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[Also check out Part 1, Business Class]
Premium Economy is so hot right now.
Or, rather, the class between Economy and Business has been a popular addition to aircraft for many years now, every since Virgin Atlantic introduced it way, way back in 1992(!!), but some airlines have held off and, in turn, benefitted from the wait by introducing Premium Economy classes with all the latest bells and whistles.
Flying AC00611 hours back from Tokyo-Haneda to Toronto-Pearsonwe settled into a window seat and experienced what this new class for Air Canada was all about.
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[Also check out Part 2, Premium Economy and Economy]
"Whoever said man wasn't meant to fly didn't see this coming."
These were the words printed on a banner welcoming passengers to gate 172 at Toronto's Pearson International Airport on July 15, 2014.
Outside the windows was one of Air Canada's airplanes, sitting chill in her ice blue livery and scarlet maple leaf logo while a flurry of ground vehicles prepared her for a 12-hour flight to Tokyo. Passengers waiting to board forwent selfies and instead pointed their cameras outside, at this aircraft which stars in the celebration of a new era for Canadian aviation.
But, um, hasn't Air Canada been flying from Toronto to Tokyo for, like, decades? Yes, yes they have, but never before to the Japanese capital's other, very recently updated and better located airport of Haneda, and never before with a Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
Flight AC005 is non-stop from YYZ to HND, a lengthy trip which gives the benefits of the 787the greater cabin humidity, lower altitude level, improved personal space, and fuel efficiencya chance to strut their stuff. It was, in fact, the longest flight we've ever done in a 787, and absolutely one of the best in our own travel log.
Now, let's delve into the delicious details:
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Just when it seemed that front page focus on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner would peter out now that Boeing has delivered over 160 of them, the aircraft is again making headlines with the launch of a new version: the 787-9.
What that little "-9" brings is a bigger plane, as we've explained, and this week marks the introduction of the airliner to its first regularly scheduled commercial routes.
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If the overnight leg on an old angled lie-flat Finnair seat showed us how far business class seats have come, our recent flight on a Japan Airlines Boeing 767 between Osaka-Kansai (KIX) and Bangkok Suvarnabhumi (BKK) almost took us back to a different era, with the above, ageing, manually-controlled cradle-style seats still going strong.
Almost literally coming apart (torn fabric, wobbly armrests), the likelihood you’ll find this seat on your flight is luckily decreasing, having serviced regional routes in Asia, as well as the crazy busy Honolulu to Tokyo return for a long time (in fact, the in-flight entertainment still had destination features on Hawaii on it). Japan Airlines is phasing in its new 787 Dreamliner, as well as upgrading 767s with “Sky Suites”, fully-flat, all-aisle access seats – check them out below.
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We’ve shown you that business class on a Qatar Airways Boeing 787 Dreamliner is not a bad place to spend a few hours, but how does one of the airline’s latest additions compare to the workhorse of the fleet, the Boeing 777? With 34 in total, split between 777-200 and 777-300 versions, Qatar has more of the triple-seven than any other aircraft type at the moment. Connecting from a 787 onto a 777 recently gave us a good opportunity to compare.
We flew the 777 between Doha and Bangkok, a flight that connects further to Hanoi (Vietnam) after a brief stop in Thailand. Consistent on both legs? A virtually empty business class cabin, with less than ten passengers across the 42 seats, which guaranteed not just a seat pair to ourselves, but multiple rows.
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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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Qatar Airways has 9 Dreamliners operating a number of routes out of its brand-spanking new (and humongous) Hamad International Airport in Doha, and an additional 51 on order from Boeing. We recently did a business class return between Stockholm and Doha, which gave us enough time to explore its swanky interiors.
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They may have been handed their medals by Emirates flight attendants yesterday, but today the National German Team (Die deutsche Fußballnationalmannschaft) and FIFA World Cup 2014 champions will enjoy the hospitality of home onboard their Lufthansa flight from Brazil to Germany.
Flight number LH 2014 is typically issued to the Munich-Dusseldorf route on an A320, but today it will be specially relegated to the charter of a Boeing 747-8i (tail number D-ABYI "Potsdam," the 1,500th 747 built) from Rio de Janeiro to Berlin-Tegel, continuing on to Frankfurt.
Rio de Janeiro is on BRT, which is one hour ahead of EST. Thus, to track the flight, tune in to Flightradar24.com for scheduled departure at 4pm BRT/3pm EST. Since this is a charter flight, however, departure could be a little early or a little late, and we think they'll be heading out a little early in order to enjoy their time flying over German territory later on.
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The people over at WestJet have been offering budget flights around Canada and beyond since 1996, but now it sounds like they’re thinking about switching up their fleet to include more airplanes for more passengers, for more routes. Right now they are pretty much only utilizing different versions and flavors of the Boeing 737, but the future may bring wide-bodies.
It sounds like they’re thinking about scooping up as many as four larger planes, as they look to boost capacity—and profit—with more seats. Right now the focus seems to be Hawaii, as the carrier plans to utilize these new planes as soon as the fall of 2015.
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Good news from the planes and people over at Alaska Airlines, and this time it has nothing to do with their in-flight oatmeal. The carrier is pretty darn proud of their latest airplane advancement—thanks to Boeing—and now they’re all about sharing the news about their expanded overhead bins.
These new so-called Space Bins can increase carry-on capacity by roughly 50 percent, and that’s certainly appealing to those passengers bringing plenty of personal belongings along for overhead storage.
Alaska Airlines is apparently the first carrier that will offer these up, and for those familiar with the airline’s current Boeing Sky Interior—it’s kind of a similar look but with even more capacity.
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New airplane alert!
163 Boeing 787 Dreamliners are flying the skies right now, a number current as of this week. That includes 162 787-8s and 1 lonely 787-9 for Air New Zealand, which only headed from Boeing's headquarters in Everett, WA to its new home of Auckland, New Zealand at dawn this morning.
That 787-9 won't be lonely for long, however; over 25 airlines have placed orders for more than 400 of the sleek and efficient jets. So why are we getting excited for yet another Dreamliner? The answer is shockingly simple: it's awesomer. Sure, the original flavor 787-8 is great and Boeing will continue to roll them out, but the 787-9 is, as Daft Punk would sing, "harder, better, faster, stronger."
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Virgin Atlantic used the occasion of its 30th birthday a few days ago (the airline flew its inaugural flight on June 22, 1984) to announce where it will be sending its first Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner when it joins the fleet this fall: Boston. Appropriately enough, the airplane will be called “Birthday Girl."