Category Archives: Airlines

World’s Longest Flight

Doha-Auckland an airborne marathon.

Qatar Airways’ inaugural being welcome with water at Auckland.

The first run of the world’s longest commercial flight — Qatar Airways’ 9,032-miler from Doha to Auckland — has been completed.  Flight QR920 landed ive minutes ahead of schedule after a  daunting 16-hour, 23-minute flight across 10 time zones — longer than the entire “Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” trilogies that were filmed in New Zealand, the airline noted the airline. Bring on the compression socks.

Four pilots and 15 cabin crew members were aboard. The latter served 1,100 cups of tea and coffee, 2,000 cold drinks and 1,036 meals during the flight. I hope to food on Qatar is decent and the seats not too uncomfortable. In keeping with international tradition to welcome inaugural flights, the Auckland airport rescue service showered the plane with water cannons on arrival.

The Qatar flight replaces  Emirates’ 8,824-mile flight from Dubai to Auckland in the record books. Last year, I flew for 14 or more hours from Los Angeles to Shanghai. I watched four movies, read some and napped a little. By that measure,  Qatar Airways’ new flight would be good for five movies.

A Flight to Remember: Snake Falls from the Overhead

Slithery stowaway on Aeromexico flight.

aeromexico-logoA 5-foot serpent recently descended from the overhead compartment during Aeromexico Flight 230 from Torreon to Mexico City and slithered down the side of the plane before falling onto (hopefully unoccupied) seats.

Chron.com image.
Chron.com image.

According to Mexican newspaper El Debate, “flight attendants quickly notified the pilot who immediately began organizing an emergency landing,” adding that…

“A professor at Universidad Politécnica de la Región Laguna, a university in Coahuila, Mexico, captured video of the incident.

He Tweeted in Spanish: ‘The flying snake. A unique experience on a flight from Torreon, Mexico, flight 231 of Aeromexico. That being so … priority landing.’ He later added that Mexico City’s animal control division boarded the plane to secure the ‘unexpected traveler.'”

The airline reportedly is are working to determine how the snake found its way into the cabin in the first place, and how a similar incident can be prevented in the future. I certainly hope so

Oktoberfest Aloft

Meet Lufthansa’s ‘Dirndlcrew’ on select fall flights.

Lufthansa-logoThis is the 10th anniversary of Lufthansa’s Dirndlcrew, which, since 2006, has flown to some 20 destinations on four continents. Two days prior to the beginning of this year’s Munich Oktoberfest, two cabin crews take-off in Angermaier attire  — first on flights from Munich to Toronto and from Munich to Washington, DC., and then to destinations including Shanghai and Hong Kong on September 20, Denver on October 2 and Boston on October 3.

Lufthansa's variations on the theme of Dirndl during Oktoberfest,
Lufthansa’s variations on the theme of Dirndl during Oktoberfest,

At the beginning and the end of the Munich Oktoberfest, a crew from Lufthansa CityLine swaps regular uniform for the distinctive Dirndl on Belgrade, Birmingham, Cluj, Nice, Olbia and flights.  During Oktoberfest, Lufthansa passenger service employees at Munich airport also wear this endearing national costume. Since Denver celebrates its own Oktoberfest, I’m glad that the Dirndlcrew is assigned the MCH-DEN route early next month.

Latest Air-Travel Add-On: Complaining

U.K. Passengers may pay to complain.

ComplaintDeptThis is rich. In an effort to lighten its workload, Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) wants to shift some passenger complaints to Alternative Dispute Resolutions”(ADRs). There are three, and oddly,  two of them propose to charge an upfront fee £25 that will only be refunded if if the customer’s complaint is deemed “successful.”

The first step in complaining remains to address the airline itself. The second step, in case the problem is not resolved or the airline does not respond, would be to proceed to an ADR, which in theory should avoid an eventual court case.  The ADR’s decision would be binding, but it it anything like the way FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) handles investor complains in the U.S., it’s usually futile to go that route.

Nineteen airlines have reportedly moved their conflict resolution to an ADR. These include  British Airways, easyJet and Thomas Cook Travelers.

Cuba Flights About to Take Off

JetBlue is the first with regular flights.

JetBllueWith the normalization of U.S. -Cuba relations, airlines are gearing up to start scheduled (i.e., non-charter) service. JetBlue is the first to pull away from the gate with one-way fares from $99 beginning August 1 flying between Fort Lauderdale airport (FLL) in Florida and Cuba’s Santa Clara (SNU) . The carrier has been servicing Cuba with charter flights. If all goes according to plans, Camagüey and Holguín flights are to be added in November, eventually also Havana flights are to begin.

Travel News from South Am-AIR-ica

Antarctic Airways trip offerings + new merged carrier.

AntarcticAirways-logoI learned a lot at last week’s media luncheon focusing on travels in Chile — nothing more interesting than Antarctic Airways. I didn’t know anything about this airline, even though it’s been around in one fashion of another for 35 years. Still, now that I do know, I find it exciting. From a base in Punta Arenas on the tip of the South American continent it flies to King George Island on the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula.

The flight takes roughly two hours, which makes it possible to take a day trip with five hours on the White Continent, as well as an overnight trip or 6-day trip that includes the King George Island  overnight. What it excludes, happily for most people, is a two-day crossing of the wickedly rough Drake Passage. King George Island is far enough south so that visitors see lots of penguins, icebergs, seals and seabirds, as well as visits to Villa Estrellas, a year-round civilian settlement. Overnights are at a comfortable “ice camp” on Collins Glacier.

LATAM-logoWhen I checked my E-mail after lunch, I found a message announcing the merger of LAN and TAM into LATAM Airways, a combination that creates South America’s largest air route system. It flies to and within Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia,  Ecuador and Peru. US gateways are Los Angeles, Miami, Orlando, New York and Washington, DC. Once again, I wish Denver were on the list.

Jet-Lag ‘Cure’ in the Cabin

New technology on Airbus 350.

Airbus-logoWhen we returned from Australia last month, I had the worst jet lag in my own personal travel history. I did my usual: a glass of wine early in the light,classical music on my noise-canceling headphones and an attempt to get back on Mountain Time ASAP.  It lasted a day, until my body and mind were stalled somewhere over the Pacific for days.

Interior of Aibus 350 cabin.
Interior of Aibus 350 cabin.

Enter Airbus Industries. According to Economist reports,  researchers from Stanford have developed and Airbus has implemented jet lag treatment involving a series of LED light flashes that are capable of producing an astonishing 16.7 million different shades to try to mimic true sunlight. Traveling east, the cabin lights become brighter at the beginning of the day to trick the body into thinking the day is already well underway. Traveling west, the lights  stay brighter later, to mimic a later sunset.

This system is currently only available to five airlines that fly the A350 (Vietnam Airlines, Singapore, TAM Airlines, Qatar Airlines and Finnair). I don’t know which ones (if any) might already have implemented the system or whether it is available in all cabin classes, but it is intriguing.

Virgin America’s New SFO-DEN Service

VirginAmerica-logoI’m Australia, where we flew Virgin Australia between Sydney and Tasmania. Nothing at all unusual about the aircraft or the service. Still, in inaugurating service between San Francisco and Denver, its sister airline Virgin America, which a press release describes as “the Bay Area-based airline known for reinventing flying.” Mood lighting  in the cabin, above-average food, swivel TV screens, comfortable seats and such are often mentioned.

We fly back to Denver on Monday the 14th, so I am sure to be too jet-lagged to consider attending the festivities at DIA the next day. That means I’m missing out on the chance to be in the same room with Virgin Group Founder Sir Richard Branson, Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock and other notables and quotables. I’ve never flown Virgin America’s DIA-JFK service, whose schedule seems diabolically designed for bad connections to international flights.

Will, it has a loyal following of flyers for its business-friendly and tech-forward flight experience, including being the first and only U.S. carrier to offer fleetwide WiFi and power outlets at every seat.  The Denver area, which has been dubbed “Silicon Mountain” because of its own booming innovative economy, is today the number one most requested destination by the airline’s corporate clients.

Powerful Cyclone Slams Fiji

Taking Cyclone Winston a bit personally.

FijiMe-logoI’ve visited Fiji, a beautiful island nation in the South Pacific populated by people who exemplify the Polynesian tradition of hospitality. I’m dismayed to read about Winston, the most powerful ever recorded with winds of 180 mph with gusts over of 220 mph, that slammed into Fiji. It has resulted in relatively few fatalities — thus far.

The lei is not just a Hawaiian sign of welcome, but a Polynesian one. Bula as experssed by a string of beautiful blossoms and the sweet scent of plumeria and other tropical flowers.. l
The lei is not just a Hawaiian sign of welcome, but a Polynesian one. Bula as experssed by a string of beautiful blossoms and the sweet scent of plumeria and other tropical flowers.. l

Some 900,000 people are scattered among the 100 or so inhabited islands of the total of 332.  Communications, water, electricity and sewerage must surely have been impacted, but how strongly is still unknown. And then there are the airports.  I flew Air Pacific to Nadi, one of the country’s largest cities, and from there to smaller islands — each with a ferry pier and/or a grass or asphalt airstrip. Fiji boasts secluded and yes, romantic resorts on outlying islands.

CycloneWinston

In the interim, Air Pacific has become Fiji Airways, and my husband and I are scheduled to fly to Australia with them early next month.  We have a stopover in Nadi. Reports are that the storm tracked between the two biggest islands. Suva, the capital, and Nadi, where there main airport is located, are both on Viti Levu. The country will reportedly still be under a curfew and state of emergency when we pass through.

American cities on Fiji Airways’ route map are Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Honolulu. It also serves Australian and New Zealand and is a popular and convenient getaway for folks from both. Here’s hoping for the visitors and the tourism infrastructure catering to them that clean-up is fast — more importantly, for the Fijians that their beautiful islands are restored to full function very soon.

Lufthansa Adding Denver-Munich Nonstops

New Airbus service to begin in May.

Lufthansa-logoI have long felt that Denver and Munich are twin cities in spirit, separated by history and time zones. Both are near the mountains but not in the mountains. Both display the energetic pulse of a young, active population. And of course, they are both famous for beer. And come May 11, they will be on either end of new nonstop flights. My husband and I were just talking about our next European trip, so we might well book this one.

A Lufthansa Airbus A330-300 will fly the five-times weekly service. The new eastbound LH 481 will operate on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, departing Denver at 4:05 p.m. and arriving in Munich the following morning. The westbound LH 480 service will also operate on Tuesdays, Wednesday, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, departing from Lufthansa’s Munich hub at 11:45 a.m. and arriving in Denver at 2:30 p.m.(all times local) after a 10 hour, 45 minute flight.

The Denver-Munich route is  the first time that the A330-300 has been scheduled for regular service at Denver International Airport — 177 in Economy and Economy Plus, 30 in Business and a handful in the ethereal front cabin.