Monday, August 12, 2013

China's State-run airlines are enraging passengers with horrible delays

During the past decade, China has spent billions on building some of the largest and most modern airports in the world. With so many new stunning airports, one would think that they would be the envy of the world. Here is the catch; Chinese airports are renowned for having horrible punctuality. In fact, not a single Chinese airport managed to get even half of its flights to leave on time. Even worse, Beijing’s Capital Airport had an anemic 18% of its flights leave on time last month, making it the worst major airport for punctuality in the world.

What do these constant delays do to the psyche of the Chinese travelers? Well, it enrages them beyond belief. Violent attacks have erupted at airports across China. Angry passengers are taking out their frustrations on hapless airport and airline staff members. Back in July, 30 angry passengers broke through security and stormed the runway at Nanchang airport after being delayed for 7 hours. This summer alone has seen at least eight large protests at departure gates throughout China. There have been numerous reports of random attacks on flight attendants. One such attack involved a man assaulting a stewardess on a delayed flight while other passengers watched and even applauded him while he hit her.

Protesters battle with police and airline personnel at a Chinese airport
This is all disturbing news on both fronts. The fact that these flight delays are so rampant is a great cause for concern for anyone traveling in China. On the other side, it is also very disturbing that airline workers are subject to violent attacks for something they have no control over.

As China continues to boost its airport infrastructure, the world will be watching to see if they can improve on punctuality and efficiency. This is certainly a cause for concern for Western businessmen who frequent China on business. They will no doubt be keeping an eye on this issue in the next year and hoping that the situation improves.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

American Airlines flight attendant accused of smuggling pet rat

In a strange story, an American Airlines flight attendant has been accused of smuggling pet rats onto an international flight last year. Yes, you read that correctly- smuggling rats!

In February 2012, an American Airlines pilot claimed that Louann Giambattista was hiding pet rats inside her underwear and pantyhose on an international flight. Yikes! In a separate incident on that same day, another American Airlines colleague of Ms. Giambattista claims to have witnessed her feeding a pet rat a bread roll on a flight to Miami.

Ms. Giambattista was questioned and searched upon landing but no rats were ever found. The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) were notified and she is now subject to searches by federal agents every time she flies. She is now suing the airline and seeking damages for “debilitating anxiety” caused by the ordeal.

It is hard to imagine that two separate colleagues on separate flights would both make up the same lie about Ms. Giambattista. But I am not here to make that judgment. As I said, strange story indeed.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

U.S. issues travel warning for Egypt

Amidst the recent string of protests of Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, the U.S. has issued the strongest travel warnings for Egypt since the 2011 revolution. The White House has ordered all non-emergency diplomatic staff to leave the country.

At least 7 people have been killed during the clashes, with hundreds more reported injured. One of the casualties was a 21 year old American student named Andrew Pochter. Pochter was working for a U.S. charity teaching English to children. He was stabbed to death in Alexandria while taking pictures of the clashes.

This is an especially dangerous time for journalists, as one Egyptian journalist died in a bomb attack, along with many other journalists who have been beaten and robbed. A Dutch journalist was reportedly raped while covering the protests.

Protesters fill the streets of Cairo

Protesters are threatening to march Tuesday evening on Cairo’s presidential palace if Morsi does not step down by then. With the possibility of more violent clashes, the government is highly encouraging all foreign nationals to leave Egypt immediately.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Game of Thrones tours now available!

All of our Game of Thrones fans please stand up! The wildly popular HBO series just wrapped up its third season with a bang. If you are like us, the next nine months or more without our beloved show will be a challenge!

Not to worry, we have some good news for you die-hard fans. Did you know that there are recently launched “Game of Thrones tours” which tour the cities of Dubrovnik, Croatia and Belfast, Northern Ireland? These two marvelous cities serve as settings for fictional locales depicted in the series.

The medieval walled city of Dubrovnik is one of the jewels of Croatia, sitting on the coast of the Adriatic Sea. It also serves as the official setting of King’s Landing in the Game of Thrones. A guided tour with a GOT expert will take you around the city to show you some of the settings from the show. Highlights of the three hour GOT tour include the ancient city walls and the Lovrijenac Fortress (the site of many battle scenes on the show).

Dubrovnik, Croatia

The Belfast tour is even more epic, lasting nine hours and taking guests to sites all around Northern Ireland. The nine hour tour takes visitors to a number of sites where famous scenes have been filmed. The tour also takes visitors to sites not featured in the show that are very iconic parts of Belfast.

As always, the POTHOS travel team is always here for any travel assistance. It’s not too late to book your summer trip to see some breath taking views of these two famous cities!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Frontier Airlines to add new fees

Fees, fees, and more fees! Frontier Airlines is at it again. In an effort to become an “ultra low cost carrier”, Frontier Airlines is set to introduce new fees yet again.

To kick things off, Frontier has announced that it will start charging customers who book their tickets through third-party sites a $25 to $100 fee for carry-on bags, excluding certain members of its frequent flier program. Yes, you read that correctly. This fee is for carry-on bags. This is an effort to get more people to check their bags to free up overhead space on their planes. The $25 price is for passengers who check into their flights on the airline website. For those who check in at the airport, the fee can be as high as $100. The start date for this carry-on fee has yet to be announced, but should be announced at some point this spring. If that wasn’t enough, Frontier has also announced it will start charging $1.99 for what was once known as a complimentary drink.
As miniscule as it may sound to charge $1.99 for a drink, it is frightening to see the trend of adding so many fees for basic services. Europe’s leading no-frills airline, Ryanair, has already brought up the idea of installing coin-operated toilets and standing seats. That is an extreme case, but it goes to show you the mind-set of the airlines and how they are trying to increase ancillary revenue through increased fees. Don’t be surprised to see other airlines study this move by Frontier and follow suit.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Vegas cabs overcharge passengers $15 million worth in 2012

According to a recent report in the Las Vegas Sun, taxi drivers in Las Vegas overcharged passengers to the tune of almost $15 million last year. A legislative audit discovered that of the 6.6 million rides to and from McCarran Airport, an estimated 23% were “deceptively long”. This deceptive tactic is said to increase the average cab fare by about $10.

The report calls on the Taxicab Authority to take “preventative measures” in order to protect travelers. According to the Las Vegas tourism website, the average taxi fare from the airport to a hotel on the Strip is $11. Anything substantially higher than that may mean you are being taken advantage of.

This is something to keep note of for your next trip to Sin City. Of course, this should not stop anyone from enjoying their trip in Vegas, but should serve as a warning to keep an eye out for it.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Furloughs cause delays at many major U.S. airports

This past Sunday marked the beginning of furloughs at U.S. airports. The furloughs will reduce staff by around 10% across the country. The FAA is warning that some airports may see delays of up to 3 1/2 hours due to these budget cuts. Monday already saw delays across the country, with New York’s La Guardia and JFK airports reporting delays of more than an hour.

The FAA has been mandated to furlough all of its 47,000 employees through the end of September, in order to help with the $637 million the agency must cut from its annual budget. Nearly 15,000 of those employees are air traffic controllers. With nearly 10% of the controllers scheduled to be off daily, the FAA has no choice but to space planes farther apart in order to safely manage air traffic. Transportation officials have questioned the need to furlough so many controllers, in contrast to the Transportation Security Administration avoiding furloughs.

If Monday’s pattern persists, fliers can expect delays at many of the major airports. The airlines are doing their best to adjust to these conditions in order to keep operations running safely and efficiently, but there is only so much they can do to limit the delays. It is difficult to judge the full impact of these furloughs, as there are other contributing factors for some delays, in particular the recent string of bad weather in some parts of the country. With that being said, it is safe to say that these cuts will have a profound effect on fliers from now until the end of September.