A Piaggio P 180 Avanti II at Boeing Field (BFI). Image by Colin Cook / AirlineReporter.com.
It’s not every day that you hear about a new airline starting service. With the immensely strong barriers to entry including existing airlines, financing issues, and federal regulations, there are not many new airlines founded today. Anymore, it seems like the industry is consolidating via mergers, but Arrow is aiming to show that new niche airlines can succeed even in this economy. This new airline is banking on people valuing their time and wanting to avoid the hassle of traveling with traditional airlines and long security lines. I had the opportunity to meet with Arrow CEO Russell Belden this past Monday and take a flight from Seattle to Oakland (and back).
Arrow is unique in few ways. First of which is that it is a private club in which people can purchase memberships ($500 per month with a one year commitment) and then have access to purchase tickets on their aircraft. But unlike other private jet services which operate similarly, Arrow will have scheduled services.
They are planning to launch Seattle (out of Boeing Field – BFI) to Oakland (OAK) and San Jose (SJC), which will cost members about $500 each way. The ticket costs are comparable to a first class ticket on other airlines serving similar routes.
Once Arrow receives 200 membership commitments they will purchase their initial aircraft and make plans to begin service within three months (delivery time-frame for a new plane).
The interior of the Piaggio. Photo by Colin Cook / AirlineReporter.com.
Arrow has a target market of business professionals who have much better things to do than simply wait in line. Sure, a flight on Arrow might cost slightly more than a typical first or business class ticket, but isn’t a CEO’s time exceptionally valuable?
Arrow believes they will be able to shave off as much as two hours simply due to eliminating the added hassles of the typical airport experience. With on-board Wi-Fi to be installed on their new aircraft, it will also enable professionals to keep in constant contact and be productive at 30,000 feet. While our test flight did not have Wi-Fi on board, we actually had an intermittent signal on our mobile phones throughout the journey.
She looks as good coming as she does going. Image by Colin Cook / AIrlineReporter.com.
Arrow has selected quite a distinctive aircraft for their new service – the Piaggio P 180 Avanti II. Looking at the plane, one immediately notices the propellers are facing to the rear. The aircraft is often mistaken for being the Beechcraft Starship with their similar layouts.
This technology enables the aircraft to move quite quickly for a propeller driven plane, reduces turbulence, and makes for a quiet passenger experience. The continuous curvature of the fuselage, starting from the very front, actually provides about 20% of the lift which enables the wings to be smaller. Smaller wings ultimately reduce turbulence which is of course a big win. So even though you are flying in a small plane, we encountered very little turbulence on our flight.
Landing the Piaggio Avanti. Photo by Colin Cook / AirlineReporter.com.
Fun Fact: We should expect such distinctive design from Piaggio given its Italian heritage. Oh, and Piaggio is owned by Ferrari. The largest operator of the Avanti is the Italian Air Force who uses it for various uses including utility transport operations. If you’ve got a cool seven million dollars, I’d highly recommend adding this plane to your collection!
I asked Mr. Belden why they selected Piaggio and he told me this really was the best option for their planned services. The Avanti II is a very efficient aircraft, burning roughly 100-120 gallons (800 pounds) of fuel per hour. Compared to similar sized jets, this represents approximate 30% improvement. Not only is this aircraft highly efficient, but it can certainly keep up with many private jets.
Our cruising speed was around Mach 0.68 or nearly 500 miles per hour. Even though we had a 70 MPH headwind on the way to California, we still made it in just over two hours. And the return flight was a mere 90 minutes — not bad. Combine that with a comfortable cabin and a quiet passenger experience and you have an aircraft that Arrow believes is destined to succeed.
The Avanti II is certified to operate with either one or two pilots, but Arrow plans to operate with two.
Part of their allure is treating customers like they are rock stars. Rather than needing to be at the airport some 60-90 minutes before a flight, Arrow only asks their passengers to arrive 10-15 minutes prior to departure. But that’s not the only way they save time for their clients. Say you need a rental car or town car at your destination? Arrow will have one waiting for you on the tarmac outside the plane.
One might notice that the colors chosen for the new airline (yellow and black) and the font might look familiar with another Seattle-based small carrier: Kenmore Air.
With a limited number of Air Carrier Certificates and the lengthy process required to obtain one, Arrow has hired Kenmore Air to operate their new service. The planes will still have the Arrow branding, but Kenmore will perform maintenance, operate the service, and the flights will have the Kenmore call sign.
You might want to try and use the restroom before take off.
As far as pilots, Kenmore Director of Flight Operations Thomas Tilson told me that depending on overall demand, they will utilize a 50/50 mix of existing Kenmore pilots and also hire new ones. This is also not the first time that Kenmore has helped other airlines get off the ground (pun intended).
“We get approached all the time,” Tilson explained to AirlineReporter.com. “Kenmore has done multiple contractual and theoretical planning analyses for companies around the world. We really specialize in turn-key planning efforts. Kenmore really is the world’s authority on float plane operations and translating that success to other areas of the world. For example, we have done planning for operations in China and other places in Asia and South America.”
If this route succeeds, Arrow will begin promoting a LA Area to Bay Area service. Similarly to using two less traveled airports in the Bay Area, they are planning to fly into Long Beach and Burbank in the LA area. Future target markets will be big cities that are 300-800 miles apart as they determined that distance really allows for maximum profitability. If they have success on the west coast, they are considering future city pairs of Boston/Washington D.C., Chicago/New York, and Atlanta/Miami among others.
While Arrow will fly into some lesser traveled airports, they are certainly flying into large markets. In another time saving measure, rather than having to taxi to the main terminal after landing, they have contracted with the local Fixed Base Operator (FBO) to handle their aircraft. The FBO will essentially handle all ground operations for Arrow including fuelling, catering, and rental car services. The other nice part is that generally speaking, Arrow won’t have to queue up and land on the main runway that major carriers must use. For example, Oakland has two runways designed specifically for small aircraft that are located near the FBO.
Arrow’s infographic showing time saved by flying them.
The biggest challenges facing Arrow will come from established carriers already serving the markets which Arrow enters. While they will not have nearly the capacity that many other carriers have (the Avanti II will be configured to seat nine), Arrow still poses a threat to win business travelers with their superior product.
After experiencing their product this week, I wish them nothing but success going forward.
SOME ADDITIONAL TRIP PHOTOS:
||This story written by…Colin Cook, Correspondent.Colin is an avid AvGeek who works in finance and is based in the Seattle area. He has an immense passion for aviation and loves to travel as much as possible.@CRoscoe2121
Delta Air Lines is to start Boeing 747-400 service to Seattle next June. Image by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren.
Today Delta Air Lines and Alaska Airlines made a joint announcement at Seattle Tacoma International Airport regarding increased service. Some (including myself) were hoping for something a bit more substantial, but more options to/from SEA is always a good thing.
The growth and customer enhancements include (from Delta’s press release):
- Proposed new nonstop Delta service between Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and Shanghai Pu Dong International Airport, pending approval by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).
- Proposed new nonstop Delta service between Seattle and Haneda Airport in Tokyo, pending DOT approval.
- The deployment of Delta’s flagship Boeing 747-400 jet on flights between Seattle and Narita Airport in Tokyo, featuring a fully upgraded interior with full flat-bed seats in BusinessElite, individual in-flight entertainment in every seat throughout the aircraft, expanded overhead bins and other amenities.
- Newly upgraded Boeing 767-300 aircraft on Delta’s flights between Seattle and Paris, Beijing and Osaka, Japan, also offering full flat-bed seats in BusinessElite and upgraded amenities.
- Additional nonstop Delta service between Seattle and John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.
- Upgraded BusinessElite service on all Delta Seattle-JFK flights to match the product and amenities of Delta’s JFK service from Los Angeles and San Francisco.
- Sea-Tac airport improvements including a new Delta Sky Club, new power ports throughout Delta’s facilities, expanded ticket counters, lobby renovations and other improvements.
- An ongoing partnership between Delta and Alaska that includes codesharing in Seattle and shared customer benefits including reciprocal lounge access and frequent flier programs.
“Delta’s expansion in Seattle will link this important West Coast city even closer with key markets in Asia, boosting its economy, creating jobs and providing benefits to travelers across the Pacific Northwest region,” said Richard Anderson, Delta’s chief executive. “This kind of international growth is possible only because of our partnership with Alaska, and customers of both our airlines will benefit from this newly strengthened relationship.”
This will be the third and only US airline to operate the Boeing 747-400 out of SEA starting on June 1, 2013. The others are British Airways to London and Eva Airways to Taipei.
What do Alaska and Delta have up their sleeves? Photo by Paul Carter.
Today Alaska Airlines sent out a media advisory stating that their CEO, Brad Tilden, and Delta Air Lines CEO, Richard Anderson, will make a joint announcement on Monday about, “new service, product enhancements in Seattle.” What does that mean exactly? I am not sure.
The advisory continues to say that they plan, “to announce Delta and Alaska Airlines’ latest steps in Seattle, which include new service and product enhancements. Alaska operates the most flights at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, while Delta is the market’s largest provider of Asian and trans-Atlantic service. Through their partnership, the two carriers provide air travelers with connections throughout the Northwest and elsewhere on codeshare flights, as well as reciprocal lounge and frequent flier benefits.”
Rumors about Alaska and Delta have been swarming for years. Although I doubt this is an announcement that Delta will be taking over Alaska, it has to be something pretty major for Anderson to come in from Atlanta.
What are you guesses on what the announcement might include? Leave them in the comments and let your imagination soar. We can all find out on Monday.
Thanks to Paul for letting me use his photo.
HERE IS THE ANNOUNCEMENT
Catching the Bolt Bus in Seattle, WA. Photo by Malcolm Muir.
This is a guest post written by Malcolm Muir for AirlineReporter.com. Here is his experience with Bolt Bus in his own words (note: Malcom paid his own way there and back) …
A last minute trip north to Vancouver gave me the opportunity (and an excuse) to try out Bolt Bus. Bolt is a new entrant to the Pacific Northwest market and started operations late May. Bolt is owned and operated by Greyhound and from stories I had heard about service etc. from Greyhound I was a little apprehensive.
Costs were extremely good. A one way ticket method cost the day before departure was only $33 round trip (including the $1 booking fee). This was for a late Friday evening departure and mid-Sundays afternoon return so prime services. Like the airlines, fares can vary depending on the time of day as an earlier return from Vancouver would have saved around $10. Fares start at $1 with Bolt Bus so if you can get in early enough with the booking fee could be $3 round trip.
The boarding passes/booking confirmation is emailed and/or texted to you immediately and you’re set. Bolt Bus boards by groups similar to airline zones (unsure how they are assigned though as I was given Group A for both tickets) which helps to ensure that people won’t just rush the bus when it arrives.
Seattle is the middle point for journeys in either direction so there could be delays that hold up the bus (such as traffic in heavy times) however my bus arrived from Portland about 10 minutes prior to its scheduled departure to Vancouver.
Unfortunately, there currently isn’t any signage at the Seattle departure point (5th Ave S & King Street, the International District bus station) so there were many people milling about with worried looks on their faces asking “does Bolt Bus go from here?”
The buses are all modern looking, with leather seated interiors, more seat pitch compared to the competitors, and power points at each row (mounted to the row in front, so avoid the first row as none fitted). Free Wi-Fi is offered inboard however it only works as far as the Border crossing as they don’t seem to have coverage in Canada.
One downside of the seat is the lack of a tray table. There is ample room for it to fit and would definitely make working with a laptop easier but it’s not a deal breaker.
Both trips were lightly loaded, so a set of two seats to myself allowed me to spread out the gear and get some work done. Heading north, the traffic was light and the 8pm departure time avoids most of the I5 traffic snarls of an afternoon. We departed a few minutes late out of Seattle, but this, again, is not a deal breaker.
Bolt Bus allows 2 hours from Seattle north to the border, 30 minutes for the border crossing and another hour into Vancouver, ample time in the 2 hours to catch him up and also relax into the weekend.
The border crossing heading north was uneventful other than having ingredients to wait for 5 minutes while they found some staff, a few questions and I was stamped into Canada. The continued journey resumed right at the 30 minute mark (they leave once everyone is processed so this is where scheduled time could take a hit) and completed the journey into Vancouver in the allotted 1 hour.
Since there is no food service and no stops between Seattle and Vancouver, you need to bring it with you. I took stuff with me on the bus and had no problems, however be mindful of the border crossing as some foods can’t go over (saw a lady have to bin an apple at US customs). The Seattle stop is a good location to pick up some food as it’s right next to Uwijamaya for some good Japanese/Asian food and drinks at non airport pricing.
There is a bathroom on board the bus, but luckily I did not end up having to use it.
Okay legroom, but no tray table on the Bolt Bus.
We arrived into a deserted Pacific Central at 1135pm and it is a bit nerve racking to not see any cabs at the terminal but I am sure this will be against changed in the long run once Bolt have been up and running longer.
The journey south was even more painless as there was an extremely light load. The driver separated the boarding groups to control the group easier but in this instance probably was not needed as much. Traffic was very light for a Sunday afternoon and we made the border early and with customs & immigration taking only 15 minutes for the load we were back on the road early.
After an amazing sight returning to Seattle with a blue sky and a magnificent view of Mt Rainer from I5 we actually arrived 30 mins early. A smooth painless journey in either direction.
And back to Seattle on the Bolt Bus.
The journey with Bolt Bus was definitely an easy one, from the simple booking process to the journey itself, more reminiscent of an ultra-express service as no stops are made between cities. A couple of issues do need to be addressed such as connectivity across the border and signage at departure points; however for the price it’s not that big of an issue.
Bolt Bus favors highly over the direct competitors such as Greyhound and Quick bus. But there would be good competition from Amtrak. With Bolt Bus, if loads are light border crossings would be much quicker than Amtrak as they do not have to work through an entire training load of people, however Amtrak is not at the mercy of traffic problems so if a journey was made during the prime peak hour times, this could obviously add significant delays.
Compared to flying though the price is definitely a big difference as a last minute return with Air Canada was pricing in at $600 return for Best Available fare. Amtrak fares were around $100 return.
If you can get the fares for as little as $1 each way, then Bolt bus is definitely a fantastic option and can only improve as the service gets a bit more popular and has time to be able to settle into the PNW market.
Delta Air Lines Airbus A330 with a KLM Boeing 747-400 in the background in Amsterdam.
This was my last leg of my RwandAir adventure. I had already flown from Seattle to Rwanda in a 737 and just completed a 10 hour flight from Kigali, Rwanda to Amsterdam on a KLM A330. I was already pretty tired and wasn’t sure how my mind, body and spirit would do on another ten hour ride in a different A330. On the positive side, I was looking forward to comparing two international Airbus A330s back-to-back. Overall, I have to say I like the
Northwest Delta Air Lines A330 long haul premium economy a bit better than KLM’s.
When arriving into Amsterdam, I had a three hour layover and I was hoping to check out their observation deck. Before plane spotting, I needed to do some charging of my laptop and cell phone, since my last ten hour flight did not have in-seat power and neither would my next one. The classic hunt for an open outlet was on.
I started down the concourse looking from side to side. I kept going and going and… well, going. Seriously? After 45 minutes looking up and down concourses D, E and F, I found an outlet about seven feet up for vending machines, one in the bathroom, one on a fire hose holder and one on a center pillar in a crowded walkway. I choose to deal with the crowds and sat down on the floor (looking like an idiot by the way) by the pillar, plugged in my phone and then… nothing. Sweet, this outlet did not work. Now the debate was did I want to look like even more of an idiot standing in the bathroom charging my phone, climbing on a vending machine or using an outlet on a fire hose that might cause some alarm to go off. I figured my best bet was with the fire hose and luckily it worked. The bad part was it took so long to juice up, that I wasn’t able to check out the observation deck – save it for next time I guess.
Delta Economy Comfort seat on an Airbus A330.
I figured I might as well head to the gate, where I received my first body scan. We had to wait in a small waiting area at the gate for our flight, which had little entertainment before being able to board. I was sitting in Delta Economy Comfort, which gave me four additional inches of seat pitch, 50% more recline, priority boarding and free alcohol. You also sit near the front of the plane, which means you are first to customs after arriving in Seattle. .
Even with the extra four inches, I was unable to fully stretch out my legs since there was a huge in-flight entertainment box under my seat, negating the extra leg room. You would think with a large electrical box like that under your seat, they would at least give you an outlet, but there was none. Reading on SeatGuru.com, it looks like only Business Class has outlets. Good thing I did some charging during my layover.
One nice surprise was seeing an air vent in the overhead bin. I absolutely love my air vents, since I am normally hot and that little breeze can make a huge difference. Sure, most domestic aircraft have air vents, but I am finding more and more long haul Boeing 747, 777, Airbus A330/A330 and the A380 are lacking them.
During both legs (KGL to AMS and AMS to SEA), I had window seats. When flying on the KLM A330, I noticed that there was quite a bit of room between the seat and the wall and was wishing the outer arm rest would raise, allowing me access to that extra room. It was too bad that the armrest would not rise on the KLM A330, but it did rise on Delta’s. This gave me an extra three inches or so of seat width and I was starting to get the feeling that this might be a good flight. Unfortunately we ran into some trouble pretty quickly.
Taking off from Amsterdam.
After boarding we were told there would be a delay. It turns out that the amount of fuel that the truck indicated being pumped into the aircraft, didn’t match the A330′s gauges. Delays can be annoying, but I am willing to wait to make sure we have enough fuel — I am old fashioned like that. It took about an hour to determine that the truck had the failure and after all the paperwork was completed, we took off.
When getting my free headphones given by Delta out of their plastic bag I accidently ripped one of the wires. Not a big deal, I figured I could just ring the call button and quickly get a new one. I decided to try something new; time how long it would take for a flight attendant to assist me after ringing the call button. I decided I would make eye contact with a flight attendant walking by, but I would not say anything like “excuse me,” to put them to the test.
I rang the call button and waited. And waited. And holy crap waited some more. At the 10 minute mark I turned off my call light and rang it again. During those ten minutes I had two different flight attendants walk by, but they did not stop… they did not even make eye contact. At the 15 minute mark I turned off my call light and rang it again. Another flight attendant walked by, but still nothing. I could see that my call light was on and the “ding” noise was definitely making its sound.
At about 18 minutes a flight attendant came by for trash. I was waiting for her to ask me about my light, but she didn’t. I decided I really wanted to start watching a movie, so I asked her for another head phone set, which she got right away. I am not normally one who uses the call button and I have never timed it before, but I am pretty certain that 18 minutes and three flight attendants walking by is not okay. It takes a lot to get me annoyed or frustrated on a flight and this definitely did it.
OH YES! The armrest near the window moves, giving me more room.
When trying to relax, the recline of the Economy Comfort was great. However, when the person in front of me was enjoying their extra 50% recline, it was not so great – actually pretty annoying. I am normally one that doesn’t recline my seat, since I do not want to disturb the person behind me, but I really had to recline a bit to open my laptop, even with the extra four inches.
During the flight, I was served two different meals. One was your standard airline pasta, but the second was pizza. Both of them were pretty decent and I thought it was pretty slick having pizza on the plane. I really didn’t get to enjoy all the amenities in the flight, since I slept through most of it. Having the ability to raise my outer armrest really gave me one of my best economy sleeps with someone sitting next to me. I landed in Seattle feeling a lot better than I thought I would after 24 hours of economy flight.
A FEW MORE PHOTOS