Virgin profit + Bevy of new nonstops + Free Gogo w tablet + Southwest warning + United plugs in

Virgin America's star spangled wingtip over downtown SF. What a sight! (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Virgin America’s star spangled wingtip over downtown SF. What a sight! (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

KUDOS TO THE HOMETOWN CARRIER. Virgin America declared its first ever full-year profit this week. The SF-based carrier’s net income was $10.1 million in 2013, compared with a somewhat staggering loss of $145.4 million in 2012. How did it pull this off? By selling more tickets at slightly higher prices: It boarded 6.3 million passengers in 2013, up from 6.2 million in 2012. Average fares nudged up to $204 from $195 in the previous year. And its load factor increased a smidge…up just 1% from 79% to 80%. It grossed $1.425 billion in 2013, $92 million more than it did in 2012. Numbers like that will likely help Virgin with its proposed IPO later this year. Regrettably, this good news comes on the heels of the announcement that Virgin is pulling out of the crazy crowded San Jose-LAX market, and deploying those planes on money-making long hauls. Have you been flying Virgin America more this year? Why or why not? If it pulls off an IPO this year, would you invest? Leave your comments below! 

BEVY OF NEW NONSTOPS TO THE BAY. Starting April 1, United will use 737-800s to revive its nonstop service on SFO-ATL, a market already well served well by Delta, Southwest and AirTran. Flights depart SFO at 8:54 am and 3:33 pm and return from ATL at 6:55 am and 5:24 pm. A quick look at fares is showing the lowest coach roundtrips at $390 for May trips. In additions to new ATL flights, SFO will see new United nonstops arrive from Taipei (Mar 29) and Aer Lingus flights from Dublin (April 2). Norwegian Air’s new 787 nonstops arrive in Oakland in May. 

DELTA OVERWATER WI-FI ROLLOUT. FINALLY! This week Delta launched new satellite based Gogo wi-fi service on three B747s flying to Tokyo from Atlanta and Los Angeles-LAX. Delta says that the service should be on all its 16 747s by mid 2014, and its entire international fleet by the end of 2015. Rates start at $15 per hour and $25 per flight. Speaking of Gogo wifi, the onboard internet provider announced this week it will join forces with Samsung to offer a full year (up to 36 flights) of Gogo Inflight Internet access with the purchase of a new Samsung tablet. Accessing the free sessions from a new tablet is easy:  just launch your browser on any Gogo equipped flight and you will automatically be directed to a special landing page that will grant Internet access.

More power at United gates! (Photo: United)

More power at United gates! (Photo: United)

MORE JUICE AT GATE. United is rolling out 500 charging stations at airport gate areas at key hubs throughout the US. First to get them is Chicago O’Hare, Concourses B and C.  Each station offers six, 110-volt power outlets and two USB ports, and feature a design with a large power outlet icon to help quickly locate the units in gate areas.

SOUTHWEST DEVALUATION. If you’ve been hoarding your Southwest Rapid Rewards points, you might want to consider redeeming them before March 31. Wanna Get Away reward flight bookings made on or after March 31, 2014 will require 70 points per dollar, an increase from the 60 points per dollar that is currently required.

DELTA-ALASKA AIR DIVORCE. The breakup between Delta and Alaska Airlines is becoming long and ugly. Earlier this month, Delta basically declared war on Alaska when a top executive stated its intentions to make Seattle, Alaska’s base of operations,  a Delta hub. This week both carriers announced that some of the reciprocal benefits their elite customers have enjoyed, such as waived baggage fees, access to priority security lines, discounts on premium economy,  are getting yanked starting May 1. Delta changes here. Alaska’s here. The best news here is for Seattle residents, who are getting wooed with bonus mile offers, status matches, free Uber rides to the airport and more as both carriers battle for their business.

MEAL VOUCHERS FADING…Been delayed on a Delta flight recently? Whether it is a mechanical issue, weather or total cancelation, don’t expect Delta to print out meal vouchers anymore. Instead, some gate agents have told The BAT that it’s more likely that a cart will be rolled out with pretzels, snacks, water, and soda to tide you over. Five hour delay? Same cart. Agents stated that it is up to the station manager if they want to order in additional food for lengthy delays. Meal vouchers are printed at agent discretion, but apparently the new policy is that they are no longer part of irregular operations. Do you think airlines should provide vouchers to passengers when the delay is a mechanical and lasts several hours… is cart service at the gate okay by you? Leave your comments below. 

SFO-TOKYO ENDS. Delta will end its San Francisco-Tokyo nonstop flight, effective March 30. Delta spokesperson Anthony Black confirmed the move to us stating,  ”We are ending service between SFO and NRT with the last westbound service effective Friday, March 28, 2014, and final eastbound service effective Sunday, March 30, 2014. Delta is suspending its nonstop service due to an unstable revenue environment caused by yen devaluation.”

Arrival kiosks like these at Delta’s new T4 at JFK are coming to Atlanta. Nice! (Photo: Delta)

ATL GETS IMMIGRATION KIOSKS…Following in the footsteps of JFK’s terminals one and four, Chicago O’Hare, Houston, and Seattle-Tacoma, Atlanta is finally getting automated immigration kiosks that speed up the arrivals process for international passengers. Those with Global Entry may be a bit miffed, however, that everyone is getting a speedier option for entering the United States as it only takes a swipe of your passport and a few screen clicks to print out a ticket. Travelers then present that ticket to an immigration officer before heading through customs and save almost half the time versus waiting in a traditional line. Still, it is not quite as fast (or exclusive) as Global Entry, but it is better than before. The system also means you no longer need to complete an immigration card/customs declaration card on arrival. No word yet on when the speedy kiosks may show up at SFO.

CREDIT CARDS DESPERATE TO GIVE YOU $400. Last week  Time Magazine ran a story about how banks are battling for the biz of folks with good jobs, good credit and high spending. Sounds like the typical BAT to me! The two best cards with the biggest bonuses for business travelers: Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and the Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard. Why don’t you take the banks up on their offer? You’ll get $400 in award travel, and you’ll help out The BAT when (and only when) you order up a new card from our links. So just do it!

--Chris McGinnis

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