Delta pilot nailed for (allegedly) drunk-flying from Amsterdam to Newark

It’s a long flight from Amsterdam to the New York City/Newark area. I’ve done it. I get antsy and bored. I bring lots of stuff to do. Anything that could make the time pass a little faster would make it onto my list … and that includes putting a few cocktails back.

Of course, I’m not the guy flying the plane.

A Delta pilot was arrested and fined for being drunk, allegedly, when getting ready to fly from Amsterdam to Newark.The (alleged) culprit hasn’t been identified yet, but the Associated Press reports that he’s 52 years old (translation: old enough to know better) and is from Woodbury, NJ.

What Delta has to say on the subject, according to ABC News, is that Flight 35 was “cancelled out of concern that a crew member appeared to be unfit for duty.”

Okay, it isn’t not true …
Here’s a little more from the airline, via ABC News:

“Local Amsterdam authorities have met with the crew member to begin their investigation and we are cooperating fully, while simultaneously launching our own internal investigation,” Delta said in a statement. “The crew member has been suspended pending the outcome of these investigations. Impacted passengers have been reaccomodated on other flights.”

Delta claims to have one of the “strictest” alcohol policies in the airline industry, telling pilots not to show up for work with any alcohol in their bodies. It sounds severe: I have a glass of wine while I’m working from time to time … but I’m only a blogger. Lives are not at stake.

The pilot blew a 0.023 percent result, which puts him a bit over the legal limit in the Netherlands. This cost him $900 in fines, but he was set free. One does hope that Delta isn’t finished with him yet.

Centerfold model tries to get off early

The latest person to try to ditch a JetBlue flight early put forth the boldest attempt yet … but at least she brought her own flotation devices.

Centerfold model Tiffany Livingston was on a flight from Orlando to Newark and wanted to get off very early. In mid-air, she left her seat and tried to open the plane door – not a bright move, and one for which the emergency slide would provide little help. Sources say she’s had mid-flight troubles before, when she hasn’t taken her meds.

Livingston’s claim to fame is that she was the centerfold for the first issue of VIP, the Singapore version of Playboy. According to the magazine’s profile: “Tiffany boasts the immaculate poise of a mature model wrapped with a bubbly demeanor.”

Well, not in this case …

[photo by mrkathika via Flickr]

White Collar Travel Extra: Helicopters signal return of the good life

What do you think a New York area commuter’s time is worth? Some of these guys will spend 14 hours a week or more sitting in buses, trains and cars just getting to and from the city. It adds up quickly. Well, if you take a look at what Liberty Helicopters is charging, a New Yorker’s commuting time is worth $100 an hour.

Ferrying people six at a time from Manhattan into New Jersey, Liberty is charging $200 a day for freedom from gridlock, not to mention the sheer frustration of not seeing the car in front of you move or the agony of being held captive by public transportation schedules. By helicopter, the hike from Port Monmouth, New Jersey to Manhattan takes as little as eight minutes … and the satisfaction of seeing the bumper-to-bumper below is a perk.

The fact that people are choosing this rather pricey form of daily transportation is leading some to believe that the worst of our economic woes are in the rearview mirror. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that compensation at Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley ticked 14 percent higher last year.

If you have to get out of the city for a Newark flight, this might just be the way to go.

Read White Collar Travel here.

Escape from New York: Five tips for leaving the city when flights fail you

New York is no stranger to tourist and business travel. We get lot of guests here, and eventually, their trips must come to an end. When the weather turns harsh, this can be problematic. Spring may be close, but March and April snowstorms happen, and there are always spring showers to make getting off the ground at JFK or LaGuardia a pure living hell. Whether you’re traveling in the northeast corridor or need to get to a different airport to get home, there are options.

I came face to face with this problem around six years ago. I was trying to get back to Boston, where I lived at the time. I was in New York every week on business and by Friday wanted nothing more than to get home. I stepped outside at 2 PM and saw snow accumulating on the street, even despite the city traffic. I checked Delta‘s website and saw that nothing had been canceled. So, I high-tailed out to LaGuardia hoping for the best. After a two-hour cab ride, I hit the Marine Air terminal only to find that the website wasn’t being kept up to date.

I needed some options and the thought of another two hours of taxi rides in a blizzard didn’t thrill me. Back in Manhattan, I figured I could pick up a train on Amtrak from Penn Station (which wound up working out). Along the way, I learned some tricks that can help anyone traveling the northeast or looking for an alternative airport when hope appears to be lost.1. Don’t fear public transportation
There’s no subway to LaGuardia, but there are buses. Catch the Q48 from the main airport or the Q47 from Marine Air (if you’re taking the Delta Shuttle). Get off at Roosevelt Ave in Queens, where the F or 7 train will get you back to Midtown. From there, it’s easy to hit Penn Station (New Jersey, Amtrak) Grand Central Station (Connecticut and New York) or the PATH train (if you want to try your luck at Newark). From JFK, you can catch the Skytrain to the subway, but brace yourself for a very long ride – the fastest I ever made it to Midtown was around an hour and a half.

2. Rental cars are risky
First, when flights aren’t taking off, there will be no shortage of people with the same idea. So, supply will be limited. Also, nasty weather makes for nightmarish driving conditions. You’ll be extremely unhappy behind the wheel, a situation that’s likely to be made worse by traffic. If you want to try driving, take public transportation out to the ‘burbs and use a rental agency out there (call first to make sure they can help you out).

3. . Be mindful of the other side
Getting out isn’t enough: you also have to think about where you’re going. If bad weather’s pounding New York, there’s a pretty good chance the situation in Philadelphia, Newark and Boston is also pretty ugly. If you’re having someone pick you up, call ahead. Arrange for a taxi or town car in advance. Definitely check the situation on the ground if you’re trying one of these airports instead. During my trek to Boston during the blizzard a few years ago, I called a local taxi service and asked to be picked up at South Station – and requested that they ask for my name before letting anyone into the cab. Sound arrogant? Well, it saved my ass. I saw the driver turn at least four people away as I pushed through the crowd, and I have no idea how many people tried before I got there.

4. Giving up may not be an option
Sometimes, it’s tempting to quit and just get a hotel room for a night (or a few, depending on how severe the storm is). Depending on what’s going on in the city, however, this may be a pricey alternative. As with rental cars, you won’t be the only person to think of this. Also, a busy night or weekend can cut available rooms down to nothing fast. If you are able to score some digs, you could wind up paying a fortune. If you do decide to stay in the city, hunt for the boutique hotels that y may never have noticed otherwise: they’re your best bet.

5. Draft your friends and family
During my escape from New York, I called my wife and asked her to book my train ticket for me. Handheld computing has come a long way since then, but it’s still inconvenient to hunt for alternatives on an iPhone or Blackberry. If you have someone who’s sitting in a warm office or home, hit him or her up for a hand. They’ll be able to find hotels or other travel arrangements easier than you will. By the time you get from the airport back into Manhattan, you may have a plan that only needs to be executed.

Video shows the cause of Newark Airport shutdown – a couple in love

On Sunday, thousands of passengers ended up stuck at Newark airport for several hours, forced to evacuate the terminal, go through security again, and wait for the many flight delays and disruptions that happened as a result.

Some passengers tried to make the best of the situation. Many probably expressed frustration with the TSA employee who allowed a mystery man to walk the wrong way through a security checkpoint. And others may have wondered who the man was who caused them to suffer through the ordeal.

Was he a terrorist checking out the security system? Was he a man who made an Innocent mistake? No, as the just-released video footage of the incident suggests, he was a just a guy in love, looking for a few more minutes with his sweetheart. On the video below, you can see him hanging out by the security desk. He’s asked to move and does so, but when the guard leaves his post just a few seconds later, the guy takes that opportunity to duck under the rope and join his lady friend.

Ah, love. Cute, right? No. Not even a little. As a result of this guy breaking the law, and of the TSA employee’s failure to do his job, thousands of people were needlessly evacuated from the terminal. Time and money were wasted. And a few hundred people probably missed important connections or meetings, or at least had their vacation get off to a really bad start.

This guy wasn’t a terrorist (just an idiot), but the next person who tries and succeeds in getting past security could be. More than just frustrating travelers going through Newark on Sunday, the incident exposed just how insufficient TSA security is. What good are X-ray scanners and full-body pat-downs when a guy can simply breeze past an empty guard desk? It looks like our biggest threat to security may not be underpants bombs, but rather the lax attitudes of some employees within the TSA.

The TSA employee has been placed on administrative leave. The man who slipped past security has not been identified.

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