Weekly Roundup, Friday 21 November

We ride the 'Harry Potter Steam Train' as part of our Scotland's Islands and Highlands experience next June.
We ride the ‘Harry Potter Steam Train’ as part of our Scotland’s Islands and Highlands experience next June.

Good morning

Our Scotland’s Islands and Highlands tour continues to excite, and we now have nine people who have chosen to come enjoy this lovely experience next June.

One of the questions people have been asking is how best to get to Glasgow for the start of the tour, and how best to fly home at the end.

There are direct flights to Glasgow (GLA) from some North American cities – Calgary, Halifax, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Orlando, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Toronto and Vancouver.  If your preferred airline doesn’t fly directly there, you could of course fly to London and take a fast train to Glasgow, or you could fly through a hub such as Amsterdam or Frankfurt or Paris and then continue on from there.

But, if you are fortunate enough as to live in a city served by Icelandair, which in North America comprises Anchorage, Boston, Denver, Edmonton, Halifax, Minneapolis, New York (JFK and EWR), Orlando, Portland, Seattle, Toronto, Vancouver and Washington DC, you could fly with Icelandair, changing planes in Reykjavik, and then returning from either Glasgow, Birmingham, Manchester or London (LHR and LGW).  You could also include a stopover in Reykjavik one way or the other – Icelandair offers this at no extra cost.

You’d get to see the midnight sun, maybe experience a volcano, take a dip in a hot pool, and, whether you stop over or not, check two bags with no fees, and generally pay one of the lowest fares available for your itinerary.

No matter how you choose to make your way to Glasgow, please do come join us in June next year for what promises to be a lovely and wide-ranging experience through the ‘real’ Scotland, largely unharmed by tourists and crass commercialism.

As you can see from this week’s picture, as well as a bunch of ferry rides and small group touring (but with a nice full sized coach; yes, and with restroom on board), we also enjoy a ride on the Harry Potter steam train (more formally known as the ‘Jacobite’) between Fort William and Mallaig.

Via an obvious thought process, that also makes me think of my comment last week about a very special tourism development opportunity I’m keen to do in New Zealand, one part of which features NZ’s best known historic steam train.  Other parts involve vintage cars, a hydrofoil, old planes, developing a lake-front hotel, and lots more on the 200 acres of land available.

Several people told me a concern was the thought of investing in such a far away and foreign locale.  Actually, some people might suggest NZ has a better business climate to get involved in than the US!  NZ comes top of Transparency International’s rankings as the least corrupt country in the world, comes top of the Social Progress Index, is second on the Forbes list of best countries to do business in, and is fifth on the Good Country Index.  There may be some interesting ways, as an investor, to write off some of one’s international investment income too with this project.

In addition, international tourism is perhaps the world’s most certain ongoing growth industry, and the one least likely to be impacted by the multiple modern day threats of offshoring work to cheaper countries, international call centers, automation and robotics.  NZ is one of the countries best able to take advantage of ongoing international tourism growth (including, and unlike the US, taking positive steps to boost its share of the Chinese tourist market).  If you’d like to at least know a bit more about this, do please let me know.

What else?  A review of another travel pillow type product; goodness knows, as the airlines make our seats smaller and smaller, the need for such things increases.  And also, please keep reading for :

  • Feeling the Blues with JetBlue
  • 787 Turns Three
  • Boeing vs Airbus
  • A380 Maintenance and Disposal
  • Airbus Seeks Patent for Futuristic ‘Flying Donut’
  • No-one at the Controls :  FAA Madness on Drones
  • Should Tour Guides be Licensed?
  • TripAdvisor Shenanigans
  • A Different Measure/Ranking of Travel Suppliers
  • More Good News from T-Mobile
  • TSA Shows Itself as a Liar
  • This Week’s Ebola Update
  • And Lastly This Week….

Feeling the Blues with JetBlue

I’d hinted, back on 19 September, that changes were afoot at JetBlue.   Alas, the changes are now being revealed.  JetBlue has opted to ape almost every other airline, and now most fare types will no longer offer a free checked bag.

This is an interesting development.  On the one hand, to a short-sighted accountant or analyst, if most other airlines are charging for checked bags, isn’t JetBlue inappropriately leaving money on the table by not doing so too?  This has clearly become the prevailing view at JetBlue.

But on the other side of the coin is Southwest – the remaining major airline holdout – still offering a free bag on their flights.  Southwest says they have no plan to change this, because the extra passengers they get more than compensate for the loss of the checked bag fees they’d otherwise receive.

JetBlue’s decision reminds me of, years ago, when American Airlines abandoned its ‘more room in coach’ feature, claiming that passengers weren’t prepared to pay any more so as to get more legroom.  Maybe AA were correct, but my feeling was that American never did a good job of advertising and promoting their uniquely spacious cabins.

So, let me ask you.  Did you even know that JetBlue formerly offered a free checked bag with their fares?  Probably not.  Rather than proudly featuring and selling this value-add service, JetBlue kept it semi-secret.  What a shame they didn’t choose the ‘high road’ and try to promote the free bag feature and win more business positively by being ‘better’, rather than collapse back down to the level of the other airlines.

This is also why the airlines don’t wish to be required to show all fees conveniently alongside their fares, so as to make it easier to ‘sneak’ fees in, under our radar, and to make it harder for us to make rational fully informed shopping decisions.

And, oh yes.  Talking about ‘more room in coach’ – did you also know that JetBlue had the roomiest coach cabins in the sky?  Probably not.  And that too is now being compromised.  They are adding 10% more seats to their A320s, growing from 150 to 165 seats, meaning they are shaving an inch off the seat pitch (from 34″ down to 33″).  Another well-kept secret on their part.

JetBlue’s disappointing profitability is not due to not charging as many fees as possible, and not due to failing to cram more people into their planes.  It is due to not promoting their positive differences to win customers away from the poorer alternate carriers.  If they did this better, the probably could even charge more upfront in an honest airfare, rather than needing to sneak in surcharges ‘under the wire’.

More details here.

JetBlue also announced they are delaying the delivery of 18 new A320s (they currently have 130 A320s, 10 A321s and 60 Embraer 190 planes in their fleet).  They had been scheduled to be delivered in the 2016-2018 time frame, but will now not be delivered for another six years until 2022-2023.

On the face of it, this is an unfortunate step back from choosing to continue to grow their route system at a time of extraordinary airline profitability and stagnant domestic air travel growth (meaning there is a growing pool of nascent air travel just waiting to be serviced).  If ever there was an excellent time to be growing, surely it would be now.

But maybe there’s a hidden additional agenda item – perhaps they are also hoping for better model planes to be available for this later delivery period that might give them additional capabilities beyond those of the standard A320s currently ordered – not only the ever-improving fuel efficiencies that newer model planes offer, but perhaps the new longer range A321neo (the ‘757 replacement’) that could allow JetBlue to start operating long-haul international services to Europe.

We’re not sure how pleased JetBlue’s 19% shareholder, Lufthansa, might be at a decision to start operating across the Atlantic, but JetBlue has been wanting to add international services ‘at the right time’.  This might be part of moving towards that goal – we hope so.

787 Turns Three

Talking about new planes, while the 787 still seems very new, it is now celebrating (if that is the right term) three years of commercial service, with  197 of the original model 787-8 and 7 of the 787-9 variant (holds 50 more pax in a two class configuration, and slightly longer range) now in service.

850 more have been ordered.  An even larger 787-10 is planned to be released in the 2018-19 time frame.

The largest operator currently is ANA with 33 planes – fittingly, perhaps, because they also have the largest total ordered (80) and were the 787-8 launch customer.  The 787-9 launch customer was Air New Zealand, and United was the first North American airline to receive a 787.

So, other than the infamous and extended battery problem, how has the plane behaved?  Its first few months were full of reports of many different ‘teething problems’ but now the plane has passed through its infancy and its ‘terrible twos’, has it become a stable and reliable airplane?

Yes and no is the short answer.  Airlines are uniformly happy about the fuel savings the new plane offers, although actual savings vary enormously depending on the airline and its typical flight/operations profile.  But despatch reliability is still less than hoped for, with almost one in every 100 flights being unable to depart as scheduled due to unexpected airplane problems.  The target is to continue improving this to reach a 99.5% reliability (ie, one flight in 200 delayed/cancelled).

Here’s an interesting article that surveys the current state of the 787.  I continue to prefer not to fly it if at all possible.

Boeing vs Airbus

There are a couple of fairly good articles out this week, both looking at the current and future competition between Boeing and Airbus for narrow-body (ie single aisle) airplane sales.

The first article predicts that the next new Boeing plane won’t be developed until 2030, while also noting there’s a gap in Boeing’s current model lineup which Airbus is exploiting (larger sized single-aisle planes).  The second article notes that, never mind the future, Airbus has been winning the lion’s share of narrowbody plane orders over the last few years, and even casts doubt on Boeing’s claim that the 737 is the most popular airplane ever sold.

Less obviously, the article explains that it is not commercially realistic for Boeing to address its present model lineup weaknesses, because the current models of 737 are almost as good as is possible with present technology and Boeing has to wait for a new round of technology to evolve so as to come up with a sufficiently compelling business case to justify the development costs of a totally new plane and to then sell on to airlines.

Boeing made two bad mistakes.  The first was to do nothing about replacing the 737 with an all-new airplane, and to allow Airbus to seize the initiative with its A320neo series of planes.  The second mistake was to do nothing for seven more months after Airbus announced the A320neo series, and then to finally respond with a rushed series of tweaks to the increasingly flawed and maxxed out almost 50-year old 737 design rather, than to use the need to respond to the Airbus A320neo series as the trigger for an all new design.  Hmmm – maybe that is why they call their new model 737 the MAX, because it is now maxxed out.

We made these points regularly and vigorously, both before the A320neo series were announced, then during the period while Boeing had no response at all, and after the MAX series were announced, too.

Here’s a fascinating page of analysis showing the relative market shares of the two competing narrowbody families.

A380 Maintenance and Disposal

There’s an interesting time-lapse video on this web page that shows part of how Emirates carries out a major overhaul on an A-380.

But what I found more interesting were two comments near the bottom of the text of the article.  The first is that the plane, in just over six years, has carried 1.2 million passengers, and the second is that Emirates expects to scrap each A380 after 12 – 15 years in service.  Note that they don’t intend to sell the plane on to another airline, but rather will simply scrap them.

Match the two comments together, and if we say that each A380 costs in the order of $240 million (list prices here, but discounts of up to 50% off list price are far from unheard of) then, at a very simplistic level, it can be said that the capital amortization of an A380, for Emirates, is in the order of $100 per passenger journey ($200 for a roundtrip).  We’re ignoring ongoing maintenance, cost of money, and the fact that there’s sure to be some residual value when the plane is finally scrapped and used for parts, but in round figures, $200 of every roundtrip ticket fare goes to just paying for the plane’s purchase.  Wow.  That’s more than twice the cost of the fuel burned per passenger.

How long before we not only have fuel surcharges, but ‘plane replacement’ surcharges, too?

As for the scrapping rather than onselling, a possible explanation is that because Emirates has so many of the A380s, and because they are such slow sellers, and also because there are rumors of new improved model A380s coming out in the future, maybe there just isn’t/won’t be much market for used ones in about ten years time.

Hmmmm – if someone offered you a 15 year old A380 for free, would you take it?  Modern airplanes typically have service lives well over 20 years, and planes such as the A380s, which typically operate long flights with few takeoffs and landings as a function of hours flown, can be expected to have even longer service lives.

If it is possible to reduce the cost per passenger from (say) $100 to $25 for plane capital costs, that would massively more than compensate for any minor improvements in fuel efficiency from a newest model A380, and surely an airline somewhere would be delighted at the chance of getting some A380s inexpensively.

Maybe another reason Emirates will scrap rather than sell the planes is to ensure that other airlines can’t benefit from being able to buy used A380s cheaply?

Airbus Seeks Patent for Futuristic ‘Flying Donut’

I like to bemoan the lack of ‘outside the box’ original thinking and design when it comes to airplanes these days.  We seem stuck on a single flying tube, with mid-body wings, engines slung below the wings, and a separate low/single tail, and flying at around 500 – 550 mph.

But once in a while something interesting and different flashes briefly into view, although never (so far) resulting in anything actually happening to break the mold.

Here’s an interesting example of such a concept – a flying ‘donut’ – basically a new form of ‘flying wing’ such as has been out there since the 1940s, but which has never yet evolved to become a production passenger airplane.  The hole in the middle is new, though!

I’m not entirely sure this would become my new favorite plane to fly on, and the patent sketch seems to show a ridiculous amount of ‘waste space’ such as to invalidate the seating layout at the very least, but at least it is a new concept being explored.

No-one at the Controls :  FAA Madness on Drones

Talking about new planes, there are two topics guaranteed to evoke irrational responses at present.  The first is lasers and the mythical ‘danger’ they present to airplane pilots (see my article that roundly rebuts the notion of lasers being dangerous to planes and pilots) and the second is drones.

Perhaps in both cases, it is fear of new technology that is driving irrational responses.  In the case of drones, the FAA is asserting various rights to restrict and control their operation.

But before we comment on the FAA’s actions, perhaps we should start off by understanding exactly what a drone is.  Some things are obviously drones and should be covered by FAA regulations.  Predator drones and other ‘airplane sized’ craft that fly at regular airplane speeds and heights are undoubtedly things that should be controlled by the FAA, because they share airspace with normal planes, and any type of collision with one would be very harmful to the piloted craft that it is the FAA’s responsibility not only to control/regulate but also to protect.

But what about, for example, a model airplane?  Isn’t a radio controlled model airplane, such as have been around for decades, also a type of ‘drone’?  Or how about the growing number of miniature helicopters and other devices with more than one set of rotors, being sold for as little as $100 or less, and some capable of carrying payloads such as cameras?  My daughter has two of these.

When do they become things that should be regulated?  Many people seem to think that anything with a camera on it needs to be restricted and regulated, although if pressed on why that should be, their answer, if articulable at all, would have nothing to do with aviation management and safety.

Okay, so there are some grey areas.  But let’s now go all the way from black, through the grey, and to clearly white.  What about a balsa wood model glider?  What about a folded paper glider?  Should those also be regulated?

Of course not, would be your reply.  No matter what should and should not be regulated, common sense clearly suggests that paper gliders are exempt.

Ooops.  You just said that fatal phrase.  ‘Common sense.’

So, recognizing that common sense is a scarce commodity in many government organizations, would you be surprised to learn that the FAA has successfully asserted on appeal in an administrative court that it does have the right to regulate anything that pretty much isn’t nailed to the ground, including even paper planes.

More details here.

While the particular case that the FAA sought to have authority over was described in fairly egregious term (one wonders how much exaggeration was involved), any danger which may have been present was hypothetical rather than actual, because no-one and nothing was hurt.

So, as you plan Christmas presents for your children and grandchildren, keep in mind that the $60 video equipped helicopters for sale at Amazon might end up costing its recipient a $10,000 fine.

Should Tour Guides be Licensed?

I wrote only a week ago about travel agents and commented that the US travel agent industry suffers from a lack of formal training requirements.

A related issue perhaps might be whether tour guides should be licensed or not.  Many places in Europe and elsewhere in the world require formal training, testing, and licensing for the guides in their areas, although my sense is that in some places the reason for licensing is more on simple control and revenue generation than it is on quality control.

Some jurisdictions in the US require tour guides in their areas to be licensed.  Indeed, in Savannah, tour guides not only need to pass a 100 question multiple choice test, but they need two yearly medical exams, too.  Is a medical exam really an essential and necessary part of licensing a tour guide, or just a tip of the hat to another pressure group?

Some groups are arguing that being a tour guide is an expression of free speech/free expression and so is a First Amendment protected right.  It seems the matter might soon make it all the way to the Supreme Court.  Details here.

I’m all for having formal training and testing available for tour guides, in return for which they get some sort of formal qualification.  But I think that unlicensed guides should be allowed to operate as well.  The licensing authorities should actively promote the benefits of getting a formally licensed guide so as to create a marketplace appreciation of and preference for well-trained guides.

But a huge problem becomes one of how to train, what to train, and how to evaluate people seeking a guiding ‘qualification’ or certification.  For example, when you think of Britain, you might think of the ‘Blue Badge’ guides, but if you read even this self-serving piece by the Blue Badge organization, it becomes clear that the issue of training and certification is massively complex and controversial.

I’ve also often encountered guides with encyclopaedic knowledge, but who were as boring to listen to and as hard to stay awake while doing so, as an overly long sermon in a stuffy church after a large lunch.  Americans in particular wish to be entertained as well as (some might even say ‘instead of’!) being educated.  They like to be interacted with, rather than lectured at.

I’ve met formally qualified guides with a very lopsided knowledge – I’m thinking of one guide who when asked about a building would invariably answer about its architecture, but would never comment on what was inside the building and what it was used for.  Then there are guides who are doubtless brilliant at their work in some languages, but who one struggles to understand in English.  I’ve also met formally qualified guides who just simply did not know very much about the topics their qualifications implied they knew a lot about.  They’d memorized a series of facts, but had no broader knowledge and no ability to stray from their memorized script.

So, while being all in favor of good guiding, I see challenges every which way in attempts to formalize a guide rating/qualification process, and would hate to see ones with irrelevant medical exams, or having passed too-easy but expensive multi-choice tests, becoming mandatory.

TripAdvisor Shenanigans

We occasionally hear about hotels and other tourism operators who claim to be unfairly victimized by TripAdvisor reviewers – people trying to blackmail them into getting free upgrades or other concessions, or else they will write a bad review, whether fairly deserved or not.

But we don’t so often hear about the other side of the coin – the pressure by hotels on their guests to write good reviews, and the negative sanctions they threaten to impose on guests who write bad reviews.

There was a case not long ago of a tourism operator successfully suing a person who wrote a bad review, and there is a new organization of hoteliers in Britain that will share blacklist information between themselves – you write a bad review of one hotel and all the others will refuse to allow you to stay at their properties.

Now we see a second example coming to light of a hotel that ‘fined’ a former guest after they wrote a bad review of their stay.  This time it was a downmarket hotel in Blackpool (an unkind person would say that the two go hand in hand), and they fined their former guest £100 ($160) for a negative review.  Apparently somewhere in the fine print of the booking confirmation was their statement that they’d do so.

But it turns out, and quite rightly so, that such a threat may be in breach of Fair Trade laws in the UK.  So after some fuss, the hotel withdrew the credit card ‘fine’.

To be even-handed, we can understand the hotel’s frustrations.  When you’re offering a bargain basement product (rooms for as little as £18/night) it is grossly unfair to be criticized for being a low quality hotel offering a poor experience.  The hotel never pretended to be more than it actually is.

Reviewers need to judge based on what the hotel promises and charges, rather than holding £18 hotels to the same standard as £180 hotels.  More details here.

This is/was an obvious outrage.  But there’s another point here which most people are missing.

Why does TripAdvisor passively allow hotels to threaten such ‘fines’?  Why not prominently label any such hotels, and warn people away from staying at such properties.  Clearly, the hotels in question are very concerned about their TripAdvisor image and standing, and such a censure would likely ensure that no hotels ever engaged in such bullying in the future.

So – how about it, TripAdvisor?  This would be an easy thing to do – why don’t you do it?

A Different Measure/Ranking of Travel Suppliers

Talking about TripAdvisor, there are no shortage of self-appointed rating services that don’t hesitate to make judgments on the best and worst of various types of travel products, no matter how flawed their raw data and evaluation processes may be.

But here’s an interesting approach to obliquely establishing product quality – through brand reputation.  The results seem to be reasonably in line with what one would expect as well.

More Good News from T-Mobile

For a long time it seemed that wireless companies were much like airlines.  They provided bad expensive service, had lots of fees and few inclusions, while enjoying a relatively uncompetitive environment.

These days things have massively changed in the US, with T-Mobile delightedly killing the ‘sacred cows’ of the industry, offering more and more included within their low-priced very high value plans.  I wrote last week about T-Mobile’s great service for people when they are traveling out of the US, and now this week they’ve come up with the other side of that coin – great service for people within the US who wish to call internationally.

While you can quickly find yourself paying $3 or more a minute when making ‘normal’ international calls on a cell phone, T-Mobile has now released two new services.  For $5/month, you can make unlimited calls to landlines in 70 countries; and for $10/month, you can call landlines in the 70 countries and also cellphones in 30 of those countries.

That’s a heck of a deal.  For less than the price of a three minute call, you can now call anytime and all the time to these countries.  And, wait – there’s more.

This minor monthly fee isn’t per line of service.  If you have multiple lines of service (perhaps for your partner and your children, maybe for your parents and friends too), then up to ten lines of service are all given this feature, in return for a single $5 or $10 monthly fee.

Oh, and if you want to text rather than phone, texting is free everywhere in the world, except for St. Helena and Wallis and Futuna.

If you and the other people who share your phone bill know some people outside the US, this has become a compelling proposition and another reason to switch to T-Mobile.  More details here.

If only we could have an airline choose to break out of the mold and become as positively disruptive to the enshrined way of doing business as T-Mobile has become in the wireless industry.

TSA Shows Itself as a Liar

I wrote, almost four months ago, about the TSA’s claim that it would stop randomly moving people into their Pre-Check lanes, a practice that had become so rampant that sometimes the Pre-Check line was longer than the regular lines.

Since that time, I continue to get readers writing in bemusedly either to report on their own random ‘bonus’ switch by the TSA into a Pre-Check lane, or noting their disappointment at observing other people being switched.

Now there’s even a television and print article about the TSA continuing to do this.  Can we trust a word the TSA says?

Note also in the linked article that not only does the TSA like Pre-Check because it allows them to process more people per hour, but they also like it because it is cheaper for them to operate a Pre-Check line (more people screened per hour, less expensive equipment and fewer additional staff to do hand patdowns).

So, here’s a program that saves the TSA money, but which it charges us money to participate in (and then keeps giving away randomly for free).  With logic like that – charging more for a less expensive product, while giving it away randomly after saying they won’t – it is easy to see how the TSA keeps tripping itself up.

On a related note, one wonders just how rigorous the metal detecting is in the Pre-Check lanes.  I was surprised that no metal detector has ever alarmed because of the two plates and 32 pins now in my ankle, but I was beyond astonished when walking through a metal detector at Seatac airport recently.

As is normal, I was in the Pre-Check line, and I went through the detector with no alarm sounding.  But as I was putting all the metal things back into my pockets on the other side of the screening, I realized that I’d forgotten to remove the lovely little aluminum flashlight I always keep with me, from my pocket while going through the ‘detector’.  This flashlight has a regular size AA battery inside its metal body, plus electronics and an LED and so on, is just over 3″ long and weighs two ounces.

In the past, I’ve had TSA screeners boast that their metal detectors are so sensitive they can detect a single gum wrapper.  I’ve certainly had tiny pieces of metal trigger alarms.  But if a two ounce device that includes electronics, a battery and a metal tube (did I just describe a bomb?) doesn’t trigger an alarm, one wonders if the metal detector is even switched on for Pre-Check passengers these days.

In other TSA achievements, it proudly told the world how it has been keeping us safe by confiscating – errr, a fake Halloween prop chainsaw.

Does that make you feel as saferer as the TSA wishes you to be?

This Week’s Ebola Update

Ebola.  Remember that?  Does anyone still even care?  The predictions of 100,000+ cases having occurred by now, and 10,000+ new cases every week (or was it, every day?) have all been shown to be nonsense, and the yet to be tested prediction of 1.4 million cases by January also looks very unlikely (only 15,000 in total since the start of this outbreak so far).  The topic has – rightly or wrongly – receded away from the news headlines.

I even forgot to update my running count of Ebola fatalities last week, but can tell you for the last two weeks, and as of 20 November, the CDC is counting 5420 deaths, up from 4818 two weeks ago; an average of 301 a week for the last two weeks.

Unless or until something substantially changes, this will be my last Ebola report.

And Lastly This Week….

I was mentioning both Iceland and NZ in positive terms above.  One thing that NZ is notable for is having some of the longest commutes in the world.  No, I’m not just talking cross-town travel times.  There are some British Bobbies (to be precise, London Metropolitan police officers) who live in the South Island of NZ but who work in London.  True, this isn’t a daily commute – they work (I think) six weeks on then six weeks off; they stay cheaply in London during their duty period then live well in NZ with their families between blocks of duty.  This costs them less, and gives them a better lifestyle, than living with their family in greater London.

Even that isn’t the longest commute, however.  That is perhaps a claim these people can make – living in the center of NZ’s North Island and working in Iceland.

Oh yes, and if you were considering a stopover in Iceland on your way to/from Scotland in June, be sure to sample some of Iceland’s gourmet food treats while you’re there (see the bottom of the article linked above for more on these).

Talking about long journeys, how would you like to literally fly half-way around the world, for a long weekend short break?  I’ll happily drive a few hours, and maybe fly, in return for a two or three day break, but would you fly from the UK to Australia for a long weekend?  One tour operator is betting that sufficient people will to make it worthwhile.

In terms of places to visit in general, here’s an interesting compilation of abandoned places to visit.  It makes a change to consider going to places where there’s some sort of tangible ‘nothing’ rather than to a place with an obvious something, and some look fascinating.

The article that follows tonight’s newsletter roundup is about a new type of travel pillow.  It is probably not unfair to say that all travel pillows attempt – with varying degrees of only partial success – to achieve the impossible in terms of transforming an impossibly uncomfortable coach class travel experience into something better.  But some devices fail more spectacularly than others.  Here’s a fairly good list of truly bad travel accessories.

Lastly this week, it seems that Thanksgiving travel may be fairly intense this year.  But let’s give thanks for the fact we can travel, and that, even at its worst; whether on freeways or on flights, our ability to travel enormous distances relatively comfortably and relatively quickly is totally beyond the comprehension of the pilgrim founders.  The turkey might be the same, but the travel to share it surely has changed wondrously.

Perhaps, with Thanksgiving upon us, now is a good time to ponder on this article which suggests Twelve Ways to Live a Better Life.  I certainly agree with #6 (and interestingly, the picture featured is of a place our Scotland tour will be visiting).

Until next week, please enjoy safe travels and a happy Thanksgiving







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