Lots of “new” news to share in this week’s episode, and that’s mostly a good thing compared to some of the episodes we’ve had which were all about downgrades. Don’t worry – there are still a couple negative bits here, too – but not as many as there are positives.
First up, a couple new route announcements. British Airways is launching 787 service between Heathrow and Austin, Texas starting in March 2014. This is a long, thin route which is supposed to be where the economics of the 787 Dreamliner really shines; we’ll see just how well that actually plays. Not too surprisingly our resident Texan is a bit more positive on the idea of the route’s success than the others. And United Airlines is launching service to Chengdu, China, also on a 787, in Spring 2014. Another long, thin route and one which will be served 3x weekly, not daily. It involves an extended layover for the plane, lowering the fleet utilization a bit. That’s a rather different approach and it will be interesting to see how the economics of these routes play out.
Also new this week is the LAX-SFO Delta Shuttle operations. The Shuttle service there was announced a while back and the first day of service was this week. Among other things, some Delta Medallion members are annoyed that Shuttle passengers all get access to the SkyPriority lane for security. Turns out this is nothing truly groundbreaking in that it happens at BOS, DCA and ORD, too, but that isn’t stopping the complaints on FlyerTalk.
Delta also announced an order of 40 new Airbus planes – 10 A330s and 30 A321s – which should start to come online in the 2016 timeframe. These are replacements for the older 767s and 757s that the carrier has been running for quite some time now. Seems that even with a refinery having fuel-efficient planes is a good idea. Some surprise that the A330 was ordered, and some confusion as to whether the A321s are the NEO model or not (above linked story suggests the order is the classics), but we’ll see what happens there.
And in the world of new security checkpoints the TSA has announced that 60 more airports will see PreCheck lanes added by the end of 2013, upping the total number of equipped airports to 100. Great news, so long as they properly staff them to handle the increased number of passengers using the lanes, something they do pretty badly at several existing stations.
On the award booking front American Airlines AAdvantage members can now book awards for travel on Royal Jordanian online. That’s great news as it makes searching for those award seats much, much easier (and that’s obviously good for all oneworld partner program redemptions, too). We talk a bit about whether I should change my NYC-AUH award for Thanksgiving from Lufty to Royal Jordanian; I’d love to hear your opinions on the relative merits of the two options.
Also, as promised, some bad news. Swiss First Class awards – long near impossible to get anyways – will now be limited by policy to only Miles & More Senator and HON Circle members. Partner redemptions were already limited so this isn’t a huge change, but it is a change. And a negative one at that.
Finally, one more bit of “new” that didn’t make the episode: Happy New Year to those celebrating Rosh Hashana today.
All that in more in episode 34 of the PointsHoarder podcast. Enjoy!