Norse Atlantic Airways begins cheap flights to Europe from California

In this week’s roundup, the low-cost carrier Norse Atlantic Airways plans to start service from San Francisco, Los Angeles and two other cities to London this summer; United revives SFO-Hong Kong nonstop flights; EVA Air boosts SFO-Taipei frequencies; Delta resumes nonstop flights on two China routes; additional international route news comes from Ethiopian Airlines, American, ITA, United and Frontier; Spirit Airlines will add a new Texas route from Oakland; Southwest adds service at Sacramento and Long Beach; American drops a Long Beach route but adds a transcontinental one from Orange County; Avelo expands at Hollywood Burbank; a study recommends how early travelers should get to the airport, and SFO ranks high on the list of airports with the earliest recommended arrival times; Southwest adds a new in-flight beverage for Gen Zers; American revises its policy on family members sitting together; Lufthansa and Qantas unveil new first- and business-class products; SFO invites the public to submit San Francisco photos for a new exhibit in one of its terminals; and Sacramento’s airport deploys facial recognition technology. 

Last week, we mentioned that Japan’s low-cost carrier Zipair will start flying from San Francisco International to Tokyo this summer, and now a low-cost European carrier plans to add new transatlantic service from SFO. Norse Atlantic Airways said this week that SFO-London Gatwick is one of four U.S. routes it will add in the coming months, along with service from Gatwick to Washington Dulles, Los Angeles and Boston. The carrier plans to launch the SFO-London 787 flights July 1, operating three days a week with fares starting as low as $185 each way. The LAX route begins June 30, offering daily flights with starting fares of $199 each way. Washington-London starts June 1 with up to six weekly flights, and Boston-London kicks off Sept. 2 with five departures a week. Norse Atlantic also recently announced plans to start flying to London from Orlando and Fort Lauderdale in late May. It already serves London Gatwick from New York JFK. 

Passengers board an Ethiopian Airlines flight Dec. 1, 2021, in Cape Town, South Africa.

Passengers board an Ethiopian Airlines flight Dec. 1, 2021, in Cape Town, South Africa.

David Silverman/Getty Images

In other international route news, United has resumed nonstop flights from San Francisco to Hong Kong, using a 777-300ER and initially operating three days a week. The route is also served by Cathay Pacific. United recently resumed nonstop SFO-Shanghai service, but as we reported previously, its plans to restart flights to other Chinese cities have been put on hold until the fall. The Taiwanese airline EVA Air plans to increase frequencies to North America this spring, boosting its San Francisco-Taipei schedule from two daily flights to three beginning May 15 and increasing Chicago-Taipei from three a week to daily frequencies beginning May 1. Delta this week eliminated the stopover at Seoul Incheon from its Seattle-Shanghai and Detroit-Shanghai routes, which both operate twice weekly, but it also discontinued its Detroit-Nagoya, Japan, service. 



In more international route news, Ethiopian Airlines plans to resume nonstop flights to the West African capital of Abidjan, Ivory Coast, from New York JFK on May 23 after a two-year hiatus, with connecting service to Addis Ababa. Major carriers are expecting to see record traffic from the U.S. to Europe this summer, and it looks like demand for peak-season flights to Italy is surging. American Airlines plans to add a second daily frequency from New York JFK to Rome from July 5 to Aug. 14; Italy’s ITA Airways boosted its summer schedule between JFK and Rome to three daily flights from June 1 to Oct. 28; and United Airlines will increase its Newark-Naples schedule from one daily flight to two from June 23 to Sept. 7. From the western U.S., Frontier Airlines this week introduced new seasonal nonstop service between Denver and Montego Bay, Jamaica, with three weekly flights. Frontier also started new routes to Montego Bay from Chicago Midway and St. Louis.

Customers check in for a Spirit Airlines flight at Oakland International Airport on July 28, 2022, in Oakland, Calif.

Customers check in for a Spirit Airlines flight at Oakland International Airport on July 28, 2022, in Oakland, Calif.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

In California route news, Spirit Airlines’ recent decision to start flying out of San Jose Mineta on June 7 (to Dallas/Fort Worth, Las Vegas and San Diego) doesn’t mean it’s neglecting its Oakland operations. Spirit will add a new route out of Oakland on May 5, offering daily flights to Dallas/Fort Worth, departing OAK at 5:48 p.m. and arriving in DFW at 11:20 p.m. (Southwest Airlines already flies from Oakland to Dallas, but those flights go to Love Field, not DFW.) Spirit also flies from Oakland to Newark, Las Vegas, Los Angeles International, Orange County, San Diego, Philadelphia and, during the summer, Chicago O’Hare.

Southwest Airlines will introduce a new route out of Sacramento on March 11, beginning Saturday-only flights to Nashville and increasing to Saturday/Sunday frequencies in early September. Southwest is also due to kick off new service from Southern California’s Long Beach Airport on March 9, operating daily flights to the new Kansas City airport. Also at Long Beach, American Airlines this week discontinued its three daily American Eagle flights to its Phoenix hub. American announced plans to try out a new transcontinental service between Orange County and Charlotte, North Carolina, operating daily flights from July 5 to Aug. 10. And low-cost Avelo Airlines continues to grow at Hollywood Burbank Airport, announcing a new route to Colorado Springs, Colorado, with three weekly flights starting May 3; and twice-weekly service to Brownsville/South Padre Island, Texas, beginning May 17 — the airline’s first destination in the Lone Star State.

Tracy Joline, left, of Tampa Florida, is seen frustrated as she works on scheduling a new flight on Southwest Airlines on Dec. 27, 2022, after her prior flight was canceled at Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma, New York.

Tracy Joline, left, of Tampa Florida, is seen frustrated as she works on scheduling a new flight on Southwest Airlines on Dec. 27, 2022, after her prior flight was canceled at Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma, New York.

Newsday LLC/Newsday via Getty Images

How early should you get to San Francisco International to check in and board your flight with minimum hassle and stress? According to a new study by Upgraded Points, the answer is two hours and 45 minutes before your scheduled departure. The study examined 50 major U.S. airports, looking at 15 factors: average Transportation Security Administration wait times, the size of the airport, passenger volume and more (including “number of bars,” for some reason). SFO ranked seventh on the list of airports for earliest recommended arrival times, while Los Angeles International was in second place, with a suggested arrival two hours and 59 minutes ahead of time. 

Near the bottom of the list, Upgraded Points said travelers flying out of Sacramento International need to get there only an hour and 13 minutes before flight time, and Oakland International requires an arrival an hour and 24 minutes before departure. The airport with the shortest suggested pre-departure arrival time was Columbus, Ohio, at one hour. And the one with the longest recommended time was Chicago O’Hare, at three hours and four minutes pre-departure. What’s so bad about O’Hare? “In 2021, this airport boasted a record-breaking 54,020,399 passengers,” Upgraded Points said. “It also has a whopping 193 gates — more than any other airport in our study. What’s more, the airport is understaffed. O’Hare has 3,606 badged airport employees per square mile, 9{5a5867cc9cca71cf546db38f42fbf171004839e3542174405390d177276b4f49} below the national average.”

Southwest Airlines has expanded its in-flight beverage menu by introducing a drink apparently meant to appeal to younger flyers. The new beverage is Community Coffee’s Espresso + Cream iced coffee, available for $4 per bottle. Southwest noted that according to consumer research, cold coffee is consumed by 42{5a5867cc9cca71cf546db38f42fbf171004839e3542174405390d177276b4f49} of Generation Z. It’s served on 4,000 flights per day, the airline said. 

A stock image of a mother with two children traveling on a commercial flight.

A stock image of a mother with two children traveling on a commercial flight.

freemixer/Getty Images

American Airlines is the latest carrier — following United and Frontier — to revise its policy on seating family members together. According to an update to American’s customer service plan, “We guarantee children 14 and under will be seated adjacent to an accompanying adult at no additional cost, including Basic Economy fares.” The guarantee is subject to several conditions: Everyone must be booked on the same reservation; adjacent seats must be available at the time of booking in the same class of service the child is ticketed in; the passenger doesn’t change seat assignments once they are made; the plane’s configuration allows seating together based on the number of children in the reservation; the flight isn’t downsized to a smaller aircraft; and “you choose seats for the entire reservation or skip seats for the entire reservation (if you choose Basic Economy, then skip choosing seats for the entire reservation),” American said. According to the One Mile at a Time blog, “What makes American’s policy unique is that the carrier is making this part of its customer service plan and is also introducing a guarantee.”  

Major global airlines that decide to keep offering a first-class cabin on their long-haul routes have found that continued upgrades to carriers’ international business-class cabins are forcing them to make first class even more spectacular in order to differentiate their product. We’ve seen this for a while in the big Middle Eastern carriers, but the latest examples of the trend came this week from Lufthansa and Qantas.   

Lufthansa has unveiled new first-class and business-class designs that are part of its “Allegris” long-haul product, to be introduced next year on its newly delivered Airbus A350s. The airline’s new first-class “Suite Plus” is “a separate double cabin with ceiling-high walls and an entirely closable door, large table and two wide seats that can be combined into a comfortable double bed if required,” the airline said. Seats are almost one meter wide, and the suite includes a wardrobe for hanging clothes and storage. Meals will be offered at a time of the customer’s choosing and can be served “in the private suites at the large First Class table, similar to a restaurant,” Lufthansa said. The airline’s new long-haul business-class seats will offer “chest-high walls and sliding doors,” along with a wardrobe, minibar and 27-inch monitor. Business-class travelers “can choose between six additional seat options, depending on whether they want an extra-long bed measuring 2.20 meters, extra space and work area, a seat with a baby bassinet, or simply an exclusive seat directly by the window,” Lufthansa said. “A double seat, in which the center console can be retracted to transform it into a reclining surface for two, is also available.” 

Qantas, meanwhile, has revealed details of first-class and business-class products for the new A350s that it plans to deploy as part of its “Project Sunrise,” which will bring new nonstop flights from Australia to New York and London starting in late 2025. The airline will focus on providing more space to passengers, configuring its A350s with 238 seats instead of the industry norm of 300 or more. The new first-class suites are designed “to make customers feel like they are in a mini boutique hotel room complete with an extra-wide fixed bed, separate recliner chair, personal wardrobe, dining table for two and a 32” ultra-high definition TV,” the airline said. The new business-class suites will all have direct aisle access, sliding privacy doors, two-meter flat beds, extra storage space, a large mirror, a leather ottoman, 18-inch touch-screen TV, and a large dining table. Qantas said its new A350s will also offer free high-speed satellite Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity to the in-flight entertainment system.

Want to be part of a photo exhibit at San Francisco International? The airport plans to create a public photo gallery in Terminal 3 around the theme “SFO Celebrates: Your SF Experience.” It is inviting members of the public to submit photos of their favorite San Francisco experience for possible inclusion in the display by posting them to Facebook or Instagram, adding #YourSF and tagging @FlySFO. The airport will select images over the course of the year to install as part of the photo exhibit. For details, go to flysfo.com/yoursf.

A passenger boarding flight 773 to Aruba uses JetBlue's facial-recognition system at Boston Logan International Airport on Jun. 15, 2017.

A passenger boarding flight 773 to Aruba uses JetBlue’s facial-recognition system at Boston Logan International Airport on Jun. 15, 2017.

Boston Globe/Boston Globe via Getty Images

Sacramento International this week introduced facial recognition technology to verify travelers’ identities, but it is initially being used only for international flights. The new system works by taking a live photo of the passenger and comparing it with an existing passport or visa photo in government databases. “Travelers who wish to opt out of the new biometric process may notify an airline official or a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer as they approach the departure gate,” the airport said. “These travelers will be required to present a valid travel document for inspection by the gate agent and they will be processed consistent with existing requirements for departure from the United States.”

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