In the news:
Seattle-Paris route gets upgraded planes
Delta spiffs up planes on Seattle-Paris route; other airlines, including Alaska, opt for new thinner seats to save on fuel costs.
Special to The Seattle Times
Seven months after Delta Air Lines took over Air France's nonstop service between Seattle and Paris, we're finally about to get something close to what we deserve on an international flight.
Delta has spiffed up its fleet of Boeing 767-300s to include new in-seat video systems in coach; larger overhead bins; new carpeting; and, in Business Elite, flatbed seats.
This is welcome news for those who saw service going downhill after Delta replaced the Air France Airbus A330s with older 767s that included just a single screen showing three movies.
Delta starts operating the new equipment on flights to Paris beginning Oct. 28. Flatbeds will also be available on Delta flights from Seattle to Beijing, starting Oct. 27 and to Osaka, Japan, beginning Oct. 30.
Thinner, slimmer seats are on the way as airlines devise new ways to cut fuel costs and squeeze more passengers onto a plane.
United Airlines will begin installing seats made by Germany's Recaro Aircraft Seating that the Los Angeles Times reports will make room for an additional row on its narrow-body Airbus planes.
Seattle's Alaska Airlines will be installing Recaro seats on 22 new Boeing 737-900s, scheduled for delivery through 2014.
"In theory, yes, the seats could allow us to add extra seats to certain aircraft types. However, the only aircraft that will have the new seats, the 737-900ER, is already optimized for passenger seat capacity," said Chase Craig, manager of product development. The planes will seat 181 passengers.
The Recaro seats will have slimmer backs and bottoms but will allow for an additional inch of legroom, without decreasing pitch (moving the seats closer to each other).
Alaska will improve comfort by adding custom cushions and six-way adjustable head rests, Craig said.
Checking up on PreCheck
The Transportation Security Administration has done much to improve the ease of getting through airport security, one likely reason why a recent Gallup poll reported that most Americans (54 percent) view the TSA as positive rather than negative.
Business travelers aren't as easy to please. Another survey conducted by the website Frequent Business Traveler and the online travel community FlyerTalk found that 90 percent of respondents think TSA has been doing only a poor to fair job at managing security screening.
Why do business travelers feel differently? Perhaps because they fly more, suggests the Frequent Business Traveler. Forty-eight percent of the Gallup poll's respondents had not flown in the past year.
Business travelers did give high marks to PreCheck, the TSA's new expedited security-screening program for high-mileage frequent fliers and members of the Global Entry, Sentri and Nexus border-crossing programs.
Qualifying passengers can use special PreCheck lanes at 26 U.S. airports, including Sea-Tac Airport, where most are not required to take off their shoes or jackets or to remove liquids or laptops from carry-ons.
Seventy-two percent of PreCheck users reported satisfaction, despite TSA's policy of randomly pulling out some for full screening.
Among the converts is Seattle doctor Michael Stewart. Stewart said he was fed up initially with PreCheck after being selected for random, full screening three times out of eight.
"Just a quick update," he emailed the other day. "On three recent passes through TSA screening — two at Sea-Tac and one at (Chicago's) O'Hare — during the past two weeks, PreCheck worked!"
TSA's Seattle spokeswoman Lorie Dankers says the agency is working on refining the system. In the meantime, she urges patience.
"I'm even randomly excluded sometimes," said Dankers.
About Travel Wise
Travel Wise is aimed at helping people travel smart, especially independent travelers seeking good value. Drawing on her own experiences and readers', Carol Pucci covers everything from the best resources to how to tap into the local culture. Her column runs each Sunday in the Travel section.