It seems that Aerolineas Argentinas is looking to grow their international route map significantly. The carrier is looking to add five new destinations around the globe, including three in the United States. The carrier is apparently in the process of negotiating access to these markets through bilateral treaties. Given that Aerolineas Argentinas only has five destinations currently outside of South America this would be an enormous upgrade to their route map. The proposed destinations are Atlanta, Las Vegas, Detroit, Guangzhou and Tel Aviv.
As best as I can tell there is no way that the Guangzhou flight can be served non-stop. Detroit and Atlanta are both hubs for SkyTeam partner Delta so if they can negotiate the treaties picking up traffic in one of those to carry on to China sortof makes sense, but it seems unlikely that such access will be easily forthcoming. Tagging it on to Tel Aviv might make sense, but I have no idea what the traffic demand is on that local hop or if they could secure traffic rights.
Or I suppose it is possible that my French is bad enough that I’m completely misunderstanding the story I’m reading and getting some of these details from. But I’m pretty sure that’s not the case.
Slowly but surely Southwest is moving to phase out the AirTran brand following the merger of the two companies. And, slowly has definitely been the key to the integration. The company has previously tried to move some flights from the AirTran brand to the Southwest side of operations only to be forced back on certain routes due to technology limitations. But now, with their pilot and flight attendant unions on board, the company is ready to grow the route map for the Southwest brand. And that growth is headed to Puerto Rico.
As of April 14, 2013 the company will operate four daily flights to San Juan under the Southwest brand. Three will be from Orlando and the other from Tampa. These flights will replace service currently operated by AirTran. The AirTran brand will continue to serve San Juan from Baltimore, Ft. Lauderdale and Atlanta. Eventually all the operations will migrate to the Southwest brand but that appears to still be a ways off, pending significant technology upgrades, among other things.
Still, this is a significant milestone for the merged company.
Southwest is taking over some Key West routes from AirTran this week, also from Tampa and Orlando. Those are easier to change than the over-water routes.
Looking to connect via Delta‘s hub in Memphis later this summer? That is going to be harder as the carrier is cutting 25 more flights from the daily schedule at the airport, dropping the total number of daily operations to about 125. The new service levels will be roughly half of what the combined Delta/Northwest numbers were immediately prior to the two carriers’ merger nearly four years ago.
The cuts aren’t much of a surprise as they are nearly all 50-seat regional jet, aircraft that Delta has been quite clear in the past few months that they are keen to retire from the fleet. And with Atlanta nearby the hub in Memphis was always a bit of a marginal operation in the merged carrier. Also not surprising is that the airport authority is now examining its budget to see what cuts they’ll have to make given lower income in the form of landing fees.
The fate of the Memphis hub seems to be running in parallel with that of the CVG hub, another operation which has seen significant cuts due in large part to another hub operation nearby which is a stronger option for the company (DTW in that case). Cuts at CVG in the past few years haven’t been quite as severe as at MEM, but they are still rather notable.
Good luck to the Delta passengers out there and to the folks in Memphis. Cuts like this generally mean higher fares and less convenient options. Unless some other airline takes advantage of the $1mm bounty the airport authority has out there for new service it seems like things are going to be rather dire for a while.
It was somewhat ironic last November when Delta announced that they were going to be cutting their long-haul international capacity this spring, just as the new international terminal opened at Atlanta‘s airport. The announcement this week is less in unfortunate timing and more in just plain unfortunate for folks in Atlanta. The carrier has announced two more routes which will be cut, at least for the winter season. Barcelona and Milan are on the chopping block. Service is expected to return in March 2013 following a suspension in late October 2012. Both cities will remain part of the Delta route network via connections in JFK, though Barcelona will see only 5x weekly service.
Like most cuts these days the company has cited high fuel costs and deteriorating economic conditions as reasons for the cuts. Of course, this news also comes on the same day that the company CEO has been reasonably vocal in touting the expected lowering of fuel costs thanks to that refinery they purchased a few weeks ago. Perhaps one of these two bits is less that certain right now??
As noted on AirlineRoute.net, Delta will be cutting two London routes this spring, Atlanta – Gatwick and Miami – Heathrow. The final eastbound flights will be on 16 April 2012 with the final return the following day.
Like most carriers, Delta launched their London service into Gatwick in 1978 because they had no rights to fly into Heathrow. With the cutting of this Atlanta route the carrier is ending their service at that station, having moved all service to Heathrow.
The Miami route is a more recent development. It was added in March 2011 as part of the approval of the BA/AA/IB ATI and their required divestiture of routes in certain markets, namely Boston and Miami. Delta picked up both of those routes and apparently the Miami route isn’t so profitable for them.
It is hard to know if this is really good or bad news for the London-USA market. Certainly the carrier cutting routes suggests that the market is soft in some areas, though it can also be seen that the the trimming of inventory is going to tighten the market and increase fares.
Common decency suggests you don’t kick a man while he’s down. That sort of policy doesn’t necessarily apply in business, however, and it definitely doesn’t apply for Spirit Airlines. Following on their $11 (plus a myriad of fees that no one can ever reasonably figure out) sale to celebrates American Airlines‘ filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection earlier in the week, the Spirit announced a few new routes today focused on the troubled carrier’s fortress hub at Dallas Ft Worth.
Spirit announced this morning that they are launching four new destinations with once daily round-trip service this spring. The new destinations are LaGuardia airport in New York City, Atlanta, Boston and Orlando. The first three are big business markets where American will almost see an erosion of yields thanks to this move. That’s not going to help in their efforts to keep the revenue up. At least it is only once daily service compared to the AA frequencies on offer (BOS – 8, ATL – 12, LGA – 15, MCO – 11) so there is still going to be plenty of opportunities for AA to keep most of their business.
In other bAAnkruptcy-related news, AA has filed the paperwork to return 24 aircraft to lessors, starting the process of shedding some of their costs. Most of the planes are already grounded so it won’t affect capacity. Yet. They’ve also canceled two pilot recall classes, shifting those pilots back to furlough status.
Faced with "poorly performing" routes and an uncertain economic future, Delta has announced that they are trimming six international destinations from their Atlanta hub in 2012. One of the destinations, Shanghai, has been an on-again, off-again operation with limited service (currently only 2x weekly). The other destinations being cut – Athens, Copenhagen, Moscow, Prague and Tel Aviv – were all seasonal destinations which are not being reinstated as originally expected in the Summer ’12 season. Oh, and the timing of these cuts is a bit of a smack at the ATL airport authority. The airport’s new international facility is scheduled to open in 2012 right as demand is apparently drying up.
A few seasonal destinations from New York City are also being cut by Delta, including Manchester, U.K.; Budapest, Hungary; and Berlin.
But it isn’t all cuts for Delta. They are picking up the slack for SkyTeam and anti-trust alliance partner Air France, operating the Seattle – Paris route starting in March the day after Air France leaves the market. On that route it is most likely a fleet utilization issue as the two carriers share profits and expenses on many transatlantic routes thanks to the ATI arrangement. Delta will also be adding service between Detroit and Paris, likely for similar reasons.
There’s a lot more red on that map than green.
This past weekend was a quick, relatively local getaway down to Savannah, Georgia. The trip was great overall. Savannah is a lovely town, and I’ll get to writing up some of those details eventually, but the flights both ways were rather worse than expected. And I wasn’t really expecting all that much from Delta Connection.
The outbound flight (LaGuardia – Savannah) was operated on N800AY, a Canadair CRJ-200. This aircraft type should be removed from service globally as a violation of torture treaties. Seriously, they are the most uncomfortable seating and in-flight experience I’ve ever had. I also had the apparent good fortune to be seated in a seat where the seatbelt was more than 3 feet longer than necessary. Apparently they don’t stock seatbelt extenders on those aircraft so they have some that are built extra long just in case. I seriously think I might have been able to sit in the row in front of me and still use this belt. But at least that was entertaining rather than troubling.
We also had some issues with seat assignments on the flight down. We couldn’t get seats assigned at booking which is usually no big deal. At the airport we were assigned seats that were not together. Again, no big deal as we can handle 90 minutes not sitting next to each other, but when I asked about switching it up the agents said there was no chance. So what are the odds that the only empty seat on the plane happened to be next to my wife? Go figure.
The return trip was an even greater adventure. As we were getting out of the taxi at the Savannah airport (great facility, though the free wifi was busted) my phone rang and the Caller ID showed Delta’s number. Not good.
Our flight was going to be delayed. It happens some times, but the way it was handled was anything but smooth. I asked the ticket agent why the flight was delayed and he offered up that it wasn’t loaded in their computer and that it was probably ATC in the New York City area. Probably a safe bet, but in this case completely false. The issue was actually that Chautauqua, the carrier providing the service, had a rather significant systems meltdown and they were having difficulty dispatching a number of flights, with cancellations and significant delays throughout the system. So when I asked about alternate routings and other options and they suggested that it was no big deal I wasn’t all that impressed.
Two hours later, while still waiting for the aircraft to depart from New York to get to Savannah to operate our flight the agents were much more helpful, but they were also now more limited in terms of what alternate flights they could offer. Eventually we got rebooked via Atlanta with roughly 9 minutes to get through security and on to the plane. Awesome.
We did make the flight despite the best efforts of the TSA to mess that up and then were in Atlanta looking to get on the next flight to New York. With a two hour layover we headed to the gate of the earlier flight to try to get on as standby passengers. Ahead of us in line was a pilot dead-heading and the flight was full; the pilot couldn’t get a cockpit jump seat and was number 5 on the standby list when he walked away from the podium. I was quite surprised to hear the same agent who just put the pilot on the list tell me that there was no opportunity to be listed as a standby passenger and that, "There is no way I’m going to put you on this flight." Harsh.
At least we had dinner at One Flew South (my first time there and it lived up to the rave reviews I’ve heard). But beyond that the experience in Atlanta was pretty poor.
And then we caught our flight from Atlanta to LaGuardia. It was a reasonably quick, though bumpy, flight and we made it home the same day as scheduled and only a few hours late. In the end that’s great, but most of the customer service interactions along the way, save for the two women in Savannah who actually cared and tried to help us, were pretty craptacular. I doubt any other airline would do much better, particularly for a pair of customers with no elite status. Sad, but true.
The purchase of AirTran by Southwest was, in large part, to gain access to significant gate and slot portfolios at a few major airports where the company had previously had difficulty establishing a presence. So it should come as no surprise to see those operations leveraged in a way that better integrates with the route and operational structure that Southwest has built over the years. Southwest CEO Gary Kelly announced a number of new routes from Atlanta today at a meeting with local business leaders, kicking off the first notable shift of legacy AirTran resources to fill gaps in the Southwest network.
Starting on February 12, 2012 the company will add 15 daily frequencies out of Atlanta to five airports, four of which serve as hubs for the company’s operations. The new routes include service between Atlanta and:
- Austin – two daily nonstop roundtrips
- Baltimore/Washington – four daily nonstop roundtrips
- Denver – two daily nonstop roundtrips
- Houston Hobby – three daily nonstop roundtrips
- Chicago Midway – four daily nonstop roundtrips
Certainly not a major overhaul of the route network or even scratching the surface of the capacity the carrier has to work with in Atlanta. But it definitely shows the beginnings of the integration of Atlanta into a major point on the combined carriers’ network and how passengers will flow through the other hubs for onward connections. Expect to see similar moves at the other big airports the purchase came with (e.g. LaGuardia and Washington National) soon.
I’ve written many times about my love for free award changes as a top-tier elite. It is one of the most valuable benefits of airline status to me and one that I use a ton. It is not uncommon to find that a better seat/route/time might open up with award inventory just a day or two prior to departure as the operating carrier realizes that they will not be able to sell the seats and they are willing to take some points off the books in exchange. In fact, my most recent Lufthansa first class experience was a direct result of one such change, with the seats becoming available about 48 hours prior to the flight and me making the change about 36 hours prior to travel.
Had I been using Delta SkyMiles that change would not have been possible.
In a new policy announced today and which takes effect on 15 August 2011, Delta has stated that all awards will be considered non-refundable and non-changeable at 72 hours prior to departure. This comes just two weeks after the announcement that the awards would expire at the time of departure. The change applies to all SkyMiles redemptions, including those of Diamond and Platinum elite members.
Customers who would book a mid or high tier award as a hedge against nothing being available would previously be able to change that award to a low tier seat – and save a lot of miles – if the award inventory opened up. And if those seats were to open up it was quite commonly 48-72 hours out. With this new policy making that change – from high/mid to low at 48-72 hours out – is now impossible. Sure, the passengers can take the chance that the low will open up anyways (Delta is spinning this change as something which will "make those seats available to other members and ultimately increase award availability."). But that’s a pretty stupid bet to make from a customer perspective.
There are a couple interesting things that the change shows. For starters, apparently there were 400,000 awards that were not flown (and presumably refunded) nor canceled prior to departure in the prior year according to the Delta representative announcing the change. There were 1,000,000 awards that were sitting booked at 72 hours out that were never flown. That’s a lot of award miles that would be forfeit should the customers not make appropriate changes. It is not hard to see where Delta got the idea to make this change.
Another interesting bit is that they made these two announcements only two weeks apart. That’s two adjustments to the same policy, a policy that had existed for a long time with no variation, announced so close together that it is hard to believe someone competent actually approved the timing of the decision. If you’re still considering changing it further, particularly when that further change is so similar to the initial one, why not just wait until you’ve made a final decision and announce the change then? Sure, the change sucks for customers. No doubt about that. But the fact that it was changed twice in such a short period is truly pathetic.
Finally, the announcement of the change and its retroactive impact on the validity of existing award reservations is questionable. The program terms includes conflicting information on that topic:
Delta and its program partners reserve the right to change program rules, benefits, regulations, Travel Awards, fees, mileage Award levels, and special offers at any time without notice. This means that Delta may initiate changes, for instance, impacting partner affiliations, rules for earning mileage credit, continued availability of Awards, or blackout dates. … Unless otherwise stated, the terms and conditions of the SkyMiles Membership Guide and Program Rules in effect at the time of your travel, request for a benefit, or other transaction will govern the transaction.
Those are the first and last bits of the same paragraph. It is not hard to believe that the last line says that the rules in effect when I conducted the transaction – issuing the award reservation – should apply to that reservation. Based on everything Delta has stated so far, however, they will be using the first line as their policy and applying this change to existing bookings as well.
Ultimately this is just another in the long line of changes made to the SkyMiles program that devalues the points for their members. At least in this case the folks in Atlanta know that the change is not going to be well received. Didn’t stop them from making it, though.
They’re not known as SkyPesos for nothing, folks.