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May 07, 2004

Do NOT Speak to the Pilot

For God only knows what reason, a passenger tried to enter the cockpit of an Aeroasia (Aeroasia?) flight from Dubai to Pakistan. Why was he trying to enter the cockpit? He wanted to ask the pilot to go faster. I wish I were making this up. The man was detained upon arrival.

May 7, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0)

United's New-ish First Class

I received the following e-mail from United alerting me to changes in their first class cabin:

We are taking a step back in time to the days of more luxurious air travel. By restoring travel amenities you may have missed and introducing additional niceties, we hope to make your future domestic United FirstĀ® flights more pleasurable.

Enjoy the following enhancements in United First:
Refresher towels on flights longer than 2 hours
Linen tray table liners during meals on flights longer than 2.5 hours
Warmed, mixed nuts during lunch and dinner on flights longer than 2.5 hours
Hot meals for lunch and dinner on flights longer than 2.5 hours
After-dinner ice cream sundaes on flights longer than 3.5 hours

Look for these service improvements when you fly United First this year.

Nice move, of course. But I'd love to know why you get a towel on a 2 hour flight, but you don't get a linen tray table liner unless the flight is another half hour. I want my linen!

May 7, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Closer to a Resolution at Alitalia

Don't cancel that flight on Alitalia quite yet. The airline's unions have accepted an offer from the Italian government to keep the airline afloat: the CEO, Chairman and Board of Directors will be fired (or, as the Economist says it, sacked) and the airline will seek additional private investors. In return, the unions will agree that it will not hold additional work stoppages.

May 7, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (1)

May 06, 2004

Three US Airways Related Stories

US Airways was in the news quite a bit yesterday:

Standard & Poors downgraded US Airways' credit, which seems an insignificant piece of news given all they've gone through. Unfortunately, the downgrade puts their credit rating at a level roughly equal to an unemployed 22 year old living with his parents. Specifically, US Airways had hoped to finance the purchase of smaller aircraft; now, the group that would have financed the purchase (GE) may pull out of the agreement. Bad credit for companies has the same effect as it does on people: those who need the loan the most can't get the loan at a reasonable price and end up going bankrupt.

In addition to the new aircraft, another part of US Airways' plan is to reduce its reliance on hub cities, just as America West has successfully done. The downside of this falls straight in the laps of the employees of the Pittsburgh hub. Since September 11th, about 1/3 of them have been let go. Now, US Airways is saying that it will likely reduce Pittsburgh's status to what it is calling a "focus city" rather than a hub. It's a great strategy overall (cherrypicking profitable routes), but it will have a major effect on the number of employees at that base.

And finally, US Airways will be one of the airlines named in a class action lawsuit brought by a passenger to halt airlines' so-called "hidden city" ticketing restrictions (a hidden city is where you buy a one-way ticket from, say, new york to Minneapolis, with a connection in Chicago---but you get off the plane in Chicago because the one way fare to Minneapolis was cheaper than the one way fare to Chicago). Airlines have forbidden this practice, but the lawsuit claims that the airlines have illegally conspired to concoct these crazy ticketing rules.

May 6, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 05, 2004

$498 to New Zealand

One quick thing---Frommers just passed on this incredible tip:

Qantas is offering a $498 ROUND TRIP fare from LA to Auckland and a $598 ROUND TRIP fare from LA to Sydney for flights in May. Tickets must be booked by Friday. Just to let you know: this is an indescribably cheap deal. Seriously. Incredibly cheap.

May 5, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0)

European Roundup

A bunch of smaller stories from Europe today:

Budget carrier EasyJet used to be like JetBlue---it could do no wrong in the eyes of the press. Well, those days are over. The carrier said yesterday that it would have a greater than expected loss for the first half of the year, and that its outlook for the rest of the year wasn't so hot. The airline blamed "unprofitabale and unrealistic" pricing from other budget carriers (read: Ryanair), and saw its stock lose one quarter of its value during yesterday's session. European budget carriers are learning what US carriers have learned: airfare wars hurt airlines in the long run.

Alitalia, which has suggested that it could liquidate very soon if unions do not offer concessions, could join up with the new KLM/Air France company if it gets its finances in order. The new company's CEO said that he'd be interested in a merger with Alitalia if it showed "clear signs" of fixing its finances.

A KLM 737 narrowly avoided a runway collision in Munich on Monday night and was traveling 120 MPH when it had to swerve to avoid another aircraft.

And finally, Boeing says it hopes that Lufthansa will be its next customer for the new 7E7 aircraft.

May 5, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Priceline Acquires Travelweb

Not exactly an airline story, but Priceline has acquired the remaining shares it does not already own of online hotel company Travelweb, which was created by several major hotel chains to wrestle some control away from 3rd party distributors such as Expedia. Depending on who you ask, Travelweb was either a major bust (not true) or a complete success (my feeling); though it was ostensibly created to sell hotel rooms, it really existed to force Expedia to provide better terms to its hotel partners. This happened soon after Travelweb was created. Priceline's acquisition will allow it offer discount hotel rates to people whose bids for hotel rooms are not accepted. Priceline already offers a similar product for air (it purchased Lowestfare.com a few years ago), and has been successful selling full priced airline tickets to customers whose bids for airfare weren't accepted. A smart move for Priceline---one they should've made years ago.

May 5, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 04, 2004

Some Cramped News about the Superjumbo A380

Anyone who has followed the saga of the double-decker, extremely large Airbus A380 superjumbo aircraft has heard that it will hold 550 passengers, an unfathomable number, frankly. Well, the New York Times reports that few if any A380s will hold 550 passengers. No, the A380 will likely hold more than 700 passengers in a normal configuration. And, get this, in an all-coach configuration the aircraft will hold 880 people. Imagine being stuck on a plane with 879 other sweaty, stinky, bathroom-going folks. After the initial novelty of the plane wears off, it will be very interesting to see if there is a passenger backlash against it. Of course there won't be, as most people don't care and have no idea what plane they're flying on, but you and I will care. And that's all that matters.

May 4, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Duo Bankrupt

A European low-fare carrier you haven't heard of has gone out of business. Duo, which replaced something called Maersk UK, flew from Birmingham and Edinburgh in the UK to 12 destinations in Europe. I have no idea where to get refunds.

May 4, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Concorde Photos

Some extremely cool photos of Concorde's last flight can be found here.

May 4, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Lock Up Your Passport

A word of warning: Don't lose your passport. The US government plans to pass along information about lost and stolen passports to Interpol, the vaguely scary international police body. The administration says that Interpol will use the data to help stop terrorism. That may be true. I'm just saying that the US government will be passing on information about 400,000 or so Americans who lost their passports on to an international policing organization.

May 4, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Waiter, There's a Frog in My Soup

You think YOU hate airline food?. A passenger on a Qantas flight from Melbourne to Wellington found a frog in her salad. You'll be happy to know that this Qantas has taken quick action:

A Qantas spokesman said that since the incident in February, the airline had changed its lettuce supplier and introduced "additional procedures into the salad supply process".

I hope one of those procedures is removing most, if not all, frogs.

May 4, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 03, 2004

EasyJet Loses Papers

Dozens of EasyJet flights were cancelled over the weekend when the airline misplaced insurance papers for its aircraft. The airline swears the aircraft were insured, but that they misplaced the papers. They're probably stuffed in the back of the glove compartment.

May 3, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0)

World's Longest Flight Gets Longer

The longest scheduled commercial flight will get a bit longer at the end of June. Singapore Airlines announced it will begin flying nonstop from New York to Singapore at the end of June. The 10,300 mile journey will take 18 hours in a new Airbus A340-500. The plane is specially outfitted with extra legroom in coach, and areas where people can stand and talk. Something for Continental, who flies a 16 hour flight from Newark to Hong Kong in a normally equipped (read: cramped) aircraft, to keep in mind.

May 3, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0)

More Information about the Murder of Taca's CEO

I received a note from a friend of murdered TACA CEO Federico Bloch suggesting that the article to which I linked last week sensationalized Bloch's murder. Given that, I'll pass on this article (in Spanish, unfortunately) which gives a bit more color to the incident. Rather than being gunned down by machine gun fire, as suggested in the article I originally linked to, he was shot twice by 3 men in a passing car, hit once in the head and once in the chest.

May 3, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0)