Around the World

Miles flown for stories
2014: 138,116
2013: 330,818

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Politics, Mergers, and the Imminent Expansion of Southwest Airlines

On November 30, 1984 Southwest took delivery of its first Boeing 737–300, N300SW. It was the launch customer and as of May 2012 is the largest operator of the aircraft type with 125 still in service – many with winglets. The first 737-300 was dubbed “Kitty Hawk.” It flew its final flight from Paine Field on April 18th, 2011 the first 737-300 is now preserved at the Museum of Flight at Dallas Love Field. Image courtesy: Boeing

On November 30, 1984, Southwest took delivery of its first Boeing 737–300, N300SW. It is now preserved at the Museum of Flight at Dallas Love Field. Photo: Boeing

Earlier this year, Southwest Airlines announced a significant number of new direct flights originating from their home base of Dallas Love Field. The newly-announced flights will provide non-stop service to places such as New York, Los Angeles, Denver, and Atlanta.

But why is Southwest, which has been in business since 1971, just now adding these seemingly universal routes to its network? To answer that question, we’ll have to go back in time and brush up on our Dallas-area airport history.

Prior to the opening of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) in 1974, the two cities had a history of contentious competition and missed opportunities. The first was a proposed joint airport way back in 1927. Fort Worth declined the proposal, opting to purchase and operate its own airport independent of Dallas. This led Dallas to build its own airport as well. The end result was the opening of both Love Field (in Dallas) and Meacham Field (in Fort Worth) to commercial air traffic.

In 1940, there was another attempt to cooperate in the construction of a regional airport for both cities, but it was eventually abandoned after neither city could agree on the location or details of the airport. This was followed by the creation of Amon Carter Field, later renamed to Greater Southwest International Airport (GSW), which was barely a stone’s throw away from Love Field.

Finally, in the early sixties, the FAA made it clear to the two cities that it wouldn’t invest any additional money into separate Dallas and Fort Worth airports (quick geography note – downtown Dallas is roughly 30 miles from downtown Fort Worth). This, along with a directive from the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB), finally pushed Dallas and Fort Worth together in an effort to develop a single large airport to serve the entire metroplex.

Thus, DFW was born.

Continue reading Politics, Mergers, and the Imminent Expansion of Southwest Airlines

Photo Tour: Hainan Flies 787 Dreamliner to Toronto for the First Time

- Photo: Philip Debski

Toronto welcomes Hainan’s 787 Dreamliner – Photo: Philip Debski

What looked to be the first true spring day here in Toronto, March 31, was the day Hainan Airlines finally inaugurated their 787 service to Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ). They started operating the route in 2010 with three ex-Cathay A340-600s (B-6508, B-6509, and B-6510, if anyone is interested).

Throughout the years the airline has had its ups and downs (such as varying frequency from 3x weekly to once per week) on the route. However, with the 787, Hainan will go daily this summer, a huge improvement to the Beijing-Toronto route. Hainan was also originally supposed to fly the 787 into YYZ starting May 1, but pushed it up to the earlier date in late February.

The Hainan Toronto crew were kind enough to arrange an exclusive tour for me on their big day of receiving the 787 at their base. Here is a rundown of what happened during that tour.

Continue reading Photo Tour: Hainan Flies 787 Dreamliner to Toronto for the First Time

“And the Winner is…” – Taking a Closer Look at the 2014 Airline Quality Rating Report

The First Virgin America A320 With Sharklets

The first Virgin America A320 with Sharklets – Photo: Virgin America

This story was written by John Cameron for AirlineReporter…

The 2014 Airline Quality Rating report was released last week and, for the second year in a row, Virgin America was ranked #1 amongst major US carriers. How did the other airlines fare? Who received the dubious distinction of being ranked worst? You’ll have to read on to find out.

But first, a bit of background information.

The Airline Quality Rating (AQR) report has been published annually since 1991. Yes, 24 years. That’s a long, long time in the commercial aviation industry. To put that into perspective, consider that the AQR predates the prohibition of in-flight smoking in the US (1998), the Embraer ERJ family (1995), the Boeing 777 (1994), the Airbus A330 (1992), and even the ubiquitous Bombardier CRJ (which took to the air one month after the inaugural AQR report was released).

Back then, as the 1990s were just dawning, professors Brent Bowen and Dean Headley realized that the majority of existing airline rating systems relied heavily on subjective surveys of customer opinion that were infrequently collected and largely unreliable. What was needed was a timely, objective, and quantitative rating system that could be used to compare airline performance from year to year.

Thus, the Airline Quality Rating was born.

Continue reading “And the Winner is…” – Taking a Closer Look at the 2014 Airline Quality Rating Report

Airline Livery of the Week: Flybe and Their New Purple Design

G-FBJH E-175 in the current livery at Birmingham, UK, 25-Feb-14

G-FBJH E-175 in the current livery at Birmingham, UK. Notice the Biman DC-10 in the background – Photo: Ken Fielding

FlyBe, based at Exeter, Devon, in the UK is Europe’s largest regional airline.  It was born as Jersey European Airways out of a merger between Jersey, Channel Islands-based Intra Airways and Bournemouth, UK-based Express Air Services in November, 1979, and established a network of services out of the Channel Islands, mainly to other UK points.

In June 2000, the airline cheekily renamed itself ‘British European’, using the ex-British European Airways (BEA – now British Airways) flight prefix code ‘BE’, rebranding as ‘FlyBe’ in July, 2002.  In November 2006, FlyBe expanded again by buying the British Airways’ regional group, ‘BA Connect’ (apart from their services out of London City Airport, which are operated by BA CityFlyer), with part of the payment to BA being a 15% stock transfer.

At the start of 2008, FlyBe signed a franchise agreement with Scottish-based airline Loganair.  This agreement became effective when their franchise agreement with British Airways was terminated the following October.  Loganair’s aircraft now operate in FlyBe’s colors on over 50 routes out of Scottish airports including the ‘Highlands & Islands’ services.
Continue reading Airline Livery of the Week: Flybe and Their New Purple Design

Flying on the Last Royal Air Force Lockheed L1011 Tristar Refueling Sortie

Lockheed L1011 Tristar, KC 1; ZD950; callsign “FAGIN 12”. Backtracking along the main runway, alongside ZD948 “FAGIN 11”.

Lockheed L1011 Tristar, KC 1; ZD950; callsign “FAGIN 12”. Backtracking along the main runway, alongside ZD948 “FAGIN 11” – Photo: Graham Dinsdale

This story was written by Graham Dinsdale, of Ian Allan Aviation Tours in England, for AirlineReporter…

04:00 GMT (Greenwich Mean Time); my bedside alarm clock shatters the silence and causes my wife to stir; at last, I thought, keen to get started on what promised to be an awesome – but very sad – day. I had dozed the night away, my brain too active to shut down and allow me to get any sleep. I had reasons for my lack of sleep – I was to fly on a Royal Air Force (RAF) Lockheed L1011 Tristar in formation!

After the usual morning routine I was out the door by 4:30 a.m., and starting my car for the two-and-a-half hour drive across the countryside of Cambridgeshire, Northamptonshire, and Oxfordshire to the RAF’s huge air transport base at RAF Brize Norton. I anticipated possible delays due to dense fog and mist covering most of the route, and the morning rush-hour road traffic around the university town of Oxford didn’t help, so I allowed plenty of time to get to the rendezvous point: an off-base car park a quarter of a mile from the station’s main gate.

For those not familiar with British nomenclature, the RAF have “stations” not “air bases!” The fog and road traffic was not as bad as the internet advised, so I arrive early, at 6:25. Time to open up the flask of coffee and munch a biscuit. Over the next 90 minutes more and more of the invited media, and some very lucky aviation enthusiasts, arrived.

Continue reading Flying on the Last Royal Air Force Lockheed L1011 Tristar Refueling Sortie