I learned something interesting during my last overseas trip: People's Republic of China passport holders are not eligible for online check-in with some airlines.
This may explain why my middle seatmate on almost any flight to the US from Beijing is a Chinese grandfather. I always think, doesn't the son or daughter that they're flying to visit care enough about them to check them in online, so that at least they get a decent seat? At least I know why now. Next it would be great if someone could explain why same son or daughter lets him get on a plane with no reading material, no snacks, no nothing for a 12-hour flight. I'd also like to know why United Airlines doesn't offer a more obvious Chinese-language video entertainment interface on flights out of China, so that said middle seat passenger doesn't have to peck aimlessly at the screen until something starts to play randomly.
Family-friendly travel, which has been mentioned on this blog before, may get a boost in the United States. Legislation is being introduced to require airlines to seat families together, according to Conde Nast Traveler. The new regulations "would require the US Department of Transportation to direct each airline carrier to notify passengers traveling with minos if seats are not available together at the initial booking stage and for each carrier to establish a policy to ensure, to the extent practicable, that a family is seated together during flight," the magazine reported.
Although this sounds ridiculous across the board – why does this need to be legislated, why aren't airlines already doing this, why aren't parents booking their children to sit with them in the first place – addressing the needs of families, and thereby also giving non-family travelers a break, is perhaps the biggest missed opportunity in the travel industry. As we noted previously:
"Children are travelers with special needs, but only parents with children under three receive any kind of special treatment in terms of boarding, space, or seat selection. It's time for this to change. The solution isn't banning children from sections of the aircraft. It's creating family-friendly sections of the plane.
"Travelers without children similarly want different services when flying. For many reasons, they may not wish to be seated near children. Therefore, the solution is both obvious and simple: family-friendly cabins, both in business and economy class. And if Chinese airlines want to distinguish themselves and make them more appealing to non-Chinese travelers, they should pioneer this concept."
It's still true and there still isn't anyone doing anything about it. Missed opportunity.
And finally, what's with the spate of articles about guys who play the airlines for as many frequent flyer miles as they can get and the spend their time gallivanting around the world on them? This shameful article in The Economist claims "Such is his rock-star status within the airline industry that on one flight a member of cabin crew ushered him into an empty aisle and pleasured him." Now why would he or she do that? A member of a flight crew is so impressed with how a passenger is bilking his or her employer that it inspired some type of sexual congress?
I like earning frequent flyer miles too, but there's nothing impressive about these "hobbyists," as they call themselves, especially when most of their trips don't even take them to a destination. They fly somewhere to earn the miles, then spend the miles on other long air trips. That's not fun.
More stories by this author here.
Photo: Travel With Miles
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