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March 12, 2009

Airlines Redraw Their Global Route Maps

by Barbara S. Peterson

With the rising dollar a rare spot of good news, that summer trip overseas might not be such a stretch after all. Airlines have just fessed up to how many empty seats they're flying across the pond (or ponds, as both the transatlantic and transpacific markets have been hammered by a falloff in business travel). Too many seats, of course, means more fare deals to come.

But while Delta, United, and American all revealed plans this week to pull back on overseas flights by up to 15 percent, most of the cuts won't take effect until this fall--airlines typically don't like to shrink right before the peak season, even in dire economic times like these.

Some are even rolling out new routes as they cut others, and, stranger yet, a couple of new airlines are making their debuts. Like that joke about a second marriage, these forays may represent the triumph of hope over experience, but here, still, are some of the more notable ones:

* Newcomer Baltia Airlines just got clearance from U.S. authorities to start weekly flights from New York to St. Petersburg, Russia, this summer. If the airline's name sounds vaguely familiar, that's because CEO Igor Dmitrowsky has been trying to get the carrier into the air for more than 15 years. His timing may be off, but he claims he's got space at JFK and the financing, to boot.
* Delta is also starting flights from LAX to Sao Paulo on May 21 and from Atlanta to Brasilia December 17. Fares begin at $399 one-way on the Brasilia route.   
* American will begin flying nonstop from Dallas Fort Worth to Madrid on May 1.
* On March 29, United will launch new non-stops to Moscow from Washington, with sample fares beginning at $369 one-way. The airline recently added new flights to Geneva from its Dulles hub.   
* Continental is set to add Newark-Shanghai service on March 25, with daily non-stops at fares beginning at $630 one-way. 

On the downer side of the ledger, Delta is scrapping plans to start flights from New York to Sweden, and to add a second daily flight from JFK to Tel Aviv. Stay tuned to the Daily Traveler for more airline news flashes.

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