The British media are all atwitter about the supposed plans by Ryanair to install vertical seats—that is, standing-room-only seats—in the last 10 rows of its Boeing 737-800s. Price of airfare in one of those seats? Just 4 pounds sterling (about U.S.$6). And how, you ask, can they afford to do this? Why, by charging you to use the toilet.
Wait a minute… Didn’t they already float (and later flush) the idea of a loo fee only to be publicly remonstrated, humiliated, and pilloried? Yeah, kinda—except that Ryanair doesn’t know the meaning of the word humiliation. On the other hand, it seems not to know the meaning of a lot of words, like “safety,” “concern for our passengers,” and “common sense.”
USA Today | Many meals served to passengers on major airlines are prepared in unsanitary and unsafe conditions that could lead to illness, government documents examined by USA TODAY show.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspectors have cited numerous catering facilities that prepare airline food for suspected health and sanitation violations following inspections of their kitchens this year and last, according to inspection reports obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.
The inspections were at U.S. facilities of two of the world's biggest airline caterers, LSG Sky Chefs and Gate Gourmet, and another large caterer, Flying Food Group. The three caterers operate 91 kitchens that provide more than 100 million meals annually to U.S. and foreign airlines at U.S. airports. They provide meals for nearly all big airlines, including Delta, American, United, US Airways and Continental. (Photo credit: iStock)
File this under "What the Hell Were They Thinking?" Just weeks after the new DOT airline rule went into effect limiting tarmac delays to three hours comes word that passengers on a Virgin Atlantic flight diverted to Bradley International Airport in Connecticut yesterday were held on the ground as virtual hostages in intense heat and darkness for four hours. Apparently there were insufficient immigration officers to handle the unexpected arrival. The fact that Virgin and Bradley officials could not figure out a way to treat the passengers humanely does not speak well for either of them.
Chicago Tribune (AP) | Low-cost airline easyJet PLC unveiled plans Friday to test infrared technology's ability to detect volcanic ash clouds and urged other airlines to help map the ash risk across Europe's skies.
The company said the devices—which are placed on an aircraft's tail fin and can detect ash clouds within 60 miles (100 kilometers)—are the first of their kind, calling them "essentially a weather radar for ash."
The airline is spending 1 million pounds ($1.46 million) developing and testing the technology with aircraft manufacturer Airbus and hopes to roll out the devices in a dozen planes by the end of the year. The devices aim to prevent a repeat of the five-day shutdown of European airspace in April caused by an erupting Icelandic volcano that affected 10 million passengers worldwide.
The Sun Sentinel | They are nature's most powerful storms, able to wrench off roofs, blow out windows, rip down trees and otherwise ravage a large metropolitan area.
Major hurricanes—Categories 3, 4 and 5—produce sustained winds from 110 mph to as much as 185 mph and can generate storm surges more than 20 feet above normal tide levels.
With the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season starting today, experts say there is a significant chance one or more of these monsters will strike the U.S. coast over the next six months. The reason: It could be an extremely active year with up to 14 hurricanes, seven major, forecasters said.
"In general, more active seasons have more landfalling hurricanes.Therefore, the odds of a major hurricane making U.S. landfall increases," said Phil Klotzbach, the Colorado State University climatologist who develops seasonal outlooks with William Gray.
CNN News | Tar balls found on Florida Keys beaches Monday and Tuesday are not from a massive oil spill off the coast of Louisiana, the Coast Guard said Wednesday.
"A sampling of tar balls discovered on beaches at Fort Zachary State Park, Fla., Smathers Beach in Key West, Big Pine Key, Fla., and Loggerhead Key in the Dry Tortugas National Park, Fla., were flown by a Coast Guard HU-25 Falcon jet based in Miami, Fla., to New London, Conn., Tuesday for testing and analysis," a Coast Guard statement said.
"The results of those tests conclusively show that the tar balls collected from Florida Keys beaches do not match the type of oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico," the statement said. "The source of the tar balls remains unknown at this time."
The situation in Bangkok appears to be changing by the minute. T+L's Asia correspondent, Jenn Chen, suggested just yesterday in her post that the reality on the ground in the Thai capital had taken a turn for the worst, but today's news brings the official surrender of anti-government protesters—as well as fires and a city-wide curfew. Not surprisingly, a travel warning for the region remains in effect.
Voice of America | The Thai government has declared an overnight curfew for the capital, Bangkok, as violence swept across the capital after military operations brought an end to a two-month long, anti-government protest in in the central part of the city. At least 6 people were reported dead in the latest violence, including an Italian photojournalist, the second foreign reporter to die since the protests began in mid-March.
Leaders of the anti-government protesters, known as the Red Shirts, surrendered to police and told demonstrators they were ending the extended rally in order to avoid further bloodshed. Some of the anti-government leaders fled the area as the military moved in. Amid the chaos, arson attacks broke out across Bangkok at power stations, malls, media outlets and other buildings. Rioters also commandeered public buses.
Associated Press | It’s been a month now, and Iceland’s volcano shows no sign it will stop belching ash across Europe anytime soon. The rolling eruptions threaten more havoc for summer vacation plans and higher costs for struggling airlines.
Although the global disruption of last month’s massive eruption has faded, smaller ash plumes snarled air services intermittently over the last week all the way to Turkey—more than 2,500 miles from the Eyjafjallajokul volcano.
Air-control authorities and geologists agree that the continent must brace indefinitely for rapid shutdowns of air services as computerized projections try to pinpoint where the ash clouds will float next at the whim of shifting winds.
Network World | The Federal Aviation Administration this week took a step closer to setting up a central hub for the development of key commercial space transportation technologies such as space launch and traffic management applications and setting orbital safety standards.
The hub, known as the Center of Excellence for Commercial Space Transportation would have a $1 million yearly budget and tie together universities, industry players and the government for cost-sharing research and development. The FAA expects the center to be up and running this year.
The new center would be an offshoot of other FAA Centers for Excellence that through myriad partnerships develop and set all manner of aviation standards from aircraft noise and emissions to airport systems. According to the FAA the center's purpose is to create a world-class consortium that will identify solutions for existing and anticipated commercial space transportation problems.
The first flights to take off in a week may have left London's Heathrow Airport yesterday and many of Europe's airports may once again be open, but there are still thousands of people stranded around the world, unable to fly due to ash from Iceland's recent volcanic explosion.
If you're not one of the lucky fliers who happened to be flying Emirates Air (the airline went above and beyond and is paying for hotel stays and three meals a day for some 6,000 passengers stuck in Dubai!), chances are you're ready for this ordeal to be O-V-E-R. Now, the question us who gets dibs on some of the first flights out? For details on who goes to the front of the check-in line, check out CNN's excellent Q&A today:
Adrien Glover is the online deputy editor at Travel + Leisure.
How are airlines prioritizing ticket allocation?
Other than a few special cases, most airlines are prioritizing those with pre-existing tickets for scheduled flights. In some cases, empty seats on these are being filled by customers with urgent travel needs. Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific says it is giving priority to unaccompanied minors and students heading back to the UK to sit exams. Singapore Airlines is fast tracking those with "special needs," the elderly and those with infants or young children. Rochelle Turner, head of vacation research for consumer watchdog Which?, says any prioritizing is at the discretion of individual flight operators. "The elderly, the sick, frequent flyers—it's entirely up to the airline who goes first."
Do I need to do anything if I have a ticket on a scheduled flight?
All airlines are advising customers to double check whether flights are going ahead before heading to airports. British Airways is even urging customers with tickets on scheduled departures to consider delaying their travel plans to free up space on planes to allow delayed passengers to travel. In most cases, passengers who hold tickets for a flight due to take off as scheduled should be fine. Says Turner, it is still advisable to call the airline to confirm or check-in online.