Airlines

Travel Tidbits: New gate numbers, new flights

San Francisco International Airport (SFO) has a new, easier to understand gate numbering system.           

Previously, there was a continuous numbering system across all terminals and concourses, from 1 to 102.

The new gate numbering system breaks it down to specific concourses within each terminal.

Here’s a handy video to help explain how it works:

New flights!

Photo courtesy of COA Aviation.

Norwegian Air now flies twice-weekly service from San Francisco Int’l Airport to both Paris, France (CDG) and to Barcelona, Spain (BCN).

Flights operate on a 787 Dreamliner aircraft.

Beginning October 29, United Airlines starts service from SFO to Melbourne, Australia (MEL) three times per week. And on December 5, United kicks off daily service to Delhi, India (DEL) from SFO as well. Both flights will operate on Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft.

Air New Zealand will offer nonstop service three times a week between Newark, NJ (EWR) and Auckland, New Zealand starting in October 2020.

Air New Zealand will operate the year-round flight with a newly configurated Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft.

Flight time will be approximately 17 hours and 40 minutes southbound and 15 hours 40 minutes northbound.

When this new flight starts, ANZ will end its iconic daily Los Angeles-London service that has been in operation since 1982.

The decision has to do with increased competition in the market:

“Preferences have changed,” said Air New Zealand Acting Chief Executive Officer Jeff McDowall, “Less than seven percent of all airline travelers between Auckland and London chose to fly via Los Angeles last year.”

Think your last flight was long? Check out this Qantas flight

The next time you feel antsy on a long flight, think about how much longer your flight could be.

Qantas just took a big step closer to creating a regular non-stop commercial flight that will last 20 hours.

Over the weekend, Qantas operated a special flight from New York to Sydney that spent 19 hours 16 minutes in the air.

While technically the first non-commercial flight to take this long, the plane carried just 49 passengers and crew.

And pretty much everyone participated in a variety of experiments to see how such a long flight affects health, well-being and, no doubt, sanity.

Testing, Testing

Passengers on this flight were fitted with wearable technology devices that a variety of measurements during the flight.

And those devices ranged from monitoring pilot brain waves, melatonin levels and alertness and the value of hosting exercise classes for passengers.

Cabin lighting and in-flight meals were also adjusted in ways that are expected to help reduce jetlag.

Scientists and medical experts from the Charles Perkins Centre are gathering and using data from this flight – and others – to monitor all sorts of things: sleep patterns, food and beverage consumption, lighting, physical movement and inflight entertainment to assess the log flight’s impact on health, wellbeing and body clock.

And Qantas says data from these experiments will be used help shape the crew rostering and customer service of Qantas’ ultra-long-haul flights in the future.

Most notably, they’re focusing on Project Sunrise, Qantas’ plan to operate regular, non-stop commercial flights from the east coast of Australia (Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne) to London and New York.

Before it decides to make these super-long Project Sunrise flights permanent, Qantas will run two more research flights as part of its Project Sunrise evaluations: London to Sydney in November and another New York to Sydney in December.

Would you take a flight that lasts almost 20 hours?

KLM Turns 100

Dutch flag carrier KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is one of the world’s oldest airlines and the oldest airline still flying under its original name.

The airline celebrated its centenary on Monday, October 7 with more than 3500 friends, frequent flyers and supporters at a party inside an airplane hangar at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport.

At the birthday party, there was cake, of course. And speeches.

But everyone in attendance was anxious to find out which historical or architecturally significant Dutch building was being portrayed in KLM’s 100th miniature Delft blue house.

These small porcelain houses are filled with Bols Genever (a Dutch gin) and are highly collectible. They are gifted to passengers flying on intercontinental flights in KLM’s World Business Class cabins.

KLM Then and Now

Courtesy KLM

While KLM was officially established on October 7, 1919, the airline’s first flight took place on May 17, 1920, on a leased De Havilland DH-16 flown from London to Amsterdam.

The airline started buying its own airplanes in 1921; transported its first large animal (a stud bull named Nico V) in 1924 and began flying with designated cabin crew to attend to passenger comfort and safety in 1935.

Courtesy KLM

The airline’s inflight magazine – the Holland Herald – was first published in 1966 and is now the oldest inflight magazine in the world

After a 2004 merger, KLM became part of the Air France – KLM Group and today KLM flies to 162 destinations, employs 33,000 people worldwide and has a fleet of more than 214 aircraft.

The airline carries more than 34 million passengers and more than 620,000 tons of cargo a year.

“Airlines operate in an incredibly competitive environment,” said Pieter Elbers, KLM President & CEO “Fuel prices, geopolitical issues, and exchange rates are among the many outside issues that affect our business and can make it tough to operate the airline.”

While other airlines have come and gone, KLM’s longevity, said Elbers, has a lot to do with innovative and pioneering with its operations and its ability to respond to trends in a timely manner.

For example, KLM was an early adopter of social media to serve and engage customers.

Today the airline has a social media team of about 350, one of the largest in the world. Agents are on duty daily, tackling about 35,000 customer service cases a week, in 10 different languages, via WhatsApp, Messenger, Facebook, Twitter, WeChat and other platforms. Artificial intelligence systems help as well.

KLM and sustainability

KLM flew the first biofuel flight, to Paris, in June 2011. And in March 2013, the airline operated the first intercontinental flight with biofuel, to New York.

The airline now has wide-ranging sustainability programs, including the unusual “Fly Responsibly” program which encourages people not to fly – or to fly less often.

Videos and ads ask customers, “Do you always need to meet face-to-face? Could you take the train instead? Could you contribute by compensating your CO2 emissions, or packing light.?”

“It may seem radical for an airline to ask people to consider other options than flying, but we see it as a pioneering approach to creating a more sustainable future in aviation for all of us,” said Boet Kreiken, Executive Vice President Customer Experience, KLM.

As part of the campaign, KLM recently announced that starting March 29, 2020, it will be replacing one of its daily flights between Brussels and Amsterdam with seats on the Thalys high-speed train.

KLM is also supporting the Delft University of Technology efforts to develop the Flying-V, a highly energy-efficient long-distance airplane design that puts the passenger cabin, the cargo holds and the fuel tanks in the wings of an unusual v-shaped aircraft.

The 100th KLM Miniature Delft house

Courtesy KLM

Each year KLM marks its October 7 anniversary by revealing a new Delftware miniature house.

Past miniature houses have depicted everything from the Anne Frank House and the Rembrandt House to the Palace on Dam Square.

For its 100th anniversary, KLM chose a replica of Huis ten Bosch Palace in The Hague, the home of the Netherland’s King Willem-Alexander and his family.

The new miniature house is being given to passengers business class passengers flying intercontinental flights, but we’ve already spotted it on eBay for about $65.

KLM turns 100 on Oct 7

KLM, Royal Dutch Airways, turns 100 on October 7 and celebrations marking the milestone event are already underway.

A great exhibit drawing from KLM’s extensive collection of more the 250,000 images has been on view at the Amsterdam City Archives.

And on October 7, a hoopla event will take place in a KLM hangar at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. During that party, the much-awaited ‘reveal’ of the 100th tiny Delft house filled with Bols Genever (a Dutch gin) will take place.

The small houses are a given out as complimentary gifts to travelers flying World Business Class and there’s always a wave of excitement in the cabin when the cart with the houses start being rolled down the aisle.

Stuck at the Airport will on hand for this year’s big reveal and we’ll share details on that as soon as we’re able.

Stuck at The Airport was honored to be on site for the reveal of KLM’s 97th miniature Delft House, which was made in the likeness of the Hotel New York in Rotterdam.

The hotel is on the site of the former headquarters of the Holland American Line and for many years, beginning in 1872, the company’s ships sailed between Rotterdam and New York and several other U.S. cities.

Stuck at the Airport was also onsite for the reveal of KLM’s miniature Delft house #98 – which depicts the family home of aviation pioneer Antony Fokker.

In advance of its birthday, KLM has been busy with events, promotions and announcements celebrating the company’s past – and looking to the future.

Take a look at these two short videos, especially the “Fly Responsibly” video that actually encourages travelers not to fly.

Snaps from Virgin Atlantic A350 cabin reveal

I was delighted to join Virgin Atlantic earlier this week for a fun A350-cabin interior ‘reveal’ party at the company’s crew training facilities (“The Base”) in Crawley, near London’s Gatwick Airport.

My story detailing posh new features that include upgraded Upper Class suites in the business class cabin and the transformation of the Upper Class bar area into a multi-purpose gathering area called “The Loft” is on SFGate.

But sharing some snaps of the mock-up that was on display during the evening here on Stuck at The Airport.

Upper Class suites on Virgin Atlantic’s A350s will now face the windows. That’s a change from the current layout that has them facing the aisles.
The popular bar area behind the Upper Class cabin will now be “The Loft” – with space for 8 people (3 standing, five seated), power ports and Bluetooth headset ports so groups can watch movies or video programs together.
Premium seats on the Virgin Atlantic A350 planes will have four-way headrests and this nice footrest feature. Photo Harriet Baskas
Fabric-covered economy seats have two USB ports and 6-way headrests. Photo Harriet Baskas

Virgin Atlantic’s first A350 – named Red Velvet – will start flying in August, 2019 between London Heathrow and New York JFK, followed by other services to JFK later in the year.

The carrier has 12 Airbus A350-1000s on order, and plans to have all of them flying by 2012 as a replacement for the airline’s 747s.