Travel Tips

Larry King, Amtrak and Rule 240

Locations in this article:  Bangkok, Thailand

airplane-sunset.jpgLast week, I was on Larry King Live, discussing the brouhaha about US Airways telling its pilots to fly slower and take less fuel.

The pilots claimed it was a safety issue, and the airline said there is no safety issue involved.

US Airways’ CEO Doug Parker was supposed to be on the show with us, but at the last minute, he cancelled.

Gee, an airline canceling … never heard of that. We did the show anyway.

Let’s put things into perspective: Whether or not Doug Parker showed up on the show, this whole fuel thing about the pilots being asked to board less fuel is really a non-issue. No pilot would ever board an aircraft with less fuel than is normally needed.

It’s always the pilot’s decision; that’s not negotiable. So, while the intramural fracas continues over at US Airways, life goes on. But, it was front-page news because people’s fears were raised about are we going to run out of gas in the air? The answer is you’re not; however, you may be stuck in the air for a while. Gee, what a surprise.


I was trying to just zip in on a flight on American Airlines from Washington Reagan to LaGuardia and, of course, you never ask if your flight’s on time. That’s the worst thing you could ever do because it gives you no information. Nine times out of 10, the person you’re asking is going to interpret your question as meaning, “Is it scheduled to leave on time?”

Well, according to the airlines, the Titanic was scheduled to leave on time. You don’t ask that question. Instead, you ask, “What’s the airplane assigned to my flight, and where’s that airplane?”

And, what I found out was that airplane was back at LaGuardia and hadn’t even taken off yet and wasn’t going to take off for at least an hour, which meant that my flight was at least an hour late and then even longer, considering turnaround times.

Air Traffic Patterns USARemember how I talk about Rule 240? Remember how so many people think it’s a myth and that I’m lying and making it up? Well, once again I used it.

I asked the agent, “Hey listen, can you 240 me over to the Delta shuttle?” No problem. My plane was supposed to leave at 5:45 p.m. and it wasn’t going to leave until 7 p.m., and so I went over to the 5:30 p.m. Delta shuttle with an American Airlines ticket that said Delta and everything was OK.

I got over there, got my boarding pass, got on the plane and then we were held on the ground for an hour and a half. And guess what time we left? 7 p.m. About the same time the American Airlines plane was going to leave. It’s nuts!

Then they held us on the runway, and then they held us when we landed at LaGuardia. Bottom line is, had I just taken the taxi from my last meeting in Washington to Union Station and gotten on Amtrak, I would have beaten any of those planes by at least 45 minutes to an hour and spent a whole lot less money.


We need to think about Amtrak again, especially now as airlines are canceling flights, canceling routes and cutting capacity. Remember September 15 is the drop dead date. That’s right, September 15 is when the airlines are going to cut capacity by as much as 15 percent across the board in this country.

We need to give Amtrak a fighting chance. We never have, and when you take a look at the actual numbers out there now train ridership is up almost 20 percent and Amtrak is straining to keep up because they’ve never had it this good. As many as 20 million passengers will go on the intercity routes this year, that’s up more than 2 million people.

There are a number of bills being sponsored by senators right now going through Congress trying to at least do their very best to improve the rail service by giving them more money and more funding that will be matched by states as well. Because remember, if Amtrak doesn’t come through your state, your state suffers. We’re all in this together.

You need to take a look at the time you spend waiting, not only that, the fuel you spend burning waiting on those runways. It becomes an economically viable imperative for us to support train service in this country.

And if we don’t, you know what’s going to happen? There’ll be no trains and you’ll be taking photographs at the airports that are abandoned.


I want to tell you the story about a good friend of mine, Michael Matthews, a former hotel executive with Regent, a legendary hotelier. He wrote about this on a Web site that I talk about all the time called

We’ve talked about this on the Today show many times about medical tourism, and about people making intentional choices to get their medical care and their elective surgery overseas. That’s not about this, but it is about medicine overseas.

broken armMichael was actually in Cambodia in Angkor Wat when he slipped and thought he broke his arm. He kind of shrugged it off and didn’t do anything about it. When he got to Bangkok he was in real pain so they actually went to the Bumrungrad International Hospital (which we’ve featured on the Today show). This is an amazing place, I’m telling you.

Listen to what he says: He walks in there, he’s met by a uniformed doorman escorted right up the steps into a beautiful marble lobby. At the reception desk they took his details: his age, nationality, etc. Elapsed time, 10 minutes.

Then he’s met by an assistant, actually an escort who’s going to be with him during his stay. They took him upstairs to the orthopedic wing, they waited for no more than five minutes, the nurse took all the rest of the vital information and weighed him and took his blood pressure. Then he went to see an orthopedic surgeon, a Thai surgeon who did his residency at Johns Hopkins. He basically examined Mike and realized that yes, he did break his arm and took a couple of X-rays.

Next thing you know, while the film was being developed, they diagnosed it correctly, the X-rays confirmed it, and here comes the best part of the story, they put him in a cast, they made him happy, they said goodbye, and what was his bill? They didn’t ask him for insurance, and his bill was $138.

When he got back to the United States, do you know what it cost him to take the cast off? $775! We’re messed up here.

From Peter Greenberg Worldwide Radio

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