Air France And KLM Next Up For International In-Flight Wi-Fi

air france planesOne of our biggest pet peeves about long-haul international flights of late has been the lack of Wi-Fi available on board. We can use our in-flight Internet from New York to California, but the minute we head off the coast, we’re out of luck.

The expense of offering this satellite Wi-Fi has proven prohibitive for airlines that see low usage and high costs to outfit planes with new technology. International Wi-Fi isn’t impossible – just infrequently available.

Lufthansa, for example, already offers this service on many of their flights, Qantas has trialed the program between Los Angeles and Australia, and United is set to roll out the service later this year.

Now AirFrance and KLM airlines have joined with Panasonic Avionics to roll out a program of their own. They will begin offering in-flight connectivity trials on long-haul flights beginning in early 2013.

This will enable travelers to stay connected with the world through text messages or emails, and allow for an Internet connection and ultimately live broadcasts of TV programs. On the specially designed in-flight website, a broad range of services will be offered for free, like latest news, TV channels, relevant airline and destination information and unique offers of online magazines.

“Being permanently connected is now part of our customers’ daily lifestyles. This trial run is the first step of Air France’s and KLM’s long-term strategy to offer in-flight connectivity solutions across our long-haul fleet,” said Christian Herzog, senior vice president of marketing for Air France and KLM.

The trial phase will be conducted over the year 2013 on two Boeing 777-300s, operated by each airline. During this period, travelers will be able to hook up to the Internet via their Wi-Fi enabled smartphone, laptop or tablet PC at a fixed rate, as well as use their mobile phone for SMS or email, whatever their travel class.

It sounds like a great program, and one we hope to see more of on other airlines in the future.

[Flickr via slasher-fun]

KLM Airlines: When social media goes awry

Travel industry pros are encouraged time and time again to leverage the power of social media to connect with their client base. In fact, studies have proven that strategic use of social media chnnels via online channels can even mitigate negative feedback.

Unfortunately, the public and instantaneous nature of social media can also backfire, as it did recently in the case of Dutch airline KLM. In theory, the scrolling feed of a Twitter hashtag on their website was supposed to showcase a new viral promotion touting “how happiness spreads” and “little acts of kindness to suprise our passengers.” Not so much.

Tweeters using the hashtag #klmsuprise instead issued a series of damning tweets that ran live on the company’s website. Bitter Wallet has a screenshot of the feed, which was pulled from the site shortly after the negative feedback was discovered. It appears that Twitter may have yanked the feed as well – a search around 9 PM EST on Tuesday shows that “older Tweets are unavailable.”

What are your thoughts? Was it smart of the airline to remove the negative comments, or should they have tried to respond to the “haters” with a public statement via social channels? Could this Twitter Fail have even more negative reprecussions in the future for KLM?

[Image via Bitter Wallet]

KLM serves authentic Dutch food and wine during “From Holland” celebration

The Dutch may not have a reputation for serving impressive food, but I for one am a huge fan of Dutch cuisine, and find it one of the most underrated in the world.

Sure, most tourists may only find themselves trying to get a fried snack out of an Automaat, or on the receiving end of an overpriced “tourist menu”, but the kind of food served in authentic Dutch restaurants is just fantastic.

Dutch airline KLM knows this – and is presenting Dutch food and wine to the world with their “From Holland” celebration. In October and November, passengers departing Amsterdam will be treated to a variety of Dutch dishes.

Coach passengers can enjoy a red cabbage and beef casserole or an Indonesian meal. In business class, passengers are treated to a Dutch meal developed by Michelin star chef Wilco Berends. As a snack, premium cabin passengers can even order an in-flight broodje kroket (croquette sandwich). The airline assured me that this snack would be served piping hot and crispy – just like on the ground.

Even the wine service comes from local Dutch wineries, including some from tiny cellars in the province of Zeeland. The thought of a nice glass of wine along with a traditional Dutch cheese platter really does sound very appealing.

So, if you are flying out of Amsterdam on KLM this month or next – be sure to try some of the in-flight Dutch food, and report back to us what you thought of it, and whether KLM really did manage to serve a crispy kroket at 33,000 feet.

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Alitalia joins Air France, Delta and KLM to form trans-Atlantic joint venture

Several of the largest airlines in the world have teamed up to combine routes, creating the world’s largest trans-Atlantic flight network. Alitalia signed an agreement to join Air France, Delta and KLM and share revenue and costs. The new combination will operate 26% of all trans-Atlantic flights, with almost 55,000 seats on 250 flights. The total revenue from this trans-Atlantic capacity is estimated to be more than $10 billion.

Unlike some airline collaborations, this new alliance actually appears to help air passengers by allowing airlines to create new routes they normally may not have considered. The network also allows for seamless ticketing and baggage handling between the U.S. and European gateway airport. Examples of new routes include Delta non-stop flights from Atlanta to London Heathrow and Portland to Amsterdam.

The hub cities for the network are Amsterdam, Atlanta, Detroit, Minneapolis, New York JFK and Paris CDG. Part of the joint venture will include codeshare flights (when allowed). The trans-Atlantic alliance is separate from the already existing Skyteam alliance.

[Image credit: AFP/Getty Images]

Ten pilots you DON’T want in your cockpit.

When it comes to making fun of airline employees, pilots are usually off limits. Screw with a flight attendant, and you may not get your drink, screw with the TSA, and you may end up missing your flight. But screwing around with a pilot just doesn’t feel right.

In the past couple of days, some pilots have shown that they really are human, and that they screw up just like the rest of us. So this justifies a lineup of some of the most stupid pilots out there.

1. Pilot drops his pants – asks checkpoint staff to “search this”

Look – we all hate the checkpoint, and I’m sure that pilots hate it even more, as they probably encounter more checkpoints than most of us ever will. But when security staff annoy you, pulling your pants and underpants down and demanding the staff “check this” is probably not a very good idea.

2. Whoops – missed the airport by 150 miles

This one will stay in our minds for quite some time. Two Northwest Airlines pilots overshot the Minneapolis airport by 150 miles. Ignoring all radio contact and text messages from their dispatcher, these guys were “distracted” when they failed to notice they were miles away from their original destination.

As you can see in the photo above (which is the actual track from FlightAware.com), when they realized their error, they turned the plane around and headed back towards MSP. The two are now without a pilots license, and I personally wouldn’t even trust them to drive a bus, let alone a passenger jet.

3. He almost got away with what he got away with

Argentine pilot Juan Alberto Poch had a fantastic job – he flew for Dutch carrier Transavia, doing short flights all around Europe. He’d flown his whole life, and was taking his final flight in the pilots seat, one day before retirement.

This really was a dream job for him, because Mr. Poch had a bit of a sinister past. During the Argentine dirty war, he was responsible for flying planes over the ocean and dumping innocent people out the back door, in an attempt to make them disappear.

On his very last flight, officials arrested him and made preparations for deporting him back to Argentina where he’ll face charges of mass murder.

4. When in doubt, blame the strong German beer

American Airlines pilot Joseph Crites was caught by the breathalyzer at Heathrow airport right before he was scheduled to fly a plane to Chicago.

The test showed he was more than 4 times over the legal limit, and he was removed from the plane and arrested. Apparently, every single person in the world knows that German beer is good strong stuff. Except for Mr. Crites.

5. Drunken flight attendant sex does not end well

When charges against you include indecent exposure, open lewdness, public drunkenness, loitering and prowling at night and disorderly conduct you just know it had to have been one hell of a party. And when the party involves a drunk and naked pilot walking through the woods, you know it isn’t going to end well.

The pilot works/worked for Pinnacle airlines, and he claimed he had walked into the woods with a flight attendant for a little drunken sex. He was not on duty at the time, but the rules are very simple – 8 hours between bottle and throttle.

6. Passengers spot drunk pilot – demand a sober one

If your pilot sounds drunk when he makes his pre-flight announcement, I’d say it is pretty logical for you to demand a sober one.

Aeroflot does not really agree with this, and even though the passenger protests eventually forced authorities to seek a sober flight crew, the airline actually issued a statement claiming that being drunk up front isn’t much of an issue, because “the plane basically flies itself”.

7. Another pilot caught red handed

It takes a pretty dumb pilot to even consider flying when drunk, but it takes a special level of stupid to head to the airport when drunk, get caught, then jump into the bathroom to change into your regular clothes while calling your airline claiming you are sick. This all happened at Port Columbus airport back in January.

8. A stupid mistake with a very lucky ending

October 2009 was a bad month for Delta Airlines – first one of their Northwest planes missed the airport, then one of their own jets landed at Atlanta airport on the taxiway. Read that again – these pilots actually landed on a part of the airport where they could have potentially plowed right through another aircraft, or even an airport vehicle.

Apparently one of the crew members was ill, and in the confusion, they screwed up. Thankfully nobody was injured as the taxiway was empty at the time.

9. What is this airport thing you speak of?

I’m by no means a pilot, but I am pretty sure that one of the things on your checklist is actually knowing w
here you are heading when you throttle up the engines. Sadly, the pilot of a KLM flight back in 2007 failed that.

The plane was on its way to Shamshabad, the new airport for Hyderabad in India. Apparently nobody at the airline had told them about this new airport, and when air traffic controllers told them to head towards Shamshabad, they replied “what is Shamshabad?”.

The crew then decided it would be much easier to just divert to Mumbai, causing a 1500 mile diversion. In their defense, the airline is probably more to blame than the pilots, as they are responsible for issuing the “notam” alerting pilots to new airports, as well as updating flight computers and maps.

10. Potty mouth pilot thrown off his own plane

First class passengers on a Northwest Airlines flight were treated to quite a show when their pilot stepped aboard swearing away on his phone. His “F this, F that” tirade was enough for the passengers to demand a new pilot.

I’ve actually encountered something similar – I was flying Cathay Pacific “up front” when two deadheading pilots got on board and talked loudly behind me about the “f’ing airline management” and how they hated the company. I politely requested them to shut the hell up. When the purser asked about the incident, they were both removed from the plane.