When Delta Air Lines announced in December that it was acquiring a 49 percent stake in Virgin Atlantic Airways, it was widely assumed that the British carrier would become a member of Delta’s global SkyTeam alliance, and/or Delta’s joint venture transatlantic partnership with AirFrance KLM. But apparently that is not the case.
Air Travel News
United Airlines last week rolled out the first aircraft to offer an enhanced in-flight product for its transcontinental p.s. service, with improved seating and entertainment. Additional reconfigured aircraft will be added to the p.s. routes in the months ahead.
Even as the battery issues with the Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners are being addressed, the aircraft manufacturer has already begun work on a new 787-9 jet, a stretched version of the 787-8. Boeing will test the stretched Dreamliner on a maiden flight in the second half of 2013, delivering the aircraft to airline customers in 2014.
While the Boeing 787-8 has been troubled by lithium-ion battery problems in its below-cabin bays, the cockpit remains one of the most advanced in commercial aviation. High-tech features such as built-in electronic flight bags sit side-by-side with comforts of home like cup holders.
On the heads-up display, critical information is projected on glass for pilots to view without looking down, enhancing situational awareness. The primary display can be configured by pilots using touch pads to show information on any of four screens. In fact, the overall display “real estate” on this aircraft is unmatched: 50 percent greater than on the 777. Also, airport moving taxi maps provide an essential safety enhancement.
Despite all the new technology, the 787 cockpit was designed with familiar Boeing features, such as a yoke, so pilot training would be seamless.
The Bells and Whistles:
1. Cup Holder
2. Power Levers
3. Autopilot and Autothrottles
6. Heads-Up Display
7. Primary Display
8. Electronic Flight Bag
9. Rudder Pedals
Delta Air Lines plans a significant expansion of its Los Angeles operations this year, announcing the introduction of eight new markets from LAX and increased schedules in several others, for a total capacity growth there of 12 percent.
In news of U.S. airlines, three carriers are requesting new rights to fly to Sao Paulo, Brazil; Republic Airways Holdings is getting close to a decision about what to do with its Frontier Airlines subsidiary; AirTran credit card holders are being switched to a new provider; and Virgin America adds a frequent flyer partnership.
© Singapore Airlines
Singapore Airlines will end nonstop, all-business-class flights to New York (Newark) and Los Angeles sometime in the fourth quarter of 2013. Rising fuel prices and slower demand were blamed for ending the world’s longest commercial flights, which the carrier launched in 2004 (the Singapore–Newark nonstop flight clocks in at nearly 19 hours). An alternative route from New York to Singapore is from JFK via Frankfurt, which tacks on an extra five hours. After these routes end, the longest nonstop commercial flight by distance will be the 8,576-mile trek from Dallas to Sydney on Qantas. Singapore Airlines has added more capacity to New York and Los Angeles by deploying A380 superjumbos on those routes. After nonstop flights end, Singapore Airlines will continue to operate from four U.S. airports—New York (JFK) via Frankfurt, Los Angeles via Tokyo, Houston via Moscow and San Francisco via Hong Kong.
Delta Air Lines has announced a number of in-flight service enhancements on key transcontinental routes out of its New York JFK hub, as well as new bedding in BusinessElite cabins worldwide.
Would you believe that some airline passengers actually prefer the middle seat? That was just one of the facts in an annual survey of air travelers by TripAdvisor, the big website of traveler reviews. Here’s another, not nearly as surprising: Passengers hate paying extra for things.
The survey of 2,000 respondents singled out uncomfortable seats and insufficient legroom as the top consumer complaint about flying on commercial airlines—but it also found that they aren’t willing to ante up too much to improve conditions.
Some 38 percent said extra legroom would be the best thing the airlines could provide to improve the overall experience. But 44 percent said they have never paid to get a better seat assignment; 85 percent said they wouldn’t pay more than $25 for a better seat on a domestic flight, while 81 percent said their limit was $50 to get one on international routes.
The survey found that 58 percent of respondents prefer aisle seats, while 42 percent opt for the window—and 4 percent said they prefer the middle seat.
Saving money was a big theme among the passengers surveyed. Four out of five said they would forego all airline-provided in-flight entertainment if it meant they could fly for less, while 63 percent said that if airlines were to offer a “quiet section,” they wouldn’t ante up any kind of fee or surcharge to sit in it.
Expensive airline tickets and fees ranked second on the survey respondents’ list of gripes about air travel, followed by flight delays, long waits insecurity lines, and “other passengers (e.g. loud children),” TripAdvisor said.
Among the fees they hate to pay, respondents ranked checked baggage charges as number one, followed in descending order by fees for carry-on bags (assessed only by two low-fare airlines at present); fees for seat selection; the charge to print a boarding pass at the airport; and the cost of in-flight amenities.
About one-fourth of those polled said the availability of in-flight Wi-Fi would affect their choice of airline, and 37 percent said their tablet or iPad was “a carry-on essential,” up five percent from a year ago. The survey also found an increasing use of smartphones and mobile devices to check flight status (56 percent), check in for flights (38 percent) and research fares (36 percent).
In airport news, New York Kennedy’s Terminal 5 will be getting a new passenger lounge open to all; American Airlines expands self-service bag checks to Washington Reagan National; Houston Hobby details expansion plans; and Alaska Airlines eyes a service plan for Paine Field outside Seattle.