Tag: travelmole

Let them eat Cake!!!!

Emirates has come under fire for offering a cake as compensation to an elderly disabled passenger who was left without a wheelchair at Hong Kong airport and had to struggle to make her own way to arrivals.

Marian Robinson, 77, and her husband Herbert, 79, (pictured here) flew with Emirates last week from London to Hong Kong, via Dubai, to visit their daughter, Lindsey Gordon.

Mr Robinson had pre-booked wheelchair assistance for his wife, who cannot walk more than a few steps unaided due to several illnesses.

Although a wheelchair was provided for the Dubai stop-over, there was no wheelchair on arrival in Hong Kong.

“They waited on the aircraft until they were told to get off, then they waited outside the aircraft and nobody came,” explained their daughter.

“The captain kindly tried to help and asked a passing porter to assist, but he declined. I was waiting at arrivals for over two hours, terrified that they had somehow been stranded in Dubai.

“Eventually, after much trauma, they managed to find their way through the airport and I found them in the middle of the concourse more than two hours after the aircraft landed. There were severely traumatised and confused as to what had happened.”

When Mrs Gordon complained to the airline, requesting that her parents could perhaps be upgraded on their return journey by way of compensation, she received an email from customer services saying this wasn’t possible due to policy.

Instead, she was told: “We can surely book a complimentary cake for them. Let me know if I should book the cake for them?”

Mrs Gordon said she was shocked by the response.

“I hardly think a cake makes up for what my parents went through, and the real issue is that nobody explained why the wheelchair wasn’t provided and they still haven’t. Mum and dad had been travelling for a total of 20 hours. My mum can only walk a few steps, even with a walking stick, so it was a massive effort for her to get from the aircraft to the arrivals hall which is quite a distance and involves a train and several escalators.

“To make matter worse, when my parents checked in for the return flight I told them what had happened on the inward journey and the check-in clerk laughed. I had to inform her that it wasn’t actually funny.”

Emirates said it was investigating the case and issued an apology.

“Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of Emirates Flight Crew to help Mr and Mrs Robinson on the ground, adequate assistance from the Hong Kong airport wheelchair handling team did not materialise in time. This service is operated by third parties on behalf of all airlines,” it added.

“The comfort and safety of our passengers is our priority, and we are truly sorry that we did not meet Mr and Mrs Robinson’s requirements  on this occasion. Our Customer Services team in Dubai made sure that the wheelchair assistance was provided for their return journey.

“We take all complaints very seriously and are currently investigating Mr and Mrs Robinson’s case to establish how this may have happened.”

JetBlue to help develop hotel at JFK’s iconic TWA terminal


The iconic TWA Terminal at New York JFK Airport is finally to get a new lease of life as a hotel, with a little help from New York based JetBlue Airways.

JetBlue has teamed up with MCR Development to build the on-site airport hotel close to JetBlue’s Terminal 5 at JFK and will be the only hotel within the airport.

The hotel is slated for a 2018 opening and the long closed TWA Terminal will form the new hotel lobby.

The $265 million project will feature 505 rooms, 40,000 square feet of meeting space, several restaurants and an observation deck.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates JFK, is expected to approve the plan this week.

“We are thrilled the TWA Flight Center will come alive again. As New York’s Hometown Airline, we are proud to be a minority investor in MCR’s plan, which celebrates the landmark’s rich history while returning it to public use,” said Rich Smyth, vice president of corporate real estate at JetBlue.

“We want to thank Governor Cuomo for his leadership in supporting our long-held belief that the TWA terminal can viably be restored and re-opened.”

This will be the second hotel project for JetBlue.

The carrier opened boutique hotel The Lodge at OSC in Orlando earlier this year, which is not open to the public and is used as a base for new recruit orientation.

Passenger group calls for minimum seat size

A US-based passenger rights group is calling on authorities to ban airlines from further reducing the size of seats on planes.

FlyersRights.org says the diminishing size of seats and shrinking legroom has become an ‘intolerable situation’ for passengers.

It has asked the Federal Aviation Administration, which has similar powers to the Civil Aviation Authority in the UK, to block any further downsizing.

The group has delivered a petition with more than 30,000 signatures to FAA chief Michael Huerta asking for minimum standards for legroom and seat width.

“The shrinkage of seats and passenger space by airlines to generate higher profits while the size of passengers has substantially increased has created an intolerable crisis situation,”  the petition said.

“It is threatening the health, safety and comfort of all passengers.”

The FAA responded by saying the petition would be assessed in ‘an appropriate time frame.’

There are no rules governing standards for seat legroom or width by the U.S. Department of Transportation, or in the UK for that matter,  only that passengers have sufficient room to quickly evacuate in an emergency situation.

A Transportation Department advisory committee met last week to discuss consumer issues in commercial aviation but did not address the size of seating, only urging airlines to disclose seat dimensions at point of sale.

One committee member Charles Leocha supports the petition and pointed to a government directive that regulates minimum space requirements for dogs travelling on airplanes but not humans.

“I was very disappointed that we didn’t come up with a committee recommendation on personal space on aircraft,” Leocha said.

The airline industry trade group Airlines for America rejected the idea and said government action is unnecessary.

“We believe that government should not regulate airline seat sizes, but instead market forces and competition should determine what is offered,” said A4A spokeswoman Jean Medina.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Florida sets new six-month tourism record

Florida governor Rick Scott said the state set a new record for tourism in the first half of this year, with 54.1 million visitors.

It is the highest number for any six month period, state tourism agency Visit Florida said, with a 5.8% increase in visitors from January to June.

It puts the Sunshine State firmly on track to reach 100 million visitors for the calendar year.

“We are excited to mark the first half of 2015 with our biggest second quarter ever, and we look forward to exceeding our goal of 100 million visitors to Florida this year,” said Gov. Scott.

Domestic arrivals were up 6.7% to 21.9 million while overseas tourists increased marginally to 3.9 million during the second quarter.

“Our growing tourism industry employs over 1.2 million Floridians and is helping us meet our goal of becoming the best place in the world for jobs,” Scott added at a media presentation at Miami International Airport.

Job creation in the hospitality industry state wide rose nearly 5% in the second quarter, Scott said.

Is it me, or are people doing dumber things while traveling?

Passenger detained for penning ‘threatening’ suicide note aboard plane

A passenger was removed from an Austin-bound flight about to take off from San Francisco after a quick thinking seatmate alerted flight crew to a potential suicide threat.

Passenger Vicki Riffe noticed a man scribbling furiously into a notebook that he planned to kill himself and take others with him.

“He started writing extremely fast — with anger. I was scared to death,” Riffe told the NY Daily News.

After alerting crew, the plane returned to the gate and the man was removed by police.

Sniffer dogs were also deployed in the cabin before it was given the all-clear to fly.

Virgin America confirmed the incident with a statement: “Just after taxi out, a Virgin America flight carrying 108 guests returned to the gate at SFO due to onboard reports from guests concerned about the behavior of a fellow passenger.”

“Preliminary reports indicate that the guest made no threat to the safety of the aircraft or any other passenger onboard.”

After fellow passengers were fully informed of the nature of the hold-up, about a dozen opted not to travel.

The plane then took off about one hour behind schedule and landed in Austin without incident.

San Francisco police said the man is being medically evaluated.

Scary in-flight hacking details come to light in FBI probe

FBI: Security researcher took over controls of plane

The security researcher booted from a United Airlines flight last month had previously hacked into a plane’s flight deck systems to momentarily alter its course, according to FBI search warrant.

Chris Roberts, a security researcher with One World Labs, told the FBI in February he had hacked the in-flight entertainment system and re-coded the plane’s Thrust Management Computer allowing him to alter its course.

“He stated that he thereby caused one of the airplane engines to climb resulting in a lateral or sideways movement of the plane during one of these flights,” FBI Special Agent Mark Hurley said in the warrant application.

“He also stated that he used Vortex software after comprising/exploiting or ‘hacking’ the airplane’s networks to monitor traffic from the cockpit system.”

Roberts was taken off a United Airlines flight following a joke Tweet about its security vulnerabilities and questioned by FBI agents for several hours.

He also told investigators he had accessed in-flight systems on more than a dozen previous occasions between 2011 and 2014.

Some in the information security industry have expressed doubt about the claims while others disbelief at his actions.

“You cannot promote the idea that security research benefits humanity while defending research that endangered hundreds of innocents,” said Alex Stamos, chief information security officer of Yahoo.

Roberts also told WIRED the media attention has irked One World’s investors who have pulled out, resulting in half of its workforce being laid off.

United rewarding hackers for bug testing

United Airlines is encouraging computer whizz-kids to help identify bugs on its website or mobile apps by offering a ‘bug bounty’ of free frequent flyer miles.

However the airline has said any testing of vulnerabilities onboard flights is strictly off-limits.

The carrier recently banned security researcher Chris Roberts who found security loopholes in United Airlines’ Wi-Fi and in-flight entertainment systems.

It said ‘any testing on aircraft or aircraft systems such as in-flight entertainment or Wi-Fi’ could result in a criminal investigation.

“At United, we take your safety, security and privacy seriously. We utilize best practices and are confident that our systems are secure,”  a statement said.

United will pay out miles on a sliding scale to friendly hackers who discover security holes.

This includes 50,000 points offered for finding scripting bugs, 250,000 points for testers able to access customer information and up to one million points for finding major security flaws that would allow a hacker to rewrite code on the United website or app.

Other tech companies such as Facebook and Google have similar programs which offer cash bounties of several thousand dollars depending on the type of vulnerability found.

“We are committed to protecting our customers’ privacy and the personal data we receive from them, which is why we are offering a bug bounty program — the first of its kind within the airline industry,” United said.

Icelandair to resume year-round Chicago flights

The Land of Fire and Ice is about to get a little closer for Chicago travelers from next year.

Icelandair 757
Icelandair 757

Flag carrier Icelandair is to resume nonstop year-round service from Chicago O’Hare to Icelandair’s hub at Keflavik International Airport.

Flights will run four times a week on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, beginning March 16, 2016, offering connections to more than 20 destinations in Europe.

“We are excited to return to Chicago as a bigger, better airline that can best serve the dynamic market of this world-class city and its nearly 10 million inhabitants,” said the airline’s CEO Birkir Holm Gudnason.

“Icelandair’s decision to bring nonstop flights to Chicago not only demonstrates the attractiveness of our world-class city for tourism and business opportunities, but highlights O’Hare International Airport as a true global gateway,” added Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Icelandair previously served Chicago back in 1973 until the late-1980s and the return to O’Hare gives the carrier a presence at 15 North American gateways.

Other year-round services include Boston, Denver, Newark, New York-JFK, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.

The airline also flies seasonally to Anchorage, Halifax, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Orlando, Portland and Vancouver.

Business travellers biggest airline complainers

US business travellers are nearly twice as likely to file a complaint for poor airline service than leisure passengers, according to a report by the American Customer Satisfaction Index.

The ACSI report says 20% of business fliers had made a complaint in 2015 compared to just 11% of those travelling on leisure.

“Business fliers fly more, they pay more and they have higher expectations of how they’re going to be treated. They tend therefore to complain more,” said David VanAmburg, ACSI managing director.

The report indicates that airlines are ‘going where the money is’ and better focusing on resolving high spending corporate travellers’ grievances.

Asked how well the most recent complaint was dealt with, business travellers rated airlines 59 out of 100 on the ACSI index.

In comparison, leisure travellers’ satisfaction was just 51 out of 100 points.

“I think the airlines probably have it about right in that they know who they should be focusing on, and with apologies to leisure travellers, it’s not them,” VanAmburg said.

“You’re going to go with where the money is, and that’s what airlines are doing. They are finding small ways to provide a little better service to those from whom they make the most money.”

He adds that business travellers are always more likely to experience a hitch due to the frequency of travel.

“Every time you fly, you’re rolling the dice. You fly once a month, those chances just mount that the bag might get lost, or the plane is delayed because of a storm, or there’s an unpleasant customer next to you that might make you unhappier with the experience.”

Proposed Reno-London flights grounded by Fed red tape

Reno airport’s highly anticipated nonstop transatlantic service from London has hit the buffer even before it got off the ground.

Announced in November amid much fanfare, UK carrier Thomas Cook planned seasonal services to Reno-Tahoe Airport from London, but these have now been cancelled due to border control red tape.

The problem stems from the lack of US Customs and Border Protection resources at the airport.

“It’s about customer service. Our customs facility here at Reno, the staffing they have, is not going to be able to clear the Thomas Cook passengers for almost three to four hours,” said Airport spokesman Brian Kulpin.

That was unacceptable to the airline. It doesn’t fit their customer service model so they cancelled the flight. Obviously, we’re disappointed.”

Kulpin said the airport has been seeking more funding for extra customs agents to speed up passenger processing.

“Unfortunately nothing is simple when it comes to the US government and US Customs and Border Protection. To get funding for more staffing at Reno is something that has to be done through Washington D.C.”

Kulpin added that it is doubly disappointing as ticket sales were going well.

“You know, they sold tickets with about half from the US. The other half came from Europeans. The flight was doing really well in terms of sales,” he said.