3 Links I Love: TSA Reservations, PSA Legend, United Gets Feisty, More MH370

Links I Love, Malaysia Airlines, United

This Week’s Featured Link

Seattle is testing a new system that lets travelers make a reservation at the TSA checkpointTPG
This is a pretty slick idea. I wonder how well it’ll work in practice.

Image of the Week

I know I’m late on this one, but I had other images to post in the last couple weeks. United has started getting aggressive at advertising directly against Southwest in Denver. It makes sense. If United wants to keep growing Denver, it needs local and connecting traffic. And that local traffic will have to come from Southwest.

Two for the Road

Obituary: 1919-2021: Pacific Southwest Airlines co-founder Leo Leonard fought to clear pilot’s namesThe San Diego Union-Tribune
It’s hard to believe that someone who founded an airline in 1949 was still alive until this week, but sure enough, Leo Leonard lived to 101 years old.

‘Depressed’ MH370 pilot made ‘series of deliberate turns and speed changes’ to avoid radar detectionThe Telegraph
It is remarkable that we still don’t know what happened to this airplane after all these years. But clues continue to roll in from time to time.

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21 comments on “3 Links I Love: TSA Reservations, PSA Legend, United Gets Feisty, More MH370

  1. I can’t wait to see WN’s response to United’s ads. United looks points in my book with those ads for two (admittedly VERY petty / pet peeve) reasons, though…

    (1) Poor grammar (“We’d literally go nowhere if it wasn’t [sic] for Denver”); I guess United doesn’t care about getting business from teachers, as its ad agency’s copywriter chose to ignore the subjunctive mood, and will thus be forced to spend the summer doing grammar drills with a thousand angry English teachers. (I kid, but still…)

    (2) I know Denver is the “mile high city”, but to my ears “Mile High Standards”, even in relation to Denver, sounds like a reference to a passenger’s standards when they choose to join a stranger in the airplane lav to join a certain, ahem, “Club”. Maybe that’s just me, though.

  2. Ah. PSA. Now we’re getting into this old goats territory.

    I understand the mans passion, but sounds to me like he was more politically driven. Sure, no one wants to see a loved one or “one of theirs” get blamed for anything, I understand the emotional machinations behind this. But if the pilot was negligent, he was negligent. No amount of pleas or further ‘investigations’ are likely to change that.

    As for “never allowing PSA to be bought”, well that’s taking the subject down a completely different path. Fact is that PSA was a terminal ill and dying airline by 1987. Pretty much everyone agrees that the USAir buyout was a disaster and never should’ve happened. Again, all another subject. But fact is even if PSA managed to stand alone, 1991 would’ve finished them off for certain, making them the fourth casualty of that year after Eastern, Midway, and Pan Am.

    1. But PSA was a great airline back in it’s heyday. As a little kid, I flew them from LAX to SFO in 1969. Not only do I remember the gorgeous (and very nice) stewardesses, but my day had asked one of them if it was ok for me to visit the cockpit (even then, I loved aviation). He didn’t get an answer for a while and figured that they forgot. Mid flight, the stewardess came up to us and said that the captain invited us for a visit. I’ll never forget being in the cockpit of a 727 at 20,000+ feet. Even my dad (who had flown a ton by then) was impressed. Very memorable little flight and just a brief story as to what kind of an airline they were.

      1. That’s awesome. My very first flight was on PSA, in 1985. When I was about 13. A 45 or so minute hop from LAX to Fresno on an MD-80.

        No out there isn’t saying PSA wasn’t a great, iconic, or legendary airline. All those attributes and more have stood the test of time and remain pretty much bulletproof.

        However, the one thing PSA was NOT is:


        At least not in their final years.

        I’ve always held the view that their single-though ultimately fatal tactical error was in their choice of fleet.

        For almost twenty years, they flew 727’s on Intra-California. That was a way, way, too big and heavy of a plane for LAX-SFO or SAN-SMF. Fuel thirsty. Three man crew.

        And what were they thinking with those L-1011’s?

        Then, they pretty much sealed their fate by adding not one, but two new types. From different manufacturers. That they had almost no experience with. The MD-80’s and BAe-146’s just crushed them. Yes, I know they flew a few DC-9’s on and off. But they were never more than a small part of the fleet.

        Had they followed the airline that copied them, Southwest, and stuck with 737’s. And gotten in line as a launch for the -300, and stuck with those, that would’ve completely changed their history. And a very good chance they’d still be here today. Southwest wouldn’t be as big as they were. Or perhaps, things would’ve come full circle in the 2000’s mergers and they might have gotten hitched. It’s all speculative, I know. But still fun talking about.

  3. The piece on TPG about SEA’s security reservation trial wasn’t as impressive as I thought. I mean it starts at 4:00 when there’s nobody around to go through security & ends at noon when you are between banks. I guess an upside being that you can schedule up to a dozen people at once is something that is beneficial for families & large groups though. Perhaps if successful, times will bee expanded.

    1. A reservation program seems impractical to me. How many people know exactly when they’ll make it to a security line — especially “regular passengers”? (Precheck members presumably travel much more and would have a better guess how long airport rigmarole is likely to take). The TSA should be able to know how many pax are on-the-books to fly from each concourse during a certain hour. They should be able to staff accordingly. That makes sense to me. Reservations don’t.

  4. I think the heading course change by the Cessna was definitely a contributing factor to the PSA accident.

    After the smaller, cheaper PCAS device was invented in 1999, are these or similar systems now used in all civil aircraft? God I hope so.

    1. Not sure about 1999, but today all planes operating in Class B airspace have to have an ADS-B transponder which works with satellites to tell ATC exactly where you are. And other transponders are required in Class C as well. So while it their theoretically could still happen, it’s much safer now.

      For the record Class B is the busy airspace around the biggest airports like LAX or DFW. Class C is areas that are not quite as busy but still congested, like Sacramento.

  5. America West and Southwest got into some fun ad wars in Phoenix back in the day. Both airlines have done well there because they’re different, and exploit those differences. The same will be the case in Denver. I remember Doug Parker saying that Southwest is “an intelligent competitor” once on an earnings call. Of course, Phoenix didn’t have a ULCC like Frontier in the market, although its current chairman was once the CEO of America West, and hired Doug Parker and Scott Kirby during his time there.

      1. The paper bag in Herb Kelleher’s ad was probably inspired by New Orleans Saints football fans, many of whom would wear them to games to hide their embarrassment over following that team during some pretty lean years.

      2. Mosh Pit was a great commercial. But, damn there were so many bad ones. Remember “Matt Bogan” and Jonathan Winters, and the guy from Magnum PI for the Hawaii commercials? And the “cloud sighted in Phoenix” and the one with the old rock band. America West’s best ever commercial was its very first one: “This is a low fare airline?”

  6. The TSA Spot Saver program at SEA sounds just like Disneyland FastPass.

    I remember United going after Southwest in advertising back during the Shuttle by United days in the battle for California. One particularly memorable postcard I remember getting in the mail stated: “Their frequent flyer program will get you to Omaha. Ours will get you to Osaka.”

  7. Hmmm . . . the United vs. Southwest print ads jogged my memory into remembering a similar campaign from the 1980s. When Stapleton was the airdrome serving Denver, United launched a campaign against Continental (which hubbed at DEN then) called “torque.” It was an acronym that stood for “Try Our Real Quality United Experience.” United’s agents at DEN wore reversible pins. On the front was the word TORQUE in block letters. On the reverse was a cartoonish-looking jet’s tail fin, colored gold with a large screw through the middle of it. United wanted all Denver fliers to come to the conclusion that, if they were flying on Frank Lorenzo’s Continental, they were getting screwed!

    United’s agents would make terminal-wide announcements paging Continental’s passengers. When those people went to a United desk, the agent would offer to put them on one of United’s flights to the same destination. They could do that because both airlines had access to each other’s reservation systems. That is not possible now, as Southwest has its own proprietary reservation system.

    Today’s print ads are interesting, but they strike me as tame compared to the war that UA waged on CO back in the days of the TORQUE campaign. That’s even more interesting now that the two former competitors have merged!

  8. > United’s agents would make terminal-wide announcements paging Continental’s passengers. When those people went to a United desk, the agent would offer to put them on one of United’s flights to the same destination.

    Wow. If that’s true, competitive tactics of poaching customers like that are so dirty they’d make unscrupulous lawyers and used car salesmen jealous. I can only imagine the confusion that paging another airline’s customers caused in the gate area… “United is paging Continental flight 2893 passenger John Smith, United is paging Continental flight 2893 passenger John Smith. If you’d like to fly to Reno in first class for free on United, instead of in a seat by the lavatory on Continental, and would like to arrive in Reno earlier than you would on Continental, please see a United gate agent.”

    1. Yeah! Actually, I remember seeing a network TV news report about the practice. It was a subtler than your example, but not much! What brought the practice to an end was the crash of Continental Airlines Flight 1713. United had cancelled their flight to Boise, Idaho at that time because of a snowstorm, and some of UA’s passengers had been FIMed over to CO. I guess that even cutthroats have their limits!


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