Upgraded: Our understanding of why airline food sucks
Until now, I’ve always thought the dry cabin air, high salt content, and reheated-ness would have been the primary reasons for the typically underwhelming flavor in inflght meals, but apparently we should also take into account the level of background noise. The low rumble of flight apparently dulls the senses. If true, then, we should be able to test this scientifically. Taste-test the same food with noise-canceling headphones, and then without. Or taste it at the front of an MD-80, then again in the back, right next to the jets. (Maybe this is why food seems better in first class…)
Downgraded: Amex Platinum benefits
As readers have reminded me: Starting September 2011, American Express Platinum cards will no longer give you free access to Continental President’s Club airport lounges. (I thought I had blogged about this in the past, but a quick search proves that memory was fuzzy: I hadn’t actually posted about it, just written about it briefly in the comments to a post about American Airlines Admirals Clubs launching free drinks domestically.) With Continental cutting access to Amex members, I assume this means that United won’t be scrambling to join up, either…
Downgraded: Air marshals from first class
It’s historically been easy to spot the air marshal onboard a flight: The guy with the short hair in an aisle seat in the last row of first class. Maybe not much longer. “Airlines are asking the Federal Air Marshals Service to relax its policy of often seating undercover agents in first class because they say it has become a costly disruption that isn’t justified by current security threats.” Looks like your upgrade chances might improve!
Upgraded: The love of flying
Some people love flying. Really, really love it. Love it enough to build their own airplane in their backyard, even though they never had aerospace engineering training. While I fear for the test flight, I admire this gentleman’s moxie and truly wish him the best of luck.
Domestic lounges are generally nothing to get too excited about, but American Airlines is taking a step to raise the bar on its Admirals Clubs in the USA: They’re adding free cocktails.
Beginning Oct. 1, American Airlines is offering travelers another benefit of membership in its Admirals Club(R)lounges. American will offer alcoholic beverages, including wine, beer and spirits, free of charge to customers visiting any of its domestic clubs, in addition to complimentary coffee, tea, soft drinks and juices.
Domestic clubs will offer well brand liquors, as well as beers and house wines as a complimentary service on Oct. 1. Premium liquors and wines and a selection of Amora(TM) fresh food items will be available for purchase in all U.S. Admirals Club lounges. Menu items vary by location, and include fresh salads, sandwiches, hot entrees and small bites. Seasonal and regional specialties are featured throughout the year, with special chef demonstrations offered at select clubs. All menu items are available to enjoy in the club or for carry-out. Customers visiting an international Admirals Club location will continue to enjoy complimentary alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages as they do today.
I understand that they don’t want to break out the single-malts at an open bar, but I hope that their well liquors are a step above Popov vodka.
Upgrading the snack selection without making them for-pay would have been nice, too, but that may be asking a bit much.
Regardless, a nice upgrade to the domestic airport lounge scene!
Peter Sagal, the host of NPR’s “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me,” offers this tweet from the airport:
Another day, another Red Carpet Club, another shocking number of bananas stuffed into my bag.
Next time, perhaps some Tupperware for the celery sticks?
Personally, I’ve always taken a shine to the mini-Toblerones…
The booty at domestic lounges is pretty sparse. How about you? What’s the best thing you’ve grabbed on your way out of a lounge?
Update: And the comeback by United:
Put the bananas down and step away from the Red Carpet Club. We have been on to you for weeks. Does NPR not feed you?
Air Canada baffles me. They have been very innovative (for better or worse) in pushing the a-la-carte model of airfare, but when presented with some seemingly simple opportunities to collect a few bucks, they decline.
What I’m talking about is day passes to their Maple Leaf Lounge in Toronto. With a nearly six hour layover in Toronto on a trip later this year, I was checking my options for lounges or other time-wasters at the airport. My Star Alliance status, which used to get me into airport lounges on all international flights, isn’t what it used to be. My recently-demoted (and “lowly”) silver status won’t get you into a lounge on an international economy ticket.
Air Canada sells day passes to its Maple Leaf Lounge, but only during the ticket purchase process. When you book a flight in their “Tango Plus” or “Latitude” fare levels within North America, or at the fully-refundable “Latitude Plus” fare level when traveling internationally, you can add a lounge day pass to your ticket cost for $25 to 40 (CAD).
But since our flights were Star Alliance tickets booked with frequent flyer miles, I inquired about the possibility of day passes after ticket purchase. The agent informed me that this wasn’t possible: I could neither buy passes in advance over the phone or via the web, nor could I buy a day pass at the lounge. Why not? “They’re just not sold that way.”
The airline, in other words, is willing to put procedure ahead of profit.
If it were just an effort to keep up the velvet rope and limit access to the lounges, then they wouldn’t be selling the passes to rather low-fare Tango Plus North American customers. So clearly they’re willing to allow for buy-ins.
If it were a technology problem, I could understand, too. And in fact, that’s part of the issue, since our tickets weren’t bought online, so there was no opportunity to buy passes online. But that doesn’t explain why it’s impossible to buy a pass at the gate.
That’s really what I don’t understand: Why wouldn’t the lounge sell day passes at the door? That way, the lounge attendants are given discretion, and can gauge whether or not there’s space available, to prevent overcrowding. Instead, it’s an inconsistent policy that allows people on some cheap fares to buy their way in, but not others.
Instead, I’m eying a third-party lounge at Toronto Pearson Airport, the Plaza Premium lounge that opened on November 1, 2008. They’re open to all, at a cost of $35 CAD per person. I’m not hung up on sitting in a lounge for five hours, either, so if readers have any suggestions on how to pass the time at YYZ, the comments, as always, are open.
Downgraded: Air Marshals
In a series of sting operations, several air marshals who were supposed to be protecting passengers inflight were using their free pass in American airports to smuggle cocaine, drug money, and child pornography. Lovely. My favorite part of this story: One marshal called himself “the Man with the Golden Badge.” Racy! Paging Roger Moore to take this guy out! Heck, paging Hervé Villechaize!
Upgraded: L’Avion lounge
When Tyler Colman reviewed the all-business class airline L’Avion for us last year, he commented on their lack of a real lounge at Newark Liberty Airport. That deficiency has been addressed, with the opening of a real lounge in Terminal B, shared by L’Avion and Jet Airways of India.
Upgraded: Thanksgiving Status Quo
Just like last year, 39% of Americans are expected to travel for Thanksgiving, according to a recent poll. But the conclusion that travel will “mirror” last year as a result of comparable traveler numbers? That smells of bad math. Airline capacity is down from a year ago, with fewer planes in the air. Yet the same number of travelers? Look out. As we get closer to Thanksgiving, consider revisiting these holiday travel tips and these five ways to get an edge on fellow travelers.
Downgraded: Toilet paper supplies on Qantas
Here’s a horror story: Trapped on a plane for 24 hours, passengers on board a Qantas flight (from Singapore, diverted to Canberra) had their toilet paper rationed. Four squares per person. Not a square to spare. It’s a tale of absurdity: People on the ground, but unable to deplane, at government orders. But couldn’t they restock the plane’s supplies while on the ground? Bonus points to The Age for their punny headline, “Loo paper rationed on bummer of a diversion.” (rimshot) (Thanks, Rob!)
Upgraded: Concierges on television
“A concierge is the Winnipeg equivalent of a geisha.” So says Michael Scott on last week’s episode of The Office, whose plot centered on business travel. See the full episode here, where it’s available for online viewing until January 15, 2009.
I logged into my credit union’s website, just looking to transfer some cash between accounts, when I noticed this posted on the homepage:
The survey asks if you’re interested in having airport lounges exclusively for credit union members at major hub airports across the United States.
Now, I’ve been an aficionado of credit unions, in lieu of traditional banks, for as long as I can remember. I’ve had the same credit union since I was a kid, and they’ve been amazing. Low (or no) fees or minimums. Super-responsive service. Low loan rates. Decent savings rates. Etc. And now: airport lounges?! Maybe…
The survey asks credit union members to rank their preferences for possible features like couches, cellphone/laptop charging stations, refreshments, free wi-fi, on-site credit union financial advisors (!), and other perks.
Diners Club and American Express have previously offered airport lounge access, sometimes independently, more often through partners like lounge-masters Priority Pass. (American Express even kicked it up a notch and created a lounge in a mall.)
But this is the first time I’ve heard of an entire group of customers across a range of institutions would be in contention for airport lounge access.
We’ll see if it happens. It would be a huge perk, but for it to be truly valuable, it would need to be in several cities. And getting into ANY airports is a challenge: Space is at a premium at America’s hubs, so it’s frankly hard for me to see dedicated credit union lounges happening, but you never know what magic they can work… If they can cut me a cashier’s check in 2 minutes, a thousand miles from their closest physical branch, who knows what they can manage.