8 Biggest Air Travel Surprises of 2013

Let’s check out the good, the bad and the awful for 2013 (and this year-in-review is also the topic of my latest column for ABC News). Next week: Predictions for 2014.

Here we go again: New Year, new fees

8 Biggest Moments in Air Travel for 2014

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1. Merger Madness

The merger between American Airlines and US Airways looked like it would be oh-so-simple. Then the U.S. Department of Justice said, just a minute. The feds worried that it would mean higher fares for consumers and sued to halt the proposed union. As I asked earlier this year, where was the DOJ during the mergers of Southwest and AirTran, Delta and Northwest or United and Continental? As expected, an agreement was ultimately worked out and the merger went through. Well, just in a technical sense. You’ll still see the US Airways name on planes for at least another year until the New American finally takes over.

Best weird and wonderful stories of 2012

2. Dreamliner Down

The plane was long-delayed before it eventually got up in the air (to the cheers of many passengers who loved it), and then – grounded! For months and months, while Boeing figured out what was the problem with the aircraft batteries. It was eventually sorted out and flights were resumed in late spring.

3. Airport Disasters

Sadly, there were two of these: In November, a gunman killed veteran TSA agent Paul Anthony Ciancia at Los Angeles International, the first such officer to die in the line of duty. In July, an Asiana Airlines plane crash landed in San Francisco, ultimately killing three people.

4. Whole New Level of Electronics

The FAA gave the go-ahead to passengers using electronic gadgets throughout flights (including take-offs and landings) but phone calls were still banned. But wait just a minute! The FCC said it’s reconsidering its ban on voice calls. The question is, do passengers want that?

5. Free Fares

Can lightning strike twice? Indeed it can. In September, United’s website briefly offered dirt cheap fares and we’re talking about tickets for just a couple of bucks or even free. Then, right after Christmas, Delta did the same thing. In both cases, the computer glitches were soon fixed but not before hundreds of shoppers got their hands on these unanticipated deals. To their credit, both airlines said they’d honor the fares.

6. Why We Love Southwest

Their fares may not be as cheap as they used to be but Southwest remains the one airline that doesn’t charge a change fee. That’s huge. Thanks, Southwest.

7. Worst Flight Ever?

As reported in the LA Times, a couple from California thought they were heading to Dakar, Senegal, but wound up 7,000 miles away – on a different continent – in Dhaka, Bangladesh. It seems as though the couple and Turkish Airlines share in the blame, and the two sides ultimately worked it out but let this be a lesson to us all: Know the airport code to your destination and make sure that’s what’s printed on your ticket.

Some very strange airport codes

8. Best News for Passengers

U.S. airlines tried to raise fares 12 times during 2013 but only succeeded three times (and these were extremely limited hikes). Can we expect to be this lucky in 2014? Check back here at my blog next week for my predictions.

More from Rick Seaney:

2013: A Year in Air Travel to Make You Go ‘Whoa!’


Published: January 5, 2014