Category Archives: Airline Passenger Experience

SkyWest Buys Seven E175s to Fly for Alaska Airlines

By Benét J. Wilson / Published November 25th, 2014

The E175. Image Courtesy of Embraer

The E175. Image Courtesy of Embraer

St. George, Utah-based SkyWest has signed a deal with Embraer for seven new E175 jets, valued at $301 million. The regional will operate those jets on new routes for Alaska Airlines, starting on July 1 to three new destinations.

The E175s will fly on behalf of Alaska under a capacity purchase agreement. The first three aircraft will arrive in the summer of 2015, and the remaining four will be delivered in the first quarter of 2016. SkyWest will fly Alaska’s daily nonstop service between Seattle and Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Seattle and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; and Portland, Oregon and St. Louis.

EXTRA: United Announces Additional Embraer E175 Routes

Kevin Schorr is a vice president at Alexandria, Virginia-based Campbell-Hill Aviation, a consulting firm that works on developing strategies for air service development. He called SkyWest’s deal with Alaska Air a game changer, even though the regional carrier already flies the Bombardier CRJ700 under contract.

“The CRJ700 doesn’t have the legs or passenger comfort that the E175 does. Also, the E175 allows Alaska Air to hit that 1500-mile segment that you could do on the CRJ700 yet don’t want to do in fear of passenger revolt,” said Schorr.

Alaska Airlines has a huge cluster of markets in the 60- to 100-Passengers Daily Each Way (PDEW) size, which you can’t serve with a 737 and, again, it’s too long haul for the CRJ700, said Schorr. “The E175 will be a fantastic option for Alaska and offer it tons of opportunity, especially in their focus cities of San Diego and San Jose,” he said.

Doing the capacity deal with Skywest is much less risky than adding 175s into the fleet, said Schorr. “It’s better to tap into the resources of a carrier that already flies them instead of building a new infrastructure where you might only fly 20 to 25 of them,” he said. “The current deal with SkyWest for the CRJ700s is going so well it made sense to take next step with them.” Alaska Airlines also made a conscious decision for Horizon to be a single aircraft airline, with the Bombardier Q400 turboprop, he added.

The E175s being flown by SkyWest for Alaska Airlines will be just like the ones they currently fly for United Airlines, said Schorr. The jets, which have 12 first class and 64 coach seats, offer amenities including Wi-Fi, streaming inflight entertainment and power outlets in first class seats.

“They give passengers more of a main cabin experience. This was important, since Alaska is concerned with the passenger experience,” he said. “Passengers get on the E175 and they don’t notice the difference from mainline aircraft.”

SkyWest currently flies 15 E175s and is the launch customer of the Embraer E175-E2, with an order of 100 and options on another 100.


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Miami International Airport Launches Mobile App

By Benét J. Wilson / Published November 24th, 2014

image002Miami International Airport will unveil a new free mobile app tomorrow that will offer travelers real-time flight tracking, bilingual functionality in English and Spanish, and an “Around Me” feature that allows passengers to view what airport amenities are within a five-minute walk.

The app, MIA Airport Official, includes a user-friendly guide to information about airport parking, ground transportation, dining, shopping, flights and more for iPhone and Android users.

EXTRA: Miami Airport Steps Up Its Social Media Efforts

The airport created the app in order to stay ahead when it comes to technology, and a lot of airports already have them, said Dicke Davis, Miami’s director of public and customer relations. “I was on a trip and saw the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport app while I was at a conference on social media,” she said. “I liked it. It was clean and easy to use, so I brought it to our airport director [Emilio Gonzalez]. He’s very innovative and forward leaning.”

Concourse D at Miami International airport. Image Courtesy of AirwaysNews

Concourse D at Miami International airport. All Images Courtesy of AirwaysNews

Ken Pyatt is the airport’s deputy director, where he oversees all aspects of airport operations, security, and facilities management. “One of the things we looked at was major world-class airports and their apps to see what they felt was important to customers and unique services they provided, so that was a starting point on what we wanted to do,” he said. “It was important for us to do it in English and Spanish, and have a clean, bright look.”

The airport didn’t want a lot of gimmicky things on the app, said Pyatt. “We wanted the basics, like links to social media, some banner ads and the around me feature,” he said.

In September, the airport installed more than 200 navigational beacons that were designed to help passengers navigate the 7.5 million square-foot facility. Version 2.0 of the app will allow passengers to receive information on their smartphones based on the beacons.

EXTRA: Miami Airport Installs Beacons to Upgrade the Passenger Experience

“[The beacons] will have the ability to ping a customer on their smartphone when they’re walking by a store, target repeat visitors or send general ads for goods and services,” said Davis.

The app platform was designed in such a way that it gives the airport flexibility to expand it as technology and demand changes, said Pyatt. “The limitations are as far reaching as your mind can take you. For example, you have a young child flying as an unaccompanied minor and you want to make sure that child got to the gate,” he said. “If you had your app with the beacons, you could see where the child goes.”

MIA's Concourse D rotunda.

MIA’s Concourse D rotunda.

Another example is an airport passenger loyalty program where messages can be sent when a traveler is on the property, said Pyatt. “We can welcome you back and do something like offer them a free coffee at Starbucks,” he said.

The airport has more than seven million feet of public space, said Davis. “If you have our app, you can get information about the airport instantly at your fingertips, no matter where you are.”

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USTA Warns of More Thanksgiving-like Airport Congestion

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

Passengers at BWI Airport. Image courtesy of AirwaysNews

Passengers at BWI Airport. Image courtesy of AirwaysNews

Thanksgiving-like congestion could become commonplace at airports much sooner than expected thanks to increased travel demand and chronic underinvestment in infrastructure, says a new report from the U.S. Travel Association (USTA). The study looked at the nation’s top 30 airports, which handled more than 70 percent of all the passenger enplanements in 2013.

The ultimate touchstone of how well the nation’s aviation infrastructure performs is during its annual stress test: the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, said the study. “As travel levels grow and U.S. airports remain stuck in neutral, the average day of air travel in the United States could very well come to resemble its busiest today—the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.”

According to analysis performed by Cambridge Systematics for USTA, passenger volumes on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving can be anywhere between 108 and 259 percent higher than the average day. “Virtually everyone who has traveled over the Thanksgiving holiday understands how the substantial increase in passenger volume can increase travel times to and from airports, lead to longer wait times at airline check-in counters and security checkpoints, add to the frequency of flight delays and cancellations, or lengthen the time it takes to retrieve checked baggage,” said the study. “From landside and terminal to airside and airspace capacity, Thanksgiving travel pushes U.S. airports to the brink and provides a frequently frustrating experience for travelers.

Passengers at a McCarran International Airport gate.

Passengers at a McCarran International Airport gate.

In 2013, six of the 30 largest U.S. airports were already experiencing congestion levels equal to the Wednesday before Thanksgiving one day per the average week. “This year, the number of airports already at that congestion level has more than doubled to 13,” said the report. “All 30 airports in the study will now experience Thanksgiving-like congestion one day per week within the next six years.”

Further down the road, another 20 airports — including Newark, Baltimore-Washington International and Honolulu International — will reach Thanksgiving congestion levels two days a week within five years. And 26 of the 30 airports will reach daily Thanksgiving-like passenger congestion sooner than expected, including Chicago Midway and McCarran International in Las Vegas.

An American Airlines ticketing counter at Newark Liberty International Airport.

An American Airlines ticketing counter at Newark Liberty International Airport.

“The U.S. air travel system was once the envy of the world, but now there is not a single U.S. airport ranked in the top 25 worldwide,” said Roger Dow, President and CEO of USTA. “Major investments in air travel infrastructure are desperately needed to restore service to even basic levels of adequacy, let alone cope with the expected coming demand.”

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Air Canada Shows Off Newly Configured Boeing 787

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


Air Canada’s first 787 Dreamliner, lands at Toronto’s Pearson Airport.

Air Canada held an open house in Vancouver yesterday to offer a close-up look of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner it is using for flights to Shanghai. The Canadian flag carrier offered attendees a peek at its new international product that includes three cabins of service and a new Premium Economy cabin. Air Canada has firm orders for 37 Dreamliners.

EXTRA: Air Canada Premieres Its First Boeing 787-8

Air Canada will be flying the 787 on more Asia routes out of its Vancouver hub, including Beijing in February and Seoul in March. The Vancouver-Shanghai was recently upgraded to Dreamliner service, and Vancouver-Tokyo/Narita to be converted next month.

Air Canada's International Business Class on the 787. Image Courtesy of Air Canada

Air Canada’s International Business Class on the 787.

The carrier will begin converting all 25 of its Boeing 777-300ER and 777-200LR aircraft to 787 Dreamliner seating standards starting next year, said Benjamin Smith, president of Air Canada’s passenger airlines.

EXTRA: Air Canada Announces New Interior, Routes for 1st Boeing 787

The Dreamliner’s three cabins feature ergonomic seating and enhanced definition intuitive touch personal entertainment screens. The International Business Class cabin has 20 executive pods with 180-degree lie-flat seats in a 1-2-1 configuration guaranteeing passengers direct aisle access.

Air Canada's Premium Economy cabin.

Air Canada’s Premium Economy cabin on the 787.

Premium Economy has 21 seats in a 2-3-2 configuration and wider seating with more personal space, legroom and recline, premium meals, a free bar service and priority check-in and baggage delivery at the airport. Economy has 210 slimline seats in a 3-3-3 configuration that’s similar to Air Canada’s current cabin.

Air Canada will take delivery of six 787s by the end of the year, with all 37 aircraft scheduled to be delivered by the end of 2019. After the deliveries are completed, the airline will have 15 787-8s and 22 787-9s. The Dreamliners are replacing older Boeing 767s, which are being transferred to Air Canada’s Rouge subsidiary.

Images courtesy of Air Canada

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JetBlue Reveals New Fare Structure, Offers Mint Update

By Benét J. Wilson / Published November 19th, 2014

Charts courtesy of JetBlue

Charts courtesy of JetBlue

JetBlue has unveiled the new Fare Families pricing structure, offering customers Good, Even Better and Best levels.  The airline also discussed Mint’s success and how it will monetize its Fly-Fi product going forward.

The New York-based carrier hopes to gain $200 million annually in incremental operating revenue with the new pricing structure, said Chief Marketing Officer Marty St. George in the company’s annual Investor Day.

Under Fare Families, customers buying the Good product will have to pay to check a bag, but will still receive all the inflight products they’ve come to expect from the airline, including Live TV, free snacks and more legroom. Those opting for the Even Better will be able to check one bag for free and those buying a Best fare can check two free bags, have increased booking flexibility and other benefits.

Fare Families jpg

EXTRA: JetBlue Touts Benefits of New Airline Seats Despite Less Pitch

The airline is targeting customers who want a better product, said St. George.  “Even our product with no free checked bags will still be better than the product offered by legacy carriers,” he said. “They will still get our best benefits, like Live TV, free snacks, more legroom and the best customer service in North America.”

Fare Families has been priced these dynamically based on customer feedback, said St. George. “We believe this is going to be a better revenue strategy,” he said.

Morphing the Business Model

Adding the Mint experience on JFK flights to Los Angeles and San Francisco is a great example of how JetBlue has morphed its business model, said St. George. “We’d be honest about talking about the challenges of the JFK to Los Angeles market,” he said. “We looked at Virgin America from a revenue perspective. If you look at both of our economy products, we actually outperform Virgin America.”

The challenge was the revenue Virgin America gets from its premium cabin, said St. George. “We were at a deficit there.”

EXTRA: ANALYSIS: The Economics of JetBlue Mint

JetBlue's new business class product - Image Credit JetBlue

A Mint seat on JetBlue’s Airbus A321.

JetBlue saw very high fares for fair to middling service, and those are markets the airline loves to disrupt, said St. George. “When we designed Mint, we looked at it in the same way our founders created the original product, which offered the best product at the lowest price,” he said.

EXTRA: JetBlue’s First Non-Premium Airbus A321 Flights – Inaugural Flight December 19th

Food on a JetBlue Mint flight. Photo courtesy of Jason Rabinowitz

Food on a JetBlue Mint flight. Photo courtesy of Jason Rabinowitz

The airline now has an outstanding product at a great price, said St. George. He ticked off features including a lie-flat seat with the longest bed, outstanding food from Saxon + Parole and Brooklyn-based Blue Marble Ice Cream and an amenity kit from Birchbox. “Anyone can do this, but the thing that can’t be duplicated is our outstanding crewmember service,” he added.

Mint has been in place for five months, and is doing very well, said St. George. “We’ve already moved our fare structure up because of the demand. We’ve gone from fares of $599 up to walk-up fares of $1249, and we still have strong demand,” he said.

Looking at customers who fly premium services and found they broke down into three types, said St. George. “The first works for large corporations, second is small- and medium-sized businesses and third is high-end leisure customers,” he said. “We originally assumed that all revenue would come from small- and medium-sized businesses and leisure, but we’ve been pleasantly surprised at number of large corporations using Mint.”

Monetizing Fly-Fi

FlyFi jpgSt. George said that his carrier is taking a different path in monetizing its free FlyFi inflight WiFi product than its competitors. “Most of our competitors went with Gogo or Row 44. But those products weren’t JetBlue products. You can’t control pricing, your customers or marketing of those customers.  More importantly, they’re not great products.”

EXTRA: Flight Test: JetBlue’s Long Awaited Next Generation In-Flight WiFi; Fly-Fi

After seeing the service quality of those products, it was better for jetBlue to have its own service, said St. George. “On those flights, if one or two customers are using it, the have a great experience,” he said. “But when more use it, it grinds to a halt.”

FlyFi is currently experiencing take rates of 40 percent, with an average of 100 devices in use on flights and some even reach 150, said St. George. “Because of that, we can pursue a different monetization strategy through partnerships with companies including the Wall Street Journal and Verizon,” he said. “There are companies who want the eyeballs from FlyFi. They have covered 100 percent of our broadband costs this year and we’re not having to charge customers $20 to $30 for mediocre broadband service.”

JetBlue has 90 aircraft with FlyFi installed, said St. George. The entire A320/A321 fleet is expected to have Fly-Fi in the first half of 2015, with Embraer 190 installations beginning thereafter.


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JetBlue Touts Benefits of New Airline Seats Despite Less Pitch

By Benét J. Wilson / Published November 19th, 2014

Legroom jpgEven though JetBlue is adding B/E Aerospace slimline seats on its fleet and reducing pitch from 34 inches to 33 inches, the airline will still offer a comfortable product for customers, said Chief Marketing Officer Marty St. George in remarks at the carrier’s annual Investors Day.

EXTRA: ANALYSIS: The Economics of JetBlue Mint

Legroom wasn’t originally a differentiator for jetBlue at the beginning, said St. George. “But customers appreciate the extra legroom, and they make it part of the [ticket buying] decision process,” he said.

EXTRA: JetBlue Mint Preview

The competitive landscape for airline seats have changed, said St. George. “Airlines are installing the slimline seats and pitch has gone down to 31 inches. We’ve heard that one is even considering 30 inches,” he said.

Legroom compare jpg

EXTRA: JetBlue Unveils New Premium Product in NYC

JetBlue has gone through the process of looking at cabin seat pitch, said St. George. “With the Airbus A321, it gave us a chance to overhaul our pitch and seat. We looked at all the seat manufacturers and the slimline seat they offered and tested them all,” he said. “One thing I discovered was that the very thin lawn chair seats were comfortable for about an hour, but it wasn’t a great experience for a six-hour flight.”

EXTRA: Flight Review: JetBlue Mint “Suite” Inaugural

So JetBlue now has a comfortable slimline seat from B/E Aerospace, said St. George.  “We reduced pitch from 34.7 inches to 33.1 inches. But we’ve designed a fantastic product, with adjustable headrests,” he said.

The airline also offers its “new core” seating product on the A321, a refresh of its economy class product. it offers 33 inches of pitch, flexible headrests, two power outlets and a multi-tiered seat back pocket.

EXTRA: JetBlue “New Core” A321 Flight Review

“We’re also increasing seats on the A320 from 150 to 165, which will give us 10 percent more seats for the same investment. Ultimately its a win-win for everyone, allowing us to offer more lower fares on our planes.”

The carrier will begin installing the extra 15 seats in its fleet of A320s in the third quarter of 2016, and it will take two years to complete the project. The change is expected to generate $100 million  in incremental operating in come by 2019, said St. George.


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AMEX Unveils New Centurion Studio Airport Lounge Concept

By Benét J. Wilson / Published November 19th, 2014

The Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas' McCarran International Airport. Images courtesy of American Express

The Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport. Images courtesy of American Express

American Express will unveil a new airport lounge concept — The Centurion Studio — at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in 2015. The Centurion Studio will be a smaller version of the company’s Centurion Lounges at New York LaGuardia, Las Vegas and Dallas/Fort Worth. The company recently opened its fourth location at San Francisco International Airport.

EXTRA: American Express Opens Centurion Lounge at San Francisco International Airport

Centurion Studio will include some of the same amenities that card members find most essential: comfortable seating, charging stations, fast and free WiFi and free healthy snacks and beverages. Entry into the studio will be free for platinum card and Centurion members, and their immediate family or one travel companion.

“We want to help create a more seamless travel journey for our Platinum Card Members, and have a presence in airports they frequent most,” said spokeswoman Kimberly Litt. “Large space like that of a Centurion Lounge isn’t always available, so we created The Centurion Studio to take advantage of available space in Seattle-Tacoma and provide important amenities to our card members.”

Seattle-Tacoma was chosen so that the company has a presence in airports where its card members travel to and from the most, said Litt. The Centurion Studio will be located right off the main terminal toward Concourse B, post-security and easily accessible to all terminals.


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United Highlights Changes Coming to Newark Airport’s Terminal C

By Benét J. Wilson / Published November 18th, 2014

United Airlines jet at Newark Airport. Photo courtesy of United

United Airlines jet at Newark Airport. Images courtesy of United

Details of United Airlines’ $120 million upgrade of Terminal C at its Newark hub were revealed at an airport event yesterday. The Chicago-based airline has partnered with concession operator OTG Management to transform the food and shopping experience at Newark.

Newark passengers will see a major change in food offerings, with concepts being introduced by international and regional chefs—including four with Michelin stars—are creating restaurant concepts.  Some of those include:

  • Saison, a classic French bistro by Alain Ducasse;
  • Vesper Tavern, a gastropub-style tavern by Paul Liebrandt;
  • Riviera, offering French country fare by Alex Guarnaschelli;
  • An Italian steakhouse by Mario Carbone; and
  • SRF Bar, a surf bar and sushi oasis by Josh Capon.


The airport’s food court will also see new global concepts, including  hand-pulled fresh noodles at Kaedama, Shoushin Yanaura’s ramen bar, Mexican street fare at Alex Stupak’s Taqa Taqueria, Nonna’s Meatball Cafe by Amanda Freitag and Jacques Torres’ Melange Bakery. After the renovations, travelers will have access to more than 55 new dining spots focusing on fresh, locally sourced ingredients and showcasing regional and local dining experiences.

OTG Management will work with Rockwell Group, Crème Designs, David Mexico Design Group and Parts and Labor Design to completely change Terminal C’s dining and retail space. Nearly 60 gate areas in the terminal will receive custom seating and tables to create a lounge-like atmosphere. The carrier is also installing more than 10,000 power outlets and USB ports.


OTG--iPad Welcome Screen

As previously announced in September, United will install nearly 6,000 iPads in restaurants and gate areas to track their flights in real time and order food, beverages and other amenities via a visual menu available in 20 different languages. Orders will be delivered to customers’ seats within 15 minutes and they will be able to pay for items using Mileage Plus frequent-flyer miles.

Work at Terminal C is already underway, with more than 45 of the new restaurants and retail markets opening in the next seven weeks. All the changes are expected to be phased in over the next 18 months, with the first permanent installations debuting in the summer of 2015.

In February 2013, OTG did a similar transformation at Delta’s Terminal D in LaGuardia Airport. Contributor Jason Rabinowitz wrote that the facility’s Burger King was replaced by Custom Burgers by Pat La Frieda and Prime Tavern. A full blown food court and sushi bar with excellent and healthy choices now greets passengers after security.

And passengers have access to 700 iPads throughout the terminal, attached to tables, chairs, and desks that allow them to order food and other items on high resolution graphical menus, with delivery to wherever they are sitting. The iPads also allow free access to the full internet, and can be set to provide instant flight updates.


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American Express Opens Centurion Lounge at San Francisco International Airport

By Benjamin Bearup / Published November 17th, 2014

All photos courtesy of American Express

All photos courtesy of American Express

San Francisco International Airport has become the latest home for a brand new American Express Centurion Lounge. The lounge, located in Terminal 3 near gate 74, becomes the fourth Centurion Lounge in the United States, with a fifth coming in early 2015.

A prime position airside and directly above the premium passenger security check within Terminal 3, home to United Airline’s domestic hub, offers passengers a perfect chance to relax before making connection onward to Asia or to recoup after a long-haul flight. The Centurion Lounge replaces the old Alaska Airlines Board Room at SFO, which closed on June 24, coinciding with the carrier moving from T3 to the International Terminal.

The new San Francisco Centurion Lounge is modeled after the Las Vegas lounge and features a “living wall” (live plants growing on wall) that greets visitors upon entering. For the casual passenger passing through, the Centurion Lounge offers multiple options for entertainment and relaxation.

A large complimentary bar run by mixologist Jim Meehan is sure to please the upbeat crowd, while a wine bar run by Centurion Wine Specialist and author Anthony Giglio will offer customers a sample of California’s famous wine country. The large food buffet, run by Executive Chef Christopher Kostow, will offer passengers a taste of locally inspired cuisine. Other amenities include shower suites and multiple spacious lounge areas throughout. Passengers traveling with family can use the special family room or pass the time watching one of the many flat-screen televisions within the lounge.

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 9.28.34 PM

For business passengers, the Centurion Lounge offers spacious workspaces with power outlets and a computer bar with fax, print and copy capabilities. High-speed WiFi is also available.

As with other Centurion Lounges in Dallas, Las Vegas, and New York LaGuardia, dark hardwoods and modern design techniques will be prevalent throughout the complex. The overall design appeals to the upbeat and tech-savvy crowd around the Bay Area and certainly will become to go to lounge within SFO.

American Express recently announced that it will open its fifth Centurion Lounge at Miami International Airport,  due to open in early 2015. It was originally scheduled to open in December 2014. Located in the North Terminal, the Miami Centurion Lounge is in a prime location to serve passengers flying oneworld alliance partners American Airlines, US Airways and Qatar Airways.

Lisa Durocher, senior vice president of benefits at American Express, sees the opportunities that this lounge brings saying “We’re thrilled to bring The Centurion Lounge experience to Miami International Airport, a critical hub for domestic travelers as well as the nation’s largest gateway to Latin America and the Caribbean.”

Access to Centurion Lounges is free for American Express customers with Platinum or Centurion cards and American Express customers with any valid credit or charge card can pay $50  for a one-day pass.

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Report: Gap Still Exists Between Airline Social Media Efforts, Business Goals

By Benét J. Wilson / Published November 13th, 2014infografico-LR-4-03

While social media has secured a firm position in the marketing strategies of most airlines, executives still see a chasm between where airlines are and where they should be in leveraging social media to achieve business goals, according to a new report.

Conducted since 2010, the annual SimpliFlying Airlines Social Media Outlook Survey has been providing insights into airlines’ use of social media to achieve business goals. This year’s survey asked 10 questions to 148 executives representing 87 airlines across five regions.

There is an emerging consensus among the airline executives surveyed that the most important goal social media should drive is customer service, rather than the current emphasis on brand awareness. “One possible reason could be that customer service is more tangibly delivered and measured, and this would indicate executives’ need to use social media to drive concrete business goals,” said the report. “Another reason is simply because a large number of passengers reach out to airlines when in need.”

The top three business goals currently driven by social media according to airline executives are brand awareness, improving customer service and driving loyalty, which are consistent with what they would like to focus on ideally.

Regarding the potential of social media to add to the airlines’ bottom lines, there appears to be a mismatch of expectations between senior management and executives, said the report. “One possibility is that because the general expectation for returns from social media is low, senior managers show lukewarm support, at best,” it said. “Given current budget allocations, resources and efforts through social media channels, nearly 60 percent of the surveyed executives cite only up to a 10 percent expected impact of social media on operating income.”

But those surveyed also believe that social media has greater revenue potential. More than 31 percent of executives believe that the expected impact of social media on their airlines’ operating income in the next three years should be between 5 and 10 percent, while 46 percent believe the expected impact should be more than 10 percent.

One hurdle to proving this point is that, unlike other marketing channels, the impact of social media initiatives on an airline’s revenue is difficult to track, not only due to significant network externalities but also due to the complicated processes involved in flight bookings, particularly for online reservations. Therefore, most airlines track click-through rates, which is a far from perfect measure. A simple way airlines can track sales conversion from social media is through the use of promo codes specific to particular social media platforms or campaigns.

Among those surveyed, 59 percent agree that insufficient allocation of resources to social media efforts continued to be the top challenge faced by airlines since 2012, followed by organizational structure. Sixty-three percent of those surveyed said social media budgets will increase in 2015. The majority said they would like an increase of up to 25 percent, and about half believe social media should take up 10 to 25 percent of total marketing budgets.

Eighty-four percent want to have more staff working on social media marketing, with the majority wanting staff resources doubled. Having a team dedicated to social media operations is also preferred, said 65 percent of respondents. Another 87 percent want to use social media data to develop customer insights, but only half are currently doing that.

Yet 45 percent of respondents said their airlines currently have a distributed team structure where responsibilities for digital marketing cut across teams and departments. Only about 34 percent employ a dedicated team structure.

Only about a fifth of those surveyed indicated that their airlines have five or more full-time staff dedicated to social media, with half having at least 10 full-time staffers. Even though 45 percent of the respondents think there should be at least five full-time staff dedicated to social media, 74 percent actually have fewer than five full-time equivalent staff working on social media. In fact, within this group, more than half think that 10 full- time staff or more is the ideal number.  Only 8 percent currently engage an external agency or third party for social media, with intentions to incorporate it in-house.

As social media is a relatively new item on the business agenda for most airlines, the only way that airlines can draw on its potential to drive business goals is to actively associate or link the organisation’s vision to social media, said the report.

Many airlines tend to collect data to justify their social media campaigns but fail to go beyond data collection to actually utilize these data, which can often provide many insights about their customers. Customer insights/segmentation can play a very important role in how airlines formulate their fare strategy and structure their promotions and even loyalty programs. All these have a direct impact on the airlines’ bottom lines.

Finally, more manpower is required as social media claims a more active role in the ways airlines engage passengers, said the report. “However, in the interest of productivity, it is important that airlines invest in the technological infrastructure required to handle the large volume of data as pas- sengers become demanding and expect more,” it said. “Investment in the relevant technological infrastructure such as social media integrated CRM systems also allows airlines to mine these data to draw further customer insights.”


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Japan Airlines Upgrades Boeing 787-8 Interior

By Benjamin Bearup / Published November 12th, 2014

All photos courtesy of Japan Airlines

All photos courtesy of Japan Airlines

Japan Airlines will introduce its ever popular JAL Sky Suite onto select 787-8 aircraft under the name JAL Sky Suite 787. The new signature interiors will enter service in December 2014 with once-daily flights from Tokyo Narita to Frankfurt and will continue to expand in January 2015 with once daily service from Tokyo Narita to JFK Airport.

Business class onboard Japan Airlines Sky Suite 787 aircraft will feature 38 private full lie-flat seats in a 2-2-2 configuration. Japan Airlines has decided to use the same design as  the SS7 business class seats onboard their 777 family. Each business class seat offers aisle access and standard luxuries such as 23-inch personal televisions and retractable privacy screens. All business class seats will feature the comfortable S-Line mattress and pillow setup.


JAL Sky Premium onboard Japan Airlines Sky Suite 787 will offer 35 seats in a 2-4-2 configuration for a total of 35 premium economy seats. JAL Sky Premium seats offer 42 inches of seat pitch at a width of 19 inches. Features include 12.1 inch inflight entertainment systems featuring a new touch panel monitor along with cup holders and a center divider. Once again, Japan Airlines will use the same design as onboard their 777s with the Sky Suite interior.

JAL Sky Wider II class onboard Japan Airlines Sky Suite 787 will feature 88 seats in a 2-4-2 configuration. Seat width increases to 48 cm in the new Sky Suite setup with an additional 5 cm compared to current Japan Airlines 787-8 aircraft in the old 3-3-3 economy configuration. Seat pitch will also expand to 84 cm from 79 cm in previous 787-8 aircraft.

All economy seats will feature 10.6-inch inflight entertainment screens with a touch panel monitor. USB outlets and AC power outlets will be available within each seat. The JAL Sky Wider II is the only seat redesigned from Japan Airlines SS7 interior. The new economy seats promise to deliver what Japan Airlines calls “The worlds top-scale seating space in economy class on Boeing 787s.”


Japan Airlines will also unveil its new inflight entertainment system “MAGIC-VI” to replace the current “MAGIC-V” system. The new system will offer simple upgrades to the current system such as updates to the in flight meal ordering system and Sky Manga. Other updates include a swipe feature for passengers personal screens.


Japan Airlines currently has 15 787 aircraft and is the fourth largest operator of the 787 in the world. They trail only behind rival All Nippon Airways (33), Air India (17), and Qatar Airways (17). Japan Airlines 787 fleet currently is comprised of only 787-8 aircraft (15). 10 additional 787-8 aircraft are on order and will grow the 787-8 fleet to 25 aircraft. This is in addition to the 20 larger 787-9 aircraft also entering the fleet in 2015.


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Chef Joël Robuchon Renews Air France Partnership to Serve La Première Passengers

By Benjamin Bearup / Published November 11h, 2014

Chef Joel, right. Photos courtesy of Air France.

Chef Joël Robuchon, right. Photos courtesy of Air France.

Famed French Chef Joël Robuchon has again teamed up with Air France to provide La Première Passengers a taste from his Michelin-starred menu. Through the end of November, first and business class passengers departing from Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport will have the option of dining on several choices, including sautéed scallops in coral sauce, ginger fregola risotto and shredded duck confit with truffle and potatoes au gratin. A starter of salmon tartare with shiso sprouts and caviar will also be available.

This marks the second time Chef Robuchon has created special menus for Air France. From December 2011 to May 2012, he served as the first of Air France’s ambassadors of the art of French gastronomy. During the time period, he created a new specialty dish for first and business class passengers every 10 days.

Air France has a long history teaming up with celebrity chefs to create special menus, including Régis Marcon, Guy Martin, Anne-Sophie Pic and Michel Roth, among others. Air France was ranked as the fourth-best airline in Europe for onboard dining by The Huffington Post, only behind SAS, Aeroflot, and KLM. Air France also received 4.5 stars out of 5 for cusine by airline ranking service SkyTrax.


Robuchon is a world-famous chef, restaurateur and author of several cookbooks. He owns and operates a dozen restaurants around the world in cities including Hong Kong, Las Vegas, London, Macau, Monaco, Paris, Bordeaux, Taipei,and Tokyo. Among all his restaurants, he has won a world-record 28 Michelin Guide Stars. He has also written seven cookbooks and has hosted several French culinary television shows.

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Routehappy Data Will Offer Upgrade for Expedia Flight Searches

By Benét J. Wilson / Published November 10th, 2014

Aviation data content provider Routehappy has signed a major partnership deal with Expedia, offering the online travel company full access to its database of proprietary Scores & Happiness Factors API.

Expedia Delta LAX-HNL listings with Routehappy Scores

Under the deal, customers using the Expedia website to search for flights will now have access to Routehappy’s data, allowing them to filter results by seat, amenities and speed. The partnership with Routehappy made sense because at a basic level, Expedia can now provide more information to passengers so they can make the best flight choices possible, said spokeswoman Tarran Vaillancourt.

“For our hotel searches, customers can filter by amenities like a pool, free breakfast or WiFi,” said Vaillancourt. “We’ve been thinking about offering more information for flight searches, and Routehappy is a great company to do this with.”

Expedia JetBlue & United listings with Routehappy data

Jason Rabinowitz, data research manager for Routehappy, said that for the past few years, his company has kept track of the interiors on every major airline in the world. “We have a unique set of data that we’ve had on our own website for several years,” he said. “We wanted customers to use our website for flight searches, but we realized that it’s hard to get people to switch from sites like Expedia and Priceline.”

“So Routehappy reached out to the larger travel sites to see how passengers could access our data without going to our site,” said Rabinowitz.

The API is developed from two key Routehappy systems: Flightpad and Flightmatch. Routehappy researches and verifies data from hundreds of disparate sources to create Flightpad, the most comprehensive, accurate comparable product attribute dataset for flights worldwide. Flightmatch is a set of powerful and intelligent algorithms that dynamically match and score Happiness Factors, duration, and ratings for billions of possible flight combinations.

Expedia LAX to LHR listings with Routehappy Scores

Routehappy’s database has information from airlines all over the world, said Rabinowitz. “Expedia accesses our data through an API we give them,” he said. “When a passenger does a flight search on Expedia, they are also pinging on our site for our information, although it shows up on their site.”

How often the airline data is updated depends on its size, said Rabinowitz. “For example, American Airlines and British Airways are at the highest levels, so we update them constantly,” he said. “But as you get to the smaller and regional airlines, they are only updated a few times a year.”

The big airlines are updated on a never-ending basis, said Rabinowitz.  “Things are always changing in this industry, so we can never say that we’re done with American so we’ll get to them next year,” he said. “If we’re not updating constantly, our data will be stale in a month. And stale data is bad data.”

Expedia LAX to NRT listings with Routehappy Scores

With flight searches done on major online travel sites, airlines don’t have a way to convey that they are dumping millions of dollars into the passenger experience, said Rabinowitz. “Most passengers just see the name of the airline, the flight time and the price, and that’s it,” he said. “As we all know, the passenger experience has been in the news a lot lately, with issues like the knee defender and slimline seats.”

With the Routehappy data, passengers can have the best information on their flight choices, said Rabinowitz. “If they are presented with our options, they may discover that they can pay $400 for an average flight or $401 for one with a better experience,” he said. “Right now, passengers don’t have a way to see this.”

Expedia’s Vaillancourt said the feature is just beginning to roll out on passenger searches. “Amenities show up as little icons for things like WiFi and power ports,” she said. “From there, we want to add more flight information as we get it,” like food choices.

Images courtesy of Expedia


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LAX Terminal 2 Is Getting an Upgrade

By Benjamin Bearup / Published November 7th, 2014

Rendering of main Terminal 2 Hall. All images courtesy of Westfield

Rendering of main Terminal 2 Hall. All images courtesy of Westfield

Design firm Westfield Group and Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) have launched a $300 million renovation and expansion at Los Angeles International Airport’s Terminal 2. Due for completion in 2015, the terminal will serve 5.5 million passengers a year and be redesigned to “create a radically new environment that is tailor‐made for and uniquely suited to the terminal’s travelers and its carriers,” said Dominic Lowe, executive vice president of Westfield.

Often referred to as the second international terminal at Lax, Terminal 2  was originally built in 1988 for $94 million. The Customs-equipped terminal is home to 10 airlines, ranging from domestic carriers like Hawaiian and Sun Country, to major international carriers including Air New Zealand, Virgin Atlantic and Air China. Outdated compared to the new Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT) at LAX, Terminal 2 needed this facelift in order to stay competitive for domestic and international tenants.

The current LAX Terminal 2.

The current LAX Terminal 2.

The master plan for Terminal 2 calls for 20 new dining and retail outlets offering passengers a first class experience as they pass through. Designed using the vision called “LA in Motion,” Terminal 2′s design will “reflect the energy and echo the innovative, modern and always ‘on-the-go’ culture of Los Angeles.”

Of the 20 new restaurants and retail stores coming to Terminal 2, nine stores will be Southern California-based brands, with eight stores being airport firsts. The redesign and addition of these stores is projected to drive sales up 35 percent within Terminal 2.

LA In Motion

Visitors will go through a one-of-a-kind experience when traveling through Terminal 2. Designed with three districts, the passenger’s journey begins shortly after passing through the Transportation Security Administration security checkpoint. District One, or the “Commercial Hub,” features a dining terrace and several unique destinations, textured surfaces and lounge‐style seating.

LAX Terminal 2's proposed Dining Terrace

LAX Terminal 2′s proposed Dining Terrace.

Next, passengers will find comfort in “The Strand,” an open, flowing dining and shopping district with a grand, flowing staircase leading to a mezzanine that features a café that overlooks the terminal below. Passengers will continue to pass through “districts” that will each be unique and offer them restaurants and shops that fit their personality.

Rendering of The Strand.

Rendering of The Strand.

Terminal 2 could become the preferred place to end an international flight over TBIT due to its smaller size and ease of domestic connections. It  also has a great advantage over TBIT at peak times. Times in TBIT Customs lines have often been known to reach more than an hour and a half during the afternoon rush, which includes four Airbus A380 flights in an hour.

Rendering of a Terminal 2 holding room.

Rendering of a Terminal 2 holding room.

The terminal will remain at full capacity while construction is ongoing. Due to this, passengers transiting through Terminal 2 should expect minor delays. To cope with the lack of concessions during construction, the terminal will feature temporary food stands, such as Pie Hole, Plane Box Grab & Go and I Love LA, which are open. More are expected to open in the near future.

At this stage of renovation, Westfield has been very vague regarding completion dates with the only definitive answer being 2015. Regardless, Terminal 2 will once again become a world-class terminal and one that millions of passengers will appreciate. For more Information on the redesign of Terminal 2 at LAX, click here.

Related Stories

Qantas Set to Open New First Class Lounge at LAX

Los Angeles International Opens New International Terminal; Centerpiece of Turnaround

LAX Opens Its New Front Door To The World: The New Tom Bradley International Terminal


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JetBlue Gives Sneak Peek of New International Terminal Extension at JFK

By Benét J. Wilson / Published November 6th, 2014

JetBlue Terminal Extension. Photo courtesy of jetBlue

JetBlue Terminal Extension. Photo courtesy of jetBlue

JetBlue today opened Terminal 5i, the international arrivals hall extension at JFK Airport, two years after construction began. The new facility now has an in-house Federal Inspection Services (FIS) unit, which means the carrier’s international passengers no longer have to clear U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in Terminal 4.

The first arrivals in the new terminal will land on Wednesday from Santiago and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, said Jeff Goodell, JetBlue’s vice president, government and airports. “The opening of T5i further solidifies JetBlue’s commitment to JFK Airport,” he said. “T5 is an example of an airport terminal that was designed with the customer in mind.”

Upper Concourse of JetBlue's T5i.

Upper Concourse of JetBlue’s T5i.

T5i has six international arrivals gates – three new and three converted from Terminal 5, along with an International Arrivals Hall with full FIS for arriving customers. With 29 total gates, T5 still feels navigable, with the maximum distance to any gate from the Transportation Security Administration checkpoint is approximately five minutes.

The sterile corridor at T5i.

The sterile corridor at T5i.

The new terminal extension will be able to handle up to 1,400 customers an hour. Passengers have access to 40 automated passport control machines and 10 Global Entry kiosks, all designed to expedite travelers through Customs quickly and efficiently.

Goodell noted that at a recent event on the revitalization of JFK and LaGuardia airports, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called T5 a prime example of what airport terminals should look like.  He added that Vice President Joe Biden, also at the event, called T5 “breathtaking.”

The walkway to the Arrivals Hall. Photo by Benet J. Wilson

The walkway to the Arrivals Hall. Photo by Benet J. Wilson

One-third of JetBlue’s flying is now international, said Goodell. “We have 39 daily arrivals from Latin America and the Caribbean,” he said.

JetBlue President Robin Hayes said the best part the carrier’s new gates was looking at the potential for growth. “I hope we eventually have double-aisled planes, and these gates can handle it,” he said. “I never thought we’d be in an 800 million square-foot facility. The reality still hasn’t set in yet.”

JetBlue won’t stop here, said Hayes. “In the spring, we will unveil new features, including an outdoor park for customers and a dog walk,” he said. “If our customers love dogs, we love them too. We also want to teach the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects to kids, and our new children’s play area will focus on those areas.”

Terminal 5 already has great food choices, but more are coming, said Hayes. “T5I will have the first airport outpost of late-night wine bar Bar Veloce and the store NY Minute, which features products made in the state,” he said,

CFO Mark Powers told that JetBlue has up to $900 million worth of aircraft coming into the fleet in the next few years, mostly Airbus A321s.

“We have two Mint A321s coming in 2015 and another two in 2016,” said Hayes. “In 2017, we start taking the A321neo with Pratt & Whitney engines, which have better fuel efficiency.”

Because JFK is slot constrained, JetBlue’s growth will come from up gauging, said Hayes. “We’ll see routes up gauged from Embraer 190s to A320s, and A320s up to A321s,” he said. “We have 29 gates here, which is enough to handle 200 flights a day. We’re flying 150 a day now.”

Ten years from now, Hayes wants to see its Fort Lauderdale focus city handling 100 international and domestic flights. “We just filed with the Department of Transportation to serve Mexico City,” he said. “We’ll have more gates in Boston, and more flights at Washington National.” JetBlue wants to build an FIS at its Long Beach, California, focus city so it can handle international flying too, he added.


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Cathay Pacific Unveils New Branding

By Benét J. Wilson / Published November 6th, 2014


All images courtesy of Cathay Pacific

Cathay Pacific is making the first changes to its iconic logo in more than 20 years, saying now was time to update it. While the Hong Kong-based carrier will keep the outlines of the logo, it says it wants to simplify, clarify and beautify it by creating a more contemporary look.

“As a refined evolution of our identity, the refreshed brushwing logo that will help us to deliver a better, cleaner and more consistent customer experience through our design, our people, our service and our products,” said spokeswoman Elsa Leung. “The whole premise behind our work on this refresh of our brand, representing a new chapter for Cathay Pacific, is about making the customer experience more enjoyable, simpler and more relevant to what passengers aspire to today.”



As the airline embraces a more design-led philosophy and along with the refreshed brushwing logo, customers will also see a greater focus and attention to design in all the signature elements that are unique to the Cathay Pacific experience, including greater consistency and better products and services, said Leung.


Over the next 18 months, Cathay Pacific passengers will start to see, feel and experience positive change across many of its key touchpoints, products and services, said Leung. These include a new and easier-to-use website, which will be launched soon and will continue to be enhanced throughout 2015; new lounges embracing the new design concept; and new company-wide signage that will appear from the second half of 2015.


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Spirit Airlines Feeds the Hate with New Campaign

By Benét J. Wilson / Published November 5th, 2014

Spirit Airlines asked travelers to weigh in on its “State of the Hate” report and the number one complaint was airline seats, followed by lost bags, and a tie between delays and service.  Nearly 30,000 customers took the Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based ultra low-cost carrier up on its offer of 8,000 frequent flyer miles in exchange for expressing their opinions on what they hate most about flying.

All infographics courtesy of Spirit Airlines

All infographics courtesy of Spirit Airlines

While 40 percent of those who participated in the airline’s poll aimed their vitriol at Spirit, other carriers did not miss out on the hate.  Delta led the hate parade, at 12 percent, followed by United Airlines at 10 percent, American Airlines at 8 percent, Southwest Airlines at 7 percent and US Airways at 5 percent.

Hate Spirit jpg

The airline offered what it called a PG version of the words most used to describe the hated airlines: suck was the runaway winner, followed by arse, crap and the S word. And of all the words used to describe airlines, United was at the top of the list as the “vulgarist” airline, with Delta in second place and Allegiant in third.

Vulgarity jpg

Spirit then used the results of its report to encourage customers to look at its fees and low fares in a more positive light, through its Spirit 101 web page, a guide on how to fly on the carrier. Tips included: an explanation of “bare fares;” frill control; new aircraft; and cozy seats. It also encourages customers to check bags early to save money, pay extra for a Big Front Seat for more space and extra leg room, print boarding passes at home and prepare to pay for drinks and snacks onboard flights.


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December 2014 Airways: LAN Airlines, Heathrow Airport, the De Havilland 84 and Delta BusinessElite

Available for sale worldwide through our online store and selected newsstands is the December issue of Airways Magazine.



This month, a whole new set of features cover the latest in the commercial aviation industry, tackling historic airlines such as Transocean, and reviewing current operations such as LAN Airlines and Philippine Airlines.

Get yours today via our online store. Don’t risk missing a single issue of Airways!


In every issue

Airways Photo News • Departing Shot • Mailbag • Cover Wars

Left-Seat Chronicles • Airways Literature • Arriving Shot

Airways Feature

Cover 2 ​LAN Airlines – America’s Rising Star

JEFF KRIENDLER reviews South America’s biggest carrier since its inception. The LATAM Group is on the rise after the merger between LAN and Brazil’s TAM was announced in 2012.

“From its modest roots in 1929, the Linea Aerea Nacional (LAN) de Chile has pieced together a powerful mosaic across the South American continent through national investments in a handful of strategically-positioned airlines, instilling in each a common philosophy of service excellence and financial discipline.”

Airport Review

Heathrow, the new Terminal 2A, airside departure lounge, November 2013.

Heathrow Reinvented

London-Heathrow unveils its refurbished Terminal 2. ANDREAS SPAETH visits the stunning “Queen’s Terminal” and reports on its modernistic and efficient infrastructure.

​”THE OPENING OF THE ULTRA-MODERN Terminal 2 ushers in a new era at London’s main airport, but the issues presented by the lack of a third runway remain.”

Airline Review

PIX 18 B777-38N

Philippines Airlines

Asia’s oldest airline, Philippine Airlines, commemorated its 73rd anniversary this year after a very difficult past. Join MURRAY KIRKUS on a comprehensive Airline Review.

IN MARCH THIS YEAR, Asia’s oldest airline, Philippine Airlines (PAL) commemorated its 73rd anniversary at a time during which the carrier appears to be on a path toward re-establishing itself after having been considered by any within the industry to be on the brink of extinction. Re-energized with a new equity partner––the San Miguel Corporation, one of the country’s largest and richest conglomerates––PAL seems to be making a comeback, positioning itself to challenge the numerous domestic Low Cost Carriers that have emerged since deregulation. At the same time, the airline looks again to compete significantly on long-haul international routes.

Airways Special


Aer Lingus DHC84

Hop on board a flying relic in Germany. ANDREAS ROHDE reports this unique experience as he flew a 1934 De Havilland 84, owned by the Aer Lingus Charitable Foundation.

​”Over the small, grass Tannheim airfield in southern Germany, at precisely the appointed time, the silhouette of a vintage, twin-engine biplane appeared. As the aircraft turned into a northerly downwind, the sun reflected against the silver fuselage before the aircraft revealed its identity. It was the de Havilland DH 84 Dragon EI-ABI, operated by the Aer Lingus Charitable Foundation, proudly bearing the name Iolar, after the first aircraft to fly for the iconic Irish airline.”


The Airchive

Taloa L1049 N1880 (Authors Collection - origin unknown)


MAURICE WICKSTEAD reviews America’s quintessential post-war charter airline, Transocean Air Lines, as our monthly Airchive story.

“OVER A TIME SPAN of less than two decades Transocean developed into perhaps the quintessential example of a US post-war charter, or “irregular” airline. Against the odds, it accomplished much in a relatively short time period, not least in helping to establish airlines for a number of emerging nations after WWII. That it was able to do so was largely due to an energetic and imaginative United Air Lines (UAL) captain, Orvis Marcus Nelson, who together with a small group of fellow wartime transport pilots, had established the airline in 1946.”

Airways Traveler


Delta’s Worldiner: Atlanta – London-Heathrow.

Premium traveler report on board Delta’s flagship, the Boeing 777-200LR. ENRIQUE PERRELLA travels to London-Heathrow in BusinessElite and reports his excellent experience.

“Flying from the United States’ East Coast to the capital city of the United Kingdom has become a subject of pride among American and British legacy carriers, with over 67 daily flights offered from Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Detroit, Miami, New York, Newark, Philadelphia, Washington and Raleigh-Durham.”

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