I titled my first blog here for this semester’s independent research on the commercial aviation industry “the stories behind the metal birds.” The past few months were a blink. Now, at the end of May, I am sitting in front of my laptop composing my last blog entry. But before I revisit the “stories” I have looked over the course of my work, I want to first share a story about how I personally came to be fascinated by the airline industry.
Afternoon view of the Hollywood Hills (picture taken by myself in January 2017)
This is my 24th blog post, after two whole semesters of conducting an independent seminar/research on finance and entrepreneurship. This semester has definitely gone smoother than the last one has, and I am incredibly thankful for what these two semesters have taught me. Continue reading →
It has been nearly a year since I last opened Xcode, Apple’s development environment for iOS and watchOS. One day, when I was rushing to an early morning class, I subconsciously patted my left pocket and realized that I had left my phone in my dorm room. I also took notice that I was wearing my Apple Watch, the device that I frequently use to ping my iPhone when I misplace it. While the watch does help me find my phone by allowing me to play a ringing sound on my phone, it doesn’t do so proactively. Wouldn’t it be nice to have an app on my Apple Watch that notifies me when the iPhone is out of range, I thought.
As a continuation of my previous discussions about United Express Flight 3411, Part II includes a closer examination of the incident from perspectives of both United Airlines and today’s commercial aviation industry.
The end of Part I seems to suggest an easily-reached conclusion: since clauses regarding overbooking are specified in the contract of carriage, airlines could as easily deny a passenger to board if they see a greater economic interest in selling more tickets or accommodating other last-minute top-tier frequent flyers or VIPs. As long as airlines see a smaller marginal cost to denying a “regular passenger” onboard, they are free to do so within the legal frame. And in the case of United Express Flight 3411, the “VIPs” were four “deadhead crew” who needed to fly from their base in Chicago to Louisville to serve another flight. Again, what the crew on that flight did was perfectly legal: after 9/11, for security reasons, on U.S. commercial aircrafts, crew members are given the absolute authority and failure to comply with any of their instructions could result in the intervention of law enforcement. But this time, with the rapid spread of this incident’s footage on the Internet, the marginal cost of denying David Dao skyrocketed.
Lufthansa 747-8 at Frankfurt Airport (picture taken by myself in March 2017)
Part I: From Event Recap to the Common Practice of Overbooking
Monday, Apr.10, in the afternoon. I was waiting in line at Washington Dulles Airport, ready to board a United Express flight back to Philadelphia. The TV screen near the boarding gate was showing some CNN sports news, which I often pay the least attention to. Suddenly, I noticed a few people raising their heads almost unanimously from their private tiny screens, casting anxiously surprised looks onto that CNN channel. A video of a wounded passenger being dragged off a plane was shown on the screen, with that male passenger screaming. The caption was: United forcibly dragged a passenger off an plane in Chicago. The gate agent stood in front of me, not at all unnerved by the small commotion, and spoke into her microphone with professional smile: welcome to United Express flight 6138 with service to Philadelphia. We are now pre-boarding customers with disabilities, uniformed military personnel, family traveling with children under 2, and our Global Services members.
United aircrafts in Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) (picture taken by myself in November 2016)
In my previous blog post, I briefly mentioned the differences between a Virtual Private Server (VPS) and Shared Web Hosting service and cross compared the three major VPS providers. In this blog post, I will continue my tutorial by detailing the process of setting up a Droplet (DigitalOcean’s way of calling their VPS instances) with DigitalOcean.
A friend of mine and a regular reader of this blog recently requested that I write a tutorial on setting up a web server. To honor his request, I will devote this week’s blog post to the subject of web hosting. I will not, however, cover the programming aspect of web development as I assume that the readers of this tutorial already know how to write a website in HTML, CSS, PHP, Java, etc. I will also not be writing about the all-in-one website builders such as Squarespace and Wix for the same reason.
The semester is almost over, and I’m inching closer and closer to graduation. My independent study this semester was so much more better structured than it was last semester, and I think it has been much easier because I put more time into planning out the details of how the course was going to go. However, I am still a little bit behind the schedule, because I did not expect the courses to be double the workload they were the last semester. This is only to say that I am behind on the blog posts, because it is insanely difficult to squeeze over two hours of online lectures into one page of a blog post. The learning is very much on track. Continue reading →
Starting from the end of last month, when passengers travel from many Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East into the United States, they are no longer allowed to bring electronics larger than smartphone onboard as part of their carry-on luggage. Shortly after the U.S. announced this electronics restriction, the U.K. followed similarly. The three huge air carriers in the Middle East, Emirates, Qatar, and Etihad, are most affected by this newly enacted and executed security ban. These three carriers soon announced policy changes, such as allowing laptops to be checked-in at the gate, to minimize the negative effect this ban has on their customers. Yet despite their attempts, when you board Emirates’ signature A380 double-decker to fly from Dubai to New York next time, you will not be able to work on your laptop nor could you entertain yourself from an iPad. U.S. authorities have claimed that this ban is based on latest intelligence reports, which have indicated a possibility of terrorists inserting small bombs within electronic devices. This claim is understandable: after all, the lack of an effective and thorough security screening system creates room for many terrorist attacks. However, to what extent government authorities can exert their control in the name of safety is always debatable. Why is the electronics ban only on certain countries with a Muslim majority, with no U.S. carriers affected? How about the potential security threat in the checked baggage, which is often less scrutinized? In fact, arguments about how increasingly stricter airport security measures result in the violation of personal rights is never new.
Cathay Pacific A350 at Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) (picture taken by myself)