Tag Archives: USA Today

Interesting Links

It’s been a busy week, and I’ve been all over the place.


Best Of Aviation Queen: Will Fly For Food

Editor’s note: kids, I’m attending a journalism convention in Orlando this week, so you get Best Ofs. I’ll be back on Monday, Aug. 5, I promise!

As an aviation journalist, I have seen the best and worst of airport food.  I also am a big fan of the $100 hamburger, which is just an excuse for general aviation pilots to fly from one destination to another.


Which is why I cheered when I saw this great article — Test crew flies Boeing 747-8 to Pittsburgh for sandwich — from our good friend Ben Mutzabaugh ofUSA Today’s Today In The Sky blog.  This story has two elements I just love — the Boeing 747-8 and great food.


The crew for the 747-8 flew from Seattle to Pittsburgh for some flight testing and took the opportunity to take delivery of sandwiches from Primanti Brothers.  Having feasted on its signature  sandwich –  grilled meat (give me ham), a vinegar-based cole slaw, tomato slices, and a mound of french fries between two hunks of Italian bread — I know why they made this particular stop, and I’m not hating on them.


Last September, I took a digital storytelling course at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla.  We had to do a 2-minute story on the topic of our choice.  We were 5 minutes away from the Albert Whitted Airport, so I decided that’s where my story was.  After I shot my video, I went upstairs for lunch.  It was one of the best — and most reasonably priced — meals of my life.  I had a chicken/sun-dried tomato pasta with fresh bread that I still dream about to this day.


Another great airport restaurant is Enrique’s at the Ponca City, OK, airport.  Their chips and salsa are to die for, and you must try the Chicken Huarache.  When I went to Learn To Fly Day last year at Frederick (MD) Municipal Airport, I had a great — and cheap — lunch at the Airport Diner. The view of the runway was a bonus!


On the commercial side, I give high marks to Chicago Midway’s food concourse. You get a real feel of Chicago with its great mix of local food institutions, like Gold Coast Dogs, Lalo’s Mexican Restaurant, Pegasus on the Fly and Nuts on Clark.


So what am I missing? What commercial and GA airports offer the best meal options?

Again — Who Else Wants A True Registered Traveler Program?

A security line at BWI Airport.  Photo by Benet J. Wilson

A security line at BWI Airport. Photo by Benet J. Wilson

Regular readers of this blog know I’ve been writing about the Transportation Security Administration’s efforts to develop a trusted/registered traveler program since 2006, and the effort to develop one goes back to 2002. So imagine my interest when I read this USA Today story — TSA to expand speedier screening — for a fee.

TSA’s Pre Check program is currently free to eligible flyers.  But TSA Administrator John Pistole now says he wants to expand Pre Check to those who want to pay an $85 fee for five years and undergo a background check. He said that this effort helps the agency move away from blanket screening and focus on screening what they determine are the riskiest travelers.

It’s a complete 180 degree change to what TSA was saying four years ago.  Back in August 2009 during a chat with aviation bloggers (including me), then-Dept. of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said his agency wanted to be careful that registered travler does not become one that says if one pays more money, they go to the head of the line.  “That is between private vendors and airports. The government shouldn’t give an advantage to the economically well off in air travel,” he stated. “We should be limiting ourselves to focusing on security values.”

And in In July 2007, then-TSA Administrator Kip Hawley spoke before the House Homeland Subcommittee on Transportation Security and said:  ”Just as relying on frequent flyer miles isn’t enough, in the age of the clean-skin suicide bomber, just the absence of a negative is no longer enough. Once we define trusted, that provides a blueprint for vulnerability. And the security risk introduced at R.T. becomes a risk for every passenger, because what we make easy for one becomes easy for many.We need many layers of security to mitigate the risk of defeating anyone. We want to increase the level of security, not decrease it. And after prioritizing our security initiatives based on risk, TSA decided that taxpayer resources are best applied to more critical needs than Registered Traveler.”

The proposed new program, which will start at Washington Dulles and Indianapolis airports in the fall, will look very similar to the wildly popular Global Entry international registered traveler program. I, for one, would pay that very reasonable fee to have a more predictable airport security checkpoint experience.

9 More Rules All Passengers Should Obey

I’m a big fan of the AirFareWatchDog.com website, overseen by George Hobica.  The site lets folks keep an eye on air fares between city-pairs, and it has saved me a nice pile of money in the past few years.

As a frequent traveler, I am a firm believer in travel etiquette.  I feel as if there needs to be a certain amount of decorum to make the travel process easier for everyone. So I really enjoyed Hobica’s recent story in USA Today (hat tip to @OhMyJet for the lead) entitled “9 new rules all passengers should obey.”  And now, kids, I offer you another nine tips so you don’t end up posted on Freakjet or a passenger shaming website. Enjoy!

  1. If you see me with headphones on, I DON’T want to talk.  You can read my thoughts about that here
  2. Let’s keep order at baggage claim. Why do people think they can just push in front of me as they see their bag coming down the carousel? Or why do they think they can push many away as they chase said bag?
  3. Carry a bag you can lift by yourself.  Just because you decide to pack 50 lbs of stuff in your carry-on bag does not mean it’s the flight attendants’ or your fellow passengers’ responsibility to huff and puff to get it into the overhead bin.
  4. Feet. Please do NOT put your unshod feet on the bulkhead or your seat.  Others have to sit there after you, folks.
  5. Choose your seats in advance or buy Southwest Airlines’ Early Bird boarding. If you want to sit with your family or friends, then plan accordingly. Don’t ask me to give up my seat — the one I booked months ago or chose with Early Bird — just because you either didn’t plan accordingly or were too cheap to pay for Early Bird.
  6. Salmon spawning on a flight. You know these people – they are the last ones to board and have to put their bags in a bin far behind the row where they’re seated. As soon as the plane touches the ground, they make the grand dash to the back to get their bag, pushing folks out of the way, then pushing back to the front. Just say no!
  7. No stinky food. Folks, there are 150 of us stuck in the same metal tube. Now is NOT the time to open up that Limburger cheese platter that will be your inflight snack.
  8. Prepare your children. Hobica had this among his rules, but I’ll take it a step further. I’ve been flying with my daughter since she was 10 days old.  At age seven, she is now a seasoned traveler.  I carry a bag with all her favorite toys, an iPad and food, so when we’re taking that DC-San Francisco flight, she is happy and amused. I’ve always been complimented on her behavior, even during the terrible twos. So I’m amazed at how many parents come aboard with nothing — no toys, no coloring or reading books, no food — and then throw their hands up when their children misbehave from boredom.  Then we all have to suffer.  I now carry extra supplies and there are always takers.
  9. Rude travelers. We’ve all seen this person — someone who is rude and abusive to travel professionals like airline gate agents, flight attendants and even fellow travelers.  If one tiny thing goes wrong, they release the wrath of God on anyone in their way.  Whatever went wrong is not the fault of these people, but the airline folks do have the power to try to make things better — or worse.   Kind words have gotten me upgrades to business class, free drinks, better rooms and bigger cars.

Rolling Aviation Thoughts

  • I covered the regional aviation industry for the now-defunct Commuter/Regional Airline News from 1993 to 2001.  During my eight years, I watched regionals grow from mom-and-pop and smaller organizations to behemoths that traded on NASDAQ. At the beginning of my career, it wasn’t hard at all to call up a regional airline president (many back then didn’t even have communications departments).  So I was sad when I read an article in USA Today“Regional Airlines Face Closings, Bankruptcies.”  It discussed the demise of Cincinnati-based Comair, which was the regional that launched the regional jet revolution in the United States.  Old friends (and sources) opined about further consolidation, fewer flights and airports losing service.
  • We’ve all been on that flight — the one with the noisy kid.  Or the one where the person sitting next to you just won’t…stop…talking.  They want to chat about their kids, their jobs, their boyfriend/girlfriend, etc.  You can read my thoughts on that topic here. So this article from Lifehacker — How to Ask Someone to Shut Up on an Airplane (Without Being an Asshole) — offers some great tips to help us all cope.
  • I’m one of these geeky people who times how long it takes to get through Transportation Security Administration airport checkpoints. I’m also one of those people who posts wait times on the My TSA app.  So I was glad when I read this Washington Examiner article that reports Washington Dulles has installed video screens that tell you exactly how long your wait will be in the security line. Here’s to more airports doing the same!
  • I’m a big fan of small airports.  Although they don’t allow you to get directly to where you need to be, I do love the ease of using them.  There’s free parking, no big lines, good seating and quick baggage claim.  USA Today’s New Girl In The Air blog writes about her love-hate relationships with smaller airports.  Some of the great small airports I’ve used include: Wittman-Regional in Oshkosh, Wis.; Monterey Regional in California; Gulfport-Biloxi International; Palm Springs International in California; Bozeman Airport in Montana; and Savannah/Hilton Head International.
  • Kudos to GateGuru Dan Gellert for bringing in another $800,000 in capital for one of my favorite apps, as reported in Pando Daily.  You can read about my love for this app here.  I’m happy to have been a beta tester for this app, and you can read my reviews — Aviation Queen, of course — in a nice chunk of their listed airports.

And just for snicks, check out this promotional video I did to encourage Maryland residents to learn how to fly.