Thursday, February 14, 2013

Merged AA-US Air Will Be in oneworld Alliance

It was widely anticipated, but US Airways CEO Doug Parker says in a letter to employees today that the newly merged American Airlines-US Airways will maintain American's membership in the oneworld global alliance.

Oneworld, while having a number of highly regarded airlines among its 11 members, is smaller than the 27-member Star Alliance, which US Airways  belongs to. Both alliances have a significant presence in Asia, rapidly emerging as the world's most important international market.

But American is the only oneworld member in North America, and leaving that alliance for Star could raise regulatory questions.

Parker is obviously optimistic that the merger will proceed quickly. He said today that he expected it to close in the third quarter of this year.

Oneworld's members besides American are Air Berlin, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, LAN, Malaysia, Qantas, Royal Jordanian and S7 (a Russian carrier). Mexicana is in line to become a new member.

Star Alliance members are Adriatic, Aegean, Air China, Air New Zealand, ANA, Austrian, Avianca, Brussels, Cops, Croatia,  Egyptair, Ethopian, LOT, Lufthansa, Scandanavian, Shenzen, Singapore, South African, Swiss, TAM, TAP, Thai and United.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Shitwrecked At Sea on a Carnival Cruise

Updating the post here from the other day on the behemoth Carnival cruise ship Triumph, which lost power after an engine fire in the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday, went adrift without electricity, and is now being slowly towed to a port assisted by two tugboats. Without power, the ship had drifted 90 miles north of the position where the fire occurred about 125 miles off the Yucatan Peninsula. It is being towed to port in Mobile, Ala., with arrival not expected till Thursday.

There are about 3,200 passengers and 1,000 crew on board in appalling conditions.

[UPDATED Feb. 14 -- In a splendid example of "Who you gonna believe, me or your lyin' eyes?" some of the media that are finally paying attention to this mess are faithfully transcribing PR responses from Carnival, the gist of which are: "Reports of appalling conditions on board greatly exaggerated."

Hence we have reports quoting Gerry Cahill, CEO of Carnival (italics mine): "No one here from Carnival is happy about the conditions aboard the ship ... there is no question that conditions aboard are very challenging. Most of the public bathrooms -- there are 23 public bathrooms -- most of them are working," he said. There is also a "good section" of passenger cabins, in the forward and midship sections of the ship, that have working toilets.

I'm not real good at math, but 4,000-plus people divided into "most of" 23 plus "a good section" equals ... well, equals a misery shitstorm. Just wait till these people get into port tonight and start sounding off!]

With the fire and power loss, basic services on the ship, like toilets, became inoperable, and many remain out, with sewage all around.  The slow boat to Mobile was expected to dock late Thursday night, after another delay caused when a tug boat line broke.

Let's just update by posting some of the entries directly from passengers on this cruise from hell, via the excellent Web site devoted to cruise news,


(Updated, 1:46 p.m. EST Tuesday) -- In its latest update, Carnival Cruise Line reported some basic services and hotel functionality have been restored to Carnival Triumph, which remains adrift in the Gulf of Mexico. The freshwater system, part of the sewage system, limited elevator service and some power in the Lido dining area are operational. But some family members of passengers on the ship are reporting the situation is still very uncomfortable.

Here's a sampling of what Cruise Critic members have heard from their friends and family on Carnival Triumph:

NTFF (February 12, 1:09 p.m.) – [Feces] and [urine] rolling across floor with every wave. People sick and throwing up every where.

NTFF (February 12, 1:47 a.m.) – My wife is aboard for her very first cruise. She and her best friend have a cabin just forward of the centerline of the ship. She has reported to me through texts, and 2 phone calls she managed to get out while the other ships were moving supplies aboard. She tells me she has not heard of or seen any functioning restrooms/etc. She said she not not seen anyone fighting for food, but she had seen that people waiting in very long lines were pileing up the food and (hoarding) taking it to their cabins as if there would be no more. She said the crew was assuring all that there was plenty of food, but many pax were ignoring this advice. At 16:29 CST she said that 1 of the tug boats was in site. And they they had been advised that they may not be into port until friday.
Wmiller86 (February 11, 10:14 p.m.) – I just rec'd a text from my wife. - NO POTTIES ARE WORKING! That was all it said.

LynnA (February 11, 4:28 p.m.) – We just got a text from daughter-in-law. She said she was miserable but no worries.

Dbogusch (February 11, 2:36 p.m.) – Another update from coworker. People are slowly being let into their cabins but its stifling hot below decks. The "hamburgers" being served are meatless. Very limited hot food. Only water to drink.

okiecruzer (February 11, 2:22 p.m.) – They [parents] said there is no power still, no toilets… , no meat. They slept on the deck last night (no tent, just open air) and will probably do so for the next two nights. They said they are doing this by choice – they booked an inner room without a window. They said there is no coffee or juice, only water. My dad said they were serving "hamburgers." He had one made just of cheese slices and another with only coleslaw, no meat on either. All alcohol service has been cut off.

Wmiller86 (February 11, 2:11 p.m.) – My wife and 3 of her girlfriends are on the Triumph… My wife was able to call me Sunday night for a few minutes while Elation was alongside. My wife told me that it was pretty scary during the fire evacuation… She said that they were allowed back down into the cabins after awhile, but it is so hot that you cannot sleep down there. So they had set up a makeshift tent over deck loungers to sleep in. At the time I spoke to here, there was no toilets. They were using little red bags. And no running water, no lights, except emergency lighting.

She said it was already pretty miserable. No hot food and no alcohol being served. There was still ice being served in soft drinks. None of the shops were open.

Dbogusch (February 11, 2:02 p.m.) – Just found out a coworker is on that ship. She texted her boss this afternoon. She said there are very long lines for food and bathrooms. Some rooms running out of toilet paper. She said the ship is hot and people are cranky. She expects to be home Thursday or Friday.

okiecruzer (February 11, 1:36 p.m.) – Just got word from my mom who is on Triumph. She said they would be back to Galveston Thursday or Friday.

Morehouse14 (February 11, 1:28 p.m.) – Just received a text message from my wife. They are being served hamburgers and salad from another ship that is alongside. Lines are taking 2 plus hours to get through to get food and drink.

Morehouse14 (February 11, 8:47 a.m.) – I know four people on this cruise, one of which is my wife. I have been in contact with her and the others. The cruise line says they are running on emergency generators… there are no lights or running water on the ship. Cabins have no power. They have to use bags and/or the shower to go to the bathroom. It is hot with no air moving below deck. They want everyone to stay in the public or open areas of the ship.

jgomila198101 (February 10, 7:07 p.m.) – My sis just called. They have plenty of food; they are all fine but doesn't look like they will be back until Wednesday night. Said they are still having fun.

Clinty76 (February 10, 6:56 p.m.) – Here is the absolute most current update directly from my wife aboard the ship. "We are about to get supplies from another cruise ship and apparently the tug boats should be here tomorrow around noon. Who knows how long it will take to get back to Galveston. We have no power AT ALL, which means we can't use the toilets, wash our hands or take a shower."


Monday, February 11, 2013

Habemus Papam! Er ... Duo Papum?

Whacking the old one on the noggin to prove he's dead before getting a new one

Sealing the dead one's bedroom

"Take this job and ..."

Dang, I wish now that I'd paid attention in Latin class. They told me I'd be glad to have it some day, and it turns out they were right.

[My wife, who grew up Episcopalian and is a lot smarter than I, informs me that the correct Latin to say that we have more than one pope is "Habemus Papas!" that being the accusative plural of the familiarly sounded cry, the accusative singular "Habemus Papam!" Heck, the only accusative I knew from high school Latin was the one in which the Latin teacher priest accused me of not studying and then punched me in the face. Oh well, at least he didn't invite me on camping trip.]

But I digress. The point is, dang, I am sorry to see the gnarly old German Pope retiring. As a long-ago Catholic, I always liked the rituals, and none were grander than getting a new pope when the old one died and joined the Choir Invisible.

In 1978, as a reporter for the old Philadelphia Bulletin, I once even went to Rome to cover the death of a pope (the sour old Paul VI) and the election of a new one, the smiley-faced one who everybody forgets about that lasted about a month till he suddenly died and was succeeded by that jovial Polish fellow. I still dine out on stories from that ancient adventure, including the way the cranky old cardinals beefed about not being able to find all the parts to the creaky Sistine Chapel stove that was supposed to send up the black or white smoke signals. (It kept puffing out gray). Not to mention the way the cardinals, men who are accustomed to living in princely splendor, griped about the dormitory-like accommodations that then prevailed in the Sistine Chapel during the secret conclave (where one cardinal, the guy from Washington D.C., annoyed the others by always playing his harmonica, on which he only knew one song, "Do Not Forsake Me O My Darling," from High Noon).

But mostly I miss it when the Vatican carmerlengo cardinal has to use a silver hammer to whack the old pope on the noggin to prove that he is really dead before they can get a new one.

Tradition! Ritual! Sic transit gloria mundi!


Sunday, February 10, 2013

More Cruise News: 5 in Crew Killed in Cruise Ship Safety Drill, While Off Mexico, a Carnival Cruise Ship Is Adrift and Without Power After Engine-Room Fire

Thomson Majestic
Five crew have been killed after a lifeboat they were in fell from the Thomson cruise ship Majesty while it was docked in the port of Santa Cruz de la Palma in the Canary Islands.

The accident happened during a routine safety drill at about 12:00 GMT. Three others were also hurt as the lifeboat fell, says the BBC.

[UPDATE] Meanwhile, in other "I'd-sooner-take-a-brick-upside-the-head-than-get-on-a-cruise-ship" news, the Carnival behemoth Triumph was operating on emergency power after an engine-room fire off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Conditions on board were described as horrendous, says USA Today.

Other reports, including many from passengers on board, describe hideous conditions, such as toilets overflowing all over the ship. What fun cruising (or crossing, as the Cunard transAtlantic douches  call it) must be!

Carnival Triumph
The Triumph is expected to be hauled into a Mexican port sometime Wednesday., a very useful cruise Web site updating the situation today, reports:  "Update, February 11, 9:35 a.m. EST: According to an e-mail from Petty Officer 3rd Class Richard Brahm of the U.S. Coast Guard, the Coast Guard Cutter Vigorous arrived on the scene last night at 12:45 a.m. EST. As of 6 a.m. this morning, Carnival Triumph's freshwater system is back up and operational. Additionally, the sewage system has been restored to the forward section of the ship but is still down in the aft portion. Onboard engineers are continuing to work on the aft sewage system."



Saturday, February 09, 2013

Free Baja Arizona!

I was on volunteer ranger duty this morning at the Broadway trailhead of Saguaro National Park when I spotted a parked car with a "Free Baja Arizona" bumper sticker. Had almost forgotten about the (half serious, but no one really believes it's feasible) movement in the sensible environs of Arizona -- that is, in the southern part of the state that is far removed politically and culturally from the land of the delusional in Phoenix and the rest of Maricopa County -- to declare statehood, free and clear at last of the nut cases and racists who give Arizona such a bad name nationally.

And the official state animal of Baja Arizona would be ... Wile E. Coyote.

Excerpt from the Free Baja Arizona page on

"...In Baja Arizona a major issue is environmental quality. In Maricopa the major concerns are how to harass Mexicans, and how to gut the budgets of the state university system so we don't have too many smart people to disagree with the dunderheads in the State Legislature.

Flight Cancellations Today has this breakdown of flight cancelations today caused by what the terrific flight-delay site unfortunatelty refers to as "winter storm Nemo," adopting the marketing stunt created by the Weather Channel to market snowstorms.

Alas, much of the media, especially the television ones, took the bait.

Anyway, flight schedules today are disrupted in the Northeast and, per usual, it will take many days for ther air travel system -- which is operating at virtual capacity routinely -- to sort itself out.  
From "As of 4:00 AM EST, the storm has caused 2,074 flights to be cancelled for Saturday, February 9th at North American airports. Yesterday there were, 4,136 flights cancelled in North America. 

 Airports with the most combined arrival and departure cancellations on Saturday, February 9th are:

479 (BOS) Logan International Airport
324 (JFK) John F. Kennedy International Airport
318 (EWR) Newark Liberty International Airport
298 (LGA) LaGuardia Airport
160 (YYZ) Pearson International Airport
157 (PHL) Philadelphia International Airport
109 (ORD) O'Hare International Airport"

Here's the link to the Flightstats delay updates:  FlightStats Global Delay Tracker   (lists delays and cancellations by airline, airport, and region).


Monday, February 04, 2013

'CBS' Used to Be Followed by 'News'


When the lights unaccountably went out at the preposterously named Mercedes-Benz Superdome last night during the biggest sports event of the year,  you might have thought that CBS, broadcasting the game, would have made at least a minimal effort to address for viewers what had just happened.

You would have been wrong. Instead, in a shocking example of journalistic malfeasance, the CBS Sports flunkies on site (and the CBS News people on site or in New York) at first punted in panic  and went to commercial, and then took the position that, well, we'll wait till the NFL suits tell us what to say before we explain anything. What had happened? What was happening in the stands, where tens of thousands of spectators were in the dark in more ways than one?

Broadcast sports journalism has long been mostly a bad joke, with print sports journalism not far behind. Witness the weak response to this remarkable event this morning among our vaunted sportswriters, a breed that I once respected in general but now associate with one phrase: "When're they going to bring out more free shrimp?"

There were some exceptions, like Bob Raissman in today's New York Daily News:

"At a time when they should have been aggressively gathering news, CBS’ crew was satisfied with the crumbs the NFL dropped on them. And they swallowed the scraps gladly. Not once during the 34-minute delay did a representative of the National Football League appear on camera to attempt to explain what caused half the Superdome to lose power.

Why should they? No one from CBS put any pressure on them.

Instead of having anyone with a microphone express a hint of outrage, they accepted what was going down. ..."

Yes they did, like the house stooges they actually are.

But where was CBS News, which presumably had at least one news reporter there among the 5,000 media hacks sent to New Orleans, many by news organizations that otherwise wouldn't cover the Second Coming if it required paying for a flight and a hotel room?

As the blackout stretched on, what were they doing at CBS News headquarters in New York? Did it not occur to those descendants of Walter Cronkite to perhaps elbow their way onto the air, you know, like in the old days, with a brief news report that at least indicated that something very unusual had happened, and questions were being asked?

If it did, there was no sign of it last night. No, the attitude was clearly: We'll wait till we're told what to say.

This, from Will Leitch at, is worth reading on the subject.

Also, while we're on the subject of lackey reporting, when might it occur to the media that the real advertising story last night wasn't who had the best or worst ad (the perennial narrative), but rather, why couldn't CBS sell advertising time?  I wasn't counting, but it seemed to me that most of the ads aired last night during the Super Bowl (with the exception of the cheap local ads slotted in during the regular segments where the local TV stations get their allotted time)  were non-revenue CBS house-ads -- promos for CBS shows -- and barter-deal promos for the NFL.

That might be a story, it seems to me. That is, if any actual journalists were covering this, rather than just swooning over the content of the relatively few beer, car and junk-food ads that did actually air.

Meanwhile, it went unnoted by the NFL handmaidens who CBS trots out to broadcast the game, but hey, how about that murder suspect down there on the field?

Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis was described by a CBS stooge last night as "an extraordinary individual who has impacted sports and community."

Why yes, how true, how true.

That would underscore the recent incident after the Ravens beat the Broncos in postseason, when Ravens players jeered a USA Today reporter who had the temerity to ask the glowering Mr. Lewis about an unfortunate incident in which he, Lewis, was accused in a still-unsolved double murder. Inconveniences for Lewis in that 2000 murder case were that a victim's blood was found in his limo, where Lewis had instructed fellow passengers to keep their mouths shut about the incident.

"... Lewis pleaded guilty in relation to the case: for obstruction of justice, a misdemeanor. He originally was charged with two counts of murder but struck a deal with prosecutors in exchange for his testimony against two of his companions that night..."

That's from Brent Schrotenboer of USA Today, who has some journalistic guts, and who had this to say about Mr. Lewis and his misadventure.
I'll provide a little more background on the Lewis case in a bit. But gotta go now! I see they're bringing out more free shrimp and king crab claws to the buffet table, and you know how the line forms, up in the press box.

[UPDATE: An angry anonymous commenter who claims to have some knowledge of CBS (shooting from ambush, the way all anonymous flamers do, of course) scoffs that I didn't do my homework, that CBS "sold" all of its ad slots for the Super Bowl. Right, just like USA Today "sells" 1.7 million copies a day, when in fact more than half are given away, with the numbers cooked through in-house barter deals. That fact is, most of the Super Bowl commercial air time -- a total of 47 minutes -- was devoted to house ads promoting CBS or affiliated shows ("sold" and accounted for in-house) or barter-deal promos for the NFL and affiliates. Media reporters noted weeks before the game ago that CBS said it had "sold" all of its ad slots for the Super Bowl-- but they didn't ask questions about to whom and under what circumstances. They didn't ask how many of those ads sold for the the real-cash price of $3.8 million for 30 seconds, which is what CBS was said to be charging. I guarantee you, financial analysts are asking the right questions, and they're not depending on CBS flacks for the answers.]



Sunday, February 03, 2013

A Long Way From Katrina ...

Not sure what it says about a place that spent nearly a half-billion dollars to refurbish a football stadium after a catastrophic hurricane that nearly destroyed a city and whose effects are still not fully socially or physically alleviated.

But just as a reminder, here's what the New Orleans Superdome, now bearing the amusingly preposterous name Mercedes-Benz Superdome, looked like in that awful time in 2005.