Delta reining it in. The strong dollar is proving a boon for Americans traveling overseas, but not so much for airlines that depend on two-way international traffic. Delta cited “currency headwinds” for its announcement last week that it plans to trim its international capacity by 3 percent overall in its winter schedule. It’s routine for airlines to adjust capacity in the winter, but some of Delta’s cutbacks will be severe, “focused on markets that have been most affected by the strong dollar and markets where demand has been negatively impacted by the decline in oil prices,” the company said. Specifically, in the winter schedule Delta will cut capacity to Japan by 15 to 20 percent; Brazil by 15 percent; Africa, India and the Middle East by 15 to 20 percent; and it will suspend service to Moscow. Domestic capacity, on the other hand, will increase by 2 percent, Delta said.
**TRAVELSKILLS HOUSEKEEPING! We will be updating our format over the next few weeks to make it more easily read on mobile devices. Things could get a little buggy so please bear with us as we make the transition. Thank you, dear readers! We look forward to hearing your feedback when it’s all done.**
Virgin tops quality ratings. For the third year in a row, Virgin America has come out on top of the annual Airline Quality Rating (AQR), a compilation of carrier performance statistics prepared by academics at Wichita State and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. But the report, now in its 25th year, noted that the industry’s overall quality deteriorated last year. The study considers on-time performance, denied boardings, mishandled baggage and customer complaints. The authors question why the air travel experience is getting worse for passengers when the airlines are finally hauling in substantial profits. Hawaiian ranked #2 and Delta, #3. The worst rating went to Envoy, the shrinking American Airlines subsidiary that operates under the American Eagle banner. United was just a few notches from the botton at #9 out of 12. Hmmm. So airline performance is getting worst, yet we are in one of the highest demand periods ever for air travel…what gives? How bad will it have to get before Americans to stop, or at least start cutting back on flying?
Priority Pass losing United. The $399/year Priority Pass is a popular option for travelers who spread their business around and don’t want or need access to a single airline lounge program. It offers access to hundreds of airport lounges around the world. Over the last few years Delta and America quit Priority Pass, and just this week we learned that United Clubs are pulling out, too, starting May 15. (Note: This will not affect those who have Priority Pass “Select” membership via an American Express Platinum card– it did not offer United Club access anyway…)
New Southwest seats. Passengers on Southwest Airlines’ 737-800s in mid-2016 will be the first to experience the airline’s new seats, which will also be installed on its 737 MAX aircraft due for delivery starting in 2017. The company said the seats are lighter than the current versions; come with adjustable headrests; provide more legroom and stowage space; and are “the widest economy seats available” for 737s — more than half an inch wider than current models. However, at least one observer suggested that Southwest’s new seats will become wider by making the armrests narrower, and said the airline would do better for passengers by installing power ports- notably absent on Southwest’s growing number of long haul flights. If the photo above does not do the seats justice, take a look at this video Southwest produced.
Window shade chargers? Why waste all that high-altitude sunlight? According to a report in Australian Business Traveler, engineers at B/E Aerospace have developed a new kind of window shade for commercial aircraft cabins that can be used to charge passengers’ electronic devices. The outside of the shade is covered with a thin film of solar cells, and a USB connection lets passengers plug into the resulting electricity. (Hopefully, powerless Southwest Airlines will get a sales pitch about this…see above.)
An end to middle seat blues? An aircraft seat manufacturer in Northern Ireland has created a new design and configuration for three-across economy seating that could take the pain out of a middle seat assignment. (See lead photo above.) The seats are angled instead of straight across, and a retracting bottom section provides easy access to the inside seats. Thompson Aero Seating’s new Cozy Suite also features seats with curved headrests for easier snoozing in economy and curved armrests with space for two elbows.
Bigger portions, free beer/wine on United. Long-haul international passengers in United’s economy cabins will see an improved food and beverage service this spring, the airline said, including free beer and wine, complementary three-course meals with “more substantial portions,” and a new option to buy “premium snacks.” The new service rolls out June 1 on transatlantic and transpacific flights as well as service to Argentina, Chile and Brazil. Main-course meals include things like turkey meatloaf in barbecue sauce, Tuscan ravioli with red pepper sauce, and udon noodles with stir-fried vegetables. Check out TravelSkills reader reports and comments about United food here.
ANA’s flying billboard. With all the hype surrounding the upcoming release of a new Star Wars movie — e.g., its new trailer drew millions of views within hours of appearing on YouTube — is it any surprise that an airline is jumping on the publicity bandwagon? Japan’s All Nippon Airways said its newest 787-9 Dreamliner is being fitted out with special livery that it calls the R2-D2 design — “the first time a Star Wars character will appear on the exterior of a commercial aircraft,” ANA says. It’s part of a new five-year promotional partnership between ANA and The Walt Disney Company (Japan) Ltd.
Did you miss yesterday’s issue of TravelSkills’ Weekend Edition? Not to worry! Here ’tis:
In Case You Missed It…
- Is United’s food improving? Readers weigh in. (And there are some great comments, too)
- San Francisco’s Mandarin Oriental is upgraded to the new Loews Regency brand.
- Finding new benefits from business travel by using LinkedIn.
- Check out these six new Las Vegas hot spots.
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