More on Muslim family kicked off of AirTran flight for questioning

Yesterday, not long after Scott posted about the American family who are Muslim were removed from an AirTran flight at the Ronald Reagan International Airport in Washington D.C., I heard an interview on NPR with Atif Irfan, one of the family members.

Irfan explained in more detail what happened to create the misunderstanding. Because there were nine of them, the family had booked the last rows of the plane so they could all sit together. As they were walking down the aisle, he and a sister-in-law were discussing which part of the plane was the safest. His wife recalls that a “couple of girls” who heard their conversation thought they were talking about doing some sort of terrorist act. Federal marshals escorted them off the plane for questioning.

As Irfan explained, the men in the family have beards and the women have head coverings, but other than that they were wearing western style dress. He also said they had three small children with them. Usually, he is very careful about what he says as to not alarm people, but this time they weren’t thinking much about their conversation.

What amazes me about this story is not that the family was questioned, but that after the FBI cleared the family and asked AirTran to allow the family to fly, AirTran refused. Who did AirTran think the FBI were? Certainly the FBI had badges and obvious credentials. If the FBI aren’t listened to, that’s startling? Maybe there was a snafu in communication.

Irfan, by the way, has nothing but good things to say about the FBI who did get the family on a US Airways flight. AirTran has since offered restitution in a free flight home and reimbursement for the family’s US Airways flight and an apology.

After listening to Irfan, I was reminded about the importance of civility. For the family who, from what I can tell, stayed calm and collected throughout their experience, bravo. I’m wondering just how many other passengers would have behaved so well? It’s also a reminder that passengers do listen to conversations. What you say could be held against you.

By the way, Atif Irfan was born and raised in Detroit and now is a lawyer who lives in Alexandria, Virginia.

Chaos in Punta Cana: Armed guards evict stranded U.S. Airways passengers from Dominican airport

There’s still no word on whether U.S. Airways has managed to sort out a horrific customer relations breakdown, after it kicked 274 of its passengers out of the Punta Cana International Airport in the Dominican Republic’s last Friday in the face of Tropical Storm Fay.

U.S. Airways had to cancel its flight from Punta Cana to Philadelphia due to the storm, which had caused the delays of several other flights. Also, some passengers have told television stations that U.S. Airways reps said crew members had run out of hours and therefore could not fly.

Now, the airline will certainly point to its contract of carriage, which states that it is under no obligation to put up stranded passengers and pay for their food in the event of weather delays.

However, it appears the manner in which passengers were treated could have been handled a bit, well, better.

Armed guards were sent in to evict the passengers from the airport, even though none had other accommodation secured. Reportedly one passenger came close to getting arrested after demanding answers from airline staff.

There were no hotel rooms available in the area, and passengers reportedly slept on a bus.

This weekend they were still struggling to get back to Philadelphia as U.S. Airways flights from the Dominican were severely overbooked.

The Consumerist has some video and a few eye witness reports.

Gading Take FIVE: August 1–August 8

This was a week of a wide range of travel news that captured the essence of variety in the entertainment world.

  • On the classy end of life, Josh posted on a museum exhibit about Finding Grace Kelly in Paris.
  • On the opposite end, Iva gave us the scoop on a character actor who hit a flight attendant and a police officer.
  • Also, on the bad behavior side, Aaron offered details about a flight attendant suing televangelist Joel Osteen’s wife.
  • If you want to see for yourself how celebrities behave, Grant told us about celeb spotting in Ann Arbor.
  • To see what a famous person’s private jet looks like, check out Sir Richard Branson’s sweet number.

There was also a wide range of details about how air travel can make you or break you.

So, that’s more than 5, but I saw patterns. Have a wonderful weekend!

U.S. Airways will charge for that beverage, unless you make a fuss

A few days ago Josh brought us a report about U.S. Airways beginning to charge customers for water — bottled for now.

On August 1, U.S. Airways introduced fees for beverages like soda, juice and water that used to be free.

U.S. Airways is the first domestic carrier to go this route. Other carriers are all but guaranteed to follow suit soon.

It’s pretty much a fact of life flying in America these days: If it’s on board, it’s going to cost you.

That is, unless you feel like making a big fuss about it.

Airline passengers have an ally against these seemingly trivial beverage charges: Flight attendants, the majority of whom are adamantly in favor of revoking them.

The New York Times reported the other day that the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, the major flight attendant union, is objecting to charging the $1 and $2 for nonalcoholic drinks. The union went a step further: If a passenger objects, flight attendants probably will just give them the drink for free.

“We’re trained to keep order on an airplane and defuse confrontation,” Mike Flores, president of U.S. Airways’ chapter of the union, tells the Times. “If it take giving a free beverage to somebody to do that, so be it. I expect there will be flight attendants who just give everything away.”

A U.S. Airways spokesman tells the Times that the airline has advised its 6,700 flight attendants to “err on the side of the customer” when making a decision whether to defuse a confrontation by handing out a free beverage.

So, there you have it folks: A major domestic carrier saddling its employees with a new fee policy that they do not want to enforce, and in many cases likely won’t in the end.

Enjoy drinks on a flight? It’s going to cost you

While you’re saving for your day of air travel, keep a few dollars tucked into your wallet. You’ll need them if you don’t want to be sucking like a guppy out of a fish bowl when you get to your destination.

The latest trend in the pay-as-you-go flight experience is to charge for drinks. So far, credit cards won’t cut it. It’s cash only.

On August 1, U.S. Airways will start charging $2 for soda, water, tea, juice and coffee and up the cost for alcoholic beverages from $5 to $7 to passengers flying economy class.

Oh, woe is me. There goes my “Could I have an orange juice, club soda AND coffee?” routine. As trends go, considering carriers have jumped on the charge for all checked bags scenario, I expect the drink charges will also follow suit.

Just great. I’ve been on this kind of flight before. It was called SkyBus, and we know how that airline turned out. We flew to Seattle from Columbus. Since our flights cost $330 a piece already, we didn’t spring for the drinks until the flight back. Then it was one tea and an orange juice. A few months later, on a Delta flight to California, I thought how hospitable it felt to be given something to drink. I even sprang for the wine.

It may not seem like a big deal to have to pay for drinks on a flight, but personally, with airlines acting like they are relatives to a discount grocery store, the kind that just opens cardboard boxes up to save on shelving costs, whatever excitement there was taking a flight is now gone. People shop at grocery stores where food is artfully displayed, partly for the experience.

Where drinks are concerned, particularly since you can’t take liquids through TSA and airport prices are expensive, I’d rather have $5 tacked to the price of a ticket and let me think I’m being treated like a welcome guest. Would you let guests come to your house and not even offer them water, particularly on a day when it’s 90 degrees outside?

I wonder if this coffee pictured here on my last flight from San Diego to Columbus was my last free drink? If I had known, I would have savored it more. As the trends are going, I’d rather take Greyhound for anything that will take me just a day to get there. [Read Washington Post article]