The Queen flies, debit miles, mobile check-in, Wi-Fi, bonus points & the hunt for an A330

Since I volunteered my seat on United Airlines this morning and scored another $400 in vouchers, I have a bit of time to recap additional news items from the week.

  • Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental. The longest passenger aircraft in the world took its maiden flight this past Sunday. As I previously posted, only Lufthansa and Korean Air have orders in for the passenger version, so opportunities are at a minimum to fly on the fourth-generation ‘Queen of the Skies’. The Airline Reporter provides an excellent summary of the event, and links to additional stories, videos and posts.
  • Chase Debit rewards ending at United & Continental.  Effective July 12, 2011, holders (including myself) of Chase co-branded debit cards with United Airlines or Continental Airlines will no longer earn miles when using their cards. And beginning April 1st, you lose the “first checked bag free” benefit. Chase & other banks issuing Visa and MasterCard debit cards are a bit upset the fees they collect on the cards will be slashed courtesy of the Durbin Amendment. As a result, we lose the incentive benefits as consumers and will only now be able to earn miles with a mileage-earning credit card vs. one linked to a bank checking account.
  • United Airlines mobile checkin. You can now check-in on your mobile device for worldwide United and United Express-operated flights. Don’t get too excited if you’re already overseas and want to check-in. Presently, only the following non-U.S. airports accept mobile boarding documents: Amsterdam, Brussels, Geneva, London Heathrow, Moscow, Munich, Osaka, and Zurich.
  • Continental Airlines adds onboard WiFi. Internet will be coming soon to Continentals’ fleet of domestic Boeing 737s and Boeing 757s that already have the DirecTV service. About 200 planes in total will receive the capability, and United has Wi-Fi available on all of the premium service p.s. aircraft on the JFK-Los Angeles and JFK-San Francisco routes, as well as one additional 757 in the standard domestic configuration. Jeff Smisek this week acknowledged how far behind United is lagging in this capacity, and mentioned it will be a priority in the future to roll it out fleet-wide.
  • Hilton HHonors Grand Nights promotion. Hilton announced their second quarter promotion this week, which earns you 1,000 extra HHonors points for each night stayed between April 1 and June 30, 2011. Registration is required and the offer does not apply on certain categories, including many advance purchase rates.
  • Air France & Airbus search for wreckage. A new search is underway for Air France flight 447 which crashed into the Atlantic Ocean on June 1, 2009. The flight took off from Rio de Janeiro bound for Paris, but was never heard from after a series of automated radio messages were sent notifying the airline of numerous problems and warning indications. Pieces of the downed Airbus A330-200 were recovered from the ocean, but this new operation hopes to recover the flight data recorders and other debris.

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