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“And the Winner is…” – Taking a Closer Look at the 2014 Airline Quality Rating Report

The First Virgin America A320 With Sharklets

The first Virgin America A320 with Sharklets – Photo: Virgin America

This story was written by John Cameron for AirlineReporter…

The 2014 Airline Quality Rating report was released last week and, for the second year in a row, Virgin America was ranked #1 amongst major US carriers. How did the other airlines fare? Who received the dubious distinction of being ranked worst? You’ll have to read on to find out.

But first, a bit of background information.

The Airline Quality Rating (AQR) report has been published annually since 1991. Yes, 24 years. That’s a long, long time in the commercial aviation industry. To put that into perspective, consider that the AQR predates the prohibition of in-flight smoking in the US (1998), the Embraer ERJ family (1995), the Boeing 777 (1994), the Airbus A330 (1992), and even the ubiquitous Bombardier CRJ (which took to the air one month after the inaugural AQR report was released).

Back then, as the 1990s were just dawning, professors Brent Bowen and Dean Headley realized that the majority of existing airline rating systems relied heavily on subjective surveys of customer opinion that were infrequently collected and largely unreliable. What was needed was a timely, objective, and quantitative rating system that could be used to compare airline performance from year to year.

Thus, the Airline Quality Rating was born.

Continue reading “And the Winner is…” – Taking a Closer Look at the 2014 Airline Quality Rating Report

Gogo Unveils New In-Flight Technology

 

Gogo's Test Plane - Photo: Gogo

Gogo’s Test Plane – Photo: Gogo

Gogo announced today significant new technology upgrades that will boost the speed and enhance the reliability of their in-flight wifi service.  These upgrades will be rolled out first with Virgin America (VX) in 2014, who also happened to be the first customer to introduce Gogo service fleet-wide, and the first to implement the enhanced ATG-4 high-speed service.

The essence of the new technology is a refined antenna that utilizes a “GTO” protocol (or “Ground-to-Orbit”).  This system will build upon Gogo’s existing ground-based antennas to utilize multiple satellites for enhanced speed and reliability.  Gogo claims upwards of 60 Mbps speeds to planes running their service.  That’s up to 20x faster than what you can expect on most planes equipped with Gogo right now.

Another benefit of the new antenna is that it can communicate with multiple satellites at once, which increases stability.  If one connection fails, another can pick up the slack.  This will hopefully prevent what happened on my last Gogo-equipped flight; a 20-minute loss of coverage in the middle of writing an AirlineReporter.com story.

Continue reading Gogo Unveils New In-Flight Technology

Virgin America Invites New Jersey To Fly Like A Boss

Virgin America held a press conference at Newark International Airport on Monday, celebrating the beginning of service from the New Jersey airport out to the West Coast. Newark International lacks much competition to the west coast, and Virgin Americas introduction to the airport has already started to lower costs on transcontinental routes, while passengers “fly like a boss.”

“This day is a great day for our company, but it poses a huge challenge for me,” said  David Cush, CEO of Virgin America. “For five years, when the media would ask me ‘what is the number one airport on the top of your list that you want to fly to,’ its always been easy, its been Newark Airport, and now I need to come up with a new number one,” Cush remarked. “It was an under-served airport from the Bay Area, and if you look at the importance of Newark, it is the number two business market out of San Francisco after JFK,” added Cush. After just one week of service, Cush said that fares have dropped by 40 percent on those routes.

Leading up to beginning of service from Newark, Virgin America held a content called “Fly Like A Boss,” where contestants chose the name for a brand new Airbus A320. The winning name for the aircraft was “Jersey Girl.”

Also in attendance at the press conference was the legendary Richard Branson. “Five years ago, we started Virgin America, and the first place we wanted to fly from was Newark, but we couldn’t get any slots,” said an enthusiastic Branson. Later on in his speech, Branson joked about the rather dull appearance and features of Newark’s terminal A. “Another announcement today,” Branson claimed. “I’ve just had a word with the wonder people behind me, and they’re going to make this terminal look beautiful. So it’s going to be beautiful, no queuing to go through, no security and all that, and it’s going to be the best terminal at Newark, so that’s something to look forward to. We’re going to come back in 12 years time to celebrate this,” said Branson. Sadly, this probably won’t happen any time soon.

Exclusive: Virgin America CEO David Cush Talks Plans For Flights To Hawaii, Sharklets

The First Virgin America A320 With Sharklets

The First Virgin America A320 With Sharklets

At Virgin America’s Newark Airport inaugural celebration this week, I had the opportunity to sit down with CEO David Cush for AirlineReporter.com. While talking about their new Airbus A320 with Sharklets, Cush detailed his airlines future plans for flights to Hawaii.

Jason: “You just took delivery of your first A320 with Sharklets, when do you expect that to enter into service?

Cush: “It should be in about two weeks, let’s call it around April 25th or so.”

Jason: “Do you have any idea which route it will be flying initially?”

Cush: “It’ll be flying some of the longer routes, because of the efficiency, so probably San Francisco-Boston, San Francisco-JFK. We took delivery of that one in Hamburg, and it was a beautiful airplane on the way over. Our chief pilot flew it over, and we actually saw greater than 4 per cent efficiency from Sharklets. So they estimated 3.5, we saw a little bit over 4.

Jason: “How do you estimate that will impact your operations?”

Cush: “We fly these aircraft kind of at the edge of their performance. When we’re flying Boston to San Francisco, in the winter and into headwinds, that’s about all that aircraft can do. Now what we got is an airplane that can do that easily without weight restrictions. So it’s not only a fuel efficiency thing, it’s a performance thing.

Jason: “I know that JetBlue had taken delivery of the first production retrofit a couple of months ago, and they have been doing that exact route, and they report that they have to make fewer tech stops to refuel. Do you anticipate less stops or was that a problem initially without Sharklets?>

Cush: “We don’t take tech stops. If we’ve got a long flight plan or strong winds, what we do is we basically buy passengers off the airplane. So, rather than inconveniencing everyone, what we’ll do is will find people to buy off, and they’ll wait for the next one. We take very few tech stops, usually when it’s an unplanned change. But what this will mean is that we will never have to take passengers out of the aircraft again.

Jason: “How often do that [buying passengers off the flight] happen right now?”

Cush: “I would say during the dead of winter, with a bad jet stream, I would say maybe as much of 10 per cent of the flights out of Boston.

Jason: “Do you anticipate the impact of Sharklets being able to open any new routes in the future?

Cush: “The main thing is that it lets you do West Coast to Hawaii, and that’s something you can’t do with the current aircraft. And so we’ll be using Sharklet equipped airplanes in 2015 when we start flying to Hawaii, and we can’t do that without the Sharklets.

Jason: “Are there any plans to retrofit current aircraft with Sharklets?”

Cush: “We’re going to wait and see. You know, there’s a lot of work you have to do on the wing, a lot of weight you add to the aircraft, which is a little bit of a challenge for us. We like the fuel efficiency, we don’t like the additional weight, so we’re not in a big hurry to do it. I know JetBlue is really blazing that trail, we’ll probably just sit back and see what their experience is, and if it’s good, we’ll probably go ahead and do the same thing.

Jason: “All future deliveries of Airbus aircraft at this point, will they be Sharklet equipped?

Cush: “All of ours will be. We’re not taking any more airplanes until 2015, and then we’ll take 10 from 2015 to 2016.

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.

@AirlineFyer | FaceBook |Virgin America, Sharklets, Hawaii

Airline April Fools’ Goodness From Around the Web

It is that time of year again for airlines and organizations related to aviation to come out with crazy stories for it being April Fools’ Day. Once again, we will try and track them down and share them. If you see others that are not covered here, leave something in the comments.

This is something that AvGeeks might like, but probably not most passengers. Image from Virgin Atlantic.

This is something that AvGeeks might like, but probably not most passengers. Image from Virgin Atlantic.

VIRGIN ATLANTIC TO OFFER SEE-THROUGH FLOORS:
From Richard Branson: I’m thrilled to announce that Virgin has created another world-first with the introduction of the technology required to produce the world’s first glass-bottomed plane. This technological innovation coincides with the start of Virgin Atlantic Airways’ first ever domestic service to Scotland.

In 1984 we started the wonderful airline that is Virgin Atlantic. I am incredibly proud of yet another aviation breakthrough which has been years in the making. I can’t wait to experience the first flight for myself with my family and other natural born explorers.

Read more and see some pretty sweet mock-up photos…

Take a Southwest Airlines hot air balloon. Image from Southwest Airlines.

Take a Southwest Airlines hot air balloon. Image from Southwest Airlines.

SOUTHWEST AIRLINES ADDS HOT AIR BALLOONS

From the airline: When you’re flying nearly 500mph at 35,000 feet above ground, life passes by pretty fast.  Sure, Southwest has a suite of things to keep you entertained inflight: Video on Demand; WiFi; Live at 35; hilarious Flight Attendants.  Heck, we’ve even transported a miniature seeing-eye horse, and a couple endangered sea turtles.  But figuratively, you can’t have the hare without the tortoise.

Realizing the possibility that slow and steady may truly win the race, the answer became clear: it was time to float the grandest idea Southwest has ever had.  It was time to take things slow. The tortoise and the hare. Hot air balloons and Boeing 737’s, soaring fancy free, albeit at distinctly different altitudes, and at significantly separate speeds.

Read more…

Flying does not have to be "ruff" any longer. Image from Virgin America.

Flying does not have to be “ruff” any longer. Image from Virgin America.

MAIN CANINE SELECT WITH VIRGIN AMERICA

From the airline: We’re of the mind that man’s best friend shouldn’t get the raw deal when flying long distances, so we partnered with Boo, World’s Cutest Dog — and our very own Pet Liaison — to throw furry flyers a bone. Over the last year (and with Boo’s doggy design expertise) we’ve converted our first class cabin into a space as tricked out as our state-of-the-art digs at SFO’s Terminal 2.

See more images and learn more…

JetBlue adding more destinations? Probably not really these ones. Image from Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren.

JetBlue adding more destinations? Probably not really these ones. Image from Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren.

JETBLUE FLYING TO THREE NEW DESTINATIONS

From the airline: We’re excited to announce three tantalizing new destinations, expanding this fun-loving airline’s borders to three new countries and giving travelers more options for flying to some of the farthest-reaching dots on the globe, including:

  • April River Airport (APR) in Papua New Guinea;
  • Ilford Airport (ILF) in Manitoba, Canada; and
  • Gold Coast Airport (OOL) in Coolangatta, Australia

Customers looking to climb an active volcano in Rabaul Caldera, experience a new sub-zero Canadian vacation spot or visit their Coolangattan relatives can now hop a flight with their favorite, customer service-friendly carrier. Once-daily flights to all three new destinations will be offered from our existing stations in Portland, Maine and Aquadilla, Puerto Rico. Twice-weekly flights will also be offered between Papua, New Guinea and Coolangatta, Australia with connecting service in Ilford, Canada(a).

Keep reading and see video…

More room for the arms. Image from Delta.

More room for the arms. Image from Delta.

DELTA DOUBLE DECKER ARM REST

Posted on Delta’s Twitter account: Introducing the new Double Decker Armrest — coming soon to the middle seat. More arm space. Less elbow rubbing.

WestJet's new animal policy might be a Baaaaad idea. Image from WestJet's video.

WestJet’s new animal policy might be a Baaaaad idea. Image from WestJet’s video.

ALL ANIMALS ON BOARD WESTJET

From the airline: WestJet today announced the easing of restrictions on pets in the cabin. All WestJet flights will now allow for any type of animal to travel in the cabin provided it fits safely on board the aircraft.

“We recognize that a growing number of families want to travel with their ‘extended’ family and we are proud to be the first airline to offer this type of service,” said Richard Bartrem, WestJet’s Vice-President, Communications and Community Relations.

Thanks Allen for finding this one.

Be sure to check out WestJet’s video…

Air Malta to buy a Hawker Hunter?

Air Malta to buy a Hawker Hunter?

AIR MALTA BUYS A FIGHTER JET

From the Malta Independent: Air Malta has bought a 1950s privately owned two-seater Hawker Hunter fighter jet. The historic airworthy military aircraft will be painted in Air Malta’s new livery and will be used to generate new revenue streams for the airline. The aircraft will also be used to promote Air Malta and the Maltese Islands abroad by participating in a number of air shows around the world.

Plans have already been made by the airline for a soon-to-be-launched novel product ‘Jet Fighter Adventure Flights’ – an adrenalin rushing thrill seeking fighter aircraft experience that has become very popular in several countries around the world. These flights-of-a-lifetime will be available for purchase on the airline’s website www.airmalta.com.

With its sleek design, brilliant handling and maneuverability, the Hawker Hunter aircraft will offer customers the opportunity to experience a historic flying adventure. The classic Hunter was one of the best transonic jet fighter aircraft and formed the backbone of the Royal Air Force’s jet fighter squadron in the late 1950s. The aircraft was withdrawn from active service in 1995. During the 1960s and 1970s Hawker Hunter aircraft were a common sight at Malta’s Luqa airfield.

Keep reading…

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