After United default, pensions in hot water


After United default, pensions in hot water — The US Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, a government-sponsored safety net for corporate pension benefits, yesterday urged Congress to change the rules that govern its funding as it announced losses that “dwarf anything in its history”. The agency said too many companies were “reneging on promises to workers and retirees and shifting costs” to the PBGC. Failure to strengthen its finances could lead to “unsavory alternatives”, including a possible tax payer-financed bail-out similar to that of the savings and loans industry in the 1980s. (FT)

Is that check-in kiosk for real? — Dust collectors. That is what employees at the Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers call their new automated check-in kiosks, as one guest who has repeatedly tried to use them found. “I was checking in, and try as hard as I might, the kiosk wouldn’t cooperate,” Henry Harteveldt recalled. He flagged down a staff member and said, “This doesn’t seem to work.” “Oh,” she shrugged. “You mean our dust collector? It never works.” (The New York Times)

Tourists stranded after agency goes belly-up — Around 1,000 German holidaymakers were left stranded in Turkey after their travel agency Interflug appeared to have ceased operations, reports said on Monday. German consulate officials said the vast majority of the tourists were staying on at hotels in the Mediterranean resort city of Antalya but that a few had been sleeping at the airport clutching tickets that are now worthless. (Expatica)

Aircraft subsidy dogfight heats up — The European Union was set Tuesday to reopen its legal case against U.S. support for aircraft maker Boeing, a tit-for-tat riposte to Washington’s move against rival Airbus the day before. EU officials said European Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson was expected to announce at a 1 p.m. news conference that the 25-nation bloc would reactivate its litigation at the World Trade Organization (WTO). (Reuters)

Biometric checkpoints to debut in Orlando — Orlando International Airport is poised to become the newest site for the government’s test program for letting trusted travelers zip through security checkpoints. And what happens there will go a long way in determining whether the program goes nationwide. Wednesday, the Orlando airport authority will select a private vendor to sign up travelers, forward their names to the government for vetting and run biometric checkpoints. The program will start this summer. (USA Today)

Why does Hooters fly? Because sex sells — A couple of years ago, Robert H. Brooks, chairman of the Hooters of America restaurant chain, purchased the Winston-Salem-based Pace Airlines. A new airline – named “Hooters Air” – was born, despite pleas from around the world for more creative names for the company, such as “United Areolalines,” “Northchest,” or “Pan Mamm.”(WND)

United Airlines on brink of a strike — United Airlines neared a labor deadline today without a contract agreement with its largest union, running the risk of a threatened strike by 20,000 ground workers. Negotiators for United and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers continued talking by phone, fax and e-mail Monday night to resolve remaining differences over the terms of a new five-year contract. Both sides returned to Chicago but had not met by late Monday, IAM spokesman Joseph Tiberi said. (AP)

Commentary from John Frenaye — I think that there will be a strike. Not so much because they can’t hammer out the deal at the table, but because at this point, the employees just do not care.

In Detroit, false alarms abound — It’s an unsettling sight for passengers landing at Detroit Metro Airport: Fire trucks and ambulances, lights flashing, racing toward the runway. Last year, airport emergency crews scrambled out to meet arriving planes well over 100 times. The number of runs that turned out to be emergencies? Zero. (Detroit News)

New US Airways gets new investor — US Airways has found yet another investor willing to lift it out of bankruptcy and support its planned merger with America West Airlines. Wellington Management Company, a Boston investment fund with $470 billion in assets under management, agreed recently to provide the Arlington, Va.-based airline with an additional $150 million, according to new documents filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Alexandria, Va. (Post-Gazette)

Commentary from Stephanus Surjaputra — What I find amazing about this whole situation is almost everyone is saying that this merger is doomed to failure, yet you have all these companies lining up to assist with financing.

Inept management? Inefficient routes? Must be Air Zimbabwe — Zimbabwe’s government has criticised the cash-strapped national airline for flying unviable routes, including one trip which saw an Air Zimbabwe jet fly 6,000 km (3,728 miles) from Dubai with a solitary passenger aboard. The official Herald newspaper on Monday quoted Transport and Communications Secretary Karikoga Kaseke as saying Air Zimbabwe, struggling with chronic fuel shortages caused by the country’s acute economic crisis, was a victim of ‘inept management’. (Reuters)

Commentary from Christopher Elliott — For a minute there, I thought they were writing about one of our domestic airlines …

United, unions, reach agreement — United Airlines has reached an agreement in principle with the International Association of Machinists, a union representing some of its ground workers, airline and union officials said on Tuesday. The deal puts the No. 2 U.S. airline, a unit of UAL Corp., closer to its goal of achieving $700 million a year in annual labor savings to exit Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. (Reuters)

Correspondents: John Frenaye, Leslie Friedman, Charles Leocha, Mary Staley, Stephanus Surjaputra.