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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:
New Airplanes / Airbus / A350 / A350-900 / Qatar A350 / Qatar Airways / Qatar Travel / Doha Travel / DOH / Travel Tech / Seats / Economy Class Travel / Business Class Travel / Photo Gallery / → All Tags
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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3.5 million people looked at photos of Emirates First Class this week and it's all thanks to Paris Hilton.
Jetting through Miami, Dubai, India, and Los Angeles to play DJ gigs and make appearances in support of her eponymous fashion and fragrance lines this week, Hilton alleviated her in-flight boredom by planning her next photo op. Five times over the course of these travels she managed to post Instagram photos of herself enjoying the comfort of the premium class, and she's quickly becoming a champion for the airline, whether official or not.
Paris has made a habit of documenting her travels via Instagram, posing in her First Class seats when she flies commercial or opting for a full vogue next to the plane when flying private.
These images are immediately shared with her legion of followers, and average over 40,000 "likes" each. Her followers may not be subscribers of Robb Report, but they are young and impressionable, and images of aspirational travel are both memorable and an easy "like."
Considering a single tweet of hers praising the airline in 2009 (to only ~200,000 followers at the time) was valued at $1.5 million five years ago, we shudder to think of a possible valuation for her recent Instagrams, of which there have been five in one week (one a video tour of the First Class cabin).
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Be sure to stretch out those legs before hopping between islands on your next trip over to Hawaii, as Hawaiian Airlines is changing up the seating structure on the planes serving the inter island routes.
In the trend of most other airlines, Hawaiian Airlines is ordering up slimline seats, and as a result they’re hoping to squeeze in about 10 more passengers per plane. The thinner cushions should allow up to 128 passengers per jet—aboard the Boeing 717s—if you’re keeping count.
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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"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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We have seen all kinds of innovations and improvements when it comes to the wild, wild world of business class; however, one thing that seems to be overlooked is true comfort from gate to gate. No, we’re not talking about keeping the champagne flowing from takeoff to touchdown with a side of mixed nuts, but rather the ability to keep that seat reclined no matter what stage of the flight.
Qantas is looking to change that, as the kangaroo carrier is in the final stages of introducing a business class seat that would allow sleeping comfort from boarding to departing. It sounds like regulatory approval and associated paperwork are the final steps in the process, but soon sleep can be yours from the moment you sit down to the second before you step off into the jet bridge at your destination.
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If there's one question we've heard over and over since the launch of JetBlue's Mint premium class earlier this year, it's "when will it fly to San Francisco?"
The answer arrived this last Sunday, literally, in the form of a JetBlue A321. This milestone marks the beginning of regular Mint service between JFK and SFO, which comes in addition to the original route of JFK-LAX begun in June.
Mint seats start at $599 each way, and include custom extras specifically for JetBlue Mint passengers. These include a full, hot meal from NYC's Saxon + Parole, a special customer service line, an amenity kit by Birchbox, a comfy pillow and duvet, and a fully flat bed for optimum nappage.
To book Mint between JFK and LAX or JFK and SFO, simply search your preferred dates on JetBlue.com and look for the green column of Mint fares.
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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.
The legroom debate is hardly new; did you know, for example, that it's already been a whole four years since Spirit Airlines did away with reclining seats altogether?
It's true and it's sad, but reducing legroom and recline is a route being taken by more airlines as passengers seek lower fares in times of higher fuel prices, and airline still want to make a buck at the end of the day. Cue arguments around the use of Knee Defenders and a need for informational websites like RouteHappy.
Standard economy seats on United
Three times this week have flights been disturbed by passenger fights over the right to recline, and three times this week have the situations proved petty. Alas, it's a hot topic and the details of that initial confrontation (which was so bad as to divert the plane) continue to leak.
Our friend Scott Mayerowitz of the Associated Press spoke with Mr. James Beach, better know to the internet as "Knee Defender Man," who, though repentant for some of his actions once the issue escalated, states that he still plans to use the Knee Defenders on future flights.
The article manages to tell a clearer story of what exactly happened in that United flight from Newark to Denver, which diverted to Chicago because of the argument. It's well worth a read, especially as Mr. Beach's explanations only serve to dig his hole deeper. Take, for example, this: