My ride for the next 9 hours, a Lufthansa Boeing 747-8I – Photo: Colin Cook | AirlineReporter
I recently received an invitation to join some friends that were headed to Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany. Given that I consider myself a bit of a beer drinker, I knew I had to join them. I wanted to challenge myself to make the trip as economical as possible, while still traveling in style. I had some points burning a hole in my pocket, and there are often good, premium award options available through some travel partners.
I knew I would have enough points to get me home in business class (because after an eventful Oktoberfest, who would want to fly in coach?), so I needed to find an option to get me to Europe. I ended up booking a direct flight from Seattle to Frankfurt on Condor for a very reasonable $445. The crew on this flight was very friendly and the overall experience was good; just be prepared for a small 30-inch seat pitch on a long-haul flight.
Flying upstairs on a 747 has always been a bucket list item for me – and I was finally able to accomplish it! In my search for award travel, I was able to transfer my Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United Airlines MileagePlus. From there, I booked the flight I wanted: Business Class on a Lufthansa 747-8I. I knew Oktoberfest would be the trip of a lifetime, but I was honestly even more excited at flying upstairs on the ride home.
As I arrived at the Munich airport for my short hop to Frankfurt, I noticed that my flight had been canceled. When I checked with the Lufthansa staff, I found out they had re-booked me on a direct flight from Munich to Chicago.
Now this just wouldn’t do, as that was on an Airbus A340. Most travelers would be happy being on the direct flight, but I asked them to re-book me on another flight so I could still fly on the 747-8I. After some confused looks, I was back in business (pun intended) and booked on the 747.
Cabin mockup of the 737 MAX 8 with the new Meridian seats – Image: Southwest Airlines
I recently attended Southwest’s #SWAmediaDay and the unveiling of their new Houston Hobby international terminal. As an unabashed Southwest fan, and card-carrying A-Lister (Southwest’s version of elite frequent flyer), it was an excellent opportunity to get up-to-date on what’s going on behind the scenes at Southwest. But the exhibit which stole the show for me? Finally, a pair of the mysterious new blue Meridian seats for my eyes (and derrière) to literally size up.
Over the past few years I’ve noticed an interesting trend: Airlines release new slimline seats, talking them up to make them seem as if they are greatest innovation to passenger experience since the advent of the jet engine. Immediately following, passengers (and media) quickly cry afoul, often before trying the seats out. Because, all change is bad, right? Who moved my cheese?! If we were to try to find middle ground between these two extremes we might arrive at an analogy comparing slimlines to the Rolls-Royce RB211. A jet engine for sure, but by all accounts an expensive flop which had a part in destroying Rolls Royce, crippling Lockheed, and being one of just a few factors which killed the L-1011 TriStar.
But, I digress… We are talking about something as benign as seats after all, right?
An American Eagle CRJ200 taxiing at LAX, with an Embraer 175 following – Photo: John Nguyen | AirlineReporter
Let’s face it… the 50-seat Bombardier CRJ200 isn’t very popular. At all. You’ll find countless articles and blogs about how much flyers dread flying in it, and how all-around terrible the experience was. Complaints were numerous: claustrophobic cabin, tiny overhead bins that fit only the smallest of carry-on bags, no first class, inoperable lavatories, and so on. This wasn’t limited to just one airline either; CR2s are found in the regional fleets for most of the major U.S. airlines. Coincidentally, many of them are operated under contract by the same regional carrier, SkyWest Airlines.
Does the CR2 deserve its bum rap? Maybe, maybe not (but probably). For some passengers, however, there is hope just over the horizon…
N321GG – Gogo’s 737-500 testbed – Photo: Gogo
Like most business travelers, I have grown accustomed to looking for the familiar WiFi symbol while boarding a plane. Just a few years ago, in-flight connectivity was a luxury and something one could not depend on, whether through spotty deployment across fleets, or because the cutting-edge technology delivering said connectivity wasn’t terribly reliable.
Over the years, however, following increased adoption among carriers, this luxury has morphed into something closer to a necessity. Business travelers like consistency, yet as comedian Louis CK accurately pointed out in one of his more popular skits amongst AvGeeks, we are more entitled than we should be. While I have grown increasingly dependent on connectivity, the underlying technology has always been a bit of a black box to me. You’ll be happy to know the hardware is in-fact encased in black boxes.
Some of the hardware required to power Gogo’s IFC and IFE systems – Photo: JL Johnson | AirlineReporter
I recently had the opportunity to catch up with the Gogo team at the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) Expo in Portland to learn all about in-flight connectivity. For two days I mingled with PR folks, engineers, and even some of Gogo’s competitors in an attempt to get a solid understanding of IFC basics. Now that I have had a few days to digest the the technology and various initialisms, I’m excited to share what I learned.