Seems to me that, in the interest of being able to more easily find awards, having a listing of all the long-haul routes, by alliance and region, would be useful. And I haven’t ever found a good collection of them so I decided to start building one. Shocking, right??
I’m sure you’ll also be shocked to learn that I started with Star Alliance and the transatlantic (TATL) routes. I’m defining TATL in this context as between North America and Europe. I know there are more flights than just these but I’m going to have a series of posts in the coming days breaking it down and adding to the collection. And I had to start somewhere. So here it is.
There are, by my count,
172 173 route/carrier combinations across the North Atlantic Ocean operated by one of the thirteen Star Alliance members with at least one flight in the regions. Some are seasonal but, if you’re looking for seats, this is probably a good place to start.
Putting them all on a single map is actually pretty useless, other than just to show how massive the coverage footprint is:
To make it slightly more useful here’s a collection of maps split up by carrier. Still sortof sloppy in some cases, but better.
And, if you prefer the data in a less graphical format, it is also available in a table format here.
If you can see any I’ve missed let me know and I’ll update the tables.
Unique North American Gateways:
Unique European Gateways:
Well, the bad news is that United Airlines has confirmed the new earning rates for premium cabin fares on many partner airlines. In posts today on FlyerTalk and MilePoint the company offered up an explanation and a full listing of the affected fare classes (which pretty much matches the list I had produced) and also an explanation. Apparently the old rates were a mistake:
In March 2012, when we migrated to a single system, we unintentionally increased PQM and PQS earnings for some of our partners to our former OnePass levels, instead of taking them to their intended MileagePlus levels.
While these higher earning levels remained in effect for the remainder of 2012, we are now reinstating the PQM/PQS earning rates for the following carriers and fare classes to 100% as of Jan. 1, 2013:
- Air New Zealand (NZ): A, B, C, D, E, J, O, U,Y, Z
- Asiana (OZ): A, B, C, D, F, J, Y, Z
- Croatia Airlines (OU): A, B, C, D, F, Y, Z
- Egyptair (MS): A, B, C, D, F, J, Y, Z
- LOT (LO): A, C, D, P, Z
- Singapore (SQ): A, C, D, F, J, P, R, S, Y, Z
- South African (SA): B, C, D, H, J, K, M, Q, S, Y, Z
- TAM (JJ): A, B, C, D, F, J , Y, Z
- TAP (TP): B, C, D, J, Y, Z
- THAI (TG): A, B, C, D, F, J, P, U, Y, Z
- Turkish (TK): C, D
I’m not entirely sure I buy that it was a mistake, particularly given how often they changed things around right when the initial announcement was made for the new program. Still, in a rather unprecedented move, the company has agreed to honor previously ticketed flights at the old earning rates:
We realize that some of you booked flights on these partners prior to Jan. 1 and were expecting the higher PQM/PQS earnings. In this particular case, given the circumstances, we will honor the higher rates regardless of your travel date. There are a few complexities involved with posting miles at the higher rates, so please bear with us. Specifically, if you booked your ticket through United, we will proactively adjust amounts after their initial posting (typically within a few days of when the original flight is credited). However, if you booked through someone other than United (like another airline or travel agency), you will have to contact the MileagePlus Service Center after your miles have initially posted in order to make the adjustment.
This will actually net me a few extra miles on my upcoming Bangkok-Haneda flight on Thai Airways so I’m pretty happy about that.
What I originally thought was just a “fixing” of an obviously overly generous set of elite status earning rules from United Airlines‘ MileagePlus program on partner South African Airways appears now to be a massive change in earning rates for the new year. More than 70 different fare classes across at least 9 partners are affected by these changes. And in every case it is the premium fares – first, business, premium economy and full-fare economy – which are seeing the elite earning rates cut. When the new rules came out for MileagePlus in 2012 there was a rather generous upgrade in earning rates for premium cabins on many partners. Apparently United has decided they were being too generous and they’ve now cut back significantly.
In addition to the previously identified cuts for South African noted here the following fare classes now all earn only 100% of the miles flown towards elite qualification, down generally from 150%:
- Thai Airways: J, P, U, Y, Z, A, B, C, D,F
- Singapore Air: R, S, Y, Z, A, C, D, F, J, P
- TAP Air Portugal: B, C, D, J, Y, Z
- TAM: A, C, D, F, J , Y, Z
- LOT: A, B, C, D, P, Y, Z
- Croatia Airlines: A, B, C, D, F, Y, Z
- Air New Zealand: A, B, C, D, E, J, O, U,Y, Z (now showing only 100% again)
- EgyptAir: A, B, C, D, F, J, Y, Z
- South African Airways: J, C, D, Z, Y, B, M, H K, S, Q
These changes came without notification from the carrier, either through traditional means or through the online communities they have employees participating in. Quite unfortunate at many levels.
Also add in:
- Avianca: C, D, J
- Asiana: A, B, C, D, F, J, Y, Z
Seeking greater access for their customers into mainland China markets, Air New Zealand announced an agreement with Cathay Pacific to launch a strategic agreement in December 2012. The two carriers will coordinate their schedules for service between Auckland and Hong Kong, including code-sharing on flights. Additionally, connections to mainland China on Cathay will be coordinated with the Air New Zealand schedule, allowing better access to those markets for the Kiwis. The partnership will include reciprocity on frequent flyer points earning and elite status benefits, including lounge access and other priority services.
At the same time, Air New Zealand has announced that they will be dropping service between London and Hong Kong as of March 2013. The carrier will redeploy much of that capacity on flights to North America. Long-haul markets have been a sore spot for the carrier’s profitability in recent years and, according to CEO Rob Fyfe, the Hong Kong – London route showed no signs of reversing that trend anytime soon.
Of significant note in the new partnership is that the two carriers belong to separate global alliances. Cathay is a founding member of oneworld and Air New Zealand is a member of Star Alliance. Despite participating in different alliances the two carriers have managed to establish a bilateral agreement which should prove beneficial to their respective customers. Just another example of partnerships growing outside of the alliances. And these new partnerships, for the most part, work in favor of the customers.
A few months ago I was ecstatic after securing an award ticket to New Zealand for this coming December. It wasn’t just that I got seats on the dates I wanted. And it wasn’t just that they were in premium cabins almost the entire way. And it wasn’t just that I was able to get one of the longest possible routings along the way to maximize my time in the big comfy seats (and lounges). OK, maybe it was that last one.
Unfortunately, however, the reason I was going to New Zealand changed around a bit. And it looks like we’re going to be spending a couple weeks in India at the end of December, No reason I cannot combine the two trips, right? Apparently Continental felt that was actually going to be a problem.
It seems there are two ways for the airline to issue award tickets and mine was originally set up with the method that requires the agents working on the ticket to manually verify the details. Based on what the agent I spoke with today explained, it seems that a small detail was missed during the original, manual booking of my award. It wasn’t a legal routing according to their system. Oopsie.
Of course, I wasn’t really ready to give up on what was an absolutely awesome award trip, despite their suggestions that they could convert it to an Around the World award for only 120,000 extra points (75% more than the 160K I originally redeemed). Ummmm, no thanks. After a bit of discussion we agreed that, while it might not actually be valid in their system, I shouldn’t be penalized because someone misunderstood the rules a couple months ago when issuing it. So I was permitted to make my change – and I was still able to find seats on flights I wanted within a couple days of my ideal – and to keep the ticket.
So I ended up with this little bit of awesomeness:
I get a new carrier (Swiss) as well as my first experiences in the Lufthansa and Thai Airways first class cabins. Only the segment between Auckland and Melbourne is in coach; the rest are all in the highest class of service available on the flight. I tried to mix Air Canada in for one of the transatlantic segments but couldn’t make that work. And I gave up the chance at a first class suite on the Turkish 77W, but those are apparently less consistent these days anyways so it wasn’t a sure think even if I did keep that route.
I am not complaining one bit, even if I did have to trade a boondoggle in Singapore for an overnight in Bangkok.
Sure, Continental recently announced that they’ll be operating the 787 Dreamliner on the Houston – Auckland route next fall, but in the mean time getting to Oceania using their program requires a bit of creativity. Fortunately they have some of the most flexible rules regarding award travel routing, particularly to that region. Assuming that the seats can be found, there are quite a few options available. And I’m taking advantage of many of them on an itinerary that I just booked to New Zealand this December.
Perhaps the most significant benefit that the OnePass program offers is the ability to book travel to Southeast Asia and Oceania either across the Atlantic or Pacific ocean. I have a couple friends who even managed to book both on the same trip but it seems that the computers have finally closed that loophole. Still, the ability to go transatlantic opens up a number of additional carriers and routing options for getting to that part of the world. With Singapore Air limiting premium cabin reward redemption on so many of their aircraft these days having such flexibility is important.
In the end I managed to book an eight segment award and I’m holding out hope that the last couple segments I need can be picked up as awards if the inventory opens up. As a platinum elite such changes are complimentary. If I cannot find the seats then the cost of buying that ticket is relatively low. So what’s the routing? On the outbound I fly:
- Newark – Munich: Lufthansa A340-600 First Class
- Munich – Bangkok: Thai Airways B747-400 First Class
- Bangkok – Melbourne: Thai Airways B777-300 Business Class
- Melbourne – Auckland: Air New Zealand A320 Economy Class
The return trip is similarly enjoyable:
- Sydney – Bangkok: Thai Airways A340-600 First Class
- Bangkok – Istanbul: THY Turkish B777-300 First Class
- Istanbul – Frankfurt: THY Turkish B737-800 Business Class
- Frankfurt – Newark: Lufthansa A340-300 First Class
I even get about 10 hours in Munich and about 8 hours in Bangkok to see some of the sights. Every single one of the flights will be a new line though none are new airlines. It will, however, be my first experience in a proper international first class cabin and I get to compare a few different products. At 160,000 points and $175 in taxes it is hard to complain about just about anything with this trip other than that it is so short. It is no surprise that Continental continues to report in its quarterly calls that they are experiencing increased costs related to award redemptions since the move to Star Alliance.
Oh, and why am I going to New Zealand anyways? Some friends are chartering a plane from Air New Zealand and we’re going on some pretty incredible tours. Plus I will get to participate in the Star Alliance annual meeting a bit. Should be a great time.
Continental Airlines has announced their first planned route for its 787 Dreamliner deliveries: Houston – Auckland, New Zealand. It will be the carrier’s first route form the mainland USA to Oceania. It will also be a great test of the theory behind the 787 design – service on long, thin routes as that is a pretty good description of the IAH-AKL market: long and thin.
Sure, there will be some connecting traffic along the way and probably some cargo, too, but the O/D traffic flying is likely to be rather low. Lots of folks had been hoping for a return to Sydney rather than Auckland but the move makes sense based on connectivity with Star Alliance partner Air New Zealand in Auckland.
There’s also the pesky issues of a potential merger with United Airlines and hopes of no further delays on the delivery schedule for the 787. But assuming those do not get in the way it looks like Auckland is on the route map for Continental now. Service is expected to start in November 2011 and tickets will go on sale in December 2010 at the earliest.
The news does come at an interesting time. Yes, Continental is the “first airline in the world to formally announce specific, initial route plans for its Boeing 787 Dreamliner fleet” and the press release has some rosy language from CEO and announced UA/CO CEO Jeff Smisek about “the emphasis we place on continuing to expand Houston’s role in domestic and international aviation. This hub has ongoing growth opportunities because it has a strategic location, space for expansion, support from the community….” But it is also being announced almost 18 months in advance and 6 months before they can even sell tickets. Where is the value there, other than to distract regulators from the fact that the merger is going to move a major company headquarters out of Houston?
So the optimist here says “Horray for the new route!” while the pessimist is wondering if it really will ever happen. I’ll try to remember to report back in 18 months when the time comes.
For a guy who doesn’t really love Hawai’i I seem to go there an awful lot. It is hard to complain too much when the airlines offer up a $250ish fare from the New York City area as it is a trip worth a bunch of miles, but I generally don’t really enjoy being there. Of course, I blame that on having stayed in Oahu, specifically in Waikiki Beach, when I get there. I know that there are supposed to be better bits to see and this time around I’m finally going to give that a try. I’m headed to the Big Island.
Today’s trip is a four flight affair, starting with a departure from Newark at 6am and finishing with a puddle-jumper flight from Honolulu to Hilo scheduled to arrive at 8:30pm tonight. Just enough time at each connection to hop into a lounge or two for a snack and then on to the next flight. Assuming everything connects OK (which seems pretty likely so far) I shouldn’t have any troubles other than the fact that it is about 20 hours in transit from my apartment to the bed at the other end.
Map from the totaly awesome Great Circle Mapper tool
Perhaps the best part about the first flight today (EWR-SFO) is that the plane is mostly empty. Normally when flying on United Airlines I’d perform some sort of “upgrade flirt” at the counter or in the lounge to try to get a seat in the Economy Plus section for free (I know it is coming soon enough with Continental OnePass reciprocity but I’m impatient) but this morning I didn’t even bother. The First Class cabin may be booked full on this A319 but the back is wide open. There are at least 10 half rows that have one or zero customers seated there. I traded my seat up near the exit row for 22E, a middle seat in the back.
Just after takeoff I was happily asleep in my lie-flat coach seat, trying to imagine if it would really work with a second passenger cuddled up next to me as Air New Zealand thinks they’ll be able to sell with their new SkyCouch seats. And I still don’t see it working, at least not for customers over 5’ 6” tall.
I awoke from my 3+ hour snooze to one of the more disgusting views I’ve seen on a plane. This:
Seriously, it isn’t your house. I know that it isn’t particularly crowded on board this morning but keep your feet down. Yuck!
Only 15 hours yet to go on this trip. Plenty more nap time and writing time to come.
There has been quite a bit of reporting on the new Air New Zealand economy product that will be offered on their Boeing 777-300s and 787 Dreamliner planes that they will be taking delivery of starting later in 2010. The idea makes a lot of sense. Lie-flat seating is great but most folks cannot afford the cost of a business or first class seat. Buying (or hoping to get) multiple coach seats has often worked but even still the experience wasn’t incredibly comfortable. Air New Zealand is looking to both monetize that demand and also improve the quality of the experience.
The SkyCouch will work by having a leg-rest that rises up to a fully horizontal surface, effectively extending the seat cushion to completely fill the space between the seat-backs
In addition, they’ve designed the seats so that the armrests retract fully up into the seats rather than jutting out a bit like most current models do. Overall it should be a rather comfortable option.
As long as you aren’t all that tall.
With the layout of the cabin Air New Zealand cannot make the seats particularly wide. They will almost certainly be about the same width as the current 777 seats and possibly even narrower for the 787 seats. That means the average length of the couch is going to be about 66 inches. And figure about 30 inchs wide on the “couch” based on an average seat pitch of 32 inches and needing to account for the thickness of the seat back. That is bigger than many business class seats – definitely wider – but it also has some serious limits. There is a wall on one side and the aisle on the other. Folks who don’t curl up will end up with their legs sticking out into the aisle. And getting two people into a 30” wide bed is a lot more cozy than I recall of my experiences in a single bed (39” x 75”) freshman year in college.
Looking at the photo from the ANZ marketing group I have to wonder how tall those models are and just how much his neck would hurt after sleeping for any extended period of time in that position.
Don’t get me wrong – lie-flat coach is great. I got to experience it last night on a Seattle – Newark flight and I slept like a baby and was mostly functional upon arrival this morning. I’m just not sure that the premium that ANZ will be charging – estimated at an extra 50% for the extra space – is really going to make sense. Especially when folks keep sticking their legs out into the aisle and getting awakened as the carts or other passengers pass by.
Some additional coverage of the new product can be found here:
Yup, Virgin Atlantic seems to be keen on bringing about the apocalypse. They’re actually going to be removing a number of Upper Class seats from their 747-400 configuration and replacing them with coach seats. Even stranger, they’re doing so in the “exclusive” upper deck zone of the 747s. And so there it is – mixing the passengers in the same cabin area on an airplane with no real separation between the two. Even intra-Europe narrow-body planes usually have a curtain or something.
The forward part of the upper deck will still be designated as the snooze zone, reserved for folks who want a quieter ride so they can sleep on the flight rather than eat, drink or chat. But instead of another 10 passengers behind them upstairs there will now be 33 passengers. Sure, there is the small exit row space separating the groups but the only lavatory is in the front (Virgin says they’ll fix that but there doesn’t seem to be room) and tripling the number of passengers is always going to increase the noise level.
But they need to make money and if they aren’t getting it in the old config (left) then they don’t really have too much choice. I guess they could try dropping them down to Premium Economy seats instead. After all, that is supposedly the fasted growing segment of long-haul travel. But they’d probably only get about 16 PE seats in where they are getting 33 coach seats so the incremental gain wouldn’t pan out financially. On the main deck there isn’t much room to work with because of the way the cabin is laid out with the bar and the Premium Economy cabin. Maybe replacing the 14 seats in the nose with coach seats would have worked but that’s more seats lost and you still have the coach passengers mixing with the business class folks.
It turns out that Virgin Atlantic isn’t alone in this type of configuration. Air New Zealand has a similar arrangement on their 747s, though with Premium Economy upstairs, not regular economy. But those two seem to be the only ones.
I know that it doesn’t really matter: people are people and there are plenty of arrogant asshats in the business class seats just like in the coach section. But part of the appeal of buying up to the premium cabin – and especially the upper deck – is the exclusivity of it. And that is going away. Bummer.