sleeping on plane Upgrades and Downgrades: Sleeping on planes, in flight meals, electric rental cars

Upgraded: Restful sleep on Air Canada
It must be the mood lighting: A British passenger not only slept through the landing of his Air Canada flight from Calgary to Vancouver, he slept through the deplaning. He woke up when the plane was back in the hangar. The airline has apologized for not getting him off the plane, and given him a voucher for 20% off his next flight.

Upgraded: In-flight catering
Downgraded: Airline profits on food sales onboard

While — or perhaps because — Continental has thrown in the towel and given up on complimentary inflight meals, North American airlines are stepping up their domestic inflight catering, according to this account from the NYT. But this nugget surprised me, with regard to thin margins on food sales:

Indeed, in-flight food sales are not huge money-makers for the airlines. Tom Douramakos, chief executive of GuestLogix, a company based in Toronto that makes the hand-held devices and software used by most North American carriers for in-flight sales, said carriers generated a net profit of only 5 or 10 cents on a $10 sale of in-flight food. But, he said, gross profit on sales of in-flight liquor generally can go as high as 50 to 80 percent on a $10 drink.

Eat less, drink more, the airlines say!

Upgraded: Electric rental cars
Europe’s Sixt has started renting electric cars in London. And their competitor, Europcar, has placed an order for 500 electric vehicles, to come online in 2011.


washing wine down drain Upgrades and Downgrades: BA wine disposal, shady baggage fees, one way myths, TSA jokes
Downgraded: Teamwork, Wine, and Cost-Savings on British Airways
Management vs. labor (or labour, if you will) on British Airways is getting nastier. Take this quote, for example: “No-one is doing anything to help save costs any more. Whereas we used to keep unfinished bottles of wine in first-class to save money, now they’re routinely poured down the sink.” Pouring good wine down the sink? That’s a sin!

Downgraded: Traveling Value, Thanks to Fees
Delta upped its checked baggage fee again. $8 more for the first bag (now $23), and $7 for the second bag (now $32). And that’s if you pay your fees online. If you wait until you show up at the airport, add another $2 ($25 total) for the first bag and another $3 ($35 total) for the second. What I don’t understand is this: The policy is effective today, January 12, for anyone who purchased tickets on or after January 5. But the policy was only announced on the 11th. How is this legal, especially in light of the DOT “crackdown” on post-purchase changes to the contract of carriage? I smell a rat.

Upgraded: Travel for People with Nut Allergies
Travelers with nut allergies may soon find a nut-free-zone on Canadian airlines. Complaints filed against Air Canada yielded the ruling, which requires the airline to create a buffer zone within 30 days of the early-January ruling. What other cordoned-off areas will we see on planes now?…

Downgraded: The One-Way Ticket Myth
Mythbusting on the details: Umar Abdulmutallab, the crotch bomber, did not travel to Detroit on Christmas Day on a one-way ticket, despite nearly every major news organization’s reports to the contrary. He might have set off a thousand other warning flags if the data mining and information sharing within the US security community were up to full speed, but a one-way ticket was not one of those flags.

Upgraded: Jokes about TSA drug use
Jimmy Fallon: “Four TSA workers at LAX were videotaped snorting drugs. It was the first time people had ever seen lines go that fast at the airport.” Hey-ohhhh…


angry pilot Upgrades and Downgrades: Stripper pilots, airline fee rollbacks, bumps, and job loss flight protection

Upgraded: Pilot air rage
Downgraded: 37 people’s on-time travel

Sure, it’s amusing that a pilot got so frustrated at having to pass through security at London City Airport that he pulled down his pants, exposed himself completely, and demanded, “‘Do you want to search THIS?” But if I were one of the 37 passengers waiting to fly to Zurich, I might be a little ticked that someone got all high and mighty at the prospect of being searched at an airport. Yeah, it’s security theater. We all have to do it. Get in line, skipper.

Upgraded: Continental (gasp!) removes fees from the OnePass program
Continental, which is joining Star Alliance (and leaving SkyTeam) as of its first flights on October 25, is going against the grain and (gasp!) removing fees and restrictions from frequent flyer tickets in their OnePass program. Gary Leff points to a FlyerTalk thread, in which a Continental representative spills the beans. Changes made to frequent flyer tickets, if initiated 21+ days before the start of travel, will be free as long as the departure and destination are the same. Now, if only you could actually get tickets at the SaverPass level…

Upgraded: JetBlue cuts a break to the unemployed
It started in Europe, now it’s hit North America: If you lose your job, JetBlue will give you a refund.

Upgraded: Bump scheduling
Downgraded: Bump compensation

Air Canada will let you put yourself on the bump list in advance, in case a flight is overbooked, but in terms of cash, it’s a lousy deal. At best, they’ll let you earn up to $57 CAD or USD per one-way flight, including connections. That’s at least half of what you’d be getting if you were bumped at the gate. the tradeoff: You get to choose your alternate flight in advance. Maybe that works for you. They’re upgrading the options, but downgrading the payment. (via Cranky)


kafka index Air Canada puts procedure ahead of profitsAir 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.


Categorized in: Air Canada, airport lounges

help wanted Upgrades and Downgrades    food testers, obesity forms, the return of all business class, and more

Upgraded: Job applications on Virgin Atlantic
The unnamed author of this complaint letter to Virgin Atlantic, who ranted against the food served on board his flight from Mumbai to Heathrow, has been offered a new job: food tester for Virgin. Call me biased, but I still like Robert P.’s letter to Midwest Airlines better. (“You have chunks in your beer.”) Hey Robert, get any job offers lately?

Upgraded: Air Canada’s forms and applications
Remember the requirement that overweight passengers on Canadian airlines need to get a doctor’s note in order to get a second seat at no additional fee? The form that doctors must fill out is priceless. It’s practically designed to make both doctor and patient uncomfortable and embarrassed. To wit:

Have your patient sit on a paper covered examination table. Rest a ruler or straightedge on the left side of patient at the widest point (hip or waist) as shown on diagram below.
air canada obesity diagram Upgrades and Downgrades    food testers, obesity forms, the return of all business class, and more
Mark the touch point between the ruler and the paper as Point A. Rest a ruler or straightedge on the right side of patient at the widest point (hip or waist). Mark the touch point between the ruler and the paper as Point B. Measure the distance between Point A and Point B. Indicate this measurement above under d) Surface Measurement.


Upgraded: Extended stay hotels, again
Hilton is adding a new chain to its lineup: Home2 will be a new extended-stay brand, with an intended price point around $100 a night (less than the existing Homewood Suites brand in the Hilton family). The development cost is estimated at $70-75,000 per room. Launch locations are in Alabaster, AL, Baltimore/White Marsh, Charlotte, Elko, NV, Gadsden, AL (Alabama, again!), Jacksonville, NC (not FL); New York City, and three locations in San Antonio.

Upgraded: Ease of investing in a money-losing industry
Warren Buffett once said, “…if a capitalist had been present at Kittyhawk back in the early 1900s, he should have shot Orville Wright. He would have saved his progeny money.” Well, the assume that ol’ Warren isn’t putting money into in the new exchange-traded fund that invests in airline stocks, including 30% in non-US airlines. The symbol for the Claymore/NYSE Arca Airlines ETF: FAA. How clever. But will the folks at Proshares come up with a double-short airline ETF?

Upgraded: The return of all-business class New York-London flights
Maxjet, Silverjet, and Eos may be gone, but British Airways is bringing twice-daily all-business class flights between London and New York back to the air. The twists: 1) The service is on the smallest plane yet to fly the route, an Airbus A318. Not ’19. Not ’20. Forget ’21. ’18. 2) Instead of Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton, or Stansted, this flight will use the very centrally located London City Airport, which thusfar has only been used by regional jets to short-range destinations. 3) They’ll allow wireless text messaging and e-mail on board, but not phone calls. (hat tip Jared Blank)

fat moose 300x262 Upgrades and Downgrades    Obese Canadian passengers, guns & ammo, elite time savers, and more

Upgraded: Hassles for the obese Canadian traveler
Canada’s Supreme Court ruled recently that obese passengers could not be forced to buy a second seat. The court reaffirmed the Department of Transport’s “one person, one seat” directive. Air Canada and WestJet, Canada’s top airlines, in turn decided that passengers would need a doctor’s note declaring the passenger “disabled as a result of their obesity,” and not simply too large to feel comfortable in an airline seat, if they wanted the exemption from paying a second fare. Now Canadian doctors are complaining that the airlines are overburdening the medical system with the requirement for notes. I smell a lawsuit brewing.

Downgraded: Parking lot firepower
Not so smart: Driving to LAX with a trunk full of guns and ammunition. 16 firearms, 1000 rounds. Including one assault rifle. To the driver’s credit, the weapons were locked in separate containers from the ammunition, and he claims he was licensed for everything, but what kind of genius brings that kind of firepower to the airport?

Upgraded: Florida deals for DC residents who dislike inaugurations
Barack Obama is being sworn in as president on Tuesday, January 20, and Washington, DC will be mayhemic. Plus, hotels in the area are gouging their customers booked with record rates. (2-star hotels fifty miles away from the district for $550/night? Get real.) But rooms are marked down in Amelia Island, Florida, where hotels are trying to attract residents of the DC area who either want to avoid the congestion — or who just don’t like the new president.

Downgraded: United elite status duration
United has shaved a month off the validity of their frequent flyer elite status. Reader Craig writes in:

I opened up my new [United Airlines Mileage Plus] premier exec card yesterday and noticed that instead of expiring at the end of February 2010, it expires at the end of January. Also looking at the brochure that accompanies the card they have eliminated the Elite Choice reward at 40k miles. These are minor things, but still.

Indeed. Status used to last 14 months — January 1 through the next year’s February. Now, it’s 13 months. Lucky, lucky 13.