“Our caring room attendants enjoyed making your stay warm and comfortable. Please feel free to leave a gratuity to express your appreciation for their efforts.” That’s the message that appears on Marriott’s new in-room envelopes that launched this week as part of their “Envelope Please” campaign. The envelopes will appear in 160,000 rooms in the U.S. and Canada across the major Marriott brands including Marriott, Courtyard, JW, and Ritz Carlton. Each envelope will include the name of the housekeeper responsible for cleaning your room.

The program is actually being launched with Maria Shriver as part of her efforts to empower women. “There’s a huge education of the traveler that needs to occur,” she said. “If you tell them, they ask, ‘How do I do that?’” She said envelopes make it easy for guests to leave cash for the right person in a secure way.

The AP reports that Marriott’s CEO is even offering up advice on the appropriate amount to tip and that Marriott housekeepers are quite happy with the initiative:

CEO Arne Sorenson says $1 to $5 per night, depending on room rate, with more for a high-priced suite is recommended. Sorenson noted that housekeepers “are less frequently tipped” than other hotel workers because they do an “invisible task.” In contrast, workers who carry bags, hail cabs and park cars tend to get tipped because they “make a personal connection” with guests, he said. Rosario Rodriguez, who works as a housekeeper at Marriott’s Times Square hotel, says many guests don’t tip and she welcomes the envelope campaign as “a good idea. Jessica Lynn Strosky of DuBois, Pennsylvania, who earns $7.75 an hour cleaning rooms at a hotel that’s not a Marriott, says only 1 in 15 or 20 guests leaves a tip. When they do, it’s a dollar or two; she’s lucky to get $20 a week in tips. “I’ve talked to lots of people who say they don’t know they are supposed to tip,” she said. Unlike waitresses who earn less than minimum wage because tips are expected to raise their earnings, hotel housekeepers are paid minimum wage, and in expensive markets, substantially more. In Washington D.C., Sorenson said, Marriott housekeepers start in the mid-teens per hour.

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This is part seven of a thirteen part trip report from my third and most recent trip back to Thailand and includes what I think might be my favorite hotel in Thailand – the Sand Sea Resort located in beautiful Railay Beach.

This is a non-chain hotel, though I did earn Hotels.com Welcome Rewards points. There are no major hotels located on the peninsula (accessed via boat from Krabi) and the rate was reasonable enough ($76 per night..though this can be considered expensive for the island if you are comfortable staying at a property that is more like a motel).

Arriving at night via water to the beach in front of the hotel was amazing. All we could see where these huge limestone cliffs above us and lanterns floating in the air. Pretty magical. 

Check-in was easy and they took us in golf carts to our rooms.

Yes, the room doesn’t exactly compare to the W Retreat Koh Samui, but for the location this is extremely luxurious…plus you should be outside most of your time in Railay Beach anyway.  There was strong wifi, a flat-screen, a great shower, and a balcony.

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The bathroom…

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The beach in front of the hotel by night…

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Waking up in the morning we got to explore the property in daylight, starting with the free buffet breakfast. Omelette and smoothie stations…

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But how could you sit at breakfast when this was right down the steps…

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Several TripAdvisor reviewers complain of the noise from the long-tail boats. While I surely would have loved the location even more without the distraction, we didn’t find it that bothersome (look at those views).  The water is calm and warm and if you need some shade you can hop in the hotel pool located right beyond the beach (this was key).

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The balcony off the room in daylight:

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One of the more interesting things when visiting in Feb-March is that the water completely disappears around 3:30pm. From too deep to stand to not a drop of water in just a few hours. It’s a bit of a disappointment when you aren’t aware ahead of time and don’t properly plan your day (we would have gotten in the water a lot earlier that first day). Anyway, we headed back to the pool and the hotel staff informed us that the water usually returned around 6pm (we found it to be more like 7:30-8pm).  Lesson learned, we got outside earlier the next few days. You’ll also want to remember this if you need to take a boat back to Krabi for your flight.

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Overall I really loved the hotel for the following reasons:

  • Location (doesn’t get any better) and I’d guess no matter where you stay you’ll love Railay Beach.
  • For a tiny peninsula, I found the room to be more than comfortable, I’d say it was even modern (especially compared to the other hotels in the area). More importantly, the room was extremely clean.
  • The staff at the hotel were friendly and helpful. There’s an on-site restaurant and convenience store. Note that alcohol is not served at either but there are plenty of restaurants and shops where you can find drinks.
  • The pool is fantastic and great for shade or to cool down (even from the sea water).

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With the metal tongs we use to serve bread we moved the exposed body part back into his pants! He didn’t feel a thing.

Betty continues spilling her secrets. Thanks to Mark from Yahoo! for sharing a new weekly series called “Confessions of A Fed-Up Flight Attendant” written by “Betty”.  Below is the 13th entry from the series, you can check out the full post here and a new one each Monday.

Things We Just Can’t Do for You - One flight I was on had a particularly robust passenger. So robust, in fact, that he purchased three seats. He was nice enough and the flight went along smoothly, until he got up to use the restroom. Airplane bathrooms are small for average-sized people. If you are a person who needs three seats, that airplane bathroom will not be OK for you.  He managed to get in and shut the door. Five minutes later, the flight attendant call bell from inside the bathroom rang. A petite flight attendant responded to the call bell and asked if the passenger was OK. He opened the door a bit and said he needed help wiping because he couldn’t reach. This attendant frantically waved her hand in front of her mouth and said, “Oh, no, sir: We only do food and beverage …  only food and beverage!”

The Mouse Is Out of the House - On flights to Las Vegas, passengers get incredibly excited for the debauchery that lies ahead. This usually makes them drink too much. This one drunk guy went to the back of the airplane to use the restroom.  In his drunken state, he didn’t lock the door.  While he was in the restroom, he passed out, fell backward, and ended up lying flat on the galley floor. The flight attendants heard a thud and rushed to see what happened.  Because of what he was attempting to do in the bathroom, his fly was still down and his privates were exposed. The two flight attendants stood over him, discussing what to to. “Let him sleep it off,” one said.  “We can’t leave him exposed,” said another. “I’m not going to touch it!” said a third.  This went on for some time. They really needed to get back to the beverage service. They finally decided to get the long metal tongs that we use to serve bread in first class to  move the exposed body part back into his pants! He didn’t feel a thing.

An Unreasonable Solution - One day as I was walking down the aisle checking passengers, I noticed a very large woman traveling with her pet Chihuahua. The dog was out of the carrier and sitting on her lap. Rules are rules, so I told her that animals have to stay in their carriers. Without saying a word, she looked at me, then she looked at the dog, and then she picked up the Chihuahua and tucked the tiny dog into her very ample bosom. The dog fit there very nicely and seemed comfortable. So I looked at her and looked at the dog and said, “Well, I guess technically … that would qualify as a carrier.”

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Commercial air travel has long been a breeding ground for myths, urban legends, and plain old misunderstandings. Most of what people think they know about flying is wrong, and certain notions just never seem to die. Below are just a few of the most stubborn fallacies.

Patrick continues spilling his secrets. Thanks to Mark from Yahoo! for sharing a new weekly series called “Confessions of A Pilot” written by Patrick Smith an airline pilot and the host of Askthepilot.com.  His book  Cockpit Confidential: Everything You Need to Know About Air Travel pulls back the curtain (literally) on the air travel industry.  Below is the 1st entry from the series, you can check out the full post here and a new one each Tuesday.

1. Flying is expensive

Actually, when adjusted for inflation, the average cost of an airline ticket has declined about 50 percent over the past three decades. Fares have risen slightly over the past year or so, but they are still far below what they were 30 years ago.  And yes, this is after factoring in all of those add-on “unbundling” fees that airlines love and passengers so despise. This is lost on many Americans, younger people especially, who don’t seem to realize that in years past only a fraction of Americans could afford to fly at all. In my parents’ generation it cost several thousand dollars in today’s money to travel to Europe.  Even coast-to-coast trips were something relatively few people could afford.  Today the idea of flying as a form of mass transit, with college kids jetting home for a long weekend or to Mexico for spring break, is very new.

2. Flying is growing more dangerous

The events of the past several months, punctuated by the losses of Malaysia Airlines Flights 370 and 17, have given many people the idea that flying has become less safe.  In fact, it’s much safer than it used to be. Worldwide there are twice as many planes in the air as there were 25 years ago, yet the rate of fatal accidents, per miles flown, has been steadily falling. The International Civil Aviation Organization reports that for every million flights, the chance of a crash is one-sixth what it was in 1980. Globally, 2013 was the safest year in the history of modern commercial aviation. This year will be something of a correction, but we can’t expect every year to be the safest, and the overall trend shouldn’t be affected.

3. Modern commercial jets are so sophisticated that they essentially fly themselves.

This is the one that really gets my pulse racing — partly because we hear it so often, and because it’s so outrageously false. A comparison between flying and medicine is maybe the best one: Modern technology helps a pilot fly a plane the way it helps a surgeon perform an operation. A jetliner can no more “fly itself” than an operating room can remove a tumor or perform an organ transplant “by itself.”

Cockpit automation is not flying the plane.  The pilots are flying the plane through the automation.  We still need to tell it what to do, when to do it, and how to do it.  There are, for example, no fewer than six ways that I can set up an “automatic” climb or descent on the Boeing that I fly, depending on circumstances. And you’d be surprised how busy a cockpit can become — to the point of task saturation even with the autopilot on.  Even the most routine flight is subject to countless contingencies and a tremendous amount of input from the crew. Meanwhile more than 99 percent of landings, and a full 100 percent of takeoffs, are performed the “old-fashioned” way — by hand.

4. The air on planes is full of germs  

Studies show that the air in a crowded cabin is less germ-laden than most other crowded spaces. Passengers and crew breathe a mixture of fresh and recirculated air.  Using this combination, rather than fresh air only, makes it easier to regulate temperature and helps maintain a bit of humidity.  The recirculated portion is run through hospital-quality filters that capture at least 95 percent of airborne microbes, and there’s a total changeover of air every two or three minutes — far more frequently than occurs in buildings.

For those people who do get sick from flying, it’s probably not from what they are breathing but from what they are touching. Lavatory door handles, contaminated trays and armrests, and so on are the germ vectors of concern, not the air.  A little hand sanitizer is a better safeguard than the masks I sometimes see travelers wearing.

This is my term for people’s tendency to exaggerate the sensations of flight. The altitudes, speeds, and angles you perceive often aren’t close to the real thing. During turbulence, for example, many people believe that an airplane is dropping hundreds of feet at a time, when in reality, even in relatively heavy turbulence, the displacement is seldom more than 20 feet or so — the slightest twitch on the altimeter. It’s similar with angles of bank and climb. A typical turn is around 15 degrees, and a steep one might be 25. A sharp climb is about 20 degrees nose-up, and even a rapid descent is usually no more severe than 5 – yes, 5 — degrees nose-down.

I can hear your comments already: You will tell me that I’m lying and that your flight was definitely climbing at 45 degrees and definitely banking at 60. You’re definitely wrong.  I wish that I could take you into a cockpit and demonstrate. I’d show you what a 45-degree climb would actually look like,. It would turn you green in the face.  In a 60-degree turn, the g-forces would be so strong that you’d hardly be able to lift your legs off the floor.

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Some good news for Americans this Labor Day, after decades of being labeled the “worst tourists”, several other countries are now taking or sharing in that honor! Mark from Yahoo! shares their list which was compiled by Paula Froelich, Editor in Chief, and a North American Travel Journalists Association Gold Medal award winner.

No, my friends, after traveling the world, I have decided that we Americans get a bad rap. Especially since there are other countries’ travelers who deserve attention for bad tourist behavior. And so I present the top five countries around the world whose tourists make us look good.

Below is the list with a brief snippet for each country, though be sure to check out the full article for full examples as to why each country qualified for the list.

  1. The Russians - Armed with rigid self-confidence and a boatload of rubles, traveling Russians just don’t give a damn.
  2. The Chinese - Chinese tourists’ behavior is so bad, even their own government has commented on it. Vice Premier Wang Yang has criticized the “uncivilized behavior” of certain Chinese tourists, saying, “They make a terrible racket in public places, scrawl their names on tourist sites, ignore red lights when crossing the road, and spit everywhere. This damages our national image and has a terrible effect.”
  3. The Germans - Why can this country not be like Germany? 
  4. The British - Ever since the sun set on the British Empire, the subjects of the queen have been going out, trying to recapture the glory. They show up in former colonies, pale (not their fault — the sun never shines in the U.K.) and ready to rock.  Many get drunk, some even get belligerent, and a few undress.
  5. The Saudis - Though the crown prince is not your normal tourist, Saudis traveling abroad almost all seem to be part of the ginormous royal family, and many hold diplomatic passports, which can allow them to get away with unacceptable tourist behavior.

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This is part twelve of a thirteen part trip report from my third and most recent trip back to Thailand and includes a picture tour of the Asiana Lounge – Business Class in Seoul (ICN):

Welcome

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Tons of seating on both sides (each side sort of repeats the other with similar areas and food stations). All seats had multiple outlets and were extremely well kept. The lounge was empty for my early morning flight.

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Western and Asian breakfast options…

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Shower time…

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Lounging / sleeping rooms and massage chairs…

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While hotels can be notorious for charging hidden fees, it’s the guests who come equipped with their own arsenal of sneaky, rule-breaking habits — ultimately proving that they’re the winners in the hotel hustle. Sure, these antics are frowned upon, but they’re de rigueur and wildly popular for getting the most out of a hotel stay on the sly.

The list was compiled by Thrillist and used with courtesy. I’m pretty sure (or hope) that our ethical BoardingArea reader community is at most guilty of numbers 6-8!

1. Refilling vodka bottle with water
Minibars are becoming extinct, and for good reason: people are stealing from them. And we’re not talking a pack of M&Ms, either — theft comes in the form of drinking any clear liquor, refilling the bottle with water, and re-shelving it as though never touched. 

2. Sneaking in a pet to dodge a fee
As pet-friendly travel becomes more popular, hotels are allowing man’s best friend (and cats!) to stay overnight for a fee (roughly $50 a night to $200 per stay). You won’t see a charge on your bill if you simply sneak Fido in, though. The most common scheme? Scoring a neon vest and dubious certificate for your “service” dog, which allows a free pass.

3. Not tipping housekeeping
Being nickel-and-dimed by a hotel is nothing new, and the last thing hotel guests want to do on their way out the door is pay more for their stay. That sentiment leaves the housekeeping staff… well, nothing. Housekeeping is the only traditionally tipped staff you never see (as opposed to the bellman, valet, or wait staff), so guests can escape without feeling cheap. Those sad little envelopes — which ultimately serve as a reminder to tip — are hardly ever used.

4. Smoking in a non-smoking room
Smoke-friendly hotel rooms these days are about as common as bath butlers, and when the nic fit hits, that walk to the ashtray outside the hotel lobby door is way too inconvenient. Smokers have gotten into the habit of blazing up in the room, using tricks like puffing out the window, running a steamy shower to mask the smoke, or straight up covering the smoke detector with a shower cap.

5. Charging your bill to someone else’s room 
When hotel guests get a random food and beverage charge on their bill, it’s more often than not an oversight. But not for some mischievous risk takers who believe the guy in Room 202 won’t mind picking up the tab. Room-charge robbery generally happens at the pool bar after one too many cocktails, or at a new hotel where there’s more room for error. Either way, the hotel ends up eating the costs.

6. Stealing from the housekeeping/minibar cart
Most housekeeping carts are generally equipped with all the necessities to replenish your room. But, for some guests, it’s basically a cart full of free stuff. Nabbing a towel here (one of the most stolen objects in a hotel) means that all the towels in the guest room are accounted for. The housekeeping cart often doubles up as the mini bar cart, too — who wants free soda?

7. Sneaking into the pool’s hot tub/pool after hours 
When hotel pools are closed, it usually means they’re being cleaned in the off hours — or that crazy folks do crazy stuff at night, which can be a liability for any hotel. This hasn’t stopped late-night revelers from slipping past the gate and taking their hotel party to the pool deck. And it’s not just hotel guests that “RSVP”. Non-patron pool crashers are regularly caught sneaking in to use the hotel’s pool facilities.

8. Lying about an anniversary or birthday to score an upgrade 
Guests who still book their rooms over the phone are sometimes asked how’s life in 1994whether they’ll be celebrating a special occasion during their stay, so the hotel can extend a gesture. Some people interpret this as, “oh, hey, free champagne or room upgrade? Count me in!”

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Two offers to collect an easy 1,500 Lufthansa Miles & More miles in under 10 minutes. Thanks to Linda from Scottsdale for passing on and a HT to Mile Nerd.

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M&M2

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He said he had bad gas and didn’t want to disturb his seatmate.  She asked what he was going to do with the coffee … put in his underwear? Nope. He said he was going to “sit on it to muffle the sounds!”

Betty continues spilling her secrets. Thanks to Mark from Yahoo! for sharing a new weekly series called “Confessions of A Fed-Up Flight Attendant” written by “Betty”.  Below is the 12th entry from the series, you can check out the full post here and a new one each Monday.

Coffee to the Rescue
A friend of mine was working a flight on a 757 when she noticed a popular TV star board the aircraft. She was a fan of his show and noticed that he kept getting up from his first-class seat to use the restroom. After one of his numerous trips to the bathroom he asked her, “Can I ask you the craziest question you’ve ever heard?” He asked her if she would get him a coffee packet. She asked what he wanted it for. He said he had bad gas and didn’t want to disturb his seatmate. She asked what he was going to do with the coffee … put in his underwear? Nope. He said he was going to “sit on it to muffle the sounds!”

Spray it Away
After a long flight the airplane bathrooms can smell really bad. They are in constant use, and let’s face it, when people aren’t on their normal schedules their stomachs tend to revolt. Lots of flight attendants carry their own air freshener sprays since our jump seats are always near the bathrooms. One day a flight attendant was disgusted with the rank smell and got out her large aerosol air-freshening spray. She didn’t want to inhale any more of the stink than was necessary, so she only opened the door a tad and sprayed it up and down. The next thing she heard was coughing. A little old lady had gone into the bathroom and forgotten to lock the door.

Flatulence on Command
Flight attendants have a secret weapon hidden in their back pocket for the unruly or rude passenger. Because of the way the seats and the aisle are situated, if you were so inclined to “let one rip” near said mean passenger’s seat, it could make a definite impression. This is affectionately called “crop dusting.” I have never participated in crop dusting, but I know some fellow crew members who have.
One “colorful” flight attendant warned us before a flight that we shouldn’t be alarmed if we saw him with the medical oxygen mask on during the flight when most of the passengers had gone to sleep. We shouldn’t worry that there was anything wrong with him; he just hated all the gas passed on all night flights and the oxygen mask filters out some of the smell. We all thought he was joking till later during the night he was sitting on his jump seat wearing the oxygen mask and writing out Christmas cards!

Here’s hoping your next flight smells as fresh as a daisy!

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For almost two years now, Barclays has been offering an additional 15K bonus miles for spending $750 every month for 3 months after a period of inactivity once you complete your first purchase (usually 2 months or so) on a new US Airways Premier World MasterCard. I received the offer three times over the last two years for a total of 45K bonus miles, but several readers have been emailing in the last few months that they have not received their offer. They all note that they’ve either curtailed or completely stopped spending on their new card.  I too had not seen a similar offer from Barclays since early summer. Well, today a reader has forwarded on the offer he just received. Of interest, the spend requirement has been dropped to $500…and the letter is now from Suzanne Rubin from AAdvantage:

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Offer is valid for select cardmembers and is not transferable. You will earn 15,000 bonus miles after you charge over $500 in net retail purchases (purchases that are not returned or rescinded) each month from September 1, 2014 through November 30, 2014. If you do not spend over $500 in any of the 3 months of the promotion, you will not be eligible for any bonus miles as part of this offer. To receive your bonus miles, your account must be open and in good standing. Purchases made during periods when your account is delinquent, your balance exceeds your credit line or your account is otherwise not in good standing as defined in your Credit Card Cardmember Agreement do not qualify for this offer. Your bonus miles will appear on your statement up to 6-8 weeks after the end of the promotion. Net retail purchases do not include such things as the purchase of money orders, traveler’s checks, foreign currency, lottery tickets, gambling chips, wire transfers, person-to-person money transfers or using the account to obtain a cash advance.

Let’s continue building those future AAdvantage balances. The US Airways cards are still churnable (a little more work than they used to be) and there is even a business version. Check out this previous post for results of my experiments in US Airways MasterCard churning and tips on proposed timelines and best available offers.

1) 40K 30K after your first purchase, annual fee of $89, up to an additional 10k when you transfer a balance within 90 days (1 mile per $). Full landing page and promo details.

  • Earn up to 40,000 bonus miles on qualifying transactions
  • EXCLUSIVE: Redeem flights for 5,000 fewer miles
  • Zone 2 boarding on every flight
  • Enjoy 2 miles per $1 spent on US Airways purchases
  • Earn 1 mile per $1 spent everywhere else
  • Annual companion certificate good for round-trip travel for up to 2 companions at $99 each, plus taxes and fees
  • First Class check-in
  • Please see terms and conditions for complete details

4) Business Card - 25k after your first purchase, up to 10k for balance transfer within the first 30 days (1 mile per $), $79 annual fee. Note this link will also give you the option to select a business card with no annual fee and 5k miles for signing up.

Related - Building Up US Miles for the AA Merger – Time to Take AAdvantage, Full List of Offers!

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Last month Air New Zealand’s first Boeing 787-9 aircraft landed in Auckland following a successful delivery flight from Seattle.  While the plane itself (and the unique black livery) is beautiful, I know our community is probably most interested as to what’s inside. The Air NZ 787-9 cabin features four distinct seating selections:

Business Premier:
The Business Premier cabin will feature Air New Zealand’s signature chalk colored luxurious leather armchairs which convert into lie-flat beds with memory foam mattress, cosy duvet, and two full size pillows.

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Premium Economy:
In the Premium Economy cabin the airline worked with US seat designer Zodiac on a customized seat best described as Business-lite – the leather seat will have a 41” pitch, a 5” wide armrest and a leg rest and extendable foot support which will allow passengers to stretch out and relax.

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Economy Skycouch:
The Economy cabin will feature 14 rows of Air New Zealand’s unique and highly popular Kiwi designed Skycouch seats – these three seats convert into a sofa-like flat surface for both rest and relaxation.

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Economy:
The 787-9 Zodiac Economy seat features a slim-line seat back to enhance the feeling of space, sculpted upholstering, and a more flexible headrest.

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Aircraft Specs:

  • The Boeing 787-9 is a stretched version of the 787-8 – six metres longer at 63m. Wingspan is 60m, height 17m and fuselage cross-section of 5.74m . At 206 feet in length, the 787-9 is 20 feet longer than Boeing’s first version, the -8. 
  • The 787-9 has a maximum take-off weight of 252,651kg, and a total cargo volume of 153m3
  • 787-9s have a cruising speed of Mach 0.85 with a range of 15,372km
  • Boeing boasts a 20 percent improvement in fuel efficiency compared with earlier airplanes of similar size
  • Passengers will have an enhanced on board experience, with large windows, large stow bins, modern LED lighting, higher humidity, a lower cabin altitude, cleaner air and a smoother ride
  • Extended operations (ETOPS) has been confirmed at 330 minutes for the 787-9 subject to operator approval
  • Rolls-Royce has delivered Trent 1000 engines to power the 787-9 – providing 74,000lb thrust. These engines will power the Air New Zealand 787-9 fleet
  • These Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines are up to 1% more fuel efficient than Trent 1000s currently in service on the 787-8

Air New Zealand will be the first airline to fly the new plane, which is scheduled to enter service Oct. 15 on a flight from Auckland, New Zealand, to Perth, Australia. The 787-9 will be used on Air New Zealand’s flights to Shanghai and Tokyo as well. The airline will start to replace its Boeing 767-300 planes with 787-9s, completing the switch by 2016. The company has ordered 10 787-9s and should receive them all by late 2017.

Posted by Adam | 5 Comments

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