More Asia/Pacific flights coming to the Bay Area

In this week’s news, Air India will begin flying two more routes from San Francisco as it takes on more long-haul aircraft; Mineta San Jose gets new Tokyo service; United boosts its Australia schedule from SFO and LAX; as New Zealand drops its last COVID restrictions on international travel, airlines are adding more flights there from the U.S., including a revival of United’s SFO-Auckland service; United and Emirates announce a big code-sharing and frequent flyer partnership along with new United nonstop service to Dubai; there’s international route news from JetBlue, Delta and Southwest; United brings back SFO-Omaha service and JSX introduces an Oakland-Dallas flight; TSA adds more foreign airlines to its PreCheck expedited screening program; new studies find airfares remain high going into the fall, including for Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Year’s travel; and Orlando International Airport will open a big new terminal next week.

Air travel between the U.S. West Coast and India was curtailed by COVID and the loss of Russia overflight rights to the Ukraine war, but Air India is looking to revive some of that service and introduce a new route as it adds more long-haul aircraft to its fleet. The company said this week it plans to begin new service between San Francisco and Mumbai and to bring back SFO-Bengaluru (Bangalore) nonstop flights as it takes delivery of five Boeing 777-200LRs (long-range) between December 2022 and March 2023. The airline didn’t specify starting dates or frequencies for the two SFO routes except to say that SFO-Bengaluru will operate three days a week. reported that the SFO-Bengaluru service will resume Oct. 31. Also planned is new Mumbai-New York JFK service, supplementing the carrier’s Newark-Mumbai flights. Except for EWR, Air India’s current routes all operate into Delhi, including San Francisco, Chicago, JFK, Newark and Washington Dulles. 

Air India is also adding 25 Airbus single-aisle planes, increasing its overall fleet size by 25%. The fleet growth comes after the airline was acquired earlier this year by the Tata Group, a leading Indian conglomerate. The company said its fleet expansion will also include the addition of a new premium economy seating option on its long-haul aircraft. United Airlines has been planning to introduce SFO-Bengaluru service since early 2021, but it was repeatedly delayed and is now tentatively scheduled to launch in March of next year. Rival American Airlines’ planned Seattle-Bengaluru route has also been pushed back and is now expected to begin sometime in mid-2023. Both Mumbai and Bengaluru are considered prime destinations for business travelers, since the former is India’s financial hub and the latter is its tech capital.

Air India jet on the tarmac at San Francisco International Airport in July 2022.

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Zipair, a low-cost subsidiary of Japan Airlines, has now set Dec. 12 for its introduction of service between Mineta San Jose Airport and Tokyo Narita, offering three flights a week with a two-class 787 and expanding to daily service in 2023. Through Nov. 30, Zipair is offering introductory fares as low as $230 each way for travel from Dec. 12 through March 25. Japan has kept strict COVID rules for visitors in place longer than most countries, but earlier this month, the government ended its requirement that inbound foreign travelers must show proof of a negative COVID test before departing from home. And Japan’s Nikkei news service said this week that the government is expected to ease up its rules even more next month, likely no longer requiring mandatory visas for short-stay arrivals from the U.S. and ending its daily visitor cap of 50,000 travelers — although tourists will still have to show proof of vaccination.

Australia is also getting more service from the U.S., with United Airlines planning to boost San Francisco-Melbourne frequencies from three flights a week to seven starting Oct. 28. United will also resume its Los Angeles-Melbourne service on Oct. 28 — starting with three weekly flights and increasing to daily in December — and will bring back Houston-Sydney fights next month, according to the Australian trade publication Executive Traveller.

Travel to New Zealand is getting easier thanks to that government’s lifting of its last remaining COVID restrictions and to the addition of more air service from the U.S. In May, New Zealand reopened to vaccinated visitors form the U.S. and several other countries, and in June it stopped requiring travelers to get a COVID test before departing from home. This week, the government said international visitors are no longer required to show proof of a COVID vaccination — although they’ll still have to complete a health declaration and obtain an electronic travel authority online. New Zealand this week also ended its mask requirement for passengers on domestic and inbound international flights.

Last month, Air New Zealand increased frequencies on its Auckland-Los Angeles route from seven to 10 a week, and on Sept. 17 the airline plans to introduce the longest route in its system — nonstop service between Auckland and New York JFK, operating three days a week. The Kiwi carrier also revived its Auckland-Houston route this summer and will begin Chicago O’Hare flights in late October. Meanwhile, United Airlines — Air New Zealand’s Star Alliance partner — plans to resume its San Francisco-Auckland route on Oct. 1 with three weekly flights (Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday), increasing to daily service Oct. 31. And on Nov. 1, American Airlines is due to bring back New Zealand service with a daily flight from its Dallas/Fort Worth hub.

Emirates SkyCargo airline Boeing 777F aircraft in the Netherlands during a rainy evening.

Emirates SkyCargo airline Boeing 777F aircraft in the Netherlands during a rainy evening.

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As expected, the CEOs of United and Emirates got together at Washington Dulles this week to announce an extensive new code-sharing partnership that will permit single ticketing for connecting itineraries and will also bring reciprocal benefits to members of their respective loyalty programs. As part of the agreement, United said it will launch a new nonstop route from its Newark hub to Emirates’ base at Dubai in March 2023.

“From there, customers can travel on Emirates or its sister airline Flydubai to more than 100 different cities,” United said. Beginning in November, Emirates customers on the airline’s routes into San Francisco, Houston and Chicago will gain access to almost 200 U.S. cities served by United. The two carriers will also have an interline partnership for connections at eight of Emirates’ other U.S. gateways, including Boston, Dallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles, Miami, New York JFK, Orlando, Seattle and Washington Dulles.

“This agreement will also give the loyalty program members of both airlines more opportunities for more rewards: United MileagePlus members flying on United’s Newark/New York to Dubai flight can soon earn and redeem miles when connecting beyond on Emirates and flydubai and Emirates Skywards members will be able to earn miles when they travel on United operated flights. Eligible United customers will also soon have access to Emirates lounges when connecting to and from United’s new Dubai flight,” United said. 

In other international route developments, JetBlue is slated to kick off its fourth London route next week (Sept. 20) when it starts daily Boston-London Heathrow flights. Last month, the carrier introduced Boston-London Gatwick service to supplement its routes from New York JFK to both Heathrow and Gatwick; it plans to add a second daily JFK-LGW flight Oct. 29. Delta has firmed up plans for its expanded South Africa service this winter: On Dec. 2, it plans to start flying a triangular Atlanta-Johannesburg-Cape Town-Atlanta route four days a week, while its current Atlanta-Johannesburg turnaround service will be cut from daily to three days a week. Then on Dec. 17, Delta plans to start Atlanta-Cape Town nonstops operating three days a week. Southwest Airlines is scheduled to expand its Costa Rica presence next March, adding a weekly Saturday flight from Denver to San Jose to supplement its existing weekly Denver-Liberia service. 

Passengers arrive at Ontario International Airport.

Passengers arrive at Ontario International Airport.

Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

On the domestic side, United has revived its route from San Francisco International to Omaha, Nebraska — which had been suspended in spring of 2020 — operating one daily round trip with an E175 regional jet; it will upgrade to mainline A320/A319 service starting Oct. 30. JSX, the regional airline offering small-jet service with business class-type amenities, plans to start daily flights Nov. 1 between Oakland and Dallas Love Field, with “a quick stopover in Las Vegas” in both directions and introductory fares starting at $499 one-way. JSX is also adding other Texas service including seasonal Dallas Love Field-Miami flights beginning Sept. 22 and seasonal flights between Dallas and Gunnison/Crested Butte, Colorado, as of Nov. 18. On the East Coast, Delta is planning to augment its New York LaGuardia-Washington Reagan National shuttle flights with new service between LGA and Washington Dulles starting Nov. 9, operating four flights a day with 76-passenger, two-class E175s.

The Transportation Security Administration said this week it has added four more foreign carriers to its PreCheck program, so that travelers ticketed on those airlines who belong to PreCheck can now take advantage of the expedited screening service. The new additions are Air Europa, a SkyTeam Alliance member based in Spain; Flair, a Canadian low-cost carrier; Volaris El Salvador, which flies from the U.S. to El Salvador; and ITA, the Italian airline that was created as a successor to Alitalia.

A commercial airliner on approach to land.

A commercial airliner on approach to land.

picture alliance/dpa/picture alliance via Getty Images

Last week, we covered a report from Google Flights that predicted the best times to book Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Year’s flights in order to get the best fares. This week, a new study from the popular air travel site predicts that you’ll likely be paying a lot more than last year for year-end holiday flights no matter when you book them. Hopper said Thanksgiving/Christmas airfares this year will be the highest they’ve been in the past five years, driven up by “jet fuel prices, fewer flights scheduled and two years of pent-up holiday travel demand.” For domestic Thanksgiving flights, Hopper said, expect to pay an average of $350 per ticket “for a good deal” — 43% more than last year and 22% higher than 2019. “Fares for Thanksgiving peaked at over $400 in August but have fallen about 9% into September as they do each year and will remain at the current level until mid to late October,” Hopper said. For Christmas, “good deal” domestic fares currently average around $463 per ticket — 31% more than in 2019 and 39% higher than last year. It suggests booking tickets for either holiday period by Oct. 20.

The latest Consumer Price Index figures from the federal government this week show that airline fares dropped 8.8% on average from August to September, but that’s a normal seasonal trend when summer travel drops off. “Even though prices are dipping, they’re still mostly higher than they were this time last year, when there were more travel restrictions,” according to Sally French, one of the travel experts at “Airfares were still up 33% in August 2022 versus August 2021 due to a combination of factors, including high travel demand, jet fuel prices and staffing shortages. And 2022 prices are also far higher than their pre-pandemic levels — August 2022 airfares are up 9% versus August 2019 airfares. If you’re building your next vacation budget based on a 2019 trip, understand that you’ll likely pay far more now for pretty much every expense.”

A Spirit Airlines aircraft is towed from the terminal gate at Orlando International Airport.

A Spirit Airlines aircraft is towed from the terminal gate at Orlando International Airport.

SOPA Images/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Orlando International Airport, the gateway to Disney World and other central Florida attractions and one of the world’s 10 busiest airports, will get a big boost in capacity next week when it cuts the ribbon on its $2.8 billion South Terminal (Terminal C). The expansion will give MCO another 15 gates that will increase its annual passenger capacity by up to 12 million. The high-tech terminal will have a new Federal Inspection Station, 10-lane TSA checkpoint with automated screening lanes, and facial recognition technology at all 15 gates for international arrivals and departures. The building’s linear design will feature plenty of natural light through huge windows and skylights, a sophisticated baggage handling system, and a reversal of tradition terminal design — putting arrivals on the upper level and departures below.

The terminal will rely heavily on high-tech visual communication for passengers, providing “helpful, dynamic information and vivid multimedia content on massive video walls and connected digital displays,” the airport said. The terminal will also have an intermodal station linking it to the privately owned Brightline inter-city rail system and future light rail service. The initial occupants of the South Terminal will include JetBlue, British Airways, Lufthansa, Emirates, Aer Lingus, Caribbean Airlines, Azul, GOL, Icelandair and Norse Atlantic.

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