Weekly roundup Friday 5 November 2010

300x250_grey Good morning – and happy Guy Fawkes Day to all of you who celebrate this auspicious event.  For our American friends, here's a Wikipedia entry to explain this semi-interesting bit of English history, and for those who want to know still more, this entry explains the Guy Fawkes Day/Night tradition.

'A penny for the guy' used to be the request made by small children, keen to build effigies of Guy Fawkes and a nice big bonfire on which to burn it this evening, and that is probably an appropriately and only somewhat clumsy segue into a wrap on this year's annual fundraising campaign.

Special thanks are due this time to super-supporters Traingirl (I've asked if she is related to Super Girl, awaiting further advice), Joe B, Susan T, Jody A, Dudley S, Charles J, Peter V, Teri M and Fred H.  In total we're now at 409 supporters for 2010.

Thanks also to Miraval for their continued support, as shown by their graphic at the top of this newsletter.  Please click the link on this line or the image to get details of their fifth night free promotion.

Although this is the end of the formal fundraising drive, you're never to late to join in.  Simply click on this link http://thetravelinsider.info/2010/2010fundraising.htm

There was no newsletter last week due to the distractions of my week in the Nevada desert, culminating in my birthday celebration in Las Vegas on the Thursday night with a small group of readers who went through the Front Sight course with me.

I've updated my series on Front Sight to reflect the latest set of experiences and thoughts, and hope it may be possible to offer a repeat Travel Insider group opportunity to attend a four day course some time in March next year.  I'll let you know.

There's not a lot of separate articles for you this week, because the one major article is huge in size.  Stretching over 12,000 words and seven long web-pages, it tells you more than you thought there was to know about whether you should choose an iPhone or an Android based phone the next time you buy a phone.  More details in the entry that follows this one.

Dinosaur watching :  Here's a very puzzling start ('lede') to an article.  It says 'Competition on the world's busiest long-haul route, London-New York, remains robust in spite of double-digit average ticket price increases and last month's launch of a joint venture between British Airways and American Airlines'.

Excuse me, but how can you say that competition is robust when in the same sentence you talk about double digit ticket price increases, and as an afterthought, mention also the reduction in carriers as a result of the BA/AA merger-in-all-but-name?

This is the type of ridiculous illogic which allows the airlines to make their nonsense claims about how less competition will benefit the consumer.  I guess it all depends on if you consider a 25% increase in effective airfares paid to be a benefit or not, doesn't it.

For more illogic reported without comment, how about the British Transportation Secretary saying the government is not anti-aviation, but in the very same sentence adding they will not allow airports to get larger or to add extra runways.

With Britain's largest airport already at capacity (Heathrow) and the other London airports not far short of their own maximum passenger/plane handing numbers, a refusal to allow airports to grow is absolutely and completely anti-aviation, as are the punitive additional taxes the British government is adding to air passengers (but not to rail, bus or sea passengers).

On a more serious note, you may have heard of the problem Qantas experienced with one of its lovely A380 planes on Wednesday.  One of the four engines suffered an uncontained failure, such that flying pieces of broken metal from the faulty engine broke out of the engine housing and ripped into the plane's wing.

These are very serious types of engine failures, because when bits of hot sharp metal go flying about at high speed, there's no end to the damage they can cause to the wings, hydraulics, and even to the main fuselage of the plane too.

Engines are designed so that such uncontained failures are very rare, so when one happens, you know that something really bad went massively wrong.

Fortunately, the Qantas plane landed safely, but Qantas has now grounded its entire fleet of A380s.  Singapore Airlines followed suit a short while later, with the concern being that there may be some as yet unknown ongoing problem or weakness with the Rolls Royce engines that is more than a 'one in a million' case of something going wrong.

Rolls Royce has had some other problems with its latest model engines, and one of the problems is currently a factor delaying the launch of Boeing's oh-so-long delayed 787.  Here's a sensible article that talks some more about this.

Talking about near plane crashes, here's undoubtedly the most original reason for an actual plane crash I've come across in a long time.

Now that Continental and United are as one, what can we expect going forward?  Reader Don shares his impression of the new Continental :

I am a Million Miler on Continental and an Infinite (lifetime) Platinum card holder.  So when the new Big Guy at Continental announced his Grand Achievement, merging with United, I mumbled to myself, "There goes my favorite airline".  Boy, was I right.

 My wife was on CO 702, Newark to San Francisco the other day.  She called me after her arrival to give me a heads-up on the NEW Continental…OK, passengers have to buy their food.  I cannot fault the logic, and henceforth I will stock up inside the airport after security clearance.

 But to run out of food…?  This is pathetic.

 She was seated in the rear of the plane along with 45 other passengers, all of whom did the 6+ hour trip with nothing to eat.  Since there was only one cart serving the entire plane (753, 225 passengers) it took the cart nearly 2 hours to get to row 33 (out of 41).  It was here that the food ran out.

 Naturally, everyone screamed, and the poor attendants told the passengers that they (attendants) were unhappy about the situation, and that the best course of action would be if everone complained to "management".

 But, why should management care?  They have cut back on flights in order to stuff the planes (good economy), and they are almost guaranteed full planes every time.  So, who cares if a few passengers leave the plane hungry?

This Week's Security Horror Story :  You've probably heard of the as yet not fully disclosed parcel bombing attempts with packages that ostensibly originated in Yemen and which were sent via UPS to addresses in Chicago.

Although this happened a week ago, we don't know much at all about what this was really truly all about.  However, a few quick comments can be made.

First, these may have been devices that were planned to explode on the plane in midair, in a manner very similar to what happened to Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie in Scotland, way back in 1988.

Secondly, although these packages were being consigned via UPS, some of them ended up traveling on regular passenger planes.

Now, think about this.  22 years after the PA 103 disaster, the same vulnerability – bombs in the cargo hold – remains.  Yes, we can't board the plane with box cutters or more than 3 oz of liquid, and we're either virtually strip searched by a machine or given a pat down by a human that is now about as intimate as you'd ever get from your doctor or spouse, but big boxes weighing tens of pounds can get in the cargo hold free of effective inspection.

This is all the more unfair when you think a box has no modesty or feelings, and doesn't mind the indignity of being searched.

So why do the authorities focus a thousand times more on people than on things?  Could it be merely to conduct another act in what many commentators now refer to as 'security theater' – a ridiculous game of charades designed to make us feel safe by way of inconveniencing us.

Look down at the floor on your next flight.  You've no idea what might be flying in the cargo hold underneath.  Sadly, as often as not, the TSA, the airline, and everyone else probably has no idea either.

Gunbagb Lastly this week, here's a bag in which you probably don't want to carry things when walking through an airport.

Until next week, please enjoy safe travels



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