Monthly Archives: April 2010

Photographic evidence of why I will NEVER fly Virgin America

I think this Tweet from VirginAmerica says it all, don’t you?

So my reply of course would be: Dear @VirginAmerica – Never, ever, ever gonna fly you. Signed the Anti-Justin Bieber.

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When you can already tell the future

I know I’m going to go out on a limb here, but I’m already nominating, voting, and sending off the award for “F’d Up Issue of the Week”.  And who does that go to?  None other than giant mega corporation, BOEING!

Now why, you may ask, does a company like Boeing deserve such an honor, and so early in the week?  Well let me tell you… Public relations is a BITCH!  You see, there once was a small child that liked to draw airplanes.  He loved them so much that it’s all he wanted to draw.  He loved them so much, he wants to design airplanes when he’s “big”.  And he chose his favorite picture and mailed it off to Boeing.  (Whole story here).

Well Boeing, being that giant mega corporation, wanted to protect it’s ass in case, say that child grew up, pulled out a copy of his picture, and decided to sue.  You know, because a plane has wings and a tail, just like the one in his picture.  So smartly, Boeing sent out a lawyerly letter saying that they do NOT accept unsolicited plane sketches and they DESTROYED HIS PICTURE.  Are you, gentle reader, doing a giant facepalm right now?  Because I am.

This is the youngster’s drawing:

Harry's drawing

The poor dad.  He’s now wondering what, if anything, he should tell his son Harry.  You know what, Dad?  Wait until he’s older, then tell them that Boeing is a soulless multinational corporation.  Because it is.  Hell, 99% of corporations are soulless; some less than others, some more than others.  They sort of admitted it in this tweet:

Kids dreams are chipped away at every day, and unfortunately, that’s what Boeing did with their letter to this child (you can read the letter at the father’s website).  They’re going to correct the wrong in the future.  But still – damage is done.  This whole situation reminds me of why the janitor on Scrubs became a janitor.  In the video below, imagine little Harry is the one looking for his bear, and the mother is Boeing.  It fits, quite succinctly.

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F’d Up Issue of the Week ending 04/24/10

This week’s winner for f’d up issue of the week is actually something behind the scenes.  Let me paint the picture, using my own horror stories from the past weekend, and you’ll understand what I mean.

Chicago O’Hare. Famous for delays and such, right? Move in a little bit of weather, and one of the worlds busiest international airports comes to a crawl. Same with Atlanta. Same with many other airports.  Why?  Because it turns out that most airlines don’t use the most accurate system for takeoffs and landings.  You know that TomTom or Garmin hand held GPS system that you can get with car rentals?  Yeah – that’s more advanced than some of the planes that you fly on.

Airlines know this, as do airports.  Alaska Airlines, Delta, and UPS all fly planes that are GPS capable, and have for quite some time.  Back in 2007, there was an article in the New York Times about what Alaska, Delta, and UPS are doing.  Two of the most telling statistics in the story are:

At Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Delta Air Lines said its jets take off an average of 10 minutes after pushing back from the gate — three minutes faster than in previous years.

Of the approximately 3,600 flights the airline operated in and out of Juneau last year, 754 could not have been tried in years past.

We can make air travel safer, have fewer delays, and save the airlines BILLIONS, but it’s going to take the leadership of the tech savvy airlines, and a mandate by the FAA to get this done.

The reason I bring this up, of course, is that I was one of those people stuck going in to Chicago O’Hare this past weekend.  And even though I was flying Alaska Airlines, without full-implementation of the GPS system by all airlines flying into O’Hare, we were delayed 3 hours.  Nice, eh?  But TOTALLY avoidable.  So that’s why the slow moving behemoth FAA and the travel delays that it’s 50 year old legacy system causes earn the F’d Up Issue of the Week.

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Attn LCCs: WTF else do you want?

So people give LCCs (low cost carriers) a rash of shit.  And you know what?  It’s worth it.  RyanAir wants to charge people £1 or €1 to use the onboard bathroom, and wants to take away most bathrooms onboard to make room for more seats.  Spirit Air first infuriated everyone by wanting to charge up to $45 for carryon bags.  Now, there is a new headline — but the true story is beneath it.

So the headline over at the Orlando Sentinel is that two of Spirit’s new airliners do not have seats that recline.  That’s the big complaint for the reporter of the story.  But the REAL story, in my humble opinion, is that the seat pitch — the distance from one spot on an airline seat to the exact same spot on the seat behind it (the reporter mis-defines seat pitch in their story as something else) — has been decreased to 28″.  SeatGuru.com said on Twitter,

Spirit Airlines introduces no recline seats and 28″ seat pitch. The new Ryanair of the US?

Dude!  Even RyanAir gives their passengers 30″ of pitch on their planes!  I remember getting on a KLM Intra-European flight one time that had 30″ pitch, and felt that I had no room to put my bag at my feet, much less sit comfortably for the few hours I had to spend going from Geneva to Amsterdam.  I cannot even begin to fathom taking two MORE inches away from that seat.  You aren’t going to be able to get in and out of your row at all anymore; you’re going to have to crawl across the seats.

It’s going to be interesting to see what the FAA and other Federal regulators say about this.  Airlines, as a safety standpoint, MUST get all passengers off a plane within 90 seconds.  With the idiots that waste time trying to get their bags and take with them, and with the piss-stained wheelchair seat grannies, coupled with this new 28″ pitch row of seats, HOW in the HELL is 90 seconds still going to be possible?

So LCCs.  WTF else do you want?  First born?  You want female passengers to harvest their eggs and male passengers to provide sperm so you can make a little money on the side with artificial insemination to folks?  You want pints of blood to sell on the black market?  You’re crossing into bad territory here; once you cross that line, it’s done.

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I know I don’t run an airline…

…and I don’t know all of the regulations that exist country to country about flight termination, carrying within another country, etc.  I do know how it works here in the United States, though.  A foreign carrier can fly between two US destinations, but they cannot pick up anyone at the first destination to take to the second (ie. British Airways can fly a plane London to NYC, drop of half of their passengers, then take the other half on to Los Angeles and let them off).  To do otherwise would be to run afoul of United States airline ownership laws.

But here’s the thing.  We all know that there are emergencies that come up.  And we all know that these issues have to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.  The volcano that erupted in Iceland provides such an emergency.  So how should we deal with it?  Or rather, we KNOW how it is being dealt with – how should it HAVE been dealt with?  I have my own ideas.

First of all, the fact is that NOT all of the airports in Europe have been closed.  Madrid in Spain, and one or two other South European airports have been open a good while.  Now of course Spain is the headquarters of Iberia Airlines.  And Iberia is currently in merger talks with British Airways.  British Airways, of course, is probably the biggest TransAtlantic carrier between London and NYC.  So tell me  why in the HELL did this not get played up?  British Airways has jets parked here in the United States that can’t get home, as do other carriers.  British Airways could pick up those passengers due to come back to Europe, and fly them to Madrid instead of Heathrow.  From there, busses and trains could be pulling passengers to and from London.  Sure, BA doesn’t normally fly say Chicago to Madrid, or LAX to Madrid.  But if they can, and as long as they can coordinate with other carriers on gate use, etc, why the hell not?

Besides cooperation with other carriers, we would have to allow carrying to and from other points.  British Airways has 329 seat and 281 seat 747s in their fleet, with other planes that can make the trip between the US and Spain holding 230 to 272 people.  So have those planes leave wherever they area – say Los Angeles.  If they have 50 open seats, then pick up 50 passengers in New York City or Boston.  Then hoof it over the Atlantic, land in Madrid, and put people on busses or the train to London.  Then pick up stranded people in Madrid – those that have come from London or other major airports, and head back to the United States.  With the global downturn in airlines, I’m SURE that there are available gates that can be used at an open Spanish airport.

We could be moving thousands of people between Europe and the United States right now, with aircraft that are sitting dormant.  And it doesn’t have to be just British Airways – other airlines should be jumping in as well.  Hell, it will create overtime for workers (we would have to utilize pilots and flight attendants only to their statutory limits, but airport workers and temps could definitely use a boost) and put those out of work into jobs – albeit temporary.

So listen up, British Airways, Iberia, American Airlines, KLM, and others.  Life presents challenges.  Get around them.  If we humans didn’t rise to our challenges in the past, we would still be living in caves, only dreaming of one day flying through the blue, ashy filled skies.

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Excellent article on Airlines from SmartMoney.com

There is a really excellent article on “which airline should you choose?” posted over at SmartMoney.com.  It goes through four different aspects of air travel, and tells you what airlines do good, and what airlines do bad.

Seriously – can things get any worse for Spirit Airlines?  They are getting a ton of bad press about their $45 fee for carryons, $5 surcharge for using their WEBSITE (which is a load of crap!), paying for a preassigned seat, etc.  Spirit Airlines truly has made some sucktacular decisions.  Maybe they’ll reconsider, if their traffic drops off.  I mean paying for a discounted fare from Spirit, then paying for where to sit on the plane, the convenience of using their website, to bring on a carryon bag.  Hell, you’ve paid your way out of your discount up to a regular fare!

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F’d Up Travel Story of the past week – 04/17/10

Does it come to anyone’s surprise that the F’d up travel story of the week is the Icelandic Volcano?  I mean, this thing has been wreaking havoc with air travel, albeit air travel from most of the European continent, and travel to/from the United States.  Thankfully, there is little fallout – if any – for air travel within the United States.  We have the busiest travel market of the whole world, so if it doesn’t disrupt the US market, it won’t affect the whole world.  You know the old saying – if the US sneezes, the rest of the world gets a cold, etc, etc.  Same thing with travel disruptions.

The thing that’s really F’d up about this is that British Airways, among others, are performing “test flights” to see just how well they can travel in the ash, and resume flights.  Really?  Hey British Airways.  Remember flight 009 back in June 1982?  Flight 009 was a flight to Australia, operated by British Airways.  It involved smoke in the plane, brilliant lights, and engine shut down with plunging towards the Indian Ocean – with the engines coming back online just minutes before certain death.  Oh yeah, what was the cause of all of that havoc?  VOLCANIC ASH, YOU MORONS!

If you’re interested, National Geographic did a great tele-drama about BA 009.  You can read about it here, or you can just watch the clip from the show below.

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Nice work, TSA. Confuse the public, like usual

OMFG.  Like piss-seat wheelchair Grannie isn’t already confused enough, but the TSA has to go through and confuse people even more.  What else is new?

So the Apple iPad has been acquired by quite a few people, and they’re showing up in people’s bags for travel.  People already don’t know how to deal with their electronic equipment and liquids, lubricants, and pastes as is, so the TSA tries to make it easier for you.  Easier?  Oh hell no.

People like me who travel every week have the TSA lines worked out pretty well.  We have a routine and stick with it.  But people like Grannie are befuddled easily are just going to get confused, because the TSA isn’t always forthcoming with correct information.  3 ounces or 3.4 ounces?  Quart, sandwich, or gallon baggie?  And hell, even if you get it wrong, the TSA usually looks the other way.  This type of crap is what is so maddening.

So the TSA comes out with a new guideline for Apple iPads.  They say that they can stay in people’s bags during the magical X-Ray experience.  But if people are traveling with just the iPad, is that going to stay the case?  Or is the TSA going to change their mind and need it X-Rayed?  And what about your other electronics?  Just to keep the TSA off my back every week, EVERY SINGLE PIECE of electronic equipment comes out of my bag and gets put into a bin for scanning.  I did this after the TSA took my bag for “additional screening”, yelled at me for carrying “too much electronic equipment”, and took my bag away for ten minutes – with it out of visual range for so long that I had no idea if they were handing out treats from my bag to other travelers or whatnot – and THEN not telling me when they were done and instead just leaving my bag in a secure area.  Oh, I’m sorry – I’m supposed to use my super-psychic abilities to read the minds of TSA agents?

So TSA, stop with the guidelines and try and keep it simple.  You’ll still confuse people, but at least you’ll be consistent.

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Just fitting for AirSnark – Survey of the 11 worst airlines

Oh, what a snarky way to start the morning.  Huffington Post has put together a survey of “America’s 11 Worst Airlines” based on the 2010 Airline Quality Ratings.  The authors of the study do state that airline service has gotten better over the last year.  Here’s my take on the listings:

#11, US Airways: I avoid them like the plague, mostly because I don’t fly Star Alliance.  Last time I flew them, I did manage to wrangle a first class upgrade – but no drinks.  Seems a US Airways flight went “dry” because someone got a PAX drunk and they got a DUI.  Who the hell can fly US Airways and NOT drink?

#10, American Airlines:  Wow. They’re only #10 on the list? I have so many horror stories from AA.  Like being trapped next to a 600 pound passenger on an MD80 in the exit row. If that plane had gone down, we wouldn’t have been able to push his fat ass out the window exit – he literally would not have fit! I had to spend my time standing in the back of the plane, because he took up too much of my seat.  American’s response? NOTHING. Literally – they refused to respond.  Their customer service has to be the absolute WORST of any airline.

#9, ExpressJet: Nothing really to say about them. A regional carrier, so they have that against them. They tried to grow to do regional and stand-alone, but it was the wrong time.

#8: Alaska Airlines: Now I TOTALLY disagree with this one.  Of all airlines I have EVER flown, Alaska has to be my favorite.  Their dedication to passengers is second to none.  Something is up with this study – oh well!

#7: Mesa: Wow. Cutthroat yes (they were the ones that basically put Aloha out of business). But with sleepy, overworked pilots.  Besides – who wants to travel Hawaii (their subsidiary “go!” is all-Hawaiian) in tiny regional jets?

#6: United Airlines: I started avoiding them a while ago because of customer service.  Due to equipment malfunction once, Alaska Airlines put me on a UAL flight back home.  Standing near the gate, I was probably five feet from a gate agent, talking to flight crew.  No small talk between these people – it was “These customers make me crazy”, “I hate these people”, blah blah blah. They literally bad-mouthed the people they were flying for about 20 minutes, then put on fake smiles and boarded us.  And this wasn’t in a small, rinkydink airport – this was SFO.  Yeah, UAL deserves to be on this list – but WAY higher up in the listings.

#5, Sky West: “I don’t care how we do it on other airlines. This is how we do it on MINE.”  Yeah, that cheery, chipper attitude was just the tip of the iceberg when I flew them last, as a Delta Connection customer.  The flight attendants actually went through each and every seatback pocket and if they found ANYTHING of yours in it, they made you move it.  Didn’t matter – magazine, iPod, iron lung.  “This doesn’t go here. Move it to your own luggage or put it away elsewhere!” was the nasty decree.  Yeah, never again.

#4, Delta Airlines: I have mixed feelings about Delta.  The old Northwest is now gone, forever integrated into Delta.  And when that was gone, so was a lot of the reason to fly them.  I remember one flight leaving PDX.  As we were taxiing and the video was going, some woman got up, got her bag down, and started unpacking and repacking it.  The flight attendants just walked past her, not saying a thing.  At least the woman sat down before we took off.  On another flight, HALF of the airplane electrical just went out (lights, individual reading lights, television displays).  The flight attendants said it was “normal”.  WTF? Plus, with Delta’s call center outsourced to India (which it was the two times I called about four years ago), screw that!  The last Delta flight I took, their systems were so screwed up that they gave us free WiFi. Not because they were nice, but because they somehow couldn’t charge for it due to a glitch.

#3, Comair: Flew them just recently.  Eeh.  Cabin crews could use an attitude adjustment.  I need to fly them more to make more of an opinion.

#2, Atlantic SouthEast Airlines: Never flown them, so no opinion.

#1, American Eagle:  Let’s just sum this up with one experience I had a few weeks ago.  Gate agent: “You’re going to have to move row 4 to the back for weight and balance”.  Flight attendant, “Uh, yeah”.  Gate agent: “Do you need me to help?”.  Flight attendant: “Don’t worry about it”.  Gate agent left.  Flight attendant read her magazine some more.  When given word, she shut the cabin door.  Being in row 3, I heard the whole thing, and saw row 4 was ready to move.  Flight attendant did not even react; she played the audio of the safety briefing, did her walk through, and sat down. Row 4 stayed where they were and were never moved.  Thank goodness we had no issues on the flight.  But being THAT nonchalant about people’s safety? Yeah, that’s a load of crap!

So head on over to Huffington Post, and rank these airlines yourself!

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Are all mainstream airlines run by morons?

That’s what I think, especially when it comes to the “flying standby” thing.  Let me lay the groundwork here.

First, there was 9/11, and nobody wanted to fly.  Airlines parked planes in the desert.  Then more economic downturns, and again, more planes parked in the desert.  Things were steady for a little while, and then the idiots who play with derivatives trading ruined the economy, and wow, more planes got parked, airlines stopped buying planes, yadda yadda yadda.

So, we have a few less people flying, with a DRASTIC reduction in the number of airplane seats available.  Thus, more people per plane.  Fares went up, but that wasn’t good enough, so airline executives came up with “charging for checked luggage”, did away with free food, and even did away with free drinks (thank you, US Airways! They wanted to charge $2 for a cup of soda or coffee until people rebelled).  So one of the last things they did was get rid of the free standby flights.  You know, like if you have a four hour layover, and there is an earlier flight going out to your destination, you used to be able to get on it as long as there were seats.  Not anymore.

I was flying on an Alaska Airlines ticket with my MVP Gold status (gotta love Alaska/Horizon!), but had a connection on American. Now I’m Platinum on American, but traveling on my Alaska frequent flier number.  I get to Chicago early (ODD, I know!) and see that there’s a flight leaving in 30 minutes for my final destination.  I roll up to the counter and ask to get on it, hoping it’s not full.  The gate agent looks at me and says, “I’m sorry but we have a new policy; you’re not allowed to board.”  I asked if he had seats, which he said yes.  I then told him I was American Platinum.  His face totally changed, and he instantly printed me a boarding pass, so I go to get on the plane.

The plane was an EMB145, which seats about 50 people.  There couldn’t have been more than 12 people on that plane when I boarded.  WTF, American?  You’d rather a plane go out mostly 75% empty rather than let someone on?  Who in the hell came up with THAT business model?  Thing is, that later flight that I was supposed to be on was A) the last of the night and B) was packed.  They very well could have left other passengers stranded in Chicago for the night.  I was doing them a FAVOR by offering to go early.

The only airline that did this whole “standby” thing correctly (post 9/11) for any non-elite status holding PAX was the old NorthWest (though JetBlue and Air Tran are doing a good job today).  See, if you wanted to go standby, you would give them your credit card number and if you got on the plane, it was $15.  They only charged you once your plane landed in your destination city.  You weren’t charged if not.  Such a deal!  But carriers these days are totally screwed up.  United is changing their policy as of today, probably to match American.  Southwest is horrid – if there’s a fare difference, you have to pay it.  There was a famous scene in the Southwest reality TV series where they wouldn’t let a PAX change their ticket until they paid $1.  ONE SINGLE DOLLAR.  Nice, eh?

So you moronic people who run airlines these days.  Your PAX already pretty much hate you as is; stop giving them more reasons to hate you more!

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