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We've got good news and bad news to share from the Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) this week, in Hamburg, Germany.
First, let's get the bad news out of the way. Airbus showed off a new seating option for airlines to try in their A380s: 11-across in economy class. That means 11 seats in one aisle, arranged 3-5-3, with so many middle seats it'll make your head spin.
The good news is that no airline has ordered the 11-across layout (yet), so it's safe to say this isn't something you need to worry about encountering when trying to chose a seat on your next superjumbo flight.
The real issue the general press is failing to understand with this configuration isn't the how-horrible factor of being faced with more middle seats, but how nasty all of a sudden the window seats become.
You know that moment when you're deep into a long-distance journey and you just cannot get comfortable enough to sleep? And you'd do just about, or pay just about anything for some sort of bed, or sleep support for even a few hours of life-rewewing sleep? Well, Boeing may have a little something for you.
GeekWire touches on the company's newest patent (issued March 24), one which would "solve the common problem of trying to sleep hunched over to the side or straight up." The solution? An all-too-simple addition of a "backpack-like" device which snaps into your seat and provides a front support for a passenger's head and chest, to allow for a forward leaning sleeping position.
Naturally it has a super fun name, too: "Transport Vehicle Upright Sleep Support System."
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This is the week! From January 15, the brand-spanking-new Airbus A350 begins regular commercial flights and welcomes passengers to the enjoy everything Airbus has been working on since 2004.
As far its place within the range of the newest aircraft out there, the A350-900 is larger than a 787-800, smaller than an A380, and due to replace the A330 for some of the airlines adding it to their fleets. It costs $295 million each, and there's some 700 orders on the books for the plane. With those numbers, more and more travelers will soon find themselves walking down the jetway to board a plane they've never before experienced.
And what an experience. Thanks to technology, modern materials, and a refreshing re-focus on passenger comfort, the Airbus A350 is about to silence many of the most common complaints in air travel. Here are just a few:
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It's not every day that an airline welcomes an airplane so new that no one else has it yet. That was, however, the case this week as Qatar Airways celebrated the arrival of the first Airbus A350. Come next week, anyone can fly on the plane and, with over 700 orders for the aircraft (80 just from Qatar Airways), this will hardly be the last you'll hear of it.
Why is Qatar Airways’ A350 so special? Put quite simply, the airline has it first. The A350 rolled off the runway at Airbus’ Toulouse factory to land at Doha and begin its service, as Qatar Airways is the “Global Launch Customer” for the type; they’re debuting the plane, setting the bar, and offering an experience unavailable anywhere else.
In addition to its body of advanced materials and engines that are the cleanest yet, the Airbus A350 also brings onboard humidification systems (no more dry eyes and skin!), an air management system that filters the entire cabin of air every 2-3 minutes, improved cabin temperature levels (no more “too hot” or “too cold”), and seats designed specifically for Qatar Airways and their heightened standards for both luxury and comfort.
Speaking of the seats...
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Instead of a cosmetic rebrand, Alaska Airlines is investing millions to update their entire in-flight experience with huge benefits for the economy traveler.
Alaska Beyond begins rolling out across Alaska Airlines' 737 fleet from today through 2015, and it consists of several updates:
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Did you hear the latest news from the folks over at Delta? We did, and it’s a little confusing. We’re here to help, of course, and we’ll do our best to explain it.
For the most part the airline is just throwing a little marketing spin and some new seating surfaces to already existing options, but here’s what you can expect from their different cabins classes beginning on March 1, 2015:
So "Delta One" is actually just their BusinessElite cabin by another name. Think of it as first class on the good routes, namely international flights and those primetime transcontinental flights—like New York to Los Angeles. "Delta One" means access to the Delta Sky Club, amenity kits, noise-reduction headsets, and lie-flat seating options.
Thankfully, America is finally having long overdue, tough conversations that bridge the gap between those who recline their airplane seats and those who (rightfully, IMO) shun them. But let’s not allow these discussions to distract us from another important issue:
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What a week for Southwest Airlines! Yesterday, the only other airline than Southwest who doesn't charge a fee for your first checked bagJetBlueannounced that they would indeed begin charging fees on checked bags.
Bummer for JetBlue, as the change will be introduced at some point in 2015 along with new airfare tiers of service, but a boon for Southwest, who now claims the title of "the only airline where bags fly free."
Still, JetBlue flyers have no need to panic just yet. The baggage fees haven't yet been detailed with pricing (although industry standard is $25 for the first bag), the new fare tiers haven't been announced, and none of these changes will happen until some point in 2015.
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Last week some great news for Economy passengers arrived from Down Under, as Qantas' introduced new meals for those flying in the back of the plane.
The Red Roo's overhauled menu includes more choices for in-flight grub via their Select on Q pre-order system, now with 50% larger meals and even special treats like ice cream snacks and a welcome drink. Meals not only do away with trays and feature more destination-based items (like BBQ beef sliders to North America and and full English breakfast to the UK), but they'll even surprise with items like a bread roll already infused with butter to eliminate buttery finger fumbling.
“This isn’t rocket science,” said just about everyone who has ever waited an interminably long time to board a plane.
It’s not. Astrophysics on the other hand, might help.
At least if you trust Jason Steffen, an astrophysicist at Northwestern University, who thinks that he has come up with the #flawless, fastest way to get airplane passengers boarded. “Wired” magazine just detailed Steffen’s system, which he developed several years ago — though it continues to fall on deaf ears. Steffen says that while the traditional back-to-front order of operations makes sense on its face, it fails to account for the fact that bottlenecks will still occur as passengers try to hoist their bags into overheads at the same time.
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"OMG, you're going to have such a great time" isn't the typical response to someone saying they're about to spend over 14 hours on a plane...in Economy.
Alack and alas, we find ourselves reacting in this way when said travel involves flying Cathay Pacific.
Since Cathay Pacific is based in Hong Kong, a "Special Administrative Region" under China and only 426 square miles in size, it has no domestic flights. Every flight from Hong Kong International Airport is truly international, and thus Cathay is an airline completely equipped for long-haul travel, with a fleet of all wide-body aircraft. On top of that, Cathay only introduced their new Economy seats in 2012, so the interiors aren't as tired as you may have come to expect from long-haul aircraft.
While other airlines may offer some of these perks, it's Cathay's particular ratio of comfort to friendliness that may help travelers be least anxious about spending a 14-16 hour nonstop in coach.
How Cathay Pacific makes Economy Class special:
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The folks over at Air New Zealand are pretty darn excited to offer up some cool seats on their newest non-stop 777-300 service between Auckland and San Francisco, and they're about to brag all over the Bay City.
Service between the cities isn't actually new, but the airline used to fly Boeing 747s on it. Now that those big birds have been retired from their fleet, the 777 is doing the heavy lifting. With this aircraft switch comes a new and improved cabin for the 12-hour flight, finally including those futuristic SpaceSeats in premium economy and the comfy SkyCouch in economy.