Vegetarian passenger tosses meat at flight attendant

One of the simple truths about air travel is that the food is usually somewhere between sub-par and awful. Sure, there are exceptions, but these are unlikely oases in a desert of damp sodium-rich indelicacies. Unless you are posted up in first class on Singapore Air eating pan-seared Chilean bass in bouillabaisse broth with capsicum confit and zucchini pasta or one of their many other haute options, you will likely be eating a mass-produced goo concocted by scientists rather than chefs.

It seems a brief food revolt began and subsequently ended on a Continental Airlines flight from the Dominican Republic yesterday. According to MSNBC, the flight was bound for Newark, and a vegetarian passenger was served a meat dish that offended her greatly. Instead of politely returning the meal, disgust consumed her. She tossed the meaty tray at a flight attendant in a display of disorderly resentment. Upon landing, the port authority greeted the plane, but the flight attendant declined to press charges.

flickr image via mr wabu

United Continental to expand Economy Plus seating to Continental aircraft

Compared to some other carriers, inflight services on United Airways have always been a little lacking. They don’t have a neat touch-screen entertainment system, limited inflight WiFi and no live TV or radio. Thankfully, they do have two perks you don’t find on any of the other domestic carriers – increased legroom in part of the cabin and the ability to listen in on cockpit communications.

As part of their merger with Continental, the new airline plans to introduce their Economy Plus seating to Continental aircraft.

Economy Plus is by no means a replacement for a business class cabin, but the 5 extra inches of leg room are usually quite welcome. What was once a perk reserved for their frequent fliers, has quickly become a new way for the airline to make money – charging up to $425 a year for unlimited access to the extra legroom. Individual flight upgrades to Economy Plus start at just $9 (for short flights).

Still, the airline has to be applauded for committing to this decent perk. The full press release is after the jump.


Multi-year conversion brings Economy Plus to the new United

CHICAGO, Feb. 17, 2011–United Continental Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: UAL) today announced that it will retain United’s popular Economy Plus® seating on United flights and expand the option to Continental aircraft beginning in 2012, providing more opportunities for customers to enjoy additional legroom and comfort.

“Our customers value Economy Plus and the additional personal space that it provides,” said Jim Compton, chief revenue officer of United Continental Holdings. “Customers who sit in Economy Plus are significantly more satisfied with their travel experience, as are travelers who choose other options that enable them to tailor their travel to their liking.”

The decision to maintain and expand Economy Plus across the combined fleet marks a significant milestone in the product integration of United and Continental. It also demonstrates the company’s commitment to provide innovative options to customers that enable them to customize their travel experience with superior products they value.

Today, United offers Economy Plus on all 359 mainline aircraft and more than 150 larger regional jets operated by United Express® carriers. When the multi-year conversion process is complete, the company plans to offer Economy Plus on more than 700 mainline aircraft, including all Continental mainline aircraft, as well as larger regional aircraft. When fully deployed, the new United’s fleet will include more than 40,000 Economy Plus seats, providing more than 122,000 Economy Plus seats each day, the largest amount of extra legroom economy seating available to customers of any airline in the world.

United introduced Economy Plus in 1999, offering up to five inches of additional legroom to customers seated in the forward section of United Economy®. Customers with elite status in United’s Mileage Plus and Continental’s OnePass frequent-flyer programs may confirm seat assignments in Economy Plus, when available. Customers may also purchase seat assignments in Economy Plus when making reservations via and, through a reservation agent, or during the check-in process at home or at the airport.

Continental currently offers extra legroom seats and will continue to offer that option to travelers until those aircraft are reconfigured with Economy Plus seating. OnePass and Mileage Plus elite members may confirm extra legroom seats at no charge, and other customers may purchase seat assignments for extra legroom seats.
The expansion of Economy Plus reflects United’s focus on its product and customers. The airline continues to reconfigure United and Continental aircraft with new lie-flat seats in first and business class – with the new lie-flat product already on 112 aircraft in the combined fleet, more than any other U.S.-based carrier. In addition, more than 160 Continental aircraft feature DIRECTV®.

Travel Agent scams thousands by selling fake vouchers

Avoiding the hustle is part of travel. You look for the good deals, and inspect the great deals with much scrutiny, hoping for it to shake out in the end. From $10 easyjet flights from London-Gatwick to free cab rides in Bangkok, anyone that has done either realizes rather quickly the high price of low cost. Whether it be wasting an afternoon at tourist traps or corralled like cattle onto a perpetually late and uncomfortably full flight, part of travel is finding the balance between value and comfort.

A woman in New Jersey provided neither value nor comfort as she executed a low rent Ponzi scheme peddling fraudulent Continental Airlines travel vouchers. Apparently, this woman – travel agent Victoria Scardingo, sold over 2000 fake travel vouchers for between $500 and $600 to well meaning rubes that assumed they were buying round-trip tickets to anywhere in the world. Instead of the bargain of the century, the buyers received a thorough fleecing. The vouchers were completely worthless.So what did she do with the money? According to CNN, Victoria had a penchant for Louis Vuitton and Coach bags, spending well over $15,000 at the two stores. She also purchased over half a million dollars in flights to keep the scheme running by distributing real tickets to the early adopters. In a Ponzi scheme, those that invest earliest are generally compensated with value gathered by later adopters. Eventually, keeping the scam alive was too costly, collapsing under the weight of customer demand.

“Now the only trip she will be taking is to federal prison,” says Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. Scardingo faces up to 20 years in the slammer and the cool million she deposited into her bank account is worth no more than one of her $500 travel vouchers.

flickr image via Magnus Bråth

First major signs of the United – Continental merger: 500 jobs lost in Houston

We’ll file this piece of news under “quelle surprise” – now United Airlines and Continental Airlines are working hard to merge their companies, the first victims will be found at the Houston based headquarters of Continental.

Within the management and clerical ranks, 500 people will soon be without a job. The firings begin in April, and will continue through June 30. Workers will leave with a severance package and subsidized health care benefits.

Since both airlines are about the same size, it is a tricky task to figure out where the various departments will be headquartered, so this loss of jobs is most likely only the beginning.

The new airline does not expect any job losses in frontline staff positions such as pilots, gate agents or anyone that works at the airport.

There is some other good news too – despite the loss of 500 jobs, the Texas Workforce Commission expects a net gain in jobs once the merger is complete, as George Bush Intercontinental Airport will be one of the largest hubs for the new airline. Later this year, United Airlines expects to announce its first major round of job cuts.

[Photo: Getty Images]

Continental offers “Fare Lock” technology

We’re all about comparison shopping here at Gadling. But what happens when you wait just a moment too long and that oh-so-perfect fare is gone? It sucks, that’s what. Which is why we’re excited to experiment with Continental Airlines‘ newest feature, FareLock, an option that offers customers the opportunity to hold reservations and lock-in ticket prices for 72 hours or seven days with no commitment to purchase a ticket.

FareLock fees, begin $5 for a 72-hour hold and $9 for a seven-day hold, but can rise based on a number of factors such as the itinerary, number of days to departure and the length of the hold.

“FareLock is an innovative option for customers who need extra time to plan their travel before purchasing a ticket,” said Chris Amenechi, managing director of merchandising.

The carrier will continue to offer a 24-hour flexible booking policy that allows reservation changes and cancellations with full refund without a fee within 24 hours of booking. For customers choosing FareLock, the 24-hour flexible booking policy remains in effect upon ticketing, although the FareLock fee is non-refundable.

[Flickr via ZazzaNM]