In international route developments, major U.S. carriers this week started service to Havana; Virgin Atlantic expands capacity out of Los Angeles; Qatar Airways will add another U.S. gateway; Norwegian increases service to Paris; two carriers add Vancouver routes to China, and one begins Las Vegas flights; San Francisco gets more capacity to Panama; and a Mexican low-cost carrier starts a Chicago route.
Major U.S. airlines this week are starting their long-planned new service to Havana, Cuba. American Airlines operated the first scheduled flight in 50 years, on its new Miami-Havana route. American also kicked off Havana service from its Charlotte hub this week. United Airlines started flying from its Newark hub to Havana, and this weekend it will add a weekly Saturday flight from Houston Bush Intercontinental to the Cuban capital. Havana became the 100th city on JetBlue’s route map, with the carrier starting service there this week from New York JFK, Orlando and Ft. Lauderdale.
Delta on December 1 is set to begin Havana flights from Atlanta, Miami and New York JFK. And there’s more to come, including Southwest Airlines service to Havana from Tampa and Ft. Lauderdale beginning December 12, and Alaska Airlines’ service from Los Angeles starting January 5. Despite all the hoopla about U.S. airlines returning to Cuba, there is still some uncertainty about whether or not the incoming Trump Administration will allow these flights – and other Obama-initiated liberalizations – to continue. Trump has threatened to end some or all of the new U.S.-Cuba initiatives unless he can get a better “deal” from the Cubans.
Delta SkyMiles members on the west coast will see more capacity to London Heathrow in 2017 as Delta joint venture partner Virgin Atlantic plans to add a third daily Los Angeles-LHR flight starting on May 1. All three of Virgin’s daily LAX-London flights will use three-class 787-9s. The three flights will depart LAX at 5:50 p.m., 6:30 p.m. (the new one) and 8:55 p.m. (Interesting to note that all of Virgin’s SFO-LHR flights are now on 787s, too.)
Qatar Airways, which started service from Doha to three new U.S. cities this year – Atlanta, Boston and Los Angeles – said it plans to add Las Vegas as its 11th U.S. gateway in 2017, although it hasn’t yet announced a starting date or schedule details.
According to Routesonline.com, Norwegian plans to add Orlando-Paris Charles de Gaulle as its newest transatlantic route in 2017, starting service July 31 with one 787 flight a week. The report said Norwegian will also increase capacity on other U.S. routes to Paris at the end of July, boosting Los Angeles-CDG frequencies from two a week to four; New York JFK-CDG from four a week to daily flights; and Ft. Lauderdale-CDG from one to two a week for the summer season.
December 2 is the launch date for Hainan Airlines’ new Las Vegas-Beijing route. The carrier will use a 787 to operate three flights a week. In other China developments, China Eastern Airlines is due to begin a new route between Vancouver and Nanjing three times a week beginning December 20, using an Airbus A330-200; it already flies from Vancouver to Shanghai and Kunming. And Hong Kong Airlines plans to launch daily Hong Kong-Vancouver flights – subject to government approvals – on June 30 as its first North American route.
At San Francisco International, Panama’s Copa Airlines — a Star Alliance member — has added a second daily roundtrip to Panama City with the unfortunate departure time of 12:38 a.m. from SFO. And at Chicago O’Hare, Mexican low-cost carrier Interjet has started flying to Mexico City. The airline is operating two flights a day with 150-seat Airbus A320s.
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