ATL’S NEW CONCOURSE F: As expected, travelers are experiencing a few kinks as ATL’s newest concourse makes its debut. In the midst of the hoopla surrounding the opening of ATL’s new International Concourse F, gripes we are hearing at The TICKET include the unusually LONG walk from Concourse E to Concourse F. Now, all Atlanta-bound passengers arriving at either Concourse E or F are funneled through customs and immigration at Concourse F. That means those arriving at Concourse E must walk from their arriving gate to the central spine, then hike the 1000 or so feet through the underground tunnel (or take a moving sidewalk) leading to immigration at Concourse F—the Plane Train is not an option. More evidence that the new terminal was built with a lot of thought for CONNECTING passengers—less so for Atlanta residents. What’s been YOUR experience at Concourse F? Please leave your comments below.
MORE ECONOMY COMFORT. Just in time for peak summer season, Delta’s entire mainline fleet and its Delta Connection planes with first class are now outfitted with Economy Comfort. On domestic flights, the extra four inches of legroom is a huge plus, and on international flights, the free cocktails are an added bonus. Zone 1 boarding is nice, too, especially on full flights. Until now, not all Delta planes offered Economy Comfort– and the seats were not available for sale until the entire fleet was upgraded. Now, non-Medallion travelers can purchase these extra legroom seats for $19-$99 depending on the length of the flight. Gold, Platinum and Diamond Medallion members get these seats for free—Silvers get a 50% discount. Have you tried Economy Comfort yet? Would you pay extra for it? LET US KNOW. Leave comments below.
DELTA / AIRTRAN DEAL. AirTran’s Boeing 717 fleet will not leave Atlanta as soon as expected. The slender jets will get some new paint and switch terminals to become part of Delta’s fleet beginning as soon as next year. The move is dependent on the ratification of a pilot’s contract that will allow them to fly the smaller jets. This fleet upgrade will lower the average age of Delta’s fleet by accelerating the retirement of its aging DC-9s. They will also replace many of the inefficient Delta Connection CRJ-200 aircraft. The 717 fits well between a regional jet and smaller mainline plane like the DC-9 allowing Delta to adjust aircraft to capacity and provide more first class seats (yay!) in certain markets. Delta will make the replacements on a capacity-neutral basis meaning that the retirement of CRJ-200s and DC-9s will be in line with the 717s based on the number of seats still available in the fleet.
FLY SOUTHWEST AIR TO LATIN AMERICA? Just today Southwest Airlines has obtained approval from the City of Houston to build a $100 million international hub at its Houston Hobby airport facilities. This means that ATL travelers will soon have a low cost option for flights south of the border via a connection in Houston. Flights could start as soon as 2015. It’s a move certain to ruffle the feathers of United and Delta which now pretty much own the US-Latin America market. Federal approval is still pending.
CLEAR Card COMING BACK? This month the CLEAR card began operations at all terminals at San Francisco International. Since the company was resuscitated by new investors in 2009, CLEAR has come back to only three airports: SFO, Orlando and Denver. Dallas is next on the list, although no firm date for installation of kiosks has been announced. We are hopeful for a return at ATL, but there is no strong indication that ATL is on CLEAR’s radar, for now at least. In case you don’t remember, CLEAR offers members access to special biometric-kiosk-controlled fast lanes at airport security for a $179 annual fee. It’s currently honoring any time left on previous memberships, and has a two-month free trial.
NEW SUMMER SNACKS ON DELTA. New seasonal food-for-sale items aboard Delta mainline flights include Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia or vanilla ice cream, Blue Moon beer, and Tequila Avion. To kick off the new summer menus, Delta offered free chips and salsa and margaritas to passengers on select transcon flights over the Cinco de Mayo weekend. All of these items are available for purchase in the main cabin. Specialty beverages are complimentary in first class, but there’s still a charge for ice cream. Also making a comeback this summer for Caribbean and Latin American routes are the popular mojitos. Other new items on the EATS menu for the main cabin include a smoked turkey and egg salad sandwich on breakfast flights and basil pesto chicken sliders with asiago cheese on a pretzel roll. What are your favorite…or least favorite… Delta meals? Please leave your comments below.
DINE UP AT DELTA. Delta is testing “DineUp” a new concept allowing coach passengers to pre-buy premium meals online (up to 48 hours before flight time) on its transcon flights between New York City and California. The meals look tasty… and range in price from $12 to $20. If you end up with an upgrade, your meal will be delivered to your first class seat—no refunds. For now, DineUp is limited to NYC-CA flights but might expand. What do you think… would you dine up?
HOTEL BONUSES: Multiple Hyatt stays earn 4x or 5x Delta SkyMiles (2,500 max) bonuses between now and August 31. Marriott Rewards is offering one free night for every two paid stays between now and August 31. IHG’s Priority Club is offering 1000 bonus points or 200 bonus miles per night through September 3. Also, in a new twist, Priority Club now allows members to redeem points for digital downloads such as music, games or even foreign language lessons.
DELTA-SUNTRUST CHECK CARD. Yet another miles-earning opportunity is available with a new check card from SunTrust bank. As the only check card to earn SkyMiles, this is a great option for those who do not want to apply for a credit card. It comes with a $75 annual fee, but also gives applicants the opportunity to earn as many as 30,000 SkyMiles when they sign up. More details can be found here.
PRE-CHECK EXPANDS. Have you enjoyed TSA’s amazingly swift and convenient Pre-Check program at ATL’s south concourse entrypoint? Well, it is now available at Orlando and Portland (PDX) as well. Special pre-check lines are reserved for invited Delta Medallions and Global Entry members—they get to speed through security without removing liquids, laptops, and shoes. The TSA hopes to continue expanding this program across U.S. airports in the near future. Luckily, Atlanta (and Delta) were chosen to beta-test the concept, and as we know from fellow TICKET readers, it was a roaring success (see our post and reader comments here). But…do good things last forever? We are hearing that the program’s become so popular, that PreCheck lines at ATL are sometimes LONGER than others. Tell us about your recent experiences in the comments box below.
ALASKA AIRLINES UPGRADES. Flying out west? Don’t forget, when traveling on Alaska Airlines, you are eligible for Medallion upgrades to its first class cabin. While its MVP elites receive priority, the odds of scoring a premium seat on Alaska are much better. Many gate agents and passengers are still forgetting about this perk for Delta flyers, so do not forget to ask about it, as they sometimes do not process automatically. In a throwback to the glory days, Alaska even serves splits of champagne and full bottles of beer in first class with printed menus on transcon routes—including its single daily flight between ATL and Seattle.
DELTA AXES MORE ROUTES. The current economic roller coaster and a steady stream of gloomy news from Europe has Delta making adjustments to its long-haul flying schedule, axing routes like ATL-Accra, ATL-Monrovia and shifting routes like ATL-Milan and JFK-Athens, Nice, and Rome to seasonal (summer) service only. Overall, capacity across the Atlantic will be down 3-4% for 2012, more than Delta had originally planned. Delta is also reducing frequencies on many overseas routes with multiple daily flights. As reported in The TICKET earlier this year, Delta is yanking nonstops between ATL and: Copenhagen, Athens, Prague, Moscow, Tel Aviv and Shanghai.
MORE ON TIME AT ATL. Delta barely squeezed into the top ten list of on-time performance for North American airlines in April—it ranked #9, but ahead of many of the other major U.S. airlines like American, United or Southwest. In the airport category, Atlanta came in at #3 in on-time performance among the world’s major airports with 88.5 percent of flights arriving on time. Only US Airways’ hub in Charlotte had a better ranking among U.S. airports.