Tag Archives: Wall Street Journal

Best of Aviation Queen: If You Build It, They Might Not Come

Having covered the airports beat for four years, I found them to be fascinating.  They are like small cities (or large, depending on where they are).  They are a symbol of a community’s ties to the global transportation system.  They are seen as economic development engines and even points of pride.

So it was with great interest that I read Susan Carey’s Wall Street Journal article, “Small Airports Struggle to Get Off Ground.”  I worked a great deal with smaller airports during my tenure at Mesa Air Group, chasing after Essential Air Service program markets.  I also covered them as editor of Commuter/Regional Airline News.

Smaller airports were always looking for that magic formula to bring in that all-important air service.  One of those formulas was always something like “if we build a bigger terminal” or “it we lengthen the runway” we can get more airline service.

But the hard truth that many of these airports don’t want to face is that no matter what you do, you’re not going to get the service you believe you deserve.  Airlines are a lot more picky about where they fly, and even if you get them, it doesn’t mean they’ll stay.

It was always interesting to meet with city officials when you were going after their EAS business.  They would make these outrageous service demands, knowing full well they could barely justify the service they had only because of the largess of the federal government.

I love Carey’s example of San Bernardino, Calif.  At the beginning of my journalism career, I wrote about economic development.  At the time,  Congress had decided to close a slew of military bases, many of which had airports, San Bernardino being one of them.  So almost 20 years after Norton AFB closed, they have still not managed to attract an airline, despite having spent $142.7 million since 2007 on a passenger terminal, a  general aviation terminal and a building for U.S. Customs. One issue is there’s too many other alternative airports — including Los Angeles International — in the region.  Ontario Airport has that same issue.

Another example is Ohio’s Toledo Express Airport.  I’m sure it’s a lovely airport, but most of its potential customers drive to Detroit Metro for the selection that a hub airport gives you.  Even Toledo’s mayor — theoretically the facility’s biggest booster — was caught driving to Detroit.

And yet another example is Pennsylvania’s John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport, about 2 hours away from Pittsburgh.  The late Rep. Murtha guided $150 million in federal dollars for a facility that has been empty at times, although it currently has United Express service to Washington Dulles International Airport.  So it will be interesting to see what stops smaller airports will pull out in the future to attract that new service.

Best of Aviation Queen: Airlines Crack Down On Crime In The Skies, Says WSJ

Editor’s note: I’m  away on medical leave, so I pulled out this classic blog post from Feb. 28, 2012, on how the airlines were cracking down on crime in the skies. Enjoy!

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Back in the 1980s, I was a poor college student going to school at American University while almost all of my family was scattered around California.  Back then, the old PeoplExpress was my savior, giving me a cheap way to fly from Washington National, via Newark, to Oakland.

One of many unique things about PeoplExpress was that you actually paid for your ticket onboard. Flight attendants would come down the aisle and take cash or credit cards.  I saw my first air crime on PeoplExpress.  A passenger didn’t have the money to pay for the flight, so he was moved to the back and the police were waiting when we landed.

And having worked for two airlines, I’ve seen more than my fair share of reports generated when passengers act up on planes.  So I read this Wall Street Journal Middle Seat blog post — Cracking Down on Crime in the Skies — with interest.  “Increased fines and zero-tolerance policies have reduced `air rage” on planes, government statistics show. But dozens of passengers are denied boarding or kicked off planes every day, according to reports from airlines and flight-attendant unions,” says WSJ.  In my experience the vast majority of incidents reported during my tenure were alcohol-related. Some of the reports I saw included:

  • Inflight porn: I’m amazed at how many people had no problem watching porn on their laptops;
  • Peanuts: we’d get reports from passengers who were upset that peanuts were being served on their flight (if you ask an airline for a peanut-free flight when you book it, the request is almost always accommodated);
  • Alcohol: don’t try to tell a drunk that you’re cutting them off mid-flight. Ugly…
  • Seatbacks: some passengers took the lowering of their neighbor’s seatback very personally;
  • Overhead bins: some people felt the overhead bin over their head was their personal space, so removed items already in said bin. Hilarity (NOT) ensues;
  • Seats, in general: folks getting into fights because someone is sitting in their assigned seat and refuses to move; and
  • Food: airline runs out of buy-onboard food, passenger gets upset.

5 Aviation Journalists You Need On Speed Dial For Plane Crashes

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An Asiana Airlines Boeing 767 parked at Incheon International Airport.  Photo by Benet J. Wilson.

After yesterday’s crash of an Asiana Airlines Boeing 777, I felt the need to do a rare Sunday post.  As an aviation journalist and communicator for 20 years, I’ve seen more than my fair share of general media coverage when it comes to airline accidents.  The crash at San Francisco International Airport showed the sad state of affairs when it comes to covering an accident.

Gone are the days when most major newspapers, television stations and cable news networks had reporters on staff with aviation expertise.  And it showed yesterday. Most of the accurate news came not from my usual news sources — CNN and NPR — but my 10,000 Twitter followers and my network of aviation geeks on private listserves and Facebook.  And the information that was out there was either wrong, or highly inaccurate.

For example, an NPR reporter said yesterday that the aircraft involved was a “Boeing 777, seats around 150 people.”  What?? Does this mean NO ONE at NPR had the 30 seconds it would have taken to go to the 777 section of the Boeing or Asiana websites or even SeatGuru.com to see the actual number on the Asiana aircraft? (it’s 246 to 300 seats).

So now here is my public service — a list of five top aviation journalists who can speak intelligently on the Asiana crash and a whole host of other aviation issues.  And bonus — I know that they are all camera-ready. So take advantage of these folks and their years of knowledge.

1.  Rob Mark, Jetwhine.com and Aviation International News:  besides being a licensed commercial pilot and the writer of the safety section of AIN, Mark has flown every current commercial aircraft from the Airbus A380 on down. He speaks regularly on aviation issues for FOX News and can do the same for you.
2 and 3. Graham Warwick and Guy Norris, Aviation Week and Space Technology: my former colleagues have been in the business for decades. Warwick, AvWeek’s managing editor for technology, has a strong background in aircraft engineering and design. Senior Editor Norris is a long-time, respected aerospace journalist who has written books on aircraft manufacturers, including Boeing.
4. Stephen Trimble, FlightGlobal: Trimble, FlightGlobal’s Americas Editor,  is one of the pre-eminent aerospace annd aviation editors in the field. Want proof? Check out what he’s done in the 24 hours since the crash.
5.  Jon Ostrower, Wall Street Journal: Before Ostrower, a Chicago-based aerospace reporter, came to the Journal, he was the air transport editor for FlightGlobal. Before that, he wrote the independent Flightblogger blog, considered the source of information on all things Boeing aircraft. He’s forgotten more than most of us know about the Seattle aircraft manufacturer.

Rolling Aviation Thoughts

  • Have you seen the April issue of Airline Passenger Experience magazine?  Editor Mary Kirby has been hitting it out of the park with great content, with stories on the science of aircraft boarding, the fun of onboard retail therapy and the ongoing debate on paid versus free WiFi.  Full disclosure — I have a ball writing a regular column for the magazine (this month, I review the food offerings in JetBlue’s Terminal 5 at JFK Airport).
  • Former FlightGlobal reporter Jon Ostrower hit the ground running in his new gig as the aerospace beat reporter for the Wall Street Journal a day early, writing about how tornadoes in Wichita affected aircraft and aerospace manufacturers.
  • My flight instructor, Alyssa Miller, has a great job.  She spent this week writing for the AOPA Pilot Blog about a major photo shoot of the timed departure of 20 B-25 World War II bombers.
  • Was everyone else geeking out over the last “flight” of the space orbiter Discovery as it made its way to the Udvar-Hazy Air & Space museum yesterday?  I saw a lot of great photos, but the one shot by Steve Trimble of FlightGlobal (from his office in Old Town Alexandria, Va.) was by far the best I saw.
  • I know we all have to get paid, but one has to question the timing of Memphis-based Pinnacle Airlines.  Weeks before the carrier filed for Ch. 11 bankruptcy protection on April 2, its board gave two top executives healthy pay raises even as it was asking for employee paycuts, reports USA Today.  Maybe the raises were justified, but the timing was not good.
  • I had to take a flight out of my hometown BWI Airport on Saturday at the crack of dawn.  I was surprised at how crowded both security checkpoints were in Concourse A.  But I saw a small sign posting about a new security line on the baggage claim level.  I scooted down, and the line was practically empty.  I had a good laugh with four other folks who saw me leave and followed me downstairs.  So check and see if your airport has lower level security lines!

I’ll end this rant with the video clip, below.  Mary “Runway Girl” Kirby left FlightGlobal in December and Jon “Flightblogger” Ostrower left last week.  But I always enjoyed their videos from the major air shows.  So enjoy their last one, from the Paris Air Show in 2011.

WSJ Report: Airlines Crack Down On Crime In The Skies

Back in the 1980s, I was a poor college student going to school at American University while almost all of my family was scattered around California.  Back then, the old PeoplExpress was my savior, giving me a cheap way to fly from Washington National, via Newark, to Oakland.

One of many unique things about PeoplExpress was that you actually paid for your ticket onboard. Flight attendants would come down the aisle and take cash or credit cards.  I saw my first air crime on PeoplExpress.  A passenger didn’t have the money to pay for the flight, so he was moved to the back and the police were waiting when we landed.

And having worked for two airlines, I’ve seen more than my fair share of reports generated when passengers act up on planes.  So I read this Wall Street Journal Middle Seat blog post — Cracking Down on Crime in the Skies — with interest.  “Increased fines and zero-tolerance policies have reduced `air rage” on planes, government statistics show. But dozens of passengers are denied boarding or kicked off planes every day, according to reports from airlines and flight-attendant unions,” says WSJ.  In my experience the vast majority of incidents reported during my tenure were alcohol-related. Some of the reports I saw included:

  • Inflight porn: I’m amazed at how many people had no problem watching porn on their laptops;
  • Peanuts: we’d get reports from passengers who were upset that peanuts were being served on their flight (if you ask an airline for a peanut-free flight when you book it, the request is almost always accommodated);
  • Alcohol: don’t try to tell a drunk that you’re cutting them off mid-flight. Ugly…
  • Seatbacks: some passengers took the lowering of their neighbor’s seatback very personally;
  • Overhead bins: some people felt the overhead bin over their head was their personal space, so removed items already in said bin. Hilarity (NOT) ensues;
  • Seats, in general: folks getting into fights because someone is sitting in their assigned seat and refuses to move; and
  • Food: airline runs out of buy-onboard food, passenger gets upset.