April 11-17: DOT Investigates Safety of Smaller Seats, Airline Satisfaction Drops, Increased Transparency of No-Fly List, Direct Flights to Cuba, 3D Printed Parts, Bad Travelers & More

This week’s round-up brings the latest airline travel news — from the DOT investigating safety of smaller seats, the downward trend of airline satisfaction, and U.S. increase transparency of no-fly list, to direct flights to Cuba, and Alaska’s LGBT-friendly website, 3D printed airplane parts, Qantas lounges to turn away slovenly guests, and bad travelers. Enjoy!

DOT Questions Safety Risk of Shrinking Seats

Airbus just announced that it plans to add an 11th seat per row in their double-decker A380 starting 2017. This new configuration of 11 seats per row instead of the current configuration of 10 was unveiled last year and will add an additional 30 seats in coach. This is on top of Airbus’ plans to add 15 extra seats in its upcoming A320neo. The ever diminishing space on seats has raised safety concerns on whether passengers can safely evacuate the plane in an emergency. So much so, the Department of Transportation has created a consumer advisory group to investigate the safety risks.

On the flip side, at least Southwest Airlines is making the seats on their new 737s, due mid-2016, a smidge wider by adding 7/10th of an inch, bringing it to 17.8 inches.

Airline Satisfaction Goes Down

It’s no secret that for an average traveler, flying isn’t fun and will probably get worse – long security lines, the ever shrinking economy class seats, and food (if you get them) that look questionable. It just so happens that the Airline Quality Rating report have the numbers to back it up. The annual report, now in its 25th year, breaks down customer dissatisfaction to on-time percentage, mishandled luggage, overbooking and customer complaints. The three best airlines in these categories are Virgin America, Hawaiian Airlines and Delta Air Lines. The five worst airlines? Frontier, United, SkyWest, ExpressJet and Envoy/American Eagle.

U.S. to Increase Transparency of No-Fly List

The Justice Department has revised their policy on U.S. travelers who find themselves on the no-fly list. The revision came about when a federal judge last year said the old policy was in violation of the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of due process. In the past, travelers making queries about why they were denied boarding will be sent a letter that doesn’t tell them anything useful. The revised policy now includes the status and an option to request further information.

First Direct Flights from U.S. to Cuba

If you’re planning on visiting Cuba before U.S. citizens overrun the largest Caribbean island, you might want to do it sooner rather than later. CheapAir.com, an online travel agency, is now offering direct flights to Havana from Miami, as well as New York City and Tampa. Direct flights from Miami to other Cuba destinations are also available to Santa Clara, Holguin and more.

Alaska adds LGBT Section

If you want to support a LGBT-friendly airline this summer, consider Alaska Airlines. The airline recently created two sections within their website targeted at the LGBT community. The first section offers discounts on flights to destinations that coincide with the city’s gay pride parade. And the other section is dedicated to LGBT destination weddings.

China Eastern Prints 3D Parts

3D printing may sound like a work of science fiction, since its potential use may be far reaching to include parts for buildings and cars on demand, and perhaps one day, save lives of people on the organ donor waiting list. While we wait for the future to arrive, China Eastern Airlines is reported to have printed and used numerous airplane parts for their Boeing 777-300ER aircraft including door handles and signs. It’ll be interesting to see if at some point printing a mechanical part can become the norm.

Random Story of the Week: Qantas Rejects Slovenly Guests

If you’re flying on Qantas Airways anytime soon and plan on using their premium lounges in Australia, you might want to brush up your appearance. The airline is now allowing its “staff to turn away members and guests who don’t meet its ‘smart casual’ dress code.” It would appear that you’ll be turned away regardless of your status, even if you paid for the lounge membership. The rules are laid out in the membership forms and will be enforced in Qantas Club and lounges in Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney.

Bad Travelers of the Week

This is quite a week for travelers with bad behaviors, and this is only on incidents that were reported! The first incident was on an Air Canada flight from Frankfurt to Toronto, when a 76-year old woman in first class had to be restrained when she allegedly bit and scratched crew members. The flight had to be diverted to Shannon when the woman was arrested by local police. The second incident happened on a Southwest Airlines flight from Chicago to Manchester, NH, where a woman started poking her seatmate with a pen to stop his snoring. The plane was taxiing down the runway in Chicago when the incident occurred, forcing the pilot to turn the plane back to the gate where the woman was taken away by the police. In addition, two weeks ago two Juneau police officers were injured (and one was bitten on her cheek) when they got into a struggle trying to arrest a man who was caught smoking in the bathroom of an Alaska Airlines flight.

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