Around the World

Miles flown for stories
2014: 228,152
2013: 330,818

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Ramp Operations – What’s Going on Out There?

A Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300 in the midst of a turnaround at YVR.

A Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300 in the midst of a turnaround at YVR. You can see the yellow air conditioning hoses under the bridge.

Your flight has landed, and the plane is pulling up to the gate. You’re ready to spring into action as soon as you hear the “we’re stopped” chime.  But instead of jumping up and waiting in the aisle, why don’t you relax in your window seat, and look outside?  You do have a window seat, don’t you? There’s quite the dance of people and equipment happening, all to service the plane and get it ready for its next flight.

The turnaround actually begins long before the plane lands. Equipment is pre-positioned at the gate, supplies and catering are prepared, and ramp and terminal staff get ready for the arrival.  As the flight turns onto the taxiway after landing, the crew gets their gate assignment from ground control, or in the case of a major airport, ramp control. The plane’s Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) will have been started to provide an electrical and pneumatic supply after the engines are shut down. The APU is a small jet engine, generally located in the tail cone.  One of the first airliners with an APU was the tri-jet Boeing 727, and its APU was located in the wing root.

Continue reading Ramp Operations – What’s Going on Out There?

Air Canada rouge Expands to Western Canada

Air Canada rouge's inaugural YVR-LAS Airbus A319 flight at the gate on a rainy Vancouver morning.

Air Canada rouge’s inaugural YVR-LAS Airbus A319 flight at the gate on a rainy Vancouver morning

You may have read the recent commentary and analysis by AirlineReporter’s Bernie Leighton, “You Get What You Pay For Rant: Why Economy Class Is What It Is.”  I certainly did. It seemed fitting, then, that just a couple of days later, I was invited to Vancouver International Airport (YVR) for Air Canada rouge‘s first Western Canada flight.

Air Canada rouge is an “airline within an airline”, and is part of the Air Canada Leisure Group along with inclusive-tour operator, Air Canada Vacations.  The airline is positioned as Air Canada’s “Leisure” carrier, intended to get passengers to their vacation destinations.  Air Canada rouge launched last July 1st with flights from Toronto (YYZ) and Montreal (YUL) to Europe, the Caribbean, Mexico, and the U.S. In addition to specific vacation travel, Air Canada is hoping to make its unprofitable routes financially viable by a transfer to Air Canada rouge, which has lower operating costs. Bernie talked all about that, and CASMs and RASMs, in his rant.

By the end of 2014, Air Canada will have transferred 47 routes to rouge. Another seven routes new to the AC network will be operated exclusively by rouge. The just-announced Western Canada routes include YVR to Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Phoenix, and seasonal service to Anchorage.  From Calgary, flights will go to Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

The Air Canada rouge fleet is made up of Airbus A319s and Boeing 767-300ERs, transferred from Air Canada’s mainline fleet. As of the end of April, there were 15 A319s and four 767s flying for the leisure carrier. Ultimately, rouge may have up to 30 A319s and 20 767s, with the 767s coming into the fleet as Air Canada receives its new 787 Dreamliners. Continue reading Air Canada rouge Expands to Western Canada

Trains, Subways, and a Monorail – A Day Exploring Tokyo by Transit

Daunting, isn't it? 40 million passengers a day use the Tokyo transit system. Image: Tokyo Metro

Daunting, isn’t it? 40 million passengers a day use the Tokyo transit system. Image: Tokyo Metro

This is a bit of a different post for us, about something other than just airplanes, airports & airlines. Enjoy!  

It was early Thursday morning on my last day in Tokyo. It had been a whirlwind trip. Sunday and Monday had been taken up on the inaugural All Nippon Airways (ANA) flight from Vancouver (YVR) to Tokyo-Haneda (HND). I spent Tuesday at ANA’s New Employee Ceremony, and then explored HND’s observation decks. On Wednesday morning I was treated to a somewhat manic half-day bus tour of Tokyo. After that, I explored a bit, and went back to my hotel at HND’s Terminal 2 to get some work done, and to recover!

My start and end point - HND's International Terminal.

My start and end point – HND’s International Terminal

But now, I had the whole day to explore the city before returning to Haneda Airport’s International Terminal for my 9:55 pm flight. I had a long list of suggestions of things to see from friends and colleagues. Everyone had said that the best way to explore Tokyo is by transit, and I had my maps ready to go.

The statistics are phenomenal; 40 million passengers use Tokyo’s transit system, every day.  Most commuters travel on Tokyo’s extensive urban railway system, and eight million use the Tokyo Metro (subway) daily. There are over 130 lines and 1,000 stations on the fully-integrated rail system. No surprise, then, that the world’s busiest train station is in Tokyo, at Shinjuku Station, with over three million passengers per day.  The entire system is clean, efficient, inexpensive, and operates exactly on time, all the time.

However, there are a few things that an explorer needs to master before venturing out. Continue reading Trains, Subways, and a Monorail – A Day Exploring Tokyo by Transit

Plane Spotting at Tokyo International Airport – Haneda

On the observation deck of the International Terminal at HND.

On the observation deck of the International Terminal at HND

You’ve got to hand it to the Japanese; always coming up with pragmatic solutions to problems. You’re having a walk in Tokyo and you’re thirsty? Grab a cold bottle of water from the vending machines you’ll find everywhere. Rainy day? Open up the umbrella you’re carrying. Just like most everyone else’s, it’s see-through, so you can make your way through the masses on the sidewalks without bumping into anyone. Simple. And those are just two of the countless observations I made during my blindingly fast visit to Tokyo.

If you’ve followed my stories, you’ll know that I traveled to Tokyo on ANA-All Nippon Airways’ inaugural flight from Vancouver (YVR) to Haneda (HND). There was a gate event at YVR for the inbound flight, ANA’s first-ever service to Canada. My flight to Tokyo was great, and then I was honored to watch ANA’s New Employee Ceremony in a hangar at HND, with ANA’s last 747-400D as a backdrop.

ANA 777-300 "Pokemon" pushes back from the gate at T2, HND.

ANA 777-300 “Pokemon” pushes back from the gate at T2, HND

It was Tuesday afternoon, and I had split off from our media group to explore HND. I had heard that there was great plane spotting, and I wanted to see what the Japanese airport designers had done in the terminals. But first, a bit of background and a look at the layout of HND.

Continue reading Plane Spotting at Tokyo International Airport – Haneda

Hello, Goodbye – The Last Boeing 747-400D

ANA - All Nippon AIrways' New Employee Celebration, with ANA's last 747-400D.

ANA – All Nippon Airways’ New Employee Celebration, with ANA’s last 747-400D

In Japan, April 1 is most certainly not April Fools’ Day.

April 1 is actually the start of the financial year for Japanese companies. And along with this fiscal reset, April 1 is the day that groups of recent graduates begin their careers with a new company, a loyal relationship that may very well be life-long. This unique recruitment culture is called Shinsotsu. Talented students are identified at various institutions. They go through testing, seminars, company visits, and other methods to make sure there’s a solid “fit” with a company’s culture and values. It makes sense. In a culture with a tradition of life-long employment, it’s critical for both the students and the companies to get it right.

The ANA – All Nippon Airways Group has well over 30,000 employees, and on April 1, I was honored to be part of a celebration to welcome over a thousand new graduates to ANA. It was Tuesday morning, and I was quite well jet-lagged after the departure events and inaugural flight on ANA’s new service from Vancouver (YVR) to Tokyo-Haneda (HND). Our hosts shuttled us over to ANA’s aircraft maintenance facility at HND. It’s huge, with seven hangar bays and the ability to service all of ANA’s jet fleet, right up to major “D” checks.

But we weren’t there to look at airplanes. Well, not quite. As we were escorted through the hangars, there was one plane looming in a semi-lit bay. It was ANA’s last Boeing 747-400D (Domestic), registered JA8961. It wasn’t there for maintenance, but to be part of ANA’s New Employee Celebration of Shinsotsu.

We walked to the back of the hangar to be seated behind a remarkably large and perfectly organized group of 1,089 new ANA employees-to-be. The 747 was the ideal backdrop for the event.

Continue reading Hello, Goodbye – The Last Boeing 747-400D