Monthly Archives: January 2010

A Quick Word about Sandwiches

I mentioned on Wednesday how I believe that Ambien has changed long-haul travel more than any on-board amenity.  But then I was thinking that for short-haul, has anything changed the on-board coach experience more than airlines cutting off food service?  (Yes, Live TV…but that’s not what I’m writing about today) Terrible airline food was a universal constant, joked about by every hack comedian on the planet.  In fact, it became a joke when comedians joked about it.

Then airlines cut it off, and suddenly people starting complaining that there was no food on board.  Continental ran unbelievably stupid commercials suggesting that people on a plane were longing for the days when airlines served food.

Of course, we just started bringing our own food on the plane (Salvadorans have known this all along, as if you’ve ever flown from San Salvador what is most striking is that every single — EVERY SINGLE — person brings Pollo Campero fried chicken on the plane).  It seems so obvious now – why did we complain about airline food for 50 years when we just could’ve brought our own sandwich.  Were we morons?  Sadists?  I’m not sure.  But I do know this:  I’m always happy with what I bring with me.  I don’t understand why people ever, ever complain about a lack of onboard food.  Or why people ever, ever talk about how good an airline meal was.  It wasn’t.  (Except for the ice cream sundae.  That was good).

Maybe it’s because I have kids now, and when we fly we have roughly a 7-11’s worth of snacks with us.  But man does that make me happy.  Why didn’t we think of that before?

Ambien IS Business Class…

I’ve been reading the news about the new Air New Zealand coach seats that convert into a bed-ish thingy (see here) and it got me thinking about whether we just complain way, way too much about the current state of coach seats.  And whether we fetishize business & first class seating way beyond the actual comfort they provide.

Air New Zealand will be offering a product that allows you to convert 3 coach seats into a bed-ish thing that supposedly can be shared by two adults.  Look at that photo I linked to.  Could you sleep like that for 8 hours?  My wife and I are in a king bed, and that’s too crowded for us.  I truly have to wonder whether that would be better than taking an Ambien and dealing with it in coach.

And here is where I say that with all of the improvements in airplane seating over the past 15 years, the truly biggest difference in long-haul airline travel is Ambien.  Not lie-flat beds; not the A380; not Sky suites; not video on demand.  Ambien.  I can sleep 7 hours in a middle seat in coach on Biman Bangladesh.  No matter the length of the flight or the time change, I arrive feeling like a million bucks.  I would take an Ambien and sit in coach over no Ambien in business class on a red eye any day.  Not sleeping in a moderately comfortable seat stinks compared to being passed out in coach.

And while I’m at it:  I don’t understand the business class cabin fetish people have (look, a photo of the soda they served me!)  Yes, it’s far more comfortable than coach.  Sure.  But really – it’s not like sleeping on your own bed.  And it’s not as if airplane food – even when served on nice china – would be even remotely acceptable in the real world.  QANTAS charges $26,000 for a roundtrip first class ticket from New York to Sydney.  The same price as a 2-year old BMW.  For a sad approxmation of a meal and a nap.  I know a lot of airline blogger types LOOOOOOOVE first class.  God bless ’em.  And it’s not sour grapes: i’ve done my share of flying up front (thanks, miles!).  But every time I feel the same thing:  I wish I used half the miles and flew in coach twice.

For $3, I’ll take an Ambien and wake up wherever I’m going.  Well, Ambien plus an in-seat plug so I can watch a movie on my laptop.  In-seat plugs are pretty underrated…

Quick: Can You Get a Refund If Your Fare Drops?

All Nippon Airways (ANA) has a fantastic breakdown on their website to help consumers quickly determine whether they can get a refund if their fare drops after purchase.  I reprint it here in its entirety (complete with graphics) because it’s awesome and will really clarify all of your questions about when you can get a partial refund if your fare changes:

Applicable fares are the fares (including fuel surcharges) and other charges in effect on the date of issue and applicable on the date of commencement of the itinerary of your ticket.

Therefore, even if there is a fare increase or decrease, there will be no additional collection nor refund after you have completed your purchase.

Example 1

(1) On August 10th, you paid JPY100,000 for your ticket for travel commencing on January 10th
(2) On October 3rd , there is a fare decrease to JPY80,000.

→No Additional Refund

Example 2
(1) On August 10th, you paid JPY100,000 for your ticket for travel commencing on January 10th.

(2) On October 3rd, there is a fare increase to JPY120,000.

→No Additional Collection

However, if you have purchased your ticket with a fare where rebooking or rerouting is permitted, and you wish to change your booking or routing for the first international segment of your ticketed itinerary before commencement of travel, applicable fares(including fuel surcharges) and other charges shall be those in effect on the date the itinerary on the ticket is changed. Therefore, in the following cases, the fares to be applied will not be those applicable at the time of your purchase. In such cases, when there is a fare decrease or increase, the difference in fare(including fuel surcharges) and other charges will be collected or refunded at the time the ticket is changed.

1) When you change your itinerary before commencement of travel(before using first segment of your ticket; whether it be a domestic flight or international flight), fare in effect on the date of such change on the ticket will be applied.
2) When the first international sector is OPEN(not booked), and you wish to book the first international sector, or, if you wish to reroute your itinerary including the first international sector, fare in effect on the date of such change on the ticket will be applied.
Example 3
(1) On February 15th, you paid JPY100,000 for your ticket for travel commencing on April 1st
(2) On March 10th, fare decrease to JPY80,000 for travel commencing on/after April 1st
(3) On March 25th, you change the ticketed booking from April 1st to April 3rd
→Additional Refund

NOW I get it! (Yes, this is why people hate airlines).

Flight Diverted Because of Tefillin (That’s a Religious Item Used by Jews, If You Were Wondering)

A US Airways flight from LaGuardia to Louisville was diverted to Philadelphia after a passenger alerted flight attendants that a man was wrapping something that looked like a bomb (what looks like a bomb?) around his arm while on the plane.  I’m guessing that the man was also heavily beared and praying.  That couldn’t have helped.

Had that person (who I’m guessing was from Louisville and not New York, but I have no idea) ever met religious Jews before, s/he would have known that it was just someone praying while putting on Tefillin, black boxes with straps that contain bible verses.

All’s well that ends well, as after the plane was diverted, authorities figured out what had happened (religious Jew misidentified as terrorist), and everyone was sent on their way.

Should Royal Caribbean Cruise Ships Continue to Visit Haiti?

An interesting dilemma for cruise line Royal Caribbean:  The company has decided to allow its ships to continue to visit its private beach in Labadee, Haiti, despite the obvious mayhem occurring just 60 miles south in Port-Au-Prince. This has caused a bit of an uproar among some folks (including many naval-gazing public relations types) that the cruise line is being wildly insensitive by pulling up a ship stocked with midnight buffets to one of the country’s ports while people are starving just miles away.  Says one of these PR types, “The symbolism and optics of a big white ship sitting right off the beach and people playing were very damaging to the brand, and they have to be prepared for medium to longer-term damage.”

Royal Caribbean counters that it employs several hundred Haitians whose livelihoods depend on the ship stopping in Labadee.  Avoiding the port, in this case, certainly wouldn’t help these people at all.

I appreciate what the navel-gazers are saying, but I think the best thing that cruise line can do for Haiti right now is to continue to visit.  After 9/11 people were not telling tourists to avoid Philadelphia, were they?  No they were not.  Labadee has not, thankfully, been affected by the quake, and avoiding it because there was a disaster on the other side of the country actually doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.

After the typhoon in Southeast Asia, Thai resorts were begging people to come back.  Haiti doesn’t have the infrastructure to beg people to come to Haiti; for the only company that actually WANTS to bring tourists to the country to avoid doing so because it would somehow look bad is just crazy.  Eliminating the stop in Labadee would bring economic disaster to the Haitians who depend on the ship to make a living.  Why is anyone suggesting that cutting them off from their livelihood is a good idea?

Norwegian Air Competitor Buys Up Nearly All Its Cheap Tickets, Several for Donald Duck

Norwegian Air announced a 1 Krone (18 cents) fare on a new route between Copenhagen and Karup, Norway, to try to drum up awareness of the new flights.  One group of people was very aware and took advantage of the offer:  employees of competitor airline Cimber Sterling.  Staff members at the airline purchased at least 650 of the 1 Krone fares, many under names such as Donald Duck, effectively shutting out real customers from purchasing the tickets.

For the inaugural flight, only 30 passengers showed up, suggesting that Cimber Sterling staff purchased about 3/4 of all available tickets.  And staff members admitted as much, with a Cimber Sterling attorney saying that he purchased 54 tickets.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because EasyJet did something similar to Go a few years back.

Passenger Sues British Airways for Making Men Feel Like Perverts (Um, Basically)

A male passenger is suing British Airways because of its policy that young children cannot sit next to male passengers who are not related to them (no, I was not aware of this policy).  In short:  a male passenger was in a middle seat next to his pregnant wife who was sitting in the window seat of a BA flight.  A 12-year old boy was in the aisle seat.

A flight attendant asked the male passenger to either move seats or switch with his wife.  He initially refused, saying that he wanted to stay with his pregnant wife, and that his wife shouldn’t be made to sit in the middle seat.  Things got a bit heated with the flight attendant, but eventually the passenger moved.  Then he got angry, suing the airline on sex discrimination charges, as the policy only applies to male passengers (it would be somewhat difficult to have a policy saying that unaccompanied minors could not sit next to male or female passengers).  The case goes to court next month.

Carnival Will Not Host Second Cruise for “Cougars”

I know, I know it’s not airline-related, but how can I not pass along a bit of news for all my young dude readers who love their older ladies:

Carnival has decided that, despite its financial success, it would not host a second “Cougar” cruise aimed at hooking up young guys with, uh, cougars.  What’s a bit odd (well, the whole thing is a bit odd), but what’s a bit odd is that Carnival basically admitted that the first cruise was a success, but that it no longer wanted any part of this thing:

We made the decision in late 2009 not to allow any future groups on our ships to be marketed under this theme.

Why do they have to be such haters?

Royal Caribbean, however, says, “bring it on” (or something like that):

We have no reason to deny this group the opportunity to sail on our ship. We assume this group will follow our guest conduct policy, just like any other guest. We have no reason to think otherwise.

I have every reason to think otherwise, but that’s neither here nor there.  Best of luck with that…

(Thanks to long-time reader Joey Z, for letting me know about this in the first place and for trying to convince me to go on Cougar Fest I, which I politely declined.)

Delta and Continental Raise Bag Fees to $25/$35 (or $23/$32 If You Book Online)

Delta and Continental are raising bag fees to $25/$35 for first and second bags ($23/$32 if you buy the bag charge in advance online), though they are waiving fees for Elite members and full-fare ticket holders (and people flying to India, Israel, Brazil, Japan and China).

Airlines are, of course, free to do whatever they want, so bravo for them if they can get the money.  I just find it amusing that the second bag charge now costs more than the $29 JetBlue charges to fly a human in a seat from Fort Lauderdale to Nassau.

Please Do Not Bring Your Guns on Your Air Asia Flight (Anymore)

A friend writes that she was reading her Air Asia flight confirmation and noted this on the record:

“Guests can no longer carry guns and/or ammunition on flights to or from Indonesia.”

Um…I guess that’s good news?

(Thanks, Aarti!)