The Old “Western Union Hold” Trick

This is a good one – I  just discovered it in the blogosphere. My readers are invited to try it out to see if it really helps.

The problem

Booking flights online often require immediate purchase. Buy it or lose it.

The solution is – WESTERN UNION

Scroll down for this amazing, life changing discovery, also known as “The Stealth Hold”

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Book the tickets online and when it comes time to pay – place reservation on hold for CASH payment. AA’s website explains how. Continental works as well and I guess most airlines have a similar process.

How do you pay cash for a ticket booked online? Western Union. You get 24 hours with your reservation (and fare!) guaranteed. Now, unless you are a Bangladeshi worker stranded in Dubai or a world class money launderer (off to a Long Island romantic getaway) or Ehud Olmert, you won’t be hauling envelopes of cash to the nearby Western Union office.

What you will be doing is call the airline (within 24 hours) and tell them you decided to pay by credit card after all. You have succeeded in buying time. Time to:

  • Decide if that is what you want to do
  • Wait to see if fares change

This technique is also good to speak to an agent without paying the fee that often comes with that privilege. And to get the online booking mile bonus.

Summing up – the “Steath Hold” works by

  1. Booking the flight online
  2. Selecting the “pay by cash” or “place the reservation on hold” option
  3. Recording the record locator code (PNR)
  4. Call within 24 hours (may vary) to pay by Credit Card

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Shocking Media Reports about Commuter Airline Safety

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UPDATE – May 12 – Full 3407 Buffalo FAA Transcript released – here.

In light of last weeks tragic crash of a Continental Connection Dash 8 near Buffalo, I decided to tackle the issue of  commuter airline safety. First, the good news:

  • The planes themselves have good safety records. They may be claustrophobic and bounce around a lot, but they are as safe as the big (Bar Refaeli painted) jets. This was the first crash of a Dash 8.
  • Turboprop planes are a key part of the hub and spoke model of modern air travel and are held to the same high standards as the big jets.

That’s about all I could say on the positive side. The fact is that there have been 7 fatal crashes of incidents involving US commuter airlines in this decade, alone. Fasten your seat belts and read:

  • The big airlines kind of outsource these flights to companies that may not live up to the reputation of the Delta’s, American’s, etc. of the industry. Pinnacle Airlines crashed 3 turboprops since 2000, including Continental Connection Flight 3407 .  You might not be aware that these brand names are often Pinnacle Airlines, or its subsidiaries (including Colgan Air)  flights:
    • Northwest Airlink
    • Delta Connection
    • Continental Connection
    • US Airways Express
    • American Connection
  • The pilots may not be as good in a field where experience and disciple count:
    • They may be inexperienced – Capt. Marvin D. Renslow had only 110 hours flying time on the Dash 8.
    • They may be overworked –   In his 3 1/2 years at Colgan, Capt. Renslow flew the maximum number of hours allowed.
    • They seem to be underpaid –  The New York Post reported that Capt. Renslow was moonlighting as a part-time produce stocker at a Tampa, Florida market.
    • They are often entry-level.  First officer Rebbecca Shaw, the more experienced (on Dash-8) pilot in the cockpit,  graduated high school in 2002. Sully, by comparison, has 40 years of experience and was a US Air Force Academy graduate and top flier in his class. He landed a fully loaded Airbus A320 in the Hudson River.
    • Have you heard about  Captain Jesse Rhodes and First Officer Peter Cesarz?  –  pilots of Pinnacle Airlines flight 3701, operating as Northwest Airlink , who “decided to have a little fun” and see how high their plane could go. They did. At 41,000 feet the engines flamed-out. Then they lied to air traffic controllers trying to find them a place to land. They crashed and died. No one else was on the plane.
  • The airline whose name is painted on the plane accepts only limited responsibility. Continental says that “it left safety oversight to the F.A.A”.  And the F.A.A. sited Colgan Air six times in as many years for maintenance or operational violations. So much for Continental’s “due diligence”

I would bet that at least some of that was surprising and even troubling.

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With over 20% of all passenger boardings on commuter planes and with some regional airports  served only by commuters, TLV2JFK readers end up on these flights from time to time. Since each and every reader of this blog is dear to us – consider avoiding these airlines, if possible. Besides not flying to hick towns, we suggest looking carefully at the flight you are booking.

For the major airlines, commuter flights are generally those with high numbers, but not always. High numbers can also mean codeshares or special flights. Here is the best list of flights that are commuter flights that I could come up with:

United – 2830 – 3899, 5280 – 8099

Delta – 4365 – 6949, 7755 – 7829

Continental – 1200 – 1299, 2000 – 3159, 3180 – 4049, 4750 – 5993, 7425 – 8059, 8635 – 8960, 9491 – 9595 (whew!)

Finally, I apologize in advance if I hurt a billion dollar industry with my very limited knowledge of aviation. And I did not mean any disrespect for the dead. All I did was read a few newspaper articles, and flyertalk. And share my feelings.

And, if anyone knows why Continental flights 4950 – 4999 are reserved for SNCF French Rail, please do let me know!
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Bar Refaeli – Not A Cheap Publicity Stunt

Unlike Southwest Airlines, TLV2JFK will not stoop so low as to use an Israeli supermodel to sell our product. We  simply want to solicit snappy captions for this picture.   Or intelligent comments. Or in Sully-speak – “ACKNOWLEDGE”

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If you are offended by this picture of a repainted Southwest Airlines 737 – in the past we have featured Shaul MofazBill Gates and Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan of Abu Dhabi or just a Sequoia Tree on the Lower East side.  TLV2JFK is an equal opportunity publicity-seeker.  And yes, we have stooped lower.
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Talk like Sully

Its time we learn to communicate. Lets email (and talk)  like Sully.

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When advised to return to LGA, Capt. Chesley B. Sullenberger III  simply answered “UNABLE” and got on with his business of saving 155 lives.

I recommend we use Pilot Radio Communications Phraseology and Techniques for our business communications. It may not sound friendly or polite, but it lands millions of planes a year successfully. So, entrepreneurs, investors, managers, employees, customers, salesmen, consultants, accountants and even lawyers – listen up!

Use these general rules from the world of aviation:

  1. Phraseology is the mark of a professional … reviewed from time to time to sharpen your communication skills.
  2. Listen before you transmit.
  3. Think before keying your transmitter. Know what you want to say and if it is lengthy; jot it down.
  4. Use figures in round numbers

I suggest using these key phrases. I have modified the definitions slightly to be applicable to us non-pilots:

BASIC COMMUNICATION

ACKNOWLEDGE- Let me know that you have received my message

ADVISE INTENTIONS- Tell me what you plan to do.

OUT- The conversation is ended and no response is expected.

OVER- My transmission is ended; I expect a response.

ROGER- I have received all of your last transmission. It should not be used to answer a question requiring a yes or a no answer.

HOW DO YOU HEAR ME?- A question relating to the quality of the communication or to determine how
well the communication is being received.

SAY AGAIN- Used to request a repeat of the last communication . Usually specifies communication or portion thereof not understood

I SAY AGAIN- The message will be repeated.

CORRECTION- An error has been made in the communication and the correct version follows.

STAND BY- Communication pause  to attend to other duties of a higher priority.

BASIC YES/NO

AFFIRMATIVE– Yes.

THAT IS CORRECT– The understanding you have is right.

NEGATIVE– “No,” or “permission not granted,” or “that is not correct.

DECISIONS

WILCO– I have received your message, understand it, and will comply with it.

UNABLE– Indicates inability to comply with a specific instruction or request.

ACTIONS

CLEARED AS FILED–  Proceed in accordance with the plan

ABORT– To terminate a preplanned maneuver

DELAY INDEFINITE (REASON IF KNOWN)– Used when an accurate estimate of the delay time and the reason for the delay cannot immediately be determined

RESUME OWN NAVIGATION– Used to advise a pilot to resume his/her own responsibility.

VERIFY– Request confirmation of information; e.g., “verify assigned altitude.”

WHEN ABLE– When used in conjunction with instructions, gives the latitude to delay compliance until a condition or event has been reconciled. Unlike “pilot discretion,” when instructions are prefaced “when able,” the pilot is expected
to seek the first opportunity to comply.

STATUS

ON COURSE – Used to indicate that an aircraft is established on the route centerline.

OFF COURSE– A position fix is reported or is observed at a point not on the approved
plan.

FINAL– On the final approach,  course is aligned with a landing area.

REPORT– Used to instruct pilots to advise of specified(real time)  information; e.g., “Report passing Las Vegas
VOR.”

EMERGENCY COMMUNICATION

EXPEDITE– Compliance is required to avoid the development of an imminent situation.

IMMEDIATELY– Compliance is required to avoid an imminent situation.

EMERGENCY– A distress or an urgency condition

MAYDAY

Note the flow and use it to get things done in the world of business (but keep things in perspective – Sully never used Emergency or Mayday):

Expedite -> Immediately -> Emergency -> Mayday

Please note that I modified the definitions slightly. The original is here.

Finally, so as not to confuse “Talk like Sully” text (aka TLS) from other text in the body of the email, it is suggested to use CAPS. Since ALL CAPS is considered “yelling”, I suggest prefacing the terms with “*” (conviniently located on the number pad to the left of your cup of coffee).

Now back to the usual topics of this blog – airfare savings, frequent flyer info and some New England vacation ideas.
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More Israel Airfare Deals – ElAl, Air France, Delta, Everyone

It seems like the weak economy combined with drop in price of oil left the airlines with no choice but to reduce fares. ElAl’s website and promotional emails list so many deals – I have to pinch my computer to make sure I am not dreaming.  Besides the ElAl Spontani deals ($599 to US), they have deals valid on election day only, deals for residents of the south, etc.. I gave up trying to make sense of it – but you can buy tickets for as far off as the summer and get prices hundreds of dollars lower than last year.

The European carriers seem to be in the $650 to $800 range to New York. Air France has the lowest airfare between Israel and New York and you can spend some time in Paris, to boot. And Delta can do the trip for $775, includes luggage, fuel, water, pillows, the works. The jet age is back!

Equally amazing – Delta can get you  to the West Coast or Orlando for $800.

I will have to update the status of using ElAl Bonus tickets. The fuel surcharge went down, but the spread between bonus (“free”) tickets and paying got much closer.

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