Are Hassle Free Airlines Truly Possible?

airplane interior
jerdlngr, Flickr

A new airline in Memphis is looking to take the frustration out of flying, letting travelers skip airport security and show up at the airport just minutes before their flight takes off.

Southern Airways Express has been operational for four months and the carrier’s CEO believes it’s the answer to many passengers’ woes.

“You’re going to be able to walk from your car less than 50 yards in most cases to the aircraft without having to go through any TSA security hassles. You only have to get here 20 minutes before the plane departs,” CEO Stan Little told a local TV station.

Right now, the airline serves 10 regional domestic routes, but it’s planning to expand and may even add an international flight later this year.For passengers fed up with the nightmare that air travel has become, it all sounds too good to be true. Just the other day we told you about the disgraceful report card the TSA received following a government audit which found that a number of security screeners were sleeping, stealing and taking bribes on the job. The story prompted many readers to share their own tales of humiliation, frustration, or anger at having to deal with airport security.

The desire for a hassle-free airline is clearly strong, but can such a carrier truly take off in this day and age of global threats and terrorism fears? Southern Airways has managed to bypass TSA checks by flying in and out of smaller regional airports that don’t yet have strict security protocols, and any route expansions would likely involve destinations with similar secondary airports. Still, flying out of alternate hubs might be a small price to pay for travelers who have had enough of body scanners, bag searches and liquid restrictions.

What do you think? Can an airline like this be made to work?

Ghostscrapers – Top ten post-apocalyptic abandoned skyscrapers

abandoned skyscrapers

When city plans exceed reality, or the money dries up, or people simply leave in a mass exodus, skyscrapers vacate and slowly decay. High winds thrash through broken windows. Rats live undisturbed amongst decades old rubble. Stairways lead to doors that may never open again. The ghost of ambition’s past arrives in the present like a howling specter, creating eyesores, dangerous conditions, and free housing for opportunistic urban survivalists.

These abandoned skyscrapers range from forsaken structures aborted long before their doors opened to icons from a bygone era. While a slumper like Detroit has its fair share of empty giants, even cities with tiger cub economic growth like Bangkok are not immune to the plague of creepy abandoned high-rises. South America brings vertical favelas to the list, and Poland has a tower named after a pop-culture villain. And even San Francisco, a city with a high recreational scooter to human ratio and droves of individuals who see the world just beyond the tip of their nose, has its very own abandoned skyscraper.

From North Korea to Venezuela, these structures differ in their stories and circumstance, but each is a fine glimpse at post-apocalyptic urban decay.


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abandoned skyscrapers

Michigan Central Station
Location: Detroit, USA
Stories: 18 floors
Story: The Central Station was finished during the advent of the automobile – 1913. The Beaux-Arts style of the classical building recalls a time when Detroit possessed the resources and momentum to rightfully emulate Parisian architecture. Its old school ambition is not lost on current Detroit residents but its function certainly is. It is a doorway into a forgotten world and a poster-boy for urban decay. The graffiti and dilapidation tells the story not just of Detroit’s acrimonious decline but also the abandonment of rail travel in the United States. At its peak during the 1940′s, 200 trains left this station daily. Today, none. While rail travel is receiving some political buzz in Washington, the fate of this gorgeous structure is uncertain. Many have flirted with re-purposing the old building, from the Detroit Police to casino developers, but for the moment it stands quietly on the outskirts of the modern world like an old ornate wrench that fits no bolt.
Abandoned since: 1988

abandoned skyscrapers

Ryugyong Hotel
Location: Pyongyang, North Korea
Stories: 105 floors
Story: This massive pyramidal structure (above, furthest left) is a 105 story symbol for the absurdist ambitions of Kim Jong Il and the hermit kingdom. It has been under construction (on and off) for decades. It has been called the world’s most hideous hotel. It is an unnecessary extravagance in a country that can barely feed its people. The project was abandoned after the fall of the Soviet Union due to Soviet subsidies to North Korea coming to an end. The hollow shell stood vacant for decades, just towering above the city – a failure too large to ignore but too painful to acknowledge. The North Koreans spent years denying the structure’s existence, removing it from photographs and excluding it from maps of Pyongyang. Too much shame, it seems, in the very obvious failure. Construction on the structure resumed recently with Egyptian architectural firm Orascom leading the project. It is slated for completion in 2012, to sync with the 100th birthday of Eternal President Kim Il Sung, deceased since 1994.
Abandoned since: 1992, currently under construction

Tower of David
Location: Caracas, Venezuela
Stories: 45 floors
Story: The Tower of David, one of the tallest buildings in Latin America, is the quintessential slum-scraper. There is no government interference, just 2500 squatters carving up its 45 stories for purposes ranging from housing to business. The building includes apartments, home-brew PlayStation arcades, beauty salons, and perhaps the most suspicious dentistry operation in the new world. While the current occupants have yet to climb higher than the 30th floor, it is only a matter of time before the anarchic housing market pushes residences higher towards the dilapidated rooftop helipad – a symbol from Caracas’ forgotten banking boom.
Abandoned since: 1994, never completed

abandoned skyscrapers

Buffalo Central Terminal
Location: Buffalo, USA
Stories: 20
Story: The Buffalo Central terminal has been looted for artifacts, vandalized by bored delinquents, used for art exhibitions, explored by ghost hunters, and even sold for $1. It is a gorgeous old structure plagued by a series of humiliating footnotes, caught in a perpetual fall from grace. But it was not always so. At a time, the Buffalo Central Terminal was an important hub servicing hundreds of trains daily. Still an Art Deco architectural masterpiece, the structure possesses a prominent tower worthy of superlatives, and its halls are said to be haunted by ghostly apparitions waiting for trains that will never arrive. Last Halloween, the TV show Ghost Hunters filmed a 6 hour marathon in the creepy old building. It is possible to tour the structure and even get hitched in its lofty halls. Click here for more information.
Abandoned since: 1980

abandoned skyscrapers

Szkieletor (Skelator)
Location: Krakow, Poland
Stories: 20 floors
Story: The tallest building in Krakow is a a hulking skeleton of a structure unofficially named after the villain from He-man – a show extremely popular in Poland in the early 1980′s. Construction began in 1975, but the Pols ran into economic troubles. Today, the building is primarily a backdrop in which to drape massive advertisements. It is also a constant reminder of the decades old malfeasance of Skelator – an urban Castle Grayskull looming on the Polish horizon.
Abandoned since: 1981, never completed

PacBell Building
Location: San Francisco, USA
Stories: 26
Story: Once the tallest building in San Francisco, the PacBell building is a Neo-Gothic marvel abandoned last decade. Completed in 1925, the giant is capped with 13 foot tall art deco Eagles looking out over the great San Francisco expanse. While the building was purchased in 2007 for $118 million, it has since been left to decay quietly in its own upscale way. Unlike most abandoned skyscrapers though, this one still has some life in it. Security guards patrol the ground floor, and the tower is lit up at night. A couple of brave urban explorers over at Bearings snuck past the guard and explored the tower’s heights. Check out their first hand account of the abandoned skyscraper. The PacBell Building will likely be repurposed into condominiums in the coming years.
Abandoned since: 2005

abandoned skyscrapers

Edificio Sao Vito
Location: Sao Paolo, Brazil
Stories: 27 floors
Story: The original vertical favela arrived on the scene in the late fifties with the intention of providing housing to Sao Paolo’s middle class community and expats. Before long though, the building fell into disrepair and became an overpopulated den of urban plight – a favela that sprawled up. As basic services and utilities declined over the years, tenants began disposing their garbage out the window and obtaining illegal electricity. Many of the Edificio’s 624 apartment units were split into two – stressing the already shaky infrastructure of the building known as “Balança mas não Cai” (It shakes but does not fall). By the eighties, the tap water was polluted and only one of the three elevators partially worked – making its way halfway up the building. Edificio Sao Vito was formally evacuated in 2004, though crackheads and drug dealers have taken to the abandoned structure like moths to a flame. Allegedly, the Mayor of Sao Paolo tried to demolish the building because it obstructed his otherwise pleasant view. While this bit of urban lore may or may not be true, the building has been flirting with demolition for the last decade. At the time of reading its graffiti flecked concrete walls may simply be dust.
Abandoned since: 2004

abandoned skyscrapers

Book Tower
Location: Detroit, USA
Stories: 38 floors
Story: Construction began on the Book Tower in 1916, just a few years after Henry Ford transformed auto-making forever with assembly line production. It is the old style of high-rise – more a kin of masonry than a child of steel and glass. For years, the classic structure with an ornate copper roof stood for the old world extravagance of Detroit. Now, it has taken on an altogether different metaphorical role as a sad reminder of when the eminent address spoke for the industrialist success of one of America’s finest cities. The property has changed hands many times in the last decade and plans exist to drop hundreds of millions in restoring the old-school giant.
Abandoned since: 2009

abandoned skyscrapers

Sathorn Unique
Location: Bangkok, Thailand
Stories: 49
Story: During the Thai tiger economy of the 1990′s, skyscrapers grew all over Bangkok in a display of Thailand’s new-found economic prominence. This one never completely grew up. Crows circle the pinnacle and rats call its lower levels home. Locals, convinced its hallways are haunted, stay out of the ghostscraper. Expat urban spelunkers have explored the building and returned to Khao San Road with stories from its upper reaches. The verdict: it is a dilapidated mess. The future of the Sathorn Unique remains unclear but perhaps someday it will be finished. For now, it looms on the Bangkok skyline with many other abandoned skeletal structures.
Abandoned since: 1997

abandoned skyscrapers

Sterick Building
Location: Memphis, USA
Stories: 29 floors
Story: Once the tallest building in the southern United States, the original “Queen of Memphis” is a ghostly skyscraper, boarded up and decaying from the inside. The late Gothic architectural marvel once shuttled around thousands of workers, from stockbrokers to barbers, in its eight high-speed elevators. It has been the domain of urban explorers and desperate vagrants ever since being completely abandoned in the late nineteen-eighties. While inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places preserves its era appropriate charms, the future of the towering structure is unclear. Perhaps a redevelopment boom in downtown Memphis will reignite a need for the large ghostscraper.
Abandoned since: 1980s

top flickr image via country_boy_shane

Fourth of July travel deals from Viator

Sometimes the best things come to those who wait. If you’re looking for some last minute Independence Day deals, our pals at Viator have pulled together a list of Fourth of July bargains to help travelers get the most out of their three-day weekend. From New York to Oahu, below are some suggestions that will have you seeing red, white and blue without spending a whole lot of green.

New York: Watch one of the best fireworks displays in the country with Viator’s once-in-a-lifetime July 4th VIP Exclusive: Fireworks from the Empire State Building’s Observation Deck. A limited number of tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis to this two-hour, private evening event, guaranteed to sell out quickly.
Washington, D.C.: See 100 of the most popular monuments and points of interest in America’s capital after the sun goes down on the Washington DC Monuments by Moonlight Night Tour by Trolley, currently more than 50 percent off.
Philadelphia: There’s no better time to visit our nation’s first capital than during a weekend to celebrate America’s Independence. Travelers will save more than 45 percent on admission to six of the city’s premier attractions with a Viator Philadelphia CityPASS.
Las Vegas: Hit the highway out of Las Vegas and spend the day touring two major tourist attractions on the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam Day Trip, currently on sale with savings more than 50 percent.
Orlando: Get two days for the price of one at Kennedy Space Center, a short drive from Orlando and the launch site for every U.S. human space flight since December 1968.
San Diego: Tour one of the largest aircraft carriers in the U.S. Navy fleet at the USS Midway Museum, San Diego’s newest visitor attraction. A visit to this historic naval aircraft carrier museum is an essential experience for patriots of all ages.
Boston: Travel north from Boston to historic Marblehead, the birthplace of the American Navy. Along the way, visit Salem, the Witch City and learn about the history of witchcraft and the reasons why the trials occurred.
Niagara Falls: Visit New York’s first state park on an overnight trip to Niagara Falls from New York City. Along the way, experience the state’s diverse ethnic heritage and the rolling hills of the Finger Lakes, one of the country’s premier wine producing areas.
Oahu: Take a sobering journey through U.S. history on a tour of the Arizona Memorial and the USS Missouri, the last battleship built by the U.S. Navy. Tickets include skip-the-line access to make the most of a day at Pearl Harbor, complete with a tour of downtown Honolulu and a drive through Punchbowl National Cemetery of the Pacific. An added bonus: receive one free child ticket for each adult ticket purchased.
Memphis: Walk in the footsteps of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll at Elvis Presley’s home, Graceland Mansion – the number one thing to do in Memphis, Tenn. Upgrade to the Elvis Entourage VIP Package and also receive entrance to a VIP Only Exhibit, Front of the Line Access to the Mansion, and more.

[Photo by J.W. Photography, Flickr]

Johnny Cash childhood home to become a museum

Johnny CashJohnny Cash is a music legend, and now his boyhood home in the otherwise obscure town of Dyess in northeastern Arkansas is being turned into a museum.

Funds from the Johnny Cash Music Festival on August 4 will go towards renovating the home and creating the museum. Family members will be among those performing, as well as George Jones and Kris Kristofferson. Locals are also raising funds with an annual Dyess Day.

So what else is there to see in Dyess? It was built as an agricultural colony during the New Deal and has an interesting past and lots of historic buildings. It’s also close to some beautiful natural areas such as the Ozarks and the Saint Francis Sunken Lands Wildlife Management Area. More importantly for music fans, being only an hour’s drive from Memphis and Graceland, it makes a cool stop on a musical road trip through America’s heartland.

[Photo courtesy Look Magazine]

ExpressJet pilot refuses body scan, puts privacy over safety?

ExpressJet Airlines pilot Michael Roberts wasn’t at all interested in getting a body scan, and now he’s wondering how long he’ll have his job.

Roberts was selected to be scanned at Memphis International Airport last Friday. He refused. He was offered a pat-down. He refused that, too. Then, he went home, according to an Associated Press report.

The pilot says he doesn’t want to be “harassed or molested without cause.” Meanwhile, the TSA is citing “federal security procedures,” the Associated Press reports.

How do you feel about this? Is Roberts some kind of obstinate nut? Or, does he have a real point about privacy in the workplace? Drop a comment below, and let us know.

[photo by quinn.anya via Flickr]