This week in air travel, airlines are beefing up their first and business class product.
Virgin Atlantic opened bookings for its next-generation A350 aircraft, which will have a redesigned upper-class cabin, as well as the debut of the airline’s new onboard social space, The Loft. That space will be the largest such venue in the airline’s fleet, and it will offer passengers the chance to gather, chat and enjoy a drink or dine with friends. The first four aircraft will initially fly between New York – JFK and London – Heathrow, with commercial service kicking off September 10, 2019. From 2020 – 2021, the airline expects to take delivery of eight more of the new aircraft, with the full schedule and destination information to be announced later.
August 2 will see the launch of All Nippon Airways’ (ANA) 12 redesigned Boeing 777-300ER aircraft on the Tokyo Handea – London route. The aircraft will have new First and Business class seats. The new First Class seat, called “The Suite,” has a dark wood finish and privacy doors, as well as a movable partition that can be adjusted upon request to pair seats. The Business Class seat, called “The Room,” also has adjustable privacy doors, as well as a forward and rearward seat layout. The planes also include redesigned Premium Economy and Economy class seats, plus updates to the in-flight entertainment system and other onboard technology.
In Southeast Asia, American Airlines and Cathay Dragon launched a new codeshare agreement that added routes to four new destinations and increased service to three existing markets. American will place its code on select Cathay Dragon flights from Hong Kong International Airport, providing American’s customers with connecting service to seven cities beyond Hong Kong. These cities include four new destinations – Dhaka, Bangladesh; Chiang Mai, Thailand; Da Nang, Vietnam; and Phuket, Thailand – and increased frequencies to three existing markets served by American’s other partners in Asia: Penang, Malaysia; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; and Hanoi, Vietnam.
Air Italy also reached a special prorate agreement with Aegean Airlines, allowing the airline to add Athens to its network. Air Italy passengers traveling from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami and New York can now reach the Greek capital with a connection via Air Italy’s Milan Malpensa hub, continuing with flights directly on to Athens on Aegean Airlines.
Elsewhere in Europe, Finnair announced plans to launch a new route from Helsinki to Busan, South Korea. Starting in March 2020, the new route will operate three times weekly.
Norwegian also announced plans to move two existing routes from Oakland International Airport to San Francisco International Airport. The routes, which operate nonstop service to Barcelona and Paris, will make the move starting this winter season, on October 30.
In airport news, Alaska Airlines completed the first phase of the North Satellite Modernization Project at Seattle – Tacoma International Airport. The move opened eight new gates at the airport, as well as additional locally based dining and retail options and a new, flagship Alaska Airlines Lounge.
Finally, in technology news, Air France – KLM announce plans to expand its use of biometrics with a new trial at New York – JFK Airport and George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston for its Air France flights. The trails will aim to examine the speed, reliability and user friendliness of boarding via facial recognition, with the goal of rolling out the new technology across all U.S. gateways by 2020. Currently, Air France and KLM passengers departing from Atlanta, Los Angeles, Dallas Fort-Worth, Detroit, Dulles, San Francisco, and Seattle are able to utilize biometric boarding, while other gateways are in various stages of testing.