March 26-April 1: Airbus Designs New Cabin Based on Feedback; Virgin America’s For Sale; U.S. Airlines Break Passenger Traffic Record; & More

This week’s round-up brings the latest airline and travel news – from Airbus redesigns cabin based on feedback from millions of passengers, JetBlue and Alaska express interest in buying Virgin America, and U.S. airlines break passenger traffic record, to flight aborted because passenger wants to do yoga, and British Airways bans woman for life. Enjoy!

Airbus’s New Cabin Based on Passenger Feedback

Here’s a bit of potential good news for travelers: the cabin for Airbus’ new A330neo was designed based on comments and criticisms from frequent fliers. Shown to the public for the first time this week in London, the new cabin, dubbed Airspace by Airbus, will have 18-inch seats (the widest in the industry), new overhead bins to hold more bags with easier access, brighter lights with an option for full-color LED, and beveled windows and walls with enhanced curvature, all to create a more open space. In addition, the restroom will have antibacterial surfaces, automatic flushing toilets and aroma dispensers (what took them so long to come up with this one?). The good news with this redesign is that no seats were removed to create the extra legroom. Instead the under-seat boxes required for seat-back entertainment were removed. The new plane also comes with built-in broadband and ultra-quiet engines to minimize cabin noise. The new A330neo won’t enter service until late 2017, but four airlines, including Delta Air Lines and Hawaiian Airlines, have already ordered the plane. Before you get too excited, airlines do have the option to change the configuration: whether to add more seating or provide passengers with extra seat pitch (the distance between your seat and the one in front of you). Fingers crossed the airlines go with the latter!

Virgin America’s For Sale

This past Monday rumors started swirling that low-cost carrier, Virgin America, might be up for grabs. While nothing official has been announced, JetBlue Airways and Alaska Airlines are said to have expressed interest. Both airlines will have a lot to gain from this purchase. For JetBlue, it will allow the airline to expand its West Coast operations; while Alaska will be able to have a larger presence in Mexico while eliminating a West Coast competitor. Depending on who you fly with more often, this could be good or bad news.

U.S. Airlines Break Passenger Traffic Record

Last Thursday, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) released the airline traffic data for 2015, and U.S.-based airlines have set a new record for flying 895.5 million passengers, up five percent from the previous record set in 2014. American Airlines had the most passengers with over 146.5 million flyers, followed by Southwest Airlines with 144.5 million travelers. The top three spots for busiest airports remain unchanged from 2014, with Atlanta at number one, followed by Los Angeles and Chicago.

Flight Aborted Because Passenger Wants to do Yoga

This is a new one! A United Airlines flight on Saturday from Honolulu to Tokyo’s Narita Airport had to turn around when a passenger started yelling at his wife and the crew members because he wanted to do yoga instead of staying in his seat. According to the FBI report, Hyongtae Pae decided to do yoga and mediate at the back of the plane during the meal service. When his wife and the crew requested he return to his seat, Mr. Pae got angry, started pushing his wife and even attempted to headbutt a few passengers, who happened to be Marines, when they tried to force him back to his seat. The report also alleged that “he threatened to kill passengers and was yelling that there is no god.” Mr. Pae was released on $25,000 bond as long as he won’t leave Oahu and agrees to a mental health evaluation. He was however, denied the request to return to South Korea because that would mean he has to get on another plane.

Random News Story of the Week: British Airways Bans Woman for Life

Getting banned for life by an airline doesn’t happen often (although it’s starting to become more common), so when that happens, something must have gone horribly wrong. Earlier this week British Airways placed a ban on Bridget Nhire, after a flight from London to Dubai. Depending on which side of the story you believe, Ms. Nhire either did nothing wrong, or she got drunk during the flight, used racist remarks at the crew and other passengers, and tried to enter the cockpit. According to one of the passengers, “She was screaming at people for about an hour and the staff went over to calm her down, at which point she started shouting ‘This is because I’m black. This is racist.’” A security guard was eventually placed next to Ms. Nhire for the remainder of the flight. Upon landing, she was handcuffed and escorted off the plane. BA investigated the situation and went over crew and passenger statements before issuing the ban, which can be appealed, although I doubt Ms. Nhire would want to fly them again.

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