Browsing Tag: Safety

Bunch of traffic at New York's JFK Airport.

Bunch of traffic at New York's JFK Airport.

Be careful what you ask for

I am sure you have heard on the news about passengers being stuck in planes for hours and hours with little food and water. Is that a fun experience? Heck no.

When I was a teenager I was stuck on the tarmac for over five hours and it was not a pleasant experience. However, after the five hours I got to fly home to my family. My flight was from Seattle, WA to Reno, NV and we had to be diverted to San Jose, CA due to poor weather. With the new rules going into affect in two days, I could have been stuck at an unfamiliar airport, with no family and no real money.

Over the past few years, quite a few airlines have made the news for leaving passengers stuck on the runway for hours; passengers got angry. Some passengers got REALLY angry. They wanted the government to step in and make sure no other passenger had to be stuck on the tarmac for long periods of time again.

To me, being stuck on the plane was not a fun experience, but it is life, it happens. No matter the form of transportation I would have used, the end result would have been the same — delayed due to the weather.

The new rules, starting April 29th, state that an airline will have to allow passengers to disembark if they have been sitting on the tarmac for three hours, unless doing so would jeopardize safety. The new rule sounds like a pretty good deal for passengers in theory, but in reality, I think it will cause a lot more frustration, loss of money and even more angry passengers.

With the new rules, an airline can be charge up to $27,500.00 per passenger that is left on an airplane for more than three hours. That is a lot of money. If an airline sees that a flight might be delayed for three hours, instead of waiting, they might just cancel the flight. This doesn’t mean that the plane will just sit around waiting. That plane needs to be at the next destination. It might have to fly empty to pick up the next set of passengers. If it doesn’t, routes all over will be delayed and even more passengers will be upset and more revenue will be lost.

That leaves the question: Would you rather be stuck on a plane for four hours and reach your destination? Or would you rather be stuck in a city, sleeping in the airport for much longer…possibly days?

What’s worse is New York’s JFK airport is already known for their long delays. Right now their main runway is closed for some improvements. Because of this, some airlines have asked for an exception from the three hour rule, but they were denied. Remind me not to fly out of JFK for the next few weeks!

Again, this is another time where the government should not be interfering with the airlines. Already airlines get a bad rap if they leave passengers in the airplane for hours. The mainstream media loves to bash them.

The airline business is extremely complicated and that is when things go right. Throw in bad weather, aircraft issues, scheduling problems, huge pressure for the lowest prices, and security and you have a business just waiting for things to go wrong.

For me, I would rather be stuck on an airplane going no where for a few hours, than not being able to reach my destination. I can easily survive a few hours without food and water and waiting inside an airplane is a heck of a lot better than trying to take a bus.

Image: matt.hintsa

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AirTran Flight Attendant Training – Ditching the plane in water from David Brown on Vimeo.

Yesterday I talked about how flight attendants must learn a lot about safety and hopefully never have to use it. Once per year current flight attendants must return to AirTran’s training facility in Atlanta, GA to practice their safety skills. Part of that training involves the proper procedures during a water landing.  The recent US Airways ditch in the Hudson River is a reminder that these things can happen and by following the flight attendant’s commands can save lives.

The ditch training was inside a mock Boeing 717 with about seven rows. The flight attendants had no idea that fake smoke would be pumped into the cabin. I knew it was going to be dark (I had night vision on my camera, in reality you could barely see anything). I knew it was a water landing. I knew there was going to be smoke pumped in. I also knew it was all fake.  However, once the training started, it was very disorienting and although the flight attendants were yelling to get my life vest, I initially forgot it and had to go back to get it. That could have been the difference between life and death.

In the video you can hear some laughing and we were all having a good time with the practice, but it was taken very seriously.  There were only about 15 of us in that small cabin, but it was shocking how long it took us to get out. There obviously was no real panic or rush to save our own lives, I couldn’t imagine the chaos that would occur during a real crash with over 150 passengers trying to evacuate an aircraft.

I wish every passenger could experience something like this, to be prepared to react in a life or death situation, since reading the safety information card, just cannot prepare you.

A Day In The Life Of…A Training Flight Attendant

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Qantas Airbus A380 with Sydney in the background. Often the A380 flies from Sydney to Singapore.

Qantas Airbus A380 with Sydney in the background. Often the A380 flies from Sydney to Singapore.

No, there wasn’t a Jedi master flying on Qantas flight QF31 from Sydney to Singapore. However, there was a man who appeared to be high on drugs and/or alcohol who thought he could crash the plane using his mind. Passengers around the delusional man stated he wanted to bring down the flight using only his mind. Although the fear of it actually happening was low, the flight attendants took no chances and cuffed the man’s arms and legs for the remainder of the flight.

Like most people who end up in cuffs during flight, the gentleman was met in Singapore by police.

Source: via Seattle PI Image: griffs0000

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Image from a body scan

Image from a body scan

From the beginning I have been against airport body scanners. Not only because of the privacy aspect, but they just don’t work effectively. I have been watching closely the development of the body scanners, which are starting to be used around the world, and problems are already popping up.

Probably the biggest issue is that the body scanners can easily be avoided. Stephen Frischling recently looked how even the very best security is no good, if someone wanting to do harm can just circumvent it.

Kathleen Petrowsky, the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) Director at Chicago O’Hare Airport, first stated it would be mandatory for all passengers to be scanned with the body scanners. However, after making that statement, Frishling received a reply from the TSA’s blog team stating, “Imaging technology is optional. No plans to make it mandatory… Anything else you read is incorrect.” Frischling confirmed this with the TSA’s Public Affairs unit that the scanners would be optional. Passengers who do not want to be scanned would be able to have a pat down instead.

Hmm. We are told that pat downs are not affective enough at stopping terrorists; so we need the body scanners, yet they are not required? What would stop someone who wanted to do harm to request a pat down? Not to get too graphic but there are a lot of places someone could hide something they don’t want found. At about $150,000.00 a pop is this really a good investment?

Does this mean I am advocating the body scanners be required? No way! Putting the fact you can avoid them aside, there is still the issue of privacy. JetBlue’s BlueTales blog recently reported about a security agent who made a sexually charged remark about a passenger who accidentally walked through a body scanner at London Heathrow Airport. He stated, “love those gigantic ****” (click here for the actual wording) when the 29 year old female passenger walked through.

The machines are designed well and they do a good job. The weak part are the people. Don’t get me wrong, the majority of TSA workers are great workers and do a wonderful job. But you only need a few people to screw up a whole process. Yes, in America the TSA will be in a remote location reviewing the scanner images so passengers won’t have to hear if they make any inappropriate comments.

I really think it has to do more with security theater than anything else. It costs a lot of money, we are already seeing the privacy issues and it can be avoided all together, so what is the point? If passengers don’t feel safe, they won’t fly. These machines make most passengers feel safe even though in reality they aren’t any safer. Is it more important to spend money on safety you can see or safety that works?

Image: BBC

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