Monthly Archives: June 2009

A Quick Trip Report: Flying with 3 Year Olds

From what I can tell from other sites, you airline dorks love your trip reports (I mean that entirely with love) with lots of detail about the flights. So I thought I’d pass along this report from my trip last weekend to St. John’s, Newfoundland, with our 3 year old girls, Sage & Scarlett.

Continental Flight 1700 EWR-YYT

A few snippets of conversation as we’re waiting the 45 minutes to take off:

Sage: Are we flying?

Me: No, we’re sitting on the ground. We haven’t left the gate.

Sage: Can I have a lollypop?

Me: When we get in the air, you can have one.

Sage: Are we in the air?

Me: No, we’re on the ground. You’ll know when we’re flying.

Sage: I want to watch a movie.

Me: You can watch when once we’re in the air.

Sage: Are we in the air now?

Me: Look out the window. Are we in the air?

Sage: No. Who drives the plane?

Me: The pilot.

Sage: He’s not a conductor?

Me: No, close though. A conductor drives a train. A pilot flies a plane in the cockpit.

Scarlett (from across the aisle): What you talking about Sage?

Sage: We talking about the plane.

Me: We’re talking about the pilot in the cockpit.

Scarlett (screaming across the aisle): What a cock is?

Me: No, cockpit. (to Susan: that was embarrassing)

Sage: Are we in Canada?

Me: No, we’re still waiting to take off. There’s a bunch of other planes that want to take off, too.

Sage: We’re not in Canada?

Me: No, not yet.

Sage: We in New York City?

Me: We were in New York City, now we’re in New Jersey.

Sage: Not in Canada?

Me: No.

Pilot: We’re 17th in line for departure. We should be in the air in about 20-25 minutes.

Sage: What him say?

Me: That we’ll be leaving soon.

Sage: I have to go to the bathroom.

Me: You’ve got to be kidding. We asked you to go before.

Sage: I have to go to the bathroom.

Me: We have to wait here, we can’t get up.

Sage: I HAVE TO GO TO THE BATHROOM. I HAVE TO GO TO THE BATHROOM. I HAVE TO GO TO THE BATHROOM.

(Sage goes to the bathroom, thanks to kindly flight attendant who takes pity on me. And her.).

Sage: Here. (hands me crusts from sandwich)

Me: You eat the crusts at home. Why won’t you eat them?

Sage: You take them, daddy.

Me: I don’t want your crusts.

Sage: You have them.

Me: I don’t understand, you eat them at home.

Sage: But I’m on a plane.

Exeunt.

3 hours of that up, 3 hours of that back. Scarlett also chatted for roughly 3 straight hours, but she was across the aisle of the mostly empty 737-700.

There ya go. Oh, how different it is to travel with kids. How can anyone complain about business travel?

Delta’s Great International Experiment Is Basically Dead

Back in 2007 Delta made a bold decision to expand its international flying signficantly from both Atlanta and JFK.  The theory was that the domestic market was oversaturated, and that there was plenty of opportunity to grow to second (and third-) tier cities and stay out of the way of competition.  757s made it cost effective to fly longer thinner routes and, the idea went, if one city didn’t work, just shut it down and try a different 2nd tier city.  Over time new flights were introduced to Prague, Bucharest, Kiev, Dubai, Kuwait City, Pisa, Valencia, Fortaleza, Recife and more.  Plus, Delta launched extensive new services to Central America and the Caribbean, giving American a bit of competition for customers traveling from the Southeast to these sun destinations.

An even more ambitious plan was rolled out to connect little known destinations in Africa (Luanda, Malabo, Monrovia) by building a mini transit hub in Cape Verde.  If it worked, it would have served as a base to build out once- or twice-weekly flights from Cape Verde to many capitals across Africa.

But that may have been the tipping point.  Delta had been quietly pulling back some of these routes already.  They dropped Kuwait City about a year after launch.  Mumbai service is reduced.  Capetown is reduced, then eliminated.  Cape Verde is dropped, then all of the cities it would have connected.  JFK to Bogota is suspended in the fall.  Kenya is out.  Seoul, Shanghai, Bucharest and Edinburgh are cut in one swoop.  Seasonal suspensions are announced for Moscow, Shannon, Pisa, Malaga, Valencia, Kiev, Buenos Aires, Prague and Guayaquil.  Fortaleza and Recife are suspended and frequencies are cut way back when they return.

Just like that, the grand international plans have been scaled back.  The theory – that you could fly thin international routes year round if there was no competition – didn’t prove out in most cases.  Don’t get me wrong, Delta has a much larger international footprint than they did 5 years ago.  And the addition of Northwest’s extensive Asian market gives them a stronghold they could never built themselves.  This doesn’t mean the airline is withering away – hardly.  And they’ve moved relatively quickly to cut bait where they were losing money – a nice change from years past.

But as an airline dork, it was interesting to watch Delta quickly try to match Pan Am’s global footprint.  No airline since Pan Am has been able to grow as extensively across the globe, but Delta looked like it was heading in that direction.  However, without the protection and regulation that Pan Am enjoyed there was no way to make it work (I know, the economy didn’t help).  And I’m sure that Delta’s pullback also means that we won’t see another airline try for years.

A Great Time Wasting Airline Site

(Full credit for this goes to Mark Ashley at Upgrade Travel Better…thanks for the heads up)

Mark points out a really, really great site for ridiculous airline stories over at the Aviation Herald.  The site appears to report all aviation-related incidents, from mechanical issues (whatever) to passengers acting like idiots (fantastic).  Just go through and pick out and random, and you’ll find some gems, like this one:  a tale of mistaken hijacking, sexual harassments, and bathroom using.  Just great.

Thanks, Mark!

71 Passengers Refuse to Fly After Airline Asks Them to Move Seats to Balance Weight

Must be a full moon or something:  71 British travelers flying back to Newcastle from Mallorca refused to board a Thomas Cook flight after crew asked them to move seats to help balance the aircraft weight.  A cargo door was broken, causing the airline to load all cargo into the front hold of the plane.  To help balance the weight, passengers were asked to move toward the rear of the plane (a standard measure, and something you may have had to do on a smaller plane).

There was some sort of passenger freakout (which is different than a Whopper Freakout) and 71 people refused to fly, fearing for their safety.  This is, obviously, ridiculous on so many levels, no least of which is that the pilot would certainly not risk his life to fly a bunch of sunburned tourists back to Newcastle.

The plane departed without the 71, and landed without incident.  Of course.

British Airways May Be Closing Down OpenSkies

The Guardian is reporting that British Airways may shut down OpenSkies, its all-business class subsidiary flying between New York, Amsterdam and Paris.  The airline has reportedly been losing money since launch and last year canceled its expansion plans (including plans for a 5th 757).  To bolster its Paris operations it purchased L’Avion about a year ago, but even that move could not help them generate the yields necessary to make the French route work.

Some have suggested that BA has kept OpenSkies running as a defensive move against other airlines entering the market.  And while I buy that to some extent, its a moot point in the current environment when it would be highly unlikely that anyone else would try to launch an all-business class service today.

Should BA shutter the carrier it would mark the end of the failed 3-year all-premium trans-Atlantic experiment that has seen the demise of MAXjet, SilverJet and Eos.  Without frequencies, continuing traffic and loyalty programs (even though OpenSkies was aligned with BA’s loyalty program you need all three of those components), new entrant trans-Atlantic business class airlines don’t really have a chance.

(For my review of a flight on OpenSkies read here.)

JetAmerica Interview Recap: Seriously, We Have No Clue

For those of you who still care about train-wreck-waiting-to-happen JetAmerica, The Airline Blog has posted an interview with the airline’s PR guy.  It’s worth a read simply for the cluelessness contained therein.  For example:

(On comparing JetAmerica to Allegiant): “In terms of analogies, you’re comparing apples to oranges. We’re running 737s and they’re running MD80s. Totally different animal.”  (Right, that’s the only difference).

“Ryanair is the most successful airline in the world. The reason that is is because they’re using Boeing 737 jets; they’re not using 747s, for example.”

“I have seen consultants make forecasts that say that we have a good shot because we’re a start-up and we’re coming in at a time when there are a lot of cutbacks.”

“We’re not as heavily financed as jetBlue.”

“I point to somebody like Allegiant that’s running MD-80s… some of these aircraft are twenty years old. Granted, Allegiant is the most profitable airline in the US right now, but who wants to ride on those planes? Maybe the leisure traveler who’s willing to get from point A to point B on a Greyhound bus. We’re not a Greyhound bus, we’re an a-la-carte carrier,”

Oh man…

(Thanks, Tom, for the heads up…)

British Airways: Workers Can Take 4 Weeks Unpaid Leave — Or You Can Work for Free for 4 Weeks

British Airways, which is facing the biggest financial crisis of its storied history, has offered its staff between 1 and 4 weeks unpaid leave as a means to cut budget.  The odd part of the story is this:  they have also told staff that they are welcome to work during that unpaid leave period if they’d prefer.

I have the sense that if Southwest offered this type of arrangement, that a sizable number of workers would actually show up to work unpaid, because they have built up that goodwill over 30+ years.  If I were a BA worker, though, I think I’d be pretty offended by the idea that I would come to work for nothing.

The larger part of this story is that BA’s CEO Willie Walsh says that there is no sign of recovery any time soon.  US Airways CEO Douglas Parker said something similar yesterday, though he did suggest that leisure bookings may be on their way back.  However, with massive cutbacks in business travel, the airlines are in crisis mode.  One of the world’s most prominent carriers asking their staff to work for free for a month is only the beginning of the rough road most airlines will face over the next 3 months.  I wouldn’t be shocked to see airlines face bankruptcy (again) this year (I’m talking to you, Midwest).

(Quick addition:  United just put out a release saying that their 2nd quarter Revenue per Available Seat mile (RASM) will be down nearly 19% over last year.  That’s a very rough proxy for average fares (very rough) – but the key takeaway is that they’re getting about 20% less revenue to fly 1 seat 1 mile than they were last year.  That’s basically saying business travel continues to shrink dramatically.  Oh, and while we’re adding to this post, Rick Seaney from FareCompare just wrote bascically the same column for ABCnews.com – just so he doesn’t think I stole from him :) )

Continental Airlines Sends Unaccompanied 10-Year Old on Wrong Plane…Oops!

Continental Airlines is in a bit of hot water after putting an unaccompanied 10-year-old on the wrong flight.  According to the Consumerist, a family paid Continental’s Unaccompanied Minor fee and sent their little girl from Boston to visit Grandma in Cleveland.  Unfortunately, Continental put her on a flight to Newark that happened to be leaving from the next gate over.  Upon arrival in Newark, gate agents called the grandparents and told them they could pick up their granddaughter now.  In Newark.  Despite that the paperwork said that the girl should be in Cleveland.  Oops!

Continental has offered to refund the unacommpanied minor fee.  Hahahahahahha.

Passenger Forced to Strip to Prove She Did Not Have Tattoo on Butt

A Canadian woman whose name matched that of a known criminal suffered a bit of humiliation last week when security officials at a Montreal Airport asked her to prove that she was not the fugitive by stripping down and showing that her butt did not have a tattoo on it. After passing through customs, the woman was pulled aside and taken to a private room where she was asked (told?) to remove her pants so they could inspect the lack of tattoo on her butt. After the lack of tattoo was proven she was let go, only to be called back in for a closer examination to ensure she did not have laser surgery to remove said tattoo. Once satisfied, police let her go.

Italian Woman Who Missed Air France Flight that Crashed Has Died in Car Accident

An Italian woman who missed the doomed Air France flight in Rio has died in a car crash in Austria.  Johanna Ganthaler and her husband arrived late at the airport in Rio and was not able to board Air France 447 that crashed last week.  After making it home on a different flight, they were driving through Austria when she suffered fatal injuries in a car crash.  Crazy…