Monthly Archives: November 2010

What to Do When Your Kid Throws Up on a Plane

We have twin 4-year old daughters who, for those who are not longtime OTR readers, can be described thusly:

Twin 1 can be described as the daughter who threw up on our flight to Curacao last April and then threw up on the return flight from Curacao.

Twin 2 can be described as the daughter who threw up on neither Curacao flight but did throw up on our flight yesterday from Ft Lauderdale.

As you may have surmised, this now makes me an expert in what to do when your kid throws up on a plane.  I will now impart some wisdom on this topic with you:

Step 1:  Have a loud disagreement with your spouse over how to handle the situation. I could tell you not to do this, that you should remain entirely calm and speak in only loving tones with both your spouse and your child.  But you are not going to do this, so I’m going to be realistic.  Get snippy with each other over how the whole mess should be handled; whose fault it is; and who always has to clean up these types of messes.  Go ahead.  Get it out of the way.  Good.  You probably feel better already.

Step 2: Deep breath.  I mean that metaphorically, as you will not want to actually take a deep breath anywhere near the area.

Step 3: Your neighbors will be helpful here and offer you with the 2 inch by 2 inch drink napkins they have been using.  These won’t make a dent.  You should thank these people profusely, though, as they will be the ones enjoying the wafting smell for the next 2 hours.

Step 4:  Assure flight attendants that they will not have to deal with this.  In-flight crews have told me that parents have expected them to clean up the mess.  That’s because all passengers are assholes.

Step 5:  You may not know this, but your flight likely has a hazard kit on it.  It is sad that at this point I know that Continental has a hazard kit, and what it contains (trash bag, ties, rubber gloves, disinfectant, disinfectant wipes, face mask – dear God may it not come to that -, and paper protective body covering).  Take all of that stuff out of the bag and set it aside.  You will need much-to-all of it.  Put the napkins you have been using in that bag.  Strip your poor child down and put clothes in a different plastic bag (or, if you do not care about said clothes, in the larger original plastic bag which will be thrown out).  Take the seat that is now covered in vomit and put that in the plastic bag as well (really).  Remember the safety announcement at the beginning of the flight, something about how the seat cushion can be used as a flotation device?  Yes?  That cushion is easily removed.  Remove it and put it in the bag.  Now tie up the bag with the twist ties and put it behind the last row of coach seats.  There’s room there.  And that bag is pretty amazing in that it will not smell.  I should warn you, though:  when you walk down the aisle with the bright red hazard bag with the word “HAZARD BAG” written on in it 80 point font, everyone on that plane will look at you funny.  And not funny ha ha.

Step 6:  If you are lucky, you have a change of clothes for child.  If you are like most of the world, you will end up wrapping your child in one of the blankets they give out which is both sorta cute and kinda sad at the same time.

Step 7:  You will be amazed that you can do a pretty thorough bath and shampooing in the plane’s bathroom to remove the mess from your kid (something to consider the next time you are considering getting amorous in that space).

Step 8:  Put kid back in front of in-flight TV and pretend that nothing happened.

Nudity on a Plane

A mentally disturbed passenger got naked during the descent of a Delta flight from Chicago to JFK on Saturday night.  Flight attendants tried to cover her with a blanket, but then they realized they’d have to charge her $8 for the blanket.

I’m Now On a Personal Crusade Against the NY Times for Their Airline Reporting

I just wrote recently about an article in the New York Times that began with a nonsense premise of how airlines have been taking amenities away from customers and generally making the flying experience a miserable hell.  I called out the Times’ lazy writing and noted how we actually have it better than ever in the in-flight amenity department.

So when I woke up this morning and read this gigantic pile of nonsense in the Times about “aggrieved flyers” with the lede “As if air travel could get any worse…”

I am now making it my personal goal to get this crap to stop.  Between the ridiculous misinformation about the body scanners, to the constant articles in publications that should know better about how awful it is to fly, on this Thanksgiving I am making it my crusade to get news organizations to stop with the ignorant and incorrent premise that passengers have it worse than ever.  As we’ve written about here repeatedly, that is simply not true.

Just look at the first paragraph from that article: “The airlines have already taken away the free meals and the pillows. They have been charging for checked bags and extra legroom and raising fares whenever they can get away with it. They have been packing more people onto planes as they slashed the number of flights scheduled each day. And passengers now have fewer options if bad weather cancels or delays their flights.”

Free meals?  Pillows?  PILLOWS????????  That’s the problem with air travel, that they don’t offer pillows on some flights?  That’s in the lede of an article in the NY Times?  They offer extra legroom and have the gall to CHARGE FOR IT?  That’s the issue?  Or that they are raising fares to (still reasonable) levels where they can, God forbid, make a profit?  That’s the problem?  You know how much they raised fares? Last night I checked what a roundtrip ticket would cost leaving today (one of the busiest days of the year) and returning Monday (also busy) between New York and Ft. Lauderdale.  With 1 day advanced purchase, it would cost $420.  HOW IS THAT NOT A BARGAIN?

He then complains that airlines are scheduling fewer flights and that you then have fewer choices if your own flight is canceled.  As an example, he cites that in the first 9 months of the year, American and United scheduled 1400 fewer flights between LaGuardia and O’Hare.  Let’s break that down.  That’s about 5 fewer flights per day, or 2.5 fewer per airline.  But really, how bad to New York – Chicago flyers have it? American offers 11 flights per day.  United has 13.  And while they may have reduced their flights,  Delta offers 9 flights per day.  And Southwest has 5.  So the aggrieved flyer trying to go from LaGuardia to Chicago only has 38 flights a day to choose from.  Rough.

And finally, he quotes someone who says, “Air travel used to be glamorous and exciting — and now, it’s just a pain…”  Air travel was glamorous because it was new, in the same way that taking the train was glamorous.  And taking a bus was glamorous.  And riding in a car was glamorous in 1907.  It was glamorous because no one did it and because it cost 20 times as much.

On this Thanksgiving, I’d like everyone to stop complaining for 5 minutes and realize how good we have it.  I’m about to hop on a flight to Florida to see family for Thanksgiving.  A flight that cost $180.  Stop whining.

And to the NY Times:  please stop with the lazy writing.  For $2, I deserve better.

American Airlines to Offer In-Flight Happy Hour

American Airlines announced that it will offer an in-flight happy hour on flights that depart during the 5pm hour local time.  Drinks will be $5 (a $2 savings on non-beer drinks, and a $1 savings on beers).  The deal is good in December, or until someone gets wasted and makes a scene (really, though, who is getting drunk on $5 cans of beer?)

Should Airlines Ban In-Flight Wi-Fi?

Honestly, the whole security thing has gotten so completely out of hand that I hesitate to even write this, but since it’s come up:

The Association of Flight Attendants has asked the government to ban in-flight wi-fi because they believe it poses a security risk, and the pilots’ union ALPA has also said that they are concerned with passengers having Internet access in-flight.

The belief is that a terrorist could trigger a bomb using in-flight wi-fi in lieu of triggering a bomb with a cellphone, which is (of course) banned in-flight (except on planes where it’s not banned in-flight).

Smart intelligence (as we saw with the most recent Yemeni printer cartridge caper) is the only way to stop terrorists from doing horrible things to airplanes.  They have exploited every loophole in security, and they will continue to do so.  Essentially shutting down the commercial air system is the only way to keep it 100% safe (on a barely related note, people talking on cellphones are responsible for thousands and thousands of traffic-related deaths each year, and yet people continue to fight those bans or flaunt the rules; flying is incredibly safe, and would be incredibly safe even if we allowed 4.5 ounces of toothpaste on board).

I’ve stopped assuming I can guess what the government will do when it comes to airplane security, but just know that you will be no safer if they take away your wi-fi.

Mutiny on a Ryanair Flight after France-Bound Plane Lands in Belgium

Passengers on a Ryanair flight from Fez, Morocco, to Beauvais, France, refused to depart the aircraft after a weather delay forced the plane to land in Liege, Belgium.  After landing, passengers were asked to disembark and board buses for the 3-hour ride back to the Paris area.  No dice.

Instead, they staged a sit-in, refusing to get off the plane for 4 hours demanding they be flown back to France.  At one point, flight attendants locked the toilet doors, turned off the lights, and walked off the aircraft with the pilots in tow.  (If you were wondering whether the French will strike over anything, this would answer that question in the affirmative.)

Airport officials went to the plane and managed to convince the passengers (with some help from local police) to sit in the airport lounge, enjoy some free food and drink, then take free buses back to France.  At 3:30am.

American Launches Redesigned Website – Now Looks Like Other Websites

American Airlines re-launched AA.com this week (at least I think it was this week), and it’s a vast improvement over the last iteration of the site (which had been around for 8 years or so).  The web has evolved quite a bit in that time, but American’s site has not.

The site certainly looks much cleaner than before, but it still suffers from a massive amount of links from the homepage.  It appears they’ve taken many/most/all of the links that were in the left navigation and moved much of that to the top of the page. There are more than 70 main links off the homepage from the dropdown menus, a number which seems excessive (and is likely due to every part of the company wanting a link off the homepage to their area).

Also a bit disappointing is that they have given the “book a cruise” option more prominent space than Check Flight Status, despite that far, far more people will check flight status than book a cruise.

The long and the short is that American is a large organization, and with that, there are a huge number of stakeholders.  Given that, you end up with a homepage that, while cleaned up, looks like it was trying to give equal footing to a far-too-large number of things.  Many other airlines trim down their navigation (see JetBlue) to make it as functional as possible.

And it’s worth noting here that they have made the page not too dissimilar to the re-design proposed in Fast Company here that got an AA employee fired.  Interesting to note that the AA employee had responded to the proposed design saying, in short, that the re-design looked great but that it didn’t take all stakeholders into account.  The design we see now looks like just that mix:  similar to the design proposed, and mucked up with every possible option so no one in the company had their feelings hurt.

The NY Times on Child-Free Flights and Airline Amenities

The NY Times offered an article on Saturday about the idea of airlines offering either child-free flights, or sections of the aircraft set aside for families with children.  Two notes:

– The set up to the piece includes this bit of nonsense: “flights are full and increasingly devoid of amenities.”  Yes, they are full.  I’m curious, though, which amenities are they devoid of?  What have airlines taken away from us in the past few years that he is referring to?  Seatback television with dozens of channels?  Hm, no they have that now.  In-flight Internet connections?  They have that, too.  In-seat power for your laptop so you can watch all the movies you brought along with you?  Nah – a bunch of airlines have that.  Extra legroom?  JetBlue, United and others offer that for a small fee.  A selection of decent meals for only $6 or so?  The airlines have that, too.

The trope that airlines have taken away amenities seems to come from two things:  there’s no longer the awful food that nobody liked, and many (though not all) airlines charge for bags.  This is also nonsense for many, as plenty of people never checked bags anyway.

This is just lazy writing, and I see it more and more.  I expect the Times editors to do better than this.

– The second point is that the idea of a “family section” in the plane is so ridiculous that the article might as well have been suggesting that we separate people on the airline by race.  Can a kid on a plane be annoying?  Sure.  Can a kid in a restaurant be annoying?  Sure.  Is it up to parents (as much as it’s possible) to teach children manners?  Yes.  Did American parents decide sometime in the early 1990s that it was unimportant to teach children manners?  Apparently.  Am I slightly annoyed/jealous when I walk by business class and there is a 5 year old sitting there?  Yes, but I’m being an idiot.  Some 5 year olds live in bigger houses than I do.  Some are driven around in Porsches, while I am not.  Some of them just have it better than I do, and that’s just how it goes.  To my 4 year olds, every seat is business class, since their feet barely dangle off the end of even Spirit’s seats.  But thems the breaks.

Airlines are not going to stick families together.  If you are traveling with kids, you don’t want to be in a section with only other kids.  I’m not saying a crying baby sit fun to sit next to.  But that’s how it goes.  We’ve all been there.  Get over it.

Delta Retires Last Northwest DC-9-30

Yes, it’s a geeky thing, but Delta retired the last of its ancient DC-9-30s last week, sending N8928E from Providence to Delta, then into retirement.  That particular aircraft was built in 1967 (oh, the glory days!) and spent the first 24 years of its life with Eastern Airlines, then joined Northwest in 1994 (perhaps it took a hiatus for 3 years in there, it’s not clear).

Dorks like me love the DC-9 because a) it’s a piece of aviation history still flying around; b) you only have a 20% chance of being stuck in a middle seat; and c) with the engines way in the back, the front of the plane (even in coach) is delightfully quiet.

Delta is still flying plenty of -40s and -50s, and several other airlines fly later variations on the DC-9 (MD-80, MD-90, 717), but the old -30s show that a well-maintained airplane can pretty much fly forever.  Or at least 43 years.

In Case You Were Wondering If Airfares Have Gotten More Expensive…

…A friend writes that his upcoming flight from Pittsburgh to Toronto, a trip of 224 miles, costs $1918.  In coach.

On a per-mile basis ($8.56) it’s the most expensive trip that I’m aware of.

Just thought I’d make you feel better if you just spent $1500 on a flight from Dallas to Philadelphia.