Weekly Roundup Friday 8 February 2013

Cell 6 was where the JAL 787 battery fire (in Boston) started.  Boeing said that there was no possibility of a problem with one cell spreading to any of the other cells in the battery.  What do you think?
Cell 6 was where the JAL 787 battery fire (in Boston) started. Boeing said that there was no possibility of a problem with one cell spreading to any of the other cells in the battery. What do you think?

***  The chances are you may be getting this late on Sunday, not early on Friday.  The email service provider I use for sending emails had an unexplained problem on Friday, and being located in Massachusetts the weather seems not to have helped either their problem resolution or their communication with customers such as The Travel Insider.

So, without further ado, here is this week’s newsletter.  ***

Welcome to Friday 8 February, which is also Day 24 of the Boeing 787 grounding – the latest update for that is of course below.

This week also saw the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 16th Amendment to the US Constitution.

Oh – you don’t remember which one that is?  Let me quote it for you – it was written back in the days when it only took a few sentences to change our lives.

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several states, and without regard to any census or enumeration.

One can mirthlessly note that since the birth of income tax 100 years ago, the tax rates have changed a bit over the years.  The first tax ranged from 1% to 7%, with people entering the top bracket only after earning $11.6 million (in today’s dollars).  And the family standard deduction back then (also adjusted to current dollars) was $93,000.

Total income tax take (again in adjusted dollars) in 1913 was $16.6 billion, which works out to be $171 per person in the country.  In 2013 the total income tax take is $2.7 trillion, or $8510 per person.

Now – please remember – these numbers are adjusted for inflation.  In constant dollar terms, the government today is taking almost exactly fifty times more money per person than it did 100 years ago.

Confirming my comment about how it was possible to write more succinct legislation one hundred years ago, the tax code started off at 400 pages.  Notwithstanding regular pledges to simplify the tax code, it has relentlessly increased in size and complexity.  By one measure it is said to now total 73,954 pages, but that’s a debatable number because there are so many derivative regulations and related laws that it is very hard to agree on an exact count.

In other words, it takes 185 times as many pages to hit us up for 50 times as much money.

Progress is a funny thing, isn’t it.

Talking about progress, our Balkan & Baltic Bucket List Tour is progressing well (okay, a clumsy segue, but a necessary one).  It was initially criticized by some who saw it as a huge traveling busload of tourists, overwhelming the places we visited.

While I never completely that as any close to a valid observation; to turn a neutral feature into a positive, it seems that we are in no danger of even reaching 20 people on the tour, so if you’d been concerned about becoming one of a horde of tourists, you need fear no longer.  Indeed, I’ll limit our group size to a tiny maximum of 20, so you can now boldly choose to join what will be an ultra-exclusive tour of some ultra-out-of-the-way hidden gems of Europe.  We leave this June, so please hurry to confirm your participation.

As well as our weekly roundup newsletter, there’s another article attached that could help some of you reduce your travel costs by as much as 50%.  Do be sure to read the piece, about reverse direction fares, and here’s hoping you can benefit from it.

Please read on for items about :

  • Boeing 787 Update
  • Reader Survey – Would You Fly on a 787?
  • Another Naysayer Writes About Delta’s Oil Refinery
  • UK Air Passenger Tax – Less May be More
  • AA Merger Aanouncement Imminent?
  • Pilot Unable to Re-enter Cockpit Due to Co-Pilot Falling Asleep
  • Another New Chinese Plane Takes to the Air
  • British Icon Saved by the Chinese
  • Hotel Stupidity
  • Blackberry’s Enigmatic Launch ‘Success’ and More Delays
  • And Lastly This Week….

Boeing 787 Update

Today (Friday) is Day 24 of the 787’s grounding, still well short of the 37 day grounding of the DC-10 in 1979.  During the last 24 days there has been a lot of activity and announcements, but no causes yet uncovered or solutions developed.

Oh yes – one more thing has happened, too.  There have also been four new 787s constructed and added to the ‘parking lot’ of 787s at Boeing’s Everett manufacturing facility.  Boeing continues to happily manufacture the plane at a rate of five every month, accelerating to ten a month by the end of the year, even though the planes currently coming off the production line (one every six days) will clearly need to be modified to comply with whatever the new standards will be once they have been established.

As has been constantly the case all along, Boeing continues to push both in public (and almost certainly twice as hard in private) for interim ‘fixes’ to be accepted prior to an ultimate determination of what the problem is and how to best solve it long-term, so as to allow its planes to take to the air again.  But Boeing’s public pushing runs the risk of causing the FAA to ‘work to rule’ for fear of magnifying the already alarming appearance of subservience and inappropriate deference the FAA may have displayed to Boeing earlier in its now clearly flawed 787 certification process.

This article quotes comments from the US Transportation Secretary Ray La Hood as saying the FAA (part of the DoT) won’t lift its grounding order until they have ‘got it right’.  Does this mean that the earlier review the FAA announced on the Friday before the Wednesday grounding – you remember, the one where FAA and Boeing’s top executives lined up in a smiling row in front of the cameras and all chorused in carefully rehearsed unison that there was nothing wrong with the plane at all and that it was perfect safe – may now take place with the plane grounded during the review process, rather than allowing the plane to still fly normally as was originally anticipated back on that happy Friday five days BG (before grounding)?

Is the FAA pushing back against Boeing’s own public lobbying pressure and obliquely telling Boeing ‘we match your bet and raise it still further’ in this high stakes game of commercial need vs public safety?

And now that the first rush of grounding-related excitement has abated, newspapers that are keen to keep the story alive are starting to do a bit more digging into a story that in sad truth has been available for them to pursue at any time since the 787 was first announced.  We are starting to see some Boeing engineers be quoted as to their views of the problem – unsurprisingly, they are almost universally negative about the impacts of outsourcing not just the building of 787 components/assemblies, but also both the design of these parts of the plane and the certification of them, too.  Here’s a good story on that point.

There are also some whispers about the certification process that saw Boeing get approval from the FAA for the plane to be flown commercially based largely on Boeing’s own say-so about if and how the plane was safe.  This is a story that still needs much more telling.

A day ago the NTSB held another press conference – how Boeing must hate these!  This time the NTSB itself talked fairly directly about Boeing’s overly optimistic assumptions about its battery safety.

NTSB Chief Deborah Hersman said that Boeing had determined as part of its self-certification there was no danger of a problem with one cell in its eight cell battery packs spreading to any of the other cells.  She pointed out that in actual fact, quite the opposite happened in reality, with the fire in the sixth of eight sells propagating through other cells, and with the temperature inside the battery compartment reaching as high as 500°F.

Ms Hersman went on to point to Boeing’s claim that the danger of an incident with a smoke release would happen less than once in every 10 million flight hours.  The observed reality – two incidents, on two different planes, in two weeks, and in less than 100,000 flight hours accumulated to date, which is a problem rate more than 2,000 times greater than Boeing predicted as part of its self-certification process.

After contrasting Boeing’s claims with the observed reality, she said in a masterful piece of understatement ‘The assumptions used to certify the battery must be reconsidered.’  That sounds like a lengthy process – and let’s hope it is.

You are probably uncomfortable enough with a problem happening twice as often as anticipated.  But twenty times?  Two hundred times??  Two thousand times???

The malodorous elephant in the corner of the room has to be the unasked, and currently unanswerable question – are there any other issues with the 787 where the chance of catastrophic failure is also 2,000 times greater than Boeing calculated (and which the FAA didn’t double-check)?

The NTSB press release is here.

One has to feel particularly sorry for ANA, the airline with the greatest buy-in to the 787 program at present.  Of the 50 planes out there, 17 belong to ANA.

Earlier this week they were asking Boeing if they could please get some of the 777s they also have on order sooner than currently anticipated, although it may be difficult for Boeing to be too helpful.  The speed of the assembly line is fixed – changing production rates is a complicated and slow process.  On the other hand, Boeing usually attempts to keep some delivery slots ‘up its sleeve’ in case of special needs for urgent deliveries, and there are often airlines that would be willing to delay their receipt of new planes in return for a financial inducement.

Getting three 777s a bit sooner than expected doesn’t quite match having 17 787s grounded and a freeze on future 787 deliveries, but I guess every bit helps.

Later in the week ANA announced it had updated its schedule to reflect no 787 operations all the way through the end of March.  Boeing is of course regularly briefing all affected airlines about the status of the 787 grounding, and so this action by ANA would seem to hint there is an expectation that the plane is unlikely to return to service during the next six weeks.

Boeing has asked for permission to operate 787 test flights, a request that will almost certainly be granted – although note these would be technical test flights only, not carrying any passengers at all.  Allowing test flights in no way suggests that the process is almost complete.

And Boeing has been very excited to announce, as if it were a positive development, that it has been allowed to fly a new 787 back to its Everett plant from where it had been stranded in Fort Worth by the sudden grounding edict.  It is also surprising to learn that it apparently makes sense to fly the 787 all the way to DFW to get painted, rather than to have it painted in Boeing’s paint shop at Everett.  Is there no limit to what Boeing is not now outsourcing?

By the end of this week, even Boeing’s professional cheerleaders have been starting to find it a bit difficult to maintain their attitude of ‘everything is perfectly safe, there’s no story here, move along please’.  This article quotes a Boeing response to the NTSB press conference, which talks about ‘constantly challenging their assumptions and decisions’ – is that the precursor to saying ‘oops, we were wrong’?  And you’ll note that the entire justification for the Lithium ion battery choice in their first paragraph makes no direct mention of safety issues.

Boeing’s statement says

Lithium ion batteries were selected after a careful review of available alternatives because they best met the performance and design objectives of the 787. We’ve used them successfully in other applications, such as satellites, for nearly a decade, and they are used on other aircraft, spacecraft and naval vessels.

With that said, we constantly challenge our assumptions and decisions across all of our products when new information becomes available. Nothing we learned during the design of the 787 or since has led us to change our fundamental assessment of the technology. It merits emphasis that the 787 has extensive protections in place to ensure the ability for safe flight to continue even in the presence of a battery failure.

A question for Boeing :  While it is true that lithium-ion batteries are in use on other planes, isn’t it also true that no other airplane uses the same type of li-ion battery that you do?  And the only plane with a li-ion battery similar to yours had a similar problem and was grounded, as a result, and can currently – more than a year later –  only be operated with a non li-ion battery?

I’ve another question, or perhaps ‘musing’ would be a better term.  As soon as the current lithium-ion battery problem started to emerge, why did Boeing so stubbornly stay the path and stick with these self-evidently dangerous batteries?  Why not immediately introduce a less risky Li-ion technology, or even retreat back to Ni-MH type batteries?  They could still develop a new improved state of the art Li-ion solution for the future, at their leisure, but wouldn’t everyone have been in a much better win-win position?

Think about this.  A 787 probably sells for about $140 million.  A two month delay means, on average, at least five unsold planes are sitting on the tarmac – $700 million worth of undelivered unpaid for plane.  If Boeing’s cost of money is 5%, that represents a $6 million hit right there.  Add the compensation claims that airlines are already starting to seek from Boeing ($15.4 million – so far – from ANA alone), the loss of goodwill, and everything else, and the costs of this grounding probably go the high side of $100 million.

How much would it have cost to come up with a ‘Plan B’ battery in the first week and moved positively forward to get it accepted.  Will the certification process for a less risky battery technology be slower than the re-certification process for the more risky Li-ion battery?  Almost certainly not.

Most of all, is saving a few dozen pounds of weight in the 500,000 lb plane really worth all this heartache?  Haven’t we long since passed the point of vanishing returns?  And if Boeing was prepared to take this much of a safety risk for a few dozen pounds of weight saving, one has to wonder where else in the plane it has accepted similar but as yet unknown tradeoffs between safety and weight/performance.

Reader Survey – Would You Fly on a 787?

A survey of British travel agents revealed that 10% of them would not be comfortable flying on a 787.  What about you?  What’s your feeling about the 787?

When the plane has its current battery problem solved and is allowed to fly again, how would you feel about taking a long over-the-water flight on a 787.  Do you think that once the battery problem is fixed, the plane will be no worse than any other reasonably modern plane out there?  Do you think the plane might even be better?  Or, do you feel there could be other unknown issues lurking in the background?

Please answer from the perspective of considering a flight shortly after the plane has returned to service.  In ten years time, its reliability will be a matter of certain record, but answer as if you might be flying it shortly after its return to service, while it is still a new plane with little operating history behind it.

Please click the appropriate link below to auto-create an empty email and send it to me.  Your response is coded into the email’s subject line.

Less worried on a 787 than on any other plane.

Totally unworried on any modern plane including the 787 operated by a reputable airline.

Somewhat nervous, but no more than on any other plane.

More anxious than with other planes, but it wouldn’t cause me to avoid the 787.

More anxious, and if there was a non-787 option with similar itinerary times and cost, I would probably choose the non-787.

More anxious, and I’d pay a small amount extra, and/or accept some scheduling inconvenience, to avoid the 787.

Sufficiently anxious to pay an appreciable amount extra, and/or accept considerable scheduling inconvenience, to avoid the 787.

I will refuse to fly the 787, at least for the next year or two.

As always, I’ll collate and report back on the results next week.

Another Naysayer Writes About Delta’s Oil Refinery

You know, sometimes it is lonely writing as the Travel Insider, having to swim against the stream and flow of all the other fish.

Many commentators have lemming-like echoed Delta’s jingoistic bravado about the immense profits the airline would enjoy by becoming the proud owner of an old loss-making refinery that no-one else was willing to buy.  I’ve consistently suggested that quite the opposite is more likely to be the case, with the possible exception being if Delta has managed to find a loophole in the tax code to avoid paying all the taxes that would otherwise be due on the jet fuel, as a result of being both oil company/producer and airline/consumer.

Here’s an interesting article in which the headline gives a hint as to the content – ‘Delta Airlines Got an Oil Refinery: The Math Does Not Work’.

As well as some analysis, not all of which is completely clear, the article also points out the interesting fact that the person Delta hired to lead its refinery project ‘left the company quite abruptly late last year’; and mentions the associated rumor that his departure may have been due to losses at its refinery.  Losses?  Wasn’t Delta promising $300 million a year in extra profit from its refinery?

UK Air Passenger Tax – Less May be More

The Brits have a really peculiar attitude to air travel.  Although the British people enjoy a wondrous lifestyle, being able to fly to countless continental destinations for exotic weekends away, at extraordinary bargain costs and great convenience, all possible only as a result of air travel and the budget airlines that operate from Britain, their government officially hates airlines, refuses to allow any airport expansion, and seeks to kill the airlines and reduce passenger numbers by taxing the life out of them.

A new report by Pricewaterhousecoopers suggests that if the UK government were to abolish its Air Passenger Duty (APD) tax, which costs as much as £92/$145 for a longer roundtrip flight, this would boost the UK economy by £16 billion, and create 60,000 extra jobs.  The loss of the tax revenue would furthermore be almost exactly balanced by increased collections of income tax and VAT.  Details here.

So there’s no downside whatsoever to scrapping the APD – cheaper air travel, improved economic benefits, 60,000 extra jobs (this is proportionally equivalent to the effect of about 300,000 new jobs in the US) and offsetting increases in VAT and income tax collections so the government still gets as much revenue.  What’s not to like?

Alas, this is far from the first study on the harmful effects of the APD, and far from the first conclusion that scrapping it would benefit everyone and harm no-one.

The government steadfastly ignores them all.  Which perhaps helps explain how it is that in the US, income taxes have risen 50-fold in 100 years.

AA Merger Aanouncement Imminent?

It seems that the US Airways/American Airlines merger is all but done.  Most likely, the new airline will be known as American Airlines, and probably will retain its headquarters in Fort Worth, too.

The new airline would become the largest US and world airline.  Currently, due to the Delta/Northwest and United/Continental mergers, American has been the number three carrier.

So six leading US airlines are about to become three.  Call me short-sighted, but I surely don’t see how that benefits us as passengers.

Happily, for a change, it seems the employees of both airlines are keen on the merger.  Allied Pilots Association spokesman Tom Hoban said

 The synergies between the two route structures, a potential change in leadership with a fresh vision for the combined airline make it very attractive to do it sooner rather than later.

That’s all high-minded stuff, although he missed out on the obligatory nonsense line about how passengers would benefit from all of this.  Instead, he said

There are enormous financial advantages to executing this merger in bankruptcy.

Now that is a vague comment.  Does he mean enormous financial advantages to passengers, to the airline and its shareholders, or to the pilots?  Which do you think?

Here’s a clue as to his enthusiasm.  Airline employees are unable to view airline profitability other than seeing it as an opportunity for personal pay raises, and the only thing that has been keeping them in line has been that, until about now, a strike at any one airline had little impact on the aviation system as a whole and airlines could work around such disruptions.

But what happens now if an airline with right around one-third of all flights in the US is forced to suspend operations due to employee industrial action?  The other airlines (don’t forget also that most flights now operate at close to capacity) would clearly be unable to absorb the extra passengers from the suspended flights.

The lack of competition among airlines not only disadvantages us as passengers.  It gives a huge boost in ‘bargaining’ (some might say ‘dictatorial’) power to the unions, too.

The only remaining trivial detail – but one which could derail everything – seems to be whether AA’s CEO Tom Horton gets a fancy senior position or not.  The smart money is betting that US Airways’ CEO Doug Parker will become top dog of the new merged carrier, and the only ambiguity is if Horton will be tossed a face-saving feel-good position or not.

Details here and as many other places as you care to Google.

Pilot Unable to Re-enter Cockpit Due to Co-Pilot Falling Asleep

Talking about pilots, I’m not too worried by one of the two pilots in the cockpit taking a nap during a long boring overnight flight.  I’m not quite so positive when it happens on a short flight in crowded airspace in the middle of the day, because there really is quite a lot for the pilots to do.

No matter how you feel about the first two scenarios, both of which are much more common than most people realize, how about the situation that is now being revealed that occurred on a Transavia (an Air France/KLM subsidiary) 737 flight from Holland to Crete last September?

Two and a half hours into the flight, the pilot left the cockpit to go to the toilet.  We’re not told how long he was out of the cockpit for, but when we buzzed the co-pilot through the intercom to be re-admitted, he got no response.  When the pilot finally managed to get back into the cockpit via some mysterious override procedure which for security reasons is not being revealed, he found the co-pilot fast asleep.

Ooops.  Details here.

Another New Chinese Plane Takes to the Air

I’ve written a few times already about China’s new narrow-body jet, the 150 passenger C-919, that has now secured almost 400 orders and threatens the cozy Airbus A320/Boeing 737 duopoly on narrow-body planes of this size.

While the C-919 will almost surely be slow to impact on the sales of Airbus and Boeing planes into their traditional established markets (ie Europe and North America), the numbers don’t lie, and with 380 planes already ordered, whether in China or anywhere else, that is equally clearly 380 fewer planes that Airbus/Boeing can sell, and that’s got to hurt.  Furthermore, most of the market growth where the most new planes will be sold is into markets where A/B have less traditional loyalty and following; markets that would be more likely to consider a non-traditional solution offered by supplier C.

Neither Airbus nor Boeing is admitting to much concern, because, after all, the A320/B737 is ‘only’ the key/core cash cow of each manufacturer’s product range.  1124 of Boeing’s 1203 net new jet orders last year were 737s, and 739 of Airbus’s net 833 orders were A320 series planes.  Their respective lackluster ‘new’ models – the 737max and A320neo – were both designed from the perspective of ‘we only have to be slightly better than before, because the other guy is only going to be slightly better than before too’, and show no great concern nor thought given to the possibility of the true next generation of single aisle 150 – 200 passenger planes coming from a totally different source than themselves.

Such complacency doesn’t make sense.  The two manufacturers should be terrified.  Instead, they placidly sneer that the C-919 is an entry-level plane at the bottom of the market, and anyway (they say) China shows no signs of competing against their larger and wide-body planes.

Which brings us to the successful first test flight of China’s Xian Y-20 large air freighter.  Although the airplane is being designed initially as a military transport aircraft, it only takes a coat of paint and a few minor extra amenities to have it competing with civilian market air freighters.

Sure, the plane has a much shorter range than most western cargo planes, and is a long way short of toppling the 747 from its pre-eminent role as the largest common commercial freighter aircraft in the world.  Our point is simply this.  The Chinese are now approaching the aircraft building marketplace from both ends – from small narrowbodies and from large widebodies.

Boeing itself developed the 747 in part as a spinoff from a military contract, so the precedent is clearly in place.

There’s another interesting aspect to the new Y-20 airplane which isn’t really covered in this article about its maiden flight.  The plane is currently being powered with Russian jet engines.

The interesting thing about that is that Russian jet engines have few fans around the world.  They tend to be heavier, less efficient, and less reliable than western jet engines.  So why would China burden its new airfreighter with second-rate engines?

Our guess is that China is keen to develop its own jet engine industry too, and that the Russian engines are merely a stopgap measure prior to the appearance of Chinese engines.

British Icon Saved by the Chinese

The company that makes the iconic Black London cabs, currently in a British form of Chapter 11 and staring at the need to close down and abandon operations entirely, has been saved by the Chinese car manufacturer Zhejiang Geely, which has now bought Manganese Bronze, the company that made/makes the cabs.

A steering fault that caused the recall of 400 taxis forced the struggling company into ‘Administration’ late last year, and after the initial wave of enthusiastic commentary about lots of companies being keen to buy the company, nothing happened until Zhejiang Geely came to the rescue.

Details here.

Airplanes.  Jet engines.  And taxicabs.  Does China intend to become the world’s supplier of all forms of transportation equipment?

Hotel Stupidity

I got a Groupon offer in my email for a nice hotel.  The offer claimed to be half price for the room; in truth it wasn’t quite half-price, but it was still a good offer.

You probably already know you’ve got to be careful with Groupon offers.  They are not always quite as brilliantly good as they appear to be, with suppliers sometimes playing games such as coming up with unique products that have ostensible regular prices way above normal so that the Groupon discount deal seems better than it is.  Some Groupon deals are perfectly accurate and honest (things such as ‘$50 worth of food at our restaurant for only $25’ which are hard to do tricks with) and others are not necessarily as good as they seem (‘Our $7000 vacation to XYZ is now available for only $3500’).

I rang the small hotel directly, and the gal who answered the phone indicated that the hotel was almost completely empty for the time I was considering staying there – unsurprising, because summer focused vacation places struggle to get any business at all in the winter.  I asked to speak to the manager and said ‘If I buy your room through Groupon, I pay $190 and you get about $95.  I’ll give you the full $190 if you’ll simply upgrade the room for me.  That way we both win.’

She laughed nervously and said ‘I’m sorry, I can’t do that.  The best I could offer you is 15% off the room price if you booked directly (this would make my cost $290 – $100 more than the Groupon cost of $190) but I can’t match the Groupon rate.’

I said to her ‘So you’d rather take $95 from Groupon than $190 from me?’.

She giggled again and said ‘I’m sorry, but there’s nothing I can do about that.’

I expressed amazement that, with a nearly empty hotel, she was refusing an offer from me of $190 for a two night stay, while at the same time being prepared to accept Groupon bookings that gave her only $95, and wondered exactly what she meant when she said she can’t match her own rate being offered elsewhere.

She giggled again and the conversation ended.  I was so disappointed at this foolishness that I’m not going there at all, so she’s actually not only turned her back on $190, but lost out on the $95 as well.  As for her ‘best offer’ – suggesting I spend $290 direct with her rather than $190 with Groupon, I completely agree that – from her perspective, it definitely was her best offer.  But I had been selfishly looking at things from my own perspective, and so it was very easy to resist!

Blackberry’s Enigmatic Launch ‘Success’ and More Delays

The Blackberry Z10 is now available for sale in Britain and Canada, and has been often sold out in stores since its release last week.

But being sold out isn’t the same as runaway sales.  It can also mean woeful under-estimation of marketplace demand (such as, for example, with Google’s lovely Nexus 4, a phone that has been almost continually sold out since its release last November).

So – big success or big disappointment?  If we turn to Blackberry’s CEO, Thorsten Heins, for some facts and figures, we’ll be left largely unenlightened.

Oh, yes, he boasts that sales have greatly exceeded expectations.  But – what were their expectations?  What are their sales?

We’re also told that the new Z10 has sold more units than previous Blackberry handsets when they were first launched.  But – all those years ago – the market was massively smaller.  All new smartphones typically sell greater quantities than their predecessors.

We’re told that in the UK the company saw ‘close to three times’ its best performance ever for the first week of sales of a new BB handset.  But how close is close, and, most of all, what is the actual number sold?

Blackberry remains strangely mute about the actual number of handsets sold.  There’s only one possible interpretation of its silence.  Blackberry  is disappointed with and possibly even embarrassed by the results.

We fully expected an initial sales surge, and are surprised that Blackberry is being so mute about the numbers.  There is such a huge pent-up demand among the remaining still-loyal Blackberry users for a new BB to replace their increasingly aged and obsolete current BB phones, that even a BB that woofed and wagged its furry tail would get great initial sales.

The true test will be the sustainability of the sales numbers after the first surge of BB-enthusiasts have bought their phones.  When the new BB model phones are no longer on the front page of all the techy websites, and the latest/greatest thing will be something from Samsung or Apple or Amazon instead, what will happen to the BB sales then?

Blackberry’s probably corporate disappointment at the real levels and nature of its Z10 sales is only one part of BB’s new problems.  The other problem relates to slippages in the product release dates for both its phones in the US.

At the time of its launch event last week, Blackberry promised the Z10 would go on sale in the US in mid March, and the Q10 (keyboard phone) some time in April.  How are those promises holding up, a week later?

Its rather non-binding estimate of when the Q10 phone (the ‘real’ Blackberry phone with a keyboard, rather than an ersatz/imitation iPhone/Android phone like the Z10) would be released has already been revised.

Less than a week after the company said the Q10 should be available some time in April, it is now suggesting that the Q10 may not appear in the US until May – or even June.

A delivery time slipping one or two months in one week?  That’s not good.

Oh, and what about the US release of the Z10, promised last week to occur in ‘mid March’?  T-Mobile has now said it plans to be among the first US carriers to start selling the Z10, with its release scheduled for 27 March.

Verizon’s website is very subdued about the Z10.  It has it buried away out of sight of casual browsers, nowhere near the home page, and merely says ‘coming soon’.  It is also hard to find any mention of the phone on the AT&T website, but when one eventually does, it too has no release date alongside it.

So who exactly is releasing the phone in the US in mid-March?  Or does Mr Heins live in a strange world where neither actual sales numbers nor actual release dates matter?

And Lastly This Week…..

If you’re planning on traveling to, from, or within the Northeast of the US today/tomorrow, good luck.  The snow storm looks certain to disrupt many travels plans, with thousands of flight cancellations already having been announced.

Check your flight before you go to the airport.  And check it directly with the airline’s website, perhaps backed up by Flightaware.com and/or Flightstats.com, where you can also get a feeling for the overall health of the air travel system and what things are like at your departing and arriving airports.

I was checking a flight last weekend by simply typing the flight number into Google, and was told the flight had already departed and would arrive 30 minutes early.  A short while later, I got a text message from a friend on the flight telling me that the flight had not yet departed and was expected to depart two hours late.  A couple of hours later and Google was still promising an early arrival, while the plane had yet to leave the gate.

So check multiple sources.

I asked at the end of last week’s 5428 word newsletter if anyone was still reading it after that enormous length.  Several readers replied to say that not only had they reached the end, but they’d both read and enjoyed all the bits in the middle, too.  Wow.

But this week (and with a similarly over-sized newsletter) I find myself tortured with guilt.  Are my long newsletters creating ‘cyberloafing’?  A new study suggests that the average American office worker spends 60% – 80% of their workweek ‘cyberloafing’.

And truly lastly this week, what do flight attendants really think of their passengers?  So as to reduce the cyberloafing potential inherent in that question and the answer that needs to follow, I’ll instead employ the adage of ‘a picture is worth 1,000 words‘.  The Aeroflot flight attendant in question has since been fired.

Until next week, please enjoy safe – and snow free – travels






1 thought on “Weekly Roundup Friday 8 February 2013”

  1. Pingback: 32% of Frequent Fliers Will Refuse to Fly on Fixed 787 » The Travel Insider

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Usually weekly, since 2001, we publish a roundup of travel and travel related technology developments, and often a feature article too.

You’ll stay up to date with the latest and greatest (and cautioned about the worst) developments.  You’ll get information to help you choose and become a better informed traveler and consumer, how to best use new technologies, and at times, will learn of things that might entertain, amuse, annoy or even outrage you.

We’re very politically incorrect and love to point out the unrebutted hypocrisies and unfairnesses out there.

This is all entirely free (but you’re welcome to voluntarily contribute!), and should you wish to, easy to cancel.

We’re not about to spam you any which way and as you can see, we don’t ask for any information except your email address and how often you want to receive our newsletters.

Newsletter Signup - Welcome!

Thanks for choosing to receive our newsletters.  We hope you’ll enjoy them and become a long-term reader, and maybe on occasion, add comments and thoughts of your own to the newsletters and articles we publish.

We’ll send you a confirmation email some time in the next few days to confirm your email address, and when you reply to that, you’ll then be on the list.

All the very best for now, and welcome to the growing “Travel Insider family”.