10 November, 2006
I arrived back home from Germany late on Wednesday, and Thursday passed in a bit of a jet lagged blur.
I want to give Emirates the opportunity to comment on my review of their business class service before publishing it (quick summary - very good but not without some imperfections), and the other article I'm developing on some potentially innovative new noise reducing headphones also needs to be offered to the manufacturer for comment before it is released, so there'll be no feature article this week.
The jet lagged blur also makes for a short (but hopefully not too incoherent) newsletter this week.
Many people have been commenting on the election results, drawing conclusions to suit their own agendas, and who am I to miss a chance to step onto my own humble bully pulpit. So :
Dinosaur watching : Maybe it is jet lag, but I can't find a single 'interesting' story about the US dinosaurs this week. Most of the stories involve increased loads on planes and increased fares to travel.
But on a happier note, congratulations to my friends at Emirates. Their airline was ranked by Forbes in their annual survey as having the second best international first class (out of the 36 different airlines offering international first class). Cathay Pacific came first, and Singapore Airlines came third. You'll be unsurprised to learn that none of the top ten airlines were from the US.
In other Emirates news, Emirates is to become the first airline offering cell phone service on their planes, to start in January 2007, initially on a single 777 and then to be rolled out across their fleet. They do have some safeguards in place to control the impact on other passengers, ranging from simplistic (limiting the number of concurrent calls on a plane to only five) to sophisticated (being able to turn the service on or off at will).
One has to wonder how the five simultaneous call limit will work. For example, will first class passengers be given highest priority access, or will all passengers have equal access? If you're caller number six, will you be able to queue up your call request or will you have to keep fruitlessly redialing until getting through? Clearly I'll have to ask Emirates for another test flight to better understand these issues!
Both Ryanair and Qantas are also introducing trials of cell phone service later next year.
One of the tenets of my story on 'Who Flies First Class Anymore' is that continual upgrading of business class has obsoleted first class. And now, from an airline that quite validly offers its business class as a first class equivalent, Virgin Atlantic (VS), we see they're now upgrading their Premium Economy cabin to make it more of a rival for other airline's business class.
VS is upgrading its Premium Economy seats to leather, arranging for a dedicated cabin crew, and upgrading the meal service. Until now, the concept of Premium Economy has been 'a nicer seat, but the same food and service as coach class'.
One can almost feel sorry for VS's arch-rival, BA, upon reading their claim that the security problems and the no-liquids ban cost them £100 million ($190 million) in profit during their last quarter. They had to cancel 1,280 flights during the worst of the scare, and many other flights suffered major delays.
However, even after this loss, and shedding crocodile tears about increased fuel costs (didn't fuel costs drop?) they still managed to make a £371 million profit for the six months through 30 September, a slight 1.6% increase on the same time last year.
Here's an interesting twist on regular cell phone service. Get a Drift package from Helio and you can track up to 25 other Helio subscribers, seeing where they are on a map displayed on your own phone's screen.
Talking about GPS technology, here's a happy settlement to an egregious abuse of GPS tracking capabilities. But expect such scenarios - and the related scenario of monitoring a vehicle's speed - to become increasingly common and to become a mandatory part of the fine print you must sign and agree to when renting a car in the future.
Bad news for Airbus. It was interesting being in Hamburg earlier this week - it has the second largest manufacturing facility for Airbus, and everyone I spoke to cited it as one of the distinctive good things about their city (which goes to confirm my perception that there's very little of interest in Hamburg for the typical tourist). But while Hamburgers (I presume that is what one calls a resident of Hamburg) were delighted to have such an economic boost to their city, they all shamefacedly conceded that Airbus was very much reliant on government rather than free market forces.
This week saw Fedex cancel their order for ten Airbus A380 freighters, and instead place an order for fifteen Boeing 777 freighters. However, it is not clear if the real reason for switching this order was in response to the A380 delivery delays, or if that was just a convenient excuse, with the real reason being due to changes in Fedex's perceived future needs.
The order switch did great things to Boeing's stock. At last, my recommendation back on 6 October (when it was at $83.62) is being partially vindicated. The stock opened on Friday last week at $79.59 and closed on Thursday this week massively up for the week at $85.11, after peaking at $86.48 earlier in the day. Airbus closed on Thursday at €21.57, up slightly from Thursday last week's close of €21.17.
A Standard & Poors research note is projecting a target price for Boeing in the next twelve months of $106, giving it a buy recommendation.
This Week's Security Horror Story : Screeners at Newark International Airport failed 20 of 22 security tests conducted by undercover US agents two weeks ago. They missed concealed bombs and guns at security checkpoints in all three terminals.
Agents also found significant failures by screeners to follow standard operating procedures while checking passengers and their baggage for prohibited items.
Another report on how the US' unfriendly approach to visitors is costing us came out this week. Business travel from Asia to the US fell 10% over the 2004 - 2005 period, at the same time that it grew to Europe by 8%.
The report, by Euromonitor International, said this drop in visitors 'was likely to intensify as security restrictions continue, making obtaining visas more difficult'.
Reader Bill writes in with the opposite of a horror story
Here's yet another scary story about how our government continues to obsess over controlling legal visitation to/from the US, while overlooking the millions of illegal aliens who cross our open southern border without problem.
And what about immigration (and all other) controls on real aliens? You know, ones who fly in UFOs? Here's an interesting story.
Until next week, please enjoy safe travels
David M Rowell aka The Travel Insider
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