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Travels With Bob:  Signs We Are Getting Beyond Covid

 A sure sign of spring, especially in the more rural areas, is when there are suddenly sightings of bears coming out of hibernation. A major sign that we are at the end of Covid-19 restrictions is the easing of the requirement to wear masks.

But more than that is the resumption of travel. TSA reports that record numbers of travelers have been passing through security at all of the region’s airports. And beyond that, airlines are making changes and new ones are appearing.

JetBlue, headquartered in Queens, is one of those taking major steps. Starting off as a local/regional airline, it has expanded tremendously. The reason in major part is the loyalty of its customers who find JetBlue to be one of the most accommodating and passenger friendly airlines. While JetBlue has grown to service a number of Latin American countries and the Caribbean, it is now expanding service to England. On August 11, JetBlue will fly from JFK to London Heathrow. That will expand to Gatwick in late September.

Robin Hayes, JetBlue CEO commented that “…travelers from the U.S. to London have had to pay outrageously high fares.” The airline will be charging $599 for economy and $1,979 for its premium seating. Those prices will hold for both Heathrow and Gatwick. Both airports are easy to get into London by its Underground (Subway to you New York/New Jersey commuters).

The flights will operate on a daily basis and offer new aircraft, the Airbus A321 long range. They will be fitted with 24 Mint Suit premium seats. Two will have fully closing doors and extra-large space accommodating two passengers. The suites will have lie-flat seats with memory foam and a 17-inch entertainment screen. Economy will provide 117 seats and have free wifi and entertainment, including live TV.

Other airlines also show signs of coming out of Covid slumber. United and some others are eliminating the vacant middle seat that has been kept open to provide “social distancing.” That’s sure to be met with mixed reviews by passengers. But United has always had the reputation of doing its best to accommodate passengers and pay attention to their comfort.

We’ve had reason to be a transcontinental paying customer on United recently and will be again next month. Over the years we have been impressed by the professionalism of United’s ground staff as well as flight crews and flight attendants. Does not matter, economy, business or first class, the flight attendants are professional and make the flight as comfortable as possible.

With the return of travel, a new airline is coming on the scene, Breeze. Interestingly, Breeze has been founded by David Needleman, who, coincidentally was the founder of JetBlue.

Breeze will be a single-class airline with a limited flight pattern, although plans are in the works to greatly expand. The carrier will be using Embraer E-190 and E-195 regional aircraft. The planes seat between 108 and 118 passengers. But comfort here will be paramount as the seating configuration will be 2×2 with no middle seats.

In October, Breeze will start taking delivery of 60 Airbus A220 planes at the rate of one a month for five years. The A220s will offer a premium class and routes in excess of two hours.

There is no indication how long the carrier’s low fares will last as it grows and adds new aircraft. Currently it is offering basic economy fares starting at $39 one-way on 39 domestic routes. While the routes for Breeze are sparse,  additional routes will be added through July. At present, some 95 percent of the airline’s routes have no other airline providing non-stop service.

By Bob Nesoff


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