MONEY Airlines

The Best Airfare Deals Are Now in First Class

people toasting in first class
Getty Images

This may be the summer you can afford to sit up front.

The price of first-class airfare within the U.S. keeps getting cheaper—at least when compared with flying in coach. Data cited by the Wall Street Journal shows that in April 2015, the average first-class seat on a domestic flight cost $577 more than its coach counterpart. Back in April 2012, meanwhile, the cost difference between flying in first class versus coach was $805.

Before you begin marveling at what seems like the generosity of airlines with respect to first-class pricing, let’s look at what’s really happening here. First off, one reason the price premium flyers can expect to pay for first class has dropped is simply that coach airfare has gotten more expensive—rising more than 10% annually, and crossing the $500 mark for the average round trip last summer.

Secondly, by lowering first-class airfare prices and strategically dangling tempting upgrade fees in front of frequent fliers who already purchased coach seats, the airlines are able to derive more revenues out of the seats at the front of the plane that otherwise would have been empty or perhaps been given to elite frequent fliers as free upgrades. Using such strategies, the airlines have collectively increased the number of first-class tickets sold by 48% over the last three years.

Even if passengers are paying less for first class than they used to, the airlines are happy with this arrangement because it’s better than giving away upgrades. At the same time, this tactic runs the risk of irking the loyal frequent fliers who have grown accustomed to such upgrades.

In any event, the WSJ pointed to several examples of domestic flights in which the costs of first-class seats were only marginally more expensive (10% to 40%) than sitting in coach. “On many trips, the first-class price isn’t much more than coach, especially if you planned to pay for extra-legroom seats in coach anyway,” the article explains.

Delta in particular seems to have an abundance of special first-class airfare deals on the table this summer, including a “Pride Sale” with first-class fares from $113 each way to New York City, Seattle, and Minneapolis coinciding with major LGBT pride events in early summer. Another Delta promotion lists first-class seats from Alaska to Seattle starting at $184 each way on Tuesday and Saturday departures this summer. Flying in first class on such a route has been known to run $500 or more easily, one way.

MONEY skymall

SkyMall Is Back from the Dead

World's Largest Airport Operator AENA Start Trading On Madrid Stock Exchange
David Ramos—Getty Images Need a neck pillow? There may be an app for that.

You can still get that outdoor dinosaur skeleton you always wanted.

Looking for a wireless padlock or an intelligent toilet seat? Well, you’re in luck.

SkyMall, the original purveyor of weird and eccentric products you don’t need but secretly want, has returned.

The retailer’s parent company, Xhibit Corp., filed for bankruptcy in January. At the time, Xhibit’s acting CEO Scott Wiley’s CEO blamed the publication’s troubles on the rise of electronic devices on planes, resulting in fewer passengers browsing SkyMall’s catalogue. However, Wiley expressed hope that SkyMall could find a buyer who would keep it operational.

It appears Wiley’s prayers have been answered. In April, SkyMall was purchased by C&A Marketing, a New Jersey-based company. The company, which also owns Ritz Camera and Polaroid, snagged SkyMall at action in April for just under $2 million.

The Atlantic reports how SkyMall’s new owners have been using Twitter to revamp and build up hype for the ironically iconic—or is it now iconically ironic?—brand. Clearly, the new SkyMall wants you to know it’s in on the joke about what its website calls its “occasionally unusual” products:

 

Screen Shot 2015-05-27 at 12.04.47 PM

SkyMall’s new owners seem optimistic about the resurrection, telling NJBiz they plan to build mobile apps in addition to selling online. Classical Marcellus statue, anyone?

MONEY Travel

Why Travelers Should Love It When Travel Stocks Tank

paper airplanes crashing around trashcan
Nicholas Rigg—Getty Images

Bad news for investors may be good news for travelers—and vice versa.

For quite some time, airline stocks were on a tear. The Dow Jones airline index was up 75% over the 12-month period ending last July. High airfares and fees combined with cheap fuel prices resulted in record high profits for airlines last year, and the trend continued through the first quarter of 2015 with more all-time-high profitability.

Yet all of a sudden last week, airline stocks took a nosedive. The six-day period that ended Tuesday was the worst stretch airline stocks have experienced in over seven months. After dropping 2.4% on Tuesday, the sector had dipped nearly 9% overall over the past week or so. Shares of Delta, American Airlines, and Southwest have all dropped by more than 10%. What happened?

The blame is largely being cast upon Southwest Airlines. Its crime? Expansion. Despite the recent uptick in the price of fuel, Southwest stated last week that it would save at least $1.2 billion in fuel costs this year compared to 2014. Cheaper fuel has made the idea of adding more flights and routes more attractive. The carrier now expects seat capacity to grow 7% to 8% this year versus 2014, and in 2016 it anticipates capacity will increase another 6% to 7%.

Expanding at a time when costs are low might seem to make a lot of business sense. Yet over the past few years—the era of mergers and oligopoly—airlines stressed “capacity discipline” over growth as a means to keep profits high. They have slaughtered unprofitable routes and dramatically scaled back service at former hubs like Cleveland, St. Louis, and Pittsburgh in order to keep flights as full as possible. United CEO Jeff Smisek summed up the unofficial mantra of the modern airline industry earlier this year when he said, “We will absolutely not lose our capacity discipline … It’s very healthy for us and very healthy for the industry.”

To investors, Southwest’s increased growth plans throw a wrench into the works. “Domestic capacity discipline has effectively vanished,” Wolfe Research airline analyst Hunter Keay said with respect to Southwest’s move.

Essentially, Southwest is upping the competition for customers. Imagine that! This scenario is wonderful for travelers, who have been subjected to increasingly high fares and fees across the board, as well as fewer and fewer choices in routes as the airlines decided to maintain “discipline” in the quest for higher profits.

Southwest’s competitors, on the other hand, aren’t fans of this turn of events because they are being forced to, well, compete—with more flights and (likely) lower fares to match Southwest. Understandably, many airlines would prefer to increase capacity only when it is overwhelmingly clear that demand warrants it, and only when they are assured airfares could remain high. Airline investors would prefer a less competitive industry as well, as it would mean steady, reliably high profits.

Interestingly, a recent dramatic change in the stock prices of another travel category—rental cars—also has implications for the average traveler’s budget. In mid-May, rental car giant Hertz, which also owns the Thrifty and Dollar brands, announced it was raising rates this summer, adding $5 per day and $20 per week onto many rentals.

Obviously, this isn’t news travelers want to hear, especially not on the cusp of the summer vacation season. Investors, on the other hand, loved the move, not only in terms of what it means for Hertz but for the rental car industry in general. As the New York Post noted, immediately after Hertz’s announcement, the company’s stock shot up 5%, while shares of its main competitor, Avis, soared more than 10%.

MONEY Travel

The Most Loved (and Hated) Airlines in America

Southwest Airlines airplane
courtesy Southwest Airlines—Wieck

Ranked by number of passenger complaints

According to a March 2015 report from the U.S. Department of Transportation, American flyers really, really like Southwest.

The popular low-cost airline had the fewest complaints for March 2015 overall, at just 0.46 complaints for every 100,000 passengers. Flyers were similarly happy with JetBlue (who only received about 1.20 complaints per 100,000 passengers).

That’s no surprise: Both Southwest and JetBlue ranked high in recent lists of the best airlines in the United States. Southwest flyers love the free checked bags (where two come standard). And while JetBlue will soon be instituting bag fees, their weekly sales and popular routes still entice flyers. It seems that, on these two carriers, low fares don’t necessarily come at the cost of flyer comfort or on-time flights.

The DOT noted that airline complaints are on the rise, with more flyers complaining to the feds than in previous months or in March 2014. As passengers feel squeezed by high prices, additional fees, and overfilled flights, they are reporting their discontent to the government. But interestingly, with Southwest and JetBlue ranking high, it’s not all low-cost airlines catching heat for their practices (boding well for budget-conscious travelers!).

However, the DOT reported that another budget carrier, Frontier, received the most complaints from U.S. passengers: about 15.84 complaints for every 100,000 flyers. This is a sharp increase for Frontier, for whom the DOT received only 22 total complaints, or about 2.52 for every 100,000 flyers, in March 2014.

What’s the cause of the sudden uptick? According to the report, a combination of delays, cancellations, and customer service sank Frontier’s approval ratings.

Hot on Frontier’s heels is Spirit Airlines. With 10.27 for every 100,000 flyers, this other low-cost carrier was the second most complained about airline. An oft-cited complaint for the budget-friendly carrier? “Incorrect or incomplete information about fares, discount fare conditions and availability, overcharges, fare increases and level of fares in general.”

Promisingly, Frontier has noted that consumer complaints for May are already decreasing. So while the DOT isn’t required to penalize airlines based on the results of their reports, the airlines appear to be listening anyway.

Here are the airlines, ranked in order from the fewest number of complaints to the most. Any surprises?

The U.S. Airlines with the Fewest Complaints

  1. Southwest Airlines (0.46)*
  2. Alaska Airlines (0.56)
  3. SkyWest Airlines (0.56)
  4. ExpressJet Airlines (0.63)
  5. Delta Air Lines (0.68)
  6. Virgin America (1.05)
  7. JetBlue Airlines (1.20)
  8. Hawaiian Airlines (1.50)
  9. Envoy Air (1.95)
  10. United Airlines (2.36)
  11. US/American Airlines (3.72)
  12. Spirit Airlines (10.27)
  13. Frontier Airlines (15.84)

* Number of complaints per 100,000 passengers

This article originally appeared on Hopper.com. Hopper is a travel app that tracks and predicts airfare prices.

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MONEY fees

These Are the Most Hated Fees in America

150520_EM_HatedFees
Ryan J. Lane—iStock

They've managed to narrow the list down to "only" 31 fees.

The website GoBankingRates.com has compiled a rogue’s gallery of the “most expensive, egregious, unexpected and just downright unreasonable charges” confronting American consumers today.

No fewer than 11 of the worst fees named on the list are related to banking. That’s not surprising considering each year we drop $7 billion on basic bank charges for things like failing to meet minimum balance requirements and monthly account maintenance. That figure is tiny compared to the roughly $32 billion consumers pay annually for overdrafts—which, of course, is another hated fee featured on the list.

Behind banking, travel is the category with the second-most hated fees—a total of 10 in all. Common fees for things like changing airline tickets, checking or carrying baggage on flights, renting a car, and flying with your pet are named on the list. Arguably worse are the fees travelers incur through no choice of their own, without any extra service provided, such as the vague “resort fees” added to bills at some hotels and resorts, and the mandatory gratuities charged by many resorts and cruise lines.

On the other hand, some of the fees in the roundup seem easier to accept because there’s clearly some service and value provided. What’s more, while the price of these fees may not be entirely reasonable, it’s easy enough for people to be well aware of them before signing on board. We’re talking about things like homeowner’s association fees and charges for belonging to sororities and fraternities in college.

What fee is the worst of the worst? GoBankingRates doesn’t rank them. Besides, it’s a matter of personal opinion. Obviously, the fees you hate the most are the ones you pay, without much in the way of choice, while getting little to nothing in return.

For what it’s worth, the checked baggage fee was named by our readers as the Most Hated Fee in a vote-off conducted a few years back.

MONEY Travel

The Absolute Worst Practice of Airlines Today

Getty Images

Change fees are just plain punitive

Americans love to hate the airlines. As airlines have transformed themselves over the past decade to become sustainably profitable, they have added bag fees, dropped meal service, reduced legroom, and adopted a litany of other fees.

All of these practices have made airline customers unhappy. Yet for the most part, these have been necessary changes to ensure that airlines are consistently profitable. While airfares have risen significantly in the past few years, they are still relatively low by historical standards, and would be higher without these changes.

Southwest Airlines is a rarity in that it doesn’t charge change fees.

But one innovation is particularly hard to swallow. The single worst practice of the airlines today is the imposition of punitive change fees. Change fees are often exorbitant compared to the actual costs they impose on airlines and create a massive amount of customer anger. This drives customers to Southwest Airlines SOUTHWEST AIRLINES CO. LUV -0.49% , which doesn’t charge change fees.

The purpose of change fees
Most of the fees imposed by airlines in recent years have been directly tied to services that some (but not all) passengers need that are costly to provide. For example, handling checked luggage or supervising an unaccompanied minor clearly imposes costs on an airline that it wouldn’t incur for an adult with no checked luggage. Thus, it’s reasonable that airlines charge some level of bag fees and unaccompanied minor fees.

The basic justification for change fees is also relatively straightforward. When a passenger changes or cancels a ticket, it may no longer be feasible to resell that seat, especially if it is close to the day of travel.

This is a very real cost of doing business. Airline revenue management systems are carefully calibrated to sell just the right number of tickets at just the right time for just the right price. A sudden influx of canceled or changed tickets at the last minute will lead to lower revenue for that flight (and won’t significantly reduce costs for the flight).

But change fees are excessive
That said, change fees tend to be excessive at U.S. airlines. The top three carriers, American Airlines AMERICAN AIRLINES GROUP AAL -0.64% , Delta Air Lines DELTA AIR LINES INC. DAL -0.66% , and United Continental UNITED CONTINENTAL HLDG. UAL -0.39% , all charge a $200 fee for changes to nonrefundable domestic tickets. Change fees can be more than twice that amount for international flights.

The biggest U.S. airlines charge change fees of $200 for domestic flights.

Most low-cost carriers have lower change fees, but these are still frequently $100 or more. Only Southwest Airlines has maintained a generous no-change-fee policy.

What makes these change fees the single worst practice of the airlines is that the fees bear no relationship to the actual cost to the airline. A fee as high as $200 might be reasonable for changing a long-haul transcontinental itinerary less than a week in advance. By that point, there isn’t much time for the revenue management system to adjust in order to resell that seat.

On the other hand, a $200 fee is clearly excessive for changing a ticket months in advance — particularly if the ticket was fairly cheap to begin with. Most airline tickets are sold within the last two months before the flight, so that leaves plenty of time for the airline to find another customer to fill the empty seat.

There’s a middle ground
While almost all airlines (except Southwest) have clung to — and even increased — their high change fees, one jumped off the bandwagon less than two years ago.

In late 2013, Alaska Air ALASKA AIR GROUP ALK 0.54% increased its change fee from $75 (or $100 if made through a call center) to $125. But at the same time, it eliminated fees for flight changes made at least 60 days in advance, even for the cheapest tickets.

Alaska Airlines has stopped charging for ticket changes made at least two months in advance. It’s obviously not as good as Southwest Airlines’ no-change-fee policy, but it’s definitely a big improvement compared to the status quo. Customers can book tickets far in advance without being 100% sure of their plans. Since it doesn’t cost Alaska Airlines much to change a ticket when it still has two months or more to fill the plane, it’s a nice gesture to make the change for free. Meanwhile, the airline is still compensated for more-disruptive changes closer to the travel date.

Alaska’s larger rivals should consider adopting this type of model, as they would likely gain some customer goodwill without giving up much revenue. In fact, waiving the fees for ticket changes made far in advance could help them gain market share, as some travelers fly Southwest because they can book flights “worry-free” without being sure of their plans.

Ideally, airlines would go beyond this and dramatically reduce (if not eliminate) fees for changes and cancellations made one to two months in advance. During that window, the airline still has a very high probability of reselling the seat. A relatively nominal fee of $25 to $50 would compensate the airline for the small risk of having the seat go empty. However, it’s unrealistic to expect change fees to disappear entirely.

The single worst practice of the airlines isn’t the mere act of charging change fees, but rather the excessive level of these fees and the complete disconnect to the airlines’ actual costs. Alaska Airlines’ compromise shows a way forward that could be good for both airlines and their customers.

More From Motley Fool:

Americans love to hate the airlines. As airlines have transformed themselves over the past decade to become sustainably profitable, they have added bag fees, dropped meal service, reduced legroom, and adopted a litany of other fees.

All of these practices have made airline customers unhappy. Yet for the most part, these have been necessary changes to ensure that airlines are consistently profitable. While airfares have risen significantly in the past few years, they are still relatively low by historical standards, and would be higher without these changes.

Southwest Airlines is a rarity in that it doesn’t charge change fees.

But one innovation is particularly hard to swallow. The single worst practice of the airlines today is the imposition of punitive change fees. Change fees are often exorbitant compared to the actual costs they impose on airlines and create a massive amount of customer anger. This drives customers to Southwest Airlines(ALASKA AIR GROUP ALK 0.54% NYSE: LUV ) , which doesn’t charge change fees.

The purpose of change fees
Most of the fees imposed by airlines in recent years have been directly tied to services that some (but not all) passengers need that are costly to provide. For example, handling checked luggage or supervising an unaccompanied minor clearly imposes costs on an airline that it wouldn’t incur for an adult with no checked luggage. Thus, it’s reasonable that airlines charge some level of bag fees and unaccompanied minor fees.

The basic justification for change fees is also relatively straightforward. When a passenger changes or cancels a ticket, it may no longer be feasible to resell that seat, especially if it is close to the day of travel.

This is a very real cost of doing business. Airline revenue management systems are carefully calibrated to sell just the right number of tickets at just the right time for just the right price. A sudden influx of canceled or changed tickets at the last minute will lead to lower revenue for that flight (and won’t significantly reduce costs for the flight).

But change fees are excessive
That said, change fees tend to be excessive at U.S. airlines. The top three carriers, American Airlines AMERICAN AIRLINES GROUP AAL -0.64% , Delta Air Lines DELTA AIR LINES INC. DAL -0.66% , and United Continental UNITED CONTINENTAL HLDG. UAL -0.39% , all charge a $200 fee for changes to nonrefundable domestic tickets. Change fees can be more than twice that amount for international flights.

The biggest U.S. airlines charge change fees of $200 for domestic flights.

Most low-cost carriers have lower change fees, but these are still frequently $100 or more. Only Southwest Airlines has maintained a generous no-change-fee policy.

What makes these change fees the single worst practice of the airlines is that the fees bear no relationship to the actual cost to the airline. A fee as high as $200 might be reasonable for changing a long-haul transcontinental itinerary less than a week in advance. By that point, there isn’t much time for the revenue management system to adjust in order to resell that seat.

On the other hand, a $200 fee is clearly excessive for changing a ticket months in advance — particularly if the ticket was fairly cheap to begin with. Most airline tickets are sold within the last two months before the flight, so that leaves plenty of time for the airline to find another customer to fill the empty seat.

There’s a middle ground
While almost all airlines (except Southwest) have clung to — and even increased — their high change fees, one jumped off the bandwagon less than two years ago.

In late 2013, Alaska Air ALASKA AIR GROUP ALK 0.54% increased its change fee from $75 (or $100 if made through a call center) to $125. But at the same time, it eliminated fees for flight changes made at least 60 days in advance, even for the cheapest tickets.

Alaska Airlines has stopped charging for ticket changes made at least two months in advance.

It’s obviously not as good as Southwest Airlines’ no-change-fee policy, but it’s definitely a big improvement compared to the status quo. Customers can book tickets far in advance without being 100% sure of their plans. Since it doesn’t cost Alaska Airlines much to change a ticket when it still has two months or more to fill the plane, it’s a nice gesture to make the change for free. Meanwhile, the airline is still compensated for more-disruptive changes closer to the travel date.

Alaska’s larger rivals should consider adopting this type of model, as they would likely gain some customer goodwill without giving up much revenue. In fact, waiving the fees for ticket changes made far in advance could help them gain market share, as some travelers fly Southwest because they can book flights “worry-free” without being sure of their plans.

Ideally, airlines would go beyond this and dramatically reduce (if not eliminate) fees for changes and cancellations made one to two months in advance. During that window, the airline still has a very high probability of reselling the seat. A relatively nominal fee of $25 to $50 would compensate the airline for the small risk of having the seat go empty. However, it’s unrealistic to expect change fees to disappear entirely.

The single worst practice of the airlines isn’t the mere act of charging change fees, but rather the excessive level of these fees and the complete disconnect to the airlines’ actual costs. Alaska Airlines’ compromise shows a way forward that could be good for both airlines and their customers.

Adam Levine-Weinberg owns shares of United Continental Holdings, and is long January 2017 $40 calls on Delta Air Lines. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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MONEY Rip-offs

Are Airlines Gouging Travelers in the Wake of the Amtrak Disaster?

Vetta/Getty Images

The airline industry might appear to be living up to its (horribly greedy and opportunistic) reputation. The reality is a little more ambiguous.

The deadly train crash in Philadelphia has created chaos for travelers with plans to use the train service in the Northeast this week. The latest announcement from Amtrak indicates that its direct service between New York City and Philadelphia will remain suspended through Monday, May 18. That means anyone with plans to ride the rails to or from those cities, or trying to connect from Baltimore or Washington to anywhere north of Philadelphia, has had to look for options outside of Amtrak’s main line.

For many business travelers, the only other speedy, convenient, and altogether viable alternative to Amtrak is flying. And recent reports indicating that airlines have been gouging travelers with exorbitant last-minute flight prices in the Northeast confirm the perspective that airlines are opportunistic and greedy.

The (NY) Daily News reported that round-trip flights from New York-JFK to Washington-Dulles have been running between $700 to $1,100 this weekend (Friday departure, Sunday return), with some tickets hitting upwards of $1,700. These are seats in coach, mind you, on one-hour flights that normally cost $100 when purchased in advance, and perhaps $600 at the last minute.

“It’s opportunism,” George Hobica, who runs the airfare deal monitoring site Airfare Watchdog, told the Daily News. “The airlines know it’s a big business route and they can charge what they want.”

As of Friday morning, the least expensive round trip from JFK to Dulles that departs Friday and returns Sunday was priced at just under $1,100 on Delta Airlines, according to flight search aggregator Kayak.com.

Yet while it may look like there’s some price gouging occurring on this specific route between the New York and Washington, D.C. areas, airfares remain reasonable on other routes. Another quick search showed, for instance, that round trips between Newark airport and Dulles from Friday to Sunday are available at the last minute for $449 on United.

What seems to have happened is that there is very little availability on what few flights there are between JFK and Dulles this weekend, and as always, when flights are nearly sold out, airfare prices skyrocket. But with a little flexibility, it looks possible to book a flight in the Northeast without getting completely gouged—even at the last minute, even after the deadly Amtrak crash.

TIME Airlines

JetBlue Announces Weekly Flights from New York to Havana

Deal shows growing ease of travel between the two countries

JetBlue will begin operating a weekly flight from New York to Havana, Cuba this summer following the lifting of several travel and trade restrictions on the country.

The new flight will travel between John F. Kennedy International Airport and Havana Jose Marti International Airport each Friday at noon, with a return flight from Havana to JFK every Friday at 4:30 p.m. This makes JetBlue the first carrier to announce additional flights to Cuba from New York since restrictions were lifted earlier this year.

Fliers will have to book flights through Cuba Travel Services, a company that organizes charter flights to Cuba, rather than JetBlue. But Americans are still not authorized to travel to Cuba as tourists and must instead visit for one of 12 specific purposes like visiting a close relative or participating in an academic program.

The partnership follows a recent trade mission by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to Cuba, where he and JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes hashed out a deal with Cuban officials. “By leading one of the first state trade missions to Cuba as the United States reestablishes diplomatic relations, we placed New York State businesses at the front of the line for new prospects in Cuba, that will in turn support jobs and economic activity here at home,” Cuomo said in a release.

The flights begin on July 3.

MONEY Airlines

There’s a New Reason to Subscribe to Amazon Prime—and Fly on JetBlue

JetBlue seats
JetBlue

Amazon Prime members will be able to stream video on JetBlue flights for no extra charge.

Airlines that offer wi-fi on flights typically charge $5 per hour, or $16 for a full day’s access, and customers aren’t able to stream video from the likes of Netflix, Amazon Prime, or HBO Go because the connection isn’t strong enough. On JetBlue Airways, however, a basic wi-fi service called Simply Surf has been free on equipped aircraft, while an enhanced Fly-Fi option that’s powerful enough to allow streaming runs $9 per hour.

Thanks to a freshly announced partnership between Amazon and JetBlue, passengers who are Amazon Prime members will be able to stream content on JetBlue flights via Fly-Fi for no additional fee. Starting this year on JetBlue Airbus A321 and A320 aircraft, and next year on the carrier’s Embraer E190 planes, Prime members can instantly stream tens of thousands of movies and TV shows from Amazon Prime Video on smartphones, Kindles, iPads, laptops, and other devices. They’ll also be able to listen to one million+ songs via Amazon Prime Music. All of this content on JetBlue flights costs nothing above the $99 annual price of an Amazon Prime subscription.

“We’re thrilled that Fly-Fi technology will give Prime members and customers unlimited, on-demand access to the full catalog of titles from Amazon’s digital video library while they’re in the sky—without the need to rush to download one more episode or movie before taking off, we’re helping make airline travel more enjoyable,” Michael Paull, Vice President of Digital Video at Amazon, said via press release.

The partnership provides some benefits for non-Prime members traveling via JetBlue as well. All passengers will now have the on-board option of renting or purchasing certain Amazon Instant Video content—including new release movies and TV shows that aren’t included in regular Prime—as well as the ability to buy and download songs, apps, and Kindle ebooks from Amazon.

Perhaps most importantly, the Amazon partnership is being credited as the “prime” reason JetBlue will be able to continue allowing all passengers to enjoy Simply Surf, the basic service that’ll suffice for browsing and checking email, at no charge on flights. All JetBlue passengers will continue getting free DirecTV via individual seatback screens too.

TIME Tablets

‘Several Dozen’ Flights Grounded Because of iPad Software Glitch

Shared Jet Sales Soar as Rich Fliers Avoid Airline Hassles
Scott Eells—Bloomberg/Getty Images A helicopter pilot looks at his flight plan on an Apple Inc. ipad over Weehawken, New Jersey, U.S., on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2011.

Pilots announce delays after the iPads they use to access flight records simultaneously went blank

Dozens of American Airlines flights were delayed Tuesday evening after the iPad software its pilots use to access flight plans suddenly went blank.

American Airlines confirmed the software glitch on Twitter. An airline spokesperson later said the glitch had stalled “several dozen” flights, Quartz reports.

Stranded passengers in Chicago and Dallas also tweeted about the glitch.

American Airlines digitized its flight plans in 2013, replacing weighty paper-based tomes with Apple’s popular mobile tablet. The software in question is made by Jeppesen, a Boeing-owned company that specializes in aviation navigation and logistics products.

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