Graham Boynton on the rise of the Gulf airlines:

At the back of the upper-deck cabin, directly behind business class, is the pièce de résistance: a fully operative stand-up bar that has been the social hub on every Emirates A380 flight I have taken. To make space for this in-flight lounge, Emirates president Tim Clark says, he has had to sacrifice six premium seats, but declares, “It’s the most popular thing we’ve ever done. They have a real party down there.” On this flight a group of Italian contractors join two British couples around the bar soon after takeoff. And they’re all still there six hours later as the plane starts its descent. It is, indeed, some party.

Even the humble masses in coach are able to partake of the A380’s in-flight video-and-audio system, which offers more than 1,500 channels featuring movies, television shows, news, games, and music from around the world, all delivered through high-end, 13-inch seatback monitors.

For anyone who has endured the post-deregulation austerity of U.S. airlines over the past few decades—uncomfortable, overcrowded, bare-bones bus journeys in the sky—the experience of flying on Emirates, Etihad, or Qatar comes close to recapturing the joy of jet travel from Pan Am’s heyday. There is a sense of fun on board, and that has come down from the top. Tim Clark says he wants to bring a bit of glamour back into flying.

Such a stark contrast to the state of flying with the U.S. airlines. Nice job on that deregulation, America.

Keith Bradsher:

Just five years after China’s high-speed rail system opened, it is carrying nearly twice as many passengers each month as the country’s domestic airline industry. With traffic growing 28 percent a year for the last several years, China’s high-speed rail network will handle more passengers by early next year than the 54 million people a month who board domestic flights in the United States.

Surprise: if you build it, they will come. Wouldn’t it be great if the United States could figure this out?

Brad Tuttle for Time on the failing of Virgin America (by far my favorite airline):

So who is to blame if an airline that’s comfortable and treats passengers well fails, while a carrier that annoys and nickel-and-dimes customers at every turn is a runaway success? We all are.

This is exactly why we can’t have nice things.

Virgin America Is Awesome. Except When It’s The Opposite Of Awesome.

I love Virgin America. It’s my airline of choice. If I have any say in the matter, I take them every time. If they don’t fly to a city, I often don’t fly to that city. Best airline experience in the U.S. — bar none.

Except when they blow it. Badly. Which is the only way to describe what happened to me earlier today.

Before I dive in, let me just state that I realize what it looks like when someone with a relatively large online following bitches about problems like this one. It looks like we’re taking advantage of the power gained by other means. I’ve done it before. So have many others.

But, honestly, my true point here is to try and get Virgin to fix their fucked-up-beyond-belief flight management system. Judging from Twitter, I wasn’t the only person screwed by their fuck up today. In fact, I shared a cab back to Seattle with one guy (who happened to be a startup founder) that I met at the airport, screwed by the same issue.

Here’s what happened.

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