Archive for September, 2011

Alex Italian Restaurant now open at Rancho Caymus Inn

September 29th, 2011 by Mariah

The rich culture and varied countryside of Italy has attracted and inspired artists and writers through the ages. Those who travel through Italy notice differences in eating habits between cities, even cities only a few miles apart. Not only does each region have its own style but each community and each valley has a different way of cooking and communicating their emotions through food.

We invite you to join us on a culinary tour of Italy that involves all the specialties emphasizing the Liguria and Romagna regions which represent where our roots are from.

Owner: Alessandro Sbrendola

Executive Chef: Nick Ritchie

Soux Chef: Stefano Particelli


We look forward to your visit,
Matt Smith

General Manager

Rancho Caymus Inn

P 800-845-1777

P 707-963-1777

F 707-963-5387

TSA fires 28 over improper luggage screening at Honolulu airport

September 27th, 2011 by Mariah

(CNN) — The Transportation Security Administration fired 28 of its employees — in addition to three who resigned or retired — following a probe that revealed bags were allowed onto planes at Hawaii’s Honolulu International Airport without being properly screened, the agency said Sunday.


Another 15 people were suspended, the TSA reported in a statement.

The moves come after the agency “completed the adjudication process” it had announced in June, months after the allegations first surfaced. All those terminated or suspended “have the right to appeal the decision,” according to the TSA.


The firing is believed to be one of, if not the biggest, such action in the agency’s history, with officials previously stating that it underscores they will not tolerate employees who compromise security.


In March, Honolulu’s KITV 4 News reported that TSA officers assigned to a morning shift regularly allowed checked bags to be loaded onto

flights on nine daily departures without being screened for explosives.


Sources told the TV station that such lapses occurred for as long as four months and involved thousands of checked bags. CNN confirmed the investigation.


TSA officers are required to screen 100% of all checked bags before they are stored in the cargo holds of passenger aircraft.


In June, agency officials said they did not know exactly how many bags were allowed onto flights without being inspected but said the lapse took place during the last four months of 2010. The TSA said after it became aware of the problem, it took steps to ensure that every bag is properly screened at the airport.


A TSA official said in June that in addition to rank-and-file screeners and some supervisors, the airport’s federal security director and assistant federal security director for screening had also received letters proposing that they lose their jobs.


“TSA holds its workforce to the highest ethical standards, and we will not tolerate employees who in any way compromise the security of the traveling public,” TSA Administrator John Pistole said then in a statement.


The TSA said it uses closed-circuit TV, random inspections, covert tests and peer and management oversight to check on the integrity of the system.

Watch out for flight changes, tight connections

September 27th, 2011 by Mariah

(CNN) – You would think that when you bought a ticket for a flight, you’d get the itinerary you paid for. That isn’t always the case, especially if you book far in advance.


Airlines change schedules as time goes by, and that can mean that you end up with something different than what you wanted when you bought your ticket. This is particularly problematic during mergers, when airlines make a ton of changes as they work to combine two airlines into one. With two big mergers happening right now (United/Continental and Southwest/AirTran), there’s a good chance you’ve seen this happening when you fly.


So what can you do about it? You actually have options here, but the options depend upon what actually changed.


Sometimes, it’s just a matter of a change in the flight number. When that happens, the flight times stay the same, and it’s really not an issue. Other times, it’s just small flight time changes. You’ll see flights moved by a couple minutes here or there. If it’s a tiny change, then there really isn’t an issue — unless it busts the minimum connection time.


There are published minimum connection times at every airport between every airline. You won’t be sold a connection with less than that amount of time, because it’s not reasonable to think you could make the flight. But if flight times change, you might be unwittingly moved into a connection that doesn’t meet the requirement.


Unfortunately, these minimum connecting times aren’t readily accessible to the general public, but you can always call the airline to ask. Another option is to go to the airline website, do a search as if you’re buying a new ticket, and see whether your new connecting time still shows up as an option. If it does, it’s still a legal connection.


But what can you do if it’s not? Or what if an airline makes a major flight time change? I’ve dealt with a few of these lately with some of our clients, and the results have varied.


In one example, someone was scheduled to fly in the morning from Miami to San Francisco via Houston a couple months from now. United decided that flight would no longer operate, so the only other option at remotely the same time was to send this person through Washington and then on to San Francisco. This added hours to the travel time and was a lot more flying than expected.


In cases like these, United and other airlines will allow you to change to another reasonable connecting option (read: they won’t let you connect in London to go to San Francisco) without any additional charge.


And if there isn’t a reasonable option? That’s where it gets sticky. Each airline decides whether the change is large enough to warrant allowing a refund. If not, then you’ll probably have to pay the change fee to use the value of that ticket for a future trip or find a way to make the airline schedule work.


For more severe changes, you’ll be able to get a full refund and buy a new ticket on another airline. Although it would be nice for airlines to put you on another carrier at no charge, they will almost never do it.


If you find yourself looking for that refund, I’d suggest checking for better options on other airlines first. If you find one, go ahead and get a refund for the first ticket and buy the new one. Sometimes you’ll find that this is a good thing. Maybe the price has gone down on a new ticket, so you actually save money thanks to the airline’s change.


In general, once you get within a couple of months of your flight, schedule changes become rare. But it’s always a good idea to make sure that the airlines have your phone number and e-mail address just in case.

Padded flight times a reasonable buffer

September 27th, 2011 by Mariah

(CNN) — Do airlines pad flight times just to inflate their on-time rankings?


That’s a question that has been asked by many over the years, and yes, it can happen. You’ve probably heard it before: A flight from Los Angeles to New York is scheduled to take longer today than it did 30 years ago.


But the reason for increasing the scheduled flight time is rarely as nefarious as many might think. Most of the time, it’s done because it actually takes longer to fly the route thanks to weather, air traffic control delays and airport congestion. If that’s the case, why did you arrive so early on your last flight? It’s because there is a ton of variability.


Let’s start with air traffic congestion. There are a lot more airplanes flying today than 30 years ago, and the situation is at its worst in New York, where delays are quite common. In these congested airports, the federal government determines how many flights can be operated and the airlines work within those parameters.


Beyond basic congestion, there is weather-related congestion. In San Francisco, when the fog rolls in, the allowable number of flight arrivals gets cut in half. Thunderstorms can wreak havoc on operations at almost any airport, and winds can have an impact as well.


All this comes together to form a very uncertain picture. If an airline could guarantee that a flight would take the same amount of time each day, then scheduling would be easy. But it’s not, so airlines have to make judgment calls.


Let’s look at American Airlines Flight 1, which operates from New York JFK to Los Angeles at 9 a.m. The flight is scheduled to take 6 hours and 10 minutes from gate to gate, but it can vary greatly.


On September 4, the airplane spent 6 hours in the air alone, forget about taxi time. Less than a week later on September 10, that flight took only 4 hours and 51 minutes. The result? Both flights left the gate about 20 minutes late, but the first one arrived 42 minutes late while the second arrived 51 minutes early.


As you can see, flight times are highly variable, and though these are extremes, smaller variations happen all the time. With that in mind, airlines go into their scheduling decisions knowing they won’t get it right. They just have to do the best they can with the data they have.


Now that’s not to say that different airlines don’t have different ways of setting their scheduled times. Delta’s 9 a.m. flight is scheduled for 2 minutes less than American’s and JetBlue’s 9 a.m. flight is 3 minutes less than that. Why the difference?


Well, they operate different airplanes and each aircraft type has a different optimum cruising speed. In addition, they sit in different terminals at both airports, and the taxi times can take longer for one than another. Sometimes, however, there are other factors at work.


In 2000, I worked at America West Airlines and we were running an operation with a lot of delays and cancellations. A new chief operating officer was brought in to right the ship, and in the beginning, that meant putting more scheduled time on each flight. This buffer helped give the airplanes a little more down time while other issues were fixed.


Eventually, the operation improved and the scheduled flight times went back to normal. This, of course, goes back to the original question.

Do airlines pad the flight times so the flights arrive on time more often?

The Department of Transportation judges a flight as being on time if it arrives within 15 minutes of schedule, a buffer that makes it easy to run an on-time operation. That’s actually not a bad thing for travelers.


Charlie Leocha, director of the Consumer Travel Alliance advocacy group, says his organization is not against padding flight times “because at least the new times are more realistic. We understand that tighter airspace and the possibilities of delays are increasing, especially in the Northeast. At least consumers will have a more realistic time frame within which to operate.”


For most airlines, however, long-term padding just to have a buffer is a terrible idea. The more time that gets built into the schedule, the fewer flights that airplane can fly in a day. An airplane on the ground isn’t making any money, so airlines have the incentive to get that aircraft in the air as often as possible. Building in extra ground time goes against that goal and leads to higher costs.


Because of that, padding flight times is most often used as a temporary solution when an operation is having problems and not as an on-time performance marketing tool. It’s better to add more buffer so customers arrive on time instead of consistently having them arrive late. But in the long run, the airlines have no real incentive to keep doing that.

Pasa Tiempo Fall Specials

September 26th, 2011 by Mariah

NO LEAVES are falling at Pasa Tiempo… The pool is tempting with its soft, warm water… Take advantage of our great Fall Specials and dive right in!

Three-Night Fall Special

Book three nights at our regular fall rate of $175 in a Courtyard Suite and get 15% off the total price. Special rate: $148.75 per night. A complimentary bottle of house wine will await your arrival.

Or… book three nights in our Courtyard Suite with Jacuzzi tub and save 10%. Regular daily rate: $199. Fall Special: $179.10.

We look forward to seeing you soon. Come discover – or rediscover – your special hideaway in St. Pete Beach!

Ivone Meltzer and Staff
Pasa Tiempo Private Waterfront Residence & Resort

(727) 367-9907

Leaf Pepping Bed and Breakfast Style

September 26th, 2011 by Mariah

Autumn is in the air. How can you tell? Besides looking at the calendar, there are a few telltale signs: The days are warm while the nights get cool, and apples, pears and pumpkins reach full ripeness. And then there’s the fall foliage. The leaves do their annual dance transforming from deep, luscious greens to spectacular reds, yellows, golds and oranges. It’s a once-a-year event that brings onlookers from all corners of the world, sometimes with photo books in hand, to view this breathtaking display.

Fall harvests, brisk air, cuddling under a warm blanket on an outdoor porch swing or snuggling in front of a fire exude the essence of fall. Quintessential B&Bs are the perfect match for just such an experience.

Mountain Laurel Inn Bed and Breakfast in Mentone, AL, provides guests with a handbook of glorious views and exhilarating hikes through Lookout Mountain upon arrival. The innkeepers also provide water bottles and mugs, branded by Mountain Laurel, and a picnic lunch for two to take on your trip.

If you’re looking for something a little more adventurous, why not admire the colorful canopy from above? The HideAway Country Inn in Bucyrus, OH, will take you up, up and away on a balloon ride over Ohio farm country and provide you with a complimentary bottle of champagne to enjoy. Perhaps you’d prefer to soar rather than scale the heights

Normally, by this time of year accommodations are completely booked, but the recent bad weather across the country has caused some to delay making plans. There are still opportunities for those who want to snatch up prize rooms that may still be available.

When you arrive make sure to check in with the innkeepers as soon as possible. They are always ready to offer tips and advice on the best places to see the foliage and how to get there.

Flight attendant: How 9/11 changed my job

September 7th, 2011 by Mariah

(CNN) — The great thing about being a flight attendant is that each time I walk on board a plane, a new adventure awaits.

Though no trip is ever exactly the same, there’s a timeline we try to stick to: Ten minutes after takeoff, we begin setting up carts for the service.

An hour and a half into the flight, flight attendants in coach are picking up discarded items while those in business class are whisking away salad and appetizer plates to make room for entrees.

Very rarely does the timing of the service change, which is why whenever I hear about a plane crash, I know exactly what was happening in the moments before the plane went down.

Before That Day, if I heard a reporter discussing an air disaster, I always envisioned what the flight attendants were doing right before showing everyone their brace position.

Never did I imagine terrorists slitting the throats of my friends and colleagues to gain access to the cockpit, just like office workers probably never dreamt of what they’d do if a 767 crashed into their building.

Preparing for the unthinkable

Before That Day, conversations on the jump seat during takeoff revolved around loved ones or layover plans.

After, they were all about one thing: What would I do if something happened?

In the months that followed, I can’t tell you how many times I prayed, sitting on the jump seat during takeoff, that it wouldn’t come to that. And if it did come to that, I prayed it would happen before we finished the service, because I didn’t want to have to do all that work and then die.

“Here’s what I’m going to do,” one of my co-workers said. He motioned to the insert of soda — the plastic container full of cans that we slide into the beverage cart — sitting on the linoleum floor beside our jump seats.

Grabbing a can of Pepsi, he made quick and aggressive throwing motions. “Bam! Bam! Bam!”

“You’re going to kill them with Pepsi?” I asked.

“It’s better than nothing!”

From That Day forth, every flight attendant I met had some sort of plan, and each plan was more original and ingenious than the next: broken wine bottles, hot coffee, seat cushions.

Meanwhile, flight attendants and passengers came together like the rest of the world did. We were a team, and everyone offered their support. If any good came from that horrible day, this was it.

On alert for suspicious behavior

There were times, only a few, when questionable things would happen. Like the time the man holding a McDonald’s bag kept going in and out of the bathroom with it. It felt like he might be doing a “test run” to check our reactions.

After we reported the guy, every suit from every agency on Earth met our flight at the gate in Los Angeles. They didn’t arrest him, but we later learned that he had purchased a one-way ticket with cash. Is it also a coincidence that he would soon be going to school in Florida? Maybe. Maybe not. We didn’t know.

What we did know was that flying had changed forever.

In training, instead of learning how to serve caviar without clinking the tiny silver spoon against the plate, flight attendants were taught something new: karate.

Opening the overhead bins before boarding used to be about making it easier for passengers to stow their luggage. Now it’s about checking for suspicious items left behind. When a passenger becomes ill during flight today, we have to consider that it might be a diversion to distract us from something else.

Impact on passengers

After That Day, many flight attendants lost their jobs. Those of us who stayed took pay cuts, watched days grow longer while layovers grew shorter, and began working flights staffed with FAA minimum crew.

Things we took for granted like pillows, blankets and even a few airlines slowly began to disappear. If passengers weren’t afraid to fly, they could no longer afford to fly, so the airlines had to drastically lower ticket prices. A one-way ticket could now be had for the same price as a pair of designer jeans.

In an effort to stay in business, free food in coach was the first thing to go. Airlines no longer had to pay for the food, or the food’s weight in fuel, or the caterers who delivered the food, or the extra flight attendants required to serve the food.

These days, when passengers complain about “bad service,” I take it personally. I work hard, harder than ever before, to do a job I still take pride in, but there’s only so much I can do with the tools I’ve been provided.

Sometimes I wonder whether the airlines would get rid of us altogether if they could, just to save a buck!

So the next time you’re on a flight wondering why that sandwich costs $20, why the plane is so crowded or why your crew seems a little tired, I hope you’ll think about why.

As we all know too well, the world changed for everyone That Day, for passengers and flight attendants alike.