Sunday, August 31, 2008

Stay At Your Favorite Designer's Hotel

Fashion designers are expanding into the hotel market. Several hotels have been themed and decked out by world famous fashion designers. Prada, Versace, Lagefeld and Armani all have their names on designer hotels. Here are some of the best:

Palazzo Versace Hotel:
This 205-room, 72-condominium hotel opened in 2000, featuring the opulent Italian designs of Donatella Versace, including a pebble mosaic driveway and blue marble floors. There's also a 1,650-pound chandelier in the foyer that was purchased by Donatella's late brother, founding designer Gianni. Rooms are furnished in Versace home goods, including gold-foiled china, satin sheets and brocade sofas. Bathroom treats include mini bottles of men's and women's Versace fragrances and slippers.

Bulgari Hotels and Resorts:
Fine hotels have stocked Bulgari bath products in suites for years, but it wasn't until 2004 that fine jewelry brand--in partnership with the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company--opened its very own 58-room hotel in Milan, with a focus on spa and beauty. While the suites and rooms are furnished in contemporary, monochromatic tones of grey, tan and black, the spa features a gold mosaic swimming pool and a green glass hammam, similar in coloring to the Bulgari perfume bottle.

Armani Hotel:
Along with 175 guest rooms and suites, Armani's first hotel will include 160 luxury condominiums, five restaurants and a spa. The rooms are furnished with a specially designed line of Armani Casa products--like grey Italian marble floors and navy pleated silk linens--all depicting Armani's credo of understated luxury. For some time, the opening date was early 2009--now it's to be determined.

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Saturday, August 30, 2008

And Now Your Tarsier Moment of the Day

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Continental Airlines to Accept PayPal for Online Reservations

Continental Airlines, one of the last U.S. legacy carriers to actually strive towards better customer service, announced today that they would accept PayPal for online ticket purchases.

For those of you familiar with PayPal or eBay, it's one of the largest and most accepted international online money transaction services around. The decision to accept PayPal will definitely be a benefit particularly to online home business who use the service daily.

"Continental works to provide the most convenient online booking experience for our customers. We are pleased to work with PayPal to broaden payment options for travelers by providing an additional way to purchase flights online," said Mark Bergsrud, Continental's senior vice president of marketing programs and distribution.

Continental customers with a PayPal account can use several different payment options to fund transactions, including PayPal account balances, bank accounts, debit cards, and credit cards, all while keeping their financial information private and secure.

"Continental Airlines is known for its convenience and award-winning customer service, and PayPal is excited to be offered as part of that service when customers buy their tickets at," said Mary Anne Gillespie, vice president of sales at PayPal. "With the addition of Continental Airlines we continue to give our customers more great places to shop online with the convenience and security of their PayPal accounts."

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It's Not Just Small Airports Being Cut by Airlines

Small airports are not the only ones to be affected by the U.S. airlines capacity cuts being made, New York City is loosing a significant number of flights.

Flying to New York directly from a number of U.S. cities will not be possible starting the end of August. Carriers, which are reducing capacity by 17%, have eliminated service from New York to 25 U.S. cities and drastically cut flights to another 55.

Continental Airlines will end flights to Tucson, Ariz. around the same time.

The Binghamton flight route is one of 16 that Delta is cutting from its lineup. Continental and American Airlines are each eliminating 14 routes. Other cities to which New Yorkers will no longer have direct service include Memphis, Myrtle Beach, S.C. and Salt Lake City, Utah.

Continental is also halting flights to Sarasota, Fla. and American Airlines is reducing flights to San Juan, Puerto Rico, according to Crain’s.

Now, not only will fewer airlines offer direct flights from New York to major cities, such as Atlanta or Daytona Beach, Fla., those airlines will also reduce the number of flights they offer to those cities. This will cause ticket prices to soar, Crain’s reported. Travelers will also face less convenient arrival and departure times, more crowded flights and more stopovers.

Nonstop flights to some international cities, like Bangkok, will also disappear, according to Crain’s. Thai Airways canceled its nonstop flights to Kennedy International Airport.

New Yorkers can also forget about direct flights to Bologna, Naples and Palermo, Italy; Bucharest, Romania; Cologne, Germany; Knock, Ireland; Lagos, Nigeria; Liverpool, London-Luton and London-Stansted, England; and Papeete, Tahiti.

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Friday, August 29, 2008

Mushroom Soup Causes Emergency Landing

In the world of weird airline incidents, this one from Ryanair has to make the top 10.

Two passenger jets had to make emergency landings after two incidents, involving a leaking jar of mushroom soup and a microwave fire, this week.

Hundreds of holidaymakers had their flights disrupted as the planes were diverted to ensure passenger safety.

In the first incident, passengers on a Thomsonfly flight to Gatwick panicked when black smoke filled the cabin minutes after take-off from Pula, western Croatia.

The flight was forced to turn back to the airport where investigating technicians discovered an "installation error" in the plane's galley microwave.

A spokesman for Thomsonfly said the oven fire had been "immediately contained" and there was "no danger to passengers or crew", who were delayed for eight hours.

In the second incident, on Monday, a passenger on a Ryanair flight from Budapest to Dublin needed medical treatment after a jar of soup leaked in an overhead locker, dripping onto his face.

The man suffered swelling to his neck and struggled to breathe, forcing the aircraft to be diverted to Frankfurt, in Germany.

Yesterday, Ryanair said the leaking jar had contained a "vegetable oil/mushroom soup type substance" which had caused an allergic reaction.

The Boeing 737 was delayed for two hours while doctors treated the man.

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Everyone Say Bye Bye to Zoom Airlines

Yes ladies and gentlemen, another airline bites the dust this week.

Zoom airlines, which operated several Boeing 767-300ER's flying between Ft Lauderdale, Bermuda and London Gatwick, went out of business on Thursday after managing to operate since late May, making it one of the youngest airlines to die at such an early age.

Passengers at Ft Lauderdale were greeted by gate staff who passed along the news that their ride home has been repo'ed and they would have to find another way home on their own.

So lets all bow our heads for a moment of silence as another air carrier falls from the air forever.

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My Dog's First Plane Ride

Well today was the big day when I loaded up my wife and my dog onto a United Airlines flight to move to Seattle Washington. We have been working all week long to get ready and it has truly been a long long week.

My dog has never flown in a plane before so of course I was worried about how he was going to do, how much of a pain it was going to be at the airport and all the things that could possibly go wrong. I was amazingly surprised by our experience at the airport.

I have flown United Airlines for years, usually about 200 flights a year and have grown accustom to the indifferent service you tend to receive from the airlines so I was completely prepared for a fiasco at the airport as I drug four suitcases, a travel kennel and my dog into the airport, in so much as I took Motrin before I left the house as a preventative measure.

For advanced planning we arrived at the airport very early, around 6 am so thankfully there weren't that many passengers there yet, even though it was a holiday weekend. I went to the special service line at Dulles Airport and I was amazed at the service I got from probably the most wonderful two customer service reps at United.

They took care of everything with a smile. They went above and beyond helping my wife and I check our dog in and taking care of our suitcases. I had to pinch myself to make sure that I wasn't still dreaming after getting up at 4am.

I take allot of shots at the airlines and lord knows most of the time I deserve it. I don't know if it was dog karma but the two ladies who assisted me at United this morning with my dog were hands down the best customer service reps I have ever experienced in ten years of traveling. Well done United !!! Thank you very much.

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Compensation Raises for Bumped Airline Passengers

Passengers on U.S. carriers who are involuntarily bumped from their flight are now eligible for more compensation thanks to the Department of Transportation. The U.S. government, who has been unable to pass a passenger bill of rights for the past 10 years, thankful has come to the rescue of passengers victimized by U.S. carriers incapable of booking the right number of passengers on flights.

Travelers can now get $400 if they are involuntarily bumped within two to four hours and $800 if you have to wait longer for another flight.

The Department of Transportation is hoping the new compensation will encourage airlines to improve on the overbooking procedures. Anyone thinking about holding their breath might want to rethink that, short of exiling every airlines CEO to a desert island for incompetence I don't think it's going to change anything but at least you get a few more dollars in your pocket.

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Elderly Woman Tries to Check Herself In On Baggage Chute

An elderly woman misunderstood instructions while checking in at Sweden's main airport and was whisked down a baggage chute after she placed herself instead of her luggage on the belt, media reported Wednesday.

The 78-year-old woman, who was not named, was preparing to fly from Stockholm's Arlanda airport to Germany on Tuesday when she lay down on an unmanned baggage belt in the belief she was following check-in instructions, the Upsala Nya Tidning local daily reported on its website.

She was quickly swept off to the baggage handling centre, where staff members helped get her back on her feet.

The woman suffered no serious injury and caught her flight as planned. The woman probably realized that being in the cargo hold of the plane is actually allot more comfortable then the seat she was assigned.

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United Laying Off 10% of It's Flight Attendants

The well oiled machine of United Airlines decided the best thing they could to improve their airlines was to lay off 10% of it's flight attendants. That should set the stage for really impressive customer service for it's passengers.

Now not only will you have 10% less airline crews assisting you during your flight or more likely non-flight, but you just know the other 90% are going to be in a great mood going forward, watching their brethren being marched out the door.

United is seeking 7,000 job reductions companywide by the end of 2009, said spokesman Jeff Kovick. United has previously announced plans to cut as many as 1,600 managers and 5,500 front-line workers, and to furlough 950 pilots.

United said it would seek voluntary flight attendant furloughs first, but will need to get to a total of 1,550 by Oct. 31.

I suppose since United has cut serving food and beverages to economy and business class passengers, they figure flight crews are just redundant corporate overhead. At any point, if you are flying over the next couple of months you can look forward to the previously marginally helpful flight attendants being even more cranky and unhelpful.

This following the trend where passenger will be expected to take over more and more of the airline employees responsibilities for the privilege of flying. Coming soon, checking in your own bag, carrying it to the plane and throwing it in the cargo hold yourself before you board.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Holiday Inn Changing It's Image

Holiday Inn is in the middle of an extensive "rebranding" of it's hotels and image. The Holiday Inn chain is one of the oldest in America and hasn't gone through a major change in its look in some time.

Some of the changes that are being made include:

Redesigned Brand Signage
An evolution of the iconic script logo, energizing the signature color green and eliminating the current shield shape for a more refreshed and contemporary look.

Refreshed Guest Room
New bedding that redefines the look and feel of each guest room with fresh, white triple-sheeting and pillows that come in two comfort levels: “soft” and “firm.” An enhanced bathroom that features an improved showerhead offering superior pressure, as well as a signature shower curtain with curved rod and new amenities to deliver a consistent bath experience that feels fresh and contemporary.

Warm Welcome
A new signature arrival – including new lighting, landscaping and design features – that creates an energized and branded sense of welcome that is universally recognizable. Customized music and scent selections also engage guests in a complete sensory experience, and a decluttered front desk to promote a more efficient and interactive check-in process.

New Service Promise
A best-in-class service culture – “Stay Real” – to further ensure the team develops the behaviors and skills to best serve guests so they feel like individuals and not numbers. Genuine people delivering real service. Leading the charge, will be a newly created position at each hotel – the Guest Experience Champion.

The Holiday Inn in Chelsea was one of the first to undergo the brand change. In the lobby of the hotel features hardwood floors, river rocks and Japanese plants.

The contemporary design is meant to appeal to its Baby Boomer customer base, as well as younger travelers who might pick one of the stylish, midprice hotel brands recently launched, such as Aloft, Element or Hyatt Place.

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Computer Glitch at FAA Causes Hundreds of Delays

A computer problem at the FAA's facility in Atlanta caused a huge airplane backup across the east coast.

A failure in the agency’s flight plan processing system, called NADIN, took place around 1:25 p.m. Eastern Time, an F.A.A. spokesman, Paul Takemoto said.

The system handles the flight plans filed by airlines before the aircraft take off. The plans contain information like the departure and arrival points, the type of aircraft, the route, the name of the pilot and the number of people on board.

The F.A.A. shifted the processing to a backup system in Salt Lake City, which is slower. Airlines were told that in some instances, flight plans would have to be refiled before aircraft could leave the ground.

Mr. Takemoto emphasized that passengers’ safety was not affected.

The most seriously affected were Logan International Airport in Boston, Hartsfield Airport in Atlanta, and O’Hare and Midway airports in Chicago.

At Logan, officials initially placed a hold on arriving traffic. Planes bound for Boston were told to wait at their departure points, according to an F.A.A. Web site that tracks airport delays. The hold was later lifted, but flights were running about an hour behind.

A hold was also placed on traffic headed for Atlanta, where airlines were told flights bound there would not be able to take off until at least 5:30 p.m.

There also was a hold on traffic to Newark Airport until 5:30 p.m.

In Chicago, flights from Midway were delayed from one hour and 31 minutes to one hour and 45 minutes, and the delays were “increasing,” the F.A.A.’s Web site said. Delays at O’Hare were averaging about 30 minutes, not that O'Hare airport ever really needs a reason to delay flights as they are the worlds masters at not being able to get a plane off the ground in time.

Delays of an hour and 15 minutes were reported at Baltimore-Washington International, and an hour at Charlotte, the F.A.A. said.

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Southwest Says it Won't Pay Fine From FAA

Don't you wish you could decide not to pay a fine from the government, well that is what Southwest Airlines has said.

Southwest Airlines says it won't pay a record $10.2 million fine by Friday, the deadline set by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The FAA levied the fine against the Dallas-based airline in March because it said Southwest continued to fly dozens of Boeing 737s that hadn't been inspected for cracks in their fuselages.

Southwest Airlines spokeswoman Whitney Eichinger tonight says, quote, "Our hope continues to be that we will resolve the matter amicably with the FAA, however long that takes."

FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown tells The Associated Press tonight that the FAA is continuing talks with Southwest. She declined further comment.

The FAA set the deadline in an August 12th letter, warning that it would refer Southwest's case to the U.S. attorney's office if the fine isn't paid.

I mean what is the big deal with a few cracks in airplanes, they spent good money paying off FAA inspectors not to enforce inspection rules so why should they have to pay more, doesn't anyone respect a bribe anymore?

Having to pay a fine of course means cuts elsewhere, because what good is loosing money if you can't punish your customers. Yesterday Southwest announced that it would be cutting 200 flights over the winter. The good news of course is that means there are 200 less planes to have cracks in them.

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Monday, August 25, 2008

DHS Foreign Flier Registry Upsets Airlines

A U.S. Homeland Security (OTCBB:HSCC) Department plan requiring three-day advance notice from foreign fliers would be bad for business, say airline leaders.

The registry plan would take effect in January and aim to give security officials more time to check for terrorism and immigration problems among an estimated 14 million visitors annually, USA Today reported Monday.

But airline and other business leaders say the measure would keep travelers away and hurt the U.S. image.

"The U.S. already has a bad reputation in terms of the difficulty of international travel, and this could make it even worse," Steve Lott, of the International Air Transport Association, told USA Today. "We foresee a lot of passengers getting to the airport having no idea what (the new program) is."

Opponents want the Jan. 12 start date postponed. Homeland Security officials have acknowledged there may be initial problems and have said they won't immediately stop unregistered travelers from entering the county.

"There's certainly going to be a phase-in in terms of enforcement," Kathy Kraninger, Homeland Security deputy assistant secretary for policy, said to USA Today.

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United Will Sponsor Olympics Through 2012

With United cutting meal service and crews from international flights, it only makes since that they should be the official airline of the Olympics....again. For reasons passing understanding the U.S. Olympic Committee extended United partnership with the Olympics as the official airline sponsor.

United Airlines today announced its intention to renew its sponsorship agreement with the U.S. Olympic Committee through 2012, extending its 30-year partnership. As a result of this renewal, United will remain the official airline sponsor of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Teams, flying the athletes to Vancouver in 2010 and London in 2012.

"At United, we are proud to fly America's Olympic and Paralympic Teams and the many athletes who are pursuing their lifelong dreams," says Dennis Cary, senior vice president - Marketing. "Our sponsorship of the U.S. Olympic Committee gives us an association with a partner that embodies many of the same qualities to which we aspire -- all on a global stage."

United added, we are very happy that we get to fly the U.S. Olympic Teams because god knows, no one else in their right mind would fly our airlines internationally when there are thousands of better alternatives including swimming for it.

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Embassy Suites Hotel Seattle - Bellevue

I recently stayed at the Embassy Suites in Bellevue Washington for one night on business.

This hotel could have easily been an average Embassy Suites, I think the staff makes the hotel a bit better. The hotel itself is centrally located in Bellevue and is convenient to many of surrounding businesses.

The grounds are lobby are well maintained and the staff is very friendly and helpful. The rooms are standard Embassy Suites, large and comfortable although in desperate need of remodeling. The bathroom looks pretty new however and is nicer then most Embassy Suites I have stayed in.

Even though the rooms are a bit dated, they are still clean and well maintained. Some have balconies off them which is nice when you want some air.

I ordered room service and it was very good and the service was fast. The breakfast in the morning is quite good as well.

Overall a standard Embassy Suites with an above average staff. I would consider returning here next time I am in town.

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ID Theves Steals 8 Million Best Westerns Guest Information

AN international criminal gang has pulled off one of the most audacious cyber-crimes ever and stolen the identities of an estimated eight million people in a hacking raid that could ultimately net more than £2.8billion in illegal funds.

A Sunday Herald investigation has discovered that late on Thursday night, a previously unknown Indian hacker successfully breached the IT defences of the Best Western Hotel group's online booking system and sold details of how to access it through an underground network operated by the Russian mafia.

It is a move that has been dubbed the greatest cyber-heist in world history. The attack scooped up the personal details of every single customer that has booked into one of Best Western's 1312 continental hotels since 2007.

Amounting to a complete identity-theft kit, the stolen data includes a range of private information including home addresses, telephone numbers, credit card details and place of employment.

"They've pulled off a masterstroke here," said security expert Jacques Erasmus, an ex-hacker who now works for the computer security firm Prevx. "There are plenty of hacked company databases for sale online but the sheer volume and quality of the information that's been stolen in the Best Western raid makes this particularly rare. The Russian gangs who specialise in this kind of work will have been exploiting the information from the moment it became available late on Thursday night. In the wrong hands, there's enough data there to spark a major European crime wave."

Although the security breach was closed on Friday after Best Western was alerted by the Sunday Herald, experts fear that information seized in the raid is already being used to pursue a range of criminal strategies.

These include: l Armed with the numbers and expiry dates of customers' credit cards, fraudsters are equipped to make multiple high-value purchases in their victims' names before selling on the goods.

l Bundled together with home addresses and other personal details, the stolen data can be used by professional organised criminal gangs which specialise in identity theft to apply for loans, cards and credit agreements in the victims' names.

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Airline Delay Numbers for June 2008

The US Department of Transportation just released it's airline statistics for June 2008. Delays rose once again in June, keeping with a general trend for 2008. In total, airlines had 70% of their flights arrive on time, here are the individual stats for U.S. Carriers for June:

Best on time performance:

Hawaiian Airlines - 92.2% on time
Pinnacle Airlines - 80.7% on time
Skywest Airlines - 77.9% on time
Alaska Airlines - 77.8% on time

Worst on time performance:

Jetblue Airlines - 64.9% on time
Comair Airlines - 63.4% on time
United Airlines - 59.3% on time
American Airlines - 58.8% on time

Based on these statistics, if you are flying on United or American Airlines you can expect every other flight you are on to be delayed. These two airlines, coincidentally, are the two that have cut back the most on services as well this year.

The worst delayed flights in the country for 2008 to date:

American Airlines - San Francisco to San Juan PR late 100%
American Airlines - Chicago to Dallas Ft. Worth late 96.8%

American Airlines had the most number of flights that were delayed more then 70% of the time, 220 followed by Comair with 65.

As far as major airport go here are your chances of getting out of these cities on time:

Chicago O'Hare - 55.6% on time
New York LGA - 51.2 % on time
New York JFK - 61.6% on time

For loosing your bags, the following airlines were the best at it in June:

American Eagle Airlines lost 10% of customers bags
Mesa Airlines lost 8.48% of customers bags
Comair lost 8.27% of customer bags

All the airlines in bottom slots for lost baggage were regional airlines. On average 1 out of 8 passengers flying on regional carriers arrived without their bag. Look around your regional flight, about 4 of you aren't getting your bag.

The regional carriers also made all the bottom slots for involuntary bumping of passengers for 2008 as well. So not only might your bag not arrive, you might not either. You have 4% chance of being involuntarily being bumped off your regional flight.

There was a three way tie for most number of consumer complaints in June 2008 including Delta, Spirit and United Airlines. I would have to call Spirit the big winner for most number of complaints as they are about 1/8th the size of Delta or United yet managed to get the same number of complaints.

Based on size, once again the regional airlines win the complaint ratio contest making up slots 1 through 8 on highest ratio of consumer complaints.

So there is your June 2008 DOT wrap up for air travel in the U.S. Happy flying all.

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Two Emergency Landings Yesterday at San Francisco

Two Chicago-bound planes taking off from San Francisco International Airport this weekend developed engine problems and had to return. No injuries were reported in either incident.

The first plane, United Airlines flight 158 to Chicago, left San Francisco around 10:30 p.m. Friday. But one of its engine compressors stalled, said United spokeswoman Robin Urbanski. With one engine remaining, the pilot turned the plane around and landed about 30 minutes after takeoff.

Smoke entered the cabin after the plane landed and the engines were shut down, Urbanski said. The airline was investigating the source of the smoke. United provided overnight accommodations to the 240 passengers.

Then, around 1 p.m. Saturday, the right-side engine of a Northwest Airlines flight caught fire shortly after takeoff. An eyewitness who contacted The Chronicle reported seeing two fireballs shoot from the engine as the plane left.

Airport Duty Manager Dan D'Innocenti said the fire was quickly extinguished once the crew shut off the engine. The flight - also bound for Chicago, with roughly 110 passengers - returned to the airport and taxied back to the terminal.

"Once the fire was out, it was not a problem," D'Innocenti said.

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Respect to LeRoi Moore 1961-2008

One of my favorite music groups of all time is the Dave Matthews Band. I have been listening to them since I was 20, first time in a bar in Atlanta before their first CD came out and ever since then have been a fan.

Last week, saxophonist LeRoi Moore died in Los Angeles. He was one of the founding members of the band and my favorite sax player of all time. He will be truly missed and I wanted to take a moment to thank him for all his wonderful music over the years. The world has lost a great musician and person.

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Likelihood of Getting Bumped Rises, So Does Compensation

The bad news: The likelihood that travelers will be bumped from an overbooked flight may grow worse this fall when airlines shrink their fleets to cut unprofitable flights and inefficient planes, meaning even fewer empty seats than there are now.

The good news: Airlines are required to offer richer rewards -- twice the amount of money they used to pay out -- for passengers bumped from a flight. The payoff can be even greater for people who know how to bargain.

In the first six months of the year, about 343,000 passengers were denied seats on planes, according to the U.S. Transportation Department, out of 282 million passengers. Most of those people volunteered to give up their seats in return for some form of compensation, like a voucher for a free flight.

But Transportation Department statistics also show about 1.16 of every 10,000 passengers had their seats taken away outright because of overbooking -- which may sound like a low rate, until your name is called.

Back when most tickets were refundable or easy to change, and the airlines offered multiple daily flights to many cities, carriers used to routinely overbook about 15 percent of their seats. Passengers who missed their plane could simply catch a later flight.

Rules are tighter now, and passengers with nonrefundable tickets can only expect a credit for an unused ticket, often minus a hefty fee, if they change their flight. That means they have more incentive to show up.

But airlines still overbook, regarding bumping as a necessary part of doing business, especially in the face of soaring fuel prices. Overbooking, after all, helps ensure that flights are as full as possible, a priority for the financially troubled carriers.

That strategy can also backfire on the airlines, said Tim Winship, an editor with, a Web site that offers travel advice. The practice is "bad for them, it's bad for morale, and you end up with a potential riot on your hands among people who have to be compensated," he added.

For Delta Air Lines, bumping became a big concern last summer, when 3.3 passengers out of every 10,000 travelers were bumped, more than double the industry average. So Delta started using new technology to better track differences in no-show patterns based on time, day and season.

"We now have a much better view of how many passengers we expect to show up" for the same flight on a Tuesday versus a Friday, said Betsy E. Talton, a Delta spokeswoman. The methods have helped Delta cut its involuntary bumpings in half, putting it more in line with the industry average.

Meanwhile, Continental Airlines said it was introducing a new feature on its Web site and at airport kiosks that lets travelers automatically check in within 24 hours of their return flight. The step is meant to save travelers the trouble of going online to check in the day before their return flight. It can also help protect them against getting bumped, since Continental will know that they plan to make the flight.

The higher cost of payouts, which the Transportation Department doubled this spring after last summer's travel chaos, gives the airlines extra incentive to refine their overbooking models.

Travelers can now receive up to $400 if they are involuntarily bumped and rebooked on another flight within two hours after their original domestic flight time and within four hours for international. They are eligible for up to $800 in cash if they are not rerouted by then. The final amount depends on the length of the flight and the price paid for the ticket.

Compensation must be paid immediately in cash, or with a voucher if the passenger accepts it, and the airline must offer a choice of a refund, a return flight to their departure city or an alternative flight. Volunteers also receive compensation, which they negotiate with the airline.

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Airline Elite Programs Not So Special Anymore

Airlines, having all the marketing savvy of a 4th grader, have been targeting those frequent passengers on their elite rosters with new restrictions and fees.

As a frequent flier on United Airlines, I have started seeing changes in the availability of upgrades. Where a couple of months ago, if I was using miles to upgrade to first, I would be cleared right away, now it is not happening until the day of the flight.

My suspicion was validated in today's Washington Post where I discovered United Airlines is holding back more first and business class seats in the hope of selling them opposed to giving them for miles or certificates.

The following is a list of new fees added by U.S. carriers to elite fliers over the past month:

Delta Airlines - $25 fuel surcharge on domestic tickets, $50 for international regardless of medallion level

US Airways - No more elite level bonus miles, $25 fee for domestic tickets, $35 for Mexico and the Caribbean, and $50 for international.

American - $5 processing fee to redeem ticket online, $50 co-payment for one-way upgrades from economy, $150 for upgrades when traveling between North America and Central America, and $350 for travel to Europe, India, Asia and South America.

Continental - Three-week advance ticketing deadline or $75 fee, less availability on high demand routes. Miles required for China or Hong Kong rise from 250,000 to 300,000 (that is about 300 domestic round trips to acquire)

Northwest - $25 charge for domestic tickets, $50 for trans-Atlantic tickets, $200 for trans- Pacific travel.

Southwest - No changes

United - No bonus miles for elite travelers, reduction in available upgrades.

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Friday, August 22, 2008

US Air Trying to do Things Right for a Change

Last year, US Airways was the worst among major airlines in on-time performance. So far this year, it's No. 1.

The turnaround has been dramatic, especially considering that much of the airline's service is in the Northeast where air-traffic congestion has been particularly brutal. But even at the nation's worst airports, US Airways Group Inc. has run more or less on time. At New York's La Guardia Airport, for example, nearly 79 percent of all US Airways flights arrived on time in May, compared with an abysmal 57 percent for AMR Corp.'s American Airlines and 58 percent for UAL Corp.'s United Airlines, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

How can one airline with big congested hubs run on time while other major carriers stumble? US Airways rallied its work force to focus on one goal — getting planes pushed back from the gate on time — and began offering financial incentives to workers for better service.

The airline is spending about $50 million to fix its operation, upgrading equipment and software, fixing computer problems that resulted from its merger with America West Airlines, hiring new management and airport workers, reworking how planes and crews are scheduled and building a crucial new baggage-screening area in Philadelphia.

Some simple things have helped, like installing new electronic displays beside gates so airport ground workers have better information about an airplane's destination and departure time. US Airways also changed how baggage handlers move connecting luggage, with runners taking suitcases directly to connecting flights instead of dumping them in a central sorting area and hoping they get out to the proper aircraft.

The airline made a big push to fill all open mechanics positions at its two biggest hubs, Philadelphia and Phoenix, adding more than 100 workers before the summer travel rush began. As a result, broken things on airplanes — such as light bulbs and seats — that were customer annoyances have been more aggressively repaired. US Airways has a list of those kinds of problems that workers jokingly called NEF — Never Ever Fixed. That list has been reduced by half.

But the biggest change has been the airline's push to inspire workers to deliver better service. "Airlines, or really any organization, need a rallying cry, especially one that has been the worst of the worst for so long," said Robert Isom, the airline's chief operating officer.

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Frontier Airlines to Add Fees for Award Tickets

Frontier Airlines is the latest airline to announce it will start charging fees when certain customers redeem ≠frequent-flier miles. Frontier said Thursday that starting Sept. 15, it will add a $25 fee on EarlyReturns award tickets and $75 on EarlyReturns award tickets booked for travel within 14 days. Some passengers are exempt from some fees, including frequent fliers with a certain number of miles.

This comes on top of recent changes by the airline in the number of miles required to get a free ticket.

The changes will take effect for tickets purchased after Sept. 15. Instead of needing 15,000 miles for a round-trip ticket in anywhere in the continental U.S. and Canada, 20,000 miles will be needed. The fee for changing a flight will increase from $35 to $75. Summit-status members will not charged these fees.

"The price of oil is behind every change the airlines are making right now," said Frontier spokeswoman Lindsey Purves. "When we established the initial EarlyReturns program, we were looking at barrels of oil that cost vastly less."

The carrier is operating under bankruptcy protection.

Purves said that despite the change, Frontier still offers one of the lowest redemption rates in the country.

United Airlines, by comparison, requires 50,000 frequent-flier miles for a free round-trip ticket in the U.S., excluding Hawaii and Canada.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

United Airlines Fined $18,000 For Accident in Jackson Hole WY

In response to a United Jet skidding off the runway in Jackson Hole WY, the FAA is fining the airline $18,000 for maintenance violations that led to the crash.

After being caught in bed with Airlines, the FAA has turned up the heat on airlines to do crazy things like fix their planes. This is the latest in a series of fines that were discovered by inspectors once they actually started inspecting something.

The U.S. flight agency is proposing an US$18,000 civil penalty against United Airlines for two maintenance violations it said occurred before a United jet skidded off a runway and ended up in three feet of snow in February.

The Federal Aviation Administration disclosed the fine on Thursday after The Associated Press asked about violations cited in FAA documents.

The FAA said it notified United of the proposed penalty on Friday.

A Feb. 25 flight with 125 people aboard slid off the runway after landing in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

No one was seriously hurt.

The National Transportation Safety Board said in March that the A320 at Jackson Hole and another United A320 that also skidded off a runway had crossed wiring in their main landing gear.

It is believed that caused the wheels to lock.

United Airlines said that if they are forced to pay the $18,000 fine they would have to stop giving passengers water for 3.2 decades to break even on the charge

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At United Airlines, The Patients Want to Take Over the Asylum

Workers at United Airlines are banding together to throw out the CEO. Like a scene out of "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest", the patients are trying to take over the asylum at United. The only confusing thing here is that the majority of customer complaints with the airlines is the customer service from the workers not the CEO, although admittedly the executives at United do appear to be lobotomized judging from their recent new policies.

About 20,000 wristbands bearing the phrase "Glenn's Gotta Go" have been distributed among United workers recently, according to the Association of Flight Attendants, one of the unions pushing to oust United Chief Executive Glenn Tilton.

The next phase of protests will be from the passengers of United Airlines, who will begin wearing brown wristbands bearing the phrase "What in the Hell do the Flight Attendants Do Anyhow". This based on the confusion that most passengers have that flight crews are their for customer service, a position which has been flatly denied by the Association of Flight Attendants.

"Our employees do great work every day, and they are dedicated to maintaining the highest standards of safety, customer service and professionalism. Disparaging each other in any way only detracts from all our efforts," said United spokeswoman Jean Medina. "This is not about a wristband. It's about treating each other with respect and being appropriate in the workplace."

United spokeswoman Jean Medina, which has obviously never been a passenger on her own airline, should stop taking drugs because if she thinks United's employees are dedicated to customer service, she is definitely on something, and please give me some before my next flight.

United's pilots have stopped wearing their caps as a show of protest. Pilots last year formed a "dishonor guard" outside an exit of the carrier's annual meeting, throwing their caps to the ground as Tilton walked by. This of course followed by United Pilots deliberately being late for flights so they would cancel, another example of that dedication to customer service.

The United Pilot's protest, which is remaniscent of something you would see during third grade recess at most elementary schools, has not affected the CEO in the way it was planned, probably because he was laughing too hard.

As far as United Airline's passengers are concerned, a spokesman for the passengers send a response to the United Employees who are protesting and to the CEO of the airlines in the form of another wristband they can wear that says "GROW THE HELL UP"

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U.S. Airlines Want to Hold Off on New Drug Testing

The Airlines Trade Group, the Air Transportation Association, the very organization that lobbied against passenger rights legislation, also would like to delay new drug testing requirements for U.S. carriers.

Stretching for a really good excuse, the settled for this one.

U.S. airlines want to delay implementation of a new rule forcing them to observe urine collections for employee drug tests, saying employers need time to hire and train more workers.

Airlines need more test-sample collectors who are the same gender as test takers, the carriers said through their two Washington trade groups. Currently, most employees tested are men while the majority of those who collect the samples are women, the groups said.

Coming just a few days after American Airlines was fined $7 million dollars for among other things, failing to properly drug test their employees, I can certainly see how the U.S. airlines and the trade groups wants deep six the latest drug testing rules that would ensure that your pilot isn't circling the airport before the plane is.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Spainair Flight from Barcelona Crashes in Madrid

Spainair flight JK5022, flying from Barcelona to the Canary Islands crashed at Madrid's International Airport killing 153 of the passengers and crew. The MD-88 had 172 crew members and passengers on board, only 16 survived the fiery crash.

As smoke billowed from the wreckage, dozens of fire trucks and ambulances rushed to help, lining a nearby road and filling a field next to a swath of charred vegetation. Helicopters flew over dumping water on fires.

"The scene is devastating," said Pablo Albella, an emergency rescue worker. "The fuselage is destroyed. The plane burned. I have seen a kilometer of charred land and few whole pieces of the fuselage. It is all destruction."

Rescuers rushed the few survivors to hospitals, while emergency workers shrouded the dead in white sheets. One body lay on burned grass, an arm and a leg poking out.

Later, a long convoy of black hearses rolled onto the airport grounds to carry bodies to a makeshift morgue set up at Madrid's main convention center — the facility used for relatives to identify bodies after the 2004 Islamic terror bombings that killed 191 people on Madrid commuter trains.

A stready stream of hearses arrived at the morgue under police escort Wednesday night. Mourners went to a special waiting area, avoiding photographers and reporters.

It was not immediately clear what went wrong. Alvarez said the jetliner had barely gotten airborne when it veered right, crashed and broke into pieces. Local authorities indicated one of the planes engines caught fire on take off.

This was one of Spain's most devastating air disasters ever. The investigation by Spanish authorities continue but all evidence is pointing to engine failure of MD-80 on take off. Witnesses on the ground report seeing fire coming from the engine as the plane took off and flight recorders were recovered to analyze the accident.

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United to Stop Snacks to Economy Passengers and Free Meals to Business Class

The marketing geniuses at United Airlines today announced a new series of travel incentives for the airlines to begin immediately. Aimed at both economy and business class passengers the cuts include:

1. No more free snacks for economy passengers on domestic flights in North America. Yes that's right, wave bye to your peanuts and pretzels, apparently the weight of the snacks is costing too much in fuel.

2. No more free meals for Business Class passengers. Passengers paying extra to fly in Business Class will be offered Buy on Board food, because that $1,000 you paid extra for your ticket doesn't cover the cost of the ham sandwich anymore.

3. Since there is no more food in Business Class, they don't need as many flight attendants anymore so of course they are cutting the number of FA's in Business Class. This will undoubtedly save them more on fuel then the peanuts as most of them are bigger then mini vans and serve little purpose anyhow.

4. No more free food in economy class for international flights. Once again, the food will be Buy on Board for international coach class. There is a good reason to keep flying united to Europe instead of Virgin.

Airline industry experts are already weighing in on United's new policy.

"These moves are flat-out stupid," said Henry Harteveldt, an airline industry analyst at Forrester Research in San Francisco. "The savings they will get doing away with lunch in business class - they will lose more than that when corporations yank business.

"The challenging thing about business is that whether things are good or bad, you have to invest in your product for the sake of keeping customers and to make it harder for competitors to catch up with you. This does nothing to encourage people to pay more because you give more. They really make me question whether the inmates have taken control of the asylum."

I guess now would be a really good time to point out that United's international flights really aren't that great of a deal and cost about the same as Virgin Airlines which treats you much better, although for United that is setting the bar pretty low.

So at a time when United Airlines is trying to increase it's international customer base, the airline industry executives, who are collectively too stupid to roll a rock down a steep hill, have come up with this brilliant plan. Sit back and enjoy your 18 flight and just chew on your air sick bag if you get hungry.

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American Airlines to Begin Offering WiFi on Flights

American Airlines announced today that they would be adding WiFi to 15 of its planes for coast to coast flights. The first planes to receive WiFi will be American Airlines 767's which fly non-stop between New York and San Francisco, Los Angeles and Miami.

The service will cost a flat rate of $12.95 on flights of more than three hours, and passengers can sign up for Internet access much like they would at a Starbucks or hotel. When they turn on their laptops or BlackBerrys at 10,000 feet and open their Web browsers, they will be automatically directed to a portal page where they enter their credit card information.

The service provider, Gogo, is the same that is providing WiFi service to Virgin Airlines by the end of the year.

Other airlines which are getting onboard the WiFi trend are Jetblue, Southwest, Alaska and United. Delta Airlines has committed to WiFi by fall on international flights and will be fleetwide by 2009.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Airlines Reviving Minimum Stay Requirements

A recent check by found that 64 percent of the 5,335 round-trip air fares for sale at UAL Corp.'s United Airlines, for example, had some sort of minimum-stay requirement. Most were two- and three-night stay requirements.

Yes the airlines are dusting off the minimum stay requirements, created by the airline industry in the 90's to j-rake business travelers, whom for reasons passing understanding, actually wanted to get home to their families after business trips.

The difference between the 90's minimum stay requirement and the current days requirement, is that in the 90's corporate travel policies were actually reasonable, thus allowing business travelers to purchase the higher price tickets. Today's corporations, which tend to resemble the crusade period of Lords and Serfs, tend to keep business travelers from purchasing these tickets so that executives and board members don't have to sell off any of their yachts.

The typical corporate travel policy, composed by people in the corporation who don't travel, insists the employee purchase the least costliest ticket, meaning get ready to spend the weekend in Des Moines Iowa after your week of meetings. Don't worry you can always video conference with your kids to see how much they have grown while you were gone and to find out who mommy's new sleepover friend is.

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United Airlines and Westin Hotels Join to Create Heavenly Air Experiance

They might be charging you extra for everything, but business and first class passengers on United p.s. flights to San Francisco, Los Angeles and JFK will be receiving a new "heavenly" experience inspired by the Westin Hotel brand.

Yes, while you wait for your most certainly delayed plane in one of the worlds worst airports, JFK, United Red Carpet Club members will be treated to the new Westin Renewal Lounge. The San Francisco lounge is equipped with a revolutionary blue-light ActiViva lamp -- not yet available for purchase in the United States -- which provides phototherapy and directly affects the way people feel by making them more alert, awake and energized. Created by the Westin design team and outfitted with plush furniture, fabrics and the brand's nature-inspired color palette, each Renewal Lounge features a signature LED candle wall and artwork typical of the Westin soothing aesthetic. While much of the furniture found in the Westin Renewal Lounges mirrors the offerings at Westin properties, the company's designers also created two pieces of custom furniture specifically for the United lounges: an upholstered ottoman with a built-in table (for displaying custom botanicals or books) and a day bed for resting. The Westin signature White Tea scent is diffused throughout the Renewal Lounges, while LCD televisions play custom Blue Marvel videos that feature inspiring footage of the natural world.

Once your finally able to board your flight for the west coast, business and first class p.s. fliers will enjoy custom oversized Heavenly blankets and pillows inspired by the Westin iconic Heavenly Bed. Travelers will also be treated to refreshing White Tea scented towelettes and mints, and custom video and music on United's personal media players. Through a partnership with award-winning video production company Blue Marvel, Westin Hotels has created signature video content featuring stunning, soothing nature scenes from across the world; meanwhile, music selections from the brand's customized playlists include songs featured in Westin lobbies worldwide.

The new partnership theme is only available on United p.s. flights from JFK, Los Angeles or San Francisco and it is the hope of United Airlines that the new soothing experience will help decrease the stress of passengers created by the flight attendants, service personnel and the airport.

United is also hoping the new schema in Red Carpet Clubs and the planes will also soothe the flight crew thus coaxing them into a more relaxed state causing them to actually be pleasant to passengers during the flight.

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Airlines Predict Drop in Passengers for Labor Day Weekend

Major U.S. airlines will see a 6 percent drop in passengers during the eight-day Labor Day holiday period as high oil prices continue to roil the industry, the airlines' trade organization predicted on Monday.

The Air Transport Association of America (ATA) said that although fuel prices have declined in recent weeks, jet fuel has averaged $160.47 a barrel this summer, 79 percent higher than last summer's price.

Crude oil has retreated from a record high above $147 a barrel on July 11 to around $114 on Monday, but that compares to roughly $72 this time last year and is still far too high for the struggling U.S. airline industry.

To survive, airlines have been making big cuts in routes, staff and capacity, as well as raising fares and introducing fees for checked bags and other services.

"High energy prices across the economy, rising air fares and airline schedule cuts are the primary drivers of the overall reduction in passenger volumes expected for this (Labor Day) period," the ATA said in a statement.

The ATA forecast that 16 million passengers will travel globally on U.S. airlines from August 27 through September 3 -- a decline of 5.7 percent from the same period last year.

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Hilton Changes HHonors Reward Program

With airlines changing the rules of their frequent-flier programs to help improve their balance sheets, it was only a matter of time before hotel chains began to re-evaluate their own loyalty schemes.

Still, many travelers were surprised, confused and even angry when, earlier this month, Hilton Hotels Corp. announced two major changes to its program, Hilton HHonors. It made it more difficult to qualify for elite status, and it restricted access to so-called executive lounges at its high-end properties.

In 2005, Hilton pioneered a "rolling VIP tier qualification" system, which replaced the industry standard of requiring a certain number of stays or nights during a calendar year - from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31 - to win elite status.

Under the new rules, you could qualify at any time. You still needed 16 stays or 36 nights to become a gold member, and 28 stays or 60 nights for diamond over 12 consecutive months. But if you couldn´t achieve that by Dec. 31, you could do it in February or May - and not have to wait another whole year to enjoy the benefits that come with status.

At the time, Hilton said the new system was fairer to those customers who almost made it by year´s end, but not quite. Two weeks ago, however, it said that the "rolling" method was too confusing for its members, and it would roll it back beginning Jan. 1.

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Some Airlines Cutting Fares as Demand Drops

Some U.S. airlines are slashing fares as the busy summer travel season draws to a close.

The carriers had increased fares because of skyrocketing fuel costs but the combination of cheaper oil and a steep fall in demand is sending prices in the other direction, the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday.

"It's a good time to fly if you want to put up with the grief," said Joe Brancatelli, who advises business travelers on

Virgin America and AirTran have offered one-way tickets between New York and Los Angeles priced at $139. Passengers may be able to fly between the San Francisco area and Southern California for $49 on Southwest and JetBlue.

Carriers are still paying far more for fuel than they were a year ago. But Brancatelli said they are desperate to fill all their seats.

Some airlines have begun offering discounted fares on international routes.

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

No Free Coffee on US Air Flights...Unless of Course You Insist

The US Airways Group will become the first major American airline to charge for coffee and sodas on Friday, though many passengers may still get free beverages.

The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA is objecting to collecting the $1 and $2 fees for nonalcoholic drinks, which US Airways is imposing to counter record fuel costs. Should travelers balk, they probably will not have to pay, the union said.

“We’re trained to keep order on an airplane and defuse confrontation,” Mike Flores, president of US Airways’ A.F.A. chapter, said in an interview Thursday. “If it takes giving a free beverage to somebody to do that, so be it. I expect there will be flight attendants who just give everything away.”

The union’s complaints mean the airline will set a new industry standard while relying on employees upset at having to enforce it. The soft-drink policy is among a package of new fees that US Airways says will produce $500 million in new annual revenue.

US Airways has told its 6,700 attendants to “err on the side of the customer” in deciding whether they need to end a confrontation by providing a free beverage, an airline spokesman, Morgan Durrant, said.

“This is one tactic we’ve just had to put in place to cope with fuel prices,” Mr. Durrant said. The carrier posted a second-quarter net loss of $567 million.

US Airways announced plans for the fee on June 12. It is also cutting 2,000 jobs to reduce expenses.

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UK Slams Airlines Airlines for Sexy Dresscode

Here is a problem that U.S. air carriers are never going to have to deal with. Some United Kingdom airlines are under fire from a watchdog group alleging employers force sexist dress code on female workers.

A problem that just isn't going to surface with U.S. air carriers, where crew members dress like storm troopers and the average age is around 62 making dressing sexy for them like putting lipstick on a pig to make it look good, the U.K.'s flight staff tends to be different from U.S. carriers in ways such as looking good, treating passengers nicely and having a good attitude.

The umbrella group of unions in Britain, the Trades Union Council, says some employers are mandating women wear high heels, which it deems "inappropriate footwear" that leads to long-term foot and back problems.

"Heels may look glamorous on the catwalks and on Hollywood stars, but they're not appropriate day-to-day work wear," TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said. "These dress codes, apart from being blatantly sexist, can lead to health problems."

The "Working Feet and Footwear" report claims a number of big companies make female employees wear slip-on or high heel shoes if their jobs require dealing with the public. The TUC declined to name the specific companies but said at least one department store as well as some airlines and city institutions are culprits.

"We were surprised how many times we found employers' dress codes did not permit the wearing of comfortable footwear," Barber said.

The Trades Union Council calls itself "the voice of Britain at work," according to its Web site. "With 58 affiliated unions representing nearly 7 million working people from all walks of life, we campaign for a fair deal at work and for social justice at home and abroad."

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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Brittish Airways and Iberia Might Want to Rethink The Wedding with American Airlines

Like finding out you just married a crack whore, British Airways and Iberia might be rethinking their blissful union with a trouble plagued American Airlines which has been characterized as "an magnificent air disaster just waiting to happen".

This weeks recent findings that American Airlines allowed planes to fly without, among other things, a functioning auto pilot, radio altimeter, inspected hydraulic lines, emergency pathway lighting and of course sober pilots, flight crews and maintenance workers, has given the Brits and Spaniards a bit of wedding day cold feet.

This is just the latest round of revelations regarding American Airline to surface. After an amazing streak of emergency landings that followed the grounding of their entire MD-80 fleet for failure to meet FAA inspection guidelines, American Airlines executives said the recent $7 million dollar fine was excessive". This was of course said by the American Airline spokesmen just after he got done huffing a few gallons of Glitton flat white house primer paint before his random drug testing.

It is possible that British Airlines and Iberia might find the maintenance and drug testing policies in place by American, which there seems to be none, incompatible with their current business model of making sure planes don't plummet to the ground from failed equipment and a crew high on Peruvian flake.

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American Airlines Allowed Unsafe Flights

American Airlines, who's PR machine has been working triple overtime lately trying to keep up with the retarded positions of their upper management, today respectfully disagreed with the FAA who claims they allowed unsafe flights.

American Airlines stated "We do not agree with the FAA's findings and characterizations of American's action in these cases. We believe the proposed penalties are excessive." The following are the list of items that American Airlines does not agree are unsafe:

1. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said that American Airlines deliberately flew two planes 58 times in December with broken parts that made them unsafe to operate under certain conditions and "not airworthy."

2. The agency said that the airline had failed to inspect emergency escape path lighting systems on other planes and that it also had extensive deficiencies in its drug and alcohol testing programs.

3. According to the aviation agency, a pilot said that the autopilot had malfunctioned on one plane during a landing at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

The problem, however, was actually in a motor that adjusts the tail, controlling the up and down pitch of the plane, a part "critical to the safety of flight," the agency said.

The airline decided the plane was not safe for automated landings.

That inability would not have required the plane to be grounded, but the aviation agency said it should have been kept out of certain high-altitude airspace that required close altitude control.

An inspector found that the problem had been misdiagnosed about two days later, and won agreement from a shift supervisor that the problem would be addressed before the plane went back into service.

According to the aviation agency, the plane was put back in service anyway, because the information had not been entered in a computer system.

Because of additional miscommunications, the part was not fixed until after an additional 18 flights.

4. In another case, maintenance workers reacted to a failure on landing by warning the cockpit crew not to use the autopilot. The autopilot was working, but the problem was in a radio altimeter.

Because of the malfunctioning radio altimeter, low-altitude warning equipment - which also warns the crew if it forgets to lower the landing gear - was not working. That meant the plane, unknown to the crew, could not legally land at certain airports.

5. The government said the company also gave advance notice to employees of drug and alcohol tests, which it was not supposed to do, and set up the tests in a way that allowed some employees to avoid them.

It failed to do proper follow-up drug and alcohol tests on 35 employees who tested positive or whose samples might have been adulterated or substituted, the agency said, allowing them to continue in "safety-sensitive functions." They included pilots, flight attendants and mechanics.

It allowed 25 employees to continue working even though they had refused to take follow-up tests, the agency said.

So it is easily understandable how American Airlines feels that the FAA is making way to big of a deal of all this "safety and drug testing stuff", an American Airlines spokesman said as he fired up a $15 crack rock.

American Airlines, in response to the FAA report that basically said they have no random drug testing and even if they did it doesn't seem to care, stated "American Airlines is committed to a drug free flight to all passengers who pay the $20 fee for a pilot who isn't high on glue."

American Airlines also plans to start incorporating a policy directing passengers to carry assigned spare airplane parts they are handed at check in to ensure any maintenance deficiencies are handled en route.

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Friday, August 15, 2008

Even Presidential Candidate's Planes Make Emergency Landings

A chartered plane carrying Democratic presidential candidate Barack
Obama made a precautionary landing at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport
this morning after the pilot reported a flight-control problem.

The Midwest Airlines MD-80 had taken off from Chicago’s Midway Airport and was
en route to Charlotte, N.C., where Sen. Obama, D-Ill., is scheduled to take
part in a town hall meeting. Some time after takeoff, the pilot reported "a
little stiffness in the controls" and diverted to St. Louis as a precaution,
said Midwest spokesman Mike Brophy.

"There was never a loss of control," Brophy said.

The Associated Press reported that the plane experienced a problem maintaining
the proper pitch, or control over keeping the nose at the proper angle, as it
was taking off from Chicago.

The plane landed without incident at 9:51 a.m. and was being examined at
Signature Flight Support, which provides business aviation services at Lambert.
No emergency was declared, said Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman
Elizabeth Isham Cory. Emergency crews were standing by when the plane landed.

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My Two Favorite Animals

I was recently stumbling a blog and ran across a great article about Koala Bears.

One of my favorite animals that I was joking with my wife that we need to get as a pet is the Philippine Tarsier, now I am thinking that a Koala would be great too, maybe they could keep each other company !

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Motel 6 and Microtel Updating Rooms to Keep Up

People have long made fun of Motel 6 and Microtel along with other budget hotels as outdated relics of the past. Business travels lean more toward newly renovated hotels such as Marriott Courtyards and Hilton's Garden and Hampton Inn's.

Both hotels are going through a renovation period to keep up. Changes for both hotels include:

Motel 6
Paul Priestman, a co-founder of British design firm Priestman Goode, headed the team that created Motel 6's new look. He knows how to get the most from small spaces, having prev­iously worked on airplane and cruise-ship projects. The updated design will start appearing in new and existing hotels (of which there are 900) this fall.

1. Lighting
Priestman built special wall fixtures to illuminate the room indirectly and reduce the need for a lot of overhead lights. "I wanted the light to reflect off the walls, not to blind people."

2. Seating area
A table and a chair were placed in a corner to create a space for socializing—something that's currently lacking. With a table-side electric socket, and Wi-Fi available for $3 per day, the area doubles as a work space.

3. Bed Platform
Beds give the room a sense of openness because guests can see beneath them; the sight line isn't interrupted by a bed frame and skirt. There's also more room to store luggage.

4. Color palette
Numerous color schemes are in the works: orange (as shown) and possibly green, purple, and tan. Motel 6 is deciding whether single and double rooms (or ground-floor and second-floor rooms) will get different colors.

5. Floors
The carpeting is being replaced by floors made of composite wood and plastic laminate. "A lot of people feel that carpets aren't very clean," says Priestman.

6. TV unit and closet
Priestman believes that furniture in small spaces should serve at least two functions. This unit contains a flat-screen TV and a multimedia panel where an iPod and an Xbox can be plugged in. Behind the unit—and accessible from the side—is a rod for hanging clothes.

Students at the Savannah College of Art and Design were invited to enter a contest to create a modern room with a budget of $7,500. Bijal Patel, one of three finalists, was hired to produce the prototype. More than 30 new hotels will use the design this year; Microtel's nearly 300 existing properties will be redecorated as needed.

1. Room divider
A screen separates the bed from the sitting area. "Guests especially appreciate this feature because it makes the room feel like a suite, with added privacy," Patel says.

2. Bed
Rooms will have beds with a new pillow-top mattress, one extra pillow (for a total of three), and a thin comforter between two layers of sheets, instead of a bedspread.

3. Desk
Guests noted on checkout comment cards that they'd like more work space, so Patel designed a workstation with enough room for two people (and with electrical outlets built into the desktop). Wi-Fi is free at most Microtel properties.

4. TV
Microtel swapped out box-style TVs for 26- or 32-inch wall-mounted flat-screens after market research showed they were one of the main things people want in hotel rooms.

5. Color palette
Patel's goal was to avoid the boring beige walls she sees in every hotel. She created six color schemes: cappuccino (as shown), citrus, metro, breeze, nature, and Microtel (a combination of navy blue, yellow, and amber). Properties will each have a single palette.

6. Kitchen
Patel chose granite countertops and a bar and stools (instead of a table and chairs) for what the company calls the MicroKitchen. She aimed to combine the "warmth of the guest's own kitchen with a café-like setting."

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Sharaton Hotels to Get Microsoft Surfaces

BURLINGAME, Calif.--In Vegas, club goers are flirting with each other across it. Here at a San Francisco Bay Area hotel, pre-teens are playing it like a jukebox.

It's Microsoft's Surface, a sit-down, touch-screen computer that's making a wider public debut across the country. While Apple has popularized mobile touch-screen computers, Microsoft is trying to make them fixtures of bars and hotels.

On Wednesday, five Sheraton hotels, including locations here and in New York, Boston, and Seattle, started testing the interactive table with their hotel guests. The machines let people use two fingers instead of a mouse to virtually research restaurants, play music, or plot a walking tour.

While there is somewhat of a learning curve with the machines--it's not immediately clear where or how to "click" the table--Craig Parker, Sheraton Gateway Hotel's general manager, said that the new Surface computers modernize the hotel. "It has potential to be our virtual concierge," he said.

Earlier this year, Harrah's Rio hotel in Las Vegas brought in six Surface machines to its club, iBar. Those computers enable people to send flirty messages between tables or concoct their own drinks before ordering at the bar.

Comparatively, the Sheraton Surfaces have fairly tame applications--but this is one of Microsoft's larger roll-outs of the estimated $10,000 machines. People can hunt for photos and videos of Sheraton hotels around the country, look up local businesses on a map, or play music. (AT&T stores also have Surface machines that let people research phones.)

Originally code-named Milan, the Surface computer looks like a 1980s sit-down arcade machine. The table includes a 30-inch display that uses infrared cameras and a projector to create a 360-degree touch-screen that can respond to multiple users' hand gestures, as well as interact with other objects.

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

FAA Steps Up Enforcement Fining American Airlines $7 Million for Safety Violations

Federal regulators announced $7.1 million in fines against American Airlines on Thursday over maintenance issues and problems with its drug- and alcohol-testing programs.

"The FAA believes the large total amount of the fine for these violations is appropriate because American Airlines was aware that appropriate repairs were needed, and instead deferred maintenance," the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement announcing the decision. "In intentionally continuing to fly the aircraft, the carrier did not follow important safety regulations intended to protect passengers and crew."

American can still appeal the fines, the FAA said.

The FAA also found the airline maintained inadequate drug- and alcohol-testing programs and failed to inspect safety lighting on a "timely" basis.

The Fort Worth, Texas-based carrier said Thursday evening that it disagreed with the findings and called the penalties "excessive."

"In accordance with FAA procedures for handling these matters, we have requested to meet with the FAA after we have had time to thoroughly review their findings, so that we may discuss the issues," the airline said in a written statement. "Since these matters are ongoing with the FAA, we will not have any further comment at this time."

Nearly $4.5 million of the proposed fines stem from American's continued operation of two MD-83 jetliners in December 2007 after pilots reported problems with the autopilot systems, the FAA said.

The two planes were flown a combined 58 times before the problems were corrected -- and one flew 10 times after an FAA inspector notified the airline that it had wrongly deferred needed repairs.

In one incident, the autopilot disconnected during a landing on December 21, the FAA said. "American technicians did not check for the actual problem, and instead deferred maintenance using an inappropriate MEL (minimum equipment list) item. The plane flew another 36 passenger-carrying flights during December 21-31."

The problem was later traced to a piece of radio gear separate from the autopilot, the FAA said. Meanwhile, a different MD-83 flew four flights without a fully functioning autopilot after American mechanics put off repairs.

Regulators also accuse American of operating planes without timely inspections of their emergency lighting systems.

In April, American canceled more than 3,000 flights to conduct inspections of wiring bundles in wheel wells of its 300 MD-80 jets, snarling air traffic for five days.

The FAA ordered American and several other airlines to examine the wiring, which had the potential to start fires or cause landing gear to malfunction.

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Airlines Dump Earplugs and Make Meals Smaller to Lighten Planes

Because the amazing weight of earplugs and peanuts, airlines have started removing them flights. Air carriers who are trying to save on fuel are looking to throw anything off the plane they possibly can and apparently the enormous weight of foam earplugs are costing too much fuel. Additionally food portions are starting to be trimmed down, if that were possible.

Going forward, due to the weight of a full bag of peanuts, passengers will each receive 1 peanut to save on jet fuel and will be required to place their fingers in their ears should they require ear plugs. The next step of course would be to eliminate the passengers fingers as well to increase savings.

British Airways is reducing the weight of passenger meals, replacing catering trolleys and scrapping cabin crew paperwork.

On a typical long-haul flight, catering equipment and food on a BA freight weighs six tonnes.

Other airlines are removing earplugs, cutting back on sachets and even shaving millimetres off cutlery.

But the one area air carriers are refusing to tackle is the sensitive issue of obese passengers.

Airlines say they have no plans to charge passengers - even the heaviest - according to how much they weigh.

In the lucrative transatlantic market - with millions of flyers from the US where citizens are notoriously litigious - the idea of 'discriminating' against larger flyers is anathema.

Weighing passengers and telling some they are 'too fat to fly' or must pay a surcharge might do far more to reduce fuel consumption.

Levels of obesity have trebled in the past 20 years and airlines often receive complaints from passengers who have been squashed by fat neighbours.

But airlines believe a pay-as-you-weigh policy would provoke a furious backlash and potential legal action.

So good news for our "supersized" brethren out there, you don't have to worry about be surcharged, instead make sure you bring your triple quarter pounder super size value meal along for the ride because I don't think the peanut is going to get you through it. The good news of course is that the passenger next to you wont need earplugs because he will pinned to the bulkhead of the plane by your heft thus rendering him deaf and possibly concussed.

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American Airlines, Brittish Airways and Iberia Form Codeshare Agreement

LONDON -- British Airways PLC, American Airlines and Spain's Iberia SA said Thursday they have signed a joint business agreement on flights between North America and Europe.

The three airlines said that they planned to file for worldwide antitrust immunity from U.S. authorities for the deal later Thursday. They will also notify European regulatory authorities.

A deal between the trio has long been anticipated -- rival carrier Virgin Atlantic earlier this week sent a pre-emptive letter to both U.S. presidential candidates warning that a deal would be anticompetitive on the lucrative trans-Atlantic route.

BA, AMR Corp.'s American and Iberia argued that a closer relationship on pricing and seat capacity will benefit customers by providing improved connections and flight schedules.

Under the joint business agreement, the three airlines will cooperate commercially on flights between the U.S., Mexico and Canada, and the European Union, Switzerland and Norway while continuing to operate as separate legal entities.

They will expand their codeshare arrangements on flights within and beyond the EU and U.S., significantly increasing the number of destination choices that the airlines can offer customers.

Virgin Atlantic Airways president Richard Branson said earlier this week that he had written to Senators Barack Obama and John McCain to warn that the proposed alliance between British Airways PLC and American Airlines would severely damage competition on trans-Atlantic routes.

Branson said that a closer relationship between the two carriers would result in higher prices for customers and job losses on both sides of the Atlantic, adding it was "very dangerous" to believe that consolidation was the best response to the current difficult economic conditions.

"Just because life is tough out there, you shouldn't rid yourself of competition," Branson told BBC radio.

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