I know this because of an article I read this morning on USAToday.com about a JetBlue flight attendant who got into an altercation with a passenger and just lost it. Steve Slater quit with the bravado of the Barefoot Bandit. After asking a standing passenger to sit down while they taxied to the gate, he was cursed out and hit on the head by the man’s bag. His reaction? Well, he grabbed the microphone, cursed out the passengers and called out the man who hit him, then he pulled the emergency slide, grabbed a beer and exited the plane. Bizarre. When the police caught up with him they arrested him and charged him with criminal mischief and reckless endangerment, both felonies. I have to say having read the story I’m not quite sure who to side with. I mean this was obviously a complete over reaction, but I believe the passenger who hit him was totally out of line and should be charged with something as well. Don’t they always say there are penalties for interfering with a flight crew? I think this definitely counts.
I often think this, but yesterday’s headline has me convinced. Continental has announced that it is testing “self boarding”. That’s right, now for the price of your ticket you no longer get a nice smiling person who takes your ticket at the gate and directs you on to the plane. You get to do that yourself. It will save time and money! Two things the airlines are always harping about. I disagree. People instinctively get confused when trying to queue without assistance. What happens when someone cuts the line and there’s no one there to mediate? You know with business travelers it’s going to happen. It’s just a matter of time. Also, who is going to gate check the 4 bags that family thought would fit into the overhead compartments? Finally what’s to say someone won’t print fake boarding passes and get on your plane? Security expert Bruce Schneier has talked about how easy it is to forge boarding passes for years. I’m all for convenience and making flying easier. I actually like the self check-in kiosks outside TSA. But let’s get serious here, this isn’t a subway people. I think self boarding is just a bad idea.
File this one under, “It’s about time”. A Dartmouth professor has sued United Airlines to recover his luggage fee because the airline lost his bag. Economics professor Charlie Wheelan is a frequent flier whose luggage has gone missing on United many times before. This time he’d had enough and he took his beef to court. He filed a small claim against the airline asking for his $25 checked bag fee to be returned along with $72 in court fees. His logic was that the airline had clearly failed to live up to their end of the bargain, and he was right. He won the case and United did apologize and reimburse him.
I love being able to tell you about free wi-fi. I am a huge fan. I’ve been on the road for over 2 months now and have been saved by McDonalds time and again when I can’t get wi-fi any other way. I just drop in and buy an iced coffee, fries or a cone and for as long as I like I can ride their connection. Well I’m apparently not the only one. Turns out McDonald’s has been eating Starbucks lunch so to speak in the wi-fi world. Yes the elite coffeehouse has lost it’s appeal for flashpackers like me and is looking to get it back. As of July 1 you will no longer have to pay $3.99 to gain access to Starbucks’ wi-fi network. It’s free! Thank you McDonalds!
I’ve been following the furor over the Arizona Immigration law recently. It ignited a firestorm of protest since it seems to be little more than legalized racial profiling. While I don’t support the bill or it’s creators, it does bring up an interesting question. If states start passing this kind of legislation, am I, a U.S. citizen, going to be required to have a passport just to travel state to state?
Spirit Airlines announced today that it will begin charging passengers a fee for their carry on bags. “Bring less, pay less” according to their CEO, Ken McKenzie. Um, so what does this mean Ken? Bring nothing, pay nothing? Doubtful. This is just another in an unending series of “unbundling fees”. Sure you can still carry on your purse, laptop, backpack or “personal item” free, but if you bring a small suitcase that goes overhead expect to pay $30 or $45 if don’t pre-check it online. That’s harsh! If this were a major legacy carrier I’d be worried. As it’s Spirit it’s a trial balloon, if it sticks they’ll all jump on the bandwagon, but Spirit could just as easily abandon the new policy. Doesn’t take effect until August, so we’ll all just have to wait and see.
My husband sent me a link yesterday to a Consumerist article about Delta Airlines threat to cancel a flight if 4 seated passengers did not agree to deplane and take a later flight. These weren’t standby passengers, these were passengers with legitimate, paid tickets. Why did they have to get off the flight you ask? My guess, so 4 elite flyers could get on. Sure they gave the departing passengers a $400 travel voucher and a night in a hotel, but that doesn’t justify threatening an entire planeload of passengers with flight cancellation unless they give up their seats.
Delta’s response went something like this, “I recognize that threatening the passengers is indeed inappropriate and realize that overbooking problem should be handled with more grace and understanding.” Gee, you think?! Unforgivable Delta. I’m nominating you right here and now for “Worst Customer Service of 2010”.
Continental Airlines announced this week that it will discontinue food service for coach passengers on it’s flights. I’m disappointed because Continental was one of the last legacy carriers to continue feeding their passengers. I took them to South America and was happy to be fed a hot lunch on my 4 hour flight. I can’t imagine having to sit through it smelling fast food and watching my fellow travelers alternately starve (not having planned) or gorge on high cal low nutrition crap.
So all the travel news this week is about how director Kevin Smith was tossed off a Southwest flight for being “too fat”. The annoyed celebrity tweeted his displeasure to Southwest and lo an behold in just a few hours his angry legion of fans had overwhelmed and shutdown the airline’s website with all their traffic. Southwest did the BIG mea culpa, gave him a $100 voucher and called him personally to say how sorry they were about the whole thing. They basically did everything short of wearing sack cloth and throwing ashes over their heads. My question is, if I had tweeted the same complaint, would they have paid me any mind? I don’t think so. Social networking only works for celebrities. But on the chance that I’m wrong about that, I say, “Fat people unite! Tweet from your seat.”
I don’t normally do “listicles”, but there were so many bizarre travel stories in the news this week just had to share them. Enjoy the service? Leave me a comment and I’ll think about making it a weekly column.