About Me

Steven Frischling
Live: HVN
Work: JFK-SFO-CDG-HKG
Contact Me

Steven Frischling, aka: Fish, is globe hopping professional photographer, airline emerging media consultant working with large global airlines and founder of The Travel Strategist. Fish has racked up more than 1,000,000 miles since he started to track his mileage in 2005.

Fish's travel tends to be less than leisurely, including flying from New York to Basrah, Iraq, for six hours; Hong Kong for eight hours, Kuwait City for two hours and traveling around the world in 3.5 days to shoot a series of photo assignments in 4 cities and 4 countries on 3 separate continents.

Fish grew up at the end of New York's JFK International Airport's Runway 4R/22L, which probably explains his enjoyment of watching planes, fly overhead. When not shooting photos or traveling Fish designs camera bags, hones is expertise on airline security and spends his time at home cheering for the Red Sox with his 3 kids 102 yards from the ocean.

A Musical Interlude … so read about the DC-10 & get on the 707

It has been an insanely hectic two months for me, with no time to cover things I want to sink my time into … so while I reshuffle my time, please take some time to read Airchive’s excellent coverage of the final commercial DC-10 flight here – The Final Passenger DC-10 Lands in Birmingham , and enjoy the AvGeek interlude music below.

 

Happy Flying!

 

@flyingwithfish

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Reader Mail: “It took two days for my checked bag to be found. What’s wrong with airlines?”

Today’s reader mail is a familiar complaint on a topic I have covered many times, how to help an airline find your baggage once it has been “lost” … although lost isn’t really the right term. The majority of “lost baggage” simply never made a connection, was checked in to close to flight time, or ended up on the wrong baggage cart. Most “lost baggage” is reunited with its owner fairly quickly, some not so quickly and yes, some are gone forever.

 

Onto today’s mail from Tanya Lynn, a self describe ‘Occasional Business Traveler,’ from Louisiana. Tanya writes, “I checked in online for my flight from Billings [MT] a day before my departure and dropped my bag more than an hour before my flight, then had almost three hours in Denver before boarding my flight home. When I arrived in New Orleans my bag was not on the flight and it took two days for my checked bag to be found by United. What’s wrong with airlines? They take your checked bag fee money fast enough but can’t be bothered to deliver your bag?

 

Before I dive into how passengers can help airlines find their bags easier, a few emails back and forth yielded what I suspected … Tanya’s bag was a roll aboard sized black ballistic nylon bag. Her only baggage identification was on a business card tucked into the slot in the back of the bag with no other markings.

 

Next time you’re in an airport, take a look at how many black ballistic nylon bags you see. They are everywhere and all essentially look the same. Many have red or yellow ribbons tied on them to help identify the bag, but if you’ve ever landed at any airport in Metro New York or South Florida the sheer number of bags with red ribbons tied onto them to “ward off the evil spirits” is astounding.

 

The key to helping your bag be found quickly and easily? Properly labeling it and making sure it can’t be missed.   I take my baggage identification to an extreme, but with good reason, I hate when my checked baggage doesn’t arrive.  I want to make sure the people sorting the unclaimed baggage can spot mine when looking for it without any effort what-so-ever.

 

Many travelers use a laminated business card or a bright coloured bag tag to help identify their baggage, but keep this in mind, lost baggage can be stacked and sorted many ways, You have no idea what side of your bag is sticking out. The handle may be visible, it may be out of sight, so your bright personalized bag tag that you are sure makes your bag stand out may not be visible at all.

 

I have had a traveler tell me they would never place tape on or write on their designer luggage … my advice … do not check your US$3,250 Louis Vuitton rolling luggage. Yes the famous LV Damier Ebene Canvas will stand out in a sea of black ballistic nylon bags, but really that bag should be a carry on bag anyway because it is the prime target for baggage thieves who spend their days hanging around the baggage carousels at airports.

 

For those of you with the “usual” luggage, remember your bag is for function, not fashion. You need your bag to arrive with you … so you have two options.   The first option is to go pick out some insanely bright colored duct tape or grab a paint marker, my bags have both.  Once you have determined your course of action, Make sure you label all six sides of your bag in a way that it cannot be missed and that your labeling, either directly on the bag or on the duct tape, has your contact information.

 

Every one of my bags is obnoxiously plastered with flamingo pink duct tape.   The pink duct tape is not applied in a small strip that can come off or be missed, it is big, it is obvious.   A few of my regular travel bags, although rarely checked, are also labeled in bright sunshine yellow paint marker with my last name in big letters, along with the pink tape.  Regardless of paint marker or duct tape, every side of my bag is clearly marked and multiple sides of my bag have my name and contact information in big clear lettering, as well as on a big piece of pink duct tape inside my bag with my contact information.

 

When I have been separated from my baggage, I have always had bag returned quickly after I was able to describe my bag to the baggage office in terms other than a “Black ballistic nylon bag.”   I describe it as “Black roll aboard marked with flamingo pink tape on all sides, a bright yellow cartoon fish and FRISCHLING on he exterior of the bag.”   So when a baggage sorter goes looking for my bag, they can’t miss it and has always been found the same day.

 

So Tanya, while United Airlines should have found your bag quicker in a perfect world,  I don’t know if there was an issue with the baggage system, the label fell off, it misconnected or was improperly sorted for some reason, but I do know how you can ensure your bag is back in your hands in far less time next time this happens. Airports are big places, especially those like Denver International Airport, and looking for one bag in a sea of thousands is not as easy as you may think.

 

Below are three of my bags and how they are labeled for a guide to making your baggage more identifiable.

 

Happy Flying!

 

@flyingwithfish

20121005_Baggage_ID_8210_72

20121005_Baggage_ID_9701_72

LLBean_1

LLBean_2

ProRollerII_01

ProRollerII_04

Encounters With A TSA VIPR Team & Is The Amtrak Logo Really A Security Risk?

The legality of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams Teams have been questioned by many, although authorized under 6 U.S.C. § 1112 , stating that the mission is to “augment the security of any mode of transportation at any location within the United States,” even a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) attorney states why Travelers Need Not Submit To TSA VIPR Teams.

 

Over the past few years I have spent a considerable amount of time researching, watching and writing about TSA VIPR teams, but last night was my first encounter with a VIPR Team stopping me and asking to search my bag.

 

Last night as I got off the Metro North Rail Road train at New Haven’s Union Station and walked through the tunnel from the platform to the station I took a few moments to stop and watch a group of men in “Department of Homeland Security POLICE” jackets milling among passengers with Amtrak Police Officers. I like to watch VIPR Teams work, and it became apparent to me that I was being watched watching them, but that is not uncommon.

 

As I made my way through the tunnel I was politely stopped by one of the TSA VIPR agents who asked if they could investigate an antenna sticking up out of the outside pocket of my brief case. Quickly pondering if it was worth the argument to refuse, or in my best interest to actually watch what happens from the point of view of someone being searched, I told them they were welcome to see what the antenna was sticking out from my bag. In the process of being walked away from the commuters I threw them for a loop by asking certain questions about what department they came from, and about their specific job titles, but that only served to have the Amtrak Police Officers called over as well … and no, I wasn’t worried.

 

The TSA VIPR agent who had his hand on my bag only checked one thing, what was the antenna attached to. The answer to that question was exactly what I told them it would be, a Uniden 396xt digital scanner.   I usually have a scanner with me, mine has systems set up to monitor police and public safety throughout the region, although one of the labels really caught their attention (I keep common systems I listen to labeled on the front for quick reference), this label reads

21 – CBP ICE

22 – TSA ICE DHS

 

These systems are set up to the primary Customs & Border Protection and Immigrations Customs Enforcement frequencies for one system and the other system clones the standard 13 channel TSA radio layout, with about 30 other TSA frequencies in use at airports in the United States, as well as certain ICE frequencies and DHS common frequencies.   The Amtrak Police Officers asked about the system labeled NY/CT Rail, and I was open with them about what frequencies are in there, why I listen to them and that neither the scanner nor my use of it were in any violation of the law.

 

I went to snap a photo of my radio being looked over, which was interesting as they never turned it on, just sort of stared at it, when one VIPR Agent stepped in front of my lens preventing any photo and I was asked to not shoot any photos that showed the Amtrak or Amtrak Police logos “due to heightened security related to the Super Bowl“, which made no sense what so ever.

 

How would an Amtrak logo in a photo create any sort of security risk, especially as it is in direct contrast with Amtrak’s photograph policy, the Super Bowl is being played in New Jersey and we were in Connecticut 83 miles away?  As I was handed the radio back I went to shoot a photo to post this little incident for Instagram and it was suggested I shoot the photo on the MTA Police desk instead … so it seems Amtrak logos pose a security risk, but Metropolitan Transit Authority logos pose no security risk.

 

While it had been pointed out by aviation journalism Jason Rabinowitz that the TSA VIPR Team was being observant in noticing the antenna, I believe they noticed me watching them and the antenna was just the open door to stopping me and talking to me about why I was watching them, although they never asked me that question.   Overall, I have to wonder if the VIPR Team really thought I was a risk. Why did they only want to see what the antenna was attached to? Why not open my bag and look inside?  They would have found all sorts of things, like a large battery, three smaller batteries, a clear-coil headset, a knife, a gaggle of cords, a Finnair notebook, Macbook Air, iPad Mini and a bottle of Snapple lemon tea.

 

Ultimately, the experience was quick and painless, but left me wondering exactly what the VIPR Teams were looking for.  I was apparently, by my observations, the only person stopped or even spoken to as passengers filed into the station from a loaded rush-hour Metro North train and an Amtrak train.

 

Below is a photo of my radio and the MTA Police desk … since the TSA VIPR agents and Amtrak Police determined that the MTA logo in a photo was not a security risk.

 

Happy Flying!

 

@flyingwithfish

VIPR

Why Border Searches Of Laptops Doesn’t Matter & Why The Border Search Exception Zone Does

While I am on a roll righting the wrongs of those incorrectly bashing the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), because the agency needs no help what-so-ever in getting its self into hot water, I figured I’d finish up by correcting The Kim Komando Show’ reporting from the 25th of January 2014 regarding yet another court ruling that upholds the legal authority of the United States Customs and Border Protection to seize and search laptops and mobile phones at the border without probably cause.

 

The factual errors by The Kim Komando Show, syndicated by Fox News, and reportedly the largest consumer electronics talk radio show in the U.S., are common ones. They may be easy to mistake, but never the less, the facts and the history of the judgment are important.   Also important is what is over looked in the debate over searches at the border with the expansion of the Border Search Exception Zone … which you need to read all the way to the end of find out how it may directly impact you.

 

… warning this post gets long and factual from here on out … so I suggest drinking a cup of coffee, chugging a Cherry Coke or taking an Adderall before continuing …

 

On the 25th of January  The Kim Komando Show aired, Judge’s laptop ruling challenges the Constitution – and your privacy. I have touched on this before, even way back in 2008, here, US Customs Has The Right To Search Your Laptop Without Cause : What You Can Do and despite multiple court rules, the incorrect information seems to keep bubbling to the surface in the media.

 

First off, The Kim Komando Show twice states that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has the authority to seize and go through a passenger’s laptop.

 

The show’s story states

You either appreciate that a laptop is a costly and delicate instrument you’d just as soon not be cavalierly tossed around by a TSA employee, or you do not. And you recoil at the thought of strangers pawing through that information on a whim, with trivial legal oversight, or you do not.

 

… and …

 

The taking of a laptop today is a striking act of confiscation almost without an equivalent 25 years ago. Back then, it would have taken a team of FBI agents days if not weeks to so comprehensively vacuum up a single American’s health, business, financial and personal information, not to mention that of so many of his or her friends, family members, and business associates. Today, Nosy McPatterson, your local TSA staffer, or Roscoe the border agent who got up on the wrong side of the bed that morning, can accomplish the same feat, and in an instant.

 

 

These statements by the show are false … and not by a little bit.  The TSA does not operate in an area with people entering the United States from a foreign nation.   The TSA’s Transportation Security Officers are also not Federal Law Enforcement Agents with law enforcement power.   The TSA’s screeners operate in areas with outbound passengers or those in transit.  The TSA’s screeners are also not an investigative force, and they operate under the legal authority of an Administrative Search, not a Criminal Search. The Fourth Amendment only addresses Criminal Searches, where are Administrative Searches are quite different.

 

At no point when a traveler crosses the border by car, train, boat or plane are they met by, or searched by the TSA.

 

Border enforcement is the domain of the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) who operates in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and other agencies … but not the TSA.

 

Secondly, a warrantless search at the border is legal under the Border Search Exception, which is an extension of the of the Tariff Act of July 4th 1789 and the July 31st 1789 creation of the United States Customs Service, by the First United States Congress and President George Washington.

 

The United States Customs Service, which was merged into the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection on the 1st of March 2003, had the primary role of collecting customs duties at ports of entries, ensuring all items entering the United States were accounted for and properly taxed. This included the inspection of ledgers and checking them against actual items on board vessels.   The United States Customs Service was never required to have a warrant to search persons or vessels entering the United States, as searches were not criminal, they were related to the collection of funds for the United States Government.

 

The ability of Customs and Border Protection to search people and documents entering the United States also comes from the Immigration and Naturalization Service, also merged into the creation of Customs and Border Protection on the 1st of March 2003.  The Immigration and Naturalization Service was created on the 10th of June 1933, and its history dates back to the 1875 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that immigration was the responsibility of the Federal Government, rather than the duty of individual states, leading to the Immigration Act of 1891, when the Treasury Department created the Office of the Superintendent of Immigration.

 

The primary concern of the U.S. Congress in regards to immigration was the need to protect U.S. Citizens from losing jobs and income to immigrants, and transferred the Immigration Bureau from the Treasury to the Department of Commerce and Labor in 1903, ultimately creating the Immigration and Naturalization Service in 1933, who then fell under the Department of Labour and ultimately the Department of Justice in 1940.

 

So … how does any of this lead to Customs and Border Protection officers being able to search people and property entering the United States without a warrant?  U.S. Immigrant Inspectors had the authority to check all personal documents and belongings entering the United States.  Immigrant Inspectors could search for a hidden identity, forged or multiple travel documents, during World War I Immigrant Inspectors could search belongings to check for spies or ledgers indicating someone was funding the enemy.

 

When someone is in the border area, entering not just the United States, but any country, they have not yet been accepted into the country.  Just because passport control has stamped your passport, you must still pass through a Customs area … often known to most travelers as the baggage carousel area in an airport.   Within the area of a border Federal Agents have the ability to search you, question you, detain you, deport you, or all of the above.

 

The difference is in the current era people are not smuggling documents and ledgers in notebooks, folded pieces of paper and diaries, they are hiding it on laptops, mobile phones, tablets and flash storage.   Customs and Immigrations the world over have the authority to stop and search the possessions of any one they believe is not being truthful with them, or who may be hiding something illegal or allowing them to avoid paying duties.

 

But there are bigger issues with changes to the authority of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, since the right to search and seize is not actually a change, as has recently been upheld, upheld in by the 9th Circuit Court in 2006 and enacted by the United States Congress and President George Washington in 1789.   What is the bigger issue?

 

The bigger issue is the expansion of the Border Search Exception Zone.  On the 31st of December 2013 U.S. Federal District Judge Edward Korman ruled that a 100 miles radius inland from a United States Border falls under the Border Search Exception Zone.

 

With a 100 mile Border Search Exception Zone any Federal Agent charged with enforcing Title 19 of the United States Code, including not just the Customs and Border Protection, but also Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and member of the United States Coast Guard who are at the E-4 level or above, as well as other certain agencies may stop and check a person without a warrant if they have reason to believe a Customs or Immigrations issue may be present, without a warrant.

 

This 100 mile Border Search Exception Zone means that agents can act not just in New York City and Philadelphia, major port cities, but also Allentown, Pennsylvania.  Not just San Francisco but also Modesto California.   A 100 mile reach means anywhere you are in South Florida or the whole of New England; you could be stopped and searched without a warrant by a Federal Agent operating under Title 19 of the United States Code.

 

No longer are those in the United States safe from a warrantless search once outside of a known border area.  No longer does the Fourth Amendment apply to certain Federal Agencies once we walk out of the airport, step off the dock, drive past the check point.

 

What is scary is that more than 195,000,000 people live within a 100 mile radius of the Border Search Exception Zone, roughly two-thirds of the population of the United States.

 

Why are we complaining about laptops being searches, when all Customs and Border Protection has done is modernize something they have had authorization to execute since the founding of the United States, when we should be complaining about the massive potential for intrusion into our lives by the expansion of the Border Search Exception Zone?

 

 

Hopefully this corrects The Kim Komando Show’s error and sheds a new light on the real issues at hand.

 

Happy Flying!

 

@flyingwithfish

Hey Alec Baldwin, The TSA Never Touched Your Kid This Morning

This morning actor Alec Baldwin sent out a curious tweet to his more than one-million Twitter followers that read, Flying from Nassau, Bahamas 2 NY. TSA “random selects” my 5 month old daughter 4 a pat down. I am not kidding. #travelinginUSAisadisgrace

 

Ignoring the actor’s history of issues with the airline industry, there are a number of issues with this tweet.  Sure people tweet about the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) wronging them everyday. Some days the TSA has wronged them, some days they are maligning the TSA … but when a passenger’s tweet about the TSA wronging their five month old hits more than a million people and is picked up by the New York Daily News and other media outlets it is amazing how quickly journalism fact checking succumbs to a pack mentality.

 

There are two glaring issues with Mr. Baldwin’s tweet this morning.

 

The first is Mr. Baldwin’s accusation that the TSA randomly selected his five month old daughter for a pat down prior to departing Nassau’s Lynden Pindling International Airport, in the Bahamas.   The TSA has no security operations in the Bahamas and no authority in the Bahamas.

 

Yes, the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has a PreClearance agreement for The Bahamas, with operations in Nassau and Freeport, allowing flights departing these airports to arrive in the United States as “domestic” flights.  Customs and Border Protection has Officers in Nassau, but passenger screening operations is overseen by the Nassau Airport Authority.

 

The second glaring issue with Mr. Baldwin’s tweet is his choice of hashtag, #travelinginUSAisadisgrace.   I am not sure if Mr. Baldwin is aware, but The Bahamas are an independent nation, under The Commonwealth of Nations, with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II as their official head of state.  The Bahamas have never been part of the United States in any way, shape or form

 

… so how exactly was this experience with a foreign nation’s airport security related to traveling in the United States or a disgrace for the U.S.?

 

There are many inconsistencies with the TSA and its front line screeners. There are many ways the agency can improve its passenger experience and in fulfilling its core mission of transportation security, but to trash the agency to such a wide audience and have the media pick it up when they cannot have possibly been involved is no way to bring light to the true issues at hand.

 

Mr. Baldwin, if you want to complain, please make sure you are addressing the right people, otherwise you’re just screaming into the wind.

 

Happy Flying!

 

@flyingwithfish

 

Baldwin

Why Rep. John Mica Really Wants To Privatize The TSA … Corruption, Agendas & Personal Financial Gain

Congressman John Mica’s (R-FL) rants about the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) are nothing new. Rep. Mica, who represents Florida’s 7th Congressional District, was involved in the creation of the TSA and began becoming vocal about the privatization of the agency in 2010, focusing his energy on Orlando Sanford International Airport. Why tiny Orlando Sanford International Airport? Because the airport is within his district, but as they say in game shows … “but that’s not all!”

 

Some of Rep Mica’s notable comments are accurate, “It’s an agency that is always one step out of step.” Some comments are partially true, such as “They’ve failed to actually detect any threat in 10 years,” when what he should have said is the agency has not detected a terrorist threat and others, such as his comments earlier this month are just blatantly false, such as “If you come to Orlando airport or Sanford airport, what is going on is almost criminal to American citizens, the way they are treated.”

 

At each airport the TSA has comment cards passengers are free to fill out and submit back to the agency with feedback about their experience. At some airports the comment cards are overwhelmingly negative, however at Orlando Sanford International Airport the airport has such a small passenger base than only just over 100 comment cards were submitted last year. Of those 100 or so comment cards, only five … let me repeat that FIVE … were negative (not counting one complaint about the odor of a TSA screener).  The statistical number of complaints against the TSA at this airport is so small it doesn’t even register.  In fact, the vast majority of comments submitted to the TSA by passengers at Orlando Sanford International Airport are glowingly positive in a way that is almost incomparable to other airports.  Compliments from mothers traveling alone with children, compliments from frequent business flyers, one gushing comment from a Southwest Airlines pilot deadheading elsewhere that states it was their first time ever submitting a comment card, but they wanted the TSA at the airport commended.

 

If anything comes out of looking into the TSA’s record at Orlando Sanford International Airport, it is that this airport is model other airports should follow and use as a training model.

 

To give you an idea of how few passengers actually use Orlando Sanford International Airport annually, an airport with only one ‘regular’ mainline airline operating service, Allegiant, serving second tier cities, largely on a non-daily basis, the top served destination for 2013 was a tie between Allentown, PA and Lexington KY. Both Allentown and Lexington enplaned 36,000 passengers, compared to Orlando International Airport, which enplaned 1,290,000 passengers to Atlanta, and a combined passenger enplanement of 1,777,000 passengers to New York City’s three major airports.

 

This of course leads to the question of what sparked a fury within Rep. Mica to privatize passenger screening at tiny Orlando Sanford International Airport? A question that has puzzled many for quite some time … and with some digging the answer becomes apparent.

 

The answer? Lining his own pockets, lining the pockets of corporation, campaign donors and pushing the professional agenda of his daughter.

 

So where does this all begin?  In 2010, when Orlando Sanford International Airport decided it wanted to Opt Out of using the TSA and choose to use the Screening Partnership Program. The Screening Partnership Program is born out of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, Public Law 107-71, under § 44920, “Security screening opt-out program.”

 

While many airports have explored the Screening Partnership Program, Rep. Mica had multiple personal reasons to take it up as his personal cause, despite the airport’s interest in Opting Out due to local corporate ties, rather than a genuine need.

 

At the time Orlando Sanford International Airport became interested in the Screening Partnership Program, the person heading up the airport’s Strategic Communications was D’Anne Mica.  D’Anne Mica is, as you may guess, the daughter of Rep. John Mica.   As a communications contractor representing the airport, D’Anne Mica had a direct financial stake in not only the promotion of privatizing passenger screening at the airport, but in provoking the TSA and stoking the media about it.  The more this story grew, the more hours she could bill the Sanford Airport Authority.

 

A father using his position to help his daughter is nothing new, even though highly unethical for a U.S. Congressman, and a U.S. Congressman who is the Chairman of the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure, with oversight over aspects of the TSA.

 

Although D’Anne Mica left her ties to Orlando Sanford International Airport behind in 2011, Rep. John Mica had other financial reasons to remain vocal about privatizing the TSA at the airport, ties to Covenant Aviation Security.

 

Covenant Aviation Security has been the largest private aviation security company in the United States for more than a decade, earning more than an estimated US$700,000,000 from government contracts since 2002.   Where is Covenant Aviation Security based?  Casselberry, Florida, within Florida’s 7h Congressional District, the district Rep. Mica represents.

 

Rep. Mica’s ties to Covenant Aviation Security don’t just end with the company being based in his district, the company’s current President, Michael Bolles, who joined the company as a Sr. Vice President of Aviation Security in August 2004, has been a consistent financial contributor to Rep. Mica’s campaigns and Rep Mica’s campaigns have received corporate donations from Covenant Aviation Security.

 

When people complain about the TSA and airport security, and there are legitimate complaints, and while some airports, such as New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International Airport, are ripe for overhaul, some airports find themselves in the midst of being used as a pawn, and not just a political pawn, but a pawn that helps their elected Representative mislead their constituents, mislead the media and push their own personal agenda … and a personal agenda that benefits their need for power and money more than their need to be fair, honest and serve the people they represent.

 

The TSA’s Screening Partnership Program should be reopened. Airports should have the ability to “Opt Out” if they can show just cause and provide a viable private contract company … but an airport such as Orlando Sanford International Airport need not Opt Out because it is an example of what other airports should be following, while a Congressman needlessly destroys those TSA Employee’s reputations for his own personal, political and financial gain.

 

The way to change the Transportation Security Administration for the better is with facts, research and the truth, especially if you are the Chairman of the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure, not through misleading statements and yelling just to hear yourself speak during a sound bite.

 

Happy Flying!

 

@flyingwithfish

American Eagle Airlines To Be Renamed ‘Envoy’ … and why it is amusing

Since 1984 American Airlines‘ regional airline has been named American Eagle Airlines. While most regional airlines are subcontracted by mainline carriers, American Eagle Airlines was wholly owned by American Airlines’ parent corporation AMR, now the American Airlines Group, and served only American Airlines with its fleet of more than 250 regional aircraft.

 

Now, as American Airlines and U.S. Airways go through the merger process of becoming one brand and one airline, the American Airlines Group has sought to differentiate its regional airline from its mainline airline and other regional carrier serving American Airlines under the American Eagle banner.

 

To avoid brand confusion, despite the fact that regional airlines are ticketed the same as mainline flights and all contracted regional aircraft carry the livery of the mainline airline, American Eagle Airlines will be rebranded as ‘Envoy’ in the coming months.

 

Will passengers notice any difference? No, because passengers will still be buying tickets from American Airlines, flying on American Airlines and turning to American Airlines customer service for any issues that may arise … but the name of American Eagle Airlines will be changed to Envoy.

 

You may be asking yourself, why is this amusing?  Well, let me tell you why …

 

… the name the American Airlines Group has chosen for the rebranding of its regional airline is that of U.S. Airways’ established premium brand. Within the new American Airlines Group, Envoy has been used for U.S Airways’ upper tier lounges and long haul aircraft premium cabin, now that brand recognition of larger seats and a premium passenger experience will be stripped away as the brand name will be swapped for a passenger experience many passengers seek to avoid.

 

So what’s in a name? Nothing if airline passengers rarely if ever know the brand name of the regional airline they are flying on anyway.

 

Happy Flying!

 

@flyingwithfish

Ryanair & Google To Change How We Buy Plane Tickets … Not Really

Michael O’Leary, CEO of Ireland’s Ryanair, an airline known more for its lack of a positive passenger experience and nickel and diming its passengers than anything else, claims his airline is on the cusp of “completely transform how consumers search for, select and buy airline tickets.”

 

In an interview published in The Irish Independent yesterday Mr. O’Leary claims to have been working with Google to develop a new way for the airline to share its pricing through all of Google’s channels and allow direct price comparisons, funded entirely by Google’s existing advertising. The Google airfare comparison tools, expected to roll out this coming March, will allow customers to click into Ryanair or another airline’s and directly book tickets.

 

While Mr. O’Leary states “It’ll blow comparison sites like Skyscanner out of the water.”  His statements leave some questions.

 

For starters, how will this differ from Google’s existing Flight booking tool? The current google.com/flights tool, powered by ITA Software, which is wholly owned by Google, lists multiple flights, multiple airlines and directs would be passengers to book directly from other websites.

 

SkyScanner’s flight booking search engine, like Google’s, allows travelers to quickly scan multiple flights, multiple airlines and book externally of their site.

 

Furthermore Mr. O’Leary’s statement that Google is providing this service at no cost to the airline, implying the savings is passed into the passenger, and it is funded by existing advertising systems in place with Google offers no innovation and nothing new. Currently Google’s Flights booking system is currently funded by advertising revenue. No airlines pay to be part of Google’s existing structure and Google garners its revenue from the existing advertising revenue.

 

Mr. O’Leary’s comments on the shift towards mobile booking are quite intriguing, as SkyScanner currently offers a mobile app for booking easily from a tablet or mobile phone, and Google does not. In fact SkyScanner offers two apps, a free one with advertising and a paid one with no advertising.  For Ryanair’s new flight comparison and booking took to blow SkyScanner out of the water, it would require all bookings be done within a single website and all external web links related to commerce and booking be optimized for mobile.

 

No, of course, there is the issue of booking with Ryanair. The Google Flights portal shows airfares, with taxes, but with Ryanair passengers must pay fees for not only baggage, but a credit card payment fee, check in fee, and of course a possibly boarding pass reissue fee. Some fares include fees, others do not, and some fees vary, so how will all this be worked into the Google Flights fare display?  Passengers don’t want to see €3 for a fare and walk away with a €115 total price when another carrier may have simply advertised €112 for the same flight before the nickel-and-diming.

 

So, having spent the better part of the day researching Ryanair’s new venture with Google, that aims to revolutionize how passenger buy their airline tickets, it seems that once again Mr. O’Leary is over-hyping what passengers should expect and hiding behind a circus rather than working to improve the airline passenger experience.

 

What should passengers expect come late March?  Simple, Google Flights , now with Ryanair.

 

Happy Flying!

 

@flyingwithfish

 

The TSA’s Banned vs Approved Items Conundrum … A Video Guide

As millions of travelers throughout the United States get ready for Christmas Dinner with their friends and families, followed by flights home with new gifts, gadgets and home baked pies from Mom, there may be some confusion regarding what passengers may or may not bring through Transportation Security Administration (TSA) check points.

 

This topic comes up time and time again. Why can you fly with a large ham packed in a pool of melted glaze, but not just fly with the glaze?   Why is a wiffle ball bat prohibited, but a six foot metal monopod with snow spike allowed in the cabin?

 

Well … now there is a video guide to better understanding the logic (or complete illogic) behind some approved and banned items for carry-on by the TSA.

 

Happy Flying!

 

@flyingwithfish

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Santa & Flight Crew Meet New Flight Safety Requirements

Thousands of aviation professionals around the world work tirelessly year round to ensure that Santa One‘s annual global flight goes off without a hitch. The logistics involved in ensuring that Santa Clause is able to depart the North Pole Sleighport on time to deliver gifts to boys and girls around the world on time involves cooperation for each nation and the North Pole’s Department of Governmental Affairs, as Santa One passes through every country’s airspace.

 

With changes to crew rest requirements, Santa Clause has added a qualified first officer this year to help him pilot the flight of Santa One (operating as NP 001). The North Pole Flight Operations Center has released that Santa’s First Officer is Amelia Elfhart, and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has confirmed that Ms. Elfhart has accrued 1,500 flight hours at the controls at of Santa One and holds a current type rating for the aircraft.

 

To meet new current Captain requirements, Santa Clause has also completed the new FAA Sleigh Transport Pilot Training Program.

 

The Santa One aircraft, now outfitted with broadband wifi, has met all regulations to allow the flight crew to use Portable Electronic Devices through out all stages of flight, ensuring the tablet electronic package delivery logistics systems are operational throughout flight.

 

Three specific satellites have been launched this year, Rudolph 1, Rudolph 2 and Rudolph 3, all dedicated to triangulating the position of Santa One worldwide and helping Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer guide Santa’s sleigh tonight.

 

As with every year, for a whole day, Santa One gets airspace priority and air traffic controllers world wide make a space for Santa and route all other aircraft out of his way.

 

The official Santa One flight plan reads as follows

 

Date: 25 Dec 2013

Flight No.: NP 001 (SCO 001)

Call Sign: Santa One

Captain: Kris Kringle (AKA: Santa Claus)

First Officer: Amelia Elfhart

Aircraft: Sleigh (Santa One)

Origin: North Pole

Destination: Multi-Stops / The World

Engine: Nine Reindeer

Cargo: Presents/Gifts/Cookies

 

 

… and with that … we wish you all a goodnight.

 

Happy Flying!

 

@flyingwithfish