

For more information and quotes from Boeing, Virgin America and the FAA, check out my story on AOL Travel News.