Photo of the day – Waiting at the gate

Photo of the day
Today’s photo of the day is from a place every traveler has a love/hate relationship with: the airport gate. Beyond it lies exploration, excitement, or maybe just home. But it also stands for all the worst in travel: delays, cramped seats, and maybe the worst, other travelers. Flickr user davitydave philosophically calls this pic from Chicago’s O’Hare Airport “Each Waits His Own Way,” which is rather poetic for a picture of some dudes sitting around on ugly carpeting. How do you pass the time before boarding? Some of us frantically search for a wifi connection, others try to take a quick nap, and others, like the guy standing at right, like to look out onto the tarmac and imagine where all the planes are going.

Taken any good travel pics while waiting to board? Add them to the Gadling Flickr pool and we may use it as a future

photo of the day.

United and American sue City of Chicago for planned O’Hare expansion

o'hare expansion

United Airlines and American Airlines have taken a disagreement with the City of Chicago to court, asking a judge to block a planned expansion of the airport.

At the heart of the disagreement is “phase 2” of the O’Hare Modernization Program (OMP). The modernization of O’Hare started years ago and was badly needed – it included new runways, a new air traffic control tower and upgrades to the existing terminal buildings. Phase one of the program added runway 9L/27R – the first new runway added to the airport since 1971.

Now Phase 1 is almost complete, work on Phase 2 has started – and is expected to cost an estimated $3.36 billion. In Phase 2, the airport will rebuild two runways, extend one runway and build a new western terminal building. Problem is – the two airlines that provide over 80 percent of air traffic to O’Hare are not convinced the airport actually needs the expansions.

The two airlines made the rare move of joining forces to issue a combines statement about the changes, and filed their lawsuit in the Cook County Court. Whether or not the airlines get their way won’t matter – the lawsuit alone will probably become just another delay in the modernization program.

And if you feel sorry for the airlines – don’t – most of the money for the modernization program comes from “passenger facility charges” in the form of bonds – and these “PFC’s” make up a small chunk of every ticket sold. End result – O’Hare becomes one of the most expensive airports in the country.

Still, as someone who uses O’Hare regularly, I’m really not against paying a couple of bucks extra to improve the airport. Things (read: delays) have become more bearable in recent years, but there are still plenty of ways the airport can improve itself. If the airlines actually want to fix things, they can start by improving their own terminal facilities and lounges (hint: AA, your presence at O’Hare really sucks)

For more on the lawsuit and for a link to the actual filing, check out Chicago Breaking Business.

[Photo: Getty Images]

Airlines, airports and passengers: nothing but gains this year [INFOGRAPHICS]

airlines, airports, passengersThere are a whole lot more of us flying this year: 4.3 percent more, to be exact. That’s the increase in domestic air traffic from September 2009 to September 2010, according to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Transportation. In that month, U.S. airlines had 57.3 million passengers, leading to the largest year-over-year gain since September 2007. Meanwhile, international passenger traffic on U.S. flights surged 9.4 percent year over year.

For the first three quarters of 2010, scheduled domestic and international passengers were up 1.5 percent, suggesting that the recovery has gained momentum throughout the year. Domestic passengers gained 1 percent, with international passengers up 5.3 percent. Relative to 2008, though, passenger traffic is off 6.8 percent.

So, who wins? Of course, the airlines have had a relatively fantastic year, especially the worst of them. Delta, considered bottom of the barrel, surged from #3 in September 2009 to #1 in September 2010, with more than 9 million enplaned passengers, up 68.6 percent year over year (but don’t forget that the Northwest merger plays a role in this. Delta‘s also the top dog for the first nine months of the year for the same reason, followed by Southwest, American Airlines and United Airlines.


Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport remains the busiest in the United States by a considerable margin. Close to 32 million passengers passed through in the first nine months of 2010, an increase of 1.1 percent year over year. Atlanta led Chicago O’Hare, which came in second, by more than 9 million passengers so far this year. For the greatest gains, look to Charlotte: it was eighth on the list but posted a growth rate of 6.5 percent YTD.

Las Vegas was the only airport in the top 10 for the first nine months of 2010 to post a year-over-year decline. The number of enplaned passengers dropped by a rather substantial 3.6 percent year over year, hardly surprising given the fact that the Las Vegas tourism business has been slammed by the recession. Also, outbound traffic from Las Vegas is likely constrained by the local economy, which has been battered pretty badly (as real estate prices indicate).


Even though the number of passengers increased for airlines and airports, the number of flights operated slipped 1.2 percent from the first nine months of 2009 to the first nine months of 2010. Likely, the airlines were tightening up their flights, making better use of available seats and cutting expenses.

[photo by Yaisog Bonegnasher via Flickr]

Bottoms up? Airports and airlines don’t want you sober

liquor served by airlines and airportsIf you want to grab a beer at 5 AM, go to your nearest airport or board a flight. More airports are letting vendors sell liquor at dawn, or in some cases 24 hours a day. The move isn’t intended to keep you happy, of course, that’s really irrelevant to the aviation industry. Rather, the goal is to pump up revenues by getting you to dig a little deeper into your wallet while you’re traveling. Further, it reflects a bit of “marketing savvy,” USA Today reports, as airports and airlines are figuring out that they can sell just about everything, “from meals to day passes to their premium lounges.”

USA Today continues:

“What’s happening is airlines are becoming better retailers of products,” says Jay Sorensen, a consultant, who says the cocktail push by U.S. airlines began during the last year. “They’re doing things to highlight the fact that, ‘Yes, indeed, we do sell alcohol on the airplane.’ They’re trying to mimic what occurs on the ground in terms of consumer promotions.”

Of course, some corners of the airline industry aren’t happy about the prospect of bringing new revenue into businesses that often struggle to perform well. The concerns are legitimate, with “some union leaders, local officials and frequent fliers fear[ing] that the increased access to alcohol raises the risk of more drunken travelers, particularly at a time when many passengers find a travel experience that involves enhanced screening and crowded planes more stressful than ever,” USA Today reports.The decision to serve liquor around the clock is expected to have tangible results, however, with an extra $500,000 to $1 million in revenues for O’Hare alone, up from the current level of approximately $20 million a year.

There’s good money in liquor, and if you drink enough, maybe the airlines and airports will be able to invest in a little customer service training …

Pregnant passenger badgered into body scanner

At Chicago‘s O’Hare International Airport, a pregnant passenger saw that she’d have to go through the full body scanner and instead asked for a TSA pat-down. Her request fell on deaf ears, she told The Consumerist, and was pushed into the decision to get scanned. According to the logic applied by the TSA folks, the passenger says, “Oh it is less than an ultrasound, and it’s really easy so just go through.”

She continues, on The Consumerist:

They repeated again for me to just go through the scanner and it would be done in 5 seconds. I was literally in tears because I wanted a pat-down instead of going through the machine, and I felt they declined me that option. No matter how much I pushed for a hand pat-down, they pushed harder for the machine.

Since the TSA is obligated to offer an alternative to the body scan, the pregnant passenger‘s request was legitimate. There’s no word on where the TSA staffers came up with the medical advice, but I’m not sure I’d take their word for it.

[photo by mahalie via Flickr]