Just when you thought the Open Skies Agreements debate was over, expect it to continue as we roll into the dog days of August.
President Trump last month held a White House meeting with select airline CEOs and executives to discuss U.S. aviation concerns over what they believe are unfair advantages held by Middle East carriers. Specifically, they believe the governments in the countries of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are subsidizing Emirates, Etihad and Qatar airlines, respectively.
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Now comes word that the meeting was much more contentious than thought, leading many to believe that American, Delta and United – the three main U.S. carriers opposed to the Gulf airlines – will continue to pursue changes to the agreements despite the reluctance of the president to cut back the Gulf airlines’ routes to the U.S. and Europe.
NBC News reported that the meeting, which did include the CEO of Qatar Airways and the CEOs of American and United, respectively, devolved into “a bit of a shouting match.”
According to NBC, Trump belittled American Airlines for its falling stock price and for buying many of its aircraft from European-based Airbus instead of American-based Boeing. Trump also apparently made mention several times that Delta CEO Ed Bastian did not attend the meeting.
The issue, of course, boils down to money. American, Delta and United believe the three Gulf carriers entice more passengers with cut-rate fares because of government assistance. The White House meeting including some vocal outbursts as both sides pleaded their case to the president, who, like his predecessor Barack Obama, declined to take executive action.
There likely won’t be another meeting but expect the Big Three to keep up the pressure in August, perhaps through more direct marketing to the public.
A Good Time to Book for the Holidays
Christmas might not be top of mind in August, but it should be.
According to cheapflights.com, August is a great time to book your holiday travel to Europe and Asia, including hotels. For instance, you can save as much as 47% on flights from San Francisco to Barcelona or Madrid, 46% to Dublin and 40% to Amsterdam if you book by August. 5.
Domestically, prices for the fall have already started to drop and will continue to do so this month.
“The overall pattern is similar to what we see in a typical year in that, as we get into the peak travel season in July, the tickets that people are booking are shifting toward the off-peak prices,” says Patrick Surry, chief data scientist for airline fare predictor Hopper. “We tend to see prices fall throughout the summer and into the end of the year.”
Airports Adding Amenities
Expect airports to continue to add some pretty cool amenities this month. Here are two that we absolutely love.
In two locations at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and in Terminal 3 at San Francisco International Airport, you can get a coffee. Not a big deal, right? You can probably get it anywhere within 20 steps of your gate. Except, at those two locations, travelers can have their coffee drinks prepared and delivered by robotic baristas courtesy of a Briggo Coffee Haus kiosk. Orders can be sent ahead via the app and there’s a robot on duty 24 hours a day.
Also, looking to kill time before your flight? Portland (Ore.) International Airport has a free 17-seat theater showing short films made by Oregon filmmakers. There are similar theaters in San Francisco and Minneapolis-St. Paul.
Speaking of Robots
Want a glimpse of the future of travel? Head to London’s Saatchi Gallery in August for a new photography exhibit sponsored by British Airways, which commissioned a study on the future of flying.
Two of the more notable items include a robotic flight attendant able to interpret every passengers’ needs through emotional analysis and cater to this by bringing each person what they need before they’ve even asked.
Also, check out The Curio, a brand new form of jet. The Curio is a hypersonic aircraft which exceeds the speed of sound.
A Hybrid Plane?
Yes, a hybrid plane. Just like a car, it will be powered by fuel and electricity.
And it’s closer than you think.
Los Angeles-based aviation company Ampaire has announced it will start testing aircraft partly powered by electricity on some commercial routes later in 2019.
The Ampaire Electric EEL, a reconfigured twin-engine Cessna 337 Skymaster, is Ampaire’s first commercial product. It’s been modified to fly with one conventional combustion engine and one electric motor.
It will start with short flights on Mokulele Airlines, which services short hops among the Hawaiian islands.
Delays in Boeing 737 Max Return Could Bring Higher Fares
The grounding of the Boeing 737 Max aircraft has certainly had an impact on airlines who have canceled flights and routes that operate the equipment. Now it could affect you.
CNBC is reporting that consumers could pay higher airfares as airlines that operate the 737 Max are forced to shift equipment around. That means fewer available seats on planes that are less in price.
On a good note, however, low-budget carriers like Frontier and Spirit could initiate a sale and a fare ware by dropping prices in markets where they compete with bigger airlines.