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Briefs: Air Canada adds premium economy; Iberia workers walk out

In news of international carriers, Air Canada unveiled plans to install an  international premium economy cabin on its new 777-300ERs; Spain’s Iberia was hit with a job action last week, and faces more in the weeks ahead; KLM adds new bag fees; and Lufthansa looks to a marine creature to make its aircraft fly more smoothly.

• Air Canada said it will expand in-flight seating options with a new international premium economy section as it takes delivery of five new long-range Boeing 777-300ERs. The first two are due in June and August of this year, and the premium economy cabin will first appear on Air Canada’s Montreal-Paris route starting July 11. The seats in the new cabin will be larger than regular economy seats, offering a greater angle of recline and seven additional inches of legroom. The cabin will be configured 2x4x2, and persons who buy premium economy tickets will also get premium meals, free drinks, and priority check-in and baggage delivery. The new aircraft will still offer an Executive First cabin with seats that recline fully flat.

• Spain’s Iberia — a member of the transatlantic joint venture that includes American and British Airways — had to cancel 39 percent of its schedule last week after labor unions walked off the job, and it faces further walkouts March 4-8 and March 18-22, according to media reports from Europe. The workers are protesting management’s plan to eliminate nearly a fifth of its total workforce as it struggles with adverse economic conditions. The flight cancellations last week mostly affected Iberia’s domestic schedule, where 53 percent of its flights were scrubbed; the airline canceled 39 percent of medium-haul flights but just 10 percent of long-haul services.

• KLM will begin assessing new fees for checked luggage on flights within Europe for flights booked on or after April 22.  The charge for a bag booked in advance will be 15 euros ($20), while the fee at the airport will be 30 euros ($40). Members of KLM’s Flying Blue program will still be able to check one bag for no fee.

• Lufthansa is using a pair of its A340-300s to test a new material that could allow aircraft to move through the air more efficiently. The airline has installed several “test patches” on the planes’ fuselage and leading edge of the wings, using a new material designed with a fearsome marine creature in mind. “The aim of the research is to test the durability of a surface coating for aircraft that mimics shark skin under real-life flying conditions,” Lufthansa said. “The riblets that cover the entire skin of fast-swimming sharks reduce turbulent vortices and the drag they cause. This diminishes surface resistance when moving at speed.” The company said a German research institute discovered a way to emboss shark skin-like structures into aircraft paint.

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