Archive for the passenger Category

“The Best Of” Airline Cartoons

Posted in air travel, air travel humor, air traveler, airline, airline cartoon, airline passenger, airline pilot, flight attendant, flight crew, passenger with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 2, 2020 by Chris Manno

Are you a pilot, flight attendant or passenger missing the good old air travel world that is only now creeping back from the screeching halt of demand that’s grounded most flights? Looking forward to getting back into the sky? Well, here’s a cartoon glimpse at what we’re all missing. Enjoy.

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Nowadays, people seem to judge others more than ever, questioning why anyone’s flying–ignoring the fact that they are too. And it even looks different today.

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The airport itself is open, but the concessions are mostly a ghost town.

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Crewmembers can expect enhanced security screening.

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Boarding is much less crowded.

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Inflight, it’s much the same as ever.

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The pandemic is a factor, but there are differences.

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After your flight, please remember:

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And know that your crew is waiting to welcome you back aboard.

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Want to get a firsthand, behind the scenes look at crew life? Here’s your chance to live the airline crew life:

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It’s Amazon Books’ #1 new release in Commercial Aviation: an insider, firsthand story of flying from years as an Air Force pilot, then into the cockpits of the world’s largest airline for over three decades of flying, most as captain, around the country and the world. You’ll live the cockpit experience firsthand, fly the trips, the aircraft, the approaches and more.

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Air Travel in the “Me” Millennium

Posted in air travel, air traveler, airline, airline cartoon, airline cartoon book, airline delays, airline industry, airline passenger, airline pilot, airline pilot blog, airline ticket prices, airlines, airport, fear of flying, flight attendant, flight crew, passenger, passenger compliance, travel, travel tips with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 15, 2018 by Chris Manno

Sure, flying today has diverged from the mythological “golden era of air travel”  so many passengers hold as a yardstick to their own recent airline experience. That can’t help being a disappointment, but there’s more to the story: it ain’t all one-sided.

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Passengers, too, in the contemporary age of the selfie, have also diverged from the model of decorum and self-restraint that went hand-in-hand with the Utopian but long past air travel legend. That new, self-focused, unrestrained millennial attitude dictates much of what happens in today’s air travel. Let me explain.

Hand-in-hand with the genteel, bygone airline images was a foundation of passenger behavioral restraint and courtesy that has also vanished like the sixties. And like it or not, here are some major changes wrought by the millennial evolution away from the self-restraint and personal responsibility that characterized the era they claim to miss.

  1. People today simply will not be told what to do. That runs the gamut from emergency instructions that could save their own lives to procedural norms that make boarding actually better for the group–but only if the individual cooperates. Today’s air traveler knows the rules, hears the requests, and the directives as applicable to the group, but optional for themselves.

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2. Self-restraint: the “self” now overshadows the restraint in two major ways. First, the “self” aspect of the traveling public fuels a sense of entitlement rather than restraint. That’s even in the subtlest nuance of boarding which creates a massive, obstructive knot of bag-dragging humanity ignoring the simple instruction to “please board only when your group is called,” to the life-threatening free-for-all luggage grab in an emergency evacuation. In the “self” era, there is no rule that must be followed, no directive that can’t be ignored, because that’s the way people are wired today.

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Second, the notion of self trumps the concept of fairness: a cell phone video with zero context and outrageous, often aggressive passenger behavior is not only tolerated–it’s embraced and celebrated on social media. Nothing is too outrageous for a passenger to say or do and whatever that atrocity is, someone else must provide compensation.

3. Personal responsibility: everything is someone else’s fault, so everyone is a victim, and every victim needs “compensation.” Whether it’s a mechanical delay to correct a glitch in a complex, $100 million dollar machine or a weather delay, today’s self goes from zero to outrage without passing through rational thought (weather is outside of a business’s control; complex machines break) and goes right to the worst aspect of self: one must proclaim their insult and outrage on the thoughtless, unmediated scrum that is social media.

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Anything goes in the self-centered rush to scream your bombastic victimization into cyberspace. Thanks, @HeimBBQ–did you recall that in your local marketplace about 50,000 employees you just maligned also make restaurant choices?

3. Helplessness has displaced personal responsibility: if anything, air travel has gotten even simpler in the digital era. The ubiquitous smart phone that conducts audio, video and photo outrage across the internet spectrum also has the capability–if used–to supply instant, accurate answers. But, the personal responsibility aspect (what’s your flight number?) falls by the wayside of many people who can remember a date, time and address–except at the airport. Google has the instantaneous and accurate answer–but only if you know how to ask the question.

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4. The marketplace: it’s easy, perhaps convenient, to overlook the driving force in the air travel industry, and that is price. But the fact is, when the Civil Aeronautics Board relinquished control of airfare and routes, the deliberate government “hands off” approach left the marketplace in the hands of consumers: you asked for dirt cheap airfares–you got it. Don’t say that your $600 transcon airfare is “too expensive” as you book your flight on your $1,000 smart phone so you can attend an hours-long entertainment (sports, music, whatever) event for another thousand dollars. The whining makes for effective social media click bait–but it just doesn’t fly, logically or literally.

So there you have it: the air travel reality is a narrative of change, of evolution, of price and self–and the results might be dismal, but the responsibility is shared equally between consumers and the marketplace they drive.

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In the final analysis, no, it’s really not “about you,” but in fact it is mostly because of you, despite how negative a connotation the idea of personal responsibility is in today’s world of “me.” Air travel is still the dumb beast slaved to your buying choices, and the airfare “steal” you foghorn on your social media feed fuels the very enroute outrage you tweet later. In a very real sense, you are both the cause and the effect.

So fasten your safety belt–it’s going to get bumpy, and the whining only louder and less justified.

Get the whole airline insider cartoon collection:

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Summer Air Travel 2018: Fly Smarter.

Posted in air travel, airline, airline cartoon, airline cartoon book, airline delays, airline industry, airline passenger, airline pilot, airline pilot blog, airlines, airport, fear of flying, flight, flight attendant, flight crew, flight delays, passenger, passenger bill of rights, pilot, travel, travel tips with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 18, 2018 by Chris Manno

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Let’s cut to the chase: air travel can be frustrating and confusing. Passenger service staffing is minimal and information scarce. Unexplained delays can prompt frustration, security hassles inevitably create time pressure and the whole situation can raise everyone’s blood pressure. Air travel is a struggle, that’s a given.

But rather than simply complaining–and posting exasperated social media rants–here are some key travel hacks that will let you take charge of your travel and surmount some of the hassles.

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First, information: don’t go looking for crucial data like departure or arrival gates, baggage claim, delays or boarding time. Rather, make that information come to you: every airline and many airports have an app that will fast-track critical information to your phone.  I recommend you use the airline app for your chosen airline, but the simplest, 9-1-1 info source is Google: know your airline and flight number, and tap this basic info into a search engine:

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Quick and easy, all of your questions can be answered without waiting in line for a passenger service agent or searching the terminal for a flight information board. If you’re using your airline’s app, you can even beat the rush to rebook in case of a delay or cancellation without waiting in any line.

You can get even more details for all airlines in a standardized format by downloading one of the many free flight tracking applications. For example:

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This app tells you key information regarding your flight, including departure and arrival gates, plus, it will tell you, if you’re interested, where your inbound aircraft is and its on-time or delay status. If you’re waiting for someone to arrive, this app shows you a real-time moving map so you’ll know–often before the gate agents–exactly what is going on, to include a realistic departure and downline arrive time. You won’t have to ask the thoughtless questions that make you look, well, thoughtless and helpless:

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Track your flight, including the inbound aircraft, yourself for your planning purposes: do I have time for food beforehand, either dine-in or to-go? And where is the nearest or best food option, given the realistic time estimate you’ve secured for yourself? Get the airport app(s) for every airport you’ll connect through or arrive and depart from. They’ll show the location of key services (law enforcement, medical, restrooms, water, baggage claim, restaurants/entertainment, lost and found, ground transportation, rental cars, hotel pickups, security and more).

More advanced airport apps allow you to access such key information instantly, and also, to arrange for services like parking and, in the case of DFW Airport, you can even order food.

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Finally, do security smarter: find out which security screening checkpoint at your departure airport has the shortest wait time, plus enroll yourself in the TSA’s PreCheck program to reduce the screening time and hassle. Get the TSA smartphone app:

TSA app

This app will let you assess the security lines and wait times instantly so you can choose the fastest checkpoint. Also, the app puts a world of information regarding security procedures, limitations, requirements, and frequently asked questions in your hands (literally), plus it will guide you to the application process for TSA PreCheck. All of this fingertip-accessible information will streamline and shorten your security screening, shorten your wait time and lower your blood pressure.

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Air travel this summer will include record passenger crowds in airports minimally staffed with customer service people at security checkpoints, ticket counters and gates, even at restaurants and retail stores. But you can optimize your trip planning and minimize your hassles by setting up a real-time, accurate information flow to your fingertips.

Don’t scour the airport and fight the crowds for crucial information and services. Empower yourself with apps and information that will quietly smooth your air travel experience. It only takes a few minutes to download the apps and to become familiar with their use. The payoff will be tenfold in reduced stress and frustrating delays.

Get the insider crew view:

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A hilarious, irreverent, crew’s-eye cartoon view of air travel. If you’re a pilot, flight attendant or air traveler, this is your confidential, no-holds-barred insider story. Savvy air travelers, want to impress your flight crew? Share these cartoons with them in flight: they will appreciate the laugh–and you!

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Flying Out of DFW Airport: 4 Insider Tips.

Posted in air travel, air traveler, airline, airline passenger, airline pilot blog, airlines, airport, airport security, passenger with tags , , , , , , on May 26, 2018 by Chris Manno

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Summer travel can be a challenge, especially by air. If you fly in or out of DFW Airport, here are some insider tips that can ease your air travel.

#1. Parking: There’s discounted parking available at your departure terminal. For details,  click here.  You can save up to 50% on parking within steps of your departure gate.

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But there’s more parking strategy to consider: what airline are you flying? If you’re flying any airline other than American Airlines, it makes sense to park at the specific terminal designated for that airline.

But if you’re flying American, you may possibly depart and arrive from several different terminals. So, the best bet for you is to park in Terminal D, for several reasons. First, Terminal D has both the largest garage and the largest security screening checkpoints in the entire airport. This means less waiting for both.

Park on the fourth floor of the Terminal D parking garage, because the fifth floor is the first that auto traffic encounters and so it tends to be crowded. The third floor is mostly one hour parking, so park on the fourth floor near the center, near the elevators. Then, if it’s raining, take the elevator to the bottom floor and walk across to the terminal under the covered walkway. If weather permits, cross at the third floor sky bridge directly to the ticket counters and security checkpoint.

No matter which terminal your flight departs from, Terminal D is a quick Skylink train ride to or, upon your return, from your gate.

And don’t even bother trying to park in Terminal C–it’s the smallest, most crowded parking garage and typically has very few open spaces. If you’re departing from Terminal C, park in A or E–they’re both just one quick Skylink stop from Terminal C.

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2. Security Screening: I mentioned that Terminal D has the largest security checkpoints, so that will cut your waiting time. But you can do more to speed your way through the required security screening. You can register for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, but I recommend the latter: Global Entry will speed you through US Customs, and it includes TSA PreCheck for the same fee, whereas TSA PreCheck does not include expedited Customs clearance. Get the “twofer.”

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Also, when it’s working, the TSA website can tell you which terminal screening checkpoint has the longest and shortest waiting times. Here’s a link to the TSA website for information about wait times for your airport. When you arrive at DFW Airport, see which terminal has the shortest wait time and avoid the crowd.

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3. Food: Here’s the inside story on DFW concessions. First, Terminal D has the most upscale and highest priced food options. Terminal C is the smallest and least renovated terminals and has the most crowded (read: slowest) options. Finally, in my opinion, the best terminal food options are in Terminals A and E.

My fave is E, because it’s less crowded (I normally park there for that reason too) and has great food options–including the best breakfast at DFW Airport, iHop:

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Terminal A also has many reasonably priced food options, including La Madeline, California Pizza Kitchen, Qdoba, and Salt Lick Barbecue. And I confess: I’m partial to the 7-Eleven hotdogs in Terminals A, D, and E.

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4. Flight information: The best way to stay current on your flight information (gates, times, baggage claim) is through the smart phone app for your airline. DFW Airport has information screens throughout the terminals but the apps on your phone are at your fingertips. So, install the app and enable “push” notifications so the latest pertinent info will appear on your phone. But when all else fails, simply Google your Airline and flight number for the latest info:

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So, if you’re flying out of DFW Airport, book and pre-pay your terminal parking at a significant discount using the link above. Choose the least crowded TSA security checkpoint by consulting the link above. Use the Skylink to speed between terminals and the DFW Airport app to find restaurants that meet your preferences.

Finally, use your airline’s app to receive the latest flight info but if you’re in a rush, simply Google your airline/flight number (example above–I searched for AAL 2572) to find your most current flight information.

That’s it. save yourself time, effort and money using the four tips above, and have a great flight out of DFW Airport.

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Air Travel Delays: “Mechanical Issues”

Posted in air travel, air traveler, aircraft maintenance, airline, airline cartoon, airline delays, airline industry, airline passenger, airline pilot, airline pilot blog, airline safety, airliner, fear of flying, flight, flight attendant, flight crew, flight delays, FoF, passenger with tags , , , , , , , on April 21, 2018 by Chris Manno

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“Mechanical issues” may sound like a catch-all for airline delays or, to anxious flyers, a mysterious, perhaps worrisome possibility. But it’s neither, and here’s why.

First, you have to understand two main concepts: airliners are complex mechanical wonders, and second, their maintenance and operation is very strictly and minutely regulated–and documented. This second point is essential to the aviation regulatory standard upheld by all major airlines, even though such detail must be correctly, diligently accomplished. That takes time. So, let’s walk through the possibilities.

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When you board an airliner, preflight checks are ongoing. This is especially true if the aircraft has just arrived from another station (airport). As soon as the flight completion checklists are accomplished, the preflight process begins anew by the crew. To waste no time, this preflight inspection goes on even as arriving passengers deplane and departing passengers board.

The checks ensure that all operating systems on the aircraft are up to the very specific standard set by the aviation regulatory agency that oversees commercial flight operations. In the United States, that’s the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Every system on that aircraft has an operational standard to determine if the aircraft is airworthy, and the jet does not move until those requirements are satisfied, right down to individual light bulbs.

Let’s look at that example: a light bulb.

If a pilot on an exterior preflight notices say, a landing light that is not working, this fact is immediately recorded in the aircraft logbook and the airline’s maintenance center is notified. The airline maintenance center will refer to the FAA specified “Minimum Equipment List” (MEL) for that particular aircraft.

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Without straying too deeply into the very complex decision tree of the MEL, there are three possible outcomes for the noted discrepancy (a landing light is inoperative). First, the landing light may be replaced, tested and certified by an FAA licensed and approved aircraft maintenance technician.

Second, the item may be specified by the FAA-approved MEL as non-essential for flight under specified conditions. For example, if the aircraft is about to depart for a destination to land in daylight, the MEL may allow the flight to depart, with proper logbook documentation of the exception.

Third, the MEL may allow for a redundant system to compensate for the component. If the inoperative bulb was a wingtip position light, the MEL may allow the flight to operate with the remaining position light–if the aircraft has two and only one is required (that’s why the aircraft designer put two bulbs there in the first place).

This is the same with all aircraft systems: if there are redundant systems approved by the FAA MEL, the flight may be approved for flight with that waiver to use the backup system, once the discrepancy and waiver are properly documented in the aircraft logbook.

Of course, some essential systems have no redundancy. In those cases, prescribed repairs must be made by FAA-certified mechanics (example: a tire at the prescribed wear limit must be replaced). The discrepancy, repair and results must be properly documented before the aircraft moves.

And there are “consumables.” For example, on my flight last night, when we were doing our “Before Landing Checklist,” we noted that the engine oil quantity was at the prescribed “refill” level. That, like all aircraft specifications, is a very conservative number. It’s as if you were driving your car down the highway and noted that you had just above a half a tank of gas.

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You’d turn to your passengers and say, “The MEL says we must always have more than a half a tank of gas, so we’re going to exit the freeway and refuel now.”

In flight, I sent a data-linked message to our technical operations center noting the requirement for oil service before the next flight, which I also wrote in the aircraft’s paper logbook.

Our tech folks coordinated with the mechanics at our destination to have the oil ready and a certified mechanic to perform the refill. That’s quick and easy at one of our hub airports, because we have mechanics on staff there.

At smaller stations, airlines rely of FAA-licensed mechanics approved for contract mechanical work on specified aircraft. Of course, most airlines have access to normal consumables like oil or tires, but no one has every part on every aircraft stocked at every station.

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If the required item is not in stock, it must be brought in, either from nearby (example: an airline’s LAX station may have an item needed for a flight out of Ontario Airport; staff can simply drive the part from Los Angeles International to Ontario). Other parts may be flown in on the next aircraft from the hub to the smaller station.

But either way, before the aircraft flies again, the prescribed maintenance procedure must be accomplished in accordance with FAA regulations and everything must be documented.

Most major airlines have this process streamlined for efficiency, like when I sent the data-linked message to prepare the arrival station for the required oil service. This was accomplished between flights with no delay. The certified mechanic noted the refill quantity and manufacturer’s details in the aircraft logbook as well as in the computerized records maintained at our airline technical headquarters.

But sometimes a procedure may take longer just by the normal time the process requires (changing a tire will take longer than changing a light bulb). Finally, the availability of mechanics at a given hour may add more time to the required procedure.

In all cases, the aircraft records must be meticulously documented, which takes time as well: approvals must be granted, remedial actions certified, and everything recorded both in the aircraft on-board paper logbook as well as the aircraft records at the airline’s technical center.

That takes time.

If the delay is predicted to be too long, we might be assigned another aircraft for the flight, which also takes time: passengers, cargo, baggage, and catering must be transferred to the new aircraft. So, if you’re waiting on board during a maintenance delay, it’s probably because swapping aircraft would take longer, or there isn’t another aircraft available.

To summarize, airliners today are complex machines with multiple parts and systems, all of which have MEL specified operating minimums. Not all replacement items are available system-wide, and and even where mechanics are immediately available, remedial processes can take time.

The “mechanical delay” we experience is due to the airlines’ unwavering adherence to very specific FAA standards.

The good news is, that’s why air travel on major airlines is as reliably safe as it is.

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Fear of Flying: Flash Sale 30% Off

Posted in air travel, air traveler, airline cartoon, airline industry, airline passenger, airline pilot, airline pilot blog, airline safety, airlines, airport, fear of flying, flight, flight attendant, flight crew, FoF, passenger with tags , , , , on September 29, 2017 by Chris Manno

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This book has helped many overcome their reluctance to fly, opening up a whole new world of travel and adventure for themselves and their families. The foundation of the book is, the more you know about your flight, the less that fear of the unknown can run wild with your imagination.

Here’s a free sample and at the end, a code for 30% off.

Chapter 2: It’s All About You

No, seriously—it really is: no other area of either transportation or technology has ever been more specifically and consistently engineered, designed, regulated and enforced with you, the passenger, as the focal point than modern air travel.

Sure, there’s a National Highway Safety Commission and various government agencies regulating driver’s licenses, and there are standards for auto and truck manufacturers. But those are nothing compared to the rigid airworthiness standards to which all commercial aircraft are built and tested, and nowhere near the year-round scrutiny given to pilots through unrelenting FAA checks in flight, in the doctor’s office, and in recurring background checks.

That’s a wonderful, unique thing in an increasingly complex and high speed world of transportation, and safety statistics show how air travel has advanced above and beyond all other modes of travel.

There’s a learning curve in the airline industry that has improved steadily since the early days of airline flight in the 1930s: accident rates have steadily dropped year over year and aircraft and engine reliability has increased in a parallel vector.

I recently had an aviation magazine editor ask me what I would cite as the primary cause of engine malfunctions that lead to a flight cancellation. I answered honestly that I’ve been flying on my particular fleet for over six years and I’ve never experienced an engine malfunction in that entire time.

That wasn’t so about twenty years ago, before aircraft and engine technology had advanced to its present state of reliability. But that’s the aviation learning curve: since the late 1990s, the advent of constant, data-linked engine monitoring now sends a wide array of engine parameters from the jet in cruise to a maintenance and engineering data analysis center that catches nascent faults and liabilities way before they become failures.

Last month I received a message in flight from our maintenance and engineering center asking me to check the vibration reading on a particular engine, because it was reading a bit high to them on the ground. Engine failures “on the wing” as we call them, are so rare that they actually make the news when they happen.

There’s a learning curve success story: decade after decade, we’ve developed new technology and hand-in-hand with strict regulatory enforcement, the airline biz has lowered the flight risks and added new layers of accident prevention and aircraft reliability.

By contrast, the automobile and highway transportation sector’s safety record has stagnated and even regressed over the same time period as air travel has improved: the traffic accident and fatality statistics have actually worsened as more cars hit the road and as speed limits are raised. Little is done to regulate or retest drivers other than observation and apprehension by a law enforcement officer. Even less is done to determine accident cause factors and develop technological and regulatory improvements to lower passenger risks.

By comparison, the air travel safety imperative is unprecedented, the standard uncompromisingly high: everything involved in air travel is geared toward passenger safety. Licensing of pilots, certification of training, manufacturing standards and operating restrictions for airlines are so constrained that if an equal measure were applied to the highways and drivers, the roads would be vastly safer—and nearly empty.

No government inspector climbs into a big tractor trailer rig to ride along and evaluate a trucker firsthand several times every year.

There’s not a government regulator assigned to a trucking company to monitor records, safety and training not to mention vehicle maintenance and repairs. Truck manufacturers have some rudimentary safety and fuel mileage standards, but the vehicles are not inspected by government licensed and tested mechanics daily.

No automobile driver is required to renew a driver’s license every nine months with a graded road test, plus oral and written exams, not to mention a government controlled physical exam with a specified doctor reporting results immediately to the government, never mind the periodic background check and the no-notice, no-refusal “we’re going to ride with you” spot evaluation.

By contrast, your flight crew—front (pilots) and back (flight attendants)—are constantly monitored, tested and certified.

That why air travel safety has improved annually while highway safety muddles along or actually regresses, and annual traffic fatalities remain at staggeringly high rates. Yet, the paradox remains: hardly a mention of “fear of driving” is made even in the face of thousands of lives lost on the highway annually, while fear of flying is a very real dilemma.

All of aviation is not safety-driven as is airline flying. In the military, the mission was primary, my safety as a pilot secondary to that. We accepted that, and many still do flying for our military.

By contrast, the entire airline aircraft design, engineering (we’ll talk about that later) and  manufacturing industry all telescopes down to one objective: you, and your safety. Same goes for the training, licensing, nonstop testing and evaluation of pilots, dispatchers, air traffic controllers and aircraft mechanics. In military terms, you and your flight  are the mission.

That’s the compelling force that drives the airline industry, and it’s all about you. While that might be hard to see when you’re enduring the hassles of security, and check-in, and boarding, it’s a powerful awareness to keep in your hip pocket: rest assured, everything about the jet you fly on, the crew that flies and maintains it, and the air traffic controllers who guide it have you as their focus. You are the mission.

So, recognize this windfall for what it is. Compare your clear priority in airline travel with the abject failure that is highway safety, a risk you live with every day. Air travel is actually your safest place, the one technological juggernaut where it really is all about you.

We’ll go into more specifics on who’s flying your jet, but for now, keep in your hip pocket the monumental safety success that has been designed around you the passenger, making air travel the safest mode of transportation you will ever take.

Remember the objective stated in the foreword to this book: empowerment is the key here. You’ve made a choice to learn about flight, to consider whether you want to give it a try. That’s real control because at any point, you can stop. You really are in charge and anything but powerless.

Stay with that decision for now, knowing it’s not set in stone—you can change your  mind—and let’s expand your fact-based knowledge of airline flying.

Quick Reference Summary

  • Aircraft design, engineering and manufacturing is regulated with you as the central priority.
  • The air travel learning curve in the United States has refined the industry and minimized risk factors over many decades.
  • High-tech, data-linked systems monitor aircraft systems performance and preempt failures.
  • By comparison, the risk factors associated with everyday highway traffic far outweigh the well-managed factors of air travel.

Order  your copy now with and use this 30% off discount code at checkout    2N7CUXXU 

Regular price: $9.99 Your price: $7.99 Order now–offer expires October 7, 2017

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Air Travel Delays: My Top 3 Cause Factors

Posted in air traveler, airline, airline cartoon, airline cartoon book, airline delays, airline industry, airline passenger, airline pilot, airline pilot blog, passenger, passenger bill of rights, pilot, travel, travel tips with tags , , , , , , , on July 3, 2017 by Chris Manno

Look, I get it: I sit in both ends of the jet for some very long delays. My last two turnarounds were planned for 7 hours but turned into 8.5 and 9.1 respectively. That made my pilot duty day, with preflight and ground turnaround time, over 12 hours.

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Me deadheading in the very last row of coach, carefully not man-spreading and conceding the armrest to the middle seat passenger (basic air travel etiquette, BTW)

We waited over an hour for takeoff, then had additional holding in the air before landing at Philadelphia International Airport.

I’d deadheaded up to Philly to fly the jet back to DFW Airport but the result of the Air Traffic Control delays getting the jet off the ground in DFW and enroute to Philadelphia made our Philly-DFW flight well over an hour late into DFW.

That caused many passenger misconnects once we arrived at DFW after yet another round of airborne holding for nearly an hour. My flight plan from Philadelphia to DFW called for a flight time of 3:27 but with holding, the actual flight time became 4:30.

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That’s due to storms moving through the north Texas area faster and more southerly than predicted, constricting air traffic routes into DFW. So, we were delayed by ATC for an hour holding over a fix southeast of the airport after an enroute course refile to avoid weather.

I ain’t complaining, but I got home at 2am instead of 11pm. That’s my job and I did it correctly and safely for all 167 folks on board.

But that’s not the big picture. What’s driving ever-increasing air travel delays? Here’s my Top 3 Factors.

  1. Increased traffic volume. According to the DOT Bureau of Aircraft Statistics, airline departures have increased 5-7% annually since 2010. That means more aircraft crammed into exactly the same airspace, which means traffic flow abatement is ever-more necessary and unfortunately, more present: ground stops abound; inflight holding is often unavoidable even after enduring a ground stop.
  2. Weather predictive delays: the National Weather Service provides more and better predictive weather products that the FAA Air Traffic Control Center (ARTC) attempts to integrate into their traffic management constraints. In theory, this is a good thing but in practice, I question the effectiveness: air traffic is often preemptively ground-stopped or re-routed based on weather predictions, which aren’t always accurate (see above), meanwhile, air traffic then must be re-routed from the ARTC re-routes.
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The storms often do not conform to the FAA predicted movement, causing yet another layer of reroutes and delays.

3. Airline “banking” (the grouping of inbound-outbound flight exchanges at hub airports) cannot handle the disruption of hours-long delays: when one complex or “bank” of flights is delayed outbound, there’s nowhere to park and deplane the next complex. This leads to individual airline-imposed ground stops: your flight will not be pushed off from your origin airport gate until there’s a reasonable expectation of gate availability at your arrival hub. This is to avoid the old “sitting on a tarmac with toilets overflowing waiting for a gate” urban legends that engendered the Passenger Bill of Rights.

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Given the ubiquitous eye of cellphone video and social media, passengers can count on more origin airport outbound delays: major carriers will always defer to the Passenger Bill of Rights, allowing you to deplane at will at the departure station rather than sit on board at your destination, trapped for hours waiting for a gate at a weather-affected hub while ranting on social media.

There are other factors creating and lengthening delays, like an industry-wide shortage of qualified airline pilots and airline planners who over-optimistically schedule aircraft, crews and connections.

But from a pilot viewpoint, the big three above seem to be what I most frequently encounter. So, in addition to packing your own food and water in your carry-ons, be sure to arrive at your departure airport with a plentiful supply of patience. This summer, you’ll need it it more than ever.

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Air Travel and Anarchy

Posted in air travel, air traveler, airline industry, airline passenger, airline pilot, airline pilot blog, flight attendant, flight crew, passenger, pilot, travel with tags , , , , , , on October 27, 2016 by Chris Manno

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“I say let the world go to hell, but I should always have my tea.” –Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Nothing brings out the worst in people like air travel. Sadly, flying has become the crossroads of selfishness and self-righteousness, a road-rage hybrid unmasked, more akin to mob action as a result of being seated together rather than in isolated vehicles, but angry, loose-tempered and looking for a reason to go off just the same. Throw in a fashionable side order of latent outrage at anything individually determined to be offensive and you have the airborne tinderbox that regularly explodes into passenger non-compliance, misconduct, diversion and ultimately, yet another ruined travel experience.

Maybe in days past there was less opportunity to exact compensation for perceived slights. Maybe there’s righteous consumer outrage over the corpcomm buzzword “inconvenience” overlaid on any type of service disaster. Mix the two well, sprinkle with a litigious seasoning and pour into a social media crust, then bake on the internet for less than thirty minutes. We’re serving up outrage–and selfies–get it while it’s hot.

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That tired, sad urban legend-gone-digitally viral cry for attention would be little more than a Spam-ish nuisance except for one elephantine reality: it’s dangerous as hell in flight.

In a world that prizes personal choice, self-importance, sacrosanct self-image, and the all-important digital self-reflection (“That’s us in ____!”), compliance is a dirty word. Problem is, flying is a difficult, at times risky endeavor that relies on discipline and its ugly stepchild, compliance, from the cockpit all way back to the aft lav.

Unfortunately, the all-important “me” is societally- and media-sanctioned, so individual choices are thereby easily disconnected from consequences in the aircraft emergency crew commands as well as in the midair violence wall-papered over in corp-speak as “passenger non-compliance.” That often starts with choices easily blamed these days on those offering the choice rather than those making the choice itself.

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Crewmembers are attacked, other passengers are physically (or worse) assaulted, but the individual acting, “non-complying,” is seldom held responsible for the consequences of an individual choice.  Sadly, it gets so much worse, so much more dangerous.

But I can hear it already: yeah, but I’m me. That’s a two-headed monster–first, the perception that others are the problem and second, that you aren’t one of the “others,” but you are. The command “take nothing with you” in an emergency evacuation is based on the life-and-death certification of the aircraft: 90 seconds, timed with a full load of passengers from evacuation command to everyone safely clear of an aircraft that had no luggage aboard.

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In real life, enough of the “I’m me” others refuse to comply with the command to take nothing with you (“I’m not leaving without my [fill in self-absorbed priority]!”) at the expense of those seated at the far end of the tested, proven, but now destroyed time to escape a burning aircraft. That can and will be fatal, yet the death of some is lower on the hierarchy of self in an “everybody gets a trophy” legacy of some “others.”

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Airline regulatory agencies like the FAA and NTSB do little to actually enforce compliance. Even beyond the glaring headlines attending an aircraft emergency evacuation sabotaged by passenger non-compliance, there’s little that regulators can and will do to eliminate flight risk factors other than to urge passenger “compliance.”

There again, we careen headlong into the absolution of “I’m me.”  The FAA recently recognized the disastrous inflight potential for a lithium ion battery fire in a very commonplace piece of technology. The remedy? Screening? Enforcement? Legal consequences?

Nope. Just, “we told you not to.”

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Granted,  you’re not one of the “others” who’d readily drag their bags along on an emergency evacuation at the risk of other passengers’ lives. You don’t over consume alcohol and disrupt a flight. And you don’t ignore the toothless “prohibition” and bring your very expensive but hazardous phone on board.

But they’re out there, self-justified, media-enriched, societally excused, and dangerous as hell.

Better hope “they” aren’t on “your” flight.

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Air Travel: What You SHOULD Worry About.

Posted in air travel, air traveler, airline delays, airline industry, airline passenger, airline pilot, airline pilot blog, airline safety, airliner, airlines, airport, blog, cartoon, flight attendant, flight crew, flight delays, passenger, pilot with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 18, 2016 by Chris Manno

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There’s seldom a day that passes without some type of media headline regarding an air “scare.” But the news stories are mostly about minor hassles such as a divert or a passenger disturbance, maybe even turbulence injuries for the unwary passengers who won’t keep their seatbelts fastened.

Whatever. Most of what’s reported as a “scare” isn’t worth a second thought. That said, there are things you should worry about. Here’s my Top 5 list:

  1. Fatigue: Your crew has been browbeaten into the longest flight duty period allowed with the shortest rest period possible. That’s due to effective lobbying by the airline industry hellbent on reducing crew costs–at all costs. Rest periods have been shaved to the bare minimum for pilots, and there’s no rest minimum stipulated by the FAA for the cabin crews responsible for your safety in an emergency. The airline industry has  relentlessly and successfully lobbied the FAA and congress to resist any rest requirements for flight attendants. So, they have none, often working a 12 hour day with only 8-9 hours off for sleep, food, and getting to and from work. That’s a bad idea, cost-driven, that makes little sense.
  2. Unrealistic Flight Schedules: Airlines have stretched the planning of flights to use the minimum number of aircraft on multiple, interlocking segments, often planning a single jet for 5 or more flights in a single day. The unspoken prerequisite for such an operation is an unavoidable fact that airline planners know–but ignore. That is, system variables such as aircraft maintenance, weather, Air Traffic Control and airport delays are the rule, not the exception. So, if your flight is three segments into that jet’s day, the chances of your arriving on time is reduced significantly. There’s not a certain probability that one of those delay factors will occur in an aircraft’s day–it’s guaranteed.
  3. Pay Restrictions: Overtime pay is taboo among airline planners, despite the havoc wrought by such a restriction. For example, if your aircraft has a maintenance problem requiring a mechanic to repair a system or component within an hour of maintenance shift change time, that repair will wait at least that final hour has expired just to be started. Why? Because no licensed mechanic can do half of the work, then have the work finished by an oncoming mechanic who must put his license on the line for work he didn’t do. The answer is, overtime for the mechanic required to work beyond a scheduled shift to complete work that will let you depart on time. That choice has been made: the answer is, no overtime.
  4. Oversales: That’s a direct result of restricted capacity, meaning, airlines have trimmed schedules and thus seats available to the bare minimum required–but they’ve sold more seats than they have in stock. Rain check? That works in a retail operation selling “things,” but not for a business selling transportation. How does that work for the time-constrained passenger with a business meeting scheduled or a resort already paid for?
  5. Manning: Every student taking Business-101 will tell you that personnel management dictates some overlapping duties if personnel costs are to be contained: you must answer your coworker’s phone if they’re out sick. That doesn’t work in the cockpit, or the cabin. And yet, crew manning has been pared to the bone, requiring a “perfect operation” (see #2 above) which airline planners all know never happens.  So, pilots with mandatory maximum duty hours run up against FAA mandated limits and very often there are no spare pilots–because hiring and paying pilots is a cost item airline planners minimize regardless of the price to be paid in delayed or cancelled flights. That price is paid by passengers and as often, by crews.

Those are my Big Five, the only “scary” things that you are likely to see in air travel. They don’t make the news, probably because they aren’t “news,” but rather, just the sad result of spreadsheet dollar-driven choices already made before you even get to the airport.

Have a good flight.

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Pilot Incognito: The Trouble With Air Travel.

Posted in air travel, air travel humor, airline, airline cartoon, airline cartoon book, airline delays, airline industry, airline passenger, airline pilot, airline pilot blog, airline ticket prices, airliner, airlines, baggage fees, flight attendant, flight crew, passenger with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 27, 2015 by Chris Manno

Let me confess: though I fly at least 90 hours a month as an airline pilot, I personally hate air travel. The delays, bad weather, crowding, security, expense, cattle-herding through packed terminals, the security gauntlet, baggage claim–I hate all of it. Give me a road trip, a map, hotel reservations, a route and I love to travel, driving. Hang airline reservations over my head and I go as to the gallows. safe word0001 But this past holiday weekend, I did exactly that: I bought tickets for my family and me, and we faced the ordeal together. Sure, we can travel free–but not if we have a tight schedule and an event to attend, especially on a federal holiday weekend like Memorial Day. I thought to myself, as I went through the steps as an air traveler to find a decent fare, buy a ticket, and travel, let’s see what this is like from the passenger standpoint. Year round, I hear the griping about airline service, fees, late flights, rude passenger service. I decided I’d get the full experience from start to finish, then decide for myself if the urban legend of horrible air travel was true. image Reservations? On line, complicated, tedious and annoying. There were too many ways to screw up, which I did: whoops–this particular flight goes to Baltimore, not Washington Reagan. All airlines consider Baltimore, Washington-Reagan and Dulles to be “Washington DC” for their flight purposes–but not mine. They dump them all together online, sorting by “value,” which is to say, “here’s what we usually can’t sell, so it’s a little cheaper.” From a consumer standpoint, the value of “cheaper” versus “where I need to go” is bass-ackwards, priority-wise. But online reservations are their ball game, so they make the rules. A long, frustrating sorting process–mostly wading through stuff they want me to buy–culminated in the painstaking process of names and addresses for all three of us. I’d had to change some details once it became apparent what we actually needed–the punishment for that is retyping all the data for the three of us each time. Fees? Yes, but there’s nothing sneaky about it: want to board ahead of others? Pay for it. Want more legroom? There’s a charge. Check bags? Pay. So? That seems fair to me–we’ll board with our group. We’ll use the seats I chose. We’ll check one bag, and pay for it. That’s business. I have no problem with that but then maybe I don’t perceive these extras as my birthright. image At the airport, as a pilot I could have entered the terminal through a couple of different authorized access points. But, I was traveling with my family–we stay together. The security screening was adequately manned so traffic flowed smoothly, with an ironic twist: we were in a very short, fast-moving general screening line, while the TSA Pre-Check line was three times as long and moving slowly due to the need for more elaborate document checks. The TSA people did their job efficiently, with only a minimum of the cattle-call feel. But the annoyance wasn’t the TSA staff, but rather many other air travelers who were distracted, inefficient, and rude, shoving ahead of each other, not following basic instructions. I could imagine the complaints from many of those passengers who were actually the problem themselves, rather than the screening process. Another irony.

Once on the secure side, we prepared for the reality of air travel: we bought a bottle of water for each of us, plus a sandwich each. There’s really no food to be had on the flight, largely because over the years passengers have demonstrated loud and clear that they don’t want to pay for food. Fine–we paid at a concession stand for food instead, then brought it aboard. Those who didn’t went hungry (and thirsty) in flight. That will get chalked up to poor service in some customer feedback, but the situation is exactly as consumer demand dictates. Again, the line between the cause of the complaint and the complainers becomes blurred. image Since I paid to check the one large bag we brought on the trip, we had only hand carried items: a garment bag, which I hung in the forward closet as we boarded, and a mini-sized roll-aboard. We were near the back of the plane, but still, storage space wasn’t a problem even though every seat on the flight was full. Again, either you pay to check a bag, or pay to board early to get overhead space–or you don’t. The airline product now is cafeteria style: pay for what you want only. Those who expect dessert included with their appetizer will be disappointed.

I could see as we boarded that the crew was tired. We were scheduled to land at midnight and they’d obviously already had a long day. I approached them this way: they’re at work, they’re tired–leave them alone and get seated. Those passengers who presume that their basic airfare has somehow bought them a piece of somebody’s workday are flat out wrong. My wife, a veteran flight attendant, always hated it when passengers boarded and ordered her, “smile,” as if she were a character at Disney. I roll my I eyes when I’m squeezing past passengers on the jet bridge, returning to the cockpit, when there’s the inevitable “We’ll let you by” as if we’re all just “funnin'” rather than me trying to accomplish a complex job to get us airborne. Ditto the cabin crew. Leave them alone. Most of the boarding hassles are, simply, passenger induced: the inevitable bashing of bags against people as passengers shove their way in. Backpacks are the worst, with passengers whirling around, smacking someone else with their wide load. Others dumbly push bags designed to be pulled, drag bags designed to be rolled, a struggle with too-wide, over-stuffed bags because by God, THEY’RE not paying to check anything.

image Once airborne, we each had what we needed: water and food. So, when the service cart reached us, the beverage was a bonus. Yes, I could have shown my crew ID to get maybe a free drink, but it’s not worth: I’m not working, I’m glad I’m not working, and to keep the precious bubble of anonymity and “not at work” ambience, I paid $7 for a drink. Well worth the price. Arrival was on time and the last hurdle was deplaning, a simple reality made into an ordeal, once again, by some passengers: even though the forward door wasn’t open, there’s a mad rush to bolt out of coach seats and start slinging hand-carried bags like missiles. There’s a repeat of the boarding bashing of other passengers with backpacks and heavy bags. There are those in rows behind you that won’t wait, but feel they must push past you. Bags not designed to be pushed, pushed; bags designed to be rolled, dragged. image Basically, most of the hassles of being a passenger are caused by, or certainly compounded by, other passengers. The tableau of air travel is the reverse of the classic “ascent of man” drawings, with travelers becoming stooped with fatigue, unmet needs (don’t pay for food/water on the plane–BRING IT), too heavy bags (CHECK IT–you have $500 for your headphones, audio equipment and iPad; invest $25 in your own convenience). Air travel is the descent of man–so many unthinking, illogical, uninformed (what’s your flight number? Boarding time?), helpless (“Where’s the bathroom?”) and rude (gotta shove ahead through security, during boarding, and deplaning) people spoiling things for everyone–including themselves. image The return trip was much the same. I have to say, my usual reluctance to travel by air proved to be an overreaction: nothing turned out to be urban-legend awful, from security to boarding to baggage claim. People just like to gripe and I have the feeling that the loudest gripers are among those who, as noted above, cause and compound the very problems they complain about. Regardless, we got where we needed to be, on time, efficiently, as promised. That’s a positive experience, in my opinion. I’m back in cockpit again, storing that lesson away: air travel urban legend, along with those who rant the loudest, both have very little credibility. Take your seats, let the crew do their job, and we’ll be under way shortly. Given my choice, I prefer to drive, but flying is nonetheless an efficient, fairly-priced indulgence. If only that could be a more common realization. AIPTEK

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