Alaska Airlines "Salmon-Thirty-Salmon." Photo by Alaska Airlines
I am starting to see these virtual helpers more and more on company websites. I have seen Jenn on Alaska Airline’s site for a while now, but never took the time to get to know her. Recently, I couldn’t sleep and got bored and decided to see how she was doing.
Jenn is not a real person, but she was programmed by real people, who obviously have a sense of humor. These are all real questions and real answers I got from Jenn:
You Asked: Hello Jenn!
You Asked: How are you today?
Jenn: I’m fine thanks.
You Asked: What’s your job?
Jenn: I’m not human, but rather a virtual assistant, here to help you navigate our Web site.
You Asked: How much do you get paid?
Jenn: No one has to pay me to provide genuine and caring service to our valued customers!
You Asked: How old are you?
Jenn: I am rather young, or as we say in the virtual world – new. But I like to think I have the experience of someone much older. How can I help you?
You Asked: Where were you born?
Jenn: I like to think I was born in remote Alaska. That’s a lot more interesting than being born in a computer. How can I help you?
You Asked: When’s your birthday?
Jenn: Thanks for asking! My launch date, or what you humans call a birthday, was February 7th, 2008.
You Asked: Do you like working at Alaska?
Jenn: I love it!
You Asked: What’s your favorite airline?
Jenn: My favorite airlines are Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air!
You Asked: Are the Seahawks going to win this year?
Jenn: I leave sports to you in the non-virtual world. But I am amazed by the human and canine athletes of the Iditarod.
You Asked: What’s your favorite food?
Jenn: I love to eat Copper River Salmon – naturally!
You Asked: Do you have any pets?
Jenn: The only pet I have is a dog named Denali. He’s a husky!
You Asked: What’s you favorite color?
Jenn: I am partial to the clean white and rich blue color of Alaska Airlines. However, I’m not a big fan of Alaska’s teal color. But that will be our secret. How can I help?
You Asked: How tall are you?
Jenn: Being virtual, I have no height or weight. How can I help you?
You Asked: Who will you vote for in 2012?
Jenn: Fortunately, we don’t have to worry about politics in the virtual world.
You Asked: Are you married?
Jenn: I am not married, but you never know what my inventors are working on now.
You Asked: Do you want kids?
Jenn: I would like to have children someday.
You Asked: Do you want to go on a date?
Jenn: Being that I’m virtual, I don’t date.
(good thing, my girlfriend probably wouldn’t approve)
You Asked: What’s your favorite drink?
Jenn: I love a good cup of coffee. My developers must have been hooked on the stuff.
You Asked: What kind of car do you drive?
Jenn: I don’t own a car. Why drive when you can fly?
You Asked: You are funny
Jenn: What else can I help you with?
You Asked: Thanks for your time
Jenn: You’re welcome.
You Asked: Goodbye
Yes, Jenn can provide an entertaining conversation, but she is also a lot more friendly than a lifeless FAQ. When asking her real, airline-related questions, she did do a good job at pointing me in the correct direction. Most people on the website just need simple questions to be answered and having a virtual assistant will have an up front cost, but much more cost effective than paying folks to have live chat (and she will never complain about her hours).
It is kind of disturbing she won’t talk politics or sports and doesn’t want to go on a date, but she is pretty certain she wants kids some day. If she won’t date and doesn’t have a car, she might have a hard time finding someone to make said kids.
Allegiant Air has been very successful over the last few years. They fly a fleet of about 45 older MD-80’s (their average age is about 20yrs), but they fly to smaller airports around the country and concentrate more on leisure passengers than business. Allegiant Air has been around since 1998 and currently fly to over 70 destinations.
Ben Mutzabaugh, who writes Today in the Sky for USA Today, was able to sit down with Allegiant’s CEO Maruice Gallagher for a unique inside look of the airline and its future. Be sure to check out his multi-part interview:
Q&A Part I: Fliers may not like them, but will they pay them?
Q&A Part II: A la carte fees have been a ‘revelation’ for U.S. airline industry
Q&A Part III: ‘We’re not ruling anything out’ on Orlando airport switch; AirTran competition
Q&A Part IV: Allegiant Air CEO discusses Hawaii, MD-80 fleet
connect | web | twitter | facebook |
View of a crashpad in New York
A lot of people in the in the business will know what a “crashpad” is, but most on the outside might have no idea. If you envision flight attendants and pilots travelling around the world staying at the best hotels, you would might be surprised to learn that most of the time they are staying at a crashpad.
So what is an airline crashpad? As it might sound, it is a place where airline employees can stay cheaply. A lot of crew do not live where they are based. For example, in this interview, Shelby lives in Texas, but it based out of New York. This means she must make the commute from DFW to LGA and have a cheap place to “crash” while waiting for her next flight. Depending on the type of crashpad, people can have their own bed and space. Others share a bed and having almost no private space.
To learn more, I interviewed Shelby (be sure to check out her blog), who works for a major US airlines. She has been working as a flight attendant since 2001. Here is our interview:
AirlineReporter: Who stays at crashpads?
Shelby:Our Crashpad is not only shared by pilots from all airlines, flight attendants from all airlines, but also with air marshals,& maintenance folks that have been displaced by their airlines. Thank goodness we are NOT all here at the same time!
AR: How big is your crashpad?
S:My crashpad has 6 Bedrooms & four bathrooms for approximately 25 people. I’m lucky, in the “Girls Room” (we call
Picture of the laptops. "Seriously, we can't live without them"
it the “Presidential Suite”) there are only two of us & we have our own bathroom. I share with a First Officer. She and I both work for the same airline, which is nice, we speak the same airline language. We are rarely here at the same time, which means 90% of the time, I have the place to myself.
AR: Do you have to pay to use them?
S:Oh yes, you have to pay, the “Owners” of the crashpads actually prefer it! I pay $250.00 for my crashpad and this is considered a high amount to most folks I speak to. For this price I get, my own bed, Wi-Fi, Cable, maid service, and use of all the common areas (living room, kitchen, deck, back yard & grill)
AR: Do you like your crashpad?
S:I like my CrashPad, I am within walking distance to LGA,;it takes approximately 11 minutes from my front door to my airline operations. There are way better neighborhoods for crashpads here in New York, like Kew Gardens, which is pretty much like crew crashpad headquarters; it’s half way between LGA & JFK and a preferred area, however this means every time you fly in or out, it is a bus or taxi ride.
AR: For example, how much will you be at your crashpad this month?
S:This month I fly LGA to MIA for 3 days straight returning to the crashpad every night, so for August, I will stay in my crashpad 12 days. It is nice to know, when I return I know that my bed will be waiting for me!
AR: Are there any short-term type crashpads?
S: Yes, they are called ’œhot beds’, meaning, they are 1st come 1st serve. They can run anywhere from $20.00 per night to $175.00 per month! When they arrive they have to find a bed, make up their bed, and crawl in, all the while trying not to wake up the others sleeping around them. This is one reason I pay more. After a long day, I like knowing that I have my bed, with my sheets, in my room to crawl into.
The nicely kept shared kitchen needs to stay clean!
AR: Which was your favorite crashpad?
S: When I was based in Chicago, we stayed at the DoubleTree Suites. We had seven flight attendants that shared one suite! The hotel had a nice Gym, Pool, Happy Hour, Free Breakfast ’¦oh and the Double Tree COOKIES!!! (which is why we needed the gym).
AR: Which was your least favorite?
S: Was when I was a new hire, all the classmates that I graduated with piled into a cheap nasty hotel… 10 of us 2 beds. ’œ Are you Serious??’ I stayed 4 hours & left!
AR: With all those people sharing a shower, how do you work it out?
S:Since I’m lucky now & only share with one, it is not an issue. Most crash pads have signup sheets for “Shower Time”, based on what time you fly the next day. Trust me, you know your fellow crashpad
buddies. You do a lot of things in the dark & a lot of tip-toeing is going on in the wee hours of the morning.
Some other questions that some fine followers of Shelby on Twitter asked:
Who does the dishes?
If you want to make your fellow crashpaders angry, don’t clean up after yourself. You will be asked to leave ASAP! You do your own dishes!!
Who washes your sheets?
Well, If you stay at a hotel crashpad, they are usually done for you. If you live in a single family home, hopefully the owner of the crashpad has a washer & dryer and they let you use it. We don’t have
one here at our crashpad. Thank goodness we have lots of Laundromats, in our neighborhood.
Who puts the CrashPads together?
My CrashPad is run by a New York Cop! A lot of pilots & flight attendants run their own crashpads, I believe, out of years of frustration! There is this one crashpad here in New York that is affectionately called the “Sticky-Note” crashpad, because the owner is constantly putting up Sticky Notes on what NOT to do, I mean they are everywhere!
Thank you Shelby for the interview and if any of you have any additional questions, let me know and I will ask her!
Mark and his wife on an AirTran Boeing 737's wing.
I wrote about Mark being on AirTran for 30 days near the begining of the his journey and wanted to catch up with him at the end of his long journey. He was able to connect while over Ohio to answer some questions I had for him:
TheAirlineBlog.com: Where are you right now (“in an airplane won’t cut it” 🙂 )?
Mark Malkoff: I’M IN THE AIR USING GOGO WIFI HEADING TO CANTON, OHIO FOR A TAILGATING PARTY ON THE TARMAC. I’M HANGING WITH THE PRO FOOTBALL HOF AND HOF LEGEND ANTHONY MUNOZ.
TAB: What is your favorite picture taken during this whole experience ?
MM: I REALLY, REALLY LIKE THE PHOTOS OF MY WIFE AND I HAVING OUR ANNIVERSARY DINNER ON THE WING OF A PLANE. AIRTRAN SET IT UP AND CATERED THE MEAL. IT WAS QUITE INCREDIBLE.
TAB: Tell me a little bit about the person sitting next to you right now.
MM: THE PERSON CURRENTLY SITTING NEXT TO ME IS MY CAMERA PERSON. HE MOST LIKELY SMELLS BETTER BECAUSE HE GETS TO SLEEP IN A HOTEL A NIGHT THAT HAS A SHOWER WHERE AS I SLEEP ALONE ON THE PLANE AND HAVE TO USE BABYWIPES IN THE AIRPLANE BATHROOM.
TAB: Who is the most interesting person you have met on this experience?
MM: IT WAS FUN SITTING NEXT TO FOOTBALL HOF LEGEND FRANCO HARRIS ON A FLIGHT TO PITTSBURGH. I LATER FOUND OUT THEY HAVE A STATUE OF HIM IN THE PITTSBURGH AIRPORT. WE TALKED THE ENTIRE FLIGHT AND HE EVEN TAPED A VIDEO WITH ME. I SHOULD ALSO MENTION THE FLIGHT ATTENDANTS ARE ALWAYS GOOD TO TALK TO. THE STORIES THEY HAVE ARE ENDLESSLY ENTERTAINING.
TAB: What is the most interesting conversation you have had?
MM: FOR ME PERSONALLY IT WAS TALKING TO THE PILOTS ONE ON ONE. THEY REALLY BROKE DOWN MY FEAR OF FLYING INTO TERMS THAT HAVE FOR THE MOST PART CURED MY ANXIETY. MY MAIN ISSUE WAS TURBULENCE. ALL OF THEM SAID THE SAME KIND OF THING, “IT’S LIKE BEING IN AN OCEAN AND GOING OVER A WAKE. IT’S LIKE DRIVING OVER GRAVEL.” SO WHENEVER TURBULENCE HITS I DON’T LIKE IT, BUT I’M ABLE TO TOLERATE IT.
TAB: Do you prefer the Boeing 737 or the Boeing 717?
MM: I LIKE THE 737.
TAB: Will you ever eat pretzels ever again?
MM: I’VE CONSUMED MY WEIGHT IN PRETZELS. I THINK I MIGHT TAKE A FEW YEARS OFF FROM EATING THEM.
TAB: At this point do you have the SkyMall magazine memorized? Off the top of your head describe the Litter Robot (no cheating).
MM: I HAVE ALMOST THE ENTIRE SKYMALL CATALOG MEMORIZED. THE LITTER ROBOT I’M FAIRLY CERTAIN IS WHAT I REFER TO AS THE CAT SPACESHIP. IT WAS DEVELOPED BY NASA TO SEND CATS INTO SPACE WHERE THEY CAN NAP IN ZERO GRAVITY.
TAB: What is your favorite airline related joke?
MM: IT’S A BAD JOKE BUT MY DAD HAS BEEN TELLING PEOPLE THAT MY CAREER IS “TAKING OFF”.
TAB: This is not your first stunt like this; you lived in Ikea, lived in a Boeing, what’s next?
MM: NEXT IS A THIRTY DAY PROJECT WHERE I SLEEP IN A BED IN MY APARTMENT. I’M GUESSING IT WON’T BE AS INTERESTING.
Pretty amazing journey Mark has had over the last 30 days.
This starts a new series where I will be interviewing people from different aspects of the airline industry. From pilots, to baggage handlers, to airline executives. If you have someone you would like to suggest for an interview or if you would be willing to be interviewed yourself, let me know!
Kras Air Tupolev Tu-154M RA-85702 is climbing into a surrealistic sky.
When creating each blog I try to find a picture that corresponds with the story. Sometimes this is an easy 10 second task, but most times it takes me a bit longer to find a picture I really enjoy and that fits well. A great number of times I end up wanting to use one Photographer, Thomas Becker through Flickr. I emailed him a few questions and here are his answers:
The Airline Blog: How does the airline photography business work?
Thomas Becker: For me it is no business. I am doing aviation photography and post processing as a hobby. If there was a chance to earn money with it, I would definitely take it!
TAB: What types of clients do you get?
TB: From time to time I get asked by different organizations or companies, if I am willing to allow them to use one or more of my photos. Up to now there was no “paid” contract.
TAB: How do you get the type of access you need to take great photos?
TB: Almost all of my photos were taken at Frankfurt Airport (FRA/EDDF). Fraport is offering a limited number of good photo positions for spotters. There is no need to get special access to restricted areas to get good shots.
TAB: What is your favorite airplane to photograph? What is your favorite airline?
TB: My favorite airplane is the Tupolev Tu-154 which is no longer in service to Frankfurt. The 747 is great, too, as this aircraft still is the most elegant in the sky. From a photographic point of view, S7 Airlines is my favorite one as they really stand out with their green livery followed by Vietnam Airlines with their beautiful deep blue and yellow paint scheme.
TAB: What is your funniest, scariest, most bizarre, or most thought-provoking experience during a photo shoot?
TB: Every photographer is looking for “special” occasions he can shoot with his camera. A lot of them could easily be caught on video like aborted take-offs, go-arounds due to a blocked runway or a runway change shortly before touchdown.
So, for me as a photographer I am looking for unusual situations like funny faces during short finals, smoking landings (usually freighters…) and power-ups (you should see a 777 powering up her engines…) as well as rarely seen aircraft like military or private jets. The most bizarre experience was an aborted take-off of a B747 due to an engine failure – the complete runway length was necessary to stop as the decision to abort was taken almost at V1.
TAB: Do you keep up with the airline industry news? Anything on your mind?
TB: I am reading a number of magazines and blogs that cover the airline industry. Additionally I am discovering Twitter as an efficient source of information.
TAB: Why airline photography?
TB: When living near a large airport like Frankfurt and doing photography with semi-professional equipment, two things come together that lead to airline photography automatically. It´s a great activity that helps developing photographic skills as well as finding the right motives. And it´s fun! Aviation still is a very special way of transportation that fascinates a lot of people. I am one of them.
TAB: Do you see the airline industry differently through the lens of the camera?
TB: One thing adds to another – I was always interested in the airline industry, and that was fueled by starting aviation photography a few years ago. With my photography, I try to show the most beautiful sides of this industry.
TAB: Anything else you would like to share?
TB: Those who are interested in airline photography should invest into a DSLR camera and a good telezoom lens and
remember: the first 10,000 photos will be your worst! 😉
TAB: I have messed with my own pics on Flickr and it can be time consuming, how do you handle the thousands you have?
TB: I have built up a work-flow within Adobe Lightroom that works very well and minimizes the amount of manual work. I am using a 24″ iMac with an additional 24″ LCD. Within Lightroom two Plugins do the work in adding geotags into the EXIF data and exporting the photos to Flickr. Jeffrey Friedl has done a great work in developing these Plugins – the latest version is able to add photos to the Flickr groups/pools upfront, so A LOT of manual work is no longer necessary.
For me tagging, geotagging and machine tags are very important as the number of photos I have posted is several thousands now. You will find my photos in a number of groups – I personally run 23 of them like “Airplanes: Nose Shots” or “Aircraft with Names”.
Flickr is so great that I cannot remember anything in my “computerized” life (that started back then in 1982 with a Commodore 64) that had a similar impact on my free time…
Please feel free to check out Thomas’ other pictures on his Flickr account.