Monthly Archives: May 2009

Air Madagascar Flight to Paris Instead Drops Off President in Senegal

An Air Madagascar flight from Madagascar to Paris made an unexpected detour to Dakar, Senegal, to drop off Madagascar’s President who, for whatever reason, was on board the commercial flight.  Passengers were told about the extremely out-of-the-way detour upon boarding the flight, even though the airline knew about it well in advance.  The flight arrived in Paris 9 hours late.

A Quick Word about JetAmerica

Cranky Flier covered this nicely yesterday, but since I keep reading stories about JetAmerica I wanted to make a quick note here as well.

JetAmerica is a public charter (flights are operated by Miami Air) that will fly a couple of times a week from Newark to Toledo, South Bend and Melbourne (FL).  In August, they’ll launch highly anticipated (?) flights from Toledo to Minneapolis.  The headlines are that one of the founders of SkyBus is the CEO, and that fares start at $9.  Fares can start at -$9 and it still won’t stimulate the demand necessary for Newark-South Bend.

You’ll read the usual blah blah blah comparing this to Ryanair or Allegiant, but we should remember this:  Ryanair and Allegiant aren’t successful because they have low fares or fly infrequently.  They work because they chose the RIGHT cities, with the right frequencies with a cost and revenue structure that can support it.  Allegiant flew primarily to and from Vegas to small cities a couple of times a week until they started branching out to other sun destinations.  Why does this work?  Because if you’re in Green Bay, you may just want to go somewhere warm for vacation and Allegiant offers nonstop flights.  You can be flexible with a vacation.

Ryanair works for lots of reasons, not least of which are a huge focus on ancillary revenues, and the fact that Europeans are willing to put up with less frills than Americans.  And they’ve chosen sizable cities for their bases.  Plus a million other little reasons.

Yes, JetAmerica got some marketing help from a couple of airports.  They’ll blow through that quickly.  Relying on someone else to do your flying to cities where there’s no demand, then charging nothing for it is a recipe for these guys shutting down by September.  Ignore the articles that I’m seeing suggesting this thing has a prayer.

Southwest Cancels WestJet Codeshare, Realizes It’s Juggling Too Many Balls

Southwest announced that it will not go forward with its planned codeshare pact with Canada’s WestJet.  Officially the announcement is to delay the codeshare, which would have given Southwest entry into Canada and WestJet a huge feeder network from the US.  But when asked when passengers can expect the codeshare to be implemented, Southwest spokeswoman Brandy King said, “How does never sound to you?  Does never sound good?” (She didn’t actually say that, but she basically did.)

WestJet was deeply disappointed by the decision, which could have been a significant source of traffic for the airline.

Southwest, for its part, said that it needs to focus “its immediate attention on several critical objectives, including increasing our revenues,” which is exactly what you want to hear if you’re a shareholder.  After 35 years of slow, steady growth, Southwest has struggled in a way it never has before.  It’s hardly in trouble, but Southwest has always ridden out economic storms by keeping to its strategy of managable growth and keeping the operations as simple as possible.  Over the past year the airline has focused on bringing service to primary airports (LaGuardia, Boston), while changing up its fare structure to attract more business travelers.  These are certainly good long-term moves, but these types of changes can be rocky in the short-term.  Cutting off the WestJet partnership isn’t a huge deal, but its an indication that the company realizes it needs to focus on its core operation — a great decision and one that shows management realizes that Southwest may be starting to veer slightly off the course that has served it so well.  Great management is about understanding when things start to go wrong and quickly making adjustments.  Well done, Southwest.

Continental Airlines Fires Pilots for Lying about Divorces to Collect Pensions

Continental Airlines is suing 9 pilots and has fired 8 for their involvement in a pension fraud scheme that involved fake divorces back in 2005.  It worked like this:  the pilots would get a so-called “paper divorce” (a divorce on paper where the couple did not actually split up) and sign over pilot pension benefits to the now ex-spouse.  The ex-spouse would then request a lump-sum payment of the benefit.  Then, flush with cash, the couple would re-marry.  (Brilliant!)

The airline says that the pilots went through with the fraud because they were afraid they would lose their pension benefits in the industry’s financial turmoil.

Emirates Told to Pay $10,000 to Passenger Whose Flight Was Canceled and Lost Job

The details of this are a bit odd, but here it goes:  A judge has ordered Emirates to pay $10,000 (INR 500,000 – or 5 Lakh as we say in India) to an Indian nurse who lost his job in Libya after his flight was canceled back in 1999.  I know, that’s a long time ago.  It gets a bit weirder:  The Emirates flight from Delhi to Malta (with a connection to Libya) involved a codeshare flight with Air Malta.  The Air Malta portion of the flight was canceled.  The passenger was never told about the cancelation, and hence, missed his return to Libya.  He then lost his job.

The judge in the case didn’t buy Emirates’ argument that it wasn’t responsible, since it didn’t operate the flight.  But the judge ruled that because it sold the ticket and its code was on the Air Malta flight, Emirates was responsible.  Whew.

Yes, this is a random (and odd) case, but it brings up a bigger issue:  Who is responsible when a you have a connection to a codeshare partner and things go awry?  In my experience the answer is:  whichever airline you’re not talking to at the time.  If you’ve had a more positive experience, I’d love to hear about it…

Delta Drops Malabo, Luanda, Cape Verde Before Launching

I haven’t seen news about it anywhere else, but according to Airlne Route Updates (typically reliable, as he bases his info off of GDS – travel agency – data) Delta has shelved its planned routes to Malabo, Equitorial Guinea; Luanda, Angola; and Ilha do Sal, Cape Verde.  You may remember (if you’re a freak, like me) that Delta was going to launch a tiny, tiny, mini-hub on Cape Verde to serve West African destinations with a 757 (though no passengers would actually de-plane there).  I thought it was a fascinating idea.  However, they’re not going to do it (it wasn’t looking good when they switched the flights to Cape Verde to JFK, then Atlanta, then JFK).

They are going to go ahead with planned 3x weekly service to Abuja, Nigeria; and once-weekly service to Monrovia, Liberia, both via Dakar, Senegal.  If I were a betting man, I’d bet Monrovia doesn’t happen either.  We’ll see.

EasyJet to Little Girl: You Have to Check Your Teddy Bear

An EasyJet gate agent told a 6-year old girl traveling from Glasgow to Stansted that she would have to gate check her new teddy bear because the airline considered it to be excess baggage.  Then they told her mother she would have to pay 9 Pounds to check it.

The little girl had wrapped the teddy bear in plastic to keep it dry during a rainstorm.  Because it was wrapped up, the airline said it was luggage, not a carry-on.  After a heated discussion, the girl’s mother decided to mail the bear home because her daughter said she didn’t like the idea of the bear traveling alone in the baggage hold.

Of course this is all insane, and a day after the whole incident was reported EasyJet offered to reimburse the family for the postage and added that the gate agent should have used common sense and allowed the bear on the plane (and instead should have made the mother check her daughter).  OK, that last part isn’t true.

Two Arrested after Mid-Air Sex Act Leads to Argument, Sex

Catching up on what we missed while I was out…

Model Sarah Hannon was arrested for being drunk on an aircraft following a Kingfisher Airlines flight from Bangalore to London back in April.  

There was something else about this story…what was it?  Hm.  I can’t rememb–oh right.  She was drinking with her boyfriend before the flight.  The couple sat next to a third woman, Clare Irby.  During the flight Hannon fell asleep, and during that time the boyfriend had some sort of sexual daliance with Ms. Irby.  While sitting next to his girlfriend.  Classy.

A flight attendant put a stop to whatever the hell they were doing and in the process, woke up Hannon.  Upon noticing what was happening between her boyfriend and the other woman she went, as we say here at OTR headquarters, apeshit.  

The boyfriend and Irby were arrested for gross indecency.

The OTR Is Back and In the General Vicinity of Being as Good As Ever

Yes, I’m back after a slightly more brief hiatus than I had predicted.  I’ll have new stories tomorrow…

One bit of housekeeping:  I’m going to post one story a day from now on.  If you’re reading on the website (versus on a reader or via email), that’ll be in the top section labeled Top News.  If you hate the current design and prefer the more typical bloggy, chronological list of stories, you can get that at http://www.onlinetravelreview.com/category/recent-stories/ 

See you tomorrow…it’s great to be back.