Saturday, December 27, 2014

Archive: January, 2010

POSTED: Friday, January 29, 2010, 3:14 PM

Since most travel, for business or fun, is by motor vehicle, I am going to continue harping on the subject of using cell phones and other electronic devices while driving. Today, the AAA Mid-Atlantic motor club alerted us to a study by the Highway Loss Data Institute that shows that motor vehicle crash rates have not gone down in four jurisdictions that have enacted laws requiring drivers to use only hands-free cell phones. As AAA's Catherine Rossi said in a news release accompanying the study "the distracting factor is the conversation -- not the device itself." Find the institute's study here,

 I first endorsed a ban on all phone use while behind the wheel, with or without a hands-free device, on this blog and in the Winging It column almost 13 months ago. That was before the New York Times started its ongoing series "Driven to Distraction," or other media picked up on the issue, or the U.S. Department of Transportation began a campaign against texting or talking at all while driving. Substantial progress has been made, with many more cities and states banning texting or handheld phoning while a vehicle is moving, or banning any use by drivers under 18 years old. 

That's good, as far as it goes. Sooner or later, after quite a few more highway traffic deaths caused by distracted driving, we're going to come to our senses and adopt a ban for everyone regardless of age.  

POSTED: Friday, January 29, 2010, 9:43 AM

The AP has a good roundup today on this week's airline earnings reports and what comments by industry executives say about their cautious approach to growth in 2010 after the battering they took through most of last year, Read it all here.

POSTED: Thursday, January 28, 2010, 6:06 PM

An airline asked the question and the IRS has answered: No, bag-fee revenue isn't subject to the same 7.5 percent federal tax that air fares are, enabling carriers to keep all of it. Read a little more here.

POSTED: Thursday, January 28, 2010, 6:00 PM

Sometime in the last two weeks or so, I saw stories about changes Air New Zealand has made to its long-haul jet cabins (and once you leave the country, every NZ flight is long haul). I thought the news was improvements to business class, which all international carriers are trying to do these days. But nooooo, turns out it was also about what it's done to the economy section, with footrests and enough legroom that a passenger -- or two passengers who know each other well -- can actually lie flat across three seats when the cabin isn't full. See the possibilities in this short post from newslite, a Web site that loves such stories. 

POSTED: Thursday, January 28, 2010, 11:47 AM

US Airways provided the latest surprise for Wall Street analysts in reporting 2009 and fourth-quarter results. The airline, the largest at PHL, said it had a Q4 net loss of $79 million, compared with a loss of $543 million a year earlier. Excluding special items (the number analysts look at) US Airways lost $32 million, compared with $222 million of red ink in the 2008 Q4.

For the full year, the airline lost $205 million vs. a whopping $2.2 billion in 2008. The net 2009 loss without special credits of $294 million was $499 million, compared with $808 million a year ago.More detail should be forthcoming after the company's conference call at 12:30 p.m. Philadelphia time today. Here is the Inquirer's story on the results.

POSTED: Wednesday, January 27, 2010, 3:12 PM

FRIDAY UPDATE: As mentioned in the post from  yesterday, just below, the president used a town hall meeting in Tampa, Fla, to announce which states and regions will share in the $8 billion initial funding for development of high-speed rail service. California and Florida received more of the funds than any other states. Pennsylvania is among the recipients, ol $26.4 million to remove grade crossings on Amtrak's Philadelphia-Harrisburg line and to study extension of the line to Pittsburgh. The Inquirer's story focused on the region can be found here. I don't find complete stories on the other projects in the usual places I search, so for the truly interested, here is a link to the Federal Railroad Administration's news release on the grants, with details on each state.   

THE ORIGINAL POST: Yes, this blog deals mostly with air travel but your air travel in the future, several years from now, could be affected by how soon the country improves and speeds  up its passenger trains. A day after his State of the Union address, President Obama is scheduled to announce which proposed projects to build high-speed rail lines around the country will share the $8 billion in federal funds that have been budgeted so far. Read more on that at this link. Check back  tomorrow for more about which states, regions or corridors will receive grants.

Separaely, Amtrak also is receiving more funding under this administration than it has in years, and some of it is to be spent upgrading the Northeast Corridor, the only U.S. line now that can be called high speed. What has already been done over several decades to speed up Northeast Corridor trains demonstrates the potential impact on air travel of faster and more frequent rail service in other parts of the country. For some years now, Amtrak has carried the majority of all travelers who go by plane or train between New York and Washington, and the same could be true some day between other major cities.  

POSTED: Wednesday, January 27, 2010, 1:50 PM

Add United to the list of airlines that say business travel is beginning to pick up as the new year starts. The carrier surprised Wall Street when it reported a smaller-than-expected loss in the fourth quarter today. Find more here ....

POSTED: Wednesday, January 27, 2010, 8:55 AM

AirTran is soaring while so many other airlines have suffered steep losses over the last 18 months. The airline reported a record profit for 2009, and made money in the fourth quarter, too. Read more of the good news 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 tbelden@phillynews.com. Reach Tom at tbelden@phillynews.com.

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