Air Canada unveils its first Airbus A220-300

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Air Canada has unveiled its first Airbus A220, the newest member of its fleet and a continuation of the airline’s fleet modernisation programme.

The aircraft will be laid out in a two-class cabin with 137 seats. This will be separated into 12 seats in Business Class in a 2×2 configuration and 125 in a 3×2 layout for Economy.

Passengers will be able to enjoy the widest economy seats in the fleet at 19 inches, with every seat featuring a Panasonic in-flight entertainment system with content available in 15 languages and more than 1,000 hours of entertainment. The system offers dynamic closed captioning for the deaf and is also accessible to the visually impaired. The A220 will also have satellite-based, high-speed Wi-Fi.

The aircraft features the largest overhead stowage bins for an aircraft of the size, Air Canada suggests, as well as larger windows and full-colour LED ambient and customisable mood lighting.

“This is an historic moment for Air Canada as we welcome the Airbus A220 into our fleet. We are the first airline in Canada to operate this next-generation aircraft, which was designed by Bombardier in Mirabel, Quebec,” said Calin Rovinescu, Air Canada’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “Our customers will enjoy a level of comfort unrivalled on a single-aisle aircraft and the A220’s operating efficiencies promise meaningful environmental and cost benefits.”

The delivery marks the first of the airline’s order for 45 A220s, with a total list price value of US$3.8 billion for the order at the time it was made.

“I am especially pleased today given Air Canada’s role in completing the 2016 order for the C Series, as it was then called, at a time when the future of this aircraft program was in doubt. We are very proud to have paved the way for orders from other major carriers,” Rovinescu continued.

The new A220-300 will make its maiden commercial flight between Montreal and Calgary on 16 January 2020. The aircraft will initially be deployed from Montreal and Toronto on existing Canadian and transborder routes such as to Ottawa, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and New York – La Guardia.

Mark Galardo, Vice President of Network Planning at Air Canada said the A220 would allow the airline to further expand its North American network and would also present a seamless cabin experience for connecting passengers.

“Airbus is very proud to be celebrating with our longstanding customer Air Canada, as they add their first A220 to their fleet. Airbus has been in Canada for over 35 years, and today we are becoming even more Canadian as passengers from Canada are about to discover a brand new flying experience on board this state-of-the art Canadian-designed and built aircraft,” said Philippe Balducchi, CEO, Airbus Canada Limited Partnership and Head of Country Canada for Airbus.

Air Canada’s first Airbus A220-300 was built at Airbus Canada’s (previously Bombardier) Mirabel facility. Each A220 includes parts from 30 Canadian suppliers.

LATAM launches premium economy for flights wi..

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LATAM Airlines is introducing premium economy class to all national and international flights within Latin America operated by the Airbus A320 family (A319, A320, A320neo and A321) starting 16 March 2020.

Once implemented, LATAM will offer two cabin classes on over 240 aircraft operating approximately 1,280 domestic and regional flights every day.

Once onboard premium economy passengers will benefit from a seat in the first three rows of the aircraft, a middle seat blocked for greater space and privacy, an exclusive overhead bin for hand luggage and differentiated onboard service (including complimentary snacks and drinks).

While at the airport, passengers can enjoy priority check-in, baggage allowance from one to three pieces (up to 23 kg each), priority boarding, priority baggage at luggage claim and VIP lounge access in airports where available on selected international flights.

“Our goal is to continue being the first choice for customers in Latin America, and today we are launching Premium Economy, one of the most radical changes in terms of travel experience in LATAM’s history,” said Paulo Miranda, Chief Customer Officer, LATAM Airlines Group. “As part of our commitment to offering more options, flexibility and personalisation to serve all journey types, the introduction of Premium Economy will provide the possibility to choose a superior service on all our flights.”

The airline suggests it will be the only carrier to offer a premium service across its entire network which spans 145 destinations in 26 countries and five continents, with premium economy available on the short- and medium-haul aircraft and premium business on long-haul aircraft (Boeing 787, 777, 767 and Airbus A350).

Alaska Airlines announces management changes

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Alaska Airlines has announced the promotion of four veteran leaders as it continues its focus on improved guest experiences and creating continued future growth for the company.

Effective immediately, Sangita Woerner has been promoted to Senior Vice President of Marketing and Guest Experience; Charu Jain has been promoted to a new role as Senior Vice President of Merchandising and Innovation; and Vikram Baskaran will succeed Jain as the Vice President of Information Technology Services. Additionally, Kyle Levine has been promoted to Senior Vice President of Legal and General Counsel.

Woerner will continue broadening her focus on ensuring excellence in the end-to-end guest experience, and to continue growing the Alaska brand and loyalty as the company grows.

In her new role as Senior Vice President of merchandising and innovation, Jain will work closely with the commercial business, operating divisions and technology teams to implement solutions enabling the company to “continue to deliver an excellent experience for guests and employees.” Her responsibilities include driving both employee and guest-facing innovation along with taking “Alaska to the next level with merchandising our products and services, and managing our ever-evolving distribution channels.”

ExpressJet switches to Sky-Tiles

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Sky-Tiles by Interface and presented by SkyPaxxx Interior Repairs will be the exclusive aircraft carpet installed on the ExpressJet ERJ 145 fleet operated for United Express

“This is a tremendous success story for innovation in aircraft interiors and the environment created by the dedication of the ExpressJet, United Express, and SkyPaxxx team,” said Rick Lockhart, President of SkyPaxxx.

“We are excited to be upgrading our E145 aircraft interiors with Sky Tiles,” said Matthew Parsons, Manager of Corporate Communications for ExpressJet Airlines. “The new carpet will contribute significantly to the updated aesthetic and overall comfort onboard for our passengers.”

Editor’s comment: The magic of flight

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Inflight editor Alexander Preston summarises the latest happenings across IFEC and cabin technology.

CES in Las Vegas has established itself as the world’s gathering place for all those who thrive on the business of consumer technologies. For 50 years it’s served as the proving ground for innovators and breakthrough technologies, and in recent years, has become a stage for the aviation industry.

APEX CEO Dr Joe Leader represented the organisation on a panel on smart tourism and Ed Bastion, CEO of Delta Air Lines, delivered the opening keynote for CES, the first time an airline has ever done this.

But why an airline? As Bastion noted, “the gift of flight is the ultimate in innovation.”

During the keynote, and later speaking to CNBC’s Wilfred Frost, Bastian reaffirmed Delta’s commitment to providing free Wi-Fi, of which he says, “We’re not quite there yet, but we’re on the path to getting there.” The “there” for Bastian is the next two years. “And then when we get there, we have to make it the same price on the ground, which is generally free.” Delta has a dedicated team working on this currently.

Bastian also reiterated the carrier’s commitment to seatback screens and the expansion of its IFE library, including supporting ReFrame, the gender-parity coalition, with a dedicated channel of female-centred films and TV programmes.

For Delta, the seatback screen will become a passenger’s onboard hub, through which you can engage with others travelling to the same event, order meals, manage entertainment and make “sure your flight is under your control”.

The Delta Flight Products team, Bastian revealed, is making progress on the Bluetooth challenge: allowing passengers to pair their Bluetooth headphones with the IFE system.

With so much on display at CES regarding simplifying travel today and fundamentally changing travel in the future, it will be an interesting year to see what the promised technology holds for the travel and tourism industry.

The editor’s comment is published weekly as an accompaniment to the Inflight e-newsletter. If you do not currently receive our email updates, you can subscribe here.

STS Aviation Group acquires Airbase Services,..

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STS Aviation Group (STS), has acquired Montreal-based Airbase Services, Inc./Les Services Airbase, Inc., (Airbase), an aircraft interiors maintenance, repair and management specialist.

With this acquisition, STS formally enters the Canadian MRO market as Airbase has four Transport Canada approved facilities at Montreal, Toronto Pearson, Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson and Vancouver International Airports.

Mark Smith, President of STS Aviation Group, said: “We are thrilled to welcome Airbase into the STS family. The team brings decades of experience and expertise to the table, led by a proven leader in Lena Watters, and the company will certainly complement the aircraft interior work STS Aviation Services has going on right now in Shannon, Ireland.

Says Watters: “The acquisition of Airbase by STS unlocks the potential for our team to globally grow its customer base while also being able to build a stronger presence in Canada. We are very excited about the future, and we are thrilled to be a part of STS Aviation Group’s global family of companies.”

SmartSky secures additional funding as it mov..

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SmartSky Networks has received an additional US$25 million from funds managed by the Global Credit Opportunities team at BlackRock, after surpassing an important network deployment milestone on its way towards beginning commercial operations during the second quarter of 2020.

Funds managed by the Global Credit Opportunities platform at BlackRock previously committed to a $75 million credit facility, with $50 million drawn initially. The final $25 million was contingent upon the company making substantial progress on the nationwide network rollout, which it achieved in November 2019.

“SmartSky has consistently been able to attract capital from top companies because there is strong support for our technology in aviation connectivity,” said Haynes Griffin, SmartSky Chairman and CEO.

SmartSky’s new-generation network uses a novel single-beam-per-aircraft approach using both proven 4G LTE and emerging 5G technologies.

CES 2020: Gentex dimmable windows to be seen ..

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Gentex’s latest generation of electrochromic windows are to be offered by Airbus. Details of the roll-out will be revealed this spring.

The Airbus EDWs were uniquely designed to be one, single line-replaceable unit in order to make installation and maintenance easier. They also feature a longer-lasting, scratch-resistant dust cover. “We worked together with Airbus to integrate the latest dimmable windows technology while further enhancing it with an additional specialty coating,” said Gentex President and Chief Executive Officer Steve Downing. “The windows benefit aircraft operators and passengers alike, which ultimately enhances the user experience for everyone on board.”

The EDWs will allow passengers to selectively darken the aircraft windows as desired while still enabling them to view the scenery outside. The EDWs eliminate the need for traditional window shades, as well as incorporating a heat control solution which blocks infra-red energy from entering the cabin from outside – thus lessening dependence on air-conditioning systems.

Gentex EDWs feature high-speed transition between clear and dark and a new ultra-dark low-end transmission. Compared to previous designs, the latest EDWs darken twice as fast and become 100 times darker, effectively eliminating more than 99.999% of visible light.

CES 2020: Delta expands content offering; tes..

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Delta Air Lines is expanding its entertainment library with partners and its wholly owned startup Delta Flight Products.

“Our research tells us that customers really enjoy and appreciate entertainment – it is their ultimate de-stressor in flight,” said Tim Mapes, Delta’s Chief Marketing & Communications Officer. “That’s why we keep extending our position as the entertainment airline and continue growing our in-house expertise through Delta Flight Products – allowing us to explore a future where captivating content becomes part of the entire customer journey, not just in the air.”

This year, Delta will test new features like a “binge button” that will allow customers to watch entire seasons of their favourite new shows uninterrupted.

For customers who prefer a personalised experience, Delta will pilot a “recommended for you” feature that serves up a curated recommendation based on previous viewing behaviour. Delta will also test features like “do not disturb” or “wake me for meal service” for Main Cabin customers on select long-haul flights.

Delta will also become the first airline with dedicated in-flight channels spotlighting films and TV shows that meet the ReFrame Stamp standard – a mark of distinction for features that include female-identifying people in four of eight key areas of their production, including writer, director, producer, lead, co-lead, speaking parts, department heads and crew.

“We are thrilled to partner with Delta to celebrate gender-balanced films and television shows,” said ReFrame Co-founders Keri Putnam and Cathy Schulman. “We believe that diverse, impactful stories from artists around the world help us connect to new perspectives and drive meaningful dialogue – bringing all of us closer together.”

Delta’s dedicated channels will debut on board in February with films such as A Simple Favor, Crazy Rich Asians, Lady Bird, The Farewell and Second Act. TV programmes include Killing Eve, Queen Sugar and Jane The Virgin.

Movies and shows featured on Delta’s ReFrame channels will also be featured in other categories by genre.

CES 2020: Hyundai joins Uber Elevate to mass ..

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Hyundai Motor Company has become the first automotive company to join the Uber Elevate initiative, as part of a partnership to develop Uber Air Taxis for a future aerial ride share network.

In this partnership, Hyundai will produce and deploy the air vehicles and Uber will provide airspace support services, connections to ground transportation, and customer interfaces through an aerial ride share network. Both parties are collaborating on infrastructure concepts to support take-off and landing for this new class of vehicles.

“Our vision of Urban Air Mobility will transform the concept of urban transportation,” said Jaiwon Shin, Executive Vice President and Head of Hyundai’s Urban Air Mobility (UAM) Division. “We expect UAM to vitalise urban communities and provide more quality time to people. We are confident that Uber Elevate is the right partner to make this innovative product readily available to as many customers as possible.”

“Hyundai is our first vehicle partner with experience of manufacturing passenger cars on a global scale. We believe Hyundai has the potential to build Uber Air vehicles at rates unseen in the current aerospace industry, producing high quality, reliable aircraft at high volumes to drive down passenger costs per trip. Combining Hyundai’s manufacturing muscle with Uber’s technology platform represents a giant leap forward for launching a vibrant air taxi network in the coming years,” said Eric Allison, Head of Uber Elevate.

In preparation for this announcement, Hyundai has worked with Uber Elevate to develop a PAV (Personal Air Vehicle) model, S-A1, that utilises innovative design processes to optimise electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft for aerial ridesharing purposes.

It is designed for a cruising speed up to 180 miles/hr (290 km/hr), a cruising altitude of around 1,000-2,000 feet (300 – 600 mt) above ground, and to fly trips up to 60 mile (100 km).

The Hyundai vehicle will be 100% electric, utilising distributed electric propulsion and during peak hours will require about five to seven minutes for recharging.

The Hyundai vehicle will be piloted initially, but over time they will become autonomous.
The cabin is designed with four passenger seats, allowing riders to board / disembark easily and avoid the dreaded middle seat with enough space for a personal bag or backpack / rider.