December 01, 2002
Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio December 2002 Current Issue
December 2002 On TravelPLANNER'S PORTFOLIO:

On Travel

By Sarah J.F. Braley


Tests find taps teeming with contaminants&Who really turns off cell phones in flight?

Don’t drink the water. The Wall Street Journal published a study on Nov. 1 by two reporters who gathered vials of bathroom and galley tap water from 14 flights. Analysis of the samples turned up salmonella, staphylococcus, insect eggs and other frightening ingredients. Contamination levels were typically tens, even hundreds, of times above U.S. government limits, the article claimed.

The reporters flew both short and long trips, including a Boston-to-LaGuardia flight on US Airways, a Los Angeles-to-Sydney trip on United and from Chicago to Mexico City on Mexicana Airlines. Some airline spokespeople refuted the findings, saying contaminants might have been left by other passengers. The Journal stood by its report.

Even more intimidating: Most carriers typically offer bottled water during beverage service, but if it runs out, pitchers are filled from the tap, the Journal found.

The lesson: Pack your own water, and use it to brush your teeth, if necessary. Also, consider carrying a waterless, hand-sanitizing lotion like Purell, sold in supermarkets.

Passengers weigh in. A survey released in October by Fodor’s Travel, a top publisher of travel guides, took the temperature of airline passengers on the subjects of new airline fees and onboard cell-phone use. A resounding 61 percent of 1,200 respondents said ticket-change fees top the list of bothersome charges.

Other findings:

• Twelve percent (more women than men) are disturbed by fees levied on overweight passengers
• Nine percent resent paying for extra baggage. Notably, more men than women are bothered by this fee.
• A tolerant 15 percent of the respondents are accepting of all the add-on charges.

The majority of those surveyed follow the rules when it comes to cell phones, with 68 percent saying they do not turn their mobile phones on until they are in the terminal or unless they need to make an urgent call.


• Of the 32 percent who occasionally break the rules, twice as many men as women never turn off their phones on the plane. When the flight attendant announces that it’s time to shut off all electronic devices, 8 percent of men and 3 percent of women disobey.
• Of those who do shut down in flight, 16 percent of men turn their phones back on the moment the plane touches down, compared with 8 percent of women.

A recent incident suggests that for rule-breakers, the consequences can be dire. On Nov. 8, a passenger on an AirTran flight from Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport to New York’s LaGuardia refused to turn off his cell phone when instructed to do so. He continued on with his conversation, and when a flight attendant repeatedly asked him to turn the phone off, he reportedly became verbally abusive. The plane, which was still on the ground, returned to the gate, and the talkative flyer was arrested.

Another survey says&The J.D. Power and Associates report on passenger satisfaction at 46 major airports worldwide found that 74 percent of travelers are happy with the on-time performance of flights, up from 66 percent in 2001. But flyers are not so pleased with the process of going through security. Just 32 percent of the 10,250 people surveyed in August and September are satisfied with airport security, compared with 39 percent before Sept. 11, 2001.

The study also ranked overall passenger satisfaction with major airports. The top five large airports (serving more than 30 million passengers a year) are, in descending order, Chek Lap Kok in Hong Kong, McCarran in Las Vegas, Schiphol in Amsterdam, Phoenix Sky Harbor and Minneapolis-St. Paul.

Flyers’ favorite midsize airports (serving 10 million to 30 million passengers a year) are Singapore Changi; Tampa, Fla.; Orlando; Pittsburgh; and Portland, Ore.

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