In international route developments, American’s recently-awarded route authority from Los Angeles to Beijing has hit a big snag, and American’s code goes onto a LAX-Paris flight; Qantas and American will try again for antitrust immunity; Virgin Atlantic schedules the deployment of A330s equipped with a new Upper Class; United changes planes on one of its San Francisco-London flights; Air India adds a new U.S. route; and a new company plans luxury small-jet service between New York and London.
Last fall, American won rights to fly from LAX to Beijing, with a start date expected in the first quarter of this year. But now American’s plans are up in the air, with the airline complaining to the Transportation Department that Chinese officials won’t provide takeoff and landing slots at Beijing’s Capital International Airport. It’s not that Chinese authorities tried to stick American with slots in the middle of the night, the carrier said — they wouldn’t give it any slots at all for the LAX flights. American argues that this is in violation of the bilateral agreement between the two countries. Currently, the only airline flying the LAX-Beijing route is Air China, which has three flights a day. American flies to Beijing from DFW and Chicago.
Given all the tough talk from the new Trump Administration toward China, this situation could pose a tough test for newly appointed Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Speaking of the Trump Administration, Qantas and American Airlines seem to think the new regime in Washington might be inclined to reverse the Obama DOT’s recent rejection of the carriers’ joint venture partnership, so they plan to make a new filing for antitrust immunity. But in the meantime, Qantas said it has stopped code-sharing on AA’s Sydney-Los Angeles flights, and that it is adjusting its frequent flyer policy with American “to bring it in line with other Oneworld carriers” starting May 1.
In other news, American has expanded its code-sharing partnership with Air Tahiti Nui, and has put its AA code onto that carrier’s Los Angeles-Paris CDG flights.
Virgin Atlantic is refitting the Upper Class cabins of its 10 Airbus A330s following complaints that the seating layout of the herringbone “Dream Suites” was too cramped. Specifics of the redesign haven’t yet been announced, but Routesonline.com reports that the carrier has started to schedule the rollout of the overhauled A330s. The schedule sets March 27 for the debut of the aircraft on Virgin’s Manchester-San Francisco and Manchester-Boston routes, followed by London Heathrow-Newark, LHR-New York JFK, LHR-Washington Dulles, Manchester-Atlanta and Manchester-JFK on September 1; LHR-Atlanta and another LHR-JFK flight October 30; and LHR-Miami October 31.
While United will continue to operate one of its last 747s on the San Francisco-London Heathrow route through the summer, it has filed plans to change the aircraft on its second flight (the evening departure from SFO, UA930/949) from a 777-200ER to a 787-9 from May 24 through September 5, according to Routesonline.com.
Air India plans a July start for its newest U.S. route, linking Delhi and Washington Dulles. The carrier plans to use a 777 to fly the new route three times a week. Air India already flies to New York, Newark, Chicago and San Francisco.
Bliss Jet, a new company that last year said it would begin offering individually-ticketed private jet flights between the New York area and the U.K., failed to deliver on that plan. But now the carrier is trying again – this time with a new route. Bliss Jet’s original plan called for weekly roundtrip service between New York’s Westchester County Airport and London’s small Biggin Hill Airport. Now the company is planning to start offering private jet charter flights sometime this spring between LaGuardia and London Stansted, using private terminals at both airports. Bliss Jet will sell individual seats on Gulfsteam G450s and G550s with a maximum of 10 seats per flight. Service will operate eastbound on Sundays and westbound on Thursdays. The cost will be a mere $11,995 – each way.