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Air Travel

The Takeaway

How Airlines Cash In on Our Discomfort

Monday, January 05, 2015

Flying is more uncomfortable than ever, and the airlines made it that way. If you want relief, you have to pay. 

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Transportation Nation

Despite Investments, Dulles Airport Sees Drop In Passengers

Friday, October 10, 2014

More travelers are opting for Reagan National Airport over Dulles Airport, and local officials say that Congress is partly to blame.
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The Takeaway

Who's to Blame for the Torture of Reclining Airline Seats

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

The person in front of you has a choice whether or not to lean back and crush your legs, but it's the airlines themselves that are packing more seats closer together.

Comments [15]

Transportation Nation

NYC Airports on Record Pace

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

The NYC region's five airports set an all-time record for passenger traffic in the first half of this year.

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WQXR Blog

Senator Seeks Clarification of Carry-On Rules After Musician Booted From Plane

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The government should clarify federal rules about bringing musical instruments on to commercial flights as carry-on luggage, U.S. Sen. Jack Reed said.

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The Takeaway

A Fight for the Skies During the Heyday of Hijacking

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

From 1961 to 1972, more than 150 commercial flights were hijacked in the U.S. As the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 continues, the search for answers moves to the motives of hijackers in the past.

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The Brian Lehrer Show

Frequent Flying Headaches

Friday, March 07, 2014

Scott Mayerowitz, airlines reporter for the Associated Press, talks about Delta's change to its "frequent flyer" program to reward money spent instead of distance traveled and United's crackdown on carry-on luggage.

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Life of the Law

Release Day

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

For eighteen years, California’s three strikes law leveled harsh penalties against repeat felons: anyone with two felony convictions received 25 years to life for committing a third felony. In 2012, Californians voted to change the three strikes law,

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Transportation Nation

The Polar Vortex and Pilot Rest Rules

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

If you've had to fly anywhere over the last couple of days, chances are your flight has been delayed or canceled. While the weather is one obvious factor, JetBlue says newly implemented FAA rules about pilot rest are part of the reason for its snarled flights.

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Transportation Nation

Polar Vortex Snarls Air Travel

Monday, January 06, 2014

The blast of brutally cold air hasn't yet enveloped the New York City region -- but it's already wreaking havoc with flights.

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Transportation Nation

Plane Scare as Landing Gear Malfunctions on LGA Runway

Monday, July 22, 2013

WNYC

Officials say the plane skidded on its nose down the 7,000-foot runway before coming to a halt on a grassy area.

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The Brian Lehrer Show

Asiana 214 Crash Investigation

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Andy Pasztor, senior special writer for The Wall Street Journal covering aviation and space, updates the latest on the crash of Asiana Flight 214 in San Francisco.

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Transportation Nation

CHART: Which Airports Have the Longest Customs Lines?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

WNYC

International travel is up, and so are the wait times at airports to pass through customs. (See chart below)

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The Brian Lehrer Show

Air Travel Reality

Friday, June 07, 2013

Mark Gerchickformer chief counsel of the Federal Aviation Administration and Transportation Department and the author of Full Upright and Locked Position: Not So Comfortable Truths About Air Travel Today (W. W. Norton & Company, 2013), shares his insights into the airline industry, including why service is getting better for the few and worse for the rest.

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Transportation Nation

When Airlines Outgrow Their Computers

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Marketplace

It's not clear what caused American's problems with its computer system.

“American’s not telling anyone exactly one happened,” said Brett Snyder, who runs the blog crankyflier.com. He says all we know is that the link between American Airlines and its reservation system, known as Sabre, went down. “And so American was unable to do a lot of things that are required of daily business."

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The Takeaway

Airports and Medicare Patients Impacted As Sequestration Cuts Take Hold

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Not long ago President Obama warned of the potentially devastating and deeply destructive consequences of allowing the federal government cuts known as sequestration go into effect. About one month ago he signed that order of sequestration and the immediate impact seemed, well, neither immediately devastating nor overwhelmingly painful. However, slowly we are beginning to see the consequences across the country.

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Transportation Nation

Amtrak Ridership Continues to Set Records -- Despite Sandy Damage

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Rail ridership continues to grow in America.

March was the best single month ever in the history of Amtrak, and October, December and January each set records for their respective months, according to a company spokesperson. (UPDATE: Full release here.)

All of that is despite the damage and closures caused by Sandy.

It's also because Amtrak has been setting ridership records for just about every year for the past dozen years (chart), so any growth -- whatever size -- is also a new record. Amtrak set 11 consecutive monthly records last year. (PDF)

Amtrak reports ridership numbers by fiscal year. For the first six months of FY2013 (October 2012 to March 2013), Amtrak grew about one percent over the previous six months, putting the rail network on pace to break the 2012 yearly ridership record, despite Sandy. The damage from that storm shut down much of the Northeast Corridor, Amtrak's busiest route, for days.

Amtrak will release line-by-line ridership numbers later this morning. A statement from the company says 26 of 45 routes posted ridership increases and suggested its growth is evidence for more sustained capital funding for a passenger rail network.

Why passenger rail is on the rise

A recent Brookings Institution report found that on shorter trips, passengers are shifting to rail. That's partly because airlines are scaling back on short haul flights, which aren't as profitable for carriers.

All of that means Amtrak has been slowly but steadily gaining travelers who used to fly, especially on the Northeast corridor.

Consider this chart from an Amtrak presentation showing how, over time, passengers traveling between Washington, D.C. and New York City have shifted to rails from planes. Of the people who flew or rode a train between the two cities in 2000, 37 percent of them took Amtrak; but by 2012, 76 percent were riding Amtrak.

Chart courtesy of Amtrak

Amtrak's D.C-N.Y. route is beating the airlines. The chart excludes cars and buses, which themselves are increasing dramatically despite a crackdown on so-called Chinatown buses, and longer-route planes certainly carry more passengers, but it's the trend that is telling, and confirmed in the Brookings report.

Beyond the Northeast, Amtrak is doing better as well, with some local clamor for more service on state-subsidized routes, even where it has little chance of breaking even financially. We'll see how ridership is doing on those routes later this morning when Amtrak releases its full passenger counts.

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Transportation Nation

US Navy Could Use Blimps to Track Drug Submarines

Monday, April 08, 2013

The US Navy has been testing a blimp in Jacksonville Florida to see if it could be used as a submarine spotter off the coast of Central and South America.

Testing of the MZ-3A helium filled airship at Naval Station Mayport wrapped up Friday. Earlier last week, US Senator Bill Nelson (D- FL) took a ride on the blimp, which can carry a crew of 10

"I was really struck how maneuverable it is," says Nelson. "It can rapidly ascend and rapidly descend."

Bill Nelson after his blimp ride (photo by Katie Ross)

Nelson says the benefit of the blimp is fuel economy.

"The amount of fuel it takes to crank up a jet and just taxi out to the runway is the amount of fuel a blimp would use in an entire 24 hour period," he says.

The U.S. Navy's Fourth Fleet patrols the waters around Central and South America- shipping routes for traffickers of drugs, people and other contraband as part of Operation Martillo.

Sen. Nelson says smugglers use a variety of boats- some of them submersible.

"They ride right below the water’s surface, but they’ve gotten a lot more sophisticated than that. They’re building submarines."

The MZ-3A has a cruising speed around 45 knots. Navy spokesman Lieutenant Commander Corey Barker says the blimp wouldn't replace the fixed-wing jet and turbo-prop aircraft currently used in maritime surveillance.

"The blimp would not be responsible for pursuing a ship or fast speedboat," Barker says. "It would simply be responsible for detecting that and passing that information to our patrol units, our aircraft with our partner nations and the coastguard to intercept that ship."

USS Macon (U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.)

Airship technology is not new. The US Navy was flying rigid airships in the 1920s and 1930s. But Lt. Commander Barker says the surveillance equipment on board the MZ-3A blimp is state of the art.

He says the Navy will also be testing an aerostat, an unmanned balloon that could fly behind a ship to scan the surrounding sea.

"It's not as wide an area as a blimp, but it will have sensors that can detect and monitor illicit activity in the area," says Barker.  Aerostats have been used by the military in Afghanistan and also in the 1980s by the US Coastguard to patrol the Caribbean.

U.S. Coast Guard ship with aerostat balloon (Photo: US Coastguard) 

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Transportation Nation

World's Worst Airship Disaster Wasn't the Hindenburg: Remembering the USS Akron

Saturday, April 06, 2013

The USS Akron over Manhattan circa 1931 - 1933 (Photo U.S. Naval Archives - http://wny.cc/Y3c5Bk)

When we think of the future of transportation now, it's cars that talk to each other, bullet trains and BRT. But 80 years ago, it was blimps. The centerpiece of New York City, the Empire State Building, even explored the idea of docking dirigibles atop it's soaring spire.

But then came the crashes. WABE in Atlanta took the 80th anniversary of the worst airship disaster in history to recall the fiery tragedy that helped end the dreams of blimps as mass transport. And as Jim Buress points out:

"The Hindenburg is easily the most recognized airship disaster.  But it’s far from the worst. The USS Akron, seen here, crashed on April 4, 2013 off the coast of New Jersey. It's considered the world's worst airship disaster. That unfortunate distinction goes to the USS Akron, a navy airship... Seventy-three of the 76 crew members died."

WABE’s Jim Burress interviewed airship historian Dan Grossman of Airships.net.

Give a listen. The conversation starts with Grossman explaining what caused the crash off the coast of New Jersey.

Listen to the interview here.

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Transportation Nation

Senator Pressuring the FAA to Hurry Up and End In-Flight Ban on Cell Phones

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

(Photo CC by Jetstar Airways)


(Shannon Mullen -- Marketplace) You know that rule when you’re on a plane that you have to shut down your electronic devices for takeoff and landing? It’s up for review by an FAA panel with everyone from government regulators to airlines and device makers.

The group just met for the first time in January and plans to recommend new standards for devices on planes by July, but Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill thinks that’s not fast enough.

“If somebody is not being the squeaky wheel on this, it could be years, knowing how long this process typically takes,” McCaskill says. She points out that the FAA lets pilots use iPads in the cockpit instead of paper flight manuals, and she says there’s no hard evidence that other devices like e-readers and laptops interfere with planes.

“Unless and until somebody shows me that data I feel sense of obligation to keep pushing to make this rule change as quickly as possible,” says McCaskill, who is already drafting legislation to change the policy.

“Makes me wonder what are we doing there if people like herself have already decided that she wants a certain result and we better come up with it,” says Doug Kidd, of the National Association of Airline Passengers.

He’s on the FAA panel and he argues that there’s no evidence today’s devices don’t affect planes, and new devices hit the market every day. Kidd adds that most people don’t mind reasonable rules during takeoff and landing.

“It’s the most dangerous part of any flight,” he says. “It’s also the time when most accidents occur, so we’d rather not take a chance on distracting the flight crew at this point in time.”

The FAA would not comment on McCaskill’s push for action.  Kidd says the panel’s progress might seem slow, but Congress is not exactly known for its efficiency either.

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