Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Boeing's Dreamliner is appropriately named, as nightmares are dreams, too

    I’ve just flown the Edsel of the skies: the Boeing 787 Dreamliner that I flew on LOT Airlines to get to Europe. I’ve been wanting to fly on one of these; that desire has now been forever extinguished.
    The Dreamliner is a beautiful plane. It’s big and tall, with lots of bin storage; and it reportedly maintains a higher cabin pressure during flight, while means passengers will suffer less dehydration. Because of its large size, there is far less turbulence. And although the food was lousy, the LOT Airlines stewardesses wear little caps, which is a neat little throwback to the olden days of aviation.
    In fact, everything about the plane was great except for one thing: LOT Airlines, like almost every airline, is flying the Dreamliner with a nine-across seat configuration which results in a seat width of 16.9 inches – just about the narrowest airline seat in the air. These planes were originally designed with the idea that they would have 8-across seating.
    The trend towards super-narrow airline seats started a few years ago when some greedy airline decided to replace the 9-across, 2-5-2 seating on their 777 airplanes to 10-across, 3-4-3 seating. Seat width on these 777 airplanes decreased, from a somewhat generous 18.5 inches to 17 inches. Presumably this made the airline more money, but it did little for passenger comfort. Most airlines have adopted the narrower 777 seats with the exception of Delta. So if you want to fly the 777 in comfort, fly Delta (United was 9-across on the 777, but they have started to switch to the dreaded 10-across seating).  With the 787 Dreamliner, there are almost no exceptions to the super-narrow-seats caused by the nine-across format. As a result, if you fly this plane in coach, you will be miserable.
    At 200 pounds I am admittedly on the fat side. But I’ve flown far fatter and been far less uncomfortable. I’d grateful that I’ve lost some weight over the past few months, or otherwise my misery would have been compounded. I’ve simply never had a flight before where I was so aware of how uncomfortably narrow my seat was. No person will find a 16.9-inch wide seat comfortable, no matter how thin they are.
    The solution to this problem is to avoid it in the first place. Seatguru.com does a pretty good job of describing what the various seats are like on different airlines, including information about seat pitch (legroom) and width. I suggest never flying a long-haul on a plane with less than a 17.9-inch seat width. That’s only one inch wider than LOT's Dreamliner seats, but that one inch makes a big difference.
    I knew when I booked my ticket on the LOT 787 that the seat would be narrow. I just wasn’t aware of how miserably narrow it would be. Of course, when you’re trying to get a super-cheap fare to Europe, sometimes it entails some misery.
    I’m surprised Boeing allows the airlines to operate its airplanes in this manner. On one hand, it makes sense for them to just sell the planes and allow the airlines to use them as they will. But when everyone who flies a certain type of aircraft has an unpleasant experience they avoid it in the future, thus reducing that model’s lifespan. The Dreamliner could have been one of the greatest planes of all time, but by overstuffing it with seats the airlines have made it one of the worst. I know I will avoid it in the future, and anyone reading this would be wise to do the same.
    Most airlines allow overweight flyers to buy an extra seat. On the 787 everyone is overweight. In cases where major discounts are offered, it might make sense for two people flying together to buy an extra seat; since the planes operate with a 3-3-3 configuration, two people could just have an empty seat between them.
    I would advise my friends to never fly on a 787 Dreamliner if another plane is available at a similar price. If pursuing a hot bargain, couples should consider buying an extra seat, which would turn a miserable experience into a enjoyable one. You can contact the airline for information about how to do this.
    As I’ve mentioned, we paid $625 for a round-trip flight to Europe. At that price we really couldn’t complain even if we were forced to share a crate with a bunch of chickens. Even so, I’ll fly the Dreamliner one more time, and that’s to get home; after that, only if I fly with someone and share an extra seat.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Thanks to a $625 airfare, we're off to Germany for Spring Break

    Thanks to a $625 round-trip airfare Ash and I are headed to Germany for Spring Break. We’re joined by his classmate Dylan Howard.
    Of course, to get a $625 round-trip fare to Germany the airplane doesn’t exactly pick us up at the Oxford International Airport. That would be too easy. A $625 round-trip ticket requires a sort of around-the-world trip all its own.
    Our flight was out of Chicago. Memphis never has cheap flights. So we had to drive for 10 hours. With cheap gas and a cheap hotel room, that didn’t add too much to the cost of the trip. And we plan to visit Northwestern and the University of Chicago campus before we return. Instead of flying directly in and out of Germany, we’re flying into Vienna and out of Prague; that was the only way to get the cheapo fare. We’re only spending four to five hours of sightseeing on each of these cities, split between evening and morning. They aren’t what we came to see, although I confess I will savor the four-hour glimpse as I’ve never seen either.
    The goal of this trip, besides just having fun, is to allow Ash and Dylan to actually hear and speak some real German. They are on their third year of high school German, and so ought to be able to speak a little. My understanding is that nobody in Germany actually speaks the formal German taught in the classroom during everyday life, so it will be interesting to see whether they will be able to communicate at all.
    In keeping with the educational nature of the trip, I had high hopes that I would be able to browbeat the kids into listening to a number of lectures from a Great Courses series called “Turning Points of American History.” They listened to exactly one before Ash revolted. But if their AP U.S. History exam in May has a question about the Great Epidemic that wiped out the Indians, they will be well prepared. Hopefully I’ll get them to listen to a few more before our trip is over.
    We’re at the airport as I write this, waiting for the boarding door to close. I’ll update after we hit Europe.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

I correctly said five years ago Obama was intentionally creating regional war in the Mid-East

    The entire world seems to be banging on Europe's door demanding entry, and the Europeans seem to lack the will to protect their homes. Greece is complaining that they are becoming a dumping ground for Europe's migrants; more on Greece in a minute.
    I should note that the blame for all of this mess falls primarily on Barack Obama, who in violation of international law and of the War Powers Act ruthlessly attacked Libya, our ally in the war on terror. Obama not only murdered that country's leader, Muammar Gaddafi, but also his children and grandchildren.
    I pointed out five years ago that America's actions in the Mid-East seemed intentionally designed to throw the entire region, including Syria, into turmoil.  It was my belief five years ago that the United States was disrupting the Middle East in order to limit China's access to oil. With today's low oil prices this may not seem to be a factor, but when prices rise China will have lost access to many of its former energy sources. What I did not anticipate was the Camp-of-The-Saints-style rush of humanity towards Europe, which threatens European civilization as we know it.
    Let me quote from my blog post of April 19, 2011:

It's begun to seep out that the United States has been actively supporting efforts to destabilize Syria for several years. Americans played a big role in the overthrow of the Egyptian government. I suspect America is working to destabilize the entire region.

Nations act out of self-interest. For France, Britain and the United States to make the decision so quickly to seek sanctions and to attack Libya suggest some motive other than concern for that country's citizens. NATO's decision to use just enough force to keep the government from restoring order suggests a desire to forment a long-term civil war, which should keep the entire region in turmoil for some time, thus endangering the region's oil production.
    If a nobody like me down in  Mississippi could understand the certain outcome of our Mid-East policies, then you can be sure that the experts in the State Department knew what would happen. The rise of ISIS, the Syrian Civil War, the death of hundreds of thousands, was all carefully planned. I thought it was to harm China, but it may well have been to promote Obama's vision of a world without borders, by pushing millions of desperate migrants into Europe.
    Europe has to find the will to simply refuse entry to these people. If they are fleeing a war zone, by all means provide them with tents and food in a safe location as close to their home country as possible, so that they may return as soon as hostilities have ceased. That is consistent with international law.
    As for Greece, they complain they are being stuck with the migrants as the Balkan nations erect fences to keep them from crossing their borders. And yet it is the Greeks themselves who are engaging in and profiting from human trafficking.
    These migrants aren't arriving from Turkey to the Greece mainland. They are arriving on various Greek islands. Greek ferry companies are then shuttling them to the mainland, at great profit. The head of the Greek ferry association announced last week that income from transporting migrants from the islands to the mainland had offset a drop in regular ferry income.
    All Greece has to do to solve Europe's migrant problem is to make it illegal to transport migrants from the islands to the mainland. All of these migrants had already reached a safe haven in Turkey; as such, they are not entitled to asylum and are all illegal immigrants. If they know they will be forced to live on various islands in tent cities forever, they will quit coming.
    If Greece wants to keep ferrying the illegal immigrants to the mainland, it's their business. But they have no right to complain about being stuck with them. That is the choice they are making by giving them a ferry ride.