Category Archives: Airline Passenger Experience

On-Board Qatar’s A350 XWB Media Flight

By Chris Sloan in Toulouse and Jack Harty in Houston / Published December 22, 2014

TOULOUSE, FRANCE - This afternoon, Airbus and Qatar Airways took more than a hundred members of the media on-board Qatar’s first A350 XWB for a quick demonstration, after the first delivery earlier today.

Getting ready to depart on a demonstration flight. Photo by Chris Sloan / AirwaysNews

Getting ready to depart on a demonstration flight. Photo by Chris Sloan / AirwaysNews

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

At 1:30 PM members of the media as well as Qatar and Airbus executives all started boarding the A350 for a quick demonstration flight. As expected, it took a while to board as everybody wanted to explore the aircraft.

Qatar’s CEO, Al Baker, boarded the aircraft through the rear and did a walk through of the aircraft.

When stepping on-board for the first time, Chris Sloan writes that he “noticed that the A350 XWB boasts overwhelming high ceilings and that the windows are noticeably larger. Plus, Qatar’s A350 have a beautiful wood floor, and the 18” wide inch seats are noticeably much roomier, even with a seat pitch of 32” inches.”

At 2:03 PM, the aircraft pushed back from the delivery center, and taxied to runway 14R, and shortly after, it began a 26 second take off roll which was very quiet with the Trent XWB engines.  It felt very quick as the aircraft was very light. The aircraft hit V1 at 140 knots at a GTOW of 198,000 kilograms being lightly provisioned with little fuel and no cargo.

As the aircraft approached 22,000 feet, flight attendants began going through the cabin serving champagne and appetizers as they navigated around the media and executives as they explored the aircraft; nobody wanted to sit down during the flight because it was one giant airborne party.

Qatar’s A350 XWB is in a two-class configuration with 36 Business Class seats in a 1-2-1 configuration, featuring 80” fully flat beds and 17” HD in-flight entertainment screens. Economy Class has 247 seats, each 18-inches wide in a 3-3-3 configuration, with up to a 32-inch pitch. Each individual seat will feature a 10.6” in-flight entertainment screen.

When looking out the window, there was a nice view of the Mediterranean coast as well as the Pyrenees mountain prior to descent.

At 3:08 PM, the A350 XWB landed back in Toulouse, and the pilots executed a grease job of a landing, and seven minutes later, the aircraft blocked in at the delivery center again. Tuesday, we will be on the delivery flight to Doha. Stay with us for continuing coverage.

After the flight, AirwaysNews was able to take a quick peek inside the state-of-the-art cockpit.

The tail camera was active throughout all phases of the flight.

BONUS: Enjoy a few photos of the media demonstration flight from Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/JDL Multimedia:

EXTRA: The Airbus A350 Program Timeline

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

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

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Airbus provided accommodations and flights to Toulouse. Our opinions remain our own.

Chris Sloan contributed to this story from Toulouse, and Jack Harty contributed to this story from Houston.

You can contact the editor at jack.harty@airwaysnews.com.

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

By Chris Sloan in Toulouse and Jack Harty in Houston / Published December 22, 2014

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The Qatar Airways A350 at the Delivery Center Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / JDL Multimedia

TOULOUSE, FRANCE - This morning, Qatar Airways took delivery of the world’s first Airbus A350 XWB which is the last clean sheet wide body airliner until the next decade.

In an elaborate and dramatic ceremony held in Toulouse, the first A350 XWB aircraft was officially handed over by Airbus its launch customer, Qatar Airways.

A Long Road to Get to First Delivery

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Photo by Chris Sloan / AirwaysNews

The road to get to the first A350 to its launch customer started a little more then a decade ago when Airbus refuted claims that the Boeing 787 Dreamliner would be a serious threat to its A330 program, but the manufacturer still went to work to design an aircraft that would be able to directly compete with the 787. Initially, the design called for the new aircraft to look almost identical to the A330, but with some big changes to its wings and engines. On December 10, 2004, the boards of EADS and BAE Systems and the shareholders of Airbus gave Airbus the clearance to go ahead with this aircraft design, and it was dubbed the A350 program. The manufacturer made many design changes over the next few months as the Paris Air Show quickly approached, and on June 13, 2005, Qatar Airways announced plans, during the Paris Air Show, to purchase 60 A350s, making it the launch customer.

EXTRA: The Airbus A350 XWB Timeline

The manufacturer initially planned for three models in the family: the A350-800, -900, and -1000, which seat between 270 and 350 passengers in typical three-class layouts with maximum range between 8,480 and 10,300 nautical miles. The A350 family has already secured 778 firm orders from 41 customers worldwide including additional industry luminaries Air France/KLM, US Airways, Hawaiian, Emirates, Ethiad, Aeroflot, Air Lingus, TAM, Singapore Airlines, and Thai. Though Hawaiian switched their 6 orders from the virtually cancelled A350-800 to the A330neo last week.

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Photo by Chris Sloan / AirwaysNews

On June 11, 2013, Airbus reported that the initial ground taxi tests were complete, and that the A350 would take to the skies for the first time on June 14 at 10:00 a.m. Toulouse time.

At 9:15 a.m. on June 14, the media were transported via buses to a large field parallel to runway 14R/32L where the A350 would make its maiden take-off.  After the first flight, A350 Test Pilot Frank Chapman noted that “though this is an incredible moment, it is only the first hour of a year-long, 2,500 hour, five flight test campaign…The cockpit and many other aircraft systems are much further ahead than the A380 was on its first flight.”

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

Didier Evrard, the EVP and Head of the A350 Program offered a briefing after the four hour and five minute flight. “This (first flight) is one event, a very significant event, but the program is a fast moving body and this is just the first step,” he said. “Our next challenges are maturity at EIS and production ramp-up. The A380 program has been rich in lessons for this program and has led to us to deeply rework our practices.” Exactly one week after MSN-1’s first flight, the aircraft made a historic pass over the Paris Air Show as part of its third test flight.

EXTRA: A Look Back at the A350 Program Timeline

Delivery Day

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Media’s tickets to check-in for the delivery event. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / JDL Multimedia

On December 22, 2014, over 150 members of the media joined Airbus in Toulouse on the historic day to celebrate the first delivery of the world’s first A350 XWB to Qatar Airways. So far, it has been a packed day, but it has allowed the media to hear from several Airbus, Rolls-Royce, and Qatar executives to hear about the last clean sheet wide body airliner until the next decade as nothing has been planned.

Kiran Rao, EVP of Strategy and Marketing: The A350 is Unique

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Photo by Chris Sloan / AirwaysNews

During the first press conference, Kiran Rao, Airbus’ EVP Strategy and Marketing, went over some of the big things that make the A350 unique and compared it to the Boeing 777 family quite a few times. Rao explained that one thing that sets the A350 apart is that its systems are a lot more simplified than other aircraft thanks to having fewer fuel and hydraulic systems. Additionally, the goal of the A350 program was to save 25% in fuel burn compared to the Boeing 777-300ER.

Rao also pointed out that passengers will notice that the A350 is unique too for several reasons. In particular, Airbus opted to not go as wide as the 777 which kept the A350 at nine abreast for passenger comfort with wider seats by 5” which makes the 18″ wide seat a whole inch greater then competition. Additionally, the A350 cabin pressurization is at 6,000 feet, and the windows are larger with traditional window shades, making it less complicated than the 787 system.

Didier Evrad, EVP of A350 XWB Program: Program Highlights

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Didier Evrard, EVP A350XWB Program, speaking at the press conferences prior to the start of the delivery ceremony. Photo by Chris Sloan / AirwaysNews

Didier Evrard, EVP A350XWB Program, discussed some of the highlights of the A350 XWB program. One major highlight is that the A350-900 certification is the quickest it has taken Airbus to receive certification for a new aircraft.

EXTRA: Airbus A350 Wins EASA Certification

EXTRA: Airbus A350-900 Wins FAA Type Certification

Since the first flight in 2013, a family of five test aircraft have flown more than 2,800 hours over 680 flights which has helped Airbus deliver the A350 XWB on-time to its launch customer. The aircraft also participated in 26 route proving flights over 20 days, and Airbus proved that the A350 is capable of being turned around quickly for an on-time departure.

EXTRA: Airbus A350 Completes World Tour

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Rolls Royce President Eric Shultz, left, meets with HE Akbar Al Baker, Group CEO of Qatar Airways, and Airbus CEO and President Fabrice Brégier after the formal delivery of the A350. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / JDL Multimedia

Evrad also provided some other updates. Currently, Airbus is at a production rate of two aircraft per month, but it will get up to ten aircraft per month by 2017. Additionally, The next 2 A350s customers will be Vietnam and Finnair. Qatar is due to be operating eight by the end of 2015.

Lastly, Evrad wrapped up his speech with some updates to the A350-1000 program. The first aircraft will be on the Final Assembly Line by in 2015, with first flight due in 2016. It’s still on track for its first delivery to occur in mid-2017. Currently, the -1000 variant has 169 orders from 9 customers.

EXTRAAirbus A350 Program Head Talks Program Maturity, Stretch A350-1000

Eric Schultz, Rolls-Royce President-Aviation: Top of the Line Engines

Eric Schultz, Rolls-Royce President-Aviation, also made some remarks at the event. He said: “The Trent XWB is most efficient engine flying on a wide body in the world, and that people were so proud we had a parade when we sent out the first Trent XWB for installation.”

EXTRAEASA Approves Airbus A350 XWB for Record 370 minutes for ETOPS

Fabrice Bregier, President and CEO of Airbus: First Delivery, Delivery Delay, and A380 Program

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Airbus’ President and CEO speaking at a press conferences before the delivery ceremony. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / JDL Multimedia

Fabrice Bregier, President and CEO of Airbus, was proud to say that they delivered the A350 before the end of the year as promised. Earlier this month, Qatar Airways postponed delivery, but it was not clear what the issue initially was. Airbus executives stressed the aircraft was already at the Delivery Center and ready to go, but luckily, a few days later, Qatar said it would accept the first A350 delivery on December 22. According to Bregier, the delay was due to a small issue with an unnamed supplier.

Bregier went on to say: “Akbar you are a tough customer and very demanding but you are an architect for the A350. You will make it easier for other customers. You are the largest customer. We owe you a lot. You believed in us.”

Although this was about the A350, Bregier did address the media about the A380 program. He said: “We are now in industrial phase. We will deliver 30 aircraft in 2015 thru 2017. We believe we can get more customers as the trend is In favor of A380. The idea of stopping it is crazy. We will continue and one day look for incremental improvements and a stretch version. It has a brighter future.”

HE Akbar Al Baker, CEO of Qatar: Receiving First A350

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HE Akbar Al Baker, Group CEO of Qatar Airways, speaks during the first delivery of the Airbus A350XWB Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / JDL Multimedia

Lastly, HE Akbar Al Baker, CEO of Qatar, addressed the media. He reminded the crowd that the A350 is the last all new large airliner for the decade, and he also explained that he is very proud to have launched it seven years ago with Airbus.

Al Baker also went on to say that the carrier is excited to take the A350 to London soon to show them just how quiet and environmentally friendly it is. Qatar will begin flying the A350 to Frankfurt in mid-January, and once more airframes are delivered, the airline will fly the A350 to the Eastern Seaboard of the United States then Europe and Asia.

Al Baker says: “We don’t become the best airline In the world by standing still. We have moved the goal posts with the A350, A380, and 787. When asked about other countries and airlines objecting to Qatar’s expansion, Al Baker responded pointedly: “Airlines who have an poor product in the past now have to compete. Airlines who have minted money in the past and didn’t invest should shut down (sic).”

Mr. Akbar Al Baker remarked: “Today marks a momentous occasion in the history of our airline. Not only are we welcoming a new aircraft type into the Qatar Airways fleet, but as global launch customer for the A350 XWB, we are receiving the newest and most modern aircraft that the world will see for at least another decade.”

“With our significant order as launch customer for 80 of this aircraft type, it has enabled Airbus to create an aircraft that not only considers every aspect of passenger comfort, but also features the cutting-edge light-weight carbon composite design, which in turn allows fuel consumption and noise to be reduced, along with many other leading features.

“I am confident that with our passenger insight, the aircraft that has today been welcomed into our fleet will be the footprint for all future aircraft design, both with regard to technological advancements and the passenger journey itself.”

The Delivery

At 12:00 PM local, the delivery ceremony of the first A350 XWB started. Enjoy the slideshow from the delivery ceremony which featured a live orchestra, The Toulouse Capital Symphony, a famous Arab opera performer, and an artist producing a piece of art live. Finally, the curtains swung open revealing the start of the show: Qatar’s Airbus A350 XWB. Tuesday, we will be on the delivery flight to Doha. Stay with us for continuing coverage.

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

Stay tuned for continuous coverage of the first Airbus A350 XWB delivery. We’ll have more pictures and information from the demonstration flight and a behind the scenes tour of the Airbus A350 Final Assembly Line. Other AirwaysNews Airbus A350 XWB Stories:

EXTRA: Analysis: Japan Airlines Places Historic Order for Airbus 31 A350 XWBs: JAL’s First Airbus Order

EXTRA: Second Airbus A350 Test Aircraft Takes to Skies as Program Sales Continue to Soar

EXTRA: Airbus Gives Major A350 XWB Program Update: Rival 777X In The Crosshairs

EXTRA: ANALYSIS: Emirates Cancellation Hardly a Setback for A350

EXTRA: Report: The Launch of the A330neo Hastens the Demise of the A350-800

EXTRA: Airbus Reveals Hybrid Airbus/Qatar Livery as A350 XWB Testing Progresses

EXTRA: PHOTOS: Airbus Unveils First A350 Cabin

EXTRA: Delta Snubs Boeing Again with Airbus Widebody Aircraft Order

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Airbus provided accommodations and flights to Toulouse. Our opinions remain our own.

Chris Sloan contributed to this story from Toulouse, and Jack Harty contributed to this story from Houston.

Some photos are courtesy of Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/JDL Multimedia.

You can contact the editor at jack.harty@airwaysnews.com.

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Star Alliance’s CEO Provides an Update

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

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ohit Nandan, CMD of Star Alliance’s newest member airline, Air India (left); Calin Rovinescu, CEO of Air Canada and Chairman of the Star Alliance Chef Executive Board (CEB) and Star Alliance CEO Mark Schwab during a press conference in New Delhi, India, on the occasion of a Star Alliance CEB meeting.

DELHI, India – Building on Air India’s resources and network, fixing a gap in South America and co-locating members are among the topics discussed by Star Alliance CEO Mark Schwab at the group’s annual CEB meeting here December 17.

The admittance of Air India into the Star Alliance gave members instant access to the world’s fifth-largest aviation market and one that is growing at a very fast pace, said Schwab. “For the Star Alliance, Air India fills a gap in our network that will let members serve this growing region,” he said. “We had member carriers serving India, but we needed an Indian partner. That network now has access to 94 airports and 3212weekly departures from India.”

The Star Alliance has more than 200 million frequent flyers around the world, and  adding Air India gives them more opportunity to earn and use miles, said Schwab. “And we continue to work on infrastructure projects that enhance our offerings to customers,” he said. “For example, we now have a live interchange of frequent flyer miles between carriers. Before, members used to send that data after the fact.”

The Star Alliance has been working to fix the gap left in its network after Brazil’s TAM left, said Schwab. “On December 15, we added destinations on a different geography. A subsidiary of Avianca brought in service to Ecuador, which makes more flights available on the West Coast of South America,” he said. TAM left tojoin the oneworld alliance.

A year ago at its Vienna meeting, the Star Alliance announced it would be integrating Avianca Brazil, a sister company of Avianca Holdings, said Schwab. “We are well into the integration with Avianca Brazil, and will give an exact joining day soon,” he said. “TAM leaving left a gap,so we need a second carrier to replace TAM.  We are in talks to do this, but it would be premature to name that carrier until the deal is resolved.”

Answering a question about space for Star Alliance carriers at Delhi’s Indira Ghandi International Airport, Schwab said that in general, he talks to airports early in the design process and beyond so they can co-locate member carriers. “Co-locating facilities helps with coordination among members and offers a better passenger experience,” he said. “The work we did at the London Heathrow Queen’s Terminal is  based on that.”

But there are no active discussions to relocate Star Alliance carriers in Delhi, said Schwab. “Instead, we’re focusing on enhancing the connection experience from domestic to international and international to domestic flights,” he said.

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Contact the editor at genet.wilson@airwaysnews.com.

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Etihad Airways Showcases First 787 and A380 Abu Dhabi

By Jack Harty / Published December 18, 2014

This story will be updated later today with cabin pictures from the event.

Earlier today, Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, opened up its first Airbus A380 and Boeing 787 to the media in Abu Dhabi,Etihad - A380 marking the first time the carrier showcased the aircraft’s cabin.

The event was also a celebration of a busy and successful year. Etihad Airways continued to expand its reach; took delivery of its first A380 and 787; introduced new cabin interiors; unveiled the new ‘Facets of Abu Dhabi’ livery; and introduced new uniforms.

Earlier this year, Etihad revealed its initial interior and route plans for the A380 and 787, but the A380 stole the show as it will have the only three-room suite in the sky known as the Residence by Etihad™.

James Hogan, Etihad Airways’ President and Chief Executive Officer, said: “As we have done so many times in our short history, we are reshaping the landscape of modern air travel in our own way.” Additionally, he went on to say that “today is the culmination of many years of hard work and tremendous endeavor by hundreds of people both in our airline and outside.” He also went on to say that “with the launch of these aircraft, we usher in a new era of unparalleled luxury, comfort and service. These innovations represent our vision for the future.”

Etihad’s A380

Etihad has ordered 10 Airbus A380s. It received its first one earlier this year; it will receive one later this year, four in 2015, three in 2016, and two in 2017. The airline will fly its inaugural A380 flight on December 27, 2014 between Abu Dhabi and London. In May, the carrier also said that it hopes to eventually fly the A380 to New York JFK and Sydney.

EXTRA: Etihad Unveils New Livery on First A380

The A380 will have a capacity for 498 passengers in three seating classes, and the carrier will offer one of the most unique A380 experiences: the ultra-luxurious Residence by Etihad™.

There will be two VIP suites (which can accommodate up to twp passengers in each cabin) in The Residence located at the front of the upper deck. The suites are a 125 square foot, three room, private cabin for the VIPS. It comes with a butler, a lounge room, large 32 inch LCD TV, two dining tables, a double bed, and a private shower (can only be used for a four minute shower). Plus, The Residence will cater to the individual tastes of every VIP traveler.

The Residence

Etihad Airways will also offer First Apartments. They will have an area of 39 square feet equipped with a 30.3 inch reclining lounge chair, a separate ottoman which converts into an 80.5 inch long and 26 inch wide fully flat bed, a chilled mini-bar, a vanity with mirrors for make-up and stocked with luxury branded amenities, and a personal wardrobe.

The A380 will have 70 Business class seats in a 1-2-1 configuration. They have been newly designed for the A380 and 787. They allow customers to work, play and rest. They boast a 22 inch wide seat and separate ottoman which form a lie-flat bed up to 80.5 inches long together, a sturdy 16″ x 18″ dining table, and a full height screen between the seats for privacy.

The A380 will have 416 economy seats. The seats are known as Economy Smart Seats which boast a ‘fixed wing’ headrest, a 19 inch wide seat, a 32 inch seat pitch, a 6 inch recline, in-seat entertainment, and a pillow and blanket.

Boeing 787-9

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Photo by JDL Multimedia

Etihad Airways will begin daily Boeing 787-9 service between Abu Dhabi and Dusseldorf from February 7. Later on, the carrier plans to launch 787 flights to Mumbai and Washington Dulles.

EXTRA: Etihad Unveils First Boeing 787

The first five Boeing 787s will carry 235 passengers in three classes (8 First, 28 Business, and 199 Economy). The airline will also fly a 787 configured in a two class cabin. The two-class 787s will not have First Class suites; instead, they will boast a larger Business Class cabin.

Etihad’s eight Boeing 787 First Class suites will be in a 1-2-1 configuration. They offer a chilled mini-bar, complete privacy, a 26 inch wide lounge chair that converts to a comfortable 80.5-inch long fully-flat bed, an in-seat massage, a 23″ x 20″ dining table, and a personal wardrobe.

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The 28 Business class seats (“Business Studios”) will be in a 1-2-1 configuration. They have been newly designed for the A380 and 787. They allow customers to work, play and rest. They boast a 22 inch wide seat and separate ottoman which form a lie-flat bed up to 80.5 inches long together, a sturdy 16″ x 18″ dining table, and a full height screen between the seats for privacy.

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The 787 will have 199 Economy Smart Seats which boast a ‘fixed wing’ headrest, a 17.2 inch wide seat, a 31-33 inch seat pitch, a 6 inch recline, in-seat entertainment, and a pillow and blanket.

The airlines popular Flying Nanny service will also be offered to passengers on long-haul flights. Plus, the airline will have prayer areas which can be curtained off.

Uniforms:

At the A380 and 787 cabin unveiling event, Etihad also held a fashion show to unveil its new cabin crew uniforms which incorporate the same colors used for the cabin interior and new aircraft livery. The new uniforms mark the first major uniform re-launch since the airline’s formation in 2003.

The new uniforms were created by Italian Haute Couturier Ettore Bilotta Etihad - Fashion - 2at his atelier in Milan. In a press release, the airlines says “the new uniform exudes a classic elegance seldom seen in the aisles of modern airliners, and cleverly merges dramatic elements of old world haute couture from 1960s Paris and Rome, with the more contemporary fashions evident on the runways of London, New York, Milan and Tokyo.”

Ettore Bilotta said: “Since the launch of Etihad in 2003, I have come to know the airline, its teams and management, very intimately, and have developed a style which has evolved as the airline has grown. For me it has essentially been about dressing a brand and an ethos.”

Peter Baumgartner, Chief Commercial Officer of Etihad Airways said: “Ettore, working with our teams, has once again delivered a new uniform which will showcase our brand with characteristic flair at every city on our ever-growing network. Baumgartner went on to say: “The world has been paying very close attention to us this year and our new collection will not disappoint. It is the embodiment of the Etihad Airways brand, service ethos and unshakeable commitment to excellence, marking our arrival as a leader of sophisticated flying.”

“This is not just a uniform. This is pret-a-porter concept – a future lifestyle statement and homage to the golden age of glamorous flight. It is about bringing back classic elegance, allure and richness to our men and women in a style which will become their signature look. No matter where you are in the world, you will know this is Etihad,” Aubrey Tiedt, Vice President Guest Services at Etihad Airways said.

The new uniforms are made from 100% Italian wool while featuring an intricate jacquard design and were made in various locations across Italy, with additional manufacturing taking place in Shanghai, Tunis and Bucharest by a dedicated team which totalled approximately 400 staff.

In a press release, the carrier explains some of its color choices and uniforms:

  • A warm chocolate brown has been chosen as the base color for the different uniform variations, with a deep purple accent color for cabin crew and lounge teams, and a burnt orange accent colour for ground crews and Special Services teams. Bilotta has also taken the unusual step of breaking up the main primary shades by introducing all the secondary colours as accents on blouses and accessories.

  • Female cabin crew, ground and lounge teams will wear a skirt suit, Etihad - Fashion - 5accessorized with fitted gloves, belt, hat and scarf. Hats worn by the crew are now more aerodynamic and ‘retro’, inspired by the iconic stars of the Hollywood Silver Screen and the sweeping formations of the Emirati desert sand dunes. The new style is classic and enduring, reminiscent of the much-admired designer collections of airline crews in the heyday of international air travel.

  • Male cabin crew will wear a three-piece suit, while male ground Etihad - Fashion - 3crew will wear a two-piece suit. Accessories will also include belts and gloves. Male lounge agents will wear new Food & Beverage uniforms in line with those worn by the onboard Food & Beverage Managers. A classic trench coat adds a sense of catwalk drama to all the variations of the uniform and can be worn in all types of weather. The light-weight coat is versatile and foldable, reducing cost and allowing easy carriage.

  • All gloves, scarves and neckties feature intricate geometric patterns Etihad - Fashion - 6and fretwork. The same level of detail is also evident on matching accessories such as new slim-line handbags, which have been made to the dimensions of a tablet device.

  • For Etihad Airways’ acclaimed Butlers, the airline has combined historic British butler attire with new world design to reflect Etihad Airways’ modern and globally recognised style. The fabric colours used for this uniform are warm brown for the long-tailed jackets and ties, ivory for the trousers and waistcoats and white for the shirt and gloves. The tones used reflect some of the subtle colours evident in The Residence by Etihad, and also the airline’s new ‘Facets of Abu Dhabi’ corporate livery.

The new uniforms will be introduced system-wide from December 27.

Following today’s events in Abu Dhabi, the A380 and Boeing 787 aircraft will continue test operations before starting commercial flights. 

This story will be updated later today with cabin pictures from the event.

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Contact the author at Jack.Harty@AirwaysNews.com.

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A Response to Holiday Air Travel Pet Peeves

By Jack Harty / Published December 17, 2014

Beware! December 19 is only two days away. OK, I think I know what you may be asking yourself; what is happening on December 19? That is a very valid question, and if you plan on traveling by air on Friday, I would recommend that you read on to find out. international-baggage-claim-at-mia-2011_16182

Airlines for America (A4A) projects Friday, December 19 to the the busiest air travel day of the winter season, with just over 2.5 million passengers expected to take to the U.S. skies.

Although, air travel is a great mode of transportation, it can create a lot of pet peeves. Honeywell Aerospace recognizes that flying can be difficult, and it conducted an air travel survey in which it uncovered a mass of passenger pet peeves that plague millions of airline travelers each year.

Please take a moment to make sure that your seat belts are securely fasted because some of the results may seem a bit surprising.

First, let’s provide a quick background on the survey. Kelton, a global insight firm, conducted the survey on behalf of Honeywell. The survey answers consist of 1,041 answers from Americans ages 18 and over who have taken at least one flight in the last 12 months. They were invited to participate in the survey via an email invitation between November 14 and 24, 2014.

Now, let’s get to the good stuff.

92% of those surveyed admitted that taking to the skies during the holiday season would be stressful, and for some, air travel during the holidays is so stressful and daunting that they would skip time-honored traditions just to avoid it.

  • 57% said they would give up watching their favorite holiday parade to dodge flying.

  • 31% said they would give up one of their holiday presents to avoid braving the holiday airport rush.

  • More than 25% said they would give up connecting with loved ones from afar on social media (27%) or taking pictures of holiday festivities (27%).

Air travel is daunting for a variety of reasons, but sometimes its not frequent delays, lost baggage, or the recycled air that would cause somebody to avoid air travel. Sometimes, people will avoid air travel because other passengers make it difficult.

In the movie Up in the Air, Ryan Bignham’s (played by George Clooney) sister tells Ryan: “You’re awfully isolated the way you live.” His response: “Isolated? I’m surrounded.” Even if one is traveling by air alone, they are surrounded, and for 70% of those surveyed, it’s difficult to accept other passengers’ faults.

  • Nearly three in ten expressed that they would most want to avoid “the arguer” while dealing with the challenging baggage and security check lines, while others say this about “the line-cutter” (17 percent) or “the disorganized traveler” (15 percent).

  • Plug your nose. The No. 1 in-flight passenger attribute Americans most want to avoid is “the smelly traveler” (41 percent).

  • Emitting unpleasant smells is also the quickest way to become the most unwanted airline seatmate, with passing gas (64 percent) and not wearing deodorant (60 percent) considered top passenger blunders.

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Photo courtesy of Honeywell Aerospace

For some travelers, a big pet peeve is being stuck next to a little one, especially when they misbehave or cry the entire flight. 37% of those surveyed believe children should have a designated section of the aircraft on flights lasting more than two hours; 40% of women feel this way, compared with 31% of men.

  • Seventy-two percent consider confronting a fellow traveler who was not stopping their child from kicking their seat.

  • Twenty-nine percent who have done something in response to a child issue on their flight have been so bold as to ask a parent to reprimand their child.

  • Forty-five percent think all passengers should get free ear plugs in the case of a screaming baby.

So, how does one survive the unfriendly skies? Should they say something to an airline/airport employee? According to the survey, 53% said they have done something to combat the pet peeves that are brought along with air travel.

Some experienced flyers shared some of their secrets to surviving on-board disturbances.

  • Many have taken direct action by asking a flight attendant to fix the issue (43%) or confronting a passenger who was causing a disturbance (27%).

  • Two in five (40%) have asked to move to another seat, escaping the situation in a civil manner, and 30% admit to taking a sedative or sleeping pill to dull their own reaction to the disturbance.

After Honeywell compiled all of the survey results, it wants to remind air travelers to remember to “Keep Calm and Fly On With Honeywell.”

The company wants the 41% that want to stay away from the “smelly traveler” to know that “Honeywell technology keeps your flight comfortable and clean by refreshing the air on a plane 25−30 times an hour, which is more often than a train, hospital or office building.” Additionally, its wants the 26% “that get annoyed by canceled or delayed flights, Honeywell provides numerous pieces of technology to airlines, including 3-D weather radar that helps airplanes avoid hail, lightning and turbulence while flying; and advanced airport technology that enables more planes to land during times of peak travel, congestion or bad weather, thereby reducing delays and keeping things on time.”

EXTRA: Don’t Be That Passenger: 10 Tips to Avoid #flierfauxpas This Holiday Season 

Although, Honeywell has a lot of great solutions to help air travelers up_in_the_air02cope with these pet peeves this holiday season, we do need to account for the small percentage of people that do not get annoyed by air travel at all. As Ryan Bingham says: “All the things you probably hate about travelling -the recycled air, the artificial lighting, the digital juice dispensers, the cheap sushi- are warm reminders that I’m home.” 

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Contact the author at jack.harty@airwaysnews.com

 

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Alaska Airlines Introduces New Inflight Entertainment System and Other Small Upgrades

By Jack Harty / Published December 15, 2014

On Monday, Alaska Airlines announced the Alaska Beyond concept. This concept is all about introducing an enhanced flight experience while renewing its commitment to its customers.  Clearly as Alaska faces upgraded inflight products, especially from direct competitor Delta the airline is doubling down on passenger experience. RunwayGirl Network alluded to as much in a recent exclusive story that the airline has decided to focus on retaining loyalty of current customers rather then an out and out rebrand.alaska-beyond-infographic

The main change is that Alaska started rolling out a brand-new inflight entertainment system today. Meanwhile, the carrier is making some other small enhancements to its dinning options and renewing commitments to Recaro seats.

Today, the carrier launched their brand-new inflight entertainment system–Beyond Entertainment–which allows customers to watch blockbuster hit movies, TV shows, and other exclusive content on their own devices. The new inflight entertainment system is free through January, but after January, customers will have to begin paying for premium content that starts at $1.99. However, more than 100 titles of short videos will be complimentary to all passengers. The carrier expects to have all of its 737 aircraft equipped with the new service by April 2015.

The new inflight entertainment system continues the trend of airlines now introducing new IFE options that customers access through their own personal electronic devices. American, Southwest, United, and Delta have all launched such products.

Alaska also introduced its Beyond Delicious concept. On the blog, Hutchison explains:

Our food and beverage team scours all the amazing places we fly looking for fresh, local tastes to share with our customers.

Their discoveries include Tom Douglas signature entrees, my favorite Signature Fruit & Cheese Platter featuring Beecher’s and Tillamook cheeses, hand-poured Chateau Ste. Michelle and Canoe Ridge wines, Sun Liquor hand-crafted liquors and local micro-brews. They also like to introduce our flyers to new and popular treats like our banh mi sandwich and grilled cheese sandwich with Skillet Bacon Jam.

When I travel I love to relax with a glass of white wine and our Signature Fruit & Cheese Platter. I’m confident that whatever new flavors you discover on your next flight with us will be beyond delicious!

As far the seats are concerned, there is not a lot changes. The carrier did expressalaska-beyond-10 that it is committed to continuing to install Recaro leather seats on all of its aircraft as part of its Beyond Comfort program. Additionally, it also reiterated that it is committed to equipping every seat with its own standard and USB personal power outlets. Currently, more than 95 percent of Alaska’s fleet have power outlets at every seat.

“If you haven’t flown Alaska lately, you’ll be delighted with the enhanced experience that we are now offering onboard,” said Curtis Kopf, the airline’s vice president of customer innovation and marketing. “At Alaska, we pride ourselves on offering unique amenities that make travel more enjoyable.”

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Southwest Files With DOT For Initial Houston International Service

By Jack Harty / Published December 11, 2014

Southwest-737-800-New-Livery-Ian-Petchenik

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-800 (“Heart Two” / N8645A) in the new livery: Image Credit – Ian Petchenik / Airways News

Today, Houstonians are getting their first look at where Southwest plans to fly to from its new international terminal at Houston’s William P. Hobby Airport.

The carrier filed applications with the U.S. Department of Transportation to serve six international cities in Latin America from Houston Hobby Airport. It hopes to receive approval from the government to fly from Houston to four destinations in Mexico–Cancun, Mexico City, Puerto Vallarta, and San Jose del Cabo/Los Cabos– San Jose, Costa Rica, and Belize City, Belize (Philip S. W. Goldson International Airport). The airline hopes to launch these new flights when the new facilities open in Fall 2015.

Currently, the airline is in the middle of completing a five-gate international concourse and a Federal Inspections Services (FIS) facility at Hobby. Additionally, it is also developing a new parking facility, central utility plant, and making roadway improvements around the airport. In total, the project is estimated at $156 million.

Southwest and the City of Houston teamed up to complete this project about two years ago, and once its complete, the city and the airline estimate that it will add 10,000 jobs to the region and provide a $1.6 billion impact annually to the local economy. Plus, it’s also estimated that the new facility will bring an additional 1.6 million air travelers each year. 

“We’re building our first-ever international terminal project to give Houstonians, visitors to Houston, and our connecting Customers exceptional value and legendary Customer Service in international markets for which there is great demand,” said Gary Kelly, Southwest Airlines Chairman, President, and CEO.  “Service to Mexico will be the cornerstone of our international operation at Hobby and the four cities we are announcing today provide exciting travel and business options for consumers.  Adding Belize to the Southwest network and growing our Costa Rica service continues our expansion to international destinations where our People and consumer-friendly policies can deliver as no other airline can.”

On March 7, Southwest will launch its first international flights out of Houston to Aruba with Saturday only service. Even though the new FIS facility and new international concourse are not due to be completed for another year, CBP Pre-clearance procedures help make international service out of Houston Hobby possible.

There is a small wrinkle in starting these new routes. Currently, the government only allows two designated U.S. carriers to fly between Houston and Mexico City and three designated U.S. carriers between Houston and San Jose del Cabo/Los Cabos. Currently, United and its regional affiliate–Expressjet–are the only two carriers that are allowed to fly to Mexico City from Houston making this route a United monopoly. As far as the flights to Cabo are concerned, United, Skywest (United’s regional affiliate), and Spirit are the only three carriers allowed to fly these routes. So, the question remains when and/or if Southwest will be able to start these routes with all of the designated carrier spots being taken. It may come down to United determining if it will go all mainline or regional on these routes.

Luckily, an Open Skies Agreement will start January 1, 2016 which would allow multiple U.S. operators to operate flights between these cities as well as other benefits.

Currently, Southwest has taken over all of AirTran’s former international operations, and the carrier has big expansion plans. Subject to government approvals, Southwest service to San Jose, Costa Rica (from Baltimore/Washington), begins in March 2015; service to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (from Orange County/Santa Ana), begins in June 2015; and service to Belize City begins in October 2015 (from Houston (Hobby)). As of now, it currently flies several international flights everyday including to cities in the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and Mexico.

EXTRA: Southwest Airlines Has Left The Country

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Contact the editor at benet.wilson@airwaysnews.com

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American to Add WiFi To Regional Jets

By Jack Harty / Published December 11, 2014

Nearly 250 of American Airlines’ two-class regional aircraft will ????????????????have Gogo WiFi installed on them by 2016. This major upgrade is all part of a $2 billion dollar investment American is making to upgrade its product.

“We’re investing in a more competitive and consistent customer experience across our regional, domestic and international network,” said Andrew Nocella, American’s chief marketing officer. “Adding inflight Wi-Fi to our two-class regional jets will give our customers what they want – comfort, connectivity and a world-class travel experience. We have new regional aircraft entering our fleet every month, and combined with the amenities and services we’re adding to our existing fleet, American is going to deliver a regional product that’s better than our competitors.”

Currently, American has approximately 850 aircraft already installed with Gogo, but only 70 of the 850 aircraft are two-class regional aircraft. Once the other 250 regional aircraft receive Gogo Wifi, American will have more than 1,100 aircraft equipped with Gogo WiFi.

“As the first airline to offer our inflight Wi-Fi, American knows customers value being able to remain connected and entertained while flying,” said Michael Small, Gogo’s president and CEO. “We’re excited be a part of American’s efforts to enhance the customer experience by expanding our connectivity services to more of its regional aircraft.”

Meanwhile, the carrier is also adding satellite-based Internet access to its international fleet including all Boeing 777s and 787s, Airbus A330s, and retrofitted Boeing 767-300s and 757s. The carrier is also upgrading lie flat seats and its Admirals Club product as previously announced earlier this week.

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

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Airport Associations Prepare for FAA Funding Battle

By Benét J. Wilson / Published December 9th, 2014

ACI-NA CEO Kevin Burke. Image Courtesy of ACI-NA

ACI-NA CEO Kevin Burke. Image Courtesy of ACI-NA

Two airport associations have joined forces to ensure that their constituents are represented as Congress begins to navigate the  FAA reauthorization bill. The last time funding for FAA was on the table, it took five years and a record 23 short-term reauthorizations to get it done.

Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA) and the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) created the Airports United website to help them advocate for federal policies that strengthen the U.S. aviation infrastructure. The organizations have created a cross-section of aviation and non-aviation related partners, including the U.S. Travel Association (USTA), that all support the goal of having a safe, efficient, and modern airport system, including construction and engineering, tourism, and state and municipal governments.

The Airports United website is the partners — ACI-NA, AAAE and USTA — saying one thing in a powerful and unified way, said ACI-NA President and CEO Kevin Burke. “This has never been done in the aviation business. It was important to be able to be heard with one unified voice during this process.”

Construction on Los Angeles International Airport's Tom Bradley International Airport West Terminal. Image Courtesy of AirwaysNews

Construction on Los Angeles International Airport’s Tom Bradley International Airport West Terminal. Image Courtesy of AirwaysNews

USTA is in the mix because it was thought they would be a natural fit, said Burke. “If we’re going to do joint lobbying, we don’t want Congress to hear different messages, we want a single message,” he said. “And the nice thing is that all three groups have a united position on FAA reauthorization.”

Priorities for the partners are:

  • Modernize the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) program by setting it at $8.50 and adjusting it to offset the impacts of inflation;
  • Protect the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) by giving it full federal funding to help pay for infrastructure projects;
  • Maintain and expand tax-exempt financing options for airports and eliminate the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) burden on Private Activity Bonds (PABs);
  • Support small community air service programs by fully funding the Contract Tower, Essential Air Service (EAS), and Small Community Air Service Development Programs, which enhance aviation safety and help small communities maintain and attract new commercial air service;
  • Make useful investments in the NextGen System in order to create greater efficiencies in the aviation system.
  • Enhance flexibility to mitigate environmental impacts at airports to create a more environmentally friendly aviation system;
  • Reduce passenger wait times for international arrivals through staffing adjustments and technology deployment; and
  • Prohibit cost-shifting to airports for federal security responsibilities and reimburse airports for the costs associated with meeting federal duties and requirements.
Miami International Airport South Terminal ticketing hall under construction. Image Courtesy of AirwaysNews

Miami International Airport South Terminal ticketing hall under construction. Image Courtesy of AirwaysNews

When Congress returns in January, ACI-NA, AAAE and USTA will be ready to pounce on new members, said Burke. “We especially want to cover the modernization of the PFC and what it means for local communities,” he said. “No matter what the party, we are showing them that it’s not a tax. It’s a local fee covered by the the people who use airports that pays for infrastructure and repairs at facilities.”

A new ATC tower under construction at San Francisco International Airport  in 2013. Image Courtesy of AirwaysNews

A new ATC tower under construction at San Francisco International Airport in 2013. Image Courtesy of AirwaysNews

The partners are also working with non-aviation groups like the American Council of Engineering Companies, the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the National Association of Manufacturers. “When you look at an airport, it’s not just there alone. There are outside groups that are a part of it, and these groups benefit greatly from modernized airports,” said Burke. “If airports get increased PFCs, they can build new facilities and runways, local firms can compete for that business and money stays in the community.”

And members of Congress can brag about how they brought money into their districts without tapping federal funds, said Burke. “We’re proud that we have 21 organizations that support us on FAA reauthorization, with 17 of them being non-aviation related groups,” he said.

ACI-NA and AAAE pushed hard for a rise in the PFC cap during the last FAA reauthorization bill but failed to get it included in the final measure signed in 2012. Burke blamed it on how and the way the message was delivered back then.

“This time, we’re working not only with airports, but outside groups and communities. When I took this job, I said the battle was not airports versus airlines. Instead, it’s about doing things like explaining why a raise in PFCs is needed, which is more practical and relevant,” said Burke. “We need to have members of Congress asking why they would oppose it. Our goal is to get 218 [House of Representatives] members to clear it and the majority of the Senate. If we do that, we’ve done our job.”

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American Airlines to Spend $2 Billion on Passenger Upgrades

By Benét J. Wilson / Published December 8th, 2014

American Airlines unveiled a plan to invest $2 billion in the passenger experience, from aircraft upgrades to the Admiral’s Club. The announcement comes a year after the Fort Worth-based carrier completed its merger with US Airways.

Among the changes passengers will see aboard the carrier’s fleet are:

  • New seats from nose to tail on several aircraft types and fully lie-flat seats on all of American’s long-haul and international fleet.
  • Satellite-based Internet access.
  • Upgraded Admirals Club lounges with new food and furniture;
  • New aircraft equipped with onboard power ports at every seat.
  • Improved and updated kiosks to expedite airport check-in.

EXTRA: Onboard Report: American Airlines Inaugurates Airbus A319 Service – First Entirely New Type Since 777 in 1999

American’s fleet of Boeing 777-200s will feature a business class seat with direct aisle access in 1 1-2-1 configuration similar to the 777-300ER.  Currently one example of AA’s 772 is in this new configuration and is serving DFW-Santiago. The carrier’s 757s used on trans-Atlantic and Latin America flights will also get fully lie-flat seats in business class. The legacy US Airways Airbus A319 fleet will get all new seats with power outlets in all of them. This matches the configuration  of AA’s new order A319s.

EXTRA: American Airlines Reveals New Boeing 777-200 Cabin Product

Another view of the  Business Suite seat on the 777-200.

American Air’s Business Suite seat on the 777-200. Image courtesy of AirwaysNews

EXTRA: The Eagle Rises Again: Onboard ‘The New American 777-300ER Inaugural Flight

The carrier has already upgraded 11 767-300s, with another 14 planned for completion in 2015. The aircraft will feature fully lie-flat seats with direct aisle access in Business Class and satellite inflight connectivity.

EXTRA: American Unveils New 767-300 Cabin Product

767300-Fully-Flat-BC 767300-BC-Front-2

EXTRA: American Airlines Takes Delivery Of Its First Airbus A319: Part One

EXTRA: American Airlines Takes Delivery Of Its First Airbus A319: Part Two – Delivery Event & Factory Tour

Seth Miller is the founder of the Wandering Aramean blog that covers, among other things, the airline passenger experience. He is also a contributor to AirwaysNews.com. “My gut reaction, is that it’s nice that they’re finally catching up. Lie-flat seats on international flights and Wi-Fi is something United and Delta did a few years ago,” he said. “It’s about time American decided that they should at least keep up with the Joneses.”

As for committing to upgrading seats on newer aircraft, Miller said the airline has committed to refreshing its fleet at a reasonably rapid pace. “So it would be silly to do it on aircraft they’re returning,” he said. “But on the other hand, they may risk having passengers not seeing consistency in the product they offer. If American has a long transition with different seats, it could hurt their goal of a better passenger experience.”

EXTRA: All AAccess Pass: The “New American” Airbus A319 Unveiled at DFW

American said it will roll out a modern design for the Admiral’s Club, with  new and expanded free food options, refurbished restroom and shower facilities, toiletry amenities, and improved technology for customers to use before flights.

American Airlines Admiral's Club at LAX Terminal 4 Image Courtesy of Chris Sloan, Airchive.com

American Airlines Admiral’s Club at LAX Terminal 4
Image Courtesy of Chris Sloan, Airchive.com

WIth the Admiral’s Club announcement, Miller said American is doing something that other airlines have already done.  “But it’s good that they’re doing it, because they needed to do it to remain competitive. Otherwise, it’s not a big dramatic announcement,” he said. “Unless there’s more coming, it’s hard to see how adding greek yogurt and soup is reimagining the lounge experience, since Alaska has been doing it for years and Delta started doing it as well.”

On the overall announcement, Miller said that none of this is bad news. “It’s good news for passengers, but not great news. There’s nothing here that says American wants to be ahead of the pack. It just says that American wants to stay with the pack,” he said. “It was announced at the same time as Delta announced its own rebrand.  And Delta is also trying to keep up with the pack.”

The airlines are trying to present themselves as giving travelers a better passenger experience, said Miller. “But the announcements don’t really change much. But given the industry’s history, making changes that don’t further cut the inflight product is great to hear,” he said.

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Delta Unveils New Inflight Cabin Family of Products

By Benét J. Wilson / Published December 8th, 2014

Delta Air Lines today announced a new suite of cabin products it says were created to give passengers more choice in their cabin experience. As part of that effort, the Atlanta-based carrier is now offering the new Comfort+ cabin, which replaces economy comfort.

The new first class cabin on Delta Air Lines. Image courtesy of Delta Air Lines

The new first class cabin on Delta Air Lines. Image courtesy of Delta Air Lines

The Atlanta-based carrier has broken down its cabins into five different in-class products:

  • Delta One, formerly BusinessElite, will be featured on long-haul international routes and transcontinental routes from New York to Los Angeles and San Francisco;
  • First Class, will be available on short-haul international and domestic routes;
  • Delta Comfort+ will be on all the carrier’s two-cabin aircraft;
  • Main Cabin; and
  • Basic Economy.

The new Comfort+ product features the four extra inches of legroom and priority boarding of the current economy comfort product, but now passengers get new features, including new seat covers, free beer, wine and spirits, premium snacks on flights more than 900 miles, premium inflight entertainment and inflight Wi-Fi on domestic flights.

EXTRA: Delta Details Narrowbody Interior Improvement Blitz, Will Spend $770M

Delta's new Comfort+ product. Image courtesy of Delta Air Lines

Delta’s new Comfort+ product. Image courtesy of Delta Air Lines

The carrier has also extended its Spirit Airlines-like basic economy product, which offers passengers a lower fare in exchange for no advanced seat selection and no changes or refunds once the ticket is purchased. All the new cabins will be available starting March 1, 2015, and the carrier will install new seat covers on aircraft through mid-2015.

Henry Harteveldt is the founder and travel industry analyst and advisor for Atmosphere Research Group. He notes that Delta’s changes are primarily cosmetic. “Delta is the only network airline that is making the concerted effort to appeal to passengers across the entire spectrum of travelers,” he said. “The introduction of the basic economy product allows Delta to compete for most price-sensitive travelers against the ultra low-cost carriers, and in a way that will hopefully minimize the dilution among flyers who will pay more for a ticket. The restriction on upgrades makes it unappealing to business travelers and Delta SkyMile elites.”

By introducing Comfort+, Delta has a premium economy light-type of product, said Harteveldt. “It’s a product that offers a tangibly better experience than just the extra legroom provided today on American Airlines and United Airlines,” he noted. “However, Delta did stop short of offering a full premium-economy product, because they still charge for  checked bags and it does not offer full meals on domestic flights or upgraded meal on international flights. But Delta is clearly looking at Comfort + as a way to generate additional revenue with a tangibly different product.”

There are no other real changes to the premium cabin experience except for new seat covers, said Harteveldt, who called them selfie friendly. “But what’s important is what was not announced — Delta is not creating an economy-minus section,” he said. “And also with the Comfort+ product, gold SkyMiles elite members will no longer have access to it at the time of booking. They now have to do the normal upgrade wait of 72 hours before the flight. That will be a big change for gold elites.”

Harteveldt called Delta’s move smart, because the carrier is putting a business emphasis on trying to appeal more to premium travelers. “These travelers are no doubt responsible for a disproportionate share of its profits,” he said. “They’re not taking away from the main cabin experience, so there’s no shorter leg room or taking snacks off the plane. They’re investing in in-seat power, and approaching this in a smart way.”

It would have been nice for Delta to do more in its first class domestic product, which is far from industry leading, said Harteveldt. “And its international business class is not necessarily the most comfortable. But overall, Delta’s strategy is a smart one because it empowers the traveler with choice and control over what they want their Delta experience to be,” he said. “Some of these changes are cosmetic, but it’s nice to see Delta investing in the passenger experience.”

 

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Lufthansa Creates New Low-cost Airline Brand

By Benét J. Wilson / Published December 4th 2014

A Eurowings Airbus A320 with sharklets. Image courtesy Airbus.

A Eurowings Airbus A320 with sharklets. Image courtesy Airbus.

Lufthansa’s supervisory board has given the green light to a plan to get into the low-cost carrier game under a new unit it calls the “new” Eurowings brand. The German flag carrier will use the Eurowings and Germanwings brands to provide low-cost short- and long-haul flights starting at the end of 2015.

Initially, Germanwings and Eurowings will continue to offer flights under their current networks and crews, under the umbrella of new Eurowings brand. For the new European operations, the current Eurowings fleet of 23 Bombardier CRJ900s will be replaced with up to 23 Airbus A320s between February 2015 and March 2017.

The board approved an order of 10 new A320s for the new Eurowings, with plans for up to another 13 of the type being reassigned to Eurowings from existing orders. With this move, the carrier will have an all-A320 fleet by the end of 2017.

EXTRA: Lufthansa Academy: The Incredible Process Behind Buying a Fleet

To handle long-haul services under the Eurowings brand, Lufthansa has signed a letter of intent with SunExpress, its joint venture with Turkish Airlines, starting at the end of 2015, using the latter’s cockpit and cabin crews on three A330-200s.

The airline will fly from Europe to points including Florida, Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean. The fleet will eventually expand to seven A330s in the next few years based at Cologne/Bonn Airport. The new Eurowings concept will take a page from Germanwings by offering passengers ‘Best’, ‘Basic’ and ‘Smart’ air fares.

EXTRA: Lufthansa Places Huge Order for Boeing and Airbus Widebody Jets

The ‘New Eurowings’ is a response to one of the major challenges confronting Europe’s airline industry,” said Carsten Spohr, chairman and CEO of Lufthansa’s executive board, in a statement. “For several years now we’ve been facing fierce competition from the rapidly-growing low-cost carriers in the point-to-point travel segment, not only in Germany but throughout Europe, too. And we are sure to see this competition extend more and more to the long-haul travel segment in the years ahead. Our ‘New Eurowings’ is our innovative response, which will enable us to fashion our own markets here.”

Focus on Premium Quality

The year 2015 has been dubbed the year of ‘New Lufthansa Premium Quality’ by the German flag carrier’s executive board.  Airlines under Deutsche Lufthansa Group — Austrian Airlines and Swiss — can expect further fleet renewals, along with major upgrades to aircraft cabins that will offer what it calls five-star inflight travel comfort.

A Lufthansa Airbus A380 first class cabin. Image Courtesy of AirwaysNews

A Lufthansa Airbus A380 first class cabin. Image Courtesy of AirwaysNews

Lufthansa is expected to complete an upgrade of the first class cabin in its long-haul fleet in the first quarter. In the second quarter, the airline will complete improvements on its new business class. And in the third quarter, the carrier will offer its new Premium Economy service on all of its intercontinental aircraft. Lufthansa will also take on two more Airbus A380s, four new Boeing 747-8s and 10 short- and medium-haul Airbus A320 family of aircraft.

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Technology Helps Airports Improve the Passenger Experience

By Benét J. Wilson / Published December 3rd, 2014

Airports are turning to technology to help improve the passenger experience by delivering a fast and smooth journey for travelers, according to a new report from air transport IT provider SITA.

Most airports, said the report, are dealing with three business imperatives: improving the passenger experience; optimizing operational processes; and improving the commercial and financial performance. And airports have to do this against a backdrop of increasing air traffic, increasing complexity within the airport ecosystem and increasing passenger expectations.

In order to understand what is expected from a travel experience, SITA polls passengers on their opinions and habits. It found that nearly 75 percent of travelers are generally happy with their experience. But half want improvement and 25 percent have major levels of dissatisfaction with their airport experience.  Other findings include:

  • An extra 10 minutes spent in a security queue reduces, on average, a passenger’s retail spend by 30 percent;
  • Self-service kiosks can lead to a 25 percent increase in the speed of passenger processing and generate average savings per kiosk check-in of $2.50; and
  • More than 70 percent of the top 50 airports have investment plans for cloud and geo-location technologies by 2017
The beacon system at Miami International Airport. Image courtesy of SITA

The beacon system at Miami International Airport. Image courtesy of SITA

SITA looked at five airports around the world who are using technology to improve the passenger experience. Miami International Airport is the first in the world to have a complete and open deployment of beacons that broadcast identifiers in zones. The beacons can be used by airlines, retailers and other partners’ apps to trigger useful content to passengers and staff.

Orlando International Airport was the first to offer international travelers from visa-waiver countries the option to land, touch and go using SITA’s automated passport kiosks to self-process for faster U.S. border clearance. The kiosks significantly reduce the time it takes to get through Customs.

Automated passport kiosks at Orlando International Airport. Image courtesy of Orlando International Airport

Automated passport kiosks at Orlando International Airport. Image courtesy of Orlando International Airport

Australia’s Melbourne Airport now uses SITA’s self-service units that allows passengers to tag and drop their own luggage in a process that takes less than 30 seconds. Airports Authority of India has installed Common Use Self-Service units in 25 airports across the country that allow travelers to check in quickly and easily.

And Copenhagen Airport in Denmark partnered with SITA and Cisco to launch the world’s first augmented reality app, using Wi-Fi positioning data. It helps the airport track passenger flow, which allows it to determine the right level of staff needed for travelers. It also helps the airport monitor passenger movements from incoming flights so staff can be positioned in the clearance and customs areas.

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Inflight Review: EVA Air LAX-TPE-HKG-LAX in First Class

By Brian Coleman / Published December 3rd, 2014

Editor’s note: Brian Coleman, the associate producer of the Airplane Geeks podcast, recently traveled to Hong Kong on EVA Air and shared this trip report with AirwaysNews.

I recently had the chance to fly on EVA Air out of Los Angeles International Airport to Hong Kong for a family trip. It was a trip of firsts for me, including:

  • Flying on EVA Air;
  • Departing from the newly remodeled Tom Bradley International Airport at LAX;
  • Flying on a Boeing 777-300;
  • Meeting my wife’s family;
  • Fying on a Hello Kitty aircraft; and
  • Flying on an Airbus A330.
LAX's Tom Bradley International Airport. All Images Courtesy of Brian Coleman

LAX’s Tom Bradley International Airport. All Images Courtesy of Brian Coleman

Knowing the flight was going to depart from the Tom Bradley International Terminal, I got to the airport early so I could check out the new facilities and hang out in the new Star Alliance lounge.

I arrived at the airport so early the EVA Airlines check-in counter was not open, but it gave me a chance to walk around the new spacious facility. Aside from check-in counters, there were not many services available in the departure area.

Inside, the counters were large, well-spaced and ready for the onslaught of soon-to-be-departing international passengers waiting to check in. At the EVA Airlines counter, I was greeted by a smiling agent who seemed very happy to be there performing her job. Within a minute, I had my boarding pass, instructions on how to proceed through security and I made my way to the Star Alliance lounge.

On the other side of security, there was the normal compliment of high-end shops, as well as the obligatory duty-free stores. Not needing anything, I went to the Star Alliance Lounge.

The outdoor observation deck in the LAX Star Alliance lounge.

The outdoor observation deck in the LAX Star Alliance lounge.

I was very surprised to see how nice, modern and clean the lounge looked. There is an inside and outside bar, along with an observation deck that offers runway views, complete with a fire pit. It is the perfect place to do some planespotting while enjoying a beverage or your favorite snack. At the bar, in addition to the standards, the bartender was happy to make a Singapore Sling, Mojito or any other specialty drink you wanted. It did not seem like anything was out of his range, which was a very nice surprise compared to every other airport lounge bar I’ve experienced.

We had access to a large selection of buffet-style offerings for breakfast and lunch. There was also a build-your-own pho station, which was one of the best I have ever eaten.

The food buffet in the LAX Star Alliance lounge.

The food buffet in the LAX Star Alliance lounge.

If you forgot your iPad, you can borrow one while you are at the lounge. It also offers fast and free Internet access, and most of the chairs in the lounge come with AC outlets as well as USB power.

With my belly full and having spent an hour or so watching planes take off and land from the north runways, it was time to make my way to the gate for boarding. A short walk away was the gate and a slew of TSA agents performing what appeared to be a random check.

Upon boarding the plane, I was escorted to my seat in business class, given help stowing my bags, offered a blanket, pajamas, amenity kit and asked to choose a welcome aboard beverage. I asked for a glass of champagne and was told, “I’m sorry Mr. Coleman, for boarding we only have sparkling wine. Once we are in the air, I’ll be very pleased to bring you a glass of champagne.”  And as promised, a glass of Veuve Cliquot La Grande Dame 2004 was served when we reached a safe altitude.

As for the seat, the first thing I noticed is the angle of the herringbone — which is much more dramatic than other carriers — and the seat width. Not only was I sitting at about a 35-degree angle, I was in a seat that felt like it was only 20 inches wide. Yes, there was more space in the foot well below than on other business class seats I have experienced. However, I found the seat angle uncomfortable.

In addition, due to the configuration of the seat, it is virtually impossible to see your seatmate, which is great on flights where you want to be left alone. However, if you are traveling with someone, you could not make eye contact with your traveling companion unless you lean forward to look around the seat. Other nice amenities include in-seat power and lots of storage. Noise-canceling headphones were provided.

A starter on EVA Airlines.

A starter on EVA Airlines.

When it was time for dinner, I found the seat tray table to be a bit strange. It pulled out from the center section and then unfolded outwards, towards the seat in front of me. The table was very large, but if I were an oversized American, besides finding the seat to be very narrow, I doubt I’d be able to extend the tray for dinner.

It seemed like there were 15 flight attendants in the cabin catering to every wish and desire of the passengers. They scurried up and down the aisles multiple times and because there were so many of them, it seemed a bit disorganized.

However, when it came time for meal services, everything was cooked to perfection and the meal was very tasty and enjoyable. I had a French red wine (2010, Chateau Lilian Ladouys) to accompany my Braised Pork Spare Ribs Wu Shi Style. After dinner, we were served cheese, fruit and Haagen-Dazs ice cream with a choice of port, coffee or tea.

Wanting to get try out the 180-degree lay-flat seat, I pressed the button and my pod converted into my bed for the next six hours or so. I did not realize how comfortable sleeping with a down pillow and comfortable could be on a flight, but having missed the mid-flight snack, I assure you, it was comfortable enough.

An EAV Airlines Hello Kitty-branded jet.

An EVA Airlines Hello Kitty-branded jet.

With breakfast trays cleared, it was not long before we were on the ground, taxing to the gate and headed through immigration. There were no issues with immigration and I was in the arrivals lounge about 15 minutes after touchdown.

Part II: TPE – HKG – LAX

The next part of my journey was a week later when I boarded an EVA Airlines Hello Kitty-branded plane headed for Hong Kong. This experience starts before you get to the airport, where you can select a Hello Kitty flight. At the airport, there are Hello Kitty self-check-in kiosks and a branded kids play area. And there’s a gift shop featuring nothing but Hello Kitty paraphernalia.

On board the aircraft, pretty much everything that can be branded is branded. These items include the seat pillow, the art on the walls, the boarding music, the menu (which I tried to take as a souvenir but wasn’t allowed), the food, the flight attendant aprons, kids coloring books and even the toilet paper.

The service was the same as the crossing from the United States to Taipei. The seat was similar to a domestic first class seat, but the pitch was much larger.

A Hello Kitty-branded seat.

A Hello Kitty-branded seat.

After landing at Hong Kong International, I was able to enjoy the Virgin Atlantic Lounge. I found it to be spacious and well-appointed, but missing some of the luxury features I heard about in other lounges. The décor was modern, and therefore slightly uncomfortable to me. However, I was greeted by a very enthusiastic host who was offering to take care of any requirement I might have. He presented me with a food and beverage menu. Again, no request seemed too small for them.

I placed an order for pork short ribs and beef noodle soup and a glass of sparkling water. Within a few minutes the ribs and water arrived along with an apology that the soup would take another minute.

Having thoroughly enjoyed my ribs and beef noodle soup, it was time to see if I could gain access to the United Club lounge. Much to my surprise, I was granted access. The lounge was full and bustling with travelers.

I grabbed a beer from the self-service cooler and made my way to a seating area that overlooked the boarding gates below. In Hong Kong, all the lounges are a level above the departing gates. I collected my things and made the short journey to my gate.

The boarding process commenced about two minutes after I arrived in a very orderly fashion. I was again escorted to my seat by a flight attendant and asked if I needed help getting settled or if I required a beverage. Sad to see this wasn’t another Hello Kitty flight, I made myself comfortable and immediately feel asleep for the duration of the short flight back to Taipei.

The flight from TPE to LAX was basically the same as the one going over to Taiwan. The service and plane were the same, which is to say, very good.

One thing to note was the maps that were displayed on the IFE. I’ve never seen the views like what were displayed on the EVA flights. It was nice to see something so different with fairly precise GPS.

As for all the firsts I experienced on this trip:

  • I would definitely fly EVA Airlines again, even a Hello Kitty flight;
  • Los Angeles World Airports did a nice job on remodeling the Tom Bradley building;
  • I didn’t notice anything substantially different on the 777-300 versus the -200; and
  • The A330 was larger than what I was expecting and a pleasure to fly on.

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Contact the editor at benet.wilson@airwaysnews.com

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Air New Zealand, United Airlines Win Industry Awards

By Benét J. Wilson / Published December 2nd, 2014

An Air New Zealand Boeing 787-9. Image Courtesy of Air New Zealand

An Air New Zealand Boeing 787-9. Image Courtesy of Air New Zealand

Two organizations have made their picks for airlines of the year, choosing an international and a U.S. carrier, respectively. The safety and product rating website AirlineRatings.com has chosen Air New Zealand as its Airline of the Year for 2015, while Global Traveler magazine picked United Airlines for the same award.

For the second year in a row, Air New Zealand was honored for its inflight innovations, record financial performance, operational safety and motivation of its staff. The carrier also won Best Premium Economy Class.

Other Airlineratings.com winners include:

  • Qantas for Best Domestic Service, Best Catering and Best Lounges;
  • Etihad Airways for Best First Class;
  • Cathay Pacific for Best Business Class;
  • Thai Airways for Best Economy Class; and
  • Emirates for Best In-Flight Entertainment.

For value and safety in the low-cost airline sector, the winners were JetBlue for the Americas, Norwegian in Europe, Kulula.com for the Middle-East/Africa and Scoot for Asia/Pacific.

A United Airlines Boeing 787-9. Image Courtesy of Boeing

A United Airlines Boeing 787-9. Image Courtesy of Boeing

In awarding United Airlines its 2014 Airline of the Year, a panel of Global Traveler advisory board members and employees used outside research, experiences traveling with the airline and information provided by the individual airlines that were nominated to make its decision.

The airline was also named Best Trans-Pacific Airline and, for the 11th year in a row, United MileagePlus was chosen as the Best Frequent-Flyer Program and Best Frequent-Flyer Bonus Program. The MileagePlus Club Card also won Best Credit Card and Best Credit Card Rewards Program, while the United MileagePlus Explorer Card was named Best Frequent-Flyer Affinity Credit Card Redemptions.

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New IATA Program Helps European Travelers Hurt By Airline Bankruptcies

By Benét J. Wilson / Published November 26th, 2014

Tony Tyler. Images Courtesy of IATA

Tony Tyler. Images Courtesy of IATA

European airline passengers affected by carriers that file for bankruptcy and cease flying will now have help getting to their final destination thanks to a new program from the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

The global airline trade organization has worked with its European members on a voluntary agreement that will cover the repatriation of passengers unable to return home due to an airline ceasing operations as a result of financial failure using what IATA Director General and CEO Tony Tyler calls “rescue fares.” The agreement formalizes a long-standing custom that many airlines have traditionally offered in these rare instances.

In a 2011 report,  European Commission estimated that between 2011 and 2020, only 0.07 percent of all passengers could be affected by airline bankruptcy, and of them, only 12 percent would need airline help to get home.  A permanent fund to help passengers stranded by airline bankruptcies has been discussed, but the airlines opposed it, saying it would subsidize riskier carriers and it would cost too much to set up the bureaucracy needed to run it.

EXTRA: What Can We Expect From IATA’s Aircraft Tracking Task Force?

If an airline goes bankrupt, IATA member airlines will help stranded passengers by giving them access to rescue fares to get home, when capacity is available.  The nominal amount fares can be bought for up to two weeks after a bankruptcy for those flying to, from or within Europe who does not already possess travel insurance that covers airline bankruptcies.

“This agreement on rescue fares shows that the airline industry is more determined than ever to ensure reliable and consistently excellent customer service. Airlines have formalized a unique cooperation agreement that puts passenger needs first,” said Tyler in a statement.

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SkyWest Buys Seven E175s to Fly for Alaska Airlines

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

The E175. Image Courtesy of Embraer

The E175. Image Courtesy of Embraer

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

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

EXTRA: United Announces Additional Embraer E175 Routes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Miami International Airport Launches Mobile App

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

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

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

EXTRA: Miami Airport Steps Up Its Social Media Efforts

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

Concourse D at Miami International airport. Image Courtesy of AirwaysNews

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

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

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

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

EXTRA: Miami Airport Installs Beacons to Upgrade the Passenger Experience

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

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

MIA's Concourse D rotunda.

MIA’s Concourse D rotunda.

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

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

Editor’s note: We have a great weekly eNewsletter that comes out Friday afternoons. In it, we offer you a summary of our best stories, along with exclusive subscribers-only content. Click here to subscribe today!

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