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skyrider seat aviointeriors saddleAs if jet lag and traveler’s tummy weren’t enough, imagine adding “saddle sores” to the list of things you have to worry about when traveling!

A new type of airplane seat called the SkyRider, which will be revealed at an aircraft interiors conference next week, is shaped similarly to a horse’s saddle, reports USA Today. Its design would perch passengers at a slight angle, leaving only 23 inches of space between their seat and the one in front of them. (Compare that to the standard economy-class seat pitch of 30 – 32 inches, which already strains the joints of anyone taller than six feet or so.)

The “ultra high density” seat (in the words of its creator, Italy-based Aviointeriors) is intended to offer airlines a way to pack more passengers onto each plane and therefore reduce ticket prices. Several budget airlines, including Ryanair and Spring Air in China, have already proposed adding standing-room-only sections for ultra-cheap fares; the new SkyRider seats could operate in a similar fashion, with airlines charging less for passengers to squeeze themselves into this cramped section of the plane. (Whatever shall we call it — cowboy class?)

Aviointeriors director general Dominique Menoud suggests that the seats would be most appropriate for shorter flights, perhaps up to three hours. Whether any airlines will decide to adopt the new seats remains to be seen.

How low would fares have to be to get you to saddle up?

–written by Sarah Schlichter

crazy driverRemember that infamous scene in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” in which the parking lot valet takes a 1961 Ferrari for a freewheeling joy ride once the keys have been handed off? Well, it looks like life is imitating art.

Mimi and Ulrich Gunthart, a pair of travelers who had left their car in the long-term parking lot at Kennedy Airport, returned from vacation to find that their vehicle’s mileage had mysteriously increased — by 724 miles. According to the Associated Press, “Ulrich Gunthart said he was ‘flabbergasted’ when he saw the number.” To make matters worse, the stereo blasted on at full volume when the Guntharts started up their vehicle (a BMW, according to the New York Post).

The manager of the AviStar parking lot said the company looked into the matter and saw no indication of foul play. The couple has not yet received a refund from AviStar, reports the New York Post.

This story is bound to strike fear into the hearts of luxury-vehicle-owning travelers everywhere (whereas those of us driving around in 1985 Yugos will probably be spared the regard of naughty parking lot attendants). After reading this, do you feel safe leaving your car in an airport parking lot while you travel? Did you ever?

airplane seatsIt’s nice to snag a seat in the front row of a plane and exit early … but is it worth 20 bucks?

With American Airlines’ recently announced Express Seats service, travelers can now select seats in the front of the plane for quick and easy debarkation. This new program also includes Group 1 boarding, which means passengers who sign up for Express Seats can be among the first coach fliers to board the plane. This is an especially beneficial product for those impatient travelers who bypass the line and slyly sidle up to the gate opening moments before the flight attendant calls their group number (and yes, we see you cutting the queue).

Surprise, surprise: This will cost you. Prices vary based on mileage, but introductory fees start at $19 each way. For example, buying an Express Seat on a flight from St. Louis to Chicago will cost $19, and on a flight from New York to Los Angeles the cost jumps to $39 (the service is available for domestic flights only).

American is one of the last big-name airlines to jump on the pay-for-priority bandwagon. US Airways, Continental, United, AirTran and several others have similar systems, charging coach passengers more for earlier boarding, seats that are near the front of the plane, or window and aisle seats.

Airlines have long been advocates of the class system, forcing proletariat passengers to wait in lines and wedge into shoebox-size seats while the elites fully extend their legs and ponder the in-flight wine list. But we have to wonder: Has this gone too far? In ancient times when checked bags were free and front-row coach seats were first come, first serve, a passenger who purchased a standard-fare ticket was qualified for a comfortable, pleasant flight. These days, a “comfortable flight” costs way more than the airlines’ published fares — and budget-minded travelers who simply wait in line and book ahead are denied the perks once to credited to early birds.

Will the airlines continue to split coach seats into sub-classes, forcing passengers to pay a fee for virtually everything but the smelly row next to the bathroom? Such a scenario isn’t realistic (well, we hope it isn’t), but there are still plenty of free onboard features, from tray tables to reclining seats, that could cost extra in the near future if this trend continues. Tell us what you think!

How much aggravation must travelers put up with to save a few bucks?

spirit airlines

Last week, dedicated Spirit Airlines customer Richard Rosichan (known as RichardNika on our message boards), who has flown with the airline roughly 50 times in the past few years, made up his mind to never fly Spirit again — and is in the process of filing suit against the company.

For years, Rosichan was a faithful customer, logging more than 80,000 miles with the airline. As a member of Spirit’s $9 Fare Club, Rosichan estimates he’s saved as much as $4,000 flying with Spirit over the years (in comparison to standard fare prices on major carriers).

All the while, Rosichan remained undeterred by Spirit’s history of controversial practices and policies. A nickel-and-diming pioneer, Spirit was one of the first carriers to levy fees for beverages and checked bags in 2007. And Spirit’s gotten plenty of negative exposure from the offensive ad campaigns it has launched over the years (a recent Spirit ad poked fun at the Gulf oil spill). This week, Spirit made headlines after the airline started charging passengers for carry-on bags on August 1.

But it wasn’t the baggage fees that swayed Rosichan.

Rosichan’s positive relationship with Spirit Airlines changed drastically on July 26, after a canceled Spirit flight left him stranded. According to Rosichan, Spirit canceled its 6:50 flight from Atlanta to Fort Lauderdale due to weather and offered only to rebook ticketed passengers on a flight leaving two days later. Rosichan posted about his experience on the IndependentTraveler.com message boards: “[Spirit was] dismissive and totally uninterested in cases involving connection problems, lodging, meals, parents with toddlers (at least two that I saw) and medical issues. … There were no supervisory personnel present. We were told no arrangements would be made with other carriers.”

Unfortunately, the airlines are not required by U.S. law to compensate passengers for delayed or canceled flights. But most major airlines have interline agreements with other carries, which means they can book stranded passengers on a different airline if need be. Since Spirit Airlines has no interline agreements with other carriers, a stranded Spirit passenger is in a particularly precarious position.

Rosichan eventually purchased a flight on Delta and made his way home. He is currently in the process of filing a grievance against Spirit Airlines in small claims court.

Rosichan’s change of heart raises the question at the heart of the matter. Notwithstanding Spirit’s flood of petty fees, Rosichan saved a significant amount of money flying Spirit, which sometimes offers tickets as cheap as $2 before taxes and fees — but was it worth it? Tell us what you think.