Jim’s Notebook – December 11, 2013

Ferri - Havana-DSC04849-75-BEvidence There Are Good People In The World … Business-Class Fliers Happy At Heathrow … One Traveler Who’s Not Happy … New Survey On In-Flight Etiquette … Price Of Free Air Tickets Rising Dramatically … Good News At NYC’s Laguardia … New Free App For Finding Wi-Fi

Here’s evidence that there are still good people and good companies in the world. Who would have thought an airline would do this?

It was sent to me by reader Pat Richards who wrote, “Don’t read the article, just watch the video.  This is about the coolest thing I can imagine for an airline to do at Christmas!!!” Watch it – it will bring a smile to your face…and, perhaps, a tear as well.

Meanwhile, the Virgin Atlantic seems to be bringing smiles to the faces of business-class fliers who use its Clubhouse at Heathrow Airport in London, where they can get free haircuts and off-the-menu cocktails, as well as use of a Jacuzzi and private music mixing studio. At the same airport, the British Airways first-class lounge features museum-worthy art as well as cabanas and daybeds.

Someone who’s not smiling is the man who was locked in dark cabin in the worst layover ever. It seems he dozed off during a connecting flight Friday was not dreaming when he woke to find himself alone and locked in a darkened cabin.

Tom Wagner, a Louisiana boat captain, nodded off on a flight from Lafayette, La., to Los Angeles on United Airlines with a stop in Houston when he got a different kind of layover. “I woke up, and I looked up at the ceiling, and I saw the lights were out,’’ Wagner said on TODAY Monday. “Looked down the aisle, ain’t nobody was home.” United offered him $250 and a hotel room in Houston for the night, according to Wagner.

A new survey on in-flight etiquette finds inattentive parents are the “most annoying” fliers, according to other passengers. Line jumpers barely even make the Top 10. According to the survey the top five most annoying passengers are 1) Inattentive Parents (41%); 2) Rear Seat Kicker (38%); 3) The Aromatic Passenger (28%); 4) The Boozer (26%) and 5) Chatty Cathy (23%). The survey was conducted by Northstar for Expedia.

The Wall Street Journal says that the price of a free airline ticket or hotel room is going up rather dramatically. And the rewards rising the most have traditionally promised the best values and the most glamour: first-class and business-class international tickets and swank hotels in expensive cities.

United Airlines will raise the number of frequent-flier miles needed for award tickets in many categories by double-digit percentages on Feb. 1. Standard coach tickets to Hawaii go up 12%; business-class standard awards to Europe increase 20%, and first-class awards on partner airlines climb 63% to Europe and Japan and 87% to the Middle East. Delta, Southwest and Alaska airlines will make similar moves early next year.

There’s good news at New York’s LaGuardia, however, where the government has approved Southwest and Virgin America for the takeoff and landing rights that American Airlines and US Airways agreed to sell to win approval for their merger. The slots are limited at the busy airport near Manhattan, making them a coveted item when they go on the market.

Southwest will get to keep the rights for five takeoffs and landings per day that it was already leasing from American and gain enough slots for six more daily flights. Virgin America will get enough slots for six flights per day.

And here’s something that is really useful (and free) if you’re ever traveling and need to use Wi-Fi. A new app for your smartphone, Free Wi-Fi Finder, uses your smartphone’s GPS to find nearby public Wi-Fi hot spots, be it at a coffee shop, hotel or city park. You can filter the results, which pop up on a map (or in list form if you prefer) by “venue type,” such as bar, hotel or library. Tap one of the locations on the map (or list) and you’ll be shown the address and directions to the hot spot. It works in more than 100 countries, including the United States, Japan and Italy, and allows you to star favorites so you can easily find them again.

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  1. donna manz says

    well, now … now that I actually own a “smart” phone, I can buy an app to find the “hotspots” that I sorely need when I travel. Thanks for including that note, Jim. Buon Natale!

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