Not Your Average Travel Stories + Video: Week of Aug. 25, 2014

This week: Crazy bad passengers, crazy good video. And plane pulling.

LISTEN: Good thing FareCompare’s Anne McDermott and Alex Williams have a keen appreciation for life’s absurdities.

Strange, Weird, Unusual, Odd

Bad Passenger Pt. I: An American Airlines passenger flying from Miami to Paris was not happy when the guy seated in front of him decided to recline his seat so things got physical. When a flight attendant came along, presumably to try and prevent these lunkheads from winding up in Not Your Average Travel Stories, one of the men grabbed her. That’s when undercover air marshals intervened, and the flight diverted to Boston. Which is a great city but it ain’t Paris.

Plane-pulling: Yes, we said “plane-pulling” – it’s what one group is doing to raise money for charity instead of the ubiquitous ice bucket dumps (although FareCompare did a very nice group ice-bucketing which you can see here). Now let’s get off our duffs and move an aircraft.

Me, first! That attitude is what’s wrong with air travel today says Christopher Elliott who blames airlines’ onboard caste systems. He quotes a psychotherapist who says, “Creating tiers of service for which you can charge premiums – like first class, business class, economy plus, and gold card members – stirs up anxiety about where you (as a) customer rank in the world.” [Editor’s note: I know exactly where I rank – middle seat by the restroom – but who cares, just get me where I need to go.]

Bad passenger Pt. II: Man on a United flight to Denver did not want the seat in front of him to recline so he installed the Knee Defender. The woman in the seat in front retaliated by dumping water on his head. Sounds like the ‘meet cute’ scene in a rom-com but if these two wound up happily-ever-after we didn’t hear about it. We did hear the flight diverted to Chicago where the duo was unceremoniously dumped.

Tainted tamales: Guy flies into George Bush Intercontinental from El Salvador with a box of 200 tamales and if that’s not suspicious enough, he failed to declare them. Authorities pried open the spicy treats and found a surprise ingredient: Cocaine! Wonder what’s for dinner in the Houston slammer?

Volcano: You may recall last week’s item about a potentially dangerous volcano in Iceland called Bardarbunga. The alert level for this monster was briefly raised to red over the weekend but has since dropped back to orange. Why are we paying attention? Just a few years ago, another Icelandic volcano shut down most of Europe’s air space.

Forgotten passenger: An elderly cancer patient was stuck on a Southwest plane when the requested wheelchair escort never arrived. In a textbook example of how to make amends, Southwest has apologized, written off the cost of his ticket and offered a voucher for future travel. What would be even better is to make sure this never happens again.

Headline of the week: From the LA Times – “Airlines say they’re not packing us in out of greed” but out of necessity. Got it.

Bad passenger: Slate’s Dear Prudence – who gives excellent advice about all sorts of dilemmas – responds to a flyer who asks, “Can I board early even though I’m not supposed to?” See video below.

VIDEO: Prudie lets her have it.

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Published: August 25, 2014