American Airlines removed a family from a flight on Monday, saying they didn’t follow instructions to remain seated and wear face masks “securely.”
Amanda Pendarvis, one of the passengers, posted on her Instagram story that she boarded the flight from Dallas to Colorado Springs with her two-year-old son and her mother, but was later kicked off, Fox News first reported.
Pendarvis said in her Instagram story that a flight attendant told her to pull her mask up when her son kept pulling it down. The flight attendant also told Pendarvis to put a mask on her son because of his age, she said in the post.
Children who are two years old and above must wear face coverings on American flights, the company says on its website. If a passenger refuses to wear one, they could be denied boarding and future travel, the website says.
Pendarvis said in the Instagram story that the three of them were escorted off the plane because her son couldn’t keep his mask on his face.
She tried to put a mask on her son three times, but he kept taking it off, she said.
Her son was agitated, and as a result developed difficulties breathing, she said. He had an asthma attack two months ago, she said.
She gave him an emergency inhaler on the plane, she said.
An American spokesperson told Insider in a statement that the plane returned to its gate at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport because the family refused to “comply with crew member instructions to remain seated while on an active taxiway and to wear face coverings securely over their nose and mouth.”
The American spokesperson said that the flight attendants weren’t made aware that Pendarvis’ son was having breathing problems on board the flight.
Insider has contacted Pendarvis for comment on the incident.
The American spokesperson said that the crew made “multiple attempts to reinforce safety requirements” after they saw “a minor in the party laying in the aisle and moving between seats” when the plane was on the taxiway.
Pendarvis wrote in her Instagram story that she let her son walk between the aisle rows so he could see her mother on the other side of the plane while it was lining up for take-off.
The spokesperson said that it was a legal requirement to remain seated with a seatbelt on when the plane is on the taxiway.
The three passengers were rebooked on the next flight to Colorado Springs on the same day after they agreed to “adhere to policies instituted for the safety of our customers and crew,” the American spokesperson said.
Southwest Airlines announced eight new routes on Thursday in its latest network expansion, six of which will be to Austin, Texas, the state’s latest tech giant.
Business and leisure travelers will get more options to and from Austin starting in March 2022, including up to 105 departures per day serving 46 destinations across the United States and Mexico, according to Southwest. In addition to its stacked service to Austin, the airline will begin two routes outside of the Lone Star State, including Albuquerque to Burbank and Denver to Cozumel, Mexico.
Austin has become a popular tech destination for Silicon Valley giants like Tesla, which chose the Texas capital, now referred to as the “Silicon Hills,” as the location for its $1 billion factory that will build its highly-anticipated Cybertruck.
Southwest isn’t the only carrier entering the booming Austin market. In March, American Airlines added 10 routes to the central Texas city, connecting cities that formerly required a layover in one of the carrier’s hubs, like Chicago or Miami. Meanwhile, Delta Air Lines, Spirit Airlines, and Allegiant Air have also bolstered operations in Austin, with Delta making it a focus city.
Here are the eight new routes Southwest will start next spring.
Between Austin and Amarillo, Texas
Southwest will fly once daily from Austin to Amarillo beginning March 10. On weekdays and Sundays, the outbound will be an evening departure with an early morning return. Saturday service will depart in the early afternoon with a late morning return. The airline currently faces no competition on the route.
Between Austin and Charleston, South Carolina
Southwest’s once-daily flight from Austin to Charleston will start on March 10. The outbound will be an afternoon departure with a morning return. Like Amarillo, Southwest will be the route’s only operator.
Between Austin and Columbus, Ohio
Southwest’s Austin to Columbus route will run on select peak travel days in 2021, but daily nonstop service will begin on March 10. On weekdays and Sundays, the once-daily flight will depart from both cities in the morning, while the Saturday service will offer an afternoon departure both ways. No airlines serve the route, leaving Southwest with no competition.
Between Austin and Midland-Odessa, Texas
Southwest will fly a once-daily evening flight from Austin to Midland starting March 10. The evening outbound will operate on weekdays and Sundays with an early morning return. Meanwhile, Saturdays will operate an early afternoon departure out of both cities. Southwest will face no competition on the short intrastate hop.
Between Austin and Ontario, California
Southwest will launch a once-daily flight from Austin to Ontario on March 10. An afternoon outbound and morning return will be offered on the route. Southwest will not face direct competition on the Ontario route, though Delta, Alaska, and United serve nearby Los Angeles from Austin.
Between Austin and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Southwest’s Saturday-only service between Austin and Puerto Vallarta will begin on March 12, pending government approval. The flight schedule is not yet available. The airline will directly compete with American on the route, which currently operates a thrice-weekly flight using Boeing 737 aircraft.
Between Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Burbank, California
Southwest will operate a once-daily flight from Albuquerque to Burbank beginning January 17. The flight will operate in the evening every day and return in the early afternoon. No other carriers operate the route.
Between Denver, Colorado, and Cozumel, Mexico
Southwest’s Saturday-only service between Denver and Cozumel will begin March 12, pending government approval. The morning outbound will depart at 10:15 a.m. and land at 3:15 p.m. and the afternoon return will leave at 4:10 p.m. and land at 7:35 p.m. Southwest will face competition from United and Frontier on this route.
American Airlines is planning to get by with a little help from some new friends as the airline continues to build out one of its top products: a global route network.
Global carriers often rely on smaller airlines to connect passengers within destination countries, and American has some major gaps to fill despite being a leading member of the Oneworld airline alliance.
This summer saw three foreign airlines – Chile’s JetSmart, Canada’s Connect Airways, and Spain’s Level – announce partnerships with America’s largest carrier.
“For more than 30 years, American has been serving Latin America and has been the leading US airline in South America,” Henry Harteveldt, a travel analyst and president of Atmosphere Research Group, told Insider. “The loss of LATAM as a partner dealt American a severe blow.”
The continent’s other major carriers are already bound to carriers and alliances rival to American, including Star Alliance members Avianca and Copa Airlines. It’s not impossible for those airlines to partner with American but any partnership requires investment and would have to be worthwhile for the South American carriers to go against their alliance.
American, instead, found a new partner in JetSmart, an ultra-low-cost carrier that boasts destinations in Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Peru, and Colombia. It’s far from a match made in heaven but the move was necessary to build back in South America.
“American doesn’t want to give up a three-plus decade history of being the leading US airline in South America without a fight,” Harteveldt said.
American faces a similar problem closer to home in Canada, where it has no major airline partners. The Great White North’s largest carriers are already spoken for as Air Canada is part of the Star Alliance while WestJet is a Delta partner.
One solution is a partnership with Connect Airlines, a startup that plans to fly between Toronto, Canada and the Midwestern US. It’s another unlikely partner for American but will give customers a connecting option through Chicago and Philadelphia to Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, according to Airline Weekly.
In Europe, American just reinstated a codeshare agreement with another ultra-low-cost carrier, Level, that can offer greater European connectivity through Barcelona, Spain. The partnership is ideal since Level is owned by the International Airlines Group, or IAG for short, which is a big American partner through its subsidiary airlines British Airways and Iberia.
In New York, the new “Northeast Alliance” with JetBlue has given American the opportunity to launch additional long-haul flights to destinations like Athens, Greece and Tel Aviv, Israel.
JetBlue feeds American traffic through New York since the latter can’t scale up on its own in the Big Apple.
“To grow in New York organically is almost impossible and even if they could do it, it would be exceptionally expensive,” Harteveldt said of American.
But while American can control its network growth, it can’t control the product being offered by its new partners. In the US, JetBlue and Alaska offer a comparable, if not better, passenger experience than American but JetSmart and Level are ultra-low-cost carriers with markedly different onboard offerings.
US-originating customers, especially premium travelers, booking a JetSmart flight might be surprised at the differences from American. South American-originating customers, however, are likely already familiar with the JetSmart offering, according to Harteveldt.
The hope, however, is that customers will value the greater connectivity that the partnerships offer and overlook the differences in products.
“The network is the product,” Harteveldt said, adding that American may be able to offer suggestions on how the carriers can improve their offering as the partnerships continue.
A disruptive passenger on an American Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City was detained on Monday after yelling at the flight crew and refusing to sit down as the plane prepared to land.
Salt Lake City Police identified the man as Timothy Armstrong, 61, of Las Vegas. Authorities said the department received information about an intoxicated passenger onboard the flight around 12:50 p.m.
Law enforcement said the airline staff described Armstrong as being “combative.”
Video from the Labor Day flight shows Armstrong berating a flight attendant near the front of the plane as the flight crew prepared to land. The flight attendant can be heard telling Armstrong to take his seat multiple times.
“You can’t hold us!” Armstrong can be heard shouting as he confronts a flight attendant.
After finally returning to his seat, Armstrong unleashed an expletive-filled tirade against the flight crew, calling one flight attendant a “power hungry son of a bitch.” The Nevada resident also screamed Joe Biden’s name and exclaimed “God Bless America!”
Once seated, video shows Armstrong removing his mask and growling like an animal as he rubs the mask all over his face.
A representative from American Airlines confirmed the incident and said Armstrong was met by law enforcement upon arrival in Salt Lake City.
“We thank our crew for their professionalism and our customers for their understanding,” an American Airlines spokesperson told Insider.
In a press release, Salt Lake City Police said Armstrong was transported to an area hospital after the flight and issued a criminal citation for public intoxication and disorderly conduct.
American Airlines is taking another step to encourage workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
The company told workers in a memo late last week that it will stop offering a special pandemic leave to unvaccinated workers starting next month.
“Going forward, given there is an FDA-approved vaccine, pandemic leave will only be offered to team members who are fully vaccinated and who provide their vaccination card to us,” the company said in the memo, which was viewed by Insider.
With their pandemic leave gone, unvaccinated employees at American Airlines who get COVID-19 will have to dip into their own sick days or medical leave to take time off of work. Pandemic leave will still be available to vaccinated workers beyond the policy change, which takes effect on October 1.
“While we are not requiring team members to get the vaccine at this time, we may do so later if the virus continues to mutate, cases increase and certain countries we serve require it,” the memo continued. “Our hope is that all American Airlines team members elect to get vaccinated, with the exception of those who are not eligible to get the vaccine for documented medical or religious reasons.”
The move makes American Airlines the latest carrier to change a policy in an attempt to encourage workers to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Travelers who missed the bargain basement pricing of pandemic airfares have another opportunity to get deals on flights this fall.
As the summer comes to a close and leisure travelers hibernate for the fall, airlines are facing a shortage of business travelers that would normally help fill the gap until the Thanksgiving or Christmas travel season. Big corporate spenders including Google are still keeping employees at home and largely holding off on expending travel budgets as the Delta variant plagues the US.
Airfares this season, as a result, are expected to be lower than fall 2019 levels as airlines entice leisure flyers to get back in the air during their off-season.
September may be the cheapest season of the fall, according to the travel data company Hopper. Airfares are estimated to drop 10% into September with the average round-trip flight costing $260 for domestic travel.
Holiday travel may not be as good of a bargain this year, however, as Hopper expects airfares to rise 11% from September levels into December. Average round-trip airfares are expected to be $289 as a result.
“This would make domestic airfare over the holiday season equivalent to summer airfare, similar to what we saw in 2019 and 2020,” Hopper told Insider. Holiday travel spiked in 2020 despite pleas from public health officials about a second wave, with airlines likely estimating similar demand this year.
Travelers looking to head overseas can also expect to spend less on airfare this fall. Hopper estimates September to November airfares will be 15% lower than fall 2019 levels and the average round-trip will be $734.
International round-trips in the fall of 2020, for comparison, averaged $717. Those prices are still lower than the fall 2019 levels when the average airfare was $859 round-trip.
September is also expected to be the cheapest month for international travel of the fall season months. Hopper expects September airfares to be 8% lower than July levels for an average airfare of $700 round-trip.
Travelers may not see deals as good as those in 2020 but cheap airfares can still be had until the winter holiday travel rush.
United Airlines showed just how low airfares can be with $113 round-trip fares between New York City and Los Angeles from late September to November, quickly matched by JetBlue Airways. Even more budget-minded passengers can also find round trips on Spirit Airlines on the same route for under $100.
United, American Airlines, and Hawaiian Airlines are also selling round-trip flights between Los Angeles and Maui, Hawaii for as low as $168.
Business travel bookings, however, have been trending upward through the summer and spiked in the week leading up to Labor Day Weekend, according to TripActions data, which the company calls “an encouraging start” to business travel’s recovery.
I’m flying the airline from New York to Madrid, Spain on the first leg of a Middle East itinerary. Here’s how I’m prepping to ensure American doesn’t get the best of me again.
Having a backup plan ready
I’m flying from New York to Doha, Qatar via Madrid with the first leg on American and the second on Qatar Airways. Before I even arrived at the airport, I’ll know exactly what time the next flights to both Madrid and Doha leave New York so that I can move quickly to be rebooked on either should American delay or cancel my flight.
And because American partners with Iberia, British Airways, and Qatar Airways, among other airlines, I’ll have a pretty good shot at getting a seat. But I don’t want to leave my rebooking options in the hands of an agent.
Rather, I’ll know exactly what backup options there are and suggest the flights so that I’m in control. There also happens to be a non-stop flight to Doha leaving just under four hours after my original flight, and if that doesn’t work out then I can try for British Airways through London or Royal Jordanian through Amman, Jordan, among other possibilities.
Planning for the worst, I’ve found, helps hedge against panic and stress in uncontrollable situations. It’s the airline’s job to get me where I need to go but I can help speed that along while keeping my sanity at the same time.
This tip can also be applied when flying any airline during the COVID-19 pandemic. Proper preparation can help ensure success as flight schedules are constantly changing and many airlines have a reduced ability to recover from irregular events such as storms or mechanical troubles.
Staying close to a customer service desk
Having a plan, however, is only the first step. Next comes its execution.
I won’t likely be able to just go on my phone and change my own flights in the event something goes wrong. So when I get to the airport, the first thing I’ll do after going through the security checkpoint and having a bit of lunch at the newly-reopened Priority Pass restaurant in the American terminal is find where the airline’s customer service centers are.
This is where agents can assist with rebooking in the event something goes wrong. And as there’s almost always a long line when flights get canceled, being quick to get there first is essential.
I plan to stay as close as possible before boarding just in case I get the dreaded delay or cancellation notification to which I’ve become accustomed when flying American.
Preemptively calling the airline
Hold times have been markedly longer during the pandemic and calling an airline can now be an all-day affair.
To avoid having to wait on hold, I’ll call American around seven hours before my flight to see what the hold times are like. If they’re greater than say, six hours, I’ll use the callback feature to get in line.
That way, if anything goes wrong with my flight before departure and I can’t get to a customer service center, I’ll have a place in the reservations phone line.
It’s not exactly scientific and requires a bit of luck but it’s a good backup.
And at the very first sign of trouble, I’ll jump on Twitter to send American a direct message since that can be quicker than waiting on hold. The airline also has a chat function on its mobile application that may prove expedient.
Getting to the airport unnecessarily early
I normally like to arrive at the airport around an hour before a flight’s departure so that I can arrive at the gate just as boarding begins. Being enrolled in the TSA PreCheck program allows me to do this.
But as this is an international flight on American, I want to get to the airport at least four hours before departure. Again, it might prove to be unnecessary but better safe than sorry.
Verifly is American’s health passport of choice and allows travelers to upload their required documents for international travel. For Spain, all I need to do is scan the QR code from the country’s health control form.
Using Verifly can also be a “skip the line” tool at some of its airports. In Bogotá, American’s check-in counters had dedicated lines for Verifly users, and I’m expecting it to be similar at the airline’s John F. Kennedy International Airport hub in New York.
But even still, I’m still planning to get to the airport earlier than necessary in case there is a wait at check-in.
My Sapphire Reserve, for example, will allow me to spend $500 on incidentals and other expenses if my flight is delayed more than six hours or requires an overnight stay. I used the perk when taking American in June and it saved me $127 in expenses.
Other perks include baggage delay reimbursement in case I have to check my bag and it gets lost, as well as trip interruption/cancellation insurance in the event I get sick or there’s bad weather that impacts my trip.
Seven airlines sought to dismiss a lawsuit over mask requirements for passengers, arguing the plaintiff should have filed an administrative complaint with the government.
Lucas Wall, of Washington DC, in June filed the lawsuit, alleging that the airlines had violated the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). He said he has a medical condition that means he can’t wear a mask and should be exempt from the federal mandates and airline requirements.
“The ACAA confers no private right to sue an air carrier,” lawyers for Delta Air Lines, Alaska Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and JetBlue Airways wrote in a joint motion to dismiss filed on Monday.
Frontier Airlines and Allegiant Air also filed a joint motion in US District Court in Orlando. Spirit Airlines filed separately.
Although they arrived in three filings, the arguments from each of the seven airlines overlapped. They were in agreement that Wall didn’t have legal standing to sue them in federal court. As the lawyers for Frontier and Allegiant wrote: “Plaintiff’s claims fail as a matter of law because there is no private right of action”
They said Wall should have first filed a complaint with the Dept. of Transportation (DOT). If the DOT hadn’t acted on an administrative complaint, then he might have had grounds to sue the airlines, the motion said.
“Yet Plaintiff chose not to pursue that path to judicial review,” the airlines said.
In response, Wall claimed the airlines were sidestepping the issue at hand, relying instead on technical arguments to try to dismiss his lawsuit.
“My rebuttal to that is that the DOT is not enforcing the law as it’s required to do,” he said in a phone interview.
He pointed to an update published by the Office of Aviation Consumer Protection, a unit within the DOT’s Office of the General Counsel, on February 5. That Notice of Enforcement Policy gave the airlines 45 days to bring their mask requirements into compliance with the ACAA.
That notice said the government would “exercise its prosecutorial discretion” in cases involving ACAA compliance. Wall claimed that showed the government wasn’t enforcing the law.
A Southwest spokesperson on Friday said the airline is enforcing the federal mask mandate. The airline said it’s telling passengers about the pandemic safety requirements several times before they head to the airport. They included notices during the booking process and in pre-trip emails.
“While we regret any customer inconvenience, federal law requires each person, 2 years of age and older, to wear a mask at all times throughout the air travel journey,” a spokesperson said via email.
The airline also said it has posted details on its website for applications for exemptions from mask requirements.
Wall said he plans in September to file an amended complaint against the airlines, which he said will include at least one new charge.
Frontier and Allegiant declined to comment. A lawyer for Delta referred questions to the airline, which also declined to comment. Insider has reached out to the remaining airlines for comment.
Southwest Airlines will begin chartering domestic flights for evacuees arriving in the US from Afghanistan, according to a statement shared with ABC News.
The airline said that it would operate the flights on behalf of the Department of Defense (DoD) starting Monday, and transport Afghan evacuees to their destination cities, per a statement shared by ABC’s Sam Sweeney on Twitter.
“We are proud to support our military’s critical humanitarian airlift mission, and we are grateful to our Employees for demonstrating an eagerness to support these military efforts,” the statement said, per ABC.
The Taliban seized control of Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, on August 15, prompting a mass evacuation. The US and other countries have since tried to rescue thousands of their nationals, as well as Afghan refugees.
Southwest said in the statement that it plans to charter four flights on Monday, and a further four on both Tuesday and Wednesday, per ABC. Southwest does not expect its charter flights to disrupt its commercial operations, it said.
The airline said that it would not specify where it was flying people, per ABC.
The DoD announced Sunday that it would enlist six commercial airlines to help with the ongoing rescue efforts in Afghanistan. The department said in a statement that American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Air Lines, Omni Air, Hawaiian Airlines, and United Airlines would transport people who had already left the country, and would not fly into Kabul airport.
Southwest did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.