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Monthly Archives: November 2005

No Cell Phones Allowed, But Skype and Internet Calls Will Work with Wifi Enabled Airplanes

And people are not happy about it. This loophole is starting to capture the attention of the flying public and more importantly. I use skype on a regular basis for talking to people throughout the world, and it is a wonderful tool. The clarity is better, and the cost is free if you are talking to another skype user, or very cheap if you are calling a telephone number.

However with this being said, I would go crazy if I was on an international flight and the person sitting next to me was talking on the phone the whole time.

But these days, there is a new wrinkle. Say you’re on El Al or maybe SAS or Lufthansa — one of the airlines that offers broadband Internet during flights for about $30 a trip. There are a lot of positives. You can do e-mail. You can get some Christmas shopping done. You can watch videos of curling.

But then the guy next to you boots up Skype. This is software that lets people make free or cheap phone calls over the Internet. Other software does this, too, including Yahoo Messenger.

Your seatmate connects to someone and starts talking. Maybe he has a headset — or maybe he doesn’t, and you have to hear both sides of the conversation as the other person crackles out of the laptop’s speakers.

There are no rules against this. It’s not a cellphone conversation. He is not using a BlackBerry or any unapproved electronic device. He’s on a laptop, on the plane’s Internet service, using software to make a phone call.

There’s not much you can do. You’re trying to read, but the guy is inches away from you in your coach seat. You feel the bile rising in your gullet. You read the same sentence six times, but all your brain takes in is the conversation next to you. And then the guy breaks out a webcam.

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Airlines Join Weight Watchers – Working Hard to Trim Down

With the high cost of fuel, airlines are becoming very weight conscious about the load they are taking off with. “We fly so many flights a day that if we can get 100 pounds off every flight, we save millions of dollars a year,” said American Airlines Capt. Steve Chealander, a 737 pilot who is also manager of flight operations efficiency.

The industry is working hard to find the fine line between safety and efficiency as it tries to remain solvent with the historic high fuel prices.

Although fuel prices have dropped slightly in recent weeks, they remain far above what carriers used to budget for jet fuel expenses and 80 percent more than two years ago. For many airlines, fuel expenses are nearly on par with labor costs, historically the largest expenditure.

The need to reduce weight aboard aircraft and look for other fuel savings has been drilled into every airline employee, from pilots to baggage handlers.

Fliers who travel only during the holiday season will find airlines more likely to charge them $25 for checked bags that weigh more than 50 pounds. Those trying to walk onto the plane with more than two bags are more likely to be stopped and told the extra items will have to be checked.

Even the number of children on board is a factor considered when deciding how much fuel to put into the tank. More kids means less overall weight and the opportunity to reduce the amount of fuel needed.

“If a passenger is a child, we can account for less weight,” Chealander said.

Still, airlines include a large safety margin when calculating how much extra fuel to carry.

But at the gate, the plane is more likely to be powered by the local airport, not the airplane’s engines. Most planes run air conditioning and lights through an electrical connection to the airport. via Chicago Tribune

The airline industry uses so much fuel that even the smallest changes can make a huge difference to the bottom line profitability of the company.

Sharp Objects Allowed on Airplanes? Changes to be Announced on Friday

It looks like the TSA will be allowing some items on airplanes that have been banned since 911. These items will be include scissors and screwdrivers.

The TSA’s internal studies show that carry-on-item screeners spend half of their screening time searching for cigarette lighters, a recently banned item, and that they open 1 out of every 4 bags to remove a pair of scissors, according to sources briefed by the agency. Officials believe that other security measures now in place, such as hardened cockpit doors, would prevent a terrorist from commandeering an aircraft with box cutters or scissors.

The one group that is opposed to these changes are the flight attendants.

However, many flight attendants do not believe sharp objects should be allowed on board. They argue that even though such items would not enable another Sept. 11, 2001-style hijacking, the items could be used as weapons against passengers or flight-crew members. “TSA needs to take a moment to reflect on why they were created in the first place — after the world had seen how ordinary household items could create such devastation,” said Corey Caldwell, spokeswoman for the Association of Flight Attendants, which has more than 46,000 members. “When weapons are allowed back on board an aircraft, the pilots will be able to land the plane safety but the aisles will be running with blood.” via the Washington Post

My wife is a flight attendant and it looks like this Corey Caldwell is a nut. For 60 years of flying, the aisles never “ran with blood” as people smoked, drank, and caroused on airplanes. Now one incident, and ol Corey is thinking that each flight will be a Wrestling Cage Match, with the flight attendants being the hapless referees getting smashed and gouged at every opportunity.

Give me a break.

Australian Arrested For Stealing Frequent Flyer Miles

Frequent.flyerIt takes all kinds. However, with there being a market for frequent flyer miles, you must expect the criminal element to follow.

An Australian man illegally collected 17.6 million frequent flyer points and is now in jail for fraud.

Austin Perrott, 45, pleaded guilty to nine counts of obtaining financial advantage by deception and will be in jail for six months.

Perrott worked as a Singapore Airlines customer services supervisor in Melbourne, where he used a computer irregularity to collect points on 29 accounts from frequent flyer programs.

According to court records, Perrott never used his frequent flyer points to fly but redeemed 4.3 million points, which he mostly sold to family and friends for money. via

Cunard to Offer European Cruises on the Queen Mary 2 and QE2

Queenmary-smThe Queen Mary 2 and the QE2 will be offering European cruises that will range from 8 to 19 Days throughout 2006. These cruises will be cover a great deal of ground, or sea, going throughout the Mediterranean Sea to the Norwegian coast. There will even be a rendezvous in Barcelona of these great ships in Barcelona on May 9th.

For more information, visit Cunard and plan your trip.

Miss America Leave Atlantic City for Las Vegas, James Denton from Desperate Housewives to Host

DentonThe Miss America pagent will be leaving Atlantic City after 85 years for the glitter of Las Vegas, and the host will be James Denton of Desperate Housewives. The pageant will be held at the Aladdin Resort and Casino from January 17th through the 21st.  Tickets can be purchased through Ticketmaster.

“Desperate Housewives” star James Denton will host the 2006 Miss America pageant in Las Vegas, show organizers announced Wednesday.

Denton, who plays a hunky plumber on the ABC melodrama, will be the first to host the 85-year-old beauty pageant outside of Atlantic City, N.J.

Pageant organizers announced last week they were leaving the Boardwalk behind and heading to the Las Vegas Strip in hopes of boosting ratings and updating the contest’s image. via ABC

ESPN The Weekend At Walt Disney World

Logo-disney-worldWalt Disney World will be hosting “ESPN the Weekend” from March 3rd throught the 5th, 2006. The event will feature shows both for ESPN television and radio, and many interactive events with the cast of ESPN.

“Following successful events the past two years, ESPN and Walt Disney World Resort are once again pleased to serve sports fans by offering this unique, in-person experience,” said Heather Campbell, vice president, brand integration and synergy, ESPN, Inc. ” ‘ESPN The Weekend’ has become one of the most exciting opportunities throughout the year for fans, athletes and ESPN to connect with one another and celebrate sports.”

Espn_logo_150“ESPN The Weekend” will feature on-site ESPN telecasts including SportsCenter, Baseball Tonight and Cold Pizza; star motorcades and Q&A sessions featuring athletes and ESPN personalities; sports shows in the ESPN Theater with ESPN commentators and athletes; a visit from ESPN The Truck; live ESPN Radio broadcasts; ESPN Deportes Fuera de Juego telecasts; the ESPN Sports Zone interactive area; and a special sports edition of the game show attraction “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire-Play It!” Guests will also be able to enjoy all the popular shows and attractions, including the new “Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show.” via

Ski Industry Optimistic For Good Season

Sport_ski_logoWith the fear of higher fuel prices affecting travel for the ski industry, the ski season should be a good one according to industry experts.

Lake Tahoe is looking at much higher bookings, as are Crystal Mountain which is benefitting from 3 feet of early snow. Sugerloaf in Maine also had 40 inches of snow before Halloween.

 

And so far, there’s no evidence that higher gasoline costs will keep skiers away. Some smaller resorts think they may even benefit from high prices at the pump by drawing local skiers who might otherwise drive to bigger mountains elsewhere.

 Bookings at major western ski resorts were up 6.6% from where they were Sept. 30 of last year, according to the Mountain Travel Research Project, which tracks the ski industry.

In some areas, such as Lake Tahoe, Calif., bookings are expected to rise sharply. The Lake Tahoe Visitor’s Authority predicts an 18% increase in the number of nights booked in local hotels this winter.

And nationally, the trend is positive, with records set in tickets sold by the ski industry in four out of the last five winter seasons in terms of numbers of tickets sold, says the National Ski Areas Association.

The outlook was similar elsewhere in New England as well as other regions of the country. Heather Atwell of the Vermont Ski Areas Association said that based on early bookings, “they’re still fairly certain people are still going to come.” via USA Today

Business Travel Costs Rising

As the travel market rebounds, costs are rising for the business traveler on almost every front. The airlines are getting a handle on the capacity issues and fuel costs and are increasing their ticket prices, and hotel and rental cars are following suit on higher demand. While good for the industry, the business traveler will be feeling the pinch in the pocketbook.

A recent report from consultant American Express Business Travel projects annual increases in 2006 of up to 8% for airfares and car-rental rates. High-end hotel rooms will increase by up to 5%, the report says. Meanwhile, general inflation is expected to be up just 2.3%, according to the latest consensus of the National Association for Business Economics.

Caleb Tiller, a spokesman for the National Business Travel Association, which represents corporate travel managers, says his members are adjusting to the new world of expensive travel. “They’re adjusting budgets accordingly and looking for ways to contain costs,” Tiller says.

The article in USA Today goes on to break down the cost increases in each segment of the marketplace. It is a good read if you are a frequent business traveler.

Need A Wheel Chair at the Airport? Beware…

Wheelchairs service at airports have caused over two-thirds of the the complaints that were recieved by the Department of Transportation last year. The report cited poor assistance, the complaints also told of incidents of damaged chairs, bad seating arrangements, long waits and difficult accessibility.

Northwest, American, Delta, and United were responsible for over 60% of the complaints. Delta has started a new program to help train employees who interact with the disabled passengers to help reduce these complaints. via Cheapflights