Category Archives: Major News

American’s 787 Dream Takes Flight With Passengers

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

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

The Order and First Delivery

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

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

Photo by JDL Multimedia

Photo by JDL Multimedia

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

EXTRA: American’s 787 Makes First Appearance

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

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

Photo by Brandon Farris

Photo by Brandon Farris

EXTRA: American’s First 787 Takes Flght

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

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

Proving Flights

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

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

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

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

Photo courtesy of American Airlines

Photo courtesy of American Airlines

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

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

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

The First Flights

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

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

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

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

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

Official Unveiling and The Interior

IMG_0252

Photo by Mike Slattery

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

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

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

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

EXTRA: Photos from American’s 787 Launch Event

On-Board the Inaugural Flight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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SkyWest Flies Final EMB-120 Flight

By Jack Harty / Published May 6, 2015

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

Photo courtesy of SkyWest

Photo courtesy of SkyWest

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

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

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

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

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Contact the editor at jack.harty@airwaysnews.com

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PHOTOS: Inside American Airlines’ 787 Dreamliner

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

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

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

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

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

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

Initial Flights

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

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

Business Class

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

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

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

Main Cabin

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

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

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

Other Unique 787 Features

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

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

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

EXTRA: American Airlines’ 2015 Fleet Plan

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

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Lufthansa Receives Final A380 Delivery; Last 747-8I Soon to Follow

By Airways News Staff / Published April 18, 2015

Earlier this month, Lufthansa took delivery of the final Airbus A380 aircraft it had on order, and it will take delivery of the final Boeing 747-8I it has on order soon.

Airbus A380

Lufthansa placed an order for 15 A380s with options for 10 more in December 2001, and it became the second European airline to operate the superjumbo when it took delivery of its first A380 on May 19, 2010.FRA-RAMP-14-AIRBUS-A380-CITY-OF-BRUSSELS-2-1024x683

About a year later, Lufthansa agreed to order two more which would bring Lufthansa’s A380 fleet to 17 once they were all delivered.

But in October 2013, Lufthansa cancelled three of its A380 orders which meant ultimately that the carrier would have a fleet of 14; one less than originally planned.

Each of the 14 carry a special name, following tradition. The first two were named Frankfurt am Main and München, and the remaining 12 are named after Star Alliance hub cities such as Tokyo.

Currently, Lufthansa is outfitting its A380s with new business class seats and a Premium Economy cabin.

EXTRA: In-Flight Review of Lufthansa’s A380 Business Class Product

PHOTOS: Inside Lufthansa’s A380

Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental

747-8-LH-JDL-1

Photo courtesy of JDL Multimedia

Lufthansa will soon take delivery of the final Boeing 747-8I aircraft it has on order.

The airline has a very long and rich history when it comes to operating the Boeing 747. While Boeing has produced more than 1,500 747s for customers around the world, Lufthansa has operated more than 75 since the 1970s. 

Lufthansa became the second international airline to fly the aircraft, but it was the first European carrier to fly scheduled services with the 747. Originally, Lufthansa intended to operate it as a military aircraft, but the airline would use it primarily for passenger and cargo services. Over the years, the jumbo jet has become an iconic aircraft at Lufthansa, and it was even a host for several major world premières in succession, including the first film shown on board a jumbo jet.

LHretro-4

Photo by JDL Multimedia

In April 1972, Lufthansa was the launch customer of the cargo version (also known as the “Smiling 747″) which allows airlines to load even bulkier goods.

“A step towards the 1990s’”is how Lufthansa CEO Heinz Ruhnau described the purchase agreement signed on 23 June 1986 for an initial order of six enhanced Boeing 747 aircraft.

It was the first airline to order the “Dash 400” (Boeing 747-400), and Lufthansa helped develop the new aircraft by providing hundreds of suggestions for improvements and more than 20,000 engineer hours.

However, the carrier continued to work with Boeing to develop a new 747 model, the Boeing 747-8I, and it became the launch customer of the Boeing 747-8I. It placed an order for 20 in December 2006.

Lufthansa took delivery of its first -8I in early 2012, and it inaugurated passenger flights between Frankfurt and Washington D.C. in June 2012. Since the first delivery, 18 747-8Is have joined the fleet, and when the final one joins, Lufthansa will have 19 in the fleet.

Earlier this year, Lufthansa unveiled a special retro painted aircraft with the carrier’s colors from 1968 as part of the airlines’ 60th anniversary celebrations.

EXTRA: Boeing’s 747 Celebrates 1,500th Delivery as Future Remains Uncertain

EXTRA: Boeing Delivers 50th Boeing 747-8

EXTRA: On-Board the Inaugural Boeing 747-8I Flight

PHOTOS: Lufthansa Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental Inaugural

PHOTOS: Lufthansa Reveals Retro Livery on Boeing 747-8I

The Future

Will Lufthansa order more Airbus A380s or Boeing 747-8Is? That remains unknown, but it does seem highly unlikely that Lufthansa will place a re-order, especially Lufthansa reduced the number it would actually take delivery of.

Currently, Lufthansa has 19 aircraft on-order (excluding the last 747-8I that has yet to be delivered) and options for 91 more.

  • 30 A320-200 CEOs on order
  • 60 A320neos on order +75 options between CEO and NEO
  • 40 A321neos on order
  • 25 A350-900s on order +15 options
  • 34 Boeing 777-9X aircraft on +7 options

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

By Airways News Staff  / Published April 14, 2015

Seat_5

Photo courtesy of Southwest

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

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

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

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

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

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

SWA_Aft

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

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

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

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

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The “Cactus” Call Sign Retires as American Receives SOC

By Airways News Staff / Published April 7, 2015

LAST UPDATED: Wednesday, April 9, 2015 at 7:00 AM ET

American and US Airways received their Single Operating Certificate from the FAA Wednesday morning, and the “Cactus” call sign officially become part of the history books when “Cactus 774″ lands Wednesday morning.

1 American Airlines Day of SOC Bular

Capt. Ed Bular, senior vice president takes the final day off the countdown calendar. Photo courtesy of American Airlines.

For the most part, it was business as usual, but ATC and flight crews changed their call signs and announcements to reflect that US Airways is now American.

Many customers who flew on the final day that “Cactus” was heard over ATC said that several US Airways flight crews took a moment to reflect on the significant change that would take place overnight.

The last scheduled US Airways flight to use the “Cactus” call sign was  “Cactus 774″ which arrived in Philadelphia from London Heathrow around 11:15 AM ET, Wednesday, April 8.

A Single Operating Certificate–also known as a SOC–is a document issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that the regulatory process of combining the two subsidiary air carrier certificates under one certificate has been completed. In this particular case, this means that the American and US Airways certificates will officially be combined in the eyes of the FAA, but the merger process is still a bit far from being completed.

3 American SOC group photo

Doug Parker, Chairman and CEO, Scott Kirby, President, John Duncan, Director of Flight Standards, FAA, Capt. Ed Bular, Senior Vice President Integration Operations Robert Isom, Chief Operating Officer // Photo courtesy of American Airlines

It’s taken a little over a year and a team of more than 700 to help train more than 110,000 employees, vet and publish more than 115,000 pages on policies and procedures, complete more than 1,700 Safety Risk Assessments (SRAs), and review 465 manuals. And guess what? Everything was completed on schedule, and the airline is not behind at all.

“Achieving a single operating certificate is an important step toward becoming a fully integrated airline and the effort to reach today’s milestone touched nearly every area of our company,” said Robert Isom, American’s Chief Operating Officer. “For a project of this scope, many entities and people must come together and see it through to completion, but one person must ultimately oversee it in its entirety. With that, our appreciation for the leadership of Captain and Senior Vice President, Integration Operations Ed Bular, who oversaw this massive project, along with the CAVOK Group under the leadership of Vice President Jim Ballough, cannot be overstated. Likewise, our frontline employees and the union leaders who represent them are to be enthusiastically applauded for their role in learning and implementing new policies and procedures and adhering to those as we move forward under one certificate.  

2 American Airlines SOC Isom

Robert Isom, COO shows off the Single Operating Certificate Photo courtesy of American Airlines

“The FAA’s Joint Transition Team, led by Skip Whitrock, helped guide us through a rigorous process designed to ensure that our airline is built on a solid foundation of regulatory compliance. We are extremely appreciative of the valuable direction that Skip, Division Managers Nick Reyes and Larry Fieldsand all at the FAA have provided us over the past year.

“Lastly, as a global airline, this work spanned many regions. We thank the Department of Transportation and regulatory authorities in more than 50 countries who worked alongside us to ensure this critical project remained on track.”

Now, US Airways pilots will begin communicating with air traffic control with the “American” acall sign. The “Cactus” call sign became US Airways’ when it was acquired by America West when the two received their SOC in October 2008. Also, US Airways safety cards will be going away and be replaced with new American ones before morning.

American and US Airways customers will continue to shop for flights, check flight status, and obtain seat assignments on each carrier’s respective website until the company migrates to a single passenger service system which is expected to occur during the fourth quarter of this year.

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Cover photo courtesy of American Airlines.

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Virgin America says “Aloha” to Hawaii

By Roberto Leiro / Published April 7, 2015

Virgin America (VX) has announced plans to add Hawaii to its route map, by offering one daily round-trip flight to Honolulu (HNL) and Maui (OGG) from its main hub located in San Francisco (SFO). Operations to HNL will commence on November 2, while flights to OGG will begin on December 3, all of them already available for booking as of today.VX-LAX-hub

“As one of the most popular leisure destinations among Bay Area travelers, we are pleased to announce our new nonstop service to Hawaii,” said Virgin America President and Chief Executive Officer, David Cush. “This marks the next phase of growth for our airline, as we take delivery of new Airbus aircraft and expand our Elevate program with more world-class rewards destinations.  With a loyal following of Bay Area-based business travelers who have long requested our expansion to the islands, we couldn’t be more pleased to offer our ‘work-hard/play-hard’ frequent flyers the opportunity to fly in style to the ultimate getaway.  We look forward to bringing a new kind of flight service to the market and to building lasting community ties with the state of Hawaii.”

Virgin America plans to operate these routes with the new Airbus A320 it will receive later this year, but it is unclear if these will be the ceo (current engine option) or neo (new engine option) aircraft. In any case, the airline is currently working with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to receive the “ETOPS” extended operations certification that is required to fly twin-engine aircraft on long-range over-water routes.

While Hawaii may represent a tremendous growth opportunity for VX, the carrier will have to compete with Delta (DL), Hawaiian (HA), and United (UA). Virgin America will also indirectly compete with Alaska Airlines (AS) and Hawaiian, as both carriers offer also services to HNL and OGG from Oakland (OAK) and San Jose (SJC).

Since its launch in 2007, Virgin America has been expanding its network, which currently includes over 20 cities in the United States and Mexico. The new Hawaii markets will add the 22nd and 23rd destinations served by the airline.

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

Contact the editor at jack.harty@airwaysnews.com

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American/US Airways to Receive Single Operating Certificate Soon

By Jack Harty / Published March 23, 2015

MR6A2041

Photo by Brandon Farris

Sources tell Airways News that the FAA will issue American Airlines and US Airways a Single Operating Certificate (SOC) sometime early next month which will mark a significant milestone in the merger process.

A Single Operating Certificate–also known as a SOC–is a document issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that the regulatory process of combining the two subsidiary air carrier certificates under one certificate has been completed. In this particular case, this means that the American and US Airways certificates will officially be combined in the eyes of the FAA, but the merger process is still a bit far from being completed.

American and US Airways customers will still continue to shop for flights, check flight status, and obtain seat assignments on each carrier’s respective website until the company migrates to a single passenger service system.

Hundreds of employees from both companies have been working together to obtain a SOC and merge the two companies, since announcing the merger on February 14, 2013

In November 2011, United Airlines was issued its SOC by the FAA, and over 13 months, employees from both Continental and United had to “streamline more than 440 operational manuals, programs and procedures down to approximately 260 manuals for the new United — a process that involved roughly 2,000 changes.”

The Cactus Call Sign to Disappear

For the most part, passengers will not notice any changes. However, all US Airways flights will switch from the “Cactus” call sign to the “American” call sign since American and US Airways will be viewed as together in the eyes of the FAA. 

Passengers may notice that US Airways flight crews will now start referring to them as American flights since US Airways will now use the American call sign.

When United and Continental received its SOC on November 2011, Continental flight crews started referring to the flights as United flights, and even after receiving the SOC a few days later, there were still quite a few Continental’s.

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

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Contact the editor at jack.harty@airwaysnews.com

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Dallas Love Field Soap Opera Appears to Near End

By Jack Harty / Published January 31, 2015

DAL-CURB-11

Photo by Paul Thompson

On Friday afternoon, Southwest Airlines announced that it will gain control of two more gates at Dallas Love Field and launch nine new nonstop destinations form the airport later this year.

With this announcement, it would appear that the Dallas Love Field soap opera is nearing its end. It’s been a big battle between Delta, Southwest, United, and Virign America to grow their presence at Love Field, but for Delta, the last few months has all been focused on continuing to serve the airport.

Some Background

Southwest-737-800-New-Livery-Ian-Petchenik-624x416

Photo by Ian Petchenik/Airways News

In order for American and US Airways to merge, the DOJ explained that the airline would need to make several cuts, including giving up the two gates it leased out at Dallas Love Field.

Once this was announced, Delta, Southwest, and Virgin America all expressed interest in the two gates while United hoped to be able to use a second gate to add service to Newark. Meanwhile, the city hired a company to take a look into which airline would be the best for the city. 

Additionally, Delta and Southwest went to great lengths trying to convince the city to select them, including Delta who placed several new flights in its reservation system.

The Winner

VX-DAL-3

Photo by Sam Wozniak/Airways News

Virgin America made a big entrance in April when it held a press conference at one of the FBOs where CEO David Cush announced that the carrier would begin to selling tickets from its presumed Dallas Love Field focus city on Friday to Los Angeles, New York LaGuardia, San Francisco, and Washington DC. The flights begin in October 2014.

Despire the big entrance, the city remained quiet as to who would get the gates, but a few weeks later, the City of Dallas officially announced that Virgin America would be able to sublease the two gates that American gave up in a deal with the DOJ to merge. 

For the most part, the next few months were pretty quiet while Southwest continued to advertise that the Wright Amendment would expire on October 13, 2014.

Twist in Events

At the end of September, United Airlines adjusted its schedule by increasing frequency and turn times on its flights between Houston and Love Field so it would be able to use two of the gates just for its operations. This left Southwest with 16 gates, Virgin with two, and United with the other two. Now, there would be no room for Delta, unless it could sign a deal with one of the other tenants. It is important to point out that Dallas Love Field is limited to only 20 gates under some restrictions as part of lifting the Wright Amendment.10432126_521543317971960_1211261841401901927_n

Shortly after United adjusted its schedule, the City of Dallas told Delta Air Lines that it would no longer be able to serve Dallas Love Field effective October 13, 2014 as there would not be enough gate space. The airline wrote an open letter saying it would sue the city if they did not accommodate their continued presence at the airport in accordance with the terms of federal legislation and previous written promises from the airport authority and the mayor, but luckily days before it would have to depart Love Field for the final time, the airline was able to secure a few gate slots at a Southwest gate.

Wright Amendment is Lifted

DAL-CURB-2

Photo by Paul Thompson

When October 13, 2014 finally arrived, Southwest began flying its new post Wright Amendment flights and Virign America inaugurated Love Field flights. It was also a big day for Delta too; it operated its final CRJ-200 flight between Atlanta and Love Field and began upgrading all of its flights to 717s.

Although, Delta’s days at Love Field were still numbered as the lease would only take them until January 2015.

As 2014 ended, the City of Dallas, Delta, Southwest, and United remained silent as to what would happen with Delta’s leased gate slots, but luckily for Delta, United agreed in early January to lease out some slots at its gates to Delta for six months, after United did not end up increasing frequency to 12 times a day.

Another Twist in Events

In an odd twist of events within the last few days, United has thrown in the towel and will sublease its two gates to Southwest Airlines, but United will continue using the gates until March 16.DAL-SIGN-1

Southwest Airlines has confirmed that it will continue the current accommodation–five gate slots, including an overnight one–that United made for Delta, which runs through July 6. Meanwhile, Delta said that it is continuing to work with all parties to gain a permanent spot at Love Field.

Southwest’s New Plan

DAL-TIX-1

Photo by Paul Thompson

Southwest says it will offer daily nonstop flights to nine new cities from Dallas, including MemphisMilwaukee, and Seattle, starting this April. It will also increase the number of nonstop flights to recently introduced destinations added after the Wright Amendment was lifted.

“Customer demand for our new, convenient long-haul nonstop service from Love Field has been even stronger than we anticipated, and we are excited now to have the opportunity to offer more flights to more cities from Dallas,” said Bob Jordan, Southwest’s Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer.  

Details on numbers of flights as well as the full list of the cities and fares will be announced soon.

The Future Still a Bit Unclear

Details on numbers of flights as well as the full list of the cities and fares Southwest plans to launch from Love Field will be announced soon.

Meanwhile, Delta is working with all of the parties at Love Field to gain a permanent spot at the airport, but if it is unable to, it will have to stop flying in and out of Love Field this July.

While United prepares to end its Love Field operations, it plans to focus on strengthening its Houston and DFW operations.

EXTRA: Wright Amendment Expiration Highlights Battle Between American and Southwest – Part 1

EXTRA: Wright Amendment Expiration Highlights Battle Between American and Southwest – Part 2

EXTRA: Dallas Love Field, the Comeback Kid

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Contact the editor at benet.wilson@airwaysnews.com

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Frontier Announces Major Outsourcing

By Benjamin Bearup / Published January 18, 2015

Frontier Airlines A320:  Photo by Benjamin Bearup / AirwaysNews

Frontier Airlines A320: Photo by Benjamin Bearup / AirwaysNews

In a memo sent out to employees Friday, January 16, Frontier Airlines announced it will outsource a total of 1,300 jobs at its Denver hub and Milwaukee station.

Since Indigo Partners officially bought Frontier at the end of 2013, the airline has been undergoing a massive transformation into an ultra-low-cost-carrier as it tries to regain profitability.

With the recent announcement, Indigo Partners explained that its latest change–the outsourcing of 1,300 employees–was a “difficult but necessary decision to transition the management of these departments to business partners who specializes in these areas.”

Denver will see the most significant cuts; 1,160 frontline airport jobs will be outsourced. Swissport International–an airport ground service firm–will provide ground staff, ticketing agents, and other airport positions in Denver. Current employees who wish to apply for positions at Swissport will be given priority, but it is very likely that they will receive lower wages and less benefits than if they were employed by Frontier. If employees wish not to join Swissport, they will be given a severance package.

The move to outsource Denver was expected by industry analysts and employees throughout the company. Word of the decision was leaked late Thursday night, ahead of the internal memo.

Meanwhile, Sitel a self proclaimed “world leading outsourcer” will take over about 140 jobs at Frontier’s Milwaukee reservation center, but it remains unclear at this time if the jobs will remain in Milwaukee or if they will be moved to Nashville.

Frontier responded by stating: “Today’s announcement is by no means a reflection of the service or level of work provided by our team members. The business partners we have selected are high-quality organizations and employees will be given priority in interviewing. These changes continue to be part of a comprehensive company wide strategy that is crucial for Frontier to successfully compete in the marketplace as an ultra-low cost carrier allowing it to offer customers much needed relief from high airfares nationwide. Low fares are only achieved through low costs.”

Frontier’s announcement comes after United Airlines has received immense criticism for long flight delays and improper handling of baggage after it outsourced its work in Denver. Plus, United came out last week and said it looking into outsourcing baggage handling and ticket/gate positions at more than two dozen stations around the system this Spring, but the airline says it also plans to insource some other work at other stations that were victims of outsourcing in 2014 such as Honolulu.

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Contact the editor at jack.harty@airwaysnews.com

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AirwaysNews Staff’s Favorite Stories of 2014

By AirwaysNews Staff  / Published January 2, 2015

Happy New Year! It was a busy and exciting year for the aviation industry in 2014, and the writers of AirwaysNews were there to cover it. We went to our staff and asked them to share their favorite stories from 2014. Some of our highlights included the end of the Wright Amendment at Dallas Love Field, prospects for 50-seat regional jets, the final farewell to AirTran, Delta’s final DC-9 flight and our virtual tour of Cuba.

Chris Sloan

KLM's MD-11 "Audrey Hepburn" after her last flight. Image Courtesy of Seth Miller for AirwaysNews

KLM’s MD-11 “Audrey Hepburn” after her last flight. Image Courtesy of Seth Miller for AirwaysNews

As the Editor-in-Chief of AirwaysNews.com, I am very proud of our accomplishments in 2014. We entered a strategic partnership with Airways Magazine and rebranded as AirwaysNews. Plus, we provided a lot of in-depth and on-location coverage of major stories from the final DC-9 flight in January to the last AirTran flight just a few days ago. My five stories from 2014 are:

  1. Final DC-10 Flight / Final MD-11 flight - 2014 was the end of the widebody trijet era all in one year. The DC-10′s passenger career came to an end after lasting more than 40 years while the MD-11 career also came to an end after lasting just over 20 years.
  2. Qatar Takes Delivery of First A350 – Qatar Airways took delivery of the last clear sheet wide body aircraft for the decade in late-December. After a very smooth flight test phase, this airplane is already a game-changer.
  3. Image Courtesy of Bombardier

    Image Courtesy of Bombardier

    Bombardier CSeries – Like the Dreamliner, this leading edge “moon shot” for a regional jet in terms of technology is experiencing major development and flight testing pains. Like the 787, it will be a success for the airlines probably long before its manufacturer.

  4. jetBlue Mint - Milestone moment as airline freshens brands for first time since launch and introduces its first premium cabin.
  5. Southwest New Heart / Wright Amendment Lifted at Dallas Love Field – Southwest is no longer a LCC nor is it a traditional network carrier. For better and for worse, Southwest remains its own animal. With new international service, the lifting of the Wright Amendment at LUV, a brand refresh, and completing the merger with AirTran, this has been the biggest year of change in the history of the airline.

Benét J. Wilson

Although I’ve only been the co-editor of AirwaysNews.com since October, I’ve been in the aviation industry, both as a journalist and a communications specialist, since 1992.  And coming to AirwaysNews had me hitting the ground running.  It’s been a busy quarter, so I had no problems picking my five top stories of 2014.

  1. Image Courtesy of Eastern Airlines

    Image Courtesy of Eastern Airlines

    EXCLUSIVE: Q&A with Eastern Airlines CEO Ed Wegel. I’ve known Wegel since I covered the regional airline industry between 1993 and 2001. I had heard about his plans to bring back the Eastern Airlines brand, and wanted to learn more.  I reached out, and we had a great talk about Eastern and all the changes in the airline industry.

  2. ANALYSIS: Prospects Continue to Dim for 50-Seat Regional Jets. I had taken a trip to Dallas Love Field to cover Southwest Airlines’ celebration of the end of the Wright Amendment. As part of that trip, I learned Delta Air Lines was ending its 50-seat CRJ200 service at the airport and was continuing to retire the type from its regional fleet. Since I had a front-row seat to the RJ revolution, I did this piece discussing the dimming prospects for the small jet.
  3. Image courtesy of SITA

    Image courtesy of SITA

    New KLM Beacon Service Helps Travelers Navigate Schiphol Airport. I’m all about anything that helps with the passenger experience, and I thought this story on KLM’s efforts to do that was pretty cool.  The beacons are part of an overall effort by the airport to use technology and the human touch to interact with its customers.

  4. Miami Airport Steps Up Its Social Media Efforts. I was an early adopter of social media (Facebook in 2004 and Twitter in 2008), and I have followed the efforts of airlines and airports around the world. Miami was late to the game, launching its efforts in June 2013. But it has more than made up for its late start and was chosen one of four winners of Simpliflying’s Best Emerging Airline/Airport on Social Media in 2013 a mere four months into its efforts. 
  5. Something Scary In The Air: How the Airlines Celebrate Halloween. This story is just pure fun to do every year.  Between American Airlines and Southwest Airlines — and Frontier Airlines joining the fun — we got some great photos of airline executives who looked like anything but.

Vinay Bhaskara

2014 was a great year for me, as I joined the staff of AirwaysNews full time in March, after six years bouncing around covering aviation for various publications. It was a busy year (including a stretch where I filled in as interim co-editor before the far more talented Benet took over), but here are my five favorite stories from the year.

  1. Analysis: Airbus A320neo First Flight Is a Triumph of Incrementalism. I wrote this essay on the day of the Airbus A320neo’s first flight, covering what I believe is an important and under-covered trend in aerospace; incrementalism. I gave my take on the competitive dynamics between the A320neo and the Boeing 737 MAX, and discussed the lacking state of aerospace innovation.
  2. Boeing Touts 787 Dreamliner Maturity as A330neo Looms. I chose this story, but really I could have picked any of the full length stories that I put out at the Farnborough Air Show. It was my first time there and just a fantastic experience. I look forward to covering Paris later this year.
  3. Program Analysis: Bombardier’s Q400 Struggles May PersistLonger term readers will know that I have a soft spot for the Bombardier Q400 which made this analysis particularly poignant. Despite the recent GECAS order, the Q400 is still worse off due to the Russian geopolitical situation.
  4. The Next Boeing Clean-Sheet Will Probably Be a 757 ReplacementThe A321neoLR only accelerates this trend, but I took a long look at the potential for a new build 757 replacement from Boeing as a response to the A321neo’s resounding success.
  5. Transparent Airfares Act Would Boost Revenue by More than $1 Billion On Crying Babies and Flying Kids: Vinay’s Take. This one was a lot of fun. I mostly include the Transparent Airfares Act Analysis here for context, after I took a look at the economic research, I was excoriated in the comments on that piece. For the most part people stuck to criticizing my analysis, which is their prerogative, but one commenter, titled Scott in Tucson, took it a little bit further, writing “Give it up Vinay – - you’re not going to win this one. It doesn’t pass the smell test. Stick to articles about in-flight wifi and crying babies.” As you can see, Scott got his wish.
Happy New Year folks!

 

Jack Harty

Although I retired in mid-2014, I’m back for another year. Despite temporarily retiring, it was another fun and busy year of covering the latest airline industry news for AirwaysNews.

A Delta Boeing 747. Image Courtesy of AirwaysNews

A Delta Boeing 747. Image Courtesy of AirwaysNews

  1. Inside Delta Air Lines: More than 80,000 employees at Delta Air Lines come together to perform one of the most highly choreographed ballets everyday. From Atlanta to Tokyo, each performer is tasked with a job to get more than half a million customers to their destinations safely, on-time, and with their luggage on more than 5,000 flights everyday. It’s truly amazing how Delta is able to accomplish.

    Photo by Jack Harty/AirwaysNews

    Photo by Jack Harty/AirwaysNews

  2. Employees Say Farewell to AirTran: For many, AirTran is where thousands of people spent many years of their lives helping get passengers from point A to point B 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year. Two employees shared their stories with us just hours before AirTran would take one final flight.
  3. Boeing’s 747 Celebrates 1,500th Delivery as Future Remains Uncertain: The Queen of a skies hit a major milestone in 2014–1,500 deliveries. Unfortunately, Boeing did not receive any orders for the 747 in 2014, and its future remains uncertain. Was 1,500 deliveries the last milestone for the 747 program? It may very well be.
  4. Cleveland Hopkins: Going Places: With United de-hubbing Cleveland earlier this year, the airport has scrambled to find new carriers to enter the Cleveland market and get existing carriers to expand or upgrade their services. Every airline has made changes to its presence in Cleveland, and JetBlue and Spirit have plans to enter the market in 2015.

    Gary Kelly with the pilots who will fly the final AirTran flight. Photo by Chris Sloan / AirwaysNews

    Gary Kelly with the pilots who will fly the final AirTran flight. Photo by Chris Sloan / AirwaysNews

  5. AirTran Flies Final Flight: Onboard the Last Flights: One of my final stories/projects to write about in 2014 was the final day of AirTran Airways operations. Although I was not on any of the final flights, I did have the chance to spend several hours by AirTran and Southwest gates and stand on the ramp as the final flight pushed back. It was a very surreal experience that has left my speechless overall. One aspect that interested me the most was the employees because they helped bring millions together for birthdays, weddings, family vacations, business meetings, holidays, and many other occasions. Additionally, I received so many heart-warming emails and comments from AirTran employees expressing that they were happy that AirTran did not quietly. This whole experience reminded me why I am so passionate about the aviation industry and that I cannot wait to work on the “other side” as soon as 2016.

Luis Linares

Personally, 2014 has been a very memorable year for me. After 24 years of wearing the uniform of the United States Air Force, I retired, and this gave me an opportunity to dedicate more time to commercial aviation, one of my passions. In March, I offered AirwaysNews founder and president, Chris Sloan, a trip report on my experience flying the longest American Airlines Airbus A319 route from Dallas-Fort Worth to Bogota. That same month, the AirwaysNews team was looking for a new correspondent, so I jumped at the chance. Thanks to the mentorship from Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, I seamlessly integrated into the team. The rest is history (OK, nine months), and it has been very enjoyable. Picking my top five AirwaysNews stories for 2014 was not an easy task, but here are five I really enjoyed:CaryLiao_PEOPLExpress

  1. Nostalgia is Not a Viable Business Model for PEOPLExpress: My favorite story of the year comes from the “we hate to say we told you so” file. Our senior business analyst Vinay Bhaskara aptly titled this piece “Nostalgia is not a viable business model for PEOPLExpress.” Coincidentally, this week, we’re expecting the reincarnation of the Eastern Airlines brand. It is always great to see a new airline startup, especially if it can challenge other carriers with attractive fares. I always wish them the best. However, I am a realist and understand the many challenges a new airline can face.
  2. End of an Era: Delta’s DC-9 Completes Final Scheduled Flight: Final flights bring similar press and attention to inaugural ones, and Delta’s last DC-9 flight this year was no exception. Our correspondent Jack Harty has a knack for airline history, and he did a fantastic job reminiscing on the “dirty niner”. This week also marks the 49th anniversary of Delta becoming the first airline in the world to fly the DC-9, and this year it became the last U.S. passenger airline to fly this iconic airplane. Delta estimates that it flew over one billion passengers during its DC-9 operations.

    A TAM Fokker 100

    A TAM Fokker 100

  3. TAM Service Academy: Learning How To Serve Dinner and More: When flying, it is very common to hear a PA announcement that says, “the crew is here for your comfort, but above all for your safety.” Jason Rabinowitz’s coverage of the TAM Airlines Service Academy in Sao Paulo offered great insight into the types of intensive training flight crews undergo before they can actually work in the air. Jason and the other guests were able to practice evacuating form a smoke-filled cabin and using the escape slides. While it might be fun for a guest to practice this, he emphasized the importance of conducting an evacuation in a timely manner, as well as how crews might have to face how to help injured passengers evacuate.
  4. In-Flight Review: American Airlines Inaugural Airbus A321T LAX-JFK: At AirwaysNews, we sometimes get the opportunity to experience and review new services offered by airlines around the world. In October, I personally enjoyed covering Qatar Airways’s business class, as well as its new hub and business class lounge in Doha. I also liked reading our coverage of the new American Airlines transcontinental service aboard its new fleet of Airbus A321T aircraft. The competition to connect New York City with the West Coast is intensifying, and there is a big push to attract premium passengers. Mainline carriers like American, Untied, and Delta are no surprises in trying to win these customers, but even jetBlue has gotten into the action.
  5. Fort Lauderdale Airport Debuts New Runway: On September 18, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) formally opened the extended southern runway 10R/28L. Chris Sloan was one of the invited media guests on the “flight to nowhere”, a jetBlue Airbus A320 that departed from runway 10L, and became the first passenger aircraft to land on the newly expanded 10R. The expansion is an engineering marvel. It consists of a 1.3-degree upward slope that was made possible by using 11 million tons of dirt to elevate the expansion by 52 feet. In addition, the elevation allows road and rail traffic to pass underneath the runway and taxiways.

FLL 28L- LFL FLL 28L- LFL FLL 28L- LFL FLL 28L- LFL
The RWY 28L extension at FLL:  Photos by Luis Linares / AirwaysNews

Benjamin Bearup

This past summer, I started contributing to AirwaysNews.com, and the last few months have been very exciting. Although I have only been writing for Airways for a short time, it was not difficult to select my top five articles. Enjoy!

Image Courtesy of Benjamin Bearup

Image Courtesy of Benjamin Bearup

    1. Frontier Unveils New Livery and Brand Identity: Having flown Frontier many times before, it was exciting to see the airline begin a new chapter in its already rich history. The ULCC held a small event at the Frontier hangar and rolled out its new look on an Airbus A320. Although data coverage was not strong outside of the hangar, making social media updates a struggle, it’s just another great memory.
    2. Virgin Atlantic Inaugurates Atlanta Flights With 787-9: Last October marked the inaugural flight for Virgin Atlantic to my hometown of Atlanta. The airline held a big event to officially welcome the 787-9 to its fleet after a special flight from London. It was a very festive day that brought out many local government officials, airline executives, and even Sir Richard Branson. Taking a selfie with Sir Branson was definitely the highlight of the event.
    3. Flying Behind the Coconut Curtain: Cuba and Havanas Jose Marti International Airport: This great article and picture tour of Cuba by Chris Sloan is one that you don’t want to miss. In light of the recent news regarding Untied States and Cuba relations, it is important to see both sides of the story. Sloan takes us on a virtual tour of Havana as a city and an airport. After reading, one will be able to have a greater understanding of what present day Cuba is like.

      A Delta Boeing 777 at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Image Courtesy of AirwaysNews

      A Delta Boeing 777 at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Image Courtesy of AirwaysNews

    4. Delta TechOps: Behind the Seven Story Doors: Take a tour behind the scenes at the world’s second biggest airlines’ TechOps department. I personally enjoy this article as it shows a side of my hometown airline that not many ever see and provides great insight inside a different side of Delta Air Lines.
    5. Airbus Hamburg: Where Airbus A320s Are Made: Take a behind the scenes look at one of the worlds largest aircraft manufacturers like you have never seen before. I personally love this article due to its great picture tour. To see how the Airbus A380 and A320 are assembled is quite amazing.

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Contact the editor at benet.wilson@airwaysnews.com

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AirTran Flies Final Flight: Onboard the Last Flights

By Benjamin Bearup, Chris Sloan, and Jack Harty  / Published December 29, 2014

ATLANTA, GA – After retracing the same route that ValuJet inaugurated service on in 1993, the final AirTran Airways flight blocked in at Tampa International Airport at 11:39 PM ET Sunday night. The completion of AirTran flight 1 signified the successful completion of integrating AirTran into Southwest as well as the end of the iconic AirTran brand.

The Origins of AirTran

AirTran dates back to 1993 when ValuJet commenced operations. It’s inaugural flight took place on October 26, 1993 between Atlanta and Tampa via Jacksonville. To commemorate the final AirTran flight, Southwest planned to retrace the inaugural route, but AirTran opted to fly directly to Tampa.valujet9409cover_23614

Initially, very few took ValuJet seriously; it had a cartoon character “Critter” painted on the fuselage of the old DC-9s it acquired from Delta, and its orange and yellow all coach seats were not really appealing. Plus, ValuJet decided to compete with Delta – who had dominated the Atlanta market since 1941 – in Atlanta.

EXTRA: A History of Air Tran

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A AirTran 717 pushes back from the gate in Atlanta on December 28, 2014. Photo by Jack Harty / AirwaysNews

ValuJet would win over the hearts of many, but it hit a major bump in 1996 when ValuJet flight 592 caught fire while departing Miami and crashed into the Everglades. Unfortunately, the crash killed all 110 people on-board. Weeks before the crash, the FAA launched an investigation to look into why ValuJet had more than 114 emergency landings in 17 months; after the crash, the FAA grounded the airline for four months, citing safety concerns.

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A AirTran 717 taxing to the gate in Baltimore. Photo by Chris Sloan / AirwaysNews

ValuJet was in the middle of a PR crisis, even after it made sure to promote that safety was its number one priority. About a year later, ValuJet announced that it would acquire AirTran Corporation which was the holding company of Mesaba (one of the former Northwest Airlink operators) and new owner of Conquest Sun Airlines. ValuJet also announced that it would change its name to AirTran Airways, and it would go through a restructuring to turn the airline around. The inaugural AirTran flight was once again Atlanta to Tampa.

EXTRA: Vintage AirTran and ValuJet Timetables and Schedules

EXTRA: AirTran Douglas DC-9-30 Cabin, Cockpit, and Flight Decks during Scrapping

Over the next few years, AirTran won the hearts of many, particularly in Atlanta. It introduced the first 717 as well as a Business Class product to for business travelers. It also became the first U.S. airline to have an entire fleet of aircraft equipped with GoGo in-flight WiFi and XM Radio.

EXTRA: Inside AirTran’s 717s

Meanwhile, the airline continued to grow; it ordered more than 100 737-700s to reach new destinations further west and built hubs in Baltimore and Milwaukee.

The Southwest Merger

Paine-Field-aerials-November-14-43

Photo by JDL Multimedia

About four years ago, Southwest Airlines announced plans to buy AirTran Airways. One year later, it became official. AirTran would be merged into Southwest. About eight months after the marriage became official, Southwest received its single operating certificate in record time.

When the merger plans were announced in 2010, nobody was really sure this would work. AirTran and Southwest were different in many ways; AirTran offered two class service, operated with a hub/spoke system, and operated two aircraft types, but Southwest offered one class service, operated more point to point, and had a single aircraft type.

During the farewell ceremony in Atlanta, Gary Kelly, the CEO of Southwest Airlines, recapped what the AirTran merger did for Southwest. He remarked that “Everybody knows that it helped us finish out our domestic route network expansion and gave us access to key cities and airports such as Atlanta and Washington Reagan. It also helped us boost our position in key markets like Milwaukee, Orlando, and Baltimore. But, without a doubt, the most important thing that the AirTran merger has done for Southwest Airlines is the addition of you – the AirTran people.”atlanta-hartsfield-jackson-international-airport-aerials-of-concourses-c-d-2009_12073

In May, Southwest Airlines announced that it would phase out all AirTran flying by the end of the year (which was the goal since day one of the merger process). December 28 would be the final day of AirTran operations.

The Final Day of Operations

AirTran Airways operated close to 90 flights on December 28 to more than a dozen destinations. Although 90 is far from its peak of 750 daily flights, many tried to catch one final AirTran flight to say goodbye one more time.B59wgTJIIAAIIyq

Senior correspondent, Jack Harty, spent a few hours sitting at some of the AirTran gates on Sunday. Overall, there was not a lot of fanfare until the last AirTran flight; although, some stopped to take pictures when an AirTran aircraft taxied by, and many employees also took photos as they finished working their final AirTran flights which caused several passengers to question what was going on.

The Farewell Begins in Milwaukee

Early Sunday morning, we flew up to Milwaukee to start the AirTran farewell tour. This part of the celebration provided an up close look at Southwest’s growth in Milwaukee since integrating AirTran’s operations.

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AirTran and Southwest employees in Milwaukee on December 28, 2014. Photo by Benjamin Bearup / AirwaysNews

When entering the C concourse in MKE that morning, it became obvious that Southwest and former AirTran employees truly love the company they work for and the history it has with the city. The love and passion for the company could be felt when they described what it meant to see the four years of hard work that went into merging the two carriers be finally completed. Although some were sad, most saw this day as the next step in Southwest’s history, and one that would make the carrier more “simple” and “easier to manage”.

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AirTran 717 Sign in Milwaukee on December 28, 2014. Photo by Benjamin Bearup / AirwaysNews

AirTran named Milwaukee a hub in April 2010. At the time, Milwaukee would be AirTran’s third hub city, after Atlanta and Orlando. AirTran quickly grew to serve over twenty destinations with over 60 daily flights. When the airline was purchased by Southwest in 2010, it became clear that big changes were coming to Milwaukee.

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AirTran farewell party in Milwaukee on December 28, 2014. Photo by Benjamin Bearup / AirwaysNews

Over the course of four years, Southwest took over and preserved most of the routes formerly served by AirTran. “AirTran Airways laid a really solid foundation for Southwest to grow upon in Milwaukee,” said Dan Landson, a Southwest Airlines Spokesperson. “The brand was iconic in the city and region and we’re really looking forward to moving forward as one brand with one Customer Experience, and most importantly to be the airline of choice for Milwaukee travelers.”

As the final flight out of Milwaukee approached, the gate the flight would leave from began to receive a special makeover featuring that featured a banner and dozens of balloons. Employees were also sporting their best AirTran attire from the late 90s to the mid 2000s.

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An empty 717 cabin during the AirTran farewell party in Milwaukee on December 28, 2014. Photo by Benjamin Bearup / AirwaysNews

Around the same time, a special aircraft arrived; it was a former AirTran 737-700 that had recently been reconfigured and repainted in the new Southwest Heart Livery. It seemed like a symbolic “changing of the guard” in the former AirTran hub.

Several minutes later, N717JL-an AirTran 717-arrived from Atlanta. This would be our ride to Atlanta to continue the farewell celebration, but before we departed, a pre-depature party was held with two large cakes, pizza, drinks, and historic AirTran memorabilia. After a fun but short 20 minute celebration, the aircraft was ready for boarding. Several longtime and devoted AirTran employees and several members of the media were onboard the flight to Atlanta.

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AirTran farewell cake in Milwaukee on December 28, 2014. Photo by Benjamin Bearup / AirwaysNews

As the flight prepared for departure, dozens of Southwest and AirTran employees waved farewell from the ramp as the plane pushed back. After a short taxi, Airtran flight 351 was off to Atlanta, and a piece of Milwaukee and AirTran’s aviation history came to a close.

After completing most of the uneventful two hour flight, the flight attendants acknowledged the significance of the flight and asked for all passengers to participate in a group photo that eventually became a large selfie at 34,000 feet. AirTran souvenirs were passed out and before we knew it, we were on final into Atlanta. Shortly before landing the captain of N717JL thanked the passengers for their loyalty after all these years. Upon landing and arriving at our gate we were given forewarning that we would be welcomed by a large party to celebrate the final flight for AirTran Airways.

 

The Final Flight: AirTran 1 ATL-TPA

Pre-Departure Party

About an hour before flight 351 was set to arrive from Milwaukee, the party started at gate C3 in Atlanta. There were balloons, a DJ, and a lot of dancing at the gate. Just off the boarding area, a cake in the shape of a AirTran aircraft took center stage. 500-600 AirTran and Southwest employees sharing memories and a lot of laughs in what turned into a very lively party, the kind of which Southwest was famous for. The theme for the event was “One Family. One Love” commemorating the intergration finally coming to fruition.

A little more than an hour before boarding, a few executives made some remarks.

Southwest CEO Gary Kelly mostly spoke on what it meant to see the integration be finally complete and that he was happy to have the AirTran folks part of Southwest. Comparing this event to a commencement, Kelly remarked “It’s the end of something that was great, but now, it’s the start of something even better. This is a testimony to the soul of the people of AirTran.”

Bob Jordan, Southwest’s Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer, was also present at the event and on the final flight. As President, AirTran Airways since the merger began he played a significant roll in the integration. Jordan took over when Bob Fornaro stepped down as CEO of AirTran, when Southwest officially purchased AirTran in 2011. During his speech, he went over some key dates of the merger and expressed how happy he was to see the two airlines come together. His remarks were warmly received by the crowds “we didn’t want this to be like any other airline merger. We wanted this to be special and just like Southwest treats its employees.” He emphasized that “this was a party”. Any outstanding differences between the Southwest and AirTran teams, weren’t on show tonight. 

Then, he announced that he was going to stray away from his script. Jordan took a moment to recognize Fornaro for his leadership and passing on the torch. Fornaro, who was present at the event and on the final flight, received a big round of applause and several cheers. Many AirTran employees were very happy to see him again, mobbing him with requests for selfies. Next, Jordan expressed that “Tonight is bittersweet for AirTran employees, but many new things will come as a result of this merger. We know that you all truly loved your company and built something special. Now we are one family.”

To conclude the gate events in Atlanta, Kelly and Jordan signed a commemorative certificate signifying the final AirTran flight.

Boarding

Boarding was a bit chaotic. Boarding began as soon as the remarks were over, and since there were more than 800 listed on standby for the flight, the gate area was absolutely mobbed which caused some confusion on where boarding was taking place. The 1980s it song “Don’t You Forget About Me” by Simple Minds accompanied the boarding.

Kelly took the tickets for the final flight, and champagne was served to celebrate the end of an era, but the beginning of a new one. A 717 model was passed around to have the final AirTran passengers sign it, and at each seat, there was some fun AirTran memorabilia for every passenger.

The captain of the final flight was AirTran’s Director of flight operations – Floy Ponder – who has 19 years of experience. One of his favorite memories was the 2010 ice storm in Atlanta that shut down the airport. The first officer would be Janin Hutcheson who has been with the company since ValuJet and helped recruit many captains at AirTran. Like the remaining 717 flight crews, they are going on to training on the Southwest 737 fleet.

After our initial article ran, Helen Souders emailed us a fun fact about a special jumpseater in the cockpit on AirTran flight 1:

One man was there for it all, my father, Captain John E. Souders. He was in the cockpit last night. He is a decorated Marine aviator, Vietnam veteran (fighter pilot), retired Eastern Airlines Captain, and the first pilot ValuJet hired. He flew the inaugural flight in 1993. He served as their Chief Pilot and VP of Flight Operations. He stayed on after age 65 as a Check Airman with AirTran. He turned 71 two weeks ago. It is fitting that he ends his career as the Captain they chose to be on their first flight and their last! We are so proud of him and I believe this t human story ties it all together as AirTran says goodbye and a great man retires from the skies.

EXTRA: Five memorable AirTran commercials

Pushback

After boarding was complete, a large gathering of employees and a few members of the media took place on the ramp. Many employees posed for pictures one final time before the aircraft departed for Tampa.

While standing on the ramp, emotions were high as more than a hundred Southwest and AirTran employees posed for pictures and waved farewell to the AirTran 717 that once ruled concourses C and D in Atlanta.

As large groups employees took pictures with N717JL, firetrucks lined up to give Citrus one final wash before heading off to Tampa, and as the aircraft pushed back, everybody quickly followed N717JL toward the end of the gate to watch the salute it rightly deserved. AirTran 1 made an on-time departure.

Extra: Employees say farewell to AirTran

The Final Flight 1 to Tampa

At 10:30 PM EST, AirTran flight 1 began its quick 35 second took off roll to thunderous applause.

Once in-flight, the party continued with a lot of socializing and enjoying the AirTran service one last time. With 117 passengers on board consisting of current and former staff, it was a full house. With many having flown in from around the system to be on the last flight. Owing to the demand, a number of staffers actually purchased their seats just as they went on sale months ago. The three Flight attendants, cloaked in AirTran sashes, managed to pull off two services inflight even as the partying passengers crowded the aisle. They had a little help from others fellow employees to complete the service on this very short flight. Cocktails were on the house and there was even a champagne service onboard, not something normally seen on a AirTran or Southwest flight. During approach into Tampa, there was a quick toast to AirTran.

During final descent, the captain said “I can’t say see you on another AirTran flight but hopefully on another Southwest flight.” When the fasten seatbelt sign came on, passengers chanted for a go around, but unfortunately, they did not get their wish. It being near midnight, few would have seen it.

Extra: Final AirTran 717 Ferry Flights

Arrival

At 11:36 PM EST, AirTran flight 1 touched down in Tampa to a roar of applause. Three minutes later, it blocked into the gate. Unlike most flights, no one wanted to deplane.

Upon exiting the aircraft, there was a large party going on in the terminal – with “Let it Go” from the movie “Frozen” playing in the background. If anything this party, sponsored by the Tampa Airport Authority was even more lively then Atlanta with even more dancing and a DJ. Many AirTran employees drove to Tampa to celebrate and say farewell to AirTran. It was very emotional as there were lots of hugs and some tears, but many are excited for the bright future ahead. Citrus and the Critter may be gone, but they are anything but forgotten.

Extra: AirTran & ValueJet Timetables and Route Maps

Extra: A History of Air Tran

Extra: Employees say farewell to AirTran

Extra: Final AirTran 717 Ferry Flights

Extra: Vintage AirTran and ValuJet Timetables and Schedules

Listen to AirTran final flight 1 ATC departure from ATL and final arrival in TPA

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Disclosure: Southwest Airlines provided round trip tickets and hotel accommodations to AirwaysNews to cover the final AirTran flights.  Our opinions remain our own.

Benjamin Bearup contributed to this story from the final Milwaukee/Atlanta flight. Chris Sloan contributed to this story from the final AirTran Airways flight, and Jack Harty contributed to this story from Atlanta as well as the introduction and history.

You can contact jack.harty@airwaysnews.com.

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In-Flight Review: Qatar’s A350 Delivery Flight to Doha

By Chris Sloan from Doha, Qatar  / Published December 23, 2014

DOHA, QATAR - At 9:28 PM LT on Tuesday, December 23, Qatar’s first A350 XWB landed in Doha–under the cover of darkness–with approximately 70 Qatar employees, VIP’s and members of the media from Toulouse, France.

Qatar's A350 XWB quietly sits at the gate waiting to head home to Doha. Photo By Chris Sloan / AirwaysNews

Qatar’s A350 XWB quietly sits at the gate waiting to head home to Doha. Photo By Chris Sloan / AirwaysNews

A day earlier, Airbus handed over the first A350 XWB to Qatar Airways, and shortly after taking delivery of the aircraft, the airline flew several executives and more than a hundred members of the media on a short demonstration flight over the Mediterranean.

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

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

After the big delivery ceremony Monday, it was time for the delivery flight to Doha which would be operated just like a normal scheduled commercial flight, but there would be fewer people on-board.

Business Class was full while approximately ten passengers–who were all employees of Qatar–would have the two economy cabins to themselves. 

As much as I anticipated experiencing the Airbus A350 XWB in a true commercial flight, I was equally curious to put Qatar’s renowned SkyTrax 5 star rated Business Class marketed and self-proclaimed as “World’s Best Business Class” to the test. Some of the burning questions I had included: Would it live up to all the hype and marketing expectations? Is it truly a First Class product at a Business Class price? Is the Airbus A350 XWB cabin truly an “eXtra Wide Body” experience?

Checking-In

Upon arrival, it was business as usual; we went through the standard and typical check-in, customs, and security screenings just like any other flight, but there were not lines.

Once arriving at the gate, the media had an opportunity to walk around the A350 while it was getting ready for its six hour journey to Doha, and there was even an opportunity to do a little shopping at the Airbus store.

Time to Board

Although it was just like a normal flight, there were no lines which made boarding very easy. We boarded through the L2 door which has a bar in the middle of the cabin. It is complete with a signature middle light on the roof with an Arabic frame around the light. As with many 787 operators, this provides an entry like a hotel and enhances the boarding processes.

Champagne, towels, newspapers, and magazines were offered before departure, and I quickly headed to my seat.

At every seat, there was a hardcover commemorative A350 delivery menu which stated “ahead of the curve” which is a homage to the A350′s curved wingtip. There was also a dye cut out matting in the shape of the A350 cockpit window, and inside, it listed the dining menu and the extensive wine list. Additionally, the phrase “You will never forget your first time on a Qatar A350″ emblazoned the wine menu.

Almost immediately upon boarding the A350, one notices the high flat sculptured ceilings and flat vertical side walls which are a signature of the A350 eXtraWideBody.

The panoramic windows are also noticeably larger then any Airbus product before. Although they are not as large as the 787, they allow a great deal of natural light into the cabin. The windows in Business Class utilize a pleasing dual shade electromechanical feature while Economy’s are conventional manual shades. Airbus made a point of going with a simpler system then the 787′s dimming feature.

The LED mood lighting also stands out, but they did not come on until the meal service was concluded.

Once it was time for pushback, Toulouse ground crew and executives turned out in mass to wish us Bon voyage. There were also plane spotters adjacent to the runway waiting to photograph our departure. The captain announced “welcome aboard the first A350 flight” making it one of just a few times that people would be aware they were on a very “special flight.”

Take Off

Qatar also took delivery of its fourth Airbus A380 on Monday, December 22, and it flew the aircraft back to Doha simultaneously with the A350. Below are some pictures of the two aircraft beginning their journey home to Doha from Toulouse.

At 1:22 PM, we began a very quiet 42 second take off roll, and at 1:50 PM we reached FL400 over the Swiss Alps, picking up a little light chop from mountain wave. The A350′s gust suppression system handled the wave with aplomb and we were avoided a breathtaking view in the process.

After take off, the flight attendants wasted no time in starting their service as we were offered a comfort bag complete with pajamas ten minutes.

Qatar’s A350 Business Class Cabin

Qatar’s A350 XWB Business Cabin is in a two-cabin configuration with 36 Business Class seats in a 1-2-1 configuration, featuring 80” fully flat beds and 17” HD in-flight entertainment screens. These very comfortable seats convert to a lie-flat bed. For privacy, the middle two seats boast a powered divider. Each Business Class cabin is separated by the semi-circular bar unit.

There is a flat screen Thales IFE in front of the seat with the seat controls just to the left. The remote control, electrical power for European and US standards and USB ports are all to the left. There is storage space in cubbies at the right armrest where noise canceling headphones are stored along with a bottle of water and to the left under the table. Another cubby is to the left just under the lacquered wood pull out table. Behind the seat to the right is a storage shelf. This hard product is similar to Qatar’s A380, 777, and 787s.

In Business Class, Qatar opted for power electromechanical window shades which scroll down in two screens to soften light and make opaque.

The windows in Business Class are very large. Photo by Chris Sloan / AirwaysNews

The windows in Business Class are very large. Photo by Chris Sloan / AirwaysNews

In economy, convention manual window shades are used. This is a much simpler system the the 787 electronically dimmer systems Airbus claims.

As on other Qatar aircraft, there is framed art work in this case the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha.

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The PSU. Photo by Chris Sloan / AirwaysNews

I was seated in 8A which affords excellent views of the A350′s signature swooping wingtip. I was able to store my bags in the overhead compartments which were very roomy. Plus, the compartments don’t swing down to interfere with service.

The Passenger Service Unit (PSU) has an LCD screen overhead which indicates WiFi, Phone Switch Off, and No Smoking. This was a first for me to see such a screen.

There is a fold out tray table in a lacquered wood finish, and one major benefit of the tray table is that it allows one to enter and exit the seat with the tray table in the down position.

The male amenity kit. Photo by Chris Sloan / AirwaysNews

The male amenity kit. Photo by Chris Sloan / AirwaysNews

An amenity kit by Giorgio Amani was already at the seat. Inside, it had pillows and douvet.

There are separate amenity kits for men and women. The male kit has cologne, moisturizer, tooth brush, and shaving cream, and all of the kits have the Qatar eyeshades.

 

Qatar’s A350 Economy Cabin

Economy Class has 247 seats split between two cabin. Each seat is 18-inches wide, in a 3-3-3 configuration, and has up to a 32-inch pitch. Each individual seat will feature a 10.6” in-flight entertainment screen. The extra width of the A350 cabin and flat sidewalls especially shine through in the rear two Y cabins.

Currently, Qatar does not offer a premium economy product.

The Lavatory

The lavatories are masterpieces in their own right. They are bathed in red colored light with a rose and a backlit mirror. There are touch sensitive controls to adjust water temperature. An elegant textured finish on the sink with an understated dark wood floor which are also in the galleys makes this room a show stopper. Plus, the lavatories have a sweet aromatic orange smell which is very pleasing. I could have stayed in here the whole flight, but I digress.

The In-Flight Meal

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Photo by Chris Sloan / AirwaysNews

Qatar is famed for its wine list. There were 9 vintages of wine and champagne on offer, Graham’s Tawny Port from 1969, and a full complement of spirits. In fact the airline controls alcohol  distribution in the dry country of Qatar. Sauvignon Blanc Craggy Range 2012 was the perfect and rather frequent accompaniment for my palette.

The appetizers included: Classic Arabic mezzo; Smoked mackerel with green bean salad . My delicious choice was a melding of delicious textures and spices. Three types of breads were also in the dish. The dish had an exquisite presentation which almost prevented me from eating it as it was too gorgeous.

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Photo by Chris Sloan / AirwaysNews

For the main course, there was the choice between: Tandoori paneer with mussalam sauce, Braised lamb shank with dried fruit couscous, and Marinated chicken beast with lentils. I went with the chicken and was not disappointed. The combination of lentils and walnuts – plus the juiciest chicken I have ever had in flight – translated into a dining experience that would be the envy of many at a gourmet restaurant. This airline is indeed a foodie paradise.

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Photo by Chris Sloan / AirwaysNews

After the main course, there was a cheese plate with cheeses, grapes, and chutney.  For desert, there was the choice between: a selection of seasoned fruits, ice cream, and Lauduree Ispahan which is a rise flavored soft macaron biscuit, rose petals cream, raspberries and lychees. Again, the presentation on this desert compelled me to want to frame it rather then consume it. The Lauduree Ispahan tasted as good as it looked.

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Photo by Chris Sloan / AirwaysNews

For light options during the flight, there was a selection of hot pastries and a grilled steak sandwich with balsamic onions and mustard mayonnaise on offer.

During the Flight

HE Al Baker, Qatar’s President and CEO, made several passes throughout aircraft personally inspecting the service and asking passengers if everything was OK service wise. Clearly as he walked around the cabin, he was inspecting every detail to make sure it was perfect. Crew and staff refer to him as “Chief”.CEO

The inflight the buffet / bar area became a common gathering point for conversation. It was unmanned, but it was stocked with Krug champagne, snacks, fresh fruit, and Godiva chocolates.  The two-piece unit itself is used for storing galley carts.

The A350 was of course very smooth and quiet. It’s easily possible to have a whisper like conversation on-board, and this trait came in handy as many people were sleeping during the flight. The A350 also has a sense of roominess which is what really gives the aircraft its edge. As mentioned before, the wide fuselage is a particular advantage in economy where Airbus is able to put to good effect the 18″ seat in a 3-3-3 configuration. Even with a 32″ pitch one can tell the difference especially at the window owing to the flat sidewalls. The wide-body cabin falls just short of the 777 diameter which is intentional to deter airlines from offering the dreaded ten abreast seating.

As our flight was a medium haul–six hours and twelve minutes from take off to touchdown–it wasn’t easy to detect the effect of the increased humidity and reduced pressurization levels. But  like is often the case, even with the jet lag I did notice that I felt more refreshed upon arrival. The air smelled very fresh and clean owing to the XWB’s zonal filtration system.

But as unique and special as the A350 XWB is, from a passenger experience, it is almost a secondary player to Qatar’s apex level of service. The plane itself doesn’t wow like an A380 with marketing gimmicks, but it certainly delights. Think of it this way, a Broadway play can have an amazing set and theater venue, but it is the story and actors that keep the audiences raving. In this case, Qatar is the story and the A350 is the set.

The On-Air WiFi was inoperative but that was a good thing as it left us with time to do old fashioned things like take in a movie, hang out at the bar, and convivially chat with other guests on the flight.

During the flight, I played with the IFE–dubbed Oryx  Thales TopSeries– and the remote control– dubbed TPMU Touch Passenger Media Unit — which control everything from IFE to window shades to lighting. Some basic functions on the IFE are controlled on screen, but most features are accessed by the remote control which is very useful when in recline position.

The IFE was one of my few complaints in that its not intuitive as to what is controlled on the screen and what’s controlled on the remote. The exhaustive list of entertainment options are time consuming, and at times, frustrating to scroll through on the remote’s small LCD screen. Qatar’s inflight entertainment catalog is a comprehensive, but fairly typical offering of movies, games, TV shows, and music in multiple languages, and there is of course the tail cam view with moving interactive map. Where the A380 has three cameras, the A350 settles for one camera but I am not complaining.

Following meal service, the cabin crew offered bedding turndown service. This service and pajamas are typically offered on ultra-long haul and night flights but Qatar wanted to demonstrate this to the press. Matters, duvet, and blanket were thoughtfully laid out by cabin crew. Unlike many carriers where the cabin crew then disappear to their bunks or the gallery, Qatar’s well coordinated inflight team continued to attend to us offering snacks, beverages, and conversation. It was evident that they were very proud of their airline.

About 25 minutes before arrival, the mood lighting transitioned to a soft, calming aqua, and just before landing, we were each personally thanked by the very hospitable crew for flying Qatar Airways and that they were looking forward to seeing us soon. Indeed, I hope I will see them all soon again as I did not want this flight to end. Luckily, I had six hours and twelve minutes to enjoy flying on Qatar’s A350.

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Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / JDL Multimedia

Upon arrival into Doha Hamad International Airport, we were carried on individual golf carts through the gorgeous – but mammoth – new airport by a concierge to be escorted to retrieve our luggage by a bellman. The concierge and bellman escort you all the way to ground transportation. This is a VIP service available on request. After a long journey into a newly discovered destination late in the evening, this is a very welcome perk.

Conclusion

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Chris Sloan on-board the A350 Delivery Flight

Qatar’s A350 Business product lives up to its billing as a First Class product at a Business Class price. The hard product, soft product, and very attentive, gracious, and multi-cultural service makes this a stand out regardless of competition. Apart from a few announcements and the presence of the airline’s CEO, this felt just like any other Qatar flight, and I think that was the point.

At this level of service in Business, I can only imagine to what levels Qatar’s A380 First Class service ascends to. Certainly the historic and special nature of the A350 delivery flight was a highlight. What I didn’t expect was that Qatar’s everyday level of service would actually eclipse the aircraft as the star of the show. Without a doubt, this was the highest level of service I have ever experienced. When an airline makes such an audacious claim as “World’s Best Business Class”, they had better deliver and Qatar did.

EXTRA: Photos from the Delivery Event

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Qatar Airways provided accommodations and flights to and from Doha. Our opinions remain our own.

Cover photo and latest photos courtesy of Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / JDL Multimedia.

Contact jack.harty@airwaysnews.com

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On-Board Qatar’s A350 XWB Media Flight

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

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

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

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

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

EXTRA: Photos from the Delivery Event

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EXTRA: The Airbus A350 Program Timeline

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EXTRA: PHOTOS from the Qatar A350 Delivery Event

A Long Road to Get to First Delivery

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Photo by Chris Sloan / AirwaysNews

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

EXTRA: The Airbus A350 XWB Timeline

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

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Photo by Chris Sloan / AirwaysNews

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

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

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

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

EXTRA: A Look Back at the A350 Program Timeline

Delivery Day

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

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

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

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Photo by Chris Sloan / AirwaysNews

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

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

Didier Evrad, EVP of A350 XWB Program: Program Highlights

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

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

EXTRA: Airbus A350 Wins EASA Certification

EXTRA: Airbus A350-900 Wins FAA Type Certification

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

EXTRA: Airbus A350 Completes World Tour

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

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

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

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

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

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

EXTRAEASA Approves Airbus A350 XWB for Record 370 minutes for ETOPS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Delivery

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

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

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

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

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

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

EXTRA: ANALYSIS: Emirates Cancellation Hardly a Setback for A350

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

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

EXTRA: PHOTOS: Airbus Unveils First A350 Cabin

EXTRA: Delta Snubs Boeing Again with Airbus Widebody Aircraft Order

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

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

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

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

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Qatar Airways to Take Delivery of First A350 Tomorrow

By AirwaysNews Staff  / Published December 21, 2014

Qatar Airways is set to take delivery of the first Airbus A350 XWB tomorrow in Toulouse, France. We are excited to be able to provide live coverage on Facebook and Twitter. We’ll also have a full story on the events that happen as the day progresses.10865792_663611287091286_3544246639658595703_o

*All times below are local to Toulouse, France.

From 10-10:45 AM, Airbus will hold a A350 XWB Briefing. After, we’ll bring coverage live from a press conference and provide photos of the first aircraft prior to the delivery ceremony. At this time, Didier Evrard, EVP A350 XWB and Kiran Rao, EVP Strategy & Marketing, will speak. (Approximately 4:00 AM EST).

At 11:00 AM local, another press conference will take place. Akbar Al Baker–Group CEO of Qatar Airways– Tony Wood–Rolls Royce President-Aerospace–and Fabrice Brégier–thePresident and CEO Airbus–will speak and answer questions.

At 12:00 PM local, we’ll bring live coverage from the delivery ceremony when the first A350 is handed over to its launch customer. Approximately an hour and a half later, Airbus will take media on-board a quick flight over France. (Approximately, 6:00 AM ET)

Later in the day, we’ll provide a behind the scenes look at the Airbus A350 Final Assembly Line. On Tuesday, we will be one of the few western media outlets to be on the delivery flight to Doha. This begins at 11AM local time.

Be sure to follow live coverage on Facebook and Twitter.

Meanwhile, enjoy some of our previous coverage of other A350 XWB program milestones:

EXTRA: See our Airbus A350 timeline from the beginning

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

EXTRA: Full Airbus A350 Maiden Flight and Airbus Delivery Center Gallery

Also, this video is a must see as five A350 XWB aircraft fly in formation.

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Contact: jack.harty@airwaysnews.com.

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Miami: We Have 100 Air Carriers

By Jack Harty / Published December 20, 2014

With the arrival of the first Frontier Airlines flight from Denver during the wee hours of Saturday morning, Miami International Airport became the only U.S. airport to offer passenger and cargo service on 100 different carriers.1779900_809012789154918_6720998159333686652_n

Last week, two airlines launched new flights to Miami. On Tuesday, Finnair launched seasonal flights between Helsinki, Finland and Miami on Tuesday, making it the airport’s 99th carrier, and today, Frontier Airlines became the 100th carrier as it launches flights from Miami to Chicago O’Hare, Denver, LaGuardia, Philadelphia, and Washington Dulles.

EXTRA: Frontier to Serve Miami International Airport

With the additions of Finnair and Frontier, Miami International Airport’s roster of air carriers will be comprised of:

  • 53 scheduled passenger carriers;

  • 26 scheduled all-cargo carriers;

  • 8 charter passenger carriers; and,

  • 13 charter all-cargo carriers

“Adding our 100th air carrier – and being the only U.S. airport to offer so many passenger and cargo options – is a great way to cap off another fantastic year of progress at MIA,” said Miami-Dade Aviation Director Emilio T. González. “Our 100-strong airline list is every bit as diverse as the community that we’re so proud to serve and support. More importantly, these carriers help drive our local economy and keep our community connected to the world.”

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

 

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Etihad Airways Showcases First 787 and A380 Abu Dhabi

By Jack Harty / Published December 18, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

Etihad’s A380

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

EXTRA: Etihad Unveils New Livery on First A380

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

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

The Residence

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

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

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

Boeing 787-9

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Photo by JDL Multimedia

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

EXTRA: Etihad Unveils First Boeing 787

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

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

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

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

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

Uniforms:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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