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First American-airline-owned Boeing 777-300ER to travel to… America; trans-Atlantic by early 2013

May 24th, 2012

Kinny Cheng

From the APEX Editor’s Blog:

“American Airlines today announced the flight numbers and markets for its first group of Boeing 777-300ERs that will enter the airline’s fleet starting this December. On Dec. 13, the Dallas/Fort Worth – Sao Paulo route will be the first to feature the newest addition to American’s fleet.”

From the North to the South, and back — and vice-versa. A typical type of routing for a brand new type of aircraft.

“In February, the aircraft will fly to London Heathrow from both Dallas/Fort Worth and New York JFK.”

And, of course, when more aircraft (of the same type) becomes available, along with greater operational experience, longer routes can be operated.

But how about this little bit of trivia:

“American is the first U.S. airline to order and take delivery of the Boeing 777-300ER.”

Yes, it’s true — an American-based airline has taken this long (the first commercial aircraft was delivered eight years ago) to pick-and-choose this aircraft, being a very successful model amongst many operators worldwide. When you think overall strategy, it truly boggles the mind.

The following statement simply proves my point:

“The 777-300ERs will complement American’s fleet by offering additional network flexibility in the future, as well as providing increased efficiency due to better seat mile economics and performance characteristics.”

Ten B777-300ERs will be delivered to American Airlines, beginning in December 2012; it will be a three-class configuration (First, Business, Economy); broad (and seemingly-good) entertainment options via the on-board IFE; in-seat AC power outlets and USB charging jacks; and on-board Wi-Fi will also be available.

This is probably one aircraft I would like to fly on and experience for myself — and I certainly hope it will finally break away from the on-board passenger experience limitations upheld by the traditional US carriers (e.g. American, Delta, United) all this time.

For more info, American Airlines have created a dedicated site for their upcoming Boeing 777-300ER aircraft here.

Getting to the London Olympics? Start queuing!

May 24th, 2012

Kinny Cheng

Folks who have visited London Heathrow (LHR) recently, especially if you’re not holding a British or EU passport, may have been put to the ultimate torture test of waiting to get your passport chopped — that is, the wait to clear immigration upon arriving into LHR on an international flight.

Get to know thy neighbour…?
(source: Daily Mail)

An article from the Daily Mail on Wednesday updates us with the latest, and starts off by saying…

“The chance of airport security queues of up to four hours cannot be ruled out during the London Olympics, the director general of the UK Border Force has said.”

Encouraging.

“Brian Moore said he was satisfied that planned staffing levels were adequate to deal with the expected surge of arrivals, but said he could not guarantee there would be no delays.

‘I do not anticipate seeing large queues of two, three and four hours because of the work we are doing to move our resources,’ he told MPs yesterday when pressed about recent problems.”

Love the political talk, Brian.

And, of course, there is that disclaimer statement…

“’However there will always be circumstances beyond our control.’”

So who is this Brian Moore?

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the face of the UK Border Force:

I don’t know about you, but whatever “plans” these UK Border Force folks have on improving the current conditions are clearly not showing.

On the other hand, passengers only need to experience the outrage, and not a written statement in hopes of explaining, to be made aware of a very dire situation, which will (and can) only get far worse.

Can’t wait to hear about those (horror) stories…

The usually-great #PaxEx at Tokyo Narita just got a needed boost!

May 23rd, 2012

Kinny Cheng

I’m a big fan of the Japanese and its culture. On every one of my trips to this amazing country, I always wish I could stay a bit longer (because it seems there’s never enough time for everything!)

Tokyo, with its hustle-and-bustle, is an amazing city. Yet, most of its inhabitants are still able to put up a seemingly happy face and a very receptive attitude, especially when it comes to customer service. You can find this pretty much anywhere you go in Japan, although it can differ between the various cities.

But no matter how willing a person is to serve, there is still a barrier of communications, which (in Japan) can be quite frustrating even when dealing with the universally-renowned English language.

At airports in Tokyo, like Haneda and Narita, this effect is way more apparent because of the service expectations having been established by the local Japanese culture — and, not forgetting, the somewhat-tenser experience before or after a flight. While I truly appreciate a staff member’s willingness to help, the inability to establish true dialogue negates those positive efforts. A real shame, to say the very least.

A possible solution: Specialised foreign language-speaking clerks

In a story by Airport News Japan last week, around 400 customer service staff at Tokyo Narita Airport were given a special badge to indicate their multilingual capability. Aptly named as “I Can Speak a Foreign Language Badge”, it allows travellers to quickly identify airport personnel who can communicate in the language they’re proficient at.

“The badges are the work of the airport administration and the Narita International Airport Tenant Liaison Council. Until recently, some stores had made their own badges, but now they have a new, uniform design that all outlets can use. The aim is to improve the quality of customer service for the airport as a whole.”

To be honest, I would consider customer service at Narita Airport to be pretty good. With the formal addition of these badges, the “eeny meeny miny mo” game of “who can I speak to” may slowly become a thing of the past.

A sample of the foreign language badge designs used at Tokyo Narita Airport (source: Airport News Japan)

Some more details of these badges:

“There are 14 types of badges in total. Ten of them are for staff who can speak one of the following languages: Chinese, Korean, Spanish, Tagalog, Thai, French, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Malay. Three others are for those who can speak one of the following combinations of two or three languages: Chinese and Korean; Chinese, Korean and Russian; Spanish, French and Swedish. There is also a blank badge to accommodate additional languages in the future.”

Prior to this, a survey was conducted showing that only 30% of front-line staff wore a badge of some kind indicating their linguistic skills.

The formal standardisation, and broader adoption, of these badges can only be a good thing for any airport, and especially so for one that’s as busy as Narita, servicing countless travellers that come to the Land of the Rising Sun from all corners of the globe. While many of us are quite aware of the friendly Japanese culture, clearly showing a willingness to help goes much further in providing a positive, and quantifiable, passenger experience.

Malaysia Airlines rewards top spenders with A380 joyride

May 22nd, 2012

Kinny Cheng

From the New Sabah Times (oh, and a fitting headline for the article, which is actually the title for this post!):

“So it was a good omen for Executive Secretary Susana Ong, Company Director Ivy Yap and full time housewife, Kristin Koh when they were announced as winners for a joyride on the first Malaysia Airlines’ A380 aircraft after purchasing tickets for their air travel.”

My kudos to the three winners!

Apparently, Malaysia Airlines (MAS) ran a contest in mid-March aimed at creating awareness for their very-first Airbus A380 superjumbo, which will be delivered by the end of this month.

The prize for the winners was a joyride.

But that wasn’t the most interesting part:

“The top three highest spenders through any of the Malaysia Airlines’ distribution channels (online, Call Centre, and ticket offices), will get the chance of a lifetime to experience Malaysia Airlines’ new A380 on a joyride flight cruising around the skies of Kuala Lumpur on 5 June 2012.”

So… to have any chance of winning, I would have had to be one of the top three spenders. Sounds like a simple-enough concept.

But using money as the basis of gauging the winners of a contest?

Seriously, MAS?

Condescending, somehow, comes to mind.

Scoot’s play on social media — puts parent to utter shame!

May 19th, 2012

Kinny Cheng

When Singapore-based low-cost-carrier Scoot, being the wholly-owned subsidiary of world-renowned Singapore Airlines, announced details of their branding to the world, many were left in a state of shock — specifically with the naming of the airline, and their decision on a rather-unique aircraft livery (or outer hull design schema).

The Facebook page cover photo for Scoot

But with much time having past, most observers have taken up a state of curiousness, waiting to see just how Scoot plays it all out.

During the course of the last couple of months, social media — via Facebook, primarily — has been one of the LCC’s primary way of reaching out and engaging with their fans and potential customers.

Yesterday, Scoot released the first photos of their newly-painted aircraft, still in the hanger surrounded by access platforms to the Boeing 777-200’s exterior hull. These photos show that we’re getting close to “job’s done!”, if not already completed — yet, they don’t show the entirety of the paint job.

No matter — because these same photos successfully manage to put the observers’ mind at rest (on “wondering just how awful it could possibly look” throughout this time) by seeing the seemingly-good-bits. At the same time, it creates an added level of suspense, which is “how will the end-product really look”, but in a more positive frame-of-mind thanks to the former clues.

Scoot’s Facebook page showing their new aircraft livery

As we etch closer to the June 4th inaugural flight, bound for Sydney, those same observers are beginning to wonder about progress. Releasing “An Exclusive 1st Look!” via Facebook, and not via the general media channels, brings the relationship with its followers (on Facebook) much closer.

Finally, to make these twelve photos really mean something, Scoot also has a “Name our Scoot Babies” campaign running, which asks its Facebook followers to “like” the page and come up with a good name. The winning entry wins a pair of air tickets on “the plane you help name”. Brilliant!

Scoot’s “Name our Scoot Babies” campaign page on Facebook

I, personally, am looking forward to being on that inaugural flight myself, having purchased my ticket some weeks back. Scoot’s use of social media has certainly impressed me — unlike what Singapore Airlines has managed after finally deciding to establish official presences on Facebook and Twitter.

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