I am the mother of a six-year-old. I’ve been traveling with my daughter since she was 10 days old. So when I read in USA Today that United Airlines recently decided to drop pre-boarding for children, my first thought was “good for them.”
I regularly fly on Southwest Airlines, which stopped pre-boarding for children under age 5 back in 2007. I would set my clock 24 hours in advance to get an A pass for my flight. But since Southwest started the $10 Early Bird fee, I just buy that, ensuring that I get the time I need to get my daughter settled (she wears a CARES harness).
When pre-boarding was still available on Southwest Airlines, I saw travelers abusing the system regularly, with children much older that 5 boarding, or entire families with older children taking advantage of pre-boarding.
With a little advanced planning, I believe that parents can make the adjustment accordingly. So what do you think? Did United make the right call here, or should they continue allowing pre-boarding for children?
This headline on ABC News – ‘Too Fat To Fly’ Passenger Sues Southwest Airlines For ‘Discriminatory Actions’ - caught my eye, since I’ve blogged several times (here and here). For my newer readers, I am a woman of size – rubenesque, as it were — but I can still fit in one seat. So I understand the sensibilities on both sides.
I happen to agree with — and appreciate — Southwest Airlines’ policy of how it deals with passengers of size. But I also see the point of Kenlie Tiggeman, the overweight passenger who was originally judged too fat to fly, who filed the lawsuit.
The problem with the Southwest policy, as Tiggeman (and I) sees it, is the inconsistency in how it is administered. I’m all for having a row of seats at the end of a ticket counter placed behind a screen if an agent feels someone might not fit into their seat. The issue is that as humans, we all have our own views and prejudices. I’m betting that if you put Tiggeman in front of 10 different gate agents or even 10 different travelers and asked if she was “too fat to fly,” you’d get myriad different answers.
A few years ago, my daughter and I were flying Southwest home from San Antonio on a full flight. She was still using her SkyMall stroller/car seat. She was at the window (she can’t block a passenger in) and I was in the middle seat. A man “of size” came to sit in the aisle seat. I knew it was going to be a tight fit — and it was.
Several flight attendants came by and looked at him, but didn’t say a word. I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to be rude. I should have. That was the longest 3.5 hour flight of my life. A passenger who has paid for a seat should not be forced to have a passenger of size taking up their space.
So my wish is that before this goes to court, Tiggeman and Southwest Airlines come up with a plan that balances the needs of passengers of size to have a consistent second-seat policy with the rights of “normal” sized passengers who deserve to have their own whole seat.
So, what do you think? Is Tiggeman right to sue Southwest Airlines? Do you think Southwest Airlines’ Customer of Size policy? Tell me!!
My hometown airport is Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. You can click on my BWI tag to see my past posts on why I I love my airport. Every time I depart from the airport, I take a nice pile of pictures. In the shot below, I saw Southwest Airlines’ Shamu Boeing 737; in the background is a McDonnell Douglas DC-10. Enjoy!
BWI Airport is my hometown airport, and I love it. I spend a lot of time in Concourse A, home to Southwest Airlines. When the airport built this concourse, they put in lots big windows to bring in lots of light. Below is a shot of one of those windows, decorated. Enjoy!
Back in July 2008, I was attending an airports conference in Chicago. As part of the conference, we got to take a great tour of Chicago Midway Airport. I saw a lot of the Southwest Airlines fleet there, and I was lucky enough to get a snap of two Boeing 737s, including the one dedicated to the State of Maryland. Enjoy!
It was quite a week in aviation, with topics including cracks in the Airbus A380′s wings, a snowstorm in the Pacific Northwest that shut down airports, American Airlines continues moving ahead in Chapter 11 and Memphis-based regional Pinnacle Airlines facing the same. So I had to fight to decide what made the top 10 this week.
- I’ve been steeped in the business aviation side of the business since late 2008. After Boeing announced it was shutting down its plant in Wichita, the self-proclaimed Air Capital of the World, the New York Times came out with this profile of the city and its history with the Chicago-based company.
- At the beginning of my journalism career, I covered topics including education, economic development and employment and training. So it was with great interest I read a blog post in Aviation Week’s Things With Wings blog: The Art of Attracting Top A&D Jobs. The post not only discusses what happened with Boeing in Wichita, but covers how other companies are making the balance between capacity and work.
- I flew down to Austin on Southwest Airlines last week, and noticed that the carrier has begun its integration with AirTran Airways. So I read two stories last week with interest. One, in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, discusses how the Dallas-based carrier will dismantle Atlanta as a hub. The second story, in the Washington Post, covers how the carrier will keep 22 AirTran cities, but drop another 15.
- Even before American Airlines filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, rumors were rampant that the carrier was a merger target for US Airways. Bloomberg BusinessWeek has a story about how US Airways is working on a plan that would “fix a weak domestic route system at American Airlines and boost revenue.”
- Back in 1996, on my first day of work at the Regional Airline Association, I got to sit in on a call where a major airline executive had words with my new boss over a decision not to take sides in the fight over user fees to fund the Federal Aviation Administration. And now, 16 years later, the fight continues. The latest shot was fired when the White House responded to a petition asking that a proposed $100 per flight user fee be scrapped, according to a story in AOPA Online (my current employer).
Episode 181 of the Airplane Geeks podcast features my boss Craig Fuller, who discusses user fees, NextGen and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association’s Aviation Summit in Palm Springs, Calif. Finally, below is a video of Southwest Airlines installing its new EVOLVE interior in a Boeing 737. Enjoy!
Editor’s note: kids, Aunt Benet is taking the week off to enjoy the holidays with the family. So please enjoy these best ofs this week. Happy Holidays!!
I know I usually do top aviation stories of the week, but I’m on travel, so I’m switching it up a bit. The announcement that Frontier Airlines is rolling out a new advertising campaign — complete with television commercials — made me remember how much I love a good carrier campaign.
I’ve always been a fan of good airline commercials. I like ones that make me laugh, that give me a sense of place and that show the wonderment of air travel. Below are links to 10 of my favorites, in no particular order. Which ones do you like? What did I miss?
Click HERE to see the commercials!
Kids, I must confess — I was so busy with this week’s National Business Aviation Association annual conference that I barely had time to keep up with the rest of the industry. But I did manage to find five interesting stories I’d love to share with you.
- Back on July 9, I got to take a day trip up to United Airlines’ Chicago O’Hare hub for a party being held for Tom Stuker, who accumulated 10 million (yes, million) Mileage Plus miles (my AvWeek blog post on that is here). One of the gifts given to Stuker was a Boeing 787 model. During his remarks at the festivities, United CEO Jeff Smisek said the 787 would be in the fleet by 2012. He also quipped about how he had been waiting four years for the delayed plane. And now, my Aviation Week colleague Darren Shannon writes about how another 787 production delay has caused United to cut its 787 delivery schedule from six to five of the type.
- Are you one of those people who use websites to manage all of your frequent flyer miles (I’m not one of them)? if you’re using sites including AwardWallet, MileWise and GoMiles, you may be facing some trouble, according to the Wall Street Journal. Southwest Airlines and American Airlines have sent “cease and desist” letters to these companies over their activities.
- SmarterTravel’s Ed Perkins gives us the skinny behind the Transportation Security Administration’s PreCheck trusted traveler program, which is quite similar to the old registered traveler programs (which were privately run). But he also asks some very good questions about the program, including cost, locations and enrollment.
- My friend Sandra Gonzales, a multimedia journalist in New Orleans, shot this piece on how Louis Armstrong International Airport has become one of 8 American approved airports to fly to Cuba.
- As you know, the nostalgic aviation geeks had been waiting with bated breath for the new ABC-TV series “Pan Am.” You can see my review of it in this Sept. 26 post. Which is why I enjoyed this post from travel expert Peter Greenberg’s thoughts on the real Pan Am.
DC-3 prop in Susan Elliott's Delta social media office Photo by Benet J. Wilson
I’m still catching up on my Airplane Geek podcast episodes. I just listened to Episode 166, featuring Delta Air Lines social media guru Susan Elliott. It was a great episode., and you have to love a woman who has a genuine DC-3 prop and a white leather sofa in her work space!! And I got to guest host Episode 168, with Lori Ranson, he America’s Air Transport Editor at Flightglobal. And don’t forget to read this week’s edition of Strange But True Aviation News!
I have one more week to go at Aviation Week. And I thank you all for your kind tweets and emails. But as a result, there will be some changes on my blog. Mondays will now be my top stories of the previous week. Tuesdays and Wednesdays will remain the same. Thursdays are for Random Aviation Photos and Friday will be Strange But True Aviation News. I hope you’ll continue to support me here!
I spent almost three years working in communications positions at two airlines. One of the big benefits that comes with that is free, space-available air travel on your own airline and greatly reduced travel on airlines worldwide. But the catch is you only get on the flight if there’s a seat available. On the airlines I worked for, you got on the flight based on your hiring date.
US Airways gate at Pittsburgh International Airport Photo by Benet J. Wilson
So it was with interest that I read this article in Pittsburgh Live on how Southwest Airlines’ flight cuts at the local airport will hurt US Airways employees. Pittsburgh International Airport used to be a major hub for US Airways, with thousands of employees based in the area. But starting in 2004, after the airport refused to lower its fees, the airline dehubbed Pittsburgh, and the jobs went to the carrier’s Philadelphia hub.
But according to Pittsburgh Live, between 500-700 US Airways employees still commute between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, and they fly on Southwest when they can’t get on their own airline.
This was a topic of discussion on one of my aviation geek chat groups. Half the people felt bad for the employees and the other half were not so sympathetic. The ones who felt bad say that these employees didn’t want to uproot their families, but wanted to keep their jobs, so they chose to commute. The ones who were not sympathetic said you go where the job is, and the airline has no obligation to ensure that you can commute to where your job is.
So what do you say? Do you feel bad for the US Airways employees? Or should they just have to play the hand that was dealt them?