Routes: SFO, LAX, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Miami, Newark, JFK

United is boosting capacity on its new route from SFO to Auckland. (Image:

United is boosting capacity on its new route from SFO to Auckland. (Image: Aucklandnz.com)

In the latest international route news, United boosts capacity on a new transpacific route out of San Francisco but drops a transatlantic route; a Chinese carrier starts new flights to Los Angeles; Chicago O’Hare gets a new route to Taiwan; low-cost Icelandic carrier WOW adds another U.S. gateway; KLM revives Miami flights; and Delta resumes service to a Canadian destination.

United Airlines just started its San Francisco-Auckland service in early July (after a 13-year hiatus), but now the New Zealand Herald reports that the airline is increasing capacity on the route. It said United has boosted flight frequencies between SFO-Auckland from five a week to daily service, and has also switched out the 787-8 it was using on the route to a larger 777. SFO-AKL fares are currently in the $1,000 roundtrip range, but occasionally dip slightly below that.

Across the Atlantic, meanwhile, United plans to drop its current service linking Newark with Belfast, Northern Ireland effective January 9. Why? Because the subsidy paid to United over the last three years ran out. The cancellation has caused much consternation as it was the only nonstop link between Northern Ireland and the US.

At Los Angeles International, Chinese carrier Sichuan Airlines is due to start new service on December 6 to Jinan, with continuing same-plane service to Chengdu. The carrier will use an Airbus A330-200 for the service, which will operate twice a week, according to Routesonline.com. News of the new route comes just a couple of weeks after Sichuan Airlines, with little fanfare, kicked off its first U.S. route; in mid-October it started flying, also twice a week with an A330, from LAX to Hangzhou with continuing service to Chengdu.

EVA's "Hello Kitty" 777-300ER now flies between Houton and Taipei. (Image: EVA)

One of EVA’s  777-300ERs  has “Hello, Kitty” livery. (Image: EVA)

Taiwan’s EVA Air last week started flying between Taipei and Chicago O’Hare, operating four flights a week with a 777-300ER. EVA offers extensive connections beyond Taipei to other Asian destinations, including 27 cities in mainland China. EVA also flies to New York, San Francisco, Houston, Los Angeles, Seattle, Toronto and Vancouver.

Wow Air, Iceland’s fast-growing low-cost airline, will add yet another U.S. gateway on June 17, when it begins service from Pittsburgh International to its hub at Reykjavik’s Keflavik Airport with an Airbus A321. The carrier will offer fares starting as low as $99 each way to Iceland, with connecting service starting at $149 each way to European destinations including Paris, London, Frankfurt and others – plus add-on ancillary fees, of course.

WOW Air

Wow Air will use a narrow-body for new Pittsburgh service. (Photo: WOW Air)

KLM, which dropped service to Miami in 2011, started it up again last week. The Dutch airline is offering three flights a week (Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays) from Miami to Amsterdam Schiphol using an Airbus A330-200. The seasonal service will continue through June 2017.

Delta Air Lines will revive service from its New York JFK hub to Halifax, Nova Scotia, effective January 9. The carrier said it will use a 76-seat CRJ-900 on the route, offering first class, Comfort+ and regular economy seating.

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Deal Alert: Transcon fares plummet in December

Smaller airlines are concerned that they can't gain access to New York's airports. (Image: Jim Glab)

Low fares but high hotel prices in NYC this December (Image: Jim Glab)

Looking for a nice, easy trip during one of the slowest travel periods of the year? Maybe you are taking a mileage run? Then take a look at these fares for transcontinental trips (East, West coasts & Florida) during the first two weeks of December. 

Starting on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving (Nov 29) and running up until the Christmas holiday peak, fares are just $267 round trip on all carriers flying between San Francisco and New York City.

Fares are slightly higher at around $285 round trip between Los Angeles LAX and New York City, too. Any time I see a California-New York nonstops drop below $300 I know I’ve got a great deal on my hands.

And it’s not just California– lowest fares are running at about $282 between Seattle and New York, too on Delta, Alaska and JetBlue.

Google flights for trips Dec 5-Dec 12

Google Flights for SFO-JFK trips Dec 5-Dec 12

Caveat: Early December may be a cheap time to fly to NYC, but it’s not a cheap time to stay in a hotel there… those first few weeks of December when the first flurries fall and 5th Avenue gets all decked out in holiday splendor are super expensive at hotels. On early December weekends it’s tough to find a decent hotel for less than $500 per night. But everyone has a friend with a sofa-bed in NYC to stay with, right? 🙂

And for New Yorkers headed west, December is a fabulous and festive time to be in Wine Country. And in LA and SoCal, you can still go to the beach.

Delta SkyClub

Fly California to Atlanta to see Delta’s new Sky Club on Concourse B for less than $300 round trip (Photo: Chris Rank, Rank Studios)

SFO-Atlanta is super cheap in December, too. I’m looking at just $248 round trip on United’s ATL-SFO nonstops. Delta’s are higher, but still a bargain at about $313. If you are willing to chance it with Frontier on ATL-SFO, you can go for $197 roundtrip, but you’ll pay dearly for extras like checked bags.

And hold on… are you ready for it? You can fly nonstop between LAX and Atlanta during December for just $192 roundtrip on American! Delta is slightly higher at around $260 round trip.

screen-shot-2016-11-02-at-4-07-59-pm

Super low fares on ATL-LAX in December! Source: Google Flights

From LAX there’s even more! Check Google flights on LAX-Ft Lauderdale or LAX-Orlando and you’ll find roundtrip fares in the $200 (or less!) range. Vamos! 

NOTE: These fares are available on Google Flights Wednesday, Nov 2 and subject to change.

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Routes: Delta, ANA, Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, JetBlue, Alaska

Delta and ANA have shifted routes from Narita to Tokyo's close-in Haneda Airport. (Image: Haneda Airport)

Delta and ANA have shifted routes from Narita to Tokyo’s close-in Haneda Airport. (Image: Haneda Airport)

In international route news, Delta shifts a pair of Tokyo routes to a new airport and ANA does the same; Delta and Virgin Atlantic expand code-sharing to India with Jet Airways, and Delta drops a couple of Italy routes; British Airways adds a U.S. gateway – but not from Heathrow; JetBlue sets the launch dates for its new Havana service; and Alaska postpones the start of its new Cuba route.

New rights to fly to/from Tokyo’s close-in Haneda Airport took effect over the past weekend, resulting in some route changes at Delta and at Japan’s All Nippon Airways. Delta has started its new nonstops from Minneapolis-St. Paul to Tokyo Haneda, which replaces its MSP-Narita service; Delta also shifted its Los Angeles-Tokyo flights from Narita to Haneda (and earlier this month, Delta dropped its New York JFK-Narita route as well). Delta still flies to Narita from Seattle, Portland, Detroit and Atlanta.

ANA, meanwhile, has shifted its New York JFK and Chicago O’Hare routes from Tokyo Narita to Haneda.

Delta's code-sharing with India's Jet Airways is expanding to London and to Virgin Atlantic. (Image: delta)

Delta’s code-sharing with India’s Jet Airways is expanding to London and to Virgin Atlantic. (Image: Delta)

Across the Atlantic, Delta and partner Virgin Atlantic announced an expansion of Delta’s code-sharing partnership with India’s Jet Airways, which is currently available for connections to India via Paris and Amsterdam. Starting November 2, passengers on Delta and Virgin Atlantic flights into London Heathrow will be able to connect onto Delta code-shares operated by Jet Airways to Mumbai and Delhi, and beyond to 20 domestic destinations in India.

In other transatlantic news, for 2017 Delta will no longer offer summer seasonal service from Minneapolis-St. Paul to Rome or from New York JFK to Pisa; both routes had been planned to launch May 25. And to South America, Delta has just switched aircraft on its Atlanta-Buenos Aires route from a 767 to an A330-300, providing a 20 percent increase in the number of seats it flies.

British Airways next summer will add a new Florida route. The carrier said that starting July 6, it will fly to Ft. Lauderdale four days a week during summer and three days a week the rest of the year. But it will fly the route out of London Gatwick, not Heathrow. BA will use a 777-200 on the route, which will be its fourth into Florida.

Havana

Refrigerator magnets from a recent trip to Havana (Chris McGinnis)

JetBlue is the latest U.S. carrier to announce the starting dates for new service into Havana. JetBlue, which won rights for three routes into the Cuban capital, said it will begin daily roundtrips out of its New York JFK base on November 28; daily flights from Orlando on November 29; and daily service out of Ft. Lauderdale starting November 30 (increasing to twice a day December 1)

Alaska Airlines, meanwhile, has pushed back the start of its single new Havana route. The carrier had planned to start Los Angeles-Havana service on November 29, but now won’t begin flying the route until January 5.

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Routes: SFO, LAX, DFW, New Orleans, Orange County, Miami, JFK, Houston

An Etihad Boeing 777-3FX (Photo: Etihad)

Etihad will shrink its San Francisco schedule and increase DFW service. (Photo: Etihad)

In international route news, Etihad will trim its San Francisco schedule and grow at Dallas, but WOW Air will increase service at SFO and Los Angeles; British Airways adds a new U.S. gateway; Southwest drops a Mexico route out of southern California; and Mexico’s Volaris adds more U.S. service.

Two years ago, Etihad Airways added San Francisco to its route map with daily flights to its Abu Dhabi base using a Jet Airways B777 and prompting “Jetihad” snickers. Etihad finally deployed its own metal on the route earlier this year, but now Routesonline.com reports that Etihad plans to cut its schedule by more than half. Effective next February 1, Etihad is due to reduce SFO service from seven flights a week to just three – and that is expected to continue into next summer. Then on February 2, Etihad will boost its Dallas/Ft. Worth-Abu Dhabi schedule from the current three flights a week to daily service, noting that traffic on that two-year-old route has “exceeded expectations.”

Skúli Mogensen, the founder and CEO of WOW Air (Photo: WOW Air)

Skúli Mogensen, the founder and CEO of WOW Air (Photo: WOW Air)

While Etihad cuts back west coast service, ultra-low-cost Icelandic carrier WOW Air will grow. Last June, the company started operating five flights a week from San Francisco to Reykjavik, and four a week from Los Angeles. But on March 26, WOW will increase its schedule to daily flights from both west coast cities – with one-way fares starting as low as $99 (plus heavy-duty fees, of course). WOW operates single-class A330-300s, although it does offer some extra-legroom seats for an extra charge.

On March 26, British Airways will begin flying a transatlantic route that currently has no non-stop service: New Orleans to London Heathrow. BA will fly the route on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays with a three-class 787-8 and a 9:10 p.m. eastbound departure.  The carrier said roundtrip fares will start at $734 in economy and $2,145 in Club World business class (based on current exchange rates).

British Airways will use a Dreamliner on its new route to New Orleans. (Image: British Airways)

British Airways will use a Dreamliner on its new route to New Orleans. (Image: British Airways)

Southwest Airlines flyers in southern California’s Orange County will have to find another way to get to Mexico City after January 4. That’s the date when Southwest is due to discontinue its daily 737 flights between John Wayne Airport and the Mexican capital.

Mexico’s low-cost Volaris just keeps expanding its transborder network. According to Routesonline.com, the carrier has plans to bring on four new U.S. routes this winter. On February 1, Volaris will begin daily service between Miami and Mexico City, along with four flights a week linking Miami with Guadalajara. Then on March 1, it will add daily flights from Mexico City to New York JFK and four a week between Mexico City and Houston. Just this month it added nonstops between SFO and Mexico City.

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Routes: Airberlin to SFO, LAX; Emirates, Lufthansa, Etihad, Southwest

Airberlin will add Berlin service from San Francisco and Los Angeles. (Image: Airberlin)

Airberlin will add Berlin service from San Francisco and Los Angeles. (Image: Airberlin)

In international route news, Airberlin plans a big increase in U.S. service for 2017, including new flights from Berlin to San Francisco and Los Angeles; Emirates adds another U.S. gateway starting in December; Lufthansa will add more capacity out of Denver; Etihad will more than double frequencies out of Dallas/Ft. Worth; and Southwest sets the starting date for its new Havana service.

Airberlin, which started new routes this year from Dusseldorf to San Francisco and Boston, will increase frequencies in those markets for 2017 and will also add more new U.S. routes including San Francisco-Berlin, Los Angeles-Berlin and Orlando-Dusseldorf. The company said its current U.S. operation will have up to 50 percent more flights when its 2017 summer schedule kicks in during May.

Among the changes: San Francisco-Dusseldorf service will increase from the current five weekly flights to daily service, and so will the current four flights a week between Boston and Dusseldorf. New service to Berlin’s Tegel Airport will include four weekly flights from SFO and three a week from Los Angeles. The new Florida route will bring five flights a week between Orlando and Dusseldorf; the carrier already flies to Miami and Ft. Myers. Airberlin said it is getting three more A330-200s to handle its increased U.S. schedules.

Emirates will use a 777 on its new Ft. Lauderdale route. (Image: Emirates)

Emirates will use a 777 on its new Ft. Lauderdale route. (Image: Emirates)

Emirates has announced a December 15 start for service to its 11th U.S. destination. The carrier will begin daily flights from Ft. Lauderdale to its Dubai base using a three-class 777-200LR. Emirates already flies to Orlando, a route it launched last year. The new Ft. Lauderdale service will benefit from Emirates’ code-share partnership with JetBlue, which has a hub at that Florida airport.

Lufthansa sees room for growth on its Denver-Munich route, which began earlier this year, so the carrier said it will boost frequencies on March 26 from the current five flights a week to daily departures, using a 255-seat A330-300. “Preliminary data show that for the first summer of service, the number of people traveling between Denver and Munich has increased by nearly 50 percent,” a Denver Airport spokesperson said, adding that the top connecting markets for Denver-Munich passengers include Budapest, Prague, Krakow and Kiev. Lufthansa also flies from Denver to Frankfurt.

Etihad will boost frequencies out of Dallas/Ft. Worth (Photo: Etihad)

Etihad will boost frequencies out of Dallas/Ft. Worth (Photo: Etihad)

Finding more traffic than it initially expected on its almost two-year-old route between Dallas/Ft. Worth and Abu Dhabi, Etihad Airways plans to boost service from the current three flights a week to seven effective February 2. The carrier will continue to use a 777-200LR on the route. Etihad offers connections to 100 destinations from its Abu Dhabi hub, and also offers American travelers pre-screening by U.S. Customs and Border protection at that airport.

Southwest is the latest U.S. carrier to announce a starting date for its new rights to serve Havana, Cuba. The company said that on December 12, subject to Cuban government approval, it will begin flying to Havana from both Ft. Lauderdale and Tampa. (Southwest also set a November 13 inaugural date for flights from Ft. Lauderdale to the Cuban beach resort of Varadero.) The carrier is offering introductory Havana fares starting at $59 each way for purchase through November 20. Southwest set up a web page at www.Southwest.com/Cuba with details of the requirements for travel to Cuba and its flight schedules.

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New California routes: Southwest, AA, Delta, JetSuiteX, Mokulele + more

Southwest will add two more California routes in March. (Image: jim Glab)

Southwest will add two more California routes in March. (Image: Jim Glab)

In domestic route news, much of the action is in California, including a pair of new Southwest routes, new American flights from northern California and LAX, a new Delta market from Los Angeles, and new intrastate service from JetSuite and a small Hawaiian carrier; meanwhile, Alaska upgrades its equipment on two California routes.

Southwest Airlines, which has focused much if its recent growth on California, plans to add another pair of routes there. The carrier said that beginning March 9, it will start new service to Salt Lake City from both Sacramento and Burbank. Southwest is offering introductory fares starting at $59 one-way for booking through October 20.

American will begin Phoenix flights from Santa Rosa's Charles M. Schultz Airport. (Image: Charles M. Schultz Airport)

American will begin Phoenix flights from Santa Rosa’s Charles M. Schultz Airport. (Image: Charles M. Schultz Airport)

On February 16, American Eagle/SkyWest will kick off new daily non-stops between Sonoma County’s Charles M. Schulz Airport in Santa Rosa and AA’s Phoenix hub. The carrier will use a CRJ-700 on the route. Elsewhere in California, American plans to initiate summer seasonal service next year from Los Angeles International to Grand Junction, Colorado. The flights will operate from June 3 through August 19, also with an American Eagle/SkyWest CRJ-700.

Outside of California, American will begin new regional jet service on February 16 from Phoenix to Bullhead City, Arizona; and AA this month began American Eagle/Envoy Air flights twice a day from its Chicago O’Hare hub to Akron/Canton.

As we mentioned the other day in a post about the expansion of lie-flat premium seats on transcontinental routes, Delta plans to launch new service on April 24 between LAX and Washington D.C.’s close-in Reagan National Airport, using a 757-200 equipped with fully-flat seats in the front cabin. At the same time, Delta will drop one of its two daily Salt Lake City-DCA flights, replacing it with a Salt Lake-Washington Dulles service.

This Phenom 100 jet from JetSuite seats six (JetSuite)

A Phenom 100 jet from JetSuite (JetSuite)

JetSuiteX, which offers small-plane public charters within California, will begin new service October 17 between San Jose and McClellan-Palomar Airport in Carlsbad, north of San Diego. The company will use a four-seat Phenom 100 to fly the route four times a week, on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. On the same day, JetSuiteX will boost frequencies between San Jose and Burbank to two flights a day– and currently flights from both Concord and San Jose to Burbank are on sale for just $59 each way (for November trips) and that includes checked bags and wi-fi.

Following United’s recent decision to stop flying between San Francisco and Santa Maria, California, that town just got new service from an unlikely source: Hawaii-based Mokulele Airlines. The carrier is flying four times a day between Santa Maria and Terminal 6 at Los Angeles International Airport using nine-passenger Cessna Grand Caravan turboprops.

In nearby Santa Barbara, meanwhile, Alaska Airlines has started to use new 76-passenger Embraer 175s on its routes to Seattle and Portland, replacing 70-passenger CRJ-700s. The new planes have first class, Preferred Plus and regular coach seating, and are equipped with Wi-Fi service.

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Gorgeous new hotels: New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Maui, Buffalo

The impressive lobby of the new Four Seasons New York Downtown (Image: Four Seasons)

The impressive lobby of the new Four Seasons New York Downtown (Image: Four Seasons)

In domestic hotel developments, Four Seasons adds a second Manhattan location; the hotel closest to Los Angeles International Airport gets a makeover and rebranding; Hilton adds a DoubleTree in South Beach; Marriott Rewards members get a new option in Maui; and Starwood opens a Westin in the heart of New York State’s second-largest city.

At TravelSkills, we love NEW hotels– don’t miss our archive of the best of this beautiful new bunch here

Four Seasons Hotels, which has had a flagship property in midtown Manhattan for many years, has now opened a downtown location in the Big Apple. Located at 27 Barclay Street, at the corner of Church Street, The Four Seasons New York Downtown is close to the new World Trade Center and a block from City Hall Park. The property has 189 rooms and suites ranging from 400 to 2,400 square feet, and is home to the first Wolfgang Puck restaurant in Manhattan, called CUT. The hotel has a spa, an indoor lap pool and a 6,000 square foot fitness center. The building housing the hotel also has 157 Four Seasons private residences from one to five bedrooms, with access to hotel facilities. Rates begin at $629.

A refurbished suite at the Hyatt Regency at LAX (Image: Hyatt)

A refurbished suite at the Hyatt Regency at LAX (Image: Hyatt)

The Concourse Hotel, a block from Los Angeles International Airport at 6225 West Century Blvd., was already a Hyatt affiliate, but now the 580-room property is getting a $75 million overhaul and has been rebranded as the Hyatt Regency Los Angeles International Airport. The work should be finished in a few months, equipping all guest rooms with the Hyatt Grand Bed, wall-mounted 55-inch TVs with HDMI streaming, free high-speed Wi-Fi, and rain shower heads in the bathrooms. The redesigned lobby will feature a pair of new eateries: Open Market, with grab-and-go sandwiches, salads, soup, noodles, pastries and Illy coffee; and an all-day dining option called Unity LA. Free shuttles for guests depart to LAX every 10 minutes. Rates start around $186 for Gold Passport members.

Hilton's new DoubleTree in Miami's South Beach (Image: DoubleTree)

Hilton’s new DoubleTree in Miami’s South Beach (Image: DoubleTree)

What was once the 1954 Ankara Motel in Miami’s popular South Beach has been rebuilt and is now the newly opened Gates Hotel South Beach-A DoubleTree by Hilton. Located at 2360 Collins Avenue, the 235-room property is a walk away from Ocean Drive and the area’s dining and nightlife options. The hotel has a lobby bar that exits to an outdoor pool with solar-powered device charging stations. There’s a restaurant called The Continental; free Wi-Fi throughout the property; 24-hour business center and fitness center; guest bicycles; and free transportation to the beach. Rates start at $122.

The pool at Marriott's new Residence inn in Maui (Image: Marriott)

The pool at Marriott’s new Residence Inn in Maui (Image: Marriott)

Marriott Rewards members looking to redeem points for a Hawaii vacation have a new option: the newly-built, newly-opened Residence Inn by Marriott Maui Wailea. The all-suite property has studio, one-, and two-bedroom units with fully equipped kitchens and balconies. Recreational facilities include an outdoor pool and hot tub, putting green and basketball court. Guests get free hot breakfasts, grocery delivery service, and access to a fitness center, Wi-Fi, 24-hour grab-and-go market, and a business center. The hotel is located close to a shopping center, beaches, golf courses and a tennis club. Rates begin at $269.

Buffalo's new Westin is in the heart of downtown. (Image: Westin)

Buffalo’s new Westin is in the heart of downtown. (Image: Westin)

Got business in Buffalo? As part of an ongoing revival of the city’s downtown, Starwood Hotels has opened the newly-built Westin Buffalo at 250 Delaware Avenue, in the midst of the business and entertainment districts. All 116 rooms and suites have the signature Westin Heavenly Bed and Shower. The Westin offers 7,300 square feet of meeting space and a pair of dining venues: a signature restaurant called Patina 250 and the casual bistro-style Jake’s Café. Guests can take advantage of the WestinWORKOUT fitness center, and can borrow workout gear from New Balance or bicycles from the local Reddy Bikeshare program. Rates start at $166.

At TravelSkills, we love NEW hotels– don’t miss our archive of the best of this beautiful new bunch here

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Routes: LOT at LAX, AA seats, KLM popup, 2 new US cities for Icelandair

LOT Polish will use a 787 for new Los Angeles service in 2017. (Image: LOT Polish)

LOT Polish will use a 787 for new Los Angeles service in 2017. (Image: LOT Polish)

In international route news, LOT Polish Airlines will begin new service to Los Angeles and Newark; American Airlines officially launches its new international premium economy class in a few weeks; British Airways drops a Philadelphia flight but American adds one; KLM will fly to Minneapolis-St. Paul and offers San Franciscans a 787 sneak peek; and Icelandair plans to open up two more U.S. gateways.

LOT Polish Airlines will kick off the first non-stop service between the West Coast and Poland on April 3, 2017 when it begins service between Los Angeles International and Warsaw. LOT will fly the LAX route four times a week using a 787-8 Dreamliner. Also in April, the Polish carrier will resume service from Warsaw to Newark Liberty International, a hub for its Star Alliance partner United.  The Newark flights will begin April 28, initially operating three times a week with a leased 767-300ER, but switching to a 787 in August. With the addition of Newark flights, LOT will trim its 2017 summer schedule out of New York JFK from 12 flights a week to nine.

American's new Premium Economy section will have leather seats in a 2-3-2 layout. (Image: American Airlines)

American’s new Premium Economy section will have leather seats in a 2-3-2 layout. (Image: American Airlines)

When American Airlines puts its new 787-9s into international service next month, they’ll come equipped with the carrier’s new premium economy cabin – a first for U.S. airlines on international routes.  The first flights to offer the premium cabin will be from Dallas/Ft. Worth to Sao Paulo on November 3 and from DFW to Madrid on November 4. The premium economy service is in addition to (and priced higher than) the airline’s extra-legroom seating in the regular economy cabin. Premium economy seats have a 38-inch pitch, greater width than regular economy, adjustable headrests and footrests, larger video screens, noise-reducing headphones, free drinks and more.

British Airways’ longstanding Philadelphia schedule of two daily flights to London Heathrow will change in March 2017 when it drops one of them – the 10 p.m. departure. But joint venture partner American Airlines will pick up the slack, boosting its own PHL-LHR schedule from one flight a day to two.

Delta’s transatlantic joint venture partner KLM plans to kick off service on March 27 from Delta’s Minneapolis-St. Paul hub to Amsterdam using an Airbus A330 for three flights a week (Monday, Wednesday, Saturday). It hasn’t flown the MSP-Amsterdam route for 15 years, according to Airlineroute.com. Delta serves the route with two to three flights a day. Elsewhere, KLM is about to resume Miami service, as previously announced. October 30 is the launch date for the carrier’s three weekly flights from MIA to Amsterdam, which will continue through March 23 with a two-class A330.

KLM 787

Business class seats on KLM’s 787 Dreamliner (Photo: KLM)

In San Francisco, meanwhile, KLM is inviting travelers to visit a Pop-Up location that the carrier will open at Union Square (445A Sutter Street) October 14 to 22, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Pop-Up’s purpose is to promote KLM’s 787 Dreamliner, which it put onto its SFO route a few months ago. Visitors can experience the airline’s World Business Class and a virtual reality simulation of the 787, and will get a chance to win free tickets to Amsterdam.

Icelandair will expand its U.S. network in 2017 with the addition of two new gateways. The carrier will begin seasonal summer service to Reykjavik from Philadelphia four days a week beginning May 30, along with year-round flights from Tampa twice a week starting September 6. Also for the 2017 summer season, Icelandair will boost Denver-Reykjavik service from seven to nine weekly flights from June 1 through mid-September; and will increase its Portland schedule from three a week to four on May 20, adding a fifth weekly flight June 14 through August 31.

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Airlines start rolling out Havana schedules, fares

Cuba cars

Vintage cars serve as tourist taxis in Havana’s Plaza de la Revolucion (Chris McGinnis)

One Caribbean capital is about to experience what could be the biggest influx of new airline service from the U.S. of all times. In early July, the Transportation Department approved routes to Havana, Cuba for several U.S. airlines. Those route awards were finalized in late August, and airlines have started to announce their inaugural service dates for late fall and winter. Some are still subject to Cuban government approvals.

Alaska Airlines, which will have the only non-stop service to Havana from the West Coast, has set a January 5 start for its new Los Angeles-Havana flights, which will depart LAX at 8:50 a.m. The flight will originate in Seattle. Roundtrip fares from LAX start at $490.

Because the purpose of a traveler’s visit must fall within one of a dozen specific categories, and other formalities and requirements must be met, Alaska has posted  a handy blog page with details for customers to know before they book their flight. Alaska said it is working with Cuba Travel Services to help customers obtain visas, accommodations and ground transportation at the destination.

Here is a link to the U.S. government’s official restrictions on travel to Cuba; scroll down to Page 10 to find specifics of the 12 categories of travel.

Havana nonstops

Nonstops to Havana from U.S. airlines. (Image: Great Circle Mapper)

Delta has targeted December 1 for the launch of daily flights to Havana from Miami and New York JFK along with one-stop service from Atlanta. For travel in February, we found roundtrip fares starting at $200 from Miami, $410 from JFK and $452 from Atlanta.

United Airlines has set a November 29 start for daily non-stops from Newark to Havana, followed on December 3 by weekly Saturday service from Houston Bush Intercontinental to the Cuban capital. Fares in January start at $413 roundtrip from Newark and $513 from Houston.

November 30 is the target date for American Airlines’ new daily flight to Havana from its Charlotte hub. American was also awarded rights for four daily roundtrips from Miami, although it hasn’t yet announced a starting date for those. January roundtrip fares start at $421 from Charlotte.

Shave in Cuba

Chris getting a shave in Cienfuegos, Cuba in May 2016

Frontier Airlines on December 1 is expected to start daily service from Miami to Havana, and will offer connections to that flight from Denver and Las Vegas.

Other new Havana routes expected to start in the next few months include JetBlue service from JFK, Ft. Lauderdale and Orlando; Southwest Airlines flights from Ft. Lauderdale and Tampa; and Spirit Airlines from Ft. Lauderdale. Several airlines have already started or are about to launch service on routes to secondary cities and beach resorts in Cuba; those routes were awarded earlier.

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Routes: New JetBlue transcon + more Mint, Delta, OneJet, United, AA

JetBlue will add Los Angeles-Orlando flights. (Image: Jim Glab)

JetBlue will add Los Angeles-Orlando flights. (Image: Jim Glab)

In domestic route news, JetBlue announced a new transcontinental route out of Los Angeles and has scheduled more transcon Mint service; Delta Connection starts using new jets on the West Coast and wants more; small-plane OneJet adds another Pittsburgh route; United expands Puerto Rico capacity with big jets; and American adds a New England route out of LaGuardia.

JetBlue has announced a January 5 start for new transcontinental service between Los Angeles and Orlando, operating one daily A320 roundtrip (the eastbound segment will be a redeye). That will give the airline a total of 17 daily departures at LAX, including service to all four of its focus cities in the northeast and Florida. Meanwhile, JetBlue said the next expansion of its premium-cabin Mint service will come on May 15, when it will introduce Mint on both of its daily flights between San Francisco and Ft. Lauderdale. Mint is already slated to debut on JetBlue’s LAX-Ft. Lauderdale flights on March 20. In other news, JetBlue said it is expanding its partnership with Cape Air, putting its B6 code onto the latter’s flights from Boston and San Juan to small airports in the northeast and in the Caribbean.

Delta Connection/SkyWest is putting upgraded E175s into West Coast service. (Image: delta)

Delta Connection/SkyWest is putting upgraded E175s into West Coast service. (Image: delta)

Delta Connection partner SkyWest has started flying the first of several new, upgraded Embraer 175s for Delta on the West Coast. SkyWest will be getting 19 of the new jets, to be used mainly as Delta Connection aircraft on the latter’s West Coast Shuttle routes linking Seattle, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The 76-seat E175s offer in-seat power outlets, seats similar to those on Delta mainline flights, faster Wi-Fi and ambient lighting. “This brand new E175 comes with all the trim and finishes of a mainline aircraft on a plane with 76 seats,” a Delta official said. “We designed the interior of this aircraft, in cooperation with SkyWest Airlines and Embraer, for a consistent brand experience.”

Meanwhile, Bloomberg News reports this week that Delta wants to buy up to 50 new aircraft in the 70- to 76-seat range, part of a continuing effort to replace smaller 50-seat planes in its regional fleet. The report noted that over the past three years, Delta has eliminated half of the 309 50-seat jets in its Delta Connection fleet. The big hurdle for the new planes: Delta must obtain the approval of its pilots’ union, which has veto power over any plan for new, larger regional aircraft to be flown by Delta’s partner carriers instead of Delta itself.

OneJet uses small Hawker 400XPs on short-haul routes. (Image: OneJet)

OneJet uses small Hawker 400XPs on short-haul routes. (Image: OneJet)

OneJet, a small but growing operator that specializes in “nonstop travel in small and medium size markets, at relatively low cost,” will add new service between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati on October 19, with two flights a day. The carrier has been growing at PIT, where it also offers flights to Hartford, Indianapolis, Louisville and Milwaukee. The company uses small Hawker 400XP jets and concentrates on underserved markets of less than 700 miles.

United Airlines said it will give a big capacity boost to its route between Newark Liberty International and San Juan, Puerto Rico this winter. The carrier plans to increase its EWR-San Juan schedule from one flight a week to six – using a 344-passenger 777.

American Airlines will expand its presence at Burlington, Vermont on December 15, launching a new daily flight to New York LaGuardia and a second daily flight to its Charlotte hub.

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Routes: Finnair to SFO, Delta, Virgin Australia, Austrian, AA, SAS + more

Finnair will use an A330 on its San Francisco route. (Image: Finnair)

Finnair will use an A330 on its San Francisco route. (Image: Finnair)

In international route news, Finnair will add San Francisco service next year; Delta expands sales of Comfort+ seats and Caribbean code-sharing, Virgin Australia will revive Melbourne service, Austrian Airlines is coming to Los Angeles, American suspends some Europe flights, SAS comes to Miami Aer Lingus adds a pair of gateways, United code-shares to India, and a Mexican carrier adds three U.S. routes.

Finland’s national carrier is coming to San Francisco next year. Finnair said it will operate seasonal SFO-Helsinki flights three times a week (Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays) from June 1 through September 30, using an A330. The new service will be a part of the transatlantic joint venture that includes Oneworld partners American, British Airways and Iberia as well as Finnair. “Thanks to Helsinki’s geographical location, Finnair’s new northern route to San Francisco will offer competitive travel times for customers from Scandinavia, the Baltics, Russia as well as from many European cities,” a spokesperson said. Finnair currently flies to New York, Chicago and Miami. At first glance, SFO-HEL roundtrip economy fares appear to be in the steep $1,900 range, but we’ll be on the lookout for lower introductory promo fares.

Delta said it has expanded the sale of its extra-legroom Comfort+ economy seating to a number of international routes, including: from the U.S. and Canada to Latin America and the Caribbean (except Brazil, Argentina, Peru and Chile); between North America and Asia-Pacific destinations (except China and Hong Kong); and on flights within the Asia-Pacific region (except China and Hong Kong). Last fall, Delta created a new fare category for Comfort+ and started selling it for travel within the U.S. and Canada. Meanwhile, Delta has expanded its agreement with Caribbean-based Seaborne Airlines to allow single-ticketing for connections through San Juan to St. Croix, Anguilla and Beef Island in the British Virgin Islands; and between St. Thomas and St. Croix.

The new business class on a Virgin Australia 777-300. (Image: Virgin Australia)

The new business class on a Virgin Australia 777-300. (Image: Virgin Australia)

Virgin Australia has set a launch date of April 4, 2017 for a revival of service between Los Angeles and Melbourne. On the same date, it will trim LAX-Brisbane schedules from seven flights a week to six. The carrier also flies from LAX to Sydney. Its transpacific operations are part of a joint venture with Delta. Virgin said it will fly the LAX-Melbourne route five times a week (no westbound departures on Wednesdays or Mondays), using a 777-300ER.

Los Angeles will get another new international route beginning April 10, 2017, when Austrian Airlines plans to launch up to six flights a week between LAX and Vienna, using a 777.  The 12 and a half hour seasonal flight will depart Los Angeles daily except Sundays at 3:05 p.m. Austrian, a part of the Lufthansa Group, also flies to New York JFK, Newark, Chicago, Washington D.C. and Miami.

American Airlines plans to cut back its international schedule out of Philadelphia. After ending its Philadelphia-Brussels service last month, American now says its seasonal PHL-Zurich service, which ends September 30, will not be revived next year; and its year-round PHL-Frankfurt flights will now operate seasonally, with no service from October 30 through April 5. AA also plans to drop its twice-weekly Philadelphia-Halifax flights in January.  Elsewhere, American will suspend Chicago O’Hare-Paris CDG flights from December 5 through December 13, and from January 10 to March 25; and its New York JFK-Manchester flights from January 9 through March 29.

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On September 28, SAS is introducing new non-stop service from Miami International to Copenhagen and Oslo. The carrier will offer flights to Copenhagen on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays; and to Oslo on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

Aer Lingus is adding two U.S. routes this month. (Image: Aer Lingus)

Aer Lingus is adding two U.S. routes this month. (Image: Aer Lingus)

Aer Lingus this month introduced new daily year-round service between Dublin and Newark Liberty International, using an Airbus A330. And on September 28, the Irish carrier is slated to inaugurate a new route linking Hartford, Connecticut with Dublin, operating four days a week (Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Friday) with a 757.

United flyers will get a new option for travel from the West Coast to India next month. United is putting its code onto Star Alliance partner Air Canada’s new Vancouver-Delhi seasonal service, which will operate from October 20 through April 6.

Mexican low-cost carrier Interjet will expand its transborder network this fall with a trio of new U.S. routes. On October 20, it will inaugurate twice-daily service between Mexico City and Los Angeles, followed on November 10 by a daily Las Vegas-Mexico City roundtrip and on November 17 by two daily Mexico City-Chicago O’Hare flights. The airline will use Airbus A320s for all the flights.

Don’t miss out on these popular TravelSkills posts! Shocked passenger refuses to pay $3 for water | More Delta SkyMiles for Asian tripsTips from a Hawaiian Vacation | JetBlue-Delta slugfest means lower fares | Test your planespotting skills! )

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5 airports with best/worst cell phone reception

Southwest at Oakland

A study finds Oakland International has the nation’s best cell phone service. (Image: Oakland Airport)

Although Los Angeles International is one of the busiest airports in the nation, a new study of cell phone service quality at the 50 top U.S. airports in passenger volume finds that LAX ranks dead last. By contrast, Oakland International ranked number one. (See rankings below)

When it comes to carriers, Verizon ranked highest, AT&T came in second. T-Mobile ranked third and Sprint came in last place.

RootMetrics collected data on data speeds and connection reliability for the four major network carriers (Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T and Sprint) by sending testers equipped with off-the-shelf smartphones to all 50 airports. Results vary not only by airport, but by carrier as well, so the company compiles overall composite scores for each facility.

The company carries out these surveys twice a year, and the results show significant changes. For instance, in the second half of 2015, Oakland ranked 33rd overall and now ranks first. Milwaukee’s General Mitchell Airport jumped from 16th place last year to second place today, and California’s Orange County Airport rose from 35th to fourth place in the rankings.

BEST

Cell phone reception

And Los Angeles? “Due to very slow speeds and shaky reliability, LAX has routinely appeared in the bottom five. This time, LAX placed dead last for the same reasons. It’s not necessarily a surprise, though, given the fastest median download speed we recorded at LAX was 88.0 Mbps slower than that of our #1 finisher,” RootMetrics said.

What does that difference mean in practical terms? Say you want to download an HD episode of a 45-minute TV program, which takes up 600 MB. RootMetrics said that if you were at Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson (which ranked sixth overall) and used AT&T (with a median download speed of 40.4 Mbps at that airport), it would take 2.0 minutes. By contrast, a Verizon user at LAX (median download speed 0.5 Mbps) would take more than two and a half hours to do the same thing.

You can read the full report here, including a comparison of the overall performance of the four network carriers; the full rankings of all 50 airports; and an interactive feature that lets you compare median download speeds and connectivity rates for the four carriers at Atlanta, Los Angeles, Chicago O’Hare, Dallas/Ft. Worth and New York JFK.

Airports in the top 10 in addition to those mentioned above include Southwest Florida International in Ft. Myers (3rd), Boston Logan (5th), Indianapolis (7th), Sacramento (8th), Dallas Love Field (9th) and Chicago Midway (10th).  Among very large airports, Newark was in 11th place, O’Hare 14th, San Francisco 19th, Miami 24th, DFW 25th, JFK 29th, and LaGuardia 40th.

Worst

screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-10-17-30-am

 Readers: Do you run into issues with cell phone reception at airports? Which carrier do you use and why? 

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An amazing upgrade for LAX- in pictures

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The planned east intermodal facility at LAX will connect an automatic people mover with a new light rail link. (Image: Los Angeles World Airports)

The planned east intermodal facility at LAX will connect an automatic people mover with a new light rail link. (Image: Los Angeles World Airports)

Departing passengers coming into Los Angeles International Airport too often ride into a traffic nightmare as they try to get to their terminals. Los Angeles World Airports – the agency that operates LAX – has big plans to make that better, and it just came out with some renderings of what the “new” LAX might look like after it implements its years-long overhaul of intra-airport transportation.

“Today, regardless of transportation mode, passengers, employees and visitors face uncertain travel times, congestion and overcrowding to and from LAX. Approximately 63 percent of all departing air passengers used private vehicles, taxis, limousines, or Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) such as Uber or Lyft to get to LAX in 2015; this percentage is even greater for those departing passengers who are residents. During peak periods, over 6,000 vehicles enter the airport on an hourly basis,” the agency said in its new Draft Environmental Impact Report for LAX’s Landside Access Modernization Program.

New walkways woll link people-mover stips with the adjacent passenger terminals. (Image: Los Angeles World Airports)

New walkways will link people-mover stops with the adjacent passenger terminals. (Image: Los Angeles World Airports)

You can see the full report here, as a .pdf file – but keep in mind it is really long. Basically, LAWA’s plan aims to bring more people to the airport via mass transportation, and get them to their terminals on a new Automated People Mover (APM) system that will run up through the middle of the central terminal area, with the APM stops linked to the terminals on either side by new pedestrian passageways.

Here's a map of the people-mover route through the central terminal area. (Image: Los Angeles World Airports)

Here’s a map of the people-mover route through the central terminal area. Dark yellow lines are new pedestrian walkways linking the people mover stops to terminals. (Image: Los Angeles World Airports)

The APM line will originate on the east side of the airport at a new consolidated car rental center – which will also take the many rental car shuttles off airport roadways. It will be linked to an intermodal transportation facility on the east side of the airport for passengers connecting to or from a new light rail line that will be part of the city’s mass transit system; and another one closer to the terminals for bus connections.

Don’t get too excited yet; all of this construction will take several years. But the airport is well into the planning stages for improving passenger access to LAX terminals, many of which are getting their own massive upgrades. Keep scrolling down to see more renderings:

An automated people-mover station with LAX's iconic theme building in the background. (Image: Los Angeles World Airports)

An automated people-mover station with LAX’s iconic theme building in the background. (Image: Los Angeles World Airports)

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The plan calls for terminals to get new facades as well. (Image: Los Angeles World Airports)

The plan calls for terminals to get new facades as well. (Image: Los Angeles World Airports)

 

The west intermodal facility will let passengers connect with bus lines. (Image: Los Angeles World Airports)

The west intermodal facility will let passengers connect with bus lines. (Image: Los Angeles World Airports)

 

This map of the east side of LAX shows the planned consolidated rental car center, intermodal station, light rail line running top to bottom and peole mover running right to left. (Image: Los Angeles World Airports)

This map of the east side of LAX shows the planned consolidated rental car center (CONRAC), intermodal facility (ITF East), light rail line running top to bottom and people mover running right to left. (Image: Los Angeles World Airports)

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Routes: AA, Air India, Cathay, WOW, Air Canada, Royal Air Maroc + more

Business class seats on an American 777-300ER. (Image: American)

Business class seats on an American 777-300ER. (Image: American)

The latest international route developments include American’s launch of a new transpacific route, along with its plans to add some flights to Europe and cancel others; Air India boosting San Francisco frequencies; Royal Air Maroc adding a new U.S. gateway; a new SFO route from a U.K. carrier; increased service between Boston and Hong Kong; a European carrier adding Miami service; and new U.S. routes from Air Canada and Aeromexico.

American Airlines last week kicked off its new non-stop daily service between Los Angeles International and Hong Kong, a 15-hour trip with an unfortunate LAX departure time of 1:55 a.m. American also code-shares with Oneworld partner Cathay Pacific’s three daily LAX-Hong Kong flights. American is using a three-class 777-300ER on the route; it also flies to Hong Kong from its Dallas/Ft. Worth hub.

Across the Atlantic, American plans to add a trio of new routes next spring, and to cancel some others. May 5 is the starting date for new daily AA service from Chicago O’Hare to Barcelona, using a 787-8; from Dallas/Ft. Worth to Amsterdam, with a 767-300ER; and DFW to Rome, using a 777-200ER.  The airline will discontinue its New York JFK-Birmingham 757 service effective January 6, and will not operate the seasonal summer service it had previously offered from Chicago to Dusseldorf, Philadelphia to Brussels, and Philadelphia to Zurich. Meanwhile, American will also change aircraft this winter on two routes out of DFW, replacing 777-200ERs with 787-9s on flights to Paris starting January 9 and to Seoul as of February 16.

Air India's first flight from New Delhi arrived at SFO before dawn. (Image: Peter Biaggi)

Air India uses a 777-200 on its San Francisco route. (Image: Peter Biaggi/SFO)

Air India started flying between San Francisco and Delhi last December, with three flights a week. But now it plans a big change in that route, one that will let it increase frequencies to six a week. The schedule increase takes effect November 21. Air India will still use a 777-200LR, but will change the flight from a transatlantic one to a transpacific routing. Although the transpacific distance between the cities is longer than the current routing, the flight time from Delhi to SFO is expected to be reduced by three hours due to strong tailwinds on the eastbound sector.

Moroccan carrier Royal Air Maroc has added its third North American gateway, launching new service last week between Casablanca and Washington Dulles. The airline also flies to New York JFK and Montreal. Royal Air Maroc is using a 787 Dreamliner on the Dulles route, which departs Washington three times a week, on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

Virgin Atlantic will be getting a little competition on the new San Francisco-Manchester route that it announced last spring. Virgin will fly the route three times a week starting next summer, using an A330. Now Thomas Cook Airlines, a leisure-oriented U.K. carrier, says it will also fly between SFO and Manchester, operating two flights a week starting in May 2017. The carrier already flies to six other U.S. cities from Manchester.

Cathay Pacific, which started flying from Hong Kong to Boston last year with four flights a week, announced plans to expand that schedule to daily non-stops beginning on March 27. The carrier uses a 777-300ER on the route, with first class, business class, premium economy and regular economy seating.

WOW Air will use an A330 on its new Miami-Reykjavik route. (Image: WOW Air)

WOW Air will use an A330 on its new Miami-Reykjavik route. (Image: WOW Air)

WOW, the Icelandic ultra-low-cost airline, plans to add Miami as its next U.S. gateway. The carrier will use an Airbus A330 to begin service April 5 between Miami and Reykjavik, offering one-way fares to Iceland starting at $99 and connecting fares to European capitals starting at $149 – plus add-ons, of course.

In North America, Air Canada said it will begin new service on February 5 linking Vancouver with Dallas/Ft. Worth, operating a daily 75-seat CRJ-705 flight under the Air Canada Express brand. And on November 17, Aeromexico will start flying four days a week between Mexico City and Austin, using a 76-seat Embraer 170.

Don’t miss out on these popular TravelSkills posts! Shocked passenger refuses to pay $3 for water | More Delta SkyMiles for Asian tripsTips from a Hawaiian Vacation | JetBlue-Delta slugfest means lower fares | Test your planespotting skills! )

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Bay Area to Barcelona, nonstop, $199 + more low fares to Europe

Barcelona El Prat's big bright and gorgeous international terminal (Chris McGinnis)

Barcelona El Prat airport’s big bright and gorgeous international terminal (Chris McGinnis)

Norwegian Air will add the Bay Area’s first nonstop service to Spain when it launches Oakland to Barcelona flights next summer. Introductory economy fares on the route are as low as $199 each way, including all taxes and fees. Norwegian has announced that it will also add new nonstops between Oakland and Copenhagen in March (starting at just $179 each way), with both routes using its fleet of new Boeing 787 Dreamliners.

The schedule is a little thin, though– flights to Barcelona and Copenhagen from OAK will run only twice per week during the peak summer months.

This expansion makes it clear that Bay Area travelers are responding well to Norwegian Air’s low-fare, low-frills service. With Barcelona and Copenhagen, Norwegian now flies to five cities in Europe from Oakland. (It does not offer service from SFO or San Jose). With the addition of these new flights, Oakland will become California’s third major gateway to Europe, beating out San Diego.

In addition to Oakland, Norwegian will offer nonstops to Barcelona from Los Angeles (starting June 5 2017), Newark and Ft Lauderdale. Oakland to Barcelona starts on June 7, 2017; Copenhagen starts March 28.)

Norwegian will fly a brand new Boeing 787 Dreamliner between Oakland, Oslo and Stockholm next year.

Norwegian Air will fly a new Boeing 787 Dreamliner between Oakland and Barcelona next year. (Photo: Oakland International Airport)

This low-cost carrier flew into the Bay Area in two years ago with nonstops to Stockholm and Oslo from Oakland. Then earlier this year, it added nonstops from Oakland to London-Gatwick. Gatwick (LGW) is 28 miles south of central London but still convenient–the easy 30-minute, approximately $30 Gatwick Express will whisk you from the airport to Victoria Station in the heart of the city.

Don’t miss: Trip Report: Oakland>London Gatwick on Norwegian Air

On its 787 Dreamliner, it only offers seats in economy class (259) and premium economy class (32). All premium economy seats offer in-seat power outlets if you want to stay up and work across the pond. Norwegian refers to its premium economy seats as simply, “Premium.” Premium fares to Barcelona will start at $1698 round trip. Plus in-flight wi-fi is free on its intra-Europe flights.

Take a look at how Seatguru describes economy and premium economy seating on Norwegian Air’s 787 Dreamliner.

But limited recline is disappointing for those expecting lie-flat.

Limited recline in Norwegian’s premium economy seats might be disappointing for those longing to lie-flat. (Photo: Nancy Branka)

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Economy cabin has a clean look and decent seat pitch on Norwegian Air

Norwegian 787 economy class cabin has a clean look and decent seat pitch, configured 3-3-3. (Photo: Nancy Branka)

We checked today and the $199 fare is indeed available for SFO-Barcelona in June (see below). However, the least expensive return from BCN to SFO in June is $256, making the lowest round trip $455 all in– that’s quite a deal and it won’t last long.

Fare check on Weds Sept 7

Fare check on Weds Sept 7

Have you flown Norwegian Air yet? What did you think? Please leave your comments below.

–Chris McGinnis

(We’re back from summer vacation! In case you missed our other recent round-up posts, here they are: Domestic Routes RoundupTips from a Hawaiian Vacation | August’s most important travel news)

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International routes update: Delta, Air China, United, Hainan, Turkish, Southwest, American + more

Air China will use an A330-200 between San Jose and Shanghai. (Image: Mehdi Nazarinia/Wikimedia Commons)

Air China will use an A330-200 between San Jose and Shanghai. (Image: Mehdi Nazarinia/Wikimedia Commons)

In international routes news, Air China comes to San Jose; Delta is dropping routes to Tokyo and Moscow; Las Vegas gets a Beijing flight; Southwest and American plan new service to Mexico from LAX; LaCompagnie suspends London flights; Copa doubles up on San Francisco service; Air Canada trims San Diego-Vancouver capacity; Turkish trims flights to US and EVA adds more seats from Seattle to Taipei. Also, stay tuned to TravelSkills for some really good route news for Oakland coming out this Thursday.

Mineta San Jose International Airport added another international route last week when Air China kicked off new service from SJC to Shanghai – the airline’s only route to Shanghai from North America. Air China is using a two-class, 237-seat Airbus A330-200 on the route, departing San Jose on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Departure time from SJC is 1:30 p.m. for the 12.5-hour flight, with arrival in Shanghai at 4:40 p.m. the next day.

Delta, which recently won new rights to operate daytime flights to Tokyo’s close-in Haneda Airport from Los Angeles and Minneapolis-St. Paul, said it plans to discontinue its daily New York JFK-Tokyo Narita service on October 2. On October 3, Delta will axe its daily Narita-Osaka flight, and on October 29 it will end its daily Narita-Bangkok service. The airline will still fly to Narita from Seattle, Portland, Detroit and Atlanta. Meanwhile, Delta this week suspended its New York-Moscow non-stop service for the season, with plans to resume the flights in May 2017.

Las Vegas will also get new service to China by year’s end. Hainan Airlines has applied for government approval to fly three times a week between Las Vegas and Beijing, with a starting date of December 2. Hainan has been growing its U.S. presence in recent months, and currently flies from San Jose to Beijing, Los Angeles to Changsha, and Seattle to Beijing and Shanghai.

(We’re back from summer vacation! In case you missed our other recent round-up posts, here they are: Domestic Routes RoundupTips from a Hawaiian Vacation | August’s most important travel news)

Southwest will add three routes from LAX to Mexico. (Image: Jim Glab)

Southwest will add three routes from LAX to Mexico. (Image: Jim Glab)

Both American Airlines and Southwest Airlines apparently see room for growth in the Los Angeles-Mexico market. American is planning to start new daily 737-800 flights on December 15 from LAX to both Cancun and Puerto Vallarta. And Southwest on December 4 will launch twice-daily service from LAX to both Cancun and San Jose del Cabo, as well as one flight a day between LAX and Puerto Vallarta. Meanwhile, Mexican low-cost carrier Volaris plans to begin new service December 1 between Denver and Monterrey, Mexico, operating two A320 flights a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays).

United is switching up equipment on key routes between SFO and Europe for the winter season starting October 30. On SFO-London it will run two 777-200ERs instead of the current 777 and 787 Dreamliner. On SFO-Paris, the current 767-300ER will be replaced with a 787.

Panama’s Copa Airlines, a member of United’s Star Alliance, plans to increase service between Panama City and United’s San Francisco hub. Effective November 1, Copa will increase its schedule on the route from one to two 737-800 flights a day. (Regrettably both departures from SFO are red-eyes, arriving Panama City in the morning.)

All-business-class La Compagnie blames Brexit for dropping Newark-London flights. (Image: La Compagnie)

All-business-class La Compagnie blames Brexit for dropping Newark-London flights. (Image: La Compagnie)

La Compagnie, a niche carrier that offers transatlantic all-business-class flights with 74-seat 757s, said that it will drop its route linking Newark with London’s Luton Airport effective September 25. In October, the carrier will add a second daily flight to its Newark-Paris CDG route. In explaining its decision to drop Newark-London service, La Compagnie said that the recent decision by British voters to take the U.K. out of the European Union – aka Brexit – “has created an unprecedented level of legal and economic uncertainty for airlines that service Great Britain.” 

Taiwan’s EVA Air will boost capacity this fall on its route to Taipei from Seattle. The carrier plans to add a second flight three days a week, for a total of 10 a week, beginning November 19. EVA will use a 777-300ER for the extra flights.

Turkish Airlines

Turkish Airlines is cutting back on weekly frequencies, but not to SFO, pictured here (Chris McGinnis)

Turkish Airlines is reducing frequencies to several US cities in the wake of the downturn in demand due to recent events as well as the slower winter season ahead. Airline Routes is reporting service cutbacks (but no elimination of service) between Istanbul and Atlanta, Boston, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami.

Air Canada currently operates an Air Canada Rouge A319 on its daily San Diego-Vancouver route.  But the carrier plans to temporarily suspend the route effective October 17, and when it resumes service December 14, it will downsize to a CRJ-705 operated by Air Canada Express. Elsewhere in Canada, Westjet plans to convert its seasonal Calgary-New York JFK service into a year-round route, operating six flights a week when its winter schedule begins October 30.

(We’re back from summer vacation! In case you missed our other recent round-up posts, here they are: Domestic Routes RoundupTips from a Hawaiian Vacation | August’s most important travel news)

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Routes: LAX-Paris for $446 + Atlanta, San Francisco, Dallas, New York

Norwegian started new 787 flights from LAX and New York to Paris. (Image: Norwegian)

Norwegian started new 787 flights from LAX and New York to Paris. (Image: Norwegian)

In international route news, a low-cost airline launches a pair of new transatlantic routes; Delta will beef up Atlanta-London service; San Francisco attracts a Mexican airline; and Emirates and Etihad reshuffle their U.S. A380 plans.

European low-cost specialist Norwegian this week kicks off its newest transatlantic routes, beginning service to Paris Charles de Gaulle from New York and Los Angeles with two-class 787s. The carrier’s schedule calls for twice-weekly flights from LAX and four flights a week from New York JFK. When we checked Norwegian’s website, we found low-season (i.e. December) roundtrip no-frills fares as low as $446 from Los Angeles and $396 from New York. This comes on the heels of Air France warning about its concerns about France as a destination.

Related: Norwegian Air- low fares, low frills

According to Routesonline.com, Delta will adjust its Atlanta-London schedule next spring along with partner Virgin Atlantic. Effective May 25, Delta is due to restore a third daily ATL-London departure, while Virgin will scale back from two flights a day to one. Meanwhile, Delta is also planning to end its seasonal  Pittsburgh-Paris CDG service at the end of September, a month earlier than previously planned. The carrier will cut back frequencies in early September from daily departures to five a week.

Mexico's Volaris will start San Francisco-Mexico City flights this fall. (Image: Volaris)

Mexico’s Volaris will start San Francisco-Mexico City flights this fall. (Image: Volaris)

Mexican low-cost airline Volaris will introduce a new route linking San Francisco with Mexico City starting October 10. The carrier plans to operate four flights a week on the route, on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, with one-way fares starting at just $125. It’s a trip for night owls, however: The southbound flights are scheduled to arrive in Mexico City at 2:29 a.m.

A schedule update posted by Emirates for its Dallas/Ft. Worth-Dubai route says that the carrier will not put an Airbus A380 super-jumbo back onto the route September 1 as previously planned, but instead will keep operating it with a 777-300ER. Meanwhile, Etihad next spring is planning to go all-A380 on its Abu Dhabi-New York route after June 1, 2017. The carrier will use the super-jumbos on both of its daily JFK flights after that date; currently, one of the two uses a 777-300ER.

Related: How Emirates welcomes a new A380. Wow!

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: How to get the BEST summer fare dealsOne airline fee fading fast | Trip Report: Aer Lingus Economy Class | 5 top jobs for frequent travelers  | First class phase out coming soon

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Routes: United, Virgin America, Spirit, Frontier

United will use 737s on two new Florida nonstops (Image: Tampa International)

New nonstops to connect bay cities (Image: Tampa International)

In domestic route news, there’s lots of extra capacity coming to Florida, including new United routes from San Francisco and Spirit Airlines routes from Ohio, plus a new Florida destination for Frontier Airlines. Meanwhile, Virgin America plans to increase  capacity from the West Coast to Newark Liberty International Airport.

United will use 737s on new San Francisco routes to Florida. (Image: United)

United will use 737s on new San Francisco routes to Florida. (Image: United)

United’s newest domestic routes from San Francisco will be to Florida, starting in late fall and winter. The airline said it plans to begin a daily San Francisco-Miami flight on December 16, reviving a route that it dropped 12 years ago. United will also introduce a daily SFO-Tampa flight beginning February 16. Both routes will use 737s.

Just a few days after Alaska Airlines announced some new routes to Newark, Virgin America said it will also take advantage of the FAA’s plan to open up more slots at that airport this fall. Effective November 18, Virgin plans to increase Newark frequencies from three flights a day to four from both San Francisco and Los Angeles. The extra SFO flight is scheduled for a 9:40 a.m. departure from San Francisco, while the fourth LAX departure will be at 7 a.m.

Spirit Airlines is adding new service from Ohio to Florida (Image: Spirit Airlines)

Spirit Airlines is adding new service from Ohio to Florida (Image: Spirit Airlines)

Spirit Airlines plans a big expansion of service at Akron/Canton, adding four Florida destinations beginning November 10. The schedule includes new daily flights from Akron to Ft. Lauderdale and to Orlando, along with seasonal service from Akron to Ft. Myers four days a week and to Tampa three days a week. On the same date, meanwhile, Spirit will also suspend service between Cleveland and Dallas/Ft. Worth, changing that route from year-round to seasonal; the DFW flights will begin again on April 26.

Punta Gorda, Florida is about 25 miles north of Ft. Myers, and it has an airport that’s a lot less busy than the latter city’s Southwest Florida International; Punta Gorda is currently served only by Allegiant Airlines. So Punta Gorda is the newest airport that will go onto Frontier Airlines’ route map. On October 30, Frontier will add new service to Punta Gorda from Trenton, N.J., operating year-round four days a week. On the same date, Frontier will begin seasonal service three days a week between Punta Gorda-Philadelphia and Punta Gorda-Chicago O’Hare, continuing through April.

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: How to get the BEST summer fare dealsOne airline fee fading fast | Trip Report: Aer Lingus Economy Class | 5 top jobs for frequent travelers  | First class phase out coming soon

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Routes: United, Singapore, Delta, American, Airberlin, LATAM, Volaris

United will add a second daily San Francisco-Shanghai flight with a 787-9. (Image: United)

United will add a second daily San Francisco-Shanghai flight with a 787-9. (Image: United)

In international route news, United will increase Shanghai service but drop Vietnam; Singapore Airlines will reroute its eastbound Houston to Singapore flight; Delta will increase its Caribbean presence via code-sharing; American will trim its LAX-Brazil schedule; Airberlin will add more U.S. flights and expand code-sharing with American; LATAM adds a new Miami market; and Mexico’s Volaris plans two new U.S. routes.

According to Routesonline.com, United Airlines plans to add a second daily flight between San Francisco and Shanghai Pudong, and has already opened it up for reservations. The second frequency is due to begin on October 14, using a 787-9 Dreamliner, although the carrier is expected to replace that with a 787-8 next spring.  Meanwhile, United also plans to discontinue service to Vietnam at the end of October when it terminates its current Hong Kong-Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) route, which it serves with a 737-800. A United spokesman tells TravelSkills that the carrier is working with its joint venture partner ANA to offer a greater number of new connections to Ho Chi Minh City via Tokyo Narita than United currently offers through Hong Kong.

Effective October 30, Singapore Airlines will make a big change in its eastbound flight from Houston Bush Intercontinental to Singapore, which currently operates via a stop in Moscow. After October, the carrier will drop Moscow from that route, replacing it with a stop in Manchester, England. The five-days-a-week service will depart Houston at 8:15 p.m., arriving in Manchester at 10:05 a.m. and eventually in Singapore at 8:20 a.m.

Delta will add Caribbean destinations via code-sharing with Seaborne Airlines. (Image: Delta)

Delta will add Caribbean destinations via code-sharing with Seaborne Airlines. (Image: Delta)

Delta has filed for Transportation Department approval to begin code-sharing with San Juan-based regional carrier Seaborne Airlines. The planned code-sharing would put Delta flight numbers onto Seaborne flights from San Juan to five destinations not currently served by Delta: Beef Island in the British Virgin Islands; Dominica; Nevis; Anguilla; and La Romana in the Dominican Republic. The code-sharing would also increase Delta-coded flights from San Juan to destinations already served by the Atlanta-based carrier, including St. Kitts, Antigua, St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. Maarten.

American Airlines plans to reduce frequencies between Los Angeles and Sao Paulo, Brazil from seven flights a week to five effective December 1, and will also change planes on the route from a 787-8 to a 777-200ER.

Airberlin will boost U.S. schedules this winter. (Image: Airberlin)

Airberlin will boost U.S. schedules this winter. (Image: Airberlin)

In Europe, meanwhile, American has added more code-share routes with partner Airberlin, putting its code onto the latter’s flights from Dusseldorf to Bologna, Florence, Stockholm and Venice; Frankfurt to Palma de Mallorca; and Munich to Berlin, Cologne and Hamburg. Meanwhile, effective with its winter schedule starting in November, Airberlin will increase Miami-Berlin service from two flights a week to four, and New York-Dusseldorf service from seven flights a week to eight. The carrier is also adding a new daily New York-Berlin flight, and extending its Los Angeles-Dusseldorf service from seasonal to year-round. Airberlin will also boost Chicago-Berlin frequencies from four flights a week to five, and Ft. Myers-Dusseldorf from three a week to four.

LATAM Airlines Brazil has set a September 24 start for new once-a-week service on Saturdays between Miami and Recife, Brazil, using a two-class 767.

Mexico’s low-cost Volaris Airlines has added a couple of more U.S. routes, launching service three times a week from Seattle to its Guadalajara hub, and twice a week from Dallas/Ft. Worth to Monterrey. Both routes use A320s.

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: How to get the BEST summer fare dealsOne airline fee fading fast | Trip Report: Aer Lingus Economy Class | 5 top jobs for frequent travelers  | First class phase out coming soon

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Inside look at Virgin Australia’s refurbed B777 (Photos, Streetview)

Virgin Australia

Media scramble up the red carpet leading to a Virgin Australia B777 parked at LAX (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

When we wrote about Virgin Australia’s fabulously re-furbed B777 in May, only one of five planes had undergone the transformation. The carrier put off the “official” launch until this week, hosting a big to-do in Los Angeles to which TravelSkills was invited.

As of this month, three of Virgin’s five B777s are re-done and the two remaining will be finished by September, said CEO John Borghetti at a press conference onboard one of the big birds parked out by the beach on the western edge of LAX. Virgin flies its B777s between Sydney, Brisbane and LAX and also on Sydney-Abu Dhabi.

What’s really nice about this refurb that Delta customers can earn and burn SkyMiles on when flying on this gorgeous bird. Rates can be freakishly high (or non-existent) when redeeming SkyMiles for Virgin Australia business class. Economy class roundtrips on Virgin go for around 90,000 SkyMiles. Virgin America Elevate members can also earn and burn points when flying Virgin Australia. Roundtrips go for 40K in economy, 60K in premium economy and 80K for business class.

Fares: Checking September roundtrips today, business class flights between LAX and Sydney (or Brisbane) are running around $5,300, premium economy is $2,100 and economy is $973.

Read: Virgin Australia’s “new” B777

Virgin Australia

The large mirrored emblem on the bulkhead is one of many visually striking features on Virgin Australia’s B777 (Chris McGinnis)

What I found most interesting about this look-see was the emphasis Virgin Australia puts on making a good visual impression— something that you see across nearly all Virgin brands.

At the onboard press conference, Borghetti described how Virgin’s design team strives to make a striking visual impact as soon as the passenger boards. He said that if the plane is pleasing to the eye right off the bat, and that there’s a certain “wow factor” when boarding, it puts the passenger in a positive “head space” which is likely to carry through the rest of the experience. See what he means when you see the Google Streetview below.

Take an interactive spin through the new cabin right here:

While we included most of the key details of the B777 in our previous post, this event provided the opportunity to get up close and personal with what Virgin says is now best in class among carriers serving the U.S.-Australia market.

Virgin was happy to spout plenty of superlatives about its new business class. For example, they said the seat is the widest (28 inches) and among the longest (80 inches), and its video screens are the biggest (18 inches).

Every seat offers aisle access. Regrettably, these planes won’t have onboard wi-fi until mid 2017.

Virgin Australia

New “The Business” section configured 1-2-1 on Virgin Australia’s B777 transpac flights (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

In addition, we noticed plenty of easily accessible nooks and crannies for in-seat storage and a large flat workspace. An unusual electronic touch screen controls recline. Flight attendants provide memory foam mattress covers and turn down service while passengers change into pajamas in the lavs. Plus there’s a Nespresso coffee maker in the galley. Even better- there are 37 business class seats in the new configuration. Previously, there were only 34.

Unusual touch screen controls seat recline (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Unusual touch screen controls seat recline (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

In addition to business class, Virgin offers three more seat types:

  • Premium class
  • Space+ economy
  • Regular economy

The new premium cabin offers 24 seats with 41 inches of pitch, two dedicated lavatories, “business class inspired” food and beverages served on china and glass. Seats are configured 2-4-2. This cabin also has its own self service snack bar and refrigerator.

Don't call it premium economy! On Virgin Australia, it's just "Premium" (Chris McGinnis)

Don’t call it premium economy! On Virgin Australia, it’s just “Premium.” 24 seats with 41 inches of pitch configured 2-4-2 (Chris McGinnis)

 

Economy Space+ Virgin Australia

Economy Space+ seats on Virgin Australia in a 3-3-3 configuration offer a few extra inches of knee room in the first five rows of economy section (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

 

Virgin Australia Space+

Here’s a look at the knee space in Virgin’s Space+ Economy section with 36 inches of pitch (Chris McGinnis)

 

Virgin Australia Economy

Economy class on Virgin Australia configured 3-3-3 with 32 inches of pitch (Chris McGinnis)

Another interesting nugget from this news conference: Virgin’s B777 has more lavatories per passenger that any other plane in the market– a ratio is one lav per 12 passengers, which is important on those 14-hour LAX-SYD slogs. Both business and premium cabins have two each.

This plane also offers a “ladies only” lav, with a smart leather bench that folds down over the toilet where one can sit while changing into or out of the pajamas Virgin supplies to business class passengers. There’s is also a full length mirror in the ladies-only lav.

In business class, there's a ladies-only lav (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

In business class, there’s a ladies-only lav (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

 

Virgin Australia

In the ladies-only lav, a leather bench folds down over the toilet (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

And finally, here’s a look at the layout of the new version of Virgin’s B777-300ER

Virgin Australia 777-illustration

-Chris McGinnis

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: How to get the BEST summer fare dealsOne airline fee fading fast | Trip Report: Aer Lingus Economy Class | 5 top jobs for frequent travelers  | First class phase out coming soon

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Tokyo Haneda daytime rights: The winners are…

Four U.S. airlines won rights to use daytime slots at Tokyo's close-in Haneda Airport. (Image: Haneda Airport)

Four U.S. airlines won rights to use daytime slots at Tokyo’s close-in Haneda Airport. (Image: Haneda Airport)

Ever since Japan opened up Tokyo’s close-in Haneda Airport to transpacific flights, U.S. carriers have struggled to make their Haneda routes work – mostly because they were stuck with consumer-unfriendly takeoff and landing slots in the middle of the night. Since the U.S. and Japan recently negotiated some changes that allow for daytime slots at the airport, U.S. airlines have been clamoring to win those rights – and now the Transportation Department has made a tentative decision on those applications.

The agency said its initial decision awards daytime slots at Haneda to American Airlines and Delta from Los Angeles, United from San Francisco, Hawaiian from Honolulu and Delta from Minneapolis-St. Paul.

“Three of the cities – Los Angeles, Honolulu, and San Francisco – already have service to Haneda, but those services have been required to operate at night only.  Under the new agreement, carriers may arrive and depart Haneda during more favorable daytime hours.  The new route from Minneapolis also is included in that group,” DOT said.

Earlier, DOT had awarded Hawaiian a new nighttime slot for service from Kona and Honolulu to Haneda. The agency said service on all the newly awarded Haneda daytime routes could begin as soon as this fall.

American had also applied for daytime slots at Haneda for service from Dallas/Ft. Worth, but that was not among the new rights granted by DOT. Likewise Delta did not win authority for new Haneda service from Atlanta (it already flies Atlanta-Narita). The DOT suggested that if Delta’s service to Haneda from Minneapolis-St. Paul doesn’t work out, those rights might be shifted to American for a DFW-Haneda route.

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: How to get the BEST summer fare dealsOne airline fee fading fast | Trip Report: Aer Lingus Economy Class | 5 top jobs for frequent travelers  | First class phase out coming soon

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New Routes: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Newark, JFK, San Diego

Hangzhou, China is United's newest transpacific destination. (Image: City of Hangzhou)

Hangzhou, China is United’s newest transpacific destination. (Image: City of Hangzhou)

In international route developments, United kicks off another transpacific route from San Francisco to China’s Silicon Valley; Turkish Airlines and Philippine Airlines boost capacity in a key west coast market; an African carrier begins service to Newark; New York JFK welcomes a new European airline; and a Mexican carrier drops a San Diego route, but adds a new one from SFO.

July 13 is the launch date for United Airlines’ fifth route to mainland China and its 14th transpacific route from San Francisco International. That’s the day when United begins new service from SFO to Hangzhou, the capital of China’s Zhejiang Province. The carrier will fly the route three days a week (Monday, Wednesday, Saturday) with a 787-9, departing SFO at 2:15 p.m. for the almost 13-hour flight. Hangzhou is about 102 miles southwest of Shanghai. Regarding Hangzhou, United says it is a city of nearly 9 million on China’s southeastern coast, is one of the country’s Seven Ancient Capitals and today boasts a vibrant and entrepreneurial business climate. Known as the “Silicon Valley in Paradise,” Hangzhou has a growing reputation for innovation in technology and e-commerce, and is an important manufacturing and logistics base for coastal China.

Ethiopian is using a 787 on its new Newark route. (Image: Ethiopian Airlines)

Ethiopian is using a 787 on its new Newark route. (Image: Ethiopian Airlines)

Ethiopian Airlines last week revived the Newark route that it abandoned in 2004. It is now flying between Newark and Addis Ababa via a stop in Lome, Togo, three times a week, using a 787 Dreamliner. Connections are available from both Lome and Addis Ababa to other African destinations. Ethiopian also flies to Addis Ababa from Washington D.C. and from Los Angeles via Dublin. It plans to add a fourth weekly flight on the Newark route starting August 5.

Need to get to Belgrade? Air Serbia has kicked off the first direct service between Belgrade and the U.S. in 24 years, with a new route to New York JFK. Air Serbia is a reincarnation of the former Yugoslavian carrier JAT, aided by a big capital injection from Etihad Airways, which owns 49 percent of Air Serbia.  The Serbian airline is flying to JFK-Belgrade route five times a week, using a two-class A330-200 leased from India’s Jet Airways – which is also partially owned by Etihad.

Turkish Airlines is using a 777-300ER on its new Atlanta route. (Image: Boeing

Turkish Airlines is using a 777-300ER on its expanded LA service. (Image: Boeing

A couple of airlines are adding more flights to their Los Angeles schedules. Turkish Airlines, citing “growing consumer demand,” this week boosted frequencies on its LAX-Istanbul route from seven a week to 11, adding second eastbound flights on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The carrier will use 777-300ERs, representing a total capacity increase of 64 percent.  Meanwhile, Airlineroute.net reports that Philippine Airlines plans to upgrade its Los Angeles-Manila schedule from the current four flights a week to daily service starting December 6, with a 777-300ER replacing the Airbus A340-300 that the airline currently uses on the LAX route.

Mexico’s low-cost carrier Volaris is ending its service to San Diego from Mexico City after a six-year run. It’s currently down to four A320 flights a week on the route, and will drop that to two a week on August 18, before eliminating the route August 28. On July 1, Volaris launched nonstops between SFO and Guadalajara.

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: How to get the BEST summer fare dealsOne airline fee fading fast | Trip Report: Aer Lingus Economy Class | 5 top jobs for frequent travelers  | First class phase out coming soon

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Havana, Cuba airline tickets from US cities coming soon

Havana

Refrigerator magnets from a recent trip to Havana (Chris McGinnis)

Last month, the U.S. Transportation Department awarded U.S. carriers new route rights to serve secondary cities in Cuba, but not the biggest plum – Havana.

This week, DOT finally acted on all the requests it had from U.S. airlines to operate regular scheduled service to the Cuban capital, awarding Havana routes to eight airlines for flights that are likely to start sometime this fall.

The preliminary route awards are still subject a public comment period before being finalized. Tickets are not yet on sale, but should be later this summer. Right now, round trip charter flights from Miami to Havana are running at about $450 round trip, a price that we expect to drop significantly when competition cranks up in the fall.

The only Havana route from the West Coast went to Alaska Airlines, which will operate daily non-stops from Los Angeles using a two-class, 181-passenger 737-900ER. The flight will originate in Seattle, offering same-plane service top Cuba. Alaska said it expects to begin the service by year’s end. From LAX or SFO, current fares to Havana via Mexico City (Aeromexico) or Panama City (Copa) are about $625 round trip.

Recent: Curious about Cuba? Don’t miss this!

Cuba cars

Vintage cars serve as tourist taxis in Havana’s Plaza de la Revolucion (Chris McGinnis)

Most of the new routes will be from the eastern U.S., especially Florida. The exception to that rule was DOT’s selection of United to operate Houston-Havana flights, but only once a week. United will also operate daily non-stops to Havana from its Newark hub.

American Airlines will offer four daily roundtrips to Havana from Miami and one a day from Charlotte; Delta’s new route authority includes daily roundtrips to Havana from Atlanta, New York JFK and Miami; JetBlue won rights for two daily flights from Ft. Lauderdale and one each from New York JFK and Orlando; Southwest’s new route authority provides for two daily roundtrips from Ft. Lauderdale and one from Tampa; Spirit Airlines got two daily Ft. Lauderdale-Havana flights; and Frontier will be allowed a single daily flight from Miami to Havana.

Don’t miss: Cruising into Cuba: It’s complicated!

Havana nonstops

Nonstops to Havana from US cities announced today (Image: Great Circle Mapper)

Technically, the U.S. still does not allow for simple tourist travel to Cuba; Americans who go there must fall into one of 12 categories approved by the government, including things like journalistic activity, professional research and meetings, educational activities and so on. Here’s a link to the Treasury Department’s rules for travel to Cuba.

Have you been to Cuba yet? Will you go in the near future? Why or why not? Please leave your comments below!

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: How to get the BEST summer fare dealsOne airline fee fading fast | Trip Report: Aer Lingus Economy Class | 5 top jobs for frequent travelers  | First class phase out coming soon

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Routes: Alaska, American, JetBlue, Frontier, Allegiant

Alaska Airlines 737 New Livery

Alaska Airlines will add a new trancon route. (Image: Alaska Air)

In domestic route developments, Alaska Airlines will add a new transcontinental route as well as service to another California city; American plans to trim capacity for its Northeast Corridor shuttle service; JetBlue sets a starting date for more transcontinental service with Mint-equipped aircraft; Frontier adds a pair of routes from Las Vegas; and Allegiant enters new markets from Newark and Oakland.

Alaska Airlines has scheduled a March 16 start for new daily non-stop 737 service linking Portland, Oregon with Orlando – the only non-stops between those two cities. Meanwhile, Alaska also said it will add new service effective April 13 between its Seattle hub and San Luis Obispo, California. That route will be flown for Alaska once a day by SkyWest using a 76-passenger E175 with first class, Preferred Pus and main cabin seating.

American Airlines plans to adjust capacity this fall on the Northeast Corridor shuttle service that it inherited from US Airways. Starting November 4, the carrier will reduce the number of daily shuttle flights between New York LaGuardia and Boston from 16 to 15, and will trim the schedule between LGA and Washington Reagan National from 16 to 13 daily roundtrips. In addition, American will begin to use Embraer 175s operated by Republic Airlines on five daily LGA-Boston flights and on eight LGA-Washington flights; the rest will continue to user larger E190s.

JetBlue will add more Mint flights on transcon routes this fall. (Image: JetBlue)

JetBlue is slowly expanding its premium cabin Mint service to more routes. (Image: JetBlue)

As JetBlue continues the gradual expansion of its Mint premium cabin service to more markets, it has reportedly set a date for the start of Mint flights on the Los Angeles-Ft. Lauderdale route. According to airlineroute.net, JetBlue will introduce Mint service on one of its two daily LAX-FLL flights on March 20, and will offer it on both flights by April 20. The carrier has expanded Mint from its JFK-LAX and JFK-San Francisco routes to San Francisco-Boston, with plans to add LAX-Boston this fall; next year, Mint should appear on select routes from Seattle, San Diego and Las Vegas as well.

Low-cost carrier Frontier Airlines is growing at Las Vegas McCarran, with plans to add new daily service from there to both Nashville and Tampa starting September 6. Using 150-seat A319s. And on October 30, Frontier will begin new daily flights between Colorado Springs and Orlando.

Another low-cost carrier, Allegiant, plans to launch the only non-stop service between Oakland and El Paso, Texas on October 6, offering two flights a week, on Mondays and Thursdays. Meanwhile, Allegiant also plans to move into United’s Newark hub in November after the airport opens up more takeoff and landing slots. Allegiant will fly from Newark to Cincinnati, Savannah (Georgia), Asheville (N.C.) and Knoxville.

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: How to get the BEST summer fare dealsOne airline fee fading fast | Trip Report: Aer Lingus Economy Class | 5 top jobs for frequent travelers  | First class phase out coming soon

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Routes: San Francisco, LAX, Houston, San Jose, New York, Washington, Chicago

United will use a 787 for a second daily SFO-London flight. (Image: United)

United will use a 787 for a second daily SFO-London flight. (Image: United)

In international route news, United will boost its London schedules from San Francisco and Los Angeles while cutting back from Houston; also, United this week launches its promised New Zealand service; Lufthansa kicks off its delayed San Jose inaugural; Brussels Airlines rolls out a premium economy class; Wow Air adds another U.S. gateway; and a Mexican low-cost carrier adds a Chicago route.

United Airlines announced plans to add a second daily San Francisco-London Heathrow flight to its schedule starting October 30. The new LHR flight (UA900/901) will depart San Francisco at 4:15 p.m., using a 219-passenger 787-8 with BusinessFirst, Economy Plus and regular economy seating. Also on October 30, United will trim its schedule from Houston Bush Intercontinental to London from three daily flights to two, although it will use larger 777-200s on the remaining IAH flights instead of the current 767-300s and 787s. Then next spring (effective April 5), the airline will lay on a second daily Los Angeles-LHR flight (UA60/61), using a 252-seat 787-9. That flight will leave LAX at 3:10 p.m.

Meanwhile, July 1 is the launch date for United’s newest transpacific route, from San Francisco to Auckland , New Zealand. The carrier will use a 787-8 to fly the route three days a week, then will expand capacity starting October 28 to daily frequencies that use a larger 787-9. United has slated a 10:45 p.m. departure time from SFO for the 13-hour, 10-minute (westbound) flight. United will operate the route as part of its Star Alliance partnership with Air New Zealand.

Lufthansa will use an A340-300 on its new San Jose-Frankfurt route. (Image: BriYYZ/Wikimedia Commons)

Lufthansa will use an A340-300 on its new San Jose-Frankfurt route. (Image: BriYYZ/Wikimedia Commons)

Another new Bay Area international route starting up this week is Lufthansa’s non-stop service from Frankfurt to San Jose. Originally planned to begin on April 29, it is now set for a July 1 launch.  Lufthansa will operate the route five days a week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday), using an Airbus A340-300 with business class, economy, and premium economy seating.  This plane, which is smaller than the A340-600 on SFO-Munich,  has 18 business class seats, 19 premium economy seats and 261 economy seats– no first class. Even though SeatGuru.com shows the seats on the A340-300 to be of the old “angled lie flat” variety, a Lufthansa spokesperson tells TravelSkills that the planes have been reconfigured with the carrier’s latest, greatest true lie-flat offering, like what you’ll find on its A380 and A340 flying from SFO. Currently, fares from both SFO and SJC to Frankfurt appear to be identical: about $5,200 round trip in business class, $2,700 in premium economy, and about $1,300 for economy. 

Brussels Airlines is adding premium economy seating to its U.S. A330 flights. (Image: Brussels Airlines)

Brussels Airlines is adding premium economy seating to its U.S. A330 flights. (Image: Brussels Airlines)

International premium economy seating continues to proliferate; the latest carrier to add that feature is Brussels Airlines, which is due to start offering it July 1 on the Airbus A330s that it flies to its U.S. gateways (New York JFK and Washington Dulles) from Brussels. The new seating option, located in the first four rows of the economy cabin, offers extra legroom and seats that recline more than twice as far as regular economy seats. It also provides enhanced in-flight services and amenities.  The carrier is offering the new seating for a surcharge of $139 one-way until September 15, when the price will rise to $169.

Elsewhere in the New York area, Icelandic low-cost carrier Wow Air – which recently started flying from San Francisco and Los Angeles — said it will add Newark Liberty International to its route map on November 25, offering daily flights to Reykjavik and connections to the U.K. and Europe. The airline will use A321s or A330s on the new route, depending on the season. One-way fares to Iceland will start at $99, with service to European capitals from as little as $149.

Mexico’s low-cost Volaris Airlines has kicked off a new route linking Chicago O’Hare with Monterrey, Mexico. The carrier will operate the service twice a week (Mondays and Fridays), using a 174-passenger Airbus A320.

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: How to get the BEST summer fare dealsOne airline fee fading fast | Trip Report: Aer Lingus Economy Class | 5 top jobs for frequent travelers  | First class phase out coming soon

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Routes: JetBlue, Virgin America, Alaska, American, United

JetBlue added a new transcontinental route from San Diego. (Image: Jim Glab)

JetBlue added a new transcontinental route from San Diego. (Image: Jim Glab)

Don’t miss: Unprecedented JetBlue offer for Virgin America flyers

In domestic route news, JetBlue has kicked off a new transcontinental route from San Diego; Virgin America adds another Hawaii flight from the West Coast (but you still can’t surf from it); Alaska adds new routes from San Diego and Anchorage; American plans new service from O’Hare this fall; and United enters a new East Coast market from LaGuardia.

The newest transcontinental route for JetBlue Airways is San Diego to Ft. Lauderdale, which it started flying last week. The daily eastbound segment is a red-eye, departing San Diego at 10:15 p.m. and arriving at 6:19 a.m. It’s the latest step in an ongoing JetBlue expansion at Ft. Lauderdale, where it is already the busiest airline. Last month, JetBlue started service from FLL to Nashville and to Aguadilla, Puerto Rico.

Virgin America has added its fourth Hawaii route from California. (Image: Virgin America)

Virgin America has added its fourth Hawaii route from California. (Image: Virgin America)

Virgin America Airlines has added a fourth route to Hawaii with the launch of new service between Los Angeles and Kahului, Maui. The new daily service departs LAX at 9:35 a.m.; like the airline’s other Hawaii flights, it uses an Airbus A320 equipped with “sharklet” wingtips that create greater fuel efficiency and increase the aircraft’s range. Last month, Virgin started LAX-Honolulu service; it also flies to both Hawaiian destinations from San Francisco. Note: Virgin’s satellite based wi-fi is still not operational on its Hawaii flights from LAX or SFO. A spokesman told TravelSkills that it’s “coming later this year.”

Dont miss: 6 habits of highly annoying infrequent fliers

Alaska Airlines has started new seasonal service between Anchorage and Spokane, Washington, operating once a week (on Saturdays) with a 737 from now through August 27 – the first-ever non-stop service in that city-pair. The airline also announced plans to operate seasonal service this coming winter from San Diego to Hayden/Steamboat Springs, Colorado for the ski season. Those flights, on Wednesday sand Saturdays, will use 76-seat Embraer 175s operated by SkyWest.

Starting October 6, American Airlines will add a pair of spokes from its Chicago O’Hare hub. New American Eagle flights will operate twice a day between O’Hare and Akron/Canton, Ohio; and three times daily between O’Hare and Lansing, Michigan. Both routes will use Embraer 145s.

On the heels of Delta’s announcement to start Raleigh-Durham service from Newark this fall, United now plans to do the same from New York LaGuardia. The United service begins October 30, when it will start operating three flights a day (except Saturdays) between LGA and Raleigh-Durham, using Embraer 170s.

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: How to get the BEST summer fare dealsOne airline fee fading fast | Trip Report: Aer Lingus Economy Class | 5 top jobs for frequent travelers  | First class phase out coming soon

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Routes: LAX, SFO, Seattle, San Diego, Boston, New York, Atlanta + more

Fiji Airways SFO

SFO’s latest arrival from the exotic South Seas! (Photo: Peter Biaggo/SFO)

In international route news, American next week adds new transpacific flights from Los Angeles; Swiss brings its fancy new 777 to the Los Angeles-Zurich route, while Emirates doubles down on LAX service with a big sports sponsorship; San Francisco gets a new route to the South Pacific; Germany’s Condor Airlines unveils some new U.S. routes, including Seattle and San Diego; TAP Air Portugal adds two U.S. gateways with upgraded aircraft; Delta trims service to a South American city from Atlanta; and two U.S. airlines start selling tickets for scheduled service to Cuba.

American Airlines next week will kick off its newest transpacific route: On June 23 it will start flying a 787-8 Dreamliner between Los Angeles International and Auckland, New Zealand as part of its growing joint venture partnership with Qantas, ending Air New Zealand’s non-stop monopoly on that route. The aircraft’s business class offers personal suites with 77-inch lie-flat seat-beds, direct aisle access for every seat, and a walk-up bar stocked with drinks and snacks. The economy cabin offers a Main Cabin Extra seating option with five extra inches of legroom, and both cabins have Wi-Fi and AC/USB ports at every seat.

Also at Los Angeles International, Swiss has started flying the LAX-Zurich route  with its new 777-300ERs, the flagships of its international long-haul fleet. The aircraft boasts redesigned and upgraded interiors with first, business and economy class. Take a look here at some photos of the plane that we ran last year when the carrier introduced them. Swiss had planned to start flying the 777-300ER to San Francisco in August, but as we reported last month, that introduction has been postponed until February 2017.

emiratesfas

Emirates flight attendants visited Dodger Stadium to promote the airline’s expanded LAX service. (Image: Emirates)

Meanwhile, Emirates is due to lay on a second daily A380 flight starting July 1 between Los Angeles and Dubai, and it is counting on a new sponsorship deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers to draw attention to the airline in that big market. The airline even brought some of its flight attendants onto the field during a recent game at Dodger Stadium to promote the tie-in.

At San Francisco International, Fiji Airways this week kicked off seasonal service to Nadi, Fiji, using a two-class A330 for the 10-hour flight. It will operate twice a week, on Thursdays and Sundays, through mid-August, then will resume from mid-December through mid-January.

Germany’s Condor Airlines, a leisure-oriented carrier that belongs to the Thomas Cook Group, plans to add some U.S. routes in 2017, including the only non-stops between Seattle and Munich. That route will begin in July 2017 with twice-weekly service. Condor already flies between Seattle and Frankfurt, and recently extended that to year-round service. Also in Condor’s 2017 plans: twice-weekly seasonal flights between Frankfurt and New Orleans from May through September; three flights week starting May 1 between Frankfurt-San Diego; and twice-weekly service beginning May 2 between Munich and Las Vegas.

TAP Portugal is using upgraded A330s on new Boston and New York routes. (Image: Airbus)

TAP Portugal is using upgraded A330s on new Boston and New York routes. (Image: Airbus)

TAP Portugal just started new daily service between Lisbon and Boston Logan, and will add daily Lisbon-New York JFK service July 1. Both routes are using A330s that feature TAP’s new executive class cabin with lie-flat seats. The aircraft also features a new, advanced in-flight entertainment system; and the economy cabin has two kinds of seating, offering 34-inch and 31-inch pitch. The airline already serves Newark and Miami from Lisbon.

At its Atlanta hub, Delta on August 30 will reduce service to Medellin, Colombia, cutting back from the current daily frequencies to just three a week. Delta uses a 737-700 on the route.

Following the Transportation Department’s recent award of Cuba route rights (except Havana) to U.S. carriers for regular scheduled service, some of them have started selling tickets to the island nation. American will start flying once or twice a day from Miami to Cienfuegos and Holguin on September 7; from Miami to Camaguey and Santa Clara September 9; and from Miami to Varadero September 11. Silver Airways will start service September 1 from Ft. Lauderdale to Santa Clara, followed by flights out of Ft. Lauderdale to Camaguey, Cienfuegos and Holguin in October; to Santiago and Cayo Coco in November; and to Varadero, Cayo Largo and Manzanillo in December.

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Singapore Airlines adds another nonstop from US

Plenty of TravelSkills readers will soon soak in this view of the Marina Bay Sands hotel in Singapore (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

TravelSkills readers will soon soak in this view of the Marina Bay Sands whether flying United or Singapore Airlines (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Just two weeks after United Airlines started flying non-stop from San Francisco to Singapore, Singapore Airlines confirmed to TravelSkills that it will do the same beginning this fall – and that it will boost Los Angeles service as well.

While United is using a 787-9 Dreamliner for the route, Singapore said it will rely on a new Airbus A350-900. The airline plans to start flying the non-stop San Francisco route, a trip of about 16 hours, on October 23. Singapore said that in addition to the new non-stops, it will continue to offer daily one-stop service between SFO and Singapore via Hong Kong, using a 777-300ER.

The daily SFO non-stops will replace the airline’s existing daily San Francisco-Seoul-Singapore service; that will be relocated to Los Angeles on October 23, increasing Singapore’s schedule there from one daily flight (LAX-Tokyo-Singapore) to two, with the second one operating via Seoul.

The LAX flights will both use 777-300ERs with first class, business class, premium economy and economy seating. The carrier currently uses an Airbus A380 on the LAX route, which will be phased out. See our Trip Report covering business class on the new 777-300ER.

All Singapore's west coast flights will feature its new business class. (Image: Singapore Airlines)

All Singapore’s west coast flights will feature its new business class. (Image: Singapore Airlines)

The company said the actual flying time for the San Francisco non-stops will range from 14 hours 35 minutes to 17 hours 45 minutes, depending on direction and time of year. It estimated the distance at 8,451 miles.

This new non-stop news is separate from Singapore’s announcement last fall that it will resume non-stop service to New York and Los Angeles in 2018 using a new, ultra-long-haul version of the A350 being developed by Airbus – designated the A350-900ULR — just for that purpose.

Related: Take a spin inside a brand new Airbus A350

Singapore's long-range A350s will fly non-stop to Los Angeles and New York in 2018. (Image: Airbus)

Singapore’s long-range A350s will fly non-stop to SFO starting Oct 23 (Image: Airbus)

Singapore Airlines is a big believer in the A350: It started to take delivery of the next-generation wide-body this year, and has ordered more than 60 of them. The airline first put the plane into service on the Singapore-Amsterdam route a few months ago, and more recently started flying it between Singapore and South Africa.

Related: First class phase out picks up steam

The Singapore Airlines A350-900 is configured with 253 seats – 42 in business class in a 1-2-1 layout; 24 in premium economy; and 187 in regular economy (No first class). A company representative said the aircraft will be equipped with an enhanced in-flight entertainment system that offers more than 1,000 on-demand options, as well as innovative technology designed to reduce jetlag via advancements in cabin climate, lighting and noise levels.”

About 16 hours each way between SFO and Singapore (TravelMath)

About 16 hours each way between SFO and Singapore (TravelMath)

Which airline would you prefer for the new SFO-SIN 16-hour odyssey? Why? Please leave your comments below. 

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Routes: Air China is back + WOW arrives + Lufthansa’s next month

Fully reclined business class seat on an Air China A330-200. (Image: Air China)

Fully reclined business class seat on an Air China A330-200. (Image: Air China)

Air China’s on-again, off-again plans to fly out of Mineta San Jose International Airport are on again, but with a new starting date; and a low-cost Icelandic carrier brings new, cheap transatlantic options to San Francisco and Los Angeles this month.

Just last week we reported that Air China had scrapped its plans to begin new non-stop flights from Mineta San Jose to Shanghai, which had been announced for a June 16 inaugural. But now the Chinese carrier is back on board with that route. This time, Air China has pushed the new transpacific route back to a September 1 launch date. Air China plans to fly the route three days a week, using a two-class A330-200. Currently, roundtrip fares on AirChina.us for early September are about $1,500 in economy and $7,000 in business class. 

The new service will be San Jose’s second China route following Hainan Airlines, debut of San Jose-Beijing flights last year. SJC also got new London non-stops from BA recently, and will welcome Lufthansa’s delayed SJC-Frankfurt service on July 1 with an A340-300.

San Jose will be Air China’s tenth U.S. gateway. The new flight will operate on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, with a 12:30 p.m. departure time from SJC. Air China is a member of United’s Star Alliance.

WOW Air

Meanwhile, Icelandic low-cost carrier WOW air (www.wowair.com) started flying out of San Francisco International this week, and will make its debut at Los Angeles International on June 15. The company first announced these plans back in January, when it started selling tickets on the new routes. ”Demand was instantaneous, with flights selling out within just 24 hours,” a spokesman said.

The carrier will fly from SFO to Reykjavik five days a week, and from LAX to Reykjavik four days a week, using single-class A330-300s that carry 350 passengers. From Reykjavik, passengers can connect to WOW air flights to 23 cities in Europe, including London, Paris, Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Copenhagen.

And how low is low-cost? WOW said its San Francisco-Reykjavik seats can be had for as little as $99 one-way (available on Thursday flights from late September through early December). Connecting flights to Europe start at $199.

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: United’s newest, longest flight + Tipping Uber drivers + Qantas 747 Trip Report + Confusion over PreCheck policies + No-fee earlier flights

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Routes: LAX, Denver, Paris, Minneapolis, NYC, Atlanta, Boston, Houston

XL Airways A330

More flights between California and Paris this week on XL Airways (Photo: SFO)

International route news this week includes a new French carrier coming to Los Angeles (and back to SF), a new Denver route for Air Canada, Delta transatlantic flights from the Twin Cities and New York JFK, Air France non-stops to Paris Orly, a Lufthansa subsidiary’s introduction of Boston service, and United’s decision to put a Dreamliner on a key South American route.

The French carrier XL Airways has started service to Los Angeles International, operating three flights a week to Paris out of Terminal 2 with an A330. The airline offers two-class service, including regular coach and Premium Galaxy class. The leisure-oriented carrier provides all passengers with one free checked bag, a hot meal and a snack – with upgraded cuisine and wines in the front cabin. XL also flies to Paris from New York, San Francisco and Miami. Also this week, XL’s seasonal SFO-Paris flights resumed. 

 Air Canada, a partner in United’s Star Alliance, this week kicked off the only non-stop service between Denver and Montreal. The daily flight leaves Denver at 6:25 p.m., using a 73-seat Embraer regional jet with business and regular economy seating. The aircraft is Wi-Fi equipped and offers free digital seatback entertainment and a power port at every seat.

Brussels

Delta plans to revive Atlanta-Brussels flights in 2017. (Image: City of Brussels)

Delta has launched a new seasonal transatlantic route and plans to add two more routes to Europe in 2017. The airline last week began daily summer non-stop service from Minneapolis-St. Paul to Rome, using a 226-seat 767 that departs at 5:25 p.m. from MSP. It will continue through Labor Day.

Delta also announced that it plans to resume non-stop flights between its Atlanta hub and Brussels next year; the seasonal service will begin March 27 and continue through the summer, Delta said, using a 767-300. Delta also offers year-round service to Brussels from New York JFK. And on May 25, 2017, Delta will start up new daily seasonal service from New York JFK to Glasgow, Scotland, using a 164-seat 757-200ER. A few weeks ago, Delta launched JFK-Edinburgh flights.

Also at New York JFK, Air France this week started flying to Paris – not to Paris Charles de Gaulle, where it offers multiple daily flights with SkyTeam partner Delta, but to Paris Orly. Its only competition on the New York-Paris Orly route is from British Airways subsidiary Openskies, which flies to the French airport from both JFK and Newark. Air France is flying the route with a 777-200 that has business class, premium economy and regular economy seating. The carrier noted that it recently opened a new premium lounge in Hall 3 at Orly, available to La Premier and business class passengers, as well as Flying Blue elite members.

Eurowings, the low-cost subsidiary of the Lufthansa Group, has started new U.S. service to Boston from Germany’s Cologne-Bonn Airport. The carrier flies the route three times a week with an A330-200 that has business class, regular economy and extra-legroom economy seating.

According to Routesonline.com, United Airlines plans an equipment change on its Houston-Santiago, Chile route effective June 30, replacing the current 767-300ER with a 787-8 Dreamliner.

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: United’s newest, longest flight + Tipping Uber drivers + Qantas 747 Trip Report + Confusion over PreCheck policies + No-fee earlier flights

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Routes: American, Delta, United, Southwest

American's new service to Seattle from LAX in June will find plenty of competition. (Image: Jim Glab)

American’s new service to Seattle from LAX has plenty of competition. (Image: Jim Glab)

In domestic route news this week, American has a big growth spurt at Los Angeles International, and adds new routes from Dallas/Ft. Worth and Tucson; Delta announces a pair of new markets in the western U.S. and adds an East Coast route; United revives some Cleveland routes but drops two California flights; and Southwest plans five new non-stop routes this fall.

It’s a big week for American Airlines at Los Angeles International, where the carrier has started more than 20 new flights to a number of domestic destinations. As part of its build-up at LAX, American is adding two more gates and hundreds of employees there this year. New destinations added to its LAX schedule this week include Seattle (five flights a day in a busy market already served by Delta, Alaska, Virgin America, United and Spirit), Portland (three a day), and Minneapolis-St. Paul (two a day), as well as single daily roundtrips from Los Angeles to New Orleans, Kansas City, Omaha and Hartford. American also added seasonal daily flights from LAX to Anchorage, and weekend service to Durango, Colorado; and will operate summer flights to Jackson Hole, Wyoming every day and to Montrose, Colorado and Vail/Eagle, Colorado on weekends. With the schedule additions, AA now operates more than 220 flights a day at Los Angeles.

At its Dallas/Ft. Worth hub, meanwhile, American just started new daily flights to Montana’s Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport and to Boise, Idaho. And in Arizona, American plans to offer the only non-stop service from Tucson to New York, with a daily daytime flight to JFK beginning October 6.

Delta will use E175s for new San Diego-Las Vegas service. (Image: Delta)

Delta will use E175s for new San Diego-Las Vegas service. (Image: Delta)

Delta Air Lines has set a December 17 start for new service linking San Diego and Las Vegas, a market thoroughly dominated by Southwest. Delta plans to operate three flights a day on the route, using Embraer 175s. And at its Salt Lake City hub, Delta plans to revive service this winter to Aspen, Colorado after a six-year hiatus. The Delta Connection/SkyWest flights will operate once a day with a CRJ700, starting December 17. On the East Coast, meanwhile, Delta just announced plans to begin flying between Newark Liberty International and Raleigh-Durham beginning November 6, using two-class CRJ-700s for three flights a day, operated by Delta Connection/GoJet.

United has been seriously downsizing the former Continental hub at Cleveland Hopkins, but it plans to operate seasonal flights to Florida again this winter, in spite of new competition from several low-cost carriers, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. It said the airline will offer seasonal service from CLE to Ft. Lauderdale and Ft. Myers from December 16 through early April. Meanwhile, United will end a couple of California routes, according to Routesonline.com. It will drop its daily Los Angeles-New Orleans service effective August 16, and its daily flights between Ontario and Houston Bush Intercontinental (operated by SkyWest) at the end of June.

In addition to the two new routes it will add from San Jose starting November 6 – to Salt Lake City and to Baltimore-Washington International – Southwest Airlines said that on the same date it will begin new service between Washington Reagan National and Providence, Rhode Island; Washington Dulles and Orlando; and Kansas City and San Antonio. The airline has already started taking reservations on all the new fall routes.

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Transborder changes at SFO, Chicago, LAX, Houston, Minneapolis and SLC

United is ending Edmonton service from San Francisco and Chicago.

United is ending Edmonton service from San Francisco and Chicago. (Image: Travel Alberta)

Canada is losing some U.S. service but gaining capacity in other markets, and Southwest has its eye on three new Mexico routes from Los Angeles.

Low oil prices are taking a toll on energy industry-related traffic into western Canada. United plans to suspend service after June 30 from both San Francisco and Chicago O’Hare to Edmonton, Alberta; it operates daily E175 flights in both markets. In October, however, United plans to increase Edmonton-Denver service from one flight a day to two. Meanwhile, also on June 30, United will end flights from Houston to Montreal and from Chicago O’Hare to London, Ontario.

And Delta has set a July 31 termination date for its twice-daily service to Regina, Saskatchewan from its Minneapolis-St. Paul hub, ending the last service by a U.S. carrier to the provincial capital. But on June 9, Delta will lay on a second daily roundtrip between Seattle and Edmonton. Air Canada, meanwhile, has just launched a major new U.S. route between Salt Lake City and Toronto.

Across the southern border, Southwest Airlines said it plans to apply for government approvals that should open up new vacation destinations for Rapid Rewards members. The airline wants to begin flying from Los Angeles International to the Mexican resort destinations of Cancun, Puerto Vallarta and San Jose del Cabo. Southwest said it expects to win the necessary approvals by late June, and to begin flying the new routes in November.

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Virgin Australia debuts a “new” 777-300ER

Virgin Australia's new business seats have 18,5-inch touchscreens. (Image: Virgin Australia)

Virgin Australia’s new 777 business class seats have 18-inch touchscreens. (Image: Virgin Australia)

Virgin Australia has rolled out the first of its five 777-300ERs – the model it uses on its transpacific service to Los Angeles – to complete a major overhaul, giving the aircraft a new business class cabin, a refreshed Premium Economy section, and new extra-legroom seating in the main cabin.

The aircraft’s new business class, which Virgin has branded “The Business,” has 37 seats in a 1-2-1 “reverse herringbone” layout, all with aisle access and a full recline that converts them into an 80-inch-long bed. The middle seats have privacy dividers that can be pulled back for communication with a seatmate, and all seats have side consoles with work and storage space. Business customers get turn-down service with cotton pillows, and seats come with an 18-inch high-definition touchscreen. Business class gets an improved food and beverage service as well, and it has a bar where passengers can get drinks, or where they can sit for breakfast if they want.

The middle seats in business class have a movable privacy divider. (Image: Virgin Australia)

The middle seats in business class have a movable privacy divider. (Image: Virgin Australia)

The airline has posted a Youtube video to display the features of its new  business class cabin.

Another nice new touch: a business class bar! (Image: Virgin Australia)

Another nice new touch: a business class bar! (Image: Virgin Australia)

The upgraded Premium Economy section on Virgin Australia’s 777-300ERs has 24 seats that are 19.5 inches wide, with a seat pitch of 41 inches and a recline of nine inches. Customers in Premium Economy will be served plated meals “inspired by business class,” the airline said, and will be offered business class wines. Seats have power and USB ports along with 10.6-inch seatback screens, and customers receive an amenity pack, priority boarding and baggage handling.

The new business class seat reclines into a fully flat bed. (Image: Virgin Australia)

The new business class seat reclines into a fully flat bed. (Image: Virgin Australia)

And that’s not all: The main economy cabin is getting a new product called Economy Space + that will be available for purchase on flights departing August 30 or later. Those seats will be in the first five rows and the exit rows of the main cabin, offering passengers extra legroom, noise-canceling headsets, a guaranteed first meal choice, and a dedicated check-in counter. Those seats will carry a surcharge of $97 to $119 (U.S.).

The overhaul of all five of Virgin Australia’s 777-300ERs is expected to be finished by the third quarter of this year.

Virgin Australia flies to Los Angeles daily from Sydney and Brisbane and has a partnership with Delta.

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Routes: San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, LAX, Salt Lake City, Denver + more…

There are lots of developments in international services this week. United started a new China route; Air Canada kicks off a San Jose route; European carriers begin new transatlantic service from LAX, Oakland, Salt Lake City and Denver; a Chinese carrier sets the date for new Seattle flights; Chicago gets a new transpacific option; and a South American carrier comes to Washington D.C.

United Airlines on Sunday started its newest transpacific route, linking its San Francisco hub with Xi’an, a city of 8 million in central China; it’s the only non-stop service between the U.S. and Xi’an. United will fly the seasonal route three times a week – through October 27 – using a 787 Dreamliner. Westbound flights depart SFO on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays at 1:25 p.m. The westbound flight takes a little over 13 hours.

Low-cost European carrier Norwegian is set to begin its previously announced Oakland-London Gatwick service on May 12. The carrier will use a 787-8 with economy and premium seating, offering non-stop service three times a week. Norwegian’s initial fares on the route started at $299. On May 10, Norwegian increases Los Angeles-London Gatwick service from three flights a week to four.

On May 9, Air Canada kicks off new non-stop service out of Mineta San Jose International Airport to Vancouver. The Canadian carrier will offer two daily roundtrips using CRJ705 regional jets with 10 seats in business class and 65 in coach. Speaking of Vancouver, Air Canada recently announced it will begin a new ultra-long-haul route there on October 20 with non-stop service to Delhi, India operating four days a week with a 787-9 Dreamliner.

This is the Captain Kirk seat-- one of the two best seats in Aer Lingus biz class (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

This is the Captain Kirk seat– one of the two best seats in Aer Lingus biz class (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Aer Lingus last week kicked off Los Angeles-Dublin flights — the first of three new U.S. routes it will be adding this summer. The year-round service from LAX operates four times a week, using an Airbus A330-200. Later this year, the Irish carrier plans to begin new daily flights from Newark starting September 1, and new service from Hartford in late September.

Instead of resuming seasonal service this year between Amsterdam and Dallas/Ft. Worth, KLM opted instead to go with Salt Lake City, where it started flying last week. Its transatlantic joint venture partner Delta also serves the SLC-Amsterdam route. KLM started off with twice-weekly flights Thursdays and Saturdays, and will add a Monday departure on July 4. It’s using an A330-200 on the route. KLM also plans to add seasonal Miami-Amsterdam service in late October.

May 11 is the launch date for new Lufthansa service between Denver and its Munich hub; the German carrier already flies from Denver to Frankfurt. The new Munich service will operate five days a week (Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday), using an Airbus A330—300 with four classes of service, including premium economy, for the 10-1/2 hour flight. The eastbound flight leaves Denver at 4:05 p.m. Easy connections to the new route are available through Lufthansa’s Star Alliance partner United, which has a hub at DEN.

 China’s Xiamen Airlines, a member of Delta’s SkyTeam global alliance, has started taking bookings for its new Seattle-Xiamen route, which will begin September 26. The new service will operate three days a week via an intermediate stop in Shenzen, using a 787-8.

Taiwan’s EVA Air plans to launch new service on November 2 from Taipei to Chicago O’Hare, flying the route four times a week with a 777. EVA also will increase its Taipei-New York JFK schedule effective October 3 from the current 10 flights a week to twice-daily service.

A LATAM 767-300 with the carrier's new livery. (Image: LATAM)

A LATAM 767-300 with the carrier’s new livery. (Image: LATAM)

South America’s LATAM Airlines last week started its newest U.S. route, linking Washington Dulles with Lima, Peru – the only non-stop service between the two capital cities. LATAM will initially offer three flights a week, using a 767-300 with business class and regular economy seating.

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Delta expands West Coast Shuttle

Delta is extending its West Coast Shuttle product to Seattle. (Image: Jim Glab)

Delta is extending its West Coast Shuttle product to Seattle. (Image: Jim Glab)

Faced with a stronger West Coast competitor as Seattle-based Alaska Airlines and San Francisco-based Virgin America move toward a merger, Delta Air Lines is making a pre-emptive strike on the coastal market this week by extending its Shuttle product to Seattle.

Three years ago, the airline introduced Delta Shuttle service between Los Angeles International and San Francisco International, and starting on Wednesday (May 11), it will bring that concept to the Seattle-SFO and Seattle-LAX markets.

It won’t have much immediate impact on schedules – Delta currently operates eight flights a day in both markets – although the company did say it plans to expand its LAX-Seattle schedule to 10 daily roundtrips on weekdays starting May 23.

But it will bring a host of standardized extra services and amenities to those routes clearly aimed at capturing a bigger share of business travelers.  Here’s Delta’s list of the Shuttle features it is introducing for SEA-LAX/SFO flights:

  • Dedicated check-in counters exclusively for Delta Shuttle customers
  • Gates located near security
  • Complimentary newspapers for all customers including The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Financial Times
  • Assigned seating
  • Two classes of service with complimentary upgrades for SkyMiles Medallion members when available
  • Complimentary meals in First Class on all flights
  • Complimentary Luvo snack box offered in Comfort+ on all flights
  • Complimentary onboard snacks provided by Nourish Snacks in the main cabin
  • Complimentary in-flight beer, wine, spirits and other beverages in all classes of service, including Lagunitas Brewing Company and Fremont Brewing Company craft beer and Starbucks coffee
  • Access to in-flight Wi-Fi and free entertainment options through Delta Studio
  • Convenient access to the new Delta Sky Club set to open in Fall 2016 (at SEA) on Concourse A

Delta will use a mix of 737-800 and 717s on the SEA-LAX route, and two-class E175s operated by Compass Airlines on the SEA-SFO route.

How do you fly up and down the West Coast? Please leave your comments below. 

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Routes: Virgin America, JetBlue, Delta, Surf Air, Sun Country

Virgin America has started flying to Hawaii from Los Angeles. (Image: Virgin America)

Virgin America has started flying to Hawaii from Los Angeles. (Image: Virgin America)

In domestic route news, Virgin America kicks off a new Hawaii service, JetBlue will jump into a busy Northeast Corridor market, California’s Surf Air has a new pricing option, Delta adds a route from Washington D.C., and Sun Country Airlines comes to Denver.

Virgin America Airlines continued its expansion in the Hawaii market by launching new daily non-stops this week from Los Angeles International to Honolulu. It will add more new Hawaii service next month, with plans to start flying from LAX to Kahului Airport on Maui as of June 14. The carrier already flies from San Francisco to both destinations in Hawaii. To promote the new Los Angeles routes, Virgin has launched a Hawaiiscape sweepstakes for Elevate members, offering free flights, hotel stays and 50,000 Elevate points. Members who enter at www.MakeYourHawaiiscape.com by May 27 will get 250 Elevate points.

JetBlue is planning to start flying this fall between New York LaGuardia and Boston Logan, a market thoroughly dominated by Delta and American. The carrier set an October 31 start for the service, which will offer six flights a day on weekdays between LGA and BOS, with lighter schedules on weekends. That will give JetBlue customers the option of flying to Boston from any of New York’s three airports. JetBlue said it will also take advantage of the FAA’s decision to open up slot controls at Newark Airport by adding more frequencies this fall from Newark to Orlando, Tampa, Ft. Lauderdale, Palm Beach and Ft. Myers. Meanwhile, JetBlue this week added Nashville to its route map, launching two daily roundtrips from there to Boston and one to Ft. Lauderdale.

Surf Air offers private aircraft flights around California. (Image: Surf Air)

Surf Air offers private aircraft flights around California. (Image: Surf Air)

Surf Air, which promotes itself to California travelers as an “all-you-can-fly private air travel club,” is offering a new lower-priced membership option through the end of this month with no initiation fee. The new Explorer Membership is priced at $850 per month, with a minimum three-month commitment. It includes one monthly roundtrip flight to any Surf Air destination. A regular membership starts at $1,950 a month. The company operates executive private aircraft around an intrastate network that includes airports in the Bay Area, metro Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Truckee/Tahoe, Napa, Monterey, Sacramento, Palm Springs and Las Vegas.

Delta Air Lines plans an August 1 start for new Delta Connection service between Washington Reagan National and Raleigh, according to Airlineroute.net. The carrier will offer four flights a day on the route, using CRJ900s operated by GoJet Airlines.

Sun Country Airlines, a niche carrier based at Minneapolis/St. Paul International, this week kicked off new service between Denver and MSP. The carrier operates one daily roundtrip in the market, offering Denver-originating passengers eastbound connections to Boston, Washington D.C. and New York JFK.

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: United’s newest, longest flight + Tipping Uber drivers + Qantas 747 Trip Report + Confusion over PreCheck policies + No-fee earlier flights

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Uber-Lyft updates for Newark, Boston, Seattle, New Orleans, Los Angeles

Uber at the airport in Newark still a question mark (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Uber at the airport in Newark still a question mark (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

In the latest news about Uber, Lyft and other ride sharing operators, the ongoing controversy about passenger pick-ups at Newark Airport is apparently not close to resolution; an entrepreneur in Boston plans to launch a whole new kind of ride-sharing for skittish customers; passenger pick-ups officially begin at two major airports; and L.A. taxi drivers are feeling the pain.

All eyes of ride-sharing drivers in northern New Jersey will be on the Newark City Council next week as it plans to vote on new fees for those operators – and the proposed fees have caused some outrage. The city’s plan is to assess a $500 annual fee on drivers to operate in Newark, plus an additional $1,000 fee for the right to pick up passengers at Newark Liberty International Airport and at Newark Penn Station. An Uber executive told NJ.com that if the fee ordinance is approved, Uber will simply stop operating in Newark. Earlier, Newark officials had threatened to tow the cars of ride-sharing drivers if they caught them at Newark Airport.

A former Uber driver in Boston, taking note of occasional news reports about crime and violence committed by or upon the service’s vehicle operators, plans to start a new ride-sharing service specifically for customers who might feel vulnerable or threatened. The new operation, called Chariot for Women, will use only female drivers and will restrict its customer base to women and children under 13. The only thing that might stand in its way, according to the Washington Post, is the question of whether it is legal to restrict service by age and/or gender.

Ride-sharing apps continue to make inroads at airports -- with some exceptions. (Image: Uber)

Ride-sharing apps continue to make inroads at airports — with some exceptions. (Image: Uber)

It’s official: UberX and Lyft have started picking up passengers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport under a one-year pilot program approved by the Port of Seattle. UberPool, Uber’s car-pooling service, has also started operating at Sea-Tac. A writer for GeekWire tried out the new option, and found only one problem: Difficulty locating the passenger pick-up area on the third floor of the parking garage. “I knew the pick-up area was staged on the third floor of the parking garage. But for anyone else arriving at the airport trying to find their Uber or Lyft driver, this is difficult to locate because there are no signs pointing people to the pickup area until you exit the terminal and enter the third floor of the parking garage,” the writer noted.

UberX last week started picking up arriving passengers at New Orleans’ Louis Armstrong International Airport, and Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a Tweet that “more ride-sharing companies will follow.” Uber said the minimum cost of a ride between the airport and downtown is $33, subject to surge pricing increases, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Drivers will wait for their customers in a designated app-based ride services area on the upper level of the airport’s Ground Transportation Center.

Taxi drivers have long complained that ride-sharing apps are costing them business, and a report in the Los Angeles Times suggests they are right. It cites statistics from the city’s Department of Transportation showing that in 2012 – just before Uber and Lyft started operating in the city – taxis operated a total of 8.4 million trips. In 2015, that number dropped to 6 million. The story cited a cab company manager who said taxi drivers take-home pay has dropped from $800 per week a few years ago to $400-$500 now. And the number of licensed taxi drivers in the city has declined by 586 over the past three years, with some of them defecting to ride-sharing services.

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JetBlue’s big Mint expansion: Seattle, Ft Lauderdale, San Diego

JetBlue has big plans for expanding its Mint service. (Image: JetBlue)

JetBlue has big plans for expanding its Mint service. Seattle’s in for a treat (Image: JetBlue)

Encouraged by the success of its Mint lie-flat premium cabins on their existing routes, JetBlue said it will expand the service to seven more transcontinental markets over the next two years.

The airline first introduced Mint service on its New York JFK-San Francisco and JFK-Los Angeles routes; it recently added Mint cabins between San Francisco-Boston and will do the same this fall between Los Angeles-Boston.

Today the carrier said that starting next year, it will introduce the premium service between San Francisco-Ft. Lauderdale, Los Angeles-Ft. Lauderdale, Las Vegas-JFK, San Diego-JFK, San Diego-Boston, Seattle-JFK and Seattle-Boston. The company said all of those routes have “strong demand for premium travel.”

JetBlue's Mint class meals- choose three of five options. I chose the terrine, lentil salad and pot roast. (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

JetBlue’s Mint class meals- choose three of five options. I chose the terrine, lentil salad and pot roast. (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

“Our plan has long called for strategic growth of Mint on these valuable transcontinental routes, and now is the right time for us to capture this opportunity to bring much needed competition where customers are facing dwindling choices,” said JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes.

JetBlue is due to take delivery of nine Mint-equipped Airbus A321s in 2017 and even more of the aircraft the following year. The Mint cabins have seats that recline to a fully-flat position, some with low sliding doors for privacy; 15-inch video monitors with free entertainment selections; enhanced food and beverage offerings, and amenity kits. JetBlue also provides its free high-speed Wi-Fi service – called Fly-Fi – for all passengers on its Airbus fleet.

JetBlue's lie flat Mint class seat fully reclined (Chris McGinnis)

JetBlue’s lie flat Mint class seat fully reclined (Chris McGinnis)

The airline has also been expanding Mint service to parts of its Caribbean network. The premium cabins are available on year-round service from New York JFK to Barbados and on a seasonal basis from New York to Aruba and Boston-Barbados. JetBlue recently announced it will also offer the premium cabins on a seasonal basis starting in November from New York JFK to St. Lucia and St. Maarten and from Boston to Aruba.

Have you flown in Mint class yet? Do you plan to? We have! Be sure to see our JetBlue Mint Trip Report SFO-JFK. Does it look posh enough to tear you away from United, Delta or American?

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Routes: Southwest, American, United, Alaska, JetBlue

Southwest will jump into the Oakland-Log Beach market. (Image: Oakland Airport)

Southwest will jump into the Oakland-Long Beach market. (Image: Oakland Airport)

In domestic route developments, Southwest expands within California and adds several other markets; American adds three routes from the Midwest; United adds a spoke from its Denver hub and drops one from Dulles; Alaska tries a new Kona gateway; and JetBlue adjusts the launch of LAX Mint flights.

Southwest Airlines will add Long Beach, California to its map on June 5, when it begins operating four flights a day from there to Oakland. The carrier is offering $49 one-way fares for travel through November 4, with an April 14 booking deadline. Southwest also has new service starting April 12 on several routes, with one daily flight in each market, including Atlanta to Greenville-Spartanburg; Baltimore/Washington to Minneapolis-St. Paul; Chicago Midway to Dayton, Ohio and to Flint and Grand Rapids, Mich.; Newark to Las Vegas and to Orlando; Phoenix to Wichita, Kans.; and St. Louis to Wichita and to Des Moines, Iowa.

With the Republican Convention in Cleveland coming up in July, American Airlines this week kicked off new Eagle service to Cleveland from Washington Reagan National with three flights a day (at the same time. American dropped its Cleveland-Phoenix service). Other new American Eagle service that started this week includes three flights a day from Washington Reagan National to Minneapolis-St. Paul, and two a day between Chicago O’Hare and Providence.

United is adding two new routes from Denver International to the East Coast this spring. (Image: Jim Glab)

United is adding two new routes from Denver International (Image: Jim Glab)

United has added a new spoke from its Denver hub, launching daily service to Richmond, Virginia; it’s the longest flight and the westernmost point served no-stop from Richmond. Meanwhile, United has set June 8 as the last day for United Express service between its Washington Dulles hub and Moline, Illinois.

Bellingham, Washington isn’t all that far from Seattle, but Alaska Airlines decided the city needs its own service to the Big Island of Hawaii. Alaska said it will operate once-a-week seasonal service (on Saturdays) between Bellingham and Kona from November 12 through April 1, using a 737-800.

According to Airlineroute.net, JetBlue has moved up the starting date for putting a Mint-equipped aircraft onto its Boston-Los Angeles route. The first Mint-equipped A321 will start flying LAX-Boston on October 20 instead of October 30. By November 17, the premium cabins should be on all three of JetBlue’s three daily flights in the market.

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: United’s newest, longest flight + Tipping Uber drivers + Qantas 747 Trip Report + Confusion over PreCheck policies + No-fee earlier flights

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Deal alert: US to New Zealand for $898 roundtrip!

Air New Zealand flies a 777-300 like this on its LAX-AKL run (Photo: Air New Zealand)

Air New Zealand flies a 777-300 like this on its LAX-AKL run (Photo: Air New Zealand)

Today Air New Zealand announced an astonishingly low fare for summer trips to cities throughout New Zealand. If you’ve been scared away from Europe due to the recent terror attacks, this might be the summer to head to the antipodes instead.

Fares to Auckland from Los Angeles and San Francisco are just $898 round trip. From Houston, they are just $1098 round trip. And for just $50 more, you can add on an additional city in New Zealand.

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 3.36.25 PMIt’s rare to see fares to Australia or New Zealand dip below $1,000 round trip. These low airfares combined with a strong US dollar make for some of the lowest overall trip costs you’ll see in a loooong time. (Exchange rate is currently 68 cents per NZ$1.)

So if you’ve always dreamed of a trip to these mystical islands, this could be the time to make the jump! To get the deal, you must purchase your ticket by April 14. Here’s the link to the deal.

Regrettably, these low fares must be purchased from Air New Zealand in “G” class, which means that you cannot earn United MileagePlus miles on these flights.

Travel periods vary from city to city…and keep in mind that mid-summer here is mid-winter down there, which tends to be cold and wet. But November is warm and springlike. To get the lowest fares, you must travel on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. Friday, Saturday and Sunday flights cost $50 more (still a great deal!)

  • Travel period from Los Angeles is July 10-19, July 24 – Sept 21 and Nov 8 – Nov 26, 2016.
  • Travel period from San Francisco is July 1 – July 18, Aug 5 – Sept 21, Oct 28 – Nov 22, 2016.
  • Travel period from Houston is July 5 – July 18, July 31 – Sept 18, Oct 28 – Nov 30, 2016.

More info here

Competitive response? Keep an eye on United, with SFO-Auckland nonstops that start in June and Qantas, which may match (or come close to matching) this low fare.

–Chris McGinnis

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Routes: San Francisco, JFK, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Toronto

 

United 787-9 Dreamliner

United will use a 787-9 Dreamliner on its new San Francisco-Tel Aviv non-stops. (Image: United)

In international route developments, United kicks off new service from San Francisco to Israel; Qatar Airways doubles up its New York-Doha schedule; SAS and Norwegian both add new service out of Boston; Iberia comes to LAX; Chicago O’Hare gets new service to Iceland, China and Mexico; American and TAM both drop South American routes; and Air Canada revives a Salt Lake City route.

March 30 is the starting date for United’s new non-stop flights from San Francisco to Tel Aviv. United will use a 787-9 Dreamliner to fly the route three times a week, with SFO departures at 8 p.m. Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. The eastbound flight is estimated to take 14 hours and 10 minutes, with the return taking 15 hours 5 minutes. The carrier also flies to Tel Aviv from its Newark hub.

 Qatar Airways, which started service earlier this month to Doha from Boston, is due to add a second daily frequency between New York JFK and Doha starting April 1. The airline will use a new Airbus A350-900-XWB for the extra flight, which departs JFK at 6 a.m. The other flight still uses a 777.

The view from my room at the Radisson Blu Royal hotel in Copenhagen (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

The view from my room at the Radisson Blu Royal hotel in Copenhagen (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Boston is getting new service to a pair of European destinations. March 29 is the launch date for SAS to start flying from Boston to Copenhagen every day. The Scandinavian carrier is using a non-standard aircraft on the route – a 737-700 Boeing Business Jet operated by PrivatAir, with 20 business and 66 economy seats. The other new Boston route that started this week is Norwegian’s Boston-London Gatwick service. The low-cost airline is using a 787 to fly the route four days a week. Norwegian also announced plans to start weekly service from Las Vegas to Oslo starting in November.

Iberia, a member of American’s Oneworld alliance, begins seasonal service March 30 from Los Angeles to Madrid. Using A330s and A340s, Iberia will start off with three flights a week, increasing to five a week May 17, then six a week beginning June 6 and daily frequencies from July 3 to August 28 before it starts to scale back the schedule again.

Icelandair Aurora

Icelandair’s stunning Hekla Aurora 757 livery (Photo: Icelandair)

At Chicago O’Hare, Icelandair has kicked off year-round service to Reykjavik, using a 767 to fly the route four days a week (Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays), with an early-morning arrival in Iceland that permits easy connections to 20 destinations in Europe. Also at O’Hare, China Eastern Airlines has launched new non-stops to Shanghai Pudong, where it offers scores of connections to other Chinese cities. China Eastern is using a 777-300ER for the daily flights. And Mexican carrier Volaris announced plans to start service from Chicago O’Hare to Monterrey, Mexico on June 17, flying the route twice a week with an A320.

South America is losing a couple of routes to the U.S. On April 4, American Airlines plans to suspend its three-month-old New York JFK-Caracas flights “until market conditions improve.”  And on June 3, Brazilian carrier TAM is due to discontinue its three to four flights a week from Orlando to Brasilia.

Air Canada plans to return to Salt Lake City International on May 27, offering daily service to its Toronto hub with a 97-seat, two-class Embraer 190.

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about:  Should I tip my Uber driver? + Boeing 747 nearing its end? + Bargain hunters travel guide for 2016 + World’s best airline lounge? + Fares to Europe tumble 

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AA wants another big China route

American has joined Delta in seeking new route rights from LAX to Beijing. (Image: Motox810 / Flickr)

American has joined Delta in seeking new route rights from LAX to Beijing. (Image: Motox810 / Flickr)

It seems like U.S. airlines just can’t get enough China routes. Just a few weeks after American Airlines announced that it plans to begin daily Los Angeles-Hong Kong service on September 7, the airline now says it wants another new China route – the same one Delta wants.

That route is Los Angeles-Beijing, which is currently served on a non-stop basis only by Air China, which offers two to three flights a day and code-shares with United. Delta earlier this month said it has applied for government approvals to operate daily LAX-Beijing flights starting December 16. American said it wants to start daily service on the route on the same date; it did not specify what type of aircraft it would use.

American noted that it is building up not only its international network at LAX, but also its domestic feed, with plans to begin more than 20 new daily flights there by June to new and existing U.S. destinations. It is also adding two more gates at LAX to support its larger presence. American currently flies to Beijing from Chicago and Dallas/Ft. Worth.

It might be possible that both airlines could get the nod for LAX-Beijing flights. Although China has followed a policy of limiting its airlines to no more than one Chinese carrier on any given U.S. route, the U.S. has not done the same. For instance, the Los Angeles-Shanghai route is currently flown by American, Delta and United.

In any case, the skies to China are getting crowded. Besides the growth at LAX, United plans to start San Francisco-Hangzhou non-stops on July 13 and seasonal service from SFO to Xi’an starting May 8. And China Eastern Airlines last week launched new daily flights from Chicago O’Hare to Shanghai.

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California hotel rates are soaring

Rooftop pool deck at Kimpton's Hotel Wilshire in Los Angeles (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Rooftop pool deck at Kimpton’s Hotel Wilshire in Los Angeles CLICK (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Demand for hotel rooms in key California business markets is pushing up room rates far above the national average, according to a new report.

STR, a firm that tracks hotel industry performance and metrics, this week released data for room rates in major cities during the week of March 13-19 and compared them with the same period a year earlier.

It found that among the nation’s top 25 markets, the biggest increase in average daily rates was in Los Angeles/Long Beach, where the average room rate soared by 14 percent, to $174 per night. The higher room rates corresponded with a big increase in demand: STR said the average occupancy rate for Los Angeles/Long Beach hotels hit 88 percent, a gain of 6.4 percent.

That compares with the national average of daily rates that increased just 4.2 percent (to $127) and occupancy of 70.5 percent, a gain of 1.9 percent.

Impressive lobby in the brand new Axiom Hotel near San Francisco's Union Square (Photo: Axiom)

Impressive lobby in the brand new Axiom Hotel near San Francisco’s Union Square CLICK (Photo: Axiom)

The company also found substantial rate increases in two other California markets: San Francisco/San Mateo and Anaheim/Santa Ana. It said the average room rate in the San Francisco area jumped 11.3 percent year-over-year to $240 a night, while the average rate for Anaheim/Santa Ana hotels rose 10.7 percent to $154. (Note that the rate period studied – March 13-19 – does not include the Super Bowl period, when San Francisco room rates ballooned even more.)

Looking at a different metric – revenue per available room, which includes more than just the room rate and thus reflects overall guest spending – STR found even larger year-over-year gains for those three markets – 21.3 percent for L.A./Long Beach, 16.6 percent for Anaheim/Santa Ana and 16.0 percent for San Francisco/San Mateo, ranking them number one, two and three in the nation. It also found a 12 percent increase in revenue per available room for San Diego hotels.

Some observers have suggested that the rapid growth of Airbnb would draw enough business away from hotels to put downward pressure on rates – but that’s apparently not the case in Los Angeles. The LA Times reported last week that from May 2015 to January 2016, the number of Airbnb listings for Los Angeles County skyrocketed by 42 percent.

Just goes to show that California is once again hot-hot-hot, repeating its historic rythym of boom and bust.

What’s your favorite California hotel? Why? Have you noticed higher rates? Please leave your comments below. 

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Routes: JetBlue, Delta, United, Alaska, Spirit

Only a handful of these very special seats on JetBlue and Aer Lingus (Chris McGinnis)

These very special solo seats in Mint class on JetBlue now on SFO-BOS (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

In new domestic route activity, JetBlue’s first Mint-equipped aircraft starts flying between San Francisco and Boston, and the airline plans more flights out of Long Beach; Alaska Airlines adds a pair of new markets from Orange County Airport; Delta will soon kick off a new transcontinental route; United is about to add an East Coast spoke from its Denver hub; and Spirit Airlines jumps into a busy West Coast city pair.

JetBlue on Thursday (March 24) put an Airbus A321 equipped with its premium Mint cabin into service on one of its three daily flights between San Francisco and Boston. Mint service provides flat-bed seats, a small number of private suites, tapas-style dining, 15-inch flat screen monitors with DIRECTV, and free Fly-Fi Wi-Fi. A Mint-equipped A321 will be deployed on a second SFO-BOS flight starting April 20 and will be on all three effective September 20. The latest update on JetBlue’s plans for Los Angeles-Boston Mint service calls for one daily Mint flight to begin October 30, with all three daily flights on that route offering the premium cabin by November 17. (Here’s our Trip Report from JetBlue’s Mint service when it debuted last winter.)

Meanwhile, JetBlue also announced that it obtained some additional slots at Long Beach, California, which will enable it to begin new Long Beach-Reno/Tahoe flights starting August 15, and to add one more daily roundtrip to both its Long Beach-San Francisco and Long Beach-Oakland schedules effective August 15 and 16 respectively.

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Delta & Alaska Air battle for Seattle (Photo: Jim Glab)

Delta & Alaska Air battle for Seattle (Photo: Jim Glab)

Speaking of Boston, we’re getting close to the launch of a new Delta transcontinental route between Boston and its fast-growing operation at Seattle-Tacoma International. April 4 is the scheduled starting date; Delta will use a 737-800 for the single daily roundtrip.

United Airlines plans an April 5 start for new service from its Denver hub, adding one daily roundtrip to Richmond, Virginia. The airline will use a 76-seat Embraer 175 with first class, Economy Plus and regular economy seating on the route, which at 1,482 miles will be the longest flight available out of Richmond.

Alaska Airlines continues to expand at John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California. Last week, it started flying from Orange County to Reno/Tahoe and to Santa Rosa, California, using 76-seat Q400 turboprops to operate one daily roundtrip in each market.

Spirit Airlines added a new point on its route map Thursday (March 24) with the beginning of service at Seattle-Tacoma. The airline’s first route there is to Los Angeles International, with two flights a day. In mid-April, Spirit will add a pair of daily Seattle-Las Vegas flights.

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Routes: Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago, Salt Lake, Toronto

 

Qatar Airways is using an A350 on its new Boston-Doha route. (Image: Qatar Airways)

Qatar Airways is using an A350 on its new Boston-Doha route. (Image: Qatar Airways)

In international route developments, Qatar Airways starts flying to a new U.S. gateway, SAS adds a West Coast route, a Delta seasonal route to London will go year-round, American deploys a 787 Dreamliner on a U.K. route, and a WestJet division starts new service to the northeastern U.S.

Qatar Airways this week inaugurated service on its newest U.S. route, offering daily non-stop flights from Boston to Doha, Qatar. The carrier is using a new Airbus A350 on the Boston route, which is one of three new U.S. markets it will serve this year. In January, the airline started daily non-stops from Los Angeles to Doha, and it plans to launch Doha-Atlanta daily non-stops on June 1. And on April 1, Qatar Airways will add a second daily non-stop from Doha to New York, also using an A350.

SAS light attendants change into chef outfits when serving dinner (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

SAS flight attendants change into chef outfits when serving dinner (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Another new route that kicked off this week is Scandinavian Airlines’ daily service from Los Angeles International to Stockholm Arlanda. SAS, a Star Alliance member, is also on a growth track in the U.S. this year; at the end of March, it will begin Boston-Copenhagen service, and in September it plans to add flights from Miami to Oslo and Copenhagen. On the LAX-Stockholm route, SAS is using an Airbus A330-300 with three cabins: SAS Go has seats in a 2-4-2 configuration with 31/32 inch pitch; SAS Plus has 2-3-2 seating with 38-inch pitch; and SAS Business has a 1-2-1 layout with lie-flat seat-beds that have a massage feature.

Delta’s new non-stops from Salt Lake City to London Heathrow that start on May 1 were intended to be seasonal, but now the airline plans to keep the route going year-round, according to Airlineroute.net. The airline will cut back its daily frequencies after October 28, offering three flights a week through December 18, then four a week starting December 19. Delta will use a 767-300 on the route.

American is using a 787 Dreamliner on its new Los Angeles-Tokyo Haneda route. (Image: American)

American’s new 787 Dreamliner (Image: American)

The 767-300 that American Airlines uses on its daily service from Chicago O’Hare to Manchester, U.K. will be replaced this summer with a 787-8 Dreamliner. The changeover, which begins June 3, will put an extra 154 seats a week onto the route.

 A three-year-old affiliate of Canada’s WestJet called WestJet Encore has launched its first transborder service, flying three times a day between Boston and Toronto Pearson. Encore’s fleet consists entirely of Q400 turboprops. The carrier plans to start Toronto-Nashville flights in June.

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Delta eyes a big new China route

Delta plans to use a 777-200 for new LAX-Beijing non-stops. (Image: Delta)

Delta plans to use a 777-200 for new LAX-Beijing non-stops. (Image: Delta)

The expansion of new air routes between the U.S. and China just keeps growing, and the latest proposal for new daily non-stop service comes from Delta.

Delta said this week it has applied for U.S. and Chinese government approvals to kick off daily non-stops between Los Angeles and Beijing starting December 16. It would be the airline’s second China route from LAX, following its introduction of Los Angeles-Shanghai flights last summer.

Currently, the only carrier to operate LAX-Beijing non-stops is Air China, which has two to three 777-300 flights a day. Those flights are also offered through United Airlines as code-shares.

Delta said it will serve the proposed LAX-Beijing route with a 291-seat 777-200ER, with 37 flat-bed seats in Delta One, 36 seats in Delta Comfort+ and 218 in regular economy. Through its SkyTeam partners China Southern and China Eastern, Delta will offer connections at Beijing to 39 other cities in China.

Besides LAX-Shanghai, Delta’s existing non-stop routes to China include Detroit-Beijing, Detroit-Shanghai, Seattle-Beijing and Seattle-Shanghai. The airline also flies from Seattle to Hong Kong twice a week – service that will return to daily frequencies March 28.

Delta is using a double-gateway strategy to develop its transpacific network from the West Coast, expanding services from both Seattle and Los Angeles. In addition to Shanghai, its other transpacific flights from Los Angeles include Sydney, Tokyo Narita and Tokyo Haneda.

Just last week, three other new China routes were announced, including United’s plans to fly from San Francisco to Hangzhou; American’s proposal for Los Angeles-Hong Kong service; and China Eastern’s new Chicago-Shanghai flights.

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3 new China routes from United, American, China Eastern

American will begin LAX-Hong Kong flights in September. (Image: Hong Kong Tourism Board)

American will begin LAX-Hong Kong flights in September. (Image: Hong Kong Tourism Board)

Additional routes to China are springing up all over the place these days. And this week, there are three new ones from United, American and China Eastern.

At San Francisco International, United plans a July 13 launch (subject to government approval) for new non-stop service to Hangzhou, the capital city of China’s Zhejiang Province, located 102 miles southwest of Shanghai. United will fly the route three times a week (Monday, Wednesday and Saturday westbound) using a 252-seat 787-9 Dreamliner with 48 seats in BusinessFirst and 204 in economy (including 88 Economy Plus seats). Hangzhou will be the fifth Chinese city served by United from San Francisco, along with Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu and Hong Kong. The airline also plans to offer seasonal service from SFO to Xi’an from May 8 to October 27. Hangzhou is located about 110 miles southwest of Shanghai. Its metropolitan area is China’s fourth largest with a population of nearly 9 million. Fare info won’t be available until the flights get government approval – but currently, United nonstops between SFO and nearby Shanghai are running as low as $535 roundtrip in economy, $4,300 in business class.

At Los Angeles International, American Airlines this week confirmed long-rumored plans to start flying to Hong Kong. The new daily non-stops will begin September 7 (subject to regulatory approvals), and American will use a 777-300ER on the route, offering eight first class, 52 business class, 220 regular economy and 30 Main Cabin Extra seats. The westbound flights out of LAX will have a rather unfortunate departure time of 1:55 a.m. The new LAX-Hong Kong service will be operated as part of AA’s joint venture with Japan Airlines. It’s part of American’s ongoing transpacific growth at LAX, which also includes new non-stops to Tokyo Haneda that started last month, LAX-Sydney flights that kicked off in December, and LAX-Auckland service that will begin June 23.

Screen Shot 2016-03-09 at 10.18.12 AM

Click for more info and a video of the China Eastern new B777

Finally, China Eastern Airlines – a member of Delta’s SkyTeam alliance – said it will launch new daily service on March 18 between Chicago O’Hare and Shanghai Pudong , where it offers scores of connections to other cities in China and Asia. The carrier said it will use a 777-300ER on the route, with first class, business class and economy seating, and Wi-Fi throughout. China Eastern said customers in first and business will be offered free luxury car transfers from the airport in Shanghai, and that similar transfers at O’Hare will be available “soon.”

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about:  Should I tip my Uber driver? + Boeing 747 nearing its end? + Bargain hunters travel guide for 2016 + World’s best airline lounge? + Fares to Europe tumble 

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Airports: LAX consolidation, Oakland kiosks, ATL hotel, DFW improvements & more

Part of the signage for Star Alliance's new Aisle C in the Bradley Terminal at LAX. (Image: Star Alliance)

Part of the signage for Star Alliance’s new Aisle C in the Bradley Terminal at LAX. (Image: Star Alliance)

In airport news this week, Los Angeles brings the Star Alliance together; Oakland adds passport kiosks, Dallas/Ft. Worth makes improvements to Terminal B, Atlanta revises plans for its on-site airport hotel, and Charlotte begins construction of a new concourse.

The Star Alliance reports that it has finished moving its overseas carrier members into the same section of Los Angeles International’s Tom Bradley Terminal, where it also now offers more check-in options. The new Star Alliance area is Aisle C at the north end of the terminal, which is now home to the check-in counters for Air China, Air New Zealand, ANA, Asiana, EVA, Ethiopian, Lufthansa, Singapore, SWISS and Turkish Airlines. When Scandinavian Airlines begins LAX service this month, it will also be located there. The group has installed 24 kiosks that can print boarding passes and luggage tags for all the member airlines, and bag-drop counters are available for those who tag their own luggage. The airport plans to open a new North Security Checkpoint later this month at the end of Aisle C. Star Alliance members not in the Bradley Terminal include United (Terminals 7 and 8), COPA (Terminal 6) and Air Canada and Avianca (Terminal 2).

Oakland International is the latest airport to install new self-service Automated Passport Control kiosks for returning overseas travelers. No pre-registration or fee is required to use the eight kiosks, where travelers can input the requested entry data and then receive a receipt to present to a Customs and Border Protection agent as they exit. “Use of the self-service kiosks will expedite the border clearance process, resulting in shorter waits for travelers, fewer missed connections, and cost and space savings for OAK,” an airport official said.

Officials at Dallas/Ft. Worth International say the airport has finished work on a major overhaul of part of its B Terminal, covering the section from Gates B4 through B11 as well as baggage claim areas and a security checkpoint. The project also provided two new passenger entries with elevator access, including a covered walkway from the parking garage to the terminal. New passenger concessions in the renovated Terminal B section include an Ice Box Café, Hudson News, Dunkin’ Donuts, InMotion, Texas Marketplace and Red Mango. A pre-security Sierra News store has been added near the B4/B5 baggage claim area, and new charging tables have been installed in the affected gate areas. The next phase of the work will cover the area around Gates B18-B23.

New rendering of the hotel coming to Atlanta's airport. (Image: Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson)

New rendering of the hotel coming to Atlanta’s airport. (Image: Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson)

Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International has released new drawings of the on-site hotel to be built at the airport, and the property looks quite different from the original renderings that came out a few months ago. The new hotel is still expected to be designed by the firm of renowned Atlanta architect John Portman, but its new look is more “modern” and “geometric,” according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. InterContinental Hotels is expected to operate the property, which is now being projected at 440 rooms instead of 300. It’s part of a larger “Airport City” project that will include commercial space, retail outlets and a travel plaza.

Construction started this week on a new concourse at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, to be located on the site of former rental car buildings north of the existing Concourse A. The new $200- million, nine-gate concourse – which will serve airlines other than American – will be linked to Concourse A by moving walkways. It’s due to open in 2018, officials said, noting that more space is urgently needed since the airport’s passenger numbers in creased by 60 percent over the past decade.

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New Metro line to serve LA’s “Silicon Beach”

LA's Metro Rail's new line runs just north of I-10 from Downtown LA to the beach (Image: LACMTA)

LA’s Metro Rail’s new line runs just north of I-10 from Downtown LA to “Silicon Beach” (Image: LACMTA)

A new way to navigate Los Angeles arrives on May 20 when the latest extension of the city’s Metro light rail line makes its debut. The new line runs along the southern edge of city’s busy west side, paralleling Interstate 10 on an unused rail bed from downtown all the way to Santa Monica and the city’s new “Silicon Beach” near the coast.

The extension represents the first time in more than 50 years that anyone has been able to reach the beach from the city’s urban core. The once popular Santa Monica Line of the Pacific Electric red car system ceased operation in 1953.

What does this mean for business travelers? Well, in a couple of months, it will be possible to traverse the city’s traffic- clogged western side without ever getting behind the wheel of a rental car or overpaying for a car or cab. Which means you could stay in a beachy Santa Monica hotel, skip traffic and take the train to your meetings downtown or in Century City without having to face the city’s traffic beast.

The trip between downtown and the beach will take about 46 minutes and will make use of seven new stations. Stops include Palms, Westwood/Rancho Park, Expo/Sepulveda, Expo/Bundy, 26th Street/Bergamot, 17th Street/Santa Monica College and Downtown Santa Monica. The new rail extension will also serve the Westside Pavilion in West L.A. and the job-heavy tech and media corridors along Olympic Boulevard.

Trains are set to depart every 12 minutes and the cost of a one-way trip is only $1.75.

Take the train to the beach in Santa Monica (Photo: Jon Sullivan / Wikimedia Commons)

Take the train to the beach in Santa Monica (Photo: Jon Sullivan / Wikimedia Commons)

The first phase of the Expo line opened in 2012 from the 7th and Metro Station in downtown L.A. to USC/Exposition Park and Culver City, a trip that clocks in at about eight and a half miles. The new extension nearly doubles that length.

That said, once you get to the end of the new line, you will land at the new Santa Monica Metro station. This station, full of colorful creations by local artists, sits smack in the middle of the thriving seaside community on Fourth Street and Colorado Avenue, right across the street from the Santa Monica Place shopping mall and only two blocks from a couple of decent business friendly hotels: the Wyndham Santa Monica At The Pier and the Doubletree Suites by Hilton Hotel Santa Monica. A bit further away, but walkable on a nice day, are the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel, The JW Marriott, the Fairmont Miramar and the Le Meridien.

Would you use LA’s Metro system while on a business trip? Why or why not? Please leave your comments below.

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Airports: LAX connector, SFO dining, ATL flap, CPR at ORD, DFW app,

Rendering of the new connector at LAX between T4 and the Bradley International Terminal. (Image: Los Angeles World Airports)

Rendering of the new connector at LAX between T4 and the Bradley International Terminal. (Image: Los Angeles World Airports)

In airport news, Los Angeles International opens a new post-security connector to the Bradley International Terminal; some new food & beverage options are coming to San Francisco International; travelers at Chicago O’Hare can brush up on their CPR skills; Dallas/Ft. Worth has a new app for international arrivals; and Atlanta no longer wants to be called the world’s busiest airport.

It’s a couple of months behind schedule, but Los Angeles International has finally opened up a $115 million connector between American Airlines’ Terminal 4 and the Tom Bradley International Terminal. Since it’s behind the security checkpoints, T4 passengers heading to an international flight in the TBIT will no longer have to go through a new screening, and will save transfer time since the walk between terminals through the new connector is estimated at five minutes or so. The two-year-old project isn’t finished yet; still to come are retail outlets, an outdoor patio, streamlined baggage transfer station and more. Want to see it? A member of the Flyertalk forum posted a video walk-through of the new passageway.

How many times have you seen Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson referred to as “the world’s busiest airport”? It’s true that ATL has the most flights and the most passengers, but according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the airport’s general manager told a city council committee that the “world’s busiest” designation will no longer fly – from now on, ATL will now refer to itself as “the world’s most traveled” airport. Why the change? ATL’s marketing experts decided that “busy” has a negative connotation, implying crowds, long lines and delays. Maybe someone should tell that to the TSA.

United's new Boarding Area E is the best place at SFO to go planespotting (Photo: SFO)

Even more, better food coming to San Francisco International (Photo: SFO)

San Francisco International’s International Terminal will add some new dining options for travelers in the months ahead. The popular Napa Valley restaurant Mustard’s Grill plans to open an airport location there, serving up classical American food with international twists. Due to open in 2017, it will be connected to a new Napa Farms Market (there’s already one in Terminal 2) that should open later this year; that will replace Andale Mexican Food, located post-security in the G concourse. Also coming in the A (Int’l) concourse is Samovar Tea and Chai Lounge, offering full-service meals and a bar with tea-infused cocktails; it will replace FirewoodPizza.

If you’re in Chicago O’Hare’s Terminal 2 and you have some time to kill, you can brush up on your CPR skills at a new kiosk located post-security near the Kids on the Fly play area. Sponsored by the American Heart Association, the kiosk has “a specially-designed rubber torso that allows users to practice compressions. In fact, it feels just like it would if performed on a person,” according to the Chicago Department of Aviation. It also provides instant feedback on the effectiveness of your CPR technique.

Mobile Passport Control

Dallas/Ft. Worth is the latest international gateway airport to support a Mobile Passport Control app that arriving travelers can use to clear Customs faster. It’s free from the Apple App and Google Play stores. Users can create a profile with their passport information and complete the “new trip” section upon arrival from overseas. They then submit their Customs and Border Protection declaration form through the app and get an electronic receipt with a digital bar code that they show to a CBP officer. In other tech developments, DFW has upgraded its mobile app with news and weather alerts, enhanced flight search, and access to the airport’s social media channels; it has also released an app for the Apple Watch.

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about:  Should I tip my Uber driver? + Boeing 747 nearing its end? + Bargain hunters travel guide for 2016 + World’s best airline lounge? + Fares to Europe tumble 

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Routes: Europe for $88? + United Dreamliner to London + Lisbon, Belgrade

SAS will use an A340 on its new LAX-Stockholm route. (Image: SAS)

SAS will use an A340 on its new LAX-Stockholm route. (Image: SAS)

In international route news, SAS is offering a super-low fare on its new Los Angeles-Stockholm route that starts next month; United’s SFO-London route will get a 787-9 in April; Portugal’s TAP adds a pair of new U.S. gateways and a U.S. partnership; Air Canada drops a U.S. route; Norwegian postpones a U.S. route to Ireland; and Air Serbia sets new transatlantic service

To stimulate interest in its new Los Angeles-Stockholm service, which begins on a daily basis March 14, SAS is offering a $99 one-way fare, a spokesperson tells TravelSkills. The booking deadline is March 6, and it’s for travel from March 14-25. When we looked at SAS’s booking site on Wednesday, we found prices even lower ($87.90, including taxes and fees) for select dates in that period – but the special fare was available for eastbound service only. Roundtrip flights from Stockholm to LAX were running around $1,305. SAS will use an Airbus A340 on the route.

According to the website Airlineroute.net, which tracks airlines’ schedule filings, United is planning to put a 787-9 Dreamliner on one of its two daily San Francisco-London flights (UA900/901) starting April 5, continuing at least through May 24. It replaces a 747-400; the other flight uses a 777. We wonder if this has anything to do with British Airways new 787-9 flight between San Jose and London starting in May. Hmm.

TAP Portugal, which currently flies from Lisbon to Miami and Newark, plans to add two more U.S. gateways this year, beginning daily Lisbon-Boston flights June 11, followed by new Lisbon-New York JFK daily service July 1. The carrier will use Airbus A330s on the routes. TAP will use JetBlue’s Terminal 5 at JFK and Terminal C at Boston. TAP has a new partnership with JetBlue that will feed traffic from other U.S. cities to the transatlantic flights. TAP is partly owned by David Neeleman, the founder of JetBlue.

Air Canada plans to eliminate service between New York JFK and Toronto Pearson effective April 3. The carrier, which currently operates twice-daily Air Canada Express flights in the market, continues to fly from Toronto to LaGuardia and Newark airports. (If I were flying between Toronto and NYC, I’d be on Porter Airlines, which flies from close in Toronto City airport to La Guardia.)

 Norwegian Air International is putting off its previously announced plan to begin flying between Boston and Cork, Ireland in May. The company cited “continued delays” by the U.S. Transportation Department in granting approval for the service, for which Norwegian was planning to use a 737-800. The airline still hopes to get the new route off the ground sometime this summer.

Air Serbia, a successor to the former Yugoslavian carrier JAT, is moving ahead with plans to kick off transatlantic service in June, although it has yet to receive U.S. approval, according to the trade journal Air Transport World. The airline plans to fly between Belgrade and New York JFK five times a week, using a two-class A330-200 leased from India’s Jet Airways. Both airlines are partly owned by Etihad Airways.

 

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Fares to Europe tumble

Norwegian uses 787s on its transatlantic routes. (Image: Norwegian)

Norwegian uses 787s on its transatlantic routes. (Image: Norwegian)

European carrier Norwegian has unveiled plans to add three more new U.S. routes this summer, the latest blow in an escalating assault by low-cost transatlantic airlines on the industry’s established players.

Using new 787 Dreamliners, Norwegian says it will begin flying July 29 to Paris Charles de Gaulle from New York JFK, Los Angeles and Ft. Lauderdale, with introductory off-peak fares starting at $175 one-way. Fares in peak summer months will be about twice as much.

Norwegian’s newest foray into the U.S. market comes only two months after it announced plans to start flying from Oakland to London Gatwick on May 12 with fares starting at $299 one way. It already flies from Oakland to Stockholm and Olso, and from Los Angeles to Gatwick and Scandinavia, and will begin five weekly Boston-Gatwick flights on March 27. Also on tap for Boston: a few flights a week to Copenhagen and Olso, and in May, service from Boston to Cork, Ireland. The low-cost carrier already flies from New York to Oslo, Copenhagen, Stockholm and London Gatwick.

Many roundtrips to Europe from NYC are sub-$500 for summer trips (Image: Kayak Calendar)

Many roundtrips to Europe from NYC are sub-$500 for summer trips (Image: Kayak Calendar)

Many summertime fares from SFO to Europe are still sub-$1,000 (Image: Kayak)

Many summertime fares from SFO to Europe are still sub-$1,000 (Image: Kayak)

Meanwhile, Iceland-based Wow – another low-cost specialist – last year started flying to Reykjavik from Boston and Baltimore-Washington with fares starting as low as $99 one way. And this June, it will add flights to Reykjavik from Los Angeles and San Francisco starting at that same $99 rate, using Airbus A330s. Wow also has connecting service to European cities for fares as low as $199 each way from the U.S.

For both airlines, frequencies from their U.S. gateways vary by route; they could be as few as one or two a week, ranging up to daily. And the base fares they quote can be misleading: While they include taxes, they do not include all the miscellaneous add-on charges that proliferate on low-cost airlines, and the lowest rates are capacity-restricted.

Still, even with the extras, they can represent a significant savings over the legacy transatlantic airlines. It will be interesting to see whether and how the established carriers respond to the interlopers’ low-fare tactics.

We are already seeing some new competitive discounts from the likes of Aer Lingus and Turkish Airlines, so keep an eye on those airlines, too. For example, checking Google’s flight maps, we are still seeing peak season summer round trips between the West Coast and Europe in the $1100 range, which is quite a deal for July. From the East Coast, they are still sub-$1,000 in July and around $500 in early June.

Do you plan to go to Europe this year? If so, how much would you expect to pay for a round trip from your home airport? Please leave your comments below. 

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Routes: Sydney, Tokyo, Zurich, Addis Ababa

Look for more United 787s on transpacific routes next year. (Image: United)

All Dreamliners all the time on SFO-SYD starting this spring. (Image: United)

In international route developments, American kicks off a new transpacific route; United changes aircraft on its flights to Sydney; Swiss sets a date for the introduction of its fancy new plane on San Francisco-Zurich service; and Ethiopian Airlines will add a new U.S. gateway.

At the end of March, United Airlines plans equipment changes on its San Francisco-Sydney and Los Angeles-Sydney routes, replacing the 777s it currently uses with 787-9 Dreamliners. United already uses a 787-9 on its Los Angeles-Melbourne route. United’s 787-9s have 48 flat-bed BusinessFirst seats in a 2-2-2 configuration, 88 in Economy Plus and 116 in regular economy. The planes have in-flight Wi-Fi as well as power and USB ports.

Following up on its December introduction of Los Angeles-Sydney 777-300ER service, American Airlines has now started up new daily service between LAX and Tokyo’s close-in Haneda Airport, using a two-class 787-8 Dreamliner. The new flight is operated as part of AA’s transpacific joint venture with Japan Airlines; both JAL and American continue to offer LAX-Tokyo Narita service as well. Through the end of April, American is offering passengers on the new Haneda route a promotional bonus of 5,000 to 20,000 AAdvantage miles, depending on fare category. In other international route news, American will increase service to Bermuda from New York JFK starting February15, operating a second roundtrip six days a week (increasing to daily March 3).

A representative of Lufthansa subsidiary SWISS tells Travelskills that the airline is targeting August 30 for the introduction of its new 777-300ER on the Zurich-San Francisco route. The aircraft will have eight first class seats, 62 in business class and 270 in economy. In addition to providing in-flight Wi-Fi, SWISS is reportedly planning to experiment with in-flight phone service on its 777-300ERs.  It will go onto the Zurich-New York JFK route four times a week starting February 21, but only until late March, when it moves to Zurich-Montreal. The aircraft is expected to debut on the Zurich-Los Angeles route in June. It will replace SWISS Airbus A340s.

Ethiopian Airlines has started taking reservations for new service beginning July 3 between Addis Ababa and New York JFK, operating via a stop in Lome, Togo, according to Airlineroute.net. Ethiopian will use a 787-8 on the route. It hasn’t flown to New York since it halted Newark service a dozen years ago; its current U.S. gateways are Washington Dulles and Los Angeles.

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Routes: San Jose delay, LAN to LAX, AA’s China changes & more

Lufthansa will use an A340-300 on its new San Jose-Frankfurt route. (Image: BriYYZ/Wikimedia Commons)

Lufthansa will use an A340-300 on its new San Jose-Frankfurt route. (Image: BriYYZ/Wikimedia Commons)

In recent international route developments, a new European route from San Jose is delayed; South America’s LAN resumes service to a major west coast gateway; American switches aircraft types on a pair of China routes; Cathay Pacific will increase Boston service; TAM will debut a new widebody on a key U.S. route; and Ft. Lauderdale loses some South American service.

Bay Area travelers who want to take Lufthansa’s planned new nonstops from San Jose to Frankfurt will have to wait a while longer. Instead of going ahead with its planned April 29 launch, the German carrier is pushing back the inaugural to July 1. Persons already booked will be put onto Lufthansa flights from San Francisco instead.  Lufthansa will use an A340-300 for the daily non-stops.

South American carrier LAN Airlines plans to resume service between Los Angeles International and Santiago, Chile on October 16, according to Airlineroute.net. LAN, a member of American’s Oneworld alliance, will use a 787-8 to fly the route three times a week. LAN discontinued Santiago-LAX (and Lima-SFO) flights in early 2014. 

American Airlines plans to make some changes on two of its routes to Shanghai starting June 2. The 787-8 that AA currently operates on its daily Los Angeles-Shanghai service will be replaced with a 777-200ER, while the 777-200ER that the airline currently flies from Chicago O’Hare to Shanghai will be replaced with a 787-8.

Back of the plane on Cathay Pacific's B777-300ER with new economy seat (Chris McGinnis)

Back of the plane on Cathay Pacific’s B777-300ER with new economy seat (Chris McGinnis)

Cathay Pacific says it is seeing increased demand for the non-stop Boston-Hong Kong flights that it introduced last spring, so it plans to increase frequencies on the route from the current four flights a week to five, effective May 5. Cathay will add a new Thursday departure from Boston in addition to the current Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday flights. Cathay uses a 777-300ER on the route. The 1:45 a.m. departure time from Boston allows for same-day connections at Hong Kong to major Asian destinations and 23 cities in China.

Related:  Nicest airport club in the world

Brazilian carrier TAM, which flies twice a day from Miami to Sao Paulo’s Guarulhos Airport, plans to replace the 777-300ER it uses on one of those flights with Airbus’s brand-new widebody the A350-900XWB, effective May 22, according to Airlineroute.net.

TAME Ecuador – the flag carrier for that South American country, and not to be confused with TAM – plans to discontinue its six weekly A320 flights from Ft. Lauderdale to Quito effective February 20.

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Routes: Virgin’s new Hawaii sale; JetBlue’s Mint to Boston; Alaska to Atlanta

Hanging out at the bar and soaking up what's going on outside. (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Virgin America will bring Hawaii service to Los Angeles this year. (Virgin’s LAX lounge photo: Chris McGinnis)

In domestic route news, Virgin America plans a new Hawaii route; JetBlue sets schedules for the launch of Boston Mint service, and adds new cross-country markets; Alaska will resume an Atlanta route; and a niche carrier sets its sights on Portland.

Following up on its recent inauguration of service from San Francisco to Honolulu and Maui, Virgin America announced this week that it will serve the same two destinations from Los Angeles. The company said it has scheduled a May 5 start for daily flights from LAX to Honolulu, and a June 14 launch for daily service linking LAX with Kahului, Maui. Virgin noted that the new LAX schedule will allow even more connecting possibilities to Hawaii from the other cities it serves. Virgin is offering sale fares between Hawaii and LAX for as little as $338 round trip — today (Tuesday) only — and is offering Elevate members an award flight price starting at 8,278 points. UPDATE: As of Wednesday morning Feb 3, these “one day” sale fares ($338 rt) are still available when searching for SFO to Hawaii on VirginAmerica.com

NICE: These sale fares are good for travel all the way from now through summer– and they apply to flights from San Francisco, too! 

Are you signed up for the TravelSkills.com blog? Why not? Do it right now and don’t miss out. 

JetBlue will add more Mint flights on transcon routes this fall. (Image: JetBlue)

JetBlue will add more Mint flights on transcon routes from Boston. (Image: JetBlue)

Following up on plans it announced months ago, JetBlue has set the starting dates for the expansion of its premium Mint service to routes out of Boston.  According to Airlineroute.net, JetBlue will introduce a Mint-equipped A321 on one of its three daily San Francisco-Boston flights effective March 24, followed by a second daily Mint service beginning April 20 and the third starting September 20. JetBlue’s Boston-Los Angeles route will get the same treatment, but so far only one of the three daily flights on that route has the new Mint service scheduled, with a starting date of October 20.

Meanwhile, JetBlue also has its eye on some new cross-country markets. The carrier said it will begin new daily service between Boston-Salt Lake City on May 12, and between Ft. Lauderdale-San Diego as of June 16. Also in the works is new daily service linking Los Angeles with Buffalo, N.Y. starting June 16. On all three routes, the eastbound departure will be a red-eye.

Alaska Airlines is adding an international mileage and code-share partner. (Image: Jim Glab)

Alaska Airlines is bringing back nonstops between Atlanta and Portland, OR (Image: Jim Glab)

Alaska Airlines dropped service between Atlanta and Portland, Ore. a few years ago, but now it is planning to revive that route on a seasonal basis. The airline said it will operate a daily 737 roundtrip on the route this year from June 4 through August 27. Delta already serves that market. Alaska also announced plans to operate weekly Saturday service this summer between Spokane and Anchorage, from June 11 through August 27.

Don’t miss: The “unofficial” airport of the big game giveaway

Minnesota-based Sun Country Airlines plans to begin new year-round service between Minneapolis-St. Paul and Portland, Ore. on June 9, according to Airlineroute.net. The 737 service will initially operate five times a week, and will be reduced to four a week after August 31.

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Routes: LAX-China, Nashville, Toronto, Germany, India, Brazil

Hainan Airways is using a 787 on its new route to LAX from Changsha, China. (Image: Simon Auger)

Hainan Airlines is using a 787 on its new route to LAX from Changsha, China. (Image: Simon Auger)

In international route news, China’s Hainan starts a Los Angeles route; Canada’s WestJet plans new U.S. routes;  Iberia sets its summer LAX schedule; new overseas code-share flights for United and Delta; British Airways brings 787s to more U.S. cities; and Brazil’s Azul drops a U.S. route.

China’s Hainan Airlines, which flies to Chicago to Beijing and from Boston and Seattle to both Shanghai and Beijing, has kicked off a new U.S. route between Los Angeles and Changsha, the capital of central China’s Hunan Province with a population of 2.3 million. Hainan, a code-sharing partner of American Airlines, is using a 787-8 on the route, which operates twice a week.  

Canadian low-cost carrier WestJet said its summer schedule will include new non-stop flights from Toronto to Los Angeles and to Nashville as well as from Vancouver to San Diego. In addition, WestJet will begin new service from Toronto to Boston on March 15 with three flights a day. On June 15, WestJet’s Encore unit will begin five flights a week on the new Toronto-Nashville route with Q400 turboprops. June 29 is the launch date for daily Toronto-Los Angeles 737 service, and on June 16, WestJet begins three 737 flights a week between San Diego and Vancouver. 

Iberia Airlines, a member of American’s Oneworld alliance, has set its summer schedule for Los Angeles-Madrid service, according to Airlineroute.net. It begins March 30 with three weekly flights, increasing to five a week on May 26, six a week beginning June 6, and daily from July 3 to August 28. (Last year, Iberia only had four summer flights a week on the route.) The airline will use A330s and A340s for the LAX flights. 

British Airways will add San Jose service next spring with a new 787-9. (Image: British Airways)

British Airways bringing more 787s to US. (Image: British Airways)

British Airways plans to pull the 787-9 from its Austin-London Heathrow route on March 27, according to Airlineroute.net, and to replace it with a 777-200ER. But the airline is bringing 787s to more U.S. routes. It will begin 787-9 flights between Houston Bush Intercontinental and London on March 27, instead of August 1 as previously planned. And 787-9 service on the Newark-LHR route moves up to April 2 from August 1. BA will also use a 787-9 from Philadelphia to London on selected flights beginning April 9, and is sticking to its original May 4 stating date for new London-San Jose 787-9 service. 

United Airlines has started putting its code onto several intra-European flights of Star Alliance partner Lufthansa’s low-cost affiliate Eurowings. The UA code is now on Eurowings flights from Dusseldorf to Geneva, Birmingham, Manchester, Milan Malpensa and Paris CDG; and from Hamburg to Dusseldorf, LHR, Manchester, Prague, Stuttgart, Toulouse and Zurich. MileagePlus members will get revenue and status miles on the flights. 

Etihad uses a Jet Airways 777 on its new SFO-Abu Dhabi run (Photo: Aero Icarus / Flickr)

Delta s