Monday, December 26, 2016

December route roundup: Where airlines are adding service

Airlines are constantly tweaking their schedules, trying to find profitable new routes or pulling the plug on ones that have underperformed. Airports and communities also court these new services.

There are dozens of changes to airline routes each month. Here's a look at some of the most interesting from the past month.

Qantas says it will launch non-stop service between Australia and Europe with a route that would immediately become one of the world’s longest regularly scheduled passenger flights.

Qantas revealed plans for the route Dec. 11, saying it would start flying non-stop between Perth and London Heathrow in March 2018. The carrier will use its new long-range Boeing 787-9 “Dreamliners” to fly the route, which Qantas says will be “the first regular passenger service to directly link Australia with Europe.”

Qantas touts the planned 17-hour, 9,010-mile route as one that will become the world’s third-longest.

Currently, Emirates’ 8,819-mile flight between Dubai and Auckland, New Zealand, is the world’s longest while Qantas’ 8,576-mile Dallas/Fort Worth-Sydney route comes in at No. 2, according to data provided to USA TODAY by airline data provider OAG. Both those routes will be overtaken in early 2017 once Qatar Airways launches its 9,030-mile non-stop route between Auckland and its hub in Doha.

And Air India also has emerged as a contender for the world’s longest flight after it shifted the routing of its Delhi-San Francisco route this past fall. Instead of flying the shortest distance between the cities via a polar route, the airline now routes its Delhi-to-San Francisco route over the Pacific, The Times of India reports. Despite the longer distance — about 9,400 miles for the flight — the tailwinds common on that particular route actually help the airline save fuel.​

Qantas' Perth-London service also would become the world's longest Dreamliner route, based on schedules as of December 2016. Currently, United Airlines holds that distinction for its service between San Francisco and Singapore.

Alaska Airlines wasted little time announcing new routes as part of its merger with Virgin America.

Alaska Airlines revealed plans for three new routes from Virgin America’s San Francisco hub, announcing them on the same day it officially closed on its acquisition of the California-based carrier. The routes to Minneapolis/St. Paul, Orlando and Orange County, Calif., will launch this summer and will be flown on planes under both the Alaska Airlines and Virgin America brands.

Alaska Air’s regional affiliate SkyWest will fly the Orange County and Minneapolis/St. Paul routes on its 76-seat Embraer E175 jets. The Orange County service begins June 15 with two daily round-trip flights, increasing to four daily round-trip flights on July 18. Alaska Air’s twice-daily San Francisco-Minneapolis/St. Paul service starts July 18.

Virgin America will operate the Orlando route starting June 14, with one daily round-trip flight on its 146-seat mood-lit Airbus A320 aircraft. Once the new routes start, Alaska Air says it and Virgin America will be flying to 20 of the 25 most popular air destinations from San Francisco.

Read more here:   http://www.usatoday.com

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