Weekly Roundup, Friday 17 January 2020

Narrow winding cobblestone streets, ancient buildings, boutiques, wine stores, and restaurants galore all combine to make the town of St Emilion one of our favorites in the Bordeaux region.  We’ll visit it during our May tour.

Good morning

I’ve continued to update some of the content on the older pages on the website, and earlier this week made a start on updating the airline policies and fees for checked baggage.  This is difficult to keep on top of, because not only are airlines constantly increasing their baggage fees (for example, JetBlue yesterday) but they also, frustratingly, keep changing their website urls where they keep such information.

This changing of website urls is a nuisance/problem on all websites, everywhere.  People redesign their website, and give their pages new url addresses, and so everyone who linked to the earlier page now has a broken link.  The frustrating thing is that it is possible to add a feature so that the website intercepts a request to an old url address and automatically changes it to the new page address, but very few websites do this.  It is foolish and short-sighted, because one of Google’s criteria for deciding how high to rank a webpage is the number of other websites that link to it; so any time a website changes a page address without adding the automatic redirection, it loses some Google page rank in the process.

A cynic might think that the airlines deliberately want to make it difficult to find their baggage policies, and indeed, if you thought that, you’d only be half wrong.  It is definitely true that the airlines continue to furiously fight against any timid suggestions by the DoT that they prominently show their baggage fees (and other fees too) on the pages that show their airfares, so a person comparison shopping can easily and accurately understand the actual true total cost of a ticket on Airline X compared to Airline Y.

While it is true that in general, airlines march lockstep together with most fares and conditions, due to the obscured and complex nature of baggage fees, there has been a bit of opening up of difference between the airlines.  For example, most airlines charge so much per bag, and then will charge more if the bag is over 50 lbs or over 62 lineal inches in size (ie add the length, breadth and height dimensions together), and they have a policy “if a bag incurs both weight and size penalties, only the greater of the two fees applies”.

But not so, American Airlines.  You pay a sliding fee per bag depending on how many bags, plus a sliding fee depending on weight, plus a sliding fee depending on size too.  Add up all three elements to find the total fee – oh yes, and don’t forget to double it, because their fees are one way, not round trip.

I was astonished and appalled at how AA’s fees were skyrocketing, and then realized that you really truly might end up paying very much more to bring a bag than you do for your own ticket, even though you are bigger and heavier than your bag, even though you get a seat in the plane rather than are squashed into the hold, and even though you get frequent flier miles and maybe a glass of water on the flight, too.

Never did I ever expect to find that on a roundtrip domestic ticket costing perhaps $151, you could pay as much as $1200 for an extra bag to accompany you.  And so, please see this week’s feature article, appended after today’s news roundup, which looks some more at this and a couple of AA’s other fees – my “favorite” of which being the surprisingly accurately named “unaccompanied minor” fee of $300.  It is accurately named because for your $300 fee, you get nothing at all, and your child is and remains unaccompanied!  You remain responsible for taking your child to the gate and seeing them on to the departing plane, and you or a designee is responsible for meeting them at the jetway when they get off the plane at the other end.  And, while on the flight, AA advises you that its flight attendants will likely be too busy to pay any extra attention to your child.  You don’t get much for your $300, do you.

What else this week?  Please keep reading for :

  • Wine and Cognac?  Or Beer and Whisky?  Travel Insider Tours Offer You Both Choices
  • Borat Not Included in our September Kazakhstan Tour
  • Annual Airbus/Boeing Results
  • This Week’s Bad News for Boeing
  • A New Airplane Design for Boeing?
  • Good to Know :  United’s “Flat Tire” Rule
  • A Glimpse Into the Future of Cell Phones and Plans
  • And Lastly This Week….

Wine and Cognac?  Or Beer and Whisky?  Travel Insider Tours Offer You Both Choices

Grape or grain?  Are you a wine or beer drinker?  And when you go to the top shelf, do you pause at the cognac or the whisky?  The good news is that there are absolutely no wrong answers possible, here, and “all of the above” is the best answer of all!

If you’re more a grape kinda guy or gal, you will love our France tour in May, which is based in Bordeaux, in the heart of France’s absolute best wine growing region.  You’ve the eponymous big Bordeaux reds, Sauternes for a white dessert wine, and Cognac for the top shelf tipple all nearby, and if you don’t even want to leave the beautiful city of Bordeaux, a visit to a local discount supermarket opens up an extraordinary range of amazing wines, including really great wines for less than €10/bottle.

There’s a lot more than drinking to our Bordeaux and Beyond tour in May, just as the name implies.  There’s eating, too!  And more besides.  We also provide visits to charming small villages, and larger historic towns, in a desperate attempt to keep you sober for at least some of every day.  Oh, being firmly of the belief that it is always unfortunate to drink alone, you’ll find plenty of warm companionship and people eager to share your bottles when you do decide to imbibe.  We even include a formal classroom session on how to taste and appreciate wine.

Please visit our pages that describe the French tour and its itinerary, and then, double please, why not consider joining a lovely group of your fellow Travel Insiders on this great tour in mid/late May.

But if grain is more your speed, we’ll have an abundance of beer and whisky available for you immediately after the French tour, when we cross the channel to the newly and almost independent Britain (after its Brexit event on 31 January) and head up to Scotland.  You’ll learn the difference between a 60/- and and 70/- beer and why they are so described (and also how to pronounce “/-“), and we’ll have a tasting event where you’re given a range of different whiskies of distinctly different styles to try, with full explanation about the differences and how they were created.  Don’t worry, in case you feel your sample size was too small to sufficiently appreciate the differences, there’s plenty more.

Just like in France, it isn’t just about drinking (or eating either – Scottish delicacies such as deep fried Mars Bars and Haggis and Black Pudding will be on offer, though).  We’ll see plenty of this lovely and largely empty country, with heartachingly beautiful scenery filled only by an occasional Highland cow or sheep.

Please also have a look at the information about our Scotland tour in June, and consider joining us for that wonderful experience too.

Borat Not Included in our September Kazakhstan Tour

We mentioned last week a tentative plan to offer a tour to the largest, most affluent, advanced, and stable of the ‘stan nations – Kazakhstan.  Unfairly derided in the movie “Borat”, the reality is that Kazakhstan is an amazingly beautiful land of extraordinary contrast (from world class skiing to empty desert, from beaches to forests, and so on) and with a highly educated population (and the world’s first ever space port at Baikonur).  Best of all, as of a couple of weeks ago, you no longer need a visa to visit.

We had a surprisingly large number of people write in to express their enthusiasm for the tour, and so we are proceeding with it.  We have dates already – the core Kazakhstan tour will start in the futuristic fantastic city of Nur-Sultan on either Friday 4 September or early on Saturday 5 September, and end in lovely Almaty on Friday 11 September.  We then offer two two day extensions, on to Bishkek, capital of Kyrgyzstan, ending on 13 September and then another two days in Tashkent, capital of Uzbekistan, ending on 15 September.  We also have a pre-tour option in Ukraine, including lovely Odessa on the shores of the Black Sea, and time in the capital of Kiev and a chance to visit Chernobyl.

So please keep your calendar clear for the first couple of weeks in September.  Full details hopefully next week, or otherwise, the following week.

Annual Airbus/Boeing Results

You’ll be unsurprised to learn that the 2019 comparison between Airbus and Boeing for airplane orders and deliveries is heavily weighted in favor of Airbus.

For net new orders received, Airbus clocked up 768 new orders (up from 747 last year), compared to Boeing, which had an extraordinary net new order count of -87 (in 2018 it counted 893 new orders).  Yes, Boeing ended up the year with a net negative new order figure – more order cancellations than new orders.  We don’t think this has ever happened before.  The cancelled orders were mainly 737 MAX planes, with a net cancellation of 205 737 MAX orders.

It is curious how firm and unconditional orders seem able to be so easily cancelled.  There are several reasons for this.  Some orders frankly should never have been counted as orders in the first place.  Some orders are from airlines that have either gone bankrupt or are so close to bankruptcy as to make it pointless to insist the airline proceed with their orders.  Sometimes, airlines swap and change around an order, cancelling some planes but substituting others, usually of comparable or greater value.  Sometimes, Boeing (or Airbus) is happy to accept an order cancellation because it had originally sold that plane to the cancelling airline at a low price, and now the plane is very popular, and it could resell the plane’s position in the delivery schedule for a higher price to another airline.  And, sometimes, an airline is such a good client that it would be commercially foolish to insist the airline honors its earlier purchase order and contract.

Assessing when an order truly is an order is a very subjective sort of thing.  We could mention, yet again, BA’s “famous” order for 200 737 MAX planes made at the Paris Air Show in June last year.  It won a huge amount of headlines from easily fooled journalists, who eagerly trumpeted the “major win for Boeing” as “proof” that the 737 MAX remained highly desirable and was not being harmed by its grounding.  We didn’t hesitate to call nonsense on such claims, right from its first announcement.

Now, seven months later, that “order” has still not been formally added to Boeing’s order count – not even at the end of last year when it could have changed Boeing’s total orders from -87 to +113.  Boeing probably decided to follow the adage “If you’re going to have a bad year, make it a really bad year, so you’ve nothing left to disclose/reveal in future years” and is saving this “order” to add to its count this year or next year, when the 200 extra planes can help Boeing assert a narrative of being “back to normal” in the marketplace.

It is much easier to count airplane deliveries, because now you are tracking physical things rather than abstract intentions, although as Boeing and its growing sea of parked freshly made 737 MAX planes vividly shows, deliveries are very different to plane completions.  By the count of deliveries, Airbus was again the winner, setting itself a new record for deliveries with 863 planes delivered (808 last year).  This 863 planes delivered is also an industry record – Boeing’s best year ever saw it deliver 806 planes.  Boeing’s delivery count was massively depressed due to the 737 MAX problem and its inability to deliver the growing number of completed planes.  It recorded 380 deliveries (compared to 806 last year).

So, due to the special circumstances of last year, a clear win for Airbus.  On the other hand, if Boeing can finally start clearing its backlog of manufactured but undelivered 737 planes this year, it might have a chance to show a good delivery count this year or next.  But with the 737 MAX recertification now not looking like it will happen until late February or March, that’s getting harder to achieve, and remember also that Boeing currently has its 737 MAX production line completely halted, and has indicated that when it finally restarts production again, it will be at a very low rate for the first few months (perhaps 10 – 15 planes/month).  The company had hoped to have increased its production rate to 57 planes a month by the end of 2019; now it seems unlikely that it will even get much above 15/month in 2020 and not reach 57/month until perhaps late 2022 – a three year delay.

Airbus meantime is gleefully making 60 A320 planes a month and wants to increase to 63/month, and has talked about further increases perhaps all the way to 70/month.

We also understand Boeing will be slowing down production of its 787, and has still further delays in getting its new 777X airplane certified.

Here’s a great article about the 2019 results, and here’s our page with historical order and delivery data for both Airbus and Boeing that goes all the way back to 1974.  In case you wondered, 1974 was the first year Airbus delivered planes, delivering 4, and Boeing delivered 284.  It wasn’t until 2003 that Airbus finally had a year in which it delivered more planes than Boeing, and since that time, Airbus has outdelivered Boeing in nine years and Boeing has outdelivered Airbus in seven years.

This Week’s Bad News for Boeing

You might think the preceding item was the week’s bad news for Boeing, but while it was decidedly not good, it was also far from surprising and generally as expected.  Also far from surprising was this week’s decision by Southwest to delay its scheduling of 737 MAX flights until now June.

We still have no clear expectation for when the 737 MAX will be recertified as fit to fly, but the growing expectation seems to be this won’t be for another month, and possibly not even until some time in March.  Add to that even more uncertainty about the timings and procedures to get certification not just from the FAA but all the other increasingly independent certification groups around the world.  One bright light on that horizon is possibly the apparent latest rapprochement with China which is likely to lead to fast certification and a resumption of Chinese orders of all types of Boeing planes.

Boeing has however now reversed itself and is advocating that all 737 MAX pilots should be flight-simulator trained prior to being type-approved to fly the 737 MAX.  This is a big thing – one of the reasons for the whole MCAS disasters was Boeing’s internal insistence that earlier 737 pilots could convert to the MAX without needing any retraining.  Boeing even promised Southwest (I think) $1 million in compensation for each 737 MAX plane if the airline ended up needing to retrain its pilots.

But Boeing can see the writing on the wall that is demanding formal pilot training in the important MAX differences, and so has decided to get ahead of the issue rather than remain behind it.  There’s only one problem – there are very few MAX flight simulators available at present, because, until now, the official line was you didn’t need them.  So this will add a further bottleneck, cost, and delay when it comes to finally getting the planes back in the air – the pilots will have to go through a simulator training course (probably not a lot of hours but a few) prior to being allowed to fly the planes.

There has been predictable criticism that Boeing’s fired CEO, Dennis Muilenberg, left Boeing with a nice check for $62 million in his pocket as a thank you for his service.  The same day this happened, one of Boeing’s 737 suppliers was forced to lay off 2,800 employees due to Boeing’s 737 production freeze.  Muilenberg’s $62 million represents $22,150 per laid off worker – an unfortunate bit of equivalency.  Predictably, families of the crash victims were also outraged, saying that Muilenberg should have left Boeing in handcuffs rather than with a high eight-figure check.

What do Republican Nikki Haley and Democrat Caroline Kennedy have in common?  Not much, you might think, but apparently both women have the special skill sets to be board members at Boeing.  This article calls for a complete refresh of Boeing’s board, and we certainly echo and endorse that call.  But somehow, we expect that the “institutional mafia” that reward politicians and ex military with plum positions such as these are unlikely to heed our demand.

And this article suggests the best thing that new Boeing CEO (and long time board member) David Calhoun can do is identify and appoint a better person to replace him at Boeing’s helm.  We again find ourselves in agreement, but again doubt it will happen.

The “gift that keeps giving” are some of the internal comments by Boeing employees expressing their utter disregard for the 737 and for the FAA.  Here’s another tranche of such quotable quotes.

While it is easy to look at all the 737 MAX problems, it is also important to keep in mind that Boeing’s other two plane programs have problems too.  The 787 production line is being slowed down due to insufficient future orders to support its earlier rate of production, and its new 777X plane is now looking at two years of delay to get certified – maybe more, depending on how activist the FAA might now become, and whether it allows the 777X to be certified as a minor change to the previous 777 series, or requires it to be more rigorously certified as a fully new plane.  Interesting details here.

But, some good news for Boeing as well.  The FAA is proposing to fine Boeing for knowingly installing faulty parts on some 737 MAX planes – these being parts unrelated to the faulty parts that caused the two crashes.

Why is this good news?  Because the proposed fine is a mere $5.4 million, and the actual amount Boeing may end up having to pay will almost surely be no more than half this, and probably less.  In 2018, Boeing was making a net profit of $29 million every day ($10.5 billion for the year), so this fine, at whatever level,  probably represents no more than several hours of profit for the company.  That’s neither a disincentive against doing the same thing in the future, nor a measurable/tangible penalty.  Heck, the company just spent $62 million rewarding its fired CEO, do you think they really care at all about something under $3 million?

A New Airplane Design for Boeing?

One of the things we’ve bemoaned for over 15 years has been the decline in innovation at Boeing.  Indeed, they’ve turned their caution into a self-proclaimed virtue, boasting “no more moonshots”, while overlooking the fact that it was their “moonshots” – the daring development of planes such as the 707 and 747 – that made the company into the success that it has been and still could be.

So it is great to see an article like this, updating on Boeing’s research into new wing shapes and forms.  A 9% improvement in efficiency is a substantial move forward – almost all the improved efficiencies in the last couple of decades have been from better engines and lighter materials, not from basic airplane design.  We’re also pleased to see that Boeing is no longer “cheating” and focusing on a plane that also flies slower than present planes.

But the design in its present form calls for a 170 ft wingspan.  A 737 MAX has the widest wingspan of the current generation of single aisle Boeing planes, and it is only 120 ft.  This new wingspan is almost as big as the 787 (197 ft).

This is important at airports.  Much of most airports is designed for planes with wingspans no bigger than a 737 or the very slightly smaller A320 (117 ft).  Yes, some airports have a few gates that can handle wider wingspans for larger wide-body planes, but if there’s to be a general change from 120 ft or less wingspans to 170 ft wingspans, airports will need to redesign much of their ground layouts and reduce their gate densities.  That’s easier said than done.  Is there an airport, anywhere in the world, that isn’t already at close to maximum capacity in terms of gates and space in general?

We also should point out that while Boeing is still doing theoretical work like this, it has publicly announced that it is delaying its plans to identify and introduce a successor plane to either its 757 or 737 series (due to the 737 MAX problem).  It is astonishing that an enormous company the size of Boeing is letting its 737 challenges freeze its essential future strategic product development.  The cost of the 737 MAX grounding goes way beyond the obvious – the current imbalance between Boeing and Airbus for planes that are a bit bigger than the biggest narrowbody (737) and a bit smaller than the smallest widebody (787) is enormously in Airbus’ failure, and Boeing needs to urgently come up with a credible plane to plug that gap, as well as ultimately resolving its 737 problem by releasing a long-overdue successor to the entire venerable 737 product line.

Good to Know :  United’s “Flat Tire” Rule

Intrepid world traveler Jerry was concerned about a future connection he had between an Emirates and a United flight in Houston.  The inbound Emirates flight has been consistently running very late – more than one hour, sometimes closer to two, and as a result, the connecting time to get from that to the outbound UA flight to his final destination was getting really scrunched up.

This concern was exacerbated because Jerry bought two separate tickets, one on EK for the international flights and a second on UA for the domestic flights.  If all the flights were on one ticket, the airlines would collegially get together and generally “protect” people who get stranded due to the late arrival of the inbound flight.  But on two separate tickets, you as a traveler risk falling into a “no man’s land” where both airlines disclaim responsibility for any misfortunes.

He sensibly decided it was better to have a solution in place before the problem happened, and for sure, the worst possible time to sort anything out is at a crowded airport, after a long series of international flights, and with plenty of other distressed passengers crowding all around you.  He felt the best thing to do was to see if he could shift his booking to a later UA flight, giving him more “just in case” room for a probable late arrival of the EK flight.

So he went to the Red Carpet Lounge (rather than a regular customer service desk) on his outbound flights, and spoke to a helpful agent there.  If this is an option for you, you absolutely should always get help in your lounge, not at a regular public service desk.  Lounge staff are charged with the task of helping people and saying yes; as you well know, regular staff have opposite taskings and responses.

After explaining politely the quandary he was in, he threw himself on the agent’s mercies.  The agent nodded and said “Yes, it sounds like you’d come under our ‘flat tire’ rule”, and then proceeded to rebook Jerry and the three people traveling with him onto the later flight, all without any charge or change fee.

Remember the phrase “flat tire rule”.  It isn’t really a rule at all, rather it is a guideline.  When a passenger misses a flight due to an unforeseen fault outside of their control, airlines in general (and clearly United in particular) may agree to waive their usual fees and refusals to assist, and show a brief flash of helpful humanity.

Don’t act as though this is a right you are entitled to.  But if you find yourself with a problem that also is truly not your fault, when you politely and apologetically do as Jerry did and throw yourself on the airline’s mercy, if the agent helping you looks unconvinced, you could mention that a friend of yours had a similar problem and the agent helping him had referred to a “flat tire waiver” (sounds better than “rule”) and wonder if you could ask for consideration be given for the same assistance in your case, too.

A Glimpse Into the Future of Cell Phones and Plans

There’s a lot of talk about 5G phone technology at present, and in my view, most of this is vastly over-hyped.  4G phones are fast enough for most purposes, and the promise of being able to download a movie in seconds with 5G is meaningless when we simultaneously don’t need to do so (we can stream movies in 4G without needing to download them first) and probably couldn’t anyway (possibly copyright issues and downloading restrictions, and possibly also lack of space on your phone).

In any event, the occasional slowness of 4G isn’t due to the 4G technology, it is due to the wireless carriers saving money and allowing their networks to get congested.  The problem for that isn’t going to 5G, it is simply strengthening their support for current 4G technology.

A friend in London reports his attempts to use his new 5G phone are uniformly frustrating and disappointing.  No matter where he is in London, he struggles to get a good signal.  5G, while fast, is also very limited in range.

So, our point is there’s no need to make 5G a “must have” feature in any future phone you might be selecting.

The biggest decision for many of us, now that phone handsets have become close to generic, is not so much the phone we choose, but the wireless service we sign up for to connect through.  Most of us probably change our phones more often than we change our carrier.

There’s a fascinating change underway at present in terms of how the wireless carriers compete.  There have always been middlemen who have created roles in the middle, creating new “virtual” phone companies that resell wireless service from one of the actual phone companies.  There are essentially four “real” phone companies in the US (Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint) and then lots of these other companies who rebrand and resell one of these companies’ actual phone service (for example, Mint, Boost and Cricket).  You might think it strange that you can buy generally cheaper phone service through a middle man than directly from the wireless company, and that’s true.  Even more ridiculous is that these days, many of these middlemen are now owned by the networks they resell.

Slowly, there’s an evolving change in the nature of these middlemen (called MVNOs – mobile virtual network operators), allowing them to not just sell one but two or more networks all as part of a single service plan.  The most notable of these is currently Google Fi (I use Fi, love it, and review Google Fi here), which uses three different networks in the US, giving you much more chance of getting a good signal wherever you are.

Here is an article explaining how a switch from a physical SIM account card in a phone to a “virtual” SIM card is now allowing Tracfone to plan for a new service that will access all the major US networks.

We hope this happens.  We doubt it will, because sooner or later, the networks will rebel, because they are being reduced to generic suppliers of wireless service, rather than being able to brand their service and charge more for it.  But it is an exciting move, and we’ll be eagerly watching for the eventual launch of this new Tracfone service.

As an aside, we noted with amusement this outraged article in Britain’s Guardian newspaper, tearing into an Italian judge for daring to rule that mobile phones may cause tumors, even though, in The Guardian’s words “despite scientists overwhelmingly agreeing there is no evidence to back this up”.

An unsourced statement claiming “overwhelming agreement” always raises our hackles.  And for that matter, it isn’t that long ago that the only dispute between doctors about cigarettes was which brand to recommend to their patients if they had a cough.

In the case of phones and tumors, there have been a credible series of studies pointing to the possibility there may indeed be a link.  A study that finds no link doesn’t mean that a link doesn’t exist, it just means the study failed to find it, and so is unpersuasive.  A study that does find a link though is persuasive.

One things that scientists do indeed overwhelmingly agree upon, to the point that most governments around the world regulate on the subject, is that any radio frequency radiation can be harmful if experienced in sufficient strength and for sufficient time.  The only points of dispute are exactly how harmful lower doses may be, and what acceptable limits are.  The major overwhelming agreement, supported by evidence as commonplace as your microwave oven (which operates on the same frequency as Wi-Fi) is that radio energy is impactful and harmful, with the only dispute being the degree to which that is so.  That’s a very different reality to the one the Guardian asserts.

And Lastly This Week….

Do you have an OXO potato peeler in your kitchen?  I do, and love it.  A few of the OXO products have disappointed, but their potato peeler is definitely a winner and fairly priced.  Here’s a fascinating “behind the scenes” look at its evolution and significance.

Here’s an interesting article listing what it claims to be “evil” high-tech companies.  I was actually surprised to see how mild the examples were of many of the alleged evil-doers.

Joe Brancatelli from JoeSentMe.com pointed out this astonishing bit of gobbledy-gook masquerading as the announcement of yet another hotel brand (this time by Hilton).  You just know when the bs level rises this high that the truth of the matter is that even the most highly paid of pr writers are struggling to find something/anything to say about what is, in truth, yet another “me too” product launched into a crowded sea full of nearly identical products already.

If you’re going to be in New York with a spare hour or three, here’s a great exhibition (all about the movie 2001 at the Museum of the Moving Image) you might enjoy visiting.

Indeed, even if Kubrick’s extraordinary movie isn’t to your liking, and even if you’re not going to New York, make a point of visiting an art museum sometime soon.  Here’s the important reason why.  It is also a textbook case of almost certainly faulty correlation between two things, ignoring all the other possible factors that probably also contribute.

Another example of faulty statistics is this highly amusing article that shows how 85% of people surveyed said they’d be more likely to vote for President Trump to be re-elected after learning that Meghan and Harry have said they want to move to the US, but won’t do so until after Trump has ceased to be President.  The sad fault in that statistic is that readers of the US Spectator magazine probably have a very low opinion of Meghan/Harry, and a not-so-low opinion of President T.  We fear the US as a whole might choose differently.

As a delightful bonus, here’s the irrepressible Jeremy Clarkson’s take on those two people and their actions.

Talking about visiting New York (and health), here’s a fascinating Smithsonian article about city sewer systems.

Political correctness is invading restaurant reviews.  Can’t we even choose a restaurant and meal without being accused of one of the dizzying number of different imaginary sins some people see all around them?  Details here.

Talking about political correctness, there’s nothing more politically correct than advocating the global warming theory.  So we loved this story of how Glacier Park is now quietly removing its signs all around the park that were sorrowfully advising park visitors that the glaciers they were enjoying would all have disappeared by 2020 due to global warming.

The inconvenient truth, now that it is 2020, is that some of them have even grown in size, and none have disappeared.

Much has been made of the Australian fires over the last little while, with some people eagerly asserting they were caused by temperatures that might have been a couple of degrees warmer than normal.  My brother in Melbourne sent me some amazing pictures of the air quality in downtown Melbourne, even though there are no fires within about 500 miles of there.  A great concern has been the impact on koalas, and here’s a delightful video showing just how gullible your average reporter is, even with a joke that is as well worn as the one played on her.

Truly lastly this week, while we try and give you decent quality accommodation on a Travel Insider tour, there’s very little chance that any of these hotels will be featured on our tours.  Alas.

I’m going to be battling snow in Montana all next week.  Hopefully that won’t prevent me from sending a newsletter.

Until next week, please enjoy safe travels





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