Archive for July, 2009
In March 2008 I posted the story of a race between a 1,000 horsepower Bugatti Veyron sports car and the Eurofighter Typhoon supersonic jet. I included a video, but unfortunately, I had to remove the video due to copyright issues.
Those issues have been resolved, and I am now able to post the video again. Actually, it is a better video than the original!
Enjoy the race and the video, compliments of Top Gear!
I’ve been doing mileage runs for 3-4 years; my goal has been to keep my elite status with American Airlines (AA) and, more importantly, build up enough miles to pay for a fabulous vacation.
Two years ago my wife and I took such a trip. We flew AA first class from Austin to Dallas to Los Angeles. There we transferred to Cathay Pacific and flew business class to Hong Kong. After 4 days in Hong Kong we flew Cathay Pacific to Bangkok, Thailand. After several days in Thailand we flew home on Japan Airlines, business class, Bangkok to Tokyo to Chicago, and then American first class back to Austin. At that time, the cost of those tickets, if I had to pay for them, was over $15,000 per person, way more than I had paid for the mileage runs. I made those reservations 330 days in advance, as soon as the bookings were available.
Now I have a sufficient number of miles in the account to arrange a similar trip, but it will be in November for my wife’s birthday, not 330 days from now. And therein lies the problem.
I called (AA) today to arrange a trip to Phuket, Thailand, hopefully flying American to Los Angeles, then Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong, then Cathay’s subsidiary, DragonAir, to Phuket. (Visit this page to see what business class is like on Cathay Padific, it is pretty amazing! Use the virtual tour option at the bottom of the page.)
Unfortunately, that route was not available for the days I wanted. The customer service representative did come up with another route that would be a great mileage run, but I am not sure how well it works for a vacation: fly AA first class from Austin to DFW to New York Kennedy, then Cathay Pacific business class to Vancouver to Hong Kong to Phuket. If that is the best, don’t ask what the worst was; I will say it involved an 11-hour layover at one airport. My first choice was to go through Los Angeles or San Francisco but neither were available.
I gave the customer service representative my return dates; unfortunately, there was no availability. I told her I would buy tickets on Thai Air from Phuket to Bangkok, could she get us home from there? Unfortunately, no.
She tried several options, but none worked. I even said I would spend the additional miles to come home first class instead of business, but still no luck.
So, I went to Plan B. Could she get us to Tahiti during that time frame? Again, the answer was no. She said she looked at the schedule for a full week and there was no availability. Darn!
She said they could put the Phuket itinerary on hold for five days; I could call in each day to check for availability on the return trip. If they did not hear from me after five days, they would cancel the reservation and not charge my account. That seems reasonable, I put it on hold.
I’ll call each night for the next few days to see if they can get us home. If not, I cancel and we’ll look for another destination.
I want to thank the American Airlines customer service representative that helped me, she really tried hard to book this trip. I never would have thought to look at going from Texas to Hong Kong via New York and Vancouver. The fact that she found that route tells me how hard she was workinkg.
My wife wants to go to a warm location for this trip, so Europe is out of the question. I’ve looked at Hawaii (Maui and Kauai); they can get us there first class, but the return trip would be coach.
I could change dates, but I wanted this to be a present for my wife’s birthday, so I am trying to arrange the trip around that date.
My lesson learned is that it’s best to make an international reservation as far in advance as possible. In the meantime, I’ll look at other destinations.
A few years ago, Boeing and Airbus both revealed their plans for the future. Airbus was going to go with the massive A-380 jumbo jet, while Boeing would go with the smaller 787 Dreamliner.
The A-380 had challenges: most airports could not handle a plane of its size and weight; airports needed to modify runways and terminals for the plane. In the meantime, the 787 became one of the most popular commercial aircraft in history, with sales totaling more than $100 billion.
How did things work out for the world’s two largest aircraft manufacturers?
The 787 has faced major delays in its development and is more than two years behind schedule. Its first test flight, scheduled for June 30, has been indefinitely postponed. Last week Boeing announced that it would purchase Vought Aircraft Industries’ 787 operations in North Charleston, South Carolina for $580 million. The plant manufactures the 787 aft fuselage assembly. The purchase gives Boeing greater control over the 787 manufacturing process, while helping Vought, which was unable financially to handle the 787 program. Elmer Doty, president and CEO of Vought Aircraft Industries said “the financial demands of this program are clearly growing beyond what a company our size can support.”
In the meantime the A-380 has gone into service with several carriers around the world.
How large is the A-380? You’ll find the answer in the video below, which was shot outside Toronto Pearson International Airport. Excited aviation “geeks” stand in a gas station parking lot, watching as aircraft pass directly over them at low alititude before landing across the street.
Watch the whole video, but pay particular attention at the 4 minute mark when an Emirates A-380 lands. Simply put, the plane is HUGE!
This is a great commercial! All I can say is, “Been there, done that!”
In the last month, it was difficult for me to understand American Airlines’ policy about delaying flights so that passengers could make a connection from another flight. On May 9 I missed the last flight of the day from Boston to San Francisco when they would not hold the plane for 5 minutes for me to make the connection. When I sent a complaint to AA about this, their reply indicated a total lack of flexibility in situations like that.
On June 26, my flight from Chicago O’Hare to Austin however, was delayed 20 minutes so that passengers could make the connection. This seemed to go against their previously stated policy about the need to be at the gate 15 minutes before departure to make the flight. This left me wondering what their policy actually is.
I sent a message to AA Customer Relations on June 27 asking for a clarification. AA is normally VERY good at giving prompt responses, but not this time. One week later I had received no reply to my question. So, I wrote to them again on July 5. On July 8 I got a reply.
This message gave a much more reasonable description of the decision-making process.
“Our airport staff, along with the flight crew and air traffic controllers have full authority and responsibility for making and resolving such decisions. Even though only a few minutes may be at stake, the collection of the many factors help determine when – and how long – a flight may be delayed for any reason. Although it may seem a simple task at times, in actuality it is extremely complex and the decision is not made by any single individual.”
“The specialists who are involved with the operation of the aircraft do not take the situation lightly. They do all possible to determine the best way to get passengers to their destination with the least amount of inconvenience while maintaining safety as the number one priority.”
That is much more reasonable explanation than the first one which indicated no flexibility in the process; if you were not there on time you did not board. (“We established a 15-minute “cut-off” time period (30 minutes for international flights) which stipulates that you must be checked in and present at the departure gate at least 15 minutes before the scheduled departure time of your flight to retain your reservation and a seat.“)
So, basically it is a case-by-case process and the people in charge do what they think is best while keeping safety the number one priority.
That make sense. I wish they had said that the first time, and thank them for the clarification.
I posted an article in November 2008 about American Airlines announcement that it would purchase 42 Boeing 787 Dreamliners, with delivery to start in 2012. Now, we have no idea when, or if, that delivery will take place.
Although Boeing executives had announced that the first test flight of the 787 would take place before June 30, they had to retract that statement this week, announcing instead that the “first flight of the 787 Dreamliner will be postponed due to a need to reinforce an area within the side-of-body section of the aircraft.”
When will that first flight take place? Bowing was vague in its reply, “First flight and first delivery will be rescheduled following the final determination of the required modification and testing plan. It will be several weeks before the new schedule is available.”
Boeing originally planned for the Dreamliner to have its first flight in 2007 and enter service in 2008. Now, we can only hope that that they will achieve first flight in 2009. A Dreamliner video on Boeing’s website still says the first flight will take place in May 2009. In the meantime, The A-380, the massive new aircraft from Boeing’s biggest competitor, Airbus, is already in service with several airlines around the world.
The 787 is the hottest selling commercial airliner ever, even though it has never flown. How amazing is that? Imagine Ford having the largest selling car before the first model of it ever left the factory; that is basically what happened with the 787. But now with the continuing delays in production, orders may fall. Qanatas has already announced that it is canceling an order for 15 787s, and postponing delivery of 15 more for four years.
For me, this is a sad day. The 787 was truly a next-generation aircraft, unlike anything now flying. It would be more fuel efficient, make less noise, and create less pollution than any commercial aircraft now flying. The cabin would be more comfortable than any current aircraft. The seats would be more comfortable, the overhead bins larger. It would be the first commercial aircraft to be substantially built from carbon fiber rather than aluminum.
Now, some wonder if Boeing bit off more than it could chew with such a radical new design. I hope not. The 787 is such an evolutionary aircraft that I hope Boeing can resolve these issues and put the first one in the air soon. I look forward to being a passenger on one, the sooner the better