Monday, December 22, 2008

Airline Credibility Gap

The two worst managed industries in the United States are the auto industry, and the airline industry. While the auto industry threatens to go bankrupt, bankruptcy is a regular occurrence among airlines large and small.

I would argue that one of the biggest failures in the airline industry today is credibility. People rightfully just don't trust anything an airline says.

Examples include:

1. Lying About Bookings - When booking a flight on United Airlines, the "Economy Plus" section is always shown as "unavailable", with a picture of a person in the seat. Actually, it is available, just not to you, unless you have elite status. They could say that, but that would be too honest, I suppose. People are just led to believe that someone has already take those seats.

2. Lying About Delays - When has an airline ever given consistent or accurate information about the nature of a delay. Airlines frequently give out the "weather" excuse in order to absolve themselves of their contractual duty to provide compensation for mechanical or crew related delays. I would say this is ripe for a class action lawsuit.

3. Lying About Policies - When you call an airline, you are frequently speaking with overseas under trained call centers. These people will tell you anything to get you off the phone, truth be damned.

4. Lying About Costs - The "fuel surcharge" is one of the biggest frauds ever perpetrated on travelers. These surcharges bear little resemblance to airlines costs for fuel at the time of the flight, or the time of purchase. Airlines implemented no small number of surcharges and other fees over the summer that they blamed on record high fuel costs. Very few have disappeared now that oil is at record lows.

5. Little Value Correlation - People flying "full service" carriers like Delta and United, get charged for everything, while people on discount carrier Southwest rarely see any charges.

6. Price Gouging - Airlines love to price gouge. As the day of the flight gets closer, the price jumps by an order of magnitude. Simply put, there is little correlation between the cost of the service and the price charged. It is like a restaurant charging you more, depending on how hungry you are. Americans are surprised to learn that this is often not the case with airlines in other parts of the world, and it is rarely the case with other modes of transport such as buses, trains, and boats.

7. Lying About Customer Service - The image of airline customer service portrayed in their marketing is vastly different than the reality. It is common to see airline personnel treat customers in a manner that would get them fired from even the most shoddy restaurants or hotels. Again, this is rarely the case with foreign carriers.

8. Over Complication - Airlines make the experience of flying unbelievably complicated, often to their own detriment. Do you want to buy a ticket on Frontier? You now have to consult a chart to determine which of three types of fares is best for you, all of which have you sitting in the same seat. Want to standby for an earlier flight, the airlines routinely collect fees for standby , an insane practice that costs airlines the opportunity to fill an empty seat and sell a seat on a later flight. If the later flight is canceled, every empty seat on the earlier flight means one more upset displaced passenger. Finally, the baggage fees have created chaos as everyone is now carrying on the maximum allowed. People fight for overhead space, bags have to be gate checked, and planes are running late. I believe that people want to get from one place to another, not navigate a virtual world of rules and fees that is constantly changing. Worse, the policies obviously cost the airlines money, yet are marketed as revenue enhancing features.

9. Tarmac Strandings - Airline pilots must do everything in coordination with their operations manual, which seeming covers every contingency, except for not having a gate availible. In this situation, airlines throw up their hands and claim there is nothing that they can do. Airstairs, mobile lounges, and buses somehow cease to exist and passengers are trapped for hours on end, yet airlines argue against any rules requiring passenger evacuation in the event of a long term stranding.

10. Bait and Switch Frequent Flier Programs - You know the drill. You save up your miles and attempt to book a flight, only to be told there are no availible seats to multiple destinations over several months. This has been described as an unregulated lottery. No wonder passengers no longer have much loyalty towards their airline, the entire reason for the frequent flier program's existence.

Interesting Details on the Continental Crash in Denver

If you are going to crash an airplane engulfed in flames, it is best to do so right in front of the fire station!

Another interesting link I found is to a passenger who twittered the aftermath of the crash. For those of you who don't know twitter is a service that allows people to blog events via instant messaging. This is believed to be a first. Sadly, Denver, was also the scene of another first, a despicable twitter during a funeral earlier this year.

On a lighter note, the pilots may still brag to their passengers, as I always do when I fly passengers, "I stand by my record; in all my accidents, not a single fatality."

Friday, December 12, 2008

Not So Stunning Sight



This was a brand new Airbus A340-600 airliner that had not even been delivered to it's customer, Etihad Airlines of the middle east. The accident occurred on November 15th, 2007.

The accident report determined that the manufacturer was testing the engines at full throttle without chocking, the aviation term for putting wooden blocks in front of the wheels.

The four engines overcame the brakes and away it went. Needless to say, the aircraft was a complete loss.

Thankfully, no one was killed.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Stunning Sight

This is the first Northwest 747 coming out of the paint shop in Delta colors.

I believe it has been thirty years since Delta had a 747 in it's fleet.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Guest Blogging


I recently exchanged guest posts with Brett Snyder over at The Cranky Flier, a fantastic blog about airlines that I have been reading every day for some time now.

You can read my post on his blog here.

It is really cool to have a guest post on a blog that you admire.

In return, Brett, a self proclaimed "airline dork" has written a guest post for the blog I contribute to at AskMrCreditCard.com.

You can read his post here.

Thanks Brett!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

One More Time, With Feeling: How to Rent DVDs For Free


I have had several conversations over the last few days with people, trying to explain to them how they can rent movies for free.

No one believes me.

So I am posting this article again:

One of the themes that has developed in this blog is how to survive without cable TV.

Turns out that renting DVDs is much more enjoyable and cost effective than cable.

So just in case you thought that reading this blog was useless, here is the best tip I know:

Redbox + Promo Codes = Unlimited Free Movies

Note that each code may only be used only once with each of your credit cards, but new codes appear every day.

It turns out that there are several Redbox locations within walking distance of my house.

Of course, I would never, ever use this to make a backup copy of the disc so I could watch it later.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Update: Delta Promo

It turns out that everyone who registered for the big Delta promo will get their bonus SkyMiles, according to the message now displayed at the promo page:

The More Miles You Earn, the Bigger the Bonus

The SkyMiles® multi-partner threshold promotion was in the development phase and not yet formally announced or launched when it was inadvertently published online. The landing page should not have been live and the content was subsequently removed.

However, Delta Air Lines will honor the bonus miles promotion for SkyMiles members who have already enrolled.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Court Ruling: Obese Given Extra Seat In Canada

A Canadian court has ruled that Canadian airlines must provide obese passengers with an extra seat for free. This has created a lot of controversy, and some pretty strong opinions against this here and here.

Here is my opinion:

This is an outrage. Clearly, people who are overweight are at fault for their condition. The litigant, Ms. McKay-Panos (if that is her real name) "said she was born with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, a hormonal disorder that causes obesity in about 50 per cent of those afflicted." That means there is a 50% chance it is her fault!

This kind of thing would never happen in America, where the financial health of the airline industry takes precedence over the mere comfort and safety of obese passengers and the people sitting next to them. An airline ticket should only entitle you to one seat, as people should be treated by airlines no different than cargo.

Furthermore, how many so called "disabled" people were crippled due to accidents that they themselves were at least in part to blame for? Why should these freeloaders receive any special treatment? In the era of Roe vs. Wade, we also need to take a more strict look at people who's parents chose to give birth to, despite their genetic conditions, like obesity.

So booo to the Communist Canadians for unfairly interfering with the free market. Never in America would our government become so blatantly involved in the operation of it's corporations, especially when the health, safety, and comfort of it's citizens are involved.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Big Delta Promo, Crash And Burn?

The link I posted yesterday now returns the message:

"We're sorry, this campaign is currently not active"

What does this mean? There seems to be four possibilities for people like me who have already registered:

1. Delta will re-post the promo, likely with some changes.
2. Delta will honor it, but only if you registered before they withdrew it.
3. They will honor the promotion, but only for transactions that occurred before they withdrew it.
4. They will give the middle finger to all of the people who registered. Several people at FlyerTalk have already discussed taking them to court if they do this. Considering how many bloggers have been following this,(here, here, here, and here) , that would rake in tons of bad publicity for Delta.

I hate to say it, but I think your best chance is if you TOOK MY ADVICE AND REGISTERED WHILE YOU COULD!

Update: I was right, if you registered, you will get the miles.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Huge Delta SkyMiles Giveaway!!!

IMPORTANT!!! You must register for this free promotion here.

Delta just announced an incredible SkyMiles promotion where you can easily rake in a 150% bonus on top of partner activity between now and the end of the year.

Read my report on the subject on my post at AskMrCreditCard.com. After thinking about it for a few minutes, I realized I would be able to get three tickets Israel next year for free.

Big deal? Consider that my wife and I currently have NO SkyMiles whatsoever!

What we do have is some Starwood Preferred Guest points that we got from our Starwood Amercan Express cards. 20,000 Starpoints normally gives you 25,000 SkyMiles, but with this promotion it gives you an additional 150%, or 37,500, for a total of 62,500 SkyMiles. Cash in 80,000 Starpoints (about half of which we have received as sign up bonuses) and we get 250,000 SkyMiles, enough for 3 tickets to Israel, essentially for free!

You can cash in points from hotel programs, or maximize points on rental car programs and other credit card partners such as Dinner's Club. It does not count for Amex Membership Rewards transfers

It does NOT count for travel ON Delta, or any of it's airline partners.

IMPORTANT!!! You must register for this free promotion here.

Win A Free Trip To Denver


It has been a slow blogging week, but here is a great contest prize offered by my friends at the Denver Convention and Visitor's Bureau. Read about it here and sign up here.

See you in Denver!

Friday, October 31, 2008

And Now For Something Completely Non-Political


My neighborhood, Park Hill in Denver, was just named one of the 10 Great Neighborhoods in the United States. I have to say I was not surprised when I found this list at the Gadling travel blog.

The article points out my neighborhood's proximity to downtown and it's connection to public transit. These are important factors as there is a fundamental shift going on in how people consume energy and where they choose to live.

See the rest of the list here.


Thursday, October 2, 2008

Updated Blog Roll

Check out the "Blogs I Read" column on the right. I have recently updated and resorted it.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Grab Bag For Obama

Anyone who knows how the electoral college works pays scant attention to the national polls.

So far, Obama has been consistently ahead in all of the states Bush won in 2004. As you can see here, Bush won 278 of 538 votes in the electoral college. Obama needs 269 votes for a tie and 270 for a clear electoral vote win, therefore, any 9 votes beyond the Kerry states grabs him victory.

Which states could he win? Colorado, Virginia, Ohio, and Florida each by themselves are enough to put him over the top. Nevada and New Hampshire together would also work.

As it stands now, Obama holds a clear lead in just about all of these states. In CNN's latest polls he is up 9 Points in Virginia alone!



I still believe that it is Colorado that will put Obama over the top, as he has held a consistent lead in the polls throughout the whole contest as well as an Obama landslide in the state caucus. McCain, on the other hand, was crushed by Romney in the Colorado Republican Caucus.

Finally, what would happen in the not so remote possibility of a 269-269 electoral vote tie? It is complicated, but due to an increasing Democratic congressional majority, a tie would almost certainly go to Obama.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Writing

This weekend, I took a fabulous class about travel writing from Ron Stern. He detailed methods for finding stories, pitching them to outlets, and obtaining accommodations.

Sometimes finding stories seems to be very difficult, and then you come across an article like this, and realize that your dumbest idea ever may be Pulitzer Prize material in comparison to this, the least interesting human interest story in all recorded history.

Maybe they can pitch it to The Onion.

Monday, September 8, 2008

New Blogging Assignment

Starting today, you can read my thoughts on the subject of credit card rewards over at AskMrCreditCard.

Blogging is a great way to hone my writing skills while exploring a subject that I have a lot of experience with; maximizing credit card points.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I Believe in Innocence Until Proven Guilty, But....

Wow, I have never seen anyone looking more guilty than these three, with the possible exception of this guy.

Full story here.

Denver Update and the Olympic Effect

You can read my Denver Update on PlanetEye here. It is part of a pattern that I have observed at highly anticipated major events such as the Olympics and the Superbowl.

Step One: City is awarded a major event, nightmare scenarios are predicted for lodging and transportation.

Step Two: Every business in town prepares for record breaking crowds, and quadruples their prices in an attempt to gouge visitors.

Step Three: The residents and regular visitors anticipate this and change their habits, avoiding the city at all costs.

Step Four: The event begins, crowds are light, and business suffers. Life goes on as normal with far fewer disruptions than a typical workday.

Step Five: Residents re-adjust to reality, and repopulate the city, just as the event ends.

This happened in Atlanta in 1996, Bejing last week, and Denver this week. It is predictable, but never predicted.

Monday, August 25, 2008

This Just In...

A Blue Hen was just spotted in Downtown Denver!

Some of my observations on the crowd.

I felt compelled to write some Denver Etiquette tips after my experiences last night.

Monday Denver Update

I went out on the town last night with a friend of mine. Thankfully there was noticeably less visible police presence in "occupied Denver" this time. Perhaps they were busy with actual protesters. There were plenty of cops, but they weren't traveling in such big groups, and they didn't seem as heavily armed and equipped.

We went to the Wyncoop bar, a local place owned by Denver's Mayor, and had a pitcher of "Obaminator" beer. From there we went around town, finally ending up at a bar with the Young Democrats of America. It was pretty cool, and I met another delegate or two.

Tonight I am either going to a Planned Parenthood party, or possibly to a Bill Maher event, if I can snag some tickets.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Denver!

After living in Denver for the last 10 years, I have never been so thrilled to be here as I am this week!

I am also thrilled to be covering this experience all week long at my Denver Local Expert page at Planeteye.


Last night we went out to Downtown to eat dinner and and see what we see. The city is teaming with delegates, and cops. You could almost call it "occupied Denver", as there were many police officers walking about in large groups with riot gear and heavy weapons.

One of the highlights of our evening was meeting Liz Villarreal, an Obama delegate from Alaska. She has a great blog here. Essentially, she and her husband live in Homer, a mere 7 hour drive or $350 flight from Anchorage. She is one of only 8 pledged delegates from the last frontier. Eating dinner next to us by herself with a t-shirt and a backpack, we would never have guessed that she was an actual delegate. Apparently, she had to hold a fundraiser just to raise the money to attend. We were very impressed.

After dinner, we went to Denver's City Park to see the newly restored Prismatic Electric Fountain that was build for the 1908 Democratic Convention in Denver. Some background here.

If you go, the lights turn on at 8:30 PM.

Taking good pictures at night was tough, but this guy seemed to take better ones.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Chinese Government Sentences Two Women 77, and 79 to Labor Camp for Applying for a Olympic "Protest Permit"

Just as I predicted, a moral cesspool, brought to you by the IOC and sponsored by Coca-Cola, Kodak, GE, McDonalds, VISA, etc.

Blogger Discovers Proof Chinese Gymnasts are Underage

Here is a fantastic blog post about the underage Chinese gymnasts that illustrates many truths:

1. According to official Chinese government documents, the gymnast He Kexin was below the minimum age allowed by the rules.

2. Mainstream media is either too lazy or unskilled to perform investigative journalism anymore.

3. The IOC is amazingly hypocritical. They unquestionably trust the World Anti Doping Agency's scientifically useless drug tests, but can't seem to take any action against a clear violation of their own age limits.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Enthusiasm Gap


There is a lot of excitement here in Denver as people are scrambling to see Obama speak at the 80,000 seat stadium.

This article tells of quite a bit less enthusiasm for the Republican convention, although this picture is worth at thousand words.

Monday, August 11, 2008

All Four Events, Ten Hours Later!

NBC has been committed to covering all four events in this years Shmolympic Games: Gymnastics, Track and Field, the Dream Team, and Phelps. Results of anything else can be found in small "stock quote" type on the back page of your local paper's sports section.

Unfortunately, NBC been tape delaying sporting events, a particularly boneheaded move, especially when they have twisted the IOC's arm to begin events in the morning so that they appear "live" in the US.

Of course this should be no surprise to people who realized that NBC edited and partially faked the opening ceremony coverage to delay the entry of the US team until the end of the broadcast in order to boost ratings.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

PlanetEye Officially Launches

For some time now, I have been the official Denver Expert blogger for PlanetEye. Now the word has gone forth that the site is now officially being launched (even though the home page still says "beta").

The idea is to combine information from Local Experts like myself, with geotagged information from other users.

I am excited to be part of this ambitious project in web based travel information and planning.

Check out my page and some of the other Local Experts and let me know what you think.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Guilty Unless We Make Mistakes, and We Don't

The incredible travesty that has been the WADA's (World Anti Doping Agency) witch hunt again Tour de France champion Floyd Landis may conclude on Monday when the Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS) finally makes it's "ruling."

I could write an entire blog about how Floyd has been railroaded, but thankfully, someone else already has, the fine Trust But Verified.

As comprehensive and illuminating this blog is on the subject of Floyd Landis and his persecution by so called anti-doping agencies, I was shocked when it missed this interview in the New York Times.

Although Floyd is not mentioned, the first two questions posed to Dr. Gary Wadler of the World Anti-Doping Agency seem to allude directly to the Landis case.

Here is my favorite exchange: When asked about a new study revealing inaccuracies in testing procedures that result in false positives, "Doctor" Wadler replies:

"There is absolutely no risk of a false positive result"

Wow! There you have it, ABSOLUTELY NO RISK. All human errors have been eliminated, all mechanical failures are now impossible, an the latest drug testing methodologies are now completely infallible.

In late breaking news, all anti-doping scientists have now resigned WADA and other agencies to pursue new careers as the advent perfect testing has made their jobs unnecessary. Dr. Wadler himself is dedicating his life to building a luxury ship that will cross the Atlantic at record speed. Sources say that he believes this vessel to be unsinkable.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A World Without Legacy Airlines

Recent announcements of service cutbacks have made me wonder: What would Atlanta look like without Delta, Denver Without United, or Dallas without American?

There is plenty of precedent for a major airline abandoning a hub, such as Eastern in Atlanta, Continental in Denver, or Delta in Dallas. In each of those cases, there was another major airline to take up the slack. In other cases, a major airline has eliminated a hub, leaving a vacuum. This has happened in Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and other smaller cities.

I cannot think of a situation where a major airline has disappeared completely, and turned over a major airport into a hub for low cost carriers.

United has just announced they have eliminated all service to both West Palm Beach and Ft. Lauderdale, a large and growing market. In Denver, that means that both Frontier and Southwest will be serving Ft. Lauderdale non-stop, with United not providing any service at all to south Florida, other than Miami. United also suspended non-stop service from Denver to London.

At the same time, Southwest Airlines is increasing service in Denver.

If this trend continues, Frontier and Southwest will be the only major airlines here. The same might be happening in Las Vegas where US Airways in scaling back while Southwest is ramping up.

The thought of loosing a major airline used to be a troubling to resident's of one of their hubs. In the case of Atlanta, Delta disappearing would mean a major loss of connecting international service there. In the case of Denver and Las Vegas, there is not much international service to lose. While competition is generally good for consumers, sometimes it is best for the market when sub-standard products are not offered, and miserable companies are allowed to fail. Frankly, I welcome the day in Denver when United is no longer competing to lower the bar while Southwest continues to lower prices.

Maybe we are getting to the point where the legacy carriers will only be offering international service from coastal gateways, with limited connecting service. If that is their business model, they are in big trouble, as foreign carriers offer a vastly better product.

Colorado Cyclists, One Tough Bunch

It is no secret to anyone who knows me that I have been doing a lot of cycling lately in preparation for this year's Triple Bypass. Last week, I was descending fast down a winding road when I crossed just behind a coyote.

With that in mind, I came across this article in this morning's paper. To sum it up:

A Boulder Cyclist, also training for the Triple Bypass, hits a 500 pound bear while going 45 miles an hour.

He breaks his ribs, and bends his bike, so he straightens it out and rides to the hospital.

It all reminds me of this classic illustration.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Your non-refundable ticket, now refundable!

While we are on the subject of looking at the bright side of the airline industry's slow motion suicide, you should keep in mind one benefit of their constantly changing rules; virtually all tickets purchased more than a week or two ago are now refundable.

How is that so? Let's take a look at a typical contract of carriage from Delta:

"In the event that we amend these Conditions of Carriage in away that materially affects the terms and conditions of your ticket purchase after you have purchased your ticket but before your travel begins, and you do not agree to be bound by the rules as amended, you may request a full refund of your ticket price." Rule 1, Section D, Paragraph 1 on Page 2.

Basically, if I buy a ticket today, and Delta changes their contract tomorrow, I am entitled to a full refund. This is very useful as airlines have lately been changing their terms and conditions constantly. It doesn't even matter what change is made, as long as it "materially affects the terms and conditions" and "you do not agree to be bound" by them. It could be changing the fees for a checked bag, charging for drinks, or anything you think is "material."

This clause is included in the contract of carriage with all airlines as the only way they can unilaterally alter the terms of their contract is to offer you a full refund.

It is a good idea to print out the contract of carriage at the time you purchase your ticket. If it changes in any material way, you are then entitled to a refund, and you have the proof to back it up.

This trick has been used by consumers against cell phone companies for years.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Looking at the Bright Side

It is easy to conclude that everything is doom and gloom in the airline and travel industry. Certainly, most airlines in this country are tripping over themselves to disintegrate into an orgy customer hatred and mismanagement.

So this morning, I am going to try to find some good news.

1. Southwest Airlines is doing great by advertising it lack of fees. What was once considered a no frills carrier, is now considered nothing short of a premium service. Two free checked bags, free drinks, and no change fees! Rather than operate a hub and spoke system, they offer a variety of non-stop flights from dozens of cities, kind of like a mesh. I haven't flown them yet, but I hope to do so very soon, now that they have offered massive new service from Denver. Sadly for my Atlanta friends and family, they have yet to serve Dead Mayors International. You would have to drive to Birmingham, Alabama to catch one of their flights.

2. Another good option for both myself and my Atlanta based friends is Airtran. Airtran has gone somewhat light on the fees, and is still succeeding economically. More importantly, I found that they operate newer aircraft, on time, and with decent customer service. These days, that is very hard to find. I also do like that you can pay $20 extra for an exit seat. In my opinion, it is worth it to pay a small fee for a few extra inches of leg room, rather than twice as much for a first class seat. Really, there is only about ten inches from the front of your seat to the back of the next, so adding four more inches feels like having a %40 larger seat, for maybe a %10 greater fare.

3. The Starwood Amex is still a great rewards card. Like most cards you earn a point per dollar, however you can stay at Westins and Sheratons for as little as 3000 points a night. The best part is that the reward availability is guaranteed. That means that if they have a room for sale, then they will allow you to redeem points for a free night. Think about how much value the 25,000 airline miles you earned on your credit card has these days. Perhaps they might be good for a "free" trip to Buffalo (not including fees) if you are willing to travel on odd Tuesdays in February. Most available domestic awards now cost 50,000 points. That same 25,000 earned on the Starwood Amex will easily find you up to 6-8 nights in a Sheraton hotel, even on a busy holiday week. Westins are typically 7-10,000 points. If you do the math, it is usually better to pay for your flight, and stay in a nice hotel for a week for free.

Better yet, you can also use the Starwood Amex points to redeem miles on dozens of airlines at great rates. For example, when you redeem on Delta, you get a 5000 mile bonus when you redeem 20,000 points. It is essentially a 1-1.25 ratio and there are no fees. You can't beat this.

4. The major international airlines in the United States are not worthy of your business, to be kind, however, most foreign carriers are actually quite nice. Lufthansa and British Airways are showing solid profits and treating their customers well. When flying internationally on foreign and a domestic carrier back to back, difference is something like comparing a Motel Six to the Ritz Carlton. Even when the rooms are the same size, it is an entirely different experience.

5. The Future: Perhaps a downturn in air travel will create a glut of hotel rooms and drive prices down. Maybe the dollar will rebound a bit and take pressure off of oil prices. Hopefully United or US Airways will go out of business forever and Southwest will expand more rapidly.

Friday, June 13, 2008

United Airlines, Worst Airline Ever

It seems that my thoughts on United Airlines, have been seconded.

As a Denver based flier and former United Premier, I can do just fine taking Southwest, Frontier, JetBlue, and Airtran anywhere I need to go in this country, as I have vowed never to set foot on United again.

For International travel, virtually any foreign carrier is better than any domestic international one. I love America, but our Airline business is somewhere where our automotive industry was in the 70’s, an unmitigated disaster that they only have themselves to blame for.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Put your baby in a bag on the floor, don't stand up, you can't sit together, and no food for you: United International Business Class

On the flight to Israel, we had the privilege of enjoying Lufthansa Business Class. On the return, we took Swiss from Tel Aviv to Zurich, and United to Denver via Washington Dulles.

On Lufthansa, two flight attendants assembled a bassinet for our infant daughter, complete with fresh linens. On Swiss, a single flight attendant struggle to install a bassinet, and then asked us to use a blanket as linen. On United, we were given a heavy plastic sleeping bag to put our baby in, and told to put the bag on the floor!

United also has this bizarre habit of turning the "fasten seat belt" sign on for most of the flight. The moment the slightest amount of turbulence occurs, the light goes on, and stays on for up to an hour! The fight attendants make announcements that passengers should return to their seats for their own safety, however they themselves continue to roam about the cabin. Trash is collected, meals are served, and hot coffee is poured, all while it is too dangerous for passengers to leave their seats. It is as if they believe the laws of physics don't apply to themselves. We finally got up the nerve to ask a flight attendant why it is too dangerous for passengers to stand up, yet safe enough for the flight attendants. Frankly, I considered that we might be arrested for merely asking such a question. The flight attendant explained that they have to be up and about because that is their job.

There you have it. Either United is lying to their passengers about the danger of turbulence in order to allow the flight attendance a little elbow room while they server the meal, or they have a complete disregard for the safety of their crew, or both.

Upon arriving at Washington Dulles from Zurich, we noticed that our connecting flight to Denver had been cancelled. We proceeded to the gate of the next flight to Denver. We were told at the gate that the flight was already overbooked, and were referred to the customer service desk. While waiting in line at the customer service desk, I telephoned United and was told the following lies:

1. Flight 903 had been canceled due to weather.

2. We were not entitled to any vouchers for meals or lodging.

3. We would be denied entry to the Red Carpet Club as we were using a Frequent Flier Award Ticket. When I politely requested to be accommodated on an earlier flight or to be given hotel vouchers, I was repeatedly reminded that I was flying with an award ticket.

When we finally reached the “customer service” desk, four computers staffed by only a single person, we were told that we would have to wait a further 24 hours for the same flight to Denver the next day. Furthermore, the customer service desk actually claimed that they didn’t have the ability to print any vouchers for us there, and referred us to another service desk with an even longer line.

It was only after I was able to access the Red Carpet Club that a United representative admitted that the flight was canceled due to mechanical reasons. We were then ticketed for the same flight the next day and given vouchers for hotel, dinner and breakfast. Of course, the vouchers were for $10 each for dinner, an amount smaller than the least expensive item on the hotel's menu. The agent was unable to give us seats together, but assured us the staff at the gate would be able to resolve this matter.

The staff at the gate, asked us to speak with the staff on board. The staff at the entrance to the aircraft asked me to speak to the staff in the cabin. The staff in the cabin actually told us to ask around ourselves to see if anyone would switch seats with us! It was only the generosity of a fellow passenger that allowed me to sit with my wife and assist with the care of our infant child.

The pattern was clear, United personnel would only tell us to speak to someone else or refuse to assist us.

We understand that mechanical problems can occur, however United should have:

1. Been honest with us about the nature of the cancellation

2. Rebooked us on the next available flight automatically, or at least provide adequately staffed customer service counters with the ability to print out vouchers, especially at it’s Dulles hub.

3. Made some attempt to seat us together, rather than have us beg our fellow passengers.

Our final insult came shortly after takeoff, when a flight attendant singled out my wife to tell her that she could not have the lasagna she ordered. My wife, who is breast feeding our child, explained that this meal would be vital to her ability to feed our child, and that the salad would not be sufficient. I asked the flight attendant to at least ask some other passengers if they would prefer the salad, yet the flight attendant refused to do so and told us that “We have 100k travelers on board, and not enough meals.” Incredulously, I asked the flight attendant if 100k travelers take priority over a nursing mother, and was told point blank, “Yes, they do.”

Ironically, I was actually given the lasagna, presumably only because I was sitting in a seat assigned to someone else. Thankfully, United's consistent incompetence sometimes works in your favor.

In United’s marketing and description of it’s business class product, I have yet to see an asterisk denoting that travelers ticketed with award seats are not entitled to be treated like other international business class passengers, let alone with a minimum of service and decency. It’s service stands in stark contrast to the excellent experience we had in business class on United’s partners Lufthansa and Swiss.

It is outrageous that United personnel repeatedly went out it’s way to remind us that we were ticketed in business class with a mileage award, and are otherwise third class passengers.

From now on I will avoid United at all costs. Even if they are less expensive than other carriers, and that is a big if, I refuse to pay them to insult us.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A Jew in Germany


When we found out that we would have a ten hour layover in Frankfurt, we were faced with the choice of waiting it out in the Sheraton at the airport, or utilizing the time to see Frankfurt. We ultimately chose to see the city, and I found myself confronted by a range of emotions.

One day, visiting Germany for the first time may be a non-event for a Jewish person, but that time has not yet arrived. When the subject came up over Passover, several people in my family had a story to share about their gut reaction to finding themselves in Germany or even in a German speaking region of Europe. My brother in law recalled waking up on an overnight train in a German speaking city and thinking that he was in a movie. He realized that these scenes never end well for the Jewish people on the train.
My thoughts turned to a movie I once saw where the Jewish character admits that every time they see an elderly person in Germany, they can only wonder if the person was (is?) a Nazi. In high school, I was friends with a German exchange student. Since he was born 25 years after the end of the second world war, I didn’t give a second thought to his politics. In retrospect, I wonder what his parents and grandparents did during the war.
With all of this historical baggage on my mind, we exited customs and entered modern Germany. The gentleman who stamped our passport asked us nicely what our final destination was. When we told him we were en-route to Tel Aviv, he immediately asked us why we did not go during Passover. I was amazed that he was either Jewish or just very friendly to us. My next impression was how diverse the city is. We struck up a conversation with an Israeli couple on the train, had lunch next to an Indian-American family, and saw Germans of every color and ethnicity we might expect to see in New York or L.A.
It was a nice day, and we saw plenty of families with young children, hardly an image that recalls the Nazis. Then there were the German women, many of which were young, friendly, cute, and blond. It was hard to hold a grudge against their smiles.
In the end, I found Frankfurt to be a very cosmopolitan, international city. It was pleasant, if not especially charming, but somewhere along the way, it’s historical baggage was temporarily lost in transit.
As we touched down at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, I was once again both a witness and participant in the emotional release that occurs when a plane load of Jews returns to their homeland and applause breaks out. Some passengers even start to cry. It was at that moment that I realized that no one cheers when a plane lands in Frankfurt.

In Business Class


For over a year, my wife and I have been planning this trip to Israel. The cost of travel being what it is, in addition to other financial circumstances, necessitated the use of frequent flier miles to “purchase” this trip. In 2000, I utilized frequent flier miles to travel to Israel as part of a group with the United Jewish Communities. My best recollection is that I just called the airline a few months before my travel and gave them my itinerary, and a ticket was issued. Utilizing frequent flier miles today is a frustrating challenge at best, and is virtually impossible most of the time. These days, your only chance is to try to book eleven months in advance, at the earliest moment the seats become available.

The plan to utilize frequent flier mileage was hatched last spring when I had accumulated a modest amount of miles from some business travel. We then took advantage of numerous airline promotions, opened credit cards and bank accounts with mileage bonuses, and even begged for some miles as compensation for airline screw ups. In the end, we actually had not just the miles for two tickets to Israel, we had enough for business class.

Booking eleven months in advance, we were only able to get seats departing on Sunday night (May 4th) rather than Friday night, so we lost 2 days of our trip before we even started. We ticketed the trip three months before our daughter was even born, and we were told at that time that we would just have to pay taxes for her. When she was born and we called to have her ticketed, we were told that we would actually have to pay over $800 dollars to ticket her as a “lap child” with no seat!. United’s policy, it turns out, is to charge parents an additional %10 of the highest possible price for the seat in the class that the parents are ticket in. Needless to say, I was not happy at the fee, and for being completed misquoted. To make a long story short, I made some pretty serious threats of negative publicity in an EECB to United, and they essentially waived the fee.

Fortunately, we scored seats on Lufthansa, a United partner with a fantastic reputation for service and punctuality. Oddly, the nonstop flight from Denver to Frankfurt arrives and hour after the flight to Tel Aviv, and ten hours before the next flight.

We decided to turn lemons in to lemonade by using that time to explore Frankfurt, which I plan discussing in another posting.

On the return, our friendly United supervisor who was in charge of placating us after the EECB, lifted some capacity controls and we ended up with Tel Aviv – Zurich on Swiss, followed by Zurich – Washington Dulles – Denver on United.

As for the Lufthansa business class, I approached the experience with mixed feelings. On one hand, I was excited to experience international business class, especially with the added challenge of traveling with our 8 month old baby. On the other hand, given the difficulty of booking this trip, and the general trend of making FF mileage more useless, I knew that we probably weren’t going to be traveling business class again soon, especially the next time when we will need three tickets.

I also did some research and found a lot of opinions that Lufthansa business class wasn’t all that great. The consensus at flyertalk.com was that the seats lie flat, but only at an uncomfortable angle, and the food is good, but not great.

Frankly, I have concluded that those who find Lufthansa business class lacking must be a bunch of spoiled brats. The much criticized seats are actually a cross between a barcalounger and a dental chair, while the food was comparable to what I would expect from mid to high end restaurant. The staff is was so attentive to our needs in comparison to economy class, that my wife and I concluded that flying in coach is essentially paying people to treat you poorly.

The whole experience of business class has caused us to put travel in a new perspective. When flying economy, we always have to be on guard to avoid getting screwed. Pack light and hope that their scale doesn’t come up with a different amount than yours and you are asked to pay a hefty surcharge. Show up two hours early and wait in line forever, thinking about what to do if you can’t check in before the cutoff. Board as early as possible, so you have room for your carry ons. Take as much food as you can get away with so you are not dependent on a miniature, semi-edible “dinner”. The result is that you set yourself up for a negative experience. In business class, none of these issues concern you, and you end up having a positive relationship with everyone you meet.

Right now I am pondering several questions:

  1. How will we ever be able to enjoy this experience in the future? I think the double mileage awards will be the only thing remotely available, but I don’t see how we will ever accumulate enough for three double priced awards before our daughter’s Bat Mitzvah around 2020. My best theory is that we might pay for coach next time, but use miles to be upgraded.
  2. Is it possible to have a positive experience with something less than a business class ticket that costs four times the price of coach? The only valid criticism that I read of Lufthansa’s seats is that they aren’t very wide. The business class on the A340 that we flew is six across, as opposed to eight across in coach, but it is really the massive center console that takes up so much room that the seat only feels a couple inches wider than coach. A better design could yield seven across with the same amount of width, while a nice recline would provide adequate comfort while taking up much less room than the lie flat seats.. Perhaps I just described Delta’s “Business Elite”. Personally, I think that Delta is charging business class prices for what is essentially a premium economy seat. Delta must think so to as they are slowly replacing that product with a lie flat bed.
  3. Perhaps more of the aircraft should be business class. I always thought it was strange that airlines charged four times as much for a seat that takes about twice the space. The food and service are good, but they don’t come close to accounting for the other %50 of the extra price. More business class seats at a lower price, or more premium economy seats are probably where the industry needs to go. . It is also hard to believe that airlines make much profit off of economy anyways. It would be nice if international economy became just a small section at the back utilized only by poor college students and little people.
  4. Perhaps Lufthansa provides excellent service in their economy class, but I know most airlines do not. The disparity of service between economy and business is so great, I often wonder if airlines purposely downgrade economy in order to sell business class seats with massive profit margins. Polite and efficient service doesn’t cost extra, and ultimately adds to the bottom line. While larger seats will always cost more, as they should, I still cling to the quaint notion that all passengers on an international flight are all valued customers who have purchased a service for hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. I am continuously perplexed and outraged that when I am not treated by the airlines at least as good as I am at a restaurant or a hotel treats me when spending a tenth as much.
  5. As efficient as Lufthansa is, they do have a way to go in some areas. Even in business class, our check in took over twenty minutes. There has got to be a better way. As I mentioned, the flight from Denver to Frankfurt is terribly timed to connect to Tel Aviv, and I wonder how many other city pairs have such poor connections. The business class lounge at Frankfurt had free food, soda, beer, wine, and even scotch, yet they wanted to charge us for wireless internet.

I guess I am now officially one of the spoiled business class travelers, which made our experience home on United even more disappointing, but I will save that for a future post.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Husband of the Year

I just read an article in today's paper about an old building that is being renovated in downtown Denver. At the end of the article it is mentioned that the construction manager came across an old box of "Zebra pelts as well as hides from donkeys, squirrels, ponies, and of course, cows."

"They were disgusting," said the construction manager "They were all dried up and shriveled. It was certainly nothing I would wear. My wife didn't even want them."

It's for you honey, and it's disgusting!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Life, Death, and Art at the Airport

Here is an interesting story that I wrote in my travel blog at PlanetEye. The more I think about it, the more bizarrely fascinating it is.

Monday, April 28, 2008

A Tale of Two Companies

The current, and recently unthinkable, price of oil is hitting drivers and airlines very hard. One company outside of the energy sector has been seeing huge profits associated with the rise in oil prices. Boeing has a runaway hit with it's new, fuel efficient, 787 mid-size passenger airliner. It has experienced some delays with production that are being magnified by the amazing demand for their product. There are currently nearly 900 orders for the aircraft, which hasn't even flown yet. 1000 orders are expect by the time the first aircraft is delivered next year.

To put that in perspective, Boeing's last all new product, the 777, was delivered in 1995. It has also been considered a success, yet is has "only" 1060 orders to date.

Clearly, the rise in oil prices has triggered the demand for more fuel efficient vehicles.

On the other hand, the automotive industry is responding very slowly to consumer demand for more fuel efficient vehicles. Toyota has it's ubiquitous Prius, and VW just announced a new 60 mpg Jetta sedan, yet the big three American manufacturers have been long on hype and short on innovation when it comes to efficiency.

Both the 60 mpg VW Jetta and the Boeing 787 are fueled by a petroleum distillate called kerosene, rather than gasoline. We typically refer to automotive kerosene as diesel and aviation kerosene as Jet-A. Both vehicles will make their manufacturer's a ton of money.

Now, if there were only an American car company that had a CEO with both the knowledge and experience making money by producing more fuel efficient vehicles.

Perhaps the current CEO of Ford, Alan Mulally, has picked up some interesting skills from his previous job. You see, in 2007 Ford hired him from Boeing, where he was the President of their Commercial Aircraft Division.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Disgusting

Finding reasons to despise Rush Limbaugh is all too easy, but this hits a little to close to home, my home.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

My solutions to the airline crisis

Now that oil is priced about on par with caviar, minor airlines are dropping like flies and major airlines are loosing gazillions of dollars. I have decided to give the major airlines some free advice, since I know that if I were having problems, they would go out of their way to help me.

1. Simplify your fleets of airplanes. Take a look at this chart of Delta and Northwest. They are seemingly trying to operate one of every type of airplane.

2. Simplify your fare structure. Stop wasting millions of dollars on computers that try to predict the maximum fare people will pay, and go to a simplified fare structure. Shopping for a flight should be like finding a hotel or a rental car, not be like playing the stock market.

3. Either make frequent flier programs useful, or get rid of them. I have recently spend hours and hours on the phone with various airlines attempting to redeem miles or change a flight. What a waste of my time and their money. Invariably, I am left dissatisfied by what was once a "loyalty program". If a flight is not available, I should at least be able to be put on a wait list.

4. Get better web sites. I have recently discovered glitches on Continental's web site that made it impossible to book flights shown as available. United's web site does not have any way to search to redeem miles for partner travel, or to change itineraries on partners. Their advice to me is to keep calling back. What a waste. Every time someone has to call an airline, the website has failed and the airline has wasted money.

5. Get rid of the fees. I really doubt they earn much on these, they just piss customers off. United just announced their "change fee" is now an outrageous $150. If their web sites worked well, they could easily offer changes with no fees as a feature. They could actually make money since changing to an earlier flight frees up a seat that could later be purchased.

6. Use larger aircraft with fewer flights between destinations. There are about 30 flights a day between Denver and Las Vegas, almost all using aircraft that seat less than 150 people. Ditto between New York and Chicago, San Francisco and LA. A plane twice as large still requires just two pilots, and would be much more efficient in almost every way. A side effect would be less congestion.

7. Use turboprops like the Q400. Horizon airlines has just decided to standardize their fleet with this type. This airplane is as quiet as a jet and nearly as fast, while consuming %30 less fuel. Stop whining about fuel prices and do something.

8. Help fix the TSA. Everyone knows it is a joke, and people hate to fly because of it. If all the airlines got together on this, I believe they would have some influence.

9. Forget the mergers. Once you reach a certain size, there really are no further efficiencies to be gained. On the contrary, the process of merging will take a decade and will be very expensive. In fact, you could make a better argument that mega-airlines will be less efficient.

10. Be honest. Display real time flight and weather information at the gate. Passengers now have access to the internet at the airport and they know when they are being lied to. Show the actual availability of frequent flier seats in advance, otherwise frequent flier programs are just a con game.

I'm sorry Jason, I cannot do that.

Even if you haven't had the patience to see the classic 1968 movie: 2001, A Space Odyssey, you will recall the famous line, "Open the pod bay doors HAL"

This line is a plea to a computer named HAL from an astronaut who is locked outside his space ship. HAL decides that it is in the best interest of it's mission to over-rule the request of the mission commander and responds in it's eerie voice "I am sorry Dave, I cannot do that."

The year is now 2008, and while computers generally have not spoken to us in monotone voices since they changed the announcement in the trains at the Atlanta airport, I am astonished that the end result is the same, if not worse. Today, Humans have now surrendered to the will of their computers.

Do you think I am being too dramatic? Twice in the last week I spoke with managers from two major companies, Comcast and Continental Airlines, who have tried to accomplish relatively simple tasks, only to give up as their computer won't let them.

With Comcast, I am trying to use a cable modem on their system that I purchased, rather than the one they rent to me. With Continental Airlines, I am trying to redeem frequent flier rewards for seats that that are repeatedly shown as available on their web site.

In both situations, I spent over an hour on the phone with someone who claimed to be a manager or a supervisor. Each time the human agreed to my request, but the computer did not. Both calls ended in a stalemate as I pleaded with them to find a person in their company who can override their computers. In the case of Comcast, they agreed to research the problem and get back with me. In the case of Continental Airlines, I was told that an "internal report" would be filed regarding the error, but I should NOT expect anyone to resolve the problem. The supervisor at Continental actually told me "They won't let me" book the flight, for March 2009, that the web site showed as available. When I asked who she was referring to as "they," she told me that "they" are the computers!

While it does scare me to consider that computers have now enslaved the human race (would you like to play global thermonuclear war?), there are three other possibilities:

1. The humans are merely blaming the computers because it is company policy to lie to their customers.

2. The humans are too lazy to find someone to fix the problem, therefore they just blame it on the computer and tell their customers that there is nothing more that they can do.

3. The humans actually believe the computers are in charge, either because their management has told them it is so or they are just idiots.

With Comcast, I will give them a couple weeks to try to solve this, especially since they offered to credit me for the modem rental fee. With Continental, I have already launched the EECB, CC'd to several travel and consumer web sites. Why people have to threaten a company with adverse publicity in order to get basic customer service will be the subject of a future post.

In the movie 2001, Dave ultimately overrides the computer and gains access to his ship manually, although he almost dies doing so. Let's hope that Comcast and Continental can force their computers to comply with their commands without threatening anyone's life.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Trip Report: Airtran Airlines

You don't have to be a travel writer to notice that airlines in this country are melting down.

With that in mind, I flew to Atlanta on Airtran this weekend, my first flight since November. Airtran operates a fleet of fairly new 737s between Denver and Atlanta. They have very low profile Recaro seats that really do make you feel like you have an extra inch or two of legroom. On the other hand, United has been using very small regional jets on this rather long (3 hr) trip.

The overhead space was generous enough to easily fit my roll on in lengthwise, and gate checking our child's stroller was a breeze.

Amazingly, airline seemed to operate with almost clockwork precision. I say almost for two reasons.

1. Both flights arrived EARLY. We in Denver are used to arriving at our destination a bit early because, with six runways, aircraft departing DIA rarely have to wait in line. The arrival in Atlanta was a full 30 minutes early, while the return flight was merely 15 minutes early, due to some waiting on the ground behind other aircraft. I have reason to believe this is a common practice at Airtran as my grandmother also arrived early on her flight from Florida.

2. There was a problem with the check-in for our flight to Atlanta. We had paid an additional $5 per person in fees for reserved seats. Having chosen seats fairly close to the front of the plane, I was surprised when I checked in online to have been assigned seats in the back of the plane. Fortunately, I changed them to aisle and window seats, and we were able to enjoy a vacant middle seat between my wife, our daughter, and I.

If you have read this post, then you already know what comes next. There is no way that I will tolerate paying a fee, and then not receiving the service I paid for.

Upon my return, I wrote the following e-mail to Airtran (via their web site):
February 15, I purchased a 2 roundtrip tickets for a flight from Denver to Atlanta departing April 18, 2007. Additionally, I purchased reserve seats for $5 per/person, each way. I selected seats 15E and 15F in order to sit as close to the front of the aircraft as possible. When I checked in online for the flight on April 18th, we were given seats in the last few rows of the aircraft. I was then able to select seats only slightly forward in row 26.
Considering that my wife and I paid $10 for reserved seats, and we did not received what we paid for, I would like a refund of the $10 fee for that flight.

Sincerely, J Daniel Steele
Note that I am flying under my middle name for reasons that have been reported here.

I figured that they would deny this request or ignore it, and I would be forced to call and ask for a manager. If that didn't work, I would then launch an EECB.

Imagine my pleasant surprise when I received the following response within 24 hours:
Mr Mr. Steele,

Thank you for contacting AirTran Airways. I apologize for the inconvenience that this caused. I have refunded the seat fee for that flight in the amount of $10.00 to the credit card that was used for the original purchase. This should post to your account within 3-7 business days.

If there is anything else I may assist you with, please feel free to contact me.

Sincerely,

Melanie
Customer Relations Department, AirTran Airways
Way to go Airtran!

Nevertheless, I believe that I won't choose to pay this fee in the future as there seemed to be plenty of empty seats available for reservation 24 hours before departure.

On time service + quick resolution of a problem = someone who will choose this carrier over another in the future.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Atlanta

As a writer in this and another blog about travel, it is amazing how little I travel lately. I suppose I had a good reason this winter. Now that it is spring, I have the opportunity to visit my former hometown of Atlanta this weekend.

I have had an ongoing discussion with people in Atlanta regarding the future of Hartsfield and air travel there. I am reminded of a documentary I once saw that explains how Atlanta will ultimately be moved offshore in an effort to boost tourism and become a bigger Delta hub. The city will then be overdeveloped and its excess weight caused it to sink to the bottom. Everyone that stays with the city evolved into merpeople, with the assistance of leaking caffeine from Atlanta's Coca-Cola plant. You can read about this amazing prediction here.

Seriously, Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson-(dead mayor to be named later) Airport is the busiest in the world. This fact that makes travelers based at most other airports jealous, while making travelers in Atlanta frustrated.

Here is an interesting article on various proposals for a second airport in Atlanta. I also found this read from a couple years ago that still seems relevant.

My take is that Chattanooga will not be considered a reliever to Atlanta for decades to come. The prerequisite would have to be that a high speed rail link is built, an endeavor that is far more expensive than building a second airport.

More likely is that Dobbins Naval Air Station will become a reliever some day. It has both proximity to the metro area as well as excellent runways. Furthermore, I will go out on a limb and say that Atlanta is pretty safe from the threat of a Naval assault.

I would not bet on even Dobbins becoming a reality in the next 20 years. That is how long it will take for Hartsfield to build out the new international terminal and the south terminal complex. When Delta and Airtran start increasing the size of their aircraft due to runway capacity restraints, only then will they accept any effort to build a second airport for shorter regional trips.

Until then, Atlantans should thank god and Maynard Jackson for having a facility that:

1. Offers more non-stop flights to both domestic and international destinations than just about any city in the country. Seriously, I haven't even heard of some of these places.

2. Is very close to the city compared to most airports it's size; See Dallas-Ft. Worth, Washington Dulles, Denver, and JFK.

3. Has reasonable prices due to the presence of two competing airline hubs.

4. Is very well served by public transportation.

With the absorption of Northwest, formerly Northwest Orient, I will predict that Atlanta will see more service to Asia, and possibly this sight that hasn't been seen in over 30 years. A Delta 747.

The South Gate Complex is expected to add up to 70 new gates in the next decade to handle the growth. I predict that after it is finished, the airport will rebuild the original concourses A-D one by one. If I could redesign them, I would have departing passengers (and passengers connecting on the same concourse) on one large level and arriving passengers on a much smaller level with moving walkways leading straight to the trains.

While I expect future technological advances increasing the capacity of the existing runways, don't be surprised if the construction of a sixth runway becomes an issue in the next decade.

Finally, it is only natural to compare Hartsfield to my home airport of Denver. They are of similar designs, and are the only major new airports built in the United States in the last 30 years.

Denver currently lies 11th on the list of the world's busiest airports by traffic volume, just ahead of JFK. Atlanta's airport is maxed out in terms of runways, and will be maxed out in terms of passenger capacity within the next 20 years, merely 50 years after it opened. Denver, on the other hand, has built an airport for the next 100 years. It currently boasts 6 runways, with room for 6 more within it's current boundaries. I believe that Denver is presently underserved internationally. Recent expansion by German Carrier Lufthansa to include daily flights to both Frankfurt and Munich just hint at the business and leisure demand that is not being exploited by lazy and inefficient United Airlines. Even Frontier serves almost dozen destinations in Mexico and Costa Rica. I think it is only a mater of time until United as well as other Asian and European carriers begin serving Denver, just as Atlanta evolved as an international destination in the 80s and 90s.

While we Denverites don't yet enjoy the numerous international non-stop flights and the convenient location that Atlanta fliers do, we actually have hubs for three airlines, United, Frontier, and Southwest. Sure Frontier is operating in bankruptcy protection, but that is practically a rite of passage for airlines these days. Furthermore, I predict that some time in the next 30 years, Denver will overtake Atlanta as the busiest airport in the United States. The busiest airport in the world in 2038 is almost certainly under construction today somewhere in Asia or the Middle East.