Category Archives: Airline Passenger Experience

Korean Air Takes Delivery of First Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental

By: Staff / Published August 25, 2015

Korean Air has become the third operator of the Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental, in a ceremony held today at Boeing Everett Flight Test & Delivery Center. The airline follows Lufthansa, the launch customer, and Air China, which took delivery of its first aircraft last fall.

DJ8A4220

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Back in December 2009, Korean Air placed an initial order for five Intercontinentals, which was lately completed by an order for additional five in June 2013. With these ten units, the carrier becomes not only in the first carrier to operate both -8 variants (passenger and freighter version) but also will become the most extensive 747 operator, with all but one variant: the early production -100 series.

DJ8A4588“As one of the few airlines that have operated almost all models of the 747 family, we are excited that Korean Air is extending the tradition with our newest 747-8 Intercontinental. I am confident that the 747-8 will continue to play an important role in Korean Air’s long-term success” said Ray Conner, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

Boeing and Korean Air have a close cooperation not only in terms of aircraft fleet, but also in both 747-8 and 787 programs. Korean Air’s aerospace division is a key supplier of the distinctive raked wingtips for each model, and is also one of the two suppliers in charge of producing the new 737 MAX Advanced Technology (AT) winglet.

A State-of-the-art Cabin

MR6A7091

747-8I KAL #1506-RC051MR6A6993Korean Air’s newest airliner is configured with six First-Class Kosmo Suite 2.0 suites, which include a sliding door and higher partitions to provide added privacy for passengers. These suites are also equipped with updated in-flight entertainment systems, with large 24-inch high-definition monitors and new handheld touch remotes.

This new generation of suites will be installed on the airline’s Boeing 777-300ER airliners, which will feature eight of them, to be followed by 787-9 Dreamliners, Boeing 747-8i and the Airbus A330-300. However, the suites won’t be fitted to Korean Air’s Airbus A380, which feature the first generation of the product.

 

747-8I KAL #1506-RC051Surprisingly, the upper deck will be occupied with 22 out of 48 Business Class Prestige Suites, leaving 26 seats to separate First Class from Economy. These suits feature staggered seating and privacy panels, along with 18-inch high definition touch screens. The Seating arrangement in the upper deck is 2+2 while down below they will sit 2 + 2 + 2, sneaking in a fifth middle row of two.

MR6A7085At the lower deck there are 314 economy seats in a three-cabin 3  + 4 + 3 layout, dominating nearly three fourths of the aft section.

Frankfurt has been selected as the Initial Destination

Korean Air plans to initially operate the aircraft on its Seoul to Frankfurt route three times a week beginning on September 2nd before moving it to a daily flight on October 1st after the carrier picks up its second Intercontinental.

Service will be operated under flight number KE 905, departing Seoul at 12:45 arriving at Frankfurt at 17:40 local times. The aircraft will spend two hours on the ground before its scheduled flight KE906 departs at 19:40 and lands back in Seoul at 13:05 local times.

Folowing the launch to Frankfurt, on September 7th the airline will upgrade its 777-300ER flight between Seoul and Singapore with the new flagship.

Interesting to note Lufthansa must feel a threat from Korean as the carrier plans to also use its 747-8Is between Frankfurt and Seoul for the winter service. Frankfurt for at least five days will see service from all three carriers who operate the Intercontinental but Air China is expected to back out of Frankfurt and replace its 747’s with another type on September 7th.

Speaking of Lufthansa, Korean will be just the second carrier along with the German carrier to have both the Airbus A380 and Boeing 747-8I in its fleet.

A Look At The Remaining 747-8 Orders

The 747-8 Intercontinental currently has 18 unfilled orders to five carriers. Korean Air currently holds the largest unfilled order of any carrie, with a planned fleet of 17 aircraft in total.

Other airlines have a small number of 747-8 Intercontinental aircraft remaining on order. Russian carrier Transaero has four on order, two of them have been built but the airline opted to defer the delivery until 2016 given the economic situation in Russia. Meanwhile Air China, the second operator of the 747-8I, has two aircraft remaining on order which should be delivered later this year.

One oddball unfilled order for the 747-8I belongs to Arik Air of Nigeria; the carrier placed an order for two 747-8I aircraft in June 2011 and little has been heard about this. It is unlikely that this order will ever come to fruition.

PHOTOS: A Boeing 747 Factory Tour & Program Update

Special Thanks to Future of Flight for the hospitality and wifi to work on the story at the conclusion of the event.


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Inflight Review: Economy Class on American’s Refurbished Boeing 767

By Luis Linares / Published August 14, 2015 / Photos by author

American Airlines is in the process of upgrading the cabins on their youngest Boeing 767-300ERs, which fly to destinations in South American and Europe.  The main attraction is a new business class cabin.  But what is the new interior like for economy passengers?  Join me for a three-hour hop on economy class aboard one of these upgraded 767s from Miami International Airport (MIA) to El Dorado International Airport (BOG) in Bogota, Colombia.

RELATED: American Airlines Unveils New 767-300 Cabin

AA 763 MIA American Airlines Boeing 767-300ER at Miami International Airport

I’ve been flying the MIA-BOG route on American for more than 20 years on American Airlines. American has operated this service using the Airbus A300, Boeing 757 and Boeing 767.  Since the retirement of the A300 in 2009, the 757 and 767 have been flying between both cities.  When I booked a vacation to Bogota with my family, I opted for the flights aboard the redesigned 767 cabin.

Check-in

I currently have Platinum status (the middle of the two elite tiers) in the American Airlines AAdvantage frequent flier program, which means I can check in at the business class counter.  The process was quickly handled by a very friendly agent, who joked with my children.  I also applied for a TSA PreCheck status to avoid long security lines, which meant we were quickly inside the secure area.

Before boarding

Elite status also allows me to use the Admirals Club before my flight.  American has two clubs at MIA, one near gate D30 and the other by D15.  Despite having Gate 25 as a departure gate, I opted fo the one by D15 since it has a playroom that offers TV, video games, lemonade, apples and cookies for the little ones.  This was a hit last year with mine, and it did the job again this year.

Boarding

We proceeded to the gate 45 minutes before departure and boarded immediately after the business class passengers since this is another privilege of elite status.  We had row 13, which is the second row of the economy section.  Platinum status allows travelers to choose American’s Main Cabin Extra seats free of charge at the time of booking, and these offer 35 inches of legroom, compared to the standard 31.  In addition, rows 12 and 13 are located between two partitions, which create a very cozy feel.

Economy rows 12 - 13 No seatback IFE

The first two rows of economy seem like their own section, but where is the integrated IFE?

This flight was probably half full.  I asked the boarding agents to see if my family and I could get upgraded with miles since I was particularly interested in the new business class product, but she replied that they needed more lead time for such a request on an international flight for security reasons.  I did take an opportunity to explore the upgraded business class cabin for a few minutes.  Having flown on the older version, this new arrangement is definitely a step up.  Seats now recline to a full 180 degrees, and every business customer has direct isle access.

EXTRA:  In-flight Review: American Airlines Business Class to and from Bogota

AA 767 J window seat AA 767 J seats

The upgraded business class section

The business class seats are 30 inches wide with 60 inches of pitch, and they are arranged in a 1-2-1 configuation.  It is a tight space compared to other international premium cabins, but it is still a major improvement.  Despite the fact that American received some brand-new 767-300ERs in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the refurbished cabin does not include integrated inflight entertainment (IFE) screens.  Passengers in business get complimentary use of Samsung tablets and Bose headsets for IFE.  Furthermore, these 767s do not have the international Wi-Fi option American introduced with the 777-300ER in 2013 and which also comes with the new 787s and is being installed on the 777-200ER fleet.

In the economy section, the seats were reupholstered, but there were no seatback IFE screens, just older overhead screens offering single programming and a moving map display before and after the block of programs.  The armrests also had remote controls designed for older IFE screens, but their only function was to control the volume of what was playing on the overhead screens, as well as a few audio channels.

Old socket

Bring an adapter if you want to enjoy your PED, especially on longer flights

I saw the lack of IFE as a minor inconvenience, since I usually have my tablet and phone with me.  However, the power ports are the old round socket, which is common in many cars.  This means people wishing to charge their personal electronic devices (PEDs) will need an adapter.

A very nice flight attendant told me he had a few USB adapters, available on a first-come-first-served basis, which I could use for the duration of the flight.  Typical flight time from MIA to BOG is just over three hours, which should be no problem for someone using a fully charged PED.  Since many of these 767s fly across the Atlantic or to the South America’s “southern cone,” any passenger wishing for an IFE experience on these six- to eight-hour flights will definitely want to bring an adapter.

The Flight

We pushed back at our 9:50 a.m. scheduled departure time.  With many simultaneous departures, we waited 20 minutes behind other aircraft and were eventually airborne.  Our flight path took us over Cuba, Jamaica, and two hours later, we crossed the Colombian coast over the city of Cartagena.

One of the services I had not seen in a while on a medium-haul flight was a complementary meal.  Lunch options were either macaroni or chicken, both accompanied by salad, bread, and dessert, along with a beverage of our choice.  In the main cabin, alcoholic beverages are not complimentary.  The food was actually good, which was a pleasant surprise.  We also came prepared with games and coloring books for my children to enjoy, so the lack of IFE was not noticeable to them.

Loaner adapter and lunch Crafts

A loaner adapter plus lunch, and my girls came up with their own IFE by making bracelets

With 20 minutes to go, initial descent started.  BOG is located at 8,360 ft (2,550 m) above sea level, which means some passengers will feel some symptoms, such as headache, increased heartbeat or upset stomach.  Based on my frequent travel there, I recommend plenty of hydration every day and rest the first full day there.  The pilots made up for lost time at MIA, and we touched down on time.

Arrival

We deplaned and proceeded to immigration.  One of the nice courtesies in every passport control line I have experienced in Colombia when traveling with my family is that agents always open up a separate lane for people with small children.  This meant we were quickly at baggage claim, where our bags were already waiting since they had “priority” tags, another perk from elite status.  The customs line was quick, and soon we met our driver and were ready to enjoy our vacation.

Bottom line

American’s MIA-BOG service is usually staffed by very friendly and attentive bilingual BOG-based crews.  This flight was no exception.  They go out of their way especially for kids to make sure they are enjoying the flight.  Moreover, it is refreshing to get a full meal on a relatively short fight.  Given what the competition has to offer from the U.S. to Europe and Latin America on similar aircraft, American’s product is behind other mainline carriers, despite the recent cabin retrofit.

AA 767 at BOG

Leaving our ride in Bogota

American is refurbishing 29 of its 58 767-300ERs into the new cabin configuration, while the rest will retire this year. Many of the remaining 767s were delivered in the late 1990s to the early 2000s, yet American chose not to bring the IFE standard up to the level of its newer Airbus A319s and A321s, and Boeing 737s and 777s.

EXTRA: In-flight Review: Economy Class on American Airlines Airbus A319

For travelers, who enjoy integrated IFE, this could be a disappointment.  Even passengers who bring their own PEDs will have to remember to bring an adapter for the old-fashioned sockets beneath the seats.  Finally, having extra perks like elite status, TSA PreCheck, or Global Entry will make the time at the airport of a hassle, especially for economy passengers.

DISCLAIMER:  We paid for our tickets, and opinions are our own.


t_6_dsc249036125Luis Linares is an AirwaysNews.com correspondent. Born in New York City and raised in Colombia, Luis was exposed to commercial aviation from a very early age and served in the U.S. Air Force for twenty years. He is fluent in Spanish and Brazilian-Portuguese and has almost two million miles of domestic and international travel under his belt.  Follow him on Twitter @LUISFERLINARES, or e-mail him at Luis.Linares@airwaysnews.com


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 Friday night. Stay in the know; click here to subscribe today!

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Virgin America Celebrates Eight Years

By: Alex McIntyre / Published August 10, 2015

VirginAmericaInFlight2-HIRESVirgin America just turned eight years old, and on Saturday it decided to celebrate the occasion back in its hometown. Alongside San Francisco mayor Edwin M. Lee, Virgin America dubbed Saturday, August 8 as “Virgin America Day,” commemorating another year in the industry with a fare sale. Additionally, it plans to extend the party by handing a two-for-one voucher to the first 40,000 fans in attendance at AT&T Park on Saturday, August 15, “Virgin America Night.”

BEST OF AIRWAYS: Virgin America – Doing Things Differently

As it adds another year under its belt, Virgin America boasts quite a few achievements. In the past year alone, it added or announced plans for new service to a handful of new destinations. The airline began operating from Dallas Love Field (DAL) and New York LaGuardia (LGA) last October, while it will commence operations in Honolulu (HNL) and Maui (OGG) later this year. Additionally, Virgin America reeled in a few notable awards, taking home the designations of “Best U.S. Airline” courtesy of Condé Nast Traveler last October, recognized with three awards -best airline in North America, best staff in North America and best low-cost airline in the U.S. by Skytrax World AIrline Rewards, and “Top Domestic Airline” from Travel + Leisure more recently this July.

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Virgin also commemorates a highly successful IPO the previous November, finally becoming available to the public after years of holding off while fighting for profitability. The airline struggled to escape the red in prior years, but finally reeled in a profit for the first full year in 2013 and has enjoyed largely successful skies since then financially.

ANALYSIS: Behind the Numbers in Virgin America’s IPO

Flying past SanFranciscoWith its primary hub at San Francisco International Airport (SFO), Virgin wants to engage with its local community by partnering with hometown identities, such as Mayor Lee and the San Francisco Giants. CEO David Cush echoed this sentiment, offering his thanks to “local fliers as well as our 3,000 Virgin America teammates.” He lauded the airline’s “[continually evolved] flight experience” and noted that Virgin has “earned some of the travel industry’s most distinguished awards in the process.”

2014WC-HiresIn turn, Mayor Lee thanked the airline for its contributions and economic impact in San Francisco: “For the past eight years, Virgin America has exemplified the innovative spirit and diverse culture of our City while continuing to grow its home base at SFO, creating local jobs, moving our residents across our U.S. cities and supporting vital Bay Area charitable programs.” Giants president and CEO Larry Baer also called Virgin the “ultimate partner” and expressed his pride for the airline as the official carrier of the San Francisco Giants.

While lacking the footprint nationally, Virgin America competes fiercely in the Bay Area with United Airlines, which also maintains a stronghold in San Francisco. United controls a dominating 46% of the SFO traffic according to the airport, and while Virgin counters with only 9% its unique product offers a striking contrast to United, intensifying the impact. The presence of viable competitors has served as a neat check on the remaining three legacy airlines, one of the fares continue to remain low historically.

Seatback_red_beta

Despite the increasingly blurry distinctions between carriers, Virgin America tries to make a name for itself by offering an exceptional in-flight product while still offering aggressively competitive fares, even if not always the most deeply discounted. To that note, Virgin also enhanced the passenger experience last year with an update of its fleet-wide entertainment system, “Red,” increasing its connectivity speed and content availability, as well as a better listening experience and screen resolution. The airline hopes that a flying experience not worth dreading will lure in some passengers despite its limited route network.

RELATED: Virgin America Picks Streaming-Capable ViaSat Ka-Band Wifi

As Virgin blows out the candles on its birthday cake, it certainly hopes to enjoy many more rounds as it continues expanding. For the time being, it enjoys its niche role within the airline industry. The airline faces some headwinds – namely, unit pressures in the Dallas market as well as more generally keeping a lid on costs while still offering a premium product – but seems to be sticking well. We can probably expect a similarly loud celebration next year in San Francisco from the airline, when it hopes to have another round of accomplishments of which to boast.


Photo May 25, 0 53 04Alex McIntyre joined AirwaysNews.com to more heavily pursue his relentless passion for the airline industry. He lives in Dallas, Texas, growing up in the shadows of two major airlines’ headquarters and in a vibrant aviation-minded city. Alex attends Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, double-majoring in business and political science.


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American Offers Integrated Purser Training Program Under “Going For Great” Campaign

By Benét J. Wilson / Published July 30, 2015

American Airlines' Stephen Howell. Image: Courtesy of American Airlines.

American Airlines’ Stephen Howell. Image: Courtesy of American Airlines.

American Airlines has created an integrated purser program to give the carrier’s 2700 leaders professional development training for the combined company.

The effort is part of the carrier’s $2 billion “Going For Great” campaign, which covers new aircraft, fleet upgrades, renovated Admirals Clubs and more check-in kiosks.

Stephen Howell is American’s managing director of flight service standards and training. He handles everything that encompasses policies, procedures, regulatory processes, flight attendant and purser recruitment and hiring, along with training.

RELATEDAmerican Airlines to Spend $2 Billion on Passenger Upgrades

The purser training program was launched in May; it has been paused for the summer and classes will resume in September. “We’re looking to offer world-class customer service,” he said. “And we’re doing the training offsite at the Gaylord in Grapevine, not at our flight training center.”

American Airlines is making a significant investment in its hard product, said Howell. “So the timing was perfect for us to also take time to focus on the soft skills,” he said. “We brought the legacy American and US Airways pursers and brought them into one group.”

American will have pursers onboard its domestic three-class transcon flights between JFK and Los Angeles and San Francisco, said Howell. “We felt we needed an onboard leader on those planes,” he said. “We also have pursuers onboard our long-haul international flights, including our two- and three-class service to Europe, Latin America and Asia. We will also have them on our new Sydney service.”

From a logistics perspective, there’s a lot of magic going on behind the scenes, said Howell. “We started offering 24 two-day sessions in May. They self-enroll, and by November, all 2700 will have attended the sessions,” he said.

Image: Courtesy of American Airlines

Image: Courtesy of American Airlines

This is not training in the traditional sense, said Howell. “These are professional development leadership courses. We hold all sessions at the Gaylord Hotel and Convention Center, so we have enough real estate available to run the two-day program and they stay on site,” he said.  “We wanted to pick the Gaylord, a high-end Marriott, because we wanted them to experience fine service at its best.”

The theme of the seminar is meant to build on the tagline Going for Great, said Howell. “We felt it was important to back that up to deliver the soft  skills that will offer customers a transformational rather than a transactional service,” he said. “In the past, the service was very transactional. You do the safety demonstration, deliver a beverage, deliver a tray and move to next service.”

RELATEDAmerican Airlines Reveals Initial 787 Flights, Configuration, and Cabin Photos

Transactional service is needed, but we also need to deliver transformational service that is personalized for each customer, said Howell. “We use benchmarks from companies like Nordstrom and the Ritz Carleton and share case studies on how they do transformational service,” he explained. “We want to be unique in what we offer. Those companies offer personal attention and make a connection and that’s what we want to do.”

The legacy US Airways always had onboard leadership, but they didn’t have a formal purser program until this year, said Howell. “The legacy American flight attendants went through initial training in the past two years, but hadn’t had a refresher program or ongoing training, so this is a new program,” he said.

RELATEDAirwaysNews High Flyer Interview: American Airlines CEO Doug Parker

The program isn’t about service skills, procedures and filling out forms, said Howell. “But the soft skills are needed for leadership to help them get the best from their teams,” he said. “Everyone knows how to put down a cocktail napkin. This is more about engaging with a customer when putting that napkin down and created a memorable experience.”

When it comes down to service, in years past, it’s been about the functionality of the service, said Howell. “Now it’s about creating pleasure, delight and emotion, along with and connecting with our passengers. Our new hard product alone won’t help, so we have this training so we can focus on this moving forward.”

RELATEDThe Transcon Wars: The Ultimate Airline Battleground

Today’s customer has had a full day before getting on the flight, said Howell. “All they want to to do is get in their seat, put on headphones, watch inflight entertainment and get a personal experience. Our customers have changed and so must we,” he said.  “We all grew up with the Golden Rule — treat people how you want to be treated. We are now adapting the platinum rule — treat others the way they want to be treated.”

As the new American Airlines works toward greatness, it wants customers to realize that things are different, said Howell. “We want them to recognize the fact that our onboard leaders will work with their team to make emotional connections with them and instill in them a strong brand loyalty,” he said. “American is making the investment in the hard product, but you have to have the soft product that goes with it.”


BW}Benét J. Wilson is an experienced freelance aviation / travel writer. She has been in the business for more than 20 years, having her works published in several printed and digital publications including USA Today,  Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine and AIN. Wilson is the Air Travel Expert for About.com and is working on her private pilot’s certificate.


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Meeting New LAN Airlines’ 787-9 Dreamliner

By: Enrique Perrella / Published 28 July, 2015

From its modest origins in the late 1920s, the Linea Aerea Nacional de Chile (LAN) has pieced together a powerful mosaic across the South American continent through national investments in a handful of strategically positioned airlines, imparting in each a common philosophy of service excellence and financial discipline.

With their home base on a sliver of geographically inhospitable land (only a scant 2.6% of which is arable) sandwiched between 2,700 miles of southwestern Pacific Ocean coastline and the Andes mountain range, Chile’s Cueto family (led by brothers Enrique and Ignacio) created the LATAM Airlines Group, which in the year to date ended in June, transported 53.8 million passengers.

The airline counts with a large and diverse fleet of more than 295 aircraft, and employs over 53,000 workers with an on-line network stretching from Australia and New Zealand through the Americas to Europe. The high standards of service both LAN and TAM offer, were recently awarded among the top three best airlines in Latin America, according to Skytrax.

In early February, the Chilean carrier took delivery of its first Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, intended to replace its aging Airbus A340-300 fleet, which were retired two months later after 15 years of reliable long-haul service.

LAN’s books, today, include an order for 32 Boeing 787s, while its Brazilian partner TAM include an order for 27 Airbus A350 XWBs, with deliveries set to start in the fourth quarter of 2015. According to Jim Proulx, who handles international media relations for Boeing, “The LATAM Group has long been a strong customer for Boeing airplanes in its wide-body fleet, including the 767 and 777. He also notes that, “As the first Latin American operator, LATAM is a key South American customer for the 787, having already taken delivery fifteen 787s in building to a fleet of 32.”

On the other hand, Raymond Kollau, founder of Trend Analysis—an European-based publication which follows trends and innovations in the airline industry—notes that product and service innovations have been less of a priority at LAN and TAM, as both airlines have been concentrating on integrating parts of their operations following the merger. “As one of the early airlines to receive the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, LAN has been able to offer some of its passengers the experience of flying its latest generation aircraft,” he said. “The IFE systems on LAN’s 787s are especially noteworthy. For example, passengers can read destination guides on their high definition screens and play a game of poker against other passengers on board.”

In a continued effort to improve its service and become the number-one airline in the Americas, LAN announced in December 2014, that on July 20, 2015, its new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner would operate daily, nonstop service from New York (JFK) to Santiago (SCL), departing daily at 20:00 and arriving in Santiago at 06:20 the following day.

Pablo Chiozza, Senior VP, USA, Canada and the Caribbean at LATAM Airlines Group, said in a statement, “The Boeing 787-9 is one of the first aircraft to feature the new unified cabin design.” He then added, “Travelers will experience the vibrancy and warmth of the region the moment they step on board. The 787-9 Dreamliner is a testament to our dedication to minimizing our environmental footprint and providing the best experience for all our passengers.”

To showcase its newest wide-body aircraft and unified cabin, LAN invited Airways to experience its flagship service from JFK to SCL on its inaugural scheduled service with the Boeing 787-9 and test the new product which will be customary in all long-haul aircraft once both carriers are merged into one single image and corporate identity at the end of 2015.

Inaugural Flight: JFK

LAN’s flight 533 to SCL was scheduled to depart (SDT) at 20:00. Four hours before, we arrived at JFK’s Terminal 8, home to American Airlines (AA) and its Oneworld partners.

SQ_ - 1Check-in was easily accomplished thanks to the gentle TAM and LAN staff behind the counters, who greeted us for being part of the media group that would cover the event. Passing through TSA was also a quick task thanks to the priority access granted to all Oneworld premium cabin passengers. In less than 10 minutes, we reached AA’s Admirals Club, where we had to check-in handing a coupon given by our carrier.

Boarding

SQ_ - 2At 19:00, we approached gate 16 where pre-boarding started. We managed to make our way into the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner first, allowing us to picture the insides of the aircraft as the wonderful Chilean crew posed inside their brand-new jet. The aircraft’s interiors, beautifully colored in the airline’s blue, red and gray, craft an inviting ambiance that evokes a spacious feeling that’s second to none.

Making our way through the economy cabin, we noted a big difference between the 787-9 and its smaller version, the 787-8. Its stretched fuselage, high overhead bins, tall windows, and mood lightning come together as a comfortable hard product for long-haul flights.

The Cabin Interior

LAN’s Boeing 787-9 fleet is fitted to carry a total of 313 passengers in a two-class configuration. Developed by the international design/consulting firm PriestmanGoode, the elegant and modern design is noted as soon as one enters the aircraft through the L2 door. Stunning wooden floors and super ample galleys strike as a first excellent impression. Upon walking inside, the impressive mood lightning gives a futuristic sense that old generation airliners could never dream to emit.

Up front, the new LATAM Airlines Group unified Premium Business Class is configured in a 2-2-2 layout, totaling 30 comfortable seats. According to the airline, this Business Class will be standardized in both LAN and TAM long-haul products once both carriers are completely merged as one corporate image later this year. “Every element was carefully selected and designed to include the best elements of the countries in the region to create a world-class project,” claims Jerome Cadier, the Group’s Marketing Vice-President. “With these objectives in mind, the rich wood textures of the Amazon are present in several elements throughout the cabin, including part of the floor and details on the seats. The fabric, textures, colors, and patterns are reminiscent of the beautiful landscapes of our region. Even the iconic beaches of Ipanema were a source of inspiration for the cabins,” he notes. In fact, a nice combination of gray, red, white and the many colors that come off the mood lightning, create an ambiance that’s futuristic and elegant.

SQ_ - 7Each Business Class seat has 75 inches of leg pitch and 23 inches of width, capable of converting into full-flat beds. Passengers can enjoy movies, TV shows, a moving map, and many other entertainment features through a large 15.4-inch touch screen, also manageable with a remote control.

Moving down to Economy Class, 283 red and blue seats are configured in a 3-3-3 layout, boasting a 32-inch leg pitch, and a nine-inch individual touch screen on each seat, loaded with over 40 films, 120 channels, 20 games, USB ports and iPod eXport connections for passengers to enjoy their own media.

Pre-Flight

SQ_ - 19As passengers settle into their seats and we get situated in the Premium Business Class, Charles, our Flight Attendant (FA), introduced himself both in Spanish and perfect English. He immediately offered Champagne or the airline’s signature drink, Pisco Sour, as a pre-flight drink. After ordering the famous South American cocktail, Charles came back informing that JFK’s catering service forgot to load its main ingredients, for which Champagne ended up being our choice. Served at a perfect temperature, the French drink arrived along with a small plate of assorted nuts.

Minutes later, a team of FAs passed through the aisle with the airline’s spectacular amenity kits, furnished by Ferragamo. Amenity kits are often the Achilles’ heels for many premium carriers. In fact, Singapore (SQ) and ANA (NH) don’t even offer one. LAN, however, does have one of incredible quality, almost good as Alitalia (AZ)—an airline known for its superb kits.

SQ_ - 20Five minutes behind scheduled departure, the Captain announced our flight would be slightly delayed because the jet bridge couldn’t detach from the Dreamliner due to a technical malfunction. About 15 minutes after the announcement, we finally pushed back and the two Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines began spinning into life. A strong and pleasant roar was felt inside the cabin, and in less than five minutes, our 787-9 began taxiing to the runway. The cabin was dimmed into a spectacular deep blue color while the airline’s safety briefing video was shown on the screens.

At 20:42, we lined up with the runway and performed a spectacular takeoff, complemented by the thunderous roar of the two Trent 1000 engines and the Dreamliner’s noticeable wingflex.

Main Service

SQ_ - 22

After climbing through a stunning sunset, our crew began prepping the cabin for service. Warm towels were distributed as Charles jokingly observed that he’d better rush so that passengers don’t fall asleep before serving dinner.

The first components of the main service arrived: A small plate with two types of cheese and Jaramillo compote, accompanied with greens salad and olive oil vinaigrette. Our choice of a Dried Tomato Cream Soup was the main component. The quality of the cheese plate was indisputable, pairing greatly with the sweet compote. The greens salad, fresh and abundant, worked perfectly before tasting the flavorful soup.

As the main service continued, it took the crew over thirty minutes to clear our empty plates, and an additional fifteen to bring the main course (entrée). It seemed as if they were rushing, though our impression was that it was slightly disorganized.

SQ_ - 26

A round piece of beef, slightly overdone, arrived to our table. A side of overcooked veggies (asparagus and beans) unsuccessfully tried to pair with the dried beef, making it a somewhat disappointing dish. The meat was tough and dry, and the veggies overly cooked, gaining a gooey texture, which was quite unpleasant.

SQ_ - 27

As soon as the tray was cleared, our “Italian Cheesecake” quickly made its way to our table, lying on top of succulent fruit marmalade. I often do not care much for dessert, but I must say this was quite exceptional. We ordered a glass of Chilean dessert wine, though unfortunately wasn’t boarded either.

After main service ended, we were handed a Breakfast Menu, which had to be filled up before going to sleep. Before collecting them, Charles came by our seats, kindly handed our covers and pillows, and wished us a good night’s sleep.

Overnight on the Dreamliner

The full-flat bed configuration on the Boeing 787-9 is what the combined LAN and TAM carrier will offer once the merger is complete. The seat, albeit slightly narrow for long-haul flights, is very comfortable for resting and enjoying the airline’s excellent in-flight entertainment (IFE). The only flaw we were able to find, however, was that the bed’s length could be bothersome to tall passengers. At 5’10” (1.82m), my feet touched the wall of the seat when trying to sleep at full length. However, the comfort provided by the excellent pillow and cover, plus the low altitude cabin of the Boeing 787-9 allows for excellent resting.

Six hours after falling asleep, we were kindly awakened by Charles, who had our breakfast tray ready to be served. With 70 minutes left of flying time, we enjoyed a great pre-ordered breakfast of Special K Cereal with milk, fresh fruit, scrambled eggs, and sautéed mushrooms. Butter and Apricot jam, as well as a choice of warm bread and a hot cup of coffee with milk were also served.

Breakfast was light, refreshing, and just what was needed after a nine-hour flight on the same time zone. Thanks to the fact that Santiago is just one hour ahead of New York, jetlag was not something to worry about.

As we approached foggy Santiago, the Captain announced we’d be landing ten minutes ahead of schedule. At this time of the year (July), winter reins the southern hemisphere, with sunshine coming up as late as 08:30 and sunset at 18:40. As a result, we touched down in a pitch dark SCL with a cold temperature of 32 degrees (0°C).

A conclusion to a great flight

LAN’s newest Dreamliner proved to be more than a comfortable aircraft, capable of transporting its passengers in the utmost comfort, including a superb cabin atmosphere, which helps battle the associated stress of spending many hours inside a pressurized cabin.

This South American airline not only delivers a world-class product with its polite and punctual crewmembers on board the industry’s best airliners (soon to be improved with the arrival of the Airbus A350), but also continues to grow to become a leading carrier, which will practically own a majority stake of Latin America’s commercial aviation market share.

On this flight from JFK to SCL, all crew performed impeccably. A few flaws in service and small attention to detail could be the two imperfections we could notice; however, for an airline that is in constant growth in a region where countries are facing economic and social crises, LAN does exceed the expectations and nothing remains ahead but a successful future.


t_8_epawnEnrique Perrella is the Publisher and Editor in Chief of Airways Magazine. An Aviation Enthusiast, Commercial Pilot, Writer and Traveler with a Bachelors and Masters Degree in Aviation Business Administration. Enrique joined Airways in March 2014 as his group took over the reigns of the publication after 20 years under the tenure of John Wegg, founder and former Editor in Chief. Contact him at enrique@airwaysmag.com.


Editor‘s noteOur 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!

Contact the editor at roberto.leiro@airwaysnews.com

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Alaska Airlines to Partner with Hainan Airlines

By: Roberto Leiro / Published July 28, 2015

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan members will soon have new international destinations to fly to on miles. Last week, the Seattle-based operator has inked a frequent-flyer partnership with Chinese carrier Hainan Airlines.

Under the terms of the deal, the members of Mileage Plan program will earn miles when flying with Hainan. The airline, rated as a 5-star by Skytrax, operates nonstop flights from Seattle to Beijing and Shanghai, and opens to Alaska Airlines new travel choices for Pacific Northwest business travelers to China.

Image Courtesy of Alaska Airlines

Photo Credits: Alaska Airlines.

“Alaska Airlines is expanding its international partner portfolio with the addition of Hainan, giving our Mileage Plan members more ways to earn miles for their travel from the West Coast to Shanghai and Beijing and on connecting flights within China,” assured Andrew Harrison, Alaska Airlines executive vice president and chief revenue officer.

Harrison added that the new alliance will enter in full force at the end of the year, and that Alaska and Hainan will continue to enhance their partnership by recognizing and extending elite reciprocal benefits to members of Mileage Plan and Fortune Wings Club by fall. Earned flight miles on Hainan currently qualify toward elite status in Alaska’s FFP.

An Upscaling Battle for Seattle

DL737As previously published in a trilogy by our Senior Analyst Vinay Bashkara titled “The Battle for Seattle: Alaska vs. Delta” (Part One, Part Two, Part Three) both carriers are fiercely entangled for the control of Seattle, a highly competitive market. The decision of teaming up with Hainan will provide Alaska Airlines travelers a 5-star airline experience in two international key routes for Delta Air Lines out of Seattle. “Seattle was Hainan’s first North American gateway, opened in 2008, and since then we have carried hundreds of thousands of people between the U.S. and China,” said Hou Wei, Hainan Airlines vice president.

“This reduces Alaska’s dependence on Delta as a mileage partner,” travel consultant Steve Danishek told the Puget Sound Business Journal. “We assume that the Alaska-Delta mileage tie-up will eventually fail, perhaps pushed along by this.”


5k7s85PpRoberto Leiro is the Executive Editor at AirwaysNews.com. An aviation passionate since early childhood, Roberto started with other fellow enthusiasts Venezuela’s first aviation photography / news organization svzm.aero. Follow him on twitter @rleiro and reach him via e-mail at roberto.leiro@airwaysnews.com.


Editor‘s noteOur 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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Dinner on the Tarmac with Qatar Airways

 By: Roger Hyde / Published July 18, 2015

Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Airchive 2014

I would rather sit through nine solid days of a junior Karate tournament than voluntarily wade through rush-hour airport traffic on a messy Thursday afternoon, but I happened to be a guest of Qatar Airways who were wining and dining a few guests on-board a Boeing 777 parked near JFK’s Terminal 8.

Having swallowed my fair share of bumpy inflight meals at a variety of altitudes, I can confidently declare that the airlines have pretty much thrown everything they can at the challenge of pre-made, flash-frozen and reheated food that gets plated and served in an artificially dry environment, where passengers’ senses of smell and taste are quickly replaced by escalating boredom. Some airlines have requisitioned the talents of celebrity chefs and master sommeliers to improve their menus. Others have permitted passengers to pre-select their meals a week prior to departure. Some have introduced themed dishes or on-demand food service via the in-seat touch-screen. But regardless of whether the menu was signed by Daniel Boulud or Joel Rubichon, when you find yourself dining while strapped to a chair, the real battle between you and what’s on the end of your fork is at the hands of a caterer 30,000 feet below you.

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Qatar is very proud to have commissioned master chefs Nobu Matsuhisa and Vineet Bhatia, who put together some of their inflight meals a couple of times a year. Does this mean you can always expect Michelin star-worthy sushi and Indian food on board? The short answer according to the airline’s head of Food & Beverage, Colin Binmore, is “not exactly”. The long answer involves customer profiles and cultural preferences based on global routes and regions, and the availability of fresh ingredients from foreign airport caterers. So let’s crack that egg open. Once the celebrity chef has had his menu preparations thoroughly photographed, documented, sniffed and scratched, the caterers are painstakingly trained with regular check-ins to make sure that no corners are cut, and that the seasonal fruits are in fact in season and chewable, or that there is consistency with vinegar and chili use (apparently two very popular travails), and that the taste to the passenger closely matches the chef’s original intent.

2

Onboard plating instructions

Quality control and consistency keep Binmore’s team up all night all over the world, given how broadly things can vary from airport to airport. Why is FCO still over-salting? What’s making the panna cotta from JHB so rubbery? If mangoes are out of season in IAD, then why the hell are they still on the plate? Etc.

3

Pre-plated Heritage Tomato salad

It’s a little easier for the wines to be consistent, even though they too suffer at the fickle hands of lazy taste buds at altitude. James Cluer, who heads up the airline’s wine program, does an annual blind tasting of more than 1,000 bottles. The airline’s staunch policy of selecting wines purely based on taste rather than labels, scores or price, make for a very varied and unusual onboard selection. Wines are rotated for inbound and outbound flights to keep things fresh for frequent fliers, and the lists are replaced quarterly (except for a few permanent mainstays like the Kopke Colheita 1974 Tawny Port – arguably the only vintage Port offered inflight anywhere in the world). To better understand the affects of taste at 30,000 feet, Cluer and a few of his colleagues recently performed a very rare challenge by sampling wines at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. Talk about going the extra mile!

So, on to Qatar’s award-winning Business class dinner meal (prepared by a kitchen somewhere in Jamaica, Queens.)

4

With the amount of trips the multilingual and beautifully manicured flight attendants in dark green and burgundy uniforms clocked from seat to galley and back, they deserve their own frequent flier miles program. First on the tray table was an amuse bouche of a rather bland disc of Lamb Tikka sitting on a too soft Risotto cake, which was rescued by a mint chutney with a latent spice kick to resuscitate those airborne taste buds.

5

Pea Mint Soup

The few times I have eaten soups on board, they have usually been of the overly salty and peppery variety, and so I was somewhat surprised to see a Pea Mint on the menu. Gorgeous presentation with a dollop of basil oil and micro greens, but the abundance of heavy cream and mysterious absence of mint was disappointing. The crouton didn’t help matters either, as it appeared to have done more mileage than the crew. Not sure where (or when) it was toasted, but it had to be abandoned after two fruitless chewing attempts.

6

The highlight was the spectacular Classic Arabic Mezze platter. A triumphant triptych of creamy hummus, wonderfully citrusy and tangy tabouleh and a surprisingly sweet moutabel (aka babaganush) served with fresh brown and white pita wedges.

7

Heritage Tomato, feta and Kalamata Olive Salad

Having seen the pre-plated Heritage tomato, feta and Kalamata olive salad in the galley earlier, I was enormously impressed at how delicately and affectionately the various additions, garnishes and dressings were layered, stacked and tucked into position to yield an incredibly beautiful and flavorful dish.

8

Broccoli, Potato and Cheese tart

I fully understood the dilemma of catering to diverse palettes and ethnic cultures by how well the main course options covered ground: a vegetarian, a lamb and a shrimp. Vegetarians seldom get much in-flight love, and so it was encouraging to see such a solid option with the delightfully fluffy and moist Broccoli, potato and blue-cheese tart. It was hard to fault the super-tender, ultra-slow Braised lamb shank perched on a mound of mash with a tangy chickpea and saffron sauce, but the ultimate re-heating challenge had to be the Arabic spiced shrimp. The window for shrimp crunchiness is shorter than Sarah Palin’s temper, so even if these handsome specimens were butter-poached on the ground, by the time they left the galley oven, they had transmuted into coils of mushy paste. Most certainly a very courageous attempt, but all the “machboos” sauce, fried onions and nuts couldn’t put humpty-dumpty together again.

Braised Lamb Shank

Braised Lamb Shank

I skipped the ice-cream, fruits and cheeses and indulged on the incredibly tastyCardamom panna cotta. The perfect consistency with a subtle, yet undeniably middle-eastern flavor was accented by a tart accompaniment of rhubarb and apple compote.

10

Cardamom Panna Cotta

Our meal was well paired with about half of the on-board wine options. A refreshingly crisp and tart apple flavored 2013 Sauvignon Blanc from Esk Valley, New Zealand. An amazingly rich tobacco, berry, spicy and caramely 2007 Bordeaux from Chateau Monbousquet. The juicy, fruity and honey forward flavored Fritz Haag 2012 Spätlese, and the epitome of in-flight extravagances – a (slightly-too-small) sample of the nutty, marvelously smooth and deliciously dried fruit flavored ’74 Kopke Tawny port.

Bon voyage! Bon appetite!


About the Author: Roger Hyde has been writing about food for almost as long as he’s been eating it. His incurable interest in aviation and in-flight service, (as well as a three decade career in the entertainment industry) has afforded him the opportunity to enjoy and dissect meals, wines and airlines at a variety of altitudes all around the world.  Hyde has lived on three continents and currently calls New York his home. He pens a popular food blog/restaurant guide and spends his free time cooking and participating in international culinary events and workshops. Hyde welcomes comments and questions from readers. Fell free to contact him via e-mail or visit his website at rogersdigest.com.


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Brazil’s GOL to Launch New Livery

By: Roberto Leiro / Published July 16, 2015

Brazilian carrier GOL Linhas Aereas Inteligentes has unveiled a new livery during a event that also marked the arrival of its hundredth Boeing 737 arrival to the airline directly from the manufacturer.

GOL LogoThe new color scheme developed by Brazilian firm AlmapBBDO is the first change to the logotype of the airline in 14 years, and is a variation from its previous livery – it retains the oversized orange “GOL” title on the fuselage, now bolder, and adds an additional “O” in grey, forming a lemniscate to represent the essence of GOL, which remains the same since its foundation: bringing people, stories and destinations.

Aeronave_GOL_Lateral

The most prominent change has been the tail logo – an enlarged lemniscate in two tones, orange and gray over a white background. The internal face of the winglets will also wear the tail logo but in an orange background over a white and grey lemniscate as well.

“The new logo GOL now has now a symbol in addition to the name, which will be easily understood by customers and associated with all the company’s values ​​and attributes” says Marcus Sulzbacher, design creative director of AlmapBBDO and responsible for the project of brand. “This link also represents the union, after all, GOL brings people to your dreams and destinations.”

Paul Kakinoff, president of GOL told the audience in the event held at Belo Horizonte, “The new visual identity was inspired by our mission, which is to bring people with security and intelligence. He also assured “We are the same GOL, with the low-cost DNA, only now with more services, and superior avant-garde products in the industry.”

The aircraft received the company’s new logo is a Boeing 737-800 (registration PR-GXZ, MSN 40739), and is the hundreth unit the airline took delivery directly from the manufacturer, and has been immediately put into service as one of the cornerstones of a marketing campaign to introduce the new colors in Brazil.

“We are honored that the Next-Generation 737 is the backbone of its fleet as well as the fact that the company has chosen the 737 MAX for its future. With each generation, the 737 family has been providing the most efficient and reliable aircraft for GOL and its customers.” said Van Rex Gallard, sales vice president for Latin America, Africa and the Caribbean, Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

Last month, GOL signed with Internet provider Gogo a deal to provide in-flight connectivity, multimedia content and live TV on board. The service will allow the low-cost carrier to provide the most complete in-flight entertainment in Latin America. The first aircraft fitted with this new technology is scheduled for mid-2016.

RELATED: Gol Adds Gogo 2Ku for In-flight Connectivity, Live TV

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Swiss Aims to Impress with New 777 Seats and Cabins

By: John Walton / Published July 9, 2015

Swiss International Air Lines is going all out with its cabins on the Boeing 777-300ER, which it calls “the new Swiss flagship”. Brand new first class suites and a new implementation of the popular Thompson Vantage business class seat are both positives, and although a ten-abreast economy class is a downside, there is at least a state-of-the-art entertainment system and inflight wifi.

First class passengers will experience a suite for the first time on Swiss, and the product looks excellent.

First class, Swiss Boeing 777-300ER - SWI012609I

The suite itself is reminiscent of ANA’s new first class suites, though with a paler and more European sensibility, and speaking the same design language as Swiss’ current offerings.

04_SWISS_B777_First_Class

Compared with the narrower Airbus A340-300 aircraft the 777-300ER will be replacing, the big Boeing is wider, which means more space for each of the passengers in the first class layout, since it remains at 1-2-1.

05_SWISS_B777_First_Class

It’s notable that Swiss has retained its first class product, the only one of the three Lufthansa Group boutique carriers (Austrian, Swiss and Brussels Airlines) to do so alongside the Lufthansa brand.

First class, Swiss Boeing 777-300ER - SWI012613I

Swiss promises “a personal at-seat wardrobe, which can be used as an additional privacy divider during rest, electro-mechanical window shades (servicing all three windows of the seat area at the same time),“ and passengers can enjoy a massive 32-inch entertainment screen that Swiss says is the largest in the industry.

Business class consists of 64 Thompson Vantage staggered fully flat beds, which are what Swiss already has on its A330 and A340 fleet, and which are also common to the Lufthansa Group’s three boutique airlines.

Thompson Vantage Business class, Swiss Boeing 777-300ER - SWI012615I

Consistency of product and the clear expectations that consistency can generate help to create a positive passenger experience, and Swiss is very good at consistency.

The newer Vantage seats are more squared and seem taller, featuring a privacy divider on top of each of the footwell / console units.

Thompson Vantage Business class, Swiss Boeing 777-300ER - SWI012614I

Every center section passenger has direct aisle access, though, and the popular “throne” solo seats remain, with the addition of an extra storage unit on the window side console. This is a smart use of previously wasted space.

03_SWISS_B777_Business_Class

Cleverly, the table has been moved from its previous position popping out from the side of the side console to the divider between seats (or between the “throne” seat and the aisle).

02_SWISS_B777_Business_Class

Swiss already operates a high-density version of these seats (1-2-1 and 2-2-1 on alternating rows in its Airbus widebodies). It has maintained this density on the 777-300ER, which will add a seat in every other row for an 1-2-1 and 2-2-2 configuration.

And that’s the downside to the larger cabin width of the 777-300ER in business class: more window passengers will have to climb over an aisle neighbor in order to reach the aisle.

Economy class, in common with sister airline Austrian’s 777 aircraft, is the 3-4-3 high-density layout that is as unpopular with passengers as it is popular with airlines.

Swiss economy class 777-300ER

It is admittedly difficult for an airline’s management to turn down adding 11 percent more seats to the 777’s original nine-abreast seating configuration, but it moves Swiss from an airline of choice in economy to an airline to avoid.

01_SWISS_B777_Economy

The rumored Swiss premium economy has not materialized, however, which is a disappointment for passengers who don’t have the means to pay four times the economy fare for a business class seat, but who might well be able to pay the 1.5-2x multiplier for premium economy.

Wifi will be available throughout the aircraft, although Swiss’ CGI mockups don’t include a radome so give no clues as to provider or system.

In terms of timing, Swiss will replace its aging Airbus A340-300 aircraft with the 777-300ER, with the airline stating “from the 2016 summer schedules onwards, the new aircraft will be deployed primarily on services to Hong Kong, Bangkok and Los Angeles. And San Francisco, São Paulo and Tel Aviv will also receive Boeing 777 service several times a week. The first six SWISS Airbus A340s to be withdrawn with the arrival of the new Boeing 777-300ERs will be returned to their lessors. Three further A340s will be replaced by new Boeing 777-300ERs between 2017 and 2018. These aircraft will be transferred to SWISS’s sister carrier Edelweiss.”

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Virgin America Picks Streaming-Capable ViaSat Ka-Band Wifi

By: John Walton / Published July 8, 2015

Want the fastest available inflight Internet? Virgin America thinks you do, and it’s installing ViaSat’s Ka-band satellite connectivity on its next ten Airbus A320 aircraft, which start arriving in just two months. Apart from the streaming video-capable connection over the continental US, which passengers on jetBlue’s A320 family and United’s Boeing 737 family aircraft already rate highly, the move is important because Virgin will deploying the world’s first hybrid Ka-Ku antenna, also provided by ViaSat.

The first Ka-band-equipped Airbus A320 aircraft will arrive this September, and since ViaSat’s Ka-band coverage is currently limited to the continental US it would seem logical that this aircraft would be generally limited to those flights. A Virgin America spokesperson confirmed to AirwaysNews that “we will upgrade these 10 aircraft to ViaSat’s new hybrid Ku/Ka-band antenna starting in early 2016,” when the aircraft intended for Hawaii flights start arriving outfitted with the hybrid system.

Much like JetBlue, the Ka-band service will be free for the initial beta period, with Virgin America noting that it intends to announce pricing for the service next year. Last month the airline unveiled its updated Android-based Red Beta inflight entertainment system, and an upgraded connectivity system — particularly given the rise of on-demand video like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video — adds to Virgin America’s arsenal on the increasingly competitive transcontinental market.

Virgin America Red Beta new inflight entertainment system Aircraft_Interior_Red_Beta “Bringing ViaSat’s satellite-based wifi product to our new delivery aircraft will again allow us to make an industry-leading investment in our product. We are excited about this new technology and the possibility it opens up for wifi coverage on our new Hawaii flights and for travelers who wish to stream video inflight,” Virgin America’s director of product design and innovation Ken Bieler explains.

Virgin’s decision would seem to throw doubt on its commitment to ViaSat competitor Gogo, whose share price dropped over 5 percent today. It was only six months ago that Virgin America was celebrating being the first airline to offer Gogo’s ATG-4 connectivity fleetwide. ATG-4 maxes out at around 10 Mbps per aircraft, the speed of a reasonable home ADSL connection — but shared between nearly 200 of your closest friends on board an A320, ATG-4 slows significantly. Gogo’s dynamic pricing has risen significantly in an attempt to control demand enough to provide a usable experience.

In 2013 Virgin and Gogo announced plans to move to a hybrid Ku-ATG-4 system called GTO (which essentially combines the connectivity of both systems to max out at around 60 Mbps per aircraft), but last year the airline began studying Gogo’s 2Ku system (which combines two Ku-band antennas to likely max out around 70 Mbps per aircraft).

Compare those with the test speeds on the ViaSat-JetBlue media proving flight (while a planeful of aviation and tech media were streaming, webcasting and downloading to try to make the system fall over):

Flyfi free version on initial testing flight

Virgin America is playing coy about its intentions with 2Ku, particularly around whether the airline intends to refit it to the existing fleet. “We have not yet made a technology decision with respect to an upgrade for the rest of the fleet,” a spokesperson tells AirwaysNews, but it would be very surprising if such a small airline were to operate systems from two entirely separate inflight connectivity providers.

ViaSat’s inflight wifi head Don Buchman, whose official title is VP and general manager of the company’s commercial mobility business, emphasises the USPs of ViaSat’s system: “Our competitive advantage is rooted in the unique bandwidth economics of ViaSat-1 and the forthcoming ViaSat-2 satellite networks. We can empower airlines to engage all of their guests in an in-flight, online experience just like they’d get on the ground – including streaming high quality video.”

Coverage_Maps_2014_011_see_Tara_first

ViaSat-2, of course, is due to be launched by the SpaceX Falcon Heavy system, which last month suffered a catastrophic launch failure during a resupply mission to the International Space Station. Its coverage will be needed for Mexico and Caribbean flights, and it will also provide redundancy and extra capacity over the US.

Editor‘s noteOur 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!

Contact the editor at roberto.leiro@airwaysnews.com

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ANALYSIS: DOJ Overreaches with Investigation Into Airline “Collusion”

By: Vinay Bhaskara / Published July 6. 2015

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it was investigating US airlines for collusion Wednesday afternoon, building a striking parallel to current efforts by major US carriers to restrict access to the U.S. market for Middle Eastern airlines and European low-cost carrier (LCC) Norwegian Air Shuttle. The DOJ has subpoenaed several major U.S. airlines as part of its investigation into “possible unlawful coordination” to limit capacity and boost airfares. News of the DOJ investigation comes roughly two weeks after Connecticut senator Richard Blumenthal wrote a letter to the DOJ asking them to probe possible collusion amongst US airlines.

RELATED: DOJ Subpoenas Airlines over Alleged Collusion The DOJ has broad latitude in proving collusion.

According to the DOJ website:

Most criminal antitrust prosecutions involve price fixing, bid rigging, or market division or allocation schemes. Each of these forms of collusion may be prosecuted criminally if they occurred, at least in part, within the past five years. Proving such a crime does not require us to show that the conspirators entered into a formal written or express agreement. Price fixing, bid rigging, and other collusive agreements can be established either by direct evidence, such as the testimony of a participant, or by circumstantial evidence, such as suspicious bid patterns, travel and expense reports, telephone records, and business diary entries.

The DOJ’s investigation is the most far-reaching probe by the U.S. government into the behavior of U.S. airlines in a long while, perhaps ever. Still, the investigation has a high burden of proof. In order to prove that U.S. airlines actually colluded, the DOJ must not only prove that the actions of the U.S. airlines reduced competition, but also that these illegally communicated with each other in order to achieve this state of reduced competition.

This second requirement would appear to be the biggest weakness in the DOJ’s case. It appears that the DOJ is (at least partly) relying on public statements made by airline executives at various conferences, as well as the more common practice of providing capacity guidance to investors and the media to prove its case. This seems like weak evidence at best. There’s always the possibility that the DOJ has some sort of whistleblower at one of the U.S. majors, but it seems unlikely given how many resources and employees U.S. carriers devote to regulatory compliance that they’d slip up.

Airlines are certainly a convenient political target given the broadly unfavorable consumer views of U.S. carriers (excluding Southwest and JetBlue?), and the veritable smorgasbord of negative stories from a media primed to view everything involving businesses almost exclusively through the lens of the consumer, without considering the other stakeholders involved (more on this later). Given that context, one almost wonders if the DOJ is looking to score cheap political points by extorting a few million dollars per airline to make this issue go away quickly. Airline stocks are certainly being punished enough such that executives have a pretty strong incentive to do exactly that.

The other plausible outcome from this case is a consent decree (basically a diktat from a federal agency saying “stop this practice or else…”) that would require airlines to stop issuing specific numbers for capacity guidance, or even to stop making public statements about capacity altogether. But airlines primarily issue those statements for the benefit of their owners (i.e. shareholders). They’re not required by SEC regulations, but they are pretty standard practice worldwide because they allow an airline’s owners the ability to react in real time to an airline’s plans and force adjustments that they deem necessary, which is a pretty fundamental shareholder’s right. Moreover, even if the DOJ bans capacity guidance, airlines will just shift to providing PRASM guidance, which will send enough of a message regarding capacity that shareholders will be able to pressure airlines into doing what they want anyway. The DOJ also technically has the ability to break up the US majors, but that’s not a realistic outcome.

Contextualizing the Problem

The argument for the anti-competitive market situation largely rests on two data points: capacity discipline by U.S. airlines and sharply rising airfares. To start with the latter, the rise in airfares is a common talking point. For example, in a CNN report on the probe yesterday, a pundit noted that “Fares have skyrocketed…. according to government data, airfares have increased 16.4% since 2010.” But this data is misleading if not outright disingenuous. First and foremost, using 2010 as a base doesn’t make sense given that 2010 was still in the midst of recovery from the global financial crisis in late 2008-2009. A better design would begin in 2008, which has the added benefit of preceding enough of the mergers such that you start with a fundamentally more competitive industry than today. Then you have to talk about the use of base fares, which are affected by a variety of factors, most importantly stage length. You would expect airfares to rise as stage length rises, and given the 6.6% rise in stage length for U.S. airlines from 2008-2015, that immediately wipes away part of the rise. Luckily, airlines have metrics that account for length of flight, namely PRASM and yield.

While PRASM is the more widely reported metric, PRASM is also affected by load factors and the balance between capacity and demand, so a better metric is adjusted yields, which reflect the average price a passenger is paying for a seat-mile on an aircraft. So just how monstrous is the rise in airfares per this metric? Between 2008-2015, they went up 6.6%, a whopping 1.08% per year. Meanwhile, stage-length adjusted cost per available seat mile (CASM) rose 5.4%. 1.2 percentage points more than costs is what fares have risen since 2008. The inclusion of ancillary revenue like checked baggage fees and change fees complicates the picture, but even so, out of pocket travel costs don’t end up coming out much higher than CPI inflation over the period, at 9.9%.

Capacity moves have been driven by Wall Street

On the capacity side, the DOJ can at least point to plenty of evidence of US carriers making statements about capacity discipline and de-hubbing airports like Memphis or Cincinnati that weren’t a fit post-merger. And on an aggregate, level, the US airlines, particularly the legacies, but also Southwest and the rest have embraced capacity discipline, with post-recession capacity growth under the rate of growth of GDP (the economy) whereas in the past, capacity usually grew at 1.5 – 2x the rate of GDP. But is the cause of this really coordinated action derived from illegal communication? Or should we apply Occam’s Razor and look for the simplest answer?

Like most publicly traded companies, U.S. airlines are in many respects beholden to their shareholders (i.e. their owners). And while Wall Street is oft maligned in industry circles for driving too much short term thinking (occasionally in this space), by and large Wall Street analysts and ratings agencies are a pretty good proxy for most shareholders, who tend to lack a sophisticated understanding of the industry and its vagaries. And Wall Street, for very food reasons, has decided that it likes capacity discipline; and that by extension it will reward it, and punish a lack of discipline. One need look no further than the recent response to Southwest’s share price when the Dallas-based carrier announced that its capacity growth for 2015 would come in around 8% instead of 7% as it had previously guided. Southwest’s share price was hammered (along with that of much of the industry) and it was forced to walk back those plans.

While this might seem to be an overreaction, airline investors have a very good reason to value capacity discipline. It is only in the last five to six years, as investors have pushed airlines to engage in capacity discipline, that they have finally got something resembling a reasonable return for the first time in more than a decade. And unlike the late 1990s, these returns are not contingent on an incredibly positive macro environment in the U.S. and the world. And when a firm’s owners want something, it usually happens (look no further than the ousting of Dave Barger in favor of Robin Hayes at JetBlue). Has this changed the behavior of U.S. airlines in aggregate? Yes. Is it collusion? No.

A situation of the DOJ’s own creation

The real dramatic irony is that the present state of competition in the US airline industry is pretty much the fault of the DOJ itself. If fares are rising and capacity is being constrained, the DOJ has no one to blame but itself. Through a mix of antitrust immunity/joint ventures, mergers, and slot swaps, the DOJ has allowed many of the more anti-competitive situations in the U.S. to develop. There are only three major airline groups across the Atlantic? The DOJ signed off on that. Six legacies merged into three? The DOJ signed off on that too. Delta and American now have fortress hubs at New York La Guardia and Washington Reagan respectively? The DOJ okayed that one as well. We are unquestionably living in an air travel oligopoly. But it’s a bit rich for the DOJ to bluster about the resultant situation today when it signed off on every one of the steps that created it.

And the federal government’s various agencies have the ability to rectify this situation pretty quickly. The US3 campaigns against Norwegian and the Middle East Big 3 can be overruled pretty quickly. Why not go further and sign Open Skies agreements with any country that’s willing? And to solve the issue of domestic competition, why not ease rules on foreign ownership and offer unlimited cabotage? The federal government has plenty of tools to increase competition in the US airline market. None of them involve a politically convenient “investigation” based on exaggerated charges.

The most important philosophical question is which stakeholders matter 

The current U.S. airline market is not the best it has ever been for consumers. It’s still better than everything before deregulation and most of the 80s and 90s, but except for high yield and business travelers, the early 2000s were probably the golden age for purchasers of air travel in terms of convenience and low fares. And the reduction in competition through consolidation and capacity discipline absolutely plays a role on that. But is the consumer’s interest the only thing to consider?

Airlines have three primary stakeholders: consumers, employees (including executives), and shareholders, as well as several other minor ones (like airports, airframers, suppliers, etc.). But when the media and broader public think about airline issues, they solely focus on the consumer’s needs and perspective. But shareholders can’t be ignored, if only because they own the airline. Ultimately, an airline, like any for-profit business, is beholden to its shareholders, and largely required to comply with their wishes and act for their benefit. There are very good reasons for this. The original rationale for the shareholder system was to allow the pooling of capital to create large companies while spreading risk. There is no way that the massive, complex, and risky airline networks that exist today would be able to function without the money of the shareholders.

But there’s a funny thing about shareholders: they like getting a return on their money. And by 2007/2008, airlines had burned investors one too many times (Southwest notwithstanding). There was no way that airlines could continue to act in the irrational and aggressive manner they adopted between 2000-2008, if they wanted to continue to access the myriad benefits (such as capital) provided by shareholders. So they decided to buckle down and get serious about delivering returns. In the process, fares went up and planes got fuller. But we have a very good reason to want shareholders, not in the least because they provide the capital for new entrants/growth agents (like Spirit Airlines) who are ultimately the most effective form of competition. Especially given the higher barriers to entry created by additional FAA and DOT rules and regulations, investors who can pool large sums of capital are critical for the US airline industry to develop new entrant activity moving forward. Investors have just begun to trust airlines again. Do we really want to take action against the capacity discipline that has allowed that trust to regrow?

Employees haven’t done anywhere near as well as investors have, but they are also better off than they were in the dregs of the 2000s. Pilot groups have probably gotten the best deals (helped by the pilot shortage), but across the board, employees have begun to share in the profitability of their employers through increased wages, profit sharing, or both. And so amongst the three stakeholders, consumers might be slightly worse off, but investors and employees are way better off. Arguably consumers have gotten the best deal from commercial aviation over the past 30 years, enjoying lower than realistic fares while being cross subsidized by employees and investors taking a hammering. The tables have turned, and we’ve hit a more stable equilibrium. But is that something that the broader populace can accept?

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Editor‘s note: Keep up with AirwaysNews by subscribing to our weekly Newsletter. Every Saturday morning, subscribers get a recap of our top stories of the week, the subscriber-only exclusive Weekend Reads column wrapping up interesting industry stories and a Photo of the Week from the amazing AirwaysNews archives. Click here to subscribe today!

Contact the author at vinay.bhaskara@airwaysnews.com

DISCLAIMER – The Author is long/short on several US airlines, including AAL, DAL, SAVE, ALK, JBLU, and ALGT, as well as several global airlines. 

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Vietnam Airlines Takes Delivery of its First Airbus A350 XWB

Following a special ceremony held in Airbus premises in Toulouse today, Vietnam Airlines has taken delivery of the first A350-900 aircraft on a lease from AerCap. Altogether, the airline is set to acquire 14 A350 XWB, including 10 ordered directly to Airbus and four from lessors.

The aircraft, scheduled to arrive to Hanoi tomorrow, will inaugurate commercial service later this week, initially on the Hanoi-Ho Chi Minh domestic sector and then on non-stop flights from Hanoi to Paris, and it will be progressively deployed for its operation on long haul routes, thus expanding the airline fleet comprised by Airbus A321, A330 and Boeing 777 aircraft.

RELATED: The Airbus A350 XWB: A Timeline

“The arrival of the A350 XWB marks the start of a major upgrade of our long haul fleet,” said Trinh Ngoc Thanh, Executive Vice President, Commercial, Vietnam Airlines. “Combining the latest technologies, a wider cabin and the highest levels of comfort, the A350 XWB will enable us to fly our passengers in style whichever class of travel they choose. We are proud to be the second airline in the world to receive the A350 XWB aircraft which is a step forward that helps us to fulfill our commitment to “reach further.”

Vietnam Airlines opted to configure its A350 fleet with a premium three-class layout, 29 Business Class seats, 45 Premium Economy and 231 in Economy Class, complemented with a state-of-the-art in flight entertainment and connectivity, intended to bring a new level of service to passengers while also benefiting from enhanced profitability and increased competitiveness in the long-haul premium sector.

A350_XWB_Vietnam_Airlines_in_flight_6_close_up_

Vietnam is a key growth market in Asia and is expected to continue to record much higher-than-average growth in traffic – estimated at approximately 8.4 per cent annually over the next 20 years, according to Airbus’ latest Global Market Forecast.

“We are proud to see Vietnam Airlines become the second airline in the world to operate the A350 XWB,” said Fabrice Brégier, President and CEO, Airbus. “We are confident that the all-new A350 XWB will enable Vietnam Airlines to consolidate its position as one of Asia’s leading international carriers, bringing its passengers the best the industry has to offer.”

RELATED: A Look at Airbus’ A350 XWB Final Assembly Line

RELATED: The Airbus A350 XWB: Being There At The Maiden Flight

To date, Airbus has recorded a total of 781 firm orders for the A350 XWB from 40 customers worldwide, already making it one of the most successful wide-body aircraft ever. The aircraft handed over today is the fifth A350 XWB to be delivered, following the type’s entry into commercial service with Qatar Airways—its first operator—earlier this year.

RELATED: Qatar Airways Takes Delivery of World’s First Airbus A350 XWB

EXTRA: On-Board Qatar’s A350 XWB Media Flight

Editor‘s note: Keep up with AirwaysNews by subscribing to our weekly eNewsletter. Every Saturday morning, subscribers get a recap of our top stories of the week, the subscriber-only exclusive Weekend Reads column wrapping up interesting industry stories and a Photo of the Week from the amazing AirwaysNews archives. Click here to subscribe today!

Contact the editor at roberto.leiro@airwaysnews.com

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New SITA Product Will Help Airlines Improve the Passenger Experience

By Benét J. Wilson / Published June 30, 2015

United Business First flatbed seat. Image Courtesy of United Airlines

United Business First flatbed seat. Image Courtesy of United Airlines

Global IT travel provider SITA says it had the solution for airlines to take their passenger experience to the next level with Horizon, its next-generation passenger system. Horizon allows airlines to track passengers’ preferences and determine each customer’s overall value so that they can personalize their service and make relevant offerings.

The Horizon passenger ancillary sales portal allows relevant ancillary services to be offered consistently across any sales channel – mobile, online, agency or call center. Horizon is a Passenger Services System – the technology that manages reservations, inventory, ticketing, and departure control for an airline, said Allison O’Neill, SITA’s vice president of passenger services.

“So, any passenger of airlines, ground handlers and other air transport industry organizations that use Horizon benefit from its advanced capabilities.  Last year Horizon helped 137 million passengers make an airline booking and 167 million passengers check-in for flights,” said O’Neill. “In addition to reservations, inventory, ticketing, and departure control, Horizon also manages merchandising, fares management, pricing and shopping capabilities. Self-service booking via web, kiosk and mobile are provided directly to passengers along with distribution via third-parties. Related functions include revenue management tools, loyalty and business intelligence solutions.”

Horizon Customer Profile is a module within the Horizon Portfolio that enriches the experience for all passengers of an airline, said O’Neill. “It is used to create bookings, to record interactions with passengers across touch points, and to equip staff to consistently recognize and acknowledge valuable passengers at any stage in their journey, she said.

Each airline with a Horizon account has access to SITA’s Customer Profile database, a key component of the system, said O’Neill. “This is a  rich repository of data about each individual customer that is shared across the portfolio and users,” she said.

Typical customer data includes:

  • Contact details, passports and preferences as well as payment;
  • Loyalty membership data with entitlements and customer service indicators, driving consistent recognition of loyalty status and ensuring associated benefits are delivered accurately and consistently;
  • Attributes, such as VIP status and relationship data – family, online social, corporate and travel agency relationships, for instance; and
  • Other interests pertinent to destinations and activities and potentially of value to customer service and marketing teams.

Horizon is also able to assess a passenger’s value to the airline based on: loyalty membership tier – taking into account past booking value stored in the loyalty system and linked to the customer profile; booking history, if for example you are not registered in the airline’s loyalty program, based on  past records linked from the customer profile; and other attributes, such as VIP status and relationships to VIPs, social influence and more.

SITA chart jpg

The customer profile paints a complete picture of the airline passenger – it maintains the data in one area to be used consistently at every interaction with the client, said O’Neill. “So that no matter who from [an airline] is dealing with [a passenger], they have all the current information to serve you best,” she said. “It affects what is offered to you at any point of service. If something happens and a front-line employee needs guidance on how to serve you, we can provide service prompts that guide the employee (airline system users) to appropriate courses of action. So in the event of a disservice, the airline can offer appropriate compensation and retain your loyalty.”

On a basic level this is about ensuring that a loyal, top-tier frequent flyer receives the extra perks — extra checked bag, no charge for extra legroom, lounge access — they are entitled to no matter how or where they choose to book and customize their travel with an airline, said O’Neill. “In a more sophisticated sense it’s about giving an airline the ability to recognize and differentiate its offer based on the specific context of a passenger’s journey.

O’Neill cited the example of being able to differentiate a weekend trip with family from a routine business commute and using that knowledge to predict the likelihood to need and want additional services such as meal upgrades based on past purchase behaviors for a similar type of journey. “For this example, after collating the data stored and available in customer profile you, the passenger, could be offered discounted meal upgrades for your entire family and promotional offers specifically curated to include a discounted bundle incorporating your preferred hotel and car rental brands,” she said.

The data is collected from entries made as a passenger books with the airline, either directly or indirectly through an agent, membership of the loyalty system, and information provided at check-in or through interactions with airline staff, said O’Neill. “Notes of interactions can include references to incidents and customer communications as well as a log of automated processes. Airlines using SITA’s Crew Tablet can  relay customer experience data to and from onboard the aircraft,” she said.

It is all about knowing the passenger so that the airline can give them what they want – across the journey and using any device — mobile, web, agent and more, said O’Neill. “Customer profile data can tell the airline about its customer demographics and service preferences. They can learn about which customers are delivering the most business , where, when and why they fly, what additional services they purchase, how they purchase, their  loyalty status, who travels with them and so on,” she said. “That enables the airline to tailor services, including flight network, pricing and services options to meet the needs of its market. They can also learn where their service falls down and take action to rectify it.”

The airline has a lot more data that can be used to understand passenger needs, said O’Neill. “At the IT Summit [recently] held in Brussels, we demonstrated our Horizon Business Intelligence tool that enable airlines to evaluate their business, identify issues, see trends, uncover opportunities and make intelligent decisions on strategic or operational improvements,” she said. “We currently offer five dashboards that enable an airline to understand its business and make informed decisions for improved operations and revenue performance.”

A Horizon customer profile ensures an airline can recognize and recover from a disservice event – in other words to try to make an unhappy customer happy again, said O’Neill. “If a passenger’s flight has been delayed or they have experienced multiple flight cancellation events, then this information can be configured to trigger a recommendation presented to the gate agent or cabin crew indicating that passenger is eligible for a free upgrade or drink voucher along with a heartfelt apology,” she said.

The number of employees will depend on the airline size and the Horizon modules used, said O’Neill. “Horizon serves large and small airlines. Some of our customers have only a handful of airplanes; yet the same system supports major carriers including Air India and Malaysia Airlines. Customers may choose the modules they need,” she said.

Airlines are beginning to see loyalty as central to their mission, as a core philosophy woven into each and every facet of airline operations, said O’Neill. “Loyalty comes from creating customer satisfaction – building an enduring relationship beyond a single sale. To earn it, airlines need to know their customers,” she said. “And based on this knowledge, they need to recognize customers as individuals.”

There’s compelling cost logic to a focus on loyalty as well, said O’Neill. “Acquiring a customer costs: estimates put it between four and ten times the cost of retaining a customer. So it makes sense to recognize that happy customers provide the greatest potential for airline revenue generation initiatives,” she said.

Earning trust and loyalty requires more than simply selling more stuff to each passenger, said O’Neill. “Airlines need to better understand each passenger and use that knowledge to offer them the right product or service in the right channel at the right time,” she said. “SITA is committed to support airlines as they evolve from simply selling more stuff to passengers to implementing more sophisticated retailing practices built on top of enhanced understanding of their passenger’s wants and needs.”

Understanding each passenger and being able to tailor and personalize the products or services offered is essential for airlines to achieve sustained profitability, she added.

SITA’s Customer Profile and the ability to sell ancillary services in direct channels are already available, said O’Neill. “Later this year we will launch an upgraded Customer Profile and Value algorithm that is the cornerstone of enhanced personalized service,” she said. “We are in the processing of rolling this out with a major European airline and expect approximately five more to be using it by the end of the year.”

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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Virgin Atlantic Goes For Gold In Economy and With Dreamliners

By Ramsey Qubein / Published June 30, 2015

Virgin Atlantic has built a reputation for a re-imagined, surely sexy, flying experience. Nevertheless, much of its marketing relies on its premium business class product. And, what with its inflight bar, flat-bed seating, pajamas on overnight flights, attractive uniforms, and an image that hinges on its fly boy founder Richard Branson, it is certainly well deserved.

However, the majority of the airline’s passengers do not enjoy many of those features, although there is no doubt their interest in choosing Virgin can be traced to this dependable, hip image. What is unique, however, is the lengths that the carrier is going to improve its economy class cabin.

New to Virgin Atlantic is its intense joint venture partnership with Delta Air Lines across the Atlantic which gives the airline shared access to the U.S. carrier’s revenue opportunity and route network. Cross fleeting was quick to follow the announcement with Delta taking over routes from Virgin Atlantic on flights from LAX and Philadelphia. Virgin has reciprocated with its operation of flights from Atlanta and Detroit.

RELATED: Virgin Atlantic Welcomes the 787-9 in Atlanta

RELATED: With Delta, Is Virgin Atlantic Getting its Mojo Back?

We have seen both United and Delta proudly announce investments in their economy class meals on international flights. Delta has even reintroduced amenity kits, and all three legacy U.S. carriers have reverted to offering free wine and beer in economy class to stay in line with their respective joint venture partners. Coinciding with the launch of the carrier’s new fleet of Dreamliners, Virgin Atlantic has undertaken a revamp of its inflight offering in the economy cabin. The change is timely given the joint venture with Delta.

RELATED: Maturity and Growth in the Delta-Virgin Atlantic Partnership

With the Dreamliner, Virgin Atlantic is already seeing many of its customers specifically book their travel on flights operated by the new aircraft. Airways joined the airline for the launch of its JFK Dreamliner flight. Numerous passengers planned their travel to fly on the 787 instead of the numerous 747-400 flights also operating that day.

Back-of-the-bus catering gets an upgrade

Stock pictures of Virgin Atlantic 787-9 aircraft Birthday Girl.Virgin is going one step further to put the fun back into flying for economy passengers. This revamp is not only for passengers on board the airline’s new Dreamliner, but also all passengers in its economy cabin. The joint venture with Delta is sure to have played a role in the harmonizing of products between the two carriers, and passengers are the immediate beneficiaries of small, but notable upgrades on board.

Upon boarding, all passengers (like on partner Delta and competitor Swiss International) receive a full-sized bottle of water. “Following extensive surveys of passengers, it became clear that flyers wanted more control about staying hydrated at their own pace,” says Head of Customer Experience Debbie Hulme.

Complimentary cocktails, beer and wine are now offered in a pre-lunch or dinner cocktail service, and again during and after the meal service. In a more customer friendly move (thanks to those passenger surveys), the airline is switching from pouring glasses of wine or mixing cocktails on the cart to offering splits of wine and minis of cocktails to passengers. New features of the economy class dining service include hot towels prior to the meal and a cheese and cracker course served as part of the main tray service.

“The simple and inexpensive act of offering a hot towel before a meal in economy class goes a long way in making passengers feel special and cared for,” says Chris McGinnis, founder of TravelSkills.com. “I’m surprised more airlines don’t do this.”

After-dinner chocolates will accompany the coffee and tea service following dinner. Pre-arrival meals on daytime flights will include a new selection of gourmet wraps. These little extras are part of what add to the Virgin experience.

Premium Economy gets a boost too. The Dreamliner aircraft are the first to be equipped with the new Wonder Wall concept featuring a small refrigerator and full buffet of snacks and drinks. It is located in the front cabin and is designed as a compact social space, similar to the concept of the Upper Class Bar (albeit with a bartender) for guests to commune or snack at their leisure.

Bring your selfie stick

To take advantage of the selfie craze, Virgin is launching a new campaign dubbed the ultimate #SkyhighSelfie on its new Dreamliner 787 aircraft, offering customers the opportunity to check in on Facebook and share their photos from 35,000 feet.

Developed in conjunction with Jiffybots, its app will allow customers to check in free of charge on Facebook and share their location and photos with their friends and followers during the flight via the aircraft’s Wi-Fi connection.

Designated #SkyhighSelfie spots in the cabin will offer passengers the chance to take the perfect selfie onboard and share their experience. Each of the airline’s Dreamliners will have a unique backdrop with the aircraft’s name so that passengers can “collect” various aircraft selfies. Virgin has 21 of the aircraft on order with routes to Boston, Newark, New York JFK, and Washington Dulles already featuring the new plane.

The first selfie spot went live on Birthday Girl April 1 allowing customers to take their picture with the iconic Virgin Atlantic Flying Lady carrying her celebratory champagne coupe. Also, a discussion forum will allow travelers to connect to other passengers on board and share their experiences. Both access to the discussion forum and selfie upload will be accessible via the wifi signal.

 

Surprise and delight

In an effort to move beyond the staid experience, the airline has also launched several surprise and delight events including one over Christmas that certainly had passengers talking. Travelers aboard flight 11 from London to Boston were treated to a special visit and gift from Santa Claus himself as the plane flew over the Arctic.

“We wanted to offer something extra special for the families flying with us this Christmas and who better to spread the Christmas cheer than Santa himself?,” says Hulme.

Santa dropped into the aircraft while passing by during one of his “reindeer training flights.” The experience began at boarding when all 264 customers were gifted an early Christmas present from Microsoft of a Windows tablet so they could log on to NORAD Track Santa and enjoy a live chat as he took his sleigh for a spin over the Atlantic

“Passengers tracked his movements from their Windows tablets and were able to live chat with him before sharing their Santa selfies using the on board Wi-Fi,” Hulme adds.

When the aircraft was over Greenland, Santa radioed the Virgin Atlantic pilots flying the aircraft asking permission to land on the plane for some refreshments and to give his reindeers a rest.

Passengers were then amazed to watch the sleigh land on the aircraft through glass panels in the roof before he accessed the plane through a special Santa hatch.

Santa then walked down the aisles of the plane, delighting children and taking selfies with surprised passengers.

Christmas continued for those on the plane with Microsoft prizes of Xboxes and Windows devices from Dell, Lenovo & Microsoft being won in competitions during the flight.

This type of creativity is reserved typically for premium cabin customers, and to see an airline exhibit such an effort for economy shows creative push that moves in the right direction for the industry as a whole. Certainly, other carriers will be hard pressed to match such an offer, but to see Virgin kick start a movement in the “back of the bus” is a refreshing start in the aviation industry.

“It will be interesting to see if Virgin can recreate part of the allure it has brought to the front of the plane in Upper Class,” adds McGinnis. “Virgin has a tremendously strong brand, and the investments that some airlines are making in economy these days are definitely a step in the right direction.”

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ANALYSIS: JetBlue Crescendoes In Boston With New Mint Offering

By: Vinay Bhaskara / Published June 26, 2015

A JetBlue ERJ-190 at Boston Logan Image Credit: Chris Sloan/Airchive

A JetBlue ERJ-190 at Boston Logan
Image Credit: Chris Sloan/Airchive

Earlier this week, JetBlue announced a major expansion of its second largest hub at Boston, headlined by the debut of its ultra-premium Mint product on routes to Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco (SFO), and Barbados. The expansion will also see JetBlue add frequency to 13 additional destinations and add new twice daily nonstop service to Nashville, and will push JetBlue’s operation in Boston (BOS) to nearly 140 peak day departures in Summer 2016.

The new Mint service in Boston will launch with three daily flights to San Francisco in March 2016. Barbados will join the same month with Saturday-only service the same month, mirroring a recent addition to Barbados and Aruba from JetBlue’s largest hub at New York JFK. Los Angeles will follow in Fall 2016, once again with up to three flights per day.

JetBlue’s Mint product has been expected at Boston since the day the product was announced, almost two years prior. While New York to SFO and LAX are much larger markets, Boston is far less competitive. And given JetBlue’s strength amongst high-yielding business travelers, their Boston Mint experiment should have a strong chance of success. Between the two markets, San Francisco has the stronger fundamentals. Not only is San Francisco is a larger overall market, with origin and destination (O&D) demand of 1,730 passengers per day each way (PDEW), versus 1,504 for Los Angeles, but it also has higher average fares, at $312.41 one-way versus $276.64 to Los Angeles. The advantage is only magnified in premium cabins, where the average one way fare is $65-70 higher for San Francisco, also the larger market (at 478 PDEW versus 429 PDEW for LAX).

Now obviously the average one-way premium fares in the ~$300 range at LAX and in the ~$340 range at SFO are far beneath the cheapest one-way fare for JetBlue’s Mint ($599 nonrefundable). While that $599 is a premium cabin discount in the JFK-LAX/SFO markets, it represents a substantial raise over the current market equilibrium, to say nothing of costlier fares with some degree of flexibility. JetBlue will have to target the upper quartile of current premium cabin flyers but filling 48 Mint seats daily (or 36-40 of the 48) is not an impossible task. Particularly in the BOS-SFO market, JetBlue can draw on its point-of-sale strength with business travelers in Boston, and the naturally high yielding business traffic in the tech industry.

LAX will be a harder market to crack. The business ties between Boston and LAX are broad of course, but there is no single industry tie that drives high yield business traffic like technology does for BOS-SFO. Moreover, on BOS-LAX, JetBlue will have to contend with competition from United, who is introducing its premium service p.s. Boeing 757-200 aircraft onto one of two daily flights from Boston this summer. JetBlue will have the edge in overall product (catering, ground services, etc.) but United will at least be competitive on in-flight product, which will challenge JetBlue’s market penetration in premium cabins.

For the moment, it is unlikely that JetBlue’s move will spark a flood of competition like that seen on NYC-LAX/SFO. But if JetBlue is able to convert a significant portion of premium cabin traffic with Mint, it is not inconceivable that United would move to protect its San Francisco hub with internationally configured 757-200s. Delta too has plenty of flexibility with internationally configured aircraft to defend LAX, and even American (despite its premium-heavy configuration and dedicated subfleet) could be pressured into adding BOS-SFO as the pressure ratchets up in Los Angeles. But the most likely scenario is for JetBlue to only be joined by United, if anyone.

Boston is now a powerhouse

The underlying story of JetBlue’s move is the resounding strength of its Boston hub. Nashville will become the carrier’s 60th destination from Boston and additional frequency to Orlando, Ft, Lauderdale, Tampa, San Juan, Raleigh/Durham, New York (JFK), Cleveland, Barbados, Aruba, Cancun, Turks and Caicos, Punta Cana, St. Maarten, and Liberia, Costa Rica from next summer will only re-iterate JetBlue’s market dominance. Already, JetBlue’s Boston operation is impressive, as indicated by the table below (which covers JetBlue’s operation for the week of June 29 – July 5).

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The 888 weekly flights (~126 per day) peak at 131 daily departures on Thursdays, but what is most impressive is JetBlue’s frequency to key business destinations. JetBlue offers 14 or more weekly departures (2 flights per day) to 28 different destinations, and this frequency has been a critical source of its strength with Boston based business travelers.

In the long run, Boston may well end up being JetBlue’s largest hub (given New York JFK’s slot constraints – JFK is at ~170 daily departures today) and the Mint introduction is likely a precursor to JetBlue’s launching a trans-Atlantic gateway at Boston. On the domestic side, there aren’t too many markets that have the premium cabin demand and stage length to justify Mint service from JetBlue, so near-term Mint expansion (before the A321neo) will likely consist of additional frequencies. The one exception to that might be Seattle, which has some of the same technology links that drive business traffic to San Francisco, as well as premium cabin O&D demand 2/3 the size of Los Angeles with similar one-way fares.

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All fare data courtesy of masflight.

Contact the author at vinay.bhaskara@airwaysnews.com

 

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Qatar Airways Fleet Display Dominates Paris Air Show

By John Walton / Published June 24, 2015

Qatar Airways is returning home to Doha with many of the stories of the Paris Air Show under its belt. After enjoying being one of Boeing’s showpiece orders for the 777F and the 777-8, Qatar’s whopping five aircraft on static display — more than all other airlines combined — made a key political point to the aviation industry and Western governments.

Qatar is here to stay, it has an enviable onboard product, and it isn’t afraid to ground a veritable fleet of aircraft for a week to make its point, say the Airbus A380, Boeing 787, Airbus A350, all-business class Airbus A319, and mid-haul Airbus A320 aircraft at Le Bourget.

These weren’t pre-delivery aircraft that were still the responsibility of the airframer, in the way that Boeing brought a China Airlines 777-300ER so new that anyone going on board had to don protective booties, parts of all three cabins were roped off, and nobody was allowed to sit on the seats.

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No, these were actual flying Qatar Airways aircraft that had been taken out of service for the best part of a week to allow industry execs, partners, professionals and of course the world’s assembled media to crawl all over them from nose (flight deck doors were open) to tail (so were the crew rests, and so busy that a decent picture was impossible).

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Photographs galore and welcomed by smiling helpful flight attendants arranging immaculately plumped pillows and luxury washbags on the very latest seats — it was like dying and going to air show heaven.

Qatar Airways’ A380 shows remarkable interior restraint

The pride of the fleet is Qatar Airways’ Airbus A380, with its remarkably understated and elegant first class cabin.

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The signature Qatar rose gold blends relatively unobtrusively with the deep burgundies and warm woods, and the decision to go for an open first class cabin rather than a closed suites-based environment is a refreshing change.

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Business class is Qatar’s widebody standard, a very respectable implementation of the B/E Aerospace Super Diamond outward-facing herringbone, where centre seats point together and window seats point towards the window.

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If anything, business feels more private than first class, given that you’re pointing away from the aisle.

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Qatar’s A380 economy, too, is impressive — just 31 inches of pitch, but in a spacious 2-4-2 minicabin upstairs and the standard 3-4-3 throughout the lower deck.

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The all-new A350 is spectacular

On the A350, business class is the front cabin, and you’re welcomed with an eyecatching rose gold dome at the doors.

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The seat is the same as the A380, although the significantly wider A350 cabin and a large break in the middle of the business class section for the door and open entryway gives it an even more spacious feeling.

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However, the unbroken length of the cabin also has a downside: with the increasingly quiet cabin of the A350, will there be too little noise to mask a couple of chatty passengers and a few snorers?

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Oddly enough, the most impressive part of the A350’s construction for this journalist is the overhead bin structure, which is the same in business and economy.

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The sharp sweep of the bins’ curve hides roomy storage areas while making the cabin immensely more open and airy.

Speaking of airy: a newly built widebody aircraft with individual air nozzles is remarkable enough to mention. More airlines need to choose this option when outfitting their newest aircraft.

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The A350’s economy seats are pleasantly wide, with an articulating seat pan that tilts passengers into a more relaxed position.

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The generous recline, however, means that when the passenger in front pushes back, they are so close that you feel like you should be giving them a neck rub. (Please don’t unless they are in your travelling group.)

One final niggle: the adjustable headrests on the A350 don’t go high enough to clear this 6’3” journalist’s shoulders.

Qatar’s Boeing 787 Dreamliner is tight in economy

Qatar’s 787-8 feels, appropriately enough, a little smaller than the A350. Business is the top offering here too, and the seats are the same B/E Super Diamond outward-facing herringbones.

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Economy, though, is not a great experience. Qatar opted for a nine-abreast 3-3-3 seating, but chose standard width aisles rather than the cut-down version other airlines use in this configuration. The aisle is noticeably wider than on other similarly laid out 787s.

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The tradeoff with choosing the wider aisle — like the problem with the old Northwest A320 family aircraft — is that seat width has to be reduced to accommodate it. Qatar’s 787 seats are the narrowest this journalist has ever experienced, and it’s really quite noticeable for a frequent traveller.

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Swish all-business A319 is a great ride

No such problems on the all-business class Airbus A319 narrowbody, which holds forty passengers in leather-clad exclusivity on premium routes or charters.

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Interestingly, the seats are less spacious in the all-biz A319 than in regular business class on larger aircraft, with a 2-2 layout of B/E Diamond fully flat beds that lack the direct aisle access for all passengers of the Super Diamond seen on the widebodies.

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The kicker, though, is travelling with just thirty-nine other people. Time the arrivals right and you just breeze through the airport without a full aircraft of people behind you.

Even Qatar’s A320s are pleasant inside

Qatar also brought one of its mid-haul A320 aircraft to Le Bourget, which is outfitted with the same seats as the A319, but just twelve of them, and in a cloth moquette rather than leather.

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Economy is a very standard 31” in pitch, but that’s towards the higher end of standard these days, and these birds do have full inflight entertainment.

Interestingly, Qatar refitted this mid-haul aircraft with sharklet wingtips after it was delivered. The benefits of sharklets are greatest for longer flights, where the aerodynamic improvements offset the extra weight more efficiently.

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Paris Air Show Stories:

A “Quiet” Paris Air Show: Great for Attendees and Observers

Paris Air Show 2015 (Day 0): Bombardier CSeries Aircraft Debuts at Le Bourget

Paris Air Show 2015: Qatar Orders 14 Boeing 777s, Ups Threat to Leave Oneworld

Paris Air Show 2015: SWISS Confirms CS-300 Order

Paris Air Show 2015: Honeywell Radar Improves Airport, Aircraft Efficiency

Paris Air Show: ATR Pushes High-density, High-efficiency Turboprops

Paris Air Show: Indonesia Takes Action on Aviation Safety Concerns

Paris Air Show: Boeing’s Little Orders Are Big Wins

Paris Air Show: Ethiopian Takes `Terrible Teens’ 787s from Boeing

Paris Air Show: Volga-Dnepr Places Major Boeing 747-8F Order

Paris Air Show: Leasing Companies Order Big at Airbus

Paris Air Show: Airlines Go Shopping in the Airbus Catalog

Paris Air Show: 2015 a Slow Year for Orders

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!

—–

Contact the editor at roberto.leiro@airwaysnews.com

 

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American Airlines Unveils New Premium Food/Beverage Program

By Benét J. Wilson / Photos by Benét J. Wilson / Published June 23, 2014

FORT WORTH, TEXAS – American Airlines first and business class travelers can expect to see major changes in the carrier’s food and beverage programs on the ground and in the air beginning on July 1.

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The airline held an exclusive event near its headquarters where select media and top-tier customers were given details on the new program, and allowed to sample new food and wine offerings. The program is part of American Airlines’ $2 billion investment in the passenger experience announced in December 2014.

RELATED: American Airlines to Spend $2 Billion on Passenger Upgrades

Sheri Whitley, American Airlines’ manager of retail programs, discussed what premium customers could expect on the airline’s short- and medium-haul flights. “A full meal is not what you want. You want light bites, and tapas-style dishes,” she said.

On the domestic first class menu, travelers will see: warmed nuts as a starter; appetizers including antipasto skewers, tomato tart, wedge salad, kale and romaine salad; entrées include beef filet with lobster mac and cheese; shrimp and grits; lasagna; lentil chili for vegetarians and an Asian salad that can be served with or without chicken; and a salted chocolate caramel sundae for dessert.

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“We have a survey we do randomly every week with our passengers and we work with our flight attendants,” said Whitley. “We design these dishes on the ground, but they might not work inflight, so we work with our flight attendants on making sure they work.”

Russ Brown, director of dining and retail, said the focus is on seasonally inspired modern cuisine. “When travelers see a sample of our larger menu, they’ll see bright, simple and fresh food with no heavy sauces,” he said. “It raises the bar on food.”

Celebrity Chef Sam Hoy, known for his Pacific Rim cuisine was brought in to consult on some menu items, including Wagyu Meatloaf with Sriracha Ketchup and Steamed Sea Bass with Ginger Cilantro Pesto Rice. “This has been fun to do. We took simple, recognizable items like meatloaf and upgraded it with Wagyu beef and the ketchup,” he said.

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On the domestic first class menu, travelers will see: Spicy Crab with sushi rice, Burrata Cheese and Edamame Hummus as appetizers; Beef Oscar, the sea bass, Lobster Risotto, the meatloaf, Pan Roasted Coconut Lime Chicken and Tumeric Paneer.

And the food on the ground in the carrier’s Flagship Clubs are also getting an upgrade. Nick Richards, director of premium services and customer experience strategy, said the airline is taking a global approach with the food.

“Not only will customers see items including crudités, soups and yogurt, but hummus and cereals are being introduced. We’ll also have things like composed cold salads and brownie bites,” said Richards. “We’ve already started introducing some items, and more will come out in the fall.”

Regional snacks in the Flagship club include Peruvian Causa Yellow Potato with Dungeness Crab Ají for South America, Ricotta whipped with lemon and extra virgin olive oil on a crostini for Europe, Cool Sesame Soba Noodles and Chicken Satay for Asia and An All-American Macaroni and Cheese Fritter for North America.

Food collage 3

Ken Chase is American Airlines’ wine consultant. He has a team that whittles down from more than 1,000, representing wines from around the world. “The white burgundy that will be aboard international first class flights was among 60 my team tasted,” he said. “We wanted to make sure we get what the customers want.”

Wines will be swapped quarterly, said Chase. Vintages being served in International first class are: Aaldering Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot Stellenbosch from South Africa; Domaine Rene Lequin-Colin Clos Devant Chassagne-Montrachet; and the champagne, Louis Roederer Brut Vintage. International business class and trans-continental first class offerings are G.D. Vajra Barbera d’Alba and Chateau St. Jean Robert Young Vineyard Chardonnay Alexander Valley.

The general reaction to the food by the premier travelers who attended the event was good. They commended the airline for offering vegetarian options that weren’t heavily sauced pasta, the new fresh salad options and one commented that the food was going back to what they were pre-9/11.

Cover Image: Courtesy of Benét J. Wilson

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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Contact the editor at roberto.leiro@airwaysnews.com

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Paris Air Show: ATR Climbs to 1,500 Orders, Launches New Cabin Options

By Roberto Leiro / Published June 23, 2015.

Despite of being a +30 year-old program, ATR is reaping benefits from its -600 series family aircraft. The maturity and popularity of the 42 and 72 variants is well known among operators, as evidenced by a preceding record year of 160 orders –a major commercial success for the Toulouse-based manufacturer.

Propelling New Horizons

Patrick de Castelbajac, ATR CEO, presents the latest news on the ATR -600 series program during a press conference at Paris Air Show.

Patrick de Castelbajac, ATR CEO, announcing the updates to the ATR family aircraft program at the 2015 Paris Air Show.

Patrick de Castelbajac, ATR CEO declared during a press conference held during the 2015 Paris Air Show that ATR family aircraft is firmly established as the favorite among regional operators worldwide. Since last January, the manufacturer registered 46 orders, and even if this is far from the record number of last year, Castelbajac attributes this to “the rise in the value of the dollar and the economic slowdown in countries that are very important for our business, such as Brazil and Indonesia.” Nevertheless, the ATR CEO assured that “we have managed to preserve our position as the number one choice.”

This last statement is not a mere euphemism: Castelbajac noted during the press conference that the manufacturer has a 77% market share in the turboprop market since 2010, leaving its direct competitor—the Bombardier Q400—in a far second place with a 23% market share.

The European manufacturer has gained important regional markets during the last years. An example has been the Caribbean region, wherein traditional Dash 8 operators such as Caribbean Airlines, LIAT—and now Bahamasair with a disclosed order of five aircraft, have opted to modernize their fleets relying on the ATR family aircraft. Other relevant market for the manufacturer has been Latin America, in which ATR has also found two important customers: Avianca and Azul Linhas Aéreas in Colombia and Brazil, respectively.

Slow but constant sales leading to success

Since the launch of the program in 1981 and the entry in service of the first ATR aircraft (the 42- series in 1984 and the 72- series in 1989), regional aircraft sales were slow, partly due to world economic woes and the stiff competition amid different aircraft manufacturers such as Embraer, Bombardier, Saab, Dornier and Fokker.

Arata Yasujima, Japan Air Commuter CEO (left) and Patrick de Castelbajac, ATR CEO (right), sign the purchase order for 8 ATR42-600, plus 14 purchase rights and 1 option during a press conference at Paris Air Show. Image: Courtesy of Roberto Leiro

Arata Yasujima, Japan Air Commuter CEO (left) and Patrick de Castelbajac, ATR CEO (right), sign the purchase order for 8 ATR42-600, taking the manufacturer’s logbook to 1,500 aircraft sold.

Even so, ATR managed to score a major win—and milestone—announced in the Paris Air Show: the 1500th aircraft sold since the beginning of the program to Japan Air Commuter (JAC) for eight firm ATR 42-600s, plus one option and 14 purchase rights. The deal also happens to be the first between the manufacturer and a Japanese carrier.

“We are proud to be able to introduce the ATR aircraft to the skies of Japan. The ATR 42-600 is a perfect match for the regional routes of JAL Group by its economical, environmental and operational specifications” declared Arata Yasujima, President of Japan Air Commuter.

New Cabin Developments – Combi and High-Density versions

Among the announcements made during the Paris Air Show, it was a Combi version—a response to Bombardier’s Q400 combi option launched last year—offering doubled storage capacity compared to standard ATR configurations, plus a passenger cabin for 44 seats. This option, also available as a retrofit for existing ATR 72 aircraft, will be launched by the Papua New Guinea-based operator PNG Airlines.

ATR72-600 SeatingOther of the orders reported during the event was 16 ATR 72-600s plus 10 options as part of Cebu Pacific fleet renewal program. These aircraft will be equipped for the first time with a high-density Armonia cabin, taking the ATR seating capacity to 78 at a seat pitch of 28 inches (and also by eliminating the galleys and reducing the forward cargo hold area), and adding enhanced overhead bins for extra capacity. The manufacturer expects to certify this cabin configuration by the end of this year.

A bright yet challenging future

ATR’s market outlook is positive: the manufacturer has estimated the demand for about 2,500 turboprops in the coming 20 years. However, the challenge might be ahead and some questions remain unanswered whether the manufacturer, with its growing logbook, will be able to cope with a constant production rate able to fulfill its deliveries on time.

Our Paris Air Show Stories:

A “Quiet” Paris Air Show: Great for Attendees and Observers

Paris Air Show 2015 (Day 0): Bombardier CSeries Aircraft Debuts at Le Bourget

Paris Air Show 2015: Qatar Orders 14 Boeing 777s, Ups Threat to Leave Oneworld

Paris Air Show 2015: SWISS Confirms CS-300 Order

Paris Air Show 2015: Honeywell Radar Improves Airport, Aircraft Efficiency

Paris Air Show: ATR Pushes High-density, High-efficiency Turboprops

Paris Air Show: Indonesia Takes Action on Aviation Safety Concerns

Paris Air Show: Boeing’s Little Orders Are Big Wins

Paris Air Show: Ethiopian Takes `Terrible Teens’ 787s from Boeing

Paris Air Show: Volga-Dnepr Places Major Boeing 747-8F Order

Paris Air Show: Leasing Companies Order Big at Airbus

Paris Air Show: Airlines Go Shopping in the Airbus Catalog

Paris Air Show: 2015 a Slow Year for Orders

Editor‘s note: Keep up with AirwaysNews by subscribing to our weekly eNewsletter. Every Saturday morning, subscribers get a recap of our top stories of the week, the subscriber-only exclusive Weekend Reads column wrapping up interesting industry stories and a Photo of the Week from the amazing AirwaysNews archives. Click here to subscribe today!

Contact the editor at roberto.leiro@airwaysnews.com

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