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New Airline Offering $9 Fare Headlines Airline News Roundup

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A new startup airline called Jet America has announced plans to offer flights for as low as $9 each way when it launches in July.

The low-cost Clearwater, Florida-based carrier will initially serve cities in the upper Midwest such as Toledo, Ohio; Lansing, Michigan; South Bend, Indiana; and Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota, with expansion plans to include Charleston, West Virginia, and other smaller regional airports which it feels are underserved.

Jet America president John Weikle said he wanted to start the airline after the recession caused larger carriers to abandon mid-size cities in an attempt to streamline operations and save money.

The first nine customers will pay only $9 to fly, while the average fare for a standard seat will be about $200.

Despite Jet America’s ambitious plans and aggressive discounting, skeptics don’t hold out much hope for the airline’s success, citing disorganization in the company and several previous failed attempts to launch airlines by co-founders Weikle and Steven Schoen.

Baggage moverDelta Flip-Flops on International Baggage Fees

A month after announcing that it would charge a fee for a second bag on all international flights, Delta has scaled back its plans after other airlines failed to follow suit.

Last Wednesday the airline said it would charge the $50 second-checked-bag fee only on flights between the U.S. and Europe.

Business-class passengers, elite frequent fliers, active-duty military and full-fare Y-class passengers will be exempt from the fee.

The reversal came after Delta’s major competitors such as United and American said they were considering adding a similar fee, but ultimately failed to match it. A Delta spokesman said that the airline “constantly monitors the industry landscape to ensure … fares and fees are competitive.”

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Dog Watches the HorizonSouthwest to Allow Pets in Cabin

As of June 17, Southwest airlines will start letting passengers to bring small pets with them when they fly, for the first time in the airline’s history.

The program, known as “PAWS,” (Pets Are Welcome on Southwest) allows cats and dogs to ride in the passenger cabin in a carrier that fits under the seat. The airline will charge $75 per pet, and will count the carrier as a carry-on bag. Bookings will begin on June 1.

Southwest said it decided to start allowing pets not only in order to be competitive with other airlines, but to raise additional revenue during a period when its financial outlook is not so good. The airline will also add a $25 fee for unaccompanied children, and raise its fee for overweight bags from $25 to $50.

New Passport Rules Take Effect June 1

British passportThe deadline is fast approaching for the final phase of implementation of State Department’s new border rules, which will require Americans re-entering the country from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, or the Caribbean to have new forms of identification.

As of June 1, the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative requires that travelers entering by land, air or sea from these regions must have a passport card, and EDL (enhanced driver’s license), a Trusted Traveler card, or a full passport book.

Exceptions will be made for children younger than 16 and passengers on cruise ships sailing round-trip from a U.S. port, who will only be required to show proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate.

There will also be an informal “grace period” for those who forget are or not aware of the new rules and do not have proper documentation. These travelers will be subjected to a secondary inspection and may face delays.

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Previously, U.S. citizens crossing the border were only required to show a birth certificate and government-issued photo I.D such as driver’s license to regain entry to the US. However, after September 11, 2001 the Department of Homeland Security opted to tighten the rules to make it harder for would-be terrorists to gain entry using forged documents.

The State Department had been intensely promoting the new scheme in an effort to get people to apply for the new documents in time for the June 1 deadline. As a result, post offices and other official passport-issuing offices saw a surge in applicants over the last two month, and the backlog of passport applications is still being processed. DOS officials say the current turnaround time is four to six weeks.

Green keyboardOnline Booking Site to Drop Fees

Expedia.com announced Wednesday that it plans to permanently scrap fees for booking airline tickets through its site, a move that was intended to make it more competitive with other online travel agencies and the airlines themselves. It will also lift fees for canceling or changing a ticket.

The company originally intended to stop charging fees just for a three-month promotional period, but decided to make the change permanent to bring it in line with sites like Priceline and Hotwire, who haven’t charged fees since 2007.

Expedia is hoping to recapture some of the 31 percent of potential customers who use their site to shop around for prices, but then go to an airline’s Web site to actually book their tickets. Eliminating the fees, which average between $7 and $12 per ticket, will mean some loss of revenue for Expedia, but if the site garners more bookings as a result some of the losses can be recouped through airline commissions.

By Karen Elowitt for PeterGreenberg.com.

Related links: USA Today, United Press International, Chicago Tribune, USA Today, Reuters, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Los Angeles Times, Houston Chronicle, Wall Street Journal, Forbes

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