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Help! Where is the Safest Seat on an Airplane?

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My son is flying from Los Angeles to New York City for Thanksgiving. I got him a ticket on Delta Air Lines because they’re blocking out the middle seats. That said, the seating configuration of the plane is a 2-3-2. I’ve heard that window seats are safest, but there’s always a risk that someone will sit next to him. What do you recommend?

Deciding where to sit on a plane has always been an exercise in strategy and skill: how to get the most legroom, the best shut-eye, the quickest exit. The stakes certainly feel higher now.

Before we start, some numbers to put your mind at ease: In its third quarter, Delta’s passenger load factor — the percentage of available seats that are filled — fell from 88 percent last year to 41 percent this year, according to the airline’s latest investor report, meaning there are plenty of not-full flights. New data also suggests that when everyone is wearing a mask and other protocols are met, planes — with their high-efficiency, virus-zapping air filters — are less risky than grocery stores. But I’ll leave the specifics of viral dispersal to the scientists and try to outline some of the things your son can do to avoid sharing an armrest with a stranger.

Before the pandemic, the Boeing 767 aircraft that your son is scheduled to fly on would have accommodated 165 passengers in economy class. Delta currently has a 70 percent capacity limit in several cabins, including economy class, bringing the passenger maximum to about 115. Even on a flight where economy class is 70 percent, about 50 seats are guaranteed to be empty.

My original plan was to take the number 115, geek out with the seat map on Delta.com and figure out the likelihood of your son sitting alone when the plane fills to 70 percent. That, I learned, is a huge waste of time.

Delta, unlike many of its peers, will continue blocking middle seats through at least Jan. 6 in an effort to separate smaller parties of one or two. Parties of three or more can book adjacent — including middle — seats. On aircraft that have sections without middle seats — say, the 2-3-2 configuration of economy class on a 767 — other seats will be blocked as tickets are purchased and seats are selected. The more people who sit together, the higher the likelihood that your son can sit alone when the plane is 70 percent full, but there’s no way of predicting how many people will be flying individually, in pairs or in groups.

There still are ways to be proactive; for instance, your son can use the Fly Delta app to change seats until about an hour before boarding. Just as one might refresh fantasy football scores or election results, your son can be “that guy” at the gate, hunched over the seat map. He can also continue to make changes with the gate agent and (unofficially, perhaps) onboard.

Additionally, said a Delta spokeswoman in an emailed statement, “if customers are uncomfortable with where they’re sitting, they can be rebooked to another flight without a change fee or fare difference.”

I asked Sandra Albrecht, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health and the chief epidemiologist behind “Dear Pandemic,” a scientific communication effort on social media, if she would cancel her flight if someone sat next to her.

“Absolutely not,” she said. “As with everything with Covid-related, the risk spectrum is a sliding scale. You can think of seating as something you’d be able to slide up a notch and down a notch, but there are other things you could slide, like, 10 points up or 10 points down.”

Risk tolerance and health vary, of course, so let’s return to your question about window seats. If the goal is to sit as far from strangers as possible, your hunch is theoretically correct.

“If you’re in the window seat and the aisle seat wasn’t occupied, the nearest passenger would be in the middle section or on the other side of the plane,” said Arnold Barnett, an M.I.T. Sloan School of Management statistics professor who has studied the effects of keeping middle seats open on the likelihood of getting sick. “That’s already a distance of several feet. If everyone’s wearing masks, that’s a good situation.”

Even then, it’s not open-and-shut. Say you have selected the perfect window seat and boom: A shrieking baby sends an annoyed passenger scrambling for calmer pastures — next to your son. Or a seat doesn’t recline, causing its occupant to move. Or the plane is 70 percent full and the math works out that a handful of solo travelers have to sit together.

If you’re someone who can’t tolerate that kind of uncertainty, sit on the aisle in the center section — the aisle will be on one side and an empty middle seat will be on the other.

“The benefit is that you don’t have anyone sitting next to you, so you’re farther away from other people for a consistent period of time,” Dr. Albrecht said. “But you do have a variety of people in the aisle, so you’ll probably have briefer interactions with a lot of different people.”

Luckily, Dr. Barnett said, when someone does brush by (say, on their way to the bathroom), “it’s such a short time that you’re in proximity and you’re wearing masks.”

We can only predict and control so much, so experts recommend focusing on exactly that: what we can predict and control.

“We shouldn’t let the seat-assignment question distract us from thinking through how we can stay safe throughout the rest of the travel process,” Dr. Albrecht said.

That means leaving your mask on, eating at home or in the airport, and waiting until the rush has subsided to deplane. It also means keeping some perspective: We’re in a pandemic that has ravaged air travel — on Nov. 1, the number of people passing through T.S.A. checkpoints clocked in at around 38 percent of last year’s figure, according to the agency’s ongoing tally. Even holiday travel is expected to be down; airports may be busy around Thanksgiving, but the numbers are almost certain to be a fraction of what they normally are.

And because your son is flying the week before — a particularly smart move any year, but especially now, when crowds bring safety concerns — he’s likely to end up with lots of elbow room. As I suspected, the seat map confirms: There is still a sea of open window seats.

Sarah Firshein is a Brooklyn-based writer. If you need advice about a best-laid travel plan that went awry, send an email to travel@nytimes.com.


By: Sarah Firshein
Title: Help! Where is the Safest Seat on an Airplane?
Sourced From: www.nytimes.com/2020/11/11/travel/holiday-travel-airplanes-virus.html
Published Date: Wed, 11 Nov 2020 10:00:21 +0000

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What could you order from Ansett Airlines’ inflight bar in the early 1970s?

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People have always liked to drink on board flights, especially people from Australia. Therefore, it should be no surprise to anyone that there was an inflight bar offering in the 1970s.

Ansett Airlines were a major player in the Australian domestic market up until their demise in September 2001. For many years, there were two domestic airlines, Trans-Australia Airlines (TAA) and Ansett.

Ansett’s Inflight Bar

At the time, Ansett operated Boeing 727s, Douglas DC-9s and Fokker F27 Friendships on domestic routes in the country. Airline tickets were quite expensive, with tariffs agreed upon by both airlines thanks to Australia’s weird two-airline policy at the time.

While tickets were expensive and food complimentary, you still had to pay for a drink at the bar. Here is an inflight bar menu from the era, showing the drinks available and their prices.

Clearly the pricing is astounding by today’s standards – 30 cents for a beer? I’ll have thirty-three please! I like how Australian gin is 35c while the imported gin is just 5c more. Which would you choose?

You can tell it is from another era as you can buy cigarettes on board. These price up at 45c, a far cry from the extortionate prices people in the west pay these days for a smoke!

Overall Thoughts

The on board offering is pretty comprehensive for internal flights, and I imagine you’d be hard pressed not to find something you might like. In those times, all payments would have been by cash as well, which would have meant a lot of coinage being handled on board.

Of course, things haven’t changed too much over the years. On many airlines you pay for your drinks just as they did back in the 1970s. Shame the prices aren’t the same of course!

Did you ever buy drinks on board flights from the inflight bar back in the day? Do you still? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

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Featured image by Daniel Tanner on Airliners.net via Wikimedia Commons.
Menu image by Ikara on Australian Frequent Flyer.

By: The Flight Detective
Title: What could you order from Ansett Airlines’ inflight bar in the early 1970s?
Sourced From: travelupdate.com/ansett-airlines-inflight-bar-menu/
Published Date: Thu, 19 Nov 2020 15:03:14 +0000

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These Shrimp Leave the Safety of Water and Walk on Land. But Why?

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The shrimp stop swimming at dusk and gather near the river’s edge. After sunset, they begin to climb out of the water. Then they march. All night long, the inch-long crustaceans parade along the rocks.

The parading shrimp of northeastern Thailand have inspired legends, dances and even a statue. (Locals also eat them.) During the rainy season, between late August and early October, tourists crowd the riverbanks with flashlights to watch the shrimp walk.

Watcharapong Hongjamrassilp first learned about the parading shrimp, and the hundred thousand or more tourists who come each year to see them, about 20 years ago. When he started studying biology, he returned to the topic. “I realized that we know nothing about this,” he said: What species are they? Why and how do they leave the safety of the water to walk upstream on dry land? Where are they going?

Mr. Hongjamrassilp, a graduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles, decided to answer those questions himself. His findings appeared this month in the Journal of Zoology.

Working with wildlife center staff members, Mr. Hongjamrassilp staked out nine sites along a river in Thailand’s Ubon Ratchathani province. They found shrimp parading at two of the sites — a stretch of rapids, and a low dam.

The videos they recorded revealed that the shrimp paraded from sundown to sunup. They traveled up to 65 feet upstream. Some individual shrimp stayed out of the water for 10 minutes or more.

“I was so surprised,” Mr. Hongjamrassilp said, “because I never thought that a shrimp can walk that long.” Staying in the river’s splash zone may help them keep their gills wet, so they can keep taking in oxygen. He also observed that the shells of the shrimp seem to trap a little water around their gills, like a reverse dive helmet.

DNA analysis from captured shrimp showed that nearly all belonged to the species Macrobrachium dienbienphuense, part of a genus of shrimp that live mostly or fully in freshwater. Many Macrobrachiumspecies spend part of their lives migrating upstream to their preferred habitats.

Most parading shrimp that Mr. Hongjamrassilp captured were young. Observations and lab experiments showed that these shrimp probably leave the water when the flow becomes too strong for them. Larger adult shrimp can handle a stronger current without washing away, so they’re less likely to leave the water.

Walking on land is dangerous for the little shrimp, even under cover of darkness. Predators including frogs, snakes and large spiders lurk nearby, Mr. Hongjamrassilp says. “Literally, they wait to eat them along the river.”

And the shrimp can survive on land for only so long. If the parading crustaceans lose their way, they may dry out and die before they get back to the river. A few times, Mr. Hongjamrassilp came across groups of lost shrimp dead on the rocks, their once-translucent bodies baked pink.

Yet most navigate upstream successfully, and scientists have spotted other freshwater shrimp around the world performing similar feats, scaling dams and even climbing waterfalls.

Leaving the water when the swimming gets tough may have helped these animals spread to new habitats over their evolutionary history, Mr. Hongjamrassilp said. Today, the number of parading shrimp in Thailand seems to be declining. He thinks tourist activity may be a factor, and learning more about the shrimp might help protect them.

The study’s authors made “some really excellent observations,” said Alan Covich, an ecologist at the University of Georgia who was not involved in the research. But understanding why the Ubon Ratchathani shrimp move upstream, and how far they travel, will require more research, he said.

“The most surprising thing to me was that it attracted so many tourists,” Dr. Covich said. He doesn’t know of any other example of people gathering to appreciate a crustacean in quite the same way.

“We have crayfish festivals, we have all kinds of things,” Dr. Covich said, “but generally it’s people eating them, not watching them move.”

By: Elizabeth Preston
Title: These Shrimp Leave the Safety of Water and Walk on Land. But Why?
Sourced From: www.nytimes.com/2020/11/18/science/shrimp-parade-thailand.html
Published Date: Wed, 18 Nov 2020 17:02:07 +0000

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Will Aer Lingus launch transatlantic flights from Manchester?

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There are reports that Aer Lingus have applied for 1,500 slots at Manchester Airport for the Summer 2021 season. This will allow the airline to base four aircraft there and service flights to the United States.

At present, there have been no press releases from the airline stating what is going on. Even so, it probably makes sense for the Irish airline to do this in the current market.

Aer Lingus And Manchester

From what is known, there will be three Airbus A321LRs and an A330 based at Manchester. These will operate non-stop services to New York JFK, Boston, Chicago and Orlando, and the season starts on 28 March 2021.

With Thomas Cook having gone out of business, there is likely space for another competitor. New York and Orlando will see competition from Virgin Atlantic, while the other two routes have no airline flying at the moment.

Aer Lingus has been connecting passengers over Dublin very successfully from the UK regions for a while now. Due to this, they will have visibility on traffic patterns, potential yields and more, making this an informed decision.

I imagine they also hope to cream off some of the connecting traffic that routes through London Heathrow on British Airways and Amsterdam on KLM among others. It would prove to be quite successful.

Transatlantic Joint Venture Approval

The US Department of Transport has tentatively given its approval for Aer Lingus to join the oneworld transatlantic joint business. This is operated by American Airlines, British Airways, Iberia and Finnair.

These airlines coordinate schedules and pricing, share revenues and expenses. For the consumer, it means more choice – those making a booking on British Airways across the Atlantic will also see options on American Airlines on the BA web site as one example.



Theoretically, it would allow people seeking flights on the British Airways web site to automatically be given options to fly non-stop with Aer Lingus, along with the Manchester-London Heathrow-US city connecting itinerary.

Whether Aer Lingus will join the oneworld alliance, even in a oneworld connect capacity remains to be seen. Frequent flyers would welcome it, especially those in Ireland.

Overall Thoughts

No doubt the boffins have been working behind the scenes to see if the business case for transatlantic flights from Manchester stack up. As things have proceeded as far as a slot application, I would guess chances are good that it will go ahead.

Either way, let’s see if this happens and if it does, whether Aer Lingus will stay for the long haul. If they can make more money elsewhere, they’ll up sticks and leave. Regardless, it is an interesting development in European aviation.

What do you think of Aer Lingus starting transatlantic services from Manchester? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

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Featured image by N509FZ via Wikimedia Commons.
Aer Lingus A321neo LR by Pitmanaaron via Wikimedia Commons.
Business class cabin via One Mile At A Time.

By: The Flight Detective
Title: Will Aer Lingus launch transatlantic flights from Manchester?
Sourced From: travelupdate.com/aer-lingus-manchester/
Published Date: Wed, 18 Nov 2020 18:03:48 +0000

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