Category Archives: Inaugurals and First Flights

Boeing Celebrates Delivery of First 787-9 Dreamliner to ANZ

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

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

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

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

photo14 photo15 photo4 photo12

The company has ten of the airplanes on order.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Stories:

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

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

By Jack Harty / Published July 5, 2014

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

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

The Aircraft

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

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

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

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

Initial Operations

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

Monday through Friday:

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



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

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



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


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PEOPLExpress Takes Off

By Oliver Porter / Published June 30, 2014

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

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



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

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

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


The Aircraft

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


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


The Flight

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

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

Origins and Aura

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Newport News Story

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

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

Niche Market

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


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

Related Stories:

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

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

PEOPLExpress Announces Initial Operations

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


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United Loads Domestic 787-9 Flights

By Jack Harty / Published June 28, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

United’s 787-9 International Routes

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

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

Other United 787 News

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

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


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Virgin Atlantic To Fly First 787-9 This October

By Jack Harty / Published June 22, 2014

Today marks 30 years since Virgin Atlantic’s inaugural flight departed London Gatwick for Newark. On the carrier’s 30th anniversary, it is giving us a look into its future.

Extra: Virgin Atlantic’s Original Timetable & Marketing Brochure from 1984.

Back in 2007, Virgin Atlantic ordered 15 787-9 Dreamliners, and it also signed for eight options and the purchase rights for 20 more.

Now almost seven years after ordering the Dreamliner, the carrier expects to receive its first 787-9 this September; making it the first European airline to operate the newest 787 family member.

“The 787-9 will make up 40 per cent of our fleet by the end of 2017 which demonstrates our commitment to the Dreamliner as the centrepiece of our future fleet,” Virgin Atlantic’s chief executive Craig Kreeger told reporters.

Starting October 28, Virgin Atlantic will begin flying its Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner between London Heathrow and Boston six times a week, according to BusinessTraveler. Eventually, the carrier will also add Dreamliner flights to Newark, New York JFK, and Washington DC. These will replace the A340-300 fleet.

The new aircraft will be have 31 seats in ‘Upper Class’ (which is the carrier’s business class product), 35 seats in Premium Economy, and 198 seats in Economy.

“We are extremely excited to be welcoming this aircraft to our fleet. After 30 proud years of serving our customers around the world, this is going to revolutionise our airline and bring with it new innovations and a cutting edge product for them to enjoy,” Kreeger told BusinessTraveler.

Besides planning for the new aircraft to join its fleet, a lot has been going on at Virgin Atlantic. A little over a year ago, Virgin Atlantic launched a domestic subsidiary called Little Red. Although there are reports that there have been poor load factors, Kreeger insists that there are no changes planned for the subsidiary, and he explained that momentum for the product is gaining.

Virgin Atlantic also launched a joint venture with Delta which allows both carriers to connect passengers onto each others networks almost seamlessly. Additionally, the carrier will take over one of Delta’s Atlanta/Heathrow flights later this year.

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United Returns To Chile

By Jack Harty / Published June 14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Qatar Airways Launches Service to Miami

by Vinay Bhaskara & Cody Diamond / Published June 13, 2014

Earlier this week, Qatar Airways Flight 777 touched down at Miami International Airport (MIA), operated by a Boeing 777-200LR registered as A7-BBA. The flight inaugurated service between Doha and Miami and positioned Qatar Airways as the first of the Middle East Big 3 and Turkish Airlines to launch service to the North American gateway to Latin America.

Image Courtesy Qatar Airways

The Qatar Airways 777-200LR touches down in Miami – Image Courtesy Qatar Airways

This Qatar Airways service reconnected Miami with the Middle East for the first time since 2008. The flight is timed for optimal connections to the Far East, Australia, and much of Africa, though timing for connections to the Indian sub-continent is less optimal. Qatar Airways is a oneworld alliance member, and Miami is a major hub for alliance partner American Airlines, so the Doha – Miami leg is timed for connections to many of American’s North American and Caribbean destinations.

Image by Cody Diamond

Image by Cody Diamond

“Qatar Airways looks forward to building a strong relationship between Miami and Doha,” said Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker. “These two great cities have so much to share and learn from one another. We can now look forward to introducing many more US travellers to Doha and developing a strong conduit for trade and commerce, via our award-winning World’s Best Business Class.”

The inaugural flight took just over fifteen hours to complete, and was full in economy class cabin with high loads in business class. Qatar Airways will begin serving Miami with four flights per week and expansion of frequencies will be considered if demand is strong.

Miami becomes the sixth destination in the United States for Qatar Airways, who also serves Chicago O’Hare, Houston Bush, Philadelphia, New York JFK, and Washington Dulles. In July, the carrier will inaugurate services to Dallas Fort Worth as well, leaving Charlotte, Phoenix, and Los Angeles as the remaining American Airlines hubs without nonstop service to Doha.

Image by Cody Diamond

Image by Cody Diamond

“Qatar Airways’ decision to include Miami among its handful of U.S. destinations confirms that
Miami-Dade County is a global center for business and tourism travel, and MIA is one of the
premier airports in the world,” said Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez. “Miami-Dade
looks forward to strengthening the economic and cultural ties to Qatar and beyond.”

As with most of its US services, Qatar Airways is not banking on origin and destination (O&D) demand to sustain this flight. Total O&D demand between Miami and Doha was less than 7 passengers per day each way (PDEW) in 2011, with only modest growth realized since. However, total demand to Asia-Pacific, Africa, and the Middle East summed to a total of 658 passengers PDEW. Qatar Airways will enjoy a first-movers advantage over its Middle Eastern rivals in attempting to wrest control of this lucrative market away from American and European carriers. In particular, Turkish Airlines had frequently discussed entering the Miami market but never pulled the trigger with a firm launch date.

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American To Introduce Its First Two-Class A321s August 1

By Jack Harty / Published June 9, 2014

American Airlines will begin flying its first two-class Airbus A321 (321B) aircraft on August 1. The carrier will primarily initially operate them on flights out of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

From August 1 to August 18, the carrier will fly one daily round trip flight between Los Angeles and Dallas/Fort Worth. From September 3 to October 1, the carrier will fly two daily flights on this route.

From September 3 to October 1, the carrier will fly its A321 once daily between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

Miami will also see the two-class A321. From August 19 through October 1, American will operate one daily flight from Los Angeles to Miami.

The carrier will also fly the two-class A321 between Dallas/Ft. Worth and San Francisco once daily from September 3 to October 1.

At this time, it’s not clear where the carrier will fly the two-class A321 aircraft to after October 1.

In 2011, American Airlines announced an order for 460 new narrow-body jets (plus 465 options). The airline ordered Boeing 737-800s, 737 MAXs, A319s, A320neos, and the A321 to replace its aging fleet.

The carrier planned to use the A321 to replace its 757s and 767-200s. The carrier took delivery of its first A321 last year, but these aircraft arrived in a three-class configuration for transcontinental flights. Now, the carrier plans to take delivery of its first A321 sometime in July.

The two-class A321 interior will be very similar to the new interior that was introduced on American’s A319 aircraft.

The aircraft will be equipped with 16 seats in first class seats manufactured by Weber in a 2-2 configuration. The entertainment system will boast approximately 200 movies, up to 180 TV programs, more than 350 audio selections, and 15 games on a 12.1 inch screen. All portions of the entertainment system are complimentary in First Class, except of course the GoGo in-flight wi-fi.

There will be approximately 33 Main Cabin Extra seats and 132 Main Cabin seats all in a 3-3 configuration. The Main Cabin Extra seats will offer a few extra inches of seat pitch. Each seat will be equipped with one universal AC power outlet and a USB jack. The screens in the Main Cabin will be approximately 8.9 inches. However, the entire entertainment system will not be free. Customers will have the option to view complimentary content, pay-to-access packages or pay-per-view movies.

The first flight information was published first by

Related Stories:

American Unveils its First A319

American Airlines Takes Delivery Of Its First Airbus A319: Part One

American Airlines Takes Delivery Of Its First Airbus A319: Part Two – Delivery Event and Factory Tour

The Transcon Wars: The Ultimate Airline Battleground

The Eagle Rises Again: Onboard American Airlines Boeing 777-300ER Inaugural Flight

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Cover photo courtesy of Jason Rabinowitz

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Frontier adds two new routes from Wilmington, DE: Inaugural report

By / Published May 1, 2014


I generally feel that way any day I’m flying and getting to do four inaugural flights in one day is even more fun. Add in some weather en route and a bit of a roller coaster landing and that’s really the only thought in my mind.


Extra flying! Wheeee!!

Frontier Airlines is shifting its business model into a completely unbundled approach, with fees to be found for everything from a soda to a seat assignment to a carry-on bag. It’s also expanding its route map, picking up services where others have cut or simply hoping to create a market where one had not previously existed. Wilmington, Delaware fits squarely in the latter category. The airport has seen commercial service come and go over the years from a number of airlines. Few have taken the multi-destination approach that Frontier did. With a handful of destinations now served from New Castle County Airport Frontier is hoping to build a customer base mixing leisure and business travelers. This week saw two more destinations – Detroit and Atlanta – join the map, with both launching service the same day. Given an introductory fare of $36 round-trip on each route it was hard for me to say no when a friend suggested that I join him on board for the Atlanta turn. And since I was going to be in Delaware anyways adding on the Detroit trip seemed quite reasonable.

The folks in Wilmington brought the party with tourism information, balloons and free coffee on offer prior to the flight. And Frontier brought Andre the Antelope. Let’s go for a ride!

IMG-20140429-00581  IMG_5035

Unfortunately the weather was not so great in Delaware, but that didn’t stop the local authorities from offering up the traditional water-canon salute for the departures.

The grey sky and drizzle in Delaware had nothing on the rough skies over Detroit. We were not more than a couple minutes out from landing when the pilots gunned the throttle, initiating a go around due to warnings of wind shear on the field. It was well communicated and the second approach, while bumpy coming down through the clouds, put us on the ground perfectly.

One the flight over I spoke Greg Kouba, an engineer in the aviation market commuting to Detroit for a couple days’ work. Kouba raved about the ease of access at the airport as a great draw to him as a passenger.

I can park closer to the terminal than I typically can at my supermarket. I was standing at the check-in counter and could still see my car parked right across the driveway.

For a South Jersey traveler who was often flying out of Philadelphia or Atlantic City the new Frontier service at Trenton and Wilmington was most welcome to him. That said, he noted that the Classic fare bundle was a big part of what he enjoyed, with the STRETCH seating and checked bag fee included. He was a bit disappointed when I told him that Frontier killed that product the day prior, but suggested he’d still compare the total cost including those benefits as he checks fares going forward.

Less than 20 minutes after walking off the plane into the terminal I was one of the last passengers to make my way back on board for the Detroit-Wilmington half of the inaugural. Other than the airport authority not properly showing the flight on the monitors at the gate there wasn’t much special at the Detroit end, though the station staff were friendly for the few minutes we chatted. Another bumpy ride due to the weather and soon enough I was back in Delaware, getting ready to do it all over again.

I met Dawn on the return flight from Detroit; she was one of a dozen or so of us who made the round-trip turn. Much like me she was in it for the fun of being in the air for a few hours, taking to the sky as a great way to spend a morning. And the $36 round-trip fare didn’t hurt.

I was a bit disappointed that I had to leave the secure area at Wilmington; they don’t really plan for connecting passengers there. That disappointment was quickly muted by the snacks the local authorities had set out for the group. The security officer I spoke with saw me later with a handful of the pretzels and joked that he did me a favor. I suggested that next time he lead with the “free food” option and no one would ever argue again.


Come for the flights, stay for the #AvGeek soft pretzels

I wrapped up a conversation with Dawn and headed through security to meet David, the friend who invited me along in the first place and, once again, it was time to fly.

I had booked a window seat for the flight but upon boarding we learned that two young boys and their father were each assigned middle seats in separate rows. I swapped with one of them to sit next to my friend in the middle. That still left them needing an aisle-for-middle swap to get the family together. That didn’t happen. Oops. Another water-canon salute and we were off to Atlanta on a flight which was much smoother than the weather forecasts had predicted.

IMG_5053Our stay in Atlanta was a bit longer than Detroit but also much less friendly. I grabbed a quick snack in the terminal and then came back to the gate and asked about swapping seats (my friend got Op-Up’d to the STRETCH seating) at which point I was brusquely brushed off by the gate agent, “The entire plane is full.” I stepped into the jetway to the sight of bags being tagged to gate-check through to Wilmington. I was the final passenger to board and was greeted by a bunch of empty seats – including the one I specifically asked about – and tons of space in the overhead. From a customer service perspective it was most disappointing (and, yes, I know it is contract workers, but still not great).


Make friends with the flight attendants. Life gets much better.

On the plus side, however, the same crew was still on board and still just as cheery as they were at 8am when I met them for the initial flight of the day. And, unlike me, they were actually working the whole time.

There are some quirks about the Wilmington-based service, like the plane is not catered there. In our case that meant a six-segment run between Denver and Orlando, with the Detroit and Atlanta turns mixed in, between refills. With most items carrying a surcharge the take rate was relatively low (even for passengers who get freebies thanks to their ticket category) but there were still a few out of stock well before the day ended. Boarding from the ground is great, so long as it isn’t raining or snowing or too cold. It works great in Long Beach, California; less so in Wilmington, Delaware. And the terminal is pretty cramped for a plane as big as those Frontier flies. The flight to Atlanta was full and it was standing-room only in the gate area waiting for departure. Plus, this is baggage claim:


More quirks than outright bad. And the ease of access will likely keep many coming back. But it is most definitely a budget service and a budget airline.


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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

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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

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Asiana to Fly First A380 Flight on June 13

By Jack Harty / Published March 22, 2014


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).


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.”


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.”


Asiana’s Business Smartium Class
Courtesy of Asian Airlines


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

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United Plans Domestic 787-9 Flights

By Jack Harty / Published March 12, 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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


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



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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:


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

wingletbiggersf60620 600

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


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

A Brief History of Winglets


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.”


A KLM MD-11 Winglet
Photo by Chris Sloan /

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?


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


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

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Japan Airlines Launches Vancouver-YVR’s First 787 Service

By Howard Slutsken / Published February 4, 2014

JAL 788

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.

JAL 788

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

@HowardSlutsken |  Flikr |

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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.


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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