Weekly Roundup, Friday 2 February, 2018

Well done, United, for not allowing this ‘support animal’ onto a flight from Newark. Story below.

Good morning

First, some exciting/good news for one or two lucky Travel Insiders.  We’ve had a cancellation off this year’s Grand Expedition of Great Britain, and so we can offer you half their deposit if you’d like to come on the tour and can confirm your interest very quickly (and they will get the other half back).

This is a $500 saving, offered to either an individual or a couple traveling together.  That’s a powerful reason to come on this wonderful tour.  Here are the tour details, and if you’d like to come, please let me know as soon as possible.

A reminder – I’m a featured speaker at the Frequent Traveler University event in Seattle on Saturday afternoon, 24 February.    If you’d like to come along to hear my speech, from 4pm – 5pm that afternoon, let me know.  The event organizers have agreed to welcome Travel Insiders, free of charge, to that part of the two-day event.

2018 Touring Update

We still have space for a few more people to join our March firearms training course in Nevada.  Although a reader wrote in last week to decry what he viewed as ‘supporting chaos’ (you can see our exchange at the bottom of last week’s newsletter, here) I hope you see this as promoting lawful and safe use of firearms, because that is exactly what it is.  Rather than supporting chaos, we are helping to counter and suppress chaos, and will give you both knowledge and skills to know how and when to avoid conflicts and also what to do if such matters can not be avoided.  Why not come and see for yourself – full details here.

Our Triple K Tour of Kiev, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan in May combines seeing places way off the regular tourist routes with a reasonable degree of comfort.  For example, on the fun overnight sleeper trains we take a couple of times, we leave two empty berths in each compartment for better privacy and more space.

This is a great way to see some remnants of the former Soviet Union, largely unchanged over the decades, and also some extraordinary new creations – the astonishing city of Astana for example, as well as outstanding regions of unspoiled natural beauty.  Do treat yourself to this rare opportunity to experience parts of the world that aren’t conveniently visited by travelers on their own.  Full details here.

We now have our New Zealand Epicurean Extravaganza available for joining.  See the best of New Zealand’s North and South Islands, and, optionally, the ‘West Island’ (ie Australia) too, this Oct/Nov.  I show you the secret parts of New Zealand that tourists don’t think to visit, and take you to an annual food festival that is worth the journey, all by itself.  A glorious tour in NZ’s lovely springtime weather.  Full details here.

Northern France (and Belgium) Christmas Markets Land-cruise :  I’ve been having enormous fun this week putting the details of this tour together.  Our ‘ship that doesn’t sail’ that will be our home for a week is a nice Lille hotel, while our coach for daily excursions around the region will be a lovely deluxe coach that has a ‘salon’ as part of it (ie an area with seats facing towards each other rather than all ranged to the front) so as to make the travel a social experience too.

I’m enjoying mimicking some of the elements of a cruise (anyone for a ‘Captain’s Welcome Cocktail’ function, or a ‘Captain’s Farewell Dinner’ – we’ll have both of those) and putting something that combines the best of the cruising concept with the added freedoms and flexibilities only possible when you’re in a regular and much larger hotel room ashore for a full week.

Last week I’d guesstimated $2695 per person.  This week I’m adjusting that guess down to $2595 – and, oh yes.  Those pesky port fees ($168) that get added on top of a regular cruise fare?  There’s none of that.  The envelopes at the end you fill with more cash for the crew and cruise director (€105)?  None of those, either.

I hope to have the tour published and ready for booking next week.  It will start in Lille on Sunday 9 December and end – also, of course, in Lille – on Sunday 16 December.  A two or more night pre-tour in either Paris or London, and a three or more night post tour going to Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland and even Lichtenstein, will both also be available.

We now have our 2019 Grand Expedition live on the site, and I’m offering a $50 per person discount for people who join prior to the end of February.  Details here.

Also this week, I’m attaching a review of a fascinating new program that runs on PC and Mac devices.  Later this year (probably June) it will be available on Android and iOS devices too.

The program automatically contours and adjusts the sound that is played from your computer into your headphones to make it the best quality possible, automatically compensating for the design weaknesses of about 130 different makes/models of headphones.

So much in the way of high-end audio gear leaves one underwhelmed and wondering if you even heard any difference in return for the hundreds/thousands of dollars being asked.  But this $79 program makes a clearly audible different – improvement – on the quality of sound you’ll hear.  Worth considering if you listen to much music through headphones from your computer.

What else this week?  Please keep reading for a nice assortment :

  • More on the BBB
  • Boeing Loses its Claim Against Bombardier
  • Google Does What the Airlines Claim is Impossible
  • American and Delta Make Nice With Each Other Again
  • Is Sir Richard Branson’s Shtick Starting to Seem Inappropriately Dated?
  • Copyright Office Says AA Logo Uncreative
  • Fascinating Look at Some of United’s Operational Economics and Future Plans
  • Peacock ‘Support Animal’ Not Allowed to Fly
  • Emirates Allegedly Beats a Passenger for Sitting in the Wrong Seat
  • Avoiding Flu in Airports
  • Another Possible Source for a Concorde Successor
  • Amtrak Crash Employees Wish to Have Their Cake – and Eat it, Too
  • Disappointing January 2018 Electric Vehicle Sales
  • Elon Musk’s Latest Fundraising Success – ‘Flamethrowers’
  • How to Unlock Most Hotel Safes Without Knowing the Combination
  • And Lastly This Week….

More on the BBB

A correction and associated apology.  Last week I was wrong when I said the Better Business Bureau only gives positive ratings to members.

They graciously wrote to say that there is no requirement to belong to their organization as a prerequisite to being positively reported on.  They most convincingly proved their point because apparently The Travel Insider has an A+ rating!  Katherine Hutt, their Director of Communications, explained that the A+ rating was earned based on not having received any complaints in three years, not having had any problems with our advertising, and not having heard of any government actions against us.  Nothing to do with membership at all.  Indeed, she says the opposite applies – businesses with less than a B rating are ineligible to be members.

On the other hand, there have been some examples in the past where that policy has been imperfectly applied, most notably that uncovered by ABC News in 2010, and further developed by a Time article in 2013.  But such things are best viewed as exceptions rather than as fairly indicating their standard approach.

Some people might think that in these days of peer review sites such as Yelp and the many other similar sites/services, it is difficult for the BBB to remain relevant.  While some elements of the very different BBB approach to business rating can be criticized, that is doubly true of Yelp, TripAdvisor, and others of that ilk, and while in 2010 the BBB gave an A+ rating to a non-existent organization known as Hamas in Los Angeles, that is nothing compared to TripAdvisor rating a non-existent restaurant as the absolute best restaurant in London (see last week’s newsletter), or the occasional scandals that surface where Yelp bullies companies into advertising with them in return for favorable exposure.

One has to think there’s an interesting opportunity for a service that combines the best of peer reviews alongside dispassionately collecting other matters of record, and it might be an exciting new area of expansion for the BBB, using their positive brand recognition as a stepping stone to a new level of interactive consumer service and business disclosure.

Boeing Loses its Claim Against Bombardier

Although everyone was pretty much in agreement that Boeing’s trade claim against Bombardier was lacking in any foundation or merit whatsoever.  But everyone was also pretty much in universal agreement that the decision of the US International Trade Commission would affirm the finding of the US Commerce Department, declare that Bombardier was guilty of dumping its planes in the US market, and levying penalty duties of perhaps up to 300%.

And so there were gasps of amazement when the ruling was announced this week.  The ITC voted 4-0 against Boeing, and found no case against Bombardier, and no harm suffered by Boeing.  The reasoning for their decision has yet to be released, but a 4-0 total denial of Boeing’s claims almost speaks for itself.

Details here.

So the own goals Boeing has scored by bringing this case continue to mount, with absolutely nothing to offset them.  Boeing has possibly lost other business from other airlines, the Canadian government decided not to buy new fighter planes from Boeing, and Bombardier has now joined forces with Airbus for the ongoing manufacture and sale of the Cseries jets.  The Cseries plane is now looking much more attractive in the marketplace, Bombardier has been strengthened, and Boeing has been shown to be a big, unfair, and ineffectual bully.

Google Does What the Airlines Claim is Impossible

For a long time, there has been pressure on the airlines to reveal their increasingly lengthy laundry list of semi-mandatory fees in an easily understood form, prior to buying a ticket.  The airlines have resisted this, saying variously that it would be impossible, or onerously difficult to arrange.  The Department of Transportation first said that it was going to make full disclosure of these costs mandatory, then reversed itself a short while ago, saying that it no longer mattered, because the public had no interest!

Fortunately, we have Google.  They have arranged to conveniently show key details of airline fees and fare restrictions on their fare displays, and they are also introducing a predictive delay service, that combines historical flight performance data with current data related to flights, airports, weather, and other factors, so as to be able to guess at when a flight might actually depart/arrive.  Google says it will only reveal delay predictions when it is 80% confident their prediction will be correct.

The amusing part of this is that airlines are strongly focused on encouraging people to move away from third-party booking sites and to make bookings directly on their own sites.  That way they can control the passenger and make it easier to keep them focused only on their flights.  But by deliberately not providing convenient access to all the information we want/need, they continue to force us to rely on third-party sites.

American and Delta Make Nice With Each Other Again

In the good old days, if your flight was cancelled, or if you missed a connection, your airline would simply assign your ticket over to whatever other airline would be able to most quickly get you to your destination.  This was enshrined in a former Civil Aeronautics Board rule, the still sometimes referenced but of course now totally defunct (since the dissolution of the CAB in 1978) “Rule 240”.

The spirit of the rule survived for many years after 1978, and was recorded in each airline’s Conditions of Carriage.  The reason it survived was that it was a swings and roundabouts type deal, where sometimes airlines benefitted from being able to solve problem for their passengers, and other times they got to help out.  Most of all, it kept the passengers happy and made air travel in general more positive and less stressful.

Airlines then started charging each other for accepting ‘Rule 240’ passengers, and increasing the rates of charges applied.

Next, two things happened.  First, the number of airlines reduced.  Second, the number of empty seats on planes also reduced, making it much harder for airlines to conveniently accept last-minute passengers from another airline’s flight.  Even worse were scenarios where an airline found itself unable to accept or re-accommodate its own passengers because it had already given (ie sold!) its remaining seats to another airline.

Additionally, the concept of making air travel a positive experience for passengers was totally lost as the accountants took over airlines and became obsessed with short-term profit maximization, rather than longer-term market growth.

And so many airlines cancelled their Rule 240 type agreements and obligations.  Here’s a 2014 article that shows there were, at that time, only three remaining airlines that recognized any degree of Rule 240 obligation – Alaska, Frontier, and United.

In good news this week, American and Delta have announced an agreement to now start transferring passengers between themselves again.  Bravo.

Is Sir Richard Branson becoming uncomfortably like Benny Hill? Or Austin Powers?

Is Sir Richard Branson’s Shtick Starting to Seem Inappropriately Dated?

Is Sir Richard Branson increasingly seeming like a slightly less inspired version of Benny Hill or Austin Powers?

For years, his leering innuendo and being constantly surrounded by scantily clad young ladies has seemed to ‘prove’ the counter-cultural benefits of Virgin Atlantic; indeed even the airline’s name is slightly risqué and has often been used as a form of school-boy naughtiness – “I’m going to ride a Virgin for eight hours” and so on.  The reality is that Virgin Atlantic, particularly now that it is 49% owned by Delta and a further 31% owned by Air France/KLM, is more alike than different to all the other airlines in the sky, and just because their CEO delights in cross-dressing and showing us what he wears under his kilt does not make much difference at all when flying on his planes (or suffering on one of his trains either).

He has also delighted in promising double bed type sleeper seats for amorous passengers on his planes.

And now, the airline is proudly announcing the provision of ‘love seats’ – designed for dual dining, watching movies together, or catching up on “work”, according to the airline.  Nudge nudge, wink wink.

Note to corporate travelers – whatever you do, don’t book a pair of ‘love seats’ for you and a colleague, no matter what your definition of ‘work’ may be.

And note for everyone – we suspect the airline’s tolerance for ‘work’ might expire long before you started to lustily and loudly join the Mile High Club.

Copyright Office Says AA Logo Uncreative

After releasing a new logo in 2013 as part of its merger with US Airways, American Airlines filed for copyright protection of the logo.

And now, a mere four years after filing, the US Copyright Office has responded, denying AA’s application for copyright.  They said “A mere simplistic arrangement of non-protectable elements does not demonstrate the level of creativity necessary to warrant protection”.  Ooops.

In case AA’s logo has failed to register in your own consciousness, you can see it and some of its previous logos here.

Fascinating Look at Some of United’s Operational Economics and Future Plans

Here’s a great article that looks at some of United’s past operational mistakes, the implications of them, and what the carrier is doing to correct them.

The short story is that United seems about to break the truce that has prevailed for many years between itself, American, and Delta.  This ‘truce’ had all three airlines tacitly agreeing not to get too aggressive at competing or encroaching on each other’s route networks, and to seek to maximize profitability primarily by shrinking rather than growing (or at least, by growing at a rate less than the potential market demand would suggest).

In case you wonder how you can make more money by restricting the size of your operation, that’s another example of the back-to-front nature of airline operations.  If you operate fewer flights, you can charge more per seat, because there’s a shortage of seats and a surplus of people wanting to travel.  But if you add more flights, then you end up with too many seats and have to reduce your prices to encourage more passengers to fly more often.

That’s the most simplistic view of airline pricing/demand economics, and that’s as far as the airlines have taken things for the last few years.  But United was a more sincere believer in the benefits of shrinking than AA or DL, and now has decided to catch up with its colleagues.  In the six years from 2010, United cut back by 8% whereas Delta and American grew by 8% and 3% respectively.  We hope AA and DL were able to refrain from laughing while watching UA quietly strangle itself.

So United is now looking for three years of annual expansion at rates as high as 6%, which would see the equivalent of an entire new airline the size of Spirit added to the US air network.

United’s plans for growth caused a response in its share price.  Its share price dropped 13% last week.  But on the basis of ‘what is bad for United’s share price is probably good for us’, it is possible we might see some welcome increase in low fare availability over the next several years.

Peacock ‘Support Animal’ Not Allowed to Fly

Let me ask you this :  If you can’t conveniently manage in this modern stressful world without the reassuring presence of a ‘support animal’, all the time and everywhere, wouldn’t it be a rational act to choose a small inoffensive easily managed creature?  A pet mouse, or a hamster, or something like that?

Why do people instead insist on ponies, pigs, snakes, and other impactful animals?

We hope the woman who selected a peacock as her preferred emotional support animal is now pondering the wisdom of her decision after United refused to allow her to fly with the creature.  Apparently, United told her on three occasions the animal would not be allowed, but the woman still turned up at Newark, bird perched expectantly on her luggage cart, demanding to be allowed to take the bird on the flight.  Well done, United.

Details here.

Emirates Allegedly Beats a Passenger for Sitting in the Wrong Seat

A 71-year-old man – a retired police officer, no less – who spoke little English was flying from Dubai to Chicago.  He got up and went to use a bathroom, and then returned but sat somewhere other than his assigned seat.

If this story is to be believed, what happens next is rather surprising.  Apparently he didn’t understand he was in the wrong seat (don’t ask me why anyone cared).  And so, because, as Emirates puts it, ‘the safety of our passengers and crew is of the utmost importance and will not be compromised’ it appears the cabin crew, together with some willing passenger accomplices, responded by beating him up such that he was admitted to hospital and stayed there for several day upon arriving in Chicago.  Oh, after beating him, they taped his mouth shut and bound him to a seat with some hemp rope!

There surely has to be more to the story than this.  Do airlines even keep old-fashioned rope on board?  Why weren’t any passengers filming the incident?  Details here and here.

Avoiding Flu in Airports

This year’s flu seems to be particularly virulent and also becoming alarmingly widespread.

Most people will become infected with influenza (and many other things) either via aerosolized droplets that a person coughs out, or by touching a surface on which those droplets have landed.

Sadly, there’s not a lot you can do if the person next to you on your flight is coughing in your face for several hours, nonstop.  How to politely offer them a face mask, one wonders?

But you do need to become much more sensitive to the potential of picking up the germs from all manner of exposed surfaces (the medical term is ‘fomites’).  Can you guess where the most likely to be infected place is at an airport?

According to this article, it is the touch screen you use to check-in for your flight with.  The article talks mainly about bacteria rather than viral infection risks, because they are easier to measure, but the message is the same.  Whether it be the ‘flu or something less virulent, airports are dangerous places to be in.

As the article says, tiny travel bottles of hand sanitizer are a great thing to keep with you and use liberally.  Naturally Amazon has a large variety of different sized travel type bottles of hand sanitizer – just be sure to keep the bottle capacity below 3 ounces so as not to run afoul of TSA.

Another Possible Source for a Concorde Successor

Time for yet another in the endless procession of stories predicting a new supersonic passenger jet ‘real soon now’.  But this one is different from the others, because it reports on possible Russian plans to develop a SST.

No sooner had President Putin remarked that it would be a good idea to use its latest supersonic bomber technology as a springboard to a new supersonic passenger jet, than one of Russia’s aviation conglomerates announced that it was already working on such a design, and indeed based on some elements of the Tupolev 160M2 bomber.  If it came to fruition, and matched the bomber’s speed, the passenger plane could fly between New York and Moscow in as little as 3 hours 20 minutes.

It is brave of Russia to consider a return to supersonic planes.  Their earlier SST, the Tu-144, was widely considered to be based on stolen plans for the Concorde, but not as well-built (there are rumors that the English learned of the Russian industrial espionage and so left out some plans with a few deliberate mistakes on them).  The plane was so loud in the passenger cabin that passengers were given earplugs, and it only made 55 passenger flights in total, over a six-year period, before being withdrawn from service.

Four years prior to entering into service, it suffered a mysterious crash at the Paris Air Show in 1973, killing 14 people.  There was also a less well-publicized second crash, and rumors of a third crash, too (see here, for example).

So – a converted Russian bomber as a supersonic passenger plane?  I’ll probably politely decline an invitation to be on its inaugural flight.  More details here.

Oh – as an interesting unrelated bit of SST trivia.  The few passenger flights that the Tu-144 did operate were between Moscow and Almaty in Kazakhstan.  So come with us to Kazakhstan this May and see where the Tu-144 used to fly to and from!

Amtrak Crash Employees Wish to Have Their Cake – and Eat it, Too

On 18 December an Amtrak train traveling between Seattle and Portland derailed due to taking a corner at more than twice the posted speed (about 78 mph for a 30 mph rated corner).  The derailment was fairly spectacular, as such things usually are, and as well as many injuries, three people died.

Of course, plenty of people with various agendas rushed to play the blame game.  Two comfortable narratives that served the purposes of many groups were that there should have been ‘Positive Train Control’ in operation on the track, and that Amtrak had insufficiently trained its engineers on the new track.

Positive Train Control is an interesting concept.  Basically it is most of an auto-pilot system that essentially replaces the loco driver, and automatically adjusts the train’s speed based on where on the track it is at any time, and is limited in function primarily by train drivers who wish to retain their role alongside the PTC.  The huge other shoe that hasn’t yet been dropped by people calling for positive train control is to ask why we need train drivers at all if their job is being replaced by the ‘auto-pilot’ capability.  So, by all means, introduce PTC, but why not then embrace it fully and save the largely unnecessary cost of a train driver (and often a second person in the cab as well).

It has also suited representatives of the train drivers to claim that the problem wasn’t the fault of the train driver for missing the first early warning sign of the upcoming 30 mph corner, and neither was it his fault for misreading which mile post the train had passed (details here).  Instead, it was the fault of Amtrak for not training him well enough.

But that claim begs the question – what was the engineer doing operating the train if he didn’t feel competent to do so?  A question which the engineer himself answered – he said he was perfectly comfortable driving the train – an understandable statement seeing as how he had apparently undergone 7 – 10 observational trips on the loco plus operated it himself three times in the few weeks prior to the accident.  So – was more training needed?  Or not?  Details here.

The biggest question that should have been asked is ‘What on earth are you doing allowing a 30 mph corner in the middle of a section of 79 mph rated track’ – the answer to that largely unasked question being it was cheaper that way.

It is also fair to note that the training required should not have been all that complicated.  The 180 miles of so of track between Seattle and Portland had only one altered bit, with a 14.5 mile section ‘short cut’ replacing an earlier section of track.  The 14.5 mile section generally permitted running at Amtrak’s max 79 mph speed, with the standout feature being the one relatively tight/slow 30 mph corner.  Not a very complicated concept to master, but the driver apparently failed to notice the first distant warning sign for the pending corner and also lost situational awareness of where he was such that when he came upon the tight corner, he was still going at full speed.

One might wonder if the other person riding in the cab with him was distracting him, but apparently not.  The other person considers himself so blameless that he is himself now suing anyone with money for millions of dollars for the pain and suffering he experienced.

Disappointing January 2018 Electric Vehicle Sales

Tesla again disappointed with the release of January sales data (in the US) for electric vehicles.  Both the Model S and X continued to decline compared to the same months a year ago, even though the total market for electric car sales has grown appreciably.  The Model S sold 800 units, the Model X 700 units (compared to 900 and 750 in January 2017).

The Model 3 sold 1875 units, which is an encouraging improvement on December (1060 units).  But it should be remembered that in early January Tesla was boasting

 In the last seven working days of the quarter, we made 793 Model 3’s, and in the last few days, we hit a production rate on each of our manufacturing lines that extrapolates to over 1,000 Model 3’s per week.

A reasonable person might have therefore expected to have seen 4,500 or more vehicles sold over the four and a half weeks in January, but the result was less than half that number.  Why?  We await the latest excuse and revised production projection from Tesla, and note this comment from ‘The Woz’ about no longer believing anything Tesla or Elon Musk says..

So, Tesla sold less Model S and X vehicles than it did in January 2017, and vastly fewer Model 3s that it was hoping for.  Its share price?  Unchanged.

The Chevy Bolt ended its wonderful run of steady month on month increases, dropping back down to 1177 units sold in January, about which the best that could be said is that at least it is very slightly more than the January 2017 figure (1162).  We hope it will start rising again in February.

And the exciting new model Nissan Leaf is proving slow to ship, with only 150 units delivered in January.

In the background are steadily firming gas prices, including a prediction that prices will go the wrong side of $4 a gallon in California by May.  So we expect to see continued strength in electric vehicle sales.

And, in good news for electric vehicles, the next Tesla vehicle, the Model Y, is rumored to be due to enter production in March 2020.

Elon Musk’s Latest Fundraising Success – ‘Flamethrowers’

After selling 50,000 overpriced baseball caps with his new tunnel drilling ‘Boring Company’ logo on them, Musk has now sold 20,000 so-called ‘flamethrowers’, at a cost of $500 each.  Yes, that’s a nice $10 million in sales, and probably with very little in associated product costs.

It seems the ‘flamethrowers’ are nothing more than garden propane fueled weed-burners/ice-melters, something you can buy on Amazon for $25 upwards.  But he wrapped them up in a plastic rifle sort of shape, and, hey, why not pay ten or twenty times as much for something from Elon Musk, after all.  More details here.

In something that you wouldn’t believe if it weren’t true, the transforming act of taking a regular garden weed burner and surrounding it with a plastic rifle shell was enough to get California legislators demanding that ‘flame throwers’ should be banned in California.  Doesn’t that sound exactly like California’s eager embrace of legislation to ban so-called ‘assault rifles’ – things that are nothing other than regular semi-auto rifles but which look ‘scary’.

The range of Musk’s flamethrower seems to be a foot or two.  California already has a law restricting any flamethrowing device to a flame of no more than ten feet.  The need for new legislation seems, ahem, unclear.

One has to wonder though when Mr Musk will focus on actually boring some real tunnels.   Sure, it is nice raising a quick $10 million, but Musk is estimated to have a net worth of $21 billion.  If he simply invested his money in an index linked fund, then with the way the stock market is soaring, it would take him less than a day to make $10 million on his net worth.  Sure, his funds aren’t that liquid, etc, but the point remains.  If you have $21 billion and are overflowing with revolutionary new ideas to transform the world, are you well advised to distract yourself on a childish stunt such as selling pretend flame-throwers?

How to Unlock Most Hotel Safes Without Knowing the Combination

It goes without saying that of course hotels have a way to open your in-room ‘safe’.  If they didn’t, what would they do when people forgot their combinations, or called after checking out to report they’d left something in the room safe.

But it is perhaps disappointing to learn that, in many hotels and with popular Saflok model safes, the ‘safe’ has a factory default unlock code that has probably never been changed.  Details here.

I’ve seen other Youtube videos that reveal other default codes to access hotel ‘safes’ too.

And Lastly This Week….

We’ve all probably seen them – huge big change collection containers at airports, encouraging us to empty our foreign coins into them, and promising to pass the money on to some deserving charity or another.  But have you ever wondered what happens to the money you might toss into such containers?  Something unexpected happened at Gatwick.  Twice.

A Norwegian 737 flight from Oslo to Munich had to return to Oslo not long after take-off due to a broken toilet on board.  That’s a far from unusual event, of course, but what was notable was the plane had 85 plumbers on board.  Apparently the problem could only be fixed from outside the plane, and none of the plumbers were volunteering for a bit of impromptu wing-walking at 35,000 ft and 550 mph.

What happens if you’re taking your soon-to-be-betrothed partner somewhere by air, with a plan to pop the question and present a ring at the ideal romantic moment while you’re enjoying the vacation?  More to the point, what happens if the ring is discovered in your carry-on bag as you go through security and the surprise of the event is stolen from you?

Well, apparently, at least in some of the more sensitive jurisdictions, there’s a solution to that problem.  Here it is, in case you’re anticipating a need to know.

Here’s an idea the airlines might like to emulate.  Gordon’s Gin, in the UK, is using a complicated formula to determine the amount of delay and unhappiness with delayed commuter rail journeys, and if delays reach a certain threshold, will arrange for a train station bar to serve half priced G&Ts.  If delays get even worse, the G&Ts will become completely free.  Initially being trialed at London’s Waterloo Station, there are hopes for it to be rolled out around the country as a whole.

(As an aside, am I the only one to remember when the captain would regularly come onto the PA system to announce free drinks on a flight due to some delay or inconvenience?  Ah, the good old days….)

Call me old-fashioned if you will, but a surprising number of these supposedly now redundant/obsolete household items are still in use here at Travel Insider World Headquarters.

An airline put on a special show to welcome a team of football players onto their flight.  By all accounts and judging by the video taken on board, it seems the footballers and other passengers all enjoyed the festivities immensely.  So, naturally, the airline is now abjectly apologizing for what critics have been calling ‘a cheap PR stunt’.  (Aren’t inexpensive PR stunts better than expensive ones?)

Until next week, please enjoy safe travels, and if you’re lucky, you too might become the ‘victim’ of a cheap PR stunt.





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