Former flight attendant feels overwhelmed and tubby

During a visit at the Queens Criminal Court to report on his substance abuse treatment progress, former JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater said, “I am a little overwhelmed.” He added, “I’m trying to stay focused and organized and keeping my priorities straight,” according to the NY Post.

The former flight attendant was ordered into counseling as part of a plea agreement to two counts of criminal mischief. He also lost his job and has agreed to pay JetBlue $10,000 to replace the chute he used to slide to freedom after an altercation with a passenger. There’s been no indication of whether he has to reimburse the airline for the Blue Moon beer he took with him.

The judge advised that Slater not “get worn out with all your activities” and suggested that he “have a good holiday season.”

Outside the courthouse, a photographer paid Slater a compliment on his appearance, but the latter didn’t agree, saying, “I need to lose 25 pounds.”

Are airlines bad for your health? Five perspectives on plane food

Lately, it seems like the easiest way to lose weight is to fly regularly. There isn’t much to munch on in the skies, as airlines have cut back on just about anything that looks like an amenity. Fatty foods have been replaced by none at all, which is great for your waistline, right?

It turns out that you can still pork up on a plane, even if you think the dismal state of customer service leaves you with a barf bag and nothing to expel into it. has done a bit of digging and rated the airlines with “Health Scores” to reflect the quality of their high-flying fare.

Even at 35,000 feet, the mighty have fallen. According to Charles Stuart Platkin, PhD, MPH, public health advocate, editor of and visiting assistant professor at CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College, “This year United provided the ‘healthiest” choices in the sky, while Continental had a fall from grace, US Airways received the lowest rating, and Virgin America and Delta were the least cooperative (and also received a low health rating).”

So, let’s take a look at five airlines and what makes them good for you … or not:1. United Airlines
United Airlines finally has something to celebrate: its grub. According to, you can score a Tapas snack box on flights of two hours or longer – in fact, it’s the top seller. If your flight stretches to more than three hours, “United has a plethora of choices, but I really like the Turkey sandwich at 600 calories including the sauce and chips — skip those if you want to save the calories,” notes Platkin.

Finally, a reason to fly United!

2. JetBlue
It isn’t surprising to see JetBlue on the list, as it’s a perpetual high scorer in terms of customer service. The airline that treats you like a human being, it seems, also believes in feeding you like one. But, warns you not to take advantage of the largess the airline provides: “Try to stick with no more than one snack. Just because they offer more doesn’t mean you have to take them, especially if you’re not hungry.”

Moral of the story: don’t let kindness turn you tubby.

3. American Airlines
The service may suck – the American Airlines flight attendants were singled out in a recent study of the worst airlines in the United States – but the “Boston Market Chicken Caesar Salad with chips and dressing is a pretty good meal choice.” If you go with the Cheese & Cracker Snack Tray, advises, “[j]ust skip the cracker packages.

Oh, and steer clear of the beverage cart!

4. Delta Air Lines
Is it any shock that the worst airline in the United States was also the least cooperative with The company notes that Delta wasn’t helpful at all in providing nutritional information, adding, “I had to contact them repeatedly – they are back to their old ways.” You can do pretty well with the food, though: “Delta’s individual snack choices are not very good, but their meal choices on longer flights are reasonably healthy. Still, they can do much better.”

Warning: “Skip the turkey, egg salad and Canadian bacon croissant at all costs.”

5. Continental Airlines
There isn’t much here to celebrate, according to Go with the almonds, as “it’s really the only snack choice that has any nutritional value.” If you’re at a loss for other options, Platkin says that “if I had to choose, the Savory is probably the best — just watch that fruit-and-nut mix. In terms of meals, for breakfast, the yogurt is not too bad. For lunch or dinner, the Grilled Chicken Spinach Salad is the obvious best choice so long as you watch the dressing — that could put it over the top.”

Who cares? This is moot, of course, as a result of the merger with United.

[photo by WordRidden via Flickr]

Airlines add seats on optimism for 2011

Do you think body scanners and TSA groping will keep people off planes next year? Well, the airlines don’t think so! Carriers are adding seats and flights, according to USA Today, in the hopes that the travel industry will continue to improve in 2011 as it has in 2010.

Through November this year, the top 10 airlines in the United States added 2.7 percent more seats for passengers than they had a year earlier, USA Today reports, with 90 percent of the airlines adding seats “by increasing the number of flights or moving to bigger planes.” JetBlue added the most with an up-tick of 7.6 percent, followed by Delta, which added 5 percent more seats year over year.

Business travelers are leading the charge, it seems, with airline readiness bolstered by a few years of tough times:

With signs of improvement in the economy, travel demand, particularly from the corporate sector, is on the rise. After three years of retrenching in the face of higher fuel costs and fewer travelers, airlines are beefing up capacity incrementally on profitable routes. They’re adding slowly so as not to have to lower fares. They’re adding seats on international routes more quickly than on domestic routes.

And the good news for the airlines is that these aren’t loss-leader additions. USA Today continues:

“We’re growing in profitable markets. We’re not flooding the seats with low (fares) to manufacture a competitive situation,” JetBlue spokeswoman Jenny Dervin says. “The overall supply and demand is in good ratio.” Much of JetBlue’s added capacity comes from additional flights to the Caribbean and in the Boston market, Dervin says. Other carriers are also sharply increasing international flights.

International fares are up 30 percent to 50 percent, with domestic fares up around 15 percent year over year.

[photo by mrkathika via Flickr]

JetBlue adds General McChrystal to board of advisors

He’s no longer flying military … and he’s budget-conscious too! JetBlue announced yesterday the addition of General Stanley A. McChrystal to their corporation’s board of directors.

“We are honored to have Gen. McChrystal join our airline’s leadership ranks,” said Dave Barger, CEO and president of JetBlue. “As we enter our second decade and continue to grow in new directions, the fresh perspectives and counsel of leaders like Gen. McChrystal will be truly beneficial to maintaining our competitive advantage.”

Considered one of the nation’s most accomplished military leaders, the 34-year Army veteran commanded the U.S. and NATO’s security mission in Afghanistan, served as the director of the Joint Staff and was the Commander of Joint Special Operations Command, where he was responsible for the nation’s deployed military counter terrorism efforts.

Let’s just hope that he isn’t followed by another Rolling Stone reporter and encouraged to express his views on this airline after a few drinks.

Airline profits may mean more elbow room for a little while

The airline industry wants to thank you. Last year, it was mired in despair. The post-financial crisis recession left the carriers beleaguered and desperate for a turn of fortune. Corporate and leisure travel had fallen precipitously, and doubling down on extra fees, though prudent for profits, alienated both those considering a flight and the passengers with little choice but to hit the road. The brutality of 2009 was evident, and it seemed as though all there was for 2010 was the hope for something better.

Well, hope paid off.

Three quarters into this year, money is again beginning to flow, as a result of (finally) climbing fares, additional fees and an increase in passenger traffic. United Continental, Southwest and JetBlue have reported strong profits for the third quarter using a variety of tactics, but an increase in sales and higher prices appear to be the universal driver. And, this may translate to a bit more elbow room for you.
According to the Associated Press, airlines are beginning to bring back some of the routes they cut last year, as indicated by decisions at Delta and American Airlines to hire more flight attendants. The challenge, however, will be to increase capacity (and thus headcount) without imperiling this year’ hard-won profits.

The business of satisfying pent-up demand isn’t easy for the airline sector. After all, capacity can’t be added one seat at a time. Restoring a route to handle more passengers comes with it the obligation to fill the plane (to the extent possible) each time, in accordance with revenue per available seat mile (RASM) targets.

Nonetheless, the carriers seem ready to rise to the challenge. JetBlue is amping up fourth quarter capacity by up to 10 percent, with Delta looking at an increase of 5 percent to 10 percent. This follows even faster growth in September, according to the Associated Press:

Still, most of the airlines saw traffic rise even faster than capacity in September suggesting they have enough business to support the additional flights. The only exception was Delta, which added capacity slightly faster than traffic rose.

The moves come in anticipation of a strong 2011, according to Ray Neidl, an analyst for Maxim Group. He tells the associated press that the growth in capacity “is a little more long-term,” adding that “[d]espite the lackluster economy, it’s going to be a big year for airlines, especially as consolidation kicks in.”

So, what does this mean for the flying public?

Well, you may not have to occupy that middle seat for a little while, and the odds that someone else will be in it may be improving. The increase in capacity necessarily precedes an increase in sufficient demand to make it profitable, so enjoy it while you can! If the airlines can’t fill those new seats, a return to austerity could send you back to sharing an armrest.

[photo by Joe Shlabotnik via Flickr]