British Airways computer glitch posts super low cost flights to India

Late Friday night, an alert went out on Twitter. Fares to Mumbai, India, from locations all over the US were being offered at rock bottom prices on British Airways. Flights from Chicago to Mumbai were just $550 per person.

I quickly logged on to Orbitz, selected my dates, and clicked purchase. I received an email from Orbitz confirming my purchase and then got to work planning the trip. My husband was out with friends and had left his cell phone at home, so I was hoping he’d come home just tipsy enough to not mind that I’d just bought $1100 worth of plane tickets without discussing it with him first. Besides, he is accustomed to me buying plane tickets on a whim, just because they are on sale.

Luckily, he was just as excited as I was….until Saturday morning, when I received an email from Orbitz saying that due to “limited quantities”, our order could not be fulfilled. As it turns out, it’s because the fare never should have existed. Someone at BA obviously messed up (how’d you like to be that person come Monday morning?) and entered the wrong number. The fare should have been more like $1550 per person. The fat finger fare was corrected, but not before several people, myself included, had bought tickets at the faulty price.

Word on the web is that tickets bought before the error was discovered will be honored, if they were purchased on British Airways. So far it seems that those of us who used Orbitz will be out of luck. Christopher Elliott posted the story on his blog, along with a response from the company. They say British Airways didn’t honor the purchases made with Orbitz ,so people who tried to book that way will not receive tickets.

This isn’t the first time a technical error has crushed some budget traveler’s dreams. In February, Northwest refused to honor $0 fares that were “purchased” online in error. So next time you see a fare that seems to good to be true, watch out. It might not be.




Oscar nominees for best movies that capture place: Six nominees

Each year I see all the movies nominated for Oscars in all the major categories–plus more. As I watch movies, where they are filmed and how the place influences the story interests me. Perhaps this is because when one travels, the places one travels influences the experience.

There’s not an Oscar for movies that best capture a sense of place, but if there were, here are my suggestions for movies that came out this year. As you read the list, think of movies that have struck you. My list is from this year’s movies, but any movie and any year counts.

Best movie for capturing the sensuality and sexiness of place:

Vicky Cristina Barcelona.

This whole movie made me drool over Barcelona, Spain and the city of Oviedo, another location. The architecture, art, the fountains, the glasses of wine, statuary and little courtyards–divine. Plus, it was sunny! As a bonus, that delicious feeling of being young women off on a European adventure was perfectly captured. Who wouldn’t want to have a romp with Javier Bardem?

Best movie for capturing a place that is past its prime:

The Wrestler

With the economy’s downturn has come the closing or downsizing of beloved attractions. The scene in the abandoned carousel room at a no longer in use boardwalk in New Jersey where Mickey Rourke’s character danced with his daughter encapsulated that longing for simpler times and childhood memories gone-by

Best movie for capturing the intricacies of cultural interactions and neighborhood change:

Gran Turino

I was so disappointed this movie wasn’t nominated. The scenes between Eastwood and the Hmong immigrant family from Cambodia were superb. Also important were the shots of the neighborhood in Highland Park, Michigan. My favorites were when they kept plying him with food, something he eventually relished. What a wonderful tribute to the idea that culture is mostly about what makes your heart sing.

Best movie for capturing a place of color and vibrancy:

Slumdog Millionaire

As much as I wasn’t all that enamored with Slumdog Millionaire as a package, the vibrancy, sounds and colors of parts of Mumbai drew me in. Plus, what a feat to capture the footage in the sprawl of Dharavi, the “slum” community there.

Best movie for capturing how place influences how people live:

Frozen River

As I watched Michelle Leo steer the car across the ice of the St. Lawrence River next to the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation in Upstate New York, I thought about how where people live can affect outcomes. The storyline and place was a perfect match. I can still hear the sound of the ice crunching.

Best movie for capturing place that has been a heartbeat of change:


San Francisco’s role in the movement of gay rights was an integral part of this film. Along with depicting the important people like Harvey Milk and Cleve Jones (who started the Names Project, the AIDS Quilt), this was a terrific look at how the city has played an important role in U.S. history.

Best movie for capturing the sense of self discovery that travel brings:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttons

All the footage of Benjamin Buttons traveling as a young man, particularly in Nepal, brought back memories of how travel is an integral part of developing a sense of self. Anyone who has washed out clothes and hung them on a piece of string in a country that is not your own, knows what this feels like.

Airline passenger swears, throws water, makes threats and hits an elderly man with a fork

In a truth is stranger than fiction tale, picture this: You’re sitting minding your own business on a Jet Airways flight from London to Mumbai, India. The engines are humming. Perhaps, the “fasten your seat belt” light has gone off. Luggage is stored and you’re settled in. All seems normal. But WAIT! The young guy in his mid-twenties who is sitting near you starts verbally abusing you and anyone within earshot. Then he ramps it up a notch and grabs at the breasts of the woman sitting next to him.

After she moves seats to get away, he continues on his rampage going from bad to worse. He stands on his seat for better a vantage point, perhaps.

When the male flight attendant tries to stop him, the passenger (allegedly) throws water in the attendant’s face and continues his verbal rampage.

He also threatens to throw his passport out the window (neat trick on an airplane), rips up his boarding pass, and hurls a fork at an elderly man.

Finally, the passenger is handcuffed and tied to his seat after the pilot asked for something to be done with the guy. Eventually, he falls asleep and wakes up right as rain as if nothing had happened. Regardless of his personality shift, after the plane landed in Mumbai, the police arrested him because of his behaviors. Now they’re trying to figure out what caused the outburst.

According to the article in The Times of India, the man is an engineering student.

For a video of the news story, click here.

Expect to wait, but not in Japan or Korea

The worst airport delays in the world, of course, are those that affect you. If I’m stranded at LaGuardia‘s Marine Air terminal for a short hop to Boston, I really don’t care what’s going on over at JFK, O’Hare or anywhere else. However, some airports are more likely to inspire your anger than others, so it’s a pretty good idea to know which are the worst.

If you are headed to India or Europe, it seems, you should build a bit of extra time into your travels. India takes the top (or, lowest?) spot for the second year in a row, according to MSNBC. Mumbai‘s Chhatrapati Shivaji International is the worst of the worst; only 50 percent of its flights hit the ground on time last year. In New Delhi, Indira Gandhi International Airport had only a 51 percent success rate. Fortunately, both are expanding, with the latter having opened a new airport in October. Bangalore, which ranked fourth, has added a new airport.

Flight congestion is the culprit in arrival delays. But, it isn’t impeding departures. In Bangalore, for example, 80 percent of departures were on time, but only 60 percent arrived on time.

You can get out; you just can’t get in.

India isn’t the only country with arrival delays. Airports with tough on-time arrival rates include:

  • Casablanca‘s Mohammed V International Airport: 54 percent
  • Orio al Serio Airport near Bergamo, Italy: 61 percent
  • Birmingham Airport in England: 63 percent
  • London‘s Luton and Heathrow Airports: both 63 percent on time

And, in my neighborhood, it pays to bring a book with you to LaGuardia or Newark Liberty International. Both fail to impress, with on-time arrival rates of only 62 percent.

Now, if you’re looking for a bit of efficiency, try Japan or Korea. Every airport in each of these countries has an on-time arrival and departure percentage of at least 82 percent.


Indian pilot forgets to load enough fuel for his flight

Let me open by saying that the details of the incident I’m about to write about are sketchy at best.

The report comes from an Indian news site, and appears to be translated quite poorly, it’s still interesting enough to write about, but I highly recommend reading the source article for a real chuckle.

Apparently, the captain of Kingfisher flight IT335 was preparing for his Mumbai to Delhi flight, but failed to check his fuel loads. Of course, when you do this in your car, you get a “ping” and an orange light comes on, but on a fully loaded jet, things are a little more complicated.

To make matters worse, the jet encountered poor visibility upon its approach to Indira Ghandi Airport and the captain was not certified for those conditions.

Eventually, the plane managed to reach the airport, presumably running on fumes with a pilot not trained or certified for the weather conditions.

The story then recommends people to check with the captain that enough fuel was loaded. I’m sure that will go quite well, and I certainly plan to ask the flight attendant on my next flight to confirm with the captain that he loaded enough gas.

My next report will probably be about how the federal air marshal Tasered me and dragged me off the plane for demanding to check the fuel gauge in the cockpit.

Other “troublemakers of the sky”: