On American Airlines slowly retiring its MD-80s

It is nearly the end of the era for American's Super 80s. Photo: Dylan Ashe, via Creative Commons.

It is nearly the end of the era for American’s Super 80s. Photo: Dylan Ashe, via Creative Commons.

If you haven’t already seen it, the article to read from the weekend is Terry Maxon’s excellent piece on the MD-80s now being retired by American Airlines.

Even if you’re not an avid aviation follower, you know the plane if you’ve flown American at all in the past decade. It has been the workhorse of the fleet, perhaps best known among casual fliers for its 2-3 seating configuration and the two smallish engines mounted near the tail. And if you have ever taken a peek in the cockpit, you’ve probably noticed that it lacks some of the modern equipment you see in other 21st century jetliners. (Of course, it’s very safe, and pilots say they like flying it.)

Yes, it’s just an airplane. But Maxon, who follows the retirement of one plane – N7530, which joined American’s fleet in 1990 — tells a nice story about the changing economics of the airline industry.

At one time, American operated more than 370 MD-80s, which it dubbed the Super 80. Now there are fewer than 160 left, and the fleet will shrink to under 140 by year’s end. By the end of 2018, if plans aren’t changed, the last MD-80 will be out of American’s enormous fleet.

Almost every American pilot of the last three decades has spent time in the MD-80 cockpit. Billy Parker, hired at American in 1989, logged 13,250 flying hours in the plane, which he described as “just a good, reliable pair of blue jeans.”

“It’s not as sexy as the newer airplanes,” he said, “but man, it has been a workhorse.”

A bit of trivia for you. The MD-80s operated by American go by a few nicknames. Can you name any?

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AP: Bill to revert to old system of advertising airfare moving ahead at “mach” speed

Should airlines be allowed to advertised fares that do not include taxes and fees? Screengrab: Kayak.

Should airlines be allowed to advertised fares that do not include taxes and fees? Screengrab: Kayak.

We may have some bad news for those of you who like straight-forward airfares.

According to the Associated Press, a bill favored by the airline industry that would allow carriers to revert to their old practice of advertising fares without taxes is moving through Congress at “mach speed.”

As you know, a lot of bills tend to just languish in Congress. And when I wrote about the “Transparent Airfares Act of 2014 — last month for our newspapers, I figured this bill would be the same. Consumers, who are also voters, don’t like it. I figured the proposed legislation would just die, perhaps to be reintroduced in a future Congress.

But apparently Washington watchers think otherwise. The AP seems to be suggest that the bill could become law. That would mean an airline could once again advertise a $99 fare, without saying that the actual ticket would end up costing about $35 more, due to all those taxes and government fees.

The AP says the airlines have stepped up their lobbying game in recent years.

“Thirty airlines spent nearly $30 million on lobbying and employed 213 lobbyists last year, according to the political money-tracking website OpenSecrets.org,” reporter Joan Lowy wrote.

The story also notes that bill sponsor Bill Shuster, R-Pa., the  House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman, …”has received $64,900 in airline contributions so far in this election season, making him the top congressional recipient of airline contributions.” On top of that, he has taken $22,500 from air transport unions, according to the story.

What do you think? Will this bill become law? Might it languish in the Senate? Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., has already announce that he wants to try to block it.

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New York Times checks in on premium airline travel

British Airways is one of many airlines investing in its premium cabins. Photo: British Airways.

British Airways is one of many airlines investing in premium cabins. Photo: British Airways.

My editor has banned me from writing any more stories about the bells and whistles that airlines are using to attract first and business class customers. He says most of our newspaper’s readers fly in coach and don’t care all that much about what happens in front of the curtain. The man does have a point.

But luckily, the New York Times has no such limits.

Hence, this week, we get to digest yet another story on the arms race of premium class travel — “Piling On the Luxury” by Jad Mouawad. “Flat beds and fluffy pillows, fancy wines and four-course meals, designer-brand pajamas and luxurious vanity kits — these options have become the staple of business-class travel these days,” he writes.

Air France has been one of the last airlines to adopt flat bed seats in business class and super luxurious seats in first class. But Alexandre de Juniac, Air France’s chairman and chief executive, told the Times he felt like he had no choice. Air France, he said, had to compete with Asian and Middle Eastern carriers.

“Our only weapons, since we can’t lower our costs to the same level as theirs, is to fight back with our own quality services,” he told the Times.

This is probably not new news for readers here, but the Times article has a pretty good roundup on the latest premium class travel trends on a bunch of major airlines, from British Airways, to Delta, to Emirates to Lufthansa.

But just remember, whatever seat is the best of the pack now probably will be obsolete pretty soon.

“It’s a catch-up game,” TAM’s CEO told the Times. “You can have the best seat ever for two years. But guess what? Someone else will come up with a better seat.”

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American Airlines retires its 767-200s, which it used from JFK to LAX

It is the end of the line for American's 767-200 fleet. This photograph was taken in Zurich in 1995. Photo: Commons.wikipedia.org

It is the end of the line for American’s 767-200 fleet. This photograph was taken in Zurich in 1995. Photo: Commons.wikipedia.org

Tonight marks the end of an era for an American Airlines workhorse, the Boeing 767-200, an aircraft that has long been deployed on the New York to Los Angeles route.

American’s final scheduled 767-200 flight will be tonight from Los Angeles to New York. Flight 30 is to leave LAX at 11:30 p.m. and arrive at JFK at 7:55 a.m. The airplane is N319AA, and was built in 1985, according to FAA data.

N332AA is also scheduled to make its final commercial flight tonight, flying JFK to LAX, as Flight 21. It departs New York at 7:10 p.m. and arrives at 10:30 p.m. This 767 joined American’s fleet in 1987, according to FAA data. (American took its first 767-200 in 1982.)

This is good news for travelers. American is now flying brand new A321 airplanes on the Los Angeles to New York routes, planes with all the bells and whistles travelers want — like flatbed seats in business and first class and in-seat video in all classes.

It is the end of the line for American's Boeing 767-200 fleet. In its place? Airbus A321s like the one. Photo: American.

It is the end of the line for American’s Boeing 767-200 fleet. In its place? Airbus A321s like the one. Photo: American.

And if you ever feel nostalgic, there’s always US Airways, an American Airlines Group company. US Airways is holding on to its 762s for a bit.

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Blogger trying to raise $25,000 so he can fly (once) in Etihad residences class

Kickstarter
Here’s a kickstarter campaign you don’t see every day.

Ben Schlappig, the talented blogger behind the One Mile at a Time site, is asking for donations on the popular crowdfunding platform so that he might review the new Etihad Airways “residences” product.

You know the one. It’s something of a train compartment on an Airbus A380. You get a living room, bedroom and private bathroom with shower. The whole thing is 125 square feet.

Want a double bed on an airplane? Ethiad might be the airline for you. Photo: Associated Press.

Want a double bed on an airplane? Ethiad might be the airline for you. Photo: Associated Press.

Schlappig wants to review the product for his blog. He is asking for small donations amounting to $25,000 so he can buy a ticket. As of this writing, he has eight committments for about $630. But don’t count the man out. He has a big following, and his reviews of airline products are pretty darn good.

“What I propose is flying the Residences product within the first week it’s in service, so I can report on all aspects of the experience,” he writes. “Chances are it would otherwise be a long time before we get an unbiased review of Etihad’s new product.”

You can donate to his Kickstarter campaign here. And if you think he’s nuts, you can also tell him that.

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