Ultra high density “saddle seat” concept unveiled

The "saddle seat" Skyrider seat concept by Aviointeriors

If you’ve ever ridden a stand-up rollercoaster, you probably have a good idea of what it would be like to “sit” in a new seat design being proposed for budget-class airline cabins.

The Aviointeriors Skyrider 2.0 seat introduced at the Aircraft Interiors Expo 2018 this week is more akin to riding a horse than sitting in a chair — saddle included.

The good news: dangling legs have plenty of room to stretch. The bad news: this is “ultra high density” seating, with just 23 inches of seat pitch, according to The Points Guy. There would also be little or no room for personal items at or under the seats.

“Skyrider 2.0 opens the travelling experience to a wider passenger market, creating also a useful space for the introduction mixed classes boarded on the same aircraft,” according to Aviointeriors.

“Its main feature is the original bottom that ensures an increased upright passenger position allowing installation of the seat at a reduced pitch, while maintaining an adequate comfort.”

Aviointeriors called the upright seats the “new frontier of low cost tickets and offering a possibility to fly to whom today cannot afford it,” allowing airlines to squeeze 20 per cent more seats into their cabins.

Airlines are expected to install only a few rows of the seats, not an entire cabin’s worth. “Aircraft are certified to carry a certain number of passengers, and one with solely Skyrider seating would have far too many passengers to fly,” The Points Guy noted.

No airlines have yet purchased the seats, however.


British Airways doubling Mandarin-speaking crew on China flights

British Airways announces codeshare with China Southern Airlines

More than a third of cabin crew staff on British Airways’ flights to Beijing and Shanghai soon will be fluent Mandarin speakers, as the airline looks to double the number of Chinese nationals serving passengers on its China routes.

The airline is currently undergoing a major recruitment drive, in which it is looking to recruit 26 cabin crew based in Beijing and 44 based in Shanghai, though a timeframe for the completion of the drive hasn’t been unveiled.

Once the drive has been completed, however, each of the airline’s 17 weekly flights to China will have four Mandarin-speaking Chinese nationals serving as cabin crew. From London Heathrow, British Airways currently operates 10 flights per week to Shanghai and one per day to Beijing, both flown by its Boeing 777 aircraft.

The move follows a number of initiatives rolled out by the airline aimed at facilitating travel for Chinese passengers, most notably introducing Mandarin-speaking customer service representatives at its Heathrow T5 hub.

“We appreciate our customers have a choice when they fly to and from the UK so we hope these changes, alongside the increase in the number of Mandarin-speaking customer service representatives at our home in Heathrow, will make their journeys as smooth as possible,” said Noella Ferns, British Airways executive vice president for Greater China.

Speaking at a roundtable held in Hong Kong last month, CEO Alex Cruz said he hopes the airline also will be able to introduce Alipay and WeChat Pay mobile payments this year.

Cruz also said British Airways’ Beijing and Shanghai routes are prime candidates for future deployment of the airline’s largest aircraft, the Airbus A380 superjumbo. Such a move, however, would be contingent on the airline acquiring additional A380s, something it has been unable to do so far.

“I wouldn’t rule out more A380s in our fleet in the future, but we haven’t been able to find the right agreement,” Cruz said. “Everybody knows we’re in the market.”

British Airways currently has 12 A380s in its fleet.

Hong Kong Airlines launching daily Manila flights in June

Hong Kong Airlines A330-300

Hong Kong Airlines is set to fly non-stop between Hong Kong and Manila from June 1, 2018 onwards with the launch of a new daily service.

According to the airline, the decision follows notable growth in the number of visitor arrivals to Hong Kong from the Philippines. In 2017, total arrivals from the country reached 894,489, a climb of 13 per cent from the previous year.

There is some bad news for business travellers looking to make this journey with the carrier, however, in that the new Manila service will be an all-economy flight, flown by an Airbus A320 aircraft.

Hong Kong Airlines configures its A320s with two layouts, one of which does feature a business class cabin, though this will not be flying the Manila route.

Economy class seats on the higher-capacity, 174-seat all-economy configuration offer a pitch (legroom) of between 29 and 30 inches – though there are the more spacious emergency exit seats on rows 42 and 43 that offer 37 and 34 inches, respectively.

Width on these seats is 18 inches while the recline goes to 110 degrees.

The schedule for the new Manila route differs slightly on the Hong Kong-Manila leg, with flights leaving about 20 minutes later on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday.

Hong Kong Airlines has been expanding its network significantly over the past year, particularly in North America where it has launched new routes to Vancouver, Los Angeles and San Francisco and has expressed its intention to fly non-stop to New York later this year as well as London.

Most recently, however, the carrier announced it would launch a seasonal, three-times-weekly service to Moscow from May 18 to October 27, foreseeing significant demand for the destination as Russia plays host to the upcoming 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Frankfurt opens roof terrace at Terminal 1

Frankfurt Airport has opened a new rooftop terrace within the transit zone at Terminal 1

Frankfurt airport has opened a new outside roof terrace within the transit zone at Terminal 1.

Dubbed the “Open Air Deck”, the 138 sqm space is open daily between 0500 and 2300, for all non-Schengen passengers.

Features of the €1.5 million terrace include “comfortable seating surrounded by plants”, views of the airport with a telescope which can be used free of charge, a stand which “provides information about what’s going on down on the apron”, and a screen detailing the weather forecast provided by the German Weather Service.

The airport also highlights that “you’ll find fresh air and natural light – from the south, no less – to help overcome jetlag”.

The new rooftop terrace adds to the existing Visitor’s Terrace which is located in the publicly accessible part of Terminal 2, on level 4 next to the Food Plaza.


PICTURES: Cathay Pacific’s new ten-across Boeing 777 economy cabin

Cathay Pacific B777 economy class 10-across seating

Cathay Pacific has unveiled its retrofitted 10-across economy class cabin on board its fleet of Boeing 777 aircraft.

The new layout will be adopted across all 48 of its B777-300ER and 17 B777-300 aircraft, with full rollout expected by 2020.

Until now, the Hong Kong carrier was one of the few remaining aircraft to outfit the aircraft with a 3-3-3 layout, with the less popular 3-4-3 configuration now more of an industry standard.

Business Traveller is at the unveiling and will publish a more in-depth look at the new cabin layout soon.

Rival carrier Singapore Airlines is now one of the few airlines still offering a nine-across configuration in its B777s, though it too appears set to join the 10-abreast club.

“Big plans” for British Airways check-in zone at Heathrow T3

British Airways at Heathrow T3

British Airways says it has gone “independent” at Heathrow T3, with operations now being overseen by a dedicated team separate to that at T5.

In a press release BA said that “With flights to destinations from Miami to Marseille and Vancouver to Vienna, British Airways’ operation at Heathrow Terminal 3 is building its own identity, and is now running independently from its big sister, Terminal 5”.

The carrier said that just under one in five of its customers departing Heathrow use T3, equating to over seven million passengers per year, with many of these being customers travelling on American Airlines codeshare flights, who are connecting from American destinations onto British Airways services.

In a video posted by the carrier, David Rose, BA’s senior customer manager at Terminal 3 said that there are “big plans” for the carrier’s check-in zone, in conjunction with business partner AA, and also confirmed that BA will move into a new T3 Flight Connections centre with AA this summer.

“Behind the scenes we’re setting up a dedicated Terminal 3 control room, which will look at all aspects of the Terminal 3 operation, and ensure that it runs as efficiently as possible,” added Rose.


Osaka to get Malaysia Airlines first class

Malaysia Airlines A350 first class

Passengers flying Malaysia Airlines’ daily Kuala Lumpur-Osaka service will soon be able to book first class seating when the route is taken over by the airline’s newest aircraft, the Airbus A350-900.

The new aircraft is set to replace the two-class A330-300 that Malaysia Airlines currently flies to Osaka on August 5, 2018, according to the airline’s current schedule.

Malaysia Airlines is unique in that it is the only airline to outfit the A350 with a first class cabin, which features four seats based on Thompson Aero Seating’s Vantage XL design. Seats are laid out in a 1-2-1 format.

The aircraft also has 35 seats in business class, featuring the same seat Vantage seat product as on its A330s. These are laid out in an alternating 1-2-1/1-2-2 formation, so travellers booking a business class K seat should be aware that only 2K and 5K are solo seats, while 3K and 6K are window seats with a neighbour.

Business Traveller reviewed the aircraft’s business class on its inaugural flight from London Heathrow to Kuala Lumpur earlier this year.

Flight review: Malaysia Airlines A350 business class

Economy class meanwhile has a total of 247 seats laid out in a 3-3-3 format, though there are three rows (12-15) of economy plus seats that offer extra legroom.

Malaysia Airlines flies once per day between Kuala Lumpur and Osaka, with flights to Osaka being overnight and the return leg a morning flight.

Flight No. From To Departs Arrives Days
MH52 Kuala Lumpur (KUL) Osaka (KIX) 2210 0540+1 Daily
MH53 Osaka (KIX) Kuala Lumpur (KUL) 0955 1550

A total of six A350s will join Malaysia Airlines’ fleet, which the airline is leasing from Air Lease Corporation.

Marriott loyalty programme merger details


Marriott and SPG clarify loyalty programme merger details


As we detailed a few days ago, Marriott and SPG have announced many details about the merging of their loyalty programmes (and indeed Ritz Carlton Rewards).




A few details yet remain, including the name of the combined programme, which will not be announced until next year, mainly because of the large amount of marketing collateral that would have to be prepared for all the 5,000+ hotels in the programme, according to


Speaking with Andrew Watson – Vice President – Digital, Loyalty & Portfolio Marketing, Europe for Marriott (who is ex-Starwood), he was clear that the intention was to try and preserve the appeal of the PSG programme while continuing a successful merger.


For many readers, one point of interest may be whether their status in SPG is retained in the new programme. This is because through American Express Platinum card, one benefit was securing Gold in the SPG programme. This gave the member a late check-out (4pm) and room upgrade, along with complimentary breakfasts.




As can be seen from the table below (supplied by Marriott), it wasn’t clear whether that this SPG Gold status, when transferred over to Marriott Gold, would then become Gold Elite or Platinum Elite in the combined programme.


In the event, we learned that if you are SPG Gold you will go across to the combined programme’s Platinum Elite until the end of the year.



Elina Zois, Director Loyalty Europe



Philippine Airlines will fly non-stop to New York, New Delhi, Mumbai and Sapporo this year

Philippine Airlines' A321

Philippine Airlines is set to launch new non-stop flights to New York, New Delhi, Mumbai and Sapporo this year as the airline prepares to take delivery of 15 new aircraft in 2018.

Beginning October 28, the airline will be cutting out the Vancouver stopover on its New York JFK service turning it into a four-times-weekly, non-stop operation. This will be followed by direct routes to both New Delhi and Mumbai in India, and Sapporo in Japan by the last quarter of 2018.

The change to a non-stop route will shave off about two hours from the Manila-New York flight when flying out of Manila, enabling the airline to depart 1.5 hours later than the current schedule and still arrive 30 minutes earlier. The return leg, meanwhile, departs New York two hours and 40 minutes later than the current one-stop flight, but arrives that much earlier, cutting off over five hours of travel time.

Flight No. From To Departs Arrives Days
PR126 Manila (MNL) New York (JFK) 1830 2200 Mon, Tue, Thu, Sat
PR127 New York (JFK) Manila (MNL) 0300 0610+1 Tue, Wed, Fri, Sun

Philippine Airlines will fly its two-class Boeing 777-300ER between Manila and New York, which it outfits with 42 business class seats in a 2-3-2 layout, and 328 economy class seats in a 3-4-3 configuration. Last summer, the airline began flying the B777-300ER to London.

Schedules for the New Delhi, Mumbai and Sapporo non-stop flights have yet to be announced.

According to the airline, the new routes to India are a response to calls by Wanda Corazon Teo, the Department of Tourism Secretary, for a direct link between the Philippines and India.

The carrier is also weighing up the possibility of launching new routes from Davao International Airport to Bangkok or a destination in Japan in future, and is currently engaged in marketing and sales studies to assess the possibility of new routes to destinations in Europe and the US, namely Chicago and Seattle.

Along with these new routes, the airline has been upping frequency on a number of its domestic and regional flights, most notably its Cebu-Bangkok route that last month jumped from three times a week to once a day.

The expansion of Philippine Airlines’ network comes as the airline prepares to take delivery of five Bombardier Q400 and six Airbus A321neo aircraft starting next month, along with four A350-900 aircraft beginning this June. Overall, the airline is set to receive 15 new aircraft this year and six in 2019, with further fleet expansion expected to continue through to 2024.

“Our current fleet of 85 aircraft is already the largest in the Philippines,” said Jaime J Bautista, president of Philippine Airlines. “We are aiming for 100 aircraft by 2020, which places us in the category of a major carrier.

“But we are not merely adding more planes, we are constantly upgrading the cabins, seats, amenities, in-flight entertainment and technology. We aspire to ultimately become a five-star global airline, to be a source of pride for all Filipinos.”

Among these upgrades was the retrofitting of the airline’s A330-300s into a three-class configuration last June, changing from an all-economy 414-seat aircraft to a 309-seat plane with business and premium economy cabins.

Unlike the B777-300ER, the reconfigured A330-300s provide direct aisle access for all passengers in business class, which features the Thompson Vantage XL business class seat.

Air Canada revamps its Signature Class offering

Air Canada has revamped its premium cabin Signature Class offering with what it has dubbed a new Signature Service that rolled out today across all of its international routes and is set to be introduced on select North American flights from June 1 this year.

Passengers in Signature Class will continue to fly in the airline’s fully flat seating – now including mattress pads – however they will also get a raft of benefits, including on-the-ground services and lounge access.

For starters, passengers will be given access to concierge services at airports, expedited check-in and security clearance, priority baggage handling and preferential boarding.

Signature Class passengers will also have access to the airline’s Maple Leaf Lounges, however those travelling out of Toronto Pearson International Airport to international destinations also will be able to use the airline’s Signature Suite lounge. This facility notably features an a la carte restaurant with a menu developed by Canadian chef, David Hawksworth.

Travellers on North America flights will also be served dishes developed by Hawksworth while in the air, with an updated in-flight menu developed by the chef. Those travelling to Mumbai and New Delhi, meanwhile, will get a South Asian menu developed by chef Vikram Vij.

These will be complemented with an expanded in-flight wine and spirits list – now including an Air Canada Signature Cocktail for all passengers and Laurent-Perrier champagne for international travellers – and restaurant-style cutlery and glassware.

International passengers will also get an enhanced amenity kit by Want Les Essentiels that includes products by Vitruvi.

“Our new Air Canada Signature Service and Air Canada Signature Class brands reflect the ongoing refinements to our premium travel service,” said Benjamin Smith, president of passenger airlines at Air Canada.

“We know our premium customers travelling on longer flight itineraries place a high value on convenience and comfort when in airports or onboard an aircraft, and with Air Canada Signature Service we provide a level of service unsurpassed in North America on every widebody flight.”

Signature Service will be introduced on select domestic Canadian and trans-border flights that are operated by the airline’s Boeing 787 Dreamliner, B777, B767 and Airbus A330 aircraft.

This currently includes routes between Toronto and Los Angeles, San Francisco and Vancouver, and between Vancouver and New York (Newark) and Montreal.