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Standard economy seats on United
Three times this week have flights been disturbed by passenger fights over the right to recline, and three times this week have the situations proved petty. Alas, it's a hot topic and the details of that initial confrontation (which was so bad as to divert the plane) continue to leak.
Our friend Scott Mayerowitz of the Associated Press spoke with Mr. James Beach, better know to the internet as "Knee Defender Man," who, though repentant for some of his actions once the issue escalated, states that he still plans to use the Knee Defenders on future flights.
The article manages to tell a clearer story of what exactly happened in that United flight from Newark to Denver, which diverted to Chicago because of the argument. It's well worth a read, especially as Mr. Beach's explanations only serve to dig his hole deeper. Take, for example, this:
People are crazy. That is the one thing to keep in mind as we start in on this week's tale of ridiculous behavior on an airplane.
Sunday's United flight 1462 from Newark to Denver was forced to divert to Chicago-O'Hare after a mid-air argument erupted over legroom. The two partiesa man and woman, both coincidentally aged 48 came to harsh words over the man's use of "Knee Defenders" to prevent the woman seated in front of him from reclining.
Knee Defenders (pictured in use, above), are a $21.95 pair of doohickies designed to fit between a meal try and the seat it's attached to, which inhibits the recline of said seat. They are unofficially prohibited by airlines, and Knee Defender itself recommends doing the decent thing of providing a "courtesy card" to explain the use of the devices to the effected parties. Alas, it is apparent that such common decency was absent on this United flight.
Travel Politics / Transparent Airfares Act of 2014 / Department of Transportation / Politics Travel / Bad Ideas / → All Tags
We've been keeping you up to date on the Department of Transportation's battle with the airline industry over the Transparent Airfares Act of 2014, most recently explaining why we are backing the DOT and calling for the rejection of the Act.
On Monday, Congress voted to pass the Act, which would allow airlines to advertise rates online and in print with asterisks that do not include taxes and extra fees.
Last March we posted a very neat little video tracing the paths of the roughly 30,000 flights that enter, leave, and just generally hang around European airspace on a summer day. It began in the early morning with the planes coming across the Atlantic, and then as the day wore on it developed into well-managed chaos. The emphasis here is on "well-managed": the visualization was produced by Britain's NATS, the country's biggest provider of air traffic control, and the organization responsible for keeping all those planes from colliding. They weren't exactly bragging, but they weren't exactly not bragging.
Then about three months ago NATS posted a new video. This one is all about the future and it is - bluntly - creepy as all hell. It's supposed to be a futuristic look at how commercial "air traffic control" is inevitably going to be subsumed by commercial "air traffic management," which is both a real airline industry thing and something that is actually kind of interesting for travel geeks.
Whether you're a frequent flyer or an armchair traveler, there are certain details it's nice to review before making plans for that next big trip. Every week, we'll squeeze our mindgrapes and share tips to make sure you're the best informed flyer in seat 1A...or 38K.
This Week: The 4 Instagram Travel Photo Mistakes to Avoid
Bad Ideas / Hawaiian Airlines / SJC / Travel News / Airport Security / Airline Security / → All Tags
We weren't going to blog this story because there's not much to convey beyond what you already know. A 16 year old teenager fought with his parents, ran away from home, jumped the fence at San Jose International, climbed into the wheel well of an Hawaiian Airlines flight bound for Maui, and then somehow lived to tell the tale.
Hiding in wheel wells is the kind of thing that almost always kills people, which we know because their bodies then fall out of the sky. This kid somehow survived and is now being cared for by child services, so it's a kind of bittersweet thing.
That's really all that can be said about the incident, unless you want to talk about how no one in this country bothers to secure airport runways any more, and you don't need to hear that rant again. Except: it turns out that a 16 year old runaway is newsworthy enough for CNN's Anderson Cooper to devote a 90 second segment to it. And not just any 90 second segment.
Apparently there's a debate happening on the Internet - so says the LA Times - over whether the 14 year old Dutch girl who tweeted a terrorist threat to American Airlines was "a victim of security excess" or an "idiot." To which we answer, why can't it be both?
You'll recall that Sarah - of the now-deleted @QueenDemetriax_ Twitter account - tweeted to @AmericanAir over the weekend that "hello my name's Ibrahim and I'm from Afghanistan. I'm part of Al Qaida and on June 1st I'm gonna do something really big bye." The social media mavens at American responded exactly 6 minutes later (faster than they've ever done when, say, we've had a flight canceled) by publicly informing her that her "IP address and details will be forwarded to security and the FBI."
Social Media / Bad Ideas / US Airways / Twitter / NSFW / Sex Travel / Nude Travel / 777 / → All Tags
Which of these words doesn't belong? TWITTER BOEING 777 US AIRWAYS PORN MH370
Actually, if you'd been on Twitter earlier today and spotted a very NSFW mis-tweet reply from US Airways' @usairways account, then you'd know that, unfortunately, all of the above terms are now entwined in one of the most egregious social media slip-ups of all time.
Here's what happened:
Travel Advertising / Singapore Travel / Singapore / Tourism / Tourism Boards / Bad Ideas / → All Tags
This is being described as the "most embarrassing tourism ad ever," and also as "so bad it will go viral," and also as "cringe-worthy," and also as a bunch of other similar things. We've watched it - once, and only once - and those are all fair descriptions. It might literally be the worst bit of travel advertising we've ever seen. It's so bad that it goes around to being good, but then it comes back around to being bad, and then it gets stuck at bad. It's painful to watch.
The source of this travesty is the Singapore tourism board, and the backlash they faced was very immediately and very public. In what might be described as an understated public climb-down, the board admitted that the video "was not resonating well with audiences" and that "some aspects of it could have been done better." So of course they took it down, and of course you can find one of its many online copies embedded below.
This morning, a cryptic tweet by Elizabeth Banks (Hunger Games, 30 Rock, Modern Family) highlighted what is definitely a #celebtravelproblem:
Dear fans, I love you. Please don't take pictures of me sleeping on airplanes.— Elizabeth Banks (@ElizabethBanks) April 7, 2014
A few weeks ago, Banks' Modern Family co-star faced a similar situation while napping on set. Sofia Vergara took pains to prevent any sleeping photos of her from leaking, by placing a napkin over her face. The concept only half-worked, as her co-stars turned it into an Instagram opportunity (above) which then ended up as a DailyMail article, but at least her snoozing face literally stayed out of the picture.
April Fools' Day / Bad Ideas / Mile High Club / Titanic II / Cell Phones / Airline Seats / Travel Pillows / → All Tags
It's that time of year when we not only look for spring right around the corner, but also spend one day indulging in little pranks. It's April Fools' Day and this year our focus isn't on airlines' false press releases, but rather actual bad travel ideas we wish were jokes.
Flamingo Air's "Mile High Club" flights
If joining the mile-high club is on your bucket-list, now you can do it safely and securely on an "airline" specifically for those wanting to get nasty on a plane. For $425, a small chartered aircraft will give frisky couples access to a queen bed in the sky for a 60-minute flight. The package includes champagne, chocolates, and one discrete pilot at the controls.
As recently as a week ago, the consensus was that the coverage surrounding MH370 - though by turns saddening, horrifying, and infuriating - wasn't really damaging the reputation of Malaysia Airlines. The Sydney Morning Herald interviewed a bunch of analysts who went even further, saying that not only was there limited erosion right now, but that any negative impact in the future "was likely to be modest and short-lived." Things were obviously not going well, and most people expected the worst, but airline disasters are often treated far more as generic tragedies than airline-specific incompetence. That seemed to be happening here.
If that's how things end up - if MH finally emerges from this crash with its brand more or less intact - it won't be because they didn't make spectacular efforts to fuck it up. Instead, it's like the airline went out of its way to alienate people, from the victims' families to entire countries. This took some effort.