Some cuties on on the tails of aircraft - Photo: Frontier Airlines
If you want to complain about Frontier needing more otters, you are gonna need to do it online!

I sometimes use my mom (who loves birds, but not really planes) to help guide what we cover on AirlineReporter. Typically if she mentions “Hey did you see this story about an airline?” we have a nice conversation about it, but that typically means it has been well covered and unless we have a unique opinion, we move on. So, it feels special when my mom brings up a story she saw, and I have a few thoughts to add.

If you missed it, Frontier Airlines has opted to ditch their customer care call center, while still providing online support – all in the name of bringing down costs. Unless you are new to following the airline biz, we have seen this sort of thing a few times now. An airline announces some change to “save money to pass down to passengers.” Many media outlets cover it with the tone, “here is an airline looking to screw you over again.” Passengers, some who never have flown the airline, will flow to social media with the tone “HOW DARE YOU SCREW ME OVER AIRLINE, I WILL NEVER, EVER FLY YOU AGAIN!!!”

Even though I have come to roll my eyes with this sort of rinse and repeat narrative, I decided that I wanted to dig a bit deeper on this one. Why does this keep happening? Who is to blame? Is it the “evil” airlines and their greed? Or is it something much closer to home? Spoiler: I found answers!

Sometimes research is fun!
Sometimes research is fun!

During my extensive research I came across an article published a while ago that really hits the nail on the head. Go ahead, take your time to view it (don’t worry, it is mostly images), come back and read a few more of my thoughts, then please share yours in the comments. I got all day.

A tide pod livery 737 jets down the runway with exhaust causing amazing distortion. There's snow in the foreground and you can see steam from ventilation or heater exhaust in the background. The lighting is excellent, everything is warm.
A Sun Country 737 Departs MSP on a frigid morning. – Photo: Nick Benson / JetTip.net

Inaugurals, brand new airlines, airline sunsets, new planes, unique planes. What do these all have in common? They’re a magnet for AvGeeks. And any time you get a group of enthusiasts in a room together they all start telling their “AvGeek experience” stories. You know how it goes – “the shortest flight I ever flew was…” and then someone chimes in with theirs. It’s good fun.

Today we are excited to tell you about an AvGeek experience we just recently learned of (and promptly booked) thanks to our friend and sometimes AirlineReporter contributor Nick Benson over at JetTip. Picture this: An inaugural flight between a new city pair, to an airport you and your friends have probably never been to. Just an 85-mile flight, onboard a 737 with a bunch of fellow AvGeeks…

Let’s Fly an Inaugural EAS Flight

This screen shot shows the inaugural flight selected. It departs at 11:25 AM and arrives at 12:20 PM. The true prices is 39.60.
The December 1 MSP-EAU flight is only $40 one way. Less than $1 a minute! What a deal. – Image: Sun Country

On December 1, 2022 Sun Country will inaugurate service between MSP and EAU (Chippewa Valley Regional Airport) using one of their 737s. At time of writing, the new route is a bargain at just shy of $40 each way. This is a ULCC, so seat selection, etc., are extra. But here’s the thing – it’s a short 45-minute flight, and an inaugural so why not just roll the dice? We realize this isn’t Spirit, but here’s your chance to go full un-bundled, like I did in 2016 when I tried the Bare Fare, for science. Do it, and you’ll have another story to tell your friends.

Wendy Burt, Sr. Director of communications for Sun Country confirms that this unique new route is part of the DOT’s Essential Air Service program. EAS is intended to ensure service to undeserved communities. She also confirmed that “there will be an event in Eau Claire on the first day to celebrate.” Airline-themed cake, anyone? We can only hope…

We hope to see you there.

A few years ago Etihad Airways set out to streamline itself. After hitting hard times and running into fierce competition, it cut routes, cut costs, and invested in a more fuel-efficient fleet. And earlier this year Etihad announced a long-awaited return to profitability. So that part of the transformation seems to be working.

What’s better than one Dreamliner? How about Two? – Photo: Manu Venkat

But did the passenger experience take a hit from the airline’s belt-tightening? We had a chance to find while flying business class on their 787-9 Dreamliner, a staple of their leaner long-haul fleet. Read on for plenty of photos, videos, and opinions on the experience. And at the end of the story we have some fresh news about Etihad’s onboard product.

Arriving at Dulles

Our flight was in business class from Washington D.C. to Abu Dhabi. I love planespotting at Dulles, especially from onboard those goofy “mobile lounge” buses.

Etihad’s Verified to Fly program allows you to confirm your COVID vaccine related documentation in advance, which scores you access to a separate shorter check-in line. Definitely take advantage of if you can — it can mean major time savings at the airport.