Around the World

Miles flown for stories
2014: 269,302
2013: 330,818

American Airlines Shows Off New Boeing 777-300ER Interior

This is a preview of what American Airline's business class in their new Boeing 777-300ER. Image from American.

This is a preview of what American Airline's business class in their new Boeing 777-300ER. Image from American.

American Airlines has unveiled what the interior of their new Boeing 777-300ER will look like when delivered. American has placed an order for 10 of the aircraft and will be the first US airline to operate them.

“American Airlines continues to remain focused on providing a differentiated customer experience through various efforts, including the execution of our fleet renewal plan,” said Virasb Vahidi, American’s Chief Commercial Officer. “The addition of 777-300ER aircraft will further modernize our fleet through the integration of unique customer comforts, which are designed to create more inviting interiors and enhance the travel experience.”

The Boeing 777-300ER, which will be configured in a three class layout, will become American’s largest aircraft that they operate. Both First Class and Business will offer lie-flat seating.

American has also announced that they will use their new 777-300ER on the Dallas/Forth Worth (DFW) to Sao Paulo (GRU) starting in December of this year. American is expecting to receive two of their 777-300ERs in 2012 and the remaining eight in 2013.

This first class suite will be on American's Boeing 777-300ER. Image from American.

This first class suite will be on American's Boeing 777-300ER. Image from American.

This new and improved economy class will be on the Boeing 777-300ER.

This new and improved economy class will be on the Boeing 777-300ER.

The look of the interior will look more like the 787 versus older 777s. Image from American.

The look of the interior will look more like the 787 versus older 777s. Image from American.

 

Seattle to Get Emirates Flight, Possibly Airbus A380?

This Emirates Boeing 777-300ER is in Seattle, but only because it was built there. Soon one will be based in Seattle.

This Emirates Boeing 777-300ER is in Seattle, but only because it was built there. Soon one will be based in Seattle.

Emirates has announced they will start flying non-stop from Dallas and Seattle to Dubai starting early next year. Flights from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) will commence on February 2, 2012 and from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) on March 1, 2012. The airline is also looking at possible expansions to Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia and Washington, DC.

Before 9/11 Emirates had plans to expand in the US, but their plans were put on hold due to lack of demand. Currently, Emirates is the world’s number one airline in international traffic and they feel it is time to increase service to the US.

We’ve always had fairly ambitious plans for the U.S. and this is part of that,” Emirates President Tim Clark told Bloomberg. “It’s an immense market. There will be more to come, including increased frequencies and bigger planes. We have ideas for the East Coast, the north-south axis in the center and for the west.”

Emirates will operate their new flights from DFW and SEA using Boeing 777s, but the airline is speaking openly about using larger Airbus A380s on future US routes.

“The A380 will be an option for all U.S. operations post- 2013, when the plane will have a higher takeoff weight, so that routes such as Dubai-Los Angeles become a distinct possibility,” he said. “And most U.S. airports are A380- capable or will be.”

Being based in Seattle, it is very exciting to hear that not only will a new airline start operations here, but that they are also contemplating using the Airbus A380 in the future. As of now, no airline operates the A380 to SEA and even with this announcement, it seems it could still take a while.

“We do not have any immediate plans to bring the A380 to Seattle, although this may be something we consider in the future,” Jim Baxter, Vice President North America, Emirates Airline explained to AirlineReporter.com via email. Even if Emirates was ready to operate the A380 to Seattle, the airport is not able to handle scheduled service of the world’s largest airliner.

“We can handle the A380 in emergencies, however we do not have facilities for regular use, such as the multiple gate loading ramps, for the aircraft,” Perry Cooper, SEA’s Media and Public Affairs Manager explained. “At this time, if an A380 were to arrive and need to access a gate, safety guidelines would require all traffic to stop until the aircraft stopped at its gate, due to the width of taxiways and safety zones next to the runways.”

The A380 is so large, that it would currently take up two of SEA’s gate configurations and due to the cost and lack of direct demand, the airport does not “currently have plans to expand to accommodate the A380.”

Image: Rick Schlamp

Being Trapped in an Airport Bites: Tornadoes at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport

When arriving at DFW, the sky was mostly blue and it was sunny. Things changed quickly.

When arriving at DFW, the sky was mostly blue and it was sunny. Things changed quickly.

It is obvious right? Being stuck at an airport because of delays or a cancelled flight is no fun. Recently, I had a fun little experience in Dallas after flying from Seattle (out of BFI) to Dallas (DFW) for American’s delivery flight of their first Boeing 737 with Sky Interior.

The delivery flight arrived at DFW about 4pm and my flight out wasn’t until 9:15pm. I took my time to get over to the terminal (our flight ended at a maintenance hangar) and since I had the time, I decided to wait stand-by for the earlier 7:30pm flight. I sat enjoying my window view, when all of a sudden alarms and warnings started to come over the speaker system.

“There is a severe weather pattern coming towards the airport. Everyone must go to the center of the building and away from any windows.” This was followed by talk of tornadoes and reassurance this was not a drill. It became obvious the airport meant business.

Some passengers bolted to the bathrooms, which were severe weather areas, and others couldn’t care less and had to be told by employees they must move. I decided to take the middle ground and figured it was a good time to go get some food, which happened to be in the center of the building. While enjoying my airport food (okay, enjoying might be a bit strong), we all started to hear very loud noises in the terminal. Large hail started to fall, making disturbing noises on the ceiling. People who were on planes had to be escorted off back into the terminal.

I couldn’t see outside, since I  was away from the windows, but looking at news reports, there was hail the size of baseballs in the area. Love Field (also in Dallas) reported a tornado that touched down near the airport. After things calmed down about 30 minutes later, the 7:30 flight I was on stand-by for had an updated departure time of 9pm. My original 9:15pm flight still showed as “on-time.” I was #5 on the stand-by list, so decided to ditch my attempt for the earlier flight and started my trek from Terminal D to Terminal A.

DFW has a really slick train system inside security to quickly get passengers to any of the terminals. Unfortunately it does not run during severe weather, so I had about 45minutes to hoof it through the airport. I kept checking screens and flight 1575 from DFW to SFO kept showing “On-Time” as other flights slowly changed from “On-Time” to “Delayed.”

When I made it to the gate at 9:00pm, the flight still showed ready to go and that is when they announced the flight had been diverted to Houston due to weather. American started checking planes that were parked at DFW for damage and realized there were quite a few planes with damage and started cancelling flights. However, the few flights that had their aircraft diverted were still showing as delayed and not cancelled.

A little after 10pm American Tweeted:
“All AA and Eagle operations @DFWAirport are suspended for the remainder of the night due to #storm activity. Appreciate your patience.”

Hmm. That caused a bit of confusion. I tried to tweet to @AmericanAir to get clarification, but they were unanswered and people at the airport kept confirming that our flight was still a go.

Thousands of people at the airport lined up waiting  for hours to get re-booked on flights the next day. Those of us on the SFO flight felt a little bad that our flight was still going when so many were being inconvenienced, but were happy to have our flight. With all the stranded passengers, hotels quickly filled up and it didn’t take long for all the cots that DFW provided to disappear as people started to set up camp.

Even with all the chaos, I have to say that American did a great job keeping us informed since our departure time kept being pushed back. A little after midnight, we were informed our plane was now coming from Oklahoma. I jumped on FlightAware.com and found our aircraft and quite a few others in-bound to DFW from Houston and Oklahoma. Our plane finally arrived a bit before 1am. People already started gathering around the gate ready to get on board as soon as possible. We were told it would take about 20 minutes to clean the plane and off we would go to SFO — finally.

There were a few empty seats on the flight and the gate agent started calling up people from the very long stand-by list. The flight was set to leave at about 1:30am, meaning we would arrive at 3:30am. I started figuring out how little sleep I was going to get, when we got the announcement:

“I have bad news…the plane is here, but we have no crew and American is cancelling the flight.” People reacted like they were just told they had an incurable disease. Some cried, others yelled. I couldn’t help but be a bit angry myself. I had been waiting for nine hours for this flight, while watching thousands of others get re-booked on flights and make hotel reservations. What kind of chance did we have to get on any decent flights to our destinations?

That poor gate agent. He had to know the news wouldn’t be taken well. After the announcement, two guys came storming up and just started yelling at him. I guess the cops had to be called over, but I wasn’t sticking around. 160 people just found out their flight was cancelled and most started lining up at the gate. I headed down the terminal to find a shorter line and luckily found one.

At this point I knew I wasn’t going to make it to SFO in time for an event I had scheduled, so now it was time to try to make it back home to Seattle.  When I told the agent that I wanted to get to Seattle, the agent next to her looked over and said, “Good luck with that!” Sigh.

I have to say the agent I worked with was a trooper. She obviously was working way past her hours for that day and has dealt with many upset folks. Even though I was tired and frustrated, I tried to be as polite as possible. At first it looked like I might be stuck at DFW for a day and a half, but after some creativity she got me a flight to Orange, CA (SNA) on American and then to Seattle on Alaska — sweet.

Cots were gone and I heard rumors that people were having to go way out of town to get a hotel room. My new flight wasn’t leaving until 2:40pm — over 12hours later. Luckily, the airline gods were smiling on me. While at the counter a nice elderly gentleman was standing next to the counter. He was turning in a hotel voucher since he decided to camp out at the airport. I asked if I might have it and she gave it to me — for the first time in a long while, things were looking up.

Since this was a weather-related incident, American wasn’t picking up the tab, but it did guarantee a room and at a discounted rate. After calling to confirm there was a room (only one left) and hailing a cab, I was settled into my room by 3am.

It was a very long and frusterating day, but I fell asleep with a big smile on my face. I had the ability to take a shower and a nice comfy bed to sleep in and that was more than most people in my same situation could say. Cancellations are not fun for anyone, but they are part of the huge transportation infrastructure we have in America. Even with the weather causing the issues, I heard so many people blaming the airline. Do they really think that American wants to cancel flights? Keep their employees up extremely late and lose a bunch of money? Heck no. I was disappointed that I was missing my planned event, but I had to stop and realize it could have been worse. People at the airport I was talking to were missing bigger things like a wedding and even a funeral.

Passengers get away from the window during tornado warnings.

Passengers get away from the window during tornado warnings.

Yes, with our flight, American dropped the ball. They should have known there would be no flight crew and just cancelled the flight hours prior to give us all a better chance. Even while placed in a difficult situation I had to keep reminding myself that the airline business is extremely complicated and when an airline’s main hub gets shut down and you have people managing thousands of passengers, crew and employees, obviously some things will fall between the cracks. Airlines do not have the ability to be fully staffed at all times just in case situations like this occur.

With all the weather issues and thousands of flights each day, it is pretty amazing this doesn’t happen more often. Yeah, it might have taken me almost a day and a half to get home, but it is still better than driving. Just because I might love the airline business, doesn’t mean I have to love every aspect. Luckily experiencing cancellations like this is a rare occurrence.

Have you had an interesting cancellation story? Did an airline really go out of their way to help you? Or hurt you? Please share in the comments.

Delivery Flight: American Airlines Welcomes First Boeing 737 with Sky Interior

American Airline's flight crew are ready to welcome guests to see the new Sky Interior at Boeing's delivery center at Boeing Field (BFI).

American Airline's flight crew are ready to welcome guests to see the new Sky Interior at Boeing's delivery center at Boeing Field (BFI).

Yesterday American Airlines took delivery of their first Boeing 737-800 (N867NN) with the new Boeing Sky Interior. I felt privileged to hitch a ride on the airplane during its delivery flight from Boeing Field to Dallas-Fort Worth with American and other invited guests.

Before getting outside to see the aircraft and interior we had to go through a little security. There was a conveyor belt and metal detector, but no requirement to remove shoes, laptops or put your toiletries in a ziploc bag — nice.

The aluminum fuselage glistened in the sun outside Boeing’s delivery center waiting to fly passengers for the first time. After the ribbon was cut and photos were taken, it was time to check out the new Sky Interior first hand.

You have to love walking onto a brand spanking new plane and breathing that new-plane smell. There is something to be said about flying on a plane with only 21 other people (including the pilots) on its delivery flight from an airport that doesn’t see scheduled jet service.

Although I thought the ceiling lighting was going to be the most noticable aspect when entering the 737, I was actually first drawn to the new window openings and clean interior walls. Being an airline nerd, I spend a good chunk of my time staring out the window and this was a welcomed sight.

The Boeing Sky Interior on American's newest Boeing 737-800 (N867NN).

The Boeing Sky Interior on American's newest Boeing 737-800 (N867NN).

A combination of the larger window openings, blue lighting in the ceiling and new luggage bins, there really is a sense of space with the new Sky Interior. Boeing allows airlines to customize their lighting and American has pre-programmed the following:

* Boarding and de-boarding: blue top, white side lights
* Take off and landing: blue on top and blue on the side
* Cruise: wall lights are off, top is blue
* Night/Sleep: dark blue on the ceiling, wall lights are off
* Meal: Amber on top and side
* Sunrise/Sunset During Takeoff/Landing: Deep orange tones

On top of the nifty colors, the overhead bins have been improved to mimic the Boeing 787 Dreamliner’s bins. They are larger and are able to hold more luggage (48 more bags to be exact in the 737-800). They also fold up into the ceiling to provide more cabin space. If you are 6’1″ you will still hit your head while standing, but those of shorter stature should have better luck.

Even though the windows are the same size in the fuselage, the new interior shows more of the window.

Even though the windows are the same size in the fuselage, the new interior shows more of the window.

Probably more noticeable to flight attendants, the call button has been moved away from the light buttons, helping to reduce the chance of a passenger trying to turn on their light, but instead hitting the call button.

The American interiors on the 737 are newer than other aircraft in their fleet and aren’t too bad, but after seeing the new interior, the standard interior looks a bit aged and cramped.

The new Boeing 737-800 with Sky Interior is part of American’s fleet renewal plan. Later in the week I will go into more detail on American Airline’s future plans to let customers know they mean business.

CHECK OUT ALL 30 PHOTOS FROM THE DELIVERY FLIGHT

 

Virgin America Announces Flying to Dallas and Mile Sharing with Other Virgin Brands

A few Virgin tails!

A few Virgin tails! Image from Virgin.

Two big announcements came from Virgin America last week and I think they are both worth looking at. First, they stated they will start flying to Dallas Fort-Worth International Airport (DFW). There will be daily flights from Los Angeles (LAX) and San Fransisco to DFW starting in December of this year. This will become the 12th destination that Virgin American visits.

“Dallas-Fort Worth is one of the largest metropolitan areas in North America and a major center of business with strong ties to California — most notably in the financial services, energy and the Silicon Prairie-Silicon Valley high-tech sectors,” said Virgin America President and CEO David Cush.

These new flights will obviously compete against American Airlines to the same destinations and their dominance at DFW. As Dan Webb in his Things in the Sky blog points out, Virgin America is not the first low-cost carrier to compete on these routes. AirTran tried the DFW to LAX and wasn’t able to make it work. Will Virgin America be able to wow American passengers with their fun atmosphere and superb in-flight entertainment? With Virgin America’s recent order of 40 new aircraft (and 20 more options) they seem pretty confident they will be successful.

In typical Virgin America style, there has to be a sexual innuendo tied into this announcement and I am not surprised they went with “Virgin America Does Dallas,” (if you don’t understand it, Google it…but not while at work).

On the bottom of every Virgin America’s press releases is the statement, “Virgin America is a U.S. owned, controlled and operated airline. It is an entirely separate company from Virgin Atlantic. Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group is a minority share investor in Virgin America.” Even though Virgin America shares the same brand name, the ownership structures are very different with the other branded airlines. Where the different Virgin airline brands were kept pretty separated previously, the second bit of news connects them like never before.

Virgin-brand airlines; Virgin Atlantic Airways, Virgin America and V Australia/Virgin Blue have become mileage partners. That means if you fly any of those Virgin brands, you are able to earn and redeem frequent flier miles. As a nice little bonus, if you end up flying on two of the brands before the beginning of the year, you can actually win a trip to Sir Richard Branson’s private island.

So what does all this mean? It means that Virgin America is becoming a real player in the domestic market. They might not be making profit right now, but they are improving and have the confidence and motivation to succeed, which always seems to work out well for competition and passengers.