Weekly Roundup, Friday 30 December, 2016

Better not ask for the whole can next time you’re given a soda on a Korean Airlines flight. See item, below.

Good morning

Another year prepares to disappear, while 2017 is impatiently waiting to replace it.

What will 2017 bring?  New lower airfares?  Higher airfares?  Or maybe just more of the same?  Will Tesla cars truly become self-driving?  Will their Model 3 truly start deliveries?  And will Mr Trump be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize, like his predecessor?

For predictions on some – but not all – of these issues, please see my separate article, appended to the end of this weekly roundup.  My hope – and simultaneously my fear – is that 2017 will be anything but a normal year.

Turning now to the past, I hope you had a wonderful Christmas.  I had to laugh at my 12 year old daughter when she responded, as if she were so much older, upon opening the package that contained, surprise surprise, an Amazon Echo.  ‘Technology is becoming so wonderful these days, isn’t it’ she opined.  Whether one is 12, or many decades older, we can all see, from our very different perspectives, the truth in that statement – a truth that should be viewed in equal parts wonder and terror.

Do you have some new year resolutions lined up?  If traveling some more is one of them, I’ll be officially releasing our 2017 New Zealand Epicurean Extravaganza next week (click the link for details already online), and might possibly be able to squeeze another couple onto our Scotland tour.  I also expect to offer another Christmas cruise, to take place in early December.  So maybe there’s something in that lineup for you.

As a happy aside, the way the exchange rates are moving, both tours might be dropping in price. Gotta love that strong US dollar!

Not a lot this week, but please continue reading for :

  • Emirates’ Airbus A380 Engine Problems
  • How Some People Travel With Their Pets – For Free
  • Korean Airlines to Encourage its Flight Attendants to Readily Use Tasers on Passengers
  • The $11.5 million Welcome Sign
  • And Lastly This Week….

Emirates’ Airbus A380 Engine Problems

Rolls Royce – the company now owned by BMW – makes excellent motorcars, with the name being synonymous with being the ne plus ultra of whatever category of product it refers to.  Rolls Royce, the jet engine maker, has ‘dined out’ on its shared brand name for many years, subsequent to Rolls-Royce splitting itself into the motorcar company and the ‘everything else’ company in 1973.

When one sees the familiar interlinked double-R logo on the side of a jet engine, there’s an automatic warm fuzzy feeling that emanates from the sight.  But is this entirely deserved?

Qantas came perilously close to a disastrous crash when, in November 2010, and four minutes after one of its A380 had taken off from Singapore, the plane suffered an ‘uncontained failure’ of its number two engine – a Trent 900 manufactured by Rolls Royce.  Only the superb flying skill of ‘Australia’s Sully’ – Captain Richard Champion de Crespigny – oh yes, and aided by his co-pilot and three other pilots who also happened to be crowded into the cockpit at the time – managed to avert a potential ‘hull loss’, to say nothing of the 469 passengers and crew on board.  (Unsubstantiated rumor has it that the insurers wanted to write-off the plane but neither Qantas nor Airbus wanted to admit to an event that destroyed an A380, so it was repaired.)

The engine ‘explosion’ uncovered what the Australian Transport Safety Bureau described as a ‘critical safety issue’ with the engines that lead to the grounding of the Rolls-Royce powered A380s, and subsequent repair or replacement of many other of the Trent engines when they were all inspected.  Rolls Royce made some changes to its engine design, and all seemed to be resolved.

Reflecting the engine’s return to grace, in 2015 Emirates announced it would power its new A380s with Rolls Royce Trent 900s.  Prior to that time, it was using GP7000 engines made by an alliance between Pratt &Whitney and General Electric.

But the airline was not happy with the performance the engine appeared to be delivering, particularly in the harsh environment in Dubai (very hot and very sandy), and almost had a public falling out with Rolls Royce prior to both parties kissing and making up three weeks ago.  It appears RR had agreed to make good on all Emirates concerns.

Except that Airbus disclosed this week that it would be forced to now delay the delivery of 12 A380s to Emirates, due to – it seems – engine issues.  This is a problem for everyone involved – Airbus will struggle to find other airlines to take the twelve planes Emirates is delaying, Rolls Royce is clearly not yet out of the woods, and Emirates presumably would like to have and could benefit from the extra planes on the schedule originally requested and planned for.

It must be at moments like these that BMW is wishing that the engine manufacturer would stop using the same name as its cars (although it has to be said that the latest Rolls Royce cars look so very much different to the classic look that BMW itself has also caused plenty of revised perception to the iconic form of the car).

How Some People Travel With Their Pets – For Free

The ultimate ‘Fast Pass’ at Disney theme parks used to be having one of the people you were traveling with claim a disability, thereby entitling that person – and everyone traveling with them – to go to the front of all lines at all rides and attractions.  If you weren’t traveling with a disabled person, that wasn’t a problem – local people would advertise on Craigslist and elsewhere, offering to be your nominally disabled group member for you, in return for an appreciable fee for their day’s ‘work’.

After such practices were repeatedly exposed, and Disney itself started to noticed the unusually large number of disabled people visiting its theme parks, they tightened up on their policies, and the loophole is no longer as wide open as it formerly was.

But a similar type of loophole applies to people who wish to travel with their family pets, and who don’t wish to pay the cost associated with doing so, or (and understandably) don’t wish to subject their pets to the potentially fatal consequences of being transported as cargo, or who find themselves trapped by the ‘we won’t transport any animals in summer because we might mishandle them and cause them to die’ policies of most airlines.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Air Carrier Access Act, airlines are required to transport all service and ’emotional support’ animals, although some exceptions to this requirement can be made for creatures such as snakes and spiders.  Additionally, airlines can sometimes exercise discretion and can choose to allow some other animals or not – animals such as miniature horses, for example.

But if you’re a ‘crazy cat woman’ and want to fly with your dozen cats all ranged around you in your coach class seat, the airline is obliged to allow you to do this, as long as it is satisfied they are bona fide support animals.  That is a fairly easy hurdle to surmount for the crazy cat women among us – you can make, or buy online, an official looking vest saying ’emotional support animal’.  You can also buy online an official letter from a ‘mental health professional’ attesting to the bona fide requirement for you to travel with Muffy (and Tuffy and Fluffy and …..).

If you’ve ever seen one of these letters, they are interesting to read.  Basically, the letter usually says ‘I’m a mental health expert and in my opinion Tracy Traveler should be allowed to fly with her half dozen emotional support parrots’.  You know, the basic ‘trust me, I’m a doctor and I know best’ letter.  For reasons of patient confidentiality, the letter doesn’t need to describe the emotional support condition, and usually doesn’t explain in what way the animal(s) address that requirement.

Airlines can – but are extremely reluctant to do so – ask the traveler why they need to travel with their menagerie, but they are not allowed to ask the passenger for details of their disability.

The result?  I’ve certainly seen people happily exploiting and abusing this right/privilege, and some really nasty spoiled animals that seem to be much more emotionally needy than their owners.

Here’s an interesting article about this scam.

Korean Airlines to Encourage its Flight Attendants to Readily Use Tasers on Passengers

Perhaps in the hope of taking passengers minds off its current pilots strike, Korean Airlines announced this week that it will allow crew members to ‘readily use stun guns’ to manage violent passengers, and will hire more male flight attendants to ensure a robust response to unruly passengers.

We understand the benefit of Tasers as part of the ‘Continuum of Force’ process employed by police officers, and while there are valid concerns about the danger and sometimes lethality of Tasers, many times when a police officer deploys a Taser to subdue a suspect, he is doing so as a ‘soft option’ where the alternative would either be pepper spray (a vastly more unpleasant experience) or a bullet (an even nastier experience again).  Tasers are good – when pepper spray or gunshots are the alternative.

But, on a plane, do we really want to arm our flight attendants with Tasers?  And, ask yourself, whereas a Taser is a softer less harmful option in a confrontation between a police officer and a suspect, what is a Taser on a plane?  Softer and less harmful?  Or harsher and more potentially lethal?

Will having a Taser on their hip make flight attendants friendly and more eager to find a customer-service driven compromise?  Or will it make some of them more confrontational and more taunting, daring their passengers to make an issue out of something the flight attendant has done wrong?

There’s another interesting issue, too.  Police officers are required to submit to being Tasered as part of their training/qualification in using the device.  Will Flight Attendants also be required to take a dose, too?

Also, as an aside, has anyone done appropriate studies about the effect of Tasers on people in conditions with lower air pressure and less oxygen?

More details (about the KAL Tasers) here.  And here’s an excellent article about the obscured dangers of Tasers, although it uncritically notes the new recommendation that police officers not shoot Tasers into a suspect’s chest.  That is a ridiculous recommendation, because with a not tremendously accurate device such as a Taser, a high stress situation, and quite likely a dynamic environment, a moving target, and a single shot weapon, of course you must aim for center-of-mass or else risk missing the shot.  Oh – and one more thing.  Correct use of a Taser requires there to be some reasonable distance between the shooter and the target so the barbs can separate and not land too close together on the target, whichm when at a greater distance as required by this ‘best practice’, makes it even harder to aim realistically for anywhere other than center-of-mass.

However, please please please don’t suggest that flight attendants should be given pepper spray instead.  Pepper spray goes everywhere, and in a low pressure enclosed airplane cabin, would be even more debilitating than at ground level and would spread more quickly to nearby passengers.

The $11.5 million Welcome Sign

The Denver City Council has decided to spend $11.5 million dollars to create a 1,000 foot long ‘ribbon of moving light’ in a new airport sign for Denver International Airport.  The council wants to have a distinctive sign that will give DIA an iconic identity.

Now, you and I might both think $11.5 million to be a colossally irresponsible amount of money to spend on an airport name sign.  We might even ponder the need for an iconic identity when it is the only airport for many miles around (unlike, for example, Heathrow, which faces real ‘competition’ from other London area airports that are owned by different private companies).

But, we should put this in context and relax.  It is only $11.5 million.  That trifling sum is really is little more than ‘chump change’ for the airport and its Council owners – they are projecting $178 million from airport car parking alone in the next 12 months.  So, next time you wince at the up to $33/day parking fees at DIA, you might feel better knowing that, yes, you actually are being charged ridiculously too much money for your parking, but – hey, look!  It is in a good cause, because you’ve a fancy new sign out the front of the airport.

Details here.

And Lastly This Week….

Do you agree with this list of the world’s most over-rated places?  Can you suggest others that should be added?

It would be cruel to come up with a list of the year’s most over-rated deaths.  But there are a few names on this list that has me puzzled.  I hope the year passed without the loss of anyone close to you.

And truly lastly for the week, month, and year, what better way to end than with, ummm, an uplifting story about toilets.  No, not the one about the diverted BA flight with inoperable toilets, where, surprisingly enough, BA’s spokesman for once didn’t explain the diversion as being due to ‘the convenience of our passengers’.  But instead, the story about China’s proposed new revolution.  This time, though, there’s no Tiananmen Square or Red Guards involved.  It is a toilet revolution, being part of China’s planned boost to its tourism marketing.

Don’t get us wrong – we’re all in favor of tourism and prudent promotion thereof, and we’re also often in favor of nice toilets, with vivid memories of unpleasant ones in China.  But, just like lipstick on a pig, adding nice toilets to boring ugly unappealing industrial cities is not likely to bring about an influx of tourists.  Turning an abandoned coal mine into a park – not something many of us would fly thousands of miles to see.

And that’s it for 2016.  I hope it was a good year for you, and let’s all share a hope that 2017 will be a great year for everyone reading this.

Until next week, please enjoy safe travels






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