New looks at four kinds of travel questions
In case you don't read newspaper headlines, your old travel companion, the Philly Road Warrior, has been sent packing. As of last week, the Road Warrior column and blog on philly.com are now named Winging It, a name my editors and I decided would better reflect what we offer you daily and weekly.
In case you don't read newspaper headlines, your old travel companion, the Philly Road Warrior, has been sent packing.
As of last week, the Road Warrior column and blog on philly.com are now named Winging It, a name my editors and I decided would better reflect what we offer you daily and weekly.
Because the column is mostly devoted to air travel for business, we thought our view of that world needed more emphasis. And in case you couldn't tell, I do a lot of winging it every week, scooping up information at the last minute about the world of air travel and offering thoughts about it.
Another alteration comes from a change in professional roles. I have left the Inquirer staff and am now a free-lance contributor, shedding my reporting duties. Now I have the mandate to analyze and offer more pointed commentary.
What won't change is the foundation for my commentary: The fast-flowing river of information that comes out of the travel business every day, and what you, the customers, think about what airlines, hotels, airports and others are trying to sell you.
News about air travel falls into four broad categories, and I expect to offer something about all of them, with more emphasis on those that most directly affect the individual traveler.
First, there is news about air-travel service and what the airlines at Philadelphia International Airport do to keep you coming back - or make you want to pull your hair out. From the start of this column 16 months ago, that has been what you've told me is of greatest interest, and it covers many areas.
These include air fares, flight delays, customer service at the airport and in flight, what happened to your checked baggage, the necessity and hassles of security, parking and the airport's cell-phone lot, informational and directional signage, and the appearance and condition of airport terminals.
I almost forgot to mention your favorite topic: Why cell-phone talking in flight should still be banned.
Next comes news about airline finances, why profits seem so elusive to some carriers, what a weak economy is doing to travel spending, industry labor relations, and how all of it affects customer service.
A few years ago, the leading topic was labor costs and the pay cuts many employees endured during bankruptcy proceedings to help keep older airlines alive. Today, airlines are facing record prices for jet fuel, prompting them to raise fares faster than at any other time I can remember. Those costs are a major driver of the current airline merger mania, and you can count on plenty of analysis here.
A third category, and another big producer of news, involves what local, state and federal officials are doing to affect travel. Mayor Nutter has made improving the Philadelphia airport experience a priority for his administration, and I'll be watching that effort closely. The Federal Aviation Administration's airspace redesign for the Philadelphia and New York areas, and other steps the agency is taking to cut delays, are a source of aggravation to some of you and of much less concern, it seems, to most of you. I'll be surprised if you don't have lots to say about that statement.
The fourth topic providing fodder for news stories is airplanes and air safety, including what's new in aviation technology, air-traffic control and how older aircraft are maintained. While most of us would not be flying if we lacked confidence in the safety of the system, the issue still demands close monitoring.
In each of these areas, I need the kind of help you have been providing in e-mails and comments on the old Road Warrior, now Winging It, blog.
A great example of what was posted by reader Anne Marie Smith, a Mantua, N.J., consultant and frequent traveler, as a comment to the Thursday announcement on the name change.
Smith suggested that the Philadelphia airport's parking garages do as other airports do and number garage parking spaces. Even if you remember on which floor and roughly where you parked, the garages are dimly lit, and many vehicles tend to look alike, forcing you to wander up and down the rows before you can escape. Thanks Anne Marie, and I hope the airport administration and the Parking Authority, which own and run the garages, are listening.
As always, tell me what you think.