Entries Tagged as 'Travel'

Why You Never Write About Laws You Break

Transportation Security Administration, an age...

Image via Wikipedia

Would I be surprised that Jordan Crook got put on a no-fly list for breaking laws?  Probably not.

The one thing I learned a long time ago in journalism type ventures is that you never take anything that you’re currently doing and throw it out to the world thinking that the masses can protect you.  If you’re still doing it, then you don’t go about broadcasting how you’re breaking the law, neener neener, because bad things befall those that taunt the law in that fashion.

Basically, the article itself is about how there is still the law on portable devices creating the possible interference with navigations and other devices on a plane and how some people (like Ms. Crook) think that there isn’t such an issue.  Having been in the wireless industry for over a decade and knowing the ins and outs of RF, I am one of those that find it absolutely amusing when it comes to the justification of how GPS and other navigation equipment gets “effected” by wireless or portable electronics.   Sorry, but it’s basic physics.   If your equipment isn’t effected usually, then it’s not an issue of EM or wireless since those signals always exist.  It’s the same reasoning behind people that think cell phones can set off detonators on a construction site.  If that was the case, then it would have went off long ago due to base station coverage and I don’t see airports setting up no cell coverage zones like it is at a NSA listening station.

No, all of that is fine and dandy.  But if you’re actually looking to travel still for whatever reason, you don’t go around telling people the laws you break on planes.  In my opinion, the travel industry is already inundated with a bunch of movie-scenario security laws and in doing silly things like “proving a point”, that just proves that there needs to be regulations in place to prevent people from using technologies in the air.  On top of that, most laws are enforced by people that don’t actually understand what they’re enforcing.  Just look at the random TSA cases of seizures of books (when the law claimed books of matches were banned) and other types of amusing stories.  Government never claimed to be efficient.

So, if the next time you fly and get detained by TSA, Ms. Crook, I’d probably go and take a look at what you’ve written.   Maybe it wasn’t such a wise choice after all.

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FAA Still Denies Cell Phones in Air

Cell Phones Everywhere
Image by Scott Ableman via Flickr

The FAA is still denying that cell phones are safe in the air.   While it’s true that cell phones do generate electromagnetic signals, it’s also true that the signal of the EM field dramatically drops off as you get farther away from the user.  Most do not generate any substantial field outside of the “personal space” of the cell phone user.   If you don’t believe this, go buy a EM reader and give it a shot.   It’s rather interesting on the non-linear drop.

On top of this, it was shown on Mythbusters (episode 49) a while back that cell phones do not interfere with the navigational equipment of a plane unless the plane has unshielded wiring.  And believe me, if you’re running faulty wiring, the least of your worries will be coming from mobile devices.

I will agree that banning cell phone use on a plane for sake of safety is a cop out play when in reality, the only thing that cell phones are in the air would probably be the annoyance factor.   Due to the background noise of the plane, people that talk loudly already would just raise their voices.   And the last thing most passengers want to to is to be locked in a confined space with a bunch of shouting business people that are trying to conduct business.

Fortunately, I have a solution for this.   If someone has enough change to spare that they’re willing to sign an agreement before the flight takes off to have a decibel monitor on them, and their credit card on file, then if their voice ever goes above a certain level, they’re automatically fined.  This fine is then distributed to both the flight crew, airline, and passengers on board guided by the fact that since everyone will be annoyed, you might as well be compensated for the annoyance.

This would either prevent people from calling as much on flights, or keep their voices down of which they should be doing anyways.   While policing the airwaves at thirty thousand feet isn’t something fun, use the right reasoning.   I mean, let’s be honest.   If people can use cell phones when they “touch down” on the landing, then it would also be safe to say that those EM transmissions would not effect other instruments.  Or else every time you land, you’d see a blip in your flight instruments that would be visible to the naked eye.

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How Does TSA Take to “Paperless Boarding Passes”?

Boarding pass
Image by Simon Aughton via Flickr

Interestingly enough, there’s this new fun little thing that the TSA is pushing which really shows that they’re actually with the times.   While most people still use the paper boarding passes, you can now have it sent to your phone.   What it does, is that it actually sends you an image of a QR code I believe, of which is then scanned at the TSA checkpoint.   They use one of the red bar code scanners so it doesn’t really get effected as much by the reflective screens on smart phones.

What’s neat about this technology isn’t just because it’s “green” since there’s no paper, but the fact that the government is finally getting on board the technology train WHILE it’s going.   Not like ten years behind.  Usually you don’t see things like that except in military and advanced research labs.   I find that absolutely fascinating.

While I had the opportunity to use it more recently, I was hesitant mainly because I didn’t want to hassle with it if there were airports that had screeners that were not trained to actually deal with the passes.  Even if the airlines are pushing it, it doesn’t necessarily mean there are untrained staff out there.  So I decided to observe and see for myself.

It happened that there was one lady in front of me at Newark that used this system.  It was actually very quick and easy and definitely put my mind at ease that perhaps this is the next thing I’ll adopt while I travel.  Nothing like getting rid of the abundance of boarding passes that one has to carry these days along with all of the advertisements and the weather and what not.  In all honesty, while it seemed like a pretty good idea, I usually am annoyed that they print all my boarding passes on separate pages with a bunch of junk on them.   Just print them all on one page!

I’m actually pretty happy that so far my observation of the paperless boarding pass has been a great experience.

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Why PTI should become a short commuter hop airport

the-way-to-fly-from-pti.jpg In the last two weeks, I’ve had business trips out to Richmond and Knoxville. And in both instances, I’ve had to have connecting flights at major airports. The first was in DC, and the second was in Atlanta. Amusingly, that should give you an idea as to which airlines I flew.
In any case, even outside of fuel costs, I found it absolutely crazy that it took over six hours including all the prep time to get on a plane for a “connection” to a destination that only takes about four to five hours to drive. But when the corporation pays for the ticket, I’d rather sleep on the planes or bum around the airport using wifi and having concessions at my disposal than spending my energies driving.
But besides the point. Having grown up in Seattle, and in going to college I flew off the $90-120 commuter flights that took you across the Cascades, I thought… why couldn’t PTI set up for that type of flying? Basically an air taxi sort of thing that a lot of larger airports do. Here’s the reasoning for it:

  • Most of the planes are already smaller (Canadair, Embraer, etc).
  • Adding gates (A-E) where it’s multiple smaller jets/props parked at gate shouldn’t be difficult considering.
  • Greensboro to Knoxville, Richmond, or even Wilmington or Asheville, shouldn’t be disregarded for flights since they’re actually shorter hops there on a plane. When I came back from Knoxville, the flight was booked solid as was going there. Same with Richmond, which tells me that there’s enough traffic flow.

I won’t claim to know everything about flight patterns since I do not, nor passenger patterns since I’m basing this on my experiences as a business traveler, but I have to say that it’s interesting why this hasn’t been proposed to some of the airlines. I’d be actively seeking out RyanAir, JetBlue, and other smaller carriers that do smaller hops to more regional airports. Maybe it’s just me, but the fact that there are absolutely no nonstops to Richmond and Knoxville? No wonder people fly from Raleigh and Charlotte.

TSA has a new red button

tsa_logo.gif …At least I think it’s new. Never encountered this yet at any airport until yesterday. And I wasn’t about to get delayed home for taking a picture so I’ll just describe it.
After stepping through the metal detector, the TSA personnel asks you to push a red button. I asked, which red button since there was this thing covered up in mesh or something and I assumed I had to push right in the middle. The TSA guy pointed to the red button to the side. Interestingly enough, I push the button and I was done.
The button itself wasn’t a biometric sensor as far as I could tell, just a standard red button. But the covered up ‘mesh/tape or whatever it was’ area was more interesting. As I was putting on my shoes, I looked back and noticed that the device was tied to a laptop. If the person pushes the red button, and it flashes green, then they’re good. If it flashes red, then they have to go through more screening.
Which made me wonder. Was that middle area a camera? And if so, is TSA using facial recognition software? That would mean that there’s a database somewhere that it’s being tied into but I don’t know for sure. All I know is that I’ve never seen this before and found it quite interesting considering I travel enough on business to have seen all the fun security things including the shoe air puffer. The entire thing could be much more simple, but I’m just curious as to if anyone knows what that was and what it does since it was only in a smaller airport where I saw it.
Definitely something that captures your attention when it’s change out of the usual security travel habits of “take off shoes, take out laptop, put in bin, put stuff on conveyor, walk through detector, grab stuff off conveyor, move along.”

Beggars can’t be choosers when it comes to tourism

I’m reminded today by my good friend Dave, that if your town or city is dependent on tourism, then one can’t be choosy when times are tough. His example is based on Myrtle Beach, where times have hit it a bit rougher due to skyrocketing gas prices and such.
Yet, he says that there are those trying to get rid of May Bike weeks and some fuss over promoting to gay tourists. Beggars can’t be choosers when times are tough. Truthfully, you shouldn’t be choosy at all considering these are the same people that are willing to drop money for their entertainment and you being dependent on those coming in. If anything, if people don’t want to deal with the crowds, then prominently advertise those weeks so that other tourists that don’t want to deal with these things won’t have to do so.
And if you live there and you’re hating all the noise or fuss? Hey. I feel for you, living on the beach. Uhh. Not really. You chose to live in a tourism-based area so deal. If it wasn’t for tourism, Myrtle Beach wouldn’t have even half of the restaurants and entertainment that it does currently.
Photo Credit: (JimmyOKelly)

Is the airline industry headed towards a tailspin?

As crude trades at $130+USD on the exchange, everyone is getting hit hard.
Except the oil corporations. And as it starts effecting larger industries such as travel, it could send airlines into a circular problem that they won’t be able to dig themselves out.
With the news of the high crude trade, American Airlines has said that they’ll cut thousands of jobs and retire up to 85 jets in an effort to combat fuel costs. The British Airways CEO, Willie Walsh, announced on CNBC yesterday that last year they spent $4 billion in fuel and this year is projected to be at $6 billion. Even while the industry is trying everything in its power to cut costs, including add a few minutes onto the flight by slowing down.
Unfortunately, not everyone is as lucky as British Airways posting a $1.7 billion profit, and as shown, Northwest and Delta are merging while there are rumors of United looking for a partner. But with job loss, and everyone buckling down, you wonder about who’s actually following the old adage of having to ‘spend money to make money’.
Let’s be frank. Regular consumers will not be taking as many flights unless there are perks to sway them and costs are kept low enough to be worthwhile. While the shipping industry has shifted on the world market from boat to plane, there could be a reversal if costs keep up.
My thoughts? While hunkering down for the storm where no end is in sight yet, airline executives need to make very strategic plays to keep the passengers flowing. Being that a lot of travel is discretionary and not so much necessity, they’ll be hit the hardest, especially as we begin the summer season of vacation and travel. Investments like what British Airways is doing is probably key for the short term, but these high oil prices are going to be a constant pain in their side until someone develops a new type of airplane fuel.
Photo Credit: (bfraz)