Category Archives: Airplanes and Airports

Farnborough Today: Sunday, July 13

By Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Published July 13, 2014

The Airbus A350 makes its Farnborough debut.

The Airbus A350 makes its Farnborough debut.

LONDON, UK: The 2014 Farnborough air show doesn’t open until tomorrow, but given the action so far in the otherwise sleepy London suburb you would have thought it was already underway.

Boeing held its media day at the show to discuss the status of its 777, 777X, and 787 Dreamliner programs. Unsurprisingly, it was positive. Also unsurprisingly, it isn’t too worried about its rival Airbus, whose A330neo jet is widely expected to launch this week. Behind all the rhetoric and posturing it has to be at least a little worried. An A330neo would provide a pretty serious competitor to the 787-9 and -10, though mostly by virtue of Airbus’ ability to undercut on pricing, not performance.

Notably left out of the briefing was the 747, a program that is widely considered to be in its twilight despite a substantial remake into the -8 type only a few years back. Boeing executives still appear confident that it will pull through eventually, but the question of when (and thus for us, whether) appears elusive.

In a surprisingly timed move Boeing announced it would be launching a high density 737 MAX 8, basically geared straight at European budget carrier Ryanair. The jet will expand its capacity to 200 people. The company had been considering such a move for some time, but the announcement prior to the show seemed early.

American announced a CFM International order for its A320neo order, a deal worth $2.6 billion. More importantly, the company began testing its Leap 1B engine, thereby leaping in front of its sibling, the Leap 1A. The Leap 1B will be powering the 737 MAX exclusively, while the 1A, the A320neo. CFM is likely prioritizing the MAX program thanks to its greater potential for profits, particularly as it trails in performance on the neo to the other offering from Pratt & Whitney. Our sources at Airbus tell us the 1A, which has entered testing, could be behind three months behind the current promised schedule. Will that delay Airbus’ plan to start testing the engine on a real neo in Q2 of 2015? It could.

Bombardier, for its part, did not even wait until Sunday to get into the action. As our regular readers know the Canadian transportation firm fired the first salvo of the show last night when it announced a substantial Cseries order, the first in some time. UK leasing company Falko did the deal for 24 CS100s, expected to be signed for tomorrow. Technically this is a letter of intent (LOI) order, meaning it is not firm. This isn’t too concerning as LOIs usually convert to firm orders down the road.

Aside from that, it was a quiet day. Workers finished placing final touches on company chalets while remaining jets set to be a part of the show trickled in through the day.

The show officially opens tomorrow, and we can already guarantee it will be an extremely active day. Airbus, ATR, Boeing, and Bombardier are all expected to make announcements beginning around 1000 local time and continuing on well into the late afternoon. We haven’t confirmed, but we’re expecting orders from all four.

Make sure to stay tuned right here at Airchive.com for the latest developments. For the most up to date information we can provide follow us on Twitter (@airchive) and on our Facebook page.

Cheers!

Farnborough Today in Photos:

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Contact the author at Jeremy.Lindgren@Airchive.com

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Overview of El Dorado International Airport, Bogota, Colombia

By Luis Linares / Published July 3, 2014

Entrance BOG LFL

Passenger drop-off: Image by Luis Linares / Airchive

Bogota’s recently modernized El Dorado International Airport (IATA: BOG / ICAO: SKBO) is the third busiest Airport in Latin America, behind São Paulo’s Guarulhos International Airport and Mexico City’s Benito Juarez International Airport.

BOG is situated at 8,360 feet above sea level and has two parallel runways, 13L/31R and 13R/31L. Both measure 12,467 x 148 feet.  The airport serves as a hub for Colombia’s three main airlines: Avianca, LAN Colombia, and Copa Airlines Colombia. The passenger terminal serves six domestic and 18 international airlines total, while the cargo terminal handles four domestic and 14 international carriers.

Avianca A32X family BOG LFL: Image by author

Avianca A320 Family aircraft at new terminal: Image by Luis Linares / Airchive

Avianca is the largest domestic carrier, with service to 23 domestic and 27 international destinations in the U.S., Latin America, Caribbean, and Europe.  Foreign passenger carriers serving BOG and their destinations include Aerolineas Argentinas (Buenos Aires – Ezeiza); Aeromexico (Mexico City); Air Canada (Toronto-Pearson); Air France (Paris – Charles de Gaulle); American Airlines (Dallas-Forth Worth, Miami)l; Conviasa (Caracas); Copa Airlines (Panama City); Cubana de Aviación (Havana); Delta Airlines (Atlanta, New York – JFK); Iberia (Madrid); Interjet (Mexico CIty); JetBlue (Fort Lauderdale, Orlando); LAN Peru (Lima); Lufthansa (Frankfurt); Spirit (Fort Lauderdale); TAME (Quito); TAP Air Portugal (Lisbon); and United Airlines (Houston – Intercontinental, Newark).

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The ramp at the old terminal in 1999: Images by Luis Linares / Airchive

Old Building BOG LFL

The old building gradually being absorbed by modernization: Image by Luis Linares / Airchive

The original two-pier terminal building opened in 1959.  The northern pier served domestic operations, while the southern pier was for international flights.  This facility is gradually disappearing as the new terminal takes shape.  The new complex opened in 2012, and it consists of 32 gates (10 international, 17 domestic, and five shared for both types of services).  In addition, the Puente Aéreo (Air Bridge), which opened in 1982, exclusively serves Avianca’s domestic operations with ten gates.  Avianca is starting to shift operations to the new terminal and will complete this move in the second quarter of 2014, also the expected completion of the new complex.  The Air Bridge will stay to serve Colombia’s smaller domestic carriers.  BOG also has a new cargo facility that opened in 2010.  The new naming conventions for the passenger terminals will be T1 for the new terminal and T2 for the Air Bridge.

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The Air Bridge (T2): Images by Luis Linares / Airchive

I moved to Bogota in 1972 when I was two-years-old from my birthplace New York City and spent a lot of time at BOG plane spotting from the observation deck of the old terminal with my father.  I especially looked forward to days when we flew.  I moved to South Florida in 1980 but continue to visit Bogota almost every year, and this has allowed me to see the changes at BOG firsthand. The airport is no doubt evolving for the better.

New Terminal Ramp New Terminal Check-in New Terminal Concessions New Terminal Baggage Claim
The new terminal (T1): Images by Luis Linares / Airchive

The combined operations of the old terminal and the Air Bridge simply became too small for the growth in traffic over the last 30 years.  Moreover, the old terminal felt cramped with long check-in, security, and customs/immigration lines, especially during peak hours or vacation season.  This outdated feel left BOG far behind other major Latin American airports.  Talk of modernizing BOG dates back to the mid-1980s, but for various reasons, the project faced many delays that lasted over 20 years.

From a passenger perspective, I am not only impressed by the modernity and elegance of the new facilities, but also by their spaciousness and efficiency.  Based on my recent experience arriving at and departing from the new terminal, it’s great to see that the days of long waiting lines for check-in, screening, and customs & immigration are now a thing of the past.  There are also plenty of eateries, souvenir shops, and free wireless internet to make time at the airport more enjoyable.  The new facilities will vastly improve the passenger experience and set a high standard for the Latin American region.

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Contact the author at luis_f_linares@hotmail.com

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United Loads Domestic 787-9 Flights

By Jack Harty / Published June 28, 2014

Overnight, United Airlines loaded its first 787-9 domestic flights. However, it is not clear if this will be United’s inaugural 787-9 flight.

Starting September 20, 2014, United Airlines will begin flying one daily round trip Boeing 787-9 flight between Los Angeles and Houston IAH. Based on the schedule, United will operate the 787-9 on this route until October 25.

The outbound flight will depart Los Angeles around 7:30 AM and arrive in Houston around 12:49 PM. The return flight will depart Houston around 2:40 PM and arrive in Los Angeles around 4:08 PM.

The first 787-9 is expected to arrive in August. Once the aircraft goes through its introduction into service, it will begin replacing routes presently served by the 787-8.

United’s second 787-9 will arrive in October, and two more -9s and one -8 will be delivered during the first quarter of 2015.

United’s Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner will have 252 seats. There will be 48 seats in BusinessFirst (in a 2-2-2 configuration), 88 Economy Plus Seats (United’s extra legroom economy seats), and 116 United Economy Seats (in a 3-3-3 configuration).

United’s 787-9 International Routes

Subject to government approval, United Airlines will launch direct flights from Los Angeles to Melbourne, Australia with the Boeing 787-9 on October 26, 2014. The new direct service will be operated six times a week.

United Airlines will begin flying the Boeing 787-9 between Los Angeles and Shanghai in early March 2015. United currently operates the 787-8 between the two cities.

Other United 787 News

Yesterday, United took delivery of its 12th 787-8 which allows it to begin flying the 787 between Houston and London again.

Additionally, United will begin flying the 787-8 between Houston and Frankfurt early next year.

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

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United Returns To Chile

By Jack Harty / Published June 14

United Airlines will begin serving Santiago, Chile from its hub in Houston, pending government approval, starting December 7, 2014.

For several years, many have questioned if United would begin flying to Santiago, Chile again. Continental Airlines used to serve the city from its hub in Newark as a tag on from Lima, but it stopped serving Chile in 2000 when it retired its DC-10 fleet. Continuing to serve Santiago would have been a challenge for Continental as the airline did not have enough wide body aircraft for the route. Since there is close to a 12 hour layover on the ground in Chile, the route takes two aircraft.

United also flew to Santiago from Miami, but it dropped the route in 2003.

Currently, only American, Delta, and LAN offer flights to the U.S. from Chile. Many people in Houston and Chile welcome the addition of the new route. This will also be a bit of a boost for Star Alliance as United’s service will be the only nonstop Star Alliance flight between Chile and the United States.

The new flights to Chile are scheduled to begin on December 7. United 847 will depart Houston around 2105 every night, and it will arrive in Santiago the following day around 0940. All times local.

The return flights to Houston will begin on December 8. United 846 will depart Santiago around 2245, and it will arrive in Houston the following morning around 0540. All times local.

The new flights will be operated by a two-class Boeing 767-300. The aircraft are outfitted with 30 United BusinessFirst lie-flat Seats and 184 seats in United Economy (49 of the 184 seats are Economy Plus seats which offer additional leg room). All seats are equipped with a personal audio and video on demand in-flight entertainment system.

In other United route news, United is planning to launch Saturday only flights from Houston to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic later this year.

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

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Meet the Rock and Roll Airport

By Jack Harty / Published June 4, 2014

Nine miles southwest of the central business district of Cleveland lies an airport that has helped pioneer aviation. It has a rich history, and now, it’s in the news as United plans to de-hub it, again. Welcome to Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport.

The Early Years

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Air Mail To President Hoover, 1929: An Air Mail pilot poses in front of his plane with an oversized letter addressed to President Herbert Hoover.
Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections

The first flights started landing in Cleveland from Detroit as part of Henry Ford’s commercial air mail service in 1919. The flights landed at a small airfield near East 93rd Street at Kinsman Road, but as time passed, the space quickly became inadequate.

In 1925, then City Manager William R. Hopkins was able to convince Cleveland’s City Council to approve a $1.25 million bond to purchase 1,040 acres to construct an airport near the intersection of Brookpark and Riverside roads. Although many were not happy that the airport was approximately eleven miles away from downtown Cleveland, the city helped put a streetcar system and other transportation systems in place. On July 1, 1925, the airport officially opened, making it the first municipally owned airport in the United States.

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Air Traffic Control Tower Plans: This drawing shows the plans for the Cleveland Airport’s air traffic control tower.
Image courtesy of The Library of Congress

When the airport first opened, only a few thousand airplanes were using the airport annually, but in 1929, traffic jumped up to nearly 20,000 aircraft. In order to support the traffic, the world’s first air traffic control tower was constructed, which provided a 360-degree view of the airfield. A two-way radio was installed in the tower to allow communication with aircraft, the first time it had been used in the aviation field. Now, planes could land simultaneously on different parts of the air field.

Cleveland was part of the United States’ war effort in World War II. The National Advisor Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) had a laboratory on the western end of the airport, where research on airplane engines was conducted. Additionally, the Cleveland Bomber Plant built Boeing B-29 bombers, and flight testing was conducted at the airport.

Air Transportation Takes Off

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Passenger Waiting Room, 1937: Passengers wait for their flights at Cleveland Airport in 1937
Image courtesy of The Library of Congress

Starting in the mid-1950s, the city expanded and modernized the airport. The airport took its current name, Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, in 1951. In 1956, the main terminal was built and, over the years, the airport has added more concourses and gates. Plus, the airport expanded the baggage handling and parking facilities.

On November 15, 1968, a direct rapid transit began connecting Cleveland Hopkins with the city and surrounding areas.

As the airport continued to expand, many conflicts with the local neighborhoods arose due to jet noise and the need for longer runways.

United’s Cleveland Operations in 1960s and 1970s

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Rear of Admin. Building, 1952: Passengers wait behind Cleveland Municipal Airport’s main terminal and administration building in 1952.
Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections

United began to build up a large presence at the airport during the late 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s. In order to cope with the growth, concourse C was built exclusively for United in the 1960s. The rotunda (also known was the ‘banjo’) in concourse C was built in the early 1970s to accommodate United’s Boeing 747 and DC-10, which were flown to Chicago and New York JFK.

In early 1979, United was flying 90-120 daily departures from the airport, serving more than thirty destinations from the airport. However, things began to change post-deregulation.

With deregulation the new law of the land, airlines began to focus on establishing certain hubs to conduct most of their business. During the early 1980s, United started reducing its daily departures from 120 to 50 as it shifted its focus to its Chicago O’Hare, Denver, and Washington Dulles. Meanwhile, Pan American started flights to London Gatwick via Detroit.

The carrier made more cuts to its Cleveland operations as it continued to grow in Denver and Washington DC: By the beginning of 1988, the airline flew a meager thirteen daily departures from Cleveland.

Despite the major operation cuts, United refused to give up its gates which kept other airlines out for several years. Never fear. A new carrier had its eye on Cleveland

Continental Airlines Builds Cleveland Presence

In June of 1987, Continental Airlines announced its intention of building a large Cleveland operation at the cost of its Denver hub.

Initially it was only operating sixteen daily flights, but it did not take long for it to take off. Two months later, the carrier added six new flights, and by the end of 1987, Continental was the number two carrier in Cleveland, behind US Air.

Luckily, the carrier and the city were able to take the C Concourse away from United. IMG_6668Thanks to an improved local economy as well as the airport’s ability to meet carrier’s needs, such as Continental, passenger traffic was growing.

Continental continued to grow its operations into the 1990s, and in 1999 Continental launched flights from Hopkins to London Gatwick with a Boeing 757-200. But during the late 1990s, Continental’s relationship with the Cleveland community started becoming a bit uneasy.

Changes to Continental’s Cleveland Operation

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Hopkins Aerial, Ca. 2005: This aerial image taken by a NASA satellite shows Cleveland Hopkins Airport around 2005. The cluster of buildings at the top left is the NASA Glenn Research Center.

In 2003, Continental’s CEO, Gordon Bethune, publicly scolded the Cleveland business community and encouraged business flyers to support Continental at Hopkins as neighboring Akron-Canton Regional Airport grew in popularity with cheap flights.

Unfortunately it appears folks didn’t listen. Hopkins started seeing boardings decline at the expense of Akron, which grew quickly. Shortly after, Continental reduced the number of people on its board of directors by halving the number of representatives from the Cleveland area. The airline also closed its four off-airport Cleveland ticket offices, and it began to scrutinize local passenger traffic volume more. But, this was short lived.

A Big Expansion Announced

On September 14, 2007, Continental announced that it would substantially IMG_6537expand its Cleveland operations. It would grow its presence by more than 40%, create 700 new jobs, add 50 new flights initially, add twenty more new flights in mid-2008, and add more than a dozen “global” flights by early 2009.

The airline would start new non-stop destinations from Cleveland to Oklahoma City and Ottawa (in late September 2007); and Greensboro, Omaha, Savannah, Birmingham, Charleston, Green Bay, Tulsa, Little Rock, Memphis, Lansing, Des Moines, and Kalamazoo (all by early 2008). On the global scale, the carrier would began seasonal service to Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport on May 22, 2008.

The airport was also going to make improvements to cope with the new planned traffic. The plan was to expand its security checkpoint area, build a new meet-and-greet area, add more ticket counters, and add more concessions.

The state of Ohio offered a $16 million incentive package to help bring the service increase to fruition.

Unfortunately it would not come to pass. Thanks to record-high fuel prices, Continental had to cut capacity in the summer of 2008 and reduce its workforce. The airline also eliminated service between Cleveland and 24 cities, including the service between Cleveland and Paris and London Heathrow, and it also reduced the frequency of its flights to a number of others.

The airline dropped flights between Cleveland and Austin, Texas; Birmingham, Ala.; Charleston, S.C.; Charleston, W. Va.; Cincinnati; Des Moines, Iowa: Detroit; Green Bay, Wis.; Greensboro, N.C.; Lexington, Ky.; Little Rock, Ark.; Memphis, Tenn., Nashville, Tenn.; Norfolk, Va.; Oklahoma City, Okla.; Omaha, Neb.; Ottawa, Canada; San Antonio, Texas; San Diego; Sarasota, Fla.; Savannah, Ga.; Toledo; Tulsa, Okla.; and Washington-Dulles.

Ironically, the carrier had only just begun serving many of those cities only a few weeks before.

Continental’s cuts were much deeper as a percentage than overall flight volume at its other hubs in Houston and Newark. However, many were not concerned as they expected flights to resume when the economy got better.

United and Continental Merge

For several years, many questioned if/when United and Continental merged.IMG_6462 In 2009, Continental moved to the Star Alliance to be closer to United and the other Star Alliance partners.

In late April of 2010, word surfaced that Continental and United were deep in talks to merge. Almost immediately, people began to question Cleveland’s future. At the time, United had hubs in Chicago and Washington DC, both of are not too far away from Cleveland.

Talks led to action in early-May 2010, when Continental and United announced that they would merge to form what would then be the world’s largest airline. For many in Cleveland, they could only speculate on what would happen.

The City of Cleveland and United Sign An Agreement

On September 13, 2010, Continental Airlines, under the UAL Corporation, reaffirmed its commitment to Cleveland, agreeing to maintain specified levels of air service at the airport when the two airlines combined their global networks upon closing of their proposed merger.

The two airlines signed an agreement with the Ohio Attorney General, whose office reviewed the merger on its effect to Ohio’s air transportation. The Attorney General believed the merger would enhance competition in Ohio.

The carriers said they believed the merger would deliver air service for Cleveland and its other hubs that would be far superior to the service that the carriers could have provided if they had not combined.

Under the agreement, the carriers had to maintain at least 90 percent of their combined flights at the airport for two years after the airlines merge. After that, it all depends on whether the carrier makes money.

If the merged company has a system-wide slump in departures — from a double dip recession, say, or some other setback — the company would be allowed to cut Hopkins departures more deeply. But the cuts cannot exceed 25 percent more than the average reduction in domestic departures at the airlines’ other hubs in Newark, Houston, Chicago, Denver, Washington Dulles, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

If the Cleveland hub performed more than 15 percent worse than the new airline’s overall network and loses more than $25 million, then the airline can cut minimum daily departures close to 75 percent of current levels.

If the airline lost more than $40 million at its Hopkins operations in the second year of the deal, the settlement agreement allows the airline to cut its Hopkins departures by 50 percent in the third year and 85 percent in years four and five.

Two Years Later

Two years after the merger, United and Continental were still in Cleveland. IMG_6642At this time, the airline was free to change its mind about keeping Cleveland as a hub, but United’s management and the City of Cleveland were optimistic.

“United is proud to call Cleveland a hub and serve the city’s business and leisure travelers,” said United spokesman Joe Micucci in Chicago told The Plain Dealer. “We continue our partnership with local business and community leaders to provide viable and sustainable air service for Cleveland.”

In fact, the airline was launching new flights from Cleveland during the 2012 summer. It launched one more daily flight each to Boston, Denver, Dallas-Fort Worth, Washington Dulles, Portland (Maine), San Francisco, and St. Louis, Mo.; and three more daily flights to Chicago O’Hare International Airport. Additionally, it started flights to Nashville in December 2012 and Oklahoma City and Austin in 2013.

Also in 2013, the carrier announced plans to hold its 2014 shareholders meeting in the city.

However, this would all change as the carrier announced that it would de-hub the city. United CEO Jeff Smisek informed employees that the carrier will be reducing daily departures by more than 64% spread over several stages beginning in April 2014.

Smisek claimed in the letter that the hub in Cleveland, which United inherited as part of a 2010 merger with Houston based Continental Airlines, hasn’t been profitable for over a decade, and that it has generated “tens of millions of dollars of losses.” The email also says the city lacks the requisite demand for “hub-level connecting flying.”

As per the tentative details, the carrier will keep mainline flying levels roughly the same (reducing from 26 to 25 daily departures). Regional flying, however, will take a much larger haircut with a more than 70% reduction in departures. Total capacity as measured by available seat miles will decline by about 36%, and the reductions will be phased in over April, May, and June 2014 in equivalent increments.

Once the reductions are fully implemented, United’s overall service offering will be reduced to 72 peak-day departures serving 20 destinations. While United has not yet made a final decision as to which destinations will be eliminated, service to all of United’s remaining hubs (Chicago O’Hare, Washington Dulles, Houston Intercontinental, Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Newark) will be retained, as well as flights to key business markets such as New York La Guardia, Washington Reagan, and Boston. Leisure destinations marked for retention include Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, Fort Myers, and Orlando.

On Thursday, June 5, we will take a look at Cleveland Hopkins post United de-hubbing.

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

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Infrastructure Challenges Remain High for the Aviation Industry

By / Published June 3, 2014

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An A380 enabled gate at the new Hamad International Airport. Photo by Jason Rabinowitz / Airchive

DOHA, QATAR: As airlines gather in Doha this week at the IATA Annual General Meeting, the topic of infrastructure investment has been raised several times.

It is one of the most significant factors in the ability for airlines to operate around the globe and yet it is also something which they have no control over. Airlines are dependent on governments around the globe to maintain air traffic control services, for example, or on a mix of public and private operators of airports to ensure that passengers are cared for prior to and after their flights. And in every corner of the world the airlines are struggling to realize the level of cooperation and services they need to operate reliably.

Even as the industry celebrates the opening of the new Hamad International Airport in the host city of Doha, it is clear that aviation infrastructure in the region is struggling to handle the explosive levels of growth it has seen in recent years. Yes, the new terminals are great, but the ATC operations in the area are fragmented. Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Bakar noted that his airline frequently faces delays because its ability to dispatch flights through nearby airspace en route to North America, Europe or Asia.

There are times at peaks where we have to hold planes for five minutes between departures. Either there is an issue over the Iraqi FIR or there are issues with Omani FIR. This all boils down to not proper air traffic management…. We should be able to do this especially because we are such closely knit countries in the GCC. It requires strong political will to do it.

With each government managing its airspace independently rather than the countries in the region working together, similar to how Europe developed its Eurocontrol operations, conflicts within the airspace remain a challenge. On top of this, the region sees a highly disproportionate level of military traffic – roughly 40% – which further limits the ability for commercial airlines to operate smoothly.

In the United States the main concern remains delays in building out the NextGen infrastructure. Budget cuts and delays continue to plague the very necessary upgrade to air traffic control services in the USA. And, while many airport terminals are not considered luxurious, they generally are sufficient to handle passenger needs.

1964-atc-tower-at-new-york-lga-2010_13797Airport construction is a hot topic in Asia and Latin America as the booming growth in passenger numbers demand more facilities. In many cases the governments are establishing public-private partnerships to build and operate these airports. IATA remains concerned that these partnerships are flawed far too often and result in projects which are ultimately financially unsound. That means higher costs for the airlines operating in those airports and, ultimately, higher costs to passengers as well.

The IATA sessions ended without much in the way of concrete plans to address these challenges. Bakar’s comment during the press briefing was the closest thing to an action statement made and that was far short of a commitment to press forward. Of course, with so many different government entities involved it is no surprise that progress is slow.

RELATED:

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Contact the editor at Jeremy.Lindgren@Airchive.com

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Asiana to Fly First A380 Flight on June 13

By Jack Harty / Published March 22, 2014

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Courtesy of Asian Airlines

Asiana Airlines has outlined its initial Airbus A380 operations. As of now, it appears that Asiana’s inaugural A380 flight will fly from Seoul to Tokyo Narita on Friday, June 13. When it takes delivery of its first A380 early this summer, Asiana will become the 11th airline to operate the A380 and the second airline based in South Korea to take delivery of the A380.

Initial Asiana A380 Operations

Asiana Airlines has released information about its initial A380 operations. However, this is subject to change.

June 13-July 23, 2014

Asiana will fly the A380 daily between Seoul and Tokyo Narita from June 13 until July 23. The flight will depart Seoul at 0900 and arrive into Narita at 1110. The return flight will depart Narita at 1310, and it will arrive into Seoul at 1540.

Additionally, Asiana will begin flying the A380 six times a week (Mon, Tue, Wed, Fri, Sat, Sun) between Seoul and Hong Kong from June 13 until July 24. The flights will depart Seoul at 1950 and arrive into Hong Kong at 2240. The return flight will depart at 0040, and it will arrive into Seoul at 0510.

July 24-August 14, 2014

Asiana will fly the A380 daily between Seoul and Tokyo Narita from July 24 until August 14. The flight will depart Seoul at 0900 and arrive into Narita at 1110. The return flight will depart Narita at 1310, and it will arrive into Seoul at 1540.

Additionally, Asiana will fly the A380 daily between Seoul and Hong Kong from July 24 until August 14. The flights will depart Seoul at 1950 and arrive into Hong Kong at 2240. The return flight will depart at 0040, and it will arrive into Seoul at 0510.

Asiana will also fly the A380 daily between Seoul and Osaka Kansai from July 24 until August 14. The flights will depart Seoul at 1045 and arrive into Osaka Kansai at 1225. After two hours on the ground, the A380 will arrive back in Seoul at 1615.

Lastly, Asiana will offer A380 service five times a week (Mon, Wed, Fri, Sat, Sun) between Seoul and Bangkok. These flights will be operated from July 25 until August 13 the flight will depart Seoul at 1830 and arrive in Bangkok at 2205. The return flight will depart for Seoul at 0110, and it will arrive at 0845.

August 15, 2014

Asiana will fly the A380 five times a week (Tue, Wed, Fri, Sun) between Seoul and Hong Kong. The flights will depart Seoul at 1950 and arrive into Hong Kong at 2240. The return flight will depart at 0040, and it will arrive into Seoul at 0510.

In February, Asiana announced plans to fly the A380 daily between Los Angeles and Seoul, starting July 30, 2014. However, Asiana has quietly pushed back the start date, and it will not start flying the A380 to Los Angeles on August 15. The flight will depart Seoul at 1450, and it will arrive in Los Angeles at 0950. The return flight will depart at 1220, and it will arrive in Seoul the following day at 1720.

Meet Asiana’s A380

Asiana has ordered six A380s, and the carrier plans to use it for long-haul routes to cities such as Los Angeles and New York, and it also plans to deploy the A380 on dense routes in north Asia to cities such as Hong Kong and Tokyo Narita.

It will take delivery of two A380s in June, two next year, and two in 2017.

Asiana’s A380s will have 495 seats. There will be 12 first class seats on the lower deck, 66 business class seats on the upper deck, and 417 economy seats (106 on the upper deck and 311 on the lower deck).

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Asiana’s A380 Seat Map
Courtesy of Asian Airlines

Asiana’s Premium Class Product

The A380 will boast Asiana’s First Suite Class product. According to the airline’s website, “We maximize your in-flight privacy by providing seats with two sliding doors, the first suite of its kind to be offered by a Korean airline. The full flat bed stretching 210cm in length is equipped with the world’s largest 32in HD personal monitor, guaranteeing a unrivaled viewing experience.”

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Asiana’s First Suite Class product
Courtesy of Asian Airlines

The A380 will boast Asiana’s Business Smartium Class product. According to the airline’s website, “Business Smartium provides a premium business class in-flight experience with its staggered seat layout that offers direct aisle access from every seat allowing unobstructed movement by passengers around the cabin, the 180-degree reclining bed-type seat.”

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Asiana’s Business Smartium Class
Courtesy of Asian Airlines

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Jack Harty in Houston reported this story. You can contact him at Jack.Harty@airchive.com.

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United Plans Domestic 787-9 Flights

By Jack Harty / Published March 12, 2014

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The Boeing 787-9. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Airchive

More details about United Airlines’ first 787-9 flights are starting to emerge.

Matt Miller, United’s Managing Director for Japan and Pacific Sales, told Australian Business Traveller that the airline will take delivery of its first 787-9 in July, with another to follow later in the summer.

“We will take delivery of both 787-9s in summer [2014], we actually get the first one in July, and we’ll be flying them domestically before we launch (Melbourne-Los Angeles) at the end of October” explains Miller, UA’s Managing Director for Japan and Pacific Sales. The initial destinations will include Denver, Houston, and Los Angeles. You can read more of what Mr. Miller had to say about the first domestic Dreamliner flights as well as additional details on where to find the jets on Australian Business Traveller.

Last month, United Airlines announced that it would fly the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner on a new direct flight between Los Angeles and Melbourne, Australia starting October 26, 2014.

United’s Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner will be have 252 seats. There will be 48 seats in BusinessFirst (in a 2-2-2 configuration), 63 Economy Plus Seats, and 141 United Economy Seats (in a 3-3-3 configuration).

In 2012, United Airlines took delivery of North America’s first Boeing 787. The aircraft was delivered in mid-September, and it went through a certification process with the FAA before it made it flew its inaugural flight on November 4, 2012 from Houston to Chicago.

—–
Jack Harty in Houston reported this story. You can contact him at Jack.Harty@airchive.com.

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Virgin America Goes After Dallas Love Gates as Competition Heats Up

By Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Published March 5, 2014

VX A320Virgin America announced intentions to turn Dallas Love Field into a focus city on Wednesday. The carrier says it will add eighteen departures from the city daily starting in October 2014. There is one minor problem, however: It doesn’t own any gates at the airport.

At least not yet. The carrier is seeking to win control of two gates at the coveted downtown Dallas airport. The gates are currently owned by American, but thanks to the DOJ merger settlement, the carrier is being forced to give them up.

Should Virgin be successful four cities would see service in 2014 following the expiration of the Wright Amendment’s travel restrictions. Unsurprisingly, the first two destinations will be the carrier’s current hubs of Los Angeles LAX and San Francisco. Each would receive three flights per day at first, going to four in 2015. The other two are recently acquired New York LaGuardia, and Washington Reagan (DCA), both of which would see four roundtrips per day. Chicago O’Hare will be added in “early 2015″, with two flights per day.

Virgin only recently acquired the gates and slots in New York LaGuardia and DCA. Both were a product of the AA/US merger settlement with the DOJ that the airline is trying to capitalize on in Dallas.

The new flights to Chicago, New York, and Washington DC represent a shift away from west coast-centric hub and spoke service. Almost every existing flight for the carrier operates either into or out of its two California hubs, the lone exception being a flight from New York JFK to Las Vegas.

The niche carrier already maintains a presence in the Big D via Dallas DFW Airport, fifteen miles away. It began serving LAX and San Francisco from the city in 2010. If it is awarded the Love Field gates it would abandon its operations at DFW. Its posh and polished product and vibe would present a unique contrast to the existing carriers at Love, including populist Southwest and legacy carriers such as Delta.

Not the only hat in the ring…

DAL-SIGN-1Virgin is not the only carrier pre-emptively claiming the two gates. Delta announced a planned “expansion” of services at the airport in November, 2013. Like Virgin, it would add eighteen nonstop flights to five destinations including Detroit (x3), New York LaGuardia (x5), Los Angeles (x5), and Minneapolis-St. Paul (x3). All would be operated by regional carriers.

Delta would also add additional service to Atlanta up to six flights, all operated by mainline Boeing 717 aircraft. In a move it may later regret, it began selling tickets for the flights in December. The carrier has not yet responded to a request for comment.

EXTRA: Dallas Love Field, the Comeback Kid

Southwest Airlines, which has been holed up at Love Field since the late 1980s thanks to Wright Amendment restrictions, owns the lion’s share of the gates presently available at Love Field: sixteen out of twenty. That is not stopping it from trying to make it eighteen, however. The carrier has been actively pursuing the space from day one. Utilization details remain vague, but a Southwest spokesperson said that the “additional two gates  will allow [for]…approximately twenty additional flights and serve numerous new nonstop destinations.”

While the airline says it will “actively participate in the process of re-allocating American’s gates at Love Field” it no doubt has more to lose by being passed up. Unlike both Delta and Virgin, both of which already operate out of DFW, Southwest is stuck in Love Field. It can move to DFW in theory, but not without giving up gates at Love Field – a move it clearly doesn’t wish to make. “We don’t have the option of serving DFW without a penalty…Southwest should [receive] the gates and the airlines who are currently serving DFW could do so there.”

The carrier announced its first post-Wright Amendment flight restriction destinations last month, on February 3rd.

The DOJ has not set a timeline on making a decision.

EXTRA: Dallas DFW may get even bigger

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Visiting Korean Air’s Headquarters at Gimpo Airport

KEHQ1 After reviewing in detail the ‘Excellence in Flight’ that Korean Air (KE) proudly advertises around the world, it was time for Airchive.com to head on and explore where all the KE magic begins: its headquarters.

For such a massive airline, one would think its main offices must be quite large. As a matter of fact, they are. Located at Gimpo Airport (western end of Seoul, about 9 miles from the city center), the massive building displays a gigantic ‘Korean Air’ billboard on its top. Gimpo Airport, formerly known as Kimpo International Airport, used to be Seoul’s main international gateway before Incheon (ICN) opened in 2001. Today, Gimpo is the second largest airport in the country, serving as a domestic/regional hub for KE, Asiana, Jeju Air, T’way Airlines, Jin Air, Eastar Jet, Air Busan, Japan Airlines, ANA and Shanghai Airlines.

KE_HQ_02KE_HQ_03

At this location, KE trains and prepares all of its crew – all the way from ground to in-flight staff. There’s also the airline’s main catering center located in front of the main building where all hot meals are prepared and shipped to Incheon for what they call “assembly.” Korean also caters for many other airlines in the region, including Malaysian, who has a particular limitation given its Islamic passenger majority. Apparently, KE went through a tough certification process to be allowed to cook this specialty. The building’s surroundings are well secured, with a high security protocol mandatory for all personnel and visitors, for which pictures in-site was mostly restricted. Upon entering the massive building, a gorgeous KE Boeing 747-8i model is on display next to a Renault Formula 1 car sporting the airline’s branding. As one climbs through the elevator and reaches upper floors, a great view of the rear maintenance hangar can be appreciated. This is where the airline handles their Boeing 737 fleet maintenance.

KE_HQ_51 KE_HQ_55 KE_HQ_53 KE_HQ_50

The building also has several conference halls and auditoriums. At the moment of our visit, several presentations were being given to hundreds of staff members, all impeccably uniformed. It is very notable how KE devotes a large amount of effort in training their in-flight crew to the best of their abilities, while also making sure they all look sharp and elegant.

The dining halls in the building are the most remarkable we have ever seen at any airline headquarter. There are over five buffet-style restaurants available for thousands of workers who spend most of their days making Korean one of the best carriers in the planet. One of the surprises we came across with was two fantastic Private Jets parked at the main hangar, both in-sight from the buildings dining halls. These two belonged to KE’s corporate jet division, Korean Air Business Jet.

Extra: Flying the world’s most spacious A380 in Business Class – Korean Air
Extra: In-flight Review: Flying Korean Air’s Queen of the Skies – Upper Deck

Korean Air Business Jet

At the moment of our visit, the Korean Air’s corporate division jets were parked facing each other at the maintenance hangar. The two aircraft, a Boeing 737BBJ and a Bombardier Global Express XRS, are often leased for Business or Luxury travel by Government or Private VIPs. KE_HQ_05 KE_HQ_04

The Korean Air Business Jet product is indeed quite fascinating. The airline advertises this service with the slogan “Your time is uniquely valuable to you.” Through this concept, the airline allows its most premium passengers the choice, convenience and privacy of its Private Jet service, served by the most proficient flight attendants and crew.

KE_HQ_22 KE_HQ_21

Boeing 737 BBJ

The Boeing 737BBJ is equipped with four bedrooms and six VIP seats in a luxurious “First Zone” (front side of the plane). In its “Business Zone,” however, 180-degree flat reclining seats also provide a comfortable solution for those passengers who don’t need to sleep privately.

KE_HQ_08 KE_HQ_09 KE_HQ_18 KE_HQ_23

The cabin layout of this fantastic jet can be modified upon request by the client. It can vary from a 16-seat layout, up to a 28-seat configuration for higher density travel. The aircraft can fly up to 6,301 miles with 16 passengers on board, and 6,000 miles with 28 passengers – about twelve hours of non-stop luxury.

Flexjet Connect Program

KE_HQ_27The smaller Private Jets offered in the program are all manufactured by Bombardier. These work under the “Flexjet Connect Program,” which allows passengers to fly without a long-term commitment, and a more on-call basis. This program flies passengers on their own schedule to more than 5,000 airports in the U.S. and Central/South America from Korea. This service also features a private car which picks passengers up to/from the airport of their choice. The aircraft used for this operation are the Bombardier Global Express XRS, Challenger 300 and LearJet 45XR

Private Benefits

KE_HQ_47 The Korean Business Jet service offers quick and easy check-in and boarding procedures with dedicated staff who assists the passenger all the way from check-in until boarding; private lounges at smaller airports combined with the airline’s global network of First Class rooms; a dedicated in-flight service; the best Korean and Occidental award-winning in-flight dining, all created by a team of chefs; and the comfort and safety provided by the best private fleet in the industry. With this impressive portfolio, Korean Air commits in meeting the ideal business partner of those who need the privacy and effectiveness of flying with luxury.

EXTRA: Flying South Korea’s cool Low-Cost Carrier, Jin Air!

Korean Air

There is no question that Korean is one of the best carriers in the world. This can easily be measured by their consistency in each one of their flights, offering an impeccable service full of Korean culture. In 2012, the airline managed to transport 16.93 million passengers on its international network, and 7.35 million domestically. As for its cargo division, they carried over 1.42 million tons to international destinations, being a detrimental part of their service portfolio. KE flies to 13 cities within South Korea and to over 112 cities in 44 countries around the globe. The airline has a total of 147 aircraft in its fleet, all operated and serviced it by the best possible team of people in all of the airline’s hubs. The visit to their headquarters just confirmed these facts. Korean does offer excellence in flight.

Special thanks to Korean Air for inviting Airchive.com, Ashley Chung for her hospitality and for making this report possible.

———————————————————————————————————————————— About the author: Enrique Perrella is a Senior Correspondent at Airchive.com, based between Caracas, Venezuela and Miami, Florida. Enrique holds a Bachelors Degree in Airline Management from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and a Masters Degree in Aviation Business Administration (MBA) from LUISS Business School in Rome, Italy. He is also a Commercial Pilot with type ratings in different aircraft, among which his favorite is the Gulfstream Twin Commander 1000, which he flies regularly between Venezuela and the U.S. Enrique is founder and president of Venezuela’s first and only Aviation Photography/News organization, SVZM Aero. He has covered, since 2009, all editions of the Le Bourget, Paris, and Berlin Air Shows, and unique events such as the delivery flight of Turkish Airlines’ first Boeing 777-300ER from Seattle to Istanbul and the re-inaugural ANA Boeing 787 flight from San Jose to Tokyo. His work has been published in worldwide publications, such as Airliner World Magazine, Airliners Magazine, Avion Revue, Aero Magazine and Airchive.com. Enrique’s passion for aviation began a few days after he was born, when his father bought him a VIASA A300 model that was much bigger – and heavier – than him. Follow him on Instagram (enrique77w) and connect via his Facebook page. Reach him via email at eperrella@svzm.aero.

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United Receives Tentative Approval to fly to Haneda

By Jack Harty / Published March 1, 2014

IMG_0442

Photo by Jack Harty

United Airlines has received tentative approval from the U.S. Department of Transportation to operate flights between San Francisco and Tokyo’s Haneda Airport. This comes several months after United applied for the rights to fly into Haneda.

Hawaiian Airlines also sought after takeoff and landing rights at Haneda. The company proposed to launch flights from Kona, Hawaii.

The Transportation Department said United’s flight from San Francisco “would introduce a new U.S. carrier at Haneda and would promote competition by giving business and leisure travelers an additional choice for connecting service.” United says it looks forward to completing the approval process.

Extra: Tokyo Haneda Heats Up With International Flights

Slots into Tokyo’s Haneda Airport are highly coveted as it is the closest airport to the city of Tokyo. Flights from the U.S. to Haneda are part of an open-skies accord between the US and Japan, which allows four daily roundtrip flights. Hawaiian operates service between Handea and Honolulu, and Delta serves Haneda from Los Angeles and Seattle.

Almost immediately after American Airlines announced that it would discontinue service between New York’s John F. Kennedy International airport and Haneda, United applied to take over American’s takeoff and landing rights.

Extra: Tokyo Haneda Airport Photo Gallery


Jack Harty in Houston reported this story. You can contact him at Jack.Harty@airchive.com.

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FIRST PHOTOS: Final Passenger DC-10 Flight

As the final McDonnell Douglas DC-10 passenger flight comes to a close, our very own Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren is on board and has sent back some amazing pictures. While we have a full story coming up later, we wanted to pass along these historic pictures as soon as possible. Enjoy!

At the same time, news on the aircraft’s future has surfaced. While it was rumored that the aircraft was to be donated to a museum in Seattle (not clear if Future of Flight) it turns out they have no room for 6 months but Biman’s crews are not licensed to fly the DC-10 after Feb 28. Because of this, the aircraft will return home and be sold for scrap after scheduled scenic flights. Airchive will be on board one of the scenic tours Biman is offering before the aircraft is chopped to pieces.

EXTRA >> Airchive Readers Share Their Stories of the DC10

 

The very last passenger DC-10 rests in the sunlight prior to its final commercial flight on February 20, 2014.

The very last passenger DC-10 rests in the sunlight prior to its final commercial flight on February 20, 2014. (Credit: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren)

The air stairs have been pulled back, and the airplane is ready to go. (Credit: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren)

The air stairs have been pulled back, and the airplane is ready to go.

Bernie Leighton from Seattle, WA and Maarten Van Den Driessche from Belguim hold a Bangladesh flag in front of the airplane.

Bernie Leighton from Seattle, WA and Maarten Van Den Driessche from Belguim hold a Bangladesh flag in front of the airplane. (Credit: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren)

Captain Shoaib Chowdhury prepares the aircraft for departure from Dhaka Bangladesh.

Captain Shoaib Chowdhury prepares the aircraft for departure from Dhaka Bangladesh. (Credit: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren)

Flight engineer Selim Azam makes adjustments to the aircraft while in flight.

Flight engineer Selim Azam makes adjustments to the aircraft while in flight. (Credit: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren)

The final DC-10 flight lines up on the runway

The final DC-10 flight lines up on the runway (Credit: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren)

Bernie Leighton Aaron Willis Tilburg from the Netherlands share a meal and stories on board the flight.

Bernie Leighton Aaron Willis Tilburg from the Netherlands share a meal and stories on board the flight. (Credit: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren)

Meals are prepared on the airplane's galley.

Meals are prepared on the airplane’s galley. (Credit: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren)

Hafiz with Biman

Hafiz with Biman

Breakfast is served to the thirty some-odd passengers on board this unique flight.

Breakfast is served to the thirty some-odd passengers on board this unique flight.

Each passenger received a special final flight certificate from the airline. Passengers travelled from around the globe to catch the flight, such as Guy Van Herbruggen from Belgium.

Each passenger received a special final flight certificate from the airline. Passengers travelled from around the globe to catch the flight, such as Guy Van Herbruggen from Belgium.

 

Extra: The History of the DC-10, Part One: Taking Shape and Taking Off

Extra: Remembering the DC-10: A Pilot’s Perspective

Extra: The History of the DC-10, Part Two: Problems, Popularity, and Post Production

Extra: McDonnell Douglas DC-10 Sales Brochures and Memorabilia from 1970 and 1971.

Extra: United Airlines DC-10 Launch Brochure from 1971

Extra: United Airlines DC-10 Scrapped at Las Vegas, NV in 1995

Extra: American Airlines DC-10 Being Converted to Trans-Aero Russian Airlines at Marana, AZ in 1996

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Airchive Readers Share Their Stories of the DC10

Edited by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Published February 20, 2014

As the last passenger DC-10 made its final trek toward retirement from Dhaka, Bangladesh, Airchive readers pause to remember time spent aboard the giant triholer.

Photo courtesy Jeff Magnet

Photo courtesy Jeff Magnet

R. D. Sussmann: In the early 1980s, my family relocated from Washington, DC to Boston, MA. We would frequent the trip back to DC, and at the time NW had a sizable number of flights from BOS to DC – both DCA and IAD. In the summer of 1983, I had my first up-close meeting with the DC-10.

I had already flown the Airbus 300 (EA, from BWI to YOW) and had my encounters with the 727, the DC-9, and the BAC-1-11. At the time, IAD was still a few years from becoming the nightmare that it would morph into, and the observation deck above the restaurant was still active -though in that year IAD was still pretty much a ghost town. You would have the occasional flights roaming in/out of the airport, but nothing like it has become since. After lunch, I headed up to the deck, and looked out – and saw her come into view for the first time. After she landed & rolled out, turning to face east on the distant parking apron was my first DC-10 clad in red, white, blue, and silver waiting for me on that hot July afternoon.

The anticipation was tremendous – again, in 1983 no jetways – so we boarded the old mobile lounges (there were two used for our flight) and bounced our way across the apron and ramp out to the side of the aircraft. What amazed me most about the DC-10 was the height – those jack screw driven lifts seemed to growl forever as they lifted us to the side of the plane. The operator of the mobile lounge popped out of his cab, and rolled the gantry sleeve up to the door, then knocked on it (I thought this was quite amusing…) A ‘pop’ and the 2L door slid in and disappeared up into the ceiling, with two NW F/As standing inside, greeting the (few) passengers boarding.

I was awed by the size of the interior – so broad and big, the large windows down the sides of the cabin – which itself seemed to sprawl out in front of me forever. I recall the colors of the cabin vividly: Turquoise carpet with matching yellow and turquoise seats in the familiar 2x5x2 configuration. I also recall not seeing the center-line overhead lockers, which I thought was very odd.

It took less than 20 minutes for everybody to be loaded into their seats. Since this was the continuation of Flt 78 (SEA-IAD-BOS), we were only about half full – it seemed like a ton of empty seats around the airplane. The flight attendants did their standard safety demo – and another interesting feature (to me at least) was the oxygen masks popping out of the seat in front of you – something else that was new to me.

As IAD wasn’t busy, we taxied out to the runway almost immediately, and held at the end for about a minute. Seated in the very back of the plane, I had a great view of the ginormous wing out my window, followed by the buzz-saw sounds of the engines spooling up, and a thunderous roar as we hurtled down the runway. You really got an impression of size in the DC-10, something I’d not felt on many other planes before. Climb out was rapid, and in-flight service on the 90 minute flight was NW’s peanuts, a Sprite in a plastic cup… and something that was odd to me – a ham sandwich in saran wrap for a ‘snack’ on the flight.

After ‘snack service’ I explored the back end of the plane;  the lavatories and the rear galley. My thoughts on the aft lavs were that they were larger than what I recall seeing on the 727 & DC-9, and they were an odd shape. The 70′s were in full bloom there- turquoise & yellow featured in the lavs as well.

The short flight was over too fast for my liking – and we made a very firm landing at BOS, as I recall the plane being rather heavy.

I would have all of my remaining encounters with the DC-10 on that same route – BOS-IAD-BOS over the next two years. We were regulars flying back and forth (About six times per year) and I got to know the DC-10 very well over those years, through the interior change to the ‘browns & reds’ of NW’s mid-80s refurbs, to finally seeing them return to long-haul service after the 757s arrived in 1985. I have very fond memories of NW 78/79 and the DC-10 that called it home for so many years. I will miss the big and beautiful DC-10, and she will always fly on forever in my memories!

EXTRA: United Airlines DC-10 Intro Brochure

Photo courtesy Dylan Cannon

Photo courtesy Dylan Cannon

Dylan Cannon: My DC-10 story begins back on June 14th, 1994. My family and I were flying on American Airlines flight 283, with nonstop service from Nashville (BNA) to London Gatwick (LGW). This was back when American had its BNA hub in full swing, boasting daily flights to Europe. This was my first time on a DC-10, and I sat in row 24 of the bird. I was lucky enough to switch to a window seat after a nice lady offered it to me. We took off Nashville’s runway 20L, and off we went!

The flight was very smooth. I remember watching ”Gone With The Wind” in-flight and enjoyed an elegant meal in economy class. I slept for a few hours, and I woke up just about one hour prior to descent. When we landed in Gatwick, I remember seeing other wide bodies. I even went up to the cockpit after the flight. Great crew and a great flight!

EXTRA: McDonnell Douglas Aircraft DC-10 Memorabilia

John Jauchler: So, stories, eh? My first DC-10 flight was on American, flying DFW-LAX on a spring break trip, probably 1986. I clearly remember the group “A-Ha” with their song “The Sun Always Shines on TV” on the old vacuum tube audio system. On the return LAX-DFW segment I stayed with my sister and uncle too long in the airport bar and nearly missed the flight. I got on just as they were closing the door, but lost my non-smoking seat and had to sit in the middle of the notorious five-seat section in smoking. The lady next to me was a nervous flyer who’d brought a decent stock of her own booze on board, which she shared with me. I believe the planes on both these flights had the flight deck cameras which projected on the main cabin entertainment screens.

My next DC-10 flight would have been DFW-HNL, also on American – my honeymoon! At some point during the flight I was playing with my new wedding ring, and it flipped off my finger. The flight attendants cleared two rows (middle section) so I could look for it somewhere over the Pacific, and happily it turned up.

And the time on an SFO-ORD-BDL routing on AA, I switched flights at the airport (big fight with the gate agent over this one) so I could go SFO-JFK-BDL on the DC-10 I saw sitting at an adjacent gate (Shorts 360 on the JFK-BDL segment), got an upgrade: all the better. Other DC-10 flights I bagged include Continental NRT-GUM, Continental HNL-EWR, United ORD-PDX, and Northwest DTW-LAX. And I loaded FedEx freighters nightly for a summer in Memphis.

Paul Thompson: My first DC-10 flight was in March, 1984. I was in kindergarten and my dad took me from Houston (IAH) to Washington DC (IAD) on Continental Airlines. It was my first time on a wide-body jet, and I was awestruck! As the son of a Southwest Airlines employee, I was used to the much smaller 737-200s.

This was early in the lifespan of the Continental DC-10, and it had been delivered with a walk-up “pub” where passengers could get snacks and drinks. I thought that was pretty cool – and it opened my eyes to the existence of onboard amenities. The plane went out with less than 50 people on board, so we had a free roam of the cabin.

That trip helped cement my love of aviation (including the neat “People Movers” at IAD) and I’ll always cherish that trip with my dad. I owe a trip like that to my daughters.

Extra: (Photos) The Final DC-10 Prepares for its retirement tour 

Extra: The History of the DC-10, Part One: Taking Shape and Taking Off

Extra: Remembering the DC-10: A Pilot’s Perspective

Extra: The History of the DC-10, Part Two: Problems, Popularity, and Post Production

Extra: McDonnell Douglas DC-10 Sales Brochures and Memorabilia from 1970 and 1971.

Extra: United Airlines DC-10 Launch Brochure from 1971

Extra: United Airlines DC-10 Scrapped at Las Vegas, NV in 1995

Extra: American Airlines DC-10 Being Converted to Trans-Aero Russian Airlines at Marana, AZ in 1996

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United’s First 787-9 Route Announcement

By Jack Harty / Published February 19, 2014

IMG_8349

Photo by Jack Harty

Subject to government approval, United Airlines will launch direct flights from Los Angeles to Melbourne, Australia with the Boeing 787-9 on October 26, 2014. The new direct service will be operated six times a week.

If you’re flying from the states, UA98 will leave Los Angeles at 10:30PM on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, arriving in Melbourne at two days later at 9:15AM. On Thursdays, UA98 will shift its schedule one hour earlier, leaving Los Angeles at 9:30PM to reach Melbourne at 8:15AM two days later.

On Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, flight UA99 will depart Melbourne at 11:15AM to reach Los Angeles at 6:50AM the same day. On Saturdays, UA99 will leave Melbourne at 3:15PM and arrive in Los Angeles at 10:50AM.

UA098 LAX2130 – 0815+2MEL 789 4
UA098 LAX2230 – 0915+2MEL 789 x24

UA099 MEL1115 – 0650LAX 789 x46
UA099 MEL1515 – 1050LAX 789 6
(Schedule information courtesy of @AirlineRoute)

The new direct service is scheduled to be operated by the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.

“We are excited about using the newest version of the Dreamliner, the 787-9, to provide nonstop trans-Pacific service to Melbourne,” said Jim Compton, United’s vice chairman and chief revenue officer. “Our customers on these new flights will enjoy a more convenient itinerary, as well as improved inflight comfort and amenities. At the same time, we will seek to make changes to our Sydney schedule which will enable faster connections via our San Francisco and Los Angeles hubs from points throughout the Americas.”

United’s Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner will be have 252 seats. There will be 48 seats in BusinessFirst ( in a 2-2-2 configuration), 63 Economy Plus Seats, and 141 United Economy Seats (in a 3-3-3 configuration).

It is also being reported that the new flights will be operated by former Continental flight attendants that are based in Los Angeles.

United will still operate flights between Los Angeles to Sydney, but it says it may retime the flights between “to allow a greater range of connections beyond the hubs and more convenient arrival times for customers travelling on connecting flights to New York and other East Coast destinations.”

The new flights are in the reservation system, along with a seat map of the 787-9. However, the seat map is in complete at the moment.

United’s first 787-9 could arrive on property as soon as this summer.

*This story will continued to be updated as we learn more info

Jack Harty in Houston reported this story. You can contact him at jack.harty@airchive.com.

 

 

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Florida Express Jet launching intra-Florida operations

By Seth Miller / Published February 11, 2014

AirFloridaAnother upstart operator is looking to take to the skies in Florida. Florida Express Jet wants to provide point-to-point service within the state, pulling drivers off the roads and into its 737-400 aircraft. Service will launch on 20 March 2014 using a leased aircraft offering flights from Ft. Lauderdale to Tallahassee via Orlando.

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The company has stated that all non-stop coach seats will be sold at the $69 price, without a minimum stay or advance purchase requirement. Passengers connecting between Tallahassee and Ft. Lauderdale will pay $99 for the flight. Those rates do not include tax (6% in Florida) or passenger facility charges. Those two bits add $8-15 to each one-way fare, but the total cost is still quite low. The 737 will be configured with 138 seats in coach and 12 in business class. The Coach product will launch with a 3-3 seating and 31″ pitch offering (the “A Better Coach” option is being shelved for now). The Business Class seating will be 2-2 rather than the 3-3 layout of coach and include additional legroom as well.

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Checked bags are $25 each but the wifi in-flight will be complimentary. So will snacks and sodas on board, according to the release. Customers in Better Business will also include free newspapers, drinks and hot towel service.

Florida Express Jet faces competition from Silver Airways and American Airlines (from Miami, not Ft. Lauderdale) in the Tallahassee market. Those same two, plus Spirit Air, also fly to Orlando. Fares today from Silver Airways and American are in 2-3x the rates Florida Express Jet is introducing for the last-minute walk-up fares; the new carrier’s entry into the market may help bring those down a bit. The company sees their main competitive advantages in offering a better equipped aircraft – a 737-400 jet rather than the smaller props from Silver Airways – with overhead bins plus the aggressive price point.

The plane is owned and flown by Swift Air, an Arizona-based charter operator. Swift mostly focuses on professional sports charters and other, similar customers. Another charter carrier, also based in Florida, announced a similar plan to launch scheduled service but those plans never materialized. In the case of Elite Airways, however, it was inter-state service rather than intra-state. That makes quite a difference in terms of regulatory issues and red tape.

And, while the company is selling tickets today, it is not 100% ready to launch operations. Final negotiations for gate space in Tallahassee are still on-going but both the company and the airport authorities expect to have that resolved in time for the scheduled start of service.

EXTRA: Photos, timetables, and route maps from intra-Florida carriers of yore:
Air Florida / Air South / Atlantic Gulf / Dolphin / Florida Express / PBA / Southwest inaugural to FL

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First Look: United’s Schedule Before and After Cleveland is De-Hubbed

By Jack Harty / Published February 9, 2014

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A United Airlines Boeing 737 sits at a gate on the C Concourse at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport
Photo by Jack Harty

Starting June 5, 2014, Cleveland Hopkins International Airport will no longer be a hub for United. Last week, United Airlines announced that they will significantly reduce their operations and de-hub Cleveland.

Starting in April, United will reduce their Cleveland operations in three stages.

  • In April, United will eliminate service to Burlington, Hartford, Madison, Manchester, Montreal, Oklahoma City, Philadelphia, Providence, and Raleigh/Durham from Cleveland.
  • In May, United will eliminate service to Charlotte, Louisville, Minneapolis, and Nashville from Cleveland.
  • In June, United will finish their service reductions. The last cities to be cut will be: Atlanta, Austin, Bradford (all flights will be operated under the Silver Airways brand via Jamestown), Buffalo, Columbus, Dayton, Erie, Flint, Grand Rapids, Indianapolis, Jamestown (all flights will be operated under the Silver Airways brand), Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Richmond, Syracuse, and Toronto.
  • Additionally, 430 of United’s front line staff (ramp staff, ticket agents, customer service staff) will be out of a job by June. Also, 40 catering positions will be eliminated as well.

Current Schedule

Currently, United flies to more than 50 destinations from Cleveland. On February 27, United will fly 180 departures to 54 destinations. There will be approximately 11,657 seats available on the 180 departures. 28 of the 180 departures will be operated by mainline aircraft. 152 of the 180 departures will be operated by regional aircraft.

February 27, 2014 Cleveland Departures

February 27, 2014 Cleveland Departures Number of Flights Total Seats Aircraft Types Flying This Route
Albany 3 150 3 E145s
Atlanta 2 100 2 E145s
Austin 1 66 1 CRJ-700
Baltimore 3 150 3 E145s
Boston 4 294 3 E145s, 1 A320
Buffalo 4 196 2 Q300s, 2 E145s
Burlington 1 50 1 E145
Charlotte 3 150 3 E145s
Chicago 16 1072 2 CRJ-200s, 2 CRJ-700s, 9 E145s, 2 B737-700s, 1 B737-800
Columbus 4 187 1 Q200, 3 E145s
Dallas/Ft. Worth DFW 3 150 3 E145s
Dayton 4 198 1 Q300, 3 E145s
Denver 4 324 1 CRJ-700, 2 E170s, 1 B737-700
Erie 4 148 4 Q200s
Flint 4 148 4 Q200s
Fort Lauderdale 2 334 2 B737-900s
Fort Myers 3 452 1 A320, 2 B737-800s
Grand Rapids 4 200 4 E145s
Greenville/Spartanburg 1 50 1 E145
Harrisburg 3 122 2 Q200s, 1 Q300
Hartford 4 200 4 E145s
Houston 6 492 3 CRJ-700s, 2 E170s, 1 B737-800
Indianapolis 6 305 1 Q200, 1 Q300, 3 E145s, 1 E170
Kansas City 4 221 1 Q400, 1 CRJ-200, 2 E145s
Las Vegas 2 321 1 B737-800, 1 B737-900
Los Angeles 2 272 1 B737-700, 1 B737-800
Louisville 3 150 3 E145s
Madison 1 50 1 E145
Manchester 2 100 2 E145s
Miami 1 50 1 E145
Milwaukee 5 266 1 CRJ-700, 4 E145s
Minneapolis 2 100 2 E145s
Montreal 3 150 3 E145s
Nashville 2 100 2 E145s
New Orleans 1 50 1 E145
Newark 7 817 2 E170s, 1 A319, 2 B737-700s, 1 B737-800, 1 B737-900
New York LGA 8 420 7 E145s, 1 E170
Oklahoma City 1 50 1 E145
Orlando 4 580 1 B737-700, 3 B737-800s
Philadelphia 4 200 4 E145s
Phoenix 1 120 1 A319
Pittsburgh 2 74 2 Q200s
Providence 1 50 1 E145
Raleigh/Durham 3 150 3 E145s
Richmond 3 150 3 E145s
Rochester 3 122 2 Q200s, 1 Q300
San Francisco 1 144 1 A320
St. Louis 4 200 4 E145s
Syracuse 3 122 2 Q200s, 1 Q300
Tampa 2 334 2 B737-900s
Toronto 4 161 3 Q200s, 1 E145
Washington DCA 5 250 5 E145s
Washington IAD 6 295 2 Q200s, 1 Q400, 3 E145s
West Palm Beach 1 50 1 E145

*The number of seats may be slightly off. We selected the most common aircraft configurations based on United’s timetable.

Starting in early-April, United will begin to start reducing their operations in Cleveland. June 4 will be the last day that Cleveland Hopkins International Airport is a hub for United.

Last Day as a United Hub-June 4, 2014

Early Saturday morning (February 8), United Airlines updated their reservation system to reflect their new Cleveland schedule.

On June 4, 2014, United will operate their last departures from Cleveland to: Atlanta, Austin, Buffalo, Columbus, Dayton, Erie, Flint, Grand Rapids, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Richmond, Syracuse, and Toronto. These cities are the last phase of United’s Cleveland operation reduction plan.

On June 4, United Express flight 5824 is scheduled to arrive from Chicago O’ Hare 12 minutes before midnight. United 5824 will signify the end of Cleveland being a hub for United.

United Express flight 4120 will depart Cleveland for Chicago O’ Hare at 9:05PM EST. United 4120 is scheduled to be United’s last departure from Cleveland while it is a hub.

First Day as a non-hub-June 5, 2014

On June 5, United will operate 72 departures to 20 destinations. 25 of the 72 departures will be operated by mainline aircraft while 47 of the 72 departures will be operated by regional aircraft. There will be approximately 5,847 seats available on the 72 departures.

This is subject to change. United may change which mainline aircraft types will operate the mainline flights as June 5 approaches.

June 5, 2014 Cleveland Departures

June 5, 2014 Cleveland Departures Number of Flights Total Seats Aircraft Types
Albany 2  74 2 Q200s
Baltimore 3  133 1 Q200 and 2 Q300s
Boston 4 200 4 E145s
Chicago 13  1068 7 E145s, 1 CRJ-700s, 1 A320, 3 B737-700s, 1 B737-800
Dallas/Ft. Worth (DFW) 2 100 2 E145s
Denver 4 394 2 CRJ-700s, 1 A320, 1 B737-700
Fort Lauderdale 1 118 1 B737-700
Fort Myers 1  154 1 B737-800
Houston 5  646 1 CRJ-700, 1 B737-700, 3 B737-800s
Las Vegas 1 154 1 B737-800
Los Angeles 3 452 1 A320, 2 B737-800s
Milwaukee
 3  150 3 E145s
New York LGA  8  420 7 E145s, 1 E170
Newark 5  578 1 E170, 3 B737-700s, 1 B737-800
Orlando 2 272 1 B737-700, 1 B737-800
San Francisco 2  308 2 B737-800s
St. Louis  2  100 2 E145s
Tampa  1  70 1 E170
Washington DCA 5  250  5 E145s
Washington IAD  5 206 1 E145, 1 Q200, 1 Q300, 2 Q400s,

*The number of seats may be slightly off. We selected the most common aircraft configurations based on United’s timetable.

The June 5 departure schedule (above) seems to be an accurate representation of United’s new post-hub Cleveland schedule. However, it is important to note that the schedule will look different on weekends. United will not fly any flights to some cities (Dallas/Ft. Worth and St. Louis to name a few) from Cleveland on Saturdays.

Update: United plans to move their 2014 Shareholders meeting in Chicago instead of June.

Contact the reporter: Jack Harty in Houston reported this story. You can contact him at jack.harty@airchive.com

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TGIF: Thank-Goodness It’s Flyday Week-End Wrap Up – February 7th Edition

By Jack Harty & Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Published February 7, 2014

Thank-goodness it’s Flyday…err Friday, everyone. In this week’s edition UA kicks out styrofoam, Air France upgrades, CHS falls short, and more…

ecoskiescup-largeUnited gives styrofoam the boot: United Airlines announced it will be ditching its present styrofoam cups and replacing them with fully recyclable cups instead. The new eco-friendly cups will be unveiled in the airlines club lounges in February, and on board flights in March, according to a press release. I applaud the decision, and hope any and all carriers still using it give it the boot too.

The War Goes On: Delta filed with the DOT for permission to add service between Seattle and San Jose Del Cabo Mexico. The carrier says it seeks to commence service on or about December 18th utilizing a Boeing 737-800 aircraft. Unsurprisingly, the route is currently served by Alaska Airlines.

Who to believe?: IAG has denied Iberia’s statement that the carrier has eight A330 options on order. At the moment, Iberia is in the middle of a transformation to return to profitability and in the middle of a fleet renewal. Who to believe? Honestly, we have no idea.

VIP 788Two More: Boeing Business Jets delivered two BBJ Boeing 787-8 aircraft this week. The company would not disclose to whom the jets were delivered. To date, there have been thirteen 787 BBJ orders, three of which have been delivered.

As is customary for the jets, they were both delivered without an interior. Typically interiors are added at completion centers of the owners choosing.

Pilots Come Back: According to the Wall Street Journal, Delta is calling back all of its furloughed pilots. Plus, the company is hiring 50 new pilots prt month through early year. Later this year, they will drop the number to 20 new pilots per month through September.

Delayed: Continuing in the ongoing infatuation with Dreamliner problems a computer malfunction caused a LOT Polish 787 to be delayed a few hours. Elsewhere in the world, several flights were likely delayed and/or canceled for similar reasons. Since they were not Dreamliners, however, no one knows what/where/which they were.

Boeing Charleston: Image courtesy Boeing

Boeing Charleston: Image courtesy Boeing

Falling short: The Seattle Times published a detailed piece on the ongoing production problems Boeing’s Charleston plant has continued to face. The report details major assembly sections arriving to the Everett facility requiring extensive rework that ranged from missing hydraulic lines to unconnected wiring. Sources to the Times cited a lack of overall experience at the plant, which is only a few years old. The problems encompass both the -8 and now -9 models.

Swift ax: Allegiant is axing both Charlottesville, Virginia and Manhattan, Kansas later this month, on February 23. Normally it would not be especially newsworthy, except that the carrier began both routes only three months ago. According to the airline demand for the flights was not high enough.

Photo courtesy Air France.

Photo courtesy Air France.

Cocoon in the sky: Is what Air France says its new business class product is like. The new product, being installed on the carrier’s fleet of Boeing 777s, will feature full lie-flat in a 1-2-1 configuration. It is the same exact seat presently used by American Airlines and Cathay Pacific in their new business class cabins. If it is anything like either carrier it should be an excellent starting point. Perhaps we’ll have to give it a fly to see how it goes from there.

More Mesa: Mesa Air Group will be adding four more CRJ-900 aircraft to fly on behalf of US Airways, according to a report by Dallas Morning News. Mesa presently flies 47 of the airplanes for US, which will uptick to 51 once the new four join the fleet.

Mesa is one of a number of carriers that support regional flying for US including Air Wisconsin, Chautauqua, Republic, and Skywest. The carrier, now a subsidiary of American Airlines, also has two of its own wholly-owned regional airlines, PSA and Piedmont.

Taking a Stand: Flight Attendants at Spirit Airlines are taking a stand to improve their contracts. A majority of Flight Attendants, represented by the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA), voted against a tentative agreement with management as they are expecting more for their outstanding contributions to the profitable airline. More than 1,200 Flight Attendants will be surveyed by AFA to determine which issues matter most to the flight attendants.

And in case you missed it, we had a lot of exciting coverage right here on Airchive this week. Here’s what we have for you:

Weekend Rewind: A Look Back Into The Archive of Airchive’s Vault Of Aviation History – February 1st Edition

United Airlines Likely To De-Hub Cleveland

Houston: Korean Air is Coming Soon

Southwest Announces Post-Wright-Amendment Destinations At Dallas Love Field

Analysis: China Eastern Grows in the United States

Cleveland Responds to United’s Service Reductions

Japan Airlines Launches Vancouver-YVR’s First 787 Service

Airbus Reveals Hybrid Airbus/Qatar Livery as A350 XWB Testing Progresses

WestJet Posts 2013 Profit

A350 XWB Visits Launch Customer Qatar Airways in Doha

737 Production Line Goes to 42 and Silk Air Receives first Boeing 737

Checking in on the Southwest/AirTran Integration: San Juan

Air India 787 Diverts After Software Goes Glitchy

Planes vs. Trains: The Race from DC to NYC, Part 4

Contact the authors at jeremy.lindgren@airchive.com or jack.harty@gmail.com

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Planes Vs Trains: The Race from DC to NYC, Part Four

By Vinay Bhaskara & Jason Rabinowitz / Published February 4, 2014

*Editors note: The fourth installment in this four part series, we take a in-depth, deep-dive look at one of the most interesting transportation markets on the planet: New York to Washington DC. Long enough to fly, short enough to drive, the market is one of the more unique in the US if not the world. Today the race end as the Acela train is pitted against the air shuttle from DC back to NYC (note that the race was run back in September, 2013, and read part three, NYC to DC, here!). Read part one, on history, here!  Dive into the numbers behind the route and read part two here! 

The next morning I woke up at 5:30 am to try and get to the Capitol Building in time for our 8:15 am start. The Washington D.C. metro system is fantastic, or at least much cleaner and more comfortable than the New York City subway or the CTA trains in my new hometown of Chicago. Jason jumped onto his ten minute walk to Union Station, while I pulled out my phone and pinged the Uber app for a car. I suppose calling a car on Uber is the modern day facsimile of getting out on the street corner and hailing a taxi, but it’s much more convenient and guaranteed to accept credit cards, unlike most taxis in DC. Regardless, it only took me about 21 minutes to make it to the airport from downtown, though at that time of the day DC traffic is coming into the city from Virginia.

Jason’s Review – Acela Express WAS-NYC

On the way back from Washington to New York, we switched roles and I rode Amtrak’s Acela Express service. While Regan Airport may be close to the city center, Union Station is pretty much is the city center. The station is pretty much within walking distance of anything downtown, so catching a train right after a meeting is no problem.

Inside Union Station, a remarkable transit hub. (Credit: Jason Rabinowitz)

Inside Union Station, a remarkable transit hub. (Credit: Jason Rabinowitz)

Union Station is a beautiful transit hub, a truly classic rail terminal. High decorative ceilings, shops, and eateries make it an ideal place to spend some time before your train. Once at the gate for the 9am Acela, all the great points about the place are lost: Travelers are packed into a tiny waiting area with minimal seating, non-functional (but free) WiFi, and a looping security video. The boarding process did not begin until just a few minutes before the scheduled departure; however, we did depart on time.

Amtrak does not allow passengers on a later train to travel standby on an earlier train, even if there is room onboard. Several announcements were made that only passengers with a ticket for the 9am train would be allowed on board, with no mercy for those who arrived early. This is in stark contrast to the Delta Shuttle, where passengers on any later flight may fly standby for free if there are empty seats. This alone may be enough to convince passengers to fly.

Just like the Delta Shuttle, Amtrak uses an open seating policy. I decided to try out the quiet car towards the rear of the train, and settled into a window seat. The quiet car, marked with hanging signs from the ceiling, discourages any cell phone conversations, loud music, and dims the lights so passengers can get some sleep. This is a great amenity for those who want to rest, or focus on getting some work done on the journey.

With several different seating configurations, there is something for everyone on Acela. (Credit: Jason Rabinowitz)

With several different seating configurations, there is something for everyone on Acela. (Credit: Jason Rabinowitz)

My seat had plenty of legroom, a foot rest, massive tray (and stable) table, two 120V power outlets, and an overhead reading light. I could not possibly expect this level of comfort out of an economy class cabin on any airline running between New York and Washington, which gives the Acela a nice advantage. I was also able to set up my laptop and start working immediately after sitting down, all the way through arrival in New York. No wasting time waiting for 10,000 feet, and that provides Amtrak with a leg up in productivity. Because the shuttle flights are so quick, you are unlikely to get any work done.

Acela WiFi Speeds (Credit: Jason Rabinowitz)

Acela WiFi Speeds (Credit: Jason Rabinowitz)

Speaking of getting work done, passengers expect WiFi on this route, and Amtrak did not disappoint. While GoGo WiFi on the Delta Shuttle was available, it was quite slow and not free. Amtrak provides a free WiFi service, and the Acela was recently upgraded to a 4G connection that should theoretically be faster than GoGo. Amtrak WiFi relies on cellular carriers like AT&T and Verizon, so its coverage will only be as good as those services. I found the speeds to be pretty good, but that may be because they block all video and most streaming audio services. That is annoying, but for the greater good to ensure everyone gets decent speeds.

Amtrak arrives at Penn Station in midtown Manhattan, which is pretty much the opposite experience of Union Station. Dark, dingy, and generally overcrowded, Penn Station’s best quality is that it usually gets the job done. What Penn Station does provide, however, is direct access to the core of New York City, and you just can’t beat that. Taking a cab into midtown from LaGuardia could be quite a process in rush hour.

Vinay’s Review – US Airways Shuttle DCA-LGA

After disembarking at the far end of Terminal C (in front of gates 23-34), I walked down to the security checkpoint for gates 35-45. Regardless, I made it through security painlessly though not without waiting in a line for about fifteen minutes only subject myself to the trained monkey routine that is called “security” by the TSA. For someone who’s offended or annoyed by the process, I suppose that’s a point in favor of the train, but I don’t really mind the whole charade so it wasn’t awful. Still, the relative convenience of the Acela purely from a time perspective (given the variability in security waits), does merit mentioning as an attractive factor for those who travel the route frequently.

Inside Terminal C at Washington Reagan

Inside Terminal C at Washington Reagan

Once I cleared security, I had about an hour and a half left before my flight, so I made a beeline straight to the US Airways Club in Terminal C, which is nothing special, though certainly above average by US standards. At that time of the morning, after the early morning rush subsided, the club was relatively emptied, though it had begun to fill up rapidly by the time I left 45 minutes later. As far as the productivity factor for Acela over the Shuttle, the potential to get some work done in the lounge can offset that to some degree. Then again, as an international Star Alliance Gold member, I get free access to US Airways Clubs (a privilege I’ll be losing soon), so for those who have to pay the annual fee, it might not be that attractive of a perk. Regardless, with comfortable seating and plenty of outlets, I would have been able to get lots of work done. Since I had nothing urgent to work on that day in advance of several client calls that night, I instead settled down with a copy of The Economist and grabbed a bagel and some cereal for breakfast.

The US Airways Club at Reagan Terminal C

The US Airways Club at Reagan Terminal C

*Unrelated Tangent: My routine for flights has traditionally been to read the latest weekly edition of The Economist, while underneath the electronic device ceiling, and switch to other forms of passing the time once in the air. Looks like that will effectively end (at least the mandated part of it) thanks to the FAA.

They had one of those rolling bagel toasters (like the ovens you see at a Quiznos), and it was set too high, so the bagel came out almost burnt, but otherwise the food spread was decent. Certainly better than most domestic United Clubs (including the one that I frequent in Terminal 1 on Concourse B at O’Hare, where all you get are snacks. I think there’s a club in San Francisco where I saw a couple of pastries once, but much like United’s profits, they were marginal at best (rimshot?…. I kid… I Kid…). But regardless, the food spread was decent and I managed to get through around 70% of the magazine and a good chunk of The Wall Street Journal.

Snacks at the US Airways Club

Snacks at the US Airways Club

At t-minus 45, I left the lounge and went out to Gate 42, stopping to pick up brunch at California Tortilla. While in line, who happens to walk up but Scott Kirby, then president of US Airways and now president of American Airlines? For most people, seeing an airline executive up close in an airport is nothing special, but for avgeeks like me, it’s the equivalent of seeing Jack Nicholson at a Lakers game or Justin Bieber at a Heat game.

Boarding was relatively orderly, thanks to my Star Alliance Gold status (and thus early group access), and I settled into the aisle seat of the bulkhead on a full flight. Lacking my preferred window seat, I once again jumped into The Economist as we pulled back from the gate on time and waited in the customary fifteen minute line. Once we got in the air, the beverage service immediately began. Unlike the Delta Shuttle, the US Airways Shuttle does not feature free newspapers, though snacks, beer, and wine are all complimentary. Since it was the morning (and I don’t drink on flights anyway), I stuck to the snacks and my customary can of ginger ale as I thumbed through US Airways’ inflight magazine.

Once I finished the beverage service, I pulled out my phone and attempted to connect to GoGo’s inflight internet so that we could continue with the live tweeting of the race. No dice. So I tried again…. And again…. And again. After my fourth attempt, I gave it up settled down to try and take a nap after a late night with friends the previous evening and an early (at least contextually) morning in DC. Naturally, there was a baby with her mother seated to my left, and while there was no crying, the silence was overshadowed by the incessant kicking. Feeling magnanimous, I let it go and managed 25 minutes worth of fretful shut-eye before waking up when we touched down at La Guardia.

And then there was La Guardia. Unlike Jason, I was not flying out of the serene, Sky Club-esque Marine Air Terminal but rather Terminal C. Of course La Guardia as a whole is a dump, and that goes for every terminal there (though Delta is trying hard to change that), but I guess you could say that Terminal C is the common landfill to the Superfund site that is the Central Terminal Building. Being seated in the bulkhead, I was out the door within 15 minutes.

On the Ground in New York City

If the traffic gods smiled on Jason the day before, what I had to deal with would probably be described as mild frowning. The traffic was not awful but it was slow moving enough that I could see Jason steadily gaining on me on the Google Plus map. Because there were no delays for the Acela this time (and of course because Manhattan was unseasonably devoid of cars in mid-afternoon), the race came down to the wire, though I eventually made it to the NYSE around 8 minutes ahead of Jason.

Social Media Interaction

A key part of the race was the social media involvement. Airchive’s followers and other Social Media friends were invited to follow on Twitter (up against the 787-9’s first flight on the same day) using the hashtag #PlaneVsTrain, and the response was amazing. In addition to responses from Delta (through spokesperson) and Amtrak themselves, the #Avgeek community on Twitter became really invested in the train (rooting heavily for the plane of course), with over 1,000 tweets being sent using that hashtag over the course of the two day race. Though everyone followed along breathlessly to the finish, we didn’t reveal the winner, until now.

Race Conclusion/Implications and Future Predictions

While the plane won the race we were able to see why the Acela has become an extremely attractive option. In particular, the free WiFi and enhanced productivity (time isn’t tied up in boarding and deplaning or in flying under the 10,000 feet ceiling for) of the Acela, along with the option to avoid the TSA made the Acela a really attractive value proposition. Under normal conditions, of course the plane is still likely to win given its heavy speed advantage, but given the extreme variability of New York City traffic, the train can actually get there faster (as our second race showed). On the flip side, Jason made it to the airport so quickly before the Delta Shuttle that he could have stood by on the earlier flight, which would have torpedoed the race before it even started. So even today, there’s probably a clear advantage to the Shuttle.

But more importantly, the success of the Acela and its relative competitiveness bodes well for the future prospects of high speed rail in this country. Keep in mind of course that the Acela is nothing close to high speed rail with a maximum speed of 150 miles per hour, which is only achieved at select locations along the route due to rail gauge limitations. But if the Acela has been able to achieve success at this level despite only limited speeds, imagine what it could do if the proposed 220 miles per hour speed (targeted by 2040) was achieved? Therein lies the attractive potential of the Acela and thus the train

Moving forward, we believe that the balance of power will continue to shift towards the Acela Express, which is critical given that is the only profitable segment of Amtrak’s entire portfolio of services. US Airways will likely eventually reduce its services to 70 seat regional jets like Delta, and the two carriers will persist with the route at those levels. Given the corporate contracts tied to a presence on the route, neither Delta nor US Airways will be able to leave entirely. Still in the battle of Plane Vs. Train, it is the Train who appears to be the long term winner.

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