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Joel Chusid’s Airline Corner (March 2012)

Guest Editor Joel Chusid

Guest Editor Joel Chusid

Kid Control Aloft

Traveling with children by air can be challenging, and many parents dread it. Just last week, a couple and their two toddlers were removed from a jetBlue flight in the Turks and Caicos after one child threw a tantrum, launching the incident into the national media. I have seen my share of adorable and well-behaved children aloft. But road warriors have their story of the Ritalin®-deprived kid from hell annoying the heck out of everyone within range, even starting in the departure lounge. And this is not restricted to economy class. Consider business people, suited up and tapping diligently away on a laptop, while a precocious child in the adjoining seat provided a variety of distractions, both audible and visual, from periodic screaming to projectile vomit. But there is hope, at least if you’re flying to or from Bahrain! Gulf Air has provided SkyNanny service for three years on board all long haul flights, helping passengers traveling with the little ones, not only on board, but in the lounge at Bahrain as well.

Now, for the peace of mind for the rest of us there is a website, www.nannyintheclouds.com,
launched by Julie Melnick, which offers to match passengers traveling with children with nannies traveling on the same flight. The site matches travel times, and it offers travelers the ability to contract for a nanny for either parts of the flight or the whole journey. The nanny is someone who has been screened and has experience in child care, but it’s up to the parents to do due diligence, including an in-person or phone meeting in advance. The cost is negotiated between the two parties, and the nanny gets to earn something while she’s up in the air. There may be some challenges in getting seats assigned together, but airline staff, let alone passengers, will generally accommodate requests in the interest of cabin peace.

Please, No E-Ciggies

With cigarettes (or as airlines say, “smoking materials”) banned on commercial flights for years, some people have switched to electronic cigarettes. They don’t emit smoke and are powered by lithium batteries. While these are probably a good alternative to those dependent on nicotine on the ground, be warned this may not be the best idea in the air. A passenger “lit up” on a Continental flight from Portland to Houston and refused to comply with a flight attendant’s request to put it out. The plane returned to Portland and the passenger and his companion were removed. The other passengers were not amused by the delay. There are regulations being developed by the Department of Transportation, so this practice may soon go the way of the aircraft smoking section of years gone by.

Think Twice Before Packing

There’s an old rule that veteran flyers often follow when packing. Take out everything you need for your trip, then put half of it back. While it’s quite easy to do a carry-on for a short trip, a longer one might require checking a bag. With airlines charging for checked (and in some cases, carry-on) bags, it’s important to minimize what you pack or be faced with, in some cases, some pretty hefty charges. Last week yours truly was flying out of JFK and I was eight pounds overweight above the fifty pound domestic limit and told it would be $100 extra (above the $25 I was paying to check the bag). As I have seen travelers often do, I went through the humiliating exercise of repacking my checked bag to save the hundred bucks. Removing my overcoat (it was 60 degrees and I intended to unpack it in the bag claim on arrival) and a couple of books did the trick. But a recent survey by British Airways revealed some astonishing facts. Nine out of ten travelers didn’t use thirty percent of what they packed. This includes tea kettles (these are Britons, remember) and various food items. Forty percent of the people admitted to packing three or more pairs of shoes (they are heavy!), ten or more pairs of underwear (there is such a thing as doing laundry, and one in eight took at least three towels (towels?) for a weeklong leisure trip.

Air New Zealand Kills off Its Puppet

Air New Zealand’s controversial puppet spokesman, Rico, has been killed off, but he lives on in plenty of videos on Youtube. I’ve written about him before, and his edgy conversation and pushing the limit comments made him a hit among fans online. But to some he was annoying, and, in a rather weird video, his murderer (a household name!) is interrogated and forced to confess, describing the crime. The motive? Let’s just say it has to do with jumping jacks. Don’t say I didn’t warn you, but the secret is revealed here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NJlLA7eGBI.

First Class Thief

Air France, who not so long ago had a pilfering flight attendant who enriched herself at business class passengers’ expense between Paris and Tokyo, now has ended the thievery of a frequent flyer upon landing on the island of Reunion. A 28-year old Canadian photographer would buy first class tickets and steal anything that wasn’t nailed down from dishes, cutlery, glassware and blankets, which he sold on the internet.

We Met on a Plane

Ever meet someone on a plane who you’d like to get in touch with again? A new site, started by Australian Will Scully-Power, who met his wife on a plane, started www.wemetonaplane.com . This is your answer. The site lets you post your request, and you can determine if someone had their eye on you. Simply enter your flight information and post it; you can also share it through Facebook and LinkedIn. It’s sort of a match.com in the clouds.

Select Your Seatmate

Here’s another opportunity to meet someone on a plane, but the planning takes place before the flight, as far as sixty days out. Some airlines have now combined online seat selection with social networking. KLM’s new “Meet & Seat” program, launched February 3, lets you share your personal details by linking to your Facebook or LinkedIn profile. You can view other passengers’ profiles, with their permission, and select seats near (or away from) them based on their interests. The program was initially only available between Amsterdam and New York, San Francisco and Sao Paulo for now, but the airline just announced another ten cities to the program including Atlanta, Houston, Los Angeles and Buenos Aires. Details here: http://www.klm.com/travel/us_en/prepare_for_travel/on_board/Your_seat_on_board/meet_and_seat.htm. Malaysian Airlines has a similar program with Facebook called MHBuddy. Check it out: http://www.malaysiaairlines.com/in/en/book-and-plan/mhbuddy.html

Reducing Jetlag – Through the Ears

Finnair is testing a new bright light headset with business class passengers between Helsinki and Shanghai this month. The Valkee® headset, from a Finnish design company, is a safe way to contradict long distance travel on the body’s circadian rhythm with the shortage of natural light.  It only requires eight minutes of use per day. The manufacturer claims a success rate of 90%. Finnair passengers fill out a questionnaire about their results. Finnair plans to sell the device on board starting in May. See the headset at www.valkee.com.

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One response

  1. E-cigs should banned from plans, that’s what Nicorette gum is for. Sounds like the passengers on the Portland flight were just trying to make a statement, which I guess they did.

    Regarding packing, we’re traveling for a year and each have a 22-inch wheelie suitcase and computer bag.

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