Air France is revamping its business class — excuse me, la classe affaires — with some new seats. But strangely, the flat beds aren’t horizontal. They’re “near-horizontal.” That’s so … 2005.
Rollout will take three years, so you’ll be seeing old and new seats across the fleet.
But seriously, isn’t 180-degree flat bed seating the standard today? Why would Air France opt for something that’s less than the standard?
I’ve got nothing.
If you’re flying Air France, KLM, or Cathay Pacific in economy class, you’ll soon notice a little extra padding on your seatbelt. The padding? An airbag.
The seatbelt airbag, designed to deploy within 90 milliseconds after a crash, will be required when the seat in front of you is rigid, and risk of a “head-strike” is high. Since most airlines don’t feature the self-contained “pod” hard-shell seats a la Cathay in economy, you won’t see this on many airlines. But it will be required:
All aircraft built in the U.S. since October must conform to standards designed to keep passengers conscious through an impact involving deceleration at 16 times the force of gravity so that they can escape any subsequent fire. The same rules will be introduced in Europe by the end of next year, European Aviation Safety Agency spokesman Jeremie Teahan said.
While many seats comply with the so-called 16g rule without needing airbags, which are installed in about 2 percent of seats, manufacturer AmSafe Inc. predicts they’ll become standard by 2020 amid heightened awareness of safety issues. The devices cost about $1,200 apiece, versus $25 for a regular seatbelt.
I haven’t encountered one of these seatbelts yet, but if anyone out there has taken them for a spin, hit the comments. Is the extra thickness noticeable? Comfortable?
For a video of the seatbelt airbags in action, see below:
Air France has an interesting feature: In some markets, you can reserve a low fare for up to two weeks, without buying the ticket, for €10. (Thanks to Raphaël Mazoyer via Twitter for pointing this out to me.)
Here’s the English text, copied from the Dutch site:
Need time to think
When reserving online, you can choose the Time to Think option*. Starting at €10 per passenger, this new option lets you hold your reservation and fare for up to 14 days**.
To purchase your ticket, simply visit the “Manage your reservations” section.
If you decide not to confirm the reservation, it will be cancelled automatically when your Time to Think period expires.
* This option is offered on our flights within metropolitan France and from France to Europe and North Africa.
** The period allowed varies according to your reservation date, destination and travel fare conditions. Option non-refundable and in addition to your ticket price.
Hopelessly addicted to the romance of French? Authenticity fetishist? Well, here you go, in the original tongue:
Besoin de temps pour réfléchir ?
Lorsque vous faites votre réservation en ligne, vous pouvez opter pour un Délai de réflexion*. A partir de 10 € par passager, cette nouvelle option vous permet de garantir votre réservation et votre tarif jusqu’à 14 jours**. Pour payer votre billet, il vous suffit ensuite de vous rendre dans la rubrique “Gérer vos réservations”. Si vous ne souhaitez pas confirmer votre achat, votre réservation est automatiquement annulée à la fin du Délai de réflexion.
* Cette option est proposée en cabine Voyageur sur nos vols en France métropolitaine, de/vers l´Europe, Israël et l´Afrique du Nord.
** La durée du Délai de réflexion varie selon la date de votre réservation, la destination et les conditions tarifaires. Option non remboursable et en sus du prix du billet.
Given the geographic restrictions in the fine print, the US site doesn’t include this text (in either language) on the booking page. But there remains a hold option:
When I do a test booking of an itinerary between Charlotte and Paris (via Detroit and/or Atlanta), I’m given an option of holding the itinerary for over 24 hours — until 10 pm the next night — at no cost. It’s not 14 days of hold time, but it’s not 10 euros, either.
The policy isn’t new. I missed the 14-day 10-euro hold fee when it was first announced in late November 2009. (Dan Webb caught it.) And while I recognize this is yet another fee, I don’t really mind this one.
Holding the seats — and the fare — for two weeks is worth 10 euros. If you find a great fare, you can book and hold a fare for minimal investment, while making your other plans. (The overnight hold, as available in the US, is a nice feature, too, but it wouldn’t be worth 10 euros to me.)
So, what would a 14-day hold be worth to you?
While oil is still comparably higher than it was two or three years ago, it has pulled back nearly 20% from its recent highs. Airline fuel surcharges haven’t all fallen to earth by the same measure.
Two notable exceptions are Air France-KLM and El Al. KLM reduced their surcharge by 5 euros each way, while El Al cut theirs by $14 each way. Other airlines have been resistant, and others have even raised their surcharges in the past two weeks, despite the drop in fuel prices.
The entire practice is a sham. If the cost of doing business has increased as a result of fuel expenses, then the change should be reflected in the base fare. Call it a fare hike – which is what it is.
But the airlines like to be able to quote “base fares.” They have been able to game the system by quoting prices with “taxes and fees” extra. And now we see that airlines are illegally colluding to use fuel surcharges to keep prices higher: Two British Airways executives resigned over an investigation into the company’s surcharge practices.
To see anyone actually reducing the surcharge is refreshing and welcome, so hats off to Air France-KLM and El Al. But we can do better. Let’s aim for greater price transparency. Let’s get rid of fuel surcharges.
Flying from the United States to Korea or Japan? If you’re traveling with Asiana or Korean Air Lines, you’ll take a different flight path nowadays, thanks to North Korea’s recent missile tests coming dangerously close to existing air routes. Today Japan’s largest airlines, Japan Air Lines and ANA, announced their own re-routings. No word on American carriers’ flight paths. Yay.
British tourists file more travel insurance claims on trips to Thailand than any other country. Runners up: “…the Czech republic, which came out top for incidents of pick-pocketing, South Africa, top for violent robberies, and Mexico, which is the place to go for over-exposure to the sun, it seems.” By this measure, Ireland was the “safest” destination.
China recently completed the train to Tibet and began passenger service. It’s an ambitious and impressive engineering project to be sure (the train cars are pressurized, like a plane, due to the enormous altitudes), but also a highly controversial exercise in internal colonialism. A good overview of the cultural and political ramifications (and fears) can be found here. It’s not all gee-whiz-isn’t-it-neat-what-they-built.
The Denny’s of the Sky?
A new promo: If you fly Aloha Airlines on their birthday (July 26), and you keep the boarding pass stub, you can fly free on your birthday (return within 7 days). Inter-island flights only. But what the heck.
Fare sale to Europe
Air France kicks off their Bastille Day fare sale today (purchase by July 28). Some good late summer/fall fares.
More luxe to Europe
All-biz airline Eos looks to expand from the New York-London route to also serve New York-Paris.
Healthier airborne meals
Northwest Airlines had better keep up. Just a few weeks ago they announced that their Stalinist experiment in inflight dining was over, and that they would reintroduce a choice (gasp!) to the menu in domestic first class. At the same time, other carriers are redesigning their first and business class menus, too, with an eye for lighter gourmet fare. But take away the ice cream, and flyers revolt. (The sarcastic chorus of “boo hoo” is coming from the economy seats.) The article also plugs Peter Greenberg’s book The Traveler’s Diet: Eating Right and Staying Fit on the Road.
Predicting the next protectionist outrage
Chicago Midway under foreign management? It could happen, since the city is soliciting bids for long-terms leases on the airport. We’ll see if a (likely) winning bid from a foreign entity yields as much furor as the Dubai ports affair. If an international firm wins the bidding, it won’t be the first foreign-managed US airport. Indianapolis and Stewart-Newburgh, NY airports are already under British firms’ control. International bids for US assets should be no surprise, given the current account deficit; all those dollars flowing overseas need to be put to work somewhere…
A number of peoples’ worst fears are coming true: Cellphones will be legal on selected Air France flights. Using technology from OnAir, AirFrance will outfit a single Airbus 318, set for delivery in March 2007, with equipment allowing customers to use their phones in flight.
In essence OnAir’s technology emulates a mobile network inside an aircraft. The specially designed pico-cell system, for instance, allows mobile devices to operate at lower transmission power and thus eliminate interference with other radio systems, according to the company’s website. The system also ensures that phones on board can’t attempt to log on to terrestrial networks.
To determine demand, the French airlines will ask all passengers using the service to complete a questionnaire. Depending on their response, the company will decide how many additional aircraft will offer the service. Details about pricing were not available.
Plans for the OnAir system are on deck to be retrofitted on existing aircraft for British carrier BMI and Portugal’s TAP.
In the U.S., public opposition to cellphones in flight is fairly strong, but Europe looks like it may go the other way.