This past week, after a decade-long pause, Air France returned to Newark Liberty International Airport. The service is operated by a Boeing 777-200ER, a staple of the airline’s long-haul fleet. Passengers and higher-ups from both the airline and airport celebrated the occasion with plenty of fanfare, including speeches, a ribbon cutting, and cake.
Air France already operates multiple flights into New York through JFK, so the focus here is really on the parts of the tri-state area — like New Jersey and Staten Island — that are closer to Newark. As someone who grew up in central Jersey I can attest to that convenience advantage. Newark’s outdated terminals catch flak from some travelers, but like LaGuardia and JFK, EWR already launched a massive project to improve its ground game.
JFK is a SkyTeam stronghold thanks to Delta, but Newark has fewer connections with Air France’s alliance partners. United’s twice-daily Paris service is the main legacy airline competition. Both Air France and United are sandwiched between two other unique options on the price spectrum. French Bee offers a high-density low-cost service we’ve written about before. And La Compagnie offers a unique business-class-only service on an Airbus A321neo. But despite the competition, Air France sees plenty of market opportunity to relaunch into Newark, including for passengers looking to connect onward from Paris to points east.
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!