United Airlines says it has begun its popular Mercedes-Benz car service at LAX

United will offer Mercedes-Benz rides to some customers at LAX. Photo: Mercedes.

United will offer Mercedes-Benz rides to some customers at LAX. Photo: Mercedes.

United Airlines on Wednesday confirmed my March report that it is bringing its popular chauffeured Mercedes Benz service to Los Angeles International Airport.

This is good news for all you big spenders, folks who spent $10,000 or more on a single plane ticket to London or Sydney. The rest of us will probably only notice the program when we see the cars parked on the ramp.

Here’s how it will work, according to a United release. (The Global Service customers mentioned below are United’s version of high rollers.)

“United will chauffeur selected Global Services members and United Global First customers to their connections in Los Angeles using its fleet of Mercedes-Benz GL350 BlueTEC SUVs, powered by environmentally friendly, clean diesel technology,” the airline says in its release. “United representatives will meet customers at the aircraft, escort them to the waiting Mercedes-Benz vehicle and drive them across the tarmac to their connecting flight.”

Delta PorscheDelta has a similar service at LAX, but it uses Porsches.

United has already rolled out its Mercedes service in Chicago, Newark, San Francisco and Houston.

Not that long ago, I interviewed travel industry expert Henry Harteveldt about these on-ramp car services. 

“I think only an appearance from Santa Claus and being able to ride in his sleigh would get people more excited,” Harteveldt told me. “I have seen adults get all giddy like schoolchildren when they realize they get the Porsche transfer in Atlanta. It’s special. It’s different. It’s distinct. It shows Delta’s appreciation for its most important customers.”

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What United’s self boarding machines look like in Boston

United Airlines had its grand opening today for its Boston terminal, which has some airport-of-the-future elements, as we discussed last week. 

Here’s a photograph of one of United’s eight self boarding gates. What do you think? A good move? Given that Los Angeles International Airport is next up on United’s renovation list — a $400 million overhaul is coming — we may see these here in a few years.

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United Airlines is bringing self service boarding machines to Boston

United Airlines is bringing the future to its new gates at Logan International Airport in Boston.

Next week, United will open its new 10-gate facility in Terminal B. For the most part, it’ll look like any other airport, albeit a bit newer. But there’s one major caveat. United is bringing some intriguing self service elements to its Boston facility.

According to United, eight of the terminals 10 gates will be outfitted with self-boarding units. These will allow customers to board flights by scanning their own boarding passes. United says this will mean faster boarding.

These are common in Europe — Lufthansa uses them — but we don’t see them much in the United States. I asked United if they would share a picture of the Boston setup with me, but a spokesman said I’ll have to wait until April 30, when the facility opens.

Lufthansa uses self-boarding at its German hubs. But will it work in America? Photo: Thomas Woodtli, via Creative Commons.

Lufthansa uses self-boarding at its German hubs. But will it work in America? Photo: Thomas Woodtli, via Creative Commons.

United is also bringing self bag tagging to Boston. That’s a more common approach these days. It saves airlines a bit of employee time, as workers no longer have to actually put the tag on the bag for you. I don’t think passengers mind the extra work.

“Our research shows that nearly half of all passenger requests fielded at our customer service centers can be resolved without the help of an agent,” United says on its website.

United is spending $30 million on its Boston terminal. Massport, the landlord, is paying the rest of the costs — $172 million. The project also includes a new United Club.

What do you think of the self service elements? A good step forward?

Want more on the Boston terminal? The local CBS affiliate did a story last month.

 

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First United Airlines Boeing 787-9 is almost ready

United's first 787-9, which it will fly from L.A. to Melbourne, is just about ready to fly for the carrier. Photo: United.

United’s first 787-9, which it will fly from L.A. to Melbourne, is just about ready to fly for the carrier. Photo: United.

The first United Airlines Boeing 787-9 has rolled off the assembly line in Everett, Wash., the carrier said this week.

This will be the airplane United uses on the Los Angeles to Melbourne, Australia route, a flight the airline intends to begin in October. It will be operated six times per week.

Yes, United already has 787s, but those are 787-8s. This is a new version. It’s 20 feet longer than United’s current 787 fleet, and it carries 30 more passengers. It also has slightly longer range. It can fly an additional 300 nautical miles, according to United.

Boeing is actually using the United airplane to secure certification for the 787-9 program. It’s one of five airplanes being used that way, United said.

According to Forbes, the L.A.-Melbourne route will be the world’s longest 787 flight, at 7,927 miles.

Air New Zealand is officially the launch customer for the new model. Boeing published some photos of Air New Zealand’s first plane earlier this week.

Air New Zealand Boeing 787-9

 

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Why you may not be able to have limes on United Airlines flights

Due to an international lime shortage, you may have trouble finding limes on some United Airlines flights. Photo: Richard North via creative commons.

Due to an international lime shortage, you may have trouble finding limes on some United Airlines flights. Photo: Richard North via creative commons.

I have solved the great international airline lime conundrum of 2014.

Actually Associated Press reporter Scott Mayerowitz beat me to it with an article published online a few hours ago. But last week I inquired with United Airlines about whether the carrier had pulled limes from its flights in response to an international shortage.

The response came this afternoon in an email from United spokeswoman Jennifer Dohm.

“One of our largest caterers told us their lime suppliers have only 15-20 percent of their typical inventory,” Dohnm wrote. “Until late May, when they expect supplies to be back to normal, we’re substituting lemons for limes on some flights.”

What’s going on in the world of limes you ask? The New York Daily News reports on some issues in Mexico:

“Fighting and hijacking of lime trucks by cartel members have slowed exports to a crawl, coupled with farmers refusing to pay extortion fees to Knights Templar enforcers.

Heavy rains and a tree disease afflicting the area has not helped.

“Mexico received some heavy rains that destroyed a large amount of the lime crop, so with limited supplies we are seeing lime prices skyrocket,” said Bryan Black, spokesman for the Texas Department of Agriculture.”

Mayerowitz says not every airline is cutting back. While Alaska Airlines has also curbed lime service, American and Delta have continued having limes on board, Mayerowitz writes.

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