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Back in June 2008, I attended an airports conference in New Orleans. It was my first trip back to the Big Easy since Hurricane Katrina. I had some time to kill at the gate, so I took some random shots. Mexico’s Aladia was a low-cost charter carrier that went out of business in October 2008. Below is an Aladia Boeing 757.
At the beginning of my career, I wrote for a newsletter that covered economic development among other things. I wrote regularly about the efforts of states, counties, regions and cities to bring new companies, which, in turn, bring in more jobs.
On some of those stories, airlines were included in presentations to show how well a new business could get to the places they needed to be as part of the business. But it was inevitable that they’d want a piece of the action, either to expand existing flights or add new ones.
So I say all this to comment about an article in the Memphis Commercial Appeal about the efforts of that city’s airport to keep the service they have and expand to more cities. You may remember that Memphis was one of three hubs for Northwest Airlines (No Town, Snow Town (Minneapolis) and Motown (Detroit)).
But after the Minneapolis-based carrier merged with Delta Air Lines, it was no surprise when the carrier started balancing its combined route network, which included cutting one-third of its service out of Memphis. The airport has also seen average fares rise to the point where locals are complaining – vociferously.
So the airport authority decided to hire DC-based INTERVistas, a firm that specializes in travel and tourism, to help it bring in new service and lower air fares. In a report presented last month, the firm recommended creating a $1 million fund to offer incentives to airlines for new domestic and international service including free landing fees and terminal rent, along with cooperative advertising aid.
The Commercial Appeal article included quotes from airline consultant Mike Boyd of The Boyd Group that really hit a note with me. He noted that while the incentives might speed up efforts by Southwest Airlines to expand or maybe JetBlue to start service out of Memphis, it wasn’t likely the city would get enough service to replace what Delta has cut.
According to the Commercial Appeal, the new incentives were called “the right response at the right time,” by airport president and CEO Larry Cox and “bold” by Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau president Kevin Kane. But what else would they say? Their backs are up against the wall with locals getting angry about the service cuts, as outlined in this article.
I don’t entirely disagree with these new incentives. I think targeted correctly, Memphis could see some new service — but it will never be at the levels it had when it was a Northwest hub. My recommendation is that they let go of the past and look at what other dehubbed airports — like Pittsburgh, Raleigh-Durham and San Jose — have done to survive when their major carriers — US Airways and American Airlines, respectively — have made cuts.
I am one of those people who is blessed — or cursed — with a long memory. I can’t tell you what I ate for dinner last week, but I can probably tell you where we met and even what you were wearing when we met. This blessing comes in really handy as a writer, because I do tend to remember most of my aviation stories.
So when I saw this headline — Handheld device sought to reduce frequency of controversial pat-down searches at airports — in Government Security News magazine, a little bell went off in my head. Regular readers know that I covered airports and security for almost five years at Aviation Week. I also created the now-defunct Towers and Tarmacs blog, which covered the same topics.
GSN reports that TSA has put out a proposal to potential vendors for the following in a handheld device: (a) the device should be able to be operated with only one hand during screening, (b) it should weigh less than five pounds, (c) it should not be “tethered” to a desktop computer, power supply or external detection unit, (d) it should be able to detect metal and explosives, (e) it should handle the sampling, scanning and analysis as a single step, (f) results should be obtained in less than 15 seconds, and (g) the device should be ready to screen the next passenger in less than one minute.
So as my brain scanned the phrases “TSA” and “hand-held devices,” several things popped up. I remember all this new technology TSA was exploring to make the whole security process quicker but still help the agency meet its mission. These include:
- In August 2006, TSA started exploring a shoe x-ray that would have allowed us to keep our footwear on during the screening process;
- In October, my former AvWeek colleague John Doyle wrote about a Canadian company that had created a device that attached to existing x-ray machines to scan liquids for explosives and weapons that was so sensitive it could tell the difference between Coke and Pepsi;
- A month later, TSA announced it had purchased 600 bottle scanners and would start by deploying 200 of them at six airports; and
- In January 2007, TSA was testing CastScope, a device that could scan passengers wearing casts
According to the New York Times, the Dept. of Homeland Security has spent almost $40 billion on rebuilding aviation security. And despite that, we’re still subjected to basic pat-downs if technology fails. There’s got to be a better — and cheaper — way.
Uh, the flight attendants are leaving but you want US to stay on this plane? An Air Canada pilot found himself trying to convince passengers to stay on a flight from Ottawa to Vancouver despite the flight attendants walking off over a smell from the air filter system, reports the Globe and Mail. Mail columnist Gary Mason happened to be on the flight as the drama played out over Twitter. Mason and most of the passengers (and 1 of the flight attendants) decided to stay on the flight.
There’s a difference between walking and flying? American-Iranian Muslim U.S. citizen Kavon Iraniha is back in the USA after a year studying law in Costa Rica — and finding himself on the No-fly list, reports NBC San Diego. As Iraniha tried to return to San Diego, he was told he was on the no-fly list. He was questioned by the FBI, but still not allowed to fly home. So he decided to fly to Tijuana, Mexico, then walk across the border.
No more snow in Puerto Rico. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration arrested 36 people at San Juan’s Luis Munoz Marin International Airport after breaking up a drug ring that smuggled more than 61,000 pounds of cocaine on passenger flights since 1999, reports MSNBC. The sting managed to capture some current and former American Airlines employees.
That’s not the right way to do a pat-down. Five Transportation Security Administration screeners at Southwest Florida International Airport were fired and another 38 were suspended after an investigation found that passengers weren’t being properly screened, reports NaplesNews.com. Another screener saw the problem and reported it to TSA.
Can you sue dead people? Ok, you have to follow this CNN Travel story closely, kids. Melissa Schram lost her common-law husband in a plane crash where a drunk passenger allegedly kicked the pilot’s seat, which caused the crash. You with me so far? Now Schram is suing the estate of the dead pilot, claiming he shouldn’t have let the drunk pilot on the Cessna-185F floatplane that crashed.
For the umpteenth time – drinking and flying don’t mix!! Grandmother Frances Macaskill has been ordered to repay Qantas A$18,245 after her flight from Melbourne to Perth had to return after her drunken behavior, reports the Sydney Morning Herald. Macaskill was seen drinking duty-free liquor and began fighting with passengers and shouting profanities aboard the flight, which led to her arrest and a sentence of four months in jail and a A$3,500 fine.
Dude — you can’t sail on the runway!! A runway at Boston-Logan International Airport was temporarily closed after an empty sailboat broke away from its mooring and running aground at 9/27, reports NYC Aviation.
So I guess the hookers, booze and poker are out too? Airlines starting service out of Las Vegas’s McCarran International Airport are traditionally greeted with showgirls and an Elvis impersonator. But Dutch carrier ArkeFly won’t get that deal because the arrival of its first flight is too close to the arrival of President Barack Obama, who is coming to town for an official visit, reports USA Today.
The were really “stuck” on this flight. An Allegiant Airlines flight from Phoenix to Central Nebraska Regional Airport got stuck in the dirt after the pilot made a sharp turn off the taxiway, reports the Omaha World-Herald. The return flight was delayed nearly five hours while a new plane was brought in.
FOAM PARTY!!! Workers at an Eagle Aviation hangar based at Texas’ Abilene Regional Airport got a surprise when they arrived at work: a facility filled with foam, reports ReporterNews.com. A fire suppressant system went off, causing the foam to fill the hangar and the surrounding outside area.
I’m sorry, but you need to create your own caption on this one, kids. Dutch artist Bart Jansen was distraught over the deal of his cat Orville, named after Orville Wright. So he decided to keep the dead cat with him forever by turning him into a flying helicopter, reports the Daily Mail. He called Orville ‘half cat, half machine’, adding he had become a visual art project to pay tribute to the dead animal.
I had the chance to attend the celebration of United Airlines uber frequent flyer Tom Stuker, who hit the 10 million mile Mileage Plus mark in July 2011. As part of that event, the nice folks at the airline took us on a great tour of its flagship Chicago O’Hare hub. I’m a huge fan of the lights that spark up the escalator tubes that connect the airport’s terminals. I snapped this as we took our walk. Enjoy!
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Delta Air Lines has begun testing rock-bottom “basic economy” fares on selected routes — and you, the traveler, have no one but yourselves to blame.
Why is it your fault? Because you refuse to pay the higher fares that Delta and other airlines want you to. And since you refuse, they are going to get the money out of you other ways, by hook or by crook. Take a look at what fees have been introduced in the past 10 years: checked bags, food, drinks, change fees, phone booking fees and fuel surcharges, to name some.
So Delta for the past two months has been testing fares that are remarkably similar to those offered by Spirit Airlines, on some of the routes that the ultra-low-fare carrier flies, including Detroit to Orlando, Fort Myers, Fort Lauderdale and Tampa. With basic economy, travelers can’t make any changes to their itinerary, nor can they choose seats in advance.
You may hate what Spirit does (see why in this guest blog post), but you can see how other airlines have followed some of the things they do. And someone does like the airline, because they have full flights and regularly make a profit.
So if Delta is successful with this test, look for it to expand the basic economy fares into other markers. And don’t be surprised if other airlines follow.
It was raining parts! An Air Canada flight taking off from Toronto to Tokyo had to make an emergency landing after parts from its engine fell to the ground, reports KHOU-TV. No one was injured during the landing.
He *didn’t* have a ticket to ride, but he didn’t care. A man who had just been released from jail managed to get onto a flight at San Diego International Airport — without a ticket, reports MSNBC. He entered the airport through an emergency door at the airport’s commuter terminal and was discovered after a flight attendant realized there were too many passengers on the plane.
You must behave on your flight! Ryan Snider was arrested when his American Airlines flight landed in Montego Bay, Jamaica, after becoming unruly during the flight, reports MSNBC. he refused to follow crewmember instructions and had to be restrained by two passengers.
No buckle, no ride. Mark Yanchak and his toddler were kicked off an Alaska Airlines flight leaving Seattle-Tacoma International Airport after the child refused to buckle his seat, reports CBS News. The father said the pilot was overreacting, but the pilot said he’d rather “deal with it on the ground than in mid-flight.”
Don’t you need a pole to pole vault? Pole vaulter Kati Davis got an unpleasant surprise when her Delta Air Lines flight arrived in Pueblo, Colo., for a major track and field event — her poles were not there, reports KOMO-TV. Davis paid $200 to check the poles, but they were lost, and she blames the airline for her poor performance. Delta did refund her$200 fee.
Interesting joy ride. A man was arrested after stealing a jeep and a motor home and crashing them both through the fence at Mississippi’s Segars Field/Iuka Airport, reports WTVA-TV. He was charged with two counts of grand larceny.
Regular readers of this blog know I am a HUGE fan of social media, especially Twitter, where I do my aviation geek posts as @AvQueenBenet. You also know that my day job is handling media relations for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) — a job I found via social media.
Our headquarters are directly across the street from Frederick Municipal Airport, where I happen to be taking my flight lessons. Last Monday as I was coming into work, I saw the MetLife blimp parked at the airport. It had flown to cover the Preakness horse race in Baltimore. I got out, snapped a few pictures and thought that was that. I kept seeing the blimp, so finally on Thursday, I thought I’d send a tweet to @MetLifeBlimp.
I was amazed when I got such a quick response.
Pilot Charlie Smith was kind enough to pick me up and off we went. First, I was amazed at how big the blimp was. I was also surprised that it’s just a big bag of air, as Charlie aptly described it. I got to talk with Charlie about how he became a blimp pilot, the traveling life of the crew of 13, and everything it takes to get the blimp from point A to point B. As far as him getting in the door, Smith said he was in the right place at the right time. “Not too many people dream of doing this, but we all fall in love with it.”
I know what he means. I actually felt an electric thrill when I got into the blimp’s cockpit. Forgive me as I go into uber avgeek mode. Amazingly enough, the cockpit looked amazingly like the one I’m using in my flight lessons on the Cessna 172 Skyhawk SP. Smith agreed, noting that the blimp’s cockpit only had three instruments that were unique to the aircraft. And the blimp doesn’t have ailerons, which are hinged flight control surfaces on the trailing edge of the wing on an aircraft and are used to control the aircraft in roll. As a current student, it seems weird to me that such a key part of flight is not there!
Smith noted that the @MetLifeBlimp social media team is pretty quick about responding to tweets. He said the blimp has responded to tweets to fly over schools or other places if they can fit it in the schedule. I really appreciate the folks at MetLife for allowing me to have this grand adventure! And if the blimp shows up in your city, send them a tweet — they may just fly by!