- Created on 17 December 2012
(AP) — Southwest Airlines Co. will start charging a no-show fee for passengers who fail to cancel tickets before their flights.
The company also said Friday that fees on early check-in and oversized bags are going up. And it repeated a longtime goal for boosting profits that could only be met next year if it doubles earnings.
Southwest brags that it doesn't charge ticket-change fees, and it lets customers apply the price of an unused ticket to a later trip.
But customers who take advantage of those policies are leaving too many seats empty, the airline says.
So beginning sometime next year, Southwest will charge a no-show fee on its cheapest fares, known as "Wanna Get Away" tickets. Neither the date nor the amount of the fee has been set.
CEO Gary Kelly said the change will bring Southwest closer in line with policies at other airlines and won't alienate customers.
"By our research, customers understand that we all could benefit — customers and the company — from the opportunity to resell a seat," Kelly said. "Once the airplane takes off and (a seat) is empty, we can't ever reclaim that."
The airline expects to raise $100 million next year from the new fee and increases in current fees, part of a plan to boost revenue by $1.3 billion in 2013 over 2012. Southwest is on pace for revenue this year of about $17.5 billion based on figures from 2011 and the first nine months of 2012. Executives discussed the plan at an investor conference Friday in New York.
Southwest has long had a goal of boosting return on investment by 15 percent per year but hasn't been able to do it. An analyst at the conference told Kelly that hitting the target next year would be heroic.
Kelly acknowledged that it would require at least doubling the company's earnings, but he didn't back away.
"We're looking for our revenue initiatives to take hold in 2013 in a way that would produce very strong earnings," he said, adding that such a goal assumed a growing economy and stable jet fuel prices.
Southwest officials said holiday bookings were strong and that they plan cost-cutting steps including eliminating 300 jobs through attrition.
In recent years, Southwest has bombarded TV viewers with "bags fly free" commercials to highlight that it doesn't charge customers for their first two checked bags or for changing a reservation — both fees are standard on most other major U.S. airlines. Southwest executives said they're not thinking about imposing those fees, but would announce other changes Saturday.
Executives said the fee for overweight bags will rise to $100 from $50, and early check-in, which helps move passengers toward the front of the boarding line and assure space for their bag in the overhead bins, will go to $12.50 from $10.
Southwest's AirTran Airways subsidiary will raise its fees for checking bags to $25 for the first bag, up from $20, and to $35 for the second, up from $25, said AirTran president Robert Jordan. Southwest has promised to end AirTran's bag fees when it folds AirTran into the Southwest fleet over the next few years.
The company also said October's Superstorm Sandy, which caused canceled flights in the Northeast, will reduce fourth-quarter operating profit by between $15 million and $20 million.
Shares of Southwest rose 11 cents to $10.25 in afternoon trading.
- Created on 13 December 2012
(AP) — Google Maps has found its way back to the iPhone.
The world's most popular online mapping system returned late Wednesday with the release of the Google Maps iPhone app. The release comes nearly three months after Apple Inc. replaced Google Maps as the device's built-in navigation system and inserted its own map software into the latest version of its mobile operating system.
Apple's maps proved to be far inferior to Google's. The product's shoddiness prompted Apple CEO Tim Cook to issue a rare public apology and recommend that iPhone owners consider using Google maps through a mobile Web browser or seek other alternatives until his company could fix the problems. Cook also replaced the executive in charge of Apple's mobile operating system after the company's maps became a subject of widespread ridicule.
Among other things, Apple's maps misplaced landmarks, overlooked towns and sometimes got people horribly lost. In a particularly egregious example flagged this week, Australian police derided Apple's maps as "life-threatening" because the system was steering people looking for the city of Mildura into a sweltering, remote desert 44 miles from the desired destination.
Google Inc., in contrast, is hailing its new iPhone app as a major improvement from the one evicted by Apple.
"We started from scratch," said Daniel Graf, mobile director of Google Maps. Google engineers started working on the new app before Apple's Sept. 19 ouster, Graf said, though he declined to be more specific.
The additional tools in the free iPhone mapping app include turn-by-turn directions. Google's previous refusal to include that popular feature on the iPhone app while making it available for smartphones running on its own Android software is believed to be one of the reasons Apple decided to develop its own technology. The friction that has developed between Google and Apple as they jostle for leadership in the increasingly important smartphone market also played a role in the mapping switch.
Google's new iPhone mapping app also will offer its street-level photography of local neighborhoods for the first time on Apple's mobile operating system, as well as three-dimensional views, public transit directions and listings for more than 80 million businesses. The iPhone app still lacks some of the mapping features available on Android-powered phones, such as directions in malls and other buildings.
There still isn't a Google mapping app for Apple's top-selling tablet computer, the iPad, but the company plans to make one eventually. Google, which is based in Mountain View, Calif., declined to say when it hopes to release an iPad mapping app. For now, iPad owners can use the maps in an iPhone mode. That won't be the best experience, but it still may be better than Apple's maps on the iPad.
Google's free mapping solution is likely to become one of the hottest commodities in Apple's app store, if for no other reason because of pent-up demand among iPhone owners fed up with Apple's alternative. Some iPhone owners even refused to upgrade to Apple's newest software, iOS 6, because they didn't want to lose access to the old Google mapping application built into iOS 5 and earlier versions.
Apple didn't respond to a request for comment about Google's new apps late Wednesday, but it approved the technology before its release.
Graf said Google isn't hoping to make Apple look bad with its new mapping app. "On maps, we have a friendly relationship," he said.
- Created on 11 December 2012
AP) — U.S. employers advertised more jobs in October than September, a hopeful sign that hiring could pick up in the coming months.
The Labor Department says job openings rose by 128,000 to 3.68 million. That's the most since June.
The number of available jobs is slowly climbing back to the roughly 4 million that were advertised each month before the recession began in December 2007.
With nearly 12.3 million people unemployed in October, there were 3.3 unemployed people, on average, competing for each open job. That's the lowest ratio since November 2008. Still, in a healthy economy, the ratio is roughly 2 to 1.
Companies kept creating jobs in November at a modest pace. Employers added 146,000 net jobs last month, the government said Friday in a separate report.
- Created on 12 December 2012
(AP) — Sales of dedicated e-reading devices like the black-and-white Kindles are in an "alarmingly precipitous decline" this year after five years of rapid growth, research firm IHS iSuppli says.
Full-blown tablets with color screens are behind the decline, the firm says. Amazon.com Inc. now sells tablets under the Kindle brand, and Barnes & Noble Inc. has added tablets to its Nook e-reader line.
IHS expects shipments of e-readers to fall from 23.2 million last year to 14.1 million this year.
The rapid rise and now rapid decline of e-readers is unusual even for the volatile consumer electronics industry, says IHS analyst Jordan Selburn, but it's indicative of the broader trend of single-purpose devices like e-readers and cameras losing out to general-purpose ones like tablets and smartphones.
- Created on 10 December 2012
KPMG LLP, Mayer-Brown, Northern Trust, and The Chicago Urban League hosted an evening of networking and discussion with prominent African-American executives entitled "Recruiting, Developing, and Retaining the Next Generation of African American Business Leaders".
The event featured a panel discussion moderated by Tyronne Stoudemire, global leader for Community, Diversity and Inclusion AON Hewitt with panelist John W. Rogers, Jr., founder and CEO of Ariel Investments; Patricia (Pat) Harris, global chief diversity officer for McDonald's and retired Chairman, President and CEO of Corn Products Samuel C. Scott III.
The event kicked off with welcome remarks by Andrea Zopp, CEO of the Chicago Urban League, and drew over 400 area executives.