Welcome to part 2 of my “looking back at ’08” segment. In part 1, I listed 5 things we lost in 2008, and in this article I will list 5 things we gained. While you reminisce about 2008, why not check out my list of 10 New Years resolutions that could help make 2009 a much better travel year!
There is no denying that 2008 will take up a pretty decent chunk of history books in years to come. Between the Chinese Olympics and the total destruction of our economic civilization, I’d say it’s been a pretty interesting year. Oh, and we also elected our first African American president. Awesome stuff. Of course, not much of this means much to us travelers, so here are 5 things we gained in ’08:
Internet in the air
I’m a geek, so I have listed this one first. Needless to say this is also the one that excited me the most in 2008.
Internet in the skies has long been a something airline passengers have wished for. The first glimpse of its potential came from Boeing back in 2004, but like many new technologies, this one failed pretty quickly.
In 2006, United Airlines tried to breathe new life into the seatback Verizon Airfone handsets, by offering some very basic online access. Needless to say, that one did not last long either. For some reason, people were not willing to pay $10 for instant messaging and 5 pages of news clippings.
Then, out of the ashes of the Verizon Airfone infrastructure came Aircell. This company purchased the rights to some of the airwaves used by the old Verizon system, and began offering high speed Internet access on American Airlines.
The first flight to take to the skies with the Aircell Gogo inflight Internet service was an American Airlines plane on August 20th 2008. But before passengers were able to download their emails in the air, a lot of other milestones had to be reached. I’ll take a closer look at what went on behind the scenes in a separate article.
Relaxed TSA rules for laptop computers at the checkpoint
Things just kept getting better for us in 2008 at the security checkpoint. After years of harassing us, removing our bottles of water, and treating us like terrorists for carrying a nail clipper, the TSA decided it could put a smile on our faces by allowing certain kinds of laptop bags to pass through the security checkpoint without having to remove our laptops from the bag.
In all, it probably saves no more than 20 seconds, but every second counts at the airport, especially when it involves doing what you can to get as far away from the checkpoint as possible.
We entered 2008 with zero TSA friendly laptop bags, and we’ll be bidding it farewell with over 30 different designs, many of which are listed here.
More fees and surcharges
Honestly, I wish this list could contain only happy things. Sadly the year has been pretty rough on the airlines, and when things get rough, they take it out on us.
Fees are what the airlines use to make money, because ticket sales alone apparently don’t work. Clearly someone took a close look at the movie theater business and decided that the expensive popcorn trick would work just fine in the aviation industry.
The worst offender this year was US Airways, but almost every major airline introduced at least one or two new ways to make some money.
While some airports are still stuck with just a single runway, others can’t get enough of them to keep things flowing.
New tarmac was opened this year at Dulles, Seattle and Chicago. The Dulles runway was their first new one since 1946, and is expected to handle over 100,000 flights a year.
Of course, Chicago’s O’Hare airport was probably the one most in need of a new runway, as they had been operating under special flow control restrictions for several years due to congestion.
The new runway in Chicago is part of a much larger “masterplan” to expand the airport, which includes a new ATC tower and terminal renovations.
In other good news, those awful people movers at Dulles are scheduled to be scrapped later next year!
New airlines, new routes and new mergers
It sucks to be a legacy carrier. You are doing everything you can to keep your fleet in the sky, and newcomers like Virgin America and OpenSkies pop up, acting like they own the place.
The thing is, many people are so fed up with the state of air travel, that these new carriers are a very welcome addition. Why fly the “friendly skies”, when you can fly an airline that actually is friendly?
In 2008, JetBlue started flying Chicago to Boston, Virgin America added 6 new routes, including New York to Vegas and OpenSkies (a British Airways subsidiary) started flights from New York to Paris and Amsterdam.
And finally, in the “if you can’t beat em, buy em” department; Delta airlines purchased Northwest airlines bringing 2 of the more decent airlines in the skies together as one. One thing is for sure; 2009 is going to be a bumpy ride for many airlines.