Weekly Roundup Friday 16 March

The ride at Space Mountain, The Magic Kingdom

Good morning

As I mentioned last week, I’m in Florida at present, struggling to pay for the costs of several days at the Disney World complex with my daughter.

There’s one interesting aspect to the costs of visiting Disney, and that is how one gets locked into being only at Disney rather than at other attractions in the Orlando area too.

Ideally, I’d have liked to spend a day at Universal Studios too, but the cost of a day at Universal Studios for one adult and one child is $252, or an even more appalling $373 with the ‘Express Plus Pass’ option added, whereas the cost to go from three to four days at Disney is only $22.  So which would I rather do – endure another day at the Disney complex for $22, or spend $252 – $373 to go to Universal Studios instead?

Don’t go thinking Disney tickets are cheap, however.  It is just that all the ‘heavy lifting’ in the ticket prices (for limited duration tickets that expire in two weeks) are in the first three days.  The first day for the two of us at Disney, to compare to the one day at Universal Studios, would be $250, essentially the same as the cost at Universal.

Clever pricing on the part of Disney.  And as for getting another day at Disney for ‘only’ $22, well, that is before you pay for parking ($14 – the parking lot at The Magic Kingdom claims to be the fourth largest parking lot in the world) and before you buy a bottle of water ($2.75) or start to eat or buy souvenirs or do anything else except stand in line for rides.

But the thing which really disappoints me is that while Disney makes a big thing about being ‘family friendly’ and of course, the entire Disney series of attractions are focused primarily on children, the reality is rather different.  For example, the ‘hero’ statue of Walt and Mickey in front of the castle has a bronze plaque underneath, quoting from him

We believe in our idea: a family park where parents and children could have fun – together.

Have fun together – possibly.  But dine together?  It is difficult/impossible to find any kid’s sized (and priced) meals.  We went to have lunch, and the cheapest burger was $9.19; with nothing less expensive offered for children.  With tax, call it $20 for two burgers; one for me and one for Anna.

That’s not family friendly.  That’s appallingly family unfriendly and exploitive.

Going into the Disney grounds involved a bit of security theater that still has me smirking.  One had to have one’s bags checked, and today they were being checked more thoroughly than I’ve ever seen before.  Anna had a tiny slim purse and she had to hand that over to have its pockets unzipped and inspected, and I was carrying a much larger bag.  To be helpful, I took a bundled up jacket out of the bag when passing it over, leaving only a couple of small items in the bottom of the bag, including a subcompact camera in a half case.

Clearly, this person was told ‘inspect the contents you see inside bags’, because he ignored the amorphous bulk of my bundled up jacket that I had removed from the bag, and instead thoroughly poked around the bag and even took the tiny camera out of its half case too.  I’m sure if I’d left the jacket in the bag, it would have been unfolded and carefully inspected, too; but the simple fact that I removed it from the bag – in his sight – meant it was no longer something he was tasked with inspecting.

Whereas there was precious little that could be concealed in the camera/case, I could have had many different things inside the bundle that was my jacket.  Or in the pockets of my cargo trousers, or elsewhere on my person.

I’m not quite sure what they were looking for, and fortunately the man never asked me ‘Do you have any guns with you today’….

Which makes me think of a related story.  When checking in for the flight to Orlando, I asked for a firearms declaration form, which is a very simple two part form.  All one does is sign and date it, then one half goes into the bag with the guns, and you get to keep the other half (I’ve no idea for what purpose).

So I filled it out, and the woman checking me in said to me ‘I need to have that’ – pointing at the other half of the declaration form.  I was surprised, because that has never been the case before.  I said ‘Are you sure?’ and she switched instantly to her most smarmy possible voice and said ‘Yes, sir [the way she emphasized the ‘sir’ made it plain she did not mean it as a term of respect], I’ve been doing this job for 15 years and I know all about this.’  I continued to be doubtful, and so to better understand the apparent change in policy I said ‘Oh, that’s new.  It has never happened to me before – usually I keep it.  What do you do with the copy?’

Her answer :  ‘I staple it to your boarding pass and hand it back to you.’

Yes, rather than just simply allow me to keep the meaningless duplicate copy of the form, she had to take it from me, so as to then officially return it back to me.

Where do the airlines find people like this?

Anyway, all of the preceding is a long winded way of saying there’s not really a newsletter today.  I had hoped for some material, but the hotel we are staying at has the worst bandwidth I’ve encountered in years.  Indeed, it is so slow that bandwidth testers won’t even run to show how slow the bandwidth is!  I wasn’t able to send anything last night, but managed to get a trickle of bandwidth this morning, so here is some material for your Friday pleasure.

I mentioned last week about the curious slow motion semi-response by other countries to the new EU ‘carbon’ taxes (a tax is a tax, no matter what you call it or how ‘green’ you try and make it seem) on flights within and to/from the EU.  News this week suggests that China is getting more assertive, and now placing $12 billion worth of orders with Airbus at risk of cancellation.

On the other hand, there’s an ocean of difference between orders ‘at risk’ of being cancelled and orders actually cancelled and switched to Boeing (or to China’s growing Comac domestic airline manufacturer) instead.

And, even more bizarrely, the US airline lobbying group, ‘Airlines for America’, issued a statement that

commended DoT Secretary Ray LaHood for his unwavering support and efforts to overturn the application of the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) to U.S. airlines and aircraft operators.

“We commend Secretary LaHood for once again speaking out against this unilateral and extraterritorial scheme, and for recognizing that assertive action is needed to reverse this directive, which violates international law and imposes an exorbitant tax on U.S. airlines,” said A4A President and CEO Nicholas E. Calio. “A4A urges the U.S. government to file an Article 84 legal proceeding at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) as a means of overturning the ETS and bringing the Europeans back to the negotiating table. As Secretaries LaHood and Clinton correctly pointed out in a December letter to EU officials, the ETS is standing in the way of a global framework at ICAO that will produce positive, tangible results.”

Their statement ends by pointing out that airlines, both in the US and worldwide, count for less than 2% of CO2 emissions.  They don’t actually get as brave as to straight out say ‘So why pick on us when there are plenty of larger emitters of CO2’ but you know they’re thinking it.

The puzzling thing about the statement of appreciative commendation is that it seems to be based on nothing.  Apart from make some empty statements, what exactly has Secretary LaHood, or for that matter Secretary Clinton or anyone else actually done to overrule the EU’s dictatorial imposition on US airlines?  As best I can tell, nothing.

But doing nothing seems to please our US airlines greatly.  I’ve no idea why.

And, equally of course, the EU is now so wrapped up in the high moral stance of ‘this tax will save our planet from over-heating’ that the politicians are unlikely to back down, no matter how great the consequences may be of levying it on airlines for flying operations outside the EU’s jurisdiction.  Indeed, the greater the cost, the more self-righteous the tax authorities feel.

As proof of their high moral stance, earlier this week – after pressure from a growingly anxious Airbus, with China’s threat to cancel $12 billion worth of airplane orders, and also from six major European carriers, concerned about ‘tit for tat’ consequences such as Russia’s threat to ban them from Russian airspace – EU leaders roundly rejected the suggestion of any modification to their airline taxes.

A spokesman for Connie Hedegaard, European environment commissioner, said there would be no changes, a point underscored by a German government spokesman who said ‘We will not in any way compromise our goal of implementing emissions trading for the airline industry’.

So there!

I’m off to see a wonderful airplane museum a short way out of Orlando today – Fantasy of Flight; maybe they should ask to be considered as a final resting place for Boeing’s first 787.

Yes, the first 787 has already been retired; it was impractical to modify it to an acceptable standard to sell.  But I am surprised that Boeing didn’t keep it as a flying test bed – you’d think Boeing would want to have at least one and preferable two or three 787s for extended life airframe testing, making sure that their test planes had more air time and cycles than delivered planes in the hands of airlines have.  That way, if further – and more serious – issues appear with the composite structures in its airframe should appear, Boeing at least finds out about such things safely before a plane full of passengers experiences a possible ‘inconvenience’.

Naturally, as brief as this week’s newsletter is, there’s still a need to bring another example of the lunacy – or, more to the point this week – the hypocrisy inherent in our ‘security’ regime.  One law for the rich, one for the poor?  Or, in the case, one law for us, another law for them.  Read the item that follows in this week’s compilation of stories.

And here’s a great graphical depiction of some things to do with the TSA.  I particularly like the bit which equates the risk of dying from the Xray scanner radiation (this risk is probably massively understated) as being the same as the risk of dying from some form of terrorist attack.

Some of the other data in the graphic truly surprises me – for example, the TSA has grown to four times the size it was initially set up at.

Lastly this week, as short as the newsletter is, there’s still room for an article on that perennial favorite topic of ours, with of course, an appropriate aviation theme – here’s an article that gives a brief history of airplane toilets.

I’ll be back in town next week, with a full sized Travel Insider to offer you.  Until then, please enjoy safe travels








2 thoughts on “Weekly Roundup Friday 16 March”

  1. Ahhh, finally someone that expresses publicly what I have thought all along. Disney is “family friendly” as long as you have the cash for it to be.
    Wanted to spend one of my birthdays in Epcot Center and did a cross-country in my hybrid to get there. Along the way I slept in many a motel and when I got to Disney the “hotel” I booked was the worst motel I had been at yet (at 6x the cost). I moved to the highest priced and best accommodation on the grounds but the service never got near to what a 5-star-priced hotel should have.
    “Have a magical day…” turned out to be said in much the same way as in California “Have a good day…” is expressed when what they really are saying is: “if you want to, ’cause I don’t really care if you do”
    Regardless, I chose to disregard all the bad and just have the time of my life.

  2. You must have purchased Park Hoppers — as normal one park (per day) passes are about $164 for 1 adult and 1 child at both places. I find park hoppers not a good deal as each park usually has more than enough to spend a day. And if going multiple days, added days are cheaper so use those days to hit the other parks. Even with a park hopper – getting to and from other parks takes a lot of time and energy. There are less expensive places to purchase tickets (save about 10%) at Undercover Tourist.

    If avoiding Park Hopper, you save $70 on a one day pass — more than enough to have lunch. Also one can bring in food and drinks (sure you need to carry around with you) and avoid those costs.

    Although expensive, you get about 12 hours (if you can go that long) vs. 2 hr at an NBA or NFL game.

    We usually hit the parks early, head back to nap at our condo rental at noon (and lunch), then back to park around 4pm. No extra fee for parking 2nd time. And about 10 min. drive.

    My complaint about Disney is transportation system. To get to Magic Kingdom, one needs to park, often walk or tram for 10-15 min to monorail, sometimes wait in line there, then exit monorail to walk to park entry points. At end of day this can take 30+ min to get to you car. Less true at other parks, but still not good. They should have multiple entry points near parking surrounding the parks. There are lots of secret better options, but may not all be ethical.

    Costs are high. But so are most large entertainment venues. As long as people come (and Disney is usually quite full), supply and demand will regulate prices.

    As to accomodations, one can find a nice condo within 15 min drive to sleep 4 comfortably for about $110 per night.

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