Business World

Tuesday 25 April 2017

American's business gets classier as the bin war rages back in economy

United Airlines Polaris business class seat
United Airlines Polaris business class seat
Mark Evans

Mark Evans

Interviewed on these pages last week, Emirates Airlines' Irish boss, Enda Corneille, who conceded "there's an edge" between it and UAE rival Etihad Airways. And the latter has the edge at Dublin Airport in one regard: lounges. Etihad's dedicated facility is a classy affair, with full meals on offer to business travellers.

Emirates, later into the Irish market operates out of the DAA lounge. "It's the one thing I wish we had - and there's no space," Corneille admits. "We've been in contact with the airport a lot of times to see if there's a way of doing it and it's still a very live issue.

"The lounge we have is obviously not our own lounge but it's fit for purpose. As the airport develops and expands who knows what opportunities might be there for us."

Etihad switched from Terminal 2 to Terminal 1 at Dublin Airport during the week but the lounge remains unaffected as it's situated between the two terminals. Corneille, meanwhile, says that "we're happy at Terminal 2".

 

Speaking of lounges, Manchester Airport is to launch an adults-only facility in Terminal 3 this April. Although fast-track security is a perk, the lounge isn't cheap - £30 if booked in advance or £35 on the day. Given that the maximum stay is two hours you'll need to be a big wine tippler to make it economical.

 

Hard to believe, but flying on internal flights in the US may become even more grim. With great fanfare, American Airlines has followed United and Delta into the age of "basic economy" fares. Aimed at combating the threat from low-cost carriers, the big carriers are making economy slightly cheaper - and less attractive.

Stowing a carry-on bag overhead in the cabin is a thing of the past with American Airlines and United on a basic rate, but still allowed with Delta. Small carry-on items are OK, if they can fit under a seat.

It doesn't stop there. Complimentary seat selection is only at check-in and you'll also have to take a walk of shame as you'll be last to board the aircraft.

The move by American Airlines has already fallen foul of one US politician, with US senator Charles Schumer taking a pop at the large carriers. "You don't have to know how to read the tea leaves to see that when it comes to new airline fees, the future looks turbulent for consumers," Schumer said.

"Yet again, and as predicted, another major airline just made it harder for everyday consumers to fly by banning the free use of the overhead bin for some travellers."

American Airlines has countered; arguing that it's giving some customers what they want - cheaper fares. On the plus side, you do get the same in-flight meal, so those pretzels are safe, but it could be a grim enough trip, given that some coast-to-coast flights are as long as transatlantic journeys.

But could the ban-the-bin movement hit Irish transatlantic travellers? Not yet, but watch out. "At launch, they (basic economy fares) will be on domestic US routes only, with expansion to come later as demand indicates. We'll lay out more details on things like transfer policies if and when we do offer it internationally," an American Airlines spokesman told this column.

 

Now from the back of the plane in economy to the front. United Airlines has unveiled New Spirit of United, its first plane (777-300ER) with its much-hyped Polaris business class offering, pictured. And the big plus is that it gets around that big First World problem for business travellers - having to step over a fully-reclined, sleeping passenger next to you (a big problem on the otherwise excellent offering from British Airways). The bad news is that the full rollout of the new service could take years - and a spokesman for United told the Sunday Independent that there are no plans yet to deploy in on services from the US to Ireland.

 

Denver Airport has been ranked fastest for wifi in the US - with Atlanta limping along in last place in a new survey. Surprisingly, tech hub gateway San Francisco International also did badly in the Ookla test. Dublin Airport scored highly in 2015 in a global survey by another online tester, Rotten Wifi, but failed to make the cut last year. But the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) is confident that its new online service, DUBstream, will prove a hit with travellers.

The service, to be updated fortnightly, will be available free on your phone, tablet or laptop throughout both Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 and the four boarding gate piers.

It'll be interesting to see what foreign travellers make of highlights from The Late Late, Ray D'Arcy Show plus Bridget & Eamon and Damo & Ivor. Hellish layover viewing or hit? Watch this Twitter space.

Sunday Indo Business

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