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New York (AirGuide - Airline In-Flight Services News) Apr 28, 2013

Rush to help airlines, travelers could crack open U.S. budget door Congress got rid of a headache on Friday when it rescued the flying public from flight delays caused by its budget cutting. But in the view of many U.S. lawmakers, the pain is just about to begin. Members of Congress and groups representing people hit by across-the-board budget cuts, ranging from cancer patients to welfare recipients, say the quick action on air traffic control staffing underscored the importance of being visible to millions of Americans. "What are we going to do, every time there's a fire we're going to put it out by moving some funds around? That's a shell game," said Representative Gerald Connolly, a Democrat from northern Virginia. "I'm going to predict that there's going to be more weeping and gnashing of teeth, as sequestration sets in and we're going to continue to approach this on a piecemeal basis," he said. Next in line for individual funding relief will be advocates for national parks, low-income housing, AIDS funding, meals on wheels and Community Development Block Grants, Connolly said, adding that budget cuts for these and other safety-net services will be felt severely by local communities. Representatives for some of these other programs said it was the television images of lines in airports and the interviews with angry passengers that led to action, combined with the lobbying power of the travel industry. "It means we worry about who's going to scream the loudest now," said Chris Hansen, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, which has been lobbying against cuts in federal funding of medical research. A heavy dose of lobbying from the airline and travel industry preceded the legislation enacted Friday, which permitted the Federal Aviation Administration to move money to avoid the furloughs of air traffic controllers that were causing the delays. Sequestration - the $109 billion in automatic across-the-board budget cuts enacted by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama - formally took effect in March and barring Congressional action to replace it may continue for a decade. Some programs won relief from Congress in March, notably the meat and poultry industry, which fought successfully to prevent furloughs of U.S. Department of Agriculture meat inspectors. But because the furloughs in other programs, such as the FAA, were not immediately implemented, the impact was slow to build. TRAVEL LOBBY The travel industry began to accelerate its lobbying effort after it learned early last week from the FAA that as many as 6,700 flights per day could be delayed, potentially reducing capacity at major airports by 30 to 40 percent. Nicholas Calio, president of Airlines for America, or A4A, the main airlines industry group, worked the phones throughout the week, said Jean Medina, senior vice president for communications at A4A. "He certainly was in very close contact with a lot of people to make sure they understood what needed to happen," she said. Its first course of action was to ask the administration for a 30-day delay. When that was denied, the industry group began focusing on a legislative fix that would clear both houses with bipartisan support and be signed into law by Obama. US Airways Chief Executive Doug Parker, who would head the world's largest airline if his carrier's merger with AMR Corp's American Airlines is approved, said he spent the past week making calls to government officials in his airline's hub markets to express concern about the furloughs. "What I know is we're doing great disservice to the flying public and to the citizens of the United States and we need for this to get resolved," Parker told Reuters from Arizona earlier this week. The non-profit U.S. Travel Association said it mounted its own "sequester offensive" in response to the furloughs and began a consumer texting campaign that connected travelers who had been delayed at airports to members of Congress. The association also asked industry workers to contact their representatives in Congress to explain that the travel delays put their jobs at risk. "We were in frequent contact with Congress urging them to solve this problem as soon as possible," Erik Hansen, director of domestic policy at the U.S. Travel Association, said on Friday. "We were able to generate hundreds of calls and emails to Congress and we're hoping that helped to move the ball forward," Hansen said. VISIBILITY Airlines for America reported about $6.3 million in lobbying expenses in 2012 according to the Center for Responsive Politics; the U.S. Travel Association spent about $1.7 million; US Airways and Delta about $2.8 million each. While other interest groups have a lobbying presence in the national capital, they are hard pressed to match the visibility of air travel. Compared to "longer lines at airports," said Cynthia Pellegrini, a vice president at the March of Dimes, which raises funds to improve the health of mothers and babies, "you can't see that a child's belly is emptier because her family couldn't get food assistance." "We are not as well-heeled as the travel industry," said Deborah Weinstein, executive director of the Coalition on Human Needs, an alliance of social welfare organizations. "But I think as more people learn of this appalling choice," that Congress made on Friday, "they will get as mad as I am." Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, home to a major Delta Air Lines hub in Minneapolis, was among the members backing an FAA budget fix on Thursday when the Senate passed it. She called it a "practical, pragmatic answer to an immediate problem," but acknowledged that it does nothing to get Congress closer to fixing the problems caused by sequestration. More effects of the cuts, demonstrated dramatically to the public, could do that, she added. She may not have long to wait. Organizations that have been more quietly protesting the budget cuts were rethinking their strategy on Friday in the wake of Congress' action. "It is inexplicable why proven and effective Meals on Wheels programs get overlooked from exemption from the sequester when both the business and social case exists," said Ellie Hollander, President and CEO of Meals on Wheels Association of America. "I guess that's because we need to be a different kind of squeaky wheel." Apr 26, 2013

Routehappy Launch Helps Flyers Find The Happiest Flight For The Lowest Price, Revealing Hidden Details About Flight Experience For The First Time Routehappy (routehappy.com) launches today, with the mission to help people fly better for less. For the first time, flyers can quickly and easily find flights with more comfortable seats on better planes with the amenities they care about. The industry's first "Happiness Factors" and "Happiness Scores" are Routehappy's secret sauce. Routehappy ranks billions of flights and connections worldwide, which are then matched with a powerful low fare search engine. Scores and prices are presented side-by-side for a fresh new approach to flight search. Routehappy's team of Flight Geniuses spent over a year researching, analyzing, and grading aircraft types, seats, amenities and trip duration to engineer its signature Happiness Scores based on the Happiness Factors flyers care about most. Routehappy presents more flight details than any other source. Flight data includes seat size (pitch and width), business and first class seat types, seat layout, entertainment, Wi-Fi, in-seat power, plane quality, trip duration and more. "Flight search today is almost entirely about price and schedule. But there's a wide range of other factors that matter when people buy flights," said Robert Albert, Founder & CEO of Routehappy. "Routehappy's unique default Happiness sort makes it easy for flyers to see the happiest flight on every route. Consumers who want the best bang for their buck can now easily book flights on new planes, with more legroom, wider seats and better on-board amenities." Now Every Flyer Has Access To Expert Knowledge When Booking Flights Routehappy offers unique Happiness Factors flyers won't find anywhere else, explaining each one with expert tips from our team of Flight Geniuses. Flyers can filter results by Happiness Factors including:

Nicer aircraft: highlighting the most and the least comfortable planes, including better regional jets and the most modern, spacious aircraft loaded with features. Seat: 25+ types analyzed by legroom, width and style, revealing roomier economy seats, plus the full range of premium seats, including recliner, angled and full flat pod. Seat layout: 55+ variations show flights with fewer people per row and the lowest number of middle seats: including planes that have nine versus 10 seats across in the same space. Entertainment: 20+ types, from overhead monitors to full on demand in-seat video, plus the very latest in "Netflix on a plane" streaming to your own device. In-seat power: nearly a dozen kinds, from adapter-required to plugs + USB.

Wi-Fi: the most comprehensive and updated source for Wi-Fi availability on flights, including rapidly expanding international coverage. Flyer ratings: real flyer ratings, reviews, tips and pictures for airlines & airports worldwide. Routehappy Uses Big Data to Solve a Big Problem For Flyers and Airlines Airlines are investing millions of dollars upgrading planes and airports with new amenities and services, yet online travel agencies and other metasearch sites do not reveal the many product differences among flights, causing flyers to focus on price and schedule alone. Routehappy is solving this industry problem with big data. Routehappy's team of airline and data experts manually gathers disparate product information about flights from hundreds of sources, including airline websites, airline press releases, airline staff, industry analysts and experts, blogs, forums, news stories...

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