northwest 787 Upgrades and Downgrades: Delta 787s, crocodiles on planes, cruises, Expedia, more
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Expedia is now widely selling Hotwire’s hotel inventory as “unpublished rates.”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.

hare krishnas Upgrades and Downgrades: Solicitation at LAX, smoking in hotels, 777 seats, and more
Downgraded: Hare Krishnas
It’s the end of an era for American airports: Hare Krishnas are banned from soliciting for donations at LAX. There’s one more scene in the movie “Airplane!” that just won’t make as much sense to future generations.

Downgraded: Smoking in hotels
I didn’t realize that twelve states already had laws on the books banning smoking in hotels. Wisconsin is the latest, with the law taking effect this summer. Should be welcome news to the folks at FreshStay, the directory of smoke-free hotels.

Downgraded: Body scanner checkers
Well, it had to happen: An airport worker at Heathrow has had his wrists slapped for taking a picture of a colleague as she passed through the full-body scanner. Start the countdown for someone’s clandestinely-taken body scanner image appearing on the internet…

Upgraded, or is it Downgraded?: United Airlines 777s
United’s seating configuration in economy onboard its Boeing 777s has long been rather unusual. Instead of the usual 3-3-3 seat arrangement, they’ve had seats in a 2-5-2 setup. The logic of the 2-5-2 was that it minimized the number of passengers who had to climb over two people to get to the aisle — just the one person in the middle of the 5. But now they’re shifting to the more common 3-3-3 after all. (Personally, while it’s been a couple years since I’ve sat on a UA 777, I always liked the pair of seats on the windows. 17A or 21J, baby.) If you’re flying on a UA 777, be sure to check your seatmap as you get closer to flight date: your aisle seat might now be a middle.


Upgraded: Making the most out of a small airport
For those who are frustrated with the seemingly slow-as-molasses pace of relief efforts and the ceaseless flow of depressing imagery from Haiti, consider this, from the commander of the earthquake-damaged airfield that was once the Port-au-Prince airport:

Col. Buck Elton, who was given the mission to open up airfield and assist with airlifts, says they have controlled 600+ takeoffs and landings in an airstrip that normally sees three takeoffs and landings a day.

Because the air traffic control tower has collapsed, all of this is being done by radio, on the ground – in a place that only has one runway/taxiway for planes, set directly in the middle of the airport and thus making it difficult for other planes to take off and arrive.

Col. Buck talked about how they have to “stack the aircraft until we have space for someone else to come in. ” The maximum number of aircraft that can fit on the ground: one wide-body, five narrow-body planes. and three smaller aircrafts that can taxi in on the ground, filling that spot as necessary. (It sounds like a game of Tetris.)

“The volume is similar to running a major airport without computers, radar or other equipment,” he said.

That’s great work in a bad situation. Here’s hoping that they can squeeze a few more relief flights in and out.

Downgraded: JAL
Japan’s JAL officially declared bankruptcy and defaulted on its bonds. The bidding war for the airline reached an impasse, but will resume now that bankruptcy is definitive.

Upgraded: Your debit card’s PIN
For some time, debit cards have been accepted as a form of payment on airline websites, but in the US, the cards have been processed much like a credit card, through the Visa or MasterCard number to which they’re linked. Now, Spirit Airlines is serving up a way to use your debit card to pay for airline tickets, using the same PIN you use at the ATM. PIN-enabled transactions at retail locations have gained acceptance (and are far cheaper for the retailer than swipe-and-sign transactions), but entering your PIN into a website? That may be a tough sell to the American consumer.

Upgraded: Really big new threats to air safety
Downgraded: Reality

On a lighter note, forget airport patdowns. Worry about giant sharks that are larger than super-jumbo jets and can attack aircraft from deep in the sea. There’s so much to enjoy in just this short clip from the B-movie horror spectacle “Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus.” The wooden acting, the awful computer animation, the absurd physics. Aviation geeks will enjoy the near-slanderous depiction of a “Condor Airlines” (alert the German airline of that name of this abuse!) Boeing 747-8 — a plane that hasn’t even been built yet — bouncing through the clouds, before it … just watch below. Words get in the way.

 Upgrades and Downgrades: Haitian airport, JAL, paying with a PIN, and giant sharks

Categorized in: airports, bizarre, JAL, Spirit Airlines

boeing 787 Boeing webcasts the first flight of their 787 today (begins 09:40PST, 12:40EST, 17:40GMT)
Boeing will be transmitting a live webcast of the long-delayed Boeing 787′s first flight today. The stream can be found here and it begins at 09:40 am Pacific time, 12:40 pm, Eastern, and 5:40 pm GMT. Actual liftoff of the plane nicknamed the Boeing Dreamliner is scheduled for the top of the hour (10am PST). Weather permitting, of course.

To be more specific, it’s the first flight of the 787-8, vs. the shorter-range 787-3 or the stretched 787-9, neither of which have been built yet.

Japan’s ANA will be the first to fly this model. To see a full list of orders, sorted by airline, or by date, click here.

This plane has been a delay-prone nightmare for the company, but it will be a feat of engineering when it takes off. It will be the first commercial airline with a fuselage built largely of lightweight composite materials, rather than aluminum “skin.”

I look forward to actually flying aboard a plane like this, but in the meantime, I’ll vicariously watch this over lunch.

Would it be too much to ask for a roll, as Tex Johnston did with the Boeing 707 back in 1955?…


Categorized in: Boeing

virgin atlantic upstairs Upgrades and Downgrades: Virgin Atlantic, mistake fares, TSA SOPs, Continental upgradesDowngraded: Upper Class, upstairs, on Virgin Atlantic
Upgraded: Economy Class, upstairs, on Virgin Atlantic

Like many airlines, Virgin Atlantic has been cutting seats in business class, in response to the economy’s woes. But the upstairs section of the 747 has always been sacred space for the premium-cabin travelers. Until now. The airline will slowly roll out “configuration 4,” which moves some regular economy seats to the back of the upstairs cabin. Virgin Atlantic Upper Class loyalists will object to the lack of exclusivity. Which, in turn, should be an improvement for economy customers who get the service boost of a small cabin.

Upgraded: Consumer rights for “mistake” fares
As I’ve argued in the past, it’s sometimes impossible to know if a low fare is an error, or just a deal. (1 cent fares, anyone?) So I’m pleased to read that, in the U.S., the federal government is warning airlines that they’re (at least partially) on the hook for mistake fares. The DOT ruled: “We believe that all airlines should accept some responsibility for even the erroneous fares they publish.” Customers with canceled tickets must now be “made whole,” though this doesn’t mean that tickets will be honored. Still, a good move.

Downgraded: TSA’s mad redacting skillz
Seth, over at the Wandering Aramean has been digging through a document detailing the TSA’s standard operating procedures. The document was redacted, but Adobe Acrobat doesn’t delete the text hidden behind the black boxes. Oops. Now the TSA says the policies were never implemented, after all. (Then why were they posted, and redacted?) Seth has links to the original documents on his site.

Upgraded: Continental systemwide upgrades for top-level elites
In a further alignment of Continental OnePass with United MileagePlus, Continental is systemwide upgrades and a double-secret invitation-only ultra-elite level for high-spend elite frequent fliers.

Upgraded: United’s long-range aircraft… eventually
After slicing and dicing their fleet over the years, and recently killing off their 737s, it’s finally time for United to look at renewing their fleet. They’re ordering 25 Boeing 787s and 25 Airbus A350s, which will replace their 767s and 747s, respectively. …in 6 to 9 years.

Downgraded: Irony
Every time you try to make a cynical or snide remark about the state of the airline industry, griping about how unpleasant it’s become, Ryanair meets or beats that cynicism. The airline now wants to ban checked luggage entirely. Seriously. They claim — and I say “claim” because I’ll believe it when I see it — that they’ll be implementing this by 2010, the same deadline for offering inflight gambling and pay toilets. Are they that desperate for attention that they need to keep floating these increasingly annoying ideas?

Upgraded: Republic Airlines
Downgraded, eventually: Midwest Signature Service

Republic, best known for providing regional jet services to a range of carriers, has bought Midwest and Frontier Airlines. In the case of Midwest, they’re getting rid of the Boeing 717s and replacing them with Embraer 190s. That’s a narrower tube. Translation: Expect cuts or elimination of Signature Service seats at the front of the plane.

Upgraded: Holding TSA accountable
Remember the traveler who was harassed by the TSA for carrying $4700 in cash? He refused to answer questions until the TSA agents explicitly told him he was required to respond, and caught it all on tape. Now he’s suing the TSA, with help from the ACLU.

Upgraded: Continental miles
Well, not upgraded much, but here’s a quick way to earn 100 miles for “learning about” Continental-branded credit cards.

Downgraded: Boeing
Not only is the Boeing 787 Dreamliner delayed again, but some significant redesigning is necessary in order to get it airworthy. That’s bad news for the company’s management (or shareholders), or the airlines that have to wait even longer to receive their orders. As a passenger, I’d rather have a safe plane start flying late than an unsafe plane on time. Nonetheless, some are accusing Boeing of a coverup.

Downgraded: SkyEurope
SkyEurope, the Bratislava-based discount airline perhaps most famous for paying you to fly them, has declared bankruptcy. They’re still flying while they restructure.

Upgraded: Flight tracking
Visually cool, though not completely practical: Lufthansa has commissioned a neat representation of their flight traffic. Watch a fancy demo below. Be warned, the sound has some crazy-high-pitched sounds, which detract from the experience.

(Update: The designers deleted the video. No idea why. I’ll leave the embed up in case they bring it back. In the interim, have a still/screenshot instead.)

 Upgrades and Downgrades    Ryanair, Boeing, TSA, and more

(via Dvice)