Poll: Top 10 Air Travel Stories of 2011

Here is my countdown of the top air travel stories of the year, from serious to silly and all points between. If you think I’ve missed anything, let me know.

Top 10 Travel Stories of the Year

10. Anniversary of Sept. 11 Terror Attacks

Hard to believe it’s been 10 years. Since that terrible day, several airlines went bankrupt, and breezing through the airport became a thing of the past. Flying is a pain now, thanks to all that security, but we shake it off and we board those planes. The terrorists did not win.

9. Naked Photo Fears Ease

Hate the TSA? Some still do but complaints dropped significantly this year. However, now that the European Union has banned the X-ray body scan machines from their airports (due to health concerns), we may see more rants about the ones still in use here.

8. Another Airline Goes Bankrupt

American was the only legacy carrier that didn’t go bankrupt after 9/11, but its time came this year. Nothing for passengers holding AA tickets to worry about, though we might see some price increases in 2012.

American Airlines Bankruptcy: How it Will Affect You

7. 21 Airfare Hike Attempts (and counting)

December started off with a bang as airlines attempted the 21st airfare hike of the year. It failed, as did nine other attempts, but watch for more in the coming year.

See which airlines started the airfare hikes

6. Dreamliner Flies – Finally

Three years overdue but worth waiting for? I think so. The new Boeing jet has got a lot going for it including fancy mood lighting, big windows and big bin space. Right now, the graceful aircraft is in service with Japan’s ANA. Can’t wait to fly one here so come home, Dreamliner!

5. DOT Gets Tough

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is not afraid to kick some butt when he sees alleged wrong-doing, and he’s proved it by levying heavy fines on a number of airlines this year.

4. Travel PR Disasters

Where to begin?

  • Alec Baldwin: The popular actor was ejected from his American Airlines flight, followed by the inevitable media storm. It had to do with playing a game called Word With Friends.
  • Jack the Cat: The feline also ran into problems with Amercian when he escaped his carrier in the airline’s baggage area at JFK. Two months later, he was found alive, but did not survive long – much to the displeasure of his Facebook followers.
  • TSA Trouble: A male screener discovered a sex toy in a female passenger’s bag, and left her a note: “Get your freak on, girl.” To no one’s surprise, the screener is no longer employed by the security agency.

3. Did the Airlines Steal Our Tax Refund?

OK, “steal” may be a bit harsh, but when there was a brief federal tax hiatus this summer that dropped the price of an airline ticket by about 15 percent, the airlines then raised prices 15 percent. Well, they all did except Alaska Airlines, and kudos to them.

2. Pols say “No” to Bag Fees. Maybe.

A U.S. senator has introduced a bill that would force airlines to give each passenger one checked-bag for free. I rate its chances of passage about the same as the chances of Alec Baldwin starring in ads for American Airlines.

1. Celebrities Behaving Badly

And speaking of celebrities, there was the “L-Word” actress who was ousted from a Southwest flight, apparently not for sharing a kiss with a friend, but for the argument that erupted afterwards (and you be the judge who was right and who was wrong).

See all the celebrities who behaved badly on flights

Also on Southwest, a country crooner was ejected for allegedly being somewhat the worse for wear due to unknown quantities of unknown liquids he was said to be imbibing.

More from Rick Seaney:

Top 10 Travel Stories of 2011

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Published: December 7, 2011