September 21, 2015: Big “shake up” at United last week – the current president, who came from Continental as part of the consolidation package and, by the way, had a terrible reputation with employees and travelers – replaced by a United Airlines Board member with really no airline experience. Maybe a call by UAL stockholders to Richard Branson at Virgin to come save this airline?
September 16, 2015: Over the next few years thousands of off shore oil and gas drilling rigs will reach “mandatory” retirement age and be abandoned and decommissioned — and while they serve as a valuable resource to enhance reef life there’s not much else of value. Well some innovative folks are proposing that these rigs be used as holiday destinations for those adventure seekers looking for the unusual and out of the way destination — just about any where in the world. Ideas include super max prisons, private homes, energy producing windmills, etc. But the best ideas are to use the rigs for fish farms or vacation destination scuba schools. The North Sea, off the coast of Britain, has more than 470,000 tons of offshore facilities — platforms, pipelines and wells. Places like the Arctic and numerous areas in Asia offer unlimited use opportunities. One group, Seaventures, is promoting a hotel and scuba school on a converted oil rig in the western Pacific near Borneo. Wonder how long it will take Rick Steves to publish a guide book on Oil Rig Vacations?
September 15, 2015: WOW—have you read the recent stories about American Airlines flying the wrong plane recently from LAX to Hawaii? Now that’s scary and shows a real lack of operational management and confusion as the airline prepares to take final steps in its consolidation with USAir — actually, the other way around and I’m just being nice. Anyway, the airline operates two different Airbus A321 jets — the A321s (note small s) and the A321H (note capital H) — with only the H model currently certified to fly long distances over water. There are different operating standards for twin engine jets that fly long haul routes over water — and some how plane scheduling got confused and the wrong plane was sent — the one not certified for over water flights. The airline didn’t make a big deal out of this and did fess up to the FAA on the error — although did take their time in doing so. I normally like to try and travel with American — as the remaining US carriers go, they seem to be most consistent with service and schedules — although do try and avoid any Airbus planes as they are built to be totally uncomfortable. Gotta wonder though — you would think the pilots who notice they were flying the wrong plane?
September 12, 2015: Have you all ever heard about those popular Sugarfina candy stores that are popping up in major US cities? Word is that a couple of the more passenger friendly US air carriers are talking to this Beverly Hills based chain about using some of their candy products as a special treat for passengers. Flavors like Champagne gummy bears and Peach Bellini gummies might be served — as well as some regulars that include caramels, licorice and chocolate coated nuts! Sugarfina packs the candy selections in Lucite boxes — might make it easier to pass them through TSA check points?
HOTELS STEPPING UP TO BUSINESS TRAVEL NEEDS!
September 10, 2015: Hotel chains around the US are finally doing what their counter parts all over the world have been doing for years — updating rooms to be more user friendly for business travelers. Flexible work space that can include a more mobile work table instead of a traditional desk, more electrical outlets so business travelers don’t have to crawl behind the bed or move the usually dusty furniture around, and better lighting — some even adjustable. Holiday Inn Express, a pick highly recommended by the Travel Curmudgeon, is leading the charge here in the US followed by Courtyard Marriott — also a good pick but watch out as they have moved from a good budget choice to a more upscale pricing structure with not really much new to boast about. Best deals for nonbusiness travelers that want a nice accommodation is to pick a business class style hotel (usually a good location) on a weekend — and if you don’t see a good rate on line, call their front desk and ask for a deal! Doesn’t hurt to actually talk to someone instead of wander about the internet maze!!!!!!
September 9, 2015: Air travelers in the back of the plane — coach or “steerage” as more commonly called — haven’t had much attention the past few years — basic services eliminated, cramped seating, dirty airplanes and over worked flight attendants. Well there is some good news — with the recent change in airline revenues (basically making lots of money now) a few have restored some basic service and amenities. United Airlines started serving free beer and wine in economy class on their trans-con flights — something American says they started doing in 2012 and Delta in 2013; many carriers are also upgrading some of their pathetic food and beverage services as well as better quality “for sale” dining options. And watch for a new low class carrier — Norwegian Air— to expand service here in the US with some neat Caribbean Island destinations. Somewhat sad when we have to compliment air carriers for just providing what was common service expectations a few years ago.
American travelers with disabilities have spent over $34 billion in travel the past two years — these are folks with accessibility needs and many times tackle some tough times when traveling. One organization, Wilderness Inquiry offer excursions that range from far off destinations like Tanzania to national park trips here in the US. Some operators even offer disability travelers accessibility to kayaks that are adapted to hold wheel chairs and trained support staff to make travel easy and enjoyable. Maybe the airlines should take some note here and pay attention?
September 3, 2015: Yes — water parks are joining the video game craze and introducing video enhanced rides in the water as a new angle to draw guests. Video game controllers are part of guests water slide board and take aim at passing targets as they travel down a slide. The first two water parks in the US to feature this new technology are Great Wolf Lodge back east in the Poconos and out west in Las Vegas (seems only appropriate) at Wet’n Wild. The new video attractions are called “slide boarding” and are designed to be “interactive and intelligent” — really? Do we really need to be electronically entertained when enjoying an afternoon of sun, fun, family and friends at a water park? Could be a shocking experience?
September 2, 2015: Well, certainly not today in the air — where standards and passenger care-comfort have slipped to all time lows.
But, if you want a view of what once was called “the golden age” of air travel, pick up a copy of “Airline Visual Identify” and enjoy a showcase of 100’s of airline posters from 1945-1975. This includes the beginning of the jet age, the Concorde, and Boeing’s first passenger jets up to the 747 — still the best and most comfortable long haul jet in the sky. Domestic and international carriers are featured in this 430 page visual trek with more than 400 really cool images. These were the days when airlines focused on image and customer care — shamefully not very evident these days!!!
August 30, 2015: Gogo, the self proclaimed leader in providing in flight WiFi for passenger aircraft has taken some big steps recently to increase prices — from around $10 or $12 a flight to more than $50 on some routes! WOW!
They claim the business traveler, who lives most weekdays on his travel expense account, doesn’t care what the cost is just as long as he can pass the expense on to his employer. They also price based on routes — longerthe flight the higher the prices. And their other response to higher prices is “they only have so much capacity available at any time” so you “pay to play” or be online.
They do have options for a day pass for around $16 and a monthly pass for $50 — the catch is you need to book and buy these in advance of your flight. Some of Gogo’s competitors feel that around $9 a flight is good — and some airlines still offer the service for free. The Curmudgeon says “just add it into the cost of my ticket” — well that is once you lower ticket prices and give us back some of the ticket tax money no longer being collected by the federal government — as well as money you all are saving on much lower fuel costs these days!!!