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March 27, 2018

Air Travel: United Suspends Pet Shipping, AA's New Lounge

It's been another busy week for air travel news affecting the meetings and events industry. Here's what you need to know. 

United Suspends Pet Shipping

After a series of errors that included a dog being mistakenly sent to Japan instead of Kansas, United Airlines is putting a pause on its cargo hold pet-shipping service. The airline said that service will be put on hold while it reviews its procedures, with the review expected to finish by May 1. The review will not, however, cover incidents like the one in which a dog suffocated after a flight attendant ordered the bag in which it was held to be placed in an overhead bin. United had previously promised that carry-on luggage containing pets would be issued brightly colored tags to help flight attendants identify them by April.

American Express Opens New Lounge at Melbourne Airport

American Express has announced the expansion of its American Express Global Lounge Collection with the opening of a new American Express Lounge in the Melbourne Airport (MEL), making it the second American Express Lounge in Australia, following Sydney.

Now open in Terminal 2 at the Satellite Level Departures area, the American Express Lounge in the Melbourne Airport will offer card members a place to relax while traveling through Australia. The lounge's hours are 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week.

Spanning more than 2,800 square feet, the new lounge will offer complimentary food and beverages; high-speed Wi-Fi; computer and copy facilities; flight information screens; and a selection of local and international magazines and newspapers.

Air Tahiti’s New Dreamliners

In product news, travel managers can now book Air Tahiti Nui’s fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliners in global distribution systems (GDS). The new Dreamliner will debut in November on flights between Tahiti and Auckland, New Zealand, after which the airline will phase out its current fleet of Airbus A340-400s through September 2019, to coincide with its 20th anniversary. The new Dreamliners will mark the debut of the airline’s new Premium Economy product as part of a new three-class configuration (Economy, Premium Economy and Business Class).

Delta, Virgin Atlantic Launch Joint Summer Schedule

In flight news, Delta and Virgin Atlantic are launching their joint summer schedule this weekend, offering more nonstop flights between the U.S. and UK than ever before. As part of the schedule Delta will resume the only nonstop services from Portland, Oregon, and Salt Lake City to London - Heathrow, with Salt Lake City service starting April 1 and Portland starting May 3. Delta is also adding capacity with new A330s on services to London from Atlanta and Detroit. Virgin Atlantic, meanwhile, is adding a sixth daily service from New York - JFK to Heathrow, while Delta is adding the larger A330 to its two daily services.

The two airlines will also be offering up to 17 flights a week from New York - JFK and Orlando to Scotland, their biggest-ever service. Delta will operate daily nonstop services from New York JFK to both Glasgow and Edinburgh Airports, while in Northern Ireland Virgin Atlantic will operate its longest season ever from Orlando to Belfast International. Virgin Atlantic will also increase capacity between New York and Manchester, introducing a Boeing 747 starting in May, as well as reintroduce its seasonal flights to Manchester from Las Vegas, San Francisco and Boston.

New U.S. Routes From Delta

Delta announced a couple of new domestic routes this week as well. The airline reported that, starting October 1, it would launch new service between Boston Logan International Airport and Las Vegas, marking the airline’s 50th nonstop destination from Boston. The daily service will depart Boston at 8:15 a.m., arriving at 11:10 a.m., and depart Las Vegas at 11:15 a.m., arriving at 7:20 p.m. (all times local). A Boeing 737-800 with First Class, Comfort+ and main cabin service will fly on the new route.

Delta is also launching new service between El Paso, Texas, and Salt Lake City, also starting October 1. The flight, operated by CRJ-900 aircraft by Delta Connection carrier SkyWest Airlines, will depart El Paso 8:15 a.m. and arrive at 10:15 a.m., and depart Salt Lake City at 8:05 p.m. and arrive at 10:25 p.m.

Air Astana's Summer Schedule

Air Astana, the national carrier of Kazakhstan, is also launching its summer schedule this week. The new schedule, which officially kicked off March 25, will include increased frequencies between London Heathrow and Astana (daily starting June 1), as well as an increase in weekly frequencies from Astana to Beijing (5); Bishkek (5); Delhi (4); Kiev (7); Moscow (12); Omsk (7); St. Petersburg (9); Tblisi (4); Urumqui (7); and an increase in weekly frequencies from Almaty to Baku (4); Bishkek (9); Beijing (7); Dushanbe (5); Hong Kong (3); Kiev (9); Moscow (16); St. Petersburg (10); and Tblisi (7). The schedule also includes new twice weekly service from Atyrau to Frankfurt, starting March 26, and new services from Astana to Tyumen (3) and Kazan (1) in Russia, which will commence in early June. The Kazan route will increase to three times a week in September.

Munich's Summer Schedule

In airport news, Munich Airport is kicking off its summer timetable starting March 25. This summer the airport will see new additions by Lufthansa and its subsidiary, Eurowings, including daily departures on a Lufthansa A380 to Hong Kong, Beijing and Los Angeles. Lufthansa is also resuming services to Singapore, departing five times per week on Airbus A350s.  It is also adding three new weekly flights to Chicago, bringing the total to 10. There will no longer be services to Riyadh and Tehran, however. Eurowings, meanwhile, will operate flights to Bangkok, Cancun, Fort Myers, Las Vegas, Mauritius, Montego Bay, Punta Cana and Puerto Plata, along with Varadero and Windhoek.

Lufthansa's Biometrics Test

Finally, a cool bit of tech news: this week Lufthansa began using biometric boarding technology at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). The new technology allows self-boarding gates equipped with facial recognition cameras to automatically capture and recognize passengers’ facial images as they approach the device, marking them as “boarded.” The passenger no longer needs to show a boarding pass or passport at the gate, allowing the airline to board an A380 in about 20 minutes during the test. After the LAX trial, Lufthansa said that it plans to introduce biometric boarding at other U.S. airports nationwide.

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