New Delta Interior is Attractive, Roomy, and Confusing

Immediately upon boarding my Delta Air Lines flight from New York’s JFK Airport to Denver, I noticed some very different and appealing changes. First, I noticed the 12-year old Airbus A319 had new overhead stow bins, hanging down low and allowing far more capacity than I’ve seen on a narrow-body airliner before. Inside each bin, there is an instructive graphic, telling passengers to turn their bags onto their sides, allowing optimal room for up to sixty percent more bags, according to Delta. Not everyone got the message, however, as many bags were still placed in the bins width-wise. And although the Delta gate agent had advertised the fact that the flight was full and solicited volunteers for complimentary gate checks, there was still ample storage in several bins for additional bags.

New passenger service unit (PSU) on Delta's A319
New passenger service unit (PSU) on Delta’s A319

The Passenger Service Unit is a big improvement, aesthetically. With cabin lights on, the portion of the PSU against the ceiling glows a pleasant blue, thanks to its surrounding LED lights. But unfortunately, the new design is proving challenging. After the cabin lights were dimmed, there were at least a dozen inadvertent presses of the Flight Attendant call light, as passengers searched for the buttons to turn on their reading lights. The reading lights have a lightbulb icon, just above the black button which turns the light on. The button is quite difficult to see in an otherwise dark cabin. When the call button is pressed, the surrounding LED glows orange. The PSU also features a blue glowing Wi-Fi icon that appears above 10,000 feet. 

New overhead bins in Delta's A319 are HUGE! (Image via Delta)
New overhead bins in Delta’s A319 are HUGE! (Image via Delta)

The cabin is configured with 132 total seats, including 12 first class, 18 Comfort Plus, and 102 slimline main cabin seats. Each seat has Panasonic In-flight Entertainment, including movies (priced from free to $6), TV shows ($1), music, games, fleet information and flight tracking. Each row also has two power outlets. Kids’ movies are free, which is a huge plus for parents. Headsets can be purchased for $2. Inflight Wi-Fi is provided by Gogo and can be purchased.

Panasonic IFE screen on Delta's refurbished A319
Panasonic IFE screen on Delta’s refurbished A319

Zodiac Aerospace designed the updated new galleys, seats and PSU. The first A319 to receive the upgrade rolled out in late July. Retrofit of the A319 and A320 fleet is expected to continue until summer, 2017.

Sky Fight! Boutique Air vs. Vegas McCarran Airport

Part 135 operator Boutique Air has thrown down the gauntlet before McCarran Airport in Las Vegas, by publicizing a feud over Boutique’s desire to operate scheduled service into McCarran. In an open-letter email from Boutique Air CEO Shawn Simpson to Clark County Director of Aviation Rosemary A. Vassiliadis, Simpson says the airport (LAS) is being downright discriminatory.

Boutique Air had planned to begin service from Merced, California to LAS on Sunday, November 1st, but there is currently no flight schedule on their website. The airport states that Boutique many only fly sterile operations into LAS, at Terminal 1. The airline wished to operate non-sterile flights, into a FBO.

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In his letter, Simpson points out, “We have never encountered any resistance by any airport in conducting scheduled service between smaller communities with larger hubs, until now…The problem is that it is not the place of a public airport funded by federal tax dollars, to tell an airline what type of operations they are willing to accept. It is the duty of a public airport to accommodate all operations that are safe and do not disrupt the normal operation of the airport.  Somehow none of the other airports where we conduct non-sterile operations [including DFW and ABQ] have a problem with us. In fact, they welcome us.”

Simpson also notes that McCarran has been the recipient of federal Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grants for runway and taxiway refurbishment for the past five years, amounting to over $109 Million. The reception of AIP grant money prohibits LAS from being discriminatory with its policies, but Simpson alleges that because the customers from Merced would be mostly Hispanic, that they’re being shut out: “What I am hearing though, is that the largely Hispanic community of the Central Valley will not be allowed to fly into McCarran via Merced because Boutique Air is not allowed to come in non-sterile.” Simpson goes on to day that Boutique is on the verge of serving the Native American community of Gallup, New Mexico, where they would potentially want to offer flights to LAS.

McCarran accepts the non-sterile operation of dozens of private jets each day, to and from FBOs, but the scheduled operation of Boutique’s single-engine Pilatus PC-12s is for some reason forbidden, other than being “against airport policy.” The latest response from LAS told Boutique Air that if they want to offer non-sterile flights to Vegas, perhaps they should use North Las Vegas Airport. A win for Boutique Air in Las Vegas would be a win for the air travel consumer.

Airbus Looks to Introduce “I Just Want to Sleep” Class

Beds on planes are not a new concept, with airlines such as Etihad and Singapore offering lavish accommodations in their first class suites. But with a new patent application filed yesterday, Airbus is now looking to develop a new, stacked, pod-like arrangement, similar to those seen in some international airports.

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In the drawings, we see a 3-3-3 economy seating configuration, which is common to the A380 and A350 – both of which are used for long haul international flights, where people would like to get some quality sleep. The application says these beds would be safe to occupy during taxi, takeoff, and landing. Therefore, the passenger would not need to purchase or occupy an additional seat. With a cross section of just over 31 by 31 inches, the pods would be arranged so that the passenger would lay perpendicular to the direction of flight, with their head toward the outer wall of the aircraft. The box would be made of plastic or fiber-reinforced plastic, keeping the weight of the equipment relatively light.

For safety purposes, the pod would be equipped with an inflatable air bag system to protect the passenger in the event of a crash, but would only be 5-10cm thick, so as not to impede evacuation of the aircraft. The inflation would be triggered automatically by sensors. The space would also be void of any edges and corners on which passengers could potentially injure themselves. A passenger service unit (PSU) would be installed, and would include an emergency oxygen mask, a speaker, an air conditioning vent, and a lamp. A flat-screened video monitor could be provided for in-flight entertainment and safety videos, which would drop down from the ceiling. These would of course need to be stowed during takeoff and landing. Speaking of video, Airbus also recommends a small camera be installed so that flight attendants can monitor the passenger during the flight.

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Even in the most comfortable lie-flat business class seats, you can still be disturbed by conversation, galley preparation, light from windows, and even the footsteps of people in the aisle. The notion of being surrounded by four walls does have its appeal, not only for privacy, but for quality of sleep. So, what do you think? I think it’s a great concept, and I would imagine it could be pretty comfortable, except for perhaps taking your meals. And for someone who has never gotten a good night’s sleep on a plane, I think this concept would finally provide a way for that to be achieved.

Watch Air France install their new La Premiere cabin

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Air France began installing these gorgeous new private La Premiere Business Class suites on their Boeing 777 fleet last summer. Notice the privacy curtains on each side… I think this is great, and adds a touch of elegance over the bulky, motorized partitions we usually see with seats similar to this.

Each 777 will get four La Premiere suites. Each suite features a 30-inch wide seat that folds out into a 6′ 5″ long bed. While the seat is upright, you can be joined by a guest in your suite, who can sit on an ottoman, and even join you for a meal at a table which can be installed.

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For entertainment, hundreds of on-demand video and music choices are at your fingertips, which you’ll enjoy on a 24-inch screen.

I’m a big fan of the lighter color motif. The light grey fabric and light tan leather accents make the space feel more vibrant in comparison to the standard dark wood and brushed nickel accents we are used to seeing lately.

Photos courtesy Air France

Inside the NEW Dallas Love Field

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The security checkpoint at Dallas Love Field features a gorgeous ceramic tile mosaic mural called North Texas Sunrise by artist Dixie Friend Gay

DALLAS – On Tuesday, April 16th, the City of Dallas will open the second phase of the modernized Dallas Love Field Airport (DAL).

Phase One was completed in November, 2012 with the opening of the new ticket counter, curbside arrival/dropoff area, and security checkpoint.

Phase Two will open with the addition of the new passenger terminal, which will feature new gates and passenger lounges, shops and restaurants. Below is a series of photos (shot by myself) to provide a peek at the marvelous modern terminal.

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The escalator will take passengers up to their gates once they have passed through the security checkpoint.
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“Blueprint of Flight” greets passengers after coming off the escalator into the new main terminal at DAL. The art is by Martin Dolan.

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A typical gate area in the new terminal at DAL. This is one of 16 that will be used by Southwest Airlines. The floor-to-ceiling windows will provide great views of arriving and departing flights on runways 13L/31R.
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Panoramic shot of Gates 1-5 inside the new Dallas Love Field passenger terminal.
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Wonderful news – the chairs feature LOTS of electric outlets! Almost one per seat!
An up-close look at the new Customer Service desks you’ll see Southwest Airlines using at Love Field.
Restroom fixtures and decor inside one of the restrooms at the new Dallas Love Field passenger terminal.
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“One Riot, One Ranger” is a bronze statue by Waldine Amanda Tauch that has made its home at Love Field since 1960. He was removed during construction of the new facilities, but returned to the airport in March, 2013.
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This wire sculpture full of planes and birds encircles the food court in the new Dallas Love Field passenger terminal.

The terminal will also feature several shops and restaurants that are new to the airport or moving to the new facility. Among them: Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks, Whataburger, Manchu Wok, Moe’s Southwest Grill, Dickey’s BBQ, Cool River Cafe, La Madeline, and Sky Canyon by Stephan Pyles

Southwest Airlines Unveils Evolution of its Aircraft Interior

DALLAS, TX – Southwest Airlines has unveiled a refresh of the cabin interior for its Boeing 737 fleet, that the airline is calling “Evolve.” The make-over includes a number of changes, including new seats, carpet and bulkhead decor. (pictured below)

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When walking on board, customers will notice changes to the seats, in particular. First, the “saddle tan” leather of the older seats has been exchanged for a lighter, sand-colored tan. The seat covers are made from “E-Leather” which has been tested for over two years on Southwest’s flying “Green Plane” testbed. Travelers will also notice the shape of the new head rest is contoured for more rest and comfort. Southwest Marketing Manager Angela Vargo mentioned that the new seats are slightly thinner (in depth not width) and lower to the floor, noting “Depending how you sit in your seat, you’ll have up to an extra inch of personal space.” As we all know, every inch matters when it comes to personal comfort on a plane. The thinner seat profile has also allowed Southwest to add 6 seats to the 737-300 and 737-700 aircraft configurations. They will be upgraded from 137 to 143 seats, without any sacrifices in leg room. In addition, the capacity adjustment will help Southwest’s bottom line in the form of potential extra revenue and reduced operating cost per seat mile, along with a weight savings of over 600 pounds per aircraft.

The cabin’s former blue carpeting has been replaced by patterned grey recyclable InterfaceFLOR carpet. This new carpet has also been tested since 2009 while flying around on the “Green Plane.” It is interesting to note that this carpet is installed in squares of two sizes, versus the custom cut sections formerly used on the 737. This saves on having to replace large sections when a small area is worn out or stained, and can be done with the seats still installed, which in turn saves on labor costs for the airline, and reduces out of service time for the aircraft. When a section of the new carpet needs replacement, it is returned to the manufacturer, where it is re-engineered is a process that is completely carbon neutral.

Once seated, customers will notice a few other aesthetic changes, such as new brushed aluminum tray table locks that now click into place, and should help prevent the unwelcome tray collapse into your lap. The seatback pockets are now a mesh, allowing you to see the pocket’s contents. This could be especially advantageous to those who might be prone to forgetting their phones, books, ear buds or tablet computers when getting off the plane. The forward and rear bulkheads have also received a new design, with a dark leather-like texture, highlighted by an update of Southwest’s winged heart logo.

It doesn’t take too much guessing to realize that this is how Southwest’s new 737-800s will look on the inside once they start to arrive in March, aside from the “Boeing Sky Interior” updates to the overhead bins, window bevels and lighting systems. In comparison to the Spirit interior (2001-2012), the new interior features more muted colors, giving it a more refined and business-like feel. Overall, this is a stylish and welcome update to the brand Southwest has presented to travelers for over 40 years.

This aircraft, N935WN, goes into service this month, while the airline plans to begin fitting one aircraft per night with the new interior starting in March of this year.