Weekly Roundup Friday 17 June 2011

Good morning

I’m in Oban currently as part of our Scotland tour, and for the last hour the sounds of bagpipes have been wafting down from McCaig’s Tower above the town – the local Lion’s Club has put on a concert.  Due to the tune now being ‘Scotland the Brave’ I suspect it is about to end, but for the last hour it has been impossible to not fully appreciate (and enjoy) the fact that we ain’t in Kansas any more.

As further evidence, the lead image in the newsletter shows the view out my hotel room window, looking up to McCaig’s Tower and with the Oban Distillery temptingly close by as well.

We’ve again been blessed with brilliant weather so far, but suffered a 10 hour delay with the ferry that was to take us over to Islay – it was a brand new ferry and its front loading door wouldn’t shut, so we had to wait until it was fixed.  With only one ferry wharf at Kennacraig, there was no way another ferry could be brought in to help out; fortunately the new ferry had plenty of lounges, gift shops, cafeterias and bars, and there was free Wi-fi, so we all had a very comfortable time and the ten hour loss cost us only a distillery tour at the other end, which we compensated (or, should I say, ‘over-compensated’?) for the next day when we visited three in a row.

Although I’d said last week there’d be no newsletter, I’ve managed to at least find a couple of items to send your way and wanted to ‘keep in touch’.

Hertznoticeb Here’s another image, this time showing you what has to be surely the most unhelpful notice one would ever hope to come across.

This was on the (at the time, closed) Hertz rental office’s front door at York Railway station when I returned a rental car there on Sunday morning.  They have only a very limited number of spaces to return cars into at the train station, and don’t you think that rather than a notice telling you where you couldn’t park the car when the designated spaces were full, it would be more helpful to advise where you could go instead?

It might be losing money, but Virgin America is still talking up its growth plans for the future.  Whereas most airlines believe they can shrink their way to profit, Virgin America is planning a more positive strategy – to grow its way to profit.

After a first quarter loss of $44 million (up from $35 million last year) the airline has announced plans to buy more A320 planes, including 30 of the new A320neo plane.  It says it will have its current 35 plane fleet expanded up to 57 planes by early 2013, with still more being added in the years to follow.

Virgin America plans to increase its capacity by 35% in 2012 and by a further 10% in 2013.  This objective is doubtless being made easier for them to achieve because of the dinosaur carriers slowing down their growth (at best) or indeed actually cutting back on their capacity.

More details here.  We wish them good fortune.

While Airbus is continuing to sell its new A320neo, Boeing is continuing to do nothing.  Boeing has now said that it is extending its ‘watch, wait, and respond’ policy to its 777 line as well, and has decided to wait and see what Airbus does with a new model A350 before deciding how to respond.

Innovation?  There’s precious little of that at Boeing these days.  Details here.

Pilots run amok :  We deify pilots for no good reason or sense.  They can be as petty and narrow minded and straight out as stupid as any of their passengers, but the simple fact they know how to fly a plane is deemed to make them experts on everything to do with the passengers in their plane as well as its engines and other technical things.

 It is time we realize this isn’t so, and rather than allowing these sometimes uniformed dictatorial despots to ruin our lives (or at least our travel plans), we need to get a ‘plane manager’ on the planes, and have that person, trained in customer relations and customer service, be the person who is responsible for the passengers.

Why do I say this?  Here are a couple of reasons that have arisen during the last week where pilots have acted extremely foolishly in both unnecessarily and grossly inconveniencing their passengers (and costing their company money) out of petulance.

In the first case, the pilot of an Iberia flight from Madrid to Frankfurt chose to turn has plane around and return to Madrid after a German passenger stripped naked then locked himself in a bathroom.  This article doesn’t say if this occurred at the beginning, in the middle, or near the end of the flight, but being as how the flight is probably just under two hours in the air, there’s not a huge difference in flying time either which way.

Why did the pilot turn around and fly back to Madrid, inconveniencing all the other passengers on the plane?  Why not fly on to Frankfurt?  It wasn’t as though the plane was at risk by the crazy naked man.

In the second case, a US Airways pilot decided he was also in charge of establishing and enforcing a dress code on the plane.  He deemed a passenger’s pants too baggy, and demanded the passenger hike them up.  The passenger may have then either refused, or perhaps been slow to comply.

So what does the pilot do?  He orders everyone else off the plane!  Then he grandly makes a ‘citizen’s arrest’ of the passenger whose trousers he did not approve of.

This is the absolute truth – you couldn’t make up a story this strange – according to this article.

I presume the reason the pilot did his ‘citizen’s arrest’ thing was because he was unable to persuade a real policeman to arrest the passenger, being as how there is no law I’m aware of that bans passengers from wearing baggy pants onto a plane.

Did the pilot really need to evacuate the plane – and for that matter, did he really need to arrest the passenger?  No and no are the only possible answers to these questions.

But guess who now faces police charges, legal fees, and a disruption to his travel plans?  Not the pilot.  The passenger.

Pilots amply display their lack of judgment every time they turn on the Fasten Safety Belt sign and then leave it on interminably in perfectly calm still air.  So, as I started off by saying, we need to put these crazy pilots on a short leash, and to make them accountable for their lunacy.

That reinforced locked cockpit door should work both ways – not only do they wish to be protected from us, but we need to be protected from them too.  Perhaps we should lock them in the cockpit before passengers start boarding, and not let them out again until after the flight has landed and all passengers have deplaned.

A new airport for London?  Or, perhaps more accurately, an old airport rediscovered.  Southend Airport, to the east of London, was once one of London’s main airports, but has been overlooked in recent decades.

With the huge pressures on the other airports and the need to add more airport capacity to serve London, particularly for the Olympics next year, Easyjet has announced plans to fly initially more than a million passengers a year through Southend, and is expected to quickly double that to two million.  A new train station is being built at the airport so as to get passengers in to London’s Liverpool St Station (not the most convenient of stations for most people).

Needless to say, the local residents aren’t very keen.  Apparently they didn’t realize they were next to an airport?  So we’ll have to wait and see how the reality of Southend unfolds.  More details here.

Some more on the topic of how the US is shooting itself in the foot with its overly protective (for no good reason) policies on allowing visitors to enter the country for short tourist stays.  Here’s a good article in Time full of statistics about how difficult we are making it for the tourists who spend more per day per person than from any other country.  These biggest spending tourists come from, believe it or not, Brazil, but they are treated as unwelcome annoyances, just the same as potential tourists from so many other countries too.

It is a good and short article.  Please do read it to get further insight into how we are harming ourselves.

Meanwhile, in China, people wishing to apply for a visa to travel to the US currently have a 59 day wait between when they apply and when they can be scheduled for a personal interview in Beijing.  I’m not sure if that is calendar days (in which case it is two months) or working days (in which case it is almost three months).  On top of that, there is no way of guessing if they’ll be granted a visa or not, so most Chinese people simply give up on even applying for a US visa.  By the time they can even have their application considered, they could have traveled to another country, had a great vacation, and be back home again.

Fortunately (?) the American Embassy in Beijing is being an equal opportunity deadbeat.  They are also refusing to meet US citizens who wish to enquire about visa matters to do with Chinese nationals until after ‘the end of summer’ – whenever that might prove to be.

On the other hand, the Chinese should feel favored.  As the linked article details, the Brazilians can have up to a 141 day wait for a visa interview.

Why doesn’t some MBA do a study to show how much extra money could be generated by simply adding one or two more visa clerks to each US Consular post around the world?  I’ll guess their salary could be recoupled somewhere between 100-fold and 1000-fold in extra taxation revenue alone – so why not hire some more?

Lastly this week, here’s a new worry for the people on my current Scotland tour – or anyone else, on any other sort of coach tour.  We normally place our luggage underneath the coach and are confident that it will be safe and unmolested there.  But now it seems there’s a new threat to guard against.

I am fairly sure there will be no newsletter next week, but expect to be home and productive once more the week after.  Until whenever, please be sure to enjoy safe travels

Davidsig265 David.


5 thoughts on “Weekly Roundup Friday 17 June 2011”

  1. Agreement on two points: first, about the pilots (and more than a few pursers) who have an “I’m the parent and I said so” mentality.
    And glad that you’ve picked up on the revamped Southend Airport. As someone who lives on the eastern side of London (in fact, about three football kicks from the London 2012 Olympic Stadium) it will be easier for me to take the train from East London to Southend than to get to either Heathrow or Gatwick (at least until 2018 when London’s Crossrail is completed). 45 minutes to Southend Airport versus more than an hour and a half for me to 3 of the 5 others in London. THANKS

  2. David,
    As you are aware I’m an aviation consultant and an active 767 Captain at a major international airline. I enjoy your Blog and have commented on several occasions.
    We know condemning the actions of all airline Captains by your perception of two incidents is absurd. I’ll try to enlighten you a bit as to what goes on behind the scenes. First and foremost the Captain is responsible for the safety of all passengers aboard the aircraft and is named in all litigation by passengers against the airline. We take a very conservative approach in regard to the seatbelt sign. There is no warning for clear air turbulence and sometimes it seems the seat belt sign is on unnecessarily when in fact it should be on. In regard to the air return to Madrid. Most of the time in these situations the pilot uses the satellite phone to discuss the options with the airline operation center. Many people give their input to the pilot prior to making a discussion where to land in an emergency. The “crazy naked man” may have turned in to something very serious. He could have been a distraction used by other dangerous terrorists aboard the aircraft. In regard to the other incident it’s really hard to comment when you are not there in person being as news reports are very unreliable. Remember these a two incidents out of millions of flights per year.
    In most cases the Captain is the most experienced in handling customer issues. Our careers at the airline are longer than the other employ groups by decades. We are bound to our positions by a seniority system that does not allow for job changes. We are highly motivated to see our customer arrive safely and on-time to their destinations.
    We know our customer trust us with their lives and the lives of their children. We don’t take this responsibility lightly and deliver our customers safely to their destinations with an amazing safety record. We are the final authority to determine the safety of any flight.
    “Crazy pilots on a leash” indeed very humorous David….my wife may like the idea…LOL
    Capt. Ivan Klugman

  3. Your note about the bagpipes playing “Scotland the Brave” reminded me of something a friend from Scotland told me.
    He said he belonged to a club that ended every meeting with a rendition of “Scotland the WHAT?”
    I don’t know about the stereotypical “dour Scot”. My friend is about the funniest guy I know, and it appears that other members of the club share his sense of humor.

  4. Adding to a litany of complaints about the oxymoron known as Cust Svce:
    Amer Exp has ONLY 1 office in Rome, Italy, located P.za D’Espagna. WHEN OPEN, hours are minimal, M-F 9-5 & is CLOSED for renovation (May-October). By Late May, no one at Amex Global Assist, even Ken Chenault, etc was aware of this!!! An 8.5 x 11 paper notice advised travel to a temp office at end-of-line Metro station Cinecitta, approx R/T 2 hours.
    I was there 5/25 with other Angry people, & can provide further details for a story.

  5. About delays in ferry service – I read a new law is to be introduced by the European Union, that will make it mandatory to give compensation to boat and ferry(prom do) travellers for any delays or cancellations of service.

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