Weekly Roundup, Friday 21 February 2020

By all accounts, the Airbus A220 is a lovely plane, well liked by airlines and passengers alike. How ironic that this great airplane almost completely destroyed its developer – Bombardier. See story below.

Good morning

The Covid-19 virus (it now has a name) has been enormously on my mind the last several weeks, and for very direct and personally impactful reasons.  To help clarify my thinking, I wrote a detailed and careful analysis of the present situation and the possible unfolding future, an almost 6,000 word article that is attached to this morning’s roundup.  I hope you’ll find it helpful, particularly the sections with suggestions for what you can do to minimize your own risk and exposure to this new scourge.

One of the suggested strategies in the article is to cut back on any avoidable air travel.  Practicing what I preach, I’ve just cancelled some international travel that I had scheduled for the next couple of weeks.  But, more than that, and with a terribly heavy heart, I’ve also cancelled (or at least suspended) all our tours for this year.  I’ve seen how an ordinary cough or cold can work its way through a coach load of people during the course of a tour, and while that is bad enough, having the same thing happen with the Covid-19 virus would be unthinkable.

While personal travel is probably still acceptable, because you can make your own decisions about the risk level you are willing to accept, and can arrange your travel style and activities to minimize risks, group travel unavoidably has you close to other people – even in a coach that we operate never more than half full.  I completely can not ask you to commit to probably non-refundable air fares and also some nonrefundable tour cost too, and then risk a blow-up of Covid-19 between now and May/June or September or December such as to make travel ill-advised – or possibly even restricted by various authorities in the countries we travel to or from.  I must withdraw my tours.

When we all have a clearer picture of what is happening with Covid-19, I’ll see what can be salvaged for the balance of the year.  I don’t really think this more accurate understanding will emerge for at least another month or two, so there’s not much practical chance of restoring the France and Scotland tour plans for May/June, but perhaps there’ll be a chance to do something European in the fall rather than spring.

As for the lovely new tour of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Ukraine, that is scheduled for September, and I’m hoping it may be possible to still operate it, but will need to see how the world changes over the next month or two.  None of the ‘stan countries have any Covid-19 at present, but that’s a truth that could change in an instant – for example, this week, Iran went from zero cases to suddenly two deaths and now five cases, plus a lady in BC, Canada who visited Iran has now brought Covid-19 with her back to BC too.  So the virus can appear suddenly in unexpected places.

Who only knows what the future holds for the balance of this year.  As soon as I feel I can in clear conscience offer the September ‘stan tour, or a December Christmas Markets type tour, or anything else, anywhere else, I’ll of course do so.  Truly, “this hurts me as much as it hurts you”, and it threatens to be the only year in, I think, over 15 years that I’ve not operated even a single tour.

What else has happened this week?  Some of the usual, and some of the unusual.  Please see :

  • This Week’s Bad News for Boeing
  • The Vanishing Bombardier
  • Something You’ll Never See in Your Lifetime or Mine
  • Alaska Airlines to Join Oneworld
  • No Plan B for the Olympics
  • What Do You Do When the Thief Wears a US Government Uniform?
  • Amazon’s Latest Attack on Our Privacy
  • Airbnb’s Fitful Continued Evolution
  • And Lastly This Week….

This Week’s Bad News for Boeing

Some good news for Boeing, a couple of weeks ago, was when the FAA hinted it might recertify the 737 sooner than was generally being quoted.  The expectation had been June/July, and the FAA suggested that it could happen as soon as April/May.

So it was surprising when this week the US carriers all went through their latest round of pushing back their anticipated return to flight dates for their respective fleets of 737 MAX planes.  Southwest is the most optimistic, now saying it hopes to have its planes returning to the skies on 10 August.  American Airlines says 18 August, while United doesn’t expect its planes in the air any time prior to 4 September.  This means all three carriers are now anticipating their peak summer traffic period will be constrained by fewer planes in their fleets than they’d hoped for.  That’s bad news for them – and bad news for us.  Less capacity means fewer discounted fares.

Surprising news this week of another issue with the 737 MAX.  Totally unrelated to the other problems is a discovery that some of the planes made since the grounding started almost exactly a year ago have a problem with “foreign object debris” (FOD) being found in the fuel tanks.  FOD are usually things like tools or rags or other stuff associated with building the plane and left inside the tanks rather than removed at the completion of the assembly.

The problem is the planes have fuel in their tanks – most if not all of them have been flown on test flights or to send them to other locations for storage – so the tanks have to be drained and fumigated before people can go in them and inspect for any FOD.  This is a process that is estimated to take about three days per plane.

Boeing’s new commitment to openness and transparency doesn’t seem to have lasted very long.  It isn’t saying how many planes have been found with foreign objects, but noting there are impacted planes at four different locations, our guess is that the number is more than four.

How can this happen?  Boeing is supposed to have rigorous quality control that checks for foreseeable oversights such as this prior to signing off a plane as complete and good to go.  We fear it reveals two issues – a lamentably bad QC process (which makes one wonder what else is being overlooked) and also the possibility of deliberate sabotage by disaffected or otherwise perverse employees seeking to harm their employer.  An occasional, one in every few hundred, oversight might just be bad luck.  But whatever the count is of these cases (and clearly it is an embarrassingly high number) it starts to look less like bad luck and more like deliberate bad intentions.

Boeing might be dismayingly bad at making airplanes at present, but it remains very adept at making money from the states it does business within.  This week it is putting on a virtuoso display of “having your cake and eating it too” whereby it is asking Washington State to rescind tax breaks that it asked WA to give it over the last many years, but also allowing Boeing to ask for it back again in the future if it changes its mind another time.

Why would Boeing want to give back its generous tax breaks?  Well, it is all part of the very elaborate WTO dispute process where both Boeing and Airbus are complaining that the other airline is getting unfair subsidies and support from its relevant government authorities.

The way the wind is blowing at present, Boeing has noted that it has a compliant President who loves the thought of adding more tariffs on imported Airbus planes to “protect jobs for American workers”, in response to Boeing’s currently winning claim against Airbus.  But Boeing also senses a vulnerability with its own, what appear to be clearly non-compliant, tax breaks and incentives in WA state which could enable another round of “tit for tat” penalty tariffs imposed against itself, whenever it is that it finally gets around to selling planes in Europe again.

Boeing seems to think the best thing is to annul its earlier sweetheart deal, but to keep the option open to return to it in the future if the possibility of doing so on a win-win basis for itself reappears.

And that truly is having its cake and eating it too.  Details (albeit confusing) here.

Some of us wish the entire WTO nonsense would go away (a nonsense that drags on, year-in and year-out, without ever seeming to come to any sort of ultimate conclusion).  Can’t both Airbus and Boeing focus on building better planes, not on earning bigger tax breaks.

Talking about financials, Boeing reported that in January it failed to sell a single airplane, the first January this has happened since 1962.  Airbus smirked in the corner, while reporting 274 sales in its January.

This is of course after Boeing’s 2019 total sales of minus 87 planes – it had 87 more cancellations than sales for the entire year; Airbus had a net of 768 sales.

Sure, we understand that some airlines are holding off on ordering 737s at present, although there’s not really any reason they should.  Don’t any airlines have confidence that Boeing will get things sorted out sooner or later, somehow or another?  Don’t they still need to replace older planes, and add new planes due to ongoing steady growth, the same as always?

But even if we give Boeing a pass on its failure to sell 737s, what about its 777 and 787 programs?  Why are they languishing, too?

Are there alarm bells ringing at Boeing’s corporate headquarters in Chicago?  What are they doing about their across-the-board implosion of sales?  Details here.

The Vanishing Bombardier

One of Canada’s proud success stories was Bombardier.  The company was founded in Quebec in 1942 by a gentleman, Joseph-Armand Bombardier.  He invented the first snowmobile as we know them today, and his company made them and related snow “coaches”.

In 1958, the company came up with a new device that it called a “Ski-Dog” – the idea being it would replace a dog pulled sled for hunters and trappers in the snow.  But its first prototype was mistakenly labeled as a “Ski-Doo”, and the name stuck.

The company prospered and in 1986 it established a new division, Bombardier Aviation.  It purchased Canadair from the Canadian government – Canadair had just had its worst ever annual loss, and so Bombardier bought it for a mere C$120 million.  Bombardier continued “bottom feeding”, buying the near-bankrupt Short Brothers aviation company in Belfast in 1989 and bankrupt Learjet in the US in 1990, and then Boeing’s money-losing subsidiary, de Havilland in 1992, amassing quite a collection of poorly performing aviation/aerospace companies.

Somehow, between them all, it managed to create some good and successful planes, culminating in the last decade with its Dash 8 series of jet-prop planes, and its CRJ series of regional jets.  The CRJ series dated back to 1991, with the most recent models (the CRJ 700, 900 and 1000) dating to 1999.

Bombardier wished to come out with a new generation of larger jets, what it termed its CSeries, which first started to take life back in 1998.  The concept went through various iterations before settling into the CSeries concept in 2005, with a plan for the new plane to enter service in 2013.  It was designed to be a replacement for the aging out fleets of DC-9/MD 80s, Fokker 100s, BAe-146s and early 737 models, with lower purchase costs and operating costs than competitors.  The development cost was estimated to be US$2.1 billion.

In 2006, Bombardier said the CSeries concept was a mistake, and called the project off less than a year after formalizing it.  In 2007, Bombardier said that its mistake was a mistake, and the CSeries would proceed again.  Confirming its confidence, in 2008, Bombardier estimated it would sell up to 3,150 CSeries planes over 20 years.

By 2009, program costs had increased from $2.1 billion to $3.5 billion.  In 2010, the company still expected to deliver the first planes in 2013, and reiterated that in June 2012.

Things started going wrong, with delays piling on delays, and costs increasing.  But one thing was not happening – the plane, which started collecting orders back in 2008, was not selling well in the marketplace.

Bad luck – not Bombardier’s fault – struck in 2014 when one of the test planes suffered an uncontained engine failure, delaying the delivery schedule still further.  The growing delays caused a loss of credibility for the company and the plane, and some orders were cancelled.

By the end of 2015, program costs had escalated way up from the original $2.1 billion and were sitting at $5.4 billion.  The company couldn’t afford these cost escalations, and received a $1 billion investment from the Quebec government in October 2015, with a report in November indicating that more money would soon be needed, and suggesting that the CSeries program was unlikely to ever be profitable.  The Canadian government gave Bombardier C$372 million in interest free loans in 2017.

The first revenue flight of the plane wasn’t until late 2016.  New orders remained slow, and then an ill-founded but politically adroit trade complaint from Boeing, based on a suggestion the CSeries was being sold at below-cost to Delta due to government subsidies, threatened to torpedo the essential sales Bombardier was making into the US market.  This resulted in Bombardier finding itself forced into partnership with Airbus, which took over the plane and renamed it as its A220 series, taking a 50.01% stake in the program.  Airbus said it had no plans to buy out the rest of the company, but on 12 February (this year) bought out the rest of Bombardier’s share (while leaving a 25% share still owned by the Quebec government).

Crippled with debt and losses from its CSeries development, it not only ended up selling its entire share of its CSeries program, but it also sold its Q400/Dash 8 prop-jet program to a company that rebranded it back to de Havilland.  It then sold its CRJ program to Mitsubishi, and assorted other operations and its plants in Belfast and Morocco to Spirit AeroSystems.

This leaves only its Learjet 70/75 business jet program.

Bombardier had also diversified into railroad equipment, making subway cars for the Montreal Metro and NYC Metro, and being the lead developer for Amtrak’s Acela trains.  It bought assorted related companies all around the world, and for a while was even making trains for China, having become one of the largest manufacturers of railroad rolling stock in the world.

On February 13, Bombardier announced the sale of its rail product lines to its French competitor, Alstom.

Assorted other business lines have come and gone over the decades, including a financial services division, the production of various military equipment and armaments, and even bus manufacturing in Ireland.

Will the slimmed down shell of Bombardier’s former self survive?  We’re unclear what its balance sheet looks like with the various sales in the pipeline at the present, and the only thing that does seem clear is that it was the ill-fated CSeries development program that doomed a once solidly profitable Canadian success story.  It has always been a slightly quirky company, and although Airbus has massively transformed and strengthened what is now the A220 product line, we’re sorry to see Bombardier and Canada leave the commercial aerospace business.

Something You’ll Never See in Your Lifetime or Mine

One of the concepts that refuses to die is that of a battery-powered airplane.  We understand all the emotional reasons why people – particularly eco-freaks, who are never very focused on science – love the abstract notion of a battery-powered plane.  But the reality is dismayingly and utterly clear.  It’ll never happen, leastways, not without several orders of magnitude improvement in battery technology, and a revolutionary upgrade to our electricity grids and generating capacity.

Yes, we know that a tiny amphibious seaplane is doing trials between Vancouver and Seattle, but that’s little more than a toy plane with a very short range and very low capacity for passengers and bags.  It isn’t going to get you and 200 other people from Los Angeles to New York, or even from Denver to Chicago.

Here’s an article on the topic which points out that the weight of a battery required to power an A320 would weigh nineteen times the maximum permitted total weight of the entire plane.  It would also take 11 days to recharge, even at a massive rate of 1 MW.  Imagine that – three or four hours flying, then 11 days recharging.  Airlines would have to buy 20 times more planes than they currently own, and someone would need to construct several more Hoover dams to provide the power for the planes.

Not mentioned in the article is the related point that with so much extra weight, the cost even of “cheap” electricity to power the plane would be massively more than the current cost of jet fuel, too.

So we’ve a way to go yet before you’ll see a real, commercial sized, passenger plane that runs on batteries.  No matter how old or young you are, I suggest it won’t happen in your life-time, nor mine.

As an aside, even electric cars are not quite as wondrously economical as they are often thought to be.  Sure, on the face of it, you get about three miles of driving from 1 kWhr of electric power, and 1 kWhr probably costs you about 12c if buying through your home utility service (actually a bit more because not all of every kWhr gets recycled and used).  So, 4c or a little more per mile.

But, two points to put that into perspective.  The first is, when you are charging your car at a third party charging station rather than at home, your cost per kWhr soars.  You’re no longer paying 12c/kWhr.  You can be paying 20c, 30c, even 80c.  So your cost per mile is similarly skyrocketing, and instead of 4c, you might be paying 10c or 20c.

Now compare that cost to an economical regular car that does say 30 mpg, or a hybrid that does 50 mpg.  Petrol at $2.50 or even $3/gallon means gas costs of between 5c and 10c/mile.  Potentially less than battery/electricity costs!

Alaska Airlines to Join Oneworld

A bit of bad news in my part of the world (Seattle).  The airline based here, confusingly named Alaska Airlines rather than Seattle Airlines, is a carrier we’re all very proud of locally, and somewhat protective of, too.  While it isn’t outstandingly better than the major carriers, it is at least as good as any of them, and probably better than most.

We’ve watched its several battles with other larger carriers over the decades, and been delighted when it emerges victorious every time.  Its current struggle with Delta is one of the more epic struggles, and it is clear neither airline is going to back down, but that’s been great for us locals, with more flights and lower fares to many destinations.

We’ve loved the way Alaska has always remained fiercely independent, and rejoiced each time it adds another route (something it has done with great regularity over the last decade or so, growing from a west-coast only airline to now a national carrier).  There have been times when it has been tempted to join forces with other airlines, and rumors of buyout offers being extended but declined.  A side effect of its independence has been its excellent frequent flier program, which at least formerly used to have a huge variety of other participating partner carriers, making it an ideal program to accumulate miles into and spend miles from.

So imagine our shock upon learning that Alaska Airlines has finally caved in and agreed to join one of the awful alliances.  We don’t even care which of the three it decided to join, although there was never really any doubt which one it would be.  It wouldn’t be Skyteam, because that is its arch-rival Delta, and with Alaska’s close partnering with airlines such as Qantas, Oneworld always seemed to have an edge over the Star aliance.

Talking up the potential of partnering with American Airlines on international flights, Alaska Airlines has now announced its plan to join Oneworld.  Of course, as is invariably the case, we are told it is all about more convenience and better service for us, their passengers, and as is also invariably the case, the exact opposite will inevitably be shown to be the actual outcome.

A sad development, and another reduction in domestic competition, with Alaska now becoming an alter ego of American rather than a truly competing alternative for fliers to consider.  One also wonders how aggressive Alaska will continue to be with developing its amazingly expanding domestic route system now that it can lean on AA for flights.  Details here.

No Plan B for the Olympics

It really does hurt me, every which way, to cancel my May and June tours to France and Scotland, and to defer accepting bookings on the September ‘stan tour and December Christmas Markets tour.

But my pain shrinks compared to the potential pain confronting the Olympic organizers, who are glumly wondering what to do about the 2020 Olympics, planned for Tokyo, and scheduled to commence on July 24.  A cynic might suggest that cancelling them would be a blessing in disguise for Tokyo – what host nation/city ever makes money or truly benefits from the Olympics?  But Tokyo has probably already spent considerable sums preparing for the usual extravaganza of stadiums and accommodation and everything else that goes into these events, and a cancellation now would rob it of any chance to get some of its money back in the form of tourist visits.

Currently, the organizers say there’s no plan to delay/defer or cancel the games.  But I bet that no-one on the committee is sleeping well at night at present, and I bet that’s a decision they’re revisiting every day, when they do like I’ve been doing and stare compulsively at each previous day’s statistics and new findings.

Japan itself currently has 97 reported cases of the virus, making it the fourth most impacted country (China, then the cursed cruise ship, Diamond Princess, then South Korea, then Japan) including three new cases reported in the last 24 hours.  But the biggest concern is almost certainly not just the virus activity in Japan, but the potential for people from all around the world to bring the virus to Japan, infect other people from other countries, who then take it with them back to their countries after attending some Olympic events.  This could be the case for both the athletes and the spectators.

This is probably the highest visibility mass event, world-wide, for the next six months or more.  It will be interesting to see what they decide to do and when.  I couldn’t start to guess what the outcome will be, and neither do I have a recommendation for them (not that they’ve approached and asked).  But I do, quite literally, “feel their pain”.  Details here.

What Do You Do When the Thief Wears a US Government Uniform?

A Florida trucking company gave one of their employees a ticket to Cleveland and instructions to buy some used trucks.  They also gave him a bag carrying $191,500 in cash, it being a request of the truck seller to be paid in cash, because the seller was concerned about fraud if receiving any form of check or bank wire.

So the company withdrew $191,500 from its corporate bank account and sent its employee off to Cleveland with a bulging bag of bills.  But when going through the TSA checkpoint at Tampa for his flight to Cleveland, the TSA detained the man (perhaps they thought he was a terrorist and going to somehow take-over the plane perhaps by bribing the pilots?), and officers took the money from him, leaving him only $10,000 (I guess $10,000 is “safe” but more than that is “dangerous”?).

They wrote out a receipt for the $181,500 they confiscated, but subsequently disputed the sum, saying they only had $159,950, even though their own receipt said $181,500, a number which tallies with the funds taken out of the bank and the $10,000 given back to the employee.

But that’s not the real problem.  The real problem is that they’re now refusing to give any of the money back.  They say the money is proceeds from “specified unlawful activity”, but refuse to specify what the unlawful activity is.

Note – there is no crime nor restriction on flying with cash, anywhere.  If you are traveling internationally, you need to advise Customs that you have more than $10,000, but you don’t need any permission, just to give them advice, and if you’re traveling domestically, you don’t need to tell anyone about anything.

So our government just ignored the Fourth Amendment’s ban on warrantless searches and seizures, is providing no reason why the money was taken, and is now refusing to return it.  While surely the trucking company shouldn’t have to prove its innocence – we’re all innocent until proven guilty – it has, nevertheless, provided a cogent and credible explanation as to what the money was for, and the money didn’t come from a vague mysterious source, it came out of their regular corporate bank account.  There’s no way it is trying to cheat on its taxes or do anything illegal.

Even if there was a law being broken, why is it any concern of the TSA, anyway?

How is this possible, in the United States of America?  Details here.

Amazon’s Latest Attack on Our Privacy

Privacy.  Ah, yes, the good old days…. <sigh>.  I remember when the internet promised to be the big anonymizer.  Instead, it has become absolutely the opposite, broadcasting our every secret to an unknown number of third parties – both commercial and government based, and who only knows which exact companies (and governments!) it is that are learning more about us than our spouses know.

The latest example of a privacy compromise?  eBooks.  Of course, Amazon knows the books you buy, both in print and in eBook/Kindle form.  But did you know Amazon also knows the time you take per page on the books you read, and when you read them.  It knows if you underline text on a page, or if you look a word up in the dictionary.

I’ll wager we’ve all read a fantasy novel, or a trashy love story, or an action/thriller, or some other sort of book, which could be portrayed in a negative light with only a small amount of retelling of your reading patterns.  At least if we buy a print book, we can pretend that we, ummm, bought it to read the articles not to look at the pictures (as used to famously be the claim by purchasers of certain “gentlemen’s magazines”).  But with a Kindle book, no such luck…..  Details here.

As an aside, and still talking about buying books, are you guilty of Tsundoku?  Don’t worry – if you are, you shouldn’t be ashamed, and for what it is worth, I’m extremely guilty of this.  Details here.

Airbnb’s Fitful Continued Evolution

Talking about this strange new world we’re all finding ourselves living in, one of the recent “sharing economy” wunderkinds has been Airbnb, widely expected to be gearing up for an IPO this year.  However, we wonder about the IPO after this news about their terrible financial results last year.  It really is stunning to understand how these companies (Uber being the poster child for this) manage to lose so much money while doing so little and seemingly having so few real costs.

And, like so many other travel companies, Airbnb is feeling the bite of Covid-19.  It has suspended all bookings of its participating properties in Beijing between 7 Feb and 30 April.  This is apparently the result of Beijing requiring such action, not a public spirited act by Airbnb itself.  Details here.

Meanwhile, Airbnb is showing another similarity with other internet companies – an apparent inability or lack of interest/will to prevent accommodation suppliers from gaming their ratings system and avoiding Airbnb’s and local government regulatory checks and requirements.  Here’s a lengthy expose of what a writer encountered in the UK.

This is not the first time such cheating has been reported on, and noting Airbnb’s very passive enforcement of its own requirements, it is unlikely to be the last time either.

However, as imperfect as it clearly is, no-one can dispute the phenomenal growth and impact Airbnb is having on the entire accommodation marketplace.  According to this article, in some parts of Britain, as much as 25% of all housing has been taken off the regular long-stay renting/owning market and repurposed as Airbnb units.  One can only guess about the impact this is having on regular hotels.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’ve enjoyed Airbnb stays myself.  But their evolution from a marginal niche product with no real impact on the overall tourism industry to now being in many places the largest supplier of overnight accommodation is not without consequence.  For example, when I used to do travel campaigns, I’d often get marketing support (ie cash) from participating partner hotels in the destinations I was promoting.  Some money from the hotel, some from my company, some from an airline, and we all get much better “value for (our) money” than working alone without promotional partners.

But who could I go to at Airbnb to get a five or six figure sum towards a destination promotion, and how could it be marketed?  With a hotel, it is possible to have a standard product, in a specific location, and at an understood cost, ideal for building into a package.  But with Airbnb, this is impossible, and so the overall tourism promotion market is harmed – and so are travelers, because a key part of such packages would be everyone not only spending money on the promotion but also extending special discounted rates for the package.

Plus, whereas hotels and motels and regular BnB’s all pay money to city, county, state, and any number of other authorities and taxing bodies, with that money variously going into tourism development and general support and welfare for the regions they operate within, many Airbnb properties avoid all that.  They pay lower residential rather than higher commercial land taxes, they avoid other local authority licensing, and even local authority safety standards.  A commercial hotel might have fire escapes, emergency lighting, and sprinkler systems, and is inspected by the Fire Department on a regular basis.  An Airbnb rental apartment probably has none of that.

Is it time for a rethink of the groundrules which apply to Airbnb, and is it necessary also to more positively enforce the current rules and requirements which often (but of course not always) seem to be ignored and circumvented?

And Lastly This Week….

I still remember the horror when I ended up sharing a hotel room with a colleague, and discovered that the bathroom and toilet was thinly separated from the rest of the room by a glass door and window.  I’m not unduly prudish, but I wasn’t prepared to either see or be seen while we were respectively attending to our bodily functions.  I wondered at the time what abject idiot designed that “feature” in their hotel rooms.

Happily, that’s not happened since, but one thing that is increasingly common is hotel bathrooms where the shower “door” is missing or only partially present.  Perhaps it is a half sheet of glass that covers part of the bath tub, but not all.  The result is invariably a flood of water on the floor, and a soaked bath mat.  That’s not an immediate problem, and the issue of where the water seeps into and what it rots and ruins is not my concern.  But later in the day/night, walking into the bathroom with bare feet or just socks on, and splashing into the remaining water (now cold) still on the floor and the sodden bath mat and towels is definitely a problem, and I again find myself wondering just exactly what brand of idiot is it that hotels use to design such dysfunctional and downright nasty failures.

If you’re like me, you’re very focused on trying to control where water goes to in your home bathroom, because you know the tens of thousands of dollars in damage it can cause.  Why are hotels happily allowing water to course through their bathrooms and why do they think their guests like it?

Here’s an article that goes part-way to answering that question.

I’ve been so spectacularly wrong, so many times now, about Tesla being overvalued, that I now find myself totally in agreement with Bob Lutz (who has been variously EVP, President, and/or vice chairman of Ford, GM and Chrysler) who describes the recent soaring of Tesla’s share price as mass psychosis.  But if Tesla’s share price is an example of mass psychosis, what new and more extreme term can one use to describe the sudden runaway of Virgin Galactic’s share price?

Interesting, the most obvious commonality between the two companies is an inability to honor their promises and deadlines.  Apparently that translates to market value these days.

The safest country in the world to travel to?  Can you guess?  Hint – Singapore is second, and Norway is third.  And the three riskiest destinations are South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Central African Republic.  But the safest?  You’ll have to click here to find out.

Not suitable for watching on a plane :  This video of what happens when a drone collides with an airplane wing.

Lastly this week, a cautionary note to any reader who may be unusually gullible (I don’t think Travel Insider readers are often gullible!).  If you are a lady, and a TSA agent takes you away from the screening point in the airport for a very personal/intimate “secondary inspection”, it is not normal for that inspection to be in an elevator, and never done by a man.  Unlike this case….

Until next week, please enjoy safe travels





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