SC business notebook, May 17

May 17, 2013 

American Airlines tries to speed up boarding

In a quest to speed up the boarding process, American Airlines is letting passengers board sooner if they travel lightly. The airline said Thursday that people carrying just a personal item that fits under the seat – no rolling suitcases – will be allowed to board before most other passengers. American said that the change will allow flights to take off sooner, helping the airline improve its on-time performance. Airline officials say boarding times have increased in the last few years. The airlines have created this problem by cutting back flights, which makes planes more crowded, and also charging fees for checking baggage, which encourages passengers to haul their luggage on board. The result can be sharp-elbowed competition for scarce bin space that leads to short tempers among passengers and flight attendants.

Duke Energy’s nuclear plant near Raleigh shut down

A nuclear plant near North Carolina’s capital city was shut down after operators reviewing ultrasonic tests from last year found the results showed tiny marks of corrosion and cracking that need repair, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said. Operators at the Shearon Harris plant on Wednesday found a quarter-inch flaw in the covering of the reactor vessel, which contains superheated steam produced by the nuclear reaction’s energy. The crack did not penetrate the vessel head and there is no evidence of radiation leakage, an NRC incident report said. The discovery did not affect the health and safety of employees or the public at the New Hill plant, federal regulators said. NRC inspectors will want to ask plant owner Duke Energy Corp. – which acquired the 26-year-old plant through its buyout last year of Progress Energy – why the testing performed during a spring refueling outage last year didn’t find the problem, agency spokesman Roger Hannah said Thursday. Spokesmen for Charlotte-based Duke Energy said it would evaluate why the problem was missed last year. Data from last year’s test were being reviewed ahead of an upcoming planned refueling outage.

Markets fall on disappointing news

Signs of a slowing economy combined with comments from a Federal Reserve official helped pull the stock market down Thursday. There was plenty of discouraging news. Applications for unemployment benefits rose last week and manufacturing slowed in the mid-Atlantic region. Wal-Mart sank after warning that its customers were spending less at its stores. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 42.47 points to 15,233.22, a loss of 0.3 percent. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index dropped 8.31 points to 1,650.47, down 0.5 percent. It was only the third drop for the S&P 500 this month. Both indexes closed at record highs the day before.

The Associated Press contributed.

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