Better Virgin seats for Delta Medallions. Remember our I have to sit where? post regarding a reader complaint about Virgin Atlantic’s shabby treatment of Delta elites? Well, it seems that there’s been a policy change. We learned about it from TravelSkills reader SG who wrote: “Virgin Atlantic is now allowing Delta Platinum and Diamond Medallions free access to exit row and their extra legroom seats. I learned this this morning when I spoke to a Virgin Atlantic agent who helped me over the telephone. The only reason I know this is because I tried to choose my seats on their website for a March flight to LHR and I was unable to do so and I reached out to them over the phone. If you decide to dig into this let me know what you learn, as I am surprised that I would not have known this without asking.” So of course, we dug into it and here’s what a Virgin spokesperson told TravelSkills: “That’s correct, Delta Diamond and Platinum Medallions are entitled to assign an Exit or Extra Legroom seat free of charge from day of booking, for themselves only. This is the same for Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Gold Members.”
Statistics guru tackles flight delays. Nate Silver, the statistical analyst who rose to prominence by correctly predicting election results when he worked for the New York Times, has set his sights on air travel delays. Silver’s website (fivethirtyeight.com) has a new interactive feature that tells travelers the odds of delays on any given route, based on historical statistics from airlines and airports. Silver notes that 54 percent of U.S. flights arrive ahead of schedule, but there is considerable variation among delayed flights — e.g., Silver ranked Virgin America as the fastest airline for shaving seven minutes off “a typical flight relative to other airlines” in the past year; United ranked last on that list, with an average six minutes longer than competitors.
AA will merge mileage programs soon. American Airlines told its frequent flyers that it will fully integrate US Airways’ Dividend Miles program into its own AAdvantage plan within 30 days. Once the programs are combined, “we’ll begin transferring your Dividend Miles mileage balance, Preferred‑qualifying activity and million mile balance into your AAdvantage account on a one‑to‑one ratio,” AA said. “We’ll determine your elite status level by looking at your combined elite‑qualifying activity for 2014, and separately, your combined 2015 year‑to‑date elite‑qualifying activity.” If you have accounts in both programs, American wants you to let it know by March 20 and has compiled an online guide to how you should proceed.
Lufthansa expands premium economy. Now that Lufthansa has installed premium economy seating on all of its 747-8s and 13 Airbus A340s, it has started adding the new cabin class to its Airbus A380s. The first premium economy-equipped A380 flew between Houston and Frankfurt last week and will enter continuous service on that route April 9. Another overhauled A380 goes onto the Los Angeles-Frankfurt route at the end of March, and premium economy should be available on all Lufthansa’s A380 routes — including San Francisco — by April 22. The premium economy seats offer 50 percent more legroom and upgraded in-flight services and amenities, and purchasers can check two bags for free.
Alaska adds East Coast routes. The next step in the escalating competition between Alaska Airlines and Delta at Seattle will come September 16, when Alaska plans to launch daily service between SEA and New York JFK, Delta’s transatlantic hub. It will be only one flight a day in a market dominated by Delta, but it sends a message. Meanwhile, last week Alaska kicked off new daily roundtrips between Seattle and United’s hub at Washington Dulles — the only one of the three D.C.-area airports not served by Alaska. In other news, Alaska filed for government approval to fly from California’s Orange County Airport to Puerto Vallarta three times a week and to Los Cabos four times a week.
Delta shrinks again at Cincinnati. At the peak of its Delta hub status, Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky offered almost 700 Delta flights a day; since then, the airline has gradually but steadily reduced its presence at CVG, and with a new round of cuts coming in the months ahead, it will be down to less than 100 flights a day. That includes the elimination of service to Madison, San Diego, New Orleans and Jacksonville, and reduction of frequencies in a number of key business markets. By this summer, Delta will be flying to 36 cities from Cincinnati.
New 787 routes from Etihad, AeroMexico. Etihad Airways, which has been using an Airbus A340 on its two-year-old Abu Dhabi-Washington Dulles route, will replace it March 15 with a new 787-9 Dreamliner. The carrier said it’s the U.S. debut for its “next generation first, business and economy class products,” with eight suites in first, 28 “Business Studios” and 199 coach seats. … AeroMexico said it will put a new 787-8 into service beginning April 5 on four flights a week between Mexico City and Los Angeles.
Uber is back at Austin: We just learned from TravelSkills reader TK that Uber is now back in the good graces of Austin Bergstrom Airport and will be allowed to operate temporarily for SXSW. An airport release states: “Transportation Network Companies Lyft and Uber are permitted to provide on-demand transportation services at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport on a temporary basis. The ridesharing companies have reached an agreement with the City of Austin, Department of Aviation to operate at the airport for a temporary period, not to exceed 45 days, until a long-term agreement can be reached between parties.”
Did you miss yesterday’s issue of our Weekend Edition? No probs! Here ya go:
United schedule changes + Easy 1,000 HHonors points + Virgin 2-4-1 + New United gates + Lyft beats Uber
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