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.

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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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Want to know my opinion on allowing voice calls from in flight?

NO!
Wait a minute, let me expand on that.
HELL NO!

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Remember, Flyers: NOT EVERYONE WANTS TO SMELL YOU!

It’s somewhat crazy in this day and age that people have to bring this kind of thing up.  But how you smell, and what you do with heavy perfumes, colognes, and perfumed lotions, can effect the people around you.  Especially if you are in a confined space – like, say, an airplane!

I just got off of a 30 minute flight from AVL to ATL, cramped in a tiny CRJ200.  The lady in front of me was wearing perfume.  A LOT of perfume.  Enough that even with the air vent turned on full blast, she was still bringing tears to my eyes.

The poor girl next to her; she had her fan going and was fanning herself.  By the time we were descending, the girl was sneezing almost non-stop.

Fragrance intolerance isn’t some passing fancy; it’s real, though people tend to just shoo it away as if the sufferer is just being “sensitive”.  I remember one trip, a 10 hour flight from MSP to AMS, sitting next to a woman who was bathed in perfume.  Within minutes I was sniffling, and by the time we took off, I was sneezing.  I literally had to stand in the back of the plane for probably 8.5 hours of that 10 hour trip, to get away from her.

People scream and shout if the person next to them on the plane is obese and takes up part of their seat.  I, myself, stood in the back of an MD80 for almost 4 hours on a flight from DFW to LAS, because the man sitting next to me was so large that he took up all of his and nearly all of my seat.  That’s not right.  And it’s not right that I have to suffer the smells of another person throughout a flight.  Sitting next to an obese person may get you a few frequent flyer miles or such, but putting up with overwhelming stench for hours on end will get you nothing.

So be kind when you fly.  You’re sharing a small space with other people.  You wouldn’t bring on a boom-box and blare it during a flight, would you?  So why would you blare your smell?  Forego your perfume or cologne, and all of the other stinky stuff for the flight.  Your fellow passengers will be glad that you did.

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“Pay As You Weigh” is finally starting – in Samoa

Samoa Air, the small airline that flies small aircraft between places in Samoa, American Samoa, French Polynesia, and other island nations, is the first airline to start a “pay as you weigh” scheme.  Does it make sense?  The airline thinks it does.

When I think of Samoa, I think of people like Dwane “The Rock” Johnson, or the famous Samoan wrestler, Umaga.  These men are not small in the least (Umaga weighed in at 160kilograms or 350pounds); I don’t know what The Rock weighs.  And I typically think of larger people; Samoans aren’t well known for being svelte.

If you check Samoa Air’s flight schedule, you can see their new pricing.  Small hops, like Faleolo to Maota, which is under 20 miles away – but across the Apolima Straight, on a different island, cost Samoan Tala 1 per kilogram that the person weighs (WTS 1 = US$0.46).  So sending a 160 kilogram person on that route would cost WTS 160 or US$73.  Other flights would cost more, such as Maota to Pago Pago on America Samoa, which is about 100 miles away; those flights would be WTS 2.40 (about US$1.10) per kilogram.

The airline says it’s more fair, and that, say, families traveling with small children would make out like bandits, paying significantly less than they are now.  And they maintain that it’ll put Samoans into a healthier lifestyle frame of mind.  Me?  I’m not totally convinced.

What do you think?

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Scoop, or Bad Writing?

Okay, so we all know that American Airlines is looking to merge with another carrier – possibly – if the deal is right, and American comes out on top.  Immediately the pundits, including me, started talking about the possibilities.

But I’m startled by something.  There’s one source that I’ve found (after an admittedly short search) that says American is looking to specifically merge with Frontier, buying them off of Republic.  But does the article really say that?  Or is it just bad writing or conjecture on the part of the author?  You decide – and then you can tell me ’cause I have no freaking idea.

Most of the regular articles read like this one, and though they single out Frontier in the title, it’s clear that every one of the six carriers (though I highly doubt Virgin America – way too young, and not enough of a route-map to make a huge difference) is in consideration.  But read this one.  Notice the focus specifically on Frontier?  It’s odd to say the least.  At least further on, they do seem to muddy the waters and mention other carriers, but still.  It’s an odd duck.

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Oh racism, my old enemy

So you’ve probably heard about the TSA agent at JFK Airport in New York who didn’t realize his  metal detector was off, right?  If not, have at it – the “exclusive” is over here at the New York Post.

Now I’m no friend of the TSA.  Even when I say something nice about them, I counter it with a criticism, so you know I’m critical of them.  But that’s because of their rude, nasty attitudes and their perceived incompetence.  It has nothing to do with the color of their skin or their ethnic backgrounds.  But as soon as I’d heard about this story, I knew I wanted to follow it.  Why?  Because the TSA agent in question’s name is Alija Abdul Majed.

Whoa… Sounds foreigny and therefore scary, right?  ::facepalm::

Trek on over to the New York Post.  Or if you want, you can read the whole racist-filled rants right here.  I’ve even highlighted the worst of them.  And this was just the first batch; there were more than 100 more to go!

New York Post Racist Comments

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Cover me: I’m about to say something nice about the TSA

It’s not often that I say something nice about the Transportation Safety Administration.  Their usual treatment of individuals is pretty horrid; and I should know since I travel every week.  But I just recently became part of the TSA Pre program – and it’s glorious.

Here in Portland, Oregon, our local airport has joined the TSA Pre™ list of approved airports.  And since I joined myself (as a frequent flier of Alaska Airlines, they joined me up automatically, but only for flights on Alaska), it has taken me no longer than 7 seconds to get through TSA after showing my identification.  It has been glorious!

So if you’re a frequent business traveler, I’d look into it.  It’s so worth the $100 fee.

One note of caution.  When you join TSA Pre™, they will give you a few options.  I chose their Global Entry option, because it made the best sense for me.  Your decision may be different.  But they give you a “Global Entry” identification card, and it’s an official identification from the Department of Homeland Security, and can be used as proper ID.  It can, no matter if a TSA agent refuses it or not.  I fly out of the tiny airport of Prescott, Arizona, and the TSA there refused to accept my Homeland Security ID and wanted my drivers license.

So there you have it.  I did manage to balance some good with some bad, so take that, TSA!  But seriously – join Global Entry.  You’ll definitely be glad you did!  And drop me a line if you have questions.

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HRC Rankings of Airlines, Hotels, etc. and a Word about United

For those of you that aren’t familiar, HRC stands for The Human Rights Campaign, which is the leading LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered) rights organization.  Okay, so you’re not part of the LGBT community.  That’s fine.  There’s 10% of the population that is, and there are people who will often choose organizations based on their corporate actions (how they treat women and minorities, including LGBT workers).

I’m happy to say that my 3 primary airlines (Alaska Air, American Airlines, and Delta) and my primary hotel chain (Marriott) all have a 100% rating from the HRC.  If you look down the list, there are others; Southwest has a 95 rating, United has an 88 rating, Hertz Rent a Car has a 70 rating, with Skywest one of the lowest at 15, and Frontier and Midwest both with big honking 0 ratings.  (Personally, I didn’t know that about Frontier; I was going to fly them in January to see how they’ve changed since the last time I’ve flown them in 2010; now I know I won’t even bother!).

Now talking about United specifically.

So they have an 88% rating with the Human Rights Campaign, which means they can do better.  And what’s the first thing they should do?  They should address the ugly issue that came up this past weekend where a gay couple was denigrated when trying to use a United Club in Denver, including being called “faggots” and “idiots”, among other stuff.

So come on, United.  Denounce this manager’s action and use it as a teaching opportunity for your entire organization.

Personally, I don’t see this happening.  I’ve flown United a dozen times over the last ten years, and every time (without fail), the customer service is downright horrid.  I mean talking down to passengers, at a minimum.  Last time I flew them, I was standing near the gate desk in SFO, and the 3 flight crew were ten feet from me – and were talking smack about passengers.  It’s like a trained thing for United flight crews; day 1 is emergency training, days 2 through 5 is “creative customer insulting”.

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Well THIS isn’t totally unexpected

The list of winners from the World Airline Awards was announced recently – and nobody in North America was even CLOSE to being at the top of the list.  Then again, I’ve flown almost every single US based airlines, and can tell you there’s really nothing to compare to an overseas airline and their service.  Hell, the 7 hours I spent on an overnight flight from Abu Dhabi to Geneva in coach beats any amount of time I’ve spent in first class for a bunch of US airlines.  ::cough:: US Airways… United…  ::cough::

The top five airlines are:

  1. Qatar Airlines
  2. Singapore Airlines
  3. Asiana Airlines
  4. Cathay Pacific
  5. Thai Airways
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