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United removes first-class passenger to make room for 'higher-priority' traveler (latimes.com)
538 points by 4ad on Apr 13, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 450 comments



Travelling in the US or with US airlines is not looking very good right now. Not just the United incident(s) but also TSA, Trump travel restrictions, flights constantly overbooked, massively late etc.

I wonder if it will start impacting traveller and tourism numbers at some point. I think anyone who doesn't really need to be in the US and/or is planning travelling with kids is likely to have some second thoughts at this point.

Recently Canada's girl guides cancelled all trips to the US: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/03/14/canadian-girl-gui....

I wonder if this is a first step of a large trend yet to develop.


The company I work at (in Norway) had planed to take all 70 employees to NYC this summer to celebrate a milestone reached.

We just moved the whole thing to Paris instead as we had issues with all of the above, including employees that have visited "dangerous" countries.

The thing that pushed everyone over was when our former prime minster was harassed[1] at the border for having been to a meeting in Iran. It says in his passport that he was a former prime minster, but apparently none is safe from the US border guards.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/feb/03/former-norwa...


It seems that the rules have become a lot stricter recently, and it looks like American citizens might end up feeling the consequences as well. This week a Dutch journalist wrote about being rejected by the ESTA visa waiver application because of a previous visit to Iraq as a journalist. So to travel to the US he gets to pay almost $200 and formally apply for a visa — for accredited journalists this is unheard of. Similarly Dutch with roots in Iraq or Iran are completely banned from the US simply for being born in the 'wrong' place.

This is all within the rights of America as a sovereign state of course, but it does mean that the call to cancel or limit the visa-free travel agreement that currently allows US citizens to visit the EU without a visa is gaining momentum (tit-for-tat politics).


Hey now, inferring that some journalists deserve protection because they may have credentials with a company or govt is both silly, and very dangerous. It creates a situation where you literally strip protection away from most journalists and put them in harms way.

Jake Appelbaum had a sendoff speech where he covered how his fellow journalists were putting him in grave danger when calling him an "Internet Activist" meanwhile he was publishing in the same paper as they were. He also covered how The Guardian left Julian Assange out to hang, allowed known compromised systems to remain in day to day use, and banned fellow journalists at other news orgs from writing about quite a few papers/topics from the Snowden archives.


> Hey now, inferring that some journalists deserve protection because they may have credentials with a company or govt is both silly, and very dangerous.

I'm not sure what you mean by your comment with respect to what I wrote — I'm not inferring anything. The ESTA visa waiver program allowed for some leeway in granting people who visited certain countries (e.g., Iran, Iraq) access in certain cases. This seems to have included politicians and journalists. I expect that the US government did limit this to accredited journalists.

Personally I agree with those critics who point out that the whole ESTA program is effectively a thinly disguised visa program. It is a shame that it exists in the first place.


It's not nearly as bad as that, but when I traveled to Canada recently, and was crossing the border back into the US (as a lifetime citizen), I was asked about why I traveled to Turkey and the U.A.E. in the past two years. It was a bit weird, but I guess I'm not sure how routine it was.


US border guards don't even know what a prime minister is. There's no way they know about diplomatic passports. They have no idea about the laws they are supposed to enforce. They think they're supposed to enforce laws that don't exist. They are stupid idiots who exert their power randomly and wrongly. That's been my experience. Expecting anything else is unrealistic. What else do you expect from someone who probably barely graduated high school in the US? If these people were qualified to work at McDonalds, I assume they would.


Are you confusing Customs with the TSA? In general, customs agents are much better trained and there is a lot of former military. TSA on the other hand is as you a low requirement job as you described.


No. I'm talking about the border guards who check passports when flying back into the country. The one I talked to did not understand the concept of dual citizenship and insisted that I get rid of my non-US passport as soon as I entered because it is illegal. This is after failing to find my stamp in my US passport that had all of three stamps in it and trying to claim that I didn't have one! Talk about stupid! This borders on retardation! I assume this is the norm and the other concepts I mentioned are also beyond their meager understanding simply because this guy was so stupid that if he made it through the hiring process, plenty of other idiots have too. Hell, compared to this, the TSA employees are courteous and generally at least do their job properly.


Good to see that former politicians are also being treated as badly as the rest of us. The sooner they all start realizing they aren't going to get special treatment the sooner they'll start actually representing everyone.


I'm actually glad that they are treating everyone like shit.


It's sad to see that you've had this experience, but the Prime Minister specifically, that was a policy enforcement for a policy that was put in place with the previous administration. So sadly, it's not as new an issue as people think, it's been an issue for over 6 years.


Do you have a source for this? When did the previous administration put this policy in place? I am skeptical that this was happening under the previous administration.



He was travelling on a diplomatic passport, that doesn't apply to him.


Apparently he wasn't at the time. News reports I read at the time said he applied for ESTA but was found to be in violation of ESTA terms at the boarder.


He was travelling on a diplomatic passport: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/feb/03/former-norwa...


Well, I'm very sorry your employees missed out on visiting NYC. As a NYC resident and as someone who has been to Paris many times, Paris is very nice.

But people that come to NYC have a much greater experience. In the past month I met both an Italian who came here for the first time and an Israeli and both of them were so happy to be here.

I think your employer should schedule a trip to NYC for these 70 employees -- they must deserve it!


A recent story in Europe was that travellers entering the US could be forced to reveal social network passwords. No idea if that is true or not but it was a headline.


What do they call it now? Fake news?

But here is a real story. I'm American and "member of the tribe" who has been to Israel many times as shown by the passport stamps, speaks Hebrew and I didn't arrive at Ben-Gurion airport in Tel Aviv to a Turkish Air flight to Istanbul 3 hours in advance of the flight. My take-on was packed away and I was strip searched down to my underwear.

I was amused and happy for the security, but some people might be bothered by that.


Unlike the US, Israel and Turkey have been actively targeted by real, no-BS terrorist activity and their security measures are not the security theater that is the TSA, nor are their policies inspired by underlying racism but actual evidence-based security policy.

I'm 100% sure it's unpleasant, but their motives are far more trustworthy than the TSA's.


I would have been subject of a terrorist attack in Jerusalem in 2008 except that I bought a chocolate bar in a tiny store at the last minute. I picked up the chocolate bar and before I could give the cashier the money, .....

> I'm 100% sure it's unpleasant,...

Well, for me, I am only too happy when there are these kinds of security measures....

Also, the screeners are all former military (even women in Israel are drafted) and have been trained to screen according to emotional response. (emotional prosody).


Amused and happy seems like a misnomer when applied to overwhelmingly invasive, unnecessary procedures. Have they actually convinced you that this is improving security?


Well, I don't believe the procedures to be unnecessary. Also, I am not a citizen of Israel but rather a guest, so anything to protect the citizens and other guests from terrorism.

In my opinion, if US airport security was run according to Israeli standards, 9/11 would have been less likely.


If US airport security was run according to Israeli standards, all international flights would have to go through one of two airports, on the east and west coasts, each of which would have to be larger than ORD, JFK, LAX, DFW, and ATL combined. The special school required to train the screeners would effectively be the largest college in the world.

International tourism both in and out would shrink dramatically, as there are precious few religions that consider anywhere in the US to be special holy sites, and plenty of places to see in the US that don't require intensive security screening. No one I know would ever be amused by a strip search.

The Israeli air travel strategy just doesn't scale up quite that well.


Well, I respectfully disagree with your assessment. First, I don't understand the two airport thing. Second, the Israelis do a security check on people before they board the (El-Al) planes -- like a day in advance or more.

Also, we have plenty of veterans who fought in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. who have real combat experience that we could pay more money for at TSA and train and staff appropriately. We could have air martials on every flight.

> "No one I know would ever be amused by a strip search."

Well, it was my own fault and a new experience and the agent/military guy was well trained and respectful. I was only too happy that they security was so through.

Israeli security is very professional and I don't feel nearly the same way with TSA in the US.


What percentage of international passenger flights to or from Israel do not go through Ben Gurion? Part of the Israeli security strategy is to route most potential threats through the same focused security apparatus. On a land border, that means building a wall (or "security fence") and moving the travelers through fewer gates. On a sea border, that means watching the whole thing closely and only allowing traffic through a few authorized harbor ports. For the air border, it means routing most travelers through one airport (viz. Ben Gurion).

The US couldn't route everyone through one airport. It's too big. So put one on each coast. That was just a pinch of hyperbole. The US could not practically do that. But neither could it install Ben Gurion levels of security in all of its international airports, because even with all the combat vets, there are too few Americans would would have the capability, competence, composure, and willingness to take the job. And for those who would, the cost of training would be enormous. Just one airport, like O'Hare, which served 78 million passengers last year, had more than 4 times the volume of Ben Gurion's 18 million. And you would have to increase security for every single international airport, or it wouldn't work.

Americans have a different mindset than Israelis. The nation was born from resistance to arbitrary and capricious colonial restrictions, and has never been surrounded by enemies on all sides. Our history has led many of us to deeply distrust our own corrupt governments and police. Here, "security guard" is a low-prestige job for losers, as embodied in the "mall cop" archetype. You might be able to install increased security in Boston or NYC, where recent history instills a greater sense of insecurity, but it is only a short drive away from the state whose motto is "live free or die", home to libertarian festivals where an amalgamation of activist goals is to one day openly carry firearms, while openly vaporizing marijuana, jaywalking topless to request public records, while recording police in the act of not hassling anyone.

The last time I traveled for work (to New Hampshire, actually) I got to witness the American airport security procedure for checking a firearm. My co-worker apparently never went anywhere without it. And that's a typical American thing. An incredibly large number of us are almost constantly armed. Legally. You can't stop someone 3 miles out from the airport at a checkpoint and say the car can't proceed with a weapon in it. The NRA would take that all the way to the Supreme Court and win.

Even the ineffectual security theater they put on in airports now induces hordes of Americans to prefer ground transport, rather than put up with it. And not only are Americans obsessed with their own freedom, but we are also a nation of bargain hunters. This is the country that gave Wal-Mart to the world, and exported many of its own manufacturing jobs to other countries. If we had to pay more for air travel just to get expensive real security instead of cheap placebo, the airlines would simply go bankrupt [more often than they already do].

So if you try to say "arrive 3 hours before departure or strip search" in most US airports, you will have a lot of empty terminals. For one, adding 3 hours to a flight between, for instance, Los Angeles and San Francisco is making that 3 hours in an airport plus an hour in the air plus another 30 minutes for luggage and ground transport versus just getting onto I-5 and driving for 6 hours. From Chicago to Louisville, to name a flight recently in the news, that would be a 5 hour drive compared to 4.5 hours between airports. Hell, last time I flew on my own dime, I drove two hours, to reach another airport with cheaper fares. The local airport actually runs ads on television, begging people not to do that.


Thank you for your detailed and reasoned response. But again, I respectfully disagree with your assessment.

First, you are speaking in terms of numerators but not denominators. Sure, we have 78 million people going through O'Hare of Chicago vs. 18 million for Ben Gurion. But the US has far more people and far more wealth than Israel as well as very large number of seasoned combat veterans.

Many Israelis carry firearms including those that live outside the green line. Those armed Israelis have stopped terrorists. In the case of a Yeshiva in Jerusalem a few years ago a terrorist killed 8 students but was stopped by another student who had a firearm (of course, former military). I know of another person who shot a terrorist who was shooting a machine gun at a bus. He was a hero but Israel doesn't publicize it because it makes him a target.

It may not be as perfect to have US International airports have the same level of security as Israel, but it could be much better than it is today. I'm not certain why Israel has the 3 hour rule.

As it is, for flights, airlines ask that you come to the airport two hours in advance, and in particular that is true for international flights.

Airports should receive more funding for security to 1) speed up the process and 2) use formal military combat vets properly trained. I suspect a small increase in the flight ticket tax to use for airport security would make the difference.

> "the airlines would simply go bankrupt [more often than they already do]."

They often go bankrupt partially because air travel for most is a commodity and it is hard to make profits with a commodity with many substitutions. Of course, consolidation such as United buying out Continental a few years ago makes airlines a bit less of a commodity because of fewer alternatives for flight.


> But the US has far more people and far more wealth than Israel

Just chiming in to add some context to this. In terms of area, population, and GDP, Israel is pretty close to New Jersey.


If they had locked and reinforced the cockpit doors, 9/11 wouldn't have happened.

That's all it takes.


Before 9/11 there was no perception of that necessity though.


Well, Israel had done it for quite some time thanks to terrorists hijacking their planes. Plane hijackings have been going on for other countries for some time.

Also, IIRC, El-Al has an air martial (again former military in every case) on each flight.


True, and social media seems too quick to blame Trump for it. But a Democrat senator has been pushing for it for a while now.

https://www.shaheen.senate.gov/news/press/shaheen-leads-lett...


As far as I can tell, that's something the Trump admin has suggested would be a good idea, but isn't policy yet. However, they do conduct other electronic searches.

https://www.eff.org/wp/digital-privacy-us-border-2017


I have no social media accounts. I would love to know what their protocol says to do if someone claims to not have any social media accounts.


Yet here you are posting on a public message board under (I'm assuming) your account :)


Then we get to debate what is constitutes as a social media acct? Any forum, any public comment board? Or what is more traditionally called social media, Reddit/Facebook/Instagram/Snapchat/Twitter and the like? Is email social media?


Don't move! Put your hands up!

It's an impossible to comply with demand, that gives the person evaluating entirety to claim compliance or non-compliance based on whim. Not a far cry from a poll test.


> But people that come to NYC have a much greater experience.

That's quite a statement. I certainly enjoyed my NYC trip a couple of years ago, but there are many european cities that I rather (re)visit before going back to the US. This is not only because of the current administration (though that doesn't help). People have different preferences.


NYC has a 24/365 hour Apple Store which reflects the vibrancy of the city 24/365. Need I say more?

Europe is very beautiful. But for the creative energy and vibrancy NYC is the place to be.


This has to be a joke. You can't seriously be toting the availability of a 24/365 store (even an Apple store!) as some sort of benefit.


A 24/365 Apple Store is a signal about how cool and new technologically vibrant NYC is ...we need it and use it 24/365. Repairs as well as purchases 24/365.

Number of Apple Stores in Manhattan = 7 (incl. one 24/365)

Number of Apple Stores in NYC 5 Boroughs = 10

Number of stores Paris (incl. La Defense) = 4

Number of stores London = 5

Number of stores Berlin = 1

Jazz/Blues/all kinds of music, a city open 24/7 full of creative vibrancy. 40% of New Yorkers not born in USA. We don't do BrExit here forcing (legal) residents out.

NYC has a 24 hour subway system which costs about $120 / month for unlimited rides. London and Paris shut down their subways at 12:30 AM. Thus, NYC is more committed to green, not forcing people to use gas guzzlers at night.


Have you been to any Asian cities in the last two decades? NYC has its perks, but the subway systems of Tokyo, Shanghai, and Seoul make the MTA look pretty shabby.

These cities are also 24/7, to a greater extent than any Western city, I would argue.


> "These cities are also 24/7, to a greater extent than any Western city, I would argue."

Have you really been to NYC? Jazz, Blues, much other music, etc.

No 24/365 Apple Store in Asia.

# Apple Stores Tokyo = 4

# Apple Stores Shanghai = 7

# Apple Stores Seoul = 0 (Possible 1 in future)

# Apple Stores NYC = 10 including the 24/365 store


OMG! you really like your Apple stores don't you? Apple stores say nothing about the vibrancy of the city. It basically states that the city mindlessly practices American consumerism that Apple needs 24/365 stores to keep up with demand.

My experience of New York was tall buildings, narrow streets with garbage on the sidewalks, ridiculously expensive rents, homelessness on streets, lots of people walking around but very few actually willing to have a conversation. I enjoyed the street food and it was a great experience but I would chose a number of places around the world over New York for a company trip.


> "OMG! you really like your Apple stores don't you?"

Well, with a 24/365 store I sleep easier at night knowing that if I need another unit or in person assistance when on a tight deadline I can get one. :-)

Also, Apple products, Macs, iPhones, iPads, are the tools of choice for the creative industries (media, photo, fashion, software development, much engineering, ....) and so number of stores and a 24/365 store is an index of creativity and vibrancy.

A couple of years ago at the 24/365 store I was told by an Apple Genius Bar person that the sales volume of that store alone is nearly that of the Macy's on 34th which takes an entire city block and that Macy's is the largest store in America.

> "My experience of New York was tall buildings, narrow streets..."

Well, I guess it depends on one's frame of reference. For me, NYC has an energy of its people -- 40% were not even born in the US and have come to make their way in NYC/America. I am always meeting new nice people in coffee shops who are living in NYC and from all over the world. The UN Building is in NYC, but NYC is the UN in itself.

Did you check out the blues/jazz throughout the city but especially in Greenwich Village? The large assortment of museums? The delis with corned beef and pastrami?, other sorts of ethnic foods?

Perhaps if when you return to NYC you meet up with someone who knows the city and you'll feel better.


Sounds like you like NYC a lot because it does many things the way they do it in NYC, way more than any other place that is NYC.

Which is a bit circular if you're trying to convince anyone else, but as a personal opinion that works fine (I'm serious, you like this sort of thing, good for you. Not so good for the homeless, which you just rather blatantly ignored--ouch--but hey there's probably worse places in the world so ehm yeah! good for you!).

Apple is not nearly as popular in Europe as it is in the US. Software development and engineering, definitely not. Graphics design, sure, but I feel that'll change soon. Sound design / music producing, I'd say about 50/50, but they'll just use both a Windows machine and a Mac in their studio because they like to have the best tools (and VSTs) of both.

> Well, with a 24/365 store I sleep easier at night knowing that if I need another unit or in person assistance when on a tight deadline I can get one. :-)

Not having tight deadlines at night so frequently that I'd need a 24/7 store is what'd make me sleep easier, personally.


Not attempting to convince, because no convincing necessary. I'd say most open source software development and all iOS development is done on Macs which now leads Linux for that use.

Of course, if Microsoft keeps improving the Linux WSL (newest Win10 Creators update adds a lot -- still more to go) it will be a very viable competitor.

Europe is very beautiful, but all of the energy is in the US. This morning I met a couple of Danish women visiting NYC and they love the energy of NYC and the idea of working in a startup / Silicon Valley type environment.

For certain, NYC is not for everyone, but for many, myself included (and those Danish women) NYC just feels so energetic and interesting.

As for deadlines it is the nature of much work...some failures happen at night or holidays when stores are generally closed.


Shanghai is not 24/7. They have night time curfew.


That doesn't mean Shanghai is less popular, since the 24/7-ness is limited because of the curfew, not due to lack of popularity.


NYC's vibrancy is largely a product of its environment, not proof of a better city. In the US, but for a few cities that mostly defeated planners'attempts to suburbanize them (NYC included), all our towns and cities are largely shit. The better ones have a couple of blocks of places worth being, but those are mostly choked in webs of car-dominated hellscape. If you want to go to a place that's decent, for most people, you have to drive. So why not drive into NYC and make a weekend of it? This NYC is very crowded because it's a shining beacon in a pile of disasters.

By comparison, every place you can reach within an hour or two of Paris probably is a place worth being. (This was my experience in Madrid, and I'm extrapolating here for Paris.) That's a lot less pressure forcing people into the city center, because people can enjoy themselves much closer to where they live.

You take 24 hour Apple stores as a sign of vibrancy. I'd sooner look at the density of independent bakeries.

As to your subway comment, your conclusion is absurd. It seems likely to me that the savings from having fewer redundant tracks (which would be needed to facilitate maintenance in a 24 hour system) would more than offset the small demand for middle-of-the-night trips that can't wait until the next morning.


In all fairness, if you'd close your subways for part of the night, how will you keep your schizophrenic people out of sight? (sorry I mean, homeless, yes that's the root of their issues, obviously, the mumbling, drooling, rocking back and forth, all side-effects of homelessness clearly)

Ah, such memories of my visit to that vibrant city ...


> We don't do BrExit here forcing (legal) residents out.

How about the Muslims?


We'll take them.

Among their many other contributions to the city, the Halal food trucks are a center-point of NYC's late night culture.


Please cite a reference where Muslims who are living in the US legally were forced out of the country.


Well, not forced out of the country, but Muslims visa holders were denied entry in the US on their way back from holidays:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/donald-trum...

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/bring-niki-mossafe...

And HN discussion of the previous link:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13509509


My understanding of BrExit is that Britain is asking people who have lived there for years to leave.

It is not all Muslim Visa holders, but from 7 countries that were determined by the Obama Administration to be a security risk to the US because they don't do adequate screening at their airports. For example, Turks can come to the US as can Muslims from Israel or anywhere else except those 7 countries.

The Visa issue is regrettable, but it is only temporary and the people will eventually be able to return. Those in the US can remain here and not asked to leave as in the case of BrExit.


Yes, I really do think you need to say more. I'm certainly not convinced by the appeal of a 24/365 Apple Store...


Its a negative to me because it highlights the consumerist attitude that seems to be prevalent in many parts of the US. The places that I personally felt where most culturally vibrant and interesting were typically the ones that are the least consumerist.

But thats just me! Everyone has their own preferences.


Different strokes for different folks. I find NYC extremely overrated.


"'We're Getting The Hell Out Of This Sewer,' Entire Populace Reports"

http://www.theonion.com/article/84-million-new-yorkers-sudde...


NYC was easily the worst part about visiting the Greater New England area, but to each their own. I mean sure it's interesting to see that world-famous city and spend a week in it. But that first breath of fresh air in a week, as we stepped out of the train in Beacon, that was really nice too (not the only thing I didn't like about NYC, compared to the surrounding area, actually I only noticed it as I stepped out, after a week).


Anecdotally I've noticed that for like 5 years now my friends and family have a pretty severe aversion to flying anywhere for anything.

From needing to show up hours before the flight, to the invasive screenings, the insane restrictions on what you can and cannot bring, the sentiment that if you check any baggage it's basically as good as gone, the ever increasing cost, the delays, and even things like the worry about if your ticket will actually get you on the damn plane!

If I have to choose between a 3 hour flight, and a 12 hour drive, the 12 hour drive is what I pick almost every time now. Ignoring "disasters" (massive accident, theft, etc...) I'm going to have all my stuff, I know i'm not going to waste hundreds of dollars on a ticket that will get "rejected" at the last second, i'll have a car when I get to my destination, i can bring whatever the fuck I want, and it's a fraction of the cost.


Man, I'm not sure if your home airport is not very good, you don't travel that often, or if you just have a higher base level of anxiety or what- but any drive over 4 hours and I'm on the lookout to see if I can fly there.

I frequently go from Portland to San Jose and back in the same day- I get meetings done and am home in time to put my kids to bed. I also just generally fly pretty frequently. I've got an Arab name and my dad comes from 'one of those countries'. I lived in that country for a few years as a child, and I've visited a few of 'those countries' in the last three or for years. I've literally not been hassled beyond the occasional extended screening XXXX on my boarding pass- like, maybe 2 times in the last three years. I have been bumped from a flight zero times in my entire life.

150 years go if you wanted to travel from California to Oregon you'd be going up the Applegate Trail and the TSA wouldn't even be top 10 annoyances along the way for travel. I say that semi in jest, nor am I endorsing the TSA in anyway shape or form. But frankly, if you're worried about getting bumped or hassled by the TSA I think you're worried about the wrong thing or you've got a very peaceful life that hasn't got many things to worry about.

I'm not saying commercial air travel isn't without its issues, it's generally just kind of annyoying to stand in lines, stand in more lines, then get crammed into a metal tube with my knees smashed against the seat in front me. It's just that the likelihood of some catastrophe (drunk, mental issues, etc.) that isn't self imposed is quite low.

My n=1 anecdote is just that, but I would wager I'm more likely to be hassled or be hit by airline failure given all of my variables AND the sheer number of flights I take compared to the average person. Yet hear am I saying the airlines and TSA aren't really THAT bad. Talk about playing devil's advocate.


>Man, I'm not sure if your home airport is not very good, you don't travel that often, or if you just have a higher base level of anxiety or what- but any drive over 4 hours and I'm on the lookout to see if I can fly there.

I'm not the person you're replying to, but I do have something to say about this.

Your situation is a bit different in that you need to be able to get from Portland to SF and back in a single day. Some people, myself included, don't have that restriction and value the journey as much as we value the destination. Personally, I absolutely LOVE long road trips. Seeing sites, eating at cozy roadside diners, listening to super loud music and sleeping in my car are all things I look forward to.


That's a good point, I do enjoy road trips for the purpose of a road trip. I usually take two or three on my motorcycle every summer. But if I'm just trying to get somewhere (work, family for the holidays, etc.) I'd be happiest if I could just teleport. Until we all have a personal Scotty beaming us around, I guess I'll have to settle for Alaska Airlines.


I love Alaska. Its the least evil of all domestic airlines. I once had a supper shitty experience when Microsoft flew me in for interview with United. Since then I don't even go 100ft near United. Alaska all the way!

I really hope Microsoft doesn't fly their candidates with United anymore. A couple of big companies cancelling their corporate contracts might give them a reality check.


Maybe they are just not white and have to endure a lot of "random" searches every flight.


Pretty sure this is it. I hail from a third world country, but I have never faced any issues since I'm European, and have since "whitewashed" my passport into a Five Eyes one.

Have even cracked a joke or two with TSA agents & gotten a "Welcome to America, enjoy your holiday" at LAX.


My point is that I'm the exact demographic of people who should be getting hit by "random" searches and I've got the volume of travel where it should be happening to me somewhat frequently if it is a widespread issue that occurs with any regularity. I'm 24-34, 1/2 Arab, have a beard, book a lot of flights on short notice, sometimes just one way, and NEVER check a bag.

I don't get ever get bumped from flights and I get pulled out for "random" searches on average of 1 times per year for the past 5 years.

Again, all anecdotal, but I'm the definition of the guy who should hate the airport. I only just dislike it.


I do the pdx to lax route a lot and end up showing up under an hour to the airport most times. Pdx tsa is probably the nicest batch I've run across. Of all my flying I've only had one bad time through tsa anywhere. People just like to play into the joke about how incompetent they are. Now, MCO on the other hand is a complete joke and tsa there all need to be retrained....


You're painting a darker picture than what it really is :) Most of the time, things go smoothly and flights are very affordable. I find it amazing that as a middle class person I can fly pretty much anywhere in the world. I can live with the inconvenience of being scolded by the TSA and US customs officers.

Actually, I wonder how much this will last considering that fossil energy will likely cost more and more and that more and more people from developing countries start to travel too.


Eh I actually have developed this same attitude in the past few years. I'd rather drive NY to St Louis than fly because even though it's much shorter to fly, it's an uncomfortable reminder that the world is taken over by the lowest grade idiots and the highest grade capitalists. Probably nothing new, but somehow it feels different.


Gotta support the TSA make work program though, think of the poor, unemployed person who could instead be groping you in the name of security theater!

But seriously, flying sucks, I've driven 20+hrs to avoid it in the past. Usually worth it since I get to plan out stops and see old friends on the way down the west coast.


Count me as another in the "Americans who avoid air travel" bin.

I'd rather rent a car and book overnight hotels than buy a US-based airline ticket, to the extent that I have driven (with another driver) 50 hours on the road to avoid 12 hours in the air. And with the prices of airline tickets, even renting the largest passenger vehicle for a week plus two weekends and staying in mid-range hotels was less than half the money cost for four passengers. Also, we got to see Oklahoma in its "everything is on fire" season.

That is the extent to which air travel has fallen. I would rather drive across a state that is literally on fire than fly an airline in the US. I would rather piss at a New Mexico low-water-use rest stop than in an airliner's toilet. I would rather be surrounded by an entire herd of leather-clad hog-riding bikers in the middle of nowhere than put a laptop or decent camera in checked baggage. And if I ever get forcibly dragged out of my seat by some thug, I'd like the cops to be on my side.


A state that's on fire? A herd of leather-clad bikers? That actually sounds cool :).

But you know what sounds not cool: being in an environment where you have no rights, and as you put it, are at the mercy of thugs.


> But you know what sounds not cool: being in an environment where you have no rights, and as you put it, are at the mercy of thugs.

Which is why he drives... I'll show myself out.


> Actually, I wonder how much this will last considering that fossil energy will likely cost more and more and that more and more people from developing countries start to travel too.

When I was flying back from Paris, I sat next to an Airbus engineer who was working on retrofitting jet engines to run on a biofuel produced via fermentation rather than normal fuel.

No clue how far along that project is or how promising it is, but there are folks in the industry thinking about this problem.


Given that we have likely hit peak demand for fossil fuel (the theory being that the demand for fossil fuel has peaked before we have reached peak supply), this is unlikely. Oil prices are unlikely to ever reach the highs of $100+ ever again. Or so goes the theory..

In short, flight prices are unlikely to be severely effected by oil prices again.


> Oil prices are unlikely to ever reach the highs of $100+ ever again.

Since the oil price crash, investment in exploration has gone down dramatically, so I would argue the contrary.

When the current supplies start to dwindle, I would not be surprised to see oil prices strike $200 or more a barrel.

The oil crash removed the cost of exploration from oil prices, so current prices are no longer a indication of probable future supply.

There's a multi-year lag between exploration and crude coming to market. While futures/derivatives can cover that exploration for future crude extraction, there's a growing spectre of competitive alternative energy that will likely reduce the attractiveness of crude – i.e. there being higher risk of relative oil obsolescence, the anticipated return on futures diminishes, meaning less money going into exploration, even with what will be present-day high prices.

Given the lag in investment, I suspect that when the "spike" comes people will look as much to ramping up more immediate alternatives (solar, wind) than exploring for oil.

The above is all speculation of course, but the 5-10 year market forces at work are not pushing towards lower or even stable oil prices, but towards much higher ones – at least until demand drastically drops, which some figure is at least 15-20 years out.

Just my 2¢.


> "Since the oil price crash, investment in exploration has gone down dramatically, so I would argue the contrary...."

The fracking technology for oil and gas is still on it's Moore's Law curve and is getting cheaper and cheaper so in fact more and more fracking is coming on-line so that we're unlikely to see prices much above $50 per barrel.

Mar 21, 2017 https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2017-03-21/big-oil-s...

April 12, 2017 https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-04-12/u-s-shale...


Good point. It just occurred to me that the spectre of shale that you highlight also counter-incentivises exploration, perhaps more so than alternative energy.


> Since the oil price crash, investment in exploration has gone down dramatically, so I would argue the contrary.

I keep http://oilprice.com/ in my RSS feed to keep tabs on the subject. It looks like the shale exploration is kicking up again (from the site and from friends working in the western part of ND).

and this helps http://oilprice.com/Energy/Oil-Prices/Why-Breakeven-Prices-A...


$100 per barrel is still cheap. It had minimal impact on usage, and with most of the world trying to ramp up to a western lifestyle demand is unlikely to drop in the next 20 years.

PS: Oil is 53$ per barrel right now, 2x price spikes in commodity prices are fairly common historically.


> the theory being that the demand for fossil fuel has peaked before we have reached peak supply

Demand == Supply

And that's even more true¹ for stuff like oil, that has a low volumetric price. Do you really think demand peaked because people could not find more uses for the stuff?

Oil is in a peak production crash. The prices volatility is a natural consequence of it, and will always stay as high as consumers' budgets allows.

1 - That means, it's true for almost any misleading definition of those terms you can come-up with.


> I wonder how much this will last considering that fossil energy will likely cost more and more and that more and more people from developing countries start to travel too.

Actually I think the cost of fuel to fly a passenger from New York to London will be cheaper in 30 years, for two reasons: (a) Motor vehicles will no longer be powered by gasoline; and (B) planes will continue to become more fuel efficient.


>Actually, I wonder how much this will last considering that fossil energy will likely cost more and more and that more and more people from developing countries start to travel too.

On the other hand, planes may become electric, and the cost of solar power is rapidly falling. If this trend continues, it will likely become cheaper to fly in the future.

Even if planes don't become electric any time soon, other demand for oil may be displaced, lowering its price.


Is it possible to make something like a jet electric? If someone knows of one I want to see a picture. Sounds like something from one of my dad's old sci-fi novels.


I've seen a few articles about electric aircraft on HN. In addition to the Boeing plane, there's Wright Electric ( https://weflywright.com/ ). Light electric trainer aircraft have already been built, such as the Pipistrel WATTsUP. Not a jumbo jet, but pictures like you asked for: http://www.pipistrel.si/news/wattsup-the-new-2seat-electric-...


That Pipistrel airplane is very interesting. Not having fuel makes it better in a light crash I guess (no explosion).

I'm pretty ignorant when it comes to piloting, but here on HN I've read other stories on light aircraft and training, and how forgiving it is and how it handles plays a very important factor in choosing an airplane as a trainer, no idea how that one does.


I imagine it wouldn't (need to) handle particularly differently. You can pretty much put a battery wherever you like. It seems that in the Pipistrel WATTsUP removable battery modules replace the mass of the engine block.

A nice advantage for a trainer is that unlike a combustion engine aircraft, a battery powered aircraft's mass isn't changing over time, so the learning pilot can expect a more consistent handling experience.


Yes, it's possible to make anything electric that currently runs on fossil fuel.

Making electric motors to spin propellers isn't that hard. We already do this for ships: any modern cruise liner has electrically-powered propellers (screws) that propel the ship. The challenge on a plane is getting the power to the motors. You could do a serial hybrid system, where a diesel generator makes power for the motors; this is what they do on cruise ships, but while it works well there for various reasons (including the variable-speed nature of running a cruise ship, and the usefulness of "azipods" for maneuverability), it's not likely to work so well for planes since planes in flight run their engines near full-throttle all the time (so you end up using more fuel, not less, due to conversion losses). So the idea is running the planes on batteries, like electric cars do now. The problem there is the weight of the batteries needed to store that much power is prohibitive. If someone invents battery tech that can store significantly more energy with the same weight, then the equation will change and we could very well see electric airplanes.



Is there any progress on electric aircraft that can match the durability and throughout of existing planes?


I really don't understand this. I've flown 3-4 times a year for the past 10 years and love flying.

At busy airports like JFK and NRT, I show up no more than 90 minutes before boarding time, which gives me time to check my bags and go through security, and still have time to grab a snack. At smaller airports, like MCI, I show up 30 minutes before boarding time and still have time to relax a bit.

I prefer to check bags. It's free on domestic flights for me and a passenger because I have airline-branded credit card, I avoid the pain of trying to find a space for my carry-on, and it just feels nicer to be able to walk through security and to my gate without dragging around a huge suitcase. I've never once had trouble with checked baggage - no valuables stolen, nothing lost.

And what's this about the "ever-increasing cost"?! Flights are cheaper than ever. If you're lucky enough to live near a hub, you can get anywhere in the world for a decent price. At smaller airports, the hubs are just one flight away and might not even cost any more. If they do it's only $100 or so.

A 3 hour flight is more like a 20 hour drive. Take Chicago to Miami for example. I just looked some flights. A nonstop flight is 3 hr 5 min and cost about $200 round trip. You'd spend more than that on gas for just the one way trip if you drove. Not to mention a hotel since you'd probably want to break it up to 2 days driving.


Sometimes its about Flying vs not flying. I definitely have reduced all flying to absolute necessary. Not being white, I get treated differently by TSA at times. Flying is currently a very annoying experience.


This was me for a long time, but then I got precheck. It is such a night and day difference that I'm back to flying


Even with precheck (which i got as well), it didn't really change anything.

I still need to show up just as early (as my local airport often has a longer line for precheck!), i still can't pack more than some stupid amount of liquid, or have my shit thrown out because I used a X-oz plastic bag which is too big!!! I still can't check bags as they just won't ever show up, or will show up damaged, have items stolen, or completely trashed from being searched. It only makes the cost more expensive, and it doesn't really help with the "invasive screening" (oh, i don't need to take my shoes off any more... i'm still getting scanned or felt up)

Plus I had to take a day off of work to go answer a bunch of stupid questions, pay them $80-ish per person, and give my fingerprints.


I must fly into and out of only the best airports. I've only ever had one thing thrown out; I've never had anything in my checked baggage damaged (and if I'm going for more than overnight, I always check my bag, even though I could carry it on, to avoid fighting for space with other passengers' carryons); the scanning doesn't perceptibly affect me; and I regularly show up at the airport less than an hour before boarding.

I live 45 minutes from CLT, with an office 45 minutes by taxi[0]from JFK, and when I fly into JFK, I can leave the house at 5am and be at the office by 10am.

[0] account_banned on Uber the first time I ever tried to use it, so, taxi it is.


I've never had an issue at Logan (Boston), SFO, Seattle or Austin. Usually past security in 20 min and I do not use precheck.


When are you flying? BOS and SEA have some of the longest TSA lines in the country. I've waited over an hour in line at both. I've gotten through BOS in 20 min but that's the exception, not the rule. AUS has gotten a lot worse too.


I fly in the morning and usually on Mondays and Tuesdays when I do fly from BOS. Departure's are usually in 7-8AM time frame. I've never had an issue getting through quickly. Maybe I'm just extremely lucky.


Yeah exactly they can just arbitrarily throw all your shit out, harass you, etc. Yeah it's rare for these things to happen, but my family immigrated to the US for freedom and civil rights and lol it's more Soviet here every day.


I fly approximately 3-4 times a year, possibly more, and have for the past 8 years. I've never had a checked bag go missing. Chances a check bag is lost (not just delayed) are vanishingly small.


I didn't say it was the greatest thing ever and yes it sucks to have to pay for the privilege of what just used to be normal. At least at my airport the whole process winds up being a lot faster.

However it did change my calculus when debating train vs plane for trips. It used to be anything under about a 10 hour train ride was a no brainer, now that's more like a 3 hour train ride.


Some TSA clown once told me I had to throw away my water and we just stared at each other for a bit. "My water, seriously?" "Yep, your water." "Water." "Water."

Fuck the TSA and fuck the terrified Americans who keep voting to keep them.


Why is that a big deal? You're warned not to bring bottles of liquids before you even get into the TSA line. Sure the TSA is bunch of security theatre in some cases, but if there's a rule there, why do you have to be a prick about it?


Because it's a huge waste of time and resources. No one benefits. There's no reason for these clowns to be wasting my time and making people buy water on the other side of the checkpoint. It's just one huge welfare program for unemployable morons, and I have to waste two hours every time I fly to put up with their dumb horseshit.

I'm gonna throw a brick through your front window. No reason for it, just gonna do it. Hey, a guy's paying me to do it. Why you gotta be so upset about it?

Let me put this in perspective. The Twin Cities gained a new light rail passenger line a couple years ago. The construction cost for this new line came to about $1 billion[1]. I use this line every single day. It takes me to work and to home and out to dinner. I love this rail line. It makes my life better.

The TSA's annual budget is $8 billion[2]. For the cost of running the TSA for one year, eight metro areas could gain a new rail line. Every year! And what does the TSA do in return for this money? Waste my time. Waste your time. Piss me off. Humiliate me with pat-downs. Why the fuck are we paying for these clowns to do this instead of doing something useful with that money? Because of Americans who have never met a person of Muslim faith but are terrified because of the loud angry white man on TV.

Yeah, it's a big deal and I'm fucking pissed. Why aren't you?

[1] http://finance-commerce.com/2015/04/progress-mn-metro-green-...

[2] https://www.rt.com/usa/tsa-useless-airport-security-479/


Well, if you knew the rule before going in, then from my perspective you were the one wasting everybody's time. Sure, you can view it as a stupid rule but being stupid is not the way to combat a stupid rule.

As for TSA security theater and it's bloated budget, right on.


You're exactly the kind of people I worry about. Accepting idiotic rules without any critical diagnosis of the bigger picture, giving up your last ounce of humility in return for "security".


Hmm, I fail to see where my statement makes the claim I accept such idiotic rules. My statement makes the claim that it is stupid to act stupid in an effort to fight stupid rules.

And then I agreed with the TSA security theater notion and bloated budget which goes against your thought I've given up my last ounce of humility in return for "security".

I suggest you read my statement again because you clearly misunderstood.


You tacitly accept rules you refuse to oppose or do anything about.


So, arguing that one should be smart when fighting stupid rules means I accept the rule? Being stupid in an effort to fight stupid rules guarantees more stupid rules in response.

What kind of nonsense are you people preaching here?


I had some crazy notion that maybe the guy would use his gray matter and realize that water is not very dangerous and would maybe let me sneak through with some water because water is not very dangerous. Live and learn, I guess.


He probably used his grey matter to realize that he'd rather not risk losing his job for some random person.


So, I suppose water is the only liquid on Earth that looks like water with a visual inspection through a sealed container.


Most airports I frequent have water bottle fountains now that dispense cold, filtered water into your bottle for you. Just bring a reusable bottle or dump your water from a disposable bottle.


Of course there's no reason to make people buy water on the other side of the checkpoint, but that's because it's generally ludicrous to have people buy water at all. In the USA, every airport I've been to has free water fountains both airside and landside. The rest of the world is way behind in this respect.


Let me know when I can take the train from Houston to Frankfurt.


We are dealing with zealots who think a reward is waiting for them in heaven.

How was he supposed to know that it's really water?

Just because it is clear liquid in a sealed bottle proves nothing, even if you are willing to drink it on the spot. See above, the part about heaven and zealots.

If he said "water" repeatedly, that's not because he actually knows or cares whether it is really water. It very well may be water. He's just saying that that is the rule; even if your liquid is just water, you need to ditch it. He's not going to say all this stuff about "how do I know it's really water" because he's not there to argue; he's just trying to move the line along.

This information all seems like common sense to me.


I was in line behind a girl flying from Schiphol to the US a couple of years ago, and they told her she needed to throw away the unopened bottle of water she'd purchased from a shop in the airport. She was arguing that she'd bought it right there and it hadn't been opened, and the guy said, "they're supposed to seal it in a bag. Maybe you can go get a bag?"

At that point, the rule isn't "you aren't allowed to bring liquids onto a plane because it might be a bomb". The rule is "you have to bring your bomb on the plane in a special bag".


Just bring an empty water bottle with through and fill it post-security. For all the hand wringing, this is a minor issue.


I once had a tiny bit of water on my plastic thermos. The TSA guy said "throw the bottle or exit the line, walk to the bathroom and empty it there".

I just looked at him puzzled, opened the bottle, and drank the water.

Now that I think of it, I was lucky he didn't taze me for my 'insolence'.


I usually dump it in the trash at the line. I feel sorry for the cleaning staff, but whatever, fuck it. Anyone with brains understands how useless all this is, but it's the TSA, so brains are not involved.


Agreed!


Next time try freezing it first.


Which is actually a suggestion tsa gives out. Just make sure it's completely frozen. Any floating water won't be allowed. Aka drink the melt.


Woo, $100 extortion fees, all right.


Ah, yes, being extorted to not remove your shoes.


Precheck is a must if you travel often. On the flip side - pre-check lines are sometimes longer then "regular", esp on Monday/Friday mornings when the frequent-flying business crowd is there.


I got global entry. Few bucks more and it covers me when I travel outside the states.


The last time I flew was in 2009 when I had to go to Chattanooga for my wife's funeral (we buried her next to her mom). Before that was 2001 when we got married in the same city and then honeymooned in Baltimore & DC.

I don't plan on flying again any time soon.


I love flying AND driving. I used to regularly do Seattle->SJ by car (did it 4x in 4 weeks one time) and really enjoy the drive.

Flying commercially sucks, of course, but the security line concerns are overblown. They've been saying "3 hours before departure for international, 2 hours for domestic" for decades, but I just ignore it. I routinely show up 30min before boarding for domestic flights (so, 55-60min before departure) and never have an issue. Worst security line I've seen at SFO was 25min. I was sweating it a bit, but I got to my gate exactly at boarding time, and it was a ghost town.. they hadn't even bothered to get the gate agents there yet!

The only thing you have to be careful of is, if checking a bag, to have it checked 45 or 50min before departure, that's the the tricky one.


And you get at least a fighting chance at experiencing/appreciating the places you pass through. And in a pinch you've got a place to sleep. And no inane announcements to sit through and no inane in-flight movie to avert your eyes from!


Your door-to-door time with those two trips is probably not that far apart, when you factor in time getting to and from the airport, waiting for security, waiting for luggage, and delays.

Plus driving is cheaper and less stressful...


But am I wrong in thinking it shouldn't be that way? Why is the "really fast bus in the sky" so much worse in just about every way? Is it like this in other countries?


At least here in Europe when I fly inside Schengen it's not like that at all.

My experience going through security has always been much smoother than when I traveled to the US. Lines are smaller, security is more relaxed (never had to take my shoes off for example) and the security staff for the most part are much kinder.

When I flew through the US (arrived at DFW to connect to SFO, drove to LA and went from LAX to JFK) I think the only airport that everything was smooth was SFO. DFW was meh-ok but I had to go through immigration so don't want to consider it. But oh my fucking god, I pray to never have to go through LAX again, never expected to be treated like cattle with rude agents everywhere. JFK was a little bit better but not by much.

So yes, comparing my experience between LAX, SFO, JFK and DFW against ARN, MUN, TXL, SXF, BCN, FRA, CDG, AMS, ZUR and DUB... There's really no comparison, never felt mistreated or had any kind of problem with security staff or time in the queues in any of the European airports.


As a western person, the lack of invasive checks and procedures etc in Asia (live Japan, have travelled PRC HK Indonesia and Malaysia) was an eye opener for me.

In every case the security involved an X-ray for luggage and walking thru a metal detector. That was it.

Australia in 2014 otoh was nuts. I was taken aside and magic wanded at one airport, subject to a personal body scan (???) and patdown at another, and interrogated on my way out (apparently "company employee" was not an adequate description of my occupation).

Combined with other security theater like police leading dogs around at the gate, it made me not want to visit there again. It was scary!


Asia hasn't discovered, or have the need for, the security theater jobs program.


Seriously, instead of a New Deal with public infrastructure projects, we're spending to create make work jobs with the TSA.


Not only that, the security lines are now a security issue.


The U.K. London Heathrow takes a close second. No, other countries do not put on a security theater show where you are the spectacle.


I always feel like LHR security checks do their best to keep the lines moving and have a neutral or even friendly manner. I find the process to be of about the same format and duration as other airports I've passed through in ME and East Asia.


Is driving really cheaper? I mean I'm pretty sure the margins are pretty thin, if it's just you at least - they should balance out the more people you need to transport.

Mind you I'm from Europe, our gas prices are 4x as high and for trips to e.g. the UK or Scandinavia we have to cross a body of water. There's some toll roads too in e.g. France, and Germany wants to introduce those too.


We just recently drove from Pennsylvania to Florida, cost us about $150 in gas round trip (ignoring wear-and-tear on the car)

The cheapest we could have flown is about $200 per person (2 people), not to mention taxi/uber costs.

So for one person, it might be a wash, but for 2+ people its very much cheaper to drive.


It really depends on the location of departure, destination, and how valuable your time is.

For example, I can fly round trip from Chicago, IL (ORD) to Miami, FL (MIA) for $325 per person (tax included, no checked luggage) taking about 7 hours each way (45 minutes to airport, arrive 2 hours early, 3:15 hour flight, 15 minutes to get situated, 45 minutes to destination). To drive that would take 21 hours and 1,400 miles each way which would cost about $300 in gas for my vehicle. This is really a best case scenario for flying being potentially as cheap as driving. If you want to fly to any smaller international or regional airport without frequent direct flights, the cost can easily be a couple hundred dollars more per person.


$325 is a lot for a flight to miami, you can easily find flights that are half that.


A 3h flight is going to be much faster than a 12h drive. It may be cheaper if you fill the car with people but will cost more if you do it alone. That's assuming you consider your time to be worth nothing.


Unless I'm flying a RyanAir flight that's under $100, a tank and a half of gas to go 700-800 miles is going to be cheaper, if we're sticking in the 12-hour drive frame. And that's driving a not-particularly fuel efficient pickup truck. Gas is only $2.09 this week.


IF the VLJ (Very Light Jet) segment would ever fully blossom a major Uber-style disruption would be possible.

The biggest thing that could prevent this welcomed development? The government. Specifically that the FAA is likely to clamp down on "Uber Air Taxi" market and declare them common carriers.

Got to protect those monopolies.


> Specifically that the FAA is likely to clamp down on "Uber Air Taxi" market and declare them common carriers.

The FAA has some really arcane rules, which is why aviation law is an actual speciality. Like, for instance, as a private pilot I can't fly a coworker with me to a conference and be reimbursed by my employer, but I can fly just myself and be reimbursed. There's a lot of subtleties to the FARs.

But if you're talking about private pilots flying people around like Uber drivers do, I can understand why they would clamp down on that.

Commercial and Air Transport pilots have much more rigorous standards than private pilots do, including stricter medical requirements and more thorough yearly medical exams. Private pilots will soon be able to get by with just an annual physical at a family doctor after their initial medical, whereas ATPs have to have a yearly EKG done, for instance. There's also more thorough training, higher hour requirements, etc.

Basically, people and equipment flying passengers are held to the highest standards (sometimes, maybe too high) which is one reason commercial aviation is so safe, and the FAA does not want private pilots who may not meet those standards running underground, fly-by-night airlines. All it takes is one crash wiping out a family in an "uber air taxi," and maybe a few people on the ground if it hits a house or something. In addition to being a tragedy the people involved and aviation in general, it would bring a ton of negative publicity to the relevant licensing agencies followed by mountains of lawsuits.

Without massive changes to the current aviation legal system, I can't see any way an "Uber air taxi" could work. Unlike a lot of cities which may not fully enforce a prohibition on services like Uber, the FAA will bring the wrath of God down on anyone they find willfully breaking the rules.


For something like "Uber Air Taxi", they should probably do away with pilots altogether and have it work on autopilot.


Nonsense. The FAA actively encourages general aviation and small air charters. They bent over backwards to help the VLJ manufacturers through the certification process. The VLJ segment failed (so far) because they're still too expensive, too slow, and too dangerous. But perhaps further improvements in engines and lightweight materials will eventually make it viable?


The operating costs of a VLJ are still insanely huge. Example: a piston plane - SR22 can fly 200mph for 1200 miles on one tank of fuel. Approximate cost of that flight including amortised repair and maintenance costs: $1000. A VLJ, like SF50 can do that same flight at 320mph, but at an amortized cost of about $2600. Mostly it is due to engine overhaul costs. Overhauling a piston engine like in an SR22 is about $40k and done about every 2000 hours. Overhauling a jet like the in the SF50 is about $700k, and done every 4000 hours.

Until that comes down, jets will simply not approach uber-useful affordability for even people who buy full-fare first class seats.

(Fuel consumption is also much higher both in gal/h and in $/hr for jets compared to pistons)

And piston planes are not nearly as useful for air taxi due to them being unable to fly high enough to avoid most weather. Oh and in general turbines are an order of magnitude less likely to fail per hour.


I'm surprised turbine costs haven't fallen -- maybe we need more cruise missiles and jet-powered drones to raise the volume and lower per unit costs.


Cruise missile turbine engines have a design operating life of only a few hours, use special stabilized gel fuel, and optimize for performance over cost. I'm skeptical as to whether those will prove to be a good basis for developing cheaper VLJ engines.


Didn't Eclipse (RIP) say their engine was going to be derived from a cruise missile engine?


pilots not licensed for commerical people transport are forbidden from taking money to fly people places. Planes that do fly people places from money are either forced to use the TSA or provide "equivilent security".


I am constantly surprised when reading about the US. You would think that there would be more similarities with New Zealand, my home country.

Anecdotally; I flew to Australia a few months ago on an economy-class ticket purchased at very short notice. My trip through both Auckland and Melbourne airports was very pleasant, and I had no need to even interact with any of the personnel the whole way through. The flight was full but not overbooked and we arrived early.

Reading the stories about travel to the US is very discouraging and erases any desire I had to visit. I suppose there isn't much of an incentive to improve anything in the US, because the economy doesn't rely on tourism to the same extent we do here.


If it helps, I've flown many dozens of times in past few years, mostly in the US, but also on at least a couple of dozen international flights across four continents. I've never lost my checked baggage (I often check one or two bags), and I've never missed a flight, or even gotten particularly close to it (I do show up 2 hours early to avoid that), and I've never been bumped off a flight for any reason.

In the USA, you do have to accept that they're a lot more picky about liquids, and they do make you take off your shoes, but seriously, just read the signs and you won't be surprised.


NZ and Australia have open skies agreements though, the airlines actually have to compete with each other instead of being granted monopolies.


Technically, yes, but there's very little actual competition on many routes. Domestically in NZ between the main centres there's Air New Zealand and Jetstar. I doubt I'll ever fly Jetstar as I know too many people who've had Jetstar flights cancelled on them at the last minute. Ten years or so ago it was a different story, with more airlines competing.


On minor routes Jetstar is bad, but I flew domestically with them half a dozen times last year.

The worst problem I experienced was a 30-delay one time.


United have always stunk. I'm thinking back about two decades on what was practically my first long-haul international trip. The return leg BOS-AMS on UAL was delayed due to equipment, then cancelled, then the replacement also delayed & cancelled, and so on, always with limited information and brusque, disinterested customer service. No apology, no compensation, and rerouting requests consistently denied. This continued for three days, and after three days of wandering the dreary halls of Boston Logan Airport my fellow detainees were on first-name terms.

Being a wet-behind-the-ears youth I had little idea of how abnormal this was, or how to properly and successfully complain to a gigantic company, and was also secretly enjoying my extra time in the US exploring the hidden places in and around an airport.

But some of the other passengers were frantic. Three days stuck at '90s-era Logan, because United couldn't get their act together and compounded their engineering & operational failures with dismally bad customer service. Some of them were missing major life events as a result.

Twentyish years on I have Legendary frequent flyer status, and exactly no dollars whatsoever were spent towards it with United. I choose to spend extra on friends and family routing with other airlines simply that they may avoid UAL. "Never again". Vote with your wallet.


It's never been easy to get into the US though, long before Trump they've been handing out arbitrary bans or doing nonsense like extraordinary rendition to 3rd world countries not respecting dual citizenship with Canada/Europe. I suspect nothing will happen because I can't remember a time where I didn't dread crossing the border all the way back to the Bush 1.0 presidency.

There's a NAFTA tribunal held once a week at major border crossings with Can/US not many people know about that can overturn the overzealous authority of border guards if anybody receives an arbitrary ban from entry I've had to use it a few times.

As for United Airlines monopolies allow this behavior to happen because where else are you going to go. United holds 73% of slots at Newark for example


> Travelling in the US or with US airlines is not looking very good right now.

As someone not living in the US, travelling to the US is not looking good either. I know of many, many people who have written off visiting the USA for the foreseeable future.

I'm one of those and I've spent many years in the US in the past (lived in NE and VA for 5 years in total and visited over 30 states). Sadly, as much as I enjoy visiting the States, it simply feels like too much of a liability to visit at the moment. I'll reconsider in 4 years if it hasn't got any worse.


I travel a lot internationally but won't visit the USA - I have no interest in putting myself through that.

By contrast, I've travelled to a lot of countries that the USA considers dangerous or extreme (e.g. Sudan), and have had nothing but pleasant and easy experiences.


> I wonder if it will start impacting traveller and tourism numbers at some point.

According to some, it already has:

"All this has resulted in an estimated loss of $185 million in business travel bookings from January 28 to February 4, as calculated by the Global Business Travel Association. The drop-off in tourism is predicted to result in 4.3 million fewer visitors this year, which adds up to a staggering loss of $7.4 billion in revenue for the US."

http://www.independent.co.uk/travel/news-and-advice/trump-sl...


Imagine when they start asking for your passwords. Many of my colleagues said they really won't go anymore if that happens. It won't be long before conferences in the US will see diminished attendance from other parts of the world. In my field (biophysics) I'm pretty sure more local conferences are going to much more preferred in the future.

At Boston Logan airport me and some colleagues (+ the rest of the people on the plane waiting at customs) were once barked at: "The next person who forgot to fill out the back of his green form will be sent back to his home country!" No smiles, just a death stare while you put in your finger prints... It's a shame, it's such a beautiful country but I could do without.


Aren't they doing it already? I was under impression from news you must already provide them at border with password or unlock your device for inspection when asked.


This is actually a really good thing if numbers are greatly hit. It'll hopefully lead to the entire US travel industry to focus on becoming the most travel friendly place it can be. But the hit needs to be big enough for shareholders to care.


>But the hit needs to be big enough for shareholders to care.

Also time. Something like a fundamental travel industry shakeup could take decades. Here's hoping. As a Canadian, crossing that border is getting less and less appealing.


My wife and I just got back from a trip to Italy. The flight was full on the way there. We went from Chicago to Rome. However on the way back we flew from Venice with a stop over in Madrid back to Chicago. The plane was only 1/3 full at most. I remember commenting to my wife how empty it was.


> My wife and I just got back from a trip to Italy. The flight was full on the way there. We went from Chicago to Rome. However on the way back we flew from Venice with a stop over in Madrid back to Chicago. The plane was only 1/3 full at most. I remember commenting to my wife how empty it was.

That's most likely just the normal variation in the flight schedules - they can vary dramatically not just by time of year, but also time of day.

For example, I just took a flight from Dubai to NYC (and this was after Trump's Muslim ban came into effect). The flight was packed, with nearly every seat full. Last year, I took the same flight but a few hours later, and it was nearly empty - almost every person in coach had the entire row to themselves (which, for a 15-hour flight, was great!).

Or put another way, if the flight on the way from Chicago to Rome was full and the flight from Madrid to Chicago was not, that doesn't really tell you much about aggregate tourism from other countries to the US, unless you're also making the assumption that there are literally planes full of people emigrating from the US every day.


True. I don't do enough international travel to indicate it one way or another. Just thought it was strange. This is only 1 small data point where many are needed in order to see any trending.


Load factors (both directions) are about as high as they ever have been.

In general terms, you can't really have a direction imbalance - especially due to the reasons you are positing. The vast majority of people flying (either direction) is on a tourist visa. Those people have to return as well as get there, so if a flight is full headed to Europe pretty much the same number of people must return. And vice versa.

Immigration/long-term business stays/etc. are a tiny fraction of the folks on the airplane. I suppose there could be an epidemic of US tourists overstaying their EU visas but I kind of doubt it :)

You'd see a reduction in load factor in both directions if there is a dropoff of EU tourism.


"massively late"

This is a direct consequence of charging for checked bags.

Now every flight takes twice as long to board and disembark because everyone is carrying as much carry on as they can and trying to stuff them into the overhead bins.

Annoyingly, they usually start making announcements about gate-checking bags for free so they are not really reducing the costs and they're encouraging passengers to drag their bags through security (slowing down that line) in the hope they can gate check the bag for free (or not at all) in order to save $100/bag.

The airlines should offer free bag check and charge $100/bag per carry-on in the overhead bins (under the seat is free still).


I would happily go for check bag in for free, but sometimes Airlines take forever to get the bag on to the carousel. Its much faster to get in and out with your bag as a carry-on.

I agree, One free bag check should be compulsory. They should also ensure that your bags arrive faster than you at the baggage carousel. May be one day with the advent of robots.


Its much faster to get in and out with your bag as a carry-on.

This is the reason I do carry-on only if I can get away with it. I want to keep my airport-time as low as reasonably possible. I also try to optimise my seating for this purpose rhen its something I can do (without paying for priority stuff). For example, on a recent flight, I was the 3rd person through the passport checks and the first person (as far as I could tell) leaving the secure area.


> I wonder if this is a first step of a large trend yet to develop.

I sure hope not. Isolation only fuels nationalism. Nationalism fuels irrational decisions. Irrational decisions lead to fascism.

If you want your people to dehumanize a culture, the first step is to isolate your people from that culture. Don't allow your people any opportunity to empathize with that culture. If you continue to isolate your people, you can breed an "us vs them" sentiment. This is perfect if you want to start a war with popular support.


No, it's just been slow news for a few weeks. United will be relieved once the media turns their magnifying-glass to burn other ants


I never transit through the States any more. I prefer Canada or Mexico City.


We just hired an Indian national at the startup I work for. He's on an h1b visa after finishing his masters in CS. Everyone at the company has to be registered with Homeland security. I'm so pissed. I think maybe we've convinced the CEO to just not and see what happens.


I really hope so. Cause in my country nothing improves unless doing so makes / saves money.


It's only been ~15 years.


I really hope so. We need less tourists here!


Comment might be buried... But, the problem is the baroque overlaid combinations of [seat class, fare class, FF status, standby, cash vs FF purchase, time of arrival at gate, etc.] intersecting with [connecting flts, equipment, weather, etc.] leads to a large range of predictable conditions with uncertain outcomes. E.g. only one seat remaining, who gets it: passenger needing to make intl connection on a FF ticket or cash paying high status passenger?

This is a global optimization problem that can be easily solved - but there are many cases where on the ground discretion is required [last minute aircraft change, weather delay]. Poorly paid, under trained and under motivated staff will always drop the ball in this situation.

The solution for United here is two fold 1) Increase training, comp, authority and motivation of gate agents to solve problems with minimal disruption. This used to be the case a bankruptcy ago. This setup is not likely to return due to a simple reason: cost. United in bankruptcy blew up the pension promises to some of their most experienced staff. They left.

2) The best outcome for United is to reduce the complexity of their product so that customer expectations of service align with the company's ability to deliver.

tl;dr: United's service is too complex for their gate agents to deliver. Service should be simplified.


The other issue is to stop overbooking every single flight and allow some slack to handle these unexpected situations that inevitably come up.


I don't understand the hate for overbooking flights. Most of the time, I don't care at all about the system where flights are overbooked, because most of the time I don't get bumped. When they do overbook a flight and I've blocked out more time than I need for travel, I can make a few hundred dollars (not bad even in vouchers since I usually tend to fly the same route with the same airlines frequently enough) for the inconvenience and it's voluntary and cleared through a bidding process, meaning that usually the person who gets bumped is the person who is least inconvenienced by it.

It's a pretty low cost to customers (I've never met anyone who was unhappy that they got bumped, because the kind of people who don't want to get bumped don't opt-in) and it actually delivers returns in the form of lower ticket prices, since if they were underutilizing the space in the planes, it would be more costly to operate.

It seems to me that the problem with this situation was not overbooking, it was that for whatever reason they did not use the generally well-received bidding system to allow the people who were going to be bumped to select themselves. On a full plane, what are the chances that you can't find 4 people willing to give up their seats for $1000 (or even less)?


Ryanair never overbooks, and United can only dream of its profitability.


They also don't have connections. Or aircraft with different numbers of seats.


This is the way to handle it. Offer a monetary reward, and obviously the problem can be solved in a way where everyone wins. Even the airline. They shouldn't want to piss people off, and can consider it as spending on their brand if nothing else.

And great point about how it is more efficient this way. Reminds me of surge pricing, or congestion pricing. Economics ftw.


Overbooking guarantees near 100% utilization. As you observed, it also leads to regular situations where a gate agent has to prioritize customers into limited slots. If overbooking and gate agents predictably end up destroying customer goodwill, then the practice has to be reconsidered.


Which means increased costs, especially since every other airline is also overbooking flights. Free-market is an asshole in this case: gotta overbook to compete.


I fly about once a month or so over the past 2-3 years, a number of different airlines. United is the only one that consistently asks for volunteers to get bumped on every flight.


We're talking about ~0.1% to 1% probabilities here of overbooked flights. (EDIT: Apparently we're talking even smaller: 0.01% to 0.1% probabilities... actually)

That's not every flight. Small enough that its too small for anecdotal evidence to be useful, big enough that it causes media stories. Every airline has some degree of overbooking necessary because flights get delayed, connecting flights lose passengers, and sometimes people just simply don't show up.

Especially in large airports (ie: Chicago's) where the airport is basically a hub for other airports to go to.

-------

United Airlines is solidly average on overbooking: https://www.transportation.gov/sites/dot.gov/files/docs/reso...

At 0.4 passengers per 10,000 bumped, United Airlines is actually a lot better than Jetblue or Southwest.

See page 33.


That's only the involuntary bumps. If you divide out the numbers for the voluntary denied boardings, United is #3 behind Skywest and Expressjet - far worse than other major carriers for overbooking flights.

This is naturally going to create a systemic problem when there's too many overbooked flights. If you have to bump some passengers from flight 1, then they try to get on flight 2, but flight 2 is ALSO overbooked, so now you have to bump or pay off even more passengers from flight 2 and put them on flight 3, which is ALSO overbooked and so on. You end up with a cascading snowball of bumped passengers.

Inevitably you run into a situation where nobody wants to volunteer, then you get a situation like the one in the news. It's not a coincidence that happened on United.


Voluntary is a bit harder to compare though. For one, because its not necessarily wrong for people to give up their seat for money. If I were going on a vacation and someone offered me $400 to take a flight 2-hours later, I probably would take the $400.

In any case, United is not the worst offender in either voluntary nor involuntary "bumps".


I'm just saying in order to estimate how many flights they overbook, you'd have to look at the total of voluntary and involuntary bumps. People wouldn't be volunteering to take a later flight and United wouldn't be handing out vouchers if the flights weren't oversold.

I don't think it's wrong per se, in a moral sense. I just think it creates problems. The more overbooked flights you have, the less able you are to respond to delays or to re-seat passengers who got bumped, or to find new flights for people whose plane suddenly got smaller or who missed a connection or whatever, and there are ALWAYS going to be things like that happening.

The passengers who get bumped don't usually just give up altogether. They have to get on some flight. The more overbooked flights there are, the fewer chances there are for them to get on a different flight, and the more people there are looking for different flights in the first place. The problem compounds and you get the cascading spiral like I described above.

A constrained system like the airline is going to respond nonlinearly to perturbations. When you double the number of overbooked flights, the problems they cause aren't just going to get twice as bad, they'll get four times or six times as bad or more. (made up numbers, I'm just saying it's not one-to-one).

Flying is already a stressful experience thanks to the TSA and just the general stress of making sure you get there on time with all the uncertainty in what can go wrong (traffic, long security line, long wait to check a bag, whatever). If I book a flight at a certain time, it's because I want to leave and arrive at the times I chose, not a couple hours later or the next day or two days later, or never. This is why I pretty much refuse to fly United anymore. I don't like the stress of having to wonder if I'm going to be allowed on the flight I've paid for.


he might be flying on popular route, contradicting statistics, so you both might be right


AFAIK JetBlue doesn't overbook.


JetBlue usually sells inflexible tickets with fewer connections, so passengers are much more likely to show up for their flight. In 2013, they only had to deny 18/21,000,000 passengers where the average rate is at 9/10,000.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EqWksuyry5w does a great 5 min overview talking about this exact thing.


https://www.transportation.gov/sites/dot.gov/files/docs/reso...

JetBlue overbooks 3x more than United does. See page 33.


No. JetBlue doesn't overbook. Starting in Q3-4 of 2016 JetBlue starting having fleet issues with the A321s and many times had to swap in a A320 (with ~50 fewer seats) due to mechanical issues with the newer A321s, which resulted in a massive spike in involuntary denied boardings. You can definitely argue that if you get bumped from your flight the cause doesn't matter much, but JetBlue apparently does NOT overbook at all... Which I respect.


This issue wasn't overbooking - they had mechanical failure on the scheduled aircraft and had to swap in a smaller plane.

The problem here was not detecting that the flight was _now_ overbooked after reducing the available seats.


They will never do that, since it impacts profit.


Due to airlines' razor thin margins, this is simply impossible. That simple. Every single traditional airline will go bankrupt if it stopped overbooking.

Unfortunately it is the greed and stupidity of us consumers that drove this market into the ground. We shouldn't blame airlines. Think about this next time when you pick 'order by price' in skyscanner...


This is a scary statement that no one is willing to test it. But is it really true? I offer an alternate theory.

It won't lead to an airline bankruptcy.How about we create a cancellation fee. UA can add an incentive (not sure if one already exist) to their mileage club membership giving club member free cancellation up to 5 hours before the onboard time.

* Free cancellation up to 24 hours, and thereafter no refund plus a $30 cancellation fee.

* 50% refund for up to 24 hours

* no refund if no show

* club members get up to free cancellation and 50% refund up to 5 hours, except

* ultra gold club members free cancellation and 80% refund without cancellation fee

IDK. Someone on their business team make up a profitable number.

The truth is though, airline does this because they have a proven statistics the percentage of customers are no-show. According to [1]:

> On average, the number of people not turning up to flights is around 5 percent, but, in certain circumstances, that number can be up to 15 percent. Obviously, that puts airlines in an interesting position.

In the long run as airlines struggle to keep up with profit if overbooking is illegal, airlines will be forced to implement the above. [1]: https://techcrunch.com/2017/04/11/overbooking/


Airlines already take your money when you cancel. They overbook because so many people cancel that they have vacant seats, meaning they can sell X% of seats twice.


Yes, I am aware they take my money. But my point is to add cancellation fee to cover up the losses after making overbooking illegal. Profit will go down, but they avoid delays and other unnecessary disputes/situations.


How can they charge you that fee? All it would mean is that you won't board the plane and instead take another flight.

I have done this before because buying a new ticket cost me less than moving the existing ticket. So I just didn't check in, and didn't turn up for the flight.


The incentive for a refund.


> But is it really true?

Well, aircraft are really, really expensive. On the order of hundreds of millions of dollars apiece just to buy. Then there's the yearly maintenance which involves tearing them apart and putting them back together. And the jet fuel, airport landing fees, highly trained personnel, regulations...

This means their operation costs eat up somewhere around 80-90% of the revenue for any single full flight. I can't imagine personally trying to manage such a system and eeking profit out of it.

One of the big reasons airlines even survive while serving so many otherwise unprofitable locations is because of the federal grants, and the regulations that ensure they do serve more than just the biggest metropolitan areas.

In other words, if unregulated and not provided with grants, airlines would only ever serve the major cities (with higher ticket prices as they do so), because it would never be profitable to serve anywhere else. They would also completely fold after the first downturn in air travel (9/11 would have effectively killed all the airlines).


Airlines made $25 billion in profit in 2015, on about $169 billion in total revenue. Doesn't seem razor-thin to me.

(A few years before, airlines generally were barely eking it out, but that was in a time of high oil prices. The recent collapse in the price of fuel has been very, very good to them.)

Cite: http://money.cnn.com/2016/05/03/news/companies/airline-profi...


In a highly competitive industry a regulation that prevented overbooking would have near zero impact. Ticket prices would rise to compensate, but a 5% change in price would have minimal impact on overall utilization.

That said, it's very hard for one airline to avoid the race to the bottom unless they spread that across the company's processes. AKA, we don't double book, we don't have ridiculous fees etc, your ticket costs X% more, but and they capture a different market segment.


The problem is they have a monopoly now that there's only 1 or 2 airlines to choose from at each airport. If we had more than 3 or 4 choices, then we could pick alternative airlines and United would cease to exist.

Too late for that now. Get ready for more harsh treatment in the future and lots of increases in fare prices, higher than inflation.


If we had three or four choices and one of them ceased to exist... It wouldn't take long to end up with a duopoly.

Some people believe this may have already occurred.


You want to expand on that last point a bit? How is looking for the best deal on expensive travel "greed and stupidity"?


I think "greed and stupidity" is taking it a bit far, but most people are not willing to spend an extra $200 to patronize an airline that doesn't act like this. United's stock went down but most people are not going to fly out of a different airport in order to patronize a different airline.

And before we call air travel expensive let's look at what it actually is. We've only been flying at all for about a century (much less of that time commercially) and it's already safer than driving to the airport. You can get from San Francisco to LA for less than $100 in an hour. Across the country (NYC to LA) for less than $400 in the amount of time it takes you to watch two movies and eat a meal. This is with something approaching $300-350k worth of annual payroll in the cockpit, flying a machine where the engines have to be literally broken down into their component pieces and rebuilt on a regular schedule. The overhead is obscene, the skills required to do the job are expensive, and they'll move you and a friend from one end of the country to the other for less than most people here would spend on a laptop.

The fact that a $20 difference in fare will make you choose one airline over the other is what drives all airlines to this point.


From what I recall almost all tickets are non-refundable or they cost a lot more. So it seems like they are already covered...


strange we don't have these issues in Europe in really competitive market, so I don't think customer is to blame here... once again why is there so little competition in US airlines market? do current airlines have such good lobbyists blocking entrance of other companies?


JetBlue doesn't overbook.


I had not heard of skyscanner. Thanks!


Why can't they just make the tickets non-refundable? They still get paid!


They already do make them non-refundable, and they overbook. They want to get paid for (say) 105 seats on a plane with 100 seats.


Ahh. Well that's just greedy.


Welcome to the business of Airlines.


Also decreases carbon emissions...


At the moment I wish United gets beaten up well for forced passenger removal earlier this week. However, IMO this article just tries to pile onto the "United stinks" meme and is poorly written (more emotions than facts). Some things missing (for me):

1. When did this happen? The article makes it look like this just happened, but does not mention a date. I suspect the omission is on purpose (if so, boo!; if not, sorry, but please add event date).

2. The fact that the guy bumped off is rich is irrelevant (and going on and on about it dulls the message).

3. The fact that the seat the guy was downgraded was noisy (people arguing on both sides) is irrelevant.

IMO the main point is valid -- the person was first to the seat and in general whoever gets into the seat first keeps it in case of a seat collision or a duplicate ticket. He should not have been asked to free it to another passenger (who should have been downgraded instead and compensated somehow). But conflating this with unrelated issue to get on a "United stinks" meme is a cheap trick. My 2c.


The information is missing from the story, but is available on other write ups of the same story.

It happened on April 1st. He was offered the difference in price between the first class seat and the economy seat. That seems like poor compensation since this is basically a form of denied boarding, which involves higher compensation. Perhaps technically, since he still had a seat, it's not denied boarding, but it's certainly worth more than the fare difference.

The relevant part is that the United staff specifically said he would be put in handcuffs if he didn't comply. That's the part to me that makes this fair game to bootstrap some attention from the other incident.


Any verification that handcuffs were threatened? A guy saying it's so while also claiming he's considering a lawsuit doesn't lend much credibility -- he has a financial incentive to hyperbolize.


There's not proof, but in his letter to United he asked only for a full refund. He did ask them to donate $25k to the charity of his choice, which seems an odd request if your goal is extortion.

He doesn't appear to need the money: http://www.tripacificllc.com/team.html

Edit: Also, he has a JD from Stanford. Lol...United picked the wrong guy.


"IMO the main point is valid -- the person was first to the seat and in general whoever gets into the seat first keeps it in case of a seat collision or a duplicate ticket."

I would be extremely annoyed if I were in the same situation as this flyer.

However, I'm not really sure what United is supposed to do here ... according to the article they had a mechanical problem with the original plane and the replacement plane had fewer first class seats ...

So somebody has to not fly in the first class seat.

Again, I would be very, very upset - but as an outsider looking in, it seems a bit childish and primitive to assume that whoever raced to the seat first gets to keep it, regardless of any other factors.

Again, United has to downgrade somebody to coach in this situation - it seems reasonable that they sort that downgrade to the lowest "status" passenger.


Again, I would be very, very upset - but as an outsider looking in, it seems a bit childish and primitive to assume that whoever raced to the seat first gets to keep it, regardless of any other factors.

It isn't like a city bus where you can elbow your way to the front of the line and grab a seat. There's an assigned seating process that's 100% controlled by the airline. If they screw it up, that's on their heads.

It is an entirely reasonable expectation that once you've been issued a boarding pass, board the plane, put your bag up, belt in, and get a drink that you are sitting in that seat. There's nothing childish or primitive about having that expectation.


Oh come on, it's not a race to the seats. This should've been handled at the gate before boarding. United knew it didn't have enough seats, when the plane changed, they should have made seating adjustments then.


Duplicate / messed up tickets happen and IME (I travel roughly once a month and saw this maybe 3-4 times) the "first in" is always how things are resolved. Whoever is first keeps his seat, whoever is late is reseated, gets an apology and some goodies especially if this is a downgrade / later flight. I think (but not 100% sure) this might even be codified in some airlines policies.

I saw duplicate assigned seats, I saw seats assigned in the toilet -- the plane had last row of ABC seats and lavatory where DEF seats would be. Sure enough two people show up with tickets in the DEF section. After some (weary) chuckles the folks just got squeezed into any open seats.

What is messed up about this case though was the lack of clear policy (so the person does not feel he is discriminated against), threats instead of apology and no compensation.

I am also surprised at the price: $1000 for a first class ticket on a long flight is low. Was that be one of the "gate upgrades" he purchased instead of the real first class ticket? This does not absolve United at all, but at least gives some potential sanity to their choice of a purchased seat over a gate upgrade.


The timeline is mentioned in the article, in the second paragraph: "He had to fly to Hawaii last week for a business conference."

Your point #2 and #3 are valid.


What a lack of professionalism.

The customer even paid premium price to be in first class and instead of being notified at the gate, like any respectable airline would do, he's asked to give his seat to somebody "more important" than him when already seated.

It doesn't make any sense, if that "more important person" came later, he should be the one getting compensated by the airline especially when the problem occurred because United needed to change the plane for a smaller one.

You don't kick customer, you compensate them.


I asked United whether I could use their lounge at SFO as they cancelled my flight to Heathrow and I was going to be waiting the best part of a day for a flight to Dulles to take an alternative that would get me home 1.5 days late.

By the look on the faces of the two lounge receptionists, you'd think I'd asked if I could take a dump on their desk. "Other people have paid membership to use this lounge" I was told in a rather disdainful way. "Sure", I said, "would you like to put a value on the fact that I will never fly with you again then?", I replied...silence - they stopped talking to me and carried on doing other stuff as if I had suddenly become invisible.

No, I did not get to use the lounge, and no, I have never flown with United since - which also means that work colleagues who travel with me are also lost to them.


I have a paid United Club membership. Those lounges are already pretty full a lot of the time, and one of the biggest reasons I (and many of the other members I know) pay for it is exactly the situation you describe. When something goes wrong with a flight, it's well worth the cost of the membership to have helpful agents, minimal lines, and a nice place to relax. It's not about the free mediocre food. Having a place to be during a disruption is one of the primary value drivers, so they're not going to give that away. And if they let in everyone who had a disruption, it would be quickly overcrowded.

There's no excuse for them being rude about it, but I don't think your expectations were especially reasonable either.


I too do enjoy paying the bribe just to get an acceptable service! Oh, it's just like when visiting a poor post-Soviet country.

I am so glad that United officially incorporated this wonderful custom. No longer do I need to decide on the bribe amount on a per-case basis, I can now just pay once!


It's market segmentation. Most of the traveling public is cheapskates who will buy the lowest fare they see, no matter the consequences. This is an option for those who aren't purely driven by budget to pay for a better experience. I guarantee you that if United increased fares to hire enough staff to provide the same level of service you get in the lounge (with almost no line to talk to someone even in event of a major disruption), most people would switch to another airline.


It feels to me like you are trying really hard to justify to yourself and to everyone else paying $500 for the membership.


It is truly funny to see how instead of solving the root cause (airline shitty attitude to customers) you treat the symptoms (paying for the consequences of shitty attitude) thus making the root cause not only not going away, but make it actually worse since you are encouraging the airline to screw you.


United - You get what you pay for!


And a spot to recharge your electronics along with free wifi! Don't forget those parts.


What kind of airports are you people flying out of where the entire airport doesn't have free wi-fi and outlets (this is actually one thing about most airports that has gotten significantly better in the last 10 years), but is still large enough to warrant a United club...I feel like I've been seeing more and more of these exaggerations since the incident...flying on any American airline is kind of crappy, but complain about the right (real) problems. Otherwise, there's not chance of anything improving.


I recently flew between two NYC airports and LAX and did not encounter free wifi or plentiful outlets. They have outsourced wifi to Gogo (paid).

Some airlines will take over an entire terminal at an airport (e.g., JetBlue, Virgin America) and make it much better on both fronts. But in my experience that is not the norm.


The kind where the FBO has decided to make a little extra money via a revenue sharing agreement for wifi.


O'Hare dosent have free wifi, presumably because they are being paid by one of those "30 minutes of wifi for $20" ripoff companies.


Contrast that to my flight to Edinburgh on Air France last year; we arrived slightly late and were directed to the wrong line, getting us to miss the plane, arguably partly because we were late, and partly because the wrong instructions. We were offered access to the lounge for the many hours wainting for the next flight, without paying anything for food, drinks and internet, while having only paid for economy class.


Same here with Lufthansa, economy class. We missed the connection due to a delay on the first leg. We were booked to the next flight two hours later (IIRC). We asked if they could accommodate our prolonged stay. They gave us a good amount in vouchers to spend at the airport, which we used to have a nice dinner (Munich airport has some proper restaurants). The two hours fly by in no time.

Despite the delay, we were happy customers.


You may have been eligible for compensation under EU rules. This can be EUR250-400, depending on the delay and distance.

Some vouchers or access to the lounge, with the passenger then not bothering to claim compensation, is much cheaper for the airline.

http://europa.eu/youreurope/citizens/travel/passenger-rights...


Hello, mind sharing the good places at MUC? I think I'll be having frequent layovers there in the next few years.

Even better if they have good beer ;)


Not the OP but: http://onemileatatime.boardingarea.com/?s=munich+lounge

I've flown Lufthansa plenty of times, they're great, even economy.


Oh well, I don't have lounge axx yet.


Something similar happened to me in CLT with US Air (now part of American) back in 2013. My family and I (3 of us) had 1st class tickets from a podunk east coast airport -> CLT -> SFO. They cancelled the 1st leg for their own reasons (not weather), and then rebooked us on another flight that got into CLT 40 mins later. We ran to the gate of our SFO flight, but they'd sold our first class tickets out from under us, and rebooked us on a flight 12 hours later.

We felt that, as full fare, 1st class passengers, delayed for 12 hours by non-weather reason, we should have access to their lounge. Nope. I'm happy to say I never flew with them again.


They can do that? You never missed the second leg flight.

I wonder if that is grounds to sue.


Oh don't worry, I tried to use my Club Pass which united mails you as a benefit for paying for their stupid credit card. They said no, we have to save space for actual club members. And this is the least bad "United screws me" story I have.


I think United is making some super duper Platinum club now where only business class people can get in. I imagine it's like Club 33 or something.


From the article:

“Despite the negative experience, we hope to have your continued support,” the rep concluded. “Your business is especially important to us and we'll do our utmost to make your future contacts with United satisfactory in every respect.”

Seems like they prefer a certain skill level of employee: low.


Well...

How many people were on that flight with you? If you have the right to go in the lounge then everyone else does, and obviously that's not going to work. In addition, the lounge is for those who pay for it, not for those whose flight gets cancelled. If I paid for it and all of a sudden the lounge is full of people because a flight got cancelled I wouldn't be happy.

It's your right to never fly United again, but I don't think the staff was unreasonable.

Also, there is no way to know if they were actually rude, or if you were rude first because they cancelled your flight and you asked in the wrong way.


The receptionists were likely not United employees, they were contractors with some Sodexo-type rent-a-body company. Overworked, underpaid, why would they care about someone else's first-world problems?


Calling it a first-world problem is being a little dismissive about the situation. He/she was going to arrive 1.5 days later to his destination because of a flight cancelation. Politely asking to use the lounge as minor compensation is not an unreasonable ask. If it can't be done, it can't be done. I'm sure the OP would've been disappointed but reasonable with a different response. Something like, "I'm sorry your flight was delayed and that it's caused so much disruption to your schedule but unfortunately the company has set very strict rules on who can use the lounge."

Furthermore, if we're going to compare 'worlds,' those people working behind the counter aren't the only overworked and underpaid workers. A lot of people in the world are working in far worse conditions than behind a counter at an airport... and for less pay. Even in other low-paying jobs, I don't expect every employee to be so visually and verbally disdainful to a customer for asking a question.


The choice of words was deliberate. On one side of the counter is the OP, with a stable, well-paying job, on the other side is the on-contract employee working one, possibly several jobs that won't pay much about minimum wage. The US are a pretty harsh country to live in when you are at poverty level. Of course there are people who have it worse than a front-desk guy at an airport, but that doesn't change the fact that that person didn't have it good.


There is an overwhelming sense of superiority here on HN when it comes to the proletariat.

They will decry working conditions (if it could mean they would be subject to those conditions), but willfully ignore the gap between themselves and laborers.

>would you like to put a value on the fact that I will never fly with you again then?

As if we're supposed to expect that someone who acts like this even asked the employees nicely. The employees should be scared they'll lose their job if they don't do exactly what I say!


The agents at the lounges are United employees. Usually much better and more helpful employees than those st the gate, which is one reason I find it worth paying about $500 a year for a membership. When things get messed up, they can fix it more quickly and easily (and there's rarely a line).


Clearly they are trained to avoid responding to argumentative people if possible. This makes sense to me. Not that I would ever fly United now.


Right, you can't use the lounge just because your flight was cancelled.

Sorry, but you're the one with the out of line thinking here.


Also, we know now that it's illegal to remove customers after boarding, unless they do something illegal. Saying no isn't illegal.


I'm sure they could create a Soviet style no win situation if they want to.

"Sir please deplane we need your seat"

"No- I haven't done anything illegal and am in my seat already"

"Looks like he's not following crew instructions! Get em' boys!"


Like being arrested for resisting arrest.


Anytime someone mentions that, I'm reminded of the SFPD https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7qhzdxYnwhg


God, that makes my blood boil. That's insane.

Looks like the officer, Sgt. Brian Stansbury, got off with nothing:

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20160313/12001133892/compl...



I am not familiar with this, what was the problem with photos and stepping aside, why she didn't want to do it?


Well, it is possible to get there with a sufficiently bad attitude.


Attitude isn't criminal.


Maybe not, but with cops it's stupid. And it can get you dead, if things go very wrong. Extreme politeness is the best course, in my experience.


That's an understandable survival strategy, but it's also a gross injustice which should be fixed.

Again I'll offer the example of Germany: cops are basically all armed, but they're very slow to pull out their gun. Even if you run at them with a knife, they'll aim for your legs. Saves a lot of lives, with just training and culture.


"Pick up that can".


    | [Cop:] May I see your license and registration?
    | Ah certainly...
    | [Cop:] What you're doing?
    | Chewin' chocolate
    | [Cop:] Where did ya get it?
    | Doggy dropped it
    | [Cop:] ...carry on
Butthole Surfers - Chewing George Lucas' chocolate

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VES_srfHmQE


Apparently united position is that you haven't "boarded" until the door has closed and plane has left the gate


It must be defined somewhere in law or regulation.

Based on http://www.askthepilot.com/how-to-speak-airline/ it seems like "boarding" means to enter the plane.


So in https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14108983 vilhelm_s posted this link: http://www.dorfonlaw.org/2017/04/united-airlines-own-contrac...

> One might argue that Dao had not completed “boarding” until the cabin door was closed. This argument would be wrong. The term “boarding” is not defined in the definition section of the contract, and absent an explicit definition in the contract, terms are to be afforded their plain meaning. “Boarding” means that the passenger presents a boarding pass to the gate agent who accepts or scans the pass and permits entry through the gate to the airplane, allowing the passenger to enter the aircraft and take a seat.

> It is possible in this regard to distinguish between the collective completion of the plane’s boarding process, which is not complete until all passengers have boarded and the cabin door is closed. But that is different from each passenger’s boarding, which is complete for each individual once he or she has been accepted for transportation by the gate agent and proceeded to the aircraft and taken his or her assigned seat.


And based on the FAA's definition of 'incidents', it's from the moment the _first_ passenger embarks to when the _last_ passenger has disembarked.


That works both ways. If you are on a flexible ticket you can get a refund up until the door is closed. All these rules work 2 ways.


I'd like to see you try?


I have multiple times deboarded a plane before take off. Due to change in business plans, flight delays, etc. In one case a passenger was sick on board and I asked to deboard as I didn't want to risk getting their cold.

This was all on Asian airlines. My few experiences on United have been terrible.

So in this case I'd say the regulations guiding airlines is fair. United's execution of these regulations is the problem. There are a million things United could have done in the chain of events to have avoided facing a PR backlash. As this is HN, I'd give a simple technical solution that would have avoided this whole problem:

The computer could have deboarded 8 passangers at random from order of lowest priority. United could have explained that if their employees don't catch this flight another flight with XXX passengers will be delayed / cancelled. This would allow the supervisor to use their own discretion to allow 4 of the 8 passengers to reboard.

Making the practice of "overselling" illegal is not the solution. There are times where problem could be cause by equipment swaps changing seat numbers. If we stop the airlines from overselling then travelling will become a lot more expensive.


So the computer picks 8 people, and you call out the first four on the list. One of them refuses, just like what happened here. Now what?

Your solution just has the airline crew going, "Fair enough, sir, you can stay" and then calling the next name. At that point, the next person knows that refusing is allowed, so he does too. Pretty quickly, you're absolutely going to be on a flight where five of the eight refuse, and now you're back to bludgeoning elderly asian people. And at some point, the whole system becomes public knowledge, and you now add the element of fights between passengers because we all know that only four of us get to refuse.

Or you just eject all eight of them and four can later reboard. Again, what if one or more refuse.

There is a solution in place already. United just didn't choose to employ it. United offered vouchers to anyone who wanted to voluntarily give up their seats. They reportedly bumped the offer one time. They didn't bump it enough. There's your solution. I promise you everyone on that plane had a price. You can find four people who'll take say $2000 to miss a flight to fucking Louisville. Does United think $2000 is too much? I guess so, but at that point, United has a problem that can be solved by effectively buying back some seats, and sellers get to set the price they'll take. It would have been a hell of a lot cheaper to have paid them.


Yes. This is exactly it. United wants to buy back seats. So they just need to offer what sellers demand.


> So the computer picks 8 people, and you call out the first four on the list. One of them refuses, just like what happened here. Now what?

You inform the refusenik that he is trespassing; if he continues to refuse to leave, you inform him that police will be waiting for him at his destination, then call out the fifth name on the list. When you arrive at the destination, he goes to jail, while the four bumped passengers get vouchers and fly later.


No, you listen to the reason he refuses to deboard. If it seems like a good reason to the flight crew. e.g. he is a doctor, etc. then you let him stay.


They can do that today if they want to. I'm not seeing how the proposed solution adds anything.


"at random"... "from order of lowest priority"... pick one


Lets say there are 50 people in the lowest priority (fare class[0]). It'll pick from random out of these 50 people.

Come'on this is hacker news. I am sure most here have seen the mainframe based applications that entirely control every aspect of airline industry.

These things were coded by professionals over 30 years ago. Its not like these flights are being managed by some buggy wordpress plugin made by some offshore developer.

[0] http://www.cwsi.net/united.htm


Ya, I've seen people deboard if there wasn't enough overhead space...in America...it is completely in their right if they bought s full fare ticket.


> If we stop the airlines from overselling then travelling will become a lot more expensive.

Given how cheap flying is by historical standards, I wouldn't mind that.


That's not true. Airlines can remove a passengers for safety reasons whenever they need to.


OK, also for safety reasons. "We have a VIP who needs your seat." is not a safety reason.


United is the airline pulling this $#!^. The problem isn't the regulations. The problem is United's execution. There is a reason why United isn't popular amongst premium paying and frequent travellers. I was avoiding their flights way before all this bad PR.


What if the VIP is a big fellow that threatened to start strangling people if he didn't get a seat?


OK, then he is the safety problem, and gets tazed.


Where did this come from? I didn't read that in the article, did I miss it?


There's a comment by tiatia, which quotes a lawyer who replied in yesterday's thread about United.


Thanks, I eventually came across it.


It is a federal crime to not follow crewmember instructions, so...


No, it's not. It's a federal crime to assault a crewmember. It's a civil offence to intefere with a crewmember while they are carrying out their duties. This can be escalated to a criminal offense but this is not usual for just being difficult. Interference is usually in regards to safety.

Bumping a well behaving passenger in preference of a "more important" one doesn't really fall into either category.

Considering the passenger in this story has already consulted legal counsil, I'm thinking the lawyer agrees that he did nothing wrong.


Not exactly. It's a federal crime to interfere with a flight crew.

https://www.justice.gov/usam/criminal-resource-manual-1411-i...

There's a lot of room in between a contractual dispute and interference.


Are the rules the same before boarding? See discussion above about United's screwey definition of boarding.


Apparently, the interference with a flight crew has the same definition...only after the doors are closed.

It applies only in the "Special Aircraft Jurisdiction of the United States":

"An individual on an aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States who, by assaulting or intimidating a flight crew member or flight attendant of the aircraft, interferes with the performance of the duties of the member or attendant..." [1]

An aircraft is in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States only while the aircraft is "in flight." [2]

"An aircraft is "in flight" from the moment when all external doors are closed following embarkation until the moment when one such door is opened for disembarkation, or in the case of a forced landing, until competent authorities take responsibility for the aircraft"

IANAL, but it would seem difficult to charge anyone with "interfering with a flight crew" if the door hasn't been shut. The language doesn't seem ambiguous.

[1] https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/USCODE-2009-title49/html/USCOD... (scroll down to the 46504 section)

[2] https://www.justice.gov/usam/criminal-resource-manual-1405-s...


"while aboard an aircraft" the rules say. It sounds like United is claiming he wasn't aboard yet so they are caught in a catch-22.


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