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Puckinflight

An all things aviation blog

Monthly Archives: November 2012

United listed its domestic 787 schedule in mid-September. I planned to take the only flight that counted Houston-Cleveland. I planned an entire event around this flight. People would meet up in Houston the night before go to dinner and there would be a decent party in the airport followed by the flight. My original flight plan was Phoenix–Houston on US Airways, Houston-Cleveland-Providence on United Airlines (Providence was the cheapest one-way flight on United with a connection in Cleveland to city I hadn’t been to) The way back was Boston-Houston-San Francisco-Phoenix. I booked a connection between Providence and Boston on Amtrak where I would connect to the T to get to Logan

Two weeks out, it became clear that there would be delays in United’s 787 deliveries. A week before my trip United announced delays in the schedule due to the in ability to get planes delivered from Boeing. The Houston-Cleveland flight was swapped from a 787 to a 767-200. Well crud, most of the people I cajoled to get on the flight bailed. Due to the fact I was on three different tickets, I was still in. Besides I hadn’t flown through Providence.

Well day two Friday, Phoenix-Houston, Hilton IAH North.

With dinner sunk I booked tickets to see Skyfall at the movie theater across the street from the Hilton IAH North. On my way to the Phoenix Airport from my house, I was called and informed that my flight was delayed about an hour cutting into my short connection in Houston. When I got to Houston, I hopped a cab to the Hotel, not wanting to wait for the hotel shuttle. The Hilton is about 10 miles away from the airport and shares a shuttle with the Marriott airport. Now, the Hilton is also in area called Greenspoint know by locals as “Gunspoint”. It’s not known for being safe.

I got to the hotel and checked in. They gave me a suite upgrade and access to the executive lounge. The hotel itself is very nice, clearly geared to the local business community. The suite I got was on par in size with the rooms at the HGI PHX South that I wrote about before. I went up to the lounge, they had snacks and a cash honor bar it looked like. I was late for the movie, so I snagged a couple of jalapeño poppers, and some shrimp canapés and dashed out to the movie.

Skyfall was great, and I got back to the room and went right to sleep.

Day two Saturday IAH-CLE-PVD, HGI PVD Airport.

Day two came way too early as my flight out was at 0700. I went to the airport and met up with no1racer in the United Club before the flight. We made our way to the flight going out of the end of one of the E piers. United’s 762s are on the way out and as such have not been updated. I flew one of these birds in BusinessFirst to Paris last year so I knew what to expect. The first seats were recliners with 1990’s looped IFE, which I didn’t bother with. The flight crew was great joking around with passengers and over all providing excellent customer service.

In CLE no1racer and I headed to the CLE United club to wait out our respective flights. He and I both did something similar when it came to booking the flights. He went to Manchester where I went to Providence. I boarded my flight to Providence and it was a short flight over to Rhode Island. The PVD airport itself is very nice and very new. I wish I would have spent more time there. The HGI was in walking distance of the airport and I made my way over there. The HGI is attached to a retail complex including the Iron Works Tavern, where I had lunch (grilled ham and cheese, fries, and a local beer). I most hung out in the hotel for the day. What I failed to take into account when booking the hotel, is that the regional rail line, operated by the Boston Transit does not run on the weekend. So I would have to take a cab or bus downtown to catch Amtrak. For dinner I walked over to where the bus stop for the downtown line is and promptly passed on taking the bus. I got back to the hotel and looked at my flights for the following day. I noticed that if I changed to a later flight I could grab the 787, well I called up United and promptly made the same day changes for the next day.

Day three Sunday, Amtrak, BOS-IAH-SFO-PHX, the Doubletree Resort Scottsdale

Day three came way too early. I scheduled 0600 taxi cab to take me to the downtown station so I could catch a train to Boston. Turns out my taxi was also way too early and I ended up camping out in the Providence metro station for about half an hour before my train. Amtrak was smooth and I just spent the time reading my book. I got to Boston and connected to the T’s silver line which is actually a bus that goes to the airport. I had just enough leftover on my T card from July to cover the fare. At Boston, I tried to go through the pre-check line, I was declined. Ironic no?

I got the airport so early, I was able to hop an earlier flight to Houston. I ended up in the middle seat between two people who were planning on having the middle seat open. As we were prepping for take-off the person next to me commented that I needed to shut my phone all the way off, because it could interfere with “cockpit communications with the tower.” Well in the interest of peace for the next three hours I complied. The flight itself was uneventful and we landed in Houston early. I went over to Pappasitos in Terminal E for lunch. Then I camped out in the E United Club for the next six hours. There I met up with Rob and we chilled until we decided to go see the Dreamliner.

This was my first time up close with the Dreamliner. With the exception of the tail cone, front windows, and the feathered engine exhaust it looks like the 767 which it is replacing. When I checked in for the flight I was 17th on the first class waitlist and that number was only going to get worse, the flight went out with over 70 people in the waitlist. Also through timely monitoring of seat assignments I was able to move from an E- window to an E+ center aisle seat to an E+ aisle on the right side of the plane. The funny part of boarding was the delay. The gate agent stated that the delay was due to the first officer having never flown the Dreamliner before. I knew what the gate agent meant, the FO hadn’t been on a real Dreamliner before, just the simulator.

So for the good: The bins are larger and the windows are larger. The lower pressurization altitude doesn’t really affect me as I live at 4000ft and work at 7000ft, so I don’t “feel” the change from 8000ft to 6000ft.

The Bad: the seats are narrow, apparently they are the same width as the 747 seats and it’s noticeable. The electrochromatic windows are a gimmick. One, the controls are slow to respond, so you end of jabbing at the button, which doesn’t feel like it could take the abuse for long. The air vents are non-moveable, so it’s hard to direct airflow on to you.

After traveling for so long I was out of it. Apparently the Captain was as well, because he stated that the FO would be in command during the flight (you know the gent who had never flown before. During the flight I watched “MIB III” on the AVOD system and I followed that up with part of ‘The Matrix.” When we landed, I asked to see the cockpit and the captain allowed and had the quote of the trip. I asked him what’s it like to fly the Dreamliner, he said “It’s like a dream.”

www.instantrimshot.com

In San Fran, I grabbed some of my steamed pork buns and headed to my gate where my upgrade cleared. I was so tired at this point I basically passed out for the flight to PHX. However, I got woken up by the bunch of drunken football fans on their way home. I got to PHX grabbed my car and headed for the Doubletree. By this point it was 0100 and I was beyond tired, but I made it to the hotel checked in and went to sleep.

Day Four, the last day.

I’ll keep this section short. I woke up, went to the lovely Doubletree breakfast. It is actually quite good and then I drove home.

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American Eagle, the regional carrier of American Airlines, announced that it was ending service out of San Juan, PR. See the Travel Weekly article for more information. This well and truly marks the end of AA’s SJU hub operation that had been on the decline for several years now, leaving only Caracas as the only non-hub flight. According to the article, when operations stop in March it will leave some smaller islands with limited or without air service. AA, has been consolidating their Caribbean operation in MIA hub where they will continue to operate to most of the islands that saw service out of SJU.

JetBlue in what has been described as a gentleman’s agreement with AA has been picking up some of the routes that AA has abandoned. In fact terminal A, which was originally designed a hub terminal for AA, is now mostly occupied by JetBlue. If you go through the terminal there is an awkward seating area where the AA lounge was going to be. The current AA club in terminal D is for the moment going to stay open, in part because of the Iberia flight to Madrid, but it will be interesting to see how long that lasts.

I was through SJU over the summer and I took some time to walk through the D/E concourse occupied by AA. It’s in a sad shape. There is a globe mural that had all of AA’s destinations marked out on it, those will be just memories. The concourse has this abandoned feel to it, all of the counters are still there, but you can see where the computers had been pulled out and the same for gate displays. That section of SJU is decaying slowing. It’s sad.

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http://www.elliott.org/blog/please-vote-for-your-favorite-travel-blogger/

Seeing as I am not listed I would like to recommend the flying pinto
http://www.theflyingpinto.com/

It’s a great flight attendant blog, and well worth a read. So please vote!

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Yesterday, I wrote about how an airline choses to end service. But how does an airline chose to start service? Well with most airlines new service comes from one the airline’s hubs to a new city. Evaluation of a new potential route involves evaluating potential traffic between the two cities, connecting traffic, economic factors, equipment and local issues. I am sure there is a lot more that goes into it, but that is the basic overview. What I didn’t know is that airlines can and do “crowdsource” new routes.

Today I found the website www.routesonline.com. The website is a b2b site that matches airlines with airports. Airlines can submit a RFP to the site and if there is an airport that wants that service they can put in bid for it. The same is true for the airport. If they want service they can put a proposal for service and any incentives they will offer and airlines can reach out to them. I never really thought the internet would be used for this purpose, but I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. The internet is used for everything these days.

Happy Flying!

Colpuck

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Columbia Missouri is about half-way between St. Louis and Kansas City. Mostly a college town home to the University of Missouri main campus, the airport authority has been looking to expand air service. Previously Delta had been providing service under an Essential Air Service grant from the government, but since 2008 operating without one.

In the past couple of months, local government has extended incentive packages to American for service into Chicago and Frontier for service to Orlando. The main premise of these grants is to see airlines establish service and if the service is profitable the airlines will continue without the government subsidy. In yesterday’s Columbia daily tribune it came out that Delta is ending service to Columbia. Delta cites continued losses and American’s subsidy

This is in all probability untrue. Delta acting like the jilted lover, turned down the exact same package that was offered to American just this past week. This tells me that Delta was probably asking a premium for flights from Columbia over Kansas City or St. Louis (both about 2hrs driving time). This is bolstered the fact that Delta had been operating flights since 2008 without a subsidy. Delta is clearly afraid of competition from American and Frontier. Delta claims they lost 900,000 a year providing service, but that is probably Delta massaging the numbers to get a justification that suits their position. Really Delta just didn’t want to lose their monopoly on service and now that is gone, they are out. (or if from the 80’s Audi 9000)

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Beating my estimation and only after two test flights, United’s second 787, N26906 is on its way to Houston. United plans to start revenue service with the 787 on Sunday November 4 2012.
http://flightaware.com/live/flight/N26906

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Airline miles are huge business. In some of the darker times airlines were solely supported by their frequent flyer program. Originally, a person took a flight and got miles equal to the distance of the flight. Now, a person can get miles from eating out, dry cleaning, hotel stays, rental cars, credit card spend, and even online purchases. Let’s look at how this works; an airline sells miles to a company or an individual at set rate. Then the program members get miles for doing business with the purchaser.

A specific example should clear this up. We’ll use online shopping. An airline sells miles to an online shopping portal. The online portal lists a bunch of online merchants. When the consumer goes through the portal to make a purchase, the online merchant pays a commission to the portal. The portal tells the airline to issue the consumer some miles and the portal pays the airline with the commission they get from the purchase. The portal gets its profit from the margin between the commission and the cost of the miles.

So there are two agreements at issue here. First, there is the buy/sell agreement between the portal and the airline. Next there is the commission/services agreement between the portal and the merchant. Now there is a lawsuit that was filed in a Massachusetts’ court over this type of deal. The complaint can be found here. I’ve surfed around and tried to figure out what is going on with this. Resident ethicist Wandering Aramean has basic commentary here. Here are the facts near as I can tell. Over the summer a web hosting company ran a promotion with two airlines (US and HA) that for new accounts a person would get X amount of miles. The company the web service hired to run the promotion and purchase the miles mistakenly described the promotion as any transaction. The result was the plaintiff’s made a large number of micro-transactions which earned millions of miles. The web hosting company canceled some the transactions citing fraud, and the promotion company is refusing to award the miles.

This case is going to turn on what the agreement was between the hosting company and the promotion company. Notice I didn’t say airline. While the airlines are pleaded as defendants they are not going to be liable here. Why? Mostly because they couldn’t care less about how many miles the promotion company buys and how they award them. All the airlines see is note that says please issue X miles to Joe Cool, and here is a check to cover the cost. If the promotion company got the agreement right, then web hosting company will have to pay the promotion company for the miles. If the promotion company got the agreement wrong they are going to have to cut the airlines a huge check.

This lawsuit is morally bankrupt. I agree with Wandering Aramean that the plaintiff’s here have gone too far. While legally, someone may be liable for this mistake, these plaintiff’s actively took advantage of it. Now it looks like not one but two companies are at risk of going out of business through having to pay for the miles a poorly worded advertisement said would be issued. I like flying and I like the challenge of collecting miles, but this is too much.

Happy Flying!

Colpuck

LaGuardia Airport has reopened this morning. The Port Authority got lake LGA drained, and operations are proceeding.