What’s Up With Celebrities Behaving Badly On Airplanes?

We all know that some celebrities don’t seem to know how to behave in public and that the list of celebrities removed from airplanes is continually growing. The most recent addition to this list is Soulja Boy, who was kicked off of an American Airlines flight on Friday when he wouldn’t return to his seat when asked to do so. Soulja Boy seemed apologetic about the incident when he spoke to TMZ saying, “It was a bad night and me and the flight staff didn’t see eye to eye. In hindsight, I’m extremely sorry for all inconvenience caused to the passengers and employees of the airline.”

Other celebrities who have been removed from airplanes:

  • Alex Baldwin for not turning off an electronic device
  • Naomi Campbell for losing her temper over lost luggage
  • Christian Slater for trying to board a plane with an unlicensed pistol
  • David Hasselhoff for being under the influence
  • Courtney Love for refusing to sit down and throwing a tantrum

And the list goes on.

Has Airline Consolidation Really Been a Boon For Travelers?

During a recent conversation with Charlie Rose, United Airlines CEO Jeff Smisek spoke on the benefits of consolidation in the airline industry.

Smisek opines the corporations’ increased profits means greater investments in the airline’s fleets, including new planes and global WiFi.

“That costs a lot of money,” Smisek said. “And to do that, you’ve got to make money to be able to make those sorts of investments.”

A proposed merger between the bankrupt American Airlines and US Airways is currently under review by the Justice Department. Last month, antitrust lawyer Joseph Alioto filed suit seeking to block the merger, claiming consumers would be negatively impacted. Although attorneys for both airlines decried the suit as baseless, the Government Accountability Office reported that nearly 1,700 routes between would lose a competitor as a result of the merger, affecting more than 53 million passengers.

When United and Continental merged in 2010, competition was decreased across more than 1,100 routes, according to the GAO.

Just how many airlines have caught merger fever? Take a look at this list.

While consolidation has undoubtedly helped the airline’s bottom line, how has it affected the passengers? With fewer airlines vying for your business and fewer flights to and from your destinations, passengers are at the mercy of increasingly large monolithic airlines that, like major banking institutions, are rapidly becoming “too big to fail.”

William McGee, a travel expert with the non-profit Consumers Union (publishes Consumer Reports magazine) raised those and several other issues when testifying about in front of a US Senate Judiciary meeting regarding United’s merger with Continental. McGee testified the airline mergers meant loss of service for many cities, higher fares, reductions in service quality and the threat of widespread service disruptions.

Why Aren’t More Airlines Offering All-You-Can-Fly Deals?

With new start-up Surf Air offering all-you-can-fly pricing, will other, more established airlines follow suit?

Surf Air charges a one-time membership fee of $500, followed by $1,650 monthly payments. The six-seat, single-engine turboprops fly between less-used airports in California, such as Burbank and Santa Barbara, with additional destinations being considered for later in the year.

Unlimited travel isn’t unheard of — commuter-train passengers purchase unlimited-use passes every month and Jet Blue offered its popular $499 “All You Can Jet” pass in 2009 and 2010 to great acclaim. So why aren’t more airlines offering it?

American Airlines offered an unlimited lifetime pass for about five years, before abruptly discontinuing it in the early 1990s. The passes, which sold for $250,000 at the program’s start, actually quadrupled in price by the program’s end after American realized how much the unlimited flights were damaging their bottom line. Sixty-six elite fliers had their passes cancelled, sparking several lawsuits.

So, is it possible for an airline to offer an unlimited flight deal? JetBlue seemed to have much success with their plan, limiting the pass usage to one month and the days you could use the pass (unless, of course, you paid extra). JetBlue never released details on the financial success of the All You Can Jet pass, but perhaps it’s telling they discontinued the plan in favor of GoPacks, a 10-ticket pass selling for $699 to nearly $2,500.

So can a small, limited-route all-you-can-fly carrier succeed? Or if your preferred airline offered a monthly unlimited travel pass, would you take advantage if it?

What Are The Rules For Breastfeeding On A Plane?

It has happened yet again: a mother breastfeeding on a plane was allegedly treated poorly by an airline staff member. The mother was breastfeeding on an American Airlines flight last month while sitting in a window seat next to her husband. Since American Airlines has publicly stated that breastfeeding is allowed on their flights during all stages of flight and that flight attendants should not place restrictions or requirements on breastfeeding mothers, the mother felt free to breastfeed. However, a disgruntled flight attendant requested that she cover up, citing that there were kids present on the plane at the time.

The couple refused and the flight attendant later returned to their aisle, telling a girl seated in the aisle next to the husband that her seat was going to be changed, projecting that the girl was uncomfortable despite the fact that the girl hadn’t complained about the breastfeeding. According to the couple, the flight attendant did not offer service to the couple for the remainder of the flight.

American Airlines responded to the complaint filed by the mother in a letter that was posted to Facebook by a friend of the mother. American Airlines stated in the letter that they believe it is reasonable to request that a mother cover up and that breastfeeding be conducted with modesty and discretion, despite the fact that the manual states that mothers should be able to breastfeed without restriction or requirement and the fact that 45 states allow mothers to breastfeed in any public or private location.

United Airlines, American Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines and others have stated that breastfeeding is not prohibited while on the plane. Whether a breastfeeding mother should be required to cover up, however, seems more ambiguous. What are your thoughts on requiring or requesting that breastfeeding mothers cover up?

I Slept In The Conference Room At Comfort Inn O’Hare

My evening of July 9 was filled with the kind of mundane frustration that can come only from delayed travel. My husband and I were set to fly from New York City to Chicago and Chicago to Marquette, Michigan. Our flight out of New York kept getting pushed back and, despite receiving a seat on a plane leaving earlier than our original flight to Chicago, we still missed our connection in Chicago – the last flight to Marquette for the day. Since the delays were weather-related, we received a coupon for a hotel rather than a voucher. We found the shuttle and lugged our bags toward the long line at the Comfort Inn O’Hare. Once we had our key, we went to our room and opened the door only to find that we’d been placed in the hotel conference room.Just beyond the gigantic oval table and whiteboard was a normal hotel bed. My husband called the front desk to make sure there hadn’t been a mistake. They said we got the last room in the hotel because many passengers had been stranded in Chicago that evening and received airline coupons for the hotel. I wasn’t at all perturbed. Having to wait around all day for delayed and missed flights only to be put up in an airport hotel is boring. This, on the other hand, was new.

A follow-up call with the hotel manager revealed that this “Conference Room Suite” is always available for guests to rent and that under normal circumstances, it costs more, too. Although I didn’t see the room as a booking option on their website, business travelers occasionally choose this room over others. Distressed passengers typically stay in the room only if the hotel has been hit hard with delayed and canceled flights and has nowhere else to put guests.

Aside from the leaking ceiling and distance between the bed and television, I was happy to stay in the conference room. Not only did it give me a roof over my head for the night, but it gave me a good story, too. Have you ever been placed in an unusual hotel room?

[Photo Credit: Ben Britz]