Is this a new trend?

Another fight over whether a seat should be reclined or not leading to an aeroplane diversion occurred this week.

En route from Miami to Paris, on American Airlines flight 62, passenger Edmund Alexandre demanded that the female passenger in front of him  not recline her seat. After she refused,  Mr Alexandre got into an altercation with the flight attendants. After grabbing one of the attendants, he was restrained by federal air marshals. The Boeing 767 then diverted to Boston.

So, is it a new trend? Are we going to see open war in the aisles of planes?

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My partner flew Malaysia Airlines two weeks ago and had the choice of four empty rows of five seats per economy passenger to stretch out in. This was how empty the plane was.

A photo doing the rounds of the internet shows a starkly empty Malaysia Airlines Airbus A330 operating as flight 146. The service which departed Melbourne at 740am flying direct to Kuala Lumpur arriving at 1415 on Thursday 14 August 2014 had about 60 people on board.

My next Malaysia Airlines flight is in two weeks. I called to arrange a “good seat” to find that all of the bulk head and all emergency exit seats are currently empty. This is unusual so close to take off and suggests that the load on my flight will be light.

mh 146

While very comfortable for passengers, there is no way any airline can sustain this. Already in financial trouble at the start of 2014, the carrier is estimated to be losing $US2 million a day after tragically losing two planes. They have been attempting to fill planes with cheap fares. We have been finding fares way below discount carrier Air Asia.

Today, the long awaited restructure was announced by the airline’s largest shareholder  Khazanah Nasional Bhd. Some of the actions are ones I foreshadowed in May. The 12 point plan called Rebuilding A National Icon – The MAS Recovery Plan” includes:

  •  creating a new airline company by 1 July 2015 which presumably will have a name other than Malaysia Airlines. Currently Khazanah are calling it “Newco”. I am curious to know what the name could be. Air Malaysia? New Malaysia Airlines? Hibiscus Malaysia (after the national flower), Aero Malaysia?
  • de-listing from the Kuala Lumpur Stock exchange by the end of 2014
  • re-listing by 2019 on the Stock Exchange
  • keeping current CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya ntil July 2015
  • aiming to return to profitability by end of 2017
  • shedding six thousand of the 20 000 strong workforce with Khazanah  investing in a “Corporate Reskilling Centre” to assist MAS staff who did not go to NewCo. This includes transferring 3,500 MAS workers to other companies owned by Khazanah Nasional
  • focusing on being a regional carrier- I assume this means flights between KL and Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Paris and Londom will go. I am also assuming their discount subsidary Firefly will be sold off

Malaysia Airlines has a 5 star rating from Skytrax yet only comes in at 18th on their latest ranking of airlines. Never understand how that works. Surely all of the five star airlines should be at the top of the list. It was 14th place last year and tenth the year before. I rate them at 84% which puts them in the top 12 of the airlines I have flown (out of the 88 airlines I have been on).

 

 

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As a runner, I am really interested in this event taking place next Saturday at Budapest Airport in Hungary. They will play host to a competition between airlines to see who is the fastest airline …on the ground.

bud-runway-image

On Saturday 6 September, a 12 kilometre (8 mile) race involving 1,000 runners will take place on Budapest Airport’s Runway 1  (13R-31L) to raise funds for  child cancer charities. The runway is 3km long so I presume teams will run it four times.

There will be prizes awarded for:

  1. The fastest male and female
  2. “The Fastest Airline in the World”
  3. “The Fastest Airport in the World”
  4. The fastest male and female airline CEO
  5. The fastest male and female airport CEO

There are representatives from the following airlines taking part include:

European carriers:

• Adria Airways
• Aegean Airlines
• Aer Lingus
• Air Arabia
• Air Baltic
• Air Berlin
• Air France
• Air Nostrum
• Blue Panorama Airlines
CityJet
• Czech Airlines
• Edelweiss Air AG
• Etihad Regional (previously Darwin airlines)
• Germania Fluggesellschaft mbH
• Germanwings
• Iberia Express
• LOT Polish Airlines
• Montenegro Airlines
• Norwegian Air Shuttle
• Ryanair
Swiss International Airlines
TAP Portugal
• TEN Airways
• transavia
Uzbekistan Airways
• Vueling
• Wizz Air

Middle Eastern Carriers

•  Onur Air
• Pakistan International Airlines
• Qatar Airways
• Saudia


UK Carriers:

•  bmi regional
• British Airways

• easyJet
• Jet2.com
•Flybe

 

US Carriers:

• American Airlines
• Southwest Airlines
• United Airlines

 

The only one that is missing is the late Malév.

May the best team win. Any predictions on winners?

 

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After “that incident” on United Airlines this week, the Knee Defender, a gadget that blocks airplane seats from reclining, has seen a boost in sales. It’s website crashed yesterday under the weight of orders for the $US21.95 Knee defender! The device consists of two clips that slip onto the seatback tray.

kd_in_use_j1

The incident, occurred, on  United Flight 1462 from Newark, New Jersey to Denver, Colorado. A male passenger (48 years old), seated in a middle seat of row 12 used the Knee Defender to stop the female passenger (also aged 48) in the seat in front of him reclining.  Ironically they were seated in the 737′s Economy Plus section which has 35″ leg room compared to 31″ in regular Economy.

737-900v1

 The female again asked him to allow her to recline her seat and he refused. She then appealed for help from a flight attendant who asked the male to remove the device. He again refused. At this time,  the woman  stood up, turned around and threw a cup of water over the male.  The pilot then diverted the plane to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and both passengers were deplaned. Flight 1462 continued onto Denver arriving 1 hour and 38 minutes late. 

I am wondering if there really has been a spate of bad behaviour on planes this year or are we reporting it more?

I personally hate reclining seats. They made sense in the old days when we had 36 to 40 inches between seats but in today’s environment when airlines have cut us back to 29, 30 or 31 inches, they are an anachronism. When in Economy, I choose seats in exit rows or the front row to avoid being subjected to the possibility of someone pushing their seat back onto my 185cm (6’1″ frame). I don’t recline unless I have no one behind me or I am “up front”. I feel sorry for the people behind me.

http://dbagjournal.wordpress.com/

http://dbagjournal.wordpress.com/

Clearly, if these knee defender sales are any indication, other passengers feel the same. In fact, a survey of 1,000 passengers by Skyscanner last year found that 91 per cent of passengers would like to see reclining seats banned on flights. Some airlines (Monarch, Ryanair, Spirit and Allegiant, for example) have removed reclining seats from their planes or disabled the mechanisms. In the meantime, the four largest U.S. airlines – American Airlines, Delta, Southwest and United all ban the use of the Knee Defender. That ban seems to have been irrelevant in the case of flight 1492.

Do you want to see reclining seats removed? Or will you buy a knee defender?

I know that Iceland has been somewhat topical with a volcano threatening to blow!  It is also one of the most amazing stunning and interesting places, I have ever visited. I have been hankering to go back since my visit there five years ago. On top of that I well and truly want to see the phenomenon known as the Northern Lights.

mjc iceland

Many years ago, I had the privilege of watching the “Southern Lights” ( Aurora Australis) in Tasmania, Australia. the shimmering, dancing colours is an image I will never forget. My appetite is whetted for their Northern equivalent.

This “Great Value Vacations” package offers airfare and four nights accommodation from USA for $899 is a great deal between January to March.Bookings must be made by August 29.

It includes:

  • Round-trip economy class airfare to Reykjavik/Keflavik (KEF) from NYC and Boston. You can fly from other cities
  • airport transfers via the Flybus Airport Shuttle which delivers you from the airport to hotel door- its a great service
  • 4 nights in Reykjavik at the Reykjavik Lights hotel which Tripadvisor users rate at 89%. It is 3km (2 Mlles) from downturn meaning taxi or bus will be necessary,
  • Daily breakfast (a big money saving in Iceland)
  • Reykjavik city sightseeing tour
  • Northern Lights Tour which departs at 9pm or 10pm and lasts for three hours
  • free time to explore the city

I priced the package separately. Icelandair was selling NYC to Reykjavik for $63o return and the Reykjavik Lights hotel cost $728 for four nights. Icelandair were also selling a similar priced package but it was for three nights and they did not include breakfast. I found availability for the Great Value Vacations tour through most departure dates. I could not see a way of easily extending a stay on the website which is what i would want to do.

IMG_1332 They do offer an extra day tour for $US125 which I would take up. It makes the whole package $1024. The tour goes to the amazing Gulfooss waterfall (above), Geysir geothermal area and Thingvellir National Park and Fontana’s natural steam baths. I would also try and do a second Northern Lights tour!

As mentioned, the company selling this package is Great Value Vacations, 486 Sunrise Hwy, Suite 200 Rockville Centre, NY 11570. I have not dealt with them before and have no connection with them. Contact: info@greatvaluevacations.com OR 800-896-4600

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In 2010,  the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjoell led to the biggest European airspace shutdown since World War Two with one hundred thousand flights across Europe cancelled and eight million passengers stranded.

Over the weekend Iceland’s Bardarbunga volcano has been shaken by earthquakes and started a small eruption. Located in south-east Iceland under the country’s largest glacier Vatnajoekull,  Bardarbunga rises to more than 2000 metres. It has an ice layer of between 150 and 400 metres thick. So far, there is no indication of imminent flooding caused by glacier melt. There have been fears that this volcano will have the same impact as Eyjafjoell if it erupts.

I fly to Scandinavia in three weeks so I am very keenly concerned!

Iceland has evacuated the area, closed the roads to the area (see below) and suspended all flights in a section of airspace over the glacier.  It declared a “Code Red” but downgraded that to “Orange” on Sunday morning. Iceland’s airports remain open. The British Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said that it would not close UK airspace in the event of an eruption. The CAA said it would issue a notice to individual airlines who will decide where to fly. 

iceland volcano

Here is live feed from three cameras in the area:

 

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For two days only. Scoot is offering a very cheap way to get to Singapore from Gold Coast,  Perth and Sydney. Flight dates: from today until 30th November.  The first passenger pays fare and taxes and the second passenger only pays taxes. The offer does not apply to their Business Class fares.

In addition, the airline is also taking 15 per cent off the price off Super & Stretch seats which give you 35″ of leg room.

I found good availability looking through October and November. The cheapest price I found from Sydney to Singapore was AUD 646.95 return for two ($US602). Thats $A323.47 each ($US301). The most common roundtrip fare for two is $AUD727.

Note you need to add:

  • seat (a super seat costs around $50 a person for each segment)
  • a bag for $34 each way per person
  • meals and drinks with a light meal combo including drink costing $12 and hot meal combo being around $15

A round trip in a super seat with a hot meal on each flight and sharing a bag cost around $1000 for two people. This compares to $620 per person with Air Asia or around $700 for Malaysia and $750 for Qantas, Malaysia, Emirates and Etihad.

Watch out for Scoot sneakily trying to add travel insurance of $144 per passenger and they charge a $9 per passenger per segment “processing fee” for a Credit Card payment which I find galling.

Bookings have opened from today 22 Aug 2014 until 2359 hrs, 24 Aug 2014  (Australian Eastern time) and can only be made via this page.

140822 scoot

Scoot is Singapore Airline’s low cost subsidiary.   They have a 3 star rating from Skytrax.  Scoot customers give the carrier a rating of 7 out of 10 on Skytrax. My Overall rating of Scoot is 74%.

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Rolf-Bucholz-

 

Rolf Buchholz a 53 year old German is the world’s most pierced man, according to the Guiness Book of Records. He sports 453 piercings plus two horns on his forehead.

This week, he was barred from Dubai. No reason for refusing entry was given by airport officials but airpirt workers reportedly told him that  officials were concerned he could be a practitioner of black magic.

Ironically, he was on his way to a guest appearance at Cirque le Soir nightclub in Dubai’s Fairmont Hotel. This incident will generate some publicity for them?

(For the record, he has 16 piercings in his right ear, 15 in his left ear, 25 in his eyebrows, 8 in his nose, 94 in and around his lips, 2 in his tongue, 8 in the rest of his body, 3 in his nipples, 4 in his navel and 278 in the genital area. My question: Why the horns?)

 

wreckage-of-mh17

First of all it was MH370, then MH 17, then Taiwan, Iran, one in Mali and a shooting at a plane in Pakistan. Lots of people have been asking me whether I will keep flying after these horrific events.

A poll, conducted for TheStreet by GfK at the end of July found that 36% of Americans feel afraid to fly internationally. Women are more fearful than men, older people are more fearful than younger people.

seasoned-traveller-_978660c

Image: Getty

For an Australian who flies Malaysia Airlines a lot and who has traversed the skies above the Ukraine a few times in my Europe voyages, the shooting down last month has shaken me enough to think through my answer.  I still give a firm “yes” based on the mostly good news about flying.

Despite being way more planes in the sky and despite more people flying than ever before, only 29 planes were written off in 2013 and only 265 people lost their lives through air related accidents. Please do not think me flippant or disrespectful when I say “only“. I am not dismissing the value of those people or belittling the pain of the grief caused by their loss. Its just that compared to motor vehicle deaths, this figure is tiny. It is about the same number that die on US roads every three days.

It says something that there are now almost three billion people flying and only a small percentage will ever see a bad air event. In 1994, just twenty years ago when air traffic was way smaller,  there were  67 planes written off and 2027 people died. In the last decade, in every year but one (2005), we have seen the number of fatalities fall under 1000 per year and stay there.

There are many reasons for this amazing progress. Aeroplanes and their components: engines, wings, fuselage  have improved significantly. Advances in technology for  navigation, weather prediction and warnings has reduced crashes. Pilot training has improved significantly.

Sadly,  more people have died (or been presumed dead) in 2014 aeroplane accidents than 2012 and 2013 with theis year’s toll already sitting at 761:  Of course, 537 of these people have been lost through the two Malaysia Airlines‘ losses. These “events” skew a trend that has been downwards for so long. Take those two events out and the death toll sits at 224.

Will I stop flying? No. Will I choose my airlines carefully? As always. Will I fly Malaysia Airlines? My next flight is booked with them in three weeks.  I figure, my chances of being impacted are so low. Now driving in some countries to the airport, that is a different story….

To all who have perished in air crashes, Rest in Peace. Thoughts to their families.

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technico windowlessThe IXION Windowless Business Jet Concept has no windows. Instead any scene can be projected onto a high-res screen on the interior cabin walls and ceiling. It could be the view from the outside of the plane or relaxing scenes or business charts! The displays would be powered by Solar panels on the jet’s exterior.

The design recently won the Exterior Design Concept category at the 2014 International Yacht & Aviation Awards for Paris-based company Technicon.

The advantages of removing windows include:

  • construction cost reductions
  • a lower weight leading to decreased fuel usage
  • increased flexibility for the inside layout of the plane

140816 exterior jet

Isaac Asimov, the late Science Fiction writer, in his book Caves of Steel described windowless flying. As someone who loves gazing from the window, his prediction filled me with dread. Air design up to now has been about increaseing window size (for example Boeing with the 787)  but with most passengers absorbed in kindles, seatback TVs, Ipads and computers, today, do we need windows anymore? Many airlines now have cameras which can send back the exterior view to a screen. Is this IXION concept heralding a future step? Would passengers take to it?

Would you fly a windowless plane?

 

140814 aiasia test 3 pic

120 AirAsia staff  last Wednesday (August 13) undertook the first ever user acceptance testing of the airline’s newly installed Wi-Fi service. The team used three popular messaging services – LINE, WhatsApp and WeChat with reportedly positive results for all three services. The team also shared live updates on the company’s official Twitter and Instagram accounts.

airaisa test

Instant messaging, emails and content streaming will be gradually rolled out across the entire group starting with flights with the AK code. Sixty AirAsia passengers per  flight will be able to  participate in a “free user test” of the system for the next two months.  I am on board Air Asia in a month and will be interested to see if I get a test run!

The airline intends to fully activate the on-board WiFi at the end of 2013.

Air Asia is claiming that the price of the wifi will “make it the most affordable wifi system in the air”. It  aims to use this service to help increase ancillary income to $US18.86 per passenger.

Malaysian based AirAsia flies to 100 destinations in 22 countries. It is rated a three star airline by Skytrax and passengers on that staff rate the airline at 68%. I have flown them  on short and long haul sectors 11 times and currently rate then at 66%. The company reported a drop in profit for the first part of this year as overcapacity impacted the carrier on many of its routes. It operates with the lowest unit cost of any carrier in the world.


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