Saturday, May 30, 2009

La Guardia's Tower Guys

Posted by Travel Sentry
"At any given moment, on any given morning, there are roughly 6,000 planes on their way to somewhere, from somewhere, over American airspace. Getting them safely down to the ground will depend upon the efforts of a small group of controllers who, nearly without fail, get the job done despite long hours, grim working conditions, and ancient technology."

GQ journeys to the air traffic control tower at LaGuardia Airport in New York City to find out how it all happens ...

Below I have included a few excerpts from GQ's indepth article on the air traffic control guys at LaGuardia. It's fascinating and a great read authored by Jeanne Marie Laskas. It will make you really appreciate those guys in the tower when you're dying to get out of New York.

Cali loves it here; it sounds crazy at first, but he does love it. (In fact, most LaGuardia controllers kiss the mud-colored carpet tile they walk on. They could tell you about the alternatives. Stick around and they’ll tell you about the alternatives.) At the moment, Cali is on Ground. It’s 8:20 a.m. on a Friday, rush hour, every forty-five seconds another airplane landing, then another launching, then another landing, relentless as throbs of a throbbing headache. Twenty-six departures wait in line, all stoked up, backed up on Bravo clear down to Foxtrot. Twelve controllers maneuver the chaos. Brian is on Local, clearing for takeoff and clearing for landing, while Cali, on Ground, is managing the taxiways—a constantly moving puzzle of airplanes loaded with thousands and thousands of souls. Of all the positions, almost everyone here loves Ground most, because it’s so fucking complicated. LaGuardia Airport is tiny compared to its sleek modern counterparts, like Atlanta or Denver with their endless parallel runways spread over thousands of acres. LaGuardia is jammed into just 680 urban acres; taxiways are tight; runways intersect; you can’t launch a departure until the arrival on the other runway crosses the threshold or else the airplanes will…collide. There’s also water on three sides to avoid falling into. There’s also adjacent behemoths Newark and (especially) Kennedy airports, each launching and landing one plane every thirty-six seconds, constantly breathing down LaGuardia’s neck. Kennedy, just twelve miles south, is obnoxious. If Kennedy goes into delays, it’s LaGuardia that has to change its runway configuration to help Kennedy get out of delays. All in all, the complications make this place so much more awesome than a place like Atlanta or Denver. This, anyway, is the LaGuardia mystique. This dump rocks.


Nearly 30,000 commercial flights thus zoom across America’s skies each day and never bash into each other. The “modern” air-traffic-control system, and the FAA itself, was created in the aftermath of one of the most dramatic commercial midair bashes, way back in 1956. On a warm summer morning, United flight 718 from Los Angeles was headed to Chicago, and TWA flight 2 from Los Angeles was headed to Kansas City. Over the Grand Canyon they met, at 21,000 feet, inside a cumulus cloud. After impact, both planes plunged into the canyon, taking 128 people to a most violent death.


Hidden, too, is the cloud of anguish under which they work. There is bitterness and resentment, feuding and infighting. Here is a workforce in a festering standoff with management, again and again, and now again. The story of air traffic in America today is one of growing pockets of exhausted controllers working with ancient equipment in understaffed facilities. The stakes go well beyond the inconvenience of airport delays, which are getting famously worse. The stakes are millions of passengers going from here to there: the safe handling of an utterly vulnerable public.


Cali knows the story, over and over again the same me-first story no matter whose head he gets inside. Me first! There is only so much a controller working Ground can do. Cali shoots the 737 down toward Zulu. “Bravoshordazulu” he says, machine-gun fast, into his headset. Not “Taxi by Bravo and hold short of Zulu” but “Bravoshordazulu.” The pilot hears Cali’s command, thinks Fuck. Zulu is nowhere near Charlie 9. Is this dipshit going to hold us all the way down there by Shea Stadium until our gate is cleared? No, Cali’s just moving the 737 out of the way. He’s got a departing Dash 8 he’s rolling up Alpha (me first!), and he’s got another arrival, an MD-80 to roll Bravoshordamike (me first!), and he needs to do what he can to help Brian, next to him on Local, launch a twofer (two departures for one arrival) if LaGuardia has any hope of getting out of delays. Cali is seeing all of this at once, a matrix of decisions hurling without apology toward the threshold of another matrix of decisions and another and in an instant another. It’s overdrive for even the most practiced brain, all those variables, all those planes, all those souls, all that responsibility, no chance of saying “Fuck it!” and walking away, no ghost of a chance at all of that until, finally, after about an hour, a replacement controller steps in and you plug out, go downstairs for about thirty minutes to the break room for some crackers or an egg sandwich from the concourse, give the brain a chance to empty, exhale, recharge.


... another controller might have just dumped the 737 down at Zulu, just left all those passengers stranded down there, hopeless and forlorn. To do it better doesn’t matter in the scheme of things, doesn’t get anyone anywhere any faster, does nothing to help LaGuardia’s reputation as one of the world’s most delayed airports. It’s not heroic. It’s not avoiding a midair collision. It’s certainly not landing an Airbus A320 on the Hudson. It’s just 120 passengers feeling slightly less awful about being stuck in an airplane. A little bit of humanity. A little bit of love. What of it?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Government Stimulus Money at Work in Airports

In a sleepy little town in Pennsylvania there is a world-class airport, all thanks to Senator John Murtha (D-PA shown here). Amazingly enough the airport is named after him and flights in and out of there are subsidized with tax dollars.

It has to be subsidized because there is no way this state-of-the-art airport can support itself. There are only three flights a day, all to Washington D.C. The 34-passenger turboprop aircraft that calls Johnstown home, boasts on the airport website that they have in-flight service and lavatory accommodations. The airport traffic averages about 20 people a day.

This little airport also got its part of the stimulus money to the tune of $800,000 to repave an alternate runway. Maybe they're planning on hosting the Olympics.

Click here or click the image below. See for yourself ...

Duh? How else is Senator Murtha suppose to get to Washington?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

BA's Tres Chic First-Class Seats in Jeapordy

British Airways is sorely pining the departure of their premium passengers who once filled its forward cabin seats with the greatest of ease. BA, more than any other major European airline, relied on first and business class passengers for more than 50 percent of its revenues.

The slump in luxurious travel helped push BA into its “worst-ever loss of £401m, (and BA) has removed first class accommodation from four of its new long-haul planes, and is to review seating plans for other new aircraft,” the Guardian reports on its hometown airline.

A sign of the times? To be sure. Conspicuous consumption is out – austerity is in. And so it is, with premium seats sitting vacant, along with other industry challenges with reduced business travel, Willie Walsh, BA's chief executive announced he will work for no pay in July. Big deal? “"This is no stunt. I do not easily give up anything I have earned," he said.

Badly injured by the banking crisis, BA lost 13 percent of its lucrative premium bookings over the past six months for north Atlantic routes. Other airlines have fared just as bad with premium travel decreasing by almost 20 percent across the board. The International Air Transport Association anticipates business class to recover once global trade recovers, but the long term prognosis for bankers again flying in flocks across the pond is pessimistic. The banker boom that funded much of BA’s coffers is over.

British Airways will not be changing its name to Bankers Airline anytime soon.
Walsh admitted that the cost of ripping out seats in the existing fleet is too great to get rid of first class in existing planes, leading industry watchers to speculate that upgrades for economy class travellers might become a more common occurrence. "In the short term we would have to spend money to do it and that's not necessary," said Walsh.

The cost of refitting an aircraft, at millions of pounds per plane, means that airlines will have to turn to riskier strategies such as overbooking flights until their new aircraft orders arrive. Airlines can guarantee strong revenues from economy class passengers if they overbook the back of the plane. Under that scenario, any passenger who is the victim of an overbooking could be upgraded to one of the many empty seats in business class, or bumped to another flight. The Guardian

Saturday, May 23, 2009

TSA Named in 2009 Best Places to Work , but …

Posted by Travel Sentry

According to a report released this week, the often maligned Transportation Security Administration received high marks by the federal workforce in the 2009 Best Places to Work. The Partnership for Public Service, a nonprofit organization that released the results, ran the survey for federal employees by the Office of Personnel Management.

The survey results mark a nearly 23 percent increase in TSA’s job satisfaction score. "It's a good indicator and validation that the investments we've made in our workforce are really paying off," acting TSA Administrator Gale D. Rossides said in an interview with the Washington Post this week. "We really have made tremendous progress."

But … the agency’s score of 49.7 still leaves it near the bottom of the rankings.

"After all," John Gage, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, one of the unions representing TSA employees, said in a statement, "this agency has the unique distinction of clinging to the bottom of the barrel for many years now."

The union is trying to gain collective bargaining rights at TSA and is using the rankings to emphasize the problems still plaguing the agency. The AFGE and the National Treasury Employees Union have been signing up members among transportation security officers at airports, although the unions are not allowed to officially negotiate for them.

During his campaign Obama expressed his support for TSA employees having collective bargaining, but the action will probably remain in abeyance until a permanent TSA administrator is appointed. If permission is granted for representation, the NTEU and the AFGE will be in competition for the right to represent the employees.

The Post reports on comments from both unions:
Colleen M. Kelley, national president of the NTEU, said that despite the progress measured at the TSA, many changes are needed. She said the TSA scored poorly in the partnership study in the category of family-friendly culture and benefits, where it fell 35 percent since the last report two years ago. "That's employees sending a very strong message," Kelley said in an interview.

Aubrey Williams has been a transportation security officer less than one year but said he is upset with much of what he has seen. Williams, speaking in his role as a member of AFGE Local 555 at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, said he is particularly troubled by the management of the agency.

"The leadership there is very poor," said Williams, a member of the local's legislative committee. "The leadership there is really based on fear."
Kudos to TSA for their substantial improvements.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Air New Zealand Has Nothing to Hide

Posted by Travel Sentry

You may have to look twice, but the Air New Zealand flight crew has nothing on but body paint! And they're really ANZ employees.

Air New Zealand's new ad campaign, "Nothing to Hide" has been taken to a new level. Very creative.

Click here to see video if it does not appear below.

Now watch and see as this commercial was made.

Air New Zealand CEO Rob Fyfe, voted sexiest NZ businessman recently, takes us behind the scenes to talk to Air New Zealand staff as they’re prepped for filming. This is even more entertaining than the commercial ...

Now let's see ... what was the message?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

World-Class Equine Air Travel

Posted by Travel Sentry

Photos from Sutton Forwarding Co.'s Website

No federal funds please. These horses are not fodder for commercial travel. Only the best for our Preakness filly, the beautiful, talented and fast-as-the-wind, Rachael Alexandra. With a name like that, this grand lady deserves the very best. Let Barney Frank fly commercial, but not Rachael Alexandra.

With one eye on the economy, Rachael Alexandra doubled up with buddy, Pioneer of the Nile, sharing a first-class cabin on a flight into Baltimore Washington International airport on Wednesday in advance of the Preakness. The carrier was world-class equine private charter line run by H.E. “Tex” Sutton. The Sutton Forwarding Co.’s “tricked out” Boeing 727 can hold up to 21 horses in relative comfort. The modified cargo jet has horse stalls instead of seats — and a distinct barn smell. Hay and oats included.

Maybe Mine That Bird, long-shot winner of the Kentucky Derby, can hitch a ride next time and forget the cross-country drive. Mine That Bird, number two in the Preakness on the tail of Rachael Alexandra, has definitely earned his place as a first-class equine passenger.

NPR reports on the Sutton flight crew and passengers:

"We're like flight attendants for horses," flight supervisor Ryan Starley says. He says horses are usually pretty easy passengers, although he jokes that they always want to watch Seabiscuit as the in-flight movie. Takeoff and landing are the roughest parts of the journey, but he says Sutton pilots take off very slowly and gradually, and land the same way.

Starley says each horse handles the stress of air travel differently. Racehorses get more "keyed up" than show horses, especially those that have never flown before. Both Starley's team and the grooms that travel with the horses spend part of their flight time soothing the animals. But most of them enjoy "being up here with their friends," Starley says. "It's sort of like it was when we were kids, when we'd be on a field trip on a bus with all our buddies, having a good time."

After landing, Starley and his crew help their horse passengers off their special horse plane, down the special horse ramp, and into special horse trailers. Then Rachel Alexandra, Pioneer of the Nile and a few of their fellow passengers are off to the races at Pimlico.

P.S. Rachael Alexandra won!

Further coverage on Preakness:

Wall Street Journal

Washington Post

New York Times

Preakness Website

Click to see Washington Post slide show

New York Times Slide Show

Click to hear NPR coverage.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

U.S. Air Traffic Control Systems Needs Money - Anykind of Money, As Long As Its $20B

Posted by Travel Sentry

Click on the image
and take a jet through its paces using the current vector radar tracking, then test drive a new GPS air traffic control system. USA Today

Airline industry leaders have had just about enough of the antiquated air traffic control system. The Obama’s economic stimulus package passed them by when there was no leader at the helm of the FAA. But while money is flowing off the printing presses in Washington, the airline powers to be are working diligently on obtaining funding to bring the U.S. air traffic control into the 21st century.

“So now the industry's leaders are trying to make quick funding of the long-discussed Next Generation, or NextGen, air traffic control program a priority in the budget battle in Washington,” reports USA Today.
Their message: Planes need to fly in straight lines, guided by satellites, rather than taking longer, twisting routes over the current network of ground-based navigational radio beacon and radar sites that controls flights. Doing so, the industry claims, would save the USA's economy more than $40 billion a year through fuel and labor cost savings for the airlines and time savings for the 740 million fliers a year.
The savings payoff could show up by 2012 or sooner if Obama and Congress get on with funding the $20 billion needed to finally build a more efficient system. United Airlines CEO, and chairman this year of the Air Transport Association, Glenn Tilton launched the airlines' lobbying effort on March 27 at an industry gathering in Phoenix.

“Been too long in coming” is an understatement uttered by Tilton at the gathering. Nothing but talk from Washington for ten years and no money. The funding of the $20 billion is still being discussed in Washington as Congress decides how to pay for the new system.

What We Have Now
NextGen would replace a system that dates to the 1950s, when the federal government began building the current network of air traffic control radar sites around the nation.

The sites were located largely along paths that airlines already were flying. The paths tended to follow highways between cities so that pilots in pre-radar days could find their way, in part, by following the roads below.

Thus, a plane flying from Dallas/Fort Worth to Boston, for example, doesn't fly in a straight line. Typically, it flies east, passing over a string of Southern states until it gets east of the Appalachian Mountains. It then turns northeast toward Boston, swinging wide enough to avoid the congested skies around New York. Along the way, the plane flies over a series of radar stations and radio beacon sites that track its movement to keep it from colliding with hundreds of others in the air at the same time.

What We Need
The NextGen system would shift that tracking of planes to satellites using GPS and hundreds of small ground sensors to track digital signals broadcast by every airplane in the sky.

Now, it takes three sweeps of conventional radar — each taking 4.5 seconds, or nearly 14 seconds total — for an air traffic controller to determine a plane's location. And that's for planes that are relatively close to a radar site. Aircraft are kept miles apart to compensate for the imprecision in knowing a plane's exact location.

With the GPS-driven satellite system that's part of NextGen, planes would receive a satellite signal at the rate of one pulse per second, then triangulate that signal against the known position of small GPS ground stations to pinpoint a plane's position.

It also would instantly know a plane's altitude, speed and direction. That kind of precision would let planes fly more closely together, greatly increasing the capacity of the nation's airways.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Ryanair's Latest Cost-Cutting Scheme

remains steadfast to their brand as Europe's low-cost airline. There are few paths Ryanair is unwilling to travel in order to keep their fares the lowest of the low. They are now considering cutting out baggage handlers and having passengers carry their luggage all the way to the plane, according to Reuters.

"We would say to passengers... take your own bag down through airport security, leave it at the bottom of the steps, we put it in the hold and on arrival we deliver it to the aircraft steps and you take it with you," CEO Michael O'Leary told a news conference on Thursday.

Whereas the onboard toilet could not be outfitted with a pay-as-you go meter, the carry-your-own-bag sounds plausible, with one caveat. A spokesperson for the airline said they would not sacrifice the baggage handlers if it jeapordizes their ability for a quick turn-around.

Ryanair's next cost cutting scheme? They're eliminating check-in desks as of October. Total savings - up to EUR40 million annually. Cha-ching.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Delta Moves at Light Speed to Complete Wi-Fi Installs

Posted by Travel Sentry

Delta Airlines
is moving at light speed to install Wi-Fi capability onboard its domestic bound planes.

The Atlanta Business Chronicle reports that "of the more than 300 airplanes Atlanta-based Delta operates on U.S. routes, 139 now have Gogo Inflight Internet, including Delta’s entire MD-88 fleet. The MD-90 fleet will be complete by the end of May with the remainder of the domestic fleet scheduled for completion by September."

Delta said it offers more Wi-Fi onboard than any airline worldwide. The company's future plans to connect its passengers include Wi-Fi installation for some 200 pre-merger Northwest airplanes, which are slated for completion next year.

Once complete, Delta will have more than 500 aircraft offering Wi-Fi.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Luna Laboo, Passionate About Lost Luggage

Posted by Travel Sentry

I never thought of collecting lost luggage before, but I guess it's as entertaining as dumpster diving. That is if you're looking for a hobby to occupy your free time. As you'll see, the lost luggage collector thinks stamp collecting is a stranger past time.

Luna Laboo is our lost luggage collector. A Londoner.

CNN snags the scoop:
The Web site was started by Londoner Luna Laboo who admits her hobby of buying and photographing lost luggage is turning into an obsession.

"I'd gone along to buy one just out of curiosity and then I just couldn't stop buying them," she told CNN.

"It feels quite naughty. I guess it's like rifling through someone else's handbag or their wardrobe if you went around to their house. It's just something you're not usually allowed to do," she added.

Our heroine's wheels started turning in her head when she learned from TV coverage that 20,000 bags had been lost in the new British Airways' Terminal 5 when it opened with a myriad of problems. Although these bags were returned to their owners, Laboo was thinking of the bigger lost luggage picture.

If lost luggage cannot be returned to the owners and it remains unclaimed after a reasonable period, the airlines will send the bags to auction.

Here’s what she has posted on her website:
I collect lost luggage, photograph it, and then try to find the owners. It’s a little odd but not as odd as stamp collecting, just a little harder to find storage space.

When a bag gets lost the airport or airline will store it for a while and try to find the owner. If they can’t identify the owner of the case they send it to be auctioned off with the profit going to charity.

I go to these auctions and buy the cases so I can photograph them for my weird voyeuristic passion.

The reason for the web site? I would really like to try to find the people who own my suitcases, so if you have any friends who have lost a case please get them to have a look.
So then you click on one of the suitcases and you will see a photograph of the items. Take a look:

Notice the nurse's dress-up uniform and the bikini? Somebody's going to be disappointed.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Ten Commandments of Travel

This post is a good example of The Long Tail, the term first coined by Chris Anderson of Wired Magazine fame. These 10 rules for air travel trace back to the Wall Street Journal's travel blog called The Middle Seat Terminal. Scot McCartney, a writer for The Middle Seat just published a new book called “The Wall Street Journal Guide to Power Travel: How to Arrive with Your Dignity, Sanity and Wallet Intact”. Then Barry Ritholz, the author of one of the most popular financial blogs - The Big Picture, adapted the following Ten Commandments for travel from McCartney's Guide.

Whew ... I guess this long tail means these 10 rules of the road, or sky, have been well vetted.

From Mr. Ritholz via ....

1. Travel is difficult. And it costs too much. No matter the season or the continent, travel can be hard, and it will almost always cost more than you’d like. If you expect to float on clouds like in airline advertisements or snap up advertised $49 fares, reset your expectations. This commandment should guide your basic travel philosophy. Think ahead of the airline to anticipate trouble, be as flexible as you can and be prepared to act. Understand that bad things can — and do — happen to very good travelers.

2. Book smartly. There’s a wealth of information out there — use it to improve your travels. Traveling is not just about getting the lowest price. Pick the right time to fly and avoid loser flights by checking their on-time performance at sites like
Visit sites like and to look up the history of fare prices on the route you’re traveling. You’ll know whether you’re getting a good price, or whether you could do better. Build itineraries with delays in mind. If you don’t, you’re sure to get stuck. That means arriving a day (or even two) early for a cruise or your niece’s wedding. Airline travel today is just not dependable enough to cut it close. Always book flights on which you can reserve a seat, and claim that seat early by printing out a boarding pass — it’s the surest way to prevent getting bumped or arriving without your luggage.

3. Plan for trouble. Always have a backup plan: Where will you stay if you miss a connection or get stranded by a storm? Have hotel phone numbers in your cellphone. Make sure you sign up for alerts on your flights through your airline and Sometimes you’ll get information about delays, gate changes or cancellation before the gate agent does.
When your flight is delayed, how do you know when it’s time to quit hoping and take action? Ask the pilots on your flight how much “duty time” they have left in the day. If it’s ample, your chances of getting to your destination are better. If it’s short, start trying to reserve a hotel room or a seat on another flight.

4. Learn something. Have fun when you travel, even if you’re on a tedious business trip. Explore a new city, try the regional cuisine, go see a movie — even if you don’t speak the local language. Too often we jet from hotel room to hotel room without giving ourselves the freedom for adventure.
Build in an extra day to see a museum or learn something about the local culture. You’ll impress your clients if you come in a day early and enjoy their city. You’ll also reduce your own stress. Business travel gives us the gift to see the world, but too often, we don’t look very closely.

5. Enjoy perks that pay. Learn how to find value in paying for access to airport clubs by purchasing day passes when you most need their services. Some airlines like UAL Corp.’s United Airlines offer the chance to purchase more legroom and priority security screening, which can greatly improve some trips. Yet other airlines like US Airways Group Inc. and Northwest Airlines are trying to charge extra for “choice” coach seats in the front of the airplane — window or aisle seats in the first several rows. That’s hardly worth paying extra for. Consider popping for the kind of perks that VIPs enjoy — valet parking, perhaps, or a car service to or from the airport. Even a private jet can be more “affordable” than you think. Search for “empty leg” segments, where jet charter companies reposition empty planes and take passengers at discounted prices. It’s hit-and-miss, but sometimes you get lucky.

6. Stay loyal. There’s no greater travel benefit today, no greater supplier of comfort and perks, than elite status on an airline, so pick the airline program where you can maximize the miles you collect. The same goes for selecting hotel loyalty programs, car-rental elite programs, and even credit cards. (Sometimes hotel points generate better rewards than frequent-flier miles.)
Concentrating your spending can generate quicker connections to free perks. And don’t forget “mileage runs,” those long, cheap-ticket trips taken simply to qualify for elite status. A weekend spent flying to Asia can earn you a year of upgrades, speedy security lines and priority on standby and rebooking lists.

7. Never check anything you cannot live without. Sometimes you have to check luggage, but if you’re traveling with something you can’t do without, do not give it to the airline or the TSA for safekeeping. That means medicine, jewelry, electronics, valuable papers and the suit you need for your 7 a.m. breakfast meeting. On average, one person on every flight arrives without his or her luggage. Are you sure it won’t be you?
Make sure you put identification inside your luggage. (I drop a business card in mine.) Tags on the outside can get torn off, so airline workers open the bag to find identifying information to help reunite it with its owner. Unless you happen to sew summer-camp name tags into your shorts, make it easy for airline detectives to find you.

8. Play the upgrade game. Even if you don’t travel one million miles a year and have Super Precious Elite Status, you can still upgrade. Airlines, hotels and car-rental companies each have a different game to play, but there are opportunities for everyone to score.
[Power Travel] At hotels, you can still sweet-talk your way to a suite by asking nicely. Your odds are better, hoteliers say, if you arrive late at night or are making a short stay and the desk clerk knows it’s highly unlikely the suite will sell otherwise. Sometimes upgrading your rental car (with a coupon or simply by paying a bit more) can add some enjoyment to a trip. Why not get that convertible when you’re in California, or try out that new luxury sedan you’ve had your eye on? If you work the system right, you can get more from your travels without spending a lot more.

9. Ask nicely. Sure, the gate agent was curt, the flight attendant surly, and the baggage clerk unsympathetic, but don’t stoop to their level. Take the high road and remain civil.
Airline workers have tough jobs. That doesn’t mean they should be rude, and some always are. But flight attendants also may not be getting home as planned, just like you. Gate agents didn’t cancel the flight that dumped 100 fuming passengers in front of them. The angry customer who believes screaming and yelling will get him to Cleveland is really only slowing up the line for the 99 people behind him. There ought to be more civility at the airport. And I still believe that in the travel business, as in life, you often get more with sugar than with salt.

10. Be kind to your fellow traveler. The window-seat occupant asked me to move so he could get out and fetch a blanket. “Would you like one?” he asked me. How considerate. We can all improve our travel by recognizing that we’re all in it together.
Next flight you’re on, turn around and ask the person behind you if it’s OK to recline the seat before you descend into his or her space. It’ll make the trip more pleasant for both of you.

Now you are ready to buy the book.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Personal Wi-Fi to Go - MiFi - A Traveler's Best Friend

This little palm-size "hot spot" will set you free. Go anywhere, anytime with this, your new best friend, and never be caught off-line again. Your new best friend's name is Novatel MiFi 2200, or MiFi for short. Take it with you to the beach, mountain climbing, in a taxi, virtually anywhere with no modems, cellular access or USB stick.

MiFi is a personal Wi-Fi bubble, a private hot spot, that follows you everywhere you go. Your personal bubble has a range of 30 feet. You can invite others in your space to join you. Just put her in your pocket, your purse or your briefcase and hit the road. It's all about mobility.

David Pogue, a New York Times Tech reporter just published an article in the New York Times explaining the MiFi, how it works and what it costs. This is an excerpt from that article that explains what a lifesaver the MiFi can be.

Last week, I was stuck on a runway for two hours. As I merrily worked away online, complete with YouTube videos and file downloads, I became aware that my seatmate was sneaking glances. As I snuck counter-glances at him, I realized that he had no interest in what I was doing, but rather in the signal-strength icon on my laptop — on an airplane where there wasn’t otherwise any Wi-Fi signal. “I’m sorry,” he finally said, completely baffled, “but how are you getting a wireless signal?” He was floored when I pulled the MiFi from my pocket, its power light glowing evilly.

If he’d had a laptop, I would have happily shared my Wi-Fi cloud with him. The network password is printed right there on the bottom of the MiFi itself. That’s a clever idea, actually. Since the MiFi is in your possession, it’s impossible for anyone to get into your cloud unless you show it to them. Call it “security through proximity.”

This very cool new toy is brought to us by the clever folks at Verizon. Release date is May 17th.

Look at this video segment from CNBC on the MiFi presented by David Pogue.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Everything You Need to Know to Before You Fly

This is one stop shopping for all the information you need to fly within and into and out of the United States. Brought to us by the Travel Security Administration or TSA, this link list is comprehensive and can help make your travel experience easier and more efficient. Keep this handy or save to your desktop.

How to Get Through the Line Faster
Step-By-Step Screening (WMV, 3 MB)
Female business traveler (WMV, 3 MB)
Male business traveler (WMV, 3 MB)
Traveling with a baby or small child (WMV, 3 MB)
Travelers with special needs (WMV, 3 MB)
Ad Council 3 Simple Steps to Security Video (WMV, 3.5 MB)
Windows Media Player Plug-in

Liquid Rules: 3-1-1 for Carry-Ons
Why the bag?
Learn more about packing your liquids and gels
Important information on duty-free items

Prohibited Items

Acceptable Identification at the Checkpoint
Click here to view samples of acceptable documents (PDF, 159 KB).

Safe Travel with Batteries & Devices

"Checkpoint Friendly" Laptop Bags

Special Items
Alcoholic Beverages
Batteries and Devices
Compressed Gas Cylinders
Crematory Containers and Deceased Remains
Currency, Coins, Precious Metals, or Valuable Jewelry
Firearms & Ammunition
Food & Beverages (through security checkpoints)
Hunting & Fishing
Knitting Needles, Needlepoint & Sewing
Lighters and Matches
Musical Instruments
Paintball Equipment
Photographic Equipment & Film
Scuba Equipment
Service Animals
Sporting Equipment

Baggage Locks
Safe Skies Luggage Locks
Travel Sentry

Travelers with Disabilities and Medical Conditions
Before You Go
Tips For The Screening Process
Mobility Disabilities
Hearing Disabilities
Visual Disabilities
Hidden Disabilities
Pacemakers, Defibrillators, Other Implanted Medical Devices, & Metal Implants
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) Machine
Medical Oxygen and Respiratory-Related Equipment
Assistive Devices and Mobility Aids
Prosthetic Devices, Casts, and Body Braces
Walkers, Crutches, and Canes
Augmentation Devices
Orthopedic Shoes, Support Appliances, and Exterior Medical Devices
Service Animals
Children with Disabilities
Medical Conditions and Special Situations
Military Severely Injured Program

Traveling with Children
Travel Tips
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Monday, May 4, 2009

Why We Travel to Brave New Worlds

Posted by Travel Sentry

It's a great time to travel the world. Hit the road. Time and money will always be in short supply, so go now before it's too late. There is no education more interesting, valuable and self-satisfying than that gained by traveling to far-flung locales. Travel takes the fear out of foreign ways and opens brave new worlds.

This morning I came across this article entitled
"Brave New Worlds" written by Joshua Cooper Ramo, the author of "The Age of the Unthinkable." And so it seemed appropriate to share Ramo's words on evolving in the time of uncertainty and insanity. He makes a good argument to hold on for a brave new world. Here are some excerpts from his article published in Departures Magazine...

"To begin with, it's worth noting that all the insanity around us notwithstanding, there will be a moment when this age will start to make sense. That brave new world will look very different than it does now. And - though this may be the hardest thing to imagine, what with the economy in shambles and creeping anxiety about ideas we hold dear - in some ways it will look better. But it is also true that there is no book of answers we can take off the shelf, peruse quickly as if looking up a forgotten recipe, and then snap shut with a nod and the acknowledgment, Now, I understand this age. No, in an era in which the improbably has somehow become the inevitable - when the world's most solid-looking financial system tumbles into chaos in less than a year, when countries we thought pleasant turn dangerous, when our own lives seem constantly assailed by fresh risks - the old rules are frankly of very little use. Optimism and an innovative spirit matter a great deal now. Yet there will be many dark days ahead when it will be hard to get too far from that old and unnerving aphorism of Mao Zedong's: A revolution isn't a dinner party...

"It's as if we've moved from playing an already complex game of chess to some sort of endlessly changing puzzle (think ten-dimensional Sudoku). Answers that our experts insist are the best choices, answers that make sense one day - attack terrorists or bail out banks - not only fail, but appear to backfire. If you sit in the cafes in south Beirut and watch Hezbollah build new neighborhoods and become stronger even under siege, if you order coffee in the lobby of the Poly Plaza building in Beijing where China's newly powerful investment fund is based, if you feel the stiff tension in Mexico City's trendy Zona Rosa district: you certainly get a sense of new forces starting to shift and collide...our only chance is to get out of the house and start looking for signs of the new. Travel, tourism, and culture instantly become more than hobbies or distractions; they are transformed into our best hope of understanding...

"While we may be living in an age of unthinkable disruption, we're not condemned to be mere victims. Each of us can play in this game of mixing and matching ideas. Individuals have never had more power. And this means we are in a sort of race, because though it is true that 90 percent of nongovernmental organizations were created in the last ten years, it is also true that 90 percent of suicide bombings occurred in that same span. What lies ahead of us now is this sprint between forces of good and forces of bad. It is a race we are all part of, like it or not. The new global risks, from financial panic to computer viruses, hit everyone evenly. There's no hiding. But if the world's current instability is written out in your latest bank statement, it is also spelled out in the ambition of your kids to make new and faster Internet sites, of your friends to lend a hand to one another, and maybe even in your own instinct that we've arrived at a moment when you can pursue work that combines your passion for the world with something that has been aching in your soul. This urge to shape and create explains why what often seem like our greatest moments of peril sometimes turn into historic moments of reinvention. Think of how some setback in your own life simply laid a foundation for still greater success.

"Mao was right. Revolution isn't a dinner party. It is the chance for something better. It is the chance to cook up something out of our dreams, to develop new recipes that fit appetites that somehow are different than they were a year ago, to be decent on a scale we might not have imagined possible. And it's this that makes this an age of unthinkable possibility, a moment when we can ceaselessly surprise ourselves for the better. We're not being served anymore at the table of history. We're cooking for ourselves and enjoying, again, the full and dangerous and unnerving pleasure of creation."

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Truth About Flying During a Flu Outbreak - Pack Your Bags

Posted by Travel Sentry

After Vice President, Joe Biden, delivered his proclamation about air travel, among other things, the Wall Street Journal went straight to the experts for specific health information for travelers.

What are the real issues surrounding travel during a global influenza scare? Are infectious diseases more likely to spread in confined spaces like planes? Can a single sneeze travel the length of an aircraft? Does the duration of a flight raise your odds of getting catching something contagious?

The guys at WSJ's Middle Seat Terminal put these and other questions to Dr. Mark Gendreau, vice chair of emergency medicine at the Lahey Clinic in Burlington, Vt. He’s studied infectious disease on commercial airliners. Here are some edited excerpts from their chat:

Dr. Gendreau, thanks for taking a few minutes to talk with us. So, are there any good reasons to be concerned about the spread of infectious diseases, in particular influenza, on airliners?

Basically an airline is an enclosed space. So when you think about the risk of infection spreading in an enclosed space — any enclosed space, be it a mall, a train, an aircraft — it basically boils down to a few factors. How infectious is it? That is, how easily does it spread person to person? How close and how long are you near the person who is ill? And how well ventilated is the confined space?

So on an aircraft, how close to a sick person do you have to be to boost the chances of catching an infectious disease?

We know from previous investigations of infectious disease outbreaks on aircraft that your likelihood of infection seems increased with close contact or being seated within two rows of an ill person. This comes from probes into tuberculosis outbreaks on aircraft during the 1990s. Public health agencies investigated a number of tuberculosis scares on aircraft and through their investigations they found that the risk was greatest in people who were seated within two aisles of the person who is infectious.

And how long do you have to be sitting there?

The traditional number that has been cited is between six to eight hours or upwards. But we think that’s way off. SARS taught us a lot of things about infectious diseases on aircraft. There was a flight — Air China Flight 112 — it was a Boeing 737 that made a three-hour flight at the time with one ill gentleman on board. On that particular aircraft, which was a three-hour flight, there was a total of 21 people who developed a probable case of SARS as a consequence of being on that flight. We concluded from that we really don’t have a good handle on how long you have to be near somebody who’s infectious before it becomes an issue and increases the spread. But we definitely know close contact is important. So what we typically say now is that your exposure risk is principally close contact to that individual. And that can be any close contact such as getting up and chatting with someone seated in a different section of the flight, or — as I said before — being seated within two rows of the person on the flight.

Why two rows?

The big thing about the two rows is that most infectious diseases — including influenza — spread by droplets. When we cough and sneeze what happens is these mucus particles, that are typically about five microns, get propelled. These droplets — which are contaminated with the virus particles — will typically be propelled or projected no more than three to five feet, which is about the distance of two rows.

So is it possible that you sneeze and the particles travel up and down the whole aircraft?

Well here’s where Joe Biden was way off. Every single shred of scientific evidence and study that we know of shows that there is no diffuse contamination along the length of the aircraft cabin. That’s because the ventilation system is compartmentalized. The people up in the front have a separate ventilation system than the ones in the middle and the ones in the back. In addition, the airflow in each ventilation area comes through the overhead section in the center of the plane and it travels toward the windows. So … not only does it compartmentalize the air in the aircraft, but that particular airflow pattern creates a fair amount of turbulence in the air. I tell people that a virus’ worst nightmare is turbulence. Studies have shown that turbulent air greatly diminishes a microorganisms ability to travel and transmit effectively.

So if there’s a problem with a ventilation system, would it boost the chances of a disease spreading?

In 1979, there was a flight that involved a flu outbreak. And what happened was that the aircraft shut down its ventilation system. I guess there were some technical problems and people were on the aircraft for about three hours with the ventilation system shut off. (They did open up the doors and let people come and go from the plane.) But more than 70% of the passengers came down with the flu, so that taught us a very important lesson. If the ventilation system isn’t working, you’re going to get infection.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Biden Opens Mouth and Inserts Foot

Posted by Travel Sentry

OK, so nobody's surprised that Vice President, Joe Biden, true to his reputation, misspoke when he uttered his personal opinion about dealing with the swine flu on national television. After he finished his comments on the Today Show, viewers screamed a collective "Oh no!" and damage control started immediately.

Needless to say, the entire airline industry was immediately up in arms at his personal ban on stepping foot into a commercial airliner with the flu lurking.

"What the Vice President meant to say ... " was almost instantaneously translated (clarified) by Obama's clean-up platoon, dedicated just to Bidenisms. It's like taking your dog for a walk with a pooper-scooper.

There is really no need to dwell on Biden's completely inappropriate comments based on totally incorrect information. But here is National Public Radio's broadcast, if you want to hear it one more time. I chose NPR broadcast instead of a YouTube video because I have too much respect for the readers to punish you with the visual as well as the audio. One is plenty. Less is more.

Click here or on the image to go to the podcast.

Now go get on that airplane or subway and just hope you don't find VP Joe Biden in the seat next to you.