Business Travel Briefing
For July 11-July 25, 2019
The briefing in brief: Norwegian cuts U.S. route network as founder and chief executive resigns. Alaska Air trims at Love Field while JetBlue retreats at DCA. Oakland flights take a hit due to Boeing 737MAX grounding. American Airlines gives up on China flights from O'Hare. Delta upgrades international coach in-flight service. And more.

Norwegian, the low-fare carrier that turned the transatlantic pricing regimen upside down, has also been burning furniture to keep flying because those low fares don't pay the bills. So as it does to all airlines that expand too fast with too much capacity to the wrong places, Norwegian is eliminating cities, moving some service to better airports and converting a slew of routes to seasonal operations. Gone permanently are Las Vegas-London and Orlando-Stockholm. Norwegian will move more flights to San Francisco International from Oakland. Starting this fall, Barcelona and Paris will join London in operating from SFO. But the big change operationally is the shift to summer-only service on a clutch of routes. Included in that cull are London routes to Chicago and Denver; Copenhagen routes to Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles and New York/JFK; Oslo routes to LAX and Orlando; JFK-Stockholm; Boston-Paris; and LAX-Rome. That is just front-of-the-house stuff. Behind the scenes, Norwegian co-founder and front man Bjorn Kjos is leaving immediately as chief executive. He remains as "advisor" and controls about 17 percent of the carrier through a holding company. Insiders say Kjos' departure from day-to-day affairs could mean a faster path for potential buyers such as IAG, parent company of British Airways, Iberia and Aer Lingus. Stay tuned.

Alaska Airlines picked up a bunch of routes at endlessly controversial Love Field in Dallas in 2016 when it purchased Virgin America. After a few attempts to rejigger the network, it is now trimming service at the close-in Dallas airport otherwise dominated by Southwest Airlines. Effective November 5, Alaska drops all flights to San Diego and San Jose. Alaska's remaining Love routes (LAX; Portland, Oregon; San Francisco; and Sea-Tac) all will lose at least one daily roundtrip.
      JetBlue Airways continues a retreat from Washington/National. Early this year, it bumped up National-Boston service, but that came at the expense of its Dulles routes to Hartford and Tampa. Now two more National routes get the ax. Jacksonville, Florida, and Charleston, South Carolina, are chopped effective October 26. In other changes, JetBlue will drop flights to Charlotte from its New York/JFK hub and move JFK-Houston flights to Intercontinental Airport from Hobby Airport. The switch is effective October 27. That immediately led Delta Air Lines to announce its own JFK-Intercontinental flights beginning, not coincidentally, on October 27.

Neither Southwest nor American were flying from Oakland using the grounded Boeing 737MAX aircraft. But Oakland is getting disproportionately whacked as the two carriers shuffle schedules as the aircraft remain grounded. American is dropping flights from its Dallas/Fort Worth hub until at least September 4 as it moves aircraft to routes that had been served by the MAX variant. And Southwest, an all-Boeing 737 airline, is temporarily dropping a baker's dozen of routes while the MAX is on the ground. Four of those routes--to Newark, Indianapolis, Minneapolis/St. Paul and San Antonio--are from Oakland. Also off the board are three routes from Los Angeles and two from Boston/Logan.
      Seattle/Tacoma gets a swish new club tomorrow (July 12). The latest Alaska Airlines lounge opens in the newly opened North Satellite. At nearly 16,000 square feet, it's Alaska Air's largest lounge. It offers sweeping views of the runways and the Olympic Mountains beyond, a barista and a dozen local microbrews on tap.
      San Francisco has a new lounge, too. British Airways opened a 7,100-square-foot club Tuesday (July 9) with floor-to-ceiling windows and private dining for first class flyers. The new club in Concourse A replaces the older BA lounge that closed at the beginning of the year.

American Airlines bailed on its daily flights from Chicago/O'Hare to Beijing and Shanghai last fall, calling them "colossal loss makers." And despite making noises about eventually resuming the flights, American has now officially turned in the aeronautic towel and returned the route authority to the U.S. Transportation Department. That will allow the DOT to reallocate the 14 China flights to other airlines. American's decision comes at a very curious time, too. Beijing has announced its new airport, Daxing, has been completed and will open in October to complement Beijing Capital Airport. Among Western carriers, Finnair has already announced it will add a Helsinki-Daxing route in addition to its existing Helsinki-Capital service. British Airways said this week that it would leave Beijing Capital and move all of its London/Heathrow-Beijing flights to Daxing effective October 27.
      La Compagnie, the all-business-class French airline, says it will fly 11 weekly flights this winter between Newark and Paris/Orly. All flights will operate with the carrier's new Airbus A321neo planes effective October 27. The carrier has been operating with a mix of A321s and aging Boeing 757s.
      Aerolineas Argentinas says it will launch flights to Orlando from its hub at Buenos Aires. There'll be three weekly flights starting December 9.

Delta Air Lines says it will upgrade coach service on some international flights beginning in November. The new elements will be a welcome Bellini, hot-towel service, an expanded dinner menu and a goodbye chocolate.
      French flyers take note: The French government says it will impose an "eco-tax" on many flights departing the country. The levy, from 1.5 to 18 euros, will not apply on flights to Corsica and other overseas French territories or on flights connecting through France. Complete details and timing have not been finalized, however.
      Atlantic Canada flyers take note: Air Canada says it will increase capacity starting this winter by about 8 percent. Halifax-Calgary will become a year-round route starting in March and Air Canada rouge service will replace some Air Canada commuter flights in the region.