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The Difference between Airline Hard and Soft Products

The Difference between Airline Hard and Soft Products » Singapore Airlines

Essentially, an airline’s hard product is the plane itself, and the airline’s soft product is the service, food, and the drinks.

Hard product can also be non-airplane constituents, such as lounge amenities. Consequently, the food and drinks in the lounge is soft product, while airline lounge showers are hard products.

The real differentiation is that hard product is hard to alter (requires construction), while soft product can be changed in 5 min with a phone call. Accordingly, limo service is a soft product for the airline (and a hard product for the limo company, at least as far as the car goes). For airplanes, the actual cost of the hard product is the airplane’s downtime during fit out (often greater than the cost of the hardware being added).

Travel consultant and blogger Ben Schlappig (“Lucky”) provides a rule of thumb:

A first/business class hard product is anything physically attached to the plane, which doesn’t differ from flight to flight. For example, the seat, onboard amenities (shower, bar, etc.), size of the entertainment screen, etc.

A first/business class soft product is anything which can differ from flight to flight. For example, food, drinks, service, amenity kits, etc.

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Ryanair’s Exclusive Corporate Jet with Boeing 737-700 Charter Service

Ryanair's Exclusive Corporate Jet with Boeing 737-700 Charter Service

Ireland’s ultra low cost carrier Ryanair has converted its only B737-700 aircraft (registration EI-SEV) to a corporate jet with 60 seats in the cabin. The aircraft is now is a 2 x 2 configuration. The specifications are:

  • 60 passengers, all business class,
  • Seats: 2 x 2 seating with 48″ seat pitch, leather reclining seats
  • Crew: Ryanair’s pilot and cabin crew
  • Range: 3000 nm range, 6 hours at 500 mph cruise speed
  • Catering: available

Previously, this aircraft already in complete Ryanair livery, was used for training, and may have it has covered a couple of scheduled services. Perhaps the aircraft will be in demand when soccer teams have to play in far-flung eastern European destinations. Ryanair also aims it at sports teams, travel groups as well as business customers. Ryanair will price the services of this aircraft on a cost-per-hour basis, and depending on the departure and arrival airports, the rates could be the most competitive in Europe.

Ryanair’s corporate jet charter is akin to similar services offered by Korean Air (16 or 28-seat 737 Business Jet), Emirates (19-seat A319 Executive Jet) and Qatar Airways (40-seat A319.)

For the summer season, the Boeing 737 corporate jet will be used as a normal passenger aircraft with 149 seats for training and as a backup aircraft for routes between the UK and Ireland.

Ryanair exclusively flies Boeing 737-800 aircraft, of which 320 are in service and 153 in orders, as on 10-Mar-2016. Ryanair is also the launch for the 197-seater Boeing 737 MAX 200 aircraft with options for an additional 100 aircraft of this subtype—all to be delivered between 2019 and 2023. The MAX 200 aircrafts hold eight more passengers than the popular Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft. This subtype includes a mid-exit door to increase the exit limit. With eight additional seats than the standard 179-seater MAX 8, Boeing claims that the MAX 200 airplane offers 20% superior operating cost efficiency in comparison to the Ryanair’s staple, the 737-800. The front and rear galley spaces are removed and the lavatory space is repositioned to the rear of the aircraft. Surprisingly, Ryanair claims that the seat pitch will stretch to a tad over than 30 inches.

Michael O’Leary, Ryanair’s CEO, had been pushing for a maximum-density 737-800 aircraft for ten years. Beyond 200 seats, Ryanair will need a fourth flight attendant on its aircraft. Although Boeing claims that 35% of the worldwide market demand for single-aisle aircraft will in due course lie with low cost carriers (LCCs,) for which the MAX 200 is intended, Ryanair is the sole customer thus far for the Boeing 737 MAX 200. News emerged in March 2015 that Boeing was presenting some airlines with concept of 737-8ERX, a longer-range version of the 737-8 MAX.

Ryanair owns three Learjet 45 aircrafts, which are based at its prominent bases in London Stansted (STN) Airport and Italy’s Bergamo Airport (BGY, 45 km northeast of Milan.) These aircrafts carry Isle of Man registrations M-ABEU, M-ABGV, and M-ABJA. They are primarily used to rapidly transport aircraft parts and maintenance personnel around Ryanair’s ever-expanding network. The number of aircrafts in order is testimony to the ambition of Ryanair to accelerate its traffic growth modestly. Ever since transforming in the LCC paradigm in the mid 1990s, Ryanair has mostly operated a single aircraft type, thereby providing economies of scale and flexibility in terms of aircraft deployment, maintenance, crew scheduling, and training.

Ryanair has unit costs that are lowest of any European airline and one of the lowest of any airline on the planet. Ryanair has a level of unit cost that is unlikely to be equaled by competitors in Europe and so other airlines are doubtful to be able to contend with it on price.

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Delta Calls A Bubble in Wide-body Planes

Delta Calls A Bubble Wide-body Planes

Rumor has it that Delta has signed on to bring in eleven 777-200ERs, formerly operated by Singapore Airlines and its subsidiary Scoot. This would add to the 18 current 777-200ER/LRs in the Delta fleet. This is a significant fleet addition.

Interestingly, the ex-Scoot 777-200ERs are the ones that were previously abused on regional routes by SQ. They’re probably some of the highest cycle 777s in the world. Airfleets shows 10 Singapore Airlines and five Scoot Boeing 777-200ERs stored.

Delta 777-200LR Aircraft Given the expected growth in trans-Pacific traffic—particularly in China-US traffic—this seems like a solid strategy. Delta has expressed a strong interest in feeding China Eastern’s hub at Shanghai. There is no question that Delta is going to continue to double-down on Asian growth.

Delta’s fleet planning always bears watching. They have 12 remaining 747-400s and there’s a good chance that within the next 18 months, Delta will no longer fly any 747s in scheduled passenger fleets.

Interestingly enough, after Detla’s announcement of quarterly results on 14-Oct-2015, shares of Boeing tumbled 4% today thanks to comments from Delta management’s comments on supply-demand dynamics in the market for 777s. USA Today notes,

Delta Air Lines may be scooping up some used wide-body planes in the next few years, but CEO Richard Anderson says he’s waiting for prices to drop even more on the world market.

Anderson told reporters Wednesday on a call to discuss record third-quarter profits of $1.4 billion that low interest rates have created a bubble worldwide in wide-body planes. But there’s no deal yet…

“We do think that the aircraft market is going to be ripe for Delta over the course of the next 12 to 36 months,” Anderson said. “There will be some huge buying opportunities.”

There’s something self-serving about Delta’s comments about Boeing. Ken Herbert and Jonathan Morales of Canaccord Genuity (Canada’s largest independent investment dealer) noted,

It is true that the 777 market is softening, especially for the -200s. We hear that Kenya Airways is offering 4 on the market, Malaysian Airlines, which has 6, is putting them back with the lessor as it re-invents its fleet, and Singapore has the right to return 20 of its 777-200ERs, and in fact the first is back with Boeing. While Delta cited a $10M price, we are hearing prices in the ~$15M range, which would also entail a significant cabin reconfiguration expense, thus a total cost of $25M-$30M. The key we are watching is what Emirates will do with its 777-300ER extensions with GECAS, which we believe have been taken care of on at least 10 of its aircraft.

We believe Delta’s comments were also somewhat self-serving. We understand that Virgin Atlantic, a JV partner with Delta, is looking to acquire ~20 777s as part of its fleet re-equipage. Part of Virgin’s delay in announcing this order was the belief that 777 prices had further to fall. We believe Delta is looking to pay $6M/year to lease the aircraft, including the cabin reconfiguration, which the market is not yet offering. A330 lease rates are lower, and are complicated by the changing maintenance strategy at Rolls-Royce.

Could there be a possibility of some Airbus wide body deferrals? Remember that in November 2014, Delta ordered 25 Airbus A350-900 aircraft and 25 Airbus A330-900neo aircraft to replace older generation Boeing 747 and 767 aircraft starting in 2017 and 2019. The long-range Airbus A350-900 were intended for long-range routes between the U.S. and Asia. The wide-body A330-900neo were to be added to Detla’s medium-haul trans-Atlantic markets as well as some routes between the U.S. West Coast and Asia. Cancelling the A350 order only makes sense to me if Delta suddenly finds their CAPEX is too high and need to reduce CAPEX given that these 777-200ERs are a fair bit cheaper per frame then an A350-900. Delta has stated during past earning calls that they plan to have the 747s retired by 2017.

This is another trademark move by Delta’s leadership. Delta has been buying useful assets at very attractive prices especially when others want to dispose of them. They did the same with the B767-300s bought from Gulf Air in the 1990s, then with the MD90s from China Eastern few years ago.

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Lufthansa Airbus A380 Aircraft Fleet

Lufthansa Airbus A380 Aircraft Fleet

Lufthansa ordered net 14 Airbus A380 aircrafts. The A380 represented a trend for which Lufthansa were best prepared, both strategically and operationally. The success of the Airbus A380 for Lufthansa symbolises this trend like no other aircraft in its fleet. Around the world, the Lufthansa flagship aircraft connects destinations where the pulse of the global economy beats, and the list is getting longer all the time. Whether in New York, Singapore or Johannesburg, anyone travelling in the A380 experiences greatness. That is visible in all the service classes and culminates in the new First Class. The concept is extremely well received by passengers. Additionally, the high load factor represents a real efficiency gain for Lufthansa.

Lufthansa originally signed for 15 Rolls-Royce Trent 900-powered A380s and agreed to add another pair in 2011. In 2013, however, the airline’s long-haul order for 25 Airbus A350-900s revealed that Lufthansa has reduced its A380 orders from 17 to 14. So far, all the 14 aircrafts are delivered.

Lufthansa’s A380 aircrafts are named for world cities:

  1. D-AIMA (MSN038) is named “Frankfurt Am Main” and was delivered on 19-May-2010
  2. D-AIMB (MSN041) is named “München” and was delivered on 21-Jul-2010
  3. D-AIMC (MSN044) is named “Peking” and was delivered on 25-Aug-2010
  4. D-AIMD (MSN048) is named “Tokio” and was delivered on 16-Nov-2010
  5. D-AIME (MSN061) is named “Johannesburg” and was delivered on 16-Mar-2011
  6. D-AIMF (MSN066) is named “Zürich” and was delivered on 4-Apr-2011
  7. D-AIMG (MSN069) is named “Wien” and was delivered on 7-May-2011
  8. D-AIMH (MSN070) is named “New York” and was delivered on 7-Jul-2011
  9. D-AIMI (MSN072) is named “Berlin” and was delivered on 16-May-2012
  10. D-AIMJ (MSN073) is named “Brüssel” and was delivered on 15-Jun-2012
  11. D-AIMK (MSN146) is named “Düsseldorf” and was delivered on 1-Apr-2014
  12. D-AIML (MSN149) is named “Hamburg” and was delivered on 7-May-2014
  13. D-AIMM (MSN175) is named “Delhi” and was delivered on 14-Mar-2015
  14. D-AIMN (MSN177) is named “San Francisco” and was delivered on 10-Apr-2015

Lufthansa is also the main customer for the passenger version of the Boeing 747-8, nicknamed the Intercontinental (747-8I,) with 19 of the type on order.

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How are Contrails Formed?

How are Contrails Formed

A contrail is an artificial cloud created by an aircraft. It’s akin to the fact that, when you are outside on a cold day, you can see your breath. Why? Because your moist warm breath condenses in the cold air.

The only ingredient necessary for a contrail to form is water vapor. The warm exhaust is full of water vapor. The warmth allows the vapor to form liquid droplets. As the surrounding cooler air chills those droplets, they freeze into crystals. Aircraft emissions are composed of water vapor and carbon dioxide, with trace amounts of sulfurs, nitrous oxide, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, and soot. Only the water vapor and sulfur contribute to contrails. The sulfur particles (less than 0.05% of the exhaust) can serve as sites for water droplets to adhere, enhancing the contrail.

A contrail lasts a long time (is persistent) if the atmospheric humidity is high. The ice crystals that form the contrail will absorb moisture from the air and become larger, rather than dissipating. It is perfectly normal for those crystals to last for hours and for the contrail to actually become thicker and longer.

The National Geographic notes,

When water vapor in hot aircraft exhaust hits very cold, moist air, it freezes. That creates white contrails, which can spread into wispy cirrus clouds with climate change potential. Some reflect the sun’s heat before it reaches Earth’s surface, for a cooling effect. But overall, contrail cirrus clouds trap heat and, by one estimate, contribute more to warming than aircraft carbon dioxide emissions do.

Planes could be rerouted to avoid contrail-inducing weather, a study in Environmental Research Letters found. In one case, a 13.7-mile detour in a transatlantic flight eliminated a contrail 62 miles long and the clouds it would have spurred—so even counting extra emissions from the detour, the flight resulted in less warming. Nonetheless, no one suggests rerouting planes yet. Forecasters can predict contrail formation, says study author Emma Irvine—but whether the forecasts are accurate enough to justify flight adjustments is still up in the air.

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Visiting the Boeing Renton 737 Plant

Visiting the Boeing Renton 737 Plant

Boeing Renton Plant from Logan Avenue and Park Street

Boeing does not offer any tours of its Renton, Washington factory where, most prominently, Next-Generation Boeing 737 airliners are built today, and the Boeing 737-MAX will be built in the near future.

Boeing has had the following operations at the Renton plant, which is conveniently adjacent to the Renton Municipal Airport.

  • The Renton factory built B-29 Superfortress, a four-engine propeller-driven heavy bomber.
  • After the second world war Boeing closed the Renton plant. In 1948, Boeing re-opened the Renton facilities to build the Boeing C-97 Stratofreighter for the United States Air Force.
  • Starting from the 1950s, the Boeing 367-80 and the Boeing 707 were built in Renton. The first production Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker first flew in August 1956 and the first production Boeing 707 rolled out of Renton in October 1957. Boeing produced 707s until April 1991.
  • Boeing also used the Boeing 707 final assembly building to manufacture the Boeing 727 three-engined aircraft between 1963 and 1982.
  • The Boeing 737 aircrafts built have their first flight out of the adjacent Renton Municipal Airport and then flown to Boeing Field for final preparation and delivery. Randy Tinseth, Vice President of Marketing at Boeing Commercial Airplanes offers great photo gallery flashback to celebrate the 737’s past, present and future.
  • The Renton plant refurbished the first four 747s ever built.
  • The Renton plant built Boeing 757, the revered twin-engine short-to-medium-range airliner.

Glimpse of Boeing Renton Plant from Cedar River Path

Visiting the Boeing Renton Plant: Cedar River Path & Logan Avenue

Google Maps for Boeing Renton 737 Plant: Cedar River

If you sincerely just want to glimpse at the plant itself, you can see it acceptably from Logan Avenue right outside of The Landing Mall. At the intersection of Logan Avenue and Park Street (map), if you cross the street there is a small grassy area right where Gate D-9 is.

Google Maps for Boeing Renton 737 Plant: Logan Avenue

There’s also a jogging / walking path along the Cedar River near the Renton Stadium where you can get pretty close to some parked 737s in various stages of manufacturing. The GPS coordinates are 47.49029,-122.211635.

Visiting Other Boeing Facilities in and around Seattle

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Comical Tote Bag from India’s IndiGo Airlines

IndiGo Airlines from India

IndiGo Airlines is India’s largest airline. IndiGo operates a low cost carrier and operates 400 daily flights connecting 36 cities in India and outside using Airbus A320 aircraft.

Indigo Airlines Tote Bag - A320 Safety Instruction Card

Indigo Airlines Tote Bag - A320 Emergency Procedures

IndiGo’s comical tote bag reproduces IndiGo’s inflight safety card. The tote bag features a comic character of an Indian gentleman in traditional garb, sporting a moustache, and a tilak / bindi (the customary forehead decoration.)

Indigo Airlines Tote Bag - Life Vest for Flotation

Indigo Airlines Tote Bag - Inflatable Evacuation Slides

On one corner of the tote bag, the gentleman seems clueless on what to do, but assumedly learns how to fasten his seat belt, fold the tray table, abide by safety instructions, blow into his safety vest, and help his kid wear an oxygen mask after he has worn his own. Specifications:

  • Width: 16+5/8 inch
  • Height: 14+1/2 inch

Indigo Airlines Tote Bag - Clueless Funny Indian Man

Indigo Airlines Tote Bag - Facsimile of Safety Card

Despite only entering the market about than eight years ago in Aug-2006, IndiGo has rapidly soared up the ranks to become the largest domestic carrier, overtaking Jet Airways and Air India on the way. Over the longer term, IndiGo plans to dedicate 20% of its total capacity to the international sector.

Indigo Airlines Tote Bag - Indian Budget LCC Airline

Recently, Airbus and IndiGo annouced that IndiGo had ordered 250 A320neo aircrafts. IndiGo presently has more than 500 A320 aircrafts on order. Aviation analysts suspect IndiGo as one of those airlines that might be over-ordering aircraft.

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Longest Boeing 787 Routes in the World

United Airlines Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner

Yesterday, United Airlines completed the current longest nonstop Boeing 787 route in the world. UAL Flight 98, a 787-9, left Los Angeles 10:30pm Pacific Time on 26-Oct-2014 Sunday night, and landed in Melbourne at 07:57 AM Melbourne time, 15 hours and two days later, on 28-Oct-2014.

Here is the list of top 10 longest routes for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft.

Longest Boeing 787 Routes in the World

  1. United Airlines—Los Angeles (LAX) to Melbourne (MEL) @ 7921 mi
  2. Ethiopian Airlines—Toronto (YYZ) to Addis Ababa (ADD) @ 7154 mi
  3. Aeromexico—Tokyo (NRT) to Mexico City (MEX) @ 7004 mi
  4. United Airlines—San Francisco (SFO) to Chengdu (CTU) @ 6870 mi
  5. Japan Airlines—New York (JFK) to Tokyo Narita (NRT) @ 6745 mi
  6. Hainan Airlines—Beijing (PEK) to Boston (BOS) @ 6737 mi
  7. Japan Airlines—Tokyo Narita (NRT) to Boston (BOS) @ 6702 mi
  8. LAN Airlines—Madrid (MAD) to Santiago (SCL) @ 6648 mi
  9. Hainan Airlines—Chicago (ORD) to Beijing (PEK) @ 6579 mi
  10. Hainan Airlines—Beijing (PEK) to Toronto (YYZ) @ 6578 mi
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Big week for the Airbus A380: Qantas, Emirates, British Open New Routes to USA

Big week for the Airbus A380 this past week. Emirates, Qantas, and British Airways operated their A380 aircrafts to new destinations in the United States this week.

First Flight of Qantas Airbus A380 to Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW)

Qantas Airbus A380 VH-OQL gets a water salute at Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW)

On 29-Sep-2014, Qantas made aviation history by starting the 1 beginning to operate the world’s longest non-stop trip between Sydney airport (SYD) and Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW.)

First flight of Qantas A380 VH-OQL arriving at gate in Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) airport on the world's longest non-stop trip

The 8578 mi-long route takes 14 hours 50 minutes to get from Sydney to Dallas/Fort Worth and 15 hours 30 minutes to return. VH-OQL, sporting the iconic kangaroo logo with a cowboy hat and bandana and a special nose emblem reading “G’day Texas,” operated QF 7 departing Sydney at 13:27 and arriving at Dallas/Fort Worth at 13:21.

Qantas Airbus A380 VH-OQL sporting a cowboy hat and bandana for first flight of Qantas A380 to Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW)

Qantas “Ambassador,” certified pilot, and actor John Travolta greeted arriving passengers as they exited the A380 at DFW.

Qantas ambassador, certified pilot, and actor John Travolta after first flight of Qantas A380 to Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW)

First Flight of Emirates Airbus A380 to Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW)

Emirates Airbus A380 A6-EET arrives in Dallas-Forthworth (DFW) after first flight as EK 221

On 1-Oct-2014, two days after Qantas Airways flew the first Airbus A380 to Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW,) Emirates started operating its Airbus A380 aircraft to the Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) airport. Operating as EK 221, A6-EET departed Dubai International (DXB) at 02:42 and landed on runway 18R just before arriving into gate at 09:21.

Emirates Airbus A380 A6-EET lands in Dallas-Forthworth (DFW) after first flight of A380 EK 221

At Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW,) the high-speed taxiways between 18L/36R and 18R/36L were widened and reinforced to support the A380 aircraft.

Emirates Airbus A380 A6-EET gets a water salute at Dallas-Forthworth (DFW) as EK 221

First Flight of British Airways Airbus A380 to Washington Dulles (IAD)

British Airways Airbus A380 G-XLEB first landing at Washington Dulles (IAD) as BA 217

On 2-Oct-2014, British Airways started operating its Airbus A380 aircraft to the Washington Dulles (IAD) airport.

British Airways Airbus A380 G-XLEB gets a water salute at Washington Dulles (IAD) as BA 217

IAD is the second airport after Los Angeles International (LAX) to receive the British Airways A380.

British Airways Airbus A380 G-XLEB at gate after first flight from London Heathrow (LHR) to Washington Dulles (IAD)

G-XLEB operated BA 217: it departed London Heathrow (LHR) at 09:21 and landed in Washington Dulles (IAD) at 16:41.

British Airways Airbus A380 first flight from London Heathrow (LHR) to Washington Dulles (IAD) as BA 217

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Airbus A340 Passenger Compartment Cross-section: Typical Seat Configurations

The Airbus A340 is a long-range four-engine wide-body commercial passenger jet airliner manufactured by European aircraft company Airbus. The A340 aircraft was designed concurrently with the Airbus A330, a medium-range twin-engine wide-body similar in design. The four-engine A340 was built for long-haul, trans-oceanic routes due to its immunity from ETOPS. Over the years, the dramatic improvement in the reliability of jet engines, rising cost of jet fuel, and elevated maintenance costs of four engines vis-a-vis two engines led to the economic attractiveness of the twin-jet Airbus A330 and the twin-jet Boeing 777 aircraft. Eventually, Airbus stopped offering the A340 in 2011 due to the dearth of new orders.

Typical 6-Abreast Seat Configuration in First Class

A340 Passenger Compartment Cross-section in First Class: Typical 6-Abreast Seat Configuration

Typical 6-Abreast Seat Configuration in Business Class

A340 Passenger Compartment Cross-section in Business Class: Typical 6-Abreast Seat Configuration

Typical 8-Abreast Seat Configuration in Economy Class

A340 Passenger Compartment Cross-section in Economy Class: Typical 8-Abreast Seat Configuration

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