Monday, September 30, 2002
Just got back from Florida last night and I'm off to Michigan to lecture on the evils of mental health parity legislation. Then on Wednesday it's California... and my high school reunion on Saturday night. Blogging will be nonexistent until Thursday morning, and light until next Monday. Please don't abandon me, though! I've worked hard for you, my reader, and I'd appreciate it if you would continue to visit regularly upon my return.
Thursday, September 26, 2002
Despite financial uncertainty in the airline industry, a pretty good piece by Michael Conlon
suggests that your miles are safe.
Todd Zywicki exposes hypocrisy
of protestors who call themselves anarchists
but agitate for more government
regulation of the things they don't like. They ain't no anarchists!
Enter to win
50,000 Delta or United Frequent Flyer miles from E-Loan.
Tony Woodlief asks
, "how do you suppose airlines reconcile the belief that passengers need instruction in seatbelt fastening with the belief that we care about the current altitude, visibility, and aircraft windspeed?"
Their turn-ons are long walks on the beach, candlelit dinners and free-market economies. Yes, the Libertarian party has some righteous BABES! Meet them in the calendar
. (Link via Damon Chetson
Wednesday, September 25, 2002
The National Institute of Standards and Technology is talking about redefining the kilogram
. See also this
Tuesday, September 24, 2002
I live in Washington, D.C.
-- and according to Ron Bailey, Washington is Hollywood for ugly people
Monday, September 23, 2002
remains on track to fly
. (apologies for mixing metaphors)
Sunday, September 22, 2002
One of the most underappreciated musical groups of all time: Morris Day & THE TIME
Dan Pink observes that the administration's Iraq hawks haven't served in the military and that those calling for caution are the ones that have served. He proposes
Any political leader who favors attacking Iraq must also offer a son, daughter, or other close relative to serve on the front lines of the war.
Pink also introduces the Spence Abraham prize
for hypocritical conservatives who denounce a government agency and its laws, go on to run those very same agencies under Republican presidents, and agree to enforce the very laws they have attacked
. There may be no higher journalistic calling than exposing hypocrisy
Holders of the Delta American Express
register for Triple Miles on Everything
Saturday, September 21, 2002
ScrappleFace: McDonald's To Launch Restaurants for Protestors
(link via cut on the bias
). Outstanding satire:
(2002-08-23) -- Following yet another lawsuit, McDonald's Corporation announced today it intends to launch restaurants specifically for protestors.
"We looked at the demographics and it just made sense," according the news release. "Protestors are everywhere and they're very vocal about what they like and what they don't. In essence, they're the ultimate target market. If our regular customers stood in the streets shouting about their personal preferences, we'd be out there with tape recorders. These protestors have really opened our eyes to opportunity.
The Los Angeles District Attorney won't press charges
against Buzz Aldrin for hitting a man who was aggressively trying to get him to admit that his walk on the moon was faked.
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif., Sept. 20 (UPI) -- The Los Angeles County District Attorney's office declined to file a misdemeanor battery charge Friday against former astronaut Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, who allegedly struck a man in Beverly Hills earlier this month in a dispute over whether Aldrin's 1969 moonwalk was a hoax.
Aldrin, 72, was confronted on Sept. 9 by Bart Sibrel, who has been challenging the authenticity of NASA's manned moon missions, claiming that the Apollo program was a cover -- designed to trick the former Soviet Union into overestimating U.S. power during the height of the Cold War.
The New York Times
reports that expensive screening machines get little use
Even as the Transportation Department races to install million-dollar machines in airports to screen checked baggage, most of the devices are operated less than two hours a day, and some hardly screen any bags at all, two congressmen said today.
..Citing figures from the inspector general of the Transportation Department, Representatives Henry A. Waxman of California and James L. Oberstar of Minnesota, both Democrats, said in a letter to the domestic security director that only 4 of the 155 machines installed in June were even screening at what the inspector called "minimum capacity," or 125 bags an hour for 10 hours.
"You'd think they'd be increasing their efficiency as we get close to the deadline, so the gap won't be so enormous," Mr. Waxman said in a telephone interview.
captures the recent airline ticketing policy changes quite nicely.
Passenger Questioned At Oakland Airport
because his name was similar to one on the FBI watch list. It was a false alarm, and doesn't instill confidence in procedures:
The law enforcement response was part of normal airport procedure and such name matches are "not necessarily a daily occurrence, but it is somewhat routine,'' [Airport Spokeswoman Rosemary] Barnes said.
Even a match of the first three letters of a passenger's name with a name on the FBI's list could trigger a security alert, according to Barnes.
Another victory for pressure on Mineta. The TSA will end "random" screenings at airplane gates.
This means an end to the practice known as Gate Rape
These screenings were not random -- frequent flyers learned just not to be first in line, and to walk onto the plane right after a screener had tagged someone else. These screenings were not effective, so this is good news.
``For some reason TSA thinks that dumping out our passengers' underwear at the gate after it has already been dumped out at the security screening checkpoint makes TSA look like they are on top of things,'' [Continental Airlines Chairman Gordon] Bethune said in a speech to the Wings club of New York in June.
This good news comes after another idiotic measure was withdrawn -- passengers may now carry drinks in paper cups through security. However, the TSA's additional spin is just not credible:
The secondary screenings won't be needed because primary checkpoints will be sufficiently staffed with trained U.S. workers, said Heather Rosenker, an agency spokeswoman.
The security checkpoints are a joke
. A bad, obnoxious, dangerous joke.
Friday, September 20, 2002
Fun with google-surfing
. Search for "Go to hell"
and check out the first result. (Link via Kasia
Thursday, September 19, 2002
The computer smiley face turned twenty today
Wednesday, September 18, 2002
Real-time access to the GALILEO Compter Reservation System online
is available, thanks to a kind soul who translates German -- > English. You can check fare class availability on any route, any day, any airline. Thanks, Ben!
The U.S. uses e-vite to organize the war on Iraq
. (Just wish they had spelled Baghdad properly. Oh well, maybe Dan Quayle was recruited by the folks over in Foggy Bottom or at the Pentagon.)
The great interconnected economy
. As first class travel falls, so does demand for caviar
This USA Today
piece summarizes the changes in airfare rules over the past month
. If you don't already know what's happened, you need to.
Mile High Club Forces Airplane Refit
. Virgin Atlantic's newest planes need to have their baby changing tables replaced
as a result of attempts to join the Mile High Club.
Tuesday, September 17, 2002
I haven't written anything yet today.
Likely cause? Blogstipation
. (Link via The Volokh Conspiracy
Monday, September 16, 2002
National Airlines will emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy
. The Las Vegas-based carrier has managed to find $112 million in new financing
. Kudos to them! However, their CEO made a rather bizarre statement about the role of private dollars:
“This financial package displays the support the private sector has shown for our business plan and their recognition of the evolution of the airline industry toward efficient, low-fare carriers. Unfortunately, the Air Transportation Stabilization Board (ATSB) failed to recognize this dynamic change in the industry when they rejected National’s loan guarantee application."
Let's see -- they got the dollars they needed from the private sector -- so why
should the government have given them guaranteed loans? On the other hand, one statement from the National CEO does ring true:
“The ATSB has sent a clear signal that they are committed to perpetuating certain high-cost, high-fare major airlines, which runs completely counter to the preferences being made by the traveling public.
Big surprise there -- government industrial policy picks winners and losers. Sad, but an inevitable outgrowth of state subsidies for industry.
In any event, these ATSB guaranteed loans
- are dangerous because they give the federal government a direct say in the way that an airline is run.
- give the feds even more of a role in a bankruptcy proceeding
- create terrible incentives -- the government now prospers to the extent that the airlines with guaranteed loans prosper, encouraging the government to further skew the playing field against airlines who don't take funding -- not to mention encouraging future intervention to ensure the initial investment.
As National Airlines proves, private funding is still available, even for flagging airlines. There is no reason
for the federal government to be stepping in here, no matter what Dick Gephart thinks
Sunday, September 15, 2002
I've already told you about SeatGuru
so you can see where you'll be sitting (and pick the best seat on the plane). Now you can see what you'll be eating
A remarkable Sunday in history
. Randy Cohen, the New York Times
"ethicist," didn't say anything patently stupid
He must be really sleepy
. Peter Desailey has been named Australian sheep counting champion
Six Things to Know Before Buying That Cheap Air Ticket
: missing your flight will cost you, airlines are cutting back flights, taxes make your ticket more expensive, previously discounted travelers may pay more, and your ticket will be electronic. Here's what I found shocking
According to the Air Transport Association, $51 of the cost of a $200 ticket now goes toward taxes, up from $29 five years ago.
A worker at the Miami airport discharged pepper spray, leading to an airport evacuation. A ground security coordinator "kept silent through the situation"
and has been fired. Really confidence-inspiring.
Saturday, September 14, 2002
Gephart knows best
. Dick Gephart thinks that airlines "need help" downsizing
. This is so ripe for jokes (government downsizing?) but it just isn't funny.
It's hard to imagine government picking which airlines should fly, how often they should fly, to where, what they should charge.. oh, actually it isn't hard to imagine at all. That's how the system worked prior to 1978. Since deregulation, real prices have fallen more than 20% and consumers save nearly $20 billion/year
Now this is a stretch
. A Springfield, IL Denny's is losing money between 3am and 5am Sunday mornings due to patrons -- many coming from the bars as they close -- walking out without paying their bill. They decided to lock up for those two hours. The NAACP is threatening to sue
Friday, September 13, 2002
Richard Branson saw delicious irony in a music label and airline named Virgin. This airline rejects irony
Thursday, September 12, 2002
I wonder if the Six MIllion Dollar Man had one of these
Starwood's play and stay sweepstakes
offers trips to Australia, Cancun, Italy and Tahiti. It's a "game show" but everyone makes it through the two rounds required to enter the sweepstakes.
Wednesday, September 11, 2002
Rental Car Companies Can Track Your Every Move.
Budget Rent a Car charged a customer $7,000 for leaving the state
when departing Arizona was outside the terms of the rental contract.
Peggy Noonan is on board
. She calls for the removal of Norm Mineta
People are afraid to fly because they see what a politically correct joke our airline security is. Searching for every last toenail clipper, forcing 85-year-old people with walkers to stand spread-eagled as some oafish wand-wielder in a blue jacket humiliates them--this is absurd and cowardly. Let's get coldly serious: Arm the pilots, fortify cockpits, man flights with marshals, and profile passengers. We don't have a transportation secretary who is willing to do these things. Someday when something terrible happens we'll wish we did. Why not coldly remove Norman Mineta now?
(Thanks to my bud Esta for the heads up.)
Note for the morning
. Apologies for lack of blogging these past few days. I'm working to close out a fiscal year and prepare for a board of directors meeting. It's keeping me focused about thirteen hours of the day, and my mind just hasn't had the space to blog. I should be resuming normal blogging in a few days, and at least a greater level of blogging tomorrow.
. I understand that from 8:45 am until 8:47 am, all flights at Boston's Logan Airport were on a ground stop to commemorate the day. Two of the 9/11 hijackings departed from Boston. I will be meeting frequent flyer friends for lunch at National Airport at noon. It seems a fitting place to be.
Monday, September 09, 2002
500 Free American Airlines MIles and Hotel Points
. Earn 500 free American miles when you enroll in the Baymont Inns/Woodfield Suites Guest Ovations Program
Make sure you choose the option of earning American Airlines miles (so that you can enter your American Airlines account number) and then enter the Promo Code AA0209 -- you should get 1000 Baymont Points upon sign up and 500 American miles in a few weeks.
There is also the ability to earn Gold Status by referring people. I would appreciate it if you would use me as your referral (it costs you nothing). Use referral number 107235698.
Hertz discounts and bonuses
- $15 of a weekend and $20 off a weekly rental (valid through 9/30 on full-size or larger car): provide discount number CDP 1389928 and promotion code 930241 for the $15 off and promotion code 930252 for the $20 discount.
- Get free Hertz #1 Gold membership (a $50 value) by going to the Hertz site and entering program name United and promotion code 2047.
- Earn double United miles with discount number CDP 62455 and promotion code 925746
How is it possible that I come up on the second page of a search for Impeach Norm Mineta
Sunday, September 08, 2002
The Daily Pundit
wants to fire Norm Mineta
Friday, September 06, 2002
You can enter United.com's 5th Anniversary Giveaway
to win miles, hotel stays, car rentals, groceries, and flowers.
The upside to a United Airlines bankruptcy
: it could cut labor costs by 20% (and overall costs by 10%), and have a ripple effect on costs throughout the industry. A United bankruptcy could save the major airlines.
Stumpy the Squirrel Goes Back Home
MACHIAS, Wash. (AP) -- A squirrel with half a tail and no left hind foot is back with his caretakers after 10 days on the lam.
The squirrel, named Stumpy, was found six miles from the residence of Steve and Marcia Carter, who fought back tears when he was returned.
On Sunday afternoon, a woman heard faint tinkling and remembered reading a newspaper article about Stumpy, who had been outfitted with a bell on a collar.
Sure enough, there was the 8-inch rodent, sitting in her driveway.
My friend Doug Bandow makes a strong case for arming pilots
. Best of all, his column contends that Bush should fire Mineta!
USAirways backs off
. They have announced changes to their recently announced changes
. All miles flown -- whether on discount tickets or full fare tickets -- will
count towards elite status. All flyers on discounted tickets will
be able to fly standby, albeit with a $100 fee.
The industry has moved to a new norm
. All major carriers have announced that standby (which had previously been offered at no cost) will be charged $100, in most cases beginning January 2003. Also, if you have a discounted ticket and aren't going to fly the trip, you need to apply the value of the ticket to a new itinerary before your first flight is scheduled to depart
or you will lose the full value of the ticket.
So, on the whole we are worse off than before -- but things didn't go as far as US' initial move.
The 10,000 mile Delta offer has changed to 1,000 in the last 5 minutes... but yesterday it started off at 5k and was moving throughout the day. Hopefully it will move back.
10,000 free Delta miles for new frequent flyer members
. Delta airlines is offering 10,000 miles for opening a new Delta Skymiles (frequent flyer) account
Delta will send a membership packet in 6-8 weeks after there's some activity in the account, and that packet will show 10,000 bonus signup miles. "Some activity" means earning points in the account IN ANY WAY (as opposed to just by flying Delta).
All you have to do is deposit points in one way or another to activate the account. This can be accomplished as easily as filling out a form for an automobile quote at Skymiles Autobuying
for 500 miles or earning 250 Delta miles for requesting an auto insurance quote from AIG (Call 800-310-4258 Extension 2479).
Sign yourself up if you aren't already a member! 10,000 miles is 40% of a free domestic ticket. Sign up your significant other, your kids, your neighbor's kids...Rumor is that this promo may be gone tomorrow.
Thursday, September 05, 2002
Take it to the bank
. The Federal Reserve will cut interest rates 25 basis points when the Federal Open Market Committee meets on September 24th
Would you pay for food in economy class?
USAirways may be considering whether to price tickets with and without food service differently. The article cites the example of Canadian low-fare carrier Tango. I remember People Express. If customers are paying marginal dollars, the food will likely be better or it will go unsold. I like the idea!
Meanwhile, the New York Times food section says
that airline food is getting better.
According to a piece in yesterday's Washington Post James Wilding, head of the Washington Airports Authority,
grapples with a powerful but frustrating new tenant at his airports: the Transportation Security Administration. He said he lost patience as months passed and the TSA couldn't answer any of his questions about how airlines at Dulles and National would be able to screen all luggage by the Dec. 31 deadline set by Congress.
"They'd just say, 'We don't have anything to say to you yet,' " Wilding said. "They said, 'We're going to rely on these contractors to do it,' and we said, 'When are they going to show up? Have you all looked at a calendar lately?' "
By June, 10 months after the attacks, Wilding still hadn't had a "substantive conversation" with anyone from the TSA about how they were going to get the massive machines in place in time.
piece ends by quoting a flight attendant who says
There comes a point," she said, "when you have to settle back into a groove and trust that the government has done things to protect you more.
The problem is that the government hasn't
protected us. They're merely imposing costs on us. We can't become complacent, or we'll become victims again.
Wednesday, September 04, 2002
Reporters smuggle knives onto 14 airline flights during Labor Day weekend
. So the one thing the current security model seeks to do -- detect weapons -- is failing badly. When will Mineta stand up? (Link via Instapundit
New Possibility for American Express Membership Rewards Points
. The analysis
in my post about laundering points through Amtrak means that you can finally transfer American Express Membership Rewards points 1:1 into united miles. Amex MR points transfer 1:1 into Continental. Continental transfers 1:1 into Amtrak (in blocks of 5,000). Amtrak transfers 1:1 into united. Voila! Amex MR-->united... a previously impossible task.
Tuesday, September 03, 2002
Mineta Spin-Cycle. Get the Media to Blame Magaw.
The Washington Post
carries a front page piece on the problems at the Transportation Security Administration
. The piece reports that the TSA avoided involvement in the July 4 shooting at LAX, hasn't improved the security of cargo shipping, and uses outdated methods for selecting passengers to screen.
The piece lets Norm Mineta, the Transportation Secretary, off the hook. It quotes him offering a mea culpa: "We got to the point where we didn't have credibility. . . . We were not moving the ball down the field." Then says that Mineta has been trying to solve the problem -- after all, John Magaw (Mineta's deputy in charge of the TSA) was pushed out. That's scapegoating of the first degree.
The thesis about what went wrong focuses on Magaw, and suggests that there's just too much conflict between offering security and customer service. That's just a cop-out.
It's certainly true that the agency spent way too much time designing uniforms and a logo (and making the presentation of that logo a significant part of a presentation to airport managers!). However, the article is a very typical example of Washington gamesmanship -- protect the boss (Mineta) by offering up a fall guy (Magaw). That works even better when the fall guy is already gone. Magaw is too loyal to the Bush family to object.
The paper does makes clear that Mineta was the one running the show, offering up a TSA budget presentation to the President where Mineta did all the talking. OMB Director Mitch Daniels tore the presentation apart. Magaw then went to Daniels to chew him out for being "disrespectful" to Mineta. Mineta was the boss and Magaw his henchman. Magaw shouldn't be the one taking the fall here -- Mineta should be.
Monday, September 02, 2002
500 bonus miles for Priority Club transfers to American
. Between now and October 15th, transfer 10,000 points to American miles and receive 3,000 miles instead of the usual 2,500.
This San Francisco Chronicle article
describes the general trend of cutbacks by the major airlines that I've been talking about for the last several days.
This morning's Washington Post carries a column by Jackson Diehl
that details the $25 million that the US Agency for International Development is giving to Egypt this year for democracy promotion.
The U.S. has given Egypt the right to review and veto any of the projects. The US is funding "democracy" projects that a non-democratic government approves of. Most of the funds are going to the country's courts which "used to throw democracy advocates in prison." Moreover, "not a dollar is going to the independent Egyptian groups that, at great risk, are trying to advocate democratic reforms for Mubarak's rotting autocracy."
It's not only that the huge AID bureaucracy in Cairo chooses to ignore the fact that the courts it is funding in the name of democracy are being used to destroy Egypt's most important democrats, who themselves are denied AID support. It's that AID has formally agreed to support Mubarak's policy of stamping out any group that questions his police state. By bilateral agreement, the agency has granted the Egyptian government the right to review and approve -- or veto -- any U.S.-funded project. "By definition that means that any group that gets funded is not working on real democratization programs, since the government opposes that," said one frustrated American democracy advocate who works with other programs in Egypt.
Posted on an internet bulletin board:
Yankee Doodle went to town,
Riding on his pony,
Stuck a feather in his hat
And called it macaroni
So does "it" refer to the feather or the hat?
Don't forget to catch up on the Sunday talk shows you missed at Punditwatch
Laundering points through Amtrak
Need to top off your United Mileage Plus account? Did you know you can transfer Continental and Midwest Express miles into United miles, 1:1? They don't advertise it this way, but here's how it works. Open an Amtrak Guest Rewards
account. You can transfer Midwest Express miles
and Continental miles
into your Amtrak account. You can then transfer these Amtrak points into United miles
. This all should be done in 5000 point increments.
You can also transfer Continental ---> Amtrak --> Midwest Express. However, you can not transfer United --> Amtrak, so you can't turn your United miles into Continental or Midwest Express miles.
Now is a good time to get rid of any Midwest Express miles you may have
. Starting October 1, it will take 25% more miles for a free ticket
(20,000 increased to 25,000).
Sunday, September 01, 2002
A way around the new restrictions
. USAirways, Continental, and American have all announced a change that says unused nonrefundable tickets don't retain any value. You can make a change (while paying a $100 change fee, naturally) before
you fly .. but if you don't know what your plans will be, you lose. Here's a workaround that will work on USAirways and Continental (but not American, because of a quirk in their rules).
If your original ticket cost $500 and you decide to not to go, the rules say you've lost $500 -- or you can make a change before your first flight leaves. Here's what to do: find a refundable/unrestricted fare to anywhere
that's $400. Apply the full value of your restricted ticket to the new unrestricted ticket ($500 minus $100 change fee = $400). Now you have a $400 unrestricted ticket. It's actually still nonrefundable because of the way you paid for it, but you can make any changes that you want for a year into the future.
No extra money out of pocket and you retain the ability to make changes in spite of the new fare rules.
This won't work with American because they also have a rule that says you cannot apply an unused restricted tickets towards the purchase of an unrestricted ticket. Grr.
P.S. Where do you find cheap unrestricted tickets? Try short-haul routes. The NY-DC shuttle is ~ $400 unrestricted, for instance.
A new term has been coined for the over-intrusive "random" searches subjected to passengers about to board: Gate Rape
The TSA approach to security -- search everyone in long lines, keep weapons out (even though weapons make it through quite often) is the wrong approach to air security. This incident of an attempted strangling of a flight attendant with shoelaces
shows that almost anything can be used as a weapon. Air marshalls aren't the answer. Why exactly don't we want to arm pilots?
American and USAirways with a "use it or lose it" policy for nonrefundable tickets. No more blowing off a flight and just applying the value of the ticket to a new purchase later.