Archives for airport



Finally, I Was Right About Something

Seven years ago, I blogged about how nonsensical many airline rules and regulations seemed to be.

At the very top of my list was the prohibition on the use of electronics before takeoff and landing. The FAA finally gave into logic on this one, and airlines have been remarkably speedy in instituting the change.

(If you go back and look at the post, you will see that another thing I railed against was the announcement about “in the unlikely event of a water landing.”  There is no doubt this announcement is a complete waste of time, but not long after the post went up, Captain Sullenberger pulled off a water landing.  Thanks for nothing, Sully!)



The Price of Air Travel

The cost of air travel is going up, and airlines are counting on us not to notice.

I’m not talking about airfares, which have actually declined in real terms over the past decade, despite inching up in the past few years. And I don’t mean the ancillary fees to check a bag, check in at the airport, speak to a live agent, or pick your seat, though these, too, are going up. Instead, I’m talking about the cost of delays and schedule disruptions that waste travelers’ time and force them to travel earlier to their destinations or risk missing important meetings and events. 

Air travel in the U.S. is becoming less reliable and less resilient to shocks like isolated storms that can ripple through the system and impact passengers thousands of miles away. If anti-trust authorities approve the merger between American and US Airways, we should expect things to get worse. Read More »



Terminal Illness: Readers’ Best and Worst Airports

Thanks to those who participated in our call to sound off about your favorite and least favorite airports. The results: 

At the top of the list of best airports, by a long way, was Amsterdam’s Schiphol. I have not flown into Schiphol myself, but I’m not at all surprised by this ranking, as the Dutch are genius urban planners. Schiphol has a branch of the Rijksmuseum art museum, displaying actual old masters, and a shopping mall which is open to the public as well as travelers.

  • “Great options to suit everyone – awesome baby & kids facilities, casinos for dad and plenty of decent shopping as well as food options. It really made for an easy 6hr layover with baby.”—Cam

No, there are no “coffee shops,” in Schiphol, so don’t be attributing the glowing reviews to anything but the quality of the airport. (Perhaps the same cannot be said for Managua, Nicaragua, which reader ephman ranks as his favorite because “you can buy Oxycontin in the waiting area without a prescription to entertain yourself for the long flight to wherever you’re going.”) Read More »



Terminal Illness: What Are the Best and Worst Airports?

 The end of semester crunch is in full swing here at Clemson, leaving me little time to write a new post at the moment. So I figured I’d let you do my work for me. Readers, weigh in: what is your favorite and least favorite airport, and why? I’ll collate and post the results soon.



TSA Chronicles, Cream Cheese Edition

Alan Pisarski, a transportation scholar featured in our podcast about the disappearance of hitchhiking, writes in to say:

My niece was back home in Milwaukee visiting family and stocked up on bagels, lox, and cream cheese to take home to Kentucky (forget for our purposes the madness of thinking that Milwaukee has a clue about bagels etc. – she is right – at least they have heard of them in contrast to KY). Anyways, the wonderful folk at TSA said she could take the bagels on board and the lox, but the cream cheese was out! But being proud civil servants – an oxymoron if ever there was one — they agreed that it would be okay, and she could bring it on board, if the cream cheese was spread on the bagels. Please write this down for future reference.

Read More »



An Apparent Non-Money Pricing Anomaly

The City of Austin offers airport parking in three tiers, from garage ($20/day), to close-in surface ($10/day), to distant surface ($7/day). Frequent parkers accumulate points entitling them to free parking days.
The incentives for redeeming the points are bizarre:

Garage 2500 points

Close In 2500 points

Long Term 2500 points

The “price” of a free parking day is the same for the very desirable garage, where I never park if I have to pay $$, and for the close-in parking (where I park for $$ if staying fewer than 5 days) as well as for the long-term (where I park only if staying more than 4 days). Seeing this, we will redeem our 10,000 points for four days in the garage—parking for “free” anywhere else makes no sense. Now if the airlines would only charge the same number of frequent-flyer miles for a trip to Australia as they do for a trip to New York, I would be even better off!



Airport Security Is a Drag

Going through security at U.S. airports is a continuing nuisance. One technology improvement that I saw at Brussels Airport is simple: the conveyor on which you place your computer, bag, etc., slopes downward toward the x-ray machine, so that there is no need to drag bins and bags along the conveyor. Moreover, there is an adjacent conveyor that tilts backward toward the rear of the belt on which the staff can place a pile of used bins.

These devices save passenger time and are labor-saving for the security company too — no need for the workers to drag the bins by hand or hand-truck to the rear of the belt. Are we slow to innovate (how un-American that would be!) or does cheap semi-skilled labor reduce the incentive to substitute capital for labor?



The Latest Terrorist Threat

The best strategy I have found for reducing the aggravation of security screening is to pretend I am a terrorist and think about where the weaknesses are in security, and how I might slip through. I think I figured out a way to get a gun or explosives into the White House during the George W. Bush administration. I only got invited to the White House once, however, so I never got a chance to test my theory for real on a return visit. Read More »