More than 5,000 Flights Canceled as East Braces for Historic Blizzard

Chicago O Hare Airport
Provided by AP

With one of the largest blizzards to in recent history expected to bring havoc along the East Coast this weekend, airlines have began to preemptively cancel flights.

According to airline tracking serviceFlightAware, airlines have canceled more than 5,000 flight within, into or out of the US.

More than 2,500 flights were canceled on Friday, and roughly the same number have been canceled for Saturday.

Thus far, the airports hardest hit by cancellations have been concentrated along the mid-Atlantic region, with Charlotte and the Washington, DC area airports bearing the brunt.

As the storm moves north, Philadelphia, New York and Boston are ramping up their cancellations in preparation for the winter storm Jonas’ impact.

Furthermore, the blizzard has created a backup that has rippled across the nation, with Atlanta and Chicago each reporting more than 100 flight cancellations on Friday.

As a result, airlines such as Delta, United, Virgin America, JetBlue and American have offered passengers with tickets for travel to certain snow-affected airports the opportunity to change their flights schedules free of charge.

For airlines, these cancellations are precautionary measures meant to ensure the safety of the passengers, crew and their multi-million dollar equipment.

Predicting the path and severity of the these types of winter megastorm is an inexact science. Last year, the New York area was expected to be clobbered by a massive blizzard that missed the city, unleashing its fury upon Boston instead.

Written by Benjamin Zhang of Business Insider

(Source: MSN)

Hey Musk, Bezos — My Spaceship is Better: Branson

Provided by CNBC

The modern day space race doesn’t pit country against country. It’s a game of thrones of sorts among three billionaires: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Richard Branson.

Under the guise of “we compete in a friendly way,” Branson engaged in a little trash-talk at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

“Our spaceship comes back and lands on wheels. Theirs don’t,” he told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” in an interview that aired Friday. “Because ours is shaped like an airplane, we hope to do point-to-point air travel one day. Theirs is not.”

To be fair, he said that Musk, founder of SpaceX, and Bezos, founder of Blue Origin, would probably give reasons why theirs are better than Branson’s Virgin Galactic effort.

Branson, who said he’s friends with Musk but does not know Bezos well, stressed that competition is good. “You need competition. And the public will benefit from the three of us getting out there and competing.”

Besides space, Branson’s Virgin conglomerate runs branded businesses worldwide in industries including mobile phones, airlines, financial services, music, as well as health and wellness.

Musk, also a serial entrepreneur, is the founder and chief of electric automaker Tesla (TSLA). He’s also chairman of energy company, SolarCity (SCTY). Bezos is founder and chief of Amazon (AMZN) and the owner of The Washington Post.

During his CNBC interview, Branson also addressed the most pressing concern for financial markets: the depressed price of oil that’s seen somewhat of a bounce recently.

He said he sees oil prices likely staying low for a long time, but he believes that’s a good thing for the global economy.

“There’s no need to try to make up a recession [case],” he said. “This is going to be the greatest boost to the economy you could imagine. And everyone is going to have money in their pockets to spend,” because of cheaper gasoline prices.

Depressed oil, which also translates into lower jet fuel prices, has been a boon to the airline industry and passengers.

When the oil hedges that many carriers engage in to lock-in steady costs come off, “they can afford to reduce fares,” Branson said. “And that will stimulate demand on planes. And they can also afford to make some decent profits.”

“I remember $149 a barrel,” he recalled, with U.S. and global crude around $31 per barrel early Friday. “If you can’t make money today, you can’t make money ever in the airline industry.”

Reflecting on what some market watchers consider a bubble in so-called privately held unicorns, Branson said: “There’s always something of a bubble in the Valley,” referring to Silicon Valley. Unicorn companies are start-ups with market values exceeding $1 billion.

There are many good pre-initial public offering (IPO) companies, Branson acknowledged, but he warned that others are going to “fall flat on their face.”

Written by Mattheew J. Belvedere of CNBC

(Source: CNBC)

Virgin Galactic to Fling Rockets to Space From Boeing 747 Jumbo

Richard Branson poses for photographers with a model of the LauncherOne rocket from the window of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo, on the third day of the Farnborough International Air Show in Farnborough, U.K., on Wednesday, July 11, 2012.
Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg 

(Bloomberg) — Richard Branson is finding a new use for an old Virgin Atlantic jumbo jetliner: to fling rockets to orbit.

Virgin Galactic, the commercial space company founded by the billionaire, plans to send small rockets inflight from the Boeing 747-400 nicknamed “Cosmic Girl” that it purchased from Branson’s airline.

Branson is among the entrepreneurs vying to shake up the $6 billion commercial launch business known for years-long waits to loft $200 million satellites. Instead of firing large boosters from conventional pads, the new rocketeers are working to loft smaller craft from planes and remote locations in Texas or the South Pacific.

“Air launch enables us to provide rapid, responsive service to our satellite customers on a schedule set by their business and operational needs, rather than the constraints of national launch ranges,” George Whitesides, Virgin Galactic’s chief executive officer, said in a statement Thursday.

The commercial jet replaces WhiteKnightTwo, a twin-hulled carrier vehicle that will still be used to hoist a suborbital tourist craft. Virgin’s SpaceShipTwo venture has been grounded since a training accident killed a pilot last year.

Instead, Virgin’s LauncherOne rocket will be mounted under the 747’s left wing, adjacent to a position used by other jumbos to ferry a fifth engine, the company said. The spacecraft’s payload has been doubled to ferry 200-kilogram (440-pound) payloads to orbit for less than $10 million.

Newcomers like Virgin Galactic have the potential to slash prices in a field attuned to government contracts and dominated by traditional aerospace powers like United Launch Alliance, a Boeing-Lockheed Martin Corp. venture, and Europe’s Arianespace SA, according to Marco Caceres, director of space studies for Fairfax, Virginia-based consultant Teal Group.

Written by Julie Johnsson of Bloomberg

(Source: Bloomberg)

Which Airlines Charge the Most Extra Fees?

© michaeljung/shutterstock
© michaeljung/shutterstock
Online tools have made it easy to compare airfares and find the lowest ticket prices. But for travelers who don’t factor in fees for “optional services,” the overall cost of a flight can be surprisingly high. What used to come standard — a carry-on bag or nonalcoholic beverage, for instance — may now come at a cost. At the same time, existing fees are rising, and JetBlue just joined the crowd charging for the first checked bag. Cheapism.com has compiled detailed charts comparing a range of airline feeslevied by 10 U.S. carriers and picked the best and worst when it comes to extra charges. Here are the rankings, along with fees for domestic flights in the lowest fare class.

Some airlines tack on more extra charges than others.

10. SPIRIT AIRLINES

The Spirit model is to charge as little as possible for airfare and then add fees for virtually everything else. That includes seat selection ($1-$50), boarding passes printed at the airport ($10), carry-on bags ($35-$100), and in-flight beverage service ($2-$3).

  • First checked bag: $30-$100 (depending on how far in advance the fee is paid)
  • Change/cancellation: $110 online, $120 by phone or at the airport

9. ALLEGIANT AIR

This discount airline charges numerous fees including $2 for nonalcoholic drinks; $10-$75 for carry-on bags; up to $8 for using an American Express card; and up to $80 to select a seat. Allegiant fees are assessed per segment (one takeoff and landing).

  • First checked bag: $15-$75 (depending on the route and how far in advance the fee is paid)
  • Change/cancellation: $75 per segment

8. (TIE) UNITED AIRLINES

There’s little difference in fees among the transcontinental legacy carriers (United, Delta, and American/US Airways). United was the first to increase its domestic change fee to $200. The airline also has some of the highest fees for a third checked bag ($150) and oversize bags ($200).

  • First checked bag: $25
  • Change/cancellation: $200

8. (TIE) AMERICAN AIRLINES/US AIRWAYS

Although the two airlines have merged, fees are still assessed by the carrier operating the flight. Most charges are the same, including a steep $200 change fee. On American, passengers can upgrade to Choice Plus (an additional $80-$89) to avoid that fee and receive one free checked bag, among other benefits.

  • First checked bag: $25
  • Change/cancellation: $200

8. (TIE) DELTA AIR LINES

With fees comparable to what the other transcontinental legacy carriers charge, Deltashouldn’t surprise many travelers with its add-ons. Along with American and United, it waives certain checked-bag fees for customers with airline-branded credit cards.

  • First checked bag: $25
  • Change/cancellation: $200

5. FRONTIER AIRLINES

Fees for non-alcoholic beverages and carry-on bags are sure to aggravate some passengers, but overall Frontier’s fees are no higher the rest of the industry’s. Many fees are waived with the purchase of a more expensive Classic Plus ticket, and there may not be much difference in fare.

  • First checked bag: $20-$60 (depending on how far in advance the fee is paid)
  • Change/cancellation: $99

4. VIRGIN AMERICA

Virgin America charges middling fees in general but is notably lenient when it comes to excess baggage. The third checked bag costs the same as the first — $25, compared with at least $75 on most other airlines — and almost no one charges less for oversize and overweight bags.

  • First checked bag: $25
  • Change/cancellation: $100 or $150 (depending on the route)

3. JETBLUE AIRWAYS

JetBlue recently added a checked-bag fee but still offers travelers complimentary DirecTV, as well as free snacks more substantial than the usual pack of pretzels. Change and cancellation fees are graduated based on the price of the flight, fare type, and number of days before departure.

  • First checked bag: $20 online or at a kiosk, $25 at the ticket counter
  • Change/cancellation: $70-$135

2. ALASKA AIRLINES

Alaska waives many fees for residents of its namesake state, through the free Club 49 program, and keeps extra charges relatively low for everybody else. A second checked bag costs only $25, and fees for bags that are overweight ($50) or oversize ($75) are below the industry average.

  • First checked bag: $25
  • Change/cancellation: Free at least 60 days in advance; $125 otherwise

1. SOUTHWEST AIRLINES

Southwest is hands-down the best airline for travelers worried about fees. It’s the only one that lets passengers check up to two bags without paying and charges no fee to change or cancel a flight. Customers pay only the difference in fare.

  • First checked bag: Free
  • Change/cancellation: Free

Written by Louis DeNicola of Cheapism

(Source: Cheapism)