Weekly Roundup, Friday 12 August 2016

This 1939 picture of United Air Lines' Air Hostesses, as it and they were then known, makes one wonder just how much 'better' the flying experience has truly become in the 75 years subsequently.  See last item.
This 1939 picture of United Air Lines’ Air Hostesses, as it and they were then known, makes one wonder just how much ‘better’ the flying experience has truly become in the 75 years subsequently. See last item.

Good morning

I’m in the middle between the lovely Bordeaux cruise a couple of weeks ago, and our upcoming Balkans cruise in a couple of weeks time.  Is it any wonder that all I can think about is cruising, with a mix of memories of the marvelous experience in Bordeaux and anticipation for the new cruise shortly in the future!

So, what do I do in such a case?  The obvious thing, of course.  I agree with Amawaterways to offer an ‘experimental’ cruise to you – a Christmas Markets cruise with a slight twist.

The ‘problem’ is that many people demand their Christmas cruise extend along as much of the Danube as possible, somehow thinking that the more time spent cruising between further apart towns, the ‘better’ the cruise will be.  That of course makes little sense.  The other ‘problem’ is that many people believe they must include the Nuremberg market – the world’s largest – as part of a Christmas markets experience.

Well, as many of you know (over 275 of you have traveled with me on Christmas cruises in the past – it is our most popular tour we ever offer), the Nuremberg market is not only the world’s largest, it is also probably the world’s most crowded, to the point where it really isn’t much fun at all, and it is a let down rather than a high note to end the typical Danube Christmas cruise with a Nuremberg market stop.

So, Amawaterways have put together a better itinerary – less time spent cruising along the waterways, and more time, in better locations.  I’ve told them that Travel Insiders are sophisticated enough to understand these issues, and they’ve offered us a massive 40% discount to make it easier for us to prove this claim as being correct!

Needless to say, there are other Travel Insider exclusive specials included too, and we’ll be on their newest ship, launched earlier this year, and at a great time, nicely in the middle between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

If you’ve done a Christmas Market cruise along the Danube before, this will give you a wonderful reason to go back – a chance to see more of your favorite places, and a chance to add some new places that you didn’t see, as well.  More details in the item following this roundup.

As always, the usual provisos apply.  We’ve only got a limited number of cabins, and the special 40% deal is offered through the end of August.  So please, quickly decide to come on this lovely cruise – I look forward to meeting up with you in Prague or Budapest, and sharing this journey along the Danube to Vilshofen and then perhaps the free optional extension on to Munich.

Also this week, please continue reading for :

  • Delta’s Meltdown Points to a Broader Industry Problem
  • Muslim Flight Attendant Sues ExpressJet Due to Being Required to Serve Alcohol to Passengers
  • More on Taking Bags During Emergency Airplane Evacuations
  • It is Official – Vacations are Good For You
  • The ‘Danger’ of Being a Tourist in an Unfamiliar Country
  • And Lastly This Week….

Delta’s Meltdown Points to a Broader Industry Problem

Delta’s main computers had some sort of problem on Monday morning – Delta is a bit vague about what it was, and of course, whatever it was should absolutely never have been allowed to happen.

Originally Delta tried to pass it off as a power outage, but Georgia Power, the airline’s utility company power supplier called foul on that and said there was no interruption of power to Delta.  Delta then went silent on what the cause may have been.  When will we ever see an airline that doesn’t automatically cast around for someone else to blame for any problem, whether such blame is fair or unfair?

A short several hour computer outage was enough to mess up thousands of flights, all the way through the rest of Monday, much of Tuesday, and even some of Wednesday too.

Subsequently Delta voluntarily offered to pay $200 compensation to stranded fliers.  That was sort of fair, inasmuch as the airline was generally under no obligation to do anything at all, but if you were delayed traveling from Europe back to the US on a Delta flight, you would be entitled to EU mandated compensation, probably of €600 per person.  Search Google for EU regulation EC261/2004 for details of your entitlements.

Interestingly, in the US, while airlines are required to pay compensation to passengers they ‘bump’ off flights, they are not required to pay any compensation at all when flights are delayed or canceled.  The reason for this quirk is an exercise in seeing our glass as half full, rather than half empty.  We should appreciate getting compensation for being bumped, because even that originally got no compensation.  It was only after an airline snarkily bumped Ralph Nader off a flight, causing him to mount an effective crusade and get a law passed requiring compensation for bumped passengers.  I guess if his flight had been cancelled, he might have pushed for compensation for cancelled/delayed flights – perhaps we should wish his next flight to be cancelled!

But the real problem, for most of the stranded passengers, is the change in industry practice and regulation in the US.  No longer do airlines endorse their tickets over to other airlines, using what used to be the ‘magic’ phrase “Rule 240” – a former FAA regulation that required airlines with delayed or cancelled flights to allow their passengers to travel on another airline at no extra cost to the passenger, if the other airline could get the passenger to their destination more quickly.

Although you’ll still see hopelessly uninformed travel tipsters telling you about Rule 240, it ceased to have any effect when deregulation occurred, way back in 1978.  For some time after deregulation, the airlines continued to voluntarily observe a similar code of practice, and it worked reasonably fairly – one day, airline A would have a problem and need to rely on airlines B and C to help out, then the next day, airline B would be relying on airlines A and C, and so on.  What goes round, comes round, in other words.

But the airlines started getting greedy.  The earlier agreements where they would charge each other minimal rates to accept each other’s distressed passengers were rescinded, and the airlines started trying to charge premium rates to each other, never stopping to think that today’s profit would be balanced by matching costs tomorrow when they in turn needed the help of other airlines.

Eventually things got to the present point where few airlines now will ever agree to endorse their tickets over to other airlines.  We’ve gone from a reasonably balanced ‘win-win’ to an unreasonably balanced lose-lose.  Well done, airlines!

So you can be stranded at the airport, while watching other planes from other carriers fly with empty seats to the destination you want to reach, but if you are to go and ask the other airline to help out, they’ll refuse to look at your original ticket and instead insist you pay top dollar for a last minute one way fare with themselves.

It is even worse than that.  When the airline with the problem resumes service, it may not be able to put you on the next flight out, because it always gives priority to the people actually booked on a flight, and only after those people are accepted does it then allow passengers from earlier cancelled flights to fill up any remaining seats.  Which points to the other increasing problem – as airplane loads get closer and closer to capacity, the ability to suddenly accept all the passengers from a cancelled flight gets more and more difficult, for two reasons.  First, there are more passengers on the flight that was cancelled now needing to be re-accommodated.  Second, there are fewer empty seats on other flights to accept them.

If an airline was averaging 50% loads, all the passengers on one cancelled flight could be accepted onto the next scheduled flight.  With 66% loads, a cancelled flight would require two additional flights to handle the cancelled passengers.  With 75% loads, three flights.  With 80% loads, four flights, and with 90% loads, nine flights.

With most airlines averaging 80% or higher loads, it can take a long time for everyone on a cancelled flight to ultimately get to their destination – a long time and some very roundabout routings.

I’m not calling for reregulation on this point – well, not entirely.  But wouldn’t it be appropriate for the airlines to become nice and friendly with each other again and go back to the earlier gentlemen’s agreement whereby they don’t try and exploit each other’s misfortunes but rather band together to minimise the hassle factor to all passengers.

The thing the airlines sometimes forget is that the more unpleasant they make the overall flying experience, the more we avoid flying.  The smoother and less disruptive they make it, the happier we are to go to the airport and fly with them more often.

Muslim Flight Attendant Sues ExpressJet Due to Being Required to Serve Alcohol to Passengers

Most of us, when we decide what job we will apply for and accept, think carefully about what the job requires and consider if it is something that we’re happy doing or not.  And, if we don’t like the duties involved in the job, we simply don’t apply for the job.

But a muslim woman chose to become a flight attendant for regional airline ExpressJet, and then apparently discovered to her astonishment that part of her duties would be serving alcoholic drinks to passengers on the flights.  Shock!  Horror!  Surprise!

So she naturally refused to do this.

So the airline stood her down and placed her on unpaid leave (don’t ask me why they didn’t just fire her).

So she is naturally now suing the airline for ‘refusing to provide a reasonable religious accommodation’.  We hope she receives the outcome she deserves.

Details here.

One also has to wonder whether she wishes to wear a head to toe black burqa with the narrowest of slits for her eyes.  Doubtless that will become the subject of a lawsuit soon enough too.

Which brings an interesting point to mind – when was the last time you had an airline offer you a pork dish?  Indeed, even beef is becoming a bit of a rarity – seems like chicken and vegetarian choices abound, but beef/lamb/pork is much less common.

More on Taking Bags During Emergency Airplane Evacuations

I wrote last week about the appalling circumstance that now seems commonplace when passengers delay abandoning an airplane in order to get and take their belongings with them.

Here’s a good article that discusses the matter further, and wonders what can be done to prevent such actions in the future.

Some of it is nonsense, however, including suggesting that passengers would happily check their carry on bags if they could do so for free.  Most of us take carry-ons with us either to save the time it otherwise takes to get checked bags returned upon arrival, or to better protect the contents, or to safeguard against essential items being lost.

Nonetheless, it is a good and comprehensive discussion on the topic.  Worth reading.

It is Official – Vacations are Good For You

This might seem self serving alongside my suggestion you should come join me, either on our NZ/Australian tour, or our lovely Danube Christmas Cruise, but earlier this week saw the release of a new study showing the beneficial effects of vacations and noting that many Americans don’t even avail themselves of all the meager vacation time they are given each year, with last year seeing more unused vacation days than any previous year.  Earlier studies contrast Europe, where by law all employees must be given at least four weeks of paid vacation, with Austria being the most generous – 22 days of paid vacation plus another 13 paid official holidays each year, 7 weeks off work in total.  Against this is the US, with no mandatory vacation days at all.

Perhaps the most extraordinary practice is in some countries where people are paid more when on vacation than when at work – the rationale being that it costs more to go on vacation than it does to simply go to work every day.

So, whether it is with me and some of your fellow Travel Insiders, or in any other form, repeat to yourself ‘I deserve a vacation’.

The ‘Danger’ of Being a Tourist in an Unfamiliar Country

Things are different in foreign countries.  Fancy that!  And sometimes we can make mistakes, and discover that what we thought was one sort of shop or attraction is actually quite a different sort of shop/attraction.

So it is with sympathy and understanding that we note the unfortunate mistake made by members of the US Men’s Basketball players in Rio at present, who discovered that what they thought was a spa/salon was actually a very different sort of business entirely.

One is certain that they chastely fled the scene the instant they discovered their terrible mistake.  (Not many) details here.

In other Olympic news, has a British composer/arranger sneakily sabotaged our national anthem?  It appears that it has been rewritten into a kinder gentler and less triumphant minor key for playing at Olympic ceremonies, instead of the bold brave major key it is normally played.

Here’s an interesting analysis.

Oh, and while everyone thinks they know the story of the composition of our national anthem, do you truly know where the music, rather than the words, originate?  No, Francis Scott Key, while writing the words to The Star-Spangled Banner, didn’t also write the music.  He took an earlier tune for the music, a tune he had already used once before for his hymn ‘When the Warrior Returns’.  The music was actually a British tune, ‘To Anacreon in Heaven’, and was written to celebrate drunken debauchery.  It didn’t become our national anthem until 1931.

Plenty of fascinating trivia about our national anthem here.

And Lastly This Week….

As one who struggles to find the appropriate line as between being rudely assertive and being politely walked all over, one of the things that really gets my goat are people who ‘reserve’ the best places, but seldom actually are in the places they’ve claimed for themselves.  But there is then the social dilemma – does one acquiesce to their rude assertion of right to a place they are not using?  Often, there are rules that say such acts of reserving are not to be done, and equally often everyone ignores them and no-one polices them.

Fortunately, in some coastal towns in Italy, the coastguard are confiscating items of property that people are placing on the beaches to assert their rights to the spaces, and are backing up the confiscations with fines of €220 to offenders who refuse to comply with requests to ‘use it or lose it’.

Good for them.  Details here.

Here’s an interesting article that attempts to answer a question few of us have even thought to ask – why are the fabric designs in buses, subways, and trains, generally so ugly?  We all know that airlines sometimes get it ‘right’ but sometimes also have equally spectacular fails when it comes to pleasant and inoffensive designs, so there’s clearly no automatic ‘law’ that dictates such things must be ugly (not like the rumored design requirements in certain fast food restaurants that seating should be designed to become uncomfortable after a relatively short period to encourage customers to finish their food and leave).

Truly lastly this week, and continuing a design theme, I was wondering above how long it will be before muslims demand to be allowed to wear head to toe burqas while acting as flight attendants.  One wonders what they think of the flight attendant uniforms showcases in this pictorial overview of a display of flight attendant uniforms currently at SFO airport.

Until next week, please enjoy safe travels





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