Category Archives: Inaugurals and First Flights

An Interview with Virgin America’s David Cush

by Austin Speaker / Published October 16th, 2014

Virgin America CEO David Cush. Photo by Austin Speaker

Virgin America CEO David Cush. Photo by Austin Speaker

David Cush, president and CEO of Virgin America, sat down with AirwaysNews.com after his triumphant entrance to Dallas Love Field with Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson on the Uber Downtown Express flight from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.  He spoke about what the move to Love Field will mean to his airline and the citizens of Dallas, as well as about other developments.

AirwaysNews.com: Obviously this is a big move for Virgin. It’s your biggest expansion so far, or at least in the last five years. How important was this move for you from DFW to Love Field?

David Cush: Well, it was very important for us that we would not have launched flights to the east coast from DFW. Very simply, American is too strong at DFW to go up against them. We were confident with LA and San Francisco because we’ve got big bases there. So this is important because we think, number one it will also strengthen our San Francisco and LA flights, which is why we’re increasing, but also because it makes it possible for us to launch service into New York and Reagan National.

Airways: Are you also still looking into flights to Chicago, pending regulatory approval?

Cush: Well, we don’t really need regulatory approval for Chicago—we need gates, which we don’t have right now. We’re going to sit tight on that for a while. We think with these two gates that we can get about 18 departures a day out of Love Field. As of April, we’ll have four flights to each of our destinations, so that’s 16, so we’re just going to be careful about how we use those last two. It certainly could be Chicago; it’s at the top of our list for new cities, but we may also just decide to add additional frequencies to existing cities.

Airways: Are there any other cities you’re looking at for future service that may be of interest?

Cush: Probably Chicago is the biggest one, I’ll say, as far as out of Love Field. It’s a massive market and, again, we’re just being very careful about where we use our final two frequencies.

Airways: Are you looking to grow in Dallas in the future, or are you comfortable with the 16-18 departures a day?

Cush: We will not split operations, so we’re not going to reopen DFW. That’s just too expensive; and we’ve got two gates, and our expectation is that we will have to figure out how to operate out of those two gates. So my guess is you’re not going to see a lot of expansion as far as out of Dallas, unless gates magically become open, which I doubt they will.

Airways: Since the other carriers involved in the repeal of the Wright Amendment, Southwest and American, are legally bound not to further appeal what remains of the Wright Amendment, would Virgin see down the road possibly trying to carry on that torch to expand the airport?

Cush: No, not really. I was here when that battle was fought. It was a compromise with the community; these are compromises we have every day when you have airports or any other facility surrounded by neighborhoods. And I think it would be out of place for us to be the ones to challenge it. This is Southwest and American’s home; we’re visitors.

Airways: Could you see possibly trying to acquire one of the other gates here?

Cush: Now that’s a little bit contentious right now, and I’m going to stay out of it. They have their own issues they’re dealing with, and we’re happy with our two gates. We’re going to come in and just do a good job.

Airways: So far, are ticket sales reflecting that the additions of New York and D.C. were good decisions for you?

Cush: Yes—look, it’s very early. Washington just started today; New York starts in a couple of weeks. It’s very early, but what we’ve seen with LA and San Francisco, where we have comparisons because we flew from DFW last year, looks very good. We’re confident with things going forward.

Airways: Does it look like you’re going to be able to support the extra frequencies pretty easily?

Cush: Absolutely.

Airways: Obviously Virgin is sort of a niche market; its routes are few compared to a lot of the other carriers. Have you looked into possibly codesharing with another carrier U.S.-based carrier?

Cush: We haven’t looked at it seriously. My strong gut feeling is that if we asked anyone they would say no. Their network strength is really the most overwhelming benefit they have, and they wouldn’t want us to be able to piggyback off that. So it’s not really in the plans for us.

Airways: And are there any other international carriers that you’re looking at?

Cush: Well we do a lot of international stuff, interline as well as codeshare. I believe we’re just announcing a new codeshare tomorrow with China Airlines, so we do a lot, in particular out of LA and San Francisco with Asian carriers that are looking for some feed.

Airways: Have you looked at some of the other carriers like Porter or someone more on the east coast that would connect with your network?

Cush: We were close to the guys at Porter. Don Carty is our chairman and their chairman. We’ve looked at partnering with them in the past when we were in Toronto, but that simply didn’t work. They’ve got some automation challenges that would make that difficult in terms of partnering, so they aren’t high on our list, but they certainly run a fine airline.

Airways: This is the first time that any destination outside the west coast has gotten eastbound traffic. Could we see other destinations, like Chicago or Austin, with eastbound traffic?

Cush: It’s hard to tell. I think we try not to get ahead of ourselves. We’re going to try and learn a lot from our experience here at Love Field and then take it from there. Our expectation is we will open up more focus cities, for lack of a better term, in the U.S.; it’s just that we want to learn from this one first.

Airways: Are any of those foreseen as being more on the east coast side? You run a lot of short-haul flights up and down the west coast, but that doesn’t really exist on the east coast for you. Is that something you’re looking at?

Cush: Not a lot. We’ve got a pretty big operation in New York—we serve all three airports. We are doing a little north-south flying out of New York this winter, just seasonally. It’s not really big in our plans. Those are well-served markets with very strong competitors. I think we’re pretty comfortable where we are.

Airways: Are there any other cities either in the network now or, perhaps more interestingly, that aren’t in the network now, that you’d like to target for a next focus city?

Cush: We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. We’re going to develop Love Field; we’re going to, I believe, learn a lot from our experience here, and that’s really going to influence where we go next.

Airways: How has the withdraw from Philadelphia gone over so far?

Cush: It was fine. You know, the mayor and the city were disappointed, but they were very gracious. They didn’t take any shots at us as we were leaving. We love Philadelphia—I wish we could have made it work. And we’ll be back there someday, but they were all very good to us all the way to the end.

Related Stories

Virgin America Makes Move to Dallas Love Field
Southwest Trumpets End of Wright Amendment Restrictions at Dallas Love Field
ANALYSIS: Virgin America Adds Utilization Flying in Las Vegas and New York

Will Profitability Remain Virgin Territory for Virgin America?

Image Courtesy of Virgin America

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Contact the editor at benet.wilson@airwaysnews.com

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Trip Report: Qatar Airways Inaugural Airbus A380 Flight

By Guest Contributor / Published October 14th, 2014

Editor’s note: Below is a trip report submitted by contributor Gino Bertuccio. Bertuccio has traveled the world on major airline inaugurals for the Airbus A380, the Boeing 787 and the 747-8. This is his first-person account of his adventures on the inaugural flight on Qatar Airways’ first A380, from Doha to London Heathrow.  Qatar Airways has 341 aircraft on order, including 12 A380s.

Qatar Airways at Hammad International Airport.

Qatar Airways at Hamad International Airport.

I was a little bit sad and disappointed when Qatar Airways’ original Airbus A380 inaugural, set for July 1 2014, was postponed indefinitely. On September 19, the first A380 landed at Doha’s Hamad International Airport. Then the date for the inaugural flight was set for October 10, when my reservation was made for seat 2K. On the magic day, I arrived at Hamad International Airport at 5:20 a.m. on October 10 in order not to miss any of the festivities.

Pre-Departure

It took less than three minutes to check in, from the comfortable first-class counters to the escort through immigration and security to Qatar Airways’ Business Class Lounge, since the First Class Lounge won’t open until spring 2015. The lounge was more spacious and elegant than any other. The inside restaurant on second floor is available. It had a very limited a-la-carte selection, but a generous selection from the buffet menu.

The gracious lady who escorted me told me to be ready to proceed to gate A3, a short walk from the lounge, at 7:00 a.m., but I preferred to leave the lounge at 6:45. Boarding time was set at 7: 05 a.m., with a scheduled departure time set for 7:55 a.m.

I was surprised and disappointed that nothing happened at the gate to commemorate Qatar’s first A380 flight. There was no celebration, no speech and no decoration, just Qatar Airways’ staff distributing red roses to business- and first-class passengers, along with a banner.

There were no giveaway, no formal certificates, no souvenir – nothing. At least for the inaugural Doha-Miami flight, I got a small souvenir. All we received was a simple letter informing and welcoming all passengers about the flight.

Inflight

The Qatar Airways A380 first-class seat.

The Qatar Airways A380 first-class seat.

At first glance, it appeared that there was not enough space for a carry-on under the companion seat, so the flight attendant took mine away and stored it in a closet. The seat was very comfortable, and the seat and IFE controls were very easy to use. My only difficulty was in pulling out the magazines stored in a very tiny space. The IFR, Oryx, was equipped with a 26-inch screen with great resolution. It offers a large assortment of movies, TV shows, documentaries, inflight shopping and flight information.

A small personal closet for clothes is located just beside the screen. Opening the door gives you a great surprise: Missoni slippers and a Giorgio Armani amenity kit. Missoni pajamas were also given out, and a welcome drink was offered to the eight of us sitting in first class.

Boarding was completed at 7:45 a.m., the doors closed immediately after and the A380 pushed back at 7:54 a.m. We took off at 8:08 a.m. just passing over Doha and heading north west toward London Heathrow.

A meal in Qatar Airways first class.

A meal in Qatar Airways first class.

At 8:16 a.m, the flight attendants started our meal service. Breakfast was served starting with drinks including fresh-squeezed orange or pineapple juice, a banana smoothie and a spicy tomato and celery health drink. Appetizers included fresh fruit with honey crème, Bircher Muesli, greek yogurt with honey and chopped pistachios and hazelnuts and salmon gravlax with dill crème.

The main meal was a choice of traditional Arabic breakfast , south Indian-style baked eggs with potatoes, create your own breakfast with a variety of eggs any style with 10 sides to choose from and cinnamon brioche french toast. My selection was very tasty, with generous portions and a superb cappuccino.

A bartender in the onboard first-class lounge.

Bertuccio in the onboard first-class lounge.

After the meal, I went to enjoy the lounge with other first-class passengers I met on other inaugurals, along with my great friend Isabelle. We all enjoyed cocktails and delicious chocolate cake was offered.

Post-flight

We landed at London Heathrow at 1:04. I was disappointed that there was no water cannon salute from the airport firefighters. We deplaned normally, without even a banner indicating the end of the inaugural flight. Only the captain made a mention of when welcoming passengers after we landed.

Having flown almost 20 inaugurals, most of them with the A380, and with that aircraft being the new Jewel of Qatar Airways fleet, I was expecting a lot more from them in terms of a celebration. Although the crew was attentive, the food was good and the IFE and seat comfort were extraordinary, it was not one of the best inaugural flight experiences. My next inaugural flight will be on December 27, on Etihad’s A380 Resident apartment.

IMG_8136 IMG_8139 IMG_8140 IMG_8146 IMG_8151 IMG_8152 IMG_8187 IMG_8195 IMG_8202 IMG_8206

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a complete list of Gino Bertuccio’s inaugural flights:

SR MD-11 CCS ZRH

CO 757 CCS IAH

CO 757 CCS EWR

SQ A380 SIN SYD

SQ A380 SYD SIN

SQ A380 SIN LHR

SQ A380 SIN NRT

SQ A380 NRT SIN

SQ A380 SIN CDG

SQ A380 SIN FRA-JFK

SQ A380 SIN -NRT -LAX

SQ A380 SIN HKG SFO

NH 787 NRT HKG

NH 787 HKG NRT

LX A340 ZRH SIN

LX A340 SIN ZRH

QR 777 DOH MIA

LH A380 FRA MIA

LH 747-8 FRA MIA

A380 Image Courtesy of Qatar Airways. Inflight Images Courtesy of Gino Bertuccio.

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Contact the editor at benet.wilson@airwaysnews.com

 

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Frontier Airlines to Launch Service to Miami

By Vinay Bhaskara / Published September 30th, 2014

A Frontier Airlines Airbus A320 painted in the new livery: Image Credit - Ben Bearup / Airways News

A Frontier Airlines Airbus A320 painted in the new livery: Image Credit – Ben Bearup / Airways News

Frontier Airlines is adding service to Miami, Florida, with nonstop flights to Philadelphia, New York La Guardia, and Denver beginning December 20, 2014. The ultra-low cost carrier (ULCC) will also add nonstop service to Chicago O’Hare International Airport on March 2, 2015. In total, the four destinations will be served with 38 flights per week, with frequencies as follow:

  • Philadelphia - 1 Flight / Day
  • New York La Guardia - 2 Flights / Day
  • Denver – 10 Flights / Week
  • Chicago O’Hare – 1 Flight / Day

Aircraft and schedules for the new flights have not yet been released.

Frontier Airlines’ launch of service to Miami comes on the heels of expansion in major markets such as Cleveland, Cincinnati, Houston, Phoenix, and Washington Dulles. Frontier also announced a major expansion from Philadelphia Tuesday, funding the growth with major reductions in frequency on routes from its largest operation at Denver.

Year over year, Frontier is reducing frequency from Denver to Nashville, Cozumel, Dallas Fort Worth, Des Moines, Detroit, Fargo, Spokane (eliminated), Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York La Guardia (eliminated), Chicago Midway (eliminated), Minneapolis St. Paul, Oklahoma City, Omaha, Portland, Phoenix, San Diego, Seattle, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, ad St. Louis. Airways News estimates that Frontier will reduce frequency at Denver by close to 220 weekly departures, downsizing capacity by more than 25%.

In concert with expansion at Miami, Frontier will eliminate its nonstop flight between Denver and Fort Lauderdale, though it will preserve nonstop service to five other destinations from Fort Lauderdale. Frontier’s expansion at Miami also pre-empts in small part, a potential expansion by rival ULCC Spirit Airlines. Spirit currently does not serve Miami, but has its largest focus city at Fort Lauderdale. Airways News reported last year that Spirit is weighing incentives from Miami International Airport to move its entire focus city to Miami. Spirit and Frontier have increasingly brushed up against each other in their quest for profitable opportunities, and Miami looks to be no different.

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Contact the author at vinay.bhaskara@airchive.com

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Analysis: Airbus A320neo First Flight Is a Triumph of Incrementalism

By Vinay Bhaskara / Published September 25th, 2014

The Airbus A320neo takes off for the first time from Toulouse, France. Image courtesy Airbus.

The Airbus A320neo takes off for the first time from Toulouse, France. Image courtesy Airbus.

The Airbus A320neo flew for the first time Thursday in Toulouse, marking the most important step towards entry into service for Airbus’ re-engined airline since the program was launched in December 2010. The first flight took off at just after 12:00 pm local time for a flight of 2 hours and 22 minutes, and was operated by an A320neo registered as F-WNEO (MSN6101)

The A320neo’s first flight occurred on schedule despite rumors that problems with the Pratt & Whitney PW1100G, whose smaller cousin, the PW1500G delayed flight testing for Bombardier’s competing CSeries program earlier this year, would push back the planned date. However, according to Airways News sources at the Tolouse-based airframer, testing of the A320neo’s second engine, the CFM International LEAP-1A is running behind schedule. The LEAP-1A has been chosen by a slight plurality of A320neo customers over the PW1100G (35% to 31%) despite the latter engine’s potential for better fuel burn and maintenance cost performance, though nearly 34% of firm orders for the A320neo have not yet been assigned an engine. CFM is the sole supplier of engines for rival Boeing’s competing 737 MAX with its LEAP–1B engine, and according to sources familiar with the respective programs, has been prioritizing resources and investment into the LEAP–1B.

Operating Economics Boosted

Alongside the first flight, Airbus has stepped up its effort in the war of words with rival Boeing, along with an update to the A320neo’s cost savings reflecting the increase in the maximum seating capacity of the A320neo to 189 seats thanks to the Space Flex design that rearranges the galley area. At the ISTAT Europe conference earlier this week, Airbus Chief Operating Officer, Customers John Leahy, presented updated performance estimates for the A320neo, which Airbus projects will burn 20% less fuel per seat versus the current A320ceo thanks to the aforementioned capacity increase and a performance improvement package (PiP) from Pratt & Whitney. The comparable figures for the A319neo and A321neo are 19% and 23% respectively, taking advantage of increases from 156 to 160 seats and 220 to 240 seats respectively.

However, it is well known that the A320neo’s operating economics will lag behind those of the 737 MAX 8, mirroring the present day gap between the A320ceo and the Boeing 737-800. The performance of the 200-seat 737 MAX 8, dubbed the 737 MAX 200, is also expected to be 20% better than the present-day 737-800, preserving the advantage held by Boeing. At the ISTAT Conference, in an interview with Leeham News and Comment, Kiran Rao, Executive Vice President, Sales & Marketing for Airbus, took aim at the higher capacity MAX 200. “At 200 seats the vast majority of [the 737 MAX’s] seats are at 28 inch pitch. Even at 194 the seat pitch is 28, as the lost seats are replaced with galley,” he says. “For the A320 at 189 seats, the majority of seats between Door 1 and mid cabin exit are at 30 in pitch. Behind the mid- cabin we are also at 28 in pitch.”

Despite Mr. Rao’s commentary, Airways News projects that the 737 MAX 8 (or MAX 200 for low cost carriers [LCCs]) will continue to hold an economic advantage over the A320neo. The A320neo currently has more firm orders than the 737 MAX 8 by a ratio of 2,484 to 1,952 but the latter aircraft has outsold the A320neo since it was launched, and Airways News eventually projects that the 737 MAX 8 will outsell the A320neo.

Family Success

However, despite Boeing’s edge in what the Chicago-based airframer has described as “the heart of the [narrowbody] market,” the Airbus A320neo family will likely outsell the 737 MAX over the long run, eventually stabilizing at a market share of 55-57%. The rationale comes from the dominant superiority of the A321neo versus the 737 MAX 9, which it has outsold by a ratio of 724 to 212. The 737 MAX 7 and A319neo have sold 55 and 49 copies respectively and are effectively irrelevant to the long run future of either program. But the A321neo represents a real advantage for Airbus, to such a degree that Boeing will likely be forced to launch a 757 successor.

Airways News is less confident than Boeing that the narrowbody market will be centered on the 737-800/A320 sized aircraft over the next 20 years. The trend in commercial aviation since the 1960s is a near continual increase in the size of the average mainline narrowbody aircraft; ranging from the Douglas DC-9-10/20 to the, Boeing 737-300 and McDonnell Douglas MD-81/82, to the A320 and 737-800 in the present day. The world’s aviation infrastructure is finite and increasingly embroiled in regulatory snafus (the Middle East excepted), and Asian markets in particular will need to up-gauge service in several markets in order to capture the growth in that continent’s middle class. It’s not unforeseeable that Airbus sells 2,500 copies of the A321neo over the next 15 years while Boeing trails with 1,250 737 MAX 9s and however many 757 replacement aircraft it can sell in the last four or five years of that window.

Airbus’ Greatest Triumph

Airbus’ control of the largest narrowbody segment underscores the remarkable success of the entire A320neo family of aircraft. Indeed, the A320neo, not the A350 or the troubled A380, is the greatest achievement for Airbus in the last 26 years (since the launch of the A320ceo) or perhaps even the 47-year history of the company. The A350 and A330neo were responses to the success of the Boeing 787 and the A380 was a prestigious project to be sure, but was plagued by delays and received tepid response from the market. But with the A320neo, Airbus finally seized control of the strategic dynamics of the large commercial aircraft, and it is poised to maintain substantial leadership in the narrowbody sector for at least one development cycle.

Setting aside the sales dominance of the A320neo, its more powerful achievement lies in what it represents strategically. After the initial success of the A320ceo, which Boeing more than countered with the more profitable 737 Next Generation, Boeing held the upper hand in the strategic balance between the two companies. Between the success of the 777 and the 787 Dreamliner, Boeing seized the upper hand in the more lucrative widebody segment of the market, while the tepid response to the A350 (really A330neo) Mark I sent Airbus scrambling back to the drawing board, and it couldn’t come up with a successful response (in the form of an A330neo) until Boeing was sold out for so many years that availability of mid-sized widebodies became a real challenge for several airlines. But with the A320neo, Airbus forced Boeing out of its complacent shell and plans to launch a clean-sheet 737 replacement in the early 2020s. But the success of the A320neo forced Boeing’s hand into a re-engining project that it didn’t want to undertake. The remarkable customer response to the A320neo, shifted the upper hand to Airbus, whose platform offers the opportunity for more savings in the long run due to its dual source engines and larger fan size (the A320neo’s wings are higher off the ground than those of the 737 MAX). Boeing’s initial belief that it could weather the storm by upgrading the 737NG was proved wishful thinking by American Airlines’ landmark order for 130 A320neos in July 2011, and Boeing was forced to scramble for an answer.

The Age of Incrementalism 

While the launch of the A320neo is certainly a joyous occasion for Airbus on its own, its impact on the aviation world is far more deleterious. The Airbus A320neo, by virtue of its success, has ushered in what we call an “Age of Incrementalism,” in which the major original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) avoid the massive investment and risk involved in developing clean sheet airplanes for the safe harbor of re-engined aircraft. Once the A320neo made it clear that airlines would accept a re-engined airplane so long as it delivered substantial improvements in operating economics (driven primarily by new engine technology), OEMs around the world began tailoring development towards re-engined projects like the Embraer E2, Boeing 777X, 737 MAX, and A330neo.

Bombardier’s CSeries, the 787, and the A350 all pre-date the A320neo, so none of the big four manufacturers is likely to build a new clean-sheet airplanes for ten years. Those ten years will see massive innovation in fields as disparate as automobiles and cloud computing, but the commercial airliner business will not participate. Aviation needs more of the 787 and A350, and less neo and MAX. For all of the faults of the 787, it represented genuine innovation in its body composition of carbon fiber reinforced plastic and in its passenger comfort advances. But the Boeing-Airbus duopoly (and Embraer-Bombardier beneath them) has gotten too comfortable. And the world of commercial aerospace suffers accordingly.

Eurasia to the Rescue?

Perhaps the best hope for restarting innovation in the commercial aerospace sector comes from the developing world; namely Russia, China, and East Asia. China is probably 30 years away from building a viable competitor to Boeing and Airbus aircraft (and we actually believe that a consortium involving some or all of Korea, Japan, India, Vietnam, and Taiwan might be the first Asian competitor for Airbus and Boeing). But Russia is a more interesting case. Recent geopolitical events and sanctions placed on the Russian economy have led the Russian government to increase investment in its domestic programs such as the Irkut MS-21. Russian technology and (more importantly) reliability is catching up with that of Western aircraft as evidenced by the improving performance of the Sukhoi Superjet. And its not inconceivable that at some point over the next decade, the Russians will launch an aircraft program that upsets the Airbus-Boeing duopoly, and in much the same manner as the A320neo, force the hand of executives in Tolouse and Chicago.

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Contact the author at vinay.bhaskara@airchive.com

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Airbus A320neo Takes to the Air

By Ian Petchenik / Published September 25, 2014

Airbus A320neo first flight. Image courtesy Airbus.

Airbus A320neo first flight. Image courtesy Airbus.

The Airbus A320neo took to the skies for the first time today in Toulouse, France, marking a major milestone for the fast selling new engine option version of the plane. At just after noon, Central European Time, a crew of five took off in F-WNEO (MSN6101), for a flight of a little over 2 hours.

F-WNEO is powered by Pratt & Whitney PW1100G-JM engines, one of two engines being offered on the A320neo. The airplane is also being offered with CFM’s Leap Engine. Airbus is touting a 20% reduction in fuel burn on the A320neo compared to current engined A320s.

Flightpath of the first flight of the Airbus A320neo. Screenshot from FlightRadar24

Flightpath of the first flight of the Airbus A320neo. Screenshot from FlightRadar24

The test aircraft took off and landed in Toulouse, spending 2 hours, 22 minutes in the air over southern France.

Airbus’ order book for the A320neo family stands at 3,257, spanning over 50 customers. Airbus has taken large orders from airlines such as Air Asia, Lion Air, and American Airlines, which has 130 A320neo aircraft on order.

 

 

 

Airbus is showing a live-feed of the test flight, which you can watch live here.

The Airbus A320neo takes off for the first time from Toulouse, France. Image courtesy Airbus.

The Airbus A320neo takes off for the first time from Toulouse, France. Image courtesy Airbus.

 

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Fort Lauderdale Airport Debuts New Runway

By Vinay Bhaskara, Ian Petchenik, and Chris Sloan/ Published September 18th, 2014

Fort Lauderdale Airport’s new, $826 million runway opened today with JetBlue’s Flight 1028 the first to touch down. The new runway 10R/28L sits on the south of the airport and runs parallel to Fort Lauderdale’s existing 9000 foot runway. The runway, part of a $2.3 billion capital improvement program at the airport, took three years and three months to complete, but was decades in the making. It is 8000 feet long and 150 feet wide, and will allow Fort Lauderdale to operate simultaneous landings and departures, expanding capacity at the airport to up to 425,000 flights annually, up from 260,000 at present. Until now, Fort Lauderdale had been limited to a single main air carrier runway, much like San Diego and London’s Gatwick Airport.

The elevated eastern end of Fort Lauderdale's runway: Image Credit - Fort Lauderdale Airport

The elevated eastern end of Fort Lauderdale’s runway: Image Credit – Fort Lauderdale Airport

The new runway’s design is unusual, as the eastern end of the runway is elevated to allow traffic on highway US 1 and a freight railway line to pass underneath aircraft on take off. The eastern end of the runway was elevated by 52 feet using 11 million tons of dirt and has a slope of 1.3 degrees. 10R/28L is one of just three runways in the United States with a slope of 1.3 degrees or more. To facilitate traffic flow, the airport constructed six runway structures, each of which is 810 feet long and six taxiway structures that are 440 feet long. These structures are smaller-scale versions of the runway construction at Madeira Airport in Portugal, whose elevated runway opened in 2002.

The new runway is only part of a $2.3 billion capital improvement project. Broward County, operator of the airport, is also currently renovating three of its terminals and completely reconstructing Terminal 4. Construction in all of the terminals is slated to be completed by 2017. Terminals 1, 2, and 3 are getting a much needed $300 million facelift and Terminal 1, which houses Southwest Airlines is getting an additional $150 million for the construction of a five international gates in a new Concourse A. The main terminal complex dates to the 1980s and is certainly showing its age.

Concourse A

Southwest’s New International Concourse A at Terminal 1: Image Credit – Fort Lauderdale Airport

Southwest is expected to use Fort Lauderdale as a growing hub for its increased international operations when the new gates come online. Southwest is today the second largest airline at Fort Lauderdale by market share, and it is locked in a tight competition with JetBlue to grow market share in Fort Lauderdale and use it as a base to serve Latin American destinations. Although the county is paying for the construction via grants and passenger facility charges, Southwest is managing all construction in Terminal 1.

Terminal 4, FLL’s international terminal, is being completely rebuilt because of its position on the airfield. Terminal 4’s Concourse H is situated in an area needed for the south runway airfield improvements. The $450 million terminal’s reconstruction is being completed in two stages, with the West phase scheduled to open in 2015 and the East scheduled for completion in 2017. 14 additional gates are planned, for a total of 24 in the terminal.

Fort Lauderdale's New Terminal 4: Image Credit - Fort Lauderdale Airport

Fort Lauderdale’s New Terminal 4: Image Credit – Fort Lauderdale Airport

Work in the terminals will also bring vast improvements to the airport passenger experience. A connector bridge is being built between Terminals 3 and 4 to allow for easier passenger connections between international and domestic flights. Arriving passengers will only need to clear security once. Passengers will also have a new corridor connecting the gates directly to the customs area, reducing passenger walk times after they deplane.

A common complaint about FLL is the lack of airside concessions, a problem being addressed in all terminals. Terminals 1, 2, and 3 will see reconfigured and new concessions as well as new retail space. Ticketing and security screening areas will also see a major overhaul, streamlining the process.

In-line baggage handling systems, which allow for explosives detection while the baggage is moving on the conveyor belt, are also being installed. In-line baggage systems have been installed in Terminals 1 and 2. Terminal 3 is slated to receive the upgrade baggage system by next year, while Terminal 4 will open with the system installed.

Fort Lauderdale, which handled a record 23.5 million passengers in 2013, is an increasing hotspot for competition between network carriers JetBlue Airways and Southwest Airlines, ultra-low cost carriers (ULCC) Spirit Airlines and Allegiant Air, and regional carrier Silver Airways. JetBlue has served Fort Lauderdale continuously since it began operations in 2000, and is today the largest airline at Fort Lauderdale by market share, edging ahead of Southwest, but both carriers aim to nearly double their footprint at Fort Lauderdale with the new runway, and turn Fort Lauderdale into the second Latin American gateway in South Florida.

JetBlue 1028 is the first to land on the new runway. Photo courtesy John Magero.

JetBlue 1028 is the first to land on the new runway. Photo courtesy John Mageropoulos/Florida Aviation Photography.

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JetBlue 1018 receives a water cannon salute upon arrival on the new runway. Photo courtesy John Mageropoulos/Florida Aviation Photography

Accordingly, the first commercial flight to christen the new runway was JetBlue Flight 1028, a so-called “flight-to-nowhere” that took off from the north runway and landed on the new south runway. The flight number, 1028, was chosen in accordance with the compass heading of the new runway. Flight 1028 departed 10/28 north at 9:28 am. The Airbus A320 flew east and then west over Everglades climbing to 7,000 feet. Over the everglades, the seat belt sign was turned off for 5 minutes before turning back east and descending into Fort Lauderdale. No inflight snacks were offered, and the FlyFi was turned off, due to the maximum altitude of 7,000 feet. After 25 minutes in the air, JetBlue 1028 became the first flight to land at 9:53 am local time. The pilots made sure to land with extra force in order to christen the runway with its first skid marks. After Flight 1028, the runway will formally be opened for normal commercial flights Thursday afternoon. The first regularly scheduled flight to use the new runway was also a JetBlue flight. Flight 506 to Newark, New Jersey departed at 2:40pm local time. Check out our photos of JetBlue’s flight below.

Image Credit - Chris Sloan / Airways News

Image Credit – Chris Sloan / Airways News

JBLU 5 JBLU 4

 

 

 

JBLU 3 JBLU 6

 

 

 

 

JBLU 2 JBLU 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JBLU 8 JBLU 7

 

 

 

 

 

JBLU 10 JBLU 9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Photo courtesy Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

 

 

 

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NOTE: Airways News will publish an in-depth analysis of the Fort Lauderdale market soon
Chris Sloan in Fort Lauderdale also contributed to this story
Gallery images courtesy of Chris Sloan / Airways News
Contact the author at ian@petchmo.com
Contact the editor at vinay.bhaskara@airwaysnews.com

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Frontier Unveils New Livery and Brand Identity

By Benjamin Bearup / Published September 10th, 2014

A Frontier Airlines Airbus A320 painted in the new livery: Image Credit - Ben Bearup / Airways NewsFrontier Airlines unveiled a brand new livery and corporate image Tuesday, marking the carrier’s 3rd brand refresh since re-launching in 1994. In an event held at Frontier’s newly painted Denver International Airport maintenance hangar, the Denver-based airline unveiled their new aircraft livery by having employees manually pull a 46-ton Airbus A320 painted with the new livery out of the hangar.

The new livery, designed by P.S. Studios of Phoenix, Arizona, pays homage to the history of the original Frontier (1950-1986) by incorporating key aspects from former brand identities into the new one. Most notable is Frontier’s return to the Saul Bass-styled F in the word “Frontier.” This classic wavy F was first introduced on Frontier’s livery in 1978. The new livery will also feature the arrow that originally appeared on Frontier Douglas DC-3 aircraft in the 1950’s.

A Frontier Airlines Boeing 737-200 in the Saul Bass livery.

A Frontier Airlines Boeing 737-200 in the Saul Bass livery.

And of course no Frontier livery could be complete without the iconic animals on the tails and winglets. “As part of our extended family, I’m proud to report that the animals are here to stay,” said William Franke, the Chairman of Frontier’s Board.  “Not only will these friends, who in the past have represented our character, commitment to service and humor, remain, but they will be featured more prominently extending from the tail to the aft fuselage of the aircraft. We heard it loud and clear from our employees and customers that the animals are an important part of Frontier’s culture.”

However, despite the retention of animals on the tail of Frontier aircraft, the airline has eliminated its iconic “A Whole Different Animal” slogan, which began to disappear from Frontier aircraft in 2013. As with the current livery, each Frontier aircraft painted in the new livery will feature an animal on its tail and sharklets. In fact, the animals will have a more prominent role in the new livery, extending into the aft end of the fuselage.

Tail Art of a Frontier Airlines Airbus A320 The new Frontier Airlines Livery

Frontier’s planes will feature an animal identification script underneath the cockpit that will name the animal assigned to each plane. The website, “FLYFRONTIER.COM” will be displayed in a more subdued manner than it is on the current livery and will be located at the aft of the airframe. One further point of interest is the nacelle colors. Instead of the “Frontier green” engines that Frontier is famous for, the new engines will be painted with a blend of “Frontier green” and “sky blue.” According to Frontier, the “combination of Frontier green with the blue accents helps establish a recurring graphic reference to earth and sky.” 

Frontier Airlines also attempted to reiterate its commitment to “Low Fares Done Right” by announcing a one day sale for fares as low as $14.99 one way from its Denver hub.  “Our commitment to ‘Low Fares Done Right’ is not just a tagline but our mantra, ” said Frontier President Barry Biffle, “We believe it… We mean it.” Frontier will also be rolling out a new television advertising campaign featuring its employees, whom Frontier calls its greatest asset.

A Frontier Boeing 737-300 in its 1994-2006 livery: Image Credit - planephotoman

A Frontier Boeing 737-300 in its 1994-2006 livery.

The new brand image and livery come a few months after Frontier completed its shift in business model from a hybrid leisure airline, to an ultra-low-cost carrier (ULCC), and just under a year after the beleaguered airline came into new ownership. In October 2013, Indigo Partner purchased Frontier Airlines from Republic Airways Holdings for $145 million dollars, including $35 million in cash (the rest was assumed debt). Under new ownership, Frontier shifted its business model to that of a ULCC, offering a-la-carte pricing with low base fares and added charges for extras such as as checked baggage, additional legroom, and in-flight refreshments.

Courtesy JDL MultimediaIn accordance with its altered business model, Frontier has redesigned its route network, opening several focus cities across the Midwest and Northeast while slowly downsizing its longtime Denver hub. The transition into a multiple focus city operation began in November of 2012 when Frontier started service from Trenton-Mercer to several destinations on the east coast. Further expansion continued at airports such as Wilmington, Cleveland, Cincinnati Northern Kentucky, and Washington Dulles.

Currently the only plane painted in the new livery is N227FR, the newest A320 to join Frontier’s fleet. N227FR completed its first revenue flight from Phoenix to Denver the night before the unveiling due to Phoenix’s low entry into service (EIS) taxes. “The first revenue flight was full of company executives and employees” said a Frontier flight attendant working the flight. Base fares for the first flight were reportedly $14.99, so many employees made the trek to Phoenix to take part in the inaugural. Regarding the leaked images of the aircraft prior to the official livery launch, one flight attendant said that N227FR had been painted for three and a half weeks and that it was “bound to be leaked.” 

Although not the flashiest livery ever created, the new paint scheme adds a creative twist to the once struggling airline’s identity while paying homage to the company’s history and culture. Moreover, the new livery pairs well with the transition to a ULCC business model, presenting a new image for the new Frontier. Check out more images from the delivery event below.

2014-09-08 22.53.03 Frontier Airlines Livery Unveiling 2014-09-08 23.44.57
Frontier Airlines Employees Posing in Front of Airbus A320
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Frontier Airlines Airbus A320

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Contact the editor at vinay.bhaskara@airchive.com

Photo credits, from top: Ben Bearup / Airways News; Courtesy Eduard Marmet; Ben Bearup / Airways News / Ben Bearup / Airways News; Courtesy planephotoman; Courtesy JDL Multimedia; Ben Bearup / Airways News through end.

Disclaimer: Frontier Airlines paid for flights to/from Denver. All opinions are those of the author.

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LAN Airlines Inaugurates Boeing 787 Service at Miami International Airport

By Luis Linares / Published August 11, 2014 

LAN Airlines inaugurated Boeing 787 Dreamliner service at Miami International Airport (MIA) last Saturday.  The aircraft will operate daily nonstop service to Santiago, Chile. This makes LAN the first carrier to offer 787 service at MIA.

LAN Airlines Boeing 787-8

LATAM Airlines Group, consisting of LAN and TAM Airlines, considers MIA a strategic gateway with nonstop flights to 14 South American cities.  With connections included, LATAM’s customers have access to a total of 114 cities in the continent from MIA.  In 2013 LATAM flew 900,000 passengers from MIA, and this year it expects to pass the one million mark.

On August 9, LAN also introduced weekly 787 service from Santiago to Cancun and Santiago to Punta Cana.  Later this year, LAN will introduce additional 787 routes:   Santiago to Sao Paulo (Thursday, Saturday, Sunday) on October 1; Santiago to Los Angeles (daily) on October 1; and Santiago to Mexico City (alternating days per week) on November 15.  LAN’s existing 787s routes include:  Santiago to New York’s JFK International Airport (daily); Santiago to Frankfurt via Madrid (daily); and Santiago to Buenos Aires (daily).

LAN’s currently operates six 787-8 aircraft and has 14 more on order.  The aircraft is configured with 30 seats in Premium Business and 217 in Economy, for a total of 247 seats.  Next year, it will begin to receive its first of 12 787-9 variants.

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Follow the author on Twitter at @LUISFERLINARES.
Photo courtesy LAN Airlines

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ANA Receives Its First 787-9

By Jack Harty / Published July 29, 2014

KBFI-4_9_14-7ANA has received its first Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.

The airline will begin flying the jet on domestic flights next month, and it will be deployed on international routes in April 2015.

Before paying passengers will fly on the 787-9, ANA will be operating a special commemorative flight “Dreamliner” with American and Japanese elementary school children in Japan on-board. The aircraft will fly over Mount Fuji, after departing from Haneda. Additionally, the TOMODACHI logo will be displayed on the aircraft to support the initiative to strengthen Japanese-US ties.

“The 787 Dreamliner is a key element in our growth strategy and we are proud to be the first airline to fly both models of the 787 family,” said Osamu Shinobe, ANA president and CEO. “The new 787-9 will build on the exceptional efficiency of the 787-8 and will allow us to meet growing demand that is anticipated ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics. Our customers have expressed their pleasure with the comfort of the 787′s innovative cabin features and we are excited to introduce the new 787 variant into our fleet.”

“This milestone delivery adds yet another chapter in our long and successful relationship with ANA,” said John Wojick, senior vice president of Global Sales and Marketing, Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “ANA continues to demonstrate the market-leading efficiency and comfort of the 787 family.”

The first 787-9 will arrive with domestic route specifications with 395 seats; 60 more than the 787-8.

Currently, ANA has 28 787s in its fleet, and in a press release last week, the carrier said that “The fuel savings achieved from the 787 aircraft already in service are sufficient to operate 500 round trips from Tokyo to Frankfurt and are reducing CO2 emissions by 150,000 tons a year. When all 80 Dreamliners are in operation, the CO2 reduction will be 450,000 tons, with enough fuel saved to operate 1,400 round trips to Frankfurt.”

Two weeks ago, Air New Zealand became the world’s first airline to take delivery of the new 787-9.

United will take delivery of its first 787-9 next month, and the carrier plans to begin flying it in September. Virgin Atlantic will fly its first 787-9 flight at the end of the October, and Etihad will fly its first 787-9 flight in December.

RELATED:

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Contact the author at Jack.Harty@airchive.com.
Photos by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Airchive

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Boeing Celebrates Delivery of First 787-9 Dreamliner to ANZ

By Jack Harty & Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren; Reporting by Isaac Alexander
Photos by Isaac Alexandar / Published July 9, 2014

photo1EVERETT, WA: Boeing and Air New Zealand celebrated the first 787-9 Dreamliner delivery on Wednesday.

The airplane is expected to fly away to Air New Zealand’s Auckland headquarters tomorrow, on Thursday, following a number of familiarization flights around the Western US in the past week. It is expected to begin flying between Auckland and Sydney before moving to Auckland to Perth on October 15. It will begin flying regional international routes to Asia before beginning service to Vancouver in two years.

The airplane is outfitted with eighteen Business Premier seats, twenty-one premium economy, and 302 regular economy seats, including fourteen rows with its Skycouch quasi-lie-flat product. The airplane will offer passengers a new, Panasonic based in flight entertainment, though no WiFi will be on board for now. It added that the airplane has KA-Band connectivity hardware built in to allow for the option down the road.

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The company has ten of the airplanes on order.

“We are proud to be the launch customer for the 787-9,” said Air New Zealand Chief Financial Officer Rob McDonald. “We believe it will be a game-changer for Air New Zealand, with increased levels of fuel efficiency and passenger comfort. We look forward to inviting our customers on board to experience the aircraft and all of its benefits for themselves.”

“This delivery is a tribute to the hard work and dedication of our employees, suppliers and Air New Zealand,” said John Wojick, senior vice president of Global Sales and Marketing, Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “Air New Zealand was a perfect partner for us in developing the 787-9, given its innovative spirit, unique mission requirements and geography. The 787-9, combined with Air New Zealand’s exceptional onboard service, will set them apart from the competition by providing an unrivaled flying experience.”

photo9Crucially, the certification also includes ETOPS up to 330 minutes, clearing a hurdle right out of the gate that the 787-8 struggled with for years. In fact the entire final assembly and flight test programs remained remarkably problem free, a nod to what many hope is the end of Boeing’s Dreamliner program troubles.

The 787-9′s fuselage is twenty feet longer than the original 787-8. The stretch allows the aircraft carry forty more passengers. Plus, the 787-9 can fly an additional 450 nautical miles.

Like the 787-8, the 787-9 offers passengers larger windows, larger stow bins, modern LED lighting, higher humidity, a lower cabin altitude, cleaner air and a smoother ride.

So far, 26 customers have ordered a total of 409 787-9 aircraft. The orders for the 787-9 make up 40% of the total 787 orders.

As far as other carriers, United expects to take delivery of its first 787-9 in August. It plans to fly the airplane between Los Angeles and Houston starting September 20.

ANA is expected to take delivery of its first 787-9 this summer as well. No plans have been announced for first routes.

Related Stories:

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Jack Harty contributed to this story from LA.
Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren contributed to this story from Toronto.
Cover photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Airchive

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PSA To Begin Flying the CRJ-900 On July 31 For American

By Jack Harty / Published July 5, 2014

Last month, American Airlines took delivery of its first of thirty CRJ-900 NextGens from Bombardier which will be operated by American Airlines Group’s wholly owned subsidiary, PSA Airlines. The airlines expects to be operating all 30 CRJ-900s by June 2015, and it will begin flying passenger flights on July 31.

In December, American signed an agreement for 60 Embraer E175 jets with options for another 90 E175s, as well as a firm order for 30 Bombardier CRJ900 regional jets with options for 40 more aircraft, making it the first customer of what Bombardier calls the “latest enhancements” to the CRJ900.

The Aircraft

The CRJ-900s boast many creature comforts ranging from extra legroom to WiFi.

The aircraft offers up to two inches of extra leg room in each row of seats when compared to other regional airlines. There are 12 first-class seats have a pitch of 39 inches, 36 “main cabin extra” seats with a pitch of 35 inches, and 28 main cabin seats with a 31 inch pitch.

The aircraft also has a concave window design maximizes natural light and contributes to a sense of more space, and there are new sidewall and ceiling LED lights to create softer illumination. Plus, the aircraft has up to 5.5 percent lower fuel consumption thanks to features like winglets, weight reduction and a conic-shaped exhaust nozzle

Currently, Mesa Airlines operates the CRJ-900 under the US Airways Express brand.

Initial Operations

The initial routes are outlined below, and more flights will be added as the carrier continues to take delivery of them.

Monday through Friday:

Pensacola-Charlotte-Cincinnati-Charlotte-Myrtle Beach-Charlotte-Louisville-Charlotte-Cincinnati

Cincinnati-Charlotte-Pensacola-Charlotte-Indianapolis-Charlotte-Pensacola

Saturday:

Pensacola-Charlotte-Philadelphia-New York LaGuardia-Philadelphia-Cincinnati

Cincinnati-Charlotte-Little Rock-Charlotte-Pensacola-Charlotte-Harrisburg

Sunday:

Cincinnati-Charlotte-SAV-Charlotte-RIC-Charlotte-Greensboro-Charlotte-Pensacola

Harrisburg-Charlotte-Savannah-Charlotte-San Antonio-Charlotte-Cincinnati

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

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PEOPLExpress Takes Off

By Oliver Porter / Published June 30, 2014

NEWARK, NEW JERSEY: PEOPLExpress’ mission revolves around a basic, hassle-free, low-cost mode of transport around the east coast. From Airchive’s first look, the airline hit each of these points successfully.

Due to simplicity through the airport, an older plane, and stripped but friendly service, hopping onto PEOPLExpress felt like a different kind of air travel. The trip felt like a ride, whether in a bus or someone’s back seat, where the passenger spots a small fare, pops onboard, pops off, and has few frills yet few unexpected experiences. PEOPLExpress gets you there for a minimum fare, without making you feel overtly like a sheep in a herd.

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Terminal

Newport-News Williamsburg Airport (PHF) is situated in the Hampton Roads Metro Area. One barrier to arriving at the airport from the Norfolk area (south) is the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel, which can have large delays. Besides a $60 one-way taxi fare to both Norfolk in the south and Williamsburg in the north, car is the only viable transit mode to PHF.

Once you arrive at the terminal however, the trip becomes quite simplistic. Check-in took longer than expected due to an antiquated computer-system. Combined with the ultra-small airport and effective security line, however, door-to-gate time was under fifteen minutes.

The terminal is modern, airy, and with lots of light. PEOPLExpress has the entire A-concourse, which makes flying through quite simple. The airline provided free mugs and breakfast refreshments in celebration of the new service. There were very few shops and restaurants within the airport, so eating options will probably be limited for frequent travellers.

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The Aircraft

The boarding attendant forgot that there was a premium section of the plane, and instead began boarding by the back five rows to the front. This was a minor mistake, however, and the back-to-front technique was fast and efficient, especially with our 75 percent load factor.

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On the jet bridge, one could clearly note the “operated by Vision Air” titles, but most would not know to look for them and instead find the fresh livery appealing. Interestingly, the premium cabin is not separated from the rest of the cabin; the large seats are the only difference. Each seat is an old-fashioned Recaro leather job with plenty of legroom and old fashioned recline. After several recent flights on slimline seats with no true recline, this is actually a welcome site. As with most LCCs, there is no IFE.

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The Flight

We took off of Runway 7 smoothly, and then had a brief snack service with pretzels and a drink. In the future, snacks will be free, but drinks will be extra. This is the reverse of most services. Several employees from the airline, family, and members of the PHF airport helped keep the load factor relatively high, and the mood was exciting as executives moved up and down the aisle to welcome people aboard.

Our arrival at Newark was uneventful, as the fire department could not make it for a spray-down. We arrived in Terminal B, which is quite old and could use a remodeling. Nevertheless, the terminal is quite easy to use and not crowded, which is a major advantage for stress-free travel.

Origins and Aura

The original PEOPLExpress began serving customers in the Northeast United States. on April 30, 1981. The airline grew quickly throughout the 1980s, and eventually merged with Continental in 1987. It concentrated its network at Newark, but grew quickly and consequently suffered when it competed with major carriers, especially on international routes.

Riders had mixed opinions about the airline, but it successfully moved people at low fares – some colleagues remember getting from New York to Boston by air for only $19. The airline was cheap, convenient, and had no frills, either.

The new PEOPLExpress bears some resemblance to the old airline, but is in many ways a different company. In order to begin operations, PEOPLExpress currently operates aircraft under a wet lease arrangement with Vision Air. Wet leasing provides an airline with an aircraft, crew, maintenance, and insurance, or ACMI for short. Vision is based in Las Vegas, and has several charter operations. On the first day of operations, the airline did not have a distinct culture or brand identity apart from fully marked check-in, aircraft, and personnel. Nevertheless, the service was personal and the overall experience had a small-business aura, almost like going to your local deli. There was an upstart, can-do attitude among the senior staff on the plane for the first flight to Newark.

The lack of a strong brand identity at this stage of the airline’s life is subjective, because the airline has not had time to showcase its service and culture for more than one day. From the moment the door closed to the moment it opened, the crew, was positive and quite excited, and did not mention Vision Air once during the flight. This is a good sign, because if all crews indeed act the same way, the airline will be able to build its brand and count on employee buy-in, which is a key element of a solid corporate culture.

One true believer in the PEOPLExpress idea is founder Mike Morisi, who rode the first flight to Newark. Morisi is a former employee of the original PEOPLExpress. and was among many cheering on takeoff, landing, and arrival, with palpable energy and a positive outlook on what he and his team believe will be the next upstart to contend with a new, ultra-consolidated legacy airline industry.

Executives remarked throughout the morning that there were several challenges before operations began, but they have proved doubters wrong by actually taking off.

The airline still does not have its own operating certificate, but Morisi remarked that his team is working with regulators and should have one within a year at the very latest.

The Newport News Story

Many people on social media have asked why the airline chose the name PEOPLExpress, why they did chose to start now, and why they began in Newport News. The name probably came from senior management’s – including Morisi’s – former association with the original airline, but the story behind Newport News and the timing behind today’s launch is much more business-oriented.

The Newport News Williamsburg Airport (PHF) is in the Hampton Roads Metropolitan Area. The area expanded in the gilded age, when the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad came to town under the direction of magnate Collis Potter Huntington. Huntington’s rain line still brings coal from West Virginia mines straight to the port of Norfolk. Huntington, who was one of the leading investors involved in building the Transcontinental Railroad, also contributed to the Huntington-Ingalls Shipbuilding Company, which currently is the sole U.S. manufacturer of aircraft carriers, and is the largest industrial employer in Virginia. South of the shipyard and across the James River Bay lies the Norfolk Naval Base, which, combined with Ft. Eustis, Langley Air Force Base, and Naval Air Station Oceana make the location an enormous military port and base area. Additionally, Maersk and other shipping companies have operations in Norfolk. With such a large military, industrial, and educational base – Old Dominion and Hampton Universities are nearby – there is a continuous market of travellers coming to and from the area for a variety of purposes. This makes the area ripe for new competition given recent consolidation and service cancellations following the mergers of American and US Airways as well as Airtran and Southwest.

Niche Market

Airtran was one of the first major airlines to thrive off of the large Norfolk metro area, with services at both Norfolk (ORF) and PHF. The airline effectively sidestepped legacy routes that relied on hubs and provided substantially lower fares. When Airtrain and Southwest joined forces, the combined entity dropped all flights from PHF. Morisi explained that this was a “big loss” for travellers in the area, and in a single move PHF lost about 50% of its service. This was a large influence on starting an operation at the airport, as fares have skyrocketed. For the Oceana Airshow Weekend, three months away, for example, US Air fares are about $250 round-trip from Boston with a connection. Enter PEOPLExpress, with a nonstop service that takes almost half the time, and that fare now drops to $150. Many, including Airchive analysts, have remarked that under basic operating assumptions, profitability will be difficult at a 66% load factor. The first flight, albeit filled with many airline employees, had a 75% load. Morisi expects many customers to buy ancillary services, such as checked bags and food, in order to keep the airline profitable.

Future

Growth plans for Florida, Atlanta, and New Orleans are still on track, according to Morisi. He explained that aircraft acquisition and further financing are a continuous process, and interestingly there is no financial backing from the airport itself. After using the service, it is clear that, while an infant, PEOPLExpress fills a huge need in the area. Even without marketing, the service is a no-brainer for those who want the lowest price. Government contracts and legacy frequent fliers may hurt PEOPLExpress in the short-term, but Morisi pointed out that in the end, fare price wins, and cost will be his airline’s major advantage as it expands to seven daily services out of PHF.

Related Stories:

Analysis Part I: Nostalgia is Not a Viable Business Model for PEOPLExpress

Analysis Part 2: Nostalgia is Not a Viable Business Model for PEOPLExpress

PEOPLExpress Announces Initial Operations

Flashback: Check out these vintage original PeoplExpress timetables and route maps

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United Loads Domestic 787-9 Flights

By Jack Harty / Published June 28, 2014

Overnight, United Airlines loaded its first 787-9 domestic flights. However, it is not clear if this will be United’s inaugural 787-9 flight.

Starting September 20, 2014, United Airlines will begin flying one daily round trip Boeing 787-9 flight between Los Angeles and Houston IAH. Based on the schedule, United will operate the 787-9 on this route until October 25.

The outbound flight will depart Los Angeles around 7:30 AM and arrive in Houston around 12:49 PM. The return flight will depart Houston around 2:40 PM and arrive in Los Angeles around 4:08 PM.

The first 787-9 is expected to arrive in August. Once the aircraft goes through its introduction into service, it will begin replacing routes presently served by the 787-8.

United’s second 787-9 will arrive in October, and two more -9s and one -8 will be delivered during the first quarter of 2015.

United’s Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner will have 252 seats. There will be 48 seats in BusinessFirst (in a 2-2-2 configuration), 88 Economy Plus Seats (United’s extra legroom economy seats), and 116 United Economy Seats (in a 3-3-3 configuration).

United’s 787-9 International Routes

Subject to government approval, United Airlines will launch direct flights from Los Angeles to Melbourne, Australia with the Boeing 787-9 on October 26, 2014. The new direct service will be operated six times a week.

United Airlines will begin flying the Boeing 787-9 between Los Angeles and Shanghai in early March 2015. United currently operates the 787-8 between the two cities.

Other United 787 News

Yesterday, United took delivery of its 12th 787-8 which allows it to begin flying the 787 between Houston and London again.

Additionally, United will begin flying the 787-8 between Houston and Frankfurt early next year.

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

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Virgin Atlantic To Fly First 787-9 This October

By Jack Harty / Published June 22, 2014

Today marks 30 years since Virgin Atlantic’s inaugural flight departed London Gatwick for Newark. On the carrier’s 30th anniversary, it is giving us a look into its future.

Extra: Virgin Atlantic’s Original Timetable & Marketing Brochure from 1984.

Back in 2007, Virgin Atlantic ordered 15 787-9 Dreamliners, and it also signed for eight options and the purchase rights for 20 more.

Now almost seven years after ordering the Dreamliner, the carrier expects to receive its first 787-9 this September; making it the first European airline to operate the newest 787 family member.

“The 787-9 will make up 40 per cent of our fleet by the end of 2017 which demonstrates our commitment to the Dreamliner as the centrepiece of our future fleet,” Virgin Atlantic’s chief executive Craig Kreeger told reporters.

Starting October 28, Virgin Atlantic will begin flying its Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner between London Heathrow and Boston six times a week, according to BusinessTraveler. Eventually, the carrier will also add Dreamliner flights to Newark, New York JFK, and Washington DC. These will replace the A340-300 fleet.

The new aircraft will be have 31 seats in ‘Upper Class’ (which is the carrier’s business class product), 35 seats in Premium Economy, and 198 seats in Economy.

“We are extremely excited to be welcoming this aircraft to our fleet. After 30 proud years of serving our customers around the world, this is going to revolutionise our airline and bring with it new innovations and a cutting edge product for them to enjoy,” Kreeger told BusinessTraveler.

Besides planning for the new aircraft to join its fleet, a lot has been going on at Virgin Atlantic. A little over a year ago, Virgin Atlantic launched a domestic subsidiary called Little Red. Although there are reports that there have been poor load factors, Kreeger insists that there are no changes planned for the subsidiary, and he explained that momentum for the product is gaining.

Virgin Atlantic also launched a joint venture with Delta which allows both carriers to connect passengers onto each others networks almost seamlessly. Additionally, the carrier will take over one of Delta’s Atlanta/Heathrow flights later this year.

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

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United Returns To Chile

By Jack Harty / Published June 14

United Airlines will begin serving Santiago, Chile from its hub in Houston, pending government approval, starting December 7, 2014.

For several years, many have questioned if United would begin flying to Santiago, Chile again. Continental Airlines used to serve the city from its hub in Newark as a tag on from Lima, but it stopped serving Chile in 2000 when it retired its DC-10 fleet. Continuing to serve Santiago would have been a challenge for Continental as the airline did not have enough wide body aircraft for the route. Since there is close to a 12 hour layover on the ground in Chile, the route takes two aircraft.

United also flew to Santiago from Miami, but it dropped the route in 2003.

Currently, only American, Delta, and LAN offer flights to the U.S. from Chile. Many people in Houston and Chile welcome the addition of the new route. This will also be a bit of a boost for Star Alliance as United’s service will be the only nonstop Star Alliance flight between Chile and the United States.

The new flights to Chile are scheduled to begin on December 7. United 847 will depart Houston around 2105 every night, and it will arrive in Santiago the following day around 0940. All times local.

The return flights to Houston will begin on December 8. United 846 will depart Santiago around 2245, and it will arrive in Houston the following morning around 0540. All times local.

The new flights will be operated by a two-class Boeing 767-300. The aircraft are outfitted with 30 United BusinessFirst lie-flat Seats and 184 seats in United Economy (49 of the 184 seats are Economy Plus seats which offer additional leg room). All seats are equipped with a personal audio and video on demand in-flight entertainment system.

In other United route news, United is planning to launch Saturday only flights from Houston to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic later this year.

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

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Qatar Airways Launches Service to Miami

by Vinay Bhaskara & Cody Diamond / Published June 13, 2014

Earlier this week, Qatar Airways Flight 777 touched down at Miami International Airport (MIA), operated by a Boeing 777-200LR registered as A7-BBA. The flight inaugurated service between Doha and Miami and positioned Qatar Airways as the first of the Middle East Big 3 and Turkish Airlines to launch service to the North American gateway to Latin America.

Image Courtesy Qatar Airways

The Qatar Airways 777-200LR touches down in Miami – Image Courtesy Qatar Airways

This Qatar Airways service reconnected Miami with the Middle East for the first time since 2008. The flight is timed for optimal connections to the Far East, Australia, and much of Africa, though timing for connections to the Indian sub-continent is less optimal. Qatar Airways is a oneworld alliance member, and Miami is a major hub for alliance partner American Airlines, so the Doha – Miami leg is timed for connections to many of American’s North American and Caribbean destinations.

Image by Cody Diamond

Image by Cody Diamond

“Qatar Airways looks forward to building a strong relationship between Miami and Doha,” said Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker. “These two great cities have so much to share and learn from one another. We can now look forward to introducing many more US travellers to Doha and developing a strong conduit for trade and commerce, via our award-winning World’s Best Business Class.”

The inaugural flight took just over fifteen hours to complete, and was full in economy class cabin with high loads in business class. Qatar Airways will begin serving Miami with four flights per week and expansion of frequencies will be considered if demand is strong.

Miami becomes the sixth destination in the United States for Qatar Airways, who also serves Chicago O’Hare, Houston Bush, Philadelphia, New York JFK, and Washington Dulles. In July, the carrier will inaugurate services to Dallas Fort Worth as well, leaving Charlotte, Phoenix, and Los Angeles as the remaining American Airlines hubs without nonstop service to Doha.

Image by Cody Diamond

Image by Cody Diamond

“Qatar Airways’ decision to include Miami among its handful of U.S. destinations confirms that
Miami-Dade County is a global center for business and tourism travel, and MIA is one of the
premier airports in the world,” said Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez. “Miami-Dade
looks forward to strengthening the economic and cultural ties to Qatar and beyond.”

As with most of its US services, Qatar Airways is not banking on origin and destination (O&D) demand to sustain this flight. Total O&D demand between Miami and Doha was less than 7 passengers per day each way (PDEW) in 2011, with only modest growth realized since. However, total demand to Asia-Pacific, Africa, and the Middle East summed to a total of 658 passengers PDEW. Qatar Airways will enjoy a first-movers advantage over its Middle Eastern rivals in attempting to wrest control of this lucrative market away from American and European carriers. In particular, Turkish Airlines had frequently discussed entering the Miami market but never pulled the trigger with a firm launch date.

Contact the author at vinay.bhaskara@airchive.com

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American To Introduce Its First Two-Class A321s August 1

By Jack Harty / Published June 9, 2014

American Airlines will begin flying its first two-class Airbus A321 (321B) aircraft on August 1. The carrier will primarily initially operate them on flights out of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

From August 1 to August 18, the carrier will fly one daily round trip flight between Los Angeles and Dallas/Fort Worth. From September 3 to October 1, the carrier will fly two daily flights on this route.

From September 3 to October 1, the carrier will fly its A321 once daily between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

Miami will also see the two-class A321. From August 19 through October 1, American will operate one daily flight from Los Angeles to Miami.

The carrier will also fly the two-class A321 between Dallas/Ft. Worth and San Francisco once daily from September 3 to October 1.

At this time, it’s not clear where the carrier will fly the two-class A321 aircraft to after October 1.

In 2011, American Airlines announced an order for 460 new narrow-body jets (plus 465 options). The airline ordered Boeing 737-800s, 737 MAXs, A319s, A320neos, and the A321 to replace its aging fleet.

The carrier planned to use the A321 to replace its 757s and 767-200s. The carrier took delivery of its first A321 last year, but these aircraft arrived in a three-class configuration for transcontinental flights. Now, the carrier plans to take delivery of its first A321 sometime in July.

The two-class A321 interior will be very similar to the new interior that was introduced on American’s A319 aircraft.

The aircraft will be equipped with 16 seats in first class seats manufactured by Weber in a 2-2 configuration. The entertainment system will boast approximately 200 movies, up to 180 TV programs, more than 350 audio selections, and 15 games on a 12.1 inch screen. All portions of the entertainment system are complimentary in First Class, except of course the GoGo in-flight wi-fi.

There will be approximately 33 Main Cabin Extra seats and 132 Main Cabin seats all in a 3-3 configuration. The Main Cabin Extra seats will offer a few extra inches of seat pitch. Each seat will be equipped with one universal AC power outlet and a USB jack. The screens in the Main Cabin will be approximately 8.9 inches. However, the entire entertainment system will not be free. Customers will have the option to view complimentary content, pay-to-access packages or pay-per-view movies.

The first flight information was published first by AirlineRoute.net.

Related Stories:

American Unveils its First A319

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

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

The Transcon Wars: The Ultimate Airline Battleground

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

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

Cover photo courtesy of Jason Rabinowitz

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Frontier adds two new routes from Wilmington, DE: Inaugural report

By / Published May 1, 2014

Wheeeee!!

I generally feel that way any day I’m flying and getting to do four inaugural flights in one day is even more fun. Add in some weather en route and a bit of a roller coaster landing and that’s really the only thought in my mind.

image

Extra flying! Wheeee!!

Frontier Airlines is shifting its business model into a completely unbundled approach, with fees to be found for everything from a soda to a seat assignment to a carry-on bag. It’s also expanding its route map, picking up services where others have cut or simply hoping to create a market where one had not previously existed. Wilmington, Delaware fits squarely in the latter category. The airport has seen commercial service come and go over the years from a number of airlines. Few have taken the multi-destination approach that Frontier did. With a handful of destinations now served from New Castle County Airport Frontier is hoping to build a customer base mixing leisure and business travelers. This week saw two more destinations – Detroit and Atlanta – join the map, with both launching service the same day. Given an introductory fare of $36 round-trip on each route it was hard for me to say no when a friend suggested that I join him on board for the Atlanta turn. And since I was going to be in Delaware anyways adding on the Detroit trip seemed quite reasonable.

The folks in Wilmington brought the party with tourism information, balloons and free coffee on offer prior to the flight. And Frontier brought Andre the Antelope. Let’s go for a ride!

IMG-20140429-00581  IMG_5035

Unfortunately the weather was not so great in Delaware, but that didn’t stop the local authorities from offering up the traditional water-canon salute for the departures.

The grey sky and drizzle in Delaware had nothing on the rough skies over Detroit. We were not more than a couple minutes out from landing when the pilots gunned the throttle, initiating a go around due to warnings of wind shear on the field. It was well communicated and the second approach, while bumpy coming down through the clouds, put us on the ground perfectly.

One the flight over I spoke Greg Kouba, an engineer in the aviation market commuting to Detroit for a couple days’ work. Kouba raved about the ease of access at the airport as a great draw to him as a passenger.

I can park closer to the terminal than I typically can at my supermarket. I was standing at the check-in counter and could still see my car parked right across the driveway.

For a South Jersey traveler who was often flying out of Philadelphia or Atlantic City the new Frontier service at Trenton and Wilmington was most welcome to him. That said, he noted that the Classic fare bundle was a big part of what he enjoyed, with the STRETCH seating and checked bag fee included. He was a bit disappointed when I told him that Frontier killed that product the day prior, but suggested he’d still compare the total cost including those benefits as he checks fares going forward.

Less than 20 minutes after walking off the plane into the terminal I was one of the last passengers to make my way back on board for the Detroit-Wilmington half of the inaugural. Other than the airport authority not properly showing the flight on the monitors at the gate there wasn’t much special at the Detroit end, though the station staff were friendly for the few minutes we chatted. Another bumpy ride due to the weather and soon enough I was back in Delaware, getting ready to do it all over again.

I met Dawn on the return flight from Detroit; she was one of a dozen or so of us who made the round-trip turn. Much like me she was in it for the fun of being in the air for a few hours, taking to the sky as a great way to spend a morning. And the $36 round-trip fare didn’t hurt.

I was a bit disappointed that I had to leave the secure area at Wilmington; they don’t really plan for connecting passengers there. That disappointment was quickly muted by the snacks the local authorities had set out for the group. The security officer I spoke with saw me later with a handful of the pretzels and joked that he did me a favor. I suggested that next time he lead with the “free food” option and no one would ever argue again.

IMG-20140429-00585

Come for the flights, stay for the #AvGeek soft pretzels

I wrapped up a conversation with Dawn and headed through security to meet David, the friend who invited me along in the first place and, once again, it was time to fly.

I had booked a window seat for the flight but upon boarding we learned that two young boys and their father were each assigned middle seats in separate rows. I swapped with one of them to sit next to my friend in the middle. That still left them needing an aisle-for-middle swap to get the family together. That didn’t happen. Oops. Another water-canon salute and we were off to Atlanta on a flight which was much smoother than the weather forecasts had predicted.

IMG_5053Our stay in Atlanta was a bit longer than Detroit but also much less friendly. I grabbed a quick snack in the terminal and then came back to the gate and asked about swapping seats (my friend got Op-Up’d to the STRETCH seating) at which point I was brusquely brushed off by the gate agent, “The entire plane is full.” I stepped into the jetway to the sight of bags being tagged to gate-check through to Wilmington. I was the final passenger to board and was greeted by a bunch of empty seats – including the one I specifically asked about – and tons of space in the overhead. From a customer service perspective it was most disappointing (and, yes, I know it is contract workers, but still not great).

IMG_5056

Make friends with the flight attendants. Life gets much better.

On the plus side, however, the same crew was still on board and still just as cheery as they were at 8am when I met them for the initial flight of the day. And, unlike me, they were actually working the whole time.

There are some quirks about the Wilmington-based service, like the plane is not catered there. In our case that meant a six-segment run between Denver and Orlando, with the Detroit and Atlanta turns mixed in, between refills. With most items carrying a surcharge the take rate was relatively low (even for passengers who get freebies thanks to their ticket category) but there were still a few out of stock well before the day ended. Boarding from the ground is great, so long as it isn’t raining or snowing or too cold. It works great in Long Beach, California; less so in Wilmington, Delaware. And the terminal is pretty cramped for a plane as big as those Frontier flies. The flight to Atlanta was full and it was standing-room only in the gate area waiting for departure. Plus, this is baggage claim:

IMG_5040

More quirks than outright bad. And the ease of access will likely keep many coming back. But it is most definitely a budget service and a budget airline.

RELATED:

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Follow the author on Twitter: WanderngAramean
Contact the editor at Jeremy.Lindgren@Airchive.com

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