Downgraded: 787s on Delta
For those who thought that Delta would soon by flying the Boeing 787, thanks to their takeover of Northwest, prepare for a decade of disappointment. Northwest was an early buyer (in May 2005) of the 787 and was originally scheduled to take delivery between 2008 and 2010. Thanks to delays, that delivery timetable is over two years out of whack. But now Delta has pushed the delivery back even further: Now, Delta will receive the planes between 2020 and 2022. That’s a long deferment.
Upgraded: Ideas for bad Hollywood movies
Downgraded: Congolese carry-on inspections
Headline: “Crocodile on plane kills 19 passengers“… I immediately had visions of a crocodile biting its way through the passenger list. But the truth is more unfortunate. A crocodile hidden in a carry-on bag gets loose, people panic, plane goes out of balance, aircraft crashes. Very sad. And preventable.
Downgraded: Cruise ship pricing
The cruise ship lines are taking a page from the airlines and going a la carte with their services, slowly but surely whittling away at the “all-inclusive” pricing plans that were the hallmark of cruising. Sure, there have been upcharges for shore excursions, but now you have to pay up for certain meals, services, and options. Looks like easyCruise‘s fully-a-la-carte model may not be so farfetched after all. (Thanks, Bill!)
Upgraded: Cross-selling of Hotwire inventory on Expedia
Expedia is now widely selling Hotwire’s hotel inventory as “unpublished rates.” Like on Hotwire, the hotels won’t be listed by name, just by star-level and city zone. Since Expedia and Hotwire are part of the same parent company, I’m surprised it’s taken this long.
Upgraded: The last frontier of domestic inflight wifi
Aircell’s Gogo service has launched inflight wifi within the state of Alaska, for those traveling on Alaska Airlines. For now, the service only exists between Anchorage and Fairbanks, and Alaska Airlines is giving it away for free. It’s slated to be complimentary until the entire state is blanketed with signal availability.
Upgraded: Traveler seat-selection stereotypes
The folks at Hunch have found significant personality and life-experience differences between those who prefer aisle seats vs. window seats. It’s based on poll data. ME, I prefer the window seat, not just because it makes napping easier, because I never tire of looking out the window and staring down from 35,000 feet. And yet, my vita reads much more like the aisle passenger’s. Call me an outlier.
The seat is designed to evoke a saddle, and the experience is meant to be gentler on your body than the fully-upright “Hannibal Class” standing seats that were floated a few years ago.
We really are regressing technologically if we’re now trying to make air travel more like the Old West. Airlines: The new wagon trains? Only instead of the wide open spaces of the West, you’re stuck with 23 inches of seat pitch (instead of the usual 31+ in coach).
The company says it’s received “expressions of interest” for the saddle seats from numerous airlines, including in the US. (Spirit, I’m looking at you.) But expressions of interest are thankfully not orders.
Whenever an asinine idea like this is floated, I immediately think of two words: “Ground stop.” Sure, the airlines and seat manufacturers will say that these seats are only meant for short flights, not longhauls across the Pacific. But what happens when a flight pulls out of the gate and then spends an hour or two waiting for takeoff?
And what about carry-on luggage? There’s no room in the seat in front of you, and overhead bin space won’t be possible as we know it today, since passengers will be sitting taller than usual. (The seats promise “a shelf for carry-on bags, and hooks to hang a jacket or purse.”) Will customers who buy the cheap semi-standing seats in the back be socked with carry-on and luggage fees?
I also enjoy the fact that they show the woman sitting in the unobstructed “front” seat. Let’s take the photo again, but fill that second row with people. Large people.
But let’s be honest: The odds are extremely slim that such an arrangement will show up on your flight anytime soon, if ever. In the US, aircraft are used for both long and medium flights, so it would be a logistical nightmare to create a “short-hop-only” subset of an airline’s fleet. (You might say that that’s exactly how regional jets were conceived, but look at the distances those sardine cans take you these days.)
And then there’s the FAA’s own skepticism. Their spokesperson offered this as a reality check: “While it’s not impossible, it’s difficult to conceive of a standing seat that would be able to meet all applicable FAA requirements and still be cost-effective.”
If by any chance you’ll be attending the Aircraft Interiors Expo Americas conference in Long Beach next week, I hope you’ll give these seats a test-drive. And, ideally, grab a group of big and/or tall people, fill the rows, and have photos taken. Let’s see how these seats might look in reality.
Delta, which inherited a slew of Boeing 747s through its merger with Northwest, has announced that it is upgrading the interiors of its planes. This overdue change affects 16 planes that primarily travel via the Tokyo hub. Alas, the upgrades won’t start until Summer 2011, finishing up a year later. But it’s always nice to see an American airline join the new millennium!
The announced benefits:
- On-demand inflight entertainment in coach
About time. 9″ touchscreens will be installed for the coach seats. Economy passengers will have access to “250 movie titles, hundreds of television shows, 4,000 digital music tracks, personalized music playlists, more than a dozen interactive games and a USB port to charge iPods and other personal electronic devices.”
- More room (1.5″ legroom) in economy
The new seats in economy benefit from slimline seats — they’re also lighter, saving fuel, and offer increased under-seat storage.
- Upgraded flat beds in business class
Each seat has aisle access. The window seats point toward the window, and the center seats point toward each other. More details: “The new seat, manufactured by Weber Aircraft LLC, will be 81.7 inches in length and 20.5 inches wide, similar to the flat-bed product currently offered on Delta’s 777-200LR fleet. It also will feature a 120-volt universal power outlet, USB port, personal LED reading lamp and Panasonic’s 15.4 inch personal video monitors with instant access to 250 new and classic movies, premium programming from HBO and Showtime, video games and more than 4,000 digital music tracks.”
This sounds like a solid improvement to the hard product in every class. It’s not a game changer — other airlines have been rolling out changes like this for years — but it’s nice to see an American airline trying to make the customer experience a little more enjoyable. A shame that we’ll have to wait a year before the rollout actually starts.
American Airlines is adopting another fee, which they’re calling “Express Seats.” If you’re willing to pony up $19 to $39, depending on length of flight, you too can sit in the front of the economy section, including bulkhead seats, without being an elite level frequent flier. The option is available only for U.S. domestic travel, and only from self-service airport kiosks.
Many airlines have been selling “premium” seats in the economy cabin for years. Northwest (pre-merger with Delta) started selling selected seats at the front of the economy section back in 2006. And United has sold Economy Plus upgrades for most of the past decade. (Though those seats have extra legroom, which is a bit more “premium.”) So selling seats isn’t entirely new.
The only real twist on existing “premium” seat reservations is that paying the new AA fee bumps you up to boarding group 1. You’ll not only sit toward the front of the bus, but you’ll be assured of space in the overhead bins and can be among the first to board and exit the plane. And that’s how the airline is spinning this: It’s a speed premium, not a comfort premium.
The real losers here are the elite-level AAdvantage members who used to be able to pre-reserve these seats for free. Those passengers will have to sit a little further back now. The airline promises to leave a similar number of seats available for the frequent fliers, but they just won’t be the same seats. If you were a gold, platinum or executive platinum AA flier and a fan of bulkheads, this is definitely a downgrade.
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:
Upgraded: Hotel Honeybees
The Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Charlotte has a new amenity: Rooftop honeybees. The hotel restaurant will use approximately 70 lbs. of honey produced by the hive.
Upgraded: The Widespread Status Quo of Not Charging for Carry-On Bags
Five airlines have pledged not to start charging for carry-on bags: American, Delta, JetBlue Airways, United Airlines, and US Airways. Yay, status quo!
Downgraded: Recline on Spirit
Upgraded: Marketing spin!
Spirit Airlines, which never skips an opportunity to be passenger-unfriendly, is downgrading its seats, preventing you from reclining. The best part, calling them “pre-reclined.” Nice work, Spirit marketing team!
Upgraded and Downgraded: Fees on Alaska Airlines
Alaska Airlines is increasing the checked-bag fee for the first bag, by $5. But then they’re reducing the fee for the second bag, also by $5. The third bag’s fee drops by $30. And the fourth bag drops by $50. The new baggage fees apply to travel starting June 16 for tickets bought beginning May 1. At the same time, Alaska no longer lets you hold a reservation for 24 hours. Alas.
Upgraded, eventually: Ryanair Reimbursement
If you were stranded by the volcano and Ryanair was your airline of choice, you were likely cursing their name. They weren’t much in the way of reimbursing costs for stranded passengers: They covered the equivalent of the base cost of the ticket, which, given Ryanair’s revenue model, isn’t much. But it may have been illegal: “The European Union, which enforces consumer laws that hold airlines responsible for stranded passengers’ ‘reasonable costs,’ warned Ryanair it could face fines ranging from euro5,000 to euro150,000 ($6,750 to $202,500) per complaint.” Subsequently (and nearly a week late), Ryanair has agreed to cover the lodging and meal expenses of stranded passengers, as the EU law requires. But the company is challenging the law — and the airlines’ responsibility in situations like the recent volcano — with an appeal to the European Commission and the European Parliament.