I talk about airlines and airplanes a lot; it’s a part of who I am. Fairly often, my conversations about such topics end up on Virgin America. At this point, I am forced to divulge the fact that I had never been on Virgin America, a statement which is often met with a blank stare followed by the response, “really?”
Most of my domestic flights are on JetBlue and Delta, simply because of their much larger route network out of New York, where I am based. When I finally had the opportunity to give Virgin America a try, I immediately jumped at the chance. I flew from New York’s John F. Kennedy International (JFK) to San Francisco (SFO) and back in 12 hours as part of a media event, so travel was paid for by the airline (note: the airline paid for my trip, but all opinions are my own).
At JFK, Virgin America is based out of Terminal 4, which mainly houses international carriers. Virgins gates are in the A concourse, which is simply not where you want to be. With extremely limited restaurant and shopping options there, you will want to spend as little time as possible at the gate. Thankfully, Terminal 4 is undergoing a massive renovation which will remedy this issue. The terminal is in the process of unifying the two security checkpoints, and when complete, passengers will have access to a markedly wider selection of restaurants and shopping.
Virgin Americas gate at JFK T4 does not stand out in any way over any other domestic airline. There is no fancy seating, no nice lighting, and not so much as power outlet in sight. However, the instant you board the aircraft, things immediately start to change.
Most passengers will quickly notice the colorful mood lighting, which is a great upgrade from the typical dim white fluorescent tube lighting. At first it might appear the lighting is all LED, like we are seeing in new Boeing interiors, but it is actually a combination of fluorescent tubes and white LEDs with a color gel on them.
It’s warm, inviting, and just overall pleasant. Once settled, I found the seat to be quite comfy. The adjustable head rest is a great addition to the black leather seat. At 6’2’’, legroom was not an issue, as I had room to stretch, something becoming increasingly rare in economy.
Virgin America features one of the most advanced in-flight entertainment systems I have ever used, and I took this opportunity to put it to the test. The system, called RED, features movies and TV shows on demand, live satellite TV, food and drink ordering, and other information features. What I liked most about the system was how responsive it was. I never encountered any lag in the system, which makes the user experience quite enjoyable. I was thankful that the live TV was free, as I found the other selections a bit too expensive for my taste. The satellite TV selection is limited to 18 channels compared to 36 on JetBlue, and certain channels did not work, but I was always able to find something to watch.
One thing that did irk me about the entertainment system was that there seemed be a lot of features that either didn’t work, or weren’t yet available. For instance, on the main menu there is a button labeled “read,” but when clicked, a message told me that the feature is not yet available. A feature that is not yet activated should not be displayed as an option to the passenger.
I was able to follow up with Virgin American and they explained to AirlineReporter.com that they are, replacing the Read section with an Info Section, “that includes static content that will be updated every six weeks, but that relates to travel, destination and other info that is more ‘evergreen’ and that fits better with what guests want to engage with in-flight.”
Similarly, I had some issues with the program guide for the live TV. I would click on it and an error message would appear. That must have just been an isolated instance. Additionally, I would like if some on-screen reference was made to the tethered remote in the armrest. Had the passenger next to me not removed it first, I probably would never had known it could be moved.
My favorite part of the Virgin America experience was probably the in-flight ordering process. Virgin has done away with the traditional cart down the aisle system, and instead passengers order what they want through their screen and a flight attendant delivers it. I was extremely impressed at how simple the ordering process was, and how quickly items were delivered. If I could change one thing, it would be the inclusion of any free food option, even if just a small bag of chips. All food is purchase only in economy, no freebies except for drinks.
Once arriving to SFO, I made my way to my hotel and did not really check out the terminal. The following day, I made an effort to arrive at SFO early in the morning and was relieved to discover how beautiful Virgin America’s terminal was. Wide open spaces, bright, restaurant choices to satisfy even the most picky of eaters. This terminal clearly reflected Virgin’s attitude.
Unlike the terminal at JFK, SFO features lovely seating areas, classy furniture, free wifi and power outlets everywhere. These upgrades go a long way when it comes to unwinding after passing through security, and I wish any of these features were present at JFK.
Now that I have finally flown Virgin America, I can give an honest opinion of this high-tech, feature packed airline. While the airline did not disappoint, I’m not sure I would pay a premium over other airlines such as JetBlue for the privilege. The entertainment system may be more advanced and the mood lighting may create a brighter atmosphere, but overall, I felt the overall experience was different, but comparable. However, when compared to some legacy carriers that fly the route, I would absolutely consider upgrading to Virgin America.
The flight from SFO to JFK was a special media flight to fly the San Fransisco Giants World Championship Trophy to New York… stay tuned.
This story written by… Jason Rabinowitz, Correspondent.
Jason is a New York City native who has grown up in the shadow of JFK International Airport. A true “avgeek”, he enjoys plane spotting and photography, as well taking any opportunity he can get to fly on an aircraft.
Imagine back to 2003 when the preparations for the Summer Olympics in Athens were underway. It was time that the Bush Campaign was back in full swing, the Concorde made its last revenue flight and it was also the same year that the Qatar government was developing the master plan for their new airport: Doha International Airport (DOH). The airport has come a long way since then and is close to being fully complete.
Currently Doha Airport has no jet bridges and every single guest, no matter the class of ticket held, is bused to the gate. This isn’t the most efficient and means long minimum connect times, but it is only temporary.
The Outside of the New Doha International Airport – Photo: Mal Muir / AirlineReporter.com
The airport was scheduled to be fully operational later in 2013, but there have been construction delays and the official opening has been pushed back.
At present the terminal is approximately 97% complete, the runways are ready for use and most of the major infrastructure is complete. I had the opportunity to tour the facility and if you just cleaned the dust away, you would have an almost fully operating airport — you just wouldn’t be able to shop or eat just yet.
Going on a tour of the New Doha International Airport at the moment means dressing like a construction worker – Photo: Mal Muir / AirlineReporter.com
The airport is built to accommodate 24 million passengers a year. The airport has 17 million meters (roughly 10,000 miles) of electrical cabling, 9000 phones, 3800 parking spots, two runways (which will allow 100 aircraft movements an hour), a cargo facility (able to handle 1.4 million tons of cargo annually) and a catering facility capable of preparing 90,000 meals per day. This is a huge investment for a relatively small nation in the Middle East.
With design elements taken from two world leading airports (Singapore Changi and Hong Kong Chep Lap Kok), DOH will be an amazing new facility that will allow the passengers to have a world leading experience. Inside the terminal will be 25,000 square meters of retail, food and beverage space allowing travelers to get their shopping fix or grab a meal at a number of outlets between connections.
You should have ample time to go shopping at DOH. The new airport is designed to allow a 30 minute connection between flights; including the time required to disembark and re-board your next flight. This is a staggering figure and one that is going to be a true test. To compare, most professionals suggest you have almost four hours to connect between flights at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
What Airport in the Middle East would not be complete without a Mosque and this one a Fine Example – Photo: Mal Muir / AirlineReporter.com
Qatar is a Muslim country, where a high majority of its travelers and workers are of Muslim faith. This means that you would need some form of prayer facilities for them as the call to prayer happens five times a day (and is a good sign when you can hear it, that you know you’re in the middle east). Right outside the main entrance to the airport facility is one of the most staggeringly beautiful Mosques I have seen.
The airport also offers a new cargo terminal and a new maintenance facility for Qatar Airways. This impressively large building was essentially raised in one piece from the ground up and is so large that it can accommodate eight wide bodied aircraft at any one time.
The Amiri Terminal at the New Doha International Airport – Photo: Mal Muir / AirlineReporter.com
What would Qatar’s new airport be without somewhere for the Amir of Qatar to spend some time? He has to hop on board his “unconfirmed” 747-8I at some point right? So the airport design also includes a new Amiri Terminal. Again another stunningly beautiful facility, surrounded by water and palm trees.
There are many other VIPs who are expected to visit the airport and many of them have come to expect red carpet treatment. Obviously it would take quite a bit of work to roll out a red carpet upon each arrival and departure, so the designers came up with a novel idea. They created an air bridge that allows anyone to step off their aircraft onto a red carpet and right into a greeting ceremony.
No matter the height of the aircraft, it can be accommodated (although after clarification, they weren’t sure if it was A380 capable, but it is definitely 747 capable). Not even a single step is required. Although it doesn’t look as cool, stepping off waving to the crowd then coming down your steps to the awaiting band, and yes there is a band stand there as well.
All of this high level of service is just the beginning. The airport has already been signed to expand further, adding more terminals, railway stations, metro links, and more facilities. DOH is expected to double in capacity in time for the 2022 Soccer World Cup to be held in Qatar. Given all of this, this will truly be a fantastic new airport.
Disclaimer: Qatar Airways paid for the trip to Qatar, all opinions are my own.
This story written by…Malcolm Muir, Lead Correspondent. Mal is an Australian Avgeek now living and working in Seattle. With a passion for aircraft photography, traveling and the fun that combining the two can bring. Insights into the aviation world with a bit of a perspective thanks to working in the travel industry.
The first event to happen in Miami at approximately 545pm EST when an Airbus A340 flown by Aerolineas Argentinas touched down after flying from Buenos Aires. As it was taxiing to the gate it collided with an Air France 777-300 preparing to depart for Paris.
The collision caused damage to the tail and wingtips of the aircraft. Emergency crews showed up, but thankfully no injuries occurred. Those passengers on the arriving aircraft were allowed to disembark, however the Air France passengers were unable to depart for Paris.
Normally it is not the best to see one of these outside your window. Image by Malcolm Muir.
On the opposite side of the country, around 6:00pm PST, two F15Cs of the Oregon Air National Guard were scrambled from their base at Portland International Airport. The two jets from the 142 Fighter Wing were sent to escort Alaska Airlines flight 819, a Boeing 737, from Kona Hawaii to Seattle.
A hijacking threat had been made against the flight and the passenger involved in the threat was monitored by crew. Alaska Airlines told AirlineRepoter.com that, “This passenger did not display any unusual behavior and was asleep much of the flight.”
Officials made the decision to escort the aircraft into Seattle and the flight touched down in Seattle at 707pm PST where they were greeted by the TSA and the Port of Seattle Police. According to KING5 News, the FBI interviewed the passenger for approximately two hours and FBI Spokesperson Ayn Dietrich said that they do not anticipate an arrest. Turns out that the passenger was cooperative and the investigation will now look into who called in the possible hoax or practical joke.
This story written by…Malcolm Muir, Lead Correspondent. Mal is an Australian Avgeek now living and working in Seattle. With a passion for aircraft photography, traveling and the fun that combining the two can bring. Insights into the aviation world with a bit of a perspective thanks to working in the travel industry.@BigMalX | BigMal’s World | Photos
American Airline’s new livery on an actual aircraft: Boeing 737-800 (N908NN). Photo by Joe Statz. Click for Larger.
After some additional thoughts on the livery, I wanted to do a second post. I like American Airline’s new livery. Don’t hate me. It seems that most #AvGeeks out there aren’t huge fans. I have to say I wasn’t too sure when seeing the mock-ups of the Boeing 777-300ER, but seeing the livery on a real plane (via photo above), I have to say I like it.
Quite a few people around the internet like the concept, but hate the tail. But looking at this close-up photo of the tail makes me like it even more. I have also seen quite a few people complain that the tail only has 12 stripes versus the actual American flag having 13. No, this is not some conspiracy to over-throw the government. It is pretty obvious that the tail is a representation of the American flag and not an exact duplicate. I mean come on folks. Even US Airway’s flag on their tail has nine stripes, not the proper colors and no stars. Colgan Air had 6.5 (I think) stripes and only five stars.
I come from the perspective of not liking their bare aluminum livery, which I know if loved by most people. Yes, it is classic, but it looks dated to me and made the airline look old (doesn’t help when it is on old planes). But American is making quite a few changes (merger with US Airways or not) and I think this livery matches their desire to change and move into the future.
I asked some of the other AirlineReporter.com writing staff their thoughts:
“It’s boldly patriotic, a welcome and classy update,” Nick Smith.
“I neither love it Nor hate it, it is a livery that is eye catching on the tail but still fairly plain. The new American logo reminds me of the tail design used on Aeroflot and i have heard references to numerous other similarities. The biggest thing this livery reminds me of is Virgin Australia using the southern cross on its tail as a bit of a patriotic feel, and that was just horrible to look at, hopefully this new AA livery makes some people happy,” Malcolm Muir.
“Americans new livery is refreshing, to say the least. However, the design of the tail could use some tweaking. Something on the engines would be nice, too,” Jason Rabinowitz.
“It’s fugly. The logo is amazing though and I love that but the tail just kills it. But I am sure, like JAL’s new scheme, it’ll grow on me. I feel that up-close the tail looks amazing. From a distance it’s an eye-sore,” Brandon Farris.
“It’s bold to say the least. I know that American wanted to do something dramatic to drum up interest as they work their way out of bankruptcy (or via a merger). It’s not a bad livery but it just seems like the tail is a bit over the top and could have been simplified,” Colin Cook.
“I have to say that I am really like the livery. It’s minimalist and retro at the front. The stripes on the tail definitely makes me think “America! Heck Yeah!” and I’m okay with that. Business in the front, party in the back. And like the mullet, very American,” Temo Madrigal.
Look at these two. The new livery on the left and old on the right. Which one looks more modern? This give you second thoughts? Images- Left: Joe Statz Right: Caribb
Give it time. Like Brandon, I remember when I first saw the new JAL livery in concept form. I thought the airline had lost their mind. Seeing it in a photo, it was a bit better, but it really took seeing it in person (and a few months) to fully appreciate it.
There are many people out there who have a long-love for American and seeing such a dramatic change is challenging — I get it. But with the loss of so many airlines and liveries over the years, I think most will also learn to appreciate this livery. Trust me. My guess is it will grow on you — maybe.
This story written by…David Parker Brown, Editor & Founder. David started AirlineReporter.com in the summer of 2008, but has had a passion for aviation since he was a kid. Born and raised in the Seattle area (where he is currently based) has surely had an influence and he couldn’t imagine living anywhere else in the world.
American Airlines new livery shown on a Boeing 777-300ER. Image from American.
From American’s Press Release:
FORT WORTH, Texas, Jan. 17, 2013 – It’s a new year and a fresh new look for American Airlines as the company today unveils a new logo and exterior for its planes, including the already delivered Flagship Boeing 777-300ER aircraft set to fly on Jan. 31. In addition, American plans to continue taking delivery of new planes this year as part of its historic orders for 550 new aircraft. The unveiling of the new logo and livery is the latest step forward in American’s ongoing journey toward building a more modern travel experience for its customers.
“Since placing our landmark aircraft order in July of 2011, we’ve been building anticipation toward a moment in time when the outside of our aircraft reflects the progress we’ve made to modernize our airline on the inside,” said Tom Horton, American’s Chairman and CEO. “While we complete the evaluation of whether a merger can build on American’s strengths, we remain steadfast in each step we take to renew our airline, a step we take with great respect for our name American. Today marks important progress in that journey as we unveil a new and updated look for the first time in more than 40 years.”
American is preparing to take delivery of hundreds of new, lighter aircraft featuring composite materials that must be painted. Since the polished metal look was no longer an option, the importance of the paint selection became critical to honoring American’s silver bird legacy. Silver mica paint was chosen as a way to maintain the silver heritage which American’s people and customers are passionate about, yet progress ahead with a clean new look.
American’s new logo.
“Our new logo and livery are designed to reflect the passion for progress and the soaring spirit, which is uniquely American,” said Virasb Vahidi, American’s Chief Commercial Officer. “Our core colors — red, white and blue – have been updated to reflect a more vibrant and welcoming spirit. The new tail, with stripes flying proudly, is a bold reflection of American’s origin and name. And our new flight symbol, an updated eagle, incorporates the many icons that people have come to associate with American, including the ‘A’ and the star.”
Since entering the restructuring process, American has made a series of strategic investments designed to place customers at the center of all it does and give employees the tools, training and leading technologies they need to provide customers with a uniquely American experience, while also creating growth and opportunity for its people.
Today’s news is a reminder that while there are still significant decisions that need to be made about the future of the company, American remains focused on continuing the forward movement of the many investments that have been announced in the past year, including:
Industry’s Most Modern Fleet: This year, American will take delivery of nearly 60 new aircraft, including the new Boeing 777-300ER which will enter into service on Jan. 31. In July, American will begin taking delivery of Airbus aircraft made of lighter, more fuel efficient composite materials, which must be painted. The airline continues investments to offer state-of-the-art inflight Wi-Fi, in-seat entertainment, universal AC power outlets at every seat, and Main Cabin Extra seating on all mainline aircraft. In addition, American has plans to offer fully lie-flat premium class seats on all of the airline’s widebody aircraft and transcontinental fleet.
Expanded International Service: American strengthens its network this year with expanded service to more destinations worldwide, including more international and domestic routes from Dallas/Fort Worth, more European and domestic service from Chicago O’Hare, new service to Europe from New York, and new service from Miami to Latin America and the Caribbean. This year, American also will begin the following international services: Dallas/Fort Worth ─ Seoul, South Korea; Dallas/Fort Worth ─ Lima, Peru; Dallas/Fort Worth – Bogota, Colombia; Chicago O’Hare ─ Dusseldorf, Germany; New York JFK ─ Dublin, Ireland; Miami – Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe; Miami – Fort-de-France, Martinique; Miami – Curitiba, Brazil; and Miami – Porto Alegre, Brazil.
Information in an Instant: The airline announced plans to supply flight attendants, pilots, and maintenance workers with their own tablet devices, designed to give them real-time information and better operational insights to do their job more efficiently. Beginning next month, employees will also be equipped with new technologies at the airport designed to make the travel experience easier and more convenient.
Top-Notch Onboard Experience: Earlier this month,the airline rolled out new enhancements in premium class cabins on international routes, including elegant new china, more menu choices, and a more personalized service similar to a restaurant. In addition, American will expand the availability of Samsung Galaxy tablets for entertainment use in the premium cabins to more routes later this year.
New American Airlines livery in flight. Image from American.
American Eagle and the AAdvantage® program also will get a new look as of today. The first American Eagle plane will fly the new livery beginning in February. Updating the new look across American’s network is a long process and will be rolled out over time to the airline’s airports, interiors and exteriors of aircraft, new uniforms, products and services, and technology platforms like AA.com and the American mobile apps.
American’s new look was created with input from our customers and our people, and in partnership with FutureBrand – a leading global brand consultancy. In addition, American today launches a new advertising campaign designed to showcase the new look. The advertising campaign was developed with agency partner McCann Worldgroup. (end of press release)
Currently there is a Boeing 737-800 in new colors (waiting on photos) in Dallas. American Airlines pointed out to AirlineReporter.com, “the planes are not, and will not be, painted white. The paint covering the fuselage, as you’ve seen, is a silver mica that pays direct homage to the now-former aluminum.”
SO — WHAT DO YOU THINK?!
This story written by…David Parker Brown, Editor & Founder.
David started AirlineReporter.com in the summer of 2008, but has had a passion for aviation since he was a kid. Born and raised in the Seattle area (where he is currently based) has surely had an influence and he couldn’t imagine living anywhere else in the world.