Think you know how to get in to the seat with the best views for your flight? Odds are that Karim Nafatni has you beat. It turns out that having a great eye for photography, combined with being an airline pilot, works together very, very will for capturing incredible images.
Seriously, the HDR shots he has from in the cockpit are ridiculous. Here are a few:
Sunburst Over The Clouds by Karim Nafatni
The View From Up There by Karim Nafatni
Seriously impressive stuff.
And thanks to Jeff for turning me on to this.
I’m sitting my room in Tokyo now, watching the rain fall and trying to muster the energy to get out and find dinner before collapsing into a deep sleep. The flight was great, though I managed to somehow not actually sleep on board; that was a big mistake. Needless to say, the supposed benefit of feeling more rested after a long flight on the 787 might be lost on me given that.
A full report will be coming eventually but I wanted to share a couple quick highlights, mostly from the pre-flight experience, and also give away some of the souvenirs that I collected as part of the inaugural flight. There was a traditional prayer offered for the success of the partnership and also a traditional drum performance by Denver Taiko; they’re quite impressive. I got a bunch of great photos of the plane and the ceremony and then it was time for the sake toast (it is, after all, tradition) before boarding the flight and heading out for Tokyo.
United gave away a passport holder and deck of cards (who knew they still had those!?) to every passenger. I managed to grab extras and I also have a pair of the sake toast "cups" to go with them. The full set will go to one reader who comments on this post with either your favorite memory of a trip to Tokyo or what you want to see next time you visit Tokyo. If you’re looking for inspiration on things to see next visit there are a bunch of comments in this post which can help you out.
Contest closes 12 noon EDT on Thursday, June 13.
Want to explore Norway this summer? Wideroe, the regional airline affiliated with SAS, is offering up an “all you can fly” package allowing unlimited* flights in their reasonably extensive network (more than 40 destinations) for a reasonable price.
They’ve split the country into three regions, with different pricing if you want to remain in one region ($485), two regions ($590) or the whole country ($690) over a two week window. Adding an additional week is $300 for any of the packages. Travel on the deal is permitted between 19 June – 27 August 2013; you schedule the first flight and the two week window begins then. The package even includes inbound segments to Norway from Aberdeen, Newcastle, Copenhagen and Gothenburg.
I’m quite tempted by the deal, naturally, though there are a couple bits holding me back. For starters, I’d actually want to spend some time at many of the destinations and even with three weeks to fly around that doesn’t leave much time to do both. And then there’s the part where actually being in Norway is quite expensive.
As for the * above, there is one limit on the flights: you can only book any one sector twice (i.e. a round-trip from the hub to a point and back). Some of the milk run routings in the center and north of the country could still yield entertaining routings and it isn’t like flying back and forth between two cities for several weeks would be particularly fun. I also have no idea if the flights credit to EuroBonus (and even if they do only some of the routes would be eligible). In this case it isn’t really about the points.
With the news out yesterday that JetBlue is working to fit some of their A321 planes with private “mini-suites” in business class I’ve started pondering just how that would work in the cabin layout. Given that they’ve historically tried to only add benefits at the top rather than remove from the bottom when they make changes (sometimes more effectively than others) it seems to reason that they’ll try to keep their industry-leading economy class pitch even while adding in the premium offerings. Can it fit??
Given that American Airlines plans to add 5 rows of single-seat F seats in the forward cabin of their A321s it shouldn’t be too hard for JetBlue to offer up a similar number of rows with a rather comfortable product. And, conveniently enough, 5 is the number of rows necessary to get the 12 “regular” business class seats and 4 mini-suites that the FAA filing calls for in that cabin.
For economy the spec’s call for 143 seats. That’s one seat short of 24 full rows of 3-3 seating. In the space to the rear of the 2nd door (2L/R) US Airways currently has 26 rows with 32″ pitch. Remove two rows from that layout and you get a full cabin of 34″ seats without too much trouble.
Of course, this layout also would mean no more Even More Legroom seats. With the addition of the premium cabin offerings that isn’t impossible but I’d be a bit surprised if that were the path chosen. It is a solid incremental revenue offering versus a full premium fare up-charge and the competition on those transcon routes all have something comparable. It is also not clear just how much galley space JetBlue will require given their current catering setup. If you move the lavatory at 3L to the back of the plane there is a bit more room to play with in the cabin. Another option is that they will revert to 32″ pitch for most seats. This matches the default in their E190 cabins and it is still quite reasonable for passengers, though not nearly as generous as the 34″ on the A320s (yes, the 2″ is noticeable). Putting 13 rows in the rear-most cabin lets the forward section of economy become a bit more spacious, up in the 35-36″ range by my math. If they cannot get the EML up to 36″ at a minimum I’d say it isn’t worth doing. But there’s also probably a reason I don’t work for an airline.
Odds are that none of these maps are accurate and that JetBlue will come up with something different for the planes. But I had a bit of fun speculating on the topic. Plus, I wasn’t all that far off when guessing about the UA 787 config a while back.
In a deal flush with excess capital letters, the new PEOPLExpress has confirmed the previously reported acquisition of XTRA Airways. XTRA is a Boise-based airline which is already certified by the FAA to operate Boeing 737 aircraft. PEOPLExpress has been struggling for the past 16+ months to receive FAA certification to operate in the United States. This acquisition will allow them to use the XTRA license to operate the flights under their brand name. Both brands will remain in operation, with XTRA continuing to serve the charter services market and PEOPLExpress focused on commercial operations.
PEOPLExpress is looking to launch as a new low-cost carrier based in Newport News, Virginia. Since their initial flurry of news last February the company has been reasonably quiet. Their hopes of building a new operation from the ground up was apparently waylaid by lack of FAA licensing, among other things. After spending the better part of a year trying to make that happen on their own the company switched up the approach, choosing to acquire another airlines which already has the necessary licensing in place. That’s faster, to be certain, though it also comes with some costs. On the plus side, acquiring XTRA means that the company has an existing charter business they can continue to operate as they work to build up the scheduled service operation.
Oh, and they’ve also indicated on their homepage that they expect to launch a new website soon. Because, as we all know, that’s key to a successful airline launch.
Last November when Elite Airways announced their intentions to start service in 2013 I suggested that the choices they made in terms of their hub and initial destination were probably suspect. It seems that they agreed on those aspects, shifting a lot of the details around. But, somewhat surprisingly, they are actually still planning on launching service. The latest version of the story has them in business starting in mid-July, with Baton Rouge, LA as their hub.
This time around there are no destinations yet announced and no indication of when seats will go on sale. There is a suggestion that they’ll upgrade their fleet to include some 737s, in addition to the CRJ-200s they currently operate. That’s a potential win for passengers, though it isn’t clear if they’re going for new planes or picking some old ones up second hand. Either way, just about anything is better than flying on the CR2 so I suppose it doesn’t matter too much.
Without a hint of destinations it is hard to guess at the chances for success of the operation. Reading the comments on the story (presumably from locals) it seems that Cancun; San Antonio; Washington, DC and Newark are being requested. I’m betting against all of those being included. Actually, Cancun might have the best chance of success.
Anyways, I suppose I’ll have to find my way to Baton Rouge at some point later this summer to give Elite Airways a try. Assuming they actually do get off the ground, of course.
A few months ago American Airlines quietly (or so they thought; turns out JohnnyJet was on a test flight so news spread quickly) started testing a new boarding process for their flights. The key change was that passengers with only small carry-on bags (i.e. underseat sized) would be allowed to board following Group 2. The theory is that these passengers are being rewarded for not putting bags in the overhead bins and they aren’t slowing the boarding process so they can board whenever they want (after the elite status passengers). But does it really matter?
One report on the process suggests that the total average time savings is 2-3 minutes per flight. Sure, multiply that out by thousands of daily departures and it sounds like a ton of time “saved” daily, but it really only counts if they change the flight times to account for that supposed savings. At 2-3 minutes on average per flight I’m betting against them adjusting block turn times for the flights.
Beyond that, however, I also cannot help but wonder which passengers are actually happily taking advantage of this benefit. Most of the race to board early is – at least from what I’ve seen – people trying to make sure they have space to stow their bags. If you don’t need overhead space it doesn’t make sense that there would be a great rush to get on the plane and cram yourself into a space just over 17″ wide and ~31-34″ deep, a small space that you’re going to be stuck in for the next many hours.
In other words, unless you absolutely need to be on board, why would you subject yourself to more time on the plane??
Don’t get me wrong – I love flying on a plane. And that means spending a lot of time on planes. But I also don’t go out of my way to be the first person on board. And when I’m traveling very light (which is most of the time these days) I happily board towards the end of the process, tuck my bag wherever it fits (including under my seat sometimes) and get going. Yes, I prefer to have the bag overhead, but that’s not the type of passenger this program is supposed to appeal to. This is for passengers who don’t have much in the way of a bag, for whom the need to get on board to store their stuff is key.
Maybe I’m missing out and there is a huge group of passengers who really, really, really like sitting in coach seats and want to do more of it. I suppose it is fantastic for that group. But it seems unlikely to me that anyone really benefits from this move.
More than that, however, there is also a reasonable concern that this will actually make things worse. Here’s one view which isn’t completely off-base:
If all the small things are put in the overheads because those passengers get on first that means more gate-checked bags, not fewer. Whoopsie.
I’m not completely convinced that it will be a problem, but I’m also not convinced this is a change which makes things better for many passengers. Certainly not enough to justify potentially pissing off a lot of other passengers for it.
What am I missing??
When United Airlines announced last August that they’d be changing the seats on their Airbus A319 and A320 planes there was a bit of concern among their customers. The Recaro Slimline seat is a VERY basic product. It has been widely deployed in Europe (the Lufthansa Group of airlines has made it their default for narrow-body planes) and it is not particularly comfortable for flights of more than an hour or two. That can work in Europe where the hubs are more central and the flights are generally shorter. For the US market, however, it would have been a potentially unpleasant ride. A United official announced today that the carrier will be including the "comfort package" in their version of the seats. That should have many passengers quite relieved.
The new seats are manufactured by RECARO, and you may recognize the specific model from several European carriers, who feature it on many of their mainline narrow-body aircraft. However, because we fly our Airbuses over longer stage lengths than the typical intra-Europe segment, our version of the seat will have several upgraded comfort features over the base model. These include multi-directional headrests, added lumbar support, and a different seat bottom cushion with more padding and multiple layers of soft memory foam. The literature seat pocket has been moved higher, which facilitates the above increase in knee space, and there’s a new amenity pocket specifically for personal items.
The Recaro Slimline seat in service on a Lufthansa narrow-body plane; the middle seat is blocked for 'business class' service.
As part of the same announcement a scant few details on the streaming media offering were made public:
Along with Wi-Fi, the addition of on-demand streaming video will become the standard for our Airbus fleet. As a result, when these aircraft go in to have the new seats installed, the traditional audio/video system with dropdown monitors will be removed. However, these aircraft won’t “go dark”—Wi-Fi will be available on all aircraft that have the new seats. In any case, like Wi-Fi the streaming product will eventually have pricing attached to it, although we do plan to offer a limited range of complimentary content until we finalize these plans.
The 747s are also getting the streaming media option and it was previously stated that the content would be free on those planes; it is interesting to see the slightly different tack being taken with the short-haul fleet.
Finally, for the Channel 9 lovers, the IFE retrofit means that offering will disappear. That’s definitely a bummer.
I’m often intrigued by the information I can glean from Twitter chats. I tend to avoid them more than participate in them but a chat this past Friday hosted by @JohnnyJet and @CJMcGinnis piqued my curiosity so I tuned in. The chat was about summer travel and used the #TravelSkills tag for tracking the conversation. The two hosts didn’t waste any time getting in to what is often a touchy subject: How much is a reasonable price for airfare?
My answer was actually easy to come up with. For summer travel I’ll spend up to 100,000 points for a business class trip to Europe. And I’ve been quite successful in finding those when and where I want them over the years. But that’s just me. What was interesting to me were some of the other responses I saw to the inquiry. Seems that a lot of people think that $1000 is an reasonable upper limit, with many believing that even lower fares are "fair" for such a trip.
Some responses based the price on where they’d end up:
And some considered where in the USA they were starting as part of the thought process:
Every single one of the numbers tossed out as being "fair" was actually below the average cost to operate the flight which would carry the passenger on the trip (based on published average cost data from the airlines). So, with the exception of some bargain fares on oneworld carriers to Dusseldorf (and even those are ~$900 from the east coast), it seems that many of the chat participants are going to be disappointed. Chris points out that average fares are in the $1200-1500 range already and there are no signs of those dropping much anytime soon.
Fares are higher on average than they have been the past few years; there is no doubt about that. Even off-season fares are higher. That mostly comes from less competition, less capacity and a desire by the airlines to actually make some money. Absolute fares are at or near all-time highs, while inflation-adjusted fares are still quite reasonable according to DoT analysis (note that the DoT data is for domestic, not international, but the trends are similar):
Not adjusted for inflation, the $367 third-quarter 2012 average fare is the fifth-highest average fare for any quarter since BTS began collecting air fare records in 1995. The highest was $385 in the second quarter of 2012. The previous third-quarter high was $361 in 2011. Third-quarter 2012 fares were $243 in 1995 dollars, down 18.1 percent from the average fare of $297 in 2000, the inflation-adjusted high for any third quarter (Tables 1 and 2).
Here’s another bit of analysis from Airlines for America, the industry trade group in the USA. It uses DoT data to track overall international fares since 1990 (a subset shown here).
These are overall averages for all international travel, not just peak season transatlantic. Still, the numbers make it hard to believe that getting peak season airfares at below average rates is going to work out well very often.
There was one slightly off-topic aside in the conversation which was also rather entertaining:
Apparently relatively normal airfares are, in some cases, shocking.
Don’t get me wrong – I don’t like paying very much for airfare and when the fare is too high I either don’t travel or I go somewhere else. But I also go in to the transaction knowing what to expect and being able to tell if I got a good deal or not rather than just expecting that fares are always so low. At the end of the day I guess I’m just surprised how low some people think airfare should be to be considered reasonable.
No wonder the airlines are struggling to eke out profits. For too long passengers have become used to the cheap fares offered as a result of excess capacity and increased competition. Mergers and ATI deals have cut almost all of that out of the system. And with the impending US Airways/American Airlines merger and Delta/Virgin Atlantic ATI request working their way through the regulators the competition is going to decrease. It is good for consumers that the airlines are able to remain in business. But that will mean higher fares, more crowded planes and fewer choices, all of which make for not-so-happy passengers.
Passengers will have one more option for flights between Milan and New York City starting this Fall. Emirates will launch the route in October 2013 ending their 5 year hiatus of service between New York and Europe. Their previous iteration of service was to Hamburg, Germany which ended in 2008.
Flights will depart New York at 10:20pm, arriving in Milan at 12:15pm the following day and continuing on to Dubai at 2:00pm. The westbound flight will depart Milan at 4:00pm, arriving in New York at 7:00pm the same day. The eastbound flight time is nice, providing useful onward connection options in Europe. It is also a late enough flight such that sleeping should be reasonably easy for passengers. Westbound the timing is great for passengers who want most of a day in Europe before heading back to New York City. Onward connections are limited, however, with the late arrival at JFK.
The route will compete directly with Delta, Alitalia and American Airlines There is also a flight on United Airlines into Newark. And the Emirates 777-300ER will be the largest plane on the route, adding a lot of capacity and also adding an option for first class service.
I now know which route I’ll be looking over the winter for bargain deals.