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Briefs: New cabins at Airberlin, Austrian; AA exec runs Virgin Atlantic

In news of international airlines, Airberlin introduces a new business class configuration and will expand code-sharing with American; Austrian Airlines overhauls its long-haul aircraft; Virgin Atlantic hires an American Airlines executive as its new chief executive; and LOT Polish will shrink to stay alive.

  • An Airberlin A330 has started flying with the company’s new business class cabin, an improvement that will be gradually added to the airline’s other long-haul aircraft in the months to come. The 19-seat business class cabin has lie-flat seat-beds that include a massage capability; direct aisle access from every seat; and a new in-flight entertainment system via a 15-inch monitor that has 200 hours of movies, TV series, music and games. The seats also have USB ports. Airberlin said the revamp will make its in-flight product compatible with other Oneworld alliance members. Meanwhile, Airberlin said it is expanding its code-share agreement with American Airlines. When Airberlin begins Berlin-Chicago O’Hare service on March 23, it will code-share on 30 AA connecting flights there, the company said. The airline will also put its code onto American’s new ORD-Dusseldorf service, due to launch on April 11.

  • Austrian Airlines, part of the Lufthansa Group, has started to renovate its long-haul fleet, with the first 777 now completed. The new 48-seat business class has seats that recline to fully flat positions and include an air cushion system. The seats also have adjustable armrests and extra storage space. The economy cabin has also been enhanced, and both cabins have larger individual monitors to accommodate the aircraft’s improved in-flight entertainment system. Austrian said it will gradually bring the improvements to its long-haul fleet of four 777s and six 767s.

  • American Airlines executive Craig Kreeger, executive vice president of customer service, has moved to Virgin Atlantic Airways as its new chief executive. He replaces the retiring Steve Ridgway. Kreeger has been with American since 1985, and has also served as AA’s senior vp-international, based in London; in that post, he worked on American’s joint venture partnerships with British Airways/Iberia and with Japan Airlines. Kreeger comes to Virgin at a critical point, as Delta Air Lines recently announced plans to acquire a 49 percent stake in the British carrier from Singapore Airlines, and to create a new transatlantic joint venture with Virgin that will compete with AA-British Airways.

  • The latest European airline to go into crisis mode due to mounting losses is LOT Polish. The Wall Street Journal reports that the airline’s majority owner—the Polish government—has decided on a massive cutback of LOTs’ operations, with plans to eliminate 15 of its 40 aircraft. The government recently gave LOT an emergency $127 million loan to keep it operating, the newspaper said. There was no immediate word on which routes would be cut, but long-haul operations, like those to the U.S., are thought to be safe for now.

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