Category Archives for "In the news"

Guilty as not charged : TSA may require phones to be powered on as a part of screening.

Flat battery can mean your phone doesn't fly

This sign can mean your phone doesn’t fly

Hitting the news channels was the story that the TSA announced that on certain US bound flight, customers will have to power on their mobile devices to prove they are not a security risk. From the Washington post:

The Transportation Security Administration announced Sunday that on certain overseas flights to the United States, it will not permit “powerless devices” — cellphones and computers that cannot be turned on. Airport security officers may ask passengers to power-on devices during security screening, which could mean slower security lines for travelers. Passengers could also be taken out of line for questioning, TSA said.

TSA already sometimes asks travelers to turn on laptops, presumably to determine if they are real rather than filled with explosives.

It is unclear how TSA plans to deal with passengers without chargers whose devices are dead. The announcement doesn’t say what will happen to a phone that can’t be turned on, or how the owner will retrieve it if confiscated by airport security.

I lived in Germany until 1998, where the airport security would weigh laptops to see if they were within specification. If you added a daughter card it could take it out of specification of if your model of laptop wasn’t in their file, then they’d take it for further inspection. I had a bit of schadenfreude at the airport when I saw a particularly loathsome manager from my company get pulled aside because he had added a fax card to his laptop. He missed his flight and was furious about it.

It is good to see the German security jettisoned the weighing requirement as their list got obsolete very quickly but for a long while, they required you boot it a laptop to get to the window screen. After living through the German screening experience, the phone power up is  not that big a deal in the scheme of things as most phones boot quickly or you just leave it on. However, one my current iphone, the on/off button no longer works after about 1 year of ownership. A simple internet search shows this is a common problem – thanks Apple – and I have to do a funky works around to have it lock the screen to save power. I’ll need to watch this more closely now.

What we found amusing here is the unsurprising reaction from our favorite scaremongering rag, Britain’s Daily Mail. While other news outlets calmly report it,  witness their headline “Airports face chaos after America bans UNCHARGED mobiles or laptops from US-bound flights over bomb fears – with iPhones and Galaxies top of the hit list”. From the Mail’s version of the same story:

The US has declared that it will not allow mobile phones – especially iPhones and Samsung’s Galaxy – onto US bound planes from some airports in Europe, the Middle East and Africa if the devices are not charged.

The new measure, which is bound to cause chaotic scenes at airports around the globe, is part of the US Transportation Security Administration’s effort to boost surveillance amid concerns that terrorists are plotting to blow up an airliner.

As part of the increased scrutiny at certain airports, security agents may ask travelers to turn on their electronic devices at checkpoints and if they do not have power, the devices will not be allowed on planes, the TSA said.

No doubt the new measures have the potential to create frantic searches for chargers at airports and one US source familiar with the matter said laptop computers are also among the devices security screeners may also require passengers to turn on.

Chaos ? Frantic searches ? Oh the humanity. Somehow I don’t think so but this is the Daily Mail at it’s sensationalist best.




Baggage excesses : Problems with baggage system at Heathrow’s Terminal 5

BA's latest no fly policy.

BA’s latest no fly policy.

From the UK Telegraph 7/4/14 : Heathrow Terminal 5 baggage: no bags for a week

Passengers whose luggage was delayed by IT glitches at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 are still waiting to be reunited with their bags a week later

Problems with the baggage system at Terminal 5 between Thursday and Sunday meant that thousands of British Airways passengers’ bags were not loaded onto their flights.

A Heathrow spokeswoman said the computer glitch meant some bags had to be processed manually, which “led to some bags not making flights in time”. BA – the only airline to operate from the terminal –said it has been working “around the clock” to reunite customers with their bags, and that all bags had been dispatched by the end of Tuesday.

However, it added that the nature of international travel, complex security issues and customs regulations meant that it may still take several days for passengers to receive their belongings. Travellers have been expressing frustration and anger at the way BA has handled the situation

While this is a serious problem it is in fact, history repeating itself. When Terminal 5 opened in march 2008, the very same thing happened on the opening day. Over 28,000 pieces of luggage were pilled up. It took over three weeks for some passengers to finally get their luggage back with many losing their bags.

Roads-2-Roam commiserates with the affected Roam’ns.

So what are your rights for lost luggage? The Telegraph article expands on this:

airlines are obliged to cover costs of “essential items” such as underwear and toiletries, for which compensation should come in the form of an upfront cash payment, a fixed daily budget or remittance once your claim and receipts have been submitted, normally to a value of £100-£200.

The law that governs this is Montreal Convention. This was made effective in 2003 and compensates you up to ‘1311 SDR’ per checked item. What is SDR? Good question: It refers to Special Drawing Rights and is a mix of currency values establish by the IMF. Still confused – so are we. We found this unhelpful SDR converter on the IMF site. In a nuthshell, 1 SDR is approx $1.55.

This is a significant improvement to the prior Warsaw convention where compensation was based on Weight of bags only. In addition, the airlines have 21 days to find it before compensation begins so you may be without your clothes for a long while.

However, Good luck in getting maximum payment though. Trajan found this out first hand where Air France lost his luggage on a connection to Vienna via Paris-CDG and we never got re-united with it. In fact we spent more money on international telephone calls than what we got back. He also remembers not being able to connect with anyone in Air France customer service as it was public holiday weekend. [As a side note we read about baggage handlers in CDG being jailed for theft. At the time we wondered if they were ones who stole our stuff. Read the article and see how many arrests there have been over the years.].

While British Airways is the airline and the one being tarred by the fiasco, T5 is run by British Airports Authority. It seems that BA doesn’t have much luck when it comes to lending its name to things mechanical. Back in late 1990’s, it sponsored the London Eye (the viewing wheel in London, near the House of Parliament) where it was scheduled to open for millennium. Guess what happened: It missed the 1999-2000 change over due to a clutch problem.

Still we have a problem with BA in other ways and Roads-2-Roam is boycotting them until they change it. We have a major problem with their policy for booking a seat outside the 24 hour check in window where you have to pay between 10 GBP ($16) and 60 GBP ($96) just to get a seat. This is ridiculous especially if you are traveling as a family and want to sit together. Perhaps BA is wishing to live up to their alternative name : BA = Bloody awful.




Garlic Bread and Circuses : The Philippines garlic shortage

Smuggled Garlic crushed

Smuggled Garlic crushed

Delicious longganisa served for breakfast

Delicious longganisa served for breakfast

Imelda to prophet

Imelda the prophet

Dahlings, During my trip in Philippines, I got to do something that reminded of times of old – I read the paper versions of the newspapers that were delivered daily to my room. Since I had quite a few moments of no connections, I took time a read to see what is going on with the Philippine chattering classes.

If you didn’t know that the gentle people from Philippines all have nicknames, then the headline story about “Bong being turned in” would make you question what on earth is going on. The actual story was of politicians being busted for fraud and embezzlement.

However, what caught my attention was another ongoing story: a shortage of Garlic. Apparently this was more important to the people on the streets. Even one of Cleo’s Filipina managers, mentioned it. A story about customs seizing a ship full of Garlic made front page. It was even an editorial in there under “Imelda was right”.

Why is this some a big deal: it is a key culinary ingredient of Filipino food. For breakfast, garlic rice. For Lunch also. Guess what then is for dinner?

It is not just rice but Garlic is of course used elsewhere. I got to eat delicious Philippine breakfasts for 5 day in a row. A favorite was the longganisa. Yummy. Philipine star had this as a main story: Garlic prices push cost of ‘longganisa’.

The good news is that the shortage will likely end after the rainy season.

I let out a sigh of relief . With such Garlic shortage, I was glad I was not visiting the Carpathian mountains in Central Romania.

Ciao for now,

Pick and Mix : When places get mixed up

UK’s Independent –  a man is suing BA for taking him to Granada in the Caribbean instead of Granada in Spain.

Attempting to locate Buffalo NY

Attempting to locate Buffalo NY

“After two years without a holiday and a lifetime of longing to see the architectural treasures of Granada, Edward Gamson felt he could at last relax as he sat back on a British Airways flight en route to the capital of Moorish Spain. It was only when the American dentist and his partner glanced at the electronic map on the in-flight entertainment system and noticed their plane was heading due west out of London that they became concerned something was not right.

Some nine hours later, the pair found themselves not among the arabesques of the Alhambra Palace but a full 4,000 miles from their intended destination, on the Caribbean holiday island of Grenada.

The mix-up initially resulted in apologies from BA staff on board the flight, and a promise that the couple would be put on the plane’s return trip to Gatwick en route to Granada. Instead, they were subjected to a further three-day ordeal which resulted in them never reaching Spain, and a refusal by BA to reimburse their £2,650 first-class tickets, and which is now the subject of a damages claim before the US courts.”

Having been to Southern Spain a few times on business, we don’t recall Granada Spain being a big airport. Everytime we have flown there, it has been via connections in Madrid or Barcelona with regional flights to smaller airports such as Jerez de La Frontier. We do recall also flying to Seville direct from Munich, but that was a small plane. Continue reading..

Cab Call Away : European taxis day of protest against Uber

And so it goes. Actually it was more getting stuck in a massive hold up. We refer to thhe counter revolution against the Uber with the taxi drivers in many European cities protesting.

Transport in major European cities has been disrupted by strikes affecting taxis and rail services.

Taxi drivers blocked roads in Paris, Madrid, London, Milan, Berlin and other cities in protest against the rise of services booked using smartphone apps.

They say there has been a lack of regulation concerning rival mobile service Uber.

[Source bbc news 11th June 2014]

You’ve not heard the last of this. Expect to hear more push back from entrenched interests.

Question we will continue to ask is: Will Uber end up as a Napster or a Google?

A job for the Ubermensch

While walking his 2 Roam’n war dogs, Trajan listened into the local NPR station where Marketplace was playing. Generally we consider Marketplace to be rather lightweight when it comes to economic news but there was an section on there about “Uber”. It apparently has been valued at $18 Billion.

The latest venture-capital investment in Uber, a mobile app that allows users to hail a ride in a town car or taxi, pegs the company’s value at more than $18 billion. That’s more than United Airlines or Sony, just shy of what car-rental Avis and Hertz are worth together. That may seem high for a company with direct competition like LyftSidecar and the entire taxi industry.

For Uber to be worth what investors are betting, the company might need to capture half of the worldwide market for taxis, says Andy Brennan, author of a recent report on that industry from IBIS World Research.  “I can’t see that ever happening,” he says. “Generally taxi customers are quite price-conscious.”

A ride in one of Uber’s town cars costs more than a cab. “The average person who gets a taxi is not necessarily going to use Uber on a regular basis,” Brennan says.

However, competing with taxis isn’t Uber’s goal. The company’s CEO has identified a much bigger competitor: The personal automobile.

$18B for an app that allows you to book a car at a higher price than a Taxi ? If the Venture capitalists are telling you this, then it is likely an example of “the Greater fool” theory. They need to stoke up the hype to get you to buy it from them during the yet to be determined IPO.

Not only that but the Uber model itself faces an uphill struggle for acceptance. In San Antonio, the police chief is threatening users of Uber’s sister app – Lyft  – with jail on the grounds that they do not conform to Taxi restrictions. Afterall, police have the protection of the cities revenue stream public safety  to consider. Continue reading..

Falling for the story hook, (air)line, and sinker : Problem in finding the story behind the headlines

SouthWest Airlines: Copyright

SouthWest Airlines at Lovefield: Copyright

According to ABC headline “Airline Hiring Taking Off as Travel Zooms“.

“It’s getaway day for millions of Americans with the start of the Memorial Day weekend. The travel industry is set to enjoy its best summer since 2007, just before the recession hit. The airline industry is slowly adding jobs after shedding workers in recent years. And more hires are likely in the next few months. The U.S. Transportation Department says passenger airlines employed more than 383,000 full-time workers in March, up nearly 1 percent from last year. Delta Air Lines added the most jobs, followed by US Airways, American, and Jet Blue. Spirit Airlines and Allegiant Air grew fastest in percentage terms, both posting double-digit gains. United Airlines and Southwest shed jobs.”

And that was it. Throw out a morsel to whet the information appetite but give no meat. Continue reading..

Riders on the storm: Taxi drives 1,500 mile journey only to find passenger has no money

Taxi-tv-seriesThis story is a great American story. A story about how someone goes from Rags to Riches against all odds? Nope, the other kind: The ‘only in America’ kind that would make a great episode for a TV comedy. 

  • A taxi driver picks up a fare Matthew Blackhanson aged 25, who says “Take me to North Dakota”.
  • Taxi driver -Enaytayullah Hoseny-has never heard of the State and looks it up on GPS.
  • Agrees to the ride for a price of $1200.
  • Blackhanson coughs up $240 with a handwritten ‘contract’ for the rest.
  • 1,500 mil later in Mandan, North Dakota, Blackhanson’s fiance no shows for the rest of the money.
  • Cops are called and it turns out Blackhanson was wanted on an outstanding warrant.
  • The taxi driver –  – is ‘forced’ to spend a night in a homeless shelter and has to borrow food/gas from store that he was going to drop Blackhanson off.

Continue reading..

Magic Kingdom of Disney Lands a Disney World of increases

So Disney raises it’s ticket prices again that includes the suspension of the Southern California Passports.

This raises a shrug here in Roam as it is way down the list of places a Roam’n Emperor would go to. However, many are clearly p’off if you look at the comments in the news sites but we suspect it will be short lived. The demand is there.

What’s that you say, time for a song?

Who’s the greediest of the club
That’s made for you and me

Hey there high there No there
You’re as welcome as can be

Makmor Money (Dontgiva Feck)
Makmor Money (Dontgiva Feck)
Forever let us hold our prices high (high, high, high!)
Now it’s time to say goodbye
To all our company

M-A-K, See you real soon
M-O-R, Why? Because we stiff you

It’s a small world after all.

Misery Loves Company..Airline Companies that is.

Screen dump of Bloomberg Article on airline customer satisfaction

Screen dump of Bloomberg Article on airline customer satisfaction

5/19/14: Bloomberg had an interesting editorial today that says that US air Travelers have never been more satisfied with their airlines.

What. The..

Yes, the story quotes a J.D. Powers and Associates  2014 North America Airline Satisfaction Study and that “overall passenger satisfaction with airlines is at a record high.”

Oh my. Time to sit down even though I am already sitting. However, expecting to see the unexpected piece of news that air travel was now a pleasurable experience, the writer brings me back to reality:

On their face, the data seem to contradict a prevailing sense that U.S. airline service standards have been in decline for years. But dig a little deeper into the data, and something else becomes clear: Americans have finally begun to accept the idea that in an age of cheap, deregulated airfares, they get what they pay for.

I believe sociologists called this the Stockholm Syndrome. From wikepedia

..These feelings are generally considered irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims, who essentially mistake a lack of abuse from their captors for an act of kindness.