TRANSCON WARS HEATING UP. United is now offering a nice MileagePlus miles bonus (5k, 10K or 15K) for those flying SFO-JFK on its nice newly updated 757s between now and March 31. The bonus does not apply to United’s cheapest coach fares. Get ready for more bonuses and bennies on the SFO-JFK run in coming months as JetBlue introduces its new MINT premium class product and American deploys replaces its aging B767s with shiny new Airbus A321s, and Delta’s refits its 757s—all with lie-flat business class seats and upgraded amenities. Should be some cushy rides ahead for those who can pay (or upgrade) to biz or first class! Register for United bonus here.
UNITED 787 BACK ON SFO-IAH. Wanna jump on a shiny new United 787 flying domestic? For a few short weeks this winter, you can. Between Feb 13 and Mar 31, United will fly a Boeing 787 nonstop on the 1:50pm flight SFO to Houston and the 7 am return from Houston.
TWILIGHT OF 747? Cathay Pacific’s B747 flights on SFO-HKG will end on August 31 this year. After that its two daily flights will use the new B777-300ER. And starting Feb 11, Air China will deploy a new Boeing 777-300ER on SFO-Beijing, replacing the current 747-400. Biz class seats on Air China’s 777’s get positive reviews from business travelers, and are nearly identical to United’s nice business class seat. (Have you flown Air China much? What do you think?)
ALASKA FIGHTS BACK…As Delta makes some big moves to strengthen its position at Seattle where Alaska Air has long been dominant, the two carriers have been trying to one-up each other with different mileage promotions and new routes over the past few months. As Delta beefs up in Seattle, Alaska has decided not to give in without putting up a fight. Before Christmas, Alaska was wooing passengers with free Uber rides up to $50 to Seattle airport. It’s heavily promoting its $100 million investment in aircraft upgrades. It announced that it was launching or expanding flights from Delta’s Salt Lake City hub to San Francisco (SFO), Boise, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Jose (SJC). Why is Delta bullying its longtime partner? Some insiders say that Delta’s strategy is to weaken Alaska’s position in its Seattle hub, which will drive down its stock price, making it easier for Delta to swoop in a buy the carrier. A takeover would sure would round out Delta’s route map in the Pacific Northwest. But combining the two carriers would face tough regulatory scrutiny. What do you think is going on?
New year, new credit card? Consider this: *Earn a quick 40,000 miles on United — that’s $500 in travel!*
DELTA FLEET UPGRADE. This week, Delta announced that it will spend $770 million over the next two years to refresh interiors of some its older workhorse jets, the Boeing 757-200, 737-800, and the Airbus A319 and A320. Best news: those toaster-oven-size overhead bins will be replaced with larger ones (with a 50% bump in capacity), making irritating gate checks and fights for overhead space largely a thing of the past. (You’ll find those skimpy bins on Delta’s 757′s flying SFO-NYC.) There will be power plugs at every seat, although, improving battery life on our portable electronics is making that less of an issue. Cabin lighting will switch over to longer lasting and mood altering color LEDs. All but the A320s will get new inflight entertainment screens with live TV on seatbacks. The planes will also get newer (albeit smaller) lavatories. The not-so-good news (if you are over 6 feet tall) is that the planes are slated for the new “slimline” coach seats,which passengers either love or hate. (Regrettably, no images of Delta’s updated slimline seat are available. Here’s the current one. The new slimline seats are on a new Delta B737-900 flying SFO-ATL.) While the seat and cushion are thinner, the seat width (shoulder space) will be slightly wider: 18” up from 17.2”. A bit more good news: the planes will have more Economy Comfort seats (with 34” pitch compared to the standard 31”), which should be pleasing to your knees. Delta generally gets very high marks from business travelers when compared to United or American. Do you fly Delta much? Thoughts?
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And just in case you missed it, here’s what else you need to know about Bay Area Travel over the last month: