Harriet Baskas

More snaps from Incheon’s new Terminal 2

Courtesy Korean Air

I’ve got a full review of the new Terminal 2 at Seoul’s Incheon Airport up on the Today in the Sky blog at USA TODAY, but sharing some more snaps from my visit here.

The terminal officially opened on January 18 – just a few weeks before 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games- and it’s a keeper.

Four airlines will use the terminal:  South Korea’s flag carrier Korean Air, Delta Air Lines, Air France and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.

Photovoltaic panels on the roof and natural greenery inside the terminal help keep the air fresh and lower heating and ventilation costs. A fleet of robots help passengers find their way.

Photo -by Harriet Baskas

Korean music and cultural performances are offered throughout the day and two Korean Traditional Cultural Experience Centers offer passengers the opportunity to try their hands at a Korean craft.

Photo by Harriet Baskas

Beyond shopping and eating, there are activities to keep travelers entertained, including a large Kids Zone, the IT Experience Zone with VR soccer and flying (plus a coffee-making robot) and, in the transfer zone, a ‘digital gym’ that encourages jumping, stepping and other activites.

Photo by Harriet Baskas

There’s also plenty of art and an observation deck with a cafe, views of the airfield and exhibits about the airport.

Photo by Harriet Baskas

Taking turkey: Delta changing rules on service animals

No doubt you know someone, or have set next to someone, or read an outrageous story about someone who has claimed their pet dog or, in some cases, pet turkey, monkey, snake, pig, parrot or miniature pony,  is an emotional support animal that qualifies for a free, uncaged flight inside the cabin.

Sometimes it is true. There are some people whose ability to function depends on an animal. But in more and more cases, people who say they are flying with emotional support animals are simply trying to get around the airline fees for taking a pet on a plane.

Now Delta Airlines – and no doubt other airlines in a second – is saying no more. They’re changing the rules, they say, because all those fake emotional support animals have led to serious safety risks involving untrained animals in flight.

“Customers have attempted to fly with comfort turkeys, gliding possums known as sugar gliders, snakes, spiders and more,” sasys Delta, “Ignoring the true intent of existing rules governing the transport of service and support animals can be a disservice to customers who have real and documented needs.”

Delta report an 84 percent increase in animal incidents since 2016, including urination/defecation, biting and even a widely reported attack by a 70-pound dog.

“In 2017, Delta employees reported increased acts of aggression (barking, growling, lunging and biting) from service and support animals, behavior not typically seen in these animals when properly trained and working,” said Delta.

Here’s what’s changing as of March 1 on Delta. Expect other airlines to follow the herd.

In compliance with the Air Carrier Access Act, Delta provides in-cabin travel for service and support animals without charge.

The new guidelines, effective March 1, require that all customers traveling with a service or support animal show proof of health or vaccinations 48 hours in advance.

In addition to the current requirement of a letter prepared and signed by a doctor or licensed mental health professional, those with psychiatric service animals and emotional support animals will also need to provide a signed document confirming that their animal can behave to prevent untrained, sometimes aggressive household pets from traveling without a kennel in the cabin.

“The rise in serious incidents involving animals in flight leads us to believe that the lack of regulation in both health and training screening for these animals is creating unsafe conditions across U.S. air travel,” said John Laughter, Delta’s Senior Vice President — Corporate Safety, Security and Compliance in a statement. “As a leader in safety, we worked with our Advisory Board on Disability to find a solution that supports those customers with a legitimate need for these animals, while prioritizing a safe and consistent travel experience.

Delta is setting up a Service Animal Support Desk for customers traveling with service and support animals. The desk will be where customers go to  verify that the new documentation is received and confirm the customer’s reservation to travel with the animal, prior to arrival at the airport.

The carrier also made it clear that is will no longer accept exotic or unusual service or support animals, including:

  • Hedgehogs
  • Ferrets
  • Insects
  • Rodents
  • Snakes
  • Spiders
  • Sugar gliders
  • Reptiles
  • Amphibians
  • Goats
  • Non-household birds (farm poultry, waterfowl, game bird, & birds of prey)
  • Animals improperly cleaned and/or with a foul odor
  • Animals with tusks, horns or hooves.

Look for the full details of the Delta’s new regulations on service and emotional support animals here.

About time, right??

Alaska Airlines shares details of flights from Paine Field

Courtesy Propeller Airports -rendering of new airport at Paine Field

Commercial air service is set to begin at Paine Field-Snohomish County Airport in Everett, about 30 miles north of Seattle, in the fall of 2018.

A small, state-of-the-terminal is being built and both Alaska Airlines and United Airlines have said they would offer service from the airport.

In August, United said it plans to fly to both Denver and San Francisco daily from Paine Field, but Alaska has just announced the cities it plans to serve from Everett.

Starting fall 2018, Alaska announced, it will offer 13 daily nonstops from Paine Field to eight West Coast cities:  Los Angeles; Orange County, Phoenix; Portland; San Diego; San Francisco; and San Jose, California.

The number of flights for each destination is still being determined.

Flying from Paine Field is appealing to many people who live in the Puget Sound region north of Seattle in what is called the “North Sound” because it means not having to battle the Seattle traffic going south to get to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

Airlines roll out new “smart luggage” rules today

Starting today, January 15, airlines will no longer allow passengers to checkg or carry on “smart luggage” with non-removable lithium batteries.

Powered luggage began appearing on the market a few years ago and some new versions of these high-tech bags can weigh themselves, be locked remotely, report their locations, provide power for gadgets, offer rides to the gate and follow travelers around.

The extras are enticing, but industry-wide concern over lithium batteries igniting and starting fires led the International Air Transport Association to instruct its almost 300 airline members to restrict carriage of certain bags:

“Effective 15 January 2018, for IATA member airlines, baggage with removable installed Lithium batteries (“smart luggage”) must be carried as carry-on baggage or the battery must be removed. With the battery removed the bag can be checked-in. If the battery cannot be removed, the bag is forbidden for carriage.”

Citing “safety management and risk mitigation,” American Airlines was among the first to alert its customers to the impending rule change. The carrier also said the standard question it asks customers checking bags – “Have you packed any e-cigarettes or spare batteries for laptops, cellphones or cameras?” – would be altered to include smart bags.

Other airlines are changing their check-in and boarding procedures as well.

“Throughout our guests’ journey, we will remind them to remove all lithium batteries from checked luggage, or disconnect and turn off batteries being stored in the overhead bins,” said Alex Da silva, a Hawaiian Airlines spokesman, “We are also training employees on the various types of smart bags so they may assist customers.”

Some smart luggage manufacturers are scrambling to redesign their smart bag products to comply with the new airline rules. Others are making sure customers know how, and how easily, the lithium batteries can be removed from their bags. And companies who have smart bags without lithium batteries are touting that feature.

“We believed that there would come a time when lithium batteries could be seen as a safety issue. So we purposely powered our luggage with AAA batteries to avoid any of these potential future rulings,” said Emran Sheikh, President and CEO of luggage manufacturer and distributor Heys International.

Sheikh and others emphasize that it is the type of battery used in some “smart” luggage designs that is the problem, not the category of ‘smart luggage’ in general.

“The airline industry’s recent attention to safety surrounding lithium ion batteries should boost our confidence that the travel industry is monitoring current trends and updating their own best practices to reflect modern travelers’ habits and needs,” said Michele Marini Pittenger, president of the Travel Goods Association, Consumers can expect to see luggage manufacturers respond accordingly and release new iterations of smart luggage featuring even safer power sources.”

(My story on new smart luggage rules first appeared on CNBC in a slightly different form.)