Amazing things can happen in the air...

Hello again,

I feel in a talkative mood today, so here I am again. I want to tell you the story of one of my friends who lives in South Africa (beautiful country!!!). She took a flight from a major airport down there to London. Here is the story of her difficult flight:

Her plane took off at 9 pm, as scheduled. After two hours in the air, the pilot advised the passengers that they

would be returning to [South Africa] due to unidentified baggage in the flight hold. The flight duly returned and did not depart again until approx 12.00 pm. Consequently, the flight only arrived in London some 5 hrs later than expected, but also had been diverted to land at

a different airport. Because of this delay, my friend could not connect to her final destination on the scheduled flight. She had to purchase another flight. She wrote to the company to ask them to reimburse this additional ticket. I hope this will work, because, if it is true that security is the matter of everyone, there has been a major flaw in the security checking in the South African airport, for which the company (I believe) should feel responsible.

Besides, how did the pilot found out about the unidentified baggage? Do companies have salves in the baggage compartment that check the loading en route? Maybe trained dogs could do the job, who knows...

Good luck my friend, Tara-George is with you.

Good night


Oscillating ticket fares

Dear reader,

I have a lot of stories in preparation. Today I will talk about a recent and still strange event.
An unexpected event happened and I have to go to Paris urgently tomorrow. I started looking up online for price of plane tickets on Tuesday afternoon. I followed the price of the same trip over several days on the website of a big Canadian company. Here is the outcome:
Tuesday afternoon: ~1130$
Wednesday morning before 10 am: ~930$
Wednesday after 10 am: ~1010$
Today, morning: ~1010$
Today after 2pm: ~930$
Here I compare tickets in the exact same category, with the same service and stuff. I have no understanding of the parameters than can induce such a change. Is it because one or two other persons in the plane have booked or canceled over that period? Is it fair? More importantly... it is commonly though that booking way in advance is the best choice. In my case, in this special situation, it wasn't true. I probably would have had a much better deal two weeks ago. But I had today a better deal than two days ago. So can we do?
Some airlines offer the possibilily to temporarily book a flight and confirm it a couple of days later. Given that option, you should book temporarily only and shop for another couple of days for cheaper. In my situation I saved a significant shunk of money by doing so.

This is my advice of the day... and if someone can explain to me how those big oscillations occur...


Tara George, always on the move.


Airline fares

Hello dear reader,

Today I spent a lot of money. I wish it could have been for shopping, a new purse or trench coat would be quite welcome. No, unfortunetaly, I purchased some little piece of papers that gives me the right to fly. It seems to me that I spent an awful lot of money. I find that for the past months, prices have exploded, but maybe I'm biased. So I decided to investigate a bit to understand why airline tickets cost the money they do and if we pay for what we get.

It is important to know, as a matter of fact, that airline companies, since 2001, are losing an awful lot of money. In fact I don't understand why they haven't gone to bankrupcy yet. This gives me a little bit the feeling than I am shooting on a crippled, but anyway. On the following graph, taken from a very interesting paper that I found online from Dipasis Bhadra and Brendan Hogan [1], you can see that for the last years, the airline industry in the US loses between 1 and 2 % of the GPD per year on average. This is huge:

The consequence of that is that since 2001, the US airline industry is heavily subsidised by the governement.
What is more interesting for the question of tickets fares, the period between 2000 and now, have seen a explosion of low-fare companies. This increase has happened, with no increase of the global activity: the increase of low-fare companies have shrunk the activity of the 'big 6' (the six main american airlines.[1]
A second article is raised my attention. [2] It shows how a big Canadian company (that I won't name here) advertised major discounts but in reality didn't reduce very significantly its price. This company is in a favorable situation: a part of the market is made on international and long distance journeys, on with there is a significant competition. But the major part of its activity is done on markets where it holds a monopole. On monopole spots, the company doesn't really need to apply major discounts. So it advertise a campaign of offers (pretty much all year round) and in fact only gives a few tickets with those special fares. The rest is still sold at high price. On markets with a significant competion of low-fare companies, then it is different. Tickets have to be sold cheap. In the end of the day, travellers of monopole spots pay for the others.
I want to add that, in my view, segments where traditional companies compete can probably be considered as monopole ones. I believe that cartels could easily exist there. It is in fact the interest of those companies which have to suffer from the action of low fare ones on high yields segments.
Well, dear reader, I hope you enjoyed this little story. I hope to have time soon for a new story.

[1]http://www.mitre.org/work/tech_papers/tech_papers_06/05_1155/05_1155.pdf, Dipasis Bhadra and Brendan Hogan, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, 5th ATIO/AIAA



Mea Culpa

Hello there,

I must apologise. I have been a little hard on airline companies last night. I didn't understand that "bad temperature in NYC" means flooding... Maybe I was fooled cause in Canadian, Temperature refers to a different concept.
But in fact is was quite bad as you can see on the picture aside. Almost 5 inches of rain (over 10 cm ;)), as precises the New York Times. The air traffic was heavily affected with
500 cancellations on Sunday [which] forced hundreds of travelers to spend the night at the airport.

Airports weren't the only transportation medium to be affected and

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority warned of extensive disruptions and delays on its Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad lines. It said 975 parking spaces at its North White Plains station were flooded and unavailable for use.
I wish my dear visitor a good flight back to his City tonight.


Tara-G V

Source (data + picture): http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/16/nyre


Why are there so many flights cancelled?

Hello reader of my heart,

I feel I have neglected you some lately. Unfortunetaly, it's not because I lack subjects... Airline companies are still giving me and my friends a hard time.
This week end, one of my lover came visiting me. He couldn't leave town tonight: all the flight for NYC (three airports) and Philadephia are cancelled from here, from this afternoon to tomorrow afternoon. The cause given by the airline employees at the airport and over the phone holds in one word: temperature.
So I went online and looked up http://english.wunderground.com/, which I believe is reliable. The result is enclosed. As you can see it is currently 12°C.

I didn't know that on the surface of aircrafts, water freezes at 11°C. This very special phenomenon may be due to the pressure difference between the inside and the outside of the cabine. I'll have to ask my lover engineer to confirm that theory.


Last adventures in the airs: some airports over sell there landing slots!

Hello dear reader,

This post will start a series of ones about my adventures in the airs. My last experience is young, it was last week end. I was flying from a big airport in Canada to a big airport in the US. On Friday afternoon, I arrive at the airport with my boarding pass. I printed it in advance (;)). So I go through the security (A hassle as usual!), I'm taken some things of mine (of course) and I am searched thoroughly. At this occasion, the lady checked my underwear also (I promise it is true). I guess you wanted to check if they could be enough to seduce the pilot and make him want to follow my wills. Anyway, she decided that they were safe , she probably thought that cotton ones are non-dangerous.
After that, I accessed the gates and to my surprise, my flight was cancelled. I was totally shocked because some minutes before it was on. When the next door agent arrived, she was jumped on by not only me, but a dozen passengers in the same situation, some of which had luggage lost somewhere. Luckily, there was another plane to the same city that night, but to a different airport. People with luggage were worried about it, but we all booked for the other plane. We were all worried, because the we were all in stand by. The lady was clear: the fight was already over sold. At last, the flight boards and we all wait with anxietey to be called. In the end of the day, we could all take the plane. I don't know if the other passengers could find their luggage. We were one hour late, which was not too bad.
On my way back on Sunday night, my return flight was two hours late.

Cause: The reason for the cancelled flight and for the return flight heavily delayed was the same. The destination airport had oversold its landing slots. Too many flights had to land at the same time, and some flights were randomly cancelled, causing distress to the passengers. I find this pratice appauling. No excuse from the company was provided. No agent was there to help the passengers personnally. The lady who helped us was boarding another flight and she already had a lot to do. I don't think I can't complain to the company, because at the end, the outcome was ok. I don't even know if sending could help.


United States' new craze: US-Visit

Hello there,

Last night I discovered the new tool that the USA has crafted to fight Evil. So I took the plane from an American airport I had never used before to go back to Canada where I live. Because I'm not American or Canadian, I was asked to use the new super tool of the American customes. It is called US-Visit. I was really mad cause my plane was terribly late, I had no idea I had to do that and I was told so at the very last minute, when I was to board and I had to run back in the terminal to do it....

The procedure is rather simple and quick. You go to a special numerical desk inside the gate lounge of the terminal. You scan your passport and then you are asked some simple questions, to scan your finger prints and to not smile to the camera.

When I got back home I started wondering why I had to do that. I mean, I went through the customs on entering the US land a couple of days before (the usual stuff: angry questions, crumpy teacher's looks, finger prints, left then right, picture, don't smile to the camera...). I can understand (even though I have serious doubts about both the efficiency and the moral validity of that) that the USA are paying attention to who is entering the territory. But I couldn't find any really reason to control the leaving ones. I mean, as far as I'm gone, I'm not a danger anymore. Also if I do something bad inside the US, I guess the american police or the CIA or whatever has the means of checking the plane list and know exactly where I went and when I did so.

So, as I take this blog seriously, I searched online a bit. So this procedure is a part of the
US-Visit program
set up by Homeland Security. The entering procedure, that we all know if we travel a bit, is explained again. The outgoing procedure is the same and exist only in some airports, which list is given. I give you this list just in case:
  • Baltimore/Washington International
  • Chicago O’Hare International
  • Dallas/Fort Worth International
  • Denver International
  • Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County International
  • Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International
  • Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International
  • Luis Muñoz Marin International in San Juan, Puerto Rico
  • Newark Liberty International
  • Philadelphia International
  • San Francisco International
  • Seattle-Tacoma International
Wikipedia precises:
There is also a pilot program in effect at certain airports and seaports where visitors who used US-VISIT on entry will have to perform a similar procedure upon exiting the United States. Passengers will check out of the country at exit kiosks located within the terminal. Similar to the process the visitors encountered on entry, their travel documents are read, their two index fingers will be digitally scanned at the exit kiosk, a digital picture will be taken and they will receive a printed receipt that verifies that they have checked out. An exit workstation attendant will be available to assist with visitors' check out.
The reason for the whole procedure (entering and outgoing) is also expressed:
Using all these tools, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officer will then either admit you or conduct additional inquiries based on the verification results. These procedures reduce fraud, identity theft, and the risk that terrorists and criminals will enter the U.S. undetected or by using stolen or fraudulent documents.
But here again, no convincing reason for checking people who leave. Especially since the proecdure is note general, I imagine that anyone who has something to hide, or just the poeple who think they are sufficiently bothered will choose to leave America from elsewhere. A friend told me it is maybe just for statistics. Possibly, but is that worth the bother? I really don't understand... and I couldn't find anything conceiving online. If you have an idea, you're quite welcome to comment on that.

Have a good day!


PS: In my searched I found some interesting statements. First, it is really fun to see that the system wasn't even conceive in America... some foreigners need to be checked, others....
The consulting company Accenture is the lead contractor for US-VISIT. The selection of Accenture in 2004 was controversial due to the location of the company's headquarters. In 2000, Accenture was created and incorporated in Bermuda, as a separation of global business consulting services from the financial consulting services of Andersen Consulting. Because Accenture was created in 2000, and because Andersen was not previously incorporated, Accenture was never previously considered to be incorporated in the United States. (from the Wikipedia site)
PPS: Some fellow bloggers are even tougher on the system, criticising the cost/efficiency ratio. Check out this post from Schneier: Failure of US-Visit

Sources: http://www.dhs.gov/xtrvlsec/programs/editorial_0525.shtm
Blog of Schneier: http://www.schneier.com/blog/