Beckley, West Virginia; Burlington, Iowa; and Clovis, New Mexico are among the countless US cities that have been overlooked and underserved by America’s largest airlines. There’s simply not enough consistent demand to make them profitable.
But one airline’s money-losing route can be another’s profit-maker. In fact, a niche industry of regional airlines seeks out these cities and relies on the US government to help turn a profit when flying to them.
The Department of Transportation’s Essential Air Service program incentivizes airlines to serve more than 100 cities American cities. More than $315 million in yearly contracts is doled out in the Lower 48 alone, and nearly $27 million is given in Alaska.
Any airline can submit a bid to serve EAS cities but regional carriers have cornered the market. The top EAS airlines in the US include SkyWest Airlines, Cape Air, Boutique Air, Southern Air Express, and Denver Air Connection, according to the DOT’s most recent data.
When considering bids, the DOT factors in items including the service reliability of the airline, connectivity to larger airlines, opinions of the community being served, and the cost of the subsidy. The cheapest bid doesn’t always win the contract, nor does the one with the most community support.
In the case of Rutland, Vermont, the DOT chose Cape Air to serve the city with an annual subsidy of $1,959,579 for the first year rising to $2,018,366 the next. Cape Air’s option won out over a cheaper Boutique Air option in part because of a lack of community support for the latter airline.
But what the community gives, the community can also take away. San Francisco-based Boutique Air was forced out of Ironwood, Michigan, for example, after its aircraft suffered two incidents on flights from the city.
The airport board voted to “seek a new air carrier,” according to a government filing, and three airlines – Air Choice One, Southern Air Express, and Denver Air Connection – all submitted multi-million-dollar bids to take Boutique Air’s place.
Major US airlines can also advocate in support of their regional airline partners as ease of connections in major airports can be crucial in securing a contract. Some major airlines, including American, do bid for EAS routes themselves but are a small percentage of the program as of the most recent DOT tally in July.
The unique airlines operating these flights often use unique aircraft, including older models that are cheaper to operate. Aircraft can be more than 40 years old, such is the case with some of Cape Air’s fleet of Cessna 402C aircraft.
Other airlines, including Boutique Air, use private aircraft intended to transport the wealthy. “Some airlines do feel more like a private [flight,]” Joey Gerardi, an aviation writer who has taken more than 40 EAS flights and has seen the best and worst of the program, told Insider.
Most EAS flights that he’s taken have been bare-bones with no in-flight entertainment or even a flight attendant.
“A lot of Essential Air Service carriers don’t have much service at all and that’s just because of the size of the plane,” Gerardi said, adding that some offer special treats like a snack basket of full-size candy bars.
Alaska sees a lot of EAS flights given the remote nature of the state’s cities and Alaska Airlines is a prominent carrier, using its fleet of Boeing and Embraer aircraft. On those flights, the experience may be indistinguishable from a standard Alaska Airlines flight.
“This aircraft has outlived its viability, is regularly in bad condition, and provides an unacceptably uncomfortable in-flight experience for passengers even on a flight of only 45 minutes to 1 hour in duration,” Lennox wrote, estimating that 40% of the flight he’s booked on the aircraft have been delayed or canceled.
And with millions in government subsidies, these airlines don’t have to worry about filling every seat, and they often don’t.
“At least 80% of the EAS flights I’ve been on have five or fewer people,” Gerardi said.
A jet setter’s dream, the G650ER boasts a range of 7,500 nautical miles and speeds of up to Mach .925 enabled by Rolls-Royce BR725 engines. With that range, a traveler can jet between any two cities in the world in one stop or less.
Musk is the perfect example of the jet’s capabilities, flying nearly 160,000 miles on the jet in 2018. Some of the Tesla CEO’s longest flights included hops from Texas to Israel, Northern Ireland to California, and California to Thailand via Alaska.
While in Doha checking out the G700, Qatar Executive invited a group of journalists onboard a G650ER for a demonstration flight. Here’s what it was like.
Qatar Executive is the private jet division of Middle Eastern mega carrier Qatar Airways, catering to clients that want a step above first class. The G650ER is the company’s flagship private jet after a $1 billion order for 14 planes.
The typical Qatar Executive passenger bypasses the commercial terminal and is chauffeured right up to their awaiting airplane. Jets in the Qatar Executive fleet also include the Bombardier Global 5000 and Global XRS.
A total of 13 passengers can be seated in the 46-foot and 10-inch G650ER cabin that’s divided into three living areas.
Two pairs of club seats comprise the first living area for a total of four seats, each with its own window.
The forward section is the ideal seating area for takeoff and landing. It’s also the section in which the principal passenger typically sits.
This type of seating area is standard and can be found on nearly every wide-cabin private jet.
Directly behind is another four-seat section known as the dining and conference area thanks to its massive table.
This is where meals can be enjoyed and shared with the other passengers onboard, just like a home dining room table.
But it also doubles as a conference room table ideal for holding meetings or just getting work done on a larger table. In-flight WiFi is included in Qatar Executive’s charter rate, meaning customers can browse away or hold presentations without having to worry about how much data they’re using.
Power outlets are also available to keep devices charged.
When it’s time to rest, the seats can also recline fully flat to make a bed that can sleep two.
Opposite the table is a credenza with a built-in television monitor. The credenza can also be used as a buffet table during meals times, and its drawers can be used for extra storage.
The rear-most living section is a private compartment with seating for five passengers.
This space is highly customizable based on owner preference and Qatar Executive opted for a split between club seats and a three-place divan.
A pocket door can also close for additional privacy, sealing this section off from the rest of the plane. It can be anything from an executive’s private office to a living room.
One private jet expert told Insider in a prior aircraft tour that an executive might use this space as an office and the forward sections as the waiting room, calling subordinates back one at a time for in-flight meetings.
Both the divan and club seat pair can be converted into beds during downtimes. As many as three passengers can sleep in this stateroom.
This G650ER does not come with a shower but the option is available for owners. A shower would complete the idea of a flying apartment, allowing flyers to arrive from a long-haul flight clean and well-rested.
Each pair of club seats in the forward and rear living areas come with tables that can also be used for meals, work, or playing cards, among other uses.
Instead of popping out from the sidewall, the tables are raised and lowered with the press of a button.
Window shades on the aircraft are also controlled with the press of a button. Flight attendants also have control through a master system panel in the galley.
An extra seat is located in the crew rest area that’s reserved for an additional pilot on longer flights.
With all 12 passengers onboard, it was time to take to the skies above Qatar.
First, a towel was offered to every passenger before departure.
Next came the pre-departure beverage. A full bar including soft drinks, juices, and alcohol is stocked and complimentary on Qatar Executive flights, just as on Qatar Airways.
Our pilots started the engines as the first drinks were being served. It was just a few minutes from the time the door was closed to getting underway.
And one of the perks of flying private is being able to see what goes on in the cockpit.
Soon enough, we were taxing to the runway with downtown Doha in sight. The oval windows are Gulfstream’s largest at 28 inches wide, enabling truly expansive views without having to crane one’s next.
Next came the true test of the aircraft’s capabilities: takeoff. Passengers were warned beforehand that the G650ER feels more powerful on takeoff compared to a traditional airliner.
In fact, the force of the speeding plane down the runway was so great that anything not tied down was launched backward. Some fellow passengers ended up spilling or wearing their drinks.
We were quickly airborne and overflying the main terminal at Hamad International Airport. It was a reminder that flying private means never having to wait in line at check-in, or go through a security checkpoint in most cases.
Once airborne, it was revealed that we wouldn’t just be flying aimlessly over Qatar. Rather, the pilots had programmed the route to create a special message in the sky to be revealed after the flight.
But while the plane was flying its special route, it was time to see what dining is like on a G650ER.
The menu for this flight included hot and cold options such as Mongolian beef casserole, rigatoni pesto, and hummus.
The two cabin attendants on our flight quickly jumped up to begin servicing, starting by setting the tables with white cloths, dishes, and flatware. In an instant, the atmosphere changed from a private jet to a five-star restaurant.
The credenza acted as the buffet table for this flight, allowing passengers to take what they pleased throughout the flight.
Meals are crafted in the forward galley, where cabin attendants have access to large countertops, ovens, and microwaves to prepare restaurant-quality meals.
Menus can be customized on each flight according to customer preference but it can be costly. In-flight catering on any private airline can quickly rack up a bill comparable to a five-star restaurant.
It took around two hours to draw our invisible painting in the sky, revealed to be “QE” for Qatar Executive. The only way for anyone on the ground to know what our flight plan spelled out would be through the lens of flight tracking software.
And while the G650ER is an incredibly smooth aircraft in which to ride, I will say that I felt a bit uneasy due to a likely combination of jetlag and the constant turning that the sky drawing entailed.
But it wasn’t time to return to Hamad International just yet. Qatar Executive had one more surprise for us: a trip to 50,000 feet.
That kind of altitude is rarely used by even the most capable private jet when passengers are onboard. In fact, 51,000 feet is the highest altitude possible for a G650ER and we were going to be 1,000 feet shy.
For most onboard, it was the first time any of us had ventured that high up. Travel YouTuber Sam Chui, who was also onboard, said he hadn’t been to 50,000 feet since flying on the famed Concorde.
Pilots carefully climbed the plane through the flight levels and leveled off with ease at 50,000 feet. I walked up to the cockpit to confirm it with my own eyes.
We weren’t quite in Blue Origin territory but it felt like we weren’t too far away.
I expected to feel at least light-headed while in the rarified atmosphere but the cabin pressurization system made it so we felt closer to the surface than we actually were. I was still a bit woozy for all the turns we did but other than that, I felt fine.
After a few minutes at 50,000 feet, it was time to get our feet back on the ground. We could’ve quite easily glided down to the runway but we made a normal approach to the airport instead, passing by some of Qatar’s newly-built 2022 World Cup stadiums.
The oversized windows once again came in handy as we passed Doha’s skyscrapers.
We also passed the Ras Abu Aboud Stadium, constructed using modified shipping containers.
After a flight like that, I can see why Musk and his companies spent around $700,000 to use the jet for most of his 2018 flights.
Villanueva’s Tesla hit a wall late on Thursday night and then continued to move until a California Highway Patrol car pulled in front of her, which then slowed and stopped it. Authorities proceeded to wake up Villanueva.
Her husband, who was driving behind her, reported to the dispatcher that his wife was “unconscious in a Tesla” and that the vehicle was “driving itself,” according to audio from a dispatch call obtained by KABC-TV.
Villanueva was arrested Thursday and released Friday on her recognizance.
She is due in court in January 2022. It wasn’t immediately clear whether she had an attorney to speak on her behalf.
In recent months, Tesla crashes have come under scrutiny after several fatal crashes occurred while the electric cars were on Autopilot, enabling the vehicle to steer, accelerate, and brake automatically within its lane.
At least three Tesla drivers have died since 2016 while driving with Autopilot engaged.
Nando’s is also surprisingly popular in the US, with locations in Illinois, Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, DC. In fact, the first time I heard about Nando’s was from a friend who pointed it out while we were visiting Washington.
On a recent trip to England, I set out to finally eat at Nando’s after hearing about it for months. Here’s what dining at the restaurant was like.
Unsurprisingly, Nando’s isn’t hard to find in the UK with four locations in Central London alone. I found a location just a few blocks from Piccadilly Circus while sightseeing.
There was a bit of a wait at this location just off Regent Street but not more than five minutes.
South African decor fills the restaurant and gives it a rather exciting ambiance.
The dining room was moderately crowded with plexiglass partitions dividing some of the tables.
I was glad to see the restaurant getting creative with the plexiglass, as evidenced by this butterfly chicken/heart-shaped partition at the cashier station.
The restaurant smelled of delicious chicken and I was eager to finally try Nando’s.
Paper menus were left at each table but all the ordering was done on the Nando’s website.
QR codes encased in little hearts led the way to the ordering website. Luckily, there was WiFi since I had poor cellular service in the UK.
Each table had a number to include in the order so servers knew where to bring the food.
Much to my expectations, chicken was the primary item on the menu with few alternative options. Other items included burgers, salads, and dips but I had my heart set on peri-peri chicken.
I ordered my chicken with mild spice and hoped for the best. It didn’t take too long for the meal to be prepared but the short time waiting was spent further analyzing the South African artwork.
Soon enough, the star of the night appeared. The beautiful golden brown chicken came out in its iconic heart shape, accompanied by two sides.
I was all set to dig in but waited just a bit longer to get some sauce. The server recommended peri-peri garlic sauce so that was what I grabbed.
But there are other options including wild herb and lemon and herb.
The chicken was perfectly cooked with crispy skin on the outside and gorgeous white meat on the inside.
Next up on the taste test was the chips, or French fries for Americans. But these weren’t just any chips, they were “peri-salted chips” and had the distinct peri-peri seasoning on time.
They were a perfectly cooked golden brown and crispy, but also just as spicy as the chicken. I almost broke out into a sweat just from the two items.
Lastly, two pieces of garlic bread were served as the final side. It’s hard to mess up garlic bread and Nando’s certainly doesn’t as it was incredibly tasty.
I will say that I didn’t immediately fall in love with the chicken to the degree to which I expected. A part of me felt that I could marinate chicken at home and then throw it on the barbeque to achieve comparable results.
I also didn’t get much more flavor from the sauce, which was surprising.
But even still, I cleaned my plate and the meal served its purpose of filling me up.
All in all, it cost £12.25 or $17.02. For what I got, I found it to be just a bit overpriced.
A butterfly chicken breast on its own cost $8.25, which I thought to be incredibly high priced. But this was Central London amid a chicken shortage, after all.
I left satisfied with the meal but felt that the beloved Nando’s didn’t live up to the hype. I’d undoubtedly eat at the chain again but will change it up next time to try more of the menu.
They have been every year since at least 2016, according to e-commerce company Pitney Bowes. To date that loss has largely gone to Amazon as the ecommerce giant steadily moves delivery in-house.
But a slew of new players, juiced by millions in venture capital funding, is entering the package logistics fight to see if they can’t can’t change a decades-old power dynamic.
It’s more than just 32% e-commerce growth in 2020 that’s driving new players into the space. FedEx and UPS have spent the last year or two taking a hard look at their own businesses. The resulting changes are upsetting the status quo.
Apart from the USPS, nobody matches the national reach of UPS and FedEx. Existing alternatives are largely regional players. So e-commerce logistics startups, many with Amazon alumni at the head, are looking at the problem in a different way.
Instead of creating national networks of facilities, trucks, and drivers, they’re using technology to stitch together the smaller logistics operations already in play. Some are making tools and launching services so retailers can more seamlessly use this patchwork of smaller carriers as a national solution. Some are reorganizing the vast number of crews of workers and fleets of vans that contract out delivery services to the traditional players in a new way.
All are looking to offer flexibility and speed while attempting to build what e-commerce has yet to prove it can deliver for almost anyone: profit. Meet the new players in package delivery in these stories.
From the gig economy to small delivery companies, delivery resources are reorganizing with speed as the top concern
American Airlines is planning to get by with a little help from some new friends as the airline continues to build out one of its top products: a global route network.
Global carriers often rely on smaller airlines to connect passengers within destination countries, and American has some major gaps to fill despite being a leading member of the Oneworld airline alliance.
This summer saw three foreign airlines – Chile’s JetSmart, Canada’s Connect Airways, and Spain’s Level – announce partnerships with America’s largest carrier.
“For more than 30 years, American has been serving Latin America and has been the leading US airline in South America,” Henry Harteveldt, a travel analyst and president of Atmosphere Research Group, told Insider. “The loss of LATAM as a partner dealt American a severe blow.”
The continent’s other major carriers are already bound to carriers and alliances rival to American, including Star Alliance members Avianca and Copa Airlines. It’s not impossible for those airlines to partner with American but any partnership requires investment and would have to be worthwhile for the South American carriers to go against their alliance.
American, instead, found a new partner in JetSmart, an ultra-low-cost carrier that boasts destinations in Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Peru, and Colombia. It’s far from a match made in heaven but the move was necessary to build back in South America.
“American doesn’t want to give up a three-plus decade history of being the leading US airline in South America without a fight,” Harteveldt said.
American faces a similar problem closer to home in Canada, where it has no major airline partners. The Great White North’s largest carriers are already spoken for as Air Canada is part of the Star Alliance while WestJet is a Delta partner.
One solution is a partnership with Connect Airlines, a startup that plans to fly between Toronto, Canada and the Midwestern US. It’s another unlikely partner for American but will give customers a connecting option through Chicago and Philadelphia to Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, according to Airline Weekly.
In Europe, American just reinstated a codeshare agreement with another ultra-low-cost carrier, Level, that can offer greater European connectivity through Barcelona, Spain. The partnership is ideal since Level is owned by the International Airlines Group, or IAG for short, which is a big American partner through its subsidiary airlines British Airways and Iberia.
In New York, the new “Northeast Alliance” with JetBlue has given American the opportunity to launch additional long-haul flights to destinations like Athens, Greece and Tel Aviv, Israel.
JetBlue feeds American traffic through New York since the latter can’t scale up on its own in the Big Apple.
“To grow in New York organically is almost impossible and even if they could do it, it would be exceptionally expensive,” Harteveldt said of American.
But while American can control its network growth, it can’t control the product being offered by its new partners. In the US, JetBlue and Alaska offer a comparable, if not better, passenger experience than American but JetSmart and Level are ultra-low-cost carriers with markedly different onboard offerings.
US-originating customers, especially premium travelers, booking a JetSmart flight might be surprised at the differences from American. South American-originating customers, however, are likely already familiar with the JetSmart offering, according to Harteveldt.
The hope, however, is that customers will value the greater connectivity that the partnerships offer and overlook the differences in products.
“The network is the product,” Harteveldt said, adding that American may be able to offer suggestions on how the carriers can improve their offering as the partnerships continue.
Dining at an airport restaurant is a luxury in which I don’t often indulge. I often can’t justify the high prices for what is often average or even subpar quality food.
But that changed once I got my first travel credit card. The Chase Sapphire Reserve card comes with a complimentary membership to Priority Pass, offering access to a network of airport lounges and restaurants.
The Sapphire Reserve costs $550 per year but that’s easily offset with a $300 travel credit, $60 DoorDash credit, and for frequent travelers, the priceless Priority Pass membership.
Priority Pass came in handy when I flew home from London in mid-August following JetBlue Airways’ debut flight to Europe. JetBlue doesn’t currently offer any lounges on either side of the Atlantic, even for business class flyers, leaving travelers to their own devices for a pre-departure meal.
Terminal 2 at London’s Heathrow Airport didn’t have any lounges available but did have one restaurant: Big Smoke Taphouse & Kitchen.
And to my surprise, it was actually open. Lots of airport restaurants closed during the pandemic and not all have reopened.
I told the hostess that we’d be using Priority Pass and had to sign in using my membership card and boarding pass before being seated.
Getting a table was no problem as the restaurant was quite empty. Heathrow itself is still recovering from the pandemic, and it showed in the empty terminal.
Joining me for lunch was Insider’s new visual features fellow, Taylor Rains, and a new friend that we met on the way out to London. Each of us had £15, or around $20, to spend.
Priority Pass allows members to bring guests into lounges and restaurants, with each having its own rules. This restaurant only allowed one guest to receive the £15 offer so Taylor used her membership to get her allowance.
The menu was quite extensive with a good variety of meals that were well under the £15 budget.
Some of the larger items were a bit out of the budget at over £15 and I would have to pay the difference.
A bone-in ribeye steak, for example, was £28.
I went with a cheeseburger and fries while the others opted for beers and appetizers.
Soon enough, we were chowing down on our delicious free meals.
And needless to say, we got our money’s worth.
The final bill for three people ordering a total of three beers, two appetizers, and one entree came to £42.50, just below the £45 limit. And the good thing about the UK is that the tip is included in the bill.
There was no need for us to settle up and the entire check was covered by Priority Pass. So, off we went to the gate.
I got on the plane perfectly content and ready for the seven-hour journey.
I was almost too full to indulge in the business class meal service but had enough time to get hungry again.
After a long run of trying to secure investors, Alitalia is officially closing its doors.
Italy’s national carrier Alitalia has had a rocky past full of financial struggles, employee strikes, and other damaging events, forcing it to make the decision to cease operations on October 15 after 74 years of service. The airline stopped the sale of tickets in August and has committed to refunding all passengers who were booked on flights after October 14.
On the day the airline closes in October, the country’s new flag carrier Italia Transporto Aereo will take its place.
Here’s a look at Alitalia’s storied past and the plan of its successor.
Alitalia as a brand began in 1946, one year after World War II ended, first flying in 1947 within Italy and quickly expanding to other European countries and even opening intercontinental routes to South America.
The full name of the airline was Italian International Airlines, a joint effort between the United Kingdom through British European Airways – a precursor to British Airways – and the Italian government.
Air France-KLM Group, the parent company of Air France and KLM as well as several smaller European airlines, then offered to buy the struggling airline but couldn’t get labor unions on board and the deal collapsed.
The third attempt in two years to sell the airline came after the Air France-KLM Group deal collapsed with an investors group forming the Compagnia Aerea Italiana to purchase the airline, despite heavy pushback from labor unions.
It wasn’t long before Alitalia was plagued with issues ranging from union strikes to underperforming subsidiaries and even a sting operation that saw Alitalia employees arrested for theft, according to contemporaneous news reports.
With a new investor in tow, Alitalia began cost-cutting measures but facing a backlash from employees due to planned job cuts, the airline began bankruptcy proceedings and the government announced Alitalia would be auctioned.
Under European Commission rules, MilleMiglia cannot be bought by ITA and must be put out for public tender, meaning another airline or entity outside the aviation industry can purchase the program. There are an estimated five million MilleMiglia miles that customers have not been able to use.
As far as the over 11,000 Alitalia workers, they will be considered for employment with ITA. The successor plans to hire 2,750-2,950 people this year and expects staff numbers to grow to 5,550-5,700 by 2025.
When Hyundai debuted its new compact SUV, the Venue, in 2019, I thought it was an ugly little thing. It felt like a big car squished into a little body, doomed to look squatty and angry until some new designer came along and gave it a makeover.
But when a 2021 Hyundai Venue Denim recently showed up at my door for a two-week test drive, I realized maybe the Denim wasn’t the ugly one. My attitude was.
The 2021 Venue: Big value in a tiny package
Hyundai debuted the $18,750 Venue at the 2019 New York Auto Show as the smallest member of its crossover-SUV lineup, offering buyers a step down from the $20,950 Kona in price and size.
It’s obvious why Hyundai added the Venue to its lineup: Crossovers and SUVs are dominating the American car market right now, with new-car buyers abandoning sedans and “small cars” for ones that ride higher and provide (or provide the illusion of) more space. The Venue is a way for Hyundai to reach buyers who don’t want the traditional “small car” but only have a small-car budget to spend.
The best way to describe the Venue Denim is with the question everyone asked me when they saw it: “It’s kind of like a big Mini Cooper, isn’t it?”
The Denim is 10 inches shorter than Mini’s biggest model, the Countryman, and echoes it from the outside – largely due to its shape and two-tone paint job. The Denim is the only Venue model currently offered with two-tone paint, and its blue body paired with a white roof scream, “I’m small and cute, and hey, so what if it looks like my designers copied off of Mini’s homework and changed it just enough that the teacher wouldn’t notice?”
Hyundai Venue SE ($18,750): comes with 15-inch wheels, forward collision-avoidance assist with pedestrian detection, lane-keep assist, and a driver-attention warning.
Hyundai Venue SEL ($19,800): adds 17-inch wheels, blind-spot collision warning, and rear cross-traffic collision warning.
Hyundai Venue Denim ($22,050): adds LED headlights as well as “Denim” appearance package with blue body, white roof, and blue interior.
Every version of the Venue comes with a 121-horsepower, four-cylinder engine and a continuously variable transmission. Most car buyers won’t notice the difference between a CVT and a regular automatic transmission, so don’t stress over the words too much if you didn’t know what they meant before reading this.
With $155 carpeted floor mats and fees, our Venue Denim came to $23,390.
The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2021 Venue four out of five stars on three of its tests: overall, frontal crash, and rollover. In the final test, side crash, the Venue got five out of five. The 2021 Venue also won the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s second-highest safety award, receiving its highest ratings in every crash test.
Where it struggled was in headlight quality. The LED headlights on the $22,050 Denim trim and the Venue SEL with the optional Premium Package – a base price, together, of $22,150 – received the IIHS’ second-highest of four safety ratings, while all other Venue models got its second-lowest.
More details about those ratings and the Venue’s headlight visibility concerns can be found here.
What stands out: Funky design, affordable practicality
The Hyundai Venue Denim is perfectly packaged. Not a thing feels overlooked or out of place.
Open the doors of the Denim’s two-tone exterior and almost everything inside is blue. Blue seats. Blue wheel. Blue dashboard. Blue doors. Blue parking brake. Blue, blue, blue.
Woven in are bits of silver and light gray, both to break up the blue and to accent the Denim’s light-gray headliner – a common feature of economy cars, while more expensive ones often match the headliner to the color of the interior. Light-gray headliners can scream “cheap” if the rest of the interior is, say, entirely black, but weaving gray into the design can offset that completely.
But Hyundai didn’t stop at funky colors. The seats have a cute zig-zagged pattern, the infotainment system displays radio channel numbers like they’re vintage lightbulbs, the grayish-white contrast stitching guides your eye throughout the car – everything inside the Denim feels like it was put there or designed like that for a reason.
At $22,000, the Venue Denim is half the price of the average new car. It might not be a $15,000 new car, but it’s pretty close to the bottom of the market.
Yet it doesn’t feel thrown together, or like an ultra-economy car whose features get ripped out or tacked on depending on price (see the Nissan Kicks, which has an optional center armrest – without it, there’s just a gaping hole between the front seats).
Don’t read this thinking the Denim is a Cadillac Escalade, though. It’s not. If you knock or tap on all of the materials, they’ll feel cheap and plasticky.
It’s a cheap car! That’s expected. But the Denim is so cute you won’t want to do that, because honestly, it doesn’t matter that much anyway.
Even I, a newfound Hyundai Venue fangirl, didn’t realize just how beautiful the Denim’s exterior paint was until I pulled it into a gas station on a stormy Saturday night. Stepping out and seeing it under those blazing lights at the gas pump – some of the only lights around given that it was 1:30 a.m. and everything else was closed – I realized its dark-blue paint glows. It’s deep. It made me feel something.
I, unfortunately, also felt a deep desire to run in and use the restroom, so I didn’t think to grab a photo. Just take my word for it.
The Venue is a great road-trip car for the price. There’s a slight amount of wind noise and on rough patches, you can hear the road noise over a modest radio volume. But it’s more like white noise in the background instead of an invasive, grating soundtrack to your ears.
The Venue also doesn’t ride on cloud-like suspension, and you wouldn’t expect it to at the price. You can feel the road beneath you, but it’s perfectly comfortable for around-town driving or long stretches of highway.
Add front seat heaters (sorry, folks in the back), decent headroom in the rear because the car’s roof doesn’t slope backward, and an easy-to-work infotainment system, and no one has much to complain about in the Venue.
What falls short: Slow to get up to speed, quick to fill up with cargo
Look hard enough, though, and you can find some stuff to pick on.
The Venue Denim’s start-stop button feels like a plastic bottle cap. It doesn’t have a sunroof or moonroof. There are no vents or seat heaters in the back, let alone any kind of climate control. Back-seat passengers don’t get an armrest. Plus, the Venue arrived with a big stain on its light-gray headliner, so maybe try not to throw coffee on it or something.
Another major dirt trap in the Venue is its infotainment system, complete with a shiny touchscreen and a piano-black border. The button controls in the Venue allowed me to avoid riddling the touchscreen with fingerprints unless I was putting something in the navigation, but that didn’t stop an entire layer of dust and grime from building up anyway.
The good thing is that while many new cars slap shiny piano-black trim – perhaps the biggest grime magnet humanity has ever created – on every square inch available, the Venue doesn’t. It’s free of piano black outside of the infotainment screen and a couple of buttons, and that’s a good thing.
While the Venue might be a small car trying to mimic a big car, it’s still a small car. Where that shows the most is in its cargo space.
Open up the back and you’ll find a tiny cargo area, but I guess that’s a tradeoff you have to make if you want five seats and a car small enough to squeeze into the last little strip of street parking (which the Venue is very good at).
And although no one’s buying a $22,000 Venue to take to the drag strip, its 121-horsepower engine is both painfully slow and sounds like it’s in pain while trying to get up to speed. Step on the gas and you’re suddenly reminded of that guy at the gym, lifting too much weight for his own good and grunting louder than a tornado siren.
Our impressions: The perfect package for the perfect price
I didn’t get off to a great start with the Hyundai Venue, and that was my fault. As soon as I saw it in person, I knew I was wrong – and that I’d be proven even more wrong the longer I spent with the car.
In my two weeks with the Denim, it went from ugly duckling to the car equivalent of a Russell Stover heart-shaped box.
Both are, generally, one of your least expensive options for the occasion (buying a new car, Valentine’s Day), and there’s a reason why people default to the heart-shaped box: It comes in a nice, clean, festive package. It’s cute. Nobody cares that you only spent $10, because for the same price as a few candy bars, you got something that really cares about making a good impression.
That’s what the Denim teaches you: It isn’t about price, it’s about presentation. It’s also about giving a car the benefit of the doubt, because you’re never going to know how you feel until you see and drive it for yourself.
Four years after arriving at Uber in the midst of a crisis, CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has left his mark on the company. After spending his first year cleaning up Uber’s troubled culture, he has reshaped its business, doubling down on deliveries and shedding expensive projects like self-driving-vehicles and flying taxis that weren’t progressing fast enough. But as Khosrowshahi pursues his long-term vision for the company, he has had to manage short-term challenges like turnover and a chaotic return-to-office process.
Below, you can read our coverage of how Khosrowshahi has changed Uber and the challenges he faces in the months and years ahead.
Cleaning up a toxic culture
When Khosrowshahi became Uber’s CEO in 2017, the company was reeling from a string of scandals that revealed an overly aggressive culture. Khosrowshahi made it a priority to set a new tone for the company, rewriting Uber’s corporate values and making difficult decisions aimed at increasing Uber’s accountability to its employees and customers. Current and former Uber employees say the company has become less combative and more attentive to their lives outside of work under Khosrowshahi.
Food delivery was once an afterthought compared to Uber’s ride-hailing business, but the COVID-19 pandemic has given it a starring role. Since the second quarter of 2020, Uber customers have spent more money on delivery than ride-hailing as Khosrowshahi has made acquisitions to expand the company’s delivery offerings. Now, Uber customers can order groceries and alcohol and send packages in one of the company’s vehicles.
One of Khosrowshahi’s central goals is to prove that Uber can sustain itself without the help of banks or investors. While Uber has posted a few quarterly profits, they have come from one-time windfalls related to the sale of a business unit or investments in other companies. This year, the company says it will hit a measure of profitability more closely tied to its day-to-day operations.
The Delta variant has made it more difficult for companies to prepare their return to the office, and Uber has been no exception. The company has changed its return-to-office plans amid surging COVID-19 cases and criticism from employees who have expressed frustration with requirements that they eventually spend parts of their week in an office. High levels of turnover have added to the challenges faced by Uber’s HR department.
One of the biggest challenges Uber has faced this year is attracting drivers as the demand for rides picks up. The result has been higher prices and big spending on incentives to lure drivers back to the platform. Finding the right balance between riders and drivers will be critical to fending off Lyft as travel picks up.