Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Flying Domestic

Other than American Eagle between Detroit and Chicago, I have not done any domestic flying in the continental USA. Last week I flew to San Antonio (SAT) via Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) from Detroit (DTW) with the "New American" (AA).

Detroit is definitely under-served, the airport is rebranding with a new logo and improved  multilingual signage but still using Boingo for its Wi-Fi services. Both DFW and SAT offer free open Wi-Fi which is very convenient when one has to spend a couple of hours. DFW's Sky Link is so convenient and so efficient it took less than five (5) minutes to transfer from Terminals C to A compared to twenty (20) minutes in Paris CDG using an archaic bus system.

Having traveled extensively with AA on International routes, flying domestic was not something I was looking forward to, having heard all the horror stories of flying domestic in general. Well, it has been a long time since I was on a Super 80 (MD-80), I mean decades. AA needs to replace them and soon. Having said that, the aircraft were clean, all departed on time and all had Wi-Fi (gogoinflight)
it was not expensive but for short flights it was not worth it.

Travelling in what AA calls First on the MD-80 was a pleasant surprise at least on the longer sectors (almost three (3) hours) DTW-DFW-DTW, the service was great and the food was good very similar to Business on International flights (OK it is not Emirates or Etihad, but nevertheless good). On the shorter sectors it was a beverage in a real glass and a bag of pretzels, of which they offered seconds. On the whole I was impressed all things considered.

Kudos AA

Monday, March 18, 2013

Sustaining The Growth, MENA's Airports

MENA is the fastest growing region in terms of Passenger growth, around 15% against a global average of 6% and Air Freight growth of 14.7% against a global decline of -1.5%. To sustain this growth most of the airlines of the region are still taking deliveries of aircraft or have just concluded fleet renewals and expansions. However, this is only part of the sustainability picture, the other part being infrastructure.

Airports or lack of them have been the industry's biggest problem, but not in MENA. In March/April 2013 two (2) major airports would have come online and;

1. Amman Queen Alia International Airport (QAIA) opened the new terminal on 14 March 2013  
    providing a  nine (9) million passengers annual capacity. The final phase will bring that capacity   
    to twelve (12) million passengers.
2. Doha's Hamad International Airport (HIA) will open Concourse B from 1 April 2013 with ten (10) 
    airlines operating (Air Arabia, Air India Express, Biman Bngladesh Airlines, flydubai, Iran Air, 
    Nepal Airlines, Pakistan International Airlines, RAK Airways, Syrian Air and Yemen Airways) thirty 
    two (32) passenger flights daily. Qatar Airways will move to Concourse A by the end of this year.
3. Sharjah International Airport having handled seven and half (7.5) million passengers in 2012 is 
    working on a new master plan for the airport expansion by the end of this year and sign the 
    contract for the expansion.
4. GACA in Saudi Arabia is accelerating the building of a new modern world class airport at the 
    coastal city of Jazan to replace the existing airport.

On the other hand, it was announced that a new route linking Aqaba directly to Istanbul starting in April 2013 to boost tourism to Aqaba, Petra and Wadi Rum areas.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Air France, A Legacy Airline

I have not flown Air France for years and frankly they were never one of my favorite airlines, legacy or otherwise. I flew with them from Paris Charles De Gaul to Detroit in J Class this weekend.
The aircraft, an Airbus A340-300 was clean and comfortable.
However, a few things drew my attention:
1. During the safety demonstration, the announcement said the crew with the red badges are
    responsible for your safety. I have to admit, I have never heard that one before. Well, more than
    half the crew did not have red badges, at least the ones in Business Class. I never thought of the
    cabin crew of a commercial airliner not being trained in Safety and Emergency Procedures (SEP).
    I am sure Air France meets the EASA regulations for SEP trained crew, still not what I wanted to
    hear. In all fairness the Air France crew managed to evacuate a full A340 in 90 seconds in Toronto
    in 2005.

2. Upon departure, we were delayed for 1 hour, a stuck air bridge for a change. However, in that
     hour there were two Captain announcements and the cabin crew were all seated ready for
     departure. No one was engaged with the passengers, at least not in Business.

3. The service itself was a glorified economy class type service, none of the usual personalized
     service commonly experienced on most airlines including US carriers.

4. Finally, the crew was professional but not the smiling type, very detached. I suppose Detroit in
    winter is not a dream destination.

I have to admit, that was not what I accepted, at least not on an airline with a long tradition like
Air France.


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