Air Travel News
Briefs: Virgin adds two routes; JetBlue rolls out mobile boarding passes
In news of U.S. airlines, Virgin America has plans to add another two routes to its growing domestic network; some JetBlue customers can now use their mobile phones to download boarding passes; Southwest hikes AirTran bag fees; and American Eagle unions challenge AMR’s plan to outsource regional flying.
• Virgin America Airlines, which recently announced plans to begin Los Angeles-San Jose flights in May, is now targeting another technology-oriented market for new service. The carrier said it will star flying May 21 between San Francisco and Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in Texas, with one daily roundtrip. Virgin also said it will kick off seasonal service between SFO and Anchorage, Alaska six days a week from June 6 through September 9. That SFO-Austin route is getting popular: JetBlue just announced it will add a second daily flight in that market effective May 21 for the summer season. JetBlue said it will add a second daily SFO-Ft. Lauderdale roundtrip on the same date.
• Customers of JetBlue Airways who use iPhones or iPod Touch devices can now obtain a new version 2.0 of the carrier’s mobile app that will enable them to download electronic boarding passes. The company said the mobile boarding pass feature is now available for departures from Boston, Ft. Lauderdale, Las Vegas, New York JFK, Los Angeles/Long Beach, Orlando, San Francisco and San Juan. The upgraded app also allows users to book award flights with TrueBlue points, see flight schedules, look at terminal maps, and see city guides. “JetBlue plans to add this new feature to its Android app in the coming months,” a spokesman said.
• Although Southwest Airlines still doesn’t charge for the first two checked bags, the company continues to make small tweaks in the direction of more or higher fees. It recently announced a $40 charge for priority boarding at the gate and said it will institute a charge for no-shows beginning later this year. And now it has raised fees for checked bags on its AirTran Airways subsidiary. The fee went from $20 to $25 for the first checked bag and from $25 to $35 for the second.
• Last month, American Airlines announced plans to begin teaming up with Republic Airways in a deal that would put 53 brand new Embraer E-175 regional jets with 76 seats under the American Eagle banner — but flown by Republic instead of AA’s own Eagle affiliate. That announcement apparently stirred up a hornet’s nest among Eagle unions: Three of them — representing pilots, flight attendants and ground workers — have asked the bankruptcy court overseeing AMR’s reorganization to throw out the Republic deal. They said the agreement will mean lost jobs at American Eagle.