The Top 10 Deals Found in 2016

With 2016 coming to a close, it’s time for reflection – particularly, reflection on the flight prices of the year.

Of course, there will still be one final edition of Hump Day Fare Hacks – to be published on Wednesday, barring the apocalypse – but I figured it might be fun to have a look back in advance. That’s why I’m compiling a list of the 10 best deals that I found in 2016 – both domestic and international.

Contrary to what you might think, these prices are not listed from most expensive to least, but rather by how good I believe the value of each flight to be. It’s subjective, so feel free to disagree, but the great thing about America is that we each get our own opinion.

Note: To my knowledge, none of these fares are promotional fares. There were certainly some prices that were even lower than this, but I excluded fare sales.

The Full Top 10:

10. Boston to Chicago O’Hare – United Airlines – $97 round trip

9. Boston to London Heathrow – British Airways – $460 round trip

8. Boston to Nashville – jetBlue – $77 round trip

7. New York JFK to Paris – American Airlines – $357 round trip

6. Boston to Copenhagen – Norwegian Air Shuttle – $279 round trip

5. Boston to Oslo – Norwegian Air Shuttle – $252 round trip

4. Newark to Hong Kong – United Airlines – $488 round trip

3. San Francisco to Beijing – United Airlines – $478 round trip

2. New York JFK to Oslo – Norwegian Air Shuttle – $217 round trip

1. New York JFK to Stockholm – Norwegian Air Shuttle – $199 round trip

 

Sully Movie Review: A smooth take on the events of January 15, 2009

Note: Minor spoiler alert, although I would assume that many of you know the general events and aftermath of the Miracle on the Hudson.

Be honest: if you know me, you know that I was – in all likelihood – going to see Sully as soon as humanly possible. While an aviation gearhead in general, I took a particular interest in the events surrounding U.S. Airways flight 1549 (known as “Cactus 1549” over the radio), and read both Capt. Chesley Sullenberger’s autobiography Higher Duty as well as another book detailing the stories of the passengers on that fateful flight. So when I was sitting on my lunch break today and saw that the film, slated to open tomorrow, was actually premiering tonight at 7:00, I figured the timing was perfect to catch the premier at the Boston Common IMAX on my way home.

Background

For those of you who don’t know, flight 1549 was an Airbus A320 flying from New York’s LaGuardia Airport to Charlotte Douglas International Airport on January 15, 2009. Following a bird strike shortly after takeoff, the plane lost thrust in both engines – a highly unlikely occurrence that, I don’t think, had ever happened before at such a low altitude – and didn’t have enough altitude or speed to return to LaGuardia or divert to New Jersey’s Teterboro Airport or Newark Liberty International Airport. Thus, Capt. Sullenberger, affectionately known as “Sully,” and First Officer Jeff Skiles successfully brought the plane down in the Hudson River. Miraculously, all 155 people on board survived, prompting Capt. Sullenberger to be labeled a hero and the event to be unofficially titled the “Miracle on the Hudson.”

This film was made to profile the crash, as well as the life of Capt. Sullenberger – played by Tom Hanks – following the incident. All things considered, I think it did an excellent job, and was objectively as good and accurate as any “based on a true story” movie I’ve ever seen – aviation or otherwise.

The NTSB: Pantomime villains

Upon seeing the previews months ago, the one thing that I wasn’t sold on was the characterization of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the body that investigates the majority of plane crashes within the United States. My gut reaction was that the film focused far too much on the hearings, and consequently I found the NTSB hearings to be dramatized in comparison to what I knew of the accident and the aftermath.

For example, the movie showed the simulator pilots successfully landing at both LaGuardia and Teterboro, and the NTSB board members looking condescendingly (in a “see? Told you so.” kind of way) at Sully and Skiles, and only performed the simulations with a 35-second delay that accounts for the human factor when prompted by Sully. In reality, 7 of the 15 attempts made by the simulator pilots without the 35 second delay were unsuccessful, and the single attempt that was made with said delay was unsuccessful (the film did show unsuccessful attempts being performed at both LaGuardia and Teterboro).

To be sure, I was not in any of those meeting rooms, and I have not seen a transcript of said meetings. Moreover, I cannot emphasize enough that I do not have all the facts. That said, it seemed that the premise of the movie was to make the NTSB out to be the bad guys, when I can’t say that I got that impression from Sully’s autobiography nor other documentations of the crash, including this excerpt from a press release concerning the NTSB’s final report which was about as praiseworthy as an impartial document could be.

The Physical and Mental Impacts

Even with how well the events of January 15, 2009 turned out, there’s no doubt that the events took a toll on Sully, Skiles, and others close to them. The film shows a number of scenes where Sully is speaking with his wife Lori on the phone, and Hanks and costar Laura Linney do extremely well at showing the stress that both underwent after the crash. (One minor goof: According to his autobiography, Sullenberger’s daughters were at school at the time of the crash, and were picked up by Lori after she received the call from Sully. In the film, they’re sitting at the kitchen table).

In addition to the strain that the crash puts on his relationship with his wife, Sully is shown to be stressed out and suffering from flashbacks, as well as bad dreams. And while Katie Couric (as herself) saying “are you a hero, Chesley Sullenberger? Or are you a fraud?” in a bad dream is perhaps a bit of a stretch, it is known that Sully questioned himself a lot following the incident. Hanks purveyed the gamut of emotions that Sully ran, and then some, and I think he did a fantastic job at recreating what I can only imagine was running through Sully’s head.

The Passengers

Two of the passengers that I remember reading about and seeing a lot of were father and son Rob and Jeff Kolodjay, who, along with four other men, were traveling on a golf trip and were rebooked on flight 1549 after a cancellation on another airline. Rob, at the front of the plane, was separated from his son, sitting at the back, and thought that Jeff had perished. There is quite a moving video clip of a tearful Rob – hours after the crash – making contact with his son for the first time via a cell phone. The movie does well to re-enact the scene, and I was glad that they profiled the Kolodjays among the many passengers – all of whom had unique stories to tell.

Realism

I was pleasantly surprised at how realistic the film was – although perhaps I shouldn’t have been, given that it is a Clint Eastwood and Tom Hanks film. The aircraft shown in the movie was – much like the actual plane itself – a U.S. Airways Airbus A320, and the simulator cockpits appeared to be Airbus as well. Furthermore, it was clear that the annunciator (a voice in the cockpit that calls out “above-ground” altitudes below a certain point) was an Airbus annunciator, and not one on Boeing or other aircraft. Most humorously, the pre-flight conversation between the two pilots in which Skiles (in jest) calls Sully an “excellent BS-er” based on a Google search was the very chat recounted in Higher Duty. I had a good laugh at that, even though I knew it was coming.

The ATC communciations and CVR transcript were incredibly accurate – practically down to the word, although there were a couple of times where a different word here or a different phrase there was used. (Trust me, I’ve listened to the ATC audio clips probably 10+ times). Regardless, it wasn’t like Hanks was paraphrasing consistently, and I was impressed at his ability to accurately reenact the conversation that Sully had with New York TRACON controller Patrick Harten, who was played by Patch Darragh. For his part, Harten – both in real life and in the movie – did a fantastic job given the situation, and his calmness was comparable to that of Capt. Sullenberger’s.

Credits

Unless it’s a film with blooper reels, I usually don’t stick around for the credits. But I’m glad I did with this film, which featured film of a real-life reunion between the passengers and their families and Capt. Sullenberger, First Officer Skiles, and flight attendants Sheila Dail, Donna Dent, and Doreen Welsh. Certain passengers, including Barry Leonard, a likeable Charlotte business executive, stated their seat numbers on that day, and the footage also showed Sullenberger addressing the crowd, saying something to the effect of “when you think of 155, plus family and friends, the number of people is a pretty big number” and that he thought that it was a good outcome for everyone. I think most would tend to agree.

Overall Impressions

As I should’ve expected, Sully was well worth the $18.99 (yikes!) that I paid to see it in IMAX – and I’m not just saying that as an aviation buff. Sure, the pantomime villain status of the NTSB was perhaps a bit exaggerated, but that’s to be expected – it is a drama, after all. Regardless, the accuracy of the reenactment, the quality of the acting, and the special effects were phenomenal, and I would highly recommend it to all, as it was an incredibly well-done film that lived up to billing.

Starting the Blog: A Little Bit About Myself

While Speedbird Spotter has existed since January of this year, I’ve neglected to write any posts on the blog. And though I’ve alluded to my childhood growing up in Southern Maine, my various trips, and a variety of other things about me, I have yet to give a personal introduction. That — combined with my desire to kick off at least semi-regular blogging — inspired me to write this post.

Who Am I?

First of all, I’ll start off with a little bit about myself. I’m a 24-year-old marketing professional who lives in Greater Boston. Having grown up in Southern Maine, I’ve always been a New Englander, but really didn’t come to enjoy Boston until I began attending school at Brandeis University in Waltham, MA. In June of 2014, just two weeks after graduation, I moved to Somerville, MA, which is where I currently live, however I’ll be moving next door to Cambridge in a month’s time. Regardless, my serendipitous discovery that I lived under the various departure patterns from Logan’s Runway 33L re-ignited my interest in aviation. Although I’ll definitely miss being able to lay in bed and see British Airways 747s fly over my house, I’ll always be appreciative that I was fortunate enough to live in such a place — the realization of a childhood dream.

Furthermore, I’ve detailed some more information about me, particularly in terms of aviation. While this isn’t a completely comprehensive list, hopefully it will shed a bit of background into who I am, and where my interests lie.

Commercial Aircraft I’ve Flown On

Although I really hadn’t flown on that many types prior to age 22, my repertoire of planes traveled on has significantly increased since that point. I probably have a few more types that belong on here,

Narrow Bodies

Embraer:

  1. ERJ-145 (American Eagle)
  2. E-170 (American Airlines)
  3. E-190 (jetBlue, U.S. Airways)

Airbus:

  1. A319-100 (American Airlines, easyJet, Frontier Airlines, Spirit Airlines, United Airlines, U.S. Airways)
  2. A320-200 (American Airlines, easyJet, jetBlue, United Airlines, U.S. Airways)
  3. A321-200 (American Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, Delta Air Lines)

Boeing:

  1. 717-200 (Delta Air Lines)
  2. 737-200 (U.S. Airways)
  3. 737-300 (Southwest Airlines)
  4. 737-700 (Southwest Airlines, United Airlines)
  5. 737-800 (American Airlines, United Airlines)
  6. 737-900 (Delta Air Lines, United Airlines)
  7. 757-200 (American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines)
  8. 757-300 (United Airlines)

McDonnell-Douglas:

  1. MD-82 (American Airlines)
  2. MD-83 (American Airlines)
Wide Bodies

Airbus:

  1. A330-200 (American Airlines)
  2. A330-300 (Air China, China Eastern Airlines)
  3. A380-800 (British Airways, China Southern Airlines)

Boeing:

  1. 767-300 (Delta Air Lines)
  2. 787-800 (Hainan Airlines, Norwegian Air Shuttle)
  3. 787-900 (Hainan Airlines, Norwegian Air Shuttle)
  4. 777-200 (British Airways, United Airlines)
  5. 747-400 (British Airways)

Note: Though we took a few trips when I was a little kid, I wouldn’t have known a Dash-8 from a Dreamliner (the latter didn’t exist then, but you get my point). Due to that, I’m sure that this list should be more extensive, however I don’t want to post something I’m not 100% sure is accurate.

10 Favorite Aircraft

While I’m definitely a fan of Boeing, I have to say that I enjoy flying on Airbus aircraft as well. However, the Boeing 747-400 is undoubtedly my favorite, and always will be.

  1. Boeing 747
  2. Boeing 787
  3. Airbus A330
  4. Airbus A380
  5. Boeing 777
  6. Boeing 767
  7. Airbus A320
  8. Boeing 737
  9. Boeing 757
  10. Airbus A319

Note: While most of the following aircraft have certain series that exist within the model (-100, -200, etc.), my feelings remain consistent throughout the fleet as a whole.

Firsts

While I can’t say I remember my first flight much, I have been able to remember a number of other interesting experiences. In particular, my first wide body and 747 flights were particularly memorable.

Flight:

  • January 1996
  • Portland, ME (KPWM) – Pensacola, FL (KPNS)
  • About: No idea what the exact routing was, although I do remember us going through Newark and Jacksonville, so I’d have to guess we flew on Continental. (To be fair, I was 3 at the time.)

Wide body Flight:

  • November 10, 2004
  • Boston, MA (KBOS) – London, England (EGLL)
  • British Airways 238
  • Boeing 777-200 (registration: unknown)
  • About: My dad and I took a trip to England which, in addition to being my first time on a wide-body, was also my first time leaving the United States. A good time indeed.

Boeing 747 Flight:

  • November 25, 2014
  • Boston, MA (KBOS) – London, England (EGLL)
  • British Airways 212
  • Boeing 747-400 (registration: G-BYGD)
  • About: I had long had a two-part dream: 1. to fly transatlantic from an airport in the state which I resided. 2. to fly on a 747. All told, this is my favorite trip that I’ve taken to date.

Domestic Wide-body Flight:

  • February 27, 2016
  • Boston, MA (KBOS) – Charlotte, NC (KCLT)
  • American Airlines 1967
  • Airbus A330-200 (reg: N290AY)
  • About: While it wasn’t long in duration, it was quite an experience to be able to look out the window for a short domestic flight and see the wing of the A330. Pretty cool!

10 Destinations for the Future

Ultimately, everyone has different criteria for what makes a destination unique. Though some of these are on here more due to interest in the airport rather than the destination itself, I am sure I’d enjoy the locales as well.

  1. San Francisco, CA (KSFO)*
  2. Denver, CO (KDEN)
  3. Honolulu, HI (PHNL)
  4. Munich, Germany (EDDM)
  5. Barcelona, Spain (LEBL)
  6. Beijing, China (ZBAA)*
  7. Toronto, Ontario (CYYZ)
  8. Dublin, Ireland (EIDW)
  9. Johannesburg, South Africa (FAOR)
  10. Tel Aviv, Israel (LLBG)

* Itinerary booked.

That should be enough for me to get started. In conclusion, I’d like to say thank you for stopping by, and be sure to check back — I intend to blog on a somewhat regular basis!