Month: July 2015

Flight has to return to airport because ground crew forgot to unload luggage

Photo: Dirk Kruse/Flickr

When you’re traveling, it can be so easy to forget something. You could forget to pack your toothbrush, accidentally leave your suit jacket hanging in your car or, you know, take off from an Irish airport without unloading the luggage from the previous flight. Just 20 minutes after a Ryanair flight took off from the City of Derry Airport, the captain announced that the plane had to turn around “because of a problem with the luggage.” The problem was that all of the suitcases from the inbound flight from Alicante, Spain were still on that particular plane.

So before the passengers even had time to start daydreaming about the first thing they’d do after landing in Spain, they were back on the ground in Northern Ireland. Noel Kelly, who was on the flight, told the Belfast Telegraph:

We had just settled into the flight and I had just told my grandson that it would be a month before he saw rain again when the pilot said we had to turn back because there was a problem with the luggage. That was a first for me and the air stewardess told me she had been flying for 12 years and she had never experienced it before.

An airport spokesperson said that management would be reviewing the incident. The unexpected (and sort of ridiculous) situation was blamed on the airport ground crew, who were somehow distracted or disorganized enough to forget to unload the luggage. The flight took off for a second time after an hour-long delay.

In a statement to Road Warrior Voices, Ryanair spokesperson Robin Kiely said

This flight from Derry to Alicante (27 July) returned to Derry shortly after take-off to unload baggage from the previous flight, which the third party ground handling agent had failed to remove before take-off. The aircraft landed normally, the baggage was removed and the flight departed to Alicante. Ryanair apologised to customers affected by this short delay.

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After mom of two dies during flight, medical professionals urge European carriers to provide defibrillators on planes

Illustration: James Provost/Flickr

Davina Tavener, an active, healthy 47-year-old mother of two died during a Ryanair flight to Lanzarote, Spain, and both medical professionals and her grieving family hope her death will encourage all European carriers to add defibrillators to their planes. The European Aviation Safety Agency does not require planes to have the potentially life-saving devices onboard, and Tavener’s loved ones – and those who attempted to revive her after her in-flight collapse – will wonder whether a defibrillator could have saved her.

Tavener and her husband were three hours into the flight when she excused herself to use the restroom. When she didn’t return after 10 minutes, a member of the cabin crew checked on her. Tavener was discovered unconscious and unresponsive in the lavatory. Clare Garnsey, a breast surgeon who was on the flight, worked with the crew and other passengers to revive her, without success. During the inquest into Tavener’s death, Garnsey told the court:

I did ask for a defibrillator, because if it’s a cardiac issue that’s the best chance of survival, and it was quite a surprise this wasn’t there.

Coroner Alan Walsh, who also spoke at the inquest, said that no one knows how long Tavener could have been unconscious before being discovered, but he said that he would be writing the European Aviation Safety Agency, the United Kingdom’s Civil Aviation Authority and the Irish Aviation Authority to urge them to make defibrillators and other first aid equipment a requirement on all flights. Walsh said:

It takes a second to have a cardiac event and sadly cardiac events don’t choose whether they are 10 minutes into a flight or 10 hours into a flight. If you are, by the nature of air travel, trapped in aircraft without access to any other facility, the authorities need to consider the equipment to be carried on those airlines, whether it’s short haul or long haul.

A spokesperson for Ryanair said: 

Ryanair meets all regulatory requirements in terms of medical assistance provided on its flights and is not legally required to carry defibrillators on board. All our crews are trained in first aid and are responsible for the safety and security of the cabin […] We offer our sincere condolences to the bereaved.

The European Aviation Safety Agency currently makes a recommendation that defibrillators are available on planes with more than 30 seats that could, at any point on their trip, be more than 60 minutes from a facility that could “provide quality medical assistance.” But the agency’s regulations don’t go beyond a “recommendation.” In the United States, the FAA made defibrillators mandatory on all planes and in all airports in 2001, although the airlines had until 2004 to comply with those requirements.

You can now fly business class to London for $1K

Photo: La Compagnie

The words “budget business class” sound like an oxymoron, on the same list with things like “plastic glasses” and “good Adam Sandler movie,” but that’s exactly what La Compagnie is promising on its newest route. The French boutique airline (the carrier’s words, not ours) has announced that it will begin offering Newark to London service on April 24, with introductory business class fares beginning at $1,007. We read the fine print and that thousand-dollar price tag does, in fact, include all of the taxes and fees.

La Compagnie’s selling point is that it’s all business class. Instead of playing Passenger Tetris and trying to arrange 235 passengers into its Boeing 757-200s, their flights have 74 seats that can recline into almost fully flat beds. Their in-flight meals skip the traditional airline delicacies (The Pasta Clump, The Meat Bits) in favor of a menu designed by a Michelin-starred chef and–wait, what’s the catch?

Well, it’s the three-letter destination code on each ticket. La Compagnie will fly from Newark to Luton airport, which might be the Newark of Greater London. (Yelp reviewers were less generous, describing it as “Horrible” and “Pretty, pretty terrible.”) Luton is also a solid hour-plus bus ride from central London.

La Compagnie CEO Frantz Yvelin says that for his airline to succeed where other all-business class carriers have failed, they will have to find ways to keep their costs low (So hello, Luton!). His savings strategy involves using a three-person cabin crew for each flight and headquartering the company in the suburbs of high-priced Paris. “Our internal costs are lower than any legacy carrier,” he said.

La Compagnie will initially fly the Newark to London route four times per week (with plans to add two more flights by mid-June). The tradeoff seems like a no-brainer too: a more pleasant trip across the Atlantic in exchange for a longer ride into central London. It’s hard to argue with those costs for business class, especially for passengers who aren’t loyal to one airline. Or to the Pasta Clump.

Business-travel gamechanger: Expensify partners with travel companies like Uber, Airbnb and Priceline

Expensify

Expensify, the world’s fastest growing business expense management company, has announced an all-star lineup of new travel partnerships that will completely transform the user experience.

Uber, Priceline, Hipmunk, Rocket Trip, NuTravel, Egencia, Locomote, and NexTravel were announced as new seamless partners, with Airbnb, GetThere, Amadeus, and AtlasTravel soon to follow.

Expensify’s new deeper integration with both sharing economy juggernauts and travel-booking sites alike is being launched in conjunction with a new business travel platform that completely automates the Expensify process. Previously, users scanned and emailed snapshots of receipts to an Expensify address. That system is a thing of the past now, with transactions with these new partners seamlessly registering with Expensify.

Expensify CEO David Barrett:

“Expense management is the Rosetta Stone of business travel. For far too long, travel management has been inefficient, inaccurate and inconvenient for business travelers and travel booking managers. That’s why Expensify is so excited to be integrating with a variety of best-in-breed travel partners. With these new partnerships, we are making the business travel experience easier for everyone.

This announcement comes hot on the heels of a similar business travel portal upgrade from one of Expensify’s new partners, Airbnb. The San Francisco-based company this week reported a 700% year-over-year increase in business travel bookings through the site, and announced a slew of partners of their own including Google and SoundCloud.

Expensify’s fast tracking of their Airbnb integration makes perfect sense, given the recently revealed booming business travel happening on the site.

Business travel efficiency aficionado NexTravel was announced as a preferred partner today as well. The new chums will “bring a seamless, affordable travel and expense solution to the SMB market,” said NexTravel co-founder Wen-Wen Lam.

Yan Baczkowski

Ryanair bans duty-free booze on Ibiza flights

Ryanair has banned passengers bringing duty-free alcohol onto its UK to Ibiza flights in an effort to stamp out drink-related problems on board.

It has told passengers there will be searches at departure gates and that customers ‘showing any signs of anti-social behaviour or attempting to conceal alcohol’ will be denied travel without refund or compensation.

Instead, any alcohol purchased at airport duty free shops must be placed in the hold luggage or disposed of at the gate.

“If the alcohol is unsuitable for placing in the hold (eg a plastic bag) then customers will be required to dispose of the alcohol in the bins provided,” said the airline.

The new rules have been sent to customers in an email and apply to flights from all UK airports.

A Ryanair spokesperson told TravelMole: “Having consulted with our customers and the airports, customers flying from the UK to Ibiza will no longer be permitted to bring duty free alcohol on board the aircraft.

“Those who have purchased duty free alcohol will be asked to either place their purchases in their cabin baggage and into the hold at the boarding gate, or leave their purchases behind.

“The comfort and safety of our customers and crew is our number one priority.”

The move comes as low-cost rival Jet2 called for industry-wide action to tackle a ‘shocking’ rise in disruptive passenger behaviour, often drink related.

It is calling for a database to be developed so that information on disruptive passengers can be shared among airlines.

Yesterday Jet2 slapped a lifetime ban on three passengers on a flight from Glasgow to Dalaman last week who it claims were spitting, stripping, stealing and swearing on board.

JFK, LGA Workers To Strike Wednesday Night

JFK, LGA Workers To Strike Wednesday Night

PHOTO: A plane readies for takeoff at John F. Kennedy International Airport. (Courtesy of Thinkstock)

Air travel at New York City’s two biggest airports could be snarled for the next two days as contract workers for Service Employees International Union’s Local 32BJ voted to walk off the job at 10 p.m. Wednesday, July 22 at John F. Kennedy International Airport’s Terminal 7.

The strike is scheduled to end at 1 a.m. Thursday, July 23 then resume at 6 a.m. the same day at LaGuardia Airport unless an agreement is reached.

The more than 1,000 contract workers, which include baggage handlers, security officers and wheelchair attendants, all work for Command Security Corp. subsidiary Aviation Safeguards. SEIU has said Aviation Safeguards tried to stop its employees from unionizing, a charge the company denies.

In a statement, the union said, “While the airlines have been making record profits and the Port Authority has approved billions of dollars to modernize LaGuardia airport, the airport workers who make these profits possible are struggling to survive.”

JFK processes more than 50 million passengers a year and Terminal 7 is home to three of its biggest airlines – United, British Airways and Cathay Pacific.

It appears the union workers made at least a conciliatory gesture in starting the strike at 10 p.m., a time when fewer flights are coming in and out of JFK. But if the walkout continues into Thursday at LaGuardia, it could have an effect on Delta Air Lines, which controls more than nearly a quarter of all traffic at LGA.

In a statement issued to Bloomberg News, Delta said it “will be taking measures to ensure that our more than 35,000 customers booked through LaGuardia on Thursday are not affected.”

The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, which runs New York City’s airports, told Bloomberg in a statement that it “has taken significant steps in recent years to encourage wage and benefit increases for employees of airline contractors at its airports.”

Space tourists head to the stars—and soon, to the moon

International Space Station, photo by NASA

If your wish upon a star was ever to actually visit one, all it now takes is a trip to Kazakhstan and a briefcase with $35 million to make it come true. At least that’s the basic charge (give or take a few million) of the 10-day package trips to the International Space Station sold by Space Adventures.

The Soyuz spacecraft takes off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in the remote Central Asian steppes, the same place where the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin, blasted off from. So far, only eight people have taken up the offer since 2001, but those who have, returned with very real stars in their eyes.

After his own flight in 2008, video game pioneer Richard Garriott described the impact of the trip:

My space flight is something that will live with me forever. Being one of the elite few who have seen Earth from the perspective of space, I have the opportunity to inspire and motivate others to achieve their dreams.

The sentiment was echoed by Guy Laliberte, the Cirque du Soleil founder and first artist in space, who called his trip in 2009 a “Poetic Social Mission,” and said  “it’s worth every penny and more” in a news conference.

But even if you have a spare $35 million in your sofa cushions, don’t just expect to just show up on the day of the launch. Tourists must train for five months in the basics of outer space travel and navigating zero gravity, as Tom Shelley, president of Space Adventures, explained to CNN

They learn how to go about daily life in space — how to prepare food, go to the bathroom, keep themselves clean, and perform scientific experiments when they’re on board.

Looking at the experience description, which includes circling the Earth every 90 minutes, floating in weightlessness, and even taking a spacewalk, it’s not hard to feel excitement – almost enough to forget the possibility of exploding in a ball of fire or being sucked into the vacuum of space.

Another trip planned to launch in 2018 takes it even further, flying “two private citizens and one professional cosmonaut” around the Moon – dark side and all – coming within 60 miles of the lunar surface. Compared to that, the multi-thousand-dollar tours to just meet cosmonauts, explore the facilities, and watch the launch courtside, feel almost like a letdown. A cheaper letdown, but a letdown all the same.

Hackers get 1 million miles for telling United about IT security gaps

Two hackers have scored a million frequent-flier miles each on United Airlines for finding security holes in the airline’s computer systems.

The awards were made under a security program that United started in May. Technology companies have offered so-called bug bounties, but they are unusual in the transportation industry.

United spokesman Luke Punzenberger said Thursday that two people have received the maximum award of 1 million miles each and others got smaller awards. A million miles is enough for several first-class trips to Asia or up to 20 round-trips in the U.S.

Punzenberger declined to say what kinds of flaws the hackers found but said their information had been turned over to company researchers. “We’re confident that our systems are secure,” he said.

United has suffered several major problems with technology systems since 2012, when it switched passenger-reservations and other systems over to those that had been used at its smaller merger partner, Continental Airlines. Last week, all United flights were briefly grounded and more than 1,000 delayed after one such breakdown, which the airline blamed on a faulty computer router. A smaller outage occurred in June.

Airlines “take all necessary precautions” to keep customer data secure, and most if not all have internal programs that continuously check systems for intrusions, said Jean Medina, a spokeswoman for the industry trade group Airlines for America. She said, however, that the group isn’t aware of any other airline offering a bug bounty.

Bounties are common in the tech world. Companies use them to enlist so-called white-hat hackers with enough specialized skill to spot security gaps before cybercriminals use them to steal customer information or crash websites.

Chris Petersen, chief technology officer and co-founder of LogRhythm, a Boulder, Colo.-based security intelligence company, said bug bounties are growing in popularity, as companies race to shut all the backdoors into their systems before the black-hat hackers find them.

But there just aren’t that many people out there with the needed abilities.

“It’s very specialized and there aren’t that many people (who) are very good at it,” Petersen said. “Those that are, are very expensive to hire.”

Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and others publish bounty rules on their sites.

Facebook, for example, asks hackers for “reasonable time” before going public with their findings. It promises not to sue or call law enforcement on tipsters if they do their best to avoid privacy violations and service interruptions during their research.

WOW Air offers $99 fares to Europe; What’s the catch?

Upstart Icelandic discount carrier WOW Air has created a stir by offering $99 one-way fares from the USA to Europe.

So, what’s the catch? The fares are legit, but there are some major limitations. WOW Air’s limited flight schedule and small U.S. footprint mean the deal won’t be available to most U.S. travelers. And return fares are only available for higher (but still generally modest) prices.

WOW’s sale covers flights from Boston and Baltimore – its only two U.S. destinations – to just two European cities: Paris and Amsterdam. And thanks to blackout dates and WOW’s less-than-daily flight schedule on the routes, the $99 fares are offered only one day a week on each route.

BOOKMARK: Add Today in the Sky to your favorites

And passengers traveling between from Boston and Baltimore also must connect via WOW’s hub in Reykjavik when traveling to or from Amsterdam and Paris.

Another major limitation: the $99 fares aren’t offered on the return flight. They’re available for more-pedestrian rates that are as low as $210 (limited availability) to $300 and up. Still, bargain-hunters willing to comb the carrier’s schedule could put together a round-trip itinerary for as little as $350.

For those unfamiliar with WOW, it operates with an “ultra low-cost” model. That means it charges for everything from checking a bag (starts at $48) to requesting an advance seat assignment ($3 to $38 per flight). Small carry-on bags are free, but bags weighing more than 11 pounds will cost at least $29 to bring on board.

But if all that sounds OK – and if you can get to Baltimore or Boston and navigate the limited calendar of availability – then the $99 fares are being offered through March 10. Availability on the narrow window of days remained decent as of Wednesday evening (July 15), though fares could sell out at any time.

ARCHIVES: Iceland’s WOW air adds Boston, BWI; $228 to Europe (October 2014)

And, in addition to the advertised fares to Paris and Amsterdam, WOW also was selling some flights to Dublin for $99. Those flights were available from Boston and Baltimore, but only during January and February. As with WOW’s other flights to mainland Europe, a connection via Reykjavik is required.

As for the Paris and Amsterdam fares, scroll down for the complete list of restrictions for the $99 Europe-bound routes:

Baltimore/Washington International (BWI) to Amsterdam: Available for travel from BWI on Thursdays from Oct. 1 through Dec. 10 and from Jan. 10 through March 10. Fliers must connect via Reykjavik.

Baltimore/Washington International (BWI) to Paris: Available for travel from BWI on Sundays from Oct. 1 through Dec. 13, and from Jan. 10 through March 10. Fliers must connect via Reykjavik.

Boston to Amsterdam: Available for travel from Boston on Sundays from Oct. 1 through Dec. 13, Jan. 10 through March 10. Fliers must connect via Reykjavik.

Boston to Paris: Available for travel from Boston on Thursdays from Oct. 1 through Dec. 12, 2015 and Jan. 10 through March 10. Fliers must connect via Reykjavik.

Scottish couple’s Vegas vacation jeopardized after they book flights from the OTHER Glasgow

Photo: Jimmy Emerson/Flickr

Did you know there was a Glasgow, Montana? The county seat of Valley County has a population of 3,250, a Pioneer Museum and an airport that has daily service to Billings. And that’s where the problems started for Jack and Mary MacQueen. The Scottish couple thought they’d found a bargain when they were able to get flights from Glasgow to Las Vegas for £647 ($1,009) in September, but when they looked at the departure airport written on their e-tickets, they realized that they’d made a mistake, one that was 3,973 miles to the east.

Mary said that she was booking the trip through GoToGate, a United Kingdom-based travel site, and that she’d double-checked every detail, before accidentally selecting the Glasgow, Montana airport – which, confusingly, is also called the Glasgow International Airport – from the drop-down list. She told the Daily Record:

I had no idea there was a Glasgow anywhere else in the world. I got the fright of my life when I saw the e-tickets. You really couldn’t make this up.

Mary said she contacted Gotogate to explain the situation and see about either getting a refund or getting re-booked on a flight that departed from, you know, the country where they lived. After six weeks, the MacQueens were still getting an endless runaround, as the booking site and the airline pointed fingers at each other. Eventually – thanks to the efforts of the Daily Record (and perhaps the fear of bad press) – the MacQueens are getting a refund and help with booking new tickets for the right Glasgow. It’s a shame they’ll miss the Pioneer Museum, though.