Another quick overview while I get over a cold. Expect to start seeing some reviews next week! Until then, my Emirates flight!
Orders dwindling and an airline market moving more and more toward fuel efficient airplanes, how long are the 747 and A380 going to stick around?
We are now into October and the 747-8 has only racked up 4 orders this year, and delivered a mere 6 aircraft. Once the queen of the skies, more 747's seem to be retired every year now than are added. The 4 engine, first double decker aircraft, was first built in the late 60's, it has seen it's hay day come and go. While the 747-8I has seen some minor traction from Lufthansa and Korean Air, those are the two largest operators of the plane type. Lufthansa only operates 19 and Korean Air a scant 10 planes. This does not bode well for the future of the plane.
The A380 is a different story, but is seeing similar problems. The A380's success has been almost entirely due to Emirates Airline. Emirates operates 2 aircraft types almost exclusively, the A380 and the 777. Emirates is the largest operator of both types in the world. Beyond Emirates, the A380 is having problems. Malaysia Airlines has been trying to get ride of their A380s with no success, considering now to wet lease since no one seems interested in a purchase.
While the A380 has a decent backlog right now, the orders just are not coming in any more. With 125 aircraft yet to be delivered, the A380's big problem is much the same as the 747, orders just aren't there. Last year the A380 saw a scant 2 orders, and this year has seen 0 aircraft orders.
It seems Airbus bet big on massive passenger transport with the A380 and lost. Boeing refit the 747 to the -8 version in an attempt to compete with the A380, they also have lost. Companies are now pushing forward with smaller but highly efficient aircraft like the 787 and the A350. Both of these aircraft have order backlogs greater than 700 aircraft. These new breed of planes are capable of servicing destinations that were not previously profitable due to the high fuel cost of planes prior to this new generation.
Increased fuel efficiency has made many more destinations profitable and that means more destinations to choose from. Meanwhile we seem to be seeing the death of the jumbo jets. These planes will continue to service high capacity routes, but these routes are not as plentiful as those serviced by their smaller brothers.
This is exactly why I chose to fly the British Airways 747-400, I've never had the chance to fly the queen of the skies, and I may not have too many more opportunities.
As my major Africa/Middle East trip draws near, here is a quick overview of what to expect in the way of reviews.
Airline: Virgin Atlantic
Route: ATL to LHR
Class: Business (Upper Class)
My first international leg will be on board a Virgin Atlantic A330-300 aircraft. While this is the updated interior, Virgin has just announced that they are no longer going to be using this interior. It tends to be very cramped as Virgin tried to shove lots of business class seats in a small area and it was not well executed. Tight or not, look forward to seeing the sleep suit, the tight seat, and everything in between.
Airline: British Airways
Route: LHR to JNB
After a decently long connection in London, I'll be off to Johannesburg to catch my final connection. This will be my first time in a 747, and it'll be done in first class with a small nose section, a beautiful seat and interior. Queen of the skies from takeoff to touchdown, it'll be a memorable one.
Airline: Qatar Airways
Route: JNB to DOH
After a four day stop, a safari, and tour of the cape peninsula, I'll connect in Johannesburg to a Qatar Airways 777-300ER. Not the most ideal business class seat to fly on, their 787 is much better, but it'll make an interesting review. Then on the ground in Doha, Qatar I'll be reviewing the brand new Qatar Airways massive first class lounge.
Airline: Qatar Airways
Route: DOH to DXb
Here is where I get to try out the Qatar Airways 787-8 business class. Said to be one of the best business class seats money can buy, we'll see how it matches against American Airlines business class and others.
Airline: Emirates Airline
Route: DXB to LAX
The dream jewel of this trip; opulence, overstated gold accents and just a little too much bling, Emirates brings it's A-game in first class. It may not be the seat that wins me over here though as much as using one of two on board showers while flying at almost 40,000 ft above the ground. This aircraft was why I made this trip, well that and to try out the unbeatable Emirates A380 lounge that stretches the entire length of the A380 terminal at Dubai International. This lounge even features direct gate access for first class passengers only... insane!
Route: LAX to ATL
Class: Domestic First Lie Flat
An unexpected close out to the trip, I get to fly Delta's business class product on a domestic route. Handling the heavy LAX to ATL segment, the 767-300 features a first class seat that is equal to the Delta One offered in business class on international fights. Don't expect any food review here since it is a red eye, but a lie flat on a domestic route is a full on win.
This trip is starting to get me excited. I can't tell you how much businessfirst class makes flying an amazing experience again. Flying can be enjoyable. Business Class, First Class and Lounges make all the difference in the world.
Way back at the beginning of the year, I started booking some flights for my second major trip of the year at the time. This trip was to be the biggest of any I've ever flown, with no less than 5 major airlines, 2 new aircraft I've never flown, and my first experiences with first class international travel. The cherry on the sundae of the travel was to be my Emirates first class experience on board their flagship A380 from Dubai to Los Angeles. Imagine my surprise on Sunday when I started checking all my flights and found that Emirates had downgraded the plane to a 777-300ER.
This just highlights the need to check your flights on a regular basis, especially if you booked them very far in advance. Airplane loads change and more often that you may realize, airlines will change out aircraft types on you. When I originally booked my flights, I had purposfully booked a Virgin Atlantic flight on an A340, since I've never flown that aircraft. That plane also was changed out for an A330-300, which I've flown many times out of Philadelphia since US Airways and subsequently American Airlines flies these almost exclusively out of Philly to Europe.
My original booking with Emirates took place when they first announced a second daily A380 flight between Dubai and LA. Passenger loads don't always live up to expectations though, and at some point without my knowledge, the plane was changed to a smaller 777-300ER. Don't get me wrong, any other trip after this, I might actually prefer the 777-300ER. The 777 first class cabin is much smaller and would likely be very enjoyable. However, Emirates 777 aircraft do not feature the onboard shower of the A380, and I very much want to enjoy that part of the Emirates experience. I booked this flight specifically for the aircraft... so what can you do?
Your mileage may vary here, since this is an award flight, lack of space on another flight may be an issue. There may not be anything you can do, but I highly suggest you try to call the company you booked through. In my case this was Alaska Airlines, and as always the phone agent was perfect, why Alaska Airlines excels where other airlines fail miserably is beyond me, but they can keep up the amazing service, I will never complain about that.
As soon as I had an agent on the phone from Alaska Airlines, I explained the situation and she went to work. I informed her that there is an earlier flight from Dubai to LAX that is indeed still the original A380 aircraft. A quick search showed her that no open award seats were available for her to book me into. This didn't deter her though, she put me on hold for quite a while, but I knew what she was up to. She contacted Emirates directly and asked them to open a seat for her to put me in.... they obliged.
She came back on the line, asked me to back out of the website while she made an update, and within a few minutes I was booked on the earlier flight and back on an A380. Can I just say this Alaska Airlines... you are awesome! No fuss, no hassle, they just took care of it for me. What a great experience.
As for the other flight that was changed on me, my Virgin Atlantic flight was booked though Delta. I imagine it would be much more difficult for me to change that flight. For one, there is only one daily flight on Virgin Atlantic out of Atlanta, so no other flight to put me on. Also, I'm not sure I'd want to change this flight. This puts me on the newest Upper Class product from Virgin Atlantic, and would likely be more relevant to you readers, since the A340 is on its way out and the A330 is the latest. If I do decide to change things around, I'd likely have to change airlines, which might or might not be worth it. I'll look at it, but I don't anticipate making a change to this flight. If I do, I'll update everyone once that happens.
For now, the moral of the story is, if an airline changes equipment on you, try to get them to move you around. It may surprise you that they might just be willing to accommodate you, no questions asked.... though they may not as well. I had a great experience and cannot thank both Alaska Airlines and Emirates enough.
This fall promises to bring a whole bunch of new airline experiences to myself and the website as well. My flights to Cape Town and Dubai promise to give me a taste of all new products, planes and airlines. All of this gets me quite excited as an awesome trip is sure to emerge from these flights.
With current flight plans, Virgin Atlantic’s old A340 business class will be a new product, airline and plane for me all in one. After a long layover, I’ll have the opportunity to try first class on British Airways 747-400, giving me a new class of service and airplane to try in this case. Leaving Africa puts me on Qatar Airways business class twice on a 787 and A330, giving me a new product and airline to try. One last first will be my return from Dubai to the US on board Emirate first class with a new airline and new product.
This whole trip will bring a lot of new firsts, lots of new reviews and lots of time in the air to enjoy. After all of this is said and done though, who is left to try out at that points. Well there are many, many, many more airlines to try, but there is one that sticks out in my mind. Etihad is another middle east carrier like Emirate, Qatar, and Oman. Etihad, like Emirates, operates out of the United Arab Emirates, but unlike Emirates, flies mainly out of Abu Dhabi.
While Emirates seems to get a lot of press from their first class product, Etihad not only gives them a run for their money, but might even one up them on the actual physical seat. Etihad is the first and only airline to offer a single aisle first class on their A380 aircraft. The reason why Etihad on has a single aisle in first class… their seats are called apartments, and for a really good reason.
Inside the Etihad apartment is a seat and a bed/bench…. And they aren’t the same part of the aircraft. Most airlines offer a lie flat seat, not Etihad, they have a seat and a whole separate bed. The whole area can be closed off with a high divider and door if you want privacy. It literally is like having your own mini suite on board an airplane.
When looking at the future, Etihad is probably the most exciting product I want to try… but there are some many other out there, it is likely to keep me busy for a long time to come.