Airline Passengers Need to Stop Complaining

The last few weeks have been quite rough for the airlines. United Airlines especially has faced much outrage over an incident on an aircraft operated by one of its regional affiliates. These blunders by the airlines have brought consumer unrest and unhappiness with the airlines. Although people can complain all that they want, the airlines are not close to the terrible monsters that the public and the media make them out to be. In many ways, airline travel has improved over the years. It is time to stop ruthlessly attacking the modern airline industry.

 

One of the most common complaints from passengers is the price of a ticket. Passengers love to say that a ticket is too expensive or that the airlines are taking advantage of them. The airlines are not taking advantage of you. The airlines have very skinny profit margins. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is projecting a 4.1% profit margin for airlines worldwide in 2017. That 4.1% is brought into perspective when you consider that the iPhone you are likely reading this on was sold to you at a profit margin estimated to be between 60% and 70%. A 4.1% profit margin seems small, doesn’t it? Airlines operate on such small margins due to the massive expenses involved in operating an airline. Remember that mega carriers in the U.S. employ thousands of people. United, for example, has about 86,000 employees. The mentioned employees would like raises because they took huge pay cuts during the most recent recession and would like the airlines to return the favor. Labor is a huge expense to airlines, as is fuel. When fuel costs rise, so do ticket prices. Airlines also operate some of the most expensive equipment in the world. A typical short to medium haul jet such as the Boeing 737-800 has an average list price of $98.1 million per aircraft. A typical long-haul jet such as the Boeing 777-200ER has an average list price of $283.4 million per aircraft. United Airlines, for example, has a fleet of 738 aircraft as of the time of writing. As you can imagine paying for these aircraft is not cheap. The airlines are not taking advantage of you. Flying is simply an expensive industry to be in.

 

Many airline passengers seem to think that they are entitled to everything they could want with their economy class seat. The United Airlines/Republic Airways incident from a few weeks ago is a great example. Although the matter was handled incorrectly by the airline and the police, the fact of the matter is this: Republic Airways had EVERY RIGHT to have the passenger removed from their aircraft. The aircraft belongs to the airline just like your car or house belongs to you. If they want someone to get off their property, they have the right to request that the person leaves. The passenger in this case and passengers on most U.S. carriers agree to a contract of carriage. Most contracts of carriage note that the airline in question has the right and authority to refuse to carry a passenger. Just because a passenger purchased a ticket they are not usually entitled to flying on a specific aircraft or flight, nor are they entitled to flying at the time they selected while booking.

 

Airline passengers in America need to recheck their attitudes towards air travel. Airlines are not out to get them or intentionally trying to take advantage of them. They are simply doing their best to keep passengers flying safely and their company making money to pay their employees. Next time you fly, remember that the airlines are not the monsters that passengers and the media make them out to be.

OPINION: Southwest Airlines is on It’s Way to Being a Legacy Carrier

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Lets think way back for a minute. Back before I was born. Back before many of you were born. In 1971 a little Texas based airline was founded. Its name was Southwest. In less than 50 years it has gone from being a tiny Texan start up with a handful of regional routes to a 700 aircraft nationwide behemoth. That’s a problem.

 

Southwest has become an icon in the American skies known for their low fares, free checked bags and exclusive use of the 737. They’ve always done things a little different. When all of the airlines were moving to Dallas Fort Worth Airport they stayed at Dallas Love Field. When other airlines began to charge for bags Southwest kept them free. When legacy airlines began to order shiny new Airbus aircraft Southwest stuck with the 737. It may be old but it’s reliable and it works for them. It seems that for the first 35-40 years of their existence Southwest was great because it was simple. Flights were on time, bags always made it to their destinations and service always came with a smile. What is happening now?

 

Southwest has had a rough year and an especially rough summer. Their on time record has been mediocre at best and their stock price is low. This has been due to many operational issues at the airline or as I prefer to call them growing pains. See, Southwest can’t do things the way they used to. Operating 100 737s isn’t near as difficult as operating 700 737s and it shows. Southwest is dealing with these issues in an interesting way. They are turning into a legacy carrier.

 

For those who fly frequently the writing has been on the wall for a few years now. United, Delta and American are often cheaper than Southwest. Simple as that. Even with the baggage fees one can often find a better deal at a traditional carrier. It may make sense for some to fly with Southwest regardless of the high fares if they offered a better product but they simply don’t. Southwest is selling a low cost carrier product at legacy carrier product prices. The legacies serve better food and drinks and include amenities such as reserved seating. Many aircraft at the legacies are also equipped with power ports and free in-flight entertainment. All you get at Southwest is a small cup of soda, a tiny pack of peanuts, a seat with no power and limited free content in terms of in-flight entertainment. People will often blindly book with Southwest without realizing that there are other options in the same price range however, this won’t go on forever and eventually Southwest will have to improve their service to stay competitive. Reserved seating anyone?

 

As Southwest becomes bigger and bigger it’s staff wants more and more money which brings us to my next point. The recent pilots contract. The airline now has the right to code-share with regional airlines to serve certain routes. Don’t think it will happen? Think again. The airline business relies on growth and there are only so many cities in the United States that are big enough for 737 service. Eventually to continue growth Southwest will have to begin to tap into smaller markets which will necessitate regional jets. Whether they are flown by Southwest or annother carrier doing code-share work the addition of regional jets will be a HUGE step towards being just like the other airlines.

 

Southwest needs to continue to differentiate itself in order to keep its extremely loyal following. If passengers can get a product that is the same or better at a better price they will and that is what competitors like American and Delta are offering. Southwest has always been the fun little low cost carrier but sooner rather than later they will be just like any other major U.S. airline. Boring and overpriced.

Airline Review: United Express (Skywest Airlines)

Many people like to complain about modern airlines. I, however am not one to complain. Give me a half decent seat and a view out the window and I’m happy. I have never ever come off of a flight thinking “well that was miserable” until now. Thanks United Express.

 

 

This miserable experience all started off at about 8 AM at San Francisco International Airport. After a good night of sleep on one of United’s amazing 787 aircraft I was ready for my final flight home. We arrived at our gate at 10:20 AM only to be told that our flight to Albuquerque would be delayed. After about an hour of waiting a young looking CRJ-700 finally fulled up to the stand. Even though the aircraft was parked we waited an additional 40 minutes to board and were given no explanation as to why we waited. Finally about an hour and a half after our flight was supposed to have left we began boarding.

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Boarding the CRJ-700.

 

Our CRJ-700 parked at the stand.
Our CRJ-700 parked at the stand.
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My boarding pass for this flight. (Confidential info has been shaded over)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As is the case with every flight on the CRJ large carry on bags had to be gate checked. No big deal. Upon entering the aircraft the cabin felt not only new but also very very clean. While everyone was taking their seats and getting settled the captain told those of us in the cabin that our flight was running very late due to “an assortment of issues” and that the ride into Albuquerque would be rough. This is very common on a summer afternoon in Albuquerque due to the heat and the mountains. As we taxied for takeoff from San Francisco I noticed that my back was getting sore. I blamed it on the waiting in the airport and didn’t think any more of it. As our little CRJ slowly found its way to the runway I enjoyed looking at the assortment of beautiful aircraft parked at the terminal. As we turned onto the active runway the CRJ’s engines began to spool up. Even though the CRJ carries fuselage mounted engines as long as you aren’t in the back 3 rows the aircraft is remarkably quiet even at takeoff. The aircraft took to the sky in no time in what was one of the fastest takeoff rolls I have ever experienced in an airliner. On our way out of San Francisco I once again noticed that my entire back was in much pain. I finally realized what was wrong. The seats in the CRJ had almost no padding. I don’t mean little padding as is the case in most slimline seats I mean there was so little padding one could feel the metal components in the seat digging into their back. As the flight progressed the seats only felt worse.

 

About an hour into our flight the flight attendants passed out complimentary snacks and drinks. United has a good domestic drink and snack service consisting of a snack mix and a generously sized soft drink of your choice. After the drink service had come to an end I sat in pain for the remaining hour of flying time thinking about how I wished to be on an American Airlines CRJ at that time. About an hour behind schedule our flight began its descent into Albuquerque. The wind was strong as was the turbulence which made for an extremely fun approach. As our pilots made a firm but not rough landing I began to think of our flight as a whole. Delays happen on occasion. I was and still am willing to forgive that however, I simply cannot forgive the absolutely abysmal seat that has been installed on the Untied Express CRJ-700 fleet.

 

Now for the numbers

Food:9/10

Seat Comfort: Am I allowed to go into the negatives?

Aircraft: 8/10

Customer Service: 7/10

Overall: 1/10

 

I can easily sum up the United Express flight experience in two sentences:

United Express is a very good regional product ruined by the worst seat I’ve ever had the displeasure to use. Seriously…give your money to American Eagle.

 

 

Jet Lag SUCKS! Here’s How to Avoid it

After a recent trip to Australia (expect airline reviews for that soon) I found out that jet-lag really sucks. In fact, I am currently writing this article at 6:00 AM local. I haven’t been able to sleep all night. Not one minute. I decided that I might as well be productive and try to spread the word on how to avoid the inevitable jet-lag. I am not a professional just an enthusiast but I figured I could spread the tips I have heard over the years.

 

First things first. Jet-lag is unavoidable. On any long haul flight you will cross many timezones which means your body’s internal clock will be ever so confused. Even if you do everything right the first few days will be rough. With some simple tips you can avoid the really bad stuff. Here’s how:

  1. Adjust your internal clock in advance. It’s not difficult but it is important. A few days before your departure slowly begin to shift your sleeping times to better work with the sleeping times at your destination. This will help you greatly.
  2. Stay well hydrated. This CANNOT be stressed enough. People don’t tend to get thirsty in the air because of their lack of activity and therefore do not drink as much water. Water will help your body immensely.
  3. Avoid the alcohol. Everybody loves an alcoholic beverage or two while on a long haul but they’re a bad idea. Not only can they have potentially dangerous side effects in flight but they also dehydrate you which will make your jet-lag far worse.
  4. Book an overnight flight if possible. Not all destinations have an overnight flight option but if they do it is always a good idea to take the night flight. You will eat dinner and go to sleep at the right time which will help you allot.
  5. Sleep on the plane if at all possible. Sleeping on the plane will at least help you recharge some and may even help you get rested up for the day ahead.
  6. Don’t go to sleep at your destination until its local night time. It may be tempting to go get a quick nap at the hotel upon arrival. Don’t do it. It will only mess up your internal clock even more. Instead tough it out and wait to sleep until the local night time.

Got any more tips or tricks to avoid jet-lag? Please share them in the comments section below!

 

Airline Review: American Eagle (Mesa Airlines)

After many inactive months it’s time for another airline review! Its been awhile hasn’t it? Way back at the end of March 2016 I had the pleasure of flying American Eagle between Albuquerque and Phoenix. It was one of the most enjoyable flying experiences I have ever had and I look forward to telling about it! Lets not wait any longer and jump right in!

 

The airport has always fascinated me. So many people all with their own stories, goals and places to call home converging in one place. That chilly late March night was no different. With so many flights just arriving for the evening rush one could see how simply amazing the airport is. After an awful TSA experience just like usual I was ready to go find a nice place to sit. Unfortunately American Airlines does not have a lounge for its passengers in Albuquerque. This might be a nuisance at another airport as one may find themselves struggling to find an open seat. Luckily for me and my fellow passengers American Airlines uses the B concourse in Albuquerque and only shares it with Jet Blue, Alaska, Delta and Allegiant, (for the risk taking crowd) so open and comfortable seating was easy to find. As I surfed the web on my tablet using the Sunport’s fast and free wifi I realized that the Sunport turns into a virtual ghost town after nine at night. There were only two outbound flights at this time which meant aircraft spotting opportunities were few and far between. Finally to my relief a CRJ-900 pulled into gate B3 still proudly wearing it’s gorgeous U.S. Airways livery like the one shown in the photo below. What a beautiful machine!

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As passengers stepped out of the Jetway gate agents announced that carry-on luggage would need to be gate checked due to the extremely small overhead bins on the CRJ. While some passengers were annoyed with this I was actually quite happy. By gate checking my bag I was lightening my load! My carry on bag was tagged and loaded while I scanned my boarding pass (I used the American Airlines app for my boarding pass which worked quite well) and hiked down the Jetway. At the bottom of the gate I was greeted by an unexpectedly short entry door. At my current 6’1″ I had to duck a bit to enter the aircraft but once I was in I was able to fully stand up and move freely in the cabin. As I moved to my assigned seat on the aisle I began to notice how kind, courteous, and professional the cabin crew was. They never hesitated to help and were friendly and kind with all passengers. I immediately noticed that the legroom in the CRJ-900 is remarkably good and got comfortable. As more passengers boarded through American’s fast and easy system I began to examine the aircraft more and noticed just how nice it is to be on an aircraft with no middle seats. Traveling alone is far more comfortable in an aircraft with a 2-2 seating layout rather than a 3-3 layout. After all of the passengers had boarded we pushed from the gate 10 minutes early. The crew announced that our flight was nearly full and that only a few seats were open. Lucky for me one of them was the window seat next to me. As we taxied out to runway 8 I discretely slid over into the window seat for the best view and got comfortable. It was time to take to the skies.

 

As our CRJ taxied onto runway 8 the rear mounted engines began to spool up, emitting a deep buzzing sound which turned into more of a droning sound. I was pushed back against my seat as we thundered down the runway. After a short takeoff roll the aircraft rotated and we were in the air. The CRJ could show off its marvelous climb performance on its way out of Albuquerque and it sure did. In a few short minutes we were perched at our cruising altitude of 30 thousand feet and it was time to relax. As passengers casually conversed cabin crew began to serve drinks. American Eagle does not serve food on these short hour long hops but they do serve a generously sized soft drink of your choice. After enjoying a soda I really began to realize how silent the CRJ is if you are sitting near the front of the aircraft. I was in one of the front rows of enconconomy and the engines seemed to silently whisper in cruise. The full moon out that night was absolutely staggering and I spent the rest of the cruise enjoying the view.

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About 40 minutes after takeoff the crew announced that we would begin our descent into Phoenix. As the engines spooled down we descended into the calm desert evening. Our descent from flight level 300 took little time and within a few minutes we were on final approach. As the city lights below went past in a blur we continued our approach which was smooth as glass. Touchdown was smooth but included and audible “thud.” Our deceleration was sudden and loud as the CRJ has very noisy brakes. After the plane was taxied off of the runway and the flaps and other landing devices were put away our flight crew addressed the passengers to let us know that we has arrived early. Really early. So early in fact, that there was no gate ready for us so instead we would wait on the taxi way for some time. As I texted friends and loved ones while waiting I once again realized that for a regional jet the CRJ-900 really has allot of room. Eventually after 10-15 minutes of waiting our gate was open. We gracefully taxied in and shut down. I had gate checked my bag so upon arrival I was able to simply collect it in the Jetway and be on my way. I had the same great experience on my flight back with American Eagle/Mesa Airlines.

 

Due to their new low fares the big question for many people will likely be “Should I take American instead of Southwest?” I personally believe that American trumps Southwest when the two airlines are in the same price bracket. American has nicer aircraft and is a generally a more pleasant experience. It would appear that at least one of the legacy carriers has made a comeback.

 

The Numbers

Food: 8/10

Seat Comfort: 7/10

Aircraft: 9/10

Customer Service: 10/10

Overall:9/10

How to Make an ILS Approach in Infinite Flight

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Infinite Flight is one of the best mobile flight simulators and has a new capability allowing users to make ILS approaches. Below is an example of a landing I made that required ILS.

As you saw in the video difficult landings can be made in a safe and easy matter with an ILS approach. The following information is only to be used in infinite flight and should not be applied to the real world. To make an ILS approach in Infinite Flight follow these steps:

  1. Load a flight with your preferred weather, region and an ILS capable aircraft (such as the Airbus A321).
  2. Turn on the auto-pilot and set it to maintain your current altitude while setting the speed at 137 knots.
  3. Next press the APPR. button on the auto-pilot section. Leave all other autopilot settings as they were.
  4. While on the approach add flaps and lower the landing gear at the appropriate times. Make sure you don’t forget to arm the spoilers.
  5. On final reduce the speed to about 132 knots.
  6. When you can see the runway or you are ready to take over control simply turn off the auto-pilot and land as you normally would.
  7. If you don’t feel comfortable with the approach don’t hesitate to go around and try again!

Opinion: Airport Security Needs a Rethink

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Imagine a wheel chair bound three year old crying and being taken away from his parents for a pat down. Sounds like something that would happen in a hostile country doesn’t it? Its actually happened right here in America thanks to the Transportation Security Administration more commonly known as the TSA. The TSA was put in place in 2001 after the September 11th Attacks. America was in shock and rightfully so as the event was the first of its kind. The TSA was put in place to keep an attack like 9/11 from ever happening again. Has it worked?

The TSA is sprawled throughout Americas commercial transportation system, but its main application is commercial aviation otherwise known as the airlines. This article will focus on airport security because it is in the most desperate need of the rethink. Everyone hates to go through TSA. Unless you loose your bags or get diverted on your flight it’s probably going to be the low point of your travel day. Even though you hate it you probably go through thinking something along the lines of ” well at least they’re keeping me safe.” In many cases this simply isn’t true. You will find reputable news websites saturated with articles depicting someone taking a firearm through a TSA checkpoint and onto a plane. Why you ask? Because the TSA simply missed it. Even with all of their fancy expensive equipment they miss loaded firearms on a regular basis. Most of the time people forget that they have the firearms and don’t have any bad intentions but its still worrisome that they are able to get firearms on the aircraft with ease. This is also a hazard for the people flying in the future because it shows the people with bad intentions that the TSA is easy to get around leaving aircraft in the United States vulnerable.

 

American citizens pay lots of money for the TSA to miss firearms. 7.39 billion U.S. dollars to be exact. Yeah. You read that right. 7.39 billion tax payer dollars were spent on the TSA last year.  I think all Americans agree that an investment in safety is a good investment. The problem is we’re investing but we’re not receiving a return.

 

The TSA system has also received criticism for their questionable treatment of some travelers. The example above of the three year old wheel chair bound child being taken from his parents while crying is an excellent example. His name was on a watchlist. The TSA uses watchlists to know what to look for. This might work fine if they had precise watchlsits. Problem is they don’t. For some subjects they only have a name. That’s it. No pictures. No date of birth. They might not even know the nationality of the person they are looking for. All they know is the persons name. That means that when one of the thousands of people in the country with the same name goes through the TSA checkpoint they get flagged. They may be subject to extra screening or in the saddening case of the toddler above be taken to a private room for a more “extensive” and usually more intrusive physical inspection.

 

The three year old mentioned above is most certainly not the only case of this bad treatment. Survivors of breast cancer have been required to remove their artificial breasts in front of hundreds of fellow travelers while the male TSA agents laugh at them. Double leg amputees have been lifted out of their wheel chair by TSA agents so that their torsos can be inspected. Although not as offensive it is common to see a TSA agent shouting at a traveler in a demeaning matter. It is unacceptable to treat a fellow human being this way.

 

Another major issue is lack of standardization. Airports throughout the country have slightly different rules and slightly different setups. This causes confusion among travelers. A great example would be the difference between my home airport in Albuquerque New Mexico and an airport I’ve visited many times over the years which would be Phoenix Sky Harbor. In Albuquerque the rules change often. You get on a flight one day and you are permitted to leave your shoes and belt on. You get on a flight 3 months later and they make you put everything aside from your pants and shirt in a bin. You get on a flight in another three months and the rules have changed yet again but if you don’t know them immediately you get yelled at in front of the whole line. The rules at Phoenix are far more consistent in that they don’t change but they are slightly different then they are in Chicago or Seattle. That means that yet again if you don’t know the rules off the top of your head (which you probably won’t) you will get shouted at.

 

Perhaps the largest problem with the TSA issue is the fact that we don’t know how to fix it. Sure it’s easy for us to point out flaws. There are plenty of them. How do we fix them? I personally believe that privatizing security would be a great start. If security companies are in place they can be subcontracted by the local airport to handle security. The company of choice would have incentive to do a good job so that they could keep the contract. If they didn’t do a good job they could be replaced unlike today’s system.

If the government were to decide that it needs to keep complete control of the system many measures could be implemented. For starters passengers should be able to make anonymous complaints about specific staff. Heavy punishments could be given to security staff who behave disrespectfully. A thorough retraining is also necessary for all TSA staff along with a policy that asserts respectful and kind treatment of passengers.  They need to remember that we the people pay their checks.

 

Both of the above alternate options would ensure that misses of harmful items would become a thing of the past along with the cruel, disrespectful and sometimes even harmful treatment of passengers.

 

 

In conclusion the TSA is very broken system. With dangerous and threatening terror organizations rising we need to make our security the best it can possibly be. The TSA is not capable of doing that. By making an investment in the new security system we would be investing in the safety of our loved ones and the United States.

 

Got questions, comments or concerns? Let me know in the comments section below!

Alabeo Diamond DA-42 Review

Intro

Remember a few months ago when Alabeo came out with their new DA-42? It was a big deal. The aircraft received many positive reviews but that was at the beginning. What is the aircraft really like? This review will go over the ups and downs of the aircraft category by category.

 

Model/Graphics

The aircraft looks fantastic. The model is good and looks crisp on a mid range laptop with FSX steam edition. There are multiple high resolution liveries included with the aircraft and they all look good. 2015-9-30_19-59-2-9262015-9-30_20-0-23-2482015-9-30_20-0-29-771

The exterior model is reasonably detailed  but the interior of the aircraft is where it gets good. The cockpit is well complimented by Alabeo’s model of the Garmin G1000 which looks good and functions very well. The windshield features great effects from the sun and from rain.

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Overall in the model/graphics category the Alabeo DA-42 gets an 8/10.

 

Flying characteristics

I’m not yet a certified pilot so I can’t verify first hand how accurate the aircraft feels but I can give some info. Using my Logitech Extreme 3D Pro (see review here ) the aircraft felt responsive and fairly realistic but had some characteristics that I suspect wouldn’t be in the real aircraft. Sometimes in winds the aircraft also feels overly twitchy and more like a fighter than a Diamond.

Overall I’d give it a a 7/10 for flying characteristics.

 

Functionality

The aircraft can seat 4 people and carry a reasonable amount of fuel making it good for flights within your state or flights between states if you make a stop or two. The aircraft is easy to fly and has an autopilot so if you must get up from the desk you can. It offers everything you would expect from a modern FSX GA aircraft.

10/10

 

Fun factor

This aircraft is FUN to fly! The G1000 works well and the aircraft is great fun to learn.

 

Overall

Overall I would give Alabeo’s Diamond DA-42 for FSX a 9/10. Its fun easy and looks good. Feels a little lacking in the flying characteristics department but nothing drastic. I would highly recommend this aircraft to an average desktop Flight Simmer. For someone who has mastered the Alabeo or Carenado aircraft with relative ease or for someone who just wants more of a challenge I would recommend an A2A aircraft instead due to the more realistic flight models and maintenance features. All that said I must say I’m very impressed with the DA-42 from Alabeo!

 

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