November 10, 2020

Re-United, and it Feels so Good: United Returns to JFK on February 1

Five years after United Airlines ended service at New York/JFK, the airline will return on February 1 with four daily non-stops to the West Coast. United will fly twice-daily to both Los Angeles and San Francisco, operating its reconfigured business class-heavy Boeing 767-300ERs with 46 United Polaris beds, 22 Premium Plus seats, 47 in Economy Plus, and 52 in plain ole’ economy. 

United’s return to JFK will see it operate out of British Airways’s Terminal 7 along with other airlines known for top premium-class service such as Aerolineas Argentinas, Eurowings, and Ukraine International Airlines. United had operated in T7 before leaving, but only now can it return thanks to reduced demand from airlines.

In addition to its four daily flights to California, rumors are swirling that United also plans to launch daily service from JFK to its hub across the river in Newark, giving United customers one-stop service to over 100 destinations daily. When asked about the super-short distance between the two airports, United said that most of its NYC-based customers would prefer to connect from JFK through Newark than have to sit on NJ Transit for one more minute.

European Union to Place 15% Tariff on Boeing Aircraft

The European Union announced that it will apply a 15% tariff on Boeing aircraft being sold to operators in Europe as a retaliation for U.S. subsidies offered to Boeing.

This issue has been ongoing for more than 15 years, but came to the forefront again due to an April 2019 ruling from the WTO that the U.S. was not in compliance with WTO regulations as the government continued to offer subsidies to Boeing.

The tariff will take effect today, November 10 and will remain in place until the U.S. and EU can come to an agreement. The tariff on Boeing is included in a larger package of US exports, with the total figure being about $4 billion. 

In an effort to fight the tariff without giving up its U.S. government subsidies, Boeing is considering offering all European operators a Buy One, Get One 15% off coupon to satisfy the WTO. The manufacturer is also considering a holiday special, where each aircraft placed on order comes with a copy of Michael Buble’s hit 2011 album, Christmas.

American Eliminates More Award Fees

After eliminating change fees earlier this fall, American Airlines has gone a step further eliminating more fees for customers looking to make changes to their award travel plans.

Despite eliminating redeposit fees for awards cancelled more than 60 days out, a fee structure remained for non-Executive Platinum members who cancelled award bookings less than 60 days out. The fees ranged from $50 up to $150 — with the $150 being charged to a non-elite cancelling an award booking fewer than seven days before travel. Effective tomorrow, November 11, all redoposit fees for all members, elite or not, will be waived — provided the cancellation is prior to departure.

American also has eliminated its $40 phone booking fee for non-Executive Platinums booking awards on the phone. In reality, this fee was rarely charged as the reason the member was calling in the first place was often because of an error while booking on the web.

Lastly, AA has extended AAdvantage mileage expiration dates, through June 30, 2021. This is terrible news for all the AA-supported charities that received frequent 1,000 mile donations as travelers looked for any way to keep their miles active.

Etihad Slims Down for the Long-Haul

Unlike many people who gained weight during the pandemic, Etihad has used the spring and summer to restructure itself into a leaner, more mid-sized airline.

As part of the restructuring, Etihad will focus primarily on its widebody aircraft, despite having 56 narrowbody Airbus currently on order.

The airline also saw four top executives leave the company, including Chief Commercial Officer Robin Kamark, giving it a chance to right-size its executive team in the wake of the pandemic. With its leadership changes, Etihad will separate out business units that previously fell under Kamark’s oversight.

Etihad currently has a fleet of 81 widebody aircraft, led by 30 Boeing 787-9s. It currently serves 72 destinations from its Abu Dhabi hub with 58 daily flights. Chances are good that not a single one of them makes money.

Qatar Launches Basic Business Class

Qatar Airways has begun selling a basic business class offering on most of its routes, including to and from the United States. The unbundled business class, which the airline has named “Business Class Classic” does not include advanced seat selection or complimentary lounge access with the fare.

The basic business seat does not preclude lounge access if a passenger has it through other means such as elite status with a oneworld partner. It also will still come with a seat assignment if the passenger has elite status on a oneworld partner that allows that sort of thing.

Qatar will also be launching a pilot program on select flights beginning in early 2021 with what it is calling “Very Classic Business Class.” The VCBC seat will come at a 10% lower cost than its current basic business class and will not include on-board lavatory access or a seat belt. The airline said in a statement said that it’s unfair that those passengers with a large bladder are being forced to subsidize lavatory costs that are only used by their small-bladdered fellow passengers.

Likewise, the airline said that 10-15% of its passengers never buckle their seat belt when flying anyway, and that those passengers should not be required to shoulder the financial burden of those who do use their seat belts.

Airline Potpourri

  • Azores Airlines is facing a €15 million lawsuit from Air Lease Corporation over the airline’s Airbus A321neo aircraft.
  • China Airlines has put its final four Boeing 747 aircraft up for sale.
  • Ecuatoriana Airlines received its operating license as it moves forward to resume service next year for the first time since going out of business in 2006.
  • Jet2 has suspended all flights in and out of England for the duration of the current lockdown.
  • JetBlue added 25 extra flights from the New York area for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.
  • Qantas has added three new destinations from Canberra: Cairns (CNS), Hobart (HBA), and Sunshine Coast (MCY)

Andrew’s Moment of Levity

All gnomes have red hats. It’s a gnome fact.