The airline that brought us in-flight safety videos featuring Betty White, Bear Grylls and Richard Simmons is at it again. Air New Zealand has released yet another fun and elaborate safety video, this time starring the All Blacks rugby team in a spoof of the “Men in Black” movies. (Yes, the famous theme song is prominently featured — we apologize in advance for the earworm.)
Along with current All Blacks players and coaches, actor Rip Torn (from the first two “Men in Black” films) makes an appearance, as does Frank the Pug. You can watch the video below:
Do funny in-flight videos make you more likely to tune in to the safety briefings, or would you rather the airlines just stick to the facts?
Airlines often have us jumping through hoops — okay, metal detectors — before boarding their planes. You’ve seen fellow fliers looking panicked (read: me) as they hastily unpack luggage contents into other bags to redistribute weight, or shove carry-on bags into the rigid metal sizers and pray the wheels and handle jutting out won’t raise any eyebrows. However, a few air carriers seem to have another stipulation in mind before letting you on their next flight: stepping on the scale yourself.
An article in USA Today reports that Uzbekistan Airways has unfolded a plan to weigh passengers along with their bags as a safety measure. While the airline promises this information will not be made public, it has not specified whether this individual weight designation will determine whether you get on the plane or not. In 2012 Samoa Air, another small airline, took the precaution one step further and began charging passengers by weight. Surprisingly, the regulation has held up three years later with the airline’s site even boasting the slogan, “A kilo is a kilo is a kilo!”
Could such a policy be enacted here in the U.S.? Doubtful, according to a New York Times article from 2013: “While no major airline would consider the folly of actually weighing passengers, passenger weight is factored into overall calculations for any flight on any airplane, partly based in the United States on Federal Aviation Administration average weight estimates that have been revised upward in recent years as waistlines have grown.”
While it’s true that planes adhere to strict weight regulations, the majority of major carriers seem to get around this issue without getting personal (well, any more personal than a body scan, a possible pat-down and a look at all of your identification). On Southwest, passengers who cannot fit comfortably into one seat (and by comfortably, the airline means travelers who don’t fit at all) must purchase a second seat. The same holds true for American Airlines, Alaska Airlines and United.
If there was a promise that your trip would not be changed regardless of the outcome, would you feel comfortable stepping on a scale before your next flight? Where do you draw the line for safety in the sky?
Last month, the Los Angeles Times came out with a surprising report: According to academic studies, airline baggage fees have actually improved flier satisfaction.
Per the article, these oft-complained-about fees have “led to fewer lost-bag reports, fewer delayed flights and a drop in bag-related passenger complaints.”
While it’s not the news most of us want to hear — we’ll never get rid of these fees now! — it makes logical sense in some ways. The surcharges make passengers less likely to check bags, which means there are fewer bags for the airline to lose. Flight delays are also less likely since there aren’t as many suitcases for baggage handlers to load onto the plane.
But when we shared the L.A. Times report with our followers on Facebook, they didn’t seem too inclined to agree with the researchers’ conclusion that baggage fees have actually made fliers’ lives better.
“People try to drag much more in carry-on bags onto a plane, which causes issues when there is not enough room,” wrote Tom Vertrees. “Makes disembarkation much longer and more stress on travelers.”
Staxy Morrison concurred: “It adds to more people having to check baggage at the gate and more confusion when boarding!”
Colleen R Costello pointed out that the airlines have an ulterior motive in the way they charge baggage fees: “From what I read it’s only been a way for them to divert income from one category to another! Seems baggage fees aren’t taxed or treated the same way as fare revenue is! Sneaky.” (Colleen is right: Airlines must pay a 7.5 excise tax on the base airfares that they charge, but this tax is not applicable to ancillary charges such as baggage fees.)
But our favorite response might just be the one from Mickey Morgan: “What bag fees? I fly Southwest.”
There’s good news and bad news when it comes to buying airfare. The good news: It is possible to time your flight for the lowest possible price. The bad news: That time will almost never be summer. According to a recent analysis of airfare data by Hopper, a flight search app, seasonal travel price drops can be predicted and taken advantage of — just start planning trips for fall, winter and spring.
Using the drop-down of the 15 most popular U.S. origin airports on Quartz, the cheapest time to fly to major worldwide destinations can be determined by seasonality, but also based on your domestic airport. We all know Europe is generally cheapest to travel to during winter, but for Dallas, a flight to London is actually cheaper in the fall.
Don’t believe prices can fluctuate that much outside of holidays and peak times? If you’re looking to head to Istanbul, you might want to reconsider that notion. Of all the major flight paths analyzed, three of the five with the largest seasonal price difference are en route to Istanbul — starting at a 50 percent price difference originating in Washington D.C. and totaling as much as 57 percent more on flights from Chicago in the summer. Flights from Los Angeles to Barcelona and London are 52 and 53 percent more, respectively, in the summer season.
If you’re set on one of the elusive flight paths that are actually cheaper in summer, Dallas is your best bet followed by the capital of Taiwan: Boston to Dallas, Houston (Bush) to Dallas (and reverse), Houston to Taipei, New York (La Guardia) to Taipei and D.C. (Reagan) to Toronto all run low in the summertime. (Think of the heat.)
Maybe this is a concept we always knew about air travel, but finding my familiar home airport, and watching the lists of destinations appear in conjunction with the cheapest season, is reassuring. With everyone already bemoaning “the end of the summer season,” it gives me three more seasons (and potential trips) to look forward to.
Earlier this year, JetBlue introduced a new series of Flight Etiquette videos that gently mock the egregious behavior of some air travelers — like the person who falls asleep and drools on your shoulder. Or the guy who brings a foul-smelling lunch that stinks up the whole cabin. Or the woman who shares her entire life story over the course of a three-hour flight.
The latest installment of the series addresses the people often called “gate lice” — folks who are so desperate to get on the plane that they crowd around the gate well before their own boarding zone is called. The video made me laugh out loud a few times:
While it’s easy to make fun of these overly aggressive travelers, it’s also worth asking whether this is something the airlines have brought upon themselves. Many fliers are eager to board as early as possible because they know there’s not enough overhead bin space for everyone’s carry-ons, especially now that so many of us are trying to avoid paying extra to check a bag. The fact that JetBlue recently added fees for the first checked bag will probably only make the airline’s gate lice problem worse, not better — no matter how many funny videos it puts out.
While air travelers continue to suffer through carry-on fees and legroom reductions, their furry friends can enjoy spa treatments and splash pools in a new $48 million facility dedicated to the pre-flight comfort of pets.
The New York Post reports that, in 2016, John F. Kennedy Airport in New York will open the Ark Terminal, featuring a 20,000-square-foot facility where dogs can romp, a faux jungle setup where cats can climb trees, and even special stalls for larger animals like horses and cows, complete with showers and hoof-friendly flooring. Massages are on the list of amenities as well.
The Ark will also offer boarding for pets who aren’t actually traveling with their humans. The cost? A mere $100 per night for access to human-sized beds and the use of flat-screen TVs.
It all sounds a little over the top, but an article in Crain’s New York Business notes that the new terminal will serve some very real needs. The current facility used for animals passing through JFK dates back to the 1950s, and the nearest federal quarantine center is two hours away, requiring a tedious and pricey side trip. The new terminal will have a quarantine facility right on site.
Crain’s also reports that animal travel is on the rise; shipments of various creatures through the New York metro area have risen by 28 percent over the past three years.
Between baggage fees, shrinking seats and shoddy service, flying makes many travelers pretty cranky these days — so why not take a look back at what life in the skies used to be like?
The following vintage airline commercials offer that trip back in time, although in some cases it seems like not much has changed. (Yes, even in the 70s and 80s fliers were bemoaning crowded airports and lack of service in economy class.) Have a look — and a laugh!
First up is a funny Southern Airways ad from the 1970s that lampoons the difference between first class and coach:
Peter Sellers plays out every cheesy (and sleazy) Italian stereotype in this 1970s ad for TWA:
I’m not sure anyone’s ever been so thrilled to land in Kansas City as this 1980s Eastern Air Lines passenger:
I’m cheating a little with this next one, which is from the mid-2000s and therefore doesn’t really count as a “vintage” commercial — but it too features a now-defunct airline (Continental):
We first got wind of the impending bad news last year, and now it’s come to pass: JetBlue will no longer include one free checked bag with the cost of all its flights.
The discount carrier has rolled out a new fare structure, effective today, that offers varying baggage and other fees depending on how much you pay for your flight. If you book the cheapest available fare category, known as Blue, you’ll have to pay $20 or $25 for your first checked bag on most itineraries (it varies based on where you pay it — Web check-in, kiosk or airport counter). The second bag costs $35 in this fare category.
If you pay a little more for the Blue Plus fare, you’ll get one checked bag free, with the second costing $35. If you want to bring two complimentary checked bags, you’ll have to pony up for either the Blue Flex or Mint fare. (The latter is only available on cross-country flights.)
You can still get a free checked bag in any fare category if you’re headed to one of the following destinations: Santo Domingo, Santiago, Port-au-Prince, Port of Spain, Kingston, Cartagena, Medellin, Bogota, Lima or Mexico City.
Other differences between the fare categories include cancellation and change fees, which are highest for Blue passengers, a little lower for Blue Plus and free for Blue Flex. The full fare chart is below (click to see a larger version):
We did a few test searches to check out the fare differences between categories. On a flight between New York and Chicago, the Blue Plus fare was $15 more in each direction than the Blue fare, while the Blue Flex fare was $100 more each way than the cheapest option. That means it would actually be cheaper to book the Blue Plus fare than to buy the Blue fare and check a single bag.
When we changed the itinerary to San Diego – Fort Lauderdale, however, that wasn’t the case; the difference was $30 – $31 each way between Blue and Blue Plus and $100 each way between Blue and Blue Flex.
At a time when more than three ounces of liquid could get you into trouble with the TSA, it seems absurd that loaded guns are legal at many airports throughout the United States.
Earlier this month, as reported by Yahoo! Travel, a man brought a loaded semiautomatic rifle into the Hartsfield-Jackson airport in Atlanta in what seemed to be a cry for attention when he was there to drop his daughter off for a flight. According to laws in Georgia, he was within his rights to do so, but that didn’t stop police from questioning him or travelers who spotted the weapon from complaining about him.
According to website Florida Carry, 44 U.S. states allow individuals with permits to carry loaded guns into unrestricted airport areas. It’s acceptable as long as nobody attempts to take them through security. (Individual municipalities and airports have the authority to put more strict regulations in place to ban firearms from airports completely.)
A law is one thing, but good judgement is another, particularly at a sensitive place like an airport where edgy travelers — including children — can be easily spooked by that sort of display. Do you think an airport is the place to make a political statement by bringing a gun? Be sure to share your thoughts below.
From airplane seats to legroom, everything about the in-air experience is shrinking — except the price. The airlines’ newest recommendation to free up crowded overhead bin space is — drumroll — shrink the carry-on… again.
Last June I wrote about how changing carry-on regulations caught me by surprise just before I left for a trip with a brand-new carry-on suitcase. This time, according to a Yahoo News article, the International Air Transport Association is suggesting an even smaller “optimal” bag size of 21.5 inches tall by 13.5 inches wide by 7.5 inches deep — skimming the already-slim current standards of 22 inches by 14 inches by 9 inches enforced by major air carriers such as American, Delta and United.
As it stands, nine international airlines — Lufthansa, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Qatar Airways, Caribbean Airlines, China Eastern, China Southern, Avianca and Azul — have adopted the svelte new carry-on dimensions; no U.S. carriers have signed on … yet.
This new guideline won’t immediately be enforced — if at all — across all airlines, but as the article suggests, the smaller uniform measurement will help to “iron out inconsistencies,” according to IATA. The organization further claims that this size is not a new maximum, but a strong suggestion. Spinning it as a way to know for sure what the acceptable carry-on measurements will be (once and for all?), the organization seems to ignore that these supposedly acceptable measurements have been tweaked multiple times in the past few years, leading to countless checked-bag fees and hundreds of dollars in new “conforming” luggage for fliers.
Would you settle for a slightly smaller carry-on bag size if it meant you could keep using the same suitcase from here on? Personally, I’m perfectly happy with the one I’ve got, and will take my chances. Let us know how you feel in the comments.