Saturday, December 18, 2010

Stuck on the Tarmac Survival - Part 2 of 3

Once stuck on the plane and waiting for a gate or to take-off, all passengers are at the mercy of the flight crew and luck. The U.S. Department of Transportation has declared some passenger rights for tarmac delays (DOT 199-09):

The new rule prohibits U.S. airlines operating domestic flights from permitting an aircraft to remain on the tarmac for more than three hours without deplaning passengers, with exceptions allowed only for safety or security or if air traffic control advises the pilot in command that returning to the terminal would disrupt airport operations. U.S. carriers operating international flights departing from or arriving in the United States must specify, in advance, their own time limits for deplaning passengers, with the same exceptions applicable.

In a 2007 photo stranded passengers aboard a Jet Blue Flight walk around
the cabin while waiting hours to take off from New York's Kennedy Airport.
(image: Associated Press)
Carriers are required to provide adequate food and potable drinking water for passengers within two hours of the aircraft being delayed on the tarmac and to maintain operable lavatories and, if necessary, provide medical attention.

The rule also:
• Prohibits airlines from scheduling chronically delayed flights, subjecting those who do to DOT enforcement action for unfair and deceptive practices;
• Requires airlines to designate an airline employee to monitor the effects of flight delays and cancellations, respond in a timely and substantive fashion to consumer complaints and provide information to consumers on where to file complaints;
• Requires airlines to display on their website flight delay information for each domestic flight they operate;
• Requires airlines to adopt customer service plans and audit their own compliance with their plans; and
• Prohibits airlines from retroactively applying material changes to their contracts of carriage that could have a negative impact on consumers who already have purchased tickets.

BIG NOTE: Read the above carefully again. It specially mentions only 'U.S. airlines'. There is current consideration by the DOT of imposing similar rules for foreign carriers.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Stuck on the Tarmac Survival - Part 1 of 3

Last weekend my flight from Reagan National (DCA) in Washington, DC to Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) was stuck on the tarmac for over an hour. This reminded me on how prepared one should be for this specific kind of delay to one's travel plans.

I barely made my connection in DFW right as that flight had just begun boarding. But there are some things the traveler can do in advance to help alleviate the problem.

- If your flight plans require a connection, then carefully consider the connection time. Many of us just want to get where we're heading to. But consider that the two connecting flights may not be in the same terminal also. I normally choose the connection that has at least a one hour layover. This also allows to take care of personal things such as grabbing something to eat, stretch one's legs or to just use a normal size restroom.

- Consider the airlines on-time performance for that particular flight. The time of day is sometimes a factor not to mention that some airports are notorious for delays.

- Have the telephone numbers of the airlines in your reservation, especially one that connects you to customer service. If you are in a panic, then you can call the airline from your seat. Since the flight has not taken off and the flight attendants are also strapped to their seats, no one's going to ding you for using the phone.

- Check the airlines policy online regarding tarmac and other types of delays.

- Have something to do that you want to do. Leafing through an airline magazine from the seat back pocket will do no good if you had no intention of reading it. Since the plane has not taken off, some electronic items such as phones and tablets should help have hours of features to mind the time.

Part 2 posts info about the DOT ruling regarding tarmac delays.
Part 3 posts more info about dealing with tarmac delays.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

REWIND: Signature's 'Les Miserables' (2008) Part 2

Two clips from Signature Theatre in Washington, DC. One about presenting the landmark musical 'Les Miserables' and the second of the construction of the set. The theatre is actually located in the Shirlington village of Arlington, VA. More info at

REWIND: Signature's 'Les Miserables' (2008) Part 1

Since we are in the midst of a current revival of excitement for the epic musical 'Les Miserables' with the recent 25th Anniversary Concert in London, thought it would be of interest to post production photos from the Signature Theatre version. Especially since returning from Washington, DC this past week, this would be an appropriate time for a revisit to Signature's 'Les Mis'.

The production played the Max theatre from December 2008 and extended to March 2009. The production starred Greg Stone as Jean Valjean. He performed the role of Chris in the national touring company of 'Miss Saigon' ten years earlier which made one of its final stops in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Knowing the production would be presented in a small theatre, I wondered how could the production be staged. Just the sheer number of cast members in 'Les Mis' would appear to be direction nightmare.

Greg Stone as Jean Valjean
But director Eric Schaeffer found how to reinterpret the piece for the Signature stage. This 'Les Mis' had an almost punk edge from the appearance of leather-like material in some costumes to the glass and twisted metal comprising the set design.

None of the epic feel of the musical was lost as the production enveloped the audience with the cast making some entrances through the audience. The lack of a proscenium allowed the production to use the full width of the stage.

The performances were equally a surprise especially Stone. He displayed the strapping figure needed to portray the ex-con and a sterling vocal to match. Felicia Curry's harmonic and boyish Eponine was a stand out in the ensemble.

The company on the barricade.
This production set a standard for this reviewer. Theatre companies which try to duplicate the scale of the original production will pale in comparison. Find the right talent to take the stage and more than half the battle is won. As concert versions have proven, the strength is in the score and storytelling.

After 'Les Miserables' and this seasons's 'Sunset Boulevard,' one wonders what production Signature will tackle to match these highlights. For more info on the theatre company and their current and past productions, visit  Click "Read more" below for more production photographs.

The empty barricade set.
The company singing "One Day More"

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Washington, DC: Less than 48 Hours Later

American Airlines counters in Terminal B at
Reagan National Airport
And there it was. A visit to the Washington DC that began at arrival Friday afternoon and ends early Sunday morning. The preceding posts reveal what can be accomplished in roughly 42 hours from arrival to departure.

Concourse to all terminals (above & below)
Now this wasn't a choice. A combination of factors from available flights, vacation days and a planned itinerary shoehorned the duration of this visit to DC.

Thank goodness Reagan National Airport is a short taxi ride from downtown DC and the terminals at 6am on a Sunday aren't that busy. As usual the longest journey of a good vacation is the return trip.

From Reagan National to Dallas-Fort Worth and then to Honolulu International. Then finally home.

Click here to learn more about Reagan National Airport.

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