Category: flight

Drones and Weapons, A Dangerous Mix

Drones and Weapons, A Dangerous Mix:

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is warning the general public that it is illegal to operate a drone with a dangerous weapon attached.

Perhaps youve seen online photos and videos of drones with attached guns, bombs, fireworks, flamethrowers, and other dangerous items. Do not consider attaching any items such as these to a drone because operating a drone with such an item may result in significant harm to a person and to your bank account.

Operating a drone that has a dangerous weapon attached to it is a violation of Section 363 of the 2018 FAA Reauthorization Act enacted Oct. 5, 2018. Operators are subject to civil penalties up to $25,000 for each violation, unless the operator has received specific authorization from the Administrator of the FAA to conduct the operation. Dangerous Weapon means any item that is used for, or is readily capable of, causing death or serious bodily injury.

Operators should keep in mind that federal regulations and statutes that generally govern drone operations still apply. Some state and federal criminal laws regarding weapons and hazardous materials may also apply to drone operators or manufacturers involved in certain operations.

August 22, 2019 at 11:00PM News and Updates

How Hawaiian Competes on Mainland Flying (Acro…

How Hawaiian Competes on Mainland Flying (Across the Aisle):

Next week I’m off to the Boyd Conference in Las Vegas. I look forward to seeing some of you there. As I prepare for a whole bunch of interviews, I’ve decided this is a great time to post my lengthy interview with Hawaiian’s CEO Peter Ingram. I met him at the airline’s headquarters on August 1 while I was on O’ahu. I’ll break this into three parts. Today we talk about mainland flying (along with a small Guam tangent). Monday we’ll talk about interisland and then Tuesday, international.

Brett Snyder, Cranky Flier: Let’s start with capacity. It has flooded into the market, actually, I guess in all your markets. You have mainland with Southwest and others, then neighbor island is Southwest, and then internationally you’ve got those ANA A380s coming.

Peter Ingram, CEO, Hawaiian Airlines: North America has seen a significant amount of capacity come in really since the beginning of 2018. A lot of it predated Southwest adding capacity. I think almost all of the airlines serving Hawai’i grew last year. United which has got the most seats between U.S. mainland and Hawai’i was part of that. We were growing as we took the A321s which are a West Coast-focused airplane for our fleet. American, Delta, and Alaska had a little bit of growth. Most of that growth from that group of carriers leveled off a little bit this year — didn’t go down but has leveled off. Then we’ve seen Southwest growing starting middle of March with Oakland and San Jose added. And our expectation is a little bit more to come.

Cranky: So on the mainland side, we saw on United’s earnings that did not go well for them in this quarter — sounds like it really put quite a dent in their numbers there. Do you think this is a lag issue of just demand catching up to capacity or…

Peter: Some of it is that the market was performing very well. If you go back to 2016-2017, we had [unit revenue] growth that exceeded what other airlines were producing and a big part of that was driven by our North America performance. So it was a strong market. Strong markets tend to attract more capacity and that’s what happened. The numbers have come down a little bit… doesn’t mean that all of a sudden everyone’s losing money. We reported lower margins in the last few quarters relative to where we were. We’re still profitable and performing in line with the industry, and frankly we’re not happy about reporting declining margins, but we’re still profitable and North America is obviously a big component of that. It’s about half our revenue.

Cranky: And the A321neos seemed to be living up to the hopes and dreams here.

Peter: Yeah. The neo really does a number of important things for us. One it’s incredibly fuel efficient and you heard I had some of the stats on that. I think our capacity was up 2.6 percent year over year this quarter. Our fuel consumption was down 1.6 to 1.7 percent.

Cranky: And that was systemwide?

Peter: Yeah, that’s systemwide but it is it is really driven by adding capacity with the neo and reducing 767 capacity year over year.

Cranky: That’s an incredible number. I guess the biggest problem is just getting Airbus to give you the airplanes on time.

Peter: Yeah. Well, that’s been that’s been a little bit of a challenge. We’re getting towards the end of our firm orders. We’ve got 13 of 18 delivered now.

The other thing that that airplane does for us is previously all our long-haul flying was operated by widebody equipment. We had the A330 that are configured with 278 seats, our 767s had a range of different configurations but they averaged about 260. We’ve got 189 seats on the neo. Not having connecting opportunities of the same scale that our competitors have on the mainland, that limited some of the O&Ds [origins and destinations] we could serve. So now with a smaller-gauge airplane it’s more economic for us to serve LA – Lihu’e year-round as opposed to just seasonally, LA – Kona year-round, Oakland – Lihu’e year-round, and we’ve also built up our Maui flying. A few years ago we had three flights from Maui to the US mainland. Today we’re operating 8 daily services to the US mainland. [Ed Note: This interview happened before Hawaiian announced the reintroduction of Maui to Las Vegas service.] So most of our western U.S. gateways now have a Maui option as well as a Honolulu option.

Cranky: With that airplane, a lot of what you’ve done is right-sizing capacity, getting a better cost airplane on routes. But the big outlier here in that strategy was the Long Beach startup which is a new station that just couldn’t have been served with a widebody, or I assume profitably. Are there more of those in the pipeline? Because we haven’t seen any other new station startups; it’s been mostly either replacing capacity or connecting neighbor islands to mainland cities that you already serve right?

Peter: We haven’t certainly announced any other new cities with the neo besides Long Beach. The other new city we’ve launched in the last year was Boston [which] obviously because of the range is a widebody. There are things we’re looking at. There’s not an endless list of them as you look at what O&Ds are that aren’t served, and Long Beach was a little difficult. Long Beach wouldn’t have shown up on that that O&D list because it wasn’t connecting. There are a few opportunities but it’s not dozens.

Cranky: Are there opportunities going the other way? I mean is Guam too far? Are there other things you can do around the Pacific with that airplane?

Peter: There are a couple of things we’re looking at. Guam I think is is likely to be outside the range for that but there are some other things as you look so that may be possible.

Cranky: Guam is one that I find really interesting. I know United’s in there but it seems like a market that might be something that would work for you. Is that just not really on the radar or is there a reason that you guys aren’t in there?

Peter: It’s something we’ve looked at from time to time. A lot of the the inbound lift into Guam is coming from Asia. You can reach it from Japan and Korea with a single-aisle aircraft and there’s a fair amount of low-cost carrier capacity into Guam now. We don’t have any immediate plans in there, but we’re certainly aware of of islands in the Pacific… being based on an island in the Pacific.

Cranky: Yeah I mean fares are pretty high on United and they’re flying 777s.

Peter: We hear that from people in the community that have business interests in Guam and have to travel there. There is certainly some interest in that.

Cranky: It’s just a matter of if the market is big enough I guess. But yeah.

Cranky: OK, so back to mainland. If we look at a market like Oakland-Honolulu, Southwest is up there, and I’m just taking that as an example, but you know you’re going to see Southwest in more of these. Alaska has been there for awhile and you guys have been there but are also ramping up, especially connecting neighbor islands. Considering the competition increasing capacity, how do you look at that compared to a San Francisco or an LA?

Peter: Oakland and San Francisco have a lot of overlap in their catchment area. Depending on where you are in San Francisco, it may be more convenient for you to get to the Oakland Airport than San Francisco Airport. I think as services build up in Oakland people are becoming increasingly aware of that. The reflex to go and look just for San Francisco changes once there’s more options out of Oakland. As we think of all those airports, we feel like we are very well-positioned to be competitive.

We’ve got a very good cost structure. We are the the only airline that can deliver authentic Hawaiian hospitality, which is a phrase I use a lot. And it’s not just a slogan. It is a function of 90 percent of our employees living here in Hawai’i, understanding that culture of hospitality and caring for guests. Leisure is not a byproduct that comes from having a business-oriented network. Leisure is the core purpose of what we’re doing and so we configure the airplanes with that in mind. We design products with that in mind. So I think we feel — and it’s reflected in the fact that we look at the DOT stats every quarter when they come out — we are able to generate a revenue premium that is a function of all of those things. That’s a function of good service. It’s a function of how the airplane is configured. It’s a function of how we sell tickets. So if you can deliver a revenue premium and you can maintain a competitive cost structure and you’ve got the fleet that is ideal for the market, we think that positions us well to compete in every environment. And over time as capacity settles out we think that means we should be able to operate profitably and continue to grow.

Cranky: When Southwest started, it just threw in low fares to fill the planes but then summer, I assume it’s almost like a cease fire because everyone can fill planes in the summer.

Peter: Well, I think as far as North America went, there were some very very low promotional fares when Southwest launched service that were available for a matter of hours. And you know I don’t have insight into what amount of inventory was sold on that. All we know was that the fares were there and the lowest of those fares were gone very quickly. We really haven’t seen the sort of ambient pricing environment change from when Southwest launched in March to today relative to what it was starting in the third quarter, fourth quarter of last year and continuing into the first quarter where fares were already down a little bit year over year on the basis of some of the capacity that had come into the market.

Cranky: I guess we’ll see what their ultimate plans are. It’s not a huge amount of capacity yet, but it sounds like they’re about to start adding more again soon. [Ed note: This was just before Southwest announced Lihu’e and Hilo service.]

Peter: But you know, one of the things I remind people is this is not the first time that we’ve been in a spot where people say “oh my goodness how is how is Hawaiian going to compete with this new airline?” We heard it when Virgin America started flying. “Oh my goodness. How is Hawaiian going to compete with Virgin America? Oh my goodness. How is Hawaiian going to compete with Allegiant?” And the fact is all these markets from the Western US are very competitive today. I’m not sure there are more carriers flying a single O&D than there are in LA-Honolulu. American, Delta, United, and Alaska are all tough competitors too and we’ve been able to compete with them and we expect to be able to compete with Southwest.

Cranky: I don’t know if people are still saying “how can Hawaiian compete?” I guess they do say it, but it seems like you’ve built the airline in a way that it’s not really a question of how can you compete. You can compete. It’s more how do you decide to compete and what’s the best way for Hawaiian to deal with these types of things? Because I look at a market like LA… I mean even Sun Country’s there. It’s just madness.

Peter: And Allegiant was there before.

Cranky: Right. But when you start looking at some of these like Oakland, you get people in San Francisco starting to look more at Oakland. A lot of these more secondary cities it seems like they’re getting a lot more capacity than they had before. So it’s just a matter of how does it settle out and who decides how they’re going to do that. So it sounds like for now for you guys pricing hasn’t changed all that much compared to what you saw. You’re continuing to execute on the plan and you haven’t had to make any adjustments, capacity-related adjustments based on what’s happening competitively.

Peter: That’s our approach. You know we have not exited any markets in North America and are not planning to exit any markets anytime soon.

Come back Monday for our discussion about interisland flying now that Southwest has entered the market.

August 22, 2019 at 01:45PM Source:

Bidding Ends at 5pm Tonight for the Cranky Dor…

Bidding Ends at 5pm Tonight for the Cranky Dorkfest LAX Progressive Dinner:

If you’ve been holding out until the end to start bidding on the Cranky Dorkfest LAX progressive dinner, then the time has come. And the event is getting better. Alaska will now be hosting us in the T6 lounge for food and drink!

Bidding ends at 5pm PT tonight. Get your bids in here (or click here if you can’t see the form):

As a reminder, here’s the current plan which is subject to change if required:

  • Terminal 7 – Arrive by 4:15pm for a visit to United’s LAX operations center followed by a drink in the United Polaris Lounge (courtesy of United)
  • NEW! Terminal 6 – A sampling of food and drinks in the Alaska lounge
  • Terminal 5 – Main course and one drink at a restaurant to be determined
  • Terminal 4 – Tour of American’s Admirals Club, Flagship Lounge, and Flagship Dining Room followed by dessert in the American Flagship Lounge conference room overlooking the ramp (courtesy of American)
  • Bradley Terminal (TBIT) – After-dinner drink at a bar to be determined

We’ll spend 1 to 1.5 hours at each stop, so it will wrap up between 10 and 11. We will all walk together to make sure we keep everything running on time. Everything mentioned above is included in your bid. What’s not included? If you want more drinks or more food, that’s on you. If you drive, parking is extra at the regular LAX rates.

I’m running this as an auction with half of the net proceeds going to the Flight Path Museum at LAX.

The 10 highest bids will be chosen, and at that point, a link will be sent to each winner to request payment. Payment has to be received by Monday, August 26 or the spot will be given to the next person on the list.

If you’d like to follow along and see how things stand, you can do it here. Or the current top ten is embedded below. Keep refreshing the page to see the updated list.

If you bid and see that you’ve been bumped off, you can either go back to your existing bid and revise it or you can just submit a new bid with the same email address. You can bid as many times as you’d like, but each bidder can only win one spot. No guests are allowed, so if you’re a couple, bid separately.

Bid now!

August 21, 2019 at 01:45PM Source:

The Great Maui Sugar and Potato Chip Adventure…

The Great Maui Sugar and Potato Chip Adventure (Trip Report):

Bidding continues through Wednesday for the Cranky Dorkfest LAX Progressive Dinner. You can get full information and place your bids here. Here are the current top bids:

During my month-long stay in Hawai’i, I told my kids they could each have a special “dad adventure.” My daughter unsurprisingly chose to go and swim with dolphins since she is an animal lover. But my son wanted to go fly to another island. He didn’t really care where, but he just figured it would be fun to go somewhere.

In true airline dork fashion, I lined up photos of all the different planes he could take, and then I figured we would narrow down destinations by the airplanes he wanted to fly. Southwest was quickly out since he’s flown them plenty. In the end, he really liked the idea of flying a Mokulele Grand Caravan and a Hawaiian 717. That made our option clear – Kahului or bust.

The question was… what should we do there? I found a few options that were relatively close to the airport, so we could easily take a rideshare and not have to deal with rental cars. His choice? The Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum. I had driven by it many times on my way from the airport down to south Maui, but I had never been in. Even though sugar cane cultivation ended on the island in 2016 after nearly 150 years, the museum still stands across from the imposing, vacant mill.

That sounded like a great plan, but there was one more thing I had to do. My favorite potato chip in the world is Kitch’n Cook’d from the Maui Potato Chip Factory. The problem is, it’s really hard to find and is only sold in a few stores on Maui and at the factory near the airport. Since we were going to be there… oh we’d definitely have to stop and pick up some bags. It was time to book flights.

I’m not sure how long Mokulele has competed against Hawaiian in that market, but I was happy to see a 10am flight out that would get us in at 11. Booking was challenging since there was only one seat left at the lowest fare. I couldn’t do that online since my son would show up as an unaccompanied minor, and you can’t book those on the website. So I called and spoke to a friendly agent who was able to book us both on the same reservation at different fares. It was an average of $69 each.

After doing a little math, I figured the 1:43pm return on Hawaiian would be about right. Once again, there was only one seat available at the lowest fare, so I had to jump through hoops. Booking on separate reservations was easy, but they wouldn’t assign a seat for my son until I called them and linked the reservations. This cost us an average of $79 each. I was going to use Chase Ultimate Rewards points, but it was far more expensive using their system.

I was worried that former Hurricane Erick was going to snarl plans. He dumped rain on Maui the day before, but things looked good for our travels. I grabbed my carry on bag and brought it with me… completely empty. Then my wife gave us a ride down to the airport.

Terminal 3, as they call it, has been Mokulele’s home since they knocked down the old commuter terminal last year to pave the way for new gates for Hawaiian. Once I arrived, I couldn’t help but laugh. The “terminal” is basically a double-wide trailer missing a couple walls.

Inside there is a small check-in desk and a couple bathrooms. There is some seating on the inside under cover, but there’s also seating outside. We walked outside and watched the planes go by.

Our aircraft arrived from Moloka’i about half an hour before our flight. Fifteen minutes before departure, they called all 9 of us to the fence for boarding. There we were given our row assignments (we had row 3) and we were escorted on to the airfield to board.

August 3, 2019
Mokulele 710 Lv Honolulu 10a Arr Kahului 11a
Honolulu (HNL): Gate Yeah, there was literally a metal gate, Runway 4L, Depart 10m Early
Kahului (OGG): Gate Uh huh, another metal gate, Runway 5, Arrive 10m Early
N835MA, Cessna 208 Grand Caravan, Standard Mokulele colors, 9/9 Full
Seat 3B, Coach
Flight Time 45m

The airplane was hot, and there was a significant amount of glitter on our seats, something I would only expect to see on a Thursday night Burbank to Vegas flight. We sat down, got the short safety briefing, and then they fired up the engines giving us much-needed air conditioning. We moved out 10 minutes early.

For the couple days prior, the flight had taken a route between Moloka’i and Lana’i, so I told my son to sit on the left side for a better view. Little did I know we were in for a treat.

We taxied out to the short runway 4L and took off, bouncing toward altitude as we cruised over the water with a view of Waikiki and Diamond Head on the left. The windows are so big that you can get a good view looking either way.

We made our way to 7,000 feet — the required altitude for the crossing of the channel — before we settled in and cruised over toward Moloka’i. This time, we were routed to the north of the island, so I had the good views on my side. We first passed by Papohaku Beach and the mostly-abandoned old resort on the west end.

We were able to descend down to 2,500 feet once we had crossed the channel, and that gave us fantastic views up close. The cliffs started to gradually increase in size as we headed east.

We soon found ourselves over Kalaupapa, the old colony for people with Hansen’s Disease (leprosy) which I wrote about two years ago.

Lastly we passed rugged and remote eastern Moloka’i with its waterfalls.

After a quick pass over the water to Maui, we came in from the north and landed a few minutes early.

We hopped into a Lyft and made our way to the museum. It’s a great little spot to get a sense of both the process and what life was like working in the fields. I’d recommend it to anyone with an hour to kill.

Once we finished, we took another Lyft and went straight to the potato chip factory. The couple that runs it were just sitting there chatting as I came in with my empty bag. After stuffing the thing full, I also grabbed a tiny bag for our driver, and then we went back to the airport.

At the airport, the Precheck line was non-existent, but the regular line snaked around the airport. I highly recommend getting Precheck if you fly out of Kahului.

Upstairs, we stopped at Burger King for some lunch and then wandered the halls trying to kill some time. We succeeded.

Our aircraft arrived a little late. The boarding area was packed. Departure time came and they were still only pre-boarding. When they called group 3, the scrum slowly started to move.

August 3, 2019
Hawaiian 275 Lv Kahului 143p Arr Honolulu 224p
Kahului (OGG): Gate 11, Runway 2, Depart 8m Late
Honolulu (HNL): Gate A15, Runway 4R, Arrive 12m Late
N492HA, Boeing 717-2BL, Maile lei colors, ~99% Full
Seat 21B, Coach
Flight Time 28m

They ended up boarding people pretty quickly. Despite the late start, we pushed back only 8 minutes late which was a surprise. Then it was a short taxi to the end of the runway, and we were soon airborne.

It’s always gusty coming out of Kahului, but there were a couple on our climb that seemed to push us straight sideways by a few feet at a time. The airplane took it in stride as we soared upward and circled around West Maui.

Once above 10,000 feet, it smoothed out and we topped out at 14,000 feet. They came through with water or POG juice, so I was able to introduce my son to his first onboard POG experience. It always reminds me of traveling between the islands as a kid, so it was fun to pass that on.

There wasn’t much sight-seeing to be done at that altitude considering the clouds below, but it wasn’t long before we were descending anyway. They were landing on 4R so we headed out well over the water before lining up to come back in. Just like on the return from Lana’i, we descended really low — this time down to 2,000 feet — and stayed there for a couple minutes. Then we came in for a landing and taxied back.

My wife picked us up and we were heading back home just a few hours after we started.

August 20, 2019 at 01:45PM Source:

Southwest Finally Gets (More) Serious About Bu…

Southwest Finally Gets (More) Serious About Business Travel:

Bidding continues through Wednesday for the Cranky Dorkfest LAX Progressive Dinner. You can get full information and place your bids here. Here are the current top bids:

It is odd to think of Southwest as not being serious about business travel. After all, contrary to popular belief, it’s business travel that has always been Southwest’s bread and butter. Those frequent first flights in the Texas Triangle (Dallas-Houston-San Antonio) weren’t going to succeed on the then-anemic leisure travel demand. It was the business traveler looking for a deal (and free liquor) that brought success.

That original model has held for decades. That may sound good, but the problem is that Southwest has often stuck to its guns and refused to adapt quickly enough over time, if at all, to new realities. That has kept Southwest in a proverbial box that I and others would argue it could have busted out of with different priorities.

Though selling to business travelers has always been at the core of the business, selling to managed travel accounts has not. “Managed travel” in a nutshell is when a company uses a travel agency to handle its corporate travel policies, bookings, and reporting. These agencies have long preferred to handle bookings through the Global Distribution Systems (GDSs) which make it easy to compile everything in one system. That makes reporting and compliance much easier to manage.

Southwest, as most people know, has long held firm to its desire to sell everything direct. That’s fine for unmanaged travel, but it’s a real pain for people who manage travel. Tools have been built to overcome this issue, but it’s still not enough.

Southwest has timidly dipped its toes into the GDS waters, but the effort has been generally useless for those companies where price matters. For example, if I look up a flight from Los Angeles to Nashville in a couple days, I get this on

But when I look in Sabre, that Wanna Get Away fare is non-existent. The lowest fare is the Anytime $592 fare. It’s not that all Wanna Get Away fares are excluded, but it’s hard to know when a lower fare will pop up. In other words, it’s impossible to rely upon the GDS today, so that defeats the purpose of participating in the GDS.

Even when booking in the GDS, Southwest doesn’t have full participation. Agents can’t see flight availability, and ticketing is handled in a roundabout way that’s different than with nearly every other airline. Southwest segments also can’t be put into the same reservation as other airline segments.

For its best customers, Southwest has created “direct connect” options which feed more fare content into large agent systems. But for smaller customers, agents have to rely on SWABIZ, the old booking system for corporates that recently got a refresh but still lacks basic functionality like the ability to book multi-city flights.

Southwest has long believed that it just didn’t need to play ball. It had become big, and it dominated in many mid-size markets. It could sell direct and still do just as well as if it sold through third parties. Selling through third parties costs money, so why bother? Well, to the surprise of very few outside Southwest, there are very good reasons.

Participating in the GDS makes the airline instantly more visible to corporates. That’s particularly helpful considering the airline has spread into more big markets where it doesn’t have a large share. (Remember Newark?) In those markets, agencies are less likely to go to (let alone SWABIZ).

But even in markets where it dominates, Southwest could still likely benefit from participating in the GDSs more fully. Costs to do so have come down, and the revenue benefits have proven to be large for legacy carriers. Southwest may not have an identical model as those airlines, but it’s long been clear there was benefit to be had.

So it was with great relief when I saw Southwest announce it was finally going to play the game properly. Along with a re-branding from Southwest Corporate Travel to Southwest Business, the airline will now fully participate in Galileo and Amadeus GDSs. Now, this doesn’t help me since I use Sabre, but I have to imagine that will follow eventually. This doesn’t sound like a strategic issue but rather an economic one.

This means agencies can search for and book Southwest in their GDSs just as they do other airlines… when this goes live in the back half of 2020. It will make multi-city bookings possible along with changes and cancellations. It makes Southwest far more attractive to those people actually responsible for booking a ton of travel.

What’s not clear is whether this will actually be full participation or not. On the website, Southwest says it will offer “Access to our everyday low Southwest fares through your channel of choice.” That mention of “everyday” makes me a little nervous. Not all sale fares will be included? It’s hard to know for sure. If it’s not all fares, then that’s frustrating. For consumers, I should also note that this doesn’t mean Southwest will participate in online travel agents like Priceline or Expedia. That isn’t part of the plan. The scope is narrow, but the benefits will add up.

Southwest says that for the back half of 2020 when this launches, it should contribute $10 to $20 million directly to the bottom line. That’s a drop in the bucket, but it’s also probably underestimating the true impact. I’m guessing that this math is what convinced Southwest it didn’t need to pursue this sooner.

It’s a relief to see Southwest finally come around to the reality that GDS participation is a good thing. Agents will be happy, and it should also make it easier for Southwest to expand into markets where it doesn’t have a dominant presence. Finally.

August 19, 2019 at 01:45PM Source:

Bidding is Open for the Cranky Dorkfest LAX Pr…

Bidding is Open for the Cranky Dorkfest LAX Progressive Terminal Dinner:

I mentioned before that I was trying to put together a small event in the evening right after Cranky Dorkfest on September 7. I’m pleased to report that it has come together quite nicely.

Ten of you will join me behind security on a progressive dinner through LAX starting in Terminal 7 and ending in the Bradley Terminal. United and American have planned some special surprises along the way. To make it even better, half of all net proceeds will be donated to the Flight Path Museum at LAX.

If you’ve read all the details below and are ready to bid, you can do it below or click here. Otherwise, read on below the form for details…

Here’s the current plan which is subject to change if required:

  • Terminal 7 – Arrive by 4:15pm for a visit to United’s LAX operations center followed by a drink in the United Polaris Lounge (courtesy of United)
  • Terminal 6 – An appetizer at a restaurant or lounge to be determined
  • Terminal 5 – Main course and one drink at a restaurant to be determined
  • Terminal 4 – Tour of American’s Admirals Club, Flagship Lounge, and Flagship Dining Room followed by dessert in the American Flagship Lounge conference room overlooking the ramp (courtesy of American)
  • Bradley Terminal (TBIT) – After-dinner drink at a bar to be determined

We’ll spent 1 to 1.5 hours at each stop, so it will wrap up between 10 and 11.
We will all walk together to make sure we keep everything running on time. Oh, and everything mentioned above is included in your bid. What’s not included? If you want more drinks or more food, that’s on you. If you drive, parking is extra at the regular LAX rates.

Since there are so few spots, I’m running this as an auction with half of the net proceeds going to the Flight Path Museum at LAX. Bids are open now and they start at $150, though I’m hopeful it will go up quickly from there so I can write the Flight Path a nice check.

Bidding will remain open until Wednesday, August 21 at 5pm PT. The 10 highest bids will be chosen, and at that point, a link will be sent to each winner to request payment. Payment has to be received by Monday, August 26 or the spot will be given to the next person on the list.

If you’d like to follow along and see how things stand, you can do it here. Or the current top ten is embedded below. Keep refreshing the page to see the updated list.

If you bid and see that you’ve been bumped off, you can either go back to your existing bid and revise it or you can just submit a new bid with the same email address. You can bid as many times as you’d like, but each bidder can only win one spot. No guests are allowed, so if you’re a couple, bid separately.

This is going to be one fun event. I’m looking forward to finding out who will be joining me and to seeing how much we can raise for the Flight Path. Get your bids in before 5pm PT on August 21 for your chance to join the party.

Bid now!

August 16, 2019 at 01:45PM Source:

FAA Seeks Stakeholder Input on Drone Tests

FAA Seeks Stakeholder Input on Drone Tests:

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a Request for Information (RFI) this week seeking to work with stakeholders on the administration of a new aeronautical knowledge test for recreational drone operators.

Section 349 of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 requires new conditions to operate recreational small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). Many drones can be flown today with minimal training or knowledge of aviation rules or safety practices. The new statute is an opportunity to educate recreational flyers on UAS safety and to bring new flyers into the existing aviation safety culture.

The law requires that flyers of recreational drones pass an aeronautical knowledge and safety test. The test will demonstrate a recreational flyers understanding of aeronautical safety knowledge and rules for operating a UAS.

The FAA is developing the test content and the training in consultation with stakeholders. The test must be administered electronically by the FAA, community-based organizations, or other persons designated by the FAA. The FAAs objective is to work with third party entities to allow them to administer the knowledge training and test content on various platforms for the recreational flyer community.

The FAA is looking for entities who want to become testing designees, who will administer the training and testing to the widest audience possible, and who will develop a standard electronic record that will be issued to the potential operator upon completion of the test. The entity will provide the potential drone operator with documentation that they passed the test, which may be requested by the FAA or local law enforcement.

Interested parties should review the RFI and respond by September 12, 2019.

August 15, 2019 at 10:08PM News and Updates

Is the SFO Water Bottle Ban the Right Move?

Is the SFO Water Bottle Ban the Right Move?:

A SFO-branded reusable water bottle.

A SFO-branded reusable water bottle. This is probably a good enough reason to never use a plastic water bottle again. – Photo: AirlineReporter

First off, let’s be clear, I like the environment and want to not only do my part to make sure we have a nice little planet to live on, but also to motivate others. However, the plastic water bottle sales ban at the San Francisco International Airport (SFO), taking effect on August 20th, got me thinking. Do these sorts of changes work as well in a “trapped” world, like an airport? I say that since people in an airport do not have as much choice… they mostly can only pick among the options given to them on the airside (after security).

Over the years, airports have grown the choices airside by leaps and bounds. Heck, many airports are more like shopping malls than an airports. But in the end, you are limited. If your local grocery store decides to no longer sell a product and it is super important to you… cool, just go down the street to the next one. At the airport, that is going to be a bit more of an ordeal.

My paper straw that I got to try while flying through SFO last - Photo: David Parker Brown

My paper straw that I got to try while flying through SFO last time – Photo: David Parker Brown

I will say that I was shocked by some of the numbers. On average, SFO sells about 10,000 plastic water bottles per day, and that equals 3,650,000 per year. No question that is A LOT of plastic and even if they are all recycled (saying they are being recycled), it is not a good thing for the environment. It actually makes me pretty sad so many people do not bring their own reusable bottles (my fiancé brings one for both of us and is always reminding me to hydrate). Conversely, that high number of bottles also shows there is A LOT of demand from people to drink water in plastic bottles. Is it fair to require passengers to use other options?

Sure, sure, getting a reusable plastic bottle is not that much to ask, and the airport is providing some other good options, including water in other packaging (like aluminum and glass). But how expensive will those be and how will that impact a family of four on a fixed budget? Will passengers accept the change? Should there be some line of convenience vs doing what’s right, and is this new policy crossing it? Honestly, I don’t know the answers. But let me share with you some of my thoughts and I hope that we have a good conversation in the comments…

Terminal 3 food court - Photo: SFO

Terminal 3 food court – Photo: SFO

First, here is the official write up from the airport:

Airport tenants, vendors, and permittees may not provide or sell bottled water in containers that contain plastic or aseptic paper packaging, including in vending machines. Reusable water bottles, recyclable aluminum, glass and certified compostable water bottles can instead be provided or sold.

Bottled water is defined as drinking water in a sealed box, bag, can, bottle, or other container intended primarily for single-service use and having a capacity of one liter or less.  Drinking water includes purified water, mineral water, carbonated or sparkling water, and electrolyte-enhanced water.

SFO offers plenty of hydration stations - Image: SFO

SFO offers plenty of hydration stations – Image: SFO

SFO has been making positive strides forward with going green this year, and a big cheers to them. Back in March, they started encouraging vendors to use reusable food service ware, and can only give customers one-use items if they are certified compostable (i.e. made with paper, wood, or bamboo). During my recent flight through SFO, I was able to try out some of these and I will say I am not a huge fan of using a paper straw. I actually rather use no straw vs paper, and I guess that is probably the point! I do not think it is that much of a sacrifice for the greater good and I am guessing that most passengers will not even notice or care.

Approved water options that vendors can use after the ban goes into effect - Image: SFO

Approved water options that vendors can use after the ban goes into effect – Image: SFO

I will say when I was first looking into this, I wasn’t the biggest fan. People are going to notice the change and might care about 10,000 times per day. However, after seeing that SFO is not planning to leave passengers high and dry (man, I love puns), this might not be that bad of a transition and maybe they can pull it off without frustrating too many people. The list above are all the approved water products that vendors can offer — and there are a lot. You will see that they are either made of aluminum or glass. The airport also offers plenty of hydration stations (ie places where you can fill up your own bottle quickly), but hopefully there will be enough with the increased demand. 

Maybe part of my hesitation is just being a grumpy old man saying “get off my lawn” (at the age of 38) and having a hard time with change. I am not trying to be that person. I really hope that this ends up working and makes a positive impact with the reduction of plastic. I just know that flying is a pretty stressful experience for most people (even AvGeeks) and trying to get water shouldn’t add to the stress. At the same time, the vendors will also need to make sure the new options remain cost effective. I was told that if the water bottle change is successful, the airport will be looking to also replace other drinks in plastic bottles like soda, teas, and juices (saying options for those products in different containers improve). I truly hope this transition is a success and can spread to other airports. Until then, I will optimistically watch from the sidelines.

What are your thoughts? Do you think this will make too much of a negative impact for travelers or is this all worth the sacrifice for Mother Earth? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

The post Is the SFO Water Bottle Ban the Right Move? appeared first on AirlineReporter.

August 15, 2019 at 08:56PM Source:

The Folly of San Bernardino International Airp…

The Folly of San Bernardino International Airport (Part 2):

If you missed it, yesterday The Cardinal returned to guest post about San Bernardino International Airport and the scandal that led to its commercial terminal being built… and completely unused. Today, he looks into why that is.

At best it seems the San Bernardino International Airport (SBD) commercial terminal was built by people driven by willful wishful thinking. But still, it’s there, it’s ready to go, and any airline will get a heck of a deal. Terminal and landing fees are rock bottom relative to most big airports. A lot of people live near SBD. Put a 25 mile radius circle around the airport, there are 2.7mm people. Put a 50 mile radius circle around it, there are 9mm people. So why hasn’t SBD attracted an airline?

There are problems. While the Inland Empire is booming, the
city of San Bernardino is troubled. 40-50 years ago, it was prosperous – dubbed
an All-American city, it was the place where such American icons as McDonalds
and Taco Bell got their start and the first city you came to on Route 66 after
descending the Cajon Pass into the LA Basin. Today, it’s one of the poorest
cities in Southern California and the San Bernardino brand name isn’t so great
for potential passengers in the LA Basin. Ironically, part of the problem was
the 1994 shutdown of Norton AFB (today’s SBD), which at one time supported a
population (including dependents) of as
many as 22,000 people
. The poverty in the city also means that many of
those who live closest have the least wherewithal to afford air travel.

But the bigger issue is that eccentric development had serious consequences, because the terminal is about as badly located as it could be.

A quick look at a map shows the problem – the commercial terminal is in the center of the rectangle formed by the freeways around SBD – I-215 to the west, I-10 along the south, and CA-210 on the north and east. The SBD terminal is essentially as far as it is possible to be from the freeways, the Southern California circulatory system. Yeah, that’s really dumb, because air travel is in significant part about convenience, and end-to-end travel time matters greatly. Before they fly, passengers need to get to the airport, and after they land, they need to get from airport to home. The shorter that journey, the better.

I-10 is the main east-west freeway through the LA basin, and from I-10 to SBD, the relevant road is Tippecanoe. From the I-10 eastbound exit onto Tippecanoe to the SBD terminal, there are 14 traffic lights and a railroad crossing totaling 15 opportunities to stop on the way to the airport after you exit the freeway. Tippecanoe is surrounded by warehouses, including a gigantic complex for the Stater Bros supermarket chain. So there are trucks everywhere and next to the freeway there’s also a Costco, motels and other traffic generators. Tippecanoe is hardly an empty free-wheeling boulevard down which to dash.

It’s little better from the other freeways. Coming eastbound
along CA-210 to the north, it’s 12 traffic lights before the terminal. Coming
northbound along CA-210 to the east, it’s 11 traffic lights. Coming southbound
along I-215 to the west, it’s 16 traffic lights and a railroad crossing. However
you try to get to SBD from a freeway, Google Maps says it’s 3-4 miles and about
a 9 or 10 min drive from the freeway – and that’s at times of the day without
congestion. That is a lot of street driving through a city with an iffy

By comparison, going westbound along I-10 to ONT, it’s only
four traffic lights from the ONT exit to the ONT terminals – only three minutes
and less than a mile according to Google. Once you get to the ONT I-10 exit,
you’re more-or-less there because ONT is immediately to the south. ONT may be
underserved, but it’s not for lack of access.

Whiffing on the one
good terminal location

To be fair, access to SBD was always going to be challenging
because the Santa Ana River runs along the south edge of the airport, and
there’s a decent distance between the Santa Ana and I-10. The Santa Ana is dry
most of the year, but the river and its “washes” (low lying areas into which it
occasionally floods) are environmentally sensitive. So development to the south
of the airport is tough, even though that’s where you’d want a terminal to be
if you want access to I-10. Indeed, the primacy of access to I-10 was once well
understood – in 1980, while Norton AFB was still in operation, a developer
wanted to build a commercial
terminal at Tippecanoe and I-10
. The Air Force pushed back on this idea to
protect the base – only to have it selected for shutdown in 1988.

There is one exception, however. At the western side of the southern edge of the airport is a warehouse complex immediately adjacent to the runway, most of it occupied by two Amazon buildings. This was constructed starting in 2008-2009. Prior to that, the land was vacant. Actually, back in the Air Force days, it was the base’s 18-hole golf course. Apparently it was important to have a place to relax after a busy day shipping draftees to Vietnam.

This location was, by far, the best possible site for an SBD commercial terminal. The location is a four-minute drive from I-10 along Tippecanoe and involves six traffic lights (and the railroad crossing). It’s even faster from I-10 via the Mountain View exit, but access to the Amazon site from I-10 via Mountain View was actually built as part of the Amazon warehouse project; it didn’t exist in 2008. Nonetheless, that site was still by far the best place for a passenger terminal at SBD in terms of access, and when SBIAA/IVDA started thinking about a commercial service in the early-to-mid 2000s, that land was still vacant.

No doubt Amazon also appreciates being close to I-10, but
boxes don’t mind traffic lights and trucks and warehouses and a few extra miles
nearly as much as does human cargo. The site SBD actually used for a terminal
is surrounded by warehouses, so clearly it was at least within the realm of the
possible to have used today’s commercial terminal location for warehouses and
use the Amazon site for a terminal. Indeed, an air cargo base is being
developed for the north side of SBD for what
everyone assumes is Amazon
. Woulda shoulda coulda. Oh well.

Though it still leaves the question as to whether SBD would ever attract commercial service even if it had good access. But to the extent it does, being close to a freeway is a big factor. “Build it and they will come” is a dangerous proposition, but if you build it where access is easy, you’re certainly better off than building it where access is hard. If they can’t find it, they certainly won’t come.

I tend to believe that as LAX and Orange County (SNA) run out of capacity and/or become more expensive, and as Southern California freeways become ever more congested, alternative airports like ONT and SBD will have their day. But for sure that day will come faster if passenger terminals at such airports are easy to access. ONT is in good shape, but stashing the SBD terminal as far from the freeways as possible was the worst thing the SBIAA could have done in that regard. Eight years of vacant terminal baking in the sun is proof, and there’s every chance it will continue to bake, vacant, for years to come, notwithstanding the bargain rates an airline would get at SBD.

Can anything be done?

It would take major investment to improve access to the
current SBD terminal – to eliminate traffic lights (perhaps some kind of
one-way system?), to increase speed limits, etc. It’s not hard to imagine that
in the end it might cost more than re-locating the terminal elsewhere and turning
over the existing space for more warehouses. It seems pretty unlikely that a
limited-access road (i.e. mini freeway) could be built to the existing terminal
from I-10, and that’s really what is needed to properly address the issue.

But the aforementioned problems with the Santa Ana River
likely make another location a heavy lift. Assuming you could wave a magic wand
and eliminate possible environmental issues, perhaps a site south of the runway at the
east end
, near/next to CA-210 might result in the best access, since in
theory it could be immediately adjacent to a freeway, even if is further away
from the vast bulk of the LA Basin (and Inland Empire) population to the west.
Trading off a few more miles for direct freeway access might be worth it.

And if that’s not possible, then the next best place may be to the north and east of
the runway
, again as close to I-210 as possible, along 3rd St.
But these are at best second-and-third best solutions relative to the one that
the airport foreclosed when they whiffed on the location now occupied by
Amazon, and built, instead, on what is almost certainly the worst location.

It turns out that when you empower people who have no idea what they’re doing, bad outcomes can ensue, even if that’s not their intent. What happened at San Bernardino might not have been criminal, but it was surely a mistake. Eight years of vacant terminal has already shown that.

If you missed the first part of this story, you can find it here.

August 15, 2019 at 01:45PM Source:

The Folly of San Bernardino International Airp…

The Folly of San Bernardino International Airport (Part 1):

Long time readers of the blog may remember reading guests posts written by The Cardinal. He has a long history in the airline industry and has always remained anonymous here, but his guest posts stopped back in 2011. I’m happy to report that The Cardinal is back, and I have a two-parter for you. Today he looks at the bizarre history of San Bernardino International Airport. Tomorrow he identifies the current problems and ponders what can be done to fix them.

and San Bernardino Counties
comprise California’s Inland Empire, two giant inland counties behind Los
Angeles and Orange County on the coast. San Bernardino County is physically
enormous, twice the area of the next largest US county, larger than nine US
states and many countries (e.g. Switzerland or the Netherlands). Riverside is
smaller, but still the sixth largest by area in the US. If you’ve ever driven
from LA to Vegas, almost 200
miles of the trip is in San Bernardino County
, from the time you leave LA
County near Pomona, up the Cajon Pass, through desert cities like Victorville,
Barstow and Baker, and until you come down the hill to Primm, Nevada.

Both counties extend over vast stretches of desert to the Arizona border, but near Los Angeles they are densely populated with 2.5 mm people in Riverside and 2.2mm in San Bernardino. That makes them the 10th and 14th largest counties in the US by population. Each county lies in the LA Combined Statistical Area (CSA) — the broadest view of metro area by the US Census Bureau which also incorporates Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura Counties — comprising almost 19mm people, the second largest in the US after the New York CSA. Despite their heft, the Inland Empire counties are relatively poor compared to their coastal counterparts in the LA CSA.

Despite its over 4.6mm people, the Inland Empire has only two airports with commercial service – Ontario (ONT) and Palm Springs (PSP). PSP is in the Coachella Valley which has as many as 0.5mm people located outside the LA Basin. So over 4mm people in the Inland Empire use ONT for air service – or drive, as many do, an hour or two or more (depending on traffic) to coastal LA-area airports like LA Intl (LAX) or Orange County (SNA). It’s not hard to make the case that the Inland Empire is starved for air service. ONT passengers in 2018 were down substantially relative to 1998, despite 30%+ Inland Empire population growth over the same period.

A complete Inland Empire passenger terminal, unwanted, unused – why?

Against this backdrop, consider San Bernardino International Airport (SBD), located in the city of San Bernardino towards the back of the LA Basin. SBD is the former Norton AFB (many US soldiers departed to Vietnam from Norton) and holds certification from the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) to operate as a commercial passenger airport.

If you zoom Google
satellite view to the northeast corner of SBD, you will find, baking
in the sun, a passenger terminal complex, with check-in desks, baggage systems
and jetway gates on a second floor, up escalators. There are 2,500 parking
spaces. There are elaborate driveways in-and-out of the terminal, ample space
to pick up and let-down passengers from cars and buses. It’s all empty and has
been since it was completed in 2011. Don’t forget the separate one-gate
international terminal. Over $100mm was spent on this vacant complex. Why is it
there and why is no airline interested?

A bizarre development

As a former military base, SBD had Federal money to convert
it to civilian purposes. In the mid 2000s, the agencies in charge, the SBIAA
(San Bernardino Intl Airport Authority) and the IVDA (Inland Valley Development
Agency), got into bed with a man named Scot Spencer. Scot Spencer is a
convicted felon, who spent years in Federal prison for bankruptcy fraud
connected to the third incarnation of Braniff. The
Federal trial judge not only found him criminal but also incompetent. There’s
more. After serving his time he tried selling charter flights and was lifetime banned
from operating an airline after the US Dept of Transportation determined he was
offering such services without proper authority. For good measure they fined
him $1mm. Articles
paint Spencer as inept and unqualified, but with a serious attraction to aviation.
It’s like an airline nerd went to extreme, even criminal, lengths to get and
stay in aviation rather than cope with their addiction by participating in the civil aviation forum.

Spencer was the man entrusted by SBIAA/IVDA with developing
a commercial terminal and other facilities at SBD. Why Spencer? Well, the airport
noted that while the DOT banned him from operating an airline, he was not
banned from operating or developing an airport. And Scot promised what others
would not – that such a terminal would land commercial service. And he offered
to do the job cheap. The estimate was $104mm. He offered to do it for $38mm. Of
course, by the time he was done, it actually cost over $100mm, but that was to

Reading reports about the debacle, you get the sense SBD and
Spencer were made for each other. Scot painted a rosy vision of SBD success (almost
a million enplanements by 2009
!) and the SBIAA really wanted to believe. In
return, SBIAA gave Scot what he wanted – a chance to be a commercial aviation
player. Despite no relevant experience, he got to develop a commercial terminal,
with all the trimmings. Over time, the SBIAA gave Spencer the keys to the
kingdom through a series of no-bid contracts to develop an FBO (and sell the
jet fuel at the airport) and even, ultimately, to run the airport. Oversight
was minimal, and serial cost increases covered without pushback.

Ultimately, it all came crashing down. The incongruity of Spencer’s increasing power on top of overspending resulted in a grand jury investigation, out of which came a damning 2011 audit report flaying Spencer and IVDA/SBIAA. Later that year, the FBI raided the airport and Spencer’s home. SBIAA management was changed out, and Spencer was ejected from his roles. In 2013, Scot Spencer was indicted by the Feds for activities at SBD.

The wheels of justice turn slowly but in this case without result. In 2018, Spencer’s charges were almost completely dropped. No one went to jail or was fined or otherwise faced criminal sanction, other than having to endure a long legal process. There’s little question the SBIAA/IVDA was grossly negligent to entrust SBD fortunes to Scot Spencer. But the Feds were unable to prove malice on Spencer’s part, or anyone else. And while the audits showed rampant failure to adhere to best practices on the part of Spencer or the SBIAA/IVDA, turns out that however cavalier they were with public money, it didn’t rise to the level of criminality, at least not within the ability of the Feds to prove. It’s not against the law to be stupid the way they were, though maybe it should be.

Scot Spencer is no longer involved with the airport, but the terminal is still sitting there completely unused. But why? The Cardinal will tackle that tomorrow.

August 13, 2019 at 01:45PM Source: