Because getting there is not fun.
Sat, 2008/06/21 - 22:04 by aargh

Just recently, I predicted that the rise in air fares (driven by a rise in fuel costs) would send travelers running for the trains.

It's happened already: per Times article on the matter Amtrak has experienced a surge of passengers.

(Let me be the first to admit this prediction hardly makes me Nostradamus.)

The article continues to explain that Amtrak, having long been a second-class citizen behind the airline industry, has grown frail and is ill-prepared to take on former air passengers. The rail system is looking for more money to enhance its infrastructure.

That's all fine and good, but let's look beyond meeting today's demand:

My hope is that this renewed interest in rail transit will give birth to a high-speed rail system, the likes of which we see in Europe, to truly compete with the airline industry for a greater share of passengers.

Ticket cost is only one variable in the equation. The other is time.

Amtrak's Portland-Settle run clocks in over three hours. Detroit-Chicago is around five and a half, while Boston-New York is six. Those same journies by plane are all around one hour. If the train system can narrow that gap it could become a more realistic air alternative.

Time will tell.

"Travelers Shift to Rail as Cost of Fuel Rises"

Sat, 2008/06/07 - 15:24 by aargh

Given recent posts, some readers may have the mistaken impression that TravelHell is only for airplanes. (and we can't blame you -- the site's original name was "ShiteFlight," after all.) Quite the contrary. TH is for any and all forms of travel nonsense. We're just getting started.

Today's topic: public transit. Even a short ride can be hell when taken five, six, even seven times a week. The site Transport Uncovered takes a light-hearted jab at London's public transit system.

Maybe the TU gang was arrested in last week's fray, since I don't see any posts about London's new ban on boozing it up on the Tube. How else does TFL expect passengers deal with train delays, crowded cars, and ... well, other passengers? What about that jobless yob who pretends to be gainfully employed while spending all day maintaining his buzz on the Circle Line?

(Perhaps mayor Boris Johnson is going for the Theory of Broken Windows style of cleanup? It's credited with making New York squeaky-clean but leaves a void in those of us looking to get mugged in Times Square.)


website: Transport Uncovered
(Note the URL is just a smidge shy of the real Transport For London site at

"Booze on the Tube ends with a bang"

"Tube booze party was 'far uglier'"

"Revellers in dash to have last booze on the Tube"

Thu, 2008/06/05 - 19:40 by aargh

Inclement weather, equipment failure, staff riots ... any of these events can lead to extra time in an airport. Of all the places I've had to sit out a delay -- and I've had my fair share -- London's Heathrow has been the best. Not that you ever want to spend valuable time hanging out in an airport; but when you must, Heathrow hosts enough shops and food stands to keep you busy.

(I've heard that a couple of airports in Asia -- Shanghai was one of them, I think? -- beat old LHR hands-down in this regard but I've yet to book a trip to find out.)

Heathrow now has another attraction: according to this article in Gourmet Magazine the new Terminal 5 boasts some fine dining to pass the time until your plane finally gets a crew ...


"Not-So-Plain Plane Food"

Wed, 2008/06/04 - 21:33 by aargh

The Times recently reported this gem: the old Saturday-night stay rule is making a comeback.

I wouldn't call it so much a rule, more of tax. For those of you lucky enough to have never heard of this: if you book a flight that doesn't include a Saturday night stay -- say, leave on a Monday and return on Thursday -- the airline will find a way to fatten your fare.

According to the article only some major airlines have (quietly) begun to do this. But we all know that airlines, like lemmings and banks, are hip to follow a leader. It's only a matter of time before this is commonplace.

So what?

Raise a glass if your initial reaction was, "oh, had airlines repealed the Saturday night stay rule?"

What's one more variable in airlines' fare calculations? Their pricing models would send Wall Street quants running for the exits.

A few cents at a time

Baggage fees, booking fees, you're-in-an-airport-on-a-Saturday-fees... all to address rising fuel costs. They're collecting pennies to fill dollar-sized holes, I say. Why waste the time? I much preferred United's earlier move to simply trim the fleet and cut back on service. We can expect the other airlines to follow suit, and per Econ 101, ticket prices will rise as the pool of air travel options shrinks.

The Mother(#!%@$*) of Invention

In a way, I look forward to it. Just as rising fuel prices should spurn automobile innovation, steep increases in air fares should give videoconferencing and other alternatives to face-to-face meetings a much-needed boost.

That, and maybe now the US will get a worthy high-speed rail system.

I can dream ...

Extra reading for extra credit:

"It’s Back: The Minimum Stay"

"Eight reasons higher prices will do us a world of good"

Wed, 2008/05/21 - 22:35 by aargh

Not to complain aimlessly about AA's baggage fee, I humbly offer the airline some ideas to alleviate their fuel-cost pain:

Make a game of it. We gamble with our checked luggage to begin with. Let's do it Vegas-style! If the airline loses your checked luggage, they pay you that entire flight's collected checked-luggage fee.

(You'll get just enough cash to drown your sorrows at the airport bar. Which is still more than you get for a lost bag today.)

Charge more for drinks. People who are going to get sozzled on-board will pay damned near anything. Exhibit A: 5EU for a thimble of liquor.

Keep their wallets open: Why make people pay cash for in-flight food and drink? Link those purchases to their AAdvantage account and send them a monthly bill. The credit-card industry has already demonstrated that people will spend like crazy once you take cold, hard cash out of the purchase.

Sell ad space On the sides of the airplanes. It works for public transit, righit? -and just think of the ad exposure you'll get off a plane stranded on the tarmac.

Get into the money-lending business. I hear mortgages are a safe bet these days ... and there are plenty of jobless quants wandering Wall Street right now.

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