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American and Qantas to add flights between the U.S. and Australia

  • Written by Teijo Niemelä
  • Category: Air & Sea

American Airlines and Qantas Airways plan to significantly expand their joint business by adding new service between the U.S. and Australia. New routes between Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and Sydney Airport (SYD), operated by American Airlines, and between San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and SYD, operated by Qantas, will provide customers with expanded options when traveling between the two regions.  
 
Through this enhanced alliance, American will begin operating a daily, nonstop flight between LAX and SYD on Dec. 17, 2015, further strengthening its global network and its world-class LAX hub. Beginning Dec. 20, 2015 Qantas will begin operating service between SYD and SFO, expanding the airlines’ joint network to another key market for business and leisure customers. Services will initially operate on peak days and ramp up to six times per week in January 2016. Pending regulatory approvals, this expansion represents the natural evolution of the collaboration between American and Qantas, with revenue-sharing and other agreements that provide the airlines with a platform for closer commercial ties and an even more seamless customer experience on routes between North America and Australia/New Zealand. The closer and more integrated relationship also provides opportunities for future growth into trans-Pacific markets not currently served by either airline, such as New Zealand.
 
“Qantas has been a fantastic partner through oneworld and our joint business relationship, and strengthening those ties has provided us with a solid foundation to introduce American-operated flights into the Australian region,” said Doug Parker, chairman and CEO of American Airlines. “Our customers have asked us to expand to important business destinations across the Pacific, and flying our flagship aircraft, the Boeing 777-300ER, to Sydney will provide another world-class travel experience from our key gateway at LAX.”
 
“For over 20 years, we’ve worked in partnership with American to give our customers the best network on both sides of the Pacific,” said Alan Joyce, CEO of Qantas Group. “We are excited to take the alliance to a new level and expand our services to new destinations including San Francisco – Australia’s biggest unserved direct corporate destination. We are seeing strong growth in numbers of visitors to Australia and look forward to carrying more travellers from the U.S. across our extensive domestic and international network in the South Pacific.”
 
Through their joint business, American and Qantas provide increased connectivity to destinations beyond their key gateways. Customers traveling from Australia can access more than 150 destinations throughout North America on American’s extensive network from Dallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles and San Francisco. This includes transcontinental service to New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) from LAX and SFO on the only true three-class aircraft flying those routes, the Airbus A321T. From LAX, customers can connect on to more than 50 destinations. American has added service to seven new destinations from its LAX hub over the past year, including Atlanta, Belize, Edmonton, Guadalajara, San Antonio, Tampa and Vancouver.  
 
Customers traveling from North America have access to nearly 60 additional destinations throughout Australia and New Zealand when connecting from Qantas trans-Pacific routes from Sydney.
 
American’s new service between Los Angeles and Sydney will be operated with the state-of-the-art, three-class Boeing 777-300ER. The aircraft features all-aisle access, fully lie-flat seats and a walk-up bar in the premium cabins; Main Cabin Extra seating provides more legroom; and all seats feature personal, in-seat entertainment screens with up to 250 movies, over 180 TV programs and more than 350 audio selections, international Wi-Fi capability and universal AC power outlets and USB ports.
 
Qantas will operate its service between Sydney and San Francisco with a reconfigured Boeing 747-400 that has the same style interiors found on its flagship Airbus A380 aircraft. It features the award-winning, fully-flat Skybed designed by Marc Newson in Business Class, custom-designed seats with ergonomic cushioning in Economy Class and the latest inflight technology with large in-seat screens in every cabin offering more than 1,500 entertainment options. Qantas’ SYD-LAX route will continue to operate with the A380.

DHS announces intent to expand preclearance to 10 new airports

  • Written by Teijo Niemelä
  • Category: Air & Sea

Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson announced Friday the United States intends to enter into negotiations to expand air preclearance operations to ten new foreign airports, located in nine separate countries: Belgium, the Dominican Republic, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United Kingdom.  If negotiations are successful, preclearance – where each traveler undergoes immigration, customs, and agriculture inspection by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) before boarding a direct flight to the United States – could be completed before departure from these foreign airports rather than upon arrival in the U.S. Expanding the preclearance program is both a security imperative – enabling CBP to stop potential threats before they arrive on US soil – as well as a strong economic opportunity.

"A significant homeland security priority of mine is building more preclearance capacity at airports overseas. We have this now in 15 airports. I am pleased that we are seeking negotiations with ten new airports in nine countries. I want to take every opportunity we have to push our homeland security out beyond our borders so that we are not defending the homeland from the one-yard line. Preclearance is a win-win for the traveling public. It provides aviation and homeland security, and it reduces wait times upon arrival at the busiest U.S. airports,” said Secretary Johnson.

After nearly a year-long process that began with soliciting expressions of interest from foreign airports, CBP identified these airports in coordination with the Transportation Security Administration and the Department of State (DoS) and prioritized them based on the greatest potential to support security and travel facilitation.  More than two dozen foreign airports expressed an interest in opening Preclearance facilities.  DHS and DoS evaluated all interested foreign airports in collaboration with stakeholders across the government, and with the U.S. and global aviation industry.

The 10 airports identified for possible preclearance locations include:  Brussels Airport, Belgium; Punta Cana Airport, Dominican Republic; Narita International Airport, Japan; Amsterdam Airport Schipol, Netherlands; Oslo Airport, Norway; Madrid-Barajas Airport, Spain; Stockholm Arlanda Airport, Sweden; Istanbul Ataturk Airport, Turkey; and London Heathrow Airport and Manchester Airport, United Kingdom. These countries represent some of the busiest last points of departure to the United States – in 2014, nearly 20 million passengers traveled from these ten airports to the US.

“CBP’s preclearance operations are an important step in the U.S. government’s effort to prevent terrorism from coming to our borders,” said CBP Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske. “Where we can identify foreign airports willing to partner with us, additional preclearance agreements will further protect the safety and security of our citizens while also streamlining legitimate travel and commerce.”

The United States and the governments of the host countries are expected to begin negotiations which could result in a final air preclearance agreement, paving the way for the establishment of a new preclearance facility.

Preclearance is the process by which CBP Officers stationed abroad screen and make admissibility decisions about passengers and their accompanying goods or baggage heading to the United States before they leave a foreign port.  TSA requires that passenger and accessible property screening at a foreign preclearance airport conforms to U.S. aviation security screening standards so that the U.S.-bound aircraft can disembark passengers at a domestic U.S. air terminal without needing to be rescreened.  CBP officers do, however, retain the authority to inspect passengers and their accompanying goods or baggage after arriving in the United States.  Today, CBP has more than 600 law enforcement officers and agriculture specialists stationed at 15 air preclearance locations in 6 countries:  Dublin and Shannon in Ireland; Aruba; Freeport and Nassau in The Bahamas; Bermuda; Calgary, Toronto, Edmonton, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver, and Winnipeg in Canada; and Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  Last year, CBP cleared over 16 million passengers through these preclearance locations.

CBP is transforming the international arrivals experience for travelers – creating a faster and more traveler-friendly process. Programs like Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, Automated Passport Control (APC) and Mobile Passport Control (MPC) are streamlining and expediting travelers’ entry into the United States, while maintaining the highest standards of security. With the expansion of CBP’s Trusted Traveler Programs, APC and MPC, average wait times were down 13 percent at the top 10 airports last year.

Friday’s preclearance announcement is one in a series of steps the Administration has taken to accelerate the growth of the American travel and tourism industry, while enforcing the highest level of security. For example, the Administration has facilitated travel to the United States by decreasing wait times for a visa from countries like China, India, and Brazil from a few months to just a few days.

Finnair opens sales for flights with all-new Airbus A350 aircraft

  • Written by Teijo Niemelä
  • Category: Air & Sea

On April 9 Finnair inaugurated a new era in travel between Europe and Asia – and opened a new chapter in its history – as tickets went on sale for its first long-haul destinations to be served with next-generation Airbus A350 XWB aircraft. Finnair is the European launch customer, and only the third worldwide, of the completely new aircraft type, which substantially raises the bar for passenger comfort, environmental performance and operational efficiency.

Finnair is also the first airline in the world to operate the A350 on scheduled services to China, where Shanghai will be served with daily A350 service from 25 October 2015. Beijing follows with daily A350 service on 21 November 2015.

Finnair’s peak-season frequencies to Bangkok will be served with a combination of A350 and modern, comfortable A330 aircraft from 4 December 2015. Daily services to Hong Kong from 1 February 2016 and to Singapore from 5 May 2016 will also be operated with a combination of A350 and A330 aircraft.

Customers can determine the planned aircraft type of their flight by clicking on the flight number during the online booking process at Finnair.com, or by consulting with their travel agent. Changes in aircraft type are possible for operational reasons.

“We are thrilled to reach this important milestone as we gear up for a seamless transition to A350 operations,” says Finnair CEO Pekka Vauramo. “Our A350 investment program is the largest in the company’s 92-year history, and these aircraft will form the backbone of our long-haul operations for years to come while also playing an essential role in our sustainable, long-term profitability. I can truly speak for all employees when I say we cannot wait to welcome passengers on board.”

Finnair has 19 A350 aircraft on order, and expects to receive the first four by the end of this year. Another seven will be delivered in 2016 and 2017, with the remaining eight to be delivered between 2018 and 2023. Finnair plans to phase out its A340 aircraft by the end of 2017, leaving the entire widebody fleet comprised only of top-of-the-range Airbus A330 and A350 aircraft.

Crew familiarisation flights planned in Europe

Before long-haul A350 operations begin, Finnair will conduct crew familiarisation flights throughout Europe during October. These regularly scheduled commercial services will be operated as usual within the Finnair network, just with an A350 rather than the usual narrowbody aircraft. As part of this crew familiarisation, Finnair’s first ever commercial A350 flight will be on October 5 to Rovaniemi in Finnish Lapland, followed in the next two weeks by other European cities such as Brussels, Hamburg, London, Stockholm and Vienna. The full list of planned crew familiarisation flights is published online at a350.finnair.com. All such flights are subject to changes.

Finnair’s A350 XWB: New standards in passenger comfort

The A350’s bright and spacious cabin features large panoramic view windows and comfortable seating arrangements in both cabin classes. Gradual changes in dynamic ambient LED lighting ease customers into new time zones and help create a calming and fresh atmosphere. All Finnair A350s will also be equipped with Wi-Fi for greater passenger enjoyment and connectivity.

The eco-smart design of the A350 brings more than 25 per cent improvement in fuel efficiency and operating cost over the previous generation of aircraft in its class, significantly reducing the carbon footprint of Finnair and its passengers.

The A350 also features an advanced pure air filtration system that changes the air in the cabin every two to three minutes. Draft-free air management, adjustable multiple temperature zones and a higher cabin pressurization also enhance the well-being and reduce the fatigue of passengers and crew.

The 297-seat configuration includes 46 seats in Business Class in a 1+2+1 layout, ensuring direct aisle access for all Business Class passengers. The Zodiac Cirrus III seats convert to fully flat beds, while a 16-inch touch-screen inflight entertainment system comes programmed with films, TV shows, music and other digital content on demand in numerous languages. Seats in Business Class also come equipped with AC and USB power outlets.

The Economy Class cabin features comfortable Zodiac Z300 slim-line seats with a 31-inch seat pitch in a 3+3+3 layout. At the front of the Economy Class cabin are 43 Economy Comfort seats, which come with four extra inches of leg room as well as noise-cancelling headphones and an amenity kit. All seats in Economy include an 11-inch touch screen inflight entertainment system and USB power outlets.

Emirates Airline to offer daily service between Dubai and Orlando

  • Written by Teijo Niemelä
  • Category: Air & Sea

Emirates, a global connector of people, places and economies has announced it is commencing a daily service to Orlando, Florida from 1st September 2015. The route will be served by a US-built Boeing 777-200LR with eight First Class suites, 42 Business Class lie-flat beds and 216 Economy Class seats.

Emirates flight EK 219 will depart Dubai International Terminal 3 (IATA code: DXB) at 03:50 hours local time and arrive at Orlando International Airport (IATA code: MCO) Terminal B at 11.40 hours local time, a flying time of 15hrs50mins. The return flight, EK 220 will depart Orlando International at 14:20 hours and arrive into Dubai at 12:30 the following day, a 14hr10min flight.

US visitors continue to visit Dubai - Emirates’ home and hub - in their thousands. In 2014 over 500,000 US citizens stayed in Dubai to conduct business and explore the emirate’s array of leisure opportunities. Emirates’ flight, the first direct service from Florida to Dubai, will connect well with many of the airline’s services to and from the Middle East, South Asia, the Far East and Africa, giving passengers from those regions seamless connectivity to the “Sunshine State” as Florida is known.

Orlando is famous for its world-class theme parks, family entertainment and year round sunshine which bring in over 59 million visitors each year. It also has a strong business base with thriving industries in Advanced Technology, Film and Digital Media production, Aerospace and Life Sciences.

Emirates customers can also connect seamlessly onto many destinations in the US, the Caribbean and South America through the airline’s codeshare partner JetBlue’s regional hub in Orlando, which serves 24 cities including San Juan in Puerto Rico; Bogota, Colombia and Nassau, The Bahamas.

 “Orlando is one of the world’s premier leisure and conference destinations, a dynamic business centre and a destination which Emirates has long wished to serve”, said Sir Tim Clark, President, Emirates. As a growing region, we believe that our service will facilitate further growth for both Orlando as well as central Florida by connecting the city with our global network of 145 destinations across 80 countries; and give customers from Orlando the choice of flying Emirates whilst experiencing our award-winning inflight product and service.”

"Orlando International Airport has always been an engine for economic growth and job creation in Central Florida," said City of Orlando Mayor, Buddy Dyer. "Today's great news that Emirates will fly non-stop Orlando to Dubai will boost our local economy with new jobs and continue to further Orlando as a premier global travel destination."

"All too frequently, aviation news is dominated by announcements of fewer options, less comfort and shrinking value. By contrast, this pro-growth development demonstrates that international airlines can spur American jobs by providing supply where there is previously unmet demand," said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow. "America sorely needs this kind of infusion of air service and customer service, not to mention the quality, unexportable jobs that are generated by increased travel."

"JetBlue is delighted to see our codeshare partner Emirates expand into Orlando, one of our largest and most important markets," said Scott Laurence, JetBlue's senior vice president of airline planning. "This is not only great news for Central Florida travelers but also for visitors from around the globe who will gain new travel options to the Caribbean and Latin America when connecting on JetBlue through Orlando International Airport."

“Florida is on a mission to become the global leader in job creation and we are excited about the new Emirates non-stop flight between Orlando and Dubai. We welcomed more than 97 million visitors to our state last year and every 85 tourists creates another Florida job.  We know our tourism industry helps grow our economy and that is why we are investing $145 million at the Orlando International Airport to expand the South Terminal Complex so we can continue to increase domestic and international air service – like the new Emirates flight,” said Governor of Florida, Rick Scott.

"Emirates addition of daily service between Dubai and Orlando is great news for the Sunshine State and will help to establish Florida as the No.1 travel destination in the world," said J. William Seccombe, President & CEO, Visit Florida.

Orlando will be the tenth US passenger destination Emirates serves, following on from Boston which launched on 10th March and Chicago on 5th August 2014. The airline has been serving the US for over 10 years, gradually expanding services on a commercial basis to serve the consistently high demand for its flights. In 2014, Emirates’ average load factors on its US routes were over 80%, offering single-carrier connections to over 50 global destinations not currently served by any US airline. Last year Emirates carried over 2.3million passengers and 106,000 tons of cargo to and from the US.

Customers on board an Emirates Boeing 777-200LR can experience a wide range of products and services during their flight. All passengers can enjoy over 2,000 free channels of films, TV shows, music, games and podcasts through ice, the airline’s multi-award winning in-flight entertainment system, regionally inspired gourmet cuisine and Emirates’ renowned inflight service from the airline’s multi-national cabin crew from over 120 countries. First Class passengers will have a private suite which converts into a two metre (6ft7in) bed and dining on demand; Business Class passengers can relax in their lie-flat bed; whilst Economy Class passengers will enjoy a choice of menus including complimentary beverages.

Parents flying with children are well looked by Emirates with access to free strollers at Dubai International Airport, a choice of children’s toys, specially prepared children’s meals and dedicated children’s channels on board to keep our younger passengers entertained.

Lufthansa sets new standards in cabin design and service

  • Written by Teijo Niemelä
  • Category: Air & Sea

Lufthansa will significantly enhance passengers’ travel experience this year with a range of initiatives. The various innovations are based on customer feedback: modern cabin design in the entire fleet, new service concepts on board, an innovative pricing concept and a substantial expansion of the long-haul network to include new dream destinations will make Lufthansa even more attractive for business and leisure travelers.

At the Lufthansa press conference at the ITB in Berlin, Jens Bischof, Member of the Lufthansa German Airlines Board Product, Marketing & Sales and Chief Commercial Officer, said: “In 2015, our customers will experience the best Lufthansa there has ever been. Over the past few years, we have invested billions in completions, quality and services on behalf of our passengers, who will now benefit from this investment.” As an airline, we are once again where Lufthansa belongs – namely in the leading group of international premium airlines. Our guests can be sure that “Made in Germany” as a seal of quality applies to all Lufthansa flights. We are on the right track to becoming the first, Western 5-star airline, and day for day we offer the quality that other airlines can only speak of.”

All aircraft to have state-of-the-art seats in every travel class

From the third quarter of this year, all Lufthansa long-haul aircraft will be upgraded with the latest cabins and state-of-the-art seats in every travel class. In addition, the powerful FlyNet broadband internet service will be available on board all long-haul flights. This will bring the largest and most comprehensive retrofit programme in the company’s history to a successful close. Since 2011, Lufthansa has invested an average of around EUR 1m per day in refitting its cabins. The total amount invested comes to approximately EUR 1.5bn. Around 39,000 seats have been either replaced, modified or, in the case of new aircraft, fitted on Lufthansa’s long-haul aircraft: 600 seats in First Class, 7,000 seats in Business Class and more than 27,600 seats in Economy Class. Around 3,600 seats are being newly fitted on Lufthansa’s 106 long-haul aircraft for the new Premium Economy Class, which has already become a top-seller. The new Premium Economy Class is currently available on 30 long-haul aircraft. From the end of this year at the latest, passengers will be able to travel in Premium Economy on all intercontinental flights. FlyNet is also being installed as part of the cabin conversion, and will be available on all long-haul flights in future. The FlyNet service provides broadband internet access via an on-board Wi-Fi network. In addition, there is on-board access to the FlyNet online portal, which has the latest news and the Sport24 live TV channel, which broadcasts major sporting events live. Passengers wishing to work or to surf the internet above the clouds, for example, can now go online while on the move with FlyNet. Jens Bischof adds: “We are very close to completing our retrofit programme. Our guests are already enjoying the modern cabin interiors with our latest seats in every travel class on most of our long-haul flights, and the feedback is extremely positive. As far as customers are concerned, Lufthansa is back at the top.”

Service in Business Class similar to a high-class restaurant

In addition to the new cabins, flight attendants in Business Class will be providing their passengers with even more personalized care in future and tailoring their service to the individual needs and expectations of guests. This will include the introduction of an innovative “Business Class Restaurant Service” on long-haul flights this summer, which will see the in-flight service being modeled on the culinary experience provided by a high-class restaurant: Tables will be set individually, and meals and drinks will no longer be served from the trolley, but will instead be brought directly from the galley to passengers individually. Each flight attendant will have a set number of passengers for whom they will act as a personal host and point of contact. There will be additional cabin crew in Business Class on long-haul flights to enable this. “The service provided will have a more personal touch as a result of this new concept, and will be even more in tune with the individual rhythm of each passenger,” explains Jens Bischof. “In doing so, we’re not just ahead of the rest again when it comes to cabin interiors, but are also setting new standards in in-flight service.

Three new fare options in Economy Class: Light, Classic and Flex

The new pricing concept for German and European routes is also more closely tailored to the individual needs of passengers. It will still be possible for customers to book a flight in Business Class, but in future, they will have more options. And in Economy Class, passengers will always be able to choose from three different fare options. This means that they will be able to decide for themselves which services they would like to use and pay for. The three new fare options – Light, Classic and Flex – will be introduced in Economy Class for flights within Europe from autumn 2015. Tickets will be available for purchase from the summer. The new Light fare will be the best-value option for passengers who are only travelling with hand baggage and who do not wish to check in any luggage, nor make use of any of the rebooking and refund options. The Classic fare allows passengers to take one piece of luggage free of charge, as well as giving them the opportunity to reserve their preferred seat as soon as they make their booking. If necessary, the Classic fare can be rebooked for a fee. The Flex fare offers the most attractive overall package with many services included, as well as the possibility to rebook at no charge and, if necessary, to obtain a refund for a fee. In addition, travelers who have booked the Flex fare will be able to take an earlier flight on the day of their booking in future, without being required to pay a surcharge for what may be a more expensive booking category. Finally, Business Class will still be available to business and leisure travelers on all flights and will include the familiar benefits, such as lounge access, a greater free baggage allowance, an unoccupied neighboring seat for more privacy and extra air miles. The three new Economy Class fares, which will always be available, will have their services and features displayed clearly and transparently for travel agencies and passengers, making it quicker and easier to compare fares at a glance. It will also be possible to combine the different fare options when booking outward and return flights. All Lufthansa passengers will still receive a free drink and snack service on board with all fare options. They will also be able to take hand luggage on board, select their seat when checking in less than 23 hours before departure and earn miles with Miles & More, as these will remain set features of a Lufthansa flight with no extra charge. As is already the case, ticket prices will depend on the route and the level of availability, and the differences between them will be even more pronounced as a result of the new fare options outlined. Details of the new fare options for Economy Class on German and European flights will be outlined when tickets go on sale in the summer.

Five new destinations for tourists

No fewer than five new long-haul destinations will be added to Lufthansa’s flight timetable in the coming autumn. The 15 additional flights per week to the “dream” destinations Tampa, Cancún, Panama, Malé and Mauritius will make Lufthansa’s route network even more attractive, particularly for holidaymakers and leisure travelers. Guests will be able to enjoy the flights in Business, Premium Economy or Economy Class.

With its newest destination in Central America, Lufthansa is expanding the scope of its partnership with the Panamanian airline and Star Alliance member Copa Airlines. Lufthansa customers will be able to comfortably reach more than 50 further destinations in Central and South America as well as the Caribbean with this partner airline.

Jens Bischof says: “The addition of attractive new destinations to our route network combined with our quality and service offensive will not just impress our passengers, but also excite them. For our customers, 2015 marks the beginning of a new calendar – the best Lufthansa of all time.”

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