New technology and fee updates lead this week’s air travel news.
This week Expedia Group reported that it has reached a deal with Air France - KLM to avoid the airline group’s newly implemented surcharge on GDS bookings. Expedia Group, which includes OTAs like Expedia and Hotels.com, as well as the Expedia CruiseShipCenters travel agency and the Egencia corporate travel management company, reports that its leisure and corporate customers in all markets in Europe (including the UK and Switzerland) will not be charged the new surcharge on Air France, KLM and Hop! flights. Expedia Group and Air France – KLM have also committed to collaborate on the integration of new distribution capabilities (NDC). The new €11 surcharge on GDS bookings went into effect April 1, making it the latest airline group to charge a similar fee. Lufthansa Group implemented the first such fee on flights by Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines and Swiss International Air Lines, followed by IAG, which owns British Airways and Iberia.
In technology news, this week Air New Zealand brought its new “chatbot” service to customers in the United States and Canada. The chatbot, named “Oscar,” was first piloted in the New Zealand and Australia markets last year to assist customers with frequently asked questions. In addition to assisting travelers Oscar can sing songs and tell jokes. Oscar’s full capabilities are available on the carrier’s website as well as on the Air New Zealand mobile app.
In flight news, this week United Airlines and Mesa Airlines received tentative approval from the U.S. Department of Transportation to begin offering daily nonstop service between Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport and Havana's José Marti International Airport in Cuba. Subject to final approval, United will expand its existing Saturday-only service, which was just launched in December of 2016, to daily service.
In domestic travel news, this week Alaska Airlines announced plans to add new nonstop service between New York - JFK and San Jose, California, as well as a third daily flight from its Seattle hub to JFK. The San Jose - JFK flights begin July 6. The third flight from Seattle, which will take place in the early morning, will provide easier connections to Europe, the airline said.