Tag Archives: Weekend Reads

Photo courtesy of Air Canada

Your Weekend Reads for February 23, 2017


When it comes to the investment world, Warren Buffett is like that old commercial: “When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen.” So the airline industry was most certainly listening after Business Insider reported that the Sage of Omaha’s latest investment brings his stake to $10 billion. That breaks down to $2.1 billion in American, $2.2 billion in United, $2.4 billion in Southwest and $3 billion in Delta.

 

Three of the big four U.S. airlines — American, Delta and United — have been in an ongoing battle to stop the expansion of the Big Three Middle East carriers — Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways — in the U.S., claiming the latter receive government subsidies that create an unfair playing field. And now data from the U.S. National Travel and Tourism Office finds that foreign airlines increasingly took market share from U.S. airlines on their own turf, reports Skift. The data found that Qatar Airways’ passenger traffic to and from the U.S. soared by 46.5 percent in 2016, while Emirates flew 3.5 million people to and from U.S. airports, a 15.4 percent increase over 2015.

Anyone who knows me knows that I believe that allowing cell phone calls on flights will be tantamount to another circle of hell. I expressed my opposition to this back in 2013 in this opinion piece for CNN. The U.S. Department of Transportation received more than 7,000 comments on a proposal continue to ban inflight phone calls, reports the Los Angeles Times. The cast majority of commenters were against allowing inflight calls.

I’m a big fan of Twitter, and I’ve been impressed by how airlines including JetBlue, Delta, American and KLM have embraced it to connect with their customers. The Transportation Security Administration has taken a page from the airlines’ book and uses its own @AskTSA Twitter account to put a human face on the agency and answer travelers’ questions, reports the Wall Street Journal (subscribers only).

Photo courtesy of Air Canada

In October 2004, Air Canada tapped award-winning singer and national treasure Celine Dion to help launch its major rebranding effort. Thirteen years later, Canada’s flag carrier has done it again, and Skift spoke with Tyler Brûlé of Monocle and London-based branding consultancy Winkreative to discuss the airline’s latest new look. “Brûlé says the change was catalyzed by Air Canada President Ben Smith, who wanted to position the brand as premium across the globe, with the ‘desire for cut-through and to stand out on tarmacs around the world,’” wrote Skift.

Industry insiders know that airlines make their money from passengers who pay for premium cabin seating. We’ve also seen how carriers have been adding and taking away amenities for those sitting in economy class. The struggle to find the best balance in serving coach passengers while still watching the bottom line continues, according to FutureTravelExperience.com. “While we are a million miles away from a golden age of economy class travel, recent developments suggest that some carriers are making efforts to distance themselves from the so-called `race to the bottom,’” it writes. It notes Delta Air Lines’ plan to bring back free coach meals on 12 of its longest domestic routes, while British Airways has gotten pushback after it decided to remove free meals from short-haul economy flights.

 

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Earlier this week, aviation writer Jason Rabinowitz tweeted about the warnings that travelers see when they book the new bare-bones Basic Economy fares on American, Delta and United. In exchange for much lower fares, passengers don’t get to choose their seats, there are no refunds, they board last and can’t use overhead bins. I replied on Twiter that despite all the warnings, there would still be passengers upset over the terms, and this article in Inc. magazine has proven my point. Despite the airlines emphasizing that Basic Economy travelers can’t choose their seats, the writer complains about one of United’s stipulations: “Please note that customers traveling in a group, including families, will not be able to sit together.”

 

If you happen to be stuck in Basic Economy with no place to put your stuff, you may want to consider buying the hottest thing since wheeled luggage: The Airport Jacket, which was launched on Kickstarter. For $180, you get a jacket that has 14 pockets, two detachable compartments and a duffel bag that the designers say can hold a laptop, iPad, two pairs of shoes, a pair of jeans, three T-shirts, two pairs of shorts, underwear, a light sweater, a dress, a liquids bag, wallet, phone and passport.

Here are my five picks for more stories you should read over the weekend. Enjoy!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Benét J. Wilson is a freelance aviation/travel writer based in Baltimore who is available for your writing and branded content/content marketing projects. She’s the Air Travel Expert for About.com. Follow her travel-related magazines on Flipboard: Best of About Travel, a joint curation venture with her fellow About Travel Experts; Travel-Go! There’s Nothing Stopping You, all about the passenger experience on the ground and in the air; and Aviation Geek, a joint magazine sharing everything you need to know about the commercial aviation industry. Check out her travel-related boards on Pinterest and follow her on Twitter at @AvQueenBenet, on her Aviation Queen Facebook Page and on Instagram at aviationqueen.

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Your Aviation Weekend Reads for February 2, 2017

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Donald Trump speaking with supporters at a campaign rally. Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore/Wikipedia

The week started off with a bang after President Donald Trump issued an executive order that temporarily stopped citizens from seven majority-Muslim nations — Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen — from entering the United States, reports Quartz. It caused chaos for airlines around the globe over confusion on the status of dual citizens and green card holders, among others.

American Airlines CEO Doug Parker said the ban caused turmoil at airports. “Crews, reservations agents and airport teams have witnessed turmoil in our airports that shows how divisive this order can be,” he said in a letter to employees. “It is the current law of the U.S., and so long as that is the case, we must comply.”

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Photo courtesy of Etihad

One Muslim country not affected by the ban was the United Arab Emirates. And it looks like Abu Dhabi-based Etihad is trying to stay on Trump’s good side by announcing it would not add any more U.S. routes. “We are not flying into any further points in the U.S.A.,” Etihad Aviation Group Chief Executive Officer James Hogan said Wednesday in an interview with Bloomberg Television. “We are very comfortable with our American network.” The carrier currently serves New York, Washington, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Etihad and Emirates are two large carriers that are not in one of the major three global airline alliances. Rumors flew earlier this week that Etihad was considering a move into the Star Alliance, but it didn’t come to pass. Instead, the airline is “increasing cooperation” with Star Alliance stalwart Lufthansa, reports Cranky Flier. The airlines had been enemies in the past over keeping the Big Three Middle East carriers off their turf. But they were tied together by Air Berlin, which Etihad has a stake in and Lufthansa leased extra aircraft from for its Eurowings and Austrian Air subsidiaries. Cranky feels there’s more to come, and I agree.

United Airlines is one of the Big Three carriers — along with American and Delta — that have been fighting to stem the growth of the Big Three Middle East carriers, all known for offering superior service in all cabin classes. It’s been no secret that the Chicago-based carrier has suffered on the service side since its merger with Continental Airlines in 2010. A video obtained by Skift shows CEO Oscar Munoz admitting as much, saying  “A business customer will stay with you for a little bit of time,” during a Jan. 23 Q&A with employees at its Dulles Airport hub. [“And then] it’s just ‘I can’t do this anymore.’ And so now you’ve lost that market.”

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A TSA PreCheck line at Ronald Reagan Airport. Photo courtesy of TSA

When it comes to good service on the ground, TSA’s PreCheck program was initially lauded for helping to ease the stress of going through airport security checkpoints. But when the agency started letting anyone use the lanes, lines got longer and those who paid for the service were very unhappy. Now the Chicago Tribune reports that TSA plans to “significantly reduce” the number of number of frequent fliers that go through the PreCheck line for free. The change is part of TSA’s “natural progression” to limit expedited screening, said spokesman Michael McCarthy.

As carriers including Delta, American and United add a Basic Economy product to compete with ultra-low-cost carriers like Spirit Airlines and Frontier Airlines, Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly says his carrier won’t be adding it. According to USA Today, Kelly feels that separate cabins would only confuse its customers. “There is a huge value in offering all of our customers – 100 percent of them – a great product,” he said. “We like to say at Southwest, there is no second class.”

Speaking of Spirit Airlines, the Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based carrier — which launched the trend of travelers paying for checked and carry-on bags — has announced that it will cut the size of the free personal item passengers can carry by 25 percent, to about a foot, reports the Telegraph. The change will take effect on April 4.

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The TWA Flight Center building at JFK Airport. Photo courtesy of AudeVivere/Wikipedia

When I started writing the airports beat for Aviation Daily in 2006, one of the first stories I covered was plans by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to turn the iconic TWA Terminal 5 at JFK Airport into a hotel. After a few years, the plans fell by the wayside, plagued by design issues and cost. Fast forward to now, when MCR Development and port officials held a groundbreaking ceremony in January to launch construction, reports Business Insider. The the TWA Flight Center Hotel is scheduled to open in 2018.

Part of that project will include the resurrection of the TWA Ambassadors Club, the airline’s lounge for its best customers. I’m a big fan of airport lounges as an oasis away from the traveling masses. You can read my recent review of the Delta Sky Club at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport’s Gate B18 on TravelZork.com here.  The Simple Dollar blog takes a look at what lounges have to offer and if memberships can actually save you money.

And the UK’s Daily Mail gives us a peek inside Qantas’ very exclusive, invite-only 140-seat Chairman’s Lounge. The lounges, located at Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra, Adelaide and Perth airports, are hidden behind a door labeled ‘private’ and offer upgraded free food and beverages, isolation from the traveling public and the chance to rub elbows with the country’s elite, along with personal assistance from airline employees.

A Delta Air Lines Boeing 747 parked at Tokyo's Tokyo, Japan - June 23, 2016: Delta Air Lines Boeing 747-451 towed at Narita International Airport. Photo by Benet J. Wilson

A Delta Air Lines Boeing 747 parked at Tokyo’s Narita International Airport. Photo by Benet J. Wilson

We’ll end the week with this story from C/NET, where reporter Katie Collins and I share a common passion: a love for the Boeing 747. She waxes poetic about her trip on the “Queen of the Skies” via Virgin Atlantic, among the airlines that are phasing out the iconic four-engine jumbo jet.

There was much more that went on this week. So be sure to check out these four stories over the weekend.

 

 
17096557489_f0c56cdd15_kEDITOR’S NOTE: Benét J. Wilson is a freelance aviation/travel writer based in Baltimore who is available for your writing and branded content/content marketing projects. She’s the Air Travel Expert for About.com. Follow her travel-related magazines on Flipboard: Best of About Travel, a joint curation venture with her fellow About Travel Experts; Travel-Go! There’s Nothing Stopping You, all about the passenger experience on the ground and in the air; and Aviation Geek, a joint magazine sharing everything you need to know about the commercial aviation industry. Check out her travel-related boards on Pinterest and follow her on Twitter at @AvQueenBenet, on her Aviation Queen Facebook Page and on Instagram at aviationqueen.

A United Airlines Boeing 747. Photo courtesy of United

Your Aviation Weekend Reads for January 26, 2017

An exterior shot of Kansas City International Airport. Photo courtesy of Kansas City International Airport

An exterior shot of Kansas City International Airport. Photo courtesy of Kansas City International Airport

During the campaign, one of the big priorities for President Donald J. Trump was major spending on infrastructure, including airports and air traffic control. More details of what he wants to do were released in an exclusive document –with $137 billion and 50 projects — revealed by McClatchy D.C. The include $10 billion for NextGen air traffic control system, a new terminal for the Kansas City International Airport and a high-speed railway between Dallas and Houston.

Speaking of Trump, the Big Three U.S. legacy carriers — American, Delta and United — are hoping that the new president will be more sympathetic to halting expansion by the Big Three Middle Eastern carriers — Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways — reports Skift. The U.S. carriers have been fighting this expansion, and the latest shot fired was an announcement that Emirates was launching a Dubai-Athens-New York flight. The  Partnership for Open & Fair Skies, a trade group representing United, Delta and American, called the move a violation of the Open Skies agreement.

Staying in the Middle East, Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths has offered to give advice to President Trump on how to fix America’s airports, reports Skift. During the first presidential debate on Sept. 26, candidate Trump echoed sentiments expressed by former Vice President Joe Biden, saying “Our airports are like from a third-world country. You land at LaGuardia, you land at Kennedy, LAX, and you come in from Dubai, China, you see these incredible airports and you land, we’ve become a third-world country,” according to NewsMax.

Sometimes I get slightly peeved with how the media reports on the airlines. An example is how they reported the Basic Economy fares announced by United and American to compete with ultra-low-cost carriers. With these low fares, travelers can’t put anything in the overhead bin, they can’t choose their seats in advance and there are no refunds if a flight is canceled. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is unhappy that “one of the last sacred conveniences of air travel” is being eliminated, reports Fortune. He wants to fight back by pushing to expand the Airline Passenger Bill of Rights in the upcoming FAA bill to ban the practice.

Whenever I fly these days, I make sure that I have magazines and at least two movies downloaded on my iPad. While I appreciate that airlines offer inflight movies, unless you’re flying out of the country, the selection is usually limited and it’s cut to hell in order not to offend passengers. The Runway Girl Network issued a statement explaining why it won’t offer seatback screens in its new fleet of Boeing 737 MAX jets. “More than 90 percent of our passengers already bring a device or screen with them when they fly. So it makes sense for American to focus on giving customers the best entertainment and fast connection options rather than installing seatback monitors that will be obsolete within a few years,” the airline said.

A United Airlines Boeing 747. Photo courtesy of United

A United Airlines Boeing 747. Photo courtesy of United

Anyone who knows me knows that I am 100 percent in love with the Boeing 747, the jumbo jet dubbed “The Queen of the Skies.” I love this plane so much I made it a part of my Aviation Queen logo. I knew it was coming, but long-time operator United Airlines has announced that it will retire the 747, with the last flight scheduled for Oct. 29, 2017, reports Airways magazine.

Travel is uncivilized enough these days,with cramped flights and airports getting on our very last nerves. I wrote a post on my Aviation Queen blog on rules passengers should obey to keep things calm while traveling. And now Lizzie Post — the great-great-granddaughter of the legendary etiquette expert Emily Post — has offered her own air travel etiquette tips in Budget Travel magazine.

My apologies for skipping the past two weeks. I moved during that time, and lots of things fell by the wayside. So please enjoy reading these five stories over the weekend.

17096557489_f0c56cdd15_kEDITOR’S NOTE: Benét J. Wilson is a freelance aviation/travel writer based in Baltimore who is available for your writing and branded content/content marketing projects. She’s the Air Travel Expert for About.com. Follow her travel-related magazines on Flipboard: Best of About Travel, a joint curation venture with her fellow About Travel Experts; Travel-Go! There’s Nothing Stopping You, all about the passenger experience on the ground and in the air; and Aviation Geek, a joint magazine sharing everything you need to know about the commercial aviation industry. Check out her travel-related boards on Pinterest and follow her on Twitter at @AvQueenBenet, on her Aviation Queen Facebook Page and on Instagram at aviationqueen.

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Your Aviation Weekend Reads for January 6, 2017

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Photo courtesy of Airbus

In 1982, author John Newhouse wrote a book called The Sporty Game: The High-Risk Competitive Business of Making and Selling Commercial Airliners, a fascinating read about the hard competition for airline sales among aircraft manufacturers Boeing, Lockheed, McDonnell-Douglas and Airbus.  While the widebody market is dominated by Boeing and Airbus, Business Insider writes about the manufacturers that want to compete with the Big Two in the single aisle market, including: Russia’s Irkut MC-21, Canada’s Bombardier C-Series, Embraer’s E-Jet E2, Japan’s Mitsubishi MRJ and China’s COMAC ARJ21 and C919.

BBC News is the latest media outlet to question the future of the Airbus A380 double-decker jumbo jet despite the first orders for the aircraft in three years. One order the French manufacturer had been depending on was from Iran Air, which has been on a buying spree since sanctions were lifted in 2016. The flag carrier originally had 12 A380s as part of its original order of 118 jets valued at $27 billion, reports Bloomberg.

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Image courtesy of Spirit Airlines

If you happened to travel during the holidays, it’s more likely than not that you were affected by flight delays and cancellations due to weather. The New York Times writes about how the airlines are making it easier for passengers to make flight changes — without fees or penalties — via weather waivers.

I’m betting the passengers on a Spirit Airlines flight from Fort Lauderdale to Cleveland wished they had access to a weather waiver after finally arriving nearly 12 hours after their original time on what they called “the flight from hell.” Passengers on “the flight from hell” experienced a series of issues that ended up having them bused from Detroit to Cleveland. In an interview on Cleveland’s NewsNet 5, I noted that as tragic as the flight was, travelers were lucky to get a $50 voucher and the bus because airlines are under no obligation to do anything when weather is involved. I also noted that it was a huge gesture, considering how strict Spirit is, being an ultra low-cost carrier.

I am a huge fan of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Global Entry program, which allows trusted travelers to bypass long immigration lines after arriving in the U.S. CPB experience four-hour nationwide outage caused by a “technology disruption” that caused massive lines in the largest U.S. international airports including Miami, Atlanta, Los Angeles and JFK, reports NBC News.

I am also a regular observer on how people behave while traveling, as I wrote in these About.com Air Travel posts, “10 Traveler Types You Don’t Want to See on Your Next Flight” and “Top Five Pet Peeves with Air Travel.” A piece in Skift offers tips on how to bring back civility and empathy to travel.

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Photo courtesy of Big Ass Fans

In 2003, I got to go on a tour of American Airlines’ maintenance facility, where the carrier strips aircraft to their studs and rebuilds them in what’s called a D check. One place I got to go was where they clean and sanitize the plane’s lavatories and the stories I was told about the regular cleaning process and things that passengers left behind brought horror to my germaphobe heart (I travel with hand sanitizer, baby wipes and a small can of Lysol and other items, outlined here).

Memories of that visit came rushing back after viewing this Business Insider short video on what scientists consider the dirtiest places on an airplane. They included: inflight magazines, touch screens and seatback pockets. And this Telegraph story offers tips from cabin crew, including why you should never take your shoes off on a flight.

I really appreciate your support of this column in 2016 and I’m excited to keep it going in the new year. So below are four more stories I think you should read this weekend. Enjoy!

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: Benét J. Wilson is a freelance aviation/travel writer based in Baltimore who is available for your writing and branded content/content marketing projects. She’s the Air Travel Expert for About.com. Follow her travel-related magazines on Flipboard: Best of About Travel, a joint curation venture with her fellow About Travel Experts; Travel-Go! There’s Nothing Stopping You, all about the passenger experience on the ground and in the air; and Aviation Geek, a joint magazine sharing everything you need to know about the commercial aviation industry. Check out her travel-related boards on Pinterest and follow her on Twitter at @AvQueenBenet, on her Aviation Queen Facebook Page and on Instagram at aviationqueen.

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Your Aviation Weekend Reads for December 16, 2016

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A Bombardier CRJ parked at Pittsburgh International Airport. Photo by Benét J. Wilson

At the beginning of my aviation career in 1993, Bombardier was bringing its 50-seat Canadair Regional Jet to the market. At the time, it was seen as a big risk because the industry had always been split between larger jets for mainline carriers and turboprops for regional airlines. At the time, Lufthansa and now-defunct Delta Connection carrier Comair had placed orders for the jet. The bet paid off, and for awhile, airlines around the globe were fighting each other to buy the CRJ and competitor Brazilian manufacturer Embraer’s ERJ-145.

Bombardier is hoping that lightning strikes twice with its larger CSeries family of jets. While the industry has applauded the Canadian manufacturer for building a sound jet, the orders have been slow to come. Lufthansa was the launch customer for the CSeries in July 2008 with an order for 60 aircraft and options on another 30. Orders currently stand at 360, including lifesaving orders of 75 CS100s from Delta Air Lines and 45 from flag carrier Air Canada, reports Skift. Colin Bole, senior vice president for sales at Bombardier’s commercial aircraft unit, said the manufacturer is pursuing prospects including some high-volume opportunities and would like to gain a foothold in the low-cost airline segment in 2017.

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An Iran Air Airbus A300. Photo courtesy of Iran Air

Now that U.S. sanctions against Iran have been lifted, Boeing is now free to sell jets to that country. BBC News reports that the Seattle-based manufacturer has inked a deal with the Iranian government to buy 80 jets, including 50 737 MAX 8s, 15 777-300ERs and 15 777-9s, valued at $16 billion. Deliveries are scheduled to begin in 2018.

And Reuters reports that Iran French manufacturer Airbus is about to close a deal to buy 118 aircraft, including turboprops from ATR. Deliveries are scheduled to begin in 2017.

Back in November 2013, I had the opportunity to write this piece for CNN.com on why I was firmly opposed to allowing inflight cell phone calls. “Letting passengers talk nonstop during flights would be like being stuck in hell,” I wrote. Three years later, this topic has reared its ugly head again as the U.S. Department of Transportation proposed allowing airlines to decide if they will allow travelers to make inflight calls using Wi-Fi via platforms like Skype or FaceTime, reports FOX News. The proposal includes a requirement where airlines would have to inform passengers whether calls were allowed on a flight when they booked a ticket.

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A napping room at Hamad International Airport.  Photo by Benét J. Wilson

Anyone who has traveled outside of the United States to some of the global hub airports knows that they are light years ahead of what’s here at home. I’ve been to amazing terminals at Singapore’s Changi Airport, Seoul’s Incheon International Airport, London Heathrow Airport Terminal 5 and Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar, and they are all full of passenger-friendly amenities.

While there are some great terminals with nice amenities in the United States, they don’t hold a candle to those outside of the country. McKinsey recently estimated that the U.S. needs to spend about $125 billion more a year simply to maintain its infrastructure at current levels, reports Skift. U.S. airports are chronically underfunded and ACI-NA estimated that the U.S. needs to invest $75.7 billion to accommodate passenger and cargo growth at its airports through 2019.

No matter where they are, I am a fan of airports big and small. So imagine my delight when I found this Atlas Obscura story with photos of the world’s most unique and beautiful airports. My personal favorite is Carrasco International Airport, Montevideo, Uruguay.

I did a post for About.com Air Travel on the Top 12 Airport and Airplane Movies. The good folks at Flying magazine have come up with their own list, 16 Movies Pilots and Aviation Enthusiasts Love. I’ve seen 10 of the 16 recommended.

With Christmas and New Year’s right around corner, this will be the last Weekend Reads in 2016. I thank you all for your support and look forward to resuming this column in 2017. I wish you all a very happy holiday season. Until then, enjoy these five quick links for additional reading.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Benét J. Wilson is a freelance aviation/travel writer based in Baltimore who is available for your writing and branded content/content marketing projects. She’s the Air Travel Expert for About.com. Follow her travel-related magazines on Flipboard: Best of About Travel, a joint curation venture with her fellow About Travel Experts; Travel-Go! There’s Nothing Stopping You, all about the passenger experience on the ground and in the air; and Aviation Geek, a joint magazine sharing everything you need to know about the commercial aviation industry. Check out her travel-related boards on Pinterest and follow her on Twitter at @AvQueenBenet, on her Aviation Queen Facebook Page and on Instagram at aviationqueen.