Air Travel

Got a passport? 60 percent of Americans don’t!

Happy Friday! Get your passport and get going.

Passports. Have one? If not, you’re not alone.

About 60 percent of Americans don’t have current passports and Hilton Hotels is doing its part to help potential international travelers get going.

Hilton is kicking off its Hilton Passport Project with a Passport Concierge booth in the American Airlines terminal at O’Hare International Airport from October 20 to 22.

At the Passport Concierge booth, travelers will have the opportunity to fill out their passport applications, get their questions answered by on-site U.S. Department of State experts and take passport photos and get some ideas about international destinations.

The booth will move on to the Hilton San Francisco Union Square from November 2 to 4 and to the Hilton Cleveland Downtown from November 9 to 11.

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An overnight ‘ride-along’ with United Airlines

My overnight ‘ride-along’ last week with United Airlines at Denver International Airport was exhausting – but exhilarating and extremely educational.

I’m working on a full-length slide show (so far, I’ve got 60 photo keepers) and report for my next At the Airport column on USA TODAY,  but sharing a few snaps today here on StuckatTheAirport.com to get the ball rolling.

At around 10 pm, my tour started at United’s Station Operations Center – a darkened room where about 50 people were seated in clusters at desks with multiple computer screens doing everything from making sure passengers made their connections to monitoring weather and  gate assignments.

Then it was off to the maintenance hangar, where 8 airplanes were undergoing service checks and repairs, included an engine swap for an Airbus 319.

 

While in the hangar, another airplane was visited by a fast-moving cleaning crew, who were doing everything from cleaning the lavs and galley (with different rags and cleaning solutions) to making sure seat back literature was refreshed and the tray tables were washed.

 

At 3 am it was back to the Station Operations Center, which was pretty much empty, except for Zone Controller Mike Lowrey, who I’d met earlier in the evening. He was checking with maintenance to see if all the planes they’d been working on overnight were ready for morning flights and doing what he could to make sure the first flights of the day would leave on time.

 

3:47 a.m. : A quick look in the concourse to see if anything was happening. Nothing. Yet.

The Flight Operations Center opens at 6 a.m.  That where captains and first officers such as Michael Daigneault can pick up supplies and plan for their flights.

My flight back to Seattle left, on time, at 8:08 a.m. I even got a set of plastic wings from the crew.

My full report on my overnight ride-along with United Airlines at Denver International Airport will show up during the week on USA TODAY.

 

 

If it looks like a duck…

The debate about emotional support animals on planes may heat up again after a recent Instagram posting by TSA about what was referred to as a passenger’s service duck.

 

“The traveler assured us there was no “fowl” play afoot and that this was simply her service duck. Our officers at Charleston (CHS) were overheard saying that this duck was pretty chill. Not lame at all…” TSA wrote on the Instagram post, while encouraging travelers to contact their airline about service animal policies before going to the airport because “It’s good to have all your ducks in a row.”

Cute, right?

But, as Charleston’s  Post and Courier  noted, the Instagram post is making feathers fly.

In addition to a wide range of duck puns along the lines of “I’m quacking up!,” are comments pointing out the difference between service animals and emotional support animals – “Ducks could count as emotional support animals but only dogs and is miniature horses are able to serve as legitimate service animals. There’s an important distinction between the two.”

Other readers commented on the trend of stretching the definition of service and emotional support animals to pets in order to skirt the fees airlines charge to take an animal on board.

Doing so will “dilute the important role that actual service animals perform for those with disabilities,” one reader said, “Individuals who encounter this animal are less likely to take a legitimate service animal seriously, leading to discrimination of those with disabilities.”

Feel free to wade in with your comments…

 

 

Winning names for Qantas’s fleet of Dreamliners

 

Qantas’s inaugural Dreamliner flight will travel from Melbourne to Los Angeles – but not until December 2017.

But the carrier already has names for all eight 787-9 Dreamliners to be added to its fleet.

Customers sent in more than 60,000 suggestions and the public was asked to vote for the ‘keepers,’ which are:

Great Barrier Reef, Boomerang, Skippy, Waltzing Matilda, Uluru, Great Southern Land, Quokka and Dreamtime.

Some of those names are easy to connect with Australia; others need a little context, which Qantas has been kind enough to provide:

  • Great Barrier Reef:  an ecosystem comprising of reefs and hundreds of islands off coast of Queensland.
  • Boomerang: a traditional hunting tool of First Australians, with a bent or curved shape; also used in music and sport.
  • Skippy: an Australian television series featuring a young boy and his intelligent pet kangaroo ‘Skippy’.
  • Waltzing Matilda: Bush-ballad narrating the story of a swagman.
  • Uluru: A sacred monolith in the heart in Australia’s Northern Territory’s
  • Great Southern Land: A term used to describe Australia.
  • Quokka: A type of marsupial from the island of Rottnest near Perth, Australia.
  • Dreamtime: The English word used to describe First Australians’ understanding of the creation period.

 

 

 

 

Now: fly commercial to Havana

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The first commercial flights between the United States and Havana started flying on Monday, by coincidence just a few days after the death of longtime Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

A 45-minute American Airlines flight from Miami to Havana was the first flight US – Havana flight of the day, followed by JetBlue’s flight from New York’s JFK Airport to Havana.

I joined the JetBlue flight. Here are some snaps from the send-off festivities, the flight and the Havana airport.

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JetBlue crew members had to apply to be part of the team on this inaugural flight, writing letters to try to compete for a spot. This flight attendant was glad to be on the flight so she could bring her doll “Lulu” back to Havana for the first time since 1962.

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There are just a few shops in the post-security area of Havana Airport – but several places to buy cigars.

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View out the window of Havana Jose Marti International Airport

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American and JetBlue were the first airlines to begin flying between the US and Havana, but by January Alaska Airlines, Delta, Frontier, Spirit, Southwest and United should be flying there too from a variety of cities throughout the U.S.