airplane autopilot Upgrades and Downgrades: Labor Day edition
It’s Labor Day in the U.S. of A., so enjoy these nuggets, in celebration of employment:

Downgraded: Ryanair pilots and flight attendants
Downgraded: Traditional media’s fact-checking

Ryanair never shies away from publicity, even if it means floating a dumb idea that will never happen but will make it look wacky (and cheap). So it’s really no surprise that the airline’s camera-chasing CEO Michael O’Leary has declared that airlines should ditch the second pilot in the cockpit (“Why does every plane have two pilots? Really, you only need one pilot. [...] Let’s take out the second pilot. Let the bloody computer fly it.”) Instead, he proposes training a flight attendant to serve as co-pilot (“If the pilot has an emergency, he rings the bell, he calls her in. She could take over.”)

Ryanair pilots and flight attendants alike must be thrilled that their boss is rhetorically throwing them under the bus. But it’ll never happen. As Steven Frischling has pointed out, “The Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA), a multi-national organization that oversees the common safety and regulatory standards for more than 40 nations in Europe, says that Ryanair cannot operate in this manner as per JAR-OPS Subpart N, 1.940(A)(1) & 1.940(A)(2) (Page 1-N-1 of the JAA Joint Aviation Requirements JAR-OPS 1, Commercial Air Transportation Aeroplanes).”

Nicely sleuthed, Steve! And thumbs down for the traditional media that served as stenographers for the “Duke of Discomfort,” rather than checking to see if any of these off-the-wall ideas were ever possible.

Upgraded: Pilots… elsewhere
Those Ryanair pilots who are offended by the comments of their CEO might consider applying for jobs in the Middle East and Asia. There are even bidding wars for pilots who can fly the international widebody planes at the heart of the expansion.

Upgraded: Job prospects for folk heroes
Steven Slater, the now-famous JetBlue flight attendant who was pushed too far by a rude passenger, hurled invectives over the PA system, and finally grabbed two beers and escaped via the emergency slide, resigned from the airline just one week ago. (CNN reports the “separation”, but his publicist (!) says he wasn’t fired, but resigned.) I’m amazed he wasn’t “separated” from the company earlier. So… Anyone want to predict his next job? (Something tells me the fact that he has a publicist tells me he’s not looking to land in the transportation or service sector…)

Categorized in: Ryanair

Downgraded: Ryanair paying its fines
Ryanair is appealing a 3 million euro fine levied against it by Italian regulators, for failing to meet obligations to passengers during the first round of the Icelandic volcano delay fiasco. You may recall that Ryanair has argued that the EU rules requiring airlines to compensate passengers for delays and cancellations are tilted too far in the consumer’s favor.

Downgraded: Volcano scams
For those who really have had their travel plans affected by the volcano, be aware that there is a scam afoot that seeks to bilk you out of your money. Spam e-mails suggest that passengers are eligible for a substantial claim if they file an application fee with the British Civil Aviation Authority. Of course, the site is bogus, and the money goes to a scammer. Avoid.

Downgraded: Spirit Airlines
Spirit Airlines pilots are threatening to strike, and now the company is threatening to lay off up to 1583 of its 2300 employees. It’s an oddly precise number. The pilots’ union has taken their fight with management public, by purchasing billboards warning customers not to book with Spirit.

Upgraded: Fuel efficient aircraft design
MIT scientists are working on an aircraft design for NASA that would burn 70% less fuel than current-generation Boeing 737s, emit 75% less nitrous oxide, be quieter, and take off from shorter runways. A design is being floated:
mit nasa plane Upgrades and Downgrades: Volcano fines, volcano scams, Spirit strikes, eco planes

In today’s commercial airplanes, air flows directly into the engines located on the plane’s wings. That undisturbed, high-speed air flow drags on the plane, and requires more fuel to overcome the design inefficiency.

MIT’s design changes all that. By moving the engines to the plane’s tail, they take in slower moving air present in the wake of the fuselage. Less drag means less fuel is needed to get the plane the same distance.

Categorized in: Ryanair, Spirit Airlines

It’s been a rough day. A rough week, and it’s only halfway over. (And while I may whine and moan, if you’ve had the misfortune of trying to have Europe on your itinerary, it’s been even rougher.)

So here, cheer up. Have a clip of Stephen Colbert, on the subject of airline fees.

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Ryanair Charges for Toilets
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor Fox News

Categorized in: airlines, Ryanair, Spirit Airlines

ryanair flight attendants griping2 British Airways goes Ryanair    literally

Meet your new British Airways cabin crew!

Yes, British Airways crew is on strike, and if you’re booked with BA, you hopefully already know this. There have been abundant cancellations, and I’d refer you to the BA website for details.

But the disruptiveness of the strike isn’t limited to customers and staff at BA. Disrupted as well: Ryanair.

British Airways passengers turning up to Gatwick on Saturday for their 8:20am flight to Edinburgh are in for a slight surprise.

The aircraft waiting for them is scheduled to be one of three that BA has leased from its no-frills Irish rival, Ryanair, to help it cope with the impact of Saturday’s strike. Ryanair flight attendants, who must famously charge for everything from a cup of coffee to a sandwich, will also notice a change to their normal routine: they will have to serve food and drink free of charge.

“It will be BA service and BA catering,” said BA, adding that Ryanair cabin crew had been tutored in what this entailed earlier this week.


However, never missing an opportunity to take the low road, Ryanair management took a dig at their newest client:

“Never mind the coffee – being on time will be a new experience for these passengers,” said Stephen McNamara, a Ryanair spokesman.

The lack of legroom or windowshades may be a surprise for customers, too, big guy.

British Airways has leased aircraft from 11 different providers, not just Ryanair. But the odds are still good that operating flights will be operated by BA crew on a BA plane. Nearly 60% of BA crew apparently showed up for work, despite the strike.

Strikes are scheduled for March 20, 21, and 22 and 27, 28, 29, and 30, 2010. Strap in.

Categorized in: British Airways, Ryanair

credit cards accepted Upgrades and Downgrades: credit cards abroad, passport control, cockpit brawls, and more

Downgraded: American credit cards
For several years now, a pet-peeve of mine as an American traveling abroad has been the challenge of using a swipe-and-sign credit card in a country where chip-and-PIN is the norm. (Consider previous posts on chip-and-PIN challenges. I even wrote a piece for National Geographic Traveler on the issue.) Now the New York Times revisits the issue and finds that it’s getting worse, not better, for American cardholders. When will US card issuers catch up with the rest of the world? (Thanks, David!)

Downgraded: US Customs and Immigration
Did the gruff face of US immigration kill the city of Chicago’s bid for the Olympics? It was apparently a contributing factor, if reports from the IOC are to be believed: “Syed Shahid Ali, an I.O.C. member from Pakistan, in the question-and-answer session following Chicago’s official presentation, pointed out that entering the United States can be ‘a rather harrowing experience.’” Somehow, it’s not a shock that the guy from Pakistan had this particular critique of entering the US. But he’s hardly alone.

Downgraded: Cockpit decorum
When I draft my list of minimum requirements for pilot competence, I think “not getting into fistfights in the cockpit” goes unspoken, an assumed background condition for commercial travel. Apparently, I need to be more explicit with my expectations. An inflight cockpit brawl on Air India, anyone?

Upgraded: Hotel promo deals
Over at View from the Wing, read up on an ongoing Hyatt promotion “the best hotel promo I’ve ever seen.” The deal: 13,500 United Airlines miles and a free Hyatt night for a two one-night stays at a Hyatt property, including discounted Hyatt Place properties.

Downgraded: Brazilian justice
Three years ago, NYT columnist Joe Sharkey was onboard a plane that survived a midair collision over Brazil. He subsequently criticized Brazil’s fractured air traffic control system and came under nationalistic fire for refusing to go along with the official Brazilian line that the (American) pilots of the surviving business jet were solely at fault for the accident. Now, Sharkey is being sued for $250,000 for defaming the entire population of Brazil. The lawsuit is offensive and absurd. For more background on the case, see here.

Downgraded: Helicopter service in Manhattan
Helicopter service from downtown Manhattan to JFK, canceled? I’m shocked, shocked!

Upgraded: Electronic cigarettes on airplanes
Back in February, I posted about a report of an impending deal between an electronic cigarette manufacturer and an unnamed airline. Immediately, I thought it would be a European low-cost carrier. Sure enough, it’s the granddaddy of ‘em all: Ryanair. For €6, you can buy a pack of 10 (disposable, I assume) nicotine-vapor sticks.

Upgraded: Clear’s life chances
Clear / Verified Identity Pass, the subscription-based service that promised shorter airport security lines, before it died an abrupt and refund-less death, may be back. I was a skeptic from the get-go — frequent travelers already get shorter lines, without having to give up their personal information. I’m still a skeptic.

Upgraded: Bloggers branching out
Brett Snyder of CrankyFlier is expanding the Cranky franchise: He’s launching a new service, dubbed CrankyConcierge. For $30, he’ll help you find a low fare, track your flight status for you, look for alternatives in case of rebooking, and aid you in post-trip dispute assistance. At the same time, Gary Leff of View from the Wing is now charging $150 to help travelers book frequent flier tickets. I’m looking forward to seeing these business ideas develop. Good luck, guys!


american airlines baggage fees Upgrades and Downgrades: American Airlines baggage, Ryanair steals from kids, and more

Downgraded: Checked bags on international American Airlines flights
British Airways was the first to do this, but American Airlines wasn’t far behind: Many AA economy-class ticket-holders will no longer have an allowance of two checked bags on international flights. For those who buy tickets to Belgium, England, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Spain, or Switzerland on or after September 14, 2009, the first bag remains free (or, perhaps more accurately, included in the cost of the ticket). However, the second bag, which used to be included free, will now cost $50, up to 50 lbs. A list of exceptions applies, including full-fare tickets, elite AAdvantage and oneworld members, military personnel and dependents, and, interestingly, those traveling on codeshare-issued tickets.

Upgraded: Biofuel at airports
It’s not quite biofuel in the jets, but it’s a great start: Eight airlines will start using biofuels to power their ground equipment at LAX.

Downgraded: All-you-can-fly fares
JetBlue, which rolled out a $599 all-you-can-fly ticket two weeks ago, ended sales early. “While supplies last” meant they didn’t last.

Downgraded: United Breaks Guitars, episode 2
The original “United Breaks Guitars” video was a delight, a catchy tune that lambasted the airline for treating a customer poorly. The sequel, while cute, lacks the magic. It does, however, feature tubas.

Upgraded, I guess: Squeezing a couple bucks out of Hotwire
Hotwire has settled a class action lawsuit that charged that the company didn’t properly notify consumers of the fees and taxes charged for hotel reservations. If you made a hotel reservation on Hotwire between January 10, 2001 and May 2, 2005, you are likely entitled to either cash refunds or Hotwire credits. The Hotwire credit is significantly more lucrative, if you’re a Hotwire user anyway. See here for details, if you didn’t get an e-mail from the plaintiff’s attorneys (if you’re wondering, they got customer e-mail addresses from Hotwire…)

Downgraded, as if it was possible: Ryanair
Just when you think the airline couldn’t go any lower, Ryanair charges a fee to collect your lost-and-found. Even if you’re a nine-year old girl who lost her purse. It’s comical really: Ryanair will take candy from a baby, literally.