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2014 July | Roads-2-Roam.com


Monthly Archives: July 2014

May the farce be with you : UK passport office refuse to accept revised middle name of star wars character

Laura Elizabeth Skywalker Matthews

Dahlings, It is not just US Government workers who have problems with names.

UK’s Home office has passport Office has rejected one applicant for a passport renewal after the person had changed her name by deed poll to “Laura Elizabeth Skywalker Matthews”. It turns out they don’t accept names that are trademarks !

From The Independent:

“We have a duty to ensure the reputation of the UK passport is not called into question or disrepute,” a spokesman said.

She has been told she may have to submit a new passport form using her old signature, but would be able to keep her new name on the document.

She added that despite the problems with her passport, she doesn’t regret changing her name.

Ms Matthews is not alone in changing her name to something unusual. Earlier in May, a man from New Zealand legally changed his name to “Full Metal Havok More Sexy N Intelligent Than Spock And All The Superheroes Combined With Frostnova” after he lost a poker bet five years ago.

It must suck if your last name is McDonald.

Ciao for now, Cleo.

Swissport, Swisswhine: Baggage fiasco in Gatwick airport tied to low wage contractor

Following on from Heathrow T5 fiasco where BA fliers had problems of no luggage for a few days, we now hear about luggage problems with passengers going through Gatwick. In the Heathrow example,the issue was equipment related. In Gatwick’s case, the problem is staffing. It seems that the contractor, Swissport, cannot get staff to want to work.

From the Telegraph:-

Travellers flying from Gatwick this weekend can expect chaotic scenes because Swissport, the baggage handling firm, does not have enough workers to load and unload planes. Two airlines warned that difficulties at the airport could worsen over the next four months because airlines are locked in to contracts with Swissport.

The problem is most acute at weekends because the firm is using staff on zero-hours contracts who do not wish to work anti-social hours, it is claimed.

Airlines using Swissport at Gatwick for baggage handling services include British Airways, Virgin, Monarch, Thomas Cook and Thomson.

The firm is having its contract terminated by at least one airline after it was blamed for failing to load passengers’ bags on to outgoing planes and not returning luggage to those arriving at Gatwick.

It get’s worse. Continue reading..

What the FAA..? Southwest fined $12m by FAA but good luck in understanding why

A Federal watchdog being exposed

A Federal watchdog on the job

Roads-2-Roam previously criticized the limitations of a ‘ rent an AP news story‘ model where a News outlet reports a base story such as “FAA seeks $12 million fine against Southwest“, but the details are provided by a centralized ‘news-lite’  AP release. The so called News outlet make tweak the AP release to make it appear as if it is theirs, but it many cases leave it as is.

In the 7/28 topical case about “FAA wanting to fine Southwest”, Roads-2-Roam saw the headline and wanted to learn more. We wanted to know why it was going to be fined.

Unfortunately,the top articles on new searches were the same AP base story despite it being different new sources. The more we read on different news sites despite minor changes, the more we recognized the same AP article.

Eventually we found a non-AP different article that picked apart the story under ‘aviationblog’ under Dallas Morning news, written by Terry Maxon. From the aviationblog article:

Here’s how we understand the allegations. It wasn’t that the modifications turned out to be unsafe. It was that Southwest’s contractor with Southwest oversight used a method that wasn’t approved at that time by the FAA, and that Southwest operated the modified aircraft knowing that the modifications hadn’t received FAA approval. From the FAA announcement:

“The FAA alleges that beginning in 2006, Southwest conducted so-called ‘extreme makeover’ alterations to eliminate potential cracking of the aluminum skin on 44 jetliners. The FAA conducted an investigation that included both the airline and its contractor, Aviation Technical Services, Inc., (ATS) of Everett, Wash. Investigators determined that ATS failed to follow proper procedures for replacing the fuselage skins on these aircraft. FAA investigators also determined that ATS failed to follow required procedures for placing the airplanes on jacks and stabilizing them. All of the work was done under the supervision of Southwest Airlines, which was responsible for ensuring that procedures were properly followed.

“Southwest returned the jetliners to service and operated them when they were not in compliance with Federal Aviation Regulations, the FAA alleges. The regulatory violations charged involve numerous flights that occurred in 2009 after the FAA put the airline on notice that these aircraft were not in compliance with either FAA Airworthiness Directives or alternate, FAA-approved methods of complying with the directives. The FAA later approved the repairs after the airline provided proper documentation that the repairs met safety standards.”

The FAA said Southwest operated the airplanes in question for more than 30,000 flights after the FAA became aware of the unapproved methods of work and before the FAA gave its okay to the repairs performed on the airplanes. We presume many more flights were operated before the FAA realized what had happened.

Continue reading..

Captain’s Log : Passengers literally cause stink on a Delta flight

Mr Hanky from Southpark

Mr Hanky rumored to have been spotted on an International flight

Dahlings, a Big Ewwwwwwwwww. Why did I read this before going to bed?

I refer to a story from our favorite love to hate rag, the Daily Mail.

Airline passengers kick up a stink on Delta flight from Beijing to Detroit after Chinese family let toddler poop on his seat

  • Incident occurred on Delta Airlines flight when family laid newspaper on seat
  • Passengers watched in horror as he crouched down and passed motion
  • Parents refused to take him to toilet despite pleas from passengers and crew
  • Incident sparked complaints from travelers after smell wafted through plane
  • Social media users in China slam family for ’embarrassing’ their homeland

Do a cursory search on Interweb and you see this as a common complaint about China: Parents allowing kids to deficate in public. This one from 2013, is from South China Morning Post observed in Taiwan airport where the picture shows a tot doing his business on newspaper. At least this article attempted to explain it due to a shortage of public toilets in china and where the do exist, they are usually Gross. Just like airplane restrooms mid-way into a busy flight.

Of course there could be another more subtler explanation here: newspapers. Maybe the papers being crapped on are simply local versions of the Daily Mail?

Ciao for now, Cleo

Justice is not served : State Farms’s tortuous logic to deny paying out stinks

justice stinksJust when we thought we couldn’t be shocked any more by the shenanigans of big corporations, we read about State Farm Insurance denying a claim to a disabled man in a Motorized wheelchair who was hit by an SUV while crossing the road. The tortured argument that State Farm is using is that the wheelchair is a vehicle and as such needed, auto insurance. Because he had no auto insurance, he was illegally on the road and therefore, cannot make a claim.

From Bloomberg:

Two insurance companies have made an unusual argument in a Michigan case: They’re insisting that the drivers of motorized mobility scooters should be required to get the same insurance as car and truck owners.

The case involves the claims of a paralyzed man who was hit by an SUV while crossing the street on his way to a doughnut shop. The insurance companies’ position? Because the man didn’t have auto insurance on his scooter, they shouldn’t have to pay for any damage caused to him by the SUV.

The arguments by lawyers for State Farm Mutual Auto Insurance and Farm Bureau Insurance of Michigan have produced a mix of outrage and snide commentary in Michigan legal circles. Some lawyers warn the case could impact many of the estimated 300,000 elderly and disabled people nationally who depend on motorized scooters and powered wheelchairs to get around.

Nevermind the fact that he was crossing the road and not driving on it.

Nevermind the fact under Michigan law 257.33 “Motor Vehicle” Defined, “Motor vehicle does not include an electric personal assistive mobility device.”)

Nevermind the fact that the police officer found the Jeep’s driver at fault and that the victim, Mr. Veness was listed as a pedestrian in the officers report.

This is a new low to the 3D approach of “Deny, Delay, Defend” as a way of not paying out. You Scumbags.


Shot down in flames: Mobile phones batteries and fires

The picture of the culprit: Samsung s4 phone that caught fire

The picture of the culprit: Samsung s4 phone that caught fire. Courtesy of Steve Noviello facebook page.

FoxDFW reports a story of a Samsung Galaxy s4 phone placed under a pillow getting so hot it melted the plastic and scorched the bed clothes.

“The whole phone melted” said her dad, Thomas. “The plastic, the glass. You can’t even really tell that it was a phone.” Tolfree says her phone slipped under her pillow as she fell asleep, and the smell of something burning woke her up in the night.

“I didn’t think much of it, so I went back to sleep, and then I woke up again and it was more prominent,” said Tolfree. Her dad suspects the phone overheated, causing the battery to swell and start a fire.

Samsung added something perhaps important

A spokesperson for Samsung says their products are safe, and pointed out that the battery inside the phone was a replacement unit and not an original Samsung part.

Nevertheless, the company does agree there is a need for consumer education when it comes to rechargeable batteries. That’s exactly why they post a warning in their user guide, which specifically states covering one of their devices with bedding or other material could restrict airflow and cause a fire.

To their credit, Samsung agreed to replace the bedding even if they will blame it on the non-Samsung battery.

Some of the commentators on the site as simply asinine especially the ones moaning about why a 13 years old has a nice smart phone. Why does that even matter? If she had been 22 year old, would that make it ok? There are some interesting comments in there about Galaxy getting hot which makes putting it in a case impractical. A simple internet search shows many people saying the same thing about the Galaxy. Continue reading..

Viator : TripAdvisor’s mini-me

Per Ablemediao “Viator” is Latin for traveler where the word is linked to the Latin word “via”, which means road.

Viator is also the name of a company just acquired by TripAdvisor for $200m. From a piece by Forbes that reads like a cut and paste from a TripAdvisor Press release:

Viator is a website operated by travel insiders that curate the best local tours and activities, which have been visited by over 3 million people. Viator has more than 20,000 bookable tours and 600,000 reviews submitted by travelers, spanning over 1,500 destinations.

“Travelers want to explore local attractions while on their trip, and Viator’s depth and breadth in global attractions combined with their seamless booking experience will provide immediate benefit to our community, whether in the planning phase or on the trip,” said TripAdvisor president and CEO Stephen Kaufer in a statement.

A bit later, the cut and paster reporter Amit Chaudry says

People take reviews on TripAdvisor very seriously. Millions of travelers look at TripAdvisor reviews before deciding where to visit. Accommodation brands know this, which is why some have paid people to write good TripAdvisor reviews about them. More than a couple dozen hotels were blacklisted by TripAdvisor as a result. TripAdvisor now has a verification process that considers the IP address and e-mail address of the authors.

Really? This is Forbes standard of writing ? We have criticised TripAdvisor before for their false reviews under The good, the bad and the ugly, but let’s take a look at Viator. Continue reading..

Bag of Blues : JetBlue to charge for check in baggage

Bloomberg Businessweek reports about JetBlue looking at charging for first check in bag. Today they charge for the second bag.

Turns out that while they hold a price premium on many routes, in others they are not. Thus, they are looking at finding a way of to hide the charge in a confusing new ticket naming tactic.

The talk is that it will introduced it in 2015 so that the only US airline with free checking bags will be Southwest. However, we’ve noticed Southwest fares have slowly increased over the years so we think Southwest silently absorbed this. They are certainly no longer the cheap airline.

Our prognosis:  This will have little impact to JetBlue itself. It will get accepted since their competitors have set precedence where this is accepted practice.

Licensed to Kill : NY Taxi and Limousine commission with a concession from Lyft.

From Bloomberg Businessweek

After a few weeks of setbacks and standoffs, Lyft has found a way to bring its car service to New York City: just abandon the core of its business model. The ride-sharing startup, which lets ordinary people with privately-owned cars  use its service to sell rides to one another, will launch Friday as more of a conventional, Uber-like service that deploys only licensed livery drivers.

Lyft has wanted to come to New York for quite some time, and over the last two weeks Lyft’s dispute with state and city officials has become the conflict du jour between a sharing economy startup and local government. The fate of similar startups in the big city has set an ominous backdrop to Lyft’s ordeal. After Sidecar, another ride-sharing company, staged a local launch last year, it only stuck around for a few weeks.

And so it goes. This round goes to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and the NY’s Taxi and Limousine Commission. 


A life on the Ocean Wave : legally stowing away on a cargo ship

“A life on the ocean wave! A home on the rolling deep! Where the scattered waters rave, and the winds their revels keep!”  – Opening lines from a poem by Epes Sargent. 1813–1880 which was later turned in song by Henry Russell in 1838.

Screen dump of BBC Travel show "The attractions of cargo ship Travel"

Screen dump of BBC Travel show

BBC Travel show has an interesting short story about becoming a passenger on commercial Cargo ship or freighter. It opened with the  Hurtigruten that sails up the artic coast from Oslo to Kirkenes are showed surprisingly good creature comforts that were very similar to a cruise ship.

The film also showed a lesser luxury case where Christoph Schwartz went from Hamburg to Shangei via Rotterdam, but got paid on the way as a Steward. [the BBC is being a bit disingenuous here in that it is not common]. There was one problem with his trip: it’s boredom.

A few years back we looked at this as an option of going form US East coast to UK but we quickly released it’s disadvantages: Time to complete the journey, lack of flexibility in your agenda, relatively high cost (you are paying equivalent of a hotel per night) and something we shouldn’t but do care about, lack of internet access. Continue reading..

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