Thursday, July 31, 2008

What is a sandwich and other questions.

Some time back - about 50 years more or less - there was a controversy in the airline industry over the definition of a sandwich. Coach class flights did not serve complete meals. They served sandwiches. Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) came under attack for serving gorgeous, artfully arranged and delicious open faced sandwiches on their coach flights. I know. I flew SAS on vacation to Europe in 1959 and was treated to these gourmet creations. When other competing airlines protested that they weren't playing fair, SAS responded, "We are only serving sandwiches, after all."

You see in those days of government regulated airlines, they competed for passengers by trying to outdo one another with great passenger service. What a concept!

I am reminded of this because of another controversy playing out in the current Northwest - Delta saga. Definition is again a key word. What defines "corporate headquarters?"

It seems that loan covenenants between NWA and the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) require that NWA retain its headquarters and hub in the Twin Cities and maintain certain employment levels in Minnesota. In response to reports that corporate headquarters of the merged airline would be located in Atlanta, the MAC has lots of questions. Chairman Jack Lanners says that the MAC holds "leverage points" over Delta and Northwest, and it could require a merged Delta to immediately pay off $230 million in bond debt when Northwest's Eagan headquarters closes. Under the agreement, NWA has until 2022 to pay off the debt. Northwest CEO Doug Steenland and Delta CEO Richard Anderson claim that the vast majority of Minnesota jobs would be preserved after a merger. Anderson testified before the Senate Commerce Committee that Delta would keep pilot and flight attendant bases in the Twin Cities, reservations centers in Chisholm and the Twin Cities, a cargo facility at Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport, a pilot training facility, a data center in Eagan and other front-line workers needed to operate the hub.

Do those combined operations constitute corporate headquarters? Or do the offices of executive leadership constitute corporate headquarters? What constitutes a hub?

In May, NWA CEO Steenland said that the merged airline would be prepared to pay off the MAC bonds, but that executives want to renegotiate the terms of the loan with the MAC. Stay tuned. This could get interesting.

As for me, I'm thinking about those tasty open faced sandwiches I enjoyed on SAS. Which raises another question . . . is a regular sandwich a closed face sandwich? Just wondering.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Overheard on an airliner somewhere in the USA . . .

Boarding passenger: "I just got stung by a bee outside the airport and it hurts like heck. Do you have some ice I could put on it?"

Pilot, standing next to cabin attendant at the door: "That'll be one dollar."

Cabin attendant: "Sure. I'll get it for you."

Passenger: "Could you put the ice cube in a plastic bag?"

Pilot: "That'll be $3.00."

The pilot was only kidding about the charges, of course. But this incident really did happen and heaven only knows we're getting nickled and dimed with extra charges by our airlines. The whole air transport system is a mess. The Federal Aviation Administration . . . the airports . . . and the airlines.

It kind of reminds me of "Black Friday" at the Oshkosh air show back in the 70's. For the week of the annual airshow, the tower at Oshkosh is the busiest airport tower in the world. And the mix of aircraft is astounding: single wing, bi-wing, wierd looking experimental home builts, airliners, WWII bombers and fighters, jets and on one occasion a supersonic jet when the Concorde came calling. The tower staff is beefed up with visiting air traffic controllers from all over the U.S. In those days pilots were asked to identify themselves by color and aircraft design only; yellow Piper cub or blue Bonanza, rather than by their identifying numbers. No time for numbers. (Don't know if that is still true today.) They entered the landing pattern at the gravel pit not far from the landing strip. There was a loudspeaker by the runway broadcasting the tower chatter to fascinated air show attendees.

On "Black Friday" it was one of the controllers whose number was up. He was rattling off instructions to his beehive of airplanes circling overhead, his voice rising with each directive, when out of the blue he cried, "Okay - that 's it! Everybody back to the gravel pit!"

There was a long silence. A very calm and reassuring different voice came over the radio and somehow managed to sort out the disaster with no serious repercussions. For years they sold audio tapes of "Black Friday at Oshkosh."

Maybe we need a calm and reassuring different voice to sort out the current air transport system in the U.S. of A? Believe me, I have no idea who or what that is. It just occurs to me that the trouble started when the airlines were deregulated, which put incredible pressure on airports, airways and airlines to accomodate more, more, and more flights. Maybe we should be thinking about regulating our air transport system again? I don't know. Just musing. Your thoughts?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

It wasn't even Friday the 13th!

Wierd doings on planet earth yesterday:

In Milwaukee Keith Walendowski, 56, was charged with felony possession of a short-barreled shotgun or rifle and misdemeanor or disorderly conduct while armed. It seems Mr. Walendowski became angry when his lawn mower wouldn't start Wednesday morning and shot the Lawn Boy dead. "I can do that, it's my lawn mower and my yard so I can shoot it if I want," he said.

In Dayton, Ohio, 21 year old minor league pitcher Julio Castillo was arraigned Friday on a felonious assault charge. Mr. Castillo was ordered held on $50,000 bond for throwing a "very wild" pitch into the stands and injuring a spectator when a brawl erupted during a game between the Class A Dayton Dragons and the Peoria Chiefs, Castillo's team. The fan was treated at a hospital and released. Umpires ejected 15 team members and both managers following the 10-minute brawl. Mr. Castillo is cooling his heels in the Montgomery County jail.

And in the friendly skies . . .

An explosive bang shook a Quantas jumbo jet cruising at 29,000 feet with 346 people aboard on Friday. The Boeing 747-400 was enroute from London to Melbourne when one of the panels of the outer skin of the aircraft came away, causing an "explosive decompression" according to pilot John Francis Bartels. The passengers had just been served a meal after a stop-over in Hong Kong when they described hearing a loud bang, then their ears popping as air rushed out the opening. Oxygen masks deployed and the pilot put the plane into a quick descent to 10,000 feet, where the atmosphere is still thin but breathable. The flight was diverted to Manilla where passengers and crew alike were amazed to see the 9-foot-wide hole in the airplane just forward of the starboard wing. "It dawned on alot of people that this was a major incident," passenger Phil Restall of Chippenham, England, told the BBC. "There was no screaming. It wasn't your typical television movie." An intrepid lot indeed, the passengers were put up in Manilla hotels and then left before midnight on another plane to Melbourne.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I'm Feeling the Pain . . .

Ouch! I just booked my annual flight to Maine for a week of R&R at Moody Beach in October. The cost was more than double what it was last year, and of course that doesn't include any of the EXTRA FEES that we know about and also those we don't yet know about, but I'm sure are coming! I can't wait to find out how much the rental car will be, especially the "gassed up return" feature. Its a very good thing I'm not a lobster lover, as that Maine treat would surely not fit my busted budget, if there are any lobsters left for Maine fishermen to catch, that is. No, I won't go there. That's a whole other issue that only Al Gore has the answer to.

C'mon, old girl, buck up!

I think we all could use a little levity. Last week an American Airlines flight out of Boston bound for L.A. hit a little unforseen turbulence. The turbulence was created inside the aircraft as a passenger ran buck naked down the center aisle, laughing merrily. Another passenger alerted the flight attendant, who put a blanket over the streaker while they talked him into going into the lavatory and putting his clothes back on. He emerged fully clothed, contrite and embarrassed and returned to his seat. They thought that was the end of it. A little later he appeared again, this time lurching rapidly toward the main cabin door. The same intrepid passenger grabbed him and hurled him away from the door, not knowing that it was not operable in flight and there was no danger of it opening. The flight was diverted to Oklahoma City to deplane the male stripper and then resumed its flight to L.A. Clearly the poor fellow was disturbed. Hope he is getting some help in Oklahoma City.

Brief notes on the merger er, acquisition, oh heck its really a takeover! Lets call 'em as we sees 'em. We're talking here about THE BIGGEST AIRLINE IN THE WORLD, when Delta swallows up Northwest.
  • Top management has been named for the 'new' airline, supposedly split between Delta and Northwest veterans.
  • The pilots from both airlines expect to have a blended seniority list by November 20.

They say it will be a done deal by the end of the year. Some say Thanksgiving. That's somehow fitting . . .gobbled up by Thanksgiving!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Organic Stratocruiser

Or should that read organitized? Organistic? Organequipped? My spell checker is going crazy. I’d better settle on organic. Anyway, Northwest scored a public relations coup in the fall of 1959 when it installed a Heritage model Lowrey organ furnished by the Northwest Organ Co., Minneapolis in Stratocruiser 709.

Always up to a challenge, the NWA airframe engineering group figured out how to install it. Cliff Northfield was the project engineer. As with most things screwball happening in airplanes, the Federal Aviation Administration wanted to know all about it. Plans and drawings went to the regional office in Kansas City. Back came suggestions.

Felix Perry, retired NWA Chief Airframe Engineer, recalls that two passenger seats were removed just forward of the main cabin door. The electric organ was mounted on, and bolted to, a ¾” thick common plywood panel which was secured to the floor at the seat attachment locations. Braces and cables had to be affixed to keep the one hundred pound instrument in place when the plane took off, or when the propellers reversed, braking the ship to a stop on landing. A special organ bench had to be built. An electric converter was installed to supply 115 volt current, needed to operate the organ, from the Stratocruiser’s 28 volt system. The organ music flowed through the ship’s six public address system loudspeakers, which were modified from 5 inches to 8 inches in size. After installation and with all systems operating, a check was made to be sure the sound and vibrations from the organ music didn’t disrupt pilot radio communications or instruments. Details!

Then wouldn’t you know the Fed’s in Kansas City came up with a few more things that needed to be done:
  1. A placard had to be fastened to the organ bench reading: NOT TO BE OCCUPIED DURING TAKEOFF OR LANDING.

  2. The corners of the organ case had to be padded.
  3. The organist had to have a regular seat in which to ride when he or she was not playing during those takeoffs and landings, or during any possible rough weather.

  4. The inside of the organ case had to be strengthened and braced.

Six professional organists from the Minneapolis-St. Paul area; C.R. ‘Swaney’ Swanson, president and owner of the Northwest Organ Co., C. R. Swanson, Jr., Leonard Leigh, KSTP radio and television, Roger Sonnichsen, Heidelberg Lounge, Len Resig, Leamington hotel and Richard Clausen, Criterion restaurant took turns accompanying Ship 709 wherever it went. They played on a half-hour, 15 minute interval basis. Passengers could sit back and listen, or request their favorites. Songs requested on the first flight into New York included “Autumn Leaves,” ”Broken Down Merry Go Round,” “My Funny Valentine,” “Apple Blossom Time,” “Stardust” and “What’ll I do?” Kind of takes one back, doesn’t it?

As with all things innovative, there was an occasional glitch. Take, for instance, the flight taken by George Grim, a popular columnist for The Minneapolis Morning Tribune. He was flying from New York to Minneapolis nonstop on the plane with the electric organ - - but with no organist. Some passengers aboard knew George, and knew that he had an electric organ in his home and could play. They “grasped me by the lapels and named me official orgelspieler” he recounted in his next column. A “convivial group of passengers gathered by the organ singing lustily everything from “Jingle Bells” to “When Irish Eyes are Smiling” to “Silent Night.” We sang our way merrily home twenty thousand feet up (well, way up, anyhow.)” he wrote.

Overall passenger reaction to in-flight organ music was favorable, outside of a very few who brought up the ‘captive audience’ principle. Most said things like, “”It makes the flight more informal;” “Wonderful, Beautiful;” “I don’t care what you play. It’s nice;” “I like it very much.” And even this: “That’s one thing I’ll say about Northwest. You’re not asleep at the switch. You do more than provide transportation - - you make traveling a pleasure.” Yes. That was actually said. I have names. It almost makes me cry.

They were lustily singing in the public relations department at Northwest Airlines, too. News articles and photos of the airborne musical entertainment on Ship 709 were published in newspapers from sea to shining sea. A scrapbook of them can be viewed at the NWA History Centre in Minneapolis. For info and directions:

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Stratocruiser Web Site

Two posts from Lady Skywriter in one day? Only when there is something exceptional to share that cannot wait.

I have discovered a wonderful web site about the Boeing B-377 Stratocruiser. Check it out at I have been in touch with Ovi, based in Switzerland, to let him know how much I enjoy his web site. He has graciously offered to link to Lady Skywriter from his site and I will do the same.

Now isn't that more fun than airlines fighting with their pilots or losing money?

Maybe we should go back to propellers? Closer to wind power?

Eight senior US Airways pilots and the US Airline Pilots Association, which represents the airline's 5200 pilots, have filed complaints with the Federal Aviation Administration. It seems US Airways is pressuring their pilots to carry less fuel than they feel is safe. The union took out a full page ad in USA Today on Wednesday, July 16, 2008 accusing the airline of "a program of intimidation to pressure your captain to reduce fuel loads."

Fuel prices have all airlines scrambling to find ways to cut weight on their airplanes. A heavier airplane burns more fuel. Thus the elimination of many items from airliner interiors lately, including movie players, pillows, blankets, peanuts and magazines. The intimidation charge relates to the "punishment" the pilots received when they recently asked for "an additional 10 to 15 minutes worth of fuel." It seems all eight pilots were summarily ordered to attend training sessions, or "check rides" last Wednesday. Next they'll be sending them to anger management class. US Airways denies the check rides were punitive.

Oh dear. Something else for us beleaguered passengers to worry about. Is there enough fuel aboard? How do we know? Will they start weighing the pilots now? Then they'll really be mad as hell. Worse yet, WILL THEY START WEIGHING US?

But maintaining his positive attitude, Delta CEO Richard Anderson says that Delta's acquisition of NWA (He doesn't even pretend it is a merger anymore) will generate two billion in annual benefits by 2012, assuring that THE BIGGEST AIRLINE IN THE WORLD will lose less money than most of the others. Feel better?

I think we should turn the whole airline problem over to Al Gore.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

'B' Words: Billions, Boarding Pass, Boring & Bonsai, or is it Bonzai?

Billions I don't have a really good handle on what a billion dollars is. So when I read in today's New York Times that both Delta and American Airlines reported losses in the second quarter of 2008 of over a billion dollars I know it is A LOT. But exactly how much is A LOT, anyway?
Turning to the trusty (?) internet I find the following, attributed to an un-named advertising agency:
  • A billion is one thousand million: $ 1,000,000,000.
  • To count out one billion non-stop without sleeping or eating would take Thirty-Nine (39) years.
  • A billion (1,000,000,000) seconds ago it was 1959.
  • A billion (1,000,000,000) minutes ago Jesus was alive.
  • A billion (1,000,000,000) hours ago our ancestors were living in the Stone Age.
  • A billion dollars ago was only 8 hours and 20 minutes at the rate our government is spending it.

Boarding Pass Northwest Airlines and five other carriers have struck a deal with Sojern Inc., a new company that will sell ads on online boarding passes synced to travelers' itineraries. Delta launches the product this week. Online boarding passes for Las Vegas flights, for example, will include ads for shows, restaurants and golf courses in Las Vegas. Northwest will begin the ads in four to five months. Did you know there is a vice president of distribution and e-commerce at Northwest Airlines these days? Al Lenza, who holds this post, doesn't think the ads will be intrusive. Customers who don't want the ads can skip the offers, but those who do will be able to buy theater tickets or make restaurant reservations by clicking links before they print their passes. I thought I had covered everything new in airline advertising revenue in my post, It All 'Ads' Up, July 11, 2008. Who knew?

Boring US Airways announced last week it will start removing in-flight entertainment systems on domestic flights in November to save about $10 million a year in fuel and other costs. But you can still watch a flick on US Airways international flights and trips to Hawaii. Wait! Didn't they know you can generate revenue by selling ads on those screens? JetBlue does just that in partnership with The New York Times!

Bonsai or Bonzai? These 'B' words have nothing to do with current airline news, but they are on my mind because of a recent conversation with Felix Perry, retired Chief Airframe Engineer at NWA. And they do start with B after all. Always looking for stories about the Stratocruiser and the golden age of passenger flight in the 1950's, I put out a request at the NWA History Centre . Felix responded with a tale of how his airframe engineering group was asked to install two bonsai trees in Boeing B-377 Stratocruiser Fujiyama Room cocktail lounges. The bonsai trees were furnished by Bachman's Garden Stores, Minneapolis, and it appears they were generously donated because Felix says 'placarded credit' was part of the installation. (Precourser of todays ads on tray tables and boarding passes?) At the time, early 1950's, NWA was aggressively marketing their newly granted routes to the Orient. The lower level cocktail lounge on the Stratocruiser became The Fujiyama Room with appropriate decor, including the bonsai trees. Unfortunately no one still active at Bachman's remembers this first-hand and a search of their archives came up empty. Their corporate communications department obligingly contacted Stan Bachman (retired) who has a vague memory of the bonsai trees but no details. I have a vague memory of them too, Stan. No details. I verified the spelling of these ancient dwarf trees whose origins date back 4000 years to the Han dynesty and then I went to Bill Bryson's Dictionary for Editors and Writers, knowing he would have a concise entry and I quote: Bonsai is the Japanese art of growing dwarf shrubs; bonzai is a Japanese salute, literally "May you live 10,000 years." Bonzai!

Friday, July 11, 2008

It All 'Ads' Up

The first time I saw advertising projected on the ice surface in a pro hockey venue I was astounded. At the time most non-print advertising was relegated to billboards, TV screens, placards on the interior of public transportation and store windows; with the unlikely exceptions of banner towing, sky writing (You knew I'd have to get that in somehow) the Goodyear blimp and Howard Johnson's red roofs. These days ads cover the whole exterior of the bus or light rail car (or two) and every athletic venue is a non-stop visual and auditory advertising assault. I suppose we should have seen it coming

About the same time ads started decorating hockey rinks, they also began springing up in trendy restaurant rest rooms. And who could forget 'designer mania' when designers began plastering their names or initials on their clothes. It started with scarves and graduated to every conceivable article of clothing and persists today. Some of us wore them proudly . . . for awhile. Then we somehow acquired the sense to wonder why we should pay exhorbitant fees to be a walking ad for the designer. Meanwhile the nameless and timeless Burberry plaid survived and thrived.

And so it goes. The ad once projected on a hockey rink has moved 'upstairs' to a once impenatrable venue. US Airways is selling laminated tray table advertising. Airline ticket jackets and cocktail napkins, which used to bear reproductions of the airplanes and logo of the airline are now for sale to advertisers. Even air sickness bags are targets for ads. Who would want to advertise on a burp bag? I don't even want to go there. But a spokesman said these ancillary ads are worth about $20 Million a year to US Airways and that ain't hay as airlines search for ways to offset high fuel costs.

Many airlines hawk their signature credit cards during flight. AirTran Airways cabin attendants make a P.A. announcement and then walk up and down the aisle with applications, hoping to make a commission. JetBlue Airways has developed advertising partnerships with the likes of the New York Times to run videos on the TV's in its seatbacks. And while the cabin crew passes out samples of Dove soap (they have nothing else to do) an ad for the product appears on Ch 13, JetBlue's live flight tracker screen.

A captive audience of strapped-in passengers is an advertisers dream and a stream of revenue for cash-strapped airlines. We should have seen it coming.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Shocking News for Airline Passengers

Heard on MSNBC last evening that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in its infinite wisdom has solicited a proposal from a Canadian security company to develop an airline passenger stun bracelet. YIKES!

The idea is that all passengers would be forced to wear the electro-muscular disruption (EMD) bracelet, which is intended to incapacitate wearers on remote command. YIKES!

But wait. Who activates the stun bracelet? Crew members. Ohmygosh. Crew members these days already view us with considerable disdain. Now they will have the power of electric shock over us? YIKES!

Wondering if this could possibly be true, I found an article from Information Week by Thomas Claburn, July 8, that confirms the story. Supposedly the bracelets "will allow crew members, using radio frequency transmitters, to quickly and effectively subdue hijackers, according to Lamperd Less Lethal, the Canadian security company whose motto is "Keeping the situation under control." They try to smooth it over by explaining that the bracelet is totally inert until activated. And they cheerfully predict that the bracelet will obviate the need for a plane ticket and will help make passengers and baggage trackable while traveling. Oh good. Now our relatives and our bosses will be able to track our whereabouts like a UPS package.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Common Man Up in the Air

I have in my hand a reprint from International Air Transport Association (IATA) Bulletin No. 17. There is no date on this pamphlet but since I found it in my 52 year old NWA stewardess training notebook I think we can safely place it in the early 1950's. I went to the IATA web site hoping to find IATA Bulletin archives so I could properly date it, but no luck.

ANYWAY . . . The Common Man Up in the Air: The Psychology of Passenger Reactions in Flight was written by Howard G. Kurtz, Jr. The author was trained as a pilot and as an industrial engineer and worked as an airline official starting in 1930. He devoted almost two decades to the studies from which the opinions expressed in this article were crystallized.

From what I can tell by perusing my training notebook, this quaint little pamphlet represents the sum total of our training in coping with passenger fear and anxiety. But I'm sure we were relieved upon reading it to see that it was primarily the captains responsibility to "prevent panic."

A few excerpts:

"The fully effective captain not only provides orientation for his passengers at regular intervals while en route, but provides prompt orientation to anything unusual which occurs in flight. He knows that a loud noise or backfire can cause anxiety to generate among his passengers and he provides a prompt explanation to them. He knows that a sudden change of course or a sudden bank and turn will cause anxiety to build up until he gives them a prompt explanation of why it was necessary. He knows that sudden, unannounced bumpiness causes anxious thoughts to be projected into the passengers minds - "Is it a bad storm?" . . . "Are we all right?" . . . "How long will it last?" . . . "Is there any danger?" - until the captain gives them the reassurance of an explanation.

The captain is a symbol, a sort of "father image" in a situation where the passenger is incapable of controlling his own destiny and anxiety. This symbol-function of the captain is quite unrelated to the captain's own outer personality. The symbol-function can be carried out successfully by a captain, no matter whether he is short or tall . . . handsome or drab . . .no matter whether he exudes charm or whether he feels uncomfortable while talking to strangers . . . no matter whether the passengers ever see him or not. The captain's confidence must come through all of these.


(Whew, what a relief. I couldn't make this up, folks!)

Finally Mr. Kurtz addresses cabin crews and ground personnel and advises that they use the same "father image" in their relations with passengers rather than give their own personal estimates. Only the word of the captain contains the assurance needed to reduce anxiety to the fullest possible extent, he says, so the communication should come through to the passenger as: "Captain Knowles advises that we will be in Paris in about an hour, and that the sun is shining there." Ground personnel also will find their conversations with passengers more effective if they can truthfully begin with: "Captain Wilford has advised that he will not take off until the generator is in perfect working order."

(Whoa. What's this? The Mother Image?)

Mr. Kurtz continues: "the stewardess plays an important parallel role of "mother image" in the same calming reassurance that a mother can bring to her children when they are anxious. An example from the official instructions of at least one airline tends to illustrate that this symbolism is a communication beyond the range of words. Whenever a sudden bumpiness, loud noise or any other unusual incident occurs to arouse anxiety among passengers, this airline requires the stewardess to (1) pick up a magazine or pillow or other ordinary object; (2) walk the length of the cabin in a relaxed manner and do something of routine nature with the object; and then (3) return the length of the cabin to her original position. Not a word is spoken. The passengers relax. Everything must be all right. This symbol-function can register effectively, no matter whether the stewardess is blonde or brunette, short or tall, attractive or plain . . ."

Whew again! So one can't help but wonder what Mr. Kurtz would advise in coping with todays unique passenger problems: "My carry-on bag won't fit in the overhead bin OR under my seat!". . . "$3.00 for a lousy box lunch?" . . . "What? No pretzels?" . . . "15.00 for an aisle seat?" . . . "No magazines?" . . . "Fuel surcharge?" . . ."We're gonna be late again?" And on, and on, and on.

Mr. Kurtz would probably say the captain should handle it. Whether he be short or tall . . . handsome or drab . . . a charmer or not . . .

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Windfall at LAX - Chump Change at JFK - Arrested in Denver.

You know the pocket change you deposit in the little tray bef0re going through security at the airport? It seems that some folks don't bother to pick up their change before heading to the gate. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) collects any coins left behind and applies the proceeds towards expenses. The TSA recently reported that this neglected pocket change added up to a windfall of $90,000 last year at LAX! Is it any wonder? The glitz, the glam, the BIG pocket change left in L.A? Inexplicably, on the "other" coast, the yield at JFK for the year was only $600. Hmmmmm. No report available for MSP. I'll bet no change was left, either. You're not surprised, are you?

Well at least I never got beat up by a passenger. Last week a JetBlue flight attendant was subjected to a physical attack and racial slurs during a flight from New York to San Francisco after he removed a lighted cigarette from the mouth of an intoxicated female passenger who had refused to put it out. The flight was diverted to Denver and the woman, who said she had been drinking vodka and did not remember lighting up, was arrested. These days are fraught with peril in the cabin of a commercial airliner. Fifty years ago we not only didn't care if people smoked we gave each passenger a free sample size pack of Marlboroughs on their meal tray. It seemed to keep physical violence in check.

P.S. Please don't assume from the above that I am making light (pun intended) of the health risks to self and others of smoking in an airplane. I am the worst kind of non-smoker myself. A converted former 2 pack a day lady.