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Column: News nuggets flying below the radar

Monday it was a $7 pillow-and-blanket charge on JetBlue. On Tuesday, Delta revealed plans to equip its entire domestic fleet with wireless Internet service by next summer.

Changes in the shaky airline business arrive in torrents these days, so fast they're easy to miss. Here are a few news nuggets flying under the radar, including a budding protest over drink charges, an airline that locals are lobbying to come back and a carrier that couldn't run on time.

A Peasants' Revolt: New beverage fees at US Airways — $2 for water and soda, $1 for coffee and tea — are running into some resistance. A Las Vegas gate agent delivered a sarcastic speech Friday about "inauguration day'' for the new policy, says air fare expert Rick Seaney, who was waiting for his flight to Dallas. The agent urged passengers to buy drinks in the airport terminal.

A reader of the blog "Upgrade: Travel Better'' reports US Airways passengers are rebelling by paying with $20 bills, knowing flight attendants don't have change. They get the drinks free, he says. The union for flight attendants charged US Airways is turning jets into "flying vending machines.''

Baby Come Back: Many travelers are fed up with airlines, but USA3000 Airlines customers are pleading for the discount carrier's return to St. Petersburg-Clearwater International. USA3000 will end its 23 weekly flights from the airport after Aug. 18 as part of a larger retreat from Florida.

The airport began asking customers Monday to sign letters urging USA3000 to come back when the economy improves. By Tuesday afternoon, officials collected 950 signatures at tables in the airport terminal and 120 e-mails to usa3000fans@fly2pie.com.

Dubious Distinction: Five Tampa International flights by Delta Connection carrier Comair ran chronically late in June, according to a monthly Transportation Department report. The list included New York/LaGuardia and Hartford, Conn., flights that arrived late in Tampa 90 percent of the time.

A Comair spokesman said the flights were late afternoon departures that flew through busy Northeast U.S. airspace. For the month, two-thirds of all Comair planes arrived at Tampa International late — 15 minutes or more after the scheduled time.

Steve Huettel can be reached at huettel@sptmies.com or (813) 226-3384.

Column: News nuggets flying below the radar 08/05/08 [Last modified: Thursday, August 7, 2008 12:01pm]
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