DELTA’S $200 FEE. This morning Delta joined United and US Airways in raising its standard change fee to a painful $200, up from $150. Like the same-day-change policy shift we wrote about last week, this news is particularly painful to business travelers, who are most likely to make ticketing changes. So far, American is the holdout in the move to the $200 fee. And as you may know, Southwest does not charge change fees at all—however, you do have to pay for any difference in price if the fare you booked is no longer available. How do you feel about a $200 fee? Is this enough to force the many Atlanta-based Delta devotees into the arms of Southwest? Please leave your comments below!
GOT PRECHECK? It is becoming even easier to know if you are on the TSA’s A-list. Delta now prints PreCheck notifications on boarding passes picked up at airport kiosks. This means that you’ll know whether or not you are selected before getting to security and waiting (hoping) for those beautiful three beeps. Soon, boarding pass notification of PreCheck status will also be available for mobile boarding passes. You should see it on the same line where your elite status appears– directly underneath your name.
SOUTHWEST FLYERS NEXT IN LINE. Southwest Airlines, the only major airline that does not currently offer PreCheck, is apparently in negotiations with TSA to join in the fun. A Southwest spokesperson told The TICKET: “We are currently reviewing the program and considering participation sometime before the end of year.” Insiders say that it’s not that Southwest does not want to participate, but that its reservations system is not capable of incorporating PreCheck yet. (San Francisco-based Virgin America just announced that it would participate in PreCheck this summer.)
TIGHTER SQUEEZE. Prepare to suck it in a little more when entering an even smaller lavatory aboard Delta’s new Boeing 737-900s pretty soon. Delta will install a new lavatory design that’s so small that it will be able to cram in an extra four seats on each plane. Delta says that much of the space is taken from the wall behind the sink so it will not be as noticeable (was there much space to steal from the bathroom anyway?). Get the hand sanitizer ready!
GETTING FLATTER, FASTER. Delta has really sped up the installation of new flat-bed seating on international aircraft, and the Airbus A330 is the last aircraft type to be retrofitted. Delta inherited these wide-body aircraft in the merger with Northwest, and they all came with angled lie-flat “cocoon” style seat. Soon, all A330s will have 34 new lie-flat seats in a 1-2-1 configuration. Once the retrofit is complete (Delta says summer 2014) , all long-haul aircraft in Delta’s fleet will feature the new flat bed seating with the exception of the B757s flying to Europe on routes including JFK to Reykjavik, Iceland and Malaga, Spain, which have cradle-style seats.
SOUTHWEST SPREADING OUT AT ATL. This from the Dallas Morning News: “Southwest chief executive Gary Kelly said the airline will spread out its daily flight schedule at the Atlanta airport to attract more local travelers instead of those connecting to other cities. The number of daily flights won’t change from 175, he said. With fewer people and bags moving from plane to plane through the Atlanta airport, Southwest won’t need as many ramp and customer service workers, such as ticket and gate agents and baggage handlers.” The result? Southwest will lay off 300 AirTran workers at ATL.
FREE INFLIGHT WI-FI. Blackberry’s doing everything it can to get its hot new Z10 smartphone in the hands of travelers, and its teaming up with Delta to say “thanks” to those who’ve made the big switch. Fire up your browser on your Blackberry inflight, and you’ll enjoy free Gogo wi-fi on all Delta domestic flights through June 30. The promotion is in honor of Blackberry’s new Z10 device, which is on display in various airports around the system including stations in numerous Sky Clubs like New York LaGuardia and Boston. PLEASE take our poll! Which type of smart phone do you carry? (Be sure to click on the “Vote” button below… it may be hard to see)
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SNEAK PEEK AT DELTA’S T4 AT JFK. Delta just released a new video showing progress on its big new hub project at New York-JFK’s Terminal 4. Opening on May 24, the new terminal sports a giant 23,000 square foot Sky Club (See 1:40 in the video). In Manhattan, Delta has opened a new T4X “popup” demo of the new terminal in SoHo, and invites folks to come by for a look-see… and a $4 lunch!
MORE SIZZLE AT SEATTLE HUB. Delta’s and Virgin Atlantic’s plans to institute a joint venture on transatlantic flights is certain to be a boon for all Delta and Virgin flyers. It also brings about the possibility of new routes including a proposed flight between Seattle/Tacoma and London Heathrow. The flight is expected to benefit from the feed from Alaska Airlines codeshare flights and would make Seattle an even more important gateway in the Delta network. Neither Virgin nor Delta currently serves London from Seattle.
DELTA CEO PAY. Delta’s CEO Richard Anderson saw his compensation jump 42% last year — a combination of his long-term incentive pay and the fact that Delta made more money than its peers. His overall compensation rose to almost $12.6 million, up from $8.9 million in 2011, according to an Associated Press calculation based on an SEC filing Tuesday.
GET SHANGHAID. There’s a new way to Shanghai on SkyTeam partner China Eastern via San Francisco. The Airbus A330 departs SFO at 11:30 am and arrives at Shanghai Pudong airport (PVG) the following day at 4 pm. On the return, the flight departs Shanghai at 1 pm and arrives at SFO at 9:30 am. Three days a week, the flight offers continuing service to Wuhan (pop 10 million), a central Chinese city many refer to as “the Chicago of China.” China Eastern offers two types of business class seats on its Airbus A330-200—one type is the angled lie flight, the other is a true lie flat (180 degrees flat). China Eastern’s San Francisco manager Charlie Gu tells The TICKET that the San Francisco flight will always get the newer plane with the true lie-flat seats. Every seat on China Eastern’s A330 (coach and business) has personal seatback entertainment systems and access to AC plugs. China Eastern is the second largest carrier in China (after Air China), and flies a relatively young fleet—with an average age of just seven years. Have you flown or heard much about China Eastern? Please leave your comments below!
MARVELOUS MAKEOVER. In partnership with the city of Los Angeles and Los Angeles World Airports, Terminal 5 at LAX will benefit from $229 million in construction and refurbishment work (expected to take place in phases beginning now through 2015). Ticketing and security screening areas will be expanded and include a separate VIP entrance and SkyPriority check-in lobby similar to that at JFK. The Sky Club will finally receive additional charging stations for passengers needing juice for electronics. There are plans to install a pricey new Luxury Bar replacing the more popular (and cheaper) self-service bar. Other terminal amenities include new baggage carousels and baggage recheck areas for inbound connecting passengers, and a fresh new look and new restaurants and bars that reflect LA’s culture and lifestyle.
TERMINAL F MAKES THE GRADE. The coveted LEED designation has been given to the new international terminal in Atlanta recognizing its environmental design and Earth-friendly production materials. Many features promote sustainability including a water box on the roof that collects rain water for filtering and release to the environment; thermal glazing to prevent loss of heating or cooling through windows; low-flow faucets in bathrooms; energy-efficient lighting, and a strong recycling program. It also includes those new “waterless” (and stinky!) urinals—men, do you know what I’m talking about here? P.U.!
ARE YOU A HAPPY FLYER? Just fiddling around with the new Routehappy website makes us feel happy. Why? After a year of researching, analyzing, and grading aircraft types and amenities, Routehappy applies “happiness factors” most business travelers care about such as seat pitch, width and layout, entertainment, Wi-Fi, in-seat power, plane quality, and trip duration to help you pick the option flight. In addition, it manually gathers complex information about flights from sources like the airline’s website, press releases, staff, industry analysts & influencers, blogs, forums, news stories and reviews from road warriors and “route experts.” It then applies a “happiness score” to each flight to help make the best decision. For example, I’ve always known that Delta’s roomy, jumbo B767 flights between ATL and SFO are much more comfortable than those long, narrow torture tubes known as Boeing 757’s. Routehappy exposes that. This sounded very similar to Hipmunk’s “Agony” index, which uses an algorithm to rank flights based on price, duration and stopovers. Routehappy seems to have taken flight ranking a step beyond that with more robust information that includes human input. Take a look at Routehappy and let us know what you think. Leave your comments below.