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Southwest bulks up at DAL; United shrinks at CLE

Southwest Airlines has thrown down the gauntlet to American Airlines and some other major competitors by announcing the new routes it will serve from Dallas Love Field this fall; meanwhile, United will drop Cleveland as a connecting hub this spring.

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Briefs: Delta upgrades Sky Clubs; United adds premium perks at EWR

In airport news, Delta is testing new premium products and services at several of its Sky Club lounges; United launches new services for premium customers at Newark International; and American Express plans to open more airport lounges.

  • Delta said that from mid-February through April, it will be testing new premium offerings for members of its Sky Club airport lounges—specifically, in the clubs at Atlanta (Gate A17 and Concourse F), Dallas/Ft. Worth, Detroit (across from Gate A38), Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Miami, New York LaGuardia (Terminal D), Raleigh-Durham and Seattle. "The items that receive the most positive customer reviews will be included as part of a product investment upgrade in Clubs this summer," Delta said. The new perks include more food options, like pancakes and upgraded bagels for breakfast; sandwiches and hot soups mid-day; and hors d'oeuvres, antipasti and desserts in the evening. New snack options will include energy bars, fruit, popcorn, nuts and smoothies; and members will be able to obtain free services like shoe shines, manicures and chair massages.

  • Members of United Airlines' invitation-only Global Services program and passengers flying first class on long-haul international flights can take advantage of a new Global Services reception lobby that the airline has opened at Newark Liberty International Airport. Users should go in via the Premier Access entry at Terminal C's Door 4; the new area is next to the C-2 security checkpoint, and it provides direct access to four new security lanes, for both PreCheck and non-PreCheck flyers. Users will be offered personalized check-in and travel services in the lobby area from uniformed Global Service representatives. In addition, United said it has expanded to its Newark hub the Mercedes transfer service it already offers at Houston and Chicago O'Hare. "Where feasible," the airline said, Global Services and United Global First customers with tight connections will be driven across the tarmac to their connecting flights in Mercedes GL-Class cars. The company said it plans to add that perk to other U.S. hubs later this year.

  • American Express, which currently operates its own Centurion airport lounges at Las Vegas McCarran (Concourse D) and Dallas/Ft. Worth (Terminal D), plans to add new lounges at San Francisco International and New York LaGuardia, company officials said in an earnings conference call. No date for the openings was given. The company's airport lounge expansion is coming after American Airlines decided to end AA and US Airways free airport lounge access for AmEx Platinum cardholders as part of a new card deal with Citibank. The Centurion lounges are open to all American Express cardholders; admission is free for Centurion and Platinum cardholders, and costs $50 a day for others.

Routes: AA sets new China schedules; Southwest goes international

In route news, American Airlines sets the launch date for its new non-stop services to Shanghai and Hong Kong; Southwest unveils its first-ever international routes as its integration of AirTran continues; and Malaysia will end U.S. service this spring.

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New start-up carrier adopts a classic airline's identity and logo

A U.S. airline that was once a household name and a key combatant in the industry's post-deregulation competition is starting over again, with a new business plan and management but the same headquarters city.

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Southwest, JetBlue win new DCA slots

Southwest Airlines and JetBlue Airways said last week that they will be adding new services at Washington Reagan National as a result of the Justice Department's antitrust settlement in the American Airlines-US Airways merger case, which required those carriers to turn over a number of their takeoff and landing slots at that airport to low-cost competitors.

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Study: Airline mergers are good for carriers, customers

While the recent mega-mergers in the U.S. airline industry have attracted plenty of critics and opponents, a new study by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) finds that consolidation is having “a significant and positive effect’ on carriers without leading to painful fare increases for passengers. And the growth of low-cost carriers is likely to keep competition healthy, the group said.

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January flight disruptions reach epic proportions

If you’ve flown somewhere this month and you didn’t face a cancellation or a lengthy delay due to wicked winter weather, consider yourself fortunate. According to masFlight, a data and software firm specializing in airline operations, total flight disruptions in January 2014 have been the worst in recent years — even worse than during Hurricane Sandy.

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Slot divestitures prompt service changes at DCA, LGA

American Airlines Group, the merged parent company of American Airlines and US Airways, said it will discontinue service in a number of markets at Washington Reagan National and New York LaGuardia due to the government’s requirement that it divest some of its takeoff and landing slots at those airports as a condition of the merger approval.

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Briefs: AA Eagle is renamed; Delta debuts smartphone passes

In news of U.S. airlines, American tries to end confusion over the name of its regional subsidiary and its regional service brand; Delta gives customers a new, less expensive option for in-flight connectivity; and a leading low-cost carrier is growing by leaps and bounds.

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American, US Airways begin code-sharing

In the latest step toward the eventual merger of their systems, American Airlines Group subsidiaries American and US Airways have started code-sharing on a number of routes, and have rolled out a bonus mileage promotion good through early March.

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