Around the World

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

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Reader Airline Passion: One Young Man’s Love for Continental and United Airlines

The airline passion runs deep in many people. Recently, I had the opportunity to e-meet Jack, who is a 16 year old airline fan that loves Continental and United Airlines. With the change over from Continental to United, a local Houston news station interviewed Jack Hardy and I really think it embodies many of our passions for airlines.

On top of being a certified AvGeek, Jack also runs the site, The United Airlines Fleet Website, which follows the most recent updates of United’s fleet. I asked him, via email why he became the AvGeek he is today. Here is his reply:

My earliest memory of flying, around age 4, was telling my parents I love flying. Ever since, I have been an airline aficionado with a particular love for Continental. Now I carry this love to United as Continental and United merged back in 2010.

Four United liveries caught at IAH this January. Photo by Jack.

Four United liveries caught at ORD this January. Photo by Jack.

I grew up watching Continental flights takeoff and land at Houston Intercontinental Airport (IAH). My neighbors worked for Continental, and they let me fly the Boeing 767-400 simulator at age seven. At age 10, I could easily tell you what type of aircraft that was flying over, and when I learned the fleet, I could tell you based on the tail number what type aircraft it belonged to.

As Continental and United merged, I have taken my love for Continental and transitioned it to United. While I may not fully agree with everything that has occurred in the merger, I thinks it’s great that United is now the World’s Largest Airline. Also, that my home airport is the largest hub to United.

After finding out that I was too young to get a summer job with an airline, I started the United Airlines Fleet Website. The website is dedicated to tracking each of the 1,314 aircraft that are flown by or for United. The site covers delivery year, aircraft number, type of entertainment, power, seat type and seat maps for each aircraft in the United fleet.

Jack waves to the last Continental flight (painted in United livery) to IAH. Photo from Jack.

Jack waves to the last Continental flight (painted in United livery) to IAH. Photo from Jack.

The site is also dedicated to providing excellent customer service by answering all fleet questions and suggestions for improving the site. Every day it gets better and on June 16th the site will have a complete new design based on what people have asked for.

When I am reading all of the comments about the site, I cannot help but smile as I am only a 16 year old who runs what I call a priceless United travel tool.

Someday, I want to be a CEO or a Customer Service Director for an airline; as I want to restore the magic of flight

APEX: The Possible Future of Airline Interiors?

This week, APEX Editor’s Blog, posted a great video highlighting the possible future of an airline cabin. Somethings are a bit radical (like every wall being an interactive screen), but others might be be realistic enough (like width changing seats). Either way, it is nice to see there are many smart people out there thinking about what the next generation of airliner might look like.

Watch the video above and check out the APEX blog for more information.

Heading to Germany with Lufthansa for the Inaugural Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental Flight

I recently received an invite to head to Germany for about 24 hours before turning around and taking the first passenger flight on-board the Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental. How could I refuse?

I will be leaving Seattle (SEA) on a Lufthansa Airbus A330 non-stop to Frankfurt (FRA) before grabbing a seat on the inaugural flight from Frankfurt to Washington DC (IAD) on flight LH416. You better believe I will be sharing this experience as much as I can. Follow on Twitter and of course on the blog.

This is exciting for a number of different reasons. One of which is I have already taken a ride on one of Lufthansa’s Airbus A380s and I look forward to comparing that experience to the Intercontinental flight. It won’t be that easy, since the 747-8I is debuting Lufthansa’s new business class product, where the A380 I flew had their older product.

If you have the means (and an open calendar), I just checked this morning and there are still a few tickets left to make the inaugural flight yourself. You also have the chance to win two tickets on a future 747-8I flight on Lufthansa via their Intercontinental mini-site. Be careful though. That mini-site will make you easily burn some time with the 3D 747-8I tour, videos and more.

Alaska Airlines “Maintenance Angels” Help Fallen Soldiers Return Home

iPhone photo I was able to take of an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 and the fallen soldier baggage cart at the airline's maintenance facility in Seattle.

iPhone photo I was able to take of an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 and the fallen soldier baggage cart at the airline's maintenance facility in Seattle during a special Veteran's event in November 2011.

Today is Memorial Day, where hopefully most people are able to at least take a moment and think about those who have given the ultimate sacrifice serving our country. It is a day where it shouldn’t matter if you support war or even what political party you vote for. It should be a day where we remember those men and women who have been killed while serving in the armed forces.

When a solider dies while serving, it is a delicate process to bring their body back home. There are special military protocols that airlines must follow when transporting the remains of a fallen solider, but some airlines don’t want to do the bare minimum. Each body must have a volunteer escort that follows the fallen solider from the mortuary to their final resting place.

About a year ago, Alaska Airlines technicians realized that the process of transporting a fallen solider was lacking and they looked to improve it.

“We noticed a lot of violations of military protocols due to a lack of awareness and training,” said Brian Bowden, an Alaska Airlines line aircraft technician. “Our goal is to show respect by ensuring the proper standards are followed.”

Bowden and 13 other technicians created a new “Fallen Solider” program to, “seamlessly transfer the remains of soldiers killed in action through Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.” Part of that program was creating a special baggage cart that would only be used to transport fallen soldiers. The cart was refurbished with carpet and has a retractable American flag curtain with plaques representing the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.

The program gives details on how to properly load and unload a soldier’s remains, as well as taking care of the escort or families. “These brave men and women sacrificed their lives for you and me,” line aircraft technician Tony Sander stated. “Often, their families are traveling alongside the fallen soldier. Mishandlings are embarrassing and unacceptable.”

Escorts will fly in the main cabin, while the fallen soldier will fly in the cargo hold. During layovers, escorts need to stay with the fallen soldier at all times and that can be challenging. Alaska has gone out of their way to provide escorts or others travelling with the remains, a working station at the airline’s maintenance facility. Airline crew will also make sure that the escort is well fed during any down time and cater to any of their other needs.

Many of the technicians who worked on the program are veterans themselves and take great pride in taking care of their own. “The technicians wanted ownership. The group has many passionate ex-military members who re-designed the process completely on their own time,” said Paul Taylor, director of line maintenance. “They took decisive action and lived up to their word.”

The program has been so successful that it has spread beyond Seattle and to other airports. “This process needs to reach all the airports we serve. Training at our other sites would spread a deeper respect for all the fallen soldiers of our armed forces,” technician Bowden said.

An Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 coming in for a landing. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren.

An Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 coming in for a landing. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren.

A big cheers to Alaska Airlines and the technicians who took the initiative to do the right thing.

On top of the Fallen Soldiers program, Alaska has a 100 person Employee Military Resource Group whose sole focus is to hire, retain and promote military employees.

Alaska has also recently started a new apprentice program, aimed directly at military experience and the transition to civilian/corporate work. Alaska proudly employees veterans who work in all capacities from maintenance to flying to the executive offices.