Archive for August, 2010
I’ve booked my last mileage run of the year: no surprise, it’s another trip to Seattle. I’ve lost track of how many trips I have made to the Pacific Northwest, but it is the longest non-stop flight that American Airlines (AA) offers from DFW in the lower 48, so it gives me the chance to earn the largest number of miles.
AA is running a sale that ends tonight, August 26, and I took advantage of it. Austin to DFW to Seattle and back for $251. That’s 2.91 cents per mile, not great, but these days I am thrilled to find any fare below 3 cents.
It’s a November 6 trip, I’ll fly out at 7 a.m., get to Seattle at 11:25 a.m., then fly out on the red-eye to DFW at 11:55 p.m., arriving back in Austin at 8 Sunday morning. Another long day, but a good close to the year.
People have recommended the Seattle Underground tour, I may take advantage of it on this trip. I’d love to do the tour of the Boeing plant, but since it is in Mukilteo, 25 miles northwest of Seattle, there is no easy way to get there without renting a car.
November in Seattle can be cold, particularly when compared to Central Texas, but I look forward to it nonetheless.
Sometimes government regulations help, sometimes they hurt. Here is an example of the government getting involved and making a big difference for the consumer.
On rare occasions, airlines have, for one reason or another, left passengers stranded on aircraft, either at the gate or on the tarmac. I was once stuck on a British Airways flight at Heathrow for over seven hours before they decided the aircraft could not fly and switched us to another one. Other, more famous incidents include:
- August, 2009: 47 passengers were stranded overnight aboard a Continental Express plane at the Rochester, Minnesota airport. Their Houston to Minneapolis flight had been diverted due to bad weather. Once they arrived at Rochester they were not allowed off the plane for six hours, spending the night on the plane with no water and overflowing toilets.
- December, 2006: Kate Hanni, was stranded with her husband and two children for 9 hours on the tarmac in Austin, Texas. Hanni later went on to form FlyersRights.org, an organization dedicated to the creation of the Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights. the bill would allow passengers in the US allows passengers the option of getting off delayed planes after 3 hours on the ground, and require airlines to provide adequate food, water, temperature controls, ventilation and working toilets to accommodate a 3-hour delay.
In response to these and other incidents, US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced new rules in December 2009 that established a 3-hour time limit after which U.S. airlines must allow passengers to deplane from delayed domestic flights. In addition carriers would be required to provide adequate food and potable drinking water for passengers within two hours of the aircraft being delayed on the tarmac and to maintain operable lavatories and, if necessary, provide medical attention.
Passenger rights organizations supported the rules, the airlines opposed them saying that they would lead to additional flight cancellations. They argued that an airline faced with the possibility of a 3-hour tarmac delay of a flight, would simply cancel it rather than have to comply with the new rules. They took affect at the end of April 2010 and, so far, appear to be a great success.
May 2010 was the first full month of the rules being in affect. In May 2009 there were 34 tarmac times of more than three hours; in May 2010 there were only five. A subsequent Department of Transportation investigation determined that four of the five May flights were misreported by the airline.
In June 2009, the FAA reported 268 flight with tarmac delays of three hours or more. In June 2010, that number dropped to only three (all three were United flights at Chicago O’Hare on a day when winds exceeded 75 miles per hour.) As far as the increase in cancellations that the airlines had predicted, that did not happen. The airlines canceled 1.5 percent of their flights in June 2010, the same percentage as in June 2009.
So, tarmac delays dropped 85 percent in May, and then an incredible 99 percent in June. The airlines also reported a slightly higher percentage of on-time flights in June 2010 compared to June 2009. See the Department of Transportation’s press release for all the details.
Will the rules be as helpful four months from now when winter storms cause airports to shut down? We’ll see, but in the meantime the good news is that the rules are working exactly as intended. That’s good for the traveler, and whether they admit it or not, it’s good for the airlines too.
In my last post, I wrote about the huge orders that Emirates Airlines had placed in the last month. When these orders are filled, they will have 90 Airbus A-380s, and 101 Boeing 777s. It’s easy for me to say that’s a large order, but exactly how large is it?
First, let’s look at the capabilities of the two aircraft.
The 777 was the first commercial aircraft to be digitally designed. According to Boeing, “The Model 777, the first entirely new Boeing airplane in more than a decade, was the first jetliner to be 100 percent digitally designed using three-dimensional computer graphics. Throughout the design process, the airplane was “preassembled” on the computer, eliminating the need for a costly, full-scale mock-up.” Its first flight, in 1995, was with United Airlines. Its range is 4,210 (6,775 km) to 8,270 (13,309 km) miles, and it can seat 305 to 440 passengers.
This is a long-distance aircraft. American Airlines uses it on their longest non-stop flight, Chicago to New Delhi, 7,483 miles (12,042 km). Continental Airlines flies it from Newark to Hong Kong, 8,065 miles (12,979 km). Delta Airlines uses it to fly from Atlanta to Johannesburg, 8,439 miles (13,581 km).
The A-380 has similar numbers. According to Airbus the A-380, with 525 passengers, has a range of 8,200 nautical miles (15,200 km), allowing it to fly New York to Hong Kong.
With the range of these two aircraft, Emirates can offer non-stop service from Dubai to every city in North and South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia. In other words, they can fly non-stop from Dubai to any major airport anywhere in the world. So now we know what their market is.
How large is their order compared to other airlines?
Emirates will have 101 777s. American Airlines currently has 47. British Airways also has 47.
Emirates has ordered 90 A-380s. The next two largest orders are Qantas with 20, Singapore Airlines with 19. (source: Airbus orders, June 2010)
Emirates will have more 777s than American Airlines and British Airways combined. Its A-380 order is more than four times the size of the next largest order. The numbers speak for themselves. If Emirates’ goal is not to dominate long-distance air travel worldwide, then they are certainly spending a lot of money on aircraft they won’t need.
Emirates has an advantage over many other airlines. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, “Emirates is owned by the government of Dubai, which also owns the emirate’s airports. The ruling family has developed its aviation policies to promote Dubai as a global hub connecting far-flung markets. It allows almost any airline to land at its airport, which charges low fees. Dubai has no income tax or corporate tax. The low costs help Emirates against rivals in higher-cost markets.”
But the article also highlights efforts by Lufthansa to limit Emirates’ access to the German market, currently 4 cities (Hamburg, Munich, Frankfurt, and Dusseldorf). At the same time, Air Canada wants to limit Emirate’s access to the Canadian market, currently one city (Toronto).
For Emireates, the orders are placed and the aircraft are coming. Will other countries grant them access to their markets, or will national carriers such as Air Canada and Lufthansa try to limit them? This will be interesting to watch.
Emirates Airlines, with its headquarters in Dubai, is the largest airline in the Middle East. More importantly, it consistently earns some of the highest customer service rankings in the industry. Its configuration of the Airbus A-380 takes luxury to a new level, from suites with a shower and a dedicated lounge in first and business class to more than 1,200 channels of entertainment in coach.
In the past few years Dubai has done everything it can to establish itself as a world-class city with the tallest building in the world (the stunning Burj Khalifa), the only indoor ski slope in the Middle East (Ski Dubai), one of the most luxurious hotels in the world (the Burj Al Arab), and the largest man-made islands in the world, the incredible Palm Islands.
But all has not gone well. The tallest building was originally named the Burj Dubai, but with the collapse of the world economy in 2008, Dubai needed to get emergency funding from Abu Dhabi to complete the project. The building was renamed the Burj Khalifa as a show of appreciation to Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the President of the United Arab Emirates who helped arrange the financing. At the same time, many of the homes on the Palm Islands sit empty. Things have not gone as well as they had hoped.
Plainly, they “think big” in Dubai, and Emirates has followed that theme with its recent aircraft purchases that serve notice that it intends to be a major player in long-distance air travel.
In the past month Emirates has ordered 32 Airbus A-380s, this is in addition to the 58 it already has on order for a total of 90. No other airline has placed this kind of order. Emirates’ Airbus order is almost 3 times the number of A-380s currently in service worldwide (31).The order represents 40% of all A-380 orders
In addition, Emirates ordered 30 Boeing 777-300 aircraft; this is in addition to the 71 it had previously ordered, 53 of which are now in service. These two orders will give Emirates 101 777s, and 90 A-380s. These purchases may give Emirates the most modern fleet in the air.
An airline does not make this type of purchase so that it can expand service from Dubai to Kuwait City. It appears that Emirates’ goal is to dominate long-distance air travel across the world, with Dubai as a hub With new aircraft and outstanding customer service, Emirates may become the carrier of choice for many routes. (Are you traveling from Kuala Lumpur to Frankfurt? Fly Emirates through Dubai. Need to go from New York to Sydney? Fly Emirates through Dubai.) They have recently added or will soon add service to several cities in Europe, India, South Africa, and South America, including Prague, Amsterdam, Durban, Milan, Los Angeles, Cape Town, and São Paulo. With new aircraft and great service, why would you not want to fly Emirates?
But it goes beyond simply linking major cities. They not only want you to fly through Dubai, they want you to spend a few days there on your layover; their website is even offering hotel discounts to passengers who do a layover in Dubai.
Emirates is thinking big. Let’s hope they are more successful than some of Dubai’s recent big projects.