Travel Brief­case

Alaska Air­lines of­fers dis­count to sim­plify charges and to en­tice out­door en­thu­si­asts.

Los Angeles Times - - BUSINESS - By Hugo Martin hugo.martin@la­times.com

In the last year alone, the na­tion’s big­gest air­lines have col­lected more than $4 bil­lion in fees to check bags and other per­sonal items.

So, it may come as a sur­prise that one air­line is giv­ing up at least some of that rev­enue.

Alaska Air­lines has cut its fees for check­ing most sports equip­ment, such as bi­cy­cles and golf clubs, to $25 from $75. To qual­ify for the dis­count, the equip­ment has to count to­ward the first two checked bags for each pas­sen­ger. The lower fee ap­plies on the Seat­tle-based car­rier, its sub­sidiary, Horizon Air, and flights op­er­ated by its part­ner re­gional car­rier SkyWest Air­lines.

The lower price eventually will ap­ply at Vir­gin Amer­ica, the car­rier Alaska Air­lines ac­quired last year.

The air­line said the rea­son for the price cut was to elim­i­nate the com­pli­ca­tion of hav­ing dif­fer­ent fees for bags and sports equip­ment, thus cut­ting down on has­sles for pas­sen­gers.

Plus, Alaska Air­lines serves des­ti­na­tions known for out­door ad­ven­tur­ing — Alaska, Hawaii, Costa Rica and Mex­ico — and is hop­ing to be­come the fa­vorite air­line of sports afi­ciona­dos, Alaska Air­lines spokes­woman Mar­i­anne Lind­sey said.

Alaska Air­lines de­fines sport­ing equip­ment that will qual­ify for the $25 fee as gear to par­tic­i­pate in archery, bi­cy­cling, fish­ing, hockey, lacrosse, scuba, skate­board­ing, surf­ing, pad­dle board­ing, wind­surf­ing and pole vault­ing.

Most other major car­ri­ers still charge $75 to check such equip­ment.

On Amer­i­can Air­lines, Delta Air Lines and United Air­lines the fee for sport­ing equip­ment can range from $25 to $150, de­pend­ing on the size and weight of the sports equip­ment.

South­west Air­lines will count some equip­ment, in­clud­ing bi­cy­cles, to­ward the two free bags that are al­lowed each pas­sen­ger, but larger gear such as vault­ing poles and kayaks will in­cur a $75 charge each way.

Would you f ly in a pi­lot­less plane?

The world’s avi­a­tion in­dus­try will need to train and de­ploy more than 600,000 new pi­lots over the next 20 years. But, then again, the in­dus­try might be op­er­at­ing fleets of com­mer­cial jets f lown by re­mote con­trol.

Those are the seem­ingly con­tra­dic­tory out­looks de­scribed in separate re­ports by aerospace gi­ant Boe­ing and Swiss bank­ing pow­er­house UBS.

Boe­ing’s re­port says global ex­pan­sion and in­creased de­mand for air travel will re­quire 637,000 new pi­lots over the next 20 years, with 40% of those needed in the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion and 18% in North Amer­ica.

A Boe­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tive said the avi­a­tion com­pany is not pre­dict­ing a pi­lot short­age.

But air­lines and other avi­a­tion groups have said it will be dif­fi­cult to train and hire all the pi­lots, crew mem­bers and tech­ni­cians re­quired to meet fu­ture de­mands. “New mar­ket op­por­tu­ni­ties are cre­at­ing an in­creased de­mand for qual­i­fied, skilled, and ex­pe­ri­enced pi­lots,” the Boe­ing re­port said.

But that many pi­lots may not be needed af­ter all, ac­cord­ing to a re­port by UBS avi­a­tion an­a­lysts, who pre­dict that re­mote-con­trol planes could be car­ry­ing cargo and pas­sen­gers by 2025 and could save the in­dus­try up to $35 bil­lion a year.

“In the not-too-dis­tant fu­ture, we would ex­pect to see a sit­u­a­tion where flights are pi­lot­less or the num­ber of pi­lots shrinks to one, with a re­mote pi­lot based on the ground and highly se­cure ground-to-air com­mu­ni­ca­tions,” the UBS study said.

Boe­ing has stud­ied the pos­si­bil­ity of de­vel­op­ing pi­lot­less planes, but the avi­a­tion com­pany said in a state­ment “there are many steps to be taken be­fore Boe­ing can fly an au­ton­o­mous plane.”

There is an­other major bar­rier to pi­lot­less planes: A UBS sur­vey of 8,000 peo­ple found that 54% said they were un­likely to take a pi­lot­less flight.

The out­come of the sur­vey did not change much when the peo­ple were told that a pi­lot­less flight would be much cheaper than a flight with pi­lots.

“Per­haps sur­pris­ingly, half of the re­spon­dents said that they would not buy the pi­lot­less flight ticket even if it was cheaper,” the UBS re­port said.

Ge­naro Molina Los Angeles Times

ALASKA AIR­LINES has cut $50 from its check-in fees — now $25 — for bikes and other sports gear.

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