United cuts schedules, WikiLeaked safety concerns, seat certs, 737 Max, GDSs and improved amenities & cabins

In other airline, hotel & travel industry news this week…

  • Continental Airlines will be recertifying Koito-manufactured seats on 278 aircraft to meet FAA airworthiness compliance. It was discovered in 2010 that the seat manufacturer falsified test data, sending the industry into a frenzy and causing aircraft delivery and overhaul delays for airlines around the world. Beginning with 757s, Continental states they will go above and beyond FAA requirements to ensure seats meet or exceed compliance levels.
  • WikiLeaks released a document that showed the U.S. was seriously considering downgrading Australia’s air transportation safety rating in 2009. At issue was, “the availability of trained air safety inspectors and excessive delegation by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority of regulatory functions to airlines.” A second review was to occur in April 2010, so given no official news hit the wires they obviously passed. Had it been downgraded to a Category 2 rating, the U.S. could have frozen operations of Australian carriers to the U.S. and terminated codeshare agreements.
  • As widely reported and blogged, the board of directors at Boeing gave approval to proceed with a re-engined Boeing 737 instead of developing a completely new aircraft. Aiming to compete against the Airbus A320neo (new engine option), Boeing is claiming between a four to seven percent advantage in fuel efficiency than that of the new A320. The Boeing 737 “Max” family will use CFM International Leap 1-B engines.
  • American Airlines and Sabre have agreed to extend their content arrangement “well into 2012” due to prolonged legal proceedings for which no trial date has been set. American sued Sabre claiming they were negatively biasing the carrier in the GDS due to American’s attempt to force Online Travel Agencies to commit to a direct connect technology which would bypass GDSs.
  • On a more positive note for American, the carrier is upgrading premium class amenities on “select” international flights in First Class and Business Class. Flights bound for London’s Heathrow will be the first to experience the new luxuries, which for First Class includes a quilted bed topper custom-designed for the Flagship Suite, pajamas and slippers, a lightweight day blanket, new duvet and pillow, and a new Eames Office designed amenity kit featuring Dermalogica skincare products. You can bet I’ll be reviewing that kit in a future installment of Amenity Kit Reviews.
  • United Airlines has scaled back flight schedules from Denver by 13 percent for the rest of the year, but the carrier insists the hub is not in danger of de-hubbing. According to United spokeswoman Christen David, “In response to the rising cost of fuel, earlier this year we announced capacity reductions for the third and fourth quarters. Denver also experiences an annual capacity reduction during the slower fall travel season.”
  • Beginning next March, Cathay Pacific will introduce Premium Economy on flights between Hong Kong and Sydney, Singapore, Toronto, and Shanghai. It will eventually roll out to the rest of the long-haul fleet. The seats are described to be the equivalent of regional Business Class seats and the cabin will indeed be “Premium” with enhanced services over simply a better seat. It is also being reported that Cathay will eliminate First Class in the future instead focusing on its greatly enhanced Business Class product recently rolled out.

Finally, I hope everyone has a fun & safe Labor Day holiday here in the U.S. I’m posting this from an International First Class lounge, so might not get back to regularly scheduled blogging (and comment moderation) until the middle of next week. This trip will certainly turn into a fantastic multi-part trip report, so stay tuned.

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