Delta’s big(ger) Seattle plans. Last week Delta’s CEO told employees the company wants to expand from its current 11 gates to 30 gates at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, making it “a huge international gateway.” With those gates, Delta could operate up to 240 flights a day. Delta has been steadily adding transpacific and domestic flights at SEA, to the dismay of its erstwhile partner Alaska Airlines, which is following its own growth plan at its hub airport. Alaska currently controls about 40 percent of SEA’s traffic. Meanwhile, Delta announced another round of expansion at SEA next May and June, adding Delta Connection service to Denver (five flights a day), Sacramento (four a day) and Boise (four a day), plus seasonal service to Ketchikan and Sitka, Alaska.
JetBlue overhauls fares, seating. Only two major U.S. airlines let all passengers check a bag for free — JetBlue and Southwest (Southwest allows two free bags) — but that will fall to just one in the first half of 2015. That’s when JetBlue will revamp its pricing into three “branded fare bundle options.” The lowest fares will be for “customers who do not plan to check a bag,” JetBlue said; the others will include one and two checked bags respectively, plus other perks. The airline also will “refresh” its A320s by installing “lighter, more comfortable seats” that will let it increase the number of seats per plane — and reduce its current (very generous) standard seat pitch, although it will still exceed pitch on major competitors according to the chart above (supplied by JetBlue). The airline pledged that its Wi-Fi will still be offered for free (at least through 2015). Meanwhile, a JetBlue exec said in an interview the airline is likely to expand its Mint premium seating product to transcon flights from Boston in the future.
Within days of JetBlue’s announcement, wily Southwest Airlines launched a retro-hipster, captivating new TV ad campaign focusing on its free checked bag option. This 30-second spot, called “Swagger” is worth a watch and listen! See below.
Delta places big widebody order. In a blow to Boeing, Delta said it will turn to Airbus for the next big phase of its fleet renewal program, placing an order for 50 twin-engine widebody jets to replace its aging 747s and 767s. The company has ordered 25 of Airbus’ next-generation A350-900s, to be delivered starting in 2017; and 25 A330-900neo aircraft, to arrive starting in 2019. The A350s will be used on transpacific routes, and the A330s will go onto medium-haul transatlantic routes and some west coast-to-Asia routes. Earlier this year, TravelSkills got an inside look at the A350, which claims to be the widest of widebodies. Check out our report and PHOTOS of the new A350.
Cheaper upgrades. Delta is offering winter travelers the opportunity to upgrade at a discount for flights now through February. A nice way to avoid some holiday travel hassles, yes, but (as usual) there are some important points in the fine print: The markets NYC to/from LAX / SFO / SEA will be excluded from this offer. This promotion does not include any fares purchased in Delta’s cheapest E, V, or Y class.
Popular: Did you hear about the latest wave of downgrades at United MileagePlus? Read this!
Watch those Wi-Fi charges. When you sign up for in-flight Wi-Fi, do you keep a close watch on how much data your device is eating up? One transpacific traveler found himself unexpectedly facing a bill for almost $1,200 from Singapore Airlines, and web site Skift examined just what went wrong for him– providing an object lesson for others. (P.S. Sounds like the guy’s not getting his money back…)
KLM overhauls 777-200s. Delta’s SkyTeam partner KLM has started renovating the passenger cabins of its 777-200 fleet, following up on a similar overhaul of its 747s. The new World Business Class is getting fully-flat seats with more personal space for passengers and new 16-inch seatback monitors with upgraded entertainment options. In the 777-200 economy class, new seats will provide extra legroom, ergonomic headrests, power outlets and a new entertainment system with hundreds of programming options.
Route news: Alaska, JetBlue, Frontier, Spirit. Alaska Airlines said it will introduce daily Seattle-Washington Dulles service on March 11 … JetBlue last week started daily non-stops between Salt Lake City and Orlando … Spirit Airlines has big expansion plans at Houston Bush Intercontinental, where it will add 10 new routes next spring, including Tampa, Baltimore/Washington and Oakland as well as three points in Mexico and four in Central America … Frontier Airlines told employees that it plans to slash 15 flights a day at its Denver home base next year due to rising taxes and fees at that airport.
Bottled cocktails on VX. A new cucumber vodka mojito from Austin Cocktails, a line of bottled, craft cocktails, is now available fleetwide onboard Virgin America. The new pre-mixed drink is made with vodka, natural flavors and sweetened with organic agave and priced at $8.25. Culturemap Austin says this about the Mojito: “For anyone watching her girlish figure, what may be most noteworthy is that all the drinks ring in at less than 100 calories a serving….and has a refreshing, lime-heavy flavor that gets better with subsequent sips. With its hint of cucumber, it reminds us of the cucumber-infused water you get at a spa.”
STAY TUNED! Part 2 of Catching Up on the week’s most important travel news comes tomorrow!
In Case You Missed It…
- More benefit cuts are coming to United’s MileagePlus.
- Google offers unsual, data-driven Thanksgiving traffic travel tips.
- Olefactory stimulants: Chris lists his favorite travel smells. What are yours?
Extra Bonus! Here’s an easy way to top off your Chase Ultimate Rewards balance with 20,000 points!
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