Recently the Wall Street Journal’s Scott McCartney, who writes the “Middle Seat” column every Thursday, crunched some numbers with FlightStats and found that the country’s airlines deserved a pretty bad report card for 2014.
There was Polar Vortex weather at the start of the year, a fire in a Chicago air control tower, and runway construction at San Francisco’s airport. That meant an unusually high number of flight delays and cancelations. Which may explain the 25% increase in passenger complaints to the Department of Transportation. Airlines waylaid 17% more bags than they did in 2013.
So who got the best grades? Alaska Airlines and Virgin America. Virgin incentivizes workers with bonuses for good numbers, Alaska uses advance satellite technology to increase flight efficiency.
At the bottom of the class: United and American Airlines. Both have big hubs in Chicago, both airlines are merging with large airlines. And both are promising a better 2015.
So I have to give points to an Australian company called Airline Ratings for trying to do the same thing. The company said it based its rankings on audits from aviation’s governing bodies and the airlines’ fatality records.
So who came out on top?
The winner was Qantas, the Australian airline
You may remember the scene in that 1988 movie starring Dustin Hoffman called “Rainman.” Hoffman’s character was autistic with an amazing memory, and he pointed out in one famous scene that Qantas had never lost an airplane in a crash. And 25 years on, that’s still the case.
Disturbingly, not one US carrier is on the list of the Top Ten safeest major airlines. Here’s those that are in alphabetical order: Air New Zealand, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Etihad, EVA, Finnair, Lufthansa, and Singapore.
JetBlue and Alaska Airlines made the list of the safest, low-cost airlines.
You can find the others here.
If you’d like to up your game when taking photos with a smart phone, check out David Hume Kennerly’s new book. The former Time photographer won the Pulitzer in 1972 at age 25 for his photos of the war in Vietnam, the Ali-Frazier fight, and the Jonestown massacre. He was also Gerald Ford’s personal, White House photographer.
Taking pictures is all about telling stories, says Kennerly. (That’s him-on the right–with me in the photo taken last fall in Los Angeles.) And one of the tricks is overcoming familiarity if you’re shooting around your own home or neighborhood. He suggests imagining you’re a Martian just landing on earth to bring a fresh eye when composing photographs.
He uses an app called Histamatic that offers a variety of different lenses and looks, but Kennerly notes that no single app can make a mediocre photo a great one.
His book, David Hume Kennerly on the iPhone: Secrets & Tips from a Pulitzer-Prize Winning Photographer, has hundreds of photos that suggest new ways of looking at the world while shooting.
Kennerly uses an iPhone, but his book is not sponsored by Apple, and his advice is useful no matter what device you’re using to take photos.
Check it out.
I learned something shocking recently. Most of us know that when we’re using a smartphone, electronic notebook, or laptop on a public Wi-fi system in, say, a coffee shop or airport, bad guys can tap into our computers and track our usage of passwords, among other things.
But it turns out we don’t have to be actively using public Wi-fi for those guys to invade our devices.
Shaun Murphy is the CEO of Private Giant, a company developing an app meant to protect on-line communications. He surprised me by telling me that even if I’m just walking around with my smartphone in my pocket, as long as my Wi-fi is turned on—and it usually is–I’m vulnerable to someone tracking me across the city, searching my device for passwords or sensitive information, or hijacking my email.
Here’s what you can do to protect yourself, says Murphy. First, always sign out after checking your email. Get rid of stored passwords on your portable device and back up sensitive data. Most importantly and simply: Turn off your Wi-fi when you’re traveling, even in your hometown, unless you need to use it.
That’s the sure way to make sure your device is impregnable.
I’ll admit it upfront: I love Uber. I’ve used the car service in Minnesota, New York, LA, DC, San Francisco, and London. Taxi drivers around the world are enraged by this disruptive technology that lets you order a car on your smartphone and instantly shows you a photo of the driver, his or her name, a picture of the car, license plate number, and estimated time of arrival. You can even watch the progress of the car coming to you on the map on the phone.
But is Ubert safe?
The question came up last month when an Uber rider in New Delhi accused her driver of raping her.
If you Google “taxi driver rapes passenger,” you’ll find lots of stories, so this is hardly a situation unique to Uber. But in response, Uber announced it’s investigating using biometric tools to screen drivers. It may find a way to allow passengers to contact the company immediately. And it intends to subject more drivers to polygraph tests.
Uber is in hundreds of cities, and unlike taxi companies, it offers a variety of price points for different cars. Cities as far apart as Paris and Bangkok are wrestling with the legality of Uber, and taxi companies are trying to catch up.
They don’t call it a disruptive technology for nothing.