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Transcon South! MIA-LAX

For most people “Transcon” means those long flights linking the northeast US to California. But the tremendous population shifts of the past five decades have added more city pairs that qualify for the title.  You Tube channel Backpacktrot offers a long-ish video look at Miami-to-Los Angeles flying business class on an American Airlines Boeing 767-300. (Use free or at least economical internet for this one!)  It offers great views of downtown Miami, the Florida keys, the Louisiana coastal flats and of course the mountain scenery of the west as the airplane heads towards LAX.  If you view the video directly on YT, the vlogger offers a chart of video times and corresponding sights.

Carry On Complaining!

United Airlines probably did not anticipate the  robust reaction to their proposed “Basic Economy” fare. CEO Oscar Munoz rolled out the product in the video announcement posted below.  Purchasers get the lowest boarding priority, seats assigned only upon departure and no right to change bookings. The product also limits carry-on bags to one item small enough to be stowed under a seat instead of the overhead luggage bin (Daily Mail). Social media jumped all over this, and the announcement was misinterpreted as a decision by United to charge all passengers for the coveted overhead space. This prompted a testy denunciation by incoming US Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY).  The resulting publicity even prompted fact-checking site Snopes to analyze the story.

In the short run, the market will eventually decide the fate of this initiative, as it does with everything else.  But the intensity of the reaction should alert the industry that passengers, although attracted to bargains, are becoming increasingly resentful of the “nickel and dime” approach to amenities, and the increasingly startling comparison between what’s on offer up front and the cattle car experience in the cheap seats. Airline executives should remember that, despite the pro-business tilt of the incoming administration, Washington DC will generally respond to popular ire, from Donald J. Trump on down.

Image credit: Sqcelestar

Shanghai Maglev-Orient Express!

Global economic competition has received its fair share of attention this presidential election season.  And it’s unquestionably true that China has made massive investments in infrastructure that offer a stark contrast to recent developments in the United States.  The Shanghai Maglev Train, linking the central urban core to the Pudong International Airport 19 miles away, is an impressive example. Using an elevated guideway and magnetic levitation technology (no track, no wheels!), the train whisks passengers to their destination in just 7 minutes, reaching a top operating speed of 268 mph.  Impressive!

Video Credit: davidjellis (You Tube)

King (Lear) For A Day

Who wouldn’t want to live like a mogul?  Vlogger Casey Neustat managed to do it for an hour.  He has a huge You Tube following, which includes two private jet pilots who offered him a comped ride on a repositioning flight from New York to Philadelphia. The celebrity life begins as  Neustat boards the Lear sans TSA at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey.  He filmed the experience in his signature, rather offbeat style.  The Lear is well-appointed, but the visuals are a little startling- compared to commercial jetliners, most private jets look like narrow, albeit elegant, tubes. Of course, the amenities are wonderful, and there is something to be said about traveling like a VIP.  Neustat takes the train back to New York City, but not before skateboarding through downtown Philadelphia and living the life of a You Tube celebrity.  All in all, a fun video!

Aeroflot Business Class And Caravans To The Orient

Aeroflot BUSINESS Class! What would Lenin think? 🙂

This longish video by Air Traveller illustrates one of the more intriguing developments in air travel- the multiplicity of carriers and routes that now link West with East.  As Asian economies continue their impressive trajectory upwards, travelers can comparison shop for both price and service as they plan their mercantile adventures.  Here we climb aboard  Aeroflot for a journey from Frankfurt to Hong Kong by way of Moscow as hub.  (FRA-SVO is on an A320, then it’s the B777 to HKG.)  There are impressive aerial views of the German commercial center, the descent into SVO and the approach over the mountains that frame Hong Kong.  The business class cabin of Aeroflot’s Boeing 777-300ER  (and what would Khrushchev think of THAT aircraft decision by Russia’s most prominent carrier!) looks conventional but quite comfortable.  Like all premium long haul travelers, the videographer has plenty to say about about inflight service.  No caviar here!  All in all, an intriguing video experience.


Trains: TGV Puts Pedal To The Metal!

What’s it like to move on the ground at speeds approaching jet travel?  This video by sancsab shows the famous TGV train of France setting a new speed record (574.8 km per hour; 357.2 mph).  While the background rock music may not be to everyone’s test, it certainly accentuates the speed of the experience.  As one of the enthusiasts notes at the end, “Formidable!”

Emirates First Class- Ring-A-Ding-BLING

While airline main cabins constantly commoditize, with parsimony being the main product differentiator, First Class remains a world unto itself.  Casey Neistat provides a somewhat offbeat but very entertaining look at Emirates’ premium cabin, flying on an upgrade from Dubai to JFK.  The retail price of this ticket weighs in at a modest 21K USD.  He explores the elegantly appointed passenger suite configuration, amenities, meal service and, above all, the opportunity to take a shower on the A380.  Definitely not a choice for the budget-conscious, but it’s easy to understand why this product fascinates the travel community.

Pilots’ View: Landing A Boeing 787

This video from Cockpit View takes us aboard a Boeing 787 on final approach to Stockholm (ARN).  Note the passage of sunlight across the ultramodern glass cockpit.  The videographer was snapping stills while filming, which explains the “stopping” effect.  Once the aircraft touches the ground, we get a full blast of the “flat tire” sound as the aircraft slows down.  As a passenger, I have always found this somewhat disconcerting! 🙂

You can find more videos from this videographer on You Tube and  and Facebook.

First Class: A Tale of Two Cities, Aircraft And Airlines

If only all flying meant a sojourn in First Class!  Of course, in real life, budgetary considerations rule, and even the expense account set has been shifting from First to Business Class. Airlines are configuring their planes accordingly, and First Class has disappeared as an option on an increasing number of routes.  But we can still experience it via armchair thanks to the fortunate few lucky enough to enjoy the remainder.  There is an abundance of video footage celebrating the amenities of premium cabin experience: the relatively pain free check-in process, the cushy lounges with their culinary delights, the spacious accommodations aboard the airplane and, most important, all that pampering by the flight attendants once aloft.

I thought it would be interesting to post two views of the First Class experience on the same route-London to Abu Dhabi (LHR-AUH).   The Luxury Travel Expert filmed the trip aboard a British Airways Boeing 787 Dreamliner, while Eddie Khoo presents the service offered on an Etihad Airbus A380.  Browse through the videos at your leisure.  There does seem to be a difference between the understated, somewhat monochromatic comforts of the BA experience and the warmer ambiance of Etihad.  Note the contrast between the modernistic “bucket seat” of BA versus the more conventional, incredibly roomy reclining chair on Etihad, the centerpiece of what they dub “an apartment”.  These variations no doubt reflect differences in corporate culture and budgetary resources, not to mention what’s physically possible on each aircraft.  The A380 may be a bit wobbly as a money-making enterprise for the manufacturer, but its sheer scale gives the cabin designer a lot of scope.

I’ll take both! 🙂



KLM Explains Highways In The Sky

Every day 4,000 flights cross the North Atlantic, where there is very limited radar coverage.  How is the flow controlled? KLM explains the process in one of their interesting “Cockpit Tales” videos.  An aircraft flies on a track determined by ATC, which sets a precise entry point and time for each flight.  Once in, the aircraft observes tight speed and altitude parameters, which are communicated by satellite back to ATC.  The pilots monitor their progress very carefully.  Note the paper checklists!

Another example of the complex behind-the-scenes planning which makes modern commercial flight safe and reliable!