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When High Heat Causes Flight Cancellations
June 22, 2017 -- Temperatures soared near 120 degrees in Phoenix this week and that led to a rash of cancellations of flights operating with regional-jet aircraft. Excessive heat sounds like a bizarre reason for airlines to dump flights. Not really. As The New York Times explains in a deep dive with useful graphics, smaller planes can't operate in high heat because there are too few air molecules to provide lift for takeoff. The really bad news: Climate change will cause even more flight disruptions in the years ahead. Meanwhile, the Associated Press explains that carriers operating in the Middle East avoid extreme heat by scheduling takeoffs and landings early in the morning and late at night.
Descending Into a Different Kind of Airline Hell
Would that climate change and in-flight turbulence be the only kind of airline hell we've had to live with. As Bloomberg columnist Joe Nocera explains, the "rational model" so admired by airline executives has turned flying into a nightmare for passengers. Nocera also tracks the decline of in-flight coach comfort, the rise of fees--and, to be fair--the decline of average fares--in really painful detail. From 1980, when Eastern Airlines trimmed its coach seat pitch to 33 inches, until today, when the bosses of American Airlines announced (and then quickly abandoned) a plan to go to 29 inches, Nocera gives a year-by-year tick-tock of our descent into traveling hell.
Widebody Jets Are Dead! Long Live Widebody Jets!
We've long known that the double-decked Airbus A380 doesn't make money and should never have been built. Boeing now has come to an inevitable conclusion: The one-time "Queen of the Skies," the Boeing 747 has no future as a passenger jet. A retrofit of the 37-year-old aircraft, the 747-8, has been a dud and few passenger airlines fly it. And several carriers, including United Airlines, plan to retire their older 747 fleets this year. (Cathay Pacific retired its final 747 last fall.) So what comes next? More long, skinny (and mostly uncomfortable) variations of the Airbus A320 and the Boeing 737. If you think that's okay--after all, these mini-mites can profitably connect many smaller airports with nonstops--you might want to read this flight report on Norwegian's first narrowbody transatlantic nonstop between Newburgh/Stewart in New York's Hudson Valley and Edinburgh, Scotland.
From the Archives: Sit Down. Shut Up. Buckle Up.
There may be more in-flight turbulence due to climate change in our future--and there's already enough in our present. On Tuesday (June 20), for example, at least nine passengers and one crew member were injured on a United Airlines flight from Panama City, Panama, to Houston/Intercontinental. At least twice as many people were injured on Sunday (June 18) when a China Eastern flight from Paris hit turbulence en route to Yunnan Province. And a KLM flight earlier this month was buffeted by atmospheric disruptions and nine people were hospitalized. What besides turbulence binds these flights together? The injured didn't appear to be wearing seatbelts when their aircraft hit the disturbances. I talked about the abject stupidity of not buckling up back in 2008.The question remains: Why are you seated on a flight 30,000 or 40,000 feet in the sky with your seatbelt unfastened? Why would you take that ridiculous chance? Pilots are always buckled up in the cockpit. Why aren't you?
Tight Connections ...
Annoying fees and confined coach spaces aside, airline prices remain low for one reason: cheap oil, which creates cheap jet fuel. The price of oil has dropped 20 percent this year, its steepest first-half-of-year decline since 1997. And, yes, cheap oil has also kept the price of gasoline down. Nationwide, gas prices are lower at the start of the summer than in 12 years, reports CNN. ... The man who attacked a police officer with a knife at the airport in Flint, Michigan, this week has been identified as a Canadian citizen. The 50-year-old man, Tunisian-born Amor M. Ftouhi, now faces federal charges of violence at an international airport. ... American Airlines is inordinately proud of the burger it offers premium-class international travelers in its new Flagship Lounge at New York's Kennedy Airport. -- Joe Brancatelli
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