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I am one of the three percent. I fly American Airlines, which flies about three percent of the flights out of Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. The airline does not have a big presence at MSP, but when it had a sysytem-wide computer malfunction on Tuesday, it grounded flights across the nation, including at MSP. The computer breakdown meant that the airline could not access its reservation system, but also could not print boarding passes, track bags or determine the weight on a plane. Fortunately, the outage lasted only a few hours.
United suffered similar computer problems last year, in August and again in November, after it combined its reservation system with Continental as a result of the airlines' merger. Combining computer systems can create loads of problems.
When I few American at Easter, from New Orleans back home via Dallas, a storm popped up in Dallas (as happens frequently in the South), threatening my connection. The kind flight attendants told me not to worry unduly. If weather was delaying our flight (which was taking a much longer route around the storm), it was certainly delaying others. They predicted I would make my connection, even if I got home a little later than expected. Then, almost on cue, the pilot announced the skies had cleared and we would be only a few minutes late.
Let's hope that when American merges with US Airways, no storm clouds hover over the merged computer systems.
How to use a seat belt. What to do if the oxygen masks drop. Where to find the emergency exits. Look around the cabin on your next flight when this information is shared and you'll see that most people would rather peruse the SkyMall catalog than attend to the tutorial. Sure, it's all very dull stuff. Unless it suddenly becomes vitally important. So kudos to Delta for injecting a dose of humor into their videos, a move that could boost brand identity as well as flier's attention.
In the safety video I saw recently aboard a Delta flight, a man adjusted his shoe tassels to help clear the aisle and a human-sized robot turned himself off when it was time to power down electronic devices.
Even the popular so-called "Deltina," the flight attendant reminiscent of Angelina Jolie who starred in a previous Delta video, made a cameo, wagging her finger at a man who had taken out a flamboyant pipe.
The best moment comes when a man leaves an aft bathroom just as everyone turns to find the exit row behind them. It can't compete with New Zealand Air's "Bare Essentials of Safety" video, in which flight attendants and a pilot appear in uniforms painted onto their naked bodies (it's discreet, really). But if it draws our attention, good for Delta (and us).
When I read about an Idaho man allegedly slapping a Minneapolis toddler on a plane (and using a racial slur in the process) in an ill-conceived attempt to make the child stop crying, my mind raced. I thought of the poor babe, whose ears hurt because of the descent. I thought of the mother and her shock. I thought that whoever hits a child to make the child quiet down is pretty ignorant of child psychology and, more importantly, deserves a wallop themselves — and much more (which the courts will decide in the case of the Idaho man). But, sadly, I also thought of the times I’ve grown unnerved on planes, hurtling through the sky with strangers (some rude, some loud, some simply annoying). Flying can drive us all slightly mad. I wonder what onboard pet peeves you might have — and how you deal with them (without resorting to physical violence, of course). As for me, when the person next to me raises the arm rest without consulting me first, I feel like my personal space has been invaded. How do I retaliate? I merely lean a little in the opposite direction and put in my ear buds. You? I’d love to hear.
If you were hoping to fly on Boeing's once-touted 787 Dreamliner anytime soon, dream on. A slew of problems has grounded all 50 787s already in the hands of airlines around the world. Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways were the first to clip the wings of their combined 24 Dreamliners after an ANA flight was forced to make an emergency landing due to a possibly faulty battery. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, in the midst of a safety review, issued an emergency order grounding the planes late Wednesday night. (United Airlines, the only U.S. carrier with the airplanes, has six; none had serviced MSP.) The grounding is bad news not just for Boeing and the airlines that have purchased Dreamliners (800 are on order). It’s also bad news for flyers, since the planes have cushier cabins, bigger windows and higher humidity.
On Dec. 23, a friend shared news of a Christmas miracle, of sorts. She had just cancelled nonrefundable Delta airline tickets from Minneapolis to New York City because her daughter had a sudden, raging fever. The person at Delta who accepted the cancellation waived the usual $150-per-ticket change fee, saving her family of three $450. Delta’s contract of carriage is silent on the issue of sick passengers who want to delay a flight, so perhaps my friend benefited from a random act of holiday cheer. A cynic might say that during this busy flying season, Delta could easily fill those seats and probably had oversold the flight in the first place. But to my friend, the gesture felt like the best kind of present: unexpected and wonderful.
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