28 January 2009

America's Most Time-Draining Airports

At the Chicago O'Hare International Airport, passengers with spare time can get a massage at the Back Rub Hub, peruse artsy gifts at the Field Museum store or dine on ginger salmon at a Wolfgang Puck outpost. Such options should be a relief to delayed passengers--and at O'Hare there are bound to be plenty of them wandering the terminals. O'Hare is the nation's worst airport for delays, according to our analysis of 2007 Bureau of Transportation statistics for 100 of the largest airports. It earns this unenviable title based on delays related to security, late aircraft, the national aviation system, cancellations, carrier problems and weather. We also factored in the percentage of flights with on-time arrival and departures.

(See methodology here.)

The Midwestern hub, which transported 30.8 million passengers last year, ranked last in three categories: late aircraft, air traffic control and cancellations. Its best showing was in the percentage of arrivals category--66% of its flights arrive on time, giving it a rank of 92 out of 100 airports. To translate that into time lost, O'Hare flights in 2007 were delayed by a cumulative total of 2.5 million minutes due to a late aircraft.
Chronic delays like these are nothing new, but as the national aviation system struggles under the weight of outdated infrastructure and the airline industry tries to cope with financial turmoil, congestion and delays worsen.

This shows at airports like Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta, Logan International in Boston and San Francisco International, which ranked in the top 20 on our list.
At Hartsfield-Jackson, carrier-related delays are the most time-draining, accounting for 1.9 million minutes. In Boston and San Francisco, difficulties with the National Aviation System, delayed flights by 700,700 and 876,000 minutes, respectively. Also on our list are all three major New York airports, Denver International and Seattle/Tacoma International.
What Causes Delays?
The 20 airports on our list transported 345 million passengers last year, about 45% of all U.S. passengers. This massive volume--almost double what it was two decades ago--strains the existing infrastructure. From 2003 to 2008, the percentage of on-time arrivals nationwide declined from 81% to 71%. During the same period, late departures increased 9%.
Paul Takemoto, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), says that efforts are underway to make the system more efficient. Currently, commercial carriers in the U.S. fly using radar signals, but these degrade over distance, meaning that air traffic controllers don't know the precise location of a plane in relationship to another flight. Instead, they distance them safely three to five miles apart in the air, but this decreases efficiency.

The FAA will begin testing a new satellite system in the Gulf of Mexico and Philadelphia in 2009. Preliminary results elsewhere show that planes operating on satellite feeds, which send real-time information about location, weather and terrain to pilots in the cockpit, are significantly more efficient.
It may be a decade, though, before passengers benefit from the technology. Takemoto says the nation's airports will be equipped for satellite technology by 2013, but airlines have until 2020 to acquire the necessary on-board technology.
Until then, the FAA is relying on improvements to the system, like freeing up military airspace for commercial traffic and enhanced software that allows planners to single out and delay flights going through a storm. Prior to the spring of 2006, when the Airspace Flow program was initiated, the FAA had to issue a blanket ground stop for an entire airport.
Storms are ultimately unstoppable, though, and weather delays made up about 44% of all delays in 2007. Officials in Chicago are painfully aware of this statistic: The airport was pounded by 60 inches of snow this winter, compared with an average 37 inches.
What You Can Do When weather is the culprit, there is little a passenger can do. Gregg Cunningham, a spokesman for the City of Chicago's Department of Aviation, says passengers waylaid overnight can look for the airport's standard issue, complimentary amenity kit stocked with a toothbrush, soap and comb.

The airport also sets up cots with pillows and blankets and requires concession stands to remain open for 24 hours. Known at O'Hare as the Passenger Assistance program, similar efforts go by a different name at other airports around the country.
A more pro-active alternative is delay insurance. This new service is offered by companies like American Express (nyse: AXP - news - people ) and Travel Insured International. Travelers can purchase a policy, which provides a benefit of $100 to $250 a day, for a fee based on the cost of the ticket. In many cases, this is separate from general trip insurance, so consumers should be mindful of the fine print.

Finally, travelers can try flying from regional airports, which had far fewer delays than their city counterparts. For example, while the three New York City airports ranked in the top 10 on our list, Islip on Long Island ranked eighth and White Plains in Westchester, N.Y., ranked 25th.
On the West Coast, San Francisco ranked 95th, but nearby airports in San Jose and Oakland placed 37th and 45th, respectively.
If you'd like to witness the miracle of smooth travel, fly to Hawaii. Three of its local airports ranked as the least time-draining, with minimal delays in each category and, in two cases, on-time departure and arrival rates of 90% or greater.

And unlike most places, getting stranded in Hawaii is more likely a blessing than a curse.
Methodology In order to determine where delays are the most egregious, we looked at 2007 Bureau of Transportation statistics for 100 of the country's largest airports. While we could not quantify the typical delay at each airport, we did rank performance in six different delay categories: security, late aircraft, traffic control, cancellations, carrier problems and weather. We also factored in the percentage of flights with on-time arrival and departures. The individual ranks were combined for a total score and then ranked from 1 (the best) to 100 (the worst).

American offers mobile boarding passes

Service offered on domestic flights from select Chicago, California airports


Passengers on American Airlines will be able to get boarding passes electronically on their mobile phones or PDAs at some airports beginning Thursday, avoiding the need for printed passes.

The carrier said the electronic passes were being introduced Thursday for passengers leaving on domestic flights from Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.
The passes will be offered on domestic flights from Los Angeles International and John Wayne Orange County airports beginning Monday, the carrier said.

If successful in those trials with the Transportation Safety Administration, the electronic passes could be extended to other U.S. airports, said American, a unit of AMR Corp.
Customers need an Internet-enabled mobile device on which they can get the barcode via e-mail. The barcode can be scanned at TSA security checkpoints and American Airlines gates.
To use the feature, passengers can list only one person on the reservation and must be traveling

What is Clear?

Your fast pass through airport security.


You don’t go to the airport to get stranded on some never-ending airport security line. You’re there to make a flight. Which is a great reason to get Clear. Clear is a high-tech card that gives you access to express security lines at airports across the country. Instead of inching along through airport security, you fly through in mere minutes, arriving at your gate stress free.

Clear is the premier Registered Traveler Program and our commitment to privacy and security is absolute.

Annual Clear memberships are $199.

Sign up for two years at $358 and save $40. Take advantage of larger discounts on multiple year membership terms. When you consider the hundreds of hours of needless waiting Clear will save you, you’ll quickly realize that Clear will pay for itself many times over. Join the hundreds of thousands of savvy travelers who already enjoy the timesaving benefits of Clear.

Get Clear and fly through airport security in mere minutes.

Clear lanes are easily identified by the illuminated blue Clear display cubes.

Here, Clear members present their Clear cards and boarding passes to one of our Clear attendants.
After inserting their cards into the Clear kiosk and verifying their biometric information, members are escorted to the front of the designated Clear lane.

Clear members must still pass through a metal detector and X-ray, but without having to face the long lines.

To help speed the process up even further, Clear attendants are available to help Clear members place personal items in the bins, and to help them gather their belongings after going through the checkpoint. This alone helps Clear members speed through security by as much as 30%.

Clear in Atlanta

Atlanta’s got 12,000 restaurants, 339 parks, 45 major corporations, 41 golf courses, 16 theaters, 10 museums, 4 major-league sports teams, 3 microbreweries, and one enormous airport. It’s called the “World’s Busiest Airport” for a reason.

Make getting through security at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport a breeze, not a burden. Your high-tech Clear card allows you access to designated lanes at the security checkpoint in Atlanta and 20 other airports nationwide, so you get through security in mere minutes every time you fly.

Better yet, with all that time saved getting out of Atlanta, you’ll have more time to enjoy the great stuff in Atlanta. Join the hundreds of thousands of smart travelers who already use Clear.

Clear in New York City

New Yorkers go through life at one speed: fast. That New York minute…it really only amounts to a few seconds.

Which is why there’s Clear, the high-tech card that propels speedy New Yorkers through security in mere minutes — using special Clear express lines. You may not be able to escape the gridlock in Manhattan, but with the Clear card, you can certainly avoid it in the airport security line.

Clear members speed through security in 21 airports nationwide, including select terminals in all three New York-area airports: LaGuardia, JFK, and Newark Liberty. And Westchester too!

Clear in Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C. is all about change: platforms change; candidates change, policies change. But there’s one thing we don’t waffle or flip-flop on: getting Clear members through airport security in mere minutes, every time they fly.

Your high-tech Clear card allows you access to designated lanes at the security checkpoints at both Reagan and Dulles and nearly 20 other airports nationwide, giving you a predictable, hassle-free experience. Now at least there’s one thing on which we can all agree.

Clear in the Bay Area

The Bay Area is unique for its diversity: The culture, the geography, and even the weather are all varied all the time. There are even three different airports to serve the more than 7 million people who call the Bay Area home.

What’s the one constant in the Bay Area? All three airports are Clear. This means that no matter where you fly to from the Bay Area, you can fly Clear. All flights. All destinations. No wait at airport security.

Your high-tech Clear card allows you access to designated lanes at the security checkpoints in San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland, and nearly 20 other airports nationwide, so you get through security in mere minutes every time you fly.

If I am a Clear member and my child is not, can we use the lane together?

Yes! If your child is under 12, he or she may access the Clear lanes at no cost when accompanied by a parent or legal guardian who is a registered traveler participant in good standing. Children ages 12 and older must be members to enter and use the Clear lane.

Airports that Accept Clear

Current Airports that accept Clear
Boston Terminal A
Little Rock
Newark-Terminals B1, B2
New York-JFK -Terminals 1, 2, 4, 7
New York-LaGuardia -Central Terminal B, Terminal D
Salt Lake City
San Francisco
San Jose

Coming soon
Los Angeles International Airport
New York-JFK-Terminal 3

19 January 2009

Continental First U.S. Airline to Test Biofuels

Continental became the first domestic airline to test alternative fuels when it completed a successful two-hour flight over Houston using biofuel. One of the Boeing 737's two engines was powered by a mix of 50% kerosene and a blend of fuels derived from algae and other organic materials. Billy Glover, managing director of environmental strategy for Boeing, told the Los Angeles Times that Continental's test flight represented a "major step forward" and suggested biofuels could be in regular use in three years.

According to the Times, Continental's flight was a bit more risky than previous tests conducted by international carriers such as Air New Zealand, because Continental used a two-engine plane instead of an aircraft with four engines. But Continental successfully completed numerous tests, such as turning the biofuel-powered engine on and off and abruptly accelerating and decelerating. The pilot also observed that the biofuel appeared to be more efficient.

The search for alternative fuel sources gained steam last year as oil prices skyrocketed, but the Times reports interest in alternatives has remained even as fuel prices have plummeted. Certainly the environmental benefit of biofuels is a major factor, especially considering air travel is a major source of greenhouse gases. Airline executives warned, however, that it may take 10 years before supply and production levels are sufficient enough to power the industry.

I'm pretty excited that airlines seem motivated to pursue alternative fuels, regardless of whether that motivation is of the environmental or economic sort. OK, OK, it's probably for financial reasons, as airlines try to insulate themselves from another fuel crisis. But if the carriers are really thinking largely with their wallets, perhaps our incoming president can dangle some incentives in front of their noses to keep them moving in this direction.

After all, now is the time to be thinking seriously about alternative sources of energy. And while it's encouraging to see the airline industry—which is an enormous consumer of fossil fuels—testing something as bizarre-sounding as algae-based fuels, experimentation is only the beginning. I won't be truly impressed until I see some follow-through, such as a San Francisco-to-Boston flight running on a biofuel mix. But if that day comes, yeah, I'll stand up and clap.

Airlines bound to care for passengers during delays


Fog over north India has led to long delays in flights and much inconvenience to passengers in recent times. Consumers at the domestic and international airport complain of long waiting periods, no information on flights and sometimes, even non-availability of water at the airport.

According to the new civil aviation requirements (CAR) issued by the director general of civil aviation (DGCA), passengers stranded at airports are entitled to an array of facilities. For example, the CAR says that where passengers are stranded, they should be provided with meals, beverages, communication facilities and hotel rooms for the night, if necessary. The airline is also liable to meet the special needs of persons with reduced mobility and those accompanying them. If a passenger who reports to the airline counter in time is denied boarding, the passenger should be offered compensation and full assistance to his destination.

In case of over-booking, the airline can invite some passengers to give up their seats for benefits, which are intimated in advance, which should be a minimum of Rs12,000 for international flights and Rs6,000 for domestic flights. The passenger would then also be entitled to a refund or a free flight to his original point of destination. Offloaded passengers would be entitled to free meals, hotel accommodation and communication facilities. In case of delay in flights two to three hours long, the airline must serve meals and refreshments, hotel accommodation with transfers if necessary and free communication facilities. If the flight is delayed by more than five hours, the consumer must be given the choice of taking a full refund on his ticket, with an additional offer to fly the passenger back to his destination, free of cost. However, the implementation at the ground level is not up to the mark.

Recorders recovered from Hudson in 'excellent' condition

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Both the cockpit voice and flight data recorders were recovered in "excellent" condition from a crippled US Airways jetliner that landed safely on the Hudson River last week, a National Transportation Safety Board official said Sunday.

And the information from both recorders was consistent with previous reports of the plane hitting a flock of birds before losing power in both engines.
At a news conference Sunday, NTSB board member Kitty Higgins said the cockpit voice recorder captured sounds of loud "thumps" seconds after the pilot and first officer commented on a nearby flock of birds. The thumps are followed by "a rapid decrease in engines sounds," she added.
She said the flight data recorder indicated "both engines lost power simultaneously" when the plane was at 3,200 feet some 90 seconds after taking off from New York's LaGuardia airport Thursday afternoon.

On the voice tape, pilot C.B. "Sully" Sullenberger is heard issuing a "mayday" call and telling air traffic controllers that the flight had lost power in both engines, Higgins said.
City officials, passengers and others lauded the 58-year-old Sullenberger and other crew members, including first officer Jeffrey B. Skiles, 49, and also praised first responders who acted quickly to minimize passengers' injuries in below-freezing temperatures. All 155 people on board the plane survived.

Meanwhile, the mayor of Danville, California -- Sullenberger's hometown -- confirmed to CNN on Sunday that the pilot and his family will attend Tuesday's inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama in Washington.
Mayor Newell Arnerich said Danville is planning for a homecoming celebration for Sullenberger when the family returns.

"We are hoping for Saturday, but their lives are changing faster than the economy these days," said Arnerich, who also is in Washington for the inauguration.
The Airbus A320 was successfully lifted out of the water and placed on a barge Sunday. After its fuel tanks were drained, the plane was taken by barge across the river to a dock in Jersey City, New Jersey, where investigators planned begin their work on the aircraft.

Higgins also said Sunday that divers were unable to get to what is apparently the jet's left engine on the river bottom. The engine apparently fell off on landing impact.

Searchers using radar believe they have located the position of the engine, but icy conditions Sunday prevented divers from reaching it, Higgins said.
Higgins' remarks Sunday about the flight reflected information she gave earlier based on interviews with the two pilots.
Skiles was flying the aircraft on takeoff and "he commented (to Sullenberger) on the (bird) formation, and he said the next thing he knew the windscreen was filled with birds. There was no time to take evasive action," Higgins said Saturday.
When both engines went out, Sullenberger took control of the aircraft and Skiles began complicated procedures to try to restart the engines, Higgins said. She added that interviews with the two indicated there was limited conversation between them as the aircraft began losing altitude.
"These are both very experienced pilots. They knew what they had to do," Higgins said.
Sullenberger was concerned about turning the aircraft back toward LaGuardia or toward an airport at Teterboro, New Jersey, about six miles away, she said.

Quoting Sullenberger, she said he thought the plane was "too low, too slow" and there were too many buildings to make it back to LaGuardia.
Sullenberger didn't think the powerless aircraft could make it over the densely populated New Jersey area to Teterboro, Higgins said, and, she quoted Sullenberger as saying, "There could be catastrophic consequences if we didn't make it."

Lawsuit leaves airline feeling blue

Tom Johansmeyer Jan 18th 2009 @ 1:00PM

Bill Baker was mad. This crotchety blogger was so pissed at JetBlue that he took the airline to small claims court. On January 16, 2009, victory was sweet, to the tune of $494. The money, he says, will be donated to charity.

Clearly, one lone nut blogger can make a difference.

JetBlue delayed Baker's red-eye flight from Portland, OR to New York for five hours, before announcing the cancellation of the flight. The passengers were offered flights out three days later. Meals, accommodations and earlier flights were not offered. So, Baker took JetBlue to Connecticut small claims court. He asked for damages of $722.50 (per his blog, $687.50 per the court record). The airline apparently took the lawsuit seriously, actually sending a representative to the hearing. This was not enough, however, to sway the events to JetBlue's favor.

The airline has developed something of a reputation for canceling flights and pushing passengers days into the future. When I went to the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, JetBlue canceled my flight and simply said that I wouldn't be able to get into JFK for another two days. I pushed, asking about the many other airports in the New York area – small spots, like LaGuardia and Newark. Finally, I got them to put me on a flight for the next day. Like Baker, JetBlue offered nothing to make my trip easier.

I just sent a letter to JetBlue, which garnered a very weak response from the airline. Baker aimed high, and it worked.
Litigation was not his first choice. In fact, he offered to let JetBlue donate the $722.50 for which he was suing to the ASPCA or the Humane Society of America. The airline did not respond to his offer. They did offer some vouchers as compensation, which he refused to use. But, the judge seemed to consider them in his final award, as they account for the difference between the damages requested and those rewarded.

I guess the moral of this story is that airlines should realize that even the smallest complaint can snowball. I found out about Bill Baker's story on his blog, which was linked to his Twitter account, went to his blog and was entranced. That's all it takes, sometimes, for one company's bad news to gain a hell of a lot of attention. One person cruising a series of links at the right time can turn a small story into a big one.

For travelers, the message is that we need to continue to talk to each other. Start your own blogs. Use sites like Twitter. As we saw earlier this week, with the use of the Hudson River as a runway, citizen journalism has become a powerful force. Let everyone know about the best and worst you see on the road. We're all in this together. Also, the airlines and hotels are starting to pay attention. One tough tweet will be noticed.

And, Baker leaves us with his battle cry, "Ask not how airlines can screw you; Ask how you can screw the airlines back!"

Read about Bill Baker's lawsuit against JetBlue >>

View the official results of the Connecticut Small Claims Court >>

Videos shows US Airways crash landing in Hudson

Jan 17th 2009 @ 3:00PM

Now that everyone has been rescued safely from Thursday's US Airways' crash into New York's Hudson river, the NTSB can start deconstructing the events of that afternoon. In addition to the black box and voice recorders being recovered, the agency also has the fortune of having part of the crash landing recorded on video, via both a Coast Guard camera and another security camera in a nearby building. CNN posted the latter video just this afternoon, which shows the aircraft skidding across the water with its nose in the air. Truly a magnificent job landing safely.

17 January 2009

EasyJet incident: Boeing 737-700 'violent pitch down'

EasyJet incident: Boeing 737-700 'violent pitch down' 

If this doesn't take your breath away, I don't know what will: On the afternoon of January 12, 2009, a Boeing 737-700 aircraft operated by British carrier easyJet experienced a 'violent pitch down' during which it exceeded Vmo (maximum operating speed) by 100 knots, and dropped 10,000 feet. No one was injured, and the aircraft subsequently landed safely.

This startling information is set forth in a brief Preliminary Incident Report issued by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which is assisting the U.K.'s Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) with its probe into the cause of the incident.

According to the NTSB, easyJet Boeing 737-73V, registered in the United Kingdom as G-EZJK, was operating as a non-revenue flight with four flight crew members on board.

An article about the incident on the aviation news website FlightGlobal.com quotes from a statement issued by easyJet that says:

EasyJet can confirm that we are working with the AAIB regarding an occurrence over the North Sea involving EasyJet test flight, EZY8010 from Southend to Stansted - which diverted to Southend, on the afternoon of 12 January 2009.

We can also confirm that the only people onboard the aircraft were the Captain, the First Officer and two observers. The Boeing 737-700 was being tested as part of the hand-back procedure to its leasing company.

Unfortunately, at this stage we can not provide any additional details on the occurrence as we are collaborating with the AAIB”. The AAIB has not yet responded to questions on the event.

15 January 2009

Rescue effort after US Airways jet crashes into New York's Hudson River

NEW YORK -- A US Airways plane was down in the Hudson River on Thursday after attempting to take off from LaGuardia Airport, officials said.
The plane entered the water Thursday afternoon following a failed takeoff, the FAA says.

1 of 2 US Airways Flight 1549, an Airbus A320, was headed to Charlotte, North Carolina, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

A passenger said he was "pretty sure" everybody on the plane got out.

"Somehow, the plane stayed afloat and we were all able to get on a raft," said the passenger, Alberto Panero. "It's just incredible now that everyone's still alive."

A New Jersey State Police source told CNN the pilot radioed to air traffic controllers that he had experienced a bird strike -- when a bird or flock of birds is sucked into the jet engine -- and declared an emergency. Watch footage of plane in water »

FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown also said preliminary information indicates a bird strike. The plane was in the air for about three minutes before it went down, the FAA said.

U.S. Coast Guard units were responding, and a ferry on site was dropping life jackets into the water.

The New York Times, citing a local TV station, reported that the aircraft had 146 passengers and 5 crew members aboard.

The pilot tried to return to the airport when the plane fell into the Hudson, the Times reported. The Times said it was below 20 degrees in New York at the time the plane went down.

A couple of minutes after takeoff, "we just heard a loud bang," Panero said.

"The plane shook a bit and ... you could smell smoke and fire and immediately the plane started turning," Panero said. "All of a sudden, the captain came on and said, 'Brace for landing,' and that's when we knew we were going down."

The plane approached the water at a gradual angle and made a big splash, according to a witness watching from an office building.

"It wasn't going particularly fast. It was a slow contact with the water that it made," said the witness, Ben Vonklemperer.

"It appeared not to have landing gear engaged. This was bigger than a puddle-jumper or sea plane. It was a silver aircraft and it basically just hit the water," Vonklemperer added.

An Airbus A320 can hold a maximum of 179 passengers and a flight crew of two, depending on the configuration.

08 January 2009

Low-cost carrier's new program makes traveling with pets a breeze

JetBlue's new JetPaws pet carrier, co-designed by Cindy Adams, and travel kit availalable on JetBlue's Web site.

Sandy Robins

updated 1:27 p.m. MT, Wed., Jan. 7, 2009

At JetBlue, the skies are going to the dogs. In an effort to take the lead as the top pet-friendly airline, JetBlue Airways recently launched its new JetPaws in-cabin pet program. "With more than 80,000 pets traveling on JetBlue each year, the JetPaws program is designed to make traveling with pets smooth from start to finish," said Kim Ruvolo, JetBlue's brand manager. "We know that our customers are passionate about their pets and very emotionally connected to them so this program ensures that our customer service extends to our four-legged customers too."

For $100 each way, regardless of the travel route, the low-cost carrier welcomes up to four pets in the cabin per flight.

Additional amenities, such as a stylish, custom-designed carrier and a special travel kit, are available for purchase. There is also the added incentive that pets can earn two bonus points for each flight that accrues to their owners' TrueBlue frequent flyer account allowing them to earn free travel awards faster.

Part of the traveling family "We have a lot of guests travel with pets and when they arrive at the airport you can tell they are pet-travel pros as they are well equipped with the carriers and pet travel accessories," said Abby Lunardini, JetBlue's director of corporate communications. "Los Angeles to New York is a very popular pet route. At this stage we are exploring our options regarding introducing a formal pet program."

"People traveling with pets don't consider what they are doing as a luxury or an extravagance; they simply view it as traveling with a family member," added added John Clifford, a luxury travel consultant for San Diego-based International Travel Management.com.
According to a travel trends survey for 2007-2008 — published by the Travel Association of America — 29.1 million Americans have traveled with a pet in the last three years.

"Business has doubled in the last year," Clifford confirmed. "This has a lot to do with hotels and tourist places adopting pet-friendly policies. And when airlines also come on board with value added benefits its just another way of stimulating the demand that is definitely out there."
"Eventually we plan to extend the program to pets themselves by setting up special travel accounts for them with promotional offers and special newsletter e-mails," Ruvolo said.
Staying ahead of the competition"It's a very bright forward-thinking program that clearly addresses the needs of travelers with pets," said Clifford, who has a list of clients who travel both locally and internationally with their pets. "Lately both other low-cost airlines, as well as standard carriers, have been moving in the other direction and charging fees for things that were previously free. This new program is adding extra value for the traveler with their pet.
Southwest, widely considered JetBlue's direct competitor, has a no-pets policy (except for service dogs). "In fact, the only other airline that has a similar and competitive pet program is Virgin Atlantic on their international routes," Clifford said.

Virgin America, which launched in August 2007 and is headquartered in California, also charges $100 per direction with no limit to the number of pets allowed on board.
Continental Airlines, meanwhile, offers its OnePass Frequent Flyer Program. Pets that travel "Cargo Class" with the airline's PetPass Program also help to boost their owner's mileage account towards free award trips in the future by earning an additional OnePass mile for every dollar spent on pet travel.

Midwest Airline's Premier Pet Program allows cats and dogs to earn one free roundtrip for every three paid roundtrips. Midwest Miles members can also redeem 20,000 Midwest Miles for a free roundtrip for a pet to travel under the seat in the passenger cabin and 15,000 for a free trip for their pet in the below-cabin pet compartment.

Designer bag includedThe airline teamed up with Cindy Adams, a New York Post columnist and owner of Jazzy Park Avenue Pet Products, to design the navy and orange bag that sells for $45. Adams also had a hand in planning the welcome kit which includes, a blanket, bowls, a rubber bone and some treats — and, of course, a different toy for cats.

"Traveling is a big part of my life and my work and I always love bringing my sweet babies Juicy and Jazzy along when I can," says Adams. "I incorporated all the elements that are important to me as a pet parent into the design such as excellent ventilation, a soft comfortable lining and lots of pockets for basic travel essentials that open easily because when you travel you very often only have one hand to manipulate a bag. The carrier is extremely lightweight and is designed for pets up to 20 pounds. My Yorkies are tiny and I can get them both into one bag."
The specifications of the bag were also specially designed to fit comfortably into the space allotted in the airline's new planes.

On check-in, customers are handed their own boarding passes and a special tag for the carrier that states "Check me out; I'm checked in."
"It's all part of giving pet parents and their pets travel status," explains Ruvolo. "We also issue them with a wallet-sized card with basic petiquette tips about policy and procedures to making it smooth transition from the terminal to the plane."

Travels with pets
Readers send in photos of their adventures with Fido and FluffyOther JetPaws program elements include a special welcome e-mail for pet owners within one week of their booking and complimentary access to a downloadable e-booklet highlighting pet-friendly hotels, restaurants, parks and animal hospitals in some of JetBlue's top cities, including Boston, Fort Lauderdale, Las Vegas, Long Beach, Calif., New York, Orlando, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.
In-cabin service only"We only offer an in-cabin service," says Ruvolo "We don't fly any animals in the cargo area at any time. There is a standard pet fee of $100 each way regardless of the travel route."

While the airline services 51 destinations Ruvolo says that most of the pet travel is currently focused along the East Coast particularly between New York and Boston, and to destinations such as West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Orlando. Long Beach is also becoming a popular pet destination.

The airline recently opened a new terminal at JFK and once again with Adam's expertise there are plans underway to create a designed "play area" for pets where they can be taken if they are delays instead of having to remained cooped up in their carriers for additional long hours. The airline also hopes to eventually have a doggie toilet area too.

"A play area is essential," says Adams. "I always travel with puppy pee pads and taken them into the ladies restroom at the airport or even in the toilet on the plane for my dogs to relieve themselves on them with no mess and no fuss. But having somewhere for them to be able to hang out if they are delays is certainly a wonderful facility for pet travelers and will be another first."

07 January 2009

Flying the Unfriendly Skies

IT is a typical day for the flight attendants aboard American Airlines Flight 710, a 737-800 headed from Dallas to New York with a scheduled departure time of 9:05 a.m.

As Debbie Nicks, 56, works in the first-class galley, brewing coffee and hanging up passengers’ jackets, she glances down the jetway and notices a crush of people at the gate. An earlier flight to New York has been canceled, and people from that flight are desperate to get on this one. It is a familiar scene these days, what with many planes flying at near capacity, and so Debbie just continues her regular routine, making the announcement to passengers onboard that they should make sure all carry-on luggage is stored either in the overhead bin or below the seat in front of them.

Back in coach, Anna Wallace McCrummen, 45, organizes the cart of drinks and food for sale that would later be pushed down the narrow aisle, then takes a blue rubber mallet to whack a bag of ice cubes that had frozen into a solid block. She hits it over and over again, perhaps a little too keenly, as the sound — thwop, thwop, thwop — echoes off the walls of the small galley.
Meanwhile, in the main cabin, Jane Marshall, 50, walks down the aisle, checking to make sure people are finding their correct seats, keeping an eye out for passengers who have sneaked on luggage that she knows won’t fit in the overhead space and trying to defuse any tense situations before they escalate into crises. But perhaps it is already too late. Two women who have been double-booked stand sulking in the aisle, wheelie bags firmly planted by their sides, signaling that they are not about to budge.

“What a mess,” mutters Jane once the double-booked women have been found seats and the line of stand-by passengers is turned away from the gate. Only then, after every seat is taken, overhead bins shut, electronic devices stored and seatbelt sign on, do the three women finally settle in to their jump seats for one of the few moments of respite during their workday.
Over the next 11 hours, they will fly from Dallas to New York and back again, a routine that is clearly second nature to them. In all, the three represent nearly 70 years of flight attendant experience.

And today I am one of them.
In a behind-the-scenes look at the other side of air travel, I donned a navy suit and starched white shirt earlier this summer and became a flight attendant for two days. With the cooperation of American Airlines, I first went to flight attendant training school at the company’s Flagship University in Fort Worth, Tex., where I learned what to do in an onboard emergency, from how to open an emergency exit window on a 777 aircraft (it’s heavier than you may think) to operating a defibrillator (there are pictures to help you get the pads in the right place). I then flew three legs in two days: a round-trip journey between Dallas and New York, and then back to New York the next day.

And though the other flight attendants knew I was a ringer, the passengers did not. Thus I got a crash course in what airline personnel have to put up with these days — and, after just one day on the job, began to wonder why the phrase “air rage” is only applied to passengers. Believe me, there were a few people along the way, like the demanding guy in first class who kept barking out drink orders as the flight progressed (until he finally passed out), whom I would have been more than happy to show to the exit, particularly when we were 35,000 feet in the air.
WHAT’S it like to be a flight attendant these days? That’s what I’ve often found myself wondering as I sit in my seat, waiting impatiently as yet another flight is delayed and my connection threatened, while around me are passengers fighting with each other over the lack of space in the shared bin, or complaining about having been bumped from an earlier flight, or swearing “never again” to fly this specific airline because they have been stuck in a middle seat even though they booked their ticket six months ago.

Is there a less-enviable, more-stressful occupation these days than that of a flight attendant? Just the look on their faces as they walk down the aisle — telling passengers that no matter how many times they try to squeeze them in, their suitcases are not going to fit into the overhead bin, or explaining yet again that they will not get a single morsel of decent food on this three-hour flight — tells you all you need to know of their misery.

US Airways fined $140,000 for unfairly bumping passengers

by Jeffrey White Jan 7th 2009 @ 9:30AM

The US Dept. of Transportation has fined US Airways $140,000 for violating a number of regulations in the way they handle bumping passengers from overbooked flights.The fine came last month. In agreeing to the penalty, US Airways avoids further litigation for the violations, the DOT says.What did the airline do wrong, exactly? Violated the department's over-sales rule, 14 CFR Part 250, from July 2007 to July 2008. Huh? Basically, the DOT nailed the airline for:

Failing to solicit volunteers before bumping passengers

Failing to give said bumped passengers written notice

Failing to give bumped passengers timely redress, i.e. monetary compensation and/or another flight US Airways says it has reworked the way it trains its ground crews to ensure that they know now how better to comply with DOT regulations when dealing with overbooked flights.

In paying the fine, US Airways is not admitting to or denying any mistakes, the DOT says.
Here's part of the DOT's finding.

Picked this up on flyertalk.com.

Frankly, the fine should have been higher ($140,000). But it's so like Tempe to neither admit or deny wrongdoing and just pay the hush money to make it go away. I can think of a lot of places $140K could help out around the system....

Order 2008-12-13
OST-2008-0031 - Consent Orders

Issued and Served December 23, 2008

This Consent Order concerns violations by US Airways, Inc. of the Department’s oversales rule, 14 CFR Part 250, and the statutory prohibition against unfair and deceptive practices, 49 U.S.C. § 41712. The violations stem from the carrier’s failure 1) to solicit volunteers before involuntarily denying boarding to passengers on oversold flights, 2) to furnish the required written notice to passengers who were denied boarding (“bumped”) involuntarily, and 3) to provide in a timely manner bumped passengers with the appropriate amount and type of denied boarding compensation. The order assesses US Airways a civil penalty of $140,000.

A recent review of US Airways’ passenger complaint records from July 2007 to July 2008 conducted by the Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings and of passenger complaints involving US Airways during the same period sent directly to the Enforcement Office revealed numerous instances in which the carrier bumped passengers, but did not follow one or more of the provisions of 14 CFR Part 250.

In mitigation, US Airways states that it did ultimately compensate all of the passengers identified by the Department. In addition, US Airways states that it has revamped its applicable training program to ensure that all airport staff are current on all Part 250 rules. US Airways is also reexamining its policies and procedures relating to overbooking to ensure a smoother process at the airport when it becomes necessary to seek volunteers or deny boarding.

In order to avoid litigation and without admitting or denying the violations described above, US Airways, Inc., agrees to the issuance of this order to cease and desist from future violations of 14 CFR Part 250 and 49 U.S.C. § 41712. US Airways, Inc., further agrees to the assessment of $140,000 in compromise of potential civil penalties otherwise assessable against it. The Enforcement Office believes that this compromise assessment is appropriate in view of the nature and extent of the violations in question, serves the public interest, and provides a strong incentive to all airlines to comply with the Department’s denied boarding regulation.

Thanks to Moody75.

06 January 2009

Air India Sacks "FAT" Hostesses

The airline says overweight crew are a safety hazard

India's state-owned airline Air India has terminated the services of nine hostesses for being "overweight", a spokesman says.
The air hostesses were taken off flying duty two to three years ago and put on ground duty.
They say they have now been told by the airline that it no longer has positions for them in ground jobs.
A lawyer for the air hostesses told the BBC that they would challenge the terminations in the Supreme Court.
Last June, the Delhi high court ruled that Air India had the right to prevent overweight air hostesses from flying.
The hostesses appealed against that order in the Supreme Court and the case is still pending there.

'Exceptionally overweight'
A spokesman for Air India told the BBC that the hostesses were sacked after they were declared "medically unfit" to fly.
"They haven't been flying for two to three years for being exceptionally overweight," spokesman Jitendra Bhargava said.
We challenged last year's court ruling in the Supreme Court. The case is pending. How can the airline do this?
Arvind Sharma, hostesses' lawyer
He said that the women were between 11kg and 32kg overweight and that "all efforts to get them to reduce weight had failed".
Air India said safety was a "prime function" and that "being grossly overweight does have a bearing on reflexes and can impair agility required to perform the emergency functions".
A hostess with Air India, Sheela Joshi, who is not one of the nine dismissed, said those colleagues had received termination letters in the past three to four days.
"They were told there are no vacancies in ground jobs and since you are unable to lose weight, you have been terminated from service," Mrs Joshi told the BBC.
Arvind Sharma, a lawyer for the air hostesses, said he would try to get the dismissals revoked as part of the ongoing appeal in the Supreme Court.
"We challenged last year's court ruling in the Supreme Court. The case is pending. How can the airline do this? This is contempt of court," Mr Sharma said.
He said the airline did not give the air hostesses any warning or set them any deadline for losing weight.
Mr Bhargava said the Delhi high court had not given any stay order and that the management had followed the due process of law.
In June last year, the high court agreed with the airline's view that overweight crew presented a safety and health hazard.
It also said that, in the highly competitive airline industry, an air hostess's physical condition and appearance played an important role in her overall personality.
Air India, whose air hostesses wear traditional Indian saris, is facing a stiff challenge from a number of private airlines with younger flight crew typically dressed in skirts or Western suits.
A few years ago, during a recruitment drive for new crew, the airline said that it would not consider applicants with acne or bad teeth.

04 January 2009

Airliner hell as 40 passengers - many drunk - 'run amok' on flight from Gatwick to Cuba

The passengers, thought to be from Ireland, are said to have 'run amok' on the flight to Holguin in Cuba on December 16.
They are alleged to have caused more drunken mayhem at their all-inclusive hotel in the resort of Playa Pesquero.
Dozens of fellow holidaymakers complained about their behaviour on the outward flight and at the resort.
Fellow passenger Sue Brown, of Worcester Park, Surrey, said: 'On the outward flight, they were smoking, allowing children to run up and down and ignoring all instructions from the crew.'
She added: 'One of the children thumped a passenger for no reason. I was so scared that I left my seat and sat in the galley with the crew for five hours.'

Emergency Air Return Of Delta B-777

An account from a pilot flying along!

I was deadheading to Hong Kong via Narita yesterday, and was riding on Delta flight 55, B-777-200; few seconds into the T/O roll the right fan decided to come apart on us, I was seated right next to it in seat 12G, front row view. When the fan let go at T/O thrust the compressor stalled and a 7 foot or so flame shot out the front end of the intake, the inlet outer skin was damaged but held, you could see where the fan blade(s) tip pushed out the metal. Some greyish/blue smoke came through the air conditionning, but dissipated quickly. It was a low speed reject, we could feel some shaking during the decelaration, nothing major, of course the first indication was a very crisp and sharp bang. I believe this aircraft has the RR Trent engine. Anyways, the point of this thread is to say KUDDOS to the Delta crew both front and back for displaying great skills during this mishap. They kept us informed as soon as possible in a very professional tone of voice over the PA. We taxied back under our own power to the gate, and 4 hours later we were on our way to Narita on another Delta 777. Again thank you to the crew for a well done job, just the way we practice it in the sim.

Airline apologizes for removing Muslims

AirTran says it was a misunderstanding, covers airfares of the nine

WASHINGTON - AirTran Airways apologized Friday to nine Muslims kicked off a New Year's Day flight to Florida after other passengers reported hearing a suspicious remark about airplane security.

One of the passengers said the confusion started at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., when he talked about the safest place to sit on an airplane.

Orlando, Fla.-based AirTran said in a statement that it refunded the passengers' air fare and planned to reimburse them for replacement tickets they bought on US Airways. AirTran also offered to take the passengers back to Washington free of charge.

"We apologize to all of the passengers — to the nine who had to undergo extensive interviews from the authorities and to the 95 who ultimately made the flight," the statement said. "Nobody on Flight 175 reached their destination on time on New Year's Day, and we regret it."

The airline said the incident on the flight from Reagan National Airport to Orlando was a misunderstanding, but the steps taken were necessary.

Two U.S. Muslim advocacy groups, however, were critical of the airline’s actions. The Muslim Public Affairs Council called on federal officials Friday to open an investigation. And the Council for American-Islamic Relations filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation, saying: "It is incumbent on any airline to ensure that members of the traveling public are not singled out or mistreated based on their perceived race, religion or national origin."

Bill Adams, a DOT spokesperson, said the department thoroughly investigates discrimination complaints but would not comment further.

One of the Muslim passengers, Atif Irfan, said the family probably would not fly home with AirTran because members had already booked tickets on another airline, but appreciated the apology.

"It's definitely nice to hear," he said.

Irfan said when he boarded the flight Thursday, he mentioned something to his wife and sister-in-law about having to sit in the back. His sister-in-law replied that she believed the back of the airplane was the safest, but Irfan believed it was better to be by the wings.

"She said, 'Yes, I guess it makes sense not to be close to the engine in case something happens," Irfan recalled Friday. "It was a very benign conversation."

Questioned by air marshals
Shortly after taking their seats, members of the group was approached by federal air marshals and taken off the plane, Irfan said. They stood in the jet bridge connected to the airport and answered questions while other passengers exited and glared at them.

Irfan said he thought he and the others were profiled because of their appearance. The men had beards and the women wore headscarves, traditional Muslim attire.

"My wife and I are generally very careful about what we say when we step on the plane," he said, adding that they have received suspicious looks in the past. "We're used to this sort of thing — but obviously not to this extent."

Irfan, 29, is a lawyer who lives in Alexandria, Va. He was traveling to a religious retreat in Florida with his wife, along with his brother and his family, including three children, ages 7, 4 and 2. They were joined by his brother's sister-in-law and a family friend.

Federal officials ordered the rest of the passengers from the plane and re-screened them before allowing the flight to depart about two hours behind schedule. The family and friend eventually made it to their destination on a US Airways flight.

'We felt very disrespected'
Family members were upset that AirTran didn't allow them to book another flight. The airline said in a news release Friday that one of the passengers became irate, made inappropriate comments and had to be escorted away from a gate podium by local law enforcement.

"We felt very disrespected," Irfan said. He said FBI agents had cleared their names and asked AirTran to put them on another flight, but to no avail.

Christopher White, a federal Transportation Security Administration spokesman, said the situation was handled appropriately.

White said the pilot, after being informed of the remarks, requested that two federal air marshals on board remove the nine passengers. TSA then alerted authorities, including the FBI, which conducted an investigation. Once authorities determined there was no threat, it was up to the airline whether to allow the family to reboard.

"If the pilot is uncomfortable with someone flying on their plane, that's their decision," White said.

Discount carrier AirTran Airways is a subsidiary of AirTran Holdings Inc. Its hub is in Atlanta.

02 January 2009

Onboard Birth Adds A Passenger To Flight

Eight-hour flight was too long for woman; doctor, paramedic helped out
updated 3:28 p.m. MT, Wed., Dec. 31, 2008

BOSTON - There were 124 passengers on Northwest Airlines Flight 59 when it left the Netherlands. There were 125 when it landed in Boston.

Phil Orlandella, a spokesman for Logan International Airport, says a woman went into labor and gave birth to an apparently healthy baby girl over the Atlantic Ocean on Wednesday during the eight-hour flight from Amsterdam.

Orlandella said a doctor and a paramedic who were on the flight assisted in the birth. He said the plane landed without incident about 10:30 a.m., and the mother and baby were immediately taken to Massachusetts General Hospital.

Orlandella said he did not know the nationality of the mother, but said for customs' purposes the baby was considered a Canadian citizen because she was born over Canada's airspace.

9 Muslim Passengers Removed From Jet

By Amy Gardner

updated 2:15 a.m. MT, Fri., Jan. 2, 2009
WASHINGTON - Officials ordered nine Muslim passengers, including three young children, off an AirTran flight headed to Orlando from Reagan National Airport yesterday afternoon after two other passengers overheard what they thought was a suspicious remark.

Members of the party, all but one of them U.S.-born citizens who were headed to a religious retreat in Florida, were subsequently cleared for travel by FBI agents who characterized the incident as a misunderstanding, an airport official said. But the passengers said AirTran refused to rebook them, and they had to pay for seats on another carrier secured with help from the FBI.

Kashif Irfan, one of the removed passengers, said the incident began about 1 p.m. after his brother, Atif, and his brother's wife wondered aloud about the safest place to sit on an airplane.

"My brother and his wife were discussing some aspect of airport security," Irfan said. "The only thing my brother said was, 'Wow, the jets are right next to my window.' I think they were remarking about safety."

Irfan said he and the others think they were profiled because of their appearance. He said five of the six adults in the party are of South Asian descent, and all six are traditionally Muslim in appearance, with the men wearing beards and the women in headscarves. Irfan, 34, is an anesthesiologist. His brother, 29, is a lawyer. Both live in Alexandria with their families, and both were born in Detroit. They were traveling with their wives, Kashif Irfan's sister-in-law, a friend and Kashif Irfan's three sons, ages 7, 4 and 2.

AirTran spokesman Tad Hutcheson agreed that the incident amounted to a misunderstanding. But he defended AirTran's handling of the incident, which he said strictly followed federal rules. And he denied any wrongdoing on the airline's part.

"At the end of the day, people got on and made comments they shouldn't have made on the airplane, and other people heard them," Hutcheson said. "Other people heard them, misconstrued them. It just so happened these people were of Muslim faith and appearance. It escalated, it got out of hand and everyone took precautions."

Hutcheson confirmed that it was ultimately the pilot's decision to postpone the flight. But he said the pilot was influenced not only by the complaints from passengers but by the actions of two federal air marshals on board, who had learned of the incident and reported it to airport police.

As a result of that report, federal officials made the decision to order all 104 passengers from the plane and re-screen them and their luggage before allowing the flight to take off for Orlando — two hours late and without the nine passengers.

Ellen Howe, a spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Administration, said the pilot acted appropriately.

"For us, it just highlights that security is everybody's responsibility," Howe said. "Someone heard something that was inappropriate, and then the airline decided to act on it. We certainly support [the pilot's] call to do that."

Security sweep
Howe added that the TSA's involvement was limited to conducting a security sweep of the plane after the passengers were removed. Airport police officers' only involvement was to hold the passengers in custody until the FBI arrived, said Tara Hamilton, a spokeswoman for the agency that runs the airport.

Hutcheson said AirTran is not likely to reimburse the passengers for the additional cost of their replacement tickets on USAirways. He said they were given a full refund for their AirTran fares and may fly on the carrier now that the investigation is complete.

The detained passengers said that is not likely.

"It was an ordeal," said Abdur Razack Aziz, the family friend who was also detained. "Nothing came out of it. It was paranoid people. It was very sad."