A riot on Flight 33

Some of the 300 passengers stuck on an international flight that was delayed 18 hours by fog, regulations and mechanical glitches said the passengers were almost ready to riot as the wait dragged on. Food and water ran short, and the toilets stopped working before Northwest Airlines Flight 33 finally reached Seattle early Wednesday, 28 hours after leaving Amsterdam.

Hey, I didn’t buy that ticket

There’s a mystery charge on Jerry Wilson’s credit card. Priceline has billed him $472 for an airline ticket from Washington to Colorado. But Wilson never meant to buy the tickets and he has an alibi: the aftereffects of viral encephalitis, which can cause confusion and memory loss. Is that enough for Priceline to refund his ticket? Plus, when should you not consider using Priceline’s name-your- price Web site – and what are the alternatives?

US Airways on the brink?

Local airports and competing airlines are preparing themselves for a world without US Airways. The bankrupt airline faces several financial hurdles that will determine whether it survives beyond next month. What’s more, the carrier is coming off a Christmas weekend in which a large number of employees calling in sick left thousands of passengers — and their luggage — separated from their loved ones.

Airline chaos continues

The nation’s airlines are going through the most wrenching transition in their 80-year history, and this holiday season travelers are getting a taste of what the future may be like. Besides the cold, snow, and ice which often foul up Christmas travel, this year’s record number of fliers have had to contend with fewer available flights, mountains of misplaced luggage, and, in some cases, overworked and less than helpful airline staff – all symptoms of an industry in the midst of a historic downsizing.

DOT investigates airlines

Department of Transportation yesterday launched a formal investigation into the weekend’s travel disruptions involving US Airways and Comair that left thousands of passengers stranded or separated from their baggage. The expedited probe will be the first step in what the agency’s inspector general said would be a major audit of the airline industry’s performance.

What’s so funny?

A passenger approached me in the back galley with a semi-smug grin. “I guess there’s not much to laugh at in the airline industry these days, eh?” I just blew it off with a smile and a shrug of my shoulders. I didn’t want to get into it at that moment, but the more I thought about it, the more I disagreed. Sure, times are tough in the airline world but there is always plenty to laugh at, you just have to look a bit harder. The following week, I made it my mission to find the humor of airline travel. This is what I came up with.

‘Death came from the sea’

Rescuers are scouring the sea for missing tourists and soldiers are racing to recover bodies amid fears of disease as Asia counts the cost of a tsunami that has killed more than 16,400 along coasts from India to Indonesia. Relatives hunted through piles of dead stacked up in hospital corridors and threw flower petals into the waters off India to pray for the safe return of thousands still missing.

Bermuda’s island life

If you want an entire tropical island to yourself at this time of year, skip the Caribbean. Try Bermuda instead. Balmy but not oppressively humid, cultured but not pretentious, quaint without being antiquated, Bermuda is practically abandoned between Thanksgiving and Easter and, for all intents and purposes, visitor-free during the two weeks leading up to Christmas.

It’s a Christmas whiteout

As the countdown to Christmas ticks away, the roads, rails and sky are expected to be flooded with the largest number of travelers ever recorded. While state police have launched extra patrols to keep busy roads safe, airports including Logan International are trying to deal with cancellations caused by blizzards in the Midwest and South.

Smoking areas under fire

Airports such as Atlanta’s that have smoking areas are putting the health of travelers and workers at risk, according to a federal report released Wednesday, near the peak of the holiday season. Most of the nation’s small airports ban smoking, but most large hubs let people light up. Hartsfield-Jackson International, which has doorless smoking rooms, was cited as one of the worst contributors to secondhand smoke. More than eight out of 10 non-hub airports ban smoking anywhere indoors. But of the 31 largest airports, which account for 70 percent of passengers, only 13 forbid lighting up.