The obvious big news in the airline industry is the pending merger between US Airways and American Airlines, which is still subject to regulatory approval. The new airline, which will operate under the name American Airlines, will be led by the current US Airways CEO, Doug Parker. The new airline will be a member of Oneworld alliance (US Airways is currently a member of Star Alliance and American is a member of Oneworld.) AMR, American’s parent company, will own a 72% stake in the new company while US Airways will own 28%. The headquarters will be in Dallas/Fort Worth, although the airlines say they do not plan to eliminate any hubs or service to any destination. www.aa.com and www.usairways.com
Dutch carrier KLM will start charging all short-haul passengers for checked baggage beginning April 22, 2013. It will cost €15 ($19.55) per bag when checking in online, or €30 ($40) at the airport. For anyone who is a member of KLM’s Flying Blue frequent flyer program, bags will be checked for free. KLM will strictly enforce its hand baggage allowance – any bag over 55cm x 25 cm x 35 cm and 12 kg (about 21.7″ x 9.8″ x 13.8″ and 26 lbs.) will be checked at the gate and charged €30. www.klm.com
The Air France Group is consolidating all of its regional air services in Europe into its new regional service, Hop. Hope will offer 530 daily flights to 136 European destinations. The discount carrier will fly 98 aircraft, each with between 48 and 100 seats. Fares will start at €55 (approximately $72) for Basic fares. The airline will also offer Basic Plus and Maxi Flex fares. The Basic fare will allow one piece of checked baggage, up to 23 kg (about 50 lbs.), for €15 ($19.55) per leg, if paid online. That first piece is included in the Basic Plus fare. Both Basic and Basic Plus charge €44 ($57) for a second piece of checked baggage if purchased online. Prices are more if the bag is checked at the airport. Maxi Flex customers can check two pieces of luggage for free. One cabin hand bag is allowed, up to 12 kg (about 26 lbs). Beginning July 2013, Basic Plus and Maxi Flex customers will also be able to select their seats prior to flight. www.hop.fr/en
If you fly on British Airways and opt for a spot of tea, you’ll get a special blend that the airline created in partnership with Twinings. The tea is a blend of Assam, Kenyan, and high grown Ceylon tea. Airline authorities said it was important that the tea work with or without milk. According to research, tea loses up to 30% of its flavor at 30,000 feet because of the lower boiling point of water on board the plane, the reduced air pressure, and low humidity. www.ba.com
Southwest offers early boarding for $40
If you forgot to check in for your Southwest Airlines flight early, you probably didn’t get an “A” boarding position, meaning you might end up having to settle for a middle seat on the discount carrier that does not assign seats to its ticketed passengers. However, the airline has announced that it will start selling off earlier positions, those the airline usually reserves for people who buy full price tickets or upgrade online, about 45 minutes prior to the flight’s departure. A customer service will announce if there are positions available and customers can pay $40 to get on the plane early. southwest.com
Heathrow Airport’s new Terminal 2, which is set to open in 2014, will officially be home to STAR Alliance and Aer Lingus flights, as well as Virgin Atlantic’s domestic flights. The new terminal is the last phase of a £11 billion ($16.7 billion) Heathrow Airport update. The STAR Alliance network, one of three global alliances and the second largest operating out of Heathrow, has the highest number of member airlines, daily flights, and destinations of any airline alliance. STAR Alliance members who will use Terminal 2 at LHR include: Aegean Air, Air Canada, Air China, Air New Zealand, All Nippon Airways, Asiana Airlines, Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, Croatia Airlines, EgyptAir, Ethiopian Airlines, EVA Air, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa German Airlines, SAS Scandanavian Airlines, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, Swiss International Airlines, TAP Air Portugal, Thai Airways International, Turkish Airlines, United Airlines, and (currently) US Airways. (Note: US Airways has announced it will depart STAR Alliance after merging with American Airlines. No word on how this will impact placement at LHR.) STAR Alliance members currently operate out of Terminals 1, 3 and 4.
Aer Lingus is the national airline of Ireland and is the fourth largest airline operating out of Heathrow. Aer Lingus currently operates out of Terminal 1.
Virgin Atlantic is the UK’s second largest long-haul airline. Beginning summer 2013, Virgin will begin operating domestic flights from Terminal 1, then move to the new Terminal 2 when it opens. Virgin’s international flights will continue to operate out of Terminal 3.
Below are photos of the terminal currently under construction and some artist renderings of what the finalized terminal will look like. For more information, see http://www.heathrowairport.com/ and http://www.staralliance.com/en/
Delta Airlines has been busy upgrading its Business Elite service. One noticeable upgrade is an enhanced amenity kit featuring a Tumi case made from that company’s top-quality ballistic nylon fabric. Inside, passengers will find neroli hand and body lotion and lip moisturizer from Malin + Goetz, along with a Tumi eye mask, socks, shoe horn, shoe polish, comb, dental kit, tissues, antibacterial wipes, earplugs, and a pen. delta.com tumi.com malinandgoetz.com
EVA Air approves mobile, WiFi service
The Taiwan-based EVA Air will begin offering in-flight mobile phone calls and WiFi with the delivery of its new Boeing 777-300ERs in 2014. Each plane will feature an Android-based Panasonic eX3 entertainment system and Global Communications Suite (GCS), enabling passengers to make phone calls, send/receive emails, and browse the internet on their own cell phones, laptops, or tablets. To take advantage of the upgraded entertainment systems, EVA Royal Laurel Class business cabin will have 16″ touch screens and 4.1″ LCD touch remotes. Elite and Economy classes will have 11.1″ monitors. evaair.com
Royal Laurel Class passengers on Taiwan-based EVA Air can visit the EVA Air website anytime from 3 weeks to 24 hours prior to departure and pre-order their meals from the gourmet menu. Options include both Western and Asian dishes, including options such as steak, lobster, or Taiwanese beef noodles. The service is available on all EVA Air’s LAX and JFK flights. Passengers log onto the website with their confirmation numbers to make their selections. Once on board, the dining experience will begin with a glass of Dom Perignon champagne followed by a good wine with dinner. EVA Air believes this will not only make customers happier, but will reduce waste by having unused meals on the flight.
In addition to great meals, Royal Laurel Class passengers enjoy roomy 26″-wide seats that recline 180 degrees and stretch out 79″. Each seat has a privacy panel, coat hooks, spaces for shoes, and nooks for water, glasses, and reading materials. A seat side table is perfect for beverages, snacks, or notepads. The seats each have 15.4″ touch screens and high-fidelity noise-canceling headphones. There are AV-input outlets, USB plugs, and iPod ports. There is 110-volt power and extra-large pull out tables.
Royal Laurel Class passengers receive BVLGARI amenities, lip balm, toothbrush, toothpaste, and clothes brush. Passengers will be able to snuggle under 79″-long cozy comforters. evaair.com
There are quite a few changes underway at airlines around the world in the first half of 2013. Here are a few highlights:
Air Berlin is increasing flights between Germany and the US, with a flight, offered five days a week and codeshared with American Airlines, between Chicago (ORD) and Berlin (TXL). There will be a new service by American, codeshared with Air Berlin, between Chicago (ORD) and Düsseldorf. Beginning in May 2013, Air Berlin will increase the number of non-stop flights between Berlin (TXL) and New York (JFK), Los Angeles (LAX), and Miami (MIA), but will cancel seasonal non-stop between Düsseldorf and Las Vegas (LAS), San Francisco (SFO), and Vancouver (YVR). www.airberlin.com and www.aa.com
Air China is expanding service between Beijing and the US. The airline now offers 11 weekly flights between New York and Beijing, up from the previous seven weekly flights. The service is now offered on new Boeing 777-300ER aircraft. Starting July 11, 2013, the airline will begin offering service four times a week between Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental and Beijing on board new Boeing 777-300ER. www.airchina.com
American Airlines has added a second daily flight between New York JFK and Sao Paulo, Brazil. American is also offering two non-stop services five days a week between Miami and Recife, Brazil and Miami and Salvador, replacing the old Miami – Salvador – Recife route. American now offers two daily services between Miami and Rio de Janeiro. www.aa.com
British Airways will begin its first A380 flights on its London Heathrow to LAX route beginning October 15, 2013. It will begin A380 flights on its London Heathrow to Hong Kong flights on November 15, 2013. For a limited time, British Airways is offering World Traveller economy tickets to LAX for £499 ($761), or pay an extra £380 ($580) to upgrade to World Traveller Plus. Club World fares for the LHR to LAX flights start at £3,800 ($5,800) for two people. The plane will hold 14 first class passengers, 97 “Club World” business class seats, 55 “World Traveller Plus” premium economy and 303 economy seats. The first and premium economy will be on the main deck with other classes spread between the two decks. www.ba.com
Cathay Pacific is adding an addition (its fifth) daily flight between Heathrow and Hong Kong, beginning June 27, 2013. The flight, on board a Boeing 777-300ER, will feature four classes and new premium seats in economy. The flight will depart Hong Kong at 10:25 a.m. and arrive in Heathrow at 4:15 p.m. The return flight leaves London at 10:35 p.m. and lands in Hong Kong at 5:20 p.m. the next day. www.cathaypacific.com
Delta has finalized its expansion at its new LaGuardia hub, adding service to 11 new cities: Cleveland, Charlotte, NC; Charlottesville, VA; Denver; Halifax; Houston; Ottawa; Montreal; Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; and Roanoke, VA.
On the opposite coast, Delta will add three new daily flights between LAX and Seattle, beginning April 8, 2013. Flights leave LAX at 8:15 a.m., 3:20 p.m., and 9:30 p.m. Flights depart Seattle for LAX at 6:45 a.m., 11:50 a.m., and 6:50 p.m. The route will be serviced by 76-seat CRJ900 regional jets and will include first class coabins, WiFi, snacks for purchase, and beverages. The flights take approximately 2 hours 40 minutes.
Delta plans to continue to grow Seattle as an Asian gateway. New service between Seattle and Shanghai begins June 17, 2013 to accompany existing service to Beijing and Osaka, Japan. Delta will also offer new nonstop service between Seattle and Tokyo International Airport (Haneda), beginning June 1, 2013. In addition, Delta will upgrade service between Seattle and Tokyo-Narita Airport, effective June 1, 2013, offering service on a Boeing 747-400 with full flat-bed seats in Business Elite.
The LAX gateway offers nonstop service to Sydney and Tokyo, plus codeshare agreements that offer flights to Melbourne and Brisbane via Virgin Australia. www.delta.com
Frontier has started new service from Trenton, NJ to Chicago (six times per week), Atlanta (four times per week), Columbus (three times per week), Detroit (four times per week), and Raleigh-Durham, NC (six times weekly). Frontier will use an Airbus A319 on each flight. Beginning May 16, 2013, Frontier will also start new service between Denver and Cincinnati six times a week on an Airbus A320. www.flyfrontier.com
Hawaiian Airlines now offers non-stop flights from Honolulu (HNL) into Auckland, New Zealand (AKL), making it the first US carrier flying into Auckland. Hawaiian will offer the service three days each week. www.hawaiianairlines.com
Southwest Airlines now offers twice-daily service between Lambert-St. Louis International (STL) and Ronald Reagan Washington National (DCA). Southwest has also begun four flights daily between Baltimore/Washington and Ft. Lauderdale/Hollywood on board its subsidiary, Air Trans, for the winter season through mid-February 2013. www.southwest.com
Turkish Airlines will begin service four times weekly between Houston and Istanbul, Turkey. The service, set to start April 2013, will fly on Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday. www.turkishairlines.com
United has launched new daily service between Newark and Istanbul on board its newly-configured Boeing 767-300. The airline also has planned several other new routes, all pending government approval: daily flights from San Francisco (SFO) to Taiwan Tauoyuan Airport Taipei and SFO to Paris CDG. They have proposed new flights from Chicago ORD to Monterrey, Mexico; Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada; and Nassau, Bahamas. United also hopes to get approval to start new service from Chicago ORD to Jackson, Mississippi and Anchorage, Alaska and from Washington DC to San Salvador.
United has also launched a third daily service between London Heathrow and Houston (IAH). The new route will depart Heathrow at 1:35 p.m. and arrive into Houston at 6:10 p.m. The return flight leaves Houston at 8:30 p.m., arriving in London at 12:05 p.m. the next day. www.united.com
US Airways will begin daily, non-stop service between Charlotte, NC (CLT) and London Heathrow in March 2013. (The flight will originate in Miami.) The Airbus A330 will serve the route, which features US Airway’s Envoy business class. Passengers in Envoy class enjoy a seat that reclines to a fully-flat bed in their Envoy Suite, a personal entertainment center, power outlet and additional storage space. The airline will continue its daily non-stop from Philadelphia to Heathrow.
US Airways will also offer seasonal flights for the summer 2013 season from Philadelphia to Shannon, Ireland. The service will run from May 22, 2013 to September 3, 2013 and will be serviced on a Boeing 757-200. Customers will be able to clear US customs in Shannon, enabling them to continue on domestic flights within the US without retrieving baggage or going through passport control. The flight will depart PHL at 9:05 p.m. to arrive at Shannon Airport (SNN) at 8:40 a.m. The return flight departs SNN at 11:35 a.m., arriving PHL at 2:05 p.m. US Airways will continue its year-round daily non-stop between PHL and Dublin.
US Airways will begin daily nonstop flights between Philadelphia (PHL) and Salt Lake City (SLC) on June 8, 2013. The flight will depart PHL at 6:10 p.m., arriving SLC at 9:04 p.m. the return flight leaves SLC at 8:25 a.m., arriving in Philadelphia at 2:44 p.m.
The airline has also added several new flights from Washington DC’s DCA airport. There are new, daily nonstop flights to Wilmington, DE; Jackson MS; Islip, NY (Long Island); Omaha, NE; Birmingham, AL; Fayetteville, NC; Memphis, TN; Little Rock, AR; Jacksonville, FL; Pensacola, FL; Tallahassee, FL; Fort Walton Beach, FL; Cincinnati, OH; Des Moines, IA; San Diego, CA; Augusta, GA; Minneapolis, MN; Montreal; Toronto; and Ottawa. Extra daily nonstops have been added between DCA and Hartford/Springfield; and extra daily flights have been added between DCA/Bangor and DCA/Savannah (where service was previously offered on weekends only).
US Airways also announced a new codeshare agreement with Avianca and an expanded agreement with TACA. This will give US Airways customers better access to cities in Central and South America, including Bogota, Barranguilla, Cali, Cartageña, and Medellin. www.usairways.com
Airline lounges updating to provide on-the-ground luxuries
The Pan-Asian airline Cathay Pacific has opened a new first- and business-class lounge at Paris CDG airport. The lounge, located in the new building connecting terminals 2A and 2C, use many of the same design details passengers will find in the airline’s Hong Kong lounges. www.cathaypacific.com
Singapore Airlines will spend more than $20 million over the next 5 years to remodel and redeisgn their airport lounges worldwide. Working with architectural and design firm ONG&ONG, the airline will open the first lounge with the new design concept in mid-2013 — the SilverKris Lounge at Sydney Airport (SYD). www.singaporeair.com
More Asian airlines offer upgraded pampering
It has gotten to be a serious competition between airlines as they race to see which one can offer the most luxurious features for first and business class passengers. Asiana Airlines recently introduced its new OZ First Suites on Boeing 777-200ER flights between Incheon (ICN) and Chicago (ORD) and from Narita (NRT) to Ho Chi Minh City (SGN). The suites redefine intercontinental flying. Each suite features a sliding door for privacy, individual ventilation system, minibar, 32″ TV screen, touch controls for seats and lighting. There is an additional chair in the suite just in case you want to share dinner with a fellow passenger and the dividing walls between suites can be lowered if you really want to share your space. www.flyasiana.com
Japan Airlines launches its new cabins, the Sky Suites, on all Tokyo (NRT) to London (LHR) flights beginning January 2013. The airline has installed new seats on the international Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, which offers upgrades for both first-class and business-class passengers. In first class, passengers sit in wood-grained suites that are about 33″ wide. The cushions/bedding are Tempur® for ultimate comfort and fold out flat to about 6.5 feet. You can snuggle up with a down comforter and pillow. There is a 23″ TV screen, PC power socket, a variety of storage compartments and the privacy petition is retractable. Of course, a round-trip first-class flight between London and Tokyo will set you back by about $16,000. If you prefer to save a few pennies and fly business class, the new business-class seats convert to 6-foot fully-flat beds that are arranged for greater privacy. Every business-class passenger will have aisle access and TV screen sizes are also 23″ The chairs are 23″ wide and there’s no wood grain, but you will get under-ottoman storage and a pillow and blanket, sans the Tempur® luxury. The same flight in business class would set you back about $5,100. The airline will be updating the fleet on its New York (JFK) and long-haul Europe and North America routes in the coming months. www.jal.com
LOT Polish Airlines will also jump on board the move for better first class service when it introduces its new Boeing 787 Dreamliners into its fleet in 2013. The premium-class passengers will have a specialized flight crew, known as The Elite Fleet, to make sure the trip is perfect. The lay-flat seats have an electronic control touchpad that allows for 4-way lumbar support. There are 15.4″ seat-back screens, a USB port, LED reading light and power plug at each seat. There are 18 seats in the “Elite Club” section. There will also be a Premium Economy class that offers upgraded services from standard Economy. Passengers flying in the 21-seat “Premium Club” cabin receive amenity kits, as they do in premium-class, and the 19.5″-wide seats relcine 132 degress with footrests, leg supports and adjustable headrests. The video monitor is 10.6″ and each seat has a USB and power plug. www.lot.com
US Airways shows a larger Texas presence
In early September, US Airways launched new daily non-stop service from both Austin-Bergstrom (AUS) and San Antonio (SAT) airports to its international gateway at Philadelphia (PHL). This gives Texas customers much easier and more direct connections to the East Coast, Canada, Europe and the Middle East. The airline also announced increased flights between Dalls/Fort Worth (DFW) and Philadelphia and is also adding two additional daily flights between DFW and New York (JFK) and Charlotte (CLT). www.usairways.com
EVA Air introduces new Royal Laurel Business Class
Taiwanese-based EVA Air’s new business cabin, Royal Laurel Class, is now available on its New York (JFK) flights. By the end of 2012, it will be available on all Los Angeles (LAX) flights and some San Francisco (SFO), Toronto (YYZ), Paris (CDG), Amsterdam (AMS) and London (LHR) flights. All of the upgrades to the airline’s Boeing 777-300ER fleet will be complete by August 2013.
The Royal Laurel Class provides a unique reverse herringbone configuration for the 38 seats in the cabin. This enables window-seat passengers to look out without turning. Center passengers can dine and talk with travel companions, or can use the privacy panels to create personal space. The Royal Laurel Class features fully lie-flat seats with plenty of extra storage space for each passenger, including space for shoe storage, magazine racks, a spot for personal items and a larger stowage area for a bag. Each seat includes multiple electric outlets and recharging stations, along with personal entertainment consoles and noise-cancelling headsets. Amenities are provided by BVLGARI and each passenger receives a quilt and luxurious down pillow for the evening. http://royallaurel.evaair.com/en/
Airports ease international travel arrivals and departures
The newly-opened Maynard H. Jackson International Terminal at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport (ATL) adds 12 new international gates. Airline and ATL officials hope this will simplify international arrivals. Passengers will no longer need to recheck luggage for on-going flights after clearing customs. The $1.4 billion terminal is only part of the overall $5.4 billion ATL upgrade.
On the other side of the country, McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas (LAS) also opened a new terminal. Terminal 3, built for $2.4 billion, offers 14 gates for international flights.
Qatar Airways creates Culinary World Menu
Qatar Airways brought in a group of award-winning star chefs to create a new in-flight dining program. The program, called the Qatar Airways Culinary World Menu, is designed by four Michelin-starred chefs. The new menus will appear on the fleets soon-to-be-added Boeing 787 Dreamliners.
The four chefs represent the best of international cuisine. Chef Ramzi Choeiri, a Lebanese celebrity chef, will help develop foods from the Middle East and the Arab world. Chef Vineet Bhatia, India’s only 2-Michelin Star chef, will represent Indian cuisine on the menu. British Chef Tom Aikens, the youngest 2-Michelin Star chef in the UK, will add a European perspective to the menu. Japanese restaurateur Chef Nobu Matsuhisa will bring his 2 Michelin Star expertise to the menu with Asian influences.
Airlines use tablets and iPads for onboard entertainment
Several airlines have announced that they will begin using iPads or other tablets for in-flight entertainment in the coming months.
Transasia Airways, a Taiwanese carrier that flies to Singapore, South Korea and China, is offering iPads to business class passengers on international flights. Passengers will have free access to music, games, movies, documentaries, television shows, e-books and e-magazines. www.tna.com.tw
Qantas plans to give passengers tablets so they can view streamed in-flight entertainment. http://www.qantas.com.au/travel/airlines/home/us/en
Cathay Pacific expands premium economy class
Soon, all long-haul flights on Cathay Pacific will include a premium economy class. Current routes with the premium economy class include flights to Sydney, Toronto, Vancouver, New York, London, Johannesburg, Adelaide, Melbourne, Perth, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Frankfurt and Paris. There should be 48 routes with premium economy by the end of 2012 and 87 by the end of 2013.
The premium economy seats have a 38″ pitch rather than the 32″ in economy; the seat is wider than economy; and each premium economy seat reclines more than the economy seats. Each seat has a large meal table, separate cocktail table, footrest, 10.6″ personal television, in-seat power outlet, multi-port connector for electronics and extra personal stowage space. There are 26 to 34 seats in the premium economy cabin on the various aircraft.
Passengers who book in premium economy get priority check-in and boarding and additional weight allowance for baggage. www.cathaypacific.com
Ssh…Quiet zones on Air AsiaX
Beginning February 2013, Air AsiaX will offer a quiet zone on all of its A330s. The zone is open only to passengers 13 years or older. The quiet zone will be directly behind premium economy in rows 7 through 14 of economy.
Passengers will be able to book seats in the quiet zone while booking by choosing the “pick a seat” option. Seats in row 7 are $35 extra, while those in rows 8 through 14 are an additional $11. www.airasia.com
Exciting changes for Air New Zealand and Star Alliance
In early 2014, Air New Zealand will move from Terminal 2 to the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX. As part of that new move, Air New Zealand was selected to operate the new Star Alliance lounge in the international terminal open to all Star Alliance partners. The new lounge, three times the size of the current Air New Zealand lounge, will feature an outdoor terrace with views over the runways toward Hollywood.
Passengers will also notice a change in the appearance of Air New Zealand planes. They will use a new font for the airline’s name and the tailfin will still carry the image of the iconic Koru, but will be all black rather than the current blue and green, reflecting the country’s national color.
Air New Zealand connects at LAX with flights NZ1 and NZ2 between Auckland and London Heathrow. www.airnewzealand.com
American Airlines to use A321 with 3 seat classes for transcontinental flights
Beginning next year, American Airlines will replace the existing B767-200s on its New York to San Francisco and New York to LAX routes with A321s. American announced three classes of seats on those flights. The First Class cabin will have ten Sicma-designed seats in a 1-1 configuration. Each seat will have a large entertainment screen, large tray table and work surface and an individual storage unit. The Business Class, in a 2-2 layout, will feature 20 seats with 15.4-inch HD-capable touchscreen monitors. Economy Class will offer a 3-3 configuration with 36 “Main Cabin Extra” seats for additional legroom. Economy seats will have 8.9-inch HD-capable touchscreen monitors. All cabins will have wifi access. www.aa.com
American Airlines “no expire” miles set to expire
Members of the American Airlines frequent flyer program, AAdvantage, who have miles earned prior to July 1, 1989 had no expiration date on their miles. Those miles are now set to automatically convert to miles subject to expiration beginning November 1, 2012. Those miles will receive a 25% mileage bonus when they convert. www.aa.com/mileconversion
Lufthansa suspends several European routes
As a result of recent company losses, Lufthansa Group announced it will suspend several flights, including Frankfurt to Casablanca, Gatwick, Larnaca, Palma de Mallorca and Naples, for the 2012 winter season. Currently, the airline is still taking reservations for the Frankfurt to Gatwick route for summer 2013. www.lufthansa.com
Virgin America adds new tiers to its frequent flyer program
Richard Branson’s Virgin America just added silver and gold tiers to its Elevate frequent flyer program. To reach Silver Elevate status, members must earn 20,000 points in a calendar year, or 50,000 points for Golden status.
As benefits, Silver Elevate members receive one free checked bag per flight, the option to upgrade to First Class 12 hours prior to departure, 25% more points for each flight, and 25% off a Main Cabin (economy) ticket once a year. Elevate Gold members get three free checked bags per flight, the option to upgrade to First Class 24 hours before departure, 100% more points per flight and 25% off a Main Cabin (economy) ticket twice a year.
Members earn points by flying on Virgin America, Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia, and by spending at least $25,000 on the Virgin America Visa card. As an added bonus, the Elevate member who earns the most points between August 8, 2012 and August 7, 2013 will get a sub-orbital flight on Virgin Galactic, to launch in late 2013. www.virginamerica.com
Virgin Atlantic offers in-flight mobile phone access
Amid mixed reviews, Virgin Atlantic is offering access to mobile phones on its new A330s and plans to expand the service to its B747s. Virgin plans to have 20 aircraft with the Aeromobile technology by the end of 2012. Passengers with a GPRS phone will be able to make and receive phone calls, send and receive text messages and access email and the internet. Passengers will pay international roaming rates. Currently, only O2, Vodafone and T-Mobile have signed contracts with Virgin. Calls will not be allowed during take-off, landing, or within 250 miles of US airspace. The company indicates that the service is designed for “exceptional situations” (although that was not clearly defined) and, at least initially, only six users will be allowed online at any one time. Dubai-based Emirates Air was the first airline to allow in-flight calls, back in 2008. www.virginatlantic.com
Direct flights from Denver to Tokyo
United-Continental will begin daily direct flights from Denver to Tokyo beginning March 31, 2013. The flight will use the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the first for United. It will be the first non-stop flight from Denver to Asia. www.united.com
Singapore Airlines adds Heathrow to Singapore flight
Singapore Airlines is expanding its London Heathrow to Singapore route effective September 9, 2012. The current three-times-per-day service will expand to four-times-per-day. Rather than the A380s the airline currently uses for that route, the additional flight will use a Boeing 777-300ER. The flight will leave Singapore late night and depart Heathrow early morning. From September 9 – October 20, 2012, the extra flight will operate 4 days a week, expanding to daily on October 21, 2012. www.singaporeair.com
World’s largest in-flight screens for economy class
Emirates Airlines unveiled its new wide seat-back inflight entertainment screens, to be installed on all new aircraft. The 12.1″ screen is the largest economy class seat-back screens in the industry. The displays are high resolution.
The seat-back entertainment screens will be on all new Boeing 777s and on the A380s. The new computer system created in conjunction with Panasonic to control the system will allow the airline to offer passengers more than 300 movies, thousands of music tracks and television programs. Passengers can “swipe” and “scroll” to access the entertainment options as well as gain access to email and SMS. www.emirates.com/us
Berlin Brandenburg Airport delays opening
As one of the final steps in the reunification of Berlin, the new Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER) in Germany was scheduled to open June 2012. It has been announced that the opening has been delayed almost a year, until March 2013. When BER opens, the historic Tegel airport will be shut down as will the old facilities at the other airport Schönefeld. The new airport is on the sight of the old Schönefeld along with an additional 2500 acres of adjacent land. Trains will run into the city center every 15 minutes.
The opening delay resulted because the fire protection system was found to be faulty just before the opening day. Vendors were lined up, employment contracts awarded, flights booked, hotels around the new airport sold out, even the new car parks were reserved. The airport is scrambling to create a solution and move forward. A new contractor is in place. There is no estimate yet on cost overruns. Most of the airport is sitting empty and ready to open. http://www.berlin-airport.de/EN/BER/index.html
Malaysia Airlines begins flying new A380
Malaysia Airlines becomes the 8th airline in the world to operate the new A380 superjumbo. The plane goes into service on July 2, 2012, with a non-stop flight between Kuala Lumpur and London Heathrow. The airline plans a total of six A380s.
The new plane offers economy seats on both decks, lie-flat first class seats on the lower deck and lie-flat business class seats on the upper deck. Children will not be allowed in first class and there are rumors that children will only be allowed in lower deck economy class. The first class seats on Malaysia Airlines will be a full 5 inches wider than those of the first class seats on the A380s operated by Singapore Airlines.
All seats on the aircraft have power supplies and USB ports. Economy class has a 10.6″ widescreen entertainment system, a 17″ system is in business class and guests in first class will enjoy a 23″ screen. www.malaysiaairlines.com
Big airline shift in Washington DC and LaGuardia
A recent “slot swap” between US Airways and Delta creates a shift in flights at both DCA (Reagan National Airport in DC) and LaGuardia (LGA). The slot swap gives US Airways the rights to an additional 42 flights daily at DCA while Delta is able to add another 132 flights daily at LGA. US Airways has announced the addition of several new flights from DCA, along with the addition of new gates and a second US Airways Club at DCA. http://www.usairways.com and http://www.delta.com
Airlines announce new route changes
The airlines continue to make changes as summer 2012 gets under way and are announcing other changes for the fall season. Here are a few of the changes you will see in the industry:
Delta Airlines is reducing flights out of Atlanta (ATL). The airline has already discontinued service to Shanghai. It will cut routes to Athens, Copenhagen, Moscow, Prague and Tel Aviv this summer. http://www.delta.com
Frontier Airlines will offer a new nonstop seasonal service every Saturday from June 9 through August 4, 2012 between Denver and Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. Frontier is also doubling its seasonal service between Denver and Cabo San Lucas/Los Cabos, Mexico with a second weekly flight from May 23 until August 8, 2012. There is year-round service on Saturdays. Frontier has also incresed service between Madison, Wisconsin and DCA from three flights per week to daily flights. http://www.frontierairlines.com
Southwest Airlines has announced its new fall schedule. Beginning mid-August, Southwest will begin service to Akron-Canton, Dayton and Des Moines. The airline will have two daily flights between Akron-Canton and Chicago Midway and a daily flight to Denver. Dayton will also offer a daily flight to Denver. The AirTran operations in Des Moines will become Southwest operations on September 30, 2012. Southwest has already started seasonal service between St. Louis and Panama City Beach, St. Louis and Boston, St. Louis and Austin, TX, St. Louis and Portland, OR and Austin and Dallas. AirTran will increase service out of ATL to BWI, Houston Hobby, Chicago Midway, DIA and LAX. http://www.southwest.com
United Airlines will begin new service between San Francisco (SFO) and Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU) in mid-August 2012. United has also begun a daily nonstop between Newark Liberty International Airport and Buenos Aires’ Minstro Pistarini International Airport to replace the nonstop between Washington DC and Buenos Aires. http://www.united.com
Delta begins work on LaGuardia expansion
Delta Airlines has broken ground on its $160-million renovation and expansion at New York LaGuardia Airport (LGA). Since late March, Delta has been operating out of both Terminals C and D. The expansion will include a 630-foot connecting bridge to link the two terminals. Also on tap is a new Sky Club in Terminal C and expanded security lanes in both terminals. http://www.delta.com
Delta upgrades JFK terminal
In addition to expanding Laguardia, Delta Airlines has also begun renovations and expansion of JFK’s terminal 4. The $1.2 billion expansion will consolidate all the international gates and add a 24,000-square-foot Sky Club Lounge. When terminal 4 is complete, Delta plans to demolish Terminal 3. http://www.delta.com
New LAX Terminal 6 opens
Alaska Airlines opened the newly-remodeled Terminal 6 at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) recently, following a 13-month, $238-million construction project, which came in $33 million under budget.
Self-check kiosks and bag-check stations have replaced ticket counters. The terminal is also closer to US Customs checkpoints and to connections on Delta Air Lines. Alaska estimates that the new design could reduce wait times for customers with checked bags from 20 minutes to less than 4 minutes. The so-called “Airport of the Future” features LEED-designed Board Room lounge, electrical outlets at half the seats in the gate areas, a central service counter and gate information displays throughout. Alaska Airlines has 40 daily flights from LAX, including 15 international flights. http://www.alaskaairlines.com
Free WiFi at Dallas/Fort Worth
Officials at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport (DFW) and AT&T have reached an agreement to provide free WiFi in all five airport terminals, parking garages and gate accessible areas beginning in September. In exchange for using the free WiFi service, customers will have to view a 30-second advertisement for every 40 minutes of online usage. The new coverage will be an upgrade for the airport, with faster speeds and a greater coverage area. http://www.dfwairport.com
New US departure area at Edmonton International Airport
The new US departure area, about triple the size of the previous area, has opened in Edmonton International Airport in Canada. The space is more comfortable, includes 13 new aircraft gates and includes a new baggage handling system that is designed to speed up the customs process.
Lufthansa reveals new business class seats
Debuting when the new Boeing 747-8 enters service this year, Lufthansa will have a new business seat designed for greater passenger comfort. The seat will convert to a full-flat 6.5 foot long bed with just a push of a button. The seat offers improved cushioning and adjustable armrests to give passengers more shoulder room when they lie down. There is additional storage space, an enhanced entertainment system, more surface area for the passenger’s personal items and additional storage compartments on the seat. http://www.lufthansa.com
Airlines announce route changes
Summer 2012 brings a list of changes in routes in the airline industry. Some of the most notable changes on tap include:
Frontier Airlines started year-round service from Orlando, FL to Allentown and Harrisburg, PA on May 26. The service to Allentown will be on Tuesdays and Saturdays; Harrisburg service will be on Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. On May 25, Frontier began to offer service three times per week between Bloomington/Normal, IL. The twice-weekly service to Madison became a year-round service on May 27. Frontier now also offers five flights per week between Bismarck, ND and its hub in Denver. http://www.frontierairlines.com
United Airlines now offers daily service between San Francisco and Reagan Washington National Airport in DC. Beginning July 1, United will offer a daily service between Newark Liberty International Airport and Istanbul, Turkey. As of November 4, United will offer a daily service between Chicago O’Hare International Airport and Sarasota, FL. http://www.united.com
American Airlines begins nonstop service between LAX and Washington Reagan National Airport on June 14. American will also increase summer service between Miami and Kingston Jamaica, offering four flights daily. http://www.aa.com
Virgin America will begin offering new flights from San Francisco (SFO) and LAX to Portland, Oregon (PDX) on June 5. The SFO service will be daily; the LAX service will run twice daily. http://www.virginamerica.com
Delta Airlines announces increased WiFi service on shuttle flights. On Delta Shuttle flights between La Guardia, Boston Logan and Washington National and between La Guardia and Chicago O’Hare, passengers will have access to WiFi. In addition to pay-for-use WiFi service passengers will also have access to Delta Connect, the in-flight WiFi portal with real-time travel information, free news from Wall Street Journal, People magazine and shopping deals. http://www.delta.com
Air France announces a series of international schedule changes. Air France-KLM Group is making a series of changes in international flights due to the economic environment. The flights will increase in Latin America (+9.7%), Asia (+6.3%), and Africa (+4.9%). The company will reduce flights to North America (-6.5%), Middle East (-17.5%), the Caribbean and Indian Ocean (-2.2%). http://www.airfrance.com Air France will work with partners Delta, KLM and Alitalia to help with some of the changes:
- Delta will take over Air France services to Seattle
- Air France services will be suspended at Newark in early Summer
- Air France services to Orlando will be suspended in early September
- Air France seat capacity to Miami and Toronto is being reduced, but frequency will remain the same
- The A380 will begin service on the LAX route, cutting the 20 weekly flights last year to 15 weekly flights this year (7 on A380s and 8 on 777-200s).
Main Cabin Extra offered on American Airlines
American Airlines will begin offering Main Cabin Extra seats soon. New Boeing 737-800s, due for delivery this fall, will be equipped with the new seats. Future aircraft, including Airbus A321s, A319s and Boeing 777-300ERs and 787s will also offer the Main Cabin Extra seating.
Main Cabin Extra will offer 4 to 6″ of additional leg room, seating at the front of the main cabin and priority boarding.
The seats will be offered complimentary to AAdvantage ExecPlatinum members, AAdvantage Platinum members and customers who purchase a full-fare ecoomy class ticket, subject to availability.
For customers who wish to purchase Main Cabin Extra, prices will range from $8 to $108 per segment. http://www.aa.com