First Class

On United: new domestic 1st class seats

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.

United's new First Class seat to be installed on the carrier's entire Airbus fleet_photo Harriet Baskas

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.

united armrest

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.

United tray table

I covered the “unveiling” for USA TODAY – here’s a link to that story.

Etihad Airways has big plans for hens, bees and pickles

Now that I know about the hens, the bees and the pickles, I’m kicking myself for missing a recent opportunity to fly to Abu Dhabi on Etihad Airways, the national airline of the UAE.

The airline has 200 free-range hens on duty at Abu Dhabi Organics Farms laying eggs that are used in some dishes prepared by on-board chefs for first class passengers.

Several beehives on the farm are also producing honey for airline meals and the airline has promised its own signature line of pickles made from organic paprika, chili, onion, capsicum and dates.

Amen? Alaska Airlines removes prayer cards from flights

Do these cards look familiar?

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, 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 “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?

Who needs First Class seats?

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.

Cushy in coach

The folks at Luxaholics are fretting a lot about air travel these days. At Thanksgiving they shared some of my tips for stress-free travel. This week, they wanted to know how I’d “lux up” a coach seat.

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

Think stocking stuffers….