In a sign of hope for the future, Air China plans to revive SFO-Beijing non-stops later this month using a Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
Airline schedules to mainland European destinations like Copenhagen are being slashed due to the new U.S. travel ban.
At San Francisco International, United is cutting 231 flights a week by mid-April.
The U.K. is one of the few European destinations not included in the U.S. travel ban.
The Lufthansa Group’s four airlines have suspended most U.S. serevice.
Norwegian will keep flying from the U.S. to London Gatwick but it is ending other U.S. flights during April.
Entrance to American Express’ new Centurion Lounge in LAX’s Bradley Terinal.
In route news, United will drop hundreds of San Francisco flights next month but Air China plans to resume SFO non-stop service; Qantas is suspending two San Francisco routes; ANA suspends its San Jose-Tokyo nonstop; the State Department suggests Americans should not travel abroad after the U.S. bans entry for 30 days to foreign nationals traveling from Europe; as a result, Delta, American and United scramble to adjust international schedules; Lufthansa Group carriers and Norwegian suspend most U.S. flights; route news from KLM, Air France, El Al, Kuwait Airways, British Airways, SAS, Southwest; Amtrak suspends Acela trains; LAX gets an AmEx Centurion Lounge.
The air travel situation is getting more chaotic and uncertain by the day, especially for international flights, as coronavirus tightens its grip on the world. New passenger bookings are drying up and cancellations are rampant, and now the White House has sparked a major disruption of transatlantic travel. Airlines are trying to keep up by cutting schedules again and again.
At San Francisco International, United has revealed some details of its plan to cut back capacity during April. According to Routesonline.com, the total number of weekly flights operated by United at SFO will shrink from 1,743 at the end of March to 1,512 by the middle of April, a drop of more than 13 percent. There was no route-specific data on the cutbacks. United will also scale back flight operations at Chicago O’Hare, Denver, Los Angeles, Houston, Newark and Washington Dulles. You can see the specific numbers here.
But Routesonline.com also reported a planned resumption of service by Air China between San Francisco and Beijing Capital Airport as the coronavirus situation in China has reportedly started to ease. The Chinese carrier dropped the non-stop route on February 10, and now has filed plans to resume service on March 29, operating four flights a week at least through May 1, although it will use a 787-9 instead of the 777-300ER it was previously flying on the SFO route. These flights are in addition to the airline’s temporary Beijing-Los Angeles-San Francisco routing currently operating four times a week.
ANA announced on Friday that it will suspend its San Jose-Tokyo nonstop starting March 24 “until further notice.”
And as we reported earlier this week, Qantas plans to suspend two San Francisco routes as part of an overall capacity reduction of 25 percent. Effective from April 18 at least through mid-September, Qantas will end its new SFO-Brisbane route, currently operating three times a week, as well as its four weekly SFO-Melbourne flights. The airline will continue Sydney-San Francisco nonstops but will replace the 787 Dreamliner currently on the route with a larger 747, also effective April 18.
The big news this week, of course, was President Trump’s decision on Wednesday (March 11) to ban entry to the U.S. for 30 days effective Saturday (March 14) to foreign nationals who have been in any of 26 European countries (the U.K. and Ireland are among a few exceptions) during the two weeks before their planned arrival in the U.S. The decision was taken without consulting any European governments or giving them prior notice, and the chaos it created for travelers was initially heightened by Trump’s failure to mention in his televised speech that the ban did not apply to any returning U.S. citizens or legal residents. U.S. officials said later that returning Americans will be funneled through a dozen U.S. airports where they can be tested by the CDC for coronavirus symptoms, and they may have to self-quarantine for 14 days.
Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department this week urged U.S. citizens to “reconsider travel abroad” for now. “Many areas throughout the world are now experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks and taking action that may limit traveler mobility, including quarantines and border restrictions. Even countries, jurisdictions, or areas where cases have not been reported may restrict travel without notice,” State said. You can see the details of the advisory here.
On Friday, the Transportation Security Administration said that it is now okay to pack larger-thn-3-oz bottles of hand sanitizer in your carry on bag. Here’s a tweet from a TSA spokesperson:
.@TSA now allowing passengers to bring liquid hand sanitizer up to 12 oz in carry-on bags until further notice. Expect these containers larger than the standard of 3.4 oz of liquids will need to be screened separately, which will add some time to checkpoint screening.
United said on its website Friday (March 13) that it will keep operating its regular schedule to European destinations through March 20. “After that, we expect to fly daily to Zurich, Brussels, Paris, Amsterdam, Manchester and Edinburgh, maintain multiple flights to Frankfurt and Munich, and operate 18 daily flights to and from London, three to Dublin and four flights a week to Lisbon, all while continuing to monitor demand,” the company said. Passengers booked to fly to Europe after March 20 should check their flight’s status on United.com or the airline’s mobile app.
RELATED: United eases up on onerous 25-hour rule
Following the White House announcements, Delta said would operate most of its Europe-U.S. schedule through this Sunday (March 15) to help customers get back to the U.S., but after that its Europe operations will be “significantly reduced.”
Delta issued two updates of its Europe route plans after that, but those became outdated Friday afternoon when Delta revealed a startling memo to employees from CEO Ed Bastian stating that the airline now intends to suspend all service to continental Europe (not the U.K.) for the next 30 days, and possibly even longer than that. That is part of a massive system-wide draw-down, the memo said, which will see Delta reducing its overall capacity by 40 percent and parking 300 jets – the biggest capacity cut in the airline’s history. Bastian said cancellations are coming in faster than new bookings for travel over the next four weeks, representing a fall-off in demand that is “unlike anything we’ve seen.” He also said Delta will seek financial assistance from the federal government to help it get through the current crisis and will cut spending by $2 billion this year. You can read the memo here.
Flights per country affected by the U.S. travel ban on Europeans.
American Airlines said on Thursday (March 12) that it will maintain service for up to seven days on routes from Dallas/Ft. Worth, New York JFK and Miami to Barcelona, Frankfurt, Madrid and Paris. But it has suspended flights from Charlotte and Philadelphia to Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Madrid, Munich and Zurich. American has also halted service from Raleigh/Durham to London Heathrow and will reduce frequencies to Heathrow from JFK, DFW and Chicago.
Earlier this week, American said Philadelphia-Rome flights have been suspended through the end of April, while Rome service from Chicago and Charlotte will be dropped “through early summer.” The airline’s resumption of seasonal service to Rome from DFW and JFK will be pushed back to the end of April, while seasonal Charlotte-Barcelona and Chicago-Venice flights won’t start until early June.
In other markets, AA said that its service suspension from Los Angeles to mainland China and Hong Kong will now continue through the summer, as will its suspension of Dallas/Ft. Worth-mainland China flights. DFW-Hong Kong service will resume on a limited basis in July, and the suspension of DFW-Seoul flights will remain in place through early May. The airline has also suspended flights to Buenos Aires from Miami, DFW, JFK and Los Angeles; to Sao Paulo from DFW and LAX; and to Santiago, Chile from DFW; and it has discontinued Miami-Cordoba, Argentina flights. Except for Asia, suspended flights “are expected to resume as early as May 7,” AA said.
In the U.S., “Widebody aircraft will be redeployed on key domestic routes in American’s network,” the company said. “American will also introduce new seasonal service between ORD and Honolulu (HNL) this summer on a Boeing 787-9.”
Lufthansa Group (Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines, Swiss and Brussels Airlines), a member of United’s Star Alliance, said on Thursday (March 12) that it is suspending most U.S. service effective March 14. The only exceptions: Lufthansa will continue to serve Frankfurt-Newark and Frankfurt-Chicago, Austrian will keep flying between Vienna and Chicago, and Brussels Airlines will maintain operations between Brussels and Washington Dulles. “All other U.S. flights will be suspended until further notice due to U.S. administration restrictions, including all departures from Munich, Düsseldorf and Geneva. The Lufthansa Group will continue to serve all destinations in Canada until further notice,” the company said.
Transatlantic low-cost carrier Norwegian Air said on Thursday that it is grounding 40 percent of its long-haul fleet and thus will cancel “the majority of our long-haul flights to the U.S. from Amsterdam, Madrid, Oslo, Stockholm, Barcelona and Paris” through March 29. After March 29, all of those routes will go totally dormant through the end of April, and U.S.-Athens flights will also be dropped. All of its U.S.-Rome flights will be suspended from now through the end of May, Norwegian said. But since the U.K. is not included in the U.S. travel ban, “All routes between London Gatwick and the U.S. will continue to operate as normal. Norwegian operates 11 routes between the U.S. and London Gatwick. Our goal is to reroute as many of our customers as possible through London during this difficult period,” the company said.
KLM said on March 12 it will “maintain the network to destinations in the U.S. where passengers are screened, for the next two weeks as long as possible, also to give customers the opportunity to travel home.” But it urged travelers to watch its website and app for schedule changes.
On Air France’s website the airline said Thursday that through March 28, it will keep flying from Paris to San Francisco, Washington Dulles, New York JFK, Los Angeles, Detroit, Chicago and Atlanta, and that it is “awaiting clarification from the U.S. authorities” on the possibility of maintaining service to Miami, Houston and Boston. Meanwhile, “We are working with our partners KLM, Delta Air Lines and Virgin Atlantic on implementing a plan to continue service to the United States for our customers beyond 28 March 2020,” Air France said.
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British Airways said it will keep flying between the U.S. and U.K., but it noted that passengers booked to travel on the airline between the U.S. and the mainland European countries subject to the travel ban through April 11 can rebook for a later flight up to August 1 or can receive a voucher for future travel.
Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) plans to continue its San Francisco-Copenhagen service as scheduled through March 17 and will maintain a reduced schedule from Copenhagen to Chicago and New York and from Stockholm to New York. Other than that, SSAS is suspending service to other U.S. destinations through March 28.
In other international developments, Israel’s El Al has suspended San Francisco-Tel Aviv service from March 17-28 and LAX flights March 22-28, and has pushed back the launch of Chicago-Tel Aviv service from March 22 to June 28 … Finnair is suspending service from Helsinki to New York, LAX and Miami effective March 19-April 12 … Kuwait Airways has suspended all commercial flights out of Kuwait City “until further notice,” including its daily service to New York JFK … From March 24 through October 25, British Airways is canceling its all-business-class service from New York JFK to London City Airport, which operates westbound via a stop in Shannon and uses a special 32-seat Airbus 318.
On the less chaotic domestic front, Southwest this week issued its latest schedule update, which included news that on August 11 it will boost its Bay Area schedules to Long Beach, increasing daily frequencies from four to five flights for both Oakland and San Jose. On October 8, Southwest will add two new routes to Mexico from Phoenix, including two daily flights to Los Cabos and one a day to Puerto Vallarta. However, a couple of Bay Area cuts are coming in June, including American’s elimination of Oakland-DFW service and Sun Country Airlines’ termination of San Francisco-Portland flights.
It’s not just airline schedules that are being affected by coronavirus. On the east coast, Amtrak has suspended its high-speed non-stop Acela trains between Washington D.C. and New York City through May 26.
In airport news, American Express this week opened its 12th Centurion Lounge. This one is at Los Angeles International in the Tom Bradley International Terminal, and at 14,000 square feet, it’s the largest one yet. AmEx notes that the lounge is accessible post-security from Terminals 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8. Besides offering California-centric menu selections, wines and cocktails, the lounge has high-speed Wi-Fi, “private noise-buffering workspaces,” a family room, showers and plenty of artwork. Access to The Centurion Lounge is complimentary for Platinum Card holders, Centurion members and Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card members. Platinum Card Members may enter with up to two travel companions at no additional charge.
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In a sign of hope for the future, Air China plans to revive SFO-Beijing non-stops later this month using a Boeing 787 Dreamliner.