Category Archives: Inaugurals and First Flights

United Launches Second Daily Houston-Tokyo Flight

By Jack Harty / Published March 30, 2014

United Airlines launched its second daily flight between Houston and Tokyo??????????????????????????????? Naritia early Sunday morning. Fifteen years ago, United/Continental Airlines started flying between Houston and Tokyo.

One cannot forget the hard work of making this route a reality.

How the Route Became a Reality

In the late 1990s, there was a large competition over who would receive rights to fly from the United States mainland to Japan. Not only was it a growing market, U.S. airlines had been mostly shut out of the lucrative and restricted Japanese market. However, 69 U.S.-Japan weekly flights became available for the Department of Transportation (DOT) to dole out, and several airlines expressed their interest, including Continental.

Houston’s business and aviation community wanted a direct flight to Japan, and naturally saw this as their chance to turn a dream into a reality. When the DOT requested carriers to name the routes they most preferred to fly, Continental Airlines would only say it needed authority to fly daily flights from Newark and Houston.

On January 30, 1998, the United States and Japanese governments signed an agreement that would allow U.S. airlines to operate 90 new flights a week. However, the DOT would only allow 21 weekly flights to operate between the United States mainland and Japan on a 12-month temporary basis.

American, Continental and Delta all won seven weekly flights. American launched flights between Chicago and Tokyo on May 1, 1998, followed by Delta, operating Atlanta-Tokyo, on June 3, 1998.

Continental, however, had to make a decision. Would it fly to Tokyo daily from Houston or from Newark. Or would it alternate flights between the two cities?

Two weeks later, Continental selected its Newark hub to operate its initial U.S. mainland flights to Tokyo in order to stay competitive in the New York City market. Although this was a major let down for Houston, Continental spokeswoman Karla Taylor Villalon told the AP at the time that “We have every belief that Continental and Houston will be awarded more (weekly flights),” and she went on to say that Continental planned to launch flights to Tokyo from Houston the following December, despite not knowing if the city would receive approval to do so.

Thankfully Villalon proved right, and later the same year Continental was awarded service to launch daily flights to Houston. This would be Houston’s first and only non-stop flight to Asia.

Continental launched flights between Newark and Tokyo on November 30, 1998 with its brand new Boeing 777-200.

Two months later, Continental Airlines flew its first flight from Houston to Tokyo on January 31, 1999. A large event was held at George Bush Intercontinental Airport to celebrate the new route. Several dozen company executives, federal, state and local dignitaries and business leaders attended the launch party. Speeches were given, a Shinto priest blessed the aircraft, a ribbon was cut, and Continental flight 7 was sent off to Tokyo.

For fifteen years, the lone flight from Houston to Tokyo has departed each morning as Continental/United flight 7 through rain, snow, sleet, and shine. And sure enough, every day the Boeing 777-200 returned to Houston in the early afternoon.

The New Flight

In November 2013, United begin a second daily flight between Houston and Tokyo in spring 2014 when it announced plans to launch flights to Munich from Houston on April 24, 2014.

“The new flights from Houston further expand United’s unmatched route network and offer additional travel opportunities with our joint venture partners ANA and Lufthansa,” said Cheryl Reed, United’s Houston regional sales director. “In addition to adding more nonstop service from Houston, the flights are conveniently timed to provide one-stop connections at the hub from destinations across the Americas.”

“United is pleased to offer Houston-area travelers more flights to more of the world than any other airline,” said Stephanie Buchanan, United’s vice president of the Houston hub. “Besides adding additional nonstop flights from Houston, both the Tokyo and the Atlantic City services are conveniently timed to provide one-stop connections at the hub to and from destinations across the Americas.”

United flight 1 will depart Bush Intercontinental at 9 AM and arrive at Tokyo’s Naritia International Airport at 12:35 PM the next day. The return flight, United 2, will depart Tokyo at 6:55 PM and arrive in Houston at 4:55 PM the same day.

The existing flight to Tokyo, United flight 7, departs Bush Intercontinental at 10:55 AM and arrives at Tokyo’s Naritia International Airport at 2:30 PM the next day. The return flight, United 6, departs Tokyo at 3:45 PM and arrives in Houston at 1:40 PM the same day.

​The flight times are set up to offer “convenient round-trip connections at Narita to the airline’s flights to Guam, Seoul and Singapore, as well as to flights operated by United’s joint-venture partner ANA to 19 destinations in Asia, including Bangkok, Hong Kong, Jakarta and Taipei,” according to a press release.

Both flights are operated by a Boeing 777-200. The aircraft has 267 seats with 50 in United BusinessFirst and 217 (including 72 Economy Plus seats) in United Economy.

Related: United launches new service between San Francisco and Taipei, Taiwan this weekend.

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

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United Launches San Francisco-Taipei Flights

By Jack Harty / Published March 29, 2014

It’s a busy weekend for United. This afternoon, United Airlines is launching new flights between San Francisco and Taipei, and tomorrow, it will launch its second daily flight between Houston and Tokyo.

Saturday’s inaugural flight to Taipei marks the beginning of a small transpacific expansion in San Francisco. On June 9, the airline will launch flights to Chengdu, China which will make United the first U.S. carrier to offer nonstop service from San Francisco to mainland China beyond Beijing, Shanghai.

However, United is not just growing its San Francisco hub with new flights. It is making several changes to its updates, and it recently completed a $138 million overhaul of Terminal 3’s boarding area E from what had been an otherwise “hum-drum concourse” into one of the nations top concourses.

RELATED: San Francisco International Airport and United Airlines to Open Renovated T3

“With the most extensive route network, the broadest alliances and hubs in the largest U.S. cities, United offers travelers more choices to more of the world than any other U.S. airline,” said Jim Compton, United’s vice chairman and chief revenue officer. “The new Taipei and Tokyo services strengthen our commitment to the Pacific, where United is already the leading U.S. carrier, and to the San Francisco and Houston hubs.”

Back in July 2012, United announced that it would launch 10 new routes, including San Francisco to Taipei, Taiwan. The start date was supposed to be April 9, 2013. However, April 9, 2013 came and went, and the carrier announced that it would launch flights on June 6. However, United postponed the start date to March 29, 2014. According to Airline Route, the two delays were due to “market seasonality and the availability of widebody aircraft as a result of the ongoing Boeing 787 delays.”

The new flight, United flight 871, will depart San Francisco daily at 1:50 PM and arrive in Taipei at 6:30 PM the next day. For the return, flight 872 will depart Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport daily at 11:10 AM and arrive at San Francisco International Airport at 7:30 AM the same day. (All times are local.)

United will operate the new flight to Taipei with a Boeing 777-200 aircraft. The aircraft will offer 269 seats – eight in United Global First, 40 in United BusinessFirst and 221 in United Economy, including 113 extra-legroom United Economy Plus seats.

Related: United launches 2nd daily flight between Houston and Tokyo

Jack Harty reported this story. You can contact him at Jack.Harty@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.

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

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British Airways Begins Service to Austin, TX

By Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Published March 3, 2014
*Updated 3/4/14 @ 1248ET with photos from BA

Jack Plunkett/AP Images for British Airways

Jack Plunkett/AP Images for
British Airways

British Airways inaugurated service to Austin, Texas from its London Heathrow hub on Monday. It is the first intercontinental non-stop flight for the small city.

British Airways 191 is set to land in several hours’ time, just shy of 5PM central time . Operated by a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the jet is outfitted in a three class cabin including business, premium economy, and economy. The airplane is expected to head back to London around 7PM local time. The flight will initially operate five times weekly before going daily on May 5th.

“British Airways sees a great opportunity to make a connection between the vibrant cities of London and Austin,” said Sean Doyle, EVP Americas, British Airways in a prepared statement. “Both cities have rich histories, brilliant arts and music scenes, and bright futures. Equally important, today’s flight connects Austin…to London, Europe and beyond.”

The latter is particularly noteworthy. As pointed out by Airchive’s Vinay Bhaskara when the route was announced, the flight will prove valuable in tapping into the 20,000+ people who travel from the peculiar Texas city to Europe every year.

Beyond Europe, the route is also expected to generate noteworthy traffic to secondary Indian cities. The new flight will allow for one-stop service, shaving over three hours off of prior two-stop itineraries to cities such as Bangalore, Chennai, and Hyderabad.

Chief among them is Bangalore, which shares strong connections with Austin via IT and tech industries. Bhaskara estimates that between eight and ten high-yield business class passengers travel between the two cities daily alone.

More broadly, thanks to its tech-heavy businesses, over 40% of the Austin long-haul traffic is business-related. The high figure conveniently leads to an outsized share of high-yield passengers, which helps to explain how a rather small secondary city managed to land a intercontinental flight with a first tier carrier.

Image Courtesy: British Airways

Image Courtesy: British Airways

Even still, it is extremely likely that the route would not have been possible without the Dreamliner. Thanks to its significantly improved economics, the airplane is touted as being perfect to test-run new long-haul, thin traffic routes such as Austin.

PHOTOS: British Airways 787 cabin

While British has gotten a bit adventurous with the jet by opening routes like Austin and Chengdu, China, the airplane has been primarily utilized as a Boeing 767 replacement. Right out of the gate, the jet was used to replace the 767 on service to Toronto. It will soon be placed on London-Calgary and London-Philadelphia, both of which are also served by 767s.

British Airways presently has four Dreamliners in service. The fleet will eventually grow to forty-two of the airplane, split between -8s, -9s, and -10s. The bulk will be received by 2016, with the remained anticipating delivery between 2018 and 2020.

Related Posts:

Onboard British Airways A380 Familiarization Flight

British Airways Double Delivery Event (A380/787)

British Airways Takes Deliver of Its First 787

 

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United’s First 787-9 Route Announcement

By Jack Harty / Published February 19, 2014

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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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United Completes First Passenger Flight With Split Scimitar Winglets

By Jack Harty / Published February 15, 2014

UPDATED: February 18, 2014 at 4:20PM EST. This update includes information about the first passenger flight with Split Scimitar Winglets that was completed on Tuesday, February 18.

United Airlines has installed Split Scimitar Winglets on a Boeing 737-800 (N37277) aircraft at its Orlando maintenance base. On Tuesday, United Airlines became the first airline in the world to fly a passenger flight with Split Scimitar Winglets. Flight 1273 from Houston to Los Angeles was the first flight.

Track it here on Flight Aware:

http://flightaware.com/live/flight/UAL1273

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The first United 737-800 with Split Scimitar Winglets about to depart on a ferry flight from Orlando to Houston Monday night.
Photo used with permission/taken by Westley Bencon

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A United Boeing 737-800 flying over Washington operating a Split Scimitar Winglet Test Flight
Photo courtesy of APB

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The first United 737-800 wearing its new Split Scimitar Winglets in United’s Orlando Hangar
Photo by CALTECH/Featured on netAirspace.com

A Brief History of Winglets

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First Boeing 737NG with Blended Winglets
Image courtesy of Boeing

Through a joint venture between Boeing and Aviation Partners Boeing, the Blended Winglet was introduced in the late 1990s, and the first 737 aircraft with the Blended Winglet debuted on March 25, 2001.

In 2011, Aviation Partners Boeing (APB) released the design of the new Split Scimitar Winglet design. The new design was developed for the 737MAX program, and a retrofit program for 737NG aircraft was introduced in early-2013. Testing of the new design began in August 2012 when a 737 Boeing Business Jet was retrofitted. According to Flightglobal, “APB founder Joe Clark said that analysis from last year indicated a 2.5 to 3% reduction in fuel consumption for 737NGs.”

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A KLM MD-11 Winglet
Photo by Chris Sloan / Airchive.com

However, this was not the first Split Scimitar Winglet concept. When the MD-11 was introduced in the mid-1980s, it was rolled out with a winglet above and below the wing.

A split-tip winglet design was also proposed for the McDonnell Douglas MD-12, but McDonnell Douglas opted not to build the MD-12.

Now, fast forward to July 2013. Aviation Partners Boeing leased a United Boeing 737-800 aircraft to test and certify the Split Scimitar Winglets for a retrofit program. Earlier this month, the FAA certified the new design and the retrofit program. Later this year, United will work with APB once again to get certification to install the new design on  Boeing 737-900ER aircraft.

Why are they so special?

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Courtesy of Aviation Partners Boeing

Boeing and Aviation Partners Boeing say that Split Scimitar Winglets will have a significant reduction in aircraft drag over the basic blended winglet configuration.

Boeing and APB expect that once United retrofits their fleet it, United will have an additional 2% fuel savings for their 737 aircraft with an annual $200 million savings in jet fuel costs. United also plans to retrofit their 757 and 767 fleets with the new winglets.

Installation Process

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A United Boeing 737-800 with Split Scimitar Winglets
Photo courtesy of United Airlines

When retrofitting an aircraft, the Blended Winglets are removed, and an a new aerodynamically shaped “Scimitar” TM winglet tip cap is installed. Plus, a new Scimitar tipped Ventral Strake is installed below the wing.

First Passenger Flight

United completed the first passenger flight with Split Scimitar Winglets Tuesday afternoon from Houston IAH to Los Angeles as United 1273.

*This story will continue to be updated.

*Cover photo courtesy Westley Bencon

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

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Japan Airlines Launches Vancouver-YVR’s First 787 Service

By Howard Slutsken / Published February 4, 2014

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Japan Airlines Flight #18 taxiing after landing at YVR. Photo: Howard Slutsken

Vancouver International Airport’s self-proclaimed “Year of the Dreamliner” began yesterday morning with the arrival of Japan Airlines Flight #18 from Tokyo-Narita airport. The inaugural 787-8 touched down on YVR’s Runway 08L at 9:52 am (PT), a few minutes ahead of its scheduled 10:00 am arrival time, after an 8 hour, 45 minute flight.

The weather was clear and sunny, but it was too chilly in Vancouver for the traditional “water-cannon” greeting of a new aircraft.  Once the plane was parked at the gate, there was an official ribbon-cutting ceremony, hosted by Takayuki Kobayashi, Vice President of Canada, Japan Airlines, along with special guests from the Governments of British Columbia and Japan, the Vancouver Airport Authority, and Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

Japan Airlines has been serving the Vancouver since 1968. Its new 787 service will replace the carrier’s Boeing 767-300 currently on the route. The Dreamliner will initially fly on Mondays, moving to daily service over the next month.

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YVR’s first 787 arrival turns in to its gate.
Photo: Howard Slutsken

Vancouver has direct flights to Tokyo on both JAL and Air Canada. But both carriers will see increased competition on the route on March 30, when All Nippon Airlines (ANA) joins the party with daily 767-300 service from Tokyo’s convenient Haneda Airport (HND). This will be ANA’s first flight to any Canadian destination. It’s interesting that JAL made their 787 announcement not long after ANA said they were going to begin flying to YVR.

ANA’s Star Alliance partner, Air Canada, will increase Canadian service to HND from Toronto (YYZ) this summer, with the inaugural daily flight of AC’s 787-8 on July 1. This flight will complement AC’s current YYZ-NRT, 777-300 flight. Air Canada also flies to Narita from Calgary, three times-per-week, using 767-300s.

The new services to Haneda Airport are thanks to a new air agreement signed last fall between Canada and Japan, allowing for direct flights between HND and Canadian destinations. This augments the current “open skies agreement” already in place between the two countries.

Japan Airlines’ inaugural 787 Flight #17 to Narita departed the gate on time, at 1:00 pm (PT). Without the benefit of the trans-Pacific eastbound flights’ usual jetstream tailwinds, the westbound YVR-NRT flight time is 10 hours, 30 minutes.

About the author:

Howard ready to go gliding  in an LS-4 in Minden, NV

Howard ready to go gliding
in an LS-4 in Minden, NV

Howard Slutsken has been an AvGeek since he was a kid, watching Trans-Canada Airlines Super Connies, Viscounts, Vanguards & DC-8s at Montreal’s Dorval Airport in the early ’60s. He worked at Toronto International Airport in the 1970′s as a “Ramp Rat”, and got his Private Pilot’s licence in 1979. He’s added floatplane and glider ratings along the way. Howard will pretty well drop everything if he gets an opportunity to go flying in just about any kind of aircraft. Howard is based in Vancouver BC, where he operates his Communications and Marketing Support company, Wingborn Ltd. He’s also Senior Contributor for AirlineReporter.com.

@HowardSlutsken |  Flikr | howard.slutsken@gmail.com

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In-Flight Review: American Airlines Inaugural Airbus A321T LAX-JFK

By Chris Sloan / Published January 7, 2013
Photos by author / slideshow at bottom

BdZ3aDHIMAItrRgNEW YORK JFK: American Airlines officially upped the ante in the high stakes, high yield LAX-JFK transcontinental wars Tuesday with the launch of its long-awaited Airbus A321T.

This latest inaugural, just one month after consummating its merger with US Airways, caps off a period of extensive fleet changes for the carrier. The Embraer ERJ-175Airbus A319, and Boeing 777-300ER all joined the fleet as the newly merged carrier continues on its path toward the largest fleet renewal in commercial aviation history.

The process began in January 2011 with the 777-300ER order and the record 460 aircraft order in July 2011 for 200 Boeing 737-800s and 260 A319s and A321s.

Ever since, American (AA) has averaged a delivery of one new aircraft per week. The airline received its first A321T in November and  the company unveiled the airplane to the press and high-value customers at LAX and JFK late last month. Familiarization flights between the two cities began shortly thereafter.

With five A321T’s in the fleet at present, AA is initially operating two roundtrips per day between the two cities. The A321Ts, which are replacing the ancient 767-200s, will be joined later in the year by standard new-build A321s that are designed to replace the Boeing 757-200s. Down the road, 93 A321s (as well as 17 outstanding orders) will come over from US Airways once the merger is completed. This review covers the inaugural flight 118, scheduled for a 7AM departure.

Extra: Apollo 11 – Inside American Airlines Landmark Airbus Order

Extra: American Airlines Massive Fleet Renewal and Delivery of First Airbus A319

AA-Mercury-NonStop-November-1-1953Historically, American has been a market leader and pioneer in the transcontinental market. It has operated between the two cities, LA and NYC, almost since its founding. It launched the first non-stop transcontinental flights in 1953, and in January of 1959 upgraded the routes to Boeing 707s, the first carrier to use jets domestically in  continuous service.

At one time, big jets such as Boeing 747s and Douglas DC-10s were mainstays on AA’s JFK-LAX/SFO transcon flights, but by the late 1990s, these flights were dominated and eventually operated solely by the Boeing 767-200.

Lacking personal seat-back in-flight entertainment even in premium cabins, and lie-flat sleeper seats the product has remained unchanged from the 1990s. The only real innovations in recent years have been the Samsung Galaxy tablets handed out to premium cabin customers and GoGo wi-fi (AA was first, in 2008)

American launched the first regularly scheduled jet service, 55 years ago in January 1959. The New York IDL-LAX route was chosen.

American launched the first regularly scheduled continuous domestic jet service, 55 years ago in January 1959. The New York IDL-LAX route was chosen.
Image from: Airchive collection

The air travel market between the Los Angeles area and New York City is, by far, the most lucrative in the United States. The bi-directional origin and destination (O&D) market was worth $389.5 million in the second quarter of 2013 alone. Of this, close to two thirds, or $234.4 million flies between the primary two airports: LAX and JFK.

Despite previously operating the oldest equipment with dated passenger experience on the route, AA is still indisputably the market leader on the JFK-LAX route in O&D with 27.2% of the market, followed by Delta with 22.7%. The other three main carriers are all clustered around 15% market share (all figures from Q1 2013).

This is clearly due to two main factors. First, American is the only carrier operating a true three-class cabin with First / Business / Economy service in the market. And they also offer the most frequency in the market with Delta, United, jetBlue and Virgin America (tied) trailing in that order. With the decreased capacity of the narrow-bodied A321 fleet’s 102 seats versus the 767′s 168 seats it’s replacing, American’s frequency will further increase by four flights per day (from the current summer peak of nine) to thirteen between the city-pair from June 11, 2014 onwards. Schedule wise, JFK-LAX will be an almost hourly service in the morning and late afternoon/early evening, while LAX-JFK flights will feature a near hourly shuttle from early morning through late afternoon. The late evening flights out of JFK and red-eyes out of LAX will be retained.

Extra: The Transcon Wars – The Ultimate Airline Battleground

A321T flights between JFK and SFO will begin in March, eventually replacing the 767 on all five frequencies. On JFK-SFO, surprisingly the market share leader is  Virgin America, who slots in just ahead of United with a 21.3% O&D market share. United, Delta, and American are all clustered not far behind, with 21.2%, 21.1%, and 20.3% O&D market share respectively. JetBlue again brings up the rear with 12.8% of the market.

AA’s elderly wide-body Boeing 767-200s are configured with 10 First Class seats, 30 Business Class, and 128 in Main Cabin Economy Class. In comparison, the new narrow-body Airbus A321T offers 10 First Class seats, 20 Business Class seats, 36 Main Cabin Extra, and 36 standard Main Cabin Economy Class seats. First Class seat pitch remains the same in both aircraft at 62″, but the new A321 seats are true lie-flat beds at 82.5″ long in a spacious 1-1 configuration that feels more like an executive jet. On the A321T, Business Class pitch increases to 58″ in a 2-2 configuration from 49″/50″ on the 762. The B/E Aersopace designed seats on the A321 fold out to a lie-flat bed as well at 75-78″ instead of the reclining cradle seats on the older Boeing. Main Cabin Extra pitch is 35″-37″ on the A321 for the Recaro designed slimline seats. Main Cabin pitch is the same between both at 31″-32″ with both cabin in a standard narrow-body 3-3 configuration. Seat width is nearly the same between the two aircraft with the A321T holding a slight edge of .5″ to 1″.

First Class Cabin Pre-Board of AA Airbus A321 Inaugural  - 2013 - 6Business Class Cabin Pre-Board of AA Airbus A321 Inaugural  - 2013 - 1   Business Class Cabin Pre-Board of AA Airbus A321 Inaugural  - 2013 - 3Main Cabin Pre-Board of AA Airbus A321 Inaugural  - 2013 - 2

Extra: American Airlines Boeing 767-200 Cabin Images

Extra: American Airlines to Retire the Boeing 767-200 on May 7, 2014

Airchive business analyst Vinay Bhaskara reports the shift to the smaller A321 results in a capacity decrease of 186 seats per day, or 12.3%, in each direction. First Class capacity will actually increase a whopping 44.4% to 130 seats per day each way, perhaps accounting for residual demand from United’s elimination of First Class from its P.S. offering on the route. Business Class capacity is essentially flat, dipping 3.7% to 260 passengers per day each way, while Economy Class sees the biggest drop of 18.8%.

The 767-200s were nice, but the A321 makes them look very dated (because they sort of are...) Photo by Chris Sloan.

The 767-200s were nice, but the A321 makes them look very dated (because they sort of are…) Photo by Chris Sloan.

The A321T hard product is a major upgrade over its Jurassic predecessor. Every seat onboard features seat-back entertainment via the Thales TopSeries and its slick Android inspired GUI; very similar to that found in the A319,  777-300ER, and most recent 737-800 deliveries. It boasts up to 200 movies, 180 TV programs, more than 350 audio selections, up to tweny games, and 3-D moving maps. The full swath of entertainment is included in the premium cabins, while there will be a $4 charge for most of the VOD movies and TV series in Main Cabin as is now custom in the new domestic fleet.

First and Business Cabins boast an HD 15.4″ screen while economy’s screens measure 8.9″. Individual AC power outlets and USB jacks are available at every seat throughout the aircraft as well. Wi-Fi has been upgraded to Gogo’s ATG-4 service, though this is not of the same speed or caliber of KA-satellite based solutions.

Extra: American Airlines A319 / A321T Thales TopSeries Screen Captures

Extra: In-Flight Review of American Airlines’ Inaugural Boeing 777-300ER 

Extra: In-Flight Review of American Airlines’ Inaugural Airbus A319

Though it is a mostly symbolic move, American’s introduction of the A321T is just the first step in the coming shift in the balance of power towards the A321 in the US market. Currently, US carriers operate 453 passenger Boeing 757-200s, and 124 Boeing 737-900s (both ER and non-ER – as well as 176 NGs and 117 MAX 9s on order). However, many of these 757s are slated for retirement (close to 300 – basically the non-international 757s that operating trans-Atlantic and South American routes for the legacy carriers & AA will use new regular A321s to replace 757s reportedly beginning with routes from the West Coast to Hawaii). Meanwhile, US Airways operates 93 A321s (with 17 on order), American has five A321s on property (with an additional 190 – 60x ceo, 130x neo on order), Spirit Airlines operates two (with 30 on order), JetBlue operates four (with 79 more on order), and Hawaiian Airlines has sixteen A321neos on order.  When all of the orders are filled for both types, the A321ceo/neo will be the most operated large narrowbody in the US, narrowly edging out the 737-900/MAX 9 with 431 frames versus 417, a massive shift from the current status.

Business Class is the heart of this premium high-yield market so we booked seat 12D in the intimate 20-seat Business Cabin to review the new product ourselves.

The Flight

The morning started off bright and early. I arrived at LAX around 5:00AM local time to American’s elite Flagship Check-in. The folks at the premium cabin only ticket counter (which has its own special entrance) quickly squared away my reservation, handed me a ticket, and personally escorted me to security.

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The walk to Gate 40 in Terminal 4 was short. The terminal was crowded with people going home from yesterday’s BCS bowl game, reminding me more of a zoo than an airport. Unlike many inaugural flights I have attended, there were no special decorations or acknowledgements of this new milestone (I later found out a celebration had been planned, but was scrapped due to concerns that it would look insensitive in light of the weather.

Boarding commenced approximately on time. I boarded through the L1 door (generally it will be L2 to preserve first class exclusivity), and made my way to my seat in the swank new business class cabin. Upon passing through the first class cabin I noticed a special compartment for pets, as the first class product does not have any under seat storage (same as AAs 777-300).

Before taking my seat in 7D I noticed that each seat had a complimentary SWAG bag, filled with a T-Shirt, DVD, and 500 AAdvantage miles. While settling in, the preflight customary champagne and water were offered as the cabin power flickered on and off. Best to get the jitters out of the way early, I suppose.

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Once power was solidly established the airplane’s mood lighting was turned on. Shades of blue and purple swept over the cabin, eliciting ohs and ahs throughout the airplane. Our friendly crew excitedly thanked us for being on board the inaugural flight, and pointed out that for many it was their first time working on board the airplane. We pushed back at 7:03AM, taxied for awhile across the vast LAX landscape, and leapt into the sky 19 minutes later at 7:22AM.

Once aloft the flight generally proceeded like any other. One hour into the flight, Fern Fernandez, AA’s Vice President of Global Marketing, gave a spirited champagne and cupcake toast (Fernandez later gave up his business seat to an employee, taking his seat at the back of economy). After which, our breakfast service began.

Our two flight attendants (there are two in each cabin for six total, instead of the nine on the old 762) busily worked the cabin, delivering our breakfast choices. My choice consisted of tasty a gruyere fontina cheese omelette and chicken apple sausage, red pepper potatoes, and chicken apple sausage. It was superbly delicious. Other options included Belgian waffles along with cereal and yogurt.

While our meal in business might have come with the fare, all passengers on board wound up receiving free food and drinks on board the flight. Typically those in main cabin extra or the main cabin would have the option of buying off the menu.

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Once I had finished the delicious breakfast I turned my attention to the seat, and promptly fell asleep. It was exceptionally comfortable. I set one of my electronics to power up, but was dismayed by the awkward location of the AC and USB power ports, both located near my head.

After my much needed and very enjoyable nap, it was time to mess around with the inflight entertainment system (IFE). All entertainment, in all classes of service, is free on the A321T (in contrast to the AA A319 and 737 where it is not in Y). The Thales powered, Android GUI based system had an incredibly quick response time – one of the faster I’ve ever seen.

While most choices mirrored a predictable set of choices ranging from movies to TV to music, two options in particular stuck out to me. The first was a sort of e-reader. It functioned much like a Kindle, offering a selection of reading material, which is certainly unique. The other was the moving maps function. Normally pretty unexciting, I found it to be mind blowing with pinching like a smart phone and multiple views including cockpit and wingman which displays heading, ground speed, and altitude. Who needs anything else on the IFE? Very AvGeek and cool. Regardless of your choice, you could listen to it via the set of spiffy three-pronged Bose headsets passed out to each premium passenger.

Thales IFE Business Class on AA Airbus A321 Inaugural  - 2013 - 13 BdYla0rIQAAiqw8

The system can be controlled via touch screen or by a very nifty universal remote. The remote also controls flight attendant call and overhead seat lights but doesn’t completely control the IFE, which is annoying as you have to reach far forward. #firstworldproblems.

Ultimately, however, I thought the IFE set a new standard (more photos in the slideshow, below).

As the flight neared its final hour cookies were provided, along with a selection of snacks including chips, candy, and fruit. Thanks to the weather, it was a very bumpy approach below 10k feet – not quite as smooth as the larger 767-200 it will replace.

Our pilots greased the landing at 3:05EST to applause. Predictably, there was no water cannon salute, as it would have all frozen to the airplane with the 10 degree temperature. We blocked into the gate at 3:15PM. And thus a wonderful flight came to an end.

SLIDESHOW: Click to advance

Another point of significance not lost on the day was when American Airlines and US Airways  made the significant step of allowing both airline’s customer’s miles to be earned and redeemed in the AAdvantage and Dividends loyalty programs. Billed as “Customer Day One”, the changes involve primarily premium passengers, who besides linked loyalty programs, also can use either lounge, access to preferred seats, and combined ticket counters (for more see our story here).  This is the first major customer-facing change resulting from the merger.

And just a month following the completion of its merger with US Airways to form the world’s largest airline, American is clearly on a quest to become what new CEO Doug Parker says is to become “the world’s best airline” with the new A321T product being a significant factor. The Transcon Wars have only begun, however as jetBlue launches its new premium Mint and updated Core product in June followed by Delta’s new BusinessElite Cabin in July. United completed its conversion to its new P.S. product on the 757-200 platform last month. This leaves the innovative and customer friendly Virgin America left, who is now the only transcon player in the market without lie-flat seats in the market, to respond.

What is clear, however, it that AA’s quest to be the top airline in the US has found a good direction in the A321T. Our vote? It’s the new best-in-class.

Additional Stories and Galleries

AA / US Merger – What Comes Next?

Onboard a SpeciAAl 777-300 Delivery Flight

American Airlines Vintage Sales Brochures and Memorabilia

American Airlines Timetables and Route Maps Over The Years

American Airlines C.R. Smith Museum Gallery

* Cover & top photo by Jason Rabinowitz / Airchive

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End of an Era: Delta’s DC-9 Completes Final Scheduled Flight

By Jack Harty / Published January 6, 2014

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The two pilots for flight 2014 complete final checks on the flightdeck before the last departure of the DC-9.

ATLANTA, GA: Appropriately tagged as Delta flight 2014, the last scheduled U.S. commercial DC-9 flight landed at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport at 7:32PM EST. The touchdown of flight 2014 marks the end of the DC-9′s 48 year career of scheduled commercial flight in the United States. Although saying farewell to the airplane is bittersweet for aviation enthusiasts, the final flight is a welcome step for Delta as they continue a trend of replacing older aircraft with newer, more efficient frames.

A small but vibrant ceremony complete with balloons and cake greeted passengers in Minneapolis as they arrived for an otherwise mundane flight to Atlanta. The significance of the final flight number, 2014, along with the penultimate flight number of 1965, did not go unnoticed by many. Any DC-9 fan can tell you the airplane entered service in ’65, leaving today in 2014.

And there were no shortage of ‘Dirty-Niner’ (the plane has several nicknames), fans on hand. Dozens of DC-9 enthusiasts traveled from across the US for one last ride, many trekking through the deep freeze that has gripped the nation over the past few days. They gathered at the gate and on board, swapping stories, taking photos, and otherwise basking in the glory of being one of the last to fly aboard the cozy two-three configured cabin.

The two hour flight passed quickly once aloft, and was decidedly low-key. The high moment came when a bottle, or two, of champagne was passed around the cabin. A toast to the airplane was made, after which it was back to business as usual on board. The flight landed on time in a comparatively warm Atlanta, effectively ending 48 years of scheduled passenger flights in the US.

A nod to the airplane’s days plying the skies over the North Central US, the last two flights made sure to work in former Northwest DC-9 hubs Detroit DTW and Minneapolis/St. Paul MSP. It was perhaps fitting, then, that the airplane made its last visit to both as temperatures plunged well below zero, conditions the venerable aircraft had faced on a daily basis for years.

The airplane has finally been phased out as newer airplanes, such as the Boeing 717, join the ranks of the Delta fleet. The carrier has embarked on an ambitious, albeit unorthodox, fleet renewal plan as of late. Many smaller and older regional jets, such as the DC-9 and CRJ-200s are being replaced by larger and more efficient 717s and CRJ900s. New Boeing 737-900 airplanes will begin replacing older 757-200s. Down the road, orders for fresh airplanes, mostly from Airbus for  A321 & A330 types, will join the fleet as well. The combination of leveraging both used and new airplanes to realize profits has made the airline a unique case as competitors gun for the latest and greatest on the production lines instead.

Despite the final flight today, the airplane will continue to serve Delta for up to two more weeks on an ad hoc basis. Come the end of the month, it will be gone for good.

Slideshow! (click to advance)

EXTRA:Delta DC-9 Photos

The legendary past of the Dirty-Niner

When the DC-9 began service in 1965 the 737 was three years away, Lyndon Johnson was in the White House, the Ford Mustang had just been introduced, the United States was in Vietnam, the price of a Coke was 10-15 cents, the population of America was 194,302,963, there were three networks, the internet was still thirty years into the future, and the 727 only entered service a year before (with Eastern in 1964). Prior to ’65, there was an increasing need for an aircraft for for frequent short-range flights to small airports with short runways. Consequently, Douglas started developing the DC-9 in 1962, and Delta flew the very first passenger flight on December 8, 1965. Without any serious competition, the Dirty Niner quickly became the backbone of Delta’s short-haul fleet.

Everets Air Cargo DC-9, one of only a handful remaining. Photo courtesy jplphoto.

Everets Air Cargo DC-9, one of only a handful remaining. Photo courtesy jplphoto.

From 1965 to 1982, Douglas delivered a total of 972 DC-9s in eleven different variations to dozens of airlines and government organizations around the world. As of August 2013, there were 90 DC-9 aircraft in commercial service worldwide. USA Jet Airlines (a charter company in the United States), Everets Air Cargo, Aeronaves, TSM, Aserca Airlines, LASER Airlines, Fly Sax, African Express Airways, and a few other small operators still fly the DC-9.

Delta flew the DC-9-10 and DC-9-30 Series from 1965 to 1993. They started taking delivery of the Boeing 737-200 in 1983 which eventually allowed Delta to phase out their entire DC-9 fleet. However, the DC-9 re-joined Delta’s fleet when they merged with Northwest Airlines in 2008. Northwest acquired their DC-9s from Republic Airlines in 1986.

Extra: A DC-9 Flight for the History Books and A Look Back

Since it entered service 49 years ago, only the DC-8, 707, and DC-3 have matched this longevity for passenger service. However, the DC-9 has lasted the longest of any commercial airliner ever built in frontline, mainline service. In the time the DC-9 has been plying the skies over the US the country has faced three major wars, nine US Presidents, and population growth to 317 million, all while Delta went from a smallish trunk line to the second largest airline in the world.

Delta did not necessarily start with all of their DC-9s, however. Through the process of acquisition and mergers, the airplanes flew for regional and full services carriers alike, such as North Central, Southern, Hughes AirWest, Republic, and Northwest. During this time, Delta also purchased Western (1986) and Northeast (1973). All told, the carrier has operated 305 DC-9 aircraft since 1965, despite phasing out the airplanes by 1994 until its merger in 2008 with Northwest. Based on a 65% average load factor, Delta estimates they have flown about one billion passengers on the DC-9.

Today’s airplane, N773NC, first flew in 1978, delivering to North Central in 1978, and it flew for Republic in 1979. The plane began flying for Northwest Airlines in 1986, following the purchase of Republic. It later went on to operate for Delta in 2009 after the carrier merged with Northwest.

Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren in Seattle contributed to this report

EXTRA: A DC-9 veteran shares his experiences from years on the flightdeck: The Mighty DC-9

EXTRA: DC-9 Sales Brochure from 1970

This evening, we learned that Darren Booth of Frequently Flying passed away over the weekend. I would like to thank him for being a very nice and kind friend. In honor of his memory, I would like to dedicate this story to him. Rest in peace, Darren.

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Airchive’s Top Stories of 2013

By Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Published January 1, 2014

You chose them! The top ten most read stories of 2013 on Airchive.com!

10: The Bombardier CSeries Rolls Out but is it A Game Changer?  Our tenth most popular story, Bombardier’s CSeries rolled out to the world in March. It was the first clean-sheet airplane the company had put out in years.

9: Boeing 787 Dreamliner In the Hot Seat Again After Fire at Heathrow Airport Number nine was the Ethiopian 787 fire in London. The event sparked concerns that the battery debacle was not only still completely unsolved but in fact still alive and well.

8: British Airways Begins Long Haul 787 Operations British Airways began its 787 Dreamliner operations in early September, and for some reason the story drew huge numbers, pulling into spot number eight.

7: Grounded and Stranded: Where in the World are the Delivered Dreamliners? No surprise with number seven, as the Dreamliner grounding was one of the biggest stories of the year. Our timeline quickly became one of our most popular.

6: VIDEO: Breathtaking Boeing 747 Cockpit Scenes Who can resist an amazing video from inside the queen of the skies? Not our readers! Airchivers turned out in force for this video clip of a 747-400F flying the skies between Anchorage and Asia.

5: Flying Behind The Coconut Curtain: Cuba and Havana’s José Martí International Airport Our exceptionally rare look into Cuba’s main airport won the eyes of readers around the globe, placing fifth overall.

4: Delta’s first 717 Makes an Appearance; First 737-900ER Due Soon We’ll just say it, we have no idea why exactly Delta taking on the 717 was so popular. But the airplane for whatever drew tons of folks to the site to see first photos. Subsequent articles on the airplane came in the top twenty.

3: The SST-2707 and the 747; Unintentional Queen of the Skies Posted on the anniversary of its rollout 45 years ago, this story took a look at how the 747 was originally intended to be a short-lived seller in the shadow of the SST program. As the supersonic program tanked the 747 grew into the most popular widebody aircraft ever produced. And the story behind it grew to be the third most popular of the year.

2: Countdown to Launch: Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner Given the troubles of its older, smaller sibling, Boeing had a lot of hopes pinned on a successful 787-9 program. Our timeline and countdown to launch was the second most popular story of the year, displacing the actual story on the first flight to deep into the top twenty.

1: The Eagle Rises Again: Onboard American Airlines Boeing 777-300ER Inaugural Flight Airchive was one of the first on board American’s new 777-300, flying the inaugural run from Dallas DFW to Rio, Brazil. The story gained huge traction, easily taking the cake from the next closest story. With everything American has gone through this year we can’t say we were surprised that the airplane that symbolized its coming turnaround turned up on top.

Airchive Year in Review: January – April / May – August / September – December / Year in Photos

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First Flights and Dubai Delights: Airchive’s 2013 Year in Review, Part Three

By Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Published December 31, 2013

What a year! From Boeing to Bombardier, A350 to Asiana, 2013 was a remarkable year for aviation. Let’s take a look back at a year so chock full of big aviation milestones that we had to break it apart into three chunks. Enjoy our last installment, covering September through December: First Flights and Dubai Delights.

September

Delta started the month off with a bang, ordering forty Airbus jets including the A321. But oddly the more popular story was the first Delta 717 making an appearance. The airplane has been hugely popular for reasons not quite known, ranking as one of the top stories of the year for us. The airplane went on to make its first flight between Atlanta and Newark in late October.

The big story, though, was the first flight double-header in the middle of the month. Bombardier’s CSeries airplane took flight on the 16th, ending several months of delays. Boeing followed early the next day as its 787-9, a stretch derivative of the 787-8 flew on the 17th. For Bombardier it was a major milestone in the first clean-sheet program it has undertaken in years. For Boeing it was a sign that the worst of the Dreamliner debacle was now in the rearview mirror.

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CSeries maiden flight (Howard Slutsken), and the 787-9 first flight (Liem Banheman).

The other big story of the month was Lufthansa’s order for 34 Boeing 777-9X airplanes. Technically the airplane had not been launched yet, and thus the order was quite surprising. It was a big win for Boeing, which had been unable to sell the German flag carrier on the 777 for years.

The venerable 767-200. Photo courtesy jplphoto.

The venerable 767-200. Photo courtesy jplphoto.

In less important but no less interesting news, Thai Airways 679 exited the runway in Bangkok, Thailand on the 9th. There were no injuries. American started its first Airbus service in years, inaugurating the A319 into the fleet on the 18th. On the same day LAX opened up its new international terminal, a beautiful structure if we do say so ourselves. Allegiant wound up grounding its MD80 fleet after discovering a problem with evacuation slides during, you guessed it, an evacuation. Finally, on the 20th, Boeing officially dropped the 767-200 and 767-400 from its menu. Shame, too: I had almost saved up for one. Finally (September was a busy month) whatever became of United’s 30 Days of Friendly skies promo? No, really…

October

The big story came late in the month, with the FAA giving unto us a Halloween miracle by lifting the arcane ban on electronics. And there was much rejoicing.

The lifting of the ban prompted a race between the carriers to see who could implement the new rules first. Delta and Jetblue both managed to pull it off in 24 hours.

Airbus A350-900 XWB.  Image Credit: Airbus

Airbus A350-900 XWB.
Image Credit: Airbus

JAL rocked the aviation world when it posted an order for 31 Airbus A350 airplanes on the 7th. The order came as a big blow to Boeing, which had previously enjoyed a near monopoly with Japanese carriers. JAL’s defection to Airbus caused rampant speculation as to whether its primary competitor, ANA, would also defect on an upcoming widebody order of its own. We’ll have to wait and see on that until 2014.

In other October orders news, Korean firmed an order for five Boeing 747-8i jumbo jets – the only orders the airplane received on the year. Meanwhile Airbus secured its 10,000th A320 order.

Ethiopian 787The Ethiopian 787 damaged by fire back in July began repairs to be returned to service. Airchive broke early details of the repair, which involved making a fresh fuselage barrel section from which custom parts were cut to glue into burnt out chunks of Dreamliner. It was the first major composite repair of such scale ever attempted. Boeing would go on to complete the repair in late December, and the airplane would return to service by the year’s end.

In less important but no less interesting news, Boeing announced it would locate 777X engineering outside Puget Sound, which wound up becoming the opening move in the clusterfudge that would later become [Boeing vs (unions vs itself)]. Elsewhere, a FlyDubai 737 toilet was found flush with gold in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and Virgin American launched its newest safety video, which immediately went viral.

November

The penultimate month began on a tragic note as Paul Ciancia, 23, stormed LAX terminal three targeting TSA agents. Seven were injured and one was killed by the time Ciancia was taken into custody. The incident shut down one of the nation’s busiest airports for hours, and the north side terminal (1, 2, 3) were completely evacuated, causing a logistical nightmare. Ciancia, who was shot several times himself during a shootout with officers, later plead not guilty in late December. We’ll see how that goes for him.

Boeing Chairman, President and CEO Jim McNerney presents a 777X model in Emirates livery to His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chairman of Emirates Airline (far right), during the official launch of the 777X in Dubai. Image by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Airchive

Boeing Chairman, President and CEO Jim McNerney presents a 777X model in Emirates livery to His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chairman of Emirates Airline (far right), during the official launch of the 777X in Dubai. Image by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Airchive

The biggest story of the month unfolded in a single, hot afternoon in Dubai when the Gulf Big Three broke out their collective checkbooks and went on a multi-billion dollar spending spree. Boeing took in nearly $100 billion in commitments on day one for its 777X. Airbus didn’t do too shabby either, hauling in A350 orders from Etihad, A330F orders from Qatar, and a huge A380 order from Emirates.  The spending completely overshadowed one of the most expected events of the show, the formal launch of the 777X. By the time it was over $150 billion had been spent in under five hours. And with that, the bulk of the business at the famous Dubai Airshow was done.

EXTRA: Dubai coverage Day ONE / TWO/ THREE/ WRAP-UP / PHOTOS

Boeing was not out of the woods, however, having gone into Dubai with the 777X lacking a home. The company had proposed a contract to its machinists union in Seattle on the 6th to guarantee production of the new plane in the region, but at the cost of heavy benefit cuts. The union balked, voting down the contract by a two to one margin on the 13th. Boeing responded by going shopping for alternate locations around the country, coming up with a ridiculous ‘wish-list’ with items ranging from a deep-water port to giving the company land for free. The issue continues to drag on as we head into 2014.

aa us mapThe last big chunk of news for November came on the 12th, when the DOJ settled with American and US Airways to enable the merger to go forward. The deal consisted of divesting a wide range of assets, from slots to gate space to ticket counters, away at key airports around the country. Predictably the bulk of the divestitures were centered in Reagan National and New York La Guardia. The deal cleared the final hurdle on the 27th when bankruptcy judge Sean Lane gave American the green light to exit bankruptcy, a condition for the merger to go through.

In less important but no less interesting news, a Boeing 747 Dreamlifter landed at a tiny Kansas airport on the 21st, prompting somewhat ridiculous concerns over whether the airplane could ever leave (answer was always yes); American took delivery of its first Airbus A321 on the 21st, while Singapore retired its famous Airbus A340-500s and thus the longest flight in the world at the time (SIA-EWR).

December

Spirit of Seattle 12_5_13-2Delta begins yet another month, this time in Seattle, where the carrier unveiled a Boeing 737-900 dedicated to the city of Seattle on the 5th. The airplane underscored Delta’s increasing presence in Seattle, which it is trying to turn into a new hub. But even more it has underscored the frenemy relationship between the Atlanta based airline and Seattle hometown heavyweight Alaska Airlines, with which Delta maintains a partnership. The two had been locking horns since September when Delta announced new routes that competed directly with Alaska on several routes out of Seattle. Things escalated as Delta moved to compete on routes into and out of all of Alaska’s hubs and focus cities. Alaska later responded in mid-December by creating a small focus city out of thin air in Delta’s western hub of Salt Lake City. And, well, this is just going to continue to stay interesting into 2014.

On the 9th, American Airlines and US Airways consummated their marriage in Dallas as it began trading under the unified stock symbol AAG (American Airlines Group). Rather than recap the whole story, we’ll just point you to the one we already wrote, linked above. Later in the month, with most of AA’s former leadership out of the picture for good, new American CEO Doug Parker decided to put the new livery announced in January up for a vote. In what is either a genius move or a really, really stupid one, the employees of the new American will be allowed to vote to keep the new tail or revert back to dueling eagles.

In less important but no less interesting news, an NTSB hearing on Asiana 214 on the 12th appeared to determine what many had already assumed about the crash: the pilots crashed a perfectly good airplane into the seawall, with cultural and training issues playing a huge factor. Air Canada placed a huge order for the 737MAX, the first time the 737MAX had flipped an existing Airbus operator. And American placed a huge regional jet order, giving some to PSA but leaving out American Eagle.

2014

As we look forward into 2014, coming now in only several hours’ time, a number of questions loom:

Will Boeing machinists in Seattle approve the latest, and possibly last, 777X contract this week?
(Stay tuned to find out, we’ll be covering the vote on Friday live from around Puget Sound).

The A350 XWB has been a moving target on its entry into service (EIS), due in 2014. Will it begin plying the skies next year or be held off until 2015? Related, will the A350-800 go the way of the 787-300?

What about the Bombardier’s CSeries? It’s been obvious for a while that a 2014 EIS had become a pipe-dream. But other questions remain: How will flight test – which has gone very slowly – progress? Will the program reach 300 firm orders?

The 787-9 seems pretty likely to hit its target EIS date in the fall (we sure hope so, anyways, as we’ll be on the first Air New Zealand flight in October), but how will its older sibling, the -8, fare?

Now that American and US Airways are free to do as they please, how will the integration go? Will it be like United Continental or more like Delta Northwest?

Speaking of United, will 2013 be better than 2014 for them?

How will the ultra-low-cost carrier landscape look by this time next year?

In the meantime, stay tuned to Airchive for all the latest in news and aviation coverage. Shameless plug; we’ll be on Delta’s DC9 retirement flight and American’s first A321T flight next week!

Make sure to check out our other end-of-year coverage:
Year in Review Part One: Flaming Batteries and Swooshing Eagles
Year in Review Part Two: Seawalls and [law]Suits
Top Photos of 2013 post

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Onboard the jetBlue A321 Inaugural

By Vinay Bhaskara / Published December 20, 2013

The airplane awaits. Photo by author.

The airplane awaits. Photo by author.

I woke up at 4:15 am at my home in Central New Jersey and immediately rushed out the door to my car (having packed the night before) to meet my flight scheduled for 7AM. Being so early, the drive was relatively painless. The Van Wyck Expressway was remarkably clear for that time of day, and I got to JFK’s long term lot by 5:55 am. That’s when the trouble started.

By the time I parked, I had missed an AirTrain by less than a minute. And the AirTrain at JFK only runs once every seven to twelve minutes, at least headed in the direction of the terminals, though the return trains from the terminal to Howard Beach seemed to show up every two minutes. And my train was on the higher end of that, taking a full twelve minutes after the previous one to show up. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why they don’t run these every three to four minutes. Almost every other major airport in the country with an AirTrain-esque system manages a maximum wait time of five minutes. At JFK on the other hand…

By the time I got onto the AirTrain, it was 6:12 am, and I was getting a little antsy. My flight, scheduled to depart in 50 minutes, was on-time. JetBlue closes off the gate at t-minus 15, so I had to make it to Terminal 5, through security, and to my gate in 38 minutes. It took fifteen minutes to get to Terminal 5, with every second felt like an eternity.

T5. Photo by author.

T5. Photo by author.

When I disembarked at 6:27 am, I immediately made a beeline for the security checkpoint, hoping against all hope for a shorter line. Nope. The line was jam packed, with wait times of at least 30-35 minutes. I was doomed, or so it seemed. Then, in the recesses of my sleep-addled brain, I thought back to the check in process and remembered that JetBlue sold expedited security access as part of its Even More Speed offering. A quick glance at the Even More Speed line showed a queue of just fifteen passengers, as opposed to the thousand (this is probably an over-estimate) waiting in the normal security line. I quickly jumped over to a kiosk and added the Even More Speed tag to my purchase, re-printed my boarding pass, and jumped into line at 6:36 am. By the time I made it through the standard TSA “trained monkey” routine, only seven minutes had passed, allowing me to sprint to Gate 19 and reach the gate with four minutes to spare where the brand new Airbus A321 awaited.

My first experience of JetBlue’s Terminal 5 was admittedly rushed, but the atmosphere and décor seemed very aesthetically pleasing, and there appeared to be a nice array of shops and dining options to choose from. After boarding, I settled into my window seat of 7A, a standard economy class seat. For the longest time it seemed like I would have an empty middle seat next to me, but at the last possible moment, another man came and sat down next to me.

The first thing you notice on a JetBlue flight is always the legroom, and there’s loads of it. Nominally the seat pitch is 34 inches, which is about what you get in Economy Plus on United (and the premium economy cabins for Delta and American). But the JetBlue A321 seats felt much more spacious for whatever reason (the wider seats probably help,) and these were just standard economy class seats. I imagine that the Even More Space seats feel like sitting in domestic First Class.

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Current interior, sans LiveTV. Fear not, it will be added.
Photo by author.

Once I had settled down, I began to scan the aircraft and the seats around me. JetBlue is famed for its LiveTV entertainment system, but at the moment, the A321s have not yet been installed with the updated LiveTV system and FlyFi (JetBlue’s new in-flight WiFi). Both form the entertainment portion of the new JetBlue core travel experience. However, as a form of apology for the lack of LiveTV, customers are offered a $15 service credit, which is redeemable for use on a future JetBlue flight. This is a nice touch.

The new fleet of A321s is the launch pad for the new core experience, which includes the aforementioned enhanced entertainment, in-seat power, new drink holders, and new seats. The new seats in particular are innovative, replacing the hard seat cushion with a woven fabric that suspends from both sides of the seat, and are already installed. This core product will be installed onto JetBlue’s new A321s in the middle of Q1 2014 and will be rolled out across the rest of the fleet slowly thereafter.

The flight was completely full and as we dealt with the standard 20-25 minute ground delay at the gate at JFK (we ended up taking off 45 minutes late at 7:51 am), I could sense the passengers around me getting antsy. One wisecracking passenger in particular was seated across the aisle from me in 7F, and was the source of much amusement throughout the flight. At that particular moment he commented, “Looks like this new plane isn’t enough to cover up the mess that is JFK,” and when we were at the gate in San Juan he asked where the celebratory rice and beans were for the inaugural.

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Photo by author.

While I’m certainly as much of a fan of sarcasm as the next guy (cue to everyone who’s ever read one of my pieces nodding in unison), this guy probably took it a little bit over the top, especially with the way he treated the flight attendants. My philosophy on flight attendants has always been to treat them with extreme courtesy and kindness, regardless of how bad they are in return (it just makes flying so much easier). And to their credit, the flight attendants handled this joker with aplomb, trading barbs right back while still maintaining a professional and smiling demeanor.

That was another standout aspect of the flight – JetBlue’s flight attendants. I always say that there are only two airlines in the US that provide consistently good service; JetBlue and Southwest. And that consistency begins and ends with the flight attendants. Part of it certainly goes back to JetBlue’s founding culture, and the way David Neelman managed to achieve complete commitment and integration of labor with the company. But it’s also due to the way the company has pursued labor-management relations. Much like Southwest, JetBlue treats its employees as assets, and its employees respond in kind by becoming assets and providing the fantastic customer service that gives JetBlue its stellar reputation with passengers.

b64There are a million and one things that JetBlue flight attendants do well, but to select just one, when we were deplaning, a few customers were grumbling about the lack of LiveTV on the flight. The flight attendants were quick to jump in and explain that the TVs were only missing temporarily, throwing in a “JetBlue loves you all” at the end for (feel?) good measure.

Turning back to the flight, once we were airborne, I grabbed a cup of coffee and my customary can of ginger ale, as well as some popcorn chips and Linden’s Butter Crunch cookies. JetBlue’s snack basket is another unique selling point, at least on domestic flights. To get food of the same quality from United, Delta, or American, you’re buying a snack basket for $8 or $9, and heck, on my Chicago-Newark flight last week in First Class, the snack basket United trotted out paled in comparison to what you get on JetBlue for free (though it did have Toblerone). The paid snack boxes are not of as high of a quality as those on United, but they are reasonably priced. With no LiveTV to whittle away my time with, I spent most of the remainder of the flight working quietly on my laptop, mixing in an hour-long nap to boot.

Photo Dec 20, 1 57 44 PM

Photo courtesy of jetBlue

As far as inaugural flights go, JetBlue’s first non-premium A321 inaugural was extremely low key. The flight crew made a couple of references to the new aircraft and the first flight over the PA, and when we touched down at 11:59 am local (23 minutes past schedule), the flight crew asked us all to applaud (and we obliged).

While it may have been understated on the flight, it was not lost on the crew: we touched down at gate A2 in San Juan andthere were plenty of JetBlue crew there to welcome the new bird. Overall, it made sense that the inaugural was nondescript given that these aircraft haven’t been fully outfitted with the new travel experience that they will eventually come to represent. We fully expect JetBlue to celebrate the launch of its new A321s with Mint (and maybe even the first A321 installed with the new core experience) with appropriate fanfare, and look forward to reporting it when the exciting day comes.

Photo Dec 20, 1 55 06 PM
Cover and feature photo courtesy jetBlue

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ANZ Announces First 787-9 Flights

By Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Published November 7, 2013

air-new-zealand-787-9-13-silver-black-fernfltanzlr

Image Credit: Air New Zealand

Perth will be the lucky first city to receive service from the world’s first Boeing 787-9, to be operated by Air New Zealand (ANZ) from Auckland. The carrier will begin the route on October 15, 2014. Auckland to Shanghai and Tokyo will follow. If you’re looking to be the first to fly, tickets are currently available on ANZ’s website and codeshare partner Virgin Australia.

ANZ will operate the Boeing 787-9, a stretched version of the 787-8, in a 302 seat configuration. Their business class, known as Business Premier, will feature 18 seats in a 1-1-1 herrringbone configuration. The seats are the same as the ones found on board their current Boeing 777-300 airplanes.

Twenty-one seats will occupy their premium economy cabin in a 2-3-2 layout. Curiously the carrier opted not to go with the same seats found aboard the 777-300. Those seats were exceptionally nice for a premium economy product, looking more like a business-class lite. Though the 41 inches of pitch will be quite nice.

Finally, economy will feature 263 seats in a 3-3-3 layout. Fourteen rows will receive the company’s unique skycouch feature, which enables a row of economy seating to fold up into a make-shift bed. The rest will be standard slimline seats.

EXTRA: Full seat map via ANZ website

Australian Business Traveller put together this nice video compilation on the aircraft, which is expected to be delivered in mid-2014.

The carrier placed the order back in 2005, ordering ten of the airplanes.

Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Airchive

Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Airchive

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The Concorde Operators: Air France and British Airways

By Jason Rabinowitz and Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Published October 22, 2013

Editors note: Welcome to day two of Concorde Week! To celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the ending of commercial operations of Concorde we’re bringing you a feature each day this week on the iconic airplane. Today’s feature looks back at Concorde’s only true operators: British Airways and Air France. Don’t forget to come back tomorrow for day three, as we look at a few of Concorde’s lesser known operators and stories from readers like you!

Miss day one? Don’t worry about it! Read up on the Origins of Concorde by Ian Petchenik.

British Airways

This ad from 1977 highlights JFK service joining Bahrain, Singapore and Washington D.C. to the Concorde route map for British Airways.

This ad from 1977 highlights JFK service joining Bahrain, Singapore and Washington D.C. to the Concorde route map for British Airways.

British Airways has quite a fascinating history with Concorde when compared to Air France. The carrier initially launched service from London Heathrow to Bahrain (yes, small island country) on the same day as Air France. British Airways started their 27 year run with Concorde with this odd route; one most people probably don’t remember when this aircraft is mentioned.

Service to the United States did not begin until May 24th, 1976, due to local protests about noise from the sonic booms. British Airways first served the United States via Washington Dulles International Airport, only breaking into New York City starting November 22nd, 1977 when the Supreme Court ended the ban on Concorde in New York.

British Airways initially used the call sign “Speedbird Concorde” for their new aircraft, while Air France did not use any special call sign. This was done partly to alert air traffic controllers that they were dealing with Concorde, and the plane’s unique abilities and restrictions.

A British Airways Concorde takes off. Image credit Dean Morley via Flickr Creative Commons.

A British Airways Concorde takes off. Image credit Dean Morley via Flickr Creative Commons.

Interestingly, the British Airways Concorde G-BOAD was the only Concorde to ever be painted in a livery other than Air France or British Airways. In 1977, British Airways and Singapore Airlines jointly operated Concorde flights from London to Singapore, and the aircraft sported two liveries. One side was British Airways, the other was Singapore Airlines. The flight did not last long, as the Singapore government, much like in the United States, was unhappy with the level of noise produced by Concorde. Compounding the issues, India would not allow Concorde to travel at supersonic speeds over their airspace, and the flight was eventually cancelled in 1980.

EXTRA: Concorde British Airways and Air France Memorabilia
Image by Phillip Capper, Flickr Creative Commons

Image by Phillip Capper, Flickr Creative Commons

With unprofitable routes mounting, Concorde was going through rough times in the early 1980s. At this point, British Airways made a move that potentially saved supersonic travel. In 1981, British Airways managing director Sir John King managed to purchase the Concorde fleet from the British Government outright for £16.5 million plus the first year’s profits. Following the purchase, British Airways increased fares, bringing Concorde routes closer to profitability. With the fleet now owned outright, British Airways added additional routes. They included Miami after a stop in Washington D.C., and Barbados, in addition to the already daily service to New York.

In 1996, British Airways Concorde G-BOAD set the record for fastest transatlantic passenger flight, clocking in at 2 hours, 52 minutes, 59 seconds on a flight from New York JFK to London Heathrow.

After the grounding in 2000 due to the Air France crash, British Airways went all in on their Concorde fleet. Concorde was the first fleet type to sport the new “Union Flag” livery, and underwent major interior renovations before returning to the skies. The first post-grounding passenger flight took place on September 11th, 2001, landing shortly before the attacks that would seal the fate for Concorde. Once flights resumed once again on November 7th, 2001, the air travel industry as we knew it had changed.

The interior of a BA Concorde with its most recent upgrade. Image by Angelo DeSantis via Flickr Creative Commons

The interior of a BA Concorde with its most recent upgrade. Image by Angelo DeSantis via Flickr Creative Commons

On April 10th, 2003, both British Airways and Air France announced the end of Concorde flights. Air France was reportedly unable to turn a profit and had decided to shutter the service, which would have left British Airways responsible for shouldering the weight of the entire program. Before the Concorde fleet was to be sent off to museums and elsewhere, British Airways held a farewell tour in North America, stopping in Toronto, Boston, New York, and Washington, D.C. In the UK, Concorde visited Birmingham, Belfast, Manchester, Cardiff, and Edinburgh. The Queen even had Windsor Castle illuminated in honor of Concorde. The final Concorde flight took place on November 26th, 2003 as a ferry flight to Bristol, U.K.

EXTRA: Photos of British Airways Concordes Around the World:  New York / Barbados
An ad from the final year of British Airways Concorde service

An ad from the final year of British Airways Concorde service

British Airways’ Concordes were well known for carrying the rich and famous between New York and London during their 27 years of service. Her Majesty the Queen flew on Concorde

repeatedly starting in 1982, and British politician Margaret Thatcher flew the plane in 1986. The world’s longest golf putt, at 9.232 miles, was sunk by Spain’s Jose Maria Olazabal while travelling at 1,270mph on board to Boston. Paul McCartney reportedly performed live from the flight deck once, while fellow rock star Phil Collins utilized the Concorde’s advantages to play concerts in both London and Philadelphia on the same day.

ba-concorde-amenity-kit-1980s_14042ba-concorde-menu-1980s_14048

From the Airchive Archives, a British Airways Amenity kit and menu selection from the 1980s.

Air France

Like British Airways, the first flights of the Air France (AF) Concorde were a bit unconventional. Intending to launch the airplane on the coveted Paris-New York route, the carrier was unable to launch as planned due to the ban on Concorde in the US. As a result Air France sent their first Concorde to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil on January 21, 1976. The airplane made a fuel stop in Dakar, Senegal. AF began operations to Caracas, Venezuela, via the Azores, several months later on April 10th.  Unlike the British, the French used normal callsigns throughout their operations.

1975-air-france-concorde-launch_2761975-air-france-concorde-launch_281
From the Airchive Archives, two early ads for Air France Concorde service. The ad on the right side talks about the safety of the airplane. The public had concerns early on about flying supersonic, and several ad campaigns worked to convince people of its reliability and safety.

The carrier, along with British, eventually broke through an obstinate US government in May of 1976, obtaining clearance directly from then US Secretary of Transportation William Coleman. Flights quickly began to Washington DC, but New York remained a bridge too far as the city’s Port Authority created a local ban of the airplane due to noise concerns. After over a year of snaking through the courts the Port Authority ban was overturned, and Air France began service to their flagship city on November 22, 1977.

EXTRA: Air France Concorde Brochures and Memorabilia
An Air France Concorde lands at New York JFK. Image credit KLA4067 via Flickr Creative Commons

An Air France Concorde lands at New York JFK. Image credit KLA4067 via Flickr Creative Commons

From the late 70s to early 80s, Air France operated Concorde to Mexico City’s Benito Juárez International Airport during the oil boom. The flight would depart Mexico City, stop in either New York or Washington D.C., before continuing on to Paris. Noise related speed restrictions meant that the airplane was not able to maintain full speed: it had to slow down below Mach 1 while crossing Florida before speeding back up to Mach 2 to cross the Gulf of Mexico. The unusual route was a victim of the oil bust combined with overall unprofitability from day one and was cancelled in 1982. Air France also operated a number of charters in later years as they were more lucrative than regular passenger operations.

EXTRA: Concorde British Airways and Air France Memorabilia
Early on Air France made service on board the Concorde a big deal. Here, a brochure from 1975 shows the fine food served aboard. Image  from Airchive Archives

Early on Air France made service on board the Concorde a big deal. Here, a brochure from 1975 shows the fine food served aboard. Image from Airchive Archives

Since the tight cabins lacked any in-flight entertainment, significant seat recline, or other types of service associated with long-haul flying, Concorde flights became a place where the rich and famous could dine for three hours on the best the world had to offer. While Air France’s Concorde history does not come with the same sort of illustrious class that British Airways’ did, a flight was no less a classy affair. A sample roundtrip menu on the New York-Paris route included lobster with vegetables, tenderloin steak with oyster mushrooms, goose foie gras, monkfish, raspberry tarts, and ganache-filled cake. Wine lists included iconic high-end labels like Dom Perignon champagne.

The interior of the airplanes were only updated once, in the 1990s. While still evoking a classic French flair, over time the lack of attention to the airplanes made the cabins feel dated compared to their British counterparts, who had updated their cabins several times over the years.

Unfortunately Air France’s Concorde fleet was marred in its later years by the crash of flight 4590 on July 25th, 2000. The charter flight, operating for a group of German tourists, crashed on takeoff from Paris after a metal fragment caused a tire to explode and rupture a fuel valve that caught fire. All 109 on board and four on the ground were killed. While Air France or Concorde were not directly faulted the crash led to the requirement of a number of expensive safety modifications that led to the entire fleet being grounded worldwide for over a year.

Image credit Alex Jonsson via Wikipedia Commons

Image credit Alex Jonsson via Wikipedia Commons

Despite a return to regular service in November 2001 the airplane had a hard time returning to profitability in the post-9/11 airline climate. Air France announced the type’s retirement along with British Airways in 2003, citing a triptych of low post 9/11 travel demand, the crash in 2000, and rising maintenance costs. The airline’s final commercial flight landed in Paris on May 30, 2003. Air France’s last Concorde flight landed in late June when F-BVFC was retired to Toulouse.

EXTRA: Photos of Air France Concorde’s Around the World:  European Aviation Museum /  Le Bourget / Smithsonian, Dulles

Despite the retirement of the entire Air France fleet, rumors continue to persist that Concorde F-BTSD, housed at the museum at Le Bourget outside Paris, will be returned to airworthy condition. The airplane, unlike the others, was not entirely mothballed. A number of systems are being kept functional, including the droop nose and certain flight surfaces. As of today no firm plans exist to return Concorde, or any others, to service.

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Cover Image credit to Alex Jonsson via Wikipedia Commons

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Miami To Receive First Non-Stops To Middle East Since 2008 as Qatar Announces Service to Doha

By: Chris Sloan, Editor-In-Chief 

Updated: Monday October 20, 2013

Qatar Airways made the official announcement this morning of nonstop service between Miami and Doha, Qatar. The four times per week flights operating Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturday, and Sunday will begin June 10, 2014. Flight times of QR777 appropriately named due to the 777-200LR aircraft utilized from Doha to Miami will be 15:40 and 14:20 on QR888 on the return. The aircraft will operate in a 2-class configuration: 42 seats in business and 217 seats in economy.

The route will provide 536 new jobs and an annual economic impact of $78.3 million to Miami-Dade County. “Miami International Airport serves nearly 40 million passengers a year, with approximately 20 million traveling internationally,” said Miami-Dade Aviation Department Aviation Director Emilio González. “The addition to Qatar Airways’ destinations in the U.S. will help establish Miami as a significant route to the Middle East and beyond.

“The U.S. is a growing market for us and the addition of Miami as a destination and our membership in the oneworld Alliance opens up a multitude of better routes with the Middle East, East Africa, the Indian Subcontinent, and Western Australia to and from the east coast of the U.S.,” said Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker.

Published: Saturday Oct  19, 2013

Qatar 777-300ERQatar Airways and Miami International Airport, the second-busiest airport in the U.S for international passengers are set to announce on Monday four times a week non-stops between Doha, Qatar and Miami beginning June 1, 2014 using the airline’s Boeing 777-200LR. The destination will be the Qatar’s sixth in the U.S. following its recent inaugural to Chicago and the upcoming April 2014 launch to Philadelphia. The Doha service will be Miami’s first non-stop service to the Middle East since Israel’s El Al pulled out in 2008.

Miami is seen as a natural progression for Qatar due to the area’s affluent trade activity, gateway status to Latin America and the Carribbean, and perhaps most importantly for its connectivity into the American Airlines hub at MIA. Qatar, rated by Skytrax as “world’s best airline” in 2011 and 2012, is set to join the oneworld Alliance at the end of this month. The highly-regarded airline is also due to receive its first Airbus A380 very soon and will be the launch customer for the new Airbus A350 XWB sometime in 2014.

In an email to The Miami Herald, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker said  “Miami was a clear choice for us. It’s a large international travel market, both inbound and outbound, and Qatar Airways’ membership in oneworld gives people in the U.S. many more options for international travel.”  Qatar’s Doha hub offers connecting opportunities in particular to Asia, the Middle East, and India.

Miami is aggressively courting other Middle Eastern carriers as well as Asian carriers for non-stop passenger service. In a quote to The Herald, MDAD Aviation Director Emilio T. González remarked “This is not the only one — it’s the first, and what a sweet one.” Cathay Pacific, Korean, and Air China serve MIA via Anchorage and Houston to Asia but those flights are cargo only. Africa, Asia, and Australia for the time being will remain the continents without non-stop passenger service to MIA. At one time South African Airways used MIA as a North American gateway, but switched its flights to Atlanta and then Washington D.C. as it aligned with SkyTeam and then Star Alliance.
Boeing 777-3DZ(ER) - Qatar Airways (A7-BAI)

 

Additional Stories

 

 

 

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Dallas Goes to China: American Airlines to Launch Service to Shanghai and Hong Kong

By Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Published October 16, 2013

The new American logo. Image Credit: American Airlines American Airlines announced on Wednesday new landmark, daily service from Dallas / Fort Worth International Airport to the Chinese cities of Hong Kong and Shanghai. The service is the first from Dallas to China and comes amid a bid by the airline to increase its lackluster presence in the region.

Hong Kong will see daily service with American’s flagship Boeing 777-300ER, the first time the highly praised airplane will see service in Asia. Service to Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport will be operated with Boeing 777-200s. Both routes are pending governmental approval but anticipated to begin in the summer of 2014. The routes will be operated as part of a joint-venture between American (AA) and fellow oneworld member Japan Airlines (JAL).

Extra: Shanghai Pudong International Airport images here.

Extra: Hong Kong International Airport images here.

According to Airchive Senior Business Analyst Vinay Bhaskara, Shanghai does not appear to offer American much on its face besides a decent chance at consistently filling business class cabins. Hong Kong makes more sense, as passengers can easily connect to further destinations in Asia via partner Cathay Pacific and, to a much lesser extent, JAL.

PHOTOS: Onboard American Airlines 777-300ER

The additions come as American has worked hard to increase its presence in Asia, a region long dominated by competitors Delta and United. American began service from DFW to Seoul, South Korea earlier this year in May, which along with today’s announcement bolsters the likelihood that Dallas is being developed in part for its ability to connect passengers onward through the network. In particular AA’s DFW hub is well positioned to access the carriers highly developed network into Latin and South America.

DFW is also largely untouched for expansion into Asia, leaving American free (for now) to try the routes out without any competition. The airport’s only other service to Asia is via Korean to Seoul and American’s longstanding service to Tokyo which they launched in 1987. The next nearest city to have any service to the continent is Houston via United to Japan and Air China to China.

EXTRA: DFW Gets New AA Airport Experience

AA 773 DEDICATION - AA773 IN PARKING LOT-2

Airchive File Photo

The new additions both current and future from Dallas / Ft. Worth are a needed boost to the carrier’s Asia portfolio. By the end of the year American will serve Shanghai and Tokyo out of both Chicago and Los Angeles. AA serves Beijing from Chicago alone, and Dallas serves Tokyo.

On the less celebratory side, American also quietly cut the airlines only Asia service from New York. New York JFK to Tokyo-Haneda will get the ax on December 1, 2013. The carrier had fought hard to secure the route as part of the OpenSkies Agreement between Japan and the US, but has since been unable to turn a profit. The airline cited the unorthodox operating hours, thus limiting connections (and the ability to make money), as the primary reason for the cut. The move leaves the airline without any east-coast – Asia routes.

This is not the first opportunity American has had to break Dallas into China. Back in 2007 the carrier applied for one of the highly coveted slots, only to withdraw later when management and the pilots union failed to come to an agreement on working hours for the long flights. The provision was wiped out when the carrier entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy in November of 2011.

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LOGO CREDIT: AMR

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TGIF: Thank-Goodness It’s Flyday Week-End Wrap Up – October 11th Edition

Thank-goodness it’s Flyday…err Friday, everyone! In this week’s TGIFlyday JetStar celebrates its first 787; Spirit goes looking for good help; JetBlue goes hard after the ‘Bill’ market, and more…

Courtesy Lufthansa Cargo

Courtesy Lufthansa Cargo

Lufthansa To Take Delivery of Their First 777 Freighter: The very first Boeing 777 to wear Lufthansa colors is set to be delivered on October 31 of this year. Lufthansa’s cargo division will begin flying their new 777F freighter to New York JFK, Chicago, and Atlanta. Overtime the “Magnificent 7s” are due to replace the carrier’s MD-11s.

Meanwhile, the carrier’s passenger operations have taken a pass on the extremely popular widebody in favor the A330 and A340 until recently, when the carrier revealed that they were purchasing the yet-to-be-officially-greenlit Boeing 777-9X.

Idiot Shuts Down Jacksonville International Airport: As Zeljko Causevic recently discovered, authorities still don’t take kindly to folks making fake bomb threats. Causevic was charged with manufacturing, possessing, selling, delivering, or mailing a hoax bomb by local police after telling an airport official that he had a bomb in his bag last week. Naturally the airport was evacuated and all flights grounded as the bomb squad swept the area. An unspecified suspicious device, perhaps containing Causevic’s sense of common sense, was located and removed from the airport. Causevic did not give a motive.

No higher RASMs for you!

No higher RASMs for you!

Sharing in the Wealth, Except United: As the September traffic reports have trickled in every carrier has reported year over year increases in revenues per seat mile, except United, whom remained unchanged. Virgin America was the big winner at a 12% increase; not bad.

Having an increase in revenue is never a bad thing, but that does not mean the carriers turned any profits. Stay tuned for more on September’s numbers in the next few weeks.

JetStar Takes Delivery of First 787: Australia received its first Boeing 787 on Wednesday when the first JetStar Dreamliner landed in Melbourne following its delivery flight from Seattle. The first airplane will debut on service to Bali on December 18th. The airline notes that Phuket, Japan, Hawaii, and Singapore are in the line-up for future Dreamliner destinations.

KPAE 9_14_13-7

JDL / Airchive

Also interesting, the delivery flight, which stopped briefly in Honolulu, sort of raced a company A330 on the flight to Melbourne. As Boeing’s Randy’s Blog reports, the 787 won handily, completing the flight thirty minutes faster than the A330. Of course the 787 was running a comparatively empty ferry flight versus a full flight of holiday-makers and cargo on the A330, but had they been more evenly matched the 787 probably still would’ve won.

Bye-Bye 767-200: American is retiring their 767-200s soon, with the last flight scheduled for May 7, 2014 from LA-JFK on AA30, assuming the A321T’s January 7th entry-into-service isn’t delayed and causes a ripple effect. Our Jack Harty already has dibs on this flight. #sadface

JAL to Launch Sky Suite on 767: Japan Airline’s much vaunted sky suite will be sent into battle over the skies of the Pacific en route to Vancouver BC on December 9, 2013. The overhaul was announced in May of this year, and will complement the existing Sky Suites on board the carrier’s Boeing 777s. JAL presently competes with Air Canada on the route.

File Photos

Airchive File Photo

Spirit is Hiring: Ever wanted to work as a flight attendant for one of the most controversial carriers in the world of US domestic air travel? Here’s your chance! Spirit is putting on open houses in Las Vegas to recruit new flight attendants at the New York-New York Hotel & Casino on October 15th and 16th. For those who pick up a job, Vegas is the perfect place to celebrate. For those that don’t, it’s also the perfect place to spend away your sorrows.

Despite Extreme Odds, 9 Year Old Boy Fulfills Dream of Going to Vegas Alone: A nine-year-old boy managed to successfully evade TSA officials and gate agents to board a plane to Vegas from Minneapolis. According to news sources the child waited until the gate agent was busy, then snuck on board. The big kicker, though, is the child never had a boarding pass to begin with. The story would be more amusing if it hadn’t also turned out that the child has a history of behavioral problems and frequent skirmishes with law enforcement. Perhaps Southwest was right when it said “You are now free to roam across the country.”

JAL Renews Membership to 787 Snafu Club: As if the Boston battery incident weren’t enough, two JAL Dreamliners diverted back to their point of departures this week after developing separate problems. The first airplane returned to Moscow after experiencing electrical issues with the toilet and galley. The second airplane returned to San Diego after an indicator showed an issue with the engine de-icing system. Had this happened to any other airplane, we probably would’ve never known it happened.

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Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren Archives

JetBlue Decision Attempts to Buoy Weakening ‘Bill’ Market: JetBlue unveiled a bold plan today aimed at buoying the DC-based market consisting of people named Bill, by offering them free ‘Even More Speed’ upgrades through the month of October. The market has seen a marked slump over the past few weeks as Bill’s across the DC-region have decided to stop moving, hurting the bottom lines of carriers such as JetBlue dearly. With ‘Even More Speed’ to get through security, JetBlue’s move is expected to get Bill’s across the region moving again.

OK, more seriously, JetBlue unveiled a fun, snarky spin on the federal shutdown clusterfudge by offering anyone named Bill flying out of Washington-DC region airports the free upgrade to priority security screening.

Must Reads:

Via Christopher Drew at the New York Times: Boeing 787, Grounded in Norway, Nearly Fixed

Seattle Times Aerospace reporter Dominic Gates explains why ANA is not likely to defect to Airbus.

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:

Apollo 11: Behind the Scenes of American’s Landmark Airbus Order Part One

Apollo 11: Behind the Scenes of American’s Landmark Airbus Order Part Two

Analysis: Japan Airlines Places Historic Order for Airbus 31 A350 XWBs: JAL’s First Airbus Order

United Grows into Delta Hubs From the West Coast

JetBlue to launch Boston-Savannah: Its 50th Destination at Logan

Inflight Review: Flying Transcon with Air Canada

Air Canada Announces Massive European Expansion; Lufthansa to launch Frankfurt – Montreal

Boeing’s Everett Plant: A History Of The World’s Wide-body Mecca (Part One)

Delta Grows In Latin America From Los Angeles and Atlanta

Long Beach Airport: Where Old Meets New

Withdrawal of Airport Services Latest Shots Fired In Brewing Seattle Battle Between Delta and Alaska Airlines

Safety Video Spotlight: How Air New Zealand Makes Their Videos Entertaining

Delta Takes Delivery of First 717

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