Ohhh, those humans!


    ORD watcher
    Study finds humans fart more on planes, healthy to let 'em rip

    By Marcus Hondro
    Feb 17, 2013

    This is almost a crappy thing to write about but in the interests of your health, if not your air quality, do read on. A study compiled by a team of researchers in Denmark found humans do fart more on airplanes and concludes we shouldn't hold back.

    A Danish gastroenterologist, Jacob Rosenberg became interested in passing wind, or at least the phenomena of passing wind on airplanes, after he experienced first-hand a flight in which there was a generous amount of malodorous conduct on the part of passengers, including himself.

    Study on flying and farts

    That lead Rosenberg to become interested in studying farting and flying and whether humans do have more flatulence on flights, which has been thought to be the case. Not seeking to be a butt of jokes but wishing to learn more, he enlisted 4 others of his profession, from Denmark and the U.K., and they began assembling and examining scientific material on flatulence.

    Their study, published in the New Zealand Medical Journal, is not exactly a ripper, it's only 3,000 words, but the information they built up and released, and their conclusions, are of note. Firstly, the answer is yes, humans fart more up in the air than on the ground. This is because, they say, higher altitude causes the gut to create more sulfuric acid, which in turn causes us to emit proportionally more farts on a flight than the 10 a day we normally let go.

    Flatulence and letting go

    An aspect of the work they produced is their insistence that we don't hold back. We may be conditioned to be circumspect about where and how we let out our gas go but Rosenberg smells a problem there, saying that to refrain on a flight could impact your health.

    "That (holding back) holds significant drawbacks for the individual, such as discomfort and even pain, bloating, dyspepsia and pyrosis (heartburn), just to name but a few resulting abdominal symptoms," the study said. "Moreover, problems resulting from the required concentration to maintain such control may even result in subsequent stress symptoms."

    The researchers do note, however, that there is a dilemma for those working in the cockpit. "On the one hand, if the pilot restrains a fart, all the drawbacks previously mentioned, including impaired concentration, may affect his abilities to control the plane," the study said. "On the other hand, if he lets go of the fart, his co-pilot may be affected by its odour, which again reduces safety onboard the flight."

    Farts Wars: Gas and the sexes

    Rosenberg and co. researched other aspects of flatulence and let out another interesting alleged fact: they say the material and studies they examined indicate gas produced by the female of the species is of a stronger odour than the gas of a male. While there may be a great many married women who would argue that point, those women can at least argue that what men may lack in content, they more than make up for in quantity.

    That would certainly be the contention of this reporter's wife.


    ORD watcher
    Thrown Off a United Airlines Flight for Taking Pictures!

    Live and Let's Fly has been silent the last three days as I weighed how I wanted to cover what happened to me on a United Airlines flight from Newark to Istanbul last week. The situation was both traumatizing and highly embarrassing and I wanted to ensure that I had ample time to consider what transpired before hurling any accusations or failing to understand the other side. But frankly, the more I replay the incident in my mind, the more certain I become that I was wronged. Here's my story:

    Last Thursday I was scheduled to fly from Newark to Istanbul on United's direct flight. The 767-300 was outfitted in a two-cabin configuration, staffed by a legacy United crew, and I had been upgraded to business class. It was my first time on this reconfigured aircraft and my first longhaul in the Continental BusinessFirst seat. Naturally, I wanted to provide a review for you.

    As I settled into my seat, I pulled out my iPhone to take a few pictures of the seat. When I held the phone at forehead level to take the picture below, a flight attendant came running over and told me that I could not take any pictures of the cabin. She referenced this section of the Hemispheres magazine:


    The allegedly off-limits picture:


    I looked at the FA, smiled, but said nothing, putting my iPhone away. To be clear, I did not take any more pictures—not a single one. Meanwhile, another passenger was taking pictures behind the curtain and the FA ran over to him and demanded that he stop as well. This passenger had a lively discussion with the FA, though I did not hear the resolution.

    Naturally, the FA's warning bothered me and I felt the need to explain myself. I signaled for her to come back and asked her to hang my coat. I then said this verbatim—

    "I want you to understand why I was taking pictures. I hope you didn't think I was a terrorist. Here is my business card [offering her one]. I write about United Airlines on an almost-daily basis and the folks at United in Chicago are even aware of my blog."

    She took my jacket but refused to take my business card saying, "No, that's okay," then saying, "I did not know that" after I explained my reason for taking pictures. I again emphasize, I took no more pictures.

    A few minutes later a Global Services rep came onboard and asked to have a word with me, motioning for me to follow him. As I walked up front, I noticed the FA who had reprimanded me earlier ducked into the front galley and out of sight.

    He was direct—"The captain is not comfortable with you on this flight. You'll need to gather your things and we'll find another way to get you to Istanbul." I was flabbergasted. My first thought was that they had the wrong passenger—they must have wanted the passenger who was arguing.

    The GS rep stepped into the galley, around the corner, and asked the FA to verify it was me. She leaned forward, our eyes briefly meant, then she quickly hid herself again. Yes, she meant me.

    I asked to speak to the captain—surely this was a ridiculous misunderstanding. The GS rep would not let me approach the flight deck but offered to talk to the captain on my behalf. He stepped into the cockpit for a few minutes and a few minutes later the captain emerged. He would not look me in the eyes as we spoke.

    Captain: Sir, you are not flying on this flight.

    Me: Can you tell me why?

    Captain: My FA tells me she told you to stop taking pictures and you continued to take pictures.

    That's a lie, captain. She told me stop taking pictures and I stopped. I did try to explain to her why I was taking pictures—I am a travel writer [I offered him one of my business cards and he too refused to accept it].

    Captain: Look, I don't care. You are not flying on this flight. You can make this easy or make this difficult. We'll call the police if we have to.

    Me: Why are you threatening me? Your FA is lying—I did not disobey any crewmember instruction.

    Captain: Look, we're already late. I'd advise you to get off this plane now. Make it easy on yourself. Don't make us bring the police in. Goodbye.

    Me: Wait. Captain, may I have one of your business cards?

    Captain: I don't have any, but United will have no trouble finding me. My name is...[removed].

    With that, he turned and retreated back into the flight deck, with the female first officer looking on.

    I looked at the GS rep and shook my head. I walked back to my seat, opened the overhead bin, and retrieved my garment bag and rollerboard. There were whispers throughout the business class and Economy Plus cabins as I made the walk of shame down the aisle.

    Again, I was asked to step off the aircraft and said, "Just as soon as I get my coat back." The only FA who knew which coat was mine was still hiding somewhere, so she had to be found in order to retrieve my coat. I never saw her again.

    As I walked down the jetway and back into the terminal, I remarked, "I want you to note that I was cooperative in your report and that the FA lied about me taking further pictures."

    The GS rep was very understanding, said he sided with me and claimed that he had done his best to make my case to the flight crew, but they "jointly decided" I would not fly. I had a connection in Istanbul that I would now miss—there was no way to get me into Istanbul in time to make my connecting flight to Baku on a separate ticket.

    We began working on alternative arrangements that would preserve my upgrade to business class to Istanbul. Because of the sold-out cabins on many routes and my desire to have a decent rest (i.e., not just fly to London or Barcelona with five hours of sleep), I was ultimately rebooked to fly to Istanbul via Washington and Kuwait City, with the final segment on Turkish Airlines in economy class. But I had to buy a new ticket to Baku, which set me back another $225. I won't blame United for that, but this situation comes down to one glaring problem:

    The FA lied. Yes, she outright lied about me, falsely stating that I flouted her order and continued to take pictures. The blame lies almost entirely with her. I'll return to her in a moment.

    The captain was unprofessional and weak—he could not even look me in the eyes when he spoke to me and he was not at all interested in what I had to say. I believe I am being quite charitable to say I understand his considerations. The problem boiled down to a "he-said, she-said" situation and I don't begrudge the captain for trusting a member of his flight crew over me. But he also no interest in getting to the bottom of what happened; he just wanted to get the flight underway. And the condescending and downright nasty way he spoke to me is no way to talk to anyone, let alone a 1K who has held elite status on United for one decade.

    But the true culprit is the FA here. Even though the 9/11 attacks were over a decade ago, maybe I should have never used the word terrorist in my explanation. Maybe the FA was not used to a passenger defending his action. But whatever the case may be, nothing can justify the fact that this FA lied about me.

    Even if I give her the absolute benefit of the doubt—that though I did not take any more pictures she genuinely feared I would be a safety threat to the flight—that does not give her license to state mistruth that impugns my character. And if she was indeed scared of me, how pitiful is that? Indeed, the terrorists have won when 11.5 years after the attacks U.S. citizens are scared of a camera onboard an airplane.

    This was not an issue of privacy—the real impetus behind United's onboard photography guidelines above. You can see that the picture of my seat did not compromise anyone's privacy. Instead, I believe the FA simply could not fathom why I would want to take pictures of my seat and therefore deemed me a security threat and lied in order to get me off the airplane.

    Not only did this episode publicly defame me, it made me question my loyalty to United. I'm not some kettle traveler making a baseless loyalty claim. Regular readers know that I am extremely loyal to United Airlines, fly them often and almost exclusively, write about them even more often, and have accrued nearly 950,000 lifetime flight miles with United—I'll be a 26 year old million miler flyer later in the year.

    I have no regrets about this incident (other than not being able to take the flight). I did nothing wrong and the FA who lied about me should be held to account by United. Surely, a liar is more of a security threat than a passenger who wants to take a picture of his seat.

    United has not been contacted yet, but I will send them a copy of this story. I welcome an investigation into this incident and encourage my seatmate or any of those seated around me on the flight to chime in should you come across this story. I have nothing to hide other than my humiliation for being thrown off a flight on the pretense of a mistruth.

    Posted on: 19 Feb 2013


    ORD watcher
    10 Types Of People Who Will Always Be On Your Flight
    Winona Dimeo-EdigerFebruary 25, 2013

    A few weeks ago, I was flying home from a blissful vacation, trying to ignore a screaming baby a few rows ahead of me and cringing at the cacophony of phlegm-y coughs coming from the seat behind me, when I realized that every flight is exactly the same. Looking around me, it was as though I’d been dropped smack dab in the middle of a roster of characters that work together to make air travel the uniquely strange, gross, frustrating experience it is. Who are these people that seem to be present on every flight, ever? Let’s break it down in list form…

    1. Patient Zero. This person is always sitting a couple rows behind you. They usually remain silent until you’ve reached cruising altitude, when they take a deep, rattling breath and release an onslaught of mucus-flinging, seat-shaking, dangerously contagious-sounding coughs. You will attempt to hold your breath to avoid ingesting all the germs they’re hacking into the stale airplane air, but your efforts will prove worthless, and two days later, you’ll wake up with the same damn cough.

    2. The Gassy Gus. This is pretty self-explanatory, right? This person got a little too excited about the in-flight beef stroganoff and now their digestive system is rebelling–and the rest of the passengers are suffering dearly.

    3. The Fearful Flyer. I know this person well, because I was this person for many years. You’ll find them either having a full-blown freakout, crying, digging their fingernails into the person sitting next to them, and whispering “We’re all going to die” at any sign of light turbulence, or so bombed on anti-anxiety meds that they’re slumped over in their seat mumbling gibberish (once I tried to convince everyone on the plane to join the circus with me).

    4. The Spoiled Toddler. They’re running up and down the aisles throwing crackers and having random screaming fits and generally ruining everyone’s life. Their parents seem to think this behavior is adorable. This toddler will grow up and get a job on Wall Street and cause the next massive collapse of our financial system.

    5. The Traumatized Parents.
    Their toddler is also having a fit, but they definitely don’t think it’s adorable. In fact, they’re mortified, and spend the entire flight desperately mouthing “Sorry!” to everyone who makes eye contact with them.

    6. The Guy Who Still Thinks It’s 1963. Back in the day, airlines hired young, leggy, single ladies as stewardesses and encouraged them to flirt with their passengers, who were mostly men flying on business. Even in 2013, there’s always at least one boorish oaf who’s trying to turn a noon flight to Denver into the swingin’ sex club he remembers from his misogynist glory days. He’s slapping the flight attendants’ asses and wolf-whistling during the safety demonstration. He’s the worst.

    7. The World’s Most Obvious Tourist. Fanny pack. Hard Rock Cafe t-shirt. Severe sunburn. Socks with sandals. You know the drill.

    8. The Chatty Seatmate. You’ve been traveling for 11 hours. You’re exhausted. You can’t wait to pop in your headphones and try to nap for the last leg of your long journey home. You’re so close. But then…. “Hi! Where are you from? Ready to go back to reality? Did you see this week’s ‘Celebrity Apprentice’? I just love that show!” Alas, you’re sitting next to a chatty seatmate. Sometimes this can lead to a really fascinating conversation, but usually it involves spending hours nodding your head and wishing you’d learned how to sleep with your eyes open.

    9. The Feuding Couple.
    Travel can be hard on a relationship. Want proof? Listen to the couple duking it out a few rows in front of you. “Seinfeld” captured this couple perfectly in Elaine and Puddy, who broke up and got back together multiple times during the course of an international flight. Just pray you don’t meet the same fate as Vegetable Lasagna and somehow get seated between two angry lovers.

    10. The Heavy Drinker. You’re on a 6AM flight. The flight attendant comes around and takes drink orders. The woman next to you orders a double vodka and coke, then continues flipping through her People magazine. An hour later she orders another one. Is she a functioning alcoholic, or is it 5 PM in whatever time zone she’s coming from? You’ll probably never know. Cheers!


    ORD watcher
    19 Idiotic (But Real) Travel Complaints
    Posted: 10/09/2013 5:20 pm

    A vacation is supposed to be your time away from the crazy. Remind me never to travel to any of the same vacation spots these people have booked. I'll take that upgrade and trade you a bus tour of "OH MY GOD THESE PEOPLE ARE NUTS!"


    These are actual complaints received from dissatisfied customers by Thomas Cook Vacations (based on a Thomas Cook/ABTA survey):

    1. "I think it should be explained in the brochure that the local convenience store does not sell proper biscuits like custard creams or ginger nuts."

    2. "It's lazy of the local shopkeepers in Puerto Vallarta to close in the afternoons. I often needed to buy things during 'siesta' time -- this should be banned."

    3. "On my holiday to Goa in India , I was disgusted to find that almost every restaurant served curry. I don't like spicy food."

    4. "We booked an excursion to a water park but no-one told us we had to bring our own swimsuits and towels. We assumed it would be included in the price."

    5. "The beach was too sandy. We had to clean everything when we returned to our room."

    6. "We found the sand was not like the sand in the brochure. Your brochure shows the sand as white but it was more yellow."

    7. "They should not allow topless sunbathing on the beach. It was very distracting for my husband who just wanted to relax."

    8. "No one told us there would be fish in the water. The children were scared."

    9. "Although the brochure said that there was a fully equipped kitchen, there was no egg-slicer in the drawers."

    10. "We went on holiday to Spain and had a problem with the taxi drivers as they were all Spanish."

    11. "The roads were uneven and bumpy, so we could not read the local guide book during the bus ride to the resort. Because of this, we were unaware of many things that would have made our holiday more fun."

    12. "It took us nine hours to fly home from Jamaica to England. It took the Americans only three hours to get home. This seems unfair."

    13. "I compared the size of our one-bedroom suite to our friends' three-bedroom and ours was significantly smaller."

    14. "The brochure stated: 'No hairdressers at the resort'. We're trainee hairdressers and we think they knew and made us wait longer for service."

    15. "There were too many Spanish people there. The receptionist spoke Spanish, the food was Spanish. No one told us that there would be so many foreigners."

    16. "We had to line up outside to catch the boat and there was no air-conditioning."

    17. "It is your duty as a tour operator to advise us of noisy or unruly guests before we travel."

    18. "I was bitten by a mosquito. The brochure did not mention mosquitoes."

    19. "My fiance and I requested twin-beds when we booked, but instead we were placed in a room with a king bed. We now hold you responsible and want to be re-reimbursed for the fact that I became pregnant. This would not have happened if you had put us in the room that we booked."


    ORD watcher
    Flight grounded by farting woman
    Tuesday 5 Dec 2006 5:52 pm

    A plane was diverted from its path and forced to land, after a woman passenger started lighting matches to cover up her flatulence.
    The escalation in America’s War on Farting came on an internal flight between Washington and Dallas, which was forced to land in Nashville when passengers told cabin crew that they could smell burning matches.
    After an emergency landing, passengers were evacuated from the plane for security screening, the luggage hold was cleared, and bomb-sniffing dogs were sent onto the plane.
    The dogs eventually found a number of spent matches under one passenger’s seat.
    Under FBI questioning, the woman admitted that she was lighting matches –which is illegal on a plane – in an attempt to conceal ‘body odour’.
    Reports claim that the woman has ‘a medical condition’.
    The plane eventually took off again, without the smelly woman, who an airline spokeswoman said had been banned from their flights ‘for a long time’.


    ORD watcher
    10 Ways To Be An Awesome Airline Passenger
    Want to be an awesome airline passenger and have the flight attendants fawning all over your awesomeness? Discover your inner Up In The Air by following my awesome tips.

    1. Acknowledge the crew’s existence.

    When you board the aircraft and a smiling flight attendant kindly greets you, reciprocating the pleasantry is all it takes to start your trip off on an awesome foot. While I’m aware that this sounds incredibly rudimentary and a matter of basic manners, it isn’t uncommon for passengers to completely ignore the crew during boarding. We truly make an effort to ensure that you feel welcomed and sincerely want you to enjoy the flight. When we say “Hello”, “Welcome aboard” or the like, and get zilch in return – it gets old. Quickly. Sometimes it can even make my head want to spontaneously explode.

    If a passenger is kind enough to make eye contact, I can at least use that simple act to confirm to myself that I am in fact not an apparition living in some sort or parallel universe. So hey, thanks in advance if you give me a quick glance. It may not seem like much but I will take anything I can get on days when every other person is ignoring me, plus it potentially saves me truckloads of money on crazy pills.

    2. Pay Attention.

    I can promise you that we do not make announcements just to listen to ourselves speak. Okay, full disclosure here, some FAs might, and we all hate working with them. It’s embarrassing and we’re stuck listening to them along with you. Not for nothing, by the end of a trip I can barely stand the sound of my own voice (let alone most times), but I digress.

    As most of you are already aware, the safety demonstration is something mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration; and with this it is required to take place prior to every flight. So, you say that you travel a lot and have watched our little safety dance more times than you care to count? We totally get it, however, we do ask for a little graciousness. Be awesome by setting an awesome example for future awesome passengers. If that 3 minutes of fake-watching is an impossibility for you – at the very least kindly sit quietly and give your fellow (awesome) passengers the opportunity to watch and listen if they wish to do so.

    And to those passengers who think it’s cute to blurt out “if we crash we’re all gonna die anyway” during the middle of me doing my thing – stop it. It isn’t cute, funny or remotely accurate. Out of the collective 53,487 people involved in plane crashes in the U.S. from 1983 to 2000, 51,207 survived. That is a 96% survival rate. Yes. NINETY. SIX. PERCENT.

    Other important announcements will be made throughout your flight including those regarding beverage and meal options. If you’re jamming to some tunes on your iPhone and out of the corner of your eye you notice a flight attendant standing in the the aisle with their hands on a large metal beverage cart – I can pretty much guarantee that they aren’t stopping at each row to inquire what everyone’s favorite movie or color is.

    Kindly remove your earbuds when addressing or responding to said flight attendant. Also that look of bewilderment (as to why we’re there as we hand out drinks to all of your neighbors) confuses and annoys us. This is a huge pet peeve of crewmembers.

    And on the same “pay attention” tip – this is the part of the article where I beg you to listen to the announcement and/or read the Inflight Magazine/Menu. This will help to prevent us from saying “Coke, Diet Coke, Coke Zero, Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Sprite, Diet Sprite, Sprite Zero, Ginger Ale, Orange Juice, Apple Juice, Cranapple Juice, Tomato Juice, Spicy Tomato Juice, Club Soda, Seltzer Water, Tonic Water” 150 times to people sitting within earshot of our reply to “What do you have?” from their neighbors. This tip will also assist you in getting your favorite drink in a more timely manner. So here I am begging you. BEGGING. Have a heart, fellow human beings.

    3. Keep your hands and feet to yourself.

    Please don’t touch, poke, pinch, tap, or pull at our clothing. Yes this actually happens. Flailing your arms in the air, yelling, snapping your fingers (oh HELL no!) or shaking the ice in your empty cup will not work either. A simple “excuse me miss/sir” works wonders.

    As far as feet go, please keep them off of the bulkheads, tray tables, and the seats and armrests of fellow travelers. It is rude and inconsiderate. While we do expect you to get comfortable, purchasing a ticket does not entitle you to treat the cabin like your home. It is a multi-million dollar piece of equipment that we would like to keep awesome for as long as possible. Plus, feet.

    Also please keep in mind that the aisle of the aircraft is not an extension of your seat, or the area designated to read your USA Today. It is the workspace of your hardworking flight attendants. We don’t want to fall on our face after tripping over your foot, nor do we want to cause a compound tib/fib fracture after accidentally running into your leg with that 250-lb cart we’re schlepping around.

    4. Recognize that you are not the only person on the plane.

    When placing requests with the flight attendants kindly keep in mind that you are not the only person on the airplane. If it takes a few minutes to have your request met, it could very well be that while on our walk to the galley 38 people stopped us to ask for a refill, snack, pillow, etc.

    On all commercial carriers there is 1:50 flight attendant to passenger ratio.

    5. Wear socks.

    Flying commercially is a method of public transportation. The keyword here being public. The airplane isn’t your living room. Please don’t be these people.

    6. Keep it moving.

    We’ve all been stuck behind “that guy”. You know, the one who plops their suitcase down in the middle of the aisle, unzips it, then riffles through its contents searching for any possible item they think could be of use during their flight. Not only can that behavior cause a delay in leaving the gate, but it will also make you not awesome (and an enemy of your fellow fliers).

    Trust me, no one expects you to get completely situated in a matter of seconds, however a minute’s worth of pre-planning can save the day for all involved. If you know that you will be using your sweater, book, iPad, etc., prior to boarding place them in an exterior, easily accessible pocket of you bag. Once you reach your row, pull out said items and throw them onto your seat, then quickly stow your luggage in the overhead bin. Hey! Look at you, you’re practically a travel expert now!

    7. Be aware of your surroundings.

    If you see sweaty crewmembers frantically running up and down the aisles whilst carrying medical equipment and asking if there is a physician on board, more than likely they are unable to get you that refill on your Coke right away.

    Moreover if you happen upon one of us performing CPR on a fellow passenger, you’re on your own locating a pillow.

    8. If you are traveling with a small child, don’t change their diaper at your seat or on a tray table.

    Most plane’s lavatories are equipped with fold-down changing tables. If you are unsure about your specific aircraft, just ask.

    Yes, it may be close quarters – however do the rest of the passengers a solid (!!) by not forcing them to inhale human excrement fumes while attempting to consume their meal. It’s an enclosed cabin with recirculated air. Meals are served inside of said cabin on said tray tables. Do the math, folks.

    BONUS TIP: Please dispose of diapers properly. Hint: the seatback pocket is not considered proper disposal.

    9. Flush the toilet.

    For the love of all things holy, please do this. Also if you could close the door behind you that would be awesome too.

    10. Go with the flow.

    We can’t do anything about the weather, running out of your first meal choice mid-flight or excessive air traffic.

    While we totally understand being frustrated; there is nothing that a flight attendant at 35,000 feet can do to rectify your seat pitch, available legroom or the pop-up thunderstorm the pilots are attempting to avoid. While I appreciate that some passengers feel we are powerful enough to control the weather, airplane configuration and air traffic, unfortunately we are not.

    Hang tight and go with the flow. Ultimately we all have the same goal in mind – to arrive at our destination safely.

    BONUS: Give thanks.

    A sincere “thank you” from a kind traveler can truly make a difference. And trust me when I say this – we are incredibly thankful to have awesome passengers like you on board!

    While I am not by any means suggesting that the following is compulsory, I receive numerous requests from thoughtful passengers who ask me what they can bring to express their gratitude to flight crews. At the request of stews across the globe I would like to share this information. I have posed the aforementioned question to my Facebook followers on many occasions, and it always seems to produce the same few responses from both the passengers who bring gifts and the flight attendants who love receiving them. They include, but are not limited to: Chocolates of any kind, Starbucks gift cards (many a frequent flier stated they bring $5 cards to hand out to crewmembers), and healthy snacks such as fresh veggies and/or fruits.

    Just to reiterate, passengers should never feel obligated to bring gifts and they will not be treated any differently for not doing so. When the occasional gift is received. it is only an added bonus for already doing a job that most flight attendants truly enjoy.

    EXTRA CREDIT: Make us laugh.
    We could really use a good one.

    Shawn Kathleen (better known as “The Sassy Stew”) is a self-proclaimed travel expert, freelance writer and know-it-all that served time in the air by doing the flight attendant thing. You can read more about her exploits at the popular website Rants of a Sassy Stew, in her own column on Zooey Deschanel’s website HelloGiggles, or by following her on Twitter.


    ORD watcher
    The TSA Has Over $500,000 of Travelers’ Loose Change

    Hugo Martin, Los Angeles Times
    Nov 26, 2013 9:42 am

    That loose change that you dump into the plastic bins at the airport security checkpoints may not seem like much, but it adds up. And now Washington is wrestling with the question of what to do with the change you leave behind.

    In fiscal 2012, the change collected at airports across the country totaled about $531,000, with about $32,000 of that coming in foreign currency, according to the Transportation Security Administration. At Los Angeles International Airport, the nation’s third-busiest airport, passenger change added up to nearly $22,000 in the last fiscal year, according to the TSA.

    The TSA has been putting the money into its “aviation security fund” to translate airport signs into various languages, among other overhead costs.

    Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) put forward a bill recently to set aside the loose change for use by nonprofit groups that run airport facilities where members of the military and their families can rest while traveling.

    “Travelers’ lost change is unappropriated dollars that should be put to good use,” Miller said during a House Homeland Security Committee meeting in October.

    The bill was amended and approved in committee last week and sent to the full House for consideration.


    ORD watcher
    High court casts doubt on frequent flier's lawsuit

    By MARK SHERMAN, Associated Press
    Updated 3:09 pm, Tuesday, December 3, 2013

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court indicated Tuesday it won't offer much help to frequent fliers who want to sue when airlines revoke their miles or their memberships.
    The justices heard the case of a Minnesota rabbi who was stripped of his top-level "platinum elite" status in Northwest's WorldPerks program because the airline said he complained too much.

    Rabbi S. Binyomin Ginsberg said Northwest, since absorbed by Delta Air Lines Inc., did not act in good faith when it cut him off. The airline says the federal deregulation of the airline industry in 1978 rules out most lawsuits like the one filed by Ginsberg.
    Most justices signaled they think that ruling for Ginsberg could give rise to state-by-state rules that the deregulation law was intended to prevent.

    Justice Stephen Breyer said Ginsberg's complaint also could apply to airline ticket prices, which are supposed to be set through competition among airlines.
    "It sounds to me like I go in to, you know, get a ticket, my reasonable expectation is they're not going to charge me what they're going to charge, you know. I mean, it's unbelievable," Breyer said. Under Ginsberg's view of the case, Breyer said he could sue over the prices.

    "That might be a great idea, but I don't think that's the idea behind this act," he said.
    Ginsberg said in court papers that he and his wife flew almost exclusively on Northwest, logging roughly 75 flights a year to travel across the U.S. and abroad to give lectures and take part in conferences on education and administration.

    He said he flew on Northwest even when other airlines offered comparable or better flights and in 2005, reached the highest level of the WorldPerks program.
    Northwest cut him off in 2008, shortly after Northwest and Delta agreed to merge. Ginsberg said the move was a cost-cutting measure designed to get rid of the high-mileage customers.

    Northwest says Ginsberg complained 24 times in a 7-month period, including nine instances of luggage that turned up late on airport baggage carousels. Northwest said that before it took action, it awarded Ginsberg $1,925 in travel credit vouchers, 78,500 bonus miles, a voucher for his son and $491 in cash reimbursements.
    The airline pointed to a provision of the mileage program's terms that gives Northwest the right to cancel members' accounts for abuse.

    A federal trial judge cited earlier Supreme Court cases involving claims against frequent flier programs in dismissing Ginsberg's lawsuit, including his claim that Northwest did not live up to the terms of the contract. The judge said the contract gives the airlines the right to kick someone out of the mileage program at its "sole judgment."
    But the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said part of the suit could go forward involving whether Ginsberg and others can sue under state laws that require parties to a contract to act in good faith.

    Justice Elena Kagan showed some sympathy for Ginsberg's claim when she questioned Paul Clement, the Washington lawyer representing Northwest at the Supreme Court.
    If the airline could easily avoid living up to its end of the bargain in the mileage program, Kagan said, "I don't think that I'd be spending all this time in the air on your planes. You know, I'd find another company that actually gave me the free ticket."

    Clement replied that Kagan's example shows that the free market, not a court, is the right place to address her problem.

    "So if some airline really were crazy enough to systematically turn on its most lucrative and loyal customers, surely, the market would solve that. And, of course, if a bunch of airlines did it, the Department of Transportation stands ready to police that," he said.
    Several justices questioned whether it is important to the case that many people earn and spend miles on items other than airline tickets. "Do we have to worry about that in this case?" Justice Samuel Alito asked.

    Adina Rosenbaum, Ginsberg's lawyer, told the court that the growth of mileage programs to encompass more than airline tickets is another reason to rule that Ginsberg's lawsuit is not blocked by the deregulation law.

    Breyer said the court perhaps could leave questions involving miles earned elsewhere "for another day."

    A decision is expected by late June.
    The case is Northwest vs. Ginsberg, 12-462.


    ORD watcher
    Man Fleeing Bad Date Jumps Fence At Newark Airport, Breaching $300 Million Security System
    You can't get a 4 ounce bottle of face wash on a plane in this country, but it seems like it's really not that hard to run out onto the freaking tarmac. Or so discovered one man, who hopped a fence at Newark Airport yesterday and meandered across a couple runways, according to officials.

    The NY Post reported that 24-year-old Jersey City resident Siyah Brown was able to bypass a security fence at about 4:20 a.m. yesterday; Brown was apparently fleeing a date with a man nearby after their car ran out of gas and a third man arrived to help them refuel.

    The big story, judging by the Post's headline, is that Brown—who was reportedly wearing a women's red pants and a sweater—was "dressed like a woman" during this incident, but what's far more newsworthy is that he was able to scale a security fence equipped with cameras, sensors and barbed wire, making his way across two runways in the airport before an airline worker found him and called the cops.

    The airport's $300 million Perimeter Intrusion Detection System (PIDS) failed to detect him and alert security. "This is an ongoing investigation,” PAPD chief Louie Koumoutsos told the tabloid, noting that Brown was "arrested, checked against the [Joint Terrorism Task Force] and FBI watch list, issued a summons and released". “The PAPD is continuing to review PIDS video and other surveillance methods to determine the circumstances of the incident."

    This isn't the first time a PIDS system's failed to detect an intruder; in August 2012, jet-skier Daniel Casillo climbed a security fence at John F. Kennedy airport and was able to make his way all the way to the airport's Terminal 3 without being spotted. The incident sparked debate as to whether or not the security system could be easily breached. "The technology’s not working,” Paul Nunziato, a spokesman for the Port Authority Police union, told CBS News last year. “The system doesn’t work. It might work on some sections but it obviously didn’t work on this section."

    The Port Authority has not yet responded to a request for comment on the incident.


    ORD watcher
    A Brief History of the Mile High Club
    Air travel hasn’t quite lost all its romance.
    Mark Gerchick Dec 22 2013, 9:25 PM ET


    Only true aviation geeks are likely to celebrate, or even notice, the milestone being celebrated this year in the history of aviation: the debut, a century ago, of the autopilot. In June 1914, at a historic aeronautical-safety competition in Paris, a 21-year-old American daredevil pilot-inventor named Lawrence Burst Sperry stunned the aviation world by using the instrument to keep a biplane flying straight and level along the Seine. According to his biographer, William Wyatt Davenport, Sperry stood on a wing as the plane, in effect, flew itself—a feat that won him the event’s $10,000 prize.

    By eliminating the need for taxing “hand flying” on long journeys, and thereby reducing pilot fatigue, Sperry’s autopilot ultimately made flying much safer. But it had another, less obvious benefit. It freed up pilots to do other things with their hands—and bodies. The brilliant young Sperry himself soon grasped the possibilities. Legend has it that in late November 1916, while piloting a Curtiss Flying Boat C‑2 some 500 feet above the coast of Long Island, he used his instrument to administer a novel kind of flying lesson to one Cynthia Polk (whose husband was driving an ambulance in war-torn France). During their airborne antics, however, the two unwittingly managed to bump and disengage the autopilot, sending their plane into Great South Bay, where they were rescued, both stark naked, by duck hunters. A gallant Sperry explained that the force of the crash had stripped both fliers of all their clothing, but that didn’t stop a skeptical New York tabloid from running the famous headline “Aerial Petting Ends in Wetting.” For his caper, Sperry is generally considered the founder of the Mile High Club, a cohort that loosely includes all those who have ever “done it” in flight (though precisely what constitutes “it” remains a lurking definitional issue).

    “Flying,” the 1930s stunt pilot Pancho Barnes is often quoted as saying, “makes me feel like a sex maniac in a whorehouse with a stack of $20 bills.” Today’s overcrowded, underfed, overstressed airline passengers, consigned to travel in “just a bloody bus with wings” as Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary puts it, are unlikely to share that enthusiasm. It’s all the more remarkable, then, that airborne sex remains on the bucket list of plenty of passengers, at least male ones. A “Sex Census” published in 2011 by the condom maker Trojan found that 33 percent of American men aspire to have sex on an airplane. (The top locale for women: a beach.) Similarly, nearly a third of the Brits who responded to a 2010 TripAdvisor poll said they wanted to try in-flight sex.

    A lot of U.S. fliers may have already acted out that fantasy. In a global survey of more than 300,000 adults conducted in 2005 by the condom maker Durex, 2 percent of respondents worldwide (and 4 percent of American respondents) claimed to have had sex on an airplane. A 2010 survey commissioned by Sensis Condoms (when did condom makers become avid pollsters?) found a similar incidence of in-flight sex (3 percent) among its respondents. Assuming that about 100 million Americans have traveled by air, and discounting for lying braggarts, if even only 1 percent of them have indulged, then that’s a million or so Mile Highers.

    Less-than-scientific anecdotes abound too. When Virgin Atlantic installed diaper-changing tables aboard its new Airbus A340-600 long-haul jets, in 2002, it wasn’t just mothers and children who found them useful. Within weeks, according to the airline, the tables were destroyed by “those determined to join the Mile High Club.” That said, the airline’s founder, the billionaire bad boy Sir Richard Branson, has waxed nostalgic about a tryst he had at age 19 in a Laker Airways lavatory (“It was every man’s dream”). Almost 20 years ago, Singapore Airlines, for its part, reported that a third of its cases of “unruly behavior” involved in-flight sex.

    For the airlines, the “sexy skies” are all about marketing the fantasy. Actual in-flight sex is the last thing they want to deal with, especially since 9/11, when the preferred cabin ambience has become no-fun, no-drama—a shift more self-protective than puritanical. Is it just love, or is that couple huddled together in their seats trying to ignite explosive-filled sneakers? Even a visit to the bathroom can trigger a full-bore fighter-jet scramble, as it did on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, when a pair of F‑16s shadowed a Frontier flight until it landed in Detroit after two passengers made for the lavatory at the same time. Cabin crews working chock-full flights now also have no time, much less the inclination, to play chaperone.

    Almost perversely, as the reality of today’s air travel for the ordinary coach passenger moves from bearable to downright nasty, reviving the lost “romance” of flying makes marketing sense. Branson, the master marketer, beckons passengers to “get lucky” when they fly Virgin America jets outfitted with seat-back touch screens that let you send “an in-flight cocktail to that friendly stranger in seat 4A.” After all, if you’re busy punching your video screen to chat up some “friendly stranger,” you’re not griping about an airline’s $7.50 snack pack. And when Singapore Airlines proudly unveiled for global media its super-jumbo double-decker Airbus A380 jet, the hype was all about the glories of its 12 ultra-costly first-class “suites.” Combine two of the private pods (about $10,000 each for the round trip from New York to Frankfurt), and you can share a legit double bed, shown in publicity photos strewn with rose petals, alongside a gold tray holding an open bottle of Dom Pérignon and two half-full champagne flutes. What are you supposed to think? Then there’s Air New Zealand’s “Skycouch” (three adjacent coach seats that can be transformed into a flat, bed-like surface), popularly known as “cuddle class.” It comes with the coy admonition to “just keep your clothes on thanks!”

    Could we return to the good old days when travelers were “mad men” and flight attendants were “sexy stews,” when the “sex sells seats” mantra drove some carriers to adorn “trolley dollies” in hot pants and go-go boots and to offer “executive” (men-only) flights between Chicago and New York? Not likely, at least in the United States, where women constitute more than 40 percent of frequent fliers and half of international air travelers, and make most travel-buying decisions. How many of these women are really looking to “get lucky” on their next flight? Being hit on by an unseen stranger while buckled into a seat at 35,000 feet, online commenters have complained, is at best “a little creepy” and at worst like being trapped in a “mile high stalker club.”

    For those moved by the marketing, or otherwise compelled to act out the mile-high fantasy (Freud posited that the fantasy of flight itself has “infantile erotic roots”), there’s a better solution than flying commercial: your own plane. Think Playboy’s Big Bunny, a 1970s-era DC‑9 jet outfitted as a “party pit,” complete with a fur-covered oval bed, a shower, and a discotheque, all presided over by flight attendants (“Jet Bunnies”) in black-leather mini-jumpsuits: “Imagine Studio 54 with wings,” enthused a Playboy feature. That particular icon supposedly now resides, dismantled, in a small city in Mexico, but some air-charter services offer hour-long jaunts for adventurous couples wanting to live out the dream, or at least spice up their relationships. These outfits come and go, with names like Erotic Airways and Flamingo Air, but typically they equip their small Pipers or Cessnas with a mattress (in lieu of the customary four or six seats), overfly scenic spots like Cincinnati or western Georgia, and throw in a bottle of not-quite-vintage bubbly, all for about $500.

    The sheets—no joke—are yours to take home as souvenirs.


    ORD watcher
    It’s Time For People Who Whine About Crappy Airline Service To Admit They’re Getting Exactly What They Want
    Henry Blodget
    Mar. 10, 2013, 12:13 PM

    “If there’s one thing that pretty much everyone agrees on it’s that flying these days sucks.
    The litany of complaints about how horrible and degrading it is to fly is unending, as is the nostalgia for the days when flying was a classy and elegant way to travel.
    But it’s time for everyone who whines about how lousy flying is to at least acknowledge one thing:
    The reason flying is the way it is is because that’s exactly what today’s fliers want.

    Specifically, fliers want:

    - Safe, rapid travel between two cities
    - The lowest possible price

    Oh, sure, people who fly won’t say that they’re getting what they want — because then they would reveal themselves to be cheap bastards who care mostly about price.
    But price is exactly what they care about most.

    How do we know that?
    Because, again and again, fliers choose their airlines based primarily on one selection criterion:
    - Price.

    Don’t believe it?
    Think that an airline that differentiated itself based on service and quality of experience would immediately distance itself from the pack?
    Think again.

    Airlines that spend more to set themselves apart based on service often do worse than airlines that focus on price. In fact, they often go bust.

    Virgin Atlantic, for example, is going through a very rough time financially, even though it goes to great lengths to try to set itself apart.

    If fliers really wanted what Virgin was selling, Virgin would be in excellent financial health.
    But they don’t.
    They want the lowest possible price.

    There’s nothing wrong with wanting the lowest-possible price. Walmart has built an excellent global business based on that value proposition.
    But you don’t hear Walmart customers whining about how they’re not getting Nordstrom-level service.

    The level of whining about today’s Walmart-style flying experience, meanwhile, is so deafening that it almost drowns out the jet engine noise.
    Time to quit whining, fliers.
    If you want better service, pay up for it.

    Otherwise, enjoy your extremely cheap trip and shut up about the flying experience.”
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