Archive for the 'travel' Category

Are You A Passenger Or A Criminal?

Cavity search, biometric data, pat-down, body screening. What is next? A regular passenger is checked more often than an average criminal in jail. Is it really necessary?

As CNN reported yesterday (April 16), two majos US airports – Los Angeles LAX and New York JFK – will start to use body screening machines. The machines had been tested in Phoenix, Arizona and apparently it proved to be useful as more passenegrs chose to go through the body screener than having a pat-down.

When I read this part of the article, I was really surprised. I am not pleased by a pat-down, still I would prefer it to a body screening machine, where all bits of my body could be seen for a complete stranger. May be it just my “feminist aggression” that says: no, I have the right to decide who can see my body.

Then I kept on reading and I understood it:

Travelers will continuously and randomly be selected to go through the machine. While signs will inform them of the pat-down option, screeners will not announce that choice. But passengers electing not to go through the millimeter wave machine will be given the option of the pat-down.

You have the right, you just won’t be informed about it. Now that is nice, isn’t it? Bad news for passengers departing from the US is that TSA is planning to buy 30 more machines. Once a business is blossoming…

Body screeningI understand it, that they just want to protect us, regular travellers from being blown up on a passenger jet and I agree that airline safety is first priority for them, but is it really necessary? Is there anything on earth that this wil show on a human body and those beeping gates do not filter out? Is it still about safety?

Basically it has become a nightmare to fly in or out of the US. Hours of queues at the immigration when travelling in including fingerprint and eye check and now body screening when travelling out. Why is it much more simple in the EU?

(photo by USA Today)
By Szafi
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Oasis Hong Kong Airlines Goes Out of Business

On 09APR2008 14:00 Hong Kong time, the first long haul low cost airline has ceased its operations. Oasis Hong Kong has been a story that a large portion of the Airline Industry was following as it was the ice-breaker in the long haul low cost market with its cheap flights between Hong Kong and London Gatwick.

Oasis Hong Kong Boeing 747

They started their daily flights in October 2006 with the above mentioned route and have later added 6 times weekly service between Hong Kong and Vancouver, Canada. Their fleet has grown to four Boeing 747-400s, two are (were) former Singapore Airlines aircraft and two were formerly operated by All Nippon Airways (ANA). They were providing two cabins: Economy and Business starting from just GBP 358 return fare.

The airline was planning new routes to Europe (Berlin, Cologne/Bonn, Manchaster, Milan), North America (San Francisco and Chicago) and Australia (Melbourne and Sydney) “in the near future” according to their website, which plans will probably be cancelled or at least revisited now. Less than a month ago (19MAR2008) they still had news about new appointments in their sales force, but now it looks like those were too late.

Currently the following statement is on their website (www.oasishongkong.com):

It is with regret that Oasis Hong Kong Airlines announces that the airline has applied to the Hong Kong Court to appoint a provisional liquidator on 9 April 2008. The Court has appointed Edward Middleton and Patrick Cowley of KPMG as the provisional liquidators, and they have assumed control of the airline with effect from 1400h the same day Hong Kong time.

Our flight operations have been cancelled until further notice. The Provisional Liquidators are liaising with other airlines in order to help customers make alternate travel arrangements as quickly as possible.

This will probably mean a lot of business for British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Virgin Atlantic, Singapore Airlines and Qantas – who operate most of the flights between Hong Kong and London as well as for Air Canada and Cathay Pacific who fly between Hong Kong and Vancouver.

Looks like after all -in this case- the traditional airlines managed to withstand the promised competition of a low cost long haul operator…

by balint01

London Heathrow Terminal 5 Opens

The biggest construction work over the last years is finished and the largest standalone building of the UK has started its everyday business today. The UK’s flagship building is solely to be used by British Airways (BA), the UK’s flag carrier. BA promises that connections will be much faster (~20 mins), and also time spent at the Terminal while departing will also be significantly reduced (~10 mins), as they plan with most of the passengers checking in online before arriving to the airport and then “flying” through the Departures area very quickly. To allow this, 96 fast-bag drops have been installed with the same number of self-service check-in kiosks for those who had no time to check-in from their office, home or mobile phone. According to the website of British Airways, all passengers must be ready to fly (passed check-in and security) 35 minutes before their flights, which means on a normal operational day you can arrive at the airport only 45 minutes before your flight (but this is a theoretical minimum, we believe this means 55-60 minutes in reality…) – if you’re an experienced self check-in kiosk user or have used online check-in and do not have any baggages to check-in.

Terminal 5 banner on ba.com

A Green Building

Following the first idea about a fifth terminal in as early as 1982, construction finally started on the £4.3 billion pound project in September 2002 (5.5 years ago) and has been on time and on budget. 2006 Stirling Prize winner the Richard Rogers Partnership designed the 40 metre high, 396 metres long and 176 metres wide, 5 level Terminal 5. It is built between Heathrow’s two runways, on reclaimed land previously occupied by a sludge works. The project has successfully moved 9 million cubic metres of earth and two rivers have been diverted to create space for the new building. The area now is home to 30.000 woodland plants and 4.000 trees and is planned to have more in the next two years. On top of this green initiative, the building will be operated with as small environmental effects as possible:
  • Water conservation – 85 per cent of the water that falls on T5 will be collected and reused
  • Recycling – 97 per cent of the construction waste was reused and passengers can contribute by recycling their waste at special facilities around the terminal
  • Lighting – the predominantly glass constructed building allows in natural sunlight, reducing the need for artificial lighting (30.000 square metres of reinforced glass and 5.500 glass panels also guarantee the light and airy feel)
  • Heat – 85 per cent of the heat required by the building is provided by waste heat from the existing airport heat and power station

The terminal housing the longest baggage carousel system in the world will be able to handle 30 million passengers every year, raising the total capacity of Heathrow to 90 million from 68 million currently (while the airport was originally designed for 45 million…). The main terminal building is home to Concourse A, while the satellite Concourse B has been finished as well (with dedicated stands for the Airbus A380 superjumbo – already on order with BA), and is connected to the main building by an underground people mover system. The opening of Concourse C is scheduled for 2010. Alltogether, Terminal 5 will have 60 aircraft stands.

All sorts of traffic means are connected to the building, including Heathrow Express rail service as well as the London Underground’s Piccadilly Line. 4.000 cars can be parked in the new Parking Garage, but there are bicycle routes up to the terminal as well, with free bicyle parking in car parks 1 and 1A.

BA will use Terminal 5 as the only one carrier, but Terminal 5 will not be the only one terminal used by BA, as they are forced to keep some of their services on Terminal 3. You can find the list of destinations served by BA and their Terminals here. There will also be a frequent coach service launched between Terminals 3 and 5 to allow BA passengers to easily transfer between the two terminals used by the British carrier.

The first flight to arrive is BA 026 from Hong Kong, piloted by BA’s first woman pilot, Captain Lynn Barton, due to touch down at 4.50am. She has described the role as “a huge honour”. The first flight to depart is heading for Paris at 6.20pm with a further 380 (what a coincidence with the A380…) flights due to arrive or depart at the terminal on its first day. The BA move will involve a convoy of more than 1,000 vehicles, including 360 baggage trailers, 240 cargo containers and 27 short-haul aircraft. More than 2,500 ground staff will also make the move, with another 3,000 to follow on the 30th of April.

Once airside, BA passengers will be able to kill time in an enormous shopping mall and a range of cafes and restaurants – the list of outlets includes Harrods, Prada, Bulgari, Wagamama, Gordon Ramsay, Paul Smith and Carluccio’s as well as Starbucks among many-many others.

by balint01

Singapore Airlines A380 News

Singapore Airlines took delivery of the third Airbus A380 superjumbo, which arrived in Singapore on Wednesday and has 471 seats, in the same configuration as the first two aircraft. The delivery was relatively quiet, even in dedicated news about airlines, it was only a two line short notification, rather than a regular news item. Singapore plans to use this aircraft on its new route to London Heathrow, together with their second one. The new route scheduled to open in a few days on 18MAR2008 will mark the first time an A380 is flying to the old continent as a scheduled service.

Second Airbus A380 delivered to Singapore Airlines (photo by Singarpore Airlines)

Separately Singapore Airlines has announced yesterday that it will open another new route flown by the largest commercial jet, on 20MAY2008, which will take the superjumbo to Japan. The new flight SQ636 will depart Singapore Changi at 23:40 (the inagural flight will take off one hour later) and will arrive to Tokyo Narita at 7:30 am (8:30) the next day. The return flight will take off from the Japanese metropolitan at 11:30 and will arrive to Singapore at 17:35 the same day. Tokyo is the fourth city to be serviced by the A380, and the first one in Asia. Tickets already bought for these flights remain valid without a change, similar to the way the London tickets were rebooked to the A380 automatically.

by balint01

New A380 Routes – by Emirates

Airbus A380 in Emirates livery

The first operator of the A380, Singapore Airlines is bringing the A380 to London in two weeks, but in the meantime, the second airline to receive their first A380, Emirates has announced the planned new routes where they will fly the aircraft initially. Emirates will receive 5 Super-Jumbos this year, and they will roll them out on the following routes with the following dates:

  • New York JFK (starting 01OCT2008 – starting 01AUG2008 )
  • London Heathrow (starting 01DEC2008 )
  • Sydney (starting 01FEB2009)

This really brings two new destinations to the growing network served by the A380: Emirates’ home in Dubai and New York JFK, the first A380 destination in North-America, as London and Sydney will be served by Singapore Airlines by that time. Emirates has also announced that the aircraft flying on these routes will have the following seating arrangement:

  • 14 seats in First Class
  • 76 seats in Business Class
  • 399 seats in Economy Class

Just as a quick comparison: Singapore Airlines is flying the following configuration: 12 in First, 60 in Business, and also 399 in Economy. The total difference is 18 seats surplus for Emirates, which probably means slightly larger space on Singapore, though, but let’s wait to see Emirates’ product when they reveal their first interior. Emirates has also announced, that as the leading customer of the A380 (with 58 airliners on order), they will have several cabin layouts for the type:

  • 489 seats in 3 classes (described above and used on international routes mentioned in this article)
  • 517 seats in 3 classes (for medium-range routes)
  • 604 seats in 2 classes (also for medium-range routes)

Also they hinted that they are still in negotiations about the first commercial A380 route, which then suspects that their first aircraft will have one of the higher seating arrangements and will fly on (a) medium-haul route(s).

by balint01

Friday Fun – A Perfect Way To Start Your Holiday?

My friend Attila pointed out a funny video, which is actually an advertising, but features a plane crash. So those of you who are afraid of ever landing on water, please be careful, you may also laugh! 🙂

by balint01

First Low-Cost Alliance: JetBlue and Aer Lingus

I have been talking (and thinking) about the future of the low-cost market around the world with many friends as well as colleagues from the airline industry for a few years. I’m happy to see one of the ideas I always mentioned in these conversations actually happening.

The equation is very easy to understand. In the beginning there was one, then there were two and by today there are a large number of low-cost carriers. Some of them have a really strong brand, but let’s face it, the average is only known to a certain region -close to their home base(s)-, where they concentrate all their branding and advertising. But you have to get business somehow, so you –as just one of the zillions of low-cost airlineswill eventually be forced to add some extra service to be different from the rest. You will either offer a frequent flier program, or drinks on board, or sandwiches on board, or guaranteed seating or satellite XM radio or TV or something, that differentiates you from the other low-costs. Maybe you team up with another low-cost to offer a wider network, more destinations and connections, one of the things that still keeps the costs of traditional airlines a little bit higher than of the low-costs. Until now low-costs only offered point-to-point flights, or maybe a single connection in their hub from their own flight, to their own flight. But now this is changing!

Aer Lingus Logo  JetBlue logo  

As ATW News reported recently American JetBlue Airways and Aer Lingus from Ireland unveiled details of their strategic partnership late last week, nearly one year after the “alliance” initially was revealed, proving that it will actually happen. The tie-up will take effect 03APR2008 and will feature a booking engine on the website of Aer Lingus (airline code: EI) that will allow customers to purchase tickets on EI flights to the US and onboard JetBlue services from New York JFK in one transaction. EI will have a transfer desk in the arrivals lobby of JFK‘s Terminal 4 where passengers can check in and drop their luggage upon clearing customs. Those flying to Ireland will be able to check their bags through from their initial US departure point when first checking in for a JetBlue flight. “Our partnership with Aer Lingus is a perfect fit with our brand and culture and we are thrilled to extend our network,” JetBlue CEO Dave Barger said. Aer Lingus CEO Dermot Mannion said, “We are proud to be pioneering the model of linking low-fare networks.

It’s interesting to see this latest step in the transformation of Aer Lingus. The story so far: a state-owned, traditional airline, that has a domestic, low-cost rival named Ryanair… The strategy has been laid a few years ago: EI needs to move towards the low-cost model to be able to compete with Ryanair and escape bankruptcy. Well, they kept their long-haul operations as the flag carrier of Ireland but have really transformed to a low-cost airline on short-haul routes. They used to be a member of the oneworld alliance, which they quit just more than a year ago, due to being too “low-cost-ish” and not fitting the requirements of oneworld anymore. But it looks like they still need the help of other airlines’ networks, and having the experience of a global alliance membership for years, they are now starting their own new alliance, which happens to be in the low-cost market. Just look at any of the currently operating alliances, they all have a strong European and a strong US founding member. This alliance follows the same idea, but in a different market. Let’s see how far they will go with this alliance, whether if it will remain a marketing solution only (linking booking engines, issuing tickets in one transaction (with internal accounting between the two members) and allowing through-check-in of passengers and luggage), or if they will soon link up TrueBlue and The Gold Circle Club to allow frequent flier point/mile collection on each other’s flights and will roll out other joint services? Maybe new, smaller members will be revealed later on? We’ll see.

by balint01 


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