A Piaggio P 180 Avanti II at Boeing Field (BFI). Image by Colin Cook / AirlineReporter.com.
It’s not every day that you hear about a new airline starting service. With the immensely strong barriers to entry including existing airlines, financing issues, and federal regulations, there are not many new airlines founded today. Anymore, it seems like the industry is consolidating via mergers, but Arrow is aiming to show that new niche airlines can succeed even in this economy. This new airline is banking on people valuing their time and wanting to avoid the hassle of traveling with traditional airlines and long security lines. I had the opportunity to meet with Arrow CEO Russell Belden this past Monday and take a flight from Seattle to Oakland (and back).
Arrow is unique in few ways. First of which is that it is a private club in which people can purchase memberships ($500 per month with a one year commitment) and then have access to purchase tickets on their aircraft. But unlike other private jet services which operate similarly, Arrow will have scheduled services.
They are planning to launch Seattle (out of Boeing Field – BFI) to Oakland (OAK) and San Jose (SJC), which will cost members about $500 each way. The ticket costs are comparable to a first class ticket on other airlines serving similar routes.
Once Arrow receives 200 membership commitments they will purchase their initial aircraft and make plans to begin service within three months (delivery time-frame for a new plane).
The interior of the Piaggio. Photo by Colin Cook / AirlineReporter.com.
Arrow has a target market of business professionals who have much better things to do than simply wait in line. Sure, a flight on Arrow might cost slightly more than a typical first or business class ticket, but isn’t a CEO’s time exceptionally valuable?
Arrow believes they will be able to shave off as much as two hours simply due to eliminating the added hassles of the typical airport experience. With on-board Wi-Fi to be installed on their new aircraft, it will also enable professionals to keep in constant contact and be productive at 30,000 feet. While our test flight did not have Wi-Fi on board, we actually had an intermittent signal on our mobile phones throughout the journey.
The Bahamas puts the “blue” into JetBlue.
JETBLUE ECONOMY REVIEW BASICS:
Aircraft: Embraer E-190 N317JB, Deja Blue
Departed: Lynden Pindling International Airport (NAS)
Arrived: Boston Logan International Airport (BOS)
Cheers: Great little bonuses: full soda can, free TV, lots of snacks and one free checked bag.
Jeers: Wish there was some Wi-Fi — it is coming soon.
Bottom Line: JetBlue does not feel like a low-cost airline
Taxiing at NAS towards the runway. There is a Bahamasair Boeing 737-500 in the background.
FULL JETBLUE ECONOMY REVIEW:
Being based in Seattle, I do not get the opportunity to fly JetBlue very often. It has been a few years since I have experienced one of their flights and I was excited to see I was flying them home after a recent press trip to The Bahamas (note: The Bahamas Tourism paid for my ticket on JetBlue).
I have only flown the E-190 once before in a business class flight on Air Canada from Toronto to Seattle. I was impressed with the larger seats up front on my Air Canada flight, but I have been wanting to try out what it is like sitting in the back of the E-190 and this flight gave me the opportunity.
JetBlue E190s are configured with 32″ seat pitch, but if that is not enough for you, then you can upgrade to Even More Space, which gives you (wait for it…) even more space. Rows one, 12, 13 and 14 offer 6-7 inches of additional space and give priority boarding for an extra charge. The aircraft is set up in a 2-2 layout with 100 seats — this means aisle and window seats for everyone.
The E-190 provides a window or aisle seat for every passenger.
The flight was only about half full, so after allowing passengers with Even More Space seats and those who need additional assistance to board, everyone else was allowed to board in one group.
I normally try to take photos of the aircraft before I board, but NAS does not offer great photo angles from the airport. However, the photos after take-off more than make up for it.
The overhead bins on the E-190 are not too large, so I planned ahead and checked my larger carry-on bag. Extra bonus: JetBlue allows you to check one bag for free. Was kind of a pain to haul my camera, laptop and chargers around Boston (where I had my layover), but I managed.
No matter what seat you are sitting in, you will get free TV with 37 channels of entertainment. There are also three additional channels that play movies and for international flights (which mine was), the movies are free. If you are on a domestic flight, the premium entertainment will cost you $5.99 to watch a movie. Make sure to bring your own headphones or purchase one for $2 once you board the aircraft, because the movies start shortly after leaving the gate. I made the mistake of waiting to buy after taking off and I missed 10 minutes of Batman: The Dark Knight (luckily I had seen it previously).
I paid for the beer, but everything else was free and good.
Jetblue offers complimentary non-alcoholic beverages and a nice selection of free snacks including, blue potato chips, chocolate chip cookies, animal crackers and more.
If you want something a bit more substantial, four different “EATUP boxes” are offered for $5.99 each. There is also a decent selection of alcoholic beverages for $6.99 each, except for Bud Light which goes for $5.99. Being a fiscally responsible travel blogger, I went for a few snack selections and the cheaper beer.
If you have money burning a hole in your pocket, you can also purchase a head pillow for $5.99 or a blanket for $4.99 that you get to keep. Make sure to bring a credit or debit cards, since JetBlue does not accept cash.
Each seat has its own TV with free entertainment.
Right after passing 10,000 feet, one flight attendant walked down the aisle selling food and non-food products. After that, another came through to get drink orders. I was confused when I got my beer and was not charged. Turns out that the flight attendant comes through at the end of the flight to do just one charge at the end — makes sense. However, on my next leg from Boston to Seattle, the flight attendant charged me right away for my food.
It was very easy for me to work on my laptop, while watching TV, which is not something I can say on other domestic products. It also helped that the seat next to me was empty.
I had to take this photo in Boston, since NAS did not have any place to take a photo.
Since NAS offers pre-clearence for US Customs, I was able to quickly catch my connecting flight from Boston to Seattle without having to go through much hassel.
What would make the flight more enjoyable would be Wi-Fi. The airline is staying pretty quiet about their game plan, but are publicly stating that Wi-Fi should start showing up in JetBlue’s fleet starting in “early 2013.” JetBlue is planning to provide a Ka-band satelite solution through their own subsidiary, LiveTV.
I have to say that I really enjoyed the E-190/JetBlue combination and can’t wait for my next flight on either.
ADDITIONAL JETBLUE E-190 TRIP PHOTOS:
||This story written by…
David Parker Brown, Editor & Founder. David started AirlineReporter.com in the summer of 2008, but has had a passion for aviation since he was a kid. Born and raised in the Seattle area (where he is currently based) has surely had an influence and he couldn’t imagine living anywhere else in the world.
@AirlineReporter | Flickr | YouTube
LAN’s Boeing 767 sits at Santiago.
LAN AIRLINES PREMIUM BUSINESS CLASS REVIEW BASICS:
Airline: LAN Airlines
Aircraft: Boeing 767-300ER
Departed: Comodoro Arturo Merino Benàtez International Airport (SCL)
Arrived: Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
Stops: Jorge Chávez International Airport (LIM)
Class: Premium Business Class
Seat: 4L (right window), missing one window
Length: 13.5 hours
Cheers: A long flight made easy with LAN’s product.
Jeers: Lima is on my naughty list… first impressions count.
Bottom Line: A great product, but it is hard to fly on a Boeing 767 after flying on a 787.
My home for 12.5 hours – the other hour was spent in the Lima airport. Too bad I was missing a window.
LAN AIRLINES PREMIUM BUSINESS CLASS FULL REVIEW:
I was excited to compare LAN’s Business Class configuration during my flight from Santiago back home to Seattle. Only a few days earlier, I had flown down on LAN’s first Boeing 787 Dreamliner non-stop from Everett, WA. It was an impressive flight, and I was awestruck by the new 787’s atmosphere. I was looking forward to checking out LAN’s older product on the flight back home, to see how it measured up. (note: LAN paid for my trip to Santiago and flight back home to cover their 787 delivery).
A Boeing 767-300ER would carry me from Santiago to Lima, and on to LAX. (I had to catch an Alaska Airlines flight back home to Seattle). My schedule had me reach SCL about five hours before my flight was scheduled to depart. No problem — my premium ticket gave me access to the LAN lounge which includes complimentary food, beverages, and even shower facilities.
The time flew right on by (pun intended), and soon it was time to board the aircraft. I knew the product on the 767 was not going to be as new or modern as the 787, but I was quite delighted with what I found. The Premium Business Class is in a 2-2-2 layout, and I went for a window seat. I ended up with a vacant seat next to me ’“ I felt like I had almost unlimited space, a sensation unheard of in current-day air travel.
While everyone settled in, flight attendants came around asking if I wanted anything to drink, which is pretty standard. The lead flight attendant also went around to each customer, introduced himself, and shook everyone’s hand. This was new which I’d never seen before and I was quite impressed.
I’d never before seen Lima, so I decided to stay awake during the first leg, holding sleep off until the second leg into LAX. I didn’t think it would be easy since I was pretty tired , but I had more than enough to keep me entertained.
The food was fresh, colorful, tasty and filling on my LAN flight.
The in-flight entertainment system was a bit slow and cumbersome, but it did what it needed to do ’“ it kept me entertained. The controller lived on the side of the seat, which meant I would accidentally hit it with my leg and stop my movie a few times. I’ve experienced this with other airlines, but here I could at least get the movie to easily resume where I left it. Other comparable systems from this era required me to fast forward. I solved the issue by simply pulling out the remote and letting it dangle so I wouldn’t hit it (keep it classy people).
Initially I was pretty excited about idea of stopping in Lima. I’d never been there and figured it would be a unique FourSquare check-in. I imagined we would land and those stopping at Lima would depart while those of us going to LAX would stay on. Sigh… no, it cannot be that easy.
We were told that we would have to de-plane and re-board. Okay, sure… it is 2:00am Chilean time and midnight in Lima, but I can play this game. The problem was, we didn’t just de-plane and wait at the gate area. We had to go through customs and be re-scanned – sweet.
I suggest using the pre-set buttons. I had a hard time manually getting the seat to do what I wanted it to.
Yeah, I am used to the process. Ask me why am I was in Chile and how long I was there. Now take out my laptop and put my bag in the scanner. The security person saw something in my bag they didn’t like and wanted to do a hand search. Sure, go ahead.
As they started going through my bag, I had difficulty getting through the metal detector. I am not a travel newbie and knew I had no metal on me, but it kept going off. After a nice little pat down, it turns out that my chip in my Passport was setting it off. They apparently have those detectors turned all the way up.
Back to my bag. The agent searches through and takes out my cork screw, while giving me a dirty look and shaking their head like it was a big knife or something. Okay, fine, take my cork screw that I have flown around the world with me.
I was a bit annoyed with the Lima security, but figured it was all over when I got to the gate. Guess what? Before we could re-board, all of our bags were hand-searched again. This time they took my nail clippers…really? Again, I have flown all over the world with nail clippers, but sure, at this point I just wanted to get back on the plane.
It takes quite a bit to get me annoyed when dealing with airlines or airports, but this did it. And when I am annoyed, it means that your standard passengers are super annoyed and upset — and oh boy were they.
Many left the plane in good spirits, but those returning were not happy. Not a great first impression Lima, might want to think about having a little better customer service, because I am in no hurry to visit again.
LAN’s 767 In-Flight Entertainment product is not as slick as the 787’s, but not too shabby compared to other airlines.
This experience was not LAN’s fault; they have no control over what happens when they land at Lima. “When we have a stop-over in Lima, the government dictates whether or not our passengers are going to have to deplane and go through customs, or just deplane and then get back on the same plane for departure,” LAN spokesperson Megan Kat Williams told AirlineReporter.com. “We realize that this can be a huge inconvenience for our passengers, but we usually do not have much notice as to what they are going to require us to do.”
I was happy to get back on the plane. I was planning to get some rest, but was almost done with a movie that I wanted to finish while we took off. Argh! Even though I had the same seat, the system must had been re-started, because I had to fast forward. Normally not a big deal, but I was pretty grumpy after my experience with Lima.
After takeoff, I finished my movie and it was time for sleep. The seats fold flat and do their job well. I slept for six hours but, I have to admit, it wasn’t super comfy. If LAN would let passengers have a padded cover to put on top of the seat before going to sleep, it would make a huge improvement.
I think that LAN provides a great business class product on their Boeing 767 and upgrading to the 787 is only better. I only wish there was no need to make a stop in Lima.
ADDITIONAL LAN 767 PHOTOS:
Virgin America, Breanna Jewel, sits at LAX after arriving.
VIRGIN AMERICA FIRST CLASS REVIEW BASICS:
Airline: Virgin America
Aircraft: Airbus A320 (named Breanna Jewel)
Departed: Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)
Arrived: Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
Class: First Class
Cheers: Best domestic first class product, hands down.
Jeers: Please wash your windows.
Bottom Line: You get what you pay for and you shouldn’t feel bad paying for this.
Virgin America’s first class seats are spacious and colorful.
FULL VIRGIN AMERICA FIRST CLASS REVIEW
It has been a while since I have done a review on Virgin America and when I recently flew from SEA to LAX for #Dorkfest, I decided it was time for another review. I have flown Virgin America quite a few times, but always at the back of the (air) bus. I was hoping to review their premium product; First Class and luckily I made it work out. (Note: I paid for an economy ticket and was upgraded one-way by the airline to do the review).
Having a premium ticket gave me access to use the TSA priority line at SEA. My flight was leaving at 7:10am on a Saturday, so the priority line only saved me about a minute.
After getting through security with a first class ticket, do not expect lounge access. There is no lounge for Virgin America passengers in Seattle and lounges in New York, San Fransisco and Washington DC will cost you from $35-$75 to enter, even with a full fare first class ticket.
Have to love the Starbucks coffee sitting on the tray table in the Virgin America flight deck.
I was running a bit late and missed the first class priority boarding period. When doing a review, I prefer to board as soon as possible (or get pre-boarding access), but luckily the front cabin was still empty when I entered the A320.
It never gets old boarding a Virgin America flight. Where most other airlines welcome you with white lighting (snoozers), Virgin America gives you a pink and purple feast for the eyes.
Hunting down my seat, 1A, was not too difficult. After taking some photos and settling down I watched as the front flight attendant, Justin, was interacting with the kids boarding the plane. One was dressed as a superhero (seriously rad) and he was invited into the flight deck, but wasn’t having it (even super heroes have bad days I guess).
Every other child that boarded was given a similar invite, which most agreed. Well heck… I finally asked if adult-kids can go see the flight deck as well and I was more than welcome to do so. I have found that Virgin America is pretty welcoming to pre-taxi flight deck visits, which many other airlines are reluctant or just do not allow it.
After the kid in me got to check out the front of the plane, I was back to enjoying my pre-flight drink (coffee) and see what my seat has to offer.
If you love purple, you will love Virgin America first class. I had to take pretty photos inside the cabin, since taking photos of the outside weren’t happening.
The safety video, which features Richard Branson’s voice, has been playing for a while now, but I haven’t quite gotten sick of it yet. However, I wasn’t able to watch it on this leg of the flight. Those in first class can hear the video, but a flight attendant shows the safety features, since the TVs remain in the armrest.
My biggest problem with the entire flight were the windows being filthy. Not a huge deal for your average traveler, but one that needs (okay, maybe wants, but it feels like a need most times) to take photos out the window. The pain became much worse when our flight flew right by Mount Rainier and out of about 30 photos taken, none of them turned out remotely decent. At least there were great things to distract me inside the aircraft.
No matter what cabin you fly in, passengers get access to free satellite TV, games, ability to order food from the screen and some of the other things that make RED awesome. The bonus of being up front is all the on-demand tv and movies are included in the price of the ticket.
Probably the best banana bread I have had. How did they keep it so moist?
Talking about free; you also get free drinks and food. And we aren’t talking about a meal in a box food here, we are talking real food — the best I have had domestically.
For breakfast, I decided on the steel-cut oats (not sure what that means) and American breakfast: “Chilled steel-cuts oats tossed with oranges, apples, maple, walnuts, dried cranberries cherries, currants, and creamy yogurt, topped with multigrain granola, raspberries, and blackberries. Served along cage-free scrambled eggs finished with chives and cream cheese, accompanied by cheddar hash browns, apple and chicken sausage, roasted tomato, grilled green onion and mini French toast filled with vanilla and orange cream.” Dang, that is impressive — remember this is on a flight from Seattle to Los Angeles.
They even had Glenlivet 12 year old scotch, which is rare to even find on an international business class flight. Only if it was later in the day, I would have enjoyed it, but some OJ and coffee sufficed.
It is hard to remember this is a domestic product. Sure, the seats do not fold flat, but they get quite comfy.
If you want to guarantee a seat up in the front, make sure you purchase your first class ticket well in advance. If you are willing to take the risk, you have the ability to grab an upgrade for pretty cheap.
Elevate Gold Members are eligible to purchase First Class upgrades for themselves and a travel companion from 24 hours before departure. Elevate Silver Members are eligible to purchase First Class upgrades for themselves and a travel companion from 12 hours before departure. All other Elevate Members and other guests are able to purchase upgrades to First Class from 6 hours before departure. For a short-haul flight (like SEA-LAX) you can get a economy to first class upgrade for $79 each way. That goes up to $139 for medium haul and all the way up to $299 for long haul.
I have had no problem stating that I feel Virgin America has the best domestic economy product and I am happy to say the same about their First Class product. I am not one that has a ton of money to throw around, but I would feel okay spending the extra money for this product.
ADDITIONAL VIRGIN AMERICA FIRST CLASS PHOTOS:
A glorious grey sky in London.
AIR NEW ZEALAND BUSINESS PREMIERE REVIEW BASICS
Airline: Air New Zealand
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Departed: London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR)
Arrived: Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
Stops: Non-stop flight
Class: Business Premiere
Seat: 1J (right center aisle)
Length: 10.5 hours
Cheers: The fact that I slept through most of the flight is probably one of the best reviews possible.
Jeers: I want to see out the window.
Bottom Line: It is confusing to figure out if this really is a Business product or First Class.
The “window” seats face away from the window, which isn’t so great for AvGeeks, but does provide more privacy.
Earlier, I posted my experience flying Air New Zealand’s Premium Economy from LAX to LHR. I was impressed with the product and was looking forward to how their Business Premium would compare (note: the airline covered my airfare and I paid the taxes). There are many similarities between Premium Economy and Business Premiere, but there are also key differences. Both can check-in at a priority line, get free alcoholic beverages and priority boarding. The extra money spent to upgrade will get you lounge access, premium wines on board, additional food options, a larger screen (10.6″ vs 12.1″) and a fold flat bed.
This was actually my second flight on Air New Zealand’s Business Premier, but only my first “real” one. My previous experience was taking the airline’s first Boeing 777-300ER from Paine Field down to Los Angeles, which was only a 2.5hr media flight. I was happy to try out the product in a “real world” situation and I had a good 10.5 hours to do it. Are the extra features and product worth the ticket premium (or miles)? I think it depends on how you want your flight experience to go.
Each seat has quite a bit of privacy for its occupants.
When first walking into the cabin, it is obvious that the Business Premier class is an upgrade. Instead of a 2-2-2 layout in Premium Economy, Business gives you a 1-2-1 layout, but really it feels more like a 1-1-1-1 set up since you are so isolated.
If you are traveling with someone else, you won’t be able to easily interact while sitting in your seat, but have no worries. The seats easily allow two people to sit and talk at the same seat. This isolation also gives every passenger access to the aisle, which means you don’t have to crawl over someone while they sleep to use the bathroom.
Each of the seats is angled to give passengers extra privacy. The biggest downside is not being able to look out the window with ease. Where the Premium Economy seat actually tilts you towards the window, the Business Premier tilts you away. Although I enjoy looking out the window, I much rather have the privacy and space, since the windows are shut after take off anyhow.
A larger laptop on the tray table gets in the way of the entertainment screen.
Now, the purpose of my flight was to check out the product, but I ran into a big problem… I fell asleep… for over six hours. That might be one of the best compliments when reviewing an airline’s product, right?
At first I was a bit confused about the seat. I kept hitting the recline button, but the seat would only recline so far. Turns out, it is one of those seats where you have to get up and fold down the bed. What a great Airline Reporter I am, not paying attention and thinking my seat was broken for a few minutes — oh well.
Yes, it takes a bit more of an effort to convert your seat into a bed, but I think it ends up being worth it. Once you have your seat folded forward, you are able to put a memory foam mattress on top. Then add the fluffy duvet and full size pillows and you are ready for a good night’s (or day’s) sleep. If you have any trouble or want some help, just hit the call button and the flight attendants will have no problem assisting.
I had plenty of room to roll around and get into multiple positions. If needed, I was given an eye mask to block out the light, but I didn’t need it. The soft glow of pink lighting was perfect for setting a sleeping mood.
This broke a record for me, since previously, the longest I have slept on a flight was four hours straight. I wasn’t even that jet-lagged, since I had a week in London and was more or less caught up on sleep. Oh well. That still gave me four hours to check out the product, food and drinks.
My dinner starter: prawns. I think I am watching Up in the Air here.
The meal service started shortly after take off (and before I went to sleep). I decided to watch the movie, Up in the Air (it seemed appropriate) and enjoy my meal. I started with coconut prawns with rice noodles and plum sugar dressing. Then I had a choice between lamb, salmon, chicken or eggplant. I decided to go with the lamb that was on cabbage and potato mash with field mushrooms and minted yoghurt. All amazing.
Then I finished it off with a little vanilla and chocolate ice cream. On my previously flight, dessert was served with the appetizer, which was a bit odd for me, but this time, it came after the meal with some dessert wine.
When I woke up, the cabin was still in sleep-mode and I was thirsty. I was able to fire up the ‘ol in-flight entertainment system and order from a nice selection of food and drinks. I decided on some Diet Coke and sparkling water. The cool part is I was able to customize how my drink was served. Why, yes, I will take ice in both and a lemon wedge in my water. Less than a minute later, my drinks were delivered.
Near the end of the flight, we were served a second meal, which was quite a bit lighter. I had a choice of smoothie, fruit, wraps or scones.
Ordering additional drinks or food during non-meal service is quick and easy.
When I received my ticket to fly, the Business Premiere section was filled. I was hoping to get a window seat, but there were none left. Even after checking multiple times before the flight and again at check-in, there were still no other seats. I would have preferred not sitting in the first row, since many times, when my feet were up, the curtain would hit them anytime anyone passed.
So, is upgrading to Business Premiere worth the additional money over Premium Economy? Well, that depends. If you need to sleep well, there is no question that it is worth more. However, if your game plan is to stay up the entire flight and maybe talk to the person next to you, then maybe Premium Economy will do what you need.
But the fact that on average, Business Premiere seats cost $4000-5000 and Premium Economy cost $2000-$2500, that is not a bad deal. Especially when you compare these products to other international seats that cost much more. If you are a person who has the ability to either pay or use miles to upgrade to the front of the plane, it will be hard to find an upgrade per dollar that gives you this good of a deal.
ADDITIONAL PHOTOS OF AIR NEW ZEALAND’S BUSINESS CLASS: