Alec Baldwin’s Supermarket Commercial Ban Lifted

Thought Alec Baldwin’s Words With Friends/American Airlines scandal was over? Well, you’ve clearly underestimated our collective attention span when it comes to iPhone app-related jet way disturbances. TMZ reports that Wegmans, the Rochester, New York-based supermarket chain, had pulled holiday ads featuring Baldwin after they received complaints from a handful of customers. Now Wegmans has apologized and decided it will run the ads after even more people complained than the original complainers. Hopefully this whole ordeal will be sorted out by 2013.

A Wegmans representative told TMZ the following:

We regret ending the Alec Baldwin holiday commercials one week earlier than planned in response to a couple of dozen complaints. We have decided to run the commercials again, effective immediately… Clearly, many more people support Alec, as evidenced by the hundreds and hundreds of tweets, emails, and phone calls we have received. We enjoyed working with Alec Baldwin and his mom, Carol, and would do it again. We appreciate all the kind things they have said about Wegmans and respect the good work they do for communities.

So it’s settled. Alec Baldwin gets to use his iPhone during takeoff and landing. Wait, what were we talking about?

American Airlines Responds to Alec Baldwin’s Twitter Rant

Alec Baldwin, a prolific celebrity Twitter user, has shut down his account after stirring up some trouble yesterday when he was booted from an American Airlines flight. He claimed he was just trying to play Words With Friends, when the rude flight attendants told him to stop. He then proceeded to bash the airline on Twitter, and promoted rival United Airlines for a few hours. The whole affair was very retweet-worthy, and good fodder for gossip blogs. Even though the plane was standing still at the gate, was Baldwin in the wrong? Could it be possible that a much-loved famous person with a previous history of rude behavior and a short temper is actually not a very nice guy after all? 

The airline initially tweeted at the star in an attempt at damange control. Apparently, Twitter celebrity outreach didn’t help, so a rep posted the following on the company’s Facebook page:

Since an extremely vocal customer has publicly identified himself as being removed from an American Airlines flight on Tuesday, Dec. 6, we have elected to provide the actual facts of the matter as well as the FAA regulations which American, and all airlines, must enforce. Cell phones and electronic devices are allowed to be used while the aircraft is at the gate and the door is open for boarding. When the door is closed for departure and the seat belt light is turned on, all cell phones and electronic devices must be turned off for taxi-out and take-off. This passenger declined to turn off his cell phone when asked to do so at the appropriate time. The passenger ultimately stood up (with the seat belt light still on for departure) and took his phone into the plane’s lavatory. He slammed the lavatory door so hard, the cockpit crew heard it and became alarmed, even with the cockpit door closed and locked. They immediately contacted the cabin crew to check on the situation. The passenger was extremely rude to the crew, calling them inappropriate names and using offensive language. Given the facts above, the passenger was removed from the flight and denied boarding.

It’s certainly not behavior fitting of a potential mayoral candidate, but at least it pales in comparison to Gérard Depardieu’s mishap earlier this year, when he drunkenly relieved himself in front of passengers on a City Jet plane, delaying the flight’s departure by two hours. Although I suppose watching a celebrity pee is a bit more exciting than watching one play imitation Scrabble on his iPhone.

American Airlines Pulls Out of Orbitz

Like most people, I go to internet-based travel reservation sites like Orbitz to determine what airlines offer cheaper flights/better routes, then go directly to the respective airline to book my ticket. Although most airline travel agencies are no longer charging fees, it’s just easier to deal with fewer parties. But now that American Airlines pulled from Orbitz, all airlines are no longer consolidated on their one platform. Bummer.

Yes, last week, American Airlines removed all its routes from Orbitz. The airline feels that travelers should directly book with their website in order to save money and have a more tailored experience. Expedia called this “anti-consumer” and moved American’s results on the display screen far to the right. However, when I made a quick search, American was nowhere to be found.

Orbitz, Expedia, Travelocity and others are on the edge of their seats, as American’s move may inspire copycats.

Prepare yourself, travelers, for a potential change in the way you book your tickets.

Mile-High Happy Hour Starts Today

In a terrible twist of irony, American Airlines, otherwise known as AA, today introduced “5@5,” where in-flight cocktails are a mere five bucks between the hours of 5 and 6pm. It’s not much of a discount, as the window for high-altitude binging is only an hour long, and your tab will only be a few dollars lighter after you’ve put back a few of those tiny Merlot bottles (cocktails are usually $7 and beer $6), but it’s nice to know American is actually giving back instead of adding more fees. Sorry to get your hopes up, AAers.

Apparently it’s the airline’s way of saying “thank you” for flying with them. This deal is great for those who get the in-flight jitters and can’t justify NYC prices for mediocre cocktails. I personally drop a Xanax for flights more than five hours, not because I get anxious but so I can zone out fast, indicating to those around me that I’m not interested in hearing about their lives.

Chatty fliers, however, might now get extra social with the whole idea of “happy hour.” In fact, I think 5@5 encourages a sense of community in the air, if only to shit-talk the airline they are flying. Now that would actually make me pass on the Xanax.

Department of Transportation Votes Delta as the Worst. Airline. Ever.

Domestic airlines are inarguably the worst in the world. We all have our horror stories, whether it’s lost baggage or customer service. American Airlines had to deal with lawsuits for not waiving a nominal fee while United lost a shitload of customers when their pilots arrived at Heathrow drunk. In any case, we can argue for days on end about which airline is the worst of all, but thankfully, we don’t have to. The Department of transportation has already mapped it out for us with its Air Travel Consumer Report. So, in the generally friendly skies, who are the biggest dicks?

Based on factors like on-time arrivals, mishandled baggage, passenger bumping, and overall customer satisfaction, the Air Travel Consumer Report tallied all the graphs and statistics to produce a detailed report. We love US News & World Report for putting this into a slideshow, with airlines ranked best to worst. Delta scored the lowest with the most delays and passenger complaints, followed by United, Alaska, and American. Oh man. If only Northwest had this report before they went ahead and did this.

Airfare Forecast Is Looking Pretty Grim

After almost a year of never-before-seen airfare deals ($50 to round-trip to Miami, anyone?), the airline industry is actually doing just fine, thank you very much. It looks like charging passengers for checked baggage, blankets, exit-row seats—and anything else they could squeeze out of us—actually worked. Air travel is out of the weeds. “Good times are finally back for the nation’s airlines,” the AP reports. So what’s the bad news? “For travelers, that means it’s getting hard to find bargains.” Right.

Remember those fare sales when the airlines were struggling to fill seats? Those seats are now in demand, so deals are less common.

The six biggest U.S. airlines earned about $1.3 billion in the second quarter, and more profits are expected for the rest of the year. Furthermore, carriers took home $13.5 billion from fees in 2009 (well, deduct $5 million for American Airlines, thanks to the passenger who sued them for losing her luggage).

Not only are fares going to spring a little higher, but airlines aren’t going to budge with the tacked-on fees that were actually once part of the fare. For instance, Spirit Airlines is charging $45 for some carry-on bags, a new fee that became effective yesterday. Choose your carrier carefully.

American Airlines’ $5 Million Baggage Fee

A Washington woman has filed a $5 million class action law suit against American Airlines for losing her luggage. Danielle Covarrubias was flying from Seattle to Washington last May when the airline lost her luggage, a single bag with about $800 worth of possessions. She waited for the next flight with no luck. She then went and spent $300 on new toiletries and clothing while she waited for the bag. After 24 hours, she checked back in with the airline. She asked for her $25 baggage fee to be refunded, but the airline reportedly refused. “In her last conversation with American Airlines…she was told nothing could be done,” the lawsuit says. If only they’d just given her the 25 bucks.

American Airlines says, “We already do allow customers to include a checked bag charge refund request in their baggage claim if they file one for other damages and the claim is accepted for full or partial payment.” It’s unclear filed if she such a claim, and either way, that sounds complicated.

What is clear is that American Airlines loses a ton of luggage. 2,400 pieces are lost or delayed each day. Last year, 299,257 bags were reported “mishandled” by the airline, making it the second worst in the industry. (Southwest is number one!) American began charging for checked bags in 2008, at a cost of $25 for the first and $35 for the second.

Covarrubias’s lawyers say the fee represents a “clear and unambiguous agreement with passengers to handle bags with care, and deliver them to their destination in a timely fashion.” An agreement that in her case, and many others, was broken. While $5 million sounds like an outrageous sum, any winnings would be divided up among all customers who have suffered since it’s a class action lawsuit. In fact, you’d actually need nearly $7.5 million to refund the 299,257 who had their bags mishandled last year. An American Airlines spokesperson offered no comment and said the lawsuit was being reviewed.

American Airlines Flight Attendant Saves The Day

In a recent consumer report, Southwest flight attendants were ranked the friendliest in the skies, but we cast our vote for Patti DeLuna, an American Airlines flight attendant who helped land a plane carrying 225 passengers and 7 crew members on Monday after the first officer fell ill.

Flying from San Francisco to Chicago, the first officer on AA flight 1612 was stricken with a violent stomach flu and had to leave the cockpit. Flying solo, Captain Jim Hunter solicited help from any passengers with a pilot’s license. DeLuna, who got her commercial pilot’s license in 1970, stepped forward. “I was the best available [backup pilot] they had on the plane,” DeLuna told the Tribune. “I spent a lot of time in the cockpit looking at the flight deck and asking questions. My first question to the captain was, ‘Where are the brakes?'”

An American Airlines spokesperson said “one pilot is fully capable of flying a 767,” but admitted that there are a ton of important buttons and “plenty of work for two pilots.” Furthermore, the plane was flying into O’Hare, which is a total clusterfuck.

DeLuna has worked as a flight attendant for 32 years, 14 with American Airlines. She looks like a lot of fun. Jaunted has dug up what they think is her Facebook page, and it appears she’s into martial arts, cute hats, dancing, and rock and roll. Maybe she should star in a better version of the not-so-hot flight attendant reality show, Fly Girls.

American Airlines Puts the Broke in American

It’s been a big week for nickeling and diming for American Airlines. Earlier in the week, they said they’d start charging $8 for a pillow and blanket in coach on domestic flights and a few international ones. Now, just a few days later, they’ve come up with yet another new charge!

The airline announced yesterday that standby passengers will have to pay an extra $50 starting on February 22. Elite frequent fliers, those in first or business class, and military personnel won’t have to pay the extra cash, but normal folks slumming it in coach will. The airline said the new fee was in part to eliminate the massive number of people trying to hop on flights standyby–in some cases, over 100–but also admitted “there is probably some revenue involved here.” The airline could certainly use it. Last year, its parent company lost $1.47 billion dollars, or, what’s now the cost of 183,750,000 blanket and pillow sets.