Archive for the ‘Air Travel’ Category

Service of Thinking Twice: When NOT to be Generous

Monday, July 3rd, 2023


Image by Joshua Woroniecki from Pixabay

My nearest and dearest are breathtakingly generous, consistently giving to causes that sorely need support.

However, I think there are instances in which the faucet of human kindness should be turned off and sharing information for small immediate gain reconsidered.

Here are some examples.

You should think twice before giving…..

  • Your mobile phone number to a company so it can send you texts in exchange for a one-time minor discount–unless you don’t mind incessant text pings announcing a new product or sale.
  • Money to beggars. Charities recommend you should instead give money to them. [I know—this sounds self-serving, but it is the prudent thing to do.]
  • More money to someone who didn’t repay you for the last loan–unless you consider both a gift in which case say so.
  • Up your aisle or window seat in exchange for the middle one in a long flight because another passenger made a last-minute booking and nevertheless wants to sit where you are–next to a family member.

The New York Post covered this topic with a compelling example. The flight originated in Japan. The woman who wanted to switch her middle seat for a window seat so she could be next to her toddler was part of a tour wrote Brooke Kato. The passenger who wouldn’t budge said the mother should have asked another tour member or the tour operator or a flight attendant for a switch and yet she only approached her. I don’t blame her digging in her heels and wonder if I’d have the guts to ignore her request. But enduring a middle seat on a very long flight…..I think I’d find the strength.

What are more examples that suggest that people should zip shut wallets and keep mobile phone numbers to themselves or refuse to do what might seem to be the right thing? Is this line of thought counterintuitive if you are trying to address some of the world’s inequities?

Image by Niek Verlaan from Pixabay

Service of Too Big to Work Well in a Country where Big is Best

Monday, March 6th, 2023


Image by Myriams-Fotos from Pixabay 

My last post was about the trouble I’m having reaching Verizon to update my credit card info to continue the Auto Pay service on my business account. Verizon claims to be the largest wireless carrier in the U.S. with 142.8 subscribers.

Following are some more examples of organizations that may simply be too big to work efficiently.

Lights please

Con Edison describes itself as operating “one of the most complex and reliable electric power systems in the world, serving 3.4 million customers throughout a 604-squaremile service territory.” Last week I asked two men in the hallway on my floor what they were doing. A sliding door by the elevators was open revealing the meters for the tenants. Seems the meters weren’t communicating usage information so the technicians were retrieving it the old-fashioned way apparently typing the information into a laptop. I grumbled about technology gone wrong and one worker told me that lately his mobile phone has dodgy service, constantly dropping connections.

Can you hear and see me now?

Two weeks ago the fiber optic connection between my apartment building and the Verizon FIOS operation was interrupted causing a blackout with my high-speed Internet, TV and phone service. I wasn’t the only person here whose service was disrupted. Could have been due to something as simple as a finger smudge on a lens.

Love letters lost

A friend sent me a Valentine card from Westchester, 18 miles from where I live, postmarked February 9. It arrived on March 1. [Photo below.] I mailed an envelope to an address within my zip code that hadn’t yet arrived in five business days.

Oops

There seems to be a spate of almost plane related incidents in the U.S. and on March 1 CNN reporters Gregory Wallace, Pete Muntean and Jordan Valinsky wrote about five “recent near-collisions on US runways,” in Boston, Burbank, Austin, New York and Honolulu.

I agree with a comment by Lucrezia, a loyal reader, about the earlier Verizon post which addresses this one as well. She wrote: “It’s becoming increasingly clear that these corporate behemoths are taking on more than they can handle. In order to properly serve their clientele, they will either have to enlarge their staff or downsize. Being the greedy entities that they are, they’ll probably do nothing unless or until they face collapse.”

Do you think size and/or greed are the reasons so many procedures between giant entities and their customers are falling apart? Is technology put to use before it’s ready for prime time? Are there other reasons so much is running aground these days?

Service of Waiting

Thursday, June 30th, 2022

New Yorkers are used to waiting in lines

My dad had no patience and wouldn’t tolerate lines. If he had a restaurant reservation he demanded to be seated immediately. Cooling his heels at the bar was out of the question. He’d be so unhappy in today’s world not only on arrival at some watering holes but killing time on hold to speak with a human to sort out glitches with his phone, credit card or electric bill or to argue over coverage with a health or drug prescription insurance provider—even hanging around for an hour + for medical appointments.

Waiting for bagels for lunch in Manhattan

A couple from Indianapolis in their 20s, on line in front of me at Katz’s Deli last Sunday took it for granted that they’d wait at the airport on their trip home and were buying reinforcements. Their travel to NYC was delayed a few hours at the airport and three more on the plane before takeoff.

A flight attendant who’d written a post that is circulating on Facebook gave advice to today’s traveler. Drive if it would take seven or fewer hours to reach your destination she counseled. Book the earliest flight and never get the cheapest seat she warned. You have the best chance of taking off in the former instance and if nobody volunteers to deplane in the event of an overbooked flight, passengers with the cheapest tickets will be the ones excised.

In her Wall Street Journal article Dawn Gilbertson shared similar suggestions: “Download your airline’s mobile app, bookmark the website, follow them on Twitter or Facebook and put those telephone customer service numbers in your cellphone.” She reported :”American spokeswoman Rachel Warner said the airline gives priority to customers based on a variety of factors including proximity to day of travel, frequent flier membership and type of support needed.”


Image by Bilal EL-Daou from Pixabay 

In addition: “Mr. Hauenstein’s best piece of summer travel advice for travelers trying to reach an airline? “’Seek a digital answer first.’” Glen Hauenstein is president of Delta.

Gilbertson quoted the dreaded voice message for airline passengers: “Due to an earlier technical issue we’re receiving more calls than we typically do and are unable to take your call at this time.” Wait times for call backs at a major US airline ranged from an hour 14 minutes to an hour 42 minutes on a “relatively calm day.”

She wrote about a business traveler who couldn’t get the app at this airline to respond and the phone wait time was 8 hours. He needed to change his return flight when his meeting was cut short two days. Online chat wait was 1.5 hours. Next he couldn’t chose his seats and waited on the phone almost four hours on a Sunday morning and ended up driving 45 minutes to the airport to do literal face-time with someone at a ticket counter.

A California travel agent waited over three hours on a “key accounts” line to speak with someone at a prominent foreign airline wrote Gilbertson. The agent “blames the spike in travel volume combined with a flurry of flight issues stemming from staffing shortages, a scarcity of seats to rebook travelers on and other challenges across the industry. The number of people passing through TSA checkpoints on Sunday [June 26] was the highest since early 2020. Those numbers are only expected to increase as the July 4th holiday weekend kicks off this week.”

If you need to wait more than a few minutes for service or a seat, do you have effective ways of distracting and/or calming yourself?  Any tips to share with airline travelers to smooth their journeys?


Image by Lars Nissen from Pixabay

Service of Dream Jobs that Become Nightmares

Thursday, February 17th, 2022


Image by Orna Wachman from Pixabay

I once had a dream job that went south so I empathize with flight attendants these days. For me the issue was with management. It’s passengers/customers who are causing trouble in the sky and spoiling a good job with great travel benefits.

Maggie Jones underscores why many flight attendants are quitting in her New York Times article “See (the Worst People in) the World! How defiant Covid-era customers turned a dream job — flight attendant — into a total nightmare.”

She wrote about one attendant who was attacked by a German shepherd service dog whose owner didn’t control him; one threatened to be punched in the face for asking a passenger to put on a mask; and another was mimicked, defied–even threatened–by a team of female athletes who kept removing their masks.

She reported that alcohol accounts for some of the behavior and that it also “reflects a time of receding civility.” Angry passengers refusing to wear masks have tossed used ones at flight attendants; pulled down their pants and threatened a pilot with “don’t touch me;” and one chipped an attendant’s teeth. In addition, the employees don’t feel backed up by their employers: when they report incidents nothing happens. However, yesterday on NBC Nightly News,Tom Costello reported that Delta is trying to establish a no fly list that would bar out-of-control passengers from boarding any flights.

Jones wrote that the F.A.A. didn’t count passenger incidents as there were so few until recently. In 2021 and early 2022 it “reported a stunning 6,300 unruly-passenger incidents — more than 4,500 of them mask-related. And 85 percent of flight attendants said they had dealt with such passengers last year, according to a July 2021 survey by the Association of Flight Attendants-C.W.A., which represents attendants at 17 airlines.”

She observed that frustrated and angry passengers don’t feel that a person they consider to be little more than a cocktail waitress has the authority to force them to wear a mask even though the attendants are following a federal mask mandate.

There’s plenty to love about the job, wrote Jones: “joking with passengers, having conversations with them about the honeymoon they are headed to or the funeral they returned from. Sometimes they pray with passengers or in other ways comfort them when they are in distress. They hold and rock babies to give parents a break. They also build lifelong friendships with other crew members and have jump-seat therapy, as they call it, with flight attendants they’ve just met. And they are proud of their lifesaving skills: They are trained to give CPR, fight fires onboard, help with emergency landings and evacuate planes.”

There’s more: Traveling for free—or almost—in addition to hotel and car rental discounts and on layover, added Jones, they have chums with whom to visit Disney World, Capitol Hill or share a picnic in the Jardin des Tuileries.

But that was then.

Whether due to exhaustion, fears of Covid or rules in destinations such as Tokyo or Seoul, when they land instead of exploring the destination with fellow crew members, many remain locked in their hotel rooms.

Have you observed unruly behavior in planes, or anywhere else, over the mask issue? Has what you thought would be a dream job morphed into a nightmare?

Service of Irritating Add-On Charges

Monday, February 7th, 2022

I don’t mind some add-ons such as the five cent deposit on cans and bottles or the cost of a grocery bag if I leave behind one of my many totes–which rarely happens.

Well publicized airline surcharges must annoy many. Pick a price and cover things like booking–whether on the phone, in person or online; accept carry on luggage; serve peanuts, pretzels and a soft drink to everyone; lend a pillow or blanket and let people choose the seat they want. Stop adding charges for the small stuff. It’s petty. The approach makes me think the company would buy subpar fuel or skip aircraft maintenance steps to save a few more dollars.

I am bombarded with surcharges by my New York Times digital subscription. I think “gotcha” when I click on an article about a recipe and read about its background and click to see the ingredients list and instructions only to read I must first subscribe to the cooking section. It costs $5 every four weeks or $40/year. There are some free recipes but not for the one I’ve been bamboozled into reading. Then there’s the extra cost to see the “Wirecutter” recommendations.  I understand you must also pay for many of the games like the crossword puzzle. Just charge me a few dollars more on my digital subscription and stop hitting me left and right because I feel taken and will look elsewhere for the information kept from me. The paper featured mulligatawny soup over the weekend. I had an amazing bowl in Addis Ababa and never as good since. I’ll check out other recipes on the web.

The add-on is more subtle in this example. Two adults and two children went to the movies last Saturday afternoon in a Chicago suburb. The tickets cost $34. Two small popcorn, two small boxes of candy, one small drink and two cheese sticks cost $52. My goodness.

Are there add-on charges that irritate you and any you think are valid and are glad to pay?

Service of Nosey Smart Speakers That Gossip

Monday, June 25th, 2018

I’ve never wanted live-in help, not that I’ve had that option. I couldn’t relax or have an argument in peace. Unless I needed round the clock nursing, I wouldn’t want a non family member around all the time to observe my habits.

For this reason I cannot imagine inviting into my house a smart speaker like Amazon Echo or Alexa, Google Home, Home Mini and Home Max or Sonos One. The speakers allow voice commands to control tech elements in a home, office or hotel room. Fans consider them as helpers; I see them as potential giant eavesdroppers by total strangers.

Amazon Echo boasts 15,000 skills. It can buy stuff on Amazon while it supports smart home devices. I’m perfectly happy to log on to Amazon if I need something or open Facebook on my smartphone, but I’m clearly alone. According to techcrunch.com, 39 million Americans own one.

Strangers already know far too much about us. In “What the Airline Knows About the Guy in Seat 12A,” Scott McCartney wrote in The Wall Street Journal, “Airlines know a lot about you, from date of birth and home address to travel patterns, vacation preferences, beverage purchases and whether your last flight was good or bad.”

In the same newspaper, Laura Stevens wrote: “Echo home speakers mistakenly recorded a private conversation and sent it to a person in the owners’ contact list, an incident that raises questions about the security of such voice-operated devices.” The title and subtitle of her article say a lot: “Amazon Alexa-Powered Device Recorded and Shared User’s Conversation Without Permission–Amazon said the incident involved a series of misunderstandings, with words being confused for commands.”

Kim Komando, the computer/digital lifestyle expert, shared a news brief on WCBS radio last week announcing that as a result of a deal between Amazon and Marriot-owned hotels, there will soon be an Alexa smart speaker in every room. You can ask it to have housekeeping bring you more towels, make dinner reservations and have easy access to all hotel amenities. It’s a sales win for Amazon but not so hot for your privacy. She didn’t sound so tickled about the “advancement” either.

Stevens concluded: “‘The privacy side has not been fully fleshed out with digital assistants,’ said Gene Munster, managing partner at Loup Ventures, a venture-capital firm specializing in tech research. Digital assistants still need more training to interpret commands and language more perfectly, he said, something that consumers should consider with the devices in their homes. ‘Eventually we’re going to get it figured out’ but it’s not there yet, he said.”

Do you really want a cake on your airline seat should you be traveling on your birthday or would you find that creepy? Do you mind giving up privacy so you can say, “Turn on my TV” or “Get me more towels,” instead of clicking on the remote or picking up the phone in your hotel room? Would you be tempted when the technicians have a better handle on ensuring that there would be no glitches in transmitting your commands or would the privacy issue still prevent you from jumping in to join the smart speaker craze?

Service of When It’s OK to Steal

Monday, June 18th, 2018

When smoking was in style, some restaurants and bars had fantastic looking ashtrays that found themselves in customers’ handbags. Many venues considered it a way to get their logos into homes–a reminder of a great meal or fun evening and the cost of inspiring future meals. Others would stop guests as they were leaving to ask if they wanted to pay for the ashtray. [I know someone who was stopped!]

Today airline passengers paying $thousands for a ticket in first or business class are snitching bigger souvenirs: blankets, pillows and duvets according to Alison Sider and Andrew Tangel. And they boast about it. “Danny Kashou, 53, a business owner in San Diego, was impressed by the soft fabrics and Saks monograms on the blankets on an international trip earlier this year. ‘Heck, yeah, we took it,’ Mr. Kashou says. ‘We didn’t ask. We just stuck it in our carry-ons and walked off,’” the reporters wrote in their Wall Street Journal article “‘Heck Yeah, we Took It.’ Fliers Are Swiping Airline Swag.”

They wrote about another passenger who “At home, sips brandy from his favorite British Airways glasses and his children curl up in premium Norwegian Air shuttle blankets. Last year, British Airways began offering a soft, satin-edged blanket from the White Company, an upscale brand. Mr. King has three of them.”

On the trinket side, passengers have taken 26,700 salt and pepper shaker sets from Virgin Atlantic that stamped them “pinched from Virgin Atlantic.” The company reports missing 1,700 lightweight blankets from its A330-200 aircraft.

“So far, airlines aren’t taking a heavy-handed approach to pilfering, hoping to keep things friendly. Premium cabins—first and business class—account for 5.5% of international passenger traffic, but more than 30% of revenue, according to the International Air Transport Association.”

United Airlines sells the Saks designed bedding it uses on its international business class flights because its customers like it so much. A Polaris duvet costs $59.99 and a memory foam pillow $27.99 at United’s online store which it encourages passengers to use.

Sider and Tangel report that Delta flights from LA to Dubai can run as high as $15,000. Surely there’s enough profit built in to cover the costs of the two duvets one passenger saw another stuff into a carryon bag.

Would you feel comfortable snitching something that costs more than a dollar or two? Is it considered OK these days to remove anything used during a flight? Passengers feel perfectly comfortable to brag to reporters about their take–is that normal? Unless encouraged to do so, should rule of thumb be “don’t take anything?”

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