United’s routes, Envoy Class upgrades, Virgin to Philly, Allegiant’s carry-on fee and more airline & travel news

In other airline, hotel and travel industry news last week…

  • United Airlines shifted its Washington Dulles to Buenos Aires flight over to Newark on Friday. They didn’t totally Continental it up, though, as they’re using a legacy United 3-cabin 767 on the route. The airline is also ending service to Accra and Copenhagen later this year, according to Airline Route. Washington Dulles to Accra ends July 3 and Newark to Copenhagen terminates on September 26.
  • US Airways has completed conversion of 14 of its 16 Airbus A330 aircraft with the new Envoy Class and is expected to get the remaining two birds completed by the end of summer. The seats are actually pretty darn nice looking and setup in a reverse herringbone 1 x 2 x 1 configuration. The airline was also awarded the “2012 MRO (maintenance, repair and overhaul) of the Year” award last week by Aviation Week and Overhaul & Maintenance magazine.
  • Virgin America officially launched service to Philadelphia last Wednesday from Los Angeles and will begin San Francisco-Philly service tomorrow. Sir Richard Branson greeted the first arrival at PHL and hosted a “tailgate on the tarmac” party with a bunch of invited guests. Later that night, the official launch party was held at Hotel Palomar downtown and based on some Twitter reports, it sounded like a fantastic time.
  • Allegiant Air began charging passengers with new reservations from last Wednesday for large carry-ons, joining Spirit Airlines in charging for the privilege to use the overhead bins. One bag is still free, but it must fit underneath the seat. You can get a discount on the $35 fee if you book the space in advance online.
  • Southwest Airlines shifted some the flying it took over from AirTran in Atlanta back to the carrier, including flights to Los Angeles, Chicago Midway, Phoenix, Denver and Las Vegas. A combination of IT issues and route optimization appear to be the reason. A Southwest spokesman said, “In some cases, until we get to a point a little bit further down the road, it makes sense to transfer some of that flying from Southwest to AirTran.”
  • Starwood Hotels will open a dual-branded ski resort complex in China later this year. Both a 257-room Westin and 296-room Sheraton are opening in August next to the slopes of the Changbai Mountains.
  • My “air traveling idiot of the week” award goes to a man who tried to smuggle a knife through security in a jar of mayonnaise. What? Yes, that’s correct. He was flying from New York’s Kennedy airport to Mexico City when the banned items were found and confiscated during routine screening. Amazingly, he was still allowed to catch his flight.

Finally, here are some other noteworthy items from last week:

  • A TSA screener throws coffee on a pilot at JFK.
  • A Delta Air Lines flight attendant was removed from a flight for irregular behavior.
  • Alaska Airlines will begin testing a nextgen ATC system at SEA in June.
  • Qantas’ stranded A380 in Singapore will return to service in May.

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