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Travel News: Strikes at London Heathrow, Spirit-JetBlue Merger, and Disabled Travel

In Travel News for February 14, 2023 we have an update on the JetBlue - Spirit Airlines merger, we talk about a new bill in congress to make travel for People with Disabilities easier, and more strikes coming to London Heathrow.

New Law Proposed for More Transparency on Airline Disability Complaints

Senators Tammy Duckworth and Deb Fischer have introduced a bill which would require the Department of Transportation to publish an annual report detailing disability-related traveler complaints, including how quickly they were addressed and resolved.

Air Travel is still riddled with obstacles, challenges and discrimination despite the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Air Carrier Access Act being signed into law over three decades ago, said Duckworth, adding that complaints from disabled travelers have risen sharply in recent years.

According to data from Duckworth's office, the DOT received 1,394 disability-related complaints in 2021, a 54% increase from the 905 received in 2019 and a 157% increase from the 542 complaints received in 2020.

Mobility-aid-related incidents, which are often categorized separately, are even more common. In November 2022, US airlines mishandled 941 wheelchairs and scooters, or about 1.5 incidents for every 100 mobility devices loaded onto planes that month.

The proposed legislation would compel the DOT to review and resolve complaints from disabled travelers and publish an annual report including five years' worth of disability-related traveler complaint data. It would cover categories such as mobility-device-related incidents, difficulty being moved or mishandled by airport or airline staff, accessibility of in-flight services and amenities, and communication issues with an airline or its staff.

The report would also provide information on how quickly complaints were initiated and resolved, as well as the review process for such complaints. If passed, the bill would be a major step forward in increasing transparency around how disabled travelers are treated in the airline industry.

U.S. Department of Justice to File Lawsuit Against $3.8 Billion Spirit Airlines and JetBlue Merger

The proposed merger between Spirit Airlines and JetBlue, valued at $3.8 billion, is facing major hurdles as the U.S. Department of Justice is reportedly set to file a lawsuit against the deal. According to multiple sources with knowledge of the matter, the DOJ's antitrust division has conflicting opinions on whether to move forward with the case.

The merger between the two major American Airlines was agreed upon last summer after a competitive bidding War that began with Frontier Airlines announcing plans to purchase Spirit. However, the proposed merger is further complicated by an ongoing lawsuit against JetBlue's Northeast Alliance deal with American Airlines.

Despite the potential legal hurdles, JetBlue remains optimistic about the merger, stating that it would benefit travelers by creating a "long overdue national low-fare challenger" to the Big Four airlines in American, Delta, United, and Southwest.

Spirit Airlines CEO Ted Christie has stated that the company is waiting for a decision from the DOJ, with a decision expected within the next 30 days. It remains unclear what the outcome of the lawsuit would mean for Spirit and JetBlue, and if the merger being blocked by the DOJ would put Spirit back on the market or if the company would accept a lower bid to join Frontier as originally planned.

The proposed merger between Spirit and JetBlue is a significant event in the American aviation industry, and its outcome will have far-reaching implications for travelers, airlines, and the industry as a whole. As the aviation industry continues to recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the outcome of this proposed merger will be closely watched by industry experts and stakeholders alike.

In conclusion, the proposed merger between Spirit Airlines and JetBlue may face significant legal challenges as the U.S. Department of Justice is set to file a lawsuit against the deal. The outcome of this lawsuit will have important ramifications for the American aviation industry and will be closely monitored in the coming days and weeks.

Heathrow Airport Faces Strike Threat Over Pay Dispute

Heathrow airport could face "severe disruption" over the Easter holiday period as Unite, the trade union for aviation workers, prepares to ballot around 3,000 airport staff, including security guards, engineers and firefighters, for Strike action over pay. The ballot opens on February 17 and closes on March 17, meaning that any action could coincide with the Easter getaway. According to Unite, workers have rejected a 10% pay increase which falls below the rate of inflation. Unite regional co-ordinating officer Wayne King said that staff were struggling to make ends meet, and that a security guard at the airport was paid as little as £24,000 a year.

Heathrow has given its workers a 10% increase on salaries, shift pay and allowances this year, on top of a 4% increase six months ago. The airport has also offered a one-off £2,000 cost of living payment and additional benefits such as free hot meals over the winter. However, the union argues that this is insufficient, and that the airport has the opportunity to do more to alleviate staff's financial burden. A spokesperson for the airport expressed disappointment that Unite was considering industrial action and suggested that if strikes go ahead, the pay offer would be withdrawn. Heathrow is also considering how to implement contingency plans to mitigate any possible disruption.

The potential Strike comes as Heathrow reports handling over 5.4 million passengers in January 2023, the busiest start of the year since 2020.

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