Category Archives: Airline safety

Our stand on charging airline pilots for cockpit seat selection – a BobCarriesOn editorial


It is increasingly clear that the main role of the airline industry is no longer to provide air transportation but to identify ancillary fees that can become profit centers. The inevitable result, some industry observers believe, is that airlines will soon begin charging pilots for cockpit seat selection.

BobCarriesOn is opposed to this possibility.

By tradition, commercial airliners typically have two or three qualified pilots in the cockpit: the captain, who sits in the left-hand seat, the first officer, who sits in the right, and — if one is aboard — the flight engineer, who sits wherever is convenient should a flight attendant need help getting a malfunctioning overhead bin to close.

This seating arrangement is based on seniority, and because it clearly indicates where in the cockpit the most experienced pilot is to be found, it has long served the flying community well. However, fee-based seat selection would mean that any cockpit crewmember could claim the role of captain simply by booking early, and being willing to pay the extra fee.

We believe the safety issues that cockpit fee-based seat selection might raise far outweigh any bottom-line benefit to the airline and should be avoided except in special cases, such as when an airline’s profitability sinks below a level acceptable to its board of directors.

We have listened to the argument of supporters of cockpit seat selection. Which is that with the increasing level of aircraft automation, and the rising cost of aircraft operation, it makes economic sense to charge an ancillary fee for seats whose occupants no longer have any real role other than to act as authority figures until land-side law enforcement can arrive to remove disruptive passengers from a flight.

Our concern, though, is that if cockpit crewmembers are not treated with the respect they feel their seniority and experience have earned them, it will be disruptive pilots that law enforcement is having to remove.


Man wakes from coma, discovers he’s closer to front of TSA security line


A New York City man who went into a coma more than six weeks ago while standing in a TSA security line at JFK Airport awoke today to discover he was closer to passing through the security line checkpoint.

“At first, I thought my mind was playing tricks on me, but then I realized that one of the TSA agents who was putting bags through the scanner had gained at least fifteen pounds since I last noticed him,” said Jeremy Green, a sales representative who medical authorities believe may have suffered a seizure while trying to figure out how much of the cost of his ticket was for actual airfare and how much was for add-on fees.

“Going into a coma while in a TSA security line is an increasingly common condition,” said Medical Editor Bob Payne.  He added that it is also increasingly difficult to catch the condition in its early stages, as more and more families and even businesses are reluctant to report missing passengers for fear that the airlines will respond by charging a fee to check their records to see if the passenger actually boarded.

In related news, another JFK passenger who spent a lengthy stay in a TSA security line was arrested last night for attempting to sell an undercover airport security agent outdated cheese products.

Average age of crying babies on airplanes is 43, study reveals

A new study commissioned by the Flight Attendants Union of America reveals that the average age of crying babies on airplanes is 43.

“That’s the age when crying babies begin to forget what it was like to fly with young children of their own,” said Flight Attendants Union of America spokesperson Bob Payne. “But they are not yet old enough to accept that nobody’s going to give them special treatment simply because they find certain of their fellow passengers irritating.”

“The babies you know will cry the most,” said Payne, “are those who come aboard talking loudly into a cell phone, or cradling a specially boxed gourmet sandwich, or already deeply engrossed in their Kindle.”

The average age of crying babies on airplanes has increased steadily, according to the study, ever since airlines introduced ancillary fees for baggage, food service, and armrest use, and began renting ballpoint pens for working on inflight magazine crossword and Sudoku puzzles.

The study notes that one positive effect of the increase in the average age of crying babies on airplanes is that it has become more and more acceptable for flight attendants to sedate crying babies, from the beverage cart, and charge them up to $8 for a 1.7 oz. mini bottle for each administering.

“It has certainly added to airline profitability,” Payne said.

Payne also notes, however, that with the increased average age of crying babies on planes has come the increased risk to other passengers and to cabin crew. It is only natural for babies to cry out when they experience the discomfort, pain, fear, rage, and homicidal impulses that have become a part of flying, Payne said. “But the uncontrolled outbursts that can result in an unscheduled landing are much more likely to come from a crying baby who is middle-aged than one who is an infant.”

An additional finding of the study was that the only place the average age of crying babies on airplanes hasn’t increased noticeably  is in the cockpit, where for some time it has held steady at 44.8 years.

When not serving as a spokesperson for the Flight Attendants Union of America, Bob Payne is the editor in chief of the travel humor website, which has been offering accurate travel news and advice since before Columbus landed at Plymouth Rock.

Three unprovoked attacks in same day by fee-hungry airlines reported

In what is becoming one of the most active seasons in recent memory for attacks by fee-hungry airlines, three separate carriers ripped into unsuspecting passengers on Monday, in each case resulting in the loss of an arm and a leg.

“High levels of chumming with seemingly cheap bait-and-switch fares are responsible for much of the activity,” said Bob Payne, Director of the University of North Carolina Biology Department’s Institute for the Study of Ancillary Airline Fees.

Among the new fare add-ons are a $7 entertainment tax for listening to the safety announcement, a $34 surcharge for teens wishing to sit in a different row than their parents, and $50 change fee for deciding you want coffee after all.

“There’s no sense in blaming the airlines for the attacks,” Payne said. “They are simply mindless beasts responding to naturally-occurring conditions.”

Still, passengers can take steps to protect themselves, Payne said. For instance, he suggests carrying a roll of duct tape, so that if you do lose an arm and a leg you can reattach them, thus avoiding the increasingly common fee for personal carryon items.

When not lecturing on ancillary airline fees, humor writer Bob Payne is the  Sex,  Religion and Politics Editor for


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America’s 10 Safest Airlines – Now

No question, a commercial aircraft is a safe place to be. It has been pointed out, for instance, that in the United States you are more likely to be killed by a dog attack than a commercial airplane crash. Still, if you want to increase the odds that flying will not be the cause of your demise, here are  America’s 10 safest airlines.

Eastern Airlines

Founded: 1926

Why so safe: Stopped flying in 1991

Of note: Among the deaths resulting from a 1974 Eastern Airlines crash were those of the father and two older brothers of comedian Stephen Colbert, who was ten at the time. He said the experience has had much to do with his view that the world doesn’t always make sense.

Northwest Airlines

Founded: 1926

Why so safe: Stopped flying in 2010

Of note: In 1971, hijacker D.B. Cooper parachuted from the tail end of a Northwest Boeing 727 somewhere over Washington State’s Cascade Range, along with $200,000 in ransom. He was never heard of again, except as the inspiration for songs, films, and printed works, among them a pamphlet, published in 1972, titled “SKYJACKER’S GUIDE OR PLEASE HOLD THIS BOMB WHILE I GO TO THE BATHROOM.“

Pan American World Airways

Founded: 1927

Why so safe: Stopped flying in 1991

Of note: In the early 1960’s Pan Am was so optimistic about its future that it began accepting reservations for trips to the moon. By the time “The World’s Most Experienced Airline” went under, in part as a result of the terrorist bombing that brought down Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, more than 93,000 people had put down a deposit for the space flight.

Braniff International Airways

Founded: 1928

Why so safe: Stopped flying in 1982

Of note: A Braniff plane holds the record for the longest distance flown while being hijacked — 7,500 miles from San Antonio, Texas, to Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Continental Airlines

Founded: 1934

Why so safe: Stopped flying 2012

Of note: A subsidiary of Continental known as Continental Air Services Inc was created primarily to fly support missions in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War.   Which is why CASI may be the only civilian airline that has had an active-duty pilot serve as a prisoner of war.

National Airlines

Founded: 1934

Why so safe: Stopped flying in 1980.

Of note: National is perhaps best remembered for its “Fly Me,” advertising campaign, featuring ads showing flight attendants saying, for instance, “I’m Cheryl. Fly me.” The campaign incensed the National Organization for Women, but was so successful that National purportedly considered intensifying it with “I’m going to fly you like you’ve never been flown before.”

Air Florida

Founded: 1971

Why so safe: Stopped flying 1984

Of note: The next time you are irritated by a flight attendant it might help to recall that when Air Florida Flight 90 crashed into the icy Potomac River in 1982 a flight attendant who was among the few survivors  gave her life vest to an injured passenger.

Midway Airlines

Founded: 1976

Why so safe: Stopped flying 1991

Of note: One of the happier airlines, Midway, which never had a serious accident, proved that you could run a low-cost operation and still offer chocolate mints. Unhappily, like a number of other airlines, it could not survive the rise in fuel costs and economic downturn that resulted from the first Gulf War.

People Express

Founded: 1981

Why so safe: Stopped flying in 1987

Of note: People Express was the first airline to permit a woman to captain a 747. On the other hand, they were also the first U.S. airline to charge a baggage fee.

Hooters Air

Founded: 2003

Why so safe: Stopped flying in 2006

Of note: The most successful thing about Hooters Air is that many passengers truly didn’t care when they arrived.