Los Angeles Airport LAX: LAX Control Tower and LAX “Theme Building”

October 5th, 2011


Flickr Photo Credit:
monkeytime | brachiator

The futuristic looking LAX “Theme Building”, one of the great icons of international aerospace industry, reopened in 2010 after its post 9/11 closure for many years.

Here the LA Times reviews the situation as of last year: http://articles.latimes.com/2010/jul/03/local/la-me-lax-building-20100703

As a major international gateway airport LAX is one of the world’s busiest Airport venues.

More from the LAX Los Angeles Airport Authority Official Websites:

LAX Parking:   Click here

LAX Maps:  Click here

LAX Flight Info from OAG:  Click here

Nice Printable Travel Guides from PBS Travel: Burt Wolf’s “Travel and Traditions”

August 27th, 2011

Although some appear a bit dated, PBS’ travel host Burt Wolf has some great printable guides for the many cities he has featured on his PBS’ Travel show “Travels and Traditions with Burt Wolf” As an example see this Boston Guide in PDF form: Boston by Burt

Some will obviously prefer large guidebooks that have a lot more information, and my personal approach is to plan my trips with a file featuring all the things I want to try to see, cut and pasted in from pre-trip surfing.   However Burt’s guides offer a very nicely organized, compact alternative to heavy travel guides, especially if only be staying in a city for a short time.

PBS’s Travel hosts are many and varied and in my opinion some are better suited to different travel styles.   Young adventurous budget travelers may relate best to “Globe Trekker”, though I also find it the most entertaining of the shows.   Legendary European expert and guide Rick Steves is by far the best known on the PBS Travel team, and I highly recommend his website for  great “insider” travel tips you may not find elsewhere.

MSP Minneapolis St Paul Airport Quiet Seating Area (upstairs above the main terminal)

August 23rd, 2011


MSP Airport Quiet Area, Minneapolis
by QuickAid

Travel is becoming more and more hectic as security concerns and increasingly crowded planes put a cramp in anybody’s style. But you can almost always escape the frenzy – at least for a short time – by finding “out of the way” places to sit and relax in most airports. Here, at MSP in Minneapolis, travelers are enjoying very comfortable seats in a very quiet area of low foot traffic just above the bustle of the main terminal.

Finding such gems in big airports can be a chore, so it’s often best to ask at the information desk (or consult the Airport guide or map) to look for likely places to escape the crowds. Alternatively find a nice lounge or restaurant and a corner table where you can take a deep breath and focus on a book or computer screen. I find that surfing the internet makes the hours between flights go much faster, and being “captive” in an airport often inspires some productivity in terms of checking emails or blogging.

Air Health Travel tips from … AirHealth.org

July 23rd, 2011

Frequent (and infrequent) flyers will want to review the excellent Air travel health tips at AirHealth.org.   You’ll find information about warning signs during air travel that can indicate serious health conditions as well as general tips on keeping healthy during long flights.

A few general tips are to exercise during your long flights using “isometric” exercise where you pit one muscle against another, pushing your hands together for example.  Another approach is to “walk” in place, pushing down on the floor with one foot after another.  You’ll also want to take a few walks up and downthe isle during your flight, perhaps adding a few ‘laps’ during trips to the restroom.

Also be sure to keep hydrated – it’s easy to dry out during the flight, so make sure you drink at least as much as offered by the flight attendants.  Note that you can always have a beverage *and* a glass of ice water – just ask politely.

Sleeping on the plane is another important health issue, especially on very long flights.   I find that neck pillows and earplugs are a great sleep aid.   Dramamine or an antihistamine like Sudafed will also help if you have trouble sleeping.

Delta Airlines Fleet Map

July 22nd, 2011

From the Delta Airlines blog we have a great picture of the entire Delta Airlines Fleet, though you’ll need to click on the picture to get the whole thing:

Delta Airplanes

Picture of all Delta Airplanes

I’d noticed this great graphic flying home from the trip to my family reunion in Bridgewater Virginia and my history trip to Richmond Virginia.    Richmond is one of the USA’s most interesting historical cities, and I’ll be posting a lot more about that with some great photos over at TravelandHistory.com

For more technical information about the Delta Fleet click on the links in this table  (Table courtesy Delta Airlines Website):

Fleet as of March 31, 2011

Aircraft Type Current Fleeta,b Average Age
Owned Leased Total
B737–700 10 10 2.2
B737–800 73 73 10.2
B747–400 4 12 16 17.4
B757–200 93 75 168 18.1
B757–300 16 16 8.1
B767–300 9 5 14 19.7
B767–300ER 50 8 58 15
B767–400ER 21 21 10.1
B777–200ER 8 8 11.2
B777–200LR 10 10 2.0
A319–100 55 2 57 9.2
A320–200 41 28 69 16.1
A330–200 11 11 6.0
A330–300 21 21 5.6
MD–88 66 51 117 20.7
MD–90 19 19 15.1
DC–9 34 34 33
CRJ–100 18 31 49 13
CRJ–200 6 6 11.9
CRJ–700 15 15 7.4
CRJ-900 13 13 3.3
Total 587 218 805 15.1
a Excluding Delta’s grounded planes:  five DC-9, six SAAB 340B+ and 10 CRJ-100/200.
b Excluding 175 CRJ-200, 51 CRJ-900, 36 Embraer 175, 20 SAAB 340+ and 12 CRJ-700. These planes are operated by partner airlines.

Prohibited Items in Carry on Luggage

July 13th, 2011

Even a frequent traveler can get confused and confounded by the rules regarding what you can put in carry-on luggage, in checked baggage, and what you cannot bring onto the airplane.    It’s all getting a bit mathematical, so don’t forget these two important rules:

3-1-1  Rule.    This regards LIQUIDS in CARRY ON luggage and means that you must place all liquids and gels in containers that are UNDER 3 ounces, place them in a SINGLE clear plastic bag or pouch that is ONE QUART or less.  Unless you travel very rarely it’s a great idea to have separate a separate stash of tiny bottle of shampoo, toothpaste, and other personal care items etc so you don’t have to reorganize too much every time you go.   Note the rule generally includes medicines in liquid form.   I think there may be an exception for medicine, but this is probably more hassle than it’s usually worth.

45 inch rule:  Although it’s routinely not followed, your carry on measurement in inches is supposed to be 45.    e.g. a bag 12x13x20 = 45 inches should be fine, where a bag 15x15x20 = 50 is technically too large.

I just learned that  “gel insoles” for shoes are NOT allowed in carry on or in your shoes *unless* the gel is built into the shoe.     Also surprising to me was that scissors are allowed in carry on as long as the blades are less than 4″.   That said I wouldn’t try to bring on a pair as I’m guessing many TSA folks would confiscate them as they did with considerable fanfare when they took my daughter’s plastic barbie scissors some years back, undoubtedly landing her in some TSA database for life or on the  9 year old, 4′ 2″ watch list.

For those of us who prefer not to check baggage it’s getting a bit harder to pack because now any prohibited “carry on” items can’t simply be stuck in the checked bag.     As with the 3-1-1 rule you need to be cautious or you’ll wind up getting valuable items or expensive liquids taken away.

I’m about to make a trip from Reno to Philadelphia and not sure if my electric shaver is allowed in carry on – I think yes, but no mention of that object at the TSA site.

TSA Official Website “Prohibited Items” lists are HERE

Venture Card Frequent Flyer Miles – unrestricted but “expensive” to use

July 9th, 2011

Unless you lost your television you’ve seen the ads for the new Capitol One Venture Card.    They feature Alex Baldwin talking about the benefits of using the Venture miles anytime and on any airline.   If you were among the lucky folks who participated in their initial “billion mile” promotion, you had up to 100,000 existing miles matched by Capitol One, a value of about $1000 for reasons you’ll see if you read on.

Whereas most frequent flyer programs such as United’s Mileage Plus or Delta’s Skymiles have a separate reservation system for you to use to book your frequent flyer tickets, Venture offers that option OR the option of simply purchasing a ticket with real dollars and any system using your Venture Card.    Afterwards you can apply for a rebate of the cost of the ticket using your Venture miles which are valued at a penny each.     For example if my ticket cost $400  I would buy it with dollars and then ask them to credit back my $400 and deduct  40,000 miles from my account.     Neat, right?    Yes, but note how expensive the ticket can be compared to the “old” standards of needing only about 25,000 frequent flyer miles for a round trip.     Complicating matters is the fact that mileage programs – especially Delta Skymiles and American Airlines in my experience – seem to be getting stingier in terms of offering good options for frequent flyers.    Unless you have a lot of flexibility you’ll probably find it hard to get cheap seats using regular miles.     To this extent they are lining up with the Venture style miles – options are good as long as you are willing to use a LOT of miles.

Important DELTA Skymiles Tip:   Sometimes the ONE WAY will cost as many miles as a ROUND TRIP, so in some cases you should simply add a “return” leg to your trip to get a second one way ticket.     Even if you wind up paying a change fee of up to $150 later to change the dates, this is probably worth it.        Delta now seems to offer both the least and most expensive frequent flyers deals with one ways as low as 8500 miles but short term round trips often at 60,000.

The golden rule as always with frequent flyer programs as well as life in general, if you are not rich, then:

BE FLEXIBLE.

Travelers Health from USA’s Center for Disease Control

June 5th, 2011

Several months before your next international trip you’ll want to make sure you are properly vaccinated and prepared for the particularly nasty bugs we don’t have to worry about much here in the USA.    In general terms the number of vaccines you’ll need will go up as the standard of living goes down in the countries you are visiting.

[CLICK HERE FOR cdc.gov Travelers Health Section]

On my February trip to Southeast Asia I got a DPT booster shot, took Typhus pills (which confer longer term immunity than shots) and got the standard “Hepatitis A” shots – all are illnesses that are very serious.  Typhus and Hepatitis A come from food or poor sanitation.   I learned late, after being told it was not needed, that Hepatitis B is also advisable in most cases.

I did choose not to take anti-malarial drugs, somewhat against the advice of the county health department (which here in Southern Oregon is the authority for international travel medical issues).   This was mostly because I knew I would not be traveling in areas of high malaria incidence.    Also, there are some nasty side effects from these drugs  and other issues and it seemed few experienced travelers take them for big cities in SE Asia.    Anti Malarials are certainly advisable for parts of SE Asia and for much of Africa.

I do have friends who travel a lot in the developing world but do NOT get many vaccines.   My feeling is that they are simply lucky, and dodging these disease bullets is a big mistake.

In any case this is a very important consideration in your travels.   Vaccinations – don’t leave home without ’em!

Carry-on baggage, luggage rules

June 1st, 2011

As the convenience of checked baggage diminishes even as the cost skyrockets to check your luggage,  most people now opt to use the “carry on” baggage rules and bring a small suitcase on board the aircraft, usually along with a large purse, backpack, or laptop bag.     Careful packing and planning means that most people who don’t require a new outfit every day can fairly easily fit everything they need – even for a trip of a week or more – in their carry-on luggage.

For most airlines the dimension of a carry on are 45 inches in total – meaning you simply add the highth, width, and depth of the  bag.   For example a bag with dimensions 12x12x21 should be OK as well as a bag of  14x14x 17 inches.  Technically any airline can can reject bags for many reasons, but in practice you are going to be just fine sticking with the 45 inch rule and probably even fudging a bit over these measurements.    However bringing large bags may get you some glares from the other passengers as you stuff your oversized luggage into “their” bin.    A major challenge of flying now is that with so many carry on luggage folks using the overhead bins, there is little or no extra room in those bins or under seats.  Often the carry-on bags need to be stowed in bins away from your seat or handed over to flight attendants, slowing the boarding process.

It is surprising to me how poorly organized the baggage and boarding process has become – I’d suggest to the airlines that more effective use or design of the overhead  bins is immediately in order.   Flight attendants, for example, know how to most efficiently stow bags yet they generally are not helpful as flyers tug, push, crunch and smash their and other bags into the dwindling available spaces.   Another innovation might be to redesign the bins or bin doors so they can hold more, or find ways to use the massive cargo space that must now exist below as flyers increasingly turn to carry on options rather than checking bags.

Another aspect of Carry-on rules are “Prohibited Items”.    Generally for that you’ll want to observe the 3-1-1 rule we discussed earlier.   More details are here at the TSA Transportation Security Administration‘s official site.  The link takes you to the “prohibited items” section.

Frequent Flyer Miles Madness

May 24th, 2011

IMPORTANT:   This post is  simply a collection of notes from a recent flurry of activity using miles programs.   It may NOT represent the general experience for frequent flyer programs at United, American, or Delta.  If you’ve had different experiences please feel free to comment below, and if you are an industry representative also feel free to guest post or comment.

Frequent Flyer programs: You’ve got to love them for allowing you free or very cheap flying options, but the logistics are often intimidating even for experienced travelers.   Until this past week *thought* I was pretty familiar with the basics of the frequent flyer game but … no.   Due to a sudden illness in the family I’ve been arranging last minute trips back and forth from Oregon to Minnesota using the frequent flyer miles my wife and I had on three airlines:  United, Delta, and American Airlines.   I also just booked four paid tickets to Virginia on Delta’s very compromised online booking system which I learned (the HARD way) is not yet compatible with Google’s  Chrome browser.

More on that later but the tip of the day is “for Delta Airlines bookings, don’t use Google Chrome yet!”

Frequent Flyer tips from this experience learned:

United Airlines Frequent Flyer System  was great

1.  Kudos to United Airlines who came through with an excellent online booking system and excellent ticket availability without gauging me in miles.    If you are in a rural area like me, you may find your miles won’t work from your regional airport.   Here at MFR Medford in Oregon both Delta and United allow me to travel to and from here, but for American Airlines I need to drive to tt cities served by American which in our case are Sacramento, California and Portland, Oregon – both about 4 1/2 hours from home.     For me during this experience, United was the big winner by providing one way trips to Minnesota at the last minute for only 12,500 miles with only a $5 processing charge.

Delta’s Frequent Flyer System was expensive and somewhat confusing.  Delta Assist Twitter help was great.

The quirky tip I learned from Delta’s excellent online twitter help was that sometimes (always?) the cost in miles of a ONE WAY is the SAME as a Round Trip!     I was getting charged 40,000 miles for a last minute one way home for my wife, but thanks to the @DeltaAssist  I learned I could book a return for no extra miles.

Watch for Credit Card Miles offers that can be worth thousands of dollars in free tickets:

Watch out for sneaky tricks that aren’t worth the money for the miles:

Here’s a sneaky trick from Delta disguised as an “offer” (!)

Transfer Miles: Limited-time Offer
Bring your friends and family with you on your next vacation. Transfer miles to that special someone between May 1 and June 30, 2011 and we’ll give them a 50% mileage bonus.1

To be continued….