Dear Frequent Flyer, Your Airline’s Just Not That Into You

Every road warrior has stories – good and bad – about their favorite airline.  But the thing is, for most people who have a favorite airline that they use the most frequently, those good stories outweigh the bad.  The “Hey, the flight attendant on yesterday’s flight was so nice because X and Y” stories outweigh the crappy, “Girl, you betta check yourself!” stories.  But make no mistake about it – the airline is a business, and they couldn’t really care less about you.  Your money? Yes.  But you?  Not so much.

Sure there are nice amenities to be had out there.  Complimentary access to lounges, free upgrades, and free drinks.  People who travel a lot get free baggage on the “big” airlines, whereas four of the top five airlines (Alaska, Delta, American, and United) will charge a fee for regular travelers.  As far as I know, Southwest is still the last hold out, and doesn’t charge.  Then again, Southwest doesn’t have the niceties that the other big airlines have – namely a first class section, nor parters that will get you halfway around the world on points alone.

But even with things like upgrades, nothing is a given anymore.  As an Alaska Airlines frequent flyer, I used to get complimentary upgrades on Delta when they were partners.  But it went from a routine thing to a more unusual thing. And by unusual, I mean that they would try and do their damndest to sell that seat out from under your “cheap” ass.  Why do I say cheap?  Because you were going to get it for free, and the airline is there to do one thing – make money for their investors.  So even if there were half a dozen seats open on a Delta flight and I was the only person on the upgrade list, Delta would do their damndest to sell those seats instead of upgrading me per their agreement with Alaska.

And now Alaska seems to be doing it as well.  No matter where you are on the upgrade list, if you haven’t been upgraded before a flight, don’t expect it to happen when you get to the airport.  On Alaska, I’m personally at 96% of my million miler status, and are one of the highest elites out there.  I could – and do – buy instant upgrade tickets so that the “perk” of having to leave my husband every week to go to work at least happens in a roomier cabin, with people who don’t touch you constantly and flight attendants who don’t splash you with errant liquids from the drink cart parked in the middle aisle.  Of course you don’t always get upgraded, and that’s a fact of flying.  But what’s gotten worse, is that now Alaska is in the habit of selling that seat out from under you.  Or at least me.  I’ve watched it happen countless times as I’ll be first on the upgrade list starting 24 hours before the flight, and there’ll be a seat or two open.  But once I get to the airport for my flight, suddenly there’s a new name on the list, they’re above my name, and they have that coveted upgrade seat.

Now I’m not saying that the people of your favorite airline, from the gate agents to the pilots to the cabin crew, don’t like you.  They more than likely do – especially if you make their job easy by being an easy flyer or maybe bring them a treat.  But the airline as a whole?  They don’t see you as a person.  You’re a frequent flyer number that’s a source of revenue to them.  Anything else that happens to occur that might be good or bad for you?  They really couldn’t care less.

In my book, “A Million Miles Amok“, I warn people not to let fancy things like upgrades and the like spoil you, though I myself have been spoiled.  But I think it’s becoming more and more transparent as of late; the airline wants you for your money, and really not much else.

The golden age of travel is, indeed, dead.

Posted in Air Travel, Airlines, F'd Up Issue of the Week | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Air Traffic Control Privatization? Not just no, but HELL NO!

There was apparently a bill that the United States Congress – you know, the guys and gals that have approval ratings that hover just above syphilis and people who microwave fish at work – to privatize the Air Traffic Control system.  And not only was it not laughed out of committee, it passed!  This in itself is insane.  And Trump has called on privatizing the United States ATC system as well.  I mean we have had disasterous results with things like this in the past.  Have we learned nothing?

For-profit private prisons:  These corporations get paid for 90% to 100% occupancy, and get paid no matter what the actual occupancy rate it.  And it’s been shown that in a for-profit prison, the prisoners are underfed to the point of malnurishment.  Sure, these are people who are paying a debt to society – but we cannot treat them like animals.  They have the right to human dignity just like everyone else.  And speaking of dignity – they are absolutely humans, and not slaves.  But that doesn’t stop them from being treated as such due to forced labor for which they are barely compensated for.  Corporations can make money no matter what, and make more money by not taking care of their prisoners while forcing them to work like slaves.  Sources: http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/20880-for-profit-prisons-eight-statistics-that-show-the-problems and http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-prison-industry-in-the-united-states-big-business-or-a-new-form-of-slavery/8289

For-profit universities:  If you can make money off of students no matter what, then what’s stopping you from abusing that right?  Like for-profit school ITT enrolling blind students in programs that require visual inspection of wires and colors.  Or the fact that they regularly had students take out loans that they might not be able to afford, and then lied about the job rates and salaries of their graduates.  And to drive the point home, just two words:  Trump University.  Sources: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/at-itt-tech-a-greatest-hits-of-abuses-attorney-2016-01-21 and https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/profit-college-company-pay-955-million-settle-claims-illegal-recruiting-consumer-fraud-and

For-profit hospitals and insurance companies:  We’ve heard time and again about fraudulent billing from for-profit hospitals.  Tenet and HCA alone have paid about $3,729,000,000 (yes, almost 4 billion US dollars) to settle fraudulent billing and other issues over the last few decades.  And who can forget Humana denying necessary procedures for those they insured, while buying extravagant items like spending almost $4,000,000 on a sculpture – or about the cost of 8 heart transplants.  Sources: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/peter-dreier/humana-profits-over-peopl_b_327311.html and others.

Who in their right mind thinks that privatizing something so integral and necessary as Air Traffic Control is a good thing?  It’s already one of the top five most stressful jobs ever.  Can you imagine how much worse it can get when your boss is coming down on you to cut costs and raise profits?  At least when it comes to things like for-profit hospitals and health insurance companies most people have a choice.  But you literally put your life in the hands of the people who hurl that metal tube through the sky at 500 miles per hour, and the people how control where they fly and land.  You don’t have a choice.

Well honestly, we do.  And that choice is to tell our local Congress critter NO to privatizing the ATC.

Posted in F'd Up Issue of the Week | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Because the US travel ban needed to get worse

If you’re an American, you already know that people around the world either hate us or think we’re just plain stupid.  Then again, let’s see what happens in France this weekend, and we’ll see if we get a pass.

Anyway, so there’s now a ban on anything larger than a cellphone traveling in the cabin of any airliner coming to the United States from 10 different Arabic countries.  The UK has decided to jump on that bandwagon as well.  But now, just about a month later, someone in charge was wondering, “So how do we make travel even more unbearable?”  And even though we thought it couldn’t be done – it’s one of those Ronco, “But Wait! There’s More!” moments.

Now it looks like you won’t be able to travel with anything larger than a cellphone even from European countries.  Seriously.

Think about it.  A five, ten, fifteen hour trip with just your cellphone.  No iPad, no Samsung Note, no portable DVD player.  And as you’re taxiing away from the gate, you hear, “We’re sorry, but Chief Purser Gopher just deleted all in-flight entertainment.  But somewhere we’ve got a VHS copy of Biodome with Pauly Shore somewhere,” screamed from the overhead.  Won’t that be great?

Posted in Air Travel, F'd Up Issue of the Week | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Naming The Best AND WORST Airlines & Programs!

There’s a lot of “best” airline lists out there, but until now I haven’t seen much of anyone pushing a list of the worst.  But WalletHub has fixed that for us!  So if you’re interested, you can take a look at the best and worst airlines of 2016, as well as the best and worst airline frequent flyer programs.

Airlines link: https://wallethub.com/edu/best-airlines/20916/

Airline Programs link: http://www.cardhub.com/edu/best-frequent-flyer-program/

Posted in Air Travel, Airlines, F'd Up Issue of the Week | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Getting sucked into the oft-odd headline

So I get a few news alerts during the day that tells me about what’s going on with the big guys (hint, Delta just passed United as the second largest airline), or maybe some cool stuff about airplane design.  I mean who wouldn’t want to read an informational article about Boeing’s new patent for an airplane design that literally wraps itself around cargo for delivery?  Brilliant, eh?

But no – what headline do I get sucked into?  The one about the emotional support turkey that flew on a recent Delta flight.  Yes, I’m serious – this fowl actually got a seat on a mainline Delta flight, and someone got a picture of it.  It’s rather odd.

And non-American’s say that we have no common sense.  They’re right of course, but still.  I mean, at least the turkey didn’t get to sit in the exit row!

Posted in Air Travel, F'd Up Issue of the Week | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

AirSnark’s Book Is Out!

So a while back I wrote a travel book, detailing exactly how someone who is new to the business traveler world should navigate.  Points this, hotel that, and the like.  Then the book sat unloved for a while.

Well it’s not only been resurrected – it’s published!

Currently the book, titled A Million Miles Amok: A Guidebook For The New Road Warrior, is available in the iTunes iBookstore and from Amazon.  So if you are interested, check it out!

Here’s the cover art:

Posted in Air Travel, Airlines, Airports, Car Rental, Hotels, TSA | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Bad Form, Air Canada!

So I have a side hobby that keeps me busy called CatastropheCast, in which I talk about disasters and catastrophes that have happened in the last couple hundred years.  A big part of that is airplane crashes, which luckily have become much more rare these days.

Arguably one of the most important airline incidents was Air Canada flight 797, which happened in June, 1983.  That crash is significant in two different ways.  First, it’s the last time an Air Canada flight produced a fatality.  Second, there are safety issues that came out of the loss of flight 797 that affect us to this day – like fire suppression, smoke detection, and items in the cabin to help guide people out in the event of a smoke filled cabin.

Thing is, after a significant incident, flight numbers tend to be retired.  Delta 191, Korean 007, United 93 and 175 – which came back after the merger of United and Continental, and quickly were removed.  There’s a whole writeup on the phenomenon you can read here.

Thing is, looks like Air Canada forgot about this, because Air Canada still operates a flight 797.

site web.airsnark.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Air-Canada-797-Google-Search.png” rel=”attachment wp-att-537″>Air Canada 797 - Google Search

Bad form, Air Canada!  Bad form!

Posted in Airlines, F'd Up Issue of the Week | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Has the TSA just thrown in the towel?

So I was flying out of my home airport, Portland International, this morning.  First had to head through security – luckily with my TSA PreCheck, so I could fly through security in front of all of the other regular travelers.  It’s faster, right?

Umm, no.  Not that the two TSA PreCheck lines weren’t going fast.  But the other lines nearest the PreCheck lines had TSA agents screaming (naturally – their default behavior) that the lane was a “Throw and go” lane.  Remove nothing from your bag (like your liquids and such), leave your shoes and coats on, and just put your phone in your bag, then walk through the magnetometer.  Not even the fancy new porno-scanners – just the regular magnetometer.

So basically TSA PreCheck is now the same security as every other TSA line, at least at Portland International.  And like TSA PreCheck, the general public only went through the porno-scanner when they set off the magnetometer.

What the hell, TSA?

Posted in Airports, TSA | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Want some exercise, Road Warrior?

We all tend to struggle when we’re on the road.  You know, trying to get to the client site, get your work done, and have some semblance of life, so maybe your afternoon run or your morning workout goes by the wayside?

Maybe it’s just me.

Well there’s a helpful little blogpost over on USA Today’s website that talks about “Airports with the longest walks between gates”.  And while this is normally a frequent flyer’s worst nightmare, in this case, it gives you some good ideas on how to get a few thousand extra steps in while at the airport.

Link: http://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/flights/2015/06/24/airport-gates-distance/29168851/

Posted in Air Travel, Airports | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Latest Volley in the Frenemies Fight Between Alaska and Delta

So I have been waiting for the other shoe to drop in the Alaska/Delta frenemies fight, and it has.  An email from Alaska Airlines this morning spells out mileage accrual changes for elites flying on Alaska, and anyone flying on Delta.  Elites on Alaska will be earning even more miles, which is awesome for us!  And then there’s the situation with Delta.

Basically, if you fly Delta on an Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan with a cheap ticket, get ready to start losing miles!  Seriously…  Here’s the chart (click to embiggen)

as-dl-frenemies-mileage

This is getting interesting!

Even more interesting is that Alaska is strengthening their relationship with Skywest.  Not only did Alaska announce two new destinations and three new routes, but those routes are on Skywest using the new Embraer 175 (which is personally my favorite regional jet).

In a situation like this, it seems the the real winners are us flyers.

Posted in Airlines | Tagged , , | Leave a comment