WASHINGTON (AP) — The shrinking space on airplanes is surely uncomfortable, but it might also be dangerous for passengers’ health and safety.
Planes are filled with more passengers than ever before. Fliers are older and heavier. Flight attendants warn about an increase in air rage, and experts question if having rows of seats packed closer together might make it harder for passengers to evacuate after a crash.
A consumer advisory group set up by the Department of Transportation dove into all those issues Tuesday at a public hearing as part of its role to make non-binding suggestions to government regulators.
Charlie Leocha, the consumer representative on the committee, said the government sets standards for the conditions for dogs flying as cargo but doesn’t dictate minimum space standards for passengers.
“In a world where animals have more rights to space and food than humans,” Leocha said, “it is time that the DOT and FAA take a stand for humane treatment of passengers.”
Fliers last summer squeezed into the least amount of personal space in the history of flying. In July, U.S. airlines sold a record 87.8 percent of seats on domestic flights, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statics. And that figure does not include all the seats occupied by passengers who redeemed frequent flier miles or airline employees flying for free.
“Unfortunately, the days of the empty middle seat are a thing of the past,” said Julie Frederick, a representative for the American Airlines flight attendants union.
Following the implementation of checked-bag fees in 2008, Frederick said, more and more passengers are carrying on bags, fighting for overhead bin space. That anger carries over through the flight as passengers bump elbows on armrests and bang their knees against tray tables. She said there are more cases of air rage, many of which go unreported.
Questions were also raised if the increased density of seats means passengers won’t be able to evacuate fast enough after a crash.
The Federal Aviation Administration runs various tests including how fast passengers can evacuate a plane and how fast they can put on a life preserver.
But Cynthia Corbertt, a human factors researcher with the FAA, testified that it conducts those tests using planes with 31 inches between each row of seats. Many passenger jets today have less legroom. For instance, United Airlines has 30 inches of room, known as pitch, on some jets; Spirit Airlines offers 28 inches.
“We just haven’t considered other pitches,” Corbertt told the Advisory Committee for Aviation Consumer Protection.
Before any new jet is allowed to fly, the manufacturer must prove that everybody can evacuate in 90 seconds with half of the exits blocked.
Carry-on baggage is strewn throughout the cabin, and the test is conducted in night-like conditions. However, the cabin is not filled with smoke, and all of the passengers are physically fit, dressed in athletic clothing and know that an evacuation is coming.
“We’d like to see more realistic simulations,” Frederick testified. She added that most passengers don’t pay attention to pre-flight safety briefings, especially now that they can use electronic devices from gate to gate.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane, who chairs the DOT committee, noted concern that the FAA does not factor in human panic, especially parents who might take extra time to ensure their children are safe before evacuating.
“So they aren’t the average traveler, quite honestly,” Kane said.
On long flights, there is another risk for fliers: deep vein thrombosis, where a blood clot forms, typically in a leg vein. If that clot gets lose and travels into the lungs, it can cause a blockage.
BEIJING: US President Barack Obama announced Monday (Nov 10) a deal to extend visas for Chinese nationals going to the United States to work or study, insisting he wants China “to do well” despite simmering tensions between the world’s two largest economies.
“The United States welcomes the rise of a prosperous, peaceful and stable China,” Obama said in a speech at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Beijing. But he urged China to free up its markets and its tightly controlled exchange rate, and respect human rights and media freedoms.
The visa deal will see student and exchange visas extended to five years, with business and tourist visas’ validity stretched out to a decade.
There were 1.8 million Chinese visitors to the US last year, Obama said, contributing US$21 billion to the economy and supporting more than 100,000 jobs. “This agreement could help us more than quadruple those numbers,” he said, describing it as an “important breakthrough which will benefit our economies, bring our people together”.
The arrangement is supposed to be reciprocal, so I’m crossing my fingers that I won’t need to go through my annual work visa renewal after next year.
Greg Larson recounts his recent visit to North Korea.
Each year, a limited number of tourists are allowed to visit North Korea, the most isolated nation on earth. All tours are highly scripted and follow a similar pattern. Tourists are only allowed to visit a limited number of preapproved sites. Most days you are confined to the bus; government minders accompany tour groups everywhere and dictate everything, corralling you through tightly circumscribed itineraries. Our tour was coordinated by a travel agency in Beijing. Leading up to the trip, the agency sent our group, composed of fifteen students, informational PDFs that read like inverted Miranda rights. “Foreign visitors to North Korea may be arrested, detained, or expelled for activities that would not be considered criminal in any other country.” Prohibitions included straying from the group, practicing religion, and interaction with the local population. There are designated tourist hotels, where North Koreans are not permitted to stay—in Wonsan, the Songdowon Hotel is on a foggy, abandoned pier jutting out into the Sea of Japan. In Pyongyang, the Yanggakdo Hotel is marooned on an island in the middle of a river, with a checkpoint restricting North Korean citizens from entering. The hotel mostly serves Chinese tourists and businesspeople. When we were there, only a few of the forty-seven floors were in operation; if you pressed the other buttons on the elevator, the doors would open to pitch-black hallways, some with wires hanging from the ceiling, others with no carpet.
These flows represent 75% of human migration from 2005-2010. (NB only flows over 50,000 are displayed.) Circos/ Krzywinski, M. et al.
It’s no secret that the world’s population is on the move, but it’s rare to get a glimpse of where that flow is happening. In a study released in today’s Science, a team of geographers used data snapshots to create a broad analysis of global migrations over 20 years.
The study was conducted by three geographic researchers from the Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital in Vienna. The researchers presented their data in five-year increments, from 1990 to 2010. Their research is unique, because it turned static census counts from over 150 countries into a dynamic flow of human traffic.
Migration data is counted in two ways: Stock and flow. “The stocks are the number of migrants living in a country,” says Nikola Sander, one of the study’s authors. Stock is relatively easy to get—you just count who is in the country at a given point of time. Flow is trickier. It’s the rate of human traffic over time.
Keeping accurate account of where people are moving has stymied the UN, and researchers and policy-makers in general, for a while. The European Union keeps good track of migrant flows, but elsewhere the data are sparse. Static measurements are plentiful, but it is hard to use them to get a picture of how people are moving on a broad scale, because each country has its own methodology for collecting census data.
This is really interesting. I also really like the cute illustrations.
Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, Charles Dickens founded The Arts Club, Jules Verne published his first novel, and Gerard Adriaan Heineken planned to buy his first brewery.
THE ERA ALSO MARKED THE DAWN OF MODERN TOURISM.
Cecelia Crocker’s body provides her with a constant reminder of the most traumatic event of her life - one that she doesn’t otherwise remember.
At only 4 years old, Crocker was the lone survivor of a 1987 plane crash that killed 154 people aboard and two on the ground near Detroit Metropolitan Airport.
In the new documentary film, Sole Survivor, Crocker breaks her silence, discussing how the crash of the Phoenix-bound jetliner has affected her.
‘I think about the accident every day. It’s kind of hard not to think about it when I look in the mirror,’ she said.
‘I have visual scars. My arms and my legs. And I have a scar on my forehead.’
Crocker, 30, also sports an airplane tattoo on her left wrist.
‘I got this tattoo as a reminder of where I’ve come from. I see it as - so many scars were put on my body against my will - and I decided to put this on my body for myself,’ she says in the film.
It’s been more than a quarter-century since Northwest Airlines Flight 255 crashed in the Detroit suburb of Romulus.
The plane was just clearing the runway at 8:46pm on Aug. 16, 1987, when it tilted slightly. The left wing clipped a light pole, and the damaged airliner sheared the top off a rental car building.
The MD-80 left a half-mile trail of bodies, charred wreckage, magazines and trays of food along Middle Belt Road when it crashed.
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A Dutch airliner is flying planes all the way from John F. Kennedy International Airport to Amsterdam, on a fuel mix that includes leftover oil from frying Cajun food in Louisiana.
The KLM flights from JFK are powered by a combination of 25 percent recycled cooking oil and 75 percent jet fuel.
After the first such flight on Friday, the new concept will be tested on 24 round-trip trans-Atlantic trips every Thursday for the next six months.
KLM executive Camiel Eurlings jokingly told the New York Post that “it smelled like fries” while the plane was being fueled.
The waste oil from frying up crawfish, cracklins and other Cajun specialties is refined at a plant near Baton Rouge, then trucked to JFK, the newspaper reported.
There is a similar operation powered by European food plants and restaurants, which supplies cooking oil for KLM flights headed the other way across the Atlantic Ocean.
The trips highlight inconsistencies in tough ethics rules Congress set for itself. Although registered foreign lobbyists can’t buy a $2 cup of coffee for a congressional staffer in Washington, they are allowed to invite, plan and accompany a staffer on a trip costing $10,000 or more. Nor is there any requirement about how much time is spent on work related to Congress.
Congress overhauled the rules for travel after the 2005 scandal involving lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who had paid for lavish trips for several lawmakers and their families before his 2006 guilty plea on fraud and bribery charges. After Democrats won control of Congress in midterm elections, they passed legislation governing the rules for travel funded by organizations that hire lobbyists, requiring pre-approval of trip itineraries and limiting travel to a single day.
For travel sponsored by companies and other private interests, staffers must submit itineraries to House and Senate ethics committees for approval before departing and also make a full accounting of costs after the trip has concluded. The rules continue to tighten: starting in April, lawmakers and staff will have to submit trips for pre-approval even earlier — 30 days beforehand, up from 14.
By contrast, the costs, itineraries and other details for cultural-exchange trips are not disclosed. When costs are voluntarily added to disclosure forms, they typically run about $10,000 for a week-long trip, including first-class or business-class airfare.
MIAMI (AP) — A byzantine maze of maritime rules and regulations, fragmented oversight and a patchwork quilt of nations that do business with cruise lines make it tough for consumers to assess the health and safety record of the ship they’re about to board in what for many is the vacation of a lifetime.
Want to know about a ship’s track record for being clean? Want to assess how sanitary the food is? It’s not that easy to find, in part because there’s no one entity or country that oversees or regulates the industry with its fleet of ships that are like mini cities floating at sea.
In the case of Carnival Cruise Lines, the owner of the Carnival Triumph that spent days in the Gulf of Mexico disabled after an engine fire, the company is incorporated in Panama, its offices are based in Miami and its ships fly under the Bahamian flag — a matrix that is not unusual in the cruise line industry.
For potential passengers seeking ship information, there’s no central database that can be viewed to determine a track record of safety or health inspections. No one agency regulates everything from the cruise line’s mechanical worthiness to the sanitation of its kitchens.
The U.S. Coast Guard inspects each cruise ship that docks in the U.S. every year for a range of issues, from operation of backup generators to the lifeboats. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintains a database of recent disease outbreaks and other health inspection information for cruise ships. Had Triumph vacationers looked up information about the cruise ship through those two agencies before boarding, they would have found mostly clean marks and few red flags.
And when something goes wrong, as it did on Triumph, there are limits to how much the Coast Guard can investigate.
These are not new issues — they had been raised by members of Congress before the Triumph incident.
“This horrible situation involving the Carnival Triumph is just the latest example in a long string of serious and troubling incidents involving cruise ships,” said Sen. Jay Rockefeller, d-w.va., who led a committee hearing on cruise safety last year.
Last year, after the Costa Concordia ran aground off the coast of Giglio, Italy, Rockefeller held a Commerce Committee hearing to examine deficiencies in the cruise line industry’s compliance with federal safety, security, and environmental standards and review industry regulations.
“As I remarked then, they seem to have two lives: One is at port, where the Coast Guard can monitor their operations; the other is at sea where, it appears once they are beyond three nautical miles from shore, the world is theirs,” Rockefeller said in letter he wrote this week to Admiral Robert J. Papp Jr., the commandant of the Coast Guard. “The Carnival Triumph incident only serves to further validate this view.”
The Triumph left Galveston, Texas, on Feb. 7 for a four-day cruise to Cozumel, Mexico. An engine-room fire paralyzed the ship early Sunday, leaving it adrift in the Gulf of Mexico. Passengers described nightmarish conditions on board: overflowing toilets, long lines for a short supply of food, foul odors, and tent cities where vacationers slept on deck. Tugboats slowly towed the 14-story vessel to Mobile, Ala. It arrived there late Thursday.
On Dec. 13, 2011, Marine Lance Cpl. Christian Brown was leading his squad on a foot patrol in Afghanistan’s Helmand province when he stepped on an explosive device that blew off both his legs, one above the knee, the other below his hip. He also lost part of his right index finger.
Last Sunday, almost exactly a year since those grievous injuries forced him to learn to walk on two successive pairs of prosthetic legs, Brown was “humiliated” to the point of tears on a Delta flight from Atlanta to Washington after being clumsily wheeled to the back row of the plane, according to a complaint sent to the airline by an outraged fellow passenger.
Worse yet, according to retired Army Col. Nickey Knighton’s detailed “customer care” report to Delta, efforts by several fellow vets to shift Brown from coach to a first class seat offered by another flyer, were rebuffed by the crew. Flight attendants insisted no one could move through the cabin because the doors were being closed for takeoff, she wrote.
Knighton, a former helicopter pilot with nearly 30 years of service, who turned out to be seated in the same back row as Brown, assumed that because he boarded last, he would be seated up front for comfort and ease of exit in case of emergency. Instead, she wrote in a complaint obtained by “She The People,” he was squeezed into a narrow aviation wheelchair that “bumped up against stationary aisle seats as he was wheeled through the aircraft. [He] was obviously humiliated by being paraded through the aircraft and was visibly upset. I touched Brown on his shoulders and asked if he was okay. Tears ran down his face, but he did not cry out loud.”
Sickening. Just sickening.