Delta's new $200 fee + PreCheck at kiosk + More flat seats + Routehappy

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!

Business class on Delta's A330s (Photo: Delta)

Business class on Delta’s A330s (Photo: Delta)

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.

A China Eastern A330 at the gate at SFO (Photo: Peter Biaggi)

A China Eastern A330 at the gate at SFO (Photo: Peter Biaggi)

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.!

Screen shot 2013-04-29 at 9.41.54 AMARE 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.

Chris McGinnis


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  • Robert

    I thought the restrooms in the F concourse are some of the best. I feel like I am walking into a truck stop when I use the other ones (Even in the Sky Clubs). After the “great drought” a few years back I think they reduced the water per flush down to a tablespoon and set the units to flush every 15 mins. At least the water-less ones have a industrial grade air freshener in them.

    This is also the restroom that is closest to the Varsity!! … What a cruel joke we play on our international travelers here.

  • JK

    More good news on Pre-Check in Atlanta. This morning, Tues May 7th, a new Pre-Check line has opened on the North Terminal side (“blue” side). I was the second person through. Hosannas for those of us who park on that side of the Terminal. JK, Atlanta

  • Patrick

    I have flown China Eastern multiple times over the past 10 years, including this past March. It is suitable as a SkyTeam partner and very well connected for connecting inner China and Taiwan flights. The “Westernization” of the airline has been slow, however, as the quality of the customer service and inflight amenities (food, entertainment, information) are just below par compared to a DL, and nothing near approaching SQ, Korean or other high-flyers.

  • Bob Sabin

    I’ve had PreCheck status for about 6 months now and love it. BUT I’ve noticed over the past two months a dramatic increase in the number of folks using it. Still faster than regular TSA cavity search, but I can see a slow down already. I’ve never not had clearance in the 15 – 20 trips I’ve made.

  • Laing

    I have been a TranHead for some time and with their Elite I have often taken advantage of no fee same day change. My trip this week to Detroit had me upgraded to Business (both ways) with my Elite status and Business not selling out. What I find disconcerting about the impending Southwest takeover is their schedules…Atlanta to Ft. Lauderdale with Southwest has you going to BWI first then Ft. Lauderdale. When I was booking a flight today to Boston in late May on the AirTran website, it listed Southwest flights. One of those was SEVEN HOURS from ATL to Boston with layovers. Other Southwest flights had 4 hour layovers. I certainly hope that Southwest is not going to have me spending all day to get somewhere then all day to get back. That only leaves two days for work!

  • RM

    I just got smacked with this $200 fee today on Delta. Yet another pleasure of business travel. Annoying and frustrating – like my salt laden, processed, $10 sandwich off the cart. Maybe they will use the extra money to clean the plane.

  • mblanos

    I once only flew Delta when I lived in Atlanta, the along came ValueJet, now AirTran/Southwest Air Lines. I enjoy the flights on AirTran and initially, the cost savings over Delta, but in the past Decade, Delta has fallen sharply from the elite domestic to alarmingly rude, uncaring, and having zero customer support services for economy fliers like me. I now NEVER FLY DELTA! They have lost a customer for life. I still like AirTran, United/Continental, and Virgin America the best for domestic travel. All others, as far as I am concerned, can (and probably will) go out of business.

  • PSAtlanta

    I flew from ATL to PDX last week and Precheck was printed on my ticket. I found out there is now a separate new line back at the main security for Precheck and it was a breeze. Should I assume that this line will be permanent at ATL?

  • hometoitaly

    I dont fly much any more because i dislike to pay to be miserable. If i can drive there in less than 15 hrs, i drive. but what sticker shock when i rebooked a ticked i has to suspend during hurricane sandy (10/12), to GET TO THE AIRPORT on delta cost $400.00 1/2 the cost to Europe on Virgin. and a shout out to Virgin, they worked very hard to rebook my seat with minimal cost….after 30 years with delta, i am going back to driving. The final injury: Delta would ONLY sell middle seats. they should pay ME to sit in the middle. so now they lots more money for the ceo

  • ljrichards

    I tried to make a change on an international routing (HKG-NRT-DTW) and was quoted a USD400 change fee, for a fare difference of USD60. OUCH!

  • Jon

    I for one am happy to pay $200 to change and $50 for same day standby if that’s what it takes to make sure Richard Anderson gets his $12+ million pay check.

  • The Investment Coach

    The $200 change fee on Delta just adds to an already “rip off” fee. But will I go to Southwest? No, because I am a Gold Medallion and like the perks, so Delta has me where they want me. I would not put up with the Southwest cattle call for seats. As a Gold Medallion at least I can book Economy comfort at no extra cost and that is a good deal.

  • Routehappy

    Hi Julie, I’m John, Routehappy’s director of data. One of the reasons we created Routehappy is to fix this problem of not knowing what you’re going to get on board!

    Did you know Delta has nine different types of 757? It’s pretty complicated, but we think we’ve figured out which routes most of ’em fly on.

    On your flight — — we show exactly what you’ll find. Sorry that it’s not a flat bed…but good news, Delta have plans to install them over the next couple years.

    In the meantime, Routehappy will point you to the happiest flight on your route. I hope you enjoy Dublin, though!

  • Julie

    We are flying JFK to Dublin in a few weeks, booked in business class using our Delta Skymiles (100,000 points per ticket, which is steep). I was dismayed to discover after we booked that we will be flying in a 757, only 16 seats in business, no flat recline. ATL to DUB on a 767 was significantly more miles or not available when we booked. The flight is less than 7 hours, however, I am MAD that I used precious Skymiles for business class and will be crammed into a 757. The whole point of business class is to sleep while flying over the pond and arrive somewhat refreshed at 9:00 a.m. local, even though its middle of the night EST. Without the flat seat this is not possible. Delta should not use 757s for international travel.

  • Chris McGinnis

    Hey Mike: Sorry bout that. Inserting it now.

  • Mike Ellsworth

    Ok, so… Windows Phone may have a small footprint in this world, but it is larger than Blackberries footprint so at least include it in your survey’s! As a business phone it is far more on par with Blackberry than Android or IOS.