With the news out yesterday that JetBlue is working to fit some of their A321 planes with private “mini-suites” in business class I’ve started pondering just how that would work in the cabin layout. Given that they’ve historically tried to only add benefits at the top rather than remove from the bottom when they make changes (sometimes more effectively than others) it seems to reason that they’ll try to keep their industry-leading economy class pitch even while adding in the premium offerings. Can it fit??
Given that American Airlines plans to add 5 rows of single-seat F seats in the forward cabin of their A321s it shouldn’t be too hard for JetBlue to offer up a similar number of rows with a rather comfortable product. And, conveniently enough, 5 is the number of rows necessary to get the 12 “regular” business class seats and 4 mini-suites that the FAA filing calls for in that cabin.
For economy the spec’s call for 143 seats. That’s one seat short of 24 full rows of 3-3 seating. In the space to the rear of the 2nd door (2L/R) US Airways currently has 26 rows with 32″ pitch. Remove two rows from that layout and you get a full cabin of 34″ seats without too much trouble.
Of course, this layout also would mean no more Even More Legroom seats. With the addition of the premium cabin offerings that isn’t impossible but I’d be a bit surprised if that were the path chosen. It is a solid incremental revenue offering versus a full premium fare up-charge and the competition on those transcon routes all have something comparable. It is also not clear just how much galley space JetBlue will require given their current catering setup. If you move the lavatory at 3L to the back of the plane there is a bit more room to play with in the cabin. Another option is that they will revert to 32″ pitch for most seats. This matches the default in their E190 cabins and it is still quite reasonable for passengers, though not nearly as generous as the 34″ on the A320s (yes, the 2″ is noticeable). Putting 13 rows in the rear-most cabin lets the forward section of economy become a bit more spacious, up in the 35-36″ range by my math. If they cannot get the EML up to 36″ at a minimum I’d say it isn’t worth doing. But there’s also probably a reason I don’t work for an airline.
Odds are that none of these maps are accurate and that JetBlue will come up with something different for the planes. But I had a bit of fun speculating on the topic. Plus, I wasn’t all that far off when guessing about the UA 787 config a while back.
I love good data. Taking huge chunks of information and trying to distill trends, patterns and links has always been interesting to me. And so I find myself wondering this afternoon just what to do with a massive batch of data related to airline award searches. See, for about the past year (probably longer, actually) I’ve had a tool available online to allow people to search for awards on Star Alliance carriers. And those searches each return some collection of data. Over time the data collected added up and I now realize that I have more than 5 million rows of search results available.
And now I cannot help but wonder what I should do with it. Also, I’m not entirely sure I know how to tease the data out into something useful.
Are there trends in when seats are released or booked? Are certain months or routes really more likely to have seats available? More likely to be searched on?
What else? What types of information do you want me to try to pull out of the data?
No promises, as I’m not entirely sure I know where to begin with the analysis, but I’m definitely willing to give it a shot if anyone has a suggestion of something that seems like a useful query to run.
In a deal flush with excess capital letters, the new PEOPLExpress has confirmed the previously reported acquisition of XTRA Airways. XTRA is a Boise-based airline which is already certified by the FAA to operate Boeing 737 aircraft. PEOPLExpress has been struggling for the past 16+ months to receive FAA certification to operate in the United States. This acquisition will allow them to use the XTRA license to operate the flights under their brand name. Both brands will remain in operation, with XTRA continuing to serve the charter services market and PEOPLExpress focused on commercial operations.
PEOPLExpress is looking to launch as a new low-cost carrier based in Newport News, Virginia. Since their initial flurry of news last February the company has been reasonably quiet. Their hopes of building a new operation from the ground up was apparently waylaid by lack of FAA licensing, among other things. After spending the better part of a year trying to make that happen on their own the company switched up the approach, choosing to acquire another airlines which already has the necessary licensing in place. That’s faster, to be certain, though it also comes with some costs. On the plus side, acquiring XTRA means that the company has an existing charter business they can continue to operate as they work to build up the scheduled service operation.
Oh, and they’ve also indicated on their homepage that they expect to launch a new website soon. Because, as we all know, that’s key to a successful airline launch.
Man do I hate being right on this one. I’ve been saying for nearly a year now that the three major global alliances are losing their cachet in various ways, mostly do to the big three Middle-Eastern carriers shaking things up in the market. This time around, however, it isn’t one of those carriers making a splash; it is Delta.
Starting on 1 September 2013 flights on many Delta partners will no longer earn full credit towards Medallion (elite) status in the SkyMiles program. The partners are being split in to four tiers, with the differences between the tiers basically the bonus earning as an Medallion member, bonus earning for premium cabins and whether the miles flown will count towards Medallion status. Quite frankly, it is ridiculously complicated, way more than it should be for any program.
Most surprising in the changes is that flights on Korean Airlines – also a member of SkyTeam – will no longer earn any credit towards elite status. This is on top of the changes which went into effect in March where many fares suddenly earned reduced Medallion credit. It is also, to the best of my knowledge, the only bilateral alliance partnership where no credit can be earnt towards elite status. That’s pretty crappy. To be fair, some KE flights carry a DL code and booking under the DL code can earn MQMs, but that is a very limited subset.
Last October, in discussing the Middle Eastern carriers and alliances I wrote this:
The real value for the airlines likely lies in the anti-trust immune operations. These tend to follow alliance lines but they aren’t exclusively so. And just being part of an alliance doesn’t guarantee participation. In other words, the real money comes not from the alliance but from having the right partners and government approvals.
Delta is putting this to work in a big way. Their joint venture partners (plus Alaska Airlines) are where the best earning happens. Other partners earn at lower rates. Delta isn’t the first to take such an approach. United changed the earning rates on premium cabin fares earlier this year, with non-JV partners earning no bonus while JV partner flights can net significantly more points. Similarly, United doesn’t offer elite bonus mileage earning on non-JV partners.
UPDATE (18:49 EDT 5 June 2013): It turns out that Delta and Korean do have an ATI in place for their trans-Pacific operations and they have for more than a decade now. Based on that this change makes less sense, but such is life.
The global alliances promise benefits like interline agreements for ticketing and bags, reciprocity for elite status benefits and some joint marketing efforts. But that’s all. They do not promise seamless award redemption or earning rules and they never have. Yes, they are good for customers but only when it comes to actual travel, not necessarily where the loyalty programs get involved. And it has always been that way. Delta is stretching the boundaries here, but it is nothing all that new.
This change is bad news for members of the SkyMiles program, to be certain. It also moves the line in terms of what competitors can change while remaining “better” than the other options. But Delta is not the first to pursue this approach to the programs and they won’t be the last. Ultimately it comes to this: If you want your business to be rewarded by a partner then you need to do business with them in a way which lets them also benefit. The more they benefit, the better they will reward you.
Today is a major day in the world of hotel loyalty and Las Vegas. In short, 12 properties – all part of the MGM portfolio – have essentially become Hyatt affiliates for the purposes of earning and redeeming points. Las Vegas is historically one of the last markets where earning hotel loyalty credit for stays at the more popular hotels is somewhere between difficult and impossible. Starting on 20 June 2013 guests at any of the 12 MGM hotels in Las Vegas, including Bellagio, MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay and The Mirage, will be eligible to earn Hyatt Gold Passport points and stay credits. Later this summer there will also be reciprocity between the MGM M life program and the Gold Passport program, with elite status matching between the two.
In a statement, Hyatt Gold Passport SVP Jeff Zidell notes, "We know The Las Vegas Strip is an important destination for our members, and now they will have the chance to earn points and redeem award nights at 12 outstanding resorts from Bellagio to MGM Grand to Mandalay Bay."
Hyatt Gold Passport members will earn 5 points per dollar spent on both the room rate and incidental spending (only up to the first $5,000 per stay) at M life resort properties. Platinum and Diamond elites will earn 15% and 30% bonus, respectively, on top of the base earning. Oh, and the earning is additive with the M life program; you can earn in both programs at the same time. Stays at Hyatt Gold Passport properties will also count towards earning in the M life program at a rate of 8 tier points for every eligible dollar spent at a Hyatt hotel or resort. Stays at the MGM properties will not receive elite benefits such as room upgrades, late check-out or free breakfast. They will also not have the resort fee waived for elites. Lots more details in the FAQ/fine print here.
On the redemption side the same 12 hotels are participating there, too. For the properties which are category 1-4 hotels the free night certificates from the credit card will be valid. It will not be possible to redeem Gold Passport points for upgrades to suites at the MGM hotels.
Here is the breakdown of the 12 participating properties and which reward category they are in:
Category 6 – 22,000 points/night
- Mandalay Bay®
Category 5 – 18,000 points/night
- MGM Grand®
- The Signature at MGM Grand®
- The Mirage®
Category 4 – 15,000 points/night
- Monte Carlo™
- New York New York™
Category 3 – 12,000 points/night
Category 2 – 8,000 points/night
This is the second significant announcement from MGM’s M life program in the past week. The other was a partnership with Southwest Airlines regarding reciprocal earning for flights. Between these two new partners M life is stepping up their game quite significantly. And a lot of travelers can benefit as a result.
What the hell was I thinking? Sure the allure of cheap PQMs and low fares got to me but I should have known that trying to cram nearly 15,000 flight miles – with the longest segment just below 2,500 – into just over 60 hours was a bad idea. I have flown similar trips before but none of them involved three consecutive nights on domestic redeye flights. That was just stupid.
Getting ready for departure from IAD
The fun all started when a crop of $140-ish round-trip fares popped up between Philadelphia and San Diego. I bought a lot of them. That’s a pretty solid price for elite qualifying and the award points are always good to have, too. Plus I figured that a few hours of quiet time to read, write and nap would be useful. I made sure that I didn’t have to start too early from Philadelphia and even managed to work in some variety in my routings so I wouldn’t see the same airports over and over again. Some of that fell apart due to delays and sometimes because I chose to change some of flights. And the flying was, overall, really quite reasonable. I met some nice people along the way and did, in fact, get most of the reading and writing I wanted to do in. But those silly domestic redeye flights.
Sunset as we approached the west coast one night
I slept pretty much wheels up to down on all three flights. Strangely the third – when I was the most tired – is the one where I slept the least. Part of that may have been that the FAs chose to make the full set of announcements about snack boxes for sale and the pilots gave a detailed briefing of the weather at Newark, both well after takeoff. Part of it may have been that I was just exhausted. Even if I did sleep the entire flight that was roughly 4 hours each night. And it was sleeping on an airplane, not the most comfortable option out there. I did sleep more on some of the other flights, which certainly helped. And I managed to get a shower in the Lufthansa lounge in Dulles on both Sunday and Monday; that was huge for me. But by the time I got to my apartment around 6:30 this morning I was pretty much beat. Even a couple short naps today haven’t fully reset my body clock.
Another sunset shot
As for the trip, here are the final stats…
Routing as flown (it was initially booked rather differently): EWR-SAN-IAD-PHL-IAD-SAN-IAD-PHL-IAD-SAN-EWR for 14,401 flight miles on 10 segments. There was also a train ride from Philly to Newark at either end of the reservation.
PQMs earned: With 500 mile minimums I should net 15,862 PQMs from the trip. At least one and possibly two of the rebookings along the way were into Y or B fares meaning the PQM earning may reach as high as 18,500ish.
RDMs earned: Similar to above, I should be somewhere between 31,500 and 35,000 RDMs for the trip. That’s taking in to account the Y/B bonus and 1K bonus earning.
Upgrades: I was upgraded on only 3 of the 6 transcon flights, two redeyes and one westbound. Considering the last minute changes to the reservations I’m not all that surprised. The PHL-IAD flights didn’t offer upgrades (ERJ-145) but I was in row 12 on all of them, two had 12C with 12B empty next to me.
I only left the airport once, for dinner in San Diego. I was outside of security for less than 3 hours in total during the 60 hours of travel (and really the 60 is longer given that I was inside ~3 hours before I left Newark on the first flight). I visited lounges in Philly (AA/BA, US A West and US B/C) and Dulles (Lufthansa 2x) during the trip.
Sunrise at Newark this morning with the Manhattan skyline in the background
The good news is that I got most of what I needed to do today done anyways and I should be able to sleep a full night tonight, hopefully resetting my internal clock completely. The bad news is that I have two more similar trips planned. Apparently the siren call of the miles is one I have trouble ignoring.
Yesterday I shared an example of using the same-day change options from United to make my travel a bit better. I’m basically doing the same trip three consecutive days now so I figured I’d try again on day two, maybe making things better again. This time I was looking for more miles, not more time, and I figured that the less direct routings via Chicago or Houston would likely do better for me. Just looking at the map it seems quite obvious that the IAD connection is the shortest:
And it is true; the IAD connection comes to 2388 total miles while ORD is 2401 and IAH is 2628. And yet the IAD connection was still my best choice. That pesky 500 mile minimum credit for elites got in the way. The total miles I’d earn for the ORD and IAH routings would not change; both segments are on each itinerary are longer than 500 miles. But the Philly-Dulles segment is only 135 miles in the air. With the 500 mile minimum credit for that segment added in the routing credits a total of 2753 miles, 125 more than the IAH option.
Sure, 125 miles one way or the other isn’t a huge deal. But in this case I decided it wasn’t worth bothering with even trying to tinker with the routing.
I’m in the midst of a reasonably ridiculous mileage run this weekend, flying between Philadelphia and San Diego a few times over 72 hours. The originally booked flights were reasonable enough but, thanks to schedule changes and such the connection in San Diego – less than an hour between the arrival and departure which required switching from the commuter terminal to the regular terminal – became rather concerning to me. A quick call to the United reservations line had me switched from Newark-Los Angeles-San Diego to Newark-Chicago-San Diego. With a slightly longer layover in San Diego and no terminal change required I was much happier. Plus, about 15 minutes after making the change the upgrade on the Chicago-San Diego segment cleared (Newark-LA wasn’t going to happen) so that a win all around.
On the day of travel I thought things were going pretty well right up until my Amtrak ride from Philadelphia to Newark got delayed. That delay wasn’t enough to really mess me up but it was enough that I called to double-check my connections. At one point during that conversation the agent mentioned that they had a note in their system to expect delays in the Chicago area later Saturday afternoon. That wouldn’t be good at all.
Once I got to Newark I played around with trying to get on the earlier flight to Chicago; SDC worked perfectly except that the new flight started a rolling mechanical delay as soon as I was confirmed on it. I switched back and forth between the two flights a few times before deciding that neither really seemed like a good idea. Both were taking delays and my sub-60 minute connection in Chicago seemed suspect. I changed again, this time to the non-stop from Newark to San Diego. Yes, I gave up the upgrade but I had a bulkhead window seat which is just fine for me. Plus, no more worries about connections.
The thunderstorms causing problems in Chicago topped out around FL350; we detoured far south of them en route to SAN
Ultimately the Newark-Chicago flight ended up ~30 minutes late which likely would’ve blown my connection in Chicago, except that the Chicago-San Diego flight was delayed, too, thanks to the storms the agent had mentioned to me. Listening to Channel 9 as we flew through the region I heard at least one plane divert and discussion from several others about hour-long holding patterns, major storms and long delays. The second delay meant I would’ve actually made the Chicago-San Diego flight, though that still would have ended badly for me. It was so delayed that I would have lost in my original goal – making the connection in San Diego. The inbound from Chicago landed in the other terminal at SAN about 15 minutes before the scheduled departure on SAN-IAD and we closed the door a couple minutes early. I almost certainly would have missed that flight.
So, yeah, I gave up around 500 miles by changing the routing from the original LAX connection. And I gave up a first class seat when I switched to the non-stop (I finished as #1 on the waitlist for EWR-SAN). But I actually got where I was going in time to catch my next flight. And, as an added bonus, I had enough time to leave the airport for a few hours and grab some dinner. That’s always a win.
And, in case anyone is wondering, I do occasionally fly trips as originally booked. Just not all that often. What fun would that be??
Looking to find award seats on Hawaiian Airlines flights? So long as you’re redeeming partner miles for the trip I’ve got a new option available via the Award Search page on the Wandering Aramean Travel Tools site. Currently economy partner seats can be searched for or alerted via the Star Alliance award method but that method is limited only to economy class seats. Based on my quick checks of a few data points those seats line up with the inventory available to both United Airlines MileagePlus members and American Airlines AAdvantage members but, again, only coach seats and pretty much (at least in my testing) only inter-island flights. But if you’re looking to redeem AAdvantage miles between the mainland and the islands or other partner flights the existing tool isn’t so great. Fortunately is turns out that the data is now available via another means.
Both the "T" (economy for partners) and "D" (first for partners) fare buckets are now searchable through the Hawaiian Airlines Partner Award Availability page. Here are a couple sample search results:
The data source even has some built-in proximity searching (which I don’t entirely understand) so a search for SFO will include SJC and OAK, too:
Like the other searches from the same source partial itinerary matches will be returned; that’s why LAS shows in the above results (the LAS-SFO segment doesn’t have inventory but it might still be useful).
At the end of the day I’m actually not entirely sure just how useful this is. I don’t spend much time searching for HA partner awards and I have no idea if others do. But the data is there and I can expose it like this, so here it is.
The good folks at RouteHappy seem to have been quite busy lately trying to make it easier for passengers to find the best flight option. That’s not necessarily the cheapest, despite what many customers think and it is an uphill battle to convince them otherwise but the good fight is being fought. The latest salvo from RouteHappy is a couple of updates to their search results interface, introducing two new features which make comparison shopping quite a bit easier.
We have side-by-side comparison for nearly every type of product out there, but not for air travel. Well, we used to not have it for air travel. Do a flight search on the RouteHappy site and choose up to four flights for comparison (tick the box at the top right of the search results first to be able to start the compare process); the results look something like this:
Not only are the prices and happiness score readily visible but now comparing the various amenities for the trip is an easy scan, as you scroll down the page:
Hover your mouse over any of the icons and you get more details as to why the flight is rated that way:
Happy & Cheap
Earlier today I found myself in the midst of a conversation on Twitter with John (works for RouteHappy) and Mary (brilliant in the world of in-flight passenger comfort) and we got to discussing how all too often passengers won’t pay even a trivial sum for significantly increased comfort during a trip. In that specific case the example was regular economy versus a very reasonable up-fare to a proper premium economy product. RouteHappy doesn’t tackle that problem quite yet, but they do have a new filter screen which lets you go for not just price but a combination of price and comfort. Here’s a random search I did, sorted by price, and the first few results returned:
Not a lot of happiness there though the round-trip fares are reasonable for the market. Clicking on the “Happy & cheap” filter option, however, changes things up a bit. Rather than 64 options to sift through there are only two:
It turns out that for less than $20 difference in price the happiness factor can be significantly increased (not to mention that JetBlue offers 1 free checked bag, making that total trip cost actually cheaper than AA if you’re paying for bags). Also, the JetBlue flights are non-stop (that adds to the happiness score) and offer more legroom.
I’m still not entirely convinced that many passengers will pay the little bit extra it can sometimes cost to have a significantly better travel experience, but at least now they don’t have the excuse of not knowing that the option was available. RouteHappy is making sure that everyone can know their choices.