Entries in the Category "Travel"

A Recombobulation Area

Milwaukee's Mitchell International Airport has a sign after their TSA check point that reads "Recombobulation Area."



United: No snacks for you!

Another airline has joined the no-snacks bandwagon. United Airlines announced that effective September 2, it will no longer hand out complimentary pretzels and cookies to economy class fliers across North America.

It also plans to drop complimentary meals in domestic business class, effective October 1, except for premium transcontinental flights from San Francisco and Los Angeles to New York.

"In the wake of high fuel prices and a challenging economic environment, we must continue to examine every aspect of our business and find new ways to improve our day-to-day operations through efficiencies that still meet our customers' expectations," reads the memo, titled "Catering Changes Provide Value and Options."

Also on the chopping block: Doing away with meals and going to buy-on-board in international economy class on flights from Washington-Dulles to Europe.

Also in the memo: There will be fewer flight attendants in the domestic business class cabin because of doing away with the complimentary lunch, and the pre-arrival snack given out on the premium transcontinental flight will be history, also Oct. 1.


* * * * * * * * *

While losing snacks and beverage service in Coach on 1-3 hour flights may not be a huge bother, it is a problem for longer flights (i.e. traveling from east coast to west coast and vice-versa. How can you survive without drink or food for five to six hours on a New York-Los Angeles flight?

Plus eliminating food on flights to Europe (and possibly Asia) is an absolute no-no.

But David Stempler tells us to accept reality.

"International flights have historically been sacrosanct from these kinds of charges," David Stempler, president of the Air Travelers Association passenger advocacy group, said in an interview. "This is the new era of a fee for every service. We should get used to it."

But that would be American airlines flying international flights. We do have the choice to fly other international airlines that provide a much better quality service. For flying between Newark and London Heathrow, I would fly Virgin Atlantic. Their food service is good, and their IFE (inflight entertainment) is outstanding. You get about 300 hours of video on-demand on a 10-inch screen at your seat. If I had to fly an American airline, it would be Continental. At least they still offer food and beverage service. Their IFE still needs improvement, but it looks like they will upgrade their IFE to video on-demand soon. Their entire fleet of 777 aircraft will get the video on-demand system by the end of 2008.

Update 8/23:

United, in substitution, will offer a snack package worth up to $9. Any customer willing to fork over nine dollars will get a box which will include "fresh sandwiches, salads, snack boxes, or snacks, depending on the length of flight." $6 for "shelf stable items," $9 for fresh items. The price increase will go into effect in October.

So $9 bucks: I can substitute for an extra value meal at McDonald's, Burger King, or maybe one of those deluxe meals at a Friday-like establishment. Maybe I have enough change left over for dessert.

Homeland Security at JFK: Just another day

At JFK Airport, Denying Basic Rights Is Just Another Day at the Office

By Emily Feder, AlterNet. Posted August 18, 2008.

I was recently stopped by Homeland Security as I was returning from a trip to Syria. What I saw in the hours that followed shocked and disturbed me.

JetBlue has grandmother arrested for filming passenger altercation

JetBlue had Marilyn Parver arrested and walked off the plane in handcuffs for refusing to delete a video recording she made of an altercation between passengers.

JetBlue accused her of interfering with a flight crew (federal crime) and threatened to blacklist her by adding her name to the federal "no-fly list."

Link 1 (Elliott.com)
Link 2 (Kingman Daily Miner)

US Airways to charge for soda/juice, drop bonus miles

This is another reason why US Airways will be the first airline to go bankrupt or suffer customer anger.

After following American Airlines in charging money for your first checked bags, it has announced that effective August 18, US Airways will charge $2 for soda, fruit juice, coffee, and bottled water.

Also, alcoholic drinks will go from $5 to $7.

* * * * *

In addition, the airline will eliminate a standard feature included in almost every frequent flyer elite program. Beginning August 6, US Airways Preferred Members will no longer earn extra miles when flying on the airline or any of their partners.

Their statement:

"Miles issued through the Dividend Miles program represent a real and significant economic cost. Each mile that is issued can result in the loss of revenue for the company. By reducing the number of bonus miles issued, US Airways is in a better position to withstand the impact of record fuel prices."

Plus they tacked on an additional $25/35/50 award ticket processing fee for flights booked on or after August 6.

American tourists: bad image abroad?

Jacinta O'Halloran reports on American tourists getting a bit rude and ugly abroad

AA to charge $15 on first checked bag

American Airlines has taken the next great step to screw airlines customers royally.

Even after most of the airlines have started charging customers $25 for checking a second piece of luggage, American Airlines announced it will charge $15 for checking the first piece of luggage starting June 15th.

It also plans to increase fees for pets and unaccompanied minors.


Time to pay for that second piece of luggage

United Airlines and US Airways Group, Inc. will begin charging $50 round-trip for checking a second piece of luggage on May 5. Other airlines may follow, eager to collect hundreds of millions of dollars without raising ticket prices.

Will customers agree to giving up the basic airline cost of checking in two bags without additional fees?

After May 5, if you brought in a second bag which is overweight and oversized, you would have to pay $450 at United Airlines. At Delta, a third checked suitcase which is overweight and oversized will knock you back $660.

Is two bags a reasonable expectation? With security rules limiting liquids as well as decreasing reliability of your luggage being able to reach your destination in one piece, customers want two.

Bush orders clampdown on flights to US

After having scored an agreement with European air carriers over the exchange of passenger information on flights heading to the U.S., the Bush administration is now demanding a new range of security measures for transatlantic travel, including allowing armed guards on ALL flights from Europe to America by US airlines.

EU officials described the new demands as "blackmail" and "troublesome" and the possibility that if an agreement is not worked out, Western Europeans and the UK would be required to have US visas before flying over.

There is also an additional demand by the Department of Homeland Security to require all European passengers to apply online for permission to enter the country before booking or buying a ticket, a procedure that will take several days.

Welcome to Fortress America. Expect passengers to add another 1-2 hours to get processed through check-in. Honeslty, the Europeans should return the favor and require U.S. citizens to get a visa. Let's get rid of visa-free travel. If you want to fly abroad, you must check-in at least 24 hours in advance!!!


Clarity Sought on Electronic Searches

The seizure of electronics at U.S. borders has prompted protests from travelers who say they now weigh the risk of traveling with sensitive or personal information on their laptops, cameras or cellphones. In some cases, companies have altered their policies to require employees to safeguard corporate secrets by clearing laptop hard drives before international travel.

Today, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Asian Law Caucus, two civil liberties groups in San Francisco, are filing a lawsuit to force the government to disclose its policies on border searches, including which rules govern the seizing and copying of the contents of electronic devices. They also want to know the boundaries for asking travelers about their political views, religious practices and other activities potentially protected by the First Amendment. The question of whether border agents have a right to search electronic devices at all without suspicion of a crime is already under review in the federal courts.

The U.S. government has argued in a pending court case that its authority to protect the country's border extends to looking at information stored in electronic devices such as a laptop without any suspicion of a crime. In border searches, it regards a laptop the same as a suitcase.

If the government's position on searches of electronic files is upheld, new risks will confront anyone who crosses the border with a laptop or other device, warned Mark Rasch, a technology security expert with FTI Consulting and a former federal prosecutor. "Your kid can be arrested because they can't prove the songs they downloaded to their iPod were legally downloaded," he said. "Lawyers run the risk of exposing sensitive information about their client. Trade secrets can be exposed to customs agents with no limit on what they can do with it. Journalists can expose sources, all because they have the audacity to cross an invisible line."

* * * * * *

Imagine if they were to expand electronic searches to domestic travel?


If you have a death in the family, don't look towards Hawaiian Airlines for a full refund

Monrovia resident Jane Wilkens, 48, was looking forward to a getaway to Hawaii's Big Island this coming April with her 77-year-old mom and one of her mom's friends. In August, she booked three first-class tickets to Kona on Hawaiian Airlines for $4,287.

But in September, Wilkens' mom underwent surgery for a back problem. Three days later, she unexpectedly died from a blood clot.

"It was horrible," Wilkens recalled. "She was my best friend. We were very close, and this was devastating to me."

After dealing with all the things that arise under such circumstances, Wilkens finally got around to canceling various travel arrangements. She contacted the Hilton Waikoloa Village resort, where she'd booked a suite for about $600 per night, and explained what had happened.

"Just like that, they canceled the reservation," Wilkens said.

She contacted Delta Air Lines, on which she'd booked a separate first-class trip for a "girls' weekend" in Maine after she and her mom returned from Hawaii. "They fully refunded the tickets, no questions asked," Wilkens said.

She contacted Hawaiian Airlines, which, like Delta, requested a copy of her mom's death certificate. About a month later, Wilkens received a letter from Paul Whitaker, Hawaiian Air's "resolution coordinator."

He said the airline would refund each of the three first-class tickets but would deduct a $75 "service fee" per ticket, or $225.

Whitaker wrote that Hawaiian Air understood that the death of Wilkens' mom was "an uncontrollable event," but nevertheless believed its fees were "fair and reasonable." He said the carrier now considered the case closed.

"I thought that was ridiculous," Wilkens told me. "I bought those tickets nine months in advance and canceled seven months in advance. It's not like they wouldn't have time to resell them.

"It wasn't the money," she added. "It was the principle."

* * * * * *

We all understand about the "service fee" for refunding the ticket, but given the advance warning and the exceptional circumstances involved, it would have been a bit of good PR for the airline to forgo the fee.

Use a bit of courtesy!


Has to be Southwest Airlines...

I only flew Southwest once, and during takeoff, the FA kept on saying "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can..."

And on landing, the FA said "we're gonna make it!"

tsk tsk.

Consumerist.com - List of Airline and Airport "Tarmac Stranding" Policies

Consumerist.com has a list of current airline and airport "tarmac stranding" policies.

For example:

Continental - "Extended Period of Time" means 2 hours. How long before they take you off the plane: 4 hours (as of June 15).

Jet Blue - "Extended Period of Time" - Not defined. How long before they take you off the plane: 5 hours (as of Feb 20).

Delta - Not defined and no policy.

Southwest - 2 hours for "extended period of time" and 2 hours before they take you off the plane.

Thrown off plane for sexy outfit

southwestairlines.jpgIt seems you can get thrown off an airplane for anything. Kyla Ebbert found that out when a Southwest Airlines employee told her she was too bare for the air. The picture showed is what she wore on the TODAY show. It consisted of a snug-fitting white top with a scoop neck that stopped just short of showing cleavage.

Over the shirt was a green sweater that buttoned underneath her bosom. It was finished with high-heeled sandals and a white denim mini-skirt with a fashionably frayed hem.

So basically a Southwest employee identified only as "Keith," who approached Ebbert after she had taken her seat on the plane and was listening to the flight attendants go through their pre-departure routine.

He asked her to step off of the plane and when they were in the jetway, he told her that her clothing was inappropriate and asked her to change her clothes.

Apparently, he said "I'm sorry, but you're going to have to take a later flight. You're dressed inappropriately. This is a family airline. You're dressed too provocative to fly on this flight."

A compromise was finally reached when Ebbert promised to pull up her top, which wasn't showing cleavage to begin with, and pull down her tiny skirt.

The San Diego Union-Tribune called Southwest Airlines and asked if the airline had a dress code. Could, for example, a woman board wearing a bikini top?

The newspaper on Tuesday quoted the Southwest agent it spoke with as saying, “We don't have a problem with it if she's covered up in all the right spots. We don't have a dress code.”

Statement from Southwest Airlines:
"Southwest Airlines was responding to a concern about Ms. Ebbert's revealing attire on the flight that day. As a compromise, we asked her to adjust her clothing to be less revealing, she complied, and she traveled as scheduled. When a concern is brought to our Employees' attention, we address that situation directly with the Customer(s) involved in a discreet and professional manner. Fortunately, as an airline that carries approximately 96 million Customers a year, these situations are extremely rare."

Ok, that's fine, but it seemed a double standard when Ebbert wore the same outfit on a return flight, and one of the female flight attendants complimented her attire.


I find it kind of ridiculous about Southwest's policy saying it could remove any passenger “whose clothing is lewd, obscene or patently offensive” to ensure the comfort of children and “adults with heightened sensitivities.” That could depend on the flight attendant in charge or the pilot or whatever airline staff is there.

We obviously know what attire could be quite offensive, but how can you handle political, religious, humor, or whatever clothing? How can you define sexy vs provocative? Do we really need the fashion police?

Link 1

Link 2

Update 9/18/07:
It turns out Southwest sent out an apology to Kyla Ebbert, but not quite sincerely. Southwest Airlines' CEO, Gary C. Kelly, issued an apology to Dr. Phil for him to read to Kyla, her attorney, and her mother. Mr. Kelly, in his attempt to be humorous, poked fun at Kyla and not Southwest Airlines. After this so-called apology, the airline announced its miniskirt fares. The two airline tickets given to her were not accepted.

She did get a free ticket on Virgin America.

Mr. Kelly also claims that they did apologize to Kyla back in August, but there's nothing to prove that. Also, the day before Kelly's indirect apology on the Dr. Phil show, the president of Southwest Airlines, Coleen Barrett, was speaking at Texas Christian University where she defended the airline's actions and said they won't likely apologize to Kyla. She concluded by saying that Southwest Airlines continues its culture of putting its employees first and trusting them to make appropriate decisions as with the scenario involving Kyla.

"Apparently Ms. Barrett does not believe the customer comes first," says Martin Reed, Kyla's attorney.


Back in London, and it's sunny!

Work has brought me back across the pond to London for 2 weeks. After the first week of rain and overcast weather, the sun finally came over the Bank Holiday weekend. It is probably one of the best weekend weather I have ever seen.


Walking thru Trafalgar Square. There was also a Jesus gathering right behind Nelson's column.


A great view of the London Eye and Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.


Walking along the London Jubilee Bridge from Embankment to South Bank


We're at low tide, and there is really a beach!


Some sand sculpture artists take advantage of the low tide.


St. Paul's Cathedral in the distance from the south London side


Walking towards St. Paul over the London Millennium Bridge


You can see London Bridge (foreground) and Tower Bridge (background) - facing east from the Millennium Bridge


Of course, a nice close-up view of St. Paul

Another week to go.