Survey: Americans’ fears of flying are getting worse

Interesting graphic from YouGov on American’s feelings on flying in an airplane:

fear_of_flying.0

As may be expected, after the recent Germanwings crash the percentage of people not afraid to fly went down and the percentage afraid to fly went up. The percentage of those not afraid to fly has been on a steady decline since 2010.

What’s interesting to me is the precipitous drop in not afraid to fly and significant rise in afraid to fly after the Germanwings crash. Are people that much more afraid after an intentional event rather than an unintentional accident?

Plane crashes are rarer than ever, but due to the very nature of flying, some will always have uneasy feelings towards it.

(via Vox)

Read More

Airline Seating: Facing up to the problem

The Economist on a recently patented airline seat:boeing_seats

…if the conditions are desperate enough, it is possible to sleep while slouching forward in one’s seat. That fact hasn’t escaped Boeing. GeekWire has noticed that last year the airline manufacturer patented something it called a “transport vehicle upright sleep support system”, although GW gives it the rather more pleasant name of a “cuddle chair”. The idea is that fliers can attach a tray to their seats which can be angled away from their laps (see picture below). It includes a rest for a face, a bit like one would find on a massage table. Although it looks a little like a medieval torture device, blissful sleep surely ensues.

Terrifying.

Read More

How much change did you leave with the TSA this year?

Interesting article from Mashable on the amount of change that we leave with TSA every year:

Last year, air travelers left $674,841 in loose change at airport security checkpoints across the U.S. That’s up from $383,414 in 2008.

The unclaimed money — usually coins — is sent to the TSA financial office. Congress gave TSA the authority to use the money for its operations in 2005.

There’s a joke here on TSA and the fees it charges us…

Read More

Pilot: Why remotely piloted airliners are not the solution to aircraft accidents

Writing for Mashable, Airline Captain, Chris Manno, on why remotely piloted airliners are not the solution to aircraft accidents

…as an airline captain, I can’t picture an airliner completely reliant on ground-based guidance, data and analysis.

Any remote-control solution hinges on a futuristic technical perfection, and there’s the rub: Today’s remotely piloted vehicle technology has so far chalked up an accident rate nearly 40% higher than that of airliners with pilots on board.

40% seems a bit high to me, but even if that’s true, I’m not sure the technology is there to even do this. Sure autopilot takes over as soon as you’re in the air, but landing and takeoff still requires quite a bit of calculation and judgment that I’m not sure we’re ready for technology to be handling, yet.

Read More

Why in-flight wifi is so painfully slow — except on JetBlue and Southwest

As a followup to the post on how airborne WiFi works, Vox has why Southwest’s Internet is faster (and cheaper) than everyone else:

Southwest’s wifi is provided by a company called Row 44. Instead of towers, the signal is sent up from a handful of base stations to a network of geostationary satellites (the same kind used for satellite TV services). These satellites send a signal over the Ku frequency band to a much larger, more complex antenna on top of the plane.

Row 44’s service isn’t nearly as fast as what you’d get on the ground, but it’s better than Gogo’s. Row 44 doesn’t advertise specific numbers, but it’s estimated to have download speeds between 1 and 5 Mbps per user. It’s also cheaper: Southwest charges a flat fee of $8 per day.

Read More

Airplane Seat Swapping Turns Rough-and-Tumble

The New York Times on the current state of airplane seat swapping:

Turf wars over the limited real estate in a plane cabin, from the overhead bins to the armrests, have become more acute in recent years. And with airlines packing planes tighter and charging more for exit rows, for seats further up in the economy cabin or for seat selection at the time of booking, requests — or demands — to swap seats have taken on a new tenor.

I’m probably on 30 or so flights per year, but I don’t ever seem to have this problem. This could be related to the number of flights I take on Southwest (which has open seating), but even when I fly other airlines, I only catch a whiff of it now and then.

That being said, who’s really to blame in this? Airlines have continually attempted to stratify they’re seating; charging more for what are considered premium seats, despite the fact that sometimes the only added benefit is the location on the plane. I tend to agree that you just sit where you’re assigned, but perhaps if airlines moved away from upcharging every single thing they could, people wouldn’t be so touchy on trading one seat for another.

Read More

Can travel make you funnier?

Click on over for a great video from FiveThirtyEight and ESPN films “Collectors” series on how to be funny.

It’s interesting to me that Peter McGraw (the subject of the film) traveled the world to find universal properties of humor. Are there things that are inherently funny to people apart from how we view things in our culture? If so, wouldn’t traveling and meeting more people help you begin to better understand those things and make you funnier?

Read More

The way airlines charge for luggage makes absolutely no sense

For Vox, Joseph Stromberg on how the processes we have for luggage are one of the biggest inefficiencies of airline travel:

Engineers have devised a system for getting our bags into and out of the cargo holds of planes quickly, using codes, scanners, conveyor belts, vehicles, and people whose job is entirely focused on handling baggage. Yes, bags get lost sometimes. But the two-tiered charging structure means that instead of using this system, we’re cramming a whole lot of luggage through a parallel system meant to put people on planes, causing all sorts of inefficiencies and delays.

That’s such a great way to put it. We’ve devised an efficient system (checking luggage), but instead, airlines are incentivizing people to bring luggage through a system that was not devised for baggage (going through security and carry ons).

How do we solve for this?

The way to solve this is to decouple the cost of tickets from the cost of bags. If all your bags were weighed before each flight and you were charged accordingly, you’d have the option of flying cheaper by packing lighter, and the people who carry a ton of baggage have to pay the full cost of it.

That’s an interesting solution, but the infrastructure, not to mention training passengers, to do that would be enormous. Plus, in addition to the fact that there would be no way to know the final cost of your flight until after you’re at the airport, the inefficiencies in boarding would now be transferred to the checkin desk, as that everyone would have to go there before security.

Read More

Why New Orleans’ airport is MSY — and other airport code mysteries, explained

Developers Lynn Fisher and Nick Crohn have created a new site that explain the origin of airport codes.

Three-letter airport codes came about because pilots found the National Weather System’s two-letter codes inadequate to identify all the available airports. Today, airport codes are called International Air Transport Association Airport Codes (IATA) and are established by the airline trade association, founded in the 1940s.

I could lose hours in this site. If you’ve ever wondered why Nashville is BNA or New Orleans is MSY, click over to find those, and many more, out.

(via Vox)

Read More

Tipping: Gratuitous Expense

The Economist recounts some of the unexpected tipping that is suggested for when people travel to the U.S.:

The American Hotel & Lodging Association, a trade body, publishes a “Gratuity Guide”, with suggested rates that can make one wince. Examples include up to $2 per person for the driver of the shuttle bus from the airport to the hotel; as much as $5 per bag for porters; door staff, meanwhile, should expect up to $2 for the onerous task of flexing their fingers at one of the taxis queued up right outside; and housekeeping should be left up to $5 a night. Top of the heap is the concierge. His suggested rate is $5 for booking a guest a table in a restaurant and $10 if he has something more difficult to do, like find a tricky theatre ticket.

As the article mentions, this all sounds crazy, but it’s a systemic problem: most of these employers don’t pay their employees minimum wage with the expectation that tips will make up the difference. As a restaurant server in college: good luck getting the restaurants to pick up more of the server’s salaries just to lower the expected tip amount for patrons.

Read More