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United refreshes PS flights SFO-JFK [infographic]

Business class on United's "refreshed" B757 P.S. flights to JFK (Photo: United Airlines)

Business class on United’s “refreshed” B757 P.S. flights to JFK (Photo: United Airlines)

Today United launched its first “fully refreshed” Boeing 757 P.S. (Premium Service) class flight between Los Angeles LAX and New York JFK. The newly refurbished plane could appear on the San Francisco-JFK run as soon as this week.

United says that there is no way to choose a newly configured flight just yet- but by June, seatmaps on its website will be updated to show which flights are new…or not.

United has 13 P.S. configured Boeing 757s and offers 46 PS flights each week between SFO and JFK… but it’s going to be a while until all are refreshed. Here’s United’s disclaimer:

United anticipates launching more reconfigured aircraft into service in June. Until then, most flights on these routes will offer the traditional p.s. service. United expects to reconfigure the entire p.s. fleet by the end of the year. Until the project is complete, the airline will operate these flights with a mix of aircraft.

The fully refreshed interior offers 28 flat-bed business class seats, replacing the 12 angled lie-flat and 26 reclining seats in the premium cabins on the traditional p.s. fleet. The new configuration also features 48 extra-legroom Economy Plus seats and 66 seats in United Economy. In the older aircraft, all economy seats were Economy Plus- this means that coach travelers without status will have to pony up cash or miles to get into the roomier seats.

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The reconfigured p.s. aircraft will offer travelers:

  • New Seats:In business class, 180-degree flat-bed seats, which offer up to 6’4″ of sleeping space and more storage.
  • Inflight Entertainment: Access to personal on-demand entertainment featuring a newly designed interactive touchscreen and more than 150 hours of programming. Individual monitors are 15.4″ in  business classand 9″ in United Economy.
  • Inflight Dining: New dining optionsand wine selections recommended by Doug Frost, United’s Master Sommelier.
  • Inflight Connectivity:  Gogo inflight Internet service. The aircraft also features power outlets and USB ports in every seat.

Here’s an infographic about the new interiors created by United:

UnitedPremiumService-Infographic-FINAL-original

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Airlines waive fees as storm approaches NYC, NE

Heavy wet snow and gale force winds are expected in NYC and NE over the next 3 days

United and Delta  are waiving change fees for passengers booked to fly November 6-8 to/from or through New York City and other Northeastern airports due to the approaching winter storm. I expect other airlines to follow suit by later this evening.

Here’s what United is saying:

United Airlines today announced the company will suspend most service to and from the New York area between noon Wednesday, Nov. 7, and noon Thursday, Nov. 8, as a result of the winter storm forecast for the region. Weather conditions will likely cause additional delays and cancellations at other northeast airports.

 

At Newark Liberty International Airport, between noon Wednesday and noon Thursday, the airline intends to operate its long-haul international flights and flights to and from the airline’s other hubs, but will suspend most of its remaining services.

 

At John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia airports, United intends to operate most flights before noon, with all services then suspended through noon Thursday.

 

Where possible, United has proactively rebooked travelers ticketed with connections at Newark Liberty through the airline’s other hubs.

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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.

 

My advice for travelers re Sandy

Hurricane Sandy at 8 am Monday. Landfall is expected late tonight and into tomorrow. (Screenshot from FlightAware.com)

This is going to be a tough week for business travel, no matter where you are headed.

That’s because the nation’s air travel network is deeply tied to getting people to or from the “Megalopolis” which extends from Washington DC to Boston. And the megalopolis is essentially shut down to air and rail travel today through at least Wednesday.

If you are flying anywhere this week- even if your itinerary does not have you anywhere near the Northeast, your flight could be affected due to the ripple effect of this storm. This means that the flight that you might be catching to fly from San Francisco to Chicago could be using a plane that is normally flying in from New York or Washington. And with Sandy bearing down on those airports and shutting them down…it’s likely that your plane won’t be arriving in San Francisco. You might end up on a different type of aircraft. Your seat assignment could be different. You might have to fly earlier or later than expected.

That is why it’s essential to stay in touch with your airline online (phoning is impossible) to monitor the situation. Other helpful resources are the flight delay maps at FlightStats or FlightAware.

I think the most important thing to remember during storms like this is that if your flight is cancelled, and you decide NOT TO TRAVEL AT ALL- meaning you decline any re-accommodations or waivers offered, and just zap the whole trip, you are entitled to a full refund from the airline. 

And that’s what I suggest you do if you have plans to travel to the Megalopolis this week. Your flight has likely been cancelled, so just don’t go,  give up your seat to someone who may really need it, take your refund and try again next week or next month.

Note: You are only entitled to a refund if you flight is cancelled- not simply delayed.  Also, if you are stranded by this storm, airlines are not required by law to provide you with overnight accommodations. Many will try to help, but remember, there is no federal statute that requires them to pay for hotels during force majeure events like this. 

Based on the severity and duration of this storm, I do not expect the air travel system to recover until this weekend, or early into next week. Currently, it appears that Washington DC, Baltimore and Philadelphia are going to get the brunt of this storm. New York is going to get walloped, too- low lying La Guardia is especially susceptible to damage from a storm surge. Boston is still open this morning and might just get sideswiped.

Luckily, we are not in a peak travel period, so it will be somewhat easier for airlines to re-accommodate stranded travelers on flights that are not sold out. However, airlines have cut back on capacity so much in recent years, that empty seats are few and far between, so it’s going to take a while.

So, sit back, relax and enjoy the fall weather, and don’t try to get to the megalopolis this week if you don’t have to.

Have you been affected by this storm yet? How have you been treated by the airlines? Please leave your storm stories below! 

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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.

 

 

UPDATE: United cancels East Coast flights; others waiting it out

Due to the threat of Hurricane Sandy hitting the mid-Atlantic and Northeast, a cascade of United cancellations from SFO to affected areas began this morning. (See chart below)

Here’s a link to United’s current waivers/exceptions policies for flights back east.

It appears that the last United flights out to the east coast departed this morning (Sunday) before 8 am. After that, all United nonstops to cities from Washington Dulles to Boston Logan have been scrubbed according to FlightStats. Many American Airlines flights to JFK are showing up as cancelled, too. Flights to other cities are not affected.

On the other hand, as of 9 am on Sunday, Virgin America flights from SFO to Washington, New York, Philly and Boston still are still showing active departure times. Delta and JetBlue  departures from SFO to New York still show active departure times all day today.

Everything is fluid right now…so if you have a flight back east over the next 3-4 days, keep an eye on FlightStats and your airline website.

Flight status for SFO-JFK flights as of 9:30 am Sunday:

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Welcome new readers! If this information was helpful to you, please subscribe to The BAT via e-mail- and tell your friends about it, too!

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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.

 

United revamps popular PS flights to New York

The new United PS business class seat will be identical to Continental BusinessFirst seat pictured here. (Photo: United Airlines)

United’s super-popular “Premium Service” (PS) flights on the business-travel-heavy route between SFO and New York-JFK (as well as LAX-JFK) are about to undergo a radical re-do. To me this is great news because the current PS interiors have been tatty and worn out for a while…

Last week United revealed details of the new PS to The BAT, so here’s what you need to know:

>Reconfiguration of all 13 United Boeing 757s offering PS service will begin this October and should be complete by summer of 2013. All seats, walls, floors, bins, lavatories and galleys will be replaced, so they will feel like brand new planes. (No word yet on when you will actually be able to book a new PS flight.)

>The reconfigured aircraft will have business class, Economy Plus (EP) and standard economy seats.

>There will be no first class seatson the new PS aircraft. (Currently, there are 12.)

United’s current PS business class seat. (Photo: United Airlines)

>Reconfigured aircraft will have 28 true-lie-flat business class seats, up from the current 26 cradle-style seats. The new business class PS seat will be the same as Continental’s flatbed BusinessFirst seat on its internationally configured 757s. (See photo above) United says it will call this class of service United BusinessFirst.”

>Each business class seat will have an individual 16-inch video monitor connected to and audio-video on-demand (AVOD) system, a three prong universal 110v electrical outlet and USB port. (No more Dig-E-Players!)

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>In-flight service in business class will be the same—you’ll still get pre-flight cocktails, warm nuts, and two hot towels. (There will still be the peachy Bellinis and other featured cocktails served.)

>There will be 48 Economy Plus seats on the new PS flights, down from 72 in the old version. The downside is that there are fewer EP seats, but the upside is that EP seat pitch on the new PS flights will be 36 inches. (Current PS flights have 34 inches between each coach seat. And as we all know, two inches can make a big difference!)

>There will be 66 standard economy seats on the new PS flights with 31-32 inches of pitch—current PS flights offer EP only.

>Both EP and standard economy seats will have individual 9-inch seatback video screens with access to the AVOD system. (No more fuzzy overhead screens!)

>All PS flights will be getting an upgraded Gogo in-flight wi-fi system that a spokesman said should be faster (9.8 Mbps, up from the current 3.1) and better able to meet the high demand on these flights.

Mock up of American’s “Transcontinental Series” business class seat. (Photo: American Airlines)

>On the competitive front, American has announced that starting in late 2013 it will dump its current 767’s flying between SFO and JFK and replace them with much smaller, but specially outfitted, stretch versions of the Airbus A321 with first, business, Main cabin Extra and standard coach seats. Delta and Virgin America offer the same first class Recaro seat on the route, and have not made or announced any recent changes. (Here’s our post and video about a recent Delta Business Elite flight to JFK.)

How do YOU like to fly to New York? Are you pleased with the changes coming to United’s PS flights? Are these changes a net gain or loss for BATs - Bay Area Travelers? Please leave your comments below.

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