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News and Notes: The Security Shuffle, Best Airport Rankings, and Your E-Mail

by Jack Penning

Posted on September 29, 2006 at 11:29 AM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 4 at 2:45 PM

Has it really been 29 days since I updated my blog? Wow. It seems like I was answering your last e-mails just yesterday. This month has gotten away from me. It has been a very busy few weeks at KGW... and a lot has happened on the travel and aviation beat... especially when it comes to airline security.

Liquids Allowed Again... Sort of

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The Transportation Security Administration has decided liquids aren't so dangerous on-board planes. At least in very small quantities. You can now take any liquid... in an original container of less than 3-ounces... in your carry-on. You can also take drinks on-board, as long as you buy them after you clear security. The big problem: most small containers of toiletries are 4-ounces... not three. So be very cautious when you're buying travel-size liquids for your next trip.

I won't get into the wisdom of not allowing something... then allowing it again. Having talked to dozens of travelers in the last couple of weeks, I can tell you there's still a ton of confusion... but hopefully it will all be ironed-out by the time the busier holiday travel season arrives.

PDX Named America's Best Airport

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As NewsChannel 8 was first to report, the readers of the prestigous Conde Nast Traveller have named PDX the number one airport in the United States. The survey included 50,000 frequent travelers. They named PDX #1 for four main reasons: 1) Local shopping, with stores like Nike, Powell's, and Made in Oregon; 2) Free wireless internet throughout the terminal, unlike most US airports that charge between $5 and $15 for access; 3) ease of use of the terminal facilities, with easy connections for international travel; and 4) inexpensive light rail, with MAX service running every 12-to-15 minutes to Downtown, for less than $2.

PDX has come a long way in the last 15-years. In the early 1990's it was outdated, crowded, and difficult to use. Since then, the Port of Portland has spent roughly $1 billion in airport user fees and parking fees to rebuild the airport on top of itself. It's now one of the most efficient airports in the world... and certainly worthy of high international praise.

Cutting Anywhere It Can: How Alaska Saves Money

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There's an interesting article in the Puget Sound Business Journal describing Alaska Airlines cost-cutting efforts. The Journal writes that Alaska is installing new beverage carts, which are 20-pounds lighter than the ones previously used. Total weight savings, fleet-wide, are around 50,000 pounds. Which means the planes will be lighter in the sky... buring less fuel... saving somewhere around a half-million dollars in Jet-A costs per year.

Your Rights When Your Flight's Cancelled or Delayed

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We've talked about this topic on this blog before. But I thought I'd revisit it after some e-mails... and an article in Wednesday's edition of USA Today. Reporter Linda Burbank does a good job explaining specific rights for delays and cancellations. The bad news, quoting the article: "Your ticket is a contract to get you from point A to point B, but not necessarily on time... don't expect compensation for the inconvenience of lost time."

If you're cancelled, usually all an airline will offer is to re-book your on a later flight. And you don't have rights to much more than that.

I'm frequently asked, when is an airline responsible for putting you up in a hotel? Basically, only when a delay is their fault. And by that, I mean a specific airline maintenance or scheduling problem. Weather doesn't count. Which is why so many of us end-up sleeping on airport floors in snowstorms.

Answering Your Questions

Thanks for all the e-mails! I really enjoying reading your perspectives. I'm sorry I don't have more time to respond individually, but I do my best to reply to your general questions here, so everyone can benefit from the questions you ask.

Joe writes, "I live near PDX, and late last night (or early this morning, I didn't look at the clock) my wife and I awoke to what sounded like 3 Oregon ANG F-15s taking off. Do you know of any manuevers going on?"

The Air National Guard confirms its training exercises. Pilots learning how to maneuver using night vision. The late night testing will be sporadic, and will go through the end of November... most noticably around PDX.

Michael wanted to know if there's any new information about the crash in Hillsboro, just as the Oregon International Airshow wrapped-up: "I was just curious as to what has happened at the air show crash site in Hillsboro? I know there was a meeting about what happened, did they decide if they were going to continue the air show?"

The clean-up at the site is going fast and furious. I was out there a couple of weeks ago, and the Department of Environmental Quality had just finished its clean-up of the jet fuel that was spilled. As soon as that was done, neighbors began re-building homes, fences, and yards. The house that took the brunt of the wreck has been completely torn down, but its owner planes to re-build. Two other homes are being re-built as I write. The owner of the final home damaged hasn't decided what he wants to do... so it sits empty for now.

As for the future of the airshow... it's much more unclear. Organizers say they're still evaluating support. They have not set a date for making a decision on future shows. The show's website is still loaded with information from last July... and has no mention of any future event.

Finally... an e-mail from Sara at the new website called "A link from [your site] would be of great help in letting people know that they can bid on Airline Tickets instead of just buying them."

Although I haven't used the site, Sky Auction looks like a neat way to buy tickets... allowing us to bid on a trip. A cursory scan of the items up for auction today includes tickets anywhere in the US (for $351), a 5-night trip to Maui (current bid $281), and a 2-night package to Las Vegas (no opening bid yet).

If you've used this site, I'd love to hear about how it worked for you. Drop me a line at And no, I don't get a kick-back for mentioning it here!

As always, I love hearing from you. If there's anything you'd like to ask about, or let me know about, e-mail me at