Category Archives: Airline Passenger Experience

Qantas Unveils New IFE Entertainment Programming

By Benét J. Wilson / Published October 31st, 2014

Photo courtesy of Qantas

Photo courtesy of Qantas

Qantas has begun making the transition to new and improved inflight entertainment programming that it says will give passengers more choice and variety. Travelers will also get more regular and in-depth news coverage through a new partnership between the Australian flag carrier and Sky News, Foxtel and Fox Sports.

In April, Qantas launched a review of its inflight content, including news, entertainment and advertising, said spokeswoman Sarah Algar.  “A tender asked for responses on how to deliver better content to customers inflight and better leverage newer technology, including devices like iPads,” she said.

The tender itself was part of a broader shakeup of the entertainment options Qantas offers customers that will culminate in a series of improvements during fiscal year 2015, said Algar. “This dovetails with ongoing fleet renewal and cabin refreshes across both the domestic and international fleets, including new cabins and IFE systems for the A330 and other yet-to-be-announced improvements in other fleets,” she said. The cutover date is expected to be November 1, she added.

Under the new programming, Sky News will supply more breaking news with multiple news bulletins provided throughout the day on international and domestic flights, 365 days a year, said Algar. “Sky News will also provide its new international Australian news service live to Qantas’ network of lounges overseas. Customers travelling back home will be able to watch the latest news, sport and business updates from Australia,” she said. “Qantas will also have access to Foxtels’ library of premium lifestyle, drama, food and entertainment programming plus Fox Sports coverage, which will drive a significant increase in the viewing choices on-board.”

As part of other improvements, Qantas customers will notice a significant increase in the amount of content offered on board from early August, including almost doubling the number of new-release blockbusters and more virtual box sets of popular TV series, said Algar. “The 100 hours of additional content will be available on most Qantas international and domestic flights, including 77 hours more movie content, 20 hours more TV content and almost doubling the new of new Hollywood releases from six to 10 per month.” Content is reviewed and refreshed on a monthly basis, she added.

Image Courtesy of JDL Multimedia

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Contact the editor at benet.wilson@airwaysnews.com

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InFlight Review: Lufthansa Airbus A380 Business Class

By Chris Sloan / Published October 29th, 2014
This article first appeared in Airways Magazine on May 2013

Editor’s note: since this story was written, Lufthansa has added the new Flying V Business Class cabin to its fleet of A380s. The German flag carrier has taken delivery of 12 of its 14 A380s since they entered service in 2010.

As a confirmed “AvGeek”, I have been fortunate enough to have a number of unique experiences involving the Airbus A380. In 2003-04 while a TV network executive at TLC, I oversaw a four-part documentary on the building of the Whale Jet and was able to procure John Travolta to host. In 2004, I paid a visit to the Airbus A380 Factory in Toulouse just as the giant jet was beginning final assembly.

In 2007, I was fortunate enough to be on the inaugural passenger flight with launch customer Singapore Airlines from Singapore to Sydney (Airways November, 2007). In 2011, when Lufthansa launched the first (and still only) A380 services to Miami, I was very involved in coordinating the event which featured a DC-3 and DC-7 flying in just in advance of the A380′s landing as kind of an airborne parade. Despite all this, I had only actually flown on an Airbus A380 one time, five years before, on that inaugural flight. Another VLA (Very Large Airplane) flight was on the Lufthansa Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental inaugural flight (Airways August, 2012). Comparing the two twenty-first century jumbos and experiencing Lufthansa’s A380 Business Product was too much to pass up, so when a business trip to Europe happened to fall on my birthday, I decided to gift myself a Business Class ticket on Lufthansa’s seasonal Airbus A380 Flight 463 from Miami to Frankfurt.

mia-terminal-j-17-b_25811As this was an international flight and I had requested to be onboard early to photograph the A380, I showed up two hours before the flight at Miami International’s world-class and newest terminal, South Terminal J, where Lufthansa and other Star Alliance carriers operate from. Even though the Business Cabin was checking in full, Lufthansa staffs their ticket counters and gates with a very efficient team to ensure a quick check-in.

With two hours before the flight, there were seven passengers in cue, but I waited no longer than five minutes to reach the check-in desk. The very friendly agent offered me a pass to the Club America Lounge, which Lufthansa shares with other airlines at Terminal J. Though far from opulent, it is quiet, well-appointed, and offers a full range of drinks and snacks. With only Lufthansa’s 1-2 flights per day at Miami, a dedicated lounge wouldn’t make sense. After enjoying a quick drink and the expansive view of the tarmac, I took the short stroll over to Gate J-17. This unique gate has three jet bridges and was built at a cost of more than $1.5 million just for Lufthansa’s Airbus A380 service. Typical of the German carrier, the flight was scheduled to depart on time at 4:20pm.

There would be no time to waste if I were to photograph the massive jet and get a behind-the-scenes tour of the cabin, flight deck, lower deck crew quarters, and flight deck crew quarters from Captain Roland Schmidt, who has flown virtually every aircraft in the Lufthansa fleet in his 30 years with the airline and Chief Purser Sybille Von Dewitz, who also has more than 30 years with the airline. Germans sometimes have an undeserved reputation for being “all business” but Captain Schmidt and Chief Pursor, and in fact the entire crew, couldn’t have been more welcoming and warm.

They had no idea I was a journalist — all they know was that I was an enthusiast who appreciated the A380. Captain Schmidt, who wore a bunch of bracelets commemorating his backstage passes to rock concerts, was very enthusiastic about the A380, declaring all other aircraft inferior to the A380, saying it is very easy to fly, yet still a “pilot’s airplane.” He was joined on the flight deck by two first officers for the long-haul flight across the Atlantic.

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The cabin crew consisted of 20 flight attendants under the direction of Chief Pursor Von Dewitz. I ascended the A380′s signature grand front staircase, more evocative of a cruise ship than a plane, to tour the ultra-exclusive first class cabin with its eight 19.7-inch wide seats with flat beds and 60-inch pitch, cavernous luxurious lavatories (the nicest part of the entire plane in my view), electric window shades (a first for me to see) in the classic Junkers-inspired finish and a beautiful buffet with an ice-bucket of champagne set out among orchids. This concept felt exclusive like a private jet, yet airy in contrast to the Singapore and Emirates First Class cabins with their enclosed suites.
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Jumping ahead for a moment, inflight I poked my head into first and can vouch that this is the quietest cabin I have ever heard, with its extra insulation and sealed curtain working miracles. I quickly toured the four economy-class cabins on the lower deck, which have a typical 10-abreast seating configuration with seat 31-inch wide and 31-inch pitch. Lufthansa just announced a Premium Economy Cabin to follow suit with many of its European competitors. One touch I’ve always liked is Lufthansa’s subdued signage and branding of each cabin.

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Typical of Lufthansa, they don’t resort to some of the amenities, like stand up bars, duty-free stores, or the showers of their competitors. Instead it prefers to use the space for additional seating and space, especially in the premium cabins. There were two very tasteful touches that I had not seen before on an A380: “the Loo with a View” window in the foreward Business Class lavatory and semi-transparent Lufthansa branded visors covering all the galley equipment during boarding. This was one of those “Why didn’t I think of that?” moments as I have always found the industrial ovens and storage containers very unwelcoming during boarding.

lh-a380-lower-deck-entry-1_25816I exited the A380 and went back out into the main gate area to participate in the boarding process. In contrast to other airlines, that split premium and economy business classes on a single deck, Lufthansa’s Premium eight First Class passengers and 98 Business Class passengers are all located on the upper deck and they board through one of the three jet ways, while the 420 Economy Class passengers, all situated on the lower-deck, board through the other two jetways. A side note: on the new Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental, Lufthansa’s First Class Cabin and one of the Business Class Cabin are located on the lower deck as those are the quietest parts on that aircraft. Boarding began promptly at 3:40 p.m. The boarding was accomplished in less than 30 minutes…amazing!

Our conveyance of the day was “City of Brussels” D-AIMJ (MSN073), which was then Lufthansa’s tenth A380 in the fleet. Lufthansa became the fifth operator of the A380 on June 11, 2010, with a flight from Frankfurt to Tokyo. I made my way to the upper deck forward Business Class cabin, located just behind First Class Cabin Galley.

lh-a380-business-cabin-1_25770The front Business Class cabin on the A380 with its 10 rows of six-abreast seating doesn’t feel as intimate as the eight rows of four-abreast seating on Lufthansa’s 747-8 Intercontinental, but it certainly felt roomy. The A380 upper deck basically is the same width of a Boeing 777. The upper deck is 19′ 5″ in contrasted to the 19′ 3″ in width of the 777 while the main deck measures 21′ 7″ in in width.

My seat, 15A afforded me an excellent view of the wing. The Business Class seating is the older 2006 era Business Class Product with the 168 degree angled reclining seat arranged in a 2-2-2 configuration. These 98 seats are located within two cabins and have a roomy and competitive 57-60″ pitch and 19.6″ width.

lh-a380-business-cabin-13_25766Cloaked in a blue fabric, they aren’t quite as comfortable as a flat-bed seat or attractive as Lufthansa’s world class new generation “Flying V” Business Cabin, but I found the current seats comfortable enough awake and while asleep. They also featured a USB port and AC power port requiring no adapters for U.S.

As these are new seats on a new aircraft, LH has yet to announce when the new “Flying V” Class will make it to the A380. The massage function, unnoticed by many, was certainly appreciated by me. I immediately put one of my favorite features of the A380 (and 747) to use: the dual sidewall storage bins unique to the upper deck of these aircraft. Meanwhile, champagne and water were offered, as is custom, during boarding.

lh-a380-upper-window-cruise-1_25731Lufthansa, famed for their punctuality, had been hit by a week of delays at their Frankfurt hub due to heavy snow, but with Frankfurt weather reporting fine, we would not be delayed today. At 4:20 p.m., we blocked out on time and taxied over to Miami International’s Runway 10,500 foot 26L where we were cleared for a direct easterly departure.

Our A380 was full in the premium cabins, but economy was only 2/3 sold. Coupled with a relatively light cargo and fuel load, we were only taking off at 476 gross tons payload out of a maximum of 560 tons. At 4:38 p.m., we commenced the quick and eerily quiet take-off roll. The A380 is still quieter than the 747-8I and the new Dreamliner on take-off and in cruise. V1 came on quickly at 140 mph, at 156 mph we rotated and overall in less than a minute we were airborne into the beautiful Miami skies.

lh-a380-ife-cameras-1_25718This gave me the first opportunity to watch the 3 cameras on the inflight entertainment system located on the belly, flight deck, and the amazing “tail cam” with its birds-eye view of the wings and forward fuselage. I was transfixed by these views as well as that of the A380′s flexing gull-like wing. The 747-8I doesn’t have the tail cam which is my favorite.

Lufthansa dubs their flight information system, moving maps air-show, and camera display Nice View and they weren’t kidding…well almost. The only issues I had with the entire flight centered on the IFE. The moving map air-show and flight information malfunctioned and my headphones had 1 speaker out. The high-fidelity Sennheiser headphones were quickly replaced and functioned well, but NiceView didn’t play “nice” the entire flight.

We were just 20 minutes in the air and the menus and hot towels were passed out. A bottle of water and the amenity kit consisting of eyeshades, booties, and toothbrush were already waiting for us in the nifty extra storage bin above the IFE monitor. Captain Schmidt came on to the PA as we climbed to our initial cursing altitude of 37,000 feet, a leisurely 37 minutes after take-off, and informed us that even with a powerful Atlantic headwind we would be looking at an 8:33 flight time, some 13 minutes longer than the typical scheduled time, eventually climbing to 41,000 feet two hours and 20 minutes into the flight.

Trying to avoid that headwind as best as we could, our southerly routing would take us over the Bahamas, the open Atlantic Ocean, then the Azores before coming ashore over Northern France and then into Frankfurt. Our captain warned that there might be a few light bumps along the way due to CAT (Clear Air Turbulence) around the Azores, yet turned the seat belt light off, which would remain off the entire flight.

Forty minutes after take-off ,we were each handed a small bag of cashews and the beverage service began. Highlights of the vast list included Champagne Jacquart Brut Mosaique from France and the two wines I decided to sample: a 2008 Chateau La Roqye de By, Medoc France and a 2009 Kamptal Zweigelt, Weingut Brundlmayer, Austria. I do not have a sommelier’s palette, so I won’t even attempt to describe the wines and champagne except that I enjoyed them. There was a full selection of spirits and liquors offered as well. I try to keep hydrated, especially during long-flights so I generally have no more than a glass or two of wine and stick to water.

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The highlight of any flight is often the meal service which began after 80 minutes in the air and this flight would prove to be no exception: Our appetizers were Tuna Carpaccio with Sarachi Aioli, pickled ginger and baby micro greens; salad of Plum, Watercress, and Ricotta with Apricot Puree; or my choice: the Seared Beef Tataki with green Papaya and Peanut sauce accompanied by slice of pretzel bread! The Tataki had a nice contrasty taste and texture, especially when it was accompanied by a 2011 Riesling Trocken Chardonnay from Germany.

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The unhurried, but cordial, meal service continued on to the main courses about 24 minutes later. Lufthansa made it difficult on the passengers with three tantalizing choice of mains: Tenderloin of Beef with Sweet Potato Hash and Plum Chutney; Fresh Water Prawns in Fennel Saffron Reduction with Fingerling Potato; Eggplant Cannelloni with Tomato Compote. I always try the steak as a sort of “acid test” of an airline’s catering, as we all know how difficult it is to prepare for and taste a steak at altitude.

The tenderloin was juicy and on par with other steaks I have tried in the air. The Sweet Potato Hash and Plum Chutney were off the charts delicious. I almost asked for seconds, I am embarrassed (only slightly) to say. I am a picky eater and wanted to really to make the best choice so kudos to the patience and generosity of the Lufthansa cabin team as I queried them and photographed the selections. They were pretty proud of the offerings so they seemed to welcome all my inquiries with a smile.

Airlines seem to excel at different aspects of the meal service and Lufthansa’s sweet spot (pardon the pun) is the dessert and cheese plate. The elaborate presentation on the trolley, worthy of a fine restaurant, was definitely the highlight of the meal service for me. The crew spared my having to make a choice and offered me a bit of all 3 items: Sage Derby, Gruyere and Cambozola Cheese, Apple Spice Cake with candied Almonds, and a Fruit Salad. How could I say no?

lh-a380-ife-24_25668After all the plates were cleared away, the coffee and liqueurs were offered, but I had to show some willpower so I decided to just skip those and begin sampling the inflight entertainment system (IFE). Lufthansa’s IFE is the Panasonic X2 system introduced on the Airbus A380 five years ago. I have used this exact system on other Lufthansa flights and always found it user-friendly, very comprehensive, and the perfect cure for long-haul boredom.

This time, however the IFE let me down. The 10.4″ screen displays a well-stocked variety of movies, TV shows, hundreds of CDs, 30 radio stations, games, books, Berlitz language courses, special destination information, and a special kids section with music, movies, books, and games. I really just wanted to watch the map and listen to music while doing some work.

This is where the IFE let me down. Besides the non-working Airshow, the CDs and radio stations kept randomly pausing inexplicably. The rest of the IFE’s offerings including the movies and TV shows worked fine however. Unlike on Lufthansa’s Boeing 747-400s and some of their other long-haul aircraft, the airline’s new, blazing fast and innovative SkyNet inflight internet product is not offered on the A380 (nor 747-8 I) yet but is coming. By the way, Lufthansa pioneered inflight internet back in 2006 with Boeing’s now expired Connexion.

lh-a380-inflight-1_25709The lights were gradually and gently turned down 3 hours and 20 minutes into the flight. Most passengers took advantage of the opportunity to sleep. I dozed off for a couple of hours in my angled-seat. The flight crew offered me a blanket and pillow when they saw I was uncovered which was very thoughtful.

During the next few hours, we intermittently encountered light to light-to-moderate chop. The “Whale Jet” A380 handles it with aplomb with its massive wings and gust suppression technology doing the trick. Even though the North Atlantic can be a turbulent place, especially during the winter, most passengers didn’t notice. If we were on a lesser plane, I am sure we all would’ve noticed the chop. On our flight, the seat-belt sign never came on again until initial descent.

Two hours before our arrival into Frankfurt, the cabin lights very gradually came on to bring us all out of the darkness. The considerate crew began a very quiet and unobtrusive breakfast service so as not to disturb those who wanted to sleep. A second hot towel came out as a prelude to the morning meal: fresh fruit plate; ham, turkey breast and cheddar cheese or cream cheese on croissant; and my thoroughly delicious choice the omelet with red Bliss Potato wedges, and grilled tomato.

Thirty-six minutes before arrival, the flight deck crew throttled the giant Rolls Royce Trent 900 engines back for our gradual descent into Frankfurt am Main Airport. The captain came on to announce that the weather was good, told us we would just be a minute late to the gate, and bid us adieu. The sunrise, descent, and landing were particularly dramatic on the “NiceView” cameras.

We touched down at 7:20AM CEST, and after flying 5,154 statute miles we were on the ground after 8 hours and 37 minutes of flying time. After a 10-minute taxi to the gate, the flight was over. I then experienced the easiest and quickest immigration from an international flight I have ever encountered. The famous FRAport baggage system didn’t disappoint and my luggage was already waiting for me after emerging from immigration.

lh-a380-business-cabin-11_25768In conclusion, Lufthansa offers the efficient service it has always been known for, but those who haven’t traveled with the airline before or often may be surprised at how much flair and warmth is a key part of this German carrier. The quality of the crew and service even out-showed the A380 which isn’t an easy thing to do.

As far as the inevitable A (Airbus A380) vs. B (Boeing 747-8I) comparison goes, for the moment this is only a Lufthansa comparison as LH is the world’s only operator of both (Korean Air will be second). I am very impressed with the new “Flying V” Business Cabin on their 747-8 I but this will come to the A380 eventually. The Boeing 747-8 I’s upper deck can’t be beat for its intimacy and exclusiveness for a Business Cabin. The A380 is somehow quieter, particularly in the First Class Cabin. Aesthetically (and this is really subjective) it’s advantage 747-8 Intercontinental but the A380 wing is a piece of sculpture. Choosing between both is a “high class” problem and I personally am just as happy on either aircraft.

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Contact the author at Chris.Sloan@airwaysnews.com

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End of an era: Onboard the Final Commercial Passenger Flight of the MD-11

By Seth Miller / Published October 26, 2014 / Photos by author

The era of widebody tri-jet commercial passenger service came to a close this weekend. Early Sunday morning KLM flight 672 touched down at Amsterdam’s Schipol airport, the final landing of the MD-11 type in scheduled operation. And with that landing – as well as the retirement earlier this year of Biman Bangladesh Airlines’ final DC-10 – the widebody tri-jet is history. KLM operated the flight from Montreal to Amsterdam as regular scheduled service so it was not only aviation junkies on board, though that group was certainly well represented amongst the passengers.

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The KLM MD-11 “Audrey Hepburn” arrives in Montreal on her penultimate flight

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KLM MD-11-2Perhaps too well represented, actually. KLM and the Montreal airport celebrated the final flight with a party at the departure gate. There were drinks and cupcakes for all the passengers plus a photo station providing pictures of passengers with the MD-11. And there were the scores of passengers on board solely to be part of the historic event. The crowd glued to the window as PH-KCE “Audrey Hepburn”, completed in September 1994, pulled in to the gate was a mix of crew and passengers alike. Of course, there were also the “other” passengers who had no idea what they were getting themselves into. Several of them came over to see what the commotion was about and quickly started to blend in with the aficionados while others simply enjoyed the cupcakes.

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My “golden ticket” to be a part of the final flight celebration

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The crew posing with “Audrey Hepburn” outside prior to the flight

The celebration continued throughout boarding (the Purser reminded everyone to pay special attention to the safety video “as this is the last time it will ever be shown”) and through to the in-flight service. Prior to the regular meal every passenger was offered a glass of Champagne and a petit four to keep the mood light and fun. During the service one of the flight attendants commented on the upbeat nature of the flight, “Normally we are so tired because it is the middle of the night. With the celebration everyone is so happy and awake. It is much more fun.”

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The flight attendants were chipper throughout the flight, even when reminding us to tone down the celebration

As for the AvGeek crew, there were plenty of familiar faces; about a dozen on board were also on the final commercial DC-10 flight with Biman Bangladesh Airlines earlier in the year. But this was a much larger crowd than that trip and attracted so many new faces as well. Most came from the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe but Americans were also well represented and at least one fan came from Taipei for the celebration. And some are far more dedicated to the craft than others. Rien Moerland is one of the passengers from Holland who made the journey over to Canada in order to be on the final MD-11 flight. He is perhaps the most committed of MD-11 fans; his left bicep bears a large tattoo of the aircraft in KLM colors.

Extra: Folded Wings Final DC-10 Passenger Flight

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Rien Moerland is one of the most dedicated MD-11 fans; that’s a tattoo of the plane on his left arm

Jose I. Soria was another of the AvGeek crowd, though rather different than the rest. Mostly because Jose is a month shy of his twelfth birthday. He and his mother made the trip from Spain to Montreal as a birthday present, including a side trip to do some planespotting in New York City. About half way through the flight he and I spoke (fortunately his English is spectacular because my Spanish is not) about his admittedly brief history of AvGeek-dom. It started with plane pictures while on holidays and has slowly expanded to a full-on AvGeek obsession earlier this year. He participates actively in online communities and seems to have a long future of AvGeek-dom yet to come.

The youngest AvGeek on board; he turns 12 next month

The rest of the in-flight experience was typical KLM. A full dinner was served and then the cabin lights were dimmed to allow passengers a short night’s rest. Unlike most transatlantic redeye flights this one saw many passengers not even bother to try to sleep. This was an AvGeek party and that attitude remained present even while the “normal” passengers dozed. And there were more than a few incidents where the party was a bit more rowdy than the typical in-flight experience such that the flight attendants intervened. Roughly 90 minutes before landing a small breakfast (muffin & yogurt) was served. Most of us hadn’t actually slept yet and it was only 12:30am back on the east coast of the USA and Canada so we were still going strong.

Extra: In-Flight Review KLM MD-11 from August, 2014

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Sweets and bubbles for everyone on board!

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The MD-11 arguably should never have really been flying. It was something of a copycat design mimicking and theoretically slightly improving on the DC-10 but far from a commercial success. It never quite delivered on the range or payload capacities originally promised and the manufacturing cycle was cut short well before enough were built for McDonnell Douglas to break even on the investment to build the type. Most of the aircraft were retired from passenger service well before they were 20 years old, far younger than most other aircraft types. Ironically, the MD-11 only lasted flew in passenger service from 1991-2014 as compared to its its DC-10 predecessor that flew from 1971-2014 in passenger service.

Extra: KLM Announces Final MD-11 Flight Schedules

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Some of the crew awaiting the arrival of our ride home; they were arguably more sentimental about the aircraft retirement than the AvGeeks on board

And yet the MD-11 is still somewhat beloved by passengers. Perhaps it is because of the distinctive silhouette it cuts with the tail-mounted engine. Or because the cabin is rather wide but still fitted in a 3-3-3 configuration which is rather comfortable, especially compared to the newer 777 layouts at 10-abreast or even their 9-abreast layouts. Of course, the higher operating costs not offset by such passenger adoration and KLM is now joining the rest of the industry in finally retiring the type after 20 years of service. And one spectacular farewell party at 37,000 feet. There will be a final short enthusiast flight on November 11th from Amsterdam Schipol, but after nearly 25 years in service for the type and 20 years for “Audrey Hepburn”, this really was the end.

Extra: Delta Airlines MD-11 Launch Brochure from 1991

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Pre-flight cupcakes; that’s how you know it is a real party!

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 Note: The initial paragraph was updated to reflect that this is the end of widebody service on the tri-jets, not all 3-holer commercial operations

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Passengers Want Better WiFi, More Internet Access, Says Report

By Benét J. Wilson / Published October 22nd, 2014

10127-531_APEX Q2 2014 Infographic_8 jpgAir travelers say they want more Internet access on flights and said inflight connectivity was the number one area for improvement to the inflight passenger experience, according to the first of a series of global surveys by the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX).

The first APEX Global Passenger Experience Survey gathered feedback from more than 1,500 flyers from eight countries. The survey found that travelers have a strong desire worldwide for a passenger experience that is customizable, from selection of inflight reading materials to availability of food and drink.

But travelers also feel there needs to be improvement in inflight entertainment and connectivity, with 36 percent of respondents strongly wanting connectivity improvements and 28 percent wanting expanded inflight entertainment options.

Looking at a key pre-flight insight, 62 percent of airline passengers said they bought food prior to boarding the aircraft, according to the survey. However, more than half said that they still purchased inflight snacks or meals. In each case, women were 8 percent and 10 percent more likely than men to have purchased snacks or meals, respectively. And seven out of ten passengers said they are satisfied or very satisfied with the quality and selection in-flight snack or meals.

An inflight insight found that 54 percent of airline passengers surveyed said they engaged in social connectivity, including personal email and social media, while in-flight during the past three months, spending an average of 9.7 minutes per flight. And when it comes to the passenger experience, travelers are increasingly expecting inflight connectivity, including WiFi and satellite telephones. One in three passengers said that it was the area of most needed improvement on their flights.

Click here for more information on the APEX study.

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Contact the editor at benet.wilson@airwaysnews.com

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New York Governor Announces Airports Modernization Contest

By Benét J. Wilson / Published October 21st, 2014

The air traffic control tower at LaGuardia. All photos courtesy of Airchive.

The air traffic control tower at LaGuardia. All photos courtesy of Airchive.

A $500,000 contest for design plans to modernize and revitalize LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy International airports was unveiled October 20 at a press conference held by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. By his side at the press conference was Vice President Joe Biden, who famously called LaGuardia “a third world airport” in remarks at an event in Philadelphia in February.

And a report released in October by the Global Gateway Alliance, a partnership created to address issues with the three New York City Airports, said that while amenities at LaGuardia, JFK and Newark have improved, they still lag behind other top airports in the United States.

TWA's Saarinen Terminal 5 at JFK Airport.

TWA’s Saarinen Terminal 5 at JFK Airport.

Cuomo hopes that the Master Plan Design Competition will bring fresh perspective to the city’s two airports. For LaGuardia, designers are being asked to redesign LaGuardia Airport to function more efficiently in the following areas: improving transportation to the airport; redesigning the airport layout to increase access; offering state-of-the-art amenities to offer best-in-class customer service and a diverse food and retail experience; and creating a more resilient infrastructure in order to prepare the airport’s facilities to meet increasing and extreme weather threats.  As part of the effort, Cuomo pledges to work with the federal government to make New York airspace more efficient by speeding up the use of NextGen air traffic control technology.

American operates one of the newest terminals, T8 at New York JFK. It is very strong on the high-yield transcontinental runs and premium New York JFK-London Heathrow routes with JV partner British Airways. In spite of this, Delta, JetBlue, and United have dropped AA to #4 in this key market. AA is trying to expand at slot-limited LaGuardia but it didn't help when USAirways swapped most of its LGA slots with Delta for additional DCA slots. American is a weak #4 in the nation's #1 market, where it formerly was in the top tier. AA moved its corporate hub to DFW in 1979.

American Airlines Terminal 8at New York JFK.

For the JFK AIrport competition, Cuomo said submitted designs should include: enhancing the facility’s transportation network, including the existing AirTrain, parking areas and the subway and Long Island Rail Road; increasing hotel capacity in the immediate area surrounding the airport; implementing state-of-the-art dining and shopping amenities in the airport; and upgrading facilities to modernize the airport.

The interior of LaGuardia's Marine Interior.

The interior of LaGuardia’s Marine Interior.

In its October report, the Global Gateway Alliance created a top 10 list of actionable items for LaGuardia and JFK, including: working with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, airlines, private developers and other stakeholders for a timely redevelopment of LaGuardia’s Central Terminal Building; research new options to improve airport access and transportation including the creation of dedicated lanes to airports and an HOV lane at all three airports, as well as better mass transit options; advocate for the full rollout of NextGen technology at the three New York metro airports, including prioritizing our airports for initial implementation of NextGen nationwide; and help enhance passenger amenities, including access to free wireless services.

new-york-jfk-post-card-1960s_13531_tDuring his State of the State address In January 2014, Cuomo announced that New York state would take over management responsibility for construction at LaGuardia and JFK airports as a way to help break gridlock and make necessary improvements. The two airports were constructed in 1939 and 1960, respectively, and have experienced substantial passenger growth. In 2013, the airports served more people than at any other time in their history – a total 77 million passengers, or roughly a quarter of the entire U.S. population.Both airports employ 50,000 people and generate approximately $53 billion in annual economic activity to the New York-New Jersey metropolitan region.

In the next thirty days, design firms will have 60 days to develop their plans, which must include a project timeline and public/private sector partnerships to finance and run elements of the redesign. The Port Authority Board of Commissioners will select the best three designs for each airport, and those finalists will each receive up to $500,000 to further develop their concept for further consideration.

Check out our slideshow of photos of JFK and LaGuardia airports.

Here’s the 43-minute press conference video

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China to Pass United States As Largest Passenger Market, Says IATA

By Benét J. Wilson / Published October 20th, 2014

A China Eastern Airbus A330. Photo courtesy of Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Airchive 2014

A China Eastern Airbus A330. Photo courtesy of Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Airchive 2014

World passenger numbers are expected to reach 7.3 billion by 2034, with annual average growth of 4.1 percent, according to the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) first-ever 20-year passenger growth forecast. Numbers are expected to be double that of the 3.3. billion passengers who will travel in 2014.

The new report, from the new IATA Passenger Forecasting service and partner Tourism Economics, analyzes passenger flows across 4,000 country pairs for the next 20 years by using three key demand drivers: living standards, population and demographics, and price and availability.

Despite China passing the U.S. in passengers, both markets are expected to remain the largest by a wide margin. In 2034, flights to, from and within China will account for some 1.3 billion passengers, 856 million more than 2014 with an average annual growth rate of 5.5 percent.

The United States will remain the largest air passenger market until around 2030, when it will drop to number two, behind China. Cumulatively over the next 20 years the U.S. will carry 18.3 billion more passengers and China 16.9 billion.

India, currently the ninth-largest market, will reach 367 million passengers by 2034, up 266 million annual passengers compared to 2014. It will overtake the United Kingdom, which will have 148 million extra passengers and a total market of 337 million, making it the third-largest market around 2031.

Brazil will increase passenger numbers by 170 million and rise from tenth to fifth, for a total market of 272 million passengers. Indonesia will enter the top ten around 2020 and reach sixth place by 2029. By 2034, it will be a market of 270 million passengers.

Reflecting a declining and aging population, Japan’s air passenger numbers will grow by only 1.3 percent per year and drop from the fourth-largest market in 2014 to the ninth-largest by 2033. Germany and Spain will decline from their fifth and sixth positions, respectively, in 2014 to be the eighth and seventh largest markets. France will fall from seventh to tenth while Italy will fall out of the top 10 in around 2019.

Broken down by regions, the report found that routes to, from and within Asia-Pacific will see an extra 1.8 billion annual passengers by 2034, for an overall market size of 2.9 billion. North America will grow by 3.3 percent annually and in 2034 will carry 1.4 billion passengers, while Europe will have the slowest growth rate, at 2.7 percent, but will still handle an additional 591 million passengers a year for a total market of 1.4 billion passengers.

Latin American markets will grow by 4.7 percent, serving a total of 605 million passengers, an additional 363 million passengers annually compared to 2014. The Middle East will grow strongly by 4.9 percent and will see an extra 237 million passengers a year on routes to, from and within the region by 2034. Finally, Africawill grow by 4.7 percent, and by 2034, it will see an extra 177 million passengers a year for a total market of 294 million passengers.

At present, aviation helps sustain 58 million jobs and $2.4 trillion in economic activity. In 20 years’ time we can expect aviation to be supporting around 105 million jobs and $6 trillion in GDP,” said Tony Tyler, IATA’s Director General and CEO in a press release. “Meeting the potential demand will require government policies that support the economic benefits that growing connectivity makes possible. Airlines can only fly where there is infrastructure to accommodate them. People can only fly as long as ticket taxes don’t price them out of their seats. And air connectivity can only thrive when nations open their skies and their markets. It’s a virtuous circle.”

Additional Aviation Forecasts

Airbus, 2014-2033

Boeing, 2014-2033

FAA Aerospace Forecast, 2014-2033

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American Debuts First 777-200 with New Business Class

By Benét J. Wilson / Published October 17th, 2014

AA Boeing 777-200 seat 2

The new American Airlines Business Suite seat on the Boeing 777-200.

American Airlines rolled out its first Boeing 777-200 with the new business class configuration on the Dallas-Forth Worth-Santiago, Chile, route on October 6. The carrier announced on Aug. 20 that it was removing the first class cabin from its 47 777-200s and moving to a business class product.

The airline’s redesigned 777-200 features new Business Suite seats. The new seats transform into 77-inch lie-flat beds with aisle access at every seat. Passengers have access to WiFi and dual universal AC power outlets and USB ports at every seat, along with a 15.4-inch touchscreen monitor with a large selection of movies, TV programs and audio.

The new Weber Main Cabin Extra seats have 17” width and 35” pitch in its 30 leather seats with an 9 abreast configuration, similar to JV partner British Airways offering. This is a 4” gain in pitch over previous Main Cabin.

The new Weber Main Cabin Extra seats on the Boeing 777-300 have 17” width and 35” pitch in its 30 leather seats with an 9 abreast configuration, a 4” gain in pitch over previous Main Cabin.

The aircraft also has the Main Cabin Extra and Main Cabin sections. The extra section offers six more inches of leg room in the front of the plane. Travelers get early boarding, which gives them extra time to store their luggage and get comfortable. Both the Main Cabin Extra and Main Cabin offer universal AC power outlets and USB ports at every seat, along with WiFi and an entertainment system with up to 250 movies, and more than 180 TV programs and 350 audio selections.

 

The standard Weber Economy Cabin’s 214 seats are also leather-clad but remain at 31” pitch and are at a 10 abreast configuration. New seatback 9” touchscreen AVOD IFE’s using the Panasonic Eco monitor and personal 110 Volt powerports are located at every seat.

The standard Weber Economy Cabin’s 214 seats are also leather-clad but remain at 31” pitch and are at a 10 abreast configuration.

That leaves American offering a true first class cabin on its 14 777-300ERs and some Airbus A321Ts used on flights between California and New York.“It will take a while to get the new seats on all 47 777-200s. We only have the one in service right now, and we’re working on the production schedule for the rest,” said spokesman Casey Norton.

No decisions have been made on the most likely routes the upgraded 777-200s will fly on, said Norton. “But we think there is demand for an upgraded product on some of our routes to Asia and other key international markets,” he said.

Images Courtesy of American Airlines

Related Stories

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American Airlines Unveils New 767-300 Cabin

In-Flight Review: American Airlines Inaugural Airbus A321T LAX-JFK

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Lufthansa-Branded Food Trucks Land in Six U.S. Cities

By Benét J. Wilson / Published October 16th, 2014

Truck Logo jpgLufthansa has created a unique promotion to show off its new U.S. regional menu that will be served in first and business class flights out of 17 cities going to Germany.

The Taste of America began its drive on October 7 in New York City. It will end up in Los Angeles on October 21, with stops in Charlotte, North Carolina, Miami, Atlanta and Dallas. Each location will have a space next to the truck that will recreate Lufthansa’s premium dining experience for up to 200 people, complete with white tablecloths, red roses and ambient music.

The airline is using social media to promote the event, with a Facebook page, on YouTube, Instagram and via Twitter using the #TasteOfAmerica hashtag. It has invited the public to share images and stories about food traditions that celebrate their home state and is giving one person the chance to win two round-trip tickets.

Alison Russo is Lufthansa’s social media marketing manager in the U.S. “We wanted to do something to showcase Lufthansa’s Taste of America menus because this is a unique culinary undertaking for the airline.  We toyed with the idea of a pop up restaurant to replicate our onboard fine dining experience, but did not want to be limited to a single location,” she said. “Food trucks serving unique and unexpected foods – not your run-of-the-mill street food – have become increasingly popular.  We knew creating our own custom Taste of America food truck was the perfect opportunity to share a moveable feast.”

A Lufthansa first class meal.

A Lufthansa first class meal.

All of the selections served from the Taste of America food truck are items from Lufthansa’s current inflight menus, said Russo. Among the selections featured on the truck are coffee and ancho chili dusted beef filet, soda pop braised short ribs and pumpkin ravioli.

“The concept was developed in partnership with LSG Sky Chefs, the Lufthansa Group’s catering division,” said Russo. “As we do when selecting Lufthansa’s inflight menus, we let the expert chefs from LSG determine which menu items fit best in the food truck environment.”

Lufthansa wanted to include all of its guests, followers and fans on this journey, said Russo. “For anyone who cannot see or visit Lufthansa’s ‘Taste of America’ truck in person we still want them be as excited as we are about the regional menus, so the accompanying social media campaign invites everyone to share their own #TasteofAmerica with photos of their favorite local ingredients or cuisine.”

“From ground products, such as award-winning airport lounges, and onboard offerings, including the new premium economy that is launching in December, Lufthansa goes to great lengths to create a quality travel experience engineered around our guests,” said Russo. “We are excited to be sharing a taste of that experience with current customers as well as people who are not yet familiar with Lufthansa.”

Images and Video Courtesy of Lufthansa

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New KLM Beacon Service Helps Travelers Navigate Schiphol Airport

By Benét J. Wilson / Published October 15th, 2014

Image courtesy of KLM.

Image courtesy of KLM.

KLM has launched a new beacon-based service that will help passengers navigate Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. Travelers can download an app on their smartphones that, when they arrive at the airport, will display a map of the facility that will show them the route they need to take to get to their next date and the time required to get there.

“Customer feedback, especially on social media, told us that passengers – even experienced travelers – often worry about transferring to another flight,” said Martijn van der Zee, senior vice president of E-Commerce for Air France KLM in a press release. “Sixty-seven percent of our passengers at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol are transfer passengers. KLM aims to improve customers’ travel experience with this service.”

So during the summer, the Dutch flag carrier installed a “significant” number of beacons at all piers, KLM lounges and hallways of its home airport, said spokesman Joost Ruempol. It then worked with select customers to thoroughly test the technology.

KLM did several studies on beacon and routing suppliers and ended up partnering with Indoo.rs, based in Austria, on the navigation system, said Ruempol. “They provided a [software development kit], which has been implemented in our core app by our in-house development team,” he said.

Passengers with the KLM app on their phones who have turned on Bluetooth and connected to the Internet via Schiphol’s free WiFi, they get a notification asking if they need help finding their next gate when they pass a beacon.

The app shows them the route they need to take. It also tells them how long it will take them to walk there. “This is calculated using the amount of meters from the user’s position to their next gate, the average walking time and the average waiting time at security filters,” said Ruempol.

The indoor navigation service works even if the passenger’s flight is departing from a different level. The route and time are updated every time the passenger passes a beacon. “The beacon technology helps KLM to offer the right service at the right place at the right time, by specifically helping passengers in transfer to find their next gate,” said Ruempol. “Passengers informed us through our social channels that they find this very helpful and are requesting a further roll-out to other airports.”

The service is currently available for Android smartphones and will be available for iOS by the end of the month.

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Virgin Australia Unveils New Business Class Product

By Benjamin Bearup / Published October 7th, 2014

Virgin Australia, the second-largest airline within Oceania, has announced plans to revamp their business and premium economy classes across their widebody fleet. Under the carriers recently announced three-year outlook entitled “Virgin Vision 2017”, the carrier is planning major overhauls to their onboard product and overall company image.

The first major changes will be coming to business class on its long-haul fleet, which consists of six Airbus A330-200s and five Boeing 777-300ERs. Virgin will be introducing suite-style business class seats named “Super Diamond” that the carrier says is “revolutionary” compared to the current product offered on Virgin Australia long haul flights.

All images courtesy of Virgin Australia

The suite style seat fully converts into an 80-inch lie-flat bed and will be in a 1-2-1 configuration, offering all passengers full aisle access. Virgin plans for the new Super Diamond seat to feature a “unique tablet holder, a 16- to 18-inch touch screen for entertainment, multiple lighting settings and plenty of storage.” The new interior will reduce the number of overall seats onboard, with most reductions coming to the economy-class cabin. Additional upgrades will be coming exclusively to Virgin Australia’s 777 fleet, including a revamped international premium economy and a completely redesigned business class bar.

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Upgrades across the widebody fleet are scheduled to begin in early 2015, with the A330-200. The first aircraft outfitted with the new business class is set to enter service in March 2015, with all five of Virgin Australia’s A330 aircraft completing outfitting by August 2015. The Super Diamond Suite will enter service onboard Virgin Australia’s 777 fleet in November 2015, with all aircraft outfitted by early 2016.

Virgin Australia says that the new interior designs were partly inspired by “the worlds most premium automotive designs.” All new onboard products were designed with support from the Tangerine London design agency. Business class seats will be produced by B/E Aerospace out of Wellington, Florida.

specialised-menuThe new business class interior should help Virgin Australia better compete across the highly competitive Brisbane/ Sydney-Los Angeles route. The airline currently faces stiff competition from Australian flag carrier Qantas, United Airlines, and Delta Air Lines on this highly coveted route. Virgin Australia recently made the decision to pull out of the Melbourne-Los Angeles route partly due to competitor United announcing plans to operate this route using its new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.

Virgin promises these recently announcement changes will be the first of many under Virgin Vision 2017. Virgin Australia CEO John Borghetti hopes this vision will help push his carrier as the favorite airline of Australia. “We are committed to maintaining a competitive advantage in customer experience in order to ensure that Virgin Australia is the number one choice for premium travellers,” he said in a statement.

Images courtesy of Virgin Australia

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China Airlines Takes Aesthetically Innovative First Boeing 777-300ER

China Airlines new 777-300ER sits at the Everett Delivery Center.

China Airlines new 777-300ER sits at the Everett Delivery Center.

By Brandon Farris / Published Sunday October 5th, 2014

On a sunny Friday afternoon in Everett, WA China Airlines was celebrating the delivery of the carrier’s first of ten all new Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, which will be the new flagship for the Taiwan based carrier. With an aesthetically unique cabin, this aircraft fits the old adage “It’s what’s on the inside is what counts.”

“China Airlines has been a valued Boeing customer for over 50-years and we are honored to celebrate the milestone delivery of their first 777-300ER,” said Ray Conner, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “The airline’s new 777-300ER represents the beginning of a new era for China Airlines and the people of Taiwan. As the many Boeing models before it, we are confident that the 777-300ER will continue to help China Airlines open up new markets and expand its horizons, as they continue to achieve tremendous success.”

The last produced passenger 747-400 departs from LAX. Photo by Brandon Farris

The last produced passenger 747-400 departs from LAX. Photo by Brandon Farris

This is the first new Boeing wide body for China Airlines since they took delivery of the last ever produced passenger 747-400 nine years ago back in April 2005. Coincidentally the 777-300ER’s are going to be used to replace the 747s from China Airlines fleet.

The new aircraft will enter service on October 10th when it departs at 07:25am local time from Taipei as Dynasty 601 operating to Hong Kong and arrive at 09:15am local time where it will spend about an hour on the ground before it turns around to head back to Taipei.

After China Airlines takes delivery of its second 777-300ER in October, the third will come in November.  After that they will begin operations twice a day to Los Angeles starting December 1st. It will replace both the carrier’s 747 flights. In 2015, China Airlines plans to upgrade its flights to San Francisco, New York City and Frankfurt.

“The introduction of the Boeing 777-300ER fleet is an important milestone for China Airlines,” said China Airlines Chairman Huang-Hsiang Sun but indeed the cabin has taken center stage. “Over the past two years, China Airlines has taken a broad new approach and philosophy to cabin design. In addition to enhancing safety and fuel efficiency, China Airlines is making a pioneering move in the airline industry to incorporate Taiwan’s cultural creativity into its cabin interior. I am confident that this will leave a lasting impression on passengers and enhance our competitiveness.”

Chinese New Year theme.

Chinese New Year theme.

China Airlines will introduce a new, state-of-the-art cabin interior onboard its 777-300ER designed by award winning Taiwanese architect Ray Chen. China Airlines’ new aircraft has a capacity of 358 seats. Business Class (J) boasts 40 seats in across two cabins and in a 1-2-1 direct aisle configuration giving passengers full flat pitch of 78”. The Premium Economy Class (Y+) has 62 seats configured in a 2-4-2 abreast configuration giving passengers a 39” pitch. Economy’s 256 (Y) seats are in the rapidly emerging 77W industry standard 3-4-3 configuration with 32″ seat pitch.

Where the aircraft really stands out is in the unique cabin interior led by Chen. The liberal use of bamboo and wood accents, and even paintings in the lavatories make a strong brand statement for the airline and its home nation. The LED lighting is put to good effect with multi- hued programmable color combinations in the J cabin depending on what holiday it is. For example, if it is Chinese New Year, the cabin sidewalls will be projected with deep red tones while the ceiling will be bathed in gold light. The moon festival would see a blue sidewall and gold ceiling theme and finally for Christmas, a red sidewalls and white ceiling.

Up front, The B/E Aerospace Super Diamond seats feature 180 degree full-flat beds that have ergonomic memory foam cushions. Their reverse herringbone configuration allows for direct aisle access and suite like privacy.

The tea and literature area of the Sky Lounge.

The tea and literature area of the Sky Lounge.

The defining feature of China Airlines 777-300ER aircraft lies in its poetic beauty, inspired by Lu You. The industry’s first high-ceiling Sky Lounge in Premium Business Class thoughtfully integrates Eastern and Western culture. It serves as a relaxing space for passengers and a platform for showcasing Taiwanese culture. The elaborately designed lounge is where teas and coffees of Taiwan are offered along with many tasty desserts. It will feature Lishan Oolong tea along with coffee from Dongshan. They area also has a has a bookshelf with a diverse reading collection of materials to stimulate the mind and enrich life.

The premium economy class seating is in a fixed back shell and front sliding recline so that passengers don’t infringe with those who are sitting behind them. With the extra 6″ of pitch, It also features a expanded personal storage space and a three-position foot rest. Each seat is equipped with a power outlet and USB port.

A set up Skycouch shows how it would work.

A set up Skycouch shows how it would work.

Unusually much of the innovation is saved for the tight 3-4-3 abreast economy cabin. China AIrlines will be the first in Asia to introduce the Skycouch, which first debuted on Air New Zealand a few years ago. China Airlines licensed the Air New Zealand patented product though they revised it to cater to small families rather then couples. Initially, it will only be available for ten rows between 41 and 51 on the right side of the aircraft.

The IFE is standard top end fare for the 777-300ER. The entire aircraft is equipped with the Panasonic eX3 inflight entertainment system in all three classes with 18″ screen in J, 12.1″ screen in Y+, and Y getting an 11.1″ screen at every seat. Wi-Fi will also be equipped onboard the aircraft with rates starting at $11.95 for one hour, $16.95 for three hours and $21.95 for 24 hours.

Our verdict from a tour is that the overall aesthetic is positively unique. In a sea of rather generic cabins, China Airlines’ product couldn’t be confused with a carrier outside Asia. The idea is to welcome the airlines guests to Taiwan the minute they board and regardless of class, the cabin seems to have done its job.

But all this aesthetic and materials innovation could come at a cost. According to a China Airlines official who asked to remain anonymous, there is concern the aircraft has increased weight which would increase fuel burn. Once the carrier begins its New York route, it may have to make a fuel stop on the way back similar to what Eva Air does on its Taipei-New York route. It currently stops in Anchorage for fuel.

For additional information and photography, our colleagues at Airline Reporter also covered the handover event. 

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In-Flight Review: LAN Airlines Boeing 787-8 Part 2 – Business Class

By Luis Linares / Published October 3, 2014

LAN 787 J Class - LFL

LAN Airlines Boeing 787-8 business class

After an initial flight to Punta Cana from Miami in economy class, I upgraded myself to “Premium Business” for the return leg.  This gave me an opportunity to finish the trip by experiencing every aspect of LAN’s 787.

Business Class – Punta Cana to Miami

After enjoying a few hours beachside, I showed up at the airport two hours before the scheduled departure time of 5:50 PM.  LAN’s website offered two different one-way business class prices.  The fully-flexible one was $322, and the restricted one $204, so I opted for the latter. That afternoon, I  went online to track the inbound flight from Santiago, which departed 30 minutes behind schedule and our departure time from Punta Cana was adjusted to 6:50 PM.  Check-in was very crowded, since there was also a LAN (Peru) flight ahead of us, with one counter dedicated to business customers and elite frequent flyers from LAN and partner airlines. The process was quick, and a member of the LAN ground staff took my passport and boarding pass and walked me through security and immigration in dedicated lines. I passed a walkway consisting of various duty free shops and then proceeded to the food court which offers nice open-air views of the ramp. This particular evening, the ramp had various aircraft from the U.S. and Europe, the main highlight being a Jetairfly 787. Planespotting in Punta Cana must be a real treat during high tourist season, given the variety of mainline and charter carriers that frequent the airport. A new terminal with jetbridges will open in November, so the nostalgic experience of walking up to your aircraft and using the stairs will become a thing of the past.

EXTRA:  Airways News gallery of Punta Cana International Airport

LAN 787 Boarding at PUJ - LFL

Boarding at sunset

Boarding commenced at 6:20 PM.  One line was dedicated to premium and elite customers, while the other one was dedicated to economy.  Passengers from Santiago had to deplane and were holding yellow transition cards, and they were allowed to board first.  Soon it was my turn, and I boarded the bus to the 787.  Along the way, I got close-up pictures of a White Airways (Portugese charter company) A310-300 and a British Airways 777-200ER.  Our boarding time was during sunset, so I was able to get some shots of our 787 before going up the stairs. I walked up to the Captain, who was greeting us, and asked if I could get a picture of the flight deck. He showed me the way, and I greeted the other two pilots who were finishing up the preflight procedures. When I sat down again, the flight attendant offered me a welcome drink and nuts, and I chose a traditional pisco sour, which consists of a brandy, lemon juice, syrup, and egg whites.  A bit of friendly advice:  if you encounter a Chilean and a Peruvian, do not ask them which of the two countries invented the pisco sour, unless you want to revive a lively regional rivalry.

Check-in at PUJ - LFL Boarding Gate at PUJ - LFL LAN 787 Entryway - LFL LAN 787 Flightdeck - LFL  Check-in counter, boarding gate, arched entryway, and flightcrew

In the evening hours, the warm orange LED lighting created a very pleasant visual atmosphere in the cabin. In business class, the IFE screen in larger but farther away because the seat converts to a bed, and the screen is on the back of the seat in front.  The selections are identical to those of economy, so the only key differences are the screen size and the availability of noise-cancelling headsets.

We were quickly airborne for the two hours back to Miami.  I was going through the wine list, but noticed there was no dinner menu.  Soon the attendant came to offer only a snack service consisting of sanwiches.  Having experienced LAN’s fantastic meal service in the past, I was a bit disappointed, as I had figured it would not be too difficult to provide a full business class quality meal service in less than 90 minutes.  Despite the lack of a quality dinner, the crew did not miss a beat when it came to friendliness and attentiveness.  For the remainder of the flight the mood lighting changed to a dim blue color that made the cabin almost entirely dark.  I played with the seat settings and switched to the fully flat position. LAN did not opt for any staggered or herringbone configuration, which means all window customers will have to step over their sleeping neighbor, should they need to get up. I thought the bed position was very wide and comfortable, but the length is exactly six feet.  I am five feet, eleven inches tall and could immediately tell that anyone taller will not be able to fully stretch their body when sleeping.  There is also a stowable partition between seats.

LAN 787 J Seat - LFL LAN 787 J Class Bed - LFL
Business seat in upright and bed modes

Before I knew it, the captain announced the start of descent into Miami.  We were on the ground after an uneventful flight, which was about half-full, but I was still very impressed with the level of innovation and comfort of the 787.  We arrived in Miami around 9 PM, and there were no other international flights arriving in Concourse J.  Since I belong to the Global Entry program, customs and immigration took a matter of seconds, and since I had no checked bags, I was soon in my car.  It was actually longer to walk the length of the concourse than to go through the arrival formalities.

LAN 787 Mood Lighting - Bright LAN 787 Mood Lighting Dark - LFL
Different settings of LED mood lighting

Bottom Line

I will definitely have to experience LAN’s long-haul international economy or business service on the 787 in the future, based on the two very pleasant segments I flew.  I checked the 787 off on my AvGeek bucket list, and I look forward to flying it many other times, as more and more aircraft roll out.  American Airlines dominates Miami to Latin America service, but in my frequent travels from the U.S. to the region, I have always opted for LAN over American, when they serve the same city, not just because they are in the same alliance for frequent flier mile accrual, but simply because of the overall quality of service.  American is catching up by reconfiguring its fleet with the latest onboard technology and will have a leg up on LAN with Wi-Fi access on international flights, but LAN’s  level of comfort and meal service, especially for economy travelers, are still superior. American will also start to roll-out its 787s later this year, and this will allow for an even better comparison.  In the meantime, I strongly recommend LAN for anyone who has not experienced this great airline!

LAN Business Class Welcome Drink - LFL

Chilean (or Peruvian?) pisco sour welcome drink; cheers to LAN on their 787!

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Contact the author at luis.linares@airwaysnews.com

Contact the editor at vinay.bhaskara@airwaysnews.com

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In-Flight Review: LAN Airlines Boeing 787-8 Part 1 – Economy Class

By Luis Linares / Published October 2, 2014 

LAN 787 Y Class - LFL

LAN Airlines Boeing 787-8 economy class

In August, LAN Airlines became the first airline to serve Miami with the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, adding nonstop service to its hub in Santiago, Chile. The route is served daily, consisting of an evening departure and dawn arrival in both directions.  However, to maximize utilization, LAN added two weekly triangular routes, which means the aircraft does not stay parked at MIA during the day.  On Saturdays, it connects the 787 in both directions through Cancun, Mexico and on Sundays through Punta Cana.  Both resort cities are very popular with Chilean tourists, especially in the high vacation seasons of June, July, December and January.

SCL-MIA-PUJ Triangle - GC Map

LAN’s 787 Sunday circuit covering Miami, Punta Cana, and Santiago:  Image generated by Great Circle Mapper

With a busy schedule and no immediate vacation plans, I decided to book a Sunday day trip from Miami to Punta Cana and back, especially since I had never flown on the 787.  I first experienced LAN in 2002, when I was working in South America.  As a 24-year member of American Airlines’s Advantage frequent flier program, it was very convenient for me to use LAN since both airlines are part of the Oneworld Alliance, and during my three years in South America, I experienced short, medium, and long-haul service in economy and business class with LAN.  In my opinion, my experience with LAN has been among the best, especially when it comes to customer service.

Economy Class – Miami to Punta Cana

I booked my outbound leg on a deeply-discounted economy one-way fare of $102.  In addition to change penalties and no refunds, this fare did not allow me to choose my seat until 48 hours before departure, when check-in opens.  When I went to the LAN mobile app to check-in, I noticed the flight was virtually empty, so I was able to choose a window seat in the front of the economy section, though bulkhead and exit seats could only be requested at the counter on the day of the flight.  Since this was an international flight, I was still required to show my passport at the counter to get a boarding pass so I arrived at the airport a couple of hours before our scheduled 7:50 AM departure.  As a lifetime Gold member on American, I was able to use the business class check in line, which meant limited waits.  Also since it was early in the morning, there were no significant security lines and I was comfortably seated at Gate J18 less than ten minutes after getting my boarding pass.  Our aircraft arrived from Santiago 90 minutes before departure.  Thirty minutes before scheduled departure, instead of boarding, the pushback time was delayed to 8:20 AM without any explanation. Perhaps the explanation lies in the 787′s operational challenges. As of June, the 787 has a 98.5% dispatch reliability, compared to the 777’s 99.3%, and Boeing continues to work with airlines to improve it.  I did not see any maintenance crew at the gate or around the aircraft, so I was confident the teething pains were a thing of the past.  Any concerns quickly disappeared once boarding started.  Our flight included some passengers who originated in Santiago and those of us who boarded in Miami.  Overall, I estimate that the flight was 30% full.  While it’s nice to be able to fly the 787 on this two-hour route, I doubt LAN can sustain it with such a low load during low vacation season, unless a significant number of passengers are being picked up at Punta Cana to continue to Santiago.

LAN 787-8 - MIA - LFL

Our ride to Punta Cana at MIA shortly after arriving from Santiago

We boarded through entry door 2L, and the first noticeable feature was the arched ceiling with LED mood lighting on the entryway.  I quickly found my way to window seat 15L.  I took some pictures and then examined the inflight entertainment (IFE) touchscreen on the seatback, which offers 115 movies, 120 TV shows, over 1,000 music albums, and 24 video games.  Other options include a moving map display, duty free shopping, and onboard cuisine information.  The screen also has a USB port to keep mobile devices charged.  Furthermore, the seats have power ports near the floor to connect larger devices, such as laptops. I also tried the window dimming control that is unique to all 787s and replaced the traditional movable shade.  It definitely comes in handy when the sun is hitting you, or when there is too much glare on the IFE screen.

LAN 787 IFE Main - LFL LAN 787 IFE Movies - LFL LAN 787 IFE TV - LFL LAN 787 IFE Map - LFL      IFE options, including main menu, music choices, movie selections, and moving map

We pushed back and taxied to runway 8R.  Since I was seated next to the right engine, I was looking forward to experiencing the reduced engine noise firsthand.  The roar of the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines when take-off thrust was set was definitely quieter than anything I have experienced.  I have not flown on the Airbus A380, which is supposedly even quieter, but this was very impressive regardless.  With a light load and a two-hour flight, the aircraft climbed to 41,000 feet.  The 787 boasts more humidity during cruise since the composite fuselage is less prone to corrosion, compared to the older aluminum types.  I was wearing a sports watch with an altimeter that showed that translated our 41,000-foot cruise altitude to 6,000 feet above sea level.  On any other airliner, this figure would be closer to 8,000 feet above sea level.  However, since this was a short flight, it was hard to tell if this made a difference in terms of comfort, but I have no doubt passengers will feel the improvement on the long flights the aircraft was designed for.

LAN 787 Y Class Bulkhead - LFL LAN 787 Windows - LFL
Roomier bulkhead space in economy and “every seat is a window seat”

The quick snack service consisted of a complimentary sandwich and accompanying beverage.  After eating, I got up to explore the 3-3-3 seat configured economy section.  I went to the last rows to get a good look at the impressive wing flex from the window.  The last window rows are reserved for flight attendants to rest and include a curtain for their down time.  Since the flight was virtually empty, I moved to bulkhead seat 12L.  The economy pitch is already very generous with 32 inches of pitch and 17.3 inches of width, and the bulkhead row has at least a couple of more extra inches for even more comfort.  Others took advantage of the lack of passengers by lying down open rows of three seats to get some sleep.

LAN’s mood lighting cycle consists of warm colors during boarding and deboarding and cooler ones during cruise.  Boeing introduced curved overhead bins 20 years ago with the 777, and the 787 retains the same features, which create a sense of extra space.  One of the 787’s sales pitches is that “every seat is a window seat”, given the larger size of the windows.  Looking across the seats to the other side, this is very evident and further enhances the extra sense of space.

LAN 787 Y Class Snack - LFL LAN 787 Wing View - LFL
Economy class snack service and wing view

Soon we were descending into Dominican airspace.  The ride had been very clear and smooth with many Caribbean islands visible during cruise.  We ran into some rainclouds during approach.  Typically these cause some bumpiness, and they gave me a chance to see if the gust alleviation system on the 787 lived up to the hype.  There was some movement when we crossed these clouds, and it was definitely less noticeable than on other aircraft.  After touchdown in Punta Cana, the aircraft parked in the ramp and exited using stairs.  This was a real treat since it gave me chance to take close-up pictures of the outside of the aircraft.  The flightline also had other visitors, which included a Nordwind Airlines (Russian charter airline) 777-200ER and two Canadian 737-800s belonging to charter carriers Air Transat and Sunwing Airlines.  A bus took us to the main terminal.  A unique feature of the airport is the open-air terminal covered in palm leaves.  It was a very warm day, so the interior of the terminal is not very comfortable.  Passport control and customs lines were short and quick.  I had eight hours on the ground before my return flight to Miami, so I headed to a beachside restaurant to enjoy some tropical drinks and seafood.

EXTRA:  Airways News gallery of Punta Cana International Airport

Arrival at PUJ - LFL

Arriving at Punta Cana

I had not flown on LAN since 2005 and was happy to see the overall good quality of service had been maintained.  Crews are very attentive and friendly, and even before the 787, the other widebodies that consist of the A340-300 and the 767-300ER, have had a very comfortable configuration in economy with enough IFE to make longer flights more enjoyable.

Over the last two years, I have been reading about the great inflight experience the 787 offers.  I finally got my opportunity, and can confidently say the aircraft lives up to the hype in terms of modernity, innovation, and passenger comfort.  LAN does a very good job with its economy class configuration, which is nice to have on those long-haul flights.  Stay tuned for the evening flight back to Miami, where I experienced LAN’s “Premium Business” class product on the 787.

LAN 787 Deaboarding at PUJ - LFL

Deplaning at Punta Cana

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Contact the author at luis.linares@airwaysnews.com

Contact the editor at vinay.bhaskara@airwaysnews.com

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Wireless Streaming Entertainment Comes of Age at APEX And On Your Flight

By John Walton / Published September 29th, 2014

Qantas-ipad

Wireless streaming has been billed as the Next Big Thing in inflight entertainment for years. But last week at the APEX Expo, the big entertainment-focused trade show, a series of developments means airlines will stream more and more — both on their own devices and to your tablet, phone and laptop.

In the US, carriers including American, Delta, United and Southwest offer what’s called BYOD streaming, where they have a server on the plane with entertainment (think a mini Netflix box on board, rather than streaming to the ground). You connect to their Wi-Fi as normal, though you don’t need to use the Internet - just stream from their onboard library.

JetBlue, meanwhile, is taking another track and making the most of its superfast FlyFi Ka-band network, provided by ViaSat’s Exede. Rather than being a content provider itself, JetBlue has the capacity to let you stream Netflix, Hulu, YouTube or whatever you prefer from the ground. That saves the airline a fair bit on royalties, and on having to staff up in order to negotiate getting you those movies.

US airlines who adopted inflight Internet early have a streaming advantage: it’s quick and easy to add streaming to existing installations. If the Wi-Fi is there for the Internet, the Wi-Fi is there for wireless streaming. Internationally, fewer airlines have Wi-Fi, due to compounding factors including a lack of ATG provision outside North America, a dearth of faster satellite capacity in the Ku and Ka bands, and increased scrutiny of satellite radome birdstrike survivability by the FAA and other regulators over the last couple of years. IntelliCabin_4

Tablets are the obvious way to watch streaming content, not least because few economy seats are pitched far enough apart to use a laptop.

That explains why a huge focus of this year’s APEX Expo was the frustration airlines feel about the excessive paranoia by entertainment studios in terms of early-window content (just out of the movie theatres, before the DVD release) being pirated from tablets on the plane. Let’s be clear, content piracy is a bad thing. But it’s highly unlikely that even the most DRM-free tablets would be a significant source of piracy, not least because everything anybody would want to pirate has already been pirated by the time that the early window opens.

A potential solution for airlines to the early window problem is to leverage the eternally increasing size of SSD storage and offer a huge catalog of cult TV and classics. Think of it as a combination of Netflix and Nick at Nite.

The backend tech options also give airlines a significant amount of choice. Some airlines decide to install streaming permanently, while others have a quite literally hot-swappable option. Lufthansa subsidiary LSG Sky Chefs is offering a fully plug-and-play system that slots into a galley oven and creates a plug-and-play option for airlines to provide on some routes. Add the wide reach and supply chain of a global catering business — and perhaps a galley cart full of rental tablets to use with the system — and LSG may be on to a winner. RECARO_CL3710_Concept_13-inch_monitor

Yet seatback screens aren’t going away anytime soon. A quiet focus of this year’s APEX expo was on the options for airlines to maximize advertising revenues from inflight entertainment.

Clearly, the captive audience factor of a seatback screen is a bonus here — and not just on long-haul aircraft where holding a tablet for 14 hours would be a pain. Delta has retrofitted a significant proportion of its domestic narrowbody fleet with seatback IFE, and American is opting for it on many of its newest domestic aircraft as well. It’s a rare international aircraft that doesn’t come with full on-demand seatback IFE these days, with Philippine Airlines’ OnAir streaming an exception.

PAL wireless streaming entertainment

A hybrid solution is embedding tablets in the seatback, pushed particularly by Lufthansa Systems and, in a last-ditch attempt to remain relevant in an iPad world, digEcor, the company that made the pre-iPad digEplayer device. BAe Systems is also offering a Samsung Galaxy Tab-based system that feels very similar to tablets that passengers will already own. Embedding the tablet allows airlines to reduce the time-to-market of seatback entertainment in the fast-paced world where anything appearing on a brand-new seat today is essentially two-year-old technology.

The problem to overcome for embedded systems is safety. One of the reasons that seatback systems take so long to develop is that regulators must be satisfied that they are HIC (head injury criterion) compliant. Options to pass HIC include a protective film (similar in concept, though not materials, to the films many smartphone users use on their screens), a slide-up safety plastic protector that can be raised during the critical phases of flight like takeoff and landing, or a recessed placement to take the screen out of the “arc” of a pivoting passenger’s head.

A complicating factor: current HIC testing is essentially done with an automotive dummy, which measures 5’10”. By extension, passengers whose heights diverge from that standard may well raise questions about their own safety. After speaking with a dozen interiors manufacturers at APEX and elsewhere, the generally secretive interiors industry is quietly expecting a re-examination of the HIC standards and a requirement to use different sizes of safety dummies to ensure that all sizes of passenger are protected to the same standard.) Lumexis-Second-Screen

But the real killer application will be letting passengers use their own devices for dual-screening with a seatback option, whether embedded tablet or traditional screen. IFE systems can do more than ever before, including interactive moving maps, duty-free shopping, ordering food, destination content, connecting flight details, and airport gate info, but nobody wants to stop their movie or TV show to do it.

Making the most of the reduced attention spans of today’s — and tomorrow’s — passenger, and making more ancillary revenue while doing it, is truly the future of IFE.

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Contact the editor at vinay.bhaskara@airchive.com

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PEOPLExpress Temporarily Suspends Operations

By Vinay Bhaskara / Published September 26th, 2014

Image Credit - PEOPLExpress

Image Credit – PEOPLExpress

PEOPLExpress will be suspending service until October 16, 2014, impacting the travel plans of thousands of customers around the United States and particularly in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia. PEOPLExpress, based in Newport News, Virginia, has been struggling with operational reliability for nearly a week after one of its aircraft was struck by a service vendor’s truck. The suspension of operations may prove to be a terminal blow for the fledgling ultra-low cost carrier (ULCC).

PEOPLExpress currently leases a pair of Boeing 737-400 aircraft from Vision Air, a charter airline whose previous attempt at running scheduled operations from Destin, Florida had failed. PEOPLExpress had been in the works since early 2012, but struggled with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification process, eventually launching operations on June 30, 2014 using FAA Part 121 certification.

However, with one half of its fleet out of commission, PEOPLExpress can not continue to fly all seven of its routes, and has been forced to shut down. Normally, small airlines in such dire straits will opt to wet-lease an aircraft (and even crews) to maintain service on most of their network. In failing to do, PEOPLExpress may have blundered, as the goodwill it won from bringing low-cost service to a smaller community will be outstripped by the negative effect of thousands of irate customers – many of whom will likely never fly PEOPLExpress again. The only reasonable explanation for PEOPLExpress decision is that the airline lacks sufficient funds to wet-lease the required aircraft, which does not bode well for its long or even short term prospects.

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Contact the author at vinay.bhaskara@airwaysnews.com

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Bombardier Commercial Aircraft President Talks CSeries; CRJ Improvements

By Vinay Bhaskara / Published September 26th, 2014

Image Credit - Bombardier

Image Credit – Bombardier

We sat down with the president of Bombardier Commercial Aircraft, Mike Arcamone, at the Farnborough Airshow to discuss everything from the status of CSeries program to the improvements of the CRJ-900 Next Gen.

Airways News: So you’ve announced a few orders for the CSeries and unfortunately there was a little snag in the CSeries program a few months ago. But in terms of customer potential, there were a few orders here [at Farnborough]. You have upwards of 500 commitments now, but only in the range of about 250 firm orders. What sort of progress are you making in terms of converting those commitments into firm orders? And will that process accelerate as you enter into service?

Mike Arcamone: We’re very confident. Actually we’ve maintained all along that our goal is 20 customers and 300 firm orders. We’ve reached 20 customers at the show. We have 513 commitments, which include the 210 firm orders. Between now and August, September, as the months go on, we will translate those letters of intent. Some are already more advanced than others towards becoming firm orders. So I’m confident that we’ll obtain the 300 firm orders way before entering the service.

Airways News: In terms of the CSeries’ positioning in the market, vis-a-vis in particular, your biggest competitor in the regional market, they are touting the fact that their E195E2 offers expanding seating, and they’re saying its competitive with the CS100. How would you assess the competitive balance between the C series and E2? Are they chasing different markets or the same market, in particular the CS100 versus the E2? Where does that competitive balance lie?

Mike Aracamone: Well I liked your opening remarks. They’re chasing us. We’re leading with a brand new aircraft. The aircrafts’ structure, avionics, engines, composite wings, it’s all-new. The interior is all-new. We lead with the interior. We have made progress in terms of luggage space, and the whole interior cabin is very friendly to customers. The angle that the bins open, the access of the galleys for flight attendants, the fact that you can move around, wider seats…. The wall of the aircraft, the way it sands, the egg shape so it’s more comfortable. When you put that all together, there’s not another product that comes close to CSeries and it’ll be entering into service next year. By the second half of next year, we’ll have our aircraft entering into service. We have a real product that customers can purchase and will have in their hands. Compared to something that doesn’t exist, what are they going to do? So we’re leading and they’re chasing.

Airways News: And what is the balance in terms of operating economics

Mike Arcamone: Our aircraft is light. We maintain our fuel burn advantage and the position that we’re in right now. In terms of operating costs, we still retain the advantage. We look at the seating capacity gap between the CS100 and the E2, and if customers want to go up to the CS300, we offer extra capacity. So if you can fill 160 seats, with an aircraft that already gives you 12-15% better operating costs, you’re ahead by a lot. You put 160 passengers and with the fuel burn savings and the seat-mile costs improve tremendously, it’s tremendous. And so I’m not afraid of what they might come up with because they’ll still have to figure out how to catch up [with the CSeries] and how to beat it. And we are distancing ourselves with this type of performance.

Airways News: Could you speak a little to the potential of the Q400 as a replacement for regional jet aircraft for the U.S. and around the world? And Mark has heard this question.

Mike Arcamone: Well, first what we’ve done with our current product, which is already used by companies like Horizon that have over 50 [Q400s], West Jet, who actually recently purchased and has continued acquiring Q400s, Air Canada Jazz, Porter that runs on Toronto Island that runs a fleet of Q400 aircraft. It [the Q400] is a great, great regional aircraft if you want it. We’ve listened to our customers and our customers have said, “can you put more seats on the aircraft” and so we’ve launched the E6 seats. So again, why? Because there are areas of the world where passengers want to go from point to point. Within certain regions, we’ve had our customers ask for fewer passenger seats, and more cargo space. So we’ve been responding continuously with a very flexible setup that yes can go up to 86 in the jet areas, but can also vary cargo capacity. The Q400 performs very well: short runways, fast take off, where you can land – you don’t need a runway. So definitely we see growth and as a matter of fact, I think a lot of operators are starting to realize it’s quiet. We do a lot of demonstrations for our customers. We demonstrate how quiet it is. How quiet the turbo prop is… How smooth it is. So the fear of flying in a turbo prop is offset, and airlines can have the speed the Q400 offers, and the ability of a low speed light jet. So definitely in certain markets it can probably replace the low end of jets, absolutely.

Airways News: On Day 1 at this air show, you announced a host of aerodynamic improvements to the CRJ 900. And today’s CRJ series is already about 5.5 percent better than the initial CRJ 900. How much more potential is there for incremental improvements to build on the CRJ 900’s superior economic performance to the E170 and E175, and how much incremental opportunity do you have to push the performance of today’s CRJ 900 so it can compete with the E175-E2?

Mike Arcamone: We have declared that by 2020, within 5-6 years, we’ll be at double digits.

Airways News: Is that double digits from today or from the beginning?

Mike Arcamone: From entry into service. We’re at 5.5%, but we’re going into double digits. So we’ve done half. And there are changes coming, physical changes on the CRJ that will give it the double-digit advantage. We have started to define what thse will be. We will want to look at it as a module as well so we can go back and offer it to our existing customers and customers of our previous generations. But we’re looking at double digits within 5/6 years.

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Contact the author at vinay.bhaskara@airchive.com

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Wrapping Up the APEX Expo

By Jason Rabinowitz / Published September 25th, 2014

At the Airline Passenger Experience Expo in Anaheim, California last week, a clear message was sent: the airline industry demands better and faster in-flight connectivity, and faster ways to integrate cutting edge entertainment systems into seats.

The show floor opened on Tuesday with a major announcement as Panasonic revealed its next-generation Ku-band satellite antenna. Just as Gogo had announced months earlier at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, Panasonic is bringing a super thin antenna to the market,  which is a fraction of the size of those of prior generations.

IMG_20140916_095009980The electronically steered antenna is thinner than the current dual-panel antenna offered by Panasonic, and weighs an astonishingly low 140 pounds. Derived from military grade technology, the antenna promises to be more cost effective for airlines, but with the caveat that it cannot operate in certain geographic regions, such as high latitudes.

While Panasonic did not have a launch customer lined up, Gogo countered with a major win as it announced that Virgin Atlantic has agreed to install, nearly fleet wide, its competing thin antenna platform called 2Ku. Virgin Atlantic, who currently offers slow L-band connectivity on a portion of its fleet, became the first airline to fully commit to 2Ku. AeroMexico had previously announced a plan to outfit 20 of its 737s with 2Ku, while Air Canada and JAL had previously agreed to trial the technology. Despite the deal, Virgin’s nearly ready to be delivered Boeing 787-9 will be delivered with connectivity from Panasonic.

On the entertainment side, passengers and airlines alike are becoming increasingly frustrated over the slow rate of adoption of new technology into seat back systems. It takes years for a new IFE system from the likes of Panasonic to finally begin rolling out onto aircraft. Between aircraft order cycles and rigorous safety standards, by the time an IFE system finally rolls out, its already outdated. Several manufactures were at APEX to demonstrate their solution to get around the red tape.

First up was BAE Systems and its IntelliCabin IFE system. BAE developed its new platform on a IMG_20140916_143027983_HDRthe consumer grade Samsung Galaxy Tab, but has loaded highly customized, immersive software onto the tablet. The visual design and functionality of the system is impressive for its first attempt at IFE. As a part of its broader IntelliCabin offering, BAE designed a very functional seat-back tablet holder, and even more impressive swiveling under-seat power outlet. Anyone who has fished under their seat for a hidden power outlet will appreciate this smart design.

Lufthansa Systems has taken the embedding of a consumer device into the seat-back a step further, utilizing a unique workaround of safety requirements. A part of the reason why embedded systems take so long to roll out is that they must pass rigorous safety test, including impact tests. Embedded systems must be able to withstand the force of a passenger impacting it during an emergency, and consumer devices do not meet this standard.

Lufthansa Systems has a clever solution, however. They have taken a regular consumer grade tablet, embedded it in the seat, but also installed a pull up visor over the tablet which will passes impact tests. It isn’t pretty, but this method will allow Lufthansa Systems to get cutting edge consumer devices built into the seat faster than ever before.

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Contact the editor at vinay.bhaskara@airwaysnews.com

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Airports Share Service Stories at World Routes Summit

By Benet Wilson / Published September 24th, 2014

The 2014 World Routes Strategy Summit in Chicago drew more than 3000 attendees, 300 airlines, 800 airports, 200 tourism authorities and hosted 10,000 meetings between Sept. 21-23. Airports interviewed at the event said that it’s a great venue to tell their stories to airline representatives and continue to make pitches for new and expanded air service.

Ville Haapasaari is the senior Vice President for Finland’s Finavia and airport director at the Helsinki Airport. In a chat at the fresh juice bar his company used lure attendees, he said World Routes was a good platform to conduct meetings with airlines. “We catch up with our existing customers, but visit with a lot of newcomers too,” he said.

Haapasaari boasted of Helsinki’s great location as a Northern European hub that offers a great route to Asia. “We started Japan Airlines service last July to Tokyo. It took a few years of discussions that started at Routes a few years ago,” he said. “That led to the service, which has been doing really well.”

Helsinki is medium-sized airport, serving 15 million passengers a year, said Haapasaari. “Everything is under one roof and compact, which allows for smooth operations,” he said. “We offer the same things most airports offer, but we’re also building an Arctic bar where passengers will be able to feel the wind and snow, giving them the look and feel of Finland.”

Cheryl Marcell is the deputy director of business development for Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport. “Most airlines know about Silicon Valley, but many don’t know that our airport is in the middle of it, surrounded by one of the strongest business markets in the country,” she said. “But we are also a community that can support leisure travel, because we have the higher income levels that support that.”

San Jose knows that it needs information like what aircraft are coming into an airline’s fleet, their ranges and what future routes might be possible, said Marcell. “We know that air service development is a marathon, not a sprint,” she said. “When we meet with airlines, we give them updates and intangibles they may not know. For example, a year ago, the new 49ers football stadium didn’t exist. It is now two miles from the airport.”

The airport’s service from ANA to Tokyo’s Narita Airport is a great example of a successful pitch that started at a past Routes meeting, said Marrcell. “ANA had existing service out of San Francisco when they added a flight here,” she said. “Our service had grown and San Francisco’s hasn’t degraded.”

Customs announces major expansion of pre-clearance program

If U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has its way, pre-clearance locations outside the United States will more than double starting within the next two years, said Kevin McAleenan, the agency’s acting deputy director at the World Routes Strategy Summit in Chicago, Wednesday.

“Pre-clearance expansion offers opportunities from a commercial and passenger experience perspective,” said McAleenan. “It’s part of the U.S. government’s effort focus more on a return on investment from programs.”

Pre-clearance facilities, in operation since 1952, are currently located at 15 locations in Canada, the Caribbean, Ireland and Abu Dhabi. CBP is processing about 18 percent of passengers through pre-clearance, said McAleenan.

“CBP’s pre-clearance operations are an important step in the U.S. government’s effort to prevent terrorism from coming to our borders.” said McAleenan. “Where we can identify foreign airports willing to partner with us, additional preclearance agreements will further protect the safety and security of our citizens while also streamlining legitimate travel and commerce.”

The plan is for CBP to start a process to evaluate and prioritize an initial set of potential pre-clearance locations, said McAleenan. “Foreign airport authorities that are interested in initiating the process to establish preclearance operations at their location are encouraged to submit a letter detailing their interest to CBP,” he said.

McAleenan said his agency would then work with foreign airport authorities, host governments, and domestic and foreign air carriers to look at expansion opportunities.

Facilities in Dublin and Abu Dhabi have been successful, said McAleenan. “We want to be able to pre-clear one third of travelers by 2024,” he said. “We’ve seen 22 percent growth in pre-clearance in the past five years, and we’re doing it with the same budget and staffing.”

Pre-clearance offers a better passenger experience because there’s no waiting after a flight arrives, said McAleenen. “And this could help airlines with quicker turn times and reduced repositioning of aircraft, opening the possibility to operate additional destinations,” he said. “We also see significant security benefits from expanded pre-clearance locations.

“We’ve already had requests from two dozen airports for a a pre-clearance facility, said McAleenan. “We already have efforts in place to transform our business to be paperless, seamless and passenger driven,” he said. “This has been done through programs like passport kiosks and the expansion of [the] Global Entry [trusted traveler program].”

Pre-clearance facilities allow CBP to be proactive against threats, said McAleenan. “We can address security threats before a plane takes off, and we can do this without asking an airport to change the way they do business,” he said.

Airports and airlines can get built-in efficiencies with pre-clearance facilities, said McAleenan. “For example, when an Emirates A380 lands with 517 passengers aboard, they all get off and approach CBP lines at the same time,” he said. “In a pre-clearance world, they can arrive at different times, allowing for a continuous and more efficient flow.”

This workswith efforts like a pilot program at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport that is testing the Mobile Passport Control (MPC), which allows eligible travelers to submit passport information and the customs declaration form from a smartphone or tablet, said McAleenan.

“We also continue to grow the Global Entry, program said McAleenan. “We already have 10 foreign partners, and we want to expand and increase the number of countries involved in the program,” he said.

The timeline for airport authorities interested in having a pre-clearance facility is: letters to CBP on adding the program are due by the end of November, said McAleenan. CBP will also do site reviews, study pre-clearance models and prioritize airports it deems are ready for formal negotiations, also in December; and final negotiations will begin in January 2015. A guide has also been released for interested airports.

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Contact the editor at vinay.bhaskara@airwaysnews.com

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