Forget where your seat is located, how much legroom you have or the race to claim overhead storage space. These are all parts of flying that some passengers are better at coping with than others. One element of flight that all passengers share is landing. Usually, the aircraft glides in for a smooth landing or seems to hop or skip a bit as it touches down. But what if it hits the runway so hard that the plane’s nose gear collapses? That’s exactly what happened during the rough landing of a Southwest Airlines flight.
On Southwest Airlines flight 345 last July, a veteran captain and 13-year pilot took over the controls of the Boeing 737 as it approached the runway.Southwest policy calls for the aircraft’s main wheels under the wings to touch down first, reports Bloomberg. In this case, the front landing gear touched down first, snapped off and damaged the aircraft. Nine passengers were injured. Traffic at New York’s LaGuardia airport was disrupted for hours.
Airline seats continue to be a hot issue with air travelers. Instead of cramming into a smaller space with less legroom, some of us pay extra for a premium coach seat. Airlines like that idea and have offered a number of profit-boosting options, bundling early boarding, a prime location and more as part of the deal. Now Airbus has a plan to replace a row of three 18-inch-wide seats with a 20-inch seat on the aisle and 17-inch seats for the middle and window locations.
“The wider seats may be offered at a premium for those who require more room or as a reward for frequent flyers,” says an ExecutiveTravelMagazine article, noting that a number of airlines are indeed interested in the new seat configuration.
The Airbus option comes at a time when airlines are taking a serious look at seating in both existing and new aircraft on order. United began featuring slimmer seats that grant more legroom on its Airbus fleet in May. Those proved so popular that United will roll out the change to all of its Airbus planes eventually.Comfort is apparently not all about room either. Delta has dozens of new Boeing jets with highly-requested power outlets at seats throughout the plane.
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.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has been working on addressing long lines at airport security screening areas for quite some time. TSA Precheck lanes are being expanded to more airports every year and Global Entry lets frequent, pre-authorized travelers to zip into the United States. Just last week, we reported faster airport screening via a new TSA program. But that’s not enough, says a travel trade organization, urging Congress to take action.
The U.S. Travel Association (USTA) is battling what they believe to be the cause of problems at our airports; budget restrictions and poor planning. They believe the current system leaves airports unable to handle millions of visitor a year. They have some specific recommendations too.
Calling for a 50-percent reduction in peak the wait times, the USTA believes it should take just 30 minutes to process travelers. They want Customs and Border Protection staffing and participation in the Global Entry Program increased. Congress should be involved in an ongoing way, and should require periodic progress reports, says the association in a list of 20 recommended policy changes.
Back at the TSA, the new system is indeed a step in the right direction, classifying travelers into three tiers — expedited, standard or enhanced — with each level requiring different procedures and qualifiers. The current system treats all travelers the same and is exactly what the Travel Association wants changed.
In an Open Letter to the U.S. Congress, over 70 travel leaders even suggested ways to fund the additional programing necessary to address the problem and increase transparency in the entire process. It’s a lofty goal but one worthy of pursuit: the U.S. economy could lose $95 billion and 518,000 jobs over the next five years due to long security and customs lines at the nation’s airports.
As discussed in an article in The Economist today, airlines should theoretically be becoming more and more “green.” Fuel costs are normally the largest single cost for airlines and rising fuel costs aren’t good for the airline or the customer. One might assume that airlines would pursue fuel efficiency with their bottom line in mind, but that doesn’t appear to be the case, at least not with the most profitable domestic Airline (2009-2011), Allegiant Air. Allegiant was found to actually be the least fuel efficient airline for the year of 2010 in a report recently released by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT).
While it is certainly counter-intuitive that the most profitable airline can also be the least fuel efficient, there are other factors that play into the sometimes ambiguous cost/profit setup of airlines.
Still, The Economist asks the question that I have to echo: “If the bottom line cannot force airlines to be more fuel efficient, what can?” One of the many possible answers to that question is fleet, since almost one-third of the efficiency gap between airlines can be attributed to differences in fleet. Here’s to hoping for the employment of greener planes down the road.