MONEY Airlines

Airlines Drop Fuel Surcharges, but Flights Don’t Get Cheaper

A Boeing Co. 737 aircraft operated by Qantas Airways Ltd. flies past the air traffic control tower as it lands at Sydney Airport in Sydney, Australia
A Boeing Co. 737 aircraft operated by Qantas Airways Ltd. flies past the air traffic control tower as it lands at Sydney Airport in Sydney, Australia Brendon Thorne—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Two airlines recently removed those annoying fuel surcharges that have been tacked onto passenger tickets for years. So that means airfare is less expensive, right? Nope.

The idea of a fuel surcharge is pretty simple: When the cost of fuel is abnormally high, instead of simply raising prices, a special, supposedly temporary fee is passed along to customers. When fuel costs retreat back to “normal” levels, logic dictates that the surcharge would disappear.

It’s this kind of wholly logical thinking that has had airline travelers up in arms over the last several months, as the price of gasoline and rocket fuel has declined substantially, yet fuel surcharges remain and airfares are still extraordinarily high. Consumer advocacy groups Travelers United and FlyersRights.org recently sent letters to airline CEOs voicing their outrage and demanding that airfares be lowered “in light of the 50% reduction in jet fuel prices since June, 2014.”

“Common sense says prices should drop when the biggest cost factor in flying nosedives,” Charlie Leocha, chairman of Travelers United, said via press release. “This isn’t rocket science. Though economists can make lots of excuses, if there were more competition, consumers would be seeing lower costs to fly.”

At first glance, it appears as if some of this madness is coming to an end Down Under. As the Sydney Morning Herald put it, Virgin Australia recently announced it was removing “consumer-reviled references to fuel surcharge” from its tickets. This surcharge added as much as AUD$680 (US$540) to the cost of an international round trip. Qantas, which competes with Virgin Australia on many routes, including flights between the U.S. and Australia, followed suit by saying that it too would get rid of fuel surcharges on tickets.

To which travelers might reasonably respond: Hallelujah!

Not so fast. The removal of these hated, astronomically expensive fees is having little to no impact on the actual cost of airfare paid by travelers. For the most part, the airlines are simply incorporating fuel charges into base airfare prices, and the amount paid out of pocket by passengers will remain stubbornly high.

Virgin America said that coach passengers can expect to see a decrease of perhaps AUD$40 (a measly $32 in U.S. currency) on tickets between the U.S. and Australia. Mind you, the old surcharge hit passengers to the tune of AUD$680 (US$540). As for Qantas, its airfares will remain exactly the same even as fuel surcharges disappear.

In other words, the carriers are jacking up flight prices to compensate for the “removal” of fuel surcharges. They’re giving travelers a price break with one hand while taking more money away from customers with the other. The net result is that passengers are paying pretty much the same for the cost of transportation before the changes were announced. The only thing that’s changed is how the airlines break down the flight costs.

To airline passengers, who want their total out-of-pocket costs to drop, and who couldn’t care less about how the airlines categorize each component of a flight’s price, these “changes” mean that nothing at all has really changed.

MONEY Travel

5 Strategies for Dealing With Your Flight Cancellation

Travelers make their way through security lines at Denver International Airport, November 27, 2013.
RJ Sangosti—Denver Post via Getty Images

With storms threatening to put your travel plans on ice, don't head to the airport unprepared. Instead, go on the defensive with these moves.

With more than 5,000 flights already cancelled ahead of the big winter storm set to blanket the Northeast this week, travelers may want to prepare for a rough time at the airport.

Though cancellations have been light so far this month compared with January 2014, when 3.5 million people were grounded because of called-off flights, the worst may be yet to come, as the blizzard is expected to hit hard in major transportation hubs like New York City. American and United have both announced plans to suspend all flights on Tuesday in New York, Philadelphia, and Boston. All major carriers have already announced that they will waive change fees for storm-canceled flights.

Airlines are relatively quick to cancel domestic flights, says Tulinda Larsen, president of airline operations analysis firm masFlight. According to a masFlight data, a domestic cancellation costs the airline an average of $6,000, versus as much as $40,000 for an international route.

Even once operations resume on Wednesday, travel headaches are likely to persist. Here are 5 tips to help get you to your destination as quickly as possible, sanity intact.

1. Check in early

If your flight has been rescheduled, don’t relax just yet: In bad weather, oversold flights can be more of a problem, as stranded passengers buy up any open seats.

Your best defense against getting bumped? Checking in online as close to 24 hours ahead of time as possible, according to TripAdvisor travel advocate Wendy Perrin. Not only will you be less likely to lose your seat, but you will also have the best shot at choosing a good one.

2. Stay informed in real-time

Those facing a called-off flight shouldn’t just let the airline automatically rebook. First, check out FlightStats.com, which shows delayed and canceled flights all across the country. There may be a different itinerary that’s a better fit for your schedule.

3. Know your options

Each airline has its own policies when it comes to weather-related cancellations and delays; there are no federal requirements. Still, in the event of a delay, some airlines will pay for meals or other amenities, so it’s worth asking (more on that below). If your flight is cancelled, the carrier may be willing to put you on a flight with a different airline, so check out those options too.

4. Photograph your valuables

Losing expensive belongings is always upsetting, but tack on a crazy snowstorm and chaotic airport and you have the formula for a nervous breakdown. Be prepared for the worst by keeping receipts for, and snapshots of, anything pricey in your luggage. Airlines are legally obligated to reimburse up to $3,300 for your lost possessions.

5. Turn on the charm

Whether you’re dealing with lost luggage, delays, a cancelled flight, or any other travel nightmare, it’s important to be as polite as possible when making a complaint. “Take a deep breath. Remember that despite everything that has happened, you are still alive and, in fact, breathing. Then come talk to me and explain your situation,” writes flight attendant Cary Trey at ThePointsGuy.com.

Going a step beyond politeness and being extra kind to the person you’re dealing with—who, let’s face it, has probably been having a pretty bad day, too—can’t hurt. Trey suggests carrying mini-boxes of chocolates to show gratitude to those who go the extra mile to help you out.

If that sounds like a bit much, even a simple, “Thank you so much for your help!” will be enough make you stand out from the grumbling masses.

 

MONEY Travel

Say ‘Buh-Bye!’ to Skymall: In-Flight Catalog Files for Bankruptcy

Tchotchke retailer Skymall and parent company Xhibit Corp. have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

TIME Aviation

The TSA Seized a Record Number of Guns in 2014

TSA: How to Travel by Commercial Airflight With A Firearm
After filling out a brief disclosure form, commercial air flight travelers are allowed to transport unloaded firearms in locked, hard-sided cases as checked luggage only, as can be seen in props provided by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at Dulles International Airport on Wednesday, June 11, 2014, in Washington, DC. The Washington Post—Getty Images

Security agents found six per day on average

The Transportation Security Administration kept especially busy in 2014: A record high of 2,212 guns were seized from carry-on luggage, marking a 22% increase over 2013 numbers.

The TSA found an average of more than six firearms per day, the agency said Friday, and of those seized, 83% were loaded. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport saw 120 guns seized, the most of any airport.

Passengers who try to bring firearms onto a plane in their carry-on bags can be arrested and criminally charged.

TIME Aviation

Cheaper Fuel Could Save Delta $2 Billion in 2015

Delta Air Lines says it could see savings of more than $2 billion in 2015 over last year’s levels, citing lower fuel prices as a factor that can help the airline book double-digit earnings growth for the upcoming year.

Airlines like Delta are seen as one of the greatest beneficiaries of tumbling oil prices in recent months, as fuel is a great cost to the industry. Some publications, such as The Wall Street Journal, have begun to speculate U.S. airlines could use the fuel savings to pay down debt or reward shareholders with stock repurchases. Meanwhile, some politicians are calling on an investigation as to why plane tickets are still so high despite the steep drop for the price of fuel.

Delta’s latest results indicate it is a mixed blessing. The company’s fourth-quarter results for 2014 came with a $1.2 billion charge tied to fuel hedging. That charge led Delta to book a $712 million loss for the period. But excluding those hedging adjustments, Delta said fuel expenses tumbled $342 million, driven by lower market prices and higher refinery profits.

Delta is also seeing a tailwind to the upcoming fuel savings it will see this year.

“We expect a net year-over-year fuel price benefit of $500 million in the March quarter and will work throughout 2015 to maximize the benefit of fuel savings to our bottom line,” said Chief Financial Officer Paul Jacobson.

Delta is also in an unusual position because it has owned a Pennsylvania refinery since 2012, a move the company made to help it navigate turbulent swings in fuel prices. Operations at the refinery produced a $105 million profit for the latest quarter. Delta’s refinery primarily provides jet fuel for the benefit of the airline, though the company sells fuel by-products to third parties from time to time.

And beyond the fuel benefits, Delta and other airlines are aided by more demand for travel. Overall revenue climbed 6% to $9.65 billion, bolstered by a 4% increase in traffic on a 3.7% increase in capacity.

MONEY Saving

How the Great Unbundling of Pay TV Could Backfire on Consumers

Cable remote
Brad Wilson—Getty Images

Cable TV customers love the idea of paying just for the services they want—and skipping those they couldn't care less about. To see how such an a la carte model could turn to misery, however, look no further than the airline business.

For years, couch potatoes have dreamed of an a la carte pay TV model. Instead of the standard package—a bloated bundle with hundreds of channels that you’re paying for whether you ever tune in or not—the a la carte option would allow customers to pick and choose and pay for only those deemed worthy. Every household is different, but the average pay TV customer watches only 17 channels, a small fraction of the 189 channels that are factored into the average package’s monthly bill.

To which the natural reaction of many customers tired of constantly rising cable bills is: Wouldn’t it be a cinch to save a bundle simply by eliminating the bundle?

In fact, while the oversized bundle remains the standard, the door to unraveling the cable package has been opened, thanks to the arrival of a broad variety of viewing options—notably including standalone streaming options that require no cable package from HBO, the Dish Network, and of course Netflix. Admittedly, Dish’s just-introduced Sling TV streaming service is also a bundle, but it comes with only 11 popular, very watchable channels (including all-important ESPN), and at just $20 a month, it’s a potentially big money saver.

To many, it’s a just and foregone conclusion that the big cable bundle will continue to lose its dominance in the marketplace, and that cord cutters and upstart competitors will push us all toward an increasingly a la carte system. There are likely to be more small and affordable packages along the lines of Sling TV, and we’ll probably see more options to pay to stream content from favorite individual channels, which HBO and CBS have already made possible.

And yet, as much as consumers loathe the big pay TV providers, analysts have long warned that we should be careful what we wish for in terms of an a la carte viewing future that doesn’t necessarily involve Cablevision, Comcast, Verizon, or Time Warner Cable.

Back in 2010, New Yorker business columnist James Surowiecki wrote that if the bundle disappeared, the cost per customer for each channel would soar, “perhaps on a customer-by-customer basis.” The likely result would be that loads of channels would go out of business, and that the average customer would pay roughly the same amount monthly he was paying for the big bundle, only with far fewer channels.

The landscape has changed since then, what with the consensus assumption that TV in the future will be delivered via the Internet rather than cable. Yet the argument that unbundled TV will not necessarily yield cheaper prices remains. Among cable defenders, this acclaimed manifesto from 2013 summed up the big upside to the bundle, including more content and cheaper prices when they’re broken down on a per-person, per-channel basis:

Cable TV is socialism that works; subscribers pay equally for everything, and watch only what they want, to the benefit of everyone.

More recently, Wired offered some deep-held concerns for consumers regarding a future dominated by Internet TV options:

It will be deeply fragmented. That could threaten the very companies that pioneered this space to begin with—and make it more difficult and more expensive to get everything you want to watch.

In light of Dish’s rollout of Sling TV this week, Neil Irwin of the New York Times summed up previous research on the topic of how an a la carte TV scene would play out, writing, “contrary to many peoples’ intuition, the unbundling of cable service could actually lead to slightly higher prices for fewer channels.”

Irwin pushes the issue further, diving into the idea that not only could unbundling provide worse value, but there’s a good chance it’d make the average customer even more miserable regarding pay TV than he is right now. And the cautionary tale he cites as an example of how this could come about is the one that travelers have been living through for the past two decades or so. After all, the airline industry has steadily unbundled the flight product, which was once a package including food, checked bags, and the privilege of actually sitting on the plane next to your travel companion. With today’s more a la carte model, the price of airfare may include nothing more than bare-bones transportation.

What’s more, the airlines that have embraced the a la carte, fee-laden way of doing business most just so happen to be the most hated carriers of all. And across the board in the industry, flight prices have gone up, not down, while the unbundling has been underway.

Is pay TV heading in this same direction? Irwin acknowledges that unbundling undeniably benefits certain kinds of consumers—travelers who don’t fly with bags or care about legroom, and TV viewers who watch only a few channels and no sports. Yet he writes that the effects of unbundling on the average TV customer will be similar to what we’ve seen with the airlines:

For many more people, the result will probably be little or no reduction in total fees, combined with the hassle of making constant decisions about what channels you really want and which you don’t.

The airlines have been working hard over the years to perfect systems for extracting maximum revenues out of passengers. A recent New Yorker story described the broad airline strategy of inflicting “calculated misery” on customers and all but force them to pay fees to avoid the pain: “Basic service, without fees, must be sufficiently degraded in order to make people want to pay to escape it.”

Bloomberg View columnist Megan McArdle responded to the idea of “calculated misery” with a slightly different take on the matter. “The problem isn’t greedy airlines” trying to milk customers by making them miserable, she writes. “It’s us.”

When travelers use search engines to find and book the cheapest tickets possible, McArdle explained, we’re sending a message to airlines that low flight prices are the most important and perhaps only criterion in our purchasing decisions. “To win business, airlines have to deliver the absolute lowest fare,” McArdle writes. “And the way to do that is … to cram us into tiny seats and upcharge for everything.”

It’s understandable that people want cheap airfares, just like we want cheap pay TV bills. It’s just that the way providers get to these end points may ultimately make us less—not more—happy. In the end, the standard could become an assortment of confusing fees and bills that, when tallied up, isn’t cheap at all.

MONEY Travel

5 Ways That Traveling on the Cheap Has Changed—for the Better

WOW Iceland airplane
WOW

You hear all the time about how rising fees, fares, and complications make travel more difficult—and often, more expensive. But as new technologies, tools, and resources expand, access to deals and advice only becomes easier.

Since I wrote the first edition of my book How to Travel the World on $50 a Day, a lot has changed in travel. There are new ways to find cheap flights, accommodation, tours, and save money. So despite all of the developments that give travelers’ headaches and bigger bills, many of the latest innovations and changes actually make it easier to travel on a budget, which is great news for cash-strapped would-be explorers. Here are the five ways travel has changed – for the better – in the last year:

1. The Swift Rise of the Sharing Economy. The sharing economy is the name for when people use an asset or their time to make extra money. Idle assets suddenly become cash cows. This has empowered individuals to enter the travel space and lets travelers to bypass the typical (and expensive) hotel/taxi/tour operator. Websites like Airbnb (accommodation), EatWith (food), and Vayable (tour guides) have made it easier to find cheaper travel alternatives (up to 70% off) and connect with locals to get a more unique, off the beaten path experience.

While many websites have existed for years, what has changed is the year size of these websites (Airbnb had 550,000 listings in 2013, a number that rose to over 1 million in 2014 while Vayable has grown to over 600 destinations), as well as the entrance of so many new players such as BlaBlaCar, Kangaride, Colunching, Camp in My Garden, Relay Rides, Flight Car, and Guided by a Local. 2014 saw a sharp increase in sharing economy players, as well as the average person’s comfort using such services, and the trend will surely continue into the new year.

2. New Search Apps. New phone and tablet apps have increased over the last year that allow travelers to find flight and hotel deals, often at the last minute. App stores are awash in free tools like HotelsTonight (cheap hotels), LoungeBuddy (airline lounges), Air Help (flight compensation), and TPG to Go (managing points and miles), which travelers can use to travel cheaper, better, and smarter. HotelsTonight, though founded in 2011, expanded to four continents and began allowing reservations up to seven days in advance. The others above were all new in 2014—and an indication there are always more tools from the web that are going to be available on your phone.

3. International Budget Airlines. New international low-fare airlines options have made it easier to fly around the world on a budget. Aer Lingus now serves the U.S.’s West Coast, Norwegian Air serves both coasts with great connections to Europe and Asia, and WOW from Iceland is going to start flights with cheap connections to Europe in early 2015. While traditional airlines are raising prices (flights to Europe can be roughly $1,000 on traditional carriers), Norwegian Air has been known to offer $299 one-way tickets from Los Angeles to London and $200 one-way tickets from Oslo to Bangkok. And WOW introduced fares as low as $100 from the U.S. to Iceland.

4. Easier Ways to Get Points and Miles. As airlines and hotels have increasingly seen their loyalty programs as assets and cash machines, they have made it easier to compile points and miles, which can be redeemed for free flights and hotel rooms (this is what helps keep me on the road so long!). There are now high sign-up bonuses on branded credit cards (50,000 points is common compared to the past, when 25,000- or 30,000-point bonuses were standard), increased promotions and contests (get 1,000 points for liking our Facebook page!), and dining and shopping programs (you can regularly earn 10 points per dollar spent when you shop online) that give you multiple points per dollar spent. You can now travel and spend even less without hurting your ability to earn tens of thousands of points per year! (Mind you, this strategy works only if you always pay off your credit card bill in full.)

It’s true that 2014 wasn’t a banner year for loyalty programs as redemptions got harder and elite benefits were cut. While the programs themselves are now stingier in giving out rewards, the travel companies continue to provide other ways to make piling up points a whole lot easier.

5. An Explosion of Information. Probably the biggest, most helpful change in travel is that information that was once obscure – tiny destinations in small countries, train schedules, bus times, ferry routes, or small guest houses in out of the way destinations – is now easily found online. The last year has just seen an explosion of destination specific and planning websites. From Rome2Rio, which puts together travel routes using multiple forms of transport, to Busbud, which gives information on bus routes in developing countries, to airfare deal websites like The Flight Deal, it’s never been easier for travelers to feel like insiders and find the tips and details they need in an instant.

Granted, some changes in travel have been bad for the non-rich. The big one is that, overall airfares have been rising, even as fuel costs shrink for airlines. Nonetheless, the future is bright for those looking for more creative ways to see the world on a budget. Technology and the Internet have decentralized travel in a way that lets consumers bypass traditional agents, brokers, and global travel companies and find new and better ways to find deals and have more local and authentic experiences.

Matt Kepnes runs the award-winning budget travel website Nomadic Matt and is the author of the new book, How to Travel the World on $50 a Day, available January 6 in bookstores and online. His tips and expertise have appeared in Wall Street Journal, CNN, National Geographic, BBC, The Guardian, and The New York Times.

MONEY

Why 2014 Was a Turbulent Year for Travelers

141229_EM_TRAVELYEAR
iStock

Remember the Knee Defender incident? That ugly episode sums up the way many travelers felt in 2014.

The year 2014 comes to a close soon after a monumental decision by the U.S. government to loosen restrictions for Americans hoping to visit Cuba in the future. The year also ended on a positive note for travelers eager to see one highly annoying hotel fee finally disappear (see below), and with some hope that airfares could at long last decrease in the months ahead. All of these bits of news are extremely welcome in light of how, overall, life became more expensive and less comfortable for travelers over the past year.

Airfare Soared
The average cost of a flight within the U.S. has risen year after year, far outpacing inflation and reaching $500 (perhaps a little more) in 2015. While that would be frustrating enough on its own, pricier airfare has been a trend during the same period when higher fees on all manner of formerly included amenities have become the norm, and, more recently, when fuel costs has plummeted.

Unsurprisingly, 2014 was a great year for airline stocks, and industry profits are expected to surge even higher in 2015. In its 2015 forecast, IATA, the International Air Transport Association, predicted global net profits will hit $25 billion next year, up from $20 billion in 2014. But there is some hope that at long last flight prices could decrease in the near future. As the IATA report summed up:

Stronger industry performance is good news for all. It’s a highly competitive industry, and consumers—travelers as well as shippers—will see lower costs in 2015 as the impact of lower oil prices kick in.

Recently, Japan Airlines became the first carrier to do the right thing and cut its fuel surcharges to reflect the decreasing cost of oil. Travelers should hope that other carriers are pressured into following in that airline’s footsteps.

Budget Airlines Broke Hearts
Travelers know not to expect much in the way of free amenities and services from today’s true low-fare carriers, including Frontier Airlines, Allegient Air, and Spirit Airlines. The latter has led the charge toward a business model in which up-front prices are low but cover only the extreme bare minimum, and even basics like bottled water, a carry-on bag, and a seat assignment cost extra. It’s not just the small carriers heading down this path. Recently, Delta Airlines expanded “Basic Economy,” a category of airline ticket that’s arguably worse than any low-fare carrier product in that seat reservations and itinerary changes are not allowed, even for an extra fee.

Yet it’s impossible to break customers’ hearts if they were never really in love with you in the first place. That’s why the changes introduced by JetBlue and Southwest Airlines—regularly rated highest in customer satisfaction of late—hurt the most. Southwest, now the nation’s largest domestic carrier, has consciously been spreading the message that it’s not simply a low-cost upstart anymore. Over the past year, the vaunted “Southwest Effect,” in which an airport’s fares drop across the board when Southwest Airlines enters the market, no longer holds up because the carrier’s prices just don’t stand out as cheap like they used to. Likewise, many customers felt betrayed by JetBlue—once the industry darling known for eminently reasonable fares and great amenities—when the airline announced it was cramming more seats on planes and adding fees for checked baggage.

Fees Multiplied—But One is Disappearing
As hinted at above, airline travelers encountered more (and pricier) fees in 2014. A la carte fees above and beyond the base cost of flights were projected at $28.5 billion in 2014, up from $23.7 billion a year ago. Another study showed that travelers saw a 17% increase in airline fees in 2014.

It’s not just the airlines making fee structures more troublesome for travelers. Several major hotel companies, including Marriott and Hilton, are tweaking their cancellation policies: Guests who need to cancel will be charged one night’s stay if they fail to cancel a reservation by midnight the day before expected check-in. In the past, many hotels allowed guests to cancel as late as 6 p.m. on the day of arrival without incurring a penalty.

Meanwhile, another hated hotel policy–charging for wi-fi—is increasingly on its way out. Hyatt, Marriott, and Starwood all recently announced guests would have access to free on-site wi-fi (the latter two only for members of its free loyalty club), while the boutique Provenance Hotels chain will also eliminate wi-fi fees in 2015.

To which virtually all travelers say: It’s about darn time. Free wi-fi became more or less standard at U.S. airports a couple of years ago, and there are so many other places to get fast free wi-fi that it seems nonsensical and annoying for hotels to gouge guests.

Unofficial Fees Rose Too
In September, Marriott stirred up controversy when it launched a seemingly generous campaign encouraging guests to tip hotel housekeepers. Why the controversy? Some felt that Marriott should simply pay housekeepers more rather than passing on the responsibility to hotel guests.

Tenser Travel Overall
Remember the Knee Defender incident and all the discussion that the passive-aggressive flight survival product inspired? Obviously, the episode struck a chord among a nation of cramped, tense, beleaguered travelers, who feel forced to vigilantly protect every last inch of “private” space they’ve paid for on flights—sometimes even including the precious carry-on luggage space they’re paying for in one way or another.

A recent survey asked travelers to rank the worst kinds of airline passengers, and seat kickers and inattentive parents grabbed the top two spots. And while rude and insensitive travelers surely factor into the tense atmosphere on flights today, the cramped quarters, tough restrictions, and abundant fees pushed by the airlines should get much of the blame for widespread stress and agitation in the air.

MONEY Travel

United Airlines, Orbitz Sue 22-Year-Old Airfare Website Founder

United Airlines and Orbitz are teaming up to sue the founder of Skiplagged.com, a site that displays "hidden city" travel destinations for cheap fare.

TIME Transportation

JetBlue Offers Police Free Flights to Attend Slain NYPD Officers’ Funerals

JetBlue Airways Corp. planes sit docked at the gates of Terminal 5 as another of the company's jets lands at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York on Jan. 28, 2014.
JetBlue Airways Corp. planes sit docked at the gates of Terminal 5 as another of the company's jets lands at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York on Jan. 28, 2014. Craig Warga—Bloomberg/Getty Images

It's also offering free flights to other law enforcement agencies who wish to "support their brethren"

JetBlue Airways is offering free flights to relatives and two members of any American law enforcement agency who wish to attend the funerals of the two New York policemen fatally ambushed by a gunman last weekend.

Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were sitting in a patrol car Saturday when authorities say they were shot by a man identified as Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who then turned the gun on himself in a nearby subway station. The airline is also offering free air travel for two officers in any U.S. law enforcement agency who want to attend the services, CBS News reports.

“We’re honored to do what we can to support the communities we serve, and our team has made flights available to law enforcement agencies across our route network who wish to send representatives to New York to support their brethren,” a company spokesperson said in a statement.

(READ: TIME’s Q&A with Former New York Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly)

JetBlue says it is working with another airline to help fly some of Liu’s family members in from China for his funeral, which has not yet been scheduled. Thousands of law enforcement officials and Vice Present Joe Biden are expected to attend Ramos’ funeral on Saturday.

[CBS News]

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