We’ve a huge amount to offer you this week, both in the roundup and the other articles that follow.
- Travel Innovation Survey
- Qantas Woes
- Naughty Jetblue Imprisons Passengers
- US Airways Shuts Overseas Call Centers
- New Discount Airline from Singapore Airlines
- Two Different Speeds for Cruise Liner Drydocking
- Airport X-ray Scanners – Maybe Dangerous, Definitely Ineffective
- How Low Can You Go?
I made a real ‘dog’s breakfast’ out of releasing the Travel Innovation Survey last week. Apologies for the false starts. Because of these errors, I’ve held the survey open another week.
If you haven’t voted in the survey yet, subsequent to its Saturday relaunch, can I ask you to please do so now. If we can get a sufficiently large set of opinions, then ‘the wisdom of crowds’ – particularly a crowd of Travel Insiders – will make the results both interesting and meaningful.
On Saturday I wrote briefly about the unprecedented no-notice global shutdown sprung on an unsuspecting 100,000+ travelers by Qantas management over the weekend. Amazingly some people posted comments to the blog article accusing me of showing a pro-union bias (that’s one for the record books!), and they supported the Qantas management in their actions. I guess none of those people were among the masses of stranded passengers all around the world.
As was so ably said in my defense by other people in blog comments, I’m neither pro nor anti union, and I hope I’m seldom biased any which way. But I am merciless in calling ‘foul’ when I see inexcusable airline behavior, and it is hard to think of a more inexcusable action than the gratuitous and totally unnecessary shutdown – with no prior notice – of all Qantas flights, everywhere.
As you probably know, I’m a New Zealander, so Qantas is close to a home airline for me to start with, and for the decade of the 1990s, Qantas was my best corporate friend and closest business partner while I established and operated an international travel company. I gave Qantas its first ever (and award winning) website as a present, and they, for their part, were an invaluable and enormously appreciated key factor in my business growth and success. I loved Qantas, and was so very thankful to have such an amazing partner to help me in my business activities.
But that was then. This is now. The ‘new’ Qantas of the last some years has become increasingly anti-Australian, and the things that most generated my respect have been downplayed, while other factors have been given greater importance. I grieve for the loss of the Qantas I was privileged to be partnered with back then.
In part as a tribute to the great airline that Qantas once was, I’ve written a follow up article, which follows this item in tonight’s collection of items. In particular, I hope you might enjoy the video clips I’ve included in the article, showcasing some of Qantas’ award winning wonderful advertising in past years. It truly does make me misty eyed to watch the ‘I Still Call Australia Home’ video.
One more thing. I made a brief reference in my Saturday blog post about Qantas’ eroding safety; one person disagreed with me about that while not citing anything to support his disagreement.
I find the diminishing safety margin in Qantas operations one of the most disappointing things of all, a diminishing safety margin to the point where I’d be slightly nervous of boarding one of their 747s these days. If you’d told me, ten or more years ago, that I would ever, ever, hesitate before flying any Qantas plane anywhere, I’d have laughed in your face.
As I write this on Thursday evening, breaking accounts are surfacing of yet another Qantas near disaster, on flight QF31, an A380 scheduled to operate from Singapore to London, but diverted to Dubai for an emergency landing after an engine shutdown in flight.
This latest problem occurred exactly a year after the near total plane loss of the Qantas A380 that had an engine explode shortly after takeoff from Singapore. That A380 suffered almost fatal damage from the uncontained explosion of one of its engines, and remains still under repair in Singapore, a year later.
A Qantas spokesman described today’s incident as ‘a one-off incident’. But how many ‘one-off’ incidents is Qantas going to have?
Each of these near disasters, to me, is like a pull of the trigger in Russian roulette. Sure, none of the way too many Qantas incidents over the last few years have resulted in a single casualty (except to planes), but how many times can Qantas pull the trigger and hope for merely a ‘click’ to eventuate?
So we had a bit of bad weather the last weekend, and, unsurprisingly, this interfered with airline operations. The worst affected flight was a Jetblue flight that diverted to Bradley Airport in Hartford. Passengers were stuck on board for 7.5 hours. The toilets overflowed, and the food and water ran out, and the plane’s power would occasionally die entirely.
Notwithstanding the Department of Transportation’s requirement that passengers must not be kept on board for more than three hours, they were not allowed to leave the plane.
This article quotes the pilot as calling over the radio for air stairs to be brought to the plane – but not so passengers could be deplaned. He wanted the air stairs so that police could come onto the plane and coerce the passengers into stopping asking to be allowed off!
Jetblue is now offering passengers a refund of their tickets and two free roundtrip vouchers for future flights.
It will be interesting to see what the DoT does. It has the power to fine airlines up to $27,500 per passenger if they fail to comply with the ‘must allow passengers off within three hours’ rule, but notwithstanding the airlines’ these days cancelling any flight at the drop of a hat, and citing their potential liability to these massive fines as the justification for the cancellation, for the several years this new rule has been in place, the DoT has yet to levy a single fine.
It is hard to imagine a more egregious example of an airline failing to observe that rule.
Welcome back. US Airways. The airline is closing its second to last international call center (in Manila); a move which sees 400 new jobs created in the US. The new American employees will be based at call centers in Phoenix, Reno and Winston-Salem.
The airline will continue a call center in Liverpool, England. That call center is to serve international calls coming in from non-US locations.
Undoubtedly adding to Qantas’ woes is the announcement this week by Singapore Airlines giving details of its already hinted at low cost airline subsidiary.
The new airline is to be called Scoot, and will be managed independently from the main SQ operation. It will start operations with four 777-200 planes, and be based in Singapore, with services initially around Australasia and to China.
The airline expects to commence operations by mid 2011, and hopes to add further planes and routes shortly thereafter. It will have two class service, with fares ‘up to’ 40% lower than full service airlines (such as SQ and QF). Meals, seat assignments and baggage will all be chargeable extra items.
Royal Caribbean’s ship, Splendour of the Seas, has just entered drydock in Cadiz, Spain, where it is to have an extensive five week $35 million overhaul. 550 workers will be involved in the overhaul, which will add a Chops Grille steakhouse and Izumi Japanese restaurant, a Boardwalk Dog House, a Chef’s Table and the deli-style Park Café. Balconies will be added to 124 cabins, and various other upgrades include provisioning Wi-fi throughout the ship and upgraded flat screen televisions in cabins. The ship was launched in 1996.
Sounds good, doesn’t it? And five weeks seems like a short period of time, even with a massive 550 people working on the overhaul, right?
Well, if you think that is impressive, how about the overhaul of the Queen Mary 2. The QM2 is having not a five week, but a 14 day overhaul from 24 November through 7 December at the Blohm & Voss shipyard in Hamburg. All 1310 staterooms are receiving new carpeting, curtains and bedding, and some are getting new furniture too. The Golden Lion pub is being completely redesigned, and various other restaurants and lounges are also being worked on.
In total, over 18 square miles of fabric are being made into 6,000 separate items to be replaced, and enough carpet to cover ten football fields is to be laid.
Cunard aren’t saying what their budget is for all this work, but they are disclosing that such a fast turn-around will involve ‘thousands of workers’.
I write in a separate article about the appalling situation where our checked baggage is given more FDA protection in terms of its exposure to X-rays than we are ourselves when passing through airport security. How can that be? You’ll have to read the article to appreciate the appalling nature of how we have untested and potentially dangerous technology being forced on us every time we fly.
But enough of the dangers of radiation. Maybe you want to glow in the dark. At least, you might tell yourself, that possibly having your life expectancy diminished by gratuitous doses of radiation is in a good cause – you’re being made safer for the flight you’re about to take.
How then to react to the words of John Mica, the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the congressional body which oversees the TSA.
He is quoted in this article as saying
The failure rate (for body scanning equipment) is classified but it would absolutely knock your socks off
Actually, his comments are far from surprising. These devices have already been banned in Europe, both because of possible health dangers, and also because they don’t actually work.
So why does the TSA insist on continuing to buy more and more of these possibly dangerous and definitely useless devices?
Lastly this week, maybe something to put on your bucket list? A night at the world’s deepest underground hotel.
Until next week, please enjoy safe travels