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TRAVEL BRIEFCASE

Chinese airline may offer cheaper fares to passengers who stand during short flights

The proposal would allow the airline to cram 40% more travelers into its planes while cutting operating costs 20%. Passengers would be strapped to a bar-stool-like stand during takeoff and landing.

July 04, 2009|Peter Pae

An airline in China is mulling over plans that would allow passengers to stand during short flights and pay less than those who have seats.

Spring Airlines, a low-cost carrier based in Shanghai, said having passengers stand up in flight would enable it to cram 40% more travelers into its Airbus A320 planes while cutting operating costs 20%.

The president of the airline, Wang Zhenghua, told a Chinese television station that the idea was getting some traction since it was also raised by Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang.

"He suggested that, for a lower price, passengers should be able to get on a plane like catching a bus, with no seat, no luggage consignment, no food, no water, but very convenient," Wang said.

The idea isn't so farfetched. Airbus, the European aircraft maker, has been studying the safety issues of standing passengers for years.

Passengers would be strapped to a bar-stool-like stand during takeoff and landing, a Spring Airlines spokesman said.

"It's just like bar stools. The safety belt is the most important thing. It will still be fastened around the waist," airline spokesman Zhang Wuan said, adding that Airbus had told the carrier that the proposal was safe.

"Once the government approves it formally, we'll try it."

Flights from LAX to Cuba resume

Nonstop flights between Los Angeles International Airport and Cuba resumed this week after a four-year hiatus.

The weekly flights on a chartered Boeing 737 jet operated by Continental Airlines began after President Obama eased restrictions on visits to the communist Caribbean nation. Bookings are being handled by Cuba Travel Services of Long Beach.

Round-trip fares start at $689, Cuba Travel Services said.

A visa is required and travel to Cuba is mostly restricted to Cuban Americans with family in Cuba. Others who can travel there include journalists, government officials, educators, sports teams and religious groups.

Cuba Travel said it would rely on business from the 100,000 Cuban Americans living in California -- 85,000 in the Los Angeles and Orange County area alone.

Alaska Airlines ranked highest

Alaska Airlines topped a customer satisfaction survey among traditional carriers while JetBlue Airways took top honors among low-cost carriers, J.D. Power and Associates said. The 2009 survey measured overall customer satisfaction based on cost and fees, flight crew, in-flight services and check-in, among other criteria.

Continental Airlines and Delta Air Lines followed Alaska Airlines among traditional carriers. Southwest Airlines and WestJet, a Canadian airline, followed JetBlue among the top low-cost carriers in the North American Airline Satisfaction Study.

US Airways and AirTran Airways were at the bottom of their respective surveys.

Qantas boosts A380 flights

Australia's Qantas Airways is increasing service on its Airbus A380 super jumbo jet for flights between LAX and Sydney.

The number of A380 flights will rise to four from three a week starting Aug. 6 and the flights will be offered on a daily basis beginning in November. Qantas, the largest A380 operator, expects to receive its fourth A380 aircraft by the end of this month and its fifth and sixth planes by November. It began flying the world's largest passenger jet in October.

The airline also plans to increase A380 service between LAX and Melbourne to three from two times a week. Qantas, the busiest foreign carrier at LAX, sometimes has six departures a day, mostly on Boeing 747 jumbo jets.

The airline said travelers were picking flights that operate the A380 partly because of the novelty. "It's a new piece of technology. For a lot of people who are enthusiasts, it's also bragging rights," spokesman Mike Abraham said.

Business travelers also laud the plane for its quietness and comfort. The plane can seat as many as 550 passengers, but Qantas has configured the plane to have 450 seats.

"The Qantas A380 has received exceptional feedback from our customers," said Wally Mariani, the airline's senior executive vice president for the Americas.

Carry-ons

American Airlines rolls out new china, cutlery and wineglasses with a "tulip-shaped globe" for its first-class and business-class passengers. . . . Philadelphia is launching a "With Love" tourism campaign asking 5,000 residents to send postcards to friends and family inviting them to visit the city and stay at a hotel. . . . Delta Air Lines SkyMiles credit card holders who sign up for the promotion will earn double miles on any Delta or Northwest Airlines flights before year's end.

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peter.pae@latimes.com

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