Our Incredible Shrinking World

Lufthansa A380 aircraft on runway

As planes get bigger and can hold more fuel, airlines are connecting cities that used to be too far apart to reach easily. Jumbo A380 and A330 jets are making it easy for globe-trotters to minimize their travel time and maximize their destination time, thereby making long-haul trips more attractive. They also provide more comfortable seating and improved entertainment options, especially if you upsell to business or first class.

In some cases, new nonstop services eliminate the need for connecting flights, sparing your clients the inconvenience of changing planes. In this post-9/11 era, removing the hassle of going through any additional airport security checks is clearly a selling point.

Following is a look at how some carriers are using A380s and other large aircraft to shrink the world down to an even more travel-friendly size. Closer to home, we will also see how new and expanded air service is making travel within the Americas more accessible than ever.


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Safety Concerns

As of press time, reports were still surfacing of cracks discovered in the wings of some A380 planes, forcing the grounding of several jets. Sixty-eight Airbus A380s are currently used by Qantas, Singapore Airlines, Emirates, Air France, Lufthansa, Korean Air and China Southern. While we don’t know yet what the ultimate outcome of this potential safety issue will be, or how the grounding will impact long-haul flights, the large number of airlines that have purchased A380 jets speaks volumes about the desirability of the planes and of airlines’ goals for long-haul journeys. In fact, Airbus, which took in a record number (1,419) of orders for new commercial aircraft last year, plans to deliver 30 more of its A380 super jumbos in 2012.


Previously considered a “once in a lifetime” trip because of distance, Asia is quickly becoming a repeat destination in the U.S. market, aided by growing accessibility and frequency/comfort of flights. The introduction of the Airbus A380 to Asia has helped make the long-haul journey much easier.

Airlines such as China Southern, Emirates, Korean Air and Singapore Airlines have all introduced the A380 into service and added new routes to help make once-epic distances seem much shorter. In addition, smaller airlines have created partnerships to expand their internal network of flights in order to make new destinations more accessible.

Singapore Airlines officially put its flagship U.S. A380 service into effect last July with a Singapore-Tokyo Narita-Los Angeles flight. The new equipment has almost 100 additional seats, featuring 12 private suites (including two double suites—a private cabin equipped with a double bed for two passengers and other luxury amenities), 60 business class seats and 399 seats in economy, across two full decks.

Economy seats are two inches wider than average, with 10.4-inch personal video monitors. Business class seats recline to a full bed and are arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration, giving every seat aisle access.

In addition to providing its guests the opportunity to fly even more comfortably, Singapore, which services 103 cities in 39 countries, has been partnering with several other airlines in order to provide more routes all over the world. JetBlue Airways and Singapore announced in December the opportunity for customers to book a single combined ticket with one-stop check-in and baggage transfer between both airlines, as well as new services from the U.S. to Europe and Asia.

On January 16, the airline introduced the A380 on its daily service from New York (JFK) to Singapore via Frankfurt. Customers who fly by Singapore have access to connections, including Bali, Jakarta, Manila and more. Singapore Airlines also has daily business class service from Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) to Changi International Airport (SIN), making it the world’s longest nonstop commercial flight.

Korean Air introduced its A380 service in the U.S. with a New York (JFK) to Seoul flight last August; it added flight service from Los Angeles (LAX) to Seoul in October.

The new A380 aircraft is configured to contain about 407 seats, consisting of 12 first class Kosmo Suites and 301 economy class seats on the first level, with the upstairs featuring 94 lie-flat sleepers spaced six feet apart. The plane also has three bars: a Celestial Bar, a hosted bar with a lounge offering signature cocktails, along with self-serve bars in first class and at the front of prestige class. The airline has ordered 10 aircraft, all of which will have entered service by 2014.

This past October, China Southern Airlines flew its first commercial flight on the A380, from Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK) to Guangzhou. China Southern Airlines’ Airbuses feature 506 seats, with eight first class suites, 70 lie-flat business class seats and 428 seats in economy.

Agents should also know that once their clients reach these major destinations, airlines are making short-haul distances even easier, thus connecting foreign cities and allowing for facilitated exploration within Asia.


While Australia’s East Coast is a 12-hour overnight flight from the West Coast of the U.S., it has been much more difficult for people from other places in the U.S. to get there. Last May, Qantas began nonstop flights from Dallas/Fort Worth to Sydney, bringing the Eastern side of the U.S. a bit closer to Australia. DFW is a major hub for American Airlines, one of Qantas’ oneworld partners, and helps to link Qantas to 59 more codeshare cities, in addition to the 32 codeshare ports the airline serves via LAX. The flights currently operate six times per week, but have proven so successful that they will go daily in July.

Middle East and Beyond

Emirates, which inaugurated its first A380 commercial flight from Dubai to New York in August 2008, currently has 20 A380s in its fleet and 70 on order. In February, Emirates will begin nonstop flights from Dallas/Fort Worth, linking customers in Texas to its extensive network. In March, it plans to start daily nonstop flights between Dubai and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA). The move will give travelers a new option from Seattle to destinations in the Middle East, Asia and Africa. Emirates services over 100 destinations from Dubai, including several cities in India, China, Japan and Korea. In addition to Seattle, Emirates’ North American gateways include Houston, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Toronto.


New planes are also impacting travel to Europe. As mentioned previously, clients can now fly nonstop from New York to Frankfurt in Singapore Airlines’ A380s. This summer, Lufthansa will be the first airline to have scheduled Airbus A380 service to Texas when daily A380 flights between Houston and Frankfurt begin on August 1. Lufthansa also launched a daily A380 service on its Frankfurt-Singapore route.

In the spring, Lufthansa will start a new service from Munich to Mexico City. The new route will be operated from March 26 by an Airbus A340-600. From that date on, Mexico City will be served five times a week from Munich, supplementing the daily flights already operated by Lufthansa from Frankfurt. At the same time, Lufthansa will begin the first nonstop flight from Düsseldorf to Tokyo. The new route will be offered six times per week with an Airbus A340-300.

Air France, meanwhile, has added two new destinations to its daily A380 service: Dubai, which began this past December, and Los Angeles, beginning May 28 of this year. Both new flights will depart daily from Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG). In the summer of 2012, Air France will operate eight Airbus A380 aircraft from Paris to Los Angeles, New York (JFK), Johannesburg, Tokyo, Montreal and Washington.


Trains Shrink Europe

While big new jets are making intercontinental travel easier, high-speed trains are making intra-continental travel simpler as well. Numerous lines have reduced the travel time between cities—and countries—to such an extent that short-haul airlines have been forced to reduce service. In a few years, the Gotthard Base Tunnel will open beneath the Alps, making travel from Switzerland or Germany to Italy quick and easy.

Rail Europe recently started a new Rhine-Rhone high-speed line in France. International high-speed TGV trains will have direct service between France, Switzerland and Germany on routes such as Paris/Lausanne, Paris/Bern, Paris/Zurich and Frankfurt/Marseille. The new high-speed line runs east-west, reducing travel time from the northeastern city of Strasbourg to Lyon to less than four hours. The number of trains on this route will increase to six roundtrips per day. The line will also run north-south from France into Germany and, beginning in March, travelers can go from Marseille or Avignon in the south of France directly to Frankfurt in Germany without changing trains.


While Hawaii has always been a weekend destination for Californians (most islands are only six hours from major West Coast hubs), the Aloha State has been a bit more distant for New Yorkers. All that will change in early June, when Hawaiian Airlines (www.hawaiianair.com) begins daily nonstop service between New York (JFK) and Honolulu. Hawaiian’s new flights from New York will add more than 107,000 new air seats annually to Hawaii’s tourism industry from the Eastern U.S., the state’s second-largest geographic source market for visitors.

Hawaiian will operate its New York-Honolulu route using its growing fleet of new Airbus A330-200 aircraft that seat 294 passengers, 30 more passengers per aircraft than its current fleet of 16 Boeing 767-300ER aircraft. Hawaiian will be adding 13 new A330s to its fleet between 2013 and 2015. (This is in addition to the five A330s Hawaiian currently has in service and four new A330s that will join the fleet in 2012.) Hawaiian’s A330 deliveries between 2013 and 2015 will let the airline retire 10 Boeing 767-300 aircraft over approximately the same period, as the company continues its progressive transition to a new fleet of A330s and A350-800 (the shortest fuselage version in Airbus’ new A350 XWB) aircraft for its North America and international service.

Before connecting to New York, Hawaiian will become the only carrier to operate daily flights on the Sydney-Honolulu route. The A330-200 aircraft will begin to operate in May 2012.

Neighboring islands will also get a boost this year: The airline is creating a Maui hub to increase interisland service and nonstop flights from Western cities like Los Angeles, Seattle, Las Vegas, Oakland and San Jose.


Agent Perspectives

“Our world is definitely ‘shrinking,’” says Carole-Anne Hughs of Valerie Wilson Travel. “More passengers are traveling to Asia every day due in part to the larger flight capacity on the newer aircraft. It really isn’t a big deal anymore to hop over to Japan or Singapore. With options like Singapore Airlines’ daily flights from New York to Singapore, more clients have started to inquire about these destinations. Korea has also become more enticing as Korean Air now flies two new A380s twice a day, direct to Seoul from New York. Asia is becoming closer and closer in the minds of clients.”

Marya Minter with Frosch Travel says her Hawaii numbers have been growing in the last few years. “It’s back on an upswing, and a lot of that has to do with the increase in airlift. There are more nonstops from the West Coast directly to the islands. People anywhere on the mainland can get to any island, often with just one connection. The convenience makes Hawaii an appealing option. It doesn’t feel like it takes so long to get there anymore.”

“It’s always exciting to see new nonstops [in] my search results,” says Seth Apper, CEO/founder of New Act Travel. “Clients don’t have to cram their trips into the dates formerly available, which means more to do, creating happier clients and bigger commissions.”

“A lot of these new flights to South America have made a big difference with business,” says Analia Rupar-Przebieda of Eureka Travel. “No one wants to fly to South America when they have to take three different airlines. A lot of the new LAN flights are making it easier for me to book clients on the same airline the whole trip.”


Speaking of islands, the Caribbean region is getting a boost from new air services and greater frequencies. Recently, accessibility to the U.S. Virgin Islands rose immensely. Toward the end of 2011, JetBlue Airways started nonstop service from Boston to St. Thomas, and connecting service to both St. Thomas and St. Croix via San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The carrier also added daily direct flights from San Juan to St. Maarten using Embraer E-190 aircraft—which has two-by-two, leather seating—and inaugurated new Wednesday and Saturday service from New York (JFK) to La Romana in the Domincan Republic. It’s the fifth destination in the Dominican Republic for JetBlue.

Silver Airways Corp., a new regional carrier launched with assets from the former Gulfstream International Airlines, took delivery of its first Saab 340B Plus aircraft at the end of December. (Note: The carrier still uses the Gulfstream URL, www.gulfstreamair.com.) In-service dates for the new aircraft will be announced upon receipt of regulatory approvals. Once cleared, the aircraft will be deployed along the carrier’s Florida-Bahamas routes.

In December, Montego Bay received the inaugural flight of Copa Airlines service between Jamaica and Panama. Copa flights through Panama City into Montego Bay are now available from 58 cities in North, Central and South America. Even Haiti picked up frequency when Continental Airlines added nonstop flights between its New York hub, EWR, and Port-au-Prince last June.

Accessibility to the Caribbean from the U.S. didn’t just increase in the air. Clients got new access from Florida via water in December as Bahamas Express introduced a new ferry service that transports clients 76 miles from Fort Lauderdale to Grand Bahama Island. The service runs daily, except on Wednesdays, with convenient schedules that allow clients from the U.S. to return on the same day after spending the day in Grand Bahama.


Virgin America recently inaugurated its first service to Puerto Vallarta. The low-fare carrier will have five nonstop flights a week from San Francisco to Puerto Vallarta. Meanwhile, Continental Airlines plans to add weekly nonstop service between Los Angeles and Durango, Mexico, in March, subject to government approval.

Aeromexico has launched nonstop flights between Mexico City and Caracas, Venezuela, as part of an international expansion plan announced by the company earlier last year.The flights are being operated on the latest model of the Boeing 737 with a convenient schedule to enable all passengers to connect to the network of national and international destinations that the airline services, including more than 40 cities within Mexico, 10 in Latin America, 15 in the U.S. and Canada, three in Europe and two in Asia. This new route will support business and cultural exchange between both countries, and give more options to passengers seeking greater connectivity.

South America

Your clients can look forward to more frequent service to Argentina in April when United Airlines plans to add new daily nonstop flights between EWR and Buenos Aires.

For Brazil-bound travelers, an interline partnership initiated last August between JetBlue Airways and TAM Airlines, one of the largest carriers in Brazil, to connect travelers to Brazil and beyond via JFK and Orlando International Airport (MCO). Customers will be able to purchase a single e-ticket itinerary, combining flights on both carriers’ networks to give them the ease of one-stop ticketing and baggage check-in. (Note: A merger between TAM and LAN Ecuador, the completion of which is expected by the end of the first quarter 2012, is not likely to impact new services being introduced by either carrier.)

LAN Ecuador reached a new milestone in the history of Ecuador’s aviation by starting new service to the island of San Cristobal in the Galapagos Islands late in 2011. The airline runs two weekly two-hour flights to this new destination from Quito/Guayaquil. This not only makes the storied Galapagos easier to reach, but will help island residents become more connected to the rest of Ecuador and the world.

Green travelers take note: The flights will be operated with a fleet of modern Airbus A320 aircraft, the fuel efficiency of which allows them to produce less noise and CO2 emissions.

Meanwhile, American Airlines has received approval from United States Department of Transportation (DOT) and Ecuadorean authorities for authorization to begin codeshare cooperation with LAN Ecuador. This codeshare relationship will allow American Airlines to place its code on LAN Ecuador flights, and LAN to place its code on American Airlines flights. The placement of American Airlines’ code on LAN Ecuador flights will provide American Airlines’ customers seamless connecting service to three new cities in Ecuador not currently served by it.

At the same time, placing LAN Ecuador codes on American Airlines flights will give LAN customers new destinations in the U.S. such as Atlanta, Boston, Dallas/Fort Worth, Charlotte, Denver, Fort Lauderdale, Houston, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle. Also, members of the American Airlines AAdvantage program and LAN’s frequent flyer program, LANPASS, will be able to earn miles on the codeshare flights, providing customers another benefit of the enhanced relationship.

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