New low-cost, high-speed rail service launches in France


By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

In an effort to boost ridership on its high-speed rail system, French national rail operator SNCF has launched the world’s first low cost high speed rail travel. Called Ouigo (as in “We Go”),  the new cheap, no-frills train service for France will offer ticket prices from just EUR 10, significantly cheaper than tickets for the normal TGV train.

Ouigo is an independently run subsidiary of SNCF and will operate its own trains, modified double-decker TGV Duplex trains, the same trains as SNCF’s regular TGV service. The new service will start running between the outskirts of Paris and the south of France (Lyon, Marseille, Montpellier) in April this year. Three or four return journeys will operate every day.

Low-cost carriers
To allow for such cheap fares, Ouigo shares similarities to no-frills carriers such as Ryanair and easyJet. Trains depart from Marne-la-Vallée (where Euro Disney is located) to the east of the French capital – almost 20 miles away from central Paris, a scenario reminiscent of the budget airlines’ strategy to use airports away from city centres. Ouigo trains will have no premium section, no food or drink service and less free leg space in order to accommodate 1,200 passengers, 20 percent more than a normal TGV service. Tickets can only be bought on-line, not from ticket machines or ticket counters.

It also means adding fees. Passengers can bring only one small bag (about the size of an airplane carry-on) and a purse or backpack. If a traveler waits until boarding time to pay for an extra bag, there’s a EUR40 charge. If done ahead of time, the cost is only EUR5. Seating in a car with outlets costs an extra EUR2; getting information about a reservation via the phone requires another EUR1. Reservations can be changed for EUR10 (EUR20 if done on the phone), but not fully reimbursed.

Each year 400,000 seats will go on sale at just EUR10 with a further one million costing just EUR25. Prices will rise depending on demand until they reach a maximum price of EUR85.

According to calculations published in French newspaper Le Figaro, the average price for a Friday journey from Paris to Marseille booked three months in advance costs EUR72 on the TGV, EUR50 on Air France, EUR34 on Ryanair, and EUR25 on Ouigo.
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New hotel that mirrors plane and airport interior to be launched by Vueling

Vueling Hotel_a680x422

By Louise Driscoll, Terminal U

These days you can find a themed hotel to suit any interest – from stylist fashion hotels to Vegas’s mega-resorts that pay homage to world cities.

We’ve seen plane-themed hotels before, but now a budget airline plans to take the idea further by opening hotels based around the flight experience.

Spanish airline Vueling is working with hotel chain Hoteles Catalonia (HC) to open its first themed hotel in downtown Barcelona next year.

But instead of showcasing a few plane models in the lobby for novelty value, the hotel will make guests feel that they’ve just boarded a Vueling flight. Artist impressions of the hotel show a reception area that will recreate an airport check-in counter and a bar-restaurant inside a mock aircraft cabin.

The themed experience doesn’t stop there. A breakfast area will be made to look like it’s inside an airport terminal, with overhead information screens.

Vueling’s yellow and grey brand colours will also play a big part in branding the experience, from the seat back covers in the restaurant area to the throws on the guest beds. The airline even plans to name each room after the destinations it serves.

But Vueling will leave its partner, Hoteles Catalonia (HC) to operate and manage the hotel chain, under the “Vueling by HC” brand. The first hotel, ‘Vueling BCN by HC’ is expected to open in March 2013. (BCN stands for Barcelona airport). More hotels openings are planned in destinations that Vueling serves, the hotel chain said.

Long-haul low-cost carrier AirAsia X to offer kids-free ‘Quiet Zone’ onboard

AirAsia X_Quiet Zone_a680x372

By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

Two recent surveys conducted by TripAdvisor found that 40 percent of U.S. travellers said they would pay extra to sit in a designated quiet section of the plane, while nearly 80 percent of Britons agreed there should be child-free zones on board, and a third of of respondents would pay more for their flight if there were no children on board.

Quiet Zone
Following a controversial decision by Malaysia Airlines to introduce a ‘child-free cabin’ on the upper deck of its new A380 superjumbo (Business and Economy), Malaysia-based long-haul low-cost carrier AirAsia X has announced it will be launching a so-called ‘Quiet Zone’ on its fleet of Airbus A330s.

Starting in February 2013, the airline will create a “Quiet Zone” in the front section of its widebody aircraft, located between the airline’s Premium Class section and the front galley. Children younger than 12 years old will not be able to book seats in the Quiet Zone, and passengers opting for the zone will be asked to keep noise to a minimum, while there will also be special ambient lighting in the cabin. Passenger will also be among the first to disembark.

The dedicated zone will consist of the first eight rows of the Economy section (rows 7 to 14), and  as the front area already houses the airline’s Premium Class, turning this part of the aircraft into a Quiet Zone will also be appreciated by AirAsia X’s premium passengers.
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Low-cost carrier Volaris offers free tickets to Mexicans who have never flown before

By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

Despite the fiscal woes in Europe and the recession that is taking place in a large part of the developed world, a new middle class is emerging in rapidly developing economies such as the so-called BRICs and The Next-11. These countries are enjoying significant economic growth, which is resulting in the creation of a middle class who are ‘trading up’ from long-distance buses to travelling by air, often flying for the first time in their life.

Brazil, Kenya
We have reported before how an airline like TAM is targetting the rapidly growing middle class in Brazil in innovative ways, for example by selling tickets via kiosks at low-end retail chains and subway stations. The airline also allows customers to pay their ticket in multiple installments and provides ‘how to fly’ advice to first-time flyers. Meanwhile in East Africa, airlines such as Kenya Airways and Uganda Airlines have teamed up with mobile payment services like M-PESA and Airtel Money to allow people without a bank account to purchase air tickets via their mobile phone.

To demonstrate that air travel is no longer out of reach for the masses, Mexican low-cost airline Volaris in 2011 joined efforts with EnElAire – a Mexican aviation website and radio program – to realize the dream of 15 people with a passion for flying but who had never taken a flight before.

After asking the general public via radio and various social media, “Do you know anyone who dreams of flying on an airplane yet hasn’t been able to do so?,” Volaris and EnElAire received dozens of stories submitted by people nominating friends or family members to participate in the contest.
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Southwest gives its 737 interiors a ‘green’ makeover

Southwest Airlines in October 2009 turned a B737-700 into a ‘beta-plane’ to test a series of sustainable interior materials, such as environmental-friendly leather and recycable carpet. This so-called ‘Green Plane’ has been operating in regular revenue service, so Southwest could evaluate normal wear and durability. Based on the in-flight test results and feedback from customers onboard the Green Plane, Southwest has just announced its new ‘Evolve’ interior, which will feature refurbished seats, more under-seat space, new carpets and a more stylish colour palette. Southwest says the materials used are “green” and lighter, reducing each aircraft’s weight by several hundred pounds per plane, thereby saving fuel and costs.

Seats, carpet
APEX reports that Southwest is retaining the B/E Aerospace-manufactured ‘Innovator II’ seat frames on its 737-700s, but will add fixed wing head rests, new, thinner, more durable foam fill, and synthetic ‘E-Leather’ seat covers – an eco-friendly, lightweight and scuff resistant alternative to traditional leather. The airline is also removing the under-seat floatation device – and instead adding smaller and lighter life vest pouches – to create weight savings of nearly six pounds per seat. A smart new feature are netted seat pockets, which have so-called ‘crumb catchers’ at the bottom that can be zippered open to allow the crumbs to come out. Furthermore, completely recyclable, carbon-neutral carpet from InterfaceFLOR will be laid in squares, rather than rolls, which eliminates the need for total carpet replacement.

The slimmer refurbished seats will also allow Southwest to reduce seat pitch from 32 to 31 inch and add an additional row on its 737-700s without sacrificing personal space. Southwest, however, emphasizes that “it was never our objective to add a row of seats, and the extra row isn’t the main reason for this redesign. Once we examined how much space would be saved, it was determined we could accommodate the increase, without sacrificing comfort.”

Sky Interior
Southwest will receive its first 737-800 ‘Sky Interior’ aircraft with the new Evolve interior in April 2012 and subsequently will start a retrofit of its fleet of 372 B737-700s. The operation is planned to be completed by the end of 2013 and represents an USD60 million investment. The airline, however, anticipates the new interior – coupled with the gain in seat capacity – will produce savings of about USD250 million annually.
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South African LCC Mango rewards random acts of kindness

By Vivek Mayasandra

Social good is on a lot of people’s minds these days. With a turbulent economic climate and more social awareness, nonprofits, charities and businesses have been scaling their presence to give more, and have been doing so with unique models. Over the past year, businesses in particular have been unprecedented in their initiatives ranging from pay-what-you-can schemes to giving free rides to volunteer events. The trend of spreading good is rightfully taking root in the global business community, and more and more airlines have been catching on with their own unique initiatives.

Airpoints, surprises and free wifi
Dutch carrier KLM has been widely recognized in the industry as a highly innovative carrier – a reputation that can also be applied to their involvement in kindness-based campaigns. In late 2010, KLM’s incredibly well-received KLM Surprise initiative, rewarded small gifts to random passengers who left an ‘@KLM’ tweet or checked in at the airline’s Schiphol Airport FourSquare locations. With New Zealand being the world’s first country to designate a national ‘Random Acts of Kindness Day’, it should come as no surprise that Air New Zealand has also been at the forefront of offering kindness to fliers. In addition to its long running gift-granting @AirNZFairy Twitter account, Air New Zealand earlier this year launched a similar campaign as KLM’s at Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch airports.

Recognizing and rewarding kindness made its way to South Africa this year in the form of Kindness Month. Mango, one of the country’s low cost carriers, and a subsidiary of South African Airways, commemorated its fifth birthday by implementing a new initiative to reward acts of kindness across the country. During ‘Kindness Month’, which started on 15 November and lasts until 15 December, 2011, Mango will be celebrating acts of kindness between South Africans “through hearing how South Africans helped one another.”

Says Mango’s CEO Nico Bezuidenhout, “We want to hear about personal experiences, about individuals who have made a difference; small but significant acts that has impacted someone’s day, week or life. It could be a shop assistant who went out of their way for a customer, a friend in need, someone who gives you a lift when in challenging circumstances. Anything. In the lead up to the December holiday season, we need to share kindness in even larger measures.”
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‘No-frills chic’ carrier IndiGo becomes India’s second largest domestic airline in just five years

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By Vivek Mayasandra

There’s no doubt that the low-cost carrier business model has boomed in the past decade. Focusing on innovation and enhanced experiences on top of the traditional low-cost model, ‘no frills chic’ airlines such as Jetblue and Virgin America have created a loyal following. In recent years, this concept has been spreading around the globe, albeit slowly, with start-up carriers such as Virgin Australia, Azul from Brazil and Japan’s Starflyer focusing on the passenger experience in order to differentiate themselves from established players.

In India, a very competitive market that is growing at the world’s second fastest rates, IndiGo has become the second largest domestic carrier by securing nearly 19 percent of the local market in just five years. According to IndiGo President Aditya Ghosh, the airline’s philosophy is “to make travel as hassle-free as possible — low-cost but high quality — and that’s why we are popular both with budget travellers and high-level corporations”.

Since its launch in 2006, IndiGo has been the fastest growing low-cost carrier in the world, while posting profits over the last three years. In the 12 months ending March 2011, the airline achieved a 25 percent profit margin on its operations, generating a profit of USD132 million. Traffic in the 2010-11 fiscal year grew with 39 percent, with average load factors above 80 percent. IndiGo ordered no less than 100 A320 aircraft when it started operations and in 2011 pushed for an additional 150 A320neos (for delivery between 2016 and 2025), as well as 30 more A320s, which besides for domestic growth are intended for international expansion.

Branding the passenger experience
IndiGo’s media campaign has focused more on customer service and less on pricing where it is hard to be competitive, and the airline’s avant-garde branding has been a major differentiator. Collaborating with branding agency Wieden + Kennedy, IndiGo has come out with campaigns focused around the no-frills chic concept. Cheeky print ads promoted IndiGo’s same-day return flights from major Indian cities, extra seat pitch (2 inches more than India’s industry standard) and new aircraft. IndiGo’s check-in counters feature banners saying “India’s Coolest Airline” and check-in queues have “Cut The Red Tape” signs. Read full article »

Azul takes Jetblue’s ‘no-frills chic’ approach to gain a foothold in Brazil

Air travel in Brazil is booming as a result of the rapid expansion of the middle class in the country, about 100 million strong. According to a recently released IATA study, the Brazilian domestic aviation market has grown 19 percent in terms of revenues in the first six months of 2011, the world’s fastest growth. As a comparison, the domestic market in China and India expanded with nearly 8 percent, while the U.S. recorded a 2.5 percent growth.

Azul Linhas Aéreas
Started by Jetblue founder and former CEO David Neeleman, Azul (Blue in Portuguese) in December 2008 entered the market as a Latin version of the New York-based airline. Just like Jetblue, Azul operates a ‘No-Frills Chic’ concept – where the low cost idea meets a dash of innovation – in order to differentiate itself in a market dominated by TAM and GOL.

The airline was named Azul after a crowdsourced naming contest, which created an instant buzz around the airline. In its first year of operation, Azul also offered an ‘all-you-can-jet’ promotion when launching new routes. The PassaporteAzul allowed purchasers to travel on as many Azul flights as they wanted for a one-month period for R$499 (USD306, EUR215). According to Azul, 80 percent of the purchasers on those passes had never flown on the airline before. As a result, Azul boarded more than 2 million customers in 2009, its first year of operation, the first airline in the world to achieve this. Azul was recently also named Brazil’s most innovative company by Fast Company magazine.

Ônibus Azul
Azul has, by choice, avoided the major airline hubs and connection centers in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, choosing to focus on cities less well served by established airlines. For example, its main hub is Campinas Airport, which is located an hour’s drive from São Paulo. To make it attractive for consumers to travel via Campinas, Azul provides free bus transportation for thousands of its passengers daily from Brazil’s business capital as well as from several other cities it serves. The airport transfer buses offer live satellite TV and free Wi-Fi onboard.
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Ryanair and Samsonite offer ‘guaranteed’ carry on bag

In the U.S, most major airlines (with the exception of Southwest and Jetblue) now charge passengers to check their luggage. This has led to an increase in the size and amount of carry on luggage that passengers take on board, which in turn has caused issues with available space in the overhead bins. Airlines such as American Airlines have responded to this by introducing early boarding fees, allowing passengers to board early so they can store their luggage, while low-cost airline Spirit Airlines has even introduced a fee of USD20 to USD40 to take hand baggage on board.

In Europe, meanwhile, Latvian-based airBaltic recently introduced its so-called ‘airBalticBag’, an airBaltic-branded Samsonite suitcase which for EUR169/181 (depending on size) can be carried as free checked luggage on an unlimited number of airBaltic flights for a year. AirBaltic normally charges passengers in Economy a fee of EUR20 to 30 per checked bag one way.

On a similar note, Ryanair has teamed up with Samsonite to offer a hard-shell carry-on bag which is guaranteed to meet the airline’s carry-on luggage weight and size restrictions. Each Ryanair passenger (excluding infants) is permitted to carry one piece of cabin baggage on board free of charge, which should weigh no more than 10kg and not exceed the maximum dimensions of 55cm x 40cm x 20cm.
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Asia’s full-service airlines go low-cost

The market share (in terms of seats) of low-cost carriers within Asia is expected  to reach nearly 20 percent by the end of 2011. However, LCC penetration in the region is still behind that of the USA and Europe, while the middle class across Asia is growing rapidly, creating new demand for affordable air travel. Furthermore, the upcoming ‘open skies’ policy amongst the ASEAN countries, as well as increasing liberalization in Japan and South Korea will further boost air travel in the region. 

These new market opportunities, plus strong competition from the likes of AirAsia, Cebu Pacific, Lion Air, IndiGo, Spring and Skymark, has led several full-service airlines in the region, such as Qantas (Jetstar), Singapore Airlines (Tiger), Malaysian Airlines (Firefly) and Korean Air (JinAir) to set up their own low-cost subsidiaries in recent years. Joining these airlines in the next year will be Thai Airways and All Nippon Airways, while Singapore Airlines just announced plans to establish a long-haul low-cost subsidiary. 

Singapore Airlines: Long-haul low-cost
Singapore Airlines (SIA) new budget airline will start operating within a year and be based in Singapore. Although fully owned by Singapore Airlines and likely to operate some of SIA’s older model B777s, the new carrier will operate independently. Initial routes of the long-haul budget airline are expected to be to East Asia (China, Japan, South Korea), Australia and India. Other details, such as its name and just how ‘no frills’ the low-cost subsidiary will be, have not yet be announced. 

According to analysts, SIA has little choice but to start a low-cost long-haul subsidiary because its mainline operation is not growing. In 2010, the airline carried 16.6 million passengers, compared with 19 million in 2007/8. In the same period, Singapore’s Changi Airport saw its passenger traffic growing from 36 million to 44 million. Given the more open air regulations in Singapore vis-à-vis other Asian locations, SIA faces more competitive pressures than some of its peers. For examaple, according to Nomura Investments, LCCs have a market share of 27 percent in Singapore compared with ess than 5 percent in Hong Kong. 

With its new long-haul low-cost subsidiary, Singapore Airlines is aiming at Qantas’ Jetstar Asia and Malaysia’s AirAsia X as well as Gulf carriers such as Emirates, which have picked up the bulk of new long-haul traffic from Singapore.
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Virgin Blue rebrands as ‘no-frills chic’ Virgin Australia

More images at Australian Business Traveller

We have reported before on the plans by Australian hybrid low-cost airline Virgin Blue to reposition itself as a more direct competitor to Qantas and double its share of Australia’s corporate travel market from 10 to 20 percent. Virgin Blue has just officially unveiled its new name – Virgin Australia – and new livery. The rebranding completes 10-year old Virgin Blue’s revamp into a ‘no-frills chic’ airline. Says Virgin Australia CEO John Borghetti, “We will still offer low airfares, keeping the competition in the sky high.”

Virgin Australia
Virgin Blue and its associate airlines—V Australia and Pacific Blue—will be rebranded Virgin Australia after the Virgin Group reached an agreement with Singapore Airlines (SIA) regarding the use of the Virgin name on international services to/from Australia. As part of its acquisition of a 49 percent steke in Virgin Atlantic back in 2000, SIA was given a veto on the use of the Virgin brand in the Asia-Pacific region outside of Australia, forcing Virgin Blue to brand its international operations Pacific Blue for regional services and V Australia for long-haul operations. Virgin Australia (tagline “Now You Are Flying”) will replace the domestic Virgin Blue brand immediately and international brands V Australia and Pacific Blue by the end of 2011.

B737-800 Sky Interior
Virgin Austalia also showcased the widebody and narrow-body versions of its new product on an Airbus A330 and Boeing 737. The new makeover, both exterior and interior, is styled after the carrier’s U.S. sister airline Virgin America.

Virgin Austalia ‘s newest 737-800 comes in Boeing’s new Sky Interior, which features mood lighting, larger overhead lockers and sculpted sidewalls designed to provide a feeling of spaciousness. Virgin Australia’s 737-800 also debuts a new business class cabin with eight leather seats with a 37-inch seat pitch. A purple plexiglass dividing panel, also found on Virgin America’s jets, separates the business and economy sections and the LED lighting will be purple and white. The new Boeing 737-800 interiors will be rolled out across the majority of Virgin Australia’s current domestic fleet by the end of the year. Virgin Australia also said it will announce an innovative entertainment option shortly, which suggests it may be looking at iPads or similar devices.
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Hybrid low-cost carrier airBaltic offers organic food, Nespresso and iPads in-flight

Earlier this year we published our ‘Innovative Airlines’ report (pdf here), which provides an overview of innovative products and services that passengers are experiencing on airlines around the world. An airline that also scores high on our list, is airBaltic, the hybrid low-cost airline of the Baltic states Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

Riga North Hub
Since 2008, airBaltic has made a transformation from a point-to-point low-cost carrier to a hybrid network LCC. The airline has turned its Riga ‘North Hub’ into a transit point for travellers from Nordic and Northwestern Europe to the growing markets of the former Soviet Union and the Middle East, as well as for Scandinavian passengers travelling to Southern and Western Europe. AirBaltic offers passengers connecting at Riga (65 percent of its customers) through ticketing and check-in, as well as 25-minute connection times. The airline has been growing its network fast, adding over 50 new routes since 2008 (for example to small cities in Finland) and currently serves 80 destinations from Riga, carrying over 3.2 million passengers in 2010 (an increase of 16 percent from 2009).

Despite its hybrid features, airBaltic’s Chief Commercial Officer Tero Taskila says the airline’s cost per average seat kilometer are on par with the likes of Easyjet and Norwegian and 30 to 40 percent lower than Finnair and SAS. Interestingly, airBaltic sees Turkish Airlines, which has also established an extensive network in Europec coupled with a low cost base, as one of its main emerging competitors.

Business Class: local, organic catering, Nespresso coffee
Besides its focus on transit traffic, other ‘hybrid’ features of airBaltic include a separate Business Class cabin, airport lounge and a frequent flyer program.

Reflecting the growing local food trends (see “Airlines go local and seasonal with their food offerings”), airBaltic has teamed up with Mārtiņš Rītiņš, a renowned Latvian ‘slow food’ chef, to serve dishes in Business Class that are based on organic, seasonal products provided by local Latvian farmers. The current menu for example includes free-range chicken breast, red deer steak and seasonal vegetables such as beetroot and pumpkin. Says CCO Taskila, “[Our passengers] can enjoy an excellent meal, while at the same time supporting local farmers who grow organic products. We also plan to increase the presence of locally-grown organic products in the economy class of airBaltic.” See this interview with Mārtiņš Rītiņš for more on the challenges of offering local, organic food up in the air.
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Low-cost Virgin Blue transforms into a full-service airline

In a bid to become a more powerful, direct competitor to Qantas, Australia’s Virgin Blue is transforming itself from a cheerful low-cost carrier into a full-service business and leisure airline with a low cost base. With the remake, Virgin Blue wants to double its share of Australia’s corporate travel market from 10 to 20 percent and cut its reliance on leisure travel in the process, as competition from other low-cost airlines, such as Jetstar (part of Qantas) and Tiger (50% owned by Singapore Airlines), is driving down leisure fares. Virgin Blue’s earlier attempts to target the business market, with for example a premium economy class, has left the airline somewhat stuck in the middle. 

Strategic repositioning
As part of what Virgin Blue has dubbed a ‘Game Change Program’, the airline has recently announced a series of initiatives that seriously upgrades its product. As Australian Business Traveller nicely summarizes it: “There’s a seismic shift happening at Virgin Blue. A new name, new logo and new brand. New planes with new livery. New business class seats, new cabins and new lounges. New routes. New alliances with partner airlines. New uniforms”. The catalyst for the changes at Virgin Blue has been the appointment in May 2010 of John Borghetti, formerly Qantas’ executive general manager. 

First of all, Virgin Blue will reveil a new brand name by June 2011, which is expected to be either Virgin Australia or V Australia. The airline’s creative director Hans Hulsbosch recently told The Australian that while the Virgin brand would continue to anchor the airline, Blue would no longer be part of the brand. Research has found that as Virgin moved to capture the business-class market, its brand was being held back by perceptions among business travelers that it was purely a budget airline. Furthermore, Virgin Blue wants to consolidate its fragmented brands – Virgin Blue, Pacific Blue, Polynesian Blue and V Australia – which is the result of an agreement between Virgin Atlantic and Singapore Airlines (which owns 49 percent of Virgin Atlantic) that prevents the Virgin brand being used outside Australia. 

New uniforms
Virgin Blue’s new uniforms perhaps best illustrates the airline’s transformation from a cheerful low-cost airline into a full-service carrier targetting business travellers. Created by Project Runway Australia winner Juli Grbac, the new red, silver and purple unifoms are remarkably reminiscent of Virgin Atlantic’s chic and classy style, and replace Virgin Blue’s current more casual outfit
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Southwest offers free access to iTunes via wireless in-flight portal

Southwest Airlines has partnered with Apple to create an entertainment download store called InAirtainment. To be used in the air or on the ground, the service takes the form of a website through which people can browse for music, movies or TV shows hosted on iTunes. Southwest says is it is receiving a small royalty from each download, which may be 5 percent if the airline is enrolled in the normal iTunes affiliate program. To promote InAirtainment, Southwest currently offers a playlist of 20 free songs from acts “about to fly” in their careers. 

Asked whether the main goal for the InAirtainment service is to provide Southwest passengers with an alternative for in-flight entertainment, a Southwest spokeswoman said that “Our goal is to make southwest.com an one stop shop for all travel needs. Besides the option to book flights, car rentals, and hotels on our site, customers now have access to InAirtainment where they can download all their music and movies before they depart. Southwest.com is also available free of charge for customers on board our Wi-Fi-enabled aircraft. InAirtainment is a page within southwest.com, so customers are able to access the content free of charge in-flight.” 

Gogo Video
The option to access iTunes for free on Southwest flights may be a sign of new in-flight entertainment options to come. For example, in-flight Wi-Fi provider Aircell last year announced plans for an in-flight video downloading service, called Gogo Video. This service would give passengers on Gogo-equipped aircraft (which number nearly 1,100 in North America) the ability to download movie and television content from an onboard server to their laptops via a portal similar to iTunes. According to in-flight entertainment expert Mary Kirby, Gogo however has delayed the introduction of the video service in order to further perfect it. 
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Japanese low-cost carrier Skymark to operate A380 with just 394 seats


Japanese low-cost airline Skymark Airlines has signed a memorandum of understanding with Airbus for the purchase of four A380s and the option for two more. The official agreement will be signed in spring 2011 and Skymark has also indicated it may order a total of 15 A380s. The airline plans to introduce six A380s between 2014 and 2017, and add nine more after 2018. Skymark is the first low-cost carrier in the world, and the first airline in Japan, to order the superjumbo.

394 seats, business and premium economy class only
Skymark’s President Shinichi Nishikubo, who owns 49 percent of the airline, also told media that the airline will fit the A380 with just 394 seats in a two-class configuration – the least-dense configuration announced for the A380 by far. Skymark’s A380s will be fitted with 114 business-class seats on the upper deck and 280 premium economy seats below. No economy class will be offered. Business Class will be equipped with angled lie-flat seats at 60″ pitch and 20.7″ width, while ‘shell-style’ seats at 38″ pitch and 20.5″ width will be offered in Premium Economy. With 450 seats, Qantas is currently operating the A380 with the lowest seat-density, but the A380 typically seats 525 and is certified to carry up to 853 people. See here for an overview of A380 seating configurations currently in operation. Read full article »