Saudia Arabian Airlines introduce gender segregated seating

Oh dear. Hardly a progressive move. 

Saudia will now officially forbid women from sitting next to men who aren't either their husbands or mahrem (Arabic for "male guardian").

But it gets better...

Saudia Director of Passenger Services, Saad Al Seuleiman, said in a statement to the local media that women would be hired as "ticket sales ladies" throughout the kingdom. However, he stressed, “They will be deployed in places assigned specially for them away from the main terminals. They will work in places confined only to women, the policy of Saudi Airlines is clear in not allowing women to mix with men.”
 Andrew W. Sieber

Andrew W. Sieber

A JAL 777 struck tail on runway attempting go around after reverse thrust was deployed

This could have ended catatstrophically. 

Japanese investigators believe that a Boeing 777-200 struck its tail after the captain ordered a go-around despite the first officer’s having already initiated reverse thrust.

This has poor cockpit communication written all over it, a problem which is unfortunately endemic in many Asian airlines due to existing cultural and societal hierarchies. The first officer was pilot in command and was landing the airplane but:

The captain, in his belief that the aircraft had bounced, acted to avoid a hard landing by ordering a go-around. This decision ran counter to the standard procedure which dictates that a go-around should not be attempted once reverse-thrust has been initiated.
JTSB says the captain took control of the aircraft and, instead of rejecting the go-around, cancelled the reverse thrust and advanced the levers to take-off power. The aircraft had been down for 10s and had slowed to 108kt.

These chaps should be thanking their lucky stars. 

Is this really the new easyJet livery? REALLY?

According to a poster on airliners.net, an email was sent to to easyJet employees asking them to pick one of two liveries under consideration. 

This seems like a huge step backwards for an already iconic livery. Why scale down the typeface so much? As one commenter suggested, why not just paint the whole plane orange and be done with it, as they have with one very striking example:


Etihad says "no thanks" to more A380s

Etihad Airways says it has no plans to buy any more A380s, dealing another blow to the already troubled programme. 

The Abu Dhabi carrier’s chief executive said yesterday that a halt in the production of the world’s biggest passenger plane will not affect its strategy, as it does not plan to take more than it already has on order from the European manufacturer.
“When you are taking 10 aircraft, then whether Airbus continues the production line or not isn’t an issue,” said James Hogan, the Etihad president and chief executive.
 via The National

via The National

The Massive PEK T3 Isn't Big Enough: Beijing Builds A New Airport

Terminal 3 of Beijing Capital International Airport might be the second largest airport passenger terminal building of the world (DXB T3 being the reigning champion), but it's apparently not enough to absorb the amount of traffic. 

Last year, 83.7 million passengers traveled through the national airport, which is designed to handle 76 million passengers.

Up to 72 million passengers, 2 million tons of cargo and 620,000 planes by 2025. That's what the new airport will handle with its 4 runways (though more are rumored). Situated south from the capital (PEK is northeast), it will clearly alleviate the congestions problems, though it remains unclear how the division of traffic will happen.

Although called temporarily named after the capital (Beijing Daxing International Airport or Bejing Capital Second International Airport), it will also serve the city of Tianjin (about 15 million inhabitants) which airport now handles around 11m passengers, but is expected to handle between 30 and 40 million by 2020.

I've quickly laid out a map of the various airports around the capital for your understanding:

 Ring fences.

Ring fences.

Passenger opens emergency exit ‘to get some fresh air’ as plane is taking off

A passenger on a domestic flight in China opened the emergency exit as the plane was preparing to take off. The first time flyer (it's always the newbies) declared that he wanted some fresh air and wrenched open the over-wing exit on the Xiamen airlines flight.

To Xiamen Air's credit, they seem to take it all in stride: 

“It was his first travel by air,” an airline staff member told the paper. “He did not cause delay or any other direct loss to the airline.”

Amazing video of the first A380 3C-Check

After around 3000 flights, it's time for Emirates' first A-380 to go through a total overhaul. This amazing timelapse footage shows the 55-day process in less than 2 minutes. (Hat tip to Elina for the find!)

Airbus is considering killing the A380

Wow. There have been rumblings since Day 1 that the A380 was a commercial flop for Airbus but to hear them talking in these terms is quite shocking. 

Airbus Group NV (AIR) raised the prospect of discontinuing its A380 superjumbo as soon as 2018, the first admission that it may have misjudged the market for the double-decker after failing to find a single airline buyer this year.

Despite forecasts that show the A380 breaking even for the next three years, the bottom falls out of the market in 2018 and Airbus is now faced with the unenviable question of whether to re-engine the airplane to make it more efficient or to kill the line entirely. 

There has not been a single order for the model in 2014 and a leasing firm with 20 of the planes on order has not found a single airline to take even one of the available airframes. Add that to the six jets that Skymark cancelled and things are looking bleak for the bulbous airbus. 

The plane, which cost US$25bn to develop is popular with fliers due its spacious cabin, low noise levels, and a series of passenger comfort innovations, but for airlines it remains a dog that's only efficient on very specific routes. Even Emirates, who ordered 140 A380s, predict that each airframe will only be useful to them for a maximum of 10 years. 

It's worth pointing out that Boeing have fared no better with their latest 4-engine offering. The 747-8 has only generated 119 orders but it seems to have found favour with cargo carriers so could live on in that capacity but whether Boeing will deem that demand worthy of keeping the line open remains to be seen, having yesterday confirmed that they are scaling back production already.

It's a sad prospect but I think the deserts of Southern California will be overflowing with A380s in just a few years. 

Delivery of first Airbus A350 postponed until further notice

Uh oh, this can't be good. 

Qatar Airways announced Wednesday that delivery of its first Airbus A350-900 XWB, originally planned for this weekend, has been postponed. No new date for the delivery or reasons for the delay were given.

It has to be something pretty substantial for Airbus and Qatar Airways not to reschedule or give a reason for the delay. The two have had a fractious relationship, with the airline and manufacturer squabbling in the past over the quality of interior finishes on A380s delivered earlier this year. This latest setback will do nothing to help repair the relationship.

Stunning drone video of Mexico City Airport

Drones have been getting a bad rap lately with some very high profile stories involving quadcopters and airliners but if it weren't for drones we wouldn't get stunning videos like this one. 

An airliner loses an engine while cameras are rolling. Amazing footage.

Make sure you have the subtitles enabled on this incredible video showing how a routine flight from Zurich to Shanghai goes wrong when the crew lose an engine and have to turn back. 

The crew handle this emergency on the Swiss A340 in an exemplary fashion, calm, cool and collected throughout the entire ordeal. 

(hat tip to Paul for finding this one!)

Airlines Use Digital Technology to Get Even More Personal - NYTimes.com

 

Without breaking eye contact with his guest, Mr. Charles consulted the virtual reality glasses to verify the details of Mr. Jones’s flight to Newark, N.J. He also confirmed the other data Virgin had on file for Mr. Jones, including his passport information, frequent flier status and whether he had completed the necessary customs and immigration formalities for travel from London to the United States.

Creepy or innovative? 
The author offers a balanced view of the use of new technologies to alter the experience of traveler. 

Some passengers already are uncomfortable with airlines monitoring their social media accounts (no matter how public they are), so imagine a reaction to predictive data (no matter how helpful it can be). 

Slowly but surely though, airlines are testing new grounds (see JAL's smart watch broadcasts for instance). Read the full NYT article for a good overview.

The iPhone-controlled Carry-On Luggage

After decades of no innovation in the luggage industry, we re-imagined the suitcase to solve all the problems of the modern traveler.

A carry-on that auto-locks, locates itself and weighs itself for you? 

 Do the wheels have power? (image credit: Bluesmart)

Do the wheels have power? (image credit: Bluesmart)

Yes, you read that right—your phone can tell you how much the luggage weighs. It can let you know where it is, when it leaves your proximity whilst automatically locking. It will even notify you if someone tries to open it. 

That's not all: the built-in batteries will let you charge devices—no more hunting for those elusive power sockets in the terminal (there's no detail about the battery capacity, but I'd say between 7 to 10,000 mAh, giving a smartphone a full charge 4 times roughly).

If all that sounds interesting, you can back the project on Indiegogo. It's already way past the funding the team was looking for ($160,000+ at the time of writing, for a goal of $50,000 and there's still 35 days to go).

Sochi From the Sky Like You've Never Seen It

Russia welcomed its first Formula 1 racing event with style. 

 The Olympic Spirit from above. (image credit: Youtube video)

The Olympic Spirit from above. (image credit: Youtube video)

Kudos to team Russ for this epic display of bravura. Piece of advice: watch it in full screen, full resolution (1080p) and with the sound on.

Denser Premium Cabin Seating

 

For some airlines and some routes, the extremes of comfort we see in other markets—especially among the Gulf carriers and some Asia-Pacific carriers–just don’t pay off.

Marisa Garcia makes a valid point when she says that denser premium cabins is a trend to watch. Not all airlines can achieve similar yields and, for those, some balance will have to be found between competitiveness and the ever-increasing comfort of front-cabin passengers.

The Rise of the Gulf Airlines

 

The story starts nearly two decades ago, in 1985, with Dubai’s frustrated crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum. Unable to attract enough international traffic to Dubai’s modest airport, he decided to launch his own airline. Sheikh Mohammed, now Dubai’s ruler, leased a plane from Pakistan International Airlines, and donated a Boeing 727 from his own family’s private fleet. He tasked his chain-smoking uncle, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum, with running the operation and hired Maurice Flanagan, a retired British airline executive, to advise him. He gave the two men $10 million in seed capital, and they succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest expectations.

What an intelligent gamble that was. As the author states, just look at the world route maps to understand how strategic the new hubs like DXB or AUH are:

Frankfurt and London are to the north, at the far end of the prevailing southeast–northwest traffic flow. Hong Kong and Singapore sit at the far southeastern end of that flow. The U.S. hubs are simply on the wrong side of the globe.

The hubs of legacy carriers are simply in the wrong spots.

The European legacy carriers are obviously not too enthralled. The biggest irony is that Airbus needs those new markets?

Europe is subsidizing the aeronautical rope that Emirates is using to hang European airlines

Ouch.

More often than not, you hear critics pointing out geographic luck and state help as the only factors into the current successes—it's oblivious and naive. The rise of the Gulf carriers has leveraged bigger trends in the region. There are clearly issues in the sustainability of the growth, ranging from the price of oil (a high price facilitates massive investments) to labor laws, from taxation (Dubai is for instance rumored to be introducing it within the next 15 years) to planes like the 787 that can bypass those new hubs—but one cannot just wholly dismiss the civilization experiment that those new economies are undertaking.