Author Archives: benetwilson

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Strange But True Aviation News

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Birds on a plane. A photo originally posted on Reddit of a Saudi prince who boarded a flight with 80 falcons in tow, reports Business Insider. The UAE allows falcons to get their own three-year passports, according to Atlas Obscura. Airlines including Flydubai, Qatar Airways and Etihad allow falcons on its planes.

Booted off over a baby. A woman seated in first class on a Delta Air Line flight from New York to Los Angeles claims she was removed because her baby would not stop crying, reports the Independent. She was asked to move to the back after her fellow passengers complained about the noise.

Kicked off over cleavage. A woman says she was booted from a Spirit Airlines flight from New Orleans to Fort Lauderdale because she was allegedly showing too much cleavage, reports WPLG-TV. Another woman claims she was kicked off for offering tissue to the original woman who was crying over her ejection. The airline claims that the woman was intoxicated and had been asked several times to cover up before she was removed.

Dude! Where are your clothes? A man who had just taken part in a charity swim across Lake Malawi tried to board a South African Airways flight — wearing nothing but his Speedo, reports the Telegraph. He explained he forgot to bring a change of clothes, but wasn’t allowed to board the flight.

I hope he enjoyed the ride! After being removed from a United Airlines flight from Orlando to Chicago for erratic behavior, things got worse for a man from Calgary, Canada. The man hopped into an employees-only elevator at Orlando International Airport where he stole a luggage cart and drove across a taxiway, reports CBC. He was arrested and charged with trespassing and grand theft.

 

Photo courtesy of Air Canada

Your Weekend Reads for February 23, 2017


When it comes to the investment world, Warren Buffett is like that old commercial: “When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen.” So the airline industry was most certainly listening after Business Insider reported that the Sage of Omaha’s latest investment brings his stake to $10 billion. That breaks down to $2.1 billion in American, $2.2 billion in United, $2.4 billion in Southwest and $3 billion in Delta.

 

Three of the big four U.S. airlines — American, Delta and United — have been in an ongoing battle to stop the expansion of the Big Three Middle East carriers — Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways — in the U.S., claiming the latter receive government subsidies that create an unfair playing field. And now data from the U.S. National Travel and Tourism Office finds that foreign airlines increasingly took market share from U.S. airlines on their own turf, reports Skift. The data found that Qatar Airways’ passenger traffic to and from the U.S. soared by 46.5 percent in 2016, while Emirates flew 3.5 million people to and from U.S. airports, a 15.4 percent increase over 2015.

Anyone who knows me knows that I believe that allowing cell phone calls on flights will be tantamount to another circle of hell. I expressed my opposition to this back in 2013 in this opinion piece for CNN. The U.S. Department of Transportation received more than 7,000 comments on a proposal continue to ban inflight phone calls, reports the Los Angeles Times. The cast majority of commenters were against allowing inflight calls.

I’m a big fan of Twitter, and I’ve been impressed by how airlines including JetBlue, Delta, American and KLM have embraced it to connect with their customers. The Transportation Security Administration has taken a page from the airlines’ book and uses its own @AskTSA Twitter account to put a human face on the agency and answer travelers’ questions, reports the Wall Street Journal (subscribers only).

Photo courtesy of Air Canada

In October 2004, Air Canada tapped award-winning singer and national treasure Celine Dion to help launch its major rebranding effort. Thirteen years later, Canada’s flag carrier has done it again, and Skift spoke with Tyler Brûlé of Monocle and London-based branding consultancy Winkreative to discuss the airline’s latest new look. “Brûlé says the change was catalyzed by Air Canada President Ben Smith, who wanted to position the brand as premium across the globe, with the ‘desire for cut-through and to stand out on tarmacs around the world,’” wrote Skift.

Industry insiders know that airlines make their money from passengers who pay for premium cabin seating. We’ve also seen how carriers have been adding and taking away amenities for those sitting in economy class. The struggle to find the best balance in serving coach passengers while still watching the bottom line continues, according to FutureTravelExperience.com. “While we are a million miles away from a golden age of economy class travel, recent developments suggest that some carriers are making efforts to distance themselves from the so-called `race to the bottom,’” it writes. It notes Delta Air Lines’ plan to bring back free coach meals on 12 of its longest domestic routes, while British Airways has gotten pushback after it decided to remove free meals from short-haul economy flights.

 

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Earlier this week, aviation writer Jason Rabinowitz tweeted about the warnings that travelers see when they book the new bare-bones Basic Economy fares on American, Delta and United. In exchange for much lower fares, passengers don’t get to choose their seats, there are no refunds, they board last and can’t use overhead bins. I replied on Twiter that despite all the warnings, there would still be passengers upset over the terms, and this article in Inc. magazine has proven my point. Despite the airlines emphasizing that Basic Economy travelers can’t choose their seats, the writer complains about one of United’s stipulations: “Please note that customers traveling in a group, including families, will not be able to sit together.”

 

If you happen to be stuck in Basic Economy with no place to put your stuff, you may want to consider buying the hottest thing since wheeled luggage: The Airport Jacket, which was launched on Kickstarter. For $180, you get a jacket that has 14 pockets, two detachable compartments and a duffel bag that the designers say can hold a laptop, iPad, two pairs of shoes, a pair of jeans, three T-shirts, two pairs of shorts, underwear, a light sweater, a dress, a liquids bag, wallet, phone and passport.

Here are my five picks for more stories you should read over the weekend. Enjoy!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Benét J. Wilson is a freelance aviation/travel writer based in Baltimore who is available for your writing and branded content/content marketing projects. She’s the Air Travel Expert for About.com. Follow her travel-related magazines on Flipboard: Best of About Travel, a joint curation venture with her fellow About Travel Experts; Travel-Go! There’s Nothing Stopping You, all about the passenger experience on the ground and in the air; and Aviation Geek, a joint magazine sharing everything you need to know about the commercial aviation industry. Check out her travel-related boards on Pinterest and follow her on Twitter at @AvQueenBenet, on her Aviation Queen Facebook Page and on Instagram at aviationqueen.

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Random Aviation Photo

In October 2013, I attended the AOPA annual convention in Fort Worth, Texas. For some crazy reason, I ended up at Dallas Love Field four hours before my actual flight departure. That gave me plenty of time to wander and take photos like the #avgeek that I am.  I took this one in front of the Cool River Cafe.

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Where Luxury Lacks, Savings Abound with “Basic Economy” Fares; United to Test Low-Cost Option at MSP

 

Guest Post by Annie Flodin

As one of three major U.S. airlines committed to offering travelers low-cost tickets with fewer amenities, United will soon test its basic economy fares in Minneapolis.

And while signs point toward these fares becoming a regular fixture in commercial aviation – mainly as a way for larger airlines to compete with low-cost carriers like Spirit and Frontier – flying has certainly transformed over the last several decades.

Having worked as a flight attendant for Eastern Airlines in the 1970s and 1980s, when donning more fashion-forward uniforms and serving meals on china in first class were the norm, my mom says flying was more “glamorous” back then.

But now, she says, plane rides almost feel more like bus trips, which isn’t too surprising with the rise of discount airlines, and more recently with these low-cost fares. Delta is already offering the no-frills option, and recently American announced that they’ll begin offering basic economy fares in 10 select markets starting this month.

United first announced plans to offer basic economy fares last November, and in mid-January, President Scott Kirby said they would debut at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. “When you think of the number of flights coming in, the number of customers choosing United, and the airports… MSP was a great market to test this in," United Spokesman Jonathan Guerin said.

United basic economy fares provide the same onboard experience as standard economy with a few exceptions, most notably: you can’t choose your seat and full-sized carry-on bags are not permitted. But you are allowed one personal item that you must store underneath the seat in front of you.

Brett Snyder, who runs the popular Cranky Flier blog, sees basic economy as a good way for legacy airlines to offer low fares while stripping out amenities for those who don’t need them. “While this might mean an increase in the lowest selling fare that allows for carry-on bags and advance seat assignments, those fares aren’t really sustainable today,” he said.

And it’s no surprise that basic economy has received some pushback. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) recently voiced his concerns in a press release, citing the cheap fares as just another way for very profitable airlines to nickel and dime passengers. Through an upcoming FAA bill, he’ll push for new customer protections that “undo unfair policies” such as “banning” the free use of overhead bins.

The only issue is – the major airlines aren’t banning the free bin space because they’re not making you purchase a basic economy fare… it’s simply another option. These days, customers want choice and they want control, and that’s exactly what these fares are providing.

“There will always be pushback anytime the airlines do anything, even if it’s not bad,” Snyder said. “The reality is that you really shouldn’t buy these fares if you want a carry-on or a seat assignment, and the airlines will tell you that multiple times before you buy the ticket,” he added. “But people will still make that mistake and then complain.”

Another concern has been how airlines will keep track of those flying on basic economy fares. For United, Guerin said it shouldn’t be difficult, as it will be noted on your boarding pass and you’ll be in the last boarding group. This provides several opportunities for airport employees and gate agents to see if you have a full-sized carry-on, which will need to be checked and will be subject to the standard checked-bag fee. For domestic flights, you’ll pay $25 for your first checked bag and $35 for your second. But basic economy passengers who arrive at the gate with a full-sized carry-on will also need to pay a $25 gate handling fee.

United’s basic economy fares will go on sale during the first quarter of 2017, for travel during the second quarter. They’ll be available for routes between MSP and the airline’s seven U.S. hubs, eventually rolling out into other domestic markets.

Ultimately, while flying may not be the lavish experience it once was, it’s clear that the airlines have done their research in targeting this price-sensitive niche. Many people are just looking to get from point A to point B on the cheap, and now they have options outside of simply choosing a low-cost carrier.

Editor’s note: Annie will be contributing to the blog as I work with her to help her make the move into aviation writing. I’m happy to have her on the Aviation Queen team.

IMG_4438Annie Flodin is a seasoned communications professional and aspiring aviation journalist. She and her husband Scott live in Minneapolis with their two cats. In her free time, she enjoys plane spotting, writing, and spending time outdoors. She blogs at The Great Planes, and you can follow her on Instagram and Twitter: at @thegreatplanes.