Monday, December 17, 2012

Trying to make sites more trustworthy with users' personal data

A new certification program aims to make websites more transparent about sharing users' personal data. 
(CNN) -- There's a lack of trust between Internet users and the websites that collect their private data.
These sites aren't going to stop gathering personal information anytime soon, but one company hopes to make the exchange less mysterious when people sign on to a site using a social-media profile.

Logging in to third-party sites or commenting systems with Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, Google+ and other social profiles is common -- 53% of people have done it, according to a recent study by Gigya, which handles these social logins for major sites such as Pepsi, CBS and Verizon. But Gigya is more interested in the other 47% who don't use social logins and what it can do to change their minds.

In theory, signing in to a third-party site with an existing social-media account should make life a bit easier. There are no forms to fill out, no new passwords and login names to memorize. Just enter two bits of information you're already intimately familiar with from checking Facebook or Twitter a million times. Once logged in, you might even like how easy it is to share content on your profile, or enjoy seeing what your friends bought, read, listened to or watched.

In exchange for these benefits, you give that company access to personal information telling them who you are, such as your age, gender, location, e-mail address, list of friends and what your interests are. That data is extremely valuable, and is used to tailor the site or app experience to individual visitors. People who log in with a social-network profile are better customers. They stick around longer and are more engaged.
The holdouts who avoid signing in with social profiles don't want to give third-parties the keys to their personal data. They believe companies will take their profile information and sell it, spam their friends or post to their social networks without permission, according to the Gigya survey.

"There's a real question of transparency and trusting, and confusion as to what's happening," said Gigya CEO Patrick Salyer. He believes much of it is a "perception issue" and that increased transparency between companies and customers would be mutually beneficial.

That's where the Gigya's new SocialPrivacy Certification program comes in. In exchange for publicly promising to use data responsibly, sites can sport a seal proclaiming that they are certified as trustworthy. The companies must follow these rules: they will not sell your data or your friends' data, spam you with e-mails, post on your social networks or contact your friends without permission.

Gigya is training a team of 35 employees in its client-services department to audit companies to ensure they adhere to the criteria. The companies are vetted when they first request certification and audited regularly after they're signed up to make sure they're still sticking to the rules. Gigya has not settled on a price for the certification yet. Any site can apply for the program, and Gigya plans to develop a similar code of conduct for apps in the future.

In theory the certification will assuage consumers' fears, and in turn boost the usage of social logins across the web. To increase the program's credibility, Gigya consulted privacy experts and collaborated on the final product with the Future of Privacy Forum, a privacy think tank in D.C. supported by companies such as Google, Amazon and Facebook.
Currently there aren't any laws regulating what sites and apps can do with your personal information, and companies are hoping to stave off any government regulation by taking matters into their own hands with initiatives like SocialPrivacy Certification.

"There's no obligation to be a good privacy citizen unless it's health or banking information," said Jules Polonetsky, director and co-chair of the Future of Privacy Forum.

Facebook, Twitter and some other networks have guidelines for developers that prohibit some of these behaviors, including bans on selling data. But by taking it one step further and publicly declaring it won't misuse personal data, a site can suddenly be held accountable for any violations by a group with a bit more power: the Federal Trade Commission.

"The FTC can sue you for making a deceptive statement to users who relied on that when they signed onto your site," said Polonetsky.

The SocialPrivacy Certification program is launching with a handful or partners, including Martha Stewart and the Toronto Globe and Mail. Until it becomes standard across the industry, its usefulness will be limited. But as long as people remain paranoid and hesitant to share their information, sites that want that data will be motivated to be more transparent.

Wal-Mart slashes prices on iPhone and iPad

If you're looking for the cheapest iPhone or iPad that isn't used, Wal-Mart is the first place you should turn this holiday season.

The retail giant announced plans Friday to offer the 16 GB iPhone 5 for $127 (normally $189.97) and the 16GB iPhone 4S for $47 (normally $87.97), along with a two-year contract. They'll also sell the third-generation iPad for $399.

While it was reported elsewhere that Wal-Mart is discounting the recently announced fourth-generation iPad, a Wal-Mart spokesperson confirmed with CNNMoney that it is, in fact, the third-generation model, which has a less powerful CPU.

Apple (AAPL, Fortune 500) discounts aren't unheard of this time of year, but Wal-Mart's (WMT, Fortune 500) will be tough to beat. Best Buy (BBY, Fortune 500) and Radio Shack (RSH) both have discounts on the iPhone 5 and iPhone 4S, offering as much as $50 off advertised prices, along with gift certificates to sweeten the deal. Apple's own Black Friday sale offered up iPods and previous-geneneration iPads for $30-$40 off the regular price.

As for the iPad discount, Wal-Mart appears to be following in the footsteps of past sales. In July, Fry's knocked $100 off the iPad 2. But by then, the iPad 3 had already been available for almost six months.
While the iPad sales just seem like an offloading of stale products, Wal-Mart's motivations for discounting the iPhone aren't exactly clear. Some, such as the LA Times, speculate that dragging sales are to blame.

Whatever the case, it's best not to sleep on this deal if you're in the market for one of these devices. Wal-Mart told MacRumors that the sale is first come, first serve depending on inventory, and rain checks will not be issued.

May the shopping gods be with you. To top of page

HTML5: The future of the Web is finally here

HTML5, which will power the next generation of websites and smartphone apps, is now complete.

The tool that promises to launch the next era of websites, smartphone apps and online video is finally finished.

HTML5, the long-in-the-works update to the language that powers the Web, is "feature complete," according to an announcement made Monday by the standards-setting Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C). There's still some testing to be done, and it hasn't yet become an official Web standard -- that will come in 2014. But there won't be any new features added to HTML5, which means Web designers and app makers now have a "stable target" for implementing it, W3C said.

The HTML5 language lets developers deliver in-the-browser experiences that previously required standalone apps or additional software like Java, Adobe's (ADBE) Flash or Microsoft's (MSFT, Fortune 500) Silverlight. It supports lightning-fast video and geolocation services, offline tools and touch, among other bells and whistles.

The W3C has been developing the spec for the better part of a decade.

"As of today, businesses know what they can rely on for HTML5 in the coming years," W3C CEO Jeff Jaffe said in a prepared statement. "Likewise, developers will know what skills to cultivate to reach smart phones, cars, televisions, e-books, digital signs, and devices not yet known."

Most of the top browser makers didn't wait for the language to be 100% finished before building support for some elements into their software. The latest versions of Microsoft Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Apple Safari are already compatible with most HTML5 elements.

App developers followed suit.

Netflix (NFLX) and Google's YouTube are two of the most prominent HTML5 adopters, but many others have also taken the leap. The Financial Times abandoned its smartphone app last year in favor of an HTML5 mobile website. The site looked and functioned like a native app -- with the advantage that FT didn't have to make changes to multiple versions of its code on multiple smartphone platforms. (Using a mobile website instead of a native app also let FT avoid paying Apple for in-app purchases.)

Google (GOOG, Fortune 500), a strong supporter of HTML5, produced a viral interactive video in 2010 with the help of rock band Arcade Fire that showed off the potential of the new Web features. Firefox browser maker Mozilla made a splash in February when it created a smartphone operating system called "Boot to Gecko," which is almost entirely based in HTML 5.

HTML5 grew prevalent enough by 2010 that then-Apple CEO Steve Jobs was able to unleash an epic rant against Flash and get away with it. A year later, Adobe more or less conceded that Jobs was right, abandoning its mobile Flash software in favor of HTML5 support. In November 2011 blog post, Adobe called HTML5 "the best solution for creating and deploying content in the browser across mobile platforms."

There's still more work to be done. W3C said that about 63% of Web and app developers are actively using HTML5 to make their sites and software, but "browser fragmentation" remains a big reason why many still aren't using it. Though most up-to-date browsers support at least some aspects of HTML5, older versions of some Web browsers like Microsoft's (MSFT, Fortune 500) Internet Explorer don't.

That's why W3C is working on cementing HTML5 as a new Web standard, making it interoperable and fully supported by any modern browser. It will take two years to complete the testing and standardization of HTML5, the consortium said.

What's next? W3C is already working on HTML 5.1, the first parts of which were just submitted in draft form. To top of page

AirAsia inks huge Airbus deal

AirAsia has ordered 264 A320neo and 211 A320ceo aircraft, according to an Airbus statement.
Malaysia-based low-cost carrier AirAsia has placed an order for 100 more Airbus aircraft.
Even before this new deal, AirAsia was Airbus’ best customer in the world for A320 jets.
The 100 new planes brings AirAsia's total Airbus A320 orders to 475.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron presided over the official signing ceremony at the UK Airbus wing manufacturing facility in Broughton for the reported US$9.3 billion deal.

“AirAsia is one of the great success stories of recent years in the airline business,” Airbus President and CEO Fabrice Brégier said in a press statement.

The new order comprises 36 A320 with the current engine option and 64 A320 jets featuring the new engine option with 15 percent lower fuel consumption.

Cold, terrifying and incredible: Europe's highest suspension bridge opens

The Titlis Cliff Walk in Switzerland hangs 3,000 meters above sea level, offers mountainous views and sweaty palms

Europe’s highest suspension bridge has opened to the public at Engelberg, Switzerland’s popular ski destination.

The frighteningly high, 100-meter-long Titlis Cliff Walk, built along a section of Mount Titlis, was built in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Engelberg-Gerschnialp cableway, which began operating in 1913.
Hanging approximately 3,000 meters above sea level, the bridge offers views that extend as far as 500 meters down "into the abyss of the south wall" on days with good visibility.

“It is 100 percent safe and impossible to fall from the bridge,” Peter Reinle, the media representative for the Titlis Engelberg resort told CNN.

The Cliff Walk has usurped Salbit Bridge, also located in Switzerland, as Europe’s highest suspension bridge.
The route to the new bridge is a superlative journey in itself, passing through a 140-meter underground tunnel. Construction took four months and cost 1.5 million Swiss francs (US$1.6 million).
The Cliff Walk is the latest addition to the attractions at Engelberg, which include spectacular ski and snowboard runs, a glacier cave, a glacier park and the first revolving cable car in the world.

Reinle said that approximately 500 people had crossed the bridge since it opened to visitors on Friday, and that “most of the visitors had been impressed.”

Wasserfallstrasse 108, 6390 Engelberg, Switzerland; +41 41 639 50 50;

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Behind the Scenes at London City Airport – Airlines and Operators

Recently I had the pleasure of shadowing staff at London City Airport to see what goes on behind the scenes this at busy Docklands airport in the middle of the city.

In the first post, I shadowed the opening of the airport with the Controllers in the Ops Room. In the second I visited the Ramp Control Team as they monitored and planned each aircraft operation.

In this final post, I talk to Geraldine Nolan, Corporate Communications Support, about the vision, airline operators, and the future of London City.

London City History

London City Airport opened in 1987 on a former dock in the East London borough of Newham. Its location, only six miles from the City and Canary Wharf, was key in that it provided close connections to the heart of London, allowing business travellers to fly to European cities with speed and ease not offered by Heathrow or Gatwick. The development of the Docklands Light Railway (DLR), with a station at the airport, also allowed easy access to the city’s transport network.

The airport’s short runway meant only certain aircraft types could operate into the airport, and thus range and passenger capacity were limited. The runway was later extended to 1,500m (4,900ft) and a holding area was added to improve the flow of aircraft. The glideslop to the runway was also reduced to 5.5 degrees (from 7.5), however this is still steep enough to require special certification for pilots and aircraft operating into the airport.

London City Today

Today, London City is still primarily a business airport. Geraldine explains that approximately 65% of passengers travel for this reason. However, 35% are leisure passengers – a figure which has risen recently due to the addition of numerous routes by BA CityFlyer to holiday destinations such as Ibiza and Palma.

The airport is owned by Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP), who also own London Gatwick and Edinburgh airports.

The largest aircraft currently certified to fly into London City are the Airbus A318 and Embraer 190. Recently, all stands have been realigned to cope with the E190 as more airlines have introduced it. The A318s, used by British Airways on their twice weekdaily New York JFK route (via Shannon) exclusively use the extended stands at the eastern end of the apron.

The airport’s terminal has been extended and improved over recent years, with a particular emphasis on the needs of its business passengers. As a result, there are no dedicated business lounges (however, a small lounge does exist for the New York

Current operations to around 40 destinations are dominated by BA CityFlyer, who operate EMB170/190, and Saab 2000 aircraft. Other principal carriers include Alitalia CityLiner (EMB175/190), Blue Islands (ATR42), British Airways (A318), CityJet (RJ85/100, F50), Lufthansa Regional (EMB190, Q400), Luxair (Q400), Scot Airways (DO328), Skywork (DO328), Swiss European (RJ85/100).

Estonian Air will also begin a new routes to Tallinn with EMB190 aircraft from March 2013.

A Jet Centre at the western end of the airport handles VIP movements, with its own parking apron for executive jets.

London City Future

The airport today handles around 3 million passengers per year and has worked hard to improve efficiency during peak periods. Geraldine explains “We have around 540 employees at the airport, with a further 1,500 employed at concessions and other businesses on the site.”

The future plan is to extend the airport further, adding more parking stands on piles along the largely redundant King George V Dock. It will remain a single-runway airport, however it is hoped that the airport will attain a capacity of 8 million passengers per year by 2030.

The airport has won numerous awards over recent years, and remains committed to its social responsibility, given its location amongst a built-up area. Its popularity is set to ensure the airport will continue to thrive as it moves forward with its expansion plans.

Behind the Scenes at London City Airport – Ramp Operations

Recently I had the pleasure of shadowing staff at London City Airport to see what goes on behind the scenes this at busy Docklands airport in the middle of the city.

In the first post, I shadowed the opening of the airport with the Controllers in the Ops Room. Now, in this second post we look at what goes on once the airport is open.

Ramp Control

Situated in the Jet Centre, which is a VIP terminal at the western end of the apron, is the Ramp Control team. Here, two controllers and a third member performing admin duties, are on shift at any one time. On my visit, I met Winston and Natasha, who were in the chair in front of a bank of screens and monitors.

The role of the team is to allocate stands to all inbound aircraft, communicate with ramp operators and bus drivers, and the handling agents working for each company.

The bank of screens allows the team to monitor a radar of inbound aircraft, live cameras looking across the ramp, CFMU (showing slot information for inbound and outbound aircraft), Lynx online flight status system (showing where delays occur with each flight), the live arrivals and departures board (which the team updates), and a system allowing them to assign parking stands for each aircraft due that day.

In between describing their role to me, Winston and Natasha were in constant contact with the various operators to keep them updated of inbound aircraft.

Reducing Delays

Winston explained that it is their duty to try to avoid delays. The ramp is split into four sections, and they will try to ensure that two simultaneous aircraft are not assigned to park in the same section, giving ground operators time to avoid loading delays and peak time stress.

The Lynx online system is currently used by all BA CityFlyer aircraft, and is a way of assessing where delays are occurring or expected with each flight. It splits the whole time on the ground into tasks, such as unloading, refuelling, loading bags etc and this gives the team an indication of where efforts need to be improved or assessed. Punctuality statistics are produced by the team every day, showing the previous day’s performance, and sent to management to assess.

Biz Jets

Executive aircraft using London City are usually handled by the Jet Centre, with its own parking apron. However, sometimes large biz jets will be allocated a stand outside the passenger terminal. On the flip side, if a passenger aircraft has a technical problem, it is often moved to the executive ramp while the issue is resolved in order to keep the passenger stands free.

Stand Assignments

London City has 14 stands, and is extremely confined in terms of space due to its location on a former dock. As a result, the Ramp team needs to make sure there is always space for aircraft to park. This is particularly difficult during the morning and evening peak periods, and where necessary they will advise ATC to delay inbounds in order to allow aircraft on the ground to depart.

All of the stands outside the terminal have now been realigned to allow the larger Embraer 190 aircraft to park, which has made it easier to assign aircraft since any aircraft can now use any stand. However, the British Airways Airbus A318 aircraft used on the New York JFK route take two stands out of action for a longer period of time.

Peak Flow

At its peak morning period, London City’s Ramp Control Team will handle around 56 aircraft. There are usually 117 movements per day on weekdays. Most of the time, aircraft have a 30 minute turnaround.

Better Relations

Agents on the ground are encouraged to shadow the Ramp Control Team in the hope of helping them understand the decisions made which affect their work. This is to help improve relations between the two teams, and also improve the performance of the airport.

GOL orders 60 737MAX aircraft

In South America’s biggest single aircraft order ever (at list prices), GOL Linhas Aereas has announced its intention to purchase 60 Boeing 737MAX.

At list prices, Boeing says the order is worth $6bn, though airlines routinely negotiate discounts for larger orders.

GOL’s CEO, Paulo Kakinoff, stated: ”The decision to order Boeing 737 MAX is in line with our commitment to maintaining a modern and safe fleet that will allow us to sustain our competitive advantage in the long term.”

Behind the Scenes at London City Airport – Opening the Airport

Recently I had the pleasure of shadowing staff at London City Airport to see what goes on behind the scenes this at busy Docklands airport in the middle of the city.

In this first post, we look at what goes on immediately prior to opening the airport to aircraft each morning.

Airport Hours

London City Airport is principally a business airport – currently with a 60% dominance over leisure passengers. It is therefore incredibly busy during the early morning hours as people travel out to various European cities, and arrive in to the heart of London. This airport is the only one with a London postcode, and is only a few miles from the skyscrapers around Canary Wharf.

The morning rush hour is generally between 0600-0930, and so it is imperative to inspect the airport prior to its opening to traffic.

 Inspecting the Runway

Upon my arrival at 0530 I met Mia, who is the Controller this morning, and Nick, who is training in the role.

Her first task is to check the weather and any urgent e-mails or messages, and then set off for an inspection of the runway and taxiway lighting. I tagged along to observe.

It was still dark outside, and the ramp was full of airliners being prepared for departure. We drove out to the end of runway 09 to check the approach lighting, followed by a sweep along the runway to check the opposite end. We made a number of passes, checking the side lighting, stopbar lighting, taxiway lighting, and looking out for any FOD (Foreign Object Debris).

During the colder winter months, the team also make sure the whole airport is de-iced. Their responsibility is safety.

These checks are repeated throughout the day, but the first one is vital to ensure the airport is safe to open. Shortly before 6am, we made one last check and then Mia radioed to ATC to declare the runway safe, its water condition, and inform them that they now have control of the airport.

First Departure

Only minutes after this handover, the first departure of the day – Swiss European RJ100 HB-IXN started taxiing to the runway for its departure to Zurich. Moments later, the first arrival also appeared on final approach to runway 27.

Inside the Ops Room

Situated in a corner of the terminal building with quick access to the ramp, the Ops Room is home to a number of key staff who continually monitor the airport throughout the day – responding to incidents, issues arising from any of the daily movements, inspecting the runway, and noise emission checks (London City is surrounded by housing). They also look after permits, vehicle maintenance, wildlife data and and gun licenses for controlling this, and a document library.

One person always sits in the ‘chair’, monitoring a variety of telephones and radio equipment, screens showing live cameras, aircraft radar, weather information, NOTAMS (Notices to Airmen), and live flight details; it really is the hub of keeping this busy airport operating. Whilst the busy period subsides for a few hours, the evening can be just as hectic and a fresh crew take over for this shift during the afternoon.

Every Sunday, when the airfield is closed for the morning, the team will undertake a ‘walking inspection’ of the runway, noting any defects and often dealing with them on the spot where possible. Otherwise, this period is when contractors and workmen are called in to perform any airside repairs and maintenance.

Silver Airways expansion continues

The new darling regional carrier of the southern USA, Silver Airways, has announced further expansion of its route network with new services from Alabama and Mississippi.

These include flights from Greenville, Tupelo, Hattiesburg-Laurel and Meridian, Mississippi, as well as Muscle Shoals, Alabama, to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL).

Since its inception in December 2011, Silver Airways has grown its route network by 60%, adding new destinations to its intra-Florida network, now the largest in the State in terms of the total number of gateways and daily flights, while also opening new hubs in Washington, DC and Atlanta.  At the same time, the company has invested heavily in new technology and equipment, modernizing and upgrading its fleet with the addition of 15 Saab 340Bplus aircraft between December 2011 and September 2012.

(An additional six Saab 340Bplus aircraft will enter the Silver Airways fleet by January 1, 2013.)

“At Silver Airways, we only know one way to do things, and that’s first class,” said CEO Darrell Richardson.  “We’re coming to Mississippi and Alabama on a mission to elevate air travel in the region to new heights.  It all starts on the first of October, and we couldn’t be more excited.”

Round the OneWorld Challenge Completed!

You may remember I wrote about a challenge that was being undertaken by British Airways’ Richard Tams, and Emerald top tier frequent flier Andrew Solum which would see them circumnavigate the globe and travel on every oneworld member airline.

Well, the guys have done it!

Not only did they make every flight and airline, but they also more than reached their target of raising £20,000 for the Comic Relief Flying Start charity. Such a fantastic achievement, and I know they send their thanks to everyone who donated.

Their trip started and ended in New York, with countries visited including Japan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Spain, Russia, Jordan, United Kingdom, Finland and Germany.

For a good read about their travels on each flight, have a look at their blog here:

Cubana planning Antonov 158 fleet

Cubana is planning to order a fleet of six Antonov AN-158 aircraft.

These will be used on flights from its Havana base to destinations around the Caribbean and into Central America.

The AN-148 is a stretched version of the AN-148. It can seat 99 passengers and has a range of 1,600 miles (2,500km).

It is unclear whether this order is in addition to the three Antonov AN-148s already on order, or whether it is a modification of the original order.

LOT Polish 787 flights in Europe

LOT Polish Airlines has announced a series of intra-European flights on their new Boeing 787 aircraft to aid in crew familiarity.

The first aircraft is due for delivery in November, making LOT the first European airline to take on the Dreamliner.

The European flights are bookable now, and include:

Warsaw – Brussels, 3rd, 5th, 6th, 9th, 10th January 2013
Warsaw – Budapest, 11th-14th January 2013
Warsaw – Frankfurt, 3rd-6th,  9th, 10th January 2013
Warsaw – Hanover, 23rd December 2012 & 4th January 2013
Warsaw – Kiev, 17th, 20th, 27th December 2012
Warsaw – London Heathrow, 22nd, 29th, 31st December 2012, 1st-2nd January 2013.
Warsaw – Munich, 14th-16th, 18th, 19th, 28th December 2012
Warsaw – Prague, 14th-16th, 18th-20th, 28th December 2012 & 2nd, 11th-14th January 2013.
Warsaw – Vienna, 17th, 21st-24th, 27th, 29th, 30th December 2012 & 13th January

Air Canada to launch a low cost carrier

Following the recent announcement that Lufthansa are to launch a new low cost carrier to handle short haul flying, Air Canada have also now announced their intentions to start a new low cost subsidiary to help increase their share on new and existing markets.

Full details, including the name, will be announced in the next few weeks. However, it has been announced already that this new LCC will operate a fleet of 20 reconditioned Boeing 767s and 19 Airbus A319s; both will be sourced from the mainline Air Canada fleet, but will feature additional seating.

This new carrier will target Caribbean, trans-Atlantic and US leisure routes, particularly where Air Canada doesn’t already have a service. However, some existing Air Canada routes will switch over to this new carrier.

Will Lufthansa Start a Low Cost Carrier?

Lufthansa have indicated that they’re looking to start a low-cost airline to handle a portion of their European flying.

The German national carrier has already stated that these European operations are losing money in the order of hundreds of millions per year, which clearly needs to be changed.

A new project, provisionally titled Direct4You has been proposed as a means of returning these operations to profitability and competing against other low-cost carriers on similar routes in Europe.

No mention was given about Germanwings – a German low-cost airline which Lufthansa has a stake in.

British Airways 787 and A380 delivery dates

The CEO of British Airways, Keith Williams, has made an announcement regarding the expected delivery dates of the carrier’s Airbus A380 and Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft.

The first of the eight 787s on order will be delivered in May 2013.

The first of the 12 A380s on order will be delivered in July 2013.

This will be a significant year for the carrier as it takes on these new aircraft. I already posted about the expected routes for the aircraft here, but Heathrow is going to be the place to see them for sure next Summer.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Iberia wins award for Madrid Terminal 4 Agora project

Iberia, the Spanish national airline, has won “the best passenger assistance initiative” award at the Future Travel Experiences event in Vancouver.

This is in recognition for Iberia‘s Agora project at Madrid’s Terminal 4 – the main hub for the airline, and one of the most modern airport terminals in Europe.

The Agora project aims to improve flight punctuality and customer experience, making Terminal 4 one of the most efficient and user-friendly airport terminals. There’s a video about the project (in Spanish) here

Part of the improvements brought about by Iberia sees all pursers carry iPads loaded with passenger information to help the airline serve them better. Iberia’s Deputy Manager for Coordination and Hub, Dimitris Bountolos, said: “It was very exciting. We have begun to inspire others and this is a great responsibility.”

Friday, September 14, 2012

Virgin Atlantic announces Manchester to London Heathrow route

Virgin Atlantic will fly its first domestic route from the summer 2013 timetable as it begins linking Manchester with London Heathrow multiple times per day.

The airline feels that since the sale of bmi British Midland to British Airways/IAG Group earlier this year, this key route has been overlooked and now has a lack of competition.

Virgin will therefore deploy Airbus A319 aircraft – the source of which is not known yet – on the route, to tap into the 650,000 yearly passengers who fly between the two cities. The route will begin on 31st March, 2013.
This will provide an important business link to the capital, but also more importantly a link from the north of England into Virgin Atlantic’s extensive long-haul network out of Heathrow.

Virgin Atlantic chief executive, Steve Ridgway said: “Flying between Heathrow and Manchester is just the start for Virgin Atlantic’s new short haul operation. We have the means to connect thousands of passengers to our long haul network as well as to destinations served by other carriers.

Spotting at Fukuoka Airport

Fukuoka is Japan’s fourth busiest airport, located on the island of Kyushu in southern Japan. The airport is busy with domestic flights from elsewhere in Japan, and due to its enclosed location in amongst the city, it is quite cramped.

Fukuoka Airport has three domestic terminals on one side of the single runway, and international terminal and cargo terminal on the opposite side.

Almost all airlines using Fukuoka are from elsewhere in the Far East, with many Japanese airlines also serving the airport. There are no direct flights from Europe.

Where to Spot

Domestic Terminal 1 Observation Deck
A free, outdoor observation deck accessed from floor 2F. Open 7am to 8pm. Good all-round views, but fences can hinder photography.
There is also an indoor observation area in Domestic Terminal 1, with good views and shelter from the weather.
Domestic Terminal 2 Observation Deck
This observation deck is accessed from floor 3F, and is open 7am to 9.30pm. It has better views over the runway towards the international terminal, and of the southern end of the runway. Photography is through glass, so not ideal.

International Terminal Observation Decks
There are two observation decks on top of the international terminal – one at either end. Free of charge and open from 7am to 8.30pm, with views across the international gates, runway, and across to the domestic terminals.

Spotting Hotels?
Sadly there are no hotels at Fukuoka that are good for spotting from. But there are plenty of nearby hotels to use nevertheless.

Fukuoka is just one of the 42 airports covered in my book, Airport Spotting Guides Europe. Get your copy today!

United Airlines 787s – more routes announced

United Airlines has announced more routes that its new Boeing 787 Dreamliners will fly on. Their first aircraft made a test flight looking resplendent in full United colours earlier this week. They should take delivery of this aircraft in September, with many more to follow.

The initial route, previously announced was between Denver and Tokyo Narita (5x weekly, starting 31 March 2013). However, United has announced that its Dreamliners will also be flying on the following routes:

- Houston to Amsterdam Schiphol. Temporary service, starting 4 December 2012.
- Houston to London Heathrow. Temporary service, starting 4 February 2013.
- Houston to Lagos, Nigeria. 5x weekly, starting 7 January 2013.
- Los Angeles to Tokyo Narita, Japan. Daily, starting 3 January 2013.
- Los Angeles to Shanghai, China. Daily, starting 30 March 2013.

If you want to be lucky enough to travel on these services, the 787 aircraft will display for sale for these routes on and other distribution channels beginning Aug. 25, while Denver to Narita service is available for sale now.

Philippine Airlines’ 54 Airbus order

Philippine Airlines has announced a huge order with Airbus for 54 aircraft as part of a major fleet modernization and renewal programme at the airline.

The order breaks down into:
34x A321
10x A321neo
10x A330-300

Deliveries will start in 2013, with older types being replaced, and the airline’s domestic and regional network being developed further.

The Airbus A330s will allow further long haul expansion, with Australia and the Middle East a particular focus. PAL chairman Lucio Tan said in a statement: ”The orders we are placing with Airbus will play a key role in revitalising PAL, while growing trade and tourism in the country,”

“With these aircraft, we will be able to offer more passengers the industry has to offer across out Asia-Pacific network. At the same time, we will benefit from the low operating costs associated with new generation aircraft and the reduced impact on the environment.”

United Airlines 787 domestic flights

Prior to going into service, United Airlines will flying its first Boeing 787 aircraft (the first one in North America) on a number of domestic routes for the rest of the year in order to increase crew familiarity of the type – and no doubt to get the flying public swooning over it!

This is in addition to the previously announced international routes.
Here’s a run down of where you can expect to see it domestically:

Houston – San Francisco – 5x weekly, 4th November – 2nd December
Houston – San Francisco – 1x Daily, 3rd December – 3rd January 2013
Houston – Los Angeles – 6x weekly, 4th November – 3rd December
Houston – Los Angeles – 1x Daily, 4th December – 31st March
Houston – Chicago O’Hare – 6x weekly, 4th November – 3rd December
Houston – Chicago O’Hare – 1x Daily, 4th January – 29th March
Houston – Newark – 1x Daily, 4th November – 3rd January (excluding 18th November)
Houston – Cleveland – 1 flight only, 10th November (0700 out – 1600 back)
Houston – Washington Dulles – 1 flight only, 17th November (0700 out – 1550 back)
Houston –  Denver – 1x Daily, 5th December – 2nd January
Houston –  Denver – 1x Daily, 31st March onwards

Welcome to South America – LAN’s 787 arrives

LAN Airlines has taken delivery of its first Boeing 787 Dreamliner, CC-BBA, becoming the first airline in the Americas to do so. It is also only the fourth airline in the world to take delivery of the type. The aircraft arrived at Santiago de Chile by performing a low pass, before landing and taxiing under a water cannon salute.

LAN will fly the 787 Dreamliner from its Santiago base to Buenos Aires and Lima initially. These routes start in October.

Then, as more aircraft are delivered, they will be seen on routes to Los Angeles, Frankfurt, and Madrid.

LAN Airlines’ CEO, Ignacio Cueto, stressed the importance of the delivery for the Company and celebrated the benefits this aircraft will have both for the regional aviation industry and the travel experience of passengers:

“LAN is proud to be the first airline in the Americas to receive the 787 Dreamliner,” said Ignacio Cueto, CEO LAN Airlines.   “This is not only a milestone for LAN, but also for all of our passengers that will experience an enhanced LAN in-flight experience thanks to the cutting edge technology and visionary elements of this new aircraft. The Dreamliner will make it possible for us to cover greater distances in a more environmentally conscious and highly efficient  aircraft which will help ensure our sustainable growth“.
The cabin configuration aboard LAN’s first 787-8 will be 217 seats in Economy and 30 seats in Premium Business.
Keep an eye on our 787 Routes page for more planned services.

Thai Airways A380 delivery in September

Thai Airways is to received its first Airbus A380 in September, with entry to service due in October. The aircraft recently appeared in full colours at the Hamburg Finkenwerder facility in Germany, where it had recently flown to for painting.

Thai will use their Airbus A380s on routes from Bangkok to European destinations such as Frankfurt and Paris CDG. Initially they will operate to Hong Kong and Singapore from 28 October, and from Januray also to Tokyo Narita.

THAI will become the ninth operator of the A380 when it takes delivery of first the aircraft in the third quarter this year. The airline has firm orders for six A380s.

Round the world charity trip in seven days

A good friend of mine, Andrew Solum, and British Airways‘ Head of UK & Ireland Sales, Richard Tams, are about to embark upon a fantastic journey in the hope of raising money for charity.

Their target is to raise £20,000 for the Comic Relief Flying Start charity, supported by British Airways and aimed at improving the lives of countless children every year.

Their challenge? Well, they’ve got to get around the world in seven days, starting in New York on 15th September, and using every Oneworld airline partner.

The journey will start with American Airlines from New York to Chicago then on to the Tokyo Narita international hub of Japan Airlines.

The following day they will fly with Japan Airlines from Tokyo to the Hong Kong home of Cathay Pacific and on September 17 undertake a three-flight schedule from Hong Kong to Kuala Lumpur with Cathay Pacific, Kuala Lumpur to Singapore with Malaysia Airlines, which is on track to join oneworld at the turn of the year. They will then travel on from Singapore to London Heathrow with Qantas arriving early on September 18.
British Airways will carry them on to Amman, base of Royal Jordanian.
On September 19 they will fly from Amman to Frankfurt with Royal Jordanian, then with airberlin to Germany’s capital city.
On September 20, they will take to the air again with airberlin to Frankfurt, then off with LAN to Madrid. From its base at the Spanish capital, Iberia will then carry them to the Moscow hub of S7, landing early on September 21, before a swift transfer to S7 for a flight to St. Petersburg.

The following day (September 22) they will begin the last leg of their journey heading with Finnair from St Petersburg to its own Helsinki home then on to Heathrow to connect on to their final flight, a British Airways jet from London to New York arriving at 8.55pm local time.

In total they will cover just over 30,000 miles, flying along the way on every oneworld member airline and via 11 of the alliance’s major hubs.

Tams said: “I’ve done a lot of flying in my time at British Airways, but never so many destinations in such a short period. We’ll be going through 16 airports, flying on ten different aircraft types and visiting 11 countries on 12 airlines. We won’t even have time to stop and enjoy the views!

Mr Solum, a management consultant and oneworld Emerald top tier frequent flyer, said “it will be tough going on standby staff tickets with no guarantee where we’ll be seated, but at the end of the day, every penny we raise will make a difference to a child – and that is really our driving force for this challenge.”

Tams added “We’re enormously grateful to our oneworld partners for supporting our challenge – it’s a great reflection of the reach the alliance has. I’d also like to thank our hotel partners in this, the Global Hotel Alliance, Starwood and Marriott.”

“The travel trade have also already been really supportive and we’ve already hit £8,000+ of our target but we really want to reach at least £20,000 so we’re asking everyone to dig deep and help us out. Anyone can pledge money at:”

The money raised will all go directly to Flying Start, the global charity partnership between British Airways and Comic Relief UK. It will help to improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of children living in the UK and in some of the poorest countries across the world. The aim of the charity is to help create lasting change by giving children and their families the chance to start supporting themselves.

The intrepid travellers will be blogging their adventures and experiences, so stay tuned for further details!

Philippine Airlines wants to build its own Manila Airport

Recent news from the Philippines suggests that national carrier Philippine Airlines, which recently announced a mega order for 54 Airbus aircraft, wants to build its own airport. Given the recent news from Ryanair, who want to buy London Stansted Airport, this seems to be a growing trend.

Philippine Airlines would construct a new airport with parallel runways and a terminal dedicated to the airline, and its PAL Express subsidiary. Presumably this would serve Manila, as the airline has already decided against a hub at Clark Airport due to its distance from the city.

The airline would then move operations out of the crowded Ninoy Aquino International Airport which currently serves Manila.

Whether they’d allow other airlines to operate into their airport has not been announced, but airline president Ramon Ang said they intend to seek government approval for the airport soon.

Will Ryanair buy Stansted Airport?

That’s what recent news stories seems to suggest. Ryanair – who yesterday claimed they’d buy a dog if it was the right price – are looking to take a 25% stake in London Stansted Airport now that BAA has been forced to sell it.

Believing that owning a significant stake in arguably its most significant airport would allow it to grow traffic at the airport, Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary recently commented “There is enormous opportunity for cutting the cost base at Stansted. You could take the airport [from 30 million] to 60 million passengers a year and account for nearly all the growth in the southeast.”

“We’d change the whole structure of the airport to lower costs, increase the number of flights and increase traffic.”

Ryanair would invest no more than 24.99% into the airport, as part of a consortium buying the facility from BAA.

Bye bye (bmi)baby

Today is the final day of operations for bmibaby.

It was launched in 2002 by parent, bmi British Midland International, as a way to compete with the large number of low cost airlines springing up across Europe, and in particular easyJet and Ryanair. The low cost carrier, which operated flights using Boeing 737-300 and -500 aircraft, flew to a number of leisure and city destinations across Europe from its UK bases.

The airline’s fleet was sourced from bmi, who were replacing their older 737s with new Airbus A320 family aircraft.

Now, since the sale of bmi to IAG Group, and its incorporation into British Airways, along with the sale of bmi Regional to a group of Scottish investors, there’s no longer any hope for bmibaby which could not find a buyer.

I flew with bmibaby a number of times when they had a base at Durham Tees Valley Airport, and will miss their friendly colour scheme.

Phuket Airport expansion begins

Phuket Airport in Thailand is bursting at the seams. Its owners, Airports of Thailand, has therefore begun an expansion process to help it cope.

The process will be split into three phases, and will be completed by April 2015 if all goes to plan.

The first phase is the construction of a new International Terminal. This will be able to handle six million passengers per year, and take the airport’s capacity up to 12.5 million passengers per year (it is currently at 6.5 million, but expected to handle 9.3 million this year). The new terminal is due for completion in late 2013.
Other phases will see modification of the old terminal building, the addition of ten new aircraft parking stands, a taxiway extension, and new car park.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Lindsay Lohan: Negative press is BS

Lindsay Lohan has appeared to stay true to her word that she's serious about turning her public image and career around, landing movie roles and working hard enough to collapse from exhaustion.
But that doesn't mean the 26-year-old actress has escaped troubling headlines .

In her view, "all of this negative press is BS," Lohan tweeted August 22. "Whenever I'm doing great, people fabricate lies. It's such a shame. I'm just sayin."

There was news of a car accident, and lately it's been a Hollywood burglary that Lohan's name has been associated with. The incident happened on August 18, and while she and her assistant were considered suspects in the case, prosecutors have concluded there's not enough evidence to press charges.
It seems the gentleman robbed, a man by the name of Sam Magid, who had a "longstanding relationship" with Lohan, opted against prosecuting after learning that the actress was a suspect in the case.

According to her rep, Lohan's "glad this matter has been cleared up so she can focus on her upcoming projects," presumably "The Canyons," and perhaps promotion for her portrayal of Elizabeth Taylor in Lifetime's "Liz and Dick."

She tweeted on August 25, "Cleaning MY jewels :) ...... I love feeling like Elizabeth."

Obama: No offense taken at Eastwood speech

(CNN) – President Barack Obama said in an interview published Sunday he took no offense at Clint Eastwood's prime-time address at the Republican National Convention, in which the legendary actor and director posed questions to an empty chair, which he said represented the Democratic incumbent.
"One thing about being president or running for president - if you're easily offended, you should probably choose another profession," Obama told USA Today.

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Eastwood's speech came the same night Mitt Romney accepted the Republican presidential nomination in Tampa, Florida. The sprawling, off-the-cuff address drew criticism from some, who said Eastwood's unorthodox remarks overshadowed Romney. The Republican nominee's advisers wrote off the criticism, saying the crowd found Eastwood's remarks funny.
"He's a great messenger. The guy is an American treasure," Romney senior strategist Stuart Stevens said.
Obama agreed with that sentiment in the USA Today interview, calling Eastwood "a great actor, and an even better director."

"I think the last few movies that he's made have been terrific," the president added.
That appreciation, however, doesn't mean Democrats will try to mimic Eastwood's performance at their own confab, slated to begin in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Tuesday.
"I think we'll be playing this pretty straight," Obama said.

Heidi Klum: I've moved on, and so has Seal

Their split has gotten messy in the media, but Heidi Klum is setting the record straight.
Anyone hoping for the chance of reconciliation between Klum and her ex Seal should prepare to have those hopes dashed. Klum tells CNN in a statement:

“I cherish all of the great memories Seal and I created together over the years. Our separation was based on issues between the two of us. Seal has moved on and so have I."

That's not an admission that she's seeing someone new - there's been gossip that a romance might have sparked between Klum and her bodyguard - but it is clear that Klum is putting her seven-year marriage to Seal behind her.
"My priority," she said in the statement, "has and continues to be protecting and providing for our children.”

Bradley Cooper on working with Jennifer Lawrence, getting sober

Jennifer Lawrence is one of the hardest working actresses in the business, so it's no surprise that she's managed to squeeze in not one but two films with leading man Bradley Cooper.
We caught up with Cooper, the star of this weekend's "The Words," at the film's premiere on Tuesday, and the 37-year-old actor couldn't stop complimenting the 22-year-old "Hunger Games" star.

Cooper and Lawrence have already teased us with what looks like a very funny performance in November's comedic drama "Silver Linings Playbook," in which Lawrence plays the troubled friend to Cooper's Pat Solitano, a former teacher who moves back home to live with his parents while dealing with bipolar disorder.
They then switch gears in 2013's "Serena," a Depression-era film that focuses on Cooper's timber magnate George Pemberton and what will become of his empire after it's discovered that his wife, Lawrence's titular Serena, can't have kids.

Of his twice-over co-star, “she is incredible," Cooper told us. "I’ve been so lucky to do two movies with her back-to-back. ... She’s the best. I feel like I got in on the ground floor. I’ll be lucky if I work with her again.”
At the rate Lawrence and Cooper are racking up leading roles, the two just might pull that off.
Meanwhile, Cooper's starring with Zoe Saldana in "The Words," in which he plays a novelist who lifts material from another writer's work. What's made a tremendous difference in his life, he tells the Hollywood Reporter, is getting sober.

"I don't drink or do drugs at all anymore," Cooper said, adding that he gave that up years ago when he was 29 after a scary experience at a party in which he purposefully smashed his head into a concrete floor - twice.
"I was so concerned what you thought of me, how I was coming across, how I would survive the day," Cooper told THR. "I always felt like an outsider. I just lived in my head. I realized I wasn't going to live up to my potential, and that scared the hell out of me. I thought, 'wow, I'm actually going to ruin my life.'"
Thankfully, Cooper answered the wake-up call, and will appear in at least six films over the next year, including the two co-starring Lawrence, as well as "The Hangover Part III" and "The Place Beyond the Pines" with Ryan Gosling.

Cooper's "The Words" opens Friday.

How Katie Holmes keeps perspective

The scrutiny has been intense for Katie Holmes this summer, and the media attention's only going to increase as she prepares for her first presentation at New York Fashion Week with her clothing line, Holmes & Yang.
And while it would probably be understandable if she were frustrated by the severe invasion of privacy fame brings, Holmes tells Women's Wear Daily that really, it's not that bad.

"I have a lot of feelings about the press," said the 33-year-old actress/designer, who's been closely watched since her split from ex-husband Tom Cruise in June.
"There are a lot of people with much bigger problems and who are less fortunate," she continued. "I try to keep it all in perspective."

We're sure her new deal as the face of Bobbi Brown cosmetics - the first ever celebrity to rep the line - helps at least a little  bit.

Holmes and Brown were introduced by a mutual friend and soon bonded over their down-to-earth sensibilities and similar approaches to life and beauty.
"We weren't looking for a celebrity, just a cool, amazing woman who would fit with our brand," Brown told WWD of her new collaboration with Holmes. Of course, there's also the fact that "she's just ridiculously beautiful."

Holmes' Bobbi Brown campaign is scheduled to launch in Spring 2013, and in the meantime the actress is trying to test out as many different avenues as possible without "being afraid to fail," she said.
"Who cares? At least you tried," she continued. "It's usually the people who  haven't tried who are the naysayers."

Britney Spears isn't trying to look like Kim K.

Kim Kardashian has gone from "the girl in that sex tape" to reality TV queen and style icon, but there's one pop star who isn't attempting to emulate her.
Britney Spears tells Elle magazine in its October issue that her personal style is focused more on comfort than Kardashian-esque sultriness.

"I love my jeans and my sweats - I'm really just a tomboy at heart," Spears says. "So it's really hard for me to be like Kim Kardashian and be makeup-and-hair ready every time I go out of the house. I'm not a believer in that, you know?"
But, she adds, "when you do wear those sweats, you're like, Oh, God, I should step it up notch."
Not for the paparazzi, though. Spears says she's gotten to the point where she doesn't even pay attention to the throngs who attempt to catch her every moment.
"I guess I've been under the microscope so long that I don't even pay attention to the nonsense anymore. I gave up getting upset about things people make up about me a long time ago," she says.
Good thing, too, as imaginations will surely run wild with the story of how Spears made the move on her now-fiance, Jason Trawick.
Trawick tried to describe how it happened to Elle, saying, "It was kind of one of those things where she moved, like, turned around, so we were face-to-face," but Spears stopped him before he could share the details.
"OK, that's enough information, sweetie," Spears interrupted. "It was sweet,  just say that."

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