Literally anything and everything that could go on your tray table was available at WTCE 2016.
In conjunction with the Airline Interiors Expo last month, the World Catering & Onboard Services Expo (WTCE) was also co-located in Hamburg, Germany… talk about a week of #PaxEx (passenger experience)! WTCE brought together vendors who showcased the best of their food and drink, wares, and concepts, all in the name of passenger comfort and meeting customers’ demands (of course, by that we mean the airlines as customers). Everything from futuristic catering systems, to plastic spoons and condiments, we take a look at some highlights and personal favorites.
My business class seat on China Eastern – Photo: Jason Rabinowitz
China Eastern is not an airline I ever really expected to fly. With a fleet of new Boeing 777-300ERs, the opening of a new route to Chicago, and a small investment from Delta Air Lines, China Eastern is modernizing and becoming a real player in the North American market. When I saw a fare posted of $650 round-trip between New York and Japan, I jumped at the opportunity to give this airline a try.
My routing was New York JFK to Osaka, Japan via Shanghai, returning from Tokyo Narita back to New York. On the first leg to Shanghai, China Eastern graciously upgraded me to business class in order to experience the new product.
A Boeing 777-300ER at Paine Field showing China Eastern’s new livery- Photo: Bernie Leighton
At JFK, China Eastern departs from Terminal 1 and uses the recently renovated Air France lounge. Although this flight departed at 2:00 am (thanks for nothing, daylight saving time), the lounge was actually surprisingly crowded. As boarding time neared, I headed to the gate to find utter chaos. Lines of passengers extended in every direction with no signage to tell anyone where to stand. Eventually, gate agents put up a few signs, but that should have been done much earlier. A hectic boarding process sets a negative tone for a 15-hour flight. The same hectic process was applied to all four of my flights, indicating that China Eastern has a systemic problem with orderly boarding.
A few weeks ago, I had the chance to fly Qatar Airways on their (current) longest flight from Los Angeles (LAX) to Qatar’s home hub in Doha – about 16 hours. Given all the talk about them being named a “Five Star Airline” by Skytrax, and our previous coverage of flying Qatar, I was really excited for this flight. It would be my first experience on Qatar, and it would be in business class. Unfortunately, I was let down by my experience, at least on the flight to Doha (my flight home to the states was much better at least).
I arrived at LAX via a quick domestic hop from Denver on United. Getting from one side of the airport (T7) to the other (T2) was a mess. I walked outside, on foot, as I had a long layover and it was a decent day out. While the south side of LAX is now fully connected post-security, the north side is still old-school separated.
The LAX Terminal 2 (T2). My wait started out a floor below this.
Surprisingly, Qatar flies out of the newly-renovated T2, which seems to be the terminal of bastard airlines at LAX. Hawaiian, Air Canada, Virgin Atlantic, and other low-frequency carriers are based there, as opposed to the excellent Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT). Although the actual terminal is updated, getting there did not seem equipped for prime time. Even with a business class ticket, I was held at the lower level of the terminal. Once enough room cleared on the next level at the packed security checkpoint, I was allowed to take the escalator up to join the queue.
Security was an absolute mess. The older facility just wasn’t designed for modern-day TSA security. The floor was sloped towards the gates as my bag was constantly rolling off — it was pretty comical.
A330neo Airspace by Airbus economy class – Image: Airbus
Last Wednesday, I attended the London unveiling of “Airspace by Airbus“- the European aircraft maker’s bold strategy to create a distinctive cabin brand that it hopes will represent the pinnacle of passenger comfort and aircraft operational performance.
Grey London Sky by Gherkin – Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter
I must confess to being perplexed by what Airbus could possibly display in the tiny Searcys space on the top floor of the Gherkin building, especially on a cold and grey London morning. Luckily, Airbus had quite a bit of colorful things to show off and I was intrigued on what Airspace was all about and when we might start seeing it on actual Airbus aircraft.