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  • Flying Smarter

This Week in Air Travel: November 27 to December 3, 2022

Air Travel News

Guests sitting by a fireplace at Alaska Airlines' flagship lounge at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
Concept Rendering for Delta Air Lines' New Sky Club Lounge at Boston Logan International Airports' Concourse E (Scheduled to Open in Late Summer 2023) | Photo: Delta Air Lines

Alaska Airlines Introduces Electronic Baggage Tags

  • Alaska Airlines has provided more details on its previously announced electronic baggage tags, which will be offered in partnership with Dutch company BAGTAG.

  • Here’s how it works: Passengers get a permanent electronic baggage tag that they can reuse. Starting from 24 hours before departure, passengers can activate their tag during check in using the Alaska Airlines app. The activation process uses Bluetooth technology. The idea is that travelers can go straight to the bag drop at the airport without printing out a bag tag. Alaska Airlines estimates that this will reduce time spent in the check-in area by 40%.

  • For now, 2500 Alaska Mileage Plan elite members are getting these tags and there are some limitations on which itineraries they can be used on. The plan is that sometime next year, other members of their frequent flyer program will be able to get these tags at a cost of $70 each.


Delta Sky Club Changes: The Good and the Bad

  • In an effort to reduce lounge crowding, Delta Air Lines is making some major changes to its lounge access policies in the new year.

  • For example, Delta Sky Club membership and guest fees are increasing. In addition, only SkyMiles members with elite status (Silver Medallion and above) will be allowed to purchase memberships. Delta Sky Club members flying in basic economy will also no longer have lounge access.

  • Perhaps most notably, Diamond, Platinum, and Gold Medallion elites will no longer have lounge access unless they are flying internationally on a Premium Select, Delta One, or SkyTeam premium economy/business-class ticket.

  • Those accessing Delta Sky Clubs using their credit cards, non-Delta SkyTeam elite status or on international business class tickets (regardless of status) will still be able to do so.

  • On the positive side, Delta has announced that it will be expanding into a new market with a new Sky Clubs at Kansas City International Airport. The airline has also announced new Sky Clubs at airports where it already has an existing lounge presence: New York John F. Kennedy International Airport, Boston Logan International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport and Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport. Delta is also expanding three lounges in Fort Lauderdale, Atlanta, and Miami.


Air India and Vistara are Merging

  • Following much speculation throughout the year, India’s two full-service airlines are merging. Vistara is a joint venture between Singapore Airlines and the Tata Group, which purchased Air India earlier this year.

  • Singapore Airlines, which currently has a 49% stake in Vistara, will play a significant role in the transaction. It will invest $250 million into the merged entity and hold a 25.1% stake.

  • Air India is expected to be the surviving brand. The newly merged airline will be the second largest in India, following low-cost carrier IndiGo.


The End of American Airlines' AirPass

  • American Airlines is ending its AirPass program after more than four decades. The program allowed individuals and businesses to pre-purchase travel at fixed rates. It provided frequent travelers with the flexibility to make last-minute bookings and changes with manageable costs.

  • There were also extra perks, such as lounge access, better seats, instant upgrades, and even automatic status in their AAdvantage frequent flyer program after depositing certain amounts. Pre-purchasing $50,000 worth of travel also got people into their invitation-only status tier, Concierge Key.

  • As of November 30, 2022, American is no longer accepting new or renewal AirPass contracts. Deposits are also no longer permitted. The airline says that the program will be sunsetting, with and end date of March 31, 2024.

  • Lifetime memberships that were purchased under a former iteration of the program will be unaffected. In the 1980s and 1990s, the program was known as AAirpass and offered a lifetime pass for unlimited first class travel on American. This turned out to be a disastrous and costly business decision for the company.


Route News

Two Spirit Airlines aircraft at an airport terminal with a control tower
The pilots on Qantas' first flight from Brisbane to Tokyo Haneda on November 30 | Photo: Qantas

Announcements

  • Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) announced that it will be starting 5x weekly service between Copenhagen Airport and New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on February 9, 2023. The service will be operated by the Airbus A330-300s and will supplement SAS’ service to Newark and Copenhagen.

  • Delta Air Lines has announced a new route between Detroit Metropolitan Airport and Keflavík International Airport on May 15, 2023. The 4x weekly service will be operated by the Boeing 757-200. This follows Icelandair’s announcement that it would be offering that service as well starting on May 18, 2023.

  • Hawaiian Airlines is returning to the Cook Islands for the first time since 1993 with its recently announced service between Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu and Rarotonga International Airport. The weekly service, which is slated to start on May 20, 2023 will be operated by Hawaiian’s Airbus A321neo aircraft.

  • New low-cost airline Norse Atlantic Airways plans on starting flights between Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. The daily service is scheduled to start on March 23, 2023 and will be operated by its Boeing 787 Dreamliners.

  • Aegean announced that it will be offering a seasonal summer service between Athens International Airport and Newcastle International Airport in England. The twice weekly service will operate from June to September next summer.


Route Launches

  • Emirates restarted its flights between Dubai International Airport and Auckland Airport. The service had been discontinued during the COVID-19 pandemic but will now be operated daily by Airbus A380s. With a westbound flying time of around 17 hours, it is one of the longest flights in the world.

  • Canadian ultra low-cost carrier Flair Airlines started weekly winter seasonal service from Edmonton International Airport, Fort McMurray International Airport, Prince George Airport and Windsor International Airport to Tucson International Airport this week. Flights between Tucson and London International Airport (in Ontario, Canada) are scheduled to begin next week. The flights will be operated by Flair Airlines’ fleet of Boeing 737-800s and Boeing 737 MAX 8s.

  • Air Canada launched flights between Vancouver International Airport and Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport on December 1. The seasonal service is being operated by the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner 4x weekly through April 2023. This is the first non-stop service between North America and Thailand in over a decade.

  • Sun Country Airlines began its new service between its hub in Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport and Chippewa Valley Regional Airport which serves Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Flights started on December 1 and will operate

  • On December 1, Contour Airlines started flying between North Central West Virginia Airport and Charlotte Douglas International Airport. The 12x weekly service will be operated by Embraer ERJ-135s. With this service, Contour Airlines is replacing United Express as the airport’s Essential Air Service provider.

  • China Airlines started service between Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport in Taipei and Mactan–Cebu International Airport in the Philippines on December 1. Flights are scheduled 4x per week with the airline’s new Airbus A321neo aircraft. China Airlines will be competing with rival EVA Air on the route, and Starlux Airlines is also scheduled to enter the market in January.

  • Qantas launched flights between Brisbane Airport and Tokyo Haneda Airport on December 1. The service replaces its flights between Brisbane and Tokyo Narita. Operated by the Qantas’ Airbus A330-300s, the flight will operate 3x weekly.

  • On December 2, Vistara started flights between Pune Airport in India and Singapore Changi Airport. Vistara will operate the 4x weekly service using its Airbus A321neo aircraft.

  • Qantas started flying between Melbourne Airport and Dallas Fort Worth International Airport on December 3. The 4x weekly service is being operated by the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.


Aircraft Orders

Two Spirit Airlines aircraft at an airport terminal with a control tower
Croatia Airlines Airbus A220-300 Rendering | Photo: Airbus

Binter Canarias Orders Five More E195-E2s

  • Spanish airline Binter Canarias has ordered five Embraer E195-E2 aircraft. Binter Canarias is the flag carrier of the Canary Islands.

  • The five aircraft will be added to the airline’s existing fleet of E195-E2s. Binter Canarias also operates around 30 ATR-72s.


Croatia Airlines Chooses the Airbus A220

  • Croatia Airlines has signed an order for six Airbus A220-300s. The company plans to lease an additional nine of the aircraft for a total of fifteen Airbus A220s.

  • The aircraft will be replacing its existing aging fleet of Airbus A319s, A320s and Dash-8 Q400s turboprops.

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