Delta and US Airways Bow to Their Most Frequent Fliers: Faced with an unprecedented blowback from its elite SkyMiles customers, Delta Air Lines has changed the rules on its new Coach Choice program, which charges $5-25 for a seat assignment in supposedly preferred coach seats. Elite SkyMiles members will once again be able to select any coach seat at the time of booking without charge. Delta will continue to charge travelers without status, however. Meanwhile, US Airways has restored bonus miles for its elite fliers after months of criticism from its best customers. Effective immediately, silver members will receive a 25 percent bonus per flight; gold members receive a 50 percent bonus; platinum fliers receive a 75 percent bonus; and Chairman’s Preferred members receive 100 percent bonuses. Elites will also receive the bonuses retroactively for any flight taken after August 6, when US Airways first eliminated them. At the same time, US Airways announced that it is restoring the 500-mile minimum per flight for all Dividend Miles customers. … United Airlines has a new partner for Mileage Plus: Jet Airways of India. Effective December 15, Mileage Plus members can earn and burn on the respected private Indian airline, except for its soon-to-be-discontinued flight from San Francisco to Shanghai.
Suddenly, Everyone Wants to Fly to Geneva: The French-speaking crowd that dominates Geneva has always resented that Switzerland‘s main hub is in German-speaking Zurich. They hated it when now-defunct Swissair ended most of its international service at Geneva in the mid-1990s. And they even supported a Geneva-based carrier called Swiss World Airways, which lasted less than 90 days in 1998. So it’s notable that both Air Canada and United Airlines this week said they would launch new service into Geneva. United said it would launch flights from its Washington/Dulles hub on April 19 with a Boeing 767 configured with first class, United’s new business class and coach. And Air Canada says it will launch a Toronto–Montreal-Geneva route on June 2 using a Boeing 767. United has also announced that it will revive its Denver–London/Heathrow route on a seasonal basis between March and October. The airline launched Denver-London service earlier this year and killed it six months later. Travelers to India take note: Jet Airways is dropping its Brussels-Bangalore nonstop on January 12.
Oh, Those Wacky Hawaiian Skies: It’s never boring on the Hawaii inter-island routes. After Aloha Airlines folded earlier this year before the courts could consider its lawsuit against mainland interloper go! and Hawaiian Airlines won a big settlement from go!, things settled down a bit. Fares jumped up and it looked as if Hawaiian and go! would dominate the primary routes. But Mokulele Airlines launched 70-seat regional jet flights on a major inter-island route late last month and has announced its intention to go head-to-head with Hawaiian and go!. The flights will be operated for Mokulele by Republic Airlines, a well-known mainland commuter carrier. What’s odd there? Mokulele has been operating as the commuter partner of go!, which is owned by Mesa, itself a large mainland commuter carrier. Naturally, Mokulele and Mesa are now suing each other, alleging everything from non-payment of bills to anti-competitive activity.
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Joe Brancatelli is editor and publisher of JoeSentMe.com, a non-commercial Web site for business travelers. Copyright 2008 by Joe Brancatelli. Licensed by contract for Orbitz use.