United Airlines has received a hefty penalty for keeping passengers waiting on airplanes for hours on end while their flights were delayed. The Department of Transportation fined the carrier $1.1 million-the biggest fine of its kind so far-for tarmac delays that happened at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport last year.
Rules that were put in place in 2010 state that airlines will be penalized if they keep passengers waiting around on the tarmac for more than three hours. In United’s case, all the rule breaking happened on one particularly stormy day when 13 separate United flights were delayed because of thunder and lighting. According to the rules, United was meant to give passengers the chance to get off the plane as it was obvious flights would be held up. But the carrier didn’t. And to top it off, bathrooms on the some of the delayed planes weren’t working, leaving passengers in the lurch.The Department of Transportation says United didn’t do a very good job handling the situation and didn’t reach out to other airport personnel for help. The Department of Transportation also slammed the airline for not having a good plan in place to deal with weather-related problems in general. Some of the money from the fine will go to passengers affected by the delays, while another portion will go towards creating a tracking system at O’Hare so United can better monitor its planes.
Even though we’re all aware that auto-pilot is flying our aircraft the vast majority of our trip, it’s always reassuring to know that there’s a pilot sitting behind the controls, ready to spring into action in case something goes wrong. Even better, there are usually two pilots up in the cockpit prepared to take charge. So news that a packed airplane heading to the UK was left on auto-pilot as both pilots fell asleep is a little unsettling.
The British Civil Aviation Authority has revealed that the pilot and co-pilot flying an Airbus A330 on an unnamed airline had decided to take turns napping. However, at some point during the flight, one pilot woke from his nap to discover the other pilot was fast asleep. The pilots voluntarily reported the incident which happened in mid-August this year. It’s believed the pair had only gotten about five hours of sleep over the two nights prior to the flight.The incident has sparked debate over pilot fatigue and mandatory rest periods between flights. Proposed changes in Europe would actually mean pilots could go even longer before getting a break, and includes rules like allowing pilots to land a plane after having been awake for 22 hours. The UK pilot’s association, Balpa, is fighting the changes.
It’s certainly not impossible to travel as a vegetarian, but it’s not always easy. Not only do I not eat meat, but I usually try my best to refrain from animal products of any sort. Navigating this kind of diet abroad can be tricky, but airlines could do their part to make it easier. On one of my most recent flights, my husband was literally mocked for wanting meat-free food, even if that just meant a piece of bread. All maliciousness aside, what always gets me upset about the pitiful selection of vegetarian food on flights is the pure logistics of it from an airline’s standpoint.From a purely business perspective, it seems like a no-brainer that airlines would serve vegetarian options. Everyone eats vegetables (or should). Not everyone eats meat. In fact, some of the latest estimates say that there are more than 400 million vegetarians worldwide. While both meat and vegetables can rot or become otherwise tainted, the risks of contamination are higher with meat, especially when stored for long-term use, not to mention that the meat that does have a long shelf life isn’t usually the popular choice — give me canned beans over canned Spam any day. Meat is also expensive!
I realize that passengers can usually request food that meets their personal dietary restrictions for flights in advance. What I don’t realize is why plant-based food should be a special request. It seems to me that increasing the availability of vegetarian food on flights wouldn’t just satisfy the millions of vegetarians who travel as well as many non-vegetarians who are more than happy to eat plants, but it would be good for the bottom line, too.
Snakes on a plane is a ridiculous movie concept, but the release of the movie has certainly helped us all to pay a bit more attention to real-life snakes on a plane scenarios. A Qantas flight from Australia to Japan was delayed for a full day recently when a Mandarin rat snake was discovered on board. Mandarin rat snakes are nonvenomous and small — adults don’t usually grow any longer than seven inches, though this particular snake was eight inches long. The snake was removed and eventually euthanized.
Southwest Airlines’ leniency with “no-shows” has been a popular attractor for many customers. The airline has long boasted that their customers get to keep the total value of their flight purchase, even when they simply don’t show up.
While the idea of not losing money in the case of an emergency might seem appealing to the masses, only a small minority of Southwest customers have been taking advantage of this deal and they’ve been doing it habitually. For that reason, Southwest will now be enforcing its own version of a “no-show” policy. Passengers will still receive the full value of their flight purchase if they cancel, but they have to cancel no later than 10 minutes before the flight takes off. This updated policy is still sensible and comparatively customer-oriented.[Thanks, USA Today]