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Carol Sottili

The airlines have issued lots of press releases and e-mails in the past couple of weeks, all with upbeat headlines and positive vibes. But, despite the spin, it's not all good news. Here are a few items that crossed our desks:

* From American Airlines came the e-mail headlined, "More Choices Connecting You To The World." The letter from the executive VP of marketing announced that American, British Airways and Iberia have signed a joint agreement to cooperate on flights between North America and Europe. The three airlines will continue to operate their own fleets, employees and brands, but schedules will be coordinated and codesharing expanded. "Today's announcement represents good news for travelers," the email states.

The competition is not convinced. "British Airways/American Alliance Would Stifle Competition and Force Up Fares," was the headline on a press release issued by Virgin Atlantic. Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Atlantic's president, maintains the agreement will be "bad for passengers, bad for competition and bad for the U.K. and U.S. aviation industry."

Seems to me that the results will fall somewhere between these extremes. Flights may be better coordinated and easier to book, but less competition usually means higher fares. No word on when the agreement may be implemented, as it still must be approved by U.S. and European Union regulators.

* Another email from American re: frequent flier miles starts happily enough. "Did you realize that your AAdvantage miles could move you into Business or First Class on your next trip on American Airlines?" Then the bad news: As of Oct. 1, upgrade awards from most discount economy fares will require a $50 co-pay plus the usual 15,000 miles. Other changes to the airline's miles program also go into effect as of Oct. 1; for example, you'll need 45,000 miles, not 30,000, to go to Hawaii during peak periods.

* And from JetBlue, a press release headlined, "No More Dirty Pillow Talk: JetBlue Airways and CleanBrands Partner to Offer The World's Cleanest Travel Pillow and Blanket Kit." Oh, and it will cost you $7. But you do get a $5 coupon to Bed, Bath & Beyond. . . . .

By Carol Sottili |  August 15, 2008; 7:15 AM ET  | Category:  Carol Sottili
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Aren't American, British Airways and Iberia already partnered in the OneWorld Alliance? How, then, is it a bad thing for them to coordinate flights so that passengers don't miss connections or have outrageously long layovers?

As for Virgin Atlantic, it's not a member of either SkyTeam (Delta, Northwest, Continental, Air France, Alitalia, KLM, etc.) or Star Alliance (United, US Airways, Lufthansa, SAS, Austrian, etc.). Its Flying Club partners with Continental and US Airways, but since it's not a member of SkyTeam or Star Alliance, it cannot codeshare or coordinate flights with other airlines.

Whose fault is that? Why doesn't Branson just negotiate a deal with either SkyTeam or Star Alliance to better compete with British Airways if that's what his goal is?

Posted by: ericp331 | August 15, 2008 8:37 AM

But Eric, don't you see? That goes contrary to everything the airline industry stands for. Instead of DOING something about the problem, they'd much rather pass the buck and then complain about it. Don't mess with tradition!

Posted by: Liz | August 15, 2008 9:22 AM

Lets face the facts, the airlines is hurting as much as the economy. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Drive if possible, book your stay using www.Rentalo.com and wait it out, hopefully the airlines will understand the errs of their ways and return to customer service instead of self service.

Posted by: TravelingInStilettos | August 22, 2008 10:22 AM

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