In international route developments, United will deploy more 777-300ERs with new Polaris cabins on routes from San Francisco and Newark; Etihad catches a break from the U.S. laptop ban; ANA adds a third daily Los Angeles flight; Asiana will fly a new A350 to San Francisco; South African Airways puts its newest aircraft on all its Washington D.C. flights; El Al will fly its new Dreamliner in a key U.S. market; and Southwest drops a pair of Cuba routes.
So far, United’s full-blown new Polaris business class with flat-bed passenger compartments is only available on its new Boeing 777-300ERs – and it doesn’t have many of them yet. But more are on the way, and the airline is gradually extending the new Polaris cabin to more routes. Routesonline.com reports that United’s latest schedule update shows the 777-300ERs going onto three more routes in the next few months: On September 6, the 777-300ER will replace the 747-400 on United’s San Francisco-Beijing route; on October 6, the new plane will take over SFO-Frankfurt, also from a 747-400; and on October 28, a 777-300ER will replace a 777-200ER on the Newark-Tokyo Narita route.
Last month, United put the new plane onto its SFO-Tokyo Narita route, and SFO-Taipei service is set to begin August 1. It also flies them from SFO to Hong Kong and from Newark to Tel Aviv.
Some bad news on the Polaris front: The new Polaris Lounge at SFO, which was first expected to open in mid 2017 will now open in “late 2017 or early 2018” according to a spokesperson. Stay tuned. (See our previous post about the Polaris lounge here.)
Although the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has been threatening to expand its so-called laptop ban to more airports, it looks like the ban is actually getting smaller. DHS last week laid out new, tougher inspection and security standards for foreign airlines and airports to meet if they don’t want the ban extended to them, and one of the first to meet the new standards is Abu Dhabi-based Etihad. As a result, DHS said it has lifted the laptop ban for Etihad, and passengers can once again carry their personal electronic devices on board. The ban remains in place for non-stop flights to the U.S. from nine other Middle Eastern and North African airports.
Starting October 29, ANA plans to increase its schedule from Los Angeles International to Tokyo, citing “strong demand” in the market and “constant growth in the number of passengers.” The airline said it will increase its LAX-Tokyo Narita schedule from one flight a day to two; ANA also operates one daily roundtrip between LAX and Tokyo Haneda. The new Narita flight will offer a late-evening departure and will use a three-class 777-300ER.
South Korea’s Asiana Airlines is planning some changes for its San Francisco-Seoul Incheon route. For one thing, instead of using a 777-200ER as previously planned, it will switch to a brand new Airbus A350-900XWB effective August 14. Then when its winter schedule kicks in on October 29, its SFO departure time will switch from daytime to late-evening (11:30 p.m.), making more connections possible at Incheon. The return flight will arrive in SFO in the afternoon.
Earlier this year, South African Airways started flying an Airbus A330-300 with its new Premium Business Class product three times a week between Washington Dulles and Johannesburg via a stop in Dakar, Senegal. Now the airline has increased Dulles service with the new plane to daily frequencies by deploying the A330-300 on its four weekly IAD-Johannesburg flights that operate via Accra, Ghana. The new business class seats recline 180 degrees and all of them offer direct aisle access, power/USB ports and on-demand entertainment systems. The aircraft’s economy section has also been upgraded.
Israel’s El Al is a little late to the Dreamliner game, but it has set the schedule for deployment of its first 787-9s starting later this year. For U.S. passengers, El Al will put the plane into service six times a week beginning October 29 on its Newark-Tel Aviv route (the same route where United recently started flying its new 777-300ER), gradually increasing frequencies to 11 a week by next March. El Al will also deploy the 787-9 on its Tel Aviv-London Heathrow route starting September 12, and Tel Aviv-Hong Kong beginning March 18 of next year. El Al’s 787-9s will have a three-class configuration including a new premium economy class. Here’s a visual preview of the interiors.
The bloom is off the rose for all the new Cuba routes that U.S. carriers introduced some months ago. The latest pullback is from Southwest, which said it will discontinue its daily Ft. Lauderdale-Varadero and Ft. Lauderdale-Santa Clara, Cuba, service on September, and instead will focus on its Havana service. Southwest flies to Havana twice a day from Ft. Lauderdale and once a day from Tampa, and has applied for rights to a third daily FLL-Havana flight. The airline said it dropped the other two routes because its analysis “confirmed that there is not a clear path to sustainability serving these markets, particularly with the continuing prohibition in U.S. law on tourism to Cuba for American citizens.”