Back in 2006, you could connect to the internet via Boeing’s Connexion service, which was shut down on January 1, 2007. Then, last year, Lufthansa committed to relaunching global satellite-based inflight internet access. Now, Singapore Airlines rejoins the party:
OnAir said it has reached a “multi-million dollar” contract with Singapore Airlines to deploy onboard telephony and Internet features for the carrier’s A380s, A340-500s and 777-300ERs, enabling passengers to make and receive voice calls, send text messages and e-mail. The carrier said it will be the first major airline in Asia to launch a “full suite” of inflight connectivity services. The service will be introduced “progressively” beginning “as early” as the first half of 2011. SIA was a customer for the Connexion by Boeing broadband solution withdrawn by Boeing in 2006.
The service would provide phone service, too, but not necessarily voice calls:
The airline said the service would allow SMS text messages with GSM-compatible phones and e-mails through smart phones, even at 35,000 feet in the air.
I’m glad to see another airline add internet access, especially on such long flights. If there’s anywhere you can use the internet to pass the time, it’s over the Pacific.
Now, it comes down to the price…
Upgraded: The importance of champagne to Singapore Airlines
“Singapore Airlines Ltd. cut Chief Executive Officer Chew Choon Seng’s salary by 20 percent and parked planes in response to a global travel slump. It didn’t touch the S$11 million (US$8 million) it spends annually on wine and Dom Perignon champagne for first-class passengers.” Fewer planes, but constant wine budget? Say no more.
Upgraded: Clarity on what’s legal in seatback pockets
Remember the semi-secret FAA rule that banned personal items in airline seatback pockets? Last week, Henry Harteveldt tweeted that the FAA had clarified its policy. The entire policy is printed here. The short version: You can keep up to three pounds of stuff in the pocket, presumably including the SkyMall magazine, etc.
Upgraded: United Airlines
It takes a trip to the bottom to warrant an improvement, it seems. United, having peered into the abyss, has announced that they’ll be revamping their aircraft interiors (say goodbye to the “tequila sunrise” decor!) and airport lounges.
Downgraded: Aer Lingus’ Irish-ness
Ireland’s Aer Lingus has applied for an operating license in the UK, which, if granted, would enable the company to relocate its official base of operations to Britain. The reason: A labor dispute with Irish pilots and flight attendants, who are resisting a pay cut. Expect strikes if this goes through.
It’s been a tough few weeks, but U:TB is back on the beat. Not tanned, rested, or particularly ready, alas. But back.
Upgraded: Snakes in a car
A Florida woman got in her Enterprise rental car, only to find a 3 1/2 foot long red rat snake on the dashboard. Will “snake availability waivers” be the next add-on fee? And was it a Dodge Viper?
Upgraded: Convictions of liquid bombers
Prosecutors in the UK convicted three men of conspiracy to murder, as part of the 2006 liquid-explosives threat. Prosecutors want to re-try three of the men, for whom the jury could not reach a verdict. In connection with the trial, the BBC released a video ostensibly showing a liquid bomb of the type planned by the convicts.
Upgraded: Newcastle airport
UK officials are testing liquid-explosives scanners at Newcastle airport, using a device that scans liquid containers to judge whether their contents are a potential bomb ingredient or a harmless beverage, facial cream, or toothpaste. Could the 3-ounce liquid limit be up for review?… stay tuned.
Upgraded: Singapore’s A380
Global travel is in a slump. But if you’re expecting an empty seat in coach on board a Singapore Airbus A380, guess again. People still pack the plane. Full planes don’t mean a fat bottom line, though. The airline isn’t getting top dollar per ticket, even if the public seems to like the plane.
Upgraded: Hotel deals
The average rate for hotel rooms has dropped 17% in the first half of 2009 alone, making the average room the cheapest its been in five years. Bucking the trend: rates in Caribbean, down only 2% on average. (I’m sure there’s still a lot of variation between islands.)
Downgraded: Block 37
For years, “block 37″ in the center of the Chicago Loop (the block is bounded by Randolph, State, Washington, and Dearborn) stood vacant. It’s a construction site now, with plans for a central transit hub underground. And above ground, a Loews Hotel was planned, with rights sold to the company for $1. But the hotel chain can’t (or won’t) get financing for this prime downtown location, so yet another hotel project is up in the air.
For a few years now, there’s been abundant competition for business-class travelers on the trans-Atlantic route, with upstarts carving out all-business class niches to woo passengers away from the major airlines. But until now, there’s been no such movement on the trans-Pacific routes.
But it’s no upstart that’s offering this new service. It’s Singapore Airlines.
They’re converting their ultra-long-haul Airbus 340-500′s to all-business configurations, which means that “Executive Economy” customers are getting the boot. These widebody planes will go from 181 passengers to 100.
Is this a great business move? I don’t know. But my thoughts are this: The supply of business class seats on Singapore Airlines — a truly top-notch airline — just went up big-time. Maybe, just maybe, the frequent flyer seat inventory went up, too. This could be a great opportunity to cash in frequent flyer miles and really get some bang for your proverbial buck.
After all, Newark to Singapore is 9535 nonstop miles, according to the excellent Great Circle Mapper. If ever there’s a flight where you really want to be in business class, it’s this one.
Downgraded: The mile-high club
Singapore Airlines has some of the swankest first class seats — ahem, “suites” — in the sky, but if you want to get frisky with your mate at 39,000 feet, no dice. Despite having a double bed in their suites, the airline enforces a no-sex policy in the sky. Note the key word: enforces. Early passengers on the A380 weren’t pleased:
“So they’ll sell you a double bed, and give you privacy and endless champagne — and then say you can’t do what comes naturally?” asked Tony Elwood, a vigorous 76. “Seems a bit strange.”
Sorry, Tony. Your ticket may say first class, but you and the missus will have to use the lavatory, just like everyone else. Or rent a private love jet for $299.
Downgraded: Airbus’ green claims
One big selling point for modern aircraft is always their lower fuel consumption. Leo Hickman at the Guardian ran the numbers on the A380, and found that Airbus’ calculations are bogus. They assume a full plane of 555 passengers, but zero luggage or cargo, when they calculate the kerosene burn. How realistic. (By the way, Airbus claims that the A380 will burn 2.9 liters of fuel per passenger for every 100km traveled, i.e., 75 grams of carbon dioxide per passenger per km.)
Upgraded: Olde tyme hotel rates
The Palmer House in Chicago is allowing repeat guests to stay there at the rate they paid years ago. A great deal… as long as the earlier stay was fifty years ago or more, and if the guests still have the original receipt. A 1947 receipt will get you a room under $10. Which wasn’t cheap! (Notice to my wife: THIS is why I keep receipts.)
Downgraded: The State Department
Turns out that the $97 passport fee is nicely padded in the government’s favor, far above the cost of processing. Gosh, really?
The seven most annoying travel surcharges, from Chris Elliott. Room service “Tray fee”?? Wow, that’s really brazen.
Downgraded: The TSA
TSA regularly sends staff to conduct internal testing of its security procedures. But it turns out they’re sometimes tipping off the front-line staff in advance. (I know someone who works for TSA, who has had the pleasure of carrying a “bomb” through the airport. Yes, they caught him. Who’da thunk.)
Upgraded and Downgraded: Virgin America to add inflight wireless internet …and voice
Virgin America will feature inflight wireless internet access on its planes, by working with AirCell (the same company that will roll out inflight wireless on American Airlines’ 767s). Jaunted reports that some unnamed features will be free, too.
Great, right? Well… there’s a catch. Skype is on the list of planned features. Hell is your seatmate shouting, “Guess where I am! No, guess! I’m on a plane!” Screaming madmen yelling at jilted lovers in faraway places could soon be sitting right next to you, laptops open, vocal cords ablaze. Bring the earplugs!
Upgraded: Singapore Airlines reveals its surprisingly spacious A380 layout
The Airbus A380, when packed to the gills with nothing but economy seats, could carry as many as 853 people. The normal three-class provision is estimated at 555 seats. But Singapore’s layout will only feature 471 seats, thanks largely to a boatload of extra-wide business class seats, much like the ones pictured here. To get a glimpse of the seatmap, Click here. Note that the economy class seats on the lower level are configured 3-4-3 and the upper level has them at 2-4-2.
Upgraded: The UK’s Travelodge
An elderly British couple has been living in a Travelodge motel room for over twenty years. Talk about extended stay! Travelodge in the UK is not the same company as in the US. I’ve never stayed in the UK variant, but for their sake, I hope it’s better than the stateside chain. (via BoingBoing)