Thursday, April 2, 2015

POSTED: Friday, April 6, 2012, 11:47 AM

We found an excellent roundup on the Time Moneyland Web site of some recent airline moves: Allegiant is charging for carry-on bags, Delta has invented a truly non-refundable ticket and Frontier (as we posted on Tuesday) elminates one of the all-time great in-flight amenities, warm cookies. Read it all here ....

POSTED: Thursday, April 5, 2012, 3:54 PM

Read down into this story to lean a little more about the interest expressed by Delta -- yes, the airline -- in buying one of the Philadelphia-area oil refineries that current owners want to close.

POSTED: Thursday, April 5, 2012, 3:34 PM

For the archives, here are Inquirer and Daily News stories about the launch of Virgin America flights between PHL and the West Coast and the celebrations that followed, at the airport and last night at the Hotel Palomar. Here's hoping all the Hollywood glamour accompanying the arrival here yesterday is not a passing fad.

In the mantime, does the Virgin America service make it more likely that PHL will also be on the route map of Virgin Atlantic, the bigger and better-known name in Richard Branson's galactic empire? Probably not, any time soon. What Branson said in decades past in response to that question likely still holds ... we'll think about PHL-London flights but in the meantime, trundle 80 miles up the NJ Turnpike to Newark, V-Atlantic's original North American airport. V-Atlantic also flies to Washington, practically surrounding PHL with service.  

POSTED: Tuesday, April 3, 2012, 2:06 PM

Once  upon a time, just a decade or two ago, a great little airline called Midwest really knew how to please customers. Its staff baked chocolate chip cookies on board on every flight, creating a great aroma in the cabin. Flight attendants had to smack hands of those who tried to grab more than their share. Alas, after Midwest fell in the same battle that has reduced competition and service throughout the industry, succesor Frontier Airlines took over and for awhile kept up the cookie tradition.

But no more. Read and weep for a story in Midwest's hometown paper, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, reporting that Frontier needs to save more money and is cutting out the free cookies. What should really make you weep are the quotes from a Frontier executive defending the decision with a large load of corporate pablum. Frontier has lost money lately, but does anyone really think this is going to help? 

POSTED: Tuesday, April 3, 2012, 1:34 PM

The annual Airline Quality Index was released yesterday and indications are that service improved last year, measured by the four criteria the federal government uses. The AP's Washington transportation writer produced an appropriately skeptical story about the measurement, found here. 

POSTED: Monday, April 2, 2012, 5:45 PM

The mental breakdown of a JetBlue pilot last week has prompted a closer look at another issue that has been in the news recently: How much experience do co-pilots, AKA first officers, at major airlines have before they might be left to make key decisions involving the aircraft they're flying? Proposed increases in the experience required of pilots at commercial carriers are the subject of an FAA rulemaking that critics say is why behind schedule and needs to be dealt with. Aviation writer Bill McGee explored the topic in an article published over the weekend.

POSTED: Thursday, March 29, 2012, 12:35 PM

The meltdown of a JetBlue pilot during a flight on Tuesday has prompted a closer look at a problem that is worrisome but extremely rare: Needing to find the unstable pilots among a multitude who are more stable than average. More detail about the incident itself, the charges filed against the pilot and the issue of pilot stability can be found here. 

POSTED: Wednesday, March 28, 2012, 1:10 PM
Emergency workers tend to a JetBlue captain that had a "medical situation" during a Las Vegas-bound flight from JFK International airport, Tuesday, March 27, 2012, in Amarillo, Texas. Passengers said the pilot screamed that Iraq or Afghanistan had planted a bomb on the flight, was locked out of the cockpit, and then tackled and restrained by passengers. The pilot who subsequently took command of the aircraft elected to land in Amarillo at about 10 a.m., JetBlue Airways said in a statement. (AP Photo/Steve Douglas) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

If you watch TV news or follow news alerts on your electronic device, it was hard to miss the story yesterday of an apparent mental breakdown of a JetBlue captain aboard a New York to Las Vegas flight. He behaved erratically, prompting his copilot to lock him out of the flight deck. He began screaming about bombs and terrorists, and had to be subdued by fellow crew members and passengers. He was taken to a hospital in Amarillo, Tex., after an emergency landing. This story includes updated information from today.

The incident is as clear a case as I've seen to support those who say commercial airline flying is much safer today because of two post 9/11 facts: Airlines have made their cockpit doors virtually impossible to penetrate, and passengers have repeatedly shown a willingness to risk their own safety to stop a would-be midair terrorist or deranged person. Some of those security experts are also highly critical of the TSA's airport screening procedures, calling it "theater" to make it appear treating everyone like a criminal suspect with body scanners actually makes flying demonstrably safer.

In an ironic twist, one of the loudest of the critics, aviation security consultant Bruce Schneier, has been barred by the TSA from testifying before Congress on the same topic. Schneier, who I interviewed about this right after the "underwear bomber" was thwarted, was invited to speak to two House committees but TSA objected because he is involved in a legal case challenging the use of the most advanced of airport scanners. Read more about that in an article that includes a link to the legal case filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center.  

About this blog
Tom Belden has been reporting about Philadelphia International Airport and other air travel subjects for more than 20 years, writing columns for The Inquirer's Travel and Business sections. His reporting (with colleague Craig McCoy) on baggage handling problems in Philadelphia have been credited with helping to improve the system. His previous blog was called Road Warrior. He can reached at Reach Tom at

Tom Belden
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