TIME Aviation

The TSA Seized a Record Number of Guns in 2014

TSA: How to Travel by Commercial Airflight With A Firearm
After filling out a brief disclosure form, commercial air flight travelers are allowed to transport unloaded firearms in locked, hard-sided cases as checked luggage only, as can be seen in props provided by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at Dulles International Airport on Wednesday, June 11, 2014, in Washington, DC. The Washington Post—Getty Images

Security agents found six per day on average

The Transportation Security Administration kept especially busy in 2014: A record high of 2,212 guns were seized from carry-on luggage, marking a 22% increase over 2013 numbers.

The TSA found an average of more than six firearms per day, the agency said Friday, and of those seized, 83% were loaded. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport saw 120 guns seized, the most of any airport.

Passengers who try to bring firearms onto a plane in their carry-on bags can be arrested and criminally charged.

TIME Aviation

Why Airlines Don’t Talk About Safety In Their Ads

Airport
People stand in the main terminal at Washington Dulles International Airport is shown October 2, 2014 in Dulles, Virginia. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

Fliers don't want to be reminded of the risk

Looking around at modern airlines’ slogans, you might notice a common trend: Few of them stress safety. Not Delta’s “Keep Climbing,” not American Airlines’ “The new American is arriving,” not JetBlue’s “You Above All.”

There was a time when this wasn’t the case. Safety was often mentioned in air travel ads when the aviation industry was still nascent in the 1920s and 1930s — back then, airlines had the tricky task of convincing travelers to try a then-unproven means of getting about.

The trend lasted until the late 1980s, when Pan Am launched reassuring ads amidst terrorist threats targeting American airliners flying across the Atlantic. Those threats, however, eventually took form as that year’s fatal bombing of Pan Am Flight 1o3, which claimed 270 lives in the air and on the ground.

The Pan Am attack, says aviation security expert Glen Winn, is ultimately what convinced airlines to quit bragging about safety.

“Leading up the destruction of Pan Am 103, [Pan Am] had advertised themselves as not only the safest, but also the most secure,” Winn said. “Airlines since then have been really careful how they say what they say.”

Safety has since all but disappeared from airlines’ advertisements. And when airlines are required to discuss safety during on-board safety demonstrations, major brands are trying to make them more fun, revamping their in-flight safety videos to transform mandatory prepare-for-the-worst briefings into informative musicals and short films.

Why the shift? Yes, Worldwide commercial aviation deaths per year have declined. But no airline can guarantee passengers total immunity from harm. And several high-profile disasters over the past few months, like Malaysia Airlines Flights 370 and 17 as well as AirAsia Flight 8501, have put travelers especially on edge. Putting the “S-Word” in slogans or commercials, airlines have found, doesn’t reassure passengers — it just reminds them of the random chance of danger their next trip might bring, however slight it may be.

“When you talk about safety, you bring up a bad taste in people’s mouths,” said Andy Trinchero, executive director of marketing at aviation marketing firm. “It’s something that people don’t even want to hear about, really.”

TIME Transportation

JetBlue’s Reputation Up in the Air After Baggage Fee Announcement

JetBlue
A JetBlue Airways jet sits on the tarmac at O'Hare Airport October 26, 2006 in Chicago, Illinois. Scott Olson—Getty Images

Travelers angry JetBlue is yanking legroom and charging for checked bags

We predicted this would happen. When JetBlue announced in November that it was scrapping its first-checked-bag-free policy and reducing legroom by shoehorning more seats onto its planes, Wall Street was thrilled — the airline’s stock jumped 4% after the announcement.

Travelers, however, not so much. There was a near-immediate backlash, and it’s only grown in the weeks since the news broke.

Right after the announcement, road warriors took to the forums on sites like FlyerTalk to complain that JetBlue was doing exactly the kind of nickel-and-diming it built its reputation on avoiding. One user described the policy change as “whack[ing] its customer base across the nose to suck up to Wall Street.”

Technically, JetBlue has said it’s creating a new, tiered pricing structure, but you won’t get a free checked bag anymore with the base fare starting next year.

Now, a new survey finds that these gripes aren’t just coming from a vocal minority. They’re indicative of traveler sentiment more broadly, and that could mean trouble for the popular low-fare carrier. According to the YouGov BrandIndex, which measures consumer sentiment, customer satisfaction with JetBlue has plummeted to a two-year low, falling from #3 to #4 among domestic airlines. JetBlue still holds its own against most of the legacy carriers, but it trails low-fare rivals Southwest —now the only holdout that offers free checked bags— and Virgin Atlantic.

“JetBlue has lost some of its ‘we’re different’ glow, and the word of mouth is definitely hurting them,” says YouGov spokesman Drew Kerr. “JetBlue had long been known as a special airline that operated differently, with more customer friendliness and in a better way than their competitors. Their vibe was always about being above the fray,” he says.

The YouGov BrandIndex measures six areas of customer perception: satisfaction, quality, value, reputation, willingness to recommend and general impression, Kerr says, which it combines into a single score.

“JetBlue’s drop was statistically significant” from its previous position, he says. Where JetBlue suffered the most is in the perception category. Consumers who are surveyed are asked if they’ve heard anything about the brand from any source, and if that “buzz” is positive or negative. JetBlue’s score in this category actually began falling back in the springtime, Kerr says, and now it’s below the industry average.

“This fee announcement was a strong signal that perhaps [JetBlue] had lost its specialness and was joining all the other airlines in nickel-and-diming,” he says. If the survey results are any indication, that’s the impression the traveling public picked up, too.

TIME Transportation

Man Walks Away from 26-Car Pileup After Being Pinned Between Two Semis

"Thank God that I'm still alive," said Kaleb Whitby. "Now I've got to go figure out why."

A massive highway accident in eastern Oregon involving approximately 100 people and 26 cars, left 12 people injured Saturday. Heavy winds and fog, combined with icy road conditions on the stretch of Interstate 84, resulted in a dangerous mix for drivers causing three separate collisions, primarily with semi trucks.

And one 27-year-old man, Kaleb Whitby, has become the public face of the incident, thanks to one wild picture captured by truck driver Sergi Karplyuk, 32, on Twitter.

The image shows Whitby in what used to be his four-door pickup truck, wedged tightly between two semis. Karplyuk’s was one of them, and he eventually helped Whitby escape, but not before snapping the picture above.

Of the dozen people injured, one was transferred to OHSU Hospital in Portland and remains listed in critical condition. Six others remained hospitalized as of Saturday afternoon. Two were listed as stable, and four had been transferred to a sister hospital in Boise.

“I think we’re fortunate that there weren’t any fatalities here,” Oregon State Police Sgt. Kyle Hove told The Oregonian.

Whitby was very fortunate. Against all logic, he was largely unharmed.

“I’ve got two Band-Aids on my right ring finger,” he told The Oregonian. “And a little bit of ice on my left eye.”

“Thank God that I’m still alive,” he continued. “Now I’ve got to go figure out why.”

This article originally appeared on People.com

TIME France

Fire in the Channel Tunnel Shuts Down France-England Transport

The entrance to the Channel Tunnel near Calais. in Coquelles on Jan.17, 2015.
The entrance to the Channel Tunnel near Calais. in Coquelles on Jan.17, 2015. Michel Spingler—AP

The Chunnel is closed after a truck fire

The tunnel underneath the English Channel has been closed “until further notice,” after a truck fire Saturday.

The 31.4-mile-long train and automobile conveyance that runs between England and France, also known as the “Chunnel,” was closed due to a fire at the French end of the tunnel, the BBC reports.

Eurostar, the train service that operates in the tunnel, announced in a statement, “We are sorry but we are unable to run any further trains today because Eurotunnel has been closed due to smoke detected in the north tunnel.” Passengers planning Saturday travel were advised not to come to the station.

A spokesman for the police said there were no injuries. “Rail passengers are advised to expect significant delays whilst the vehicle is being recovered and fumes are cleared from the tunnels,” he added.

Eurotunnel, which manages the Chunnel, said in 2012 that nearly 50,000 people use the tunnel each day.

The Chunnel spans the stretch of the English Channel from the area near Folkstone, near Dover in the United Kingdom, to Coquelles near Calais in France. It is used by passenger and freight trains, and has a special shuttle for automobiles and trucks.

[BBC]

TIME space

See the SpaceX Rocket Crash Land in Middle of the Ocean

SpaceX Rocket Crash
GIF by Mia Tramz for TIME

“Close but no cigar,” Elon Musk tweeted

SpaceX launched a resupply ship to the International Space Station last week, but it narrowly failed a test to securely navigate the rocket back to earth.

The company founded by Elon Musk believes that a reusable rocket could drastically reduce the costs of space transportation, and as you can see in the GIF above compiled from images that Musk tweeted, they’re very close to finalizing the technology. In the first attempt, the Falcon 9 rocket descended back to floating platform about 200 miles off the Florida coast. But it was a hard landing, and the rocket was largely wrecked.

“Close but no cigar,” Musk tweeted at the time.

 

TIME Companies

Southwest to Pay Record $1.6 Million Fine For Airplane Delays

Southwest Airlines Reveals New Destinations For Dallas Travelers
A Southwest Airlines Co. Boeing 737-7H4 plane sits at a gate at Dallas Love Field Airport in Dallas, Texas, U.S., on Monday, Feb. 3, 2014. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Passengers on 16 flights were forced to wait over three hours on the tarmac without deplaning

The Transportation Department has fined Southwest Airlines a record $1.6 million for delays involving 16 aircraft at Chicago’s Midway Airport last January.

The airline was penalized for violating tarmac rules and forcing passengers to sit in planes on the tarmac during the delays. Tarmac rules stipulate that airlines must offer passengers the chance to deplane within three hours of arrival, but Southwest did not offer their customers that opportunity.

“Airline passengers have rights, and the Department’s tarmac delay rules are meant to prevent passengers from being stuck on an aircraft on the ground for hours on end,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a release.

The department added that Southwest’s violation of the rules caused even more plane delays for other airlines, hence the large fine.

The federal government began cracking down on tarmac waits in August 2010, imposing fines of as much as $27,500 per passenger for delays longer than three hours. American Eagle Airlines was fined $900,000 the following May.

Read more: The Best and Worst Airports for Flight Delays in America

TIME Transportation

Why This Lucky Delta Passenger Got a Flight Nearly to Himself

Delta
Delta Airlines MARCEL ANTONISSE—AFP/Getty Images

Airlines still have to fly some severely underbooked routes

A Delta passenger who was recently delighted to find himself with only one other passenger on a 76-seat flight from Cleveland to New York (and has the selfies to prove it) isn’t alone.

He is joined by a reporter for The Economist, for instance, who shared a similar story in a 2012 blog post. That reporter encouraged readers to share their own solo flight stories in the comments section. They responded with four pages worth of missives.

Just when airlines have mastered the dark art of cramming, they give a few lucky passengers the Daddy Warbucks treatment. Why? Or as anyone squeezed into a middle seat back in economy class might ask, WHY!?

It’s not you, it’s the connecting flight…

An empty plane at point A may be rushing to a full house of passengers at point B, who expect to arrive at point C by dinner. These chains of dependency make grounding a flight a costly proposition. Some planes can hopscotch across 10 to 12 gates in a single day, according to Richard Eastman of the Eastman Group consulting firm.

“Even with two passengers, the Delta flight must go,” he says by email. Or zero passengers. The solitary flyers are almost beside the point — it’s either take to the sky or scramble to find a charter plane for the next batch of flyers.

…And freak occurrences

Bad weather can punch holes through the delicate web of connecting flights. During or after storms, airlines tend to mobilize empty planes to mop up stranded passengers. Robert W. Mann Jr., president of airline industry consultancy R.W. Mann & Company, calls these flights “ferries,” which he says are random flukes. That means their seats, enticingly empty as they may be, are almost impossible to sell to a normal traveler.

“You can’t hold them out as availability,” Mann says. “What would you say? Come down to the airport at 6 p.m. and we’ll tell you where you’re going?”

Mann does note, however, some airlines have experimented with this thrill seeker market. KLM, he says, dabbled with last minute offers to any traveler adventurous enough to show up the airport with no set destination or flight dates, but these flyers proved a rare and unprofitable lot.

…Plus a distant threat of regulatory fines

This may come as a surprise, but carriers are required by law to fly on schedule. “An airline that fails to meet its scheduled flight commitments can face government sanctions; or even lose its right to provide scheduled service,” says Eastman. These regulations carve out broad exceptions for unavoidable delays, such as mechanical errors or bad weather. Absent that, an under-booked flight must take to the skies as promised.

…Not to mention the wacky economics of ticket pricing

Even if airlines could arrange a fire sale of empty seats, there would still be the question of profitability. Airlines have worked long and hard to create a two-tiered pricing system that discriminates between desperate passengers willing to fly at any price and leisure travelers who can plan ahead and therefore save some money. Experts estimate as much as 40% of an airline’s revenue comes from a narrow sliver of last-minute flyers who make up as little of 5-10% of total passengers.

Open up a steady flow of last-minute deals, and those lucrative eleventh-hour customers might pile in at a fraction of the price. Better to leave a seat empty than tamper with a tried and true pricing model. And if that means the occasional, freakishly empty plane for one lucky flyer who won the transportation lottery, so be it.

“It’s not unusual if you paid say three or four times what someone sitting next to you paid,” observes George Hamlin, president of Hamlin Transportation Consulting. “The experience you get of the actual travel is not commensurate with what you pay.”

TIME Transportation

Brazilian Airlines Want to Charge Parents Who Fly With Babies in Their Laps

baby airplane
Getty Images

Airlines are pushing for deregulation in Brazil

Call it the baby tax.

Brazilian airlines want to charge parents for bringing babies on planes, Bloomberg reports. Most carriers don’t impose full ticket prices for fliers under age 2, thanks to a cap on charges at 10% of the full adult fare. Only one—Avianca Brasil—charges a nominal fee for infants.

The Brazilian airlines’ new proposal, which will be decided on by the end of 2016, would require waiving the local cap on fees for children under 2 who sit in their parent’s lap.

In the United States, aviation regulators and airlines decided not to impose charges on infants a decade ago, arguing it would be better to encourage parents to fly with their infants rather than drive. Flying has a far lower accident rate than driving.

If U.S. airlines charged for lap babies, “it would be perceived as a money-hungry concept that jeopardizes children because certain people would be forced to drive,” said Alan Bender, professor of aeronautics, airline management and economics at Daytona Beach’s Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

Read more at Bloomberg.

TIME Transportation

This Guy Flew Delta to New York With Only One Other Passenger

Travelers Embark On Holiday Travel Day Before Thanksgiving
Delta planes at the Salt Lake City international Airport on November 27, 2013 in Salt Lake City, Utah. George Frey—Getty Images

Enough refreshments for seconds?

An empty commercial airplane—is that kind of like a private jet?

Chris O’Leary, media strategist and editor of a New York-based beer blog, would be the person to ask. O’Leary had booked a New York-bound Delta flight from Cleveland that was delayed for several hours on Monday. When the beer enthusiast stepped on the plane, he found out he was the only passenger.

“It was definitely the most memorable flight I’ve been on in recent memory if only for the sheer lack of passengers to become bothersome,” O’Leary told ABC News. “There were no screaming babies, no one listening to loud lyrics or reclining their seats or taking their shoes.”

O’Leary got a private safety briefing and one-on-one briefing from the captain about the flight.

Shortly before takeoff, the plane returned to the gate and picked up one more passenger, for a grand total of two fliers on the 76-seat plane.

[ABC News]

Read next: Donald Trump Says Air Traffic Controllers Deliberately Flying Planes Over His House

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