Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The "Big" day.

I've been chastised for not blogging this week (combination of illness and real-life intrusions) so I figured it was time to bang out something on the Texas Senate run-off.

Prediction: Cruz wins, big.  I'm also starting to think there's a distinct possibility Sadler loses.  This would be crushing for the Texas Democratic Party.  If they can't move their base to vote for legitimate candidates then they are probably looking at just sitting back and hoping the 'brown wave' really does a.) finally happen and b.) really break their way.

More importantly, today is Saint Arnold's Divine Reserve 12 release day.  Since it's been about a year and a half since the good folks at SA have resleased a Divine series, as of the time of this writing the lines are already long.  If you're not already in line at the Midtown Spec's then you might want to consider alternative locations.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Early voting day one: Harris County

Probably not enough data to suggest a trend but interesting nevertheless:

According to data provided by Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart's office the total Republican early vote numbers are as follows:

8,231 - In person voters
14,750 - Mail-in ballots returned (25,007 sent out)

1,537 - In person voters
6,621 - Mail-in ballots returned (13,458 sent out)

If these numbers hold this is going to be a VERY low turn-out election.

However, I would expect these numbers to pick up as the week goes on, but I'm unsure of how far they can realistically be expected to increase given the low voter attention being paid to this election.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Making sure you know which side is "right"

CBS does some interesting framing on the (sadly, already started) gun-debate following the Colorado tragedy:

Gun Control Debate Returns After Colorado Shooting. Brian Montopoli, CBSNews.com

In the story CBS takes quotes from several pro-gun control advocates, all made out to be sensible people just wanting to have a conversation to stop people from dying.  Here's an example:
"The shooter should be brought to justice and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," Rep. Carolyn McCarthy of New York, a Democrat whose husband was killed in a mass shooting on a train, said Friday morning. "But we as a nation should also not continue to ignore avenues to prevent tragedies like this from happening in the future."

So reasonable, so concerned that justice be done.  The one person who CBS chooses to quote that's anti-gun control?  Different story:
Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas, a Republican, said the story made him wonder, "With all those people in the theater, was there nobody that was carrying a gun that could have stopped this guy more quickly?" (Gohmert also tied the tragedy to the "ongoing attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs.")

Yeah, crazy, wild-eyed.  Of all the people CBS could be bothered to find (or, more realistically, be bothered to Google search given the quote was lifted (with poor attribution) from the far left-leaning Huffington Post) you'd think they could have found someone who's possibly with the NRA, or perhaps even Dudley Brown, a gun-rights advocate based in Colorado.  At least ABC had the decency to mention him.

Not CBS though, they choose to go for the crazy.  On the side that, to them, is the 'wrong' side.

See, it's not too hard to make sure that you're issue is on the 'right side of history'.  You just have to make sure you only tell 1/2 the story.  Gold star to CBS for following the playbook to a T here.

Why I think United handled the "4 mile award ticket" situation correctly.

Much news over the weekend surrounding a computer "glitch" that allowed some United Mileage Plus members to book award tickets to/from Asia for four (4) miles plus applicable taxes (around $35 bucks).  Depending on what side you fell this was either the greatest mistake fare in history or the greediest attempt at customer dishonesty in recorded history.

Most of the Boarding Area travel bloggers, Mommy Points, View From the Wing, & One Mile at a Time have all reported that United is taking a 3-tier approach to the situation:

(From UA Insider on FlyerTalk)
  • For those customers who had sufficient mileage in their account for the correct award amount, the correct amount of miles were deducted at the time of redemption. Any customers who do not intend to use the published number of miles for their ticket may cancel their reservation without paying a fee and we will refund all miles, taxes and fees.
  • For those customers who did not have sufficient mileage in their account for the correct award amount, the correct amount of miles could not be deducted at the time of redemption. These tickets have been canceled for non-payment and all taxes and fees have been refunded.
  • For those customers who have already begun travel, or are ticketed to begin travel on or before July 21, we will not cancel these tickets and will allow travel to be completed in full. This is intended as an accommodation to those customers whose travel is already underway or the departure date to begin travel is imminent.
Here's the rub:  From what I can tell, AT NO TIME did United ever advertise these award flights as being priced at 4 miles.  The advertised rate was always the regular amount of miles that it would take to fly this route.  As a result of a computer glitch, the incorrect miles were charged to some accounts.

In other words, United NEVER OFFERED these flights at 4 miles.

That's kind of a big deal, because if they had advertised the fares at 4 miles (in a way similar to the $64 NYC-ORD mistake fare from a week ago) then, according to the DOT regulations, they would be on the hook for honoring the price.  As it is, until the mistake was discovered and broadcast wildly across the Internet, the purchasing customer would have had no expectation of receiving the ticket for such a small price.  If you didn't know about it and went online to book the fare it would show you the typical round trip pricing (currently the "saver reward" {typically the lowest price} to HKG is 32,500 for coach, 60,000 for business while first class can be had on a regular reward for 160,000 {no saver for FC, costs are one-way}).  These are the same prices (Your mileage may vary, depending on starting city) that users would have seen when they booked this mistake fare.

Realistically then, this is the price that they should have been willing to pay.  That one guy figured out there was a glitch, and that the travel blogging industry and message boards went mad passing that glitch around are irrelevant at this time.  By clicking on the button at the advertised rate the customer was de-facto agreeing to the published rate, acting like United was somehow obligated to honor the mistake rate is disingenuous at best.

The second area of customer complaint is that it took United a long time to say anything.  Yes, it did, and it will take all airlines longer to respond to major issues in lieu of the "passenger bill of rights" that regulates them to the whims of the DOT with severe penalties for non-compliance.  I'm sure there were negotiations, legal review and all kinds of discussions happening between United and the DOT until the final solution was agreed upon.

So now United has come out and realized that, no matter what they do, they're going to make some enemies with people who really want to keep their something for nothing.  I think they're doing the right thing by honoring people who are already in the air, cancelling those who didn't have the miles in the first place, and offering free cancellations for those who do.  It's really the best that they can do in this situation, which is ultimately going to be another huge black eye for COdbaUA (as it's called on the message boards).

So that's that then, and I imagine someone in United's IT department is either brushing off their resume right now, or is in for a very bad bonus at the beginning of next year.

Two tangents:

Customers saying they're going to file a DOT complaint: Good luck with that, because it appears to me that the "advertised rate" that you signed on to was correct. I highly doubt anything will come of this.

Travel bloggers: There's some discussion about the travel bloggers who broadcast this fare and whether or not they were in the wrong.  I don't have any problem with a travel blogger posting about the fare but, and I haven't read all of the posts so I don't know if this happened, IF a blogger knew this was an obvious mistake and encouraged people to run out and jump on it then I'm thinking that crossed the line.  Travel boards are both good and bad, and travel bloggers too. I'm not sure if this discussion is ever going to be fully developed but a lot of these travel bloggers make money from the companies they choose to blog about.  It's been widely reported that United has disengaged themselves from the monetization of bloggers. What impact that has on how they cover the airline is open to interpretation.  And so it goes.

Pre-Check coming to IAH

To be unveiled July 24th according to a Houston Business Journal Report:

TSA unveils new fast screening program at IAH. Molly Ryan, Houston Business Journal

The program, called TSA Pre✓™, allows qualified passengers that go through a pre-screening process to go through security gates with an expedited security process. If passengers qualify for the program, they can go through security checkpoints without taking off their shoes and while wearing light outerwear.
          United Airlines frequent fliers are eligible to apply for the program.

Not ALL UA frequent fliers however, if you're eligible you'll receive an e-mail from United stating so.  I've received mine and have already begun to process.

Just another reason to establish some type of status with the airlines if you travel a lot.  Despite marginally reducing their presence at IAH, UA still has a LOT of sway there. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Wyndham Rewards Summer Promotion: 4X

If you're travelling this Summer and don't already have your hotels booked this is not a bad idea:

Wyndham Summer Promotion
The points start multiplying on your second stay, and they can be used for either Wyndham Rewards points or certain partner airline miles.

Link to Registration

I typically find hotel points to be more valuable than airline miles, at 4 times the rewards you can come real, real close to a free night at their lowest tier hotel in two stays.  Not that this would get you anything nice (think Knights Inn) If you stayed three or four times you could snag a free night at a Wingate or even a Wyndham.  That's not a bad turnaround.

Since I'm building miles now for a reward trip to Sydney in 2013, I'm choosing the airline miles option.  It all depends on your travel needs I guess.

(Note:  I am NOT financially compensated by Wyndham Rewards in any way, except for being a member.  I was not compensated for creating this post.  Any conflicts of interest will be disclosed, this is not one of them)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Reasons you might want to visit Santa Barbara

Last weekend the wife and I made a quick trip out to Santa Barbara.  Oddly enough, this was the first time I've ever visited California other than laying over in an airport.

First, the logistics.  Since we had a 6:47 AM departure from IAH we decided to stay overnight at the Wingate on Beltway 8 in order to avoid driving from NorthWest Houston to the airport that early in the morning.  The hotel was nice but, due to the storms they had some water outage issues along with some over bookings that made things a little hectic.  No worries for us though, all we had to do was run our water for a few minutes to ensure no sediment was in the lines.

Arriving at IAH that early meant security was a breeze.  Another positive note was that both the wife and my upgrades cleared, so we'd be 1st class from IAH to LAX.  We were on UA flight 1289 in Seats 6E and 6F.  The plane was a 757-200, which had overhead IFE and, wouldn't you know it, my headphone jack was broken.  I notified the Flight Attendant who really couldn't do much but say that she would notify maintenance because their next leg was to Hawaii.  Once again I'll note this on the UA survey that I receive, but I'm really not expecting much to come of it.  Fortunately, I brought my iPad along so I had entertainment options (I'm learning).

Breakfast was UA's standard fare of eggs, potatoes and sausage with fresh fruit and yogurt.  It was OK, but their breakfast sausage is close to inedible.  I did take the offered croissant and made myself and egg and potato sandwich.  On the up side, the fruit was fresh and the yogurt was tasty. The eggs were actually pretty good, as was the potato gratin-type dish that was served on the side.

Our second flight was UA 6345 which was a whopping 89 miles at 6,000 feet.  It lasted all of 20 minutes and we landed at SBA with no incident.  Great views of the coast however for the entire flight.

Upon arriving in Santa Barbara we stopped at Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf for some caffeine, and then went to the AVIS car rental desk where we were given the HMS Humongous as an "upgrade".  Next time I'm offered one of those I'm turning it down. 

We were early (it was about 11:00 AM) so we decided to go to La SuperRica for an early lunch.  I'll give the food here a full post in the coming days, but this place is GREAT.  It's not much to look at, but the food was simple yet outstanding. Be sure to arrive early however because the line gets LONG around noon. (They open at 11.)

We hit our hotel (The Days Inn, which I booked using Wyndham Rewards points) at about 1:00 PM and I inquired about early check in.  Unfortunately, they didn't have a room ready but the staff was VERY helpful, saw that we were tired and a little kindness and understanding got us in a freshly cleaned room about 30 minutes later.

We then went out to see the sites, which leads us to this:
La Alameda Plaza
This is the La Alameda Plaza on State Street, the main thoroughfare for Santa Barbara.  In the back left corner of the street you can see a sign for the East Beach Wine Company who happened to be having a Kermit Lynch tasting event going on that evening.  At this point it was about 3:00 PM and the tasting didn't start until 4:30.  We talked puppies, wines and the idiocy of the Texas three-tier system with the proprietor for about thirty minutes, and then decided to walk the rest of State Street and come back when the tasting event started.  We were glad we did, because the wines were great, the lady pouring was a Kermit Lynch sales rep and was very knowledgeable.  They also had a spread of French cheeses, so all in all we spent about an hour and a half sipping good French wine and talking shop with the rep and the proprietor.

After that we were hungry so we headed down to the Harbor:
Santa Barbara Harbor
Santa Barbara's Harbor district is one of the most beautiful places in America.  With the Pacific Ocean on one side and the mountains on the other the vistas and scenery are (to use a cliche) stunning.
Santa Barbara Scenery
Santa Barbara also has some unique statues and works of public art that are nice to stroll around and look at.
Dolphin Fountain
You can get up and down State Street, via trolley for $.50 a ride, per person.  All in all it's not a bad deal, but if you want a trolley ride to the Harbor it's going to cost you a second fare. (Two separate lines and there is no ticket so the fare does not transfer.)  The wife and I rode down to the dolphin fountain (above) and then walked over to the Harbor.

At the Harbor we walked along the beach, my wife pet every dog in site, and we met and spoke with quite a few locals.  All in all we found the people from Santa Barbara to be pleasant, with a couple of exceptions.  By the time we got to the Harbor itself (about a mile walk) we were hungry, so we decided to eat seafood at Brophy Brothers.  There's also the Santa Barbara Fish House on the pier, but that would have required another mile walk and we wanted food and drink now.  Again, I'm going to write about the food in depth later, but it was good seafood and a great atmosphere.

We closed out the evening with some beer and cider at the Old Kings Road pub on State Street (after a quick trolley ride there) where I purchased a shirt stating that "the liver is evil and must be punished."  We then went back to the hotel for some sleep before having to wake up at 4 AM. for our 6:15 AM flight.

If you're thinking this was a short trip, you're right.  The main point of this trip was miles, the wife and I did some calculations and we were going to be about 3K each short of 50K for the year, so we needed something fast and didn't have any vacation to use.  The flight back went through San Francisco and UA5632 (both short flights were on Bombardier 120's) took off from SBA on time and deposited us at SFO with about 1 hour and a half to spare before our flight back to Houston.  The wife went and bought some chocolates, and I went and purchased some breakfast food since our upgrades were looking dodgy.

Fortunately, my wife did score an upgrade (seat 3B) and the gate agent was nice enough to seat me in an exit row with no one beside me since I was the "first out" if you will. So all in all it wasn't too bad.  My wife slept most of the flight, although she did say breakfast was the same as the flight over: eggs, potatoes, sausage, fruit and yogurt.  I enjoyed my chocolate croissant and breakfast wrap and then plugged in my headphones to discover, miracle of miracles, that my IFE was working.  Even better, UA401 had channel 9, which is a direct link into the flight radio.  It's fun listening to the pilots interact with control.  So I played a few games on my iPad, and then got about 1 1/2 hours sleep, taking advantage of my extra space.

All in all we had a great, albeit short, time in Santa Barbara.  It's a town that's got some good things going for it.

Good food
Nice people
Beautiful Scenery

It's an area of the country where I'd like to spend a little more time checking out the surrounding area, especially the Santa Ynez valley, where there are some small wineries doing good things with biodynamics and unadulterated wines.

It's also a town that feels really sterile however, almost like what Europe would be if it was owned and ran by New Urbanists. And it's very expensive.  You're lucky to find a hotel room for under $200/night, and the quality of hotels for that price point are less than what you can find in other cities.  Then you have the wealthy, progressive set, like the 2 couples who barrelled in late for their flight to LAX in their yachting clothes and proceeded to dress down those of us in the security line for not understanding why their making a flight was more important than us making ours.  These are people who have flown before, judging by the tags on their luggage, but who just didn't care about anyone else but themselves.  There is a little bit of that "I'm richer than you" vibe that Santa Barbara has going for it.  The best way to deal with it however is to laugh it off and order another beer.  For the most part the people there were very, very friendly and we had a great visit.

Monday, July 16, 2012

(Still More) ChronBlog adventures in group identification.

Good News for Car Companies: Americans willing to Pay More for Fuel Efficient Cars. Virginia Pommerening, ChronBlog

A study conducted by the Consumer Federation of America finds that American consumers prefer more fuel efficient cars and are willing to pay a higher sticker price for those automobiles.
For years the auto industry was not concerned with fuel efficient cars.  Consistent gas prices led to stagnation in fuel efficiency, and the extreme fluctuations in gas prices over the last decade have changed the focus of both the producers and consumers.
According to the report, titled “A Key Step to Ending America’s Oil Addiction: Policymakers, Consumers and Automakers are Shifting New Vehicles to Higher Fuel Economy,”fuel efficiency is an “economy improvement” in the car.

Not mentioned in this article are the political leanings of the CFA. Considering this is a group who counts among its members Ralph Nadar and Texas Watch (one of the most progressive advocacy groups within the State) WHO is behind the study is, in this case, very important.

But the Penn State student writing for ChronBlog doesn't see it that way, and doesn't feel the need to inform readers of the group's ideological slant.  One would imagine that a report of this type were proffered up by the conservative Heritage Foundation Ms. Pommerening would find this of some import to the main story.

Three boos here:

1. To Ms. Pommerening and/or the Penn State School of Journalism.  For either not teaching the importance of correct identification or not learning said lesson.  I'm not sure which is the case, but it obviously hasn't stuck.

2. To ChronBlog's editors, for not catching this and letting this press release described as a news story run in the first place.

3. To ChronBlog, for allowing an important energy piece to be handled by an obviously not ready for prime time Summer intern with little or no supervision.

One last thing:  What this doesn't mean is that there is something inherently BAD about fuel efficient cars.  I LIKE my cars to be fuel efficient and am willing to pay a little bit more for a car that gets better gas mileage, but that doesn't mean that I want the government to make the choice for the free market, or that I'm somehow "addicted" to oil.  Those are all political statements and the political leanings of the group making them should have been identified.

New Look

Test-driving a new look for a little bit.  Since Lose an Eye I've really liked the white background and I enjoy the "magazine" feel of this current layout.

So, what do you think?

I'm still fiddling so be patient.

Santa Barbara: The HMS Humongous

I give you the worst car I've ever driven in my life:

HMS Humongous
It's a 2011 Lincoln Town Car that was given to us as an "upgrade" over the Ford Focus that I had requested.  In a town with small streets like Santa Barbara this is like trying to fit a whale into fish tank.

The steering was sub-par, the brakes were soft, the seats were not comfortable, the driving position was bad, and the power was "meh".

All in all I would have much rather driven the Focus.

That being said, we had a good time in Santa Barbara, so no complaints there.  Much more to come.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Houston is low on transit availability rankings

Houston Area ranks low on Transit Coverage List. Molly Ryan, Houston Business Journal
Compared to the largest metropolitan areas in the country, Houston doesn’t fare well in terms of public transit coverage. According to a new report from the Brookings Institution, only 57.8 percent of the jobs in the entire Houston metro area are in neighborhoods with access to public transit service.
When ranked against the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the nation, Houston was No. 82 in terms of the share of jobs that were in reach of public transit service.
The first howl you're going to hear will come from "transit advocates" who will demand that this study only increases the obvious need for ending the Metro sales tax carve-out and dumping incredibly large amounts of money into light rail.

Of course, they're wrong.  Because Light Rail, even at it's peak build out, is never going to address the largest problem: getting people from their houses to the system.  While MetroRail might, eventually, touch the Galleria, Greenway Plaza and other job centers it's currently doing so at the expense of bus service which is going to be vital to getting people where they need to go.

In short, Houston has 1/2 a plan, the other 1/2 (right now) is being forwarded by David Crossley and his acolytes at Houston Tomorrow whose long-term solution to the problem is for those living in the suburbs to leave their unsustainable lawns and single-occupancy houses and move inside the Loop into condos and other multi-unit dwellings, provided those multi-unit dwellings aren't located to close to their single-family dwellings which are, for some reason, much more sustainable than their outside-the-Loop twins.

The "unsustainable" argument is a lie anyway.  With cleaner cars, improved bus service, better sidewalks and bike/walking paths, the "walkable neighborhood" is just as much a reality (and as eco-friendly) as a LEED certified high-rise in downtown Houston.  In other words, contrary to Houston Tomorrow's ramblings, there are several ways to "go green".

Metro trying to end the carve-out of their sales tax allotment (which goes to 15 cities in their service area, 14 of which are getting the shaft, service wise) is to be expected.  Metro has long been ran by new-urbanists whose mission statement has been to build up the city core of Houston while strangling the outer reaches.  A friend of mine once suggested that, if there's nothing you can do to stop a bad idea, just don't worry about it, and that's kind of my take here.  I'm no longer concerned about what Houston and Metro are going to do with their toy train, I'm just going to laugh as they continue to stumble around with an unworkable plan and gumption.  The point of this post is not to suggest that light rail doesn't need to be built.

Houston is going to build it's toy train. Don't be concerned about that.  What should concern you greatly is that they're going to have no plan (or money) to get people to it efficiently.  And that is a recipe for disaster.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The slow demise of domestic first class

Business and some variation of "Business/First" will be the new standard....

American Airlines sees need for first class on only small number of long-haul aircraft. Lori Ranson, APEX Blog

American Airlines has concluded that completely eliminating first class from its product offering would be  detrimental business decision as demand for service a step above the evolving business-class product remains steady in some its important premium markets. But similar to other carriers, American does not believe first class is necessary on a wide swath of its fleet, a conclusion reflected in the carrier’s decision to reconfigure its 47-strong fleet of Boeing 777-200 widebodies with business, economy and its “Main Cabin Extra” premium economy offering.
The carrier is retaining a first class cabin with eight seats on its new flagship 777-300ER fleet that will serve as American’s primary premium international aircraft once the 10 jets on order are delivered. American becomes the sole US operator of the 777-300ER later this year when it begins flights with its first aircraft from Dallas to Sao Paulo in December.
Citing American’s “long history of doing a two-class, three-class analysis”, company managing director of commercial planning and performance Jim Butler explains, “I think you need to look the network need you have and the products that are competitive or better than competitive in each of the different cabins.”
Airline have been headed down this road for a while, and I predict it won't be too long until Domestic First is a thing of the past, kind of like domestic food service in economy.

So First becomes Business which becomes "economy plus" which becomes economy w/seat selection which becomes "economy and you sit where we put you." Couple all of this with an overall reduction in upgrade clearances for many Elites and you have a serious devaluation of the domestic product. 

One thing that won't go down?

Prices. (Of course)

MegaBus: They DO exist!

Spotted on I-45 between Dallas and Houston last weekend:
The mythical MegaBus
That's right, it's a Megabus, in the wild.

The bus looked nice, new, and I guess it has a ton of outlets and free wi-fi.  (that's what I hear)

For a buck-fifty you can't beat it although, as I understand it, they just drop you off in a parking lot somewhere so you would probably need to arrange a cab or rental car to pick you up from the drop-off point.

Monday, July 9, 2012

In other words: Don't steal the towels

The Wife and I took a quick trip this weekend to Winstar World Casino in Oklahoma.  The Wife had never been there, and it was a casino she wanted to visit, and I needed to get some face time in the poker room. (My game is not in a good place right now)

At around $200/night the casino tower is not a bad deal for a weekend rate, our room was a King Size premium room with a comfortable bed, a flat screen TV, a work desk and a chair.  One negative, for me, was that the room did not have a refrigerator. (Two words: mini-bar)  The bed was comfortable. It's unusual for me to get a restful night's sleep in most hotels. I hit this bed and immediately fell into a deep sleep both nights.

The downside to Oklahoma casinos is that there are no free drinks.  We knew this going in and brought beer and cider to drink in our room so it was OK. (I don't drink when I'm playing poker so it really isn't a big deal)  One tip: If you do want to purchase a drink it's worth your while to buy it at the Aces Lounge within the hotel, not at the bars in the casino.  You can't take the drink onto the gaming floor but the pours are MUCH MORE generous there and the prices are the same.  So take a break from gaming and sit down and enjoy a quiet drink at that bar.

I didn't snap pictures during this trip but I did get one picture of this little sign in our bathroom:
Don't take the towels, got it?
I've seen these before in some hotels and they never fail to generate a chuckle.

On another note: The towels sucked.  They were a little thin and scratchy.  I wouldn't want to take them even were I tempted.

All in all a good quick weekend.  With the new 75 MPH speed limits on some TX Highways it's just about a 5 hour drive. Not a bad weekend get-away if you don't require free alcohol at casinos.  (Note: Almost every license plate in the parking lot was from Texas, and almost everyone I talked to there was from Dallas/Fort Worth.  Oklahoma thanks you Texas for your tax dollars.)

Friday, July 6, 2012

Shorter Apple Dumpling Gang

Ted Cruz needs to turn down the heat. The Apple Dumpling Gang, Chron.com

Talk radio host and Texas state Sen. Dan Patrick is many things, but subtle is not one of them. So when he says that a fellow Republican is too confrontational, we'll take him at his word.

In other words: We didn't hear the interview in question so feel free to ignore everything else below this.

Shutter the Ed Board, and redeploy the resources to local news coverage.

More security genius from the TSA

Testing drinks purchased in the clean zone, I kid you not.....

Passengers could be asked to give drink samples to TSA, Janelle Ericsson, KJCT8.com
Passengers say their problem is not with the rules at the airport. They understand why drinks are not allowed through security, but when they buy one while they wait for their flight, they say the TSA shouldn't ask to test it.
The article is somewhat poorly written, but the concept is this:  After you pass security, inside the clean zone, you decide to purchase a drink from a store/restaurant etc.  The TSA now believes they should test that drink for.......well, they're not saying actually, they just want to pull you aside and test it.

It's a monumentally stupid idea from a monumentally incompetent agency that desperately needs some oversight.  Or better yet, to be outsourced to the individual airports and removed from Federal control.  In it's current form, the TSA is nothing but a jobs program for the unemployable. (I stole that from my friend Kevin).

I like the headline though.  "Passengers could be "asked" to give drink samples..."

Bull, they're going to be REQUIRED to do it, upon threat of detention.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

International Growth up at IAH.

That's the good news in the following Houston Business Journal article:

Expedia Study: International Arrivals up at IAH. Matt Joyce, Houston Business Journal

Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport is growing as a destination for international travelers, according to an Expedia, Inc. analysis of customer data.
The Bellevue, Wash.-based online travel company found that international arrivals to IAH increased 9 percent in the first five months of 2012, compared with the first five months of 2011.
The bad news for IAH is a little further down:
Also in Texas, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport saw 37 percent growth, and Austin-Bergstrom International Airport saw 23 percent growth.

It's important to note that this is ticket sales, and not increasing flights, that data wasn't analyzed here.  But it appears that DFW is growing their business while IAH is remaining somewhat stagnant.  Whether this was brought on by people moving their former United ticketing to American (which hubs out of Dallas) or not was not addressed.

There is a downside, to Houston, for all of this anti-UA anger, and it's going to be felt at the arrival/departure gate. Time will tell if this is the first sign of that.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

If you think Houstonians hate United....

Wait until they start flying Spirit*.

Discount Airline Spirit will serve IAH, Chron.com

Non-reclining seats, fees for carry-on baggage , disastrous customer service and fares that may not be as cheap as advertised coupled with a Houston passenger base that has high expectations for even discounted coach product (if you don't believe me, read the comments of almost any UA article on Chron.com, or spend some time at IAH.) is a recipe for disaster.

And, believe me, some Houstonians hold a grudge. (again, go take a look at the comments for the Spirit article, it's a river of fire against UA for "abandoning" Houston.)

This could be the best thing that happens to United.  Compared to this airline, UA economy is going to feel like first class.

*this is not necessarily a knock on Spirit.  If you know what you're getting into with them and are OK paying fees for everything but oxygen they're you're airline, and some people really believe (as they do with Southwest) that they are getting a deal on the flights.

ChronBlog Class Warfare

Bringing it hard today.....

Most of you will never "see" my house either.
How dare they sell this house?

If only we all could enjoy Chesapeake's 1% tax rate. - This is the actual lead-in headline on the home page.

Tax break for Landry's - owned by Billionaire Tillman Fertita - on agenda. - Whether or not you're for these types of tax abatements (I'm not) whether or not the company in question is owned by a Billionaire is irrellevent.

In all of these stories the question isn't whether or not the subjects are wealthy, it's whether or not we're dealing with good public policy.  As someone who's against drilling subsidies and tax abatements I think they're bad public policy, but that holds the same for "green initiatives" or tax abatements "for the community" as well.  Bad tax policy is bad tax policy.

The home headline is just ridiculous.

There are, and always have been, rich and poor people on this planet, even in Socialist and Communist countries there was a wealthy class that lived off the backs of the poor.  The Politburo had Dachas while the proletariat had bread lines.  Income disparity is very real, and not really all that bad of a thing.  Oddly enough, in progressive states, such as California, the income disparity is greater, on average, than the rest of the nation.  My guess is that this is partially driven by the lack of wealthy businesspeople willing to invest in jobs that are sure to be taxed out of profitability.

I understand that ChronBlog, for all of its ballyhooing about the death of newspapers and their comparative worth to a community, is a bad newspaper whose current editorial slant is doing more harm than good to Houston and her repuation, but that doesn't mean that this type of shoddy, attention-grabbing, schlock should go unchallenged.  Certainly not when they bemoan a low tax rate while supporting (on the editorial side) almost every tax increase that's come down the pipe.  At least be intellectually honest and suggest that Chesapeake's tax rate should be dramitically increased.  That's the argument ChronBlog is making, not that the populace should be taxed less.  It's not that the poor are being put upon, but that the "rich" are not being burdened enough.....

Except newspapers of course, these for-profit enterprises should be given special treatment, as if their contribution to society somehow outweighs that of the oil and gas industry.

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