Joel Chusid’s Airline Corner – March 2015
By Assistant Editor Joel Chusid
The Clampetts are Back
In the past few months, the global media has breathlessly reported on a series of incidents in China where passengers did seemingly unthinkable things on board commercial airliners. These ranged from throwing hot noodles at a flight attendant on a Thai AirAsia flight enroute to Nanjing over a seating dispute to numerous cases of passengers opening emergency exits on a number of different airlines at various stages of flight, before takeoff, while taxiing to a gate after landing and, thankfully unsuccessfully, in midflight. The reasons varied, to protest an extended delay, to “get fresh air” or “get off quicker” or inebriation. A rural farmer lit up a cigarette in the lav on a Cathay Pacific flight. Most, if not all, of these passengers ended up in jail, and the Chinese government introduced a “National Uncivilized Travel Record”, a sort of no-fly list for bad behavior, on which the errant passengers names were recorded. Why? Well, as living standards in China have risen, more and more passengers have taken to the air for the first time whereas in the past the train was the most common mode of inter-city transportation. China does have an enviable high speed rail system, but train tickets now can sometimes cost the same as an air ticket. This brings back memories of American Airlines’ introduction of “Value Pricing” in 1992, which resulted in a fare war that made flying too cheap to pass up for people who hadn’t previously flown. Those passengers new to air travel, were called, in airline speak, “FIRID” (for “first time flyer”), although they became known as “The Clampetts” and that summer of full flights was labeled “The Clampett Summer”. The Clampetts were a fictional family on a US situation comedy called “The Beverly Hillbillies” that ran in the late 1960s who had struck it rich, but were unfamiliar with creature comforts of living in a mansion. Stories that summer about passengers unfamiliar with airline travel, such as not opening a window, smoking, not knowing what to do with a seat belt and much more emerged among the employee ranks. These kinds of incidents also happen elsewhere, due to the unfamiliarity of an airplane in emerging nations. Although these incidents are far from comical; they can result in expenses, inconvenience to others and, yes indeed, a threat to safety. In the meantime, when flying in China, keep an eye on your fellow passenger as this era, too, shall pass, as air travel becomes more routine.
Speaking of Smoking
Why do airplanes still have no smoking signs lit up? Can you believe it’s been 25 years since flights (of six hours of less) became no smoking in the U.S.? Not long after that, all flights were smoke free. The rest of the world soon followed. The American Heart Association and other health organizations celebrated that anniversary on February 23 of this year. There are some of us who remember upon check-in, being asked “smoking or no smoking” and when boarding passes reflected that option and yellow nicotine stains were obvious around air vents – and seats had ashtrays. Most airlines relegated smoking to the rear of the cabin, which meant the back of the economy class section but also the last row or two of first class. Essentially, after takeoff, when today the announcement about electronic devices is made, it used to be the “smoking is now permitted” PA. Some passengers in the non-smoking section would congregate near the rear galleys to grab a smoke. On some airlines, such as Lufthansa, as I experienced, “to be equitable”, smoking was permitted on one entire side of the aircraft.
Yes, the “Ark” is coming to New York’s JFK International Airport. Not quite Noah’s, but it’s for animals and their travel experience. The new $48 million, 178,000 square foot transport and quarantine “terminal” will handle 70,000 domestic and wild animals annually when it opens next year. The Ark is designed with its customers in mind to reduce the stress of travel, with an animal arrival and departure lounge, gourmet food, showers, an overnight pet resort called “Paradise 4 Paws” and veterinarian services. The facility is being designed out of the former Cargo Building 78 and will feature climate controlled vehicles for transfer to and from aircraft. For horses, planes can taxi directly to the terminal. Of note is the livestock handling section which has been designed with the input of famed animal welfare advocate Temple Grandin.
Copyright Photo Above: Antony J. Best/AirlinersGallery.com. Up-close nose view of Icelandair’s special Aurora Borealis color scheme on Boeing 757-256 TF-FIU (msn 26243).
The Northern Lights, Outside and Inside
Icelandair, in recognition of the Aurora Borealis, has introduced a new livery on one of its Boeing 757s that flies back and forth between Europe and North America, via Iceland, of course. But in addition to the paint job of the plane named Hekla Aurora, the airline has fitted the interior with blue and green LED lighting that brings the natural phenomena inside. The company says it celebrates the Icelandic stopovers they are known for, since it is one of the places in the world where the Aurora Borealis can be seen most often. Actually Reykjavik is a cool (as in fun, not temperature) place for a stopover, where 365 days a year, one can breathe clean air, eat fresh seafood, or swim in one of the many naturally indoor or outdoor heated pools or relax in the man-made Blue Lagoon, which is right near the airport.
Copyright Photo Below: Richard Vandervord/AirlinersGallery.com. A side view of TF-FIU.
Amenity Kit Retro
Above Copyright Photo: Michael B. Ing/AirlinersGallery.com. The Piedmont Airlines version of the new American Airlines legacy carrier amenity kits.
Since we’re talking liveries, American Airlines has introduced special liveries of its predecessor companies. That’s not unusual, but now it’s taken the same idea to its amenity kits, which are distributed to first and business class passengers on long-haul international routes. The kits, which contain the usual items like eye masks, moisturizer, toothbrush and toothpaste and such, are sized to be used as a cover for mini tablets. They’ll be debuted over several months.