News of the Week: Upgrades and Downgrades

By | November 13, 2008
United Airlines Boeing 747-422

Image by Jonathan Caves via Flickr

We thought we’d clear our backlog of interesting news out before the weekend. Enjoy!

  • JetBlue set a world performance record with one of its Embraer 190s as the regional jet was returned to JetBlue’s home base at JFK from its time as Sarah Palin‘s plane during the campaign. The plane flew nonstop without passengers or baggage from Anchorage to Buffalo, a distance of 2694 nautical miles after returning the Governor and her family to Alaska. JetBlue was the launch customer for the E190 three years ago, and its longest scheduled flight for an E190 is Austin to Boston, is only 1476 miles. It even tops its longest scheduled flight overall, operated by an A320, from Oakland to Boston at 2341 miles.
  • The TSA is expanding the “family lane” program to every airport in the country, and will direct not only families to those lanes, but also people who have “medically necessary” liquids and gels in excess of current 3-ounce limits. The changes will be in place on November 20th for the Thanksgiving rush.
  • WestJet is considering a variety of new surcharges, which they inquired about in a recent survey sent to their customers. They wished to know if passengers would consider a $10 service fee for: Priority boarding, priority disembarking, expedited baggage delivery, priority rebooking in case of flight cancellation, complimentary meals/hotels when a flight is canceled or delayed, in-flight internet, guaranteed space in the overhead, in-seat power, premium snack/meals, a pillow/blanket you can keep, an amenity kit, a wait of 10 minutes or less at security, sitting away from parents with small children/babies. Now, some of these things are reasonable to charge for, even if we don’t like it, ie internet, pillow you keep, amenity kits, etc. but rebooking or help if they cancel a flight seems more of a right than a privilege. Then, they inquired about saving $10 to not use services like checking bags, earning frequent flier miles, only bringing on one small piece of carry-on luggage, being the last to board, online-checkin, being the last to get luggage, sitting in a middle seat, making no changes to your ticket before departure, not getting refreshments, not having a reclining seat, or sitting close to parents with small children. Now, if waiving these charges resulted n a decreased fare, people might use them, but ultimately, it is a way for airlines to make more revenue. What do you think?
  • Effective yesterday, United initiated a new boarding order.

    The new boarding order will be as follows: Global Services, 1K and customers sitting in United First will continue to board first through the Red Carpet Lane, followed by our United Business customers. Our Premier Executive and Star Alliance Gold members will then be invited to board.
    After all of our most-valued guests are on board and getting settled, the regular boarding process of seating areas 1 through 4 will begin.

    Now, we have to agree with the Consumerist, where we read this story, and question how United’s public relations department cannot raise a red flag, not about taking care of its frequent fliers, but describing them as most valued seems to devalue the rest of us.

  • A woman has launched an $85,000 lawsuit against Air Canada, alleging her vacation was ruined when she was scalded as a result of a flight attendant spilling a hot beverage on her. She alleges that they failed to treat her in accordance with reasonable first aid training and provided her with improper materials to treat it, and  that the airline was negligent in failing to provide proper training and materials. Her mental distress, apparently, diminished her enjoyment of her four-week vacation in Europe and Africa, so she is suing. Does anyone else find this frivolous?
  • A United Airlines crew was forced to duct tape an unruly passenger to her seat after the normal ankle cuffs kept slipping off. We wonder if that service incurs a $10 surcharge. Duct tape isn’t free, after all.
  • Last month, a woman claimed that screeners at the Pasco Airport in Washington made her take off her foot brace and stand on her sprained ankle, causing the ankle to fracture. They are supposed to swab down a brace for explosive material, it even mentions they will not ask a person to remove a brace on the TSA website.
  • You have no idea what this tube of toothpaste could do to a plane. If you knew the things we knew, you wouldn’t question it.” – I want to know the things this TSA Screener knows.(Courtesy of Chris Elliott.)

More to come…

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