Tag Archives: Weekend Reads

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Your Weekend Reads for March 24, 2017

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The big news of the week was all about the sudden ban by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security of laptops and tablets on flights in and out of the U.S. to Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Qatar, Morocco, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates’ Abu Dhabi and Dubai, citing “security measures.”

But questions arose about the targeting of the Big Three Middle East carriers — Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways — in the wake of an ongoing Open Skies battle with the Big Three U.S. carriers, American, Delta and United. “If you squint hard enough, there is some justification on a security basis for this, but the implementation has been haphazard and in manner that is particularly targeted at and does harm to the commercial interests of a set of airlines that has been the source of much competitive hand-wringing from U.S. airlines,” Airways senior business analyst Vinay Bhaskara said in an interview with Business Insider.

And an editorial in FlightGlobal magazine said “the selective ban by the UK and US governments is at best inconsistent and at worst ineffective.”

A Mesa Airlines Beech 1900D. Photo courtesy of Mesa Air Group

In a previous life, I was director of communications and community affairs for Mesa Air Group, a regional airline based in Phoenix that flies as American Eagle and United Express. But as Mesa Airlines, the carrier operated Essential Air Service (EAS) flights across the country. The EAS program was created after airline deregulation in 1978 to ensure that small communities still had access to the air transportation network. One of my jobs was to do presentations to communities to get their EAS contracts.

The program has been on the chopping block for years, but has always been protected by senators and representatives keen on protecting air service for its constituents. And now President Donald Trump has announced plans to cut the EAS program under his proposed skinny budget, potentially ending air service to 171 communities, reports Skift.

The first class cabin on a Cathay Pacific jet. Photo courtesy of Cathay Pacific

As Hong Kong flag carrier Cathay Pacific posted its first loss since 2008, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce had one word of advice for the airline: adapt, reports Skift. Cathay’s loss was driven by a drop in business travel and competition from Chinese carriers.

British Airways is going through its own financial challenges, driven by increased competition from European low-cost carriers. This is leading the UK flag carrier to cut amenities in its first class cabins including an amuse-bouche with the first drink, fresh flowers in the lavatories, a generously sized washbag and a pair of slippers, reports the Telegraph. Airline staffers say the cuts are damaging BA’s elite brand, while the carrier acknowledges the cuts but adding that it’s committed to providing a high-quality service.

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U.S. airlines were positively giddy when flight restrictions to Cuba were lifted by the Obama Administration as part of the normalization of relations with the Caribbean nation in December 2014. And there was a frenzy by the airlines to get flights to Cuba, with the first flight — by JetBlue — landing on Aug. 31, 2016. But now the Miami Herald reports on announcements by Frontier Airlines and Silver Airways to end their flights to Cuba, citing weak passenger demand.

We’ll end the week with the news that after an internal review, Alaska Airlines has decided to eliminate the Virgin America brand by 2019, reports the Fort Worth State-Telegram. After Alaska acquired the popular San Francisco-based carrier, CEO Brad Tilden said he believed in “the power of the Virgin America brand, and we don’t want to lose all that loyalty.” But it was not to be.

Because I care, here are five more stories for your reading pleasure this weekend. Enjoy!

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.

Qatar Airways' new QSuite business class seat. Photo courtesy of Qatar Airways

Your Weekend Reads for March 10, 2017

The roll-out of the Boeing 737 MAX 9. Photo courtesy of Boeing

It was a busy week for Boeing. The Seattle-based manufacturer received certification for its 737 MAX 8 and rolled out the 737 MAX 9 this week, as reported by Airways magazine here and here. But in an interview with Bloomberg, Air Lease Co. CEO John Plueger is pushing Boeing to give the green light to a 737 MAX 10, which would fill a gap in its product line equal to the Airbus A321neo, which is racking up orders.

Airports Council International-North America says the nation’s airports have nearly $100 billion in infrastructure needs between 2017 and 2021 to accommodate growth in passenger and cargo activity, rehabilitate existing facilities and support aircraft innovation, according to its Airport Infrastructure Needs: 2017-2021 report. The $20 billion in average annual infrastructure funding needs for U.S. airports is more than double the funding currently available through annual airport generated net income via Passenger Facility Charge user fees and Airport Improvement Program grants, says the report.

Last week, U.S. airline CEOs had the Big Three Middle East carriers in their crosshairs during the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Aviation Summit, reports Airways magazine. Etihad Group CEO James Hogan announced his departure in January after the carrier was hit with heavy losses caused by a global expansion via investing in more than half a dozen airlines around the world, according to Business Insider. And now Emirates CEO Tim Clark spoke about a “gathering storm” as his airline sees strong competition on its routes by low-cost carriers including Singapore Airlines’ Scoot and Norwegian Air, reports Bloomberg. When asked about changing Emirates’ widebody fleet to better compete, he said while he didn’t see any immediate changes, he did note that  “others coming behind may take a different view,” which was seen as a strong hint that his days in the top spot may be coming to an end.

Skift reports that as Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways deal with economic hardship and low oil prices, labor and service cuts are coming soon. Known for the over-the-top amenities offered to their top customers, Skift noted six areas where the three airlines may cut service, including lounges, food and beverage and aircraft orders.

Qatar Airways' new QSuite business class seat. Photo courtesy of Qatar Airways

But Qatar Airways isn’t going down without a fight.  The Runway Girl Network’s John Walton reports on the carrier unveiling its new business class seat, the QSuite. The seat offers families or other groups of four a convertible space a forwards-backwards staggered design that enables fully flat beds with direct aisle access for every passenger — with doors. The seat was unveiled at this week’s ITB Berlin trade show.

On January 10, 2001, American Airlines announced that it was buying the assets of troubled iconic carrier TWA for $500 million. And 16 years after that transaction, American — acquired by US Airways on Feb. 14, 2013 — is now being sued by three former TWA pilots over how the carrier handled a contractual dispute that could see at least 85 pilots demoted from captain to first officer, reports the Dallas Morning News. After the merger, instead of integrating TWA’s pilots into its seniority list, American just tacked 1200 of them to the bottom of the list. Changes were made to alleviate some of this, but they went by the wayside after American’s Chapter 11 filing in 2011, and its subsequent merger with US Airways.

A passenger being screened at Boston-Logan International Airport. Photo by Benet J. Wilson

A passenger being screened at Boston-Logan International Airport. Photo by Benet J. Wilson

I flew down to Fort Lauderdale this week to visit Spirit Airlines. I used Clear for my ID check and went immediately into the TSA PreCheck line. As walked through the metal detector, the device went off despite me knowing I didn’t have any metal in my pockets. I learned that I had been tagged for a random extra screening. But it wasn’t a normal pat-down. In fact it was what TSA is calling “a pat-down that is more involved,” reports Lifehacker. The TSA has warned airport officials, crew, and law enforcement that the new procedure “may involve an officer making more intimate contact than before.” I’ll just say my pat-down was pretty intimate, although the officer was very professional and told me exactly what she was doing during the process.

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

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 Weekend Reads for March 3, 2017

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer screens an international passengers arriving at Washington Dulles International Airport Photo by Glenn Fawcett/CBP

You may have heard of a recent incident when passengers on a flight from San Francisco to New York were asked to show “documents” to U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents as they deplaned. The big question was whether Customs could require U.S. citizens to produce documents on demand that shows their citizenship. This article in the Atlantic says no, but with further explanation, because the answer isn’t quite so simple.

And on the heels of that, airports and civil rights lawyers are preparing for the next travel ban coming from President Donald Trump, reports Skift. Reports have the revised travel ban coming in the next few days with a promise that it will be rolled out in a more orderly way. It is expected to focus on six of the seven original countries (Iraq was removed) banned, but won’t target  travelers who already have visas to come to the U.S.

A first class Etihad Airways suite with the seat transformed into a lie-flat bed. Photo courtesy of Etihad

A first class Etihad Airways suite with the seat transformed into a lie-flat bed. Photo courtesy of Etihad

Thanks to my work, I’ve had the opportunity to fly in some great first class cabins. But as airlines worldwide have focused on upgrading their business class offerings, it leads to this question from APEX Media: Is the First-Class Cabin Becoming Obsolete? It was noted by attendees at the recent Business Travel Show in London that first-class products from the airlines were “conspicuously underrepresented.” The magazine noted that first class is effectively disappearing as airlines go through their fleet replacement processes.

Eighty-five percent of people who traveled by air in 2016 said they were “very satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied” with their air travel experience, up from 80 percent in 2015 according to a study by Airlines for America, reports Marketwatch. And a new study by The Points Guy reveals that Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based ultra-low-cost-carrier Spirit Airlines is the worst carrier in America. The study looked at factors including price, convenience, headaches like lost baggage and extras like lounges and frequent flyer programs.

Scott Hamilton of Leeham News and Comment posts about AirAsia X’s long road to becoming profitable. Started in 2007, the long-haul unit of AirAsia was stymied after choosing the Airbus A330-200 and A340-300, two thirsty aircraft during a time when fuel prices were at record highs as it struggled to become profitable.  

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It was big news when Delta Air Lines announced it was adding the Airbus A350 to its fleet after Boeing lost its battle to sell the Atlanta-based carrier its 787 Dreamliner. Delta recently gave the public a sneak peek of the A350-900 taking shape at Airbus’s assembly line in Toulouse, France. The A350, expected to be delivered this fall, will have 32 Delta One suites, 48 seats in the Delta Premium Select cabin and 226 Main Cabin seats, reports the Delta News Hub.

On March 20, 2012, Arkansas’ Little Rock Municipal Airport Commission voted to rename the city’s airport the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport to honor its former governor and his wife, the former Secretary of State. And now state Rep. Jason Rapert (R) has filed a bill that could remove their names from the airport, reports NPR.  The bill would forbid the state from naming facilities built with public money after people who are still alive.

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

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.

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.