iceland express inflight ipad Upgrades and Downgrades: iPads inflight, contraband, biofuels, and security cartoons

Upgraded: iPads as inflight entertainment
Discount airline Iceland Express, which flies primarily within Europe, but also offers limited trans-Atlantic service from Reykjavik to New York and Winnipeg (Winnipeg!), is launching iPads as inflight entertainment. You’ll be able to rent an iPad onboard long-haul flights, for starters, and eventually on shorter flights. The unit will cost £9 or $13 to rent, with about 25 units on board each flight.

Upgraded: Contraband
Most of the news regarding TSA lately has been about junk-touching and radiation’s effects on the body, but what about the contents of the bags themselves? Well, according to a recent poll by British airfare aggregator SkyScanner, “a massive 43% of travellers admitted to having smuggled banned items past security staff; 29% had done so by accident, but 14% confessed to smuggling knowingly.”

Upgraded: Biofuels in the real world
Lufthansa is testing a 50-50 blend of traditional jet fuel and biofuel on Airbus A321 runs on the Hamburg-Frankfurt route, beginning April 2011. This isn’t just a one-off test. Been there, done that. This is a weeks-long test in a real-world environment, carrying paying passengers.

Upgraded: Classic airport security cartoons
In a good reminder that frustration with the TSA is nothing new, the New Yorker provides a brief cartoon retrospective mocking airport security. One dates back to 1938. Alas, most are post-9/11.


air canada video Air Canada to begin monetizing its inflight video?

Reader Vince sends in this photo and asks what it really means:

Just got back from a trip on Air Canada and I think they may be setting it up to start charging passengers for inflight entertainment. Before your VOD [video on demand] starts it says “You personal entertainment experience is currently provided compliments of Air Canada.” Currently? I took a picture with my iphone…

It would be interesting to find out whether they are actually planning on starting to charge for this, as this message is fairly recent and was not shown when the service was originally launched.

Well, Vince, I asked Air Canada if they were planning to allow sponsorship of its inflight video system, or if the system were designed to be pay-per-use. “Currently” provided compliments of Air Canada sure suggests that free entertainment isn’t going to stay free for long. So are there plans to impose a fee for passengers, or is Air Canada vying for inflight entertainment sponsorships?

Air Canada’s media relations staff wouldn’t respond for comment.

So we’re left to speculate.

Obviously, the “currently” modifier clearly suggests that the price isn’t staying at $0.00 for long. And Air Canada was an early adopter of the “a la carte” pricing model for its tickets. It’s easily conceivable that some fare codes might get the video thrown in, while the cheapest seats pay per use.

Or, you might see a sponsorship deal, wherein all entertainment is “brought to you by Tim Horton’s” or something like that.

Without a sponsorship, the airline will likely resort to selling access to entertainment, but would that fundamentally be any different from selling headphones? (Yes, I realize that you can bring your own headphones, and that you can’t bring your own Air Canada video access code…)

Be forewarned, bring a good book, and be sure any electronic toys are charged before takeoff.

hotel room Upgrades and Downgrades    Hotel loyalty programs, candidate pseudonyms, and programmers vs. inflight entertainment

Upgraded: Hotels’ loyalty programs, thanks to their competitors
The tendency of airlines ticking off their elite flyers is a well-worn theme here. But how about the hotels? Jane Levere argues in the NYT that hotels have been raising the perks instead of cutting back. (I’m not sure I agree; see, for example, the reclassification of hotels into redemption tiers. But, granted, it’s not nearly as bad as the airlines’ decimation of benefits.) So why the difference? Competition! With more hotels (and more hotel brands — 39 new brands in the last 4 years alone) the competition is still alive and well. Airlines, on the other hand, are folding, merging, or parking aircraft, to reduce competition.

Upgraded: Candidates’ senses of humor and irony
Oh, irony! Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin checked into the Omni Berkshire under the name of her doppelganger, “Tina.” Tina Fey is smiling somewhere. And proving that you have no privacy in hotels, her room service order — diet soda and Atkins bars — is now public knowledge.

Downgraded: Inflight entertainment stability
Apparently, it’s pretty easy to crash the inflight entertainment systems. This guy has even explained how he did it (two years ago? on which airline? jetBlue?). Just wonderful. Thankfully, the cockpit avionics aren’t connected to the seats…


alaska airlines Upgrades and Downgrades    October 2, 2007    Alaska Airlines miles expire, great excuses for illegal behavior, and the sanitizing of inflight movies

Downgraded: Alaska Airlines miles
Alaska Airlines is the latest to cut the lifespan of frequent flyer miles. “Effective April 1, 2008, accounts with no mileage activity for the previous 2 years will become inactive and the miles will be removed from the account. Any mileage earning or award redemption activity on your account will keep it active.” You’ve been warned. (Thanks, Boaz!)

Upgraded: Corporate excuses for illegal activity
Legal news: “The legal dispute between Hawaiian Airlines and Mesa Air Group took an unexpected turn this week when Mesa attorneys told a US Bankruptcy Court in Honolulu that CFO Peter Murnane mistakenly deleted files related to the case as he attempted to purge pornography from his computer.” What is this, the Homer Simpson defense?

Upgraded: The nanny state
Downgraded: Inflight entertainment for anyone over 12

Heath Shuler, Democrat of North Carolina, wants the federal government to regulate inflight movies, which he says have become too violent. I haven’t seen anything too violent on an overhead screen, so I don’t really know what he’s talking about. I have seen some saucy stuff on the in-seat TV’s. If he doesn’t like overhead movies, fly an airline that doesn’t have overhead movies. Like Southwest. But look at the upside: If this bill passes (which I don’t think it will) then the airlines might be incentivized to roll out more in-seat monitors. Maybe? Please? Fingers crossed?


derrick Upgrades and Downgrades    August 16, 2007    inflight entertainment, A380, hotel toothpaste, and more

Upgraded, finally: Lufthansa economy-class entertainment
Lufthansa’s calculus has always seemed to be, “Should we give placate people in economy class with decent in-seat entertainment, or should we liquor them up for free? Let’s go with the liquor!” (Other airlines, say, Virgin Atlantic, have managed to do both, but let’s set that aside…) They’re finally reconsidering the entertainment options, if only on three routes. Still: Thank the heavens. My favorite real-world example of bad Lufthansa inflight video, broadcast on those overhead screens: A decade-old episode of the German crime drama “Derrick,” with an episode title that translated to “Rose on a Dump.” I’m not making this up. (Couldn’t they have shown the episode “Pornocchio” instead?)

Upgraded: Airbus A380 delivery dates
Singapore Airlines, the first airline to take delivery of its Airbus A380 mega-jumbo, is officially taking delivery of the plane on October 15, 2007. The first flight, from Singapore to Sydney, is scheduled for October 25.

Downgraded: The real Virgin America story
Virgin America knows how to play the PR game. No news there. But when the chips are down, they still need to figure out their schedule and customer service. But hey, the entertainment is decent. Mark Johnson of Jaunted flew a PR-free flight with Virgin America last week, and has the full report.

Downgraded: Charlotte security
Upgraded: Charlotte’s ability to bounce back

Charlotte Airport TSA agents let someone through security without screening. Flights delayed, passengers inconvenienced, etc., etc. But one thing I can tell you: The delays weren’t long-lasting. Later that same day, I caught a flight from Charlotte to LaGuardia, and it was all fine.

Downgraded: Hotel bathroom amenities
The China recalls keep rolling in. And now, hotel amenities are due for the seemingly inevitable report of poison. Gilchrist and Soames toothpaste is conveniently flavored with antifreeze. (I’ve seen G&C products, but never their toothpaste. My loss.) Better check that bag or box of mini-soaps, shampoos, etc. that the frequent traveler inevitably has stashed in their home. Toss the ‘paste.

Downgraded: Bellsouth/AT&T
It’s hard to blog without an internet connection. The BellSouth idiots first mistakenly shut down our dial tone but kept the DSL running. We called for service. They came, turned on dial tone, and shut down the DSL. Thanks. Great. Not once — not once — has BellSouth (now merged and rebranded AT&T) gotten one thing right on this phone line on the first try.

san jose airport Upgrades and Downgrades    July 31, 2007    Inflight radio, international arrivals, and Kip Hawley explains the liquid menace

Downgraded: Any last smidgen of credibility for inflight radio interviews
If you’ve ever flipped through the inflight audio dial on American Airlines, you’ll know that there’s a channel (#9) devoted to “interviews.” University of Chicago economist and Freakonomics author Steve Levitt was invited to participate… for the low, low price of $3995.00. I honestly never gave those interviews advertorials much of a listen, but the participants pay-to-play? And for that much?? Wow. ZERO credibility. (Thanks, Dr. Vino!)

Upgraded, possibly: The international airport welcome wagon
The U.S. Senate has passed a bill expanding the “model airport” program to other international ports of entry.

In April, the DHS designated Houston’s Bush International Airport as the first “model” port of entry, adding multilingual signs and informational videos narrated in Spanish, French, German and English to guide arriving travelers through the customs and immigration process. Arriving visitors are also presented with a “Welcome to the U.S.” brochure.

Unclear if general tone of the arrivals halls will feel any less like a police station, what with the fingerprinting and generally gruff attitude of every employee, but here’s hoping it helps.

Downgraded: British Airways’ standing among royal Qataris
Members of Qatar’s royal family were kicked off a British Airways flight for not following safety procedures, when they refused to take their seats. Why wouldn’t they sit? “After boarding, the women complained about the seats they had been allocated because they were next to men they did not know.” Setting aside the culture clash: None of this would have happened if British Airways would actually allow advance seat assignments for passengers on fares lower than the most expensive tickets. (Given their seating concerns, I imagine the royals flew discounted business business class.)

Downgraded: Your privacy (who knew it could be downgraded more?)
Under an expanded security agreement between the US and the EU, gobs and gobs of personal data can and will be shared with governments. If asked, airlines will be required to hand over any information they collect from you. Ask for a king-size bed as part of your package? Homeland Security will know. (Via Consumerist)

Upgraded: TSA Chief Kip Hawley’s internet presence
Downgraded: Logical explanations

Security guru Bruce Schneier is running a multi-part interview with TSA Director Kip Hawley this week. The first part is here. Bruce questions the logic of the 3-ounce liquid restrictions, etc. I’m happy to see Hawley reaching out again, but some of the answers just don’t cut it. For example: “If a TSO finds you or the contents of your bag suspicious, you might get interviewed and/or have your bags more closely examined. If the TSO throws your liquids in the trash, they don’t find you a threat.” Huh? What? Read the whole thing.