Dad, look what was in my Teddy Bear

Posted on: May 30th, 2012 by: Martin J Cowling

Anyone else seen this whacky situation?

At Rhode Island airport, a TSA officer examining a child’s carry-on bag found pieces of a handgun hidden inside a stuffed teddy bear, a stuffed rabbit, and a stuffed Mickey Mouse toy. The pieces included the frame of a .40-caliber firearm, a magazine with two .40-caliber rounds, a firing pin and a slide. These would form a complete gun when re-assembled.

The child’s father said he was “unaware” that the pieces of the gun had been nestled snugly within the plush bodies of his child’s toys. The father also stated that the gun belonged to the child. Really?


Photo: CNN

The gun was confiscated and the child and his father was allowed to board their flight to Detroit

According to  T.F. Green International Airport police, the gentleman was allowed to continue his trip because police believed the incident “was related to an ongoing domestic dispute.”   And that makes it okay?


Law enforcement officials were continuing investigations.


Travel Tips

Posted on: May 28th, 2012 by: Martin J Cowling

I get a lot of requests for travel tips, especially Money saving ones. From next Monday, I am going to share a travel tip each week. Feel free to send questions and/or suggestions!

Thank you!

This Week: 28 May

Posted on: May 27th, 2012 by: Martin J Cowling

I have not been inside a plane for three weeks! Consider,  I have flown 45 times so far in 2012- an average of 10 flights per month. In 2012, I  have covered 134 334km  – three and a third times around the earth! 14 airlines flown to 11 countries! One week of this year has been spent inside planes!





In contrast, for the last 21 days,  I have had no check ins, no lounges, no safety briefings and no plane food!  This has been almost a shock!

This will change with an intensive June schedule. I will ease into it, this week, with a short hop with Virgin Australia from Melbourne, Australia to a new airport for me: Newcastle, Australia. The airport is the 12th busiest in Australia and handles ten times the number of passengers as it did ten years ago! The biggest disadvantage of the airport is that I don’t feel it is plugged into good ground transportation. It would be good to have really good train and bus links to the region up there.

I will then go down to Sydney for some filming, before flying home to Melbourne, Australia. Have a good week.




Not Wanting the Cheapest Fare?!

Posted on: May 26th, 2012 by: Martin J Cowling

As a Qantas Frequent Flyer, there are some categories of American Airlines Coach tickets that earn me points and status credits. These are:  GLMNSV Discount Economy  and BHKY economy.  Other fare classes do not earn me any points or status credits eg OQ. I  don’t overly care about the points but Status Credits are important to me as I want to keep my priority check in, higher luggage allowance and lounge access. Often the difference in price between a Q and a N fare is very, very slight but the outcome is,of course, very different.

The obvious answer is to only fly First, Business or Full Economy. However, this is not always a practical or acceptable option for my budget or for my clients so I search for Coach fares that earn me those coveted Status Credits. When I am looking for these fares, however, the booking systems will usually show me the cheapest fare but as mentioned,  I don’t always want that. Delta’s booking system allows you to screen out certain types of discounted fares. I would like to find a way of being able to find the next cheapest fare.

Any suggestions on how I achieve this?


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Qantas/Jetstar 787

Posted on: May 26th, 2012 by: Martin J Cowling

The Boeing 787 “Dreamliner” made it to Australia this week on its world tour. Kate Schnider and Steve Creedy from The Australian newspaper have an excellent review and commentary of the plane. A photo gallery of the plane during its Sydney visit is here.

I cannot wait to fly the 787!!

Qantas,  has ordered 50 of the dreamliners. The first 15 of them are to be delivered first to Qantas low cost airline subsidiary Jetstar in mid 2013, despite rumours the planes will  go to Qantas International or Domestic operations.  The Jetstar 787-8s  will seat 313 passengers in a two class configuration. They will replace the Jetstar A330s used on their international routes from Australia to Japan, Hawaii and Bali.

At this stage, Qantas will get their planes in mid 2014. They are expected to seat 250 passengers in a three class configuration (Economy, Premium Economy and Business).






Kingfisher- still flies!

Posted on: May 25th, 2012 by: Martin J Cowling

Can you believe India’s Kingfisher airlines is still flying. The group has now slipped from the largest to sixth airline in India in terms of passengers. Last week, the Indian government announced the carrier owes $US 49m (£31m) in taxes. In addition, the carrier owes money to airports, lenders and its own staff. The airline shut down most international short-haul operations in February and and all international services ceased on 10 April. In March, its mooted membership of One World never happened and IATA (the International Air Transport Association) suspended Kingfisher’s usage of the inter-airline funds transfer system. Cancellations, delays and disruptions have been so bad that India’s Civil Aviation Directorate summoned Kingfisher CEO  Sanjay Agarwal to account for them.

But Kingfisher continues to fly and amazingly people keep booking seats on them! I would be too nervous to rely on them. Will they fly? Will they be delayed? Will they be safe?

One wonders what the outcome will be for this carrier that has not made a profit since its founding in 2005. Will the airline, one of Skytrax only five star airlines find a source of cash and move into a period of stability or will passengers and staff arrive one day to find the check in desks shuttered and barred? Or will another carrier swoop in and absorb Kingfisher? Etihad? Qatar?


Qatar Airways Competition Help

Posted on: May 19th, 2012 by: Martin J Cowling

I have entered the Qatar Airways Reflections contest with five photos and need your vote to help me win. You will have to register with Qatar but you can do that using your Facebook id or an email address. I would really appreciate it. Thank you!

Here are four of my five entries along with link to vote for that photo.

1. Mont Saint-Michel 
Rising out of the sea, one kilometre off the north-western coast of France, Saint-Michel has been a strategic point in Normandy and a monastery since the 8th century AD.The place has an almost magical feel heightened by the tidal movements which mean at times you can walk around the island.2. SamoaAfter a crazy year, I travelled to Samoa . This independent Pacific Island nation has some of beautiful beaches, in the world alongside which stand picturesque villages. The beach and water are a focal point of their culture along with family and faith. Samoans have a long history of resistance to outside interference and have been reluctant to open themselves to outside tourism to protect this culture. I was happy to join the locals on their beach.


3. Wave Rock, Western Australia

 14 metres high, and 110m long, the face of Wave Rock appears frozen in time. Frozen for 2700 million years.

The Rock’s shape is formed by gradual erosion of the softer rock beneath the upper edge, over many centuries and its colours of the Wave are caused by the rain washing iron hydroxide down the face, forming vertical stripes of grey, red and yellow.

4. Mackinnon Pass on the Milford Track

On Day three of New Zealand’s Milford Track, we faced the toughest day.We started early morning at our hut which is approximately 500 metres above sea level.

Soon we started our tough climb -which took over two hours to arrive at this point: Mackinnon Pass at 1069 metres above sea level. The combination of the exhilaration at having made it with the scenery and clouds made this place unforgettable. Going down meant dropping back down to 100 metres over 6 hours and 8 km!

Thanks for your support on this!



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Sterling -Final demise

Posted on: May 18th, 2012 by: Martin J Cowling

Cimber Sterling Boeing 737-700

Cimber Sterling Boeing 737-700 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On the morning of Thursday May 3rd, 2012,  Denmark’s regional airline Cimber Sterling filed for bankruptcy  after its owners pulled financial support from the company. The carrier had 19 international and six domestic destinations. Four of its six domestic routes were monopoly routes.

Sun-Air of Scandinavia, Danish Air Transport (DAT), Norwegian and Skyways have all taken over routes very quickly.

I have never flown them but I was interested for two reasons.

The first is how many airlines have gone this year. We are up to ten with some big names (Malev, Air Zimbabwe, and Spanair). Three went in January, four in February and three in April. Not quite as bad as 2008 when 84 carriers across the world disappeared.

The second reason is the pedigree in Cimber Sterling. Cimber has been flying since 1950. In 2008 Cimber Air bought parts of Sterling airlines and changed its name in 2009 to Cimber-Sterling. The airline operated as a combination low cost and regional carrier since. A model that was clearly not working as they had recently announced that from September, 2012, the low cost international operations would go. Sterling (founded 1962) were Europe’s fourth largest low cost carrier after they merged with  Maersk Air in 2005. They collapsed as a result of the Icelandic financial crisis in 2008.

I think this is the last time we will hear from the Sterling name.

 Related Posts

Spanair no more



Malév Malaise- Hungary’s flag carrier demise

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American’s Tricky Problem: Tickets for Life

Posted on: May 16th, 2012 by: Martin J Cowling

So you want to raise cash as an airline?

What do you do?

Why not sell a First Class ticket that gives a passenger unlimited first class travel for life

The Los Angeles Times reports that this is what American Airlines did in 1981. Aviation Gas was cheap and interest rates high. The airline wanted cash. So for $US250,000, 64 passengers bought a ticket which allowed them to travel as often as they wanted in first class. For an extra $150 000 you could take a companion. It was called the AAirpass program.

The airline did not pass on the taxes associated with the ticket (mistake #2)

On top of that AAirpass passengers could accumulate frequent flyer miles on their free rides (mistake #3). They also got unlimited access to the Admirals Club (American’s airport lounge) for life.

As taxes rose, aviation fuel increased in price and American teetered in the edge of bankruptcy, they discovered that their canny first class fliers had found every loop hole possible!  American in 2007 began looking for ways to see if actual rules linked to the AAirpass were being broken.

They found that some passholders

  • were getting a million dollars worth of air travel every year (oops).
  • were “renting out” their companion passes eg flying people on the companion ticket for a fee. The passenger paid less than they normally would for a first class seat, the AAirpass holder received cash and American lost revenue from a first class seat
  •  were upgrading strangers at airports using their companion pass as a “feel good” exercise
  • making reservations and then cancelling at the last minute costing the airline valuable revenue

American cancelled some of their passes in 2008. These customers are now in court suing the airline. The customers are claiming they acted within the rules. American is claiming they breached them.

Whatever the outcome, I doubt you can buy an AAirpass today.!


Some anomalies at Skytrax Best Airports

Posted on: May 13th, 2012 by: Martin J Cowling

The World Airport award results came out last week. The top three are fairly predictable:

  1. Incheon International Airport-  last year was third,
  2. Singapore Changi Airport -my favourite airport
  3. Hong Kong International Airport – last year was first
Amsterdam Schiphol Airport comes in at fourth. Everyone raves about Schiphol but I am not a huge fan. Beijing’s vast Capital International Airport sits at fifth.
The airport inclusions that I found odd are:
11 London Heathrow Airport. If I was to create hell on earth, it would be London Heathrow. The new terminals are nice but already too small and have you tried to travel between terminals…a messy complicated nightmare. Half of your time at Heathrow is spent wandering through dim corridors following bright yellow signs or queuing at the hopelessly understaffed immigration lines. The small overpriced shops are not enticing. Transport to or from the airport is a choice between pricey taxi, the most expensive rail journey on earth (Heathrow Express), or a small crowded tube train which in rush hour with luggage is another version of hell on earth.
13. Auckland International Airport. The international terminal is very nice. Immigration is efficient but transferring between the international and domestic terminals is a hassle. The domestic terminal is quite run down and badly organised. And getting to Auckland airport is way better than it used to be but a pain. The freeway is often congested or under construction or both. There are airport buses from the downtown (which they keep changing the downtown stops for) and a nearby suburb but they are fiddly and slow.
18. Abu Dhabi International Airport. In my experience, this is a transfer airport to avoid. Crowded terminals with poor signage, very , very long lines and unfriendly staff. The best thing about it is the free bus transfer to Dubai.
20. Sydney Airport is the 20th best airport in the world ahead of Melbourne, San Francisco, Brisbane, Detroit and Dubai? Hamstrung by a curfew and complex noise abating flight paths, and surrounded by narrow crowded access roads and frustrating parking, this airport gets some ticks for the pretty nice domestic terminals but no way would I say its a good airport. Transferring between the terminals is awful though. Immigration, customs and visitor waiting at the International is and awful introduction to Australia. The airport train is good but expensive and suffers from erratic timetabling and time keeping. Shops are ordinary although restaurants are much better than they used to be.
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