Wednesday, March 29, 2006

"Bull Durham"

Sometimes things catch my eye that have very little, if anything, to do with travel.  The Internet Movie Script Database is one of them.
I thought I'd browse around the site looking for some of my favorite travel movies, but then I got sidetracked looking up some of the all-time great movie lines and scenes.
Like the monologue of Crash Davis (played by actor Kevin Costner) in the movie, "Bull Durham."
Crash:  After 12 years in the minor leagues, I don't tryout.  Besides -- I don't believe in Quantum Physics when it comes to matters of the heart. . . or loins.
Annie (played by Susan Sarandon):  (challenging him) What do you believe in?
Crash:  (with passion)  I believe in the soul, the cock, the pussy, the small of a woman's back, the hanging curve ball, high fiber, good scotch, long foreplay, show tunes, and that the Novels of Thomas Pynchon are self-indulgent, overrated crap.
Crash: (continuing)  I believe that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, I believe that there oughtta be a constitutional amendment outlawing astro-turf and the designated hitter, I believe in the "sweet spot," voting every election, soft core pornography, chocolate chip cookies, opening your presents on Christmas morning rather than Christmas Eve, and I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last for 7 days.
Annie (And every other woman in the theater, I might add):  Oh my. . . .
Nothing to do with travel --- except that there is an airport in Raleigh Durham.  Next time I'll keep looking for travel movies.
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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Paper Dolls

Some days you just want to find something to waste your time.  Er, I mean, something that will tax the creative side of your mind.
I was thrilled to find Paper Doll Heaven, a site that allows you to choose among a variety of celebrities and then dress them up.  Just like playing with paper dolls when I was a kid.  Except with celebrities.  And except for the cooler clothes.
Hey Tray.  see how long you can spend here.

Hotels Join Airlines in Adding on Fees

As if the add-on fees to airfares aren't bad enough, now it appears that hotels are trying to get a piece of the action.
KSL Newsradio reports that hotels are increasingly adding on fees that were once provided at no-charge to hotel guests.  These include fees for the fitness room, hospitality fees, maid service fees, early arrival fees, and increased fees for room service. 
The fees are frequently disguised under the benign sounding "resort fee," with no break down provided.  Guests have been complaining that these mandatory fees are not quoted, or even mentioned, at the time of booking. 
The Marriott Hotel seems to be fighting the add-on trend, and has gone to an all-inclusive pricing structure.  The fees may still be there, be sure to ask, but you at least know what the total price is right up front.  No surprises at checkout.
The moral of story is: ask, ask, ask.  And if you feel that you have not been adequately informed of the price of your room, ask for an adjustment on your bill.  If the front desk personnel cannot waive the fees, ask to speak to the manager on duty.  If that doesn't solve the problem, write to the general manager upon your return home.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Poll Results: Cell Phone Use

The numbers were overwhelmingly against cell phone use on the phone.
No:  68%
Maybe (with restrictions): 17%
Yes:  10%
I Don't Care:  5%

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Seen Onboard

I saw the following t-shirt onboard the other day:
"I see dumb people."
I thought about having a bunch made for my crew members ---
"I serve dumb people."
You just gotta keep your sense of humor about this job.
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Airlines are Hiring

Despite some pretty economically troubled times, it appears that employment prospects for airline workers are the best they've been in post 9-11 era. 
It's a little too soon for a full scale celebration, as there are still plenty out-of-work former airlines employees, and the increase in jobs will certainly not pick up all the slack.  Additionally, the salary scales have been slashed and burned, meaning the jobs that are available will be at greatly reduced salaries.
You need a score card to keep track of which airlines are hiring and which are laying off workers.  Although it's hard to get an accurate assessment, if you're looking to join the airline industry, this may be a good time to do so. 

To Retire or Not to Retire

In the U.S., pilots have mandatory retirement at age 60.  There is no mandatory retirement age for Flight Attendants.
Although there has much discussion about changing the retirement age, so far it remains.  When the topic comes up, the debate focuses on safety issues, and how the age of pilots factors into that equation.  More and more pilots are supporting extending the retirement age, in large part to recent decimation of their pension funds.  Simply put, many pilots now find themselves financially unable to retire at age 60, and are looking for another few years of flying and earning to get there.
Last week, British Airways announced it's intention to increase the retirement age for its pilots and Flight Attendants.  B.A. crews have reacted dramatically at this news, and have announced that will take industrial action in retaliation to the company's unilateral decision.  Seems they have a different view of extending the retirement age than their U.S. counterparts.
Regardless of where you stand on this issue, caution would be advised if you are planning on flying British Airways.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Who is Your Twin?

Everyone has a twin somewhere.  I've never seen mine, but I know she's out there. 
A friend forwarded this website that does a face recognition scan.  You upload a photo and then the site analyzes your face.  After this analysis, it compares your facial structure to a celebrity data bank of about 3,200 people.  While it seems to analyze just your facial structure, there does seem to be some emphasis on how your hair frames your face and whether or not you are wearing glasses.
I put a recent head shot through the process, and I match with Debra Winger (76%) and Holly Hunter (72%).

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

More on Northwest's $15 Comfort Fee

A week ago, Northwest Airlines began charging a $15 premium for coach class aisle and exit row seats, trying to squeeze a little extra money from passengers who are willing to pay extra for some perceived comfort.
Although the company has not been forthcoming with any figures, it claims that sales of these seats are exceeding expectation.
Business travelers are incensed at this "comfort" fee, claiming that it merely charges more for the seats without enhancing the "comfort" value at all.  One more example of what was once free, now is not. 
Frequent flyers continue to bemoan the loss of perks that they received as a result of their loyalty to Northwest, as these seats were generally reserved for elite members of the program.  What once was free, now is not.
Northwest, still struggling in bankruptcy, had not said whether this test program will be made permanent, deferring the decision once more customer feedback is received.  According to an article in the Washington Post, Northwest should be hearing it loud and clear.  Now, they just have to listen.
How many times do I need to say it:
Just raise the ticket prices and few bucks a piece and stop these ridiculous little add-on charges!

Tall Enough

Most U.S. airlines have done away with a minimum height requirement to be hired as a Flight Attendant.  Instead, they rely on the catchall concept that you need to be tall enough to do the job, which will include opening and closing overhead bins in the cabin and storage compartments in the galley.

I’ve always wanted to be tall, but I’m just pretty average.  According to Tall or Not, I’m the same the same height (5’6”) as:  Bridget Fonda, Twiggy, Teri Hatcher, Winston Churchill, Spike Lee, and James Cagney.

Via Jack and Hill.

Monday, March 20, 2006

At Least You Can Dream

Travel is in my blood.  And so it is for lots of other people.  When we're stuck on the ground to long, we start to get a little cranky.  We long for a new adventure, a new place, new people.
But sometimes, things get in the way.  Schedules don't cooperate.  Finances won't stretch as far as we would like.  Other people and their needs and preferences must be taken into account.
When that happens, what's a travel lover to do?
Try downloading this screen saver.  Then look at your computer desktop and pretend that you are looking at the current view outside the airplane window that is whisking you away to your dream destination.  (FREE download here.)
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Update: Inflight Cell Phone Use

Today in the Sky has provided an update on the topic of potential inflight cell phone usage. 

Passengers are overwhelmingly said NO to inflight use in a USA Today poll.  So, writer Ben Mutzabaugh took the idea a step further and asked the airlines themselves what they plan to do.  His article today lists responses from most of the major airlines, including my carrier, so you can scroll through and see what your favorite plans to do.

One lesson learned from these responses is that the airlines are at least saying that they will be listening to their passengers to see what they want.  Whether they do what passengers want, or whether they go where they think the money will be, remains to be seen. 

I think it's time to start letting the airlines know what you think.


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Sunday, March 19, 2006

Poll: Inflight Cell Phone Use

The FAA, and individual airlines, are considering allowing cell phone use once the flight is air born.  Regulations would still prohibit use below 10,000 feet, the time when personal electronic devices would most likely be able to cause interference with aircraft navigation aids.
What do you think of this idea?  Would you use your cell phone in flight?  Would you want to sit next to someone who was on their phone?  Vote in the new poll, and leave your comments here.

Cross Check Secret Code

Here's a question that I'm frequently asked:
I have a question that's been bugging me for a while now. When boarding and deplaning, I always here this "secret code" the cabin crew says on the PA. Cross-check and report.  1R1R, 1L1R, etc.
Maybe your airline says different things, I just happened to remember what was said on my last flight (US Airways). I would be really grateful if you could clarify this mystery for me (or at least give me some hints if it's a professional secret) =)
This really isn't a secret code designed to keep passengers in the dark.  It's a shorthand way for crew members to advise other crew members that the door for which they have responsibility has been armed or disarmed.  What this means is that the emergency evacuation slide at their door has been engaged or disengaged and it is safe to push back for take off or open the door for deplaning.  Different airlines have different phrases for what is said, but it's all communicating the same information.
Glad I could de-mystify the "secet code."  I only wish that it was something more interesting.
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This Charge Isn't Going to Fly

FINALLY!  A fee that's not going to fly!
American Eagle Airlines, a regional carrier for American Airlines, says that it has given up on its idea to charge passengers for soft drinks on its flights.
American explained and defended its idea by pointing out that low-cost European airlines routinely charge for beverages and food onboard, and by comparing the airline industry to a movie theater that makes a goodly profit on selling food and beverages.
Neither argument appears to be flying with passengers who didn't buy into the concept.
American isn't giving up, though, and still plans to sell packages of cashews for $1 and pillow & blanket sets for $5.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Happy Saint Patrick's Day

Irish Coffee. Green Beer. Kissing the Blarney Stone. Looking for a four-leaf clover. Wearing of the green.

Everyone's a little Irish on Saint Patrick's Day.

You Are Emerald Green

Deep and mysterious, it often seems like no one truly gets you.
Inside, you are very emotional and moody - though you don't let it show.
People usually have a strong reaction to you... profound love or deep hate.
But you can even get those who hate you to come around. There's something naturally harmonious about you.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Leg Room Fee

Just in case you're still not sure about the advisability of one-price fare quoting, here's a new fee looming on the horizon:  Leg-Room Fee.
That's right, Northwest Airlines is testing the waters to see if passengers would be willing to pay $15 more per ticket for a seat with additional leg room.  My first thought was why not charge $15 more and give everyone more leg room, but I realize that there are those travelers who would miss cramped accommodations.
These hidden fees are becoming more and more ridiculous.  What's next?  A fresh air fee?
It's long past time to resolve the dilemma of ticket pricing.

Rising Ticket Costs

The fees they are a-rising!  Is anyone surprised?  How long can this insanity continue? 
Southwest has decided to add a surcharge to their ticket price to cover the increased costs of fuel (or in recognition that their fuel hedging is nearly gone).  This fuel surcharge is based on the mileage of the flight.  Makes sense -- longer flight, more fuel.  However, it is also based upon when you buy your ticket.  I'm scratching my head here trying to think what that has to do with fuel.  Maybe it's not so much of a "fuel" surcharge as simply a fare (fair?) increase to cover the cost of doing business in a reasonable manner.  Other airlines have appeared to match this fare increase.
The Travel Bloggers, in reporting on fare trends, says:
When an airline does not charge enough for their tickets to cover  the cost of doing business, they are essentially saying to their shareholders, you will subsidize the traveler out of your pocket so we can maintain market share. This is not that bad in the short term, but in the long term it is a terrible way to run a business.

And that is why the airlines are in the plight they are in now. If the airlines are smart, they will add another surcharge in the next month or two and make sure they are profitable and viable, as opposed to being stuck in a death spiral for market share.

As I added to the comments at that site, and as I've said here many times:  When an airline does not charge enough for their tickets to cover the cost of doing business, they are essentially saying to their employees you will take paycuts to subsidize the traveler out of your pocket so we can maintain market share.  And that's bad for business in both the short and long run.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Bottom Line: What's it Going to Cost Me?

The price of a ticket just isn't what it used to be. 

Oh sure, there's the base fare, which is always very low.  That's the price that we see advertised; the price that gets everyone excited about traveling.  It's what makes the trip that we are contemplating sound affordable.

But then you have to add to that base fare the various taxes (local, state, federal) and fees (airport fees, fuel surcharges, security fees, etc.) and before you know it, the price of the ticket can nearly double.

I've long been a proponent of one-price shopping when it comes to airline tickets.  The price you are quoted for your ticket should include ALL charges that you will have to pay.  NO hidden add ons.  NO surprises. 

Apparently I'm not alone in this belief, as the DOT's recent proposal to keep base fare lows, but then allow the airline to tack on additional fees, is being met with opposition in the U.S. Senate.

Does anyone really care what the base price is?  Isn't what's really important the total that you are going to have to pay for your travel?

If you're of the same mind as I am (that allowing an artificially low advertising fare, when the reality, after all the fees are tacked on, is substantially quite higher) is deceptive, as well as ridiculous, consider writing your Senator or Representative to express your opinion.  Tell then you want your fees up front, not hidden.  As soon as I finish this post, that's exactly what I'll be doing.

Via Upgrade: Travel Better


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Sunday, March 12, 2006

Poll Results: Lost Bags

Result of the lost baggage poll show that 62% of you have had bags go missing, courtesy of the airlines.
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Friday, March 10, 2006

Art is All Around Us

On a recent layover in Los Angeles, I had an opportunity to visit the Getty Museum. It wasn't my first visit to the museum, but it was my first in a quite some time. Returning for a visit reminded me how much I have always enjoyed the place.

The Museum is laid out with buildings surrounding by beautiful grounds. It is as peaceful sitting outside for a bit of fresh air (or lunch) as it is strolling through the various exhibits. And it's free! The current exhibit is a Degas.

After viewing so much great art, I came across this little quiz: Which artist would paint your portrait? I'm not a big Dali fan, but perhaps I should check him out a little more thoroughly.

Who should paint your portrait?

Who Should Paint You: Salvador Dali

You're a complex, intense creature who displays many layers.

There's no way a traditional portrait could ever capture you!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Airline Computerization

Most aspects of the airline industry have been computerized. However, whether it's the passenger experience, or the employee one, it can be frustrating when glitches occur.

As an employee, we rely on the computer systems to submit our bids (the process by which we get our monthly schedules), check to see our flight information, make trip trades, keep current on operations, etc. It is a vital part of our operations, and one that company wants to expand. Increased automation means decreased costs.

Today I have been unable to log into my work account for several hours. It's not a server failure or planned maintenance. Calling the help line just results in a recorded message saying that service is unavailable. No explanation. No estimate of when things might be working again. No "sorry for the inconvenience, please check back later" message.

Problems occur, of course. But this experience doesn't leave me feeling very favorable about implementing new systems when the current ones can't be maintained.

He'll Buy Me a Drink

I was working the beverage cart on my last trip, and stopped at a row to take orders and pour beverages. 
An attractive, well-dressed woman ordered a glass of wine, and said that her husband was sitting behind her and that he'd pay for both of their drinks.  I served her the wine, finished up the rest of the row, and moved on to the next one.
I said to her husband that the beautiful woman sitting in front of him had said that he'd buy her a drink.  He said of course, and ordered one for himself as well. 
Later in the flight as we passed through with the beverage cart again, the woman said once again that her husband would take care of paying for her beverage.  When I served the husband again, I said that his wife had another glass of wine. 
All of a suddent there was silent.  No response at all.  There was a strange look on his face.  He said very solemnly, "I don't have a wife."
The woman sitting ahead of him heard and turned around.  She looked shock, and seemed speechless as well.  Turns out that her husband had moved another row back to accommodate a family that was trying to sit together.  The person sitting behind her was a stranger. 
She was terribly embarrassed that she had told me a stranger would buy her a drink.  The stranger, however, was quite willing to do so.  Her husband remained oblivious to the whole thing.
Who knows.  This may be a new way to meet someone on an airplane.
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It Does, It Doesn't

It does. . . it doesn't. . . it does. . . it doesn't. . . .   Oh, who the hell knows any more?!

I'm talking about whether or not personal electronic devices (PDA's, laptop computers, games, cellphones, etc.) interfere with aircraft navigational aids.  A recent study by Carnegie Mellon University researches says it does, that is, these items can pose danger to the normal operation of aviation electronics.  This conclusion is, apparently, in contrast to the previously held believe that there was a minimal risk involved.

One of the worst offenders -- GSP receivers (global positional systems).

The study further found that cell phone calls are frequently made during critical stages of flight.  We define that as under 10,000 feet, which is roughly climb out and final approach.  That's why flight attendants tell you not to use your electronic equipment until after a certain point in the flight.

While the study certainly has its critics, the key issue seems to be one that is reiterated often -- follow the directions of your flight attendant.

Via Inflight HQ

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Snowflakes are Falling

I know that it's warming up in most parts of the country, and that we're probably safely past the danger of snow.
Still, I can't help making these snowflakes, off and on, all day long. 
Let me know when you make some, Tray.

Your Kids Are a Beep Away

While walking through the airport after one of my last flights, I had to dodge the running and darting about of several screaming children. 
I looked around at the havoc they were creating, wondering -- Where are their parents?  I never did see anyone who looked like they claimed any of the children.  Given their loud and obnoxious behavior, I could almost understand why parents were hoping that someone would take these kids off of their hands.  (I'm kidding, I'm kidding!)
Seriously, though, I don't understand why people think that an airport (or anywhere else, for that matter) is a safe place to let kids roam free.  There are way too many ways for them to hurt themselves, someone else, or get lost.  I don't mean to sound alarmist, but in a blink of an eye, they could be gone.  And in the best case scenario, they're just lost; worst case, abducted.
I was intrigued, then, when I read about the IonKids system (via The Lobby, the new blog from Starwood Hotels).  It consists of a wristband, that looks like a watch, for the child and a base unit for the parent.  The two units link to one another, and if the child gets too far away, a beep not only alerts the parent, but locates the child as well.  Pricing for one wristband and one base unit starts around $300.
While I generally think that it's just a better idea to interact with, and be aware of what your kids are doing, I do know that kids are resourceful and can get away from you in increasingly clever ways.  This might just be a good back up.

Friday, March 03, 2006

The Missing Bag

Many statitistic are tracked about airline travel, and one of the more closely watched are the lost luggage numbers.  A couple weeks ago, USA Today reported that 2004 was a banner year for lost bags, with the airlines losing an average of 10,000 bags a day.

While there are lots of reasons that bags go astray, at sometime or another all airlines occasionally lose, or misplace, a bag.  It seems, however, that some airlines do it just a little more often than others.  US Airways had the highest lost rate, and Hawaiian Airlines the best, in calculations based on lost bags per person transported.

As I browsed the list to see where my airline landed, I started thinking about the last time that I had lost a bag.  That's when I realized that with all the thousands and thousands of miles that I've logged I have never had a bag go missing.  In talking with other people, no one that I talked with had had a lost bag either.

So, I figured it's time for another poll:  Have you personally had a bag lost by an airline?


Via Today in the Sky