When I fly for personal reasons, I will often think of a possible story angle before my flight. Sometimes I find one, sometimes I do not. During a recent trip from Seattle (SEA) to Houston (IAH), I flew on an Alaska Airlines 737. I thought what possible story angle could I come up with that could be unique when I am flying another Alaska 737 out of Seattle? I figured that this would just be a flight that I would enjoy and no story to be told (which is not always a bad thing).
As I sat at the gate, waiting to board, I looked at my flight details. Yes, I am a bit embarrassed to admit that I did not take a closer look at what aircraft I was flying on earlier, but that allowed me to have a nice little surprise. I wasn’t just flying on any Boeing 737, but a 737 MAX 9. That was important to me, because this was my first MAX flight… game on.
I quickly changed from “civilian mode” (a name I use when flying as a passenger, not doing a story) to “blogger mode.” I started to think about what photos I wanted to take and how. Make sure I took good notes (I often forget in the giddiness), and not look too much like a total nerd in front of other passengers.
As I boarded the plane, I wondered how different the MAX would be. It was still using the same fuselage as the 737-100 that launched service in 1968, so would a typical passenger even notice? Would I notice? I was excited (actually more giddy) to find out.
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!
Inaugurals, brandnewairlines, 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
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…
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.
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.
Air Tahiti Nui launched service to Seattle on October 5, 2022, offering twice-weekly direct service to Papeete on Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners.
“North America is a key market for our destination. So, when we decided to open a second gateway on the West Coast, Seattle was a natural answer for us,” said Air Tahiti Nui Managing Director Mathieu Bechonnet. “I would like to thank our partners at Alaska Airlines and the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport for their warm welcome and support in making this happen.”
The airline and airport hosted a gala-like arrivals ceremony complete with the requisite speeches, gift exchange, and traditional dancers.
The 4,785-mile flight’s scheduled duration is eight hours and forty-seven minutes, which takes a bit less time than the 4,800-mile flight from Seattle to London.