Friday, February 8, 2002
Good morning, and rather to my surprise, yet again I'm writing this from Moscow.  Assuming Aeroflot doesn't cancel any more flights (!), I hope to be flying back on Saturday, and will be able to once again enjoy the luxury of a fast DSL line and the spare time to enjoy it!

Struggling carrier Air New Zealand has been caught with its hand in the cookie jar.  This investigation reveals that some of the new 'taxes' and surcharges that Air NZ is now levying on passenger tickets also include a measure of profit to Air New Zealand itself!  Air NZ now admits that a 'new' 'terrorism tax' that it has added to its domestic fares is not a new tax and neither does it have anything to do with terrorism!

Airline profitability continues to steer sharply different directions.  Discount carrier RyanAir reports its quarter earnings for the quarter ended 31 Dec as up 35% year on year, with passenger numbers up 30% and load factors also up.  But at the same time BA is reporting a 144 million loss for the same quarter (compared with a 36 million profit the previous year).  British Airways, after having not long ago sold its discount carrier operation and announced proudly its primary focus was on premium cabin traffic, is now tentatively talking about a new no-frills low-cost operation, to be based at Gatwick.  Its former subsidiary, Go, meanwhile reports a 74% increase in passengers in Jan 2002 compared to Jan 2001, with their CEO reporting that many of the new passengers are business clients switching from other airlines - as I've wondered before, do you think that anyone at BA now wishes they hadn't sold the subsidiary!!!

Last week I indicated some doubts that the final chapter had been written in the BA/AA attempted trans-Atlantic alliance.  Sure enough, they're now talking about yet another approach to the US authorities.  Which part of the word 'no' do they not understand?

This Week's Column :  An Unbalanced Response :  Why has it taken more than 13 years to put in place an imperfect defense against terrorist attacks such as downed Pan Am 103?  But a response to the 'shoe-bomber' is in place in less than 13 hours?  Could it be because solving the former problem means inconveniencing the airlines, while solving the latter problem means only inconveniencing the passengers?  No, that can't be the reason, surely!  :)  Read more about the strange 'double standards' in air safety.

This week's prize for being in the wrong place at the wrong time goes to a taxidriver in Rio de Janeiro.  He is currently in a coma, after his taxi was flung into Guanabara Bay by the jet blast of an airliner preparing to depart from the city's airport. Leoncio Ribeiro, director of a taxi cooperative where the 64-year-old victim works, said Wednesday's accident, in his view, was caused by badly placed warning signs and traffic lights. "The signs that tell you to stop when the plane is on the runway are practically invisible." Aviation experts quoted by local media said the so-called blast effect was normal for big jets gearing up for takeoff, comparing its force to that of Hurricane Pauline that devastated southern Mexico in 1997. A Boeing 737 belonging to Vasp airline was involved in the accident.

A promise of possible good news for passengers?  Passengers who voluntarily agree to a background check could be issued a special credential.  Former President Reagan (who celebrates his 91st birthday this week) liked to say "trust, but verify," and now the travel industry says a variation on that folksy proverb could substantially shrink airport security lines--perhaps by 25% or more.  Airlines, airports and business travel groups say passengers who voluntarily agree to a background check should be issued a special credential that can be verified prior to boarding by a computerized fingerprint check or some other high-tech means. These "trusted travelers" would be entitled to speed through special express security lanes and bypass random searches.

On the subject of birthdays and other anniversaries, this week also marks the 50th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II's accession to the British throne, making her the country's fourth longest reigning monarch.  This event - a 'Golden Jubilee' will be celebrated over a period of some months starting in spring, with a special four day weekend June 1-4 marking the climax of the festivities, adding new reasons to visit Britain this year.  More on their website.

This week's security horror story :  The 'frisky frisking' of a female passenger by a male gate agent in Phoenix.  Note particularly America West's statements that they are 'in complete compliance with the FAA's requirements' and, although they haven't even yet determined the identity of the gate agent in question, they 'don't think there is any basis for these allegations'.  How nice to be so confident about such things!

Some things have a certain inevitability about them, made all the worse by the inability of the people involved to learn from past experiences.  This article, which is full of interesting background to the Olympics in Salt Lake City, indicates that, as always, hoteliers that have been greedily holding back hotel rooms and selling them only at very high prices now find themselves with thousands of unsold room nights over the Olympic period.

This week's Frequent Flier Bonus Prize goes to the company, with Buzz Aldrin as one of its leaders and spokespeople, that is proposing to offer package tours to Mars.  Let me see, now - exactly how many miles would that earn for the eight month journey (answer - 285 million!!!).

Thanks to Joe Brancatelli for pointing out the ultimate irony of the amusing item in last week's column about the urban legend reported as fact (the woman stuck on an airplane toilet seat).  The ultimate irony is that, initially, SAS agreed that it had indeed happened on one of their planes!  Goodness only knows how they decided to accept the blame for something that never occurred, and of course, they subsequently issued a formal denial.

Until next week, please enjoy safe travels (and be careful in the restrooms!).....

David M Rowell aka The Travel Insider
ps :  Don't forget to visit Joe Brancatelli's site for his weekly updates, too.

 If you ever wish to unsubscribe, simply reply to this email and set the subject line to say 'unsubscribe'.