Airplanes

Alaska Airlines shows off first retrofitted Virgin America aircraft

Courtesy Alaska Airlines

Just about two years after acquiring Virgin America, Alaska Airlines is showing off the first retrofitted version of the fleet of Airbus aircraft the Seattle-based carrier inherited in the deal.

The makeover was revealed this week on an Airbus A3121neo (new engine option) airplane during a short demo flight out of San Francisco International Airport. These retrofitted interiors will eventually show up on all of Alaska’s Airbus fleet of A319, A320 and A321aircraft and on its Boeing 737-700s and three new Boeing MAX 9 planes.

Alaska Airlines

The new cabin features include upgraded seats, Alaska blue (not Virgin pink) mood lighting for boarding, a refreshed cabin color palette and space-saving tablet holders at each seat.

Device holders are on the seatbacks of premium and economy seats. Photo Alaska Airlines

Additional upgrades range from more conveniently positioned power outlets (USB and 110V) at every seat (no more sharing) and the elimination of those space-hogging electrical boxes on the floor under the middle seats.

There are also ingenious pull-out cup holders in the tray tables of the premium class seats and, for everyone , Gogo’s faster high-speed satellite Wi-Fi.

And, in a nod to the hip Virgin America brand many customers still miss, the makeover includes an board and de-planing music playlist that Alaska has programmed to have a “cool West Coast vibe thatcomplements the relaxing and modern ambiance.”

Here are some more snaps of the plane’s new features:

photo: Harriet Baskas

Aircraft seat manufacturer Recaro has created first class seats that include memory foam, a 40″ pitch, tray tables with tablet holders and bonus footrests.

Photo – Harriet Baskas
Mesh pouches on seat backs have an extra elastic to make them easier to use. Photo Harriet Baskas
Seatback screens are gone – replaced by device holders and easier to access USB power ports. Photo Harriet Baskas

Joshua Rappaport, Executive Cheft at LSG SkyChefs was on site – and on the plane – sharing details of a new, refreshed menu that leans heavily to healthy, seasonal, West Coast-sourced and fresh.

Seattle-based fashion designer Luly Yang was on site as well, showing off the line of uniforms passengers will soon see on the Alaska Airlines team.

Icelandair welcomes its first 737Max

Icelandair took its first new Boeing 737 MAX 8 on a celebratory flight on Saturday, flying north from the in-city Reykjavík Airport for a one-hour special flight over stunning mountains and landscape before returning to the airport for a welcome party that included tours of the aircraft for hundreds of invited guests.

I was fortunate to go along for the flight.

All Icelandair planes are named after Icelandic volcanoes, glaciers or other areas of Iceland’s landscape and this new Boeing 737 MAX 8, is named Jökulsárlon, after a glacial lagoon.

Here are some more snaps from the flight:

Invited guests on the flight got to taste a special 737 Transatlantic Pale Ale, which will be available for purchase onboard Icelandair flights, starting at the end of May, for a few months.

 

Sigurður Helgason, Icelandair’s past CEO and Bjorgolfur Johannsson, the current President & CEO, toast the new plane with cans of the special 737 Transatlantic IPA.

 

Hundreds of invited guests came to the airport to welcome the plane and lined up for a tour. But first the red carpet had to put out.

 

This is the first of 16 737 Max airplanes Icealandair will receive over the next four years, so keep an eye out for them in the skies and at your airport.

 

Would you sleep in an airplane cargo section?

Here’s an unusual look at the flying future introduced by Airbus and Zodiac Aerospace at the Aircraft Interior Expo taking place in Hamburg this week.

The two companies say they are developing lower-deck modules with sleeping berths as an option for the cargo compartment of an aircraft.

These passenger modules are envisioned as being easily interchangeable with regular cargo containers and easily put in or taken out during a typical turnaround as they don’t require any modification of the cargo area flooring.

The modules, which could be configured for other uses besides sleeping, offer airlines “new opportunities for additional services to passengers, improving their experience while enabling airlines to differentiate and add value for their commercial operations,” the companies said in a statement.

“This approach to commercial air travel is a step change towards passenger comfort. We have already received very positive feedback from several airlines on our first mock-ups,” said Geoff Pinner, Head of Airbus Cabin & Cargo Programme.

The plan is to get approval for the modules by 2020 and to roll them out first on A330 aircraft.

Ready for this?

What would make your trip to the airport more fun?

(Early flying car – the Aerocar)

I’m excited, honored – and a bit nervous – about being a moderator for several sessions during Monday’s Passenger Experience Conference in Hamburg, Germany.

The topics my presenters will be tackling in the Covergence and Mobility stream range from how mobile technology might better (or ever) tie together the many ways we now have to travel through the world (bikes, taxis, car share, trains, planes, etc…) to how – and when – we might eat or do other things along the way.

I’ll be sharing notes, pictures and musings here and on Twitter (@hbaskas) about these presentations and the new and exciting products and ideas that are presented throughout the week at the Aircraft Interiors Expo and several related events being held in Hamburg this week.

Standy by and please feel free to send your questions to me here – or via Twitter (@hbaskas) – about what’s in store for getting to and from airports and for flying on airplanes.

 

 

Snaps from a visit to an airport bag well

As part of research for an upcoming story, I spent two days visiting the ‘bag well’ at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport finding out what happens to your checked lugagge once you hand it over to your airline.

The short version: your bag travels on a freeway-like conveyor system that sends the bag to and through a TSA explosives detection machine and then back to the airline for sorting so can be sent to your airplane and loaded onto it.  The bag tag is scanned multiple times along the way to keep tabs on its whereabouts.

Here are some snaps from my adventure. Stay tuned for the full story.