Friday, August 29, 2014

Orbitz and American Are Friends Again

Orbitz and American Airlines are friends again and will play nice. This is a bummer, I was hoping this fight would last more than a day.
American Will Play Nice With Others
Orbitz Worldwide (NYSE:OWW) announced today that it had reached an agreement with American Airlines to continue to offer American Airlines and US Airways flights on all of its sites. Consumers should see all available flights immediately. All tickets previously purchased on Orbitz Worldwide sites remain valid.
"We are pleased that our long-standing relationship with American Airlines allowed us to quickly resolve business matters and that we continue to offer a broad range of options, including American Airlines and US Airways flights, to the millions of shoppers who book travel on our global sites each day," said Sam Fulton, president of Orbitz.com.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

American & US Airways Won't Sell Tickets on Orbitz

I use Hipmunk and Travelocity to book tickets and rarely pay to fly American or US Airways, so the news that American Airlines (US Air too) will stop selling tickets through Orbitz doesn't impact my travel rituals.  It is interesting that a major airline is removing their tickets from a major(ish) online travel site.  The fees Orbitz demands must be ridiculous.  American will lose some business from this, but it must be worth it.  Fighting the booking engine fees will also show the seriousness of threats made to other websites; American isn't bluffing.
Now Departing Orbitz for AA.com
None of this matters to Southwest flyers because Southwest tickets are only sold through Southwest.  Other major carriers can't copy that model now because too many people prefer comparison sites and won't check other airlines that aren't listed.
Not a Problem for Southwest

Sunday, August 24, 2014

United Trying to Make an Extra Buck With Cashless Cabins

United will sell you a prepaid debt card in the airport now.  The idea is to take a passenger's money two additional times because the card comes with a large purchase fee and then the passenger will promptly use it to pay for check in related fees or buy on board items.  Spirit Airlines is the best at ancillary revenue, but they haven't thought of this idea yet.
Airport Prepaid Card Vending Machine

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Complex Sheraton Shower Handle

The Sheraton Phoenix Airport hotel wins the complex shower handle competition.  I've never seen one like this before and the hotel even includes directions for use.  The hotel is being renovated, so I hope on my next visit I can have regular plumbing.
Directions Required

Saturday, August 16, 2014

T-6 Texan Flight With Commemorative Air Force in Arizona

I flew an airplane last weekend and have a new appreciation for the value of the rudder pedals.  The Commemorative Air Force Arizona Wing offers rides in a few of their old military aircraft.  The B-17 and B-25 bombers are on a summer tour, but the transport planes and single engine aircraft are there all year. 
T-6 Texan in the Morning Light
I decided to go up in the North American T-6 Texan trainer.  It was a close call between that and the Boeing biplane.  The T-6 has the pilot in front and the student in the back.  The experience is about 50 minutes from engine start up to stop.  I showed up early, signed some paperwork and toured the hanger with planes that weren’t flying that day.  The volunteer staff loves what they do and are happy to share stories and answer questions.  
Boeing PT-17 Stearman
T-6 Engine Detail
I was the first to go that morning and the pilot, "Sky," did preflight checks on the T-6 then invited me over to introduce me to the aircraft and some safety notes.  I was buckled in, shown how to operate the canopy (needs to open for takeoff and landing to facilitate a quick exit), instructed on the intercom and shown the controls.  I was excited to go and liked to idea of flying in a convertible until the 350hp engine started.  The noise and wind were incredible and we were still parked.
Stearman Biplane Taxi
Me and the T-6 Texan
The power was increased and we taxied out to the runway.  It was a busy morning at Falcon Field and a few flight school planes and the Boeing biplane departed before us.  Our turn came quickly and we were at full power with the canopy open.  The roar of the engine and the rush of the wind were tremendous.  The tail lifted off first then the main gear and we headed to the east and gained altitude.  I closed the canopy after we left the airport and started shooting away with my camera.
I feel the need - the need for speed!
Taxi To Runway 4R
We flew over to the Tonto National Forest and I took in the sights.  Pretty soon "Sky" came on the radio and said he was going to give me a quick lesson and hand the controls over to me.  I caught onto the stick movements and the rudder movements, but doing them all together didn’t quite link up in my head.  No matter, I was at the controls and having a blast.  I started with banking left and right, adding the rudder inputs on a delay. Then I tried nose up and down and had fun making my own roller coaster at the limits of my air sick tolerance.  It was fun and I soon got the hang of it, though not perfect, the instruments and were acting like I wanted.  "Sky" said I was doing well and tool back the controls to give me a challenge.  We started banking heavily left then right and back while he was explaining the challenge.  I came on the intercom and stopped him before he could finish mentioning my stomach wasn’t up for it and we did some straight and level sightseeing before heading back to airport.  I had the air sick bag out, but didn’t need it. 
Back Seat Driver Controls
View in Air
We landed smoothly and zig zagged back to the hanger.  I was able to stumble out of the plane and felt like I needed a walker.  After standing still for a while, I was able to tour the museum and look at more classic war planes.  It was an amazing experience and I’d go back if I’m in the area again, but ride the biplane instead; all those passengers were able to walk normally when they climbed out.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Check Your Award Reservations For Changes

I booked an award reservation for a friend earlier this year for travel in September and forgot about it.  I recently was on United.com looking at my reservations and pulled up this award flight to find there was a change.  United downsized a CRJ-700 to a CRJ-200 and my friend lost his first class seat. The reservation message wanted me to click ‘Continue’ to accept the change and move on.  I didn’t want to accept the change and instead clicked to the home page and looked for a better option.  I was able to find a first class seat on an Air Canada E175 and called United to make the change.  The agent found the award seat and updated the reservation.  My friend now has a larger seat, TV, meal, shorter lines, and free drinks.  Just because United updates your reservation, you don’t have to accept it.  The agents can be very flexible too because it was an airline initiated reservation change.
Air Canada A319 in Denver