Say Hello to My Stretched-Out Friend

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C., Feb. 17, 2017 – The Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner, the third member of the 787 Dreamliner family, made its debut today at Boeing South Carolina. Thousands of employees at the North Charleston, S.C. site celebrated the event. Trump was there too. During his speech he said, “The 787 is a beautiful airplane,” which may be the first time I agree with something he’s said.

Image courtesy Boeing

“What’s happening here at Boeing South Carolina is a true American success story,” said Dennis Muilenburg, Boeing chairman, president and CEO. “In just a few short years, our team has transformed a greenfield site into a modern aerospace production facility that is delivering 787s to airlines all over the world and supporting thousands of U.S. jobs in the process.”

The 787-10, built exclusively at Boeing South Carolina, will now be prepared for its first flight in the coming weeks.

“This airplane, the most efficient in its class, is the result of years of hard work and dedication from our Boeing teammates, suppliers and community partners in South Carolina and across the globe,” said Kevin McAllister, Boeing Commercial Airplanes president and CEO. “We know our customers, including launch customer Singapore Airlines, are going to love what the 787-10 will do for their fleets, and we can’t wait to see them fly it.”

Boeing will deliver the 787-10 to airlines in 2018. The airplane has won 149 orders from nine customers across the globe.

The 787-10, the longest model of the Dreamliner family, will grow the nonstop routes opened by the 787-8 and 787-9 with unprecedented efficiency. As an 18-foot (5.5-m) stretch of the 787-9, the 787-10 will deliver the 787 family’s preferred passenger experience and long range with up to 10 percent better fuel use and emissions than the competition. The 787 Dreamliner family is a key part of Boeing’s twin-aisle strategy, which offers a modern, optimized and efficient airplane family in every market segment. Since entering service in 2011, the 787 family has flown more than 140 million people on 530 routes around the world, saving an estimated 13 billion pounds of fuel.

I’ve flown on both versions of the 787 that are currently flying with airlines. My first 787 flight experience was with British Airways in autumn 2015, of their 787-9 inaugural flight from London Heathrow to Austin, Texas. A couple of weeks later, I flew with Qatar Airways on a 787-8 delivery flight from Seattle to Doha. Both flights were in the front, thank goodness. In economy, when airlines arrange their seats at 9-abreast, it can be quite tight.

In my humble opinion, the 787-10 is the most attractive Dreamliner yet. I’ll hopefully get a close-up look next week when I travel to Charleston, SC for the delivery of Korean Airlines’ first 787-9.


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.

Boutique Air 2

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.

Four Seasons to Open a 5th Resort in Hawaii

If you’re dreaming of a vacation at a Hawaiian resort, you can now book a stay at Four Seasons’ newest Hawaiian resort, the Four Seasons Resort O‘ahu at Ko Olina. Opening on June 1st of next year, the property will be Four Seasons’ fifth resort in Hawaii.

Photo courtesy Four Seasons
Photo courtesy Four Seasons

Nelson Hilton, Senior Director of Marketing said that high demand led to the decision to open reservations nine months in advance. “We’ve had so many inquiries from all over the world asking when the new Four Seasons will open, so we’ve decided to start taking reservations for next year as of today. Even sight unseen and before we’ve revealed any details, the global reputation of Four Seasons in Hawaii has assured travelers that our fifth resort – the first on Oahu – will be nothing short of extraordinary.”

Image courtesy Four Seasons
Image courtesy Four Seasons

Four Seasons Resort O’ahu at Ko Olina boasts 358 rooms and suites, five restaurants, lounges, a spa, tennis club, event spaces for 900 guests,and of course, Hawaii’s white sand beaches. The resort is located on Oahu’s tranquil southwestern coast, away from the busy Waikiki area. Rates start at $595 per night, but eager opportunists can get their fourth night free during an introductory offer. Other Four Seasons resorts in Hawaii are located on Lanai, the Big Island, Lanai-Koele, and Maui.

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.

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.

British Airways 787-9 Will Receive an All-New First Class

First Class on British Airways A380 (image via British Airways)
First Class on British Airways A380 (image via British Airways)

On Monday, British Airways announced the introductory routes and dates for its new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, which is due to arrive in September. BA currently has eight of the 787-8 variant, which is 20 feet shorter. They began service with the airline in 2013.

The first 787-9 routes, in a four-class configuration, will be between London and Delhi, beginning October 25th of this year. Following Delhi, the stretched Dreamliner will fly to Abu Dhabi, Muscat, and Kuala Lumpur. The 787-8s in the BA fleet do not have First Class. BA currently flies the 787-8 from London Heathrow to Austin, Calgary, Chengdu, Chennai, Hyderabad, Montreal, Philadelphia, Seoul and Toronto. However, BA will upgrade Austin service to the 777-200 this fall.

British Airways current First Class Suite. (image via British Airways)
British Airways current First Class Suite. (image via British Airways)

Unfortunately, British Airways did not release any images of what the 787-9 First Class cabin will look like, but they did release some details. The design of the First Class suites is based on customer feedback, with the intent on “putting comfort at the heart of the experience.” Each suite will house four storage areas, including a closet in which to hang suits and jackets, an ottoman for shoes, handbags and personal items, and a thoughtful storage area under your armrest, in which you can store personal electronic devices while they charge. One big improvement will be the large 23-inch fixed touchscreen IFE screens, which will run Panasonic’s eX3 IFE system. Previous suites have pivoting monitors that are required to be stowed during takeoff and landing.

The four classes on board British Airways 787-9 will consist of eight First Class suites arranged 1-2-1 the cabin, 42 Club World (Business Class) seats, 39 World Traveler Plus (Premium Economy) seats, and 127 World Traveler (Economy) Seats. Totaling 216 seats, British Airways’ longer Dreamliner will only hold 2 more passengers than its 787-8 model, which the airline has been flying since 2013. BA has 22 787-9s on order, as well as 12 even larger 787-10s, according to Boeing’s order books.

BA's 787-8 at London Heathrow, 2013. Photo by Paul Thompson
BA’s 787-8 at London Heathrow, 2013. Photo by Paul Thompson

British Airways is also in the process of updating 18 of its workhorse Boeing 747-400s, which will begin returning to service this September with a cabin facelift that will include an Inflight Entertainment upgrade featuring Panasonic’s eX3 system. According to RoutesOnline, these revamped aircraft will be used to serve New York JFK, Chicago, Lagos, Dubai, Boston, Riyadh and Kuwait, with other cities to be added as more planes return from refurbishment.

British Airways Marks 50 Years of Auto Landing Capability

BEA Hawker Trident - Image provided by British Airways
BEA Hawker Trident – Image provided by British Airways

I bet there are a lot of people out there who didn’t even know that some planes are capable of landing themselves. Did you know that? I knew that – but what I only recently learned, was that it has been happening for fifty years! Auto landing fully automates the landing procedure of an aircraft’s flight, under the watchful eye of the pilots, of course. Wikipedia says auto landing was designed to be used in situations where visibility is too poor for a visual approach, usually less than 600 meters Runway Visual Range, though each aircraft has specific operating parameters.

Image provided by British Airways
Image provided by British Airways

Today (June 10th) happens to be the 50th anniversary of the first auto-landing of a commercial airline flight. The act was performed by British European Airways (now British Airways) flight 343, from Paris to London. The aircraft was a Hawker Siddeley Trident 1 (pictured), with Captain Eric Poole at the controls. Captain Poole and BEA’s Chairman, Sir Anthony Milward signed a special certificate for each passenger as a memento of the day (pictured above).

Throughout its history, British Airways has been at the cutting edge of technology and passenger services in the airline industry. In 1952, British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) was the first airline to operate a jet – the De Havilland Comet. BOAC was also the first airline to offer trans Atlantic jet service, with the Comet 4. British Airways is also known for having operated the Concorde, and having installed the world’s first fully flat beds in Business Class.