Virgin Australia Offers Frequent Flier Points To Pets

Air travel is getting better and better – if you’ve got four legs, that is. Just last month we told you about first class airline lounges that had been designed especially for pets – now airlines are offering award miles to furry fliers.

Virgin Australia announced this week that it will reward its frequent flier members with an extra 300 points when they book a domestic flight for their pet. For the time being, the program applies to cats and dogs only.

About 30,000 pets fly with Virgin Australia each year and the carrier’s CEO says the initiative is aimed at enhancing the airline’s image as a family-focused carrier.Virgin is the first airline in Australia to offer mileage points to pets, but the concept isn’t entirely new. In 2005, Virgin Atlantic offered various rewards through its Flying Paws program and a few years later, JetBlue began providing frequent flier miles through its JetPaws initiative.

Assigned Seats? Airlines Face Heat For Discriminatory Seating Policies

A recent example from Qantas airlines illustrates a rare form of what some are calling “reverse discrimination” after a man was told to move seats because he was sitting next to an unaccompanied minor.

Qantas and Virgin both have safety policies that require unaccompanied minors to be seated alone or next to women.

Virgin Australia is reviewing its policy after a recent case involving a firefighter who was asked to switch seats after being seated next to two unaccompanied young boys, the country’s Sunday Morning Herald reported.

Qantas is now taking heat as well after a weekend incident where a male nurse was asked to move in a similar situation. The passenger in question, a male nurse, told the Sunday Morning Herald that he found his treatment “insulting and discriminatory.”

British Airways recently overturned their similar policy after a man sued for sex discrimination.

What do you think? Is it discriminatory to prevent unaccompanied minors from sitting next to adult males during flights?

[Flickr via planegeezer]

4320 minutes in LA: V Australia challenges Aussies to weekend in Los Angeles

Now that the SydneyLos Angeles route is well populated with flights and good prices, Aussies and Americans alike can mull the concept of long weekends overseas. Much like New Yorkers jaunt to Paris or London for a weekend of shopping and hedonism, jetsetters can now cross the pacific for an action packed weekend between surf towns.

As part of the launch initiative, V Australia is kicking off a contest called 4320:LA , where one lucky trio will be given round the world tickets and three whole days (4320 minutes) to party like crazy, rock Los Angeles, and prove that a long weekend in the States can be done.

The catch? All entries have to be in the form of a tweet, that is, less than 140 characters, and you have to tweet the entire time that you’re there. That means that you’d better make the trip interesting — no tweets like “Watching TCM in my hotel room.” You also have to be Australian to enter.

Check out 4320:LA for more details on the promo and to enter.

How to destroy V Australia’s $23M flight simulator

I thought that I was the luckiest person in the world when Ken Pascoe and Marty Khoury, two pilots from V Australia invited me, a lowly blogger, out to visit them and their flight simulator out in Australia last week. Sure, I edit a travel blog and I do run Linux, but that usually can only get me so far.

So I was thrilled to accept the invitation and join the crew out in Silverwater, just outside of Sydney, last Monday. As I detailed last week, Ken picked me up at the train station and showed me around the CAE facility and cockpit, then the safety briefing started.

“Should we lose power and the gangway not extend to the sim, the escape hatch and rope are just outside of the cockpit,” Ken explained.

“Furthermore, if anything goes wrong during the flight, emergency stop buttons are here, here and here.” He pointed to a spot next to each seat and to two on the wall of the cockpit. “But you won’t have to hit those — I’ll have probably already reset the system once you realize something has gone wrong. Now, grab a seat.”

Pulling my SLR camera out of its bag and stepping towards the left seat, I paused, and turned to my companion, thinking that it would be best for me to film part of the experience before taking my turn. And that’s when the lights turned off and everything ground to a halt. Think of the noise you hear when a subway or train shuts down, it’s eerily quiet and something doesn’t sound right. Or the sound of broken dreams. That’s the one. I had pressed the emergency stop button with my shoulder when I turned around.
Note, that there are two emergency stop buttons on the wall of the cockpit: there’s the “turn off the movement and relax” stop and then there’s the “pull the plug on thirty computers, rip the circuit boards from the machine and stomp on them” stop. That second one is the one that I pressed.

“No worries,” said Ken, “this has happened before.” And as we left the cockpit, he gave a nervous chuckle. “We’ll be up in no time.”

Ah, but we weren’t. After an hour of pulling circuit boards out of the machine, two techs determined that they might have to order another board. My session and a later, real pilot’s session were definitely canceled.

Later that evening I got a text message from Ken saying that they figured out the problem after replacing two circuit boards, and that I should swing back as soon as I could. But by that point I was already headed towards Auckland.

Maybe next time, V Australia.