United’s new seat + Delta dumps SFO-NRT + New Star Lounge at LAX

United's new slim line seats for B737s. (United)

United’s new slim line seats for B737s. (United)

United unveiled a newer, thinner seat design this week that looks great, but time will tell how well it performs comfort-wise.

The new seats are sheathed in sculpted blue leather with more ergonomic support. There’s a new mesh net storage space at knee level which is more hygienic; magazines are stored in a higher pocket above the tray table.

New seatbacks on slimline seat on CRJ700 (United)

New seatbacks on slimline seat on CRJ700 (United)

United also points out that it has reduced the weight and volume of the seat, which means better fuel economy. What United does not say is that it can cram more of these newer, thinner lighter seats on each plane, which means more revenue as well.

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The Chicago Tribune reports: “[On the CRJ700] The company plans to cut the size of the more-expensive and roomier Economy Plus section in half to 16 seats, while the number of seats in coach will rise to 48 from 28. First class will remain the same with six seats. In total, the planes will have 70 seats up from 66. The legroom for each seat will remain the same, United said.”

Initially United will install the seats on its fleet of smaller CRJ700 aircraft, but eventually we’ll see 60,000 of the new seats on 400 aircraft by 2015.

DELTA DUMPS SFO-TOKYO- Who’s #2?

Just a few days after announcing yet another tranche of flights from the Bay Area (SFO-SEA) Delta quietly pulled its San Francisco-Tokyo flight, effective March 30 2014. Delta spokesperson Anthony Black confirmed the move to The BAT:  ”We are ending service between SFO and NRT with the last westbound service effectiveFriday, March 28, 2014, and final eastbound service effective Sunday, March 30, 2014. Delta is suspending its nonstop service due to an unstable revenue environment caused by yen devaluation.”

Nonetheless, Delta’s recent bulk up of new flights from SFO (15x per day to LAX; 7 per day to SEA) led to some speculation between The  BAT and SFO officials about market share at SFO. If Delta had kept the Tokyo flight, it would have easily ranked #2 at SFO in terms of seats. But with the elimination of the Narita flight, Delta and Virgin could tie for #2 in terms of number of seats. But then we have to consider the possibility of the American-US Airways merger, which would catapult the merged carrier to #2. In 2012, United had 46% market share at SFO; Virgin had 9% and Delta & Southwest both had 8%.

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The swank outdoor terrace at the new Star Alliance lounge at LAX (Chris McGinnis)

The swank outdoor terrace at the new Star Alliance lounge at LAX. Click image for slideshow!(Chris McGinnis)

SHINY NEW STAR ALLIANCE LOUNGE AT LAX (SLIDESHOW)

Last week, the BAT snagged a private tour of the new Star Alliance business/first class lounge located inside the renovated Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport. Wow! What an improvement.

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The bright new space offers seating for around 400 Business Class and Star AllianceGold passengers, including an exclusive area for First Class passengers. Designed by architectural firm Gensler, the 18,000 square foot lounge features a unique open air terrace, with views of the northern runway towards the Hollywood Hills, and even includes fire pits and a water wall. There are two bars, eight shower rooms, enough electrical outlets to power an army, a buffet including a noodle bar, LEED certification (nice wood floors!) and an excellent collection of photographic art on all walls.

In total, eight Star Alliance member carriers operate out of the Tom Bradley International Terminal – ANA, Asiana Airlines, EVA Air, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, SWISS, THAI and Turkish Airlines. Air New Zealand will move to the terminal in mid-2014

Here’s a slideshow of what we saw!

-Chris McGinnis

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New business class lounge at San Jose Airport [PHOTOS]

IMG_1092 IMG_1081 IMG_1083
To enter The Club, take the stairs by gate 15
Welcome to The Club at SJC
Priority pass regular and select members get free access
A fun and friendly bar area
Seats for socializing
A nice lipstick pop of color here and there
A fun communal table (with electrical outlets, natch) in the bar area
The single shower feels a little cold and sterile
Classy wood stained work carrels
Enough plugs for an army of business travelers (US style only)
Access to two PCs and a printer
Mostly cold buffet items
The view from the club overlooking Gate 15-- boarding area for ANA's flight to Tokyo
Several works from local artists on display... and for sale
Seating on the quieter "business side" of the club
Inside the private meeting room

 

To coincide with the launch of ANA’s new nonstops to Tokyo, San Jose International Airport opened a big, bright, world-class, $1.6 million business class lounge this week.  And The BAT was there with a camera! (so please click through the slideshow above!)

A big, bright room for socializing

A big, bright room for socializing

The Club at SJC” is located across and upstairs from gate 15 (Terminal A) and is only accessible to those inside airport security. While ANA business class passengers can use the lounge for free, anyone can enter by paying the $35 fee for day use. Priority Pass cardholders (both regular and select) have access, too.

The lounge will be busiest during the hour or two prior to ANA’s departure at 11:45 am, but the club is open daily from 5 a.m. until 10 p.m.

Once inside, everyone gets:

  • Snacks and beverages, including beer, wine and well-brand booze. You pay a premium for call brands like Patron or Grey Goose.
  • Free Wi-fi access
  • Access to a single shower room (towels, shampoo and soap provided)
  • Business center with access to two PCs and a printer
  • One private conference room

The 7,400 square foot club consists of two large rooms separated by the bar/buffet area. The eastern side is for socializing, with a bar, a large communal table and plenty of comfortable seating arranged in conversation nooks. It’s also the bright side,with views east over parking lots toward downtown San Jose.

ANA crews are ready to welcome business travelers to the new Club at San Jose

ANA crews are ready to welcome business travelers to the new Club at SJC

The western side is the business side—where you’ll find handsome stained wood work carrels with electrical outlets, and seats for those who need to sit and relax or get some work done. Windows look out at the airport concourse below, and beyond to runways. (See slideshow above)

In between the two rooms is the buffet, which will offer mostly cold snacks such as sandwiches, cheeses, vegetable crudités and chips. However, the lounge will offer hot breakfast items from 9:30 to 11:30 each morning prior to ANA’s 11:45 a.m. departure.

The lounge has a maximum capacity of 128. There are enough electrical outlets (US-style only) throughout the club for an army of business travelers. The interior design is modern and comfortable, with mostly neutral tones, but occasional pops of color, such as lime green. (See slideshow above.)

The San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art has partnered with the lounge, and is exhibiting eye-catching and unusual travel-related works from local artists that are also available for sale. (See slideshow above for a look at the art.)

San Jose’s lounge is the fifth “common use” business class airport lounge opened by The Club Airport Lounges. It has recent opened two lounges at McCarran Airport in Las Vegas, one in Dallas Ft Worth, and another at the new terminal at Raleigh-Durham.

Do you like what you see? Is an airport lounge enough to get you to give SJC a try? Why or why not? Please take a look at the slideshow above, and leave your comments below.

–Chris McGinnis

 

Virgin America’s new lounge at LAX

Virgin America’s new Loft lounge at LAX (Photo: Virgin America)

At San Francisco International, Virgin America’s digs at the bright-n-sassy new Terminal 2 are so nice that the whole thing feels like an airport club.

However, those who have flown Virgin to Los Angeles know that’s not the case at LAX– despite upgrades, facilities at Terminal 3 are sub-par– and frequently crowded.

But if you have elite status with Virgin’s Elevate program,  or an extra $40, all that changed today with the opening of Virgin America’s new 4,500 sq ft Loft lounge. It’s located inside security on the second floor of Terminal 3– occupying the space previously used by Alaska Airlines.

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The space was designed by Jesse McMillin, creative director at Virgin America, and from the video below, the mod furnishings and red, white and black color palette and mood lighting look very similar to… the inside of a Virgin A320, or our very on T2 at SFO. (The BAT profiled McMillin’s “Cool Travel Job”  last year.)

The Loft has a maximum capacity of 90. Elevate silver members get two free passes per year; Gold members get three. Once you have used those up, day passes are available for $40. It’s open from 6 am until 11:30 pm daily.

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For a limited period, San Francisco passengers will have the opportunity to experience spacious luxury onboard the world’s largest commercial aircraft, the Airbus A380 on flights to Asia.  Between December 28, 2012 and March 24, 2013, Singapore Airlines will pop into town with daily “Pop-Up” A380 flights between San Francisco and Singapore via Hong Kong.  Flip through this slideshow to see its famous Suites and the widest Business Class seats in the sky.

SQ1 departs SFO at 10:50 pm and arrives in Hong Kong at 5:50 am two days later. Flight time is about 13 hours to Hong Kong, and with another 3.5 hours to Singapore, you’ll have plenty of time to soak up the luxury and explore the 1000+ onboard entertainment options.  SQ2 arrives daily in SFO at 7:45 pm on the same day it departs from Singapore and Hong Kong.

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SFO to get posh new biz/first class lounge

Entry at the Emirates Lounge in New Delhi-- expect similar touches like marble, polished wood and gold letters at SFO (Photo: C. McGinnis)

Dubai-based Emirates Airline has announced that it will open a new business and first class lounge on the A side of the international terminal at SFO later this year.

It will be Emirates’ only lounge on the West Coast…not even LAX gets one of these posh perches.

(Want to see what’s in store for SFO? Scroll down for my slideshow of photos inside Emirates lounges in Dubai and Delhi.)

Emirates currently operates a single daily Boeing 777 SFO-Dubai flight from the G (left) side of the international terminal where it provides business and first class passengers with access to United’s lounges.

The new 9,502 square foot club will be located on the A (right) side between gates 3 and 5 (on the left as you walk from security) and directly across the terminal walkway from the British Airways lounge.

As in other Emirates facilities around the world, cost does not seem to be much of an object with the SFO lounge—expect marble floors, gold Rolex Clocks, fresh flowers, HD televisions, exclusive restrooms and showers, a business center, workstations and free wi-fi. (See slideshow below for a peek of what’s in store.)

Crowding should not be an issue since the lounge will be exclusive to Emirates first, business and elite frequent flyers. (Emirates says that it will not share loung access with any other carriers.)  An Emirates 777 holds only 50 first and business class passengers, but the lounge is designed to accommodate a maximum of 265, including a dining area for 77.

Chefs will prepare and present a wide array of hot and cold dishes from an on-site kitchen. There will also be a full bar (flights depart SFO at 4:45 pm…conveniently close to cocktail hour).

Unusual: Business and first class passengers will be able to board the flight from a jetway door located in the lounge leading directly to the plane.

On a recent trip through Dubai to India, Emirates invited me into its massive lounge at its hub there.  Since the look and feel of its lounges are pretty standard around the world,  what you see in these photos should match up pretty closely with what we’ll soon see at SFO:

Entry point at Emirates flagship business class lounge at Dubai-DXB which can accommodate 1,800 passengers-- and still gets quite crowded at peak times. There's a separate first class lounge I was unable to get into. (Photo: C. McGinnis)

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One of four dining areas at the Dubai lounge which can accommodate 1,800 passengers (Photo: C. McGinnis)

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Check out this lox and bagel spread (Photo: C. McGinnis)

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Loungers for naps (photo: C. McGinnis)

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Shrimp (Prawn) sandos (Photo: C. McGinnis)

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One of a wide selection of desserts and pastries (Photo: C. McGinnis)

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Full bar stocked with premium brands (Photo: C. McGinnis)

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Rolex wall clocks at Dubai Int'l-- a standard in all Emirates lounges (Photo: C. McGinnis)

 

(Chris McGinnis publishes The BAT and The TICKET blogs for frequent travelers.)

 

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