On The Runway: United Airlines New Uniforms Revealed

pagedooley/flickr

Yesterday, United Airlines revealed new uniforms. United crew walked the runway as part of their 25th anniversary celebration at Newark-Liberty’s Terminal C. The new United style rolls out on June 25.

“We are pleased to celebrate United’s long history at our Newark hub – a premier global gateway and a powerful economic engine,” said Jeff Smisek, United’s chairman, president and chief executive officer, in a press release. “We continue to make investments in our terminal facilities, our services and our people to ensure United’s Terminal C remains a great place for our customers and co-workers.”

Yesterday, travelers arriving and departing at Newark Liberty joined United employees in an anniversary celebration where customers had opportunities to earn prizes, travel discounts and bonus MileagePlus miles. The airline also had a temporary exhibit all about how air travel has evolved since 1988.

Thousands Of Airport Delays In Wake Of Sequestration

Earlier this week we warned travelers to expect delays as sequestration cuts hit airports, and now the numbers are in: according to a news release from FlightStats.com, nearly 1,000 flights have been canceled and there have been more than 18,200 flight delays since the Federal Aviation Administration began facing the spending cuts on Sunday.

Airports with the highest percentages of delays yesterday were LaGuardia Airport in New York, Denver International Airport in Colorado, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas and Newark Liberty International Airport, also in New York.

Data from the flight tracking website shows there were 207 flights canceled and 4,842 delays on Sunday, when the furloughs began. Those cancellations cascaded into Monday, when there were 404 canceled flights and 7,027 delays. Yesterday, the numbers were slightly lower, at 385 canceled flights and 6,396 delays. Hopefully this last set of data means airports are getting things under control, but for now the only advice we can give is to check each flight status and ensure you leave plenty of time to get through airport security.

[Photo credit: Flickr user _ambrown]

Bad Flight Saved By Airline Crew, New Laws, Amiable Travelers

flight 108

Last weekend, United Airlines Flight 108 from Newark, New Jersey, to Edinburgh, Scotland, put 2011’s Airline Passenger Bill of Rights to the test. It was not planned that way; we did not set out to see if the new regulations would kick in to help in a bad situation. But when things went wrong, rules established by the bill kept a bad scene from becoming a total disaster. I was on board and lived to tell about it.

The first leg of our travel plan on United Airlines took us through bad weather from Orlando (MCO) to Newark (EWR) rather smoothly, arriving a few minutes late at 8:15 p.m. On landing, a text from my FlightTrack Pro iPhone app informed me that our next flight, from EWR to Edinburgh, Scotland (EDI), scheduled to leave at 9:55 p.m., would be delayed until 12 p.m.

“Surely they mean 12 a.m., just a little late, not 12 p.m.,” I said out loud with the comment echoed by other passengers, also checking their phones after landing. But p.m. it was, so put up in a hotel we were – the cheesy Ramada Inn Airport hotel – along with carry-on luggage and food vouchers for dinner and breakfast.

Going back to the Newark airport the next day – a few hours early as good airline passengers on international flights do – we found a further delay for more maintenance, pushing departure to 1 p.m. Soon though, the situation improved. The flight was moved back to 12 p.m. and boarding the international flight, a process that can take some time, finally began.flightWith boarding completed, the flight crew, who had also been ready to go since the night before, prepared the cabin and off we went – all of about two football fields in distance.

Newark airport normally has two operating runways. Today that was one working runway as the other was undergoing maintenance, placing us last in a line behind 15 planes.

A timely announcement produced some unanimous moans and groans from passengers. “Oh well, what can we do but sit here and wait.”

By the time we made it to number seven, almost an hour later, we had burned about 10,000 pounds of fuel, according to the flight crew. That’s so much fuel that we had to leave the takeoff queue, return to what the crew onboard called “the ballpark” and refuel.

“Not a big problem, we sure did not want to run out of gas crossing the Atlantic,” I thought, echoing the mood of the other passengers on board. To expedite the process, we stayed on the aircraft, avoiding a repeat of the time-consuming international flight boarding process.

But by the time fueling was complete, we were on the verge of violating part of that new passenger rights bill, which established a three-hour cumulative time limit for such delays. This is a big deal to the airlines, if for no other reason than the fact that they can be fined $17,000 per passenger if they don’t comply.

By law, at that three-hour mark, airlines are required to provide passengers on a delayed, grounded aircraft like ours with food, water, restrooms, ventilation and medical services, among other provisions.

Over the aircraft loudspeaker, the call was made by Rick Chase, International Service Manager, that if anyone wanted off the aircraft, to let the crew know and they would make it happen. Two passengers wanted off so we pulled out of the takeoff queue and waited for ground crew to come fetch them.

Back in the queue for take off after 4 p.m., it was looking like we were going to make it off the ground after all. Then a weather concern stopped the countdown.

Thunderstorms directly in our planned flight path were going to be a problem. United Airlines operations people, we were told, scrambled to file a new flight plan.

Again came the grumbles of passengers but no one wanted to be hit by lightning then plunge into the Atlantic. At about that same time, someone at United Airlines operations remembered that this particular aircraft had never flown this international route before.

Apparently, by law, custom or just an abundance of caution, a qualified mechanic must be on board when that happens, we were told. Rumor had it that due to cutbacks caused by the Continental and United Airlines merger, there were none available.

This time we did not go back to the ballpark but rather just stopped where we were and waited for the revised flight plan and a mechanic. At a little after 5 p.m., United Airlines Flight 108 finally took off, racking up a total of over 17 hours delay.

The whole situation was just bad news all around. A big part of the enduring memory though will be how very well the onboard flight crew handled the situation. Keeping us informed every step of the way, caring for our individual concerns and making the most out of a bad situation far exceeded the requirements of the Airline Passenger Bill of Rights.

They took what could have turned into a very nasty situation and transformed it into a “let’s all get together for a reunion” sort of thing. To the credit of United Airlines, before we got off the aircraft we were asked to visit UnitedAirlines.com/appreciation where the airline put their money where their mouth is, offering all passengers on the flight compensation for their time and inconvenience. While the package was customized for each passenger, some included a voucher for domestic travel within a year ranging from $400 to $2000, a 20 to 50 percent discount for a future international flight, or between 15,000 and 50,000 additional frequent flier miles.

It was more of a “it’s the thought that counts” sort of offer at the time, but I bet that after thinking about the situation for a while and how very well the flight crew handled it, that most passengers will indeed give United Airlines another try.

United Airlines 'Computer Glitch' Disrupts Travel


[Photo- Chris Owen]

Delta Flies Rangers Fans For Free On 17-minute Flight To Devils Game

Delta Air Lines is giving Rangers fans a free lift to game three of the National Hockey League’s Eastern Conference Finals on Saturday. The catch, however, is that the game is in northern New Jersey – meaning the free flight from LaGuardia Airport to Newark Liberty International Airport is far more trouble than it’s worth.

Any fan that does take Delta up on the offer must first take the time to go through airport security at LaGuardia to board a 10 a.m. charter flight. Once it takes off, the flight should only last somewhere around 17 minutes – but according to Delta it will be a short but sweet flight featuring prizes and Rangers legends Ron Duguay and Rod Gilbert. The trip includes free transportation from the airport to the Prudential Center for the game, and when it’s over fans will be brought back to LaGuardia on a returning flight.

The two airports are separated by just over 20 miles, a distance that (without traffic) should take about 38 minutes to drive. Fans also have the option of train travel, which is estimated to take about 20 minutes from Madison Square Garden to the Prudential Center.

If you seriously want to take Delta up on the offer – and we’re not really sure why you would – fill out a form on the Rangers website by 5 p.m. EST today to be entered in the promotion. Fans must already have tickets to the game and be able to present valid identification.

[Flickr photo via redlegsfan21]

US Airports Spend Billions On International Expansion

airportsThe American airports of tomorrow are being built today as ongoing projects take shape to handle an increasing number of fliers. Around the country, projects are being considered, underway or nearing completion as travelers from around the world make their way to the United States.

As reported by Aviation Pros, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s nearly $350 million comprehensive modernization project at Newark Liberty International Airport Terminal B is nearing completion with the final phase slated to start in May.

“When people from across the globe arrive at Newark, they should find an airport welcome second to none,” says Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni. “The Port Authority is fulfilling our commitment to making Newark Liberty Airport one of the world’s best.”

Improvements to the international arrivals area include consolidating lost baggage offices, relocating the ground transportation desk to a more convenient location and improving travelers’ aid and concession spaces. Additionally, there will be upgrades to the public address, signage, escalator, alarm and fire protection as well as the heating and air-conditioning systems.

Work is also underway on a $1.2 billion enhancement and expansion of Delta’s facilities at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport reports Travel Daily news. That expansion brings a new Delta Sky Club in Terminal C, due to open this summer, and the Delta Sky Club in Terminal D will undergo an expansion.Delta will also increase service at LaGuardia by 60 percent, adding 4 million seats into New York, with 100 new flights and 26 more new destinations coming on line by summer 2012. As reported by Forbes, when its full schedule is implemented by this summer, Delta will run more than 260 daily flights to over 60 cities, more than any other carrier.

“All together, with our expansion projects at JFK and LaGuardia, Delta is investing nearly $1.4 billion in our New York airport facilities,” said Delta Chief Executive Officer Richard Anderson. “No other airline is approaching that level of commitment to New York in the next 12 months.”

It’s big money and not just on the East Coast. Los Angeles International Airport marked a milestone in its modernization program late last month, dedicating the renovation of Terminal 6, a new home for Alaska Airlines. The $238-million project includes a variety of improvements to bag checking, ticketing, security screening, waiting areas at gates and more.

These new facilities might not be waiting for long to handle increased traffic and pay back those investments.

In Texas, two studies were done to evaluate the economic impact on the city from Southwest’s international flights. They found the potential for an additional 1.5 million passengers to, from and through Houston per year. The increase would create more than 10,000 jobs and an annual economic impact of more than $1.6 billion.

Think US airports have high ambitions? Dubai International is already the world’s fourth busiest airport in terms of passenger traffic, but wants more too.

Flying High: Dubai's Airport Ambitions



[Flickr photo via mastermaq]