VIRGIN AMERICA: SFO TO NEW YORK LAGUARDIA? Earlier this month San Francisco-based Virgin America snagged 12 slots at New York’s popular (but creaky) La Guardia Airport. Wouldn’t it be nice to fly nonstop from SFO to close-in LaGuardia (LGA) and only have to deal with a 20-minute hop into Manhattan instead of that 40+ minute, traffic-clogged slog in from JFK or Newark? Alas, the NY Port Authority has “perimeter rules” that forbid flights from more than 1,500 miles away. HOWEVER, exceptions have been made to this rule. For example Denver International, which is 1,600 miles away received an exemption from the rule. Oddly, the rule does not apply on Saturdays and back in 2004, now defunct American Trans Air (ATA) proposed nonstop service from LaGuardia to SFO with continuing service to Honolulu. In 2009, Senator John McCain tried (but failed) to abolish the perimeter rules at both LGA and Washington-National. So, Virgin America could apply for an exception to the rule, but will it? Despite several tries, Virgin would not reveal a peep to TravelSkills about plans for its shiny new slots. Most speculation centers on Virgin flying into LGA from a city it serves within the perimeter, such as Chicago or Dallas. So we’ll just have to wait and see. If Virgin were granted an exception to La Guardia’s perimeter rule, would you choose that over its flights to Newark or JFK, or those of its competitors? Leave your comments below!
AMERICAN’S NEW A321s SFO-JFK. Last week American Airlines was showing off it newest plane, the Airbus A321 Transcontinental, which will enter service in the JFK-LAX route on Jan 7. What about SFO? Here’s what American told TravelSkills: “The A321T will begin serving JFK-SFO on March 6, 2014 with two frequencies. On April 1, we’ll increase operation to SFO, operating three of four frequencies with the aircraft. Frequencies will increase to five starting June 11 and will be operated exclusively by the A321T.” The new three-class Airbus (with a business class nearly identical to United’s new p.s. service we reviewed last month) will replace the comfortable, but aging, Boeing 767’s currently on the busy route.
IS GLOBAL ENTRY TOO POPULAR? We’ve heard from several TravelSkills reader about wait times in excess of 80 days for Global Entry personal interviews at the SFO enrollment center…so we checked with Customs and Border Protection and they told us that there are still a handful of openings in the 30-60 day window. So if you still have not signed up, be prepared to wait. To get Global Entry, you first fill out on online application, then schedule an appointment for your personal interview at one of about 25 enrollment center locations across the US. Interesting factoid: The Global Entry program is five years old, and just admitted its one-millionth member. There are now 44 Global Entry locations. (Global entry is but one prong in TravelSkills’s famous No-Hassle Travel Trifecta.)
BUSIEST HOLI-DAYS. Here’s a map of what the holidays will look like in terms of air travel volume. Will you be red, green or yellow this year?
UNITED TALKING POINTS EXPOSED. Interesting to see an internal United Airlines Sales talking points memo exposed on Bloomberg last week. United distributed the memo to its salespeople to help deal with the roar or complaints over its Mileage Plus devaluations announced earlier this year. It’s a good read on the main points of the painful program changes.
ALASKA FIRES BACK AT DELTA WITH DOUBLE MILES…Delta recently launched several new routes from Alaska Airlines’ Seattle hub while simultaneously pushing a double miles promo on those flights. Alaska is fighting back with a double mileage promotion of its own. Between now and May 31, 2014, Alaska flyers can earn double mileage and double elite qualifying miles on flights between Seattle and several U.S. cities including Oakland, San Jose, and San Francisco. Register here before travel and rack up big-time points. Delta has recently matched Alaska’s move, and it’s offer double Medallion-qualifying miles on flights to/from Seattle. Registration required. United has jumped on the bandwagon, too. Registration here.
And just in case you missed it, here’s what else you need to know about Bay Area Travel over the last month: