Saturday, March 10, 2012

Beyond Mile-High Grub: Can Airline Food Be Tasty?
Jim Wilson/The New York Times

The catering of a jet in Houston. To lure high-paying customers, airlines are upgrading meals in their upper-class cabins, despite many logistical challenges.

At low elevations, the 10,000 or so taste buds in the human mouth work pretty much as nature intended. With an assist from the nose — the sense of smell plays a big role in taste — the familiar quartet of sweet, bitter, sour and salty registers as usual. Tomato juice tastes like tomato juice, turkey Florentine like turkey Florentine.

But step aboard a modern airliner, and the sense of taste loses its bearings. This isn’t simply because much airline food is unappetizing, although that doesn’t help. No, the bigger issue is science — science that airlines now want to turn to their advantage as they vie for lucrative business- and first-class travelers.

Even before a plane takes off, the atmosphere inside the cabin dries out the nose. As the plane ascends, the change in air pressure numbs about a third of the taste buds. And as the plane reaches a cruising altitude of 35,000 feet, cabin humidity levels are kept low by design, to reduce the risk of fuselage corrosion. Soon, the nose no longer knows. Taste buds are M.I.A. Cotton mouth sets in.

All of which helps explain why, for instance, a lot of tomato juice is consumed on airliners: it tastes far less acidic up in the air than it does down on the ground. It also helps explain why airlines tend to salt and spice food heavily and serve wines that are full-bodied fruit bombs. Without all that extra kick, the food would taste bland. Above the Atlantic, even a decent light Chablis would taste like lemon juice.

“Subtlety is not well served at altitude,” says Andrea Robinson, a sommelier who has selected wines for Delta Air Lines since 2008.

The science of airline food, which Delta, Lufthansa and other airlines have studied assiduously for years, has opened a new front in the battle for passengers in the upper-class cabins. Until recently, airline food seemed in terminal decline — another victim of widespread cost cuts in this long-troubled industry. Industry experts trace the problem back to 1987, when American Airlines removed a single olive from its salads to save a little money.
Anyone who has flown coach in recent years knows what happened next. Catering budgets were cut drastically. Free meals disappeared from cattle class. It might seem hard to believe, but flight attendants once whisked racks of lamb down the aisles on silver trays. Today, they hawk chips and soda.

But after years of belt-tightening, airline executives are investing again to attract business passengers willing to pay a premium for tickets, and food is a big part of that effort. This includes devising new menus and even hiring celebrity chefs like Gordon Ramsay, of “Hell’s Kitchen” fame, to consult. The motivation is obvious: business and first class account for about a third of all airline seats but generate a majority of the revenue. Keeping high-end customers is crucial to the bottom line.

THE industry can’t afford missteps. Airlines suffered mightily as travelers pulled back after the Sept. 11 terrorists attacks. In the decade that followed, domestic carriers lost a combined $60 billion as competition intensified and fuel prices rose. For many carriers, bankruptcy was the only option. American Airlines was the most recent major airline to do so, last November.

After so much turbulence, airlines are trying to chart a more profitable course through mergers and a renewed focus on business and first class. Many have installed flat-bed seats on some domestic flights, fancier entertainment systems and Wi-Fi.

But in the kitchen, science is still working against airlines. To crack the taste code, Lufthansa, the German airline, went as far as enlisting the Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics, a research institute near Munich. Among other things, the airline wanted to know why passengers ordered as much tomato juice as beer — about 423,000 gallons of each annually. The answer was that for many passengers, tomato juice apparently has a different taste in different atmospheric conditions.

“We put a lot of effort in designing perfect meals for our clients, but when we tried them ourselves in the air, the meals would taste like airline food,” says Ingo Buelow, who is in charge of food and beverages at Lufthansa. “We were puzzled.”

So are many other people.
“Ice cream is about the only thing I can think of that tastes good on a plane,” says Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University. “Airlines have a problem with food on board. The packaging, freezing, drying and storage are hard on flavor at any altitude, let alone 30,000 feet.”

The journey from recipe book to industrial kitchen to a plane in midflight is fraught with peril. It’s not just a culinary feat — it’s also a logistical nightmare. The $13-billion-a-year airline catering industry serves millions of meals daily worldwide. It must maintain supply chains, standards and quality under a variety of local conditions.

“The cooking is the easy part,” says Corey Roberts, a chef based in New York with LSG Sky Chefs, the biggest catering company. “What we have to worry about is the logistics of getting the correct meal on the correct flight, on the right trays, into the right galley, at the right time. It’s a logistical puzzle of juggling all these meals, every day, for hundreds of flights.”
Catering facilities are part restaurants, part industrial production halls where thousands of workers grill, fry, bake, simmer, boil, poach, beat and braise. Food safety standards require all meals to be cooked first on the ground. After that, they are blast-chilled and refrigerated until they can be stacked on carts and loaded on planes. 
Our chefs are like portrait painters,” says Peter Wilander at Delta. “They can get pretty creative. But we need to translate that into painting by numbers.”

In 2010, LSG Sky Chefs produced 460 million meals for 300 airlines in 200 flight kitchens in 50 countries. GateGourmet, the No. 2 caterer, served 9,700 daily flights in 28 countries.

Once all the food is aboard, airlines face another hurdle: planes don’t have full kitchens. For safety, open-flame grills and ovens aren’t allowed on commercial aircraft. Flight attendants can’t touch food the way a restaurant chef might in order to prepare a dish. Galley space is cramped, and there’s little time to get creative with presentation.

So attendants must contend with convection ovens that blow hot, dry air over the food. Newer planes have steam ovens, which are better because they help keep food moist. Either way, meals can only be reheated, not cooked, on board.

“Getting any food to taste good on a plane is an elusive goal,” says Steve Gundrum, who runs a company that develops new products for the food industry.
STILL, there was a time not so long ago when airline food could seem very special. Mr. Gundrum recalls, for example, that he had his best airline meal aboard a British Airways Concorde 25 years ago. It was grouse cooked in a wine reduction, accompanied by little roasted potatoes.

Today, airlines want to recreate some of those glory days in their upper-class cabins, with American carriers — trying to bounce back from years of financial cutbacks — aiming to catch up with foreign rivals’ international service.

And some of those foreign carriers have been raising the stakes. The menu at Air France, for instance, includes Basque shrimp and turmeric-scented pasta with lemon grass. The dishes were created by the chef Joël Robuchon, who has collected a total of 27 Michelin stars in his career. The airline’s roster of chefs also includes Guy Martin, the chef at le Grand Véfour, and Jacques Le Divellec, who runs a restaurant that bears his name in Paris.

Air France isn’t alone in reaching out to celebrity chefs. Lufthansa teams with chefs from the luxury hotel chain Mandarin Oriental to prepare meals for its flights between the United States and Germany. Singapore Airlines, meanwhile, has published a book of in-flight recipes from 10 chefs, including Mr. Ramsay. Its business- and first-class passengers can pick their meals from an online menu 24 hours before takeoff. The airline offers a braised soy-flavored duck with yam rice — a specialty from Singapore — or a seafood thermidor with buttered asparagus, slow-roasted vine-ripened tomatoes and saffron rice.

Korean Air owns a farm where it raises beef and organic grains and vegetables for its in-flight meals, including bibimbap, a Korean classic of rice, sautéed vegetables and chili paste that the airline serves in coach. The farm has more than 1,600 head of cattle and more than 5,000 chickens destined for meals in first class.

And the catering business of Emirates Airlines, in Dubai, handles 90,000 meals a day and bakes its own bread, crumble cake and pecan pie. It also prepares nearly 130 different kinds of menus daily. It offers Japanese and Italian dishes, for instance, and has 12 regional Indian cuisines. Eighteen workers spend their days just making elaborate flower designs out of fruit.
American carriers, while elevating their international food service, have generally shunned such refinements on domestic flights. But Peter Wilander, managing director of onboard services at Delta, wants to bring some glamour back.

Last year, Delta hired Michael Chiarello, a celebrity chef from Napa Valley, to come up with new menus for business-class passengers flying on transcontinental routes — New York to Los Angeles and New York to San Francisco. It was not the first time that Delta had worked with a renowned chef. The airline has served meals created by Michelle Bernstein, a Miami chef, since 2006 in its international business class.

“Our chefs are like portrait painters,” Mr. Wilander says. “They can get pretty creative. But we need to translate that into painting by numbers.” That process began last May, when Mr. Chiarello met with executives and catering chefs from Delta at a boxy industrial kitchen on the edge of the San Francisco airport to demonstrate some of his recipes. Among the dozens of dishes he tried were an artichoke and white-bean spread, short ribs with polenta, and a small lasagna of eggplant and goat cheese.
“I am known for making good food, and airlines generally are not,” says Mr. Chiarello, who is also the author of a half-dozen cookbooks, the host for a show on the Food Network, and a former contestant on “Top Chef Masters” and “The Next Iron Chef.” “I probably have a lot more to lose than to gain doing this.”

Huddled around him, white-toqued chefs from Delta and its catering partners weighed each ingredient on a small electronic scale, took scrupulous notes and pictures and tried to calculate how much it would cost to recreate each dish a thousand times a day.
It took Mr. Chiarello six months to come up with the menu. He tested recipes, picked seasonal ingredients, considered textures and colors and looked at ways to present his meals on a small airline tray. Then Delta’s corporate chefs had to learn his way of cooking and serving. Bean counters — the financial kind — priced each item. Executives and frequent fliers were drafted to taste his creations.
There were a lot of questions. How should cherry tomatoes be sliced? (The answer: Leave them whole.) What side should a chicken fillet be grilled on? (Skin first.) How many slices of prosciutto can be used as appetizers? (Two large ones, rather than three, struck the balance between taste and price.)
FOR airlines like Delta, these are not trivial matters. A decision a few years ago to shave one ounce from its steaks, for example, saved the airline $250,000 a year. And every step of kitchen labor increases costs when so many meals are prepared daily. An entrée accounts for about 60 percent of a meal’s cost, according to Delta, while appetizers account for 17 percent, salads 10 percent and desserts 7 percent.

Delta also calculated that by removing a single strawberry from salads served in first class on domestic routes, it would save $210,000 a year. The company hands out 61 million bags of peanuts every year, and about the same number of pretzels. A one-cent increase in peanut prices increases Delta’s costs by $610,000 a year.
Others are catching on. United Airlines said in February that it would upgrade its service to first- and business-class passengers and would change the way it prepares meals “to improve the quality and taste.” It also said it would start offering a new ice cream sundae option with a choice of six toppings on international flights. On domestic flights, premium passengers will get new snacks, including warm cookies.

At Bottega, his high-end restaurant in Yountville, Calif., Mr. Chiarello specializes in modern Italian flavors, with a focus on fresh ingredients and an obsessive attention to detail in the kitchen and in the dining room. His staff is meticulously trained and has an intimate understanding of the dishes and wines served. And Mr. Chiarello is the undisputed boss of his kitchen.
Translating that in an airline setting is arduous. Delta sent some of its flight attendants based in New York to Mr. Chiarello’s Napa restaurant, and organized Webcasts so others could hear him talk about his food. It also introduced new silverware and trays in time for his new three-course meals.
Delta hopes that passengers will come back if they have a good meal. But for chefs like Mr. Chiarello, airline cooking will always pose challenges.
“If I put a sauce on a plate at my restaurant, I bark at the waiters to hold the plate straight so it doesn’t spill,” he says. “But you can’t bark at the pilot to fly the plane straight, right?”

Monday, March 05, 2012

10 best domestic, foreign airports for flier freebies

By Gary Stoller, USA TODAYUpdated 5h 56m a

North Carolina's Charlotte Douglas airport, frequent business traveler Kathryn Alice likes the rocking chairs, occasional free concerts and the grand piano where "passersby are welcome to sit down and tickle the ivories."

Alice, a vice president in the publishing industry in Los Angeles, says airports need to increase free services and activities for families traveling with children and other fliers.

"Perks like free Wi-Fi and aid to overburdened travelers ease the pain of travel, and small comforts go a long way toward making the traveler feel cared for," Alice says.
"Anything that gives travelers a taste of the local culture or a personal greeting upon arrival adds to the favorable experience of an airport and the city or country where it's located."

Though a growing number of airports provide free Wi-Fi, airports and their retail tenants are looking to make a dollar off a captive audience of travelers.
Freebies are scarce, but, when provided, they can make a lasting impression.
Frequent flier Murray Cook, whose company builds and designs sports fields, will never forget the freebies at Cuba's Havana airport.
"Once you arrive, you are taken to a waiting area where they bring you rum, Cokes and, if you like, a cigar," says Cook of Roanoke, Va.

Travelers may not find another airport with complimentary items such as those in Havana, but they can take advantage of other unique freebies at airports worldwide.

At USA TODAY's request, travel publisher went on the prowl to find the 10 best freebies at U.S. and foreign airports.

Here is what found:

U.S. airports

•Chicago O'Hare: Children's play area. Plenty of airports have play areas, but the one called "Kids on the Fly" in Terminal 2 is more than 2,000 square feet, airport-themed and designed by the Chicago Children's Museum. The area has a play helicopter, play airplane, play check-in counter and a collection of giant Legos for making towers.
•Fort Wayne, Ind.: Cookies. This cheerful little airport draws passengers away from Indianapolis and Detroit by being easy to navigate and quick to get in and out of — and by offering free cookies. Volunteer hospitality hosts welcome passengers with a fresh-baked cookie.

•Honolulu: Outdoor gardens. The airport makes the most of its paradise location with beautiful Chinese, Japanese and Hawaiian gardens. In the Chinese garden, there is a statue of Hawaii-born Sun Yat-sen, founder of the Republic of China. The serene Japanese garden has great benches to relax on, and the Hawaiian garden has tranquil lagoons, bubbling springs and cascading waterfalls. Go at night when the luau torches are lit, casting a magical hue over the garden.

•Los Angeles: Shoe shine. Five shoe-shine stands offer free service with a smile in Terminals 1, 4, 5, 6 and 7. Tips are accepted, so be generous if you get a good shine.

•New York JFK: iPads. Delta has installed 200 iPads at restaurants near the gate areas of Terminals 2 and 3. You can use them to order food, surf the Web, check e-mail, stream videos or check the weather at your destination.

•New York LaGuardia: Newspapers and magazines. Before a Delta Shuttle flight at the Marine Air Terminal, stock up on reading matter, including New York newspapers and such
•Reno-Tahoe: Local phone calls. Spent your last dime on slots? That's not a problem if you have a friend in the area. Local calls are free at several airport phones; Wi-Fi is free, too.

•San Francisco: Yoga room. The nation's only airport yoga room is just past security in Terminal 2. There are chairs, mats and mirrors to practice your poses.

•St. Louis: Coloring books and crayons. Kids can pick up a set of crayons and an airport-theme coloring book with pictures of behind-the-scenes airport activities. Keep an eye out for historic, 1930s-era aircraft hanging from the ceiling near the security checkpoint, too.
•Washington Dulles: Aviation museum. A 50-cent bus ride can bring you to an incredible free museum a few miles south of Dulles in Chantilly, Va. The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center blows other little airport museums out of the water. It has giant hangars stuffed with such items as an SR-71 Blackbird, the space shuttle Enterprise and the Enola Gay.

Foreign airports

•Amsterdam: Library. Schiphol airport is big for layovers, and the Dutch are big on reading. The library is a showcase for Dutch culture, with Dutch literature, Dutch music and its own Twitter feed. Nine of 25 seats have iPads.

•Copenhagen: Strollers. Changing planes with a baby is a pain if you've been forced to check your stroller. Parents going through Copenhagen can take advantage of the airport's free strollers, which can be left at a departure gate.

•Hong Kong: Video games. PlayStation gaming systems are scattered throughout the terminals — in the arrivals and departures halls and past security on the north and south concourses.

•London Heathrow: Coloring books and crayons. Customer service agents at several counters throughout the airport hand out airport-theme coloring books, crayons and stickers.

•Munich: Showers and coffee. Taking a shower can be a real boon if you've just gotten off an overnight flight and need to be alert. Even if you can't face up to the shower, there's free coffee at various stations throughout Munich's Terminal 2.

•Seoul Incheon: Culture. The airport is filled with cultural attractions — a museum of Korean history and culture, a stall where you can dress in traditional Korean clothes and get your picture taken, and a stall where you can join a class making Korean handicrafts.

•Singapore: Movies. Terminal 3's movie theater screens big-name Hollywood flicks such as X-Men: First Class 24 hours a day. If you want to stream your own movies, there's free Wi-Fi throughout the airport, as well as 500 free Internet kiosks.

•Taipei Taoyuan: City tours. The Taiwan Tourism Bureau offers free morning and afternoon tours of Taipei from the airport. The morning tour visits an ancient temple and a pottery-making center; the afternoon tour visits another temple, Taiwan's tallest skyscraper and the home of Taiwan's president.

•Tallinn, Estonia: Skype calls. In April 2011, the first free Skype video chat booth popped up at Tallinn's airport, and you can use it to make unlimited, free video calls worldwide. If the line is too long, you can send an e-mail from 14 free Internet kiosks or hook up your laptop through the airport's free Wi-Fi.

•Toronto City Airport: Passenger lounge. The hub of Porter Airlines, this airport on an island that's a brief ferry ride from downtown is delightful, but it's made even more special by Porter's lounge. Regardless of ticket price, everyone flying on the airline gets free coffee, tea, soft drinks, snacks, Wi-Fi and comfy chairs.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

English: A continental airlines DC-10.
So Long Continental
United absorbs much of Continental this weekend

This weekend, United Airlines makes changes that mean most of Continental fades away
By Joshua Freed, AP Airlines Writer
Associated Press – 33 minutes
The last Continental flight takes off on Friday, and the airline that was once one of the nation's biggest will all but disappear into United Airlines.
United and Continental merged in 2010, but until this Saturday, passengers almost could have missed it. The big change occurs early Saturday when United combines passenger reservation data from both airlines into one massive computer system. That means one frequent-flier program and one website. Tickets will be issued under United's name only.

The switch is a huge undertaking that has its risks. Any hiccups could mean delays throughout the airline's system. That's why United conducted four dress rehearsals with executives staying overnight at headquarters to make sure things went well.

Here are the changes:


Continental flight 1267 is scheduled to depart from Phoenix at 11:59 p.m. PST on Friday. It's set to arrive in Cleveland as United 1267 Saturday morning.
The airline will stop using Continental's "CO" code. That means no more Continental Airlines tickets, or flights — even though the Continental name is still painted on some planes.

The names of both airlines have been on signs at gates at its 10 hubs. By Saturday, it's aiming to take down the "Continental" signs at all 372 airports it serves.

Until now, each airline issued its own tickets, and passengers had to use separate ticket counters. Now, it will no longer matter which ticket counter travelers go to. Gate agents should be able to book travelers on flights across the combined airline, which will be a big improvement any time a blizzard or thunderstorm snarls travel.

The change will also mean that airline workers can send planes from either airline to any of their gates. Previously, gate computers had been connected to separate reservation systems and they couldn't handle planes from the other airline.


The systems are combining under the name of United's MileagePlus frequent-flier program. Travelers who have accounts at both airlines will essentially be credited for their Continental OnePass miles in their combined MileagePlus account. But their MileagePlus account numbers will be those from OnePass.

As for passwords, PIN numbers and addresses — some of those will transfer and some won't. United has emailed frequent fliers about the details.

WEBSITE becomes the website for the combined airline. But its look and feel is the old Passengers will be able to use it to check in, regardless of which airline issued their ticket.

The websites are set to go dark at 2 a.m. EST Saturday. United is aiming to have the switch done in time for travelers to check in for 6 a.m. EST flights. The airline says travelers who check in on the old for Saturday flights should see their check-in transfer over to the new system.


Plenty. There's a reason United held those dress rehearsals. Five years ago, US Airways Group's reservations system merger with America West went haywire. Hundreds of check-in kiosks didn't work, forcing passengers to use ticket counters. The snafu delayed flights around the US Airways system for days.

Virgin America's switch to a new reservation system in October caused problems that lingered for months.

"This transition is extremely complex and there is a strong likelihood for significant flight delays and cancellations," the head of the Air Line Pilots Association's United unit in San Francisco warned pilots in an email.
Jay Pierce, the head of the ALPA unit at Continental, said in an interview that the airline "actually has done a fairly decent job of advising all the employees that there's a potential for disruptions and possible problems." The company has asked employees not to use their discounted travel benefit over the weekend, to help keep volume low, he said.
The airline moves an average of 264,000 passengers per day. It picked a Saturday for the switch because traffic is as much as 15 percent lighter than on weekdays. It further reduced the number of United flights because those are the flights that are switching to Continental computers.
"We have tested an incredible amount of scenarios across the enterprise and I feel very, very comfortable we will be able to service customers better starting this weekend," said Martin Hand, United's senior vice president for passenger experience.

United must still schedule flight crews from each airline separately because it doesn't yet have union contracts to cover the combined groups. US Airways has been operating that way since its 2005 America West merger.

Pilots from both United and Continental have already been using the "United" radio handle with air traffic controllers, and flight attendants have been announcing flights onboard as United flights, even if passengers walked past a "Continental" sign to get on the plane.

The parent company's name, United Continental Holdings Inc., stays the same.
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Boeing 747 Tries to Stay Relevant

By Ted ReedStaff Reporter – 1 hour 22 minutes
CHICAGO (TheStreet) -- Once viewed as the world's premier airplane, the Boeing 747, after four decades of flying, now fills a very narrow niche.

The 747 has seen its mission shrink as competing aircraft have become available during the past two decades. The Airbus A340 entered service in 1993 and can fly longer trips. The Boeing 777 entered service in 1995 and is more fuel efficient. The A380 entered service in 2007 and carries more passenger.

Boeing introduced the 747 in 1970 and reshaped global aviation. Four decades later, the plane has lost ground to competitors -- perhaps best illustrated by Singapore Airlines' recent announcement that it will make its last 747 flights April 6, after operating the aircraft for 38 years.

In its glory, the 747, the first widebody aircraft, began flying for Pan American World Airways in 1970. Boeing has produced more than 1,400 of them. Last October, it delivered the first 747-8, the latest model, to Luxembourg's CargoLux. The first passenger version was sold Tuesday to an unidentified VIP customer. Cargo airplanes account for 60 of the 96 orders for the 747-8.

"The 747 has truly become a niche airplane," aviation consultant Scott Hamilton says. "That is part of the progression for an aging airplane. It's still a good cargo airplane."
The 747-8 "was basically a tactical response to the A380," which came to market in 2000, Hamilton says. "Had it been on time, it probably would have been more successful." Instead, the first delivery was two years late.

The 747's decline as a passenger aircraft is perhaps best illustrated by Singapore Airlines' recent announcement that it will make its last 747 flights April 6, after operating the aircraft for 38 years.

For years, Singapore was the world's largest 747 operator, with 37 aircraft flying from the Singapore hub. But Singapore was the launch customer for the A380 and now flies 16 of them. It also operates five A340-500s and 77 Boeing 777s. In other words, all three 747 replacements are in the Singapore fleet.

"The 747 doesn't have range to go from Singapore nonstop to some destinations we serve," Singapore spokesman James Boyd says. That shortcoming made Singapore a leader in operating flights under aviation's "fifth freedom" right, which enables a carrier flying from its home country to a second country to make a passenger stop in a third country.

Singapore's four U.S. destinations provide examples of the shift. On the Singapore-Newark route, the 747 made a fuel stop in Amsterdam. But in 2004 Singapore replaced the 747 with an A340-500 and dropped the stop, because the A340-500 flies nonstop on the 10,381-mile route, the longest in commercial aviation. The aircraft has just 100 seats, all business class.

On the Singapore-Frankfurt-New York Kennedy route, the carrier began A380 service in January, replacing a 747-400 but keeping the intermediate stop.
Twice-daily Singapore-San Francisco flights were operated with an A340 and a 747. In 2009, the airplanes were replaced with 777-300 extended-range jets that stop in Seoul and Hong Kong.

Singapore-Los Angeles is operated with an Airbus A340-500 and is the world's longest-duration flight at 18 hours and 30 minutes, making it about 40 minutes longer than the Newark flight. In 2004, the A340 replaced a 747 flight and a Taipei stop was eliminated. Also, an A380 replaced a 747 last year and operates Singapore-Tokyo-Los Angeles.

Boeing says it's too early to count the 747 out. "There is still quite a significant market for the airplane, and orders will continue to pick up as it enters service and people see what it can do," Boeing spokesman Jim Prouix says. Over the next 20 years, Boeing sees a market for about 800 aircraft with more than 400 seats or equivalent cargo space. "The 747-8 is a very strong competitor for those markets, and of those 800 airplanes, roughly 250 are for freighters -- of which we offer the only one," he said. 
The Boeing 777 has around 300 seats, while the A380 has around 500. "The 747-8 slots right in between," Prouix says.
BB&T Capital Markets analyst Carter Leake is a fan of the 747-8. "I think the A380 was a decade too early," he says. "The 747-8 was the right move. The 747-400 (the previous model) was not competitive against the 380. You had to defend the space." The 747-400 was the previous model;

Prouix notes that since the 747-8 entered the market in November 2005, it has accumulated 131 orders and commitments, while the A380 has sold 121 airplanes. "More than half of the A380 order book came in before we even entered the market," he says.

Among U.S. carriers, the 747 has not been popular in recent years. "It doesn't fit the needs of U.S. carriers, as opposed to flag carriers of other nations, because you have so many interior cities in the U.S. that now have overseas service," Hamilton says. By contrast, when Pan Am and Northwest placed early 747 orders, service across the Atlantic and Pacific occurred from a very few airports, and big planes could be filled.

Today, United and Delta are the only U.S. passenger carriers operating 747s, generally on Asian routes. United has 23 of them, averaging about 16 years old. Delta has 15, acquired with Northwest.

Delta, in particular, sees a long life for its 747s and is upgrading the interiors with full flat-bed seats and other amenities. The upgrades, it says, "will make the 747 the premier aircraft in our international fleet." 
-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.