Anachostic

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Tag Archives: airlines

An Internet Crawl

I started by reading a news article about how airplanes are more densely packed than ever before.  Why is this?  There was a time when air travel was luxurious.  When did it become so lowbrow and pedestrian?  Low fares, obviously.  Everyone can afford to fly now and there are more people now than ever.

Let’s find out about the first point in that statement.  The news article makes mention of a deregulation act passed in 1978. Coincidently, that’s about the time air travel started declining in quality.  Reading an article on the act claims it introduced competition and reduced regulation.  Thanks to the lower fares, airline passengers increased from 207.5 million in 1974 to 721.1 million in 2010.  Although more people are being served, the quality has suffered and the infrastructure can’t support the load.

Now look at the second part of the equation.  More surfing to an article with a US Census chart shows that there are over 100 million more people in the US than when I was born.  Going back to 1950. the US population is half what it is now.  Can you even imagine it?  Half the people everywhere?  No wonder we were so prosperous at that time and now there’s not enough resources to go around.

There’s a saying that is used by people who deliver services: it’s the Tradeoff Triangle (it also goes by other names).  The concept is “Good, Fast, Cheap; choose two”, which means you have to sacrifice something to get more of something else.  In the case of the airline industry, everything has been sacrificed for Cheap.  They’ve held on to Fast for a little while, but with the extreme increase in passenger load, it can’t be efficient anymore.  Flights sell out and you have to choose a less-desirable flight time.  You can get sacrifice Cheap and get a little more Good by buying business-class, but that is a limited experience.

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I Never Really Believed in Curses Until…

…I started travelling.  There’s some pretty bad mojo brewing up whenever I want to go back to my home state.  Last time, I was delayed a day and it was because I took the last flight out and because of previous delays, it was impossible to make my connection.  This time I scheduled the first flight out, meaning I got up at 2:45 in the morning to get ready.  Despite the plan that I could be bumped to later flights and do to people what they did to me the first time, the flight was still a no-go.  Thank you, blizzard.

And I thought I did everything I was supposed to.  I checked the flight status before I went to bed and when I woke up – all good.  When I checked in, I asked “any news?” – no, the flight is still active.  I got to the gate and within 10 minutes I hear my name paged.  Damn it, I know what this is about.

Similar to last time, I could make my first leg, but the second leg was cancelled.  I had the option of going to the first airport and trying to get on the next flight at 5:30.  That’s a 10-hour layover with a great chance of the flight either being overbooked or cancelled.  No thanks.  So after rescheduling for tomorrow,  back home I went.

I call the car rental company and modify my reservation.  Apparently, when you take one day off your reservation, you’re not in the “special rate” anymore and it suddenly costs you over $100 more.  So a brief check on Yahoo and I’m now renting from another company.  However, I’m still out $5 for my brief time of parking at the airport.  And gas, and time.  Luckily, no hotel reservations to change like last time, where they knocked me for $90.  I swear, companies make the most money when their customers are miserable.

Trip Log 7/23/09

This actually isn’t a motorcycle trip.  It was a business trip.  As such, a lot of the details are hush-hush, but the trip itself – travelling – is something I don’t do as much of as I used to.

To start the whole trip on a great note, I don’t even make it to the airport garage without incident.  There are new traffic patterns I was unfamiliar with and when one sign says “Economy parking/post office next left” and a later temporary construction sign simply says “Post office”, I did not make the turn for economy parking.  So one loop around the terminal so I can be logged into NSA’s database as suspicious, then back to economy parking from the other direction, which had no construction.

Step 1 complete; I’m parked.  The shuttle bus is waiting and I hop on.  The bus will stop at the Blue side first, then the Red side.  Fine, I’m red.  We arrive at the red side and I get off the bus.  I’m the last one off because I’m not really in a hurry.  The lone luggage bag left in front of the bus is not my bag.  Suddenly, I feel I bit more in a hurry.  I grab the bag and walk back onto the bus to explain what has happened.  The driver was kind enough to drive back to the other side to see if there were some people freaking out that they had the wrong bag.  There were no people like that there.  I gave the driver my cell number and he said he would take the bag and my number to Lost and Found.  Meanwhile, I had to get my boarding pass, with or without luggage.

The trip I was taking for business was at a resort literally in the middle of nowhere.  1.5 hour drive from any metro area.  I was wondering if I could wear the same jeans for three days and maybe buy some souvenir shirts to wear the other days.  I guess I could have shopped at the airport, too, but that thought wasn’t coming to me then.  I walked down to baggage claim looking for Lost and Found.  I found instead a security guard, who told me I needed to be back upstairs and across the road.  Then he did something extra: he said he’d walk me there.  That’s pretty important to my trip because the purpose of the business meeting was to extol the virtues of service, which the security guard had just demonstrated.

So we got to L&F and I fill out the contact form.  The lady at the counter, again – pleasant, said that they already received the other person’s bag from the shuttle driver, they had contacted the owner, and that they would handle the exchange.  Simple enough, as long as these people – who didn’t recognize their bag had a handle wrap on it and mine didn’t – show up before I have to run to my gate.  As it turned out, it was only about 15 minutes that I had to wait and the crisis was averted.

The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful, but the business portion was very good.  The accommodations were impressive.

Being a remote resort area, it had a lot of walking paths and lots of greenery.  It would be a botanist’s dream.

The only critique I could make, and I regret thinking of it now because I should have filled out a comment card, is that the whole place needed more garbage cans.  You walk around a lot and typically you’re drinking something, but then you have to carry your trash around looking for a place to throw it away.  I remember only one public garbage can.

So early in the morning we all headed back to the airport.  I made the wise decision to walk from the entrance to the terminal instead of talking the tram.  It didn’t seem too bad, the map even said 1000 ft to next terminal.  Something wasn’t quite right though, because it seemed like I walked through an extra terminal or two.  All told (thanks to Bing’s unit conversion), it was well over a mile I walked.  Before breakfast.  I’m a bastard when I’m tired or hungry, so I had both going on when I got to the gate.  Unsurprisingly, a kiosk was very willing to take 8 dollars from me in exchange for a bag of chips, a bottle of Coke, and a bag of candy.

Boarding time.  Looks like we’re early.  And the staff was giving out coupons for free Internet on the plane.  I didn’t feel like Internetting, so I passed.  All settled in and ready to go.  And we’re not going.  Still not.  Half an hour later, I’ve worked through 75% of my bag of candy and getting restless.  More waiting.  Finally, the answer comes out.  They were trying to fix the computers for the Internet, they couldn’t, and so we’re an hour late and the coupons can’t be used on that flight (save them for another flight).

We’re back now.  I got the same shuttle driver and I’m the only one on the shuttle.  Will I lose my bag again?  We chatted about the luggage experience and service and other minor topics.  I tipped him at the garage.  It’s really something I don’t normally do, and really not sure he deserved it, but I intended it to be a nice gesture that showed I was satisfied with the service of everyone at the airport: him, the Lost and Found department, and the security guard that escorted me.

Thank god. I can head home and eat.  Oh wait, there’s new traffic patterns at the airport.  This new road is nice.  There’s my exit up ahead…. but this road doesn’t connect to that exit.  Now I’m going off the opposite direction.  Damn it.  Another 20 minutes of time lost.  Finally, the drama ends and I’m in familiar territory and here I am recounting it to the best person in the world.

Now I’m part of the stranded crowd

So I’m travelling. Primarily for work, but I tried to squeeze in some personal time at the beginning and end. To accomplish this, I booked the last flight out on a Friday. I’ll bet you see where this is going already. Most experienced resources told me to leave really early for the airport because of traffic and security and other potential issues. On their recommendation, I left four hours early.

It only took me a hour to get to the airport, despite slow traffic. I got to my gate in a little over half an hour. Now I have two hours to kill. I hate that. So I bought some really crappy/expensive dinner, did some unsafe wireless web surfing, and bought a book. The Zune got some decent use also. Time passed slowly.

I made my way to the actual gate I was departing from and over the music in my ears, I faintly heard an announcement that mentioned my destination. This can’t be good. Well, to sum it up, there was a delay that would prevent me from making my connection. The choices provided to me were: take the first leg of the flight, stay at that location and get the next flight out in the morning, or stay here and take the next flight out tomorrow.

This is nothing new. It happens to people every single day, some in much more critical situations than me losing half a personal day at my destination. What makes me think is why isn’t there some sort of risk/reward involved in this? It must be well-known to more experienced travellers that the last flight out is the riskiest to be late or cancelled. But I booked this flight on a couple of factors: first of course was convenience. I would get an extra day at my destination. Second was cost. Now I can’t go back in time to verify that the flight I chose was cheaper than the alternatives, but I suspect it was.

Why don’t airlines factor in some sort of discount based on the likelihood that your itinerary will be altered? In my case, I booked everything for my day of travel. I might have paid differently for lodging or vehicles based on that date. If I knew that there was a high probability of my flight being messed up, It might be worth paying a small premium to secure your initial travel plans.

Maybe this concept is already in place and since I don’t travel enough, I didn’t notice it. Maybe I’d even still be cheap and sacrifice my schedule for a few bucks. I think they both have a good probability.

Me and the World

I’ve been on a pretty big Belinda Carlisle kick lately.  I was on Zune.net checking out my profile and was surprised that I was the 2nd-highest player of that artist and not far off from the #1 spot.  The funny part that struck me was that my second most played artist was Rancid.  Now how does a record company market to someone like that?  "If you love Belinda Carlisle, you’ll really love the new Rancid album."
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Browsing around some other related artists I saw someone whose top artist was the Go Go’s and their second artist was Metallica, So I’m not alone in that weirdness.
I heard on the news that another airline is going to be charging extra for baggage.  At first I was angry, thinking that the airlines are just tacking on fees for nothing.  I mean, they have the space available for baggage, why charge extra to use it.  Then I thought, well, if they reduce the amount of baggage, they lower the weight of the plane and should save on fuel.
 
So, if their prime objective is to reduce weight to save fuel, why not charge ticket prices based on the weight of you and your baggage?  A dollar a pound, or more accurately, just have an exchange rate.  Over holidays, ticket prices are $1.20/lb, during midweek, $.80/lb.  That could motivate people to lose weight and/or be more conservative in what they pack.  It also gives people the power to control their own prices. 
 
Finally, another commercial observation.  This one is a radio commercial for Mercedes Benz where they have customers giving testimonials.  This guy is going on about the service he gets from his dealer and how they sell him a new car about bi-annually.  Then he makes some inane comment about the reliability of MB.  Personally, I don’t expect any car to fail within two years before I trade it in, so I guess he’s got a pretty low expectation of quality.  Another female customer in the commercial sums up the MB attitude in one line: "You don’t get cappuccino at the Honda dealership."  I should send her a Starbucks gift card.