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Ever heard of the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line? We're guessing probably not, but the Smithsonian sure has; the seaplane carrier is classified as the world's first airline, which inaugurated commercial air service in 1914 when it took off with one paying passenger. It may have been a short journey (only 23 minutes!), but the Airboat Line's impact extends to today as commercial aviation has become a $2.2 trillion dollar industry, employing over 57 million people.
In 2014, the world celebrates 100 years of commercial air travel, but that's not all.
In this last century, airlines and airplanes have evolved into a fact of everyday life for travelers, and some of the pioneering companies will mark milestones this year. Here's who to wish "happy anniversary":
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What you see above is the original Qantas “Skybed,” the angled flat seats which are still found on the airline’s Airbus A330s and which we experienced on a recent flight from Bangkok to Sydney. They wont be around for much longer though, as an improved business class seatfully flat, and all seats with aisle accessis being rolled out from the end of this year.
While we had a pretty good flight on this overnight sector, and spent most of it stretched out in our window seat trying to get some sleep, we’ll be looking forward to the refurb for a number of reasons. We’ll give you a quick rundown of what things are like today, and what you can expect going forward:
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Earlier this month, we were spending a few early morning hours at Sydney Kingsford Smith International Airport in the (pretty fabulous) Qantas First Class Lounge, which aside from rather swank surroundings comes with great views of the apron and city.
Sitting in one of the window-facing seats, watching aircraft taxiing here and there, we spotted an Airbus A340-600 being towed away with the Sydney skyline in the distance. At first, we didn’t think much of it among the rest of the aircraft movements, only realizing when we focused on the branding that we were in fact watching something a little more significant; this was one of the very last Virgin Atlantic aircraft to touch Australian soil, as the service from London discontinued just a few days later.
As we round a week of chronicling the world's longest and shortest flights on the newest and most notable planes on the planet, it only makes sense to highlight which route is lengthiest for the whale of the skies, Airbus' A380. Some of these aircraft have showers for first class passengers, in-flight duty-free shops, and wider cabins for a bit more space to make spending multiple hours on the aircraft a whole lot more enjoyable.
Emirates is two-for-two on these top spots with their regular A380 service from Dubai to Los Angeles. EK 215 spends about 16 hours, 35 minutes making the 8,339 mile trek around the globe, which gives ample time to experience the world-class service for which Emirates is well known.
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This week we've been covering off the world's shortest and longest flights on one of the most exciting aircraft out there, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Thus, it's time to switch it up and have a look at some superlatives for the Airbus A380.
The Airbus double-decker is a superjumbo which can fly up to 853 passengers in an all-economy class configuration. Usually these planes are outfitted with several classes, and carry around 525 passengers, but airlines like Korean Air only pack in 407 travelers. With these kind of seat numbers, the A380 is usually reserved for long-haul flights to increase efficiency, but there are a few short hops for the massive plane.
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We heard that Transaero had some plans for their Airbus A380s, and now it sounds like we’re in for a real treat. The carrier that does its thing to and from Russia is planning on packing the double-decker aircraft, and it might just take the title for the world’s largest passenger plane—when counting the number of travelers stuck in the seats.
Plans call for cramming 652 seats aboard these Airbus A380s, and we can only imagine that’s going to limit our legroom and seat recline. These big birds are set to join the airline’s fleet at some point in 2015, so you’ll have plenty of time to stretch and prepare before taking to the skies.
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The very first A380s will be arriving soon aboard a carrier in Japan, as Skymark Airlines is getting ready to take some of these big birds high into the skies. The very first test flights sporting their livery and look just took off, and it will be later this year when the planes will be first packed, or not so packed, with people.
Things will be a little different for these planes when Skymark Airlines climbs into the cockpit, and we’re not talking about their plans for the uniforms of their flight attendants. These A380s won’t have any traditional economy seats at all. The carrier plans to load the double-decker with premium economy and business class seats only, so get ready to stretch those legs.
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Remember when McDonalds Happy Meals actually had some great toys inside? Heck, some series were even considered “collectible.” Those days disappeared with the arrival of plastic Bratz figurines and Furbies, but quality surprise toys can still be found, across the ocean, inside chocolate Kinder “Surprise" Eggs.
Every so often, Kinder released a special “traveller edition” pack of its most popular treat, the hollow eggs made of milk and white chocolate. A tiny plastic capsule inside the shell always contains some cute little knickknack, and right now those surprises are Airbus A330 aircraft models.
Last week another Airbus A350 XWB—that’s a mouthful—rolled off the assembly line, as the airplane manufacturer moves forward with the latest and greatest from its most recent line of jets.
This is airplane number three, and it’s designed for all the testing required before a plane like this can take to the skies packed with passengers. The folks over at Airbus refer to this one as MSN2, and what makes it a little more unique and design forward from its plane siblings is its paint-job. This one has a special livery to reflect the carbon-fiber composite materials that are utilized as part of the construction of the new bird.
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Six hours is an incredibly long time to be sitting on a domestic flight. To a frequent flyer, that stretch from New York to LA or SF means lost hours of work and sleep. To an infrequent traveler, it's an interminable wait only made bearable by the promise of eventually getting off the thing.
Why does transcontinental travel suck so hard? The problem: old airplanes, with old seats and old technology. The solution: new airplanes, with new seats and new technology. Please welcome American Airlines' fresh and fighting Airbus A321s to the skies.
For travelers who've experienced American's current transcontinental service onboard the achy-breaky old 767-200s, the new A321s will be a revelation. No doubt; we fully expect passengers to board these aircraft and think "hallelujah, this is going to be a great flight," no matter the class.
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The king is dead, long live the king!
Just before dawn across the world at Singapore-Changi Airport, an Airbus A340-500 touched down and taxied to its gate. The passengers filed off, followed by the flight crew, and there was no fanfare for this last arrival of the longest flight in the world.
At nearly 18 hours and 9,500 miles, Singapore Airlines' SQ 21/22 between Newark and Singapore was a monster of a nonstop which only accommodated 100 travelers in all-Business Class comfort. All good things must come to an end, however, and Singapore dropped the route in order to trade in the old, gas-guzzling, four-engine A345s for some shiny and efficient A350s to come.
It's a smart move, but a sad one regardless. Singapore 21/22 will live on through the stories of those who flew it, and we're proud to add our hour-by-hour account to the aviation history books.
Moving on, another flight route must now ascend to the throne and claim the title of "longest flight in the world." For that, look no further than Texas.
We’re not quite in love with the latest airplane from the folks over at Airbus just yet, but that’s because we’re just getting our first peek of what it has to offer—let’s just say we’re still getting to know one another. However, our fondness has begun to blossom, as another A350-900 recently finished one of its first flights.
This is actually plane number two that has rolled off the assembly line, as this plane did its thing on October 14 over at the testing facility at Toulouse-Blagnac Airport.
Obviously they’re looking for all kinds of stuff during these first flights—like the plane’s ability to takeoff and land without a problem. Specifically it’s all about airplane avionics like flap and slat configurations and how the plane handles operations up in the air and on the ground.