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.

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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.

Airbus Pod 2

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.

Airbus Pods 3

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.

Long Live the Queens – British Airways Revamped 747s Begin Service

As many of the world’s airlines continue to retire Boeing 747-400s from their fleets, British Airways is flying in the face of their opponents, by giving an extended life to these much-beloved birds. Just over a year after announcing plans to upgrade a set of 747-400 interiors, BA rolled out the first of the planes this week, serving the Heathrow to JFK route.

 Picture by: Stuart Bailey / British Airways
BA’s new Club World on the 747-400. Picture by: Stuart Bailey / British Airways

Other updated 747s will fly from Heathrow to Chicago, Lagos, Dubai, Boston, Riyadh and Kuwait, with other routres to be announced by next summer. What’s new with these old planes? They have received some of the modern accoutrements that are found on their newer siblings in the fleet, the Airbus A380 and Boeing 787. An updated in-flight entertainment system will now feature Panasonic’s Android-based eX3 platform, allowing passengers to operate the system as they would with a familiar tablet device. Entertainment selections will include 1,300 hours of entertainment from which to choose, including over 130 movies, plus 400 TV shows. The modern system will weigh less than its predecessor, which will bring fuel savings.

747 Refresh Ground Trial September 11th 2015 British Airways Picture by: Stuart Bailey / British Airways
Picture by: Stuart Bailey / British Airways

“We know that in-flight entertainment is really important to our customers – being able to relax and watch a film or listen to music helps customers to pass the time enjoyably – so by installing this state-of-the-art equipment we will be able to deliver even more programming on board,” said Richard D’Cruze, British Airways’ in-flight entertainment and technology manager.

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World Traveler Seat on a BA 787 – by Paul Thompson

Why spend a bunch of money to upgrade the same planes that many airline are sending to the scrapyard? “Our customers love our new aircraft, but the 747s hold a special place in their heart, so we’re delighted to have been able to revamp these aircraft. They’ll look and feel like new now, with enhanced comfort, technology and design,” said Kathryn Doyle, British Airways’ aircraft cabin interiors manager.

Keeping the planes flying allows BA to strategically route aircraft of just the right size to match a route. For example, BA began service to Austin, Texas last year with the 787-8, but will be upgrading to the larger 777-200 next month. In Denver, BA switched from the 777-200 to the (non-upgraded) 747-400. On Tuesday, BA announced that in San Diego, the 777-200 will soon be replaced by the four class 777-300.

BA 747-400 (image by British Airways)
BA 747-400 (image by British Airways)

The 747 first entered service in 1970, with Pan American Airways, making international flights affordable to the masses, by dramatically lowering operating costs. British Airways website says the airline currently has 42 747-400s in the fleet, which makes it reasonable to draw the conclusion that the 24 non-updated 747s will be retired sooner than later.

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.