Browsing Tag: Opinion

Is this plane going to the US? No printer cartridges allowed -- gotta protect America.

Is this plane going to the US? TSA says no printer cartridges allowed -- gotta protect America.

I am angry and frustrated at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) right now. In classic form they have once again over-reacted in an idiotic fashion. I am not saying the recent mailing of bombs in printer cartridges across the world is not serious, but it demands real solutions, not knee-jerk reactions.

In a statement released by the DHS, they state that they are banning all cargo from Yeman. Okay, this makes sense. It is not like we have a lot of imported goods coming from Yemen. However, they are also banning cargo from Somalia. I will give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they have some intelligence that we do not know about. The release also states, “No high risk cargo will be allowed on passenger aircraft.” Okay, so far I am actually with the TSA here. Banning dangerous cargo from certain places in the world until we can figure out the risk actually kind of makes sense.

When reading, I assumed we must be talking about dangerous things like explosives, flammable items and bombs right? Think again. In the next sentence they continue with, “Toner and ink cartridges over 16 ounces will be prohibited on passenger aircraft in both carry-on bags and checked bags on domestic and international flights in-bound to the United States.” Say what?

This is stupid. I hate to call anyone names, but there is just no other way to say it. This no-thought reaction actually makes me feel less safe. This is telling me that the TSA cannot detect a bomb no matter what form it takes. Do they think that terrorist will give up since they can’t figure out anything else to put bombs in? Please. Not that I think there are a heck of a lot of people carrying around large printer cartridges in their baggage, but what’s next?

Since the ban is sort of a shock, you might have missed the part where this is only for flights within and inbound to the United States. So, it is totally fine to fly with a printer cartridge on an airline departing the US, you just can’t bring any back. What sense does that make?

It is easy to ban printer cartridges since they are not common, but what if terrorists start using items that would be difficult to ban? Would the TSA start banning laptops or stuffed animals if terrorists start using them? I wish the TSA would stop wasting time and money with pointless security measures like this. They need to be honest with the public that there is no 100% solution and be smarter about bomb detection. The airline business has seen many good and horrid changes since 9/11. However, in the last nine years 0 Americans have died from terrorism on airlines. Compare that to the about 315,000 Americans who have died in automobile accidents over the same period of time. Some might say that scanning shoes and your toothpaste is related to those 0 deaths, but I say it has more to do with this not being the huge threat the TSA and the media like to play it up to be.

When I got word of this story a few days ago, I tried to contact two different TSA sources, but no one would contact me back (and I was not this snarky). The TSA is proud of their “Talk to the TSA” campaign, but I guess you can only talk to them about stuff they want to talk about. I have tried to get the TSA’s side to things, but they just don’t seem to want to talk, which is greatly disappointing to me. If you are not happy with the body scanners and their crazy knee-jerk reactions, I highly suggest you trying to talk to the TSA. If you get a reply, let me know.

US Airways CRJ-900 with United Airlines nose, operated by Mesa Airlines

US Airways CRJ-900 with United Airlines nose, operated by Mesa Airlines. Photo by Alastair T. Gardiner.

There are a lot of regional airlines out there. Most are independently operated and contracted out to larger carriers. In most cases, the regional carrier will wear the livery of the larger airline and flying under a capacity purchase agreement.

This relationship is well known to many of us airline nerds, but most of the general public might have a basic idea, but see them as the same airline.

Most regionals are flying just using a bigger airline’s brand. In many cases there are more than one regional airline flying under the same legacy airline’s brand. For example there are nine individual regional airlines currently flying under the same “United Express” brand. When most passengers see “United” or “United Express” they come to expect the same level of service, even if technically the same airline is not flying them.

For me, it is that brand the airline wears that makes all the difference. I have blogged about quite a few instances where employees of a regional airline screw up. When bad things happen with a regional airline, I question whether I should just blame the contracted airline or the legacy carrier whose name is on the side. In most cases I decide to point out that it is a regional airline, contracted out, but blame the legacy carrier.

I have had quite a few people disagree with me on this, even take offense. I can understand the frustration, but the legacy carrier has decided to put their name on the side of the regional carrier’s plane and people expect a certain level of service. The legacy airline’s name is on the ticket, reserved off their site and the employees wear their name tags. As you enter a regional plane, you might noticed the “Operated by ______”, but most people won’t. When the average Joe flies on a regional airline, they feel and expect it is just like them flying on the legacy carrier and I feel the legacy carrier is responsible for the service received.

United Exprees CRJ operated by Skywest Airlines.

United Express CRJ operated by Skywest Airlines.Photo by Paul Filmer

When an airline puts their name on something, it is putting their seal of approval for the way they do business. If a passenger has a horrible experience flying on US Airways Express operated by Mesa Airlines, do you think they will be say, “I am never flying Mesa Airlines again?” Of course not, they will blame it on the parent company, US Airways.

Some might think my opinion enforces most passengers’ ignorance to the differences between regionals and their legacy counterparts, but I feel it is important that the legacy airlines hold a lot of responsibility for the actions of employees wearing their uniforms and flying in their colors.

Let’s face it, the use of regional carriers is probably going to continue to grow. Personally, I enjoy the smaller aircraft experience, even when I know most passengers don’t. The reality is it is more cost effective to fly smaller planes and routes where you used to see Boeing 737’s or Airbus A320’s you are starting to see regional jets and props. Where most passengers complain about the smaller cabins, the regional airlines provide cheaper and service more often to more airports than their legacy carriers can accomplish.

Do you know what airline you will be flying on next time you are on a regional flight? I tried to create a list of smaller airlines that fly under the flag or legacy carriers and it wasn’t easy (let me know if I missed anything):

US Airways Express
* Air Wisconsin
* Mesa Airlines
– PSA Airlines
* Chautauqua Airlines
– Piedmont Airlines
* Republic Airlines
* Colgan Air
* Trans States Airlines

Delta Connection
* Atlantic Southest Airlines
– Comair
* Pinnacle Airlines
* Skywest
* Chautauqua Airlines
* Shuttle America
* Freedom Airlines
* Skywest Airlines

Continental Express
* Chautauqua Airlines
* ExpressJet

United Express
* Mesa Airlines
* Atlantic Southeast Airlines
* Chautauqua Airlines
* Republic Airlines
* Colgan Air
* Shuttle America
* GoJet
* Mesa Airlines
* TransStates Airlines
* Skywest
* ExpressJet

American Eagle
American Eagle
Executive Airlines

Note: Airlines in italics (with a “-” in front) are actually owned by the legacy’s parent company

I would like to hear your thoughts on this. How do you perceive regional’s relationship to legacy airlines? Should the airline business make more of a distinction?

Images (both used with permission):
USAirways by Alastair T. Gardiner
United by Paul Filmer
Thanks Court for your help!
UPDATE: Some readers have pointed out some regionals I missed under the legacy headers and I have updated them. Thanks!