Tag Archives: airline travel

Bill of Rights

22 Dec

The air passenger’s bill of rights will go into effect in the spring, imposing strict fines on air carriers who let people languish on the tarmac for hours on end.

airlines that do not provide food and water after two hours or a chance to disembark after three hours will face penalties of $27,500 a passenger,

The rules go into effect without congressional approval, but John Cole took the opportunity to quip:

Sounds good, but I’ve been told if Obama used his bully pulpit and really got in front of the issue, he could have gotten rid of airline delays completely.

Flight 3407 – the NTSB Investigates

12 May

The news from the NTSB regarding the Flight 3407 investigation is not likely to be good for the families of the victims, the families of the pilots, or the Colgan Air corporation. Reports yesterday indicated that the pilots were engaging in extended chit-chatting even after the aircraft descended past 10,000 feet at which point a “sterile cockpit rule” is supposed to be in effect.

There’s also information concerning the flight’s captain, Marvin Renslow and his flying background. He appears to have flunked several FAA check flights, had never been properly trained on how to react to a stick-shake during a stall, and that his head wasn’t “in the game”, spelling disaster in the split second it took for everything to go horribly wrong over Clarence Center’s four corners.

It all reminded me of an old George Carlin joke – somewhere is the worst airline pilot in the world, and someone’s boarding a flight with him today.

Colgan has since implemented a program whereby they eavesdrop on in-cockpit conversations to make sure pilots are focusing on the approach. The pilots’ union is balking, which makes no sense. If the rule exists, and must be enforced, and is there to ensure passenger safety, all of that trumps whether the boss is listening in. The union can go f*ck a brick on this point, as far as I’m concerned.

The cockpit voice recorded will be released today. Remember that it chronicles the deaths of about 50 people.


13 Feb

Here is a photograph of the actual plane that crashed into a home last night on Long off Clarence Center Road.

Last night I got through watching Survivor at 9pm PST, and I started channel surfing. I paused when I heard familiar voices – Josh Boose? Scott Levin? Kevin O’Connell? On CNN? And the chryon says plane crash? And then it says Clarence Center.

We live in Clarence Center.

Panic struck because we’re in Vegas, and the kids are at home with my parents. Airplanes flying over the house are commonplace, since we’re near the final approach to KBUF. I called my parents, and we called the neighbors and everyone had unbelievably slept through it all (sorry for waking you, but this was extraordinary).

The crash location is 1/2 mile from my house as the crow flies. It’s a block from Mia’s daycare. Literally. We spoke to the owner of the daycare, who heard the plane flying too low overhead and witnessed the explosion a few homes away.

View Larger Map

While watching the news and switching between CNN, MSNBC, and Fox, I couldn’t believe what was happening. I got on Twitter and Facebook and kept track of what was happening. A Twitter hashtag #Clarenceplanecrash was created. Keith Burtis, a local man who boasts over 2,000 people following him on Twitter, was interviewed on Fox News, which found him on Twitter. He talked about how sparsely populated and wealthy an area it is where this accident happened. Except Long Road is in a part of Clarence Center that is an older, relatively densely populated neighborhood. It’s not a wealthy subdivision. He also got in a plug for his employer, Best Buy, while on Fox News. That’s great. People are dead in an incident that directly affects me, and somebody who says he lives 10x further from the location than I is making sure to get in a plug.

Another person on Twitter wrote this:

@GarrettSmith two minutes is better than 2 seconds. count your blessings & move out of the suburbs

Just now, I went onto Channel 2’s website, and I get this, which I’ve annotated appropriately:

The schools are closed:

My daughter’s daycare is within the perimeter that’s closed off around the crash site.

My heart goes out to everyone who was on that flight, and the victim on the ground, as well as all of their loved ones. I am so thankful that my family is safe and sound. Although I’m a bit nervous about flying tomorrow, I’ll be excited to come home and hug my family.

Photos by Sharyn Brunner via Flickr on WNYMedia.net

Some of What I Did In Order to Eat Turkey

1 Dec

After a 6 hour flight to San Diego, we could have taken a $10 cab ride to our hotel, but I had a rental car to pick up. I found San Diego’s airport to be small and clusterf*cky. After retrieving our luggage, we walked over to the area where the shuttle buses took us to Thrifty’s location nearby. The bus took a circuitous route, first to Terminal 2, and then through wads of rain-soaked traffic to Thrifty’s confusing, difficult-to-reach lot off-site.

Upon arrival, there were about 6 groups of people waiting outside to retrieve cars. I walked in and was third in line. It was 8:30 PM PST, and there were three people behind the counter.

Then two.

Then one.

Then none.

They would rotate in and out without rhyme or reason. The one person who seemed to hang out behind the counter the longest was dealing with a very noisily surly family that had reserved a compact car but needed at least a minivan or SUV for them and all their shit. They insisted that they had called and spoken with the “owner” to change their reservation the day before, but no evidence of such call or change was forthcoming from either side of the ridiculously lengthy standoff.

The other employees took excruciatingly long to complete people’s check-in, and once all the insurances had been offered and rejected, after all the Garmins and fuel options had been explained, offered, and rejected, the clerk would disappear out to the lot for tens of minutes. There was at least one 10 minute span of time during which no customers were being attended-to by clerks behind the counter.

I tend not to be too vocal about my exasperation with untenably long customer service failures, but I was starting to mutter colorful curses in Croatian, so as not to offend people with a full-on “mother f*cker” or “how the f*ck complicated is it to rent someone a f*cking car” in public.

Meanwhile, my wife and kids (for whom it was significantly past bedtime) were waiting outside in the fresh air/rain, where periodically 737s and DC-9s would roar mere tens of feet overhead on their final approach to the runway, the end of which was located 1/2 block away.

Finally, the surly family that couldn’t fit their bedouin-camp’s worth of belongings and people into a Hyundai Sonata went outside to deliberate their next move, so my turn came around. I had booked the “wild car“, which guarantees a mid-size or better car for a compact price.

I was given a wheezy, smelly Ford Fusion with 30,000 miles on it, still dirty from sand and discarded Cheerios. It was dark and rainy out, and the lot was poorly lit, so I didn’t inspect it for damage before leaving. I loaded everyone and everything into its stained beige velour confines, and as I was leaving, I had to show my paperwork to some kid by the exit. I did so, and he asked for some form that I hadn’t seen. It was the “I inspected the car” form. I took it, scrawled “D/N INSPECT” on it, handed it back to him, and went on my merry way.

My last two car rental / travel experiences had been in the comparatively super-organized Fort Lauderdale airport, where Thrifty’s cars & counter are in an adjacent parking structure, convenient as can be. Also by comparison, Buffalo’s airport has state-of-the-art rental car facilities versus that of San Diego.

Despite its predilection to over-revving when accelerating to highway speeds, and its odor of smoke and feet, the Fusion got decent mileage, had a big trunk, and performed reasonably well. It enabled us to spend some time on the beach at Coronado, and checking out the views in La Jolla, Point Loma, and Sunset Cliffs.

San Diego itself has transormed itself from a sleepy border town into a world-class city, complete with thriving downtown entertainment districts, high-rise condos, a massive waterfront convention center, great shopping, a downtown ballfield, and an accessible waterfront with actual stuff to do. Hell, they even have a modern commuter rail system.

I will say, however, that 70 degrees and sunny year-round can get boring. There’s nothing like 30 degrees, cloudy, snowy, & windy to make you truly appreciate it when we do get 70 and sunny. Also, while we do have the aforementioned cold, snow, and wind, we do not have persistent drought, frequent massive fires, or earthquakes. And last I checked, there was no massive drug war going on in Niagara Falls or Fort Erie, Ontario.

ANC – BUF World Record Flight

7 Nov

The McCain-Palin campaign chartered a JetBlue Embraer 190 to fly Alaska Governor Sarah Palin around the country. It ended its voyage in Anchorage earlier this week, and was returned to JetBlue.

The 2-engine jet then flew the 2694 miles from Anchorage to Buffalo yesterday, setting a world distance record for the E190. The standard range is 2071 miles.

Ryanair set for £8 flights to US

2 Nov

According to the BBC. Ryanair (website here) flies generally not into the airports closest to the listed destination, but to underutilized airports that are a bit more remote. Which means “Toronto”, if it makes the cut, may very well be served by the Niagara Falls International Airport.

A $15 airfare to Europe (+taxes and fees) sounds just about right to me.

Skybus to Toronto Niagara Falls

10 Jan

Southwest has been the domestic standard-bearer for how to properly run a profitable, customer-friendly low-cost carrier. Where so many others have failed, Southwest continues to not only thrive, but influence the whole industry.

In Europe, the business model is somewhat different. Carriers like Ryanair and easyJet whisk travelers across Europe for fares as low as £5.00 (plus tax and fees). The catch is that your seat may not recline, you have to pay to actually speak with someone in customer service (email is free), it may cost as much as £8.00 to check a bag, and on-board services cost extra.

But if you’re interested in getting from London (Stanstead) to Milano (Bergamo) for ten bucks, you might be willing to put up with all that. Note that London’s airport isn’t Gatwick or Heathrow, and Milano’s isn’t Linate or Malpensa. To get from London’s Victoria Station to Stanstead airport is a 75 minute bus ride. To get from Milano’s central station to Bergamo airport takes 60 minutes.

It is with that backdrop that Skybus comes to Niagara Falls International Airport. Specifically, if you look at the Skybus website, it’s “Toronto/Niagara”. Sort of like how Stanstead is billed as “London”, even though it’s over an hour away. That’s an interesting marketing development that is reminiscent of Richard Florida’s Tor-Buff-Chester megaregion.

Note, however, that Skybus doesn’t do connecting flights (you can do it, but you’ll be transferring your bags yourself), so for now flights only go between here and Columbus, OH.

Now all we need is a European low cost carrier to offer transatlantic flights to “Toronto/Niagara”, because the taxes and fees are significantly lower in the US than at Toronto/Pearson. It’s far more likely that Torontonians would make the drive to the Falls for that kind of flight than for a short hop to Columbus.