Category Archives: Airline Passenger Experience

ANA To Fly Its First Scheduled 787-9 Flight August 7

By Jack Harty / Published July 30, 2014

ANA will begin flying scheduled domestic Boeing 787-9 KBFI-4_9_14-9Dreamliner flights on August 7. It will introduce the 395 seat aircraft on routes between Tokyo’s Haneda Airport and Fukuoka, Osaka (Itami) and Matsuyama.

ANA will take delivery of two more 787-9s before the end of the fiscal year ending March 2015, and the carrier plans to start 787-9 international flights around these times. The carrier plans to use these aircraft on long haul routes to Europe, North America, and other key destinations. In the mean time, the aircraft will help with maximizing passenger numbers and lower operations costs on domestic flights.

Although the first aircraft have 395 seats, the aircraft will be converted before international 787-9 flights begin next year. There will be 215 seats which is 46 more than its 787-8s have.

Here is the flight schedule the airline has set:

Flight No. Departure Arrival Flight No. Departure Arrival
NH241 Tokyo (Haneda) 7:25 Fukuoka

9:15

NH248 Fukuoka

10:05

Tokyo (Haneda) 11:50
NH25 Tokyo (Haneda) 13:00 Osaka(Itami) 14:05 NH30 Osaka(Itami) 15:00 Tokyo (Haneda) 16:15
NH595 Tokyo (Haneda) 17:15 Matsuyama 18:40 NH598 Matsuyama 19:30 Tokyo (Haneda) 21:00

In the press release, ANA says it will become the first airline in the world to operate a scheduled flight with the 787-9. However, Air New Zealand was the launch customer, and via Twitter, it said that it will fly the first scheduled flight. The carrier says it will begin flying the 787-9 between Aukland and Sydney on August 9, but when asked which flight, it said that not all of the details have been worked out.

RELATED:

PHOTOS: First ANA 787-9 Takes Flight

PHOTO: United’s First 787-9 Exits the Factory

PHOTOS: Air New Zealand’s First 787-9 Rolls Out

ANA 787 Inaugural Flight (Airways)

PHOTOS: ANA 787 Inaugural Flight

Boeing Celebrates Delivery of First 787-9 Dreamliner to ANZ

ANA Receives Its First 787-9

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

Cover photo curtesy of JDL Multimedia.

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WestJet Reports Record Earnings and Announces It Will Begin Flying 767s

By Jack Harty / Published July 29, 2014

While WestJet Airlines Ltd. reported record profits this morning, the westjetcarrier announced that it will begin flying four Boeing 767-300ER aircraft for flights between Alberta and Hawaii beginning during the late winter in 2015.

The airline announced a second quarter profit of $51.8 million or 40 cents per share which is up from $44.7 million or 34 cents per share a year ago. The profits beat analysts expectations as it was estimated that the carrier would earn a profit of 28 cents per share.

Despite costs growing (excluding fuel) by 1.9%, the company saw a revenue increase of 10.3% to $930.3 million which is up from 843.7 million year over year.

Growth Is In The Future

Last month, the carrier launched its first flights to Europe when it began flying between St. John’s, N.L., and Dublin. More growth in overseas markets is expected starting in the 2016 summer.

“We continue to execute on our growth plans, including new service to Dublin, Ireland, success with our fare bundles initiative, and the expansion of WestJet Encore,” WestJet’s president and CEO, Gregg Saretsky, said in a statement.

The carrier announced that it will begin flying the Boeing 767-300ER aircraft in late 2015 for flights between Alberta and Hawaii. The carrier plans to have four 767s in its fleet which have a range of 6,000 nautical miles, and they will be replacing  the two Boeing 757-200s operated by Thomas Cook that operate these flights.

Additionally, the carrier says it will use its option to purchase five more Bombardier Q400 turboprops as its regional service, WestJet Encore, continues to expand.

Related: WestJet to Introduce Wide Body Aircraft in 2015

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

Latest photo courtesy of JDL Multimedia.

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United Introduces New Safety Video

By Jack Harty / Published July 28, 2014

This evening, United Airlines uploaded a new safety video on its YouTube channel, and it’s a departure (no pun intended) from the old.

The theme of the new video is “Safety is Global.” In the description of the video, United explains that “nothing is more important than the safety of our customers and employees, so we’ve incorporated creative elements to maintain the interest of even our most frequent flyers flight after flight. Underscoring the message that safety is global, the video showcases locations throughout United’s broad route network.”

The video starts off just like the old one with employees welcoming you on-board in different language. But, things quickly change as we find ourselves with a United pilot at a local Paris cafe. Then, we are whisked away on a journey around the world.

Watch out for a few funny moments. Since we don’t want to spoil it, sit back, relax, and enjoy the video.

Initial reactions about the new tone appear to be very positive. Though, some are wondering if there will be different themed ones like Delta.

RELATED: United’s “Fly The Friendly Skies” Iconic Ad Campaign Returns

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

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Republic Airlines To Start Flying E-175 Out Of Miami For American Airlines October 2

By Jack Harty / Published July 28, 2014

Starting October 2, the E-175, operated by Republic Airlines ????????????????under the American Eagle brand, will begin flying out of Miami, Florida. Initially, the airline will operate flights to Atlanta, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, and Tallahassee.

The E-175 is being used to replace some of the flights that are currently operated by Envoy’s ERJ-145s. There is no frequency change on any of the routes.

When comparing the October 1 and 2 schedules, three of the ERJ-145 flights between Miami and Atlanta will be upgraded to a Embraer 175 while four ERJ-145 flights between Miami and Jacksonville will be upgraded to E175s. Only one flight to Tallahassee will be upgraded to a E175, but both flights to Indianapolis (where Republic’s headquarters is located) will be upgraded to the E175.

All of the routes will see an increase in capacity as the E175s have 76 seats and are replacing 50 seat E145s. There are 12 first class seats, 20 Main Cabin Extra seats (economy seats with extra legroom), and 44 regular economy seats.

Currently, Republic Airlines operates 22 E175s under the American Eagle brand, and there are plans for it to operate 33 more E175s for American.

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

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New and Free IFE Options Coming to a Delta Flight Near You August 1

By Jack Harty / Published July 28, 2014

On August 1, new and free inflight entertainment options are coming to more than 1,000 Delta mainline and regional aircraft near you with the “Delta Studio.”

Welcome to “Delta Studio”

Delta’s customers will have access to movies, television shows, music, and games through seat-back entertainment systems or on demand video streaming onboard Delta’s Wi-Fi-equipped aircraft, regardless of what class they are seated in. However, the Delta Studio will only available on flights longer than one and a half hours.

In a press release, Delta calls its move “the most far-reaching effort by an airline to provide hit movies, popular television shows, music and video games for free.”

“Through the introduction of Delta Studio our customers have yet another reason to choose Delta and a different travel experience,” said Tim Mapes, senior vice president – Marketing. “Delta continues to be driven by customer feedback which has consistently placed the desire to be entertained at the top of the list of ways to improve our customers’ time in the air.”

New IFE Options on International Flights

Delta customers seated in BusinessElite, First Class and Economy Comfort will have free, unrestricted access to in-flight entertainment on all international flights worldwide. Customers traveling in economy on all international flights will also have access to free content. Delta completed installation of seat-back entertainment systems on its international fleet in 2013.

New IFE Options On Domestic Flights

Customers traveling on domestic flights in BusinessElite, First Class and Economy Comfort will have free access to all in-flight entertainment. Domestic economy customers will have access to free content which includes all of Delta’s live satellite TV channels, music selections and game options through seat-back entertainment systems as well as movie or TV selections such as ‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ or ‘Frozen’ on seat-back systems in August as well as streaming content through in-flight Wi-Fi.

Want More Content?

Additional premium content will be available for purchase in economy including the latest movie titles such as ‘Need for Speed’ or ‘Rio 2,’ HBO and SHOWTIME programming as well as on-demand TV shows like ‘About a Boy’ or ‘The Middle.’ Delta’s full entertainment line-up for the month of August is available in Sky magazine.

How does it work if you don’t have seat-back entertainment options?

Delta explains that “customers traveling on any domestic Delta or Delta Connection aircraft equipped with Wi-Fi will be able to stream free movies and TV options directly to their mobile devices while in flight by using Gogo’s video player app. The Fly Delta app will include an integrated player for iOS devices. Customers who have downloaded the app before their flight can easily access streamed content from Delta aircraft for playback while in-flight.”

Delta’s Current IFE

Delta currently offers 18 channels of live satellite TV and up to 250 movies, hundreds of TV shows, 2,300 songs and a selection of games on aircraft with seat-back entertainment systems on select aircraft.

There are 140 domestic aircraft with seat-back entertainment systems installed, and the carrier will be adding seat-back entertainment to 56 Boeing 757-200, 43 Boeing 737-800s and 57 Airbus A319 aircraft through 2016. Additionally, more than 100 new Airbus and Boeing aircraft are already scheduled to be delivered with seat-back entertainment through 2018.

More than 900 domestic and international aircraft are equipped with in-flight Wi-Fi, and all of its Boeing 777, 767, 747, Airbus A330 and transoceanic Boeing 757 aircraft are scheduled to receive Wi-Fi by the end of 2015.

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You can contact the author at Jack.Harty@Airchive.com.

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Can Bombardier’s Q400 Save Regional Air Service in the US?

By Vinay Bhaskara / Published July 28, 2014

KSEA 6_9-17America’s regional airlines, which are contracted by mainline airlines to provide feeder services at mainline hubs and once operated an army of 50-seat Bombardier CRJ-200s and Embraer E145s, are today faced with an acute and worsening pilot shortage. The threat of a pilot shortage was in the back of the aviation industry’s collective consciousness, even before recent events conspired to speed up the onset of the shortage. Pilot graduation rates in the US have been dropping for some time due to ever-increasing costs, and with mandatory retirements for thousands of mainline pilots coming up shortly, the pilot shortage was almost assuredly going to hit within the next decade. Meanwhile, a glut of pilots in the mid-90s and early-2000s allowed regional carriers to negotiate sparse deals with little guarantee of job ascension to pilots, who often earn less than minimum wage on a pro-rated basis.

Pilot Shortage Speeds Up

But in recent months, thanks to the combined effect of the FAA’s new 1500-hour rule (shrinking the pool of available pilots with enough experience to qualify under new guidelines) and its FAR Part 117 crew rest rules (enacted in response to the Colgan Air crash in 2009, the timeline for the pilot shortage has begun to move up rapidly. Already the economics of 50-seat regional jets were dicey at best due to rising fuel and maintenance costs, and the now worsening pilot shortage only exacerbates that problem. Carriers such as Delta have already taken the proactive step of replacing routes served multiple times daily on 50-seaters with 70-seat jets operating at a lower frequency. Routes that cannot support the larger aircraft will lose service.

Small Cities Set to Lose Service

But with the ascension of pilot shortage, there is a real danger of the same process cascading upwards into the 70-seat RJ segment of the market (replacement by mainline – such as Delta’s 717s), and once again, plenty of incremental service on the margins will be lost due to the conversion process. All of these factors taken together imply that small airports and communities, places like Texarkana, Texas, Allentown, Pennsylvania, and Cheyenne, Wyoming, are set to lose a significant proportion of their traffic, and thus a key tie to an increasingly globalized business environment. Our analysis finds that the threat of the pilot shortage, combined with the pre-existing decline in the fortunes of small air travel markets, could see between 40 and 50 US airports wiped off the commercial airline route network in the United States, and between 350 and 450 air routes from these airports and others lost over the next five to seven years. But the solution to these problems might already exist – in the form of Bombardier’s Q400 turboprop.

The Q400: Superior Economics ,up to certain Distance

Q400-1Bombardier’s Q400 turboprop is an aircraft that seats between 70-84 passengers, depending on configuration. The Q400 has a maximum range of just under 1,000 nautical miles (1,150 statue miles) at a payload of 7,000 kg (15,400 lbs), and is capable of traveling at a speed of 360 knots (414 miles per hour). This speed, higher than the 200-250 knots that rival turboprops such as the ATR 72 typically fly at, allow the Q400 to compete effectively with regional jets up to about 400-450 nautical miles according to sources at Bombardier. Essentially, on a 350 nm route, our analysis finds that the Q400 has about a 65-72% advantage in terms of fuel burn per seat versus the E170/CRJ-700, and a 100-110% advantage versus a 50-seat regional jet. This, along with rising RJ maintenance costs, translates into roughly a 15-17% and 48-52% advantage in terms of operating cost per seat on the route. However, increasing the distance to 450 nautical miles causes that cost advantage to evaporate, as the slower speeds (RJs are about 80 knots faster than the Q400) lead to longer flight times, which in turn lead to higher capital and labor costs.

However, until that threshold, the Q400 presents a unique opportunity to replace RJ services at a lower cost. The trip costs up to about 350 nautical miles for the Q400s and present day RJs are similar, which means that the same revenue pool (let alone a market stimulated with lower fares) would allow 50-seat RJ routes to be replaced. Moreover, because the Q400’s fuel costs are lower, airlines could afford to pay higher pilot salaries, thereby offsetting some of the severity of the pilot shortage while preserving CASM at a reasonable rate. At present, we estimate that the Q400 would be an effective replacement aircraft of between 50-60% of the routes in questions, and help preserve service at more than 20 airports.

A Potential Q400X; RJ Speeds at Turboprop Costs

But the real opportunity on the Q400 lies in a re-engined, upgraded Q400X turboprop, which has been rumored for launch since 2011. The Q400X, whether stretched or kept at the same capacity, might operate at a speed of 420 knots or more, using a new turboprop engine from GE derived from GE’s CPX 38 helicopter engine. If Bombardier opted for a higher speed Q400, the cost equalization point would bend outwards to around 700-750 nautical miles. While our sources at Bombardier do caution that a higher speed Q400X would require significant aerodynamic re-design, such a product would allow the Q400 to do 90% of RJ routes worldwide, most of them with superior economics than present and next-generation RJs (thanks to improvements on the CPX-38 derivative). For Bombardier, whose Q400 is already lagging severely behind rival ATR’s cheaper ATR 72, such a development could make a lot of sense. And most of the small town RJ service could be preserved.

Questions about Passenger Uptake

KPHX 5_22_14-12Of course there are several potential problems with this scenario, not the least of which being that the Q400X does not exist. Moreover, US passengers are notoriously skeptical of turboprop aircraft, which could leave airlines hesitant to invest in the product. Mike Arcamone, President of Bombardier Commercial Aircraft, says the perception is changing: “I think a lot of operators are starting to realize its quiet; the turboprop is quiet […]  how smooth it is. So the fear of flying a turboprop, is reduced. So there are a lot of markets where the Q400 could absolutely replace… at the lower end…. jets.” It would certainly benefit small cities if he’s right, where the profit contribution that they could make to airline networks with better operating economics, the Q400 and subsequent developments might prove to be an essential tool.

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Contact the author at Vinay.Bhaskara@Airchive.com. Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren contributed to this report. Photos by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Airchive

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ANA Receives Its First 787-9

By Jack Harty / Published July 29, 2014

KBFI-4_9_14-7ANA has received its first Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.

The airline will begin flying the jet on domestic flights next month, and it will be deployed on international routes in April 2015.

Before paying passengers will fly on the 787-9, ANA will be operating a special commemorative flight “Dreamliner” with American and Japanese elementary school children in Japan on-board. The aircraft will fly over Mount Fuji, after departing from Haneda. Additionally, the TOMODACHI logo will be displayed on the aircraft to support the initiative to strengthen Japanese-US ties.

“The 787 Dreamliner is a key element in our growth strategy and we are proud to be the first airline to fly both models of the 787 family,” said Osamu Shinobe, ANA president and CEO. “The new 787-9 will build on the exceptional efficiency of the 787-8 and will allow us to meet growing demand that is anticipated ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics. Our customers have expressed their pleasure with the comfort of the 787′s innovative cabin features and we are excited to introduce the new 787 variant into our fleet.”

“This milestone delivery adds yet another chapter in our long and successful relationship with ANA,” said John Wojick, senior vice president of Global Sales and Marketing, Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “ANA continues to demonstrate the market-leading efficiency and comfort of the 787 family.”

The first 787-9 will arrive with domestic route specifications with 395 seats; 60 more than the 787-8.

Currently, ANA has 28 787s in its fleet, and in a press release last week, the carrier said that “The fuel savings achieved from the 787 aircraft already in service are sufficient to operate 500 round trips from Tokyo to Frankfurt and are reducing CO2 emissions by 150,000 tons a year. When all 80 Dreamliners are in operation, the CO2 reduction will be 450,000 tons, with enough fuel saved to operate 1,400 round trips to Frankfurt.”

Two weeks ago, Air New Zealand became the world’s first airline to take delivery of the new 787-9.

United will take delivery of its first 787-9 next month, and the carrier plans to begin flying it in September. Virgin Atlantic will fly its first 787-9 flight at the end of the October, and Etihad will fly its first 787-9 flight in December.

RELATED:

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Contact the author at Jack.Harty@airchive.com.
Photos by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Airchive

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PHOTOS: Inside the Irkut MS-21 Mockup

By Airchive.com Staff / Published July 16, 2014

MS-21-Model-1821

Photo of model courtesy of Wikimedia Commons-MilborneOne

FARNBOROUGH, UK – At Farnborough, Irkut Corporation displayed a mockup of the Irkut MS-21 (MC-21) which is also known as “Magistralny Samolyot 21 veka” – “Airliner of the 21st Century.”

The aircraft will be approximately 40-45% composite, and the manufacturer says the MS-21 family will be compliance with future environmental requirements. Plus, its cabin is wider than the Airbus A320 cabin by 12 cm and the Boeing 737 cabin by 28 cm, and the manufacturer claims that the aisles will be wide enough to allow two passengers go through the aisle without blocking each other.

There will be three variants of the MC-21.

The MS-21-300 is the baseline model, and it is similar to the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737-800. It will be able to seat up to 181 passengers in a standard one-class configuration or 152 passengers in a standard two-class configuration.

The MS-21-200 will be able to seat up to 150 passengers in a standard one-class configuration or 136 passengers in a standard two-class configuration. The aircraft will be similar to the Airbus A319, Boeing 737-700, and Bombardier CS300.

The MS-21-400 is a proposed stretched model, and it will be similar to the Airbus A321, Boeing 737-900ER, and Boeing 757-200. This variant would be able to seat 212 passengers in a standard one-class configuration or 178 passengers in a standard two-class configuration.

So far, nine carriers have ordered 257 of MS-21 aircraft.

The aircraft is still in the developmental stages, but its first flight is expected sometime in 2015 or 2016.

Photos of the mockup:

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Jack Harty contributed to this report from Houston, Texas. Vinay Bhaskara and Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren contributed to this report from Farnborough, UK.

Photo of model courtesy of Wikimedia Commons-MilborneOne

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Qatar Airways Rejects A380s, Stopping Delivery

By Jack Harty / Published July 14, 2014

800x600_1321356035_A380-800_EA_QTR_V02

Photo courtesy of Airbus

Qatar Airways rejected delivery of its first three Airbus A380 aircraft Monday. The carrier’s Chief Executive,  Akbar Al Baker, said that the airline is very disappointed with the aircraft manufacturer.

Qatar has thirteen A380s on order. It was scheduled to begin flying between Doha and London Heathrow on June 17th, but unresolved cabin issues have continued to delay the delivery. Plus, the carrier wanted to take delivery of all three at once.

Back in November at the Dubai Airshow, Qatar Airways, in a joint conference with Emirates, announced orders for fifty 777X aircraft of their own. CEO Al Baker noted that despite telling reporters Qatar would not purchase the airplane, he decided to order them anyway. However, CEO Al Baker, told Reuters that the airline is not ready to finalize an order for 50 Boeing 777X aircraft.

Related: Qatar Reveals A380 First Class Product

Related: Qatar Releases More A380 Interior Images

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

Cover photo courtesy of Airbus.

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United Reduces Venezuela Service

By Jack Harty / Published July 12, 2014

United Airlines is now following other airlines as they plan to reduce flights to Venezuela this fall. This move is due to a dispute about money trapped by tight currency controls in the South American country.

Currently, United flies daily flights between Houston and Caracas.

Starting September 17, United will only fly between Houston and Caracas four times a week. The flight will depart Houston a few minutes before midnight on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. Flights will depart Caracas for Houston on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.

United reported a loss of $21 million in the first quarter due to weakening of the exchange rate on approximately $100 million in Venezuelan bolivars.

Earlier this week, Delta announced it would reduce service to Caracas to weekly instead of daily.

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You can contact the author at Jack.Harty@airchive.com.

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Boeing Celebrates Delivery of First 787-9 Dreamliner to ANZ

By Jack Harty & Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren; Reporting by Isaac Alexander
Photos by Isaac Alexandar / Published July 9, 2014

photo1EVERETT, WA: Boeing and Air New Zealand celebrated the first 787-9 Dreamliner delivery on Wednesday.

The airplane is expected to fly away to Air New Zealand’s Auckland headquarters tomorrow, on Thursday, following a number of familiarization flights around the Western US in the past week. It is expected to begin flying between Auckland and Sydney before moving to Auckland to Perth on October 15. It will begin flying regional international routes to Asia before beginning service to Vancouver in two years.

The airplane is outfitted with eighteen Business Premier seats, twenty-one premium economy, and 302 regular economy seats, including fourteen rows with its Skycouch quasi-lie-flat product. The airplane will offer passengers a new, Panasonic based in flight entertainment, though no WiFi will be on board for now. It added that the airplane has KA-Band connectivity hardware built in to allow for the option down the road.

photo14 photo15 photo4 photo12

The company has ten of the airplanes on order.

“We are proud to be the launch customer for the 787-9,” said Air New Zealand Chief Financial Officer Rob McDonald. “We believe it will be a game-changer for Air New Zealand, with increased levels of fuel efficiency and passenger comfort. We look forward to inviting our customers on board to experience the aircraft and all of its benefits for themselves.”

“This delivery is a tribute to the hard work and dedication of our employees, suppliers and Air New Zealand,” said John Wojick, senior vice president of Global Sales and Marketing, Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “Air New Zealand was a perfect partner for us in developing the 787-9, given its innovative spirit, unique mission requirements and geography. The 787-9, combined with Air New Zealand’s exceptional onboard service, will set them apart from the competition by providing an unrivaled flying experience.”

photo9Crucially, the certification also includes ETOPS up to 330 minutes, clearing a hurdle right out of the gate that the 787-8 struggled with for years. In fact the entire final assembly and flight test programs remained remarkably problem free, a nod to what many hope is the end of Boeing’s Dreamliner program troubles.

The 787-9′s fuselage is twenty feet longer than the original 787-8. The stretch allows the aircraft carry forty more passengers. Plus, the 787-9 can fly an additional 450 nautical miles.

Like the 787-8, the 787-9 offers passengers larger windows, larger stow bins, modern LED lighting, higher humidity, a lower cabin altitude, cleaner air and a smoother ride.

So far, 26 customers have ordered a total of 409 787-9 aircraft. The orders for the 787-9 make up 40% of the total 787 orders.

As far as other carriers, United expects to take delivery of its first 787-9 in August. It plans to fly the airplane between Los Angeles and Houston starting September 20.

ANA is expected to take delivery of its first 787-9 this summer as well. No plans have been announced for first routes.

Related Stories:

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Jack Harty contributed to this story from LA.
Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren contributed to this story from Toronto.
Cover photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Airchive

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Royal Jordanian Airlines: A Look at the Past and Present

By Luis Linares / Published July 9, 2014 / Photos by author

Royal Jordanian Airbus A321: Image by Luis Linares

Royal Jordanian Airbus A321 at Queen Alia International Airport, Amman.

The “Art of Flying” is currently the advertising motto of the Kingdom of Jordan’s flag carrier, Royal Jordanian Airlines (RJ), which currently has 110 daily departures covering two domestic and 85 international destinations in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America. The airline has been a member of the oneworld alliance since 2007.

History

RJ was founded as Alia, named after the eldest child of the late King Hussein, in 1963, and it is based at its hub airport, Amman’s Queen Alia International Airport (IATA: AMM / ICAO: OJAI) and also has a focus airport, King Hussein International Airport (IATA: AQJ / ICAO: OJAQ) in Aqaba.

The airline started with two aircraft, a Handley Page Dart Herald and a Douglas DC-7 serving Beirut, Cairo, and Jeddah.  Alia entered the jet age in 1971 with the delivery of the Boeing 707, and in 1977 New York’s JFK Airport became its first destination in the U.S. The airline changed its name from Alia to Royal Jordanian in 1986.  In 2001 the name was changed again to Alia – the Royal Jordanian Airlines Company, but it is still most commonly referred to as Royal Jordanian.

RJ is also the longest-serving Arab carrier to New York. Moreover, RJ is the only major Arab carrier serving Israel.  In addition to becoming the first Arab airline to join oneworld in 2007, RJ became a private company that same year with a market capitalization of $366 million USD. The Jordanian government holds a 26% stake.

Despite Jordan’s political stability, its location in a volatile region of the world, as well as fuel prices, have always been the main determining factors in the company’s financial bottom line. The “Arab Spring” that started over three years ago, as well as high fuel costs, resulted in a net loss of $81 million USD, but 2012 saw a recovery that resulted in a net profit of $1.5 million USD. Furthermore, revenue in 2012 was $1.1 billion USD, a nine percent rise from 2011. However, the delicate political situation, especially in Jordan and Egypt, led to a decrease in travel demand and contributed to a net loss of $60 million USD in 2013. Increasing competition from Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar, the “Big Three” Gulf carriers, have also pressured RJ.

RJ aims to establish itself as the Middle East’s “regional carrier” by adding small routes to cities like Alexandria, Egypt, where a big competitor like Emirates would not use its much larger aircraft. RJ also competes with Egypt Air and Lebanon’s Middle East Airlines for these smaller routes, and it has dramatically improved its in-flight and ground services, in light of the emergence of low cost carriers, such as Air Arabia, Jazeera Airways, and flydubai. The airline recently hired the global advisory and investment banking firm Seabury Group to help define a new ten-year plan on how to move forward.

Fleet

RJ’s current fleet consists of a mix of Airbus and Embraer jets, and in 2008 it became the first Middle Eastern carrier to operate three aircraft of the Airbus A320 family. It currently operates four A319s (with one more on order), seven A320s (with three more on order), four A321s, three A330-200s, four A340-200s, three Embraer 175s, and five Embraer 195s.
Royal Jordanian Embraer 175 Royal Jordanian A330-200
Royal Jordanian Embraer 175 and Airbus A330-200 at Queen Alia International Airport, Amman.

RJ’s wide and narrowbody Airbuses provide all economy passengers with seatback IFE screens that include movies, television, audio, and games.  Passengers in business class, known as Crown Class, get a wider variety of the same features.  For Crown Class customers flying on the Embraer fleet, portable entertainment devices offering similar entertainment are provided.

In August 2014, RJ will receive the first of eleven Boeing 787-8 aircraft, and it will have five of the type by year’s end. The 787 will replace all A340s and eventually the A330s. With respect to replacing the A340, “two holes are better than four” in terms of fuel burn, operational, and maintenance costs. Moreover, the 787 has a six percent lower operating cost per seat than the A330. RJ plans to fly to more international destinations with the 787s, but as of this report, the airline has not provided any details. Chicago will be the first U.S. city served by the new aircraft starting on August 31, 2014.

RJ’s 787-8 will seat 267 passengers (23 in Crown Class and 244 in economy). Compared to the planned 787-8 configuration, RJ’s A340s seat 24 in Crown Class and 230 in economy for a total of 254, while its A330s seat 24 in Crown Class and 259 in economy for a total of 283.

For the 787 fleet’s inflight entertainment and connectivity, RJ selected Thales to install the the advanced TopSeries AVANT system and TopConnect cabin communications network.  The TopSeries AVANT system is distinguished for advanced technologies, such as high definition video, solid state hard drives, and faster processors, and is an award winning solution known for its thin profile, lightweight, modern design, and local content storage capacity.  For connectivity, the Thales cabin communications network supports swift broadband capabilities for GSM, WiFi internet, and integrated inflight entertainment applications.  The TopConnect solution also integrates OnAir as the communications service provider.  RJ installed OnAir to offer inflight internet and mobile phone services on some European and regional flights.

The hub: Queen Alia International Airport

Queen Alia International Airport (IATA: AMM / ICAO: OJAI), built in 1983, is Jordan’s largest airport, and it is located 20 miles south of the capital Amman.  It has two parallel runways 8L/26R and 8R/26L, each measuring 12,007 x 200 feet.  The airport is situated at 2,397 feet above sea level, and it is named after the third wife of the late King Hussein.  In 2013 a brand new state-of-the art terminal building opened to replace the original passenger terminal.  A second phase of this modernization will be completed in 2016.  The new terminal was designed by the British architecture firm Foster + Partners.  The expansion itself is handled by the Jordanian company Airport International Group.  The cost of the new facility is 118 million USD.  A key characteristic of the terminal’s design is 127 concrete domes that resemble the tents of traditional Bedouins tribes native to the region.
AMM Terminal AMM Pahse 2 Expansion RJ Crown Lounge AMM ATC Tower
AMM terminal, construction for phase 2 expansion, RJ Crown Lounge, and ATC Tower.

In addition to being RJ’s main hub, it is also a hub for the smaller Jordanian carriers Jordan Aviation, Petra Airlines, Royal Falcon, and Royal Wings (RJ’s charter arm).  The airport also serves 29 international carriers.  Cargo operations include Royal Jordanian, which has two Airbus A310F freighters, and four international carriers.  From Amman, Royal Jordanian serves the U.S. cities of Chicago, Detroit, and New York. Since the inauguration of the new terminal, the airport can handle up to 9 million passenger per year, and once all expansion is completed, this capacity will rise to 12 million.  The airport also improves the passenger experience by providing free wireless internet in the entire terminal.

Make sure to join us tomorrow as we take to the skies with Royal Jordanian, flying three aboard its Crown Class business cabin on three different flights. Don’t miss it!

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Contact the editor at Jeremy.Lindgren@Airchive.com
Disclosure: We paid for our tickets.

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Lufthansa and Air China Strengthen Partnership

By Jack Harty / Published July 7, 2014

Lufthansa and Air China signed a memorandum of understanding to enhance their commercial partnership as part of a joint venture in Beijing this morning.

During a state visit, German Chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel, Carsten Spohr, the Chairman of the Executive Board and CEO of Deutsche Lufthansa AG, and Mr. Song Zhiyong, President and Executive Director of Air China Limited, met to sign the deal.

Although Lufthansa and Air China have been connected as members of the Star Alliance, the companies expect this new arrangment to pave the way for the creation of a commercial joint venture and to add to the existing joint ventures with United Airlines and with Air Canada between Europe and North America (since 1998) and with ANA (since 2012) on routes between Europe and Japan.

In a press release, Lufthansa said “the new partnership agreement should come into force as early as the start of the winter flight timetable in late October 2014.”

“We are delighted that, together with Air China, we will be able to offer our customers, particularly those in Europe and China, even better flight connections and services in the future”, said Carsten Spohr at the signing of the memorandum of understanding on 7 July in Beijing. “Thanks to strategic partnerships with leading airlines, the Lufthansa Group airlines now connect the world’s four largest economies even better.”

The new joint venture will offer customers of both airlines a more varied product range and one that can be combined more flexibly. Plus, there will be additional travel options and flight connections, and there will collaboration in the area of maintenance, repair and overhaul services.

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

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PSA To Begin Flying the CRJ-900 On July 31 For American

By Jack Harty / Published July 5, 2014

Last month, American Airlines took delivery of its first of thirty CRJ-900 NextGens from Bombardier which will be operated by American Airlines Group’s wholly owned subsidiary, PSA Airlines. The airlines expects to be operating all 30 CRJ-900s by June 2015, and it will begin flying passenger flights on July 31.

In December, American signed an agreement for 60 Embraer E175 jets with options for another 90 E175s, as well as a firm order for 30 Bombardier CRJ900 regional jets with options for 40 more aircraft, making it the first customer of what Bombardier calls the “latest enhancements” to the CRJ900.

The Aircraft

The CRJ-900s boast many creature comforts ranging from extra legroom to WiFi.

The aircraft offers up to two inches of extra leg room in each row of seats when compared to other regional airlines. There are 12 first-class seats have a pitch of 39 inches, 36 “main cabin extra” seats with a pitch of 35 inches, and 28 main cabin seats with a 31 inch pitch.

The aircraft also has a concave window design maximizes natural light and contributes to a sense of more space, and there are new sidewall and ceiling LED lights to create softer illumination. Plus, the aircraft has up to 5.5 percent lower fuel consumption thanks to features like winglets, weight reduction and a conic-shaped exhaust nozzle

Currently, Mesa Airlines operates the CRJ-900 under the US Airways Express brand.

Initial Operations

The initial routes are outlined below, and more flights will be added as the carrier continues to take delivery of them.

Monday through Friday:

Pensacola-Charlotte-Cincinnati-Charlotte-Myrtle Beach-Charlotte-Louisville-Charlotte-Cincinnati

Cincinnati-Charlotte-Pensacola-Charlotte-Indianapolis-Charlotte-Pensacola

Saturday:

Pensacola-Charlotte-Philadelphia-New York LaGuardia-Philadelphia-Cincinnati

Cincinnati-Charlotte-Little Rock-Charlotte-Pensacola-Charlotte-Harrisburg

Sunday:

Cincinnati-Charlotte-SAV-Charlotte-RIC-Charlotte-Greensboro-Charlotte-Pensacola

Harrisburg-Charlotte-Savannah-Charlotte-San Antonio-Charlotte-Cincinnati

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

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TGIF: Thank-Goodness It’s Flyday Week-End Wrap Up: July 4th Edition

By Jack Harty / Published July 4, 2014

Thank-goodness it’s Flyday…err Friday, everyone, and Happy Fourth of July! In this week’s edition Virgin America wins best domestic airline (again), analysts tell JetBlue and United that they should swap planes, American and US Airways move closer in Chicago, the first Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner was delivered, and more…

Best Domestic Airline: For the seventh consecutive year in a row, Travel + Leisure’s

Photo by Sam Wozniak / Airchive

Photo by Sam Wozniak / Airchive

readers have named Virgin America the best domestic airline in its annual World’s Best Awards.

“Winning this award is one of the highest honors in our industry,” said David Cush, Virgin America’s president and CEO. “It reflects the opinions of some of the world’s most discerning travelers and shows that seven years after our launch as a new carrier we’re continuing to deliver on our promise of creating a different kind of domestic airline: one that offers both the best customer experience in the skies and the best value.”

The other top US domestic airlines that made the top five were JetBlue Airways, Hawaiian Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and Alaska Airlines.

The top five international airlines based on the Travel + Leisure survey were Singapore Airlines, Emirates Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways, Virgin Atlantic Airways, and Asiana Airways.

Analyst Recommends JetBlue and United Swap Planes: Wolfe Research’s

The 8000th 737 takes to the skies for the second time, on April 9th. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Airchive

The 8000th 737 takes to the skies for the second time, on April 9th. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Airchive

Hunter Keay and Jared Shojaian told Barron’s they think United and JetBlue should swap planes. They explain:

We believe both United Continental and JetBlue have fleet inefficiencies that contribute to poor margins for both airlines. If United Continental acquired JetBlue’s 60 E-190s (and the 24 on order), in a transaction like the one Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines announced in 2012 when Southwest Airlines agreed to sublease its 88 B717s to Delta Air Lines, we believe both companies would benefit. This would also represent no incremental capacity to United Continental, by our math.

 

We rate shares of both United Continental ($54 TP) and JetBlue ($15 TP) as Outperform. We think both companies are underearning their potential (for different reasons), and we expect material earnings and margin improvement next year. And both companies could help in this improvement by one relatively straightforward transaction.

US Airways and American Get Closer: Earlier this week, US Airways relocated its gates and baggage claim at Chicago O’Hare to Terminal 3 to move closer to its merger partner, American. Later this year, US Airways will move all of its operations to Terminal 3, but in the mean time, customers who need to check-in and check luggage will still need to enter in Terminal 2.

All Blacks ANZ 789-3

Photo by JDL

First Boeing 787-9: On Monday, Boeing completed the contractual delivery of the first Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner to its launch customer Air New Zealand. ANZ will receive nine more 787-9s over the next few years, and the carrier expects to fly its inaugural flight in October.

United to Cut Stuttgart: Citing under-performing profits, United Airlines has announced that it will stop flying between Newark and Stuttgart, Germany effective September 20, 2014.

Qatar Arrives at DFW: Qatar Airways officially started flying to Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW); its seventh U.S. destination. The airline is the second Middle East carrier to launch service to the, following Emirates.

Qatar Airways CEO, His Excellency Akbar Al Baker said, “Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport is a major hub for global aviation and an essential part of our expanding global network. We greatly appreciate the hard work and dedication of these cities and the airport, which has made this important partnership possible. We look forward to offering our signature 5-star service to passengers across North Texas. Also, through our oneworld partnership with American Airlines, Qatar Airways will now connect cities across the Southwestern USA to our network via DFW.”

Etihad will start serving DFW on December 3rd of this year.

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

Overview of El Dorado International Airport, Bogota, Colombia

Airbus to Offer Higher Capacity A321

Southwest Airlines CCO Robert Jordan on Business Traveling and Rising Fares

Southwest Airlines Has Left the Country

First A320neo Rolls Out of Factory

Front Seats Aboard Republic’s E-Jets

PEOPLExpress Takes Off

Boeing’s 1,500th 747 Goes to Lufthansa

InFlight Review: British Airways Boeing 747-400 Club World

United Loads Domestic Boeing 787-9 Flights

Have a great weekend!

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Contact the author at Jack.Harty@airchive.com

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PEOPLExpress Takes Off

By Oliver Porter / Published June 30, 2014

NEWARK, NEW JERSEY: PEOPLExpress’ mission revolves around a basic, hassle-free, low-cost mode of transport around the east coast. From Airchive’s first look, the airline hit each of these points successfully.

Due to simplicity through the airport, an older plane, and stripped but friendly service, hopping onto PEOPLExpress felt like a different kind of air travel. The trip felt like a ride, whether in a bus or someone’s back seat, where the passenger spots a small fare, pops onboard, pops off, and has few frills yet few unexpected experiences. PEOPLExpress gets you there for a minimum fare, without making you feel overtly like a sheep in a herd.

20140630-171144-61904326.jpg

Terminal

Newport-News Williamsburg Airport (PHF) is situated in the Hampton Roads Metro Area. One barrier to arriving at the airport from the Norfolk area (south) is the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel, which can have large delays. Besides a $60 one-way taxi fare to both Norfolk in the south and Williamsburg in the north, car is the only viable transit mode to PHF.

Once you arrive at the terminal however, the trip becomes quite simplistic. Check-in took longer than expected due to an antiquated computer-system. Combined with the ultra-small airport and effective security line, however, door-to-gate time was under fifteen minutes.

The terminal is modern, airy, and with lots of light. PEOPLExpress has the entire A-concourse, which makes flying through quite simple. The airline provided free mugs and breakfast refreshments in celebration of the new service. There were very few shops and restaurants within the airport, so eating options will probably be limited for frequent travellers.

20140630-171521-62121256.jpg

The Aircraft

The boarding attendant forgot that there was a premium section of the plane, and instead began boarding by the back five rows to the front. This was a minor mistake, however, and the back-to-front technique was fast and efficient, especially with our 75 percent load factor.

20140630-171637-62197137.jpg

On the jet bridge, one could clearly note the “operated by Vision Air” titles, but most would not know to look for them and instead find the fresh livery appealing. Interestingly, the premium cabin is not separated from the rest of the cabin; the large seats are the only difference. Each seat is an old-fashioned Recaro leather job with plenty of legroom and old fashioned recline. After several recent flights on slimline seats with no true recline, this is actually a welcome site. As with most LCCs, there is no IFE.

20140630-171756-62276426.jpg

The Flight

We took off of Runway 7 smoothly, and then had a brief snack service with pretzels and a drink. In the future, snacks will be free, but drinks will be extra. This is the reverse of most services. Several employees from the airline, family, and members of the PHF airport helped keep the load factor relatively high, and the mood was exciting as executives moved up and down the aisle to welcome people aboard.

Our arrival at Newark was uneventful, as the fire department could not make it for a spray-down. We arrived in Terminal B, which is quite old and could use a remodeling. Nevertheless, the terminal is quite easy to use and not crowded, which is a major advantage for stress-free travel.

Origins and Aura

The original PEOPLExpress began serving customers in the Northeast United States. on April 30, 1981. The airline grew quickly throughout the 1980s, and eventually merged with Continental in 1987. It concentrated its network at Newark, but grew quickly and consequently suffered when it competed with major carriers, especially on international routes.

Riders had mixed opinions about the airline, but it successfully moved people at low fares – some colleagues remember getting from New York to Boston by air for only $19. The airline was cheap, convenient, and had no frills, either.

The new PEOPLExpress bears some resemblance to the old airline, but is in many ways a different company. In order to begin operations, PEOPLExpress currently operates aircraft under a wet lease arrangement with Vision Air. Wet leasing provides an airline with an aircraft, crew, maintenance, and insurance, or ACMI for short. Vision is based in Las Vegas, and has several charter operations. On the first day of operations, the airline did not have a distinct culture or brand identity apart from fully marked check-in, aircraft, and personnel. Nevertheless, the service was personal and the overall experience had a small-business aura, almost like going to your local deli. There was an upstart, can-do attitude among the senior staff on the plane for the first flight to Newark.

The lack of a strong brand identity at this stage of the airline’s life is subjective, because the airline has not had time to showcase its service and culture for more than one day. From the moment the door closed to the moment it opened, the crew, was positive and quite excited, and did not mention Vision Air once during the flight. This is a good sign, because if all crews indeed act the same way, the airline will be able to build its brand and count on employee buy-in, which is a key element of a solid corporate culture.

One true believer in the PEOPLExpress idea is founder Mike Morisi, who rode the first flight to Newark. Morisi is a former employee of the original PEOPLExpress. and was among many cheering on takeoff, landing, and arrival, with palpable energy and a positive outlook on what he and his team believe will be the next upstart to contend with a new, ultra-consolidated legacy airline industry.

Executives remarked throughout the morning that there were several challenges before operations began, but they have proved doubters wrong by actually taking off.

The airline still does not have its own operating certificate, but Morisi remarked that his team is working with regulators and should have one within a year at the very latest.

The Newport News Story

Many people on social media have asked why the airline chose the name PEOPLExpress, why they did chose to start now, and why they began in Newport News. The name probably came from senior management’s – including Morisi’s – former association with the original airline, but the story behind Newport News and the timing behind today’s launch is much more business-oriented.

The Newport News Williamsburg Airport (PHF) is in the Hampton Roads Metropolitan Area. The area expanded in the gilded age, when the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad came to town under the direction of magnate Collis Potter Huntington. Huntington’s rain line still brings coal from West Virginia mines straight to the port of Norfolk. Huntington, who was one of the leading investors involved in building the Transcontinental Railroad, also contributed to the Huntington-Ingalls Shipbuilding Company, which currently is the sole U.S. manufacturer of aircraft carriers, and is the largest industrial employer in Virginia. South of the shipyard and across the James River Bay lies the Norfolk Naval Base, which, combined with Ft. Eustis, Langley Air Force Base, and Naval Air Station Oceana make the location an enormous military port and base area. Additionally, Maersk and other shipping companies have operations in Norfolk. With such a large military, industrial, and educational base – Old Dominion and Hampton Universities are nearby – there is a continuous market of travellers coming to and from the area for a variety of purposes. This makes the area ripe for new competition given recent consolidation and service cancellations following the mergers of American and US Airways as well as Airtran and Southwest.

Niche Market

Airtran was one of the first major airlines to thrive off of the large Norfolk metro area, with services at both Norfolk (ORF) and PHF. The airline effectively sidestepped legacy routes that relied on hubs and provided substantially lower fares. When Airtrain and Southwest joined forces, the combined entity dropped all flights from PHF. Morisi explained that this was a “big loss” for travellers in the area, and in a single move PHF lost about 50% of its service. This was a large influence on starting an operation at the airport, as fares have skyrocketed. For the Oceana Airshow Weekend, three months away, for example, US Air fares are about $250 round-trip from Boston with a connection. Enter PEOPLExpress, with a nonstop service that takes almost half the time, and that fare now drops to $150. Many, including Airchive analysts, have remarked that under basic operating assumptions, profitability will be difficult at a 66% load factor. The first flight, albeit filled with many airline employees, had a 75% load. Morisi expects many customers to buy ancillary services, such as checked bags and food, in order to keep the airline profitable.

Future

Growth plans for Florida, Atlanta, and New Orleans are still on track, according to Morisi. He explained that aircraft acquisition and further financing are a continuous process, and interestingly there is no financial backing from the airport itself. After using the service, it is clear that, while an infant, PEOPLExpress fills a huge need in the area. Even without marketing, the service is a no-brainer for those who want the lowest price. Government contracts and legacy frequent fliers may hurt PEOPLExpress in the short-term, but Morisi pointed out that in the end, fare price wins, and cost will be his airline’s major advantage as it expands to seven daily services out of PHF.

Related Stories:

Analysis Part I: Nostalgia is Not a Viable Business Model for PEOPLExpress

Analysis Part 2: Nostalgia is Not a Viable Business Model for PEOPLExpress

PEOPLExpress Announces Initial Operations

Flashback: Check out these vintage original PeoplExpress timetables and route maps

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Shreveport Airport To Receive First Class and Airport Upgrades

By Jack Harty / Published June 23, 2014

Shreveport Regional Airport is growing, and the airport is planning $30 million dollar upgrades.

Starting July 2, Delta Air Lines will begin flying the Boeing 717 between Atlanta and Shreveport,  the first time in several years that an airline will be offering first class seating on flights in and out of the city.

Gary Anderson, Delta’s regional manager explained to the Atlanta Business Chronicle that “as we retire many of our 50 seat regional jets, we’re bringing in 717 aircraft and introducing them to cities of a similar scope of Shreveport. So many cities across the country are really enjoying the enhanced service.”

Currently Delta flies approximately eight daily flights operated by CRJ-200s between the two cities, and starting July 2, it will operate seven daily flights (one flight with the 717 and six flights with the CRJ-200).

Earlier today, American Airlines announced that it will also begin offering a first class product on two of its seven daily flights to Dallas/Ft. Worth (DFW) starting August 19. Currently, American Eagle only operates the ERJ-145 on this route, but the CRJ-700 with make an appearance with nine first class seats in August.

Bryant L. Francis, C.M., Director of Airports, told KTBS that “we have been working diligently to convince our airlines that this market can support more seats, larger aircraft, and additional nonstop destinations, and we’re encouraged by the move American is making to provide a higher level of service for our customers while increasing overall seat capacity.”

Upgrades Coming

Thanks to grants from the Louisiana Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Association, the airport will invest more than $30 million into the airport making upgrades. However, passengers may not be seeing all of the changes.

The airport will resurface taxiways, replace some of the ramps, and update the airfield signs.

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The cover photo is courtesy of Shreveport Regional Airport.

You can contact the author at Jack.Harty@airchive.com.

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InFlight Review: US Airways A330 Envoy Class

By Luis Linares / Published June 23, 2014

US Airways Envoy Class Seat

US Airways Envoy Suite Image by Luis Linares / Airchive

Let’s take a hop across the pond with US Airways, in business class!

Since 2009, the A330 fleet has been using a lie flat seat, called the Envoy Suite.  The vast majority of my business class travel experience has been on American Airlines, and with American and US Airways currently morphing into the new American Airlines, I jumped at the opportunity to experience the premium product on the US Airways side of the family when  recently had to travel from Philadelphia to Frankfurt. Can Envoy Class compete with the product of other trans-Atlantic carriers?

I landed in Philadelphia from Baltimore on a 31-minute US Airways Express flight. The flight arrived fourteen minutes early at concourse B, which meant no rush or long walk since my flight to Frankfurt departed from the adjacent concourse A.

View of Philadelphia' ramp from US Airways Club

View of Philadelphia ramp from US Airways Club: Image by Luis Linares / Airchive

The extra connection time gave me a chance to stop at the US Airways Club, which was on my way from concourses B to A. The club offers a variety of complementary snacks and beverages, but a coupon or payment is required for the alcoholic variety, and it has a good view of the ramp. About 45 minutes before the scheduled departure of 20:40 local time, I proceeded to gate A23, where boarding soon got started. The aircraft for this flight was an A330-243, seating 20 passengers in Envoy Class and 238 in economy. The 20 Envoy Class suites are arranged in a 1-2-1 reverse herringbone configuration, which offers every passenger direct aisle access.

I quickly settled into seat 4A and was greeted by a very friendly staff. They quickly showed their good humored nature, when one of the attendants asked me to get her good side, upon noticing I was taking pictures. Abe, the attendant in charge of my section, immediately handed out amenity kits and offered pre-departure drinks: I chose a glass of champagne. He also handed out the dinner menu, which listed the starter plate, appetizer, main course, dessert and wine list.  As is the case with that of other airlines, the menu also gave passengers the option of an express meal, in which everything is served at once to allow more time to work or sleep.  The menu lists a mid-flight snack, but the description states that passengers can go to the galley for refreshments during the flight.  For breakfast, the menu offered a hot or cold option.

Capt Jim Allen quickly got things underway after greeting us over the public address system.  Once airborne, there was a hot towel service.  I was then offered a beverage of my choice, I went with a cabernet sauvignon, and a nut plate as a starter.  One difference I noticed compared to my experience on other U.S. airlines was that the nuts were room temperature, instead of warm, which is more common.  A salad and appetizer cold plate soon followed.  The menu offered four choices for the main course.  I chose a fillet of beef, which turned out to be very tasty.  There were three dessert options, a cheese plate, a four seasons mousse cake, or ice cream.  I set my mind and appetite on the mousse, but by the time Abe got to me, he informed me the mousse was gone, so I settled for the ice cream.  The mousse apparently was popular with the passengers who got to order before me.

Envoy Class Menu Envoy Class Appetizer Envoy CLass Main Course Envoy Class Dessert Menu, appetizer, main course, and dessert: Images by Luis Linares / Airchive

Envoy Class offers a wide variety of of IFE options, including 252 movies, 36 TV programs, and 11 video games. The crew also handed out American Airlines Bose headsets, which shows the merger is well underway. This is also a likely indicator that these headphones are popular with passengers. Likewise, it resonates with American Airlines Group,CEO Doug Parker’s intention to adopt the best practices of each carrier. The IFE also has the popular moving map display that gives passengers situational awareness data, such as position, speed, altitude, and estimated time of arrival.  Envoy class seats are also equipped with a power outlet and USB connections to keep mobile devices powered and charged.  For any passenger not familiar with the Envoy Suite, there is a handy two-sided instruction card.

IFE Screen Envoy Suite Instructions
IFE screen and Envoy Suite instruction card: Images by Luis Linares / Airchive

The flight duration was seven hours and thirty minutes. I opted for some sleep after dinner, as we were leaving Newfoundland, requesting to be woken up for breakfast, about an hour and a half before landing. Envoy Class offers a light blanket and small square pillow that resembles a cushion more than an actual pillow, maybe because the head position of the seat is more tapered than square in shape, so a wide pillow would probably not fit.  I slept for almost four hours and woke up over the coast of Ireland.  I opted for the cold breakfast, which consisted of fresh fruit, yogurt, and bread. Soon we were descending into Frankfurt.

Verdict?

Parked at Frankfurt

Leaving the aircraft at Frankfurt: Image by Luis Linares / Airchive

The Envoy suite and service are excellent!  My only previous experience with a US Airways premium product was in 2009 on a three-hour flight from Philadelphia to Santo Domingo aboard an A320.  At the time, I thought the US Airways offering was very inferior based on my business class experiences with American and Delta on U.S. to Caribbean segments of a similar duration.  For one thing, while the competitors served a hot multi-course meal for premium passengers, US Airways only provided a tray covered in plastic wrap containing a cold sandwich and accompanying snacks.  In all fairness to US Airways, Doug Parker at the time was aware of these and other short comings of the newly combined America West and US Airways and was intent on fixing them.  Five years later, the fruits of his labor are obvious.  I was very pleased with Envoy Class as a whole.  The crew was attentive and friendly, the food was very good, and the IFE can keep passengers fully entertained for hours.  Envoy Class is very comparable to the competing trans Atlantic business classes offered by its U.S. and European competitors.

What’s in store for the future?

Going back to Doug Parker’s comments on best practices, it will be interesting to see what he does with three different international widebody business class products under the new American Airlines. The A330s have the five-year old Envoy Class.  The 767-300s will adopt a brand new staggered 1-2-1 seating arrangement that will offer aisle access to all passengers, and the 777-200ERs will be retrofitted with the highly popular 1-2-1 reverse herringbone product similar to the one that debuted in early 2013 with the 777-300ERs.  One letdown for passengers is that the new 767 seat does not have integrated IFE.  Passengers will instead be offered Samsung tablets Bose headsets for IFE.  The 777 business pod offers wider head space in lie flat mode, which allows for the larger pillow size that does not fit in the Envoy Class equivalent.  In my opinion, the A330s and 777s offer an overall advantage over the 767, given their integrated IFE, while the three types retain a similar level of comfort for passengers wishing to sleep.  Furthermore, the 787s and A350s arrive in late 2014 and 2017 respectively.  They could potentially offer a glimpse of business class commonality for the future of the combined airline, as it aims to be more competitive with other major world airlines in the premium seat sector.

AA 767 New Business Class AA 777 New Business Class
American Airlines 767-300 New Business Class (L) and American Airlines 777-300ER Business Class (R): Images Courtesy of American Airlines

 

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