British Airways

British Airways gets its 25th 787 Dreamliner

British Airways took delivery of its 25th 787 Dreamliner last week and I had the pleasure of riding along from the Boeing factory in Everett, WA to London’s Heathrow Airport.

Before the flight, everyone was treated to a tour of the Boeing factory floor, where we were permitted to snap a few photos along the way.

There was no plane-side ceremony, but there was at least one pre-flight surprise for the passengers taking the ride: we (along with our hand baggage) were all weighed before the flight. Ladies first!

The explanation was something about gathering some important data for this and other flights, but I made sure not to step on the scale without my (very heavy….) backpack.

Hand baggage weighed separately met us planeside and we were ready to board and take-off.

Eveyone on this flight got a Club World seat, which are configured in a ying/yang (and, in the center  – 3 across, in a ying/yang/ying) configuration with a panel between seats that passengers can choose to raise or lower.

My favorite feature of the seat is the the floor-level storage drawer, which was big enough to hold my shoes and a variety of other items I wanted closed by.

British Airways engineers on the delivery flight were happy to chat with media on board and confirmed that, as part of the pre-delivery inspection, one thing they do is sit in every seat, looking for scratches and other issues and making sure the wiring is correct for the in-flight entertainment system for each passenger.

On landing at Heathrow, the pilots invited passengers into the cockpit and insisted we take a seat and snap a photo, even adjusting the seat so that it looked ‘real’.

Thanks, British Airways, for the ride to London!

British Airways ready for Christmas

LAPLAND, FINLAND: Andrea Hatfield (Cabin Crew) gets into the Christmas spirit onboard a special charter to Lapland from London Gatwick on 07 December 2015

British Airways is gearing up for an onslaught of holiday travelers and is preparing some treats for those who fly on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

The airline will be serving a traditional British Christmas dinner to most passengers, consisting of sliced roast turkey breast, chestnut (available in First and Club World) or sage and onion (available in World Traveller) stuffing, cranberry compote, brussels sprouts, roast potatoes, carrot batons, mince pies, as well as other holiday favorites.

During those two days on flights departing from U.S. gateways alone, British Airways expects to serve:

*More than 294 turkeys;
*150 pounds of stuffing;
*1,029 sweet potatoes;
*1,283 brussels sprouts;
*234 parsnips;
*12 gallons of gravy;
*and 1,820 mince pies.

Other airlines also have holiday treats in store for passengers and, as we get them, we’ll be posting here and on Twitter as well.




Route round-up: more ways to get from here to there


Increasingly, you can get there from here. Here’s a round-up of some new airline routes that may help.

British Airways will begin its San Francisco – London service with an Airbus A380 next summer. The airline began A380 service between Los Angeles and London last September 2013 and starts A380 service to Washington DC in October.

Air New Zealand announced it is adding more flights to its North American routes. with additional service from Vancouver and Los Angeles to Auckland.

Starting in April 2015, ANZ will fly LAX-AKL three times daily through October. Starting in June 2015, ANZ will fly YVR-AKL five times a week through September.

Southwest Airlines will add service between Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport and San José, Costa Rica, starting in March 2015.

And Icelandair announced new seasonal non-stop service from Portland, Oregon to Reykjavik, Iceland beginning May 20, 2015 and continuing through October 21, 2015.

Travel Tidbits: guns, billboards and ugly sweaters

Guns at airports

PIT Firearm

Courtesy TSA

The TSA’s Week in Review is always a fascinating and somewhat frightening read.

In the latest issue, for example, we learned that 28 firearms were found at airport checkpoints nationwide this week – a tally that is not that unusual.

Of those 28 firearms, 25 were loaded and eight had rounds chambered. And among the loaded firearms was one discovered strapped to the ankle of a passenger at Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT).

I wonder if that passenger gave the excuse most people do when found with firearms at airports: “Oops, I forgot that was there.”

British Airways billboards: how do they do that?

British Airways
is rolling out video billboards that show children pointing to the sky whenever a British Airlines plane flies by. The airline says there’s some sort of “digital “wizardry” involved that allows the billboards to “know” the flight number and city a plane is arriving from and display it on the screen.

The first billboard was installed in Chiswick, a suburb west of London. Bustling Picadilly Circus gets one as well.

Ugly Sweaters

And if you’re headed to Portland, Oregon this season – perhaps to the presentation about my new book Hidden Treasures: What Museums Can’t or Won’t Show You on December 6 at St. Johns Booksellers -then keep an eye out for downtown sculptures that will be “yarn bombed” by local fiber artists.

Portland ugly sweater

More than a dozen statues are scheduled to get yarn bombed this season as the city goes a little knit-crazy with sweater -themed events and ugly sweater promotions at several hotels.

At the Mark Spencer, for example, any guest wearing an ugly sweater at check-in will automatically receive a free room upgrade. And at the Heathman Hotel, ugly sweaters will be issued to all dogs checking in with their people.

More details about visiting Portland here.

The end of paper luggage tags?

Courtesy British Airways

A permanent digital luggage tag being tested by British Airways could help make temporary tags obsolete and speed up the check-in process.

The 2.95 billion adhesive luggage tags that airlines now print each year are enough to circle the Earth 39 times, according to the International Air Transport Association. “And they’re not just made of paper, but a silicon derivative that’s very hard to recycle,” said Andrew Price, IATA’s head of baggage services.

British Airway’s digital tag would allow travelers to use the same ID tag on each journey.

Here’s how it works: Using the airline’s mobile app, travelers can check in for a flight and hold their smartphones over a personalized digital tag to program it with flight details and baggage destination information. The tag uses Near Field Communication (NFC,) a short-range low-power wireless technology to transfer the information and long-lasting Kindle-like electronic ink to keep the unique barcode displayed and readable by baggage handlers and machine readers.

At the airport, the traveler can bypass the kiosk that prints tags and leave the electronically tagged luggage at a luggage drop or with a service rep at a counter. When it’s time for a new trip, the information on the tag is reprogrammed.

During the recent month-long test of the digital tags on British Airways flights between Seattle and London, “all bags went where they needed to go,” said Glenn Morgan, the airline’s head of service transformation. He declared that digital tag a success, but said the next step is expanding the type of smartphones that can program them. “Right now only Android and Windows phones support NFC,” said Morgan, and the airline wants to make sure the tags work fully with Apple phones as well.

British Airways may roll out a more sophisticated version of the digital tag for use by passengers in early 2014, but Morgan said the airline hasn’t decided whether it will give the tag to its frequent fliers and/or offer it for sale at a price yet to be determined.

British Airways isn’t the only company working on a digital bag tag.

Qantas Q BAG Tag

In 2011, Australian airline Qantas Airways introduced its QBag Tag.The permanent electronic tag can currently be used only on the airline’s domestic routes (with some exceptions) and relies on radio-frequency identification (RFID) rather than near-field communication to encode flight details onto the tag. Frequent fliers get a Q Bag Tag for free; others can purchase a tag for cash (about US $28) or for 6,500 Qantas points.

In April, IATA put together an industry working group to create standards for a permanent bag tag “that can be used in an interline environment and on any airline, regardless of the issuer of the tag.”


Airbus Bag2Go


And at the Paris Air Show in June, aircraft manufacturing company Airbus showed off a prototype of Bag2Go, a digitally enabled suitcase developed with the IT services and consulting company T-Systems and luggage manufacturer Rimowa. The bag not only incorporates electronic tagging but also a scale to weigh its contents and GPS for real-time tracking.

“Convenience and speed is the key for frequent travelers,” said Richard Warther, president and CEO of Vanguard ID Systems, a Pennsylvania-based company that makes digital luggage tags. Security is built into the design so “electronic bag tags are now as good as the digital passports that are scanned when you get to customs,” said Warther.

Morgan agreed on the safety. “The digital bag tag contains the same information as a paper tag so there are no security risks,” he said.

And while the home-printed bag tag is becoming more popular, IATA’s Price doesn’t think anything will totally replace the thermal adhesive-paper tags travelers have become so familiar with.

“But,” he said, “I expect you may begin to see airlines using the digital tags within a year.”

(My story about digital luggage tags first appeared on CNBC Road Warrior)