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Congress's emergency fix to sequestrationthe one we told you about earlier this week, where they let the FAA off the hookis having an interesting effect on travel journalism. Specifically, it's causing journalists to write about travel. Even more specifically, it's causing journalists to write about travel politics. We already have a very firm opinion on what happens when Congress starts to tinker inside the travel industry. But it's always nice to have details.
For instance, a Bloomberg politics blogger was very much not happy about Congress's fix ("erupted in fury," "appalling," "even more self-serving than you probably imagined," etc). So like any good politics blogger, he decided to question the motives of the politicians who voted for it. It turns out that U.S. Senators and Representatives fly a lot, and so there.
The post is a little bit paint-by-numbersCongress gets perks, those perks cost money, be outraged!but it's fine as far as it goes. There's a genre, the blogger met genre expectations, whatever.
Travel Politics / Politics Travel / TSA / Delays / Sequester / FAA / → All Tags
Who wants to talk about travel politics on a Monday? And not just travel politics, but sequestration? And not just sequestration, but really insidery legislative fixes to how budget shortfalls are being implemented? We're excited too. Thank you, U.S. Congress for choosing the end of last week to send a measure to the White House about how the FAA can move money around to avoid furloughs. Awesome timing.
A quick recap of how we got here: Sequestration happened, and then the White House tried to demonstrate that it was disastrous by emphasizing popular stuff that was getting closed down. They started with White House tours, but that backfird spectacularly. Then they tried to highlight TSA delays, but those claims turned out to be not really credible. Then they moved on to talking about the FAAair traffic disasters, because FAA workers would have to go on furloughs, because sequestration!
This can't still be going on. There's no way this is still going on, right? There can't still be debates taking place over whether sequestrations will crush airline securitywith the sides being yes and no and why the hell is this even a thingcan there be?
Come on. The latest news involves having the FAA shut down 149 "federal contract" air traffic control towers on April 7. The agency was originally going to shut down 189 towers but was convinced to spare an addition 40 due to of safety considerations (read: the airports were in districts represented by powerful members of Congress or the towers were staffed by government union employees).
From crazy travelers to burning batteries there’s some kind of hazard up in the air. However, the latest threat to your up in the air safety can be found toward the front of the plane, as there is danger lurking in the forward galley.
Apparently the Federal Aviation Administration has recently issued a safety warning on their website, as the government agency is kind of concerned that in-flight coffee pots could be some sort of hazard. The thought is that these suckers could pretty much explode right in the cabin. Obviously this isn’t going to cause an emergency landing, but it’s probably going to ruin the day of the flight attendant who is just trying to brew a cup of joe.
Airline Industry / Travel Politics / Politics Travel / FAA / FCC / Technology / Travel Tech / iPads / → All Tags
We were going to spin an entire post out of a throwaway line published in The Hill last week, where the journalist dropped in a half-sentence about how "most passengers" want to use cell phones in the air. Polls have over and over again shown the exact opposite, with almost the only exception being a Fly.com poll that seemed more about publishing a press release than figuring out what people believe. But we're not sure it's fair to inflict our travel-journalist-nerd-bravado on you guys just because we can.
So instead we're going to point out what is true in that Hill story, which is that the FCC is pushing the FAA to permit more in-flight electronics use.
Politics Travel / FAA / iPads / Travel Tech / Technology / → All Tags
Last March New York Times tech blogger Nick Bilton called up the FAA for a boilerplate story about the agency's silly takeoff/landing electronics rules, which currently force travelers to deactivate their Kindles, laptops, mp3 players, etc whenever a plane is below 10,000 feet. Instead of being told to go pound sandbecause the FAA is a government agency, so shut upBilton was told that the agency would take a "fresh look" at the requirements. Hooray for government!
This week the FAA finally got around to starting to maybe think about loosening the requirements. So that was half a year gone. Their announced plan is to form "a government-industry group," made up of "representatives from the mobile technology and aviation manufacturing industries, pilot and flight attendant groups, airlines, and passenger associations," to study the issue. The group will convene months from now and then meet for another six months. Boo for government!
FAA / iPads / Travel Tech / Technology / Airline News / → All Tags
In a little-noticed move last December, the FAA decided to allow pilots to use their iPads in the cockpit "even during takeoff and landing." The idea was that the pilots could use their tablets as "electronic flight bags," which we're not sure is a real thing but it's what THE FAA said so there you go.
You can easily see, however, why people at the time found the whole thing a little strange. The FAA doesn't allow passengers to use any personal electronics, including tablets like iPads or e-readers like Kindles, during takeoff and landing. The ostensible justification for the ban is that those devices might interfere with a plane's navigation system. And yet here was a new rule allowing pilots to use their tablets literally in the cockpit, all but on top of the plane's oh-so-delicate navigation system. The logic seemed strained.
Bad Ideas / Airline Safety / Lasers / FAA / LGA / Crimes / → All Tags
In 2005 there were 283 US incidents in which pilots coming in for landings had lasers aimed at their eyes. By 2010 the number had risen to 2,836 incidents per year. By October of this year we had already had 2,795 reports, which means we're easily going to clear the 2010 figure.
Another six incidents were reported at LGA just last weekend. The laser strikes were done with the relatively new and significantly more powerful green-color lasers, which are extra-dangerous. The FAA, suffice it to say, has declared itself to be unamused.
Politics Travel / Travel Politics / Spirit Airlines / Airline News / Airline Industry / Political Travel / Congress / FAA / Airfare Sales / LCCs / → All Tags
On Monday we flagged for you the unofficial airfare tax holiday that the United States is currently "enjoying," courtesy of Washington DC being the most insanely dysfunctional place on the planet.
Without getting into too many details: House Republicans told Senate Democrats that they would only fund the FAA if three powerful Senate Democrats gave up on something called the Essential Air Service, which is a program that sends a bunch of money to (ironically) totally inessential rural airports in those Senators' states. Everyone from liberal journalists to travel bloggers agree that the subsidies are totally unjustifiable, so this was partly an attempt to embarrass the Democrats. The Republicans basically said "there's no way you guys are shameless enough to hold up FAA funding just to keep sending obviously wasteful pork to tiny airports in your states," to which the Democrats responded "actually, we're exactly that shameless." And that's why there are no airfare taxes right now, because FAA doesn't have enough money to collect money.
The sad thing is that we don't have the space to dwell on that insanity, because of course Spirit Airlines looked at both sides of the political aisle and said "you want to see shameless... we'll show you shameless."
Airline News / Airlines / FAA / Airfare Sales / Political Travel / Congress / → All Tags
The government’s general ineptitude might just be your ticket to cheaper airfare, but you’ve got to act quickly. Due to the budget battle over the FAA in Washington, DC it seems that certain airfare and travel taxes are now optional—and that means that you might be able to save a few bucks on your next airfare purchase.
The unofficial “sale” started over the weekend, but it seems a few airlines still might be passing along the savings. Initially there were several airlines where you could save a few bucks—including United and Delta—but at this point it looks like Alaska Airlines, Virgin America, and Frontier might be the only ones left. Other carriers—we’re looking at you American and US Airways—bumped their fares to make up the difference right from the beginning, so in reality they’re just charging for the tax as part of their fare and pocketing it.
Uncle Sam is pretty good about ensuring that pilots have plenty of training before they’re allowed to fly us all around the globe. However, there’s really no such thing as too much training, so that’s why we’re glad the Federal Aviation Administration is thinking about adding even more tests, quizzes, and exams to the nation’s pilot training. It won’t just be for pilots either, as even the flight attendants are going to need to study hard to pass these new tougher tests.
Apparently the new changes are going to be the biggest update in like a couple of decades, as the FAA wants more flight crews to actually demonstrate their skills and abilities during potential issues and problems. That means a lot more time in the flight simulator for the pilots, as well as increased rides down the emergency exit slides for flight attendants.
Airline Safety / Airline News / JetBlue / Airlines / FAA / New Routes / → All Tags
For quite some time there’s been talk about the Federal Aviation Administration—or since we know them so wel,l the FAA—starting up some kind of newfangled fancy pants way to track planes in and around the country. Well it seems that they’re slowly moving forward with some of these satellite based tracking plans, and JetBlue is going to be one of the first airlines to help them out.
As many as 35 of their Airbus A320 aircraft will be getting the new technology at some point in 2012, and this will allow air traffic controllers to pretty much see where the planes are all the time and in real time.