Category Archives: Airline Passenger Experience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional Aviation Forecasts

Airbus, 2014-2033

Boeing, 2014-2033

FAA Aerospace Forecast, 2014-2033

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Contact the editor at benet.wilson@airways.com

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American Debuts First 777-200 with New Business Class

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

AA Boeing 777-200 seat 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Images Courtesy of American Airlines

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

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Contact the editor at benet.wilson@airwaysnews.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Lufthansa first class meal.

A Lufthansa first class meal.

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

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

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

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

Images and Video Courtesy of Lufthansa

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Contact the editor at benet.wilson@airwaysnews.com

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New KLM Beacon Service Helps Travelers Navigate Schiphol Airport

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

Image courtesy of KLM.

Image courtesy of KLM.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Contact the editor at benet.wilson@airways.com

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Virgin Australia Unveils New Business Class Product

By Benjamin Bearup / Published October 7th, 2014

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

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

All images courtesy of Virgin Australia

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

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

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

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

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

Images courtesy of Virgin Australia

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Contact the editor at vinay.bhaskara@airchive.com

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China Airlines Takes Aesthetically Innovative First Boeing 777-300ER

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

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

By Brandon Farris / Published Sunday October 5th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chinese New Year theme.

Chinese New Year theme.

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

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

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

The tea and literature area of the Sky Lounge.

The tea and literature area of the Sky Lounge.

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

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

A set up Skycouch shows how it would work.

A set up Skycouch shows how it would work.

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Luis Linares / Published October 3, 2014

LAN 787 J Class - LFL

LAN Airlines Boeing 787-8 business class

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

Business Class – Punta Cana to Miami

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

EXTRA:  Airways News gallery of Punta Cana International Airport

LAN 787 Boarding at PUJ - LFL

Boarding at sunset

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bottom Line

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

LAN Business Class Welcome Drink - LFL

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

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Contact the author at luis.linares@airwaysnews.com

Contact the editor at vinay.bhaskara@airwaysnews.com

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

By Luis Linares / Published October 2, 2014 

LAN 787 Y Class - LFL

LAN Airlines Boeing 787-8 economy class

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

SCL-MIA-PUJ Triangle - GC Map

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

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

Economy Class – Miami to Punta Cana

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

LAN 787-8 - MIA - LFL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EXTRA:  Airways News gallery of Punta Cana International Airport

Arrival at PUJ - LFL

Arriving at Punta Cana

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

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

LAN 787 Deaboarding at PUJ - LFL

Deplaning at Punta Cana

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Contact the author at luis.linares@airwaysnews.com

Contact the editor at vinay.bhaskara@airwaysnews.com

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

By John Walton / Published September 29th, 2014

Qantas-ipad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PAL wireless streaming entertainment

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

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

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

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

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

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Contact the editor at vinay.bhaskara@airchive.com

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PEOPLExpress Temporarily Suspends Operations

By Vinay Bhaskara / Published September 26th, 2014

Image Credit - PEOPLExpress

Image Credit – PEOPLExpress

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

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

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

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Contact the author at vinay.bhaskara@airwaysnews.com

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Bombardier Commercial Aircraft President Talks CSeries; CRJ Improvements

By Vinay Bhaskara / Published September 26th, 2014

Image Credit - Bombardier

Image Credit – Bombardier

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Contact the author at vinay.bhaskara@airchive.com

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Wrapping Up the APEX Expo

By Jason Rabinowitz / Published September 25th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Contact the editor at vinay.bhaskara@airwaysnews.com

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Airports Share Service Stories at World Routes Summit

By Benet Wilson / Published September 24th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Customs announces major expansion of pre-clearance program

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Contact the editor at vinay.bhaskara@airwaysnews.com

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Vinay’s Take: Why JetBlue CEO Dave Barger Was Forced Out

By Vinay Bhaskara / Published September 24th, 2014

Image Credit - Arbitrarily0

Image Credit – Arbitrarily0

JetBlue CEO David Barger is stepping down next February, marking the end of 7.5 years at the helm of JetBlue. He will be succeeded by current president Robin Hayes, also a longtime veteran at the company. The move comes after weeks of speculation, especially on Wall Street, about Barger’s eventual departure. He has overseen a nearly 20% decline in JetBlue’s share price since 2007, and while JetBlue tried to frame his departure as voluntary, it is clear that he was forced out. Why? Because he didn’t give customers what they want. 

Alright, let’s pause for a second so that you all can re-arrange your faces from the shocked expression they just adopted. I’m perfectly aware of JetBlue’s (many) merits; ranging from extra legroom and free first checked bags, to snacks, and friendly employees. They are just a few of the many reasons why I love flying JetBlue. And I would imagine that’s why the average passenger enjoys flying JetBlue too. But loving JetBlue’s customer experience isn’t the same as getting what you want.

A better way to define what customers want is what they are willing to pay for. And that’s where JetBlue’s “customer friendliness” falls apart. Airline passengers around the world (including in the US) have proven time and time again that they choose low base fares, schedule, and network above all else. There is a certain caliber of passenger willing to pay for a true first class product, but that passenger also tends to require the worldwide reach of America’s legacy carriers. So for the class of passenger that JetBlue can reach; those are the three factors that matter. That, at the end of the day, is what airline customers pay for. And the proof is in the numbers. JetBlue’s “great” economy class product doesn’t generate enough of a revenue premium to pay for the opportunity cost of fewer seats and far less checked baggage revenue. For far too long, JetBlue has been operating a premium economy product and charging a normal economy class fare for it.

When I make this point, people like to respond by saying JetBlue is making “enough” profits, and therefore it shouldn’t make these moves to enhance profitability. They also claim that JetBlue will lose a competitive advantage if it adds more seats and checked bag fees. I’ll tackle the second one first.

For JetBlue, adding more seats to its A320s need not be an anti-competitive task. With good (i.e. not United or Evolve) slimline seats, a more powerful booking engine, and compression of seat pitch at the rear of the aircraft, JetBlue could reasonably maintain 30-31 inches of seat pitch (still better than or as good as competitors) with the Even More section for passengers that want lots of extra legroom, and importantly, a middle tier with 34 inches of seat pitch sold at a higher fare (this is where the booking engine with a seat map or clear description comes into play) that frequent flyers and higher value business customers can fly in. This would lower costs, and squeeze more passengers into the plane, while still allowing those that are willing to pay for it, the ability to get those four extra inches of legroom. Competitively, the book-away would be minimal (it’s not as if other airlines have millions of empty seats floating around the system), and would be more than offset by the additional revenue from 8-12 new seats.

In terms of baggage fees, assuming JetBlue starts by marketing them properly (as part of a discounted fare bundle), they will boost revenue by hundreds of millions of dollars. And in terms of book away, the only carrier that a customer can book away to is Southwest. Assuming JetBlue exempts international flying, how exactly will a customer be able to book away to Southwest. Boston and New York have limited Southwest presence and little scope for expansion by any other airline, as does Long Beach. About 50% of Fort Lauderdale (by ASMs) will be Latin America, and San Juan is out of Southwest’s wheelhouse (and lots of Latin America as well). So you’re left with Orlando (which is unprofitable anyway) and about half of Fort Lauderdale. How is JetBlue going to lose substantial amounts of business?

And let’s turn to the idea of JetBlue making “enough” of a profit. Well frankly, no it’s not, especially not when judged against its peers, or against the intrinsic profit potential of the business. And that again comes back to JetBlue not giving customers what they want. A business is most profitable when it is giving customers what they want. And airline customers (in aggregate) want low base fares (price), network, and schedule. Here’s to hoping that Robin Hayes gives them what they want.

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Slider image courtesy of JDL Multimedia

Contact the author at vinay.bhaskara@airwaysnews.com

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Onboard United Airlines’ Inaugural Boeing 787-9 Flight

By Seth Miller / Published September 23rd, 2014

The Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner entered service with United Airlines Monday, making the Chicago-based carrier the third airline in the world to offer service on the type. The first flight operated from Houston to Los Angeles, a route the carrier has used for 787 training and proving runs since taking delivery of its first 787-8 two years ago. After a short period of domestic flights, the aircraft will enter international service this fall. The first route the 787-9 will serve is Los Angeles – Melbourne, which will be the longest 787 route in the world when it launches in late October. Airways News was a guest of United’s on the inaugural flight.

United's 787-9 parked at the gate as a 787-8 taxis in next door

United’s 787-9 parked at the gate as a 787-8 taxis in next door

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For most passengers (and the airline) this was business as usual; just another flight from Houston to Los Angeles. There was no special reception at either end, no balloons and nary a cupcake to be seen. Yet there was still a bit of excitement in the air. For some passengers it was just about flying on a Dreamliner. For others being on the inaugural was a specific goal. Neil Gamrod was up at 4am Eastern to make his way down to Houston for the inaugural flight. Like others he studied the airline schedules and adjusted his plans a few times, just to make it on board. And by the time we wrapped up the day with a celebratory dinner at the In-n-Out adjacent to LAX he was absolutely convinced it was a worthwhile trip, even if he was exhausted. Like many other 787 passengers Gamrod noted the more comfortable cabin comfort and the quieter ride as just a couple of the advantages the Dreamliner brings to the skies.

Neil Gamrod was one of several AvGeeks taking photos prior to the flight and also on board for the inaugural

Neil Gamrod was one of several AvGeeks taking photos prior to the flight and also on board for the inaugural

 

Those in-cabin benefits – higher air pressure and higher humidity being two of the most significant – are a large part of the draw for the 787 Dreamliner. The 787-9 is no different from the 787-8 in this regard, but it is 20 feet longer which means more passengers will get to enjoy those comforts on every flight. The 787–9 also has larger fuel tanks and engines with higher thrust ratings allowing for greater range even while carrying more cargo and passengers. In United’s configuration the aircraft includes 48 BusinessFirst flatbed seats in a 2-2-2 layout plus 204 economy class seats in a 3-3-3 layout. Of those 88 are in the Economy Plus section offering approximately four inches of extra legroom for passengers. This compares with 219 seats on the 787–8. From a passenger comfort perspective the good news is that nearly all of the additional seats are either in the EconomyPlus cabin (18 seats) or the BusinessFirst cabin (12 seats).

The forward BusinessFirst cabin of the 787-9

The forward BusinessFirst cabin of the 787-9

The seats are nearly identical to those in use on the 787-8 but both the economy and business class cabins have minor differences. In business class the main difference comes in the seat and in-flight entertainment controls. The IFE controller is now a touch-screen LCD offering the ability not only to control the larger display in front of the passenger but also a second screen where certain other features, such as the in-flight map, are available.  The movie collection is still approximately 150 titles with many – but far from all – offering multiple languages and subtitles. Beyond the control differences the business class seat is nearly identical to the version United has had in service for several years now on the pre-merger Continental widebody fleet. This includes subtle differences in the foot-well areas which can make seat choice particularly important for taller passengers.

Showing off the new touch-screen IFE controller with different content than the main screen

Showing off the new touch-screen IFE controller with different content than the main screen

In economy class the design of the seats has changed, particularly with respect to the recline function. The airline has limited the amount seats can recline a small bit versus the –8 version of the plane. Additionally the seat pan is now an articulating recline meaning the bottom slides forward as the top goes back. For the passenger behind the one reclining this is often seen as a good thing, though for the passenger reclining it means a reduction in knee room as they recline. Given the recent spate of spats related to reclining seats perhaps United’s choice on this front will be a viable compromise in the seat reclining wars.

Note the articulating seat design in Economy

Note the articulating seat design in Economy

The new aircraft is also one of the first delivered by Boeing with in-flight wifi connectivity available directly as a line-fit solution. United’s version uses Panasonic’s eXconnect Ku-band satellite-based connectivity and, despite some concerns from the engineers accompanying us on the flight, the internet connection was available on the flight. It was priced at $6.99 for the trip, similar to the pricing United offers on other Panasonic-based systems serving the route. The connection was reliable save for the window of our flight path near White Sands, a limitation I understand to be related to US government policies, and the speed tests I ran offered results similar to other flights I’ve taken using the Panasonic eXconnect system. All future United 787 deliveries are expected to come with in-flight connectivity as a line-fit option; the timing for retrofitting the existing 787-8s without connectivity is not yet clear.

In keeping with the theme of “just another flight” the meal service on board was a typical mid-con lunch offer. United revamped its catering at the beginning of the month so our options were the Asian noodle salad with chicken or the ham sandwich on pretzel roll. I chose the salad which, to me, is much more like a bowl of cold noodles than a salad. It tasted exactly like it did during the taste-test of the new United menu I did on the ground which is a good thing for me as I happen to like that one quite a bit.

Lunch on the Houston - Los Angeles route. This is one of the items added during the menu refresh at the beginning of September.

Lunch on the Houston – Los Angeles route. This is one of the items added during the menu refresh at the beginning of September.

So, yes, this was just another flight for United Airlines. But it is also something of a new beginning for United. The carrier is taking on delivery of the new 787s at a reasonable pace and using them to open up routes which previously had not been considered economically viable. Combine that with the improved passenger comfort levels and lower operating costs for the airline and it is easy to see the appeal for the airline and its customers. Adding the 787-9 to the fleet increases the options available to the carrier and passengers. It is easy to get excited about that sort of development.

Electronically tinted windows mid-flight.

Electronically tinted windows mid-flight.

The crew celebrates a successful first trip

The crew celebrates a successful first trip

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Contact the editor at vinay.bhaskara@airwaysnews.com

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Qatar Airways Takes Delivery of Its First A380

By Ian Petchenik / Published September 17th, 2014

Qatar Airways A380s at a delivery event in Hamburg. Photo courtesy Qatar Airways.

Qatar Airways A380s at a delivery event in Hamburg. Photo courtesy Qatar Airways.

Qatar Airways has taken delivery of its first A380 nearly four months after it was originally scheduled to do so. The airline was originally slated to begin service to London on the A380 earlier in the summer, but had delayed taking the aircraft due to issues with the interior finishings.

Having resolved those issues with Airbus, Qatar plans to begin flying to London beginning October 10 and will begin service to Paris aboard the A380 shortly after. Qatar will have 4 A380-800 aircraft by the end of the year, and will take delivery of an additional six orders. The carrier also has options for 3 additional aircraft.

Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, Akbar Al Baker, and Fabrice Brégier, Airbus President and Chief Executive Officer, onboard the airline's first Airbus A380 at the handover ceremony in Hamburg. Photo courtesy Qatar Airways

Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, Akbar Al Baker, and Fabrice Brégier, Airbus President and CEO, onboard the airline’s first Airbus A380. Photo courtesy Qatar Airways

Addressing the reason for the delay, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker said,The A380 that we are introducing is not just any A380; we have completely designed every element, giving it a signature touch that has never been seen before on board.” And as far as Qatar is concerned, it needs to be perfect to compete with other carriers flying the A380. Middle East carrier Etihad, which is based in Abu Dhabi, is set to introduce its own A380 in service to London in December. Etihad has won notice for its unique configuration of the aircraft and its introduction of a 125-square-foot, 3 room suite dubbed “The Residence.”

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Qatar’s second A380. Photo courtesy Airbus.

Qatar’s A380s are configured with 8 First Class seats in a 1-2-1 configuration. Each seat will offer passengers 90 inches of pitch and convert into a fully flat bed. First class passengers will also enjoy a 26-inch LCD screen. The 48 Business Class seats on Qatar’s A380 feature 52-inches of pitch and also convert to a fully flat bed. There are 461 economy seats split between the upper and lower deck. The economy seats at the rear of the upper deck are arranged in a 2-4-2 configuration, while those on the main deck are arranged 3-4-3. All of the economy seats are 18.5 inches wide and offer 32 inches of pitch.

Qatar Airways A380. Photo courtesy Qatar Airways

Qatar Airways A380. Photo courtesy Qatar Airways

Qatar Airways is also slated to be the launch customer of Airbus’ new A350 XWB. According to Fabrice Brégier, Airbus President and CEO, the A350 is on track for delivery later this year.

 

 

Clockwise from top left: Qatar Airways A380 First Class, Business Class, Economy Class, and First and Business Class Lounge. All gallery photos courtesy David Flynn, Australian Business Traveller. For more photos, see Australian Business Traveller’s in-depth photo tour.

Contact the author at ian@petchmo.com.

Contact the editor at Vinay.Bhaskara@airchive.com

 

 

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Gogo 2Ku Satellite WiFi Coming To Virgin Atlantic

By Jason Rabinowitz / Published September 17, 2014 / Photos by author

On Wednesday morning at the Airline Passenger Experience Expo in Anaheim, California, in-flight connectivity provider Gogo announced an agreement with Virgin Atlantic which will see its entire existing fleet retrofitted with Gogo’s upcoming 2Ku connectivity solution. Virgin Atlantic is the first airline to commit to a 2Ku install, coming several months after Japan Airlines and Air Canada agreed to trail the system.

The Gogo 2Ku antenna under a clear display radome

The Gogo 2Ku antenna under a clear display radome

2Ku, announced last April at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, Germany, leverages next-generation “low profile” antennas which have a much lower profile than traditional Ku antennas. Gogo expects the 2Ku system to be able to deliver a 70 Mbps downlink to each aircraft once available in the second half of 2015, and substantially more once newer generation satellites come online.

Virgin Atlantic currently has nearly half its feet outfitted (seven Boeing 747 and ten Airbus A330 aircraft) with in-flight connectivity from AeroMobile, which utilizes an older generation L-Band connection to provide GSM roaming and WiFi services. This expensive, low bandwidth solution does not seem to have met the expectations of the airline and its passengers, necessitating a change.

“We’re always looking at ways to enhance the on board experience for our customers and expanding in-flight connectivity across our fleet is just one of the ways in which we are doing this,” said Reuben Arnold, Brand and Customer Engagement Director at Virgin Atlantic. “We were impressed with Gogo’s connectivity solution and look forward to all of our customers being able to enjoy this service whilst they fly.”

While the Gogo deal encompasses aircraft already in the fleet, what is still unknown is the connectivity solution selected for the airlines upcoming Boeing 787-9. A recently captured photo of Virgin Atlantic’s first 787-9 shows a WiFi radome installed, but the service provider has not yet been disclosed.  It is possible that Gogo rival Panasonic could have secured the 787-9 away from Gogo, as they are currently the only provider to offer line-fit Boeing installs.

Meanwhile, partner and 49% stake owner Delta Air Lines is in the midst of its own international WiFi rollout. Delta is equipping its international fleet with Gogo Ku-band WiFi services using a traditional panel antenna, starting with the Boeing 747 and Airbus A330.

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International Service at Miami Set to Expand in Fourth Quarter

By Ian Petchenik / Published September 15th, 2014

Photo by Chris Sloan

American Airlines Boeing 777-300ER. Image Credit – Chris Sloan / Airways News

International service at Miami International Airport will expand in the fourth quarter of 2014, as American Airlines, Lufthansa, and Finnair launch new service. SWISS, Qatar, Air France, Lufthansa, and Virgin Atlantic will augment their service for the winter season.

American will begin service to Cap-Haiten, Haiti, on October 2, it’s second Haitian destination after Port-au-Prince, which it also serves from Miami. Campinas, Brazil (VCF), will also see new service from American beginning December 2, one day after the carrier launches service to Campinas from New York (JFK). Miami-London service for the winter season will also increase to 17 roundtrips weekly, with three flights per day on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. American will continue to fly the 777-300ER once daily between Miami and London, but will up-gauge all of its Miami-São Paulo flights to the 777-300ER variant, effective December 1.

Qatar Airways 777. Image Credit - Ian Petchenik /  Airways News

Qatar Airways 777. Image Credit – Ian Petchenik / Airways News

International airlines will be responsible for most of the seasonal capacity increases at Miami during the fourth quarter. Swiss International Air Lines (SWISS) will operate 14 flights per week between Miami and Zurich, up from 10, beginning October 27. The added flights will operate Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Sunday though March 27, 2015. Qatar Airways, which launched service from Doha to Miami in June, will expand to five weekly flights. The additional service will operate on Mondays aboard a Boeing 777-200LR.

Finnair will bring an Airbus A340 to Miami from Helsinki twice per week from December 16 through January 2, 2015, when it will increase service to three flights per week through March 21, 2015.

Air France will join Lufthansa in bringing the Airbus A380 to Miami, operating its Miami-Paris service on the superjumbo from December 1, 2014 through March 28, 2015, before returning to a Boeing 777-300. Air France flies the A380 in a 516-seat (9F, 80J, 38 Y+, 389Y) configuration. December 2 will launch Lufthansa’s seasonal Miami-Munich service with flights operating five times per week through April 30, 2015. The German flag carrier’s Munich flights will operate Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday.

Contact the author at ian@petchmo.com.

Contact the editor at Vinay.Bhaskara@airchive.com

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