Archive for August, 2007

Airport security restrictions apparently apply to vials of holy water received from Roman Catholic pilgrimage sites, the AP reports. Several pilgrims returning to Rome from Our Lady of Lourdes in France had their holy water confiscated if it was in bottles that exceeded EU airline safety limits. The travelers were flying on the just-launched, Vatican-backed, charter service of Mistral Air. The airline, perhaps blessed with the gift of prophecy, offered a travel-size bottle of Lourdes holy water to each passenger once on board.

Holy water seized from fliers at Lourdes airport [AP, via Today in the Sky]

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At his excellent travel blog, Mark Ashley answers a question about the best way to connect to flights to Europe. His suggestions are good: avoid Heathrow, make no connections after arriving on an overnight flight, and avoid making connections in the United States on the return trip. This, he says, is because of more stringent U.S. homeland security requirements. With flights at record capacities, luggage to be claimed after immigration and rechecked after customs, and foreign nationals required to be fingerprinted and photographed, passengers can wait for hours in line at major international hubs and miss their connecting flights. (more…)

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Is it a bit unsettling that Russia’s newest low-fare carrier has adopted the colors identified with the Soviet Union? Coincidence, or part of the “Putin restoration”?

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China’s booming with a 10 percent growth rate, but there’s one area of the economy that’s been put on hold: aviation. China’s airline sector is growing at 16 percent per year. New airlines are sprouting up, and demand is growing, especially in advance of the 2008 Olympics. The airline sector is growing faster, the main aviation authority CAAC says, than it can safely accommodate. Beijing’s main airport is too crowded, the air traffic control system cannot keep up with the growth, and there are too few qualified technical air traffic control personnel and pilots.

So CAAC is taking drastic measures: a ban on new airline start-ups until 2010 and massive capacity cuts at Beijing Capital Airport. These measures will certainly crimp the industry and drive up fares, as many new airlines are low-fare carriers. The Chinese situation is a more severe parallel of the U.S. situation, in which the government agency overseeing air safety cannot keep up with demand for growth. And so, in both China and the United States, government failure to keep up with their dynamic aviation markets has adverse consequences for travelers.

China to cut domestic flights, ban new airlines [MSNBC]

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Make no mistake: Salt Lake City has bought Paris service. Per my post a few days ago, state and local authorities have ponied up $1.9 million in incentives and subsidies, and Delta has rewarded their “investment” with nonstop service to Charles de Gaulle. “There is something different about a state and a city that has direct links across the Atlantic and across the Pacific,” said Utah governor Jon Huntsman. “It is a huge deal.” What keeps people thinking that their cities’ reputations and growth depend on the magic transoceanic flight? The price of prestige: $1.9 million.

It’s official: Delta gives Utah its first trans-Atlantic route [Today in the Sky]

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Aero-News.Net reported today that the go-ahead has been given to begin construction on the new Panama City-Bay County International Airport, scheduled to open in 2010. The current airport’s longest runway is only 6,300 feet long, and there is no room for growth nearby. The airport has been located in its current place, very close to where people live in Panama City, Florida, in the Panhandle. The new airport will be much larger, but also much farther away, annoying some residents who would prefer not to travel so far.*

This could be read as an attempt to spend a lot of public money unnecessarily to attract unprofitable flights on larger jets. After all, Panama City is 100 miles away on either side from Pensacola and Tallahassee, both of which have larger populations, more service, and more choices.

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Salt Lake City, like Cleveland, is playing the prestige game. It wants flights to Europe–Paris, in particular. And it’s going to pay for them. But does Salt Lake need flights to Europe? That’s not clear. What is clear is that Salt Lake has irrational hub-loss fear, and that often goes along with the sort of civic boosterism that sees no problem in throwing money at a service that would be otherwise a market loser:

The Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce has pushed hard for a route to Europe.

“The chance of a direct flight to Europe would plant the seeds for many of the aspirations that we have for the business community, namely, to become a world city,” chamber spokeswoman Natalie Gochnour said.

I hope Utahns are satisfied with paying for Salt Lake’s “aspirations.”

Utah approves $250,000 for Delta flights to Europe [AP, via Today in the Sky]

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