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Briefs: Europe gets a new low-cost carrier; two airlines add U.S. routes

In news of international airlines, one of Europe’s largest airline companies is kicking off a new low-cost division; two foreign airlines are adding new routes to the U.S.; Virgin Atlantic Airways is bringing some class to Upper Class with art sales; and Qantas will debut a perk for premium passengers to bring its product into line with its new partner Emirates.

  • Air France-KLM has announced plans to launch a new regional low-cost airline called Hop! on routes within France and Europe. Slated to start operating this summer, Hop! will be a wholly-owned subsidiary of Air France, offering point-to-point service out of Paris Orly and Paris Charles de Gaulle. The company said Hop! will grow to include a fleet of 98 aircraft with 48 to 100 seats, and a schedule of 530 daily flights to 136 destinations.

  • Brussels Airlines, the Belgian member of the Lufthansa Group, said it will add its second U.S. gateway on June 18 when it begins service between Brussels and Washington Dulles, a hub for Star Alliance partner United. The carrier will use a two-class A330 with fully flat beds in business class, and will fly the route five days a week. Brussels Airlines started service to New York last year.

  • Chinese carrier Hainan Airlines has set a September 3 start for new non-stop service between Beijing and Chicago O’Hare. The airline said it will use a two-class A330-200 on the route, which will operate four days a week. Hainan currently flies to Beijing from Seattle and Toronto.

  • Virgin Atlantic Airways this month kicks off what it calls “a commercial art gallery at altitude.” During February, passengers flying between New York and London in the airline’s Upper Class cabin will be able to view original works by famed U.K. street artist Ben Eine in Virgin’s Clubhouses at JFK, Newark and Heathrow, and purchase them in-flight. Virgin said its new Gallery in the Air feature with works by Eine “is set to be the first in a series of unique onboard collaborations with renowned artists.” If you want to pick up an Eine for your den, they are priced from $4,000 to $24,000.

  • Starting in April, first class and business class passengers on Qantas flying between London and Australia via Dubai will be offered an airport transfer by chauffeured car at both ends of the trip. This summer, the new perk will be extended to premium customers on Qantas flights over 12 hours long. Qantas this spring is due to launch a big new partnership with Emirates on routes between Europe and Australia. Emirates already offers the same perk for its own long-haul business and first class customers.

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