Monthly Archives: August 2004

International Newsday

Since there is absolutely nothing going on this week (the press has successfully scared everyone the hell out of New York making it a perfect time to be here—if you avoid Madison Square Garden, you’ll have the whole city to yourself), I thought I’d share a couple of pieces of international news. (In case you were wondering, the US Airways pilots are still in negotiations with management–no doubt they’ll work something out).

For the second time in the past couple of months, EasyJet is pulling out of airports because of high fees. After leaving Zurich (“the most expensive airport in its network”), the carrier will no longer fly to Milan-Linate Airport or Copenhagen. Imagine that, pulling out of an airport because it’s no profitable to fly there. How innovative! In other news, the Baltic states continue to get closer to western Europe as EasyJet announces new service to Tallinn, Estonia, and Riga, Latvia. Geez, it was just, what, two years ago that those were exotic, hard-to-get-to places. I took a ferry there, for God’s sake.

Southeast Asian budget carrier Tiger Airways announced a crazy sale, offering 59 cent flights from Singapore to Bangkok and Phuket in Thailand.

Cheap Upgrades from AirTran

AirTran has offered $35 upgrades from full-fare coach to its slightly-better business class—a good deal, no doubt. However, AirTran is doing one better by offering these upgrades on ALL fares. In short: When checking in, if space is available in business class, you can upgrade for $35 ($50 from Denver, San Francisco, Vegas, and LA) or $70 for connecting flights ($85 from the above 4 cities). Great way to get a bit extra space for a reasonable upgrade fee. No, I don’t know why other airlines don’t do this.

Southwest Faces Another Fat Suit

Another hefty passenger is suing Southwest Airlines for their policy of requiring non-small passengers to purchase two seats. Trina Blake, 5′ 7″ and size 22, says she is “overweight” but “not obsese,” and was humiliated when forced to purchase an extra seat. The airline has offered her two $50 vouchers (one for each seat she’ll have to purchase in the future, I suppose), which she has deemed unacceptable. Rapper/Seat Expert Sir Mix-A-Lot has no comment on this specific incident, but in the past he has noted, “I like big butts and I cannot lie.”

Flight Diverted to Khartoum

You know things are bad when you demand that your flight be diverted to Khartoum, Sudan, because it’s a better option than your scheduled destination. A group of 76 Eritreans on a repatriation flight from Libya to Eritrea essentially hijacked their flight and demanded to be flown to Khartoum, Sudan. The group had sought refugee status in Libya(?!), which denied them the status and was returning them to Eritrea. Alas, they were not happy about that. The Sudanese government isn’t quite sure what to do with the group (and is also occupied slaughtering a large number of people in Darfur, in the western area of Sudan). The UN High Commission on Refugees has recommended that the refugees not be returned to Eritrea.

Online Travel Review Offices Closed Friday

The OTR offices will be closed Friday, so that means no airline news for you. At least not from me. You can get it somewhere else. But please come back and visit on Monday. Have a great weekend.

Northwest Fights Back

So, a little recap on the Northwest Airlines situation: Northwest announced Tuesday that it will begin charging people a fee for buying tickets basically anywhere except their website or Orbitz. To fight back, Sabre, the technology that lets many travel agents book tickets, said they would bury Northwest’s flights so agents would find it difficult to book them. Now, Northwest is pissed: they are suing Sabre for breach of contract. In short, buy your NW tickets from their website. Other carriers are watching this closely and, I suspect, will follow suit in due course.

American to Offer Pringles

American Airlines will become the latest carrier to offer food for sale(reg req’d) on its domestic flights. Meal combos will be $5-7, and snacks (such as beef jerky and Pringles) will be $3. Free snacks, such as Rice Krispie Treats, will be available as well. American will test the service on several flights in September, including JFK-Phoenix and JFK-Seattle.

Cuban Woman Flies to US in Cargo Crate

A Cuban woman was found safe in Miami after traveling from Nassau, Bahamas, in a tiny cargo crate aboard a DHL cargo flight. The crate measured only 36″ by 26″ by 18″. Having flown Continental’s 737 service from Newark to LA, I know how she feels.

Dominican Republic Gets Cheaper

Spirit Airlines, which has been hinting at an expansion into the Latin American market, announced $59 flights from Ft. Lauderdale to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. After years of reliance on American Airlines, travelers now have several lowfare options (JetBlue, Spirit) into the island nation. Spirit’s flights will offering connecting service to Chicago and New York, among other cities.

Ireland’s Aer Lingus Will Fight Ryanair

Ireland’s flag carrier Aer Lingus will fight Ryanair on its own terms: by becoming a full-fledged (mostly) lowfare carrier. The airline said that it will eliminate business class from its European flights and pull itself out of the Oneworld alliance. Transatlantic flights will continue to offer business class. Delta has recently floated a similar idea of offering one type of service for shorter flights and more premium service for longer flights. I believe this is the beginning of a major change in the airline industry, where flights under 4 hours will look much, much different than long-haul flights. United has also hinted at a similar move, offering TED on leisure-heavy short-to-mid haul routes and announcing an upgraded economy cabin for transcon flights.