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Etihad Airways Unveils First Boeing 787

By Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, Special to Airways News / Published September 27, 2014

Etihad 7879 JDL -2EVERETT, WA: Etihad welcomed its first Boeing 787, adorned in the company’s freshly unveiled livery, Saturday night in Seattle. The jet is the first of 41 787-9 Dreamliners the Abu Dhabi-based carrier has on order.

The airplane was revealed in an elaborate display, pulled out of a Boeing company paint hangar to flashing lights and applause.

Despite being out in the open, the airplane still has yet to fly, however, with delivery still weeks away.

Once delivered the airplane will begin serving nearby Doha beginning in early December, according to the carrier. It will move toward long-haul flying several weeks later, with Dusseldorf, Washington DC, Mumbai, Brisbane, and Moscow on the short-list.

On board, early -9 models will seat 235 in a three-class configuration.

Eight first-class suites will be available. Each features a full turn-down service, inflight chef, in-seat massage, and mini-bar.

Business class will seat 28 in a 1-2-1 layout. Etihad is calling them ‘Business Studios’, featuring 80.5 inches of pitch and 22 inch wide seats. Each has a dining table, ample storage, and finer aesthetic features such as lamps.

Economy will seat 199, utilizing a relatively new seat design called smart seats. Each features a fixed headrest, apparently made with camel leather, for sleeping along with a six inch recline. Pitch will range between 31 and 33 inches with a width of 17.2 inches. An 11.1 inch touchscreen will be available as well along with USB and standard charging ports/outlets.

Later models will ditch the suites, however, in favor of a two-class layout. All versions will be equipped with Panasonic’s eX3 entertainment platform.

Etihad 7879 JDL -1
JDL Multimedia 2014, for Airways News JDL Multimedia 2014, for Airways News

MORE PHOTOS: Etihad Airways Boeing 787 Debut

The event to some degree played second fiddle to another Etihad delivery earlier this week. The carrier accepted its first of 10 Airbus A380 airplanes on Thursday in Hamburg, Germany. The airplane was the first to wear the company’s newest livery.

The super-jumbo jets have garnered considerable attention for the inclusion of what Etihad dubs “The Residence”. Featuring 125 square feet of space split between three rooms, a personal butler, and private shower, the ultra exclusive first-class cabin will be available for the low-low price of $21,000US per flight. The airplane will debut on Abu Dhabi – London late this year.

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Contact the author at jeremy@JDLMultimedia.com or follow him on Twitter @photoJDL

Disclosure: Airways News & the author were a guest of Etihad at an all-expenses paid dinner at Aqua Seattle on September 26. Our writing and opinions remain independent.

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American Airlines Celebrates 25th Anniversary of Miami Hub

By Luis Linares / Published September 26th, 2014

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American Boeing 767-223ER landing at MIA:  Photo by Luis Linares / Airways News

In September 1989, American Airlines made a bold decision to transform its small operation in Miami into a major hub and international gateway. At the time, Eastern Airlines and Pan American World Airways (Pan Am) were the main carriers at Miami International Airport (MIA), especially when it came to connecting South Florida to Latin America and the Caribbean. Eastern had taken over the Latin American operations of bankrupt Braniff in 1982. However, Eastern and Pan Am both collapsed in January and December 1991 respectively.  American bought Eastern’s Latin American routes in 1989, while United bought those of Pan Am in 1991.  American was founded in 1926, but had not served MIA until it started a modest presence there in 1979. Finally, financial troubles contributed to United closing its MIA to Latin American service in 2002, leaving American alone at the top.

Extra: Historic images and memorabilia from Miami International Airport

Timetables

Timetables showing evolution of MIA hub – Braniff 1982, Eastern 1989, and American 1990:  Images from Airways News Collection

American’s Operations at MIA

As American celebrates the 25th anniversary of its MIA expansion, the airline boasts 339 flights per day that connect MIA to 123 destinations around the world — more than 100 of them not served by any other domestic carrier at the airport.  This makes American the top US airline serving Latin America, with more flights than any other carrier.  In addition to service to cities in the U.S. and Latin America, American also serves Europe with flights to Barcelona, London, Madrid, and Paris and Canada with flights to Montreal and Toronto. American’s service today is larger than the combined service of Eastern and Pan Am at their peak of operations at MIA.  Before taking over for Eastern, American had a modest operation consisting of only 19 flights per day at MIA.

EA 752 - MIA - Jose Lauzardo AA - 752 - MIA - LFL
Boeing 757s then & now at MIA – Eastern Boeing 757-225:  Photo by Jose Lauzardo and American Boeing 757-223:  Photo by Luis Linares / Airways News

In an airport press release this week, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Miami-Dade Aviation Director Emilio Gonzales congratulated American on its milestone.  Mayor Gimenez said, “American Airlines is without a doubt one of the community partners that has had the greatest impact on our local economy.  AA is responsible for nearly 70 percent of the flights at our top economic engine, a vast route network drawing leisure, and business travelers to our region from around the globe, and more than 11,000 employees in its Miami hub operations — they have truly helped build Miami into a world-class city like none other. On behalf of the residents of Miami-Dade Country, it’s my pleasure to congratulate our partners at American on the 25th anniversary of their Miami hub.  Thank you for your unwavering commitment to our community.”  Aviation Director Gonzales remarked, “I proudly congratulate American Airlines on its 25th anniversary of establishing Miami International Airport as its hub for Latin America and the Caribbean.  Since its decision in 1989 to build a gateway to the Americas at MIA, American has expanded from 19 daily flights to more than 340 this year — an all-time record.  The partnership between American and MIA has truly been a match made in heaven – service between MIA and 121 destinations around the world and more than 27 million annual passengers, all served by MIA’s award-winning North Terminal.  As MIA closes in on another record-setting year for passenger traffic and American continues their expansion at MIA with new routes like Cap-Haitien, and Campinas, Brazil in the coming months, I offer my deepest congratulations and thanks to the American Airlines Miami hub team for 25 groundbreaking years and more to come.”

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American Boeing 727-223 in 1999:  Photo by Chris Sloan / Aircways News

The North Terminal (Concourse D)

Today, American operates from MIA’s state-of-the art North Terminal (AKA: Concourse D).  In 1989, this area consisted of three “finger” terminals designated as Concourses B, C, and D.  MIA added Concourse A in 1998.  As American’s presence grew, so did the need for significant expansion and modernization of its facilities.  The transformation of Concourses A to D into the North Terminal began in 1998 and was supposed to be completed in 2005, but the project faced many delays because of cost overruns. Furthermore, the Miami-Dade Country Aviation Department took over the project from American Airlines during a tense time that involved major legal action between the county and the airline stemming from the delays and higher costs that resulted in a five-year delay.  By August 2010, all gates and extensions to the building were finished.  A new international arrivals facility opened August 2012, and three more gates opened in August 2013.  The official completion of the North Terminal project was in February 2014 with the opening of the baggage handling system’s international-to-domestic transfer.

Extra: Extensive Photo Gallery of Miami International Airport and the AA Hub.

Terminal

Evolution of MIA Terminal – 1990, 2005, and 2014:  Images from Airways News collection

North Terminal Construction - MIA - CS Concourse E - MIA - CS
North Terminal under construction in 2002 and American using Concourse E gates in 2003:  Photos by Chris Sloan / Airways News

The result is a 3.6 million square foot linear facility that absorbed Concourses A and D, while B and C were demolished. The new terminal, designed by Corgan Associates, Anthony C. Baker Architects and Panners, Perez & Perez, and Leo A. Daly, measures 1.2 miles in length and consists of 45 gates designated D1 to D12, D12 to D17, D19 to D25, D29 to D33, D37 to D40, D42 to D51, D53, D55, and D60.  The facility handles 20 million passengers annually. American has two Admirals Clubs, one by D15 and the other by D30. American Eagle uses the ground-level gates D53, D55, and D60 located on the westernmost side of the terminal.  A people mover known as “Skytrain” opened in September 2010 to facilitate the movement of passengers from one end of the terminal to the other, and it has four stops at gates D17, D24, D29, and D46.  Despite the enormous size of the North Terminal, American’s operations still overflow to the older Concourse E, which can be reached from the North Terminal via a connecting walkway.

MIA North Terminal Interior MIA Skytrain
Concourse interior and Skytrain entrance at North Terminal:  Photos by Chris Sloan / Airways News

King at MIA

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American classic and new tails at North Terminal:  Photo by Luis Linares / Airways News

American emerged from bankruptcy with a new look and merged with US Airways in early 2013 to form American Airlines CEO Doug Parker reintroduced the “banking” of American’s hubs in August 2013, starting with MIA.  Prior to the merger, the old management used the” rolling” system, which had been established after the 9/11 attacks, for its hub operations in order to minimize costs during this financially difficult period.  The re-banking of movements means many flights will land within a narrow time period, and take-off within a similar narrow time window.  The goal is to maximize connections, as well as increase revenue.  The only risk that comes with banking MIA is the heavy afternoon thunderstorms during the summer months.  Regardless, American’s dominant position at MIA is very likely to remain unchallenged, especially with no competitor present to match the scope of Latin American operations.

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American Boeing 737-823 in classic and new look at MIA:  Photo by Luis Linares / Airways News

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Boeing 777-323ER viewed from Skytrain:  Photo by Luis Linares / Airways News

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Contact the author at luis.linares@airwaysnews.com

Contact the editor at vinay.bhaskara@airwaysnews.com

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Aloha Air Cargo Announces Los Angeles Service

By Benjamin Bearup / Published September 23rd, 2014

Image Credit - Aloha Air Cargo

Image Credit – Aloha Air Cargo

Aloha Air Cargo will begin nonstop cargo service between Honolulu and Los Angeles beginning October 23.  Aloha Air Cargo says that the new service will, “be geared toward freight forwarders, consolidators, passenger carrier partners, and businesses looking to sync up with Aloha’s existing inter island network, for seamless movement of through cargo shipments to the Neighboring Hawaiian Islands.”

Aloha will utilize a Boeing 767-300F cargo aircraft that the airline will take delivery of in the coming weeks. The new route will be operated five times per week and will arrive in Honolulu at the strategic time of 5:00 am, enabling cargo connections through Aloha’s inter island route system, which serves Lihu’e, Kahului, Kona, and Hilo. Aloha is betting on this new route to drastically increase customer options and increase freight volumes between the United States and Hawaii. Flight schedules for the new route are as follow:

HNL – LAX ~~ D: 1430 A: 2245 ~~ 12345

LAX – HNL ~~ D: 0200 A: 0500 ~~ 23456

Currently, Aloha Air Cargo operates a small fleet of six aircraft, including two Boeing 737-200C aircraft capable of carrying 30,000 pounds of cargo, two Boeing 737-300F aircraft capable of carrying 42,900 pounds of freight, and two Saab 340’s capable of carrying 7,700 pounds of freight. The new 767-300F will have a capacity of 125,000 pounds, which will greatly increase Alohas overall cargo capacity. Currently one 737-200C, and one 737-300F are stored and out of service. Aloha will initially wet-lease the aircraft.

The new route will face competition from cargo giants Federal Express (FedEx) and UPS who both operate similar service from Honolulu to Los Angeles International Airport and Ontario International Airport respectively (both routes operate five times per week). Additional competition will be provided by Kalitta Air who operates varying service from Honolulu International to Los Angeles utilizing the 747-200 and from regional giant Hawaiian Airlines who utilizes the cargo holds of its Airbus A330-200 aircraft.

Aloha Air Cargo is the survivor and successor of Aloha Airlines, which was Hawaii’s second airline for decades. Aloha was at one time, the largest air carrier in Hawaii, and it became a common site at airports along the west coast of the United States, and throughout Hawaii’s largest airports. Over the years, Aloha obtained an impressive fleet of over 20 737 family aircraft including several Boeing 737NG models with ETOPS certification that allowed Aloha to fly long distance routes. After more than 60 years of commercial service, Aloha Airlines announced that it would file for bankruptcy and would suspend all flight operations in March of 2008, citing rising fuel expenses and intense interisland competition with Hawaiian Airlines, and go! Airlines (a subsidiary of regional giant Mesa Airlines). Shortly after ceasing passenger operations, Aloha Airlines sold off its largely successful cargo division. After several unsuccessful negotiations and under the pressure of Hawaii governor Linda Lingle and Senator Daniel Inouye, Seattle-based Saltchuk Resources purchased Aloha’s cargo division for $10.5 million.

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Contact the editor at vinay.bhaskara@airwaysnews.com

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PHOTOS: First Virgin Atlantic 787 Takes Flight

By Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, Special to Airways News / Published September 23, 2014

Virgin 787-9 JDLMultimedia-2EVERETT, WA: Virgin Atlantic’s first Boeing 787-9 took to the cloudy skies over Puget Sound on Tuesday.

Virgin will be the first European operator of the stretched Dreamliner, and the fourth overall, following ANA, Air New Zealand, and United. Delivery of the jet is expected in mid-October.

According to the airline, the airplanes will be outfitted with 264 seats split between a three-class cabin. Virgin’s business cabin, dubbed Upper Class, will seat 31 in a 1-1-1 configuration. Premium economy will seat 35 in a 2-3-2 setup, with economy seating 3-3-3 layout for the remaining 198.

It will make its first revenue runs on October 28th, to mark the carrier’s 30th anniversary, flying from London to Boston. Additional destinations are expected to include New York, Newark, and Washington DC in early 2015. The jets will replace Airbus A330s and A340s currently serving each city.

The first cities to receive service are in line with the carrier’s recent announcement that it will be off-loading a number of long-haul routes in Africa and Asia in favor of bulking up service to the US. The move is largely aimed at strengthening its joint-venture with Delta Air Lines on flights from Europe to the US. The arrangement allows the two to collaborate on price, schedule, and profits.

But Virgin hasn’t ruled out utilizing the aircraft to other locations, including the Caribbean and Asia down the road, in an interview with eTN.

The British carrier has 15 of the jets on order, with options for an additional eight and purchase options for up to 20 more. It has also publicly shared that it is considering the 787-10.

Virgin 787-9 JDLMultimedia-3 Virgin 787-9 JDLMultimedia-2-2 Virgin 787-9 JDLMultimedia-1-2

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Contact the author at jeremy@JDLMultimedia.com or follow him on Twitter @photoJDL

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Flashback Friday: Fort Lauderdale Spotting in the Early 90s

By Luis Linares / Published September 19, 2014 / Photos by author

FLL Spotting Area - LFL

View from FLL plane spotting area in early 1990s

Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) is one of the few airports that offers a dedicated location for plane spotters.  This area is located next to the holding point of runway 10L, and there are no parking costs to worry about when visiting this great location. Today, the area also offers a loudspeaker for spotters to listen to air traffic control tower communications with traffic.  In light of this week’s opening of the extended runway 10R, let’s go back to the early 1990s to see some of the traffic visible from the viewing park.

Snowbird Season

Friendly Canadian tourists, affectionately known as “snowbirds”, are a common sight in Florida during the winter months, though Air Canada flies to FLL year-round.  In the 1980s and 1990s, it was common for the airline to add more flights and use larger aircraft in the winter, and one of the main attractions was when their 747 visited.  Canadian charter carriers relied heavily on the winter months in Florida for their bread and butter and Canada 3000 was one of the largest charter airlines in the world during its operation. The company, which did not survive the post-September 11 airline chaos, was one of Air Canada’s main competitors during the winter vacation season in South Florida.

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Air Canada Boeing 747-200 and Canada 3000 Boeing 757-200

Delta stronghold

Before the days of JetBlue and Spirit, Delta Air Lines was the largest operator at FLL.  Delta’s flew widebody Lockheed L-1011s and Boeing 767s, especially to and from Atlanta and New York.  This was also still a time when many of the airline’s Boeing 727s were still in operation, and another frequent Delta visitor to FLL in the 90s was the Boeing 757, which today is still a common sight at the airport.  Today, Delta is the fourth largest operator at FLL, behind , JetBlue, Southwest and Spirit, and it operates from Terminal 2.

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Tri-jets: Delta Boeing 727-200 and Lockheed L1011 TriStar

Defunct U.S. Airlines 

In the early 1990s, now defunct U.S. carriers, such as Newark-based Kiwi International Airlines, Indianapolis-based American Trans Air (later ATA), Carnival Airlines, and the famous Trans World Airlines (TWA) visited FLL. Kiwi was created by former Eastern and Pan Am pilots and managers and operated from 1992 to until its bankruptcy in 1999.  Its demise was caused by various factors, including undercapitalization, bad press on the safety of low cost airlines in light of the ValuJet crash in the Florida Everglades in 1996, and a maintenance dispute with the FAA despite the airlines perfect safety record. ATA was North America’s largest charter airline, founded in 1973, and it lasted until 2008, when it lost a contract to transport military members. Carnival Air Lines was an attempt by the parent cruise line to provide charter services from Fort Lauderdale and Miami. It started flights in 1988 and ceased operations after a failed merger with a reincarnated version of Pan Am in 1998. The iconic TWA was a frequent visitor from New York JFK and Saint Louis.  However, TWA experienced three bankruptcies starting in 1992, and American Airlines eventually bought and merged with TWA at the end of 2001.

KIA 722 - FLL - LFL AMT 722 - FLL - LFL CAA 734 - FLL - LFL TWA 721 - FLL - LFLKiwi International Airlines Boeing 727-200, American Trans Air Boeing 727-200, Carnival Airlines Boeing 737-400, and Trans World Airlines (TWA) Boeing 727-100 at FLL

Past Fleets and Liveries

Finally, more than 20 years ago, many of the airlines still in operation today had aircraft and colors that are now history.  US Airways was known as US Air at the time and had inherited a number of Boeing 737-300/400 aircraft after its merger with Piedmont Airlines. On the charter side, Miami-based Miami Air International was only a couple of years into its operation.  It started with a fleet of Boeing 727s, and today it operates a combination of Boeing 737-400/800 planes.

USA 734 - FLL - LFL BSK 722 - FLL - LFL
US Air Boeing 737-400 and Miami Air International Boeing 727-200

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Contact the author at luis.linares@airchive.com

Contact the editor at vinay.bhaskara@airwaysnews.com

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This Week in the Air

By Ian Petchenik / Published September 13th, 2014

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

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

This was a big week for new branding, new routes, new planes, and new airports. Southwest and Frontier revealed new branding in separate events early in the week, each updating the look of their planes and other elements within the airlines. We discussed Southwest’s new branding, an evolutionary look from 2001′s canyon blue livery that re-imagines Southwest’s “heart.” We also took a deeper look at the timing and reasoning behind the refresh.

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

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

We were also on hand for Frontier’s rebranding event on Tuesday. This is their third such change since the airline’s relaunch in 1994. Frontier’s decision to rebrand comes just as it completes it transition from leisure airline to ultra-low cost carrier (ULCC).

This was also a big week for new route announcements. Icelandair is adding seasonal service to Portland, Oregon from Keflavik, Iceland, that will run from May 20 to October 21 in 2015. British Airways will send its Airbus A380 to San Francisco five times per week, beginning March 29, 2015. The A380 will supplement daily service on the carrier’s 747.

Southwest announced it will begin service to San Jose, Costa Rica in March of 2015, its first new international destination after it fully integrates AirTran into its network at the end of 2014. Delta said it will begin twice-daily flights between Los Angeles (LAX) and San Antonio on April 7, 2015, using Delta Connection partner Compass Airlines’ Embraer E175s.

Connections between Mexico and Texas are also growing with Spirt Airlines and VivaAerobus planning additional service. Spirit plans to add service in March 2015, from Houston to Cancun, Toluca, and San Jose del Cabo. Mexican low-cost carrier VivaAerobus intends to add service from DFW to Cancun, Guadalajara, Monterrey, and San Jose del Cabo, with services beginning in December 2014.

 

A rendering of the Ryanair Boeing 737 MAX 200

A rendering of the Ryanair Boeing 737 MAX 200

Ryanair became the launch customer for the Boeing 737 MAX 200, with a firm order for 100 frames of the denser variant. Deliveries of the airplane will begin in 2019. We also analyzed the CSeries’s return to the sky. The new airplane’s flight test program had been grounded for three months after an engine malfunction. Bombardier believes the CSeries will enter into service in the second half of 2015, but we see that target overly optimistic, with the end of the first quarter 2016 more likely.

Mexico confirmed plans this week for a new Mexico City airport to be built adjacent to the current Benito Juarez Airport. The first phase of the $9.2 billion project, which will include three runways and one terminal will be completed in 2018-2019.

TAM Service Academy. Image Credit - Jason Rabinowitz / Airways News

TAM Service Academy. Image Credit – Jason Rabinowitz / Airways News

We went deep inside TAM’s Service Academy for an in-depth look at how the airline trains its cabin crew to serve dinner and survive a jungle plane crash. Also this week, we got a first-hand look at Rockwell Collins’ newest iteration of its popular MultiScan weather radar system.

Rounding out the week, we reviewed Al Jazeera Investigates – Broken Dreams: The Boeing 787, an investigative report into Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner program, and found it short on substance.

In the week ahead we’ll have coverage of the Airline Passenger Experience Expo in Anaheim, California, beginning September 15.

Contact the author at ian@petchmo.com.

Contact the editor at Vinay.Bhaskara@airchive.com

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Flashback Friday: Visible Changes at New York JFK from 1991 to 1992

By Luis Linares / Published September 12, 2014 / Photos by author

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Old and new ATC towers at JFK in 1992

From 1991 to 1992 New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport changed substantially due to planned construction, the demise of Pan Am, and the geopolitical situation overseas.  Among the visible changes were the ongoing construction of a new air traffic control (ATC) tower; Delta’s takeover of Pan Am’s operations; and some changes in the Aeroflot livery after the fall of the Soviet Union.

ATC Towers

Between 1991 and 1992, the original ATC tower was quickly dwarfed by the construction of a new and taller (321-foot) tower (at the time, the tallest in the world), designed by Pei Cobb Fried & Partners, that would eventually begin operations in 1994.  The original ATC tower was eventually  demolished.

Goodbye Pan Am, hello Delta

The iconic Terminal 3 (the “Worldport”) had been used by Pan American World Airways (Pan Am) since its construction in 1960.  On January 8, 1991, Pan Am declared bankruptcy, and Delta Airlines bought some of its assets, including 45 aircraft and the Worldport.  The most noticeable change to Delta’s fleet was the incorporation of Pan Am’s Airbus A310s, after Pan Am’s demise on December 4, 1991.  Delta stayed at Terminal 3 until it was closed in May 2013, and now operates out of Terminals 2 and 4 at JFK.  Final demolition of the historic Terminal 3 will take place in 2015.

DL A310 - JFK - LFL DL A310s - JFK - LFL DL L-1011 - JFK - LFL DL A310 - JFK - LFL Delta widebodies at JFK in 1992, including Pan Am’s former A310s

New flag for Aeroflot

In August 1991 a failed coup against the reformist government in the former Soviet Union prompted the rapid collapse of the country.  On December 26, 1991, the Soviet Union was dissolved.  At the time the Soviet national airline Aeroflot was serving JFK from Moscow using an Ilyushin Il-62M.  One of the distinguishing characteristics of the livery was on the tail, featuring the red Soviet flag with the yellow hammer and sickle on the top left corner.  With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Aeroflot became Russia’s main airline, and instead of opting for new livery, the airline used decals of the Russian flag to cover the old Soviet one.  The hasty patchwork was clearly visible on the tail.  Aeroflot used a gate in Terminal 3 for its operations.

SU Il-62M - JFK - LFL SU Il-62M - JFK - LFL
Aeroflot used Delta’s gates for its Ilyushin Il-62M service to Moscow; Russian flag was hastily placed on top of U.S.S.R. flag after collapse of Soviet Union.

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Contact the author at luis.linares@airchive.com

Contact the editor at vinay.bhaskara@airchive.com

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New Southwest and Frontier Liveries Leaked

The new Southwest livery leaked on Saturday.

The new Southwest livery leaked on Saturday.

Proving that keeping a secret in the aviation industry is a difficult task, it appears that both Frontier and Southwest’s new liveries leaked on the Internet Saturday. Neither airline has confirmed the authenticity of the images. There had been much speculation about what Southwest’s “special announcement” was going to be Monday morning at its Media Days event and Frontier had strongly hinted that it was rebranding by sending plain white toy airplanes with a question mark painted on the tail to select journalists prior to its own event on Tuesday. It appears now that we need not wait until Monday to find out.

New Frontier livery leaked Saturday.

New Frontier livery leaked Saturday.

Frontier’s new livery, which comes as the carrier is seeking to rebrand as an Ultra-low cost carrier, harkens back to the 1978, Saul Bass-designed logo, borrowing a stylized “F”, and adding an arrow along the length of the fuselage. It appears the animals on the tail, which have adorned Frontier’s planes since 1994, will stay.

Frontier's 1978 Saul Bass-designed logo.

Frontier’s 1978 Saul Bass-designed logo. Via AirwaysNews archive.

Southwest’s new livery is an evolutionary design, keeping the canyon blue color, but moving the red from the bottom of the aircraft and adding yellow to the tail and rear fuselage. Southwest also updated the font used on the aircraft bringing it in line with the new font in their in-flight magazine. This is only Southwest’s third livery in its 43 year history. The current canyon blue livery replaced the original desert gold in 2001 after 30 years in service.

While the wind may be out of the sails for this week’s major announcements, AirwaysNews will have full coverage, on location from Southwest’s Media Days beginning early Monday morning and at Frontier’s event on Tuesday. You can follow along live at both events via Twitter and Facebook.

CurrentSouthwest

The current Southwest livery. Via AirwaysNews archive.

The current Frontier livery.

The current Frontier livery. Via AirwaysNews archive.

 

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Xiamen Airlines Takes Delivery of First Wide-body Jet

By Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Published August 29, 2014

Xiamen 787-1EVERETT, WA: Xiamen Airlines took delivery of its very first wide-body jet, a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, on Friday.

The airplane is outfitted for a passenger count of 236; four first class, eighteen business class, and 214 economy seats.

First class is configured 1-2-1 across with the Zodiac Apollo seats. Each is lie-flat with 6.4 feet of leg room, and a 15.4 inch wide screen. Business is also set up in a 2-2-2 across. The eighteen seats are split between a cabin of two rows and second, smaller cabin of only one row. The product is Zodiac’s Aura Lite. Economy will be arranged in a 3-3-3 configuration with 33 inches of pitch each and a 9-inch touchscreen. All seats appeared to have at least one power & USB port. The IFE system will run on Panasonic’s eX3 system.

Xiamen 787-5 Xiamen 787-2
Xiamen 787-3 Xiamen 787-4

The airline will fly the jet home to China on Saturday. Like many first-time operators, the carrier will utilize the aircraft on domestic routes before transitioning to long-haul down the road. Initial schedules will see the jet operating between Xiamen, Fuzhou, and Beijing in the first weeks of September.

Xiamen President Che Shanglun says the Dreamliners will be used to replace the carrier’s fleet of Boeing 757-200s, which currently operate near-international routes to southeast Asia, as well as Seoul, South Korea, and Osaka, Japan. Presently the carrier operates only domestic Chinese and regional international routes, primarily with Boeing 737s.

Che-1 Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Airchive 2014The addition of Dreamliners to its fleet brings the capability to expand beyond its current perimeter. Indeed the carrier’s own press release noted that it expects to deploy the jet to Australia, Europe, and North America. But Mr. Shanglun wouldn’t was reluctant to share any details on exactly where or when such expansions might take place. “That’s top secret,” said Mr. Shanglun, adding that it will be taking “measured steps” toward a more global network in the coming years. Likely destinations, at least for North America, could include New York City, which has a heavy concentration of Chinese from the Fujian region where the carrier is based.

The carrier has five more 787s on order, expected to be delivered by the end of 2015. It also has a number of 737s, including the MAX 8, on order as well. The new jets will contribute to a 200-plus strong fleet by 2020. China Southern owns a 51% majority in Xiamen.

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Contact the author at Jeremy.Lindgren@Airchive.com

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TGIF: Thank-Goodness It’s Flyday Week-End Wrap Up: August 29th Edition

By Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Published August 29, 2014

Thank-goodness it’s Flyday…err Friday, everyone! In this week’s edition Southwest labor relations turn sour, Qantas defers Dreamliners, smokes on a plane, and more…

Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Airchive 2014

Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Airchive 2014

Mediation: Is what the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) requested this week in an attempt to resolve ongoing contract issues between its members and their employer, Southwest Airlines. The carrier has agreed to the process, and the matter will proceed to the National Mediation Board (NMB). A federal mediator has already been assigned to the case.

The NMB cannot force a resolution, per se, but does work to bring about a resolution between the two parties. More importantly, if the NMB declares that the two cannot reach an agreement, it opens up either party to take more aggressive actions such as strikes and lockouts.

Like many labor disputes, the two have reached an apparent impasse over pay. The IAM charges, via a statement, that “management is hell-bent to move to a risky variable compensation system as opposed to offering guaranteed wage increases.” Southwest responded by saying it was “shocked and disappointed” by the request, saying via its own statement that it had sent over a proposal that was ignored by the IAM. The dispute has been ongoing since the previous contract ended in late 2012.

IAM represents around 6,000 employees at the Dallas-based carrier.

Southwest has historically had excellent labor relations, and many would argue that the relationship is still above average. But as profit margins have trended downward, the airline has been looking to cut costs, and employees are fighting back.

Unfortunately for them, their pay and benefits remain one of the juiciest fruits to squeeze. The carrier’s labor costs continue to spiral upwards at a concerning pace, growing 8.3% year-over-year (YOY) in the second quarter of 2014 and contributing to a 8.7% YOY rise in its contribution to operating costs per seat-mile.

Photo courtesy Boeing

Photo courtesy Boeing

First 787: Congrats are in order for Royal Jordanian, which received its first Boeing 787 Dreamliner this week. The Amman-based carrier will utilize the jet to replace older jets in its fleet. The jet is expected to serve routes to North America primarily, though will be found on routes to Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, the company said.

The airplane is outfitted with 24 business class and 246 in economy.

Malaysia Airlines overhaul: Malaysia Airlines, still reeling from its double-hull losses from the past six months, announced it would be cutting 6,000 jobs – or about 30% of its current workforce. The move likely signals, though MAS hasn’t confirmed, a corresponding drop in capacity.

It was clear big changes were in the offing after the carrier was taken over by Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund and subsequently privatized.

Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Airchive 2014

Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Airchive 2014

Qantas defers Dreamliners: In its ongoing battle against its own balance sheet, Qantas this week reported that it has deferred the first five jets in its 787-9 order. First reported by Australian Business Traveller, the airline pushed back delivery as it was due its first jets next year. It still maintains 50 options.

The carrier has been struggling financially for some time, and has been deferring wide-body deliveries such as its A380s for some time. Whether the jets, when and if delivered, will go to Qantas is another matter. The Aussie flag carrier has been spinning off its 787-8s to low-cost subsidiary Jetstar. It is believed that the LCC may wind up doing the vast majority of long-haul flights as Qantas International continues to whither.

All by myself: Want to fly your 12 to 14-year old on American? It’ll cost you an extra $150 each way to do it effective September 3rd. The carrier currently applies the charge up through age 11, and says it made the change to align with US Airways’ policy. For comparison, United charges $150 for ages 5-11, Delta charges $100 for 5-15, while Southwest charges $50 for ages 5-11.

Air New Zealand welcomes “new” 777-200: ANZ unveiled its first refurbished Boeing 777-200 late last Friday. The airplane’s new interior will match that of the carrier’s new 787-9, delivered only a few weeks back. Some highlights are the carrier’s unique Skycoach product, Panasonice eX3 IFE system, and a new business-class product. ANZ has eight of the jets.
Premium Economy Economy Skycouch
Photos courtesy Air New Zealand

Can’t we all just get along?: The first of several diversion incidents this week took place on Monday aboard United 1462 as it made its way from Newark to Denver. Things got heated when a passenger in the Economy Plus cabin went to recline, only to discover the man behind her had installed a knee defender. In case you aren’t familiar, the $15 dollar device fits at the base of the fold-down tray, thus preventing the seat from reclining. United requested the offending passenger to remove the device, citing its policy of banning the device (as all US carriers do). The man refused, which prompted the woman whose seat the device was attached to turn around and throw a cup of water at him. The crew decided they’d have enough, and landed in Chicago. The two faced Chicago police at the gate. After an in-field investigation the airplane continued on to Denver without them, though neither was arrested.

It happened again on Wednesday, apparently, on an American flight from Miami to Paris. The airplane diverted after two people got into an argument. An on-board US federal air marshal wound up stepping in after one of the parties involved grabbed the arm of a flight attendant who attempted to break it up. He was arrested in Boston.

Photo by Raul Lieberwirth, creative commons

Photo by Raul Lieberwirth, creative commons

Smokes on a plane: Two Canadian women wound up causing a Sunwing flight from Toronto to Cuba to turn back over South Carolina, and apparently became concerning enough that the airline called in a military escort. Authorities say the women snuck into the restroom, where each downed a healthy dose of duty-free alcohol just to get the party started. It was followed up by lighting up some smokes, while still in the bathroom, which predictably set off the aircraft’s smoke detectors. Then they proceeded to fight with one another (presumably while still in the bathroom??), and threatened the airplane, which sealed their fate. The women were escorted off the airplane in Toronto, and promptly arrested. The two face a litany of charges including, but not limited to, smoking on an aircraft, mischief endangering life, uttering threats, and endangering the safety of an aircraft.

 Moving on: I announce today, with a little sadness, that this is my last day on staff with Airchive, and thus my last TGIF. I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to guide the site over the past year, and provide you, our readers, with news and information that matters in the aviation industry. And of course there were the great adventures that I will remember fondly, from the first A350 ride to the last DC-10. I’ll miss working with our talented staff, and look forward to seeing Airchive, now AirwaysNews, grow to even greater heights. As for me, you can keep in touch on Twitter: @photoJDL, or via my business site, JDLMultimedia.com. Thanks so much for tuning in!

From the editor-in-chief: Jeremy joined us as our first co-editor-in-chief one year ago this week, when Airchive began to morph from a largely historical site into what it is today. He has been a major force, working tirelessly and passionately to evolve Airchive (now AirwaysNews) into a respected, daily industry news source. During the year he has also become an expert in fighting jet lag. In his first weekend on the job he flew SEA-YYZ-LHR-LAX-SFO-SEA in what was only the beginning of a year that took him everywhere from Dhaka to Farnborough to Warsaw and many places in between.  His leadership, creativity, artistic eye for photography, and all around grace will be missed by not only the staff, but me as well. I am sure our readers feel the same. We’re all better for having JDL in our midst and look forward to seeing what he does next.

Just a few days ago, Airchive relaunched as AirwaysNews. We will not miss a beat. Vinay Bhaskara will take over as interim co-editor-in-chief starting Tuesday, supported by our ever growing team of correspondents. We will be naming our new co-editor-in-chief soon.

In case you missed it, Airchive had a lot of great coverage right here. This week’s stories:

JAL Places Substantial Regional Jet Order

Airchive Rebrands and Re-launches as AirwaysNews

JetBlue Opens Hotel at JetBlue University

Southwest Unveils New “Listening Center”

PHOTOS: First Production Airbus A350 for Qatar

InFlight Review: KLM World Business Class: MD-11 Edition

American Airlines Drops Orbitz

PEOPLExpress expands to Orlando

GE-Powered Boeing 787-9 Receives Green-Light

BOC Aviation Places Order for 82 Boeing Jets

Storm Chasing with the Honeywell IntuVue NextGen Radar Onboard a Convair 580

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Contact the editor-in-chief at Chris.Sloan@Airchive.com

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Southern Air Transport: An Uncommon Carrier (Best of Airways, Part Two)

By Maurice J Wickstead / Published August 29, 2014
This article originally appeared in
Airways Magazine.

This is the second of a two-part series on the history of Southern Air Transport. Miss part one? Catch it here, and don’t forget to come back!

Going legit

L-100 BG5Southern Air Transport acquired a dozen L-100s previously flown by Transamerica Airlines after that company folded in September 1986. Rugged and reliable, the Hercules afforded SAT the reputation for being able (and willing, for a price) to haul loads into often otherwise inaccessible places. The Herc’s 6,000cu ft (170m³) and 50,000lb (22,700kg) payload led to SAT being the first airline to gain CAB worldwide outsize load certification.

Using this capability SAT transported helicopters, generators, and even a complete zoo from Florida to Bermuda, along with ‘just-in-time’ contracts for the automotive industry, principally Ford Europe. Other work involved palletized cargo, aircraft-on-ground movements, oil spill, and pesticide spraying operations. As one commentator wryly put it, SAT exchanged ‘guerrillas for gorillas’ when, in 1976, it carried the 40ft (12m)-high, 6.5t mechanical ‘King Kong’ for the Dino De Laurentiis remake of the famous film for Paramount. A decade later, another ‘king’ handled by the airline was Pharaoh Ramses II, movement of whose treasure was entrusted to the airline during US and international exhibitions.

From the mid-1980s SAT’s Hercules fleet was also a familiar sight in many of the world’s conflict hot-spots, especially in the troubled Horn of Africa, Angola, Mozambique, Rwanda, and famine-ravaged Ethiopia. To overcome the problem of washed-out airstrips in the rainy season, SAT developed an effective pallet airdrop system, delivering the cargo from altitudes as low as 700ft (200m).

While these operations were associated with humanitarian aid organizations such as the United Nations, Caritas Internationalis, and the International Red Cross, a contract with a diamond mine in war-torn Angola aroused widespread speculation that the airline was still in cahoots with its former owner.

Such missions were not without hazard. In September 1991 a Herc was written-off after striking a land mine while taxiing at Wau, in Sudan, fortunately without fatality.

707-323C N8404 Southern AT-BAX Global OKC 05Jan89 [denis goodwin] e300In 1985, SAT became the first cargo airline to offer aircraft, crew, maintenance, and insurance (ACMI) contracts. Boeing 707-300Cs were acquired for operation on behalf of BAX Global and CF AirFreight, and wet-leases to carriers such as Ethiopian Airlines, LAC Colombia, and the Swiss-Soviet Metro Cargo Airlines. By 1991 these varied activities brought in annual revenue of $150 million ($253m).

Change of direction

Since its early days Southern Air Transport had been a prominent contractor to the US Air Force LOGAIR (logistics airlift) and US Navy QUICKTRANS networks, which occupied half the Hercules fleet and accounted for 30% of total revenue. As part of the Civilian Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) the airline played a significant part in support of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in 1990-91, with SAT 707s flying regularly between McGuire AFB, New Jersey, and Jeddah and Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. This involvement culminated with a 707 ferrying doctors and medical equipment into the newly liberated Kuwait International Airport in March 1991.

This profitable business began to wane in the mid-1990s after significant cutbacks in the defense budget were instituted by the Clinton administration. Nevertheless, attempts at diversification were already underway with delivery in February 1991 of the first two of six Douglas DC-8 Series 70 freighters as part of an effort to capture a greater percentage of the US freight forwarder and overseas wet-lease markets.

A joint-venture was established in January 1993 with the formation of Polar Air Cargo in conjunction with aircraft leasing company Polaris, a subsidiary of General Electric Capital Services, and California-based NedMark Transportation Services. Polar lifted off in May 1993 using a couple of 747s, initially on charter work. Within a few months several more aircraft allowed the initiation of east and westbound scheduled routes linking New York with Hong Kong.

Southern_Air_Transport_Boeing_747-200 N741SJ Paul SpijkersSAT pulled out of the partnership in March 1994 to develop its own cargo business with 747s, the first appearing in summer 1994. Customers included Atlas Air, China Airlines, Emirates, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Lufthansa, and Varig. Although the overall cargo market had grown by more than 50% in the preceding decade, the number of new companies offering tailor-made contract and leasing packages had also increased.

After moving in 1995 from Miami to Columbus, Ohio (although SAT became a Nevada corporation), toward the end of the decade the burden of new equipment costs and increased competition led to financial problems. Proposed acquisitions by Fine Air and Kitty Hawk failed to materialize after a buyer for the L-100 fleet could not be found, and Southern Air Transport ceased operations on September 25, 1998. On October 1, with liabilities of $101 million ($150m), SAT filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Eventually the L-100 fleet was auctioned off to Transafrik to pay major creditors. During the bankruptcy proceedings it was discovered that the proceeds of a sale of a Southern Air Transport subsidiary, SimuFlite Training International, had been retained by the Bastian family (Jim Bastion died shortly after the collapse of the company). Several million dollars was eventually recovered and paid to former SAT employees.

Transformation

Out of the ashes arose a new Southern Air. In February 1999, SAT’s remaining assetswere acquired by a Connecticut investment group known as Devon Partners, which included several former SAT managers. In an effort to secure SAT’s certificate and authority, a joint filing was made to the Department of Transportation in the names Southern Air Transport and Southern Air. The DOT, however, declined the transfer application and instead issued a new certificate in November to Southern Air for interstate and foreign cargo charters. Southern Air took off early in 2000 with a 747-200F employed on an ACMI contract for Lufthansa Cargo.

Mark_Smith_N777SA_777FSurviving a post-September 11, 2001, Chapter 11 reorganization, Southern Air expanded, being acquired in 2007 by Oak Hill Capital Partners and merged with its Cargo 360 airline. Older 747s were retired after Southern Air took delivery of 777Fs.

Southern Air’s holding company entered Chapter 11 in September 2012with debts of $285 million, citing defense cutbacks as a major factor. The restructured company emerged from bankruptcy protection in April 2013 and is now based at DHL’s hub at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport.

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Contact the editor-in-chief at chris.sloan@2cmedia.com

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JAL Places Substantial Regional Jet Order

By Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Published August 28, 2014

Japan Airlines (JAL) announced orders for up to 52 regional jets on Thursday. The order includes both Embraer EJets and Mitsubishi’s new MRJ.

JAL EJetJapan-based JAL signed a firm order with Embraer for fifteen E-Jets, split between the E170 and E190. It did not say how many of each would be delivered. The order also included options for up to twelve more of the jets. Deliveries will begin in 2015, with the airplanes going to its regional subsidiary, J-Air.

JAL MRJThe carrier also penned a letter of intent with Mitsubishi for thirty-two MRJ aircraft. It did not say which version it had ordered. JAL says the airplane will function as the next generation of regional jet for the company, with deliveries scheduled to begin to J-Air in 2021.

ANA, JAL’s chief rival, placed an order for up to 25 of the jets in 2008.

The order is welcome news for both manufacturers, but especially for Mitsubishi. Of the 400 commitments for the jet only about half are firm. It has been battling production delays for some time, and is currently set to make its first delivery in 2017.

Once aloft, it will compete in the 70-90 seat jet market against Bombardier’s CRJ700/900 and Embraer’s revamped E2-175 & E2-190.

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Contact the author at Jeremy.Lindgren@Airchive.com

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Airchive Rebrands and Re-launches as AirwaysNews

By Chris Sloan / Airchive & AirwaysNews Editor-In-Chief

2Last March we announced Airchive and Airways would join forces in a strategic alliance combining our powerful digital and print operations into a key industry force covering every facet of the commercial aviation industry. Now Enrique, our combined teams, and I are proud to introduce a new site for our new brand: AirwaysNews.com.  With this broad stroke, we have combined both of our websites, social media networks, editorial teams, and news-gathering operations.

Facebook_Cover_Website_TestThough the look has changed, our mission has not. Our content continues to evolve reaching those working in and allied with the commercial aviation industry, frequent travelers, and enthusiasts aka AvGeeks. As always, our team is passionately dedicated to be timely, topical, accurate, and on-location. Basically, if it happens in the skies (and on the ground), you’ll see it on these pages. With the rebrand to AirwaysNews and site re-launch, we have endeavored to find a more user-friendly, organized way to surface our content and provide a one-stop destination for Airways Magazine offerings as well from subscriptions, digital issues, to the store.

So what becomes of Airchive? Though the name served us well for almost 12 years, it was created when our mission was that of a “webseum” or digital archive. As we delved into daily, relevant news and feature coverage, the brand no longer fit the mission. Airchive will live on as a historical sub-brand online and in Airways Magazine. As well, Airchive will continue to be the holding company for all the Airways & Airchive.com digital assets.

56Airways, meanwhile, relaunched in June with an all-new design following the take-over by Enrique’s team after twenty years of continuous publication under the helm of John Wegg – the magazine’s founder and former Editor in Chief. Since June, five issues have been published with an updated look and feel, new departments, and stunning photography that has revamped the magazine to the standards of today’s industry. Airways will continue to grow both in its printed format, and soon, in a unique, all-new digital platform that will be available for tablets, smartphones, and computers worldwide. Airways will also be increasing its pages and improving its paper quality, delivering the best product at the most affordable prices for our aviation community.

We would like to tip our hats to our webmaster Joel Mena and Airways Chief Designer Mariana Quintero who have worked tirelessly over the last few months on this rollout.

We are still early in this strategic alliance adventure with many changes and additions on the horizon. We’ll also be debugging as well, so please be patient if you encounter the occasional snafu. As always, we appreciate the feedback and are delighted to have you along with us for the ride.

RELATED: “Airways Magazine” Changes Ownership and Joins Far-Reaching Alliance with Airchive

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Contact the author at Chris.Sloan@Airchive.com. Follow us on Twitter @Airchive

 

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JetBlue Opens Hotel at JetBlue University

By Taylor Michie / Published August 28, 2014

IMG_2937ORLANDO: JetBlue Airways is well-known for its rather hospitable service, with 32+ inches of pitch standard across its fleet, as well as plenty of on-board snacks and customer-focused marketing. But the New York-based carrier is making a deeper foray into the hospitality business, sort of, with its first hotel in central Florida.

At a ceremony today at JetBlue’s Orlando Support Center, the airline unveiled a nearly-finished hotel, The Lodge at Orlando Support Center, which will house crewmembers studying at the adjacent JetBlue University during initial and recurrent trainings, as opposed to putting them up off-site at various nearby properties.

IMG_2899Speaking in front of a crowd of about two hundred employees, construction personnel, and support staff, CEO Dave Barger touted the Lodge’s benefit to JetBlue’s culture, as the property keeps employees close, allowing for collaboration even during off-times. It’s difficult to argue with the convenience of the Lodge provides, just a seconds-long walk to the main University building as opposed to a circuitous shuttle ride to the offsite hotels.

It seemed that today’s event served a dual purpose, as both a  rally for the employees, and a display of appreciation for the construction workers in the midst of constructing the facility. Perhaps a testament to the culture of the company, JetBlue raffled off gift cards, gift bags, JetBlue tickets, and DeWalt drills, as well as more unique gifts like hour-long flight sessions in one of the company’s flight simulators.

The 196-room, 115,000 square foot, $25 million Lodge was originally slated for construction beginning in 2006, but the economic downturn put the project on ice. Phil Brown, Executive Director of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, wasted no time in joking about the building’s somewhat turbulent past, obviously relieved that a physical structure exists today.

RELATED: Inside JetBlue University

The building’s exterior is generally complete, and drywall is hung indoors, so it appears that the majority of the work to be done before next spring’s opening involves installing the building’s interior. Complete with a fitness center, full kitchen, pool, softball fields, and basketball courts, The Lodge at OSC seems like a pretty good place to spend some time, with plenty of opportunities to unwind after intense training days. The property is part of a $110 million investment in the airline’s Orlando facilities, which include the University and a hangar for JetBlue’s former subsidiary, LiveTV.

After various speeches, we all headed outside to watch the e join the JetBlu already mounted on the building, as employees clapped and whistled. A ceremonial final piece after nearly a decade of efforts, displayed proudly on the side of the building.

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Contact the editor at Jeremy.Lindgren@Airchive.com

Disclosure: AirwaysNews was a guest of JetBlue for this event, and received two tickets for travel to and from Orlando. Our opinions remain our own.

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Southwest Unveils New “Listening Center”

By Airchive Staff / Published August 27, 2014

140616listening_center_1Southwest Airlines opened a brand new information hub at its Dallas headquarters Tuesday night.

Dubbed the ‘Listening Room’, the facility combines as a sort of nerve center. It integrates multiple information sources from traditional and social media, to real-time airline operations in order to meet customer needs. It will be staffed, with representatives from customer relations, communications and marketing departments ready to answer questions and deal with challenges as they arise.

Such centers and services are not necessarily new to the industry. As passengers utilize devices that are increasingly connected to the world around them, they’ve increasingly taken to social media channels to ask questions and voice complaints. Airlines were quick to jump on the social bandwagon as a way to harness and resolve with those questions and complaints.

Indeed, most major carriers in the US have been staffing their social media channels for some time now to do just that. For many tech-savvy travelers, seeking resolution via Twitter has proven far more effective (and timely) than making the traditional phone call or waiting in line at an in-terminal customer service center.

For those wary of going mobile, Ashley Pettit, Social Business Adviser for Southwest, is quick to point out that staff inside the center have all of the same resolution tools available to traditional customer service representatives. “They are able to go in look up in the system…get an update [on a lost bag, for example], status report, or track down the bag,” she says. Stuck at the airport? Reach out to Southwest’s Facebook page and someone will soon contact you about your options.

But Southwest insists it is more than just customer service. “The objective is to move from insights to action…to constantly have that 35,000 foot view of what’s going on in the world,” says Pettit. That means utilizing the team’s content creators and community builders to look for opportunities to insert Southwest into social conversations. So not only can the team help find that lost bag, it can only wish you happy birthday, she says, or participate in trending topics.

For now, the center will be online 18 hours a day, while Southwest airplanes are flying. Pettit says they hope to expand to 24 down the road.

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Contact the editor at Jeremy.Lindgren@Airchive.com
 

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PHOTOS: First Production Airbus A350 for Qatar

By Airchive Staff / Published August 27, 2014

Qatar Airways released photos of its first production Airbus A350 jet on Wednesday. It is the first of 80 of the jets the Gulf carrier has on order.

15048896541_f5647e3b0b_o
15028954706_9a45a1f145_o

The airplane, seen above, is still missing its Trent XWB engines.

The jet is still scheduled for delivery to the airline in late 2014. Of course Airbus had already painted up an A350 in partial Qatar colors, but the airplane is part of the test fleet.

Of course whether or not the carrier will accept the airplane may be another matter. It was originally scheduled to take delivery of another Airbus product, the super-jumbo A380, last June. To date, it still has yet to sign off on the jets and fly them away. The carrier has chalked the decision to forgo the jets on unresolved cabin issues.

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Contact the editor at Jeremy.Lindgren@Airchive.com

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InFlight Review: KLM World Business Class: MD-11 Edition

By Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Published August 27, 2014 / Photos by author

KLM MD11 YYZ JDL

A KLM MD-11 in Toronto.

The journey, it is said, is half the fun.  Thus I found myself at Dubai International Airport very early on a Saturday morning, prepping to head back to Seattle – via Amsterdam and Paris. This unnecessary journey, hours out of the way, came about when it occurred to me that KLM flies the MD-11, an airplane quickly on its way out of service, from this desert oasis to Amsterdam. Realizing it might be the only shot I’d have to get on one, a ticket was booked (via Delta), and an adventure set to begin.

Dubai’s airport is enormous, but the check-in counters are separated from the departure/arrival terminals. The process was quick and easy thanks to being ticketed in World Class, KLM’s business class cabin. A checked bag disappeared down the belt,  my ticket printed, and off I went on the long walk to the lounge.

KLM’s Crown Lounge in Dubai is a relatively muted affair, consisting of a mid-sized room outfitted with comfy chairs, a modest food tray, and a few TVs. It was nice, in a cozy sense, though clearly not the signature lounges found in the carrier’s major hubs. Several glasses of water, a browse of my email on the free WiFi, and a few finger snacks later it was off to the gate.

Seat 5J, in fully reclined mode.

Seat 5J, in fully reclined mode.

Thanks to a World Class ticket, boarding took no time at all. I settled into seat 5J, located on the right-hand side of the airplane in the rear premium cabin. The location is enclosed by a bulkhead both fore and aft, and is misaligned between center rows 5 and 6, leading to a very private feel. The remainder of the cabin is a 2-3 setup, while the front cabin is 2-2-2. Bags found a quick place overhead while preflight glasses of water and orange juice were offered.

Departure was on time as the airplane rocketed, seemingly literally, out of a warm Dubai. A big left-hand turn set our direction to the northwest, towards Amsterdam, and off we went.

KLM MD11-28A breakfast service began shortly after departure. The choice was between pancakes with mixed berries, and poached eggs with Hollandaise sauce. Pancakes won out the day, complimented with pineapple compote, roll, fruit salad, and a selection of cheese and cold cuts. Unfortunately, hindsight quickly showed the eggs were likely the better choice. While the middle of the pancakes tasted great, the edges were tough and rubbery in texture, probably a product of a warming microwave. The rest of the meal was great, in particular the pineapple compote.

Settling in for the rest of the six hour, thirty minute flight, it was time to play with the seat. Two generations removed from its current flagship product, the pod-like seat shows its age. For one, it’s an angled lie flat, bottoming out at 150 degrees of recline and 60 degrees of pitch. The inflight entertainment system was on the small size, and its graphics a bit dated.

Yet appearances can be deceiving. While the seat might be getting along in age, it was perfectly clean and perfectly comfortable; essentially a flying, customizable Lazy-Boy. A working power port, something that seems to frequently fail on much newer premium products, worked flawlessly. And while the interface graphics and screen resolution on the IFE were less than impressive, it was well stocked and played movies (such as Argo) and TV shows without issue. An intuitive tethered remote controlled the system.

KLM MD11-26 KLM MD11-12

RELATED: Tri-Jet Twilight Inflight!

Following a movie I took the opportunity for a short nap before a light meal was served. The tray held a number of enticing items: baba-ghanooush, humus and red bell pepper stuffed with cheese, Waldorf salad, chicken teriyaki skewer and beef kibbeh, and a passion fruit mousse with blueberries. Unlike the earlier meal, which was a bit disappointing, this sampler-like meal was truly excellent.

Not long after the second meal service had wrapped up we were on final approach to Amsterdam. The airplane landed on time, followed by a long taxi not uncommon to the sprawling airport. I was off the plane in short order and ushered into the terminal, ready for my connection to Paris.

KLM MD11-30 KLM MD11-29

Bottom Line:

Overall, good, but not overly impressive. The food was tasty, though held back from above average only by the tough pancakes. The flight crew kept a close, but not imposing, eye on the cabin throughout the flight with a generally dispassionate disposition. The cute little Delft Canal house souvenirs make a wonderful parting gift, even if I somehow didn’t realize it was full of liquor until nearly six months later.

KLM MD11-12The product, however, was a bit long in the tooth.  The angled lie-flat product might have been top of the line when it came out several years back, but it’s long been replaced by generously-sized true lie flats on many airlines, including KLM. Likewise, the IFE system wasn’t top of the line either, occasionally showing its age in response times and graphics quality.

That isn’t to say that the experience with the product was bad (it certainly wasn’t); it was just noticeable that it wasn’t the carrier’s latest and greatest. For a day flight it really didn’t make any difference: comfortable enough for a good nap (like a Lazy-Boy), movies played fine, etc. A night flight would likely be different, with the lie-flat seats found on the carrier’s other widebodies probably being much preferred by frequent premium travelers. If you find yourself on it, seats  5G & J come highly recommend as both of occupy their own cloistered mini cabin. Seats 5 & 6E, being middles, should be avoided.

KLM MD11-4But let’s be honest, this was mostly about having an opportunity to fly aboard an MD-11 while the party lasts. To that end, it fit the bill perfectly. A robust departure with one seriously impressive attack angle, gazing out the enormous windows, a visit to the flight deck (on the ground), and even a free safety-card souvenir (crew-approved) made for a truly wonderful experience.

But as any av-geek knows the MD-11’s days are quickly drawing to a close. KLM plans to retire its four remaining jets, the last in the world, later this year. Get ‘em while you can; you won’t regret it.

As for World Class, we enjoyed it. But we think we’d enjoy the experience on one of the carrier’s Boeing 747s or 777s even more.

Have you flown it? Tell us about it in the comments!

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Contact the author at Jeremy.Lindgren@Airchive.com
Disclosure: KLM partner airline Delta provided the flight to Airchive at no charge. Our opinions remain our own.

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American Airlines Drops Orbitz

By Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Published August 26, 2014

AA Tails JDL Airchive 2014 -1American Airlines Group announced it will no longer sell tickets via the popular online ticket agent, Orbitz.

The change is effective immediately for all American Airlines fares. US Airways fares will disappear from the site effective September 1st. The decision delists the world’s largest airline from the site, along with several subsidiary sites including CheapTickets.com and ebookers. The news sent shares of Orbitz tumbling down as much as 5% in trading.

“We have worked tirelessly with Orbitz to reach a deal with the economics that allow us to keep costs low and compete with low-cost carriers,” said Scott Kirby, President of American in a short statement. The carrier has not dropped similar online ticket sites such as Kayak or Expedia, suggesting that the problems stem from a poor financial relationship rather than a problem with online ticket retailers.

Tickets already purchased via the site will be unaffected, though changes to such itineraries must go through the carrier. It will not affect corporate contracts handled through Orbitz for Business.

It is not the first falling out that American has faced with Orbitz. The carrier pulled its fares from the website in late 2010 and into 2011 after a contract dispute took an ugly turn. The matter, which surrounded how transactions were funneled through distributors such as Orbitz into American’s system, wound up in federal court when the airline slapped the site with an antitrust lawsuit (the suit also involved Sabre and Travelport). The suit claimed that Orbitz intentionally raised prices and blocked competition. A federal judge wound up ordering American to post its fares on the site in June of 2011.The dispute was settled in April of 2013, nearly two years later.

Orbitz first appeared online in 2001. It was created as a joint venture between five major airlines, American included, in order to compete against newly created online travel agencies such as Expedia and Travelocity.

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Contact the author at Jeremy.Lindgren@Airchive.com
Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Airchive 2014

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