Air France Launches A New Menu For Premium Passengers

One of the things that Air France is most proud of is its inflight dining and the offering of fine french cuisine. Continuing with this tradition, the airline has teamed up with a pair of Michelin-starred chefs to offer a new menu for its first and business class passengers. Unveiled on November 11th, these delicious new options will be available this month through to February 2022. Let’s find out what the airline has to offer.

First and business class passengers flying long-haul will get to experience these new meals. Photo: Air France

Michelin-star dining at 35,000 feet

While many might complain about airplane food, not all meals are made the same. Air France is undoubtedly hoping that its La Première (first class) and business class passengers will realize this with the offering of new menus for its long-haul flights departing from Paris Charles de Gaulle.

For meals served between November 2021 and February 2022, the carrier is offering something quite special, teaming up with a pair of talented French Michelin-starred chefs for a new menu. Chefs Régis Marcon and Mathieu Viannay have been tasked with creating meals for long-haul passengers in two of Air France’s most premium classes.

Meals include vegetarian options but also include dishes with meat, poultry, and fish. “With these exceptional new dishes, Air France continues to promote French fine dining throughout the world,” the airline said in a statement.

Mathieu Viannay - Nage de dos de cabillaud aux petits légumes et olives Taggiasca-2 ©Air France
Shown here is a poached cod fillet with baby vegetables and taggiasca olives by chef Mathieu Viannay.  Photo: Air France

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Three Michelin-star dining in first class

Putting its best foot forward, Air France tasked three Michelin-starred chef Régis Marcon with preparing six new tasty dishes for its La Première. “Accompanied by the expertise of the Servair Culinary Studio, of which he is president, Régis Marcon revisits the seasonal products that are close to his heart.”

Below are the dishes, described in mouth-watering detail:

Vegetable lasagna, with tangy chive cream;Braised veal shank, sage sauce, potato gratin with porcini mushrooms;Beef tenderloin in red wine, sautéed potato, and morel cake;Pike and shrimp cake with lobster sauce, sautéed girolle mushrooms with tarragon, spinach;Mixed scallops and scampi with truffles, reduced jus and julienne vegetables;Confit pigeon, apricot sauce, lemon bulgur, mushrooms, and butternut.
Régis Marcon
The confit pigeon, apricot sauce, lemon bulgur, mushrooms and butternut by chef Régis Marcon Photo: Air France

Two Michelin stars in business

Arguably just as tasty as first class, depending on personal preferences, eight original dishes are being offered in business class. Air France has “entrusted” its menu to two Michelin-starred chef Mathieu Viannay, who has combined “delicate flavors and local produce to be enjoyed on board.”

The eight options are as follows:

Penne pasta, arugula and spinach gratin, ricotta cream with lovage;Risotto verde, vegetable Bolognese;Beef tenderloin, macaire potato patties, roasted beet, and smoked meat juices;Poultry fillet with morel mushrooms, spelt, and butternut squash risotto;Poached cod fillet with baby vegetables and taggiasca olives;Pike perch fillet, armorican sauce, yellow carrots, and herb semolina;Braised veal shank with sweet spices, split pea puree, mange tout, and hazelnuts;Roasted guinea fowl in coffee, celery confit, and stewed autumn vegetables.
Mathieu Viannay - Pintade rôtie, jus au café, céleri confit, fricassée d'automne-2 ©Air France
Roasted guinea fowl in coffee, celery confit, and stewed autumn vegetables. Photo: Air France
Mathieu Viannay - Risotto verde, bolognaise de légumes 1 ©Air France
Risotto verde, vegetable Bolognese by chef Mathieu Viannay. Photo: Air France

Considering the fact that Air France has laid on a whole slew of additional flights to the US this winter, these menus are perfect for Europeans traveling on Air France’s services across the Atlantic, or for Americans returning from Europe.

What’s the best inflight meal you’ve ever had? Share your experience with us by leaving a comment.

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Back From The Brink: The Story Of South African Airways

South African Airways (SAA) has been South Africa’s flag carrier since the 1930s. Over its nearly 90 years of history, the airline has grown from a small domestic carrier to a respected international full-service carrier operating some of aviation’s largest jets. After coming back from the edge of bankruptcy, the airline is looking to rebuild and launch itself from a position of stability.

SAA has had a total of 28 Boeing 747s pass through its fleet. This has included -200, -300, SP, and -400 variants. Photo: Getty Images

With its first flight taking place in February 1934, South African Airways began as a state-owned airline that took over the operations of Union Airways. As early as the 1940s, the airline offered intercontinental services and has been consistently doing so since then- even operating aircraft such as the mighty Boeing 747 and the Airbus A340. In recent times, however, SAA has faced financial challenges, leading to an intensive business restructuring process that began in 2019.

The early years

Beginning operations on February 1st, 1934, South Africa Airways was a government-backed airline managed by the country’s Railways and Harbour administration. The airline introduced the Junkers Ju 52/3m on November 1st of that year for domestic services and steadily acquired more aircraft throughout the decade. Types included the Junkers Ju 86s and the Douglas DC-3.

Between the 1940s and 1960s, the airline would go on to adopt the Lockheed Constellation L-749A, Lockheed Lodestar, Douglas DC-7B, and the Vickers Viscount. Indeed, as aircraft reliability improved, SAA introduced its signature Springbok intercontinental service in November of 1945. This route would see the airline operate a 34-hour multi-stop service from Palmietfontein to Nairobi, Khartoum, Cairo, Castel Benito, and Bournemouth.

The airline also notes that it offered inflight entertainment early in its history, as domestic service between Johannesburg and Cape Town even featured a cinema.

Lockheed Lodestar SAA
SAA’s early fleet included the Lockheed Lodestar. Photo: Alan Wilson via Flickr

The jet age

Entering the jet age, the airline would take on the Boeing 707, operating direct services to further away destinations. This included a Johannesburg to Rio de Janeiro service that first began in 1968.

Soon enough, the Boeing 747 would enter service with SAA. For the airline, its first “Queen of the Skies” would come in 1971 and be registered as ZS-SAN with the nickname ‘Lebombo.’ Five years later, the airline would go on to take delivery of its first Airbus A300 aircraft in 1976, named ‘Blesbok’ and registered ZS-SDA. The national carrier would go on to operate a total of 28 747s across four variants, and nine A300s across two variants.

Of the more exciting services operated by SAA, March 23rd, 1976 would see one of its Boeing 747SPs set a record for the longest non-stop commercial flight for connecting Seattle to Cape Town, a distance of 16,560km. This flight was 17 hours and 22 minutes in duration. The following year, SAA would connect South Africa to Australia with a 747SP service between Johannesburg and Sydney.

The 707 enabled SAA to operate direct, long-distance services. Photo: Ken Fielding via Wikimedia Commons 

The 80s and 90s

The 1980s would be a tumultuous year for South African Airways and the country of South Africa as a whole as unrest intensified over government apartheid policies. Economic sanctions would be imposed on South Africa while foreign companies doing business in the country would experience pressure in their home countries to divest.

The November 1986 suspension of SAA’s flights from Johannesburg to New York would result from these sanctions. The USA withdrew its landing rights in South Africa, and the Australian government would do the same the following year.

With most sanctions repealed in 1991, SAA’s flights to New York and Australia could resume. SAA, in the post-apartheid era, would see multi-lingual greetings on its domestic flights. Languages included English, Zulu, Sotho, and Afrikaans.

The airline’s most significant shift, in a visual sense, took place on March 22nd, 1997. On this date, SAA unveiled a new corporate identity. Replacing the orange tail, dark blue cheatline, and Flying Springbok logo would be an identity designed to reflect the colors of South Africa’s new national flag: red, blue, gold, black and green.

The 90s would see an end to SAA’s blue and orange color scheme. Photo: clipperarctic via Wikimedia Commons 

Fleet renewal and the 2000s

South African Airways would embark on a major fleet renewal program in the 2000s. In doing so, the carrier selected European planemaker Airbus as its supplier. A massive order for 41 new aircraft valued at US$3.5 billion would be placed. This consisted of A319s, A330s, and A340s.

In terms of partnerships, SAA’s induction into the Star Alliance would be one of its most significant moves. This took place in April of 2006 and would see the airline create two Star Alliance branded aircraft as per alliance requirements. These special-livery jets would be a 737-800 and an Airbus A340-600.

Amid this fleet renewal and development, and throughout subsequent decades, SAA would see an increase in competition from major international airlines, including from Emirates and even fellow Star Alliance member Ethiopian Airlines. Going as far back as domestic market deregulation in the 1990s, SAA would continue losing market share over the decades- a trend that would continue up until its 2019 business rescue.

South African Airways Airbus A340-642 ZS-SNG (2)
SAA would also be an operator of the massive Airbus A340-600. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

2019: Pushed to the edge

After years of struggling to make a profit, South African Airways was placed under administration, ceasing all operations in December 2019. The airline was placed under a form of bankruptcy protection called a “business rescue,” which would see appointed business experts work to pay off debts, raise cash (by selling off assets), reduce airline costs, and restructure operations towards profitability.

It was just a couple of months later that South Africa and the world would be confronted by the global health crisis. Perhaps coming at the best possible time (if there is such a thing), SAA’s business rescue process overlapped significantly with travel restrictions and border closures.

South African Airways Airbus A350-900 ZS-SOC
Two of SAA’s Airbus A350-900s were leased from Air Mauritius. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Notable moves during this business rescue process included the removal of the airline’s Airbus A340-300s, the sale of everything from premium crew luggage to chopsticks, and the return of the airline’s leased Airbus A350s.

After around 17 months of bankruptcy protection to deal with its financial situation, SAA received R7.8 billion ($537.87 million) from the government.

Resuming operations in late September 2021, the airline has a much smaller fleet consisting of the following aircraft:

3x Airbus A3192x Airbus A3201x Airbus A330-3002x Airbus A340-600

With a new strategy and a new operational structure, it remains to be seen if South African Airways will be able to successfully turn a profit and compete in this highly competitive space.


What Happened To Sterling Airlines?

When it comes to air travel in Denmark, Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) is comfortably the biggest player. However, the country is also home to several smaller scheduled and charter airlines that play an important role in the Danish aviation sector. Historically speaking, there have been several more of these smaller carriers, including low-cost operator Sterling Airlines. Let’s take a look back at the history and fate of this former Danish carrier.

Almost all of Sterling’s aircraft when it folded were 737s. Photo: Eduard Marmet via Wikimedia Commons

Origins as a charter carrier

All in all, the use of the Sterling name in Danish commercial aviation lasted nearly half a century. The story began in 1962, when the Tjæreborg travel agency decided it would acquire aircraft to start an airline to serve its package holidays to the Mediterranean.

The planes it started operations with were a pair of ex-Swissair Douglas DC-6s. Tjæreborg flew these four-engine piston-powered aircraft under the name Sterling Airways. This marked the beginning of over three decades of charter operations for the carrier.

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Sterling Airways Sud Aviation Caravelle
Sterling entered the jet age with the SE 210 Caravelle. Photo: Eduard Marmet via Wikimedia Commons

As the airline grew, it acquired further DC-6s in 1963. Two years later, Sterling Airways received its first jetliner in the form of the French-designed Sud Aviation SE 210 ‘Caravelle.’ By the time of its 25th anniversary, in 1987, it had 19 aircraft and 1,300 employees.

change of emphasis

Unfortunately, the original Sterling Airways went bankrupt in 1993. One of the aircraft that left the airline in the aftermath of this, a Boeing 757, has since gone on to be acquired by former US President Donald Trump for use as a private jet. However, the airline was revived in 1994 (albeit as a smaller three-aircraft affair) under the name Sterling European Airlines.

Donald Trump Boeing 757
Donald Trump’s recognizable black 757 used to belong to Sterling. Photo: Tomás Del Coro via Flickr

At the turn of the century, Sterling opted to shift its focus from holiday charter operations to low-cost scheduled services. It continued to fly from Scandinavia to southern Europe under this model, while also adding intra-Scandinavia services between Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Oslo. It merged with Maersk Air in 2005, and was renamed as just Sterling Airlines.

The end of the line

The merger seemed a promising move at first, with the newly-established Sterling Airlines expanding its offering by adding a buy-on-board catering and duty-free service. Passengers even had the option to pre-order their items. However, various factors prompted Sterling Airlines to cease operations just three years after the Maersk Air merger.

Cimber Sterling Boeing 737
Cimber revived the Sterling brand between 2009 and 2012. Photo: Scott Wright via Wikimedia Commons

2008 saw the carrier face a dual-pronged crisis that consisted first of a rise in fuel prices in the opening half of the year. Then, in October 2008, the Icelandic financial crisis caused one of the airline’s key investors to take a significant financial hit.

This was the final nail in the coffin, and Sterling declared bankruptcy on October 29th, 2008. It ceased its operations at this point, grounding its entire fleet. The Sterling name briefly returned in 2009 when Cimber Air acquired the carrier to form Cimber Sterling. However, the airline went bankrupt within three years, bringing the story to an end in May 2012.

Do you remember Sterling Airlines and/or its predecessors? Perhaps you even flew with the carrier at some point during its existence? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.


Court Rules easyJet And Lufthansa Can Buy Air Berlin’s Assets

LOT Polish Airlines has failed in its bid to stop easyJet and Lufthansa from buying former Air Berlin assets. On Wednesday, the European General Court found easyJet and Lufthansa did not get an unfair market advantage by buying the assets.

Lufthansa and easyJet have won a four-year battle to acquire Air Berlin assets. Photo: Getty Images

Lufthansa & easyJet take former Air Berlin planes, employees, and slots

Air Berlin filed for bankruptcy in August 2017 and ceased flying two months later. Lufthansa and easyJet promptly moved to buy Air Berlin assets and hire Air Berlin staff.

According to Reuters, easyJet paid US$46.5 million to buy some of Air Berlin’s operations at Tegel airport, leases for up to 25 Airbus A320 aircraft, and hired around 1,000 former Air Berlin’s pilots and cabin crew.

Lufthansa paid $248 million to take over leases on 80 of Air Berlin’s 130 planes and crew from Air Berlin’s LGW subsidiary. However, Lufthansa was required to surrender some slots at Dusseldorf as part of the deal. The two airlines also picked up Air Berlin slots at Zurich, Hamburg, Munich, and Stuttgart airports.

All up, around half of Air Berlin’s approximately 8,000 employees found work at either easyJet or Lufthansa.

Air Berlin had around 130 mostly leased planes and 8,000 employees when it failed. Photo: Getty Images

European airlines unhappy about the deals

But several European airlines expressed unease over the deals, suggesting it would allow easyJet and Lufthansa to become too dominant in Germany. Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary said the Lufthansa deal was a “stitch-up” that would see Lufthansa own 95% of the German domestic market.

Willie Walsh, then boss of British Airways’ owner IAG, said he had significant concerns about the deal. But the European Commission approved the deal later in 2017. That resulted in LOT Polish Airlines suing the commission in the General Court. LOT said the transactions broke the EU’s rules governing fair competition.

Over three years later, LOT got a result on Wednesday, and it wasn’t what the airline hoped for.

“The General Court dismisses the actions of Polskie Linie Lotnicze ‘LOT’ against the Commission decisions authorizing the mergers concerning the acquisition by easyJet and Lufthansa, respectively, of certain assets of the Air Berlin group,” the judgment read.

The General Court found Lufthansa and easyJet would not gain unfair market advantages by buying Air Berlin’s assets, noting the European Commission had a “margin of discretion” when ruling on complex economic transactions like the disputed Air Berlin deals.

The court said the slots acquired by easyJet and Lufthansa did not give either airline an unfair advantage and said the airports where the two airlines gained the slots – Dusseldorf, Zurich, Hamburg, Munich, Stuttgart, and BerlinTegel, were relatively uncongested.

easyJet Berlin Getty
easyJet took over leases for 25 former Air Berlin Airbus A320s. Photo: Getty Images

Slots behind Air Berlin’s value

Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr was confident from the outset. In 2017, he dismissed complaints from rivals like Michael O’Leary. Rejecting market dominance claims, Mr Spohr said even if Lufthansa acquired all of Air Berlin’s market share, an expanded Lufthansa would still command less than half the German domestic market.

When Air Berlin failed, it was Germany’s second-biggest airline with a 14% domestic market share. Air Berlin was one of Etihad’s now fabled bad airline investments. The Abu Dhabi-based airline was the biggest shareholder went Air Berlin went under.

Etihad’s decision to cease funding the failing airline sealed its fate. Before Etihad closed its checkbook, they’d pumped €1.8 billion in Air Berlin. Most of Air Berlin’s aircraft were leased. The airline’s most important assets were its slots scattered around Germany’s airports. At its Berlin-Tegel hub, Air Berlin had over 45% of the slots.

LOT Polish Airlines can appeal to the European Court of Justice. The airline says it is reviewing Wednesday’s decision.


Historic: Buy Parts Of A Former El Al Boeing 707

At Simple Flying we love the chance to own a piece of aircraft. The rarer the aircraft, the better. The opportunity to purchase part of a Boeing 707 that resided at Berlin Tegel Airport currently exists, with hundreds of pieces on auction until Sunday.

280 lots from a former El Al Boeing 707 are currently up for auction. Photo: Troostwijk Auctions

The aircraft formerly registered as 4X-ATB was scrapped wearing a Lufthansa livery. Intriguingly, the aircraft never actually flew for the German flag carrier. Instead, it flew for the Israeli El Al during its passenger career. In Berlin, the aircraft ended up wearing the Lufthansa livery after Boeing gifted the plane to the German flag carrier.

Engines for €2,500

Troostwijk Auctions are currently in the process of selling 280 parts from the former El Al Boeing 707. Some of the parts up for auction include the aircraft’s Rolls-Royce Mark 508 engines. The engines come complete with their cowlings, meaning they would look perfect as a display in an office or foyer. They also come with an engine rack to stand them. Three engines are for sale, with bids for each starting at €2,500. A fourth engine has been turned into individual parts, which can be bought separately.

Boeing 707, Auction, El Al, Lufthansa
Three complete engines are being sold with bidding starting at €2,5000. Photo: Troostwijk Auctions

Another intriguing part up for auction is the Boeing 707’s main landing gear. The left and right-hand gears are being sold separately, with bidding for each starting at €500. Due to their size, these more oversized items, such as the landing gear and engines, can’t be shipped with UPS. They can be picked up from the auction house in the north of Hamburg, or shipping can be arranged at the buyer’s expense.

Boeing 707, Auction, El Al, Lufthansa
You could stand this landing gear in the corner of your office. Photo: Troostwijk Auctions

colorful history

The Boeing 707 being auctioned has a bit of exciting history. While it has spent the last few decades as a showpiece at Berlin’s Tegel Airport, the aircraft being auctioned once took center stage in an attempted hijacking. Two attackers failed to storm the cockpit with a gun and a hand grenade. The flight, heading from Amsterdam to New York, diverted to London Heathrow.

Boeing 707, Auction, El Al, Lufthansa
Bids for this entire wingtip start at just €35. Photo: Troostwijk Auctions

El Al handed the aircraft back to Boeing in 1986, but it didn’t stay with the American planemaker for long. Instead, the jet was gifted to Lufthansa a couple of months later to mark the company’s 200th Boeing order. The aircraft was repainted in the livery of Lufthansa’s D-ABOC, named Berlin.

It kept this livery until it was scrapped, meaning that fuselage pieces from the plane are available in the carrier’s iconic blue, yellow, and white livery. Bidding for fuselage panels containing a window start at €50 and come in a range of sizes up to four windows.

Boeing 707, Auction, El Al, Lufthansa
Window sections of fuselage start at €50. Photo: Troostwijk Auctions

Other iconic fuselage pieces contain the aircraft’s identities. A fuselage piece containing the logo of the city of Berlin has 14 bids, currently standing at €120. Meanwhile, a portion of the fuselage with the aircraft’s Boeing 707 branding has attracted 13 bids and a price of €628. The jet’s registration (D-ABOC) has 11 bids and sits at €210.

Boeing 707, Auction, El Al, Lufthansa
The aircraft’s registration is proving to be a hot item. Photo: Troostwijk Auctions

From €5 to €5000

There is something available at every single price point in the auction of 4X-ATB/D-ABOC. For those who want a piece of aviation history without a hefty price tag, many smaller fuselage panels are available with bidding starting at just €5.

Boeing 707, Auction, El Al, Lufthansa
Small parts of the fuselage are available from €5. Photo: Troostwijk Auctions

At the other end of the spectrum is the aircraft’s cockpit, complete with a nose cone. With bidding starting at €5,000, this is undoubtedly the highlight of the aircraft auction. The cockpit’s interior is in a state of relative disrepair, though a large portion remains, including a seat and some instrumentation. Due to its size, the cockpit needs to be transported on a low-loader truck, which can be achieved sideways.

Boeing 707, Auction, El Al, Lufthansa
The cockpit comes as-is, with many parts still inside. Photo: Troostwijk Auctions

The auction of the parts from this aircraft is set to end at 15:00 on Sunday, October 24th. After this date, Troostwijk Auctions will arrange payment and shipping with the highest bidders. You can find a complete list of all the pieces up for auction on the Troostwijk Auctions website.

Troostwijk Auctions sponsored this article.

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Which Airports Have Beach Runways?

As explored in a recent article, most of the world’s airport runways are paved with concrete or asphalt. However, there are certain exceptions to this trend. We have previously explored gravel and ice runways, but what about beaches? Let’s take a look at where passengers should be wary of sand in their shoes when boarding their flights.

A de Havilland DHC-6 ‘Twin Otter’ landing on the beach at Barra. Photo: Colin Moss via Flickr

Barra, Scotland

Arguably the most notable airport in the world to have a runway on a beach is Barra (BRR) in Scotland. While it is not unique in its runway composition, it is the only airport with a sandy landing strip that serves regularly scheduled commercial flights. Located at the northern tip of the island of Barra in the Outer Hebrides, Loganair flies there from Glasgow.

The beach on which the airport’s three runways are situated is subjected to high and low tides at different times of the day. This limits the hours in which aircraft can safely utilize the sandy landing strips, which are laid out in a triangle, ranging from 680 to 846 meters long. Furthermore, planes cannot use the airport at night apart from in emergencies.

Barra Airport
High and low tides dictate barra’s operating times. Photo: Tom Parnell via Flickr

Loganair’s services between Barra and Glasgow take one hour and 15 minutes, and provide the island with a vital link to the Scottish mainland. Operated by 19-seat de Havilland DHC-6 ‘Twin Otter‘ aircraft, these flights generally serve the route two or three times a day.

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Copalis State, US

While Barra is the only beach-based airport that plays host to regularly scheduled commercial services, there is also such a facility for general aviation. Intrepid general aviators can find this facility on the Pacific Coast in the northwestern US state of Washington. Known as Copalis State Airport, this facility has no IATA or ICAO airport codes, and no tower.

Copalis State Airport
Copalis State Airport is on Washington’s Pacific Coast. Photo: Jelson25 via Wikimedia Commons

However, it does have an FAA LID (Local Identified) of S16. The state-owned airport contrasts to Barra in having just one runway. This sandy landing strip was 1,372 meters long, and has the headings 14/32. However, FAA data lists it as now being just 1,113 meters long.

According to the Washington State Department of Transportation, This shrinkage is the culmination of various geographical processes. These include river migration and coastal erosion. Much like Barra, aircraft can only use the airport at low tide.

Popular beaches for avgeeks

While these sandy landing strips are a real rarity, a slightly more common phenomenon is beaches situated at the end of runways. These are immensely popular among avgeeks, with many making journeys to such resorts to take the perfect photo.

Which Airports Have Beach Runways?
Aircraft pass very low over St Maarten’s Maho Beach: a planespotter’s paradise. Photo: Getty Images.

The most famous of these is St Maarten, in the Caribbean. Owing to the island’s links to France and the Netherlands, it has hosted iconic long-haul aircraft like the Boeing 747. As you can imagine, this makes for a spectacular sight when passing low over the beach. Skiathos Alexandros Papadiamantis Airport in Greece is a similar photographic hotspot for this reason, although its mile-long runway restricts the size of aircraft that can land there.

Have you ever used an airport with a beach runway? What other unusual surfaces have you landed on or taken off from? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!