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JetBlue Unveils ‘The Lodge at OSC’ in Orlando

By Jack Harty / Published March 2, 2015

ORLANDO, Florida: JetBlue Airways held an official ribbon-cutting ceremony here today to open its boutique hotel–The Lodge at Orlando Support Center–to serve the more than 7,000 crewmembers that visit the training facility each year for new-hire and recurrent training.

Photo: Jack Harty / AirwaysNews

Photo: Jack Harty / AirwaysNews

The new four-story, 115,000 square foot, 196-room facility was designed by Gensler, the same architecture firm that designed JetBlue’s acclaimed Terminal 5 at JFK Airport.  The Lodge also boasts several places to eat, along with work and collaborative study spaces, health and fitness facilities and outdoor activity areas.

More than 100 employees, along with JetBlue officials and representatives from Pyramid Hotels, the company managing The Lodge, attended a small ribbon-cutting ceremony earlier today. Throughout the afternoon, employees guided the media on tours, and the event included remarks from government and airline officials.

The official ribbon cutting at JetBlue's The Lodge. Image: Courtesy of JetBlue

The official ribbon cutting at JetBlue’s The Lodge. Image: Courtesy of JetBlue

During the speeches, it was evident that today was a sigh of relief for the airline. It originally broke ground on The Lodge back in June 2006. However, financial setbacks caused JetBlue to put the project on hold. A year later, the carrier provided an update, insisting that it still planned to go through with the project, but the 2008 recession halted construction.

Again, JetBlue cancelled its plans to go though with the project. However, the airline still wanted to go through with the project. Over the next few years, JetBlue continued to grow its presence in central Florida, and in November 2013, it finally broke ground on The Lodge.

“JetBlue’s distinct culture literally starts from day one. Instead of ending collaboration as crewmembers disperse for the night, we can continue to build lasting relationships in our very own lodging facility,” said Warren Christie, senior vice president, safety, security and training at JetBlue. “With The Lodge we are investing in our most important asset – our people. This facility will help strengthen our Orlando campus, offering crewmembers continued exposure to our culture, our brand and who we are as a company. “

The Facilities

The Lodge was built with culture, sustainability and collaboration in mind. When entering the facility, crewmembers are greeted at a check-in desk, where they are given their keys and information about The Lodge. Next, they can head up to their rooms, or visit the cafeteria, the bar or enjoy some time in the atrium.

The check-in desk at The Lodge. Photo: Jack Harty / AirwaysNews

The check-in desk at The Lodge. Photo: Jack Harty / AirwaysNews

The Lodge has a 2,000-square foot 24/7 hour fitness center, which features cardio and strength training equipment, a walking track and bicycles for use on local roads.

Outside, there is an outdoor fire pit seating area, basketball half court, soccer practice field, fields for kickball and softball and a saltwater pool. There are even citrus and herb gardens around the building to be used in the cafeteria and bar.

The cafeteria at The Lodge. Image: Courtesy of JetBlue

The cafeteria at The Lodge. Image: Courtesy of JetBlue

A special roof system has been installed over the The Lodge to help reduce energy consumption when it comes to cooling the space, which is especially important during hot summers in Orlando. The facility also boasts low-flow plumbing fixtures, Energy Star appliances and LED lighting. All of the restrooms are equipped with hand dryers to reduce paper, and the facility uses a refillable glass water bottle system to reduce plastic bottle waste.11001739_847379268651603_2366856879339391827_n

Each room is outfitted with one double bed, a TV, and alarm clock–just like a normal hotel room. The rooms are small, but JetBlue wants to encourage crewmembers to collaborate, whether they are playing a game in the atrium or sitting in the seating area. By Tuesday night, the hotel will be at full capacity, as more than 100 new hires will arrive.

Economic Impact


Image courtesy of JetBlue

The Lodge has created 70 permanent jobs for Central Florida residents and will bring more than 7,000 JetBlue crewmembers and visitors to the Orlando area each year.

“It is great to see JetBlue continue to develop and further expand its operations here in Central Florida. JetBlue is a strong contributor to our local economy, employing more than 1,400 local residents, and that role continues to grow,” said Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), whose district includes parts of Orlando. “This facility promises to add to this growing footprint in our community and create a key hub for JetBlue personnel and pilots. I look forward to working with JetBlue as they continue to grow and provide outstanding service to its customers.”


Image Courtesy of JetBlue

“Orlando is a critical destination center for families, both domestic and international tourists, and working professionals. JetBlue’s increased presence at the Orlando International Airport, particularly with the opening of their new hotel for flight crew in training, The Lodge at OSC, is a welcome addition as it enhances economic growth and opportunity in Central Florida,” said Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla), whose district also includes parts of Orlando.


Image Courtesy of JetBlue

“Since I took office, I have worked to diversify our economy, revitalize Downtown and support arts, culture and entertainment amenities to create a City that offers a high quality of life for everyone who lives, works and plays in Orlando,” said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. “It is rewarding to see that these investments are paying off, with national corporations, like JetBlue, expanding their investment in Orlando and bringing not only further enhanced travel and jobs for our residents, but also continuing to make a significant economic impact in our community.”

Although JetBlue is based out of New York, Orlando is one of the company’s six focus cities, and it plays an important role for the airline. JetBlue operates up to 68 daily departures to two dozen destinations at Orlando International Airport, with nearly 1,400 crewmembers employed in central Florida at its Orlando Support Center, JetBlue University, Orlando International Airport and its Orlando Hangar. JetBlue University opened in 2005, the Orlando bilingual contact center at JetBlue University opened in 2013, and JetBlue’s Orlando maintenance hangar opened in 2014.

EXTRACheck out photos of JetBlue U here!


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Retro Lufthansa 747-8I Takes Flight


By Brandon Farris / Published February 18, 2015


EVERETT, Washington – On Saturday just after noon, Boeing 39 copied taxi clearance and began to make its way to runway 34L to the delight of about a hundred spotters located all around Paine Field. What was so special about Boeing 39? It is the flight number assigned to the all-new Lufthansa retro painted 747-8I.

As I was able to get my first peak at it in person, as phenomenal the pictures that fellow Airways contributor Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren were able to capture of this plane are exceeded by seeing the beauty and heritage that this plane in person.

EXTRA: Lufthansa Reveals Retro Livery on new Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental

From the black dot on the nose to the blue cheat line that runs down the side of the aircraft, it truly has to be the best scheme seen so far on the 747-8 other then maybe the red Boeing scheme used during testing. The only disappointment in it would be with how much composite is used in the aircraft and prevents it from having the polished metal underbelly that was seen on the original 747-100’s.

“To me as a passenger who has the opportunity to see or fly aboard a retro livery airliner, it serves as a reminder of the history of the airline and connects you to the legacy of the carrier — it takes it beyond just a flight from point A to B, it almost serves as a bit of a time machine,” said Dennis Glosik who runs the blog Lufthansa Flyer for the airline on his thoughts of the what the retro plane means to him.

Mr Glosik would go on to say, “For Lufthansa, I think having an aircraft painted in a retro-livery is a way for them to pay tribute to their history and share the legacy with their passengers and employees.  In the case of ‘D-ABYT’, it is also a way for Lufthansa to acknowledge the relationship that it has with Boeing and how the partnership has blossomed and thrived over the last 55 years.   A retro livery is a perfect combination of an airline sharing its history while using the most modern aircraft as the canvas.”

In 55 years Lufthansa has operated nearly every Boeing type ever created and continued that when it ordered the 747-8, but as the carrier’s last one on order rolled out of the paint hanger last night D-ABYT and D-ABYU may be the last dance for Lufthansa with the 747 and what a special paint it will wear for its career.


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Weigh in on the Future Direction of by Taking Our Survey

By Staff / Published February 16, 2015 has been undergoing some changes since October, and as we evolve, your feedback is very important in determining how we move forward. We want to know from you what works and what doesn’t. To that end, we’re asking you, our loyal readers, to take this quick 10-question survey.

We’re asking questions including what content we currently offer, what you’d like to see in future stories, how you discover our content and how relevant it is to you. The results will help us fine tune our content and let us know what types of stories you want to see on the website. Please feel free to pass the survey link along to anyone you think would be interested in helping us take to the next level.

As a thank you for completing the survey, we will pull five random names and give away one-year subscriptions to Airways magazine.  The deadline to submit your answers is Monday, February 23, 2015, at midnight Eastern Daylight Time. So again, click here and take the survey.

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


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ANALYSIS: Looking at Potential Routes for the Airbus A321LR

by Vinay Bhaskara / Published February 9, 2015

Now that Airbus has launched an extended range version of its A321neo, AirwaysNews takes a look at the prospects for the aircraft in four key regions around the world — but not including the United States. Airbus launched the aircraft in a move to solidify its dominance at the upper end of the narrowbody market, which puts increasing pressure on rival Boeing to launch a clean-sheet Boeing 757 replacement.

EXTRA: Leeham Co. Reveals Launch of A321neoLR; Airbus Confirms Report

Announced at Airbus’ year-end press conference by Airbus CEO Fabrice Bregier, the new A321LR will see an increase in maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) to 97 tons from the current 93.5 tons, allowing the aircraft to carry a load of 206 passengers in a two-class configuration with bags across a distance of 4,000 nautical miles. Airbus also says that the aircraft will offer 30 percent lower fuel burn than the Boeing 757-200W, and claims that there is a market for more than 1,000 aircraft with the operating capabilities of the A321LR, roughly 500 to replace 469 passenger Boeing 757-200 aircraft still in service, and 500 in new markets (see graphic below).

Image Credit - Airbus

Image Credit – Airbus

New Markets are the Key

Much of the focus in terms of market potential after the A321LR was revealed in October of last year and confirmed last month has been on U.S. airlines, and rightly so, as the three largest carriers – American, Delta and United — are by far the dominant users of the 757 on routes longer than 3,000 nautical miles (the target market for the A321LR).

But in reality, the key growth markets for the A321LR are going to be South America, Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. The trans-Atlantic market between the U.S. and Europe, even taking into account growth and the superior economics of the A321LR, won’t number more than 100 aircraft. Even if U.S. airlines buy additional A321LRs to use on domestic routes that can use the extra payload, 300 aircraft wouldn’t necessarily be enough to drive the launch of the aircraft.

But, taking Airbus’ capability figures, adjusting for the removal of the fourth extra tank and adding in the specific fuel consumption (sfc) improvement for the Pratt & Whitney Geared Turbofan (GTF) engine in 2019, we will, for the sake of argument, treat the A321LR as having a range of 4,000 nautical miles (nm).

This range, coupled with the operating cost reduction of the A321LR and economic growth in the developing world, yields some incredible results. Beginning in the United States, the A321LR allows nonstop service from South Florida (far and away the most important market) to every relevant South American destination.

Maps generated by the Great Circle Mapper -  copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

Maps generated by the Great Circle Mapper - copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

And in the trans-Atlantic space, not only would more European destinations come online, the A321LR makes large swaths of Northern and Western Africa accessible from New York JFK. Despite the recent collapse in oil prices, African nations are strong and growing centers of air travel demand, in particular in premium cabins.

Maps generated by the Great Circle Mapper -  copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

Maps generated by the Great Circle Mapper - copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

Even outside the North American market, the A321LR’s range and operating economics would offer several opportunities for long and thin routes. For example, consider the following maps of the A321LR’s range out of Johannesburg, South Africa, and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, respectively. Out of Johannesburg, an airline could serve the entire African continent, most of the Middle East, and even a portion of India (including Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai). Meanwhile, in more centrally located Addis Ababa, the A321LR would allow Ethiopian Airlines to serve the entire African continent, all of Europe, all of the Middle East, India, much of Southeast Asia, and even a large swath of western China.

Maps generated by the Great Circle Mapper -  copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

Maps generated by the Great Circle Mapper - copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

Maps generated by the Great Circle Mapper -  copyright © Karl L. Swartz. copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

Maps generated by the Great Circle Mapper - copyright © Karl L. Swartz. copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

But the most important potential market, especially in the long run, for the A321LR, could in fact be India. Out of India’s natural hub (and largest international travel market) at Delhi, the A321LR would enable service to almost all of Europe (except Lisbon), much of Africa (though it would miss critical markets in Nigeria and South Africa) and all of Asia.

Much ink has been spilled about the abject strategic ineptitude of Indian airlines and the manner in which that market has come to be dominated by the Middle East Big Three (MEB3) carriers, but the A321LR and its capabilities could be part of a strategy that allows India to capture a role in global aviation commensurate with the size of its home origin and destination (O&D) market.

Maps generated by the Great Circle Mapper -

Maps generated by the Great Circle Mapper - copyright © Karl L. Swartz. copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

Indeed India, and South Asia as a whole, might be the critical market for the A321LR’s longer run success. East Asia will also play a role, but as the South Asian region taps into its economic and demographic potential, the ability to serve O&D markets, as well as connecting ones with the A321LR, will be a powerful draw.

Overall, we expect Airbus to sell roughly 500 copies of the A321LR over the next 15 years, contingent on a Boeing 757 replacement from Boeing for entry into service (EIS) in the 2030 timeframe. An earlier launch of this new small airplane (NSA) by Boeing would alter our sales projections by roughly 100 frames, highly contingent on the size of the aircraft and its capabilities.

Even at the smaller order figure of 400 airframes, the A321LR is clearly worth it for Airbus because it will boost sales of the A321neo, where Airbus already holds a significant advantage over the Boeing 737 MAX 9. Thanks to commonality, and the ability to rotate the 97 ton A321neo onto domestic routes with higher capability requirements (perhaps hot and high airports or routes with heavy cargo demand), the A321LR will clearly increase the relative value of the A321neo over the 737 MAX 9.

Solving the 757 Replacement “Problem”

For all the press that it receives as a long-haul narrowbody aircraft, the actual Boeing 757 replacement problem that can only be solved by the A321LR and not the A321neo or 737 MAX 9 is relatively small, perhaps 15-20 percent of the overall worldwide Boeing 757 operation.

EXTRAThe Next Boeing Clean-Sheet Will Probably Be a 757 Replacement

Moreover, this figure is only arrived at by considering an overly expansive view of the A321LR’s mission: international routes longer than 2,000 nautical miles. Indeed, our analysis, using schedules from the database, found 91 distinct routes that meet this criteria. Those routes are presented in the table below, and a summary is shown in the map below that.

Source: Ch-Aviation

Source: Ch-Aviation


Maps generated by the Great Circle Mapper -

Maps generated by the Great Circle Mapper - copyright © Karl L. Swartz. copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

Based on our cursory analysis using our model, on a 3,200 nautical mile, the A321LR would burn 24.2 percent less fuel, assuming a seating capacity of 160 passengers ( 16J / 40 Y+ / 104Y ) versus 169 for the 757-200 ( 16J / 45Y+ / 108Y) for a United style airline. This yields a 17.6 percent reduction in fuel burn per seat for the A321LR, a substantial improvement in operating economics.

In terms of payload-range capabilities, our analysis concluded (as hinted above) that the A321LR cannot quite match the 757-200′s revenue capabilities, as for any given breakdown between economy class, premium economy, first class, and international business class, the 757-200 will hold a higher number of seats. However, for the 757-200s that the A321LR will be replacing on long-haul routes, the bulk of the profitability comes from the business class seats up front, which means that the A321LR can likely deliver 97-98 percent as much revenue as the 757-200s, with at least 15 percent better trip costs. And on a payload-range basis, the A321LR can match the 757-200′s ability to carry a certain economic payload at pretty much every range.

Airbus Pressures Boeing to Launch 757 Replacement

We have gone on the record in the past noting that we believe that Boeing will launch a clean-sheet Boeing 757 replacement, and our thinking on the subject has not changed substantially since then. The same competitive dynamics that are driving the A321neo’s dominance over the 737 MAX 9 (758 firm orders versus 217 at last glance) are still in place. And given the launch of the A321LR, the real question is not whether Boeing will launch a 757 replacement but rather when.

Under the management of current CEO Jim McNerney, the answer has likely been 2030, 13 years after the EIS of the Boeing 737 MAX.  But between the A321LR, and the potential for new leadership at Boeing since McNerney has reached the mandatory retirement age of 65, we believe that the timeline of Boeing’s NSA is moving up rapidly towards EIS in 2025 or 2026, with program launch by 2018 (soon after MAX EIS).

Details on this NSA are obviously hazy at this point, though we do believe that the family would be centered on a 200-seat airplane (either single or twin aisle) with enough range to fly between 4,600 and 5,000 nautical miles nonstop (comfortably surpassing both the 737 MAX and A321LR). Further family offshoots would include 175 seat and 225 seat variants, with the former timed to EIS around 2030 (allowing the fast-selling 737 MAX 8 at least 13-14 years worth of sales). The aircraft’s efficiency would surpass that of the A321LR due to wing and fuselage improvements as well as engine technology, and would likely cost at least $10 billion to develop.

And we believe Boeing is likely to pull the trigger internally on this project soon, driven in part by the launch of the A321LR. In the end, the requisite cash outlay may end up being the most valuable strategic effect for Airbus from launching the A321LR, surpassing the sales of the aircraft itself.

Cover image courtesy of Airbus

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American Airlines’ 2015 Fleet Plan

By Jack Harty / Published January 30, 2015

MSN 5678 American Airlines FF Start

Courtesy of American Airlines

Earlier this week, American released its official 2015 Fleet Plan; even though the airline plans that its total mainline aircraft will shrink by about 30, it will take delivery of more than seven dozen mainline aircraft and retire more than 100 mainline.

A319: American will take delivery of four A319s in the first quarter and three in the second quarter. By the end of the year, American will have 125 A319s in its fleet.


Photo courtesy of American Airlines

A320: Eight Airbus A320 aircraft will be retired by the end of the second quarter. The aircraft that are scheduled to be retired are some of the oldest A320s in the fleet which America West owned when they acquired US Airways. By the end of the year, American will be down to 55 A320s.

A321: American will take delivery of 10 A321s in both the first and second quarters, and 15 more will be delivered during the last half of the year. 23 of these deliveries are original American orders, and the other 12 are original US Airways orders. By the end of the year, American will have 174 A321s in its fleet.


Image Courtesy of Airways News

A330-200 and -300: There are no planned changes to the 24 A330 family aircraft in its fleet.

737-800: Four 737-800s will be delivered in the first quarter, and six will be delivered in the second quarter. Plus, eight more will be delivered by the end of the year. With the addition of these 18 aircraft, American will be up to 264 Boeing 737-800s in its fleet.

757-200: 37 757-200s wil be retired by the end of the year. 10 aircraft will be retired in the first and second quarters; meanwhile, the airline will retire 14 during the third quarter and three in the fourth quarter. After all of these retirements, American will be down to 69 757 aircraft in its fleet.


Image Courtesy of Airways News

767-200: Only six 767-200s remain flying–in the US Airways livery–for American, but they will all be retired within the next two weeks.

767-300: American will retire one 767-300 in both the first and second quarters of this year, and it will retire seven in the third quarter. After these retirements, American will be down to 49 767-300s in its fleet.

777-200: There are no planned changes to the 47 Boeing 777-200 aircraft in its fleet.

777-300ER: American will take delivery of one new aircraft in the first and fourth quarters of this year. With these two new additions, American will have 18 777-300ER aircraft in its fleet.


Photo by JDL Multimedia

787-8: American is due to take delivery of three Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners every quarter of this year. If all goes according to plan, American will have a strong fleet of 12 787s by the end of the year.

MD-80s: 43 MD-80 aircraft will be retired this year. Seven will be ferried to the desert during the first quarter, 23 during the second quarter, and 13 during the third quarter. After these retirements, American will be down to 96 MD-80s, and their retirement continues to quickly approach.

E190: There are no planned changes to the 20 E190s in the fleet.


Image Courtesy of Airways News

Once all of these fleet changes occur, American will have a fleet of 953 mainline aircraft.

As far as the regional side is concerned, 21 CRJ-900 and 29 ERJ-175 aircraft will be delivered, but 21 ERJ-140/145s and 1 Dash 8-100 will be retired. By the end of the year, close to 600 aircraft will be operating flights for American Eagle.


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Cover photo courtesy of JDL Multimedia

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ANA Announces Commitment for Three 787-10 Aircraft

By Jack Harty / Published January 30, 2015


Photo courtesy of Boeing

Early this morning, ANA confirmed its intent to purchase three Boeing 787-10 Dreamliners as well as an order for five 737-800 aircraft. Once the orders are finalized, the deal is valued at approximately $1.4 billion at current list prices.

With the addition of the 787-10, ANA will become the first airline in Asia to operate all three variants. Already, ANA–the launch customer of the 787–is currently the largest 787 operator with 34 in service, and it also has 46 more on order.

“This decision demonstrates the strength of our decades-long partnership with ANA, and we are honored by their continued confidence in the 787,” said Ray Conner, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “We are proud to play an integral role in ANA’s long-term success as they look to feature the complete family of 787 Dreamliners in their future fleet.”

Thanks to operating all three 787 variants, ANA has a lot of flexibility with the aircraft, and with the 787-10 now on order for the airline, Boeing says “the 787-10 will be 25 to 30 percent more efficient than airplanes of its size today and more than 10 percent better than anything offered by the competition for the future.”


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Historical Review: Key Boeing 747 Customers

By Benjamin Bearup and Jay Haapala / Published January 29, 2015

As we continue to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the Boeing 747′s entry into passenger service, we look at some of the key aircraft operators around the world in the 747’s history, from airlines, charter carriers, and governments.

Extra: Original 747 Sales Brochures, Vintage Photos, and Memorabilia

The Clipper Victor in London. Image: Courtesy of Thomas Lee

The Clipper Victor in London. Image: Courtesy of Thomas Lee

One of type’s key operators was Pan American World Airways. Pan Am became the launch customer for the 747 after placing an order for 25 747-100s on April 13th, 1966, in a deal valued at $525 million at the time.

EXTRAA History of Boeing’s 747 Factory

The airline took ceremonial delivery of their first 747, the Clipper Young America, on January 15, 1970. Clipper Young America was christened by First Lady Pat Nixon at an event held at Washington Dulles International Airport.

First Lady Pat Nixon at the first Boeing 747 rollout ceremony at Boeing's Everett factory.

First Lady Pat Nixon at the first Boeing 747 rollout ceremony at Boeing’s Everett factory.

Prior to entering service, Pan Am flew the 747-100 around the United States for public relations purposes. On January 21, 1970, the 747-100 flew its first commercial flight for Pan Am from New York JFK to London Heathrow Airport. A engine failure on aircraft Clipper Young America caused a multi-hour delay on the first flight and eventually led to it being substituted by Clipper Victor. Pan Am would become the early face of the 747 commercial program, with its large blue billboard-style livery.

EXTRA: Q&A with Thomas Lee, a Passenger Aboard the First Commercial Boeing 747 Flight

Another U.S. carrier that operated 747s was Trans World Airlines, which operated different variants of 747 between 1970 and up until 2001, when it merged with American Airlines. TWA opened its TWA Flight Center — the iconic Eero Saarien-designed terminal at JFK Airport — in 1962 to usher in the jet age. In 1969, the terminal was extended, adding a departure-arrival concourse and lounge to accommodate the 747. The carrier primarily used their 747s for domestic hub-to-hub flying and for European flying.


EXTRA: TWA Terminal 5 and 747 Launch Brochure

Air Force One at Miami International Airport. Photo: Chris Sloan, AirwaysNews

Air Force One at Miami International Airport. Photo: Chris Sloan, AirwaysNews

The U.S. Air Force has the one of the most recognizable 747s in the world. Operating two modified 747-200s (VC-25), the  Air Force transport the president of the United States around the world at a moment’s notice .

The aircraft is operated by the 89th Airlift Wing based at Andrews Air Force Base in Prince George’s County, Maryland outside of Washington, D.C.

EXTRA: A look at some of the early development models of the 747 and the very first 747, now at the Museum of Flight

The primary 747 uses the callsign Air Force One. The VC-25s feature an onboard White House located in the front of the aircraft. This onboard White House provides communication from onboard the aircraft to those on the ground, thus allowing the President to address the nation form inflight in the time of a crisis. Both aircraft are capable of refueling midair, meaning the flight can be endless if necessary. The future of the VC-25s remains uncertain as the Air Force considers more cost-effective alternatives in the 2020 timeframe.

On January 28, Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James, announced that the Boeing 747-8 will serve as the next  Air Force One. “The Boeing 747-8 is the only aircraft manufactured in the United States (that), when fully missionized, meets the necessary capabilities established to execute the presidential support mission, while reflecting the office of the president of the United States of America consistent with the national public interest,” she said.

EXTRA: Boeing Delivers 50th Boeing 747-8

Joe Sutter beams a the first Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental Handover Ceremony to Lufthansa on May 1, 2012 Image Credit: Chris Sloan/AirwaysNews

Joe Sutter, the father of the 747, beams at the first Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental handover ceremony to Lufthansa on May 1, 2012. Photo: Chris Sloan / AirwaysNews

Lufthansa was the launch customer for both the 747-200 and the 747-8. Lufthansa has had all variants of the 747 in its fleet: the -100, -200, -400, and now the -8 intercontinental. Not only is a prominent 747 operator, it was also a prominent 727 and 737 operator.

EXTRA: Lufthansa Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental Handover Event and Inaugural Flight

This helped strengthen its relationship with Boeing, as they helped with the development of the aircraft with the legendary Joe Sutter, dubbed the Father of the 747. In November 2013, Lufthansa presented Sutter with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his commitment and leadership to the 747 project.

EXTRA: Lufthansa Presents Joe Sutter, “Father of the 747″, With Lifetime Achievement Award

Callsign Giant is a fitting name for the U.S.-based cargo and passenger charter airline operating a fleet of mostly 747s. Atlas Air operates scheduled cargo operations all over the world from its seven United States hubs. Atlas Air offers an array of services from dry leasing, shipping, and passenger transport. The carriers destinations often vary based upon customer demands.

Atlas currently operates 39 Boeing 747-400 and 747-8 model aircraft. Four of these aircraft are the 747 Dreamlifter. These large Boeing converted freighters are used to haul fuselage and wing parts of the 747 from various manufacturing facilities around the world. Ones best chance to spot the 747 Dreamlifter is at Paine Field in Everett, Washington. Other common 747 Dreamlifter stops include North Charleston, South Carolina, and Wichita, Kansas.

Japan Airlines 747 : Photos Courtesy Japan Airlines

Japan Airlines 747 : Photos Courtesy Japan Airlines

Japan has been crucial to the 747’s long history. All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines have each operated several models of the 747. Flag carrier Japan Airlines at various times in its history operated the 747-100, 747-200B, 747-200F, 747 SR, 747-300, 747-400, 747-400BCF.

The 747-100 entered service operating flights to Honolulu and Los Angeles. Japan Airlines operated a fleet of 747 short-range aircraft to be used on domestic routes. These aircraft were designed solely for Japanese carriers to be used on short-haul flights with high capacity configurations. The airline retired its last 747-300 aircraft in July of 2009 and its last 747-400 in the fleet in March of 2011. Japan Airlines currently has no 747 family aircraft in its fleet.

An ANA 747 faces the scrapper. Photo by Chris Sloan / AirwaysNews

An ANA 747 faces the scrapper. Photo by Chris Sloan / AirwaysNews

Japanese carrier All Nippon Airways also has a rich history with the 747 having operated the 747-200, 747 SR, 747-400. Like rival Japan Airlines, ANA used the 747 SR for domestic travel with high frequency loads. At one point, All Nippon had 65 747 aircraft in its fleet and operated it from 1979 to 2014. In March of 2014, All Nippon Airways said farewell to its last 747-400 aircraft citing rising fuel cost for the early retirement.

EXTRA: ANA Retires its Last Boeing 747

The Japanese Air Force currently operates two 747-400s. These aircraft were purchased in 1987 and delivered in the fall of 1991. These equivalents to Air Force One fly the emperor, the prime minister and other high-ranking Japanese officials. In 2019, the two 747-400 aircraft will be replaced by 777-300ER aircraft.

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

EXTRA: Boeing Aircraft Deliveries Up 12 Percent in 2014

Through history, hundreds of carriers have operated more than 1,500 747s. Carriers like Pan Am, TWA, and Lufthansa all have played critical roles in the success of the aircraft. It is unclear how much longer the 747 can stay in production, with orders drying up. When the day comes that the last 747 leaves the Everett factory, one will look at the 747′s rich history and see why she truly is the Queen of the Skies.

EXTRA MULTI-PART SERIES: Boeing’s Everett Plant: A History of the WideBody Mecca


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On-Board the Inaugural Qatar Airways A350 Flight

By Guest Contributor / Published January 17, 2015

Editor’s note: Below is a trip report submitted by Gino Bertuccio. Bertuccio, a Miami businessman, has traveled the world on major airline inaugurals for the Airbus A380, the Boeing 787, the 747-8, and was the first passenger to fly “The Residence” on Etihad’s first A380.IMG_0431

Below is a trip report and photos from the inaugural Qatar Airways passenger A350 flight from Doha to Frankfurt by Mr. Bertuccio.

I must say that I didn’t expect Qatar Airways to have any celebrations for their inaugural Airbus A350 XWB flight, based on previous experiences. However, I must admit that they have left me very impressed after the inaugural A350 flight.IMG_0429

I arrived at the Hamad International Airport First and Business Class Terminal around 5:35 AM on January 15 for the inaugural flight which was headed to Frankfurt, Germany.

As soon as I entered the terminal, a gracious lady approached me saying: “Good morning, Mr. Bertuccio and Welcome. This way please.” She quickly escorted me to the first class check-in area, but I was shocked that she knew who I was. So, I asked her how she knew who I was, and she explained that she saw my video and interview from the inaugural Etihad A380 flight.IMG_0435

The check-in and passport control process was very quick, and within ten minutes of checking-in, I arrived in the business class lounge where I met up with several “First to Fly” club members. Also in the lounge, I was contacted by a Qatar Airways Media Staff to do an interview for their social media channels.

Around 6:40 AM, a Qatar Special Services staff member escorted my to gate A3 which was the same gate as Qatar’s inaugural A380 flight.

EXTRA: Mr. Bertuccio’s Trip Report From Qatar’s Inaugural A380 Flight

Upon arriving at the gate, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Qatar had a huge gate celebration set up with soft live Arabic music, and all of the passengers were offered drinks, sweets, and a bag that contained a certificate commemorating the first flight as well as an Airbus A350 model. Meanwhile, all of the passengers seemed very happy as they enjoyed their drinks, took many photos, and checked out their gift bag.IMG_0447

At 7:15 AM, boarding started me. Along with myself and several others “First to Fly Club” flyers were invited to board, after we took a big group photo in front of a big Qatar sign.

Meanwhile CNN’s Richard Quest was boarding the aircraft, and when saw us, he pulled out his microphone, and we all got interviewed.

As we entered the aircraft, we were greeted by several flight attendants who welcomed us and showed us where our seats were. I quickly noticed the really wide cabin and the flat ceilings which gave me a sensation of a lot of space that I had never experienced on an aircraft before. Plus, the overhead bins were spacious as they could accommodate all carry-on luggage passengers brought on-board. Even though there are no center overhead bins in the business class cabin, it was not an issue for anybody.

EXTRA: First Passenger of Etihad’s A380 “The Residences” Gino Bertuccio’s Trip Report 

The new Qatar Airways business class seat, also already installed onboard the 787, was very comfortable in the 1-2-1 configuration. The new seats offered a generous storage area, easy to operate seat controls, and an IFE console that was easy to reach and operate. The 17” screen offers excellent resolution. A pillow, blanket, duvet, pajamas, and a very nice leather amenity bag with some Armani products inside where at every seat.

The flight attendants served welcome drinks, dates, and Arabic Coffee, IMG_0463and at 7:40 AM, Mr. Al Baker, Qatar’s CEO, came aboard with his staff along with Mr. Fabrice Bregier, Airbus’ CEO, and at 7:50 AM the doors were closed; at 8:12 AM we took off.

As soon as seat belt sign was turned off, flight attendants started coming through the cabin distributing menus , a wine list , a letter from the captain, and a beautiful pen made with the same composite materials that make up a large part of the A350. The flight attendants also asked us what we would like to drink as well as what we would like for breakfast. I decided to partake in the fruit, cereal, and Arabic Breakfast.

It was not easy for the flight attendant to conduct the cabin service because everybody was up socializing and exploring the aircraft so the service was a bit slow. IMG_0470

The atmosphere of the cabin was very friendly and cheerful. At the bar, a few of us conversed with Al Baker about aspects of the airline: HIA expansion, A350 pilot training, and Qatar’s in-flight product versus its competitors. In person, Baker is famously very clear, direct, and determined in what he wants and how he want it for the best interests of the airline.

Due to turbulence in route the seat belt sign was temporarily illuminated and unfortunately, we had to return to our seats for probably 20 minutes.

EXTRA: Gino Bertuccio on the Final Singapore Airlines Airbus A340-500 Flight

IMG_0504When it was turned off again, I was surprised when  a flight attendant came to my seat with a glass of champagne and a chocolate cake that said: “Welcome On Board our A350 Mr. Gino Bertuccio.”  The cake was especially prepared for me , and I couldn’t believe it. I don’t know whom I have to thank for this amazing gesture , but to whomever was  responsible they have my gratitude.

At 11:25 AM, we started our descent into Frankfurt, and we touched down on runway 07L (the newest runway) at 12: 05 PM and arrived at the gate approximately 15 minutes later.IMG_0510

My Take: I have taken a number of Qatar inaugurals and while the service is always excellent, they didn’t commemorate even launches like the A380 with any especially noteworthy gate events or details onboard even at the A380 launch. In the launch of the world’s first Airbus A350, Qatar went all out. They really put on a show down to every last detail. Sometimes the service was a bit slow, but since it was the first flight, not everybody was familiar with the galley, so chalk that up to familiarization.

The new business class seats are very comfortable and offer generous space and better than many other business class seats (especially in comparison to their own A330 old business class seats).  In my opinion, saying that it tops other airline’s first class seat may be a bit too much of a boast. In comparison with any US airline or other smaller airlines, Qatar’s business class seat wins, but is is not comparable with other major European or Asian carriers first class seats.IMG_0505

Overall, it was a fantastic flight and a great experience! Unfortunately, it was the last inaugural flight for an all-new wide-body passenger aircraft (not a derivative)  for the next decade.

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

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

EXTRA: On-Board Qatar’s A350 Delivery Flight



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Delta To Start West Coast 717 Operations In June

By Jack Harty / Published January 16, 2015


Image courtesy of Delta Air Lines.

Per Delta Air Lines’ electronic desktop timetable update, Delta will begin Boeing 717 west coast operations this summer.

In June, Delta will operate three daily round-trip flights between Los Angeles and Portland (PDX) and four daily flights between Los Angeles and Las Vegas with the 717.

In other news, Salt Lake City will get its first Boeing 717 flights in June as well. Delta will operate one daily round trip flight between Salt Lake City and Kansas City as well one daily roundtrip flight between Salt Lake City and Las Vegas.

The new 717 flights should be loaded into the flight schedule and reservation system sometime over the weekend.

Delta originally planned to start flying the 717 on the west coast in June 2014 when it launched flights between Austin and Los Angeles on June 5, 2014. However, the airline downgraded the new flight to an E175 due to delivery delays.

Now that AirTran has retired, the rest of its former 717s can now be converted and start flying for Delta this year.

EXTRA: Delta Inaugurates Boeing 717 Flights Between Atlanta and Newark


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Final US Airways 767-200ER Quickly Approaching

By Jack Harty / Published January 10, 2015

UPDATED: The final flight is now set for February 12. When we first published the story, we reported the final flight was US1798 on Wednesday, February 11.

The Boeing 767-200 will depart the US Airways fleet next month as the airline plans to operate its final 767 flights on February 12, pending no schedule changes.

The Final Flights

US 762

Photo by Arpingstone via Wiki Commons/Public Domain

On February 11, US Airways will fly 11 final regular 767 flights in and out of Charlotte and Philadelphia to Cancun, Orlando, and St. Thomas.

The two final flights will be US767 on Thursday, February 12. The flight will originate in Philadelphia at 9:00 AM and arrive at Charlotte at 10:44 AM. The flight will then depart Charlotte at 12:30 PM and arrive back in Philadelphia at 2:05 PM.

EXTRA: Full Flight Details on the final 767-200 Flights via AirlineRoute

Although its likely that the 767-200 will receive a quiet sendoff, several FlyerTalk members and other aviation enthusiasts are planning to be on-board the final flight.

The 767-200ER Played an Important Role


Jung 1989 Piedmont Airlines Route Map / Part of the Chris Sloan/ Collection

In 1986, the City of Charlotte and Piedmont started petitioning the Department of Transportation (DOT) to use Charlotte as a gateway to London Gatwick, but Piedmont would have to go up against Delta’s bid–Cincinnati/London Gatwick–for approval to operate Gatwick flights. Despite not knowing if the Piedmont would get approval, William Howard, the CEO, traveled to Seattle and placed an order for six Boeing 767-200ER aircraft.

EXTRA: Piedmont Timetables, Maps, and Memorabilia

In the Spring of 1988, US Air and Piedmont announced they would merge, and in May 1988, Howard traveled to Seattle to pick up its first 767-200. About a month later, Piedmont inaugurated transatlantic service to London Gatwick with the Boeing 767 “Pride of Piedmont.”

The Boeing 767 was a revolutionary aircraft at the time when it was introduced with United in 1982. Since the first delivery, approximately 250 -200 and -200ER aircraft were delivered to customers around the world. Several U.S. airlines operated the 767-200s between major U.S. cities, but over the years, they have been retired to the desert, scraped, or sold to another operator.

Close to three dozen 767-200 and -200ERs worldwide are still being flown by passenger and cargo carriers. Over the last few years, both American and Continental/United retired their 767-200 flights since they are not as economical as newer aircraft on the market.

EXTRA: Boeing Drops the 767-200ER and 767-400ER From Production


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EXCLUSIVE: Etihad’s “The Residence” Reviewed By First Passenger

By Guest Contributor / Published December 29th, 2014a pic 2

Editor’s note: Below is a trip report submitted by contributor Gino Bertuccio. Bertuccio has traveled the world on major airline inaugurals for the Airbus A380, the Boeing 787 and the 747-8. This is his first-person account of his adventures in “The Residence” on the inaugural flight on Etihad’s first A380, from Abu Dhabi to London Heathrow.

On December 27, 2014, he became the first passenger to fly in “The Residence” cabin on Etihad’s Airbus A380.a pic 7

EXTRA: Meet Ginto Bertuccio, the First Residence Passenger

I must start off by saying that this–the inaugural Etihad Airways Airbus A380 flight on December 27–was the most amazing inaugural flight I have ever flown on, thanks to many new innovations and unexperienced standards of personalized luxury.a pic 8

I do admit that as soon as I arrived in Abu Dhabi at 9:30 PM that night, I was constantly surrounded and received more attention than you can imagine.

As soon as I exited my Lufthansa flight, an incredible young lady, Boutaina, from Etihad was waiting for me in her beautiful ground staff new uniform.

Boutaina’s assistant took care of my carry on and jacket, and I never had to worry about my personal belongings for the rest of my trip. I was escorted through the security checkpoint at Terminal 1, where a limousine was awaiting to take me to Etihad’s Terminal 3.

Once arriving inside Terminal 3, I was escorted into the first / business class lounge, but I was quickly brought into a big private room reserved for me. Upon arriving at the entrance, I was introduced to the Lounge Manager and met the staff who would take care of me for the next four hours.a pic 1

Massimo, an Italian speaking lounge staff member, escorted me to the spa to take a shower. The lounge had an amazing spa as well as a great beauty salon for men and women.a pic 27

While walking to the spa, I asked Boutaina where I could find a pharmacy because I forgot my contact lenses solution at home, but I arrived in my private lounge to find a bottle of contact lenses solution waiting for me courtesy of Etihad. I couldn’t believe it!!

At the lounge, two gentleman were assigned to take care of me, and they offered my anything you could imagine. I accepted a glass of champagne, sparkling water, and some canapés that were exclusively prepared for me by the chef, although the lounge has three buffet stations and two bars. The gentleman made sure that glasses were refilled promptly and canapés kept coming. I was offered a dinner menu, but I declined as I planned to have my dinner on board.a pic 5

Later on, Isabelle and Khalid were escorted to the private room to join me, and they received the same treatment and attention I had.

While at the lounge I met Tomas Clarke Etihad who suggested that I arrive at the gate at 1am for a picture with the whole crew. At ten to 1:00 AM, M escorted me to gate 33 which was not a long walk from the lounge. I felt like a star as I was introduced to many and had pictures with staff. Hand shaking didn’t stop for the whole time, and I was very honored to have their attention.a pic 13

Finally, the inaugural flight crew arrived. Captain Ali Aljaberi came over to meet me; I couldn’t feel more honored, and a few minutes later, the crew was in position for a picture with me. There were flashes everywhere, and at the end, there was a huge applause in the gate area.

Boarding was set to begin at 1:35 AM. After the photo session, we returned to the lounge to pick up my belongings. Again, I never touched them because someone took care of it. Then, we said goodbye and headed to the boarding area.

Meanwhile, some other members of “First to Fly” as well as others I knew arrived at the gate, and it was great to spend time chatting and taking pictures with them. While the excitement started to increase when it was almost boarding time, I knew that Georgina, the First Butler, would come out any moment to pick me up and escort me to my Residence.

a pic 14

Around 2/2:15 AM, I started not paying attention to the time as Georgina showed up in the jetway. I said good bye to M and the other fantastic Etihad staff around me. As we headed to the aircraft, Georgina was already in front of me and introduced herself. We shook hands and posed for a few pictures before stepping on-board the aircraft.a pic 16

At the entrance, two flight attendants were ready to receive the “guests” as the call us. They were very nice and posed for a picture. The aircraft had a sober elegant entrance with brown and burgundy color decorating.

While I walked through the first class cabin, I was impressed to see so how luxurious the cabin was. I had never seen anything like it. The nine first apartments are positioned one on each side on the cabin—one facing forward one facing backward—in order to allow “guests” flying together to lower the partition and communicate. It’s the only first class private cabin that allows you to close your door and be able to talk around the sofa and bed comfortably.

Luxury is the best word to describe the Residence. The living room is wide, but not huge. It was comfortable and had a nice TV screen. There is a door that separates the bedroom and bathroom. The bedroom is not huge, but it is comfortable, and under the bed, there is an area for storage. The bathroom is as big as the first class bathroom, but the shower offers a generous amount of space. There was not an amenity kit, but there were plenty of Acqua di Parma toiletries items.a pic 17

Back in the living room, a tray was served with some dates, and Georgina pointed out that she prepared champagne, sparkling water with lemon, and some Arabic coffee; this was exactly the same I was having at the lounge! She already knew it! THAT WAS UNBELIEVABLE.

The living room has seats for two guests, and each seat has its own set of duty free, inflight entertainment, Etihad Aspire magazine, and safety card. In front, there is a three piece ottoman hid the minibar and storage areas.

Of the nine First Apartments “guests ,” seven were members of the “First to Fly” group or others that I knew. Quickly my Residence became the meeting point for everyone as we took many pictures, chatted, or drank. It was a real party in the sky. a pic 18

Georgina was keeping my glasses full while almost everybody on First Apartments was coming into my cabin to look around and take photos.  I asked to visit the cockpit, and Georgina took me immediately down the stairs into the pilots work area. After a few minutes, I was back in my Residence with my seat belt on ready for push back.

We pushed back around 2:50 AM, and the taxi was a little bit long; we took off at 3:00 AM.

Once the seat belt sign was turned off, everybody got up and explored. Georgina gave me a very nice leather folder with an Inaugural certificate, Etihad stationery, copies of the menu, and a wine list. The menu’s first page has “Mr. Bertuccio” printed on it, and there was a letter from Captain Aljaberi.a pic 20

After that Georgina and I discussed how I would like  the service be performed and all details about dinner, breakfast, shoe shining, pajamas, shower etc.

I reached the bedroom where my Christian Lacroix pajamas were waiting for me. I got changed and was ready for dinner.

Because the cabin is for two, I suggested to my butler to undertake a drawing among all first apartment guests and an un-biased hand (Isabelle) will pick up the lucky one to share dinner with me. The winner was Rolando Veloso, recently met.

I chose for dinner caviar and chicken supreme with hollandaise sauce and fries. Champagne Brut Grand Gosset 2004 and Valpolicella Fattory red wine were served with my dinner a pic 24

After a nice chocolate cake and excellent caffe macchiato, Captain Aljaberi came up to give me a gift. A beautiful glass ancient sailboat with the words engraved “First Guest on Residence by Etihad EY 11 Abu Dhabi London Heathrow, Saturday 27 of December 2014. It was a very emotional moment as I didn’t expect it. I was more than honored.

At this point, I started getting sleepy as we were almost 3 hours before landing so I decided to take a nap and try the bed. After breakfast arrangements made with Georgina (I asked her to have a guest from economy class for breakfast, and she could pick), I went to bed. It didn’t take much longer to fall asleep in the very comfortable bed beside my size.a pic 25

I only had time to sleep for one hour and a half, and Georgina woke me up with a fresh fruit smoothie. The breakfast table was set up, and my guest was already there. Yogurt, cereal and a fantastic omelet prepared by the onboard chef was served. Unfortunately I didn’t have much time to savor as during breakfast Georgina advised me that we would land in one hour. It was time for me to shower and get ready .

The shower was very easy to operate with generous space to move comfortably around . After 20 minute, I was seated in my living room. Georgina left me a nice card representing Abu Dhabi skyline  with “It was a pleasure taking care of you . Kind Regards “a pic 23

At 6:00 AM we started our descent into London Heathrow, and we touchdown was 35 minutes later. After a short taxi, the brakes were applied at terminal 4–marking the completion of the first Etihad A380 to LHR.

Some journalist wanted me to stay on board for few shots and interviews.

After that I was escorted by Roberta thru immigration and customs.

I was writing this review after returning home and I was living again minute by minute this fantastic journey I was lucky to live.

All what I saw was beyond anybody’s imagination. As I said in the first interview with Etihad, I have no idea what to expect, but I keep them high and definitely would never have imagined what went on. My expectations were more than fulfilled.a pic 9

I want to thank M ( I’m sorry I didn’t learn your name ), Tom Clarke, Aubrey Tiedt, Georgina Jane Henderson, Andrew Davidson, Roberta Mannino, Katie Connell, and all Etihad staff that made my journey unforgettable.

Have a Happy New Year, and see on next inaugural on January 15, 2015 on Qatar Airways first A350 scheduled flight from Doha to Frankfurt..

Inflight Images Courtesy of Gino Bertuccio.

EXTRA: Etihad Airways Unveils New Uniforms, First 787, and First A380

EXTRA: Mr. Bertuccio’s Trip Report From Qatar’s Inaugural A380 Flight


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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


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.


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


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.


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”.


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.


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.


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.


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 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


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


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


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.

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Five AirTran Commercials That Provide Great Flying Advice

By Jack Harty / Published December 27, 2014


Photo by Devlin Robear

Tomorrow is the final day of AirTran operations, and starting Monday morning, AirTran will be fully integrated with Southwest.

AirTran was a unique airline, and it was loved by many. It became the first low-cost-carrier - and so far only LCC in the United States – to offer a Business Class cabin on its aircraft. Plus, it also became the first U.S. airline to have its entire fleet equipped with GoGo WiFi which played a significant role in its commercials.

AirTran was also known for its low fares, and its commercials in the early 2000s provided some ideas on what to do with its low fares when faced with different scenarios.

EXTRA: The Airline Set to Disappear Sunday airtran-boeing-737-700-at-lax-2009_13254

Below are our five favorite AirTran commercials that we think will make you laugh, and some of them can provide some great flying advice.

#5: Close Your Computer

With GoGo WiFi on all AirTran aircraft, the airline decided to run a series of ads focusing on “Internetiquette.” Rule number one: always close your computer.

#4: When You’re Fired Over the Phone

What do you do if your boss fires you over the phone while they’re traveling for business? AirTran has the answer.

#3: How to Take Advantage of Low Air Fares

In a commercial from the early 2000s, AirTran taught us how to take advantage of low fares. Fly your in-laws/parents into town on AirTran for a visit. Next, have your bags packed and ready to go, and the rest is history. (No mom and dad, I would never leave you in this position.)

#2: Where Not To Have a Meeting While Flying

AirTran also liked to promote having GoGo WiFi on all of its aircraft, and with WiFi, businessmen would be able to be more productive. However, where should you have a meeting on-board the flight?

#1: Don’t Fall Asleep With WiFi On-Board

With GoGo WiFi, once can do just about anything, including have an online auction. Be careful if you fall asleep!

BONUS: Skip the Stampede – Fly AirTran Airways

This commercial is not quite about advice, but it is worth mentioning.

During the 2010 SuperBowl, Southwest Airlines ran a commercial promoting that bags fly free. However, there was a twist to it.

At the end of the commercial, Southwest baggage handlers flashed a blurred-out AirTran plane with the words “we love bags” written on their chests. Unfortunately, we were unable to locate the commercial on YouTube to share in this post.

AirTran Airways did take some offense to the Southwest commercial, and they responded with a commercial of their own.

Now, the duking out seems a bit ironic as AirTran will officially be integrated into Southwest by Monday.

Extra: A History of Air Tran

Extra: Final AirTran 717 Ferry Flights

Extra: Onboard the final flights of AirTran

Extra: AirTran and ValuJet Timetables and Schedules


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TGIF: Thank Goodness It’s Flyday Weekend Wrap Up, December 26, 2014

By Jack Harty and Benjamin Bearup / Published December 26, 2014

I cannot believe I am already writing our final TGIF Weekend Wrap Up for 2014, but like most weeks, it was another busy week in the airline industry. We covered the first delivery of the Airbus A350 XWB to Qatar Airways on Monday, and on Tuesday, we covered Qatar’s delivery flight to Doha. Additionally, we took a look back at the history of AirTran Airways as the AirTran brand readies to fly into the sunset on Sunday.

We did miss a few stories this week which are covered below, including a new Virgin Atlantic 787 route, United filing for new routes, Etihad acquiring a 49% stake in Alitalia, and a few more.

New Virgin Atlantic 787 Route: Earlier this week, Virgin Atlantic announced that it will begin flying its new 787-9 between London Heathrow and Los Angeles on April 30, 2015. The carrier will use the 787 to replace the 747 it currently flies between the two cities. Switching to the 787 will allow Virgin Atlantic to increase frequency between Los Angeles and London in partnership with Delta Air Lines.

Virgin Atlantic's Boeing 787-9 in Atlanta. Photo courtesy of Brian Gore

Virgin Atlantic’s Boeing 787-9 in Atlanta. Photo courtesy of Brian Gore


Los Angeles will become Virgin’s sixth city to receive 787-9 service, following Boston, Delhi, Newark, New York-JFK, and Washington-Dulles, and by next October, Virgin plans to operate the 787-9 to Dubai, Johannesburg, and Shanghai.

United to Add Chicago/Rome Flights: Subject to government approval, United Airlines will commence seasonal service between Chicago and Rome, Italy this summer. The carrier will operate daily flights with a Boeing 777-200ER from June 4th through September 23rd.

United currently operates seasonal flights to Rome from Newark and Washington-Dulles.

Etihad Acquires Stake in Alitalia: Etihad officially acquired a 49% stake in Alitalia this week as the two airlines completed the transaction.IMG_4425-0.JPG

According to a press release, “Etihad Airways has subscribed and paid for the capital increase of euro 387.5 million for the acquisition of a 49 per cent share in Alitalia SAI. The remaining 51 per cent shareholding is held by Alitalia CAI through MidCo, which has contributed the agreed assets and liabilities for the continuation of the airline.”

The transaction will become effective on December 31, 2014 and Alitalia SAI – Società Aerea Italiana will commence operations on January 1, 2015.

Final Qantas 767 Flight: On Saturday, December 27, Qantas will fly its final Boeing 767-300ER flight from Melbourne to Sydney. To commemorate the final flight, Qantas changed the flight number to 767, earlier this week. Qantas has been flying the 767 since for almost 30 years; in 1985, Qantas introduced the Boeing 767-200 into its fleet for Asia, New Zealand, and Pacific routes.

Volaris to Start Houston Flights: On March 23, 2015, Volaris will begin flying three times weekly flights between Guadalajara and Houston.

The new flight will depart Guadalajara at 8:28 am and arrive in Houston at 10:35. The return flight will depart at 11:55 am, arricing in Guadalajara at 2:18 PM. The new flights will be operated with a Airbus A320.

United Files to Operate New Orleans/Cancun Flights: United Airlines applied with the U.S. DOT to operate weekly seasonal flights between New Orleans and Cancun. The once weekly flight would begin on May 9th of 2015, subject to government approval. This would make United the third carrier to operate this route following Delta – which currently operates one flight a week – and AeroMexico – which operates two flights a week on behalf of Vacation Express. 

A United Airlines Boeing 787-9 parked at George Bush Houston Intercontinental Airport. Photo courtesy of Seth Miller

A United Airlines Boeing 787-9 parked at George Bush Houston Intercontinental Airport. Photo courtesy of Seth Miller


Here’s the complete list of stories this week:

LAN, TAM Airlines Announce Passenger Experience Upgrades

Top Five Airline Holiday Videos Taking the Inaugural Bangkok A380 Flight on Qatar

Meet Etihad’s First Residence Passenger

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

Program Analysis: Airbus Likely to Launch A350-1100

A Look at Airbus’ A350 XWB Final Assembly Line

On-Board Qatar’s A350 XWB Media Flight

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

Qatar Airways to Take Delivery of First A350 Tomorrow

Miami: We Have 100 Air Carriers

 Eastern Air Lines Returns Home to Miami


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FlashBack Friday: The Airline Set to Disappear Sunday – AirTran Airways

By Jack Harty / Published December 26, 2014

Southwest Airlines will officially complete its integration of AirTran Airways – a little more than four years since announcing plans to acquire AirTran – on Sunday, December 28 as AirTran flight 001 blocks in at Tampa International Airport just before midnight.bwi-airport-jdl-3-2_32073

For many, Sunday is bittersweet; employees are excited to complete the integration, but some customers are not happy to see the beloved AirTran brand be switched to Southwest.

Over the last two decades, AirTran has had a long and significant presence in the U.S. airline industry as it dates back to the introduction of ValuJet. In this week’s FlashBack Friday, we take a look at ValuJet and AirTran.

The ValuJet Days


ValuJet Fall 1994 Flight Schedule Part of the Chris Sloan / Airchive Collection

When Eastern Air Lines went out of business in 1991, it left a void in the Southern travel market which was growing at a rapid pace, but Robert Priddy – the founder of Atlantic Southeast Airlines and Florida Gulf Airlines – started working on plans for ValuJet – which he helped co-found in 1992 – to help fill the void.

From the beginning, very few took ValuJet seriously; it had a cartoon character painted on the fuselage of its old DC-9s it acquired from Delta, and its orange and yellow all coach seats were not really eye candy. Plus, ValuJet based its operations in Atlanta where it would have to directly compete with Delta who had been dominating the Atlanta market since 1941.

Despite what people thought about ValuJet, it still continued to push that it offered low-fares and only flew full size jets, and passengers started jumping on the bandwagon.

On October 26, 1993, ValuJet flew its inaugural flight – ValuJet 901 – from Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport to Tampa with 105 customers. Shortly after the first flight, word started spreading quickly that ValuJet’s fares were much lower than Delta’s, and passengers really appreciated this.

Meanwhile, the airline became very profitable thanks to non-union crews, low fares, high aircraft utilization, and sub-contracting most operational functions, and the airline filed for an initial public offering (IPO) in 1994; it soon became one of the hottest trades on Wall Street.

Some saw what was going on at the airline as a recipe for disaster.

Two years after starting flights, ValuJet placed an order for 50 MD-95s which later became known as the 717 when Boeing bought McDonnell Douglas. This was the first time in history that an airline as young as ValuJet would become the launch customer of a new aircraft.

Extra: AirTran and ValuJet Timetables and Schedules


On May 11, 1996, ValuJet flight 592 took off for Atlanta from Miami, but shortly after takeoff, fire broke out the in cargo hold and quickly spread throughout the aircraft. Unfortunately, the pilots were not able to return to Miami, and the aircraft plunged into the Everglades, killing all 110 people on-board.

Leading up to the crash, the FAA opened an investigation into why ValuJet had more than 114 emergency landings in 17 months and 14 times the number of accidents. After the crash, the FAA grounded ValuJet for maintenance practices for four months.

Where Do we Go Next?

When flight operations resumed in September 1996, ValuJet made significant changes; it reduced its fleet from 51 DC-9s to a mere 15, and it made sure to make safety and compliance its top priority.

Despite ensuring safety was its top priority, people and the media picked up on every little thing – from turbulence to a hard landing – that went wrong or could be seen as something unsafe on a ValuJet flight, and the airline consistently made the front page of the newspaper.airtran-boeing-737-700-at-atl-_1793

Meanwhile, AirTran Corporation – the holding company of Mesaba Airlines which was a Northwest Airlink carrier – was growing as it acquired Conquest Sun Airlines which was planning to become a Boeing 737 operator based out of Orlando. Over time, AirTran started building up a small low-fare hub in Orlando to several destinations in the north and midwest.

In July 1997, ValuJet Airlines’ holding company, ValuJet Inc., announced plans to buy AirTran Corporation. The new airline would be known as AirTran Airways.

A Remarkable Turnaround


AirTran ValuJet Combined Route Map from 1997 Part of the Chris Sloan / Airchive Collection

Over the next few years, executives worked very hard to turn the old ValuJet into AirTran with a new and better reputation. Even to this day, the ValuJet turn around is still looked highly upon by airline historians and leaders.

On September 24, 1997, ValuJet Airlines changed its name to AirTran, and in the summer of 1998, the two airlines merged onto the same FAA certificate. While the airline kept its main hub in Atlanta, the headquarters was combined in Orlando, Florida, and finally, in January 1999, a new management team led by Joe Leonard, a veteran of Eastern Air Lines and Robert L. Fornaro, of US Airways, took over.

Like any acquisition, it’s difficult to bring employees from different cultures together, but there was no drama or strikes by employees during integration. Many employees cite management’s focus of putting employees first – similar to Southwest’s culture – for making the integration smooth.airtran-boeing-737-700-at-lax-2009_13254

The airline also decided to focus on the needs of business travelers which were often overlooked by low fare airlines, and since they were often overlooked, this typically meant that business travelers did not fly on low fare airlines.

AirTran wanted to fix that; it introduced a business class section that featured three rows of two-by-two seats with seven more inches of legroom and four more inches of seat width than its coach seats. The business class seats were only $25 more than AirTran’s regular one-way coach fare on nonstop flights and $40 more on multi-stop flights. All of the carrier’s aircraft had the new class by November 22, 1997.atlanta-hartsfield-jackson-international-airport-aerials-of-concourses-c-d-2009_12073

The airline continued to grow in Atlanta where it built a large hub that was bustling with DC-9s and 737s.

By 2003, AirTran had retired most of its DC-9s and replaced them with the 717 which received raving reviews from customers. Later in the year, AirTran announced plans to purchase 100 new Boeing 737-700s to help it operate longer flights and expand to the west coast.

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


AirTran Route Map From 20014 Part of the Chris Sloan / Airchive Collection

In 2004, the AirTran JetConnect regional brand, operated by Air Wisconsin, ceased operations after two years of service. Also in 2004, AirTran made a bid for 14 gates at Chicago Midway after ATA’s departure, but unfortunately, Southwest outbid the airline.

In 2005, AirTran introduced satellite XM radio as its in-flight entertainment. This was the first time that an airline introduced this feature, and it celebrated it at a special event in Las Vegas with Elton John who’s face was also on a promotional plane. Southwest announced that it would remove this service in 2011 to ensure a consistent product.

2006 was another big year for AirTran. It took delivery of one of the last two Boeing 717s, during the first half of the year, and at the end of 2006, it attempted to takeover Milwaukee based Midwest Airlines. Although eight months later, the airline announced that its attempt to purchase Midwest expired, and TPG Capital and Northwest were in talks to purchase Midwest for more than AirTran offered. Despite increasing its offer, AirTran was still unable to acquire Midwest.

Four years later in 2010, AirTran Airways opened its second crew base in Milwaukee and made the city a new hub.

EXTRA: Inside AirTran’s 717s

The Southwest Acquisition

Paine Field aerials November 14-43

Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / JDL Multimedia

On September 28, 2010, Southwest Airlines announced that it would acquire AirTran Airways with a  $3.4 billion bid.

Although the deal was not official until May 2011, Gary Kelly, Southwest’s CEO, met with AirTran’s CEO, Bob Fornaro in April 2010, to see if a Southwest takeover would be something that AirTran was interested in. Fornaro said he would be interested if it was under the right circumstances. Six moths later, fuel spiked and the economy started to decline, and days later, the announcement came.

With the merger, Southwest would be able to increase its presence in several cities, and it would be able to gain access to Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport which was the largest U.S. city without Southwest service. Plus, it would be able to gain a significant presence in Milwaukee and grow in Baltimore and Orlando, and the cherry on top was that Southwest would be able to add about a dozen international cities to its growing network.

Although Southwest would receive a lot of benefits through the acquisition, some did not think AirTran and Southwest would mesh well together. The two airlines were different even though they were both were low-cost airlines. AirTran had a mix of 717s and 737s, a business class cabin, and operated a hub/spoke network; Southwest only operated and still operates 737s all in a one class configuration and operated mostly point to point.

Luckily, Southwest would still remain an all-737 airline as it will lease out the 717s to Delta. 

Southwest Airlines introduces Beats Music on WiFi-enabled aircra

A single operating certificate was awarded to the combined carrier was on March 1, 2012, and the two airlines worked around the clock to absorb AirTran into Southwest. The process was very slow, but Southwest wanted to make sure that it did not make any mistakes.

On Valentine’s day last year, Southwest began codesharing with AirTran Airways in five markets. As time went on, Southwest continued launching shared itineraries in more than 35 markets.

Starting in late 2013, Southwest slowly began taking over every AirTran city and operations a few cities at a time all in phases. In early 2014, Southwest announced that it would complete the integration on December 28, 2014, AirTran Airways flight 1 would be the final flight; the flight would pay tribute to the inaugural ValuJet flight as it operates between Atlanta and Tampa.airtran-boeing-737-700-at-cun-2011_17535

Meanwhile, Southwest slowly reduced AirTran’s presence in Atlanta. Many point to fares increasing with Southwest’s entrance into the Atlanta market, and Southwest says this may be the case; although, it has seen a decline in the number of passengers in and out of Atlanta on AirTran and Southwest so there was a need to adjust its Atlanta operation.

Days Left

Over the last few weeks, many have been catching on one final – and sometimes first – AirTran flight before the brand disappears this weekend. The final flight has been sold out since it going on sale earlier this year, but some are still planning to catch other last flights on Sunday.

We will have live coverage of the final flight on Facebook and Twitter starting Sunday morning.

Extra: A History of Air Tran

Extra: Final AirTran 717 Ferry Flights

Extra: Onboard the final flights of AirTran

Extra: Employees say farewell to AirTran

Extra: AirTran and ValuJet Timetables and Schedules


Contact the author at

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

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Top Five Airline Holiday Videos

By Jack Harty / Published December 24, 2014


Photo courtesy of Finnair

With tomorrow being Christmas, we compiled our favorite five airline holiday videos that range from airlines giving back to passengers to flash mobs. From all of us at AirwaysNews, we would like to wish you a very happy holidays.

5: Cathay Pacific Flash Mob to Holiday Songs

This video may make you break out your dancing shoes and dance to several popular Christmas songs.

4: Santa’s Christmas Surprise with LAN Airlines

Although Santa has his own sleigh to go from house to house with his eight tiny reindeer, he does fly commercially sometimes. On Christmas Eve last year, he spent the day flying LAN Airlines to surprise passengers.

3: Delta Wanderland

What happens after the last passengers leave the airport for the night during the holiday season? Delta shows us in a video from its holiday video from two years ago.

2: Finnair and Santa’s Secret

Finnair says it is a great mystery on how “Santa can get to every house and home around the world in just 24 hours? Well, we here at Finnair happen to share something with Santa and you seem like someone who can keep a secret. So here we are, ready to open the curtain hiding one of Christmas’s biggest mysteries.”

1: WestJet Christmas Miracle: Real-Time Giving

This is truly a heart warming video; WestJet was able to make the Christmas wishes of more than a hundred passengers come true as they flew from Toronto to John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport.

Did you like this article? Share it with your friends! Taking the Inaugural Bangkok A380 Flight on Qatar

This story was originally published by David Parker Brown on

The more that I fly the Airbus A380, the more I like the aircraft — as a passenger, but I am not so sure as an AvGeek. It is so smooth during take-off and landing, one might not even realize that they happened. Turbulence is mostly absorbed by the jumbo jet, making the flight smooth. The windows and walls are so thick, the aircraft stays quiet and passengers are removed from the flying experience.DPB 1

As an AvGeek, these are some of the reasons why I am not a huge fan of the A380. I want to feel the take-off, I enjoy a little turbulence, and I want to stay connected to the entire flight experience. But this doesn’t mean I cannot enjoy an A380 flight, especially when it is on a Qatar Airways aircraft with an impressive on-board product.

One of the biggest disappointments I had regarding the flight was not being able to get an exterior shot of the A380. And believe it or not, that was partially due to both Bangkok and Doha airports being designed where photos are hard to get, and also because of the King of Thailand.DPB 2

Now, I want to be respectful of the King, even while being in America. In Thailand they have something called lèse majesté, where one cannot talk bad about the King. If you do, you get to go to jail. It sort of puts a damper on your travel experience.

You see, the day of the inaugural, December 5th, also happened to be the King’s birthday. It was cool to see all the decorations around Thailand, but one of the rules is that no one can try and upstage the King’s celebration. Included in this was not being able to celebrate an inaugural flight. This meant no balloons, no cupcakes, nothing more than a few signs around the airport that let anyone know that this was a special flight.DPB 4

Originally, I was set to get tarmac access to get photos of the A380, but that also was considered too much “celebrating” and was cancelled. So, indirectly because of the King of Thailand, I have no exterior photos of the A380 I flew on. At least there was enough eye-candy on the inside to keep me entertained.

Did the King interrupt anymore of David’s trip in the inaugural Bangkok Qatar A380 flight, and how was the flight on-board the Qatar A380? Continue reading “Taking the Inaugural Bangkok A380 Flight on Qatar” on to find out.

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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?


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


closing image

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


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.


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