It has recently been confirmed that British Airways will begin to operate the first route from Chicago to London on the Airbus A380. Let the confetti fall and pour the champagne!
For those of us who are travel addicts who geek out on airplane trivia this will be an exciting day for Chicago. The Airbus 380 is the largest capacity passenger airplane ever made and it requires an extended runway to get this “Super Jumbo” into the sky. It also requires a unique gate configure to support the wing span and ideally 2 ramps for the multiple levels to expedite boarding.
In May 2015 I had the good fortune to visit the Airbus factory in Toulouse France and we were treated to a “behind the scenes” tour. For my upcoming trip to Armenia I explicitly routed through JFK so that I could hitch my first ride on an A380 and counting down the days for my flight.
The A380 has opened an opportunity for many airlines to get extremely creative in their business and first class cabins. One of the best examples of luxury on A380 provides a 3 room suite which includes showers onboard in the Etihad Airways – The Residence. WOW! I was just really hoping for a comfortable seat without anyone kicking the back of my seat.
The A380 has gone head to head with Boeing 747 for the last few years as the competition has geared up the world has been watching. Given the number of airlines that have recently retired all of their 747 airplanes I think I know who is winning. For those of you obsessed with flying on the A380 there is now a website and app to help you find flights specifically on an A380.
While the Boeing 747 “Jumbo” still holds the special place in my heart I am looking forward to this new era at Chicago O’hare with the first A380 flights.
How many times during a flight do we hear “Please keep your seat belt fastened”? Okay we have all been on that flight where the turbulence seems to keep coming in various waves and perhaps prior to take off the pilot announces it is going to be a bumpy ride. We are prepared and go easy on the drinks to avoid having to utilize the rest room during the flight.
Did you know that it is illegal to get out of your seat whilst the sign is illuminated?
YES it is true. You can be prosecuted for breaking the FAA Regulations 14 CFR 121.311(f) which requires passengers to wear seat belts when the sign is illuminated.
As a frequent traveler I am a strong advocate to follow the FAA Regulations. I will never be the passenger who stands up 1 minute after takeoff to get a sweater out of the overhead bin. Listen unless there is an urgent bathroom need I am not prepared to violate the law. Safety first.
While no one has ever been prosecuted for violating this regulation the flight attendants appear to have a general “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” philosophy on this. This philosophy seems to take on magical super powers when you are traveling in business or first class; as cabin roaming while the seat belt sign is illuminated is a regular occurrence. Never directly ask for permission from a flight attendant to get out of your seat for a rest room break as it will conflict with their ability to support the regulation. However if the flight attendant asks you to return to your seat while you are headed to the rest room you should comply. You are more likely to be prosecuted for directly disobeying crew member instructions.
So has anyone else noticed that many long flights reach cruising altitude with a smooth ride yet the seat belt sign remains illuminated. Why is that?
Did the pilot simply forget?
Or does the pilot have no regard that we might need to utilize the rest room during a flight over 4 hours?
Or are the flight attendants trying to manage the crowd by forcing passengers to remain seated?
Or is the airline trying to reduce cost on toilet paper?
My money is on crowd control management or cost savings for toilet paper. Let me know your thoughts.
Ahh I remember the days when I had elevated status and if the stars aligned I would get a bump into business class. However with elevated status I would on a recurring basis get the free upgrades to economy plus along with any of my travel companions.
Here is a quick review of what the major domestic carriers provide with each status tier American Elite, Delta Medallion, United Premier. Please if you do have elevated status with any carrier learn about your benefits and don’t forget to utilize your benefits that you worked so hard for! Don’t end up like my friend who recently traveled on a transatlantic flight in economy even though his status allowed him free access to economy plus. He did not know the process to utilize his benefits and found himself squeezed in the standard economy seat for 9 hour flights Chicago to Germany return.
Sadly I currently have no elevated status with any airline carrier. As you may recall from last week’s post “Does loyalty matter anymore?“; I am only loyal to my wallet. But never fear….you can treat yourself to an upgrade or splurge for the whole year with an annual United economy plus subscription.
Here are the primary factors that go into my decision process for consideration when purchasing an upgrade.
How long is the flight?
For any flight under 2.5 hours I would not really consider it unless it was an upgrade to business class or first class at a low price.
What benefits come with the upgrade?
Economy plus generally has early boarding, free checked bags, and sometimes even free cocktails.
Business class generally flights over 2 hours a meal is served, 1st to board, free checked bags, cocktails (even prior to takeoff) and typically special access to movie/entertainment system.
How much is the upgrade?
This is a personal decision for everyone on what you feel comfortable spending. This really comes down to how much you value being comfortable. I typically determine the cost per hour (upgrade price / flight hours) to help me decide. So for example a few weeks ago on our return from Puerto Vallarta to upgrade from economy to first class was $119 for a 4 hour flight which is basically about $30 per hour which included dinner, cocktails and the royal treatment.
I compare that to other hourly rate or luxury services: Chicago downtown parking $18 hour, massage $90 hour, mani/pedi $45, maid service $100 or a round of golf $80.
Hmm which would make me happier….4 hours traveling first class or maid service this month? Well you know who won!
Do I have a connecting flight?
Do I need to sleep on this flight? (i.e. red-eye or international)
How much did I spend on the original ticket?
My personal limit is about $40 per hour however the flight duration and benefits included are critical in my decision process. Although somedays I just want to be treated like a princess; on those days even the loyalty to my wallet gets tossed. It is all about me with a glass of champagne!