A reader writes: "Continental's new exit row fee is stupid"
Tell us what you really think, Linda Pfaender:
Continental's new charge for a seat with more legroom is stupid. So some elderly person pays the $59 for the exit seat for more legroom but physically cannot understand or get the emergency door open??? When will the airlines become rational again? Why doesn't the FAA step in and stop this silliness? What happened to people's rights as consumers? How about the safety of all of the people on the planes? Please, someone HELP!
Well, in case you missed it, here's the backstory:
Starting March 17, Continental will allow passengers to reserve seats with 7–12 inches of more legroom. The fee for the seat reservation varies, but $59 per flight is typical. The perk is offered at check-in. But seats may not always be available because Continental's elite frequent-flier members continue to have first dibs on these seats at no charge.
What do you think? Is Continental doing the right thing?
NYC launches new taxi sharing service
Starting today, there's a new option for transportation in New York City: taxi sharing. Now, New Yorkers aren't particularly known for their "sharing" abilities (as anyone who has stood in a subway car at rush hour can tell you), but this could change things. As a one-year test run, the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission has set up three Group Ride stands. Cabs will stop at the stands and collect two or more passengers, dropping off at certain points along a particular route. It's sort of like taking the bus, but less crowded and faster. Fares are either $3 or $4 per person, flat-rate, depending on the route (quite a steal for a cab ride). The service runs between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. on weekdays, and although that's somewhat limited, it should give the city a good idea of whether this is working or not. The commission looked at GPS data to determine the highest volume of pick-ups and drop-offs during rush hour and then based the routes on that data. The sharing service is part of an effort to lower the city's vehicle emissions, gaining it some attention from sustainable blogs: Both the CUNY Institute for Sustainable Cities and Inhabitat, a design blog, have written favorably of the idea. Pickup locations are at W. 57th Street and 8th Avenue, W. 72nd Street and Columbus Avenue, and E. 72nd Street/3rd Avenue. All drop offs are along Park Ave., with the route terminating at Grand Central Station. There will be three more Group Ride stands opening in the coming year. Don't be afraid to try this for yourself—New Yorkers are friendly when saving money! Just back from New York City? Headed there soon? Check out our New York City page and leave your questions, comments, and recommendations.
Paris airport rolls out free strollers
Here's a small innovation that will be a big relief for overburdened parents traveling through sprawling Charles de Gaulle airport. Forty free strollers are now available at Terminal 2E, which is used by carriers such as Northwest, Delta, and Air France. (American Airlines flies into 2A.) The strollers (poussettes) are located at two loan stations just beyond security and can be wheeled around the duty-free areas and right up to your boarding gate. The France tourism office, ATOUT, reports that more than 200 people are taking advantage of the strollers daily. Stay tuned for the addition of strollers to other terminals at CDG and to Orly airport. If you are traveling to Paris with a baby or toddler in tow, check out this Aeroports de Paris page with more resources (where to find baby changing stations) and tips (powered milk and baby food are allowed onboard). 12 more flight innovations we wish would be adopted everywhere. Just back from Paris? Going there soon? Our Paris city page lets you post comments and questions and browse hotels and deals.
Kudos to American Airlines for its help for Haiti
Lots of companies have been pitching in to help with Haiti earthquake relief efforts. We salute them all. A case in point: American Airlines and American Eagle have partnered with relief agencies to chip in on humanitarian missions. Yesterday, American began flying three daily relief missions from its hub in Miami. American is also lending Boeing 767s and 757s to ferry military personnel and other officials into Haiti. On Wednesday, the carrier evacuated 179 passengers from Haiti to Sanford, Fla. Regularly scheduled flights to and from Haiti have been canceled through at least Jan. 28, and possibly longer. (By the way, all commerical service has been canceled through the end of the month, at least. Customers ticketed on AA flights to or from Haiti may change flights without penalty.) What's more, American is matching donations made to relief efforts through its charitable fund. And, last Friday, employees participated in a Dress Down Day where ground personnel could wear casual clothes in exchange for a donation to Haiti relief efforts. If you fly American and you belong to American's free frequent flier program AAdvantage, you can earn a one-time award of 250 bonus AAdvantage miles for a minimum donation of $50 or 500 bonus miles for a donation of $100 or more to the American Red Cross, through Feb. 28, 2010. (See aa.com for info.) Update 1/22: Thanks to the efforts of more than 7,800 AAdvantage members, over $835,000 has been donated to the American Red Cross since Jan. 14, 2010. MORE For a list of top travel blogs, see travel.alltop.com
Chart: Airplane violence over time
Nate Silver has a proven track record for using statistics wisely, which is why I was intrigued by a chart he posted on his blog fivethirtyeight.com today. The chart tracks "violent passenger incidents" on airplanes since the 1930s, when commercial aviation became a big deal in the U.S. He got his data from PlaneCrashInfo.com, the most complete (but not perfect) database of aviation calamities on the Internet. From the database, Silver compiled the number of passenger fatalities from sabotage (such as bombings to collect life insurance or to make a political statement), hijackings, and pilot shootings. He also counted deaths on the ground caused by the crashing of the planes. Because many more people fly now than did years ago, he has done the math to see how many violent deaths there are per billion of passengers who fly. The chart shows that about 22 passengers per one billion enplanements were killed as the result of violent plane incidents during the 2000s, but deaths on the ground because of 9/11 added more than 3,000 deaths to the total. So there were 151 deaths in the U.S. for every one billion passenger boardings. The surprise to me is that deaths due to violent passengers, both in the sky and on the ground, has been a feature of flight for a long time. That is not to minimize the tragedy of 9/11 by any means. As Silver says, "Since the beginning of commercial air travel, a total of about 6,500 people have been killed as the result of Violent Passenger Incidents—nearly half of those, or 2,995, came on 9/11 itself." It was a horrible day, and there are terrorists out there who want to repeat the uniquely awful tragedy. That said, the chances of dying from airplane related violence has been pretty steady since the 1930s. MORE The Skies Are as Friendly as Ever: 9/11, Al Qaeda Obscure Statistics on Airline Safety