We May Soon Be Able To Use Electronic Devices On Planes

While having dinner with a pilot once in Los Cabos, he leaned across the table and told our fellow diners and me, “You know you can actually use your electronics in flights, right? It doesn’t affect the plane at all.”

I believed him not only because he was a pilot, but also because we’ve all heard this before, these rumors about the irrelevance of the FAA rules about electronic devices on planes. But I also like to choose my battles wisely, so I always turn off my music when flight attendants ask me to and eagerly wait for the moment I can return to sifting through my phone for songs I’m not already sick of. Luckily for all of us who don’t want to disconnect, the FAA is meeting this week to complete the details on new and relaxed restrictions for electronic devices on planes. It’s expected that we still won’t be allowed to make calls, send texts or use the internet in flight, but more leisurely activities, like music-listening and e-book-reading, should be a go. This will likely make those moments of ascent and descent more peaceful, providing familiar distractions for kids and babies and an escape from unwanted conversations for many adults.

Galley Gossip: Taking Care Of Other People’s Kids In Flight

Long ago I was on a flight from Chicago to Boston via New York when a weary woman with an active baby sat next to me. Having much experience babysitting, I was used to babies and thought I might be called upon to smile, wave and cheer up a crying baby, but never did I think that the mother would abdicate her responsibilities to me, a complete stranger.

The mom began to feel airsick (or so she said) and told me she was unable to change her baby’s diaper because she was about to throw up and asked me to do it for her. Guess what? I did it. I just felt so badly for the woman and the baby having to sit in the mess and yes, especially for myself because I could not stand the fumes either.

After the dirty job was done, she thanked me profusely and then said she was exhausted and asked me to hold her baby while she grabbed a few winks. She woke up when the wheels touched the ground to find her baby finally fast asleep on my shoulder. I prayed that they were not on my connecting flight. Am I crazy or just a Good Samaritan? Cheers, Priscilla

I’m going with Good Samaritan. I’m also going to say Thank God for passengers like you. While I can’t say that sort of thing happens often, it does happen, and not everyone is as nice about it as you were. Your act of kindness proves you’re a compassionate human being.

That said I came a cross a child acting out in a seat while we were doing the beverage service not too long ago. I couldn’t help but wonder why the mother wasn’t doing anything to keep her child entertained during the flight. Instead the mother had her eyes closed and ignored the child. Later on in flight the little girl came to the back of the airplane and asked for a soda. I went over to the mother to make sure that was okay. The woman shrugged. Not the response I expected. That’s when I asked a strange question: ​”It this your child?” The woman sighed and said no.Turns out the mother of this hyper six year-old had booked a seat in first class, leaving a complete stranger to sit beside her child in coach. I felt badly for the woman and offered her an adult beverage on the house.

Years ago on a different flight, I felt something between my feet. On this particular day I was commuting, not working, just a regular passenger wearing jeans in coach. So I didn’t necessarily look like someone you could trust. When I glanced down at the floor I found an infant staring back at me. I picked up the baby and looked around the coach cabin for someone who might be missing a child. No one fit the bill. But behind me a woman slept with her head against the window.

I tapped her on the shoulder. “Is this yours?”

“Oh, uh, yeah,” she said. She thanked me and went back to sleep.

“There’s nothing like being a new ‘uncle’ on a plane to a kid you’ll never see again,” wrote Mitch Lacey after I posted a tweet asking if anyone had ever gotten stuck taking care of somebody else’s child on an airplane.

Sonya Hamasaki had a little fun when she found herself seated next to a nine year-old. “He read me dirty jokes from his iPod. I taught him to play Candy Crush saga.”

Hopefully this won’t be a problem for long with airlines like Scoot creating child-free zones and Etihad Airways offering in-flight nannies. Not that this is an excuse to shirk responsibilities as a parent. Still you might consider packing a pair of noise canceling headsets and a nose clip next time you fly in case this should happen again.

Glass Eyes, Diamonds And Other Strange Things Travelers Leave Behind

Most passengers don’t even wait for the seat belt light to go off before jumping up from their seats and getting ready to disembark the plane, so it’s no surprise that in the hurry belongings often get left behind.

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You’re probably imagining that most of the forgotten items involve things commonly stowed in the seat back compartment, such as passports, books and cell phones — and you wouldn’t be wrong. But it seems many of our fellow travelers are also flying with some pretty strange cargo, at least according to a study by booking site Skyscanner, which rounded up the most bizarre things left behind by passengers on planes.

Some of the oddities forgotten on flights include underwear, handcuffs and bags of diamonds — all the kinds of things that would certainly have you questioning who you’re sitting next to. Animals also made the list, with parrots, frogs, falcons and even eggs forgotten by their owners. Other items we’re not sure how the owners walked off without include prosthetic legs and glass eyes.

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However planes aren’t the only place where travelers experience forgetfulness. Airport security is an all too easy spot to misplace belongings and while many fliers forget their belts and keys, others leave behind false teeth, wigs and adult toys. London City Airport said these made the list of strangest things left in the terminal, along with an artificial skull, signed blank check book and yet another bag of diamonds.

Hotels have also seen their fair share of wacky objects forgotten in rooms, including a showjumping horse, a life size cardboard cutout of a comedian and a wok (apparently the guest had filled the toilet with charcoal in the hopes of turning it into a barbeque).

United Rolls Out Wi-Fi On Overseas Flights

It used to be that one of the few places you couldn’t get a Wi-Fi signal was at 30,000 feet, but soon there will be no excuse for being out of touch (or not getting work done) as airlines implement a dramatic expansion of onboard Wi-Fi services.

More than half of the planes flown by U.S. carriers currently offer Wi-Fi onboard, but United and other airlines are planning to up the ante by offering satellite-based Internet service en route. This not only means faster speeds, but the ability to get online during overseas flights – something not previously possible using ground-based technology.However, installing the satellite technology onto existing aircraft is no mean feat, with airlines forced to ground a plane for 15 days to get the system up and running. Engineers also have to run a series of tests to make sure passengers can get the signal strength they’re paying for. Since the shape and composition of a plane can cause Wi-Fi signals to bounce all over the place, experts have had their hands full making sure you can get can online no matter where on the plane you’re sitting.

And then there’s the cost. Installing Wi-Fi on a single aircraft sets the airline back more than $200,000 – and that’s not counting the revenue lost from taking the aircraft out of service for so long. Of course, airlines will more than make the money back in the long run thanks to the charges for using the Wi-Fi, which will range from around $4 to $23 depending on the flight.

Twenty of United’s planes are already equipped with the new Wi-Fi technology, with plans to bring that number up to 300 by the end of the year.

Check out the video below to learn more about United’s Wi-Fi expansion plans.

[Photo credit: Flickr user Robert Raines]

10 Ways To Keep The Seat Next To You Empty

I’m not an anti-social traveler. In fact, I love to meet new people when I’m traveling. But when I find myself sitting on an airplane with the seat next to me open, I tend to get a little nervous wondering who is going to come and occupy the middle seat next to me.

On most airlines, I feel OK about looking to see who is coming down the aisle, because if they’re assigned to the seat next to me, they’re going to sit there, whether they like the looks of me or not. But when I fly Southwest, and other airlines that have open seating, I find myself strategizing on how best to preserve my extra space.

On a short flight, the stakes are low, but on a long flight, the difference between having an open seat next to you and having a size XXL traveler plop down beside you can be huge. And in fairness, it isn’t just large people you don’t want next to you. The overly chatty, the obnoxious, and the malodorous can be even worse. On Thursday, I traveled on Southwest from Chicago to Los Angeles, a 4.5-hour flight (if it’s on time), and, with most of the passengers already on board, I still had an open middle seat next to my aisle.

I know it’s horrible and selfish, but as the few remaining stragglers made their way down the aisle, a small voice inside me was pleading, please, please, please don’t sit next to me. My brain quickly ran through the different strategies that one might employ in order to preserve the extra space.

Spread Your Stuff Out

It rarely works, but who hasn’t put their reading material or other stuff on the seat next to them to make it seem as though the seat might be occupied? Admit it, you’ve done this before.

Make The Center Seat Seem Even Smaller Than It is

Put the armrest up, spread your legs out and make that center seat look as small and unappealing as possible.

Look Busy

It’s a longshot, but if you’re working on a laptop positioned on the tray table, some passersby might be so polite that they’ll chose another middle seat rather than make you get up and reposition with a computer in tow. (Or you can talk on the phone, but I’ve never stooped to that level because it’s an annoyance to everyone in the vicinity.)

Look Crazy

There are plenty of different ways to do this – you can stare, you can let your eyes roll around towards the back of your head, let your tongue hang out of your mouth, drool a bit perhaps. Just watch “One Flew Over the Cukoo’s Nest” if you need some suggestions. If you really want to take this one the extra mile, wear a T-shirt with an aggressively anti-social slogan on it. Something like, “I worship Satan” might do the trick.

Give Off God Vibes

Have a bible out and before the person even asks if the seat next to you is free, ask them if they’ve accepted the Lord, Jesus Christ as Their Savior.

Give Off Skunky Vibes

You probably don’t want to avoid showering for days before your flight but you can carry a bag with some smelly cheese, durian or some other food that smells awful.

Carry Depends or Have a Barf Bag Cocked and Ready to Go

Would you sit next to someone that had a box of Depends undergarments on their lap? What about someone who was hyperventilating and clutching a barf bag?

Gangsta-rap or Richard Marx at Full Blast

I guarantee you that if you are blasting Richard Marx’s “I Will Be Right Here Waiting For You” or NWA’s “F**ck the Police” into a pair of oversized headphones, people will think twice about sidling up next to you. 2 Live Cru’s “Me So Horny” Or the Devinyl’s “I Touch Myself” could work for most men, but might serve the opposite purpose if women try it.

Court A Skinny Passerby

If it’s a relatively full flight and I’m resigned to the fact that someone is going to sit next to me, I might make the effort to smile at people that I think would make good seat mates. Sometimes, if they’re looking at the seat next to me, I’ll go one step further and invite them to sit down. Alternately, when I see someone who I really do not want to sit next to me coming down the aisle, my heart starts beating faster and I begin to employ any and all of the tactics mentioned above.

Sometimes I’ve already spotted people I don’t want to sit next to before I’ve even boarded the flight, such as the individual in the photo at the top of this post, who I encountered on Thursday. It wasn’t just the fact that he was quite large but also the fact that he looked like he might break my neck or cast some kind of satanic curse on me if I happened to brush his elbow by accident. When I saw him sit in a middle seat next to someone a few rows in front of me, I was ready to pop open a bottle of Champagne. I’m sure he’s a great guy but I just didn’t want to sit next to him (sue me).

Don’t Make Eye Contact

This was the tactic I tried on my recent Southwest flight. My head was buried in a newspaper, even though I was too nervous about who was going to sit next to me to do anything more than run my eyes across the words without really digesting what was on the page.

On this occasion, the tactic didn’t work. I heard a voice ask if the seat next to me was occupied and I looked up to see, who else but an attractive and petite woman of perhaps 25. An ideal seat mate if there ever was one. The truth is that I enjoyed chatting with her and the woman in the window seat and the trip was, in fact, a good reminder that trying to repel people isn’t always the best idea.

[Photo credits: Dave Seminara and Skley on Flickr]