NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. airlines are saving tens of millions of dollars every week because of lower prices for jet fuel, their largest expense. So why don't they share some of the savings with passengers? Simply put: Airlines have no compelling reason to offer any breaks. Planes are full. Investors want a payout. And new planes are on order. In fact, fares are going higher. And those bag fees that airlines instituted in 2008 when fuel prices spiked aren't going away either. In the 12 months ended in September, U.S. airlines saved $1.6 billion on jet fuel. That helped them post a 5.7 percent profit margin in the first three quarters of this year, robust for the industry but lagging behind the 10 percent average for the Standard & Poor's 500. In the past six years, airlines have done a great job of adjusting the number of flights to fall just short of demand. As a result, those who want to fly will pay a premium to do so. Airlines are selling a record 85.1 percent of their domestic seats. Thanks to several mega-mergers, four big airlines control the vast majority of flights, leaving very little room for another airline to undercut fares. With that in mind, here's a closer look at what's going on with airfare and the price of jet fuel: — The average domestic airline ticket during the first nine months of this year rose 3.1 percent to $374.96, according to an Associated Press analysis of data from the Airlines Reporting Corp., which processes ticket transactions for airlines and travel agencies. That figure doesn't include another $56.32 in taxes and fees that passengers pay. — In the 12-month period ending in September, U.S. airlines burned through nearly 16.2 billion gallons of fuel. They paid an average of $2.97 a gallon — down from $3.07 the prior year, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. That 10-cent drop saved the industry $1.6 billion. Fuel prices have since fallen further. United Airlines estimates it will pay $2.76 to $2.81 a gallon during the last three months of the year. — Put another way: U.S. airlines burn through 311 million gallons of fuel in a week. Lower fuel prices are saving them $31 million a week. — Granted, with 751 million passengers carried last year that averages out to a savings of $2.15 for each leg of a trip a passenger takes: $4.30 on a roundtrip non-stop ticket or $8.61 on a roundtrip connecting itinerary. — Fuel accounts for 34 percent of an airline's operating costs. The non-fuel costs include salaries and benefits, lease payments on airplanes, maintenance and fees for landing at airports. That doesn't include the cost of reservation systems, marketing or food and drinks. — Airlines are also reinvesting in their planes, airport terminals and computers. In the first nine months of this year, U.S. carriers spent $10.2 billion on capital improvements, according to the industry's trade and lobbying group, Airlines for America. That more than $1 billion a month, the highest pace since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. — Airlines are on the largest jet-buying spree in the history of aviation, ordering more than 10,000 new planes with manufacturers Airbus and Boeing in the past five years. Those orders are for new, fuel efficient planes. A temporary drop in oil prices shouldn't slow that process. New jets last 15 to 20 years and the buying is driven by cheap credit almost as much as high oil prices. — Money is also going back to investors. American Airlines this year paid its first dividend in 34 years, while Delta Air Lines restored its payout last year. Southwest Airlines, which has paid one for more than 37 years, boosted its payout by 50 percent this spring. The airlines are all also buying back large amounts of their own stock. — Airlines responded to high fuel prices by limiting the number of flights, giving them the power to charge higher fares. Now, Wall Street analysts are worried that lower oil prices are causing them to recklessly add new routes or extra flights where profits aren't guaranteed. Hunter Keay, an analyst with Wolfe Research, recently wrote in a note to investors that the beauty of high oil prices is that they "force airlines to make hard choices that are almost always good for the long term investability of the space, mainly around capacity decisions and fees." __ Scott Mayerowitz can be reached at http://twitter.com/GlobeTrotScott.
ATLANTA – Oct. 2, 2014 – Saving money and energy couldn’t be easier this weekend, Oct. 3-5, during Georgia’s annual sales tax holiday featuring energy efficient ENERGY STAR products, as well as water-efficient WaterSense products. Throughout the weekend and across the state, shoppers who make a qualifying purchase are exempt from paying state and local sales tax on a number of household items such as appliances, compact fluorescent light bulbs, doors/windows and thermostats.
A large crowd gathered recently for the grand opening of the Cherokee County Democratic Headquarters at 150C East Main St. in Centre.
A new roof for the detention center, additional personnel and more. Those were some of the budgetary needs for the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office as outlined by Sheriff Jeff Shaver and Chief Corrections Officer Harley Lamey as the county approaches fiscal year 2014-2015.
The Utilities Board of the Town of Cedar Bluff met on August 19, 2014 with all members present.
The Cherokee County Commission met on Monday, Aug. 11, 2014 with a planning session at 9 a.m. with all Commissioners present.
Local residents are reminded that Cherokee County’s Second Annual Agricultural Fair is scheduled for this Friday and Saturday, Aug. 15-16, on the campus of Gadsden State Community College-Cherokee.
Regional Medical Center, a 276-bed hospital in Anniston, plans to sever its contract with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama over how much money Blue Cross reimburses the hospital, according to the Anniston Star.
The Cherokee County Commission recently joined Coast2CoastRxCard in a press conference to announce the county’s participation in a program that could result in significant health care savings for local residents.
The town Council of Cedar Bluff met on Monday, July 14, 2014 at 5:30 pm with all Council members present except Council Member Letha Harp.
Newnan, GA – Axiom Laboratories, a subsidiary of Axiom Nutraceuticals, announced it has acquired Metaugus, Inc., a supplement manufacturing facility located in Cedartown.
The Centre City Council is considering giving financial assistance to NAMI-Centre to assist with its ongoing education and support programs.
The Alabama District Attorneys Association recently held its annual 2014 Summer Conference where it selected its “District Attorney of the Year.” The Brad Morris Memorial District Attorney of the Year Award is a prestigious honor of distinction in the field of prosecution and is voted on by ones professional peers. This year’s award recipient is Mike O’Dell, the District Attorney of Cherokee and DeKalb Counties.
DETROIT (AP) — The ignition switch recalls now engulfing General Motors and Chrysler are raising new questions about the safety of the parts across the American auto industry.
GM's safety crisis deepened dramatically Monday when the automaker added 8.2 million vehicles in North America to its ballooning list of cars recalled over faulty ignition switches. GM has now issued five recalls for 17.1 million cars with defective switches, spanning every model year since 1997.
On the same day, Chrysler recalled almost 700,000 vehicles in North America because its ignition switches — like GM's — can slip from the "run" to the "accessory" position while driving. The Chrysler action expands an earlier recall of 2010 Chrysler Town and Country and Dodge Grand Caravan minivans and Dodge Journey crossovers. Models from 2007 to 2009 are now included.
GM's debacle caused other manufacturers to investigate their own switches and other potential defects. A recent spate of air bag recalls is probably tied to those internal investigations, said Karl Brauer, a senior industry analyst with Kelley Blue Book.
The government is also reviewing the switches.
Brauer said he does not think the ignition switch recalls will expand across the industry. Manufacturers all have their own switch designs and use different suppliers.
But the possibility is there, and buyers should be aware of the potential for cars to slip into the wrong mode. If a car comes out of the "run" position, the power steering and brakes can stop working, which can cause drivers to lose control. The air bags also won't function. GM has urged drivers to remove excess items from their key chains that could weigh down the keys.
"I think the ignition switch thing is fairly specific to GM, but it will be interesting to see. Were other companies letting their standards fall?" Brauer said.
GM's latest recalls involve mainly older midsize cars and bring its total recalls in North America to 29 million this year, surpassing the 22 million recalled by all automakers last year.
The new GM recalls cover seven vehicles, including the Chevrolet Malibu from 1997 to 2005, the Pontiac Grand Prix from 2004 to 2008, and the 2003-2014 Cadillac CTS.
The company is aware of three deaths, eight injuries and seven crashes involving the vehicles, although it says there's no clear evidence that faulty switches caused the accidents. Air bags did not deploy in the three fatal accidents, which is a sign that the ignition was out of position. But air bags may not deploy for other reasons as well.
A GM spokesman could not say Monday if more recalls are imminent. But this may be the end of the recalls associated with a 60-day review of all of the company's ignition switches. At the company's annual meeting earlier in June, CEO Mary Barra said she hoped most recalls related to that review would be completed by the end of the month.
Brauer said the number of recalls — while huge — may be a good thing for the company in the long run.
"I think there's a new standard for what GM considers a potential safety defect, and Mary Barra has no tolerance or patience for potential safety defects that are unresolved," he said.
In a statement Monday, Barra said the company "will act appropriately and without hesitation" if any new issues come to light.
Lance Cooper, a Marietta, Georgia, attorney who is suing GM, said he expects even more recalls. A company funded investigation of the ignition switch problems by former U.S. Attorney Anton Valukas found that GM had a dysfunctional corporate culture in which people failed to take responsibility to fix the problems, Cooper said.
"Cars got made that were defective. The buck kept getting passed, and this is what happened as a result," Cooper said.
The announcement of more recalls extends a crisis for GM that began in February with small-car ignition switch problems. GM recalled 2.6 million older small cars worldwide because of the switches.
The problem has drawn the attention of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the government's road safety agency. On June 18, the agency opened two investigations into ignition switches in Chrysler minivans and SUVs, and acknowledged that it's looking at the whole industry.
The agency is looking into how long air bags remain active after the switches are moved out of the run position. In many cases, the answer is less than a second.
GM's recalls on Monday bring this year's total so far to more than 40 million for the U.S. industry, far surpassing the old full-year record of 30.8 million from 2004.
The latest recalls came the same day the company's compensation consultant, Kenneth Feinberg, announced plans to pay victims of crashes caused by the defective small-car switches. Attorneys and lawmakers say about 100 people have died and hundreds were injured in crashes, although Feinberg said he didn't have a total.
Feinberg said the company has placed no limit on how much he can spend in total to compensate victims. But victims of the new set of recalls announced Monday can't file claims to the fund, which deals only with the small cars.
In the original recall, the ignition switches did not meet GM's specifications but were used anyway, and they slipped too easily out of the "run" position.
The vehicles recalled Monday have switches that do conform to GM's specifications. In these cases, the keys can move the ignition out of position because of jarring, bumps from the driver's knee or the weight of a heavy key chain, GM says. The cars recalled Monday will get replacement keys. The small cars recalled in February are getting new ignitions.
The Detroit company said it plans to take a $1.2 billion charge in the second quarter for recall-related expenses. Added to a $1.3 billion charge in the first quarter, that brings total recall expenses for the year to $2.5 billion.
GM also announced four other recalls Monday covering more than 200,000 additional vehicles. Most are to fix an electrical short in the driver's door that could disable the power locks and windows and even cause overheating.
GM has announced 54 separate recalls this year. The company's stock fell 32 cents, or just under 1 percent, to close Monday at $36.30.
A citizen and former educator recently thanked the Cherokee County Commission for putting the renewal of the 1 cents sales tax for education on the ballot for the July 15 runoff election.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court says corporations can hold religious objections that allow them to opt out of the new health law requirement that they cover contraceptives for women.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court says public sector unions can't collect fees from home health care workers who object to being affiliated with a union.
The justices on Monday said collecting the fees violates the First Amendment rights of workers who are not union members.
The ruling is a financial blow to labor unions that have bolstered their ranks in Illinois and other states by signing up hundreds of thousands of home health care workers.
The case was brought by a group of Illinois in-home care workers who said they didn't want to pay fees related to collective bargaining. They claimed the "fair share fees" violate their constitutional rights by compelling them to associate with the union.
Lower courts had thrown out the lawsuit.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that a startup Internet company has to pay broadcasters when it takes television programs from the airwaves and allows subscribers to watch them on smartphones and other portable devices.
While many doctors want to specialize these days, at least one future physician has his heart set on family practice medicine.
The Cherokee County Herald’s Shannon Fagan took home five awards from the 2014 Alabama Sports Writers 43rd Annual Convention held Sunday, June 8 in Troy, Ala.
Citizens are reminded that the 2014 Cherokee County Relay for Life event is this Friday, June 13, beginning at 6 p.m. in the Cherokee County High School Warrior Football Stadium.