Stories by Jason Rabinowitz

CORRESPONDENT - NEW YORK, NY. Jason is an #AvGeek that does passenger experience research, data analysis, and writes things about airlines, airplanes and travel. He is also proud owner of #TravelCat. Email:
Inside the United NOC - Photo: Jason Rabinowitz

Your typical airline headquarters and operations center is somewhere near a major hub airport, usually in some nondescript building with views that don’t really inspire much of anything. United, however, couldn’t be any further from the norm. Inside Chicago’s Willis Tower, once the tallest building in the world, the once largest airline in the world is managed by motivated individuals around the clock.

I have been to a few airline operation centers in the past, but never the control center of an airline quite as massive as United. Hundreds of people, across an entire floor of the Willis Tower, are dedicated to keeping United and United Express moving efficiently and safely, a task that is far from easy.

The British Airways A318 cabin only has 32 seats - Photo: Jason Rabinowitz

When it comes to long-haul flying, typically the bigger the aircraft the better. Whether it’s the Boeing 747 or Airbus A380, these are the aircraft typically associated with extreme luxury – private suites, on-board showers, and maybe even a fully stocked bar. Sometimes, though, smaller might actually be better. British Airways operates a pair of tiny Airbus A318s between New York JFK and London City Airport (LCY) with a business class only configuration with only 32 seats (by comparison, Air France carries 131 passengers on their A318s). It sure is a strange (but great) way to fly. To give you a sense of just how small the A318 is, here are some numbers to help size it up: The Airbus A380 sports a total length of 238 feet with a 261 foot wingspan. The A318 is just 103 feet long with a wingspan of just under 112 feet.

I was recently able to fly from JFK to LCY and experience what it’s like flying into London on the A318. Spoiler: It’s wonderful and actually quite a different experience. While the London to New York flight involves a stop in Shannon, Ireland for fuel, the reverse flight is non-stop.

A Delta Air Lines Boeing 757 - Photo: Jason Rabinowitz

Every month, the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) releases a load of airline statistics ranging from on-time performance rankings to lost bag rates and simple info requests. Within the monthly data dump sits the number of complaints the DOT received about airlines for that particular month. You’ve probably seen the new headlines like “airline complaints spike in 2014,” or something like that. That data comes from the DOT releases.

Buried in a recent release, I noticed that the DOT also reported airline compliments in addition to complaints. While complaints sometimes tally over 2,000 per month (2,205 in August 2015), the number of compliments ranges anywhere from none at all to maybe one or two. In the August 2015 release, a whopping three airline compliments were received, and I couldn’t help but wonder what they said. I simply had to know more.