Air New Zealand reveals its All Black B777-300ER

Posted on: December 20th, 2011 by: planensimple

Boeing 777-300ER aircraft.

Star Alliance Carrier, Air New Zealand which is very popular in the social media for its cheeky ads and smart campaigns recently gave a sneak peek at the world’s largest commercially operated aircraft to be painted completely black.

The airline has gotten Boeing to paint its fifth B777-300ER in all black livery dedicated to the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team, the aircraft which is expected to be delivered to Air New Zealand in late January following the completion of its interior fit out and will make its way to Auckland, Los Angeles, London Heathrow and Melbourne airports during 2012.

Highlighting its long standing sponsorship of the All Blacks who also are the current World Champions, the airline got Kieran Read and Andy Ellis to Boeing hangar facility in Seattle for a special ceremony for the aircraft’s unveiling to world. As per Boeing, painting the aircraft took just over a week, two days longer than it normally takes to paint a 777 aircraft. 185 gallons (700 liters) of chrome-free primer and paint was used and involved a total of 14 painters working in shifts 24 hours a day. Prepping and painting the aircraft entirely black took one and a half days, followed by a further five days for the intricate detail of the silver fern overlaid on it and the Koru symbol. Remaining time was spent on the finishing touches, Boeing has termed this as one of the most challenging paint jobs in it’s history.

The all black color scheme and silver fern are a key part of both New Zealand’s and the All Blacks’ identity has already been painted on a couple of A320’s (ZK-OAB and ZK-OJR) and they entered into service earlier this year, By mid next year Air New Zealand will have six aircraft featuring the all black livery including two Airbus A320s and three Beech 1900D turbo-props. Contrary to popular belief, the black paint won’t cause the aircraft to heat up a great deal. In fact, the more than 330 individual TV screens inside the aircraft create more additional heat than the all black paint job.

Personally I find the livery amazing and a great masterpiece, hats off to the technicians who made this happen with all the long hours put in by them and am really looking forward to have a chance to fly the bird soon.

Check out the ‘Behind the Scenes’ video here:
Air New Zealand All Black Livery

Emirates to provide In-Flight Internet on its Airbus A380 fleet

Posted on: December 19th, 2011 by: planensimple

Emirates has recently announced plans of providing in-flight internet on-board its superjumbo fleet  of 11 of  the 19 Airbus A380s already in service starting mid-2012. All future Emirates A380s will be rolled out pre-fitted with wireless Internet. Passengers will be able to connect their smartphone, tablet or laptop to wireless hotspots dotted around the superjumbo and tap into in-flight Internet service provided by OnAir, with prices ranging from US$7.50 to US$25.

The $7.50 plan, which will be available only to mobile device users will come with a 5MB data limit and is targeted for users looking for light surfing, checking emails and other social network activities, as Emirates puts it ” The US $7.50 package should be sufficient for the average Blackberry user to stay connected all the way from Dubai to Paris – a flight of over six and one half hours”.

The remaining plans are valid for laptops and mobile devices starting with the $15 plan which comes with a 25MB data limit which is for people looking to get some work done while on the flight and will surely appeal the business traveller. Lastly there us a $25 plan which is aimed at heavy users having a 100 MB data limit.

With the amount of time being spent in air increasing, in-flight internet options are becoming increasingly necessary for the frequent traveller to help stay connected with the world and for Emirates it provides a huge opportunity for growth given that they have one of the best long haul fleets and also  the best service in the class.

Loyalty Program startup Topguest acquired by ezRez

Posted on: December 14th, 2011 by: planensimple

Topguest, a San Francisco-based startup company providing loyalty and social network engagement products to travel companies has been acquired by ezRez which is a provider of provider of travel, loyalty and payment solutions and counts many big names as its customers.

Topguest has been quite popular of late due to the fact that it enables members of leading travel loyalty programs, such as United MileagePlus, Continental One Pass, IHG Priority Club and Hilton HHonors, to earn reward points for geo-located check-ins via their mobile devices and its website by linking their accounts with Topguest service.  The utilizes the check-in feature of the social apps such as Facebook, Foursquare, Instagram and Twitter to help its subscribers earn miles and hotel points and receive exclusive offers and bonuses for simply using some of these popular social services.  As I had blogged earlier Topguest recently announced a white label product that will enable traditional loyalty programs to implement a fully branded social network component. Based on data derived from their members’ social networking activity, loyalty programs can carefully target and customize offers that are relevant to each member.  The white label product is currently in beta with starting with Hilton as its launch partner.

ezRez plans to integrate Topguest solution into its existing travel booking platform for airlines, hotels and online travel agencies to help people earn points for various activities.  Points can then be redeemed for travel via ezRez’s loyalty travel platform, or for merchandise via ezRez’s new digital wallet product that allows points to pay for merchandise and services across the internet. The digital wallet product was announced in October with inaugural partners PayPal and United MileagePlus, and will launch in 2012. The details about the same can be found here and here.

It seems to be a great combo for the frequent travellers as they get to earn some extra points for almost every activity of their travel schedule and other related aspects of their daily life. Lets see how this partnership shapes up in the coming year and what all new products they have to offer the frequent flyers.

Cathay Pacific to launch new seats for Premium Economy and Economy

Posted on: December 12th, 2011 by: planensimple

Cathay Pacific has announced the launch of its new Premium Economy class and also an overhaul of its international economy seating. The airline to bring these changes onto its aircrafts starting March 2012 with the firs flight from Hong Kong to Sydney. The other routes which will be getting the Premium Economy seating will be Singapore, New York, Toronto and Vancouver followed by other destinations.

In contrast to the usual practice of placing Premium Economy seats in the same cabin as Econ0my, Cathay plans to create a seperate cabin space for the same having 26 to 34 seats based on the aircraft config. The Seat pitch will be 38 inches, which is six inches more than Economy Class and 19.3 inches wide, with an 8 inch recline and will have a large meal table, cocktail table, footrest, a 10.6-inch personal television, in-seat power outlet, a multi-port connector for personal devices andnoise-cancelling headphones. Economy Plus passengers will be welcomed aboard with juice and champagne, and get an enhanced onboard meal selection, they will also receive a bottle of water and additional snack choices to include more fresh fruit, energy bar and dessert.

In order to prove its point of being an Economy plus and not a Business minus, Cathay will provide priority check-in at dedicated counters and priority boarding ahead of Economy Class passengers. The baggage allowance will also be increased from 20kg to 25kg (for luggage allowances measured according to weight) or two pieces of baggage from 23 kg to 25kg each (for allowances measured by the number of pieces).

The new Premium Economy cabin will be installed on all Cathay Pacific long-haul aircraft including Boeing 777-300ERs, Boeing 747-400s, Airbus A330-300s and Airbus A340-300s with the first ones being rolled out in service in March. Cathay plans to have 87 aircraft fitted with the product by the end of 2013. In order to add the Premium Economy cabin inside its Boeing 777-300ERs, the airline will remove the first class cabin and also reduce the number of business class seats which is really a sad decision  for people like me who love to redeem their OneWorld miles for the Cathay First Class experience but from the airlines perspective, it makes much more economic sense.

The Economy fixed shell seating will be replaced with new recliner which is a long overdue change in my sense given the fact that how uncomfortable those shell seats were, this will really help enhance the Economy Class experience.

All in all the changes seemed to be geared towards bringing in much more customers to experience better comfort abeit at a lower price point, am just waiting to get to try the Economy Plus cabin for whatever benefits that are being promised by the airline.

Kingfisher pilots pick up a unique form of protest

Posted on: December 8th, 2011 by: planensimple

As reported in a business daily in India today, Kingfisher pilots have started a unique a form of protest against the company for the non-payment of their salaries since the last two months, the pilots have been announcing and I quote “it is their sense of duty towards the guest that is making them fly despite not being paid salaries for the past two months"

The announcements which started this Wednesday on flights out of Delhi seem to be spreading to other flights too, The announcements which are a part of a wider protest by pilots after a deadline set by them passed without any payments being made. Some pilots say they now plan to wear black armbands while reporting for work seem to have left the passengers wondering as to how long can the airline survive if things continue the same way.

The announcements don’t seem to break any protocol as such as the same happened after the aircrafts were parked but may very well invite disciplinary action from the airline, but in the current situation I guess they really have no choice, the airline which is undergoing considerable financial stress has already been put on cash and carry by most of the Indian airports and also Oil companies for non-payment of their previous dues, also with the Service tax authorities freezing their accounts today, the situation is turning out to be grim. It’s only a matter of days now before the airline either shuts down shop or gets some big ticket investor to invest in it. Till then the passengers can only hope that the airline keeps flying for their booked itineraries.

Awardwallet to stop providing AAdvantage mileage updates

Posted on: December 2nd, 2011 by: planensimple

Just got this interesting mail from Awardwallet stating that they will be purging the American Airlines data from their systems in order comply with the American Airlines cease and desist order, the hugely popular loyalty program site which almost every frequent flyer uses as a one stop shop for tracking all their loyalty account balances has stated that they will remove all American Airlines account details starting Dec 4, 2011.

The site plans to bring out a browser plugin for checking the AAdvantage account info right in your browser with all the AAdvantage data stored in your browser itself, you can sign up for the beta for the same here. I’m not very comfortable with the thought of having a browser extension store my important data but maybe I’m being paranoid here. Also the plugin would not be supported for all browser version so either you get the compatible one or stop tracking the AAdvantage account info with them.

I really hope that American Airlines gets back to its senses and stops creating this ugly mess, after all no one would like to go through logging into the website to check the individual balance for them when they can do it all in just one place with just a click of a button.

I mean really what does American intend to gain by doing this, publicity, sure they will but this is a pretty bad one and specially when you are undergoing a bankruptcy a move like this definitely wont please your most frequent flyers which are your biggest source of revenue.

You can read more about this on the Awardwallet FAQ page here and post your queries here.

American Airlines, AMR take the bankruptcy protection route

Posted on: November 29th, 2011 by: planensimple

After being the only major airline in the US history to not have filed one, American Airlines and its parent company AMR Corp filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection today.

There had been speculation going around ever since AMR shares suffered a hug 40% drop in October that airline may file for bankruptcy sooner or later to cut costs specially its labor costs which are currently the highest in the industry but the timing of this announcement seems to have caught everyone by surprise. While the bankruptcy protection gives AMR some elbow room in its ongoing discussions with the pilots and other work groups, it also renders the airline a ripe target for takeovers in an industry that is currently in a very fluid state due to high operational costs specially fuel and labor.

As per its Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing in a New York court, the company listed assets of $24.72 billion and liabilities of $29.55 billion and around $4.1 billion in cash.  During the 18 months of bankruptcy protection that the airline is seeking both American Airlines and its regional carrier American Eagle were expected to fly normal schedules. The airline has also stated that it would be business as usual all during this time so the transatlantic venture with IAG members British Airways and Iberia is expected to be operating smoothly all during this time.

With this all focus now comes down to American Airlines frequent flier program AAdvantage, which is a cash cow for the company and may prove to be a decisive tool in this whole process just like the Delta FFP proved to be for its parent Delta during its bankruptcy protection when American Express brought loads of miles from them which provided a very valuable lifeline. A similar kind of step maybe expected from Citi but as of now that’s to early to say whether such things materialize or not. As for now the best advice would be burn the accumulated miles with the AAdvantage program as the program seems to be not going anywhere for some time to come but in the long run no one really knows how things turn up.

British Airways plans to roll out iPad customer service to all its flights

Posted on: November 21st, 2011 by: planensimple

British Airways which has been running trials of using iPad for its staff to provide customer service on-board has plans to implement the service onto all its flights very soon. The airline which has been using the iPad customer service app to provide to provide its on-board crew with real-time insight into customers preferences across a whole range of areas, from special meal requests to onward travel plans has found that this has resulted in helping add a personalized touch to their customer service and also deal with specific needs of its frequent flyers.

The app which is configured to run on a 3G enabled iPad2 is based on the British Airways in-house Enhanced Service Platform app, which helps cut down the usage of tonnes of paper for passenger manifest and meal preferences etc. The airline going forward will feed all the necessary info onto the app for the crew to utilize the same and obtain data for the passengers on-board to serve them effectively. The airline states that the data in the app is password protected and hence accessible only to authorized personnel thereby relieving any data privacy fears.

All in all i think this is very good move as it helps the airline cut down on its wasteful expenditure on paper which in turn is a good initiative. also it enhances customer experience by providing the crew with the necessary info to serve its frequent flyers in a much better way by accessing their data online and also take necessary notes which they can use as future reference to make sure issues like broken In-Flight Entertainment (IFE) and other technical or personal issues can be minimized by taking action at the earliest.

British Airways is still trialling the personal iPad usage for its premium customers and plans to take a decision regarding the soon. All these steps may soon turn traveling into an altogether different experience in itself.

Accor A|Club 50% off sale for 9 days

Posted on: November 16th, 2011 by: planensimple

The French hotel group Accor hotels has launched a 9 day crazy sale where they are offering upto 50% discount on the participating properties worldwide. The booking needs to be completed before 25th November 2011 and the stay has to be from 11th December 2011 to 12th February 2012.

Accor’s loyalty program A|Club members enjoy the 50% discount whereas non-member enjoy a 40% discount. The list of the participating hotels can be found here and the booking can be made here.

Accor which has Pullman, M Gallery, Grand Mercure, Novotel, Mercure, ibis, All Seasons, Orbis and adagio brands in its portfolio has a good network worldwide and this sale seems to be a good opportunity to try out their properties at reduced prices and earn the A|Club points for your stay.

Dubai Airport ‘flash mob’ is a really cool way to promote their new card

Posted on: November 10th, 2011 by: planensimple

Dubai Airport recently launched the DXB Connect package product for travelers coming to Dubai or in transit, the package which consist of a prepaid travel card, a SIM card and discount coupons.

The event which saw 55 dancers break into a well choreographed dance routine at the Sheikh Rashid Terminal has become an internet sensation and also seemed to have caught the passengers during its filming quite startled. Check out the video yourself at the link given below.

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