As a experienced traveler, I know all the right things to do when it comes to making sure you go home with your own luggage. I have a very distinctive red Rimowa suitcase (I’ve never encountered one quite like it), I’ve tied colored ribbons around one handle, and there are some flight and hotel labels stuck on it — so it’s hard to miss.
But last year, after a 10-hour flight from Helsinki and a 1.5-hour wait at Newark’s border control, I was tired and distracted, and when a red suitcase came around the belt, I grabbed it and set off. The wheels were wobbly, which I chucked up to yet another annoyance in an annoying day. Literally 10 steps past the customs agent, I bent down to check out what had happened to the wheels, and that was the moment I knew: this was not my suitcase. It was an absolutely identical model, but there were no ribbons, no decals.
I immediately went back to the customs agent to ask if I could swap the suitcase, but he said, “No can do” (which was understandable). He called an agent from my airline, who told me that I’d eventually get my suitcase back — but because I had cleared customs it would take three or four hours. Hanging around wasn’t a palatable solution, so I anted up about $82 to have it delivered the next day.
I consider the whole affair an $82 learning experience. And I felt badly for the person whose suitcase it really was (and hope she’ll get those wheels fixed someday).
What’s the silliest travel mistake you made in 2012?
How would you like to touch down at Ozzy Osbourne International?
One music exec is calling for this to become a reality, according to the Birmingham Mail. Liverpool is currently home to John Lennon Airport, so why shouldn’t Birmingham, Osbourne’s home town, be renamed after the Black Sabbath rocker? The proposal comes from Jim Simpson of Big Bear Music, who discovered the band.
“The message that would carry is instantly international, confident, powerful, unforgettable and says ‘Hey World, we are proud of our own,’” said Simpson in the Birmingham Mail.
“Ozzy might not always have been a paragon of virtue, but he is a genuine flesh and blood Brummie.”
Whether this will come to fruition is anyone’s guess — but, of course, it got us thinking about other airports that could carry a musical moniker. How about adding Bruce Springsteen’s name to New Jersey’s Newark Airport? Or giving Elvis Presley top billing at Memphis International? Tony Bennett left his heart in San Francisco, so surely we could leave his name on the airport. And with all due respect to Prime Minister Trudeau, perhaps Montreal‘s airport could be renamed after Celine Dion.
Which airports and musicians do you think would make a good duo?
If you’ve ever wished for a crystal ball, you might be in luck — at least as far as air travel is concerned. Imagine the scenario: You’re flying home for Christmas, presents crammed carefully into your carry-on. After arriving at the airport, you learn that due to impending snow, your flight has been delayed by hours or, worse, canceled completely. Talk about a holiday headache. That’s where KnowDelay comes in.
The new service, which covers 36 of the United States’ busiest airports, uses a combination of weather tracking and airline flight schedules to predict when your flight might be impacted by impending bad weather.
It’s free to sign up, and when you create an account, you can have “Captain Delay” — the mastermind behind the site — track your flights and send you alerts, allowing you to know as far as three days in advance whether you should attempt to rebook before your flight is canceled.
KnowDelay will also provide you with a list of alternate flights that are available, should you choose to change your plans. Keep in mind that you may face change fees for rebooking or canceling your itinerary in advance (although airlines often waive these during severe weather events). For some travelers, paying a change fee may be cheaper in the end than having to shell out for a hotel during a weather delay or missing an important client meeting.
If you’re a last-minute traveler and you’re booking your flight within three days of your trip, you can use KnowDelay proactively to determine which flights are ideal and which ones to avoid.
Here’s a more in-depth look at how the service works:
Have you had a flight delay fiasco in the past? Share your story below.
Those of us who fly frequently don’t usually get too surprised anymore by stories of airlines treating passengers like cattle. Yet the experience of a disabled U.S. Marine aboard a Delta Air Lines flight earlier this week shows that the airlines are capable of sinking to shocking new lows.
The Washington Post reports that Marine Lance Corporal Christian Brown, a double amputee wounded a year ago in Afghanistan, was “‘humiliated’ to the point of tears on a Delta flight from Atlanta to Washington after being clumsily wheeled to the back row of the plane, according to a complaint sent to the airline by an outraged fellow passenger.”
The passenger, retired Army Colonel Nickey Knighton, said that Brown was offered a seat in first class by another traveler, but flight attendants would not allow the switch because the doors had been closed for take-off and no one was supposed to move around the cabin. Instead, Knighton wrote, Brown was “paraded through the aircraft,” leaving him “visibly upset.” The Post reports that Brown was ill with a fever at the time and was traveling to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for treatment.
It’s unclear why Brown was brought onboard so late in the boarding process; Delta’s own Traveling with Disabilities brochure says that “Preboarding is offered on any Delta flight if you meet all check-in requirements and notify the gate agent.”
Delta’s corporate communications office responded to the incident with this statement, quoted in the Post: “The story in no way reflects either Delta’s standard operating procedure or the very high regard we hold for our nation’s service members. We are sorry for the difficulties that transpired and are investigating this event to determine the appropriate next steps.”
On Brown’s Facebook page was a comment from another Delta employee that seemed a bit more heartfelt:
“So sorry for your treatment on Delta,” wrote Facebook user Demian David Brooks. “As a pilot for Delta, I just wanted to tell you that we are with you, and when I fly, there are no more important passengers than our military. I personally do everything in my power to ensure all military personnel have a great experience on Delta. I have proudly transported many Wounded Warriors and make it a point to introduce myself and say thank you for your service. I have transported fallen heroes and always stand on the tarmac at full salute to pay respects. A few weeks ago in the terminal, I was fortunate enough to see 3 military personnel in uniform, and secretly paid for their lunch as I slipped away. Again, from one line pilot, sorry. And thank you for your service.”
Forget sushi — on your next Japan Airlines flight, you could enjoy a homegrown American favorite: KFC (once known as Kentucky Fried Chicken). The airline recently announced that for the next three months, meal service on select U.S. and Europe flights will feature a two-piece chicken meal from KFC, including a drumstick, a chicken breast fillet, coleslaw, flat bread and lettuce leaves (which you can use to make a chicken sandwich).
KFC will be available during the second meal service on premium economy and economy flights from Tokyo’s Narita airport to New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Diego, London, Paris and Frankfurt, through February 28, 2013. According to the airline’s press release, “KFC is widely popular in Japan particularly during the Christmas season.”
Personally, I’d rather have sushi. But I guess KFC is as delicious and exotic to the Japanese as sushi is to us Yanks!
How does a mild-mannered person transform into the Incredible Hulk? Try flying on a midnight redeye with a mini-Muhammad Ali sitting behind you. While society dictates that we not act like, well, you know, there are times when no unwritten rule about screaming in Spanish at children or delivering soapbox speeches to annoying fellow passengers can be heeded. I apologize for losing my cool … but here’s what happened.
Toe to Toe with a Toddler
On a redeye from Quito to New York, an infante diabolico shared the seat behind me with his mother. We took off and the punching began. He was a prize fighter in training, standing deftly on mom’s lap, using my seat as a fast bag. Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap. Wait for your opponent to swivel and shoot you the first of a few startled looks. Stay patient. Dance. Weave. Laugh. Taunt. Then … tap, tap, tap, tap, tap. Good, the opponent is getting angry. When you see his face turn crimson and steam curl up from his ears, he’s at his most vulnerable. He’s lost control.
Tap, tap, tap … “Termina el golpeando! Termina el golpeando! Otra vez y otra vez y otra vez!” Summoning my high school Spanish, I made my counterattack.
“I’m sorry,” mumbled Mom.
No more punches.
Still, I think all ringside judges, staring wide-eyed or stifling shocked guffaws, would agree: I fought a little unfair.
Now Boarding Zone Crazy Eyes
After 48 hours exploring Chicago — Wrigley, Millennium Park, blues club, deep dish — sandwiching four hours of sleep, it was time to fly home to Boston. With the gate lice working their beady eyes, boarding began. First class. Passengers traveling with small children. Zone Two and so on. I was in Zone Two and queued up accordingly. By the time I neared the ticket agent, the floodgates had opened. All zones. To my left, a slight woman, aged 45 to 55, materialized. “I’m Zone Two, do you mind if I jump in?” she said with a warm smile.
“Actually, I do.”
I then proceeded to deliver a lunatic’s lecture about society crumbling if people didn’t follow basic rules, about arriving on time to take advantage of zone privileges and about how she was doing a disservice to everyone on the plane by even asking. “Are you the type of person who has never been told no? Your kind doesn’t deserve to find space in the overhead bin.”
Save for my parents and girlfriend, I’ve never experienced such a look of pure twitching rage. She could no longer form words. She stood, abuzz, gazing into space, as Zones Two, Three, Four and Five slid by.
I had gone too far again. A fellow passenger disagreed. “Thank you,” she said as if I had given a kidney to her brother.
I don’t usually buy into gender generalizations, but several assertions in the most recent Wall Street Journal Middle Seat blog rang true with me as a female flier. I do like to check a bag, I do try to make myself as small as possible in my airplane seat, and I don’t care if I’m flying on a 737, 747 or 1234 as long as I get where I want to go.
Other differences: She checks bags, while he carries on. She curls up in the corner of her seat to avoid contact with strangers, while he dominantly claims his space and the armrests. She wants a blanket; he doesn’t get cold.
While I actually prefer the aisle seat and don’t much care if the shade is up or down, I do prefer to check a bag – I just don’t want to be bothered with having to lug a suitcase around with me – and I will grab a blanket if one is available.
And I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve sat next to a man who takes up every bit of space he can get away with, including both armrests (if he’s in the middle) and even some of my legroom. And what do I do about it? I curl up in the corner and hope we never make contact!
Would you board a plane with no pilot? Sounds like a crazy idea — but according to an article from the Economist, it’s something that could become the future of air travel.
At some point within the next few weeks, a pilotless flight is slated to be tested during a trip from England to Scotland, meaning that the pilot operating the plane will be doing so from the ground in a control room. (There will also be a pilot in the cockpit, just in case anything goes wrong.)
The article notes that the U.S. Congress has shown interest in the technology, asking aviation regulators to find a way to incorporate unmanned aircraft into America’s air traffic control system as soon as the year 2015. The technology would likely be used on smaller aircraft carrying out functions such as border patrols or police surveillance.
For commercial aircraft carrying large numbers of passengers, it’s unlikely that onboard pilots would be eliminated altogether; instead, opines the Economist, flights might have just one pilot instead of a crew of two or three. (Our two cents: If any airline might try cutting pilots, it would be ultra-discounter Ryanair, whose CEO questions the importance of seatbelts in the air.)
Most of today’s planes are technologically advanced enough to take off, fly and land at a specified destination automatically — much like drone aircraft currently used by the military.
Overall, there still seem to be a lot of unanswered questions: How safe is an unmanned plane? Could this lead to job losses among pilots? Will pilots be able to concentrate better while controlling aircraft from the ground, or will it make them less accountable for safe flying if their lives aren’t at stake like those of the passengers onboard? And how might it affect consumer airfare prices?
I doubt there’s anyone who’d disagree that travel would be more enjoyable if it were cheaper. Regardless of how large your budget may be, it’s never fun to incur all the tiny expenses that come with jaunting to and fro.
Since Thanksgiving is the busiest travel period, we’re excited about this: A new taxi-sharing service called Shairporter has rolled out in New York City, allowing travelers to coordinate rides to and from local airports with others who are going to the same places. (The site plans to expand to other cities in the future.)
Users can either search for rides that match their needs or post rides — complete with start and stop destinations and approximate cab fares — to get matched with others who are going the same way. Then, they meet up and share expenses. Not only is it more environmentally friendly to share a cab than to take one alone, but it’s also more economical. Membership is free.
Sound sketchy? Users sign up through Facebook in order to help keep the community safe while maintaining privacy, and they can go back to review fellow travelers after sharing rides so others will know about their experiences.
If you’re interested, now’s the time to try it out. All cab rides on Wednesday, November 21, will be paid for by Shairporter for anyone who signs up on the site in advance.
Would you share a ride? Leave your comments below.
Flying in the face of safety regulations around the world, one airline executive is speaking out against seatbelts on planes. “If there ever was a crash on an aircraft, God forbid, a seatbelt won’t save you,” claimed Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary, as reported in Britain’s Daily Telegraph.
Actually, Mr. O’Leary, we beg to differ. In a recent test crash, scientists found that passengers without seatbelts would have died, while those wearing seatbelts and using the brace position on impact would have survived. (See How Flying Coach Could Save Your Life for more details.)
Even in non-crash situations, seatbelts can keep you safe. According to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), 58 people are injured each year by turbulence when not wearing their seatbelts.
Naturally, O’Leary’s diatribe was brought about because those pesky seatbelt regulations are keeping him from making money. According to the Telegraph, he wants to add “standing room only” cabins in the back of Ryanair planes, allowing budget-minded travelers to stand throughout their flights (while holding onto a handle for greater stability) at a price of 1 GBP, about $1.58 US. This is not permitted under current aviation safety laws, which require air travelers to wear seatbelts during takeoff and landing. “We’re always looking for new ways of doing things; it’s the authorities who won’t allow us to do them,” complained O’Leary. “They are all a bunch of plonkers.”
Would you buy a ticket in a standing-room-only section of a plane if the price were cheap enough?