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Alaska Airlines to Issue iPads to Pilots

June 1, 2011 | Posted in: Airline News,Pilots | 0 comments

Alaska Airlines Pilots iPads

Can a cockpit get any more high-tech? Apparently so.

Beginning later this month, Alaska Airlines will issue iPads to all its pilots.

There are a number of reasons for this, and one of them has to do with weight of the “print edition” flight manuals that most pilots currently use, and have to lug around; we are told the cumulative weight of these manuals is about 25 pounds or so. In contrast, an iPad weighs a mere 1.33 pounds.

We’ve also heard that using iPads will result in “fewer back and muscle injuries” to pilots because of the new light-weight electronic manuals, and I hope to learn more about this from Alaska (we’ve posed this and other queries to them and will update you when we hear back).

More questions:

Q: Will they have to turn the iPad off during takeoffs and landing?

A. Yes, that’s what we hear

Q: What will the pilots do then?

A: Good question, and one that I asked Alaska. We’ll let you know what they say.

Q: Why an iPad and not some other tablet?

A: Because Apple needs the money? Probably not; let’s see what Alaska has to say.

Q: Will pilots be allowed to play Angry Birds in flight?

A: Uh…extremely doubtful, but again, we are seeking clarification on this.

Here’s a final clarification: If you want to learn when airfare prices go down for flights to that city you want to visit, sign up for FareCompare Airfare Alerts, and we’ll let you know in real-time.

Bad Weather, Flight Delays or Cancelations and You

Bad Weather Flight Delays and Cancelations

So far, this has been a nasty year for weather: Lots of snow (remember the white stuff disrupting the Dallas Super Bowl festivities?) and lots of stormy weather.

Recently, FareCompare Editor Anne McDermott got caught up in some fairly run-of-the-mill storms at DFW that nonetheless disrupted her flight plans, but I’ll let her tell you about it – and how she coped:

“All I can say is, thank goodness I read Rick’s tips in Bad Weather Flight Delays and Canceled Flights: What to do Next because it really helped. I followed his suggestion to ‘multi-task’ by immediately getting on the phone as I also got in the long line at the American Airlines counter; the phone agent got me another flight so when I finally got to speak to the counter agent, I was all set. At least for the moment.”

“Unfortunately, the storms continued, and my back-up flight was canceled. The gate agent then got me on standby for another flight and I made sure I went to my newly assigned gate immediately because I knew that if I wasn’t present (or not close enough to hear them call my name for the flight), I’d be out of luck. As it turned out, there were plenty of people on the standby list who weren’t there when their names were called, but because I was, I was able to leap-frog over them and get a seat on the plane.”

“More great advice from Rick: I used a carryon bag – so I never worried about a checked-bag going astray in all the confusion.”

“By the way, I just want to add that every step of the way during this long day, the American Airline reps were just terrific – patient, calm and helpful; best of all, they constantly provided us delayed passengers with meaningful updates.”

This is Rick again, and I just want to remind all travelers out there that summer weather can be much worse than winter for flight delays and disruptions. If you’re always prepared, you’ll have a much easier time of it. And, as always, safe travels.

Outrage over Spirit Airlines’ New Baggage Fee

April 1, 2011 | Posted in: Airline News,Pricing Activity | 0 comments

Outrage over Spirit Airlines New Bag Fee

Well, there’s outrage in the media over this new baggage fee at least. I haven’t really heard much from passengers.

I am talking about a new fee from low-cost airline Spirit that’s really more of a “late payment” penalty. Spirit now charges an extra $5-$10 if you don’t pay your bag fees by 24 hours of departure time. By the way, other airlines do something similar by charging you a few bucks more for paying for checked-bags at the airport instead of online.

What do I think? I am in the crowd of roll-it-all-into-the-ticket-price so I can compare apples to apples – but since I know this isn’t going to happen in this new “airline fee generation” of ours, then it’s all about being well informed about all the trap doors you have to navigate to keep from whipping out your credit card.

A good way to stay informed is to check out the FareCompare Domestic Airline Baggage Fee Chart before you fly. As a rule of thumb, expect to pay a fee for your first checked-bag unless you’re flying JetBlue or Southwest. And so far, only Spirit charges for a carryon – but watch out: Allegiant is “thinking about it.”

Do you long for the days when we paid one price for an all-inclusive airline ticket? I’d love to hear your airline fee stories on Facebook.

[Editor's note: Rick almost always avoids bag fees because he almost always travels with a carryon].

Airline Fees and Summer Travel – Video

If you didn’t catch me talking about some of the airline fees you could be paying this summer today on CNBC, please take a look at the video below – see me talk about past, present and future fees.

By the way, what would you pay to choose your own seatmate? Now that could get interesting:

Air Traffic Controller AWOL at Airport Along with Common Sense

March 24, 2011 | Posted in: Airline News,Pilots,Travel Safety | 0 comments

Air Traffic Controller AWOL at Airport So is Common Sense

UPDATE: Officials are now saying the controller fell asleep on the job.

EARLIER: This was all over the news today: how first an American Airlines plane, and then a United flight landed at D.C.’s Reagan National Airport without benefit of an air traffic controller. Nope, there was nobody home – or at least, nobody was answering the pilots when they checked in with the tower the other day.

Fortunately, there were no problems and both aircraft landed safely.

By the way, there was only one controller on the job. That’s right, just one. That controller has since been suspended while an investigation is underway.

Here’s my $.02: As a passenger, I would prefer that there be two folks in the cockpit as well as two folks in the tower every time I fly; if not, please let me know about this before I buy my airline ticket.

This is just another example of common sense being tossed out the window only to be uncovered in what could have been a potentially disastrous situation.

American Airlines Diets to Save on Fuel Costs

March 16, 2011 | Posted in: Airline News,Fuel Watch | 0 comments

American Airlines Diet to Save Fuel

I got a kick out of a recent story on the Dallas NBC affiliate (and in the interest of full disclosure, I’ve appeared on their news many times – most recently in a story called “Time to Bag TSA Screeners?”).

The latest news concerns American Airlines’ new weight regimen; I guess you could call it a diet. It’s all about the various things the carrier is doing to drop weight on its planes in an effort to keep fuel costs down.

These new measures include replacing all 19,000 drink cart with new ones that are 12 pounds lighter than the old ones. Believe me, it adds up.

This reminds me of the legendary story about former American head Robert Crandall who, in a fit of cost-cutting, once ordered the removal of olives from salads in the onboard meals. Then, during the last fuel crisis – circa 2008 – we saw airlines removing life jackets from cabins and paper manuals from cockpits. And now, lighter drink carts. Nothing like $100 a barrel oil to get jets on a diet.

On the bright side, at least now when that drink cart comes by and whacks your elbow, it may not hurt as much.

Airline Fees + Internet = Disaster (Now and Then)

February 8, 2011 | Posted in: Airline News,Passengers | 0 comments

Airline Fees Internet Disaster

You may have heard me talk about how we’re in the midst of a new “Airline Fee Generation” – with fees for all kinds of services we used to get for nothing (and please see our Domestic Airline Fee Chart is this is new to you).

Anyway, dozens of Belgian students apparently weren’t up to date on all the fees imposed by Dublin-based airline Ryanair, and got blindsided at the airport (they were asked to pay an additional $47 for oversized and/or overweight carryon bags). When they raised a stink about it – some called it a “mutiny” – they were dumped from the flight.

I can guess what happened; while governments have tried (sometimes successfully) to legislate full disclosure on fees, let’s face it – internet users are notorious for not reading the fine print.

Hey, we’re all guilty of this from time to time; for instance, how many times have you gone to iTunes and clicked “accept” without reading up on their new policies? I thought so.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: know before you go.

Spirit Lowers Checked-Bag Weight Allowance – Pack Light or Pay More

February 3, 2011 | Posted in: Airline News,Pricing Activity | 0 comments

Spirit Airlines Lowers Checked=

There are two distinct parts to today’s “airline fee era”: brand new fees, and making the fees we already pay more onerous. This post falls into the latter category – and, no surprise, really – it involves Spirit Airlines.

Yes, once again, Spirit is leading the way to higher baggage fees. You already know they’re the first (and so far only) domestic airline to charge for a carryon bag.

Now, a new wrinkle.

As of this week, the Florida-based discount carrier has lowered the weight allowance for checked-bags; down from the 50 pounds most airlines allow you, to just 40 pounds. Go over that limit by a single pound and you will pay.

Here’s the breakdown according to Spirit’s website (and in fairness, the airline charges slightly lower fees if you pay to join its $9 Club): 

  • Regular first checked-bag fee: $28 one-way
  • Overweight baggage fee (41 – 50 pounds): $25 each-way
  • Total roundtrip cost for one slightly overweight checked-bag on Spirit: $106

Compare the cost of that same bag on JetBlue or Southwest: $0.

Maybe you don’t care. Maybe your Spirit flight is cheap enough so the additional cost doesn’t matter. However, this is something you should know before you head to the airport, and I think you’ll find this FareCompare article called Airline Baggage Fees: Know the Different Fees for Different Bags extremely helpful.

One more thing: overweight fees can vary. For example, one of my employees saw her daughter off to Prague last summer on Delta, and was mildly upset when she noticed her daughter’s suitcase weighed a hefty 55 pounds – but that was nothing compared to her reaction when she was asked to fork over $150 in overweight fees!

As they say, it pays to know before you go. Or you could pay – dearly.

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