Small airlines battle to serve the most remote US cities, where even empty flights can be profitable thanks to millions in subsidies

Advanced Airlines Beechcraft King Air 350 aircraft
An Advanced Airlines Beechcraft King Air 350 aircraft.

  • The US government’s Essential Air Service program gives subsidies to airlines serving remote cities.
  • Around $315 million is being spent in 2021 for Lower 48 cities, given largely to the country’s smallest airlines.
  • EAS cities are highly sought after and communities can be very particular with who serves them.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

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.

Southern Air Express Cessna Caravan aircraft
A Southern Air Express Cessna Caravan aircraft.

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.

Denver Air Connection Fairchild Swearingen Metroliner aircraft
A Denver Air Connection Fairchild Swearingen Metroliner 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.

But the type of aircraft used can be a point of contention for communities. Michigan resident Dennis Lennox complained in a letter to the DOT about SkyWest’s Bombardier CRJ200 aircraft operating daily flights between Detroit and Pellston, Michigan under the Delta Connection brand.

Delta Air Lines CRJ 200
A Delta Air Lines Bombardier CRJ200 aircraft.

“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.

Read the original article on Business Insider

I flew on a $65 million Gulfstream G650ER private jet and saw why it’s a favorite of tech billionaires like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos

Flying on a Gulfstream G650ER - Gulfstream G650ER Demonstration Flight
Flying on a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER.

  • The Gulfstream G650ER is one of the largest purpose-built private jets currently in service.
  • Billionaires like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos use the aircraft to traverse the globe in speed and luxury.
  • Private airlines including Qatar Executive allow the wealthy to charter the aircraft instead of owning it outright.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos might be rival space cowboys but besides being billionaire entrepreneurs, they also have a shared love for an American-made private jet known as the Gulfstream G650ER.

Gulfstream G650ER

Read More: The most outrageous splurges of tech billionaires, from Richard Branson’s private island to Jeff Bezos’ $65 million private jet

Gulfstream first inducted the private jet into passenger service in 2014 and it’s been the manufacturer’s flagship ever since.

Gulfstream G650ER

Only one aircraft in Gulfstream’s line-up surpasses it in size, the soon-to-be-passenger-ready G700.

A Gulfstream G700 Private Jet - Gulfstream G700 Tour 2021
A first look at Gulfstream’s new G700.

Read More: Gulfstream just debuted its new $75 million ultra-long-range plane that’s also the world’s largest purpose-built private jet: Meet the G700

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.

Flying on a Gulfstream G650ER - Gulfstream G650ER Demonstration Flight
Flying on a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER.

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.

elon musk
Elon Musk.

Source: The Washington Post 

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.

Flying on a Gulfstream G650ER - Gulfstream G650ER Demonstration Flight
Flying on a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER.

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.

Flying on a Gulfstream G650ER - Gulfstream G650ER Demonstration Flight
Flying on a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER.

Source: Qatar Airways

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.

Flying on a Gulfstream G650ER - Gulfstream G650ER Demonstration Flight
Flying on a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER.

A total of 13 passengers can be seated in the 46-foot and 10-inch G650ER cabin that’s divided into three living areas.

Flying on a Gulfstream G650ER - Gulfstream G650ER Demonstration Flight
Flying on a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER.

Two pairs of club seats comprise the first living area for a total of four seats, each with its own window.

Flying on a Gulfstream G650ER - Gulfstream G650ER Demonstration Flight
Flying on a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER.

The forward section is the ideal seating area for takeoff and landing. It’s also the section in which the principal passenger typically sits.

Flying on a Gulfstream G650ER - Gulfstream G650ER Demonstration Flight
Flying on a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER.

This type of seating area is standard and can be found on nearly every wide-cabin private jet.

Flying on a Gulfstream G650ER - Gulfstream G650ER Demonstration Flight
Flying on a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER.

Directly behind is another four-seat section known as the dining and conference area thanks to its massive table.

Flying on a Gulfstream G650ER - Gulfstream G650ER Demonstration Flight
Flying on a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER.

This is where meals can be enjoyed and shared with the other passengers onboard, just like a home dining room table.

Flying on a Gulfstream G650ER - Gulfstream G650ER Demonstration Flight
Flying on a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER.

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.

Flying on a Gulfstream G650ER - Gulfstream G650ER Demonstration Flight
Flying on a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER.

Power outlets are also available to keep devices charged.

Flying on a Gulfstream G650ER - Gulfstream G650ER Demonstration Flight
Flying on a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER.

When it’s time to rest, the seats can also recline fully flat to make a bed that can sleep two.

Flying on a Gulfstream G650ER - Gulfstream G650ER Demonstration Flight
Flying on a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER.

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.

Flying on a Gulfstream G650ER - Gulfstream G650ER Demonstration Flight
Flying on a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER.

The rear-most living section is a private compartment with seating for five passengers.

Flying on a Gulfstream G650ER - Gulfstream G650ER Demonstration Flight
Flying on a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER.

This space is highly customizable based on owner preference and Qatar Executive opted for a split between club seats and a three-place divan.

Flying on a Gulfstream G650ER - Gulfstream G650ER Demonstration Flight
Flying on a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER.

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.

Flying on a Gulfstream G650ER - Gulfstream G650ER Demonstration Flight
Flying on a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER.

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.

Flying on a Gulfstream G650ER - Gulfstream G650ER Demonstration Flight
Flying on a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER.

Both the divan and club seat pair can be converted into beds during downtimes. As many as three passengers can sleep in this stateroom.

Flying on a Gulfstream G650ER - Gulfstream G650ER Demonstration Flight
Flying on a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER.

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.

Flying on a Gulfstream G650ER - Gulfstream G650ER Demonstration Flight
Flying on a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER.

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.

Flying on a Gulfstream G650ER - Gulfstream G650ER Demonstration Flight
Flying on a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER.

Instead of popping out from the sidewall, the tables are raised and lowered with the press of a button.

Flying on a Gulfstream G650ER - Gulfstream G650ER Demonstration Flight
Flying on a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER.

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.

Flying on a Gulfstream G650ER - Gulfstream G650ER Demonstration Flight
Flying on a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER.

An extra seat is located in the crew rest area that’s reserved for an additional pilot on longer flights.

Flying on a Gulfstream G650ER - Gulfstream G650ER Demonstration Flight
Flying on a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER.

With all 12 passengers onboard, it was time to take to the skies above Qatar.

Flying on a Gulfstream G650ER - Gulfstream G650ER Demonstration Flight
Flying on a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER.

First, a towel was offered to every passenger before departure.

Flying on a Gulfstream G650ER - Gulfstream G650ER Demonstration Flight
Flying on a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER.

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.

Flying on a Gulfstream G650ER - Gulfstream G650ER Demonstration Flight
Flying on a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER.

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.

Flying on a Gulfstream G650ER - Gulfstream G650ER Demonstration Flight
Flying on a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER.

And one of the perks of flying private is being able to see what goes on in the cockpit.

Flying on a Gulfstream G650ER - Gulfstream G650ER Demonstration Flight
Flying on a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER.

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.

Flying on a Gulfstream G650ER - Gulfstream G650ER Demonstration Flight
Flying on a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER.

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.

Flying on a Gulfstream G650ER - Gulfstream G650ER Demonstration Flight
Flying on a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER.

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.

Flying on a Gulfstream G650ER - Gulfstream G650ER Demonstration Flight
Flying on a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER.

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.

Flying on a Gulfstream G650ER - Gulfstream G650ER Demonstration Flight
Flying on a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER.

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.

Flying on a Gulfstream G650ER - Gulfstream G650ER Demonstration Flight
Flying on a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER.

But while the plane was flying its special route, it was time to see what dining is like on a G650ER.

Flying on a Gulfstream G650ER - Gulfstream G650ER Demonstration Flight
Flying on a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER.

The menu for this flight included hot and cold options such as Mongolian beef casserole, rigatoni pesto, and hummus.

Flying on a Gulfstream G650ER - Gulfstream G650ER Demonstration Flight
Flying on a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER.

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.

Flying on a Gulfstream G650ER - Gulfstream G650ER Demonstration Flight
Flying on a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER.

The credenza acted as the buffet table for this flight, allowing passengers to take what they pleased throughout the flight.

Flying on a Gulfstream G650ER - Gulfstream G650ER Demonstration Flight
Flying on a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER.

Meals are crafted in the forward galley, where cabin attendants have access to large countertops, ovens, and microwaves to prepare restaurant-quality meals.

Flying on a Gulfstream G650ER - Gulfstream G650ER Demonstration Flight
Flying on a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER.

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.

Flying on a Gulfstream G650ER - Gulfstream G650ER Demonstration Flight
Flying on a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER.

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.

Flying on a Gulfstream G650ER - Gulfstream G650ER Demonstration Flight
Flying on a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER.

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.

Flying on a Gulfstream G650ER - Gulfstream G650ER Demonstration Flight
Flying on a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER.

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.

Flying on a Gulfstream G650ER - Gulfstream G650ER Demonstration Flight
Flying on a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER.

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.

Flying on a Gulfstream G650ER - Gulfstream G650ER Demonstration Flight
Flying on a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER.

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.

Flying on a Gulfstream G650ER - Gulfstream G650ER Demonstration Flight
Flying on a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER.

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.

Flying on a Gulfstream G650ER - Gulfstream G650ER Demonstration Flight
Flying on a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER.

We weren’t quite in Blue Origin territory but it felt like we weren’t too far away.

Flying on a Gulfstream G650ER - Gulfstream G650ER Demonstration Flight
Flying on a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER.

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.

Flying on a Gulfstream G650ER - Gulfstream G650ER Demonstration Flight
Flying on a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER.

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.

Flying on a Gulfstream G650ER - Gulfstream G650ER Demonstration Flight
Flying on a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER.

The oversized windows once again came in handy as we passed Doha’s skyscrapers.

Flying on a Gulfstream G650ER - Gulfstream G650ER Demonstration Flight
Flying on a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER.

We also passed the Ras Abu Aboud Stadium, constructed using modified shipping containers.

Flying on a Gulfstream G650ER - Gulfstream G650ER Demonstration Flight
Flying on a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER.

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.

Flying on a Gulfstream G650ER - Gulfstream G650ER Demonstration Flight
Flying on a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER.

Read the original article on Business Insider

A suspected drunk Tesla driver has been arrested after allegedly passing out while on Autopilot

A close-up red Tesla logo on a white background.
A Californian couple said that their Tesla Model S caught fire and caused a house fire.

  • A Telsa driver was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving after she crashed into a California freeway wall.
  • The woman, identified as Karla Villanueva, had reportedly passed out while driving on Autopilot.
  • Her husband, who was driving behind her, reported that his wife was unconscious” in her car.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A Telsa driver was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving after she crashed into a Southern California freeway wall on Thursday, authorities said.

The woman, identified as Karla Villanueva, reportedly passed out while driving her Tesla on Autopilot, the Associated Press reported.

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.

Read the original article on Business Insider

I ate at Nando’s, the famed South African chain, for the first time and was unimpressed despite its appealing decor and heart-shaped chicken

Eating at Nando's in London
Eating at Nando’s in London, UK.

  • Nando’s is a chicken chain serving up South African-style cuisine and is known for its heart-shaped butterfly chicken.
  • Peri-peri chicken is the chain’s flagship dish with a tasty combination of spices.
  • Hundreds of locations exist around the world but some are being closed due to a chicken shortage.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
The US has Kentucky Fried Chicken. And South Africa has Nando’s.

Eating at Nando's in London
Eating at Nando’s in London, UK.

The fast-casual chicken chain is known for peri-peri chicken, or chicken seasoned with spices including peri-peri chili.

Nando's chicken shop
Nando’s chicken shop.

Outside of South Africa, Nando’s is widely popular in the UK and Ireland. It’s so popular that it can’t keep up with the demand for chicken, closing the doors of around 50 locations.

Nando's chicken shop
Nando’s chicken shop.

Source: New York Times

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.

Nando's chicken shop
Nando’s chicken shop.

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.

Piccadilly Circus in London, UK
Piccadilly Circus in London, UK.

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.

Piccadilly Circus in London, UK
Piccadilly Circus in London, UK.

There was a bit of a wait at this location just off Regent Street but not more than five minutes.

Eating at Nando's in London
Eating at Nando’s in London, UK.

South African decor fills the restaurant and gives it a rather exciting ambiance.

Eating at Nando's in London
Eating at Nando’s in London, UK.

The dining room was moderately crowded with plexiglass partitions dividing some of the tables.

Eating at Nando's in London
Eating at Nando’s in London, UK.

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.

Eating at Nando's in London
Eating at Nando’s in London, UK.

The restaurant smelled of delicious chicken and I was eager to finally try Nando’s.

Eating at Nando's in London
Eating at Nando’s in London, UK.

Paper menus were left at each table but all the ordering was done on the Nando’s website.

Eating at Nando's in London
Eating at Nando’s in London, UK.

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.

Eating at Nando's in London
Eating at Nando’s in London, UK.

Each table had a number to include in the order so servers knew where to bring the food.

Eating at Nando's in London
Eating at Nando’s in London, UK.

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.

Eating at Nando's in London
Eating at Nando’s in London, UK.

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.

Eating at Nando's in London
Eating at Nando’s in London, UK.

Soon enough, the star of the night appeared. The beautiful golden brown chicken came out in its iconic heart shape, accompanied by two sides.

Eating at Nando's in London
Eating at Nando’s in London, UK.

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.

Eating at Nando's in London
Eating at Nando’s in London, UK.

But there are other options including wild herb and lemon and herb.

Eating at Nando's in London
Eating at Nando’s in London, UK.

The chicken was perfectly cooked with crispy skin on the outside and gorgeous white meat on the inside.

Eating at Nando's in London
Eating at Nando’s in London, UK.

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.

Eating at Nando's in London
Eating at Nando’s in London, UK.

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.

Eating at Nando's in London
Eating at Nando’s in London, UK.

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.

Eating at Nando's in London
Eating at Nando’s in London, UK.

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.

Eating at Nando's in London
Eating at Nando’s in London, UK.

I also didn’t get much more flavor from the sauce, which was surprising.

Eating at Nando's in London
Eating at Nando’s in London, UK.

But even still, I cleaned my plate and the meal served its purpose of filling me up.

Eating at Nando's in London
Eating at Nando’s in London, UK.

All in all, it cost £12.25 or $17.02. For what I got, I found it to be just a bit overpriced.

Eating at Nando's in London
Eating at Nando’s in London, UK.

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.

Eating at Nando's in London
Eating at Nando’s in London, UK.

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.

Eating at Nando's in London
Eating at Nando’s in London, UK.

Read the original article on Business Insider

A wave of e-commerce logistics startups is threatening to break the UPS and FedEx duopoly

A FedEx worker sorts packages being unloaded from a truck on a conveyor belt at the FedEx Oakland Airport sort facility
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.

UPS and FedEx are losing market share.

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.

UPS CEO Carol Tomé’s “better, not bigger” strategy has led the company to leave some customers behind if their business wasn’t profitable enough. FedEx too, cut capacity for some customers last year. FedEx says it’s in growth mode now, but its lagging on-time performance is yet another reason any company with packages to ship needs alternatives.

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

The biggest threat to UPS and FedEx isn’t Amazon. It’s the gig economy.

A startup that cracked the code on ultrafast delivery just raised $20 million. Here’s how its CEO plans to snatch market share from UPS and FedEx.

Over 100 Amazon delivery companies are banding together to form a new kind of challenger to UPS and FedEx

As online furniture sales boom, gig delivery companies are minting money in the ‘big and bulky’ market many legacy players have avoided

As UPS and FedEx alternatives launch and scale up, retailers need new tech and skills to manage the complexity

The founder of Amazon Air is launching a startup to liberate retailers from UPS and FedEx

An exec who spent 19 years building Amazon’s supply chain just raised $8 million for a startup helping retailers match Prime’s delivery speed

Here’s the pitch deck that Salesforce-backed logistics unicorn Bringg used to raise its $100 million Series E round

E-commerce logistics veterans are leading startups after seeing the problems from the inside

Meet Penelope Register-Shaw, the secret weapon in a new challenger to UPS and FedEx

Meet 17 logistics execs who left Amazon to launch startups and lead competitors like Walmart, Target, and Chewy

American Eagle Outfitters has quietly acquired a nascent logistics startup helmed by a former Walmart e-commerce boss

Read the original article on Business Insider

American has been building an team of airline partners to fill the gaps in its network, even if it means aligning with budget carriers and startups

american airlines
American Airlines is expanding its international presence with new airline partners.

  • American Airlines is taking on new airline partners to rebuild its global route network.
  • South America is of particular importance as American recently lost its larger partner in the region.
  • In the US, Alaska Airlines and JetBlue Airways help American expand its presence on both coasts.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

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.

South America has been a top priority for American following the loss of a partner in LATAM Airlines to Delta Air Lines in 2019. Delta’s $1.9 billion investment in LATAM bought a new ally in the region at American’s expense.

“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.

Back home, US airlines are also helping American round out its domestic network on both coasts. Alaska Airlines moves passengers through Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle while JetBlue Airways does the same in New York and Boston.

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.

Read the original article on Business Insider

I used a credit card perk to get a free airport meals in the UK for myself and a friend and it’s still my favorite travel hack

An empty airport terminal - London's Heathrow Airport
Using Priority Pass in London’s Heathrow Airport.

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders receive a complimentary Priority Pass membership, offering access to airport lounges and restaurants.
  • When dining at certain airport restaurants, members receive a spending allowance for meals.
  • I frequently use the perk when traveling in the US and was able to make good use of it when flying home from London.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
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.

Concourse C at Washington's Ronald Reagan National Airport - Priority Pass Restaurant
Using Priority Pass at an airport restaurant.

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.

A top-down view of a Priority Pass card - Priority Pass
A a Priority Pass card.

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.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Read More: Chase Sapphire Reserve card review: One of the best premium travel cards, with improved benefits and bonus categories

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.

Flying JetBlue Airways from London to New York in Mint business class - JetBlue Airways London to New York in Mint business class flight 2021
Flying JetBlue Airways from London to New York in Mint business class.

Read More: I flew on JetBlue’s historic first trip to London and saw how low fares and great service will give competitors a run for their money

But I was able to use my favorite credit card perk in the UK for the first time. Here’s what it was like.

An empty airport terminal - London's Heathrow Airport
Using Priority Pass in London’s Heathrow Airport.

I always check Priority Pass before any flight that I take to see which lounges and/or restaurants are available at the airport.

Using Priority Pass in London's Heathrow Airport
Using Priority Pass in London’s Heathrow Airport.

Read More: I used a credit perk to dine for nearly free at an airport restaurant and it’s my new favorite travel hack

Terminal 2 at London’s Heathrow Airport didn’t have any lounges available but did have one restaurant: Big Smoke Taphouse & Kitchen.

London's Heathrow Airport - JetBlue Airways London to New York in Mint business class flight 2021
Flying JetBlue Airways from London to New York in Mint business class.

And to my surprise, it was actually open. Lots of airport restaurants closed during the pandemic and not all have reopened.

Using Priority Pass in London's Heathrow Airport
Using Priority Pass in London’s Heathrow Airport.

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.

Using Priority Pass in London's Heathrow Airport
Using Priority Pass in London’s Heathrow Airport.

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.

Using Priority Pass in London's Heathrow Airport
Using Priority Pass in London’s Heathrow Airport.

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.

Using Priority Pass in London's Heathrow Airport
Using Priority Pass in London’s Heathrow Airport.

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.

Inside the American Tap Room restaurant at Washington's Ronald Reagan National Airport - Priority Pass Restaurant
Using Priority Pass in London’s Heathrow Airport.

The menu was quite extensive with a good variety of meals that were well under the £15 budget.

Using Priority Pass in London's Heathrow Airport
Using Priority Pass in London’s Heathrow Airport.

Some of the larger items were a bit out of the budget at over £15 and I would have to pay the difference.

Using Priority Pass in London's Heathrow Airport
Using Priority Pass in London’s Heathrow Airport.

A bone-in ribeye steak, for example, was £28.

Using Priority Pass in London's Heathrow Airport
Using Priority Pass in London’s Heathrow Airport.

I went with a cheeseburger and fries while the others opted for beers and appetizers.

Using Priority Pass in London's Heathrow Airport
Using Priority Pass in London’s Heathrow Airport.

Soon enough, we were chowing down on our delicious free meals.

Using Priority Pass in London's Heathrow Airport
Using Priority Pass in London’s Heathrow Airport.

And needless to say, we got our money’s worth.

Using Priority Pass in London's Heathrow Airport
Using Priority Pass in London’s Heathrow Airport.

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.

Using Priority Pass in London's Heathrow Airport
Using Priority Pass in London’s Heathrow Airport.

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.

London's Heathrow Airport - JetBlue Airways London to New York in Mint business class flight 2021
Flying JetBlue Airways from London to New York in Mint business class.

I got on the plane perfectly content and ready for the seven-hour journey.

A JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways London to New York in Mint business class flight 2021
Flying JetBlue Airways from London to New York in Mint business class.

I was almost too full to indulge in the business class meal service but had enough time to get hungry again.

Flying JetBlue Airways from London to New York in Mint business class - JetBlue Airways London to New York in Mint business class flight 2021
Flying JetBlue Airways from London to New York in Mint business class.

Read More: I flew JetBlue’s new London to New York route in Mint business class. It’s a premium leisure traveler’s dream but some kinks need to be ironed out.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Alitalia is dying and being reborn as a new airline called ITA – see the full history of Italy’s troubled flag carrier

FILE PHOTO: An Alitalia Airbus A330-200 airplane is pictured at Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport in Rome, Italy, March 30, 2019. REUTERS/Alberto Lingria/File Photo
An Alitalia Airbus A330 airplane is pictured at Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport in Rome

  • Government-owned Alitalia is ceasing operations on October 15 after failing to secure investors, marking the end of its 74-year era.
  • The national carrier will be replaced by Italia Transporto Aereo, a brand new airline independent of Alitalia that will not be responsible for the old carrier’s debt to the state.
  • ITA plans to purchase 52 Alitalia aircraft, acquire its slots at Milan Linate and Rome Fiumicino airports, and hire over 2,500 employees.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

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.

Alitalia DC-3
Passengers disembarking from an Alitalia Douglas DC-3 aircraft.

Source: Boeing and Alitalia

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.

British European Airways Vickers Viscount
A British European Airways Vickers Viscount.

Source: Boeing and Alitalia

True to its name, Alitalia flew its first with Italian aircraft produced by now-defunct manufacturers in aerospace including Fiat and Savoia-Marchetti.

Alitalia Fiat G-12
An Alitalia Fiat G-12.

Source: Boeing and Alitalia

Following a merger with Italy’s other airline, aptly named Italian Airlines or Linee Aeree Italiane, in 1957, Alitalia – Linee Aeree Italiane became Italy’s top carrier.

LAI Douglas DC-3
A Linee Aeree Italiane Douglas DC-3.

Source: Boeing and Alitalia

Armed with a sizeable fleet of 37 aircraft including the four-engine Douglas DC-6 and Corvair 340, the airline was ranked 12 in the world for international carriers.

Alitalia
Passengers disembarking an Alitalia aircraft.

Source: Boeing and Alitalia

As Europe returned to normalcy following the war, so did Italy and the 1960s became a pivotal decade for both the country and its airline as the 1960 Summer Olympics would be held in Rome.

Alitalia Roma 1960
An Alitalia poster highlighting the upcoming Olympic Games in Rome.

Source: Boeing and Alitalia

The year saw Alitalia carry over one million passengers, introduce jets into its fleet, and move to a new home at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport.

Rome Fiumicino Airport 1961
Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci Fiumicino Airport in 1961.

Source: Boeing and Alitalia

Alitalia entered the jet age with a mix of European and American aircraft such as the Sud Caravelle SE210…

Alitalia Sud Caravelle
An Alitalia Sud Caravelle.

Source: Boeing and Alitalia

And the Douglas DC-8.

Alitalia DC-8
An Alitalia DC-8.

Source: Boeing and Alitalia

American aircraft largely comprised the airline’s fleet once settled into the jet age with a short-haul fleet featuring the McDonnell Douglas DC-9 and later the McDonnell Douglas MD-80…

Alitalia MD-80
An Alitalia MD-80.

Source: Boeing and Alitalia

Complemented by a similarly American-dominated long-haul fleet consisting of aircraft such as the Boeing 747.

Alitalia Boeing 747 Pope John Paul II
An Alitalia Boeing 747 chartered by Pope John Paul II.

Source: Boeing and Alitalia

The arrival of the 747 was a seminal moment for Alitalia and it was the first aircraft to wear the airline’s famed green, white, and red livery with an “A” shape on the tail.

Alitalia tail
Alitalia’s red and green “A” tail design.

Source: Boeing and Alitalia

Alitalia was the first European airline to transition fully into the jet age and continued the switch with more wide-body aircraft such as the Airbus A300.

Alitalia Airbus A300
An Alitalia Airbus A300.

Source: Boeing and Alitalia

Other aircraft that would join the Alitalia jet fleet included the McDonnell Douglas MD-11, McDonnell Douglas DC-10…

Alitalia McDonnell Douglas MD-11
An Alitalia McDonnell Douglas MD-11.

Source: Boeing and Alitalia

And Boeing 767-300ER for long-haul flights.

Alitalia Boeing 767-300ER
An Alitalia Boeing 767-300ER.

Source: Boeing and Alitalia

Alitalia even had uniforms designed by Georgio Armani, who also contributed to aircraft interior designs.

Georgio Armani
Italian designer Georgio Armani.

Source: Alitalia

The airline’s short-haul fleet later included a European favorite, the Airbus A320 family.

FILE PHOTO: An Alitalia Airbus A320-200 airplane comes in to land at Fiumicino airport in Rome, Italy October 24, 2018. REUTERS/Max Rossi/File Photo
An Alitalia Airbus A320 airplane approaches to land at Fiumicino airport in Rome

Source: Boeing

As Italy’s national airline, Alitalia was also known for flying the Pope with the papal plane using the flight number AZ4000, better known as Shepherd One

Alitalia Pope Shepard One
An Alitalia plane chartered by the Pope.

Source: Telegraph

Despite rising traffic throughout its history with Italy being a popular European tourist and leisure destination, the airline struggled with profitability.

Alitalia
Alitalia check-in desks at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport.

As a state-owned airline, Alitalia could always depend on the government to keep it flying, until the European Union stepped in and forbade financial support in 2006.

Alitalia Airbus A330
An Alitalia Airbus A330.

Source: New York Times

The 2000s then saw serious discussion into Alitalia’s future with the Italian government wanting to sell its stake in the airline. The airline was opened for bidders in 2007 but yielded no results.

Alitalia
A crow flying passed an Alitalia plane.

Source: New York Times

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.

Alitalia/Air France-KLM
Alitalia and Air France-KLM Group signage.

Source: Reuters

The Italian government, not wanting to lose its flag carrier, continued to prop up its airline via emergency loans in violation of European Union rules.

European Commission, Union, Brussels, flag
The European Commission in Brussels.

Source: European Union

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.

Alitalia Boeing 777
An Alitalia Boeing 777.

Source: Reuters

This Alitalia began operations in 2009, with Air France-KLM soon coming back into the picture taking a 25% stake from CAI.

Air France/Alitalia Joint Venture
Alitalia meeting with Air France, Delta, and KLM executives.

Source: Financial Times

The new airline quickly began differentiating itself from its former self, leasing aircraft instead of purchasing them with the fleet consisting of the Airbus A330 family…

Alitalia Airbus A330
An Alitalia Airbus A330.

Source: FlightGlobal

And Boeing 777 family comprising the airline’s long-haul fleet.

Alitalia Boeing 777
An Alitalia Boeing 777.

Source: FlightGlobal

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.

Alitalia strike
Alitalia workers protesting at Fiumicino Airport.

Source: New York Times and BBC

With bankruptcy looming in 2013, Alitalia secured another bailout with help from the government that highlighted the need for restructuring.

Alitalia Airbus A320
An Alitalia Airbus A320.

Source: New York Times

Alitalia saw a new investor in 2015, Eithad Airways, which would take a 49% stake in the airline and Alitalia – Compagnia Aerea Italiana became Alitalia – Societa Aerea Italiana.

Alitalia/Etihad
Alitalia and Etihad celebrating a new partnership.

Source: Alitalia

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.

Alitalia and Etihad
Alitalia and Etihad’s merger livery.

Source: Reuters

Meanwhile, another airline was positioning itself to become the new Italian flag carrier, the aptly named Air Italy.

Air Italy Airbus A330 200
An Air Italy Airbus A330-200.

Rebranded from Meridiana, a regional Italian airline, Air Italy was jointly owned by private company Alisarda and Qatar Airways.

Qatar Airways Boeing 777
A Qatar Airways Boeing 777-200LR.

The airline chose Milan as its main hub ceding Rome to Alitalia. Long-haul flights from Milan to New York began in June 2018, with expansion to Asia happening soon after.

Air Italy Marco Rigotti
Air Italy’s inaugural ceremony for Milan-New York flights.

Affected by the grounding of the Boeing 737 Max and without the Italian government as a benefactor, Air Italy closed up shop in early 2020, giving back full control of Italy to Alitalia.

Alitalia Airbus A320
An Alitalia Airbus A320.

While Air Italy was getting its start, the Italian government would once again seek outside investors with European, North American, and Asian airlines expressing interest in Alitalia.

Alitalia aircraft
Alitalia aircraft in Italy.

Among those interested were UK low-cost carrier EasyJet…

FILE PHOTO: EasyJet airplanes are pictured at Tegel airport in Berlin, Germany, November 14, 2019. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch/File Photo
EasyJet airplanes are pictured at Tegel airport in Berlin.

Source: Bloomberg

Irish low-cost carrier Ryanair…

FILE PHOTO: A Ryanair commercial passenger jet takes off in Blagnac near Toulouse, France, May 29, 2019. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau/File Photo
A Ryanair commercial passenger jet takes off in Blagnac near Toulouse.

Source: The Guardian

The Lufthansa Group…

Lufthansa airplanes are seen parked on the tarmac during a strike of cabin crew union (UFO) at Frankfurt airport, Germany November 7, 2019. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski/File Photo
Strike of Germany’s cabin crew union UFO at Frankfurt airport.

Source: CNBC

Delta Air Lines…

Delta Air Lines Boeing 777
A Delta Air Lines Boeing 777-200.

Source: Bloomberg

And China Eastern Airlines…

china eastern airlines airplane
A China Eastern Airlines Airbus A320.

Source: Reuters

As well as Italian railway group Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane.

Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane
A Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane train.

Source: Reuters

One after the other, the airlines dropped their interest, and ultimately, the Italian government re-nationalized the airline on March 17 during the coronavirus pandemic.

Alitalia coronavirus.
Alitalia was re-nationalized amid the coronavirus pandemic.

 

 

Despite bailouts from the state, the pandemic and subsequent lockdown of Italy took the ultimate toll on Alitalia, forcing it to make the decision to close the airline and launch a new one.

Alitalia aircraft in the Frankfurt airport
Alitalia aircraft at the Frankfurt airport

As of August 25, the airline stopped selling tickets and announced on its website that it would be offering free flight changes or refunds for passengers booked on Alitalia flights after October 14.

People at Alitalia check in counter
People at Alitalia check in counter

When the airline ceases operations, its successor, Italia Transporto Aereo, will take its place.

ITA app and logo
ITA app and logo

Talks between the European Commission and Italy over Alitalia and ITA began in March 2021, with Rome designating 3 billion euros ($3.6 billion) to establish the new flag carrier.

ITA logo with Alitalia aircraft passing in front
ITA logo with Alitalia aircraft

Source: Reuters

Initially, ITA was slated to begin operations in April 2021, but lengthy discussions between Italy and the European Commission delayed its launch.

Flags outside European Commission building in Brussels
Flags outside European Commission building in Brussels

Source: Reuters

Part of the negotiations focused on confirming ITA’s independence of Alitalia to ensure it did not inherit the billions of debt the old carrier owed to the state.

Alitalia Airbus A319
Alitalia Airbus A319

Source: Reuters

Talks also included asking ITA to forfeit half of Alitalia’s slots at Milan Linate Airport, which the airline was unwilling to do.

Alitalia aircraft sit at Milan Linate airport
Alitalia aircraft sit at Milan Linate airport

Source: Reuters

ITA determined giving up that many slots at Linarte would be too big of a loss and proposed forfeiting slots at Rome Fiumicino Airport as a compromise.

Alitalia check in counter Leonardo da Vinci Fiumicino airport
Alitalia check in counter Leonardo da Vinci Fiumicino airport

Source: Reuters

At the end of the discussions, negotiators agreed to allow ITA to keep 85% of slots at Linate and 43% at Fiumicino.

Green ribbon barrier with the ITA airline logo inside the Leonardo da Vinci airport
Green ribbon barrier with the ITA airline logo inside the Leonardo da Vinci airport

Source: Reuters

Also under negotiation was Alitalia’s brand and its loyalty program, MilleMiglia. The European Commission said ITA would have to give up both.

Alitalia Airbus A320
Alitalia Airbus A320

Source: Reuters

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.

Customer checking into an Alitalia flight
Customer checking into an Alitalia flight

Source: EuroNews

However, ITA can bid on Alitalia’s brand, which it plans to do in a public tender. The airline believes the brand is “an essential element in carrying out its industrial plan.”

Alitalia aircraft
Alitalia aircraft

Source: Reuters

ITA will begin operations on October 15, the day after Alitalia’s last flight. The new airline secured €700 million ($830 million) in funding, which will help it purchase some of Alitalia’s assets.

Alitalia employees with new livery in 2015
Alitalia employees with new livery in 2015

Source: Reuters

The successor plans to purchase 52 of Alitalia’s aircraft, seven of which are wide-body.

Alitalia Boeing 777
Alitalia Boeing 777

Source: Reuters

By 2025, the airline expects to have 105 aircraft in its fleet and earn over 3.3 billion euros in revenue.

Alitalia aircraft in Ukraine
Alitalia aircraft in Ukraine

Source: Reuters

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.

Alitalia staff at Milan Linate
Alitalia staff at Milan Linate

Source: Reuters

While it is the end of an era with the closing of Alitalia, there are high hopes for its successor.

Alitalia plane with ITA logo
Alitalia plane with ITA logo

Read the original article on Business Insider

Review: The $23,000 Hyundai Venue Denim compact SUV is an absolute steal for the price

Review banner
The blue Hyundai Venue Denim outside an orange brick building.
The Hyundai Venue Denim.

  • The 2021 Hyundai Venue is an ultra-compact SUV that starts at $18,750.
  • Its highest trim, the Denim, starts at $22,050 and features denim-blue styling inside and out.
  • The Denim pairs usability with perfect packaging – something not enough new economy cars provide.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

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.

A comparison photo of the Hyundai Venue and Hyundai Kona compact SUVs.
The Hyundai Venue (left) and Hyundai Kona (right).

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 blue Hyundai Venue Denim outside an orange brick building.
The Hyundai Venue Denim.

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?”

But the Venue is on a tighter budget than any new Mini models. Its prices run at such:

  • 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 blue Hyundai Venue Denim outside an orange brick building.
The Hyundai Venue Denim.

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.

The blue Hyundai Venue Denim outside an orange brick building.
The Hyundai Venue Denim.

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 blue Hyundai Venue Denim outside an orange brick building.
The Hyundai Venue Denim.

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.

hyundai kona headliner
For illustrative purposes: headliners in two different Hyundai Konas, one switching to light gray (left) and the other staying black (right).

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.

The blue Hyundai Venue Denim outside an orange brick building.
The Hyundai Venue Denim.

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.

The blue Hyundai Venue Denim outside an orange brick building.
The Hyundai Venue Denim.

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 blue Hyundai Venue Denim outside an orange brick building.
The Hyundai Venue Denim.

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.

The blue Hyundai Venue Denim outside an orange brick building.
The Hyundai Venue Denim.

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

The blue Hyundai Venue Denim outside an orange brick building.
The Hyundai Venue Denim.

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.

The blue Hyundai Venue Denim outside an orange brick building.
The Hyundai Venue Denim.

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.

The blue Hyundai Venue Denim outside an orange brick building.
The Hyundai Venue Denim.

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).

The blue Hyundai Venue Denim outside an orange brick building.
The Hyundai Venue Denim.

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

The blue Hyundai Venue Denim outside an orange brick building.
The Hyundai Venue Denim.

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.

The blue Hyundai Venue Denim outside an orange brick building.
The Hyundai Venue Denim.

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.

I’ll work on that next time.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Inside Uber’s effort to become the Amazon of transportation

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi joined the company in 2017.

  • Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has reshaped the company in his four years at the helm.
  • He focused first on fixing Uber’s troubled culture.
  • He has since turned his attention to making Uber profitable and building up its delivery service.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

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

uber ceo dara khosrowshahi profile 4x3

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.

Doubling down on delivery

Uber Eats driver
An Uber Eats driver in Portugal in 2020.

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.

A push for profitability

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi

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.

A shifting return-to-work plan

Uber office

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.

Spending big to fix a driver shortage

Uber driver

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.

Read the original article on Business Insider