Category Archives: Uncategorized

American Unveils Three New Legacy-Themed Amenity Kits

By: Staff / Published October 2, 2015

American Airlines has launched three additional legacy-themed amenity kits, completing the set of nine unveiled early this year to honor the different carriers that are now part of the history of American Airlines.

RELATED: American Unveils New Legacy Airline-Themed Amenity Kits

Sin título-1The new kits honor Pacific Southwest Airlines (PSA), US Airways and American Airlines, depicting its 1962 logo. These join the already- released Air Cal, Allegheny, Reno Air, Trans World Airlines (TWA), America West and Piedmont. The USAirways kits are poignant in particular as that carrier’s brand is due to disappear this coming October 17th.

The heritage kits serve as a reminder of American’s beginnings and the many men and women who forged together to form the world’s largest airline. Each individual carrier brought with it thousands of employees and a proud history.

Available for a limited time to customers in transcontinental First Class and international  Business Class, the kits are packaged in retro-branded, grey felt cases, and contain travel socks, eye mask and Red Flower personal care products.

The airline isn’t confining its nostalgic branding efforts to the amenity kits. Last month, AA revealed additional Retro LogoJets to celebrate its legacy.

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

RELATED: American Airlines Reveals New Boeing 777-200 Cabin Product

RELATED: American Airlines Unveils New 767-300 Cabin Product

RELATED: American Airlines to Add WiFi To Regional Jets

“We have more than 100,000 employees, each with their own unique story, and these retro amenity kits are a small tribute to the heritage of their careers and their legacy carriers,” said Fernand Fernandez, American’s vice president – Global Marketing. “Customers will also identify with the historic logos and colors of the companies that now form the fabric of the modern-day American Airlines.”

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Iceland’s Aviation Museum Glows with History and Heritage

By: John Walton / Published September 25, 2015

AKUREYRI, ICELAND — If you don’t read Icelandic, the clue to the location of Iceland’s aviation museum (Flugsafn Islands) is in the large nose of a Douglas DC-6 poking out the side.

The museum opened its doors fifteen years ago in June 2000, and moved into its current hangar in November 2007, which is crammed full of aviation heritage from this country where the advent of flight marked a significant point in the nation’s development.

Iceland’s first passenger and mail flight, marked in the museum, took place on June 4th, 1928, aboard a Junkers F.13 — the world’s first all-metal transport aircraft — between Reykjavik and Akureyri via Isafjordur and Siglufjordur. The flight then took 4h45m, compared with Air Iceland’s turboprop flights today, scheduled for 1h15m.

Iceland’s aviation heritage isn’t just about domestic flying. Icelandair predecessor Loftleidir made its name on the one-stop low-cost flights between North America and Europe that are such a staple of the current national carrier’s network. Loftleidir’s history is expansively detailed together with numerous models, including the Canadair CL-44 whose operation during the 1960s earned it the title of “the Hippie Airline”.


Another Icelandair predecessor airline, Flugfelag Akureyrar (Akureyri Airways), is also represented, with an Waco YKS-7 biplane acquired in 2009 and painted to resemble TF-ÖRN, the airline’s first aircraft.


Taking the place of honour near the entrance is an Aerospatiale SA 365N2 Dauphin helicopter, which was pulled out of the sea after an accident during a training exercise in 2007. TF-SIF saved over 250 lives in her twenty-two years of service to this nautical nation, and it’s clear from the appreciation of the museum staff that its restoration and display are a matter of pride.


Also from the coast guard is the Fokker 27 Friendship TF-SYN, which made the museum its home just before the required replacement of the wing spar made maintenance prohibitively expensive. It’s the largest aircraft in the building and its dual purpose cabin (the aircraft’s mission was maritime patrol plus search and rescue) is open for visitors to walk around.

Although the F27 will likely never fly again, many of the aircraft in the collection are in full flying order, with owners parking their planes on display in the hangar.

Another aircraft not in flying order is TF-FIE, Iceland’s first ever jet aircraft. Just the flight deck of the Boeing 727-108, delivered to Icelandair in 1967, is on display. US readers may indeed have seen the aircraft during its years of service to UPS as N936UP. But the ability to lean inside such a historic aircraft — and for your author, to return to the age when there were flight engineers on the right hand side of the aircraft — is a real pleasure.

So, incidentally, is the chance of taking a seat at the conference table next to the 727 exhibit and leafing through original operational and emergency manuals from the aircraft. What a treat.

However, the airworthy Douglas C-47 (now made up to look more like its civilian equivalent, a DC-3) TF-NPK in the museum spends the long, light northern summers outside, where the golden orange of Icelandair’s accent colour really pops. (The modern Icelandair livery, of course, is not historically accurate, but reflects the assistance of the national airline in the preservation of this aircraft, which played a significant role in soil convervation efforts across the country.)


Back inside the hangar, engine fans can get up close with a radial engine from a DC-3 or a Rolls Royce RB-211 turbofan from an Air Atlanta Icelandic Lockheed L-1011.


Air Atlanta is also well represented in the information exhibits around the hangar, with the charter and wetlease operator’s significant work in the Middle East highlighted in particular.

Closer to the ground, Iceland’s first braking action testing vehicle — a Saab 900 Turbo in service from 1984–2004 at Reykjavik Airport — is also on display, a present from airport operator Isavia to mark the opening of the new hangar in 2007.

But what really makes the museum are the cheery, personable volunteers who welcome visitors from around the world, explain the historical significance of each aircraft and enthuse about aviation in general. It’s always a pleasure to talk to people like that in aviation — but it’s even better to do so inside what’s probably the world’s most northerly commercial aviation museum.

jwJohn Waltonan international journalist, specializes in cabin interiors, seating, connectivity, and premium class service. A keen analyst of how developing tools can be applied to aviation news, John is at the forefront of social media in the aviation sector, When not at the keyboard, John lives out of a suitcase, and adds languages to his “I speak this enough to get by while traveling” collection. John welcomes email from readers and industry insiders to, and discussion on Twitter: he’s @thatjohn.

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ANALYSIS: Delta’s Investment Tentacles Spread to Asia

by Vinay Bhaskara / Published September 22, 2015

Delta Air Lines lost out on its bid for a stake in Japanese carrier Skymark, as creditors led by airframe manufacturer Airbus instead opted for a restructuring plan led by an investment from Japanese full service carrier All Nippon Airways (ANA). While Delta was backed by leasing company Intrepid, Skymark’s largest creditor, the second largest creditor Airbus instead drove the decision in favor of ANA. By losing in its bid for Skymark, Delta once again missed out on gaining critical domestic feed for its ailing Japanese operations and Tokyo hub, six years after it was unable to wrest former national carrier Japan Airlines away from the oneworld Alliance and rival American Airlines.

RELATED: Delta Offers to Sponsor Skymark

RELATED: Skymark Creditors Choose ANA as Sponsor, Delta Proposal Rejected

Skymark A380At first glance, Airbus’ decision to back ANA seems odd, given that Delta is a reliable Airbus customer with 103 frames currently on order (including 58 wide bodies). ANA is still a Boeing dominated company though it recently pivoted to order 37 Airbus A320 ceos and news, giving Airbus a rare victory in an RFP from the two big Japanese carriers. That, combined with the fact that ANA is extremely close with the current Japanese government (who exerts a major role in business decision making) perhaps made the combined value of keeping ANA and the Japanese government happy higher than that of placating one of its largest and most financially powerful customers.

Regardless of Airbus’ motivation, the result leaves Delta back at square one with regards to fixing its fundamental weakness in the Japanese market, a hub that has served as a valuable gateway to Asia for decades starting under Northwest Orient/Northwest Airlines. Delta specifically developed its Seattle hub and international gateway in response to the weakness at Narita, and the loss of Skymark could be the final nail in the coffin for the once robust intra-Asia and trans-Pacific operation in Tokyo.

China Eastern is a great consolation prize though

Even as Delta’s Japanese ambitions floundered, it managed to secure a stake in another Asian giant, one that might have an even larger impact on Delta’s long run prospects in the region. With its decision to purchase a 3.5% stake in China Eastern for $450 million, Delta became the first US major to invest into China and took a step towards securing its future in what will become the world’s most important aviation market. The irony is that Delta already has the best partnership situation of any US major in China thanks to the simultaneous SkyTeam affiliation of China Southern and China Eastern. The best way to visualize this is to talk about cities where these airlines have focus cities and/or connecting complexes. While many of these cities are secondary on the world stage today, as China’s per-capita GDP ascends, many will gain nonstop service to the US (some already have to Europe). Having partners in these cities thus benefits Delta in two ways.

A China Eastern Airbus A330. Photo courtesy of Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Airchive 2014

A China Eastern Airbus A330. Photo courtesy of Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Airchive 2014

First, it provides connecting feed for future Delta nonstops to these cities and existing Delta flights to China (i.e. China Eastern’s Xian – Shanghai feeds Delta’s Shanghai – Detroit and vice-versa). Second, it provides a source of origin and destination (O&D) demand for future Delta flights to these cities due to latent customer loyalty to its partners. So if you actually look at cities covered, China Southern covers Beijing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chongqing, Urumqi, Hangzhou, Wuhan, Shenyang, and Dalian. China Eastern meanwhile covers, Shanghai, Xian, Kunming, Chengdu, and Nanjing, while adding additional strength in Beijing and Guangzhou. The only major gaps, if they can be called that, are Qingdao, Haikou, and maybe Macau. Not all of these are direct hubs of the parent airline China Eastern/Southern, but thanks to the incestuous nature of Chinese airline ownership, several supposedly standalone carriers are actually controlled by the two SkyTeam members (and of course the whole industry’s strategy to some extent is shaped by the national government).

The current Chinese investment climate, driven particularly by the recent stock market crash and Yen devaluation makes for an attractive time for US carriers, who are cash rich but lack access, tangible partnerships, and political connections in the Chinese market. Given that Delta is the most aggressive US legacy with investments, a logical question is to ask whether it will invest in China Southern next. United recently got into the investment game with its purchase of a stake in Brazilian carrier Azul, so it could conceivably invest in Star Alliance partner Air China. Air China is more financially secure than China Southern/Eastern however, and its ownership situation is complicated by the large stake held in Air China by oneworld Alliance member Cathay Pacific. The third big US legacy, American Airlines Group, is mostly focused on fully completing its own merger integration with US Airways. But once American gets its house in order, a play for a stake in either China Southern or unaligned Hainan Group would make a lot of sense, especially in conjunction with close partner International Airlines Group (IAG). Oneworld has long been the weakest of the big 3 alliances in China; either China Southern or Hainan would change that.

RELATED: Delta to Acquire Stake in China Eastern

Delta still chasing Korean JV

Even with the long term strategic importance of China Eastern, the investment represents yet another instance of Delta trying to pick up alternatives to its desired East Asia play, a joint venture with SkyTeam member Korean Air. Delta has been pursuing a JV with Korean Air for some time, but Korean is reticent, despite the two carriers already having received anti trust immunity (ATI). The primary holdup is that Korean doesn’t want Delta having input on capacity decisions, as it would have the right to in a JV, because Korean prefers far more aggressive capacity growth than Delta is comfortable with or thinks is optimal.

A321neo_Korean Air_Delta for its part wants the JV for more feed and all of the knock on benefits (many of which are appealing to Korean Air ironically). One elephant in the room is that Seoul Incheon Airport, Korean Air’s hub, is simultaneously courting Delta to move its diminished Tokyo Narita scissor hub over to Seoul. Seoul has steadily grown to match Tokyo in O&D on an 80-85% basis to most cities in the US, and with a massive Korean Air hub, much of Delta’s existing Narita route portfolio makes sense in Seoul as well, sort of like its operations to Amsterdam and Paris Charles de Gaulle. After pruning away the remaining intra-Asia routes (save those that could be covered under a JV, like Singapore), this would probably be tenable for Korean Air under a JV, even if it isn’t today.

And on the US side, this would be beneficial for Korean Air with more feed at Los Angeles, New York JFK, and Seattle, plus decent interlines at places like Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Honolulu, as Delta is a big carrier in those markets with strong product and reliability. Ultimately, they’ll get a deal done, it just will be on terms favorable to both Korean and Delta with some concessions on Delta’s part, as opposed to the one-sidedness for Delta in recent deals. And of course it will require US investors to abandon their current fear of headline capacity (ASM as opposed to seats) growth to accede to Korean Air’s preferred strategy.

Delta crafts an investment portfolio with cash on hand

Delta’s overall international investment strategy is aimed at increasing its reach in big air travel markets to overcome the latent O&D weakness of its hubs, particularly looking at markets with some sort of restriction. Ultimately, Delta will benefit from increased market cap and profits accrued by these carriers as a shareholder, but the primary driver has been market access. All of their investments fit this pattern: Virgin Atlantic at London Heathrow, Aeromexico in Mexico, and Gol in Brazil all represent value plays in attractive and/or restricted markets. The same with China Eastern, whose home market is both attractive and restricted. This has been Delta’s goal, ever since it tried this with Japan Airlines in 2009/10.

In the long run Delta wants to turn these investment stakes into JVs. They have one with Virgin Atlantic and asked for one with Aeromexico, though that will not be settled until the broader question of US – Mexico OpenSkies is answered definitively in 2016 or so. And they will probably get a JV with Gol once Brazil OpenSkies happens in October of this year.

The more interesting question is who’s next? Outside of the aforementioned China Southern, the immediate opportunities are hard to find. Europe is sowed up between Virgin and Air France – KLM, and there’s nothing viable left in Central America (where Copa and Avianca are the only carriers that matter), or South America (Conviasa isn’t worth the paper it’s tickets are printed on and TAME is too small and a secondary carrier at its own hub behind LATAM). Aerolineas Argentina could use the cash, but with a meddling government and no guarantee that the capital will be deployed wisely, they might be too risky for Delta to bite. Aeroflot might have made sense 24 months ago, but Russia’s recent fall from international grace makes that a non-starter.

Africa is the one market where it could make some sense, in the form of SkyTeam member Kenya Airways. Kenya Airways has a lot in common with Gol, as it is based in an important market and Nairobi is well positioned as a hub for two thirds of Africa.The problem is financial viability, as Kenya Airways has experienced massive losses amidst over expansion and the sinking tourism industry in Kenya due to terrorist concerns. Moreover, for US airlines, the big money markets are largely in North and West Africa, save for Kenya itself and South Africa. Perhaps Delta could look to acquire a stake in Ethiopian Airlines as a means of prying Africa’s most viable hub carrier away from Star Alliance. But in all likelihood, Delta’s cash from here on out will have to wait for special opportunities, things like, for example, Singapore Airlines and Star Alliance falling out (this is a hypothetical), like the Japan Airlines scenario.

VinayVinay Bhaskara covers finance, operations and regulatory matters surrounding the U.S. and international airline industry. Bhaskara has been quoted in the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and South China Morning Post, The LA Times, and his work has appeared in Forbes, Business Insider and Skift. You can contact him at

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Op-Ed: Ten things for Oscar Munoz’ To-Do list at United

By: John Walton / Published September 9, 2015

As United Airlines’ former CEO Jeff Smisek and two government relations colleagues depart unceremoniously under a cloud of opprobrium, new boss Oscar Munoz calls his appointment “a great opportunity to improve United.”

RELATED: United Airlines CEO and Two Senior Execs Resign Over Federal Investigation

ANALYSIS: Jeff Smisek is Out at United

“I truly believe this can be a top-performing airline,” Munoz said in an investor call following the announcement late Tuesday, before doubling down on the importance of passenger experience. “We need to reach our customers with a better service product and we need to convince them.”

What’s first on Munoz’ agenda?

“The first step is I’m going to spend the first ninety days or so traveling the system, listening and talking to our people, and working with the management team. From my time on the board I know we’ve made significant progress, but there’s still a lot to be done.”

It’s an incredible job, but one that can be a Herculean task, like the labors of Sisyphus — or, end up being a poisoned chalice.

After all, it doesn’t seem that many employees or passengers will be mourning the loss of Smisek.

But let’s have a think: what should be first on Oscar Munoz’ to-do list?

1) Reset Employee Relationships


United’s biggest problem is the relationship between its management and its people. Fixing that is clearly high on Munoz’ priorities.

Notably, Munoz started talking about “colleagues” rather than “coworkers”. He’s off on a three-month listening tour, and making promising noises about properly engaging with the airline’s employees.

As a board member turned CEO, former freight rail boss Munoz has an interesting insider-outsider perspective on the industry and on United. That could well be what the airline needs.

2) Make Last Two Labor Deals

The airline also needs the last two labor deals that are still outstanding after its 2010 merger: with flight attendants and with maintenance techs. Munoz will need to work hard and fast — and being able to use Team Smisek as a scapegoat will be an asset to him. But his insider-outsider perspective could work against him if the unions consider him too close to the existing management team.

3) Stop the Outsourcing

The existing management team problem is of concern in the atmosphere around the airline’s work to outsource ground staff in nearly thirty airports. Whatever the economics of that decision — and it would seem very strange if one of the world’s largest airlines could not make having its own staff at airports like Atlanta work — it is a terrible look when turning a billion-dollar profit.

4) Drop Open Skies Nonsense

Speaking of terrible looks: a US3 airline CEO has resigned under a cloud of allegations of illegally colluding with government while in the middle of a concerted campaign alleging that the ME3 are illegally colluding with government.

The anti-open skies rhetoric has been racist, the arguments not entirely persuasive, and a prudent CEO would look at how much money is being poured into lobbying compared with the narrow potential profit margins of ultra-longhaul flights into central and south Asia that would seem to be the target, not to mention the consumer benefit questions that many are asking about the indemnified transatlantic joint ventures.

5) Keep Getting Rid of the Old Aircraft


United has an awful lot of elderly aircraft, from the 747-400 fleet through the 757, 767, A320, 777 and A319 fleets — all of which average over 15 years old, and hit 20 in the case of the 747s.

But it’s not just replacing the decrepit mainline fleet. United has been working admirably to invest heavily in larger regional jets like the Embraer E170 family, which are a huge leap forward compared with both the old regional jets and the airline’s mainline narrowbodies.

There’s a major fleet renewal coming, but it’s long overdue, and there are questions about the passenger experience products — in particular the premium seats — that United is offering on its new and existing aircraft.

6) Kill Global First


There’s no reason for United to have a Global First product right now or in the near to longterm future. The trend is clear among the competition, and there’s very little soft product difference between BusinessFirst and Global First anyway.

The hard product is aging, the innovation is dead, and the concept should be too.

7) Pick a Better Business Class


United’s international business class is a mixture of terribly narrow and just okay. The unique forwards-backwards ex-United product was narrow when it was introduced and feels narrower now. The ex-Continental B/E Aerospace Diamond seats are mostly fine but are falling behind the competition and their plans.

Yes, the airline was an early proponent of fully flat beds. But British Airways created that standard — on a product that is arguably more comfortable than pre-merger United business — in the year 2000.

The standard this decade is a fully flat bed with direct aisle access, as seen on every Delta widebody and on an increasing number of American’s as the latter replaces its older angled lie-flat product.

8) Stop Making Economy Minus Suck

United - Boeing+737+Economy--High+Res

Yes, airline economy class tickets are among the cheapest they’ve ever been compared with inflation, and that’s one of the reasons why the seat size and proffered amenities on board come in for quite so much criticism.

Yet with the rise of hate-flying, a phrase coined by NPR to describe Spirit Airlines but in many ways applicable to other carriers, it’s hard to feel that all air travel must by definition be miserable.

Someone has to stop the US major carriers’ slide towards the self-loading cargo feeling like they’re considered actual cargo. Perhaps the former freight company CEO might do the job?

9) Double Down on Wifi

United has some of the best inflight connectivity in the US, given its ViaSat Ka-band coverage on the Boeing 737 fleet and Panasonic Ku-band on the widebodies and the Airbus A320 family.

Wifi is probably the most important factor for the generation of customers who airlines have trained to think that all economy travel is a painful experience to be endured.

With United’s decision to wrap whitelabeled ViaSat Ka and Panasonic Ku systems in its own branding, it’s vital that Munoz and his airline set passenger expectations, meet them — and that the systems just work.

10) Fix the Computers

Not working has been a problem for United’s IT systems. The airline’s much-vaunted and much-tested new website failed for hours the very same afternoon that Jeff Smisek and two senior government relations colleagues were packing their bags. Earlier this summer, United blamed an unspecified “network connectivity issue” for its entire airline grinding to a halt.

With a history of merger IT woes, it would seem that fairly high on Munoz’ list should be getting someone to figure out how to keep the IT lights on.

11) Bring back the tulip

One extra item for Munoz, once he has the airline turned in the right direction: a full rework of the airline’s visual identity. United’s current branding and presentation is terrible: a mashup of the word United and the 1990s Continental globe.

The big problem is that the Continental globe doesn’t say United. It says Continental. You know what does say United? The tulip, designed by Saul Bass, the legendary creator of countless iconic symbols — including, incidentally, the Continental meatball that the 1990s globe replaced.

There’s a lot of brand equity and warm feelings towards the old United, partly because the airline business is a nostalgic one filled with rose-tinted glass-wearers, partly because the new United has been much maligned (often justly), and partly because it was just a better designed visual identity.

But even if he checks off all these items on his list, the big question remains: can Oscar Munoz repair United’s poisoned chalice before it poisons him?


John Waltonan international journalist, specializes in cabin interiors, seating, connectivity, and premium class service. A keen analyst of how developing tools can be applied to aviation news, John is at the forefront of social media in the aviation sector, When not at the keyboard, John lives out of a suitcase, and adds languages to his “I speak this enough to get by while traveling” collection. John welcomes email from readers and industry insiders to, and discussion on Twitter: he’s @thatjohn.

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Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) Lines Up for its First Flight

By: Roberto Leiro / Published September 1, 2015

The Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) airliner is finally reaching the onset of its flight test campaign, after several setbacks with the first commercial aircraft produced in Japan in over half a century.

RELATED: Mitsubishi MRJ Rolls Out After Four-Year Delay

RELATED: Mitsubishi’s MRJ Program Faces Continued Challenges

MRJ-CoverDevised for regional markets, the MRJ offers two variants, the MRJ 70 which seats up to 78 passengers, and the MRJ 90 which offers seating up to 92 passengers. These aircraft are aimed to break into a market segment widely dominated by Embraer (Brazil) and Bombardier (Canada).

In an e-mailed statement sent on Monday, Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation (MITAC) announced that the first test flight would take place during the second half of October, further stating that the exact date will be disclosed the day before the flight.

In August the planemaker opened the Seattle Engineering Center in Moses Lake, Washington, where most of the flight test campaign will be carried out. Other locations in the United States will also receive the MRJ for specific tests. Roswell, New Mexico (Special Runway Testing), Gunnison, Colorado (High Altitude takeoffs and landings), and the McKinley Climactic Laboratory in Florida (Extreme Weather Environment). One aircraft will remain in Japan for flight testing.

Last June, the MRJ began its low-speed taxi tests that required the redesign of certain elements. Such issues were duly addressed and the taxi test has just been completed.

RELATED: Mitsubishi Aircraft Opens Seattle Engineering Center for MRJ

Aircraft 2 underwent static strength testing, including main wing up bending and fuselage pressurization to confirm MRJ’s structural readiness. The primary objective of the First Flight is to confirm basic flight characteristics (ascent, descent, circling left and right). Some movable parts such as landing gear and flaps will be fixed and the thrust reverse system will not be engaged. However, the first flight is pending of approval by the Ministry of Industry of Japan (MILT).

Sin título-1

MRJ pre-flight test workflow. (Image Credits: Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation – MITAC)

The announcement of the first flight is a significant milestone for the program, plagued with several delays that in total sum four years behind schedule, and represent a major challenge to the Japan’s Aerospace industry to find customers to gather a market share in a dynamic and competitive market segment in commercial aviation.

Going bigger, not smaller

While the narrowbody aircraft in the segment of +130 seats is booming, the dynamic of regional aircraft is different. Oil prices, pilot shortages and economic slowdown sin key countries such as India, Brazil and China has limited the opportunity for new customers. Actually both Bombardier and its CSeries aircraft and Embraer with the forthcoming E2 series are more a competitor to the entry-level narrowbody segment dominated by Airbus and Boeing (the slow selling A319 and 737-7 Max respectively) than a competitor to other major regional planemakers such as SuperJet International or ATR.

Embraer is currently the dominates the regional market with its E-jet series, ranging in the +80 to +120 seat market segment with a sound E2 program on track toward its initial delivery between 2018 and 2020. Bombardier is a second major player with its CRJ and Q400 aircraft, plus the CSeries in the final stages of certification prior delivery.

A Strong Support, a Weak Market

Although Japan has gained relevance in the last years as a major aerospace industry player building fuselages, wings and components for Airbus, Boeing and the SuperJet, its expertise in aircraft manufacturing is not new. The last passenger airliner built by Japan was the turboprop YS-11, which had just limited success with just 182 aircraft built between 1964 and 1973.

RELATED: Boeing, Japanese Partners Sign Agreement on 777X

The MRJ was unveiled by Mitsubishi at the Paris Air Show in 2007 and since then, has reaped about 400 orders with an order book comprised mostly by American carriers. Skywest and Eastern Air Lines are two of its most important customers. Despite the delays in the program, Mitsubishi continues citing a second-quarter 2017 first delivery target.

As the MRJ readies to soar for the very first time, a turbulent world economic environment ahead and stiff competition in the horizon threaten to compromise the future of the MRJ in the market. But as Japanese philosopher Daisaku Ikeda said, “Our hopes, desires and ambitions are powerful forces existing within us for the shaping of the future. They are the generating forces that create the future.”

5k7s85PpRoberto Leiro is the Executive Editor at An aviation passionate since early childhood, Roberto started with other fellow enthusiasts Venezuela’s first aviation photography / news organization Follow him on twitter @rleiro and reach him via e-mail at

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Spirit Aerosystems Completes First Boeing 737 MAX Fuselage

By: Staff / Published August 14, 2015

Wichita-based Spirit Aerosystems has rolled out the first Boeing 737 MAX fuselage today at an event attended by Spirit employees, local officials and authorities, including Kansas Governor Sam Brownback.

The fuselage will be delivered by rail to Boeing’s final assembly facility in Renton, Washington. Last June, Boeing started the assembly of the wings for the first test aircraft. MSN 5602 (1A001) will be the first MAX frame to join the flight test program.

RELATED: Boeing Starts Building the First 737 MAX

RELATED: Inside Boeing’s 737 Renton Factory As They Take It To “The MAX”: Part One / Part Two

Spirit Aerosystems produces approximately 70 percent of the Boeing 737 structure, including fuselage, pylon, thrust reverser and engine nacelle.

A rendering of the Ryanair Boeing 737 MAX 200

The 737 MAX family includes three two-class variants with seating ranging from 126 to 180. Also, a single-class high density version, named 737 MAX 200, has been devised budget carriers, and Boeing Business Jets have also MAX variants in its sales catalog.

RELATED: Ryanair Launches the Boeing 737 MAX 200

The 737 MAX program remains on schedule, and the assembly of the first aircraft is set to be completed by the end of the year. Launch customer Southwest Airlines will receive its first MAX during the third quarter of 2017. As of last July, Boeing had a 2,831 firm orders from over 35 customers worldwide.

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Emirates to Launch World’s Longest Flight

By: Roberto Leiro / Published August 12, 2015

Emirates has chosen Panama as its fourth destination in Latin America. The Dubai-based carrier has announced today the plans to launch a daily service to Panama City as of February 1st, 2016, -the longest non-stop flight in the world with a 17 hour 35 minutes westbound leg.

Currently, the longest non-stop scheduled airline flight is Qantas Flight QF8 from Sydney to Dallas-Ft. Worth, operated by an Airbus A380-800, and with a distance of 8,577 miles (13,804km). This new route operated by Emirates will beat the current route by just 11 miles (18km), with a distance of 8,588 miles (13,822km). Interestingly, the carrier currently operates four ultra-long-range routes from its base in Dubai to Dallas-Ft. Worth (8,040 miles, 12,940km), San Francisco (8,103 miles, 13,041km), Houston (8,168 miles, 13,144km) and Los Angeles (8,339 miles, 13,420km), all of them served by its Airbus A380 fleet.

Boeing 777-200LR Paine Field Exclusively For Emirates Air by Erik Hildebrandt utilizing his own proprietary MachPod aerial imaging system mounted on the Wolfe Air Aviation, Ltd. Lear 25B camera ship.

“Panama City will be our first destination gateway in Central America, providing a convenient option for our passengers traveling from or through our global hub in Dubai and onward to destinations throughout Central America, the Caribbean and the northern part of South America,” said His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates Airline & Group. “We’re also pleased to be the only commercial airline to offer a daily, First Class service to travelers on what will be the world’s longest non-stop flight.”

Flights will be operated by a Boeing 777-200LR in a 3-class layout, with seating for 266 passengers. The airline has highlighted in a press release that the cargo capacity of 15 tonnes will allow the airline to transport key import products such as pharmaceuticals, machinery products, iron / steel products and electronics.

Emirates also holds the distinction of being the largest Airbus A380-800 and Boeing 777 operator in the world. Actually, Emirates has being an operator of all triple seven variants, including the freighter version through its division Emirates SkyCargo.

“It is gratifying to see how diplomatic efforts focused on generating development and prosperity for Panama materialize,” said Isabel Saint Malo de Alvarado, Vice President of the Republic of Panama. “New doors to the country will open with a direct connection to the Middle East – a strong and thriving region with great synergies to both Panama and Latin America.”

ampliacion5According to IATA, Latin America is home to more than 8% of the world’s population yet only accounts for 5% of all global air traffic, largely due to the lack  of adequate infrastructure. Panama has addressed this issue not only by investing in a major expansion and renovation program of Tocumen Panama City Airport, but also favoring the growth of Copa Airlines, one of the leading airlines in Latin America.  

RELATED: Copa Airlines finalizes Order for 61 737 MAX

The results are evident: Panama is now among the top 35 countries in the world for the quality of their air transport infrastructure, and Tocumen, appropriately dubbed the “Hub of the Americas,” is currently offering scheduled service to over 80 destinations. In the last five years, the airport has seen a constant annual passenger traffic growth that averages 12.5%. reaching the 8.5 million mark in 2014.

The strategic location of Panama between North and South America and between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, provide Emirates a privileged location that will enable its travelers to bypass traditional connection points such as Miami, New York, London or Amsterdam, with access to the vast global network of over 140 destinations served by the airline.

“This new direct flight between Dubai and Panama City will connect Latin America with the Middle East, Asia and Africa,” explained Eduardo Fonseca Ward, Consul General of the Republic of Panama, in Dubai. “This link will generate a broader global network with countless commercial and cultural opportunities for the two regions. It has been a pleasure to work with the Emirates team, who have shared the vision of Panama and Dubai as hubs of trade, prosperity and hope.”

5k7s85PpRoberto Leiro is the Executive Editor at An aviation passionate since early childhood, Roberto started with other fellow enthusiasts Venezuela’s first aviation photography / news organization Follow him on twitter @rleiro and reach him via e-mail at

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American Offers Integrated Purser Training Program Under “Going For Great” Campaign

By Benét J. Wilson / Published July 30, 2015

American Airlines' Stephen Howell. Image: Courtesy of American Airlines.

American Airlines’ Stephen Howell. Image: Courtesy of American Airlines.

American Airlines has created an integrated purser program to give the carrier’s 2700 leaders professional development training for the combined company.

The effort is part of the carrier’s $2 billion “Going For Great” campaign, which covers new aircraft, fleet upgrades, renovated Admirals Clubs and more check-in kiosks.

Stephen Howell is American’s managing director of flight service standards and training. He handles everything that encompasses policies, procedures, regulatory processes, flight attendant and purser recruitment and hiring, along with training.

RELATEDAmerican Airlines to Spend $2 Billion on Passenger Upgrades

The purser training program was launched in May; it has been paused for the summer and classes will resume in September. “We’re looking to offer world-class customer service,” he said. “And we’re doing the training offsite at the Gaylord in Grapevine, not at our flight training center.”

American Airlines is making a significant investment in its hard product, said Howell. “So the timing was perfect for us to also take time to focus on the soft skills,” he said. “We brought the legacy American and US Airways pursers and brought them into one group.”

American will have pursers onboard its domestic three-class transcon flights between JFK and Los Angeles and San Francisco, said Howell. “We felt we needed an onboard leader on those planes,” he said. “We also have pursuers onboard our long-haul international flights, including our two- and three-class service to Europe, Latin America and Asia. We will also have them on our new Sydney service.”

From a logistics perspective, there’s a lot of magic going on behind the scenes, said Howell. “We started offering 24 two-day sessions in May. They self-enroll, and by November, all 2700 will have attended the sessions,” he said.

Image: Courtesy of American Airlines

Image: Courtesy of American Airlines

This is not training in the traditional sense, said Howell. “These are professional development leadership courses. We hold all sessions at the Gaylord Hotel and Convention Center, so we have enough real estate available to run the two-day program and they stay on site,” he said.  “We wanted to pick the Gaylord, a high-end Marriott, because we wanted them to experience fine service at its best.”

The theme of the seminar is meant to build on the tagline Going for Great, said Howell. “We felt it was important to back that up to deliver the soft  skills that will offer customers a transformational rather than a transactional service,” he said. “In the past, the service was very transactional. You do the safety demonstration, deliver a beverage, deliver a tray and move to next service.”

RELATEDAmerican Airlines Reveals Initial 787 Flights, Configuration, and Cabin Photos

Transactional service is needed, but we also need to deliver transformational service that is personalized for each customer, said Howell. “We use benchmarks from companies like Nordstrom and the Ritz Carleton and share case studies on how they do transformational service,” he explained. “We want to be unique in what we offer. Those companies offer personal attention and make a connection and that’s what we want to do.”

The legacy US Airways always had onboard leadership, but they didn’t have a formal purser program until this year, said Howell. “The legacy American flight attendants went through initial training in the past two years, but hadn’t had a refresher program or ongoing training, so this is a new program,” he said.

RELATEDAirwaysNews High Flyer Interview: American Airlines CEO Doug Parker

The program isn’t about service skills, procedures and filling out forms, said Howell. “But the soft skills are needed for leadership to help them get the best from their teams,” he said. “Everyone knows how to put down a cocktail napkin. This is more about engaging with a customer when putting that napkin down and created a memorable experience.”

When it comes down to service, in years past, it’s been about the functionality of the service, said Howell. “Now it’s about creating pleasure, delight and emotion, along with and connecting with our passengers. Our new hard product alone won’t help, so we have this training so we can focus on this moving forward.”

RELATEDThe Transcon Wars: The Ultimate Airline Battleground

Today’s customer has had a full day before getting on the flight, said Howell. “All they want to to do is get in their seat, put on headphones, watch inflight entertainment and get a personal experience. Our customers have changed and so must we,” he said.  “We all grew up with the Golden Rule — treat people how you want to be treated. We are now adapting the platinum rule — treat others the way they want to be treated.”

As the new American Airlines works toward greatness, it wants customers to realize that things are different, said Howell. “We want them to recognize the fact that our onboard leaders will work with their team to make emotional connections with them and instill in them a strong brand loyalty,” he said. “American is making the investment in the hard product, but you have to have the soft product that goes with it.”

BW}Benét J. Wilson is an experienced freelance aviation / travel writer. She has been in the business for more than 20 years, having her works published in several printed and digital publications including USA Today,  Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine and AIN. Wilson is the Air Travel Expert for and is working on her private pilot’s certificate.

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Meeting New LAN Airlines’ 787-9 Dreamliner

By: Enrique Perrella / Published 28 July, 2015

From its modest origins in the late 1920s, the Linea Aerea Nacional de Chile (LAN) has pieced together a powerful mosaic across the South American continent through national investments in a handful of strategically positioned airlines, imparting in each a common philosophy of service excellence and financial discipline.

With their home base on a sliver of geographically inhospitable land (only a scant 2.6% of which is arable) sandwiched between 2,700 miles of southwestern Pacific Ocean coastline and the Andes mountain range, Chile’s Cueto family (led by brothers Enrique and Ignacio) created the LATAM Airlines Group, which in the year to date ended in June, transported 53.8 million passengers.

The airline counts with a large and diverse fleet of more than 295 aircraft, and employs over 53,000 workers with an on-line network stretching from Australia and New Zealand through the Americas to Europe. The high standards of service both LAN and TAM offer, were recently awarded among the top three best airlines in Latin America, according to Skytrax.

In early February, the Chilean carrier took delivery of its first Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, intended to replace its aging Airbus A340-300 fleet, which were retired two months later after 15 years of reliable long-haul service.

LAN’s books, today, include an order for 32 Boeing 787s, while its Brazilian partner TAM include an order for 27 Airbus A350 XWBs, with deliveries set to start in the fourth quarter of 2015. According to Jim Proulx, who handles international media relations for Boeing, “The LATAM Group has long been a strong customer for Boeing airplanes in its wide-body fleet, including the 767 and 777. He also notes that, “As the first Latin American operator, LATAM is a key South American customer for the 787, having already taken delivery fifteen 787s in building to a fleet of 32.”

On the other hand, Raymond Kollau, founder of Trend Analysis—an European-based publication which follows trends and innovations in the airline industry—notes that product and service innovations have been less of a priority at LAN and TAM, as both airlines have been concentrating on integrating parts of their operations following the merger. “As one of the early airlines to receive the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, LAN has been able to offer some of its passengers the experience of flying its latest generation aircraft,” he said. “The IFE systems on LAN’s 787s are especially noteworthy. For example, passengers can read destination guides on their high definition screens and play a game of poker against other passengers on board.”

In a continued effort to improve its service and become the number-one airline in the Americas, LAN announced in December 2014, that on July 20, 2015, its new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner would operate daily, nonstop service from New York (JFK) to Santiago (SCL), departing daily at 20:00 and arriving in Santiago at 06:20 the following day.

Pablo Chiozza, Senior VP, USA, Canada and the Caribbean at LATAM Airlines Group, said in a statement, “The Boeing 787-9 is one of the first aircraft to feature the new unified cabin design.” He then added, “Travelers will experience the vibrancy and warmth of the region the moment they step on board. The 787-9 Dreamliner is a testament to our dedication to minimizing our environmental footprint and providing the best experience for all our passengers.”

To showcase its newest wide-body aircraft and unified cabin, LAN invited Airways to experience its flagship service from JFK to SCL on its inaugural scheduled service with the Boeing 787-9 and test the new product which will be customary in all long-haul aircraft once both carriers are merged into one single image and corporate identity at the end of 2015.

Inaugural Flight: JFK

LAN’s flight 533 to SCL was scheduled to depart (SDT) at 20:00. Four hours before, we arrived at JFK’s Terminal 8, home to American Airlines (AA) and its Oneworld partners.

SQ_ - 1Check-in was easily accomplished thanks to the gentle TAM and LAN staff behind the counters, who greeted us for being part of the media group that would cover the event. Passing through TSA was also a quick task thanks to the priority access granted to all Oneworld premium cabin passengers. In less than 10 minutes, we reached AA’s Admirals Club, where we had to check-in handing a coupon given by our carrier.


SQ_ - 2At 19:00, we approached gate 16 where pre-boarding started. We managed to make our way into the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner first, allowing us to picture the insides of the aircraft as the wonderful Chilean crew posed inside their brand-new jet. The aircraft’s interiors, beautifully colored in the airline’s blue, red and gray, craft an inviting ambiance that evokes a spacious feeling that’s second to none.

Making our way through the economy cabin, we noted a big difference between the 787-9 and its smaller version, the 787-8. Its stretched fuselage, high overhead bins, tall windows, and mood lightning come together as a comfortable hard product for long-haul flights.

The Cabin Interior

LAN’s Boeing 787-9 fleet is fitted to carry a total of 313 passengers in a two-class configuration. Developed by the international design/consulting firm PriestmanGoode, the elegant and modern design is noted as soon as one enters the aircraft through the L2 door. Stunning wooden floors and super ample galleys strike as a first excellent impression. Upon walking inside, the impressive mood lightning gives a futuristic sense that old generation airliners could never dream to emit.

Up front, the new LATAM Airlines Group unified Premium Business Class is configured in a 2-2-2 layout, totaling 30 comfortable seats. According to the airline, this Business Class will be standardized in both LAN and TAM long-haul products once both carriers are completely merged as one corporate image later this year. “Every element was carefully selected and designed to include the best elements of the countries in the region to create a world-class project,” claims Jerome Cadier, the Group’s Marketing Vice-President. “With these objectives in mind, the rich wood textures of the Amazon are present in several elements throughout the cabin, including part of the floor and details on the seats. The fabric, textures, colors, and patterns are reminiscent of the beautiful landscapes of our region. Even the iconic beaches of Ipanema were a source of inspiration for the cabins,” he notes. In fact, a nice combination of gray, red, white and the many colors that come off the mood lightning, create an ambiance that’s futuristic and elegant.

SQ_ - 7Each Business Class seat has 75 inches of leg pitch and 23 inches of width, capable of converting into full-flat beds. Passengers can enjoy movies, TV shows, a moving map, and many other entertainment features through a large 15.4-inch touch screen, also manageable with a remote control.

Moving down to Economy Class, 283 red and blue seats are configured in a 3-3-3 layout, boasting a 32-inch leg pitch, and a nine-inch individual touch screen on each seat, loaded with over 40 films, 120 channels, 20 games, USB ports and iPod eXport connections for passengers to enjoy their own media.


SQ_ - 19As passengers settle into their seats and we get situated in the Premium Business Class, Charles, our Flight Attendant (FA), introduced himself both in Spanish and perfect English. He immediately offered Champagne or the airline’s signature drink, Pisco Sour, as a pre-flight drink. After ordering the famous South American cocktail, Charles came back informing that JFK’s catering service forgot to load its main ingredients, for which Champagne ended up being our choice. Served at a perfect temperature, the French drink arrived along with a small plate of assorted nuts.

Minutes later, a team of FAs passed through the aisle with the airline’s spectacular amenity kits, furnished by Ferragamo. Amenity kits are often the Achilles’ heels for many premium carriers. In fact, Singapore (SQ) and ANA (NH) don’t even offer one. LAN, however, does have one of incredible quality, almost good as Alitalia (AZ)—an airline known for its superb kits.

SQ_ - 20Five minutes behind scheduled departure, the Captain announced our flight would be slightly delayed because the jet bridge couldn’t detach from the Dreamliner due to a technical malfunction. About 15 minutes after the announcement, we finally pushed back and the two Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines began spinning into life. A strong and pleasant roar was felt inside the cabin, and in less than five minutes, our 787-9 began taxiing to the runway. The cabin was dimmed into a spectacular deep blue color while the airline’s safety briefing video was shown on the screens.

At 20:42, we lined up with the runway and performed a spectacular takeoff, complemented by the thunderous roar of the two Trent 1000 engines and the Dreamliner’s noticeable wingflex.

Main Service

SQ_ - 22

After climbing through a stunning sunset, our crew began prepping the cabin for service. Warm towels were distributed as Charles jokingly observed that he’d better rush so that passengers don’t fall asleep before serving dinner.

The first components of the main service arrived: A small plate with two types of cheese and Jaramillo compote, accompanied with greens salad and olive oil vinaigrette. Our choice of a Dried Tomato Cream Soup was the main component. The quality of the cheese plate was indisputable, pairing greatly with the sweet compote. The greens salad, fresh and abundant, worked perfectly before tasting the flavorful soup.

As the main service continued, it took the crew over thirty minutes to clear our empty plates, and an additional fifteen to bring the main course (entrée). It seemed as if they were rushing, though our impression was that it was slightly disorganized.

SQ_ - 26

A round piece of beef, slightly overdone, arrived to our table. A side of overcooked veggies (asparagus and beans) unsuccessfully tried to pair with the dried beef, making it a somewhat disappointing dish. The meat was tough and dry, and the veggies overly cooked, gaining a gooey texture, which was quite unpleasant.

SQ_ - 27

As soon as the tray was cleared, our “Italian Cheesecake” quickly made its way to our table, lying on top of succulent fruit marmalade. I often do not care much for dessert, but I must say this was quite exceptional. We ordered a glass of Chilean dessert wine, though unfortunately wasn’t boarded either.

After main service ended, we were handed a Breakfast Menu, which had to be filled up before going to sleep. Before collecting them, Charles came by our seats, kindly handed our covers and pillows, and wished us a good night’s sleep.

Overnight on the Dreamliner

The full-flat bed configuration on the Boeing 787-9 is what the combined LAN and TAM carrier will offer once the merger is complete. The seat, albeit slightly narrow for long-haul flights, is very comfortable for resting and enjoying the airline’s excellent in-flight entertainment (IFE). The only flaw we were able to find, however, was that the bed’s length could be bothersome to tall passengers. At 5’10” (1.82m), my feet touched the wall of the seat when trying to sleep at full length. However, the comfort provided by the excellent pillow and cover, plus the low altitude cabin of the Boeing 787-9 allows for excellent resting.

Six hours after falling asleep, we were kindly awakened by Charles, who had our breakfast tray ready to be served. With 70 minutes left of flying time, we enjoyed a great pre-ordered breakfast of Special K Cereal with milk, fresh fruit, scrambled eggs, and sautéed mushrooms. Butter and Apricot jam, as well as a choice of warm bread and a hot cup of coffee with milk were also served.

Breakfast was light, refreshing, and just what was needed after a nine-hour flight on the same time zone. Thanks to the fact that Santiago is just one hour ahead of New York, jetlag was not something to worry about.

As we approached foggy Santiago, the Captain announced we’d be landing ten minutes ahead of schedule. At this time of the year (July), winter reins the southern hemisphere, with sunshine coming up as late as 08:30 and sunset at 18:40. As a result, we touched down in a pitch dark SCL with a cold temperature of 32 degrees (0°C).

A conclusion to a great flight

LAN’s newest Dreamliner proved to be more than a comfortable aircraft, capable of transporting its passengers in the utmost comfort, including a superb cabin atmosphere, which helps battle the associated stress of spending many hours inside a pressurized cabin.

This South American airline not only delivers a world-class product with its polite and punctual crewmembers on board the industry’s best airliners (soon to be improved with the arrival of the Airbus A350), but also continues to grow to become a leading carrier, which will practically own a majority stake of Latin America’s commercial aviation market share.

On this flight from JFK to SCL, all crew performed impeccably. A few flaws in service and small attention to detail could be the two imperfections we could notice; however, for an airline that is in constant growth in a region where countries are facing economic and social crises, LAN does exceed the expectations and nothing remains ahead but a successful future.

t_8_epawnEnrique Perrella is the Publisher and Editor in Chief of Airways Magazine. An Aviation Enthusiast, Commercial Pilot, Writer and Traveler with a Bachelors and Masters Degree in Aviation Business Administration. Enrique joined Airways in March 2014 as his group took over the reigns of the publication after 20 years under the tenure of John Wegg, founder and former Editor in Chief. Contact him at

Editor‘s noteOur 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: Virgin America Enters the Hawaiian Vortex – Part 2

by Vinay Bhaskara / Published July 20, 2015

Virgin America will be facing a ton of competition to Hawaii, and because it doesn’t have a huge connecting complex at San Francisco, it cannot count on demand from across the United States to fill its flights. As I mentioned in Part 1, the passenger mix on Hawaii routes is primarily leisure, and that will be an asset to Hawaiian as it attempts to find its way in the market.

Virgin America’s product is a larger relative advantage

Virgin America has an unquestionably excellent on board product and a reasonably competitive cost base (at least relative to the legacies and Southwest), but on most domestic routes out of San Francisco and LA, these advantages mean little as much of the highest yielding traffic (business travelers) is locked away from them, leaving Virgin to compete for domestic traffic with JetBlue and the ULCCs to fill a significant portion of its planes. Hawaii is less constrained in this manner.

Because most travelers between the mainland and Hawaii are vacationers looking for the cheapest or most convenient flight, Virgin America’s strong product is a bigger competitive advantage. In this market customers consider fewer non-service variables in their purchase decision than in others, and that will be to Virgin America’s advantage. And the gap will be most pronounced in the premium cabin. While Virgin’s First Class seats are woefully uncompetitive on the transcontinental routes between New York and Los Angeles / San Francisco, they are undoubtedly competitive with most legacy carrier flights from the West Coast to Hawaii (the East Coast and Chicago/Dallas flights tend to have flat beds), which have standard First Class cabins. And because these are long flights (blocked at 5 hours +), Virgin should have a decent shot at filling its First Class cabin with relatively strong yields. And in the back, there’s more than enough demand to go around for everyone in the market, especially in a growing region like the Bay Area.

Virgin has limited scope for expansion

Despite a decent shot at making things work in Hawaii, Virgin doesn’t have a lot of avenues for expansion in the Hawaiian market. Lihue and Kona won’t work from San Francisco without connecting volume (which Virgin can’t yet build), though seasonal less-than-daily flights to each destination might *eventually* be on the cards (though its unclear if the expense of opening and operating the station would be worth it given the number of flights). Honolulu could handle another daily flight once Virgin establishes itself, and Kahului could maybe take another 3-4 weekly frequencies in the peak season. LA is simply too competitive, and it will continue to be for the foreseeable future until something substantial changes (United drawing down its “hub?”). So at peak, Virgin might end up with something like 20-30 weekly flights to Hawaii; not inconsequential but a pretty small presence nonetheless.

Southwest and Hawaiian’s narrow-body gambit are the next major shifts in the market

Virgin America’s entrance into the Hawaiian market broke a long period of relative stasis in the Hawaiian market, which has been pretty stable since Alaska’s major buildup in 2007-2011. Alaska’s success on p2p routes has signaled to competitors that there are profits to be found in bypassing LA and San Francisco on Hawaiian flights. And as domestic behemoth Southwest Airlines begins to stretch its overwater and international legs, cutting in on Alaska’s territory between Hawaii and the West Coast seems a natural extension of strategy. Alaska currently flies to Hawaii from Anchorage, Bellingham, Oakland, Portland, Sacramento, San Diego, San Jose, and Seattle. Southwest is stronger than Alaska in Oakland, Sacramento, San Diego, and San Jose. And it has hubs at Phoenix, Las Vegas, and even Denver that would be natural bases for a Hawaiian gateway with more of a connections orientation. The major question for Southwest is aircraft. The four California cities (and LA) can be served with the 737-700s or 737-800s in Southwest’s fleet, but Phoenix, Vegas, and Denver would likely require the more capable 737 MAX 8 for range and performance reasons. And those three would be optimal cities to launch service from given Southwest’s local strength.

If Southwest dallies too long from entering the latter markets (or Hawaii entirely), Hawaiian Airlines is sure to swoop in and steal some of Southwest’s thunder using its yet to be delivered sub-fleet of Airbus A321neos. Hawaiian has 16 of the re-engined A321s on order (and 9 purchase options) and with an effective range of more than 3,200 nautical miles; Hawaiian can be expected to expand p2p operations and secondary destinations from Honolulu. Salt Lake City, Denver, and Phoenix are absolute no-brainers, as are secondary California cities from Kahului. With 3-4 more years of economic and population growth, Boise, Albuquerque, and even Tucson could make some sense on a less than daily basis, not to mention Canadian destinations like Vancouver, Calgary, or Edmonton. A more unrealistic, though technically feasible potential market for Hawaiian is Texas, particularly Dallas Fort Worth and Austin, which are both accessible with a weight penalty. Austin in particular is an affluent and fast growing technological hub with no nonstop access to Hawaii. Dallas has competition from American but is a large market in its own right with a huge population base to draw from. If Southwest dallies too long before entering Hawaii, it could conceivably have to deal with nonstop service from Hawaiian in its own backyard. But Southwest will unquestionably enter the market

Once Southwest enters the fray, the only US carriers not in the Mainland-Hawaii market will be JetBlue, the ULCCs (Allegiant will probably leave the market soon enough), and Sun Country (for as long as it survives). JetBlue could probably find some success flying to Hawaii from Long Beach since the Mexico beach markets work from the secondary LA airports, and there’s no reason to think that the Hawaiian market would be radically different. But JetBlue’s priorities are on the East Coast growing Boston and Fort Lauderdale right now, and it is still probably at least 4-5 years away from thinking seriously about Hawaii (it could very well fly trans-Atlantic from Boston before doing so). Hawaii is too competitive and reasonably priced of a market to be attractive for the ULCCs, who can still worm their way into hundreds of monopoly markets in the continental US. Regardless, even though Virgin is a new entrant to Hawaii, it’s twice daily flights from San Francisco are merely the calm before the storm (Southwest and Hawaiian network shift).

VinayVinay Bhaskara covers finance, operations and regulatory matters surrounding the U.S. and international airline industry. Bhaskara has been quoted in the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and South China Morning Post, The LA Times, and his work has appeared in Forbes, Business Insider and Skift. You can contact him at

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ANALYSIS: Virgin America Enters the Hawaiian Vortex – Part 1

by Vinay Bhaskara / Published July 13, 2015

Virgin America announced that it would be entering the Hawaiian market earlier this year, and the entrance of the aggressive boutique carrier into the competitive market between the West Coast and major Hawaiian destinations further shifts the balance of a market once dominated by trunk carriers flying widebody aircraft.

Virgin America will fly daily roundtrip flights from its home base at San Francisco to Honolulu and Kahului, Maui beginning this winter, and will become the seventh airline in the mainland-Hawaii market after American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, and Allegiant Air. Virgin America will instantly have  a larger footprint than Allegiant Air, and will become the first airline to fly the Airbus A320 to Hawaii (American Airlines is set to fly its larger cousin, the Airbus A321, twice daily between Honolulu and Los Angeles this winter).

The move marks an attempt by Virgin America to capture passengers by applying its well-regarded leisure product in a market that is overwhelmingly powered by tourist traffic. At the very least, Virgin America should be credited with self-awareness; it has realized that its brand equity amongst younger, “hipper” consumers is mostly applicable to leisure travel. When it comes time to take that five-day business trip, even to cities that Virgin America serves like Chicago O’Hare or Austin, it can’t hold a candle to the legacies, Southwest, or even JetBlue.

Virgin America simply can’t offer the requisite frequency and network connectivity to compete for business travel in most of these markets, and rather than attempt to do so, it has instead redeployed capacity to markets where its product matches the consumer mix. And along with fuel prices, this strategic shift has helped pave the path to a decent standard of profitability. Between Virgin America’s network adjustment (the Austin – Dallas Love sideshow notwithstanding) and Virgin Atlantic’s Delta tie-up and recent fleet moves, the best descriptor for the tone and mood around Richard Branson affiliated carriers today is sobering, which should be viewed as the surest sign of the coming of the apocalypse.

So Virgin America’s entry into Hawaii makes some sense. But the airline will unquestionably be at a disadvantage relative to established players.

Assessing the Mainland-Hawaii marketplace

To get a better idea of Virgin America’s positioning within the market, we performed an in-depth analysis of the market between the continental United States and Hawaii for the IATA Winter 2015-16 season, the peak period for Hawaii travel. This analysis was conducted using schedule data from the week of December 14-20, 2015. Seat capacity for certain aircraft types is approximate and taken as the blended average of the frames in the airline’s fleet. However, these approximations tended to be small (usually 3-5 seats difference) and as such, the capacity data can be treated as largely accurate

First and foremost, the market is massive, with 904 weekly departures from the mainland to Hawaii, representing weekly capacity of 187,665 seats. This averages out to roughly 130 flights per day and represents annualized one-way capacity of 9.8 million seats. This capacity is spread across 57 distinct nonstop routes between 21 cities in the Continental US and 5 in Hawaii.

The following chart gives a better idea of the scope of Mainland-Hawaii operations.

Mainland to Hawaii Market

As the chart show, the Mainland-Hawaii market is dominated by narrowbodies, mainly the 737-800 and 757-200 with 291 and 218 weekly departures respectively. Still, there are 292 widebody departures per week (367 including the widebody-sized Boeing 767-300), more than half (157) from home carrier Hawaiian Airlines. As expected, Honolulu is the most important Hawaiian hub, with just under half of the weekly departures. Kahului is about half the size of Honolulu, and Lihue/Kona half the size of Kahului (Maui). Hilo is a nonentity.

On the mainland, the most notable factor is the staggering dominance of Los Angeles, which sees nearly more than 40 daily departures to Hawaii on aircraft that are 757 sized or larger. Seattle’s figure is largely driven by the twin competition of Alaska and Delta, and while San Francisco has much more capacity, its frequency is not much higher as it is mostly monopoly markets for United. Still, by weekly frequency and capacity, Virgin is entering into the second most competitive market between the mainland and the US.

Meanwhile, the following chart takes a look at the competitive position of various airlines in the market.

Hawaii Airline Competition

As the chart illustrates, Virgin America is very much still a bit player in the Hawaii marketplace; less than 4% of the size of the largest carrier in the market by capacity (United). As a whole the market is reasonably competitive, with five airlines each holding between 16 and 26% capacity share and two bit players. But within this broader evenness, there are several key differences in the respective airlines. Alaska is largely (outside of Seattle and Portland) flying point to point (p2p) routes to Hawaii from cities up and down the West Coast. American and United are split between two key Hawaii gateways apiece: Los Angeles and Phoenix for the former, Los Angeles and San Francisco for the latter. Delta’s Hawaii operations are concentrated at Los Angeles, and Hawaiian has a primary gateway at Honolulu, a secondary operation at Kahului, and a few p2p flights from Kona and Lihue.

In Part 2 of this analysis, I will assess how Virgin America’s Hawaiian foray will play out and assess other dynamics of the market

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Photos: A Boeing 747 Factory Tour & Program Update

Story and Photos By: Chris Sloan / Published July 10, 2015

During Boeing’s Media Days, Airways News had the opportunity to take a tour of the Boeing 747 Factory. The leader of the tour was Bruce Dickinson who is the Vice President and General Manager of the Boeing 747-8 program.

Inside the huge factory, there were three aircraft in production; all three were 747 freighters. Boeing points that the last 10 aircraft completed were the Intercontinental passenger version. At the last position awaiting delivery was the 101st Boeing 747-8 aircraft produced – experience that the company is leveraging to improve production flow and reduce unit cost.

There are six production bays where the Queen of the Skies is assembled, and it takes about 112 flow days for production currently; this is about two-thirds of the time it use to take. When assembly takes place, the fuselages are put together, the wing and body are joined, and the landing gear is installed, before it leaves the assembly line. The 747 remains exponentially Boeing’s most complex aircraft with 6 million parts – twice as many as the 777 runner-up.

EXTRA: A Look At The Remaining 747-8 Orders

Though very few 747-8 orders have come in the last few years, the program received a much needed shot in the arm at the Paris Air Show, when Russian cargo carrier Volga-Dnepr placed an order for 20 freighters. Beginning this September, the 747 Factory will only produce 16 aircraft per year or 1.3 per month. By March 2016, production will slow to one aircraft per month –compared to 8.3 aircraft per month currently for the 777.

After some seating manufacturer delays, Korean Air will get its first of six 747-8i Jumbos in August. Air China still has one left for delivery from its order of ten. In regards to the first Transaero’s four 747-8 Intercontinentals, it has been assembled (CN: 42416 / LN: 1519)

EXTRA: Volga-Dnepr Orders 20 Boeing 747-8F’s at Air Show

Despite the 747-8I offering a reduced weight by 9,000 pounds via optimization design and having its fuel efficiency improved by 3.5% since it first went into operation in 2011, orders for the 747 have been quite slow as airlines have looked towards two engine aircraft to replace larger less-fuel efficient aircraft. As of the end of the end of May, there are fifty-one orders for the passenger carrying 747-8 Intercontinental with thirty-three delivered and eighteen in the backlog. The more popular freighter variant has had seventy-one orders with fifty-seven deliveries and fourteen unfulfilled.

While it does seem that the end of the 747 program may be near, workers are quite happy as Air Force One will likely be assembled here in the future. Plus, workers are excited to boast a 99% dispatch reliability rate.

Also, who would not love to eat in the cafeteria in the 747 Factory called Queen of the Skies Cafe?!

EXTRA: Boeing Celebrates 1,500th 747-8 Delivery as Future Remains Uncertain

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

EXTRA: Boeing Delivers 50th Boeing 747-8

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

PHOTOS: Lufthansa Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental Inaugural

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


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Swiss Aims to Impress with New 777 Seats and Cabins

By: John Walton / Published July 9, 2015

Swiss International Air Lines is going all out with its cabins on the Boeing 777-300ER, which it calls “the new Swiss flagship”. Brand new first class suites and a new implementation of the popular Thompson Vantage business class seat are both positives, and although a ten-abreast economy class is a downside, there is at least a state-of-the-art entertainment system and inflight wifi.

First class passengers will experience a suite for the first time on Swiss, and the product looks excellent.

First class, Swiss Boeing 777-300ER - SWI012609I

The suite itself is reminiscent of ANA’s new first class suites, though with a paler and more European sensibility, and speaking the same design language as Swiss’ current offerings.


Compared with the narrower Airbus A340-300 aircraft the 777-300ER will be replacing, the big Boeing is wider, which means more space for each of the passengers in the first class layout, since it remains at 1-2-1.


It’s notable that Swiss has retained its first class product, the only one of the three Lufthansa Group boutique carriers (Austrian, Swiss and Brussels Airlines) to do so alongside the Lufthansa brand.

First class, Swiss Boeing 777-300ER - SWI012613I

Swiss promises “a personal at-seat wardrobe, which can be used as an additional privacy divider during rest, electro-mechanical window shades (servicing all three windows of the seat area at the same time),“ and passengers can enjoy a massive 32-inch entertainment screen that Swiss says is the largest in the industry.

Business class consists of 64 Thompson Vantage staggered fully flat beds, which are what Swiss already has on its A330 and A340 fleet, and which are also common to the Lufthansa Group’s three boutique airlines.

Thompson Vantage Business class, Swiss Boeing 777-300ER - SWI012615I

Consistency of product and the clear expectations that consistency can generate help to create a positive passenger experience, and Swiss is very good at consistency.

The newer Vantage seats are more squared and seem taller, featuring a privacy divider on top of each of the footwell / console units.

Thompson Vantage Business class, Swiss Boeing 777-300ER - SWI012614I

Every center section passenger has direct aisle access, though, and the popular “throne” solo seats remain, with the addition of an extra storage unit on the window side console. This is a smart use of previously wasted space.


Cleverly, the table has been moved from its previous position popping out from the side of the side console to the divider between seats (or between the “throne” seat and the aisle).


Swiss already operates a high-density version of these seats (1-2-1 and 2-2-1 on alternating rows in its Airbus widebodies). It has maintained this density on the 777-300ER, which will add a seat in every other row for an 1-2-1 and 2-2-2 configuration.

And that’s the downside to the larger cabin width of the 777-300ER in business class: more window passengers will have to climb over an aisle neighbor in order to reach the aisle.

Economy class, in common with sister airline Austrian’s 777 aircraft, is the 3-4-3 high-density layout that is as unpopular with passengers as it is popular with airlines.

Swiss economy class 777-300ER

It is admittedly difficult for an airline’s management to turn down adding 11 percent more seats to the 777’s original nine-abreast seating configuration, but it moves Swiss from an airline of choice in economy to an airline to avoid.


The rumored Swiss premium economy has not materialized, however, which is a disappointment for passengers who don’t have the means to pay four times the economy fare for a business class seat, but who might well be able to pay the 1.5-2x multiplier for premium economy.

Wifi will be available throughout the aircraft, although Swiss’ CGI mockups don’t include a radome so give no clues as to provider or system.

In terms of timing, Swiss will replace its aging Airbus A340-300 aircraft with the 777-300ER, with the airline stating “from the 2016 summer schedules onwards, the new aircraft will be deployed primarily on services to Hong Kong, Bangkok and Los Angeles. And San Francisco, São Paulo and Tel Aviv will also receive Boeing 777 service several times a week. The first six SWISS Airbus A340s to be withdrawn with the arrival of the new Boeing 777-300ERs will be returned to their lessors. Three further A340s will be replaced by new Boeing 777-300ERs between 2017 and 2018. These aircraft will be transferred to SWISS’s sister carrier Edelweiss.”

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China Orders up to 75 Airbus A330 Aircraft

By: Roberto Leiro / Published July 2, 2015

In a ceremony held yesterday in Paris, China Aviation Supplies Holding Company (CAS) has signed with Airbus a General Terms Agreement (GTA) for 45 A330 family aircraft, and a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for additional 30 aircraft of the same type.


The GTA and MoU were signed today in Paris by Fabrice Brégier, Airbus President and CEO and Li Hai, President and CEO of CAS, (Photo Credits: Airbus)

“The package order is a new vote of confidence in our A330 Family aircraft, which is already the most popular wide-body aircraft in China,” said Fabrice Brégier. “China is today the most important market for aviation in the world, we can be confident that air transport in China will continue to undergo rapid growth. We are honored to contribute to this development.”


Saudi Arabian Airlines secured an order for 20 A330 regional aircraft. (Photo Credits: Airbus)

Although there were no details on the selected wide-body variants or motorization choices, Reuters assures that Airbus has been pitching to China its A330 Regional, an optimized version to seat up to 400 passengers as a solution to deal with Chinese domestic congestion. Since its launch in February 2014 during the Aviation Expo China, this wide-body variant has not attracted a vast interest from customers until last June, when Saudi Arabian Airlines became its launch customer during the 51st Paris Air Show.

ANALYSIS: Airbus Launches Lower Weight A330 for Regional Operations

A Bright Future Ahead

Despite the recent economy slowdown in China, Airbus assures that the country will be leading passenger air traffic as its growth stills above the world average. According to Airbus Global Market Forecast, there will be a demand for more than 5,300 new commercial passenger aircraft sized over 100 seats and freighters in the 20-year period between 2014 and 2033. As of last May, the Airbus A330 program reached its 1500th order with over 1,100 aircraft delivered to about 110 operators worldwide. Chinese operators count with about the 15% of Airbus A330 world fleet, equivalent to over 150 jetliners.

RELATED: Airbus A330 Program Reaches its 1500th Order

FLASHBACK FRIDAY: The History of the Airbus A330 Program

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Black Swan Event: Interview with Captain Richard de Crespigny—Part 2

By Eric Auxier / Published June 30, 2015

(Editor’s note: Today, Airways Magazine August 2015 issue hits stands worldwide. Inside, don’t miss the amazing interview with Captain Richard De Crespigny, the Qantas A380 pilot who experienced an inflight engine explosion. In Part 1 of our three-part series we learned what the early phases of that emergency were for Captain Crespigny. Following is the introduction to Part 2, as well as a companion video produced by interview author and Airbus Captain Eric Auxier, on behalf of the Airways team.)

“I think the Australian culture contributes greatly to the piloting community. Australians have descended from convicts that were dispatched from England. So there is a bit of convict blood in most Australians. We have a bit of a rascally attitude, and we have a healthy disrespect for authority just by itself. To be respected, you have to be respectable. And leaders need to build respect to be respected. So, Australians will always challenge authority, and have that great rascal attitude. And what that means is that Australians are happy to say Stop.” –Qantas A380 Captain Richard Champion de Crespigny.

Captain de Crespigny flies the world’s largest passenger aircraft, the Airbus A380, for Qantas Airways. On November 4, 2010, on Flight QF32 from Singapore to Sydney, he and his crew suffered what is called a “Black Swan event.”

A “black swan” is an event so rare as to be unpredictable, but one that comes with major consequences. For example, 9/11, or the Black Monday financial market meltdown.

The lessons of QF32 apply to anyone who is working in a high-risk environment that needs leadership and teamwork to survive. Actually, everyone who works in a place where failure is not an option.

In an amazing demonstration of airmanship, CRM and determination, Captain de Crespigny and crew saved the ship and its passengers, who all walked safely away, with not a single injury.

Best-selling author of the award-winning book, QF32, Captain de Crespigny is now a worldwide sought-after speaker.

This is the second part of his story.

About the author:

Eric Auxier is an A320 Captain for a major U.S. airline with over 21,000 hours of flying in a career spanning 35 years. He has flown the A320-class Airbus (A321-A319) for the past 20 years, and has over 14,000 hours in type. He is also type rated in the Boeing 737 and DHC-8. His flying career has taken him from the Alaska bush to the Caribbean Islands and everywhere in between. A popular aviation blogger at “Adventures of Cap’n Aux” and author of four books, in 2013 he captured the coveted Amazon Top 100 Breakthrough Novels Award for “The Last Bush Pilots.”

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Inflight Connectivity Delays on the Horizon as Falcon 9 Fails to Soar

By: John Walton / Published June 29, 2015

At first glance, the failure of an automated resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS) might not be immediately relevant to better inflight wifi for your travels.

Yet, much as with the late May failure of a Khrunichev-International Launch Services (ILS) Proton rocket from the Russian cosmodrome at Baikonur in Kazakhstan, Sunday’s failure of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida will have a knock-on effect on future launches — and those include several key satellites to boost speeds, bandwidth and coverage in the US and worldwide.

RELATED: Faster inflight Internet Delayed Due to Russia Launch Failure

“There was an overpressure event in the upper stage liquid oxygen tank,” SpaceX founder Elon Musk stated soon after the explosion, although he did note that the “data suggests [a] counter-intuitive cause.” The actual cause is still under investigation.

Let’s be clear: the failure of any launch system (even if unmanned) is regrettable, and AirwaysNews’ sympathy is certainly with the SpaceX team currently working to determine the cause.

Yet the impacts remain. Until the issue can be identified, the timing of future launches of the SpaceX program is in doubt, and with the Proton launch system already under a cloud that leaves the European ten-nation Arianespace alone as the major international satellite launch provider.

The failure at this stage of the Falcon program is especially significant given that the larger Falcon Heavy system is (or perhaps was) due to be launched with a mission containing the ViaSat-2 satellite in a “late summer 2016 launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida”. ViaSat provides the fastest currently available inflight Internet to jetBlue’s A320 family aircraft and United’s Boeing 737 jets.


ViaSat-2 and its Ka-band beams will offer 2.5 times the capacity of the already-speedy ViaSat-1, and has evolved past the current generation of spot-beam technology. ViaSat-2 is a key part of the Ka-band constellation for the near future, offering redundancy for the continental US market, extending coverage over the US, Canada, north Atlantic routes as far as Ireland and the western UK, the Caribbean, and much of northern Latin America.

SpaceX is also key to the ambitions of ViaSat partner Eutelsat, which intends to “serve Latin American customers in the video, telecommunications and government sectors” with its 117 West B satellite, which also includes Ku-band provision for the region plus redundancy and additional coverage for a significant part of North America.

ABS will also be affected, particularly with its ABS-2A Ku-band satellite that “will serve India,
South East Asia, Russia, Sub-Sahara Africa, and GCC/Afghanistan region.”

Moreover, the recent series of launch failures across providers after a string of successes mean losses of satellites, which must be rebuilt, and a likely increase in insurance costs for launches as well. Demand for inflight connectivity is higher than ever, yet providing the satellites that meet that demand continues to be difficult.

“Space is hard,” noted ISS commander Scott Kelly after the SpaceX incident, with former commander Chris Hadfield adding that there are “serious ramifications for Space Station resupply. Good thing it’s international”. With more options available for ISS resupply than currently provisioning satellite launches, the impact may be felt more strongly a few hundred miles closer to home aboard the flight this year or next that you were hoping might have connectivity on board.

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Virgin Atlantic Goes For Gold In Economy and With Dreamliners

By Ramsey Qubein / Published June 30, 2015

Virgin Atlantic has built a reputation for a re-imagined, surely sexy, flying experience. Nevertheless, much of its marketing relies on its premium business class product. And, what with its inflight bar, flat-bed seating, pajamas on overnight flights, attractive uniforms, and an image that hinges on its fly boy founder Richard Branson, it is certainly well deserved.

However, the majority of the airline’s passengers do not enjoy many of those features, although there is no doubt their interest in choosing Virgin can be traced to this dependable, hip image. What is unique, however, is the lengths that the carrier is going to improve its economy class cabin.

New to Virgin Atlantic is its intense joint venture partnership with Delta Air Lines across the Atlantic which gives the airline shared access to the U.S. carrier’s revenue opportunity and route network. Cross fleeting was quick to follow the announcement with Delta taking over routes from Virgin Atlantic on flights from LAX and Philadelphia. Virgin has reciprocated with its operation of flights from Atlanta and Detroit.

RELATED: Virgin Atlantic Welcomes the 787-9 in Atlanta

RELATED: With Delta, Is Virgin Atlantic Getting its Mojo Back?

We have seen both United and Delta proudly announce investments in their economy class meals on international flights. Delta has even reintroduced amenity kits, and all three legacy U.S. carriers have reverted to offering free wine and beer in economy class to stay in line with their respective joint venture partners. Coinciding with the launch of the carrier’s new fleet of Dreamliners, Virgin Atlantic has undertaken a revamp of its inflight offering in the economy cabin. The change is timely given the joint venture with Delta.

RELATED: Maturity and Growth in the Delta-Virgin Atlantic Partnership

With the Dreamliner, Virgin Atlantic is already seeing many of its customers specifically book their travel on flights operated by the new aircraft. Airways joined the airline for the launch of its JFK Dreamliner flight. Numerous passengers planned their travel to fly on the 787 instead of the numerous 747-400 flights also operating that day.

Back-of-the-bus catering gets an upgrade

Stock pictures of Virgin Atlantic 787-9 aircraft Birthday Girl.Virgin is going one step further to put the fun back into flying for economy passengers. This revamp is not only for passengers on board the airline’s new Dreamliner, but also all passengers in its economy cabin. The joint venture with Delta is sure to have played a role in the harmonizing of products between the two carriers, and passengers are the immediate beneficiaries of small, but notable upgrades on board.

Upon boarding, all passengers (like on partner Delta and competitor Swiss International) receive a full-sized bottle of water. “Following extensive surveys of passengers, it became clear that flyers wanted more control about staying hydrated at their own pace,” says Head of Customer Experience Debbie Hulme.

Complimentary cocktails, beer and wine are now offered in a pre-lunch or dinner cocktail service, and again during and after the meal service. In a more customer friendly move (thanks to those passenger surveys), the airline is switching from pouring glasses of wine or mixing cocktails on the cart to offering splits of wine and minis of cocktails to passengers. New features of the economy class dining service include hot towels prior to the meal and a cheese and cracker course served as part of the main tray service.

“The simple and inexpensive act of offering a hot towel before a meal in economy class goes a long way in making passengers feel special and cared for,” says Chris McGinnis, founder of “I’m surprised more airlines don’t do this.”

After-dinner chocolates will accompany the coffee and tea service following dinner. Pre-arrival meals on daytime flights will include a new selection of gourmet wraps. These little extras are part of what add to the Virgin experience.

Premium Economy gets a boost too. The Dreamliner aircraft are the first to be equipped with the new Wonder Wall concept featuring a small refrigerator and full buffet of snacks and drinks. It is located in the front cabin and is designed as a compact social space, similar to the concept of the Upper Class Bar (albeit with a bartender) for guests to commune or snack at their leisure.

Bring your selfie stick

To take advantage of the selfie craze, Virgin is launching a new campaign dubbed the ultimate #SkyhighSelfie on its new Dreamliner 787 aircraft, offering customers the opportunity to check in on Facebook and share their photos from 35,000 feet.

Developed in conjunction with Jiffybots, its app will allow customers to check in free of charge on Facebook and share their location and photos with their friends and followers during the flight via the aircraft’s Wi-Fi connection.

Designated #SkyhighSelfie spots in the cabin will offer passengers the chance to take the perfect selfie onboard and share their experience. Each of the airline’s Dreamliners will have a unique backdrop with the aircraft’s name so that passengers can “collect” various aircraft selfies. Virgin has 21 of the aircraft on order with routes to Boston, Newark, New York JFK, and Washington Dulles already featuring the new plane.

The first selfie spot went live on Birthday Girl April 1 allowing customers to take their picture with the iconic Virgin Atlantic Flying Lady carrying her celebratory champagne coupe. Also, a discussion forum will allow travelers to connect to other passengers on board and share their experiences. Both access to the discussion forum and selfie upload will be accessible via the wifi signal.


Surprise and delight

In an effort to move beyond the staid experience, the airline has also launched several surprise and delight events including one over Christmas that certainly had passengers talking. Travelers aboard flight 11 from London to Boston were treated to a special visit and gift from Santa Claus himself as the plane flew over the Arctic.

“We wanted to offer something extra special for the families flying with us this Christmas and who better to spread the Christmas cheer than Santa himself?,” says Hulme.

Santa dropped into the aircraft while passing by during one of his “reindeer training flights.” The experience began at boarding when all 264 customers were gifted an early Christmas present from Microsoft of a Windows tablet so they could log on to NORAD Track Santa and enjoy a live chat as he took his sleigh for a spin over the Atlantic

“Passengers tracked his movements from their Windows tablets and were able to live chat with him before sharing their Santa selfies using the on board Wi-Fi,” Hulme adds.

When the aircraft was over Greenland, Santa radioed the Virgin Atlantic pilots flying the aircraft asking permission to land on the plane for some refreshments and to give his reindeers a rest.

Passengers were then amazed to watch the sleigh land on the aircraft through glass panels in the roof before he accessed the plane through a special Santa hatch.

Santa then walked down the aisles of the plane, delighting children and taking selfies with surprised passengers.

Christmas continued for those on the plane with Microsoft prizes of Xboxes and Windows devices from Dell, Lenovo & Microsoft being won in competitions during the flight.

This type of creativity is reserved typically for premium cabin customers, and to see an airline exhibit such an effort for economy shows creative push that moves in the right direction for the industry as a whole. Certainly, other carriers will be hard pressed to match such an offer, but to see Virgin kick start a movement in the “back of the bus” is a refreshing start in the aviation industry.

“It will be interesting to see if Virgin can recreate part of the allure it has brought to the front of the plane in Upper Class,” adds McGinnis. “Virgin has a tremendously strong brand, and the investments that some airlines are making in economy these days are definitely a step in the right direction.”

Editor’s Note: What are the benefits of subscribing to our weekly newsletter? You’ll get a summary of our top stories of the week, along with our exclusive Weekend Reads column and a Photo of the Week from the extensive AirwaysNews archives. The newsletter comes out every Saturday morning. Subscribe today!


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Qatar Airways Fleet Display Dominates Paris Air Show

By John Walton / Published June 24, 2015

Qatar Airways is returning home to Doha with many of the stories of the Paris Air Show under its belt. After enjoying being one of Boeing’s showpiece orders for the 777F and the 777-8, Qatar’s whopping five aircraft on static display — more than all other airlines combined — made a key political point to the aviation industry and Western governments.

Qatar is here to stay, it has an enviable onboard product, and it isn’t afraid to ground a veritable fleet of aircraft for a week to make its point, say the Airbus A380, Boeing 787, Airbus A350, all-business class Airbus A319, and mid-haul Airbus A320 aircraft at Le Bourget.

These weren’t pre-delivery aircraft that were still the responsibility of the airframer, in the way that Boeing brought a China Airlines 777-300ER so new that anyone going on board had to don protective booties, parts of all three cabins were roped off, and nobody was allowed to sit on the seats.


No, these were actual flying Qatar Airways aircraft that had been taken out of service for the best part of a week to allow industry execs, partners, professionals and of course the world’s assembled media to crawl all over them from nose (flight deck doors were open) to tail (so were the crew rests, and so busy that a decent picture was impossible).


Photographs galore and welcomed by smiling helpful flight attendants arranging immaculately plumped pillows and luxury washbags on the very latest seats — it was like dying and going to air show heaven.

Qatar Airways’ A380 shows remarkable interior restraint

The pride of the fleet is Qatar Airways’ Airbus A380, with its remarkably understated and elegant first class cabin.

Qatar Airways Airbus A380 - Paris Air Show - IMG_8789

The signature Qatar rose gold blends relatively unobtrusively with the deep burgundies and warm woods, and the decision to go for an open first class cabin rather than a closed suites-based environment is a refreshing change.

Qatar Airways Airbus A380 - Paris Air Show - IMG_8786

Business class is Qatar’s widebody standard, a very respectable implementation of the B/E Aerospace Super Diamond outward-facing herringbone, where centre seats point together and window seats point towards the window.


If anything, business feels more private than first class, given that you’re pointing away from the aisle.


Qatar’s A380 economy, too, is impressive — just 31 inches of pitch, but in a spacious 2-4-2 minicabin upstairs and the standard 3-4-3 throughout the lower deck.

Qatar Airways Airbus A380 - Paris Air Show - IMG_8801

The all-new A350 is spectacular

On the A350, business class is the front cabin, and you’re welcomed with an eyecatching rose gold dome at the doors.

Qatar Airways Airbus A350 - Paris Air Show - IMG_8959

The seat is the same as the A380, although the significantly wider A350 cabin and a large break in the middle of the business class section for the door and open entryway gives it an even more spacious feeling.

Qatar Airways Airbus A350 - Paris Air Show - IMG_8958

However, the unbroken length of the cabin also has a downside: with the increasingly quiet cabin of the A350, will there be too little noise to mask a couple of chatty passengers and a few snorers?

Qatar Airways Airbus A350 - Paris Air Show - IMG_8945

Oddly enough, the most impressive part of the A350’s construction for this journalist is the overhead bin structure, which is the same in business and economy.

Qatar Airways Airbus A350 - Paris Air Show - IMG_9520

The sharp sweep of the bins’ curve hides roomy storage areas while making the cabin immensely more open and airy.

Speaking of airy: a newly built widebody aircraft with individual air nozzles is remarkable enough to mention. More airlines need to choose this option when outfitting their newest aircraft.

Qatar Airways Airbus A350 - Paris Air Show - IMG_9513

The A350’s economy seats are pleasantly wide, with an articulating seat pan that tilts passengers into a more relaxed position.

Qatar Airways Airbus A350 - Paris Air Show - IMG_9523

The generous recline, however, means that when the passenger in front pushes back, they are so close that you feel like you should be giving them a neck rub. (Please don’t unless they are in your travelling group.)

One final niggle: the adjustable headrests on the A350 don’t go high enough to clear this 6’3” journalist’s shoulders.

Qatar’s Boeing 787 Dreamliner is tight in economy

Qatar’s 787-8 feels, appropriately enough, a little smaller than the A350. Business is the top offering here too, and the seats are the same B/E Super Diamond outward-facing herringbones.

Qatar Airways Boeing 787 - Paris Air Show - IMG_8895

Economy, though, is not a great experience. Qatar opted for a nine-abreast 3-3-3 seating, but chose standard width aisles rather than the cut-down version other airlines use in this configuration. The aisle is noticeably wider than on other similarly laid out 787s.

Qatar Airways Boeing 787 - Paris Air Show - IMG_8878

The tradeoff with choosing the wider aisle — like the problem with the old Northwest A320 family aircraft — is that seat width has to be reduced to accommodate it. Qatar’s 787 seats are the narrowest this journalist has ever experienced, and it’s really quite noticeable for a frequent traveller.

Qatar Airways Boeing 787 - Paris Air Show - IMG_8884

Swish all-business A319 is a great ride

No such problems on the all-business class Airbus A319 narrowbody, which holds forty passengers in leather-clad exclusivity on premium routes or charters.

Qatar Airways Airbus all-business A319 - Paris Air Show - IMG_8938

Interestingly, the seats are less spacious in the all-biz A319 than in regular business class on larger aircraft, with a 2-2 layout of B/E Diamond fully flat beds that lack the direct aisle access for all passengers of the Super Diamond seen on the widebodies.

Qatar Airways Airbus all-business A319 - Paris Air Show - IMG_8942

The kicker, though, is travelling with just thirty-nine other people. Time the arrivals right and you just breeze through the airport without a full aircraft of people behind you.

Even Qatar’s A320s are pleasant inside

Qatar also brought one of its mid-haul A320 aircraft to Le Bourget, which is outfitted with the same seats as the A319, but just twelve of them, and in a cloth moquette rather than leather.

Qatar Airways Airbus all-business A320 - Paris Air Show - IMG_8925

Economy is a very standard 31” in pitch, but that’s towards the higher end of standard these days, and these birds do have full inflight entertainment.

Interestingly, Qatar refitted this mid-haul aircraft with sharklet wingtips after it was delivered. The benefits of sharklets are greatest for longer flights, where the aerodynamic improvements offset the extra weight more efficiently.

Qatar Airways Airbus A320 - Paris Air Show - IMG_9247


Paris Air Show Stories:

A “Quiet” Paris Air Show: Great for Attendees and Observers

Paris Air Show 2015 (Day 0): Bombardier CSeries Aircraft Debuts at Le Bourget

Paris Air Show 2015: Qatar Orders 14 Boeing 777s, Ups Threat to Leave Oneworld

Paris Air Show 2015: SWISS Confirms CS-300 Order

Paris Air Show 2015: Honeywell Radar Improves Airport, Aircraft Efficiency

Paris Air Show: ATR Pushes High-density, High-efficiency Turboprops

Paris Air Show: Indonesia Takes Action on Aviation Safety Concerns

Paris Air Show: Boeing’s Little Orders Are Big Wins

Paris Air Show: Ethiopian Takes `Terrible Teens’ 787s from Boeing

Paris Air Show: Volga-Dnepr Places Major Boeing 747-8F Order

Paris Air Show: Leasing Companies Order Big at Airbus

Paris Air Show: Airlines Go Shopping in the Airbus Catalog

Paris Air Show: 2015 a Slow Year for Orders

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