Airbus’s Ultra Long Range A350 takes first flight

Airbus A350-900ULR Singapore Airlines

Airbus’s upcoming Ultra Long Range variant of its A350 aircraft completed its first flight yesterday, with further testing set to take place before its delivery to launch customer Singapore Airlines in the second-half of 2018.

The new A350-900ULR has been designed to offer an extended range of 9,700 nautical miles over the standard A350-900 and is capable of flying for more than 20 hours non-stop, enabling airlines to reach currently inaccessible destinations.

Singapore Airlines has said it aims to relaunch its non-stop flights between Singapore and New York – the world’s longest commercial service – when it takes delivery of the new aircraft. The carrier has previously operated the route, using the manufacturer’s A340 aircraft, but was forced to cut the route in 2013 due to rising fuel costs.

The A350-900ULR first rolled off the assembly at the manufacturer’s facility in Toulouse, France about two months ago.

Airbus currently has 854 firm orders for its A350 aircraft from 45 customers worldwide.

Singapore Airlines was also the launch customer of Boeing’s newest aircraft, the B787-10 Dreamliner, which it took delivery of last month and has begun flying to Osaka.

Business Traveller was at the unveiling of the new aircraft and the airline’s new regional business class seat product at the end of March.

Meanwhile, Airbus’s new A350-1000 also made its debut earlier this year following its delivery to launch customer Qatar Airways.

Jabbrrbox: an airport work sanctuary for those lacking a lounge pass

Jabbrrbox

What can you do when you need some peace and quiet to get work done in the airport but don’t have a pass to an airport lounge? Try popping into a Jabbrrbox.

According to the company a Jabbrrbox is an “acoustically sound,” phone-booth style private workstation equipped with a desk, power ports, wifi, Bluetooth, and USB charging ports.

Some units are also outfitted for screen sharing and video calls. “We saw the need for ‘space as a service,’” said company president and cofounder Jeremy Jennings. “That’s where Jabbrrbox comes in: for on-the-go calls or as an on-demand quiet workspace, Jabbrrbox is your space-away-from-office.”

The first airport-based Jabbrrboxes are now available at New York’s LaGuardia International Airport, where eight are installed in Terminal B.

The company says that other prime locations include hotel lobbies, trade shows, and other transit hubs — “any place with a high density of people to find a bit of privacy,” according to the company website.

Forbes reports that business travellers and other customers pay $15 per 30 minutes to use the Jabbrrbox. Users get a PIN code to unlock and access the unit during their paid time period.

The units are cleaned periodically, but not after every use. “Jabbrrbox is a community which to some degree relies on its members to clean up after themselves,” according to the company.

The interior of the Jabbrrbox measures 40.5 inches (102.8 cm) wide by 40.5 inches (102.8 cm) deep by 80 inches (203.2 cm) high and each unit is designed for a single user, although the manufacturer says up to two people can fit. The units have glass fronts that keep users visible to passersby, and the company warns against misbehaviour.

“If your mother wouldn’t approve it’s probably safe to say it is not allowed,” according to Jabbrrbox. “Not to be a party pooper, but we have a zero tolerance policy for any acts that are either illegal or inappropriate, and reserve the right to penalize and assess fees for any/all damages.”

jabbrrbox.com

KLM adds anytime dining to Tokyo route

KLM Anytime For You dining service

Dutch carrier has extended its Anytime For You dining option to include flights between Amsterdam Schiphol and Tokyo, with Osaka services to follow in July.

The service – which was launched on flights between Amsterdam and Johannesburg last year – enables business class passengers to order from a selected range of dishes when they want to eat, rather than at the same of the normal meal service.

There are five types of dishes in the Anytime range – cold, warm, savoury, sweet and “tasty treat” options, which will be prepared at any time during the flight, and served restaurant-style to the customer.

Note that the Anytime menu is only available during daytime flights – passengers can also opt for the normal World Business Class three-course meal service.

According to KLM its crew “have completed special training in preparation for this new service”, which is also available on flights between Amsterdam and Bangkok.

klm.com

FAA orders engine inspections after fatal Southwest Airlines incident

Southwest Airlines

The explosion of an engine on a Boeing 737 aircraft that resulted in the death of a Southwest Airlines passenger has prompted the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to call for an emergency inspection of some such engines currently in service.

The April 20, 2018 emergency airworthiness directive from the FAA orders ultrasonic inspection for cracks in the fan blade dovetail of CFM International S.A. Model CFM56-7B engines, and removal of any cracked fan blades.

The FAA required that the inspections be conducted within 20 days.

The order applies to CFM56-7B engines with more than 30,000 cycles (engine startup-to-shutdown sequences). Forbes reports that the order affects 680 engines in use worldwide, including 352 in the US.

The manufacturer, CFM, followed up by recommending that engines with 20,000 cycles be inspected by the end of August 2018, and that reinspection take place every 3,000 cycles thereafter.

A fractured fan blade caused the left engine on Southwest flight 1380 from New York’s LaGuardia International Airport to Dallas to partially disintegrate, throwing debris into the airframe, breaking a window, and causing cabin depressurization. One passenger was killed after being partially sucked out of the window.

Southwest has been cancelling about 40 flights a day to comply with the inspection order.

southwest.com

Air Astana’s Indian passengers can avail of a 72-hour visa free stopover in Kazakhstan

Effective from April 23, 2018, Air Astana’s Indian passengers can avail of a 72-hour visa free stopover in Kazakhstan.

Indian travellers flying on Air Astana’s flights transiting in Almaty and Astana must notify check-in staff at the point of departure to enjoy a visa free visit in the country.

“Air Astana has been enjoying significant growth in transit traffic through the Almaty and Astana over the past two years, particularly from New Delhi. I’m in no doubt that the introduction of 72 hours visa free entry to Kazakhstan for Indian passport holders will further boost transit traffic,” says Richard Ledger, vice-president marketing and sales at Air Astana.  

Air Astana flies daily between between Delhi-Almaty and thrice a week between Delhi-Astana. It offers convenient onwards connections to Indian passengers to destinations including St.Petersburg, Omsk, Novosibirsk, Beijing and Urumqi as well London, Frankfurt, and Paris. The national carrier of Kazakhstan, Air Astana operates flights to over 60 domestic and international routes from hubs in Astana and Almaty.

airastana.com

Effective from April 23, 2018, Air Astana’s Indian passengers can avail of a 72-hour visa free stopover in Kazakhstan.

Indian travellers flying on Air Astana’s flights transiting in Almaty and Astana must notify check-in staff at the point of departure to enjoy a visa free visit in the country.

“Air Astana has been enjoying significant growth in transit traffic through the Almaty and Astana over the past two years, particularly from New Delhi. I’m in no doubt that the introduction of 72 hours visa free entry to Kazakhstan for Indian passport holders will further boost transit traffic,” says Richard Ledger, vice-president marketing and sales at Air Astana.  

Air Astana flies daily between between Delhi-Almaty and thrice a week between Delhi-Astana. It offers convenient onwards connections to Indian passengers to destinations including St.Petersburg, Omsk, Novosibirsk, Beijing and Urumqi as well London, Frankfurt, and Paris. The national carrier of Kazakhstan, Air Astana operates flights to over 60 domestic and international routes from hubs in Astana and Almaty.

airastana.com

Air Italy unveils B737 Max 8 with new branding

Air Italy B737 Max 8

Air Italy has unveiled the first aircraft featuring the carrier’s new livery and branding.

The Air Italy name was previously used by a subsdiary of Meridiana, but will now be the brand for the group as a whole, with a new livery which takes the maroon colour used in Qatar Airways’ branding.

The new branding was first unveiled in February by Akbar Al Baker, CEO of Qatar Airways which acquired a 49 per cent share in Meridiana in 2016.

It is understood the new Air Italy will increase its fleet to some 50 aircraft in the coming years, by leasing B737 Max 8, A330 and B787 aircraft from Qatar Airways.

These will enable Air Italy to rapidly expand its network of domestic and international services, as it aims to compete with legacy flag carrier Alitalia.

The carrier is set to launch regular flights from Milan Malpensa to New York JFK and Miami later this year.

airitaly.com

First look: Cathay Pacific’s 10-across B777-300ER economy seat

CX B777-300ER new economy seats

First look: Cathay Pacific 10-across economy seat

 

The airline’s new seat is an upgraded version found on its A350, and has started retrofitting on its B777s in a 3-4-3 configuration

 

Cathay Pacific has rolled out new economy seats and setting, installing progressively on all its B777s.

 

Business Traveller Asia-Pacific was invited to attend a media tour on the upgraded B777-300ER and experienced the seat on the flight flying to Nagoya.

 

The cabin

 

The new 368-seat B777-300ER is divided into six cabins. The first two cabins are installed with 40 business class from row 11 to 19 (without 13 and 14) and 20 to 23. It is followed by 32 premium economy seats, spanning from 30 to 33. The rest of the three cabins are filled with the new economy seats from row 39 to 42, 43 to 57, and 59 to 72, a total of 296 seats.

 

The seat

 

The design of the seats is similar to the product on its A350, which has a same “Cathay-green” colour. Each seat has a 32-inch seat pitch and has the six-inch seat recline.

 

With a 190 cm height, there is still around two inches of space before my knees touching the seat in front, while my knees just touched the seat when the person in front reclined. In-flight entertainment box is housed inside the seat structure, giving passengers more legroom.

 

When Cathay Pacific announced the introduction of 10-across economy seat on B777s, most travellers are concerned about the seat width. There is no doubt that the space of the width is decreased to 17.2 inches. For passengers with normal size like me and my neighbour, there is still a bit of space between shoulders, but small bumps of shoulders happen when I tried to stretch. This also means that passengers with bulky size will have to expect less shoulder space and tighter situation.

 

The seat is “ergonomically-designed with customised cushioning”. Although the seat back is thin, it is still comfortable and I could take a nap when I reclined. The headrest has a full-leather design, and added neck and head support by adjusting its height, angles at both ends and the lower centre part.

 

The major upgrade is the IFE system. The touchscreen TV is enlarged to 11.6 inches, which is bigger than A350’s 11.1-inch TV and the current nine inches on B777-300ER. The TV is in high definition and will be able to play selected HD films starting from May.

There is a wide content, ranging from movies, music (though the albums are a bit outdated), TV programmes and games (such as Angry Bird).

 

The best part of the TV is that it works like a tablet. It is highly sensitive with a simple touch. There is a 3D earth map showing where Cathay Pacific is flying to. You can use two fingers to zoom in and out to find the locations. By touching the city, the destination information will also pop up.  Earphone and USB outlet are located at the bottom of the TV. A power output is also located underneath the seat.

 

By pulling down the shelf under the TV, there is a space to store personal items such as smartphone and glasses.

 

The shelf itself is also a cup and tablet holder, which is a good design to hold the items without opening the whole tray table.

 

The tray table is under the shelf. It has a new design to open by simply pulling the handle, which it is different from other Cathay Pacific seats to unlock by rotating the holder.

 

The table is firm to hold the meal tray as well as my laptop. I am impressed to find that the tray does not touch my thighs at all and it gives around two inches of space, which is an outstanding feature by comparing to some other airlines’ economy seat products.

 

The seat pocket holds magazine and safety card. There is also a small bag outside which is another good compartment to store small items such as earphones.

 

In-flight wifi will also be installed on all B777 aircraft starting from this summer.

 

 

The Front Row Seat

 

Design of the front row seat is a bit different from other economy seats, but still has the same features. The tray table is stored in the armrest. If you have a tablet, you can pull the table out which it has a holder by lifting it.

 

 

The TV is still a touchscreen at 43 and 60 DEFG (TVs in other front row seats are stored in the armrest), but it is quite far for passenger to reach. Therefore, there is an in-seat TV handset for passenger to navigate the system.

 

 

Which seats to choose?

All front rows 39, 43, 59 and 60 DEFG have more legroom. 40 C and H also have more space as the seat in front is missing. You may want to avoid row 42 as it is close to lavatory. ABC of 56 and 57 are stick also to the galley that you may want to think about.

 

 

The start of introducing new economy seats on B777s means that it will be phasing out the old product, which is a version of non-recline but only sliding forward.

 

The reconfiguration of six aircraft will be completed by this summer. By end of the first quarter in 2019, there will be more than 48 B777-300ERs and 17 regional B777-300s upgraded. The retrofit programme will be complete by end of next year.

 

The first retrofitted B777-300ER has just been deployed on routes to Japan and India. It will further serve other regional and long-haul networks.

 

cathaypacific.com

Lufthansa rolls out AnyWay Travel Pass to Hong Kong

Lufthansa A350-900 interior

Lufthansa has rolled out its new AnyWay Travel Pass concept to Hong Kong, enabling travellers from the city to book cheaper long-haul flights provided they don’t care about the route or carriers they take.

This is the first time the passes will be available to travellers in Hong Kong, which were initially rolled out last October in Germany.

Essentially, the passes constitute limited-time economy class offers on long-haul flights between Hong Kong and select destinations in Europe. Customers are able to choose their destination and dates, but not the route they’ll take to get there. Based on availability, passengers will be given a route that may include flying with any of the Lufthansa Group’s carriers – Lufthansa, Austrian and Swiss – using the carriers’ four hubs in Frankfurt, Munich, Vienna and Zurich.

There are, naturally, some downsides to the passes, notably that eligible travel periods are currently limited to between May 20 and October 27, 2018 and that the passes themselves are non-refundable. According to the airline, passengers are informed of their routing “several days” before they depart. Once passes are issued, the dates and routings cannot be altered either and travellers also need to purchase separate passes for return journeys.

Hong Kong travellers can book AnyWay Travel Passes until May 13 this year to destinations including Barcelona, London, Geneva, Amsterdam, Milan, Copenhagen, Lisbon, Rome, Venice, Budapest, Stockholm, Oslo and Vienna.

At the time of writing, one-way tickets from Hong Kong to London start at HK$2,488 (US$317). Flights are exclusively for economy class and come with one item of luggage included.

“We want to be faster in the market, test innovative ideas and break new ground,” said Veli Polat, Lufthansa Group Airlines’ senior director of sales for Greater China. “The AnyWay Travel Pass is a good example. And I am very glad passengers who start their journey from Hong Kong can now get the benefits of this product.”

In related news, Lufthansa announced earlier this month that it plans to roll out hand baggage only (HBO) fares in tandem with partners Air Canada and United, though an exact launch date and pricing structure has yet to be unveiled.

These fares will be available on transatlantic routes and offer economy class seats with no checked baggage.

lufthansa.com

Oman Air unveils first class “mini suite”

Oman Air's B787-9 first class mini suite

Oman Air has unveiled its all new first class suite which will feature on the carrier’s B787-9 Dreamliner aircraft.

The new “fully enclosed, extra tall suite” features electronically controlled sliding doors which are just under 1.4 metres in height, and a seat which offers a width of 23 inches / pitch of 82 inches in the seating position, and a width of 30 inches / length of 76 inches in the fully-flat bed position.

Other features include a dedicated wardrobe and stowage for a carry-on bag, a one piece meal table and a separate cocktail table, a chilled in-suite minibar, an ottoman with seatbelt for companion use, a 22-inch TV screen, touchscreen IFE handset, two USB ports and a PC power point.

It’s not clear exactly when the new suite will debut on one of the carrier’s aircraft – Oman Air currently operates seven B787-8 and B787-9 aircraft, neither of which feature first class. The airline’s A330-300 aircraft offer a first class seat.

Oman Air unveiled the new first class suite at this week’s Arabian Travel Market in Dubai. In a press release the carrier said that it is “is currently undergoing an exciting fleet and network expansion programme, which will see the airline operate up to 70 aircraft to around 60 destinations by 2022”.

omanair.com

Pune and Bengaluru receive 24-hour UK visa service

Big Ben

UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) has announced the extension of the Super Priority Visa service (SPV) to Pune and Bengaluru from May 1 onwards. The service was already being offered at Delhi, Chennai and Mumbai. 

SPV is an optional service for Indian travellers who need to travel to the UK on an immediate basis. It allows them to get their visa decision within 24 hours or less. 

SPV applications are handled by UKVI at the highest level of priority, with dedicated staff members processing cases at the front of the queue and an express courier service, making the 24-hour turnaround achievable.  

“India was the first country in the world to receive this service in 2013. The extension of this service aims to support the UK-India Technology Partnership, which will include establishing ‘tech clusters’ in these strategically important cities. This announcement is part of a wider package of measures from UKVI as it seeks to transform and improve the visa service, including greater use of digital technology and additional optional services for customers to tailor and improve their experience,” says Immigration Minister of the UK government, Caroline Nokes.

 The SPV service in India costs ₹91,733.

gov.uk/world/india

UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) has announced the extension of the Super Priority Visa service (SPV) to Pune and Bengaluru from May 1 onwards. The service was already being offered at Delhi, Chennai and Mumbai. 

SPV is an optional service for Indian travellers who need to travel to the UK on an immediate basis. It allows them to get their visa decision within 24 hours or less. 

SPV applications are handled by UKVI at the highest level of priority, with dedicated staff members processing cases at the front of the queue and an express courier service, making the 24-hour turnaround achievable.  

“India was the first country in the world to receive this service in 2013. The extension of this service aims to support the UK-India Technology Partnership, which will include establishing ‘tech clusters’ in these strategically important cities. This announcement is part of a wider package of measures from UKVI as it seeks to transform and improve the visa service, including greater use of digital technology and additional optional services for customers to tailor and improve their experience,” says Immigration Minister of the UK government, Caroline Nokes.

 The SPV service in India costs ₹91,733.

gov.uk/world/india