Flights

Comparing airlines, airports by on-time performance

Travelers use all manner of measurements to choose an airline to fly on or an airport to fly through and beyond price, punctuality is high on some lists.

Flight informatoin company OAG gathers oodles of on-time performance data and twice each year shares an ‘award’ ranking airlines and airports with OTP star ratings, 5 being the best.

For U.S. airlines, the latest list – found here – give high marks to Delta’s performance.

“It not only topped its mainline competition, but finished ahead of smaller airlines such as Alaska Airlines and Sun Country Airlines,” OAG notes. “In a U.S. air travel ecosystem that relies on major hubs, it’s easy for a single delay or cancellation to knock an entire day of flights off schedule. Despite managing one of the largest fleets in the world, Delta has remained a cut above its competitors. Southwest (78.9 OTP), American (78.8 OTP) and United (78.5 OTP) all performed admirably, earning 3 stars respectively.”

When it comes to airports, the standouts are Salt Lake City International Airport (earning 5 stars for an 85.2 percent on-time performance), Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (82.9 percent), Detroit Metropolitan Airport (83.1 percent), Charlotte Douglas International Airport (82.2 percent) and Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport (85.1 percent).

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Greetings from Austin

 

On Monday, June 12, Delta Air Lines kicked off its new non-stop flights between Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and Austin Bergstrom International Airport.

The new year-round, daily flights depart Austin daily at 7 a.m. and arrive in Seattle at 9 a.m. Flights depart Seattle daily at 5 p.m. and arrive in Austin at 11 p.m

I flew on the inaugural flight from Seattle to Austin and, before the flight, passengers were treated to live music, snacks and these special cookies.

 

 

There are a couple of other options for folks who want to fly non-stop between Seattle and Austin. Both Alaska Airlines and Southwest serve this route.

Stay tuned for more snaps from my tour of the airport today.

Small airports bulk up for international service

My “At the Airport” column for USA TODAY this month is all about what small airports are doing to get ready for the international air service.

Here’s a slightly altered version of that column.

Once, the biggest and busiest U.S. airports had the market for international air service all to themselves.

But now smaller airports, such as Bradley International, near Hartford, CT, T.F. Green Airport, near Providence, RI, and Stewart International Airport, in New York’s Hudson Valley, have managed to snag some direct flights to Europe and, with those flights, a potentially profitable slice of the trans-Atlantic air service pie.

Bradley bulks up  

When Aer Lingus began year-round service between Dublin and Bradley International Airport (BDL) in Windsor Locks, CT in September, 2016, it had been eight years since the nation’s 54th busiest airport could boast a direct international flight.

(Northwest canceled nonstop flights between BDL and Amsterdam in 2008, when fuel prices spiked and the economy stumbled).

Bradley, which is about 110 miles from Boston’s Logan Airport and about 130 miles to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, gets its second international route staring June 17, when the fast-growing Norwegian Air, a European discount carrier, begins direct service between BDL and Edinburgh, Scotland.

To help convince Aer Lingus and, then, Norwegian to take a chance on adding service at Bradley, airport and local officials offered financial incentives, an increasingly common tool among ‘second-tier’ airports competing for service, and promised to beef up facilities inside the terminal.

The airport’s gates and ticket counters were already sized-right, with common-use equipment at the ticket counters, said Kevin Dillon, Bradley Airport’s executive director, but to accommodate the new international customers, the airport added a branch of the pay-per-use Escape Lounge and a new restaurant – Phillips Seafood – which made sure to have Irish beers on the menu. The Two Roads Brewing Company is about to open a tap room featuring Connecticut-made craft beers as well.

Bradley also added a duty free shop for international travelers and reports that in addition to whiskey and perfume, international passengers are buying lots of college-branded clothing, chocolate and roll-your-own tobacco.

Prepping in Providence

During June and July, Norwegian Air will kick off the first-ever year-round European routes from T.F. Green (PVD) in Warwick, R.I., the country’s 64th-busiest airport in 2015.

(PVD’s current international service includes TACV, which flies year round to Cabo Verde; and Azores Airline, which flies seasonally from PVD to Ponta Delgada, Azores.)

Service from PVD to Edinburgh, Scotland begins June 16; to Cork, Ireland on July 1; to Belfast and Dublin, Ireland on July 2; and to Shannon, Ireland on July 3. Summer-only flights to Bergen, Norway begin July 1.

To secure the five new routes, PVD matched “a voluminous amount of route analysis” said airport spokeswoman Patti Goldstein, “together with robust and outstanding community support,” which included “the same marketing funds that we offer to other airlines.”

A statement announcing the Norwegian service noted that the Federal Aviation Administration had invested about $110 million in upgrading T.F. Green and expanding the airport’s runways to better accommodate international flights. G

Goldstein said the airport is currently expanding its international arrival facility, with the goal of having enhancements in place for the kickoff of the Norwegian flights.

Sprucing up Stewart International Airport

Stewart International Airport, located about 70 miles north of New York City in New Windsor, near Newburgh, gets it first scheduled international service with Norwegian Air’s daily flights to Edinburgh, Scotland starting June 15, 2017

Flights from Stewart (SWF) to Dublin and Belfast begin July 1; and flights to both Shannon, Ireland and Bergen, Norway kick off on July 2. Frequency for each service will vary by season.

To get ready, Stewart International, ranked as the 206th-busiest U.S. airport in 2015, just raze a World War II-era hanger to make room for more overnight parking for aircraft.

Inside the terminal, concessions and amenities are being upgraded, said Edmond Harrison, general manager of SWF, which is operated by the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey.

“We’re getting currency exchange, duty free shopping and a liquor license, which we don’t have now but will have when the first flight starts on June 15,” he said.

Harrison also said the duty free shelves will be stocked with products from area breweries, wineries and distilleries and the gift shops will be filled with everything from West Point sweatshirts (the U.S. military academy is 15 miles from the airport) to typical New York City souvenirs featuring the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and the World Trade Center.

Two airports hotels (a Homewood Suites and a Courtyard by Marriott) are refurbishing facilities in advance of the new international travelers, said Harrison, and Hudson Valley tourism groups are gearing up to let visitors know about opportunities to visit nearby attractions such as West Point, the Culinary Institute of America, and the Woodbury Commons outlet shopping center, which draws over 12 million visitors a year.

And for those international visitors landing at Stewart International who want to head straight for the Big Apple, starting June 15 there will be scheduled Coach USA service, with Wi-Fi and in-seat power, to Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City.

All these upgrades won’t be just for the benefit of international flyers.

The Norwegian flights will bring the critical mass of passengers Stewart airport concessionaires need to make service investments worthwhile.

“So now, whether you’re flying Norwegian, JetBlue, American, Allegiant or Delta Connection,” said Harrison, “You’ll be able to have a cocktail before your flight.”

Norwegian Airlines head to Denver and Seattle

 

Good news for flyers who want to get to London from Seattle or Denver – on the cheap.

Norwegian Air – which has been rapidly expanding its long-haul, low-budget route network – just announced it will be launching new flights from both Denver International Airport and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to London’s Gatwick Airport in September, flying a 787 aircraft on the new routes.

Launch fares – available now – to London from both Denver and Seattle start at $199 one-way (including taxes) in economy and start at $839 one-way (including taxes) in the airline’s premium cabin, which includes sleeper-seats, drinks, meals and extra luggage allowance.

Service from Denver to London launches September 16, with twice-weekly flights on Tuesdays and Saturdays, then increases to three times per week, adding Thursdays, beginning November 2.

Service from Seattle to London will launch on September 17, with four flights per week on Mondays, Wednesday, Fridays and Sundays.

Another option for getting to London from Seattle launched last week, with the start of a daily Virgin Atlantic flight between London’s Heathrow Airport and Seattle.

With Seattle and Denver, Norwegian will be offering nine nonstop routes from the United States to London, “more than any American airline,” Norwegian Air notes, and 48 transatlantic flights from 13 U.S. cities (both seasonal and year-round).

Here’s their current map of U.S. destinations and routes.  More are likely to be added.

 

 

Souvenir Sunday – from Fort Lauderdale

I joined JetBlue and Greater Fort Lauderdale as a guest for the inaugural Mint flight from Los Angeles to Fort Lauderdale last week and a day and a half on the ground.

Here are some snaps – and souvenirs – from the adventure:

Inaugural Mint passengers received a tote bag filled with JetBlue-themed items – including sunglasses.

In addition to the lie-flat seats, Mint service features a multi-course menu that includes a choice of three mini-entrees. I found three veggie choices – yay!

While staying at the beach is always a treat, I lucked out with a stay right downtown at the historic Riverside Hotel on Los Olas Blvd., which provided easy access to the water taxi route, the beach and the NSU Art Museum.

I got scolded for trying to take this photo of this woman who seemed like she could be part of an installation to match the painting.

Flamingo Gardens is a popular, ‘old-style’ attraction with a tram ride, museum, extensive botanical garden and wildlife ranging from flamingos (of course), an alligator lagoon and other wildlife.

And a gift shop for only-in-Florida souvenirs: