Cathay's business class seats are very well thought out.

Cathay’s business class seats are very well thought out

Cathay Pacific’s (CX) business-class product is legendary, and that reputation is well deserved. I recently got to try the service in an Airbus A350-900 on their relatively new Seattle-Hong Kong route, which began last spring. You may have heard a bit about the social unrest in Hong Kong of late; travelers’ concerns about those public protests have led to decreased bookings for all airlines serving Hong Kong. That issue is most likely what led to my being bumped to business from premium for the return flight, because the plane was surprisingly lightly loaded. But, that means I got to enjoy biz class both ways, so you’ll hear no complaints from me.

First off, I’ll admit to a bias – I really like the Airbus A350. This was my second round-trip long-haul flight on one this year, and both flights were very pleasant. My first-ever A350 flight was in April 2019 with French Bee, which as a budget airline configures their planes quite differently than Cathay Pacific.

The lower cabin pressurization altitude, large windows, and wide cabin all make for a great flight experience, even in 10-abreast economy, let alone CX’s stellar business-class seats. And I love the A350’s window in the loo – having natural reading light while you tend to business is awesome.

Anyway, here’s the review…

Wasn't really sure what "Tech Lion" meant until seeing the design up close!

Wasn’t really sure what “Tech Lion” meant until seeing the design up close!

If you have been reading the site for a while, you know that I don’t take as many trips as I used to — life priorities have just changed. When Embraer recently reached out to invite me down to fly on their E195-E2 aircraft, I was all in. “But David, didn’t you just fly their E190-E2 Sharkjet about a year ago and don’t you always complain about how often you fly the diagcon from Seattle to Florida?” Wow, you do read the site quite a bit and you are right… on both accounts.

You don't get to taxi often and see a Space Shuttle!

You don’t get to taxi often and see a Space Shuttle!

First off, I was going to be able to fly the Tech Lion vs the Sharkjet this time… meow! Secondly, as part of the media flight, we flew into the Kennedy Space Facility (KTTS), got a VIP tour, and had lunch with an astronaut (Tang drink included). And if that wasn’t enough, I was able to ride jump seat while taking off from KTTS. Yes, this was going to be worth heading down to Florida again to hang out with the fine folks at Embraer, and I was very grateful that I had an invite!

A Delta A350 departs DTW, the DL A350 hub. - Photo: Andrew Poure

A Delta A350 departs DTW – Photo: Andrew Poure

“Delta Air Lines was recently bombarded with 20,000 phishing emails over just a few hours. Two bad actors had directly targeted airline employees with malicious content in a brazen attempt to circumvent the airline’s security infrastructure.” Shocking, right?

Don McCoy, Cyber Security Manager for Delta openly shared this with a room of over 200 security professionals. To those not in the industry (that’s me) this sounds sensational. Interestingly, fellow attendees of Exabeam‘s #Spotlight19 conference largely didn’t react. It turns out, such attacks are commonplace for high-visibility organizations.

In retrospect, airlines make for an incredibly attractive target. All of the U.S. “big four” airlines now earn revenue well into the double-digit billions each year. They have data on millions of customers. And of course, airline employees have access to restricted virtual and physical assets. For these reasons, it is no wonder airlines are subject to the nonstop barrage of attempts to gain access to and exploit their data.

Preventing, identifying, and responding to phishing attacks is just the tip of the iceberg. Click through to read about how airlines use big data and analytics to identify fraud and even predict maintenance events.

A classic Alaska Airlines Boeing 727-200 taken in 1996 - Photo: Aero Icarus | FlickrCC

A classic Alaska Airlines Boeing 727-200 taken in 1989 – Photo: Aero Icarus | FlickrCC

The United States’ fifth-largest air carrier – Alaska Airlines – traces its roots deep into American history; in fact, the airline began in its namesake’s state nearly 27 years before Alaska achieved statehood. The formerly localized west coast regional air carrier boasts an impressive route structure, serving 116 destinations with over 1,200 daily departures. After the 2016 acquisition of San Francisco-based Virgin America, Alaska Airlines began a new phase of operations, utilizing its inheritance of 67 Airbus aircraft and dozens of new routes. When mainline service is combined with wholly-owned subsidiary Horizon Air and contracted carrier SkyWest Airlines, Alaska Airlines proudly boats the honor of operating the “Most West Coast” flights each day.

However, Alaska Airlines and its affiliates have carefully expanded their daily operations far beyond the western United States, serving eastern seaboard destinations from Boston to Ft. Lauderdale. In 2014, 25% of all Alaska Airlines daily departures traveled across North America; after the Virgin America acquisition a mere four years later, that figure has nearly doubled. Simultaneously, growth to areas outside of the continental U.S. remains relatively stable and, in some cases, diminished. After connecting Bellingham, Washington to various Hawaiian destinations for nearly a decade, Alaska Airlines announced cessation of all Bellingham nonstop flights except service to Seattle-Tacoma. Growth within the airline’s namesake state of Alaska remains stagnant; service to Mexico faces a similar outcome.

Horizon Q400s at Seattle - Photo: David Parker Brown

Horizon Q400s at Seattle

Alaska Airlines, alongside subsidiary Horizon Air and its partner SkyWest Airlines – through a capacity purchase agreement – has strategically eliminated under performing routes over the recent years. Instead, Alaska has elected to beef up its west coast hubs to maintain a stronghold among residents along the west coast. After the 2008 merger of Delta and Northwest, ferocious competition rose in former Alaska Airlines strongholds, specifically Seattle and Portland. Delta Air Lines maintains an expansive international network from Seattle, leading to recent growth and additions in domestic service and direct competition with Alaska Airlines. To combat, recent Alaska Airlines strategic decisions can be categorized into three distinct categories: Streamlined regional operations, acquisition of Virgin America, and an ever-expanding route network.