Routes: United crackdown, Delta’s A220 + New Orleans, American, LOT Polish, Emirates
A weekly roundup of airline route and service news
In route news, United gets tough on hidden-city ticketing; Delta schedules its longest route yet for the new Airbus A220 jet; it also will begin new service to California and South America; New Orleans' new airport terminal faces more uncertainty; United will drop a Mexico route; American eliminates a South America route; and LOT Polish will suspend two transatlantic routes.
United has reportedly sent a memo to its front-line airport agents urging them to be on the lookout for passengers who engage in so-called hidden-city ticketing and to report them to the company's security department. Hidden-city ticketing is the longstanding practice of buying a ticket from point A to point C via a stop or connection at point B, then getting off the plane at point B. It's done to save money when the customer finds an A to C fare that's cheaper than A to B, and airlines hate it because it deprives them of what they see as legitimate revenue.
The travel industry news site Skift said it obtained a memo United sent to its staffers reminding them that the practice violates the company's contract of carriage (but apparently not any laws), and earlier cases suggest United's security department could punish violators by billing them for the lost revenue, kicking them out of MileagePlus and confiscating their miles, or banning them from future flights. United partner Lufthansa recently sued a passenger it caught using hidden-city ticketing, and a few years ago, United sued a website that helped flyers find hidden-city bargains.
Delta, which recently started flying its new 109-passenger A220s on routes out of the Bay Area, is now planning to use the aircraft on its longest route yet – the 2,182-mile flight between Seattle and Atlanta. That's almost a transcontinental route for a plane that was originally developed as a newer-model medium range aircraft by Canadian regional jet manufacturer Bombardier before Airbus took over the operation.
Delta's A220-100s have generally been getting good reviews for their layout and comfort, but is Seattle-Atlanta too far for a smaller aircraft? According to Routesonlone.com, the A220 will start flying SEA-ATL on June 8 of next year, initially on four flights a week. The westbound leg, leaving Atlanta at 7 a.m. and arriving at 9:20 a.m., is great for connecting with Delta's growing network at SEA, including transpacific service. But the eastbound flight, departing Seattle at 5:30 p.m. and getting into ATL at 1:19 a.m., doesn't sound great for anything except losing a night's sleep.
In June, Delta started using the A220-100 on some of its San Jose-Seattle flights. It's due to go into service between San Francisco International-Seattle on August 13 and SFO-Salt Lake City August 31. In other developments, Delta is due to add a new California route on August 12 when it begins service between Salt Lake City and Santa Barbara – not with an A220 but with a 76-seat E-175. Delta will offer three daily roundtrips in the market. See: Why airlines are falling in love with the A220.
On the international side, Delta is planning to add a new route to South America from its New York JFK hub this winter, kicking off new daily service on December 21 to Bogota, Colombia with a 757-200. Delta previously served the JFK-Bogota market but gave it up in mid-2016.
The airline is also looking to make life easier for its corporate customers by extending Delta Corporate Priority benefits to passengers on partner carriers Virgin Atlantic and Aeromexico. Launched last year for travel on Delta and Air France-KLM, the program's passenger perks include access to preferred main cabin seats without a fee; priority boarding; and priority rebooking during "irregular operations" (i.e. cancellations). The program is for travelers from companies that have formed corporate accounts with Delta. And in a final bit of service news, Delta is enhancing its Delta Studio in-flight entertainment offerings by adding new programming content from Hulu starting this month. Delta said it now has seatback video screens on 700 aircraft-- at a time when many other airlines are removing them in favor of BYO devices.
The new $1 billion terminal at New Orleans' Louis Armstrong Airport is facing more uncertainty after construction defects were recently discovered, although officials say they shouldn't delay the terminal's opening. The trouble is, they haven't said exactly when that will be, except that it's targeted for this fall sometime. The opening was delayed a few times before, most recently this past spring, when officials scrapped the planned mid-May debut for the terminal. The latest problem involves cracks in the underground drainage system. The new 35-gate terminal, which has been under construction since 2014, will replace the existing terminal. Seen SFO's new 2.4 billion terminal? See our pics.
United plans to discontinue service on a Mexico route next month. According to Routesonline.com, the airline will stop service on September 2 between its Chicago O'Hare hub and Leon/Guanajuato. It currently operates daily E-175 flights on the route.
Another Latin American market that will soon lose service is American's route between its Miami hub and Santa Cruz, Bolivia, which varies in frequency between three and seven times a week. American plans to drop the route after November 28.
Don't miss a shred of important travel news! Sign up for our FREE bi-weekly email alerts
Speaking of American, if you're a high-end premium cabin flyer on AA, you might want to know that the airline this week expanded its Five Star Service option to three more airports – Austin-Bergstrom, Newark and Nashville – and will make it available at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson effective August 9. Front cabin flyers who buy the Five Star Service option will get priority check-in, expedited security screening, Admirals Club access, an escort to the gate, and other services as their needs require. With the expansion, it's now offered at 16 domestic airports and four overseas.
Across the Atlantic, LOT Polish Airlines is dropping two routes for the winter – including one that doesn't involve Poland at all. On October 27, LOT will discontinue its weekly flight between Newark and Rzeszow, as well as its twice-weekly service linking Chicago O'Hare with Budapest, Hungary. Both routes are flown with 787-8s.
If you're a member of Marriott's Bonvoy loyalty program, you can now get new mutual benefits when you fly on Emirates. The new tie-in between the Marriott program and Emirates' Skyward Miles will let Bonvoy elites (Gold and higher) earn three points per dollar spent on Emirates (in addition to the usual Skywards Miles) and get benefits at the airport including priority check-in and boarding. Emirates' Silver, Gold and Platinum members will earn one Skywards Mile per dollar spent on stays at Marriott Bonvoy hotels worldwide, and will receive benefits like late check-out, elite check-in and free Wi-Fi.
Get twice-per-week updates from TravelSkills via email! Sign up here
Chris McGinnis is the founder of TravelSkills.com. The author is solely responsible for the content above, and it is used here by permission. You can reach Chris at [email protected] or on Twitter @cjmcginnis.