Category Archives: Airline Passenger Experience

On-Board Cathay Pacific’s 50th 777-300ER Delivery Flight

By Ramsey Qubein / Photos by Author / Published May 19, 2015IMG_2932

Cathay Pacific Airways took delivery of its 50th 777-300ER last month, and the new aircraft keeps a sharp focus on customer experience initiatives. In strong testament to the Boeing 777 program, Cathay Pacific Airways took delivery of its 50th 777-300ER on April 30. The milestone is important for both Boeing and Cathay Pacific: Cathay is the second largest operator of the type, after Emirates. Overall, the airline operates 67 of the twin-engine widebody aircraft.

The Significance of the 777 in Cathay’s Fleet

Cathay will also be one of the first airlines to take delivery of the new 777X aircraft when it receives its 777-9X planes in 2021.

During a delivery ceremony with Boeing at Paine Field, Cathay executives noted the strong partnership between the two companies and the long history shared.

Cathay Pacific was the first airline to launch the Polar route flying its Boeing aircraft to New York from Hong Kong. It was also the first airline to launch ultra-long haul flying using its Boeing aircraft.

“We are honored that the 777-300ER continues to play a prominent role in the success of Cathay Pacific’s business expansion and we look forward to expanding our partnership with the new 777X in the years to come,” says Ihssane Mounir, Boeing’s senior vice president of sales for Northeast Asia. Daily, Cathay flies 37,000 seats between North America and Hong Kong.IMG_2938

The airline notes that Toronto and New York are two of its most profitable North American routes, and the 777 plays a strong role in sustaining the carrier’s network allowing it to boost frequency and capacity on its most important routes. When it comes to number of North American customers paying the premium for first class, JFK and LAX take the top two spots with San Francisco being the third highest in demand.

The latest 777-300ER to be delivered does not have a first class cabin, but highlights the growing number of passengers booking into the airline’s premium economy class. Executives say that North American routes see a 60 to 70 percent load factor in the cabin. There is also a notable difference between the east and west coasts of North America with more premium cabin traffic originating from California and a stronger demand for the premium economy product from the east coast.

Just two days after the airline took delivery of its 50th 777-300ER, it started new service from Hong Kong to Boston with the type.

As the airline phases out its 747 fleet in its effort to boost unit passenger revenues, the 777 will grow to play an even more important role in balancing frequency and capacity across the network. Its ability to carry a significant amount of cargo makes it especially popular with airlines, and since 24 percent of Cathay’s business is tied to cargo, this will help to keep that component strong.

On-Board the Delivery Flight

All airlines handle their delivery flights differently, and Boeing hosts delivery flight handoffs to airlines almost on a daily basis which is why Boeing built a special Boeing Delivery Center building that boasts two jet bridges, numerous meeting and banquet spaces, and a Boeing collectibles shop. IMG_2933

Before boarding, Boeing’s Senior Vice President of Sales for Northeast Asia, Ihssane Mounir, thanked Cathay Pacific for a strong partnership over the years and spoke briefly to the gathered crowd of travel agents, media, and invited Cathay Pacific customers. With the giant Boeing 777-300ER in the background, Boeing passed over the ceremonial key to Cathay executives, and it was almost time to go.

Once on the tarmac,there was a ribbon cutting ceremony, and those on the flight were given boarding passes with the city name Boeing Paine Field to Hong Kong.

With only about 50 passengers on board a plane designed for 330 people, the delivery flight was like having your own personal plane. Following a tarmac tour of the plane and plenty of photo opportunities, passengers went through a security check, and we were ready to start our journey to Hong Kong.

Everyone was seated in the herringbone-style business class cabin, which features enormous entertainment screens and flat-bed seating. The economy class cabin was empty, but everyone was allowed free access to wander the aircraft at any time.IMG_2949

The cabin crew, specially selected to work this important flight, were as gracious and hospitable as can be. And that is not easy on a flight like this one where passengers spend hours wandering up and down the aisles, enjoying cocktails and wine while chatting with other passengers, and poking and prodding all parts of the plane in exploration.

Many passengers donned the first class pajamas distributed prior to take off, which was a special treat since they are typically reserved only for first class passengers.

Cathay begins the first meal service with cocktails delivered from a two-tier cart and warm cashews. This is followed with an appetizer and salad tray. The main course is served on the same two-tier cart with all of the options on display which is a really nice way to allow passengers to choose their meal since they can see what everything looks like before ordering. A cheese and fruit course follows with cordials and chocolates.

Throughout the flight, snacks were available from the menu, and two hours before landing another hot meal was served. Many passengers enjoyed the flight so much that the 13-hour flight passed too quickly.

Product Investments Continue

Following the ceremony and a delivery flight, the airline shared details on numerous other product investments on the horizon.

When the airline takes delivery of its new Airbus A350 aircraft in 2016, the 12 planes scheduled for next year will come equipped with inflight wifi capability. Details of the cost to passengers have not been finalized, but it is expected that premium cabin customers may have a free trial period to use it inflight.

Studies are in place to roll out inflight wifi across the rest of the fleet, but the airline confirms that there will be no inflight telephone capability permitted. The cost affixed to the wifi is an important consideration. When there is a charge, only eight percent of passengers on average use the service, but when it is free the usage rises to as much as 20 percent, according to the airline’s research.

The A350 will allow Cathay to open up long, thin routes to destinations like Madrid and Dusseldorf (the latter, which launches this year, will transition to the Airbus next year).

On the lounge front, Cathay has invested heavily in new lounges in Manila and Tokyo Haneda. When deciding where to open a new lounge, the airport development team takes into account the number of loyalty program members in a given destination in addition to the amount of premium traffic that uses the airport.

Beginning in March, Cathay partnered with illy brand coffee to upgrade the offering on board for first and business class passengers. It includes cappuccino, espresso, and café latte prepared fresh to order. The airline’s catering team collaborated with illy to develop unique coffee filter “pillows” specifically for inflight use. The size and material of the filter bags insures they work well with onboard coffee machines and allow for optimal water penetration during the brewing process.

Also being studied is the option for premium cabin customers to be able to pre-order their desired inflight meal. Like other airlines, the logistics need to be ironed out, but passengers appreciate having the advance flexibility to guarantee their preferred choice.

The airline is no stranger to charitable causes either with a current effort to raise money from passengers for victims of the Nepal earthquake. During a visit to Cathay City–the airline’s regional headquarters located by the airport–details were also shared about how cleaners remove partially used amenity kits and first class pajamas for further cleaning. These are then donated to local homeless shelters rather than being discarded.

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United To Upgrade Los Angeles LAX Customer Experience

By Jack Harty / Published May 13, 2015 / Photos Courtesy of United

United Airlines offered a sneak preview on how it will bring its customers traveling through Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) convenience, comfort, and class.LAX+ticketing

The airline held a small event at LAX on Wednesday with employees from each of the airline’s work groups, United executives, Eric Garcetti the mayor of Los Angeles, Tom LaBonge a Los Angeles city councilmember, Sean Burton the president of the Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) Board of Commissioners, and Gina Marie Lindsey the executive director of LAWA.

LAX+securityUnited executives outline the current plan to upgrade the passenger experience in which the airline will spend more than half a billion dollars to refresh almost every inch of its LAX facilities. Some of the upgrades include an updated ticket lobby with self-tagging machines and more kiosks; plus, there will be updates to the security screening technology to help expedite the curb to gate time, and there will be renovations to the gate area.

As far as the United Club is concerned, it will be renovated, and there will be an outdoor terrace quite similar to Delta’s Sky Decks at select SkyClub locations.LAX+United+Club+terrace

“From a state-of-the-art ticketing lobby to a sleek and spacious United Club lounge, we are enhancing the airport experience at LAX and giving our customers more of what they want when traveling – greater choice and control, consistency and comfort,” said Sandra Pineau-Boddison, senior vice president for Customers at United. “We are grateful to the City of Los Angeles for its partnership on this project, which helps ensure this key United hub remains one of the country’s premier global gateways.”

“Today’s investment by United is the latest in our more than $7 billion overhaul of LAX,” said Garcetti. “Whether by upgrading nearly every terminal or bringing in ridesharing services to pick you up, we’re making LAX a world-class airport befitting of our global city.”LAX+baggage+claim

“The partnership we have with United will create the world-class experience we want for all LAX passengers,” said Burton. “As our passenger base continues to grow, we are working hard to improve the guest experience, making their journey through LAX more efficient and comfortable today and in the future.”

LAX+baggage+claimThe airline has been investing quite a bit in its hubs lately. On Monday, the airline held a ground breaking ceremony in Houston for its new Terminal C North Concourse that will open in early 2017. Plus, executives explained at the Phoenix Aviation Symposium last week that the airline is testing some new concepts to upgrade its gate areas at a handful of gates at Chicago O’Hare.

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Contact the author at jack.harty@airwaysnews.com.

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New Gatwick Airport Program Ties Data to Rewards

By Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Published May 8, 2015

SCOTTSDALE, AZ: Data collection is hardly a new thing in the aviation industry. Every time a passenger flies, the airline collect reams of information ranging from gender to birth dates, place of residence to phone numbers and even relatives. Much of that data, particularly for those in frequent flier programs, is leveraged to offer a more customized experience on the ground and especially in the air.

But what if airports started to do the same thing?

Enter MyGatwick, a recently rolled out program at London’s Gatwick airport that provides passengers with small rewards in exchange for providing personal data.

Passengers must sign up for the program online (try it out for yourself here), and provide answers to a handful of questions including “what is your destination?’” and “why are you traveling?” among others. Once completed, passengers can choose between a handful of rewards, ranging from discounts on parking to a free cup of joe or free double WiFi to a discount on a local hotel.

The intent is, much like with an airline, to build data on the individual and collective level, allowing the airport to track behaviors and travel patterns.

But Gatwick Chief Commercial Officer Guy Stephenson says it is about much more. “This is about engaging with more people than we ever have before on a personal level,” he said Thursday at the 24th annual Phoenix International Aviation Symposium.

He envisions expanding the service down the line to be able to custom tailor packages to individuals, exposing different types of flyers to different types of services. Fly regularly for business? Stephenson says that parting with a little more data could earn you an “individualized bundle” of say, close-in parking and fast pass security access.

What exactly a ‘little more data’ entails wasn’t clear, and Stephenson didn’t volunteer much beyond “it won’t be intrusive.” But whatever it is, he remained confident that the cheese would attract the mice: “The value transfer is you tell us about you and we’ll give you something right away. Passengers will be willing to impart more about themselves the more they get stuff from us,” he said.

At least so far, that appears to be the case: over 115,000 people signed up in the first month.

Stephenson is quick to clarify that this is not a ground-based equivalent of an airline loyalty program. “[This has] nothing to do with redemption for loyalty,” he said. “This is all about instant gratification.”

Yet at the same time, the program is being rolled out as Gatwick works to build and keep market share in one of the world’s most competitive air markets: Greater London. While the airport handles a respectable 20 million travelers per year, it fights for Londoners and beyond against five major regional airports – including the biggest player of them all, London Heathrow.

The challenge, says Stephenson, is learning how to create preference. He argued that a three-fold approach–the physical journey, emotional journey, and the digital experience–can combine to make a memorable experience that turns customers into advocates for the airport.

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American’s 787 Dream Takes Flight With Passengers

By Chris Sloan with Jack Harty / Photos by author unless otherwise stated  / Published May 7, 2015IMG_1996

CHICAGO, IL - At 9:23 AM local, American’s inaugural Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner flight, AA 2320 operated by the second of five 787s delivered so far to AA, gracefully touched down at Chicago O’Hare to a large round of applause. Although short, the 1 hour and 52 minute  flight aboard N801AN was filled with lots of fun with many enthusiasts and frequent American Airlines fliers on-board. With that, American became the sixth carrier in the Americas to operate the 787. To say the absolute least, AA2320 was nowhere near a normal flight, but who would expect a normal flight with so many enthusiasts on-board American’s newest family member?

The Order and First Delivery

American Airlines placed an order for 42 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners and options for 58 in October 2008. At the time, it became the second U.S. airline to place an order for the Dreamliner, following Continental (now United). The first airplane was expected to join the fleet in about four years, but unfortunately, the delivery would be pushed back several years as the Dreamliner suffered major design and production delays.

After American placed its order, Boeing made some changes; the airline originally only ordered the 787-9 variant, but for unknown reasons, Boeing opted to make some of American’s initial deliveries be the 787-8 Dreamliner which is the smallest 787 variant. Once this was firmed up, American would have 21 787-8s and 21 787-9s on order, but the All Things 787 Blog reports that American has 16 787-8s and 26 787-9s on order. AA is not replacing the 767 with the 787s on a 1:1 basis, but will retire thirteen 767s this year.

Photo by JDL Multimedia

Photo by JDL Multimedia

American’s first Boeing 787 made its first appearance when it rolled out of the paint shop in late October, and it was supposed to be delivered in mid to late November. However, the delivery date would be pushed back again and again until the first quarter of 2015. The delivery delays were due to a delay with delivery of the airline’s all-new business class seats designed by Zodiac Aerospace.

EXTRA: American’s 787 Makes First Appearance

EXTRA: Boeing, Airbus Show the Whip to Laggardly Seatmaker Zodiac

The first American 787 took to the skies on January 6, 2015, and it conducted several flight tests, before being delivered to American.

Photo by Brandon Farris

Photo by Brandon Farris

EXTRA: American’s First 787 Takes Flght

On January 23, 2015, Boeing handed over the keys to American’s first 787, and it was flown down to its main maintenance base and hub, Dallas/Ft. Worth. Once it arrived, American quickly began work on getting the aircraft ready for its first flight which would occur in May. Since the Dreamliner was a brand new aircraft to the fleet, the airline wanted to ensure that it could catch any issues and familiarize many employees with the new type to hopefully prevent any issues once it enters into service.

So far, American has taken delivery of five 787s with a total of 13 planned for this year, and it plans for eight to be delivered in 2016. Five were deferred to 2017-18 as American seeks to control capacity in international long-haul markets due to macro-economic conditions. 

Proving Flights

An American Airlines rests on the Boeing ramp at its Everett, WA factory. Photo Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Special to Airways News

An American Airlines rests on the Boeing ramp at its Everett, WA factory. Photo Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Special to Airways News

Since taking delivery of its first Dreamliner on January 23, 2015, American has been flying its new Dreamliners on proving and training flights to help familiarize flight crews and airport ground staff with the new type before entering into revenue service.

The proving and training activities have occurred as close as Dallas/Ft. Worth and Waco, Texas to as far as London Heathrow and Tokyo Narita. Whenever an airline introduces a brand new aircraft, there is always a lot of work to be done, and American wanted to ensure that it did a thorough job, especially when other airlines such as United had issues when it started flying their brand new 787s.

Photo courtesy of American Airlines

Photo courtesy of American Airlines

About the time that tickets for the first 787 flights went on sale, American started flying the Dreamliner around south and west Texas for a few weeks. Many local media outlets in Texas reported on the training flights as large aircraft are usually a rare sight in these parts of Texas. Although these training flights were primarily for pilot training, American flew its 787 to other cities around Texas such as Houston to help prepare staff incase the aircraft ever needs to divert. Case in point, Waco received nearly 50 touch and go’s in one single morning.

Later on into the proving program, American deployed its 787s to Chicago and London to simulate real flights to help both the flight crews and airport ground staff. The airline also completed a proving run to Narita for polar validation. The fleet also completed 50 hours of validation flights for the FAA proving compliant operation to the FAA such as ETOPS.IMG_1993

Since January 23, American pilots have flown over 2,000 hours of training flights and completed over 1,000 landings. Now, the pilots do not just jump into the cockpit; a typical 777 pilot went through 15 hours of distance training, four days of ground school, six days of sim time, and 15-25 hours in the airplane. Many of the 200 qualified 787 pilots have had the added benefit of flying the training flights with real metal but no passengers before the type entered service. Once AA pilots transfer their type ratings over to the 787, they only fly on that particular type.

The First Flights

An American 787-8 rests on the Boeing ramp at its Everett, WA factory. Photo Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Special to Airways News

An American 787-8 rests on the Boeing ramp at its Everett, WA factory. Photo Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Special to Airways News

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, American announced that it would fly its 787s out of its Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport hub to Chicago O’Hare, along with Beijing and Buenos Aires. American would only fly domestic flights from May 7, until it started flying the aircraft to Beijing on June 2, which launched the same day of the 787 using a 777-200, and Buenos Aires on June 4.

At the time of the route announcements, American revealed what the 787 cabin would look like, but it only released a handful of images and kept the doors to its 787s shut tight.

In late-April, American announced that it would also fly the 787 internationally out of Chicago to Tokyo Narita beginning in August, setting the stage for a possible 787 crew base at ORD.

Official Unveiling and The Interior

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Photo by Mike Slattery

About a week before the inaugural flight, American held a small launch event where it invited a handful of people from the media and its employees out to one of its hangars at Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport to officially unveiled its brand new aircraft.

At the launch event, American explained that its 787 will bring customers a “state-of-the-art international travel” experience in both Business Class and the Main Cabin. From international Wi-Fi to American’s signature Business Suites, there is definitely something that will impress everyone who boards the newest addition to the fleet. Unlike many carriers, American chose to do something special in introducing a new Business cabin product to their 787 which differs somewhat from that on the 777-300s and newly configured 777-200s and 767-300s.

American’s 787s have 28 Zodiac manufactured seats in 2 business class cabins; the seats are in a 1-2-1 seat configuration to allow every seat to have aisle access. Each of the 28 seats transform into a fully lie-flat 77-inch bed that provides customers with infinite adjustability, and the seat also offers what American says is “a unique ‘z-shaped’ lounge position for increased comfort.”  The J cabin seats are arranged in a front and rear facing configuration, not unlike British Airways Club World cabin. Every seat boasts a 16-inch touchscreen monitor with up to 250 movies, more than 180 TV programs, and more than 350 audio selections. The IFE is the Panasonic eX2 platform while connectivity is powered by the Panasonic eX2 Connect Ku-band system. Plus, every seat will have dual universal power outlets and USB ports. Customers will be able to enjoy the entertainment with Bose noise canceling headsets. If passengers get hungry during the flight, there is a walk-up bar that will be stocked with a selection of snacks and non-alcoholic beverages. American introduced a walk-up bar originally when it took delivery of the American 777-300ER in January 2013.

The 787 boasts 198 seats in the Main Cabin in a very tight 3-3-3 configuration, as has become commonplace in the 787. 56 of the seats in the Main Cabin are Main Cabin Extra seats which offer up to five more inches of legroom when compared to the regular Main Cabin seats. Although, the economy seats are a bit tight as in nine abreast configured 787s; the standard seats have a seat pitch of approximately 31 inches, and all Main Cabin seats are approximately 17-18 inches in width. Main Cabin Extra adds another 4 inches of pitch. Each seat in the Main Cabin is equipped with a power outlet, USB port, and personal in-seat entertainment system which boasts up to 250 movies, more than 180 TV programs, and more than 350 audio selections.

EXTRA: Photos from American’s 787 Launch Event

On-Board the Inaugural Flight

Boarding started just before 7AM local, and it was a big congested as the gate area was filled with inaugural passengers and employees who came out to send off the 787 on its maiden passenger voyage. Fern Fernandez, EVP of AA’s worldwide marketing said “We are excited to be the first airline to bring the 787 to DFW….Later today we will launch the first route this aircraft is optimized for, DFW-Beijing.”IMG_1989

At 7:30 AM local, the Dreamliner lined up with runway 17 and began a whisper quiet, 40 second take off roll. However, the quietness was quickly broken up by cheers and applause as AA2320 soared into the sky. The flight took off with a weight of 356,000 pounds–46,000 pounds of those pounds was the fuel on-board, and we reached V1 at a quick 146 miles per hour.

The aircraft quickly climbed to 39,000 feet, and the pilots, Captain Charlie Savage (the Lead Air Check Airman with 150 type rates), Captain Bill Elder (the manager for American’s 787 Flight Training Program) had their work cut out for them as they had to deviate around quite a bit of weather.

However, the flight deck crew did an exceptional job keeping the ride smooth which allowed them to keep the seatbelt sign off for most of the flight so the passengers in the back were able to explore the aircraft. The crew were miraculously able to pull off a full service with the aisles in virtual party gridlock.

Captains Savage and Elder, greeting the assembled passengers, explained how ecstatic they were to be crew members to fly the inaugural flight, and throughout the flight. It was obvious that all of the flight crew members were excited to be part of the historic flight. In fact, the crew came together and pitched in to give every passenger a special commemorative coin.

Once we reached our cruising altitude, I started checking out my Business Class seat. I was in one of the forward facing seats which has a unique three point seat belt. The mini suite was nice and intimate with the seat being very firm. There is a visor that separated me from my seatmate, but it was locked into position.

The USB and power outlets are quite helpful and nice, and they are located right at shoulder level which is helpful as it does not require reaching around like on United’s 787 BusinessFirst seats.

The seat controls are on a small digital display which is conveniently located at eye level as well. An ergonomic feature of the seat controls is that you can adjust lighting and privacy indicators. The only obvious glitches in the flight were the connectivity and business class seats. The maddeningly slow T-Mobile KU satellite based system made modem dial up seem sprightly. The visors separating business class passengers were locked and able to retract. All in all, small minor issues on a very short flight designed precisely for working out the bugs.


IMG_1987The standup bar was not stocked on a short flight, but it will sure be a welcome when the airline puts the 787 on the DFW-Asia routes next month. The bar is not the showstopper that exists on AA’s 773 and reconfigured 772 fleets but is functional nevertheless.

All to quick, we began a quick descent into Chicago and gracefully touched down at 9:23 AM local to the mandatory applause.

After we landed, we did a quick victory lap around O’Hare so the media could take a few photos of the aircraft before we arrived into the gate.

Many employees greeted us when as we disembarked, and ground employees sprung into action to get the aircraft ready to head back to Dallas/Ft. Worth.

AA’s 787 launch was an upbeat experience that gives further credence to the carrier’s “NewAmerican” claim of service upgrades and fleet renewal. Beyond the obvious well known benefits of the 787, this inaugural flight stood out for the unbridled enthusiasm of the passengers and crew.

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American Airlines provided roundtrip accommodations on-board the inaugural 787 flight. However, our opinions remain our own.

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SkyWest Flies Final EMB-120 Flight

By Jack Harty / Published May 6, 2015

On Tuesday, SkyWest flew its final EMB-120 Brasilia revenue flight which was United/SkyWest 5165 from Santa Maria, California to Los Angeles; N567SW, which has flown the friendly skies since mid-1998, was the lucky aircraft to operate the final flight. A thread on Airliners.net reports that there was not much fanfare by SkyWest, but some of the flight crews recognized the final day of operations.

Photo courtesy of SkyWest

Photo courtesy of SkyWest

Embraer began development of the EMB-120 Araguaia in 1974 as the successor the the EMB-110; this aircraft became the first transport category airliner for the manufacturer, but the manufacturer changed the name to Brasilia and completed a full re-design before the official launch in 1979. The EMB-120 took to the skies for the first time in July 1983 with the first one being introduced into service two years later in October 1985.

Several EMB-120 variants were developed over the years to help carry cargo and fly farther and faster, but production ended in 2001. Although, Embraer has been known to build a few one-offs as several government militaries operate the EMB-120.

SkyWest—once the largest EMB-120 operator—announced its plan to retire by June 2015 them from the fleet last November; this would mean that it would eventually operate an all jet fleet. The reasons for the retirement are in response to increased costs and additional challenges with flight and duty rules implemented last year. SkyWest has been operating the EMB-120 since early 1987, and at one time, it had close to eight dozen in its fleet.

If you missed your chance to fly on an EMB-120, have no fear; Great Lakes still operates several.

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Contact the editor at jack.harty@airwaysnews.com

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Op-Ed: Is Delta’s Comfort + A Third Class?

By Jack Harty / Published May 6, 2015

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New Comfort + stitching

Delta Air Lines has been upgrading all of its on-board products over the last year. From Delta Studio to new seat covers to upgraded snack basket offerings in first, Delta has made many, many changes to differentiate the flying experience based on what fare the customer buys and where they sit.

In March, Delta officially re-branded its extra leg room seats, formally known as Economy Comfort, to Comfort +. The re-brand was not as simple as a name change and new seat cover put on the seat; it came with additional perks–besides extra legroom–for those who sit in the seat. However, some will argue that the perks are to help lessen the pain when higher Medallions are not getting upgraded as often as in the past as the airline wants to sell more seats up front than upgrade. 

Some of the perks that come with Comfort + include:

  • Customers can take advantage of Sky Priority Boarding instead of boarding in Zone 1
  • There is dedicated overhead bin space for Comfort + customers
  • Extra leg room
  • Free wine, spirits, and regional craft beers
  • Snacks on all flights with a premium snack basket being offered on flights over 900 miles
  • Complimentary access to everything on Delta Studio

For passengers seated in Comfort + on transcon flights between JFK and LAX or SFO, they get all of the perks above as well as:

  • Luvo sandwich wrap and frozen Greek yogurt bar
  • A complimentary pillow and blanket, and block out sights and sounds with an eye mask and earplugs

Diamond and Platinum Medallions can select these seats for free at the time of booking, but since the changes, Gold Medallions now have to wait until 72 hours out to select seats for free. Silver Medallions will continue to wait until the time of check-in to select these seats for free. For all others, it comes at a cost to sit here, unless you are lucky and have no seat assignment and there are no other seats available right before your flight is to depart.

These seats come at a price, and it varies from flight to flight; primarily, it based on flight time, distance, number of Comfort + seats, the market, and sometimes seat location (some seats have lots of space when compared to others). For example, the seats can be $39 between Atlanta and Daytona Beach, but on a longer flight and with the same equipment on a flight such as Atlanta to Houston, the seat can be yours for $25.

When compared to other extra leg room seats on other U.S. airlines, the amenities appear to be slightly better as other U.S. carriers don’t offer free alcoholic drinks in these extra leg room seats nor is there a special snack basket on long domestic flights. Plus, it is nice to be able to browse Delta Studio and not worry about having to pay a few dollars to watch that movie you have been hoping to catch.

Taking Comfort + For a Test Flight

IMG_6939

Old Economy Comfort seat covers

I had the opportunity to try the new product on a recent flight to Detroit on-board a 757-300 for $49 extra. Since only middle seats in regular economy seats were open, it was also a good excuse to get the seat to guarantee a window seat.

This aircraft still had seat covers that said Economy Comfort with the old seat covers, but Delta has been putting on the new seat covers on plenty of MD88 and MD90 aircraft; these seat covers are just like the new First Class ones, but they say Comfort +. 

It was nice to board with Sky Priority, since I didn’t have elite status at the time. Once on-board, I stowed my luggage in the overhead compartments. For the most part, there was space in the overhead bins so the flight attendants did not really have to police the overhead bins over the Comfort + seats. I did notice a sign in the overhead bin that said this space was reserved for passengers in Economy Comfort seats; some MD88 aircraft are starting to get the new signs.IMG_6915

So far, it was just like an ordinary flight.

Once in the air, the flight attendants came through the cabin and offered the usual beverages, and we were offered complimentary alcoholic beverages, although it was not mentioned in the post-departire flight announcement which seems to be a hit or a mess.

The flight attendants also offered all passengers the snack basket which had bananas, Biscoff cookies, peanuts, pretzels, Gold Fish, and a few other options. It was nice to have a few options, and we were able to pick a few snacks which was also a plus (no pun intended). I opted to go with the Biscoffs; what’s a Delta flight without them?!IMG_6916

All too soon, we landed in Detroit, and that was the end to my Comfort + experience. It was like any ordinary flight if a passenger was seated in Economy Comfort before the changes, minus the complimentary alcoholic beverages and snack basket. Honestly the only minus was that the flight attendants did not come through with the snack basket again during the flight, but I do not think they are required to.

There are definitely some perks to seating in Comfort +, but it felt just like any other Delta economy experience which is hard to say that it is its own class.

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Contact the editor at jack.harty@airwaysnews.com.

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Boeing’s Craver Offers a Peek Into Cabin Passenger Experience

By Benét J. Wilson / Published May 1, 2015

Boeing's Kent Craver. Image: Courtesy of Boeing

Boeing’s Kent Craver. Image: Courtesy of Boeing

As airlines work harder to balance a good passenger experience with meeting the bottom line, their aircraft manufacturing partners are working harder to help their customers achieve this goal.  For Boeing, that duty falls to Kent Craver, the manufacturer’s regional director of cabin experience and revenue analysis.

Craver is charged with identifying and understanding passenger preferences and airline requirements and using that to guide product development activities and help airlines configure aircraft to maximize their profitability. He’s an ideal candidate for the job, coming to Boeing after 18 years working for the airlines. He came to Boeing in 2007 from  Continental Airlines, where he was the manager of onboard product marketing and research.

In that role, Craver was responsible for developing and maintaining the branding and customer experience aspects of the Continental’s onboard products, including aircraft configurations, interior and exterior identity/branding, inflight entertainment system strategy and definition, seating products and food and beverage service.

When it comes to understanding what airlines and their passengers want, Boeing has a dialogue with all its customers, said Craver. “But we also do our own research with passengers on cabin interiors,” he said.

PHOTO GALLERY: Boeing Customer Experience Center

Premium business class in a LAN Boeing 787-9. Image: Courtesy of LATAM

Premium business class in a LAN Boeing 787-9. Image: Courtesy of LATAM

With the 787 Dreamliner, Boeing had a significant change in its interior design policy that has been extremely well received, said Craver. “And after all that research, that same philosophy was applied to the 737 and 747-8 too, and we’ve also gotten great feedback.”

What happened with the 787’s development goes back to the Sonic Cruiser, said Craver. “We wanted to understand the passenger, along with the human experience, answering the question ‘what do we need as humans in the process of travel,’” he said. “We brought in a psychologist and a cultural anthropologist and did focus groups.”

The first goal was to create a welcoming environment using the aircraft’s interior architecture, said Craver. “When traveling, some of the worst things happen on the ground,” he said. “You’re in line to get a ticket, check bags and go through security, so by the time you get on our aircraft, you’re already in the middle of a bad day.”

“We can’t control the ground experience, but if we can have a way for people to put their ground experience behind them, we can open people up to a new and better experience once they get on the plane,” said Craver.

The second key goal is to use aircraft to reconnect people to the magic of flight, said Craver. “In our research, every single person we surveyed dreamt of flying just with their bodies. The also talked about their first flight, using words like magical, miracle, wonderful and awesome, across all cultures,” he said. “Ultimately, flying is still an exciting and magical thing, and we work to deliver that experience.  We as travelers have become desensitized, so we want to reconnect them to the flying experience.”

Jennifer Knutson of Seattle experiments with the Dreamliners unique windows at the ZA003 induction ceremony at the Museum of Flight. Image: Courtesy of AirwaysNews

Jennifer Knutson of Seattle experiments with the Dreamliners unique windows at the ZA003 induction ceremony at the Museum of Flight. Image: Courtesy of AirwaysNews

Boeing consulted with architects and designers when working on the Dreamliner, said Craver. “The ceiling in a plane is eight to 10 feet tall, but when people board via jetway, that is a small space, and we want to separate the inside from the out,” he said. “We lowered the ceiling entryway, then drew people into a larger space, compression and release. You see a similar concept in luxury hotels.”

With the 787, the jetway was compressed and then passengers come into a high open colorful archway, said Craver. “We’re using architecture and lighting in the aircraft to create a sense of great height,” he said. “The composite body allows for taller and larger windows, so no matter where you sit, you can always see a window and the horizon without having to bend over.”

Extra: Inside the Boeing Dreamliner Gallery & Configuration Studio

Another key design component is Boeing’s Sky Interior, said Craver. “We use a blue ceiling and white bins that are sky-like, with a feeling of clouds,” he said. “We’re creating a natural space to experience flight by using lighting and architecture to create the natural place of sky and clouds when flying.”

Boeing wanted to bring the same feeling to the 737, said Craver. “The 737 is a great, reliable and efficient aircraft and we’ve produced a lot of them. We knew we could use the philosophy of the Sky Interior to improve the passenger experience, but we had constraints,” he said. “We can’t do anything to change the structure or the weight of the aircraft, or slow down the production rate.”

The Boeing 737 Sky Interior. Image: AirwaysNews

The Boeing 737 Sky Interior. Image: AirwaysNews

That handcuffed the design team and gave them a lofty goal. said Craver. “We didn’t use the actual 787 interior, but used it as a guide for the 737 with the Sky Interior.  We couldn’t move or make the windows bigger on the 737 because it adds weight and requires major structural changes,” he said. “So our team redesigned the sidewall by changing the shape of the window oval to give an impression that we made it larger than it actually was.”

There was no change on the structure of the window, said Craver. “But it feels like the window is larger. This was a significant challenge because the 737 is smaller than the 787, so we couldn’t make the entryway larger,” he said. “But we can add lighting and use the length of the fuselage to make the ceiling feel larger. We handcuffed our team by giving them a lofty goal and they did a fantastic job.”

EXTRA: Exploring Boeing’s Customer Experience Center

A big part of what Boeing does when designing aircraft is design them with lots of flexibility, said Craver. “We have customers with different needs, and my team does a lot of consultation with airlines to quantify  parts of the cabin so we can estimate their effects on revenue,” he said.  “We don’t want to replace the airline’s brand. We want to support it,” he said.  “Our goal is that when the airline’s brand promise is delivered, it’s based on knowledge and research that will ensure that it will always be better on the aircraft.”

A Boeing 787-9 at a paint hangar. Image: Courtesy of Boeing

A Boeing 787-9 at a paint hangar. Image: Courtesy of Boeing

Craver said he worked for the airlines for 15 years. “And for 10 of them, I was responsible for the passenger experience. I would not listen to an aircraft manufacturer on how to do my passenger experience,” he said. “So I’m reticent to do that to an airline customer. We give them all the information we have based on our passenger research and our understanding of human psychology. But ultimately it is the airline’s decision and we work with them to choose well and help them make their aircraft cabins as good as they can be.”

Cover Image: Courtesy of JDL Multimedia

Editor’s note: Our readers now have access to our weekly eNewsletter, which includes a recap of our top stories of the week, along with the subscriber-only exclusive Weekend Reads column and Photo of the Week from our extensive archives. The newsletter comes out every Saturday morning. Stay in the know; click here to subscribe today!

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PHOTOS: Inside American Airlines’ 787 Dreamliner

By Jack Harty and Photos by Mike Slattery / Published April 29, 2015

FT. WORTH, Texas - American Airlines opened up the doors to one of its brand new Boeing 787 Dreamliners to the public and its employees for the first time Wednesday morning at a special launch event which was held just a little over a week before the inaugural passenger flight. Up until the launch event, American has been mostly quiet about the 787 and only released a few teaser images of the interior.IMG_8205

Since taking delivery of its first Dreamliner on January 23, 2015, three other Dreamliners have joined the fleet, and over the last three months, American has been flying proving and training flights with them to help familiarize flight crews and airport ground staff with the new type before entering into revenue service.

Initially American was expecting the 787 to enter into service by the end of 2014, but delays with delivery of the airline’s all-new business class seats designed by Zodiac Aerospace pushed back the arrival to the Dallas based company to the first quarter of 2015.

EXTRA: Boeing, Airbus Show the Whip to Laggardly Seatmaker Zodiac

This testing period is crucial for the airline as it wants to ensure that it does not have any operational difficulties with the Dreamliner once it enters service.

Initial Flights

American’s 787 is set to make its maiden passenger voyage on May 7 between Dallas/Ft. Worth and Chicago O’Hare. American will take the new aircraft international on June 2 between Dallas/Fort Worth and Beijing and between Dallas/Fort Worth Buenos Aires on June 4. Ironically, American’s first 787 passenger flight happens to coincide with the one-year anniversary of American retiring the Boeing 767-200 from its fleet.IMG_0252

The 787 will bring customers a “state-of-the-art international travel” experience in both Business Class and the Main Cabin. From international Wi-Fi to American’s signature Business Suites, there is definitely something that will impress everyone who boards the newest addition to the fleet.

Business Class

American’s 787s have 28 seats in the business class cabin; the seats are in a 1-2-1 seat configuration to allow every seat to have aisle access. Each of the 28 seats transform into a fully lie-flat 77-inch bed that provides customers with infinite adjustability, and the seat also offers what American says is “a unique ‘z-shaped’ lounge position for increased comfort.”IMG_0258

Every seat has a 16-inch touchscreen monitor with up to 250 movies, more than 180 TV programs, and more than 350 audio selections. Plus, every seat will have dual universal Airchive power outlets and USB ports. Customers will be able to enjoy the entertainment with Bose noise canceling headsets.

If passengers get hungry during the flight, there is a walk-up bar that will be stocked with a selection of snacks and refreshments. American introduced a walk-up bar originally when it took delivery of the American 777-300ER in January 2013.

Main Cabin

The 787 will boast 198 seats in the Main Cabin in a 3-3-3 configuration. 

56 of the seats in the Main Cabin are Main Cabin Extra seats which offer up to five more inches of legroom when compared to the regular Main Cabin seats. Although, the economy seats are a bit tight at nine abreast; the standard seats have a seat pitch of approximately 31 inches, and all Main Cabin seats are approximately 17-18 inches in width. 

Each seat in the Main Cabin is equipped with a Airchive power outlet, USB port, and personal in-seat entertainment system which boasts up to 250 movies, more than 180 TV programs, and more than 350 audio selections.

Other Unique 787 Features

Regardless of what cabin you are seated in, there are many other features beyond the seat that will make traveling on American’s 787 a much different experience than one of its other aircraft. The 787 has a higher ceiling which helps the aircraft feel more spacious, electro chromatic dimmable windows that are one of the largest in the industry, larger and improved overhead bins, and an improved cabin air system to help passengers feel more comfortable.

EXTRA: The Eagle Rises Again: Onboard American Airlines Boeing 777-300ER Inaugural Flight

EXTRA: AirwaysNews High Flyer Interview: American Airlines CEO Doug Parker

EXTRA: American Airlines’ 2015 Fleet Plan

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Mike Slattery contributed to this story from American’s media event in Dallas/Ft. Worth, and Jack Harty contributed to this story from Houston.

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United to Introduce New International Economy Dining Options

By Roberto Leiro / Published April 20, 2015

United Airlines (UA) is introducing a revamped dining service for United Economy travelers on long-haul international flights, decision that complements the changes made by the airline in its meal options on flights in North America during this year.

From back to front: N784UA Boeing 777-222(ER), N127UA Boeing 747-422 in new United Livery, N171UA Boeing 747-422 N209UA and Boeing 777-222(ER) in new United livery. Image: Courtesy of Jun Seita/Flickr

From back to front: N784UA Boeing 777-222(ER), N127UA Boeing 747-422 in new United Livery, N171UA Boeing 747-422 N209UA and Boeing 777-222(ER) in new United livery. Image: Courtesy of Jun Seita/Flickr

The upgrades are set to be introduced as of June 1 on transatlantic flights, as well as on flights between the United States and Argentina, Brazil and Chile, and most of United Airlines’ transpacific services.

United Economy travelers will enjoy a three-course service, including new dishes devised by United Airlines’ team of chefs, plus a premium dessert. United will also offer at no charge beer and wine during the dining service. However, the airline will continue offering spirits for purchase, along with snacks through its Choice Menu Snack Shop. Furthermore, United will continue offering pre-arrival meals, with expanded options, depending on the market served.

“United is committed to improving every aspect of our customers’ experience on the ground, in the air and with every interaction,” said Sandra Pineau-Boddison, United’s senior vice president of customers. “The changes to come on June 1 will deliver an elevated onboard experience on many of our intercontinental flights and will offer travelers the high level of service they expect from a global airline.”

The harmonization of its in flight dining service seems to respond to a trend in the industry, in which airlines are seeking to enhance their customers’ travel experience, as well as to differentiate themselves from competitors. It’s been said that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, and airlines appear to have adopted the concept to make customers loyal to their brands.

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AIX2015: Boeing’s Bigger Bins Boost Passenger Bliss

By Seth Miller / Published April 16, 2015

With more and more passengers on every flight – load factors are up as is seating density – finding a place to store a carry on bag is more and more challenging. Add to that more bags being brought into the cabin by passengers looking to avoid fees and the fight for bin space is very real. Boeing’s new Space Bin solution aims to solve that problem on the narrow-body fleet, increasing storage space even from the newer SkyInterior option which new aircraft deliveries have adopted in great numbers. Airways News took a look inside the bins at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg this week to get the low down on the new offering.

 Space Bins in 737 Configuration Studio

Get 50% more bags on board with the Boeing Space Bins offering. That’s a lot of happy passengers. // Photo: Boeing

The bins hang about three inches lower than prior generations of Boeing overheads, a small distance which makes a big difference in ease of access and interior sizing. By increasing the vertical dimension that tiny amount Boeing grew the internal dimension sufficiently to allow for bags to be stored on the short edge rather than lying down, similar to the bins on Boeings 787 Dreamliner. The company projects a 50% increase in the number of bags which can be accommodated by this change, with a typical 60″ bin now holding 6 bags rather than 4. Conveniently that same 60″ of space is about the same as two rows of economy seating which means six passengers. The idea of having a bin directly over each passenger’s seat with space for a bag is one which should keep passengers happy; “my bin” now really will be such in most cases.

Brent Walton, one of the Boeing Engineers working on the Space Bins project, was quick to note that the increased space and weight capacity results in “[M]ore flexibility no matter what you bring on board” which is key for helping to keep passengers happy, or at least calming them a bit when faced with the stress of travel. And, while the official spec for bags in the space is the traditional 22x14x9 inches dimensions, Walton demonstrated that the Space Bin accommodates bags at 26x16x9.3 inches while still getting 6 in the space. The bins also carry a higher weight capacity rating than older versions on account of the increased capacity.

The Space Bins are already in the production pipeline, with installs starting on new Alaska Airlines deliveries in Q4 2015. Delta Air Lines will start to see new aircraft delivered with the bins shortly thereafter.

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AirwaysNews High Flyer Interview: Latam’s Pablo Chiozza

By Benét J. Wilson / Published April 16, 2015

Pablo Chiozza, Vice President USA, Canada & Caribbean for LATAM Airlines Group, photographed in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Photo by Kevin J. Miyazaki/Redux

Pablo Chiozza, Vice President USA, Canada & Caribbean for Latam Airlines Group, photographed in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Photo by Kevin J. Miyazaki/Redux

Pablo Chiozza is the senior vice president for the USA, Canada and the Caribbean for the Latam Airlines Group. He started his career at LAN Airlines Chile in November 2001, where he served as international sales director for regional markets covering Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Paraguay, Australia, New Zealand and French Polynesia. He has served the company in other positions including commercial director for LanArgentina and LanAirlines, along with sales director for LanEquador and Lan Airlines, USA. He spoke to AirwaysNews about progress of the two airlines’ integration, the carrier’s fleet and dominating in South America.

AirwaysNews: LATAM Airlines Group was created in June 2012. What drove the two companies to merge into one large company?

Pablo Chiozza: Both LAN Airlines and TAM Airlines have a strong history in the region and are dedicated to providing the best service and experience for their customers traveling to, from, and within South America. LAN has a robust South American network and TAM has strong connectivity throughout Brazil, so it was a natural fit for the two airlines to join forces. The merger served as part of the ongoing efforts to provide the best connectivity for customers, as well as a genuine South American experience.

A TAM Boeing 777. Image: Courtesy of LATAM Group

A TAM Boeing 777. Image: Courtesy of Latam Airlines Group

AW: LAN Airlines and TAM Airlines continue to fly under their own colors. How long do you think this arrangement will last?

PC: While LAN Airlines and TAM Airlines continue to fly under their own colors on the exterior, a uniform look is already transforming the interiors. In March 2014, LATAM Airlines Group unveiled the new unified design for their cabins on both LAN and TAM Airlines.

The new unified cabin design is one of the most tangible examples of standardization between the two airlines since the merger.  With a focus on a comfortable and welcoming experience, the design was inspired by South America’s colors and textures combining elegant natural tones that reflect the passionate culture and warmth of the region. The first aircraft to showcase the new unified cabin interiors is the recently delivered LAN Airlines Boeing 787-9, which will begin commercial flights in April 2015.

LATAM Airlines Group collaborated on this project with prestigious international design consulting firm Priestmangoode, known for its vast experience in the aviation, railway and hotel industries among others. With the new cabin design, LAN and TAM strengthen their global presence and their leadership in bringing the best of South America to the world.

Premium business class in a LAN Boeing 787-9. Image: Courtesy of LATAM

Premium business class in a LAN Boeing 787-9. Image: Courtesy of Latam Airlines Group

EXTRA: AirwaysNews High Flyer Interview: Luke Hawes of Priestmangoode

AW: One of the driving forces behind the merger was synergies that would be created. What are some of the more successful synergies that are working right now?

PC: During 2013, there were significant advances in areas of synergies, mainly in the international passenger area. We have established a fare combination between LAN and TAM, cross-selling between flights and codeshare agreements on several international routes, specifically the codeshare agreement between TAM and American Airlines, allowing the company to connect more cities in the United States to Brazil.

By December 2013, LATAM Airlines Group achieved synergies of over $300 million. Our cargo operation is on target to achieve expected synergies by delivering greater coverage. Domestic operations in Brazil have increased, thanks to the capacity of passenger aircraft on TAM routes, complemented with the dedicated cargo fleet.

It is anticipated that 60 percent of total projected synergies would result from new profits and the remaining 40 percent from cost savings. In reference to profits, one third would come from new opportunities to connect our network with the region’s main hubs using more efficient airplanes. We remain confident that the announced synergies of between $600 million and $700 million are achievable.

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

AW: LAN was attached to oneworld, while TAM was in the Star Alliance. Why did you choose to put the two carriers into oneworld?

PC: LAN Airlines joined oneworld in 2000 and TAM Airlines followed in March 2014, in order to bring all of the passenger airline affiliates of LATAM Airlines Group into the same global airline alliance. For LATAM Airlines Group, it represents a significant milestone, attracting more business travelers and tourists to South America.

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

AW: How much of a benefit has it been to have LAN and TAM in oneworld, and what are some of those benefits?

PC: For both LAN and TAM Airlines to join oneworld is not only a great benefit to our passengers, it is also a demonstration of the high standards that LATAM Airlines group has established since merging. Membership in oneworld underlines our airline’s commitment to service, quality and safety.

EXTRA: LAN Colombia and TAM Joining oneworld Alliance: Analysis

AW: Your competitors in South America include Avianca, Gol, Copa and Azul. What are some of your strategies for remaining competitive on your home turf, in South America and around the world?

PC: The principle objective for LATAM Airlines Group is to maintain our leadership position in the region and to achieve our goal of being one of the top three airline groups in the world. In order to maintain passenger preference in the region, we intend to continue differentiating ourselves by the inflight experience that we offer onboard.

In addition, one of our prime focus areas over the next couple of years is to develop a faster, expedited travel experience for our passengers with less wait time at airports and shorter connection times.  In 2014 we invested more than $100 million to implement technology solutions so that all of our passengers can expedite their travel experience paper free from their mobile phones, and manage all of the variables of their trip via our online app, offering faster access to real time information and more options for onboard inflight entertainment amongst other solutions.

EXTRA: LAN, TAM Airlines Announce Passenger Experience Upgrades

In order to remain competitive on our home turf, as well as around the world, LAN and TAM continue to offer an authentic South American experience the moment you step on board, combined with unrivaled connectivity within the region and award-winning service. Passengers are able to enjoy wines hand-picked by South America’s only master sommelier, Hector Vergara, while reclining in 180 degree full flat seats in the Premium Business Cabin.  They can also get a taste of South American cuisine and treat themselves to meals inspired by the ingredients of the region while enjoying state-of-the-art, inflight entertainment.

A LAN Boeing 787-9. Image: Courtesy of LATAM

A LAN Boeing 787-9. Image: Courtesy of Latam Airlines Group

AW: Where are you with your fleet integration? How many aircraft and what type do you have for each carrier, and what new aircraft are expected in 2015?

PC: In 2014 LATAM Airlines Group received 19 new aircraft as a part of the fleet restructuring program, ending the year with a fleet of nearly 327 total aircraft, passenger and cargo. As of June 30, 2014, LATAM Airline Group’s restructuring plan was on track, having already phased out five Boeing 737 aircraft and additionally redelivered seven Airbus A330 aircraft, two Bombardier Dash Q400 aircraft, one Airbus A340 aircraft and one Boeing 767 freighter aircraft during the first half of 2014.

EXTRA: TAM, LAN Move into Guarulhos Airport Terminal 3

Aircraft deliveries have been of new, more efficient models, such as Airbus A321, of which LATAM Airlines Group received four aircraft during the second quarter of 2014, and Boeing 787-8 aircraft, of which LATAM received their sixth aircraft in the month of June 2014. The delivered aircraft represent savings of more than 10 percent in unit costs as compared to the current models, underlying the competitive benefits in moving towards these new technologies.

EXTRA: PHOTOS: A Tour of LAN Airlines’ Boeing 787-8

Additionally, LATAM Airlines Group received four Airbus A321s, one Airbus A320 and one Boeing 787. The company also returned four A320s, three 737s, seven A330s, two 767s aircraft and one Q400.

In 2015 so far, we have taken delivery of one 787-9 for the LAN fleet, the first in Latin America and expect to receive at least five more before the end of the year.  TAM will become the first airline in the America’s and the fourth in the world to receive the A350-900, at the end of 2015.

Our principle objective is to maintain our leadership position in the region and to achieve our goal of being one of the top three airline groups in the world by 2018.  In order to accomplish this, we have identified three fundamental success factors for 2015 which will help us achieve this objective. Under network leadership, LATAM Airlines Group is the leader in the region in terms of network and we are working to establish ourselves as the best airline group in Latin America.  We plan to continue improving our network of destinations with better itineraries, flights to more cities and to generate the alliances necessary to offer the best network for passengers flying to, from and within the continent.

Under inflight experience and brand leadership, we plan to maintain ourselves as the preferred airline of choice for passengers in the region, based on the full travel experience that we offer.  Our onboard service is award winning and renowned around the world and we have a fleet of 320 modern, top-of-the-line, world-class aircraft. In addition, we are working on a new mobile flight experience which adapts to the needs of our passengers, who are looking for more information to make the best use of their time and travel experience.

Under financial, our results in the medium and long term will show that we have made the right decisions that will assist us to become one of the most efficient airline groups in the industry.  We have plans to create a cost structure that is more competitive and by doing so, create and organization that is more efficient.

In addition, in 2015 we have many important milestones including the arrival of the first LAN Boeing 787-9, the first in Latin America, which will begin commercial operations in April.  We also have the unveiling and inauguration of the new LATAM Airlines Group VIIP lounge in Santiago, the largest VIP lounge in Latin America and the fourth for LAN and TAM passengers in the region.

LAN and TAM are the official airlines of the Copa America, the principle soccer tournament for Latin American teams which will take place in Chile from June 11-July 4.  Lastly, TAM will be the first airline in the Americas and the fourth in the world to receive and operate the new Airbus A350-900 aircraft, one of the most modern aircraft in the world.

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AIX 2015: Lumexis Makes a Play for the LCC IFE Market

By Seth Miller / Published April 14, 2015

Low cost carriers don’t want IFE systems. They are complicated, expensive and heavy. They create maintenance challenges and support issues. This is the story we’ve all been told and sold for years. Lumexis launched the iPAX IFE solution this week at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg with an eye towards rewriting that story with a rather different ending.

lumexis-ipax (1)

The iPAX system is light and inexpensive – only 8.9 ounces and $1495 per screen. It is a smaller screen at 6.1 inches but that’s probably a good thing given that the target market is carriers with tight 30 inch pitch. It is still a bright 1080p OLED display offering sharp pictures to passengers. And, perhaps most important to the airlines, it was built from the ground up as a “retail, advertising and entertainment platform” as Lumexis VP Jon Norris describes it. The iPAX platform is built to provide revenue for the airlines; it just happens to also have some entertainment functions built in, too. The system also offers an optional integrated credit card reader and reversible USB charging point; one helps the airlines more quickly process transactions while the other offers better customer experience.

lumexis-ipax (2)

iPAX is a wireless solution; no under seat box an minimal wiring to the seats to provide power. But it also leverages 64GB of on-device storage at each seat to pre-load some of the content, including the shopping catalogs and advertising information. Norris explained further that the technology allows iPAX to store the first short bit of each video selection, allowing for instant start when the passenger taps the play button. This approach “helps take the buffering pain off the streaming network.”

At half the price of a legacy or overhead system the iPAX solution has a lot of potential in the LCC/ULCC space. And the company is very optimistic about getting it into an airline soon enough. No confirmed customers yet but an operational kit flying commercially by the end of the year is a very real possibility based on where the company believes it is in the sales process.

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Southwest Unveils New Aircraft Seats for 737-800 and 737 MAX

By Airways News Staff  / Published April 14, 2015

Seat_5

Photo courtesy of Southwest

Southwest Airlines has teamed up with B/E Aerospace and Boeing to roll out a brand new seat on future Boeing 737-800 deliveries and 737 MAX aircraft. The new seats were unveiled Tuesday at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, Germany, and they will take to the skies for the first time on a flight sometime in mid-2016.

Southwest says its new seats will be about an inch wider than its current seats. They will also boast an adjustable headrest and increased legroom, as well as more personal stowage, while decreasing the overall weight of the product.

“The new aircraft seats are the widest economy seats available in the single-aisle 737 market, and offer a unique design that gives our Customers what they asked for: more space,” said Bob Jordan, Southwest’s Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer. “Serving as the launch customer for this seat is just one of several upcoming milestones related to our bold, new look launched in September of last year, and is specifically aimed at enhancing our Customer Experience.”

“The new, lighter seat allows us to continue to improve our fuel efficiency,” said Mike Van de Ven, Southwest’s Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. “This seat selection is just one more reason we are enthusiastic about our fleet modernization plans.”

The new seats will be upholstered with eLeather, a composition leather made of natural leather fibers. eLeather, which made its debut on Southwest aircraft in 2012 when the EVOLVE interior was unveiled, is manufactured using eco-friendly technology including state-of-the-art techniques which closed-loop recycles 95 percent of the processed water.

The EVOLVE interior is not going away; it will still be on older 737 aircraft, until new 737-800 deliveries and the 737 MAX arrive in the fleet. Unfortunately, EVOLVE was received a lot of criticism as there was not a lot of padding, but this worked out well for Southwest as it would be able to add a few extra seats on all of its aircraft.

SWA_Aft

737 MAX cabin with the new seats // Photo courtesy of Southwest

“Working closely with Southwest Airlines, we determined what the customer wanted, and our talented designers and engineers responded to that need,” said Mark Vaughan, B/E Aerospace’s Vice President, Sales & Marketing. “We’re proud to have partnered with Southwest since 1971 to create innovative products that customers will enjoy for years to come.”

So far, no word on the impact the extra seat width will have on the aisle. Plus, the 737′s cabin is about seven inches narrower than the Airbus A320 family which has a greater average cabin seat width.

Monday night, Southwest tweeted out a photo out hinting that a big announcement about seats would be made. Since there was a B/E Aerospace logo on the seat covers, many rumors about possible IFE and PowerPorts started swirling, but as of now, Southwest continues to remain quiet about any potential plans for USB/PowerPorts being added to the seats.

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Aeromexico and Delta To Take Their Partnership To a New Level

By Roberto Leiro / Published April 8, 2015

Aeromexico (AM) and Delta Air Lines (DL) have filed an application with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Economic Competition Commission of Mexico (CFC) to seek antitrust immunity to set the grounds on a new joint venture that would enhance flight options of both carriers between Mexico and the United States._MG_1790

The application, if approved by both entities, will not just reinforce the already existing commercial and marketing links between Aeromexico and Delta; it would also clear the path to create a $1.5 billion USD joint venture that would offer customers an expanded and optimized network through Aeromexico’s hubs—Mexico City (MEX), Guadalajara (GDL), Hermosillo (HMO) and Monterrey (MTY)—as well as Delta’s key hubs in the United States—Atlanta (ATL), Detroit (DTW), Los Angeles (LAX), Minneapolis (MSP), New York (JFK), Salt Lake City (SLC) and Seattle (SEA)—altogether. Plus, co-locating and investing in airport facilities to improve boarding gates and lounges, and renewing cabin products would have a very positive impact on the overall passenger experience.

RELATED: Delta Air Lines Basic Economy: Right Product for Right Time?

“Mexico is the most popular international destination for Delta customers, and our proposed joint venture will offer our customers more schedule and destination choices, whether traveling for business or pleasure,” said Ed Bastian, Delta Air Lines President. “Approval of antitrust immunity will allow travelers to fully benefit from all the aspects of a future Delta-Aeromexico joint venture, including the combination of two complementary networks.”

“We are thrilled at this opportunity to further deepen our relationship with Delta. The potential to align our networks and scheduling means that we will be able to offer greater customer choice than we would have been able to offer individually,” said Andres Conesa, CEO of Grupo Aeromexico.

The interest of Aeromexico in deepening its relationship with Delta demonstrates the need for the Mexican carrier to settle a vantage point against its direct competitor, Interjet (4O), which is currently redefining its business strategies by code-sharing with oneworld alliance members, American Airlines (AA), British Airways (BA) and Iberia (IB).

Meanwhile, Delta would be able to get ahead of the new bilateral aviation agreement, subscribed between Mexico and the United States in November 2014, to enter in full force in January 2016; this grants unlimited intra-national market access for Mexican and U.S. carriers, among other commercial rights.

With a long-standing commercial and strategic partnership started in 1994, and founders of the SkyTeam alliance fifteen years ago, Aeromexico and Delta Air Lines are currently offering more than 4,000 code-shared flights a week, representing more than 80 daily trans-border round-trip flights. Needless to say, the joint venture offers excellent future prospects for growth in both business and traffic in one of the most competed and fast-growing markets in Latin America.

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Contact the editor at jack.harty@airwaysnews.com.

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Boeing, Airbus Show the Whip to Laggardly Seatmaker Zodiac

By John Walton / Published April 3, 2015

When aircraft are delayed going into service because seats aren’t ready in time, airframers and their airline customers start pointing fingers at the manufacturers responsible. This time it’s Zodiac, the French seatmaking conglomerate whose US subsidiary (formerly Weber Aircraft) is causing headaches — not least to the on-time delivery of American’s 787 Dreamliner, delayed by several months from a 2014 target date. But the public irritation that both Airbus and Boeing are showing is remarkable in its lack of precedent.Zodiac Aerospace LOGO

Part of Zodiac’s problem can be traced to a monthlong strike resolved last September-October, after a summer of labor strife. Yet one month of a non-total strike cannot itself be entirely blamed for Zodiac’s delays, and the company will need to address its failings with its customers. Yet delaying aircraft delivery — and airline plans — is by no means a new event. Notably, American’s Boeing 777-300ER introduction was also delayed for similar reasons.virgin-atlantic-upper-class-dream-suite copy

Previously, Virgin Atlantic’s 2012-era Airbus A330 business class seat was created by former subsidiary threesixty design, now part of Zodiac. The seat, marketed as the Upper Class Dream Suite to distinguish it from the 2003 era pod to which Virgin has now returned on its Boeing 787-9 fleet, was so late to market that Virgin ended up wetleasing out two of its first A330s to Taipei-based China Airlines, in a telltale configuration where a supplementary economy cabin sat in zone 1 in place of Upper Class, followed by the premium economy cabin in its standard Virgin Atlantic location, and then economy down the back. Virgin outfitted other A330s as leisure market aircraft for its London Gatwick/Manchester/Glasgow subfleet without Upper Class, leaving premium economy as the top option on these planes.

The wider industry capacity problem that continues today is one of a consolidating seatmaker base giving airframers fewer brand options. Zodiac, for example, acquired Weber and Sicma in addition to Virgin’s threesixty. The capacity issue is compounded by a longstanding shortage of aircraft interior engineers, a demand hump, capacity planning that appears to be on the “lag” not “lead” model, and the “big steps” problem of increasing production. The impact of Japanese seatmaker Koito’s admission in 2010 that it falsified certification data on seats aboard 32 airlines also contributed to a bottleneck of supply that has still not been resolved.

It’s also about the airframers themselves increasing risk by insisting on restrictive pre-selected catalogue options for seats. Very few airlines have the expertise, scale or capacity to do a Lufthansa and say “We could take aircraft bare and not use their seats,” as Runway Girl Network reported in 2013.

Many airlines, too, want custom seats, which they will often customise to their own specifications for branding or intellectual property reasons. As American Airlines, Virgin Atlantic and others discovered, this is often not a recipe for on-time delivery. Diversity of suppliers, a tack which Etihad is taking for its new Business Studio seats onboard the 787 and A380, is a way to mitigate risk and not put all an airline’s business class eggs in one fully flat basket.American Airlines Boeing787-dotcom-business-gallery-1--AA

At the end of the day, the four big seatmakers — alphabetically, Airbus’ Stelia (formerly Sogerma) subsidiary, B/E Aerospace, Recaro and Zodiac — are in an oligopolist position with the two widebody airframers Airbus and Boeing, which are themselves oligopsonists for the seatmakers. Despite notable ongoing growth in premium cabin seating at Thompson and ZIM, as well as some advances in LCC style slimlines from Acro, it would seem that there are too few seatmakers to deliver what airlines want, when they want it.

In related news, Boeing has been forced to park a few of the new 787s destined for American in the desert due to a lack of seats.

EXTRA: American Airlines Reveals Initial 787 Flights, Configuration, and Cabin Photos

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Today’s Big Airline Announcements…For April 1

By Airways News Staff / Published April 1, 2015

It was a busy day in the airline industry as many airlines posted some big announcements. In case you missed any of the announcements that came out today (Wednesday, April 1), we have a re-cap.

Delta

If your Biscoff cookie on your next Delta flight is green, don’t worry; it’s not moldy. The cookies are now going to be made with locally-sourced kale, according to a Tweet by Delta.CBhM5b0UYAAuH-Z.jpg-large

About two hours after the Tweet was posted, Delta came back and explained that “Actually, our Biscoff cookies aren’t turning green but they are made with non-GMO ingredients.”

Maybe, the Biscoff cookies will go green for next St. Patrick’s Day to go along with a green beer?

Southwest

Southwest Airlines is now implementing checked-bag fees, since everyone else does it. Pay close attention to the video to understand the process…it’s not as straight forward as it would seem.

Spirit

Boarding process are quite complex, but Spirit will start a brand new boarding process to help clear things up soon:CBhM7PaVEAAnnHY.jpg-large

Getting everybody onto the plane can be a long, confusing process. So we’re instituting a new boarding system that we hope clears things up. Customers will now board in the following order:

1. Gluten-free customers
2. Members of the Illuminati
3. Those with O-negative blood type
4. Lauries
5. Steves
6. Squirrels
7. Secessionists
8. Men with Low T
9. Canadian royalty
10. People who eat kale
11. Business-in-the-front-party-in-the-back Class
12. Everyone else

Don’t worry, if you aren’t a fan of the new boarding process, Spirit is offering $24 dollars off on future flight bookings!

Virgin America

Yesterday, Sir Richard Branson, the founder and CEO of Virgin Group, announced that Virgin Group’s US operations would be moving to Branson, Missouri, and Virgin America would begin weekly flights to Branson from Los Angeles, New York LaGuardia, and San Francisco.aaaaaaaaaaa

However, it is still not possible to book one of the new flights to Branson on Virgin America’s website, and neither the city nor the airline will confirm or deny if Virgin America will launch flights to Branson.

Historically, the Virgin Group has been known for being quite creative and elaborate when it comes to April Fools jokes. In 2013, the company announced that it would create the world’s first glass bottom jet on April 1.

Happy April Fools Day!

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Editor’s note: Our readers now have access to our weekly eNewsletter, which includes a recap of our top stories of the week, along with the subscriber-only exclusive Weekend Reads column and Photo of the Week from our extensive archives. The newsletter comes out every Saturday morning. Stay in the know; click here to subscribe today!

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Vueling Introduces New Cabin With Airbus Space-Flex

By AirwaysNews Staff / Published March 16, 2015

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Photo courtesy of Airbus

Vueling–a low cost Spanish carrier part of International Airlines Group (IAG)–has taken delivery of its first Airbus A320 with a new cabin configuration that offers more comfort and space, even with six extra seats on-board.

Yes, you read that right; the airline has increased its A320 capacity from 180 to 186 seats while ensuring more comfort and space all thanks to Airbus Space-Flex.

When the concept debuted in 2011, the manufacturer explained that it could replace a full-width A320 rear galley with a smaller galley together with the two lavatories that were previously located forward of the rear passenger doors. Plus, the two lavatories could easily be converted into a single and much larger lavatory for wheelchair users which was unique to wide body aircraft at the time.

800x600_1426508100_A320_Vueling_interior_cabin_1

Photo courtesy of Airbus

But wait, there is more.

Airbus Space-Flex V2 is coming soon. A spokesperson for the company explains that “for Space-Flex v2, the swinging partition separating the two v1 lavatories is replaced by a fixed partition featuring a tip-up seat. The wheelchair bound passenger transfers from the wheelchair to the tip-up seat and then, unassisted, to the toilet seat.”

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Contact the editor at jack.harty@airwaysnews.com.

Editor’s note: there will not be a newsletter published on March 21, 2015. The newsletter will return on Saturday, March 28, 2015.

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Hawaiian Airlines Joins the Slimline Seat Club

By Benét J. Wilson / Published March 12, 2015

Slimline seats on Hawaiian Airlines Boeing 717. Image: Courtesy of Hawaiian

Slimline seats on Hawaiian Airlines Boeing 717. Image: Courtesy of Hawaiian

As Hawaiian Airlines announced plans to add slimline seats to its fleet of 18 Boeing 717s, an analyst says it’s becoming the norm for economy class. Hawaiian will use lightweight seats built by UK-based Acro Aircraft Seating Ltd. Other manufacturers of the seats include Germany’s Recaro, Naples’ Geven, Wellington, Florida-based B/E Aerospace and Zodiac Seats U.S.

Right now, Hawaiian Airlines has five different cabin configurations of its 717s, said Jason Rabinowitz, data research manager for Routehappy and a commenter on the airline passenger experience. “The airline is aiming for consistency within its fleet so that there’s a consistent experience for its passengers,” he said.

The seats, by Acro, are a slim as a slimline seat can get, said Rabinowitz. “They are exceptionally thin, but that’s not to say they aren’t comfortable for the carrier’s needs,” he said. “Acro has carved out all the non-essential parts of the seats, but passengers are only flying short hops, not long-haul flights. As long as you’re not sitting for hours, it will be fine.”

Slimline seats are the new standard for carriers, said Rabinowitz. “There are very few airlines not using them now. Even JetBlue is moving to them,” he said. “And this isn’t to say that they’re all bad. The ones JetBlue will have will include power outlets. And Lufthansa has special seats that some people love and some people hate.”

Not surprisingly, on some longer transcon flights, some passengers don’t like sitting in these seats after a few hours, said Rabinowitz. “But like it or not, slimline seats are becoming the new industry standard, like 10-abreast seats on the Boeing 777,” he said.

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