America’s newest airline is launching in April with a focus on leisure routes and fares as low as $19: Meet Avelo Airlines

Avelo Airlines
A rendering of an Avelo Airlines Boeing 737-800.

  • Avelo Airlines just broke cover and plans to start flights on April 28 from Burbank, California.
  • Andrew Levy, former president of Allegiant Air, is at the helm with a focus on cheap flights and friendly service.
  • A total of 11 routes have already been announced to popular destinations across the American West.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

It’s lights, cameras, action for America’s newest airline that’s planning its Hollywood debut later this month.

Avelo Airlines plans to launch flights on April 28 from Hollywood Burbank Airport near Los Angeles, giving travelers yet another option when planning pandemic getaways. The new ultra-low-cost airline is focused on cheap leisure flights and will fly to popular destinations in the American West from before expanding across the country.

“Avelo is a different and better kind of airline, built from scratch to offer an affordable, convenient and caring travel experience,” chief executive Andrew Levy said in a press release.

The initial slate of 11 routes from Burbank include flights to:

  • Santa Rosa, California from April 28;
  • Pasco, Washington from April 29;
  • Bozeman, Montana from April 30;
  • Phoenix, Arizona from May 3;
  • Ogden, Utah from May 4;
  • Grand Junction,
  • Colorado from May 9; Medford,
  • Oregon from May 9;
  • Eugene, Oregon from May 12;
  • Bend, Oregon from May 13;
  • Eureka, California from May 19; and
  • Redding, California from May 20.

Burbank, just north of downtown Los Angeles, offers a convenient alternative to Los Angeles International Airport that the company hopes will help spur bookings and encourage flyers to travel.

“A big part of our business model is not just offering every day, great fares,” Levy told Insider. “We’re a low-cost carrier. We’re built to offer low fares, but at the same time we’re going to offer a great level of convenience by utilizing Burbank, which we think is probably the best secondary airport in the country.”

An airport stuck in time, the one-story terminal building at Burbank resembles a scene from the 1950s. Passengers are required to board aircraft directly from the tarmac since there are no jetways. .

The Boeing 737-800, a tried and true narrow-body aircraft that can seat 189 people in the airline’s all-economy configuration, will be Avelo’s flagship aircraft. The plane is a staple of other well-known low-cost carriers like Southwest Airlines, Sun Country Airlines, and Ryanair thanks to its low operating costs and high availability on the market.

In true ultra-low-cost fashion, flyers won’t find seat-back entertainment screens – though WiFi may be coming within the next year. Avelo says it’s working with potential suppliers for the service.

In-flight snacks and drinks service won’t be offered in the airline’s initial run, either, due to the pandemic. Customers will instead receive a “convenience package” with hand sanitizer, a bottle of water, and a small snack.

The bulk of the aircraft’s seating are “slimline” seats, the term for thinner seats on airplanes, with only 29 inches of pitch across the 129 seats. The remaining 60 seats, however, will range in pitch from 31 to 38 inches, and reserving one will cost at least $18.

Fares as low as $19 are being offered on all of the airline’s initial routes from April into mid-June for some destinations, except for flights around Memorial Day Weekend. They’re just introductory fares but low ticket prices are part of Avelo’s overall strategy to stimulate demand in underserved markets and become a go-to for cheap flights.

“Quite honestly, I’d love to be able to do, over many years, what Southwest has done,” Levy said. “Where when people hear ‘Avelo,’ they just associate us with low fares.”

Offering low fares, however, means that Avelo will have to fill its planes as close to the brim as possible in order to turn a profit. “We’re looking to sell the flights very full, we’re defining full as 80-85%,” Levy said.

And unlike competitors, Avelo doesn’t have a robust system of extra fees to fall back on. Advanced seat assignments start at $5 and checking a bag will only cost $10, with the latter meant to open more space in the cabin during boarding and deplaning. There’s also no fee to make a flight change or make a reservation over the phone.

These extra charges, known as ancillary fees, have become the backbone of ultra-low-cost airlines’ strategy as they don’t incur taxes.

Keeping calm during a crippling pandemic for airlines

Avelo, one of two low-cost airlines launching operations during the pandemic, has the benefit of an experienced founder. Levy formerly served as the co-founder and president of Allegiant Air and chief financial officer of United Airlines.

“I think probably during the pandemic, maybe the hardest thing was just to keep everybody calm and to recognize that there’s a lot of good that’s going to come from the end of the business cycle,” Levy said.

The industry veteran was actually optimistic instead of pessimistic when the pandemic hit the US in March 2020. Leveling the playing field for airlines made it easier for a new entrant to compete with established players.

Congress ultimately saved many airlines from possible bankruptcy, but the pandemic’s outcome still favors leisure airlines like Avelo, analysts say. More Americans are willing to get back in the air after an extended pandemic and ultra-low-cost airlines are allowing them to do it without breaking the bank.

Read More: Spirit Airlines’ low-cost model puts it in the perfect spot to be the big winner of the pandemic, a Deutsche Bank analyst says

“I think all of our investors realize that this will have been a pretty strong opportunity for us to get into markets we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to get into, take advantage of materially lower costs for things like airplanes, office leases, IT contracts, parts agreements, etc.,” Levy said.

Avelo currently has three planes and more than 200 crew members but plans to have six Boeing 737s and 400 crew members by the end of the year.

Read the original article on Business Insider

I flew on Alaska for the first time since it stopped blocking middle seats and it was the closest to normal I’ve seen during the pandemic

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

  • Alaska Airlines is a growing mid-tier US carrier that’s been on the rise in recent years and expanding on both coasts.
  • Middle seats are no longer blocked but there’s still a big emphasis on social distancing.
  • Snacks and beverages are also offered to passengers, with the onboard experience largely normal.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Alaska Airlines has been steadily expanding across the US in recent years since its acquisition of Virgin America, increasing its presence from coast to coast.

LAX Day Trip Alaska Airlines - Airbus A320
An Alaska Airlines A320.

While its main sandbox is the West Coast, the airline now operates transcontinental flights from numerous East Coast cities. It’s not as big as the majors in the big four US airlines including American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, and Southwest Airlines, but Alaska has been getting its name out there in a big way.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

Middle seats on Alaska flights were blocked until January 7, the second-longest seat-blocking tenure of a major US airline behind Delta. Now, flights can be filled nearly to capacity in economy.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

Here’s what flying Alaska Airlines is like during the pandemic.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

Alaska’s primary hub at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport was busier than I expected when I arrived for my Friday afternoon flight to Los Angeles. As the airport’s top carrier, many of those flyers would be flying Alaska.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

The entire Alaska Airlines check-in, however, had been overhauled with new safety features like plexiglass partitions at the counters…

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

Social distancing placards in queues…

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

Hand sanitizer stations…

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

And wipe stations in between check-in kiosks. It was an impressive start to my trip on the airline.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

And before I even got to the airport, I was required to acknowledge a health agreement. Standard for most major US airlines now, I had to affirm that I haven’t tested positive for COVID-19 within the past 10 days, hadn’t been exposed to the virus in the past 10 days, and hadn’t exhibited symptoms in the past three days, in addition to agreeing to the airline’s mask policy.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

The flight appeared to be largely empty and it was looking good that I’d have a row to myself. Alaska flies near-hourly between Seattle and Los Angeles so there was no shortage of flights available, even during the pandemic.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

I quickly got my ticket from the kiosk and headed to the gate. I hadn’t flown on Alaska since before the pandemic when I flew from New York to LA to get In-n-Out Burger, so I was excited to fly the airline once more.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

Read More: I flew from New York to LA and back in a single day just to eat a cheeseburger and gawk at planes – here’s why I’d do it again

The same set of social distancing measures that I found at check-in were also at the gate, including more plexiglass partitions, hand sanitizing stations, and floor placards.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

The airport also had its own social distancing agenda, blocking every other seat in the gate area with placards.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

But while I had hoped for an empty flight, it turned out that this afternoon flight to Los Angeles was very popular with airline employees and standby passengers. There were at least 25 people looking to jump on board this flight, potentially thwarting my chances of an empty row.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

Boarding began around 30 minutes prior to departure with Alaska following its normal boarding procedure. Customers board with their assigned group, listed on their boarding passes.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

After pre-boarding, first class boards first followed by Alaska elites and those seated in “premium class.” Regular economy passengers in the back of the plane then board followed by those closer to the front. Basic economy flyers, regardless of seat location, board dead last.

Flying Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

More social distancing placards lined the jetway leading up to the aircraft. “Mind your wingspan” is Alaska’s slogan of choice for social distancing.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

Flight attendants welcomed us as we filed into the Boeing 737 Max but nothing in the way of hand sanitizer or sanitary wipes were offered, as some other airlines are doing.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

Walking past first class, however, I noticed each seat was given hand sanitizing wipes, a perk that economy class didn’t get.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

I later saw on the airline’s website that they were available “on request.”

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

Source: Alaska Airlines

The plane was spotless, however, as is to be expected since this was a brand-new plane that only began flying for Alaska a few days prior.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

Alaska, like most airlines, disinfects aircraft using electrostatic spraying, or “fogging.”

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

Read More: Delta, United, and American are ‘fogging’ their planes to make them safe for travel amid coronavirus — here’s what that means

Aircraft are also cleaned by crews before each flight, the airline says.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

Source: Alaska Airlines

The cleaning measures truly showed. I had no concerns whatsoever about the cleanliness of the plane.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

I chose seat 28F for the two-hour flight to Los Angeles, a window seat on the right side of the plane facing forward.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

Everything from the seat area to the tray tables was spotless.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

Alaska even had some of its new safety protocols listed in this booklet with a website link where flyers could view the full spread of measures being taken by the airline to keep passengers safe.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

This flight would feature an in-flight drink and snack service with nine different hot and cold beverages on offer ranging from Coke to orange juice.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

The rest of the plane slowly filled up and Alaska’s boarding procedure meant the front filled out before the back. Those boarding last would have to walk through an entire plane full of people if they were seated in the back.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

Flight attendants during the boarding process continually reminded passengers that they were “obligated” to wear a face mask.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

One flight attendant was also walking around with masks to give to flyers that needed.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

Even the safety briefing included a reminder that wearing a mask while flying is now federal law. Passengers were asked to report any offenses to flight attendants.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

The flight departed with quite a few middle seats open. Alaska doesn’t currently block middle seats in regular economy as of January 7 so having any seats open was pure luck.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

Flight attendants also worked to space passengers by moving them into empty rows. The aisle seat in my row, for example, was given to a passenger that was in a crowded row.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

Soon enough, we were airborne and bound for Los Angeles.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

Flight attendants quickly began the in-flight service, starting with snacks.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

The bag included a variety of items from pretzels to flaxseed chips.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

Then the drink cart came around and gloved flight attendants distributed full beverage cans accompanied by a cup of ice and hand sanitizing wipes. Printed on the napkin was a message asking flyers to put their masks on between bites and sips.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

Once the service was over, I took a walk around the plane and only found a few passengers flouting the mask rule. Compliance, for the most part, was good.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

Alaska also isn’t afraid to ban passengers for not wearing a mask. Almost 450 flyers have been banned as of March 17.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

Read More: Airlines have banned more than 2,500 passengers for not wearing masks — here are the carriers that have booted the most

The rest of the flight was spent enjoying the views of the West Coast as we headed towards Los Angeles.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

Alaska, overall, has largely returned to normal when it comes to things like boarding and the in-flight service. I was surprised to see how much was on offer compared to other airlines.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

I was also impressed by the airline’s investment in social distancing measures at its Seattle hub, with everything from hand sanitizing stations to floor placards.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

And even though it meant I didn’t get the row to myself, I appreciated flight attendants being proactive in moving people around to distance flyers when possible.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

The routine flight down the coast was largely uneventful and soon enough, it was time to land in Los Angeles.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

After we landed, flight attendants reminded passengers to social distance when deplaning.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

But most passengers just wanted off and didn’t mind crowding the aisle, as is normal when flying regardless of whether there’s an ongoing pandemic.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Icelandair is warning travelers they can’t use the country as a backdoor into Europe

Iceland
Europe is not open to Americans.

  • Iceland is opening to vaccinated American tourists, one of the first European countries to do so.
  • Americans without residency in the Schengen Area, however, can’t travel onward to Europe.
  • Travel between Iceland and many European countries was once as easy as traveling between US states.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The nation of Iceland is opening to vaccinated American travelers but that’s as close to Western Europe as many US citizens will get, for now.

Icelandair, the country’s flag carrier airline, is warning Americans that they will not be allowed to fly the airline to other European nations from Iceland, even though Iceland is in the European free movement area known as the Schengen Area.

“Iceland is welcoming vaccinated visitors from outside the Schengen zone, but further travel from Iceland to the rest of Europe is currently not permitted for non-Schengen residents,” Icelandair’s website states.

There are some exceptions as Croatia remains open to Americans the arrive with a negative COVID-19 test, according to the US Embassy in Croatia, and Malta will let in Americans that have spent at least two weeks in an approved country, according to the US Embassy in Malta, of which Iceland is one.

The Schengen Area is the reason travelers can move between most European countries without going through border checks each time. Similar to going from state to state in the US, a traveler could theoretically drive from Portugal to Estonia’s border with Russia and not have to produce a passport when crossing the multiple national borders along the way.

Countries can, however, temporarily enact border controls in response to extraordinary circumstances. The COVID-19 pandemic saw temporary border controls enacted across the continent as nations went under lockdown.

Iceland’s membership in Schengen has greatly benefited transatlantic travelers by reducing the time spent at passport control upon arrival in mainland Europe. Travelers from North America clear passport control at Iceland’s Keflavik International Airport when bound for another Schengen country and their next flight is treated as a domestic flight.

So for vaccinated travelers wondering if they can enter Europe from Iceland, the answer is no. At least for now, Europe is largely closed to Americans as America is to Europeans.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Southwest just placed a landmark multibillion-dollar order for 100 of Boeing’s smallest 737 Max plane

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8
A Southwest Boeing 737 Max 8.

  • Southwest Airlines just placed an order for 100 Boeing 737 Max 7 aircraft with options for 200 more.
  • The $10 billion deal is a victory for Boeing over Airbus and its A220 aircraft that was reportedly being considered.
  • The first 30 737 Max 7 aircraft are scheduled for delivery in 2022.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Southwest Airlines has settled on the Boeing 737 Max 7 as the successor of its Boeing 737-700 fleet, announcing a finalized order with the manufacturer on Monday for 100 aircraft and options for 155 more.

The deal brings Southwest’s new Boeing 737 Max order total to 349 aircraft consisting of 200 of the smaller Max 7s and 149 of the larger Max 8s, some of which are already flying passengers. An additional 270 Max aircraft of either variety are also available to Southwest, on option, between 2021 and 2031.

Boeing’s current list prices value the 100 aircraft at around $10 billion. Airlines, however, rarely pay list price and Boeing has been known to discount Max aircraft as a result of the grounding.

Whatever Southwest did pay, however, Boeing can declare victory over Airbus as the European manufacturer’s A220 aircraft was reportedly being considered by Southwest to be the replacement aircraft. Delta Air Lines and JetBlue Airways had alternatively chosen the Airbus aircraft, which boasts similar characteristics and cost savings when compared to the Max 7.

But Southwest’s decision comes as no surprise since the 737 Max 7 is the next-generation variant of the 737-700 that it’s replacing at Southwest and the airline doesn’t have to worry about inducting another manufacturer’s aircraft into its already streamlined fleet. Pilots already flying the 737 and 737 Max can fly the Max 7 with very little additional training and the same goes for mechanics tasked with servicing the fleet.

“This cost-effective order book with Boeing allows the company to maintain the operational efficiencies of an all-Boeing 737 fleet to support its low-cost, point-to-point route network,” Southwest said in a statement.

Southwest resumed flying the Boeing 737 Max on March 11 after an absence of nearly two years following the aircraft’s March 2019 grounding. By the end of April, as many as 261 Southwest Max flights will be flown daily, according to Cirium data.

The smaller Boeing 737 Max 7 has yet to be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration as of mid-March, according to Reuters, a process delayed due to the aircraft’s grounding. Boeing had initially planned to certify the aircraft in 2019 after its first flight in 2018.

Read More: The 16 most outrageous things Boeing employees said about the company, 737 Max program, and each other in released internal emails

But FAA Administrator Steve Dickson, a former airline pilot, personally flew the aircraft during the recertification trials for the Max following its March 2019 grounding. Southwest is slated to be the first airline to fly the Max 7 with the first delivery scheduled for 2022 after its certification.

The Max 7 can seat as many as 172 passengers, according to Boeing, while flying the furthest of any Max variant thanks to its smaller size. Any route in Southwest’s current network can be flown by the Max 7 and new ones can be forged.

With a range of 3,850 nautical miles, city pairs like Denver-Honolulu, Boston-Anchorage, and even New York-London are possible should Southwest want to stretch the aircraft’s legs. The competing Airbus A220-300 boasts only a 3,400 nautical mile range and maximum seating of 160 passengers, according to Airbus.

Southwest will end 2020 with 729 aircraft, 68 of which are Boeing 737 Max 8s.

Read the original article on Business Insider

United just returned to JFK Airport after nearly 6 years and is rolling out one of its most luxurious aircraft to take on competitors

United Airlines JFK
The first United Airlines flight to return to New York’s JFK Airport.

  • United Airlines resumed flights from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on Sunday.
  • Operating the flights is United’s premium-configured Boeing 767-300ER with lie-flat business class seats.
  • Only 10 weekly flights are currently offered but more will be added in the coming months.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

United Airlines is back at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and ready to make up for lost time after a six-year absence.

Flight 520 from San Francisco touched down in a foggy New York City on Sunday afternoon, marking United’s return to the city’s largest airport since October 24, 2015. The third time proved to be a charm for the airline that had intended to return to JFK in early February but was forced to push the launch date back to late February and eventually late March due to “softer demand.”

Five weekly flights to both San Francisco and Los Angeles kick off the new service as United readjusts to JFK. It’s a far cry from the multiple daily departures that other airlines serving the transcontinental market offer but it’s indicative of United’s new trend of getting a foothold on popular routes in any way possible in order to fill seats.

United hopes to soon double the number of JFK flights to give customers two flights per day to both cities but that timetable remains up in the air. Americans have only just begun returning to the skies in earnest.

Read More: Airline workers have lower rates of COVID-19 than the general population – and airline CEOs say it’s proof that flying is safe

For now, two morning flights in the eastbound direction accompany two afternoon flights in the westbound direction. And for some travelers, it’s the perfect timing.

Allison Rutledge, a Connecticut resident traveling with her two college-age children, said she chose United over JetBlue for the cross-country flight because the former offered an arrival time an hour earlier. JFK is the more convenient for her over Newark and it also helped that United came in around $200 lower for the tickets, booked on short notice to give her kids a makeshift spring break.

Price and convenience, more so than loyalty to United, were motivating factors for many passengers on the outbound flight, some of whom had booked last-minute tickets and found the United flight to be the best and cheapest option.

A premium service from coast to coast

Welcoming United travelers back to JFK is one of the airline’s swankiest aircraft, a reconfigured Boeing 767-300ER wide-body jet in a three-class configuration including Polaris business class, Premium Plus premium economy class, and economy class. Onboard the aircraft are United’s newest seat products in all cabins, including lie-flat seats in business class.

And while business travel isn’t exactly where United execs would like it, Ankit Gupta, United’s vice president, domestic network planning & scheduling, believes the rise of wealthy leisure travelers will help fill the 46 business class seats in the front of the jet.

“I would say the business demand will take some time to come back but we’re seeing a lot of premium leisure demand too,” Gupta told Insider.

The first flight to San Francisco was completely full in all classes of service, United said. Filling the 167 seats in addition to normal travelers, of course, were United employees and aviation enthusiasts that wanted to take the first flight.

Those flying in business class on Sunday’s flight won’t get to enjoy the full Polaris experience, as airlines have been scaling back the in-flight service during the pandemic, but that’s something execs hope will return soon. Premium flyers in both business and premium economy classes will still be treated to complimentary meals, snacks, and alcoholic beverages.

Business class flyers and United elites will not, however, have access to premium lounges on the New York side of the journey. All lounges in United’s Terminal 7, including the Alaska Airlines and British Airways lounges, are currently closed. Those willing to make the journey can head to Terminal 4 and use the newly-opened American Express Centurion Lounge or one of the Priority Pass lounges open in Terminals 1 and 4.

Sunday’s “homecoming,” as David Kinzelman, United’s vice president, global airport operations, described it, was not just for United’s aircraft but for some United employees, as well. A majority of the workers servicing the first flights had been with United in 2015 when the airline made the choice to leave the airport, a move that now-CEO Scott Kirby would later call “the wrong decision,” as Skift reported.

For those employees, United’s return is personal. Kinzelman told Insider, “We were asked the question constantly, ‘When are you guys coming back to JFK?'”

They return to Kennedy after spending nearly six years at other airports around the metropolitan area including nearby LaGuardia and Newark Airports, where United concentrated the majority of its flights after ceding JFK to its competitors.

In 2015, however, United was flying as many as 14 daily flights to the West Coast. Now, the workers are coming back to service a mere 10 weekly flights, or two flights per day, until United bumps up service.

The next step will be increasing JFK service with another round-trip flight on each route. United’s current flight schedule shows an additional flight being added to each city on May 7 and both routes going daily the week of May 9.

Once the West Coast is accounted for, the airline can start looking to serve its other hubs to give New Yorkers and visitors an alternative to LaGuardia and Newark.

“We plan to be here for the long-term,” Kinzelman said.

Read the original article on Business Insider

One of the first American tourists back in Iceland reveals what he went through to enter the country under its new entry rules for vaccinated travelers

Iceland
Iceland is open to vaccinated Americans.

  • Iceland is now letting in vaccinated Americans as of March 18, and all that’s required is the paper card.
  • Andy Luten was one of the first American tourists to visit Iceland in over a year.
  • Luten described entering the country as “nonchalant” as he easily cleared Icelandic border control.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Just 45 minutes after he heard the news that Iceland was opening to Americans, Andy Luten had a ticket booked on one of the next flights to Reykjavik.

Iceland became one of the first European countries to open to US tourists when on March 18 it began allowing vaccinated travelers to enter the country. The rules, at first, were murky and many weren’t sure if the paper Centers for Disease Control and Prevention vaccination card given to Americans would be accepted as proof of vaccination to enter Iceland under the new rules.

But Luten took a microscope to the rules and was confident enough in its wording to book his last-minute ticket. The pandemic had largely grounded Luten, a client management director in the financial services industry and founder of Andy’s Travel Blog, who had been known for his sporadic trips to distant locales on short notice.

“I’m the guy who, once, I was making plans with some friends for a Friday night in like 2016 or something and well, the plans changed so, I’m going to Hong Kong,” Luten told Insider.

Luten hadn’t seriously considered international travel during the pandemic despite the options open to him and other Americans. A Texas resident, nearby Mexico had stayed open during the pandemic and even European countries like Croatia and Serbia had been letting in Americans.

“I love Croatia but for some reason, Iceland just felt right,” Luten said, noting his feel test had deterred him from booking international trips during the pandemic.

The first stop on Luten’s Icelandic adventure was Boston, where Icelandair has consolidated its US operations with two flights per week. All three major US international airlines and Icelandair had offered non-stop flights to Iceland from cities across the US before the pandemic, including Luten’s hometown of Dallas, but those had been scrapped once the borders closed.

Checking in at Boston Logan International Airport was the first hurdle Luten had to clear. “I went to Logan and checked in with the [Icelandair agent] and when he was like ‘what’s your documentation getting you to Iceland,’ I just held up the CDC card,” Luten said.

It was the first time the agent had seen an American traveling with just the paper card. Icelandair couldn’t give Luten a definitive answer on whether the country would accept the card, with the agent simply stating, “as far as I know, it’s going to work.”

The first hurdle complete, Luten boarded the Boeing 767-300ER bound for the Land of Fire Ice and settled in for the quick five-hour journey to Europe, the first transatlantic journey he’d taken in over a year. Even if he didn’t get into Iceland, Luten explained, he’d at least have a story to tell about how he got kicked out of the country.

“The beautiful part about being a writer is that nothing really ends with you because you get to write about it,” Luten said, paraphrasing writer David Sedaris. “And I thought to myself, ‘if this works out, I’m going to end up in Iceland. If it doesn’t work out, I’m going to end up with a really good story.'”

Luten’s flight mate happened to be a former Icelandair executive that was similarly traveling with a CDC vaccination card. “You’ll be fine,” he told Luten.

Read More: Airline workers have lower rates of COVID-19 than the general population – and airline CEOs say it’s proof that flying is safe

Landing at Keflavik International Airport, 30 miles from Reykjavik, was pretty routine, according to Luten, who had been to Iceland twice prior. Despite being a major transatlantic transit hub between North America and Europe, the airport is quite easy to navigate even for a first-time visitor.

Following the lead of his Icelandic speaking flight mate, Luten was guided to the line for vaccinated travelers and the only thing standing between him and Iceland was a border officer. Luten approached the desk and handed over his passport, vaccination card, and the barcode from a pre-registration that’s now required to enter Iceland.

Within minutes, Luten was granted access to the country, and going through passport control was easier than he could’ve expected with no vaccine passport required.

“It was the most nonchalant thing ever,” Luten said, “nobody asked me a single thing about anything.”

Once he was in the country, Luten didn’t have to submit to any additional testing or quarantine. The vaccination certificate was his golden ticket to explore Iceland.

Luten soon discovered that he had visited at the perfect time as a volcano erupted on the island shortly after his arrival. All the natural attractions that were once plagued by tourists were also empty, allowing Luten to chase Icelandic waterfalls at his leisure.

“From a tourism standpoint, there has never been a better time to go to Iceland than right now,” Luten said.

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Watch NASA test-fire the world’s most powerful rocket stage on Thursday – a critical step towards the next moon mission

space launch system sls hot fire nasa green run
The core stage of NASA’s Space Launch System fires its engines for a hot fire test on January 16, 2021, at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.

NASA is building the world’s most powerful rocket stage in order to bring a new generation of astronauts to the moon. On Thursday, the agency plans to fire the engines.

The rocket, called Space Launch System (SLS), is designed to eventually stand 365 feet (111 meters) tall. The system is a piece of NASA’s larger Artemis program, a roughly $30 billion effort to put people on the lunar surface for the first time since 1972. NASA has spent about $18 billion developing the rocket.

The 212-foot-tall core stage – the system’s biggest piece and its structural backbone – is the world’s largest and most powerful rocket stage, according to NASA. It’s currently clamped into a test stand at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, ready for what’s known as a “hot fire” test on Thursday afternoon.

That means NASA will fire the engines continuously for about eight minutes – the length of time required to deliver an upper-stage rocket and spaceship into orbit. If the engines pass this test, the core stage will be ready to join the rest of the rocket at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

nasa space launch system sls core stage green run stennis january 2021
Crews at Stennis Space Center lift the core stage of NASA’s Space Launch System into place on January 22, 2020.

This hot fire is the eighth and final step in NASA’s Green Run program, which is designed to thoroughly test each part of the core stage ahead of SLS’s first launch – an uncrewed test flight around the moon called Artemis 1. If the hot fire goes as planned, SLS could launch in November.

The eventual goal is to ferry astronauts to the moon sometime in the mid- to late-2020s.

sls space launch system nasa
An artist’s rendering of the Space Launch System rocket lifting off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

“Our core-stage Green Run is the most comprehensive test that we’re undertaking to make sure that SLS can safely launch the Artemis missions to the moon,” John Honeycutt, the SLS program manager, said in a February press conference. “This is a generational opportunity to learn as much as we can about the rocket while we’ve got it in this test configuration before we get to fly.”

Watch NASA’s rocket test-fire live

NASA TV will begin a live broadcast of the test at 3 p.m. ET on Thursday. That’s the beginning of the two-hour window NASA has carved out for the hot fire. Watch the livestream here:

To prepare for the test, six barges will transport 733,000 gallons of cryogenically chilled propellant to the test site early on Thursday. Three of the barges will carry liquid hydrogen, while the other three carry liquid oxygen. The core stage has one fuel tank for each. Once NASA gives the “go,” the barges will load the propellant into those tanks, preparing the rocket stage for fire.

The last hot fire attempt cut itself short

Boeing is NASA’s lead contractor for the core stage, and Aerojet Rocketdyne is responsible for its four RS-25 engines, which were also used on NASA’s fleet of space shuttles.

NASA previously attempted this same hot-fire test in January, but the engines suddenly shut down just one minute in.

NASA sls engine shutdown space launch system hot fire
An SLS engine burns propellant (left), then abruptly shuts down (right) during a hot fire test on January 16, 2021.

It turned out that a flight computer had automatically aborted the test because a system controlling the engines’ movements had exceeded limits that NASA set ahead of the hot fire. The limits were intentionally conservative, NASA said, because the agency doesn’t want to push the rocket so hard that it gets damaged during testing.

But in the two months since, NASA has adjusted the test parameters to be less conservative. The SLS team determined that it can expand the limits without much additional risk to the hardware, Honeycutt said. If the system had exceeded the prior limits during an actual launch, NASA said, the rocket would have continued to fly.

The team has also repaired a liquid-oxygen valve that was not opening properly, an issue they discovered while preparing for the upcoming hot fire.

This time, SLS program managers are hoping the engines will fire for at least four minutes. Though the full test should be eight minutes, four would give NASA enough data to verify that the core stage is safe for flight.

If anything goes wrong, NASA will have to redo the hot fire a third time, which could delay the first mission and throw a wrench into the ambitious timeline of the Artemis program overall. The program aims to land the first woman and the next man on the moon in 2024.

“We’re still on path to have an opportunity to launch this year, but we recognize also that there are things that can come up, like weather and COVID and some first-time operations,” Tom Whitmeyer, who leads the NASA program that develops new exploration systems like SLS and Orion, said in the press conference. “So the plan is to launch this year, but we’ll continue to provide progress as we go through the year and we’ll certainly let you know how we’re doing.”

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An influential airline exec is sounding the alarm on Boeing and its leadership over the 737 Max and 787 Dreamliner scandals

Emirates Tim Clark
Sir Tim Clark, president of the Middle Eastern mega carrier Emirates.

  • Sir Tim Clark, president of Emirates, is concerned about Boeing’s continued issues on its newest planes.
  • Clark cited issues with the Boeing 737 Max, 787 Dreamliner, and 777X aircraft in a recent interview.
  • The 737 Max was just ungrounded after issues with the aircraft’s software caused two crashes.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Most airlines are ready to move on from Boeing’s 737 Max crisis following the plane’s 20-month grounding – but one executive continues to sound the alarm about the company’s performance in recent years.

Sir Tim Clark, president of Emirates, criticized the manufacturer’s leadership and recent problems with three of its important planes in an interview with The Air Current published Tuesday. Specifically, Clark criticized Boeing’s 737 Max, 787 Dreamliner, and 777X, all of which have been marred by safety concerns, quality control issues, and production delays.

The problem, he says, stems from Boeing’s board of directors.

“Culpability for the culture, strategy, direction, priority of that company rests with the Boeing board and nobody else, Clark told The Air Current. “And that’s where the buck should stop. And that’s where they need to get themselves sorted out.”

Clark has long been outspoken over the issues at Boeing, levying similar complaints in a January Reuters interview: “Clearly there were process and practices, attitudes – DNA if you like – that needed to be resolved from the top down,” he said at the time.

Boeing shuffled its top leadership amid the Max grounding, firing CEO Dennis Muilenburg and installing Dave Calhoun, a board member, as his replacement. But Clark said it wasn’t enough: “It is pointless shuffling the deck.”

“Boeing need to take a good hard look at themselves; I’m sure they have,” he continued.

Emirates operates hundreds of Boeing 777 aircraft and will be the first airline to take delivery of the upcoming 777X. The largest twin-engine jet aircraft in the world, the 777X has been delayed again until late 2023, partly due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Emirates is also set to receive a 787 Dreamliner in 2023 following a 2019 order.

Both the 737 Max and 787 Dreamliner have been under near-constant scrutiny in recent years following safety and quality control issues. The 737 Max, notably, causing the deaths of 346 passengers across two crashes due to a software issue.

Quality control issues at Boeing’s South Carolina plant have called the Dreamliner’s safety into question and prompted additional groundings. Boeing may have to spend additional hundreds of millions to resolve the issues.

Emirates doesn’t operate the 737 Max and has largely been spared of those issues. The plane returned to the skies in November, and has flown more than 2,700 flights since. Meanwhile orders have been pouring in from airlines including United Airlines, Ryanair, and Alaska Airlines.

Still, Clark remains a vocal critic of the aircraft as it returns.

“I regret having to say all this, but I kind of, I think it needs to be said, otherwise, we’re just going to move on our of the Max era, as if nothing happened,” Clark told The Air Current.

Only two Max flights have encountered issues since the ungrounding, and both were due to engine incidents unrelated to the faulty software that brought down the Max aircraft. An American Airlines flight, most recently, was forced to land with one engine shut down due to a mechanical issue.

Canada’s WestJet also scrapped a Boeing 737 Max flight after its pilots encountered an engine warning light that the airline said required an engine run, a spokesperson told CBC. The airline, which used the Max for flights as far as Hawaii and Europe prior to the grounding, has since resumed flights without issue.

Boeing declined to comment for The Air Current story and when asked by Insider about Clark’s concerns,

“I believe they still have work to do in Boeing to get themselves sorted out,” Clark told Reuters. “There is a top-down culpability and accountability and they need to recognize that.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

Emirates’ president continues to slam Boeing and its leadership over the 737 Max and 787 Dreamliner scandals

Emirates Tim Clark
Sir Tim Clark, president of the Middle Eastern mega carrier Emirates.

  • Sir Tim Clark, president of Emirates, is concerned about Boeing’s continued issues on its newest planes.
  • Clark cited issues with the Boeing 737 Max, 787 Dreamliner, and 777X aircraft in a recent interview.
  • The 737 Max was just ungrounded after issues with the aircraft’s software caused two crashes.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Most airlines are ready to move on from Boeing’s 737 Max crisis following the plane’s 20-month grounding – but one executive continues to sound the alarm about the company’s performance in recent years.

Sir Tim Clark, president of Emirates, criticized the manufacturer’s leadership and recent problems with three of its important planes in an interview with The Air Current published Tuesday. Specifically, Clark criticized Boeing’s 737 Max, 787 Dreamliner, and 777X, all of which have been marred by safety concerns, quality control issues, and production delays.

The problem, he says, stems from Boeing’s board of directors.

“Culpability for the culture, strategy, direction, priority of that company rests with the Boeing board and nobody else, Clark told The Air Current. “And that’s where the buck should stop. And that’s where they need to get themselves sorted out.”

Clark has long been outspoken over the issues at Boeing, levying similar complaints in a January Reuters interview: “Clearly there were process and practices, attitudes – DNA if you like – that needed to be resolved from the top down,” he said at the time.

Boeing shuffled its top leadership amid the Max grounding, firing CEO Dennis Muilenburg and installing Dave Calhoun, a board member, as his replacement. But Clark said it wasn’t enough: “It is pointless shuffling the deck.”

“Boeing need to take a good hard look at themselves; I’m sure they have,” he continued.

Emirates operates hundreds of Boeing 777 aircraft and will be the first airline to take delivery of the upcoming 777X. The largest twin-engine jet aircraft in the world, the 777X has been delayed again until late 2023, partly due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Emirates is also set to receive a 787 Dreamliner in 2023 following a 2019 order.

Both the 737 Max and 787 Dreamliner have been under near-constant scrutiny in recent years following safety and quality control issues. The 737 Max, notably, causing the deaths of 346 passengers across two crashes due to a software issue.

Quality control issues at Boeing’s South Carolina plant have called the Dreamliner’s safety into question and prompted additional groundings. Boeing may have to spend additional hundreds of millions to resolve the issues.

Emirates doesn’t operate the 737 Max and has largely been spared of those issues. The plane returned to the skies in November, and has flown more than 2,700 flights since. Meanwhile orders have been pouring in from airlines including United Airlines, Ryanair, and Alaska Airlines.

Still, Clark remains a vocal critic of the aircraft as it returns.

“I regret having to say all this, but I kind of, I think it needs to be said, otherwise, we’re just going to move on our of the Max era, as if nothing happened,” Clark told The Air Current.

Only two Max flights have encountered issues since the ungrounding, and both were due to engine incidents unrelated to the faulty software that brought down the Max aircraft. An American Airlines flight, most recently, was forced to land with one engine shut down due to a mechanical issue.

Canada’s WestJet also scrapped a Boeing 737 Max flight after its pilots encountered an engine warning light that the airline said required an engine run, a spokesperson told CBC. The airline, which used the Max for flights as far as Hawaii and Europe prior to the grounding, has since resumed flights without issue.

Boeing declined to comment for The Air Current story and when asked by Insider about Clark’s concerns,

“I believe they still have work to do in Boeing to get themselves sorted out,” Clark told Reuters. “There is a top-down culpability and accountability and they need to recognize that.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

Southwest Airlines just resumed Boeing 737 Max flights and may go all-in with a reported order for ‘dozens’ of new jets

Southwest Boeing 737 Max
Southwest Airlines’ grounded Boeing 737 Max fleet.

  • Southwest Airlines resumed flights with the Boeing 737 Max on Thursday.
  • The day has 32 departures planned to 15 different cities in the strongest Max resumption of any US airline.
  • Southwest is reportedly nearing a deal for “dozens” of new Boeing 737 Max 7 jets, Reuters reported.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Southwest Airlines is all in on the Boeing 737 Max.

Passenger flights on the aircraft for the Dallas-based carrier resumed on Thursday in the latest milestone for Boeing’s infamous jet. The first four flights departed from cities across the US at 8 a.m. Dallas time, just two days short of the two-year anniversary of the Federal Aviation Administration’s order to ground the aircraft on the heels of a fatal Max crash in Ethiopia.

Southwest started the day strong with 32 flights planned to 15 cities in an opening salvo unrivaled by any of its competitors in their Max debuts. American Airlines, for example, started with just two daily departures and United Airlines started with 24. Alaska Airlines, with only one aircraft in its fleet, started with four departures on its first day.

But Southwest has also waited the longest to get the Max back in the air, a surprising choice considering the low-cost carrier had the largest pre-grounding fleet of 34-strong Max aircraft.

The first flights are the culmination of over 200 proving flights that the airline has performed with the Max since its November ungrounding as part of its return to service. Southwest pilots flying the Max are also now required to undergo training in a 737 Max simulator and classroom setting, which was not required before the grounding.

“To be clear, I have the utmost confidence in our ability to safely operate the Boeing 737 MAX 8,” CEO Gary Kelly said in a letter to customers. Kelly was aboard one of the proving flights, describing it as “quiet and smooth.”

The same 15 cities are slated to see the Max in March, per current Cirium data, including Atlanta; Fort Myers, Florida; Baltimore; New Orleans; Columbus, Ohio; Phoenix; Denver; Orlando, Florida; Chicago; Houston, Texas; Kansas City, Missouri; Salt Lake City; Las Vegas; San Antonio, Texas; and Portland, Oregon. After a month, however, the Max will quickly grow in the US with Southwest planning 252 daily departures starting April 12, according to Cirium.

Hawaii is a likely destination for the Max in the future as travelers flock to the islands for a tropical reprieve amid the pandemic. Southwest’s pre-grounding schedule shows that the airline considers the Max to be truly interchangeable with its current fleet and will fly both the longest and shortest flights in the airline’s route map.

Travelers still uncertain about flying on the Max can opt to switch flights free of charge, a policy adopted by all four US airlines operating the aircraft.

A massive new Boeing 737 Max order

March 10, a date that was slated to commemorate the loss of life on Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302 in 2019, became a hopeful day for Boeing as reports indicated Southwest was nearing a deal to buy more Max aircraft from the manufacturer, Reuters reported.

Southwest is eyeing the 737 Max 7, the smallest aircraft in the Max family and one that’s yet to enter commercial service with any airline. If the order comes to fruition, the Max 7 aircraft will gradually replace the 737-700 Next Generation aircraft in Southwest’s fleet.

Boeing and Southwest declined to comment on the deal.

Southwest had driven a hard bargain to secure a favorable deal, even suggesting it might consider taking on the Airbus A220, the smallest aircraft in the European plane maker’s lineup. The order for “dozens” of Max jets is reported to be in the billions, with the list price of $99.7 million per jet, and would put another high-profile order between Boeing and the Max grounding.

The Max 7 could fly any of Southwest’s current routes, including those to Hawaii, thanks to its superior range. Its cost-saving economics combined with commonality with the larger Boeing fleet means Southwest can easily swap the aircraft in on underperforming flights to minimize losses, which may be critical if aviation’s recovery from the pandemic is protracted.

“I would not hesitate for a second to put my wife, daughters, and sons-in-law, and granddaughters onboard the plane,” Kelly said.

Read the original article on Business Insider