In international route developments, JetBlue sees possibilities for Europe with new planes, more Mint; American’s new premium economy seating spreads to more routes; Delta kicks off Seoul service from its home base; Norwegian begins Barcelona flights this week; United drops a U.S.-South America route and Avianca adds one; and Etihad goes all-A380 on a key U.S. route.
JetBlue is in the midst of an analysis about how it can operate profitably on routes to Europe, according to an article in The Motley Fool, and the carrier reportedly sees two keys to making transatlantic flights work. One is the right aircraft – and JetBlue has taken steps in that direction by amending an aircraft order with Airbus to secure some A321LRs starting in 2019. With their longer range, those planes would let JetBlue fly from its Boston and New York JFK bases to major cities in western Europe. (How customers would react to a transatlantic flight on a single-aisle plane is another matter.)
The second key is competing not against ultra-low-cost operations like Norwegian and WOW, but against mainstream airlines’ premium cabins by offering business travelers a front cabin with more flat-bed Mint seats than the 16 that its domestic flights offer. JetBlue sees its domestic Mint deployment as a major competitive success story, and wants to repeat it. “Airbus’ Cabin-Flex concept will give airlines full discretion on how big to make their premium cabins by rearranging the locations of the emergency exits,” the article noted, and JetBlue is said to be looking at boosting Mint seating to 22 if it goes transatlantic.
We noted recently that American Airlines has started installing its new international premium economy seating on its 777-200ERs, and Airlineroute.com reports that the carrier is taking reservations for premium economy travel starting December 15 on a number of routes. (The new section has initially been available only on select routes where AA uses new 787-9s.) In mid-December, the premium economy seats will be available on AA’s 777-200ER routes from Dallas/Ft. Worth to Buenos Aires, Frankfurt and Tokyo Narita; from Los Angeles to Tokyo Narita and Tokyo Haneda; and from Miami to Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Madrid, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Santiago (Chile).
Delta has launched new daily transpacific service from its Atlanta hub to Seoul Incheon, supplementing the daily flight in the same market operated by its partner Korean Air. The Delta flight uses a 777-200LR featuring a Delta One cabin with 37 lie-flat seats; 36 Comfort+ extra-legroom economy seats; and 218 main cabin seats in a nine-across layout. All seats have power ports and entertainment on demand, and satellite Wi-Fi is available.
Low-cost transatlantic specialist Norwegian kicked off three new U.S. routes this week, all of them to Barcelona with 787 Dreamliners. The carrier is operating twice a week to Barcelona from Los Angeles (increasing to three a week in August); twice a week from Newark (going up to four a week in August); and twice a week from Oakland (increasing to three in August). Norwegian’s Oakland-Barcelona route is already facing competition from new entrant Level, a low-cost subsidiary of British Airways/Iberia parent International Airlines Group.
Venezuela has been going through unprecedented political and economic turmoil in recent months, and travel to that country has suffered as a result. The latest evidence: United Airlines plans to end its daily flights to Caracas from Houston Bush Intercontinental effective July 1. United is just the latest of several carriers that have suspended Venezuela flights, in part because they have had trouble getting money from ticket sales out of the country.
Avianca has launched new U.S. service between Bogota, Colombia and Boston Logan. The Star Alliance member flies the route four times a week from Terminal E at BOS, using a two-class A319 with 12 business class seats and 108 in economy. The flight operates on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays from Boston, and is the only non-stop service between the two cities.
Etihad Airways has put an Airbus A380 onto its second daily New York JFK-Abu Dhabi flight, replacing a 777-300ER. The other daily flight has been using an A380 since late 2015, so the aircraft change makes JFK-Abu Dhabi one of the airline’s few all-A380 routes, along with Abu Dhabi-London and Abu Dhabi-Sydney.