In a further sign of US airlines continuing to narrow the historical gap in service levels between their European rivals, United Airlines is to provide complimentary beer and wine in economy class on long-haul flights to and from London Heathrow from 1 June 2015.
This is part of a package of service improvements announced by United Airlines. The airline will continue to charge for spirits in economy. Passengers will also have the option to purchase additional snacks in flight.
This move does, if we’re not mistaken, put United Airlines broadly on a par with Delta and American Airlines. British Airways and Virgin Atlantic continue to offer a full bar service free of charge in economy.
Whilst in the grand scheme of things, this is a very modest change and, in truth, only a reversal of a previous cut, it’s perhaps less likely other airlines will start charging for alcoholic drinks in economy.
United Airlines flies from London Heathrow Terminal 2 to New York Newark, Chicago, Washington Dulles, Houston, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
It was a little under ten years ago that the concept of the all business class airline gained traction in the UK.
In October 2005, Eos Airlines launched all business class flights to New York JFK from London Stansted using 48 seat Boeing 757 aircraft. Silverjet launched all business class flights from London Luton (using a private terminal) to New York Newark using Boeing 767 aircraft, later adding Dubai.
Whilst both airlines received very positive reviews and many industry accolades, Eos collapsed in April 2008 after an additional round of financing fell through at the last minute. Silverjet fell victim to rising oil prices shortly afterwards.
Both airlines did have a lasting impact.
British Airways launched an (almost) all business class operation from Paris to New York under the name OpenSkies. In 2009, BA also launched a twice daily all business class service from London City to New York JFK (via Shannon). Whilst there was talk of additional routes being added, none have materialised. Unsurprisingly, claims by Virgin Atlantic that it was looking into launching all business class flights never came to fruition.
KLM have released a short series of “Cockpit Tales” videos showing the work its pilots undertake on a day to day basis to ensure flights operate safely and according to plan.
Filmed using “fixed rig” cameras in the cockpit of KLM aircraft, the first video “Autopilot in Action” shows Captain van Dorst planning a flight from Amsterdam to London Heathrow, how the flight is programmed using flight management software and the use of autopilot, and communications with Air Traffic Control from takeoff through to landing.
In the second video, “Highways In The Sky”, Captain de Vries on a flight from Amsterdam to New York JFK airport shows how the airline plans a flight across the atlantic ocean, where for a large part of the journey the crew and aircraft will have no radar communication with Air Traffic Control.
Finally in “Big plane, short runway”, at just 2,300 metres, Princess Juliana International Airport on the island of Saint Martin has one of the most challenging runways in the world. Captain ten Velde shows how KLM ensures it lands a Boeing 747 jumbo safely on the island.
We like these videos. There’s a huge amount that gets taken for granted in aviation and anything that increases understanding of aviation should be welcomed.
Virgin Atlantic has announced a significant over-haul of its network, suspending a number of non-US routes. Mumbai & Tokyo are suspended from 31 January 2015. Seasonal flights to Vancouver & Cape Town are suspended from 11 October 2014 and 26 April 2015.
We’re not quite sure what has prompted this, but British Airways has today, 13 April 2014, e-mailed large numbers of members of its Executive Club who hold blue or bronze cards offering a complimentary Silver card (which affords privileges such as access to business class check-in desks and lounges) if they book a business class return from London to New York, subject to certain booking restrictions, in the next 90 days.
Many airlines have long offered passengers in first and business class the opportunity to pre-order their meals in advance of boarding their flight. Singapore Airlines has its “Book The Cook” facility. Qantas offers the same facility under the guise of “Q Eat”.
The passenger benefits in securing their preferred choice of meal and the airline benefits in reducing wastage – catering being one of a very few areas where airlines can actually control costs.
One notable exception in offering this service is British Airways, in spite of it carrying very large volumes of first and business class passengers (some 84 on most Boeing 747s) and having one of the highest proportions of revenue attributable to first and business class traffic.
From an as yet unspecified date in the second quarter of next year (so possibly some six months away), BA is to trial the pre-ordering of meals in Club World business class and First class on the London – New York JFK route.
From what is known so far, passengers will only be able to choose from the existing menu and will not have additional menu choices (and opting out of “Afternoon Tea” does not seem to be an option!). No doubt this is being driven by the desire to reduce wastage, but it would be good to see the proceeds in any savings reinvested in the improving catering.
Update: This facility is now available on all long-haul routes from London Heathrow and Gatwick. You can pre-order your meal through the Manage My Booking tool.