United will use 737-800s for new San Jose routes. (Chris McGinnis)
In domestic route developments, new transcontinental flights are due to start at San Jose over the next few weeks; United kicks off a transcon to Florida from San Francisco International; American launches a new California route from its Phoenix hub; Delta links two southern business centers; and Spirit comes to Pittsburgh.
Previously announced plans by United and Alaska Airlines to expand at Mineta San Jose will get off the ground next month. United’s schedule calls for the launch of new service from SJC to two of its hubs: Chicago O’Hare and Newark. The carrier will operate two flights a day between SJC and O’Hare, and one daily roundtrip to Newark Liberty International, using 737-800s. Both routes begin March 9. SJC-O’Hare is already served by American, and Southwest flies from SJC to Chicago Midway.
Just three days after United starts its SJC-Newark service, Alaska Airlines is due to begin service on the very same route, with one daily roundtrip. Both the United and Alaska flights will have early-morning eastbound departures. The only other New York-area non-stop service from San Jose is a JetBlue redeye to JFK. Alaska is also slated to klick off new service from San Jose to Hollywood Burbank Airport on March 16, with three daily roundtrips.
United also started SFO-Tampa service. (Image: Tampa International)
San Jose-Newark isn’t the only new Bay Area transcon route for United. The carrier recently began a daily 737-800 roundtrip from San Francisco International to Tampa, with an 8:30 a.m. departure from SFO. Chris was on the inaugural flight; you can read his report here. In other news, United plans to beef up capacity on its San Francisco-Boston route by using a 777-200ER for two of its six daily flights, up from one flight today, according to Routesonline.com.
California’s Sonoma County got a new air link recently when American Airlines kicked off new daily American Eagle service to its Phoenix hub from Santa Rosa’s Charles M. Schulz Airport. American uses a two-class, 70-seat CRJ-700 on the route.
Delta has set a June 12 start for new service linking Nashville with Raleigh-Durham. The Delta Connection service will operate twice a day with SkyWest Airlines CRJ-900s that have 12 seats in first class, 12 in Delta Comfort+ and 52 in the main cabin. It’s Delta’s latest announcement of increased service at RDU; the carrier is due to begin RDU-Austin flights in March and RDU-Seattle in June; last fall, it added daily service from RDU to Newark and to Washington Reagan National.
Spirit Airlines is adding new service from Pittsburgh to seven cities. (Image: Spirit Airlines)
Spirit Airlines said it will add Pittsburgh International as the 61st airport on its route map this spring, with plans to start flying from PIT to seven cities. On May 25, the carrier will begin daily PIT-Dallas/Ft. Worth year-round service, as well as seasonal daily flights from PIT to Myrtle Beach. It will add three weekly flights from PIT to Ft. Lauderdale on June 15, followed by daily service to Orlando and Las Vegas beginning June 22, and daily flights to Houston and Los Angeles starting July 13.
Bob Hope Airport is getting a name change. (Image: Hollywood Burbank Airport)
Burbank’s airport may be small, but with a name change, a new terminal and an increasing roster of flights, it could be a viable alternative to Los Angeles International for a growing number of passengers.
Located northwest of downtown Burbank, the city’s Bob Hope Airport is about the same distance from Beverly Hills as LAX is. It’s even closer to Hollywood, and hence its new name, which was approved last spring and will soon appear on airport signage: Hollywood Burbank Airport.
Actually, it was called Hollywood Burbank Airport before 1978, and then was renamed Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport. In 2003, it was renamed for Bob Hope. But since that actor’s name didn’t say anything about where the airport is located, officials decided a geographic reference was needed once again. And Hollywood Burbank probably has more cachet than Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena.
The little airport is gaining traction among business travelers as Los Angeles International becomes more congested and more bogged down with massive construction projects. It’s also closer to the west side hotels that many road warriors prefer.
Hollywood Burbank Airport is 16 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. (Image: Google Maps)
Passenger traffic during November 2016 was up more than 11 percent over the same month a year earlier, and the airport was poised to show a 12-month total for the year of more than 4 million. Southwest dominates the airline roster at BUR, carrying about half the total passenger count.
The airport is also served by Alaska, American, JetBlue, Delta and United. Route options in the California Corridor are the strongest at BUR, with Southwest flying to San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose and Sacramento. United also flies BUR-SFO, and Alaska Airlines is due to launch three daily roundtrips between BUR and San Jose in mid-March. Small-jet operator JetSuite X also started operating at Burbank last year, with service to San Jose and to Concord, CA in the East Bay area. United has recently up-gauged some of its DEN-BUR and SFO-BUR flights from regional jets to mainline, according to Live & Let’s Fly.
Burbank has attracted nonstop flights from as far away as New York-JFK (JetBlue), and Austin, TX. Alaska flies in from Seattle and Portland. Delta used to offer a convenient nonstop from Atlanta.
Southwest will add new service from Burbank to Salt Lake City next month, a route already served by Delta. Service is also available to Seattle on Alaska and American; to Portland on Southwest, Delta, American and Alaska; to Phoenix on American and Southwest; and to Denver on Southwest and United. JetBlue offers a red-eye from BUR to New York JFK, the airport’s only transcontinental non-stop.
The airport is planning for future growth with a new terminal. Last fall, voters approved construction of a 14-gate terminal that is farther from the runways than the existing facility, which will be torn down after the new one opens. Design and construction of the $400 million terminal is expected to take place from 2018 to 2022.
Readers: Do you consider Burbank a viable alternative to LAX? What do you consider Burbank’s advantages and/or drawbacks?
Big smiles, cake and a band greeted the first bay-to-bay flight in Tampa (Chris McGinnis)
Last week new United nonstops took off between Tampa and San Francisco with cakes and parties on both ends of the inaugural flight.TravelSkills was invited along to witness the event on a quick 24 hour turnaround trip.
Here’s what we saw and learned:
Tampa launched a social media campaign to attract a nonstop flight (Image: Tampa International)
There’s definitely a market for a SFO-TPA nonstop— flights in both directions were completely sold out. The Tampa to San Francisco route was the most underserved in the country, with nearly 600 passengers taking one-stop flights daily between the two regions, according to the Tampa Bay Business Journal. The city’s growing startup scene was seeking better access to Silicon Valley, where much of the venture capital industry is based. In Tampa, city officials even launched a social media campaign to convince an airline to offer nonstop “Bay to Bay” service.
A big celebration in Tampa included balloons, a band, cake and a warm welcome (Chris McGinnis)
United is charging a premium for its nonstop— the cheapest roundtrip we could find for spring flights was $391. If you are willing to make a stop, you can fly bay-to-bay for as little as $292 on ultra low cost carrier Frontier (but be aware of fees) via Denver. Delta’s cheapest one-stop flights (via Atlanta) run about $328.
United is flying both 737s and A320s on the SFO-TPA route. Our 737 at SFO prepares for take off (Chris McGinnis)
United is running both 737s and A320s on the daily nonstops. From SFO, the flight departs around 9 am and arrives around 5 pm. On TPA-SFO, the flight departs around 6 pm and arrives in SFO at around 8 pm– these are well-timed flights for business travelers.
Hot breakfast (quiche) served on eastbound flights in first class (Chris McGinnis)
First class passengers get hot breakfast on the eastbound flight and dinner on the return. In economy class, there are hot and cold meals for sale.
The Bay-to-Bay route on United (Chris McGinnis)
Flying over Lake Powell and the Grand Canyon enroute to Tampa (Chris McGinnis)
The flight takes a scenic route from SFO over Arizona (including the Grand Canyon and Lake Powell), New Mexico, over the top of Dallas, out over the Gulf at New Orleans and arrives from the west at TPA. Ask for a window seat!
On the 5-6 return flight from Tampa, both wifi and BYO device movies were inoperable (Chris McGinnis)
I flew on a B737-900 eastbound, which offered wi-fi ($15) and Direct TV. On the return, we were on an Airbus A320. Regrettably (and all too commonly) the inflight wi-fi AND movie system was broken on this A320. Without seatback screens and the BYO device system on the blink, passengers had only Hemispheres Magazine to entertain them on the 5-6 hour flight. Flight attendants helped make the best of a bad situation, too, with many apologies great service (including regular pours of white wine 😉 )
A gates at Tampa International are big bright and airy- but be aware of construction in main terminal (Chris McGinnis)
While Tampa Airport is one of the most popular award-winning airports in the country, it’s in the midst of a massive renovation. There are construction detours, temporary walls and other obstructions that make navigating tough. Not horrible, but something to be aware of.
San Francisco’s celebratory send off cake (Chris McGinnis)
Tampa’s big welcome cake (Tampa International Airport)
Tampa offers our United jet a warm wet welcome to Florida! (Chris McGinnis)
A band at the gate in Tampa singing songs about San Francisco (Chris McGinnis)
Have you ever taken an inaugural flight? Where and when? Please leave your comments below!
American plans to use a 777-200 on its LAX-Beijing route if it ever gets slots from the service. (Image: AA)
In international route developments, American tries to save LAX-Beijing service; Air AsiaX sets its first U.S. route; Southwest starts Oakland-Mexico flights; Airberlin gets aircraft for more U.S. flights and ends a code-share partnership; South African Airways brings a new aircraft with an improved business class to its Washington Dulles route; United expands its Newark-London schedule; and Volaris comes to Miami.
We reported a few weeks ago that American Airlines’ plan to begin daily Los Angeles-Beijing service had hit a big snag because China wouldn’t give it any slots at Beijing’s Capital International Airport. American has been facing a March 16 deadline set by the U.S. Transportation Department to start flying the route, but now it has asked DOT for a one-year extension. AA said in its filing that it has been in regular contact with Chinese aviation officials about the slot situation, and that it is going to send a senior executive to China to discuss the matter. American told DOT it “fully expects” that its efforts will eventually be successful.
Malaysian low-cost carrier AirAsia X has settled on Honolulu as its first U.S. destination following the recent FAA decision to let it fly to this country. The carrier plans to fly four times a week from Kuala Lumpur to Honolulu via a two-hour stopover in Osaka, Japan, starting June 28. The airline has set introductory base fares as low as $112 each way to KL (including taxes and fees), or $673 for its flat-bed premium seats, with a purchase deadline of February 26.
Southwest Airlines jets at Oakland International Airport (Photo: Port of Oakland)
Southwest Airlines this week kicked off its first international service out of OaklandInternational Airport, operating daily flights from OAK to both Puerto Vallarta and San Jose del Cabo/Los Cabos. The airport is expanding its International Arrivals Building this year in anticipation of a significant increase in international traffic, officials said. The work should be finished in the third quarter.
Airberlin has acquired three more Airbus A330-200s that it said will allow it to continue building up its service between the U.S. and its German hubs at Berlin and Dusseldorf. The airline announced a few months ago that it plans to begin new non-stops in May between Los Angeles-Berlin four times a week and San Francisco-Berlin three times a week. It already operates from both U.S. airports to Dusseldorf during the summer. It also said it would expand Miami and New York frequencies to Berlin and add Orlando-Dusseldorf service. And now Routesonline.com is reporting that Airberlin will extend some seasonal routes to year-round service starting this fall, including San Francisco-Berlin and SFO-Dusseldorf, both operating four times a week, as well as Orlando-Dusseldorf (five times a week) and Boston-Dusseldorf (four a week). In other news, American Airlines plans to end its code-sharing agreement with Airberlin effective March 26. Both are members of the Oneworld alliance.
The new business class on South African Airways’ A330-300. (Image: SAA)
South African Airways has started flying a new Airbus A330-300on its three weekly flights between Washington Dulles and Johannesburg via Dakar, Senegal, and in June it will add the new aircraft to its four weekly IAD-JNB flights that operate via Accra, Ghana. The SAA A330-300 includes an upgraded 46-seat business class product with flat-bed seats in a 1-2-1 layout, an improved on-demand entertainment system and power and USB ports at each seat. The aircraft has a 203-seat economy class with a 2-4-2 configuration.
United Airlines plans to add a sixth daily roundtrip to its Newark-London Heathrow route for the summer season, effective April 5 to October 28. The extra flight, departing EWR at 9:30 p.m. and arriving in London at 9:40 a.m., will use a two-class 767-300.
Mexican low-cost carrier Volaris this month added Miami Internationalto its route map, kicking off daily A320 service to Mexico City and four flights a week to Guadalajara.
San Francisco’s Runway 28L will be repaved this spring. (Image: FAA)
In airport news, San Francisco runway work could mean some delays; Oakland also plans a runway rehab; Baltimore-Washington will expand its international terminal; faster security screening lanes are coming to Minneapolis-St. Paul; and Seattle breaks ground on more Alaska Airlines gates.
San Francisco International has scheduled a major maintenance project for its Runway 28L that could mean some weekend flight delays over the next four months. Officials said the runway, which is used mainly for arriving flights, will be repaved and will get new centerline lights and ground markings. While most of the work will be done during late-night hours, officials said, the runway will be shut down during several weekends. The weekend closures are scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday through noon the following Monday on the weekends of March 31; April 7, 21 and 28; May 5, 12 and 19; and June 2 and 9. The schedule is subject to change depending on weather, and “some delays may occur during weekend closures,” official said.
A similar project is coming this summer at Oakland International, where Runway 12-30 is due to get an asphalt concrete overlay – something it needs every 15 years, officials said. The airport hasn’t issued a schedule for the work yet, but said it expects to exercise “a short-duration, full closure option” for the runway, which is typically is use 24 hours a day. During the closure, the airport will use a parallel taxiway as a temporary runway – the same thing it did during the last repaving in 2001. The airport didn’t say what the impact would be on flight operations, but it will discuss that and other details of the project at a public meeting on Thursday (February 16), scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at Oakland’s Metropolitan Golf Links, 10051 Doolittle Drive.
Baltimore-Washington’s Concourse E extension will add more international gates. (Image: BWI Airport)
Baltimore-Washington International this spring will start construction of six new gates for its international terminal, including two full-service gates and four for arrivals only. The project involves building a 70,000 square foot extension of BWI’s Concourse E. Last year, BWI added two international gates as part of its new D/E Connector project. Airport officials said international traffic at BWI has been surging in recent years as airlines like WOW and Norwegian started service there; Southwest is the biggest international operator there, with flights to eight destinations in Latin American and the Caribbean.
Minneapolis-St. Paul’s Metropolitan Airports Commission has approved a $1.6 million plan to install some of those new security screening checkpoints that use new design features to move passengers through the process as much as 40 percent faster. The checkpoints allow up to five persons at once to load items into plastic bins, use an automatic return conveyor belt to move empty bins back to the loading area, and shunt questionable bags off to a side station for inspection instead of holding up the line. They’ve been appearing in major airports recently including Atlanta, Chicago O’Hare and Los Angeles. The new MSP lanes will occupy four center lanes in Terminal 1’s south checkpoint, and should be in operation by this summer.
A new Alaska Airlines rooftop lounge will be part of Seattle’s North Satellite expansion. (Image: Seattle-Tacoma Airport)
Officials at Seattle-Tacoma International have broken ground on an eight-gate, $550 million expansion of Alaska Airlines’ North Satellite Terminal. The existing structure will be extended 240 feet to the west, and will also get a new upper level mezzanine and a $41 million, 15,000 square foot rooftop lounge for Alaska’s customers. The project will more than double the amount of space available for shopping and dining concessions. After the expansion is finished in 2019, the existing North Satellite space will be renovated and modernized.
Alaska Airlines wants to fly to Mexico City from San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego. (Image: Alaska Air)
U.S. and Mexican airlines are competing for newly available access to Mexico City as Delta unveils plans to buy a much larger stake in Aeromexico.
The Transportation Department could soon announce new route authority for several carriers to Mexico City, using takeoff and landing slots that Aeromexico and Delta had to give up as a condition for approval of their joint venture. Alaska Airlines, JetBlue and Southwest are all in the running, along with Mexican low-cost carriers Volaris and VivaAerobus.
DOT plans to dole out 14 Mexico City slot pairs this year for U.S. service, concentrating on low-fare airlines to counteract the greater market power that antitrust immunity will give to the new Delta-Aeromexico joint venture.
Alaska Airlines, which has no service to the Mexican capital, has asked for authority to fly there twice a day from Los Angeles and once a day from San Francisco and San Diego. The SFO route and one of the LAX flights would use 737-900ERs; the others would use regional jets.
Mexico City’s international terminal (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
Southwest wants authority to add a fourth daily Houston-MEX flight, and to move one of the other three flights to more convenient times. JetBlue wants slots that would allow it to move its MEX-Ft. Lauderdale and MEX-Orlando departures out of Mexico City to later times in the day (both currently leave before 6 a.m.), and to add second frequencies on both routes.
Mexican low-cost carriers VivaAerobus and Volaris also want slots. VivaAerobus wants to start flying to Oakland three days a week and to San Antonio four days a week, and to operate daily roundtrips to Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Volaris wants to add new daily service to San Antonio and Washington D.C., and to add frequencies on its routes to New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.
Delta wants to boost its stake in Aeromexico to 49 percent. (Image: Delta)
Meanwhile, Delta said this week it plans to buy up a much larger stake in Aeromexico. It currently holds 4.2 percent of that airline’s shares, and now said it will buy another 32 percent. It already holds options to buy 12.8 percent, so after the transaction is over, Delta will hold ownership or options on 49 percent of Aeromexico’s shares – the same as its equity stake in Virgin Atlantic. Delta and Virgin also have a joint venture with antitrust immunity, and have used it to closely coordinate schedules on transatlantic routes to the U.K.
Delta owns smaller stakes in Brazil’s GOL and in China Eastern Airlines.
“The tender offer and investment (in Aeromexico) will further strengthen the relationship that will be established when our joint cooperation agreement is implemented in the second quarter,” said Delta CEO Ed Bastian.
Have you been to Mexico City lately? To me it’s one of the great sleeper cities of the Western Hemisphere. What about you?
International traffic is reaching new highs at San Francisco’s airport. (Image: San Francisco International Airport)
As airlines laid on more flights and frequencies in 2016, the three Bay Area airports all reported fast-growing passenger traffic in statistics released this week.
Officials at San Francisco International said the airport handled a record 53.1 million travelers last year, a gain of 6.1 percent from 2015 and the seventh straight year of growth for the facility.
The jump in traffic was even greater for international flights at SFO, officials said, with a 10 percent increase over 2015. (And in 2015, SFO’s 9 percent increase in international traffic was the highest growth rate for any U.S. airport.)
That’s great news for the city and the airport, but not such great news for travelers who’ve found themselves more frequently waiting on the tarmac after long flights because another plane is at their gate.
New international carriers coming to SFO last year included Iceland’s WOW, Fiji Airways, and Mexico’s Volaris. United Airlines added three international destinations, including Tel Aviv and the Chinese cities of X’ian and Hangzhou; and China Eastern started non-stop service from SFO to Quingdao. That gives SFO service to more cities in China than any other airport in the Americas, officials said.
British Airways added San Jose service last year. (Image: Mineta San Jose Airport)
At Mineta San Jose International, 2016 traffic surged by almost 1 million passengers last year, to a total of 10.8 million. That represented an increase of 10.2 percent over the previous year, and marked SJC’s fourth straight year of traffic increases.
SJC added new international service in 2016 from Lufthansa to Frankfurt, British Airways to London Heathrow, Air China to Shanghai, and Air Canada to Vancouver. In addition, Southwest added a new transcon route to Baltimore/Washington and American started seasonal transcon service to its Charlotte hub. This spring, the airport expects to finish work on an $8 million expansion of its International Arrivals Building.
Southwest Airlines jets at Oakland International Airport (Photo: Port of Oakland)
Oakland International’s 2016 passenger total hit almost 12.1 million, a growth rate of 7.7 percent from the previous year. That caps 37 straight months of increasing numbers, and gave the airport its busiest year since 2007, when it hosted 14.6 million travelers.
That makes OAK California’s fourth-busiest airport. Southwest is set to continue its steady growth at OAK in 2017 with new international service to Puerto Vallarta and Los Cabos, as well as new transcons to Newark; meanwhile, new transatlantic flights coming to OAK this year include British Airways to London Gatwick in March, along with Norwegian Air service to Copenhagen in March and Barcelona in June.
American Airlines’ new Los Angeles-Beijing route authority is in trouble.(Photo: Derwiki – Pixabay)
In international route developments, American’s recently-awarded route authority from Los Angeles to Beijing has hit a big snag, and American’s code goes onto a LAX-Paris flight; Qantas and American will try again for antitrust immunity; Virgin Atlantic schedules the deployment of A330s equipped with a new Upper Class; United changes planes on one of its San Francisco-London flights; Air India adds a new U.S. route; and a new company plans luxury small-jet service between New York and London.
Last fall, American won rights to fly from LAX to Beijing, with a start date expected in the first quarter of this year. But now American’s plans are up in the air, with the airline complaining to the Transportation Department that Chinese officials won’t provide takeoff and landing slots at Beijing’s Capital International Airport. It’s not that Chinese authorities tried to stick American with slots in the middle of the night, the carrier said — they wouldn’t give it any slots at all for the LAX flights. American argues that this is in violation of the bilateral agreement between the two countries. Currently, the only airline flying the LAX-Beijing route is Air China, which has three flights a day. American flies to Beijing from DFW and Chicago.
Given all the tough talk from the new Trump Administration toward China, this situation could pose a tough test for newly appointed Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Speaking of the Trump Administration, Qantas and American Airlines seem to think the new regime in Washington might be inclined to reverse the Obama DOT’s recent rejection of the carriers’ joint venture partnership, so they plan to make a new filing for antitrust immunity. But in the meantime, Qantas said it has stopped code-sharing on AA’s Sydney-Los Angeles flights, and that it is adjusting its frequent flyer policy with American “to bring it in line with other Oneworld carriers” starting May 1.
In other news, American has expanded its code-sharing partnership with Air Tahiti Nui, and has put its AA code onto that carrier’s Los Angeles-Paris CDG flights.
This old Upper Class cabin on Virgin Atlantic’s A330s is being replaced. (Image: Virgin Atlantic)
Virgin Atlantic is refitting the Upper Class cabins of its 10 Airbus A330s following complaints that the seating layout of the herringbone “Dream Suites” was too cramped. Specifics of the redesign haven’t yet been announced, but Routesonline.com reports that the carrier has started to schedule the rollout of the overhauled A330s. The schedule sets March 27 for the debut of the aircraft on Virgin’s Manchester-San Francisco and Manchester-Boston routes, followed by London Heathrow-Newark, LHR-New York JFK, LHR-Washington Dulles, Manchester-Atlanta and Manchester-JFK on September 1; LHR-Atlanta and another LHR-JFK flight October 30; and LHR-Miami October 31.
While United will continue to operate one of its last 747s on the San Francisco-London Heathrow route through the summer, it has filed plans to change the aircraft on its second flight (the evening departure from SFO, UA930/949) from a 777-200ER to a 787-9 from May 24 through September 5, according to Routesonline.com.
Air India plans a July start for its newest U.S. route, linking Delhi and Washington Dulles. The carrier plans to use a 777 to fly the new route three times a week. Air India already flies to New York, Newark, Chicago and San Francisco.
Bliss Jet plans to operate LGA-London flights with luxurious Gulfstream business jets. (Image: Bliss Jet)
Bliss Jet, a new company that last year said it would begin offering individually-ticketed private jet flights between the New York area and the U.K., failed to deliver on that plan. But now the carrier is trying again – this time with a new route. Bliss Jet’s original plan called for weekly roundtrip service between New York’s Westchester County Airport and London’s small Biggin Hill Airport. Now the company is planning to start offering private jet charter flights sometime this spring between LaGuardia and London Stansted, using private terminals at both airports. Bliss Jet will sell individual seats on Gulfsteam G450s and G550s with a maximum of 10 seats per flight. Service will operate eastbound on Sundays and westbound on Thursdays. The cost will be a mere $11,995 – each way.
WOW flies A330s from the West Coast. (Image: WOW Air)
Icelandic low-cost carrier WOW Air will be adding a new business-travel-friendly option for West Coast travelers this summer: premium seating.
The new section (called “Big Seats”) is going into WOW’s A330s on its routes to Reykjavik from San Francisco, Los Angeles and Miami, probably starting on some aircraft by June 1, according to Conde Nast.
Image of Zodiac Aerospace seat model 5810 (Image: Zodiac)
The section will offer 37-inch pitch (vs. 31 in regular economy), and fares for the premium seats will include carry-on bags, checked bags, in-flight food service and priority boarding – as opposed to its regular economy pricing, which includes nothing but the ride and a single under-the-seat personal item. Other amenities and services all incur extra fees. The airline has not yet indicated what level of premium passengers will pay for the premium seating, which will be sold as “WOW Biz.”
However, the carrier is also said to be planning a new fare category called WOW Plus, which will buy a regular economy seat, a carry-on for the overhead bin, a single checked bag, and cancellation protection.
As the airline continues its U.S. expansion, offering very-low-cost base fares from the U.S. to Iceland and to points in Europe via a Reykjavik connection, it appears to be broadening its marketing to appeal to business travelers as well as backpackers.
Have you flown WOW Air yet? Would you? Please leave your comments below.
United’s first 777-300ER will debut February 13. (Image: United)
If you want to be among the very first to experience United’s Polaris business class on its first new 777-300ER, your miles can make it possible – but you must act fast.
As TravelSkills readers know, United introduced its new Polaris business class service late last year– but it has yet to roll out a plane with the new Polaris business class seat.United’s first Boeing 777-300ER with the new seats makes its domestic debut later this month.
The airline has scheduled a gala inaugural flight for the new aircraft – dubbed ‘New Spirit of United’ — on Monday, February 13, from Chicago O’Hare to San Francisco, and it has started an online auction where MileagePlus members can bid miles to win a pair of seats in the Polaris cabin.
The bidding deadline is noon CST on Monday, February 6, and at this writing the minimum bid is 241,000 miles. New bids can only be made in increments of 1,000 miles.
A window seat in United’s new Polaris business class. (Image: United)
What you’re bidding on is not only two Polaris tickets for the ORD-SFO maiden flight, but an entire package that also includes a pair of economy tickets to Chicago, two more for a flight home from San Francisco, and a hotel stay in San Francisco the night of February 13. You’ll also have access to United’s new Polaris lounge at O’Hare.
You must be 21 or older to participate, and you can’t check any bags – carry-ons only.
To see all the details and to submit a bid, click here.
The first scheduled service of a Polaris-equipped 777-300ER will be on a domestic route, linking United’s San Francisco and Newark Liberty International hubs. The new aircraft will fly six days a week from February 13 through May 4, the airline said.
On March 25, the new aircraft will make its international scheduled service debut, replacing a 747-400 on the very competitive San Francisco-Hong Kong route, where Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific both offer non-stop service.
Seatmap of United’s newest bird: The Boeing 777-300ER CLICK for details
The Boeing 777-300ER will have 60 business class seats— that’s up from around 50 in its 747s and 777-200s. Both Economy Plus and regular economy seating will be 10-across, configured 3-4-3. Economy Plus will offer 34 inches of pitch vs. 31 inches for regular economy. Currently, United’s 777s are 9 across in economy class.
For those United loyalists who want to book a seat on the airline’s last 747 flights, the carrier has set the schedule for the plane’s retirement later this year.
All the affected routes are out of San Francisco. According to Routesonline.com, the last 747-400 departure from SFO will be a flight to Seoul on October 28, returning October 29.
The schedule for other 747 retirement flights includes San Francisco-Beijing, SFO-Frankfurt, SFO-Taipei and SFO-Tokyo Narita, all set for October 28; a seasonal SFO-London flight through October 27; and SFO-Shanghai service through October 5.
Except for a 787-9 going onto the Shanghai route, the United 747s will be replaced by 777-200ERs. Routesonline notes that the schedule is subject to change.
Delta is also due to phase out its 747s this year. (Photo: Delta)
For nostalgia buffs, the website also posted a “flashback” to United’s January 1979 timetable, showing that the big plane was used on a number of domestic routes at the time. It flew from San Francisco to Honolulu, Newark (via Chicago), and New York JFK; from LAX to JFK, Honolulu and Denver; and from Chicago O’Hare to LAX, JFK, Toronto, Honolulu, Detroit and Denver.
Delta Air Lines is also due to take its remaining 747s out of service later this year, but has not yet issued a schedule, other than saying it will happen in the fourth quarter. For a final ride on a Delta 747, you can fly from Detroit to Tokyo or Seoul. And from Honolulu, Delta is still running the big bird nonstop to Kansai (KIX) near Osaka, Japan.
Korean Air 747-8 (Photo: Korean Air)
United and Delta are the last U.S. airlines to fly 747s. But the iconic wide-body will still be available from other carriers. British Airways, for instance, recently overhauled the interiors of its 747-400 fleet, and Lufthansa and Korean Air are flying the newer version of the aircraft, the 747-8. Air China flies a 747-8 between SFO and Beijing.
Chris flew on a Qantas 747-400 last year between SFO and Sydney- check out his Trip Report here.
How do you feel about the retirement of this grand old bird? Please leave your comments below.
TravelSkills reader Jason Vaudrey reports from a Singapore Air A350 in Premium Economy (Photo: Jason Vaudrey)
Late last year we received the following email from TravelSkills reader Jason Vaudrey with a query about submitting a reader report about his upcoming Singapore Airlines Premium Economy flight. He wrote:
My name is Jason Vaudrey and I really enjoy reading TravelSkills each week. I just finished reading about Singapore Airlines’ inaugural flight with their A350 and it made me more excited for my trip to Myanmar and return from Bangkok in December when I’ll fly on the A350. I am fascinated by air travel, commercial aircraft, the hustle and bustle of airports and have been this way since I was a child. I am somewhat envious of your ability to be able to make a career for yourself doing what you love. When I was younger, I flew quite often and used to save my ticket jackets and would often use the Official Airline Guide to plan out my father’s travels that would often take him up to the North Slope of Alaska. Today, I am fortunate to have a career that allows me to travel internationally once or twice a year…I’m more than happy to provide a review of Singapore Airlines’ Premium Economy experience in December aboard their A350. I am very excited for the 17-hour flight.
Earlier this year, Jason submitted the following report:
Singapore Airlines flight 31 SFO-SIA on December 20 (Photo: Jason Vaudrey)
I love taking a big international trip at least once a year, preferably to a country I have never visited. I usually like to include scuba diving, whitewater rafting or something adventurous as part of my destination. I always believe in my vacation beginning at SFO and look forward to the long haul flight that awaits. I will pay upwards of $400 more for an airline with a better reputation as opposed to defaulting to the least expensive ticket to a destination.
Singapore Airlines Airbus A350 at SFO ready to depart for Singapore (Photo: Jason Vaudrey)
To allow myself the freedom to travel, I work as a substitute teacher with San Francisco Unified School District and also do HIV and reproductive health research on short term projects or as an independent contractor. This holiday and during my winter break from school, I chose to go to Yangon (Burma) and to see Bagan and scuba dive the Burma Mergui Archipelago, which involved me starting that portion of my trip in Thailand.
I flew nearly two months after the inauguration of Singapore Airlines’ nonstop SFO to Singapore Changi flight. Our flight flight time was approximately 16 hours and 30 minutes. I sat in seat 33H, the third and last row in Premium Economy on the two seat side. There were approximately 30 seats empty on board the plane, according to the chief steward.
Singapore Airlines A350 Premium Economy has 24 seats in three rows between business class and economy class (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
There are 24 seats in Premium Economy in a 2-4-2 layout and I definitely recommend the last row because your seat is not pulled on when the person behind you often uses the head rest as support to get up from their seat not realizing how jarring it is for the person seated.
Seat 33 H in premium economy on a Singapore Airlines A350 (Jason Vaudrey)
The seven cabin crew who attended to both the Premium Economy and Economy sections did an amazing job to make sure everyone was seated and comfortable and we had an on time departure and upon boarding handed us a hot towel, a menu and confirmed with those passengers who requested a special meal. The menu for premium economy covers all four meal services for both Flight 31 and Flight 32.
The check-in procedure at SFO has a special lane for Premium Economy, although when I arrived about 2.5 hours ahead of my flight, there were no passengers at the check-in counter and the ticketing agent had indicated that most everyone had checked-in already. On my return trip which originated in Bangkok, I still was able to use the Premium Economy lane and also for boarding the flight which had no Premium Economy section. Although in Bangkok, the ground staff operating the flight from Bangkok to Singapore allowed for Premium Economy passengers to board with their frequent flier mileage tier groups after Business Class boarded.
Premium economy dinner on Singapore Airlines (Photo: Jason Vaudrey)
Both flights are designed the same in terms of service and meals offered. You are served a hot breakfast with three options that are the same three options being offered in economy. I chose the braised egg noodles with pork and it was delicious. The other two options were Western breakfast style options. For the second meal service from SFO-SIN, I ordered Korean BBQ ribs from the “Book the Cook” option that is given to premium economy passengers. All special meal order services are delivered first before the cart is pushed down the aisle serving the other passengers. Only drawback for ordering any special meal service is the delay in getting a beverage to go with it. So just request a beverage when your meal is delivered, but sometimes they will ask you to wait until the cart comes down the aisle.
The seat in premium economy is great. The problem with the exterior aisles, is the box that controls the seat back monitors obstructs and prevents you from being able to store a backpack and anything greater than a slim bag or purse. With my short legs, this did not pose a problem, but if you are tall, it might be an obstruction that is not welcome. The recline is nice along with the greater elbow room, because an arm rest is not shared with your seatmate. And there is also seat pitch of 38” and wider seats than in economy.
The only drawback is the engineering design of the calf rest. My seat mate on the return from Singapore to San Francisco brought this to my attention when he said that the calf rest doesn’t raise enough for you to at the same time rest your feet on the foot bar. And, even the passenger across the aisle from me pointed it out to a flight attendant after we took off and she tried to yank on the calf rest to get it to raise more, and I leaned over and told them, I think it’s a design flaw. My seat mate, cleverly, took his pillow and placed it under his legs, raising them, to allow his feet to reach the bar. I ended up not using the calf rest and prefer just resting my feet on the bar.
Map of flight from SIN to SFO as seen on seatback entertainment system (Photo: Jason Vaudrey)
The return flight was fantastic and shorter. The second meal service was still approximately five hours after the first meal service. A change I noticed with this flight is the lead flight attendant approached all 24 passengers (premium economy was full) and asked them what they wanted for the three main course choices offered.
The flight attendants delivered premium economy meals without serving directly from the cart. The cart still was brought up the aisle to offer beverages, but I thought her asking those who did not already have a special meal request, was just another perk to sitting up in premium economy that I did not see, but also did not mind, when flying to Singapore from SF.
Here’s how they are celebrating the new nonstops between SFO and Singapore at Changi Airport (Photo: Jason Vaudrey)
I bought my ticket in July 2016 and the price was approximately $1750, about $100 more than economy at the time. I found even the business class, priced at $3,200 roundtrip in July to be very reasonable, considering the distance. And, this would have also included my flight to Yangon from Singapore and my return from Bangkok to Singapore. By the end of August, the price for economy still hovered around $1650, but premium economy was priced at $2,400. I find it definitely to be worth it, because it is quite the long flight and the seat itself is worth the increase in price between economy and premium economy.
[Roundtrip, premium economy fares between SFO and Yangon on SIA are currently about $2,900 according to Google Flights]
My trip to Myanmar consisted of flying to Bagan to see the pagodas and take a hot air balloon at sunrise on Christmas Eve morning. From there, I took AirKBZ to Yangon, spent the night at a nice budget hotel by the airport, called the High Five Hotel. In the morning I flew to Ranong, Thailand, via Bangkok on AirAsia to Bangkok. From Bangkok to Ranong, Thailand, I flew on NokAir (nok in Thai means bird). Ranong, Thailand lies on the border of Thailand and Myanmar. From there, I boarded a 7-day liveaboard scuba dive boat with 17 other individuals and crossed back into Myanmar waters to scuba dive for 7 days in the Myanmar (Burma) Mergui Archipelago. I was the only American on board, but had a great adventure and befriended many on board.
Nice work, Jason! Thanks!
Jason scuba diving in off the coast of Myanmar
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That’s not the fare to WOW’s Reykjavik hub – that’s the fare for a trip to the Continent via a Reykjavik connection. These are base fares; steep and numerous fees apply for various amenities such as carry on baggage, advance seat selection and, um, water. See fee menu here.
The airline didn’t say how long the sale fares would be available – just that they are on sale now “for a limited time.” The $69 fare is available from San Francisco and Los Angeles via Iceland to Stockholm, Copenhagen, Bristol (U.K.) and Edinburgh, WOW said, for travel from January 15 through April 5. WOW flies Airbus A330s from the West Coast.
Caveat: The $69 fare is apparently available only for eastbound travel; the price for return flights ranges from $129 to $199. Still, a roundtrip for a $199 base fare is a pretty good deal.
For example, when going through the booking process on WOW’s website, the cheapest fare we could find between San Francisco and Edinburgh, including a $100 fee for a large carry on bag (such as a rollaboard) is $370. That’s roughly $70 for the outbound flight, $200 for the return (including taxes) and a $100 bag fee. That’s still very very cheap!
Here’s a screenshot of fares from WOW’s website today (Tuesday).
The new sale also includes $99 fares from Boston to Reykjavik, or $129 from Boston to Paris, London Gatwick, Amsterdam, Berlin and Stockholm; and $99 from Miami to Reykjavik, or $149 from Miami to Amsterdam, Berlin, Frankfurt, London and Paris.
The airline’s U.S. website with full details on the sale is at https://wowair.us/. NOTE: Due to the popularity of this sale, the WOW Air site is extremely slow and in some cases timing out, so keep trying….
United is scaling back its six-month-old route from SFO to Auckland. (Image: Aucklandnz.com)
In international route developments, United will scale back its San Francisco-Auckland and LAX-London service; China Southern will boost capacity to San Francisco; China’s Hainan Airlines seeks two more U.S. routes; Alaska Airlines begins Cuba flights from the West Coast; Hong Kong Airlines schedules its first service to North America; and LOT Polish will resume a Chicago route.
Is there too much new capacity between the U.S. and New Zealand? United Airlines has decided to suspend its San Francisco-Auckland flight this spring and turn it into a seasonal route. United will halt the 787 service April 16 and pick it up again October 28, according to Routesonline.com. But then on December 16, 2017, United will boost frequencies on the route from seven a week to 10, using a 777-200ER. United kicked off the SFO-Auckland route last summer, just after American started flying from Los Angeles to Auckland. And a little over a year ago, Air New Zealand added a new Houston-Auckland route.
In other news, United has dropped plans to add a second Los Angeles-London Heathrow to its schedule this year. The second flight had been scheduled to begin April 4, but United apparently had second thoughts about committing more seats to a crowded market, with five other airlines already offering non-stop service between Los Angeles and London. And from its Newark hub, United this week ended its daily service to Belfast, Northern Ireland, as it previously announced. The Belfast Telegraph reports that Belfast Airport officials are in talks with several other carriers to add a U.S. route.
China Southern will add more seats from San Francisco to Guangzhou (Photo: Wikimedia)
China Southern Airlines has filed plans to increase capacity to San Francisco from Guangzhou, Routesonline.com reports. It will start by changing aircraft as of March 26 from 787-8s to larger 777-300ERs on its four weekly non-stop flights from Guangzhou to SFO and its three flights a week from Guangzhou to SFO via a stop in Wuhan. Then on June 21 it will increase frequencies on the non-stop route from four flights a week to six.
Hainan wants to add 787 flights from Chongqing to LAX and New York. (Photo: San Jose Airport)
China’s Hainan Airlines, which has several U.S. routes already, wants two more. The carrier has applied with U.S. authorities to start flying two or three times a week from Chongqing to Los Angeles within the next few months, followed by a similar schedule from Chongqing to New York JFK in the second quarter, using 787s on both routes. Hainan already flies to Beijing from San Jose, Chicago and Seattle, and to Shanghai from Seattle and Boston.
Alaska Airlines has finally launched its new Havana service, becoming the only airline to fly to the Cuban capital from the West Coast. The daily service originates in Seattle, then stops in Los Angeles before continuing non-stop to Havana. The 737-900ER flight leaves SEA at 5 a.m. and departs LAX at 8:50 a.m. Chris was on the inaugural, and will file a report shortly.
Hong Kong Airlines, which has a route network all around East and Southeast Asia as well as Australia and New Zealand, plans to begin its first transpacific service to North America this summer. The airline said it will star flying once a day on June 30 between its Hong Kong base and Vancouver, using an Airbus A330.
LOT Polish Airlines has set a July 2 start for new service between Chicago O’Hare and Krakow, operating one flight a week on the route with a 787-8.
Southwest will boost capacity by 3.5 percent this year. (Image: Jim Glab)
Southwest Airlines said its summer schedule, which starts June 4, will feature 22 new domestic and international routes, including some from the Bay Area as well as an expanded Caribbean network based at Ft. Lauderdale and a new presence at Cincinnati.
The company said it expects to increase its overall capacity this year by 3.5 percent (measured in available seat-miles) compared to 2016.
The airline’s new service on the West Coast includes three flights a day between San Francisco International-Portland and one a day between San Jose-Reno, along with seasonal non-stop service from Oakland to Newark Liberty International. At San Diego, Southwest will begin new daily flights to Boise and Salt Lake City, as well as seasonal service to Newark, Spokane and Indianapolis.
However, California’s Orange County Register reported that Southwest will trim its operations at John Wayne Airport due to a shift in capacity allocations among airlines there. Southwest this week ended its Orange County-Mexico City service, the newspaper said, and on January 14 it will eliminate flights from John Wayne to Austin, Kansas City, Portland, St. Louis and Seattle, followed by the end of Puerto Vallarta flights April 25.
At Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood, Southwest said it expects to cut the ribbon in early June on a new international concourse, designated Concourse A in Terminal 1. The facility will serve passengers on flights to eight international destinations, including four new ones: Montego Bay, Jamaica; Belize; Cancun, Mexico; and (subject to government approval) Grand Cayman. Southwest already flies from FLL to Nassau, Bahamas and the Cuban destinations of Havana, Varadero and Santa Clara.
Southwest’s expanded Caribbean network out of Ft. Lauderdale. (Image: Southwest)
Other new service from Ft. Lauderdale starting June 4 includes daily intra-Florida service to Orlando and daily flights to Washington Dulles and Philadelphia. Elsewhere in Florida, Southwest will kick off two daily non-stops between Tampa-New York LaGuardia and weekend flights between Pensacola and Denver.
Another big focus in Southwest’s summer schedule is Ohio, where it will begin service at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport with five flights a day to Chicago Midway and three a day to Baltimore/Washington. At Cleveland, the airline will add service to Atlanta and a second daily roundtrip to St. Louis. On the losing end of the schedule changes in Ohio are Dayton and Akron-Canton, where Southwest will terminate its service.
Elsewhere in the Midwest, Southwest’s summer schedule includes new service between Indianapolis-Newark twice a day and Nashville-Minneapolis once a day.
The airline is offering introductory sale fares on many of the routes for travel this summer. The sale fares’ booking deadline is January 26. Sample one-way starting sale fares include: San Francisco-Portland, $49; San Jose-Reno, $39; San Diego-Boise, $89; Ft. Lauderdale-Washington Dulles, $69; Ft. Lauderdale-Cancun, $89; and Ft. Lauderdale-Montego Bay, $99.
Air New Zealand flies a 777-300 like this on its LAX-AKL run (Photo: Air New Zealand)
Whenever you see a roundtrip fare to Australia or New Zealand for under $1,000, you’ve found a good deal, and a New Year’s sale from Air New Zealand easily beats that benchmark.
But you must act fast: The booking deadline for the sale fares is next Tuesday night (January 10). The fares are available for travel over the next 11 months. Depending on class of travel, the fares represent savings of up to $600.
UPDATE: Qantas is matching and in some cases beating Air New Zealand’s fare sale
Sample roundtrip fares from San Francisco or Los Angeles to Auckland are $878 in economy class, $2,529 in premium economy or $4,099 in Business Premier. From SFO or LAX to Melbourne, the sale fares are $898 in economy, $1,798 in premium economy and $4,798 in Business Premier.
Comparable fares from Houston to Auckland are $978, $2,844, and $5,114 respectively. From Houston to Melbourne, sale prices are $998, $2,113 and $6,113 respectively. Sale fares are also available to Sydney, Australia; Queenstown, New Zealand; and the Cook Islands.
Weekend travel surcharges apply, and sale fares are good only on specific dates that vary by class of service. Here are the full details.
American’s new premium economy seating is on 787-9s in more markets. (Image: American Airlines).
In international route updates, American Airlines is adding premium economy-equipped 787-9s to more markets; China Airlines planes an aircraft change and more flights to San Francisco; Xiamen opens sales for a new LAX route; JetBlue boosts Bermuda capacity; Alaska adds a Mexico route from Sacramento; Avianca increases Los Angeles service; and Delta expands Caribbean code-shares.
The new premium economy section that American Airlines is putting into its 787-9 Dreamliners will soon appear on more routes. The section first appeared on Dallas/Ft. Worth-Sao Paulo and DFW-Madrid flights in November, and now it is due to debut on DFW-Paris and DFW-Seoul flights starting January 9 and February 16 respectively. Although the seats are out there, they’re not yet officially on sale as premium economy fares. That will begin early next year, American said. In other news, American is planning to upgrade the aircraft on its Raleigh-Durham to London Heathrow route. On March 5, it will switch from a 767 to a 777-200, offering about 40 percent more seats.
China Airlines will put a new Airbus A350 onto its San Francisco-Taipei route next spring. (Image: Airbus)
More flights are coming on the San Francisco to Taipei route, along with a new aircraft type. China Airlines, a member of Delta’s SkyTeam alliance, reportedly plans to boost frequencies on the route from seven a week to nine starting May 14, and to switch aircraft from a 777-300ER to a new Airbus A350. Then in early August, the carrier will add two more weekly flights on the route for a total of 11 a week.
China’s Xiamen Airlines has started taking bookings for its planned new service between Xiamen and Los Angeles International, due to begin on June 27. The carrier will use a 787-9 Dreamliner to fly the route three times a week.
JetBlue is adding more capacity to Bermuda from its Northeast focus cities. Beginning May 18, it will operate daily year-round flights from New York JFK, with a second daily frequency from May 18 through October. The airline will also increase its Boston-Bermuda daily service from seasonal to year-round as of May 18, and will upsize aircraft on its Bermuda routes from 100-seat Embraer 190s to 150-seat Airbus A320s.
Alaska Airlines plans to add a new route from California to Mexico next summer. As of June 10, the airline will offer weekly 737 service (on Saturdays) between Sacramento and San Jose/Los Cabos.
The LAX-Bogota route will get more Avianca Dreamliner flights next year. (Image: Avianca)
Got business in Colombia? The Colombian carrier Avianca will boost its West Coast service in 2017, increasing frequencies on the Bogota-Los Angeles route from four a week to daily starting on March 28. Avianca uses a 787-8 Dreamliner on the route.
Delta is expanding its code-share partnership with Seaborne Airlines on flights beyond San Juan to various Caribbean island destinations. In recent weeks, Delta has put its DL code onto Seabourne flights from San Juan to St. Maarten, Anguilla, St. Kitts and Nevis, and on March 5 it will do the same on Seabourne service to La Romana, Dominican Republic.
Qantas’ first 787-9 will enter service to LAX next year. (Image: Qantas)
Several airlines have scheduled the introduction of brand-new planes on key international routes to the U.S., including Qantas, Lufthansa, Swiss International and Singapore.
Qantas announced that its first Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner will enter service on December 15, 2017, flying the Melbourne-Los Angeles route. The new 236-passenger, three-class Dreamliner will fly the route six days a week, replacing a 364-seat 747, and will supplement Qantas’ daily A380 flight on the route. That will give Qantas 13 flights a week on the route, up from nine today. Even though the 787 is smaller than the 747 it will replace, the larger plane is only flying twice a week, so that’s a net capacity increase on the route of 1,400 seats a week. The Dreamliner will have business class, economy class, and a new premium economy section that the airline will introduce early next year.
Lufthansa recently took delivery of its first A350 from Airbus. (Image: Lufthansa)
Lufthansa recently took delivery of its first brand-new Airbus A350-900 which will begin regular commercial service February 10 between Munich and New Delhi. But the carrier announced last week that its second new A350 will start flying in March 2017 on the Boston-Munich route. Lufthansa said its first 10 A350s will all be based at its Munich hub. The aircraft will have 48 business class seats, 21 in premium economy and 224 in regular economy. The airline will introduce a new in-flight service for A350 business class flyers: a self-service area offering snacks and cold drinks. The new aircraft will also have larger video screens and “the latest FlyNet technology and improved web surfing,” Lufthansa said. The plane will offer a variety of lighting schemes and improved cabin pressure so travelers will arrive “feeling more rested,” the airline said.
Economy class on Swiss’s new 777-300ER. (Image: Swiss International)
Swiss International, a Lufthansa subsidiary, has been rolling out new 340-seat Boeing 777-300ERs as the flagships of its long-haul network. It has six already, with three more coming online in 2017. This year, it started flying them to Los Angeles in June and Miami in October. And they’ll soon be coming to San Francisco and Chicago. According to the Swiss website, The 777-300ER will begin flying between Zurich and San Francisco three times a week (Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday) starting February 16. And the airline will reportedly boost that 777 schedule to seven flights a week starting April 17. Meanwhile, Routesonline.com reports that Swiss will put the new 777-300ER into service between Chicago O’Hare-Zurich beginning June 1, flying that route six times a week. The new 777s carry 340 passengers, with eight seats in first class, 62 in business and 270 in economy (in a 3-4-3 configuration). Check out a photo tour of the Swiss 777-300ERs that we ran last year.
Singapore Airlines A350 Premium Economy is a good option for those who can’t bear the thought of 17 hours in economy (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
Singapore Airlines continues add new Airbus A350s to its long-haul feet, and the next deployment of the aircraft will be on its Houston-Manchester (UK)-Singapore route starting January 17, according to Routesonline.com. The Singapore A350s have 42 business class seats, 24 in premium economy, and 187 in regular economy (in a 3-3-3 configuration). Two months ago, Singapore put one of the new A350s into service on its Singapore-San Francisco route. Chris was on board for one of the first flights, and you can read his comprehensive report here about seating and in-flight service aboard the Singapore A350.
International Airlines Group plans to fight back against transatlantic low-cost competition. (Image: IAG)
British Airways’ parent company plans to launch new low-cost transatlantic service from Barcelona to the U.S. in 2017.
International Airlines Group — which owns British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus, and the low-cost Spanish airline Vueling – is considering adding a new subsidiary in 2017 that will offer cheap fares to and from the U.S. West Coast in response to low-fare competition from Norwegian, according to The Times of London.
The newspaper said IAG’s new operation is expected to use Airbus A330s to fly from Barcelona’s El Prat Airport to San Francisco and Los Angeles beginning in June 2017. The new venture is also targeting transatlantic flights from Barcelona to Buenos Aires, Argentina; Santiago, Chile; and Havana, Cuba, the report said.
Tickets are not expected to go on sale until February or March 2017, and no fare information is currently available according to CAPA.
Vueling, IAG’s low-cost Spanish subsidiary that serves short-haul markets, will provide passenger feed into Barcelona for the transatlantic flights. There were no details yet on specific schedules or fares for the West Coast service. IAG suggested that it might operate the new service under one of its existing brands if it does not create a new subsidiary.
Europe’s legacy airlines have recently been stirred to action on the low-cost front as Norwegian adds more long-haul routes at extremely low base fares. Norwegian in recent months has started or announced new and increased low-fare service from major U.S. airports to London Gatwick, Paris and Barcelona, especially from the West Coast. Lufthansa is concentrating on growing its low-cost Eurowings subsidiary, adding aircraft from Airberlin and Brussels Airlines for that purpose.
Air France KLM recently revealed plans to develop a low-cost long-haul operation tentatively called Boost, based at Paris Charles de Gaulle, although few details are available. And in addition to IAG’s new Barcelona-based operation, British Airways is adding service to Oakland and Ft. Lauderdale in 2017 from London Gatwick instead of its Heathrow hub, in response to Norwegian’s increasing Gatwick service. BA is said to be planning eventually to use higher-capacity 777s with 332 seats instead of 280 for its long-haul Gatwick operations, in order to make them cost-competitive with Norwegian.
Virgin America will add SFO-Orlando flights next year. (Image: Virgin America)
In domestic route news, Alaska Airlines and Virgin America provide details of their new San Francisco flights; American Airlines adds routes at Washington Reagan National and Phoenix, but drops one from Los Angeles; Delta adds a pair of Florida routes; OneJet expands at Pittsburgh; and Frontier will resume seasonal Cleveland-West Coast service.
Alaska Airlines has announced details of the new San Francisco services it mentioned earlier this week. On June 14, Alaska’s Virgin America unit will begin daily A320 flights from SFO to Orlando – but you’ll have to wake up early, because they depart SFO at 6:30 a.m.
On June 15, Alaska will expand its California Corridor presence by launching three daily SFO-Orange County roundtrips, increasing to four on July 18. (You might recall that Virgin America jumped into the SFO-SNA market in 2009, only to jump back out less than a year later in the face of stiff competition from Southwest.). Also on July 18, Alaska adds a pair of daily San Francisco-Minneapolis-St. Paul roundtrips. The Orange County and MSP flights will use 76-seat SkyWest E175s with first class, premium class and main cabin seating.
Delta is beefing up its east coast presence with new service from Boston to Florida. On February 18, Delta will begin twice-daily service from Boston to Tampa, and on February 17 it starts weekend-only (Saturday and Sunday) flights from Boston to Ft. Myers. (JetBlue also flies both routes.) Both routes will use Airbus A319s.
An American Eagle/Republic E175 will fly from Washington D.C. to Northwest Arkansas. (Image: American Airlines)
American Airlines plans to expand at Washington Reagan National in the spring. On April 4, it will kick off new daily American Eagle/Republic Airlines service from DCA to Northwest Arkansas Airport in Fayetteville (near Walmart headquarters) with an Embraer 175. And on the same date it will begin twice-daily American Eagle/PSA Airlines service from DCA to Grand Rapids, Mich., with CRJ 200s; and daily Eagle/Republic roundtrips from DCA to Pensacola, Fla., with an E175.
Meanwhile, American this month began new American Eagle/SkyWest daily CRJ 700 service between its Phoenix hub and Santa Fe, N.M. American used to fly to Santa Fe from Los Angeles, but discontinued that service in 2015. It also serves Santa Fe from Dallas/Ft. Worth. And speaking of Los Angeles, American has decided to discontinue its three-year-old non-stop service between LAX and Pittsburgh as of February 14.
OneJet uses small Hawker 400XPs on short-haul routes. (Image: OneJet)
One airline that’s growing at Pittsburgh is OneJet, which operates small business jets in regional markets under public charter rules. OneJet plans to begin daily PIT-Richmond service March 1, followed by daily PIT-Albany flights March 22. It already flies from Pittsburgh to Hartford, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Louisville and Cincinnati.
Frontier Airlines, which introduced seasonal flights last year from Cleveland to four West Coast cities, is bringing them back in 2017. In April, Frontier will add service from Cleveland to San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle and Portland, with flights operating three or four days a week and fares starting as low as $79 one way.
A driverless UberX Volvo near San Francisco’s ferry terminal. (Image: Uber)
Uber’s driverless car test in San Francisco is getting off to a shaky start.
No sooner had Uber started testing the use of driverless cars in San Francisco this week than the state stepped in to block it – and an incriminating video didn’t help Uber’s case.
The ride-sharing giant, which started using driverless vehicles in Pittsburgh in September, expanded the service to the streets of San Francisco this week with some UberX automated Volvo XC90s. The company said customers could request a self-driving car for their local rides based on availability.
But California’s Department of Motor Vehicles quickly intervened by telling Uber it needs a permit to use the driverless technology – something that 20 other companies already have, the DMV noted.
Uber is challenging the DMV’s warning, however. “We understand that there is a debate over whether or not we need a testing permit to launch self-driving Ubers in San Francisco,” the company said. “We have looked at this issue carefully and we don’t believe we do…First, we are not planning to operate any differently than in Pittsburgh, where our pilot has been running successfully for several months. Second, the rules apply to cars that can drive without someone controlling or monitoring them. For us, it’s still early days and our cars are not yet ready to drive without a person monitoring them.”
As soon as the UberX Volvos hit the street, they started having problems, according to local media, with the cars running red lights on at least two occasions. Uber called it “human error,” blaming the problems on the engineers who were in the driver’s seat of the driverless cars, supposedly ready to handle any emergency or sticky situation. It said both employees had been suspended while it investigates.
One of those incidents was caught on video from the dash cam of a local taxi:
Readers: Would you ride in a driverless car as long as there was an Uber engineer keeping an eye on things? What if there wasn’t? Post comments below.
The Alaska Virgin America deal is done. More details to come. (Image: Alaska Airlines)
Virgin America and Alaska Airlines today officially closed their merger, which means that Virgin America is now a fully-owned subsidiary of Alaska Air Group. To celebrate, Alaska Air is flying a freshly painted, brand new 737 to San Francisco this morning for a big event. TravelSkills will be there, so stay tuned for a full report (and photos) on the festivities!
Most important for now: The Virgin America website says that travelers should not expect to see any major changes to the Virgin America product or onboard experience within the next 12 months.
The combined airline is now the fifth largest airline in the U.S, and the largest on the West Coast, offering travelers more flights and more rewards.
New benefits for guests will launch on Monday, December 19, 2016 including the ability for Elevate members to earn points on Alaska flights (and vice versa), priority airport benefits for elite frequent flyer members, and a new codeshare agreement. Yes, this means that Bay Area travelers can will soon earn Virgin points on Alaska flights to/from San Jose and Oakland!
Polaris pod seating with alternating row seat arrangement goes domestic first, then transpac (Photo: Scott Hintz)
United Airlines has revealed the initial schedule for introduction of the 777-300ERs equipped with its new Polaris business class cabin, and San Francisco figures prominently in the rollout.
The first scheduled service of a Polaris-equipped 777-300ER will be on a domestic route, linking United’s San Francisco and Newark Liberty International hubs. The new aircraft will fly six days a week from February 16 through May 4, the airline said.
On March 25, the new aircraft will make its international scheduled service debut, replacing a 747-400 on the very competitive San Francisco-Hong Kong route, where Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific both offer non-stop service.
Seatmap of United’s newest bird: The Boeing 777-300ER CLICK for details
The Boeing 777-300ER will have 60 business class seats— that’s up from around 50 in its 747s and 777-200s. Both Economy Plus and regular economy seating will be 10-across, configured 3-4-3. Economy Plus will offer 34 inches of pitch vs. 31 inches for regular economy. Currently, United’s 777s are 9 across in economy class.
But United Polaris flyers in SFO won’t get the full experience when the new 777-300ER lands there– a spokesperson tells TravelSkills that phase 1 of the Polaris lounge will be complete by midyear, with the lounge renovation complete by the end of 2017. More details on the SFO lounge scene here.
The new Polaris business class provides seating in a “suite-like pod,” United said, with direct aisle access for all passengers. Seats recline 180 degrees, and are 6 feet 6 inches long and 23 inches wide, with one-touch lumbar support, A/C power, two USB ports, a 16-inch high-def video screen, privacy dividers for the middle seats, mood lighting, and an electronic “do not disturb” sign. The front cabin also has a marble-topped bar where passengers can get drinks and snacks.
Polaris seat storage cubby, noise cancelling headphones, and power ports, amenity kit (Photo: Scott Hintz)
United said it expects to put all 14 of its new 777-300ERs into service during 2017. The aircraft will be configured with 60 Polaris business class seats in a 1-2-1 layout; 102 Economy Plus seats; and 204 regular economy seats.
No word yet on what the other Polaris outfitted routes will be.
Satellite Wi-Fi will be available for purchase, and the economy cabin will offer on-demand entertainment via seatback screens or streaming to personal electronic devices.
A BART train at San Francisco International. (Image: Peter Biaggi / San Francisco International Airport)
Last week, we reported that the Bay Area Rapid Transit System’s new line to Oakland International Airport is losing money due to competition from ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft. But now there’s news that BART’s San Francisco International service is suffering the same problem.
According to the San Francisco Examiner, BART officials found that ridership on the overall BART network during October was down 1.7 percent compared to the same month a year ago; they also said that the airport line to SFO is performing 9.6 percent under budget.
Currently the BART fare from SFO to downtown San Francisco is $8.65 one-way and takes about 30 minutes. UberX or Lyft fares SFO to city run about $25-30.
And they made it clear that the slump in ridership is due to an explosion of rides on car-sharing services like Uber and Lyft. SFO airport rides by Uber vehicles increased from about 81,000 pick-ups and drop-offs in October 2014 to 469,823 in October 2016. For Lyft, the comparable numbers were 16,784 and 108,388 respectively. The ride-sharing services were authorized to serve the airport in 2014.
The newspaper said a BART official told it that Uber and Lyft have “changed the environment” for travel to and from the airport, with rail ridership leveling off in 2015 after being on a growth track.
BART’s board of directors have told the agency’s officials that rather than looking to cut service, they should try to find new ways to increase ridership. BART is said to be considering group discounts as one possibility.
According to the East Bay Times, figures from BART indicate that the Oakland Connector line is losing money and seeing its ridership decline – even though the airport’s passenger numbers are rising.Specifically, instead of meeting BART’s initial expectation of a $2 million profit on the Airport Connector during its first two years, the line has lost $860,000. And during the third quarter of this year, rider numbers fell 4.5 percent from the same period a year earlier.
What about you? How has your getting-to-the-airport routine changed since the emergence of ride sharing? Has this trend reached beyond the Bay Area? Please leave your comments below.
More flights, more availability for award flights on Korean Air (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
In international route news, Korean Air plans to boost West Coast frequencies next year, Norwegian’s Las Vegas routes will be cut back to a seasonal basis; Aer Lingus adds a new U.S. gateway; Air Canada adds a pair of summer Europe routes from Vancouver; Fiji Airways will boost San Francisco service; two German airlines add new U.S. routes next summer; and ANA will start direct service to Mexico City.
Korean Air’s 2017 schedule plans include more flights to the West Coast, according to Routesonline.com. On March 26, Korean’s San Francisco-Seoul Incheon schedule is tentatively set to increase from seven flights a week to 12, then grow to 13 in June and 14 in September. The carrier will utilize a mix of B747-8 and B777s on the route. KAL likely added more capacity since Singapore Air moved its daily SFO-Seoul nonstop to LA to make way for its nonstop SFO-SIN service. From June through August, the airline will increase Los Angeles-Seoul Incheon frequencies from 14 to 19 flights a week. And Korean’s Seattle schedule shows daily flights during May, September and October, up from five a week for the same months this year. (FYI, Korean Air is a partner in Chase Ultimate Rewards- many readers love to unload their points to fly KAL in first or business class because space is frequently available. Get a new card, earn the bonus, and redeem away!)
Here’s how TravelSkills reader JS flew KAL in first class by transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards to Korean Air SkyPass. He told us: “As you probably know it’s incredibly easy to find first class space on Korean since so few people in the U.S. either have those miles or know about the transfer process from Chase. In addition, even though Delta and Korean are both members of SkyTeam, Delta members cannot redeem their miles for first class on other SkyTeam carriers.”
Norwegian Air Shuttle has been growing at Las Vegas, but it has now decided that its four routes to Europe will operate seasonally instead of year-round. Why? Because it discovered this year that sometimes Las Vegas is just too hot in the summer for its planes to take off, so they’ve had to sit on the ground until temperatures dropped. The cutoff temperature for the airline’s 291-seat Dreamliners is 104 degrees, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, so for 2017 the airline will suspend its service to London, Oslo, Stockholm and Copenhagen from late March until November. The publication said the airline is studying the possibility of rescheduling summer departure times to early morning or late in the day for 2018.
Aer Lingus is adding a Miami route next year. (Image: Aer Lingus)
Ireland’s Aer Lingus will add Miami as its newest U.S. gateway next year. The airline set a September 1 start for the new service, operating three times a week between Miami and Dublin with a 266-seat A330-200. Aer Lingus also said it will boost its Los Angeles schedule from the current four flights a week to daily departures from May 26 through the end of August; increase Chicago O’Hare service from 12 flights a week to twice-daily departures beginning May 26; and add a fourth weekly flight from Orlando effective March 14.
Air Canada will give travelers new options to Europe from Vancouver next summer. The carrier said it will start daily flights from Vancouver to Frankfurt on June 1, using a 787-8 with business class, premium economy and regular economy seating; and three flights a week from Vancouver to London Gatwick with an Air Canada Rouge 767-300ER with premium and regular economy seating.
Fiji Airways is boosting capacity to San Francisco in 2017. (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
Fiji Airways must be doing well with its San Francisco-Nadi, Fiji route, because it plans to increase capacity next summer. Instead of operating two flights a week for eight weeks, it will keep them going from June 1 through late October, and will add a third weekly frequency from June 19 to August 8 – and it will upgrade the aircraft it uses from an A330-200 to a -300.
New travel options to Germany next year include service from Seattle to Cologne and from Pittsburgh to Frankfurt.The Seattle route be flown by Lufthansa Group subsidiary Eurowings, with three A330-200 flights a week operating seasonally from July 11 through October. And the Pittsburgh-Frankfurt route will be flown by Condor Airlines, with two 767 flights a week from June 23 through September.
Chris McGinnis inspecting a Boeing 787 at Tokyo Haneda (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
Want to get from Mexico to Japan without flying through the U.S. or Canada? Japan’s All Nippon Airways announced plans to begin the first non-stop service between the countries, with daily flights from Tokyo Narita to Mexico City beginning February 15. It will be ANA’s longest non-stop flight, and will use a 787-8 Dreamliner with business class and economy seating.
The interior of Delta’s new Airbus A321. (Image; Delta)
In domestic route developments, Delta will put new aircraft types on routes to San Francisco, Portland and San Diego; Alaska adds a couple of transcontinental markets; Southwest grows at Austin and Denver; and Spirit jumps into four Ohio-Florida markets.
Delta this year started to take delivery of new Airbus A321s, and according to Routesonline.com, customers in San Francisco and Portland will start to see them in 2017. The site said Delta’s advance schedule shows the new plane being introduced on a few of its many San Francisco-Atlanta flights starting in early March, and replacing the 737-900ER on its Portland-Detroit service starting in June. Delta said the A321s will feature big, pivoting overhead bins; next-generation seats in all three seating categories; large entertainment screens; USB and power ports; and LED lighting that changes with the phase of flight. (The A321 is the plane that seems to be replacing the aging Boeing 757, which is no longer being made.)
Meanwhile, following the recent news that JetBlue plans to extend its front-cabin Mint service onto the New York-San Diego route next August, thepointsguy.com reports that Delta apparently will be putting a 757 with front-cabin lie-flat seats onto one daily flight in the same market effective in June 2017. (Update: Airlineroute.net tells us that Delta had this aircraft on a SAN-JFK flight this past summer as well.) It’s the same aircraft type Delta uses for the lucrative JFK-San Francisco/Los Angeles routes. JetBlue has embarked on a long-term expansion of Mint service onto more transcon routes. Similarly, United has deployed a couple widebody B777-200s on SFO-BOS (but with standard first, not lie-flat) to take on JetBlue’s Mint expansion.
Alaska Airlines is adding more transcontinental flights. (Image: Alaska Air)
Speaking of San Diego and transcontinental routes, Alaska Airlines just announced a new one: The carrier said it will begin daily roundtrips between San Diego and Baltimore/Washington International starting March 15. The eastbound leg will be a red-eye. Alaska already flies to BWI from Los Angeles and Seattle, and its other San Diego transcons include Boston, Orlando, and new service to Newark starting next week. Last week, Alaska also kicked off a new daily roundtrip between Portland and Newark. Next spring, Alaska will start San Jose-Newark service as well. In other news, Alaska just began weekly seasonal service on Saturdays between Bellingham, Washington and Kona, Hawaii.
Southwest Airlines will begin new service on March 13 linking Kansas City with Austin, offering one daily roundtrip. Southwest also plans to expand its limited service between Denver and Albany, N.Y. The airline currently flies that route on weekends only, and just on a seasonal basis, but on April 25 it will make Denver-Albany a year-round route with daily flights.
Spirit Airlines has added Ohio’s Akron-Canton Airport as the newest dot on its route map. Last week, Spirit launched daily flights from Akron-Canton to Orlando, Tampa, Ft. Lauderdale and Ft. Myers. The Tampa and Ft. Myers routes will be seasonal only. Next spring, Spirit will add seasonal flights from Akron-Canton to Myrtle Beach and year-round service to Las Vegas.
Is this the look of things to come for the combined Alaska Airlines and Virgin America?
The Instagram photo of a shiny red, purple gradient and blue Boeing 737-900 with the words “More to Love” along the fuselage has circulated among aviation geeks over the last few days. The image, which appears to be in an aircraft hangar, also clearly shows the Alaska Airlines Eskimo face on a navy blue tail.
The Puget Sound Business Journal came across the photo and surmised: “The photograph appears to be an aircraft painted to promote the airline combination to travelers and employees of the airlines, rather than be a new livery for all Alaska and Virgin airplanes.”
We’ve reached out to Alaska Airlines for a comment about the image, but have not heard back.
New aircraft liveries always draw plenty of commentary, most of it negative. But I’ll take a stand on this one: I like it and would not mind seeing it as the permanent new livery of the combined carrier. What about you? Please leave your comments below.
In the meantime, the whole Alaska Airlines-Virgin America deal still seems to be stuck in limbo at the Justice Department. The latest rumors about the deal emerged yesterday on The Street, with an insider stating that the combined carrier would have to give up gates at SFO and LAX and terminate code sharing agreements with Delta and American to close the deal.
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.
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 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.
A guest room at the Radisson Red in Minneapolis. (Image: Radisson)
Recent U.S. business hotel openings include a pair of properties in Minneapolis, and another pair in Nashville; a dual-branded hotel in Chicago; big Bay Area/Silicon Valley hotel re-flags, and a new Marriott brand in Atlanta.
In Minneapolis, Radisson has set a November 16 opening for the first U.S. location of its new Radisson Red brand. The Radisson Red Minneapolis Downtown is a new build at 609 Third Street South, part of the Minneapolis Downtown East mixed-use development; it’s linked to the Wells Fargo Office Tower and the new U.S. Bank Stadium via the city’s skyway system. The hotel has 164 rooms (Radisson Red calls them studios) with free high-speed Wi-Fi. Its OUIBar + KTCHN focuses on locally sourced cuisine and craft beverages. And it offers a fitness center plus a 1,000 square foot “Events & Games Studio” for activities that can liven up meetings. Radisson is offering triple Gold Points for stays through February. Rates start at $139.
A King room at Marriott’s new AC Hotel in Minneapolis. (Image: Marriott)
Another newly built, newly opened property in Minneapolis is Marriott’s AC Hotel, part of a fast- growing new Marriott group with a style that reflects AC’s European origins. It’s located on Hennepin Avenue at S. Fourth Street, across from the city’s main library. The property is connected to the skyway system and to the Midtown Parking Garage. Its 245 rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows and smart TVs that can stream Netflix, Hulu and other services; and the hotel has several conference rooms and a fitness room. There’s no full-service restaurant; the AC Kitchen serves breakfast only, and the AC Lounge offers drinks and tapas plates in the evening. Marriott Rewards advance purchase rates start at $149.
Accommodations at Hilton’s new Hampton Inn in Chicago’s West Loop. (Image: Hilton)
In downtown Chicago, Hilton has cut the ribbon on a dual-branded hotel in the West Loop neighborhood. With a combined total of 336 rooms, the Hampton Inn by Hilton Chicago Downtown West Loop and the Homewood Suites by Hilton Chicago Downtown West Loop are at 116-118 N. Jefferson, between Randolph and Washington. That’s about halfway between the river and I-90, two blocks west of the Boeing headquarters. The Hampton Inn offers a daily hot breakfast, free Wi-Fi, 24-hour business center and a fitness center. The Homewood Suites has all-suite guest accommodations; each unit comes with a fully equipped kitchen and separate living and sleeping areas. There’s a hot breakfast buffet, evening social, free Wi-Fi and grocery shopping service. HHonors advance purchase rates start at $90 at both properties.
Lobby of the Pullman San Francisco Bay hotel (Image: Accor Hotels)
The big Sofitel located along Highway 101 and the shores on San Francisco Bay just south of the SFO near Redwood City is not new, but has a new name. It’s now the Pullman San Francisco Bay Hotel— still part of Accor, but likely a brand many Americans have not heard of. The only other Pullman hotel in the US is located in Miami. Have you stayed at a Pullman? What makes it different than a Sofitel? Its website states: “Today Pullman appeals to the new generation of professional travelers, the Pullman global nomads, and captures the significance of each moment and their pursuit of a work-life blend.” Rooms start at around $300 per night.
A room at the new Thompson Nashville. (Image: Thompson Hotels)
Thompson Hotels, known for its luxury boutique properties, has opened its newest U.S. location in Nashville. It’s at 401 11th Avenue South, in a trendy area called The Gulch where former industrial buildings have been transformed into commercial ventures. The hotel is on the same block as a popular music venue called The Station Inn. Dining options at The Thompson Nashville include a southern/seafood restaurant called The Marsh House; a bar and small-plate venue called L.A. Jackson; and Killebrew, serving coffee, breakfast sandwiches and grab-and-go lunch fare. The 12-story, 224-room Thompson ties into the local music culture with things like a classic jukebox in the lobby and vinyl records for sale in the minibars. Introductory rates start at $247.
The Westin Nashville is in the heart of downtown. (Image: Westin)
Nashville’s other new hotel is the 27-story, 453-room Westin Nashville, at 807 Clark Place in the heart of the city, close to the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Ryman Auditorium and other attractions. The hotel has a rooftop pool and bar called L27 with daily live entertainment; a spa with nine treatment rooms; a casual lobby eatery called Decker & Dyer and a fancier venue called Oak Steakhouse Nashville. The Westin also has a dozen meeting rooms. Guests can use the WestinWorkout fitness studio or take advantage of the hotel’s suggested three- and five-mile jogging routes. Rates begin at $279.
Marriott’s new AC Hotel in Atlanta’s Buckhead district. (Image: Marriott)
In addition to its new AC Hotel in Minneapolis, Marriott has also cut the ribbon on an AC in Atlanta. The 166-room AC Hotel Atlanta Buckhead at Phipps Plaza, located at 3600 Wieuca Road Northeast, is the first new hotel in the city’s Buckhead district in eight years. Like other ACs, it lacks a full-service restaurant, but offers the AC Kitchen for breakfast and the AC lounge for drinks and evening small plate dining. Plus there is plenty to eat at the nearby Phipps Plaza or Lenox Square malls. There’s also an AC Library and a 24-hour fitness center with a heated indoor whirlpool. Marriott Rewards advance purchase rates start at $211.
British Airways will fly nonstop between Oakland and London-Gatwick using a Boeing 777-200ER (Photo: British Airways)
Brexit does not seem to be having much impact on British Airways’ plans for the burgeoning San Francisco Bay Area.
Today the airline announced that it will add a nonstop flight from Oakland to London-Gatwick on March 28, 2017. This is this is in addition to its recently deployed daily 787 Dreamliner nonstop between San Jose International and Heathrow, as well as its two dailies between SFO and Heathrow using an Airbus A380 or Boeing 777.
This means that you can now fly BA to London from all three Bay Area airports- no other carrier offers that. It also means that British Airways will be flying about 1,250 seats per day, each way, between the San Francisco Bay Area and London.
The new OAK-LGW flights will operate four days a week using a Boeing 777-200ER that seats 275 passengers: 203 in economy, 24 in premium economy and 48 in business class. (That’s a lot of room for upgrades or award flights!) The new flights will allow BA to tap into the populous and wealthy East Bay suburbs full of travelers who don’t (or won’t) cross the Bay for a flight out of congested SFO.
Gatwick Airport (LGW) is 28 miles south of central London but still convenient and even preferred by many travelers. Why? Because the easy 30-minute, approximately $25 Gatwick Express train can whisk you from the airport to Victoria Station in the heart of the city every 15 minutes. London’s Heathrow Express, while speedier, drops you off at Paddington Station, which may not be as convenient. On the flip side, those traveling into Oakland from London can now get to downtown San Francisco via a new BART spur that connects the the airport to the city in about 30 minutes for about $10 each way.
London’s three primary airports. The Gatwick Express train connects the airport with Victoria Station (Image: Visit London)
This surprise move by BA comes on the heels of Norwegian Air’s introduction of Oakland-Gatwick nonstops last May.
To celebrate this announcement, British Airways has launched special fares for travel from March 28 to May 12 at about $600 roundtrip per person in economy and $1,115 in premium economy. Business class fares run about $3,600. These fares include taxes, fees and charges.
These sale fares are higher than Norwegian Air base fares (which can run as low at $400 round trip), but keep in mind that Norwegian is a bit more fee-happy than British Airways. For example, you’ll pay $65 each way ($130 round trip) to check a bag on Norwegian Air for the flight to Gatwick– if you fly beyond Gatwick, you’ll pay a whopping $130 each way ($260 round trip) for that checked bag. British Airways does not charge a fee for the first checked bag for economy class passengers. Both carriers charge fees for booking specific seats ahead of time. Norwegian Air flies a new Boeing 787 Dreamliner on the route that has economy and premium economy seats, but no business class.
BA Club World (business class) travelers flying out of Oakland receive up to five days of free parking in OAK’s Premier Lot, an added value of $190. Also, an airport spokesperson told TravelSkills that British Airways and MAG, which manages Oakland’s new airport lounge, are working out an agreement to provide BA customers with complimentary access to a new Escape lounge located in Terminal 1 near BA gates. But at this time, no agreement has been reached. One-time passes to the lounge (opening in mid-November) go for $45.
British Airways is a member of the Oneworld alliance.
The year-round, 4x per week OAK-LGW flights will depart Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. BA will use Gatwick’s SouthTerminal where it moves into new digs in January– improvements include a brand new business class lounge, and upgraded check in area, and easier access to the Gatwick Express. (Currently, BA operates out of Gatwick’s North Terminal.)
BA seems to be on something of a roll recently. In addition to the new Oakland flight, British Airways has announced new nonstops to Ft Lauderdale and New Orleans from London in the last month.
Would you fly British Airways between Oakland and London? Why or why not? Why do you think BA is making this move? Please leave your comments below.
Photo of the inflight map of the northerly course of our SIN-SFO flight on Singapore Airlines (Chris McGinnis)
(INFLIGHT SIN>SFO) Well, that was a quick trip! If you’ve been following TravelSkills this week, you know that I jumped on Singapore Airlines’ new nonstop A350 flight from San Francisco to Singapore on Sunday. (Read part 1: Southbound SFO>SIN post)
Here it is on Thursday morning, and I’m northbound,somewhere out over the big dark Pacific Ocean, on the return flight (SQ 32). Our flight started out over the South China Sea, then passed between the Philippines and Taiwan, continuing up along the east coast of Japan. Then it was out over the Northern Pacific, where we skirted past the Aleutian Trench on course to arriving at SFO.
I love a good exotic flight board and the one a Singapore Changi does not disappoint! (Chris McGinnis)
We departed Singapore at 9:25 am on Thursday, and we’ll arrive in San Francisco at 8:40 am on the same day– after flying for about 14 hours. Crazy to think that we’ll arrive before we left. Tailwinds have been kind to our flight, cutting about two hours off our flight time. The southbound journey on Sunday-Monday took 16 hours and 11 minutes, departing noon Sunday, and arriving at around 7 pm on Monday evening.
On this return flight, I was able to watch one movie– Captain Fantastic– highly recommended, a tear jerker but I’m always easily brought to tears on planes for some reason. You? I was also able to get some work done on the laptop, sleep for about four hours, enjoy two gorgeously presented meals (see below) and write this post.
Inflight wi-fi from Panasonic has been extremely fast and reliable on this flight (less so on the way down)– I’m amazed that I can upload photos and post this from the plane. Crazy! I purchased a 24-hour in-flight wi-fi pass for $22— very much worth it to me.
Hainanese pork chop with fried rice (Photo Chris McGinnis)
As usual, for meals, I tried to go native and order Asian/Singaporean dishes. For dinner, I chose the Hainanese pork chop with fried rice. It was good, but a little tough. Breakfast was far better- I opted for the oriental dim sum and loved every bite.
Four choices for breakfast in Singapore Airlines business class- I went native! (Chris McGinnis)
Breakfast onboard Singapore Airlines SQ32 somewhere over the northern Pacific (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
This has been a quick trip– just two quick days in Singapore and three very bumpy nights of not-enough-sleep. I’m surprised I have the will and wherewithal to write this! Hope you’ve enjoyed my reports.
I’ll close with one more unusual photo from this trip: A word of warning about some monkey business going on outside my window at the Shangri-La Rasa Sentosa Resort on Singapore’s southern coastline.
A warning about monkeys at the lovely beachside Shangri-La Rasa Sentosa resort (Chris McGinnis)
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)
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)
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.
San Francisco’s Terminal 1 overhaul is leading to some closures. (Image: San Francisco International Airport)
In the latest airport developments, San Francisco warns travelers about some upcoming closures; Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson starts work on a major project; an international carrier opens a lounge at Newark Liberty International; and American will adjust its presence at its Philadelphia hub.
At San Francisco International, officials are advising travelers that due to ongoing renovation work in Terminal 1, some facilities and areas there will be closed in the days ahead, possibly resulting in some inconvenience or congestion. On Monday (October 24), the connecting walkway linking Terminal 1 and International Boarding Area A will be closed, so passengers will have to use AirTrain to transfer between those points. Also, the Southwest Airlines ticket counters will move to a new location closer to Delta and Frontier. On the arrivals level, October 21 is the starting date for closure of the traffic lane closest to Terminal 1 from Doors 1 through 10; and on the departures level, closure of the lane closest to Terminal 1 from Doors 1 through 5 starts October 28. Click here to see details and suggested tips for affected passengers. The airport has created a cool video simulation of the reconstruction process for T1. Worth a look but turn down the volume to avoid the Game of Thrones-like soundtrack 😉
A dramatic new canopy and a new tunnel are part of Atlanta Airports $20 billion in improvements (Photo: ATL)
Preparatory work has begun at Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson for the installation of those massive overhead glass canopies above the pickup and drop-off areas outside the domestic terminal. It’s one of the most visible parts of the airport’s ongoing $6 billion expansion and renovation project. The initial stage of the canopy project – construction of the foundations — has led to some lane closures in the area around the terminal. The closures started earlier this month for shuttle and commercial vehicle pick-ups and drop-offs in the outer lanes of Terminal North, and similar closures will begin October 30 at Terminal South. Airport officials are advising travelers to build in extra time if they’re going into those areas.
Air Canada opened a Maple Leaf Lounge at Newark. (Image: Air Canada)
At Newark Liberty International, Air Canada has opened a new Maple Leaf Lounge for premium passengers near its departure gates in Terminal A, beyond the security checkpoint. The facility offers free Wi-Fi, refreshments, and work areas that include free printing. Air Canada operates up to 23 flights a day from Newark (including United code-shares), serving Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver. The airline said it will open a new Maple Leaf Lounge in Montreal next month, and an expanded facility in Vancouver next summer.
American Airlines inherited a hub at Philadelphia International from its merger with US Airways, and it is planning some changes to its operations there in the months ahead. On January 1, American will consolidate its arrival and departure banks – scheduled to maximize connections – from eight a day to six. This will mean rescheduling of flight times in many cases, so if you’re a regular PHL traveler, check AA’s schedules. The airline also reportedly plans to reduce the number of flights it operates at Philadelphia, although in some cases it will switch from smaller to larger aircraft to minimize the impact on passenger capacity.
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 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)
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.
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)
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.
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.
The spectacular view from the brand new CityScape bar atop the Hilton San Francisco. Note the cranes on the new Salesforce Tower, soon to be the tallest building in town at 1,070 feet and 61 stories. (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
TravelSkills’ 10 most popular posts over the last week (descending order):
Airport Encounters now playing in LA (Photo: Larry Gene Fortin)
TravelSkills reader T.M. sent along a great recommendation for frequent flyers living or visiting LA: “People watching has always been a fun way to kill time between flights. Now, thanks to a cast of more than two dozen actors and eight writers, we can watch ten terminal vignettes in the new Los Angeles-based play, ‘Airport Encounters.’ Staged in the intimate 50-seat Lounge Theatre in Hollywood, the play is an entertaining take off on air travel and its passengers. Here’s the link to get tix: neoensembletheatre.org”
Links to stories from other sources that we thought you’d like to read:
American’s new Premium Economy section will have leather seats in a 2-3-2 layout. (Image: American Airlines)
China Eastern is using an A330 for its new San Francisco flights. (Image: Airbus)
In international route developments, Norwegian hints at Oakland-Rome nonstop; China Eastern adds San Francisco service; China’s Xiamen Airlines comes to Seattle; Delta will add new Europe routes from the East Coast next spring; Air Canada plans a very long haul from Montreal; and Aeromexico will begin a Detroit route.
Shanghai-based China Eastern Airlines, a member of Delta’s SkyTeam global alliance, this week kicked off new service to San Francisco from Kunming – the capital of Yunnan Province in southwest China – via a stop in Qingdao, a port city in Shandong Province. China Eastern will use an Airbus A330 and will operate the flight three times a week, with SFO departures on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
A Xiamen Airlines 787 now flies to Seattle from Xiamen and Shenzen (Image: Boeing)
Another new China route also opened up this week: Xiamen Airlines started service to Seattle from its hometown of Xiamen, operating via a stop in Shenzen. It’s the airline’s first U.S. route (although it also flies to Vancouver) and the first non-stop service between Shenzen and the U.S. The carrier’s future plans include service from Xiamen to Los Angeles and Fuzhou-New York, officials said. Xiamen has inked a partnership pact with Alaska Airlines for easy connections at SEA. It’s also a member of the Delta-led SkyTeam Alliance. The carrier will use a 787 Dreamliner on the route, which operates on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
A new nonstop between the Bay Area and Rome? Hope so! (Photo: Pixabay)
It was really big news when Norwegian Air announced new Oakland-Barcelona and Oakland-Copenhagen nonstops starting next spring. When TravelSkills attended the announcement event at Oakland’s Jack London Square, we snagged a few minutes with Norwegian Air execs. They told us that since they’ve received such a positive reception in the Bay Area, the carrier will soon announce nonstops between Oakland and Paris…. AND that the carrier is looking to add Oakland-Rome and Oakland-Madrid, too! Stay tuned for more details.
Delta will add some new service to Europe next spring. On May 25, Delta will begin daily flights from Boston to Dublin as well as daily service from New York JFK to Lisbon. At the same time, Delta will resume daily flights between JFK and Berlin. The Dublin and Lisbon routes will use 164-seat 757-200s, while the Berlin service will be operated with a 225-seat 767-300, Delta said. Meanwhile, Delta also announced an expansion of its six-month-old code-sharing partnership with India’s Jet Airways. In addition to the existing connections at Amsterdam to Delhi and Mumbai, starting October 30 Delta flyers will also be able to connect via Paris Charles de Gaulle to Jet Airways flights to Mumbai and beyond to 20 other Indian destinations. Delta joint venture partner Air France KLM is also a party to the code-sharing deal with Jet.
Air Canada will put a 787 onto its new Montreal-Shanghai route. (Image: Air Canada)
A new route between North America and China will begin on February 16, when Air Canada is due to begin flying once a day from Montreal to Shanghai with a 787-8. It will be Air Canada’s first use of a 787 out of Montreal. Onward connections at Shanghai will be available from Star Alliance partners Air China and Shenzen Airlines, Air Canada said. The carrier plans to begin another ultra-long-haul starting July 1, with three non-stop flights a week between Toronto and Mumbai, using a 787-9. Air Canada hasn’t served that route since 1991. Also on tap for the Canadian carrier: Daily Vancouver-Taipei 787 flights beginning June 8, and three 767-300ER flights per week between Vancouver and Nagoya, Japan, starting June 1.
Aeromexico will add a new U.S. route starting January 10, when it begins flying between Detroit and Monterrey, Mexico. The carrier will use an Embraer 190 for the daily service.
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 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, 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.
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)
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.
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 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.
Triplex Suites atop the New York Palace hotel have huge outdoor decks w Jacuzzis. Sweet! But I’m not sure if this is where the President stays. (Chris McGinnis)
President Obama (Photo: Wikimedia)
Fair warning for New York or San Francisco bound travelers this week: Beware of traffic, sold out restaurants and hotels, long waits for taxis and Uber/Lyft surge pricing. Why? In New York, blame the meeting of the UN General Assembly (which will include a Sunday-Wednesday visit and address by President Obama, which makes traffic even worse). As we’ve reported here on TravelSkills, the President now stays at the Lotte New York Palace hotel (Madison and 50th) which means near constant gridlock in that part of town. When we checked, the few rooms left at the Marriott Marquis on Times Square were running $754 per night. Layer on the additional security in the city due to this past weekend’s bombings, and you have a recipe for for some big travel headaches.
In San Francisco, blame the huge Oracle Open World Conference this week, which fills the city and airports to the gills with techies- and everything is overpriced. Both Sting and Gwen Stefani will have private concerts for attendees. Airports (and airfares) will be most crazy on Sunday (start) and Thursday (end). Hotels are mostly full, but what’s left over is overpriced– like the handful of rooms left at the Hilton Financial District going for $600 per night. Also, since so many attendees extend their visits, both weekends will be pretty crazy. And a reservation at a top SF restaurant? Feggedaboudit! And it’s not over yet! The even larger Dreamforce 2016 conference packs the city similarly– It runs Tuesday Oct 4 – Friday Oct 7, and includes a concert by U2!
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 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, 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.
JetBlue and Delta are adding new flights out of Boston as JetBlue invades the Boston-Atlanta market. (Image: Jim Glab)
Delta Air Lines, already embroiled in a tough struggle for market dominance with Alaska Airlines at Seattle, is now facing a new battle in the Northeast.
Just a few weeks after Delta announced plans for a significant increase of service out of Boston next year, JetBlue has unveiled its own strategy to keep ahead of competitors in that city with route expansions of its own. And part of JetBlue’s plan includes a strike into Delta’s base, by launching several flights a day between Boston and Atlanta. JetBlue served Atlanta back in 2003 with nonstops to New York-JFK and Long Beach, but only for a few short months.
JetBlue said that on March 30 it will start flying five times a day between Boston and Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson, a route dominated by Delta and Southwest, with a few Spirit Airlines flights as well. What’s more, “In addition to Boston-Atlanta flights, JetBlue also intends to add service between Atlanta and its focus cities of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood, New York JFK, and Orlando,” the company said.
In a challenge to Delta’s (and American’s) Shuttle service in the northeast, JetBlue had earlier announced plans to start flying between Boston and New York LaGuardia on October 31 of this year, with six flights a day on weekdays. JetBlue already serves the Boston-New York JFK and Boston-Newark markets.
More JetBlue A321 with posh Mint class coming soon to SFO-BOS (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
Delta’s announcement last month noted that it will resume Boston-San Francisco service, with two daily 757-200 flights, starting June 8; and will boost its Boston-Seattle schedule from one flight a day to two. JetBlue responded this week with a plan to add a fourth daily Mint-equipped roundtrip to its SFO-Boston schedule starting next July. The airline noted that its existing three daily BOS-SFO flights will all have Mint service by September 21 of this year, as will all its Boston-Los Angeles flights by November 18.
The addition of two SFO-BOS flights a day by Delta and a fourth by JetBlue could mean lower fares for travelers in a market where United and Virgin America are competing as well.
Economy Class on JetBlue (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
Delta said it will also begin Boston-Nashville service, add a second daily Boston-Milwaukee flight, and begin weekly service from BOS to Montego Bay, Jamaica; Punta Cana, Dominican Republic; and St. Thomas, USVI. In response, JetBlue said its existing seasonal service from Boston to St. Thomas and Montego Bay will be extended to year-round operations.
Delta said that by next June, its increased schedule will give it 90 flights a day out of Boston to 26 destinations. That will leave it well behind JetBlue, which currently has 140 weekday departures from Boston, and plans to increase that to 200 flights a day to 63 destinations.
If you could choose between JetBlue and Delta, which way would you go? Please leave your comments below.
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.
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).
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)
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 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.
United & Delta adding even more flights at SFO (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
There’s plenty of domestic route news to catch up on from the last few weeks. United and Delta are adding routes from San Francisco; Alaska and Delta are doing the same at Seattle; United is growing at San Jose; JetBlue is adding service at Long Beach; and new routes are coming at American, Southwest and Frontier. (We’ll post an international routes update later this week.)
At San Francisco, United plans to begin service next spring to both Detroit and Cincinnati. Effective June 8, the airline will operate one daily A319 roundtrip in each market, competing against Delta. And from December 17 through April 1, United will fly once a week (on Saturdays) with a CRJ-700 from San Francisco to Kalispell, Montana.
United also revealed plans to bulk up at San Jose by adding new 737-800 flights starting March 9 from SJC to its hubs at Chicago O’Hare and Newark. The carrier will fly twice a day to O’Hare and once a day to Newark. (United’s planned San Jose-Newark flight will begin just three days before Alaska Airlines’ recently announced new service on the same route, which will have the same departure time from SJC.) American and Southwest both fly from SJC to Chicago, and JetBlue serves the SJC-New York JFK market. Meanwhile, United on September 7 is due to launch new service to Chattanooga, Tenn., from both Newark and Chicago O’Hare, with two daily flights in each market.
In October, United will discontinue its existing twice-daily intra-California service between San Francisco and Santa Maria, which is operated by United Express/Skywest with a CRJ-200. On the other coast, United set a November 29 termination date for its twice-daily United Express service between Newark and Binghamton, New York. But on December 16, United plans to resume seasonal flights between its Washington Dulles hub and Ft. Lauderdale, with one flight a day through January 4, then two a day until May 4.
Delta adding SFO-Boston nonstops using a 757s (Photo: Delta)
Delta has unveiled plans for a growth spurt at Boston next spring, including a resumption of Boston-San Francisco service. The carrier will offer two BOS-SFO flights a day, using 757-200s, beginning June 8. On the same date, Delta will double its Boston-Seattle schedule from one daily flight to two. Delta will also begin new Delta Connection/Endeavor Air service between Boston and Nashville, with one daily flight using a two-class CRJ-900. Also coming from Delta is new service from Seattle to Eugene, Oregon, with three daily CRJ-700 flights beginning April 1; and a new daily roundtrip between Seattle and Raleigh-Durham effective June 8.
Long Beach, California will get more service from JetBlue next year. The carrier set a January 4 launch for new Long Beach-San Jose service, where it will offer four daily roundtrips. The airline will also beef up its schedules on existing Long Beach routes, adding three more flights a day to Las Vegas, one extra departure to San Francisco, and one more to Salt Lake City. (The Bay Area will also get new service to Long Beach from Southwest in June, when the carrier is set to launch four flights a day from Oakland.) Elsewhere on its system, JetBlue plans to add new daily service on January 12 between Chicago O’Hare and Ft. Lauderdale, but on January 11 it will discontinue service between O’Hare and San Juan, Puerto Rico.
JetBlue will begin San Jose-Long Beach flights in January. (Image: Jim Glab)
Alaska Airlines will continue to build up its Seattle hub next spring with the addition of two more routes to the Midwest. On April 13, Alaska will kick off new daily service from SEA to Wichita, Kans., with a SkyWest Embraer 175; and on May 11 it will add new daily 737 roundtrips between SEA and Indianapolis.
The spring schedule from Southwest Airlines, which begins in March, includes new daily service between Houston Hobby and Omaha, along with new twice-daily flights between Newark and Ft. Lauderdale. At the same time, the airline will begin seasonal daily service linking Las Vegas with Minneapolis-St. Paul.
SkyWest, operating as American Eagle, will begin new daily service November 4 linking AA’s Phoenix hub with St. George, Utah. The flight will use a 50-seat CRJ-200. On the east coast, American has scheduled a December 15 start for new American Eagle/Republic Airlines service between New York’s Westchester County Airport and Miami, offering two flights a day with two-class E-175s.
Ultra-low-cost Frontier Airlines plans a December 6 expansion at Phoenix, where it will begin service to Milwaukee and St. Louis, each with four flights a week; and to Nashville and Des Moines, each with three flights a week.
On December 15, American will launch daily roundtrips from Phoenix to Santa Fe and Sioux Falls. The Santa Fe flights will use a SkyWest CRJ 700, and the Sioux Falls service will be operated by a Mesa Airlines CRJ 900.
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.
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)
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.
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’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 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.
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 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)
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.
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.
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 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 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 Cityafter 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.
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)
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)
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.
San Francisco will break ground next week on a big Terminal 1 overhaul. (Image: San Francisco International Airport)
In airport news this week, San Francisco next week will break ground on a massive overhaul of Terminal 1; Denver International gets its first Delta Sky Club; Washington Reagan National will get a new concourse as a part of a massive renovation; a new passenger lounge comes to Hartford Bradley; and a leading newspaper offers a recap of Uber/Lyft status at major U.S. airports.
On June 29, officials at San Francisco International will hold a groundbreaking ceremony for a $2.4 billion, multi-year project to renovate and upgrade the airport’s Terminal 1, which dates back to the early 1960s. The overhaul will cover the terminal’s north, south and central areas, and will give T1 a new Boarding Area B (primarily Southwest, Frontier) with new boarding bridges and concessions, a revamped Boarding Area C (Delta), a new central area with a consolidated security checkpoint, new baggage system and claims area, and new mezzanine with links to the AirTrain and central parking garage. TravelSkills will be there for the groundbreaking, and next week we’ll show you what all the changes will look like.
Delta’s new Sky Club at Denver International. (Image: Delta)
Delta Air Lines has cut the ribbon on its first Sky Club at Denver International Airport. The 4,600 square foot lounge, which can seat 90, is on Concourse A, and it opened just after Delta inaugurated service between Denver and Los Angeles International, with five Delta Connection/SkyWest flights a day. That gives the airline a total of 40 weekday departures at DEN. The facility is decorated with works from local art galleries, and it offers free beer (New Belgium Ranger) from a Colorado craft brewery along with other amenities. Later in 2016, Delta expects to open additional new Sky Clubs at Atlanta (Concourse B) and Seattle (between Concourses A and B).
Washington Reagan National this fall will break ground on its ”biggest building project in nearly two decades,” according to the Washington Post – a $1 billion effort that will improve life for passengers on regional flights by replacing Terminal C’s Gate 35X, where travelers now board shuttle buses to their aircraft, with a new commuter concourse. Renovations also include National Hall, the glass-enclosed walkway on Terminal B and C’s concourse level, where security screening will be moved up to the arrivals level. The changes are expected to relieve congestion at space-constrained DCA, which has been setting new passenger records annually for the past six years, and now handles more travelers than the much larger Dulles International.
Rendering of the Escape Lounge coming to Bradley International. (Image: MAG USA)
Northern Connecticut’s Bradley International Airport, which serves Hartford, Conn, and Springfield, Mass., will be getting a new passenger lounge this fall, developed by MAG USA, which has been creating pay-per-use Escape Lounges at various U.S. airports. (It has one at Minneapolis-St. Paul, and will open another at Oakland International this summer.) The 2,000-square foot lounge will be in Bradley’s East Concourse, and will offer free hot and cold food and drinks, restrooms, free high-speed Wi-Fi, flight information screens, and newspapers and magazines.
What’s the status of Uber/Lyft ride-hailing app services at your favorite airport? USA Today has compiled a roundup of Uber/Lyft services at a number of major U.S. airports, indicating when they started operating, what kind of airport surcharge applies to rides, and approximate fares to and from downtown. It notes that the services are still absent from the nation’s busiest airport, Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson, where “rules were expected to be in place by July 1, but talks have been delayed over discussions on driver background checks.” Unfortunately the lists are not exhaustive and don’t cover some major airports like Newark, Miami, Boston, Minneapolis-St. Paul and Seattle, but it’s a start!
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)
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.
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.
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)
Which airline would you prefer for the new SFO-SIN 16-hour odyssey? Why? Please leave your comments below.
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.
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.
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.
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.
California destinations are big for SkyMiles summer award travel. (Image: Jim Glab)
If you haven’t used your miles/points to book a summer vacation trip yet, it may be too late for the most popular routes. And which ones are those? Delta Air Lines has released details of just where its SkyMiles members are traveling on award tickets this summer.
And it’s going to be a busy summer: Delta said award redemptions have jumped by a whopping 13.8 percent over last summer, with more than a million reward trips already booked for the months of June through August. (The airline also noted that the average number of miles per redemption has dropped by 7 percent from last year.) Delta said it expects to see a total of 3 million award tickets redeemed this summer.
For main cabin travelers, the number one SkyMiles award trip this summer is Atlanta to London. But the rest of the top five are all domestic routes that involve California cities. In order, they are New York JFK-Los Angeles, JFK-San Francisco, Detroit-San Francisco and Atlanta-San Francisco.
Premium cabin travelers favor award trips to Europe, Delta said: The top three routes, in order, are JFK-London, JFK-Rome and Atlanta-London.
San Jose Airport spokesperson Rosemary Barnes told TravelSkills that Air China said it is “still in dialogue with Chinese aviation officials” about the planned new non-stops to Shanghai, and that while the route will not be launched on the previously announced June 16 date, “they hope to do so at a later date.”
“Air China did not post the route to their website, so no tickets were sold resulting in no inconvenience to air travelers,” the spokeswoman said. The carrier had planned to fly the route three days a week with a two-class, 237-seat Airbus A330-200. It would have been San Jose’s second China route following Hainan Airlines’ inauguration of San Jose-Beijing service last year. The airport recently welcomed new British Airways service to London, and will see new Frankfurt flights from Lufthansa starting in July.
Air China had planned to use an A330-200 between San Jose and Shanghai. (Image: Mehdi Nazarinia/Wikimedia Commons)
Meanwhile, United’s San Francisco hub will take big step forward as the premier base for its international Dreamliner fleet with the launch Wednesday night of the airline’s new 787-9 non-stops to Singapore – “the longest scheduled 787 flight operated by any airline, and the longest scheduled flight by any U.S. carrier,” United said.
United Flight 1 will depart San Francisco at 10:55 p.m. daily, arriving at Singapore’s Changi Airport at 6:15 a.m. two days later (all times local). On the return, Flight 2 will depart Singapore at 8:45 a.m. daily, arriving at San Francisco International Airport at 9:15 a.m. the same day.
Pool and hot tub available for all passengers at Singapore Changi Airport (Chris McGinnis)
The 8,446-mile trip takes 16 hours 20 minutes westbound and 15 hours 30 minutes eastbound. Because new non-stops are now available, United has terminated its Tokyo Narita-Singapore service, although it notes that its alliance partner ANA still flies that route. United’s flights are the only non-stops form the U.S. to Singapore; Singapore Airlines used to offer non-stops from New York and Los Angeles but discontinued them in 2013 — although it plans to resume U.S. non-stops in 2018 with new Airbus A350s.
United’s growing international network from SFO includes recently-launched flights to Xi’an, China and to Tel Aviv; coming next month is new service to Auckland, New Zealand and to Hangzhou, China.
United this week kicks off San Francisco-Singapore non-stops. (Image: Grand Hyatt Singapore)
There’s a lot of news about international air routes this week. United is due to start a record-breaking transpacific service on June 1, and will increase frequencies on another long-haul route out of San Francisco; United is also launching seasonal Europe routes from the East Coast and dropping its only service to Africa. Meanwhile, Delta will revise its partnership arrangement with Virgin Atlantic in 2017, and will add a new transatlantic route from Portland; Atlanta welcomes new service from a Middle Eastern carrier; Swiss delays the deployment of its fancy new wide-body to San Francisco; and low-cost carrier Norwegian adds a Las Vegas route.
On June 1, United is due to begin the longest scheduled route by any U.S. carrier – an 8,446-mile flight from San Francisco to Singapore. United will use a 787-9 Dreamliner for the new service, which will save travelers an estimated four hours in each direction compared with existing one-stop or connecting flights. The schedule calls for an 11:25 p.m. departure from SFO for the 15.5-hour westbound flight (16.3 hours eastbound). In another long-haul development from San Francisco, United said that starting October 8, it will increase frequencies on its SFO-Tel Aviv route from three a week to daily service; United also uses a 787-9 on that route.
In other international route news at United, the carrier is blaming a slump in global energy markets as well as government currency restrictions for its decision to terminate its daily flights from Houston Bush Intercontinental to Lagos, Nigeria after June 30. Meanwhile, United has started seasonal summer flights to Europe from the East Coast, offering daily service from its Newark hub to Athens (using a 767-300), and daily flights from Washington Dulles to Barcelona (with a 767-400) and to Lisbon (using a 757-200).
Portland International will get its first London non-stops from Delta next spring. (Image: Jim Glab)
Delta just announced a new transatlantic route for 2017, with plans to start operating seasonal service between Portland and London Heathrow effective May 26-October 29. It will fly the route four days a week with a 767-300ER. Delta said it will also revise its joint scheduling arrangement with partner Virgin Atlantic next year. The existing Delta flight from Seattle to London will switch over to a Virgin Atlantic 787-9 starting March 26, increasing capacity by 50 seats a day; on the same date, Virgin’s single daily fight from Detroit to London will be replaced by a second daily Delta flight. And on May 25, Virgin will take over Delta’s New York JFK-Manchester route, with Delta picking it up again the following winter; and Delta will take over one of Virgin’s two daily Atlanta-London frequencies, giving Delta a total of three a day and Virgin just one.
In other news, Delta last week kicked off new year-round service from New York JFK to Edinburgh, Scotland. Delta started the route with a 757-200ER, but will switch to a larger 767-300ER for flights from June 8 to September 5.
Qatar Airways will use an A380 super-jumbo for its Atlanta inaugural flight.(Image: Qatar Airways)
As we’ve mentioned before, June 1 is the launch date for new Qatar Airways service from Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson to Doha, Qatar – a move that has seriously irritated Delta. Although Qatar’s plans call for a 777 to fly the route on a regular basis, it reportedly intends to use an Airbus A380 for the maiden voyage. So far, Qatar is still a member of the Oneworld global alliance, which should make for easy connections at ATL with American Airlines flights.
According to Routesonline.com, which tracks airlines’ official schedule filings, Swiss has decided to push back the deployment of its fancy new 777-300ER on the San Francisco-Zurich route. Instead of bringing the new aircraft into SFO service on August 30 as previously planned, the aircraft won’t start flying the route until February 16, 2017. Meanwhile, on October 30, Swiss will put a 777-300ER into service between Zurich and Miami on four of its 14 weekly flights in that market, replacing an A330-300.
Low-cost European carrier Norwegian plans to expand its presence at Las Vegas on October 31 when it begins new twice-weekly flights to London Gatwick, using a 787 and offering introductory one-way fares as low as $199 (plus add-ons, of course). Norwegian already flies from Las Vegas to Copenhagen and Stockholm, and plans to add LAS-Oslo flights in November.
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.
Your chances of a summer flight delay are much greater at some airports than others. (Image: Jim Glab)
It’s bad enough that travelers have to wait in extra-long security checkpoint lines this summer. But there’s a good chance they’ll encounter flight delays as well – although the odds of that happening vary considerably from one airport to another.
Those two airports had a summer on-time flight arrival rate of just 68.4 percent. By contrast, the on-time arrival rate for Honolulu – the number-one ranked airport – was 86.4 percent, followed by Salt Lake City at 86.2 percent and Seattle and 83.1 percent.
The study determined that June is the worst month for flight delays, with an overall on-time arrival rate of 75.4 percent during the six-year study period. (That’s even worse than January at 77.4 percent.) The best month for on-time flight operations was September, with an on-time rate of 83.9 percent.
According to MileCards.com, the problem at San Francisco is fog delays, while flights at Newark must contend with congestion and summer thunderstorms. Speaking of Newark, three of the five worst airports for summer delays were in the New York area: The on-time arrival rate over the six-year study period was 70.3 percent at LaGuardia and 73.4 percent at JFK. (The other airport in the top five worst for summer delays was Chicago O’Hare at 72.7 percent.)
Other sources of frustration for summer travelers are long waits to take off once you’ve boarded, and delays in getting to the arrival gate after the plane has landed.
MileCards.com said that four of the five airports with the longest waits to take off were in the northeast: New York JFK was the worst, with an average taxi-out time of 29.8 minutes, followed by LaGuardia (28.0 minutes), Philadelphia (23.5) and Newark (22.6). The fifth was Atlanta, with a wait time of 20.1 minutes.
On the other end of the trip, there were five airports that showed average taxi-in times to the gate that exceeded 10 minutes. They were Los Angeles (10.7 minutes), Chicago O’Hare (10.5), Dallas/Ft. Worth (10.5), Atlanta (10.0) and JFK (10.0).
MileCards.com created what it calls a “Misery Score” for each airport using a formula that combines all three of the above rankings. Newark won the title of “most miserable airport for summer travel” with a Misery Score of 95, followed by LGA, ORD and JFK, which each scored 94. The least miserable airports for summer travel, MileCards.com calculated, are San Jose and Portland, with Misery Scores of 11 and 12 respectively.
The Clement Palo Alto brings a new level of luxury to Silicon Valley. (Image: The Clement)
In hotel news, there’s a new luxury property in Silicon Valley; San Francisco’s largest hotel gets a makeover; Kimpton adds a location in the nation’s capital; one of East Asia’s leading hotel companies is making its U.S. debut in Miami; and Marriott opens a Moxy in New Orleans.
How can a city of 66,000 support a hotel with room rates starting at $700 a night? It helps when that city is in the heart of Silicon Valley’s tech giants and venture capital companies. Thus Palo Alto, California is the home of a new hotel called The Clement Palo Alto, which describes itself as “one of the most innovative, personalized and unique luxury hotels in the country.” It has 23 luxury one-bedroom suites, each 650 square feet, and its rates are seriously all-inclusive: They include three meals a day plus snacks; alcoholic beverages; in-room dining; valet service; Internet; gratuities; a personal concierge; a 24-hour guest pantry, and more. (Sounds like staying at the Clement is sorta like working for a unicorn!) The Clement is close to Stanford University and downtown Palo Alto.
The new lobby bar at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square. (Image: Hilton)
Visitors to the Hilton San Francisco Union Square – the largest hotel in the Bay Area – will see some changes this spring. The property just finished a $25 million renovation that upgraded guest accommodations and meeting rooms, provided an overhaul of its huge lobby area including a new lobby bar, and gave it a new grab-and-go food area called Herb N’ Kitchen with a variety of fresh edibles and set meals as well as a full-service coffee bar. Rates start around $230 a night. Plus, all rooms can now be opened with guest mobile phones utilizing the Hilton Honors app.
A guest room at the Kimpton Mason & Rook in Washington D.C. (Image: Kimpton)
Kimpton Hotels has opened a new property in Washington D.C. The 178-room (including 18 suites) Kimpton Mason & Rook Hotel is at 1430 Rhode Island Ave. NW near the city’s trendy 14th Street Corridor. The hotel features what it calls “a culinary-focused cocktail bar” (actually a bar/restaurant) called Radiator (because the area used to have a lot of auto repair shops), and it offers a raft of Kimpton-style guest services like free morning coffee, a nightly wine hour, yoga mats and bicycles. Rates start at $159.
A corner room with a view at Swire’s new EAST, Miami. (Image: Swire Properties)
Swire Properties, which operates renowned hotels in Asia including The Upper House in Hong Kong and The Opposite House in Beijing, has set a May 31 opening for its first U.S. hotel, called EAST, Miami. The 352-room property will serve as the anchor hotel for Swire’s $1 billion mixed-use development in the city’s Brickell district. Rooms and suites range from 300 to 1,800 square feet, offering floor-to-ceiling windows with skyline or bay views and free Wi-Fi. It has two signature restaurants including the Quinto La Huella, with Latin American cuisine; and a rooftop (40th floor) space called Sugar, serving tapas and cocktails. There’s also a lobby café and bar, a poolside bar, and 20,000 square feet of meeting space. Rates start at $195.
The lobby area at Marriott’s new Moxy in New Orleans. (Image: Marriott)
The new Marriott brand called Moxy – aimed at “today’s next-generation traveler” – has opened a location in New Orleans, on O’Keefe Avenue near the French Quarter. The 108-room Moxy New Orleans provides mobile check-in and –out, keyless room entry, motion sensor lighting, in-room Internet TVs with Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, and Pandora; fast free Wi-Fi, and lots of power and USB plugs. There’s a 24/7 self-serve food and beverage outlet as well as communal areas with work and game spaces. Rates start at $124. More Moxys are coming to New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago and Nashville.
Graceful lineup of Delta tails at ATL (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
After a week in Cuba and another week in Atlanta, I’m glad to be back in San Francisco! With all the hoo-hah over security lines at ATL, I was sure to arrive two hours early on Saturday at around 9 a.m. Much to my surprise, the PreCheck line had a ZERO-minute wait. Seriously, I was the only person in line and sped right through.
Chicken salad, melon & prosciutto for lunch on American Airlines in first class, ATL-PHX (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
I flew American Airlines on this trip (using AAdvantage award), and was surprised that my flight to SFO via PHX did not depart from ATL’s T-gates. Instead, I had to trundle out to the old US Airways gates on D. Arriving in SFO, same thing happened: I was expecting a nice walk through American’s T2, but instead, we arrived at the old US Airways’ gate in Delta’s T1C boarding area. One thing I did notice in PHX is that American is making rapid progress on painting all its jets in AA livery– I only saw one US Airways jet, which of course was the A320 I flew from PHX to SFO. –Chris
TravelSkills’ 10 most popular posts over the last week (descending order):
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)
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)
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.
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
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.
British Airways’ inaugural San Jose flight arrives at the gate. (Image: Mineta San Jose Airport)
Two European carriers this week started up new 787 Dreamliner flights to the Bay Area, including British Airways’ San Jose service and additional KLM frequencies to San Francisco International.
At Mineta San Jose International, the city’s mayor Sam Liccardo was on hand along with Willie Walsh, CEO of British Airways parent International Airlines Group, to welcome the first flight of BA’s new 787-9 service from London Heathrow, which now operates daily from SJC’s Terminal B with an 8:05 p.m. departure time to LHR. The flight time is about 10 hours.
Because the BA 787-9 is larger than the 787-8, it has something the smaller plane doesn’t – a first class section, along with 42 Club World (business class) seats, 39 in premium economy and 127 in regular economy. (Here’s a video of BA’s new First suites, designed specifically for the 787-9.)
From left: San Jose Mayor Liccardo, International Airlines Group CEO Willie Walsh, SJC Aviation Director Kim Becker, and British Consul General in San Francisco Priya Guha. (Image: Mineta San Jose Airport)
Mayor Liccardo said at the welcoming ceremonies that London has been “the number one requested international destination” from San Jose, and BA’s new service is the first ever on that route. It’s the British carrier’s fourth destination in California.
Airport officials noted that Silicon Valley-based companies have 428 locations throughout the UK, while U.K. firms have 118 locations in Silicon Valley. Passengers bound to Heathrow on BA can also connect to 130 destinations beyond London.
Business class seats on KLM’s 787 Dreamliner (Photo: KLM)
Meanwhile, KLM this week increased service between Amsterdam and San Francisco International from seven to nine flights a week with the addition of second frequencies on Wednesdays and Sundays for the summer season. Those two new flights (KL610, with a 4:45 p.m. departure from SFO on those days) feature the North American debut of KLM’s Dreamliner service. The other daily flights continue to use a 747-400.
Business class seats in the 306-passenger KLM 787-9 recline fully flat, and all offer direct aisle access and 16-inch video screens. Economy seats provide a 40 percent greater recline than previous models, and larger 11-inch screens for in-flight entertainment. The aircraft offers Wi-Fi throughout. The KLM 787 has 42 business class seats, 48 in Economy Comfort (with 35-inch pitch) and 216 in regular economy. Take a look at the plane here.
Etihad’s shiny new B777 replaces leased Jet Airways planes this week (Photo: Peter Biaggi / SFO)
Ever since it started flying to San Francisco from its Abu Dhabi home base more than a year ago, Etihad Airways has been using a 777 leased from India’s Jet Airways on the route instead of one of its own planes.
Instead of seeing the aircraft pictured above, Etihad customers saw this when they arrived at the airport:
Etihad used a Jet Airways 777 on its SFO-Abu Dhabi run for over a year (Photo: Aero Icarus / Flickr)
But those snickers will soon turn into smiles: Effective this week, Etihad will replace the Jet Airways plane used on SFO-AUH with the real deal: Its own 777-200LR.
It has also been using a Jet Airways 777 on one of its two daily New York JFK flights (EY 101/100), but on June 1 it will replace that aircraft with its own 777-300ER. The other JFK flight will continue to use an A380 super-jumbo.
Business class on Etihad (Photo: Etihad)
The new San Francisco aircraft will be outfitted with eight first class seats, 40 in business class and 191 in economy for a total of 239 seats. Its larger 777-300ER on the New York run will have eight seats in first, 40 in business and 280 in economy for a total of 328 seats. Both planes have onboard wi-fi whereas the Jet Airways plane did not.
Over the last few months Etihad had been using its own planes periodically on the SFO and JFK runs, but now (or on June 1) it will run all Etihad metal, all the time.
Just last week, we received this comment from a TravelSkills reader who flew on the leased Jet Airways flight from SFO: “They ran out or snacks with another four hours to go and a bunch of us were irate and hungry and had to wait for the meal service an hour later. The toilets were super small. The attendants wouldn’t pay attention to the light and just ignore you. The seats were definitely way different from the flight I took from Europe last year. Disappointing.”
Etihad has made a big splash recently among frequent flyers by rolling out a new three-room cabin onboard its A380 last December. The Residence includes a “living room,” private bathroom with shower, a bedroom with a double bed and a suited, London-trained butler. The Residence is one of many firsts Etihad has brought to the premium flying experience in recent years.
Etihad recently cut the ribbon on a new premium lounge at New York JFK — its second in the U.S. after Washington Dulles. The 7,000 square foot facility for first class and business class passengers has showers, a bar, a sitting area, and floor-to-ceiling windows. In San Francisco, Etihad passengers have access to Oneworld partner Cathay Pacific’s stellar, and recently expanded, lounge at SFO.
Etihad also operates daily flights to Chicago, Washington Dulles and Los Angeles, and three weekly flights to Dallas/Ft. Worth.
Xian’s famous Terracotta Warriors (Photo: Peter Morgan – Wikimedia Commons)
And we have a winner!
Folks, I have to admit that reading through each and every one of the nearly 300 entries we received for the Xian contest made me feel so proud that we’ve created such a worldly, friendly, creative and eager community with TravelSkills. Thanks to everyone who sent in their thoughtful, original, funny and heartfelt entries.
And while I feel immense pride, I’m also disappointed that we can’t give the award to all contestants. Making the final decision was really tough. But we have a winner!
Dan E is from San Francisco. He works in marketing for the University of San Francisco and travels about once per month. His opening line grabbed our attention: “Everyone ‘loves to travel’ and ‘see the world’; I just love being on a plane. In my wildest dreams, I travel internationally for work in business class once a week. Instead, I have a marketing/story telling role that I absolutely love at a nonprofit here in SF…Whether flying to LA or London, I am consistently fascinated with the customer experience and am ever so aware of the minutiae – from the stitching on the amenity kits to the way the purser greets (or does not greet) each passenger.”
To me, it sounded like Dan would really appreciate the ride in United BusinessFirst, and had an eye for detail that will result in a really good trip report. Congratulations to Dan! You’ll learn more about him and his trip when we publish his trip report later this summer.
(Note: We have a first runner up chosen if for some reason Dan is unable to make this trip by July 8.)
Now, for some fun. As I was reading through the entries, many of them were especially funny or thoughtful, so I thought I’d share a few of the best lines here:
My wife often compares me to a Terra Cotta warrior when she asks me to do chores–old, fragile and immobile! Need to see them in person to see if I the analogy is appropriate. –CC
Because I am articulate and witty with just the right amount of anecdotal hyperbole to keep it entertaining. You want me in that seat – you NEED me in that seat! –MS
Roses are red. United BusinessFirst is Blue. I fly the friendly skies. I can pronounce Xian with a Panda in my arm too! –WAS
My trip report will be the most beautifully written travel piece on this website to date, launching my writing career and bringing fame and fortune not only to myself but also to TravelSkills. Having taken off on the wings of the Dreamliner, my career will then go on to span multiple Pulitzer pieces, finally coming to rest at the last unexplored place on Earth. After all, intangible experiences are what truly make up a life. Allow me to live. –DK
I’m your guy, Chris! Recall we once flew to London together? Okay, probably not, but I do. Watched you work exhaustively at your craft, drinking fine wines, indulging each amenity offered, comfortably nestled. –BB
Soaring over sea
the mighty 787 flies.
Me, you, sleep. At peace.
My name is Cameron and I am an Aerosexual. I spend hours dreaming and obsessing about airplanes. Plane-spotting, tracking flights online and listening to air traffic control are my idea of an afternoon well spent. –CP
All my adult life, the most luxurious perk I’ve ever afford myself was the extra legroom room in the Exit Row. It would be the chance of a lifetime to experience life on the ‘other’ side of the curtain. –FWG
It often seems that most of the blogs I read or posts on FlyerTalk are written by tall guys. So, instead of an average flying “Joe” wouldn’t you rather have an average and 5’4″ flying “Jen”?
Why are there beds on this plane?! And I get this bed all to myself?! This glass of champagne is free?! I even get a toothbrush?! I must be in a Dream(liner)! –RG
My poor wife (a) has to defend the home front all by herself, and (b) has to listen to my stories and share in the excitement of travel virtually. It simply isn’t fair. So this would be an awesome way to repay my wife for her ‘sailors marriage.’ –MB
Thanks again to everyone who took the time to enter our contest!
If you have any great advice for Dan about travel to China, or what he should be looking for in United BusinessFirst on a B787 Dreamliner, please leave it in the comments below!
Alaska Airlines and American are launching a big code-sharing expansion. (Image: Jim Glab)
In domestic route news, American and Alaska expand code-sharing, and AA adds a Washington D.C. route; United sets a pair of new San Francisco routes and seasonal service out of Newark; Delta ends a year-round Alaska option; Frontier starts a big expansion at Atlanta and Chicago; a small carrier begins two new Pittsburgh routes; and a private jet charter service begins Atlanta-area operations.
With Delta keeping the pressure on Alaska Airlines at the latter’s Seattle hub, Alaska and American Airlines are planning a significant expansion of their code-sharing partnership. Effective April 28, American will put its AA code on Alaska flights from Seattle to Atlanta, Charleston (S.C.), Nashville, New York JFK, Raleigh, Sun Valley and Washington Reagan National, as well as Alaska flights from Los Angeles to Baltimore/Washington, Monterey, Salt Lake City and Washington Reagan National. Then on May 15, Alaska’s code will show up on 14 AA routes out of Charlotte, nine out of Chicago O’Hare, 27 out of Dallas/Ft. Worth, and scores of additional AA routes out of Los Angeles, Miami, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Washington Reagan National. In other developments, American plans a July 5 start for new daily service between Washington Reagan National and Lansing, Michigan, using a two-class, 76-seat American Eagle regional jet.
On September 8, United Airlines plans to add a new spoke from its San Francisco hub by launching daily service to Omaha, Nebraska with a 76-seat Embraer E175. United already flies to Omaha from its Denver, Chicago, Houston and Newark hubs. In another SFO schedule enhancement, United will operate seasonal daily service to Aspen, Colorado from June 9 through August 15. Meanwhile, United also plans to add seasonal service from its Newark hub to Bangor, Maine from July 1 through October 29 using a 50-seat regional jet.
Turkish Airlines landing at San Francisco International Airport (Chris McGinnis)
Delta has suspended its seasonal New York – Istanbul flights due to security concerns, weak bookings and cancellations. However, Turkish Airlines’ daily ATL-Istanbul flights are set to begin on May 16. Last fall, Delta decided to operate its Seattle-Juneau, Alaska route on a year-round basis, but now the airline has changed its mind. Delta now plans to end SEA-Juneauflights on August 31, with a resumption of seasonal service in 2017.
Low-cost Frontier Airlines has kicked off a big wave of new routes. At Atlanta, Frontier this month started flying to Houston, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Phoenix, Raleigh-Durham, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, St. Louis and Memphis, and resumed seasonal service to Austin, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Los Angeles, Indianapolis and Trenton. At Chicago O’Hare, Frontier started flying to Charlotte, Kansas City, Nashville, Portland, St. Augustine (Fla.), Seattle and Minneapolis-St. Paul, and revived seasonal flights to Austin, Philadelphia, Washington Dulles, Raleigh-Durham and Trenton. Frontier also added new service from Cleveland to Portland (Ore.), Los Angeles, San Francisco and Philadelphia. Many of the new flights operate just a few days a week.
A new private jet option for Atlanta’s northside (Image: JetSmarter)
The private jet company JetSmarter plans to begin Atlanta-area operations on May 3, offering twice-weekly flights to and from Westchester County, N.Y. and weekly roundtrips to Ft. Lauderdale. The flights operate out of DeKalb-Peachtree Airport (PDK), using Falcon 2000 jets that seat up to 10 passengers. The company uses app-based reservations; it charges a $3,500 initiation fee and an annual membership fee of $9,675, but imposes no other cost for its flights.
OneJet, which specializes in serving small to medium-sized markets with small jets, will expand at Pittsburgh in June, launching twice-daily roundtrips to Hartford on June 8 and two daily roundtrips to Milwaukee beginning June 14. The company will also double its Pittsburgh-Indianapolis schedule from two flights a day to four as of June 14. OneJet promises its customers TSA PreCheck access, expedited boarding and high-speed in-fight Wi-Fi.
It’s all systems go for Air China’s San Jose-Shanghai service. (Image: Shangri-La Hotels)
In international route developments, Air China gets a green light for its planned San Jose service; Virgin Atlantic goes all-787 at San Francisco; Atlanta loses a European route and Philadelphia gains one; Newark gets new service to Africa; American adds two markets from Philadelphia and drops two from Miami.
The U.S. Government has given its approval for new Air China service between San Jose and Shanghai Pudong. The carrier plans to fly the route three days a week starting June 16 with a two-class, 237-seat Airbus A330-200. It will be San Jose’s second China route following Hainan Airlines’ inauguration of San Jose-Beijing service last year.
All Dreamliners all the time for Virgin Atlantic (Photo: Hartsfield-Jackson)
At San Francisco International, meanwhile, the route-watching site Airlineroute.net reports that Virgin Atlantic plans to transition to all-Dreamliner service later this year. It said that starting September 4, Virgin Atlantic will replace the aging A340-600 currently operating one of its two London flights (VS019/020) with a 787-9; the other flight already uses a Dreamliner.
Although the troubles at Brussels Airport are settling down, it looks like passenger demand from the U.S. took a big hit. Delta has resumed its New York JFK-Brussels flights, but said it has decided to suspend the resumption of Atlanta-Brussels service until March 2017. Meanwhile, United Airlines has ditched plans to add a second daily Newark-Brussels flight that had been due to begin on May 5, according to Airlineroute.net.
Newark will get a new route to Africa, however. Ethiopian Airlines reportedly plans to shift its three weekly New York flights from JFK Airport to Newark, starting July 3 and lasting at least through October. Ethiopian’s 787-8 flights to Addis Ababa operate via a stop in the West African capital of Lome, Togo.
Mmmm. Easier access to summer salads in Greece (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
At its Philadelphia International hub, American Airlines plans a May 6 revival of seasonal flights to Athens. The daily service will use an A330-300 with 27 business class seats and 259 in economy. Also at PHL, American has resumed daily flights to Bermuda. At its Latin American hub in Miami, however, American reportedly plans to scale back service to Brazil by eliminating Miami-Recife and Miami-Salvador de Bahia flights effective May 3 and 4 respectively.
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)
“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)
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?
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.
It’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.
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.
Alaska Airlines & Virgin America to merge (Image: Alaska Airlines)
Well I guess we all saw this coming. At least as of last week. But before that, it seemed unfathomable that San Francisco would lose its hometown carrier to another airline.
But here we are. Today Alaska Airlines and Virgin announced at the crack of dawn that they would merge later this year, following government approvals (which likely won’t be much of a problem). It could take up to two years for full integration.
What remains to be seen is what will happen to JetBlue, which was reportedly also in the running for Virgin. Will it combine with another carrer? Will Alaska buy it, too? Or will it continue to operate without change…hmmm. We’ll keep an eye on that!
Anyway, for Bay Area flyers, this the merger brings together two of the country’s most loved airlines– Virgin is known for its fun, funky and almost luxurious service and Alaska Airlines is know for its solid product, good on time performance and profitability. Virgin America is known as “hip.” Alaska Airlines is know as “friendly.” It will be interesting to watch these two cultures and reputations meld.
Here are some key points to keep in mind right off the bat. We will of course be following this very closely at TravelSkills so stay tuned!
Fares could increase from SFO. Why? As a young upstart, Virgin America kept a lid on fares to the cities it served. For example, when Virgin landed in Denver last month, fares plummeted to as low as $118 round trip! When it took off for Hawaii last December, a fare war ensued, with fares dropping to as low as $318 round trip to Oahu and Maui. With Alaska Airlines in charge, I think much of that fare discounting will go away.
Virgin’s Elevate program will fold into Alaska’s Mileage Plan. Alaska’s statement says: “Virgin America Elevate loyalty program members into its Mileage Plan, ranked #1 by U.S. News and World Report. With Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan, members are able to redeem award miles for travel to more than 900 destinations worldwide, rivaling global alliances.”
Virgin America flyers in the Bay Area (with big investments in Virgin’s Elevate program) will soon see a lot more opportunities to earn/burn miles– that’s because Alaska Airlines serves all three Bay Area airports– Virgin America only served SFO. From the Bay Area (SFO, Oakland and San Jose) Alaska Airlines currently has about 45 daily departures. Combined with Virgin, the new Alaska Airlines will serve 114 destinations.
Virgin’s Elevate and Alaska’s Mileage Plus programs will operate separately until the merger closes – which could take a while- so no need for members to make and immediate changes.
From SFO, Alaska now flies nonstop to: Seattle, Portland, Palm Springs, Salt Lake City, Cabo and Puerto Vallarta. From Oakland? There are nonstops to: Portland, Seattle plus Lihue, Honolulu, Maui and Kona in Hawaii. From San Jose, it has nonstops to four cities in Hawaii, plus Seattle, Portland, Eugene, Boise, Reno, Orange County, San Diego, Salt Lake City, Cabo and Guadalajara. From Santa Rosa (near Wine Country) it flies to several cities in the Pacific Northwest and Southern California via its Horizon Air subsidiary.
It appears that the vaunted Virgin brand will disappear with the merger. Alaska’s statement says: “Alaska will maintain its new, refreshed brand and will work closely with Virgin America to learn more about the award-winning Virgin America brand and customer experience.” Which means that we will hopefully see an end to things like Virgin’s once fun, now irritating pre-flight safety video.
Hopefully Alaska Airlines will adopt Virgin’s dedication to technology by installing seatback video and wi-fi connections on 100% of its aircraft very soon. Like Virgin, Alaska uses Gogo for inflight wi-fi. Here’s a link to Alaska’s inflight entertainment and wi-fi options.
It will be interesting to see if Alaska Airlines adopts Virgin’s popular RED seatback entertainment system that allows passengers to order food from a menu and have it delivered by flight attendants. Alaska Airlines offers hot meals (for sale) on all flights over 2.5 hours. It serves Starbucks coffee.
Alaska Airline’s mod new look. What do you think? (Image: Alaska Air)
Alaska recently updated its “look” which Bay Areans will soon see a lot more of. And it’s no slouch when it comes to inflight comfort and tech. For example, it has all-leather recaro seats and oversized overhead luggage bins on its newest Boeing 737-800 and 737-900 aircraft. It has seatback power (standard and USB) on nearly all its planes now. It offers “preferred plus” economy seating with more legroom and a free cocktails.
While Virgin America was showy and fun, it always struggled— only recently showing profits as the cost of fuel declined. Combining with Alaska Air should help shore up Virgin, but could lead to the loss of some money-losing routes.
Alaska is buying Virgin for $2.6 billion. The combined airline will be the fifth largest in the US, with 1,200 daily departures with 280 planes with an average age of 8.5 years. The airline will have hubs in Seattle, San Francisco, Anchorage, Portland and Los Angeles.
The future of Virgin America’s employees in the Bay Area is uncertain at the moment, but the good news is that both carriers are considered great place to work-both rank among Forbes “best places to work.”
At SFO, Alaska Airlines is temporarily operating out of the International Terminal while Terminal 1 is under construction. It remains to be seen how or if Alaska’s flights will integrate with Virgin’s in Terminal 2. Alaska does not currently operate a Board Room at SFO– members instead use Cathay Pacific’s lounge on the A side of the international terminal.
The combined airline will be based in Seattle-– too bad because Virgin America was always very proud to boast that it was “the only California-based airline.”
Why did Virgin agree to be acquired in the first place? One its website it says, “Today, just four airlines control more than 80% of the U.S. market. By combining with Alaska – an airline that, like us, has a strong position on the West Coast, a history of operational excellence, and a guest- and employee-focused culture – we are not only creating the best airline in North America, but one with the size and market share necessary to compete in this consolidated environment.”
Read a blog post from Brad Tilden, Alaska Airlines’s CEO on the merger here. Also, here’s the press release announcing the merger.
Stay tuned to TravelSkills for more as this whole deal comes to light. In the meantime, let us know what you think about the merger in the comments below. For me, I’m a bit sad at the loss of my hometown carrier. It’s been a joy chronicling the scrappy, funky and fun carrier’s journey over the last eight years. Check out this video to see what I mean…
San Francisco ranks number one in the nation in business travel costs. (Image: SF Travel)
Every year, the trade publication Business Travel News (BTN) conducts a comprehensive study of the total daily costs that road warriors pay in various U.S. and foreign cities. And for the third year in a row, San Francisco took the top honors in the U.S.
Whether it’s an honor is questionable, however: BTN said that in 2015, the City by the Bay remained the most expensive destination in the nation for business travel, with an average daily cost of $547.34 for a hotel room, a rental car and meals. That’s an increase of 7.4 percent from 2014, and it beat out New York ($523.05) and Boston ($502.69), which ranked second and third. Here’s a link to the full results of the study.
BTN said the average amount paid for a San Francisco hotel stay in 2015 was $370.78 per night, including $52.36 in sales tax, occupancy tax and surcharges – an increase of 9.6 percent over 2014. In some cities, the year-over-year increases in average hotel costs paid by business travelers were quite substantial; e.g., BTN said the rate of increase was 22.4 percent in Detroit, 18.2 percent in San Jose, 15.7 percent in Los Angeles, 16 percent in Las Vegas, 14.3 percent in Boston and 14 percent in Seattle.
One of the interesting things about the detailed breakdowns of costs for hotels and rental cars is the fact that the BTN study separates out the level of taxes and fees, which can be incredibly high. For instance, it said that car rentals in San Francisco and Santa Barbara carried taxes and fees that averaged more than 50 percent of the actual rental rate; in some cities (Boston and Little Rock), that figure topped 60 percent.
The study did not examine the posted rates of hotels or rental car companies; instead, it looked at the actual average daily rate paid by business travelers from January through November, collected from a leading global corporate travel agency. Dining prices were gathered through a survey of restaurants in each city.
BTN said that the overall average daily cost for business travel in the top 100 U.S. cities during 2015 rose 3.9 percent over the previous year, to $318.80. It found a different trend overseas, noting that in 13 of the 19 non-U.S. Western Hemisphere cities covered in the study, the average per diem dropped by double digit percentages. And in the 59 cities covered in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, the average per diem dropped from $362 in 2014 to $323 last year.
The most expensive city in Europe, the Middle East and Africa was London, with an average per diem for hotel, rental car and meals of $554.
A QANTAS 747-400 parked at Sydney’s Kingsford Smith International Airport. Note the Sydney skyline in the background! (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
Last month I took a dive to the land down under on a big QANTAS 747-400 in business class on its recently restored nonstops between San Francisco International and Sydney.
Highlights of this 14-hour flight include:
A business class lounge that exceeded my expectations
One of the best nights of sleep I’ve ever had onboard a plane
A spin through an empty 747 including the secret crew rest area
Bottled water that helps with jet lag
Pajamas worth changing into
Dramatic view from the cockpit on approach to SYD
A raucous greeting in Sydney that will make you smile
One of the easiest train rides from airport to city I’ve experienced in a while
Currently, QANTAS economy class roundtrip fares between San Francisco and Sydney are in the $1,400 range (but can dip as low as $1,000 during periodic fare sales). Premium economy fares are about $3,000 round trip, and business class roundtrips run from about $8,000 to $10,000. QANTAS does not offer first class on its SFO-SYD flights. United and QANTAS offer the only nonstops between SFO and SYD and their fares are identical.*
QANTAS covered the cost of my flights, but TravelSkills paid for hotels, meals and transfers related to this five-day trip.
So glad to be upstairs on the 747! Wow! (Chris McGinnis)
Checking in at SFO for an 11:25 pm departure was fast and easy. My ticket did not allow me to select a seat ahead of time, so I was worried that I’d be stuck in one of the few middle seats in business class. So I arrived at the airport early planning to spend a couple hours working in the lounge. Lo and behold, at check in there was one seat left upstairs in the “business class bubble” so I snagged it! Seat 14B is an aisle exit row, so I had miles of legroom. How much? See this.
Call me culturally confused: I’m headed to Australia, but the business class lounge says otherwise (Chris McGinnis)
At SFO, QANTAS passengers must use the Air France / KLM lounge. While I was hoping that I might be able to slip into the lounges of Oneworld partners such as British Airways or Cathay Pacific, I learned that due to crowding issues at night, QANTAS passengers are only provided access to the Air France / KLM Lounge.
QANTAS uses the Air France lounge at SFO- this is one of two rooms (Chris McGinnis)
My expectations for the lounge were set low– I had heard that there was nothing special about this lounge. But when I entered, I was greeted nicely by two fun and interesting agents who explained to me that I had to be sure and see BOTH rooms in the lounge. Apparently, many lounge visitors think the lounge is just the first room you see (above). But there’s a somewhat hidden door that leads to a much larger room with a big buffet, and plenty of tables and chairs. The back room was definitely where the action was.
A relic from its Northwest Airlines past- the Air France lounge still sports a fireplace (Chris McGinnis)
This lounge used to belong to Northwest Airlines. Remember when most NWA lounges had fireplaces? This relic (not working) is still there, which adds a homey feel to the space. Apparently the fireplace will be removed next time this lounge is updated.
A friendly attendant passes around cups of warm fried rice that hits the spot at 10 pm (Chris McGinnis)
What the Air France / KLM lounge lacks in atmosphere is made up for in the service you get once inside. As I said, the door agents were fun and friendly (we joked about feeling French when flying to Australia). Inside the lounge, servers were all over the place, passing snacks, cleaning up and interacting with travelers. I arrived early, and the place was pretty empty, but as flight time approached, seat space became scant– it was a good thing that they had staffed up for the crunch.
A healthy hearty pre-flight plateful from the lounge buffet (Chris McGinnis)
I was impressed by the amount and variety of food and drink on offer at the KLM / AF lounge that QANTAS uses. The lounge also had a noisy and convivial feel– mostly Australians enjoying a beer and time with friends and colleagues on their way home.
Stairway to heaven: inside the business class bubble on a 747 (Chris McGinnis)
Due to my status as a travel writer, I received a special favor– I asked if I could board five minutes early so I could get some good photos of the plane before it filled up with passengers. At the last minute my wish was granted, so I scrambled on board, up the “stairway to heaven,” threw my bags down and took off with flight attendant Jerry for a quick tour of the plane INCLUDING a look at the secret crew rest area in the aft section of the “bubble” with access via a special stairway from the main deck. See that here or scroll to the bottom for the video. This big bird has a crew of 14 flight attendants and four pilots and on a 14+ hour flight, they need a place to hide!
18 big business class seats upstairs configured 2-2 on the QANTAS 747 (Chris McGinnis)
There’s not a better place in the world than upstairs in business class on a Boeing 747-400. On QANTAS there are 18 seats up here configured 2-2 with a galley in the back and a lavatory and door to the cockpit up front. I was seated in 14B- the seat (seen below) with the suitcase in front of it. Not only is it in the cosy confines of the business class bubble, it’s an exit row seat. Upside of this seat: limitless legroom and no interference from your neighbor getting up. Downside: In seat storage is almost nil– window seat passengers get those nice big bins along the windows, but aisle seats don’t. Another downside with this seat: it’s tough seeing out the windows.
Row 14 upstairs on QANTAS 747 is exit row w endless leg room (Chris McGinnis)
Seat controller for business class lie-flat seats- with massage! (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
QANTAS 747-400 business class seats are the same ones you’ll find on its A380s– fully flat, lumbar controls and with a nice massage feature. The massage was nice, but controlling it via these buttons was difficult.
There is no wi-fi onboard QANTAS 747s.
Main deck business class on QANTAS 747-400 (Image: Seatguru)
Row 1 on the main deck- I call these “windshield seats” because of the curvature of the plane in the nose (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
While upstairs is nice, downstairs in the nose of the 747 is a pretty nice space, too. Especially if you are seated in row 1– these seats are super private and quiet and insiders say that this is usually where QANTAS seats its superstar VIP guests.
Least desirable business class seat on QANTAS 747 are middle seat on main deck, rows 5, 6,7 & 8 (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
The best seats on the main deck are row 1 (for privacy) and also row 5 if you are traveling alone- that’s because these two seats (B&J) are solo seats– there’s no one seated next to you. See what I mean here on the 747-400 V2 three class layout on SeatGuru. Seats to avoid if possible would be the three middle seats on row 5, 6, 7 and 8.
Economy class on QANTAS 747 configured 3-4-3 (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
There are 270 economy class seats on this big bird. One cabin is green (pictured), the other is pinkish maroon. The best seats are those in the mid-cabin area. Avoid seats at the front or the rear of the cabins due to lines that form near lavatories.
Economy class seat pitch is 31 inches on the QANTAS 747 (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
QANTAS also offers a distinct premium economy section with 26 seats configured 2-4-2 with wider seats and arm rests. Premium economy passengers also get a special menu, noise canceling headsets, preflight champagne, and special amenity kits.
QANTAS premium economy on 747 is configured 2-4-2- ask for the 2 side! (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
Seat pitch in QANTAS premium economy is 38″ plus wider arm rests (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
Back upstairs in business class… we took off on time at 11:25 pm. Shortly thereafter, a mad rush for the lavatory ensued as everyone was eager to change into pajamas for the long night ahead. This was also the time that flight attendants helped passengers position nice quilted cotton seat covers over cushions that really helped with the coziness factor of the cabin. (See below)
QANTAS SFO flight departs at 11:25 pm and arrives SYD about 14 hours later at about 8:00 am two days later (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
Soft and stretchy pajamas improve sleep quality & preserve your clothing for arrival (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
I’m usually not one to fuss over pajamas, but on a 14+ hour flight it was very nice to change into a shirt I’d not spent the night in. Plus, you get to keep the PJs for use at home (or for gifting those who did not get to go on this trip).
Salmon with spinach & sauteed eggplant (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
I was disappointed that we did not get any menus on this flight… I usually like to peruse and photograph them. But on this flight there was a snafu due to the change from February to March, and the menus did not get loaded. So my choice was made based on a description provided by the flight attendant. I chose to go with salmon and was not disappointed. It tasted delicious, and was a right sized portion. Not pictured is the bread– flight attendants roll out two big loaves of warm bread (sourdough and whole wheat) which they offer while serving the main course. Warm bread is always nice.
A delicious vanilla custard with raspberries for dessert (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
Since I knew I’d be trying to sleep on this flight, I ate about half my entree and a few bites of this cool and velvety vanilla custard. After that, it was time to hit the sack on my cozy quilted lie flat seat.
Quilted seat covers help! Flight attendants place them at passengers’ request before or after meal (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
I tried to watch “The Intern” after my meal, but started to doze off. Once I put my seat down, Jerry was there with a bottle of flower-enhanced Balance water– supposedly to help with jet lag. You know what? It worked! No jet lag at all on this trip. But that might have more to do with the fact that I slept for 8 hours on this flight…. amazing because I rarely get 8 hours at home!
Here’s what worked for me: First, of course is the true lie-flat seat upstairs on a 747. Second, I made it a point to eat lightly and only had one glass of wine with dinner. Third, on this flight I tried using Mack’s Moldable Silicone Earplugs– each one is a small plug of translucent putty that covers up your entire ear canal and truly blocks out all sound. That, along with my Bucky eyemask and I was down for the count!
Special jet lag water provided to get you through the night (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
On this flight I slept for nearly 8 hours — I remember falling asleep as we approached Hawaii and I woke up with only about 2-3 hours flying time left! Wow!
Fell asleep somewhere near Hawaii & woke up 8 hours later- almost there! (Chris McGinnis)
I could not believe my eyes when I woke up and looked at my watch at around 6 am Sydney time. Perfect time for a flat white!
Woke up to a fine flat white prepared by flight attendant (Chris McGinnis)
I strolled back to the galley to find the second of two flight attendants plating breakfast and making toast in a big toaster– that burnt bread smell reminded me of breakfast at my Canadian Granny’s house!
A hearty breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, and (my fave) baked beans (Chris McGinnis)
After a full night of sleep and a flat white, I was raring to go. In that sharpened state, I asked our flight attendant if I could pass my camera to the pilots to take some shots of the approach to SYD. They agreed and took about 30 shots- the best of which I posted below. Very cool!
I handed my camera to pilots for some great approach shots- note Sydney skyline! (Photo: QANTAS Pilots!)
A quick thanks to the crew for helping me out with some photos (Chris McGinnis)
Arrival at Sydney was quick and easy via kiosk. No lines at all at 8 am.
Quick and easy entry via kiosk at SYD (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
Now this was a surprise: Sydney’s big Mardi Gras festival was taking place during the week I was there… and the airport had drag queens welcoming flights– which caused quite a stir as we filed past them. One of them looked at me and said, “Sir, you must have flown in business class because you are looking fresh as a flower this morning!” I had to agree– and pose for a few selfies 🙂
Since it was Mardi Gras in Sydney, our flight was greeted by some festive drag queens. What a welcome! (Chris McGinnis)
Getting into the city for my meetings was a cinch using the quick and easy Airport Link, which takes about 20 minutes to reach the Central Business District or “CBD” as Sydneysiders say.
A quick, easy, one-seat ride from airport to central business district or CBD (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
Trains depart for city every 10 minutes from airport station- a 20 minute ride (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
Fares run about US$13 each way for the 20 minute ride to town– that’s pricey for two, but definitely beats the morning traffic. Taxicab fares run about US$35.
Plenty of room on the clean, modern & bright double decker trains to the city (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
A Virgin Atlantic A330 in Manchester (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Virgin Atlantic is introducing new stops to Manchester airport (MAN) in northwest England from San Francisco starting next spring.
Operating three times weekly between March and October, Virgin Atlantic will be the first carrier to provide nonstop flights between San Francisco and Manchester, where a thriving music scene, gritty industrial architecture, and emerging tech community will have a variety to offer visitors. Manchester is located near the scenic Lake District, the historic walled city of York, or Liverpool, home of the Beatles.
Both flights will use Virgin’s newest A330 aircraft with Upper Class (lie-flat business), Premium Economy and Economy cabins.
What’s somewhat strange about this announcement is that it’s come so early. Nonstops between SFO and Manchester won’t start for another year (currently slated for March 28, 2017)– and a lot can happen in a year!