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TWA772LR
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Houston Express Questions

Fri Jul 13, 2012 6:07 pm

I have a few questions on the Houston Express route.
1. Is there any other service in the world like it?
2. Why did World lose the contract?
3. Is it possible to buy a ticket?
4. Why wouldn't a regular airline (UA, DL, AA, etc...) fly it (even under the Sonair contract)?
5. I saw on wiki that Sonair has 2 A340-500s on order. Are these ever going to be delivered? Would these A340s be used on the Houston Express?
Any and all input is appreciated. Feel free to ask your own questions as well. Many thanks in advance!
And for my next miracle, I'm gonna turn water into funk!
 
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RE: Houston Express Questions

Fri Jul 13, 2012 8:09 pm

Since the flight is operated as a charter I would imagine you would need to be an employee of one of the sponsoring oil companies: mainly ExxonMobil, BP & Chevron. Tickets are probably issued through their corporate travel departments.

For flight schedule info:

http://www.sonair.co.ao/houstonExpress_en.shtml

Strangely enough you can accrue UA Mileage Plus points on these flights.

For general info about the flight:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlas_Air
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RE: Houston Express Questions

Fri Jul 13, 2012 8:33 pm

These flights are operated by Atlas Air for Sonair. They only have just less than 200 seats -- mostly premium. The public cannot buy tickets for this flight. Atlas won the contract more than two years ago, I believe. A regular, scheduled carrier probably wouldn't touch it, even despite revenue guarantees, because the flights demand a lot of premium seats and the logistics and security dealing with Angola, etc., is a lot to handle for a one-off flight.
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wingsofman72
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RE: Houston Express Questions

Fri Jul 13, 2012 8:34 pm

And I thought you were talking about this HOUSTON EXPRESS. It was a slightly shorter flight.

: http://myaviation.net/?pid=00340838
 
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drerx7
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RE: Houston Express Questions

Fri Jul 13, 2012 8:44 pm

Atlas has sort of a mini hub at IAH, at least in terms of staging aircraft; its not unusual to see 5 744s on the ground.
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RWA380
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RE: Houston Express Questions

Sat Jul 14, 2012 12:21 am

Quoting wingsofman72 (Reply 3):
And I thought you were talking about this HOUSTON EXPRESS. It was a slightly shorter flight

That is what I thought too when I read the thread title too.....
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Flyer732
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RE: Houston Express Questions

Sat Jul 14, 2012 12:45 am

The regular airlines have not been able to pick it up (primarily CO) because they were unwilling to dedicate and modify aircraft specifically for the flight.
 
fxra
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RE: Houston Express Questions

Sat Jul 14, 2012 2:23 am

Quoting TWA772LR (Thread starter):
I have a few questions on the Houston Express route.
1. Is there any other service in the world like it?
2. Why did World lose the contract?
3. Is it possible to buy a ticket?
4. Why wouldn't a regular airline (UA, DL, AA, etc...) fly it (even under the Sonair contract)?
5. I saw on wiki that Sonair has 2 A340-500s on order. Are these ever going to be delivered? Would these A340s be used on the Houston Express?
Any and all input is appreciated. Feel free to ask your own questions as well. Many thanks in advance!

1. SImilar, but I don't think on that long of range. Conoco for instance has it's own "airline" to fly workers to the nroth slope of Alaska. However, I don't know of any that use a large aircraft like that over a long distance on a regular schedule.

2. World lost the contract due to multiple issues. Sonair wanted a bigger plane, wanted Angolan nationals working the flights. World wouldn't, or couldn't meet the requirements and Atlas did.

3. I don't think so but see previous posts. At one time Sonair refused to let WOA move employees on the flight.

4. What Flyer said. When WOA had the trip, the "coach" seats were the old DL int'l biz class seats. And don't forget the required cappuccino machine. Sonair also requires a back up plane. So, a carrier would need to keep two 777 or 744 ready to go. That's pulling two long haul frames out of regular revenue service.

5. Angolan carriers are not allowed to serve US destinations on their own metal. Until they pass an FAA audit and the country is upgraded, Sonair cannot fly the route. However, they can allow another operator to put the 340's on their certificate and operate it.
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Schweigend
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RE: Houston Express Questions

Sat Jul 14, 2012 5:29 am

Quoting drerx7 (Reply 4):
Atlas has sort of a mini hub at IAH, at least in terms of staging aircraft; its not unusual to see 5 744s on the ground.

I've never seen five Atlas 744s at IAH, but in the afternoon I frequently see two 744s and one 763 parked on the FedEx pad off JFK Blvd -- as you say, probably for staging. Maybe there are more Atlas birds in the AM, but I'm hardly ever at IAH then to see them!

I've spoken with a few Atlas pax and they all were going to Luanda, the only city Atlas serves from Houston, according to the link type-rated provided in Reply 1:

Quote:
SonAir S.A. serves as the USAEA´s Agent in arranging the Houston Express, which is now operated by Atlas Air with Boeing 747-400. The Aircraft has a modern configuration to serve 189 passengers and consists of First, Executive and Economy Classes, with a majority of executive seats.

Luanda - Houston

2200 - 0600 Tu Th Sa

Houston-Luanda

1045 - 0800 Mo We Fr


Really, with all of those planes hanging around IAH, I'd thought they were going to more places than just Angola three times a week. Shows how little I know about the oil industry, or charter airlines!
 
wjcandee
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RE: Houston Express Questions

Sat Jul 14, 2012 6:59 am

The other Atlas 747s are freighters.

World balked at putting Angolan nationals in the cockpit. They balked less about Angolan nationals in the cabin.

My recollection is that while World would have liked to have kept the contract for the revenue it provided, and World was well-suited to handle this kind of odd operation, the employees couldn't wait to get rid of it. The "doctors" who ran SonAir were challenging customers who did a lot of second-guessing and micromanaging, to hear the reports.
 
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RE: Houston Express Questions

Sat Jul 14, 2012 8:00 am

Quoting wjcandee (Reply 9):

Actually, the other Atlas 747-400's one might see at IAH are almost always passenger models. Freighter flights to IAH are few and far between for Atlas. Atlas has 2 744 passenger jets with regular atlas paint configured in a 2 class 474 seat layout in addition to the two golden colored, VIP configured 744's that are operated for Sonair. Also, there was a United 744 (N194UA) that Atlas leased temporarily last year. This frame was used to initiate passenger service and has since been returned to United. So yeah, over the winter there were a few times when 5 of their 744 pax models were sitting on the ramp between flights.

The reason the airframes rest in IAH is because that's where Atlas has its flight attendants based. In addition, these 474 seat airplanes are often doing military charters and the military doesn't want a 744 taking up large amount of space on its ramps between flights (and they pay for the costs associated with re-positioning the aircraft). Plus, it's often logistically difficult to house a 20+ person civilian airline crew on or near base, so the airplane is re-positioned somewhere like IAH after the flight to avoid these issues. Atlas also has 3 76-300 passenger aircraft fulfilling a similar mission.

I can't speak to why World lost the Sonair contract other than to say it's the nature of the ACMI business. Contracts come and they eventually go. Usually it's a matter of cost, performance, or capacity. I've heard the rumor of Sonair wanting Angolan crew on these flights before, but I've heard not a single murmur about that since World lost the contract. Perhaps Sonair was using it as an excuse for some other reason they really wanted to change contractors or they've simply given up on it by now.
 
Flyer732
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RE: Houston Express Questions

Sat Jul 14, 2012 1:52 pm

Quoting KAUSpilot (Reply 10):
I've heard the rumor of Sonair wanting Angolan crew on these flights before, but I've heard not a single murmur about that since World lost the contract.

They wanted Angolan's in the cabin and at least one in the cockpit if I remember right. The World pilot union flat out refused for obvious reasons, I believe the FAA stepped in on that one also.
 
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TWA772LR
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RE: Houston Express Questions

Sun Jul 15, 2012 4:52 am

Quoting KAUSpilot (Reply 10):

There are ALWAYS Atlas aircraft at IAH. Ever since the Sonair contract started, I see at least 4 Atlas 747s on any given day.
And for my next miracle, I'm gonna turn water into funk!
 
atct
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RE: Houston Express Questions

Mon Jul 16, 2012 6:32 am

Quoting Schweigend (Reply 8):
I've never seen five Atlas 744s at IAH

Before I left I saw 4-5 Atlas 747's (and maybe a 767 as well) frequently. I worked in the tower there so I was there 5 days a week and saw almost all the movements. There is a MX base at IAH so that is the reason for the Atlas airplanes (and the 2 Houston Express birds).

atct
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Fiveholer
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RE: Houston Express Questions

Mon Jul 16, 2012 2:03 pm

Anyone know of images that show the interior of the premium birds?

Thanks,
Danny
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Viscount724
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RE: Houston Express Questions

Tue Jul 17, 2012 10:20 pm

Quoting Fiveholer (Reply 14):
Anyone know of images that show the interior of the premium birds?

Found this photo of the first class cabin while the interior was still in the process of being installed.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/darylchapman/4582926009/


And this more recent photo of the upper deck business class cabin.

http://www.planepictures.net/a/109/34/1319912782.jpg
 
FI642
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RE: Houston Express Questions

Wed Jul 18, 2012 5:33 pm

Sadly the MD-11 World used (N278WA) has been turned into a freighter. There were great custom made
murals on the plane, and no one saved them.
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