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It's not too often that New York finds itself envious of Los Angeles, but in the case of VIP airport check-in lanes, LAX has it good. That is, had it good, since New York-JFK just opened an American Airlines Flagship Check-in on May 1.
If you're wondering where it is celebrities and other First Class flyers disappear to after the paparazzi have chased from the curbs at airports, it's lanes like this. The Flagship Check-in is a private zone for First Class and ultra-elite flyers, dedicated to the pre-security tasks of checking in, choosing seats, last-minute itinerary changes, and checking luggage with as little of the usual airport fracas as possible.
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There's been some big, exciting news in the aviation world, and some bankruptcies and some mergers that cross the lines of traditional airline alliances. These shake-ups will redraw alliance lines and might affect your ability to earn and burn frequent flyer miles to your dream destination. Let's discuss Oneworld since the recent American and US Airways merger will mean the most for US-based travelers.
We already know that the New American will be sticking with Oneworld, which means the inevitable departure of US Airways from Star Alliance. In general, this doesn't open up a wealth of new US destinations, but it actually expands an already thorough South American network and opens a few new European cities to Oneworld.
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Flying Cathay Pacific or Dragonair in Business or First Class to Hong Kong? Lucky you, not just because you'll be kicking back in bigger seats on what is a very long flight, but you're heading for one of our absolute favorite places in the entire world. Sure, Hong Kong is excellent, but we're talking about the airport itself!
Cathay Pacific, being the flag carrier and largest airline at HKG, takes huge pride in their elite lounges. Airside, we've already toured you through the premium playgrounds that are The Wing, The Cabin and The Pier, but there's also one sweet little secret lurking on the lower level of the arrival hall, outside security. It's simply called "The Arrival."
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The announcement everyone expected came this morning, Valentine's Day, as American and US declared their love for each other and decided to make two become one. The merger will take some time, of course, but a few facts are clear right now:
· The name and branding of the merger airline will say American Airlines, falling right now under their #newAmerican campaign
· The CEO will be Doug Parker, current CEO of US Airways. American's CEO Tom Horton will become Chairman of the Board of the airline.
· The combined operating certificate is expected for the third quarter of 2013
· Once everything is said and done, the new American Airlnes will be the largest airline in the world by passenger volume and fleet size, though United will still beat them by sheer number of destinations served (United's around
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You're at Los Angeles International AIrport and preparing to wing your way to another continent and you'll be spending those in-air hours in either Business or First Class. First off, that sounds like you planned an excellent tripcongratulations. Second, you'll want to hit up the lounge for a last-minute tipple or email check, and if you're traveling on a Oneworld alliance airline (like Qantas, LAN, Cathay Pacific, British Airways and Japan Airlines), then the lounge for you is on Level 5 of the Tom Bradley International Terminal.
As it's a combined lounge, the amenities here are generic but plentiful. This means more than 10 shiny Mac desktops, a long buffet bar with both and hot and cold food options, two extensive self-serve beverage areas plus a full bar with bartender, private shower rooms, and plenty of modern, comfy chairs nearby power outlets. The design isn't exactly revolutionary or even notable, but it is clean, modern and spacious.
We knew it was happening, but now it’s official. Your travels around the world have just gotten a little bit easier, as Malaysia Airlines is now the newest member of the oneworld global airline alliance. They’re joining buddies like American Airlines, British Airways, Qantas, and Cathay Pacific—along with plenty of others. Plenty of stuff will remain pretty much business as usual now that Malaysia Airlines has found a new family, but there’s also a few changes that will improve the way you get around.
One of the newest things we find most useful is the ability to burn frequent flyer miles on Malaysia Airlines flights. All those flights on American Airlines to spots like Dallas-Ft. Worth and Chicago just got more valuable, as they’ll now jet you all the way over to Kuala Lumpur. From the United States options are somewhat limited, but redeemable flights exist out of Los Angeles International Airport to both Kuala Lumpur and Tokyo. After that you’re in Malaysia, so your options to travel even farther are plentiful.
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"Becoming a new American."
These are the first words you'll see over at American Airlines' flashy new website detailing their just-announced rebranding. But happens when one becomes a "new American?" For a person, it involves lots of study, a citizenship test and an official swearing-in ceremony with an oath of loyalty. For an airline, it's as simple as updating a logo. Or not so simple.
This rebranding for American represents the stride of a multi-million dollar effort to give the airline a new life via a fresh look, new onboard products, new airplanes, and new hope following the bankruptcy of 2011 and the shadow that cast over all of 2012. In this case, today's unveiling is more a re-christening than a swearing-in.
In American's own words, this massive move to rebrand and the new look "symbolizes our passion for progress and the spirit that is uniquely American."
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L to R: Horton, Al Baker, Walsh, Ashby
Earlier today, in a small event room in the middle of Midtown Manhattan, four men sat down in front of four microphones. TheyTom Horton (CEO American Airlines), Akbar Al Baker (CEO Qatar Airways), Willie Walsh (CEO of IAG, parent company of British Airways and Iberia) and Bruce Ashby (CEO Oneworld Alliance)represented their respective airlines but also sat there as heads of companies responsible for billions of dollars in the travel sector and millions of flyers in the air. And they'd come together to get even closer to one another, by inviting Qatar Airways to join the Oneworld Alliance.
Guess what? Qatar Airways accepted the invitation.
From here it'll take another 12-18 months until Qatar completes integration into Oneworld, but now's the time to start smirking at the potential benefits. Yeah, you're probably like, "why should I care?" Well, just think that next time you book a long-haul flight with American Airlines and it has a stopover in Doha, you could actually be walking onto a Qatar Airways plane (ooo maybe even a 787!) with Qatari crew and Qatar's 5-star service and then you'll be googling to see when all this happened while being very glad it did.
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The ins and outs of the major airline alliances can read like a script of your favorite (or not-so favorite) soap opera. Regardless, whichever alliance to which you pledge allegiance, each has its own bit of news in 2012.
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Not everybody can fly in Business Class, and that goes double-time for First Class, so with all this year's announcements of new business class seats, we're thrilled to find that an airline has slipped an Economy Class upgrade into the mix. That airline is Cathay Pacific and you should know that the new seats in economy are going to make a heck of a difference. Why? Because they are totally different from the old design andhere's the kickeryou'll have to sit in them for over 13 hours on Cathay's longest routes, so you better like 'em.
The old seats, for those who haven't had the blessing of sitting through a 17-hour flight in them, had a fixed back which meant that while no one was reclining into your lap, you essentially slide down to recline. The pressure was on what we fondly call "the butt bone," and you could kiss feeling in your bottom goodbye for half the flight.
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Premium Economy is hot, there's no doubt about that. It feels like almost every international airline is widening the seats, adding extra garnishes to the in-flight meals and cooing about deeper reclines for passengers willing to pay more than economy, but not so much as business class.
The latest airline to join the Premium party, Cathay Pacific, is also the one where ponying up the extra cash for extra cushion may make the most sense; the flight from New York to Hong Kong is a whopping 16 hours, after all.
Well we've flown it many times, mostly in Economy but also in Business and, now, in Premium Economy. Want to try it out yourself? ENTER HERE, into our contest to win a roundtrip (valued at $4,000) from the US or Canada to Hong Kong, in Cathay's new Premium Economy class.
Now, let's get down to the nitty-gritty:
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For a recent trip to Germany, we flew from New York-JFK to Berlin-Tegel on Air Berlin. We were intrigued by the underdog airline from the jump. In the past we’ve seen some good fares from the carrier, and now, with AB joining the oneworld Alliance in March 2012, we were curious to see if it indeed belonged with the Big Boys. But after this experience we’re now wondering, is Air Berlin really still just a budget long-haul airline?
The Company Line: Air Berlin, Germany’s second largest airline, is trying to compete with Lufthansa for business with its 7.9 million customers. Their official literature states the airline is “clearly” number one in Berlin. We’re still blinking back the shock on that ditty. And wonder if Lufthansa is really worried.
Most Likeable: The Crew. Not to be pervy, but on our flights from JFK to Berlin and back, we were dazzled by the young, handsome male flight attendants’ spiky-shiny hair and buff bods. They’re sexy and maybe they know it? We liked their willingness to OD on official Air Berlin gear, from wings down to the apparently unisex thin red-belt for their sleek trousers. The women were sharp too, rocking black and red complete with vampy lipstick. Nonetheless, we didn’t see anyone pre- or post-flight wearing the chic red leather gloves shown as part of AB’s official flight crew uniform. Dangit.