Friday, November 16, 2001
I started last week's newsletter with the phrase 'Its the end of an era (again).  Maybe I should replay those words this week, as it appears that another airline is plunging on a oneway path into oblivion - this time the Canadian carrier, Canada 3000.  Canada 3000 had a classic profile - it started off from small beginnings, for a while became a high profile alternative type airline, then settled into a more typical type of airline operation, and now has suffered the fate that seems to await so many 'typical airlines'.  The unfolding of this drama was puzzling.  After having had a fairly high profile collapse in financial strength, the airline filed for the Canadian equivalent of 'Chapter 11' bankruptcy protection on 8 November.  It was granted this, but then immediately after, on 9 November, ceased operation entirely, with the inevitable effect of leaving passengers suddenly stranded all around the world.  Yuck.

It's happening on the ground as well as in the air.  ANC Rental Corp, the parent of Alamo and National rental car companies, filed for Chapter 11 on Tuesday.  So far it appears to be business as usual for customers of these two companies.

The notion of 'dropping a dime' has receded further into history.  Verizon, Qwest, Bellsouth and SBC have all announced regional increases in payphone fees, typically from 35c to 50c for a local call.  The reason for the increase - declining usage of payphones due to increased prevalence of cell phones and other ways of communicating.  Seems to me that by continuing to increase the cost of using a payphone, they're digging their own graves by accelerating the shift of people away from payphones and towards cellphones.  Look for payphones to become an increasingly scarce item in the future, and a cellphone to become an increasingly indispensable part of your travel kit.

Greedy Idiot of the Week Award goes to jewelry salesman Scott Pendel.  He took a U.S. Airways flight from North Carolina to Birmingham, Ala., and fell asleep on the way.  When he woke up, the plane was empty -- the passengers and crew were gone, the lights were off, and the plane was parked.  What conclusion would a rational person jump to in such a situation? "He literally woke up and didn't know if he was alive or dead," said Pendel's lawyer. Because he had concluded that the plane had crashed and he was dead, Pendel is suing U.S. Air for negligence, saying he suffered mental and emotional anguish. (taken from Randy Cassingham's This is True column, see below)

Meantime, we continue to inflict more indignities on our fellow citizens in the name of - ummm, liberty and freedom?  Apparently it is not enough that security screeners and National Guardsmen are arbitrarily refusing to allow people on planes because they don't like the books people read or the (non violent and democratic) political views people hold.  Those airline captains - the same ones that for years argued against strengthening cockpit doors - now want to do something more to justify their sky high salaries, and have taken to what seems to be an unscientific game of 'eeny, meeny, miney mo', walking down the aisles of the plane they're about to fly and singling out passengers that 'won't look them in the eye' or who look foreign or who have names similar to (but not the same as!) people on the FBI list of wanted terrorists, and refusing to fly with them.

If you're a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, you might think you're safe from such depredations, but remember that the two people mentioned in my earlier columns - one a young man of 22, the other a lady just under 60 - both were typical 'middle class Americans'.  It seems to me that the danger of not getting to your destination because the plane you're on suffers from some type of terrorist action has been eclipsed by the danger of being arbitrarily banned from traveling, perhaps for no reason, and perhaps for an invented nonsensical reason.  Have a look at this article from the Boston Globe for a worrying recitation of passengers being abused.

In my opinion, when we pay good money for an airline ticket, we have a right to expect fair and decent treatment from the airline, and in particular, we have a right to expect to be flown on the flights we've paid for, unless we do something that is clearly and unambiguously illegal.  I'm joined in this view by columnist Randy Cassingham, who publishes a fascinating and free weekly newsletter called 'This is True' which focuses on strange but true events.  He has also compiled a worrying list of various airport/airline passenger abuses, all under the name of 'security'.

This week's lead story Airline Zen - Less is More :  Read about how Europe's success story airline is proposing to give away, for free, up to 10% of its tickets, and often charges no more than $15 for roundtrip flights to destinations as far as 1000 miles away.  Then wonder with me, why it is that our US carriers can't copy some of low fare carrier Ryanair's three part recipe for success?

Meanwhile, if you hate waiting in lines to check-in, good news - of a sort - at Baltimore.  The Airport Authority has taken to hiring street entertainers to try and make the multi-hour waits in line more pleasant.  Personally, if I had a choice, I'd prefer that they hire more check-in staff!

Last week's column on the Noisebuster headphones generated a lot of interest and reader replies, as well as a technical response from Noisebuster that explains some more about their operation.  You might want to revisit the column to see the reader feedback and a response from Noisebuster as well.  I've just now received a set of the $300 Bose headphones and will be reviewing those and several other brands in a detailed comparison test so you know exactly which set is best for you.

You blink and you missed it.  Wow.  Northwest came out with a Thanksgiving fare sale on Friday last week, but the last date to purchase tickets was this Wednesday.  The sale offered low priced fares to Europe, but what was truly stunning were the Business Class fares that were also on sale.  $600-700 roundtrip from various gateways in the US to cities such as London, Paris, Amsterdam and Frankfurt.  That is about one tenth the normal business class fare!!!  I have never seen such extraordinary deals before, and if it wasn't that I'm already traveling internationally for Thanksgiving, you'd have for sure seen me enjoying Northwest's Business Class!

Until next week, please enjoy safe travels and eat lots of Turkey.....

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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