Monthly Archives: June 2008

Passengers Refuse to Leave Canceled Flight in Beijing

52 passengers refused to get off an 8pm flight from Beijing to Yentai after it was canceled, preferring to sleep on the plane (none of the stories I’ve read say which airline it was…)  About 150 passengers left the aircraft after a 3-hour delay on the tarmac, but the 52 others refused, saying they wouldn’t accept the cancellation (that is a bold move).  Unlike other such incidents, crew continued to provide food and drink until about 3am, when officials said the passengers could take a 730am flight to their destination (yes, I know, this whole story has a bunch of holes in it, but I liked that the people wouldn’t get off the plane and that the flight attendants still served dinner.)

Could Midwest Be Facing Bankruptcy?

USA Today outlines the horrible situation Midwest finds itself in, including having the CEO say that they have about 30 days before they run out of cash.  Worse than the elimination of about half their jets is the request for workers to cut pay by up to 2/3 for pilots, with some $120,000-a-year pilots being asked to take a cut to the low $30s.  For now, the unions are refusing.

Northwest is a passive investor in the airline and while they deny they will let Midwest disappear while taking over their routes, that seems to be the most likely scenario.  AirTran, which unsuccessfully tried to buy the airline last year (sometimes when you lose you win) may benefit as they’ll be able to expand in Milwaukee without having to deal with actually running Midwest.

Delta to Charge $25-$50 for Award Tickets

Delta has introduced a $25 fee for redeeming miles for domestic tickets and a $50 fee for international tickets beginning on August 15th.  They’re calling the fee a “surcharge,” but you shouldn’t hold your breath for those fees to disappear, um, ever.  I wouldn’t be shocked, though, when these fees increase (first on the international tickets, then on the domestic).

Sleeping Pilots Miss Airport by, oh, 359 Miles

Pilots on an Air India flight from Jaipur, India, to Mumbai allegedly overshot the airport by 359 miles because they were sleeping during the flight.  The crew members started their day with a 1:35am flight from Dubai and continued on with this 7am flight from Jaipur.  That doesn’t excuse falling asleep, but it kinda makes sense.

Air India, for its part, denies the incident took place.

(Thanks, Jason)

Continental Improves Standby Policy (But You Have to Pay)

Continental has changed its standby policies to give passengers a bit more flexibility (for a price).  For a $50 fee ($25 if you’re gold or platinum), you can change your flight to any other flight that is scheduled for within 12 hours of your original flight, provided you do it within 24 hours of your original flight time.  The good news for Continental flyers is that it can also be 12 hours after the original flight, which was not necessarily the case before.  Yes, they’re charging more for this service (ah the days of free upgrades), but having that flexibility is useful, especially for business travelers.

Sundae Bloody Sundae

According to this thread on Flyertalk, Continental is eliminating its beloved sundaes in business class on transcon flights.

Now, I enjoyed the Continental sundaes as much as anyone (frankly, if Osama Bin Laden gave me a sundae I’d probably enjoy it).  I think we can all agree that sundaes, as a rule, are a good thing.

By definition, then, eliminating said sundaes would be a bad thing.  And, if you read the thread, you’ll see that everyone there considers this a bad thing.

But read that thread again:  have you ever seen more whining by grown adults over having a sundae that (for the most part) they didn’t pay for taken away from them?  I know that you (or your company) paid for the $1500 ticket to LA, but does that really entitle you to a sundae?  And couldn’t you go crazy and head on over to Baskin Robbins when you get there and spring the $6 for a sundae? (I mean go nuts — expense it!)

I’ve been saying for a little while that the airlines should be extremely up front about everything they’re eliminating and the reasons why they’re being eliminated.  What most of the people in the thread above (and what I’ve heard elsewhere) is that they hate the nickel and diming aspect of the stuff being taken away.  I don’t argue with that.  Which is all the more reason every major carrier should be sending out a letter outlining the changes they’re making, the amount of savings each entails, and an overview of how bad the fuel situation has gotten.

I think that most business travelers feel that they’re generally taken advantage of by the airlines, that airlines spend their time trying to figure out ways to take advantage of them.  And I guess that feels true much of the time.

But it may be better to think of it this way:  high fares and no frills IS normal.  What we’ve had for the past whatever number of years has been abnormal.  The sundaes, the $800 transcons in business class, the upgrades, the multicourse meals, the blankets, the pillows, the cheap frequent flyer tickets, the free booking over the phone, the free checked baggage, the free movies and TV, the alcohol.  All of it – that was gravy that we should’ve been paying for in the first place.  But we didn’t, and we all had about 20-30 years (depending on when you start from) of ridiculous perks at (mostly) low fares.  Adieu to that.

Now we’re just stuck with the still-unreal-when-you-sit-and-think-about-it $400 roundtrips across the country and now we have to spring $8 for a sandwich at Subway before we get on board.  Boo hoo to us.

We have to change our mindset – the sundae was always just the cherry on top.

Air Mauritius Turns a Profit

Air Mauritius (that would be Mauritius’ flag carrier) announced that it had a $26 million profit for the fiscal year that ended in March.  I only mention this because all we hear about is airlines losing money, and I thought it was interesting to note that just because you haven’t heard of an airline doesn’t mean it isn’t well run.

United: The Days of No Minimum Stays Are Gone

Back in early 2005 Delta introduced a program called Simplifares that basically eliminated minimum stays, Saturday night stays, roundtrip requirements and a number of other things people hated about airfares.  United (and everyone else) followed suit.

Well, take everything in that program and throw it out, because your favorite parts of airfares – Saturday night stays and minimum stay requirements – are back.  Mazel Tov.

United announced that as of October 6th, nearly all of their fares will require some sort of minimum stay (based on the route) and, to add insult to injury, they’ve raised the lowest fares available.

You can’t blame them, given everything that’s going on, but remember that on most routes you have a choice of airlines that do not require any of this nonsense.

$750 Round Trip in PREM+ to Paris on OpenSkies – Hurry!

You have to book by tomorrow, but OpenSkies is offering an amazing 2-for-1 deal on flights from JFK to Paris through August 31st.  This is a HUGE steal when you combine it with their $1550 round trip fare in PREM+ (52″ pitch, just as good as business class elsewhere).  So, to sum up, under $800 round trip to Paris during the summer basically in business class.  You won’t do better than that.  See details here.

Oh, and if you want a 327,000 word, 7182 photo description of your Openskies flight, check out the review from Ben over at One Mile at a Time.

One Quick Nice Thing to Say about Spirit Airlines

Spirit Airlines has been widely reviled online (see the comments here, for example) for providing less-than-stellar customer service.  Let’s move past that for a moment.  My father had a problem booking a ticket and, as the commenters above noted, calling the call center apparently wasn’t an option (as they don’t seem to pick up the phone).

So, I did what you guys should do when you have an airline problem – I visited Chris Elliott’s great customer service pages where he lists email and phone contacts for individuals at most of the airlines.  In this case we contacted a customer service manager listed named Heather Harvey (Heather.Harvey (at) spiritair.com).  She could not have been more helpful, calling us back and resolving our issue within hours.  Well done.

That they don’t answer their customer service number is pretty much inexcusable, but now you have a way to actually get your Spirit Airlines problems resolved.  Then again, when you’ve paid $9 for a ticket, maybe you shouldn’t expect anything.  Or Spirit should do what a couple of European airlines do and just charge people to speak to customer service, so at least their costs are covered.

Just thought I’d pass along a nice word (for a change) about Spirit…