Category: airlines

3 Links I Love: United’s Network Brain Trust, …

3 Links I Love: United’s Network Brain Trust, BA’s New Suite, Southwest Makes a Deal:

This week’s featured link:

Meet the route planners mapping United’s futureCrain’s Chicago Business
Here’s a nice look at the dynamic duo behind United’s recent network strategy. Patrick Quayle (international) and Ankit Gupta (domestic) both came from American and have clearly been having way too much fun getting United’s network in shape.

Two for the road:

BA’s new Collins Club Suite opens Pandora’s Door of questionsRunway Girl Network
After years of watching other airlines pass them by, British Airways has rolled out an impressive new business class seat that will debut this year. John Walton took a deep dive into the seat. I’m sniffing around a couple other angles on this.

Southwest Air, Mechanics Reach Contract Agreement in PrincipleBloomberg
Southwest and its mechanics have reached what seems to be a pretty good deal. Now we have to wait to see if it passes. Most importantly, it should end the shenanigans that are canceling flights and causing problems. Let’s all act shocked when Southwest’s operation instantly starts running better.

March 22, 2019 at 12:45PM Source: https://crankyflier.com

Caution: Pricing Glitch Makes Some Travelers P…

Caution: Pricing Glitch Makes Some Travelers Pay More for Alaska’s Saver Fares in Sabre:

Part of the fun that comes with having the Cranky Concierge air travel assistance business is that I get to poke around in the Sabre Global Distribution System (GDS) regularly. And that means sometimes I stumble across issues that even the airlines don’t know about. That happened earlier this week with Alaska’s Saver (Basic Economy) fares. They are, in some cases, pricing higher in Sabre than elsewhere. Sometimes, the lower fare is first being displayed but then, thanks to Alaska’s uncompetitive ticketing policies, it can’t be booked. The folks at Alaska tell me that they weren’t aware of this issue (the technical issue, not the sales policies) until I brought it to their attention, and they are trying to get it fixed. In the meantime, watch out.

This post is going to get technical, so buckle up. If you want to skip all those details, just know that if you happen to book Saver fares in Sabre or a website powered by Sabre, you’re going to want to double check with Alaskaair.com to make sure you’re actually getting the lowest available fare. There won’t often be a difference, but you don’t want to get caught paying more so it’s worth double-checking. For those of you still reading, let’s dig in.

How Alaska Prices Regular Coach Fares

To understand the issue, I have to explain how Alaska sells Saver, or Basic Economy, fares. As you may know, airlines have fare booking classes, also know as RBDs or colloquially as “buckets,” which are used to help segment off demand. Here’s a look at how those buckets line up on a flight from Portland to Ontario in June.

Starting at the upper left, you see F7. The F is full fare First Class and the 7 means there are at least 7 seats available in that bucket. (Alaska doesn’t show more than 7 seats even though there may be more.) In fact, except for the Y bucket which is full fare coach, the buckets in that whole first row are not important here since they aren’t for coach travel.

On the next line, you see a variety of buckets in decreasing order of fare value. The regular coach buckets go all the way down to R which is where Alaska sells its cheapest regular coach fares. A low fare search will look for the lowest bucket that both has seats available AND has a fare filed. If one of those pieces is missing, say if R had availability but Alaska didn’t file a fare in R, then the system will move up to the next lowest available bucket to see if there’s a valid fare there.

On this particular flight, Alaska has closed off the three lowest buckets, but as you can see, when I looked there was still one seat in the K bucket available for sale. Alaska files K fares in this market that are $169 in regular coach, so this is how it appeared on Alaskaair.com:

The “1 seat left” at $169 is for regular economy. That’s the K fare. But there is also that $149 fare that looks like it doesn’t have availability restrictions. That isn’t true. It has the same restrictions as regular coach, so there’s only one seat available. (Beware of that too, if you book direct.) But there’s a bigger issue here.

How Alaska Prices Saver Basic Economy Fares

That $149 fare is the Saver fare. Like all airlines, Alaska wants its Basic Economy fare to be a discount off the lowest selling coach fare at the time. To get that to price, it has to work a bit differently than a regular coach fare. Instead of just making sure there is availability in the bucket and a fare filed, it has to actually look for a third variable: availability in a related bucket.

Saver fares all sell into the X bucket on Alaska. (American is B, United is N, Delta is E for their Basic Economy fares, so this is common practice.) Then to price, the system has to also see which regular coach fare is for sale. We know X is available, but in regular coach, the lowest is that K seat. So a search will turn up the Saver fare that is pegged to the K regular coach fare. That’s how Saver fares consistently show up $20 lower than regular coach. If T were available, for example, it would display as $20 lower than the T fare, whatever that is.

Now, here’s where we run into a problem. If I book it in K and then ask for the lowest fare, Sabre gives me this:

So far, so good. That’s the Saver fare we saw on the Alaska website. But here’s the problem. The low fare search will move the booking from K class into X class. Then once you take 1 seat out of X availability, Alaska has it set up to also take one seat out of regular coach availability. That means the K seat won’t come back into inventory, so when you try to issue the ticket, it will see K0 and then issue the ticket off the next lowest available coach fare, which is this V fare:

At best this is annoying and at worst this is downright deceptive. I could build the entire reservation in Sabre, save the price quote, and then try to issue it, but the higher fare will apply. Now if this were happening with American, Delta, or United, it wouldn’t be a big deal. They guarantee fares for a full day for travel agents, so it could be manually issued at the right price. But Alaska has much less friendly policies and offers no such guarantee. That means there is no way to book the fare that Sabre shows you at the time of booking unless you book directly through a non-Sabre source that doesn’t have this glitch. That is, to say the least, problematic.

A Limited But Real Impact

It’s important to keep in mind that this doesn’t happen every time. This will only happen if you are booking the same number of seats as are left available in the regular coach bucket. In this example, we needed one seat and there was only one K seat left. But if there were two seats and you were trying to book two seats, you’d have to same problem. I had no trouble finding multiple examples of this, but it’s only going to happen on a small fraction of searches.

I should also note that this unbookable fare only displays if you first book regular coach and then ask for the lowest fare. If you were to book into X directly as a Saver fare and then price it, it will automatically show you the higher fare. You would have no idea that a lower fare should have even been available. I’m not sure if that’s better or worse.

Alaska Is Trying to Fix This

I reached out to Alaska to get comment on this. I ended up on the phone with both Kevin Ger, Vice President, Revenue Management and Joe Carson, Director of Pricing, Revenue Management. They explained that this problem had been reported by groups that used the Amadeus GDS before, and they had found a way to fix it. But I was apparently the first to tell them that it was happening in Sabre. They’ve now submitted a request to Sabre to fix it, but there is no timeline. I will update this post when I get more info on that.

I asked about any other GDSes being affected, but they said nothing had been reported. I’m surprised that once they found it was a problem in Amadeus that they didn’t just go test in every GDS to see if it was a broader issue. That lack of follow-through combined with unfriendly agent ticketing policies makes this even worse than it should be. It should make everyone wary about booking Alaska’s Saver fares through Sabre until the problem is fixed.

That brings us to the final, important question. How do you know if you’re booking in Sabre? Obviously the Alaskaair.com website isn’t impacted. The big online travel agents like Expedia and Priceline don’t have this issue either. It’s primarily a problem for corporate/brick-and-mortar travel agents or people using self-booking portals to book their business travel. Hopefully this gets fixed soon, but in the meantime, just be careful.

March 21, 2019 at 12:45PM Source: https://crankyflier.com

How JetBlue Putting Someone on a Flight 90 Min…

How JetBlue Putting Someone on a Flight 90 Minutes Later Cost the Airline $2500:

I was approached by someone recently about a fascinating interaction with JetBlue, and I thought this was worth sharing here. I suppose the moral of the story is that if you think you’ve been wronged and the airline isn’t owning up to their side of things, you could consider small claims court. It’s their fault if they can’t bother to show up. But be warned: this doesn’t sound like a typical outcome.

Our story begins last October when a man who we’ll call Rigoberto (no reason, I just like the name) was scheduled to fly early in the morning from New York’s JFK to Los Angeles. He was on an A321 and had purchased an Even More Space seat in row 6, the exit row right behind Mint.

According to Rigoberto, he boarded the aircraft and found the bins above his seat already full even though nobody else was in those seats. He was mad about it, having paid for the ability to board early, and the flight attendant told him to just put his bags in a bin behind his seats. He did, and he says he grumbled “selfish passengers” toward those further back who had filled up the bin space.

The flight attendant must have thought he was directing his anger at her and asked what he said. She must not have believed him, because shortly after this, someone came onboard and asked him to step off the plane to have a chat. Rigoberto explained everything, and he was allowed back on.

Next, another flight attendant came by to ask the standard questions for those sitting in an exit row. But first this flight attendant asked each person if they knew they were on flight xxx to LAX. Instead of just saying yes, Rigoberto didn’t like this flight attendant’s tone and asked what that had to do with sitting in an exit row. You can see where this is going. With two flight attendants concerned about his behavior, Rigoberto was kicked off. And I doubt many readers here would be surprised or bothered at that outcome. But things weren’t all bad for Rigoberto. They put him on a flight ninety minutes later in the same exact seat.

Where This Gets Interesting

Now, I’m reading this story up to this point, and I’m not particularly interested. I don’t know the JetBlue flight attendants’ side of the story, and I imagine that this guy is understating his role in things. I don’t care to judge who is right or who is wrong here, but in general, if someone gets thrown off a flight, I tend to believe the crew. But the circumstances of what happened aren’t why I’m writing this post. It’s what happened after that’s so interesting.

Rigoberto was mad, and he sent a complaint letter to JetBlue asking for compensation. JetBlue responded and stood by its crewmembers, but it still offered him $75 for future travel. That actually seems somewhat generous that they offered him anything, especially since he still got there within 2 hours of original schedule, but he disagreed. So, he wrote back saying so. JetBlue still stuck by its crewmembers, as it should have.

Rigoberto then decided to take matters into his own hands. He decided to file suit in small claims court asking for $2499 plus court costs. Why $2499? He reasoned that as the approximate cost of a roundtrip in Mint from LA to New York — which would seem to be highly-inflated since he wasn’t even in Mint — but the judge didn’t object. After properly serving JetBlue, Rigoberto emailed them and said he’d withdraw the suit if they agreed to give him either 150,000 TrueBlue points or a roundtrip ticket in Mint. That, obviously, didn’t happen.

The date came and Rigoberto was ready. JetBlue, however, didn’t show up at all. What happened? I’ll let you read for yourself.

Because JetBlue didn’t show up, Rigoberto was awarded the $2499 plus $105 in court costs. According to Rigoberto (I didn’t check on the law), JetBlue could have explained why it didn’t show up and asked for a new trial date within 30 days of that verdict, but it didn’t do that either. So the judgment was final.

JetBlue ignored that as well, at least in the immediate aftermath. But after Rigoberto sent them a demand letter, a check came to him for the full amount. This was all settled within two months of the incident. Talk about swift justice (or non-justice, depending upon your point of view).

Maybe the flight attendant didn’t want to testify, so JetBlue just decided not to fight. Or maybe JetBlue simply didn’t think it was worth bothering to send someone to court in California, but in the end, Rigoberto walked away with a whole bunch of money for a sub-2 hour delay.

What is JetBlue’s side of the story? Well, the airline wouldn’t comment on this specific case, as you’d expect. But I asked for a broader statement about this practice in general and was told the following by a spokesperson:

This was a unique case. We focus on avoiding disputes altogether by offering a great customer experience and making things right when they go wrong. But in situations that do result in legal action, our typical approach is to actively defend our position in court.

That’s a good response, and it should serve as warning that a frivolous lawsuit is usually going to be defended. But for those who think they’ve been truly wronged by any airline, this might be an avenue worth exploring.

March 19, 2019 at 12:45PM Source: https://crankyflier.com

Checking out the Virgin America Influence on t…

Checking out the Virgin America Influence on the New Alaska Airlines Product:

Hello beautiful! My Alaska Airlines VIP Airbus A321neo.

Hello beautiful! My Alaska Airlines VIP Airbus A321neo. Yes, it is weird typing “Alaska Airlines” and “Airbus” together.

Change is inevitable — especially in the airline business.  Change can be all fine and dandy when you are talking about it conceptually, but when the time comes, it is not always easy. As you probably know by now, Alaska Airlines and Virgin America merged, and the red/white Virgin livery is quickly being retired. Virgin was known to be a bit risky in their branding and marketing…. and Alaska played it a bit more safe. Although Alaska will be sending the Virgin America brand into the history books, it has been important for Alaska to incorporate some of the Virgin culture into the new merged airline. Not just for the customers who loved the Virgin product, but also for the employees who are in the process of getting to know their new family.

Ironically the Alaska 737 with the More to Love livery celebrating their merger with Virgin was parked next to our A321 at SFO - Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren | JDLMultimedia

Ironically, the Alaska 737 with the ‘More to Love’ livery celebrating their merger with Virgin was parked next to our A321 at SFO – Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren | JDLMultimedia

I was recently invited to fly down to San Francisco (SFO) to get a first hand look of the new Alaska Airlines product that will soon be found across the fleet. At gate 54B, the airline had set up walls, and inside were a variety of new products to be experienced. Also, there were experts to answer your questions about what was new. There was a special treat, too. What better way to put it all together than to take a special VIP flight on one of their Airbus A321s (that previously flew for Virgin America, obviously)?

I was interested to see the balance Alaska decided on, and get a better idea of my hometown airline’s future.

"Just two years after acquiring Virgin America, we're thrilled to introduce a modern cabin that aligns the onboard experience across our fleet," said Ben Minicucci, president and COO at Alaska Airlines. "After extensive feedback from our guests and in collaboration with our partners, we've infused the Alaska Airlines cabin with key brand elements from Virgin America – the result is a premium experience at an affordable price."

Deplaning at SFO on the ramp — LOVE IT!

The Alaska Airlines VIP Event at Gate 54B

My day started early. Like 2:45 am early. But that is okay, as I had airplanes to see! When selecting my flight to/from SFO, I had a choice of flying an Embraer E175, Boeing 737, or Airbus A320. I opted for the E-Jet down to SFO (I freak’n love that plane), and the Airbus A320 back home. I chose the Airbus, since not only would this be the first time I will have flown an Alaskan Airbus (well, second at that point), but I figured it would be nice to compare it to the fancy new product I would experience during my trip.


My flight down was uneventful, and I was happy to de-plane from the ramp. The Alaska presence in Terminal 2 at SFO isn’t huge, so it was pretty easy for me to find our special VIP gate at 54B. I slowly made my way around the room, checking things out and learning about what’s new.






One of the first shiny objects I went to check out were the new uniforms. Now, this might shock a few folks, but I am not up with all the new fashion trends. I know what I like, I know what I don’t like, and I am not going to be able to offer a flowery description to go with it. That said, I really like these outfits. Like really, really like them.

Why does it matter? I at least know fashion is huge business, and when your employees look good, your brand looks good. Not to mention, if you wear an outfit for 14 hours, that you actually like, not only will you be in a better mood, but you are going to feel better about yourself.

The new Recaro seat. Kinda of. I mean, it is missing the tray and is bolted on the wall, but you get the idea.

The new Recaro seat. Kinda of. I mean, it is missing the tray and is bolted on the wall, but you get the idea.

Here is the big ticket item that most of you will probably care about — the seats (although yours won’t be bolted to a wall)! At first glance these probably look pretty familiar to the Alaska Beyond product you experience now. However, there are a few key differences (since I would have just re-written these in my own words and not have done as nice of a job, I have copied/pasted from Alaska below):

  • Ergonomically-friendly tablet holders at each seat that accommodate most tablets and smartphones. The holders free up tray table space and an added shelf keeps devices in prime viewing position. Flexible mesh pockets also allow for easy access to essentials during the flight.
  • Upgraded premium and main cabin seats now feature memory foam for added comfort.
  • Conveniently-placed and tilted power outlets at every seat (USB & 110V) that allow guests to easily locate and charge two devices at once. The electrical boxes under the middle seat have been relocated to provide more personal space for guests.
  • Cup holders throughout first class and premium class, so that guests can multi-task while they savor a craft beer, wine, or cocktail and have full use of the tray table.

Some fancy talk there, but these changes are legit and I will go more into my thoughts when I actually take it for a spin.

Pretty cool display with the seat in parts to better inspect it!

Pretty cool display with the seat in parts to better inspect it!

There was also a pretty unique first class seat display at the gate as well. Here are is the little write up from Alaska:

  • Redesigned first class Recaro seats that evoke the feeling of both performance and comfort, like a luxury car. The sculpted design features memory foam and a 40″ pitch, along with footrests to support guests of varying heights.

I might drive a 2009 Honda Accord (I mean, it is an EX with leather, sunroof, and a six-CD changer baby!), but I would say their new first class seat feels more like a nice, upgraded domestic first class seat. I only had a few minutes with it, maybe with more time it will start to feel like I am cruising in a BMW 7-Series.

In the end, those used to Virgin first class might be a bit disappointed (not much), but those used to flying Alaska are in for a treat. That’s a solid compromise as two brands, and experiences, get merged.

The best part of the gate area was the sweet food spread, including the world’s largest Alaska Airlines food plate. #nomnom



Flying the New Alaska Product on an Airbus A321neo

Standing around the gate area and looking at the different updates before boarding, I honestly didn’t get all the hype. Sure… each of these things was an improvement, but was it that much more than the Beyond product that Alaska already has, or does it include enough of the Virgin America influence? I was starting to think that it didn’t. Before I could contemplate it any further, I was told it was time to board and I made my way to seat 23D — a window!



If you want to experience what would happen if an Alaska 737-900ER Boeing Sky Interior cabin made a cute little A321 baby with a Virgin America discotech — this would be pretty darn close. Once again, let me pull from the elegant Alaska wording then give you some of my thoughts on all this:

  • Refreshed color palette from the updated bulkhead design to the carpet, bringing in neutral tones that are associated with relaxing environments against pops of Alaska’s signature blue.
  • Ambient mood lighting with calming, cool blue hues developed by lighting and color experts to complement the human body’s natural circadian rhythm. The result is lighting that changes throughout the flight to promote an uplifting energy during the day and calming energy into the evening.

A few years back, I would totally have made fun of that stuff about the LED lighting. However, after flying on many different airlines and cabins that use the lighting, I am a true believer. As long as the crew doesn’t change it from dark to “OMG EVERYONE WAKE UP NOW” bright.



Here’s the good and bad thing about these special media flights — they are fun. We cheered when we took off, everyone gets up and chats, we have some good food, and then we land. There are times where I get caught up in all that and forget that I have a job to do. Hence why you have three very nice photos of probably the coolest upgrade — but taken by Alaska. My bad.

Adding the fold-down shelf makes it so much easier to be entertained while eating, working, and not straining your neck. So simple. So good. But also probably so difficult to let passengers know it exists (be sure to tell your friends). It can hold your iPad, it can hold your iPhone, it can probably hold other stuff too.

No question when Virgin America’s in-flight entertainment system, called RED, came out, it was amazing. It was better than anything domestically by a long shot and better than most international products. I didn’t realize how much it had aged until my flight back to Seattle on an A320 with the RED system. As long as you have your own device of some sort, I vastly prefer Alaska’s product. The big plus that Red had going for it was being able to order food and drinks from your seat (that option is not available on Alaska flights).




Thoughts on the Virgin America Influence

As we cruised at 36,000 feet above California, and I was eating my sweet ice cream (which Alaska serves to first class passengers on trans-cons and Hawaiian flights), it came to me. Each of these improvements neatly laid out might not be so obvious on their own, but when you see all of them working together, flying high above it all, it becomes much more obvious. This truly is a new Alaska with some of Virgin culture mixed in — they nailed it.

Are the Virgin diehards going to be 100% happy with everything? Probably not. Will any of the Alaska loyalists be unhappy with the changes? Probably. But that is okay. You cannot make everyone happy, and if we have seen anything from airline mergers of the past, coming together and moving forward can be brutal (for employees and passengers).

Our VIP pilots that will soon likely learn how to fly with a center yolk as well!

Our VIP pilots that will soon likely learn how to fly with a center yolk as well!

Next Steps for the Product and That Airbus Fleet

This sort of total change takes time. By early 2020, the airline expects 36% of their mainline fleet will have the updates. All new 737 Max 9 aircraft will be delivered with the new interior (although with the current headlines, who knows if that will be delayed) and I am very interested to see how this will look with the Boeing Sky Interior. There is also still the question if Alaska will keep the Airbus aircraft in their fleet. They still have them on lease for the next four to five years, and they plan to announce what they will do with the Airbus by the end of the year.




It is still weird seeing the Alaska livery on the Airbus A320, but I am pretty sure it looks good.

It is still weird seeing the Alaska livery on the Airbus A320, but I am pretty sure it looks good

What do you think of the new Alaska Airlines changes? If you flew Virgin America, do you think they have done the airline justice? Is this a good compromise or did they miss the opportunity to do more? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Disclaimer: Alaska Airlines provided for my flights, but all opinions are my own. 

The post Checking out the Virgin America Influence on the New Alaska Airlines Product appeared first on AirlineReporter.

March 18, 2019 at 04:49PM Source: https://ift.tt/2Ex2ezu

Whether the MAX Should Have Been Grounded or N…

Whether the MAX Should Have Been Grounded or Not, Boeing Finds Itself in Hot Water:

In my post last Thursday, I laid out why I thought the 737 MAX shouldn’t have been grounded with the information we knew at the time. Some readers took that as me standing behind Boeing, but that’s not the case. Even if the airplane is safe to fly, it should be safer than it is. Boeing should absolutely shoulder blame here.

Though we don’t know for sure if the same issue that caused the Lion Air crash last year caused the Ethiopian one, let’s look at that particular issue in more detail.

Lion Air Accident

Lion Air flight 610 had just departed from Jakarta on October 29, 2018 when the pilots almost immediately reported flight control problems and asked to return to the airport. They never made it and crashed into the sea shortly after.

While the investigation hasn’t been officially finalized, it seems pretty clear what happened here. On the four previous flights, the airspeed indicators had malfunctioned and apparently hadn’t been fixed. On the flight right before the accident, there was a 20-degree disagreement between the angle of attack sensors, and that caused the airplane to put itself into a dive. The pilots overrode that automation and landed safely.

Apparently Lion Air didn’t bother fixing the problem after landing, because this is exactly what happened on the ill-fated final flight of the aircraft as well. This time, the pilots didn’t override the automation. Had maintenance properly fixed the airplane or had the pilots overridden the automation, the flight would have landed safely. But it didn’t, and now we’re all learning more about the details of how that automation works.

A Four-Letter Word: MCAS

If this airplane had not crashed, the general public would never know about the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System or MCAS for short. The problem is, pilots didn’t know about it either, and that’s the first concern.

MCAS didn’t exist on previous 737 models, but it was introduced on the MAX because of the engines on the airplane. The MAX uses bigger engines, and since Boeing uses a 50+ year old airframe that was designed for much smaller engines, it had to find a way to fit these new beasts on the wing while keeping the airplane airworthy.

via Boeing

As you can see above, since the new engines were so big, they had to be fit higher up to give enough ground clearance. To do that, Boeing moved the engines further forward and up, out from under the wing.

Because of the placement of the engines, when pilots push up the throttle on this airplane, the added thrust can push the airplane’s nose up too much, particularly in tight turns. As a safeguard, MCAS reads the angle of attack measures (here’s an explanation of what that is) to determine whether to act. If the angle of attack starts getting too high, the MCAS kicks in by adjusting the trim tabs (small surfaces that adjust to keep the airplane in stable flight) on the airplane to bring it back down when it’s being flown by hand. That means if autopilot is engaged, MCAS doesn’t kick in. Also, if flaps are deployed, so on initial departure or on final approach, then it also won’t kick in.

To Train or Not to Train

Boeing says that the MCAS was in the manual but that has been disputed by airlines operating that airplane. Even if it was in the manual, that wasn’t enough. Boeing acted like this was just a minor automation that would only slightly adjust the airplane in extreme circumstances. But it wasn’t designed that way. And if there’s bad data being fed into the system, it can prove deadly if the pilots don’t react properly.

In the Lion Air accident, the two angle of attack sensors were off by 20 degrees. This was known to be an issue before the flight, and Lion Air didn’t properly fix it. Lion Air also didn’t select the optional indicator that would alert pilots to an angle of attack measurement discrepancy, so the pilots wouldn’t have been alerted to that. Because it wasn’t fixed, MCAS misinterpreted what was happening to the airplane and it adjusted the trim to bring the airplane’s nose down multiple times.

In this case, the pilots recovered, but then MCAS kept trying to lower the nose. Eventually the pilots lost control of the airplane. Naturally, the question turned to the MCAS. Was it enough to have this in the manual? Or should the pilots have been trained on the existence of this system? Everyone now agrees that pilots should have been trained, and that did finally happen immediately following this accident… though Boeing was clearly pushed into it.

While there’s no question that training for this scenario is good, the reality is that the response to a trim problem is the same whether the MCAS caused it or not. These pilots should have been able to save the airplane, just as the pilots did on the previous flight.

Anti-MCAS Maneuvers

If the airplane is auto-trimming itself in a way that the pilots don’t like, it’s a very easy fix. All the pilots have to do is flip this switch:

Then there is a giant trim wheel which pilots can use to manually control the trim on the airplane. (And I do mean manual. This isn’t fly by wire, as I understand it.)

That’s it.

It’s important to repeat this point. This has nothing to do with MCAS alone. If there is any trim-related problem, this is the procedure to shut off auto-trimming and take manual control. That is something pilots are trained for.

Boeing’s Faulty Logic

Regardless of how easy it should be to counter MCAS, that doesn’t minimize just how poorly this system appears to have been designed by Boeing.

Incredibly, the MCAS was designed to act with the input from just a single angle of attack sensor even though there is more than one onboard. In the case of the Lion Air accident, it apparently saw the faulty reading and acted. Had it bothered to compare both readings to see the discrepancy, then that would have prevented the automation from acting.

Side note: Why are the angle of attack sensors having these discrepancies on a brand new airplane? Is it the sensor? Or is it how the data is being interpreted? This is something that deserves closer scrutiny.

Also surprisingly, the trim adjustment is really aggressive. As Boeing describes it, in the new software release the trim adjustment will now be limited so that faulty readings from the angle of attack sensors won’t create the large upset that we’ve seen. This is also mind-boggling that it wasn’t designed this way initially, because the updated response is more than sufficient to correct an angle of attack problem, it seems.

Lastly, why was the system designed to continue acting even if the pilots are pushing back against it? If the auto-trim is left enabled, the pilots can still try to counteract the nose-down attitude through the control wheel. Even if they succeed, the MCAS will continue trying to push the nose forward. That is flawed logic.

All of this is going to be fixed in a future software update that Boeing is furiously working on now, but it remains extremely hard to understand why this was designed this way in the first place. There is a lot more detail here, if you’re interested.

One Last Thing to Keep in Mind

Where does this leave us? Well, when the software fix comes out soon, it will, as Boeing says, make an already safe aircraft even safer. We have to remember that even without the software fix, it is very easy to override the system. Good pilots should have no trouble with it even if it was poorly-designed.

There is one other thing to keep in mind… we still don’t know if this was a reason for the crash of Ethiopian flight 302. If MCAS was involved, as the aircraft track makes it appear, we don’t know that there weren’t other issues that complicated the situation.

For example, there were reports of smoke and possibly debris trailing the aircraft before the airplane crashed. While we have no idea if this is true since eyewitness reports are often unreliable, if it is, it could certainly have made for a much busier cockpit. Just imagine if there was a fire or a bomb or something else onboard. That combined with the activation of the MCAS could have wreaked havoc. Or what if the pilots did everything right and MCAS still didn’t deactivate? Well then we have a whole different, MUCH more serious issue that could keep that airplane grounded for a long time. We really need the black boxes to tell us more, and it sounds like that information is starting to come out.

Regardless of what we find out from the black boxes, we know that there is a lot Boeing did in the design process that can and should be questioned. The fixes that are being planned will improve safety further, but that doesn’t mean Boeing will get out of this easily. Boeing is going to feel a whole lot of pain from the decisions it made, and I don’t think anyone feels sorry for the company. This is quickly turning in a full-blown PR crisis.

March 18, 2019 at 12:45PM Source: https://crankyflier.com

Cranky on the Web: Hidden City Ticketing Can G…

Cranky on the Web: Hidden City Ticketing Can Get You in Trouble:

If you’re going to miss your flight, call the airline. Immediately. And be niceLos Angeles Times
I got further into the discussion about hidden city ticketing for this one, including what happens if you miss a flight in your itinerary.

March 16, 2019 at 12:45PM Source: https://crankyflier.com

3 Links I Love: Azul To Buy Parts of Avianca, …

3 Links I Love: Azul To Buy Parts of Avianca, More BA Airplane Porn, Buzz is Back:

Azul Signs Non-Binding Agreement to Acquire Selected Assets of Avianca BrasilAzul
Things keep moving in Brazil, and Azul keeps growing. I believe Avianca Brasil had about 10 percent of the market, so this might vault Azul into being the biggest airline in the country.

British Airways New Livery.
Photo Chris Bellew /Fennell Photography Copyright 2019

LANDOR HOPE AND GLORY: 747 TOUCHES DOWN AT HEATHROWBritish Airways Media Centre
BA just keeps killing it with these retro liveries. I have always loved the Landor scheme, and it still looks just as good as it did before. It just feels so British. What’s funny is that this airplane actually wore the Landor scheme when it was delivered.

Ryanair Sun To Be Rebranded As Buzz In Autumn 2019Ryanair News
It’s time for another blast from the past. Buzz is back, albeit as a Polish charter operator owned by Ryanair. It’s actually just Ryanair Sun being renamed. I’m not sure why they’re bothering.

March 15, 2019 at 12:45PM Source: https://crankyflier.com

In Defense of Not Grounding the 737 MAX… Even …

In Defense of Not Grounding the 737 MAX… Even Though It’s Now Grounded:

When the 737 MAX operating Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 crashed on takeoff from Addis Ababa last Sunday, the pressure immediately began to mount. Since this accident happened during the same phase of flight as the Lion Air accident last year, the dots were instantly connected… even if they shouldn’t necessarily have been. Calls to ground the airplane mounted from all sides except from those who actually fly the thing. Everyone caved quickly except for the US and Canada. Then yesterday, the rest of the dominoes fell. The 737 MAX is now grounded worldwide while they try to figure out IF there’s a problem.

While it’s hard to comment specifically on whether this is the right thing to do or not without knowing what the FAA knows right now, I’m still going to wade into this. I thought the FAA was right for not grounding the airplane with what information was said to be known previously. I have yet to see anything that would change my mind. But the FAA did say this yesterday about the administration’s decision to ground the airplanes:

The agency made this decision as a result of the data gathering process and new evidence collected at the site and analyzed today. This evidence, together with newly refined satellite data available to FAA this morning, led to this decision.

That’s quite the vague statement, so all I can do is hope that there actually is new safety information that warranted the grounding and this wasn’t just about political pressure and image management. As a cynic, I naturally assume the latter. But without further detail, I can’t comment on yesterday’s decision. All I can do is write about why the decision NOT to ground the airplane with previously-available information was the right thing to do despite all the intense pressure.

The Build-Up

We know the issues that led to the Lion Air accident last year. Maintenance problems resulted in aircraft automation (that didn’t exist on previous 737 models, mind you) improperly nosing the aircraft down after departure. Pilots failing to properly respond to that movement doomed the airplane. Much has been made of Boeing failing to properly train pilots on that automation, and further training has been implemented. There is also a software rework in progress. We can go way into the weeds on whether the 737 MAX should have been required to get its own type certificate, but that’s a topic for another time… So yes, there’s plenty of blame here, but steps were in place to fix the immediate problems. A good, well-trained pilot should have been able to fly through that Lion Air situation, at least as we know it.

In fact, it sounds like the Ethiopian pilots were well-trained, and they had been given the additional training on the automation after the Lion Air crash. So did they just fail to heed their training? We have absolutely no idea. And that’s really the crux of the issue here. The only thing we know is that this airplane went down in a similar phase of flight, but we don’t know why. Reports from the ground (which are notoriously unreliable) have suggested that there was smoke and possibly debris trailing the airplane before it went down. That would certainly point to a different issue if it proves to be true. But WE DON’T KNOW, and we won’t really know until they get into the black boxes.

Once the black boxes are examined, something that I expect will happen very quickly considering the global pressure, we will know more. Maybe something will be found to suggest that the airplane needs to be grounded until a fault is fixed, but if we put the situation in context, it’s hard to come to that conclusion at this point.

25,000 Flights a Month and Climbing

Let’s get a little perspective here. It looks like there are roughly 25,000 flights a month being operated by MAX aircraft. That number climbs every day (uh, well, until this week) as more airplanes get delivered. So of the hundreds of thousands of flights that have operated, two have ended in an accident.

One of those accidents has been thoroughly reviewed and we know that any number of fixes could have saved the airplane. Had Lion Air done maintenance to fix the Angle of Attack sensors, had the pilots reacted properly to the nose-down response, or if the automation worked differently… that airplane would still be around and everyone would be safe. That’s not something that should require grounding an airplane, especially with quick fixes like supplemental training being available.

Now we have this Ethiopian accident. We do not know what happened, but the media jumped all over it and scared the hell out of everyone. I suppose this really is a testament to how safe air travel has become. I mean, between 1991 and 1994, USAir alone had four fatal accidents that killed 218 people. Should we have shut them down? (Actually, don’t answer that…)

The People I Trust Say The Airplane is Safe

Ultimately, this comes down to who you trust to make the right decision. Governments are more likely to listen to lobbyists and act how the polls tell them to act than they are to follow strict safety guidelines. There’s always a push and pull. (I hate that I have to say that, but just ask the NTSB how many recommendations of theirs have been ignored over the years.)

And of course, Boeing and the airlines in the US that operate the MAX have a huge profit motive. While I’d like to think they all would put safety before profit… it’s easy to see the conflicts in the decision-making process. That’s why I look at those who are risking their lives by operating the airplane, if in fact there is something wrong with it.

American’s pilots came out in defense of keeping the airplane flying. Southwest’s pilots said that with more than 41,000 flights on the MAX under their belts, they consider the airplane “safe based on the facts, intelligence, data, and information we presently have.” United’s pilots said they are “confident in our ability to fly the airplane.” If they were comfortable flying it, then I should be comfortable riding in it.

The DC-10

Many are looking back at history to find parallels here, to help better inform the decision. There is probably no better comparison than the grounding of the DC-10 after American 191 crashed on May 25, 1979 after one of the engines and pylons separated from the wing upon takeoff.

The iconic photo of the doomed aircraft in a steep left bank over the airport immediately before impact scared everyone who saw it. As with the 737 MAX today, people were nervous to fly the airplane, and airlines rushed to assuage travelers. But then on June 6, the FAA grounded the airplane. They had good reason. As the New York Times explained in an article from June 10 of that year:

The mechanics in California discovered that two-inch cracks —similar to flaws that may have been involved in the dropped engine that caused the May disaster — had developed in both planes’ pylons since the last inspection, only 100 flight hours earlier. That prompted the F.A.A. to an unprecedented early-morning directive revoking the DC-10’s design certification.

Here was concrete evidence that the airplane was unsafe. Cracks had developed during a very short period of time. It was completely rational to ground the airplane, even though it turned out it wasn’t caused by the aircraft design but rather a short-cut maintenance procedure that shouldn’t have been used.

In other words, these are very different circumstances, though there was plenty of criticism of the FAA back in 1979 as well. This isn’t an easy decision, but it’s important to make the best decision for everyone involved.

Balancing

Remember that there were dozens of these airplanes flying in the US before the grounding, and they can’t be replaced overnight. American says it will be canceling about 85 flights a day. United and Southwest will likely see a lesser impact, but still, this leaves a lot of people stranded.

Would I get on a MAX today? Yes. Would I be nervous when we took off? Yes. But that’s just an internal reaction influenced more as a result of the media coverage and ensuing panic then actual facts.

Maybe the FAA learned something yesterday that will make a difference, or maybe they didn’t. But right now, it’s the uncertainty around what happened to Ethiopian 302 that is driving everyone insane. Once we know what happened there, hopefully cooler heads can prevail.

March 14, 2019 at 12:45PM Source: https://crankyflier.com

The Texas Two-Stop: Interlining with United Ai…

The Texas Two-Stop: Interlining with United Airlines:

A United 787 Dreamliner taking off in San Francisco

With other carriers bringing in record profits, United Airlines struggled to find the “Friendly Skies” after merging with Continental. In eight years together, they’ve experienced more PR nightmares than any other carrier in North America, by a country mile. Burdened by a negative reputation, United became an afterthought; soon overtaken by Delta and American Airlines.

After CEO Jeff Smisek resigned in 2015 under suspicion of corruption, things looked bleak. When incoming CEO, Oscar Munoz, experienced a heart attack one month into the job, the pulse appeared to be gone completely. We struggled to keep an open mind about the airline.

Bonus: Guest Flight Review: United Airlines Doesn’t Live Up To Expectations

Our first experience with the new United, back in 2015, did not go well. In Vancouver, we had difficulty checking in and selecting our seats, our flight from Denver to Austin was canceled and when we were finally re-booked on a later flight, our seats were separated. However, when I visited Austin a year later for the U.S. Grand Prix, United felt like a new airline. This time I had no issues selecting seats, no delays, and no unexplained procedures. Considering my moderate expectations for a basic economy fare, I had nothing to complain about. I couldn’t really judge the airline on my first two experiences; the sample size was too small. I needed another experience to break the tie.

Unfortunately, due to the personal circumstances which were about to unfold, the flight experience would be the least of my concern. But it became an opportunity to put United to the test and come up with a new conclusion. Read on to see a bit more what I am talking about and my two-stop journey on two airlines, and three aircraft types (including flying a 777 domestically).

Boeing 737 sitting at the gate in San Francisco.

Some Personal Context

On September 26th, 2018, I received a call from my father informing me that my cousin had passed away due to heart failure. At 28, his death was completely out of the blue and came as a real shock for the family. I knew I had to make it down for the funeral despite my recent injury.

Due to contributing factors, I’d need to take a red-eye to get there on time. The only real option which would get me there at a convenient time was with United. Even though my trip would involve two layovers, I was scheduled to arrive in Austin by 9 am. On the flight down, I considered whether to document the flights in a trip report.

After talking it over with my relatives, and reading a piece done by Brett Snyder, I came to the decision that I could do the review in an objective manner without any emotional bias.

BONUS: A Trip on Virgin America I Wish I Didn’t Have to Take (Trip Report) via Cranky Flier

Leading up to the trip, things were very stressful. I had just picked up a back injury while competing on the golf team, the midterm season had begun, and I was dealing with the loss of two other individuals close to me: a former co-worker, and a close friend from my golf club. On the day I was due to fly down to Austin, I had a midterm scheduled for 2:30 pm (PST). While I might have been able to re-schedule, I didn’t feel comfortable asking for an extension. I had already missed a couple of classes (golf commitments) and I didn’t want to be the guy who always asks for extensions.

Flight 1: YVR-LAX (Flight 558 operated by Air Canada )

While the itinerary wasn’t ideal, it was rather interesting from an “AvGeek” perspective. My trip would involve two stops en-route: Los Angeles International (LAX) and Houston Intercontinental (IAH). Having experienced issues with United before, I won’t deny that I was somewhat concerned. I really couldn’t afford to lose time en-route or miss a connection. That being said, there weren’t many other options which would get me there in time for the funeral.

So after finishing my exam, with my backpack full of marketing notes and magazines for the flight, I hopped on the Canada Line (Vancouver’s LRT) and arrived at the airport at 5 pm.

A collection of aircraft lined up for departure at YVR.

After some confusion, I acquired my boarding passes through to Austin

Pre-Flight @ YVR

Due to the fact that I was interlining, I was unsure who to check in with. I had a booking reservation code with Air Canada as well as United. When I tried checking in the night before, I had some difficulty obtaining my boarding passes through to Austin. While I solved the problem in time for my return flights, I opted to print paper boarding passes at YVR. For the eco-freaks out there, I try to use electronic passes whenever possible.

From what I recall, there wasn’t a long line-up for security or passport control. I think I was through to the departure gates in less than half an hour. With close to two hours to spare before boarding, I had plenty of time to grab some food and a brew at the Vancouver Canucks Bar and Grill. Feeling properly relaxed for the first time in two months, I may have over-indulged. With the Canucks on their way to beating the Tampa Bay Lightning and a pleasant companion beside me at the bar, I could’ve spent hours there. Time flew by. At 7:45 (PST) it was time to board the aircraft. Our A321 was parked at gate 81, resplendent in Air Canada’s new livery. While I was unable to capture any external photos, I was excited nonetheless.

BONUS: Opinion: The New Air Canada Livery Makes Me Hate Myself! 

P.S. (Unlike the linked story above, I actually like the livery because it reminds me of the 90s. As a kid, (born in 1992) I didn’t really care what the airplane looked like, I just wanted it to be as loud as possible when it lifted off the runway) 

Pre-Flight Photos:

The empty seats of the aircraft waiting to be filled.

While I found United’s Private Screening to be perfectly acceptable, I do prefer Air Canada’s seatback IFE.

A full pint of beer just waiting to be consumed.

I enjoyed a pint of YVR’s “Wheels Up” IPA while watching the Vancouver Canucks defeat the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The gate area a few minutes before boarding the aircraft.

Our flight to Los Angeles did not take long to board in contrast to the WestJet flight parked next to us.

Air Canada In-Flight

The aircraft was less than half full and I had an entire row to myself. With no one in the row behind me, I made full use of the 4-inch recline. I was amazed by the additional level of comfort. Never wishing to inconvenience the people behind me, I rarely use the full recline. Despite being an apologetic Canadian, the additional comfort and legroom might be too good to give up.

The transborder terminal at YVR at 8pm

Getting ready for pushback at YVR. Based on the number of Air Canada tails, you’d think I was embarking on a domestic flight.

With that revelation complete, we pushed back one minute behind schedule at 8:11 pm and made the long taxi over to runway 26L. At 8:27 pm, after loading Super Troopers 2 on my personal TV screen (Air Canada still offers seatback IFE), we took off and climbed out of Vancouver on the way to Los Angeles.

Despite having some issues with my headphones, the two hours and twenty minutes really flew by (pardon the pun). When it came time for the beverage/snack service, I dug out the credit card and selected Chicago’s Goose Island IPA. The hazy state of mind induced by the IPA left me feeling relaxed for the remainder of the flight.

BONUS: Airways Brewing Company Proudly Reveals #AvGeek Beer

As we made our way down into Los Angeles, I found it hard to get a sense of scale. From the air, the lights seemed to extend forever and the airport seemed like a small rectangle bordering the ocean. As we got closer to touchdown, it became a little easier to identify landmarks. After landing on Runway 24L, we still had a bit of a taxi over to Terminal 6.

My First-Time Experiencing LAX

It’s hard to describe my first impressions of LAX. As we taxied past the United hangar and the Tom Bradley International Terminal, the only other airport that came to mind (in terms of scale) was London Heathrow. Unfortunately, due to the low-light, I wasn’t able to take any good pictures of the terminals and the maintenance areas.

I couldn’t believe how many aircraft were parked at remote stands around the airport. It struck me that there must have been close to 200 aircraft scattered around the facility. We finally parked at Gate 69B at 10:59 pm. After disembarking, I tried capturing a few photos of the terminal activity without much success.

Despite having almost two hours between flights, I was still unsure about having to change terminals. I had heard stories about the difficulty of transferring in LAX due to the historical design of the terminals. However, I need not have worried; as it turned out, there was an airside corridor which quickly took me to my gate over in terminal 7.

BONUS: Opinion: LAX Story- Why the Terminal 4 Connector Matters To You

Poor lighting in Los Angeles made photography difficult

While officially home to a mix of carriers, the bulk of the flights at Terminal 6 are operated by Air Canada and Alaska Airlines/Virgin America. (Photo: John Jamieson, October 11, 2018, KLAX)

Flight 2: LAX-IAH (Flight 1614 operated by United Airlines on a 777)

For some reason, I really didn’t expect the flight to be that busy. When we purchased the flights, I noticed that our flight was going to be operated by one of United’s Boeing 777-200s. I figured that the red-eye from LAX was operated by a widebody because of the need to relocate the aircraft in Houston, as opposed to the volume of traffic. As it turned out, this would be a full and highly uncomfortable flight.

Having never taken a red-eye before, I made another poor assumption; I just expected that I would be able to fall asleep on this leg of the trip. That didn’t happen, despite my best efforts.

BONUS: REVIEW: Flying on a Delta Air Lines Boeing 777-200LR Domestically

A 3-4-3 High Density 777 Economy Class

I enjoyed my window seat until the two seats beside me were filled

When we began boarding the aircraft, I made sure to stow my luggage in the overhead compartment. It was about to get really busy. When I got back to row 50 I was pleased to see that the aircraft was fairly light, I expected to have some room to stretch out and sleep, just like the Air Canada flight from Vancouver. The boarding area had been pretty full, but I was optimistic because of the number of flights departing to the Eastern seaboard. Unfortunately, I was very mistaken. The flight ended up being a full load and I was boxed into the window seat with no room to stretch out. Determined to make the best of it, I settled in for the three-hour flight across the southern United States.

In-Flight on my United 777

Officially, we pushed back from Gate 77 two minutes behind schedule at 12:57 am. Given the final seating arrangement, I was quite pleased to have been in Zone 3 while boarding. Unlike the majority of the economy passengers, I was able to avoid gate-checking my carry-on. As the boarding progressed, I noticed many people in Zones 4 and 5 having to gate-check their carry-on bags (a.k.a. mini-suitcases). The additional time needed to find space for all the carry-on bags made me seriously question whether the airlines had thought about this problem before they implemented the checked bag fee.

The lights of Houston were a welcome sight after an uncomfortable flight

On arrival into Houston after an uncomfortable 3-hour flight.

Anyways, at 1:14 am local time, our 777 lifted off from runway 25R and climbed into the pitch black California night. I really had hoped to get some sleep on this leg of the trip; however, I just wasn’t able to nod off. The inability to stretch out and the confined space was not a good combination for my back. I couldn’t seem to find a comfy position. Making the best of a bad situation, I pulled up the United App on my phone and sampled their Private Screening IFE; thankfully, United’s expanded movie selection helped pass the time on the 2-hour 55-minute trek.

P.S. If you’re wondering, I chose a classic for the flight: Men In Black (1997)

BONUS: An interesting look at the Movies and TV shows most watched on United via Brett Snyder

Arrival into Houston

At a quarter to six in the morning (CST), we touched down on Runway 8R. Happy to be back on the ground, we exited the runway and parked at gate C14. Having flown through IAH before with United, I was somewhat familiar with the terminal configuration and the atmosphere. That being said, I was pleasantly surprised by the amenities and feel of Terminal C North (Gates C1-C15). The departure area had high ceilings and felt distinctly modern compared to the dated Terminal C South (Gates C29-C45), where my flight to Austin would soon depart from.

At this point in the trip, my lack of sleep was starting to catch up with me. In my drowsy state, I ignored the abundance of culinary options available on the north side and grabbed a pre-made sandwich and iced tea from a newsstand to fill up.

The light wouldn't be properly up until we pushed back on the way to Austin

Early arrival from Los Angeles; Ship 2480, delivered to United in August 1996, sitting at gate C14 at Houston George Bush Intercontinental – Photo: John Jamieson, October 12, 2018, KIAH

Flight 3: IAH-AUS (Flight 482 operated by United Airlines )

With the funeral set for 1 pm, I had an hour to wait and take everything in before my short hop over to Austin. On the flight from Los Angeles, I had gotten the feeling that my 777 was on the older side of its life. While my A320 to Austin was in better shape than the Boeing, in the future I’m going to try and choose United itineraries that involve their 737 fleet. Their newer 737-800s and -900s have a much nicer atmosphere and feel more in line with where the airline is headed. I also like the fact that a large portion of the fleet has personal seatback entertainment.

(P.S. on a somewhat related note, United’s safety videos have seen a significant increase in quality and visual appeal).

The sun just starting to rise in Houston with the morning United flights getting ready to take on passengers.

Fin 4289 sitting at gate C42; after spending some time with United’s low-cost subsidiary Ted, this A320 had been reconfigured back to a slightly more comfortable configuration. (Photo: John Jamieson, Oct 12, 2018, KIAH)

Departure

Pushing back from the Gate

The sun was barely up by the time we pushed back from our gate

As we started boarding, I noticed that we’d be a full flight. Once again I was thankful for my Zone 3 designation. I was amazed at the number of people being asked to gate check their bags. Since I usually line up early, I’ve almost never had a problem finding storage space for my carry-on bag. These flights were different, and I was quite lucky to find empty bins at the back of the aircraft.

Looking back at the runway after departure.

Shortly after departing off runway 15R, we got a great view of the airport

By 7:53 am (CST) we were all loaded up and ready for the short hop over to Austin. For such a short flight, we ended up having a reasonably long taxi: 25 minutes from the gate to the runway. Having been awake for most of the night, I wasn’t really focused on the passenger experience. With a scheduled flying time of 30 minutes, I didn’t bother setting up a movie.

In-Flight and Arrival into Austin

Rather fittingly, I fell asleep on the climb out of Houston. By the time I woke up, we were midway through the flight, just about ready to begin the descent into Austin. Having been unable to doze off on the flight from Los Angeles, I was somewhat annoyed. As we made the approach into Austin, we got a lovely view of the city and the University of Texas football stadium (DKR Memorial). At 8:47 am local time, we touched down on 17R and made the short taxi over to the Barbara Jordan Memorial Terminal. Within half an hour, I was picked up by my family and taken to our hotel for some rest before my cousin’s funeral.

My United Experience Conclusion

At the end of it all, my experience with United exceeded expectations. All of my flights (in this trip report) were on time, the cabin service was perfectly acceptable (given the price of the ticket), and the in-flight entertainment app offered hours of audio and visual content.

When I consider the entire trip, only one flight was below par: the red-eye from Los Angeles to Houston. Everything else was at a “B standard” or higher. The routing of the flights made the trip unique and the chance to fly a triple seven without having to splurge was an added bonus. If you’re concerned that I’m being overly positive about a routine economy experience, I could probably find time to rant about seat comfort or something mildly pedantic in the comments section below. There really wasn’t too much to criticize beyond the occasional “spottiness” of the IFE connection.

Before I go, I’m curious about your thoughts on economy class reviews. Back in University, I would often search through AR‘s archive for long-haul trips or unique flights undertaken in economy. The experiences were always genuine and they often had an element of creativity which was sometimes absent from the premium reviews. It got me thinking. What do you need from your economy class experience?

Punctuality was key on this particular trip; I could afford to sacrifice some comfort. Usually, I don’t need anything more than a functional IFE and an occasional beverage/snack. But we’re all different. I’d love to know, in your mind, what airline stands out from the rest when it comes to economy service!

United A319 under slightly overcast skies in Austin

The post The Texas Two-Stop: Interlining with United Airlines appeared first on AirlineReporter.

March 13, 2019 at 08:31PM Source: https://ift.tt/2Ex2ezu

FAA Statement on Boeing 737 Max 8

FAA Statement on Boeing 737 Max 8:

3/11/19 6:00pm Update

The FAA has issued a Continued Airworthiness Notification to the International Community (CANIC) related to the Boeing 737-8 and Boeing 737-9 (737 MAX) fleet.


3/11/19 3:15pm Update

An FAA team is on-site with the NTSB in its investigation of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302.We are collecting data and keeping in contact with international civil aviation authorities as information becomes available.Today, the FAA will issue a Continued Airworthiness Notification to the International Community (CANIC) for Boeing 737 MAX operators. The FAA continuously assesses and oversees the safety performance of U.S. commercial aircraft. If we identify an issue that affects safety, the FAA will take immediate and appropriate action.

March 11, 2019 at 10:46PM Source:FAA.gov News and Updates https://ift.tt/2aTM6Ji