airline amenities

Free chat + Free movies on Alaska Airlines

Alaska is one of the airlines offering  travel waivers for passengers affected by winter weather this week, which means you may have to wait to try out the airlines’ newest perks:

Free use of iMessage, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger on Gogo-equipped flights.

The option is offered in a beta version right now and should be fully functional by January 24th, the airline promises.

Also free (through March 31, 2017): access  – on your devices – to the all the entertainment offered to Alaska Airlines passengers during flight, including Hollywood movies and popular TV shows.

The airline’s new Premium Class service also debut this week on some routes, offering passengers who have purchased this perk extra legroom, early boarding, complimentary snacks and alcoholic beverages. About 40 percent of Alaska’s fleet has been retrofitted with the new premium class section seating so far and the airline promises that 90 of the fleet will offer this option by the end of 2017.

 

Light reading on Lufthansa flights

Need something to read on your next Lufthansa flight?

Lufthansa will be providing a selection of e-journals for passengers from a library that currently has more than 250 digital titles available in a choice of 18 different languages that can be accessed by passengers up to three days before their date of travel.

Download  is via the Lufthansa app, where  you enter your name and either your booking code or ticket number, then download a title to your own electronic device, where you can read it as a PDF on the flight or on the ground for an unlimited time.

The number of titles available depends on your booking class – from one (economy class) to twenty (HON Circle Member) – digital magazines/newspapers per flight. Additional titles are available for a fee.

Why is Lufthansa offering this?

“By switching over to digital reading material, Lufthansa is able to provide a better service to its passengers through the considerably wider spectrum of magazines and newspapers, offering many more genres and language options. A contribution is also made towards protecting the environment; the e-journals are more sustainable, as no paper or printing ink needs to be used and logistics services are not required for their distribution. The reduction in printed reading ¬materials also means less weight on board and thus also helps to reduce kerosene consumption. ”

Printed material won’t disappear entirely. In Lufthansa lounges and in the First Class sections on long haul flights, the usual printed reading material will still be provided. Printed versions of the magazines in the Business Class section on intercontinental flights will also still be available. And at Lufthansa’s Frankfurt and Munich hubs – and in Berlin, Stuttgart, Hamburg and Düsseldorf airports – newspapers will be offered to all Lufthansa passengers from several central distribution points.

Coolest new airline? Maybe.

Livery for Teague's Poppi airline

Can the air travel experience be calmer, cooler and more comfortable?

The big thinkers at TEAGUE, the Seattle-based design consultancy surely think so.

The company helped design Microsoft’s first Xbox and has been Boeing’s key design partner forever. And to float some ideas about what might make air travel better, they created a new – imaginary – airline called Poppi.

Devin Liddell, Teague’s principal brand strategist, walked me through some of the key features and concepts he hopes airlines will adopt now, “instead of when it’s too late.”

TEAGUE’s most “disrupting” idea might be the banishing of carry-on bags and large overhead bins in favor of slimmer models they call “Fedora bins” that would hold hats, jackets and laptop cases.

Slim overhead bins, dubbed Fedora Bins, would only hold personal items

Liddell and his team are certain that technology is now good enough to make sure everyone’s bag gets where it needs to go. And that keeping all those bags out of the cabin would make everything from the security lines to the boarding process a breeze.

“That would sidestep the nightmare that takes place on the cabin when people try to cram their bags into the overhead bins and would make exiting the plane go much faster,” said Liddell.

In 'click-class' carry-on luggage would snap into the seat

For those unable to part with their bags, Poppi would have a “Click Class” option that would allow passengers to use special luggage that stores in the seat.

Poppi's middle-seat passengers would get special perks and gifts.

TEAGUE has lots more ideas about ways to transform all aspects of air travel, but the one they’re likely to get the most applause for is their suggestion that people seated in the dreaded middle seat be rewarded with gifts or special perks.

Read more about Poppi’s ‘promises’ here.

Thanks for the car ride, United.

I felt like an imposter.

I’d been upgraded on my flight home from a press event in London to tour the new Star Alliance Terminal 2 at Heathrow – and United’s new lounges there – and, unbeknownst to me, someone at United had added the Global Services code to my reservation.

That program is invitation-only and offers upper echelon travelers special treatment and services. And while I’m special, of course (my mother taught me that…) and old enough now to have flown on enough purchased tickets on United to get million mile status, I’m certainly not permanent Global Services program material.

But, I can see the appeal.

A Global Services rep with my name on a sign met our flight when it arrived in San Francisco.

“Am I in trouble?” I asked. (“Someone’s dead,” I thought)

“Certainly not,” she said. “I’m here to greet you as a Global Services customer and get you to your next flight. We have a car waiting.”

I tried to tell her I really wasn’t a Global Services customer, but she was having none of that.

So I went along with the fairy godmother service and got escorted through several lines, out a door leading to the tarmac and into the back seat of an SUV – a Mercedes-Benz SUV – that drove on the tarmac to take me to the connecting terminal for my flight home to Seattle.

Along the way, I learned that United started this Global Services perk a few weeks ago in San Francisco after rolling it out in Chicago, Houston and Newark Liberty Airport and that usually the ride is offered to Global Services customers with very close connections.

I had about a hour between my flights so wasn’t feeling stressed about getting from one terminal to another, but if the flights were tight (and I was used to being treated special) I can see how this service would endear an airline to a high-value customer a bit more than, say, a free drink or a personalized luggage tag.

So I did enjoy the ride and – just like a real Global Services customer, my escort assured me – I did get my picture taken with the car there on the tarmac.

United car service

Free beer on two Alaska Airlines routes in Alaska

BEER on ALASKA AIRLINES_ Courtesy of Alaska Airlines

Kleen Kanteen – full of Silver Gulch Beer – courtesy Alaska Airlines

 

While complimentary amenities for economy passengers continue to fade away, Alaska Airlines is bringing one of its most popular free treats to two routes in the northernmost state: free beer.

Starting March 3, when the airline’s sister carrier, Horizon Air, begins flying 76-passenger Bombardier Q400 planes between Anchorage and Fairbanks and Anchorage and Kodiak, complimentary Alaskan-made microbrew will be offered.

The beer—Old 55 Pale Ale—is made by Silver Gulch Brewing & Bottling in Fox, Alaska, 10 miles north of Fairbanks, and “will be as fresh as can be,” said Lisa Luchau, Alaska Airlines’ director of onboard food and beverage.

“Silver Gulch will bring the beer down from Fairbanks to their facility at the Anchorage Airport and put it daily into environmentally friendly, stainless steel growlers called Kleen Kanteens, which our caterers will pick up and load onto the flights,” she said.

While cups of Silver Gulch beer will be served only as part of the new Horizon Air service in Alaska, complimentary Northwest wines and microbrews are served on most all Horizon Air flights longer than 40 minutes.

According to Luchau, Horizon Air, which flies to 39 cities in the United States, Canada and Mexico, updates the wines each quarter and the microbrews each month.

“The service is an important part of what we offer. And customers really enjoy it, as you can imagine,” she said.

Most Horizon flights are short, and Luchau said flight attendants are told to pour about 6½ ounces of the complimentary beverages into each 9 ounce glass. “Some flight attendants may be pouring more generously, but most passengers are just getting a sample,” said Luchau.

Although Luchau declined to say how much the airline spends on the beer and wine service, she said it remains “part of the brand … an expense built into the budget.”

Like Porter Airlines, a Canadian regional airline that serves complimentary beer from a brewery near the airline’s base airport in Toronto, Horizon’s beer and wine service “is a small signature touch that has a large impact on how passengers perceive their flight with the airline,” Raymond Kollau of Amsterdam-based Airlinetrends.com said in an email.

“It also shows how a relatively small airline such as Horizon is rooted in the local communities it serves, while the airline’s relatively small scale allows local breweries to guarantee supply.”

Old 55 Pale Ale—described by Silver Gulch president Glenn Brady as “a really nice beer that has a broad appeal”—will likely be served on Horizon’s two Alaska routes for about two months and then swapped out for another Silver Gulch craft beer.

“We’ll see how Silver Gulch works as a partner and how the logistics of the Kleen Kanteens work out,” said Luchau.

In March, the Horizon Air high-speed, twin-engine Q400 turboprops will be begin flying in Alaska and be used for eight of nine daily flights between Anchorage and Fairbanks. The Q400 will also replace an Alaska 737 plane on one of two daily seasonal (October to April) round-trip flights between Anchorage and Kodiak.

(My story about complimentary microbrews being served on Alaska Airlines’ new Horizon Air service in Alaska first appeared on CNBC Road Warrior)