31 October 2008
31/10/2008 – The Weekly Round Up : Heathrow-on-Sea? : Perfect Travel Light Stand : Delta & Northwest Become One : Lufthansa & BMI : Lufty's Expansion
31/10/2008 – The Weekly Round Up : Heathrow-on-Sea? : Perfect Travel Light Stand : Delta & Northwest Become One : Lufthansa & BMI : Lufty's Expansion
This has been a busy week on Flying With Fish. Wednesday provided no shortage of news for those who travel by air. Wednesday saw two major airline mergers/stock takeovers, and an airline cease to exist.
Before I move onto the whole weekly round up, I'd like to start off with the last post of this past week. Adorama has invited me host a workshop for educating photographers who travel, in conjunction with their Workshops @Adorama and I accepted. While some details are still being worked out, the first workshop is scheduled for the 29th of January 2009, so mark your calendars! You can read more about this evening workshop here:
30/10/2008 – Adorama To Host Flying With Fish Workshop Jan 29th
This week kicked off with the announcement that AeroChannel has started up an update info stream on Twitter AeroChannel is an excellent growing source of info for anyone traveling, primarily in the United States, and you should check them out at www.twitter.com/aerochannel . Find out more info here: 27/10/2008 - AeroChannel On Twitter
London Heathrow is one of the world's busiest airports. The airport is so busy it must operate on 'slot allotments' as the airport cannot easily handle all the traffic and seeks to use Heathrow, and London Mayor Boris Johnson has no proposed building a new Heathrow on a man-made island in the Thames Estuary. Is this idea a good idea? Is this idea possible? Find out more at this link: 27/10/2008 - Can Heathrow Be Replaced By A Man Made Island Airport?
As a traveling photographer, flying with lights can be challenging. With checked baggage fees and the potential for lost or delayed bags, I have opted to use the Manfrotto 3373 compact light stands for the past few years. Find out why I think the Manfrotto 3373 is the perfect traveling light stand here: 28/10/2008 - The Manfrotto 3373 : The Perfect Traveling Light Stand
With the global airline industry becoming increasingly volatile it is become less shocking to hear of airlines shutting down operations with little to no notice. Iceland's Sterling Airways has been teetering on failure for sometime due to Iceland's financial crisis. This week its finances ran out and the airline was forced to cancel all its flight standing thousands of flyers. To find out more about the airline's closure check here: 29/10/2008 - Iceland's Sterling Airways Shuts Down Stranding Thousands
This week I wrote a two part series on Lufthansa's growth. The first of these two parts addresses taking over 80% of BMI/British Midland's controlling stock. This purchase of 50.1% of BMI's stock does little for Lufthansa's routes, but it does make them the owner of second largest allotment of slots at London Heathrow Airport. To find out how this might affect the 70 year old, and profitable, BMI, read this: 29/10/2008 - LH Pt 1: Lufthansa To Control BMI & Become 2nd Largest At Heathrow While Also Trimming Expansion
The second part of entries on Lufthansa this week addressed the airline's announcement they would be trimming routes and reducing spending. The reduction of routes and expenses comes with the airline taking a 45% stake in one airline, an 80% stake in another airline, all while trying to take significant stakes in two other European airlines, and setting up Lufthansa Italy SpA. You can find out more about this interesting, and potentially hazardous, business plan in this entry: 29/10/2008 - LH Pt 2 : Lufthansa Trimming Expansion While Taking Over 2 Airlines & Making A Play For 2 More
This big news this week came as no surprise. The U.S. Department of Justice approved the merger of Delta Airlines and Northwest Airlines, creating the world's largest airline. Find out where we go from here in this entry: 29/10/2008 – Northwest & Delta Are One Airline……well sort of…….
After a week off, the iPhone 'App' Of The Week series returns. This week I discuss the new Google Earth iPhone 'App.' This 'App' is fantastic, and an incredibly useful tool for not only photographers working on the road, but for any traveler on the road. Learn more about Google Earth for the iPhone by clicking here: 30/10/2008 – iPhone 'App' Of The Week : Google Earth
It has been a long week of posts on Flying With Fish and I plan to kick off next week with some fun exciting news. I've been working hard to help photographers, and all travelers, on the road, and in one area, these efforts have been recognized by a company I used and support.
For those of who get Flying With Fish's updates on Twitter, at www.twitter.com/flyingwithfish , some of this exciting news has already been mentioned........
That's it for this week HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!!
30 October 2008
30/10/2008 – Adorama To Host Flying With Fish Workshop Jan 29th
The details are still being worked out, but the 2-to-2.5 hours workshop will be on Thursday January 29th starting at 6:30pm at Adorama in New York City.
The following is the basic information for the evening workshop:
Travel Logistics For Photographers : 101
Traveling as a photographer can be complex and frustrating with the constant change in airline regulations and security rules. With some basic knowledge about how to plan your travel, pack your equipment and find your way around specific baggage restrictions and fees, traveling with your equipment can be simple, easy and stress free.
During this course professional photographer Steven Frischling, creator of Flying With Fish (www.flyingwithfish.com), who has flown nearly 1,000,000 miles as a photographer during the past few years, will introduce you to detailed tips on how to travel as a photographer. Steven's information is relevant for amateur photographers going on vacation and professional photographers headed halfway around the world.
This workshop will focus on some choosing your equipment to save on space and weight; choosing the right style bag for your needs; basic packing techniques to maximize your space and reduce the potential for damage to your equipment; basic paperwork for travel in foreign countries; avoiding certain carry-on baggage weight restrictions; dispelling some myths about traveling with camera equipment and basic tips for reducing your likelihood of becoming a thief's target.
As every traveler has their own specific needs, participants are encouraged to bring as many questions as they'd like. The goal of the workshop is to have everyone go out into the world better informed on how to travel easier, safer and more stress free as photographers.
The cost of the workshop (which should be around the cost of excess baggage for flying many US carriers) and the sign up details will be posted when made available by Workshops @ Adorama
If anyone has any questions drop me an e-mail.....otherwise, I hope to see you there!
30/10/2008 – iPhone 'App' Of The Week : Google Earth
For quite some time people have enjoyed using Google Earth on their computers to check out various locations around the world.
I have been using Google Earth in conjunction with United Airlines as a fun way to search for fares, as I detailed back in January in this post: 09/01/08 - A Fun Way To Search For Airfare Specials
Google Earth is simple, you type in a location and Google Earth shows you an image of the area shot by satellite. I have used Google Earth for quite some time as a way to scout out locations. With Google Earth's ability to show you an area as broad as the entire planet and as narrow as local road makes it an ideal tool to map out where you are, where you are headed, where you want to go.
Having Google Earth on my iPhone allows me to stand in a location and get the big picture on angles I want to explore. Standing on a street corner in a city I don't know anywhere in the world, I can type in my location and find options for locations to create images. This new information found from Google Earth, in my hand, gives me a new perspective on images I can offer my clients.
For travelers who are just interested in where they are, or photographers seeking a real life, photographic image of the map in their hand, Google Earth is an indispensable tool and a vital iPhone App.
This is an iPhone App you should be downloading right now!
Below are six photos of Google Earth for iPhone locating the Eiffel Tower in Paris (its under all the blue boxes in the final photo)
--Click Images Below To Enlarge--
29 October 2008
29/10/2008 – Northwest & Delta Are One Airline……well sort of…….
I guess this is goodbye to an old friend. A few times this year I have written about the merger of Delta Airlines and Northwest Airlines. Like many flyers, as I have mentioned before, I have had a love-hate relationship with Northwest Airlines.
I grew up next to JFK Airport, in New York, and as a kid I flew from the 'old Terminal 2’, which was home to both Delta and Northwest. I have fond memories of watching DC-10s carrying the Northwest Orient logo flying over my house. I have memories of standing on the beach watching the cross-painted Northwest/KLM DC-10 flying low over Far Rockaway, crossing over the small patch of Atlantic Beach and disappearing over the horizon headed for Amsterdam.
Back in early May I wrote about touching down at Hartford's Bradley International Airport, and the feeling of flying Northwest Airlines for my last trans-Atlantic flight with the carrier. Looking out the window of seat 1A, watching the red-winglets of the 757-200 touch down, returning home from Amsterdam, would be the last international Northwest flight for me.
I have some funny stories about flying Northwest, some annoying stories about Northwest, some happy memories from Northwest.
..............anyway, onto the real point of this post. Today the United States Justice Department approved the merger of Delta Airlines and Northwest Airlines. A few hours after the merger was approved by the Justice Department, Delta Airlines completed its purchase of Northwest Airlines. Given that Delta Airlines and Northwest Airlines have minimal overlapping routes there was minimal objection to the marriage of the two carriers. The newly combined airline will operate nearly 800 aircraft generate an estimated US$35bil in annual revenue and employ approximately 75,000 people.
Over the next year the two airlines will gradually merge their two websites and frequent flyer programs. Until the bumps-in-the-road are worked out, the two airlines will maintain separate web sites and frequent flyer programs. Northwest Airlines' cabin crews will switch to Delta Airline uniforms on the 30th of March.
Northwest's unique partnership with KLM is somewhat unknown.
So, now we sit back and wait and see what happens. It will be exciting to see the first 747-400 rollout with Delta colours........however I will miss watching the big silver birds with their red tails flying out over the horizon.
Below is a photo of a Northwest Airlines 757-200 flying off into the distance from SFO.
--Click Image Below To Enlarge--
29/10/2008 - LH Pt 2 : Lufthansa Trimming Expansion While Taking Over 2 Airlines & Making A Play For 2 More
For an airline that is reportedly trimming its expenses, is Lufthansa spreading its self to thin?
Lufthansa has recently announced that it will be trimming its routes to reduce costs. This announcement comes on the heels of Lufthansa's 2008 3rd quarter net profits falling by 75%; this loss is largely due to the significant increase in fuel costs earlier this year. To compensate for this loss, Lufthansa plans to reduce spending by €246,263,870 (US$318,000,000).
Lufthansa's reduction in spending obviously does not include their interest in acquiring additional airlines. These acquisitions allow Lufthansa to grow, while also reducing their own capacity on specific routes.
Earlier in 2008 Lufthansa purchased a 45% stake in Brussels Airlines, with the option to take over 100% of the carrier in 2011.
Today Lufthansa announced it would be purchasing a 50.1% stake in BMI. This stock purchase will give Lufthansa an 80% stake in BMI
In addition to the stake in Brussels Airlines and the 80% stake in BMI, Lufthansa is pursuing other carriers as well. Lufthansa is aggressively going head-to-head with Air France-KLM for a stake in the soon to be restructured Alitalia. Alitalia will merge with Lufthansa partner carrier Air One as early as the 1st of December. Should the deal to take a stake in Alitalia fall through, Lufthansa is already making contingency plans to establish a business unit registered in Italy. This new business unit is to be named Lufthansa Italia SpA.
Elsewhere in the Lufthansa's interest in taking significant stakes in foreign carriers, is the carrier interest in Austrian Airlines. Earlier this week Lufthansa forced Austrian Airlines to push its sale deadline back from October 27th to the end of the year. Lufthansa is seeking to purchase a 42.75% stake in the Austrian flag carrier, which will be operating at an approximate deficit of €125,000,000 by the end of the year. Much like the battle for a stake in Alitalia, Lufthansa is bidding against its French rival Air France-KLM.
In these volatile times for the airline industry, will Lufthansa's wide spread stakes in foreign carriers allow the airline to grow, or will it collapse under its own weight? Only time will tell.
29/10/2008 - LH Pt 1: Lufthansa To Control BMI & Become 2nd Largest At Heathrow While Also Trimming Expansion
As Lufthansa's (LH) net profits fall 75% in the 3rd quarter of 2008 and it cuts it spending by US$318mil, the airline has announced it will be purchasing the controlling stock of BMI/British Midland (BD) for £320 (US$511mil).
Lufthansa currently owns a 30% (minus 1 share) and SAS owns a 20% share in BMI, while BMI Chairman Sir Michael Bishop controls 50.1% of BMI's shares. This sale will give Lufthansa not only 80% control over BMI, but it will also give Lufthansa substantial access to the highly sought after, and financially valuable Heathrow slots.
Once the deal to take over the controlling stock is completed by the 12th of January 2009, following regulatory approval, Lufthansa will control 11% of London Heathrow's landing/departure slots.
What I find most interesting about this sale of Sir Michael Bishop's shares is Airliner World's report in August of 2008 on the profitable BMI that states the following after an interview with Sir Michael Bishop " A year ago it seemed likely that the venerable knight would decide it was time to call it a day. But 12 months is a long time in the aviation business and Sir Michael may put off selling the airline for another two or three years in the hope that the economic climate will improve."
I know that 3 months is a long time in the airline industry, that that quote following the interview leaves a lot of room for question, however BMI has remained profitable and expanding as an airline. In the face of British Airways slashing UK domestic service, most notably service in Scotland, BMI has remained solid in providing domestic service to 10 significant airports within the United Kingdom.
As a member of BMI's Diamond Club, one of the most generous frequent flyer programs available within the Star Alliance, I have to wonder how long it will take for Diamond Club to become Lufthansa's Miles & More frequent flyer program.
Lufthansa's Miles & More frequent flyer program is currently used by not only Lufthansa, but also Swiss International Air Lines, Austrian Airlines, LOT Polish, Air One, Croatia Airlines, Adria Airways and Air Dolomiti.
This take over of BMI's controlling stock will be interesting to watch. It is likely that Lufthansa will reallocate a number of landing slots to Lufthansa flights to maximize their potential usage of the Open Skies agreement.
Hopefully BMI will remain BMI, flying BMI colours, and continue to expand. The airline has seen significant growth in the past few years and has been building its route structure with the acquisition of B-Med from British Airways. It would be shame to see this airline lose its identity and fade fully into Lufthansa.
29/10/2008 - Iceland's Sterling Airways Shuts Down Stranding Thousands
This is a story we have read about more times in 2008 than I'd like to recall. Airlines folding one after another have spread panic and fear through the minds of holiday travelers around the world.
This morning Icelandic airline Sterling Airways, which is based in Denmark, has canceled all its flights. With the Iceland's once flourishing financial sector has crumbled under the weight of the worldwide credit crisis, leaving the Icelandic Government on the brink of bankruptcy. These financial impacts have heavily affecting the airline industry and it became impossible for low cost carrier Sterling Airways to remain solvent.
A company spokesperson is quoted as saying, “Over a three to four week period, the whole financial system melted down, and that resulted in our shareholder being unable to continue his support to the company.” "Sadly, this has not had a positive outcome, and we have therefore decided to file for bankruptcy which will be done later today,"
Sterling Airways, who is owned by Northern Travel Holdings, primarily operated from hubs in Stockholm (ARN), Copenhagen (CPH) and Oslo (OSL) serviced 40 cities through out Europe. The airline has stated that Sterling Airways will issue no refunds. Passengers who paid by credit card are encouraged to contact their credit card company directly, and those who booked through an independent tour operator should contact that tour operator.
Multi-national Scandinavian airline SAS, or Norway based Norwegian Airlines, are assisting in arranging travel for a few thousand flyers stranded by Sterling Airways by offer space-available seats to those who have been affected by these flight cancellations.
Remember to always book your flights with a credit card when possible. Also, when looking to book your future travel, take 5 minutes and look around at the airline you are seeking to fly. Check the airline in the news; see if they are likely to collapse. There are many stable and solvent airlines flying today that can provide reasonable reliability for holiday travelers.
28 October 2008
28/10/2008 - The Manfrotto 3373 : The Perfect Traveling Light Stand
Traveling with lighting equipment can be challenging. While it is easy to swap out large studio lights for small strobes and there are many lighting accessories for small strobes, there is still the need to travel with light stands. Light stands tend to be long and difficult to pack, with very few options available to be transported as carry-on baggage.
For the past four years I have happily carried my light stands on-board flights with me. My light stands are sometimes in the bag I am using, and more often than not attached to the outside of the backpack I am wearing. These rugged, compact-yet-full-sized, light stands are the Manfrotto 3373.
What makes the Manfrotto 3373 light stand ideal for the traveling photographer? For starters the 5-section light stand folds down to a compact 19.3", yet extends up to a maximum high of 6ft 2". At a lightweight of 2lbs the light stand can comfortably hold 4lbs. Working in right spaces with compact lights is easy with the 3373 having a maximum footprint of 3ft 3".
Each of my lighting kits has it's own set of Manfrotto 3373 light stands. I keep three in my LowePro Pro Roller II case that contains two Lumedyne heads, a Nikon SB-28dx, power pack, two batteries, set of Pocket Wizards, cables, soft-boxes, grids, etc etc. This full-size studio kit fits in a single checked bag that weighs a mere 48lbs. For the rest of my lighting needs, I keep an additional three Manfrotto 3373 light stands.
The three Manfrotto 3373 light stands that are not packed with my Lumedyne kit are used in a variety of set ups depending on my needs. The compact size of these light stands allows me to insert them in the outside pocket of most backpacks and secure them using the backpack's compression straps. While I frequently travel with a single light stand for many shoots, the design and size of the Manfrotto 3373 allows me to easily stack two together and travel with me inserted in a backpack's external pocket, secured by the bag's compression straps.
I have frequently stocked an entire mobile studio kit inside the compact Mountainsmith Parallax backpack, thrown two light stands on the outside of the bag and hopped on a flight. Earlier this year in 3.5 days I flew through 5 countries (shooting in 4 of them) on three continents, crossing the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, with a Manfrotto 3373 attached to the outside of my North Face Surge backpack. Quick shoot down in Philadelphia? Pack up a Mountainsmith Day pack and attach the light stands to the securing straps to the bottom of the bag, or in the side pocket and use a carabineer to secure the stands to the shoulder strap.
Fearful of the lightweight light stand tipping over with some wind while shooting outside? There is a simple solution, I often stop by a shop such as Home Depot and pick up a few US$2.00 cinder blocks to toss on the legs when using full-size lights. When using small strobes, such as the Nikon SB-28dx Speedlights I simply place my bag on one of the legs to weigh it down.
As for flying with the Manfrotto 3373, the ultra compact size of the light stands draws virtually no attention to its self. As the light stand is smaller then international carry on restrictions, airport security almost never questions the light stand being attached to the exterior of the bag. The light stand attached to my bag has only once been questions by an airline........and that was a United Airlines flight attendant whose hobby was photography. She wanted to know what light stand I had attached to my bag.
The more I travel, the more I shoot environmental portraits on the road, the more I grow fond of the Manfrotto 3373.
Below are a few photos of the Manfrotto 3373 at work and packed as carry-on for work.
Photo #1 : 3373 set up with a Photoflex Q39 softbox for a corporate shoot
Photo #2 : Two 3373s attached to the outside of my Mountainsmith Parallax
Photo #3 : A single 3373 attached to my North Face Surge backpack
Photo #4 : A single 3373 light stands attached to my Mountainsmith Day pack.
Photo #5 : A single 3373 lashed to the bottom of my Mountainsmith Tour.
Photo #6 : Two 3373s set up in a tight space on a location shoot
--Click Images Below To Enlarge--
27 October 2008
27/10/2008 - Can Heathrow Be Replaced By A Man Made Island Airport?
For those of you who have read Flying With Fish regularly since its inception, you may be aware of my affinity for London Heathrow Airport (LHR). I have slept at Heathrow more than any other airport, due to a combination of missed connections, weather cancellations and my being to cheap to pay for a hotel room.
I think if I sleep in LHR's Terminal 3 one more night the BAA might have a plaque with my name on it made up and placed on a bench near the Air Canada check-in counter.
Today's edition of The Independent reports that the Mayor of London Boris Johnson is reviving the idea of constructing an airport on a man made island off the Isle of Sheppey in the Thames Estuary. Under Johnson's concept the airport would be constructed in waters 10-to-13 feet deep and be expanded to include six runways.
The cost of replacing the 62-year-old Heathrow, which is a major established international hub? An estimated £40bil (US$61,854,790,607)
Should the British Government go ahead and choose to move London Heathrow to the Thames Estuary there will be some significant hurdles. Having read, and reread, this story a few times today I came up with a few things that the planning commission will need to keep in mind off the top of my head.
First and most importantly they need to remember the problems associated with the construction of, and sinking of, Osaka's Kansai International Airport (KIX), which opened in 1994. While KIX was built on reclaimed land in much deeper water, engineers misjudged the actual rate of settling/sinking of the island. The man made island KIX is built on has already settled far below the estimated 20 year sinking estimate. The island KIX is on is now at 15 feet above sea level, and continues to sink at 4cm per year, or 33 feet over 20 a year span (keep in mind the island is now only feet above sea level).
As the island sinks, it is drops at a rate faster than that of the 5,577 foot long terminal. This disparity in sinking rates requires that the terminal be jacked up off the foundation. The jacking of the terminal allows the terminal to stay level and not crack and separate in specific areas.
Given the traffic Heathrow receives compared to KIX, the island would need to be much larger than the one for KIX. Heathrow moves an average of 67.5million passengers annually, while KIX only moves an average of 17.5 million passengers per year. For comparison, Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) 'only' moves approximately 44 million passenger a year, still 23.5 million less than Heathrow (London Standsted alone moves an average of 23.7 million passengers per year)
The sheer size of an island to be created, placed over bedrock, and constructed would be a massive undertaking. This undertaking needs to factor in that five international airports serve London. While the idea of phasing out Heathrow may seem logical, the airport cannot easily be replaced. The passenger traffic can be moved, in part, to another London area airport.
While London Gatwick (LGW) is semi-convenient to London, the airport is restricted to a single runway. While there have been studies to add a second runway to Gatwick, the additional runway cannot be constructed prior to 2019.
Despite LGW being confined to a single runway for both departures and arrival, the airport moves an average of 263,363 aircraft annually, or 721.5 aircraft daily, or 30 aircraft per hour. For a single runway airport LGW does moves an incredible amount of traffic, but the airport is at capacity and cannot be used to reduce Heathrow's traffic.
Like Gatwick, London Stansted (STN) is a single runway airport, but it has room for two additional runways. The plans are currently being reviewed, despite some opposition to expand Stansted's boundary. This expansion would allow fro runway #2 (and potentially #3). Stansted could have a 2nd runway as early as 2011.
I have long since voice my opinion that STN could be an alternative use for Heathrow airport. Although STN could never replace LHR or handle the traffic LHR moves. With a second runway Stansted could potentially handle up to 10mil more passengers than it handles now, reducing some traffic from Heathrow. This reduction in traffic can allow more slots to be opened at LHR.
Heathrow has aggressively been campaigning for a 3rth runway that would be significantly shorter than the two current runways. This third runway could ease congestion with the constant stream of regional narrow body flights and regional traffic. This new third runway Heathrow would be able to accommodate 720,000 movements annually or 1,972 flights per day.
So could London Heathrow be moved to an Island that could offer six runways? I am sure it could be done. The Egyptians constructed the Pyramids and a blind Chinese monk named Haitong started construction of the world largest Buddha in Leshan, China, in 713AD. With these massive accomplishments in mind, I am sure London could relocate Heathrow to a man made island.
27/10/2008 - AeroChannel On Twitter
Over the past few months I have referred to AeroChannel.com as an excellent and growing source of information for flyers.
AeroChannel's dedicated team provides not only valuable information for your day of travel, but also a consistent source of commentary on the airline travel industry. I have even had the pleasure of contributing some information to AeroChannel and am happy to see the site grow. As AeroChannel grows they have begun to exploring using Twitter as a source for providing relevant information to those seeking regularly updated travel and airline info.
I am confident that as "AeroTwitters" followers grow their stream of updates will grow to match the audience.
To follow AeroChannel on Twitter visit: www.twitter.com/aerochannel
..............still here? You should be on Twitter signing up to follow AeroChannel.
26 October 2008
26/10/2008 – The Weekly Round Up : PDA Boarding Passes : Miles Scam : Mountainsmith Parallax : Airport Etiquette : New TSA Rules , etc, etc
26/10/2008 – The Weekly Round Up : PDA Boarding Passes : Miles Scam : Mountainsmith Parallax : Airport Etiquette : New TSA Rules , etc, etc
I'll kick this week's Weekly Round Up off with exciting news regarding the future of Flying With Fish. In the near future Flying With Fish will be packing up its posts, heading over to the counter to check-in and then fly on over to BoardingArea.com Boarding Area is home to some of the blogs I regularly read. To find out more about where Flying With Fish is headed check out : 23/10/2008 - Flying With Fish Is Flying Over To Boarding Area
..........as Flying With Fish flies over to its new home I plan on creating a somewhat regular schedule of updated airline and travel related posts on Twitter. You can find sign up for the travel snippets at www.twitter.com/flyingwithfish
This week started and ended with the discussion of the gaping security flaws in the U.S. Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) policies and systems. Both entries involving the TSA address the same issue, the lack of any true security in the verification of paper boarding passes.
The first of the two TSA-boarding pass related entries discusses the new allowance of Mobile Phone/PDA based boarding passes. With this new system flyers can download their boarding pass, with an encrypted bar code, and present it at the TSA security checkpoint and again at the gate. This system is now in place at 8 security checkpoints (yes, 8 airline specific check points, not 8 airports) throughout the United States. While this new system allows for secure verification of PDA based boarding passes, it does not address the significant problems related to forged paper based boarding passes. For more information, click here: 20/10/2008 – TSA Rolls Out PDA Based Boarding Pass : A Security Double Standard
The second of two TSA-boarding pass related entries points out the significant flaws in the new Department of Homeland Security & Transportation Security Administration's new policy requiring that all passengers in the U.S., or traveling to the U.S., will be required to supply their full name and date of birth before being issues a boarding pass. This new system may sound effective, but it does nothing to address how easy it is to purchase a boarding pass using someone else's information then forge the paper-boarding pass when checking in online. To learn more about how ineffective these new security policy is read this: 24/10/2008 - U.S. Flyers Required To Provide Full Name & Date-of-Birth In 2009
Everyday criminals devise new scams. This week I became aware of a new scam when I received an envelope in the mail containing my flight itinerary for six flights throughout Europe in early December. All the flights were marked as 'confirmed' and I was excited for this trip........until I realized it was not my trip! A phone call to United Airlines lead me to find out that there is a new scam to steal frequent flyer miles. Interested in how this came works? Check here: 21/10/2008 – Mail From United Airlines That I Wish Was True : New Scam To Steal Frequent Flyer Miles
While packing to head out on the road for a few days I reached into my closet full of camera bags and pulled out a favourite do-it-all bag. I have come to describe the Parallax as a "clown car" bag because is compact in size yet never ending in what I can pack in it. To see how I packed this bag visit this entry here: 22/10/2008 – The Mountainsmith Parallax Photo Backpack : Revisited
This week I revisited a topic I like to discuss on Flying With Fish...etiquette. While I might not know which fork to use at a 5-star restaurant, and I have no idea how to properly greet members of the British Royal Family, I do know the basics of travel etiquette. One thing I see often that I cannot stand is flyers verbally abusing airline representatives at the airport. Airline representatives can have a very stressful job due to circumstances well outside their control...and you shouldn't make their job any more stressful. To read more on airport etiquette click here: 23/10/2008 - Airport Etiquette : Gate Agents Are Not There For Your Verbal Abuse
That wraps up this past week.
24 October 2008
24/10/2008 - U.S. Flyers Required To Provide Full Name & Date-of-Birth In 2009
As a flyer I am very much in favour of security.
Let me clarify the above statement.........As a flyer I am very much in favour of effective security.
What I am not in favour of as a flyer, as a US Citizen and as a U.S tax payer, is an ineffective security system that increasingly reminds me of George Orwell’s classic novel "1984," that in return offers the traveling public no additional effective security measures.
Beginning in 2009 flyers in the United States will be required to provide airlines with their full name and date of birth. Currently you can purchase tickets with your first two initials and your last name, and no other information is required, now you'll need to provide first, middle, last name in your reservation.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has stated that the new rules will dramatically reduce the number of flyers who are mistaken for those on the "No Fly List," which includes those on the terrorist watch list. Given that the "No Fly List" has never caught a terrorist, or come close to catching a terrorist, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may want to revamp its security measures in a less invasive manner to those traveling in the United States.
Flyers who fail to provide their full name and date of birth will be unable to print boarding passes at home, or at the airport, for any flight originating or terminating in the United States, as of July 2009. If you fail to provide this information you will be required to check in with an airline's counter agent and provide them with the information.
I do not believe these new security rules will in any way deter a terrorist from purchasing an airline ticket. The new security measures will it certainly not prevent a terrorist from boarding a flight.
As discussed in this post, 20/10/2008 – TSA Rolls Out PDA Based Boarding Pass : A Security Double Standard, anyone with a credit card or debit card can purchase a ticket online with anyone's name on it. Airline tickets can even be purchased with 'Gift Cards’ with a Visa/MasterCard/Amex logo, or an airline's gift card, these cards are not traceable back to the person using them. When the person who intends to use the ticket checks in online they simply create a PDF file of the boarding pass, then save it and import it into Photoshop. Once the PDF is open in Photoshop any name can be entered on the boarding pass. All anyone needs to do is to show proper identification and a boarding pass to get through security.
The Department of Homeland Security should begin the process of making encrypted scan-bars on boarding passes a high priority. An encrypted scan-bar would be virtually impossible to forge and change the name of the passenger using that boarding pass.
Requiring a full name and date of birth of a passenger may reduce the name of false-positives on the 'No Fly List,' but it will not reduce a determined person's ability to do harm should they choose to. There needs to be a more secure system in place......and this new one simply isn't it.
This new system is an attempt to demonstrate security to the public by creating something that sounds viable, but in reality offers nothing. This is the Transportation Security Administration's way of saying "we are focused on security,' when in reality the security loop holes are wide open and glaring.
TSA Chief Kip Hawley is quoted as saying "You have to give this information." I'd like to reply to Mr. Hawley’s quote and say "You have to provide us with valid and well planned out security measures for the flying public."
23 October 2008
23/10/2008 - Flying With Fish Is Flying Over To Boarding Area
For the past two years Flying With Fish has called Blogger.com home. While Blogger has been good to Flying With Fish, I have recently been invited to move the Flying With Fish over to BoardingArea.com
In the near future when you type in www.flyingwithfish.com you'll still end up at Flying With Fish, but you'll find me somewhere else online. BoardingArea.com is home to some of the best air travel related blogs online and was created by the folks who created Flyer Talk (www.flyertalk.com) and Inside Flyer (www.insideflyer.com). This move should allow the readers of Flying With Fish to explore some other excellent, intelligent, well written, blogs.
I am excited for the move and look forward to having Flying With Fish along side some other blogs I regularly read. I am sure you'll find something of interest on BoardingArea.com when I move over there as well.
Thanks for reading.......and Happy Flying!
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23/10/2008 - Airport Etiquette : Gate Agents Are Not There For Your Verbal Abuse
As flyers we'd like the airlines we fly, and those representing them, to see our point of view every time. There have been times when I have arrived at the airport to late to be allowed to check in. I can try and sweet talk my way into a boarding pass, but when I am told "NO!" I simply ask to be placed on stand-by for the next flight.
When this has happened to me I have never stamped my foot. I have never shouted. I have never stormed off. I have certainly never shout 'do you know how often I fly your airline?' Why not? Well for starters, I accept that missing the cut off time is my fault. Secondly, airport counter agents and gate agents are people too!
I can't count the number of times I have watched a flyer shoot off the handle at an airline representative. There are times when an agent can be indifferent. There are some airlines that seem to employ more than their fair share of agents who just don't care. Overall, however, I find the majority of airline representatives at airports are helpful if given the chance.
Your flight is delayed and you'll miss the connection......it is not the fault of the airline ground staff in Denver (DEN) that the flight from San Diego (SAN) was delayed. You can express your frustration, but then also politely ask they try and reroute you before your departure. This makes everything easier for you as the traveler. As a bonus, you'll be one less person the airline rep goes home grumbling about.
Weather has you grounded in Chicago (ORD)? Do you think yelling at an airline representative will cause the airport to open up again just because you think that ‘its not that windy out?’ Weather delays happen, It is a fact of travel. Airlines don’t like being grounded either. Not only does a weather delay or closure force airline representatives to deal with angry passengers, but airlines only make money when their planes are flying. Grounded and delayed flights cost the airline money. Keep this in mind next time you feel like taking out your weather related frustration on a gate agent.
Your baggage didn't make the flight? This is extremely frustrating, but chances are the airline representative in Seattle (SEA) didn't forget to load your bags onto the flight in Orange County (SNA). You can express your irritation. I have expressed my frustration many times when my bags on one specific US Airways flight between Philadelphia (PHL) and Providence (PVD) failed to make my flight home 14 times in a single year (yes, fourteen.... as in a bakers dozen, plus one!). My frustration however is never aimed at the baggage counter agent. That person has nothing to do with my bags arriving. Being polite and nice goes a long way for getting what I need, rather than ranting.
One significant area of airport etiquette when dealing with an airline agent has to do with upgrades. If you have 'status' you know you need to be on 'the list' to wait for an upgrade. If you do not have 'status' and you ask for an upgrade you should know that it probably won't happen and if you denied you should not rant at the gate agent.
Recently I watched a woman demand an upgrade. She was denied. The flyer launched into the all to often heard "do you know how often I fly your airline?" The airline agent had a fantastic reply "clearly not even 25,000 miles a year." This of course outraged the flyer, but let a number of us in the gate area have a nice laugh.
Upgrades are a perk. If you don't get your upgrade relax, and don't raise your voice. Yelling at the one person who could possibly get you an upgrade, or pass you over for an upgrade is never a good idea. I missed more than a dozen upgrades in a row while flying United at once point. Eventually it just became funny to me. In fact, with my current frequent flyer programs, nearly 90% of my US domestic travel is done in economy. I know how cramped and uncomfortable economy seats can be.
However when I don't get my upgrade I simply thank the agent for looking, smile and walk off. This tactic has actually landed me a few upgrades (at least three I know I did not deserve)
Didn't your Mom ever tell you that you catch more Bees with Honey than with Vinegar?
Just remember that the airline representatives you are working with are people too.
22 October 2008
22/10/2008 – The Mountainsmith Parallax Photo Backpack : Revisited
There are some photo assignments that require a wide range of equipment, for a wide range of shooting scenarios. At times these assignments also require a photographer to be able to work quickly and deal with the reality of working in confined spaces.
Over the next two days I will be shooting landscapes, architecture, environmental portraits and unscripted situations for a corporate client. Each day will involve shooting in approximately 10 locations over a 9 hour period. As I planned out my equipment I once again found myself turning towards a small photo backpack that can appear to be a 'clown car' when you pack and unpack it. This backpack is the Mountainsmith Parallax.
I first introduced the readers of Flying With Fish to the Mountainsmith Parallax back in August of 2007. Back in August 2007 I selected the Parallax to be the only bag to accompany me on my journey around the world one-and-a-half times in (flying roughly 34,000 miles) in a four-day period. You can revisit my initial thoughts on this bag here : 3-August-2007 : Going Around The World For A Few Days? You'll Need To Pack Ulta-Light
Now, more than a year later, this bag has continued to be one of the 'go-to' bags for challenging packing scenarios. For this two day corporate project the Parallax was the obvious front-runner to make the trip. The Parallax is small, so it can stay out of the way. The bag is ergonomic making it comfortable to wear when fully loaded. The bag is easy to configure and reconfigure allowing me to set up the inserts to meet my needs. The bag is deep allowing me to stack lenses, flashes and other items. The bag has tremendous and durable mesh side pockets and lash-straps allowing me to secure two Manfrotto 3373 compact light stands.
So what is being packed in this easy to carry, unassuming, fully legal for carry-on baggage backpack? Let me tell you:
1 - Canon 5D w/grip
1 - Canon 20D w/grip
1- Canon 14f2.8L
1 - Canon 24f3.5L tilt-shift
1 - Canon 50f1.4
1 - Canon 85f1.2L
1 - Canon 70-200f2.8L
1 - Canon EF 12mm Extension Tube II
2 - Nikon SB-28dx Speedlights
2 - Pocket Wizard transmitters
2 - Pocket Wizard receivers
2 - Manfrotto 3373 compact light stands
1 - Manfrotto 3007 compact tripod w/extension post
1 - Think Tank PeeWee Pocket Rocket
1 - 1-quart Hefty Bag with extra batteries, PC cord, random accessories
1 - mini roll of black Gaffers tape
1 - PhotoFlex mini Speed Ring
1 - PhotoFlex Q39 soft boxes
2 - Calumet Swivel Adapters
1 - Think Tank Cable Management 10 (with CF card reader, power supply etc)
1 - 15" Apple PowerBook
1 - PhotoFlex 22" white/white LiteDisc (Not Pictured)
2 - Canon BP511 battery chargers (Not Pictured, they were charging batteries)
4 - Sets of spare "AA" batteries (Not Pictures, they were on the chargers)
Overall, the amount this bag can haul, for its compact size is amazing. Most bags that are able to handle the size of this load have a much larger 'footprint.' Working with a larger bag is not only uncomfortable most of the time, but it also makes wearing the bag while shooting more challenging.
You can view the specs for the Mountainsmith Parallax on Mountainsmith's website at: www.mountainsmith.com
Below are 5 photos of the Parallax depicting the bag externally, internally, with all the packed gear (both packed and unpacked) and a 15" PowerBook with the bag to give you a sense of how compact the bag is.
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21 October 2008
21/10/2008 – Mail From United Airlines That I Wish Was True : New Scam To Steal Frequent Flyer Miles
This morning I went to my PO Box to pick up my mail. My mail had the usual bills, a few catalogs and an envelope from United Airlines.
Inside the envelope was a single piece of paper with only the following information, in addition to my name and address
03 Dec 08
Swiss 345 Coach Class
Lv: Lon / Heathrow 600a nonstop Confirmed
Ar: Zurich 835a
04 Dec 08
Swiss 1248 Coach Class
Lv: Zurich 650a nonstop Confirmed
Ar: Stkhlm/Arlanda 915a
05 Dec 08
Lufthansa 3001 Coach Class
Lv: Stkhlm/Arlanda 1005a nonstop Confirmed
Ar: Frankfurt 1215p
06 Dec 08
Lufthansa 3258 Coach Class
Lv: Frankfurt 820a nonstop Confirmed
Ar: Prague 925a
07 Dec 08
Swiss 1485 Coach Class Operated By-Helvetic Airways
Lv: Prague 950a nonstop Confirmed
Ar: Zurich 1110a
07 Dec 08
Swiss 638 Coach Class
Lv: Zurich 1235p nonstop Confirmed
Ar: Paris/DeGaulle 155p
I read this over and at first I said "Great!" Then of course reality set in when I noticed three glaring problems with receiving this itinerary in the mail.
Problem #1 : My frequent flyer number was no where to be found in the info
Problem #2: The itinerary showed no flights getting me to London or home from Paris
Problem #3: This was NOT my itinerary.
Of course the fact that this was not my itinerary should have been "Problem #1" and eliminated problems #2 and #3, but sometimes you have to just say "Hey, maybe they made a mistake and this is mine!"
After a 15-minute call with United Airlines I learned that this reservation was made on the 15th of October. The person who made the reservation had my old address, with a business phone number I have listed in various places online.
When the reservation was made, who ever made it gave incorrect billing information. Despite the incorrect billing information the seats remain "confirmed" without the tickets being issued.
So what is the point in all this? This appears to have been someone's attempt to steal my frequent flyer miles.
By creating a detailed itinerary and having a 'billing problem' whoever made the reservation would then call back in an attempt to get my frequent flyer information. Once they have my frequent flyer information they would call back and attempt to book the flights using my frequent flyer miles.
Anyone doing this would need to travel with my passport right? Wrong!
Flying on a forged boarding pass is not that risky. A flyer can check-in online, create PDFs of the boarding pass, and then insert 'their name' on the boarding pass using Photoshop. To be caught doing this would require someone visually scanning the boarding pass to actually read the name on the boarding pass while also reading the name that pops up on the screen to see if they match at the gate.
How often do gate agents read the name on the boarding pass while also looking at the name that pops up on the boarding pass scanner? Almost never.
Luckily for me, while I fly United Airlines often, nearly all my miles are credited to a Europe based Star Alliance airline. Should the person who made this reservation have pressed forward in an attempt to steal my miles they would not have gotten very far. I have used nearly all my United Mileage Plus miles and only have roughly 21,000 miles in my account.
FYI: 21,000 miles won't even get you an award seat between Washington Dulles (IAD) and Chicago O'Hare (ORD)
I have been in contact with United Airlines. The reservation is cancelled, my information has been flagged and unfortunately I am not spending four days bouncing around Europe.
New scams are created daily, and I am glad United Airlines sent me off this envelope with this itinerary. Without this letter in the mail I would have had no idea someone was created travel itineraries in my name.
For those of you who are known to fly often and rack up a lot of miles, check your accounts once in a while. Make sure all your miles are in your account and no one is trying to take vacations with your hard earned mileage!
20 October 2008
20/10/2008 – TSA Rolls Out PDA Based Boarding Pass : A Security Double Standard
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has begin a beta program that allows flyers to download their boarding pass to the Blackberry/iPhone/PDA and skip printing out a paper boarding pass.
When a flyer downloads the boarding pass to their PDA, the electronic boarding pass displays an encrypted bar code that contains the passengers basic travel information. This information includes the passenger’s name and flight information. When the flyer approaches the TSA travel document checker (TDC) the PDA based boarding pass is electronically scanned by a hand-held scanner. The information displayed on the hand-held scanner is then verified against the flyers valid photo identification.
With the ability to create, and alter, boarding passes printed at home (or at the hotel), changing a passengers name to bypass security measures is very easy to accomplish. Shouldn't all boarding passes have this 2-dimensional encrypted barcode?
If a potential flyer is on the 'No Fly' list, who is a legitimate threat to national security, really wants to fly, they will purchase a ticket in the name of someone who is not on the 'No Fly' list.
Once this ‘threat’ has purchased the ticket they will check in online, and get to the print page. Once at the print page they'll create a PDF and import the PDF into Photoshop. In Photoshop they will change the name on the boarding pass to their name. With their name on the boarding pass they can walk up to the TSA's TDC with their legal legitimate photo identification and the forged boarding pass. The names will match and they'll be on their way. Once at the gate they use a non-forged boarding pass and they board the plane.
..........no I am not giving away national security secrets here. What I am discussing is information that the Department of Homeland Security is well aware of.
By implementing a bar-code scanning system through the TSA's travel document checking system it would be extremely difficult to bypass the security measures in place. The system of checking encrypted boarding passes should not be limited to the use of PDA boarding passes at a total of 8 airport checkpoints.
This system is not at 8 airports, but at 8 airport checkpoints, specific to certain airlines. New York's LaGuardia Airport (LGA) for example has approximately 9 TSA check points. The PDA boarding pass program however is only available at one single checkpoint. You can only use the PDA boarding pass in the Delta/Northwest Terminal, and only if you are flying on Delta Airlines (not Northwest Airlines).
We need a secure system to keep a nation in transit safe. A system of positively checking boarding passes should be in place not only in the United States by around the world. A secure system of boarding pass verification should be in place not only at major airports, but at minor airports as well.
Why minor airports? Because if you seek to do harm and strike fear into the hearts and minds of the flying public, you won't risk dealing with security at a major airport such as Philadelphia International Airport (PHL). To make your job easier, you'll board your flight at a small regional airport such as New Haven (HVN), which is easier to pass through and connect to a full-loaded transcontinental or transatlantic flight out of PHL.
Checking photo identification against a piece of paper that cannot be verified is a waste of resources. Dealing with 21st century threats with mid-20th century technology is not staying one-step ahead of the threat. Current security measures react to past threats rather than looking forward towards new threats.
Having encrypted bar codes on all boarding passes is a 21st century answer to a 21st century threat and it should not be limited to an extremely small number of travelers who chose to use their PDA rather than a paper boarding pass.
17 October 2008
17/10/2008 – The Weekly Round Up : Fuel Surcharges; Booking To Soon? : Baggage Theft Blame Game : TSA Approves Jewish Holiday! : etc etc etc
17/10/2008 – The Weekly Round Up : Fuel Surcharges; Booking To Soon? : Baggage Theft Blame Game : TSA Approves Jewish Holiday! : etc etc etc
The leaves are turning, the air is cooling and when I look up in the sky I see long while contrails sweeping across the sky as flight pass by headed out over the Atlantic Ocean. This is the season when many begin to plan their winter vacation travel and long for their summer vacation.
This week I addressed the question of how far out is to far out to book flights with the instability of airlines these days. I also questioned when airlines might lower their fuel surcharges as the cost of fuel continues to drop. These issues are important when planning your winter and summer vacation plans.
Interested in my random short thoughts and insights on travel? Feel free to join me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/flyingwithfish . You don't need to post, join up and sign up to 'follow me.' No personal blather, no social commentary, just small travel tidbits....never longer than 140 characters in length.
My question of airline fuel surcharges just couldn't wait for Monday, so I kicked off this week on Saturday. After reading up on cost of fuel, the following airlines dropping fuel surcharges and others adding fuel surcharges, I started to crunch the numbers associated with Northwest Airlines' Cargo reducing its fuel surcharge. By the time I was done I decided I needed to write about it......so around 5:30am I got up and wrote the following post: 11/10/2008 – Some Airlines Reduce Fuel Surcharges : Will US Passenger Airlines Follow?
The airline industry is currently in flux is it wise to book your summer flights far in advance? British airlines Air Southwest is better on passengers booking their summer flights now,however I am cautious when booking flights so far in advance. For more info check out: 13/10/2008 – Book Early For The Best Prices? : Maybe Not The Best Idea
Theft from baggage is not only mentally upsetting , but it also frustrating when you try and fill out of claim. The airline blames the TSA, the TSA blames the airlines, at worst they both blame a third party contractor. To find out who you should contact if there is theft from your bag check here: 14/10/2008 – Missing Items From Checked Baggage : Who Do You Contact?
This week Verified Identity Pass (VIP) announced that they would be significantly raising the cost of using their Registered Traveler "Clear" card. As the costs of Clear go up, my confidence in the system has been going down. Find out why I think 'Clear' is not worth the costs: 15/10/2008 – Registered Traveler 'Clear' Card Fee Goes Up To US$199: Is This Worth It? I Think Not
What happens when two planes experience the nearly identical computer anomalies over a remote section of Australia? You look into some unusual potential causes.....such as looking at the electro-magnetic interference caused by a classified military radio tower that stands 20 feet taller than the Empire State Building. Interested? Read more here: 15/10/2008 – Can A 'Classified' Military Radio Tower Bring Down A Plane? : I Almost Has.....Twice
One of my favourite holidays as always been Sukkot. The Jewish holiday follows the 'high holy' holidays and it is a fun and happy festival. Last week the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Transportation Security Administration publicly stated that they do not believe the fruits and branches used while celebrating Sukkot posed security risk to commercial aviation. I have to tell you, I was worried that I might get busted for flying with a lulav branch and a ripe etrog.........OK, no I wasn't. For a good laugh read here: 16/10/2008 – The Jewish Holiday Of Sukkot Is Not A Threat To Airline Security According To The Department Of Homeland Security
Running late? Find out if your flight is as well with this week's iPhone 'App' Of The Week "Airport Status." The 'App' is easy to use and very reliable. Check Airport Status out here: 16/10/2008 – iPhone 'App' Of The Week : Airport Status
An airlines' primary responsibility is safety. The airline must operate its aircraft safely and make sure their passengers arrive safely. The FAA's job is to oversee the airlines and make sure they operate safely and their aircraft are safe. The NTSB's job is to investigate accidents and incidents. Well this week the NTSB has suggest that the FAA begin detailed inspections of one of the most widely used engines on Boeing 757-200/757-300 aircraft.....which is one of the most popular passenger planes operated in the United States. Find out what caused the NTSB to make its recommendation to the TSA in this entry: 16/10/2008 – NTSB Finds Missing Parts In Multiple 757 Engines
Virgin America was rated #1 by Conde Nast Traveler readers. There are many factors that lead me to question this ranking. Find out why I question this by clicking here: 17/10/2008 – Virgin America Top U.S. Airline According To Conde Nast......but how?
The seasons are changing so go grab your camera and explore the world around you.
17/10/2008 – Virgin America Top U.S. Airline According To Conde Nast......but how?
Every year Conde Nast Traveler surveys travelers to pick their top airline. This year Conde Nast Traveler readers placed Virgin America in the #1 slot.
On one hand I agree, Virgin America is a good airline. I have regularly chosen to fly Virgin Atlantic over all other airline combined over the years when flying certain Trans Atlantic routes. Virgin's brand of airlines has a long history of being top-notch carriers.
My problem with Virgin America taking the #1 slot is that the airline only services a total of seven cities, in a total of five states. Virgin America only currently offers a total of 18 non-stop routes nationwide, which are really 9 non-stop routes since I am counting the 'return leg' as a valid non-stop route (ie: I am counting IAD-LAX as two routes instead of one, since there is also obviously LAX-IAD).
The way I see airline travel, even the most top notch airline cannot rank as #1 if it fails to service the overwhelming majority of the flying public. Yes, Virgin America goes head to head with the 'legacy' airlines on the highly competitive, JFK-SFO/JFK-LAX routes. Virgin America launched these routes first to compete with United Airlines' P.S. service, American Airlines’ Flagship Service, and Delta Airlines who are go head to head daily competing for passengers on these two specific routes.
Virgin America is extremely popular on these two routes. I know at least half-a-dozen flyers who travel this route constantly who have left United and American Airlines to fly Virgin America as their primary carrier.
While these routes are popular, and are gaining the attention of frequent flyers on these routes, what about flyers from the remaining 45 states? Clearly Conde Nast's survey was not handed to those who do not fly Virgin America routes? What about the heavy amount of frequent flyers out of Chicago? Dallas? Minneapolis? The frequent business travelers who depart Appleton, WI, Rochester, NY? Sacramento, CA?
I'm not saying I fully question the validity of the survey, however I am saying a huge portion of the flying public was missed with the survey.
Yes, I think Virgin America offers a great product. Yes, I often fly out of JFK. Yes, my most commonly traveled to (and through) airport in San Francisco.........but for my 200,000 air miles flown last year and this year, I have primarily departed from Providence, RI or New Haven, CT, flying to at least 35 airport (by quickly flipping through my records and taking a quick count) that are not services by Virgin America. I'd bet that at least 95% of the frequent flyers in the United States have a similar scenario that does not allow Virgin America to be their top airline either (it's probably more than 95%).
Conde Nast's poll also placed Virgin Atlantic in the #3 slot for international airlines. No shock they'd be in the top 10, and certainly no surprise that Singapore Airlines took the #1 slot. Singapore Airlines has been voted #1 by Conde Nast readers 20 times in the past 21 years.
16 October 2008
16/10/2008 – NTSB Finds Missing Parts In Multiple 757 Engines
Today the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is recommending that the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration begin detailed inspections of certain Boeing 757-200 (752) engines. This urgent recommendation comes after an NTSB inspection of a Pratt & Whitney PW2037 revealed multiple missing lugs and cracks in the turbine hub of a Delta 752 engine. An Unrelated inspection of an American Airlines' 752 with the PW2037 engine also revealed the engine had been flying with cracks in its turbine hub.
These inspections were initially prompted when Delta Flight 624 was forced to abort its take off from Las Vegas McCarran International Airport, when the 757-232, powered by the PW2037, experienced power problems and was unable to lift off, on the 6th of August.
With additional similar problems found in the PW2037 engines that are operated and maintained by unrelated airlines, the NTSB ha suggested these engines be removed from service until further inspections and maintenance can be performed on each engine.
Currently there are 725 PW2037 engines in service for use with Boeing 757-200/757-300 aircraft around the globe.
With the FAA's recent record of aircraft inspection errors, could these problems have been found with closer inspection?
Recently both Southwest Airlines and American Airlines have been forced to ground aircraft due to FAA errors in aircraft inspections. In March of this year American Airlines was forced to temporarily ground its fleet of 133 MD-80 and MD-90 aircraft when the FAA inspections failed to uncover problems with the aircraft's wiring bundles.
Hopefully the PW2037 engine issues are minor manufacturing problems that are quickly located, repaired and dealt with, rather than an on going issue that should have been found during FAA inspections of the aircraft.
16/10/2008 – iPhone 'App' Of The Week : Airport Status
No one likes delays at the airport. Delays are not only annoying, but also potentially disastrous when flying on a tight schedule.
Over the past few months I have used a variety of iPhone 'Apps' that are designed to keep travelers updated on airport delays. I have previously written about the iPhone 'App' FAA Wait in this post : 11/09/2008 – iPhone 'App' Of The Week : FAA Wait, now I am introducing your to "Airport Status."
Having used half-a-dozen iPhone 'Apps' I have found only FAA Wait and Airport Status to be reliable and timely on a consistent basis.
Airport Status breaks out delays by Ground Delays, Ground Stop Programs, General Delays and Airport Closures.
Each section breaks out delays by airport, reason for delay and average length of delays.
If you are flying out of Newark (EWR) and there is weather Airport Status will display "WX: TSTMS" which stands for Thunder Storms, with a minimum delay time.
Having tested Airport Status side by side with live delay information I find it to be updated in a manner that is
I have found Airport Status' information extremely helpful when travel to or from an area experiencing severe weather, as well as through airports known for significant delays, such as New York's JFK International Airport (JFK ) and Philadelphia International Airport (PHL)
If you travel at all I suggest going to the iTunes App Store and downloading Airport Status before heading out to catch your next flight.
Below are two screen shots of the FAA Wait 'App" on my iPhone.
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The Jewish Holiday Of Sukkot Is Not A Threat To Airline Security According To The Department Of Homeland Security
16/10/2008 – The Jewish Holiday Of Sukkot Is Not A Threat To Airline Security According To The Department Of Homeland Security
Three days ago at Sunset, on the evening of the 13th of October, the Jewish festival of Sukkot began. Sukkot is the joyous holiday essentially celebrating the harvest.
With the holiday of Sukkot approaching the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) put out the following press release a few days before the start of this holiday.
Religious Events of Sukkot
TSA recognizes that the travel period for Sukkot, a significant event for persons of the Jewish faith, begins approximately on October 14, 2008, and ends approximately on October 20, 2008.
TSA’s standard operating procedures do not prohibit the carrying of the four plants – which include a palm branch, myrtle twigs, willow twigs, and a citron through the airport or the security checkpoints, or on aircraft. These plants are not on TSA’s Prohibited Items List.
TSA understands that this is a significant religious event for the Jewish faith and has reminded its security workforce that members of the Jewish faith may be observed engaging in religious practices or meditations and carrying the four plants.
I have read this press release and reread this press release, and for the life of me I cannot fathom why someone at the DHS or TSA though they needed to announce you could travel with the items customarily found in a Sukkah while celebrating Sukkot. None of these items are banned from carry-on baggage at any time during the year.
..............so with the TSA's blessing (so to speak).........To all the Jewish readers of Flying With Fish, L'shanah tovah, and happy and a healthy 5769!
15 October 2008
15/10/2008 – Can A 'Classified' Military Radio Tower Bring Down A Plane? : I Almost Has.....Twice
Last Tuesday, the 7th of October, Qantas Flight 72, an Airbus A330-300, flying between Singapore (SIN) and Perth (PER) experienced a computer malfunction that caused the aircraft to unexpectedly climb before plunging twice.
Normally this could be written off as a run-of-the-mill computer problem, however a Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777-200 experienced a similar computer malfunction in nearly the identical location in 2005.
What do these two reported potentially deadly incidents have in common? They both occurred while flying over a 'classified' United States military installation, 3 miles north of Exmouth, in Western Australia (FYI: The amount of info I can find on this classified radio tower online is extensive!). This military installation is home to a signal tower nicknamed "Tower Zero" that is taller than the Empire State Building. Tower Zero is 1,270 feet, while the Empire State Building is 1,250 feet. Tower Zero, and the additional 12 surrounding towers (six are 1,194 feet and six are 997 feet) were constructed to primarily handle naval communications for US and Australian submarines in the Southern Hemisphere.
This cluster of 13 radio towers is one of the powerful of its kind in the world, and it is known to cause electro-magnetic interference
The Australian Transportation Safety Bureau (ATSB) believes both the Qantas Airbus A330 and Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 incidents centered on the aircrafts on-board 'Air Data Inertial Reference Unit' (ADIRU) computer. The chances of two unrelated aircraft, produced by two difference manufacturers, flown and maintained by two different airlines, having nearly identical mishaps in the same vicinity of the of Tower Zero is practically 'nil.'
With the military base technically being classified, and of significant interest to both the U.S. and Australian militaries, investigators are still unsure of the specific cause of the two incidents. Neither the U.S. military or Australian military is willing to discuss specifics which may aid the ATSB's investigation of the cause of Qantas Flight 72's recent incident.
The incident left more than 60 people injured.
15/10/2008 – Registered Traveler 'Clear' Card Fee Goes Up To US$199: Is This Worth It? I Think Not
A few days ago Verified Identity Pass (VIP) announced that it would be increasing the fee for registering for a "Clear" card
VIP issues the Clear Card in accordance with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Registered Traveler Program. The idea of the Registered Traveler is to perform background checks on applicants for the program, speed up their airport security process.
Having looked over the Clear program, and the Registered Traveler program in general, I see only one distinct advantage to holding a Clear card. This advantage is facing shorter airport security wait times, at a limited number of airports.
Back in December 2007 I discussed Clear, and explained that I did not see the value in spending $100 for a Clear card in this entry : 18-December-2007 : To Register Or Not To Register That Is The Question! Should You Be A Registered Traveler?
Now as we are nearing the end of 2008, and Clear raises it’s cost to US$199, I see less value for Clear on a number of levels.
For the US$199 fee a Clear flyer must submit to a lengthy and invasive background check. In this check you must disclose a significant amount of personal information. In addition to this information you must also submit your fingerprints and retina scan. Back in December 2007 I said that I did not believe in a conspiracy theory, I didn't think there were black helicopters circling my house. Although I am my conspiracy theorist, I like to keep my private information private.
In the past year VIP has proven that it is not ready to secure personal and sensitive data. The most notable glitch in VIP's Clear security was in August of 2008 (which I wrote about here: 5/08/2008 - 'Clear' Registered Traveler User Information Stolen) . A laptop, containing the personal information of more than 33,000 Clear applicants and users was stolen from an office at San Francisco International Airport (SFO). To make matters worse, the data on this computer was not encrypted. All the information was available for the taking. The laptop was mysteriously returned to the same office it as stolen from a few days later, with no explanation. VIP claims the computer was not tampered with, however it would be hard to tell if a non-encrypted computer's hard drive was cloned or not.
So with all this in mind what does paying US$199 to Clear get you as a Registered Traveler?
- You are still subject to TSA searches
- Your laptop must still be removed from your bag
- You still may not bring liquids through security
- You are still subject to random secondary searches
- You may still have "SSSS" printed on your boarding pass for secondary screening
......you will however be escorted to a machine that will scan your fingerprints and your retina; you will cut the entire security line; you may (in some airports) leave your shoes on.
Since Registered Travelers are subject to all the same security restrictions of every other traveler what is the benefit of being a registered traveler? That you can leave your shoes on?
Personally I don't mind taking my shoes off. I'd rather be able to leave my laptop in my bag. I am able to leave my laptop in my bag in many other countries. If I have submitted to an intensive background check and offered up a scan of my fingers and my eye, why can't I bring a bottle of Canada Dry ginger ale from home through security with me?
Given that companies that administer the Registered Traveler program are responsible for researching and carrying out the security background checks, rather than the Federal Government, how secure is this system? Since airport security was Federalized to create a uniform system of airport security (except the few airports, such as SFO that are private airport security) shifting the responsibility to a private company is detrimental to the overall security of commercial aviation.
The installation of the Registered Traveler program is profitable to the Department of Homeland Security, but should ‘Security Theater’ be acceptable? Should allowing companies that are not proven in handling secure personal data to determine who is and is not a potential threat?
With the way the Registered Traveler companies operate, can we just have a system in place where we pay US$100 and simply get to skip the line?
.......come on, the background check does NOTHING to alter our security screening anyway when we get to the TSA checkpoint.