Fear in the Cockpit
The tragic plane crash in Taipei was the result of mechanical and psychological failures.

Human errors in the cockpit have been the focus of media attention over the past few weeks.

An interesing article by Nautilus last week discussed the human errors in the airline community lately and speculated that the human brain might not be completely caple of handling multiple alarms in the flight deck.

For people in the grip of a life-or-death emergency, fear has a tendency to spiral. 

In this state, we experience what's known as "cognitive tunneling." Our attention narrows as we focus on the danger at hand, resulting in an elevated heart rate and quickened breathing, and all our mental resources are focused on the main threat.


Yet there is also a flipside. With a narrowed focus it becomes hard to multitask, to think complex thoughts, to decipher instructions, or to generate novel solutions. Our judgment can be clouded, and experience thrown out the window. 


In extreme cases, we lose the ability to consciously control our behavior at all, and find ourselves willy-nilly engaging in ancient stereotypical behaviors like fighting, running, or playing dead.


In other words, when a pilot who's managing a complex modern airliner realizes that his plane is going to crash, he needs the mild fight-or-flight response appropriate for taking a multiple-choice test, but what he gets is a five-alarm response better suited for surviving an animal attack.

A common, deadly mistake of overwhelmed pilots is to put the plane into an aerodynamic stall.


When a plane is flying slowly at low altitude, there's an instinctive human reaction to want to move away from the immediate danger and pull back on the controls to gain altitude. 


Doing so, however, can have exactly the opposite effect.

limbing causes an airplane to slow down, and if its airspeed falls below a critical velocity, the wing dramatically loses its ability to generate lift. 


Instead of gaining altitude, the plane suddenly drops, often with fatal results. 


From the very start of flight training, pilots are taught to be extra careful not to raise the nose when low and slow. But every year, pilots panic, forget their training, and die.

Has Your British Airways Account Been Hacked?

British Airways quietly disclosed two weeks ago that hackers gained access to the company's frequent flyer program.


The airline said the stolen data did not include Personally Identifiable Information, but many hacked companies such as Target have said this initially, just to admit later they were wrong.


The incident raises new questions about the airlines collecting more customer data online, including a variety of financial data, which is in turn, attracting cyber criminals.  

Read more in FlyersRights' January newsletter: All Mine.


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Misery Index
When Machiave lli wrote that it's better to be feared than loved, little  did he know he was foretelling the airline business.

The theory is that b asic coach service, without fees, must be sufficiently torturous enough to make people want to pay to escape it. 

So that's where the suffering begins,  a strategy that can be only be described as "calculated misery." 

The airlines deliberately cultivate bad service, multiple add-on fees, exorbitant change and cancellation penalties as an underhanded way to make you pay more to to escape the misery.

Calculated misery is when a business intentionally designs a miserable experience to increase profits.

Of course, in order for fees to work, there needs be something worth paying to avoid. 


This explains why, over the past decade, the major airlines have done everything possible to make flying basic economy, particularly on longer flights, an intolerable experience. 


This puts the airlines in a heated race to the bottom, where everything is considered  a optional extra, and the consequence is a steep reduction in baseline quality, comfort, legroom, and things which are difficult to quantify, until it becomes unbearable. 


This model has worked well in the banking industry, where one of the main reasons consumers don't bother switching financial institutions is that it would be a huge pain to do so. 


Same with the cable companies, that want you to fear them (and their onerous processes) rather than love them for being convenient.

Allegiant's Pilots Warn of Safety Concerns


Two  weeks ago Allegiant Air's pilot's union published a letter to passengers warning that the carrier's profits "are propped up by the extra workload placed on its understaffed, underpaid and overworked workforce and its minimalist approach to maintenance and safety." 


The pilots claimed that Allegiant is forced to "cannibalize" parts from other planes in its fleet to fix aircraft, owing to a deficient system of maintenance.


These pilots exposed plenty of abuses involving their airline's low-cost business model, including overworked, underpaid staff and lax maintenance practices. 


A pilots strike was called for April 2nd, but fizzled when Allegiant management won a temporary restraining order. 


The business model of budget airlines such as Germanwings, Ryanair, Alligent and Spirit Airlines has proved lucrative around the world, but only because of those carriers' relentless push on keeping costs as low as possible.  


As former United Airlines pilot, Amy Fraher told FlyersRights last week, "The public needs to recognize you get what you pay for. So the public needs to pay more, and we need better airline leadership to improve the airline culture for employees. At the moment, it's a race to the bottom."

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