Southwest Airlines ends flight credit expiration – SFGATE

Southwest Airlines ends flight credit expiration - SFGATE
Written by admin sati

In this week’s travel news, JetBlue’s successful bid to acquire Spirit Airlines still has some hurdles to cross before a merger becomes reality; Southwest Airlines will eliminate expiration dates for customers’ unused flight credits; low-cost Breeze Airways adds two more routes from San Francisco next week; United schedules special flights for college football games; Southwest drops a few Hawaii nonstop routes, including some from Sacramento; Delta will add Los Angeles-Miami service in December; Frontier introduces a short-term fare sale; Delta’s latest international plans include LAX-Tahiti flights starting in December; the world’s major airports are ranked by flight delays and cancellations; in the U.S., JetBlue had the worst cancellation/delay rates in the first four months of the year; and Europe’s flight chaos continued this week with a one-day Lufthansa job action that canceled 1,000 flights.

Although JetBlue has finally won its battle against Frontier Airlines to see who would acquire Spirit Airlines, there’s a lot more work to be done before Spirit’s bright yellow airplanes are repainted in JetBlue livery. 

The final act in the takeover drama came this week when Spirit announced it was terminating its merger agreement with Frontier after repeatedly delaying a shareholder vote on the proposal — a sign that Spirit’s board knew it didn’t have enough shareholder support to close the deal. That left Spirit no alternative but to continue fresh discussions with JetBlue. And even though Spirit’s board had adamantly opposed JetBlue’s acquisition offer before the Frontier deal fell apart, it did a quick about-face and approved a JetBlue merger offer within hours after it ended the Frontier agreement. JetBlue’s offer, which still must be approved by Spirit shareholders, provides $33.50 in cash per share, or a total value of $3.8 billion. It also must pass muster with the Justice Department’s antitrust regulators, and then must develop a strategy for combining two airlines with very different products. 

Frontier Airlines CEO Ted Christie, right speaking with former CEO Sean E. Menke.

Ken Lyons/Denver Post via Getty Images

Before this week, Spirit officials insisted that a merger with JetBlue would never win Justice Department approval, a view that seemed reasonable considering that DOJ is already pursuing an antitrust suit against JetBlue’s Northeast Alliance with American Airlines, and that’s far short of a merger. Just a month ago on CNBC, Spirit CEO Ted Christie cited a speech earlier this year by a DOJ antitrust official “very clearly stating that he will not authorize any deal like JetBlue wants,” Christie said. He called the JetBlue offer “an illusory deal … it’s three years of litigation and then JetBlue loses.” But this week, an effusive Christie said that merging Spirit with JetBlue “will be a game-changer” and will create “the most compelling national low-fare challenger to the dominant U.S. carriers.” He didn’t say anything about the chances for DOJ approval. But Reuters this week spoke to several antitrust experts and concluded that the two airlines “face an uphill struggle getting U.S. regulators to approve their combination.”

If the merger gets over that legal hurdle, the two airlines must decide how to create a unified customer experience across their combined fleet of 458 aircraft, which would make JetBlue/Spirit the nation’s fifth largest airline. Except for some smaller Embraer 190s and Airbus A220s, all JetBlue and Spirit aircraft are from the Airbus A319/320/321 family. The two carriers said this week that they plan to “bring the JetBlue experience” to the combined airline, but that will require some major changes. Many of JetBlue’s transcontinental routes offer a posh front cabin experience called Mint service; Spirit has nothing comparable except for a few front seats that are slightly larger than those behind them. JetBlue has greater-than-average seat pitch as well as free Wi-Fi and seatback entertainment, while Spirit — with its focus on keeping base fares low — crams the seats in and charges extra fees for almost everything. And combining the airlines’ labor forces could also present some problems: e.g., Spirit’s flight attendants belong to the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, while JetBlue flight crew members are represented by the Transport Workers Union, which has already opposed a Spirit merger.

A Spirit Airlines plane lands at Oakland International Airport on July 28, 2022, in Oakland, Calif.

A Spirit Airlines plane lands at Oakland International Airport on July 28, 2022, in Oakland, Calif.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Are you still sitting on unexpired Southwest Airlines flight credits from a trip you canceled during the pandemic? Now you don’t have to worry about those credits expiring. The airline said this week it is eliminating expiration dates for all flight credits “unexpired on or created on or after July 28, 2022.” Customers don’t have to take any action to get the benefit. The airline noted that customers who look at their accounts now will see their flight credits have a “placeholder” expiration date of Dec. 31, 2040, but that’s just temporary until it can update its systems to remove expiration dates entirely.  

Low-cost Breeze Airways, created by JetBlue founder David Neeleman, is slated to expand its operations at San Francisco International next week. On Aug. 4, the carrier will introduce a new intrastate route from SFO to San Bernardino along with new service from SFO to the Provo, Utah, airport just south of metro Salt Lake City. For San Bernardino’s airport (SBD), it will be the first passenger airline service since the facility opened a few years ago as a civilian makeover of the old Norton Air Force Base; until now, it has been handling mostly cargo flights. The SFO-San Bernardino and SFO-Provo service will both operate once a day. Breeze also plans to add nonstop Provo-Las Vegas flights Oct. 5 and Provo-Los Angeles service Nov. 2. Breeze started flying out of SFO in May with two or three flights a week to Richmond, Virginia; Charleston, South Carolina; and Louisville, Kentucky, and is due to add daily SFO-Westchester County, N.Y. service on Nov. 2.

Want to travel to Seattle for the Sept. 24 football game between Stanford and the University of Washington? That’s one of several markets where United Airlines has scheduled special flights for college football fans. For the Stanford game, United will offer special departures from San Jose on Sept. 23 and back on Sept. 25. Other special college football flights are scattered across the country from September through November. You can see the schedule on their website.

Southwest Airlines made some tweaks to its Hawaii network when it recently opened up its winter schedule for bookings through March 8, according to the travel website Beat of Hawaii. For the Bay Area, the changes include the suspension of nonstop service from Sacramento to both Kona on the Big Island and Lihue, Kauai, although interisland connections to those destinations are still available from Southwest, which is maintaining its SMF-Honolulu schedule. The report noted that Southwest also boosted its interisland schedules to a total of 11 flights a day between Honolulu and Maui, six a day between Honolulu and both Kona and Kauai, and five a day between Honolulu and Hilo. Southwest is also introducing a daily Maui-Kauai flight. Other modifications include the suspension of nonstop service from Long Beach to Maui, from San Diego to Kona and Kauai, and from Phoenix to Kona and Kauai.  

Aerial view of Miami International Airport (MIA) pictured on Dec. 24, 2020.

Aerial view of Miami International Airport (MIA) pictured on Dec. 24, 2020.

DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images

In other California route news, Delta plans to add service on Dec. 17 between Los Angeles and Miami with two flights a day, competing against American and JetBlue and giving Delta flyers a new connecting link to the Miami flights of it South American partner LATAM. American Airlines plans to operate seasonal service between Palm Springs and Austin with daily flights Nov. 17 through 29 and Dec. 15 through Jan. 9. And JSX is due to add Colorado to its network next week with an Aug. 4 launch of twice-daily flights from Hollywood Burbank Airport to Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport in Broomfield, Colorado, roughly halfway between Denver and Boulder. JSX operates specially configured 30-seat regional jets with business class-type amenities.

Frontier Airlines rolled out a major fare sale on July 28, offering a million seats for discounted prices starting at $19 one-way — but tickets must be purchased by 11:59 p.m. on Monday (Aug. 1). It’s good for travel on select days of the week from Aug. 2 through Oct. 5. For California, the sale fares apply for outbound travel on Tuesday through Friday and inbound flights Sunday through Wednesday. A seven-day advance purchase is required, and blackout dates apply for travel on Aug. 31, Sept. 3, 6 and 7.

On the international side, Delta announced some new routes this week, including Los Angeles-Tahiti service beginning Dec. 17, with three 767-300ER flights a week (Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays). Delta will be the second U.S. airline to fly to Tahiti, along with United’s San Francisco service. The destination is also served by French Bee from San Francisco as well as Air Tahiti Nui and Delta partner Air France from LAX. Delta also said it will introduce three flights a week from its Atlanta hub to Tel Aviv starting May 10, 2023, and three weekly flights from Atlanta to Cape Town, South Africa, beginning Dec. 17. (United also announced three weekly flights to Cape Town from its Washington Dulles hub starting Nov. 17.) In Japan, Delta this week cut the ribbon on a new Sky Club at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport — the only lounge at HND operated by a U.S. carrier.

Passengers in Toronto Pearson International Airport Terminal One early in the morning on July 22, 2022.

Passengers in Toronto Pearson International Airport Terminal One early in the morning on July 22, 2022.

Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Last week, we reported on which U.S. airports have racked up the worst 2022 records for delayed and canceled flights. This week, the Wall Street Journal used data from FlightAware to compile a list of flight cancellation and delay rates for 100 of the world’s busiest airports from June 1 through July 24, as the chaotic peak summer season got underway. Among the findings: Most of the 100 airports had a flight delay rate (i.e., flights that arrived more than 15 minutes late at their destination) of at least 20%. The two with the worst records were both in Canada: Toronto Pearson, where 57.1% of departures were delayed; and Montreal-Trudeau, with a 52.6% delay rate. The next eight were all in Europe. In declining order, they were Frankfurt, Paris CDG, Lisbon, Munich, Amsterdam, London Heathrow, London Gatwick and Manchester, with flight delay rates ranging from 47.9% to 39.9%. The worst U.S. airport on the list was Chicago Midway, with a 38.3% delay rate.

In the percentage of flights canceled, airports in China stood out well above the crowd. (Remember, this was a time when China was imposing some severe lockdowns to maintain its zero-COVID policy.) The flight cancellation rate was 38.8% at Shanghai Pudong, 15.7% at Nanjing, 14.9% at Xi’an, and 12.7% at Beijing Capital International. Elsewhere, the analysis found a cancellation rate of 7.7% at Oslo, 7.2% at New York LaGuardia, 7.3% at Newark Liberty, 6.8% at Toronto Pearson, 6.3% at Jakarta, 5.9% at Montreal-Trudeau, 5.9% at Melbourne, 5.6% at Sydney, and 4.9% at Washington Reagan National. has provided a similar analysis of flight operations, but by airline rather than airport. It studied data from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics for January through April for major U.S. carriers — admittedly before the airlines’ problems escalated in the peak season — and JetBlue fared the worst, with 7% of its flights canceled and 33% delayed during that four-month period. The low-cost carriers Spirit and Frontier were also near the bottom of the list: The cancellation/delay rates were 5%/27% for Spirit and 4%/32% for Frontier. The best performances were turned in by Delta, with cancellation/delay rates of 2% and 16%, and Hawaiian Airlines at 1%/16%. United managed a 2% flight cancellation rate and 19% delay rate, and the comparable numbers were 4%/18% for American, 4%/19% for Alaska, and 4%/22% for Southwest.  

An interior view of Heathrow Airport on July 24, 2022. Heathrow Airport could not respond to the high number of passengers after the removal of COVID-19 measures.

An interior view of Heathrow Airport on July 24, 2022. Heathrow Airport could not respond to the high number of passengers after the removal of COVID-19 measures.

Anadolu Agency/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

European air travel continued to be a major mess this week. In the latest European developments, thousands of Lufthansa’s ground staff went on a one-day walkout on Wednesday (July 27), leading to the cancellation of more than 1,000 flights at the airline’s Frankfurt and Munich hubs, affecting more than 130,000 travelers. At London Heathrow, which imposed a cap of 100,000 daily passengers earlier this month, the airport’s chief gave a radio interview from Terminal 5 on Tuesday insisting that things were going smoothly. But according to The Daily Mail, at the same time, “passengers shared photographs of long lines snaking outside Heathrow’s Terminal 2 at about 5 a.m. this morning, while others took pictures of hundreds of people waiting to get through security in Terminal 3 around 9 a.m.”

What’s more, The Points Guy reported this week that British Airways pilots are asking their leaders for a vote to authorize a strike, which could come during the peak vacation season. “It’s a move that could have huge ramifications in the United Kingdom and beyond, potentially affecting millions of vacations,” The Points Guy said. And in Ireland, Dublin Airport and Aer Lingus are trying to deal with thousands of lost bags, according to the Irish Times — most of them at the airport, but hundreds more across the airline’s European and North American networks. The newspaper said that Aer Lingus’ baggage problems “may continue for the rest of the summer.”

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