No, You’re Not Getting Fat; Airplane Seats Are Getting Smaller

Finding your airplane seats a bit tighter? Good news, it’s not because you stopped at Cinnabon one too many times while waiting for your flight (well, probably not anyway).

Over the past decade, airlines have been adding seats to their more expensive sections. But rather than carry fewer economy passengers as a result, carriers like “American Airlines, Air Canada, Air France-KLM and Dubai’s Emirates Airline are cutting shoulder space by wedging an extra seat into each coach row,” the Wall Street Journal reports.”For almost 20 years, the standard setup in the back of a Boeing 777 was nine seats per row. But last year, nearly 70% of its biggest version of the plane were delivered with 10-abreast seating, up from just 15% in 2010.”

By cutting back on the already tight seats in coach, airlines are hoping travelers will be more inclined to shell out for roomier, more expensive seats. You can fight this trend by refusing to upgrade and swinging your overstuffed carryon into the shoulders of those who have.

[Via Gawker]

5 airlines with great in-flight services in economy class

Last week, I spent 13 hours desperately trying to fall asleep on a Thai Airways flight from Bangkok to London; my economy class seat didn’t have a personal entertainment system and the cabin monitor was pitch black from my angle. The week before, my sister took a red-eye United Airlines flight from Honolulu to San Francisco without the benefit of a pillow, blanket, or snack.

For many airlines, it looks like in-flight services in economy class are going the way of liquids on board. But thankfully, there are still some airlines that understand that service, entertainment, and even a few extras are a part of the customer experience, even for the peons in coach. These five are leading the pack.

Virgin Atlantic
Not only does Virgin offer one of the best personal entertainment systems I’ve ever experienced, they also offer a uniquely British flight experience on their Heathrow-JFK service. From complimentary English publications like Hello and Tatler in the waiting room, to free toiletry kits with socks and eyeshades, to a high tea service with scones and clotted cream, the attention to detail is there.Singapore Airlines
Rated by Zagat as the best international airline for both premium and economy seating, Singapore Airlines spares no expense with their amenities, offering all passengers luxurious Givenchy socks and toothbrush/toothpaste kits. If you happen to snag a seat on their Airbus A380 (say, through this sweet deal) or Boeing 777-300ER planes, you’ll also be able to read digitized versions of publications like the Wall Street Journal and Elle Magazine on Krisworld, the airline’s award-winning inflight entertainment system.

Though it’s a budget airline, JetBlue’s little extras make the flying experience one of the best in the U.S. Their entertainment systems offer 36 channels of DIRECTV programming, while their complimentary snack selection runs the gamut from Terra Blues chips to animal crackers (who doesn’t love animal crackers?). Plus, their Shut-Eye Service on overnight flights from the West includes free eyeshades and earplugs, plus hot towels and Dunkin’ Donuts coffee upon arrival.

Virgin America
Yup, Virgin again. Their American cousins offer sexy dim cabin lighting, standard and USB plugs at every seat, and the ability to easily offset the carbon emissions from your flight through a credit card swipe donation to Plus, from now until January 15, passengers on flights departing from San Francisco, Dallas-Fort Worth, Boston, Chicago, and New York JFK can enjoy free in-flight WiFi on new Google Chromebooks through the Chrome Zone pilot program.

Emirates Airlines
I first flew Emirates Airlines from Tokyo to Dubai when I was 12 years old, and it still sticks out as one of my favorite travel experiences. At the time, I was blown away by one of the first economy class personal entertainment systems in existence, as well as the extra Swiss chocolates snuck to me by the charming flight attendants. These days, Emirates offers 1,200 channels of programming plus telephone, SMS, and e-mail services on their ice entertainment system; regionally inspired multi-course meals with locally sourced ingredients; and cabin lighting specially designed to ease jet lag. I’m betting those chocolates are still there too.

[Flickr image via Richard Moross]

Daily Pampering: Dubai Shopping Festival hotel packages

You read the title right, fashionistas: There’s an entire festival devoted to shopping that takes place in Dubai, and Emirates Airlines has partnered with hotels and luxury retailers to offer travelers a few good discounts and a place to drop their bags after a long day of shopping.

The 15th annual Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF) begins on Jan. 20 and runs until Feb. 20 in the glamorous city of Dubai. Emirates airline has teamed up with beach and city hotels to offer a free night’s stay during the Festival to visitors who book a four-night stay. The pampering continues with tax-free shopping, as well as discounts of up to 50 percent on a wide variety of items during the shopping festival.

Packages to the festival can be purchased through local travel agents or an Emirates sales office, and include a choice of hotels, airport transfers and buffet breakfast. In addition, Emirates is currently offering a Companion Fare offer: any passenger purchasing a flight to Dubai between Jan. 1-31 will get a free second ticket, excluding taxes. This Companion Fare offer is valid in all three classes – first, business and economy – with travel from Jan. 16-31.

We can’t put a price on this pampering because of the various hotel options, but we can tell you the shopping package includes accommodation for four-nights for the price of three, airport assistance on arrival at Dubai International Airport, Arabian Adventures welcome pack, airport transfers to and from the hotel by private car, breakfast daily and all taxes and service charges.
Participating beach and city hotels for the Dubai Shopping Festival include:

  • The Westin Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina
  • The Jumeirah Beach Hotel
  • Mina A Salam and Le Meridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina
  • The Grand Hyatt
  • Dubai Marriott
  • Al Bustan Rotana Hotel
  • Hyatt Regency
  • Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates
  • Jumeirah Emirates Towers Hotel
  • The Address Dubai Marina
  • The Fairmont Dubai
  • Shangri-La Hotel
  • Raffles
  • Taj Palace Hotel
  • The Palace – Old Town
  • Premier Inn Dubai International Airport
  • Four Points by Sheraton
  • Al Manzil Hotel
  • Qamardeen Hotel
  • Marco Polo Hotel and Highland City Hotel
  • (Apartment hotels include Dubai Marriott – The Harbour Hotel and Suites and Pearl Residence.)

Travel tip: Make sure to bring an extra suitcase (or two).

Want more? Get your daily dose of pampering right here.

Daily Pampering: Three most luxurious first-class cabins

America can learn a lot from the Far East in the way of air travel. We rounded up the three best first-class cabins for your flying pleasure. After all, if you’re going to travel around the world, you might as well do it in style.

Singapore Airlines: They call them SkySuites, we call them ‘heaven.’ There are only 12 on each plane and if you’re lucky enough to grab one you can expect luxury like never before. Sit down in your leather-upholstered, Burrwood-trimmed seat that fully reclines and comes complete with a turn-down service and down-filled mattress and duvet. The first-class meals are prepared by world-class chefs, and you can choose your meal before the flight. Enjoy some Dom Perignon and Krug while you fly through the skies.

Cathay Pacific: From the concierge-style service at check-in to the on-demand prepared food in-flight, Cathay Pacific is worthy of a ‘most luxurious’ status. Once you sit down, amenity kits with Acca Kappa Italian products and Shanghai Tang pajamas await. The seat is easily extendable into a full-length bed with pillows and duvets and, thanks to a privacy screen, the seat is transformed into a cozy bedroom. The first-class ‘bedrooms’ give a whole knew meaning to sleeping in the sky.

Emirates Airlines: The first class, fully-enclosed cabins are relatively new to Emirates, but a welcome amenity to first-class fliers. The doors to the cabins can be opened and closed at will, and like your hotel comes with ‘do not disturb’ signal. The best part? Tall passengers will appreciate the no overhead bin space, but don’t worry – there is plenty of space to stow your carry-on. Our favorite part? The personal mini-bar is your pod.

Want more? Get your daily dose of pampering right here.

Emirates Airlines bringing Internet and mobile phone calls to entire A380 fleet by 2012

Emirates, the world’s largest customer of the Airbus A380 just announced that its entire fleet of super jumbos will be outfitted with in-flight Internet and mobile phone technology by 2012. The service is provided by Swiss firm OnAir, and will offer voice calls, data and text messaging on its entire route network using Inmarsat SwiftBroadband satellites.

According to Emirates, the technology has been fully certified by the aircraft manufacturer. The CEO of OnAir said: “There is no question about it being safe.” And to be honest, I trust them 100% – because OnAir is a joint venture of aviation IT firm SITA and Airbus, the company that builds the A380, so they do know a thing or two about their own planes.

The timing is great, as our very own Heather Poole explained in a Galley Gossip article why she demands mobile phones be turned off – it is the law, and she enforces it. Of course, once the airlines start finding ways to make money off in-flight calls, the dangers of mobile phone usage will quickly be forgotten. Obviously, the new technology still won’t allow for calls during the takeoff and landing stage of a flight, just to be on the safe side (and prevent phones from becoming projectiles).

The first Emirates A380 with OnAir service will be ready by June 2012, so one can only hope that passengers learn some basic in-flight phone call etiquette by then.

[Photo credit: RAVEENDRAN/AFP/Getty Images]