Business Traveller: Tackling unruly fliers
THE case last week of Ralph Lauren's niece Jennifer causing a Delta flight to divert to Shannon is the latest example of inflight misbehaviour that industry body IATA says is a growing problem.
The 41-year-old was convicted on January 8 of drunkenness and threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour aboard an aircraft that forced the flight bound for New York from Barcelona to divert to Shannon.
Ms Lauren, (pictured right) who runs Jenny Lauren Jewellry in New York, was fined €2,000 -- but the actual cost of her outburst to Delta has been estimated at €32,000.
While the airline can still bill her separately for the expense of diversions and the resulting disruption, in practice carriers often view recovery of damages as too time-consuming and costly.
The number of incidents involving unruly passengers has jumped 12-fold in four years, according to the International Air Transport Association.
The group says that's left airlines wading through a myriad of local laws to bring prosecutions for offences ranging from verbal tirades to punch-ups and rape threats, while forcing crews to act as proxy law officers.
"We don't think they should be placed in a position where they're a police force in the sky," said Tim Colehan, IATA's assistant director for external affairs, who is leading calls for resolution of jurisdiction that means national authorities "often simply allow the passenger to walk away".
The most frequently reported issues concern the illegal consumption of drugs or cigarettes, refusal to comply with safety instructions and verbal confrontation with crew or other passengers, all often associated with drunkenness, he said.
IATA has drafted changes to rules on passenger behaviour for an International Civil Aviation Organisation meeting in Montreal in March that would make it easier to punish offenders under national laws.
It also suggests adopting a zero-tolerance policy towards bad behaviour, screening passengers at the gate and denying boarding if necessary.
BIGGEST CARRIER IN WORLD ROLLS OUT CODE-SHARE
NEWLY merged American Airlines and US Airways, now the single biggest carrier in the world, has announced that the first phase of code sharing between the two will take effect for flights from January 23. The service will start on flights between major airports and expand from there.
The roll-out of code-sharing means passengers booking connecting flights with the two will be able to check their bags and pick them up at their ultimate destination, making the whole connecting process less time consuming.
It also means the airline operating the second flight is unlikely to charge extra fees or deny boarding should the first flight cause a delay.
LONDON TOPS ROOM-RATE LIST
BAD news for frequent flyers to London -- it's now the second most expensive European city to stay in after the British capital saw steady price increases in 2013, new research shows.
Average room rates in London rose by almost 4pc in 2013 to €141, according to hotel group HRS. That placed it a close second behind Zurich, the most expensive city in Europe, with average rates of €145. Moscow was third highest while Prague was cheapest, despite a 4pc increase to an average of €70 a night.
Predictably, the most expensive city in the world was New York. Room rates in the Big Apple soared by 9pc during the year to €186 a night, the study showed. This was followed by Rio de Janeiro (€177).
TUNNEL GETS MOBILE SERVICE
THE 30 miles of the Channel Tunnel have until now offered a welcome pause from the trilling of mobile phones. Not any more. From this spring, Eurotunnel passengers will be able to tell callers: "I'm on Le Shuttle."
The north tunnel is to be plugged into the mobile phone network for the first time.
British operators Vodafone and EE, owner of the Orange and T-Mobile brands, have signed a 10-year contract to offer their customers mobile and internet services beneath the Channel, and expect to have the service by March.
France's three largest networks have run a mobile service in the south tunnel, which runs from France to England, since June 2012. Installed for the Olympics, it has until now had no southbound equivalent.
Irish customers will be able to use the service by manually switching over to EE or Vodafone while underground, although such calls will cost extra. They can do the same on the return journey through the French networks.