On Wednesday, United Airlines showed off the new seats that will soon be showing up in the first class cabin of the Airbus A319 and A320 aircraft the carrier uses on domestic routes.
The new leather seats are a bit wider than the current seats and have some nice new features, including universal AC power plugs, more places to store your things, a wider center console that includes a space for water bottles, and a larger, more classy-looking, expandable drink table between the seats.
The best part, though, is the tray table. Larger and sturdier than previous versions, this one draws on some of the patents held by Smart Tray and includes a built-in holder for personal electronic devices.
I covered the “unveiling” for USA TODAY – here’s a link to that story.
When Alaska Airlines served meals to all passengers, these card would be tucked under a plate on the meal tray.
But in a memo sent to its frequent fliers Wednesday, the airline announced that the prayer cards it has been providing to passengers on meal trays for the past 30 years will be discontinued as of Feb. 1.
“A former marketing executive borrowed the idea from another airline and introduced the cards to our passengers in the late 1970s to differentiate our service,” the memo written by the company’s chairman and president explained.
For my story on msnbc.com, airline spokesperson Bobbie Egan told me that over the years the airline has received letters and e-mails from customers for and against the card. Last fall the company decided to stop distributing the cards because, Egan said, “We believe it’s the right thing to do in order to respect the diverse religious beliefs and cultural attitudes of all our customers and employees.”
Meal tray service in the coach class ended six years ago, so the prayer cards have been provided only to passengers in the first class cabin. MVP Gold flier Roz Schatman gets the cards on her meal tray quite often. “In the spirit of diversity, I find them offensive,” she said.
The Alaska Airline statement said that while some passengers enjoyed the cards, reactions like Schatman’s were not unusual.
“…[W]e’ve heard from many of you who believe religion is inappropriate on an airplane, and some are offended when we hand out the cards. Religious beliefs are deeply personal and sharing them with others is an individual choice.”
“It always seemed odd to me,” said George Hobica of the consumer travel website Airfarewatchdog.com. “Flying on a wing and prayer? I don’t think those two go together.”
What do you think? Would you be pleased or perturbed to get a prayer card with your meal on an airline?
Can’t afford First or Business class, but don’t want to fly in the economy cabin on your next flight? Soon you’ll have a new option on Air France:
The airline is carving out a new cabin section, Premium Voyageur, between the Business and Economy cabins and putting in these swanky new fixed-shell seats:
The new section will have extra legroom and many of the amenities of the Business Class cabin. The meal service will be the same as in Economy, though: aperitifs, champagne, a choice of two hot meals, liqueurs, wines and, on flights over 12 hours long, mini-sandwiches and Häagen Dazs ice-cream.
The new cabin section comes with some Business Class perks at the airport as well: priority check-in desks, increased baggage weight allowance, and priority baggage delivery.
Can’t wait to try it out? The first available destinations will be New York-JFK, Tokyo and Osaka. For more details, see the Air France Website.
They didn’t have room for all my tips, so in addition to the amenities kit from Flight 001 mentioned in the feature, I wanted to make sure folks check out the Travel Treats kits and other pint-sized products offered by minimus.biz.