Weekly Roundup Friday 4 April 2014

The latest addition to the Las Vegas skyline is the world's highest Ferris wheel, the 550 ft tall High Roller, which opened this week.  The 30 minute ride costs $25 daytime and $30 at night.
The latest addition to the Las Vegas skyline is the world’s highest Ferris wheel, the 550 ft tall High Roller, which opened this week. The 30 minute ride costs $25 daytime and $30 at night.

Good morning

I returned back from New Zealand earlier this week, and enjoyed two more splendid flights on Hawaiian Airlines.  That makes four excellent flights in a row with HA, all pushing back on time or early, and all of which arrived early.  More astonishing still, the flights even had edible food on them, and both the domestic flights (between SEA and HNL) and international (between HNL and AKL) gave the food for free.

Bravo to HA.  Please be sure to consider them the next time you fly somewhere they go – either to Honolulu or further afield around the Pacific rim, including Auckland, Brisbane and Sydney in Australia and Tahiti, plus other destinations in the North Pacific including, from later this month, Beijing.

I also experienced a couple of flights within NZ, between Auckland and Christchurch, on Jetstar (a Qantas subsidiary).  These were notable as well, but unfortunately in a very bad way.  They say on their website that the A320 they were operating has an average seat pitch of 29″, which implies that some seats have more and some have less.  In my case, while I half lucked out with an exit row seat one way (I say half because although there was more legroom, the seat wouldn’t recline), on the return flight I was seated in a regular seat in the rear half of the plane, and the seats were so close together I could not put my legs straight out in front of me – I had to awkwardly splay them into the slightly extra space between the sides of the seat in front (fortunately the seat next to me was empty, making this possible).

I have never before been in such a cramped airline seat.  My legs aren’t notably longer than anyone else’s (I have about a 31″ leg length on trousers) and I noticed other men forced to do the same thing in other rows, too.

Having a mix of different seat pitches is quite common – when you think about it, an airplane typically has three fixed points – its front, its rear, and its exit rows (more in large planes with multiple cabins and multiple exit rows of course).  It is quite common for the seat pitch in the front ‘half’ to be different to in the back ‘half’, and the airlines sometimes seek to obscure this by quoting an average seat pitch.

The much over-rated Seatguru website – the place you’d expect to find information on the real seat pitch in each part of a plane – is usually silent on this point.  Indeed, Seatguru is wrong when it claims the JQ A320 seats have a 17″ width; although I didn’t measure them, I’ll accept JQ’s website claim that the seats are 17.88″ wide, which is more closely typical to seat width on an A320.  Oh – and the pictures on the Seatguru site claiming to show adequate seat pitch – for all we know, they were taken by a midget.  Or, more likely, they were in the front half of the cabin, where the pitch is probably better.

One more thing about seat pitch – and again this is something that both the airlines and Seatguru are silent on – these days seat pitch needs to be considered along with seat thickness.  Some seats can be as much as an inch thicker than other seats, and if the seat is thicker, then that is more space taken up by the seat back and less space for your knees.

Spending an hour and a half on a plane where you can’t have your legs straight out in front of you is close to cruel and unusual torture, and worse even than on the North Korean airline, Air Koryo.  As laissez-faire as I may be, after such an experience I find myself tempted to say ‘there should be a law against this’….

In all seriousness, there are situations where animals have more protection in terms of how they are transported than people have.  I’m thinking in particular of the summer temperatures that soar into the dangerously high regions on London’s Underground system, but that’s an annual story for a few months later in the year (each year the Underground registers higher temperatures than the year before, along with stories of passengers suffering from heat exhaustion while traveling on the system).

I would have liked to have flown on Air NZ domestically within NZ because their fares on similarly scheduled flights were lower than Jetstar.  But unfortunately, Air NZ’s 15.4 lb maximum carry-on weight – one of the lowest limits of any airline, anywhere in the world, and one they sometimes enforce rigorously – makes it impossible to consider them.  As a prudent traveler, I always take anything essential or valuable in my carry-on rather than risk losing it in a checked bag, and doing so puts my carry-on consistently over Air NZ’s 15.4 lb maximum.  Many carry-on bags weigh close to 10 lbs empty, pointing still further to Air NZ’s ridiculously unrealistic maximum weight.

Fortunately, whatever extra I spent on the flights was more than compensated for with the cheap rental car I enjoyed.  I drove over 1500 miles, all comfortable and trouble-free, in a Nissan Sunny of unknown age, but with 155,000 miles already showing on the odometer.  Why pay $50+ a day for a nearly new car when a well maintained older car can be yours for half the price?  Thank you to Ace Rental Cars.

Anyway, now that I’m home again and struggling to shake off the jetlag, what else this week?  The feature article this week is more about nothing than about something – it is about the lack of any developments in the missing MH370 saga, and the growing possibility that we may never find the plane.  Even if we do find the plane, we might never ascertain what happened to it, why, how, or who.

The article follows at the bottom of the newsletter, and may be the last time I write on the topic – unless/until the plane is found and reveals its secrets.  And noting that a cruise ship disappeared in the North Atlantic a year ago and has never been seen since, my point is that if we can lose a cruise ship in the congested North Atlantic, how much easier is it to lose a plane in the empty Southern Ocean.

See below for lots more good stuff; it is an enormous 6,060 word newsletter this week with items on :

  • How a Competitor Benefits From a New Airline on Its Route
  • Delta Cancels Fewer Flights than Its Competitors
  • Alaska Airlines Concentrates its Forces to Fight Delta
  • An Interesting History of ETOPS
  • World’s Busiest Airports
  • They Said it Could Never be Done.  SFO Proves Them Wrong.
  • China’s Airlines Suffering from Unexpected Competition
  • Hush!  Don’t Complain!
  • Hotels Switch to Digital Newspapers
  • Is Wi-Fi No Longer Appropriate for Hotel Internet Access?
  • A Workable International Phone Solution for Many of Us
  • Arguments For and Against Daylight Saving
  • And Lastly This Week….

How a Competitor Benefits From a New Airline on Its Route

One of the strange aspects of the airline industry is that competing airlines also ‘help’ each other out, in both public and private ways.  I came across examples of each on my return from New Zealand earlier this week.

The semi-public way in which two competitors quietly cooperate was seeing that Hawaiian Airlines has contracted with Air New Zealand to provide its ground services in Auckland.  So when you go to check in for the flight, you’re actually checking in at a thinly disguised Air NZ checkin counter, manned by Air NZ personnel, the same in the gate lounge as well.

For years, even an airline with a major presence in Auckland – Qantas – also used Air NZ to provide its ground services, notwithstanding the two airlines being apparently arch-competitors.  Would you really want your major competitor managing one of your key branches, and having access to all your clients and your business information?  Only airlines feel comfortable doing this.

Does this mean that the Air NZ ground staff occasionally make subtle ‘mistakes’ to disadvantage the competitor airline they are serving (and, of course, it isn’t just Air NZ in Auckland; similar situations occur elsewhere in the world as well)?  Well, you can make your own decision about that, and perhaps it was just an unfamiliarity with HA’s boarding policies that caused the NZ gate staff to get the boarding priorities wrong.

The more subtle benefit is worth mentioning, too.  I had an interesting chat with a senior seeming NZ staffer, and he confirmed my fear that the HA flights had been operating with light loads, and said he couldn’t understand why, because their own loads on NZ’s competing flights to Honolulu were so high that they were sometimes having to offload passengers and put them on the HA flight instead.

This pointed to an interesting scenario which the guy confirmed.  Prior to the HA flight operating, if an NZ flight was oversold and had to offload passengers, they would have had to either delay the person until their flight the next day, or else pay Qantas or some other airline to first fly the passenger to Australia and then from there to Honolulu.  But now, with the nonstop HA flight later in the day, it is easier for them to ‘protect’ any overbooking on their own flight by moving passengers to the HA flight if necessary.

As a result, it seems than NZ may have increased the percentage by which it is willing to overbook its own flight to HNL, knowing that its cost to move any bumped passengers will be lower.

So, whether in the form of increased revenue by selling its ground handling services to Hawaiian Airlines, or in the form of being able to oversell its own flights to a greater extent, it would seem that Air New Zealand is not being too severely harmed by the presence of HA on the Auckland-Honolulu route.

Delta Cancels Fewer Flights than Its Competitors

Here’s an interesting article that gives a ‘behind the scenes’ view on what Delta does to minimize its need to occasionally cancel flights.

After a user survey that showed passengers preferred delayed flights to cancelled flights (did they really need to survey us to find that out – particularly these days where being re-accommodated on an alternate flight can sometimes take a day or more) DL has made it a priority to avoid cancelling flights, with impressive results, including a 72 day stretch in 2013 without a single cancellation.

The net result – last year the airline cancelled only 0.34% of its flights.  The next best airline was United, with a 1.0% cancellation rate.  American was the worst major carrier with a 1.7% cancellation rate.

Note the article’s ending comments, however.  Although I’ve been accused (by an airline pilot on a live talk show) of ‘living in a dream world of unreality’ for saying so, the article confirms the fact we all know or suspect – airlines will sometimes cancel flights based on low passenger loads.

Alaska Airlines Concentrates its Forces to Fight Delta

There’s something fascinating for me, as a Seattle area resident, in seeing the slowly escalating conflict between former airline allies Alaska Airlines and Delta Air Lines.

This last week saw a more subtle act on Alaska’s part.  It is beefing up its service from its Seattle hub, and cancelling flights between other less strategic parts of its route network so as to provide the planes for its additional Seattle services.  This strengthens its position in Seattle and gives Seattle-based fliers less need to stray out of the AS route system for all their travels.

It will cancel service between LAX-SJC, PDX-LGB, ATL-PDX and ANC-DEN, while adding service between Seattle and variously ABQ, BWI, DTW, MSY and TPA.  This will give AS 78 destinations from Seattle, and 279 week day departures.

Will that be enough to slow down the Delta juggernaut?  Alas, almost certainly not, particularly for people who don’t only fly ‘out and back’ flights between Seattle and other places, but who also do ‘circle trips’ to multiple places as part of a single itinerary, and of course for people flying internationally (other than to Mexico).

With Delta (augmented by its Skyteam partners), a Seattle-based traveler can have pretty much all their travel needs, to everywhere, met.  With Alaska Airlines, this is not possible, and while it does have partner airlines that AS customers can earn frequent flier miles into their AS account with, it is not as seamless an integration as with the members of any alliance.

Alaska is and always has been a fine airline; well-managed and with good service and competitive pricing.  It has a strongly loyal passenger base up and down the west coast and so, on the face of it, would seem to have little competitive vulnerability.  Except for its route network.

It seems to us that Delta is currently being very gentle on its side of this growing conflict.  It probably feels that it needs to spin out the battle, because otherwise it will clearly show, perhaps even to those who wish not to see, the problems now associated with ‘too big’ carriers when they choose to compete against a ‘too small’ carrier.

An Interesting History of ETOPS

Who would have thought, when the 737 first came out, that it would these days be used for flights all the way from the west coast to Hawaii (for example by Alaska Airlines)?  Even more amazingly, news this week comes of a new 737 route – between Stavanger in Norway and Houston.  This will be a ten-hour flight, and is another of the occasional attempts to institute an all-business-class service between somewhere in the US and somewhere in Europe, this time under the auspices of SAS.

Having very much enjoyed the BA all business class service to London City Airport on an even smaller A318, we concede that a ten-hour flight on a 737 could be very comfortable in an all business class 44 seat configuration, and presumably the reason for attempting it between these two cities is due to the prominent oil industry base at each end and the expectation that such passengers will happily pay a premium price for a premium seat.

But who would have ever thought that the 737 would grow the ‘legs’ necessary for such long flights (about 5000 miles between IAH and SVG)?  Details here.

The point of this is to introduce an interesting article on the evolution of ETOPS flying – Extended range Twin engine OPerationS – the concept of allowing planes with only two engines to fly long distances away from airports, and with a particular focus on the 777.

Call me old-fashioned, but I’m palpably more comfortable on a four engined plane when over the water, a long way from land.  As dated as they are becoming, there’s still something enormously comforting and ‘unbreakable’ seeming, when settling into one’s seat in a lovely old 747 and hearing the distinctive whine of its engines at take-off.

World’s Busiest Airports

Atlanta’s position as the world’s busiest airport, as measured by passenger numbers, remains confirmed for another year.  Last year saw 94 million people pass through ATL, 10 million more than number two placed airport, Beijing Capital.  But whereas ATL had a 1.1% drop in passenger numbers from 2012, PEK had a 2.2% increase (surprisingly moderate for fast growing China), causing the gap to close by almost 3 million people, as compared to 2012.

Heathrow came in at third, the same as last year also.  The big mover in all of this is Dubai, which enjoyed a 15% year on year increase, landing it this year at the #7 position, with 66.4 million passengers.

Dubai’s growth continued in January and February of 2014, where its passenger count placed it – for the two months – as the world’s busiest airport of all.  This is probably a seasonal anomaly, but we can safely predict that the 2014 rankings will see Dubai continuing to move much closer to the top of the list.

If you’d told me, twenty years ago, that a new airport in the middle of nowhere, in a tiny emirate, was rushing to become the world’s largest airport, I’d have laughed you out of the room.  And if you’d told me that the only serious contender for the title was Beijing, I’d have needed medical treatment from so much mirth.

Our world is clearly changing.  Details here.

They Said it Could Never be Done.  SFO Proves Them Wrong.

Talking about busy airports, one of the major problems at such places is the ‘we’re number 23 in line for take-off’ problem.  You’re rushed onto the plane, the door is shut, you push back early, then all of a sudden – nothing for half an hour, other than inching forward along the taxiway every minute or two, while your flight slowly makes its way to its turn for take-off.

I’ve long pointed out there’s an easy solution to this problem – one which would save passengers unnecessary additional discomfort on the plane, and save the airlines money – not burning as much jetfuel, and not paying as many hours of wages to their pilots and flight attendants (who basically only get paid when the plane’s engines are running).  Rather than having a plane’s departure priority established by when it physically gets to the end of the sometimes very long line of planes waiting to depart, why not give a plane an exact departure time on a ‘use it or lose it’ basis.

Whenever I’ve suggested this, I’ve been shouted down by industry ‘experts’ who have a dozen reasons why it would be impractical and impossible, and who expostulate that the only way takeoffs can be sequenced is for planes to have to physically queue up in a line on the taxiway.  Experts like these – people who know enough to say ‘it can’t be done’ but who don’t know enough to see how something could be done – are of course much of the reason why the airline industry generally loses money and is so appallingly insensitive to customer service issues.

And now, guess what?  Well, yes, the headline gives it away.  The bad news is that SFO will be suffering from major capacity constraints between mid May and sometime in September, while two of its four runways are closed for maintenance work – adding new safety braking zones at the end of runways 1L and 1R using a special ‘Engineered Materials Arresting System’ – a special material that collapses and retards a plane if it runs into it.  This is the busiest time of year, and will definitely cause problems.

But the airport is planning for this by introducing new efficiency measures.  One of them is new scheduling software that will assign each flight a take-off time prior to it pushing back from the gate, and reducing the delays that would otherwise be suffered by planes and their passengers waiting in line for their turn to depart.  The airport’s planning manager says ‘Passengers won’t even get onto the plane until there is a [takeoff] slot for them’.

So if SFO can develop a departure scheduling system – and is deploying it to make flight departures more efficient – why can’t other airports do the same?

China’s Airlines Suffering from Unexpected Competition

Talking about things which the ‘experts’ claim to be impossible, one obvious example is the near unanimity of expert opinion that high-speed rail is impossible in this country because the distances are too great.

China is 20% larger than our lower 48 states, and so has similar distance problems.  But its domestic airlines, while growing at a prodigious rate, are suffering profit downturns.  Like airlines the world over, the Chinese airlines are quick to blame everything but themselves for their reduced profits, but unlike US carriers, they have a surprising scapegoat.


The enormous growth in China’s new high-speed rail network (they are adding 1,000 or more miles of high-speed track every year) has seen a matching growth in rail passenger numbers, to the point now that trains carry twice as many people as do planes.

One has to wonder – if trains can beat planes in China, why can’t they do the same thing in the US?  Details here.

Hush!  Don’t Complain!

An interesting case made its way all the way up to the US Supreme Court, which has now ruled in a very unusual 9-0 display of unanimity, albeit more on procedural technicalities than the underlying claim.  One wonders how it is that a plaintiff can fund an appeal all the way to the Supreme Court with such an underlying technical weakness – if the plaintiff is willing to fund such a staggeringly expensive process, why not do the obvious proper thing and file in federal court to start with?

The case sort of addressed whether or not an airline can cancel a flyer’s membership in their frequent flyer program, based on the flyer being too active a complainer.  The Supreme Court allowed Delta (and its predecessor, Northwest) to ban a Minnesota rabbi and his wife due to having complained too much – apparently he had the temerity to complain, among other things, nine times about late arriving baggage.  And of course, rather than the airline respond positively to him, as you think they would/should – he held highest level Platinum Elite status on NW at the time – they decided to simply cancel his frequent flyer membership.

Unfortunately, if you read the court’s verdict, their decision was based almost exclusively on whether the action should have been brought at state level or at federal level, rather than being a direct determination of the validity of the claim itself.

For us, the clear message, legal issues to one side, is that if you like your frequent flyer membership and the miles you’ve amassed in your programs, better bite your lip the next time an airline foists an indignity upon you.

Details discussed here and the written decision can be read here.

Hotels Switch to Digital Newspapers

Many of us no longer get newspapers at home, so it is unsurprising to see hotels now doing the same.  The one-time common newspaper-outside-the-door-in-the-morning became instead a limited number of copies of USA Today available at reception, and now the Shangri-La hotel chain has discontinued providing print papers entirely.  The chain says this will save it giving away two million newspapers each year – that’s a lot of trees (and a lot of money).

Instead, its guests can get free access to the PressReader digital newspaper service while staying at one of the Shangri-La properties, getting it for free through the hotel’s (also free) internet access.  Not stated is the probable new commercial reality that instead of paying for papers, Shangri-La stands to make money if hotel guests convert from their free access to PressReader while at the hotel to an ongoing paid subscription, making this a brilliant deal for the hotel – saving probably millions of dollars in buying, distributing, and then disposing of newspapers, and now having a totally electronic news fulfillment system that probably costs them no money and no labor, and instead brings them extra income when guests subsequently subscribe to the service.

The hotel trialed the program and found it very popular, and perceives that most of its guests are traveling with a tablet and prefer a digital edition to a print edition, and love the ability to choose from many different newspapers to read.  Details here.

One wonders what this might mean to USA Today if the electronic newspaper concept becomes more widely adopted by hotels everywhere.  Over half USA Today’s circulation – some sources suggest as much as two-thirds – is in the form of free copies given away in hotels.

Is Wi-Fi No Longer Appropriate for Hotel Internet Access?

Talking about internet and hotels, let me continue by making a perhaps surprising statement.  I believe it is fair that hotels should charge for internet access.  But I also believe their charge should be reasonable rather than rip-off, and that in return for the fee we pay, the hotels in turn guarantee us reliable fast internet.

Once upon a time, it was probably fair to expect internet access for free, because the cost to a hotel was so minimal.  All it needed to do was stick a wireless router or two in its property, and then share the internet bandwidth it already had for its internal use with its guests.

But these days, with many guests wishing to use their internet access to stream movies, or at least to conduct Skype type voice calls, the bandwidth demands have skyrocketed, representing substantial additional costs to the hotel, both for the external internet connection and for the internal traffic management.  The number of devices that many guests bring with them, all wanting to connect to the internet simultaneously, and some demanding lots of fast data, has made bandwidth management and traffic congestion not just a problem for the connection out to the internet as a whole, but within the hotel and through the Wi-Fi routers too.  (Guilty confession – on my trip to NZ, I had seven devices all wanting to connect to the internet.)

Almost without exception, every time I end up in a hotel room, I am plagued with internet access problems, and increasingly it seems the problem is not simply inadequate bandwidth connecting to the internet beyond the hotel, but rather poor infrastructure within the hotel.  This latter problem is often evidenced in the all too common scenario whereby you call to the hotel front desk, and speak with someone who knows nothing about internet access or Wi-Fi, but who tells you ‘I’ve got a good connection here, it must be something with your computer’.

Originally, hotels tended to provide ethernet wired connections to the internet, but those have become scarcer and scarcer.  It is cheaper for a hotel to install wireless routers than it is for the hotel to run coax cable to each room, and furthermore, the provided coax connectors often seemed prone to problems, whereas – in theory – with Wi-Fi there’s nothing to wear out or fail.  In addition, the explosion of new types of devices that only support Wi-Fi connectivity (phones and tablets in particular) made Wi-Fi mandatory and wired internet less essential.

But some hotels have taken bad design ‘shortcuts’ in their network design, and instead of having multiple routers all feeding in to a central switch and then going out from there to the internet, I often come across hotels that instead have a series of routers acting as repeaters, with the traffic from the ‘furtherest away’ router then flowing through all the other routers back to the switch and from there on to the internet, creating much more congestion within the network.

Plus, the profusion of Wi-Fi services and the limited number of channels that such things can operate on has made for too much data fighting for too little spectrum space.  Even if the hotel you’re in has a perfect Wi-Fi network, you might find that the adjacent hotel, the nearby office building, and even the Wi-Fi hotspots of other guests in their rooms around yours are all interfering with your signal and bandwidth.

We’d like to see the return of ethernet connectivity in hotel rooms.  It is a more robust and reliable method of internet connection and the traffic it handles is more readily managed.

A Workable International Phone Solution for Many of Us

A US T-mobile account may be your best solution for international voice and data services next time you travel.

Slowly but surely, all the nonsensically expensive wireless phone service features are dropping in price.  Do you remember when any cell phone call would cost $1 a minute or more – indeed, often the prices were so high that the wireless companies tried to disguise the cost by quoting in half-minute pricing rather than whole minute pricing.  Back then (think mid/late 1980s) I would still use pay phones (remember them?) and calling cards (remember them, too?) for calling, even though I had a huge big heavy cell phone with me.  Now most of us have effectively unlimited calling plans, and at costs of perhaps $50 or less a month (for the voice part of our package).

And then there were the domestic roaming charges.  Initially you had to sign up for roaming service with each different network you visited, and pay a daily fee as well as a per call fee too.  Now all of this is free.

The same for domestic long distance.  How revolutionary it was when AT&T first allowed for free domestic long distance.  Now everyone offers it and no-one thinks twice about it.

The two stubbornly remaining outrageously high costs have been international roaming and international data.

As a result, a thriving industry sprung up, selling travelers either country-specific SIMs to put in their phones when traveling to the specific country served by the SIM, or world-wide SIMs offering reasonable rates for calling from many countries to many other countries.

International roaming charges have been slowly dropping down to under $1 a minute from most countries to most other countries, making these third-party products of less and less value and relevance, but international data has remained very high, no matter how you purchased it (other than via country-specific SIMs).

But T-Mobile’s announcement late last year that it was massively reducing its international fees has transformed this dynamic.  Basically, it reduced international calling down to 20c a minute between most countries and most other countries, making domestic calling within a country almost as cheap as with a local SIM, and international calling almost always cheaper.

All of a sudden, for voice calls when traveling internationally, there is usually no longer any need to do anything other than use a T-Mobile SIM.

But how about for data?  T-Mobile had an interesting approach to that.  It now allows unlimited free data connectivity internationally.  Unlimited?  Free?  Yes!

So, what is the catch?  Yes, there is a catch – the unlimited data is very slow 2G data, rather than faster 3G or 4G or whatever type of data.  But, if all you are using your phone’s data capabilities for is email rather than web browsing, maybe that is fast enough.

I experimented with the T-mobile service in one of the three phones I had with me in NZ, and it was perfectly workable, as long as one appreciated the limits of the slow 2G service.  One never really notices speed with email (does it really matter if it takes 5 seconds or 5 minutes to send and receive email?) and when browsing web pages, sometimes it was appallingly slow (as expected) and sometimes it was surprisingly fast.

All in all, I was very pleased with the T-mobile service and certainly can’t complain about its associated cost – zero for data, and 20c a minute for voice.  I used it primarily as a GPS (with the Copilot GPS app, because Copilot has all its mapping data on the phone rather than using up lots of data service to download map data as needed), and only rarely for other things.

Best of all, with T-mobile there is no need to sign up for any type of fixed term contract.  You can start the service when you’re about to leave, and stop it when you return with no termination fee.  If you have a phone that is compatible with T-mobile SIMs and international data and voice frequencies, it is probably your best choice.

I did have a NZ phone too, because I wanted to give people in NZ a convenient way to call me, and with the several hundred minutes I spent on the phone and occasional ‘need’ for fast phone data, it was worth it for the minor degree of hassle to set up one phone with a NZ number and plan.  But for most people, spending only a week or two in a country and without any expectation of a high volume of calling/data usage, T-mobile will now be the best choice.

Arguments For and Against Daylight Saving

Daylight saving is one of those things you either love or hate.  Few people have no opinion on the subject.

It is true that the original rationale for the concept – energy savings and greater productivity – is either trivial in scope (perhaps no more than a 0.5% energy saving) or may in fact no longer be applicable at all (see, for example, this discussion) and certainly its implementation is far from universal, with the vast majority of the world not adopting it at all.

I’ve always been a bit bemused by people complaining about the impact on their sleep patterns by a tiny one hour time zone shift.  Many of us have more than that variation in our daily habits currently (especially between weekday and weekend times) such that an hour change is nothing more than ‘random noise’ in our schedules.

Like many others, I love the long evenings in the summer and think no further about the concept, other than to dread the loss of daylight saving each fall as the final confirmation, if needed, about the end of another summer and the incipient arrival of winter.

But here is an interesting article which hints at the possibility of an increased risk of heart attack on the Monday following the onset of daylight saving each year (and its attendant one hour time loss).  One wonders if there might also be a balancing reduction in heart attacks on the Monday following the end of daylight saving (and its one hour of extra sleep time) – the study did not appear to consider that.

On the other hand, it is generally accepted that consistent lack of sleep is harmful – see this recent article.

The unasked question in all of this which springs to mind is ‘what are the health impacts of traveling across multiple time zones with probably insufficient sleep during the process?  What is the increase in mortality rates among flyers after a long flight?  Is frequent long distance travel harmful to our health?

I suspect the answer to this last and most important question is ‘Yes, much more so than anyone suspects’, and hope someone will put together a study to investigate.

However, not all the dangerous effects of daylight saving changes are bad.  Here’s one case where daylight saving clearly worked massively to the advantage of society as a whole.

And Lastly This Week….

I did a lot of driving in NZ, but one road I didn’t drive, and which is invariably highlighted as a road to avoid on NZ rental car contracts, is the lovely Skippers Canyon Rd.

The fame of this drive extends well beyond NZ – it is on this list of ‘the world’s 22 most dangerous roads’.  And if your normal rental car company won’t allow you to drive it, take encouragement from the company in the article, which will not only give you your choice of supercar to drive the road, but will also fly you there, too.  All yours, for only £200,000.

If you enjoy slightly edgy vacations, you might take inspiration from this list of the ten most dangerous cities in the world.  But one wonders about how dangerous they can be, because there’s a moderate chance you’ve already been to one of the cities on the list without even realizing its special status (ie city number four).

Do you print this newsletter – or anything else – out before reading it?  I know some people do.  If so, perhaps you should consider changing the font from whatever weighted serif font it defaults to, and set it instead to Garamond.  Here’s an example of Garamond.


A ‘real’ Garamond sample would be slightly higher quality than the one you see here, which has had to be ‘tricked’ into a format that will be sure to display as true Garamond on your screen.

For more details on the study, here’s an interesting article.

Talking about wasting ink, Michael O’Leary, CEO of Ryanair, is a past (and present!) master at causing newspapers to waste much ink in quoting his often outrageous statements.  We generally enjoy a chuckle at his outbursts, but as a loyal and respectful subject of HM the Queen, one wonders exactly how to feel about his statement reported here.  The images it evokes are, well, unsettling.

Until next week, please enjoy safe travels







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