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.
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.
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.
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.