This rendering provided by Qantas shows a Boeing 787 Dreamliner in the airline's new paint scheme. (Photo: Qantas)
Airlines are constantly tweaking their schedules, trying to find profitable new routes or pulling the plug on ones that have underperformed. Airports and communities also court these new services.
There are dozens of changes to airline routes each month. Here's a look at some of the most interesting from the past month.
Finally, a direct flight from Europe to Australia. Just 17 hours
Qantas says it will launch non-stop service between Australia and Europe with a route that would immediately become one of the world’s longest regularly scheduled passenger flights.
Qantas revealed plans for the route Dec. 11, saying it would start flying non-stop between Perth and London Heathrow in March 2018. The carrier will use its new long-range Boeing 787-9 “Dreamliners” to fly the route, which Qantas says will be “the first regular passenger service to directly link Australia with Europe.”
Qantas touts the planned 17-hour, 9,010-mile route as one that will become the world’s third-longest.
Currently, Emirates’ 8,819-mile flight between Dubai and Auckland, New Zealand, is the world’s longest while Qantas’ 8,576-mile Dallas/Fort Worth-Sydney route comes in at No. 2, according to data provided to USA TODAY by airline data provider OAG. Both those routes will be overtaken in early 2017 once Qatar Airways launches its 9,030-mile non-stop route between Auckland and its hub in Doha.
And Air India also has emerged as a contender for the world’s longest flight after it shifted the routing of its Delhi-San Francisco route this past fall. Instead of flying the shortest distance between the cities via a polar route, the airline now routes its Delhi-to-San Francisco route over the Pacific, The Times of India reports. Despite the longer distance — about 9,400 miles for the flight — the tailwinds common on that particular route actually help the airline save fuel.
Qantas' Perth-London service also would become the world's longest Dreamliner route, based on schedules as of December 2016. Currently, United Airlines holds that distinction for its service between San Francisco and Singapore.
Merger partners Alaska Airlines, Virgin American unveil new S.F. routes
Alaska Airlines wasted little time announcing new routes as part of its merger with Virgin America.
Alaska Airlines revealed plans for three new routes from Virgin America’s San Francisco hub, announcing them on the same day it officially closed on its acquisition of the California-based carrier. The routes to Minneapolis/St. Paul, Orlando and Orange County, Calif., will launch this summer and will be flown on planes under both the Alaska Airlines and Virgin America brands.
Alaska Air’s regional affiliate SkyWest will fly the Orange County and Minneapolis/St. Paul routes on its 76-seat Embraer E175 jets. The Orange County service begins June 15 with two daily round-trip flights, increasing to four daily round-trip flights on July 18. Alaska Air’s twice-daily San Francisco-Minneapolis/St. Paul service starts July 18.
Virgin America will operate the Orlando route starting June 14, with one daily round-trip flight on its 146-seat mood-lit Airbus A320 aircraft. Once the new routes start, Alaska Air says it and Virgin America will be flying to 20 of the 25 most popular air destinations from San Francisco.
Seven U.S. airlines are now flying to Havana after Southwest began flying to the city this month.
Six other carriers — American, Delta, Frontier, JetBlue, Spirit and United — had already launched service to Havana, which just opened up to U.S. airlines this year amid thawing relations between the United States and Cuba. Alaska Airlines will become the eighth U.S. carrier to begin flying to Havana on Jan. 5, when it launches service from Los Angeles.
The Havana service marked a unique milestone for Southwest and JetBlue, becoming the 100th city on each of those carriers’ route maps.
Cumulatively, U.S. airlines have been given the rights for a total of 20 daily round-trip flights between U.S. airports and Havana. Additional flights have been approved between the USA and a number of smaller Cuban cities. Most of those routes have already begun.
Air Canada expands U.S. route map
Air Canada will add three U.S. cities to its route map next year, part of a five-route expansion the carrier announced earlier this month.
Beginning in May, Air Canada will add service from its Toronto hub to Memphis, San Antonio and Savannah, Ga. All three are cities the airline does not currently serve. San Antonio and Savannah are new destinations for Air Canada while Memphis restores a city the airline last flew to in 2012.
Additionally, Air Canada will launch service between Montreal and Dallas/Fort Worth and between Vancouver and Denver. Those routes also start in May. A sixth route — Vancouver-Phoenix — will be converted from seasonal service into year-round service. All of the new service will be operated by Air Canada’s Air Canada Express affiliates.
JetBlue breaks out its Bermuda shorts
JetBlue is beefing up its service to Bermuda, adding more capacity to the island from both New York and Boston.
From its hub at New York JFK, JetBlue will add a second daily round-trip flight. The seasonal second flight will start May 18 and will run until late October, when JetBlue returns to once-daily service on the route.
Also on May 18, JetBlue will begin flying year-round to Bermuda from its base in Boston. Previously, JetBlue had operated the route only during its summer schedule.
New connection for New Mexico’s capital
Fliers in the New Mexico capital of Santa Fe now have access to a third major airline hub.
That came when American Airlines added non-stop service to the Phoenix hub on Dec. 15. American regional affiliate SkyWest now flies one daily round-trip flight between the cities on 70-seat Bombardier CRJ-700 regional jets.
American already offered service from Santa Fe to its biggest hub at Dallas/Fort Worth. United is the only other carrier flying from Santa Fe Municipal Airport. It offers daily non-stop service to its hub in Denver.
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