Category Archives: Major News

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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

FOOD 1

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.

FOOD 3

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.

FOOD 4

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.

JDL 6

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

IMG_7507

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.

AIRBUS-A350-TAKE-OFF-31

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

IMG_7509

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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US DOT Evaluating Future of Delta’s Seattle/Tokyo Haneda Slots

By AirwaysNews Staff / Published December 16, 2014

Delta-767-SEA-JDL-1

Image Credit – JDL Multimedia

The Department of Transportation (DOT) ruled Monday that it will evaluate whether Delta Air Lines will be able to keep the slot it uses to operate seasonal flights between Seattle and Tokyo’s Haneda Airport.

On October 25, 2010, the United States and Japan signed a Memorandum of Understanding to make four daily slot pairs available to carriers from each country to provide services between the United States and Tokyo’s Haneda Airport. This was a big deal for US carriers. Although many had a significant presence at Tokyo’s Naritia Airport, Haneda was and still is seen as an “airport of opportunities” thanks to being located closer to the city to Tokyo.

In 2010, Delta was granted two slot pairs at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport. The carrier opted to serve Haneda from both Detroit and Los Angeles, but in 2013, Delta moved its Detroit/Haneda slot pair to Seattle. This move came as Delta continued to build a large presence in Seattle and built a large portfolio of international flights; it saw Seattle as its gateway to Asia. 

One year after moving the Detroit/Haneda flight to Seattle, Delta announced that the Seattle/Haneda route would become seasonal. The carrier would not operate flights between the two cities from October 1, 2014 through March 29, 2015. The route change to seasonal was due to poor bookings and a general weakness of US carrier service to Tokyo Haneda. 

One month later, American Airlines filed a motion requesting that the DOT revoke Delta’s daily Seattle/Haneda slot pair. Instead, American wants to see the DOT allow American be awarded a slot pair to operate Los Angeles/Haneda flights. In the report, American points out that Delta is operating the Seattle/Haneda flights seasonally, but it will operate it one week every 90 days which is just enough to ensure that it does not automatically lose the slot pair to the DOT. American also says that Delta over promised the consumer benefit of Seattle/Haneda flights.

Shortly after American filed a notion, Hawaiian also got involved. It asked the DOT to reopen the case where Delta was awarded the Seattle/Haneda slot pair and to modify the dormancy condition that would require Delta to provide year-round service. Hawaiian also asked the DOT to institute a new proceeding to develop a factual record before reallocating the slot pair should they decide to go that route. The carrier also said that it would apply to provide year-round service to Haneda from Los Angeles with full utilization of the slot pair should the DOT consider new applications. Finally, the DOT report says Hawaiian “argues that Delta’s Haneda strategy is not about providing service or competition, but “playing keep away” with valuable air service rights – all to protect Delta’s Narita hub.”

So far, United Airlines has remained quiet. Earlier this year, United started serving Tokyo Haneda from its Asian gateway, San Francisco.

Despite the acquisitions, Delta asserts that its in the clear as it is in full compliance how frequently it must operate the route and that the winter had a very low forecast demand. Additionally, the DOT report says:

“Delta asserts that it has firm plans to resume its Seattle-Haneda service on March 29, 2015. Delta further asserts that the public interest case for Seattle-Haneda authority is even stronger today than when the Department originally allowed Delta to move its Haneda gateway from Detroit to Seattle. Delta argues that the Department’s 2013 decision remains correct and that there is no reason to revisit that case. Delta states that it is working hard to make its Seattle- Haneda service a permanent, year-round success, and that by the start of the next winter season Delta will have the support of 35 additional Delta/Delta Connection flights providing feed into its Seattle hub.”

Delta does go on to question American’s attempt to seek Haneda slots since American relinquished its New York JFK/Haneda slot pair, and when it did so, American did not at that time seek slots to operate Los Angeles/Haneda flights.

Based on the December 15, 2014 ruling, the DOT says:

In light of Delta’s extensive winter-season Seattle-Haneda service cutbacks, the submissions of American and Hawaiian and the responses thereto, the Department believes that the public interest requires a fresh examination of whether the best use of the Seattle-Haneda opportunity is to allow Delta to retain the slot pair for Seattle-Haneda service, or whether the public interest would be better served by reallocating the slot pair for service from another U.S. city by another U.S. carrier or by Delta.

Now, the DOT says “parties will be free to argue in favor of maintaining the allocation to Delta for Seattle-Haneda service, or in favor of allocating the slot pair to a different U.S. carrier, or to Delta for a different U.S. city. ”

The DOT is allowing parties to submit applications to an alternative gateway to Haneda. Now, who will submit applications to take over the slot?

It is very likely that American will push for the DOT to award it Delta’s Seattle/Haneda slot pair to operate flights between Los Angeles and Haneda. Although, if awarded, the new flight would overlap Delta’s current flight. Regardless, American is focused on getting the slot pair, and it says that it could start operating the route as soon as next month.

Hawaiian will also likely make a push to be awarded the slot pair.

Will Delta keep its Seattle/Haneda slot pair, or could it relocate it to another city? That remains to be seen, but Delta is focused on keeping the slot pair. One issue with the current slot pair is the timings of the flights in and out of Haneda. Could Delta or another carrier be able to strike a deal to retime the flights to make it better for its customers?

Who will win is the question of the hour. A decision is expected early next year.

Stay tuned…

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

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American to Add WiFi To Regional Jets

By Jack Harty / Published December 11, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Contact the author at jack.harty@airwaysnews.com

Contact the editor at benet.wilson@airwaysnews.com

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

by Vinay Bhaskara / Published October 17th, 2014

Editor’s note: In part 1 of our analysis, we offered a history of the Wright Amendment, and took a look at Southwest Airlines’ prospects now that it has been lifted at Dallas Love Field after 43 long years of fighting.  Today we look at competitor American Airlines’ competitive response at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

Competitive Impact on American Will Be Mixed

There is no question that the end of the Wright Amendment will have an adverse impact on American’s O&D market and revenue share in the markets affected. O&D passengers are more profitable than connecting ones, and insofar as American’s absolute O&D figures on these routes is set to decline, this will generate a hit on the profitability of American’s largest hub at DFW. Southwest Airlines is the leader or even with American in terms of O&D market share in the 16 markets it currently serves, and while American generates a fare premium in those markets, for the 14 city pairs where Southwest is adding service, American currently generates 60% O&D market share and 70% O&D revenue share. From here on out, it will trade those figures for something like 45% and 60%.

American Airlines Airbus A319 at DFW

American Airlines Airbus A319 at DFW

American’s stranglehold on business travel in the region should continues, as it will offer superior frequency in every single market save Oakland, which it does not compete directly in (while offering a combined 16 daily flights to San Francisco and San Jose in the Bay Area). Business customers have a well established preference for higher frequency, and when combined with the massive global reach of American’s DFW hub including rapidly growing links to Asia, corporate contracts centered on the region will continue to (heavily) favor American. This is not to say that Southwest will not be able to capture a substantial share of business traffic. It already does so in existing markets from Dallas Love Field, but that market share (driven disproportionately by Austin, Houston, New Orleans, and San Antonio) is generated in part because Southwest is at parity with American in terms of frequency on those routes.

In the near term, the impact of Southwest’s entry will likely be O&D revenue and share declines, and likely a modest hit on margins. However, in the long run, American has a couple of factors weighing in its favor.

Banking on Connectivity

American is counting on its re-banking initiative to boost connectivity at DFW, with a commensurate jump in revenue. The plan is driven by the experience of pre-merger US Airways, who rode banked hubs at Philadelphia and especially Charlotte to high profitability despite limited O&D markets.

Relative to the rolling hub structure that American currently uses at DFW with flights spaced (relatively) evenly throughout the day, the new banked hub will feature far more volatility. In a banked hub structure (the most common type around the world), flights depart and arrive in alternating waves, and at a hub of DFW’s size, these waves might number 50 or 60 cities at a time. Banked hubs offer more connectivity than rolling ones, which raises revenue potential, but they also cause challenges in terms of asset utilization and cascading delays at certain airports. However, American is rolling out banking projects at DFW, Chicago O’Hare, and Miami, seeking to boost revenue as the merger changes traffic flows.

Specifically with regards to the Wright Amendment, American will lose some traffic that migrates to Southwest’s new services. Love Field is extremely convenient for Dallas based leisure travelers (though DFW is quite convenient in its own right), and overall, the airline will win passengers away. But American will be able to offset that traffic decline by filling its planes with connections. And thanks to the ever-increasing pricing power of U.S. airlines, American should be able to maintain margins and absolute profitability in the market with high-fare connecting passengers.

Economics and Demographics Favor American

One of American Airlines DFW Hub Terminals seen in the late 1980s.

One of American Airlines DFW Hub Terminals seen in the late 1980s.

The Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area is one of the fastest growing in the United States. Cheap housing and a booming economy are drawing residents to the region, while businesses lured by Texas’ business-friendly tax policies and regulatory environment have generated well-paying jobs. These demographic and economic trends have boosted air travel demand, both leisure and business, substantially over the past 25 years and are expected to do so for at least another 15.

Clearly this is beneficial for both carriers, which will see fuller planes and rising demand. But American is better positioned than Southwest to take advantage of the growth of the region, and the reason has to do with the compromise allowing Southwest to begin nationwide service in the first place. Thanks to the 20-gate cap, of which Southwest is unlikely to control more than the 16 it does today, Southwest is effectively stuck at 153 or 155 flights per day as the natural limit for daily utilization of its gates. Now there are ways for it to grow its operation at Love Field as we will outline below, but those methods have drawbacks and once again have a natural limiting factor.

Meanwhile American basically has no restrictions at DFW. It has plenty of terminal space to expand into today, and the airport has ample room for additional terminals as necessary. As O&D demand rises in the Metroplex, American will be able to soak up a larger share of the growth than Southwest (because of both frequency and network – it will always serve more destinations), and it would not be surprising to see American holding 50- to 70-percent O&D splits even in markets where it competes head-to-head with Southwest a decade from now.

Southwest Is Not As Much of A Threat as it Used To Be

Fifteen years ago, the prospect of a Southwest freed from the shackles of the Wright Amendment would have rightly terrified American, who would have been undercut at every turn by a nimble, low-cost carrier and see fares plummet. Today? Southwest isn’t really a low-cost carrier and it needs similar fares to those required by American for profitability. The cost gap between the two airlines has narrowed substantially, and while Southwest remains a formidable competitor, it is a different kind of competitor.

Moreover, American also has an advantage in its new management team, composed primarily of pre-merger US Airways executives. No legacy airline did a better job of fighting off Southwest than US Airways (who had no choice given its revenue shortfalls). While Las Vegas was sacrificed to Southwest and Allegiant, US Airways more than held its own in Phoenix and most notably, drove Southwest out of Philadelphia with its tail between its legs after Southwest attempted to build a secondary Northeast connecting complex with close to 75 daily departures. If you could pick one management team to face off with Southwest in a post-Wright Amendment world, it would be Doug Parker, Scott Kirby, and company.

Southwest’s Growth Opportunities are Limited

Circling back to Southwest for a moment, its growth prospects at Love Field are not great. The natural cap for its daily departures is around 155 unless it can get its hand on more gates. That being said, in terms of pure capacity, Southwest does have some room for growth on the basis of aircraft mix. For the January day in question, Southwest will split its 153 daily departures across all four aircraft types in its fleet, including 24 daily 737-300s, 30 daily 737-500s, 87 daily 737-700s, and 12 daily 737-800s. That works out to 21,633 outbound seats, a substantial increase over pre-repeal capacity. But just 12 of the 153 flights use the 737-800, which seats 175 passengers versus 143 for the 737-300 and 737-700 and 122 for the 737-500. Replacing smaller 737s with the 737-800, of which Southwest has an additional 43 on order, or (later) the 737 MAX 8 or 737 MAX 9, could be its best strategy for capacity.

If Southwest were to convert all of its daily flights (up to 155) to the 737-800 or eventually the 737 MAX 8, it could offer 27,125 daily outbound seats. If it upgauged even further to the 737 MAX 9 as has been heavily rumored, and assuming a 200-seat MAX 9, it could offer up to 31,000 daily outbound seats. Using annualized comparisons (which are imperfect given that this analysis uses peak-day departures), that’s the equivalent of adding more than 4 million or 6.5 million annual seats (bi-directional) respectively.

Compositionally, Southwest does not have a ton of room to grow with additional destinations. That being said, in a scenario where it up-gauges to the 737-800, it could conceivably free up frequencies for new destinations. Consolidating the Houston Hobby service to an hourly shuttle would free up six daily flights, while consolidating Austin and San Antonio to eight daily flights apiece would add four to the tally. Albuquerque, Lubbock, and Midland could be brought down to three daily departures apiece, as could Amarillo and El Paso, adding eight additional frequencies. Finally, Kansas City, New Orleans and St. Louis could each drop down to six daily flights, giving Southwest a total of 22 additional frequencies to work with.

There’s also the chance that Southwest entirely eliminates Wichita and Birmingham from the network – two relatively recent additions with small O&D markets for another five daily flights. And if it has enough profitable opportunities, Southwest could eliminate Amarillo, Lubbock, and Midland entirely, giving it a grand total of roughly 36 additional frequencies to work with. In Southwest’s hands, that could generate anywhere from six to 18 new destinations (likely somewhere in the middle).

Of course paring frequency in existing markets will reduce Southwest’s O&D market and revenue shares in those markets, some of which could conceivably bounce back to American. Yet another reason why the competitive dynamics in the market are hardly dire for American.

Hardly #NonstopLove

With its heady marketing taglines and a well-timed sale launched just a day after the expiration, Southwest has certainly scored points and set the expectation that it will drive down fares. But Dallas consumers should not expect a sudden decline in ticket prices thanks to Southwest’s entry. In fact for many, ticket prices will actually increase. 

As we mentioned before, Southwest Airlines is no longer a purely low-lost carrier, but rather a hybrid network carrier with a complex business model and variegated product offering. The Southwest Effect above and beyond standard new entrant impact is dead, and the days of Southwest offering genuinely cheap fares is gone. In the Metroplex, that role will continue to fall to ultra-low cost carrier Spirit Airlines.

Southwest needs fares at roughly the same level as American to generate profits, and accordingly the pricing in most markets shouldn’t decline more than 5-7%. Moreover, there are many customers, who had previously traveled outside the perimeter from Love Field, for whom fares are actually going to increase.  After 2006, Southwest began selling “through” tickets at Love Field – direct, one-stop flights to beyond perimeter cities via an allowed airport. These one-stop flights helped Southwest fill its planes as traditional demand patterns tailed off, but they also were extremely low yielding. In many of the markets where it is adding nonstop service, Southwest was the lowest fare carrier in Q3 of 2013. Southwest is going to want to charge a premium for new non-stop service and accordingly passengers will have far fewer dirt-cheap one-stop flights from Love Field. Anyone expecting fares in the Metrpolex to drop sharply as a result of repealment is in for a disappointing surprise.

Partying Like its 1996

Southwest’s festive celebration of the passing of the Wright Amendment gave the impression that the market had changed in a monumental manner, but realistically, the Metroplex has simply returned to its status quo for much of the post-deregulation era. For years, American was the dominant player at DFW, but it was held in check by Delta Air Lines, who had a large hub in its own right at DFW (though American still led the market).

Southwest Airlines was the cheap, no-frills carrier who offered limited service to myriad destinations. Today? American is a dominant player at DFW though it is held in check by Southwest, who has a large operation in its own right at Love Field (and bears close resemblance to legacy carriers today). Spirit Airlines is the cheap, no-frills carrier that offers limited service to myriad destinations. Southwest Airlines may be overjoyed at the elimination of the Wright Amendment. But for many customers in the Dallas – Fort Worth metro area, their emotions today might be more aptly described as a muted sense of deja vu.

Related Stories
ANALYSIS: Wright Amendment Expiration Highlights Battle Between American and Southwest – Part 1

Southwest Trumpets End of Wright Amendment Restrictions at Dallas Love Field

Virgin America Makes Move to Dallas Love Field

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Contact the author at vinay.bhaskara@airwaysnews.com

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

by Vinay Bhaskara / Published October 16th, 2014

At 12:01 am Monday, Southwest Airlines’ personal Berlin Wall came down, as the Dallas-based airline was allowed to begin non-stop service from Dallas Love Field to destinations across the contiguous United States, resolving a 43-year fight by the carrier to add service from its home base. The move, along with expansion by other airlines into the newly freed environs of Love Field, has created an unprecedented state of competition for origin and destination (O&D) in the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area, challenging the hegemony of current market leader American Airlines.

A Protracted Battle

Written in 1979, the Wright Amendment was a federal law that governed air traffic at Love Field. Aimed at protecting massive government investment into the new Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), the Wright Amendment prevented airlines from using aircraft larger than 56 seats at Love Field to serve destinations outside of the states of Texas, New Mexico, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. Flights between Love Field and airports in those states could be operated by aircraft of any size. While in theory, this law allowed for airlines flying small jets and turboprops to serve the entire nation, in practice (as the case of Legend Airlines illustrated) American Airlines was quick to quash any full-service competition at Love Field. As a low-cost carrier (LCC) with a single type fleet of Boeing 737, Southwest Airlines, one of few tenants who refused to leave Love Field for DFW, couldn’t take advantage of the 56-seat exception and was hemmed in by the restrictions of the Wright Amendment.

Defenders of the Wright Amendment claimed that it was necessary to protect the metro area’s investment into its green field airport, rightly pointing to examples such as Montreal’s Mirabel International Airport or Osaka’s Kansai International Airport of cities allowing traffic to be split across two different airports and losing traffic and airline hubs accordingly. Meanwhile, opponents of the law claimed that it was anti-competitive and a violation of free market principles, as well as needlessly restrictive. Both arguments held merit. Especially when DFW was opened, it was unclear whether the metropolitan area would have enough air traffic to justify two competing airports. Allowing two airports to fight over a limited pool of traffic often is a mistake, and strategically, the decision was justifiable at the time.

But the new connecting complexes built by American Airlines and Delta Air Lines meant that traffic at DFW boomed beyond anyone’s expectations and by the mid-1990s, DFW was over capacity, and it was clear that Love Field could be opened to new flying without damaging its prospects. While the airport and the city of Fort Worth managed to limit a 1997 repealment push to add Kansas, Alabama, and Mississippi, Missouri was added to the list of approved states with a 2005 amendment, and in 2006, another major push towards repealment that began in 2004 generated the compromise you see today.

The Specifics

Under the terms of the compromise ending the Wright Amendment in 2006, airlines are now free to begin service across the contiguous United States from Love Field, but the number of gates available to airlines will be capped at 20.  Of the 20 gates, Southwest will control 16 while United and Virgin America will control two apiece. Combined, the airlines will use these 20 gates to offer 178 flights per day by Thursday, January 15th, 2015, including 153 by Southwest, 13 by Virgin America, and 12 by United. Additionally, Delta Air Lines operates five flights per day to Atlanta, but those flights are in danger after Delta lost its lease on American’s gates (which were divested to Virgin America as part of the approval process for the American-US Airways merger).

Non Southwest Love Field Service

Delta is currently working with the city and other airlines (temporarily gaining accommodation at one of Southwest’s gates) on a deal to continue service but will otherwise be kicked out of the airport on January 5, 2015. The table to the right summarize peak-day frequency for the three airlines at Love Field (assuming Delta retains service) in January 2015. Virgin America will clearly be the second-largest airline at the airport, but United and Virgin America will operate just 25 daily departures (including 12 ERJ-145s with very quick turnaround times) across four gates for an average of 6.25 departures per gate, against Southwest’s 153 departures from 16 gates (9.6 departures per gate). Unless both airlines plan to expand operations, each could assist and/or be forced (in the case of a lawsuit) to accommodate Delta’s operations.

Southwest’s Operation

Southwest’s new non-stop service from Love Field will roll out in three phases to 17 new destinations, boosting the airline’s service offering at the airport from 116 daily departures to 153 by January 15, 2015, the peak day chosen for this analysis.

 

On Monday October 13, 2014,  Southwest launched service to the following destinations:

  • Denver
  • Chicago (Midway)
  • Baltimore/Washington
  • Washington, D.C. (Reagan National)
  • Las Vegas
  • Los Angeles (LAX)
  • Orlando

The following eight routes will begin November 2, 2014.

  • Phoenix
  • Orange County/Santa Ana
  • San Diego
  • Tampa Bay
  • Ft. Lauderdale
  • New York City (LaGuardia)
  • Atlanta
  • Nashville

And service to the final two destinations in Southwest’s initial round of expansion will begin on January 6, 2015.

  • San Francisco
  • Oakland

Southwest Love Field FrequenciesAll told, Southwest will operate 153 peak-day departures to 33 destinations. Frequencies for the 16 pre-repeal destinations on January 15, 2015 are shown to the right, with total frequency chopped down from 116 daily departures to 100. This reduction in frequency mostly happened to out of state destinations which had seen boosted frequencies due to Southwest’s ability to sell one-stop direct tickets to destinations outside the Wright Amendment “perimeter” via an intermediate stop within the perimeter. Since 2006, this has been the lifeblood of the Love Field operation, according to CEO Gary Kelly.

Meanwhile the chart below displays frequency to the new destinations for Southwest, along with a summary of American’s frequency (daily departures) for the same day of January 15, 2015. The fourth through seventh columns present a summary of key origin and destination (O&D) market data for the third quarter of 2013, representing the peak travel season for the DFW market. PDEW measures the O&D traffic demand for the market per day in each direction, fare and yield are self-explanatory, and the final column states whether American is the leader in O&D passengers or notes which competitor has the O&D lead otherwiseSouthwest vs. American at Love Field

Southwest is flying to 17 new destinations from Love Field, but only 14 new city pairs. The competitive dynamics with American are interesting, but what is key to note is that unlike some of the in-state quasi-shuttle routes, frequency to these new destinations is relatively low, with only New York La Guardia, Washington Reagan, and Chicago Midway surpassing five daily departures.

In part two of this story, Bhaskara covers American Airlines’ competitive response and the future of Southwest Airlines at Dallas Love Field.

Image Courtesy of Jack Harty

Related Stories
Southwest Trumpets End of Wright Amendment Restrictions at Dallas Love Field
Southwest Airlines Unveils New Livery and Brand
Southwest CCO Robert Jordan On Business Traveling, Rising Fares
Has “The Spirit Effect” Replaced ” The Southwest Effect?”

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Contact the author at vinay.bhaskara@airwaysnews.com

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China Airlines Takes Aesthetically Innovative First Boeing 777-300ER

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

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

By Brandon Farris / Published Sunday October 5th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chinese New Year theme.

Chinese New Year theme.

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

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

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

The tea and literature area of the Sky Lounge.

The tea and literature area of the Sky Lounge.

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

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

A set up Skycouch shows how it would work.

A set up Skycouch shows how it would work.

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

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

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

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

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

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Air China Takes Delivery of Its First 747-8 Intercontinental

By Brandon Farris / Published September 30th, 2014

IMG_0373

Air China  took delivery of its first Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental Monday, becoming the second operator in the world of the passenger variant of the Boeing 747-8.

“Air China has been operating 747s since the 1980s,” said Song Zhiyong, president of Air China, “This iconic airplane has played an important role in Air China’s international development and has also witnessed many milestones of the reform and opening-up of China. We are very proud to introduce the new 747-8 into our fleet to continue its tradition into the future.”

Mr. Zhiyong, a certified 747 pilot, will fly the carrier’s new flagship aircraft home with one of his pilots. Coincidentally, the 747-8 will fly to China on the same day that the first 747 rolled out back in 1968.

With seven additional 747-8 aircraft on order, Air China will initially use the aircraft domestically in October for training purpose, before expanding internationally with service to Frankfurt, Los Angeles, and New York as they take delivery of more 747-8is. Service to Frankfurt will begin in January 2015, but exact dates for the latter routes have not been officially disclosed.

“We are extremely honored to partner with Air China to introduce the first 747-8 Intercontinental into Asia,” said Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and CEO Ray Conner, “The 747-8 Intercontinental will deliver improved operating economics, efficiency and environmental performance in support of Air China’s growing long-haul fleet. This historic delivery demonstrates the continuity of our long and enduring partnership with Air China.”

Air China has configured its 747-8i with 365 seats in a four-class configuration ( 12F / 54J / 66y+ / 233Y ). The premium economy cabin will feature 38 inches of seat pitch while the economy class will feature a 33 inches of pitch. Additionally, the first class suite will actually be located behind the flatbed business class seats as Air China feared the suites would be constrained by the narrow nose. The plane was not open for media tours and no photos were available from the carrier at the time of publish.

Sales of the 747-8i have been extremely disheartening for Boeing, causing the airframer to reduce production to 1.5 aircraft per month. However, Boeing executives are upbeat that  the type will win new orders soon. Korean Air will be the next airline to receive the Boeing 747-8i.

See below for additional photographs from the Air China event

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

By John Walton / Published September 29th, 2014

Qantas-ipad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PAL wireless streaming entertainment

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

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

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

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

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

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Contact the editor at vinay.bhaskara@airchive.com

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Analysis: Airbus A320neo First Flight Is a Triumph of Incrementalism

By Vinay Bhaskara / Published September 25th, 2014

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

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

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

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

Operating Economics Boosted

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

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

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

Family Success

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

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

Airbus’ Greatest Triumph

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

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

The Age of Incrementalism 

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

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

Eurasia to the Rescue?

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

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Contact the author at vinay.bhaskara@airchive.com

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