Your Aviation Weekend Reads for October 13, 2016

A British Airways Airbus A380 parked at Washington Dulles International Airport. Photo by Benét J. Wilson

Last January, I edited a series on AirwaysNews.com to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Airbus A380 jumbo jet, including this history of the aircraft. The aircraft was built to challenge the Boeing 747, which reached the 1,500-built milestone in 2014. As of September, the A380 has 319 orders with 195 in operation. And now Reuters reports that the French manufacturer is cutting the assembly rate on the jumbo jet, from 2.5 to one jet a month starting in 2018. The manufacturer says the move will allow it to smooth our deliveries pending new orders,” noting that the aircraft still has a place in its portfolio.

Frequent flyers with status on U.S. legacy airlines have been up in arms as the carriers changed their programs from being mileage-based to the price paid for their tickets. And now our friend Gary Leff of the View From The Wing blog reports on a big change on how travelers can book award miles. Under the change, you’ll only be able to book awards at the chart price the carrier gives you. If you build a trip online or with an agent, each segment will be priced separately.

A TSA security checkpoint at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Aiirport. Photo by Benét J. Wilson

We all remember the nightmarishly long Transportation Security Administration checkpoint lines at airports across the country earlier this year. I wrote a post for About.com to try and answer why the lines had gotten so out of hand.  But now a new tool could help airports and the TSA manage lines better. JFK Airport’s Terminal 4 is now testing a software program called Beontra, which takes data on flight operations and delays from the Airport Operational Database. And carriers like Delta can tell Beontra when it makes a schedule change. The result? Data is processed and the airport gets a simple graph showing when passenger wait times are going to peak, allowing for better staffing levels to keep lines moving.

While we have seen airlines working hard to make their first or business class better for their best passengers, there haven’t been any changes in coach class in nearly 50 years. “Long-haul economy class remains roughly as it was in the late 1960s, when Boeing introduced the 747, the world’s first widebody aircraft,” writes Brian Sumers of Skift. London-based design firm PriestmanGoode has designed premium cabins for a who’s who of global airlines, and I wrote here about what they’re doing for United’s domestic first class. In the Skift story, PriestmanGoode director Nigel Goode hinted about  a project with Lufthansa and Swiss to create a new coach seat that he claims should be slightly more comfortable than today’s typical model.

An American Airlines Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. Photo courtesy of American Airlines

Looking at another cabin — premium economy — I did a post for About.com with a list of U.S. carriers offering this product. The truth is, these really aren’t true premium economy products, instead mostly offering more leg room, earlier boarding access and sometimes a few upgraded snacks. Skift writes about how American Airlines has launched a true premium economy product on its Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner fleet. And check out photos of the new product over at the View From The Wing blog.

Allow me to be blunt — I am a woman of size. I lost nearly 100 pounds after an unfortunate incident where I was no longer able to sit in one seat. After that incident (along with stories about passengers having similar incidents), I compiled a list covering how U.S. airlines handle passengers of size. And now the issue is coming to a head again after Hawaiian Airlines made a change on its  flights between Pago Pago, American Samoa. According to the Washington Post, passengers won’t be able to choose seats in advance because the carrier will take over the task and select them based on passenger weight. Hawaiian found that its Boeing 767s were burning too much fuel and the change will cut the aircraft’s weight and fuel consumption. The airline says it wouldn’t weigh passengers, but two travelers claimed they had been weighed.

 

Photo courtesy of United Airlines

I’m one of the founders of a Facebook group that discusses first and business class. We have had an ongoing debate about emotional support animals — whether they’re really needed and what actually can be considered a support animal. Some members also feel that travelers use the designation to avoid paying airline pet fees, while others argue that . And now the question is being asked in this USA Today story, where animals including a large dalmatian, pigs, monkeys and even a turkey.

Back in 2014, I wrote a blog post offering my thoughts about low-cost carrier Scoot creating a child-free zone on its fleet of jets. I’m the mother of a 10-year-old who has been flying with me since birth. I’m blessed because she’s the best traveling companion ever. We’ve been on flights where we got the eye roll when someone saw they would have to sit next to us, but ended the journey remarking what a great traveler she was. The topic has come up again at Parents.com, which questions whether airlines should create child-free zones on planes.

Here’s a secret — I hate, hate HATE public restrooms, no matter where they are. But airport and airline restrooms are a personal hell for me.  Uniform company Cintas is running its Best Restroom Awards contest now and Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport’s are in the running for an award, reports Stuck At The Airport’s Harriet Baskas.

The Gulfstream GIV I flew down to an aviation event. Photo by Benét J. Wilson

During parts of my career, I covered the business aviation segment of the industry. One of the perks was that I got to fly on more than my fair share of business jets, including a Gulfstream IV that used to belong to Oprah Winfrey. I also got to go inside a Boeing Business Jet that was used by a former CEO and take a tour of a Gulfstream G650. Esquire magazine takes us inside a Boeing 787 Dreamliner that was converted into a private jet for an Asian operator, complete with pictures.

Finally, one of the best things about being an aviation journalist is the fun press opportunities you invited on. One of the best was “flying” a Continental Airlines 737 simulator into Washington National Airport, where I clipped the top off the Washington Monument. Just in case you want to have your own simulator fun, The Points Guy reports that as a former Northwest/Delta Air Lines training facility outside of Minneapolis prepares to be demolished, everything in the building is being sold, from office equipment to a simulator for a Boeing 747.

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