News Links: Etihad Reduces A380s From Heathrow, A US Airline To Offer Free WiFi, Thai Announces A New Dreamliner Route, Southwest Goes International & More….

A roundup of some of the airline news from the past week – new routes, old routes restarted, airlines making travel even less comfortable….it’s all in here 🙂

American Airlines’ massive system changes this weekend seem to have gone smoothly: You’ve got to hand it too American Airlines – they’ve done remarkably well with this merger of theirs. Most people didn’t want an American/US merger (me especially) but, now that it’s been foisted upon us, the next major concern was making sure American didn’t screw it all up….or do a “United” as it’s know in the industry. And it looks like they haven’t. I flew 2 sectors this weekend and aside from not being able to check an upgrade list (no biggie) I didn’t face a sigle issue and neither did most people by the sounds of things.

Delta to pack planes tighter and to raise fares: Oh joy! Those killjoys over at Delta are at it again. This time they’re reportedly not going to continue expanding the fleet and instead concentrate on getting as many passengers on the planes they’ve already got. To be fair that sounds like a sensible fiscal policy but it doesn’t sound at all nice for passengers.

The following line from Road Warrior Voices raised a smile on my face: “According to Reuters, the decision is a result of the strong dollar and low demand from foreigners to fly U.S. carriers” – the strong dollar has nothing to do with low demand from foreign flyers. It’s the now legendary atrocious service provided by US legacy carriers that keeps foreigners at bay.

Virgin America announces new Dallas – Las Vegas non-stop service: Ok, so they’re not flying from DFW but it’s still a useful new route. Virgin America will commence service between Dallas Love Field (DAL) and Las Vegas from 1 December 2015. Tickets are already on sale and this is the schedule according to the Virgin America press release:

virgin-america-dallas-las-vegas

Etihad scaling back A380 operations at London Heathrow: 

Business Traveller reports:

The Gulf carrier will reduce its up-to-19-times weekly superjumbo service between Abu Dhabi and LHR to up-to-12-times weekly from November 23.

Flights EY019/020 will remain a daily A380 service, while flights EY011/012 will be operated by an A380 on every day apart from Wednesdays and Thursdays, when an A340 aircraft will instead fly the route.

A B777-300ER will operate flights EY017/018 on each day apart from Fridays and Sundays, when an A340 will take over.

etihad-a380Image courtesy of Lorenzo Giacobbo via Flickr

So, if you were planning to book a premium fare on Etihad in the hope of trying out their highly-regarded A380 product, be careful. The Middle Eastern carriers are notorious for last minute aircraft changes anyway…this news isn’t going to help.

United opens reservations for new Auckland service: As the headline says, you can now book tickets on United’s new San Francisco – Auckland service which is scheduled to start on 1 July 2016. The route will, initially, be flown 3 times a week and will be served by a Boeing 787-800 but, from 28 October 2016, will become a daily service served by the larger 787-900 variant of the Dreamliner.

The expected schedule is as follows:

UA917 SFO 22:45 – 06:55+2 days AKL (Wed, Fri, Sun)
UA916 AKL 13:20 – 06:40 SFO (Tue, Fri, Sun)

JetBlue claims it will be the first US carrier to offer free WiFi:  This sounds great but I’m not sure how good this will be in practice. JetBlue is saying that its Fly-Fi satellite connection “delivers speeds up to 20 mbps, which it claims is enough to provide a broadband Internet experience similar to what customers have at home, including the ability to stream video and use multiple devices at once.

Great, I’m sure it can do all that, but will it be able to do that when all 100+ passengers are accessing the system at the same time? Hopefully, yes. But I’ll believe it when I see it. I recently flew on a Finnair A350XWB on which the WiFi was free and it was practically unusable. Now, I can’t be sure if that was  glitch with the system or excessive demand but I suspect it was the latter.

ANA has announced the preliminary schedule for its R2-D2 Dreamliner: I wrote a post about this aircraft back in the middle of September and, at the time, we didn’t know what routes ANA planned to fly and when they would commence service. Well, now we know.

ANA Star Wars Livery R2-D2

Airlineroute.net has reported that the plane will commence domestic Japanese service today (20 October) and will be “operating 1 round-trip service to Miyazaki, Hakodate, Matsuyama, Hiroshima, Kagoshima and Osaka Itami.”

Th domestic routes will take the aircraft through to the end of October after which we can expect to see it appear on international routes starting with a one-off trip to/from Singapore on  12/14 November.

THAI Airways has announced that they’ll fly a 787-800 Dreamliner on their Brisbane Route:

A press release from the airline confirms that, from 24 October 2015, THAI will operate daily flights to Brisbane with the Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner aircraft “fitted with state-of-the art inflight entertainment system in all 240 appealing Economy seats and 24 Royal Silk Class lie-flat seats

The schedule is as follows:

TG473 Bangkok 23:59 – Brisbane 12:05
TG474 Brisbane 14:00 -Bangkok 20:10

THAI-airways-787-8-dreamlinerImage courtesy of Masakatsu Ukon via Flickr

Southwest Airlines Begins Daily International Service To Six Destinations From Houston (Hobby): Under the banner of “Houston You Have An Option” Southwest has announced a number of international services departing from Houston Hobby airport.

From Southwest :

Through William P. Hobby Airport, Southwest Airlines today began operating twice daily nonstop service to and from Cancun as well as once daily nonstop options between Houston and Mexico City, Puerto Vallarta, and San Jose del Cabo/Los Cabos, a total of four cities in Mexico. Nonstop service linking Costa Rica to Houston also began today with a daily flight to and from the nation’s capital, San Jose, with additional new service to Liberia in Costa Rica’s Guanacaste province, Southwest’s 97th city served, scheduled to begin daily operation Nov. 1, 2015, subject to foreign government approval. That same day, Southwest is scheduled to begin daily nonstop service between Montego Bay, Jamaica, and Houston Hobby.

In addition, seasonal service on Saturdays connects Houston nonstop with San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Oranjestad, Aruba, making a total of ten nonstop routes across Latin America and the Caribbean available to Southwest Customers using Hobby Airport. All the new flights are available for purchase at Southwest.com.

Southwest also announced (and has commenced) service to Belize City, Belize, Southwest’s 96th and newest city served.

Featured image courtesy of Dustin Gaffke via Flickr