Thursday, March 5, 2015

Archive: January, 2010

POSTED: Monday, January 11, 2010, 10:43 AM

Talk about strange coincidences with flying in the New York area in mid-January. Last year, as you will no doubt be reminded by the media this week, it was US Airways flight 1549 landing in the Hudson with no fatalities last Jan. 15. Now this:  Someone is likely to call yesterday's dramatic landing at Newark airport of a United jet using just two of its three tires "the miracle near the Hudson." Two United pilots on the A319, using experience, skill and level heads, landed safely using only the nose and left landing gear; flight attendants did their job by evacuating the plane quickly. Read a good detailed AP story with passenger quotes about the incident here. 

The Newark story prompted me to rant about this: Because of the Dec. 25 terrorist attempt, every glitch, major or minor, related to airlnes, airports and passengers is now fodder for news reports. Flight crews are being overly cautious in taking seriously any potential disruption by an unruly passenger, as they should be. We can all help keep flight diversions to a minimum by behaving properly, and the media could help keep us calm (see today's Winging It column below) by not leading the local news with a story each time a minor problem occurs. The fact is, tens of thousands of flights take off daily and one or more are diverted or delayed for something anomalous practically every day.

And one more thought: US Airways' folks grew weary last year of hearing Capt. Sullenberger's water landing called "the miracle on the Hudson" by the media. But it was NY Gov. David Paterson who first used the phrase, and can you really blame us for picking up on it? It seemed miraculous at the time. US Airways' point was this:  It was the training and experience of the five-member flight crew that resulted in no loss of life on 1549, just as it was a United crew doing its job at Newark yesterday. So let's just call both landings true "missions accomplished."

POSTED: Monday, January 11, 2010, 8:59 AM

Virgin America Airlines doesn't serve PHL but we can always hope it will provide additional competition someday on coast-to-coast flights. Launched by Richard Branson's Virgin Group of the UK, it's ownership was challenged by Alaska Airlines, but federal regulators have determined that it is majority-owned by U.S. citizens. Read on here.

POSTED: Monday, January 11, 2010, 8:25 AM

Today's Winging It column expresses frustration with listening to too many news reports in the last three weeks about the threat of terrorism. We hope all travelers take a deep breath and behave normally when getting on an airline flight: It's still safer, statistically speaking, than many other daily activities could be. Read more here ....

POSTED: Friday, January 8, 2010, 9:47 AM

We're well aware that President Obama's declaration yesterday about beefing up our ability to catch would-be terrorists is the lead story everywhere but it's significance to air travel is such that it can be found here also. Check out Monday's Winging It column for additional perspective on the issues. 

POSTED: Thursday, January 7, 2010, 3:38 PM

Airlines both at PHL and nationwide improved their on-time performance in 2009, including in November, according to the monthly release of data from the U.S. Department of Transportation and its Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Almost 85 percent of PHL flights left on time, and more than 82 percent arrived on time during the month, far better than November 2008, when both numbers were below 80 percent. With all airlines improving compared with the year before, however, PHL still came in close to the bottom of the list of 31 major airports for on-time operations.

US Airways and Southwest, the two biggest carriers at PHL, were in a virtual dead heat for on-time arrivals at the airport. US Airways said its employees would get another bonus for ranking systemwide among the three best performances by the other major network airlines (doesn't include Southwest) with which it compares itself.  For all the stats on airport rankings, go to the BTS Web page. For reams of detail on each airport and other measures of customer service, see DOT's Air Travel Consumer Report.


POSTED: Thursday, January 7, 2010, 11:11 AM

This story in print today about an NAACP lawsuit against US Airways, alleging discrimination in assignments for work at Philadelphia airport, isn't the first time that Inquirer reporters have heard such charges. When fellow staffer Craig McCoy and I did a detailed report in 2006 about why US Airways baggage service at the time was so bad, we were told by employees that many of them worked in a rancorous atmosphere that divided groups against one another along racial lines.

Many older, longtime employees who worked on the ramp and in fleet service then were white while most new hires were younger African Americans, creating divisions that, as one baggage handler said, were "generational but manifested themselves racially." If the allegations in the lawsuit are true, much of the division still seems to be in place.

The only oddity to me in the Inquirer's report is the last paragraph, which says the complaint charges that PHL's Terminal F, used for US Airways Express flights, is referred by some managers and workers as "The Ghetto" and more black employees are stationed there. According to the story, the terminal is "perceived to have more minority or lower-income passengers," the complaint said. The last allegation seems strange to me, since the flights operating from F are all commuters, many of them short, relatively expensive flights that logically should be carrying a cross section of the airline's customers. Otherwise, the allegations certainly seem worthy of a public airing.     

POSTED: Wednesday, January 6, 2010, 10:27 AM

The best explanation we can find for the Sunday night snafu that caused massive flight delays at Newark airport is in a report by the local newspaper (still your best source of original news reporting!), the Newark Star-Ledger. According to the story, a surveillance camera on a checkpoint where a man, who's not been identified, walked unimpeded the wrong way into the "secure" area had not worked for almost a week.  Not only did a TSA agent not stop the man, but it took TSA more than an hour to contact the right people at Continental, which operates a big hub in the affected terminal, to look at a backup tape, and to notify NY-NJ Port Authority police about the security breach. Poor performances all around create disurptive, expensive messes for airlines and their customers.

POSTED: Wednesday, January 6, 2010, 9:56 AM

We missed posting this earlier: American Airlines' operations are being reviewed by the Federal Aviation Administration after three recent incidents, including a crash at Kingston, Jamaica, in which aircraft were damaged. Read a little more here. 

About this blog
Tom Belden has been reporting about Philadelphia International Airport and other air travel subjects for more than 20 years, writing columns for The Inquirer's Travel and Business sections. His reporting (with colleague Craig McCoy) on baggage handling problems in Philadelphia have been credited with helping to improve the system. His previous blog was called Road Warrior. He can reached at Reach Tom at

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