Excerpt from New York Times
2017 is shaping up to be a year of big change for travelers. In addition to a new president whose policies could affect where and how Americans travel, there are also major changes on the way from leading travel and hospitality brands, including new airplane cabins, hotel loyalty programs and theme park expansions. Below, a guide to what to expect in the new year.
Changes to Airplanes and Lounges
UNITED AIRLINES In February the company plans to roll out its new United Polaris business-class seats on a Boeing 777-300ER fleet — a move that United is calling its most significant product transformation in more than a decade. Each seat can be turned into a bed and has its own direct-aisle access. Mattress cushions will be available upon request, and pajamas will be available, also by request, on flights longer than 12 hours. Polaris business-class lounges — with daybeds, showers and hot meals — are also coming. (There’s only one so far, at Chicago O’Hare International Airport.) At the same time that United is souping up its business class, it’s also beginning to offer “basic economy” fares. Travelers who buy these lower-priced fares will not know their assigned seat until the day of departure, will be among the last to board, and will not be allowed to use the overhead bins (their carry-on item will have to fit under the seat in front of them). Not happy? Neither is Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, who in December issued a news release saying that this “poses one of the most restrictive policies on airline passengers we have seen in a long time.”
DELTA AIR LINES All of the legacy carriers are segmenting their main cabins into basic and not-so-basic, and Delta has led the way. It already offers basic economy as well as two other types of main cabin seats. In 2017, Delta plans to introduce a new experience, known as Delta Premium Select, on certain international flights. Travelers in these seats will have up to 38 inches of pitch; blankets and pillows; seasonal menus; a Tumi amenity kit with Malin + Goetz products; power ports; and priority check-in, security and boarding. For business-class passengers, the airline will roll out its Delta One suites, each of which will have direct aisle access, a seat that becomes a bed, and its very own sliding door.
AMERICAN AIRLINES Like Delta, American plans to segment its main cabin, creating basic and premium economy classes. First and business-class passengers can expect new, larger lounges, and there will be free tableside meal service for first-class customers. The “flagship dining” experience will be introduced at John F. Kennedy International Airport, but it is expected to be offered in more airports, including Dallas-Fort Worth International, Los Angeles International and Miami International.
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