Thursdays mark a new rendition of our Photo of the Day on Gadling. We’ll be traveling back in time to feature interesting memories of years past. Today, we go back about 20 years (can you believe 1992 was so long ago?) with this photo of a USAir jet being loaded with meals for to-be-boarded passengers. Photographer Hunter Desportes reminisces, “Ah, the good old days of free food on domestic flights.”
When was the last time you were served a meal on board?
Arthur Berkowitz, a passenger on US Airways Flight 901 from Anchorage to Philadelphia, had no other choice but to stand up during his seven hour flight. It seems the next seat over was occupied by a passenger so overweight that it was impossible for Berkowitz to stay in his seat. Now, Berkowitz is speaking out about the ordeal.
The neighboring 400-pound man’s body spilled over into Berkowitz’s personal space so much that he was forced to stand for most of the 7 hour flight, and he couldn’t use his seat belt during takeoff and landing.
“His size required both armrests to be raised up and allowed for his body to cover half of my seat.” said Berkowitz.
US Airways apologized for the incident and said in a statement “Our intention is to offer the best travel experience possible. The details you have provided indicate that we have failed to meet our intentions.” US Air offered Berkowitz a $200 voucher in compensation.
In a poll on Elliott’s consumer watchdog site, 96% (over 17,000 votes) thought that US Airways did not offer Berkowitz enough compensation. We agree.
“Complaints include additional costs for food, beverages and baggage fees. The airline collected more than $952 million in baggage fees from flyers in 2010, almost twice as much as any other airline carrier.
Since acquiring Northwest airlines in 2008, Delta’s consumer satisfaction score has plunged. According to ACSI, a big merger in service companies usually have a negative impact on customer services in the short-term, because of organization issues. Delta’s rating dropped another 6 points this year.”
Pilots and flight attendants are reporting toxic fumes being released into planes. The accidental release of toxins has caused flight crew members to become sick and some hospitalized. A year later, some of those affected are still off work, looking for answers and want something done about it.
A month-long investigation by WBTV in Charlotte, North Carolina revealed 30 US Airways aircraft in the last year have been affected.”I’m talking because I think passengers need to know,” said one veteran flight attendant to WBTVwho came forward under the condition we protected her identity. “I felt like I had to come forward for the health of myself and my co-workers.”
Apparently, toxins produced from the oil in aircraft engines are the culprit. I’m thinking of that smell that fills the cabin as the plane prepares for departure. Airlines say it’s harmless. One US Airways pilot disagrees and is concerned.
“Toxins produced from oil in the aircraft engines have caused a lot of problems with our industry,” Captain Jame Ray, a spokesperson for the U.S. Airways Pilot Association and a working pilot told WBTV. “Pilots and flight attendants alike have been sent to the hospital on multiple occasions. Some remain in the hospital. We have pilots who have lost their FAA certificate because of exposure to these toxins. So it is certainly a concern we have.”
The investigation confirmed a January 2010 case where crew members were hospitalized and are still not back at work. Another case in November of 2010, ruled not toxic fumes but a power issue at the gate resulted in aircraft crew off work too.
Airline flight crew members interviewed were quick to point out that this sort of thing does not happen on every flight but that all airlines are affected. The issue seems to be more widespread than the risk of swine flu once was and as airlines regain a more healthy financial picture, others are digging in to this toxic fumes problem more.
Further investigation revealed “high levels of a dangerous toxin on several planes. Of 31 swab samples taken secretly from the aircraft cabins of popular airlines, 28 were found to contain high levels of tricresyl phosphate (TCP), an organophosphate contained in modern jet oil as an anti-wear additive, which can lead to drowsiness, respiratory problems and neurological illnesses.”
While all flights may not be affected, it happens with more frequency than one might imagine. Aerotoxic Syndrome’s YouTube channel stacks up evidence of these fume events longer than planes lined up at LAX on a Friday afternoon.
Here we go again. On the heels of greatly improved profits, US Airways has announced an increase of up to 80% on the charge for overweight bags.
In addition to the base price for checked bags of $25 for the first bag and $35 for the second, the additional fees for overweight bags are increasing. Overweight bags that weigh between 50 and 70 pounds will see the price increase from $50 to $90. Supersized bags that weigh more than 70 pounds will go from $100 to a whopping $175.
Will other airlines follow US Air’s lead? Probably. In January 2010, Continental matched Delta’s baggage fee increase and American matched United’s fees signaling a green light for others to follow.
At the time, travel expert Arthur Frommer noted “Any hope that the big airlines might move more gently in adopting such fees has been lost”. Looks like he was right.
Increases in baggage fees might not be all air travelers have to worry about on luggage either. The FAA, burdened by reduced demand for air travel since 9-11 expects an estimated $25 billion decline in revenue over the next six years according to a government report released last week.MarketWatch.com reports “Revenues declined early in the decade because of a series of largely unforeseen events, including the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, that reduced the demand for air travel, resulting in a steep decline in airline industry revenue,” wrote Gerald Dillingham, the director of civil aviation studies at the GAO.
The new US Air fees go into effect, and it says this on their website, “if you bought a ticket on or after February 1 for travel on or after March 1, 2011. They may want to take another look at that policy and/or ask cruise lines about the wisdom of making a retroactive service fee.
Six cruise lines ended up having to refund $40 million in fuel surcharge fees charged to cruise passengers after they had booked their cruises. I’m not offering legal advice here but anyone who booked between February 1st and 9th might have a case.
Regardless, it’s probably time to take another good long look at packing light.