For all those penny-pinching, world-traveling Facebook-users out there, you’re in luck: you’ll be able to check Facebook during your flight and not pay a dime if you fly during the short, sweet month of February.
Of course this means we all need to prepare ourselves for the inane status updates. Like: “I can see my house from here!” And: “Clouds… wow.”
Participating airlines–including American Airlines, Delta, United Airlines, AirTran Airways, Alaska Airlines, Virgin America, and U.S. Airways–are partnering with Gogo Inflight Internet and Ford to provide airline passengers with free Facebook access. As Mashable reports:
Thanks to the winter devastation wrought by this weekend’s storm, my weekend holiday travel plans were put on hold until, well, now. So from 36,000 feet above the ground, courtesy of Delta’s free wifi (it’s the least they could do, seeing how they put me on hold all weekend with “Let it Snow” playing on a loop), I bring you a story of a flight canceled not by weather, but by a typo.
Back on March 20th at Melbourne Airport, a United Arab Emirates (UAE) aircraft’s tail made contact with the runway during take-off (known as a tail-strike), and the plane was having trouble taking off at all. In fact, the tail hit the ground three more times beyond the runway and the landing gear took out a strobe light and a localizer antennae. Through some slick piloting, the airplane’s captain was able to get off the ground, dump fuel, and return to the same airport.
The cause for the tail-strike? A number 3 where a number 2 was supposed to be, as reported by IEEE Spectrum:
Nothing like a new airline policy to fan a raging societal debate. United, the country’s third largest airline, has just announced that it’s joining Southwest, Continental, and Alaska Air Group by making obese coach passengers buy two seats, rather than infringe on the space of other passengers. And if a flight is packed, overweight fliers may have to get off the plane and wait for one that’s less crowded. If that happens, the airline will waive fees it usually charges for changed travel plans.
Cue the outcry from obesity doctors and activists (not to mention the gleeful cackles from plaintiff’s attorneys hungry for discrimination suits). They take the stance that obesity is a disease, and thus any action that negatively affects people inflicted with that disease is unethical. One such protester is Dr. Caroline Apovian, the director of nutrition and weight management at Boston University Medical Center and an obesity treatment adviser at Everyday Health, who told DISCOVER:
Obesity is a disease, there is no question about it. If weight watchers worked, everyone who wanted to would lose weight—but the circuitry in the body is such that it’s not possible. Surgery is not providing a solution for enough people…This would be the first time that someone is being punished for having a disease.
While the last statement is categorically untrue, the fundamental issue remains: Is obesity a disease? Or merely a condition/state of being that can be altered by behavior?
The shortest route between two points is a straight line. But if you manage to get on a flight these days, you’ll probably end up zigzagging across the skies. That’s because the radar-based navigation system used by airlines, developed more than 50 years ago, limits air traffic to a grid of narrow highways—meaning that planes have to wait in a single-file queue for their turn to take off. So it’s a good thing the FAA is proposing a new satellite-based GPS navigation system, called NextGen, that would let pilots fly shorter routes—and use less fuel.
NextGen would let pilots determine their own position and the position of other flights, potentially shifting flight patterns. The current radar system takes 10 seconds to scan an area, so planes have to be kept extra far apart. Supporters of NextGen say it would allow more planes in the air while reducing accidents and delays—while also saving 3.3 billion gallons or $10 billion per year in fuel costs.
Of course, there’s the matter of up front costs.