WalMart’s Mass Exodus from Denver Forces Airlines to Work Together

Like many conventions, the Walmart convention this week in Denver involved the arrival and departure of several thousand people from one airport. But who would gave known that such an exodus would force collaboration between several airlines?On site at Denver International Airport on Thursday, I witnessed an armada of rented Budget box trucks pull up to the arrivals level at DIA, full of luggage that had been checked in and pre-screened at many of Denver’s downtown hotels. Before this day, I had only seen offsite baggage checkin offered in places like Las Vegas and Orlando. And it’s not something that is normally offered in Denver. But when a HUGE company like Walmart brings over 5,000 folks from around the country, concessions are made. Employees from Alaska Airlines, Delta and Southwest, along with an airport service contractor all worked together in the intense Colorado sun for five hours to sort bags and get them to the right airlines and the right flights as they came off the trucks. I even overheard someone say, “One airport, one team.”

Trucks rented by Bags, Inc for Walmart convention attendees. Photo by Paul Thompson.

A company called Bags, Inc. provided a luggage valet service at several hotels, then rounded up the bags, screened them according to TSA specifications, and brought them all to DIA at a cost of only $5 per bag. That seems pretty reasonable, for the ability to travel luggage free from your hotel to destination airport. On their website, it says the charge for their bag VIP service is normally $29.95 for one bag, $39.95 for two bags, and $49.95 for 3-8 bags. Obviously, the Walmart contingent received a bulk discount.

The departure board at DIA shows United and Southwest flights to Fayetteville. Photo by Paul Thompson.

On Thursday, Southwest operated four charter flights from Denver (DEN) to Fayetteville, Arkansas (XNA). United also has one daily scheduled nonstop from DEN-XNA. Bentonville, Arkansas is 28 miles from Fayetteville, and the home of Walmart’s corporate headquarters.

*This story was written by originally appeared on NYCAviation. Republished with permission.

British Airways 787-9 Will Receive an All-New First Class

First Class on British Airways A380 (image via British Airways)
First Class on British Airways A380 (image via British Airways)

On Monday, British Airways announced the introductory routes and dates for its new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, which is due to arrive in September. BA currently has eight of the 787-8 variant, which is 20 feet shorter. They began service with the airline in 2013.

The first 787-9 routes, in a four-class configuration, will be between London and Delhi, beginning October 25th of this year. Following Delhi, the stretched Dreamliner will fly to Abu Dhabi, Muscat, and Kuala Lumpur. The 787-8s in the BA fleet do not have First Class. BA currently flies the 787-8 from London Heathrow to Austin, Calgary, Chengdu, Chennai, Hyderabad, Montreal, Philadelphia, Seoul and Toronto. However, BA will upgrade Austin service to the 777-200 this fall.

British Airways current First Class Suite. (image via British Airways)
British Airways current First Class Suite. (image via British Airways)

Unfortunately, British Airways did not release any images of what the 787-9 First Class cabin will look like, but they did release some details. The design of the First Class suites is based on customer feedback, with the intent on “putting comfort at the heart of the experience.” Each suite will house four storage areas, including a closet in which to hang suits and jackets, an ottoman for shoes, handbags and personal items, and a thoughtful storage area under your armrest, in which you can store personal electronic devices while they charge. One big improvement will be the large 23-inch fixed touchscreen IFE screens, which will run Panasonic’s eX3 IFE system. Previous suites have pivoting monitors that are required to be stowed during takeoff and landing.

The four classes on board British Airways 787-9 will consist of eight First Class suites arranged 1-2-1 the cabin, 42 Club World (Business Class) seats, 39 World Traveler Plus (Premium Economy) seats, and 127 World Traveler (Economy) Seats. Totaling 216 seats, British Airways’ longer Dreamliner will only hold 2 more passengers than its 787-8 model, which the airline has been flying since 2013. BA has 22 787-9s on order, as well as 12 even larger 787-10s, according to Boeing’s order books.

BA's 787-8 at London Heathrow, 2013. Photo by Paul Thompson
BA’s 787-8 at London Heathrow, 2013. Photo by Paul Thompson

British Airways is also in the process of updating 18 of its workhorse Boeing 747-400s, which will begin returning to service this September with a cabin facelift that will include an Inflight Entertainment upgrade featuring Panasonic’s eX3 system. According to RoutesOnline, these revamped aircraft will be used to serve New York JFK, Chicago, Lagos, Dubai, Boston, Riyadh and Kuwait, with other cities to be added as more planes return from refurbishment.

British Airways Marks 50 Years of Auto Landing Capability

BEA Hawker Trident - Image provided by British Airways
BEA Hawker Trident – Image provided by British Airways

I bet there are a lot of people out there who didn’t even know that some planes are capable of landing themselves. Did you know that? I knew that – but what I only recently learned, was that it has been happening for fifty years! Auto landing fully automates the landing procedure of an aircraft’s flight, under the watchful eye of the pilots, of course. Wikipedia says auto landing was designed to be used in situations where visibility is too poor for a visual approach, usually less than 600 meters Runway Visual Range, though each aircraft has specific operating parameters.

Image provided by British Airways
Image provided by British Airways

Today (June 10th) happens to be the 50th anniversary of the first auto-landing of a commercial airline flight. The act was performed by British European Airways (now British Airways) flight 343, from Paris to London. The aircraft was a Hawker Siddeley Trident 1 (pictured), with Captain Eric Poole at the controls. Captain Poole and BEA’s Chairman, Sir Anthony Milward signed a special certificate for each passenger as a memento of the day (pictured above).

Throughout its history, British Airways has been at the cutting edge of technology and passenger services in the airline industry. In 1952, British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) was the first airline to operate a jet – the De Havilland Comet. BOAC was also the first airline to offer trans Atlantic jet service, with the Comet 4. British Airways is also known for having operated the Concorde, and having installed the world’s first fully flat beds in Business Class.

Portland is the Next Red Bull Flutag Site, and You Have 2 Weeks to Apply

Image via Red Bull
Image via Red Bull

You build a homemade airplane and launch it off a ramp, over a body of water, using only human power… what could possibly go wrong? Now, add in costumes, music, and the world’s most popular energy drink, and you have the world-famous Red Bull Flutag.

In German, “Flutag” translates to “Flying Day,” and Red Bull has announced that the Flutag will be returning to Portland this year, on August 1st at the McCall Waterfront Park. Flutag events have been held worldwide for 23 years.

Flutag teams are comprised of five members. Teams are judged not only on flight distance, but creativity and showmanship as well. In case you were wondering, the world record Flutag flight distance is 258 feet. Perhaps Portland’s proximity to Seattle (site of Boeing’s assembly plants) will influence some true aviation engineers to get involved. For design inspiration, the Flutag videos on YouTube are pretty incredible, and hilarious!

Image via Red Bull
Image via Red Bull

Flutag events are known for drawing 50,000-80,000 people, and they look like an absolute blast! I’ve never attended one, but I am hoping to make it to PDX for this one, so consider this a PSA. Applications for PDX Flutag teams opened on March 18th, and close on May 12th, with only the first 500 applications being considered. You can apply online at redbullflutag.com. More information about the event is also available on Facebook at the Red Bull Flutag Page.

Image courtesy of Red Bull
Image courtesy of Red Bull

Red Bull’s Air Race World Championship continues this year, with eight stops. In this year’s first race, held in Abu Dhabi in February, Paul Bonhomme of Great Britain took First Place – and along with it 12 points toward the World Championship. The next race will be held May 16-17th in Chiba, Japan. You can purchase Air Race tickets and find out more information about the series here. 

Don’t Even THINK About Planespotting in the United Arab Emirates

Emirates A380, by Kurush Pawar (Flickr / CC Commercial License)
Emirates A380, by Kurush Pawar (Flickr / CC Commercial License)

Over the past decade or so, Dubai has grown into one of the world’s most eccentric cities, perhaps second only to Las Vegas. The home of the world’s largest building and one of the world’s most decadent hotels is also home to one of the world’s fastest-growing and most luxurious airlines, Emirates. But in spite of Dubai’s push into tourism, there’s one activity they are not friendly toward — planespotting.

Planespotting is an activity popular throughout the world, and had grown even more in recent years due to digital photography and social media. Aviation enthusiasts are constantly on the look-out for the newest aircraft, or those painted in one-off special liveries. Many airports are friendly toward planespotters, creating parks or observation areas that are conductive toward viewing aircraft movements at the airport.

Emirates 777 in Dubai - by Raihan S.R. Bakhsh (Flickr / CC Commercial License)
Emirates 777 in Dubai – by Raihan S.R. Bakhsh (Flickr / CC Commercial License)

Two British plane spotters recently served a two year prison sentence after photographing planes at Fujairah airport in the United Arab Emirates. Their arrest occurred on February 21st, under suspicion of espionage. Police found Conrad Clitheroe, 54, and Gary Cooper, 45 and an expatriate friend taking photos and making notes about planes at the airport. The men pled guilty, knowing it was against the law.

But why was it prohibited, if the men made their observations from public areas? You don’t even need to be at an airport in person to track the comings and goings of aircraft. Spartphone apps and websites such as FlightAware allow anyone to see which flights are arriving and departing, by broadcasting information from aircraft transponders. This information includes altitude, heading, speed and registration. The UAE’s national carrier, Emirates is owner of the world’s largest fleets of Airbus A380s and Boeing 777s – two huge, modern aircraft that are both an obvious draw to aviation geeks. In addition, there are scores of photos of these aircraft easily available online. If there is potential harm to be done by allowing people to track what planes are around a commercial airport, I’m not seeing it.

Air New Zealand Chooses Houston for First U.S. Expansion in 11 Years

photo by hans-johnson (Flickr / CC Commercial License)
photo by hans-johnson (Flickr / CC Commercial License)

On April 15th, Air New Zealand announced its first new U.S. destination in eleven years – and Houston (Bush Intercontinental) was the chosen city. Houston is only the fourth U.S. destination for the airline, along with Honolulu, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The route will be originate in Auckland (AKL) and be served by a completely retrofitted Boeing 777-200ER.

Onboard, guests can enjoy Air New Zealand’s award-winning “Sky Couch” in economy. Sky Couch is a row of three economy seats, which fold out into a 61×29-inch bed. The Business Premier class offers lie-flat beds, Kiwi-inspired cuisine, a selection of New Zealand wines, and over 1,800 hours of on-demand entertainment.

To those who do not live in Air New Zealand destination cities, the airline has made a name for itself on social media over the past few years, with a series of highly creative Hobbit-themed safety videos.

As a Star Alliance member, Air New Zealand will offer easy connections for United Airlines passengers from U.S. hubs such as Newark and Chicago O’Hare. At the announcement, Air New Zealand VP of the Americas Chris Meyer said:

“We are thrilled to open service to Houston and share our Kiwi spirit and award-winning service with The Lone Star State and beyond. This expands our reach into a thriving part of the country and also acts as a great feed to the East Coast, meaning a gateway to New Zealand is now less than three hours away from numerous U.S. cities. We’re also excited about the prospect of bringing New Zealanders to Texas and other southern and eastern states via Houston.”

This Thursday (April 30th), Air New Zealand will celebrate its 75th anniversary. The 7,415 mile flight from IAH to AKL would almost crack the top-20 of the world’s longest flights. If you’re looking forward to flying this route, tickets are planned to go up for sale in May, with flights beginning this December, five days a week.

There is Nothing More Geeky than a Star Wars Dreamliner

Image via @flyana_official
Image via @flyana_official

Japan’s All Nippon Airways (ANA) has just revealed a new Boeing 787 Dreamliner, painted in a special Star Wars livery! Check it out!

Image via @flyana_official
Image via @flyana_official

The plane was announced today in Anaheim, California, and will begin making international flights later this year.