Category Archives: musings

Return of the blogger!

I haven’t posted in quite a while, but I’ve had some recent experiences that I felt I should share, or at least record for posterity.

First off, I had a great time a couple of weekends ago at the first ChampagneDO.  The lovely girls Jeanne and Keri of Heels First Travel planned this event, and  even reviewed and visually documented the event!  I certainly had a good time.

I also recently took a trip to Singapore, and met up with folks on the Flyertalk SIN DO while I was there.  I had a great time there, and it was my first time in Singapore, as well as flying in ANA and Singapore First class (including a trip in the Suites!).  I’ll post more about that soon.

The story I wanted to share today happened while I was flying to Puerto Rico on AA (in first class of course).  I’d asked for hot tea on the plane.  A few minutes later, the purser came by and began apologizing and explaining how they had forgotten to load ceramic glasses, and asked if it would be ok to serve it in a styrofoam cup.  Now, while having real glasses and mugs is nice, I certainly don’t need that, and wouldn’t turn down a drink just because it didn’t come in one…my main concern would be that it’s slightly less environmentally friendly, but not enough to worry me.

Anyway, I responded that it (hot tea in a styrofoam cup) was better than having it in a plastic or glass cup 🙂

The significance to me of seeing Australia

I started thinking about this as I was landing.  The first time I really saw much of anything about Australia was TV coverage of the 2000 Sydney Olympic games.  I remember watching the opening credits of the coverage and thinking that it seemed like a great place to visit.  I managed to dig up a video clip on YouTube of the opening credits (it cuts off some of the scenic landscape view that I remember, but you get the idea).

I forgot about visiting Australia after that, until a few years ago, I remembered it would be a great place to visit.  It became a bit of a long term goal that was just “out there” for me, and then it was amplified last year when one of my good friends ended up moving to Australia.  Ironically, I missed my friend during this trip since he wasn’t here at the moment.  Recalling all the memories of reasons that I wanted to come to Australia makes me appreciate the points and miles collecting even more.

I probably would’ve made this trip happen sooner or later, but it was certainly was much less costly and enjoyable being able to travel the way I did here.   While visiting Australia is by no means a major lifelong dream that has been the focus of my life, I do appreciate that it was an idea I had thought about several times in the past, and it’s cool to think that I’ve now had the opportunity to “check it off my list,” so to speak.  Some people may never have the opportunity to ever see the place they want to go for a variety of reasons, which makes me appreciate this experience even more.

Kojo Nnamdi show episode about airports

This one slipped by me until this evening, but last week the Kojo Nnamdi show did a show about how airports are affecting development of cities.  One of the guests was John Kasarda, the author of the book “Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next,” which sounds like an interesting read.  The podcast of the show is highly recommended as well.

Listening to the podcast reminded me of a couple of other interesting stories that I read recently.  There one part where a listener calls with a question about airport noise over neighborhoods near airports.  The Cranky Flier recently wrote an article describing NextGen air traffic control and navigation that JetBlue has installed.  It seems like not only could the technology help save fuel, but maybe it could be used to perform maneuvers (safely) that avoid neighborhoods.

 

On the topic of residential noise, someone mentions in the podcast that in many cases, neighborhoods were built around airports that already existed, and then people who live in these neighborhoods complain about noise.  I’m guessing in some of these cases, people move here because property is cheaper near airports (for the noise reason), so it seems short-sighted on the part of those people to not factor in the reason that for the housing cost being abnormally low.  There are exceptions, as in some cases, runways get added, approach patterns change, etc.  But in general, it just seems like a poor plan to live near an airport.
Another post at Cranky Flier covered how people in Memphis are clamoring for a low cost entrant to bring down the fares Delta charges in the city.  Memphis is a major Delta hub (inherited from the Northwest days),  but it just barely seems to make sense as a hub these days, given the consolidation in the airline industry, and Delta having a couple of nearby hubs already.  I commented on that article, and asked about what the effect of FedEx operating out of that city and airport has (Fed Ex is based in Memphis, and runs a major hub out of Memphis.  I might not’ve used the right words there, but I figured that combination would convey the right idea).

Protect your frequent flyer accounts!

An CBS Chicago article describes some people’s experiences with their miles being taken.  While I’m not totally irresponsible with my mileage accounts, I don’t feel like I protect my information on them as closely as other things.  For one, using AwardWallet is a major weak point, because if someone can breach that account, then they have access to your entire collection.

My take is that if my miles/points were stolen, it would be upsetting, but not as bad as my bank account being emptied.  The miles have value, and I’ve definitely invested time and money into getting some miles, but for some reason I wouldn’t feel like it’s the end of the world if they were stolen (possibly because I collect way too much of them?).  I suspect it would still be quite upsetting if something like that happened to me though.

On the other hand, while having AwardWallet is a weak security point, it does also allow me to keep an eye on everything with little effort.  so if there was a breach on one of my accounts, I would probably find out sooner than if I didn’t use an aggregating service.

Determining if an award is worth it

Frequent Miler made a couple of posts with a basic guide to determining whether a booking is worth it when you use your points.  His advice is pretty good, and presents good guidelines to figuring out if you should use points or not.  However, it is also important to keep your goals in mind.  If your goal is to minimize out of pocket expense of any kind, and you have earned your miles through signup bonuses (as opposed to regular credit card spending), then it’s perfectly acceptable to redeem awards that are “not worth it” by the guidelines presented.

Without further ado, here is Frequent Miler’s guide for determining if an airline award is worth it and for determining if a hotel award is worth it.

Baggage fees on wrong type of luggage?

While traveling this weekend, I started thinking why airlines don’t charge for carry-on baggageinstead of checked baggage.  Carry-on baggage imposes much more burden on others in the travel experience, and it makes sense to incentivize people NOT to carry on their bags.

 

First of all, carrying on your bag (vs. checking your bag) is a privilege which people place value on.  Despite the inconvenience of hauling your bag around the airport, carrying your bag allows you to save time, because you don’t have to wait at baggage claim at your destinatoin.  Carrying your bag also virtually negates the chances of your bag being lost or delayed by the airline.

 

The downside of carrying on are that you have to get your bag through security and drag it everywhere with you.  By incentivizing people to carry-on their bags, the airlienes are exacerbating these downsides.  To avoid paying for checked baggage, more and more people now try to bring a fully stuffed bag with everything they need through security checkpoints, which adds time and hassle in the security checkpoint screening process.  Also, as people try to board, they have to figure out where to put these bags, theuy stall the boarding process while they try to fit their oversized bags into the luggage bins, and invariably, overhead space always runs out on full flights.

 

Basically, incentivizing people to bring overstuffed carry-ons is a drag on the whole process, and it’d be better if more bags were checked at the counter.  When the liquid ban first went into effect, I remember reading articles about how flight attendants were relieved at how much less carry-on baggage there was.  We could partially restore this state by charging for carry-ons and allowing at least one free checked bag…

 

Of course there should be some exemptions.  People traveling with children (particularly infants) have to carry some items, as well as those with medical needs/medication.  One way might be to still allow one free “personal item” or perhaps just allow only one carry-on, be it a personal item or carry-on bag.  And of course, there should be some exemption for elite members, as there is with checked baggage currently.

 

The other side of this issue is enforceability.  How would airlines make sure people actually pay for carry-ons?  One possible model is to look to the rest of the world.  In other countries, particularly with discount airlines, airlines charge for all your and checked bags according to their weight.  Airlines and TSA would have to find some way of tagging things to indicate that they have been cleared for carry-on, and do this in a way that isn’t too easy to scam.
Overall, I think the benefits of figuring out a way of charging for checked baggage instead of carry-on would be beneficial for the travel experience.  Listen up airlines!