Gulliver

Business travel

  • Nut rage 2.0

    Korean Air’s “nut rage” sisters step down

    by A.W. | WASHINGTON, DC

    FOUR years ago, Cho Hyun-ah, an executive at Korean Air made headlines around the world when she threw a fit because she was served macadamia nuts in their packaging rather than on a serving dish in first class on the airline. She reportedly insulted the cabin crew, threw documents at them, and forced them to kneel and beg forgiveness. At the time, she was a company vice president, and she made the plane return to its gate in order to remove the offending flight attendant. After spending several months in prison for breaking aviation-safety laws, Cho Hyun-Ah was able to return to her father’s conglomerate, this time managing hotels rather than Korean Air.

  • Credit where credit isn’t due

    Americans will no longer have to sign for credit-card purchases

    by A.W. | WASHINGTON, DC

    AMERICANS, and people who travel to America, have good reason to celebrate this month. By the end of April, the four major credit-card networks in the country will all stop requiring retailers to collect signatures from customers when completing transactions. Visa, the world’s biggest credit-card issuer, announced in January that signatures would no longer be required from this month for retailers in North America with chip-card readers. For Mastercard, the second-largest, the same change became effective on April 13th, covering purchases in the United States and Canada.

  • Airline tragedy

    One person dies after an engine explodes on a Southwest flight

    by A.W. | WASHINGTON, DC

    A SOUTHWEST AIRLINES flight became the stuff of nightmares on April 17th when a jet engine apparently exploded in mid-air and a passenger was partially sucked out of a window before being rescued by fellow flyers. The flight from New York’s LaGuardia airport was bound for Dallas, but at 11:30am, when it was near Philadelphia, the left engine blew up, according to multiple reports. Details are still unconfirmed, but according to reports by passengers and media, a piece of shrapnel from the engine shattered a window in the cabin, and a woman was partially sucked out of the hole. Other passengers scrambled to assist and pulled her back in.

  • Come sleep with me

    A plan to put beds on planes

    by A.W. | WASHINGTON, DC

    Airbus recently announced that it has entered into a partnership with Zodiac Aeropsace, a French aviation-equipment company, to develop “lower-deck modules with passenger sleeping berths.” In other words, passengers in need of 40 winks might eventually be able to go below decks to the cargo hold and sleep in bunk beds. The video released by the companies shows a clean, white, modern, and comfortable-looking space, although one conspicuously devoid of windows.

    Starting in 2020, Airbus says, the beds will be available on its widebody A330 planes, and could possibly appear on A350s as well.

  • The David Dao affair

    A year after United's public-relations disaster

    by A.W. | WASHINGTON, DC

    A YEAR ago this week, David Dao went from being an unknown pulmonologist to a household name. Dr Dao had boarded a flight from Chicago to Louisville when the United Airlines crew announced that four passengers would have to leave to make room for additional staff. Three passengers accepted enticements to switch to a different flight, but Dr Dao, who said he had patients to see, refused to give up his seat. Eventually, he was dragged down the aisle by airport security, gaining a bloody face in the process and a national reputation as a consumer champion after videos and photos of the incident went viral.

  • Going for gold

    Gulf Air tries to reclaim its crown

    by M.R.

    WITH their geographical advantage for connecting flights between far-flung places, there is plenty to keep the airlines of the Gulf countries busy. Yet Bahrain’s skies are nearly empty compared with its neighbours. About 9m passengers used its airport last year, far fewer than the 88m for Dubai, 37m for Qatar and 26m for Abu Dhabi. The difference is striking given that Gulf Air, Bahrain’s flag carrier, was for decades the most prestigious airline in the Middle East. In its heyday in the 1970s and early 1980s, none of its three neighbours even had national airlines.

    Geopolitics was the driving force behind Gulf Air’s rise and fall.

  • Pets in the air

    Why do so many animals die on United flights?

    by A.W. | WASHINGTON, DC

    THE numbers seem damning. As Gulliver recently reported, 18 animals died last year on United Airlines flights. No other airline had more than two animal deaths, according to data from America’s Department of Transportation.

    So is America’s fourth largest carrier really nine times as deadly as the next most perilous airline for a travelling pet? The Washington Post, a newspaper, has conducted a strikingly thorough investigation of this question, and the answer is no.

    United, the paper found, has allowed certain high-risk dog breeds that other airlines have barred to travel on its flights.

  • Unfareness on airlines

    Air India is trying to crack down on corruption

    by A.W. | WASHINGTON, DC

    EVERYONE grumbles about the injustices of air travel, but most people assume that the inequities are at least grounded in a fair system. Pay for business class (or have your company pay), and you get comfort and free drinks. Go frugal with basic economy and get stuck in a lousy seat without a carry-on bag. But it is not always a proper free market at 35,000 feet. Sometimes, corruption skews the equation.

    For instance, on Air India, the country’s state-owned flag carrier, who you know can apparently determine where you sit.

  • Happy birthday to me

    Gulliver’s most popular posts on the world of travel

    by C.R.

    TODAY is a very special day for Gulliver, for it is ten years to the very day since his column at The Economist opened for business. Since then, much has changed in the world of travel. A barrel of oil is now worth a tad over $60, instead of around the $100 mark as in April 2008. Old friends such as Monarch Airlines of Britain, Continental, NorthWest and US Airways of America and Air Berlin of Germany have long been consigned to the dustbin of history due to bankruptcies and mergers. Airbus’s A380 superjumbo, the largest passenger airliner ever built, somehow managed to go from the future of aviation to its past in less than a decade. 

  • One small hop for plane

    Qantas starts flying non-stop between Australia and London

    by C.R.

    WHEN migration from Europe to Australia first got going in the 19th century, it would take several months to get there by ship. Even by the end of the second world war, the trip would still take over 30 days. But in 1947 Qantas, Australia’s flag carrier, cut the time it took to fly between the two to a matter of days when it opened a new air service between London and Sydney called the “Kangaroo Route”. Even so, the trip was slow and expensive compared to today’s flights. The original “Kangaroo route” took four days and nine stops, and cost at least £525 per passenger—equal to two and a half years’ wages for an average worker.

  • Cabin-crew fever

    The poor behaviour of pilots and flight attendants is hitting the news

    by A.W. | WASHINGTON, DC

    NEARLY every day new stories hit the headlines about misbehaving flyers who get drunk on flights, turn violent or try to bring weapons or unusual animals on board. But it is not just the behaviour of passengers that now appears on a downward slide, but that of crew as well.

    Last week videos were posted to Weibo, a Chinese social-media platform, that appeared to show an orgy of at least six people in a hotel room. Reports followed that the participants were flight attendants for China Eastern Airlines, a Chinese flag-carrier, or possibly its subsidiary Shanghai Airlines.

  • Lviv another day

    Ukraine convinces Ryanair to return

    by M.R.

    ALMOST one year ago to the day, Ryanair, Europe’s largest low-cost carrier, announced plans to begin serving Ukraine. The eastern European country had been a glaring hole in the airline’s route network, deliberately avoided because of the anti-competitive advantages afforded to Ukraine International Airlines (UIA), the flag carrier based in Kiev, the capital city. A new infrastructure minister, Volodymyr Omelyan, brokered the deal between Ryanair and Boryspil Airport, Kiev’s main gateway and home base of UIA. But it collapsed within months. Now, Ryanair, the government and the airport are trying again.

  • Food fight

    Airlines in America are in a race to improve their meals

    by A.W. & C.R.

    IN THE 1950s—when the International Air Transport Association (IATA), a cartel of airlines, used to set fare levels and service quality on international routes—there were few differences between major carriers. One way to persuade passengers to choose one airline over another was to offer better meals as entertainment on board. And so an arms race to serve fancier food on transatlantic flights began. It came to an end in 1958, when SAS, a Scandinavian carrier, was fined $20,000 by IATA for serving open sandwiches that, contrary to IATA’s rules, contained overly fancy ingredients such as ox tongue, lettuce hearts and asparagus.

  • Come fly with Xi

    Why China is swooping on Georgia’s airline industry

    by M.R.

    IN ANCIENT times, traders on the Silk Road connecting China with Europe rarely ventured into the northern Caucasus region that is now home to Georgia. Diverting from established routes through Armenia and Anatolia to the south served little purpose unless conflict made the trackways impassable. Today, advances in transport and logistics mean that geography is less of a hurdle for traders. But friendly relations are just as important. Having signed free trade agreements with China and the European Union, Georgia is keen to pitch itself as a trade-and-transport hub for President Xi Jinping of China’s One Belt One Road initiative.

  • It’s a dog’s life

    United Airlines kills another pet

    by A.W. | WASHINGTON, DC

    GULLIVER recently wrote about a pet that suffered a grizzly end after it was not permitted to fly. Spirit Airlines refused to allow a hamster on board as an emotional-support animal and it ended up being flushed down an airport toilet. But sometimes it is more dangerous for an animal to be permitted to ascend to 35,000 feet. Particularly, it seems, if it is flying on United Airlines.

    On March 12th, on a flight from Houston to New York, a United Airlines flight attendant knowingly stowed a French bulldog in the overhead compartment, where it died, the family that owned the dog alleges.

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