New airline ITA has officially taken over for Alitalia – see the full history of Italy’s troubled flag carrier

ITA Airways Chairman Alfredo Altavilla poses with rendering of new livery
ITA Airways Chairman Alfredo Altavilla poses with rendering of new livery

  • Government-owned Alitalia ceased operations on October 15, marking the end of its 74-year era.
  • Alitalia has been replaced by ITA Airways, a brand new airline that will not be responsible for the old carrier’s debt.
  • ITA plans to buy 28 Airbus jets, create a new aircraft livery, and launch a new loyalty program.

Alitalia has officially ceased operations and handed the baton to newcomer ITA Airways, which stands for Italian Air Transport.

Italy’s national carrier Alitalia has had a rocky past full of financial struggles, employee strikes, and other damaging events, forcing it to make the decision to cease operations on October 15 after 74 years of service. The airline stopped the sale of tickets in August and has committed to refunding all passengers who were booked on flights after October 14.

On Thursday, the airline flew its final flight from Cagliari, Italy to Rome, according to FlightAware, officially sealing the fate of Alitalia. On Friday, the country’s new flag carrier ITA took its place with a new livery, airplanes, and network, flying its first route from Milan Linate Airport to Bari International Airport in southern Italy.

Here’s a look at Alitalia’s storied past and the plan of its successor.

Alitalia as a brand began in 1946, one year after World War II ended, first flying in 1947 within Italy and quickly expanding to other European countries and even opening intercontinental routes to South America.

Alitalia DC-3
Passengers disembarking from an Alitalia Douglas DC-3 aircraft.

Source: Boeing and Alitalia

The full name of the airline was Italian International Airlines, a joint effort between the United Kingdom through British European Airways – a precursor to British Airways – and the Italian government.

British European Airways Vickers Viscount
A British European Airways Vickers Viscount.

Source: Boeing and Alitalia

True to its name, Alitalia flew its first with Italian aircraft produced by now-defunct manufacturers in aerospace including Fiat and Savoia-Marchetti.

Alitalia Fiat G-12
An Alitalia Fiat G-12.

Source: Boeing and Alitalia

Following a merger with Italy’s other airline, aptly named Italian Airlines or Linee Aeree Italiane, in 1957, Alitalia – Linee Aeree Italiane became Italy’s top carrier.

LAI Douglas DC-3
A Linee Aeree Italiane Douglas DC-3.

Source: Boeing and Alitalia

Armed with a sizeable fleet of 37 aircraft including the four-engine Douglas DC-6 and Corvair 340, the airline was ranked 12 in the world for international carriers.

Alitalia
Passengers disembarking an Alitalia aircraft.

Source: Boeing and Alitalia

As Europe returned to normalcy following the war, so did Italy and the 1960s became a pivotal decade for both the country and its airline as the 1960 Summer Olympics would be held in Rome.

Alitalia Roma 1960
An Alitalia poster highlighting the upcoming Olympic Games in Rome.

Source: Boeing and Alitalia

The year saw Alitalia carry over one million passengers, introduce jets into its fleet, and move to a new home at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport.

Rome Fiumicino Airport 1961
Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci Fiumicino Airport in 1961.

Source: Boeing and Alitalia

Alitalia entered the jet age with a mix of European and American aircraft such as the Sud Caravelle SE210…

Alitalia Sud Caravelle
An Alitalia Sud Caravelle.

Source: Boeing and Alitalia

And the Douglas DC-8.

Alitalia DC-8
An Alitalia DC-8.

Source: Boeing and Alitalia

American aircraft largely comprised the airline’s fleet once settled into the jet age with a short-haul fleet featuring the McDonnell Douglas DC-9 and later the McDonnell Douglas MD-80…

Alitalia MD-80
An Alitalia MD-80.

Source: Boeing and Alitalia

Complemented by a similarly American-dominated long-haul fleet consisting of aircraft such as the Boeing 747.

Alitalia Boeing 747 Pope John Paul II
An Alitalia Boeing 747 chartered by Pope John Paul II.

Source: Boeing and Alitalia

The arrival of the 747 was a seminal moment for Alitalia and it was the first aircraft to wear the airline’s famed green, white, and red livery with an “A” shape on the tail.

Alitalia tail
Alitalia’s red and green “A” tail design.

Source: Boeing and Alitalia

Alitalia was the first European airline to transition fully into the jet age and continued the switch with more wide-body aircraft such as the Airbus A300.

Alitalia Airbus A300
An Alitalia Airbus A300.

Source: Boeing and Alitalia

Other aircraft that would join the Alitalia jet fleet included the McDonnell Douglas MD-11, McDonnell Douglas DC-10…

Alitalia McDonnell Douglas MD-11
An Alitalia McDonnell Douglas MD-11.

Source: Boeing and Alitalia

And Boeing 767-300ER for long-haul flights.

Alitalia Boeing 767-300ER
An Alitalia Boeing 767-300ER.

Source: Boeing and Alitalia

Alitalia even had uniforms designed by Georgio Armani, who also contributed to aircraft interior designs.

Georgio Armani
Italian designer Georgio Armani.

Source: Alitalia

The airline’s short-haul fleet later included a European favorite, the Airbus A320 family.

FILE PHOTO: An Alitalia Airbus A320-200 airplane comes in to land at Fiumicino airport in Rome, Italy October 24, 2018. REUTERS/Max Rossi/File Photo
An Alitalia Airbus A320 airplane approaches to land at Fiumicino airport in Rome

Source: Boeing

As Italy’s national airline, Alitalia was also known for flying the Pope with the papal plane using the flight number AZ4000, better known as Shepherd One

Alitalia Pope Shepard One
An Alitalia plane chartered by the Pope.

Source: Telegraph

Despite rising traffic throughout its history with Italy being a popular European tourist and leisure destination, the airline struggled with profitability.

Alitalia
Alitalia check-in desks at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport.

As a state-owned airline, Alitalia could always depend on the government to keep it flying, until the European Union stepped in and forbade financial support in 2006.

Alitalia Airbus A330
An Alitalia Airbus A330.

Source: New York Times

The 2000s then saw serious discussion into Alitalia’s future with the Italian government wanting to sell its stake in the airline. The airline was opened for bidders in 2007 but yielded no results.

Alitalia
A crow flying passed an Alitalia plane.

Source: New York Times

Air France-KLM Group, the parent company of Air France and KLM as well as several smaller European airlines, then offered to buy the struggling airline but couldn’t get labor unions on board and the deal collapsed.

Alitalia/Air France-KLM
Alitalia and Air France-KLM Group signage.

Source: Reuters

The Italian government, not wanting to lose its flag carrier, continued to prop up its airline via emergency loans in violation of European Union rules.

European Commission, Union, Brussels, flag
The European Commission in Brussels.

Source: European Union

The third attempt in two years to sell the airline came after the Air France-KLM Group deal collapsed with an investors group forming the Compagnia Aerea Italiana to purchase the airline, despite heavy pushback from labor unions.

Alitalia Boeing 777
An Alitalia Boeing 777.

Source: Reuters

This Alitalia began operations in 2009, with Air France-KLM soon coming back into the picture taking a 25% stake from CAI.

Air France/Alitalia Joint Venture
Alitalia meeting with Air France, Delta, and KLM executives.

Source: Financial Times

The new airline quickly began differentiating itself from its former self, leasing aircraft instead of purchasing them with the fleet consisting of the Airbus A330 family…

Alitalia Airbus A330
An Alitalia Airbus A330.

Source: FlightGlobal

And Boeing 777 family comprising the airline’s long-haul fleet.

Alitalia Boeing 777
An Alitalia Boeing 777.

Source: FlightGlobal

It wasn’t long before Alitalia was plagued with issues ranging from union strikes to underperforming subsidiaries and even a sting operation that saw Alitalia employees arrested for theft, according to contemporaneous news reports.

Alitalia strike
Alitalia workers protesting at Fiumicino Airport.

Source: New York Times and BBC

With bankruptcy looming in 2013, Alitalia secured another bailout with help from the government that highlighted the need for restructuring.

Alitalia Airbus A320
An Alitalia Airbus A320.

Source: New York Times

Alitalia saw a new investor in 2015, Eithad Airways, which would take a 49% stake in the airline and Alitalia – Compagnia Aerea Italiana became Alitalia – Societa Aerea Italiana.

Alitalia/Etihad
Alitalia and Etihad celebrating a new partnership.

Source: Alitalia

With a new investor in tow, Alitalia began cost-cutting measures but facing a backlash from employees due to planned job cuts, the airline began bankruptcy proceedings and the government announced Alitalia would be auctioned.

Alitalia and Etihad
Alitalia and Etihad’s merger livery.

Source: Reuters

Meanwhile, another airline was positioning itself to become the new Italian flag carrier, the aptly named Air Italy.

Air Italy Airbus A330 200
An Air Italy Airbus A330-200.

Rebranded from Meridiana, a regional Italian airline, Air Italy was jointly owned by private company Alisarda and Qatar Airways.

Qatar Airways Boeing 777
A Qatar Airways Boeing 777-200LR.

The airline chose Milan as its main hub ceding Rome to Alitalia. Long-haul flights from Milan to New York began in June 2018, with expansion to Asia happening soon after.

Air Italy Marco Rigotti
Air Italy’s inaugural ceremony for Milan-New York flights.

Affected by the grounding of the Boeing 737 Max and without the Italian government as a benefactor, Air Italy closed up shop in early 2020, giving back full control of Italy to Alitalia.

Alitalia Airbus A320
An Alitalia Airbus A320.

While Air Italy was getting its start, the Italian government would once again seek outside investors with European, North American, and Asian airlines expressing interest in Alitalia.

Alitalia aircraft
Alitalia aircraft in Italy.

Among those interested were UK low-cost carrier EasyJet…

FILE PHOTO: EasyJet airplanes are pictured at Tegel airport in Berlin, Germany, November 14, 2019. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch/File Photo
EasyJet airplanes are pictured at Tegel airport in Berlin.

Source: Bloomberg

Irish low-cost carrier Ryanair…

FILE PHOTO: A Ryanair commercial passenger jet takes off in Blagnac near Toulouse, France, May 29, 2019. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau/File Photo
A Ryanair commercial passenger jet takes off in Blagnac near Toulouse.

Source: The Guardian

The Lufthansa Group…

Lufthansa airplanes are seen parked on the tarmac during a strike of cabin crew union (UFO) at Frankfurt airport, Germany November 7, 2019. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski/File Photo
Strike of Germany’s cabin crew union UFO at Frankfurt airport.

Source: CNBC

Delta Air Lines…

Delta Air Lines Boeing 777
A Delta Air Lines Boeing 777-200.

Source: Bloomberg

And China Eastern Airlines…

china eastern airlines airplane
A China Eastern Airlines Airbus A320.

Source: Reuters

As well as Italian railway group Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane.

Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane
A Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane train.

Source: Reuters

One after the other, the airlines dropped their interest, and ultimately, the Italian government re-nationalized the airline on March 17 during the coronavirus pandemic.

Alitalia coronavirus.
Alitalia was re-nationalized amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Source: Reuters

 

Despite bailouts from the state, the pandemic and subsequent lockdown of Italy took the ultimate toll on Alitalia, forcing it to make the decision to close the airline and launch a new one.

Alitalia aircraft in the Frankfurt airport
Alitalia aircraft at the Frankfurt airport

Source: The Local

On August 25, the airline stopped selling tickets and announced on its website that it would be offering free flight changes or refunds for passengers booked on Alitalia flights after October 14.

People at Alitalia check in counter
People at Alitalia check in counter

Source: The Local

When the airline ceased operations, its successor, Italia Transporto Aereo, took its place. Alitalia’s last flight flew from Cagliari, Italy to Rome on October 14, and ITA launched operations with a flight from Milan to Bari, Italy on October 15.

ITA app and logo
ITA app and logo

Source: AeroTime

Talks between the European Commission and Italy over Alitalia and ITA began in March 2021, with Rome designating 3 billion euros ($3.6 billion) to establish the new flag carrier.

ITA signage at Catania airport
ITA signage at Catania airport

Source: Reuters

Initially, ITA was slated to begin operations in April 2021, but lengthy discussions between Italy and the European Commission delayed its launch.

Flags outside European Commission building in Brussels
Flags outside European Commission building in Brussels

Source: Reuters

Part of the negotiations focused on confirming ITA’s independence of Alitalia to ensure it did not inherit the billions of debt the old carrier owed to the state.

Alitalia Airbus A319
Alitalia Airbus A319

Source: Reuters

Talks also included asking ITA to forfeit half of Alitalia’s slots at Milan Linate Airport, which the airline was unwilling to do.

Alitalia aircraft sit at Milan Linate airport
Alitalia aircraft sit at Milan Linate airport

Source: Reuters

ITA determined giving up that many slots at Linarte would be too big of a loss and proposed forfeiting slots at Rome Fiumicino Airport as a compromise.

Alitalia check in counter Leonardo da Vinci Fiumicino airport
Alitalia check in counter Leonardo da Vinci Fiumicino airport

Source: Reuters

At the end of the discussions, negotiators agreed to allow ITA to keep 85% of slots at Linate and 43% at Fiumicino.

Green ribbon barrier with the ITA airline logo inside the Leonardo da Vinci airport
Green ribbon barrier with the ITA airline logo inside the Leonardo da Vinci airport

Source: Reuters

Also under negotiation was Alitalia’s brand and its loyalty program, MilleMiglia. The European Commission said ITA would have to give up both.

Alitalia Airbus A320
Alitalia Airbus A320

Source: Reuters

Under European Commission rules, MilleMiglia cannot be bought by ITA and must be put out for public tender, meaning another airline or entity outside the aviation industry can purchase the program. There are an estimated five million MilleMiglia miles that customers have not been able to use.

Customer checking into an Alitalia flight
Customer checking into an Alitalia flight

Source: EuroNews

However, ITA was able to bid on Alitalia’s brand, which it did the day before its launch. The airline bought the Alitalia name for €90 million ($104 million), though ITA executives say they don’t plan on replacing the ITA name.

Alitalia aircraft
Alitalia aircraft

Source: Reuters

ITA began operations on October 15, the day after Alitalia’s last flight. The new airline secured €700 million ($830 million) in funding earlier this year, which helped it purchase some of Alitalia’s assets.

Alitalia employees with new livery in 2015
Alitalia employees with new livery in 2015

Source: Reuters

The successor acquired 52 of Alitalia’s aircraft, seven being wide-bodies, and has plans to purchase and lease new ones, the first of which will enter the fleet in early 2022.

Alitalia Boeing 777
Alitalia Boeing 777

Source: Reuters

By 2025, the airline expects to have 105 aircraft in its fleet and earn over 3.3 billion euros in revenue.

ITA logo with Alitalia aircraft passing in front
ITA logo with Alitalia aircraft

Source: ReutersAirways Magazine

Moreover, ITA plans to renew its fleet with next-generation aircraft, which is expected to make up 77% of its fleet in four years. According to ITA, the aircraft will reduce CO2 emissions by 750 thousand pounds from 2021 to 2025.

Milan Linate Airport
Milan Linate Airport

Source: Airways Magazine, ITA Airways

The 31 new-generation planes, which include short, medium, and long-haul aircraft, will be leased by Air Lease Corporation.

Airbus A320neo
Airbus A320neo

Source: Airways Magazine

Meanwhile, 28 new Airbus jets, including ten Airbus A330neos, seven Airbus A220 family aircraft, and 11 Airbus A320neo family jets, will be purchased.

Airbus A220
Airbus A220

Source: Airways Magazine

As part of a carbon-reducing project, the first 10 flights to depart Rome on October 15 will use sustainable aviation fuels made by Italian energy company Eni. The project will contribute to the EU’s “Fit for 55” proposal, which strives to reduce carbon emissions by at least 55% by 2030.

Eni headquarters in Rome
Eni headquarters in Rome

Source: Airways Magazine

ITA introduced a new livery on launch day, which includes a light blue paint scheme representing unity, cohesion, and pride of the nation, as well as homage to Italy’s national sports team, which wears sky blue during competitions. On the tail will be the Italian tricolor of red, white, and green.

ITA Airways Chairman Alfredo Altavilla poses with rendering of new livery
ITA Airways Chairman Alfredo Altavilla poses with rendering of new livery

Source: Airways Magazine

In regards to its network, the carrier launched with 59 routes to 44 destinations. ITA plans to increase its routes to 74 in 2022 and 89 by 2025, while destinations are expected to increase to 58 in 2022 and 74 by 2025.

ITA logo
ITA logo

Source: Airways Magazine

ITA will focus its operation out of Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci International Airport and Milan Linate Airport, establishing itself as a “reference airline” for both business and leisure travelers.

Rome Fiumicino Airport

Source: Airways Magazine

The carrier also plans to target the North American market, with flights from Rome to New York launching on November 4.

Buildings in Manhattan as seen from the tall One Vanderbilt building against a blue sky.

Source: CNN

As for the over 11,000 Alitalia workers, 70% were hired to work for ITA, which has 2,800 employees. 30% of that came from outside Alitalia. The company plans to add 1,000 new jobs in 2022 and reach 5,750 employees by 2025.

Alitalia staff at Milan Linate
Alitalia staff at Milan Linate

Source: Reuters, Airways Magazine

ITA plans to improve upon Alitalia’s services, including incentivizing good customer service by attaching employee salary with customer satisfaction.

Alitalia staff
Alitalia staff

Source: CNN

ITA has set up a loyalty program called Volare, effective October 15, which is split into four levels: smart, plus, premium, and executive. Customers can use accrued points for any flight in ITA’s system.

ITA app
ITA app

Source: Airways Magazine

According to ITA executives, the company plans to join a major international alliance, though it has not stated which one it prefers. Alitalia was aligned with the SkyTeam alliance, which is comprised of carriers like Delta, Air France, and KLM.

Alitalia Embraer 190LR SkyTeam livery
Alitalia Embraer 190LR SkyTeam livery

Source: CNN, Reuters

However, ITA chairman Alfredo Altavilla said it was open to all options. “ITA can’t be a stand-alone carrier forever,” he said.

Alitalia Boeing 767 SkyTeam livery
Alitalia Boeing 767 SkyTeam livery

Source: Reuters

While it is the end of an era with the closing of Alitalia, there are high hopes for its successor. “ITA Airways has been created to intercept the recovery of air traffic in the coming years on the strength of the foundations of its strategy: sustainability, digitalization, customer focus, and innovations,” said ITA CEO Fabio Lazzerini.

Alitalia plane with ITA logo
Alitalia plane with ITA logo

Source: Airways Magazine

Read the original article on Business Insider

South African Airways is flying again after its government cut funding last year. Here’s a look at the collapse and revival of the 87-year-old national airline.

SAA relaunches flights after a year of inactivity
SAA relaunches flights after a year of inactivity

  • South African Airways relaunched operations with a flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town after a year of inactivity.
  • Though not involved in the relaunch, the airline has likely secured a new investor, Takatso Consortium.
  • SAA said it’s optimistic about its revival, but it’s not without its skeptics.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

South African Airways was on the brink of disappearance after years of financial struggles, but it may have received a lifeline.

On Thursday, the carrier relaunched operations on a flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town using money it received from the South African government. After getting in millions from the state, the long-suffering carrier was denied further funding last year, and, as FlightGlobal reported, business rescuers entrusted with the difficult task of rescuing the 87-year-old airline had given it two options: liquidation or a wind-down and sale process.

However, SAA has likely secured a private investor, Takatso Consortium, in June 2021, which agreed to funnel up to $243 million into the crippled airline over the next three years. Takatso Consortium CEO Gidon Novick said the relaunch is independent of the negotiations between the consortium and the carrier.

Take a look at South African Airways’ collapse and rebirth.

The airline itself dates back to 1934 when South Africa’s Union Airways was nationalized to form the new South African Airways. The state-owned airline would become the flag carrier of South Africa, which was still part of the British Empire at the time.

South African Airways
A South African Airways Junkers aircraft.

Source: South African Airways

Initial operations for South African included regional flights within Africa. Intra-African and domestic flights were operated by aircraft including the Junkers Ju 52, Douglas DC-3, and Junkers Ju 86.

South African Airways Douglas DC-3
A Douglas DC-3 painted in South African Airways former colors.

Source: South African Airways

Once World War II ended, South African expanded beyond the shores of its home continent with a multi-stop flight to the heart of the British Empire. The route was known as the “Springbok” service, after the national animal of South Africa.

Avro York
An Avro York aircraft similar to the one used by South African Airways.

Source: South African Airways

The 34-hour, three-day service initially flown by an Avro York aircraft, stopped in Nairobi, Kenya; Khartoum, Sudan; Cairo, Egypt; and Castel Benito, Libya, before arriving in Bournemouth, England.

Avro York
An Avro York aircraft similar to the one used by South African Airways.

Source: South African Airways

Springbok would also become the radio callsign for South African Airways flights.

South African Airways DC-3
A Douglas DC-3 painted in South African Airways former colors.

More modern aircraft from Western manufacturers including the Lockheed Constellation L-749 and Douglas DC-4 were later added, helping fuel international expansion.

South African Airways Douglas DC-4
A Douglas DC-4 painted in South African Airways former colors.

Source: South African Airways

The airline added flight attendants on its services in 1946 and later added in-flight movies to some of its flights in the same decade.

South African Airways Douglas DC-3
A Douglas DC-3 painted in South African Airways former colors.

Source: South African Airways

South Africa entered the jet age in 1953 with a British Overseas Airways Corporation de Havilland Comet operated by South African Airways that flew from Johannesburg to London.

BOAC Comet - British Overseas Airways Corporation
A BOAC de Havilland Comet aircraft.

Source: South African Airways

Intercontinental expansion continued with South African Airways later growing its route network to Australia in 1957 with “Wallaby” service.

South African Airways Douglas DC-4
A Douglas DC-4 painted in South African Airways former colors.

Source: South African Airways

The 1960s then saw further expansion to South America, with flights to Rio de Janeiro, and then North America, with flights to New York, using the Boeing 707.

GettyImages 1080973456
A South African Airways Boeing 707 aircraft.

Source: South African Airways

South African hit a milestone in the 1970s with its first Boeing 747 aircraft, an aircraft that had begun flying passengers only at the beginning of the decade. The quad engine aircraft quickly became a status symbol for the world’s airlines.

South African Airways Boeing 747
A South African Airways Boeing 747 aircraft.

Source: South African Airways

Other new arrivals included the Boeing 737…

South African Airways Boeing 737-800
A South African Airways Boeing 737-800 aircraft.

Source: South African Airways

And Airbus A300.

South African Airways Airbus A300
A South African Airways Airbus A300 aircraft.

Source: South African Airways

South African was also one of the first commercial operators of a unique Boeing product, the 747SP.

South African Airways Boeing 747SP
A South African Airways Boeing 747SP aircraft.

Source: South African Airways

A shortened version of the popular Jumbo Jet but with the same four engines, the 747SP offering extended ranges unmatched by most aircraft of the time. The range of the 747SP was so great that South African flew it from Seattle to Cape Town nonstop, a distance of over 8,800 nautical miles, on its delivery flight.

South African Airways Boeing 747SP
A South African Airways Boeing 747SP aircraft.

Source: South African Airways

While airlines liked the 747SP for its performance capabilities, South African had a different reason involving the country’s apartheid policy.

Boeing 747SP
A Boeing 747SP aircraft.

Due to the discriminatory policy, some African countries had restricted South African Airways flights from entering their airspaces and the airline would often have to fly indirect routes to get to Europe.

South African Airways Boeing 747SP
A South African Airways Boeing 747SP aircraft.

Source: New York Times

The Boeing 747SP allowed for South African to go around the countries without having to stop for fuel on the way to Europe. Other aircraft frequently used Cape Verde as a refueling stop for flights to Europe, despite the archipelago’s location off the coast of West Africa.

South African Airways Boeing 747SP
A South African Airways Boeing 747SP aircraft.

Source: New York Times

A route from Johannesburg to Athens on the 747SP, for example, stopped in Lisbon and Rome along the way. The flight flew direct or with one stop to Lisbon, and then headed into the continent.

South African Airways Boeing 747SP
A South African Airways Boeing 747SP aircraft.

Source: South African Airways

The 1980s then saw turbulence for the carrier as Western nations adopted sanctions against South Africa for its apartheid policies. Flights to the US and Australia were revoked in addition to the countries that had barred South African’s flights.

South African Airways Protest
Australian protests against South Africa’s apartheid policy.

Source: South African Airways

When apartheid ended in the 1990s, South African was allowed to grow its route network once again and the airline no longer needed to fly the long, costly routes to avoid some nations.

South African Airways Airbus
A South African Airways Airbus A320 aircraft.

Source: South African Airways

One of the most notable displays of the new airline came in 1995 during the Rugby World Cups when a South African Airways Boeing 747 did a flyover of the stadium with “Good Luck Bokke,” a nickname for the South African team, painted on the belly. The feat was repeated multiple times in later years by other airlines.

South Africa Rugby
An aircraft flyover at a 2013 Springboks vs All Blacks rugby match,

Source: South African Airways and Safair

The decade also saw the airline win the title of Africa’s leading airline from 1994 on to 2015. The 1990s, however, also saw the airline begin its financial losing streak.

South African Airways Boeing 747
South African Airways aircraft.

Source: QZ

The 2000s saw South African undergo a fleet renewal where most of its long-haul Boeing jets were retired in favor of European-built Airbus planes. The new long-haul flagships became the Airbus A330…

South African Airways Airbus A330
A South African Airways Airbus A330 aircraft.

Source: Planespotters.net

And A340-600.

South African Airways Airbus A340
A South African Airways Airbus A340-600 aircraft.

Source: Planespotters.net

South African was later brought into organizations to which it had been denied including the International Civil Aviation Organization and joined the Star Alliance.

South African Airways
South African Airways joined Star Alliance in 2006.

Source: South African Airways

Its new-found praise and acceptance, however, couldn’t replace the financial woes of the airline. In 2019, South African entered the equivalent of bankruptcy protection and began restructuring after racking up nearly $3 billion in debt.

South African Airways Protest
South African Airways employees protest during the airline’s bankruptcy.

Source: QZ

Despite being in the midst of restructuring, South African leased a new aircraft, the Airbus A350-900 XWB, which ultimately launched on the Johannesburg-New York route in January 2020.

South African Airways Airbus A350
A South African Airways Airbus A350-900 XWB.

Read More: Bankrupt South African Airways just debuted its newest plane, the Airbus A350, weeks early despite verging on the brink of collapse

The swanky new aircraft would be ideal for the ultra-long-haul routes that South African planned to use them for.

South African Airways Airbus A350
A South African Airways Airbus A350-900 XWB.

With the new aircraft in the air and flying passengers, the hope was that South African might have a plan to save itself from collapse.

South African Airways Airbus A350
A South African Airways Airbus A350-900 XWB.

South Africa’s government, which has been incrementally providing relief, however, ultimately pulled the plug in April 2020.

South African Airways Airbus A340
A South African Airways Airbus A340-600.

Source: FlightGlobal

Without intervention from either the government or a private buyer willing to keep the airline going, South African Airways looked like it was going to disappear from the skies for good.

South African Airways Airbus A350
A South African Airways Airbus A350-900 XWB.

However, the airline is back up and running after over a year of inactivity. SAA relaunched operations on September 23 with a flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town using an A320 aircraft, which carried 123 passengers on the maiden journey.

SAA's first flight in over a year
SAA’s first flight in over a year

Source: Aerotime Hub

The relaunch came after months of restructuring, which included reducing its debt and cutting its workforce by 80%, down from 4,000 to 802.

SAA relaunch at Johannesburg airport
SAA relaunch at Johannesburg airport

Source: Aerotime Hub, ch-aviation

The airline will be backed by Takatso Consortium, a joint-venture between Harith General Partners and Global Aviation, which is in late stage talks to buy the majority stake from the South African government in June.

South African union buildings
South African union buildings

Source: africannews

Takatso Consortium is set to be SAA’s lifeline, though is not reportedly involved in the airline’s management, relaunch, or funding. However, Takatso CEO Gidon Novick said in a statement that negotiations to take a 51% share are “substantially complete.”

SAA A320 at Johannesburg airport
SAA A320 at Johannesburg airport

Source: ch-aviation

The consortium’s deal made with South Africa’s Department of Public Enterprises includes investing up to $243 million into the airline over the next three years.

SAA A330 takes off from Lusaka, Zambia
SAA A330 takes off from Lusaka, Zambia

Source: africannews

Without its private funds yet secured, the company is using $33.8 million of the $712.3 million bailout it received from the state to restart operations.

SAA A320
SAA A320

Source: ch-aviation

SAA’s interim CEO Thomas Kgokolo said the company needs a modern fleet of aircraft if it is going to be competitive outside of Africa. Currently, its all-Airbus fleet has an average age of more than 15 years.

SAA plane in Namibia
SAA plane in Namibia

Source: africannews

However, Kgokolo said ticket sales are promising and early numbers indicate flights could be 75% full.

SAA passengers
SAA passengers

Source: africannews

The airline’s fleet has shrunk, having only six of the original 44 it had before insolvency. SAA will start with a small network, operating one domestic route and five regional routes, including to Accra, Ghana; Kinshasa, DRC; Harare, Zimbabwe; Lusaka, Zambia; and Maputo, Mozambique.

SAA plane in Johannesburg
SAA plane in Johannesburg

Source: ch-aviation

While it still has a long way to go, SAA’s relaunch has brought pride and excitement for its employees. Crew members danced and sang at the Johannesburg airport before the maiden flight.

SAA employees dance after relaunch
SAA employees dance after relaunch

Source: Reuters

While the airline is optimistic about its return, skeptics believe it will be short-lived. According to Efficient Group economist Dawie Roodt, Takatso Consortium’s absence from the relaunch is not a good sign.

SAA A340 wing
SAA A340 wing

Source: jacarandafm

He explained that the slow deal with the consortium makes him wonder where the money to keep SAA in the air is going to come from. Without the agreement finalized, the airline will likely have its wings clipped again soon, according to Roodt.

SAA tail at Frankfurt airport
SAA tail at Frankfurt airport

Source: jacarandafm

Read the original article on Business Insider

Alitalia is dying and being reborn as a new airline called ITA – see the full history of Italy’s troubled flag carrier

FILE PHOTO: An Alitalia Airbus A330-200 airplane is pictured at Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport in Rome, Italy, March 30, 2019. REUTERS/Alberto Lingria/File Photo
An Alitalia Airbus A330 airplane is pictured at Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport in Rome

  • Government-owned Alitalia is ceasing operations on October 15 after failing to secure investors, marking the end of its 74-year era.
  • The national carrier will be replaced by Italia Transporto Aereo, a brand new airline independent of Alitalia that will not be responsible for the old carrier’s debt to the state.
  • ITA plans to purchase 52 Alitalia aircraft, acquire its slots at Milan Linate and Rome Fiumicino airports, and hire over 2,500 employees.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

After a long run of trying to secure investors, Alitalia is officially closing its doors.

Italy’s national carrier Alitalia has had a rocky past full of financial struggles, employee strikes, and other damaging events, forcing it to make the decision to cease operations on October 15 after 74 years of service. The airline stopped the sale of tickets in August and has committed to refunding all passengers who were booked on flights after October 14.

On the day the airline closes in October, the country’s new flag carrier Italia Transporto Aereo will take its place.

Here’s a look at Alitalia’s storied past and the plan of its successor.

Alitalia as a brand began in 1946, one year after World War II ended, first flying in 1947 within Italy and quickly expanding to other European countries and even opening intercontinental routes to South America.

Alitalia DC-3
Passengers disembarking from an Alitalia Douglas DC-3 aircraft.

Source: Boeing and Alitalia

The full name of the airline was Italian International Airlines, a joint effort between the United Kingdom through British European Airways – a precursor to British Airways – and the Italian government.

British European Airways Vickers Viscount
A British European Airways Vickers Viscount.

Source: Boeing and Alitalia

True to its name, Alitalia flew its first with Italian aircraft produced by now-defunct manufacturers in aerospace including Fiat and Savoia-Marchetti.

Alitalia Fiat G-12
An Alitalia Fiat G-12.

Source: Boeing and Alitalia

Following a merger with Italy’s other airline, aptly named Italian Airlines or Linee Aeree Italiane, in 1957, Alitalia – Linee Aeree Italiane became Italy’s top carrier.

LAI Douglas DC-3
A Linee Aeree Italiane Douglas DC-3.

Source: Boeing and Alitalia

Armed with a sizeable fleet of 37 aircraft including the four-engine Douglas DC-6 and Corvair 340, the airline was ranked 12 in the world for international carriers.

Alitalia
Passengers disembarking an Alitalia aircraft.

Source: Boeing and Alitalia

As Europe returned to normalcy following the war, so did Italy and the 1960s became a pivotal decade for both the country and its airline as the 1960 Summer Olympics would be held in Rome.

Alitalia Roma 1960
An Alitalia poster highlighting the upcoming Olympic Games in Rome.

Source: Boeing and Alitalia

The year saw Alitalia carry over one million passengers, introduce jets into its fleet, and move to a new home at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport.

Rome Fiumicino Airport 1961
Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci Fiumicino Airport in 1961.

Source: Boeing and Alitalia

Alitalia entered the jet age with a mix of European and American aircraft such as the Sud Caravelle SE210…

Alitalia Sud Caravelle
An Alitalia Sud Caravelle.

Source: Boeing and Alitalia

And the Douglas DC-8.

Alitalia DC-8
An Alitalia DC-8.

Source: Boeing and Alitalia

American aircraft largely comprised the airline’s fleet once settled into the jet age with a short-haul fleet featuring the McDonnell Douglas DC-9 and later the McDonnell Douglas MD-80…

Alitalia MD-80
An Alitalia MD-80.

Source: Boeing and Alitalia

Complemented by a similarly American-dominated long-haul fleet consisting of aircraft such as the Boeing 747.

Alitalia Boeing 747 Pope John Paul II
An Alitalia Boeing 747 chartered by Pope John Paul II.

Source: Boeing and Alitalia

The arrival of the 747 was a seminal moment for Alitalia and it was the first aircraft to wear the airline’s famed green, white, and red livery with an “A” shape on the tail.

Alitalia tail
Alitalia’s red and green “A” tail design.

Source: Boeing and Alitalia

Alitalia was the first European airline to transition fully into the jet age and continued the switch with more wide-body aircraft such as the Airbus A300.

Alitalia Airbus A300
An Alitalia Airbus A300.

Source: Boeing and Alitalia

Other aircraft that would join the Alitalia jet fleet included the McDonnell Douglas MD-11, McDonnell Douglas DC-10…

Alitalia McDonnell Douglas MD-11
An Alitalia McDonnell Douglas MD-11.

Source: Boeing and Alitalia

And Boeing 767-300ER for long-haul flights.

Alitalia Boeing 767-300ER
An Alitalia Boeing 767-300ER.

Source: Boeing and Alitalia

Alitalia even had uniforms designed by Georgio Armani, who also contributed to aircraft interior designs.

Georgio Armani
Italian designer Georgio Armani.

Source: Alitalia

The airline’s short-haul fleet later included a European favorite, the Airbus A320 family.

FILE PHOTO: An Alitalia Airbus A320-200 airplane comes in to land at Fiumicino airport in Rome, Italy October 24, 2018. REUTERS/Max Rossi/File Photo
An Alitalia Airbus A320 airplane approaches to land at Fiumicino airport in Rome

Source: Boeing

As Italy’s national airline, Alitalia was also known for flying the Pope with the papal plane using the flight number AZ4000, better known as Shepherd One

Alitalia Pope Shepard One
An Alitalia plane chartered by the Pope.

Source: Telegraph

Despite rising traffic throughout its history with Italy being a popular European tourist and leisure destination, the airline struggled with profitability.

Alitalia
Alitalia check-in desks at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport.

As a state-owned airline, Alitalia could always depend on the government to keep it flying, until the European Union stepped in and forbade financial support in 2006.

Alitalia Airbus A330
An Alitalia Airbus A330.

Source: New York Times

The 2000s then saw serious discussion into Alitalia’s future with the Italian government wanting to sell its stake in the airline. The airline was opened for bidders in 2007 but yielded no results.

Alitalia
A crow flying passed an Alitalia plane.

Source: New York Times

Air France-KLM Group, the parent company of Air France and KLM as well as several smaller European airlines, then offered to buy the struggling airline but couldn’t get labor unions on board and the deal collapsed.

Alitalia/Air France-KLM
Alitalia and Air France-KLM Group signage.

Source: Reuters

The Italian government, not wanting to lose its flag carrier, continued to prop up its airline via emergency loans in violation of European Union rules.

European Commission, Union, Brussels, flag
The European Commission in Brussels.

Source: European Union

The third attempt in two years to sell the airline came after the Air France-KLM Group deal collapsed with an investors group forming the Compagnia Aerea Italiana to purchase the airline, despite heavy pushback from labor unions.

Alitalia Boeing 777
An Alitalia Boeing 777.

Source: Reuters

This Alitalia began operations in 2009, with Air France-KLM soon coming back into the picture taking a 25% stake from CAI.

Air France/Alitalia Joint Venture
Alitalia meeting with Air France, Delta, and KLM executives.

Source: Financial Times

The new airline quickly began differentiating itself from its former self, leasing aircraft instead of purchasing them with the fleet consisting of the Airbus A330 family…

Alitalia Airbus A330
An Alitalia Airbus A330.

Source: FlightGlobal

And Boeing 777 family comprising the airline’s long-haul fleet.

Alitalia Boeing 777
An Alitalia Boeing 777.

Source: FlightGlobal

It wasn’t long before Alitalia was plagued with issues ranging from union strikes to underperforming subsidiaries and even a sting operation that saw Alitalia employees arrested for theft, according to contemporaneous news reports.

Alitalia strike
Alitalia workers protesting at Fiumicino Airport.

Source: New York Times and BBC

With bankruptcy looming in 2013, Alitalia secured another bailout with help from the government that highlighted the need for restructuring.

Alitalia Airbus A320
An Alitalia Airbus A320.

Source: New York Times

Alitalia saw a new investor in 2015, Eithad Airways, which would take a 49% stake in the airline and Alitalia – Compagnia Aerea Italiana became Alitalia – Societa Aerea Italiana.

Alitalia/Etihad
Alitalia and Etihad celebrating a new partnership.

Source: Alitalia

With a new investor in tow, Alitalia began cost-cutting measures but facing a backlash from employees due to planned job cuts, the airline began bankruptcy proceedings and the government announced Alitalia would be auctioned.

Alitalia and Etihad
Alitalia and Etihad’s merger livery.

Source: Reuters

Meanwhile, another airline was positioning itself to become the new Italian flag carrier, the aptly named Air Italy.

Air Italy Airbus A330 200
An Air Italy Airbus A330-200.

Rebranded from Meridiana, a regional Italian airline, Air Italy was jointly owned by private company Alisarda and Qatar Airways.

Qatar Airways Boeing 777
A Qatar Airways Boeing 777-200LR.

The airline chose Milan as its main hub ceding Rome to Alitalia. Long-haul flights from Milan to New York began in June 2018, with expansion to Asia happening soon after.

Air Italy Marco Rigotti
Air Italy’s inaugural ceremony for Milan-New York flights.

Affected by the grounding of the Boeing 737 Max and without the Italian government as a benefactor, Air Italy closed up shop in early 2020, giving back full control of Italy to Alitalia.

Alitalia Airbus A320
An Alitalia Airbus A320.

While Air Italy was getting its start, the Italian government would once again seek outside investors with European, North American, and Asian airlines expressing interest in Alitalia.

Alitalia aircraft
Alitalia aircraft in Italy.

Among those interested were UK low-cost carrier EasyJet…

FILE PHOTO: EasyJet airplanes are pictured at Tegel airport in Berlin, Germany, November 14, 2019. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch/File Photo
EasyJet airplanes are pictured at Tegel airport in Berlin.

Source: Bloomberg

Irish low-cost carrier Ryanair…

FILE PHOTO: A Ryanair commercial passenger jet takes off in Blagnac near Toulouse, France, May 29, 2019. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau/File Photo
A Ryanair commercial passenger jet takes off in Blagnac near Toulouse.

Source: The Guardian

The Lufthansa Group…

Lufthansa airplanes are seen parked on the tarmac during a strike of cabin crew union (UFO) at Frankfurt airport, Germany November 7, 2019. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski/File Photo
Strike of Germany’s cabin crew union UFO at Frankfurt airport.

Source: CNBC

Delta Air Lines…

Delta Air Lines Boeing 777
A Delta Air Lines Boeing 777-200.

Source: Bloomberg

And China Eastern Airlines…

china eastern airlines airplane
A China Eastern Airlines Airbus A320.

Source: Reuters

As well as Italian railway group Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane.

Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane
A Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane train.

Source: Reuters

One after the other, the airlines dropped their interest, and ultimately, the Italian government re-nationalized the airline on March 17 during the coronavirus pandemic.

Alitalia coronavirus.
Alitalia was re-nationalized amid the coronavirus pandemic.

 

 

Despite bailouts from the state, the pandemic and subsequent lockdown of Italy took the ultimate toll on Alitalia, forcing it to make the decision to close the airline and launch a new one.

Alitalia aircraft in the Frankfurt airport
Alitalia aircraft at the Frankfurt airport

As of August 25, the airline stopped selling tickets and announced on its website that it would be offering free flight changes or refunds for passengers booked on Alitalia flights after October 14.

People at Alitalia check in counter
People at Alitalia check in counter

When the airline ceases operations, its successor, Italia Transporto Aereo, will take its place.

ITA app and logo
ITA app and logo

Talks between the European Commission and Italy over Alitalia and ITA began in March 2021, with Rome designating 3 billion euros ($3.6 billion) to establish the new flag carrier.

ITA logo with Alitalia aircraft passing in front
ITA logo with Alitalia aircraft

Source: Reuters

Initially, ITA was slated to begin operations in April 2021, but lengthy discussions between Italy and the European Commission delayed its launch.

Flags outside European Commission building in Brussels
Flags outside European Commission building in Brussels

Source: Reuters

Part of the negotiations focused on confirming ITA’s independence of Alitalia to ensure it did not inherit the billions of debt the old carrier owed to the state.

Alitalia Airbus A319
Alitalia Airbus A319

Source: Reuters

Talks also included asking ITA to forfeit half of Alitalia’s slots at Milan Linate Airport, which the airline was unwilling to do.

Alitalia aircraft sit at Milan Linate airport
Alitalia aircraft sit at Milan Linate airport

Source: Reuters

ITA determined giving up that many slots at Linarte would be too big of a loss and proposed forfeiting slots at Rome Fiumicino Airport as a compromise.

Alitalia check in counter Leonardo da Vinci Fiumicino airport
Alitalia check in counter Leonardo da Vinci Fiumicino airport

Source: Reuters

At the end of the discussions, negotiators agreed to allow ITA to keep 85% of slots at Linate and 43% at Fiumicino.

Green ribbon barrier with the ITA airline logo inside the Leonardo da Vinci airport
Green ribbon barrier with the ITA airline logo inside the Leonardo da Vinci airport

Source: Reuters

Also under negotiation was Alitalia’s brand and its loyalty program, MilleMiglia. The European Commission said ITA would have to give up both.

Alitalia Airbus A320
Alitalia Airbus A320

Source: Reuters

Under European Commission rules, MilleMiglia cannot be bought by ITA and must be put out for public tender, meaning another airline or entity outside the aviation industry can purchase the program. There are an estimated five million MilleMiglia miles that customers have not been able to use.

Customer checking into an Alitalia flight
Customer checking into an Alitalia flight

Source: EuroNews

However, ITA can bid on Alitalia’s brand, which it plans to do in a public tender. The airline believes the brand is “an essential element in carrying out its industrial plan.”

Alitalia aircraft
Alitalia aircraft

Source: Reuters

ITA will begin operations on October 15, the day after Alitalia’s last flight. The new airline secured €700 million ($830 million) in funding, which will help it purchase some of Alitalia’s assets.

Alitalia employees with new livery in 2015
Alitalia employees with new livery in 2015

Source: Reuters

The successor plans to purchase 52 of Alitalia’s aircraft, seven of which are wide-body.

Alitalia Boeing 777
Alitalia Boeing 777

Source: Reuters

By 2025, the airline expects to have 105 aircraft in its fleet and earn over 3.3 billion euros in revenue.

Alitalia aircraft in Ukraine
Alitalia aircraft in Ukraine

Source: Reuters

As far as the over 11,000 Alitalia workers, they will be considered for employment with ITA. The successor plans to hire 2,750-2,950 people this year and expects staff numbers to grow to 5,550-5,700 by 2025.

Alitalia staff at Milan Linate
Alitalia staff at Milan Linate

Source: Reuters

While it is the end of an era with the closing of Alitalia, there are high hopes for its successor.

Alitalia plane with ITA logo
Alitalia plane with ITA logo

Read the original article on Business Insider

I flew on JetBlue founder David Neeleman’s new Breeze Airways for $39 and found it was cheap and friendly but surprisingly basic

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

  • Breeze Airways officially launched its first flight on Thursday from Tampa, Florida to Charleston, South Carolina.
  • It’s the fifth airline from aviation entrepreneur David Neeleman, who started JetBlue Airways, with a focus on hub-skipping leisure flights.
  • Fares are as low as $39 with 39 new routes starting between May 27 and July 29.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
David Neeleman has done it again.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight David Neeleman
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

Breeze Airways made its long-awaited debut on Thursday, flying two of its 39 planned routes that will launch between May 27 and July 29.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

It’s the fifth airline launched by Neeleman, a serial aviation entrepreneur that was the man behind JetBlue Airways and Morris Air in the US, WestJet in Canada, and Azul Brazilian Airlines in Brazil, as well as a stint with TAP Air Portugal.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight David Neeleman
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

Read More: How JetBlue’s founder plans to offer low prices without a low-end experience on his newest airline, Breeze

Just in time for the summer travel season, consumers from the East Coast to as far as San Antonio, Texas will soon have Breeze as another option for air travel. Fares start at just $39 and routes are mostly leisure-focused, taking flyers while bypassing busy airline hubs.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

Read More: The founder of JetBlue is finally launching his new airline this month with 39 routes and $39 fares — but it won’t be JetBlue 2.0

Convenience is a key selling point for the airline, in addition to its low fares. Flights are point-to-point and don’t require routing through airport hubs.

The Breeze Airways route map.
The Breeze Airways route map.

“Connecting flights,” for example, isn’t a phrase in Breeze’s vocabulary, as part of the airline’s strategy to be “seriously nice.”

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

I flew on the very first flight of Breeze Airways from Tampa, Florida to Charleston, South Carolina. Here’s what it was like.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

Breeze chose Tampa, Florida as its main from which to start flights. A total of 10 routes are planned for the city to destinations like Charleston, South Carolina; Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Louisville, Kentucky.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

I arrived at the airport the night before Breeze’s inaugural flight and caught a look at the airline’s check-in counter. It was very bare-bones and the airline didn’t have any check-in kiosks.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

But that’s all part of Breeze’s tech-focused strategy to have flyers use its mobile application instead of relying on airline employees. It helps keep costs down by hiring fewer airport staff.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

The Breeze app itself is very intuitive but there were some glitches. Users, including myself, reported not being able to book flights or check-in via the app.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

Breeze doesn’t have a phone number so flyers will have to text or message the airline, which also isn’t yet available on the app. Clicking “support” will redirect flyers to the airline’s mobile website.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

But I was able to get my mobile boarding pass eventually and was all set to jet.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

I arrived back at the airport the next morning for the first flight, Breeze Airways flight 1 with service from Tampa to Charleston, and went up to the counter to get a paper copy of the boarding pass.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

Breeze agents were “nice” and didn’t charge the $3 fee to print a boarding pass but I assumed that was because this was the first flight. A boarding pass fee is common among ultra-low-cost carriers but very few actually charge the fee in practice.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

And in a nice treat, Breeze had already been accepted into the Transportation Security Administration’s PreCheck program.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

Before the flight, Neeleman popped open a bottle of champagne and christened the aircraft. Breeze Airways was officially ready for takeoff.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight David Neeleman
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

Boarding then began for the historic flight, with the airline boarding in zones. The Breeze app also doesn’t interface with Apple Wallet or other digital wallets, so flyers can’t yet save their boarding passes to their devices for easy access.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

I walked onto the plane and was truly shocked at how basic it was. Breeze’s aircraft are incredibly flashy on the outside, in perhaps the most colorful airline livery in the skies, but the interior was mostly devoid of color.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

There was not a hint of blue on the plane except for the safety cards, flight attendant uniforms, and the Breeze placards on the beverage carts.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

The seats were plush and comfortable, however, and that was the most important part.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

The Embraer E195 -which most JetBlue flyers will recognize since its smaller sibling, the E190, currently flies for the New York-based airline -is arranged in a 2-2 configuration.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

It’s all aisles and window seats with no middle seats in sight.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

The first five rows of the aircraft, as well as the exit row, feature between 34 and 39 inches of pitch, depending on the row. Breeze calls these seats “nicer” seats.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

Standard seats on the E195 offer 31 inches of pitch. Breeze calls them “nice” seats.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

When booking a ticket, there are two choices: “nice” and “nicer.” Nice fares only come with a ticket to ride and a personal item while a “Nicer” fare comes with a free extra legroom seat, one free checked bag, free carry-on bag, and priority boarding.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

I was on a nice fare in a nice seat with 31 inches of pitch and it was quite comfortable with lots of cushioning. Seats also recline but there are no adjustable headrests.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

These seats, unfortunately, will not stay. New, slimmer seats will replace the comfortable and plush ones that we experienced on the inaugural flight.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

Once those seats installed, the Embraer E195’s capacity will jump from 118 seats to 122 seats.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

Flight attendants warmly welcomed us aboard and they, too, had to be nice. Once again, Neeleman had billed this airline to be seriously nice and the cabin crew would play a large role in that.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

After all were settled, the boarding door was closed and we pushed back for an on-time departure. Tampa International Airport gave Breeze a water cannon salute to send the first flight off, and then it was on to Charleston.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

Takeoff was smooth and we quickly turned north over Tampa Bay towards South Carolina. The flight time was only 57 minutes.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

Flight attendants came around with wooden baskets to start the in-flight meal service. On offer were Utz potato chips and Kind bars, as well as small bottles of water.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

There was nothing overly exciting about the snacks. No local flair or blue chips, but anything is better than nothing, especially when the ticket is so cheap.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

The complementary offering will only be temporary, however, and a buy-on-board program will be rolled out over the summer.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

Once the service ended, there was nothing else to keep a passenger entertained besides the view out of the window.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

In-flight entertainment was supposed to be available through a streaming service, but it won’t be ready until later in the summer.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

The flight attendants and pilots, however, were spectacularly kind. They were the breath of fresh air on this airline.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

Before we knew it, we had touched down in Charleston, and a new airline was officially brought into the world.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

All in all, flying Breeze was not anything truly special. The flight and cabin crew were impeccably nice but the rest was of the experience was average considering the lack of the tech that was promised.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

There’s not much people can’t put up with on a flight that’s less than two hours for $39, even more so for a flight between, say, Tampa and Charleston that’s only 57 minutes. But David Neeleman promised a “high-tech company that just happens to fly airplanes.,” as well as extras like in-flight entertainment, and that’s not what the first flyers received.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

Breeze’s biggest issue, from a passenger perspective, may be the fact that it is still a work-in-progress. The app isn’t all the way there, aircraft aren’t fitted with the final seat products, and in-flight entertainment isn’t available.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

And repeat customers will ultimately notice. “The core component of a brand promise is consistency,” industry analyst Henry Harteveldt told Insider in a prior interview.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

In its current state, I would absolutely pick Breeze over other ultra-low-cost carriers and even some full-service airlines if the price was right. Though, that might change if the airline’s product changes for the worse.

Breeze Airways Inaugural Flight David Neeleman
The inaugural flight of David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways.

Read the original article on Business Insider

I flew on America’s newest airline, Avelo, for $19 and the friendly service more than made up for the complete lack of frills

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

  • Avelo Airlines began flying on April 28 with an inaugural flight from Burbank to Santa Rosa in California.
  • The ultra-low-cost airline is launching 11 routes from Burbank to kick off operations.
  • The one-hour flight was enjoyable due to Avelo’s friendly atmosphere but lacked in amenities.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
America has a brand new airline.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Avelo Airlines made its debut on April 28 after breaking from cover earlier in the month. The ultra-low-cost airline aims to take advantage of the boom in leisure travelers that have been eager to fly again.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

A total of 11 routes are being launched from Burbank. The initial slate of destinations includes Santa Rosa, California; Pasco, Washington; Bozeman, Montana; Phoenix, Arizona; Ogden, Utah; Grand Junction, Colorado; Medford, Oregon; Eugene, Oregon; Bend, Oregon; Eureka, California; and Redding, California.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

At the helm of Avelo is Andrew Levy, an experienced aviation veteran with most recent experience as the cofounder of Allegiant Air and former chief financial officer of United Airlines.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

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

I flew on Avelo from Burbank to Santa Rosa in the world-famous Sonoma County on the airline’s first day of flights. Here’s what it was like.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Arriving at Avelo’s new home base at Hollywood Burbank Airport just north of Los Angeles, I felt transported back in time. The single-level terminal is reminiscent of the early days of aviation.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Being able to use more convenient airports like Burbank is a big draw for customers to Avelo. Only a handful of airlines serve this airport, even though it boasts an ease of access that wildly surpasses Los Angeles International.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

“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,” Levy told Insider in a prior interview.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Avelo’s ticketing counter was not hard to find in the small terminal and its airport staff was out in force for the inaugural flight. Boarding passes can’t be printed from self-serve kiosks as Avelo doesn’t yet have that functionality.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

I had checked in the night before and could have printed a boarding pass but I still needed to check my bag. Luckily, there’s was no line as we were the first and only flight of the day.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

As was the case for most passengers, I only paid $19 for the ticket. But all I got for $19 was the ticket as bags and reserved seat assignments did not come included.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Avelo is an ultra-low-cost so bringing any bag larger than a backpack will incur a fee. Carry-ons cost $35 but checked bags only cost $10, some of the cheapest pricing in the industry for bags meant to encourage more checked bags.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

But my total ticket price came out to only $29 as I checked my bag for $10.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Ticket in hand, I headed to the gate for the first departure. Any gate is a short walk when departing from Burbank.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Two of Avelo’s flagship aircraft, the Boeing 737-800, were parked at the terminal. Avelo currently has plans for six aircraft and 400 crew members by the end of 2021.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

The paint job is an eye-catching purple, white, and yellow that made these 15-year-old aircraft look brand new.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Avelo is the only airline flying daily non-stop flights between Burbank and California Wine Country. That is, until June 1 when Alaska Airlines starts flights on the same route.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Read More: American and Alaska are making moves to compete with America’s newest airline before its first flight has even taken off

Flights to Santa Rosa depart in the morning and return in the late afternoon, enough time for a Sonoma County wine tasting if Southern Californians want to take a cheap day trip up north.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

This was the first flight of a brand new airline so inaugural festivities were in order. “Avelo’s purpose is to inspire travel and today we begin that process of making it easy, and convenient, and affordable with everyday low fares, for customers to be able to choose us,” Levy said.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

And with the cutting of the ribbon, it was time for boarding to begin.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Avelo boards in groups, with six in total, and hasn’t adopted the pandemic practice of back-to-front boarding. The first three groups are priority boarding and the final three are general boarding.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

One of the perks of flying into and out of Burbank airport is ramps are used instead of jetways. It allows for great views of the aircraft.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Parked next to our plane was a nearly-identical backup aircraft, ready for just in case something went wrong.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Levy was stationed at the foot of the ramp to personally welcome each flyer on board.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Many onboard were aviation enthusiasts excited to make history by flying on a brand new airline.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Avelo’s Boeing 737 aircraft seats a whopping 189 passengers in an all-economy configuration. Seat assignments start at only $4 but legroom depends on seat location and greater legroom seats can be bought for a premium.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Seats closest to the front offer the most legroom, between 31 and 38 inches, and they’ll usually cost upwards of $20 to reserve.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Seats towards the back only feature 29 inches of pitch, below average for full-service US airlines but common among ultra-low-cost carriers. But extra legroom or not, all seats are “slimline” with minimal padding and few amenities of which to speak.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Adjustable headrests, for example, are non-existent.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Seats do have, however, a decent size tray table with a cup holder and most do recline.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Those wanting more room to stretch out should book the exit rows in rows 20 and 21, or the first row of seats.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

A mere 29 inches of pitch might not bode well for taller flyers, as aviation’s Johnny Jet found from his middle seat in row 15, but this flight was only around an hour where it was bearable for those aboard.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

I didn’t choose a seat assignment at booking to save money and was auto-assigned a window seat in row 14 at check-in. It offered the standard 29 inches of pitch but I was just glad I wasn’t given a middle seat.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Seat-backs are noticeable bare with only safety cards in the pockets. There are no seat-back screens or any in-flight entertainment, for that matter, though WiFi is on the way, Levy told Insider in a prior interview.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Levy welcomed us aboard the historic first flight of his airline as we prepared to depart for Santa Rosa. The pandemic luckily hadn’t killed the airline but instead bolstered its proposition of cheap flights to travel-hungry Americans.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Read More: Flights are filling up as the pandemic enters its second year — and the crowded flights are only going to get worse

Soon enough, we were ready to head out and pushed back earlier than scheduled.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Levy sat in the very front row for the flight.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

We then blasted out of Burbank on Runway 15, the mighty Boeing 737 handling the short runway well and quickly turned to the north.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

We said goodbye to Burbank airport, to where this aircraft and many of its passengers would return later in the day.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

The views of San Fernando Valley provided the only in-flight entertainment for many as we turned to follow the coast to Santa Rosa.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Flight attendants, smiling from ear-to-ear, then began the in-flight service. Ultra-low-cost airlines aren’t typically known for free snacks and drinks but Avelo’s initial pandemic offering includes what it calls a “convenience package.”

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Inside the complimentary kits I found a bottle of water, a package of shortbread cookies, and a Purell wipe. It wasn’t much but anything is better than nothing and the flight was only an hour long.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

And shortly after, flight attendants passed around sparkling cider for an in-flight toast to Avelo.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Finding the right people to work as flight attendants and pilots was of high importance to Avelo in order to stand out among ultra-low-cost airlines.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

And it showed, all of Avelo’s in-flight crew were happy, smiling, and genuinely friendly.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

After a short speech by Levy, passengers raised their glasses to toast the airline.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

The rest of the flight continued smoothly as we sailed over California. So far, the consensus was that the aircraft wasn’t bad for an hour flight.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

New York to Los Angeles, as Spirit Airlines is planning to do in June, might be a stretch considering the lack of amenities and legroom. But Avelo is looking for a route network where flights are less than two hours.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Read More: Spirit is launching summer flights between LaGuardia Airport and Los Angeles, but a decades-old rule is limiting them to 1 day per week

It wasn’t before long before it was time to descend into Santa Rosa, and those on the left side of the aircraft facing forward were greeted to the best view of the Bay Area. San Francisco International Airport was the first landmark…

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Followed by San Francisco itself.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

California Wine Country soon came into view as we gradually descended into Santa Rosa’s Charles M. Schulz – Sonoma County Airport.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Like Burbank, only a handful of airlines serve Santa Rosa. And those that do only fly regional aircraft like the Embraer E175 and Bombardier Dash 8 Q400.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Avelo’s arrival was welcomed by the county, especially because it would bring more tourists to the region on the heels of the pandemic.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

As the seatbelt sign turned off, Levy was the first to rise. The first passenger flight of his new airline was complete, and it was a success.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Avelo touched down in Santa Rosa on time and with happy passengers.

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Read the original article on Business Insider

United is going on the offensive against rival Southwest in another spat with competitors

United Airlines Boeing 737
Southwest Airlines and United Airlines aircraft.

  • United Airlines is targeting Southwest Airlines with new advertisements aimed at Denver flyers.
  • In the ads, it criticizes Southwest for its open seating policy, routes, and on-time performance.
  • The campaign is scheduled to appear on trains, television networks, social media, and even Spotify.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A new United Airlines advertising campaign is directly targeting Southwest Airlines as the two compete for travelers in Denver.

The “Mile High Standards” campaign critiques Southwest for things like its on-time performance and open seating policy while boasting about United’s offerings like non-stop flights to Hawaii, as well as the airline’s long-time presence in Colorado’s capital city.

United is billing the strategy as “bold” and “unlike any you’ve ever seen from us before,” with its low-cost rival solely in the crosshairs. One example criticizes Southwest’s lack of direct flights to Hawaii and Cozumel from Denver.

United Airlines Denver Ad Campaign
United Airlines’ Denver advertising campaign.

Not all of United’s advertisements are directed towards Southwest with some aimed at highlighting the key role that Denver plays for the airline.

United in 2018 opened a flight training center in Denver that houses more than 30 flight simulators and trains around 10,000 pilots each year. United is also the only US airline offering intercontinental flights from Denver to cities like London; Frankfurt, Germany; and Tokyo, in normal times.

Rocky Mountain Rivalry

Denver has proved to be an important base for both Southwest and United during the pandemic. Travelers have flocked to the Mountain West thanks to pandemic-friendly activities like camping, hiking, and skiing.

United has invested additional resources to accommodate, including a luxury bus service from the airport to Breckenridge, Colorado that passengers can book just as they would a regular United flight. Operated by Landline, the bus departs from a terminal gate, and checked bags are transported directly from flyers’ incoming flights.

Southwest also added flights from Denver to Colorado cities like Colorado Springs, Steamboat Springs, and Montrose in direct competition with United. Some of the routes have done so well that daily service is now offered between Denver and both Steamboat Springs and Montrose.

United’s latest spat with competitors

This isn’t United’s first time directly going after competitors where they live. In February, United announced a brand-new route between Boston and London, scheduled to start sometime in 2021 and in direct competition with JetBlue Airways’ impending Boston-London flights.

The announcement was peculiar given that no exact timing was given for the once-daily flight and international travel between the UK and US is currently extremely limited. United also seldom launches transatlantic routes that don’t pass through one of its hubs.

United is also back at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport with two relaunched routes to Los Angeles and San Francisco. Its ultra-premium Boeing 767-300ER aircraft are meant to draw top flyers away from the likes of Delta Air Lines and American Airlines, which partly dominate the route with premium offerings.

The airline’s next target remains to be seen but United is positioning itself for a strong recovery, and clearly isn’t afraid to publicly challenge competitors to do so.

Read the original article on Business Insider

I flew on Southwest and Alaska, the two airlines competing to be the best of the West Coast and the winner is abundantly clear

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

  • Alaska Airlines and Southwest Airlines are in competition to be the airline of the West Coast.
  • Both are similar but each has its strengths like Alaska has a greater West Coast route network.
  • Southwest is a great option for leisure travelers but Alaska has more perks for business flyers.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
The West Coast of the US stretches more than 1,000 miles with no shortage of major cities from San Diego to Seattle.

newport beach

All the major US airlines serve this important region of the country but two are battling for dominance, Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines.

Southwest Airlines vs Alaska Airlines
Comparing Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines.

Alaska is based in Seattle, although its name suggests otherwise, and is a mid-tier US airline with the bulk of its operations on the West Coast.

alaska airlines

Southwest, on the other hand, is the country’s largest low-cost carrier with a nationwide presence. And while the West Coast is an important region for the airline, it’s just one of many Southwest serves.

Southwest Airlines

Both carriers have sought to grow market share on the West Coast during the pandemic. Southwest added Santa Barbara and Fresno to its California route network while Alaska has added routes from existing cities.

Golden Gate Bridge

I flew on both airlines this year to see which one was truly the airline of the West Coast. Here’s what I found.

Flying on Southwest Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Southwest Airlines during the pandemic.

West Coast connectivity: Alaska serves 29 cities up and down the coast, including smaller cities like Everett, Washington; Santa Rosa, California; and Medford, Oregon.

Paine Field in Everett, Washington
Paine Field in Everett, Washington.

Read More: 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

Southwest serves 15 West Coast cities and plans to serve two more this summer. Bellingham, Washington flights will also open sometime this year.

Southwest Airlines
A Southwest Airlines aircraft departing from Los Angeles.

Winner: Alaska Airlines. The airline’s connectivity between West Coast cities large and small cannot be beaten by Southwest’s existing network.

Southwest Airlines vs Alaska Airlines
Comparing Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines.

What comes with the ticket: Every Southwest ticket includes free seat selection anywhere on the plane after boarding, two checked bags, a carry-on bag, and all the onboard amenities.

Flying Southwest Airlines during pandemic
Flying Southwest Airlines during the pandemic.

Southwest has open seating so any open seat is available for passengers.

Flying on Southwest Airlines COVID-19

Alaska does allow free seat selection for economy but charges extra for seats close to the front and exit row seats.

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

Alaska, like many full-service carriers, has also embraced restrictive basic economy fares that replaced its cheapest fares. The product is generous with and limited advanced seat assignments and a free carry-on bag but flyers will have to pay more for better seats and checked bags.

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

Southwest doesn’t have change or cancel fees for any ticket.

Flying on Southwest Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Southwest Airlines during the pandemic.

Alaska has eliminated change fees but not for basic economy fares, known as “saver” fares.

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

Winner: Southwest Airlines. The flexibility and free extras offered by Southwest put it well and above Alaska. It’s worth noting, however, that even Alaska’s basic economy fares are more generous than many of its competitors.

Southwest Airlines vs Alaska Airlines.
Comparing Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines.

Boarding: Alaska boards its aircraft in groups that are assigned based on seat location and fare class. First class boards first, followed by elite status holders, those sitting in “premium class.” Economy then boards back to front, for the most part, and basic economy flyers board dead last.

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

On Southwest, however, passengers are given a boarding number and group that’s determined by how early they check-in for the flight. Once on the plane, they can select any open seat.

Flying on Southwest Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Southwest Airlines during the pandemic.

Winner: Southwest Airlines. Alaska’s boarding process relegates basic economy passengers to the very last section while even the passenger with the cheapest ticket on Southwest has the opportunity to board earlier if they check-in at exactly 24 hours prior to departure.

Southwest Airlines vs Alaska Airlines.
Comparing Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines.

Onboard amenities: Both airlines are in the process of modernizing their fleets but older aircraft remain. On Southwest, for example, I flew on the 737-700 fleet on my most recent trip and it was the furthest from modern.

Flying on Southwest Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Southwest Airlines during the pandemic.

But its updated aircraft have a great, modern look, as I found on flights from New York to Orlando in 2020.

Flying on Southwest Airlines COVID-19

Read More: I flew on Southwest Airlines during the pandemic and came away impressed by how well the largest low-cost US airline handled social distancing

Alaska has the same issue. Its newer Max aircraft is a show-stopper but older aircraft seem tired.

Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max Flight
Flying on an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft.

Both airlines also offer paid in-flight WiFi and streaming content.

LAX Day Trip Alaska Airlines
Water onboard an Alaska Airlines flight from New York to Los Angeles.

Alaska does surpass Southwest, however, by offering in-seat power to keep devices charged.

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

Winner: Alaska Airlines. Both airlines offer similar products but Alaska just eeks ahead with in-seat power.

Southwest Airlines vs Alaska Airlines.
Comparing Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines.

In-flight service: Both airlines have restored portions of their in-flight service since the pandemic began. Alaska, for example, serves soft drinks and snacks.

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

Southwest just brought back Coke, Diet Coke, and 7UP, as well as more snacks.

Flying on Southwest Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Southwest Airlines during the pandemic.

Read More: Southwest is reverting to its normal boarding policy and bringing back fan-favorite in-flight amenities

Before the pandemic, however, Alaska sold meals and snack boxes while Southwest just stuck to drinks and small snacks.

LAX Day Trip Alaska Airlines
The contents of one of Alaska Airlines’ picnic packs.

Winner: Alaska Airlines.

Southwest Airlines vs Alaska Airlines.
Comparing Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines.

West Coast feel: Alaska has its roots in the West Coast and that shows in its branding. The colors are vibrant, there is a focus on West Coast brands in the in-flight service, and the airline is based in Seattle.

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

Southwest has a generic appeal as it connects the US through bases across the country with no specific ties to the West Coast. There’s no West Coast feel.

Flying on Southwest Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Southwest Airlines during the pandemic.

Winner: Alaska Airlines: There’s an undeniable feeling when flying on Alaska that it’s more in tune with the West Coast vibe than Southwest.

Southwest Airlines vs Alaska Airlines.
Comparing Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines.

National connectivity: Alaska is highly concentrated on the West Coast while Southwest has bases across the US.

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

Southwest doesn’t have the sprawling West Coast network that Alaska does but it does offer connections between most of the region’s major cities and connections to the rest of the country through its mid-continent bases in places like Phoenix, Denver, Las Vegas, and Dallas.

Flying on Southwest Airlines during pandemic
Southwest Airlines aircraft at Denver International Airport.

Alaska only has hubs in the West Coast cities of Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco, and Portland, requiring a stop in one of those cities before heading east. The airline does partner with airlines like American to offer mixed-airline itineraries but that could be difficult if the airlines are in two different terminals.

LAX Day Trip Alaska Airlines
Alaska Airlines aircraft at Los Angeles International Airport.

Winner: Southwest Airlines. Having more mid-continent bases allows for more convenient journeys with lower travel times for customers.

Southwest Airlines vs Alaska Airlines.
Comparing Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines.

Business traveler amenities: Corporate travelers have different priorities than most leisure travelers and will often spend more for seats in premium cabins and access lounges.

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

Alaska has premium lounges in six airports, and partners with American and Qantas on lounge access for members. Southwest does not have any lounges.

Alaska Lounge Seattle
The Alaska Lounge at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

Alaska’s jet aircraft also have first class cabins, the domain of the business traveling road warrior, while Southwest does not.

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

A special section of economy is also available on Alaska. Called “premium class,” seats in the section offer additional legroom and come with complimentary alcoholic beverages.

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

Alaska is also a member of the Oneworld airline alliance and Alaska’s elite status holders can use their benefits on other airlines like American and British Airways, and vice versa. Southwest is not a part of any airline alliance.

american airlines

Southwest does have a special fare for business travelers, called “Business Select,” that includes extras like priority boarding and free alcoholic drinks (suspended during the pandemic).

Flying on Southwest Airlines COVID-19

And Southwest does have better connectivity outside of the West Coast. A business traveler in St. Louis looking to fly to New York couldn’t even choose Alaska if they wanted to.

Flying on Southwest Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Southwest Airlines during the pandemic from Miami International Airport.

Winner: Alaska Airlines. Business travelers have more premium amenities at their disposal on Alaska, if the choice is between Alaska and Southwest.

Southwest Airlines vs Alaska Airlines.
Comparing Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines.

Airline of the West Coast: Alaska Airlines. Both airlines are incredibly similar but Alaska has more West Coast-oriented amenities to help it pull ahead of Southwest.

Southwest Airlines vs Alaska Airlines.
Comparing Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines.

Read the original article on Business Insider

I visited the newly renovated AmEx Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas airport and it was the best way to spend a layover in Sin City

LAS Centurion Lounge
  • American Express just completed renovations on its Las Vegas Centurion Lounge, adding more than 4,000 square feet.
  • The lounge is only accessible to select cardholders, including Platinums and Centurions.
  • Complimentary food and alcohol are just some of the perks that the Las Vegas-themed lounge offers.3
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Las Vegas is home to one of American Express’ 14 Centurion Lounges, widely considered to be the gold standard of airport lounges because of their high-end offerings including complimentary and meticulous crafted food items and alcoholic beverages.

McCarran Airport
McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas NV

The lounge is located in the airport’s D gate concourse, home to United Airlines, Frontier Airlines, and JetBlue Airways, among others.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Passenger on any airline can access the lounge, however, if they have the American Express Platinum or Centurion card. American Express Delta Skymiles Reserve cardholders can also use the lounge when flying Delta or a Delta-marketed flight.

Platinum Card from American Express

I had a six-hour layover in the airport so I headed straight to the lounge. Departing passengers are normally only allowed to enter within three hours of their flight but connecting passengers are exempt from that rule.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Here’s what it was like inside the Las Vegas Centurion Lounge.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

I checked into the lounge using digital check-in via the American Express mobile application and was given a QR code to show the agent. I only had to show my boarding pass and identification as the agent saw my check-in on her end.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Within seconds, I was inside one of the most exclusive clubs in Las Vegas. Greeting me was this portrait of a dog resting on an American Express trunk accompanying two black armchairs, a staple of the Centurion Lounge that can be found in every location.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

The lounge was moderately crowded and employees, as a result, were escorting guests to particular seats to help ensure distancing.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

I was asked if I wanted to sit in one of the main seating areas….

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Or the dining area. I chose the former to take advantage of the more comfortable seating.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

I was traveling alone so I was given one of these cushioned cubbies, complete with my own table.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Capacity in the lounge is limited due to the pandemic so certain seating areas are blocked.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Along the wall where I was sitting, for example, every other cubby was blocked.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

It created an extra degree of privacy and meant I had more room to store my bags, and another table to hold my laptop while I ate lunch.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Once I got settled, I headed over to the buffet to get something to eat. These lounges are known for having good eats with menus crafted from local chefs. Chef Kim Canteenwalla had designed this menu.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

The offering was quite extensive and better than what I’d seen in competing airline lounges even before the pandemic. Light options included a chopped bacon, lettuce, and tomato salad…

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Butternut squash soup…

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

And mango cranberry couscous.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Hot items included kale pesto pasta…

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Brussel sprouts…

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Meatloaf…

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

And chimichurri fingerling potatoes.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

And for desert, peach cobbler was on offer.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Healthier options included fruits like apples, pears, and bananas. Cookies and honey mustard pretzels were also on offer but not many snacks were available other than that.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

All in all, it was some of the best airport food I’ve ever had. Every item was bursting with flavor and made for a great meal.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

And of course, the full bar is another big selling feature of the lounge as drinks are complimentary.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

The main bar was closed but this makeshift bar still did the trick. Most common cocktails can be ordered at the bar but American Express’ in-house mixologist, Jim Meehan, also crafts specialty drinks for each location.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

One such drink was the “air mail,” a sparkling wine drink with rum, honey syrup, and lime juice.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Plexiglass partitions were also erected at the bar for social distancing.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

After having lunch, I walked around the more than 13,000 square foot space. American Express just recently renovated the lounge and it showed.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

The decor was very modern and very Las Vegas. It made me feel like I was in the heart of the Strip despite only being at the airport.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Large sections of the lounge were blocked off but other sections included a sprawling conference table and more private seating.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

These lounges often lend themselves well to social distancing with high-walled chairs since privacy is a huge draw for discerning travelers.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

There are even private phone rooms that are enclosed for maximum privacy.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

I also discovered somewhat of a hidden room in the back of the lounge.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

It didn’t have any windows but was well-lit and has its own television.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

The lounge’s family room was, however, off-limits due to the pandemic.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Roped-off areas were opened once the lounge was sufficiently crowded. It wasn’t uncommon before the pandemic to see these lounges filled to the brim.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Departure information screens could also be found throughout the lounge so passengers could stay up to date on the status of their next flight.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Aviation enthusiasts will enjoy one of the seating areas near the window as a variety of aircraft can be spotted.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Hot beverages were also available with multi-beverage coffee machines capable of making anything from a standard cup of coffee to espresso, cappuccino, hot chocolate, and anything in between.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

A selection of teas was also available with hot water.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Visiting this lounge made my six-hour layover go by in what felt like an instant.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

The only downside is that it closes at 3 p.m., at which point the only other lounge available to passengers in the terminal is The Club LAS.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

But for the few hours I got to spend in the lounge, I can say that it will become a staple on my future visits to Las Vegas.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

The renovations and superior offering make it a jewel in the Centurion Lounge network.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Read the original article on Business Insider

After taking 13 flights on Frontier Airlines, I’ve figured how to get the best experience for the cheapest price. Here’s what to know.

Flying Frontier Airlines during pandemic
Flying Frontier Airlines during the pandemic.

  • Frontier Airlines boasts cheap tickets but fares can quickly add up with extra fees.
  • Everything from advanced seat assignments to carry-on bags incurs a fee.
  • I’ve taken 13 flights on Frontier and know how to make the most of flying on the low-cost carrier.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Frontier Airlines is one of the country’s fastest-growing airlines with a sprawling network that always seems to be adding new routes.

The airline’s strategy is offering flyers cheap non-stop flights to leisure destinations, and that’s in demand now that Americans are raring to get back in the air following an extended pandemic. But while Frontier may fly the same type of aircraft as its full-service competitors like American Airlines and United Airlines, the onboard product couldn’t be any different.

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

As with any ultra-low-cost carrier, Frontier is built for savings and that’s reflected in every aspect of the flying experience. Seats, for example, are bare-bones with minimal padding, menial tray tables, and as little as 28 inches of legroom on some planes, according to SeatGuru. But that doesn’t mean flights can’t be enjoyable.

Frontier flies from my local airport on Long Island in New York and I’ve had many an opportunity to journey on the ultra-low-cost carrier by taking advantage of its rock-bottom pricing. In my years of flying the airline, I don’t think I’ve paid more than $30 for a round-trip flight when traversing the East Coast as far south as Miami and have had a good experience nearly every time.

Here’s what you need to know when flying Frontier in order to get the best experience.

Know what you’re paying for

Flying Frontier Airlines during pandemic
Flying Frontier Airlines during the pandemic.

Flyers should know that their $15 one-way ticket isn’t going to get them much more than a ticket to ride. Everything from an advanced seat assigned to the drinks onboard the aircraft is going to incur an extra fee.

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially if you know what to pay for and what not to pay for. Personal items like a backpack can fly free of charge and so I avoid the baggage fees by skipping the carry-on and using a backpack for my items if the trip allows.

The seats onboard Frontier are also unlike anything passengers would find on a full-service airline. They’re thin “slimline” seats with no headrests, in-seat power, or even full-size tray tables. Legroom is also significantly reduced, which can make for an uncomfortable ride for taller passengers.

Ultimately, they’re not the most comfortable but I also know my limits when flying an airline like Frontier. I tend to get squirmish when flying Frontier after around three hours, especially if in a crowded row, so I wouldn’t generally book a flight longer than that.

Flyers wanting the extras can pay for them and those wanting seats comparable to a full-service carrier can book “stretch” seats in the first few rows of the cabin. They include full tray tables, extra legroom, and full recline capabilities.

Travelers with too high of expectations will ultimately be disappointed by Frontier but I’ve found that managing those expectations will result in a better experience.

Why I never pay for a seat and how to get a better one for free

Flying Frontier Airlines during pandemic
Flying Frontier Airlines during the pandemic.

I’ve taken 13 flights on Frontier and I’ve only been assigned a middle seat a total of one time. The science isn’t exactly clear on how Frontier randomly assigns leftover seats but my trick is checking in exactly 24 hours in advance and I’m typically given an aisle or window seat.

I prefer a window seat and so I always check with the gate agent to see if any have opened up if I’m assigned an aisle or middle. The gate staff are usually more than willing to help out and will often assign the closest open seat to the front.

And now with the pandemic, I ask if any full rows are open. On my most recent flight from Las Vegas to Seattle, a near-three-hour journey, I asked if there were any full rows open for social distancing and managed to get a row closer to the front all to myself.

As I found when flying basic economy to Europe in January 2020, there’s very little you can’t get for free when asking politely, even when flying on the cheapest ticket.

Why I subscribe to Discount Den and how to get it for “free”

Flying Frontier Airlines during pandemic
Flying Frontier Airlines during the pandemic.

Discount Den is a paid membership product where customers get discounts on flights in exchange for a $59.99 annual fee. It’s separate from the MyFrontier loyalty program and perks can include discounts, free tickets for children, and buy one, get ones.

The savings are more pronounced on more expensive flights as the cheaper flights in Frontier’s network will only see a modest savings of only a few dollars. A $95 flight I booked from Islip, New York to Phoenix in June, however, was only $77 thanks to the program. The $18 savings was around a third of the annual fee so if I had two more flights with that amount of savings, I’d break even.

But I didn’t outright pay to join the program. I joined in January and discovered that I could use travel credit from a Frontier flight that I had canceled during the pandemic to pay for it, but only if I bought the membership while booking a flight.

Frontier sometimes offers signup bonuses when joining the program to make it an even better value. I signed up and was given a $50 voucher to fly on Frontier so the program basically paid for itself.

The only downside is that there are no perks when actually flying. I still have to pay for a seat, I don’t get to board any earlier, and I don’t receive any baggage allowance. But the discounts I get do help offset the cost of buying extras like a seat assignment or carry-on bag if I absolutely need them.

Frontier’s pandemic safety measures

Flying Frontier Airlines during pandemic
Flying Frontier Airlines during the pandemic.

Like most major US airlines, Frontier flyers must wear masks when flying and acknowledge a health declaration that basically says flyers haven’t contracted COVID-19 recently and haven’t been exposed to the virus. But that’s about where the similarities stop.

All travelers flying Frontier must submit to a temperature screening at boarding. If a flyer shows a fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or greater, they’ll be denied boarding.

On the plane, Frontier has not blocked middle seats and does not proactively notify of full flights. Customers are also on their own to social distance, either by asking the gate agent to move to an empty row or asking the flight attendant to be re-seated.

The in-flight service has also been suspended with no snacks or drinks, besides bottles of water, available for purchase. Bottles of water are available on request for $2.99 or flyers can bring their own drinks from the terminal.

Read the original article on Business Insider

A self-flying Cessna just completed a fully automated flight with no pilot input as startup Xwing seeks to revolutionize aviation

Xwing Autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B
Xwing’s autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B.

  • Xwing completed a fully automated “gate-to-gate” flight with its self-flying plane.
  • Pilots merely monitored the aircraft while it performed maneuvers on its own.
  • The technology could revolutionize aviation and cut back on pilot expenses for airlines.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Fully self-flying planes are moving closer and closer to becoming an everyday reality.

Xwing Autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B
Xwing’s autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B.

Xwing, a Bay Area aviation startup, just completed its first “gate-to-gate” autonomous flight with its flagship aircraft, a Cessna Grand Caravan 208B.

Xwing Autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B
Xwing’s autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B.

All pilots had to do was sit back and monitor while the plane started up, taxied out, took off, flew, landed, taxied back, and shut down all on its own.

Xwing Autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B
Xwing’s autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B.

The flight took place in February 2021 at Buchanan Field Airport in Concord, California just outside of San Francisco. A pilot was inside the aircraft but merely to watch over the systems, talk to air traffic control, and take over for the automated system if need be.

Xwing Autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B
Xwing’s autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B.

Another pair of eyes was keeping close watch from Xwing’s “mission control center,” to where data from the aircraft include speed, altitude, pitch, and location was continuously fed.

Xwing Autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B
Xwing’s autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B.

“Over the past year, our team has made significant advancements in extending and refining our AutoFlight system to seamlessly integrate ground taxiing, take-offs, landings, and flight operations, all supervised from our mission control center via redundant data links,” Marc Piette, chief executive officer and founder of Xwing, said in a statement.

Xwing Autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B
Xwing’s autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B.

The Grand Caravan is a tried and true aviation workhorse, with Xwing’s model powered by a turboprop Pratt & Whitney PT6A-114A engine offering 675 shaft horsepower.

Xwing Autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B
Xwing’s autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B.

Source: FlightAware

Its range is around 1,000 nautical miles, enough to fly non-stop from San Francisco to cities like Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Seattle, and even Denver, if conditions allow.

Xwing Autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B
Xwing’s autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B.

Source: Textron Aviation 

And as many as 14 occupants can be carried by the plane.

Xwing Autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B
Xwing’s autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B.

The Grand Caravan has uses in both the passenger and cargo realm, with Xwing looking to serve the latter.

Xwing Autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B
Xwing’s autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B.

“As we work to bring our technology to market, I’m particularly looking forward to building out our commercialization strategy to bring consumers and logistics companies the most effective air cargo solutions available,” Jesse Kallman, Xwing’s vice president of commercialization and strategy, said in a statement.

Xwing Autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B
Xwing’s autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B.

Xwing has joined the worldwide COVID-19 airlift with cargo flights carrying 800 pounds of personal protective equipment to the Navajo Nation in Arizona, performed autonomously from takeoff to landing.

Xwing Autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B
Xwing’s autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B.

And major cargo carriers already rely on the Grand Caravan for flights. FedEx Express is one of many that uses the aircraft to reach remote communities.

FedEx Cessna Grand Caravan

Essential air service carriers, or those that are subsidized by the government to fly to underserved American communities, including Southern Airways Express and Air Choice One also use the Grand Caravan for some flights.

Cessna Grand Caravan

These flights could one day be operated autonomously thanks to Xwing’s technology.

Xwing Autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B
Xwing’s autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B.

Xwing estimates that cost savings could be in the 20-30% range for an aircraft operator including everything from pilot training and salaries to overnighting expenses.

Xwing Autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B
Xwing’s autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B.

Source: Today

That doesn’t necessarily mean flights will be completely pilot-free, however, as companies like Airbus have said that their tech is intended to aid onboard pilots rather than replace them completely.

Airbus A350 cockpit

Airbus is also leading the charge towards self-flying planes, having demonstrated successful autonomous taxi, takeoff, and landing maneuvers with an Airbus A350-1000 XWB.

Airbus A350 Autonomous taxi, takeoff, and landing
Airbus’ self-flying Airbus A350-1000 XWB.

Read More: Airbus’ self-flying plane just completed successful taxi, take-off, and landing tests, opening the door for fully autonomous flight

Xwing just announced a total funding raise of $55 million and has been identified by venture capitalists such as Andrew Beebe of Obvious Ventures and Kirsten Bartok of AirFinance as one of the leaders in the autonomous aviation space. The company was operating in stealth until May 2020.

Xwing Autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B
Xwing’s autonomous Cessna Grand Caravan 208B with founder and CEO Marc Piette.

Read More: 6 autonomous aviation startups poised to bring self-flying planes, drones, and air taxis from the fringes to reality, according to VCs

Read the original article on Business Insider