Could LAX to Tehran Soon Be a Reality?

Pigeons in The Masjid-i Jami, Isfahan, Iran. Against sunset background.
Getty Images/Vetta

A direct flight to Iran? According to the Iranian airline Asseman, it’s possible, if relations improve. The airline’s managing director, Abbas Rahmatian, points out that because the airline recently transported President Hassan Rouhani to the United Nations meeting, it was requested to open up flights to the United States and Canada. Apparently the airline has 33 planes in operation and are completely capable of overhauling them.

While direct flights between the United States and Iran seem a little far off, it’s not surprising that Iran’s airline industry would want to look outwards; currently more than 60 percent of Iran’s total 220 planes are grounded because of technical and logistic issues. “Iranians airlines are facing great losses due to the low price of domestic flight tickets,” Sirous Baheri, managing director of Airtour Airline, which also operates in Iran, said, as reported by the website Skift. “They are currently having difficulties competing with foreign airlines.” Things are so bad that the deputy transport minister recently called for 16 of the country’s airlines to merge because they were in bankruptcy.Open Iranian airlines up to foreign markets like the United States and Canada, maybe they will have the potential for competing again. Of course that will depend on diplomatic relations improving. There’s the usual strict U.S. State Department travel warning, and because the United States does not have diplomatic relations in Iran, you can’t expect any consular services while there (although you could go to the Swiss embassy who handles all that stuff for the United States). And of course you need a visa.

So while you wait for those direct flights to open up, you may want to consider a few other methods of travel.

Canadian Researchers Uncover Remains Of Tragic Arctic Expedition

Arctic
“Man Proposes, God Disposes” by Edwin Henry Landseer, 1864. Wikimedia Commons.

A few days ago we talked about the story of Dr. John Rae, a nearly forgotten Arctic explorer who in 1854 went in search of the missing Franklin Expedition. This was a Royal Navy expedition that set out in 1845 to find the Northwest Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific through the frozen arctic north of Canada. Rae talked with the local Inuit people and heard the survivors had all died, some resorting to cannibalism before they succumbed to the elements. The public was so shocked that they turned their ire against Rae, whose career was all but ruined.

Now a Canadian research team is investigating the site to try to find out more about what happened. It’s known that the expedition involved two ships, the HMS Erebus and the HMS Terror, and that they came to grief near King William Island in September 1846, where they got trapped in the ice hundreds of miles form the nearest town.

The crew tried walking out, but none made it more than 40 miles. All 129 officers and crew died.

A Canadian team, led by Parks Canada has made five expeditions to find traces of this tragedy. They’ve been focusing their efforts on King William Island, where this year they found some 200 artifacts and human bones. They also scanned 486 square kilometers of seafloor with sidescan sonar in the hopes of finding one of their ships preserved in the frigid waters, but they had no luck.

The artifacts have been brought back to a lab to be studied. They’ve already found evidence that some of the metal objects were reused by the local Inuit. The bones will be returned to the site and given a proper burial next year.

Arctic Explorer Gets Belated Recognition

arctic
Wikimedia Commons

When I took my family to the Orkney Islands of Scotland last year I saw this curious memorial in St. Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall. It’s for an Arctic explorer named John Rae. While the name struck a bell, I knew virtually nothing about him.

Most people don’t, and that’s a shame. Rae grew up in the rugged Orkney Islands in the 19th century. Although he trained as a doctor, the wilderness was his true love. He got work with the Hudson’s Bay Company, which owned large swatches of land in northern Canada and made millions off of the fur trade. Rae set off to Canada to work as a surgeon for the company, spending ten years at the remote outpost of Moose Factory.

Rae soon distinguished himself by spending large amounts of time with the Cree and Inuit, learning their languages and customs and gaining their respect for his ability to endure the tough conditions of the Canadians north.

When the Franklin Expedition, a Royal Navy group that was searching for the Northwest Passage connecting the Atlantic and Pacific, went missing in 1845, Rae was the man that was called upon to find them. He spent several years trying to track them down. In the course of his search he mapped many previously uncharted regions and found the Northwest Passage, the very thing the Franklin Expedition had failed to do.

In 1854 he learned from the Inuit that several years before, the last of the Franklin Expedition had died of starvation. The remaining survivors had resorted to cannibalism before they, too, succumbed. The site of the tragedy was deep in the back country and the Inuit refused to take him there.

When Rae filed his report, he was immediately criticized for not checking on the natives’ story himself and for daring to suggest that members of the Royal Navy would eat each other. His reputation was ruined. Even though another expedition did go to the site and concluded that there was strong evidence that the Franklin Expedition had resorted to cannibalism, the damage had been done. Rae died all but forgotten in 1893. Of all the great explorers from the Victorian era, he is the only one not to have been given a knighthood.

Now the Arctic explorer has been given some belated recognition with a new statue in Stromness, not far from where the local Hudson’s Bay Company office used to be. It was unveiled on the 200th anniversary of his birth.

You can learn more about the adventures of Dr. John Rae in this excellent article.

Photos Of People Interacting With Street Art


When French photographer Julien Coquentin decided to shoot street art in Montreal, his concept was both well-developed and playful. In his photo series, “Please Draw Me A Wall,” he photographs people interacting with the street art they stand before. A child holding an umbrella stands beneath a stream of blue paint that looks like heavy rainfall; a man sits on a garbage bin with a fishing pole, casting his imaginary line toward the painted fish on the wall. The series is beautiful and helps depict the street art in Montreal well. A slideshow of some of the images from this series, courtesy of Coquentin, is below.%Slideshow-90004%

Airlines Can’t Keep Up With Customers’ Social Media Complaints

Flickr user Patcard

Days after the son of an irate passenger bought a promoted tweet to shame British Airways, a second European airline is feeling the sting of a social media barrage aimed at its alleged ineptitude.

Air Berlin flight 8109 took off on August 9 without a single piece of checked baggage for the 200 passengers on board. Making matters even worse, it couldn’t locate any of the bags for weeks, causing a storm of Twitter complaints and a Facebook page devoted to the debacle.

That one incident would be bad enough, but according to Slate.com, Air Berlin also lost the musical instruments of two high-profile touring bands, one from Sweden and the other from Canada. The Toronto-based Metz vented their frustrations on Twitter, first to announce their gear was lost and again, two weeks later, to announce they’d finally recovered their instruments.

Scrolling down the airline’s Twitter page, visitors are met with apology after apology by the airline for missing baggage. Compliments on great service are hard to find.

How much of an impact are the angry Facebook posts and tweets really having? It’s obvious from the most recent complaints that Air Berlin hasn’t fixed the problems. Despite Hasan Syed’s tweet which received more than 25,000 impressions, British Airways has yet to respond publicly. Doctor Who and Torchwood fan favorite actor John Barrowman let his 217,000 followers know when he had an issue with a late departure and faulty seat on his Delta Airlines flight, but didn’t provide a promised update of a potential resolution.

From personal experience, I can say angry tweets aimed at Delta Airlines for a disastrous overseas flight in June never received a response. (Although to be fair, they did respond later after my wife logged an official complaint. More than 30 days after the initial complaint, but hey, Delta is rarely on time for anything.)

Have you used social media to lodge a complaint against an airline? What’s been the end result? Does social media shaming work or are old-fashioned complaint calls still the best way to vent your frustration?