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Consumer Confidential: BlackBerry back; fat passengers on AirTran

October 13, 2011 |  9:28 am

Here's your things-that-make-you-go-hmmm Thursday roundup of consumner news from around the Web:

-- Peace in our time. BlackBerry services buzzed back to life across the world after a three-day outage that interrupted email messages and Internet services for millions of customers. Research In Motion, the maker of the phones, says the system was back to normal early Thursday. Some phones that have been out of touch for a long time may need to have their batteries pulled out and put back in to regain a connection to the network. A crucial link in BlackBerry's European network failed Monday, and a backup also failed. That immediately cut off service for most users in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, India, Chile, Brazil and Argentina.

-- Flying fat will soon cost you more on AirTran. The carrier's new owner, Southwest Airlines, will bring its policy for large passengers to AirTran Airways starting in March. The new policy will require those passengers -- whom Southwest calls "customers of size" -- to buy a second seat if they are flying in AirTran's coach section. As of March 1, AirTran will require the purchase of more than one seat for a passenger who, "in the carrier's sole discretion," can't sit in just one seat with the armrest lowered. According to, AirTran's seats are 18 inches wide in coach class and 22 inches wide in business class.

-- Do you live in a cool neighborhood? Now you can find out. MapQuest is launching a website that ranks thousands of neighborhoods on quality-of-life measures, including restaurants and bars, shopping and how easy it is to get around on foot. The company says the site, mqVibe, uses algorithms to produce real-time rankings of 50,000 neighborhoods in 27,000 U.S. cities. It also lists the best-ranked places for dining, shopping, beauty and spas, health, lodging and other services. Rankings are based on user votes and what the company describes as interactions on and external data. That sounds like a really scientific way of taking a best guess.

-- David Lazarus

Photo: BlackBerry users, rejoice! Service is retored. Credit: Oliver Lang / Associated Press