United drops its shortest route, Hawaii opens and adds new flights, holiday travel bargains ahead…

In this week’s TravelSkills on SFGATE newsletter…

In route news, Southwest and Alaska revise their empty middle seat policies; United drops its shortest San Francisco route; JSX adds more Bay Area service as well as intra-Texas flights; Delta scraps a number of smaller domestic markets; Hawaiian brings back East Coast service and more Bay Area flights; United adds spokes from its Washington Dulles hub; Spirit overhauls its frequent flyer program; Alaska will start selling London flights; Singapore Airlines will revive the world’s longest nonstop route; and international route news from Level, United and El Al. Read: Routes- Middle seat shuffle, United, JSX, Delta, Hawaiian, Spirit, 737 Max, Singapore, more

With air travel demand plummeting this year, you might think airlines would try to make up some of that lost revenue by raising fares, but that’s not what happened – not in the second quarter, at least. And experts aren’t expecting holiday fares this year to be anywhere near as high as their 2019 levels. Read: With airfares plunging, will you go home for the holidays?

Nearly two weeks ago, Hawaii reopened to large numbers of mainland visitors when it relaxed its 14-day quarantine rule and replaced it with a negative COVID-19 test requirement. Since then, about 6,000-7,000 visitors per day have arrived, down from the normal 30,000 or so daily arrivals at this time of year. That bump in arrivals is great news for the economically strapped state — and for mainlanders hungry for a nice beach vacation. But for a small percentage of travelers, that nice vacation could turn into a nightmare. How? Read: What happens if you test positive for COVID-19 in Hawaii

A newly reported case in Texas could be the first instance of an airline passenger dying of COVID-19 on a flight. Although the incident happened in July, it was only this week that Dallas County officials confirmed the cause of death was COVID-19. Read: Airline passenger dies of COVID-19 on plane

Honolulu police issued warnings or citations to thousands of people in violation of coronavirus protocols since the state launched a pre-arrival testing program to reopen to tourists. The Honolulu Police Department said officers issued 4,500 warnings and 470 citations for not wearing masks or failing to social distance since the launch of the traveler testing program last Thursday. Read: Honolulu police issue 4,500 warnings for virus violations

It looks like Boeing’s troubled 737 Max is almost back. American Airlines said this week that pending final recertification of the aircraft, it expects to put the plane back into active service before the end of the year and has scheduled it for a daily New York-Miami flight from Dec. 29 through Jan. 4. Technically, the 737 Max remains grounded by the Federal Aviation Administration — as it has been since March 2019 — although it has made a lot of progress to resolving the agency’s concerns. Read more about this in our weekly routes update.

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Two new lounges at SFO? Yep. The old USO Center near the Delta Air Lines gates at San Francisco International Airport shut down for good in March during the onset of COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders. But the USO Center, SFO’s most exclusive lounge, is now back in business in a brand new location. Read: Take a look inside SFO’s big USO lounge upgrade for service members. This is the second lounge at SFO to open this month — American also opened a shiny new Admirals Club in T1 — Read more about that here. 

Oakland Airport now has two COVID testing sites, and both are free. There’s one between terminals on airport grounds, and another on the north side of the airport, which you can access via car. This makes flying out of Oakland a much cheaper option for Hawaii-bound travelers hoping to avoid the $80-$250 fees at SFO.  Read: Oakland airport will offer free COVID-19 tests for Hawaii-bound travelers

Chris McGinnis is SFGATE’s senior travel correspondent. Email: [email protected] Get up-to-the-minute travel news via Chris’s social feeds: Twitter: @cjmcginnis | Facebook: @TravelSkills

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