July 18-24: Bill to Cap Checked Bag Fees At $4.50, Senator Wants Investigation on Airlines That Withhold Fares From OTA, Frontier Widening Middle Seat, On-Duty Air Traffic Controller Found Passed Out, JFK’s New ARK, & Drunk Passenger Tied Up On Flight

This week’s round-up brings the latest airline and travel news – from bill that could cap checked bag fees at $4.50, senator wants DOT to investigate airlines that withhold fares from OTA, and Frontier widening middle seat, to drunk air traffic controller found passed out on-duty, JFK’s new ARK, and drunk passenger tied up on flight. Enjoy!

Bill Could Cap Checked Bag Fees

This past Wednesday, Congressman John Mica introduced a bill that could limit what airlines charge for checked bags. Currently, airlines charge $25 or more for a checked bag, and the bill is looking to limit the charge to just $4.50, or no more than the passenger facility charge (PFC; a fee that’s supposed to fund FAA-approved improvements) per ticket, which is limited to $4.50 per segment, or $9 for a one-way trip with stops. The congressman didn’t introduce the bill out of the goodness of his heart, but rather it is so that the airlines wouldn’t put up too much of a fight in the face of raising PFC, something the airlines have been against. Congress has been actively trying to raise the PFC by $3.50 starting in 2016. You get one guess as to what the airlines will do if this bill gets passed. After all, airlines made $38 billion in fees last year, so they’ll want another way to make that money.

Senator Wants DOT to Investigate Airlines That Withhold Fares from OTA

If you’ve been airfare comparison shopping in the past couple of months, you may have noticed that Delta Air Lines is missing from certain online travel websites (OTA) like TripAdivosr and Hipmunk. Delta stated that it “reserves the right to determine who it does business with, and where and how its information is displayed.” Now Senator Chuck Schumer is asking the Department of Transportation (DOT) to investigate airlines that follows such practices because it “prevents consumers from seeing all their options when booking a fight” and “makes it harder for consumers to find the best deal on a flight.” The New York Senator is hoping the DOT would expand its current investigation on airlines conspiring to keep airfares high to include this practice.

Frontier’s Widening the Middle Seat…at a Cost

It goes without saying that the middle seat on any flight is the least desirable seat. Frontier Airlines has decided to remedy this situation by adding 1.3 inches to the width of the middle seat, bumping it up to 19.3, which doesn’t seem like much, but when you’re crammed like sardines, the small change will be a welcomed relief. The aisle and window seats will remain at 18.1 inches. By comparison, Spirit Airlines’ seats are 17.75 inches wide and Virgin America’s at 17.7. And now the catch: to make room for wider seats, you’ll have a much better view of the seat in front of the because the pitch (the space between your seat and the seat in front of you) has shrunk to 28 inches, versus Spirit’s that range from 28 to 36 inches and Virgin America’s pitch is 32 to 38 inches. In addition, the bathrooms will be smaller in order to fit 12 more seats per plane, and the seatback entertainment TVs will be removed.

Air Traffic Controller Found Passed Out

Just when you think there can’t be anymore things to worry about during your flight, here’s another potentially scary situation: an on-duty air traffic controller who passed out because he was drunk. On Thursday, a coworker found Philip Maschek, who works at the Springdale Municipal Airport in Arkansas, “passed out in his chair with his shirt off.” After airport official Wyman Morgan called the police, the report stated that Maschek failed a sobriety test and was exhibiting signs of drunkenness. The report also mentioned that Maschek “was swaying on his feet, slurring his speech and struggling to balance…[he] was too intoxicated to climb down a steep ladder to leave the tower.” Maschek was then arrested and held at Springdale jail.

JFK’s Going to the Dogs

Pet owners flying through New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, will soon have a place for their four-legged friends to hang out after getting off a flight. Named the ARK, after the Biblical vessel, the 178,000-square-foot shelter and quarantine facility will host more than 70,000 animals flying through the airport yearly. The $48 million facility has more than just a quarantine area for animals arriving from foreign destination: dogs will have access to a 20,000-square-foot “resort” complete with splash pools, massage appointments and “pawdicures”; cats will have their own climbing trees; horses and cows will find themselves in climate-controlled stalls with showers; and there’s even a space for penguins to mate in private. There’s no price list yet of what it’ll cost to temporarily house your pet at the ARK, but dog suites could potentially cost $100 per night.

Random Story of the Week: Drunk Passenger Tied Up on Flight to Russia

Don’t mess with the Russians or you’ll find yourself on the receiving end of punches and kicks and getting tied down. On a recent Siberia Airlines flight from Hong Kong to Vladivostok, Russia, a drunken passenger was allegedly harassing the women on the plane. Video footage posted online showed the unnamed man getting tackled by another passenger before several other men dealt punches and kicks. The man was then tied down using seatbelts and tape and left on the aisle. Police spokeswoman Ekaterina Tarasova confirmed the incident on board but added, “The plane arrived on time in Vladivostok, so the incident did not cause any delay.” This is the second reported inflight incident involving a Russian. Back in April, a man on a flight from Kazan to Moscow started a fight and broke the lavatory mirror. After months of stories about misbehaving Chinese travelers on flights (which was gotten so bad, the Chinese government created a blacklist for said passengers), could Russians be the new Chinese? And will the Russian government also create their own blacklist?

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