Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Oh, the humanity (??)

The ~100-foot long Hood Blimp, famed for its appearance over New England sports events, crashed into the woods in the vicinity of Manchester-By-The-Sea in Massachusetts' North Shore today. The blimp, which usually hovers over games at Boston's Fenway Park, experienced mechanical failures with its rudder this morning. The pilot attempted a landing on nearby Singing Beach (a small strip of sand that serves as my beach of choice in MA) but ended up stranded in trees nearby. The crash was uneventful, as the craft apparently made a smooth landing into the trees, where it proceeded to deflate as the pilot communicated with rescue crew for over 2 hours about the nature of the crash before he was rescued.

The Sox game continued without the blimp hovering overhead this evening, as we are told (and I must say I do not hear its characteristic buzzing hum).

If I were given a choice of what aircraft to experience a crash, it would be a blimp. No catastrophic incineration...given that the blimp is inflated with helium. This incident would have had a much more tragic end had it occurred 80 years ago, when blimps at the time were filled with hydrogen, a highly inflammable gas. Remember the Hindenberg...

Monday, September 25, 2006

Now Boarding All Primpers

Finally, the TSA loosens its restrictions on gels and aerosols. Passengers can now bring toiletries on board planes in checked luggage but not drinks purchased before passenger screening. Would it appear suspicious if one drank one’s “contact solution” in order to “take the edge off” before a flight? Some of us condemned to fly propeller planes out of small, windy, icy airports need a stiff drink to relax. I suppose we have two options: prescription drugs or Sudoku.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

The (Better Not Be TOO) Friendly Skies

When George Tsikhiseli and his boyfriend Stephan Varnier left Paris for New York on American Airlines Flight 45, they settled in coach class, ready to endure a cramped flight on Boeing 777. After the meal service they would take turns resting their heads on each other’s shoulders in hopes of getting a bit of sleep before the plane landed that afternoon.

Before they had a chance to doze off, a stewardess with “big Texas hair” came over to their row and told them to stop “the touching and the kissing,” according to the September 25 New Yorker. The men rose from their fog and, after complaining to the stewardess, told the captain that they did not appreciate being singled out for displaying innocent affection. The captain told them to drop the matter immediately or he would divert the plane, ostensibly for security reasons. The men obeyed and, after earning their 15 column inches of fame in the New Yorker, are probably flying Air France these days.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Coast Starlight Not So Bright

As Marcel over at TrainBlog draws attention to in his latest post, the Coast Starlight's lengthy delays are making headlines and flaring tempers in California. The Train Riders Association of California has been monitoring the train's on-time performance at the Paso Robles stop, and has found that it's typically five to 12 hours late. The association is now applying pressure to government leaders, asking them to apply pressure, in turn, to Union Pacific, whose freight traffic and track repairs between Roseville, CA and Eugene, Ore are responsible for the delays. Constructing a second track would ease the problem, but would also cost a fortune; UP pays lip service to giving passenger trains priority, but in practice this rarely happens since UP's main objective is making money, and it makes little if any off of Amtrak. The Coast Starlight, which runs between Los Angeles and Seattle, boasts a gorgeous route and used to be known for its on-time performance. But with declining service and long delays, Amtrak's crown jewel is becoming its biggest embarrassment. I hope that UP finishes its repairs and Amtrak restores the train to its earlier glory, because the route is breathtakingly scenic. On our journey last November, Patrick and I sat back in awe at the snow-capped peaks, waterfalls and gorgeous sunsets. Toss in some wine tastings, meeting new and strange people, and falling asleep to the train's gentle rocking, and you have a slice of paradise (unless, of course, you're trying to make a connection).

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Amtrak Offer

Between now and mid-December, Amtrak Guest Rewards members will earn double miles on all train travel. Go to Amtrak's website for details. I've included a pic of the Downeaster train above, which runs between Boston and Portland, Maine, because Evan and I plan on taking a trip aboard it next time I visit him in Boston. I'm typically not a promoter of the Guest Rewards program, because the miles are based on dollars spent, rather than miles traveled, and it seems to take forever to accumulate enough miles to make only a one-way trip within a single geographic zone. But with the miles doubled, award travel becomes a bit more feasible. To earn more miles, you might consider the Amtrak Guest Rewards credit card--offered through Mastercard.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Steaks On a Plane

This story came as a bit of a surprise to me, since I've never considered taking meat on board a plane. But apparently in Omaha, Nebraska, the company Omaha Steaks sells meat at the airport, and used to pack it on ice for customers to take on-board. But with new restrictions on liquids, ice is no longer allowed. Thus, Omaha Steaks has been forced to ship the meat to people's homes--at no cost; unless they're boarding short flights, in which case the steaks remain frozen for four to five hours. A seafood company in Florida devised a more ingenious strategy: packing lobster between packs of frozen vegetables, which aren't outlawed by the new restrictions. Wineries are now having to ship their product, because passengers can no longer carry-on easily broken bottles, though I've been known to cram bottles of wine into my checked luggage--packing them carefully between my clothes--and have yet to experience a disaster (though I admit to being anxious every time I do so--particularly when I've packed two-buck chuck between merino wool sweaters).

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Accidents or Al Qaeda?

In an effort to diversify my news sources, I've borrowed this report from the India Daily News...

"Strategic experts" in aviation security are warning airlines and the airborne public that Al Qaeda might be testing for weak-spots in major airports across the world. Recent "accidents," such as luggage left aboard aircraft and knives passing through security unnoticed, might not be accidents at all. Terrorist groups might be exploring weaknesses in the system in advance of a serious attack. Whether these experts possess evidence supporting such claims remains unclear. To my knowledge, most of the people involved in recent headline incidents had no ties to terrorist organizations; and yet experts want us to believe that they might be shrewd operatives whose bumbling and babbling (like the crazy woman who pissed the floor on a recent United Airlines flight) disguise nefarious intentions. All jokes aside, I'm completely on-board, pardon the pun, heightened vigilance.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

More Airline Mergers?

From the Chicago Tribune...

Rumors are flying that some legacy mergers might soon make headlines--and headaches! Possible pairings include Delta and Northwest, both currently partners in the SkyTeam network, and United and Continental. Northwest would provide Delta better access to Asia, where it lacks a significant presence, and Continental would give United better access to Latin America and southern portions of the U.S. To flip the perspective, Delta would give Northwest a stronger transatlantic and east-coast presence, while United would provide Continental improved access to the west coast (in particular, LA and San Fran).

Although these mergers might shore up the convalescing but nonetheless ailing legacies--putting an end to bankrupty anxieties and strike-threats--they would trigger fare hikes, reduce domestic capacity and lead to jam-packed, delayed flights. Also, business travelers might find their frequent flier miles and elite statuses far less valuable. United passengers might smile if Continental's perks--like on-board meal service, even in coach--found their way on to United flights, but that smile might turn upside down when they find a paucity of upgrades and bulkhead/exit seats. We'll have to wait around and see...

An Aviation Resurgence? Maybe

Statistics are now available for U.S. air travel during the first six months of 2006. The good news is that passenger loads are up even though airlines trimmed their domestic capacity to focus on more popular and profitable international flights, which also witnessed higher passenger loads. Now for the bad news: because flights are fewer and fuller, passengers are enduring longer travel times. I imagine this situation owes not simply to delays and bumps, but also to longer connection waits.

Now for some trivia: American Airlines hauled the most passengers from January to June, while Southwest hauled the most domestic passengers. Atlanta's airport was the busiest overall, but Miami boasted the busiest international terminal.

No Northwest Strike

After issuing a temporary injunction against sporadic walk-outs by Northwest's flight attendants several weeks ago, the judge presiding over the case has now ruled, definitively, that the workers aren't entitled to do so--specifically, that they haven't made an exhaustive attempt to broker an agreement with the company and that their proposed walk-outs would unduly harm commerce and endanger the already bankrupt airline's survival. The judge's decision leaves open, however, the possibility that if after negotiating more vigorously (and perhaps with some compromises), the attendants find themselves still unable to accept the company's pay-cuts (30 million a month), they might be entitled to execute their plan. In the meantime, those holding or planning to purchase tickets with Northwest can do so without anxiety--bearing in mind, of course, that they might get a little attitude with their Aquafina during cabin service.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Loot from Logan and other stories...

From yesterday's Boston Metro...

The recent 5th anniversary of September 11 has Americans thinking how flying used to be...those days when people could watch - from the airplane gate - their loved ones arrive or depart, and when retired band teachers (at least at Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport) manned the security checkpoint area. Now, when we fly the friendly skies, the first thing that greets us when we open our checked suitcase is a paper flyer telling us that it has been opened, inspected, and possibly damaged - if it was overpacked, the passenger's fault, of course - by a TSA screener. Well, some people are finding that they arrive at their destination with less than they thought...the most confiscated item remains lighters, but some have complained that precious jewelry and other items with sentimental value have been lost through TSA screenings. Perhaps this should be a lesson to keep the valuables with you (really, what idiot wouldn't?).

Here is the breakdown of complaints against TSA at Boston's Logan International Airport...

For those, like me, who have been unlucky enough to have had items confiscated from carry-on luggage at the security gate, there's hope - at least for Bostonians - for retrieving such items. All airport contraband is taken to a place called White Farm in Concord, NH (this is not the same Concord as in Lexington and Concord of the American Revolution) and sold for outrageously cheap prices. One can purchase a pocketknife at a flat $1 price, or for $2 for a Swiss Army brand knife. All other tools are sold for prices ranging from $1-$3. A Boston Globe article notes that once TSA accumulates between 1700-2000 pounds of such items (which is typically over a 6-week period), they are trucked to the facility in New Hampshire.

So I guess there's hope that I can buy back my great grandfather's pocketknife...but I don't have the time or energy to sort through the tons of metal to find it. After all, it was confiscated over 9 months - or about 6 tons - ago!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

More Comair Crash Madness

Fox News reports that five months prior to the recent Comair Crash in Kentucky, control tower officers sent letters to their congressmen complaining of a hostile work environment and understaffing in the tower. On the day of the crash, only one officer occupied the tower--instead of the 2 required by FAA regulations--and when he turned his back to attend to paperwork after clearing the plane for take-off, he wasn't able to see it turn on to the wrong runway. Had he witnessed the error, he might have prevented the crash.

And yesterday we learned that the pilots were using an outdated map that didn't reflect changes made to the taxiway. Lexington airport officials claim they sent memos explaining the changes to the airlines, but whether the pilots in question knew of the changes, we can't be sure. James Polehinke, the first officer who survived the crash, remains hospitalized and has issued no public statements about what happened apart from, "Why did God do this to me?"

To sum up the madness: The plane crashed not because of weather or a mechanical problem, but because the pilot (who later handed control over to the first officer) turned onto the wrong runway after having first boarded the wrong plane (the groundcrew notified the pilots, whose mistake remains unexplained). He then relied upon an incorrect map to navigate the taxiway which, incidentally, wasn't illuminated that morning as it had been in the past. His fatal error might have been caught, but the tower was understaffed and overworked--and in violation of FAA rules. This despite repeated pleas for government assistance as early as half a year before the crash. Families of victims deserve a thorough investigation and explanation of how this chaos came to be--and afterwards, the deepest of apologies from an array of individuals and institutions. All accidental deaths are needless, but none more so than these.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Musical Terrorism

From Yahoo News...

England's recently-imposed ban on most carry-on items--spawned by last month's terrorist scare--has classical musicians complaining to Parliament that they're no longer able to travel and perform their trade. Why? Because their instruments are banned from the cabin and are far too valuable and vulnerable to be stored with the checked luggage. Many classical musicians use instruments crafted in the 17th, 18th and 19 centuries, and it's not uncommon for these instruments to be worth millions of dollars. Those of us who have found our luggage damaged after a flight can surely understand why someone wouldn't want to part with a pricey item upon boarding an aircraft. So, until the new regulations are relaxed--and there's an indication they may be--a number of talented artists are either stuck at home or forced to play on inferior instruments. Who knew Al Qaeda could wreak such aesthetic havoc?

Monday, September 11, 2006

United Airlines Flight 93 - Five Years Later

I thought I'd post something relating to September 11, 2001 in honor of those who perished on that horrible day, 5 years ago today...

The National Park Service/Department of the Interior is currently planning and constructing the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville, PA. It was here, on a scenic field, that United Airlines Flight 93, a 182-seat Boeing 757-200 with 37 passengers (including 4 hijackers) and 7 crew, crashed into the ground in a belly-up attitude, killing all aboard. The ground today is considered sacred, serving as the final resting place for those passengers who united together over a period of a few hours and charged the cockpit of the plane, at the time being operated by the hijackers and supposedly headed for Washington, DC. While all aboard were killed, the heroic actions of the passengers, many of which are documented in the cockpit voice recording and by loved ones who received phone calls from the ill-fated passengers aboard the plane, may have saved many more lives on ground, had the plane reached its intended target.

The memorial effort was begun a few years ago, and the ribbon-cutting for the finished park is hoped to be held on the 10th anniversary of the attacks, in 2011. In 2004-2005, a competition was held for a suitable design, and Paul Murdoch Architects of Los Angeles, CA, were chosen for their winning entry. An entry path into the memorial's "bowl", a roughly circular area marked by the natural topography of the site, follows the flight path of the plane just before it hit the ground. Also, the site will feature a grove of 40 maples, one for each of the 33 passengers, 2 flying crew, and 5 flight attendants who fought the hijackers on the plane. A plaza will be the focal point of the "bowl", allowing visitors to view the actual crash site, or "sacred ground", up-close. Finally, another area will be dedicated to preserving the foundations of the FBI structures set up at the edge of the site for the investigation of the crash.

For more information on the Flight 93 National Memorial, visit the website here. To make a donation in support of the project, visit the newly developed webstie here.

A temporary memorial has been placed at the site for visitors who wish to view the site today. Directions are available on the websites mentioned above.

Pack your bags….

It is now lawful (though it wasn’t two weeks ago) to carry the following on-board a plane: small amount of baby formula or breast milk, if accompanied by a baby (of course), and up to four ounces of “essential” medications including saline solution, KY jelly, gel-filled bras and “similar prosthetics” according to tsa.gov and the New York Times.

The notice also explicitly permits lipstick, lip balm, and other cosmetics but adds that “Please remember these items must be solid and not liquid, gel or aerosol.” Except, of course, for the gel bras and KY jelly. I wonder what kind of meeting led to those regulations! And what IS the difference between a solid, liquid, and a gel? Is gel a real category? Perhaps our blogging scientist can help.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Anxious about props?

Last week, a friend made her way to a small Virginia airport only to find that she was booked on a turboprop rather than a jet. Since her usual three shots of whiskey were prohibited in carry on luggage, she began to get nervous about the flight. A year ago she had a harrowing experience aboard a commercial propeller-driven plane and vowed never to fly a prop again.

Fortunately, her flight was delayed and she was able to ask a gate agent to rebook her using a different route – and a jet plane. Apparently, if a flight is delayed, agents can rebook passengers using different routes.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Does Amtrak Control NARP?

From the Boston Globe...

Amtrak critics are fuming after learning that Amtrak pays $30,000 a year to the National Association of Railroad Passengers. The NARP, a not-for-profit organization representing passenger needs and concerns, claims autonomy from Amtrak, but critics note that NARP's publications regularly defend Amtrak and echo the company's perspective on government funding (they want more), on-time service (Amtrak blames freight companies) and long-distance trains (they insist we still need them). Critics would like to see NARP devote more of its energy to addressing customer needs along the Northeast Corridor (including commuter rails, in which Amtrak has a stake in most instances), where Amtrak produces its biggest profits.

While it's true that the NARP has become a bit of an apologist for Amtrak (I've received their publications), these accusations of impropriety are ridiculous. The 30 thousand was used not to line the pockets of NARP officials but to pay for a part-time liaison who communicates to Amtrak customer complaints and suggestions collected by the NARP. What use would NARP have it it couldn't pass on to Amtrak the information it gathers. That NARP stands behind Amtrak on most issues suggests to me that many of its contributors are individuals committed to long-distance trains, to quality service aboard those trains and to increased government investment in passenger rail (in countries lauded for their rail service, there is almost always massive government support). Should the NARP be criticized for representing its contributors' interests and pursuing their demands?

That said, this story shouldn't be ignored, because several of the critics mentioned above used to be on the NARP board. Sounds as if the NARP is as internally riven as Amtrak--with some members wanting to focus on what Amtrak does best (the Northeast Corridor) and others wanting to resuscitate service that has declined in recent years (i.e. most long-distance trains). Amtrak's dissolution, or at the very least, the dissolution of the long-distance service that makes Amtrak a name recognized across the Lower 48, has been a possibility for some time now. Might it finally happen?

Friday, September 08, 2006

Northwest Calls Up Its Reserves

In a slightly perplexing move, Northwest Airlines yesterday summoned over 1,000 of its furloughed flight attendants--some who had been laid off, others who had taken voluntary leaves. Suspicion has arisen that Northwest might be bringing in back-up in case the courts, which are still deliberating, approve NWA's flight attendants' request to stage unannounced, periodic walkouts to protest significant cuts in pay and benefits. The union for the flight attendants, however, insists that these resuscitated workers would be no more willing to work during a strike than those currently employed. Perhaps this move signals financial improvement for the airline which, like Delta and others, benefited from a busy summer marked by high fares (though also by high fuel prices). No word yet on when the judge, who several weeks ago imposed a temporary ban on the proposed walkouts, will make his final ruling, but I'll be sure to keep you posted. In the meantime, those holding tickets, travel vouchers and frequent flier miles (WorldPerks Miles) with NWA might at least begin the inhalation of a sigh of relief.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Hawaii Fare Sale

American Airlines announced a fantastic fare sale to a number of Hawaiian destinations. You can travel from San Francisco to Honolulu (and elsewhere) for $350, and from Boston to Honolulu for $650. Act now, though, because there's no expiration date on the sale, which means it can, and likely will, end at any time. As appealing as Hawaii sounds, I need to save my money for a trip to England. Dollars don't translate well into pounds, as I'm sure many of you have discovered and winced at.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Polehinke Comes To

CNN reports that James Polehinke, the lone survivor of Comair's recent plane crash in Lexington, KY, has regained consciousness but remains in serious condition. He hasn't mentioned the crash specifically, but he uttered his own version of Kurtz's "The Horror! The Horror!" when he asked those attending his bedside, "Why did God do this to me?" A better question, which he'll no doubt come to ask as he recovers, might be how did the first-in-command turn on to the wrong runway before handing over controls to Polehinke. Whether Polehinke remembers the accident in its entirety remains to be seen, and we may not know soon, as his physicians have asked family members not to pose crash-related questions.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Unlucky Number: 191

I came across a disturbing article recently (where, I have no idea) that concerns past flights bearing the number 191. As it turns out, some of the most tragic non-terrorist airline accidents in the United States have occurred on flights numbered 191. As you know, the most recent commercial aviation disaster, Delta Flight 5191, was operated by Comair under the designation 191 (although passengers' tickets would have read 5191). 49 of the 50 passengers on board perished in the Lexington, KY, crash, the only survivor being First Officer James Polehinke, who happened to be flying the plane as it took off the wrong runway and crashed into a wooded area just beyond the airstrip.

(above: This haunting photograph depicts American
Airlines Flight 191 in its final moments before hitting
the ground. The missing #1 engine and steep roll are
clearly visible in the photograph.)

Perhaps the darkest day in domestic commercial aviation before September 11, 2001, occurred on May 25, 1979. At Chicago's bustling O'Hare International Airport, American Airlines Flight 191, an LAX-bound DC-10 carrying 258 passengers and 13 crew, crashed upon takeoff when the entire #1 engine separated from the left wing. While the engine fell away from the aircraft exactly as it was designed to do in such a scenario, the pilots lost complete control when hydraulic fluid began to leak from the left wing, causing the flaps to slowly retract. At such a low speed, the left wing failed to produce the required lift and aerodynamically stalled, while the right wing, undamaged during takeoff, continued to produce lift. This resulted in the aircraft rolling completely to the left, almost perpendicularly to the ground, finally causing the plane to crash at a nearby trailer park. All 271 people on board and two on the ground were killed. It was determined that during a previous repair, the #1 engine had been improperly reattached to the wing, causing the attachment surfaces to become weakened and unable to withstand the repeated application of force upon takeoffs and landings. The loss of life in the crash remains second only to that on board the two 767s that crashed into the World Trade Center Towers on September 11, 2001.

Just six years later, Delta Airlines Flight 191, a Lockheed L-1011 bound for LAX from Fort Lauderdale via Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, crashed during a landing attempt at Dallas. The plane, carrying 152 passengers and 11 crew members, approached the airport amid thunderstorm activity. During its landing attempt, the aircraft began to speed up, which pilots determined was a sign of wind shear. When the aircraft suddenly slowed down, the crew lost control of the massive aircraft (which, interestingly, is a widebody, 3-engined design similar to the DC-10 that crashed 6 years earlier), and it crashed into the ground, only to bounce back into the air, cross a major highway, and impact the ground once again on top of a car. In additional to the car's occupant, 128 passengers and 8 crew members died. While the pilot was found to be at fault for the crash, its major cause was determined to be microburst-induced windshear.
(Above: The eerie remains of Delta Airlines
Flight 191, which crashed at Dallas - Fort
Worth in 1985.)

As is customary for the aviation industry, Delta Airlines and American Airlines retired the Flight 191 designation after their respective crashes, and there is also no longer a Comair 5191. Perhaps these horrific crashes, all numbered Flight 191, should encourage other airlines to discontinue this numbering on any of their flights. After all, there is a precedent for superstition in the airline industry - some airlines' planes, including those on Airtran's fleet, don't have a "row 13"...check that out the next time you're flying.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Delta Glams It Up

If you check out Delta's website, you'll find a link to "In-Flight Fashion," where the airline advertises its new emphasis upon fashion and in-flight amenities. Apparently Delta was featured in a recent episode of Project Runway, and will appear again this week. Since I lack cable, someone will have to fill me in on the details. Meanwhile, Delta continues to promote its signature cocktails--the mojitos are quite tasty, I agree, and pleasantly free of high fructose corn syrup--as well its new BusinessElite menu, which was designed by a celebrity chef. In June, the airline partnered with upscale retailer Henri Bendel to promote its expanded international service, and as reported here, last spring hired Richard Tyler to design new uniforms for its flight attendants. Wondering why not all of the flight attendants were filigreed in these stylish numbers, I asked a flight attendant, who replied that they looked silly and agreed with me that they resembled raincoats.

Whether these style upgrades will translate into more revenue or improved customer loyalty, I'm not certain. The high-class facade falters as customers remember Delta's bankrupty, its near avoidance of a strike, its persistent cutting of employee benefits and pensions--and most recently, the tragic Comair crash in Kentucky. That said, given that all the legacies, and even many of the budget airlines, are struggling to stay afloat, perhaps tiny perks like these will raise Delta above the fray and restore a portion of its lost respectability.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

A Breath of Fresh Air

Just when you thought air travel had become a commodity, along comes Midwest Airlines. Actually, Midwest has been around since 1984 but it has gradually expanded its unique service. The Milwaukee- and Kansas City-based airline makes standard amenities found only in business class on most airlines. “Signature” service features 2-by-2 leather seating aboard Boeing 717s, ample leg room, chocolate chip cookies baked on board and “gourmet”—at least for an airline—meals available for purchase. The food reportedly compares favorably to other airlines’ first class meals, though this correspondent has not had the opportunity to sample first class fare in recent years. For breakfast, try scrambled eggs with Asiago cheese, roasted peppers, grilled sausage gravy, and fresh chives next to hash browns, fruit and yogurt. For dinner, you can sample, grilled beef antichuco, Asian noodles with toasted coconut and chilis, or grilled marinated portobello. The menu is designed by Shawn Monroe, executive chest at Milwaukee’s Mader’s restaurant. The menus are available here.

While most airlines provide a “pitch” or distance between seats of 30,” Signature service offers 33-34” with a width of 21” compared to 17-18” on most carriers.

These luxuries are not without a price, however. The airline is often slightly more expensive than competing carriers—though your company’s accounting office may not notice. In addition, travelers usually have to fly through Milwaukee or Kansas City, and when flying coast-to-coast, as on a recent trip to San Francisco, travelers may endure “saver” fare coach service on one leg of the trip. The “saver” service is more like the coach seating found in most airlines, though with the addition Midwest’s warm chocolate chip cookies. No word on whether the cookies are alkali-free or whether they taste good with one’s morning coffee.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Delta Polyglots? And a Travel Deal

Earlier this week I received an email from Delta (I receive at least five a week) alerting me to a new promotion: if I book an international flight in the coming weeks, I'll be entitled to a free language lesson. The offer doesn't specify if the language lesson must correspond to the language spoken in the country I'm visiting. I hope not, because my potential European travel plans involve only England--not that my English couldn't use some brushing up. Lessons are apparently downloadable after one books one's international ticket. Next thing you know Delta will be offering student flyers free SAT and GRE prep courses. Nothing says customer service like helping your customers become wiser and more cosmopolitan.

In other Delta news...our readers in the New York area, or those with easy access to JFK Airport, should know that Delta is offering a great deal on flights to London that will commence operation in November. Coach tickets are going for around $300, BusinessElite seats for not much over $1000. Strike while the iron's hot!