American Airlines has taken delivery of its first Airbus A321T aircraft, the plane the carrier will soon schedule on the lucrative Los Angeles to New York route.
Before last month’s U.N. General Assembly in New York, John F. Kennedy Airport counted almost 250 different “VIP” movements, according to a great story in the New York Times.
As you might expect, it’s not easy to coordinate that many flights, especially when many of the dignitaries arrived in New York on private planes and required a police escort to get to Manhattan. According to the story, “…Secret Service and the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service provided varying levels of protection depending on the ‘threat perception.'” Some world leaders got the so-called “heavy weapons package.”
You might be surprised to know the airfield only shuts down for two people — the President and Vice President of the United States. And even then, it only shuts down for 15 minutes or less, according to the Times.
I think my favorite part of the story is this gem:
Some years can be more complicated than others. When Iran’s former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attended the General Assembly, he would have the pilots turn off their plane’s transponder as it approached the airport, causing it to disappear from the screen used in the command center to track aircraft, Lieutenant Lomonaco said. Or his plane would veer north away from the city “trying to be a little evasive” before landing, he added.
American Airlines plans to start flying its brand-new, specially configured A321 aircraft between Los Angeles and New York JFK on Jan. 7, according to an internal email that went out to employees this week.
Tickets for flights operated by the new airplanes can be purchased starting on Sunday. According to the email, American will begin on Jan. 7 with two daily departures using the new planes between LAX and JFK. It will increase to five daily flights on Jan. 15 and add a sixth A321 flight on Jan. 31.
Service between New York and San Francisco on the A321 will start “later in 2014.” American begins taking A321 deliveries in November.
American is using the narrow-body A321s to replace its gas-guzzling Boeing 767-200s, which are larger double-aisle airplanes. What’s interesting about the approach is that American is configuring the planes with three classes — first, business and economy. American has a similar setup on its Boeing 767s, but the industry has been moving away from having three classes, especially for domestic flights. All of American’s competitors — United, Virgin America, Delta and now JetBlue — have or will have only two classes of service. (United just took out first class in its specially configured Boeing 757 sub fleet.)
The New York-Los Angeles route is among the most competitive in the world, so it’s probably no surprise that every airline flying the route, with the exception of Virgin America, is in the process of updating its premium cabins. All airlines are placing an emphasis on making sure premium passengers have seats that switch into flat beds.
Keep reading to see American’s message to employees.
JetBlue Airways is introducing new flat bed premium seats on its flights between New York and Los Angeles, but the airline’s target market is not the passengers you might expect.
With some of the best seats in the industry, JetBlue wants to attract travelers who aren’t always accustomed to flying business and first class on domestic routes. As JetBlue Vice President of Network Planning Scott Laurence told me, the airline wants to “stimulate demand” by offering considerably cheaper premium cabin prices than competitors American, Delta, United and Virgin America. Currently, JetBlue has an all coach configuration.
“It’s the concept of taking the best possible product and offering it at the lowest possible price,” Laurence said. “We saw a great opportunity here to bring a great product to this market and target it at people who are paying with their own money. If you look at the incumbent pricing, it is incredibly high. It’s in the $2,000 or $2,500 range.”
JetBlue has not released its pricing, so it’s not clear exactly how low the fares will be. But earlier this week, the airline showed off its new seats, which will be installed on 11 soon-to-be delivered A321s. The seats are somewhat standard flat business class seats, though the configuration is a bit unusual. Some rows will have only one seat on either side of the aisle, while some rows will have 2 seats on each side. In all, there will be 16 seats, and the service is expected to start in 2014.
It would seem likely that the rows with only two seats would be priced higher than the rows with four seats across. But Laurence said it was too early to know for sure whether the products will be priced differently.
What’s interesting about this approach is that it is entirely different from what other airlines usually try. As Laurence explained, JetBlue likes to increase supply when it senses increased demand on a route. That usually means adding flights or using a larger plane. Other airlines, he said, usually respond to increased demand by simply raising prices. They usually don’t increase the number of available seats.
Laurence said he is optimistic there is a real demand for JetBlue’s new seats – so long as they’re sold at a fair price.
“If you do the math, at $700 or $1,000 what’s premium demand in these markets?” he said. “Demand really explodes.”
Want to see the new seats? Fast forward to the one minute mark in the video below.