Weekly Roundup Friday 1 February 2013

Visit Dracula's reputed home - Bran Castle - on our Balkan & Baltic Bucket List Tour.  Join now to beat the price rise!
Visit Dracula’s reputed home – Bran Castle – on our Balkan & Baltic Bucket List Tour. Join now to beat the price rise!

Good morning

We are now into the third week of the 787 grounding.

At the same time more and more information comes to light about how poorly designed and implemented the battery system was in the 787, Boeing seems to remain in a stronger and stronger state of denial, and is more focused on getting its plane flying again asap, than identifying and solving the underlying safety problems.

I know it has become standard practice for corporate America to avoid admitting mistakes.  But the cat is out of this bag.  The battery problems with the 787 are no longer a closely held secret.  Everyone knows about them, with more and more experts commenting about the inherently unsafe design choices Boeing and its sub-contractors made, and the lack of supervision by both the Japanese and US aviation authorities when respectively certifying the various battery related components.

Don’t you think Boeing would actually protect its image much more positively by saying ‘Okay, guys.  We made a big mistake.  We accept that and apologize for it, and now we’re moving forward to completely re-design our battery systems, using the absolutely best industry practices and highest safety standards.  We’ve learned from this and it will never happen again.’.

What credibility does Boeing preserve by continuing to insist there is no problem, particularly after extremely damming words from the NTSB about the severity of the safety problem, and as a growing line-up of battery experts all condemn the Boeing design, and most of all, as we learn about more and more past battery problems that are only now being acknowledged?

Do you trust Boeing’s overall ability to evaluate all other aspects of its airplane design and safety when it insists the 787 batteries are perfectly fine?

The latest developments in the 787 saga are recounted below.

Wednesday morning saw the long-awaited and much delayed release of the new Blackberry devices.  I assess them in an attached article, and after reporting about how Blackberry’s shares dropped 17% on Wednesday, I should add that they dropped another 6.9% on Thursday.  It isn’t just me who was unimpressed by the new product launch.

While the two new phones are good, the problem is that they are not great, and Blackberry does not have a complete ‘eco-system’ of phone, tablet, and other devices to offer in an integrated package.  Blackberry said their aim is to become the third largest smartphone system (after Android and Apple) and although this sounds remarkably (commendably?) unambitious, what are the chances that this small and shrinking Canadian company can successfully beat the combined market and marketing might of Microsoft and Nokia?  Slim to none has to be the brutal answer to that, and this realization seems to be bubbling through to the stock price.

A good phone – yes.  But not good enough to displace/replace the momentum accumulated over the last several years by Apple and Android.  It is likely to become an unfortunate case of too little, too late.

Please see below for items on :

  • Buy Now Before Balkan & Baltic Bucket List Tour Balloons Up in Price
  • Christmas Cruise Cabins Increased
  • Single Lady Seeks Share
  • Reader Survey Results – Frequent Flier Programs
  • Boeing 787 Update
  • Toxic Airplane Cabin Air
  • Passengers vs Flight Attendants.  Who Wins?
  • Passengers Now Successfully Suing Airlines For Flight Delays (in Europe)
  • Sacré Bleu!  Air France to Take On Easyjet and Ryanair?
  • Your Cell Phone is No Longer Yours
  • Tablets and Memory
  • Homeland Security Department Mission Creep
  • And Lastly This Week….

Buy Now Before Balkan & Baltic Bucket List Balloons Up in Price

Okay, so I’m trying to extend the alliteration perhaps past the point of no return.  The simple message is that the Euro is leaping up in value, and our lovely Balkan & Baltic Bucket List tour price is going to have to adjust to reflect the much stronger Euro, which is now at its highest level in 14 months and alas showing no sign of dropping in the next few months.

If you choose to join and send in your application in the next few days, I’ll honor the current pricing, but it will have to be adjusted up by several hundred dollars urgently soon.  Currently it looks like we currently have 15 joining us for the first segment, 14 for the second, and 12 for the third.

Christmas Markets Cruise Cabins Increased

We had more people join us for our Christmas Markets Cruise along the Danube this week, and indeed we have now sold all the 12 cabins initially allocated to us.  Amawaterways have kindly released another three cabins  – and also at the 40% discount price, so as to allow more Travel Insiders to also join.  That could be you!

Let’s see how much of the ship we can fill with Travel Insiders.  :)  With 82 cabins total, we’re already a large share of the total cruise, which is wonderful, because much of the time when meeting other people in the restaurant, lounge, bar, or other public areas; rather than being strangers, they are fellow friendly Travel Insiders.

Amazingly, we now have seven people returning to do a second Christmas cruise.  So it isn’t just me assuring you that these cruises are among the ultimate travel experiences you’ll ever enjoy – the actions of these seven repeat Christmas cruisers provide additional confirmation of just how wonderful this experience is.

This year should be the best ever Christmas cruise.  I’ve reworked the Prague option, and now feature a lovely train ride from Prague to Bratislava on the day we transfer to Budapest, and the new Amawaterways super-ship, the Amacerto, will make for an even more luxurious on-board experience too.

Oh – one more reason this will be the best ever Christmas cruise?  The 40% discount!  More details here.

Single Lady Seeks Share

We have a lady who is doing both the first part of the Balkan & Baltic Bucket List Tour and also the Christmas Markets Cruise, and she would love to find another single lady to share with.

If you’ve been thinking of either tour, but have been deterred by the unavoidable extra amount incurred as a single, let me know and I can put you in touch with her and the two of you can decide if it would be appropriate to consider sharing.

This lady has done a Christmas cruise with me before, is widely traveled, has three adult children, and is sort of, shall we say, in her early/mid 60s.  I’m sure she’d make a friendly travel companion.

Reader Survey Results – Frequent Flier Programs

Many thanks to everyone who went and participated in last week’s reader survey.  The new survey format gave me some additional analysis tools, so while I have no idea who anyone was, I can see, for example, that 87% of survey responses came from the US, and that we even had one person in Kazakhstan respond.

99.7% of all respondents reported that they flew at least once in the last year, 90% flew four or more times and half of respondents flew ten or more times.  Almost two-thirds (63%) of respondents are an elite member of at least one frequent flier program, and one in five are elite in two or more programs, including 1.4% who are elite in five or more programs simultaneously.

Of course, as one reader pointed out in an email, with the ability to get ‘elite for life’ status with some programs, becoming elite in many different programs is actually not an impossible thing to achieve.

Are frequent flier programs playing a greater or lesser extent at influencing your travel and airline choices?  27% said greater (including 10% who said much greater) and 33% said less (including 19% who said much less).

27% of readers said they’d not pay anything extra to fly with a carrier that they had elite status with.  Of those who would pay, half would pay up to $40 and half would be willing to pay more than $40 to fly on their favorite carrier.  Of course, this simple question didn’t split itself into two parts – how much would you pay if it was your own money, and how much would you pay if your company was reimbursing you.  A question for another time, perhaps.

In terms of the factors you most consider when selecting flights, the total cost of the ticket and fees was ranked highest, and the schedule convenience came in second, with frequent flier program coming in third (last).

Another nice thing about this survey format is being able to look at two variables simultaneously.  For example, the more flights a person took, the more important frequent flier programs were.  Of people taking 12 or fewer flights a year, more agreed that frequent flier programs were becoming less important to them when choosing who they fly, while of people taking 13 or more flights, more people said that frequent flier programs were becoming more important.

This was confirmed by comparing the number of elite programs belonged to with the changing importance of frequent flier programs.  Only 14% of people belonging to no elite programs said that frequent flier issues were becoming more important, while 47% said they were becoming less important.  But 34% of people belonging to one or more elite programs said that their frequent flier membership was becoming more important to them, and only 26% of people with elite memberships said that frequent flier programs were becoming less important.

This is interesting but perhaps not entirely unexpected.  Although the ‘value’ of the miles we get from frequent flier programs is diminishing – a fact confirmed by the diminishing importance given to frequent flier programs by occasional travelers; the value of elite level programs is increasing, because they now offer additional benefits above and beyond the simple accumulation of miles to redeem on ‘free’ flights in the future.

So – our conclusion?  Frequent flier programs are actually working better these days than formerly, at least from the airlines’ perspective.  They have evolved to now selectively appeal most to the more frequent fliers – the most valuable fliers for the airlines.  This has come about by reducing the value of the air mile based rewards, while increasing the value of other elite level perks.

Boeing 787 Update

Now that we are into the third week of the 787 grounding, (today – Friday – being Day #17) the question about how long it might go on for is becoming one of increasing importance to Boeing and the airlines that both have and are expecting to soon receive 787s.  Airlines are starting to lose patience.  This last week saw launch customer and largest 787 operator ANA  come out and announce it intends to claim damages from Boeing to reflect the cost and lost profit of having its planes grounded.

This article says the grounding may last for months rather than weeks, and then subsequently this article came out, inferring that it could take more than a year.

The second article is particularly interesting – it draws its ‘more than a year’ conclusion from looking at what happened with the Cessna Citation business jet that had earlier suffered a similar lithium-ion battery problem, and which seems on track to be taking well over a year to get recertified with an altered battery unit.  This leads one Wall St analyst to predict a 12 – 15 month lead time for the 787 if it goes a similar route.

So the 787’s problems are now shown to be even less unique – it is the second plane to have lithium-ion battery problems.

Depending on if your glass is half full or half empty, you might think that progress is either being made or not being made on the investigation into the battery problems.  Both the charging system and the batteries themselves have now been absolved of any blame.  What else does that leave, you might wonder?  As this article reports, investigators are now focusing on the monitoring system.

But in some ways, the failure to find a problem with the batteries or charging is not good.  Finding a problem is progress, not finding a problem is not so much progress.

There is also the ugly fact that, until this point, everyone had been focused on either the batteries themselves and/or the charging system.  The monitoring system was never even mentioned.  For that matter, it is an interesting definitional issue – when does the charging system or the batteries themselves become a monitoring system, because both the charging system and the batteries include monitoring functions.

Most of all, what will happen next if (and we would not be surprised if this happens) the monitoring system also proves to be ‘problem free’?

It also came to light that these latest two battery problems have been preceded by over 100 previous battery failures – details here.  I’d earlier speculated as to why one of the two batteries had been replaced in less than a year; and exactly as I’d wondered, it seems that such an event is all too common.

Think about it – in total there are only 50 planes, most of which have only just started to fly, and the oldest of which started flying just over a year ago.  But between the small number of planes and flights, there have already been 100 battery failures.

In among all the nonsense being offered as excuses for this, we do accept the truth that many of these battery failures were not safety issues.  But it does show that the total battery system is appallingly badly thought out.

And what’s with the excuse that some of these batteries had simply exhausted their working life or were past their expiry date and so their replacement was normal maintenance?  Go buy a lithium-ion battery-powered electric car, such as the Chevrolet Volt or Tesla S, and you’ll have a battery that has a guaranteed life of 100,000 miles or 8 years (in the case of the Volt) or up to unlimited miles and 8 years (in the case of the Tesla S).  Why are 787s going through batteries every three or four months, and who considers this to be normal and okay?

In addition, the Volt has now amassed over 100 million miles (about 4 million hours) of safe driving.  The only battery fire has been in a test vehicle, some days after it was deliberately crashed.  How can the Volt and Tesla have nearly perfect safety records with their batteries and much longer use history?

Talking about electric cars, Tesla founder and visionary Elon Musk has offered to assist Boeing review its lithium-ion battery challenges, and also volunteered some opinions about why the current design is inappropriate and what is required to improve it.  So far, Boeing has chosen to ignore his offer of assistance.

Boeing’s refusal to accept assistance is in line with their continued claims that their batteries are just fine.  I know you’ll struggle to believe me when I say this, but as recently as Wednesday this week, their CEO went on the record as saying he really does think their batteries are just fine – see for example, this article.

Although Boeing sees nothing wrong with its batteries, it is rumored to have asked the FAA to accept a fast ‘fix’ – building a more fire resistant housing around the batteries.  There is some irony in the proposal – that is what Boeing had self-certified itself as having already done, but apparently this time, it really will do what it says, and the battery enclosure really will be fire-proof and really will vent any leaked gases out of the plane rather than into the plane.

If the FAA is to accept that proposal, one hopes they will test it repeatedly, with a plane flying at cruising altitude over the Pacific Ocean, many hours from anywhere, and with Boeing’s senior management team all on board.

It also begs the question – is there a safety risk if the batteries fail, albeit relatively safely, on a flight?  Can the plane still continue flying perfectly safely without battery power?  The answer to that is ‘Yes, sort of’.  As long as the main engines are working, there shouldn’t be a problem.  But if the main engines should fail (extremely rare, but not unheard of) what happens then?  You’ve no battery power to restart them.

At the very least, if Boeing can’t guarantee a 99.999% or greater reliability on its batteries, it should have its ETOPs certification revoked and be required to never be more than 30 – 60 minutes from an emergency landing point.

Lastly, can I nominate as ‘787 article of the week’ this excellent summation of the 787’s troubled history.  The 787’s problems may possibly extend way beyond bad batteries into the future, just as they have into the past.

Toxic Airplane Cabin Air

Talking about leaking gases from exploding batteries, the very contentious topic of toxic cabin air has surfaced yet again, this time in the form of two recent pilot deaths, which it is alleged may be the result of the pilots having breathed in too much toxic cabin air during their duty flying time.  Here’s one report about this and here’s another.

The issue has a name – Aerotoxic syndrome, and was first recognized as a possible issue back in 1999.

There are several sources of potentially poisonous toxins to be introduced into cabin air.  Most planes pressurize their cabins by taking some of the ‘bleed air’ from the jet engines (the 787 is the notable exception to this, so two thumbs up for that aspect of the plane’s design), and if the engines are leaking oil, that oil can potentially be vaporized and make it in to the cabin as well.

There are other ways that toxic fumes can end up in the passenger cabin too, and over the years, while airlines and airplane manufacturers have generally denied any culpability, there have been some changes made in designs to reduce the danger of dangerous chemicals ending up in the passenger cabin.

Depending on who you talk to and the study you cite, it seems that the risk of a toxic air event (specifically engine oil leakage) happens somewhere between once every 22,000 and once every 28,000 flights.  No big deal, right?  That’s what the industry would have us believe.

Of course, that’s a bit like saying that car accidents/deaths only occur once every few million miles of driving.  Brilliantly safe – but we all know or know of someone who has been severely injured or killed in a car crash.

Let’s put those 22,000 – 28,000 flights into perspective.  There are almost 30,000 commercial airline flights a day, in the US alone.  Still think it to be no big deal?

Here’s a useful article about the history of this issue, and some of the court cases that have already been held on the subject.

Passengers vs Flight Attendants.  Who Wins?

Well, perhaps this is an unnecessary question.  because we know the answer.  Any time it is us vs them, they win, don’t they.  The flight attendants and the pilots close ranks and support the most inappropriate of behaviors by themselves, and are aided and abetted by police and other law enforcement agencies who are ridiculously fast to view any disagreement with, or act of bad service on the part of an airline employee, as representing the passenger being a potential terrorist trying to recreate 9/11, single-handedly; and they rush to accept without question or concern anything told to them by the sainted airline employees.

Here’s a NY Times article recounting a recent run-in between a passenger and a flight attendant.  Note such delightful parts of the discussion as, after the passenger started recording the conversation for his protection, ‘the flight attendant grabbed his [ie the passenger’s] phone’ and then – bonus – two federal air marshals intervene, too.  Did they really truly think the guy was a terrorist?  Did they really need to pin the passenger to the counter with his hands behind his back?  What was the danger of having the passenger record the conversation so as to ensure an accurate honest record of what was being said?

On the other hand, it seems this guy was a coach class passenger and ‘trespassing’ in first class, so I’ve little sympathy for his cause.  He shouldn’t have been there, but there are positive and negative ways of conveying that information, without the need to grab his cell phone, and pin him up against a counter.

The key ‘law’ – such as it is – governing what we can/can’t do on a plane is the FAA requirement that passengers obey the ‘lawful commands’ of uniformed crew members.  The only potential ambiguity in that mandate is what constitutes a ‘lawful command’.  Clearly if the flight attendant said ‘open the emergency exit and jump out’ that would not be a lawful command.

Unfortunately – and you need to appreciate and accept this – most other things a flight attendant may tell you to do, whether sensible or not, and whether fair or not, are most likely lawful, and if you disagree, you are massively better advised to argue with the airline policy makers, after you get to your destination, than you are to argue with the flight attendant, and then with all of his or her colleagues, and then with the pilots, and then, inevitably, with the police.

Like it or not, we do lose most of our rights when we board a plane (actually, we start to lose them as soon as we set foot in the passenger terminal and don’t regain them until leaving at the conclusion of our travels).

Passengers Now Successfully Suing Airlines For Flight Delays (in Europe)

One important right that European passengers have not lost is the right to be transported at the time they were promised to be transported.  If a European flight is delayed or cancelled, the passengers are entitled to compensation.

These rights apply to all passengers, wherever in the world they live, who are traveling on European airlines, when the flight is to, from, or between European cities, and on any other airlines if departing a European city (but not flying to a EU city from somewhere else).

The rights were first enacted way back in 2004, but it has taken eight years of airline delays and obfuscation and court cases for a final ruling to make crystal clear that yes, indeed, the airlines do have to pay for delays and cancellations, exactly as the regulations require, and even in cases where the penalty they must now pay to passengers is greater than the original airfare paid.

It might sound extreme for an airline to pay more compensation than it initially charged as a fare, but if you suddenly find yourself unable to make a ‘must attend’ essential meeting, your loss/costs may be massively more than either the airfare you originally paid or the compensation you now receive.  The EU compensation levels are fair.

There’s a great service that, for a small fee, will help you file your claim and will ensure you get your entitled compensation.  This is the website :  http://flight-delayed.co.uk

Here’s an article explaining some more about the situation in Europe now.

As for flights in the US, you have no rights whatsoever regarding flight delays and cancellations.  Your only rights as regards compensation are those relating to if you are bumped off a flight, and possibly any extra rights the airline may give to you in its conditions of carriage.

Sacré Bleu!  Air France to Take On Easyjet and Ryanair?

Well, maybe in their dreams.  Air France has announced plans for a new brand regional subsidiary, to be known as Hop! (strange that a fiercely proud wine growing country would name its new airline after the most distinctive ingredient in beer….) and formed out of three existing (not so low-cost) Air France regional subsidiaries.

Will a new name really make the difference?  Can current ‘high cost’ regional airlines miraculously transform themselves in to a new low-cost operation?  Will Air France really be able to come out with a viable low-cost airline product that truly can compete with Easyjet and Ryanair?

Clearly, Air France hopes so.  We’ll have to wait and see, and noting that Air France doesn’t seem able to decide if the new airline will be a low-cost stand alone carrier (based at Orly) or a feeder airline for its mainline flights (with other Hop! flights serving CDG too) we suspect this will end up being another compromise of a carrier that tries to do everything and ends up failing abjectly.

We look forward to seeing what Michael O’Leary, histrionically foul-mouthed CEO of Ryanair, has to say about his new ‘competitor’.  No doubt, when he finally stops laughing long enough to comment, he’ll share his thoughts with us.

Your Cell Phone is No Longer Yours

So, you’ve paid maybe a couple of hundred dollars to ‘buy’ a cell phone, and then honored the two-year contract associated with the ‘discounted/subsidized’ price you paid for ‘your’ phone.

Your contract is completed, and while you still like your phone, you’ve discovered a better deal on service, with a different wireless company.  Or maybe you’ve moved, and where you are now is somewhere where the carrier you are with has bad signal coverage, but competitors offer good signal coverage.

So, up until last weekend, you’d be able to take ‘your’ phone and pay someone to ‘unlock’ it for you, and with that unlocked phone, possibly then arrange for it to connect to another wireless company’s service, saving you the need to buy another phone that you don’t need.

Phones that are ‘locked’ (ie 99% of all phones that you get when you buy a discounted phone as part of a two-year contract) are electronically restricted from connecting to other networks.  It just takes the ‘flipping of a bit’ electronically in their firmware to unlock them to work with other compatible networks.

This is also a huge benefit when traveling internationally.  Instead of paying your US wireless carrier sometimes many dollars a minute for all incoming and outgoing calls, to or from anywhere, whether back home, or to the person over the road from you in the foreign country you’re visiting; with an unlocked phone you can slip a local SIM chip into the phone and pay local rates, which typically allow all incoming calls to be totally free, and local calls in country to be at a much more reasonable rate.

But the Librarian of Congress reversed his earlier ruling, three years ago, and ruled that all new phones may not now be unlocked by their ‘owners’.  Doing so would – he says – harm the phone manufacturers’ copyright.

Quite apart from the obvious question – what is a librarian doing ruling about cell phones – the other obvious question is ‘If this is my phone, why can’t I use it the way the phone manufacturer actually designed it to be used?’

Locking a phone does not protect any copyright or anything, and neither does unlocking a phone harm the intellectual property embodied in the phone.  All phones are first made unlocked.  Only then, at the request of each different carrier, might the phones be modified to be locked.  Unlocking a phone merely restores it to its normal state.

But this librarian, who unfortunately is the person ultimately responsible for issues to do with the draconian Digital Millennium Copyright Act, has acceded to lobbying by the wireless companies and ruled that we can’t unlock our phones.

How crazy/stupid is that?  Almost every part of this law is bad, and desperately needs to be rewritten.

Here’s an article that discusses the problem further.

Tablets and Memory

In just over a week, Microsoft’s new Surface Pro tablet will go on sale (9 Feb).  This is their ‘real’ tablet – or about as close/real to a tablet as Microsoft will ever get – and vastly better than the crippled earlier Surface RT tablets already on sale.

Mind you, ‘vastly better’ is a relative term – the Surface Pro is a device crippled with a ridiculously short battery life and ridiculously expensive purchase price.

The Surface Pro can be had in a 64GB and a 128GB configuration.  I have a 16GB Nexus and a 32GB iPad, both of which are more than adequate for my purposes.  So who would want a 64GB or a 128GB Windows Surface?  Why don’t they have a cheaper 32GB version?

The answer may surprise you.  Because the Windows operating system consumes all but 23GB of the 64GB capacity – you can store only slightly more on the Surface’s 64GB than on my Nexus’ 16GB, and appreciably less than on my iPad’s 32GB.

Strangely, bumping the Surface up by 64GB to the 128GB configuration only adds 60GB more to the available storage capacity.

And this is ‘out of the box’ – before you start adding any bloated standard Windows programs to the device.

Another way of measuring the 64GB/128GB is perhaps to observe that on my Windows laptop, I am currently using 360GB of space for operating system, programs and data.  That’s not to say that you would also need 360GB for a Windows tablet of course, although it seems that Microsoft’s vision is that the Surface tablet should be able to do double duty as a tablet and as a laptop.

Although there are plenty of examples of successful hybrids, and particularly in the computer industry, I’m massively unconvinced that the Surface Pro is poised to become another such example.

Perhaps to match the 128GB gross capacity of the about-to-be-released Surface Pro, Apple this week announced a new iPad, also with 128GB of memory.

In doing so, Apple preserved its iPad pricing formula of ‘each doubling of memory costs $100’.  So to go from 16GB to 32GB costs $100, as does from 32GB to 64GB, and now from 64GB to 128GB too.  Now here’s a test – if you are a ‘glass half full’ person, you’ll be thrilled that Apple has not charged extra for the mammoth 64GB upgrade.  And if you’re a ‘glass half empty’ person, you’ll wonder why a 16GB upgrade doesn’t cost less than a 64GB upgrade.

Here’s an interesting article that explains how the cost to Apple for memory has almost halved in the last year.  The 64GB of extra memory that you pay $100 for costs Apple $35.20 to provide.  And the 16GB of memory you also pay $100 for?  That costs Apple a mere $8.80.

So, well done if you were a glass half empty person in the test a couple of paragraphs back.  Paying $100 for a $35 cost item is probably fair.  Paying $100 for a $9 cost item is probably not fair.

Homeland Security Department Mission Creep

Talking about copyright and unlikely federal departments involved in the issue, I went to watch a new Blu-ray (of The Office Season 8) this week, and to my astonishment, not only was there the time-hallowed FBI/Interpol warning about ‘Don’t copy this video recording’ but there was a new organization joining in the warning and threat of prosecution, too.  The Department of Homeland Security.

I may be mistaken, but is copying a video we’ve purchased and putting it onto our iPad or computer to watch while traveling not only stupidly illegal and something the FBI might choose to do something about, but now also an act which threatens the security of our ‘homeland’ (such an Orwellian term, ‘homeland’, isn’t it)?  Is it an act of domestic terrorism?  Does it threaten the nation’s infrastructure?

Isn’t this another example of ‘mission creep’.  How many more agencies will invite themselves to this party too?  How many more thousands of agents will we end up hiring?

And Lastly This Week….

An unexpected hazard has manifest itself at some parking lots around Denver Intl Airport.  Rabbits.  No – not killer rabbits a la Monty Python.  Hungry rabbits, eating through car wiring and tubing while the cars are parked.

I had rats do the same to a garaged car of mine (alas, at home rather than at an airport), so the danger is real.  Details here.

Brazil’s tourist industry is going high-tech by installing QR codes on sidewalks.  If you wonder what it is you’re looking at, you can scan the QR code with your phone and get a web page automatically loaded, telling you about the attraction.  Details here.

This assumes, of course, that you have a fairly priced international data plan for your phone.  Otherwise, you might quickly discover than an old-fashioned guide-book remains much cheaper.

I opened the newsletter commenting on Boeing’s tone deafness and somewhat-at-odds-with-reality insistence that all is well with their 787.  To close in similar vein, here’s an interview, apparently with a Boeing spokesman, that would seem to confirm my criticism.

Egads.  Another 5000+ word newsletter (5428 words).  Did you read it all, I wonder (don’t embarrass us both by answering!)?

Until next week, please enjoy safe travels







1 thought on “Weekly Roundup Friday 1 February 2013”

  1. If you read through the entire NYT article and the comments, including several clarifying points from the passenger whose cell phone was seized by the purser, and who was pinned to the galley counter with hands behind his back by air marshals, for the crime of recording the purser who was called to explain to him why the home made sign by the FA’s (which could be viewed in a video he posted) restricting his right of passage through the galley, you will see that he was not trying to sneak into a better cabin.

    His wife was in the next economy section up, on the other side of a row of pax, and he wanted to talk to her, which in order to do he had to pass to the other aisle and through a galley. You know this is often necessary on long haul flights where nature calls and the lavs on your side are all full. The galley was an economy galley.

    My guess is that the FA’s were having a party on leftover BC or FC food, and didn’t want to be disturbed. But apparently someone decided that moving up to any cabin closer to the front of the aircraft (for any reason) is potential terrorist activity, or even asking for an explanation as to why a passenger couldn’t come through a galley curtain with a home made sign. Maybe they thought he’d start a food fight with the “ammunition” in the galley. Talk about mission creep!

    There’s a reason the UA agents at the arrivals gate walked away after reprimanding those who brought the pax to “justice”…he wasn’t doing anything wrong, and the FA’s were “bending” the rules, to say the least, aided by the trigger happy air marshals.

    But did UA apologize? Are you kidding?

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