SORRY! Please disregard this old post from The TICKET that was mysteriously re-sent today. It should not have been sent. We are investigating how this occurred. (SUNDAY APRIL 15)
Apologies! — chris m
Stay tuned to The TICKET for AirTran/Southwest news (and our commentary and advice) as Southwest enters the Atlanta market over the next few months. Here’s what we’ve got now…more on the way…
HERE COME THE RED BELLIES! This time next month, travelers at ATL will notice a new bird buzzing around the airport— Southwest’s Canyon Blue (upper fuselage) red (undercarriage—the “belly”– and tail) and orange (tail) Boeing 737’s. Empty planes will be ferried in from Dallas on Saturday, February 11, and the first scheduled Southwest flight will depart ATL on Sunday morning, February 12 at 6 a.m. destined for Baltimore. Later that day, flights will depart for Chicago MDW, Denver, Houston Hobby and Austin. On March 10 Southwest will add nonstops flights to Las Vegas and Phoenix. On June 10, it will add one daily nonstop between ATL and LAX in addition to AirTran’s three daily flights. Southwest flights will, at least for now, arrive and depart from Concourse C at ATL.
AIRTRAN DOWNSIZING. As Southwest moves in and re-arranges things to its liking, ATL will be losing some nonstops to smaller cities currently served by AirTran. Starting August 12, AirTran will stop flying to Allentown, Lexington, Harrisburg, Sarasota, Huntsville, and White Plains. Southwest will not deploy its aircraft on these routes leaving the nonstop market to Delta (only) so you can expect to see higher fares and more restrictions on those tickets. (See below…)
KEEP AN EYE ON SEATTLE. On August 12, those loooong flights between ATL and Seattle will changeover from AirTran to Southwest aircraft… meaning no more business class, and no more guaranteed Gogo wi-fi. (Southwest offers wi-fi on only 150 out of 500 jets now…so there’s no guarantee you’ll get it on the ATL-SEA flights.) Keep an eye on Seattle fares… it’s going to be interesting to see how Delta and Alaska Air respond as the only two carriers with nonstops with premium class service between ATL and SEA—and will help us predict how Delta will respond when Southwest no longer offers AirTran business class between ATL and other long haul west coast routes like Los Angeles or San Francisco.
SOUTHWEST AIRLINES ROUTE MAP. (See map above) If you are interested in watching how Southwest takes over AirTran’s hub at ATL…keep an eye on its route map. Right now, AirTran and Southwest offer two separate maps, and will continue to do so until they get a “single operating certificate” (SOC) from the FAA—expected this March. Southwest told The TICKET, “The Southwest route map shows what Southwest is currently selling; the AirTran route map shows the same for AirTran. Until we obtain SOC from the FAA, the carriers continue to fly separately and have not published any schedules where the networks are connected. When Southwest launches ATL service on February 12, we’ll do so with the nonstops and published schedules we’ve already announced: Austin, Baltimore/Washington, Chicago Midway, Denver, Houston (Hobby), Las Vegas Los Angeles, Seattle and Phoenix. The Southwest map references those nonstop options and additional, published connecting services. AirTran continues to offer its schedule and, as the integration progresses, it will have fewer flights and Southwest will have more – more routes, more Employees, more aircraft, etc.”
ATL-DFW: A TASTE OF THINGS TO COME? As most TICKET readers know by now, AirTran/Southwest was forced to abandon its nonstops between ATL and Dallas Ft Worth due to the Wright Amendment. We predicted that fares would increase on the nonstop route dominated by only Delta and American. Today we got this email from TICKET reader RP: “Wow, what is up with prices from ATL to DFW on Delta? Pricing out three and four weeks in advance and its $700 round trip. I’ve been traveling from ATL to DFW for 11 years and have never seen prices like this outside of the 14-day window and plenty of seats are unsold. Just for fun, I priced out a ticket for next week and it’s not much more.”
AIRPORTS TRIM THE FAT. Eating healthy on the run has always been a challenge that road warriors must face, but the nation’s airports are beginning to take notice. According to the latest report from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), which assesses the fare on offer at restaurants in 15 major airports, Delta’s Detroit hub offers some of the healthiest food option in the country. Other airports that ranked high include Washington Dulles and San Francisco. Airports are ranked based on the percentage of their restaurants that have at least one healthy option on the menu including a low-fat, high-fiber, cholesterol-free vegetarian entrée. Charlotte scored as the most improved in the country. Other top choices included Minneapolis/St. Paul, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Denver, and Miami. Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson and Washington Reagan National ranked at the bottom of the pack. (You know you’ve been sneaking in too much of that fried chicken and waffle fries at Popeye’s and Chick-fil-a.) Regarding Atlanta, the report offered this advice: “But travelers looking for healthful meals can find a few choices, including spicy tofu made with vegetarian broth at Asian Chao, burritos or tacos with black beans, pinto beans, or tofu crumbles and grilled veggies (hold the cheese) at Moe’s Southwest Grill, or Bistro Del Sol’s Mediterranean Trio: hummus, tabouli, and stuffed grape leaves.” Gosh, imagine what’s going to happen to the score when the Varsity arrives at ATL…What’s YOUR favorite food at ATL?? Leave your comments below.
DELTA SKY PRIORITY GOES GLOBAL. The Sky Priority branding familiar to Delta SkyMiles Gold, biz and first class passengers that provides expedited boarding, ticket counter assistance, and other preferred travel benefits in the US will now be adopted by the entire SkyTeam alliance. This means that eventually, the Sky Priority features will be available on all SkyTeam flights including the popular separate boarding lane allowing customers to bypass the line. It will take some time to implement this at all SkyTeam airports, but major hubs in the alliance network will see it first including Amsterdam, Nairobi, Shanghai, and Taipei. In 2013, the premium airport program will be rolled out at nearly 1,000 airports worldwide. SkyTeam is the first alliance to adopt such a program for its premium travelers.
DO BIZ TRAVELERS LUV SOUTHWEST? A Travel Leaders travel agent network survey found that many AirTran clients are seeking alternatives that offer a premium cabin now that Southwest has announced it will eliminate Air Tran’s business class offering. Southwest does offer two free checked bags and does not assess those awful $150 change fees, but many travelers have come to love their Delta upgrades and see them as the only solace left in today’s travel environment. Delta is bound to be the prime beneficiary of defectors, but other airlines may also take notice and offer competitive fares and frequent flyer promotions to lure away AirTran loyalists. What about you? Will you give Southwest a chance when it arrives on February 12? Please leave your comments below.
TECHNO-DELTA. PC World magazine named Delta the top tech-friendly airline in the US. Delta has been a leader in this category with amenities like recharging stations in the top 19 airport gate areas, a clever smart phone app, and more wi-fi equipped aircraft than any other carrier. A favorite of many passengers is the smart phone app’s baggage tracking feature and the ability to view upgrade lists in real time. The @DeltaAssist Twitter program also has earned instant respect from travelers who reach out for assistance during their travels and receive on-the-spot assistance. Do you agree? Please leave your comments below…
SKYMILES UP NORTH. Delta has signed a codeshare agreement with Canadian airline WestJet allowing travelers to earn SkyMiles, through check their bags, and book connecting itineraries with ease. In the partnership’s first phase, the Delta code will be placed on WestJet flights to 15 cities including flights between Toronto and Edmonton, Halifax, Kelowna, Ottawa, Regina, and Vancouver; between Calgary and Las Vegas, Vancouver, and Victoria; and between Vancouver and Honolulu, Kelowna, and Las Vegas. The WestJet code is being placed on flights to five Delta city pairs including between Detroit and Montreal, Quebec City, and Ottawa; and between Boston and Toronto.
AIRTRAN DUMPS XM. Atlanta is preparing for Southwest’s arrival, which will bring many positive changes for travelers like no baggage or change fees. However, one change will not be so exciting. Southwest has opted to remove XM satellite radio from Air Tran planes to standardize its entire fleet. The free amenity will be removed from planes progressively beginning immediately. What do you think? Did you use the XM service? Will you miss it? Leave your comments below.
NEW FLIGHTS TO HAITI. Delta will launch new Saturday-only flights from Atlanta to the Haitian capital Port Au Prince April 7. This new flight follows a two-decade hiatus for nonstop service from Atlanta. Delta also flies daily from JFK to Port Au Prince to serve the large Haitian community living there. After the massive earthquake in Haiti two years ago, Delta was among the first airlines to fly relief aid to the country.