Monday, May 31, 2010

Rude Behavior at Airport Security Checkpoints Doesn't Pay

Posted by Travel Sentry

Rude behavior is never acceptable but if you choose to show your worst side as an airline passenger, you might just find yourself on a little-known Homeland Security “bad boy” list. The Transportation Security Administration is taking names so it pays to be nice, or at least civil, to security screeners in airports. No need to bring cookies; just don’t be a jerk.

Don’t look now but close behind this watch list for potentially violent passengers is the American Civil Liberties Union who fear the “database could feed government watch lists and subject innocent people to extra airport screening.”

Having said all that, reported passenger threats are rare. In existence since 2007, the government database only has records from about 240 incidents and most are screeners against other screeners. According to the TSA, only about 30 incidents involve passengers or airport workers attacking or threatening screeners.
A TSA report says the database can include names, birth dates, Social Security numbers, home addresses and phone numbers of people involved in airport incidents, including aggressors, victims and witnesses.

Incidents in the database include threats, bullying or verbal abuse, remarks about death or violence, brandishing a real or fake weapon, intentionally scaring workers or excessive displays of anger such as punching a wall or kicking equipment, the report says.

The database was created in late 2007 as the TSA launched a program to prevent the nation's 50,000 airport screeners from being attacked or threatened, agency spokeswoman Kristin Lee said. At the time, TSA officials voiced concern about passengers disrespecting screeners, and they began issuing new uniforms with police-style badges pinned to shirts.

A TSA document published in February says database information can be given to government agencies and to airports, airlines and rail and bus systems in cases involving their workers or job applicants. "They may be contacted by the TSA if an incident involves their employee," Lee said. USA Today
The obvious lesson here is that yes, flying is a highly frustrating experience but bad behavior has no place and as usual, there are repercussions and consequences when travelers practice inappropriate actions. It’s road rage in the airport and no matter how good it may feel at the time, it will get you nowhere. Or worse.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Power Hungry Business Travelers

Posted by Travel Sentry

If airlines are after the holy grail of the industry, the business traveler, one sure way to attract them is as simple as providing an electrical outlet. Think of it as honey for the bee.

With the introduction of in-flight WiFi, the airlines opened Pandora’s box. The WiFi most will agree, is awesome, but where’s the juice to power all the laptops, cellphones and other gadgets that can now keep you online and engaged during a flight? Short hauls are no problem but beyond an hour or so, the need for power increases.

Zoning in on this new “perk”, it’s the road warriors who are still relegated to economy seats by cost-cutting companies who suffer from lack of power. First and business class are covered with individual seat outlets.

Airlines are looking at the issue more closely. But as technology marches forward batteries are powering for longer and longer duration.

For now, here is a chart from USA Today of the current U.S. planes that offer the power-up option. Click on the chart for a larger image.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Thomson Airlines Entertains and Educates Passengers

Posted by Travel Sentry

Thomson Airways, based in London, is the world's largest charter airline, and, the third largest airline in the United Kingdom by total passengers carried.

Thomson Airways holds a Civil Aviation Authority Type A Operating License permitting it to carry passengers, cargo and mail on aircraft with 20 or more seats. Thomson has a fleet of 150 planes flying to around 180 countries.

Take a look at Thomson's safety video and watch their cabin crew in action. How perfect is this for a charter vacation flight? Irresistible and compelling. Kudos!

If the video does not appear below, click here.

HT: Thanks JV

Monday, May 24, 2010

American Leads the Airlines to Crack Down on Carry-On Bags

Posted by Travel Sentry

No more Mr. Nice Guy. No more turning a blind eye to passengers boarding flights with steamer-size bags. American Airlines is taking the lead as the size-enforcer of carry-on bags that are allowed onboard. Even the elite-level fliers and first-class passengers will be filtered through the gate bag-sizers.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the policy enforcement squad started May 18th and an airline notice even promises the possibility of a $25,000 fine per “miscreant bag.” However, the WSJ reports that airlines cannot charge passengers for carry-on bag violations.

American has actually only made one small change to its carry-on policy. “All bags must now fit in the sizer boxes at gates and meet the airline’s dimensional limit. Before, it was one or the other, and so odd-shaped objects like long tubes were legal.”

American must not want to follow in United’s footsteps and wind up on YouTube so guitars are OK as a carry-on.
American’s policy –old and new — says a carry-on bag can’t have length, width and height that add up to more than 45 inches. In addition, the bag can’t be longer than 22 inches, wider than 14 inches or deeper than 9 inches. I just measured my standard roll-aboard bag, which has fit in overhead bins easily for years: 23 inches long, not including the top handle, 14.5 inches wide and 9 inches deep empty. WSJ
Under the old policy it was OK to have a bag that did not exceed 45 inches but not fit into the bag-sizer.

American’s motivation? Probably several reasons this makes sense, one of which is the full flights expected over the summer vacation months. It will take less time to board if passengers are not carrying all their worldly possessions with them. Also delays occur when excess bags have to be gate checked after bins fill up. Then there is the loss of checked bag revenue when passengers try to carry-on their bags to avoid the extra fees.

Don’t be surprised if you notice other airlines following suit.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

What's the Beef Between Southwest and PETA?

Posted by Travel Sentry

PETA, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, presented the above ad to Southwest Airlines for placement in their inflight magazine, Spirit. Southwest, who is considered by many as the liberal, free-thinking, fun-spirited, domestic airline, turned a prudish shoulder and refused to accept PETA’s sexy ad. Inappropriate, they said. Well that made PETA’s bovine eyes roll skyward.

What’s the beef after all? Southwest’s hot pant-clad flight attendants of its early years and last year’s ad that raged, “DON’T #$*!% ME OVER” (re: hidden fees) signal a false modesty over a scan of a woman wearing bra and panties. PETA believes its ad comes in a close second to Southwest’s racy race.

PETA is pro-cow, anti-carnivore and promotes a vegan diet as a part of their pro-animal mantra. The ad with the punch line, “Be Proud of Your Body Scan: Go Vegan” was obviously created specifically for an airline-related media. And darn creative.

After poking around on the PETA website I was really impressed with their targeted messages and the heavy-hitter celebs that graced their ads. And there was a fair amount of tasteful and sexy-type ads, one of which convincingly stated that “Too Much Sex Can Be a Bad Thing: Have your cats and dogs spayed or neutered.” You can check out the picture for yourself if you’re interested.

A Southwest spokesperson said the only reason the ad was rejected was the image used. Perhaps a Southwest board member is a cattle rancher – we are talking Dallas here. Lighten up guys.

Southwest, be careful who you alienate. With more than 2 million members and supporters, PETA is the largest animal rights organization in the world.

H/T: I read this story in the Airline Biz blog from the Dallas News.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Mariott Survey Holds Promise for Increased Business Travel

Posted by Travel Sentry

Mariott Hotels
commissioned Marist Poll to conduct a survey of business travelers from four countries. The results were a thumbs up for business travel with confidence in the global economy outstripping the pessimistic outlooks of the last few years.

The study compiles the responses from 1,207 business travelers in the U.S., China, Germany and the U.K. and examines “trends in the economy, business travel, career and personal goals, and generational and cultural differences.”

Don Semmler, International Director for Mariott, said the survey mirrored the indications of economic recovery as seen in the increasing business activity in their hotels across the globe. He cites “improvement in corporate travel reflecting pent-up demand after two years of cutbacks.”

The following is a breakdown of the main points from the survey from Hotel Online. Click here to download the entire survey.

Key survey findings:

• Approximately one-third of business travelers polled in the U.S. (35%), UK (33%), and Germany (33%) think their economies will improve. Another third – U.S. (36%), U.K. (37%), and Germany (35%) – believe things have leveled off economically and will “stay the same.” About three in 10 – U.S. (29%), U.K. (30%), and Germany (33%) – forecast their national economy will get worse. China is the exception, with 81% of responders saying their economy will improve.

• In China, only 13% fear job loss in the coming year, versus 39% in the U.K., 34% in Germany, and 29% in the U.S. Once their economies improve, 66% of business travelers in China, 51% in the U.K., 40% in the U.S., and 39% in Germany plan to seek new jobs.

• Although affected by a lack of jobs, Millennials (referred to in the survey as Generation Y), ages 21-29, in the U.S. and U.K. express greater optimism about the economy than their older colleagues. Millennials in the U.S., U.K., and Germany also foresee more business trips in the coming year than their Baby Boomer counterparts.

• Most responders in all four countries say business travel gives their companies and their careers a competitive edge. More than nine in 10 agree business travel is important to achieve business goals, reaching a high of 96% among the Chinese. U.S. responders are most likely to say (82%), travel provides critical face-to-face time with clients and customers, followed by 77% in Germany, 74% in China, and 72% in the U.K.

• Business travelers predicting more travel next year: U.S. (22%), U.K. (20%), Germany (20%) and China (63%).

Economic Outlook

• Challenging times for many: Chinese business travelers are more than twice as optimistic (81%) about their national economy as their counterparts in the U.S. (35%), Germany (33%), and the U.K. (33%).

• Job security: About two-thirds of Chinese responders, 51% in the U.K., 40% in the U.S., and 39% of Germans expect to look for new job opportunities when their respective economies improve.

• Spending less: Companies have reduced some spending on business travel in all four countries. More than four in 10 responders in the U.S. (44%) and U.K. (43%), and about three in 10 in China (31%), and Germany (29%) report their companies have cut back on spending for business travel in the past year.

Generation Gaps

• Younger business travelers have a brighter outlook: Although affected by a lack of jobs, the Millennial generation in the U.S. and U.K. express greater optimism about the economy than their older colleagues. Millennials in the U.S., U.K., and Germany also foresee more business trips in the coming year than their Baby Boomer counterparts: China (92%0, U.S. (76%), Germany (72%), and U.K. (71%).

• Crossing Generations: A plurality of respondents in the U.S. and U.K. describe colleagues one generation younger than themselves as “allies” and “frustrating,” while in China and Germany, younger colleagues are “motivating” and “inspiring.” Business travelers in general have a positive view of older colleagues, calling them “motivating,” “allies” and “inspiring.”

• Technology complements business travel: Adapting to emerging technology remains a challenge for today’s business travelers irrespective of their country of origin. Generation Y is just as likely to value business travel; but in the U.S. and Europe, this group is more inclined to think technological advances can replace some business trips.

Work-Career Imperatives

• Giving it their best: About six in 10 U.S. and European business travelers are satisfied with a good effort, even if they don’t beat out the competition. But in China, 62% think second best is not enough.

• Work-related travel creates an edge in business: Nearly all business travelers – more than nine in 10 – agree travel is important to achieve their business goals, reaching a high of 96% among the Chinese. U.S. responders are the most positive – 82% -- about the critical value of face-to-face client contacts; 77% of German responders, 74% of Chinese business travelers, and 72% in the U.K. agree.

• In it for the team: When asked to describe themselves at work, 50% of U.S. responders say they are “resourceful,” while Germans are most likely (67%) to consider themselves team players. Being a “team player” and “loyal” are considered defining terms for nearly half the Chinese responders, while in the U.K., although 46% also describe themselves as team players, nearly four in 10 define themselves as “loyal,” “confident,” “resourceful,” and “determined.”

Business and Leisure Travel – All Work and No Play?

• Going for glamour: On a personal satisfaction level, the term “glamorous” is used by strong majorities in all countries to characterize business travel. Many in China (68%) and the U.S. (54%) also describe it as relaxing.

• The benefits of business travel: Business trips help respondents to: better understand clients (89% in the U.S. and U.K., 96% in China, 87% in Germany), exploring new places (88% in the U.S., 82% in the U.K., 91 % in China,72% in Germany), learning global values and perspectives (74% in the U.S., 79% in the U.K., 91% in China, 77% in Germany), competitive edge (80% in the U.S., 78% in the U.K., 87% in China, 75 % in Germany). More than 60% of business travelers in all four countries agree that work-related trips and destinations give them status among friends and colleagues. China has the largest percentage – 75% -- who feel this way.

• Business Trip Expectations: Business travelers predicting more travel next year: U.S.(22%), U.K. (26%), Germany (20%) and China (63%); staying the same U.S.(54%), U.K. (45%), Germany (52%) and China (29%); less travel U.S.(25%), U.K. (29%), Germany (28%) and China (8%).

• Leisure Travel: Time Out: Respondents describing leisure travel as a necessity vs. a luxury: U.S. (50%), U.K. (52%), China (56%) and Germany (45%); as a time to de-stress: U.S. (38%), U.K. (38%), China (42%) and Germany (42%); as a time to spend with family, friends and loved ones: U.S. (38%), U.K. (37%), China (49%) and Germany (27%); to be adventurous, let loose: U.S. (20%), U.K. (20%), China (6%) and Germany (23%); something I do for others, I’d rather stay home: U.S. (4%), U.K. (5%), China (3%) and Germany (8%)

• All work and no play? A majority of business travelers report they are able to balance work and leisure activities successfully while on company trips.

• Travel etiquette: Top etiquette priorities vary across the cultures polled: 28% of U.S. business travelers name proper cell-phone etiquette as their highest priority; 29% of responders from the U.K. identify respect toward flight or hotel staff; 33% of Chinese responders list how to sense when it is a good or bad time to make small talk with fellow travelers; and for Germans, the top priority, at 28%, is reducing the sound of a television or conversation carrying from a hotel room.

Green Travel

• Green is beautiful: Eco-friendly accommodations are considered a necessity by a majority of respondents across all four cultures, but especially in China, where 83% of business travelers indicate a hotel’s sustainability efforts are important. This consideration is important to 51% of those polled from the U.S., 61% from the U.K., and 75% from Germany.

The following is a CNBC interview with Don Semmler that aired today concerning the survey results.

Friday, May 14, 2010

New Regulations for Airlines - Be Nice

Posted by Travel Sentry

Yesterday I offered up the results of the Consumer Reports survey of top airline passenger gripes. I pondered whether the airlines would listen.

Apparently the long arm of the law – as in the federal government – thinks U.S. airlines, on their own, will not make policy changes that are more passenger-friendly. So they are stepping in to improve things for consumers.

The latest round of government regulations governing the U.S. airline industry went into effect at the end of April. And there are many more rules that are being formulated in the wings. The government has also become more aggressive about fining airlines for existing regulations like baggage reimbursement, advertising and over-booked flights.

It has only been a couple of weeks since the latest rules became effective April 29th, including the three-hour tarmac rule, but so far so good. No signs of the “unintended consequences” that predicted widespread cancellations from returning to the gate after the three-hour limit on the tarmac, have been reported.

The New York Times reports that” the Transportation Department is also requiring carriers to better inform passengers about frequently delayed flights before a ticket is purchased, improve processes for dealing with complaints and develop more transparent customer service plans.” Wow!

The Transportation Department plans to unveil their next round of regulations in June for comments.

Below the Times compiled an overview of what’s been adopted so far, and what’s under consideration.

No More Nights On the Tarmac
If an aircraft sits on the tarmac, airlines now have to give passengers the option to deplane after three hours (with exceptions for safety and security), and offer snacks and drinking water at the two-hour mark. They must also maintain working lavatories and provide medical attention, if necessary, and publish plans outlining how they will deal with lengthy tarmac delays.

Since the most egregious examples of passengers being stuck inside a plane on the tarmac have occurred because lower-level employees did not know what to do or even whom to call, the requirement to have a plan — and a designated airline representative to make decisions — may be the most effective way to prevent further headline-grabbing embarrassments. The three-hour time limit applies only to domestic flights; for international flights, carriers can set their own time limit but must disclose it in advance.

Late-Flight Records Will Be Exposed
The Transportation Department granted airlines a 60-day extension on a less-publicized new rule: a requirement that carriers publish each flight’s on-time record and how often it has arrived more than 30 minutes late within their search results. Special note will be made of flights that have arrived more than a half-hour late more than half the time. Airlines will also have to indicate the cancellation rate for any flight canceled more than 5 percent of the time.

Although the rule takes effect in late June, carriers will have until late July to begin publishing this information, since it is based on the previous month’s statistics for each flight. This provision may end up reducing delays: if travelers start choosing flights based on a flight’s on-time record and avoiding flights that are frequently late, airlines will have to correct unrealistic schedules. The Transportation Department has also deemed it “an unfair and deceptive practice” to continue operating a chronically delayed flight and will fine airlines that do so.

Complaining Will Be Easier
Another less-publicized new rule is that carriers now have to publish contact information for consumer complaints on their Web sites and on all e-ticket confirmations. The Transportation Department has also redesigned its aviation consumer protection Web site,, to make it easier for passengers to file complaints.

While it may seem like filing a complaint to a government agency is a futile exercise, it’s not, and may be more effective than complaining to the airline. Transportation officials say they review every complaint and investigate when there’s a clear violation of government rules or a pattern of misbehavior that needs to be addressed, and sometimes these investigations result in financial penalties to the airline. The complaints also help investigators spot emerging problems that may require further regulation, such as whether airlines should have to refund checked baggage fees if a passenger’s luggage is lost or late.

Charges Should Be Fair and Transparent
Even before the new rules went into effect, the Transportation Department was working on another set of proposed regulations, which it plans to announce and open for public comment in June. Among the topics under consideration: how extra fees — such as for baggage or seat reservations — are disclosed, how fares are advertised and how and when airlines should provide alternative transportation for passengers on canceled flights. Also under discussion is the possibility of prohibiting airlines from pre-selecting extra options for passengers buying tickets (like travel insurance), so that consumers don’t have to un-check a box to avoid paying additional charges.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Airline Gripes Rated by Consumer Reports

Posted by Travel Sentry

With their latest survey, Consumer Reports provides the airlines with a road map of how to improve service and make their passengers happy campers. Will they listen?

From Consumer Reports:

Luggage charges and add-on airline ticket fees topped the list of 24 airline, hotel, and rental-car complaints we quizzed Americans about. In a nationally representative survey conducted in January, 2,000 respondents rated their annoyance about each gripe on a scale of 1 (not annoyed at all) to 10 (tremendously annoyed). The chart below spells out the results. Among the highlights:
• Travelers are very annoyed by rude or unhelpful staff, whether at airlines, hotels, or rental-car counters.

• Poor communication about airline delays annoys people at least as much as the delays themselves. Message to airlines: Tell passengers what's going on.

• Airline travelers who hog your seat and carry-on space are less annoying than some other irritants. Many people give crying babies and unruly kids on planes a pass and have apparently gotten used to puny airline snacks and long security lines.

• Women travelers are somewhat more annoyed than men. Among complaints for which the gender gap was significant: pricey in-room hotel snacks, insufficient or chintzy hotel bedding, and high-pressure pitches for extra rental-car coverage or upgrades.

• Some gripes, including rude or unhelpful staff, rental-car pitches, and absence of the ordered car, annoy respondents under age 50 much more than those 50 and older. However, older folks are far more ticked off than younger people by those unruly kids on planes.

Consumer Reports' chart ranking complaints. Click chart to enlarge.

h/t USA Today

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Airlines, Unions and Politics: New Rule on Union Elections

Posted by Travel Sentry

The airlines and railroads are already highly unionized and likely to become more so thanks to a change made Monday by the Obama administration to a 76-year-old rule on union elections. After years of decline in membership, this is a major win for union supporters.

The new rule “would recognize a union if a simple majority of workers who cast ballots approve organizing. The previous rule required a majority of the entire work force to favor unionizing. That meant workers choosing not to vote at all were effectively counted as ‘no’ votes.”

Most major airlines, as represented by the Air Transport Association, opposed the new rule and are expected to file a lawsuit to challenge the change. The Associated Press reports that the opposing airlines expect the change to “lead to more labor disputes that could disrupt commerce and increase delays in an industry already reeling from recession, higher fuel costs and stepped-up security measures.”

The overall union membership rate in the U.S. is about 12 percent. The membership rate for airlines and railroads however is much higher with about two-thirds of more than 500,000 workers already in unions.

“The most immediate impact of the change would be at Delta Air Lines Inc., where unions are trying to organize about 20,000 flight attendants.” Only about 15 percent of Delta workers were union members before the merger with heavily unionized Northwest Airlines two years ago.

In 2008 a Delta flight attendant vote to become unionized was lost because about 8,000 flight attendants who did not cast a vote were counted as “no” votes. The flight attendants’ union said it would seek a new vote at Delta as soon as the rule change is effective (30 days after publication in Federal Register.)

Unions are also expected to target workers at smaller carriers.

The new voting rule aligns union elections at airlines and railroads with the procedures followed by most other companies, which are overseen by the National Labor Relations Board.

Here’s the political slant on the policy change:
The board (three-member National Mediation Board) proposed the rule change in October after a request from the AFL-CIO. That request came soon after President Barack Obama named Linda Puchala — the former head of a flight attendant union — to a seat on the board, shifting the balance of power.

The final rule was approved 2-1, with chairwoman Elizabeth Dougherty issuing a fierce dissent. Dougherty, appointed by President George W. Bush, said the change is "an unprecedented departure for the NMB and represents the most dramatic policy shift in the history of the agency."

Delta spokeswoman Gina Laughlin said Delta would support an industry lawsuit challenging the rule change.

"While disappointed, we are not surprised by the majority members' decision in view of the way this rule change has been handled," Laughlin said.

The new election rules will also help the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which represents Northwest ground workers such as baggage handlers and gate agents. Delta says it has roughly 30,000 workers in that group, including roughly 10,000 who came from Northwest. AP

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Rejoice? Air Fares Are Going Up

Posted by Travel Sentry

Air Fares for summer travel are expected to increase and empty seats will be few and far between. Travel experts are advising travelers to buy tickets early rather than later.

The increases for U.S. carriers may be as much as 15 to 25 percent above the depressed fares of last summer. Simply supply and demand. And forget about any retraction of add-on fees.

Why is this good news? The confluence of economic and market improvements may just allow U.S. airlines to make a few bucks. And if the airlines are able to turn a profit they may just survive so as to get us where we want to go.
And while it may seem contradictory, travelers should appreciate paying more. The industry needs to make some money in order to get some stability back, give workers raises and invest in a better product.

… airlines that are long-term survivors will have to invest in their product and offer better service with better equipped planes.

U.S. airlines often lag in the premium products offered on international flights, from premium economy cabins (which no U.S. airline offers) to higher-quality business-class and first-class. Older U.S. airlines often lag behind younger discount airlines in onboard amenities and service – live television, better seats, more legroom. Wi-Fi may provide an opportunity for big airlines to offer an in-flight amenity that travelers do value, but much will depend on how aggressively airlines install it and price it.

Lots of bills have to be paid before U.S. airlines will start making significant new investment in their product. But maybe this summer will be something of a turning point. Wall Street Journal
So while there will be no travelers dancing in the street over increasing air fares, a moment’s consideration of Business 101 should at least quiet objections. After all, there are still plenty of other travel frustrations to complain about.

Airline Cartoons That Hit Home

Posted by Travel Sentry

Enjoy these very funny and relevant airline cartoons from MSN ...

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Snoop Dog is Airport Security Hero

Posted by Travel Sentry

Look! It’s a Beagle!

It’s a Beagle sporting a security uniform and he’s on the job. He may look cute but he’s all business. His very sophisticated nose is sniffing for illegal items such as drugs, money, contraband food and even some bomb-making substances. His nose can do an inspection of bags in seconds where it would take a human several minutes.

There are about 1,300 dogs working for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Beagles and other dogs are hardwired to sniff out trouble. One CBP officer “uses beef stew as an example to explain the exquisite sensitivity of a dog's nose. Most people know what beef stew smells like. But a dog that's been trained to detect spices will immediately be able to sniff out the presence of the tiniest pinch of basil and differentiate it from oregano or other spices.

"That's why even when smugglers pack marijuana in several layers of cellophane, surround it with onions in sealed packages, and then immerse it in tanks full of gasoline, the dogs are still able to sniff out the drugs."

These dogs are usually rescues from shelters and humane societies. They undergo a rigorous 10-week training course at the CBP center in El Paso, Texas. The CBP dogs are taught to detect either organic (fruits, meat, hidden animals) or some combination of currency, firearms, narcotics, and humans trying to sneak into the U.S. illegally.

The dogs are quick studies and after only a few days of training they know the scents to track. Once the basic scents are introduced and mastered, the rest of the training process focuses on teaching the dogs to pursue those smells anywhere.

Besides Beagles the CBP also employs, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois. But it’s those darn cute Beagles most often seen at airports.

As the owner of a very cute Beagle I can vouch that they are indeed Chow-Hounds. They love food and scents and have a one track mind, making them the perfect sleuth for contraband.

“ Even when the offending item is stashed away in what appears to be an airtight container, the Beagle's nose knows. Last fall at Chicago O'Hare airport, for example, a superstar CBP Beagle named Shelby barked up a storm after sniffing the presence of live snails, which were sealed in plastic containers hidden inside a bag arriving on a flight from London.

“So while you're at the airport petting or making googly eyes at the cute little pooch at your ankles, you can be sure it's busy sniffing out the mango at the bottom of the bag held by the woman behind you. Or the wheel of unpasteurized cheese you shouldn't have stowed in yours.” MSNBC

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Guns Are Legal in the Atlanta Airport? Really??

Atlanta Airport Atrium
Posted by Travel Sentry

I personally think this is taking the “right to bear arms” tooooo far:

Georgia lawmakers have approved a bill that would “allow gun owners to carry their licensed firearms at parts of Atlanta Hartsfield, despite the airport's vigorous opposition.

“The legislation, which is waiting for Gov. Sonny Perdue's signature, would permit carrying of firearms in areas that are not controlled by the federal government, such as terminals and parking lots.

“It expands on a state law passed in 2008 that allows Georgia residents with firearm licenses to bring concealed weapons onto public transportation, in parks and recreational areas and into restaurants that serve alcohol. Gun advocates have since been lobbying to expand the law to include the airport.”

I have two questions – why? And why?

The Atlanta Journal reported that when the bill passed, Rep. Stephanie Benfield (D-Atlanta) asked: “How are citizens safer by allowing firearms in airports?”

The bill passed 120-37.

Yours truly resides in Atlanta and am truly embarrassed that our state passed this legislation. There is probably little hope that Sonny Perdue will prevail to squash this bill.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

United/Continental Merger Would Yield New Top Dog

Posted by Travel Sentry

With a merger of United and Continental, the new airline would surpass Delta Air Lines as the world’s largest carrier. This is a loveless marriage for convenience and efficiency. Airlines have been in a death struggle for longer than we care to remember and mergers often signal survival mode and possibly a better chance for black ink – or at least to lose less.

AP reports that Continental lost $282 million last year, and United lost $651 million. As with other “legacy carriers” that have been around since before the industry was deregulated in 1978, their operating costs tend to be higher than their newer, cheaper competitors. Between them, United and Continental have filed for bankruptcy three times in the past 30 years.

The WSJ reported that the five big legacy carriers -- Delta, United, American, Continental and US Airways -- lost $29 billion over the past five years. "The economic rebound surely will help, but they can't keep flying if they make a little bit in the good times and lose a lot in the downturns."

The Continental-United merger, pending approval by federal regulators, would yield them a market share of about 20 percent. The two airlines are a good match for effecting efficiencies in routes and jobs, but there is no crystal ball that can predict profitability post merger. The airline industry continues to be wrought with roadblocks to profitability.

The combined airline – to be known as United – is counting on business travelers, who are willing and able to pay top dollar for last-minute tickets, to cover the $3 billion merger. Projections estimate attracting enough corporate travelers to boost revenue up to $900 million a year according to AP.

The deal would yield major hubs including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and San Francisco and an international network that includes “United's extensive routes in the Pacific and Continental's routes to Europe and Latin America. The companies said 57 percent of their capacity would be domestic, with 20 percent across the Atlantic, 15 percent across the Pacific and 8 percent to Latin America.”

Monday, May 3, 2010

Forget About Flying With An Auto Airbag

Posted by Travel Sentry

Photo from TSA website

The Transportation Security Administration recently noticed an increase in passengers traveling with auto airbags. (This is filed under “little known facts.”) Why, in the world, would anyone travel with an airbag?

Apparently auto airbags are pricey, particularly overseas. Many foreign travelers in need of a replacement airbag and looking to save a few bucks, make the purchase in the U.S. then stow them away in their carry-on or checked bags.

The shipping procedures for airbags are a legal hassle and very expensive, so it follows that bringing them along in a commercial plane would not be a good idea. You don't want an airbag anywhere close to you on a plane. Just let the imagination roam the scenarios that could unfold with these little explosive bundles.

Autoblog offers a description of what could happen:

“A tiny igniter sits poised behind the bag waiting for the signal to set off the solid propellant (think Space Shuttle SRB). When it goes, a large volume of nitrogen gas is released at about 200 mph – the bag is fully expanded in about 1/25 of a second (it will knock your peanuts clear to first class, if you were wondering).

“The Federal Aviation Administration's Office of Security and Hazardous Materials has added airbag actuators to the list of non-approved hazardous materials. The TSA wants to remind everyone to ship the "hazmat" airbags via the proper channels – do not bring them with you on a commercial airliner.”

It must be fascinating being a TSA screener ...