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May 242018
 

Boeing’s next generation of 777 airplanes will have the outermost 11.5 ft of wing tip able to be folded up while on the ground so as to use less airport space. See article, below.

Good morning

My 1500 mile road trip last week was a bit tiring, but also interesting.  In particular, I had many hours to think about many things, and one of the thoughts I had, while watching the gas gauge in my Landrover almost visibly dropping (it was consuming about 5 gallons an hour in Montana) was to wonder what the journey would be like in a Tesla instead.

Well, those idle thoughts ended up coming to close on 3,000 words of commentary about the practicality (or, ahem, otherwise) of today’s electric vehicles on long road trips.

This was intended to be just a couple of paragraphs in this morning’s newsletter, but by the time I’d fairly and fully considered the matter, it became a large-sized stand-alone article, and so the main newsletter is going to be comparatively short.  But do read the article, and marvel at how different things are with electric-powered vehicles, including the scenarios where the faster you drive, the longer it takes you to get somewhere.

Mr Musk’s thoughts about that interesting side-effect remain unknown.  I better not say any more, for fear of being added to his own version of a ‘fake news’ list – ie a list of anyone who dares to disagree with whatever he says.  That list, once extremely short, is growing longer every day.

Talking about getting on a bad list, what was supposed to be the week’s feature article is actually considerably shorter.  The TSA now have their own “watch list” of undesirable passengers.  The good news is that this is indeed just a watch-list, it is not a no-fly list.  So what is its purpose, and does it matter?  Please read the article to find out.

What else this week?  With our Grand Expedition of Great Britain now a mere two weeks away from commencing in lovely Salisbury, can I remind you of the remaining two tours this year – our Quad K Tour of European Asia (if that’s not an oxymoron) and the featured former-Soviet Union countries we’ll be visiting, which runs in October, and our wonderful “Land Cruise” through northern France, Belgium, and thereabouts, in early December this year.  Come on either, come on both, but please do come on at least one of these tours, both about as different from regular mainstream tours as it can be.

I think the piece de resistance for our Grand Expedition will be the private organ concert I’ve arranged at Romsey Abbey for our group, but with so many other amazing experiences also crammed in to the 2 1/2 week itinerary, it is hard to say for sure.  I can’t guarantee private concerts for the next two tours, but I will try my hardest to make them memorable in every positive sense of the word.  Please do consider joining us.

Here are several other pieces to fill your morning read :

  • RyanAir’s Record Profit
  • Airport Innovations
  • Folding Wings
  • Banned from Amazon?
  • And Lastly This Week

RyanAir’s Record Profit

By all accounts RyanAir had a rocky year of it last year, with pilot disputes and manning problems resulting in over 20,000 cancelled flights, but that didn’t prevent them from reporting a record profit for their last financial year.

Passenger numbers grew by 9%, and profits grew by 10% to €1.45 billion (about $1.7 billion).  The airline expects a further 7% growth in passengers this year, but also fears for a 9% growth in costs, due to both the returning ever-higher oil prices (did anyone ever truly think that the plunge in oil prices would be anything other than a temporary anomaly) and their increasing staff costs.  Details here.

As you surely know, RyanAir is famous for its astonishingly low fares.  The secret of its success?  A no-frills approach to airline operations, and filling their planes almost as full as possibly can be.

Low fares and high profits.  That’s truly a win-win for passengers and shareholders.  One wishes the US carriers could emulate both parts of this formula.

Airport Innovations

United announced a partnership with a relatively new VIP service provider at LAX known as The Private Suite.  Some articles have been poorly written as if this is a wholly United venture, but it is not.  Anyone can join, and can fly in or out of LAX with any airline.  All it takes is money – $4500 a year membership and thousands more per journey through the airport.

In return, you get a team of eight people working to make your experience as ultra-deluxe as possible, with private suites for TSA screening, immigration and customs if coming in on an international flight, a private terminal building away from the main airport terminals, and private car transfers to and from your flights – direct between the plane and the terminal.

Here is one of the recycled United press release type coverages, and here is The Private Suite’s direct website.

But what if that is slightly out of your budget?  I think any of us who have several decades of airline club membership under our belt realize that the clubs have become more crowded and less pleasant these days, with a few stand-out exceptions, of course.

Indeed, club lounges have become so unpleasant that a new startup is now building tiny little private ‘phone booth’ type structures in airport concourses, and reports that the best locations seem to be adjacent to club lounges!

They have an interesting concept, as long as claustrophobia isn’t a concern.  Details here.

Folding Wings

Talking about crowded space, it isn’t just inside the airport buildings that space is at a premium.  We also know that is true on the roads in and out of airports, and in the perennially expensive parking lots.

But did you stop to think about crowding out on the tarmac, where the planes are, too?  With the determination that longer wings make for more efficient flying, planes are taking up more and more space with ever greater wingspans, and now Boeing has secured FAA approval to copy what has been standard on aircraft carrier planes for decades – giving their next models of 777 planes folding wings.

The idea is the outer sections of the wings can fold upwards while the plane is safely on the ground, reducing the separation needed between each plane and each other plane.  This will enable a new 777 to add 23 ft to its present 212 ft wingspan and take up no more space at the gate than the earlier model 777s.  The new model planes are expected in 2020.

Sounds good?  Folding wings – what could possibly go wrong with that!  Boeing says it has built dual control systems to prevent them from folding up inadvertently in flight, so nothing to worry about, apparently.  Details here.

Actually, I’m not too worried, and would guess that even if the folding part snapped off or folded up in flight, the plane could still at least make a controlled descent with that part of the wing missing.

Banned from Amazon?

A modern shopper’s nightmare would be to discover that one was banned from Amazon.  For many of us, it is hard to imagine life without Amazon, and it is even harder to find any type of comparable service to turn to if Amazon were to become unavailable.

But apparently the world’s wealthiest man and the company he founded is starting to feel more confident in the marketplace, and is seemingly banning some former customers without warning, due to a perception they have been returning too many items.  First reported in the Wall St Journal, and subsequently echoed in articles such as this one (which doesn’t require a subscription) there are some terrifying tales of people who wake up one morning to suddenly find themselves banned from Amazon, apparently due to returning too many things.

I know people who strategically shop Amazon, buying clothing in particular in multiple sizes and returning the sizes that don’t fit, and I know other people who sometimes view ordering then returning items as akin to taking something off the shelf in a regular store, handling it, turning it over, and then placing it back on the shelf again.

It is easy to understand how some people may also carry out the classic type of return privilege abuse by buying expensive clothing, wearing it once, then returning it, but surely in all cases, even the most egregious, some type of series of graduated warnings should be offered, and a formal returns policy published.  For example, perhaps the first level of response would be to start charging freight on returned items, and a second level would be to only credit the item’s value but not the shipping costs to the customer either, and a third level to start charging a graduated restocking fee, and a fourth level to simply sell on the basis of no returns will be accepted.

We have all allowed Amazon to assume a special role in society more like a single source utility than like a competitive retail store, relying on them to remain as customer-friendly into the future as they have been in the past.  Have we allowed a monster to mature in our midst?

And Lastly This Week

No, really, it is a service animal, says Chris Pratt, in this promotional spoof video for yet another Jurassic Park movie, when he tries to bring a velociraptor onto a flight with him.

Talking about bringing unusual things onto airplanes, the standard throwaway line is to talk about a person who brought everything but the kitchen sink with them onto a plane.  But, what say you did want to bring a kitchen sink with you?  Or, at the very least, a stove and fridge.

Happily, for the 0.1% of people who both feel the need for this and can afford it, there’s a new line of luggage with built-in kitchen appliances.  Yours for slightly less than $8,000.

Lastly this week, who was it who said the camera never lies?  Sure, Photoshop has made a mockery of that statement, but even before then, ordinary photography can be misleading, as this article illustrates.

Oh, and truly lastly this week (for it is hard to think what to offer next after this), whether a lie or a truth, there are some pictures you wish never to see, and some sights you wish never to encounter on a flight.  Such as, ahem, this one.

I do hope you have a lovely three-day weekend and enjoy this, the traditional start of yet another summer.

Until next week, please enjoy safe travels

 

David.

 

 

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