Friday 24 November 2017

Business Traveller: US airlines join as global giant

Cityscape of Saint John's from Signal Hill
Cityscape of Saint John's from Signal Hill

AMERICAN Airlines and US Airways have officially inked the deal on a long-awaited merger, creating the world's biggest airline overnight.

The merger process will probably take up to two years to complete, but there are almost immediate ramifications for the airline's passengers -- particularly business travellers in the carriers' loyalty programmes. For these people, the date the merger really begins is January 8.

That's when the two airlines will recognise each others' frequent flier programmes, when frequent flier members at one airline will be able to earn miles on the other, if they choose to.

The merger even has ramifications for other airlines' frequent flyer programmes. AA is part of the Oneworld global alliance, which also includes British Airways, while US Airways is part of the Star Alliance. US Airways now plans to leave the Star Alliance by March 31. So if you have US Airways miles and you want to book a flight on a Star Alliance partner, you should make those bookings now.

Other changes will take longer to introduce. The airlines expect to start selling each others' flights in mid-January.

It will probably take until March for that process to be complete.

Airports will also keep separate AA and US Airways counters for the time being.

If your ticket is booked on American, show up there. If it's booked on US Airways, go to that gate.

A LEARNING CURVE FOR WESTJET

FREQUENT flyers between Canada and Dublin should be aware that Westjet's much-hyped plans for a new route connecting the two involve smaller planes with limited capacity.

The new route connecting St John's in Newfoundland (pictured) with Dublin Airport was announced with much fanfare last month, alongside talk of market-leading low fares. It will launch next June. Introductory fares mean WestJet's passengers flying from St John's to Dublin would pay approximately €275 for a return flight, while passengers connecting on to Toronto and back would pay around €430.

But it has emerged that WestJet plans to fly to Dublin with a jet seldom used for transatlantic travel: a Boeing 737-700, which can seat a maximum of 136 people and fly a maximum of 6,115km.

International carriers typically use wider-bodied planes like Boeing's 777 for transatlantic flights, with double the passenger capacity and almost Ltwice as much range.

Analysts say the limited capacity of these planes indicate that the new route, WestJet's first foray into transatlantic flight, is a learning venture more than a serious attempt to compete. "Going to Dublin with a 737 is more about learning than anything else," said Toronto-based analyst Fadi Chamoun. "It's not a product that is going to give them the runway to grow share in the Atlantic. You can't really compete on the Atlantic with a narrow-body. This is about getting experience and a knowledge of the market."

RYANAIR GIFT FOR DERRY FLIERS

DERRY Airport has refurbished its departure area. Travellers now have access to free Wi-Fi, better shopping, a newly revamped executive lounge and, crucially, a pre-boarding facility that should free up the congestion which has plagued the airport's departure lounge during peak times.

The airport's commercial manager Charlene Shongo pointed out that Ryanair's recent decision to allow passengers carry a second carry-on bag on board will be a real boost to airline shops. Ryanair is Derry Airport's main airline.

In other Ryanair news, this week the carrier rolled out one of its most hotly-anticipated new initiatives: a 50pc cut to the cost of checking in excess baggage. This means passengers will now pay €10 per excess kilo of luggage over the 15kg cutoff point, down from €20.

The move is just one of a series of efforts to show a softer, more consumer-friendly side.

Spokesman Robin Kiely said that Christmas was a time when people travelled with lots of baggage.

He said the reduction in fees was an "early Christmas present to our customers".

Irish Independent

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