Joel Chusid’s Airline Corner – February 2014

Guest Editor Joel Chusid

Perennial First Class Ticket

Guest Editor Joel Chusid

Guest Editor Joel Chusid

It could happen anywhere, but out of China comes the story of a man who purchased a first class ticket on China Eastern Airlines and managed to use it to partake of the food and beverages in the VIP lounge at the Xi’an Airport – for nearly an entire year. In China, airport lounges are open to ticketed first and business class passengers and offer copious buffets including noodles, soup, dumplings, fruit, sweets and much more. After eating, he changed the date on his ticket and went home. He repeated this more than 300 times, not even taking a flight. Premium class tickets often have little or no penalty fees for changes, although it’s hard to believe someone could take this to such an extreme, but then again he might have just passed for a “very” frequent flyer.  As tickets are valid for one year, when he tried to get a refund, one of the staff got suspicious and confronted him. Hard to believe it, but this loophole apparently didn’t break any rules.

Oops, Wrong Airport

Flights might land an airport other than the intended destination for a variety of relatively common reasons such as in unplanned medical, mechanical or weather situations.  In airline lingo, this is called a “diversion”. A flight I was on from Burbank to DFW landed in Phoenix to deplane the woman sitting next to me who fainted; the flight then continued on. These are very routine events, and sometimes, if the diversion point is interesting enough, it becomes fodder for cocktail parties. A few days ago, a Delta flight from Amsterdam to Seattle landed in an airport (with a very long runway) serving the snowy hamlet of Iqaluit, Nunavut in far northern Canada due to a spoiler problem. The passengers were accommodated in the Royal Canadian Legion Cadet Hall, as the airport terminal was too small, until a replacement airplane arrived. My friend Kevin’s Delta flight from Tokyo to the US was diverted to Cold Bay, on one of the Aleutian Islands in Alaska where he and hundreds of his fellow passengers got to triple the population of the town, spending nine hours on the plane and in the Bearfoot Inn.  Sometimes, however, these incidents can hardly be called routine. An Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 777 was recently “hijacked” to Geneva by the co-pilot on a flight from Addis Ababa to Rome. Passengers thought the plane was landing in Milan due to Rome weather, but after the plane stopped, the crewmember escaped via a rope from the cockpit window and asked for asylum. This is indeed pretty unusual.  What have also made the news of late are the landings in the wrong airports.  Southwest’s Boeing 737 enroute from Chicago’s Midway Airport to Branson, Missouri recently landed at the M. Graham Clark Downtown Airport nearby, with a much shorter runway. Luckily no one was injured. A Boeing 747 jumbo jet with no passengers landed at a small airport near Wichita, Kansas just weeks before instead of a military airport in Wichita. The Associated Press reported that in the past twenty or so years, commercial airplanes have actually landed at the wrong US airport about 35 times. Statistically this is still extremely rare.

Safety Videos, Again

On a lighter note (but airlines do take safety seriously), airline instructional safety videos are once again in the news.  On the heels of its holiday video, Delta introduced an 80’s “retro” video complete with big hair, Alf, Rubik’s Cube, Tab® and tacky fashions. See what you think here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eduNjwNvcH4. But hats, or actually clothes, off to Air New Zealand, who likes to push the envelope and has featured Betty White, Richard Simmons, hobbits and even flight attendants in uniforms painted on their bodies. The airline released its newest safety video entitled “Safety in Paradise” which features Sports Illustrated® models, briefly attired, filmed on the beautiful beaches of the Cook Islands, one of its destinations. The video was, of course, met with wide-eyed attention, but also naturally it had its critics.  You decide:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQDip9V49U0.

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