Friday, 3 May, 2002
Good morning.  Another Friday, and being as how it is the weekend closest to my wife's birthday, we're going away for a three day weekend.  In the past, we've perhaps flown to San Francisco for a mini-break; this year we're not going anywhere near an airport - we're driving 2.5 hours to a lovely cottage close to the touristy town of Leavenworth.  It is another small pinprick at the airlines and while the loss of several hundred dollars from us is negligible, the continued reluctance of the American people as a whole to subject themselves to disgraceful indignities is resulting in huge ongoing losses by the airlines.

Meanwhile, now that we have the government in control of airport security, has anyone noticed any difference?  In a curious move, the new Transportation Security Administration recently sent a letter to the airlines asking them to remove the baggage sizing templates at checkpoints - described by spokesman Paul Turk as 'an effort to make the process as efficient as possible without any compromise of security'.  Ummm - is he saying that baggage size templates are a security compromise???

Two of the things I hate the most when boarding a flight are people that board before their row number is called, and people that bring outrageously sized carry-ons with them (usually the same people committing both sins together!), thereby dooming me to use the precious little space at my feet to stuff my briefcase, making an uncomfortable flight even more uncomfortable.  Of course, the thing I hate most of all are the airline gate personnel that just passively allow these abuses to occur.  At least baggage templates added a semblance of control to the process - and now the TSA wants to eliminate them.  <sigh>

However, not all is gloom and doom.  You can once more bring nail files and nail clippers onto a plane with you.  Disposable razors and umbrellas are also allowed, but toy transformer robots are not allowed (guess why?).  The TSA recently released a new list of what is banned - a copy of this list is here (as is the reason for why toy transformer robots are too dangerous to be allowed on a plane).

This Week's Column :  Making MP3 Sound Recordings :  If you do like I suggested in last week's column and buy one of the new generation of high capacity MP3 players, you'll need to know how to make your own music to play on it.  This columns tells you how to do this.

One law for us, a different law for them?  British passengers on a BA 747 that almost crashed when a deranged man broke into the cockpit and fought for the controls were offered just under $3000 and a free ticket by BA as compensation.  However, it appears that BA may have offered as much as $150,000 each to the US passengers on the same flight.  Do you think this is fair?  The Britons don't!  More in this article.

The heading on the 1 May press release reads 'Delta moves to provide greater customer convenience'. Sounds great, doesn't it. But, when you read the fine print, you discover that Delta's definition of 'customer convenience' - a concept that the airlines, at best, have a peculiar and narrow understanding of - actually means that it will make electronic tickets mandatory and will charge you $10 if you insist on your right to a traditional paper ticket! Wow - if that is convenience, Delta can keep it!

Seriously, am I the only one to wish for 'honesty in headlines'?  How can the statement 'greater customer convenience' be paired with the underlying fact that Delta is eliminating an option that they themselves concede that 25% of their customers currently want?

The end of an era occurred earlier this week when American Airlines' last Boeing 727 made its final flight between Miami and Raleigh-Durham. Passengers received commemorative certificates. The earliest model of the 727 entered service with American back in 1964 to fly to airports that were considered too small for the larger jets, the Boeing 707 and the DC-8. At one time American had the largest fleet of 727s flying 182 of the tri-jets.  The plane received the traditional water cannon retirement salute on taxi-out.  The 727 has often been called the DC-3 of the jet-age, and until recently was the biggest selling commercial airplane (an honor now taken over by the 737).

Now you see him, now you don't.  Jack Creighton, acting CEO of United Airlines for the last six months resigned earlier this week. "I was brought in for the short term to stabilize United and improve the relationship between management and employees.  We have made some important strides in each of these areas, and I will continue to focus on those priorities as we search for my replacement.  We confront huge challenges and we must secure the cooperation and support of our employees if we are to succeed," said Creighton. Hmmm - a statement that doesn't bear too close an examination.  United remains in a precarious position and continues to burn cash at an alarming rate, and desperately needs to get pay concessions from its employees.  Creighton is hardly departing on a tidal wave of success.

Put this article on your 'must read' list for today.  An Orlando Sentinel columnist provides a distressing and amusing commentary on why the airlines aren't making money.

And talking about 'must read' items, here's a book for your summer reading pleasure - perhaps good for your next long flight.  Airline pilot turned popular author, John J Nance, has just released his latest airplane themed book, Turbulence (if you buy via this link I get a small commission!).  When asked what the novel is about he said "It's time for the airlines to get their house in order with respect to customer service. The airlines have to understand that their customers are not only fed up with bad service, they're furious over this rancid attitude of too many employees that they're somehow doing their customers a favor by selling tickets. Especially business travelers, who are sick and tired of being financially mugged every time they have to fly." The book is about an air rage incident.

This week's security horror story :  Thanks to reader Mary for passing on what happened to her co-worker in Panama City, FL.  This person was late for her flight,  and while going through security the lady was asked to remove her hiking boots, was wanded and thoroughly checked out. Now, this is a very small airport. The distance to the gate was maybe fifteen feet from that point. As she was boarding, the SAME TWO SECURITY people FOLLOWED her, and stopped her again . They asked her to remove her boots, and proceeded to wand her AGAIN. She protested, "hey, don't you remember me from two minutes ago?"

Their answer: "Just following regulations, Ma'am."  Ummm - doesn't that sound so much like the Nazis who, after World War 2, claimed in defense of their indefensible actions that they were 'just following orders'.

Lastly, in the 'tastes like chicken' department, visitors to the World Cup in South Korea will be invited to try specially prepared dog meat juice at the stadium in a bid to fight "prejudice" against the South Korean delicacy. The South Koreans hope that visitors will drink it in place of Coke.  Each year, about a million dogs are sold for food in South Korea.

As a dog lover (but not in terms of food, I hasten to add) I can only wish that this promotion will be the dreadful failure that it promises to be.

Until next week, please enjoy safe travels, and remember that not everything that tastes like chicken actually is chicken!

David M Rowell aka The Travel Insider
ps :  Don't forget to visit Joe Brancatelli's site for his weekly updates, too.

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