No, You’re Not Getting Fat; Airplane Seats Are Getting Smaller

Finding your airplane seats a bit tighter? Good news, it’s not because you stopped at Cinnabon one too many times while waiting for your flight (well, probably not anyway).

Over the past decade, airlines have been adding seats to their more expensive sections. But rather than carry fewer economy passengers as a result, carriers like “American Airlines, Air Canada, Air France-KLM and Dubai’s Emirates Airline are cutting shoulder space by wedging an extra seat into each coach row,” the Wall Street Journal reports.”For almost 20 years, the standard setup in the back of a Boeing 777 was nine seats per row. But last year, nearly 70% of its biggest version of the plane were delivered with 10-abreast seating, up from just 15% in 2010.”

By cutting back on the already tight seats in coach, airlines are hoping travelers will be more inclined to shell out for roomier, more expensive seats. You can fight this trend by refusing to upgrade and swinging your overstuffed carryon into the shoulders of those who have.

[Via Gawker]

Pyramid In Peru Destroyed By Developers

For more than 4,000 years, a pyramid stood in El Paraiso, “The Paradise,” one of the largest settlements of its time in Peru. Last week, the pyramid stood almost 20 feet in height; today, it no longer exists.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the pyramid, just north of Lima, was completely demolished last weekend. The BBC states that three more pyramids would have been destroyed were it not for onlookers intervening. Criminal complaints have been filed by government officials against two real estate agencies believed to be responsible. Those responsible apparently feel as though they were within their rights as owners of the land.

This marks the second time in just as many months that an important pyramid has been destroyed by construction crews after a Mayan pyramid in Belize was destroyed in May.

Flying Is The Safest It Has Been In Years, Data Shows

New data show good news for panicky travelers: commercial flights in 2012 were safer than ever before. The Wall Street Journal published a large article detailing advances in flight safety and analyzing crash data, which shows that commercial flying is the safest it has been since the 1960s. In fact, there has not been a fatal crash in the United States since 2009.

The article stated that there have been 22 fatal crashes worldwide this year, with the majority occurring in Africa. In 2011, there were 28 fatal crashes. The ten-year average is 34 crashes, USA Today reported. The WSJ article came out just days before a crash near Moscow killed four, bringing the total for 2012 crashes to 23.

Still worried? The data also show that North American and North Asian carriers are the safest, with African and Caribbean carriers being the least safe.

We’d encourage all travelers to use basic safety precautions when traveling, choosing reputable airlines (i.e. not this one from North Korea) and following basic safety suggestions while in-flight, including wearing your seat belt when requested to do so. While a seat belt might not make the difference between life and death during a crash, it certainly can help prevent turbulence-related injuries.

Beyond that, we’d suggest that nervous travelers conduct simple in-seat meditation or deep breathing exercises while in flight, or perhaps enjoy a relaxing glass or wine or a sedative for something a bit stronger.

[Image Credit: Nick McKeta]

Grounding Of Costa Concordia Brings New Rules For Cruise Travel

After the grounding of Costa Concordia in January, the governing organizations of the cruise industry ordered an Operational Safety Review both in response to the troubling Concordia grounding and as part of the industry’s continuous efforts to review and improve safety measures. Now, the review is complete and has resulted in three new policies that promise to address safety concerns.

These three new policies, which go beyond international regulatory requirements, address safety issues related to passage planning, personnel access to the bridge and lifejackets. Each of these three policies will be reported to the United Nations’ International Maritime Organization (IMO) for consideration at their next session in May.

“As highlighted by these wide-ranging policies, we continue to take proactive measures to improve the safety of passengers and crew across the globe,” said Christine Duffy, president and CEO of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) in a Wall Street Journal statement.

The three policies answer questions asked about specific topics concerning the Costa Concordia grounding:

Passage Planning – The topic of “passage planning” came up concerning reports that the captain of Costa Concordia had chosen to take the ship off course as a salute, a show of respect, for a retired captain that lived ashore.

Under the new policy each passage plan is to be thoroughly briefed to all bridge team members well in advance of its implementation and it is to be drafted by a designated officer and approved by the master.

Personnel Access To The Bridge – At one point in the investigation of the Costa Concordia grounding, it was believed that unauthorized personnel were on the navigational bridge at the time of the incident.

To minimize unnecessary disruptions and distractions on the bridge, the new policy states that bridge access is to be limited to those with operational functions during any period of restricted maneuvering or when increased vigilance is required.

Lifejackets – Although there were plenty of lifejackets on board Costa Concordia, the nature of the accident caused some passengers and crew members to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and not have one.

Under the new rule, in addition to the statutory requirement of carriage of lifejackets for each person onboard, cruise lines have adopted a policy of carrying additional adult lifejackets.

The number of additional adult lifejackets to be provided must not be less than the total number of persons berthed within the ship’s most populated main vertical fire zone. This ensures that the number of lifejackets carried is far in excess of the number of persons actually onboard the ship.

These three rules are in addition to a new emergency drill policy requiring mandatory muster for embarking passengers prior to departure from port. That new policy was released previously and also consistent with the industry’s announcement January 27 of a complete safety review in response to the Concordia grounding and as part of the industry’s continuous efforts to review and improve safety measures.

The Cruise Lines International Association, European Cruise Council, and the Passenger Shipping Association put forward the new policy with the support of their member cruise lines.

Under the new muster policy:

  • A mandatory muster of all embarking passengers will happen prior to departure from port.
  • Late arriving passengers will be promptly provided with individual or group safety briefings that meet the requirements for musters applicable under the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS).
  • The policy is designed to help ensure that any mandatory musters or briefings are conducted for the benefit of all newly embarked passengers at the earliest practical opportunity.

The Cruise Industry Operational Safety Review also included a comprehensive assessment of the critical human factors and operational aspects of maritime safety. The industry’s efforts also are consistent with the framework and spirit of the International Safety Management Code.

“We look forward to working collaboratively to identify any additional operational issues that will achieve our longstanding goal of continuous improvement and innovation in shipboard operations and safety,” added Duffy.

[Flickr photo by darkroom productions]

Potential new law renders travel writers liable for recommending “risky” locations

Proposed state legislation in Hawaii could potentially render guidebook authors personally liable for damage claims if a reader is injured while performing an activity suggested in the guidebook.

The Wall Street Journal writes that “a proposed state law that would hold Hawaii guidebook writers personally liable for deaths or accidents at spots they recommend.” The proposed law has been “watered down to call only for a task force, before dying in a committee. But the bill’s backers pledge to refile it if guidebooks don’t shape up,” the article reports.

The article also pointed to the case of Winter v. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, in which a couple sued a guidebook after becoming critically ill while picking mushrooms. The decision found that a publisher “does not have a duty to act as a guarantor for the contents of all books that it publishes.”

It is likely that First Amendment rights will protect writers and make it exceptionally difficult for any state to pass legislation declaring liability for guidebook suggestions. However, the issue brings up a valid point – we as writers need to realize that our words have actions, and that risks must be discussed in equal parts with the reward.

So often, in describing the positives of a location, we forget the negatives – you need to be in great shape to reach the summit of X mountain, or that pickpockets frequent up-and-coming areas we’re covering as a “best new destination.” Be sure to share the “real” travel experience and remember that your audience is often much less well-traveled than you. Don’t dumb down your content, just be sure to share the risks (and rewards) with equal treatment.

We’d love to hear your opinions – do you think this law has a chance of passing anywhere? Do you think writers should be held responsible for their suggestions?

[Flickr via steakpinball]