I flew on JetBlue founder David Neeleman’s new Breeze Airways for $39 and found it was cheap and friendly but surprisingly basic

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

  • Breeze Airways officially launched its first flight on Thursday from Tampa, Florida to Charleston, South Carolina.
  • It’s the fifth airline from aviation entrepreneur David Neeleman, who started JetBlue Airways, with a focus on hub-skipping leisure flights.
  • Fares are as low as $39 with 39 new routes starting between May 27 and July 29.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
David Neeleman has done it again.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight David Neeleman
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

Breeze Airways made its long-awaited debut on Thursday, flying two of its 39 planned routes that will launch between May 27 and July 29.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

It’s the fifth airline launched by Neeleman, a serial aviation entrepreneur that was the man behind JetBlue Airways and Morris Air in the US, WestJet in Canada, and Azul Brazilian Airlines in Brazil, as well as a stint with TAP Air Portugal.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight David Neeleman
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

Read More: How JetBlue’s founder plans to offer low prices without a low-end experience on his newest airline, Breeze

Just in time for the summer travel season, consumers from the East Coast to as far as San Antonio, Texas will soon have Breeze as another option for air travel. Fares start at just $39 and routes are mostly leisure-focused, taking flyers while bypassing busy airline hubs.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

Read More: The founder of JetBlue is finally launching his new airline this month with 39 routes and $39 fares — but it won’t be JetBlue 2.0

Convenience is a key selling point for the airline, in addition to its low fares. Flights are point-to-point and don’t require routing through airport hubs.

The Breeze Airways route map.
The Breeze Airways route map.

“Connecting flights,” for example, isn’t a phrase in Breeze’s vocabulary, as part of the airline’s strategy to be “seriously nice.”

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

I flew on the very first flight of Breeze Airways from Tampa, Florida to Charleston, South Carolina. Here’s what it was like.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

Breeze chose Tampa, Florida as its main from which to start flights. A total of 10 routes are planned for the city to destinations like Charleston, South Carolina; Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Louisville, Kentucky.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

I arrived at the airport the night before Breeze’s inaugural flight and caught a look at the airline’s check-in counter. It was very bare-bones and the airline didn’t have any check-in kiosks.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

But that’s all part of Breeze’s tech-focused strategy to have flyers use its mobile application instead of relying on airline employees. It helps keep costs down by hiring fewer airport staff.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

The Breeze app itself is very intuitive but there were some glitches. Users, including myself, reported not being able to book flights or check-in via the app.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

Breeze doesn’t have a phone number so flyers will have to text or message the airline, which also isn’t yet available on the app. Clicking “support” will redirect flyers to the airline’s mobile website.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

But I was able to get my mobile boarding pass eventually and was all set to jet.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

I arrived back at the airport the next morning for the first flight, Breeze Airways flight 1 with service from Tampa to Charleston, and went up to the counter to get a paper copy of the boarding pass.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

Breeze agents were “nice” and didn’t charge the $3 fee to print a boarding pass but I assumed that was because this was the first flight. A boarding pass fee is common among ultra-low-cost carriers but very few actually charge the fee in practice.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

And in a nice treat, Breeze had already been accepted into the Transportation Security Administration’s PreCheck program.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

Before the flight, Neeleman popped open a bottle of champagne and christened the aircraft. Breeze Airways was officially ready for takeoff.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight David Neeleman
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

Boarding then began for the historic flight, with the airline boarding in zones. The Breeze app also doesn’t interface with Apple Wallet or other digital wallets, so flyers can’t yet save their boarding passes to their devices for easy access.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

I walked onto the plane and was truly shocked at how basic it was. Breeze’s aircraft are incredibly flashy on the outside, in perhaps the most colorful airline livery in the skies, but the interior was mostly devoid of color.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

There was not a hint of blue on the plane except for the safety cards, flight attendant uniforms, and the Breeze placards on the beverage carts.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

The seats were plush and comfortable, however, and that was the most important part.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

The Embraer E195 -which most JetBlue flyers will recognize since its smaller sibling, the E190, currently flies for the New York-based airline -is arranged in a 2-2 configuration.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

It’s all aisles and window seats with no middle seats in sight.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

The first five rows of the aircraft, as well as the exit row, feature between 34 and 39 inches of pitch, depending on the row. Breeze calls these seats “nicer” seats.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

Standard seats on the E195 offer 31 inches of pitch. Breeze calls them “nice” seats.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

When booking a ticket, there are two choices: “nice” and “nicer.” Nice fares only come with a ticket to ride and a personal item while a “Nicer” fare comes with a free extra legroom seat, one free checked bag, free carry-on bag, and priority boarding.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

I was on a nice fare in a nice seat with 31 inches of pitch and it was quite comfortable with lots of cushioning. Seats also recline but there are no adjustable headrests.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

These seats, unfortunately, will not stay. New, slimmer seats will replace the comfortable and plush ones that we experienced on the inaugural flight.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

Once those seats installed, the Embraer E195’s capacity will jump from 118 seats to 122 seats.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

Flight attendants warmly welcomed us aboard and they, too, had to be nice. Once again, Neeleman had billed this airline to be seriously nice and the cabin crew would play a large role in that.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

After all were settled, the boarding door was closed and we pushed back for an on-time departure. Tampa International Airport gave Breeze a water cannon salute to send the first flight off, and then it was on to Charleston.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

Takeoff was smooth and we quickly turned north over Tampa Bay towards South Carolina. The flight time was only 57 minutes.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

Flight attendants came around with wooden baskets to start the in-flight meal service. On offer were Utz potato chips and Kind bars, as well as small bottles of water.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

There was nothing overly exciting about the snacks. No local flair or blue chips, but anything is better than nothing, especially when the ticket is so cheap.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

The complementary offering will only be temporary, however, and a buy-on-board program will be rolled out over the summer.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

Once the service ended, there was nothing else to keep a passenger entertained besides the view out of the window.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

In-flight entertainment was supposed to be available through a streaming service, but it won’t be ready until later in the summer.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

The flight attendants and pilots, however, were spectacularly kind. They were the breath of fresh air on this airline.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

Before we knew it, we had touched down in Charleston, and a new airline was officially brought into the world.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

All in all, flying Breeze was not anything truly special. The flight and cabin crew were impeccably nice but the rest was of the experience was average considering the lack of the tech that was promised.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

There’s not much people can’t put up with on a flight that’s less than two hours for $39, even more so for a flight between, say, Tampa and Charleston that’s only 57 minutes. But David Neeleman promised a “high-tech company that just happens to fly airplanes.,” as well as extras like in-flight entertainment, and that’s not what the first flyers received.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

Breeze’s biggest issue, from a passenger perspective, may be the fact that it is still a work-in-progress. The app isn’t all the way there, aircraft aren’t fitted with the final seat products, and in-flight entertainment isn’t available.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

And repeat customers will ultimately notice. “The core component of a brand promise is consistency,” industry analyst Henry Harteveldt told Insider in a prior interview.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

In its current state, I would absolutely pick Breeze over other ultra-low-cost carriers and even some full-service airlines if the price was right. Though, that might change if the airline’s product changes for the worse.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight David Neeleman
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

Read the original article on Business Insider

I flew on America’s newest airline, Avelo, for $19 and the friendly service more than made up for the complete lack of frills

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

  • Avelo Airlines began flying on April 28 with an inaugural flight from Burbank to Santa Rosa in California.
  • The ultra-low-cost airline is launching 11 routes from Burbank to kick off operations.
  • The one-hour flight was enjoyable due to Avelo’s friendly atmosphere but lacked in amenities.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
America has a brand new airline.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Avelo Airlines made its debut on April 28 after breaking from cover earlier in the month. The ultra-low-cost airline aims to take advantage of the boom in leisure travelers that have been eager to fly again.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

A total of 11 routes are being launched from Burbank. The initial slate of destinations includes Santa Rosa, California; Pasco, Washington; Bozeman, Montana; Phoenix, Arizona; Ogden, Utah; Grand Junction, Colorado; Medford, Oregon; Eugene, Oregon; Bend, Oregon; Eureka, California; and Redding, California.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

At the helm of Avelo is Andrew Levy, an experienced aviation veteran with most recent experience as the cofounder of Allegiant Air and former chief financial officer of United Airlines.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Read More: America’s newest airline is launching in April with a focus on leisure routes and fares as low as $19: Meet Avelo Airlines

I flew on Avelo from Burbank to Santa Rosa in the world-famous Sonoma County on the airline’s first day of flights. Here’s what it was like.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Arriving at Avelo’s new home base at Hollywood Burbank Airport just north of Los Angeles, I felt transported back in time. The single-level terminal is reminiscent of the early days of aviation.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Being able to use more convenient airports like Burbank is a big draw for customers to Avelo. Only a handful of airlines serve this airport, even though it boasts an ease of access that wildly surpasses Los Angeles International.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

“We’re built to offer low fares, but at the same time we’re going to offer a great level of convenience by utilizing Burbank, which we think is probably the best secondary airport in the country,” Levy told Insider in a prior interview.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Avelo’s ticketing counter was not hard to find in the small terminal and its airport staff was out in force for the inaugural flight. Boarding passes can’t be printed from self-serve kiosks as Avelo doesn’t yet have that functionality.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

I had checked in the night before and could have printed a boarding pass but I still needed to check my bag. Luckily, there’s was no line as we were the first and only flight of the day.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

As was the case for most passengers, I only paid $19 for the ticket. But all I got for $19 was the ticket as bags and reserved seat assignments did not come included.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Avelo is an ultra-low-cost so bringing any bag larger than a backpack will incur a fee. Carry-ons cost $35 but checked bags only cost $10, some of the cheapest pricing in the industry for bags meant to encourage more checked bags.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

But my total ticket price came out to only $29 as I checked my bag for $10.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Ticket in hand, I headed to the gate for the first departure. Any gate is a short walk when departing from Burbank.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Two of Avelo’s flagship aircraft, the Boeing 737-800, were parked at the terminal. Avelo currently has plans for six aircraft and 400 crew members by the end of 2021.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

The paint job is an eye-catching purple, white, and yellow that made these 15-year-old aircraft look brand new.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Avelo is the only airline flying daily non-stop flights between Burbank and California Wine Country. That is, until June 1 when Alaska Airlines starts flights on the same route.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Read More: American and Alaska are making moves to compete with America’s newest airline before its first flight has even taken off

Flights to Santa Rosa depart in the morning and return in the late afternoon, enough time for a Sonoma County wine tasting if Southern Californians want to take a cheap day trip up north.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

This was the first flight of a brand new airline so inaugural festivities were in order. “Avelo’s purpose is to inspire travel and today we begin that process of making it easy, and convenient, and affordable with everyday low fares, for customers to be able to choose us,” Levy said.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

And with the cutting of the ribbon, it was time for boarding to begin.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Avelo boards in groups, with six in total, and hasn’t adopted the pandemic practice of back-to-front boarding. The first three groups are priority boarding and the final three are general boarding.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

One of the perks of flying into and out of Burbank airport is ramps are used instead of jetways. It allows for great views of the aircraft.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Parked next to our plane was a nearly-identical backup aircraft, ready for just in case something went wrong.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Levy was stationed at the foot of the ramp to personally welcome each flyer on board.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Many onboard were aviation enthusiasts excited to make history by flying on a brand new airline.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Avelo’s Boeing 737 aircraft seats a whopping 189 passengers in an all-economy configuration. Seat assignments start at only $4 but legroom depends on seat location and greater legroom seats can be bought for a premium.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Seats closest to the front offer the most legroom, between 31 and 38 inches, and they’ll usually cost upwards of $20 to reserve.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Seats towards the back only feature 29 inches of pitch, below average for full-service US airlines but common among ultra-low-cost carriers. But extra legroom or not, all seats are “slimline” with minimal padding and few amenities of which to speak.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Adjustable headrests, for example, are non-existent.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Seats do have, however, a decent size tray table with a cup holder and most do recline.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Those wanting more room to stretch out should book the exit rows in rows 20 and 21, or the first row of seats.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

A mere 29 inches of pitch might not bode well for taller flyers, as aviation’s Johnny Jet found from his middle seat in row 15, but this flight was only around an hour where it was bearable for those aboard.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

I didn’t choose a seat assignment at booking to save money and was auto-assigned a window seat in row 14 at check-in. It offered the standard 29 inches of pitch but I was just glad I wasn’t given a middle seat.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Seat-backs are noticeable bare with only safety cards in the pockets. There are no seat-back screens or any in-flight entertainment, for that matter, though WiFi is on the way, Levy told Insider in a prior interview.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Levy welcomed us aboard the historic first flight of his airline as we prepared to depart for Santa Rosa. The pandemic luckily hadn’t killed the airline but instead bolstered its proposition of cheap flights to travel-hungry Americans.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Read More: Flights are filling up as the pandemic enters its second year — and the crowded flights are only going to get worse

Soon enough, we were ready to head out and pushed back earlier than scheduled.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Levy sat in the very front row for the flight.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

We then blasted out of Burbank on Runway 15, the mighty Boeing 737 handling the short runway well and quickly turned to the north.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

We said goodbye to Burbank airport, to where this aircraft and many of its passengers would return later in the day.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

The views of San Fernando Valley provided the only in-flight entertainment for many as we turned to follow the coast to Santa Rosa.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Flight attendants, smiling from ear-to-ear, then began the in-flight service. Ultra-low-cost airlines aren’t typically known for free snacks and drinks but Avelo’s initial pandemic offering includes what it calls a “convenience package.”

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Inside the complimentary kits I found a bottle of water, a package of shortbread cookies, and a Purell wipe. It wasn’t much but anything is better than nothing and the flight was only an hour long.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

And shortly after, flight attendants passed around sparkling cider for an in-flight toast to Avelo.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Finding the right people to work as flight attendants and pilots was of high importance to Avelo in order to stand out among ultra-low-cost airlines.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

And it showed, all of Avelo’s in-flight crew were happy, smiling, and genuinely friendly.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

After a short speech by Levy, passengers raised their glasses to toast the airline.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

The rest of the flight continued smoothly as we sailed over California. So far, the consensus was that the aircraft wasn’t bad for an hour flight.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

New York to Los Angeles, as Spirit Airlines is planning to do in June, might be a stretch considering the lack of amenities and legroom. But Avelo is looking for a route network where flights are less than two hours.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Read More: Spirit is launching summer flights between LaGuardia Airport and Los Angeles, but a decades-old rule is limiting them to 1 day per week

It wasn’t before long before it was time to descend into Santa Rosa, and those on the left side of the aircraft facing forward were greeted to the best view of the Bay Area. San Francisco International Airport was the first landmark…

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Followed by San Francisco itself.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

California Wine Country soon came into view as we gradually descended into Santa Rosa’s Charles M. Schulz – Sonoma County Airport.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Like Burbank, only a handful of airlines serve Santa Rosa. And those that do only fly regional aircraft like the Embraer E175 and Bombardier Dash 8 Q400.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Avelo’s arrival was welcomed by the county, especially because it would bring more tourists to the region on the heels of the pandemic.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

As the seatbelt sign turned off, Levy was the first to rise. The first passenger flight of his new airline was complete, and it was a success.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Avelo touched down in Santa Rosa on time and with happy passengers.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Read the original article on Business Insider

United is going on the offensive against rival Southwest in another spat with competitors

United Airlines Boeing 737
Southwest Airlines and United Airlines aircraft.

  • United Airlines is targeting Southwest Airlines with new advertisements aimed at Denver flyers.
  • In the ads, it criticizes Southwest for its open seating policy, routes, and on-time performance.
  • The campaign is scheduled to appear on trains, television networks, social media, and even Spotify.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A new United Airlines advertising campaign is directly targeting Southwest Airlines as the two compete for travelers in Denver.

The “Mile High Standards” campaign critiques Southwest for things like its on-time performance and open seating policy while boasting about United’s offerings like non-stop flights to Hawaii, as well as the airline’s long-time presence in Colorado’s capital city.

United is billing the strategy as “bold” and “unlike any you’ve ever seen from us before,” with its low-cost rival solely in the crosshairs. One example criticizes Southwest’s lack of direct flights to Hawaii and Cozumel from Denver.

United Airlines Denver Ad Campaign
United Airlines’ Denver advertising campaign.

Not all of United’s advertisements are directed towards Southwest with some aimed at highlighting the key role that Denver plays for the airline.

United in 2018 opened a flight training center in Denver that houses more than 30 flight simulators and trains around 10,000 pilots each year. United is also the only US airline offering intercontinental flights from Denver to cities like London; Frankfurt, Germany; and Tokyo, in normal times.

Rocky Mountain Rivalry

Denver has proved to be an important base for both Southwest and United during the pandemic. Travelers have flocked to the Mountain West thanks to pandemic-friendly activities like camping, hiking, and skiing.

United has invested additional resources to accommodate, including a luxury bus service from the airport to Breckenridge, Colorado that passengers can book just as they would a regular United flight. Operated by Landline, the bus departs from a terminal gate, and checked bags are transported directly from flyers’ incoming flights.

Southwest also added flights from Denver to Colorado cities like Colorado Springs, Steamboat Springs, and Montrose in direct competition with United. Some of the routes have done so well that daily service is now offered between Denver and both Steamboat Springs and Montrose.

United’s latest spat with competitors

This isn’t United’s first time directly going after competitors where they live. In February, United announced a brand-new route between Boston and London, scheduled to start sometime in 2021 and in direct competition with JetBlue Airways’ impending Boston-London flights.

The announcement was peculiar given that no exact timing was given for the once-daily flight and international travel between the UK and US is currently extremely limited. United also seldom launches transatlantic routes that don’t pass through one of its hubs.

United is also back at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport with two relaunched routes to Los Angeles and San Francisco. Its ultra-premium Boeing 767-300ER aircraft are meant to draw top flyers away from the likes of Delta Air Lines and American Airlines, which partly dominate the route with premium offerings.

The airline’s next target remains to be seen but United is positioning itself for a strong recovery, and clearly isn’t afraid to publicly challenge competitors to do so.

Read the original article on Business Insider

I flew on Southwest and Alaska, the two airlines competing to be the best of the West Coast and the winner is abundantly clear

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

  • Alaska Airlines and Southwest Airlines are in competition to be the airline of the West Coast.
  • Both are similar but each has its strengths like Alaska has a greater West Coast route network.
  • Southwest is a great option for leisure travelers but Alaska has more perks for business flyers.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
The West Coast of the US stretches more than 1,000 miles with no shortage of major cities from San Diego to Seattle.

newport beach

All the major US airlines serve this important region of the country but two are battling for dominance, Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines.

Southwest Airlines vs Alaska Airlines
Comparing Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines.

Alaska is based in Seattle, although its name suggests otherwise, and is a mid-tier US airline with the bulk of its operations on the West Coast.

alaska airlines

Southwest, on the other hand, is the country’s largest low-cost carrier with a nationwide presence. And while the West Coast is an important region for the airline, it’s just one of many Southwest serves.

Southwest Airlines

Both carriers have sought to grow market share on the West Coast during the pandemic. Southwest added Santa Barbara and Fresno to its California route network while Alaska has added routes from existing cities.

Golden Gate Bridge

I flew on both airlines this year to see which one was truly the airline of the West Coast. Here’s what I found.

Flying on Southwest Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Southwest Airlines during the pandemic.

West Coast connectivity: Alaska serves 29 cities up and down the coast, including smaller cities like Everett, Washington; Santa Rosa, California; and Medford, Oregon.

Paine Field in Everett, Washington
Paine Field in Everett, Washington.

Read More: I flew on Alaska for the first time since it stopped blocking middle seats and it was the closest to normal I’ve seen during the pandemic

Southwest serves 15 West Coast cities and plans to serve two more this summer. Bellingham, Washington flights will also open sometime this year.

Southwest Airlines
A Southwest Airlines aircraft departing from Los Angeles.

Winner: Alaska Airlines. The airline’s connectivity between West Coast cities large and small cannot be beaten by Southwest’s existing network.

Southwest Airlines vs Alaska Airlines
Comparing Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines.

What comes with the ticket: Every Southwest ticket includes free seat selection anywhere on the plane after boarding, two checked bags, a carry-on bag, and all the onboard amenities.

Flying Southwest Airlines during pandemic
Flying Southwest Airlines during the pandemic.

Southwest has open seating so any open seat is available for passengers.

Flying on Southwest Airlines COVID-19

Alaska does allow free seat selection for economy but charges extra for seats close to the front and exit row seats.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

Alaska, like many full-service carriers, has also embraced restrictive basic economy fares that replaced its cheapest fares. The product is generous with and limited advanced seat assignments and a free carry-on bag but flyers will have to pay more for better seats and checked bags.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

Southwest doesn’t have change or cancel fees for any ticket.

Flying on Southwest Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Southwest Airlines during the pandemic.

Alaska has eliminated change fees but not for basic economy fares, known as “saver” fares.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

Winner: Southwest Airlines. The flexibility and free extras offered by Southwest put it well and above Alaska. It’s worth noting, however, that even Alaska’s basic economy fares are more generous than many of its competitors.

Southwest Airlines vs Alaska Airlines.
Comparing Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines.

Boarding: Alaska boards its aircraft in groups that are assigned based on seat location and fare class. First class boards first, followed by elite status holders, those sitting in “premium class.” Economy then boards back to front, for the most part, and basic economy flyers board dead last.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

On Southwest, however, passengers are given a boarding number and group that’s determined by how early they check-in for the flight. Once on the plane, they can select any open seat.

Flying on Southwest Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Southwest Airlines during the pandemic.

Winner: Southwest Airlines. Alaska’s boarding process relegates basic economy passengers to the very last section while even the passenger with the cheapest ticket on Southwest has the opportunity to board earlier if they check-in at exactly 24 hours prior to departure.

Southwest Airlines vs Alaska Airlines.
Comparing Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines.

Onboard amenities: Both airlines are in the process of modernizing their fleets but older aircraft remain. On Southwest, for example, I flew on the 737-700 fleet on my most recent trip and it was the furthest from modern.

Flying on Southwest Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Southwest Airlines during the pandemic.

But its updated aircraft have a great, modern look, as I found on flights from New York to Orlando in 2020.

Flying on Southwest Airlines COVID-19

Read More: I flew on Southwest Airlines during the pandemic and came away impressed by how well the largest low-cost US airline handled social distancing

Alaska has the same issue. Its newer Max aircraft is a show-stopper but older aircraft seem tired.

Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max Flight
Flying on an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft.

Both airlines also offer paid in-flight WiFi and streaming content.

LAX Day Trip Alaska Airlines
Water onboard an Alaska Airlines flight from New York to Los Angeles.

Alaska does surpass Southwest, however, by offering in-seat power to keep devices charged.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

Winner: Alaska Airlines. Both airlines offer similar products but Alaska just eeks ahead with in-seat power.

Southwest Airlines vs Alaska Airlines.
Comparing Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines.

In-flight service: Both airlines have restored portions of their in-flight service since the pandemic began. Alaska, for example, serves soft drinks and snacks.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

Southwest just brought back Coke, Diet Coke, and 7UP, as well as more snacks.

Flying on Southwest Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Southwest Airlines during the pandemic.

Read More: Southwest is reverting to its normal boarding policy and bringing back fan-favorite in-flight amenities

Before the pandemic, however, Alaska sold meals and snack boxes while Southwest just stuck to drinks and small snacks.

LAX Day Trip Alaska Airlines
The contents of one of Alaska Airlines’ picnic packs.

Winner: Alaska Airlines.

Southwest Airlines vs Alaska Airlines.
Comparing Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines.

West Coast feel: Alaska has its roots in the West Coast and that shows in its branding. The colors are vibrant, there is a focus on West Coast brands in the in-flight service, and the airline is based in Seattle.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

Southwest has a generic appeal as it connects the US through bases across the country with no specific ties to the West Coast. There’s no West Coast feel.

Flying on Southwest Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Southwest Airlines during the pandemic.

Winner: Alaska Airlines: There’s an undeniable feeling when flying on Alaska that it’s more in tune with the West Coast vibe than Southwest.

Southwest Airlines vs Alaska Airlines.
Comparing Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines.

National connectivity: Alaska is highly concentrated on the West Coast while Southwest has bases across the US.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

Southwest doesn’t have the sprawling West Coast network that Alaska does but it does offer connections between most of the region’s major cities and connections to the rest of the country through its mid-continent bases in places like Phoenix, Denver, Las Vegas, and Dallas.

Flying on Southwest Airlines during pandemic
Southwest Airlines aircraft at Denver International Airport.

Alaska only has hubs in the West Coast cities of Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco, and Portland, requiring a stop in one of those cities before heading east. The airline does partner with airlines like American to offer mixed-airline itineraries but that could be difficult if the airlines are in two different terminals.

LAX Day Trip Alaska Airlines
Alaska Airlines aircraft at Los Angeles International Airport.

Winner: Southwest Airlines. Having more mid-continent bases allows for more convenient journeys with lower travel times for customers.

Southwest Airlines vs Alaska Airlines.
Comparing Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines.

Business traveler amenities: Corporate travelers have different priorities than most leisure travelers and will often spend more for seats in premium cabins and access lounges.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

Alaska has premium lounges in six airports, and partners with American and Qantas on lounge access for members. Southwest does not have any lounges.

Alaska Lounge Seattle
The Alaska Lounge at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

Alaska’s jet aircraft also have first class cabins, the domain of the business traveling road warrior, while Southwest does not.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

A special section of economy is also available on Alaska. Called “premium class,” seats in the section offer additional legroom and come with complimentary alcoholic beverages.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

Alaska is also a member of the Oneworld airline alliance and Alaska’s elite status holders can use their benefits on other airlines like American and British Airways, and vice versa. Southwest is not a part of any airline alliance.

american airlines

Southwest does have a special fare for business travelers, called “Business Select,” that includes extras like priority boarding and free alcoholic drinks (suspended during the pandemic).

Flying on Southwest Airlines COVID-19

And Southwest does have better connectivity outside of the West Coast. A business traveler in St. Louis looking to fly to New York couldn’t even choose Alaska if they wanted to.

Flying on Southwest Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Southwest Airlines during the pandemic from Miami International Airport.

Winner: Alaska Airlines. Business travelers have more premium amenities at their disposal on Alaska, if the choice is between Alaska and Southwest.

Southwest Airlines vs Alaska Airlines.
Comparing Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines.

Airline of the West Coast: Alaska Airlines. Both airlines are incredibly similar but Alaska has more West Coast-oriented amenities to help it pull ahead of Southwest.

Southwest Airlines vs Alaska Airlines.
Comparing Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines.

Read the original article on Business Insider

I visited the newly renovated AmEx Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas airport and it was the best way to spend a layover in Sin City

LAS Centurion Lounge
  • American Express just completed renovations on its Las Vegas Centurion Lounge, adding more than 4,000 square feet.
  • The lounge is only accessible to select cardholders, including Platinums and Centurions.
  • Complimentary food and alcohol are just some of the perks that the Las Vegas-themed lounge offers.3
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Las Vegas is home to one of American Express’ 14 Centurion Lounges, widely considered to be the gold standard of airport lounges because of their high-end offerings including complimentary and meticulous crafted food items and alcoholic beverages.

McCarran Airport
McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas NV

The lounge is located in the airport’s D gate concourse, home to United Airlines, Frontier Airlines, and JetBlue Airways, among others.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Passenger on any airline can access the lounge, however, if they have the American Express Platinum or Centurion card. American Express Delta Skymiles Reserve cardholders can also use the lounge when flying Delta or a Delta-marketed flight.

Platinum Card from American Express

I had a six-hour layover in the airport so I headed straight to the lounge. Departing passengers are normally only allowed to enter within three hours of their flight but connecting passengers are exempt from that rule.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Here’s what it was like inside the Las Vegas Centurion Lounge.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

I checked into the lounge using digital check-in via the American Express mobile application and was given a QR code to show the agent. I only had to show my boarding pass and identification as the agent saw my check-in on her end.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Within seconds, I was inside one of the most exclusive clubs in Las Vegas. Greeting me was this portrait of a dog resting on an American Express trunk accompanying two black armchairs, a staple of the Centurion Lounge that can be found in every location.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

The lounge was moderately crowded and employees, as a result, were escorting guests to particular seats to help ensure distancing.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

I was asked if I wanted to sit in one of the main seating areas….

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Or the dining area. I chose the former to take advantage of the more comfortable seating.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

I was traveling alone so I was given one of these cushioned cubbies, complete with my own table.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Capacity in the lounge is limited due to the pandemic so certain seating areas are blocked.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Along the wall where I was sitting, for example, every other cubby was blocked.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

It created an extra degree of privacy and meant I had more room to store my bags, and another table to hold my laptop while I ate lunch.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Once I got settled, I headed over to the buffet to get something to eat. These lounges are known for having good eats with menus crafted from local chefs. Chef Kim Canteenwalla had designed this menu.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

The offering was quite extensive and better than what I’d seen in competing airline lounges even before the pandemic. Light options included a chopped bacon, lettuce, and tomato salad…

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Butternut squash soup…

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

And mango cranberry couscous.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Hot items included kale pesto pasta…

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Brussel sprouts…

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Meatloaf…

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

And chimichurri fingerling potatoes.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

And for desert, peach cobbler was on offer.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Healthier options included fruits like apples, pears, and bananas. Cookies and honey mustard pretzels were also on offer but not many snacks were available other than that.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

All in all, it was some of the best airport food I’ve ever had. Every item was bursting with flavor and made for a great meal.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

And of course, the full bar is another big selling feature of the lounge as drinks are complimentary.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

The main bar was closed but this makeshift bar still did the trick. Most common cocktails can be ordered at the bar but American Express’ in-house mixologist, Jim Meehan, also crafts specialty drinks for each location.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

One such drink was the “air mail,” a sparkling wine drink with rum, honey syrup, and lime juice.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Plexiglass partitions were also erected at the bar for social distancing.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

After having lunch, I walked around the more than 13,000 square foot space. American Express just recently renovated the lounge and it showed.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

The decor was very modern and very Las Vegas. It made me feel like I was in the heart of the Strip despite only being at the airport.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Large sections of the lounge were blocked off but other sections included a sprawling conference table and more private seating.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

These lounges often lend themselves well to social distancing with high-walled chairs since privacy is a huge draw for discerning travelers.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

There are even private phone rooms that are enclosed for maximum privacy.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

I also discovered somewhat of a hidden room in the back of the lounge.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

It didn’t have any windows but was well-lit and has its own television.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

The lounge’s family room was, however, off-limits due to the pandemic.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Roped-off areas were opened once the lounge was sufficiently crowded. It wasn’t uncommon before the pandemic to see these lounges filled to the brim.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Departure information screens could also be found throughout the lounge so passengers could stay up to date on the status of their next flight.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Aviation enthusiasts will enjoy one of the seating areas near the window as a variety of aircraft can be spotted.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Hot beverages were also available with multi-beverage coffee machines capable of making anything from a standard cup of coffee to espresso, cappuccino, hot chocolate, and anything in between.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

A selection of teas was also available with hot water.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Visiting this lounge made my six-hour layover go by in what felt like an instant.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

The only downside is that it closes at 3 p.m., at which point the only other lounge available to passengers in the terminal is The Club LAS.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

But for the few hours I got to spend in the lounge, I can say that it will become a staple on my future visits to Las Vegas.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

The renovations and superior offering make it a jewel in the Centurion Lounge network.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Read the original article on Business Insider

After taking 13 flights on Frontier Airlines, I’ve figured how to get the best experience for the cheapest price. Here’s what to know.

Flying Frontier Airlines during pandemic
Flying Frontier Airlines during the pandemic.

  • Frontier Airlines boasts cheap tickets but fares can quickly add up with extra fees.
  • Everything from advanced seat assignments to carry-on bags incurs a fee.
  • I’ve taken 13 flights on Frontier and know how to make the most of flying on the low-cost carrier.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Frontier Airlines is one of the country’s fastest-growing airlines with a sprawling network that always seems to be adding new routes.

The airline’s strategy is offering flyers cheap non-stop flights to leisure destinations, and that’s in demand now that Americans are raring to get back in the air following an extended pandemic. But while Frontier may fly the same type of aircraft as its full-service competitors like American Airlines and United Airlines, the onboard product couldn’t be any different.

Read More: Spirit Airlines’ low-cost model puts it in the perfect spot to be the big winner of the pandemic, a Deutsche Bank analyst says

As with any ultra-low-cost carrier, Frontier is built for savings and that’s reflected in every aspect of the flying experience. Seats, for example, are bare-bones with minimal padding, menial tray tables, and as little as 28 inches of legroom on some planes, according to SeatGuru. But that doesn’t mean flights can’t be enjoyable.

Frontier flies from my local airport on Long Island in New York and I’ve had many an opportunity to journey on the ultra-low-cost carrier by taking advantage of its rock-bottom pricing. In my years of flying the airline, I don’t think I’ve paid more than $30 for a round-trip flight when traversing the East Coast as far south as Miami and have had a good experience nearly every time.

Here’s what you need to know when flying Frontier in order to get the best experience.

Know what you’re paying for

Flying Frontier Airlines during pandemic
Flying Frontier Airlines during the pandemic.

Flyers should know that their $15 one-way ticket isn’t going to get them much more than a ticket to ride. Everything from an advanced seat assigned to the drinks onboard the aircraft is going to incur an extra fee.

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially if you know what to pay for and what not to pay for. Personal items like a backpack can fly free of charge and so I avoid the baggage fees by skipping the carry-on and using a backpack for my items if the trip allows.

The seats onboard Frontier are also unlike anything passengers would find on a full-service airline. They’re thin “slimline” seats with no headrests, in-seat power, or even full-size tray tables. Legroom is also significantly reduced, which can make for an uncomfortable ride for taller passengers.

Ultimately, they’re not the most comfortable but I also know my limits when flying an airline like Frontier. I tend to get squirmish when flying Frontier after around three hours, especially if in a crowded row, so I wouldn’t generally book a flight longer than that.

Flyers wanting the extras can pay for them and those wanting seats comparable to a full-service carrier can book “stretch” seats in the first few rows of the cabin. They include full tray tables, extra legroom, and full recline capabilities.

Travelers with too high of expectations will ultimately be disappointed by Frontier but I’ve found that managing those expectations will result in a better experience.

Why I never pay for a seat and how to get a better one for free

Flying Frontier Airlines during pandemic
Flying Frontier Airlines during the pandemic.

I’ve taken 13 flights on Frontier and I’ve only been assigned a middle seat a total of one time. The science isn’t exactly clear on how Frontier randomly assigns leftover seats but my trick is checking in exactly 24 hours in advance and I’m typically given an aisle or window seat.

I prefer a window seat and so I always check with the gate agent to see if any have opened up if I’m assigned an aisle or middle. The gate staff are usually more than willing to help out and will often assign the closest open seat to the front.

And now with the pandemic, I ask if any full rows are open. On my most recent flight from Las Vegas to Seattle, a near-three-hour journey, I asked if there were any full rows open for social distancing and managed to get a row closer to the front all to myself.

As I found when flying basic economy to Europe in January 2020, there’s very little you can’t get for free when asking politely, even when flying on the cheapest ticket.

Why I subscribe to Discount Den and how to get it for “free”

Flying Frontier Airlines during pandemic
Flying Frontier Airlines during the pandemic.

Discount Den is a paid membership product where customers get discounts on flights in exchange for a $59.99 annual fee. It’s separate from the MyFrontier loyalty program and perks can include discounts, free tickets for children, and buy one, get ones.

The savings are more pronounced on more expensive flights as the cheaper flights in Frontier’s network will only see a modest savings of only a few dollars. A $95 flight I booked from Islip, New York to Phoenix in June, however, was only $77 thanks to the program. The $18 savings was around a third of the annual fee so if I had two more flights with that amount of savings, I’d break even.

But I didn’t outright pay to join the program. I joined in January and discovered that I could use travel credit from a Frontier flight that I had canceled during the pandemic to pay for it, but only if I bought the membership while booking a flight.

Frontier sometimes offers signup bonuses when joining the program to make it an even better value. I signed up and was given a $50 voucher to fly on Frontier so the program basically paid for itself.

The only downside is that there are no perks when actually flying. I still have to pay for a seat, I don’t get to board any earlier, and I don’t receive any baggage allowance. But the discounts I get do help offset the cost of buying extras like a seat assignment or carry-on bag if I absolutely need them.

Frontier’s pandemic safety measures

Flying Frontier Airlines during pandemic
Flying Frontier Airlines during the pandemic.

Like most major US airlines, Frontier flyers must wear masks when flying and acknowledge a health declaration that basically says flyers haven’t contracted COVID-19 recently and haven’t been exposed to the virus. But that’s about where the similarities stop.

All travelers flying Frontier must submit to a temperature screening at boarding. If a flyer shows a fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or greater, they’ll be denied boarding.

On the plane, Frontier has not blocked middle seats and does not proactively notify of full flights. Customers are also on their own to social distance, either by asking the gate agent to move to an empty row or asking the flight attendant to be re-seated.

The in-flight service has also been suspended with no snacks or drinks, besides bottles of water, available for purchase. Bottles of water are available on request for $2.99 or flyers can bring their own drinks from the terminal.

Read the original article on Business Insider

A self-flying Cessna just completed a fully automated flight with no pilot input as startup Xwing seeks to revolutionize aviation

Xwing Autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B
Xwing’s autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B.

  • Xwing completed a fully automated “gate-to-gate” flight with its self-flying plane.
  • Pilots merely monitored the aircraft while it performed maneuvers on its own.
  • The technology could revolutionize aviation and cut back on pilot expenses for airlines.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Fully self-flying planes are moving closer and closer to becoming an everyday reality.

Xwing Autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B
Xwing’s autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B.

Xwing, a Bay Area aviation startup, just completed its first “gate-to-gate” autonomous flight with its flagship aircraft, a Cessna Grand Caravan 208B.

Xwing Autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B
Xwing’s autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B.

All pilots had to do was sit back and monitor while the plane started up, taxied out, took off, flew, landed, taxied back, and shut down all on its own.

Xwing Autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B
Xwing’s autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B.

The flight took place in February 2021 at Buchanan Field Airport in Concord, California just outside of San Francisco. A pilot was inside the aircraft but merely to watch over the systems, talk to air traffic control, and take over for the automated system if need be.

Xwing Autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B
Xwing’s autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B.

Another pair of eyes was keeping close watch from Xwing’s “mission control center,” to where data from the aircraft include speed, altitude, pitch, and location was continuously fed.

Xwing Autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B
Xwing’s autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B.

“Over the past year, our team has made significant advancements in extending and refining our AutoFlight system to seamlessly integrate ground taxiing, take-offs, landings, and flight operations, all supervised from our mission control center via redundant data links,” Marc Piette, chief executive officer and founder of Xwing, said in a statement.

Xwing Autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B
Xwing’s autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B.

The Grand Caravan is a tried and true aviation workhorse, with Xwing’s model powered by a turboprop Pratt & Whitney PT6A-114A engine offering 675 shaft horsepower.

Xwing Autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B
Xwing’s autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B.

Source: FlightAware

Its range is around 1,000 nautical miles, enough to fly non-stop from San Francisco to cities like Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Seattle, and even Denver, if conditions allow.

Xwing Autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B
Xwing’s autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B.

Source: Textron Aviation 

And as many as 14 occupants can be carried by the plane.

Xwing Autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B
Xwing’s autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B.

The Grand Caravan has uses in both the passenger and cargo realm, with Xwing looking to serve the latter.

Xwing Autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B
Xwing’s autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B.

“As we work to bring our technology to market, I’m particularly looking forward to building out our commercialization strategy to bring consumers and logistics companies the most effective air cargo solutions available,” Jesse Kallman, Xwing’s vice president of commercialization and strategy, said in a statement.

Xwing Autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B
Xwing’s autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B.

Xwing has joined the worldwide COVID-19 airlift with cargo flights carrying 800 pounds of personal protective equipment to the Navajo Nation in Arizona, performed autonomously from takeoff to landing.

Xwing Autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B
Xwing’s autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B.

And major cargo carriers already rely on the Grand Caravan for flights. FedEx Express is one of many that uses the aircraft to reach remote communities.

FedEx Cessna Grand Caravan

Essential air service carriers, or those that are subsidized by the government to fly to underserved American communities, including Southern Airways Express and Air Choice One also use the Grand Caravan for some flights.

Cessna Grand Caravan

These flights could one day be operated autonomously thanks to Xwing’s technology.

Xwing Autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B
Xwing’s autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B.

Xwing estimates that cost savings could be in the 20-30% range for an aircraft operator including everything from pilot training and salaries to overnighting expenses.

Xwing Autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B
Xwing’s autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B.

Source: Today

That doesn’t necessarily mean flights will be completely pilot-free, however, as companies like Airbus have said that their tech is intended to aid onboard pilots rather than replace them completely.

Airbus A350 cockpit

Airbus is also leading the charge towards self-flying planes, having demonstrated successful autonomous taxi, takeoff, and landing maneuvers with an Airbus A350-1000 XWB.

Airbus A350 Autonomous taxi, takeoff, and landing
Airbus’ self-flying Airbus A350-1000 XWB.

Read More: Airbus’ self-flying plane just completed successful taxi, take-off, and landing tests, opening the door for fully autonomous flight

Xwing just announced a total funding raise of $55 million and has been identified by venture capitalists such as Andrew Beebe of Obvious Ventures and Kirsten Bartok of AirFinance as one of the leaders in the autonomous aviation space. The company was operating in stealth until May 2020.

Xwing Autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B
Xwing’s autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B with founder and CEO Marc Piette.

Read More: 6 autonomous aviation startups poised to bring self-flying planes, drones, and air taxis from the fringes to reality, according to VCs

Read the original article on Business Insider

The CDC’s suggestion to block middle seats on planes is flawed but I’m still in favor of it after taking 32 flights during the pandemic

Flying Delta Air Lines during pandemic
My blocked middle seat and me.

  • Airlines are rejecting the CDC’s study suggesting blocking middle seats, citing newer findings.
  • Blocking middle seats, however, serve as a peace of mind measure for those returning to flying.
  • Not all airlines are following some of the recommendations of the studies they tout.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Airlines seemed to flat out reject a new suggestion from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday that middle seats should be blocked in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The airlines cited more recent studies that prove the efficacy of mask-wearing and air filters on aircraft.

“Since the onset of this crisis, U.S. airlines have relied on science, research and data to help guide decisions as they continuously reevaluate and update their processes and procedures,” a spokesperson for the trade organization Airlines for America, which represents the likes of American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and United Airlines, told Insider.

“Multiple scientific studies confirm that the layers of protection significantly reduce risk, and research continues to demonstrate that the risk of transmission onboard aircraft is very low,” the organization said.

Delta is currently the last airline to still block middle seats but will stop doing so on May 1, the longest run of any US airline to block seats. The CDC’s study hasn’t deterred the airline either, which held firm on the policy shift when asked by CNBC on Thursday.

“Our experts tell us that with vaccination rates where they’re at and demand being as strong as it is it’s absolutely safe to sit in that middle seat,” Delta CEO Ed Bastian said.

Read More: Airline workers have lower rates of COVID-19 than the general population – and airline CEOs say it’s proof that flying is safe

Airlines and at least one aviation expert agree that the CDC study is flawed in multiple aspects including that it was performed in 2017 using maskless mannequins – while wearing masks on an airplane is now mandated by federal law – and wasn’t conducted on an actual airplane, unlike more recent studies.

But science aside, blocking middle seats served a valuable purpose during the pandemic: inspiring peace of mind among travelers returning to flying after months of being grounded.

My experience with blocked middle seats

I’m a life-long flyer and returning to the skies in June 2020 was not an easy decision. Like many, I’d feared catching the novel coronavirus and had a brief moment of panic when I boarded my first flight amid the pandemic.

I was lucky to be flying Delta, however, as I’m sure my panic would have been worsened if I was on a packed plane.

More Americans are returning to flying, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, and awaiting them come May are crowded flights now that every major US airline is filling aircraft to capacity. Plus, what traveler doesn’t appreciate having more room to spread out with an open middle seat?

I do realize that airlines need to be profitable in order for me to keep enjoying their services. Delta, after all, estimated that it lost up to $150 million in potential revenue from blocking seats in March.

But, not all of the country is vaccinated and even those that are still might not feel comfortable with being packed into a plane.

My hope is that airlines giving up on seat-block will double down on other efforts to drive home the fact that flying is safe. I’ve seen this on airlines like Delta and United but some have a way to come in their efforts.

The findings of studies promoting air travel as safe are predicated on airlines following their recommended precautions. But even the industry-funded study from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health specifically gives recommendations that some airlines aren’t following or enforcing.

One recommendation, for example, states: “Reduce the density of passengers embarking/disembarking the jet bridge at any one time.” Southwest Airlines just reverted to boarding in groups of 30 and doesn’t install social distancing placards, as Insider found on recent Southwest flights in February, even though the study recommends as much.

The Harvard study also mentions, “When one passenger briefly removes a mask to eat or drink, other passengers in close proximity should keep their masks on,” a rule not mandated by most US airlines.

So while crowded flights are here once more and justified by science, airlines aren’t completely off the hook and will still need to do their utmost to keep flyers safe.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Delta CEO Ed Bastian declares ‘it’s absolutely safe to sit in the middle seat’ in defiance of CDC suggesting airlines should block them

Flying on Delta Air Lines during pandemic
Flying on Delta Air Lines during the pandemic.

  • Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian said on CNBC Thursday flying in the middle seat is “absolutely safe.”
  • The airline will fill planes to capacity starting May 1 in an end to the year-long seat-blocking policy.
  • Guiding the airline’s decision are experts from the Mayo Clinic and Emory University.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Delta Air Lines is holding firm on its commitment to end a year-long middle seat block despite a newly released report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that recommends keeping middle seats open to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

CEO Ed Bastian appeared on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street” Thursday morning and criticized the report’s shortcoming when asked, saying: “Our experts tell us that with vaccination rates where they’re at and demand being as strong as it is it’s absolutely safe to sit in that middle seat.”

Guiding Delta’s decision, according to Bastian, are experts from the Mayo Clinic, Emory University, and Delta Chief Health Officer Dr. Henry Ting, formerly of the Mayo Clinic. The airline deferred to trade organization Airlines for America when asked for comment on the CDC report.

“Since the onset of this crisis, US airlines have relied on science, research, and data to help guide decisions as they continuously reevaluate and update their processes and procedures,” a spokesperson for the organization said in a statement to Insider. “Multiple scientific studies confirm that the layers of protection significantly reduce risk, and research continues to demonstrate that the risk of transmission onboard aircraft is very low. “

Read more: Airline workers have lower rates of COVID-19 than the general population – and airline CEOs say it’s proof that flying is safe

Henry Harteveldt, an industry analyst and cofounder of Atmosphere Research Group, told Insider that the CDC study and its release were flawed for multiple reasons, chiefly because it doesn’t take into account the new realities of travel. Researchers ran the trials in 2017 using maskless mannequins while masks are now mandatory in airplanes under federal law.

Harteveldt and airlines instead point to more recent studies, including one by the US Department of Defense where masked mannequins were tested onboard a United Airlines wide-body aircraft. Airlines similarly tout a Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health study that declares the risk of air travel to be “below that of other routine activities during the pandemic, such as grocery shopping or eating out” when precautions are taken.

Both support the claims by airlines that flying is safe thanks to measures like mask-wearing and the use of high-efficiency particulate air filters, or HEPA filters, regardless of whether seats are blocked. Harteveldt noted, however, that the Harvard study was funded by the airline industry while the DOD study was not.

Delta was an early and ardent adopter of the seat-blocking policy and kept seats blocked the longest of any major US airline, most of which started filling planes in late 2020. The policy cost Delta up to $150 million in potential revenue in March but even still, the month was successful as the airline saw positive daily cash flow thanks to a surge in travelers.

“Thanks to the incredible efforts of our people, we achieved positive daily cash generation in the month of March, a remarkable accomplishment considering our middle seat block and the low level of demand for business and international travel,” Bastian said in an earnings statement, adding that he expects the airline to be profitable once more in September.

Come May 1, however, the American traveling public will not have an option to travel on a major commercial airline where middle seats are blocked.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Canadians are flocking to US border cities to take advantage of a travel loophole – and it’s creating lucrative opportunities on both sides of the closed border

Welcome to Canada sign
A “Welcome to Canada” sign at the US-Canada border.

  • Canadian tourists are driving up business in US border towns to avoid strict quarantines in Canada.
  • Those arriving in Canada by land can save as much as $2,000 (Canadian) by not having to quarantine in a hotel.
  • Transportation firms in cities like Buffalo, New York, are reaping the benefits with costly fares.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Canadian tourists are once again stimulating the economies of American border cities and bringing back the “Buffalo shuffle” despite the border between the two countries remaining closed to non-essential travel.

Transportation companies in Buffalo, New York, are experiencing a long-awaited boom in business by catering to Canadians heading north, CBC is reporting, and the reason is a loophole that allows them to avoid mandatory COVID-19 hotel quarantines when arriving back home.

Recently enacted travel restrictions in Canada require that residents returning by air quarantine in a hotel at their expense, up to $2,000 (Canadian), according to CBC. Canadians traveling across the land border, however, need only submit to a home quarantine while undergoing extensive testing for the coronavirus, in addition to providing a recent negative test to border guards.

Buffalo is one outpost that’s seen an uptick in Canadian visitors, but not directly from Canada. Visitors from the north have been arriving by air from parts of the US and making the last stretch of their journey home by land, crossing the world’s longest border by car.

One transportation company, Buffalo Limousine, told CBC that it transports an average of 50 Canadians per day and business has increased by 50%. The pandemic nearly decimated the company, along with countless businesses that relied on Canadian customers.

A Buffalo Limousine trip from Buffalo-Niagara International Airport across the border to Fort Erie, Ontario costs around $120 one-way for the 17-mile trip, CBC said.

Peace Bridge in Buffalo, New York
The Peace Bridge connects Buffalo, New York with Fort Erie, Ontario.

Public transportation options before the pandemic included Megabus Canada and Amtrak, which took passengers from Buffalo to Toronto with stops along the way. Both have stopped cross-border services during the pandemic, according to their websites.

Reviving the Buffalo shuffle

Prior to the pandemic, America’s neighbor to the north was more than willing to cross the southern border to save on everything from gasoline to airfare. Canadian visa holders also frequently visited the now-closed Consulate General of Canada in downtown Buffalo in order to apply for certain extensions that could only be done outside of the country, a trip known as the Buffalo shuffle.

But the US-Canada land border has been closed to non-essential travel since March as part of a mutual agreement between governments to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The US and Mexico have a similar agreement, though Americans can cross into Mexico with abandon thanks to the Latin American country’s lax entry and exit rules.

Ironically, US border restrictions prevent Canadians that aren’t also American citizens from entering by land so flying is the only option for many to enter the Land of the Free. A winter visitor to the US, for example, would have to fly from Canada to the US and then fly to a border town like Buffalo to drive back in to avoid quarantine.

The rules have created another niche industry in Canada that supplies short, cross-border flights so Canadians can take advantage of the loophole. CBC reported in February that many Canadians continued to flock to the US even after their government had enacted stricter travel restrictions, and one company even started offering international helicopter flights.

Great Lakes Helicopters operates 28-mile flights from St. Catharines, Ontario, near Niagara Falls to Buffalo, which costs $1,500 (Canadian) plus tax, according to its website. Canadians can even drive to St. Catharines and have the company ship their cars across the border – cross-border trucking has not stopped during the pandemic – for between $700 and $1,600 (Canadian), depending on the size of the car.

Robinson R44 Helicopter
A Robinson R44 helicopter similar to the one used by Great Lakes Helicopters.

But temporarily gone are the days of Canadians driving across the border to an airport like Buffalo-Niagara International, Ogdensburg International, or Bellingham International, to avoid paying the high taxes levied on international flights from Canada to the US. Major airlines have largely pulled out of border airports during the pandemic, as a result of the border closure.

Allegiant Air packed up from Ogdensburg, New York, billed as an alternative to Canada’s capital of Ottawa just 60 miles to the north, according to 7 News. Plattsburgh International Airport in New York, an alternate to nearby Montreal, and Niagara Falls International Airport, an alternate to nearby Toronto, also saw some flights disappear during the pandemic, according to the Press-Republican and the Buffalo News.

But Southwest Airlines is preparing for the eventual easing of border restrictions and announced service to Bellingham, Washington, slated to launch sometime in 2021. Bellingham is just south of Vancouver and could attract British Columbia residents seeking to head to points south on the cheap.

Canadians seem eager to flee to the US by any means necessary, in contrast to the pandemic’s peak when Americans were shunned from Canada. Cars with American license plates in Canada were keyed and even flipped by some locals.

The US is vastly outperforming Canada in vaccinations per 100 people, according to the New York Times, and the mutual decision to keep the border closed will ultimately depend on how comfortable Ottawa is in allowing cross-border travel along its southern frontier once more.

Read the original article on Business Insider