- I am a big fan of art in airports. I feel like it breaks up the monotony of the walls, plus I get to experience art I might not see in my everyday life. So I was delighted to read this great story in USA Today Travel from my airport soul sister Harriet Baskas on the re-dedication of a multi-panel mural at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport saluting African-American achievements in aviation.
- The New York Times Practical Traveler column recently covered ways that travelers can speed through security lines. While the article did outline the options (Global Entry and Pre-Check) it made it so very clear how limited the options really are. Global Traveler is for those who travel overseas, while Pre-Check is only for frequent travelers flying on American and Delta. I sure wish there were more options for those of us who don’t fit into the above categories.
- The Toledo Blade recently had an article about how Toledo Express Airport still hasn’t been able to attract commercial airline service seven months after receiving a $750,000 Small Community Air Service grant designed to bring in a carrier. This is not a new problem for the airport, which is about an hour’s drive away from Detroit Metro Airport. And there’s the problem. You have a major hub airport that offers service around the glob, plus a healthy amount of flights from Southwest Airlines. And flying out of Toledo to connect through another airport tends to cost more. The airport received a $400,000 grant back in 2006, but had to return the money after having no luck attracting an airport even then. The lesson? Just because you build it, doesn’t mean they will come.
- Peter Shankman, founder of the Help A Reporter Out website and frequent traveler, recently did a Twitter Q&A on flights from Hong Kong to New York and Newark to Los Angeles International Airport. Some of the questions — what is the meaning of life — are a little offbeat, but there are plenty of other travel-related questions that are worth a read.
- Last week, a former flight student tried to steal a Cessna 152 from Compton Airport, reports the Los Angeles Times. I found several things interesting about this. One, who knew there was an airport in Compton and that it’s been around since 1924? Two, please feel free to insert your favorite NWA jokes here. And three, click here to read a conversation I had with my flight instructor about this story, on the AOPA Pilot blog.
In May 2010, I spent the day at the American Airlines Admiral’s Club at Chicago O’Hare to test out the new first class seat being installed on the carrier’s American Eagle regional jets. I also got to sample a new food menu for those passengers. I had some time to kill, and the club had killer views of the airport. I love this picture of a Mexicana jet with the Chicago skyline in the background. Enjoy!
It was a busy week, catching all the news from the Singapore Air Show and Heli-Expo. We also saw President Obama release his FY 2013 budget and FINALLY sign the $63 billion Federal Aviation Administration authorization bill, which keeps the agency funded through 2015. So here’s what else went on.
- As American Airlines parent AMR Corp. continues its stay in Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, its labor unions, which have a seat at the creditors table, are doing what they can to keep as many jobs as possible, despite the airline’s recent announcement of 13,000 job cuts. As an alternative to those cuts, two of the carrier’s largest unions — the Transport Workers Union and the Association of Professional Flight Attendants — has said the company should consider offering lump sum buy-outs, reports Aviation Week. TWU is proposing $75,000, with health insurance and other benefits retained for 9,000 employees facing the chopping blog. APFA is asking for a year’s salary and current health, travel and pension rights for members with more than 15 years’ seniority.
- Anyone who’s a regular reader of this blog or who follows me on Twitter (@AvQueenBenet) knows that I think allowing cell phones during flight is another circle of hell. Do you hear the chatter that starts as soon as a plane lands? Can you imagine hearing that on a DC-San Francisco flight? One provision under the newly passed FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 is that Congress is requiring the FAA to study the impact of cell phones for voice communications on aircraft where such service is currently permitted by foreign governments, reports Mary Kirby (@APEXMary) in her APEX Editor’s Blog. Here’s hoping that the study will continue to uphold the inflight ban on cell phones.
- Back when I was in college in the 1980s, I was always trying to find the cheapest way to fly from D.C. home to San Francisco. My savior was PeoplExpress, also fondly known as People’s Distress. They had $99 fares, you paid to check bags and for food/drinks onboard. You even paid your air fare onboard. It wasn’t a luxury ride, but it got you from point A to point B at a pretty reasonable price. The airline shut down in February 1987 and it was folded into Continental Airlines. Fast forward 25 years later, and it may be coming back. Some of the folks from the original airline are proposing to bring back the low-cost carrier and headquarter it at Newport News-Williamsburg International Airport in Virginia, reports the Washington Post. The carrier plans to initially serve destinations in Florida, New England, the Great Lakes, and Mid-Atlantic regions, then expand to other cities, such as Pittsburgh, Providence, West Palm Beach and Newark, where airline consolidation over the past few years has led to a reduction of non-stop air service.
- Like most frequent travelers, I’ve been watching with interest as the Transportation Security Administration continues to expand its PreCheck trusted traveler program. I covered the airport security beat for four years, which gave me a front-row seat to the private sector operated registered traveler program. You can read my post on the APEX Editor’s Blog about how we got from a private RT program to an effort overseen and blessed by TSA.
- It’s Black History Month, and I’ve always had a particular fondness for those who were pioneers in the aviation/airline industry. My brother from another mother — Greg Gross from the I’m Black and I Travel blog — shared the amazing story of Norma Merrick Sklarek, who died this year at the age of 85. Ms. Sklarek’s claim to fame was that she was the first black woman in America to be licensed as an architect. But her place in aviation history was secured as the leader of the team that designed Terminal 1 at LAX, which received the millions of visitors for the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. She also designed the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. Not bad for a woman who began her career designing bathrooms for the New York City building department.
I was a busy bee last week, with an APEX Editor’s Blog post about JetBlue’s food choices at its flagship Terminal 5 at JFK Airport, two stories in Aviation International News’ Singapore Air Show publication (on Enterprise Florida and Canada’s Manitoba Department of Entrepreneurship, Training and Trade) and a stint as guest host on episode 185 of the Airplane Geeks podcast. And last — but certainly not least — I got to be a judge, along with Henry Harteveldt and Brett “Cranky Flier” Snyder in a 12th anniversary cake contest to celebrate JetBlue’s 12th anniversary, as retold on the carrier’s Blue Tales blog.
OK, so I’m here in Baltimore stewing in my own bitterness because all my cool aviation friends are at one of two places — the Singapore Air Show or Heli-Expo 2012. But the news still continues no matter where we are, so let’s get going with this week’s stories.
- Since I can’t be in Singapore, I’ll be following the action from Aviation International News’ (you may see a story or 2 from me) special microsite just for the show. I’ll probably also look at FlightGlobal’s microsite (love that design) and my former employer, Aviation Week.
- Before and after American Airlines officially filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, rumors were flying over whether the carrier would merge and if they did, who will it be with? And now, American’s unsecured creditors say they want to see the airline talk with Phoenix-based US Airways about a potential merger, reports Reuters. of course, these creditors want to have some hope of recovering money after the carrier emerges from bankruptcy. But American’s management seems to be firm about not merging. It will be interesting to see what happens.
- In 1997, I flew down to Sao Jose dos Campos, Brazil, where the Embraer ERJ-145 was built, to take delivery of an aircraft for Continental Express. On the way home, we spent a day and a half in Martinique. At the airport as we waited for our ride to the hotel, we saw passengers boarding a CorseAir Boeing 747 to France. Our customs agent asked us to guess how many seats the plane had. No one guessed more than 400. But it was 24 in business class and 558 in coach — all the way back to France. So I didn’t raise an eyebrow when I read that Philippines budget airline Cebu Pacific will cram 400 seats onto its Airbus A330s, which normally seat 300, reports the APEX Editor’s blog.
- Back in 2009, I flew AirTran Airways to and from Orlando to attend the National Business Aviation Association convention. On my flight home, I decided to expense the $12.95 for Gogo Inflight Wi-Fi. I used it to post the last of my show news stories and catch up on email. But would I have paid for it myself? Probably not, and that’s the dilemma outlined in a story in ComputerWorld, entitled “Wi-Fi in flight has yet to soar.” The article notes that only 7% of passengers pay for the service because they don’t want to shell out the money and many times, they don’t know a plane is Wi-Fi equipped.
- Regular readers know that Southwest Airlines is my carrier of choice, because it gets me from Point A to Point B safely, quickly and at a good price. That good price includes being able to check two bags for free. But those who can’t or won’t fly Southwest Air have come up with clever little ideas to avoid paying bag fees on other airlines. Some of the ideas outlined in the New York Times included: vacuum-seal bags in a carry-on; Scottevest clothing that holds everything from clothing to an iPad; and signing up for an airline-branded credit card that allows for one free bag to be checked.
I forgot to link to my Feb. 1 post in the APEX Editor’s blog on miniature airport hotels at London Heathrow and Hartsfield-Jackson airports. And look out for the latest episode of the Airplane Geeks, where I’ll be a guest host.
What a week it was! We saw the demise of another European carrier — Malev Hungarian; we saw American Airlines unveil its expected job cuts as part of its Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing; and a manufacturing issue forces Boeing to inspect its flagship 787. So let’s go onto the news!
- When I worked at Delta Air Lines, we worked on initiatives designed to avoid a Chapter 11 filing. One of those was a project I spearheaded — media outreach on our effort to have Congress enact pension reform. One of the highest cost legacy carriers faced was the pension obligations to retired workers. We wanted to stretch out our payments — kind of like refinancing a mortgage, and avoid ending those plans, which is what happened with United and US Airways in the 1990s. Those pensions were taken over by the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC). Fast forward to last week, where NPR’s Planet Money blog posts about how PBGC Director Josh Gotbaum is urging American Airlines to look for every alternative before it decides to punt the pensions of 130,000 retirees and employees to the federal agency. According to the blog, if American does dump its pensions on PBGC, it will be the largest claim since United got rid of its pensions in 2005.
- Another day, another issue with the Boeing 787. Regular readers know my favorite aircraft of all time is the 747, but the 787 has faced more than its fair share of woes. In the latest issue, “Structural stiffeners were found to be improperly joined to the composite skin in the aft sections of the aircraft, causing parts of the aircraft’s carbon fibre structure to delaminate, confirms the airframer,” reports FlightGlobal.
- The week before last we saw the demise of Spain’s Spanair. Last week, flag carrier Malev Hungarian, which was created in 1946, was the latest to have the plug pulled. Regular aviation watchers knew this was only a matter of time after the European Union ruled that the troubled carrier had to pay back millions in loans given illegally between 2007 and 2010, reports Aviation International News. And when the government refused to offer any further aid, the decision was made to stop flying, on Feb. 3.
- Talk about balls. Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.-based Spirit Airlines, in protesting new Department of Transportation rules that requires transparency in fares and gives consumers 24 hours to change their mind on a ticket purchase and get a refund, according to USA Today’s Today In The Sky blog. The ultra low-cost carrier said in a statement the “regulation requiring airlines to hold fares for 24 hours after booking without penalty comes with unintended consequences and is costing consumers millions.” So what is Spirit’s solution? Charge passengers a $2 DOT unintended consequence fee. All I can say is — really?
- I know it’s their job, but I have to give a BIG shout out to the reporters at the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram for their blanket coverage of the American Airlines Chapter 11 filing on its SkyTalk blog. Last week alone reporter Andrea Ahles held a reader chat about the latest news, while the newspaper covered the announcement of the layoffs of 13,000 employees from the management and labor side and the reaction of North Texas officials and the Allied Pilots Union about the cuts. Oh — and they also covered the start of new service to Dubai by Emirates.
It was also a banner week for this blog. I had a post in CrankyFlier.com with my five picks on airports doing great things with concessions. I also had a post in the Airline Passenger Experience’s Editor’s Blog on the advent of mini airport hotels. I thank eidtors Brett Snyder and Mary Kirby, respectively, for the exposure.
- Back in 1994, I had to fly from Washington, D.C. to Singapore. I decided to take the east coast route: DCA-JFK-FRA-SIN. I thought that was the longest flight ever, despite how comfortable it was because I was on Singapore Airlines. But it looks like Qantas’ Sydney-Dallas/Fort Worth flight is even longer, according to the Wall Street Journal.
- I admit it — I’m one of those people who does mileage runs to keep my elite status. One year, I made a 24-hour trip from Washington Dulles to San Jose, Calif. I rented a donut-wheel rental car and drove up to Oakland to have lunch with my cousins. On the way up, I was mesmerized when I saw Hangar One at Moffett Field. So check out this post on CheapFlightsFinder.com covering 7 Awe Inspiring Aircraft Hangars.
- I’m a regular listener of NPR’s Planet Money podcast. On Jan. 9, they took a look at how airlines manage to stay in business despite losing hundreds of billions of dollars. And they brought in none other than retired American Airlines Chairman and CEO Bob Crandall to explain it to us. Nice to see that Mr. Crandall is as charming as ever!
- Normally this story of a Transportation Security Administration officer being caught stealing two iPads from a passengers’ checked luggage, from a story reported by WMC-TV, would have been included in Strange But True Aviation News. But I included it here because of the obvious question — WHY would anyone put an iPad in their checked luggage?
- San Francisco International Airport is one of my most favorite on the planet, not to mention my original hometown airport. One of the things that makes it so great is the world-class museum that just happens to reside on the premises. Check out this profile of the airport’s museum in the San Francisco Chronicle.
- The View From The Wing blog waxes poetic about the benefits of having an American Express platinum card. It does look nice, but not everyone can spring for the $450 yearly fee. I get treated very well with my Amex Zync card, at only $25 a year. Read about my treatment, here.
It was quite a week in aviation, with topics including cracks in the Airbus A380′s wings, a snowstorm in the Pacific Northwest that shut down airports, American Airlines continues moving ahead in Chapter 11 and Memphis-based regional Pinnacle Airlines facing the same. So I had to fight to decide what made the top 10 this week.
- I’ve been steeped in the business aviation side of the business since late 2008. After Boeing announced it was shutting down its plant in Wichita, the self-proclaimed Air Capital of the World, the New York Times came out with this profile of the city and its history with the Chicago-based company.
- At the beginning of my journalism career, I covered topics including education, economic development and employment and training. So it was with great interest I read a blog post in Aviation Week’s Things With Wings blog: The Art of Attracting Top A&D Jobs. The post not only discusses what happened with Boeing in Wichita, but covers how other companies are making the balance between capacity and work.
- I flew down to Austin on Southwest Airlines last week, and noticed that the carrier has begun its integration with AirTran Airways. So I read two stories last week with interest. One, in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, discusses how the Dallas-based carrier will dismantle Atlanta as a hub. The second story, in the Washington Post, covers how the carrier will keep 22 AirTran cities, but drop another 15.
- Even before American Airlines filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, rumors were rampant that the carrier was a merger target for US Airways. Bloomberg BusinessWeek has a story about how US Airways is working on a plan that would “fix a weak domestic route system at American Airlines and boost revenue.”
- Back in 1996, on my first day of work at the Regional Airline Association, I got to sit in on a call where a major airline executive had words with my new boss over a decision not to take sides in the fight over user fees to fund the Federal Aviation Administration. And now, 16 years later, the fight continues. The latest shot was fired when the White House responded to a petition asking that a proposed $100 per flight user fee be scrapped, according to a story in AOPA Online (my current employer).
Episode 181 of the Airplane Geeks podcast features my boss Craig Fuller, who discusses user fees, NextGen and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association’s Aviation Summit in Palm Springs, Calif. Finally, below is a video of Southwest Airlines installing its new EVOLVE interior in a Boeing 737. Enjoy!
- Regular readers know how I feel about lap babies on planes ( my post is here). So was US Airways really so wrong in throwing off a family of two adults, a 3-year-old, 20-month-old twins and an 8-month-old baby because the parents did not buy tickets for the younger children, as reported in Yahoo News. Technically, the twins and the baby could fly as lap children. First the parents wanted to put one of the twins in a seat with the 3-year-old (really?). Then they took an offer from a stranger to hold one of the twins (a stranger?). They also accepted an offer from a passenger to buy another ticket for one of their children (why not buy your own?). In the end, it’s about safety, and that’s why they were booted, according to US Airways. I won’t judge, but I don’t disagree with US Airways’ handling of the situation.
- I can’t wait to see what U.S. airline merge this year. The only question: which ones? American Airlines-US Airways? JetBlue-American Airlines? Alaska Airlines-American Airlines? Virgin America-JetBlue? Bahahaha!
- I really wanted to fly on the Farmers Insurance zeppelin when I went to Oshkosh last summer. This article from the Ventura County Star really makes me even sadder that I didn’t try harder to get a ride.
- Will 2012 be the year we FINALLY see a long-term FAA reauthorization bill? Considering this is an election year, I’m afraid that we won’t see any real action until 2013. How sad is that?
- An O&D airport like New Orleans’ Louis Armstrong International needs to step up its concessions game. A city with such a rich food heritage should have an airport that reflects the same. With a few exceptions (like Acme Oyster House), it’s been only a dream, as cited in this article on NOLA.com. It’s an embarrassment, and the city — and its visitors — deserve better.
- My parents leave on Thursday for a trip to UAE, with stops in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. They took my advice and will fly Etihad out of Chicago O’Hare. Too bad they won’t get to experience the first class chef, as profiled by Business Traveller.
- Back in late 2003, I did a mileage run to keep my Continental OnePass gold status. I flew from DC to San Jose in a day; I even rented a donut-wheel car just to add onto the pile. So I love The Points Guy website for helping us all feed this strange addiction.
- And last, but not least, a question for my pilot and student pilot friends: I hear songs in my head when I’m flying. Is this normal?