“We’re Going Where? On WHAT?”

It’s 2019, and modern airplanes can go further, carrying more people than ever before.  We’ve gotten used to that in the United States, where for-profit airlines are trying to make as much money off the flying public as possible.  Sure, there are holdouts, like Southwest, who still lets you check up to two bags included in the cost of your ticket.  And that’s awesome.

But now we’re getting into something more.  Back in the 1980s when I went to Hawaii from the West Coast, I remember flying an American Airlines Boeing 747 from LAX to HNL.  A big plane, that could carry a metaphorical buttload of people.  Even though it was a 5-hour flight from the West Coast, that was done in style, and you got to share the excitement of your upcoming journey with hundreds of people.  And on the way back, you got to lament with your fellow passengers that your vacation was over.

That was then.  Back when airlines had cheaper fuel and the desire to travel was less than it is now.  The lineup for airlines back then was the 747, the 767, and maybe for some, the 757.  I’m sure that there was A300 service back then, too, though I don’t follow Airbus as Boeing.

Alaska Airlines entered the Hawaiian market from the West Coast back in the mid 2010s, serving the islands with Boeing 737s.  Southwest just entered the lucrative Hawaiian market.  And like Alaska Airlines mainline (not counting acquired Virgin America), Southwest will service with their fleet of Boeing 737s.

And now JetBlue is going to enter the East Coast to London market, and those flights will be on the Airbus A321.

What do all of these have in common?  Single-aisle airplanes.  Planes that when you get claustrophobic and tired of being in the air for 5 hours, you really don’t have all that much place to go.  I mean sure, once you’re on an airplane there’s not really much place to move around.  But there’s a huge difference between flying on a 150 seater Boeing 737, and a 600 seater Airbus A380.

If I want to go on a long trip somewhere, I want to be on a plane that has more space to move around than your grandmother’s powder room.  So honestly, that’s why I would never fly a small plane for more than a three or four-hour journey.  I mean, I have – once.  Didn’t have much choice when we were supposed to go to Thailand on the Airbus A380, they had a military coup, and we ended up on a Boeing 737 for almost six hours each way because that’s really all I could get on short notice with points.

I know having a one-model type fleet saves airlines money.  But it doesn’t do the people any good when they’re stuck on that tiny plane for hours on end.  So if I’m going to plan a journey that takes more than a few hours in the air, I’m going to look for the biggest plane possible to get me there, even if that means bypassing my favorite airline to do it.

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Travel, Travel, Travel

I’ve been in a job where I’ve traveled basically weekly – at least 45 weeks a year – for work.  Rarely get work from home weeks so when I get them, they’re a blessing.  I get my alone time during the travel week and then spend time with my Boo when I am at home.  Well ever since I hit my Million Miler on Alaska Airlines, things have…changed.

My client ran out of money, but not out of project.  So they decided to keep me on, but in order to save money, decided that I needed to work from home 100% of the time.

Yeah, excited, I wasn’t.

So I’ve been home since the week of Christmas, working in my jammies, going to the kitchen whenever I wanted to and not needed to, and trying not to get on my husband’s nerves.  Luckily he travels from time to time, too.  And the thing is, I kinda like it.  Not that I want to stop traveling.  Hells no.  Hopefully, once the client re-funds the project I’m on, travel will start up again.  But for now, I’m enjoying the time at home.

Which brings me to my issue.  See, we’ve gone on vacation for the last three decades using either mine or my husband’s points – never having to pay for airfare or hotel.  Just drinks and food, thank you.  We were scheduled to go back to Puerto Rico for vacation this August, because we’ve been away too long, and Puerto Rico deserves the tourism.  It’s such a wonderful, warm, beautiful spot.  Only thing is, in order to get the tickets in first class (the ONLY way to fly), I had to book several one-way flights.  So PDX-DFW-PDX was fine.  But between DFW, MIA, and SJU, those were all one-way flights.  And on Saturday, American decided to change their schedule and screwed EVERYTHING up.  None of the flights would work anymore.

So hotel and flights get canceled, and we decided since the husband is changing jobs soon ::knock wood:: that we’d just use some pre-paid points at an all-inclusive resort in Mexico.  Yes, it was kind of a timeshare.  Shut up.  The guy who sold it to us looked like a Latino George Clooney.  So sue me.  Anyway, our vacation changed on a dime, because of one little schedule change.

Airlines are making it SO much harder to use their points these days.  The whole reason for the one-way tickets was to fly first class.  It works most of the time.  But that is until the airline drops a deuce in the middle of your best-laid plans.

So keep being creative out there with your points and get out and see the world.  Just be mindful, and have a backup plan if the need arises!

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The Boeing 737-MAX Problem

So it’s well documented that the Boeing 737 is the best selling airplane model of all time.  All of the largest commercial airlines in North America, you have to go all the way down to #7 to find a carrier that doesn’t use the aircraft.

Boeing has fixed the software issue that caused the problems.  Yes, it’s a software problem.  And somehow, the creepiest air crashes to me, personally, have been software related.  The Boeing 737-MAX crashes.  The inaugural Airbus A320 crash that was flying as a demonstration; the Captain said it was a software problem, though investigators blamed it on the Captain.  Air France flight #447.  Software problems somehow make me more uneasy about an aircraft than the actual aircraft build itself.

Herein lies the problem.  The crashes themselves are horrific.  And because they were software related and not hardware related, it seems as if the flight crew could override the software, they would have been fine.  And while the existing and new airplanes out there are going to be updated, the problem goes away.

But so does the public.

What, if anything, can be done to help educate the public and bring back confidence?  Is that even possible?  Or is Boeing going to have to outlast the public’s criticism for the next decade?

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When taxiing down the runway…

Apparently this occurred this weekend at an airport in Turky.

And this is why you should leave your seatbelt on at all times. At least until the Captain turns that little seatbelt sign off. Because this isn’t all that uncommon. Remember when the ginormous Air France A380 clipped the tail of a tiny CRJ 700, flipping it 90 degrees?

Stay safe out there, friends!

h/t Today in the Sky

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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.

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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?

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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/

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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!

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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:

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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/

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