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Friday 14 November, 2008
It is lovely to be home again. It was
a productive time away, but jetlag, horrible hotels, and flight
frustrations invariably take the gloss off the potential pleasure of
international travel. Besides which, as nice as the rest of the
world is, home is always best.
I flew out of Heathrow's new Terminal 5, so
have now experienced it both coming and going. The check-in hall
was vast and uncrowded, with no lines for checking in, which seems to
now be exclusively via computer self-check-in terminals, but with no
apparent special facilities for business or first class passengers (I
subsequently discovered these were down the far end of the terminal - to
the right when you enter - but
there didn't seem to be any signage to point premium passengers that
Although there were no lines to check in,
when I went to go through security, I was turned away, being told
that the security area was too congested. I asked about the
priority lane, and was told that was congested too, so had to go down to
the other end of the terminal through the other security area, which was
also slow - the priority lane took ten minutes.
BA has several different lounges at both
ends of the terminal once you get into the secure area, and I visited
the South lounge for business class passengers. It was a nice
enough lounge although as close to full as you'd wish it to be, but it
its limitations. The food being served was very limited and
unappealing (only two hot dishes - pasta and sauce, or chicken curry and
rice). There was no champagne on offer, not even 'available on
request' as has become their habit in other lounges.
And, worst of all, there were no work stations for people
with laptops. There were a generous number of computer terminals
for people traveling without a computer, but there was absolutely nowhere
for people with laptops to work, other than uncomfortably seated in an
easy chair with the computer perched on one's lap. Some of the
chairs had power plugs alongside, but most didn't.
How can BA have overlooked this essential
part of a lounge's services?
I go to an international lounge expecting
three things, and to a domestic lounge hoping for the same three things
- a place to work with my computer (ie desk, chair, internet and power); some food
to eat, and, ahem, something nice to drink. BA's latest lounge
at Terminal 5 - the flagship lounge of their entire network - scores an
F on the first point, a D on the second
point, and C- on the third point.
It is a sad
thought this is the best BA can do.
At least they had a selection of still white
wines on offer in their lounge, because, yet again, on the flight back to Seattle,
although the wine list promised two white wines, they only had one of
them on the flight. Both my flight over and my flight back had
only one of the two white wines on the menu available. It wasn't
as though they ran out of the other wine, they just didn't have any on
board to start with.
You don't get much for a $10,000 or
thereabouts business class ticket these days, do you.
There was a large range of stores, and some
good food choices in the secure area of the terminal, which was just as
well, because I ended up buying and eating food (and even buying my own
drink - ginger beer, also not available in the lounge) in the public
area rather than in the lounge. I particularly liked a restaurant
operated by celebrated Michelin starred chef Gordon Ramsay (Plane Food)
that promised a two course meal within 25 minutes and three courses
within 35 minutes, both at very reasonable prices.
Lovers of fine whisky are pointed to an
excellent value at the 'World of Whisky' sub-store part of the large
duty free shop area; a Lagavulin Distiller's Edition Double Matured
single malt, distilled in 1991 and bottled in 2008. A liter costs
only £43, and with Michael Jackson rating it 95/100, you're getting one
of the dozen or so finest whiskies in existence for only £43. The
plunging pound (Yay! London almost seemed good value this visit) makes this less than $65.
As whisky devotees know,
those ridiculously expensive bottles of sometimes much older whisky,
costing ten or even one hundred times more, are often given low ratings by
Michael Jackson and the leading whisky guides. Believe it or not,
older whisky is seldom better whisky.
The last part of my Terminal 5 experience is
arguably the most important - getting to the plane and departing on
time. Unfortunately, that wasn't a very positive experience, with
us having to bus from the main terminal to a remote location where the
plane was parked, and then suffering a 30 minute delay before pushing back.
The reason for the delay was a bit of a mystery. It was explained
to us over the PA system by the pilot, but no-one on the plane,
including the flight attendants, could
hear/understand what he said. After complaints, he then re-announced the
issue, starting off by rather testily complaining that we hadn't heard
him the first time, but after the first sentence being clear, it then lapsed back
into unintelligibility again.
I don't understand why a very highly
trained pilot, on a $200 million airplane, can't manage to make a simple PA announcement. The
flight attendants have no difficulty making themselves heard - why can't
the pilots also master the art of talking into a microphone
intelligibly, the same as they presumably do when communicating with Air
It seems the delay was something to do with
not being able to move the stairs away from the plane - how difficult
can that be? The 30
minute push back delay magnified and became a one hour delay arriving
Now, experienced passengers know that what counts is
not when the plane lands, but when you leave the airport. After having to bully the luggage guy at Heathrow to put
tags on my bags that I was entitled to, I was hoping to have an
advantage that would get me out of the airport quickly and still allow
me to be in time for an evening meeting.
No such luck. It took 21 minutes for the first bag to
arrive on the carousel - this at a time when there were no other
international flights and the customs/baggage hall was completely empty.
The plane was parked less than 100 yds from the luggage carousel - what
took 21 minutes to get the containers of bags from the plane to the
took another 18 minutes from when the first bag arrived on the carousel until my 'priority' bags turned up. The
first 15 minutes or so saw bags arriving, but not a single one had a
priority tag on them.
This gives BA a perfect record of failure
for mis-managing their priority bag promise - the flight to London had
priority bags delayed, and the flight back similarly had the priority
bags coming off towards the end rather than beginning of the bag
delivery process. Shame on BA.
Anyway, enough about the flights. I
actually feeling a bit sorry for BA, because I do focus on them more
than other airlines for the simple reason that they provide the most
convenient services on the international routes I fly from Seattle, and
resolved to next try out the new Northwest flights from Seattle to
Heathrow, except this week they announced they were discontinuing
them, only a few months after they started them.
I had been very
surprised when NW announced their plans to use one of their very rare,
very precious and very expensive Heathrow 'slots' for flights to/from
Seattle, and my guess is their decision to end this service isn't so
much a reflection on the Seattle flights as it is a belated realization
on their part that they could make more money with the slot by between
Heathrow and a more major US market. But maybe I'll still try and use a
different airline for my flights to Europe in December for the Christmas
Talking about the Christmas Markets cruise,
I've been giving some thought to touring options to offer you in 2009.
There will be a Christmas Markets cruise, and I'd like to offer one
other tour too. The two choices I'm currently looking at
are both 'trans' tours - a Trans-Siberian rail tour and/or a Trans-Atlantic
sea crossing. A possible third choice would be a one week tour
to the United Arab Emirates. All three have been recently and
regularly requested by readers, and promise to be memorable and
The Trans-Siberian Express tour would feature our own private carriages,
complete with showers and toilets, that we'd couple on to scheduled
trains to go between cities, then we'd leave the scheduled train and go
to a hotel in the major stops along the way for a night or two before
continuing on again. It would run about two weeks for travel from
home to Vladivostok, then through Russia to Moscow, and home again.
Adding a cruise to St Petersburg would add almost another two weeks to
the total schedule. I can only very roughly guesstimate the costs
at this stage - more than $5000 per person for the tour, plus
airfare. Adding the cruise to St Petersburg would be another
$3000. This would be from mid/late June through to early July (in
my opinion, the best time of year to be in Russia).
The QM2 Trans-Atlantic crossing would be a six night cruise from Southampton to New
York, and would probably be on 13 or 25 June, with several pre-cruise
touring options offered
beforehand in London and/or in Cornwall and Devon in the southwest of
England (or anything else you wanted to do yourself of course).
The cruise itself would be from about $1250, depending on your cabin choice,
and then you'd need to add airfare etc to this.
The UAE tour would visit Dubai and Abu Dhabi as well as going into the
desert to see places such as Al Ain and the Musandam Peninsula in Oman.
It would probably run about a week in length and be about $2000, plus
airfare. This would be later in the year (perhaps November).
My question to you is would you be interested in any (or all!) of
these? Could I ask you to quickly click the link below that
describes your interest; this will create an email with your answer
coded into the subject line. If you have additional thoughts,
requests, suggestions, please add them to the email - all emails will of
course be carefully read and responded to. If none of the ideas have
appeal, there's no need to reply.
Interested in the Trans-Siberian tour without cruise extension
Interested in the Trans-Siberian tour with cruise extension
Interested in a Russian cruise but not the Trans-Siberian tour
Interested in the QM2 cruise but will make own arrangements for
Interested in the QM2 cruise with touring before the cruise included too
the UAE tour
Interested in both the UAE tour and the Trans-Siberian tour
Interested in both the UAE and the QM2 tours
Interested in both the Trans-Sib and the
Interested in all three tours
Back to my time in London. I wrote last week about my
in an appalling hotel in London with a room that was too small to open a
suitcase on the floor, and a desk that you couldn't sit at because there
was literally no space between it and the bed. I should add that I paid
extra to book a double room so as to get a larger room with more space,
even though I was traveling alone. I can't start to imagine how
two people with maybe three suitcases could fit in this room.
You may recall I was reduced to working
naked due to the stifling heat in the room. But contrast my
experience with how the hotel is described on Lastminute.com's site :
Chic hotel close to Hyde Park & Paddington - 4* - London. This
chic hotel has been fully refurbished as a 4-star hotel complete with
luxurious features. Each room has been newly refurbished with the
emphasis on comfort and relaxation. With a variety of room types to
choose from this hotel is an ideal place to stay for business or
Needless to say, I couldn't detect a single
luxurious feature, and don't consider it ideal for business or pleasure.
Comfort and relaxation? There isn't even a chair to sit on in the
room, other than the uncomfortable and inaccessable one wedged between
the desk and bed.
And when I asked to change rooms due to the small size and oppressive
heat, rather than being overwhelmed by the claimed variety of room types
to choose from, I was told that although they had other rooms free, they
were not authorized to change me to another room. Perhaps my lastminute.com reservation entitled me only to the worst room in the
There's an interesting extra aspect to my
hotel booking experience with Lastminute. I had two London stays -
I spent two nights in London, then two nights out of London, then three
nights back in London again. I booked the hotel I wrote
about last week for the first two nights, at a very good seeming rate of
£85/night. Then I booked one of Lastminute's 'Top Secret' hotels
for the second stay. Top Secret hotels are described as being
hotels offering rates so low the hotels don't want to put their names
alongside them. We can all understand that concept and I was
pleased to be getting a bargain as a result of
some hotel finding itself with too many unsold rooms and wanting to
discreetly sell them off cheaply. I spent £126 a night for the top
secret hotel stay.
Now, get this. My top secret hotel,
costing £126/night, turned out to be none other than the same hotel that
I'd booked, under its own name, for only £85/night! Rather than
being a hotel that was embarrassed by the low rate it was selling its
rooms for, it turned out to be, instead, a hotel that was embarrassed by
the high rate it was selling its rooms for! Rather than
getting a bargain, I got a rip-off. To compound this
unpleasant surprise, I ended up back in the identical room, even though
I asked for any other room - maybe indeed a Lastminute booking gets
allocated the least desirable rooms.
A common experience when booking hotels
through Lastminute.com is that they are rated with more stars than the
For example, I've compared the different features
of two hotels I stayed at while in England last week. One hotel is
rated three stars by the UK AA, the other hotel is rated four stars by lastminute.com. See if you can guess which is which :
Microscopic, no space to even open a suitcase on the
Large, plenty of room for everything
Can barely turn around inside - the
small bathmat covers almost the entire free floor space!
Large - you'd need a dozen bath mats
to cover the free floor space
Barely dribbles out water
Huge flow of water
Lunch and Dinner
Not available - restaurant closed
Both provided with choice of
restaurant or bar meals
Yes - fully stocked bar with good
range of 'real ales', spirits and wine, and friendly bar staff
Tiny, wedged against bed so impossible to sit at
Large, lots of room to sit at
Two large comfortable easy chairs
Small standard double
For twin bed - it is too small and
doesn't fit/tuck in to the double bed
Good and appropriately sized
Four lumpy uncomfortable ones
Four of various types - there's one to please
everyone among the four
Plenty, and free
Stiflingly hot, day and night
Alarm Clock in Room
Yes, of course, Hotel 1 is the so called
'four star chic hotel with luxurious features' by Lastminute.com, whereas the vastly superior in every
respect Hotel 2 - the lovely Forest & Vale in Pickering where I spent the
weekend - gets three stars by the UK AA. Clearly, something is
massively wrong when a markedly inferior in all respects hotel is
rated four star while a good hotel and better than the four star hotel
gets only three stars.
I shared the preceding comments with Lastminute's Customer Relations Manager, Elaine Gould
on Tuesday. She has passed them on to the company's Hotel
Management team, but hasn't replied yet. I'll let you know their
responses when they are received.
And now, after that lengthy preamble, on to
the feature column for the week. It is a massive offering,
spanning five pages, and I was tempted to spoon feed it to you, week by
week, but I think better to run the risk of overwhelming you now - those
of you who are interested can then read through as much of it as you
want, and those of you who are not interested won't have the next five
weeks full of irrelevant content!
This week's offering comes from years of
working with many thousands of travelers when I owned a travel company
in the 1990s. It would frustrate me to see how some people were
adopting a very dysfunctional approach to planning and budgeting for
their vacation, and my ability to advise them was constrained by their
perception that I had a vested interest in the outcome.
They were both correct and incorrect in
their perception - I did have a vested interest. But that interest
was not to simply sell more travel and make more commission, but rather
to help ensure they had a positive travel experience so they
would return from their vacation happy and content, and be more likely
then to recommend other people to my company.
So, and now offered in a situation where
clearly I can have no vested interest at all, is :
This Week's Feature Column :
How Much to Spend on a Vacation :
to answer the unanswerable in this extensive article series on how to
budget and plan for a vacation, with ideas about when it makes sense to
spend more - and when it makes sense to spend less - on a vacation.
A note to the many travel agent readers -
You might find it helpful to refer potential clients to this article
Blast from the Past : In 2001 I
wrote about Ryanair and wondered if its business model could apply to
the US as well. Today, with almost all airlines including fewer
amenities with their fares, and charging extra for everything else, it
seems the Ryanair model has taken root with a vengeance.
Now if only the US carriers could complete
the last part of Ryanair's business model - low and often free airfares!
In 2002 I reviewed BA's Business Class
cabin, and I'd make that the featured blast from the past today, but for
the need to now update the review to reflect the new business class seat
offered by BA. Look for that in the next week or two. In
2003, I wrote about something that was then still a novelty - using the
internet for phone calls via VoIP.
I think on balance, the most interesting
column is the 2001 Ryanair column.
And note at the bottom of it a still working link to a Forbes article
predicting which US carriers would go broke. Being as how they
didn't specify a time frame for their predictions to come true, it is
hard to judge their accuracy, but the only two carriers they gave a
greater than 50% likelihood of going broke to were US Airways (80%) and
America West (90%), which of course subsequently merged into one
airline. As for newly merged NW/DL, they rated those two carriers
as 20% and 25% respectively likely to go broke.
Dinosaur watching : Talking
about newly merged NW/DL, there are some contradictory stories
floating around out there.
On the one hand, their EVP of network
planning and revenue management, Glen Hauenstein, was quoted in a
Wednesday conference call to reporters as saying that the merged
airline intends to keep all current hubs from both NW and DL operating
as hubs, which he said would create 'a stronger platform to take
customers from all over the United States to destinations around the
globe' (whatever that means).
On the other hand,
this article reports that Delta is shrinking its Cincinnati hub
by 12% in January 09, and is restructuring the hub to make it
sustainable through at least next year (whatever that means, and it sure
doesn't sound very positive about the future). Delta will be
offering 33% fewer flights in Jan 09 than in Jan 08. That doesn't
sound as confident as Mr Hauenstein's bravado, does it.
My view is that it is ridiculous to
expect the merged carrier to operate six hubs. While the
airline might play games with what its calls its airports, expect to
see at least two of the hubs with steadily reducing traffic and
being de-emphasized on their route network.
In more Delta(Northwest) news, here's
an article that suggests that our 'enemy' - when it comes to
airline charges - is none other than ourselves.
In a manner reminiscent of American Airlines
discontinuing its 'More Room in Coach' program some years back (ie
because it wasn't shifting market share from carriers with cramped coach
class seating to AA with much more leg room), Delta says it is now going
to charge a fee for the first checked bag (as well as the second),
because most of its passengers thought it was already charging a fee.
If there's no benefit in not charging a fee;
if there's no benefit in providing a superior service, even the least
visionary of airline executives can work out that it is better to add
the fee and discontinue the service.
As I regularly plead with you, we must,
as consumers, reward good behavior and penalize bad behavior among the
airlines. If there's no accountability or negative consequence
of bad service and high fees, then of course airlines will continue to
add fees and withdraw services.
One more thing about the DL/NW merger.
home town paper belatedly discovering that airline mergers may
Gosh! Who'd a thunk it?
Certainly not the Justice Department....
A shame the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
didn't have this epiphany a few weeks earlier, although I doubt it would
have influenced the Justice Dept's eyes wide shut whitewash of the
The unfriendly skies : If you're
flying on Air France or Alitalia any time soon, check ahead for
the status of your flight.
Air France pilots are going on strike
from Friday through Monday, and some Alitalia unions are 'working to
rule' - a curious concept that you'd think might threaten to make
its staff more rather than less productive, but apparently that will not
be the case.
And Aer Lingus workers have voted to
strike later this month, protesting the airline's plans to cut jobs,
hire outside workers for some jobs, and freeze pay levels.
Congratulations to United for coming last
in a survey on customer satisfaction. United had a rate of
customer complains seven times greater than that of the best airline in
the survey, Southwest. Scoring seven times more customer
complaints than Southwest is a surprising achievement, and one which
would seem to be difficult to do.
In general, the low cost carriers came
tops in all categories for customer satisfaction, while the
dinosaurs came bottom.
Apparently, with airlines, there's an
exception to the general rule 'you get what you pay for'.
Congratulations also to Virgin Atlantic
(VS) - but this time, sincerely offered. The airline won
awards for Best Airline Business Class, Best Airline Economy Class
and Best Scheduled Airline Long Haul at the recent British Travel
VS also reports an 11% increase in
business travelers using their services from Heathrow in the last 12
months, which it attributes to superior service and a better quality
product for its passengers.
By a strange coincidence, BA admits to a
'double digit decline' in its corporate traffic as part of reporting
a $66 million loss for the last six months (April - September), and
certainly my two recent flights showed their business class cabin to be
emptier than I've ever noticed it before.
Now, if VS is enjoying a double digit
increase in its business class passengers due to superior service and a
better quality product, and if BA is suffering an 11% decline in its
business class traffic, what do you think the reason for BA's misfortune
might be? Do you think BA attributes its loss of traffic to
inferior service and a poorer quality product?
Ummm, no. It blames it on 'economic
concerns' and problems in its financial sector clients.
Talking about BA, I had a reader telephone
me on Thursday afternoon this week in a panic. He was at JFK
and couldn't find their new subsidiary airline, OpenSkies.
According to this frequent international traveler, no-one at the airport
had heard of it or knew which terminal it operated from (answer =
terminal 7, the BA terminal).
In fairness, he'd been calling it,
incorrectly, 'Fly Open Skies' (its web url) rather than OpenSkies, so I
guess airline staff were looking for it under the letter F rather than O
in their directories.
I also heard from another reader who
reported having his OpenSkies flight cancelled. The reason
given was a vague reference to 'winter schedule changes' rather than
'we're sorry, but there's just not enough people booked to make the
Talking more about OpenSkies, I
reported two weeks ago that the
new airline was experiencing light passenger loads and was putting its
growth plans on hold. But in a
nonsense article on Wednesday this week, the NY Times claims that
OpenSkies is expanding. No details of its expansion are
offered, for truly there are none pending.
Perhaps the most delightful line in this
article is the one that follows its exposition about the decline in
business class traffic. The article goes on to say that OpenSkies
has adapted to the tougher times by eliminating its coach class.
While it is true that its Premium Economy
cabin is a good alternative to business class, eliminating coach
class is a strange way of responding to reduced business class traffic.
Perhaps the airline might have been better advised to have eliminated
its very average business class entirely in favor of its Prem+ class and
perhaps retained some coach setting too, or gone all Prem+.
My picks for OpenSkies remain as I've
earlier said - an uncertain future on any basis, and a
continued de-emphasis on its Biz class in favor of Prem+.
It is surprising that BA isn't using
OpenSkies for its new all business class service that will operate
between London City Airport and New York next year, particularly because
the BA planes (A318s) can't fly the route to New York without stopping
to refuel in Ireland on the way. It would be an ideal route for an
OpenSkies 757 and a logical extension of the OpenSkies business model.
More about the new BA route at the
bottom of this article.
Talking about cancellations, a reader
received the following email :
Dear MANGO Guest,
Due to changes to MANGO's scheduled aircraft maintenance program it
has become necessary to reschedule flight JE154 operating from CPT to
JNB on 3 December. The new schedule for this flight will be as set out
below. Should you need any further information, please do not hesitate
to contact the call center at 0861 162646, and they will be delighted to
We apologize for any inconvenience thus caused, but this was necessary
to ensure your safety, and we trust you will accept the change in that
With kind regards,
He wants to know how it is possible for an
airline to hide behind a maintenance related cancellation when the
notice was sent out on 11 November, almost four weeks in advance, and
disputes the suggestion that he should feel good about this because it
is being done for his safety.
The headlines of a recent press release
sounded very positive, just as press releases are supposed to do.
EMIRATES ANNOUNCES HALF-YEAR PROFITS
• Strong business growth continues – operating revenues up 31%,
passenger traffic up 11%, cargo tons up 13%
• Positive outlook for next six months
So imagine the surprise then when reading
on, to discover that Emirates actually suffered a plunge in profit
for its first half year of 2009, with net profit dropping from US$643
million last year to US$77 million this year.
But perhaps this will quieten the airline's
critics who continue to allege, with nothing to substantiate their
claims and plenty to refute them, that Emirates in some strange way
enjoys unique advantages unlike any other airline. A large part of
the reason for the drop in profits was the impact of fuel prices during
the April - September period.
Yes, Emirates too suffers from the same
challenges as all other airlines, it just manages them better than most.
See my article on 'Does
Emirates Enjoy an Unfair Advantage' for more discussion on this.
And, all joking aside, it is very
impressive to see an 11% increase in passenger numbers and a huge
31% increase in revenue at a time when most airlines were struggling to
stay the same size.
I interviewed the UK country manager of
Emirates' competitor, Etihad, at World Travel Market on Monday this
week, with a view to writing an article comparing and contrasting the
two UAE airlines.
Unfortunately, it wasn't a very satisfactory
interview - to my astonishment, he didn't even know any of his airline's
financial results and couldn't even tell me if they were profitable or
A far cry from Emirates and their
excellent management, both in the US, and everywhere else.
most dismaying article about the collapse and non-outcome of a
federal task force that spent a year trying to work out guidelines
and requirements for passengers stranded for hours on parked planes.
One wonders how people get appointed to such
task forces - in this case, 36 people strong - and apparently dominated
by airline representatives, which surely doomed the task force to
failure right from the get-go.
No-one invited me!
I mentioned some rather overly optimistic
plans to power airplanes with nuclear reactors. Hopefully
that will not come to pass, but here's a
much more appealing idea - mini nuclear reactors the size of garden
sheds, and each able to power 20,000 homes.
The top ten mobile gadgets of all time?
I'm not so sure, but it is interesting to see the items chosen in
Good news - an enhancement to lithium ion
batteries - the rechargeable batteries commonly used to power cell
phones and laptop computers - might increase the power capacity of a
battery eight-fold, according to
this article. Confusingly the article's URL says 'team.doubles.battery.life',
and the article both says an eight-fold increase in life and that they
will be 90% more efficient than current batteries.
Whatever the gain in performance, they
should hit the market in about four years.
This Week's Security Horror Story :
In order for a pilot to possess a firearm in a plane's cockpit he has to
be first highly trained as a pilot, then secondly, highly trained in
firearms usage. He also has to undergo evaluation and screening
for his suitability to pilot a plane, and then a second full series of
psychological tests to determine his suitability to carry a firearm,
which he is only allowed to have in the cockpit.
Maybe that is fair and reasonable. But
now think about what is required for a Federal Air Marshal to take a
loaded pistol into the passenger compartment of a plane, and possibly to
make a shoot/don't shoot decision in a cabin full of passengers :
These days, the Homeland Security Department will recruit pretty much
anyone off the street, no matter what their background, and even if they
have no prior law enforcement experience. A Federal Air Marshal (FAM)
doesn't need to undergo any screening or evaluation, and goes through a
training program that some consider to be insufficiently rigorous these
So why is it that a highly trained and
highly skilled pilot, being given a firearm as a weapon of last resort
to be used only when terrorists have broken into the cockpit, has to
undergo such extraordinarily extensive training and screening (and on
their own dime, and on their own time), whereas Federal Air Marshals are
trusted with loaded weapons and given the discretion to use them in the
plane's passenger cabin (with their minimal training fully paid for)?
Now think about this : If a pilot
resigns, then joins the FAM service, gets qualified and serves for a
period on flights, then leaves the FAM service and rejoins an airline,
he'll then have to go through all sorts of psychological tests in order
to have more restricted access and powers with a firearm than he
formerly had as a FAM.
Does that seem logical or sensible to you?
Why are we doing all we can to make it difficult for pilots to protect
their planes and passengers (to say nothing of potentially saving
buildings on the ground, too) as a last ditch measure, when we trust
less skilled less qualified people with broader powers in the cabin?
Reader Bryan writes to report a 'serious
security issue' with Virgin Atlantic. :) After my disclosing
last week that BA refuses to take pictures of passengers on its
flights, or allow passengers to take pictures themselves due to
'security concerns', he reports that he was alarmed when a flight
attendant ran over to him (his words) upon seeing him taking photos in
the VS Upper Class cabin. Was his camera about to be impounded?
Was he about to be arrested?
Actually, neither. Instead the VS
flight attendant offered to help, and proceeded to take a nice picture
of Bryan looking very relaxed in his seat.
Could this be part of the reason why VS is
reporting an 11% increase in its business class passenger numbers, while
BA is experiencing what it coyly describes as a 'double digit decline'
it its own premium cabin traffic? Or is VS being alarmingly lax
about this serious security issue?
Flight delays contribute to drinking and
espionage? To say nothing of kissing strangers. More details
It seems that if you complain vociferously
about Ryanair's calendars, they'll send you one for free the next year.
Ryanair is again issuing a calendar this year featuring some members of
its, ahem, female staff, with all proceeds going to charity.
And, in a gesture of some sort (an
upraised digit leaps to mind) it is sending free copies to people
who complained about the good taste (or alleged lack thereof) of last
If you'd like to view the calendar (purely
for, ahem, researching the days and dates in 2009), you can see it
here. Which will be your favorite month in 2009?
Until next week,
please enjoy safe travels, and if your flights are delayed, well, read
the article immediately above the calendar article for ideas of how to
pass the time.....