Friday, July 3, 2009

Man Flies Naked From North Carolina to California

US Airways flight from Charlotte to Los Angeles was diverted to Albuquerque after a male passenger removed his clothing mid-flight.

Dan Jiron, a spokesman for the Albuquerque airport, says 50-year-old Keith Wright of New York disrobed while sitting in his seat in the back of the aircraft.

Jiron says Wright was unresponsive when a flight attendant asked him repeatedly to get dressed and refused to be covered with a blanket.

Jiron says law enforcement employees who were passengers on the plane helped subdue and handcuff Wright before the flight landed.

The FBI says Wright was taken into federal custody on a charge of interfering with flight crew members and attendants.

A US Airways spokeswoman says the plane continued on to Los Angeles after Wright's arrest.

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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Qantas Economy Seats Win Top Design Award

The Qantas A380 Economy Seat beat a pool of 154 entries to win the 2009 Australian International Design Award of the Year, announced in Melbourne tonight.

The seat was designed by Marc Newson, in partnership with Qantas Airways and Recaro Aircraft Seating.

Mr Newson, an industrial designer and Qantas Creative Director, said he was honoured to receive the award.

"An enormous amount of energy was put into the A380, but particularly the economy seat, which, of course, accommodates the bulk of passengers," Mr Newson said.

Judges described the seat as a "world class result" in a notoriously restrictive design category.

They praised the seat's "revolutionary" footrest, the entertainment unit and the selection of materials, which included lightweight carbon fibre to help reduce weight.

"There are so many thoroughly considered elements in one very simple and elegant package. This product cannot be faulted," a statement from the judges said.

The design award's program director Stephanie Watson said the winning product was not selected until the last day of judging after a week of intense scrutiny.

"The products were beyond exceptional and the competition was tough," she said.

Other finalists included Swiss-designed socks which keep your feet cool, a toilet cistern that can be hidden from view and a hearse which shows off the coffin.

Meanwhile, a collection of refrigerators designed by Electrolux which use 49 per cent less energy than other 10-year-old models took out the Excellence in Sustainable Design award.

Mr Newson is renowned for his furniture and product design, including a range of eclectic household goods for Italian design house Alessi.

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When The Going Gets Tuff, Southwest Turns To Fees For Your Pet and Your Kid

Southwest Airlines Co., which has bashed competitors for charging fees, said Friday it will add new fees for passengers who bring small pets onboard and for unaccompanied minors.

It will also raise the charge for checking a third piece of luggage or an overweight bag.

Other airlines have raised hundreds of millions of dollars since last year with new fees that include charges for checking one or two pieces of luggage and talking to reservations agents on the phone.

Southwest fired back by spending heavily on television commercials that blasted other airlines for charging "hidden fees." Southwest officials said they were winning customers turned off by the new bag fees.

On Friday, Southwest officials defended their own new fees, which Chief Executive Gary Kelly called "just the starting point" for more changes later this year.

"It is always our goal to be upfront with our customers and to set the right customer expectations," Kelly said. "Our changes today associate a charge for items that are truly an extra service."

Southwest has lost money the last three quarters, and it has joined all other airlines in searching for new revenue, a job made more difficult by a downturn in travel during the recession.

Southwest already charges for checking three or more pieces of luggage and for cocktails, and it is testing onboard Internet access for a fee. Kelly hinted last month that new fees were coming, while insisting they wouldn't be "hidden," by which he seemed to mean fees on first and second checked bags.

"It's disingenuous on our part to say that there are no, quote, fees," Kelly said last month. "We just try to be as honest and straightforward and have the right expectation with our customers on fees as we can."

Kelly said hidden fees are ones "that people don't think are right."

Starting with flights on June 17, Southwest will let small dogs and cats onboard - now only service animals are allowed - for $75 each way.

The Dallas-based discount airline will also begin charging $25 each way for unaccompanied children ages 5 through 11. That fee will apply to tickets bought after May 31 for travel June 17 or later.

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Monday, May 25, 2009

The Better The Seat The Better The Flight

Fares, fees and destinations aren't the only things that vary by airline.

The width of your seat, the amount of legroom and the entertainment options available can make the time, well, fly by — or make a long flight feel a lot longer.

Legroom is important to many fliers. Seat pitch — the space between a point on one seat and the same point on the seat in front of it — can mean more legroom, but that is also affected by the thickness of the seat back. Most coach seats on major airlines are 17 to 18 inches wide. Seat pitch ranges from 30 to 34 inches in most cases, depending on airline and aircraft.

Industry expert Terry Trippler says a lot of passengers tell him you can't beat Northwest Airlines' Airbus A330 coach section seating. "No one is more than one seat from an aisle," he said.

Here's a look at how seven major U.S. carriers stack up in some comfort features for coach passengers, and the options and policies some have if you need more room.


Currently, all of its coach seats are fabric, spokesman Christopher White said.


The airline has replaced seat cushions and covers on some aircraft with leather, and is doing the same on most other planes, spokeswoman Michelle Mohr said.


Expect fabric seats in coach. The airline offers free in-flight entertainment (pre-recorded video and audio selections and games), but earphones cost $1. Pillows and blankets are free in coach. Free meals or snacks are served in economy class on flights longer than two hours.

Customers in coach are required to buy an additional seat or upgrade if they can't properly attach, buckle and wear the seatbelt, with one extension.

Also, the airline says, customers must be able to remain seated with the armrests down for the entire flight, and can't encroach upon the adjacent seat.

The airline has begun installing live television programming on more than 200 aircraft. It has not implemented Wi-Fi, spokeswoman Kelly Cripe said.


All of the discount carrier's seats are leather.

The airline doesn't charge for seat selection or for specific seats onboard. Some seats in the front and back of its planes are slightly narrower because of the shape of the fuselage, spokeswoman Beth Harbin said.

The airline encourages passengers who can't fit in one seat to buy a second seat when they book their travel.

The airline will refund the money for the second seat if the flight doesn't sell out.

The carrier is testing Wi-Fi on some aircraft.


A majority of its aircraft have fabric seats in coach, though most also have leather headrests.

Spokesman Tim Smith said the seat backs on American's new planes are curved ergonomically and thinner to provide more room around the knees.

For larger passengers, the airline does not always or routinely charge for an extra seat unless there are no other options, Smith said.

American plans to have Wi-Fi service available on 300 planes within the next couple of years. Currently, it's on 15 aircraft.


The airline has leather seats on its pre-merger Delta aircraft and will be putting leather seats on all Northwest Airlines aircraft, spokeswoman Betsy Talton said.

The world's biggest airline operator has a wide array of aircraft types, and seat width and pitch vary.

The width of the coach seats on the A330 that Trippler mentioned is 17.5 inches.

Delta works to accommodate passengers who need extra room and seat them next to an empty seat if possible.

There may be situations where they are offered an additional seat at the lowest available fare when necessary, Talton said.

Delta expects to have Wi-Fi installed on 300 aircraft in the fall.


The airline has started to upgrade some seats in its coach cabins to leather, spokeswoman Robin Urbanski said.

If one of its customers doesn't fit in a seat with an extended seatbelt, can't put the armrests down or infringes on a neighboring seat, United will move the passenger to another seat that is next to an empty one at no charge. If there are no empty seats on the flight or subsequent flights, the passenger may be asked to buy a second seat to guarantee one is available.

United doesn't have Wi-Fi available on any aircraft.


When it comes to airline cabins, seats and amenities, Virgin American is the big winner. With leather seats offering pitch and width larger then most legacy carriers and some of the best amenities in the business. The downside is they fly to only limited destinations.

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Airlines Are Rushing To Add WiFi To Planes

Some airlines are rushing to offer Wi-Fi Internet connections in their domestic aircraft cabins, but none is talking about the space squeeze.

On an AirTran Airways Wi-Fi demonstration flight that went up and back down the Northeast seaboard from Baltimore-Washington International Airport last week, the Internet worked just fine. The problem was being able to use it efficiently. My laptop was wedged onto a tray table in the cramped space of a coach seat. I had to slide down in my seat just to read the screen.

"I have the same experience," said Jack W. Blumenstein, the chief executive of Aircell, the company that is providing nearly all of the Wi-Fi installations so far for domestic carriers. "The laptop's at an angle or it's propped up almost on my nose."

"Or I'm typing like this," Blumenstein said from his own coach seat on the flight. He slouched down, raised both hands and wriggled his fingers like someone scratching on a window.

Delta Air Lines also is speedily installing Wi-Fi. It previously announced that it was putting the service on its entire mainline domestic fleet of more than 300 aircraft, and said the day before the AirTran demonstration that it had the Aircell Wi-Fi system on half its airplanes and would have the other half converted by September.

The rush to go Wi-Fi makes for an interesting horse race in the North American airline industry, where American Airlines, United, Virgin America and Air Canada all are installing Aircell's Gogo system.

But there are handicaps, including the lack of electrical outlets in most coach cabins (so use is limited by battery life) and the question of how much demand there is for an Internet hookup at the prices being contemplated. AirTran, for example, charges $9.95 for flights under three hours and $12.95 for those over three hours.

Furthermore, Brancatelli argued, those who are inclined to use Wi-Fi on a flight, including business travelers drawn by the potential for increased productivity, are exactly the people who most resist being nickel-and-dimed for services such as Internet connections in a hotel -- or on an airplane.

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Airlines Hiking Baggage Fees

Airlines have lost so many passengers that to make up for the loss of revenue, they are planning to gouge the few people left who actually are getting on a plane.

Both United Airlines and US Airways say they are preparing to increase fees for customers who pay luggage fees at U.S. airports.

The Chicago Tribune said Friday United Airlines and US Airways will implement the increases June 10 and July 9, respectively, but both airlines will not charge those customers who are flying first-class or are frequent-flier program elite members. Customers who pay the airlines' baggage fees online will also avoid the price hike.

United currently charges passengers $15 for their first bag and $25 for the second. The price hike will raise those baggage costs to $20 and $25 respectively.

US Airways, which uses a $15/$25 baggage system, said its planned $5 additional charge per bag will apply to all U.S. flights, along with flights to Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Dayton (Ohio) Business Journal said.

The Tribune said baggage fees are becoming a major source of income for airlines amid the struggling economy. The Bureau of Transportation Statistics estimates $1.2 billion was earned by the 21 largest U.S. carriers in 2008 through baggage fees alone.

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Safety And Reliability A Big Problem For Regional Airlines

All of us who have traveled on regional airlines already know the customer service and reliability problems ASA, Mesa Air, AA Eagle and the other associated regional airlines have. After the crash of Continental Connection's flight in New York, all of the cost cutting, lack of experience and professionalism have come to the forefront.

Members of Congress said they were stunned by the salaries of the pilots of Continental Connection Flight 3407, employees of the smaller commuter airline Colgan Air Inc. The pilots may have tried to snatch sleep in an airport crew lounge, which is against company policy. The first officer lived with her parents near Seattle and commuting cross country to work in New Jersey.

Aviation industry experts said the conditions reflect the broad restructuring of the industry after Sept. 11, 2001, when air travel dropped sharply and major airlines began pairing with regional ones. It took the industry years to recover and led to major airline bankruptcies, mergers and management demands for dramatic wage and benefit concessions.

The role of regional airlines has grown. Once considered industry runts, they are now joined at the hip with the big airlines. People who buy a ticket on a major airline often find themselves on a regional carrier for some part of a domestic trip. Passengers often don't even realize they're traveling on two airlines.

Regional airlines account for half of all domestic departures and about one-quarter of the passengers. They are the only scheduled service to about 440 communities.

Witnesses at National Transportation Safety Board hearings this past week said it's possible that many passengers on Flight 3407 the night of Feb. 12 didn't know the plane and its flight crew belonged not to Continental, but Colgan Air of Manassas, Va.

The twin-engine turboprop experienced an aerodynamic stall as it neared Buffalo Niagara International Airport before plunging into a house. All 49 people aboard and a man in the house were killed. Testimony and documents indicate the captain, Marvin Renslow, and co-pilot Rebecca Shaw made a series of critical errors.

NTSB investigators calculated Shaw was paid just over $16,000. Colgan officials testified that captains such as Renslow earn about $55,000 a year. The company later said Shaw's salary was $23,900 and that captains earn about $67,000.

Pilot pay is usually based on the size of the aircraft and a pilot's experience. But the workload and flight schedules at regional airlines are often more demanding than at a major airline, where the planes are larger and make longer but less frequent trips, said Scott Johns, a former Northwest Airlines pilot and air crash investigator.

"I'm not sure how you fix this pay system discrepancy," he said.

Roger Cohen, president of the Regional Airline Association, said lower salaries are an industrywide problem. He predicted airlines generally will suffer a shortage of pilots once the economy improves. He denied, however, that safety has been affected.

"Compensation has nothing to do with safety," Cohen said. "We're going to defend the quality of our people."

William Swelbar of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's airline data project noted that until the Buffalo crash, major and regional U.S. air carriers hadn't had a fatal crash in more than two years.

The vice president of the Air Line Pilots Association, Paul Rice, said salaries vary between companies, but major airline captains typically earn about $120,000 to $125,000. He said senior captains who fly internationally can earn about $180,000.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly For March

U.S. airlines’ on-time performance and baggage handling improved in March compared with a year ago but was worse than in February, government data released Tuesday show. The rate of cancellations and number of complaints to the government were lower than a year ago but higher than in February.

Atlantic Southeast Airlines, a feeder carrier for Delta Air Lines, had the worst performance, for about the second century in a row with 61 percent of flights on time. Hawaiian Airlines’ 91.5 percent was best. The last time ASA got a flight off the ground on time was during the Hoover administration.

American Airlines was 11th, with 77.5 percent, up from 62 percent in March 2008 but down from 81.3 percent in February. Southwest Airlines was third, with 83.9 percent, up from 74.4 percent in March 2008 but down from 88.3 percent in February.

The Transportation Department’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics said the 19 carriers reporting on-time performance recorded an overall rate of 78.4 percent in March, compared with 71.6 percent in March 2008 and 82.6 percent in February.

The airlines overall had a mishandled baggage rate of 4.12 reports per 1,000 passengers in March, better than March 2008’s rate of 6.66 reports per 1,000 passengers but worse than the 3.56 reports per 1,000 passengers in February.

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

New Airline Is Just For The DOGS !!! and cats

OK, pet lovers. Time to, uh, paws for a second and consider what's flying into Chicago on July 14, just for you and your beloved cats and dogs: Pet Airways, a start-up airline devoted to flying pets in comfort. But only pet cats and dogs for now. No parrots or exotic snakes. No human passengers, either.

In the planning stages for more than a year, Pet Airways initially will fly between Chicago and four other markets -- New York, Los Angeles, Denver and Washington, D.C./Baltimore -- in a single 19-passenger commuter jet that has been re-outfitted to accommodate up to 50 "pawsengers" -- and one pet attendant -- in the main cabin, not the cargo hold, on each flight. The introductory one-way fare between any two cities is $149 each way.

Pet Airways has taken pains to ensure its pet passengers will be treated with all the tender loving care their owners would expect.

Among other things, pets booked on Pet Airways are dropped off and picked up at dedicated pet lounges at each airport served, which in Chicago will be the Palwaukee/Chicago Executive Airport northwest of the city.

Pets are given potty breaks immediately before and after each flight, and the pet attendant monitors them every 15 minutes during flights, which will be at night, when pets are more relaxed, said Pet Airways spokeswoman Alysa Binder.

Will the all-pet airline concept fly in a tough economy? The carrier's investors are starting cautiously, with only one eastbound flight and one westbound flight from each market every week.

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Get Ready To Pay Up For Bags On Alaska Air

Two airlines, US Airways and Alaska, say they're going to pile on some new charges for checked baggage.

"USA Today" reports US Airways customers will have to pony up five-dollars for every piece of luggage checked at the airport beginning with flights on July 9th.

That extra fin can be avoided if passengers check in with the carrier online within 24 hours of their scheduled departure.

US Air already charges $15 for a first checked bag and $25 for a second.

The new fee would be on top of that.

Meanwhile Alaska Air will begin charging $15 for a first checked bag beginning with tickets purchased May first for flights on or after July 7th.

US Airways announced yesterday it lost $103 million during the first three months of this year.

Alaska Air was hurting too with a $19 million loss.

The additional levy for baggage can generate millions of dollars in extra revenue.

Delta Airlines hopes to boost its bottom line by about $100 million each year by charging a $50 fee for a second checked bag on international flights.

That fare bump will begin on July 1st.

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