30 May 2008

30/05/2008-Weekly Roundup: 100th Post For 2008; Baggage Security; Visa?; Southwest's Humour; Legroom; Airport Etiquette

Web: www.fishfotoworldwide.com -- E-Mail: fish@flyingwithfish.com

30/05/2008-Weekly Roundup: 100th Post For 2008; Baggage Security; Visa?; Southwest's Humour; Legroom; Airport Etiquette

This is it, the 100th post on Flying With Fish for 2008. I'm not sure if this is just another post, a milestone, or anything else, but a few readers have been asking what I had planned for the 100th post. Honestly, I have no idea. I didn't know I needed to do something. I didn't plan anything. Do I need to give a speech?

I guess this being the 100th post for 2008 is a semi-milestone for Flying With Fish. Last year, 2007, the first 'real year' Flying With Fish existed I only made 53 entries. This year I am trying to keep Flying With Fish going, not really sure where it's going, but like most US based travel, I'm sure Flying With Fish will make connections in Atlanta (ATL) and Chicago (ORD)......no wait, it's already made connection flights in ATL and ORD :0)

Prior to Flying With Fish hitting 100 posts for 2008 the message of the site has been spreading more than I had ever imagined. From being written up on sites such as David Hobby's "Strobist" (www.strobist.com), Scott Kelby's Blog (www.scottkelby.com), being written up on Popular Photography Online (www.popphoto.com) and being asked to answer reader mail for Pop Photo. Flying With Fish has also had the good fortune to have been written up in News Photographer Magazine and Popular Photography and allowed me to be a guest on two well respected photo radio shows, Photo Talk Radio and Inside Digital Photo and had me appear as an 'expert' on Good Morning America.

Where do I take all this from here? Who knows? I was however interviewed yesterday by The New York Times (www.nyt.com) for an upcoming story on the TSA's new "Self Select" Security Lanes.

When it comes to the new Self Select Security Lane I have a mixed opinion. I think it is a great idea, I think it can speed up security lines significantly, however I think flyers need more education before they get to the TSA checkpoint to determine which lane they are going to get in........but I've discussed this at the start of this month here: 8/05/2008 - New TSA "Self Select" Security Lanes - The Good & The Bad

..........I've rambled enough, so onto The Weekly Round Up

My first post of the week was written early Saturday morning, while sitting at a client's kitchen table in Hong Kong, as I pondered the idea of how checked baggage can be made more secure. You can read my jet lagged ideas here: 24/05/2008 - Security Of Checked Baggage: Is There A Better Way?

It is not often I get humour from passing an immigrations checkpoint. On Sunday I faced a very frustrating situation that in hindsight is really quite funny. What was this situation? I was asked for my "work visa" upon entering the country of my birth, country of residence and country that issued my passport. Interesting in scratching your head, while also laughing, then you should certainly read this entry: 26/05/2008 - Do You Have A Visa To Work Here? Ummm....I Live Here (Humour From Real Life)

Adding to my humour of the week, if you feel like laughing at mockery of the airline industry, you should watch Southwest Airline's ad mocking the 'nickel-and-dime' airlines. I'm not sure if the ad is as funny for people who don't follow the airline industry, but it had me laughing for quite a while. Click here to view the Southwest Airlines' commercial: 27/05/2008 - Southwest Airlines Addresses The Airline "Nickel & Dime" Game

Raise your hand if you want more legroom? OK, put your hands down, no one can see you raising your hand via my blog and if you're at work your co-workers might wonder why your hand is extended into the air over the cubicle wall. Finding legroom on flights can be challenging. While I don't have the definitive answer to this question, I have some basic tips that might help you stretch out and extend your personal space. Click think entry for legroom tips: 28/05/2008 - Airline Passenger Legroom: We All Want It...Is There A Way To Get It?

I ended Flying With Fish's week visiting an old topic.....etiquette. This entry on etiquette deals with wandering 'LPTs" (loud phone talkers). If these people bother you.......or if you are one of these people, you should read: 29/05/2008 - Airport Etiquette : Doing Laps With Your Mobile Phone

That's it for this week.

Happy Flying!

29 May 2008

Airport Etiquette : Doing Laps With Your Mobile Phone

Web: www.fishfoto.com -- E-Mail: fish@flyingwithfish.com

29/05/2008 - Airport Etiquette : Doing Laps With Your Mobile Phone

I'm not sure when the practice of 'exercising with your mobile phone' in the airline lounge or at the gate started, but I'm sure it was by an insecure person who wanted to seem important.

At every airport I am in I always see 'this person,' or at times large numbers of 'these people.' You know who these people are, they have their phone glued to their ear, or they hold their phone outright at a 90° angle with their Bluetooth headset in their ear, and walk in the path of as many people as they can while discussing nothing.

I'm not sure what causes someone, who’d normally have certain conversations behind closed doors, or in a low tone at home, to stand up and blast their personal information through a large unsecured area. Not only is this unsafe, as I have heard people mention their names, travel information and credit card information more than once, but it is most importantly rude. No one wants you to wander through their personal space while you discuss whatever it is you are discussing.

Last week while sitting in Alitalia's Michelangelo Lounge, at New York's JFK Int'l Airport I encountered the first of two irritating people with mobile phones for my journey (the next person would be approximately 6,800 miles away, on the other side of the world). The wandering mobile phone user, in the Alitalia Lounge, seemed to find his way into the two-foot gap between the couch I was sitting on and the window behind it. From this gap the man on the phone wandered up and back between other couches speaking at a volume you'd use to talk to someone next to you should you be in the middle of a large stadium concert.

Quietly sitting on the couch in the lounge, trying to read my e-mail, drink a Coke and eat a small sandwich, I’d find myself not caring that this person was upset that they were booked in Alitalia's business class rather than Air France's business class (while I fully agree with his sentiments on Alitalia vs Air France, I was about to take a long-haul flight in economy class); the more this man wandered and spoke at maximum volume I found myself caring even less that he had parked his car in a long term lot that offered car detailing; and I had no interest or tolerance for his long winded discussion on his Chevy Tahoe lease being up and his interest in a new Ford Excursion (and at current fuel prices shouldn't a guy who has no kids, or so I gathered from his rambling right behind me, look for a smaller car?).

A few days after hearing the details of this gentleman's life, which I didn't care about, I found myself sitting briefly in the Air China Business Lounge, in Beijing (PEK). The lounge was fairly empty, but I found a spot near a cluster of seats overlooking the window in a quiet corner. Having just sat down, and begun the process of cruising through my e-mail, an Englishman on his way back to London parked himself in the middle of this small cluster of tables (in an otherwise empty lounge). After a moment of taking off his jacket, opening his laptop and setting his day planner on the table he pulled out his mobile phone and proceeded to have an extremely loud conversation.

I'm not sure what possesses these people, but the Englishman got up and walked four or five circles around those of us who were sitting quietly in our little cluster of tables. The glances back and forth between those of us sitting there quietly indicated that none of us cared about this man's 'busy schedule.' While packing my backpack up I did learn a few interesting things, I learned that this Englishman deals in foreign real-estate, I found out that this guy really hates his brother-in-law and for some reason I managed to be informed that he has dermatologist appointment coming up for a growth of some sort on his right shoulder.

Now I ask you this............if you were either of these two people, would you want the world knowing any of this? Do you need to walk around me, in front of me, behind me, sit next to me and speak in your 'stadium concert' voice?

Next time you have the urge to call your boss, your client, your Mom at the airport, please be courteous, stay in one place and use your normal office phone voice.

Thank you!

Happy Flying!

28 May 2008

Airline Passenger Legroom : We All Want It...Is There A Way To Get It?

Web: www.fishfotoworldwide.com -- E-Mail: fish@flyingwithfish.com

28/05/2008 - Airline Passenger Legroom : We All Want It...Is There A Way To Get It?

One of the top five complaints I hear from flyers is legroom. Everyone wants legroom, but more legroom equals less space for rows of seats on planes; less rows of seats equals less seats to sell; less seats to sell equals less revenue; less revenue....... well you get the point.

The first thing you need to know is this, not all planes are comfortable. Not all planes have any spacious seats (many regional jets have no good seats), heck there are some airlines that have first class seats I can't stand (US Airways A319 & A320 from the former America West fleet), but with some planning, some homework, some legwork, you can find yourself with a few more precious inches of legroom. Sometimes you may need to give up a movable armrest, or an armrest against the wall in a window seat, or in some cases you need to have a wall with no window, but legroom can make a long flight more tolerable.

What is the secret? Usually it is the emergency exit row. Some airlines reserve the emergency exit row for their premium passengers, ie: frequent flyers, but some don't! On Southwest Airlines (WN) if you check-in online far enough in advance (24hrs ahead of time) for an "A" boarding pass you can try and get a jockey in the line to be among the first on and snag an emergency exit row.

Some airlines won't assign the emergency exit row until the day or travel at the airport. You can call your airlines for this information. Before a recent flight, I found out that Air China (CA) does no advance seat selection, before flying 36hrs, within 70hrs, and I wanted the exit rows! Air China's 13.5 hr flight (plus 45min in the seat before the door closes, so 14hrs 15min in the seat) from JFK to PEK is a 747-400. Most 747-400 exit rows have the window seat against the bulge in the door for the emergency raft. This seat provides endless legroom, and it is a great leg rest to lean back and sleep! Since check in is "democratic" on Air China based on the order you get to the counter, I was the 2nd in line when the counter opened at JFK and the first in HKG (my connecting flight to the PEK-JFK return leg)

I cheated with Air China and checked in at the Business Class counter as a Star Alliance 'Star Gold' flyer, but the other five people I spoke to in the exit rows were all non-frequent flyers who just asked for the seats!

If you can find out your aircraft for your airline start looking up exit row seating. The second row of the exit row, on planes that have two rows next to each other, such as an Airbus A320 or A319, is almost always more comfortable (the front exit row often has no reclining seats). By asking for a specific seat row you, rather than asking for the exit row, I have at times been able to get my seats assigned by an airline when they should have technically been blocked until the day of the flight. It's not as common as I'd like, but it works.

There are some websites that detail legroom on planes, seat pitch, seat width and seat layouts, the most popular site online is SeatGuru (www.seatguru.com), although in the past year or two the information has not always been so accurate (such as SeatGuru listing in-seat power on Asiana's 747-400 fleet and I have yet to set foot on an Asiana 747-400 with any in-seat power), but it is the most detailed site out there at this time.

So, kick back, do some homework, and get ready to stretch your legs!

Below are a few photos of my recent legroom. The first photo is on a United Airline's 777-200, in International First Class, between Tokyo (NRT) and Chicago (ORD); the second photo is my endless legroom on an Air China 747-400 in economy class between New York (JFK) and Beijing (PEK); the third photo is of me stretched out in economy class on an Air China 737-800 between Hong Kong (HKG) and Beijing (PEK).

Happy Flying!

--Click Images To Enlarge Them--

27 May 2008

Southwest Airlines Addresses The Airline "Nickel & Dime" Game

Web: www.fishfoto.com -- E-Mail: fish@flyingwithfish.com

27/05/2008 - Southwest Airlines Addresses The Airline "Nickel & Dime" Game

It's no secret that I like Southwest Airlines. While I tend to only fly Southwest on short-haul and point-to-point flights due to convenience and scheduling, Southwest has fairly consistent policies, (usually) friendly crews and staff, a 'media pre-board' policy and a fantastic on-time record.

When you fly Southwest Airlines you know what you are getting. There is no bait-n-switch. There is no upgrade game, no 'elite lines,' online check in is simple, and while I dislike the airline's new standby policy (and I sincerely hope they change it!) Southwest Airlines has always been the easiest airline to work with as a passenger.

You want pillows, blankets, an in-flight magazine, a soft drink and some pretzels? You've got it! You want an in-flight movie? Bring your own! Worried about an 'equipment swap'? Don't worry, you are guaranteed to end up on a Boeing 737 with a 3-3 seating configuration. .

In a recent television ad produced by Southwest Airlines taking a jab at the legacy airlines, that usually cost more and now offer less-and-less to their flyers, Southwest Airlines has created a very funny commentary.

I've watched the ad a few times and found myself laughing every time. So with the recent discussions about 'legacy airlines' and their growing nickel-and-dime tactics, I wanted to share the new Southwest Airlines ad with the readers of Flying With Fish.

Happy Flying!

--Click Image To Begin Video--

26 May 2008

Do You Have A Visa To Work Here? Ummm....I Live Here (Humour From Real Life)

Web: www.fishfotoworldwide.com -- E-Mail: fish@flyingwithfish.com

26/05/2008 - Do You Have A Visa To Work Here? Ummm....I Live Here (Humour From Real Life)

Yesterday afternoon, after arriving back home at New York's JFK International Airport (JFK), from Beijing (PEK), I deplaned the Air China (CA) flight I had taken home and headed down to the Immigrations Passport Control area. When it was my turn I approached the US Immigrations Officer and handed her my United States issued Passport and "landing card," and what happened next had me stunned.

Before I go further with the unusual events of yesterday's return to the United States, after only being away for 70 hours, I'd like to state this. I have the utmost respect for those who work in the Immigrations, Customs and Border Protection services of not only the United States but also other nations around the world. They have a difficult job of determining who should and should not be allowed into their respective countries.

In my career as a news photographer, I had spent more than 3 years documenting 'homeland security,' both domestically and abroad. I have witnessed some unusual situations, watched some funny moments, and seen agents go extraordinary lengths to catch criminals entering the United States. I also know I have some very odd travel patterns and am accustomed to extra questioning at times. I take it in stride................but the questioning I received yesterday was bizarre.

So on with the story.......I handed my US Passport and 'landing card' to the US Immigrations Officer at the passport control booth and was asked the standard questions of "You were away on business?" I replied, "Yes." The next question is the obvious questions "What do you do?" I replied that I was a photographer and I had been in Hong Kong photographing a wedding. The Immigrations Officer asked me if I worked in the United States and I said "yes." The Immigrations Officer then asked if I was connecting to another flight and I informed her that my family was waiting for me outside and I was headed to my see my parents before heading home (not that I had to tell her that, but I was just making polite conversation).

The next question threw me for a loop. As the Immigrations Officers flipped through my passport pages she asked, "Do you have a visa to work here in the US?" I informed the Immigrations Officer that she was looking at my passport that was issued by the United States, that I was born in New York, and hat I was a US Citizen, as such I require no papers to work in the United States. The Immigrations Officer looked up and glared at me as if I had significantly angered her with my reply. She flipped through my passport pages again and demanded to know if I had a visa or permit hat would allow me to work in the United States. This round or questioning and answering went on for another minute or two.

After a few more back-and-forth words that went nowhere the Immigrations Officer summoned a Supervisor. The Immigrations Supervisor looked confused as to why they were there, once they were informed of the situation, after approaching the Passport Control Booth. The Immigrations Supervisor had my passport in his hand when the Immigrations Officer I had been arguing with stated "He has no visa to work in the United States." At this time the Immigrations Supervisor looked at the cover of my United States Passport with a confused look on his face, he flipped open my Passport, looked at the photo, looked at my face and simply asked "Where are you coming from?" I responded with Hong Kong via Beijing." The Immigrations Supervisor then took the stamper, stamped a page in my passport, flipped the passport shut, handed it to me and said "Welcome Home Sir."

As I walked away from the Passport Control Booth I could see the Immigrations Supervisor closing this lane. Clearly there was a problem with some communications between the Immigrations Officer and the Immigrations Supervisor.

I have no idea what was up with this problem, but I had an easier time entering Beijing twice in under 48hrs and Hong Kong between my two Beijing entries. You'd think I'd have a harder time entering Hong Kong to work than the United States where I am a citizen.

Normally returning to the United States, as a US Citizen consists of less than 1 minute at the Passport Control Booth. Sometimes there is secondary screening, but if and when that occurs it is usually dealt with in 2 or 3 minutes of questions.

..............I was angry yesterday, but now looking back on what transpired I find the incident funny. Both 'sad funny' and 'ha ha funny' (also a bit scary any US Immigrations Officers would think any US Citizen would need a visa to work in their home country) and looking back on the who situation I find myself laughing now.

Below is a photo of my US Passport (notice my "Place of Birth" is New York and my "Nationality" is United States of America......and yes, I have removed some information from my passport to prevent identity theft). Below my passport photo is a photo of the Passport Control Booth at Beijing Capital International Airport, where I managed to clear passport control in with relative ease (although a minor language barrier).

Happy Flying!

--Click Images To Enlarge Them--

24 May 2008

Security Of Checked Baggage : Is There A Better Way?

Web: www.fishfoto.com -- E-Mail: fish@flyingwithfish.com

24/05/2008 - Security Of Checked Baggage : Is There A Better Way?

Last night while watching a line of people check in for the late ANA (NH) flight from Hong Kong (HKG) to Tokyo (HND), I found myself watching one man running tape around his zipper at the check in counter. I don't know if it was to prevent theft or to repair a damaged zipper, but I found myself watching this wondering if this is the simple solutions airlines and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) must adopt to drastically cut down on thefts from checked baggage in the United States.

Many flyers use locks only to find their zipper as been jammed open with a knife and re-zipped, the locks have been opened with TSA 'Sentry' keys or the lock has been completely cut off. The frustration passengers feel when their bag arrives missing items they know they had checked, is massive. The answers to stopping baggage theft have become an impossible series of finger pointing situations between airlines and the TSA, which further frustrate flyer. In the end the lack of security of the contents of bags, under the noses of the federalized baggage screening process make both the TSA and the airlines look untrustworthy.

My solution is this...........ready for it?...........Simple paper based tape that is perforated with a stamped with a date stamp from the originating airport. The TSA currently places a small sticker on your checked bag's baggage tag that states your bag has been x-rayed. I say do away with this sticker and use a paper based perforated tape that encircles the bag and place the date on that piece of tape in one or two locations. Each TSA agent should be issued their own stamp with their badge number on the stamper. By personalizing the stamps they cannot easily be replicated and passed around (such as the lack of security of obtaining a set of TSA 'Sentry Lock" keys).

Once a piece of paper tape is torn, can never be repaired. Shipping warehouses have been using paper tape for years to prove if a package has or has not been tampered with. This way if a bag has been tampered with a passenger has a greater chance of knowing immediately upon retrieving their bags.

Paper based tape is low cost, low tech and highly effective. On a low-volume purchase, a case of paper tape costs approximately US$168 per case of heavy strength tape, a case of tape comes with 72 rolls, at 2"x55 yards. approximately 1 yard per bag, comes to around US$0.04 per bag. With the bulk the TSA would be buying these rolls of tape in I'm sure the cost would drop lower than $0.04. Stampers in bulk run about $6 per stamper, less expensive than the new "flashlights" in use at check points, and the costs will still be less than the new shift from "white uniforms to the new "blue uniforms" that can currently be seen at Baltimore/Washington International Airport (BWI).

With all the taxes and fees that passengers who fly within, through, or from the United States are forced to pay, I don't see spending $0.04 per bag as such a financial burden.......if even with the rising costs of fuel.

Just a potentially simple solution that costs pennies per-bag to put into action.

Happy Flying!

23 May 2008

23/05/2008-Weekly Roundup: Safer Airline Seats? Flying With Fish Airs On TV!, Navigating Airport Security, American Airlines Nickel-&-Diming Bags

Web: www.fishfotoworldwide.com -- E-Mail: fish@flyingwithfish.com

23/05/2008-Weekly Roundup: Safer Airline Seats? Flying With Fish Airs On TV!, Navigating Airport Security, American Airlines Nickel-&-Diming Bags

This week’s Weekly Round Up is being written from Hong Kong International Airport's Terminal 2 (HKG), with a slightly stiff neck and semi-sore lower back, after 18 hours traveling from New York's JFK Airport (JFK) to Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK) , and Beijing to Hong Kong in the back of the plane.

Some people have accused me of losing touch with the "real flying experience," however this is not so. I fly all economy airlines, such as Southwest Airlines and United Airlines's "Ted" often, and fly many of my back-to-back North American transcontinental flights in 'the back.' This weekend I will fly more than 16,000 miles round-trip in 70 hours, while working for 18 hours during my brief time on the ground, and do all my flying in Air China's economy class. I have logged hundreds of thousands of miles cramped into narrow economy class seats on regional jets, turbo-props (my 'home' airport only flies turbo-props) and flown many long-haul flights in barely padded seats with no legroom.

When I say I feel your pain...trust me, I feel the pain of the "real flying experience."

This past week on Flying With Fish I addressed a question of choosing airline seats based on 'safety." In my opinion, all seats are equally as prone to risks should there be a "situation." One reader of Flying With Fish quoted an MSN/Best Life article on seat safety that lists seats specifically by row/seat according to different aircraft types. This article (which can be found in the comments section of my post) lists it's information is written by a well-known travel writer, who bases his opinions on "personal experience", not evidence. I have to wonder how many airliner crashes this person has been in for "personal experience." What makes the MSN/Best Life article even more confusing for potential flyers is that it lists rows/seats that are only in relation to a specific airline and it's seat configuration on one-type of aircraft. Some airlines have multiple seating configurations for the same aircraft, which makes the entire article's information not only baseless but also useless. You can read up on this subject at: 19/05/2008 - Are Some Seats On The Plane Safer Than Others?

This week I introduced the readers of Flying With Fish to a "Month In The Life." This look back at my last month of travel was posted on the same day I appeared on Good Morning America (I hope to have a clip on YouTube shortly, but you can read it here www.FishOnGMA.notlong.com), and takes you through 32,000+ miles traveled, 7 countries and 11 cities (well 10 cities and me sleeping in 1 city). One reader questioned this last photo in a "Month In The Life," asking how I can preach security yet leave a camera out on a timer. The answer is simple, my bags were all locked and secured to bar on the floor a few inches in front of the bench I was laying on. The camera I used to shoot me sleeping was placed inside a locked PacSafe 55. This camera, inside the PacSafe 55 was locked inside an open public locker at Amsterdam-Schiphol International Airport. This is how I can preach securing your bags, and property, and still create these types of images with my gear being secured. You can see the photos and read up on my "Month In The Life" here:
20/05/2008 - A Month In The Life Of A Flying Fish

I am frequently asked to detail step-for-step my procedure for securing my property, while maintaining my ability to quickly get through a TSA checkpoint. Having sent off a detailed response to more than 400 people since the start of the year I thought it might be time just to post it on Flying With Fish. So, for my detailed step by step procedures for getting through security checkpoints hassle free and problem free read this:
21/05/2008 - Airport Security Screening System : Get Through Security With Ease & Safety

This week on Flying With Fish ended with American Airlines announcing it would begin charging $15 for the first single checked bag on all US Domestic routes, with increasing charges after the first bag. This is not acceptable for an airline that often has some of the most expensive fares in the sky. American Airlines, a 'Legacy Carrier,' currently the largest airline in the United States, is now employing tactics not even used by Low Cost Carriers (except Spirit Airline in the U.S.). American Airlines' new baggage policy takes he top position in the Nickle-and-Diming of flyers, hands down. To read more about American Airlines is further blurring the lines between 'Legacy Carriers' and 'Low Cost Carriers' please check here: 22/05/2008 - American Airlines' New Baggage Policy: Is There A Line Between Legacy Airlines & Low Cost Carriers Anymore?

I'm going to wrap up this Weekly Round Up with a photo I shot around 11:00pm (GMT+8), I'm guessing I was somewhere over (or around) Shenzhen, between Beijing and Hong Kong. We had a lightening storm shortly after the wheels went up, it was bumpy, but beautiful, followed by a big beautiful moon shining in my window in seat 29A for the flight...I know the photo does not do the view justice, but it made me smile.

Happy Flying!

--Click Image To Enlarge It--

22 May 2008

American Airlines' New Baggage Policy : Is There A Line Between Legacy Airlines & Low Cost Carriers Anymore?

Web: www.fishfoto.com -- E-Mail: fish@flyingwithfish.com

22/05/2008 - American Airlines' New Baggage Policy : Is There A Line Between Legacy Airlines & Low Cost Carriers Anymore?

Over the past few years the line between "Legacy Airlines" and "Low Cost Carries" (LCC) have been blurring. Yesterday American Airlines (AA) made an announcement that has further removed the barrier between a Legacy Airline and the LCCs operating in the United States.

Before I delve further into American Airlines stunning move in the US commercial airline market, let me quickly define what a "Legacy Airline" and an LCC are.

Legacy Airlines are those that flew interstate routes prior to the 1978 Airline Deregulation Act. There are currently 8 of these airlines operating in the United States, and once Delta (DL) and Northwest (NW) complete their merger there will be 7 left.

Low Cost Carriers (LCC) are discount airlines; they tend to operate with a lower operating structure than the Legacy Carriers. LCCs are most famous for being 'no frills.'

.......so what is American Airlines' stunning move? They announced that they would be implementing a $15 baggage fee for passengers FIRST checked bag, each way, as of June 15th 2008. Need to check two bags? Be prepared to hand over $40 each way for your bags to fly with you. (American Airlines is not charging baggage fees on full-fare tickets, for "elite flyers" and international routes. )

While airlines stared to charge $25 for a second checked bag to make up for losses earlier this year, charging for your first checked bag is one of the worst cases of passengers being nickel-and-dimed by a major airline.

Before you point out that some European LCCs have charged for any checked baggage for quite some time now (and that Spirit Airlines in the US charges for all checked bags), keep in mind that you can get fares as low as €1 + tax on some routes, whereas I tend to find American Airlines one of the most expensive airlines to fly with in the United States.

When you fly an LCC you expect to pay for everything. When you pay less than $100 for a flight of more than 1,000 miles, as I have seen available on Spirit Airlines web site quite a few times, you can shell out the baggage fee, expect a "BOB Meal" (BOB = Buy On Board) and the little missing frills.

Let's compare flight costs.

Looking at Spirit Airlines, flying from Chicago O'Hare (ORD) to Ft. Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport (FLL), departing on June 5 returning on June 9th, morning departure, evening return, I get a fare of $208 + tax.

Looking at American Airlines flying from Chicago O'Hare (ORD) to Miami International Airport (since MIA is an AA Hub), departing on June 5 returning on June 9th, morning departure, evening return, I get a fare of $668 + tax.

Both airlines serve 'BOB' meals, both airlines now charge for checked bags, neither airline offers me any great advantage over the other, so what does AA offer me for the additional $460? For a savings of $460 I am willing to pay Spirit Airlines for my bags, a sandwich and a soft-drink, I'll still be ahead around $425!

With the loss of perks on most legacy carriers, such as the charging for bags, the removal of movies on some routes, the elimination of in-flight meals, the elimination of pillows on some airlines (Southwest Airlines, the largest and most profitable LCC in the world, still offers both pillows and blankets!) and some carriers changing their operations to move closely match those of LCCs, I have to ask what separates one set of airlines from another? (I'll save that question for another entry on Flying With Fish)

My advice for everyone else? Learn to pack light, learn to pack in legal carry on, learn to use the reservations systems to shop your fares and say "NO!" to these practices by airlines.

Happy Flying!

21 May 2008

Airport Security Screening System : Get Through Security With Ease & Safety

Web: www.fishfotoworldwide.com -- E-Mail: fish@flyingwithfish.com

21/05/2008 - Airport Security Screening System : Get Through Security With Ease & Safety

After appearing on Good Morning America yesterday with tips on how to get safely and efficiently get through an airport security check point I received a number of e-mails asking me to detail my process. My process for going through airport security is simple, and starts long before I get to the security area. Following is a break down of my steps

1) After checking in (or entering the airport if i checked in at home), but before approaching the security line, empty my pant pockets of all metal, remove my phone and Blackberry and place them in a zippered jacker/vest pocket. After my items are in my pocket I remove my drivers license from my wallet (unless I am using a Passport for ID) then place my wallet in the same pocket. I use a zippered pocket because my jacket/vest must be removed at the airport screening checkpoint and sent through the x-ray machine.

If I am not wearing a jacket/vest (usually a North Face Denali) I take my items out and place them in a 1-quart sized Ziplock bag and then place this bag inside my carry on baggage.

2) While in line approaching the x-ray and metal detector I remove my shoes and make my laptop accessible. I usually fly with shoes I can kick off with no effort so I am not holding up the line while untying my shoes.

Sometimes I need to wear boots, when I wear boots I have them unlaced at the same time I unload my pant pockets of metal and enter the security line with them loose on my feet.

3) Just before I approach the x-ray 'runway table' I pat myself down to make sure I have not missed anything, such as keys or coins in my pockets.

4) When I get to the x-ray 'runway table' I take two bins, load them, and stack them until I get closer to the x-ray conveyour belt. This allows others to get their bins ready behind me, which speeds up the line for everyone.

5) The placement of my items in the x-ray scanner is an important security system for me.

The first bin through has my jacket/vest, shoes and '3-1-1' bag. By placing these items through first I can quickly grab up my shoes and jacket as soon as I get through the metal detector. While airport thieves will reach into shoes looking for a wallet, a watch or other valuables, they will not stop to pick up my jacket, unzip the pocket and search the pocket. There is no way to do that in a quick slight-of-hand manner. This means my items are rather safe from theft.

The second bin through the x-ray is my laptop. By placing my laptop second, behind my shoes/jacket and ahead of my bags, I create a barrier between the laptop and other items coming through the scanner. I also generally pace myself so I will come through the metal detector around the same time as the laptop comes through and rolls out of the conveyor belt.

The third and fourth items through are carry on bags, which is technically "1 bag + 1 personal item." Since I often travel with bags that are likely to be stopped inside the x-ray scanner and either get a few second looks through the x-ray monitor, or get pulled off for a hand-search, the first bag through is the one least likely to get stopped by the x-ray screener. The last bag in (or only bag if I am flying with 1 bag only) is the one most likely to be stopped. By placing the bags in last I am able to have my shoes on,my jacket on and my laptop in my hand before the bags roll out.

I ALWAYS watch as my last bag enters the x-ray machine. I want to know personally that all my items are on their way to the "air side" of the x-ray machine.

6) As I approach the metal detector, boarding pass in hand, I never take my eyes off the x-ray machine's exit conveyour belt. I don't generally make eye contact with the security screener, I watch my items only. Because I fully pat myself down before I even enter the security line I know i am free of anything that will set off the metal detector and I can walk through quickly and recover my items.

7) If the "air side" area of the x-ray roll-off is crowded I stack my bins, take my bags and walk to the end of the security screening area to carefully put myself back together. By slowly and methodically putting everything back together I can ensure I leave nothing behind, and also leave no opportunity for a thief to steam my items. An additional benefit to taking your items and getting back together away from the conveyour belt you leave room for others to enter this area and claim their items without clogging up the post-security screening area.

8) Grab a newspaper, find a comfortable place to sit and wait for your flight to be called

If you get selected for "secondary screening" insist on being able to claim your items, or insist on a TSA screener collecting your items and placing them in your line of sight. You have the right to do this. If this is refused, do not take your eyes off your personal property and ask for a supervisor immediately.........which will simply cause a screener to collect your personal property and place it in your line of sight.

By using a system, being calm, and knowing exactly what you can and cannot bring through security you'll have no problems getting to your gate quickly.

If you are unsure of what you can and cannot bring through security in the U.S. visit www.tsa.gov The allowed/not allowed lists on the TSA web site are now generally common throughout the airport security check points in many countries.

Happy Flying!

--Click Image To Enlarge--

20 May 2008

A Month In The Life Of A Flying Fish

Web: www.fishfoto.com -- E-Mail: fish@flyingwithfish.com

20/05/2008 - A Month In The Life Of A Flying Fish

Every once in a while someone will ask me "What makes you a Flying Fish?"

The answer to the first part of this question is simple; I have been called "Fish" since I was a young child. It is a nickname that has stuck with me throughout my life.

What makes me a "Flying Fish?" Rather than tell you what makes me a "Flying Fish," I'd rather review my last month of work and let you find our for yourself.

From 4-April to 4-May, In the course of shooting assignments and other commissioned photo projects, I flew 32,306 miles; crossed the Atlantic Ocean 3 times; crossed the North American Continent 3 times; crossed the Pacific Ocean once; crossed through Immigrations 9 times; flew through 7 countries; flew on airlines bearing the flags of five different nations (from three different continents); shot projects in 12 cities; worked on three continents..............and in one trip during this month, I flew completely around the world in 3.5 days, shooting projects in four cities, in four countries, on three continents.

My experience as a business traveler is fairly extensive. My travel is diverse from short-haul regional flights, to frequent 'mid-haul' transcontinental travel and extremely hectic long-haul intercontinental flights. Along the way I have paid attention, taken notes and most of all watched, waited and watched some more.

Coupling my in-depth knowledge of traveling as a commercial airline passenger with the information I gained while working as a news photographer, having spent 3.5 years documenting 'homeland security' both domestically and abroad, I have created an extensive personal data base of information. Now, I pass along this information to the public in an effort to make everyone's life just a little bit easier when heading to the airport to catch a flight to the see a loved one a few hundred miles away or a new client half-way around the world.

For you new readers of Flying With Fish......Welcome!

For you readers familiar with Flying With Fish, thanks for your support. There are some new things I have in the works for the future and I hope you stick around to see them as I start to roll them out.

For those of you interested in my work, outside of Flying With Fish, I am ending this post with 15 images from my work between the 4th of April 2008 and the 4th of May 2008. These images are all dated and posted in chronological order.

.........and now it's time to pack for the next trip. In two days I take off for a 16,000+ mile journey to photograph a wedding in Hong Kong. The total time I'll be away for this trip? 70 hours round-trip.

Happy Flying!

--Click Images To Enlarge Them--

.....and the last photo shot this month is shot by me (with the aid of a timer), of me, sleeping on a very comfortable couch at Amsterdam-Schiphol Int'l Airport (AMS).

19 May 2008

Are Some Seats On The Plane Safer Than Others?

Web: www.fishfoto.com -- E-Mail: fish@flyingwithfish.com

19/05/2008 - Are Some Seats On The Plane Safer Than Others?

Over the past few months the question of "which are the safest seats on the plane" has come up a few times when helping people plan their flights. I always stop and wonder about this question, because there is no real answer to this question.

Should there be an incident involving the plane your safety depends on many factors. Every seat meets the same strict safety regulations, from the lay-flat first class seats in the front of a long-haul international airliner to the cramped seats in the rear of a small regional jet.

Your seat selection does no makes you safer should there be a problem. If your aircraft sustain significant damage, the likelihood of injury or death depends entirely on many facts that will not be "decided" until the impact or event occurs.

Statistically you're more likely to be killed by accidentally falling than in a commercial airline mishap.

On average their approximately 17,999,975 commercial flights per year (compiled by averaging data from various aviation sources) and only 169 commercial airline fatalities a year. Compare the commercial airline fatality numbers to these numbers: 28,658 deaths by the Flu and Pneumonia; 41,616 by motor vehicle accident and 16, 274 deaths by accidentally falling (most in their own home)...this means that on average 16,105 more people die in an accidental fall than by flying.

Don't plan for something to go wrong. Sit back, relax, and enjoy your flight.

Happy Flying!

16 May 2008

16/05/2008 - Weekly Roundup: Flying With Fish On ABC News! ; A New Web Site; Network With Flyers; Fare Wars? ; Passenger Etiquette; Flying With Babies

Web: www.fishfotoworldwide.com -- E-Mail: fish@flyingwithfish.com

16/05/2008 - Weekly Roundup: Flying With Fish On ABC News! ; A New Web Site; Network With Flyers; Fare Wars? ; Passenger Etiquette; Flying With Babies

I'm starting this week's 'Weekly Round Up' at the end of the week, rather than the beginning of the week. Yesterday, Thursday the 15th of May, I flew down to Washington DC to film an on air segment for Good Morning America on how to avoid being a target of theft while going through airport security check points. The segment takes the viewers through the process of getting through a checkpoint quickly and effectively. There are some other tid-bits thrown in. I don't have a date it should air yet, but when I do I'll post. To read more about Flying With Fish on national television check out this post:
15/05/2008 - Mr. Fish Goes To Washington - Good Morning America To Feature Flying With Fish!

This week kicked off with the introduction of AeroChannel's web site to the readers of Flying With Fish. AeroChannel is a do-it-all site for day of travel logistics. While only in its beta phase, this site has already grabbed my attention and proved to be a fantastic day-of-travel tool. To read more about AeroChannel check out:
12/05/2008 - AeroChannel, The New One Stop Website For Your Day Of Flight Logistics

Have you ever wondered what your airline could offer you besides a cramped seat, warm soda and stale pretzels? How about using your airline to network within your business or other social groups? See if there is something out there for you in this post:
13/05/2008 - Can You Use Your Airlines To Network & Grow Your Business? Yes!

With fuel costs rising faster than you can change your underwear, and airfares having gone up across the board nearly a dozen times this year, is it possible for a summer fare war to level the playing field? It seems like it may happen! Read up on this here:
13/05/2008 - Summer Airfare Deals Amid Skyrocketing Fuel Cost? Maybe!

I have been watching simple etiquette go out the window recently. Boarding a plane can be a race to the jetway, but on some of my last flights the passengers’ behaviours resembled the animals stampeding from the barn. For some basic flyer etiquette please visit the following link for some required reading:
14/05/2008 - Passenger Etiquette - The Basics Of Being A Courteous Flyer

Been on a flight with a screaming baby? Had angry thoughts towards the parents and the child? Don't! To learn why you need to just deal with it read this post:
15/05/2008 - Flying With Babies, For Those Of You Sitting Near A Crying Baby......Deal With It!

That's it for this week

Happy Flying!

15 May 2008

Mr. Fish Goes To Washington - Good Morning America To Feature Flying With Fish!

Web: www.fishfoto.com -- E-Mail: fish@flyingwithfish.com

15/05/2008 - Mr. Fish Goes To Washington - Good Morning America To Feature Flying With Fish!

This afternoon was spent at Washington DC's Reagan National Airport being taping a piece for Good Morning America for a story on passenger security, while in TSA screening checkpoints. It was an interesting experience to walk correspondent Elisabeth Leamy through the process of how I prepare for an airport security checkpoint and my methodology for placing my bins-and-bags through the x-ray scanner. While I know exactly how I go through security, and I do the same things over and over again, I had never quite explained my process in such detail.

I am not sure how long the total piece will be, and the air date is not yet set, but when it runs I'll let you readers of Flying With Fish know! Hopefully my piece will help less experienced flyers learn to go through the process of an airport security checkpoint more calmly, as well as quickly, efficiently and safely.

Below is a photo of me explaining the process of going through an airport security-screening checkpoint to Good Morning America correspondent Elisabeth Leamy.

Happy Flying!

--Click Image Below To Enlarge It--

Flying With Babies, For Those Of You Sitting Near A Crying Baby......Deal With It!

Web: www.fishfotoworldwide.com -- E-Mail: fish@flyingwithfish.com

15/05/2008 - Flying With Babies, For Those Of You Sitting Near A Crying Baby......Deal With It!

As I sit on my early morning Southwest Airlines flight from Providence (PVD) to Baltimore (BWI) I am inspired to write this while listening to a screaming baby slowly calming down and (hopefully) falling asleep. I can see this little boy's face red and puffing, he's been upset since the aircraft door closed; his discomfort grew as we accelerated down the runway and went into full-blown uncontrollable screaming a few seconds after our Boeing 737-700 went wheels up. What catches my attention really is not that the front of his Lightning McQueen shirt looks damp from his tears, but that there are dozens of adult passengers looking at the parents of this child with an intense sense of distain, a look of fueled anger.........but why?

We all know that babies do what they do when they want to do it. The baby is not seeking to anger the roughly 130 people on this flight, however babies don't know how to deal with the air pressure and the pain it causes. We've all had our ears pop and it hurts, now try and remember what it was like to be a little baby and unable to express your discomfort, your natural reaction was to cry. Ever flown with a mild sinus infection? Do you know the pain that causes an adult? No be a baby and deal with this massive head pressure pain.

I am sure every single adult on this plane cried so loud at some point in their life that they nearly cleared out a plane/train/bus/movie theater/restaurant/grocery store. Outside of this pressurized metal tube, flying at 500+ mph (800+ kph) at 30,000 feet, you can pick up your screaming child and rock them to comfort them. In most situations you can pick your child up and walk outside, but let's be real here, we're sitting in a plane with the fasten seat-belt sign on, somewhere around 30,000 feet flying out over the Atlantic Ocean, crossing Long Island Sound, then back over the Atlantic Ocean. Where do these angry adults expect the parents to take this upset child?

If you're on a plane and a baby is screaming I understand being frustrated. Before you start giving the 'death stare' towards the upset baby and the parents think about this........ Don’t you think the parents are more frustrated? Don't you think the parents are trying to calm the baby down? Don't you think if the parents could comfort the baby they would? Can you envision being in their place knowing that you have a planeload of passengers all staring at you in anger?

If the sounds of a baby on a plane bother you, and understandably they are irritating to listen to, go out and buy yourself a pair of decent noise canceling headsets. If they baby gets louder just adjust the volume on your iPod. Having distain for the baby and the parents gets you now where.

So my advice for all of you flyers out there when you hear a crying baby is this......DEAL WITH IT!

Happy Flying..........and I'm watching the little guy sitting in seat 8F on his Dad's shoulder doze off, so hopefully he'll sleep through our arrival at BWI in 20 minutes.

14 May 2008

Passenger Etiquette - The Basics Of Being A Courteous Flyer

Web: www.fishfoto.com -- E-Mail: fish@flyingwithfish.com

14/05/2008 - Passenger Etiquette - The Basics Of Being A Courteous Flyer

Is there such as a thing as airline passenger etiquette? There is a grey area when we board a cramped flight, departing late, and squeeze ourselves into a narrow seat. We jockey for position at the boarding gate; there is the sprint to board first, even when our seats are aisle or middle seats (my preferred seat is the A-side window); there is the race to place our items in the overhead bins first, and all of this happens in a confined space we cannot escape (no matter how much we may want to) until we land at our destination.

There is no "Emily Post Etiquette" book to guide us through being a courteous flyer, but there are some basic rules, that if followed, might make the journey more pleasant from start to finish. With this in mind, my etiquette basics are in the chronological order of flying.

-When waiting for your flight to board, if the airline you are traveling with uses "boarding zones," please wait for your zone to be called. If you are in Zone 3 and the gate agent is calling Zone 1, you will slow down the boarding process and simply be turned away by the gate agent. I know we're all anxious to get on the plane, but if you're waiting at the gate with a boarding pass you have a seat waiting for you once you get on board.

-Once on-board we all have a tendency to shove as much of our "stuff" in the overhead bins as we can. No one likes having their legs cramped on a flight, especially smaller regional jets, but if you can place your larger bag in the overhead and your smaller bag under the seat in front of you then everyone should have some space in the overhead. The bag under the seat in front of you can be removed from under the seat in front of you and generally positioned behind your legs to increase your legroom while in flight. I know there are always exceptions to this rule, but it generally works for most backpacks and briefcases.

-When placing your bags in the overhead compartment use common sense. Nearly all overhead bins are designed to accommodate a "legal" sized roll-aboard bag. These bags should be placed in the overhead wheels first, not sideways which takes up considerably more space. When placing an item such as a brief case in the overhead try and stand it up so it takes up as little space as possible in the overhead. If you have a coat that needs to go up, wait until the bags have been loaded into the overhead then lay your coat over the top, a coat will often be able to slip in-between some of the gaps allowing more of the overhead bin space to be used. Being a space hog can lead to 'bad flyer karma.'

-Once settled in your seat and the "turn off your phone" announcement comes on when the main cabin door shuts, please turn off your phone. I have been on more than one flight that was delayed pushing back from the gate because a passenger would not hang up the phone. Not only is using a phone while in-flight illegal, but it is really annoying to your fellow passengers. If you are on a flight that has in-flight phones and you really want to speak with someone pull out your credit card and be prepared to pay the $10 connect fee and the exorbitant per-minute usage fees.

-When reclining in your seat be mindful of the person behind you. You should not push the recline button and slam your seat back as quickly as possible. You are welcome to adjust your seat, but watch the speed of your recline. Getting hit in the knees (or in some limited cases the head) with a seat coming back and full speed is not comfortable!

-If the seat in front you is reclined and you have your knees up don't kick the seat in front of you. I often keep my knees in a position that touches the seat in front of me, but I pay attention to not kick my fellow flyer in the seat in front of me. If you are flying with kids please do not let them kick the seat in front of them, no matter how entertaining it is to them.

-When getting up from your seat pay attention to the person in front of you. No one likes having their hair pulled or their seat jerked backwards behind them. This rule of etiquette is especially important on overnight flights when the person in front of you is likely sleeping or completely zoning out.

-If the person in the middle or window seat needs to get up and use the bathroom or walk around don't get angry with them. On a long flight people need to get up and move for comfort and health reasons, as well as lavatory runs. If you are in the middle or window seat try and use the lavatory at the same time as your seatmates on long flights. By 'going before you have to go' you cut down on making your seatmates get up and down repeatedly.

-On an overnight flight if you are in the middle or window seat and need to use the lavatory.......make sure you really need to go. It is not easy to get comfortable and sleep on planes so make sure you really need to get up before you wake up your seat mate from their sound slumber. If you are able to get up and maneuver around your seatmate without waking them it is advisable to do so.

-When watching a moving on a flight make sure the content of your movie is appropriate for those who may be able to view your screen. Watching a movie like Boogie Nights may not be the best choice with kids sitting behind you who can look through the seats. I have been shocked at times while walking a plane at night to see what some people are watching on their screens in an open public area! I am all for making your seat your personal and private space on a plane, but there are limits to this. Use common sense when making your viewing selection.

-Upon arriving at the gate if the flight attendants announce that you should remain seated to let delayed passengers making a tight connection off the plane first please sit down. Let these people who need to make a connection get off the flight first; they will appreciate it, even if you don't know it. The 'good flyer karma' may come back to help you when you need to make a tight connection in the future.

-When taking your items out of the overhead bin upon arrival never take someone else's items out. If someone asks you to help that is one thing, but taking someone else's bag and leaving it out is just flat out rude. I have heard of a number of passengers thinking someone had walked off with their bag only to find out another passenger had removed their bag and tossed it on a seat or placed it on the floor between seats. Keep in mind how you would feel if you went to the overhead bin to find your bag trampled or missing!

-When the plane arrives at the gate and you hear the "ping" that signals it is OK to get up feel free to get up and collect your belongings, but don't trample people. Your fellow passengers have been seated in their seats just as long as you have, they are just as eager to get off the plane. If you are in the back of the plane standing swaying back and forth in the aisle nervously twitching isn't going to get you off the plane any faster. The airline wants you off the plane just as much as you want to get off the plane.

With these simple common sense etiquette rules you can safely consider yourself a courteous flyer.

Happy Flying!

13 May 2008

Summer Airfare Deals Amid Skyrocketing Fuel Cost? Maybe!

Web: www.fishfoto.com -- E-Mail: fish@flyingwithfish.com

13/05/2008 - Summer Airfare Deals Amid Skyrocketing Fuel Cost? Maybe!

In the last few months the price of Type A Jet Fuel, much like the cost of the fuel for your car, has sky rocketed. In the wake of these escalating fuel costs we have also witnessed the collapse of multiple airlines and watched the airline industry raise it's airfares industry wide nearly a dozen times this year.

Despite the fact that most airlines have been flying at record capacity due to the reduction of certain routes, the swapping of larger aircraft to smaller aircraft and the consolidation of routes, the backlash against the increasing airfares is now beginning to affect seat sales. As airfares continue to rise, pleasure travelers are shifting their travel plans and business travelers that are the bread-and-butter of airlines are curtailing their travel.

What does this all mean? How is this good for you?

Well, it means that some airlines are starting to ramp up the summer fare sales. In the past few days United Airlines appears to have increased the number of it's 'e-fares' for this week; Delta Airlines has started to push it's 'summer fares'; Air France is offering some great 'last minute' fare specials from the East Coast of the United States to Europe; BMI has some very attractive fares from London Heathrow to the Middle East and Manchester to Las Vegas; JetBlue has lowered some of it’s last minute fares and is offering a “$50 off future travel” promo.

With U.S. 'legacy airlines' seeking to fill their domestic capacity, while simultaneously scaling back their domestic capacity to compete with domestic 'low cost carriers' (LCC) the fare war should heat up this summer to the benefit of the flying publics wallet............at least it's starting to look that way.

Happy Flying!

Can You Use Your Airlines To Network & Grow Your Business? Yes!

Web: www.fishfotoworldwide.com -- E-Mail: fish@flyingwithfish.com

13/05/2008 - Can You Use Your Airlines To Network & Grow Your Business? Yes!

Most flyers, casual or business flyers, see the airlines as a way to get from Point A to Point B. In fact the main purpose of an airline is simply to transport you from point to point, this is of course why we fly. As flyers we line up, take our laptops out, walk to our gate, sit in our seat and zone out from anywhere from 30 minutes to 30 hours, to get to our destination.

An interesting service by a limited number of airlines is often overlooked; this is a service of networking flyers with other flyers. In an age of being nickeled and dimed at every turn many frequent flyers are anxious to take advantage of any service offered by their airline, and this one can make you money.

I know of six networking schemes for frequent flyers that seem to be widely used a variety of the airlines customers. These range from direct networking, to social groups, to business options, but they all lead to networking opportunities for those who use them.

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (KL) offers a detailed business networking community for it's flyers that live in Africa and do business in Africa. KLM's Club Africa can benefit any businessperson involved in the business and economy on the African Continent. You do not need to fly KLM to access KLM Club Africa, but you do need to sign up for a free KLM Flying Blue account (which you can do on the KLM Club Africa site). For more info on this program visit www.klmclubafrica.com

KLM's Club China, much like Club Africa, allows it's members and grow their business networks through this unique online networking scheme. A service of KLM's Club China is off-line networking meetings to allow members to get to know each other face to face, and hear featured speaking discussing a variety of topics as they relate to doing business in China. You do need a KLM Flying Blue account to join, which is free and take less than 3 minutes to create. If you do business in China visit www.klmclubchina.com

American Airlines (AA) offers two programs unique to their airline. The first business and social networking gaining popularity with American Airlines is their "Women Travelers Connected" website. AA's 'women' web site is dedicated to creating a networking community for women in both business and social environments. You can visit AA's Women Travelers Connected site at www.aa.com/women

AA's second networking community is the 'Rainbow Community,' which is the only airline site dedicated to serving the gay & lesbian (LGBT) community. While this site is not intended for direct person-to-person networking like other networks, it offers an excellent source of information for LGBT travel, and has created a dedicated community with FaceBook. AA also offers its 'Rainbow Network' newsletter and through the 'Rainbow Network' AA supports excellent organizations such as the Matthew Shepard Foundation. You can check out AA's 'Rainbow Network' at www.aa.com/rainbow

Air France (AF) has a unique social networking set up through its frequent flyer program, Flying Blue (same as KLM's Flying Blue) for golfers. Golf has long since been a game for business deals to be discussed and ironed out while walking the course. Flying Blue Golf is a unique blend of social and business networking. Flying Blue Golf allows it's members to discuss travel and golf experiences with others around the world. This site offers discounts and other user benefits, aside from the networking ability. If you golf and fly visit Flying Blue Golf at www.flyingbluegolf.com

For business travelers who set up meetings and events around the world Air France (AF) makes bringing your participants together easier with 'Air France Global Meetings.' AF's Global Meetings has a dedicated site to both set up meetings and to give your participants an event ID that lets them log in and access special discounted fares to travel to and from these events. While this is not really a face-to-face networking system, it is an easy way to bring all your attendees together in one place through a site facilitated by a major global airline with multiple global partners. You can find out if AF's Global Meetings will work for you at: www.AirFranceGlobalMeetings.notlong.com

If you know of another airline business networking program let me know by dropping me an e-mail at fish@flyingwithfish.com

Happy Flying!

12 May 2008

AeroChannel, The New One Stop Website For Your Day Of Flight Logistics

Web: www.fishfoto.com -- E-Mail: fish@flyingwithfish.com

12/05/2008 - AeroChannel, The New One Stop Website For Your Day Of Flight Logistics

Before I head to the airport I tend to use a few web sites to check airline delays, another site to check mass transit and traffic delays, sometimes I go to the airport web site to check security times if they list it. With the recent 'beta launch' of AeroChannel (www.aerochannel.com) I can skip most of these web sites and get the information I am seeking in one very user friendly and central location online.

AeroChannel lists logistical information in a way no other website does. Rather than just listing flight delays this site lists information such as traffic, parking, mass-transit, check-in times, security times and flight delays. Not all airports seem to have the same information, but I chalk this up to being in the 'beta phase', however AeroChannel appears to be functional with the info I find most critical, which is flight delays and gate information.

You can search AeroChannel by either entering your airport's three letter code (ie: Newark Liberty International Airport = EWR) , or specific airline/flight information, then choose your information by arriving or departing airport.

For checking info while on the road you can also visit AeroChannel's mobile site at www.aero2go.com . For consistent updates AeroChannel offers e-mail alerts and should have SMS/Text message alerts coming online shortly.

In the "beta" phase AeroChannel's live coverage is comes in daily from JFK, LAX, PHX and LAS, with some other daily live airports that seem to change from day to day for testing purposes. Even without the live parking, traffic and security information, I foresee AeroChannel as a site I'll visit consistently while traveling and planning travel. I have very high hopes for this site!

I'd like to thanks David McIntyre (www.davidpix.com), of the Black Star photo agency, and the staff photographer for Cathay Pacific Airways for introducing me to AeroChannel.

Happy Flying!

09 May 2008

9/05/2008 - Weekly Roundup: Protecting Your Bags In Airports; The TSA's New Security Line Scheme; The North Face Surge Backpack

Web: www.fishfotoworldwide.com -- E-Mail: fish@flyingwithfish.com

9/05/2008 - Weekly Roundup: Protecting Your Bags In Airports; The TSA's New Security Line Scheme; The North Face Surge Backpack

This week started for me at Amsterdam-Schiphol International Airport (AMS) where I would take off probably for the last Trans-Atlantic flight of my life on an airline I have had a long standing love/hate relationship with. This is not because I am quitting flying, nor am I dying, it is not even because the airline is going away. My flight on Northwest Airlines (NW)Flight 97, from AMS to BDL, is probably my last over-the-water flight on NW because they will soon become part of Delta Airlines. In a few short months, as Northwest and Delta navigate the business and political maze of airline mergers this flight (if it survives the route restructuring) will be on a white plane with a red-white-blue tail rather than on a silver plane with the easy to spot red tail.

It is unclear to me whether the long standing Northwest-KLM partnership will become the Delta-KLM partnership. I used to love watching the rare sight of Northwest/KLM DC-10 fly over my parents house that was painted in Northwest colours on the body and the KLM logo on tail on one side, and the KLM colours on the body and the Northwest logo on the tail on the other side. The partnership between the two airlines is deep, unique and I'm not sure how it will continue under the new Delta merger.

On what I believe to be my final Northwest Airlines Trans-Atlantic flight I chose to sit in seat 1A at the front of the plane. I sat back and worked for the 7+ hour flight, but upon our approach into BDL I watched the red-winglets of Northwest 757-200 touch down for probably the last time in my life as a passenger. Goodbye Northwest Airlines.

Flying With Fish kicked off the week with a two part entry on keeping your bags safe while in transit and in the airport. Both entries are simple and basic ways to secure your bags to keep unwanted hands from either entering your bags or walking off with your bags. You can get tips on securing your bags at the following entries
6/05/2008 - Protecting Your Bags In The Airports 101 – Part 1
7/05/2008 - Protecting Your Bags In The Airports 101 – Part 2

After many years of flying around with the North Face Borealis backpack I have been using the newer North Face Surge backpack for the last month. After flying with this backpack for nearly 30,000 miles in the last month, taking it over the Atlantic 3 times, over the Pacific once and crossing through 7 countries with it on my back I have learned that I really enjoy the North Face Surge backpack. You can read my full review of this fantastic bag here: 8/05/2008 - The North Face Surge Backpack - An Updated Version Of An Old Favourite

The last entry on Flying With Fish this week addresses the TSA's new innovative way to try and shorten security line times in the United States. The new concept is interesting, it has some great potential, while it also has the potential also slow up the process as well. How is it possibly fantastic and terrible at the same time? The new system depends on passengers self governing themselves to accurately know their skills as a traveler. I hope it works, I hope people are honest when they enter the new "Self Select" lines, because this new system can make everyone's life easier. Read the details on the TSA's Self Select System here: 8/05/2008 - New TSA "Self Select" Security Lanes - The Good & The Bad

Below is an old promo photo of the old Northwest-KLM DC-10-30 that I used to enjoy watching fly over my parents house in New York.

Happy Flying!

--Click Image Below To Enlarge--

08 May 2008

New TSA "Self Select" Security Lanes - The Good & The Bad

Web: www.fishfotoworldwide.com -- E-Mail: fish@flyingwithfish.com

8/05/2008 - New TSA "Self Select" Security Lanes - The Good & The Bad

The U.S Department of Homeland Security's Transportation Security Administration (TSA) started a new experiment to speed up security line at some airports; this new idea comes from the trail designation on ski trails. The Circle/Novices. The Square/Intermediate; The Diamond/Expert

Officially the new the TSA is known as Self Select Lines. It allows flyers to choose their own security lane based on their own knowledge of how they travel. The breaks down of the lanes are as follows

-- Green-Circle is for families and those who need special assistance. This is for those flying with kids, strollers, in large groups, those who need assistance and those totally unfamiliar with the TSA screening process (which is more people than you'd think).

-- Blue-Square is for flyers that are somewhat familiar with the TSA check point procedures. It is also intended for those flying with multiple bags, however with a limit of one carry on and one personal item, how many bags can someone be carrying (even the experienced flyers generally fly with 1+1 bags).

-- Black-Diamond is the lane intended for the Expert Flyer. This lane should be used only by the who know the TSA procedures inside and out; those who don't fumble at what they need to leave what they can take; those traveling light (I don't travel light, but I can get my stuff ready for the screening in about 30 seconds or less).

I recently encountered this new system that is in a limited number of airports, at Boston's Logan International Airport (BOS) and see the good and the bad in this system.

Rather than tear the new system apart, as I have seen in a few online forums, I'm going to start off by saying that I think this new system can have some significant advantages. If flyers are honest about their skill of navigating an airport, and enter the lane that accurately represents their knowledge of passing through a TSA checkpoint, this system can speed up security lines. Self governing can be a great way to weed people out of the line, and gives the TSA a better chance of sizing up that they are dealing with and who they need to help.

The downsides to these Self Select Lines are when people enter the wrong line. At Boston Logan Airport's Terminal A I entered the "expert" and stood not moving for around 9 minutes. I saw people in line with their shoes on, no laptops out, and one person arguing that they were flying in first-class so they should be entitled to use the "expert" line. Flying in first class does not make you an expert, it just means you paid more or got upgraded. I quickly moved to the "novice" line, behind a family with two small children and one very inexperienced flyer. I was through the checkpoint in less than 3 minutes. If people enter the wrong line thinking the "expert" line will move faster, when they are not a experienced in passing through the check points, they just slow down the line for everyone.

If inexperienced flyers think they were getting dirty looks at a standard TSA check point by going slowly (and I have no problem with people going their own speed, especially those who don't fly often) they should check out the dirty looks they get when they slow up the "expert" line to a crawl.

Overall if flyers are honest and choose the right lanes I think this new "Self Select Lines" can be a great way to speed up the time it takes to get through security. It is nice to see the TSA using some ingenuity in finding new ways to make the travel experience smoother and easier under an increasingly more difficult environment.

Happy Flying!

The North Face Surge Backpack - An Updated Version Of An Old Favourite

Web: www.fishfoto.com -- E-Mail: fish@flyingwithfish.com

8/05/2008 - The North Face Surge Backpack - An Updated Version Of An Old Favourite

For years I have used, abused, schleped and lived out of my North Face Borealis backpack. The North Face Borealis backpack has met the vast majority of my needs when traveling quick and light. The only design flaw I found in the Borealis over the years was my need to open the main compartment to access my laptop without maneuvering around the contents of the bag's main compartment.

Depending on how I pack my bag, reaching in to remove my laptop at a security check point can be a significant hassle; the solution to this design need is the North Face Surge backpack. The North Face Surge has a very similar design to the North Face Borealis, with the notable difference being the addition of a separate top loading slot that can accommodate up to a 17" laptop. This top loading laptop slot makes traveling through airport security very easy, additionally it makes generally accessing your laptop while on a plane or a train very easy.

My North Face Surge's first trip was a significant test of it's abilities as a multi-purpose backpack. The Surge's first test was having it haul nearly everything I needed to photograph four shoots, in four cities, in four countries, on three continents around the would in less than four days. Every nook-and-cranny of the North Face Surge backpack was used, from the "hidden pocket" at the base of the bag loaded with my laptop power supply, security cables & locks and a few empty zip-lock bags to the left side mesh-pocket that was used to carry a Manfrotto 3373 compact light stand, even the bottom lash-straps were used to carry my sweater when I was not wearing it.

Overall my Surge backpack held inside it's compartments (other gear was carried in a Newswear belt sysem, cameras were carried out on my shoulders)
4 - pairs of underwear
4- pairs of socks3
3 - button up shirts
1 - sweater
1 - Nikon SB-28dx flashes
1 - Pocket Wizard transmitters
2 - Pocket Wizard receivers
1 - Calumet Swivel adapter
1 - PhotoFlex 22" white/gold reflector
2 - Pocket Wizard PC cables,
1 - Ilford Anti-Stat cloth
1 - Apple 15" PowerBook
1 - Apple AC power supply
1 - Case Logic neoprene laptop protector sleeve
1 - Sony PSP & Power Supply
1 - Case of 4 UMD (PSP) Disks
1 - Apple 60gb iPod
1 - Sony MDR-NC22 Noise Canceling Headsets
1 - APC emPower in-seat power inverter
1 - Canon BP-511 Battery Charger
1 - Three-way outlet splitter
1 - 12 slot DVD holder
1 - Motorola USB phone charger (for Motorola Razr & Blackberry 8700)
1 - Stick of Right Guard (alpine scent)1 - Toothbrush/Toothpaste kit
1 - hair brush
2 - packs of sani-wipes
1 - US to Euro power-tip adapter
1 - US to UK (for Hong Kong) power-tip adapter
1 - Pair of Oakley sunglasses
2 - Packs of Kleenex tissues
4 - Sentry combination locks
1 - Eagle Creek locking cable
3 - Pens / Sharpie Markers
2 - Spare sets of 4 "AA" batteries
2 - Spare "AAA" batteries
1 - Lonely Planet "Encounters" Guide

For a bag measuring only 21"x12"x9" (52cmx30cmx22cm), the well planned out and extremely versatile interior design, allows the North Face Surge bag to carry a significant amount of "stuff" inside it's low profile design.

Having worn this back pack now on two long trips, around-the-world in under 4 days, as well as this past week using the Surge backpack while shooting a three day wedding in Paris (again traveling with no checked baggage!) I find the bag easy to wear. The ergonomics of the shoulder straps, the ease of getting the bag on and off,and the side compression straps make the bag comfortable hour after hour on your back. As a photographer I find the bag very easy to wear while shooting, even when using a Newswear belt with pouches of a ThinkTank Skin kit (belt/shoulder system with pouches).

With the North Face Surge being part of my kit for a month, and having flown with this bag for nearly 30,000 miles in this short span of time, on a dozen flights, through 7 countries, on three continents, I can safely say this bag is fantastic. I envision using the North Face Surge as my "go-to" backpack for the foreseeable future.

Below are a few photos of my North Face Surge Bag shot in the last month. The first photo is on the ramp at Providence's TF Green Airport (PVD) after a United Airlines flight; the second photo is at Gate E3 at Amsterdam-Schiphol International Airport (AMS); the 3rd photo is in my seat on board a trans-atlantic Northwest Airlines.

Happy Flying!

--Click Images To Enlarge Them--