Airport security hardly seems to stay out of the news, but this catalogue of errors really takes the biscuit.
One JetBlue pilot, who is probably currently filling in job applications by the dozen, was boarding his plane for pre-flight procedures when he set down his backpack to pass the time of day with a fellow crew member. During boarding, a passenger on a different flight picked up her bags, including the pilot’s backpack and got on her plane. Stories of misplaced luggage are an everyday occurrence in airports, but unfortunately this backpack held the pilot’s TSA issued 40-caliber handgun provided, ironically, as part of the Federal Flight Deck Officer Safety Program.
When the passenger realized the backpack was not hers, she set it down on an empty seat on the plane. Fortunately another passenger noticed the “unattended baggage” and reported it to the crew who alerted the authorities.
Meanwhile the pilot was frantically searching high and low for his missing backpack, delaying his own flight in the process. Concerned for his position, he took 40 minutes before ‘fessing up to the airline about the incident, at which point he and his bag/handgun were reunited. However the TSA in their wisdom confiscated his gun whilst conducting an investigation into the incident.
We all make small mistakes at work, and most go unnoticed, but had the backpack continued on its journey, it could have arrived in Florida in the hands of a complete stranger. Imagine explaining that to the Customs officers!
by Gillian at Luxique Luxury Hotels
While Ryanair ponders the pros and cons of offering standing room only flights, at the other end of the spectrum New Zealand Air has launched its luxury skycouch.
Nicknamed “cuddle class” for reasons which will shortly become apparent, the concept is that couples wanting extra space can each purchase an extra half a seat, turning three economy class seats into more flexible couch space on which both can stretch out and sleep.
Skeptics raise eyebrows at the thoughts of this encouraging yet more inebriate passengers to attempt to join the mile high club. Even those with less lustful thoughts may struggle to readjust their limbs in this compact space which lacks the demarcation of the central armrest. For those who are slightly wider than average it may provide additional comfort – but perhaps not for the sharing partner.
Families traveling with children may find the flexible space ideal, allowing children to curl up and sleep through the flight, or to use the less restricted couch space as a play area.
New Zealand Air will be offering the skycouch on select flights from Auckland to Los Angeles and on some flights connecting with London, beginning in April 2011. It remains to be seen whether this is the shape for the future of overnight flights, or another experiment destined never to fully take off.
by Gillian @ Luxique Luxury Travel
For some of the flying on New Zealand Air to London, check out Luxique’s unique selection of boutique hotels in London.
Virgin America is already known for its unconventional marketing practices but it has pulled out all the stops at the soon-to-be-opened Terminal 2 at San Francisco International Airport.
The new terminal will have features such as LED ticket counters that change color to reflect the light outside and gates will be more like living rooms than waiting areas. They plan to have elevated work desks, free WiFi access and ample laptop outlets. Despite all this high technology, it will be the first airport terminal in the US to receive the LEED gold environmental certification awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council.
Green features include low-energy ventilation systems, skylights which allow natural sunlight to illuminate the lobby and preferential parking for hybrid cars. The airport will also feature “slow food” which will focus on organic food and locally grown produce rather than traditional fast food outlets.
Most practical of all, thirsty travelers will be able to find free water at the hydration stations around the terminal and outlets with filtered water for filling up empty bottles.
This environmentally-friendly airport is scheduled to open in spring 2011. Costing $383 million and covering 640,000 square feet, the terminal will be the home base for the rapidly expanding Virgin America which will occupy half of the 14 gates.
by Gillian @ Luxique Luxury Hotels
Travelling to West Coast? Check out Luxique’s unique selection of luxury and boutique hotels in San Francisco.
Female flight attendants from the Mexican airline Mexicana have posed for a racy 2011 calendar to try to recoup money they and their colleagues lost after the company folded in the summer (see my September 2nd post.)
The flight attendants are pictured next to planes on a runway in bikinis and other skimpy outfits. “We’re not models, we don’t have perfect bodies, but we want to keep [the company] going,” said Rozy Arcos, one of the stewardesses who presented the calendar.
One thousand were produced, but a second print run of 3,000 is already planned after the move prompted media excitement.
After becoming heavily in debt, Mexicana – one of the world’s oldest airlines – suspended all flights in August and a judge granted it bankruptcy protection shortly afterwards. There’s been a suggestion that a restructuring proposal might allow it to resume some flights ‘by mid-December’.
by Andy Moreton
Luxique features a selection of fabulous luxury hotels in Mexico City, as well as in many other parts of Mexico.
It was good news/bad news for British Airways last week.
The good news for the bosses of the UK’s national airline was the approval given by shareholders to its multi-million pound merger with the Spanish carrier, Iberia.
The companies proposed the merger because the global economic downturn and the rise of low-cost airlines have resulted in steep losses for traditional carriers like them. Analysts say the merger will allow the two airlines to compete better with rivals Air France-KLM and Lufthansa.
While Iberia will benefit from access to BA’s flight network in North America, BA is particularly keen to tap into Iberia’s ties with the fast-growing Latin American market. BA and Iberia will continue to operate independently with their own brands under the umbrella title International Airlines Group.
The trade union, Unite, did its best to rain on BA’s parade, however, announcing a fresh ballot for strike action by cabin crews involved in a long-running dispute with the company over pay and structural changes.
In Madrid for the merger handshake, the British Airways Chief Executive, Willie Walsh, brushed off concerns about possible industrial action. BA had ‘excellent contingency plans’, he said, which would significantly minimise the impact of any strike. He said the dispute was the result of a ‘dysfunctional’ union.
by Andy Moreton
The head of the Virgin Group, Sir Richard Branson, has lost a bet with the owner of AirAsia, and will dress as an air stewardess and serve champagne on one of his rival’s flights.
Branson owns the Virgin Racing Formula One team and AirAsia’s owner, Tony Fernandes, is the boss of the Lotus Racing team; the bet was about who would finish higher in the 2010 championship.
In the event, both teams ended with zero points in their debut F1 seasons, but Lotus was placed ahead of Virgin by virtue of better finishes. So Sir Richard will have to don a skirt and serve champagne to a selection of charity auction winners on an AirAsia flight from London to Kuala Lumpur.
Mr Fernandes, a Malaysian entreprenueur, worked for Branson’s Virgin Atlantic as a financial controller in the late 1980s. “We have had this great bet running all season and now it’s time for Richard to start preparing himself for some hard work and the likely pain of a pair of high heels,” he said.
The money raised on the flight will go to a charity chosen by Sir Richard.
by Andy Moreton
So now we know – airline food isn’t that bland after all, it’s the cabin noise that makes it seem so.
A team of scientists think they’ve worked out that the level of background noise affects intensity of flavour and perceived crunchiness. While louder sound reduces the reported sweetness or saltiness, it increases the measure of crunch.
“There’s a general opinion that aeroplane foods aren’t fantastic,” said Andy Woods, one of the researchers. “I’m sure airlines do their best and given that, we wondered if there are other reasons why the food would not be so good. One thought was perhaps the background noise has some impact,” he told BBC News.
In a comparatively small study, 48 participants were fed sweet foods such as biscuits, or salty ones such as crisps, while listening to silence or noise through headphones. In noisier settings, foods were rated less salty or sweet than they were in the absence of background noise, but were rated to be more crunchy.
Caterers have long been aware that they need to add large amounts of salt or sugar to the meals and the ‘white noise’ experience while flying could be the reason.
by Andy Moreton
One of the more outlandish recent suggestions of the Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary was to have standing room on some of his more popular routes.
Apparently this actually came to pass last month on an overbooked Russian tourist plane flying back from Turkey. According to a report in the London Daily Mail, six passengers stood in the aisles for much of the five-hour flight. The Boeing 737, with a capacity of 142 passengers, was a smaller plane than had been scheduled for the flight, and 148 boarded.
“When the plane flew through turbulence, they went from standing to sitting in the aisle where naturally they had no safety belts,” a passenger told the paper. The ‘strap-hangers’ did not have oxygen masks or life vests, according to reports out of Moscow.
Evgenia Fedorova, a manager of the tour that booked passengers on the flight, was quoted as saying: “People had a choice – to fly on that plane standing up, or wait seven hours for another plane. All the tourists decided to fly back despite uncomfortable conditions.”
The airline, Tatarstan, said it would hold an investigation. Aviation regulators are also said to be studying the incident as it appeared to have been in direct violation of European standards.
by Andy Moreton
Passengers on a recent flight from Manchester to the Czech capital, Prague, were treated to in-flight entertainment with a difference.
Members of the Prague State Opera, including the soprano Vera Likérová, gave the first performance in the bmibaby airline’s ‘enterplanement’ season designed to showcase acts from destinations to which the airline flies.
“As well as putting the fun back into flying, we thought we could do something more interactive and actually have representatives from the destinations on a few flights,” said Julian Carr, managing director of bmibaby.
“Ultimately we want our customers to enjoy the experience, and we hope that it gives them ideas and suggestions about what to do and see that they might not read about in the standard tourist brochure or guide book,” he added.
Message board reactions were somewhat mixed:
- Just what I need when I’m trying to fall asleep on the plane!
- Wonderful – let’s hope this starts a trend.
- Great, now the airlines will start charging for ear plugs.
by Andy Moreton
World-class opera is just one of the attractions in the Czech capital, and Luxique can secure you the best rates at any one of 24 luxury hotels in Prague.
Mexico’s biggest airline has stopped flying after the failure of a last-ditch bid to rescue it.
Mexicana suspended all operations almost a month after filing for US bankruptcy protection. It had been bought last week for a nominal fee by a group of local investors, who planned to make all cabin crew redundant and then rehire about a quarter of them. However, the cost-cutting plan couldn’t be agreed with the unions.
The group operated 69 aircraft under the Mexicana brand and 35 under the low-cost MexicanaClick, which it started in 2005. MexicanaLink, a separate unit which opened last year, had 15 planes.
Mexicana served more than a dozen routes to the United States, as well as flights to Latin America and Europe. Over the past couple of years, it’s lost market share to budget airlines, and the whole industry suffered when tourism dropped last year in the wake of the swine flu outbreak and the economic crisis. Reports about violence in Mexico have also continued to discourage travel.
by Andy Moreton
Plenty of other airlines have flights to Mexico’s resorts, and Luxique can help you book the best luxury hotels.