Aviation- The View From Fresno; the AAC Meets Today.

This item was forwarded to us by a Friend of the Blog and , while we don’t know what exactly to make of it, it’s definitely good reading.  After you’ve sampled it, you’ll find yourself wondering if it’s really from Fresno or from here, except that we don’t have a shuttle.  Incidentally, the County’s Aviation Advisory Committee has its monthly meeting today, Tuesday, at 6pm at the Prosperity Center, 520 E Street, Eureka.

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Planes flying to and from Fresno these days are bigger – but that means fewer flights. Special to The Bee

BY DONALD MUNRO

dmunro@fresnobee.com

SAN FRANCISCO

When it rains at the airport here, it’s hard to find a passenger more pathetic than someone trying to get to Fresno.

I trudged up to the designated baggage carousel at San Francisco International Airport last Sunday night, less than eager to join the bedraggled looking group of travelers gathered for a promised shuttle bus to Fresno. The 30 or so people looked tired and defeated, as if they were about to join a chain gang. Once again, a flight to Fresno wasn’t going anywhere.

 

The reason: the dreaded “Canceled due to air traffic control conditions impacting our flight operations.”

 

The cynical among us interpret that as: When the weather gets a little unsettled at SFO – notorious for delays even when the rain isn’t heavy (as it was this night) or the fog barely there – the smaller regional flights get canceled first so that larger (and more lucrative) national and international planes can fly.

 

The even more cynical whisper: This flight probably didn’t have a large enough percentage of seats filled, so it was more economical to cancel it.

And when a flight such as this one, which was supposed to depart at 6:52 p.m., is canceled because of weather, the customer service agent merely sighs and says: No hotel, no meal vouchers, no nothing. Oh, and the next Fresno flight isn’t until 2:15 p.m. the next day.

SFO doesn’t just pick on Fresno, of course. (On this night, the Sacramento flight was canceled as well.) And other cities manage to get their licks in, too. Cancellations and delays can plague Fresno-bound travelers in Los Angeles, Denver, Dallas and Phoenix, all of which are Fresno connections for United and American flights. I’ve been stranded in all these cities at one time or another. (I don’t fly Delta, so I can’t speak personally for Salt Lake City, but I’ve talked to others who’ve been stuck there.)

But for whatever reason, SFO seems the best opportunity for a stopover in Traveler Hell. According to flightaware.com, the afternoon San Francisco-Fresno flight was canceled four times between Dec. 8 and Jan. 19. During that same period, it was more than an hour and a half late 15 times.

 

Here’s the frustrating thing: The potential for disruption has only gotten worse with the recent retirement of the smaller turboprop planes used by SkyWest, which serves Fresno under contracts with United Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Alaska Airlines and provides the lion’s share of flights to and from Fresno. Now it’s an all-jet fleet. As my colleague Tim Sheehan reported in December, that has meant a tradeoff for passengers: fewer options on the schedule but faster, more comfortable aircraft.

 

Before I go on, let me say that I am a fierce proponent for Fresno Yosemite International Airport. When flight schedules work, it is much easier to fly in and out of Fresno than drive to Los Angeles or the Bay Area. Yes, sometimes it costs more to do so, especially on some domestic flights, but I’ve also discovered that a Fresno fare is often in the same ballpark as flights out of the Bay Area or L.A. And not having to drive three hours each way and pay more for parking can be priceless.

IT USED TO BE THAT IF A FLIGHT WAS CANCELED OR SIGNIFICANTLY DELAYED AT LAX OR SFO, SAY, YOU HAD A CHANCE OF BEING ABLE TO GET ONTO A LATER FLIGHT. NOW THAT CHANCE IS GREATLY REDUCED.

I also think it’s important to support our airport. Good air service is a quality of life issue. If I had the ear of the aviation gods, I’d ask for even more flights – and the entrance of Southwest Airlines to the market.

But I’m very frustrated about the recent all-jet changes. It used to be that if a flight was canceled or significantly delayed at LAX or SFO, say, you had a chance of being able to get onto a later flight.

Now that chance is greatly reduced. With smaller planes, for example, there were usually three to four San Francisco-Fresno flights a day, for example. Now there are only two, at least this time of year.

And consider what it’s like now to try to book a flight out of Fresno through Los Angeles on United. There’s only one flight a day in this season at the not-so-convenient time of 1:15 p.m. So much for going through LAX to New York and arriving at a reasonable hour, or trying to get an international flight without a lengthy layover.

There are two United flights a day going from Los Angeles back to Fresno, but they’re both in the evening. If one gets canceled, guess what: You might have to wait another day to get home, unless you want to rent a car. (On a more optimistic note, United seems to be offering good options to Denver, with three daily flights from Fresno in winter and four on the timetable for summer.)

For my canceled flight last Sunday, I admit I was already a little cranky. I’d started in Athens, Greece, about 20 hours before, and after one of those slowly-dribbled-out four-hour flight delays dues to mechanical problems on my Frankfurt-San Francisco leg, thelast thing I wanted to see was my Fresno flight canceled.

Because I was connecting from an international flight, I didn’t hear about the shuttle at the gate, and the first customer rep I talked to didn’t inform me. It wasn’t until I’d asked to speak to her supervisor that I learned a Fresno ride was possible. (The lesson: Always ask about options.)

My fellow travelers were cranky, too. When the United employee showed up with a beleaguered-looking sign that said “Fresno,” asking us to follow her to one of the shuttle buses, she wasn’t exactly going to win a popularity contest.

The 12 other passengers who squeezed with me into the shuttle, one of two, weren’t in a mood to bond. The three-hour ride was sullenly quiet, except for the guy who complained about the crying baby.

All this said, I don’t want to be a total whiner. With airlines today cutting flights to boost passenger loads, air travel can be rough no matter what airport you fly from. On the plus side, I got home safely, which was the important thing. And I was thankful, actually, that the airline provided a shuttle bus for a canceled flight – something I’d never experienced before.

I don’t know if there’s an easy solution to any of this, either, unless all the people who drive from Fresno to bigger airports changed their ways, thus filling up those bigger jets and requiring more flights each day. Oh, and perhaps throwing in a new runway at SFO, too?

Still, I’m going public with my frustrations. If nothing else, it makes me feel a little better to vent. By the way, if you’re so inclined, share with me your own Fresno air travel woes by email or at www.fresnobeehive.com. I can collect them in one place – and maybe even pass them on to someone who might make a difference. And, at the very least, I’ll commiserate. Sometimes all you want to do is just get home.

Donald Munro: 559-441-6373, @donaldbeearts

Read more here: http://www.fresnobee.com/entertainment/performing-arts/donald-munro/article55899150.html#storylink=cpy

http://www.fresnobee.com/entertainment/performing-arts/donald-munro/article55899150.html

http://lostcoastoutpost.com/2014/nov/17/breaking-about-airport-rumor/

“When you have bigger airplanes, it’s so much easier to get rebooked.”

 

United Flight 5555

Operated by Skywest Airlines dba United Express

Status: Canceled due to air traffic control conditions impacting our flight operations

DEPARTS

 

ARRIVES

City: San Francisco, CA, US (SFO)
Gate: 73A
Check-in Terminal: Terminal 3, Concourse F
Scheduled Time: 4:11 p.m.
Scheduled Date: Fri., Jan. 22, 2016
Estimated Time: Canceled
Estimated Date:

City: Eureka, CA, US (ACV)
Gate: 2
Terminal:
Scheduled Time: 5:21 p.m.
Scheduled Date: Fri., Jan. 22, 2016
Estimated Time: Canceled
Estimated Date:

Aircraft and weather

Aircraft: Canadair Regional Jet 700 aircraft #N773SK

Weather conditions: SFO, ACV

 

United Flight 2519

Operated by Skywest Airlines dba United Express

Status: Delayed due to severe weather conditions in our route network (Arrived Gate 51 Minutes Late – Diverted to Medford, OR, US (MFR))

DEPARTS

 

ARRIVES

City: Medford, OR, US (MFR)
Gate:
Check-in Terminal:
Scheduled Time: 2:49 p.m.
Scheduled Date: Fri., Jan. 22, 2016
Actual Time: 2:51 p.m.
Actual Date: Fri., Jan. 22, 2016

City: Eureka, CA, US (ACV)
Gate:
Terminal:
Scheduled Time: 2:40 p.m.
Scheduled Date: Fri., Jan. 22, 2016
Actual Time: 3:31 p.m.
Actual Date: Fri., Jan. 22, 2016

Aircraft and weather

Aircraft: Canadair Regional Jet 700 aircraft #N773SK

Weather conditions: MFR, ACV

 

Aviation News

A lot of hoopla was generated to welcome the “new” service at ACV yesterday (jet vs prop, bigger planes) but the Country’s Aviation Advisory Committee couldn’t come up with a quorum for its November 24th meeting. A number of important items were listed on the agenda for that day, including “Nominations and elections of HCAAC Board Members” and the annual presentation /status report to the Supervisors.  An additional meeting of the HCAAC has been scheduled for Dec 15, apparently to deal with that. It was mentioned during the non-meeting that the airport will be issuing a press release around Christmas to address drone registration and assistance  available from ACV and from the FAA.

Meanwhile the folks in Redding have added a new daily flight to SFO, the story HERE.  
Redding now has three flights daily to SFO, just like we do.   It is clear that community support is very, very important in luring air service to Humboldt.

END

Aviation News: Pen Air to Klamath Falls

The ACV Airport Advisory Committee gathered for its monthly meeting Tuesday but did not have a quorum so no actions were taken.  There was talk about the new service between Klamath Falls and Portland by Peninsula Air , which commences November 2.   Bookings will be made through Alaska Air.

Peninsula, or Pen Air, has been flying in SE Alaska for years but recently began service outside the State and will fly the Crescent City -Portland route starting in September. ACV staff at the meeting suggested Pen’s interest in Klamath Falls was due to the wide separation between KF and Crescent City.  Does Pen need to be at ACV?  Emily Jacobs advised the Pen folks will be visiting soon.  She also advised that the passenger count at ACV is up 6.5% from a year ago.

END

Airport News- Medford Is BUSY, Eugene’s Adding Service

While our ACV struggles to maintain a four-flights-a-day schedule, the Medford airport is jammed. A Friend of the Blog turned us onto this story from the Medford Mail Tribune . Medford is handling 19 departures a day to ACV’s four and passenger traffic is at an all-time high.

Eugene too! The excellent article also points out that “Eugene’s Mahlon Sweet Airport has announced expanded service, with a daily flight to San Jose by Alaska Air Group’s Horizon unit, a Southwest Airlines flight to Dallas and five flights per week to Beijing by Hainan Airlines.”  (One-stop in San Jose). Yes, Beijing.  Whee!

I mentioned the Eugene flights to a Chinese friend who commented that due to the economic expansion in China there are direct or one-stop flights to China now from American locations that would have been unthinkable until recently.  Like Eugene. 

Our Friend also points out that the departure of Avis R/A/C from our ACV has been accomplished and Avis didn’t mind paying $9K to get out of its contract.  A windfall!  Not exactly, but it will cover the cost of trimming a few trees.

The invaluable Mad River Union has a story today about the Grand Jury recommendations re: ACV.  The piece is not online but contains the following startling statistic: “Between 2007 and 2013, McKinleyville enplanements plunged to 56,682 from 105,969, costing vital federal dollars, which are apportioned by a formula linked to the number of annual enplanements.”

END

Have Kids? Take Them to ACV June 9th.

In a local version of the Harmonic Convergence, our still NOT renamed airport will host BOTH the Wings of Freedom air meeting AND the Goodyear blimp on Tuesday June 9.  The Wings of Freedom event offers a chance to tour vintage Word War II aircraft,  and the blimp!! Well, what can you say about the blimp other than that it is the most recognizable American icon, apart from the Statue of Liberty. 

The festivities actually start on the 8th and the exact date of the blimps’ arrival is unclear (it takes several days to get here from Long Beach) .  Check the papers or  the Fly Humboldt Facebook page for updates.

END

A New Way To Fly?

An interesting development is reported by the Sacramento Business News.  Surf Air, a private membership airline headquartered in Santa Monica and flying out of the old McClellan AFB,  is flying round-trips between Santa Rosa, Hawthorne and San Carlos beginning next month, and will add service between Monterey and Hawthorne and San Carlos in July.  On August 24,  they’ll begin round-trips between McClellan and Hawthorne, San Carlos and Santa Barbara. Then in November they’re adding service between Palm Springs and Burbank and Oakland.

A private airline? Affordable?? Well, maybe.  Surf Air’s customers pay a flat monthly fee starting at $1750 for membership and unlimited flights.  If you’re doomed to fly more than three or four times a month, it starts looking downright reasonable.  Add in the sheer pleasure of not having to deal with the major airlines and…well, I’d sure like to try it.

In another development, Pen Air, which is supposed to start service beween Crescent City and Portland later this year, is making nice with the Redding airport folks and has been heard to say they are interested in flying out of AVC.  We’ll see. Stay tuned. 

END

No Silver Lining

I was surprised,  as was airport management, apparently,  to hear that the Silver Lining restaurant at the Humboldt County Redwoods whatever airport is closed. That’s a big step backward for the folks who have been promoting the airport and while I don’t think many flyers would cancel a flight because their destination didn’t have a coffee shop, it still doesn’t say much for the infrastructure we offer our visitors.

According to the NCJ,  an attempt will be made to find another operator.  That might be difficult.  Most airport restaurants overlook a busy runway where diners can observe takeoffs and landings more often than four times a day. Maybe the County should contract with Dell’ Arte or Access Humboldt or someone else who can produce a light show to resemble a busy airport. At least it would LOOK like the return of normalcy. Stay tuned. 

NonStop Sac to Boston, Siemens Shows Off

“Please come to Boston in the springtime..” Remember that song? Well, you might not make it by springtime but starting June 18 and continuing till September you’ll be able to fly to Boston NONSTOP from Sacramento on Jet Blue for as little as $199 each way. Take your kids on the Freedom Trail! Or catch the train up to Montreal- a one day ride- and show them a foreign country. That last would be my plan and I’m almost excited enough about it to consider flying again.

In other transportation news, Siemens is having a kind of expo on February 25 and 26 on the Capitol Steps to advertise its bid re: the HSR contracts. Again, it sounds like a lot of fun for train freaks (like me) and kids (like me.)  Check it out here or if the link doesn’t work check the Feb 12 edition of the Sacramento Business News.

Aviation Update July 2014

Don’t read this if you’re looking for good news for airline passengers. A friend of the blog compiled the following links which show that no matter how bad it gets, there’s always room for worse.

1.  You’ve noticed the carriers imposing more and more fees along with the regular airline fares? Try 1200% in the past seven years, like from $2.4 B in fees in 2007 to $31.5 B in 2013.  More carriers are counted in the later figures but the fees are all coming from the same source: you. 60% of these fees are from the sale of frequent flyer points, 25% for baggage fees, the rest from such services as early boarding and extra-leg-room seating fees. Here, courtesy of Yahoo Finance is a full accounting.

2. I’m sure you’ve heard by now that TSA is also raising its fees. The current fee is $2.50 for non stop and $5 for a connecting flight. The new rate is $5.60 per flight with any connecting longer than four hours counting as a separate flight. That may not sound like much but it adds up, especially when you miss your connection due to delays  leaving  ACV and end up with a ten-hour layover at O’Hare. Here is an account from USA Today.

3. The impact of the war in Ukraine and its spinoffs will be enormous and it is probably too early to assess. The route changes resulting from the war are coming at a time when fuel prices are at an all-time high. When the carriers are squeezed, guess who they’ll pass the increase onto?  The Hindu Business Line newsletter carried an analysis but the link is no longer available. Time moves quickly in the Middle East. 

LOCAL UPDATE: The  Airport Advisory committee did not have its meeting as scheduled yesterday for lack of a quorum but Emily Jacobs reported that there was “some” interest in serving ACV demonstrated by other carriers at the confab in Edmonton. Someone reported that Santa Rosa is improving its runways in anticipation of DIRECT FLIGHTS TO HAWAII.  Wouldn’t  that be great? Yes, it would.