Around the World

Miles flown for stories
2015: 290,939
2014: 363,407
Total: 1,212,540

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Have $60,000? Get Your Name on a Virgin America Plane and a Charter Flight for 145 of Your Friends

Virgin America Airbus A320 named "Runway Angel." You can name your own aircraft if you have a space $60k.

Virgin America Airbus A320 named "Runway Angel." You can name your own aircraft if you have a spare $60k.

If you have an extra $60,000.00 burning a hole in your pocket, Virgin America has a unique holiday gift idea for you. For that amount of money, not only can you have an Airbus A320-family aircraft named whatever you want, but you and 145 of your friends can get a flight to anywhere Virgin America flies.

“We did it as part of a partnership with Gilt – as a pretty unique, once-in-a-lifetime item for their holiday gift list.” Abby Lunardini, Vice President of Corporate Communications for Virgin America explained to via email. “You may recall that we teamed up with them a few months back as well for Gilt packs (packs of Main Cabin Select seats that sold out in a flash).”

Even though you can name the aircraft, I am going to guess there might be some restrictions. I am guessing that “I Love United Airlines” wouldn’t fly, but my choice of “ Express” would be accepted. Even though you get a charter flight with 144 of your closest friends, you might not be able to fly on the plane with your name on it for the special flight.

if you are a person of means who is planning to get this special gift and looking to bring a fun blogger with you to document your adventure… I am your man.

To learn more and place your order, check out Gilt City.

Image by: Liem

Airlines Are Putting Money into Premium Seats — Why?

At a time of “Occupying Wall Street,” type of protests seen around the world, it is interesting timing to take a look how airlines are creating a larger difference between low class (economy), upper class (first/business class) and middle class (economy plus).

Many American airlines have been suffering since 9/11, but have more recently started making profit again. Others have also been distracted with mergers (America West & US Airways, Delta & Northwest and still United & Continental), which has left many premium products (especially domestic ones) aging. Recently, airlines have started putting money into their premium products, while cutting options on economy, but why? I think there are a few reasons:

Singapore Airlines offers these first class suites on their Airbus A380's. They can cost over $20,000.00 roundtrip.

Singapore Airlines offers these suites on their Airbus A380's. They can cost over $20,000.00 round trip.

* Premium products, especially internationally, are very profitable
Scott Mayerowitz writing for the AP points out that, “first-class and business-class passengers make up only 8 percent of international travelers but account for 27 percent of revenue.” Why wouldn’t an airline go for where the money is at? At the end of the day, airlines are a business and they are meant to make profit. Now that they have money to make investments into products, does it not make sense to give passengers what they want? The wealthy want a better product and most of the non-wealthy want cheaper tickets.

* Legacy carriers need to keep their frequent fliers 
Newer airlines, like Virgin America, have been shaking things up with-in the US. They provide superior first class and economy product and might make some of the frequent fliers on legacy carriers think twice. Take away points and rewards and what would you rather fly? On an old MD-80 aircraft (still flown by American and Delta) or a newer cabin on Virgin America’s new Airbus A320s?

* It is cheaper to keep a current customer versus the money to get a new one
It is basic Business 101. Companies will spend much more money trying to attract new customers than just trying to keep the ones they already have. It makes long-term financial sense to improve first class.

* Rich people want nice things, less rich want to get there as cheap as possible
It comes down to market demand. Those that do not have the money, normally want to get from point A to point B as cheap as possible. When comparing prices, they might see that it will cost $20 more for one airline, but would rather save that $20 (or $80 if a family of four) for their trip. However, this doesn’t stop the person from complaining about the lack of service and amenities.

Those that can afford the extra costs or have earned enough rewards to be upgraded, care more about the amenities offered. They are more willing to shell out some extra money for a higher level of service.

As Mayerowitz points out, “Most of the 3.4 million Americans expected to fly this holiday week won’t get anything close to that treatment. They’ve paid a little under $400 for their round-trip tickets. And it’s a cutthroat business. To save $5, passengers are likely to choose another airline.”

* There are some things given to economy, but most cost money
Just because economy passengers are not seeing the royal treatment, doesn’t mean they are not getting anything. Many airlines have been installing Wi-Fi onto their planes and are offering some pretty decent food options — but you have to pay for both. This allows airlines to offer rock bottom prices and additional add-ons that passengers can pay more to increase their level of service. This seems to be working for most airlines, since they are making record profits on the additional options in economy.

American Airlines is replacing some of their MD-80s with Boeing 737s with the new Sky Interior.

American Airlines is replacing some of their MD-80s with Boeing 737s with the new Sky Interior.

* The middle class now have an option
Flying used to be just for the rich. Then just for the rich and middle class. Now, almost anyone can snag a cheap ticket and flying is open to the masses. You have the rich up front, the non-rich in the back and now some airlines are offering premium economy options for the middle class. Delta , JetBlue, Frontier, United and Virgin America all offer premium economy seats, but is the extra cost worth it? I guess it depends on who you are and how long your flight might be.

Edward Russell, with, recently took a look at the different options and if they are worth it.

* Conclusion
I have been flown around the world in many airline’s premium products and have loved them. However, they would have cost me anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 if I would have paid out of pocket — that is not even first class. When I am flying on my own dime, there is no way I could ever come close to afford that and mostly I am looking for the cheapest fare.

If one can consistently afford a premium product, I can understand getting spoiled and demanding a high-level of service. But for most of us, we are happy with getting to our destination as cheaply as possible.  “They want their luggage. They want to arrive on time. They want the airplane to be clean,” Andrew Nocella, US Airways senior vice president of marketing explained to the AP. “Most importantly, they want a low fare.”

Airlines know that many people in economy just care about the low fare and that people who can afford a better experience care about amenities. If airlines are just giving passengers what they want, why do so many people always seem upset at them? Oh that’s right. Many people want to pay economy level prices, but get that first class treatment. I doubt we will be seeing that anytime soon.

British Airways Boeing 747 Relief Flight to East Africa

From British Airway’s YouTube page:

On Thursday the 3rd of November, British Airways carried 45 tonnes of life-saving UNICEF aid for people affected by the famine

British Airways donated the aircraft to UNICEF appeal, which is being backed by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, to help the 13million victims of the East Africa crisis. We are immensely proud of all our colleagues who helped to make this flight happen.

To donate to the appeal please visit

Delta Air Lines Adds Bag Tracking on Smart Phone App

Do you know where your bag is at? If you are on Delta, you can know. Photo by Kenny Ganz.

Do you know where your bag is at? If you are on Delta, you can know. Photo by Kenny Ganz.

Earlier this year Delta Air Lines started experimenting with being able to track your checked bags via the internet. Although you could check the status of your bag using a browser on your smart phone, it wasn’t the best. Now, Delta has expanded the capability to use their app to check on your bag.

Once you enter your bag’s code (with the iPhone you can scan it) you are able to watch it board your plane and find out what carousel it will show up on after you land. Or you might also be able to watch as it goes to Hawaii as you fly to Ohio. Even though that would be a negative experience overall, at least, it allows you to plan ahead of time. You won’t have to stand at baggage claim for an hour waiting for your bag, just to find out that it did not make it. You can go straight from your flight to a customer service representative.

“Delta’s baggage tracking feature on our mobile applications is part of our ongoing investment in technology to bring greater convenience to the travel experience, said Bob Kupbens, Delta’s vice president – eCommerce. “We’ve added features that help put our customer’s minds at ease, simplify their journey and put them in control.”

Currently, the bag tracking is available on the iPhone and Android. Apps for Windows and Blackberry phones will be coming online in the next few weeks.

So, with many of your traveling has anyone been able to try out this service yet?

Learn more and see a video on Delta’s blog.