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Yes, that's a 787 Dreamliner with WiFi
In-flight tech envy has ended for those who fly United and Continental. Hooray! Just days ago, United announced that more than 300 of its aircraft will be outfitted with in-flight WiFi capabilities, starting rather soon in mid-2012; that's just in time for the summer travel season.
Partnering with Panasonic to make both domestic and international WiFi a reality, United will first connect up their Airbus narrow-body fleet319s and 320seventually finishing on the rest of the Boeing fleet by 2015.
You know we’re suckers when it comes to travel time-lapse videos, and this week we’re falling for an older (though new to us) one showing off United Airlines' livery changes. Obviously it’s going to take quite some time to paint all those airplanes—including the Continental ones—into the new United colors, but here it takes just a couple of minutes.
Apparently this video reveals the behind-the-scenes magic, as one of the very first Boeing 777s headed into the hangar to get an airplane makeover. Don’t forget to turn up the volume too—the dude in the cubicle next door won’t mind—because the Rhapsody in Blue techno-remix just adds to the fun.
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United and Continental have slowly but surely been aligning their services over the last few months, and they’ve been doing so through goodie giveaways, updated apps, and of course plenty of new signage. We were checking out the changes at Chicago-O’Hare at the beginning of the summer, but now as the season is winding down the changes have begun elsewhere.
Upgrades and updates have arrived in San Francisco, as they got their new signs and stanchions in the middle of July. You still should check-in with United for their flights and with Continental for their flights, but the new branding has certainly arrived.
UDPATE: The judge has dismissed the suit. Take that, lawyer who sues for the sake of suing!
We thought it was pretty slick that airlines ditched cash in the cabin in favor of plastic money for in-flight purchases, but there’s at least one passenger who isn’t thrilled about the cashless cabin. Of course this person is an attorney, and that means there’s a lawsuit.
A lawyer from New Jersey recently flew from Honolulu to Newark aboard Continental Airlines, but when it was time to purchase some in-flight goodies he wasn’t about to swipe his credit card. This unhappy passenger tried to buy some headphones for the 10-hour flight—apparently the ones purchased on the way to Hawaii no longer worked—but with his credit cards in his checked luggage he was out of luck. We feel for the guy, as that is too long to go without any in-flight entertainment—but is a lawsuit really necessary?
And who puts their credit cards in their checked luggage?!
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A seatback TV on a United/Continental flight recently
You know what an "Easter Egg" is, right? Not the type laid by a mythical Easter Bunny, but the type of surprise unexpectedly found hidden in video games or other programs. Well, if you're flying United, you'll be happy to know that the airline has its own sort of Easter Egg embedded into the flying experience and it's called Channel 9.
Channel 9 is exactly what it sounds like: the 9 channel on a plane's in-flight entertainment radio at your seat. Instead of "The Hits of the '60s" or "Smooth Jazz Classics," Channel 9 plays the actual transmissions between your pilots and air traffic control, plus any other ATC transmissions your pilots are hearing. You're essentially listening in on the cockpit, catching everything from discussions of turbulence to pilot jokes.
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Searching for Copenhagen flight, left; homescreen, right
It's happened. United has finally released their long-awaited iPhone Travel App and, to be brief, it's solid all around. Granted, Continental has had their own iPhone app for something like a year now, but this newer app has both airline brands working seamlessly together towards a more united...United.
For users of the Continental app, this one will feel very familiar. There are still the notification alerts for your flights and mobile boarding passes, but it's stocked with much more information. Of course you can track flights (United or Continental), plot them on a map, see delays, manage your bookings and check in to get the aforementioned mobile boarding pass, but the app is also outfitted with airport terminal maps, detailed information and directions for their President Clubs and affiliate lounges and Sudoku games of increasing difficulty levels. And! ANNDD! It's got our favorite innovation to come with the newer airline apps: you can search and book a flight right in the app.
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Three cheers for in-flight entertainment! Hip hip, hooray! Hip hip, hooray! Hip hip, hoo...misses the days of crossword puzzle magazines and listening to your CD player on a flight? Not us! And thankfully, not the airlines either as the majority of US carriers engage in a race to see who can have the biggest seatback TVs or the fastest in-flight WiFi.
Like it or not, what the airlines offer can vary greatly, especially where movies or music is involved. Thus, in the interest of helping you to be the coolest and most informed traveler around, we've laid out exactly what to expect when you sit in your seat. Our annual guide (now in its third year) highlights domestic carriers, plus the bonus of Air Canada because they get around the US enough. Enjoy, travel happily, and let us know your thoughts in the comments!
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Sometimes it’s hard to stay on top of all the new route announcements that come our way, so we’ve complied a little bit of a rundown below. As long as you can afford the fares, this should definitely help add to your passport stamp collection.
· Copa Airlines:
If you want to head down to Panama, look no further than Copa Airlines. They’re adding their very first nonstop option in the country’s Midwest beginning later this year, sending planes back and forth between Chicago-O’Hare and Panama City. The new flights are set to debut on December 15, and Boeing 737s will link the two spots daily. Even if your final destinations isn’t Panama—this is still a good thing—as you can get to plenty of spots in the Caribbean and South America once you reach their hub in Panama City.
Over at Dunder Mifflin International Airport—or as it’s really called, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport—there’s a new route just in time to welcome a new head honcho at the paper company. Delta will be starting up nonstop service between the airport here and the airport in Atlanta beginning at the start of September. There used be daily options to Atlanta, but these flights were stopped back in 2009. Hopefully the promise of Dunder Mifflin souvenirs in the airport gift shop will keep flyers heading back and forth between the two cities.
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We already knew that Alaska Airlines was working on ditching flight bags for its pilots in favor of iPads in the cockpit—assuming no Facebook, Twitter, or Angry Birds of course. Now it looks like American Airlines is the next carrier to start thinking about electronic flight manuals in the front of the plane.
American has already begun to hand out the tablet computers to some pilots, as they’re thinking that they can save over a million bucks per year by just removing all the paperwork from the flight deck. It probably also improves employee morale—if ever so slightly—as it’s just one less thing that pilots have to lug back and forth between flights and across airports. Apparently flight bags can weigh as much as 35 pounds, so it’s going to save a little bit on gas as well—every little bit helps.
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We already knew that they have new signs and new advertisements, and this week brings even more news in the United-Continental merger. Things continue to chug along until the day when the airline will operate is one big happy family—that’s supposed to be like the middle of next year—but until then, there’s going to plenty of small steps to help them get there.
One thing that has arrived at plenty of airports—as in like 80 or so—is new software for the Continental and United airport kiosks. Plenty of airports will now let you check into your flight from either airport counter, but just don’t call United to flip out about your Continental flight being delayed. The telephone systems and other reservation technology are far from being integrated.
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As the merger between Continental and United moves forward, we’ve begun to notice some small changes here and there. We already knew that the two airlines—especially Continental—are already busy ordering plenty of paint for their not-that-great new livery, but now it looks like the airport changes are beginning as well.
Over at Chicago-O’Hare the new United has begun to install all the new signs, logos, and fonts to reveal their fresh identity and branding. The airline recently rolled out the changes at their hub in Chicago, but the updates are coming soon to each and every airport where United and Continental flies.
This past weekend was our first flight on Continental since the airline famously did away with all free economy meals and snacks in March. As ours was a long flight from coast to coast, we wondered how the passengers would react and how their food-for-purchase menu would rate. If there were any temper tantrums over not being offered a baggie of pretzels we didn't see them, because we saw Angus Cheeseburger on the menu and didn't look back.
At $7.99, the cheeseburger isn't exactly cheap, but it's surprisingly a little less than the Grilled Chicken Salad ($9.49) and Thai Chicken Wrap ($8.59). Plus, it promises to be hot and made of real red meat. Come to think of it, we don't believe we've ever had a true burger onboard an airplane before, so it also had the novelty aspect going for it. $8 to have a hot (and maybe even good) meal in the skies over Oklahoma? That doesn't sound too bad...