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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.

Trajan.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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?

In the event of a water landing: Mom cleaning up seat after ‘todler accident’ causes JetBlue flight to return to gate

"Manneken Pis in Brussels" licence :  CreativeCommons.org Myrabella.

“Manneken Pis in Brussels” licence : CreativeCommons.org Myrabella.

Trajan was initially a bit perplexed on the story hitting the interweb about JetBlue and how a Flight attendent treated a mother whose 3 year old daughter needed to go potty while it was queued up on the Tarmac before taking off.

The story was that a Mom was refused permission to take her 3 year old daughter to the restroom and ordered to stay put in their seat. The tot ended up wetting herself and when mother stood up the clean it up, the FA called into the pilot who turned the plane around to return to the gate, announcing over the intercom that there was a “non-compliant” passenger on board and they were bringing her to security.

The good news is that she was not arrested and allowed to stay on the flight. It turned out that a fellow passenger was an off duty Pilot and stood up for the mother. The other piece of the information to put some context to the story is that the plane had already waited 30 minutes on the Tarmac and the airport was JFK, a busy airport.

We see both sides:

  1. The FA whose responsibility is to keep passengers seated as anytime the flight could be taxing for takeoff. In fact on a recent International flight, we saw one Idjiot stand up while taxing down the runway to open the overhead to get something out of his bag. The FA screamed down the Tannoy “SIR SIT DOWN NOW” to which he turned around with a “who me?” look. He quickly sat down as plane started climbing.
  2. The other side is that as a mother, she wanted to not to want to have her daughter sit in pee while in public.

Continue reading..

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 Roads-2-Roam.com

SouthWest Airlines at Lovefield: Copyright Roads-2-Roam.com

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..

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly : False reviews on TripAdvisor

Travel-rating service Trip Advisor is being investigated in Italy over concerns the site is not doing enough to prevent fake reviews.

The Italian competition authority said it had had complaints from consumers and businesses about the website.

Source BBC news.

Trajan had this on his creative backlog, to investigate TripAdvisor in more depth to gauge the objectivity of their reviews. This was based on our own personal experiences of using the site to select a hotel.

Last November,  Houston was booked up due to a week long conference so there was no availability on his usual corporate preferred hotels. What was around was slim pickings so we ended up in a motel on first night.

For the second night, hotel availability freed up somewhat and based on reviews from Trip Advisor, we ended up selecting an Extended Suites America Hotel.

After checking in, we couldn’t believe the contrast between the room and the reviews. Admittedly, it was smoking room that we had been warned about at checking, Trajan was nevertheless shocked by the room. There was no way that this hotel was a 4 out of 5 star rating despite what multiple people had claimed. Continue reading..

Fool me twice, Shaman you.

After reading the story, Roads-2-Roam was already to join in the overwhelming chorus of people calling for Delta’s blood on how they dealt with a paralyzed man. Afterall, who could argue with this:

Kanaan-News-Arcticle

Baraka Kanaan, who is unable to walk after a 2000 car accident, charged in a lawsuit that he was twice forced to crawl on his hands and knees in July 2012 after the major airline failed in their promise to humanely help him on and off.  [source NYDaily news

The other parts to the story being:

Kanaan is a College Professor who ran a ‘501c3’, called 48 hours ahead requesting wheelchair access. It appears the flight was delayed 1 day. The facilities were not present at Nantucket airport.

After the original incident, he complained but similar thing happened on the return flight.  Pieces of cardboard were placed for him to crawl across the tarmac.

Delta offered him 25,000 ‘sky miles’ and a $100 voucher. He refused the offer, however, in fear that any future flights might again have him crawling on his hands and knees.


This was going to be a slam dunk “Feed them to the Lions” piece about theworst customer service EVER.

Except, there were things niggling Trajan when he read the piece. Continue reading..

Highway Robbery : Local taxes on travelers. Who are the worst culprits?

While putting out a welcome sign with one hand, THEY are picking your pockets with the other.  What I am talking about, you ask? US Local Governments of course: As a traveler, you are being robbed with involuntary visitor taxes.

A Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) report studies this where the Worst 10 and the Best 10, are shown in the following two tables. (Note on the methodology is that it used same hotel rate, car rate and restaurant food bill to calculate the added tax).

400px-Al_Capone-around_1935

Alphonse Gabriel, role model for Local Govt. Tax policy on travelers.

Continue reading..

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