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).
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.
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.
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