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Strange But True Aviation News

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They tried to get *that* through airport security? About.com Travel Insurance and Safety Expert Joe Cortez has complied a list of the eight strangest things found by TSA in 2016. Some of the more interesting items were a golden hand grenade, a bladed dragon claw and a post-apocalyptic bullet-adorned gas mask.

You don’t want to misbehave on this airline. According to Inc. magazine, Korean Air has had tasers onboard since 2002 to use on passengers who misbehave. But it wasn’t revealed until a recent incident involving singer Richard Marx.

I guess someone wanted to get *really* high! A worker for American Airlines at Tulsa International Airport in Oklahoma got quite a surprise when he checked the nose of a jet: seven bricks of cocaine valued at $434,000, reports ABC 8.

Al was definitely not your pal on this flight. Former New York Sen. Al D’Amato found himself removed from a JetBlue flight from Fort Lauderdale to JFK Airport after he tried to encourage passengers to revolt against the crew, reports CNN. After six flight delays, passengers were asked to move to the back of the plane for weight distribution, and D’Amato insulted the captain and confronted passengers who refused to move.

Dude! Put on your pants! Mashable reports on a horrible, yet hilarious story of a passenger from hell who thought it was a great idea to remove his pants and sit with his legs up and feet on the bulkhead during a four-hour flight. One of his fellow passengers tweeted the event. You have to see it to believe it.

 

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Your Aviation Weekend Reads for February 2, 2017

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Donald Trump speaking with supporters at a campaign rally. Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore/Wikipedia

The week started off with a bang after President Donald Trump issued an executive order that temporarily stopped citizens from seven majority-Muslim nations — Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen — from entering the United States, reports Quartz. It caused chaos for airlines around the globe over confusion on the status of dual citizens and green card holders, among others.

American Airlines CEO Doug Parker said the ban caused turmoil at airports. “Crews, reservations agents and airport teams have witnessed turmoil in our airports that shows how divisive this order can be,” he said in a letter to employees. “It is the current law of the U.S., and so long as that is the case, we must comply.”

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Photo courtesy of Etihad

One Muslim country not affected by the ban was the United Arab Emirates. And it looks like Abu Dhabi-based Etihad is trying to stay on Trump’s good side by announcing it would not add any more U.S. routes. “We are not flying into any further points in the U.S.A.,” Etihad Aviation Group Chief Executive Officer James Hogan said Wednesday in an interview with Bloomberg Television. “We are very comfortable with our American network.” The carrier currently serves New York, Washington, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Etihad and Emirates are two large carriers that are not in one of the major three global airline alliances. Rumors flew earlier this week that Etihad was considering a move into the Star Alliance, but it didn’t come to pass. Instead, the airline is “increasing cooperation” with Star Alliance stalwart Lufthansa, reports Cranky Flier. The airlines had been enemies in the past over keeping the Big Three Middle East carriers off their turf. But they were tied together by Air Berlin, which Etihad has a stake in and Lufthansa leased extra aircraft from for its Eurowings and Austrian Air subsidiaries. Cranky feels there’s more to come, and I agree.

United Airlines is one of the Big Three carriers — along with American and Delta — that have been fighting to stem the growth of the Big Three Middle East carriers, all known for offering superior service in all cabin classes. It’s been no secret that the Chicago-based carrier has suffered on the service side since its merger with Continental Airlines in 2010. A video obtained by Skift shows CEO Oscar Munoz admitting as much, saying  “A business customer will stay with you for a little bit of time,” during a Jan. 23 Q&A with employees at its Dulles Airport hub. [“And then] it’s just ‘I can’t do this anymore.’ And so now you’ve lost that market.”

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A TSA PreCheck line at Ronald Reagan Airport. Photo courtesy of TSA

When it comes to good service on the ground, TSA’s PreCheck program was initially lauded for helping to ease the stress of going through airport security checkpoints. But when the agency started letting anyone use the lanes, lines got longer and those who paid for the service were very unhappy. Now the Chicago Tribune reports that TSA plans to “significantly reduce” the number of number of frequent fliers that go through the PreCheck line for free. The change is part of TSA’s “natural progression” to limit expedited screening, said spokesman Michael McCarthy.

As carriers including Delta, American and United add a Basic Economy product to compete with ultra-low-cost carriers like Spirit Airlines and Frontier Airlines, Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly says his carrier won’t be adding it. According to USA Today, Kelly feels that separate cabins would only confuse its customers. “There is a huge value in offering all of our customers – 100 percent of them – a great product,” he said. “We like to say at Southwest, there is no second class.”

Speaking of Spirit Airlines, the Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based carrier — which launched the trend of travelers paying for checked and carry-on bags — has announced that it will cut the size of the free personal item passengers can carry by 25 percent, to about a foot, reports the Telegraph. The change will take effect on April 4.

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The TWA Flight Center building at JFK Airport. Photo courtesy of AudeVivere/Wikipedia

When I started writing the airports beat for Aviation Daily in 2006, one of the first stories I covered was plans by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to turn the iconic TWA Terminal 5 at JFK Airport into a hotel. After a few years, the plans fell by the wayside, plagued by design issues and cost. Fast forward to now, when MCR Development and port officials held a groundbreaking ceremony in January to launch construction, reports Business Insider. The the TWA Flight Center Hotel is scheduled to open in 2018.

Part of that project will include the resurrection of the TWA Ambassadors Club, the airline’s lounge for its best customers. I’m a big fan of airport lounges as an oasis away from the traveling masses. You can read my recent review of the Delta Sky Club at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport’s Gate B18 on TravelZork.com here.  The Simple Dollar blog takes a look at what lounges have to offer and if memberships can actually save you money.

And the UK’s Daily Mail gives us a peek inside Qantas’ very exclusive, invite-only 140-seat Chairman’s Lounge. The lounges, located at Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra, Adelaide and Perth airports, are hidden behind a door labeled ‘private’ and offer upgraded free food and beverages, isolation from the traveling public and the chance to rub elbows with the country’s elite, along with personal assistance from airline employees.

A Delta Air Lines Boeing 747 parked at Tokyo's Tokyo, Japan - June 23, 2016: Delta Air Lines Boeing 747-451 towed at Narita International Airport. Photo by Benet J. Wilson

A Delta Air Lines Boeing 747 parked at Tokyo’s Narita International Airport. Photo by Benet J. Wilson

We’ll end the week with this story from C/NET, where reporter Katie Collins and I share a common passion: a love for the Boeing 747. She waxes poetic about her trip on the “Queen of the Skies” via Virgin Atlantic, among the airlines that are phasing out the iconic four-engine jumbo jet.

There was much more that went on this week. So be sure to check out these four stories over the weekend.

 

 
17096557489_f0c56cdd15_kEDITOR’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.

A United Airlines Boeing 747. Photo courtesy of United

Your Aviation Weekend Reads for January 26, 2017

An exterior shot of Kansas City International Airport. Photo courtesy of Kansas City International Airport

An exterior shot of Kansas City International Airport. Photo courtesy of Kansas City International Airport

During the campaign, one of the big priorities for President Donald J. Trump was major spending on infrastructure, including airports and air traffic control. More details of what he wants to do were released in an exclusive document –with $137 billion and 50 projects — revealed by McClatchy D.C. The include $10 billion for NextGen air traffic control system, a new terminal for the Kansas City International Airport and a high-speed railway between Dallas and Houston.

Speaking of Trump, the Big Three U.S. legacy carriers — American, Delta and United — are hoping that the new president will be more sympathetic to halting expansion by the Big Three Middle Eastern carriers — Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways — reports Skift. The U.S. carriers have been fighting this expansion, and the latest shot fired was an announcement that Emirates was launching a Dubai-Athens-New York flight. The  Partnership for Open & Fair Skies, a trade group representing United, Delta and American, called the move a violation of the Open Skies agreement.

Staying in the Middle East, Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths has offered to give advice to President Trump on how to fix America’s airports, reports Skift. During the first presidential debate on Sept. 26, candidate Trump echoed sentiments expressed by former Vice President Joe Biden, saying “Our airports are like from a third-world country. You land at LaGuardia, you land at Kennedy, LAX, and you come in from Dubai, China, you see these incredible airports and you land, we’ve become a third-world country,” according to NewsMax.

Sometimes I get slightly peeved with how the media reports on the airlines. An example is how they reported the Basic Economy fares announced by United and American to compete with ultra-low-cost carriers. With these low fares, travelers can’t put anything in the overhead bin, they can’t choose their seats in advance and there are no refunds if a flight is canceled. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is unhappy that “one of the last sacred conveniences of air travel” is being eliminated, reports Fortune. He wants to fight back by pushing to expand the Airline Passenger Bill of Rights in the upcoming FAA bill to ban the practice.

Whenever I fly these days, I make sure that I have magazines and at least two movies downloaded on my iPad. While I appreciate that airlines offer inflight movies, unless you’re flying out of the country, the selection is usually limited and it’s cut to hell in order not to offend passengers. The Runway Girl Network issued a statement explaining why it won’t offer seatback screens in its new fleet of Boeing 737 MAX jets. “More than 90 percent of our passengers already bring a device or screen with them when they fly. So it makes sense for American to focus on giving customers the best entertainment and fast connection options rather than installing seatback monitors that will be obsolete within a few years,” the airline said.

A United Airlines Boeing 747. Photo courtesy of United

A United Airlines Boeing 747. Photo courtesy of United

Anyone who knows me knows that I am 100 percent in love with the Boeing 747, the jumbo jet dubbed “The Queen of the Skies.” I love this plane so much I made it a part of my Aviation Queen logo. I knew it was coming, but long-time operator United Airlines has announced that it will retire the 747, with the last flight scheduled for Oct. 29, 2017, reports Airways magazine.

Travel is uncivilized enough these days,with cramped flights and airports getting on our very last nerves. I wrote a post on my Aviation Queen blog on rules passengers should obey to keep things calm while traveling. And now Lizzie Post — the great-great-granddaughter of the legendary etiquette expert Emily Post — has offered her own air travel etiquette tips in Budget Travel magazine.

My apologies for skipping the past two weeks. I moved during that time, and lots of things fell by the wayside. So please enjoy reading these five stories over the weekend.

17096557489_f0c56cdd15_kEDITOR’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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Your Aviation Weekend Reads for January 6, 2017

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Photo courtesy of Airbus

In 1982, author John Newhouse wrote a book called The Sporty Game: The High-Risk Competitive Business of Making and Selling Commercial Airliners, a fascinating read about the hard competition for airline sales among aircraft manufacturers Boeing, Lockheed, McDonnell-Douglas and Airbus.  While the widebody market is dominated by Boeing and Airbus, Business Insider writes about the manufacturers that want to compete with the Big Two in the single aisle market, including: Russia’s Irkut MC-21, Canada’s Bombardier C-Series, Embraer’s E-Jet E2, Japan’s Mitsubishi MRJ and China’s COMAC ARJ21 and C919.

BBC News is the latest media outlet to question the future of the Airbus A380 double-decker jumbo jet despite the first orders for the aircraft in three years. One order the French manufacturer had been depending on was from Iran Air, which has been on a buying spree since sanctions were lifted in 2016. The flag carrier originally had 12 A380s as part of its original order of 118 jets valued at $27 billion, reports Bloomberg.

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Image courtesy of Spirit Airlines

If you happened to travel during the holidays, it’s more likely than not that you were affected by flight delays and cancellations due to weather. The New York Times writes about how the airlines are making it easier for passengers to make flight changes — without fees or penalties — via weather waivers.

I’m betting the passengers on a Spirit Airlines flight from Fort Lauderdale to Cleveland wished they had access to a weather waiver after finally arriving nearly 12 hours after their original time on what they called “the flight from hell.” Passengers on “the flight from hell” experienced a series of issues that ended up having them bused from Detroit to Cleveland. In an interview on Cleveland’s NewsNet 5, I noted that as tragic as the flight was, travelers were lucky to get a $50 voucher and the bus because airlines are under no obligation to do anything when weather is involved. I also noted that it was a huge gesture, considering how strict Spirit is, being an ultra low-cost carrier.

I am a huge fan of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Global Entry program, which allows trusted travelers to bypass long immigration lines after arriving in the U.S. CPB experience four-hour nationwide outage caused by a “technology disruption” that caused massive lines in the largest U.S. international airports including Miami, Atlanta, Los Angeles and JFK, reports NBC News.

I am also a regular observer on how people behave while traveling, as I wrote in these About.com Air Travel posts, “10 Traveler Types You Don’t Want to See on Your Next Flight” and “Top Five Pet Peeves with Air Travel.” A piece in Skift offers tips on how to bring back civility and empathy to travel.

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Photo courtesy of Big Ass Fans

In 2003, I got to go on a tour of American Airlines’ maintenance facility, where the carrier strips aircraft to their studs and rebuilds them in what’s called a D check. One place I got to go was where they clean and sanitize the plane’s lavatories and the stories I was told about the regular cleaning process and things that passengers left behind brought horror to my germaphobe heart (I travel with hand sanitizer, baby wipes and a small can of Lysol and other items, outlined here).

Memories of that visit came rushing back after viewing this Business Insider short video on what scientists consider the dirtiest places on an airplane. They included: inflight magazines, touch screens and seatback pockets. And this Telegraph story offers tips from cabin crew, including why you should never take your shoes off on a flight.

I really appreciate your support of this column in 2016 and I’m excited to keep it going in the new year. So below are four more stories I think you should read this 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.