Photos show 21 cargo ships stuck off the coast of Los Angeles contributing to the supply-chain crisis

Port of Long Beach/Los Angeles
  • On April 16, 21 ships were anchored off the coast of California, waiting to be berthed.
  • Photos show the Port of Long Beach and Los Angeles backlogged with these container ships.
  • This congestion is just one part of the global supply-chain crisis that’s been impacting companies and consumers.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
On April 16, 21 container ships could be seen anchored off the coast of Los Angeles, stuck while they waited to berth, according to the Marine Exchange of Southern California.

Port of Los Angeles Long Beach supply chain

Source: Marine Exchangeof Southern California

This sight is nothing new for locals: views of the ocean from coastal Southern Californian cities have been obstructed by this long line of container ships for a few months now.

Port of Los Angeles Long Beach supply chain

About one-third of the country’s imports – primarily from China – pass through the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Port of Los Angeles Long Beach supply chain

Source: Insider

But for the last several months, these side-by-side ports have been jammed, further fueling the global supply-chain crisis.

Port of Los Angeles Long Beach supply chain

The almost two dozen ships stuck off the coast of Southern California are a glaring sight to see.

Port of Los Angeles Long Beach supply chain

The cluster can be seen from almost every vantage point near the two ports, including neighborhoods …

Port of Los Angeles Long Beach supply chain

… viewpoints …

Port of Los Angeles Long Beach supply chain

… popular local hotspots …

Port of Los Angeles Long Beach supply chain

… and piers.

Port of Los Angeles Long Beach supply chain

The ports typically see up to one container ship at anchor, if that, Kip Louttit, executive director of the Marine Exchange of Southern California, told Insider’s Grace Kay.

Port of Los Angeles Long Beach supply chain

Source: Insider

However, the Southern Californian ports have been seeing well over just one anchored container ship.

Port of Los Angeles Long Beach supply chain

On February 1, a whopping 40 container ships were stuck off the coast of California.

Port of Los Angeles Long Beach supply chain

Source: Marine Exchange of Southern California

A month later on March 1, the Marine Exchange reported 30 anchored ships yet to be berthed.

Port of Los Angeles Long Beach supply chain

Source: Marine Exchange of Southern California

Last month was also the Port of Los Angeles’ “strongest” March in its 114 years of operation, according to a news release from the port.

Last month was also the Port of Los Angeles' strongest March in its 114 years, according to a news release from the port.

Source: Port of Los Angeles

Some of these container ships have been stuck off the Golden State’s coast for several weeks now …

Port of Los Angeles Long Beach supply chain

… hanging onto a wide variety of imports, from furniture to clothes to plastics.

Port of Los Angeles Long Beach supply chain

Source: Port of Los Angeles

It doesn’t help that half of the ships are considered “mega-container ships,” or ships that can hold 10,000 “Twenty-foot Equivalent Units” (TEUs).

Port of Los Angeles Long Beach supply chain

The size of these boats – which are two to three times the size of ships from over a decade ago – are also a contributing factor to this backlog as they use more resources and manpower to unload, according to Louttit.

Port of Los Angeles Long Beach supply chain

Another contributing factor to this delay is, unsurprisingly, the COVID-19 pandemic.

Port of Los Angeles Long Beach supply chain

“As more Americans get vaccinated, businesses reopen and the economy strengthens, consumers continue to purchase goods at a dizzying pace,” Gene Seroka, the executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, said in a news release.

Port of Los Angeles Long Beach supply chain

This has caused the number of imports to increase, adding more ships to the congested waters.

Port of Los Angeles Long Beach supply chain

This congestion may be unique to California waters, but consumers around the US could soon begin seeing the consequences of this backlog.

IMG_0174 2 skitchy

This problem is more than just a temporary depletion of imported goods and a blocked view of the Pacific Ocean.

Port of Los Angeles Long Beach supply chain

There’s also a massive shortage of shipping containers, which has already been contributing to the global supply chain and shipping delay issues.

Port of Los Angeles Long Beach supply chain

Source: Insider

Companies like Costco, La-Z-Boy, and Nike have already been affected by these global problems, and have reported issues like inventory shortages and delayed product deliveries.

Port of Los Angeles Long Beach supply chain

Source: Insider, The Washington Post, Supply Chain Dive

This means consumers around the US could begin seeing increased prices, decreased product offerings, and longer delivery times.

Port of Los Angeles Long Beach supply chain
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United is going on the offensive against rival Southwest in another spat with competitors

United Airlines Boeing 737
Southwest Airlines and United Airlines aircraft.

  • United Airlines is targeting Southwest Airlines with new advertisements aimed at Denver flyers.
  • In the ads, it criticizes Southwest for its open seating policy, routes, and on-time performance.
  • The campaign is scheduled to appear on trains, television networks, social media, and even Spotify.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A new United Airlines advertising campaign is directly targeting Southwest Airlines as the two compete for travelers in Denver.

The “Mile High Standards” campaign critiques Southwest for things like its on-time performance and open seating policy while boasting about United’s offerings like non-stop flights to Hawaii, as well as the airline’s long-time presence in Colorado’s capital city.

United is billing the strategy as “bold” and “unlike any you’ve ever seen from us before,” with its low-cost rival solely in the crosshairs. One example criticizes Southwest’s lack of direct flights to Hawaii and Cozumel from Denver.

United Airlines Denver Ad Campaign
United Airlines’ Denver advertising campaign.

Not all of United’s advertisements are directed towards Southwest with some aimed at highlighting the key role that Denver plays for the airline.

United in 2018 opened a flight training center in Denver that houses more than 30 flight simulators and trains around 10,000 pilots each year. United is also the only US airline offering intercontinental flights from Denver to cities like London; Frankfurt, Germany; and Tokyo, in normal times.

Rocky Mountain Rivalry

Denver has proved to be an important base for both Southwest and United during the pandemic. Travelers have flocked to the Mountain West thanks to pandemic-friendly activities like camping, hiking, and skiing.

United has invested additional resources to accommodate, including a luxury bus service from the airport to Breckenridge, Colorado that passengers can book just as they would a regular United flight. Operated by Landline, the bus departs from a terminal gate, and checked bags are transported directly from flyers’ incoming flights.

Southwest also added flights from Denver to Colorado cities like Colorado Springs, Steamboat Springs, and Montrose in direct competition with United. Some of the routes have done so well that daily service is now offered between Denver and both Steamboat Springs and Montrose.

United’s latest spat with competitors

This isn’t United’s first time directly going after competitors where they live. In February, United announced a brand-new route between Boston and London, scheduled to start sometime in 2021 and in direct competition with JetBlue Airways’ impending Boston-London flights.

The announcement was peculiar given that no exact timing was given for the once-daily flight and international travel between the UK and US is currently extremely limited. United also seldom launches transatlantic routes that don’t pass through one of its hubs.

United is also back at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport with two relaunched routes to Los Angeles and San Francisco. Its ultra-premium Boeing 767-300ER aircraft are meant to draw top flyers away from the likes of Delta Air Lines and American Airlines, which partly dominate the route with premium offerings.

The airline’s next target remains to be seen but United is positioning itself for a strong recovery, and clearly isn’t afraid to publicly challenge competitors to do so.

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Mercedes will bring a compact electric SUV to the US in 2022 – check out the EQB

Mercedes-Benz EQB.
Mercedes-Benz EQB.

  • Mercedes-Benz unveiled the EQB, a compact electric SUV coming to the US in 2022.
  • It’ll go on sale in China and Europe first.
  • The EQB will have all-wheel-drive and seven-seat options in Europe.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Mere days after Mercedes-Benz unveiled its first electric vehicle for the US market – the sleek EQS sedan – the German carmaker took the wraps off of its next battery-powered model: the EQB.

Mercedes revealed the compact electric SUV at the Shanghai Auto Show on Sunday. The EQB will add another zero-emission option to the US’ booming crossover market when it comes stateside in 2022, but it will go on sale in Europe and China first, the company said.

Mercedes-Benz EQB.
Mercedes-Benz EQB.

Mercedes hasn’t released details for the US version of the crossover, but said European customers will get to choose from several models, including some with front-wheel drive, some with all-wheel drive, and a long-range model. There will be a seven-seat option with a small third row.

The EQB shares a lot with the gas-powered GLB crossover, but gets some touches unique to Mercedes’ EQ line of electric vehicles. It shares a smooth black-panel grille with the EQS and gets horizontal LED light strips in front and back that span the width of the vehicle.

Mercedes-Benz EQB.
Mercedes-Benz EQB.

There’s still no word on how much the EQB will cost, but it’ll likely fall in the $40,000-$50,000 range as one of Mercedes’ entry-level EQ models. It’ll compete with other compact EV crossovers like the Tesla Model Y, Audi Q4 E-Tron, and Jaguar I-Pace.

Mercedes-Benz EQB.
Mercedes-Benz EQB.

Mercedes has sat on the sidelines of the EV boom for years, but it appears committed to make up for lost time. In December, the company announced a plan to launch six new electric models by 2022. And in April, it debuted its flagship electric luxury sedan, the EQS. With 478 miles of claimed range and a gigantic 56-inch “Hyperscreen” inside, the EQS shows Mercedes is going all-in on its EV ambitions.

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I’m a millennial who bought a Brooklyn apartment this year, and I was only able to because of the pandemic

Moving, milennial home ownership
Moving: It’s no fun at all.

  • Late last year, in the middle of the pandemic lockdown, my wife and I bought a Brooklyn apartment.
  • After graduating college into the financial crisis, the odds of homeownership were not in our favor.
  • The pandemic forced banks to offer historically low mortgage interest rates and allowed us to buy an apartment.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

For the last decade, as friends and relatives bought homes, my wife and I paid rent.

More specifically, we paid rent in New York City – which is to say we paid a lot of money in rent. So, so much. I try not to think about it, honestly.

We did it because we love living here, and Brooklyn is home. I considered it a necessary evil of living in the greatest city in the world.

But this January, just after the most uneventful New Year’s Eve in New York City history, we closed on a one bedroom Brooklyn co-op apartment. If you’d asked me in January 2020, “Will you ever buy a home in New York City?” the answer would’ve been simple: “No, not unless we win the lottery.”

Real estate prices in New York are notoriously high, of course, but that’s just one of several issues facing potential buyers. Not only is it expensive, but it’s extremely competitive. Before the pandemic hit, just going to see an available place in Brooklyn meant competing against people with, frankly, a lot more money than me. I am never going to outbid someone who makes $500,000 annually.

So, how did a couple of avocado toast-eating, cold brew-swilling, MacBook-using millennials manage to buy a home in Brooklyn?

Millennial homeowners
The avocado toast tastes so much better when you make it in the kitchen of the home you own.

It boils down to several key factors:

1. We are immensely lucky and privileged.

My wife and I graduated from college directly into the 2008/2009 subprime mortgage-spurred market collapse that led to a massive recession. Unlike so many of our peers, we were both tremendously lucky to get jobs directly out of college doing what we went to college to do: I am a journalist and my wife is an environmental scientist. I consider myself particularly lucky in this respect, as the media business isn’t known for its stability.

We are also both white Americans, which confers a variety of privileges throughout our lives. Literally everything was easier because of these factors, and must be acknowledged up front.

Because we were lucky enough to have steady employment for years after college, we had good credit scores from years of paying bills on time. That steady employment history coupled with good credit scores meant we were easily pre-qualified for home loans at low rates.

Notably, we don’t have kids, and we saved money steadily for several years before beginning this process.

2. The pandemic.

QUEENS, NEW YORK - MARCH 30: Two members of the Fire Department of New York"u2019s Emergency Medical Team wheel in a patient with potentially fatal coronavirus to the Elmhurst Hospital Center in the Queens borough of New York City on March 30, 2020. New York City is the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, putting historic pressure on a world-renowned healthcare system as the number of confirmed cases in the area grows. (Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)
Two members of the Fire Department of New York Emergency Medical Team wheel in a patient with potentially fatal coronavirus to the Elmhurst Hospital Center in Queens, New York City on March 30, 2020. New York City was the epicenter of the American coronavirus outbreak.

Above all else, the global pandemic was the most immediate reason we were able to buy an apartment.

If it weren’t for the coronavirus pandemic, the housing market wouldn’t have been in the gutter. If it weren’t for the coronavirus pandemic, we would’ve had to compete with crowds of interested buyers. If it weren’t for the coronavirus pandemic, mortgage rates would’ve priced us out of the market.

It’s horrifically sad that this is the case, but it’s very much the truth. We locked in a 30-year fixed-rate home loan at a 2.75% interest rate. That is a historically low rate, and enables us to afford the monthly payments. In fact, our monthly payment is just a touch higher than our last rent price.

Unlike rent, though, our mortgage price doesn’t increase over time. If we choose to move, we can sell the place and are likely to earn some money on the sale thanks to Brooklyn’s already rebounding real estate market. The benefits of homeownership over renting, at least in this respect, are so profound that they’re almost comical. In 10 years, when our mortgage is the same but average NYC rent prices have increased dramatically, we’ll really feel the difference.

3. Timing was critical.

In mid-August 2020, about five months into pandemic lockdowns, a really obnoxious piece was published in the New York Post where a former hedge fund manager Manhattanite declared New York City “dead forever” because he saw a video of Black Lives Matter protesters trying to break into his skyscraper. It was part of a gaggle of trend pieces that summer in which panicked rich people speculated that the pandemic would be the end of New York City.

That struck me as the perfect time to start looking for apartments: If the rich are fleeing, and the home loan rate is low, I figured, maybe there would be a chance for us.

It turns out that was more or less accurate: We only saw five, maybe six places, and we saw them at our leisure. Because of the pandemic, all showings were by appointment only, so there was no pressure to outbid other buyers on the spot.

Also because of the pandemic, a lot of people in our situation – married millennials in their mid-30s – were fleeing to the suburbs. It was as close as Brooklyn gets to a buyer’s market for a young-ish couple.

In the end, our offer was accepted for (slightly) below the listing price. For what we paid for a one bedroom apartment, we could own a pretty nice suburban home. But we don’t want a pretty nice suburban home, and we didn’t have to settle for one.

Got a tip? Contact Insider senior correspondent Ben Gilbert via email (bgilbert@insider.com), or Twitter DM (@realbengilbert). We can keep sources anonymous. Use a non-work device to reach out. PR pitches by email only, please.

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I tried Walmart’s grocery pickup and now I’m never going back to shopping in store

Walmart grocery pickup
  • I started using Walmart’s grocery pickup service last summer.
  • I order through Walmart’s app and pickup groceries at my nearest location.
  • It’s my preferred way to shop now, and I have no plans to stop using it.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Curbside pickup got a major boost because of the pandemic as customers avoided going into stores.

walmart black friday
A Walmart on Black Friday.

Experts predict that the shift to online grocery delivery will continue even as the pandemic subsides, and COVID-19 advanced the industry several years.

Walmart grocery pickup
eople talk outside a Wal-Mart Pickup-Grocery test store in Bentonville, Arkansas, June 4, 2015.

Source: Insider

I’ve been doing curbside pickup at Walmart since the summer using Walmart’s app. Here’s what it’s like.

Walmart Grocery pickup app

When you open the app, it prompts you to choose your nearest location for pickup, or add your address for delivery.

Walmart Grocery pickup app

The time slots come in hour-long blocks. At the beginning of the pandemic it was hard to find a spot, but now I rarely need to book more than a day or two in advance to get my choice of time.

Walmart Grocery pickup app

Once you’ve selected a time, create your list. The app is organized into sections that change seasonally, like spring produce, but you can also search for items or look through past orders.

Walmart grocery pickup

See what’s available, and get suggestions for similar items to picks that are out of stock. Just add enough items to hit the $35 minimum and pickup is free.

Walmart grocery pickup

Once your order is created, you have until about midnight the night before to continue adding to your list. For me, this is one of the most useful features, because I almost always realize we need something else before it’s actually time to pick up groceries.

Walmart grocery pickup

A few hours before pickup, Walmart will send a text notifying you about any substitutions or weight adjustments on produce.

Walmart grocery pickup app

I’ve always had good experiences with substitutions that are nearly identical to what I ordered, at the same cost.

Walmart grocery pickup app

Once you accept or reject any substitutions, the shoppers start preparing your order.

Walmart grocery pickup app

You’ll also get a text letting you know your order is ready for pickup.

Walmart Grocery pickup

Check-in on the app when you leave home so Walmart has an estimate of when you’ll arrive.

Walmart grocery pickup app

A side area of the parking lot was marked for grocery pickup. When you pull into a spot the app knows you’ve arrived and prompts you to enter your spot number and color of your car.

Walmart grocery pickup

My Walmart has about ten pickup spots. I’ve occasionally had to wait, but the process usually moves quickly.

Walmart grocery pickup

Walmart shoppers use small carts to pull crates with grocery orders.

Walmart grocery pickup

Masked shoppers come up to the driver’s window to double-check the name on the order with a handheld tablet that they carry.

Walmart grocery pickup

Then, groceries get loaded into the trunk.

Walmart grocery pickup

Shoppers will usually bag groceries in your reusable bags if you bring them, but I usually just ask them to load groceries into my trunk to save time and bag them myself at home.

Walmart grocery pickup

Sometimes they are more organized in my trunk, but as long as eggs and anything else with the potential to get crushed is supported, I’m happy. I’ve never had any issues with this.

Walmart grocery pickup

At first, I was unsure about using a grocery pickup service, but now I’m never going back. I love the convenience, especially because I can add things to my order over several days and have them all ready and waiting for me.

Walmart employee curbside pickup

I also find I avoid overspending on impulse purchases because I’m browsing aisles where I don’t need anything, and I avoid purchasing too much of staples because I can look at my pantry as I shop.

grocery list

I see why online grocery orders have exploded over the last year, and I have no plans to go back to shopping in-store on a regular basis.

Walmart grocery pickup

Do you have a story to share about a retail or restaurant chain? Email this reporter at mmeisenzahl@businessinsider.com.

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The 19 electric vehicles you can buy new right now, from Mini’s $30,000 hatchback to Porsche’s $185,000 super sedan

Mustang Mach E GT Performance Edition 03
The Mustang Mach-E is Ford’s first mass-market electric vehicle.

  • There are more electric options on the market than ever before.
  • The nearly 20 EVs you can buy new today range in price from under $30,000 to well over $100,000.
  • Some have a range of under 200 miles, while others can travel more than 400 miles between fill-ups.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

There’s never been a better time to shop for an electric vehicle.

Right now there are 19 new battery-powered models for sale in the US – and they run the gamut in terms of price, range, performance, size, and features. Plus, a sweeping infrastructure plan from Joe Biden may soon make buying and owning an EV cheaper and easier than ever thanks to investments in consumer rebates and charging stations.

EVs currently for sale include high-dollar luxury sedans like the Porsche Taycan and Tesla Model S, economical hatchbacks like the Mini Cooper SE and Chevrolet Bolt, and plenty in between. Drivers looking to make the switch from fossil fuels to zero emissions can consult this guide to learn a bit about the various EVs on the market, how much they cost, and what they can get for their budget.

Dozens more EVs are on the way, and this guide does not include vehicles that are still in the preorder phase, like the GMC Hummer EV, Rivian R1S, and Audi E-Tron GT.

Audi E-Tron – $65,900

Audi E-Tron.
Audi E-Tron.

The Audi E-Tron starts at around $66,000 and stretches up to just over $79,000 for the top trim. It’s powered by two electric motors – one on each axle – that put out 355 horsepower and 414 lb-ft of torque.

Things get a little less exciting as far as range is concerned. The crossover gets a range rating of 222 miles, which isn’t all that much for such a high-end vehicle.

Audi E-Tron Sportback – $69,100

Audi E-Tron Sportback.
Audi E-Tron Sportback.

The E-Tron has a sibling called the E-Tron Sportback. It comes with a roof that slopes down in the back at the expense of some trunk space.

It gets a range rating of 218 miles, slightly less than the standard E-Tron. Both crossovers benefit from a sport mode that can temporarily boost output to 402 horsepower, Audi says. They’ll be joined by the cheaper and more compact Q4 E-Tron and Q4 E-Tron Sportback toward the end of 2021.

BMW i3 – $44,450

2013 BMW i3.1
BMW i3.

The BMW i3 starts at $44,450 for an all-electric hatchback with 153 miles of range. There’s also a $47,650 version with a range-extending gas engine that brings the total range to 200 miles. The quirky car is BMW’s only EV in the US, but that’s about to change with the launch of the i4 sedan and iX SUV.

Chevrolet Bolt EV – $36,500

2020 Chevrolet BoltEV 002
Chevrolet Bolt EV.

The 2021 Chevy Bolt offers up a respectable 259 miles of range for a starting price of $36,500. But it’s worth waiting for the 2022 model, which can go just as far for nearly $5,000 less. The latest generation will also have a sleeker design and a crossover cousin.

Ford Mustang Mach-E – $42,895

All Electric Mustang Mach E
The Ford Mustang Mach-E.

Ford raised some eyebrows when it decided to lend its first EV the storied Mustang moniker. But the crossover has received heaps of praise since deliveries began in early 2021.

The Mach-E starts at $42,895 for the base model, which has an EPA-estimated range of 230 miles. Buyers can choose from several other trim levels, too, including a GT Performance model with 634 lb-ft of torque.

Hyundai Kona Electric – $37,390

2022 Hyundai Kona Electric.
2022 Hyundai Kona Electric.

Sharing a platform with the Kia Niro EV, the Kona Electric comes equipped with a 201-horsepower motor and a healthy 258-mile range. Hyundai revamped the model for 2022, giving it a sleeker design but no changes under the hood. It hasn’t said how much the updated version will cost.

Hyundai Ioniq Electric – $33,245

2021 Hyundai Ioniq Electric.
2021 Hyundai Ioniq Electric.

With a starting MSRP of $33,245, the 2021 Hyundai Ioniq Electric isn’t exactly cheap. But it’s still one of the least expensive EVs on the market.

The sedan comes in two trims – a $33,000 SE version and a $39,000 Limited model – both of which earn an EPA-rated range of 170 miles. The Ioniq also comes in hybrid and plug-in hybrid variants.

Jaguar I-Pace – $69,850

Jaguar I-Pace.
Jaguar I-Pace.

When it came to bringing an electric car to the US market, Jaguar beat bigger and more popular luxury brands like Mercedes and Audi to the punch. On sale since 2018, the all-wheel-drive I-Pace crossover puts out 394 horsepower and a hefty 512 lb-ft of torque, according to Jaguar. Its 90-kWh battery is good for a range of 234 miles, according to the EPA.

Kia Niro EV – $39,090

2020 Kia Niro EV.
2020 Kia Niro EV.

The Kia Niro EV launched in 2019 as an electric version of the gas-powered model of the same name. The compact crossover gets an EPA-estimated range of 239 miles and comes in two trims starting at $39,090 and $45,560.

Mini Cooper SE – $29,900

Mini Cooper SE.
Mini Cooper SE.

Surprising as it may be given that Mini is owned by BMW, the Mini Cooper SE is the cheapest electric car currently for sale in the US.

But that low MSRP means the electric Mini gets an EPA-estimated range of only 110 miles, far less than some of its pricier rivals. However, like its gas-powered siblings, the Mini Cooper SE is meant to be more of a city car than one for long highway journeys.

Read more:US buyers have exceptionally good credit scores right now – and they’re using them to spend more than ever on everyday cars

Nissan Leaf – $31,670

2021 Nissan Leaf.
2021 Nissan Leaf.

Launched in 2010, the Nissan Leaf is among the longest-running electric cars on the market today. The roughly $31,700 base model gets you an EPA-estimated 149 miles of range, while the $38,270 S Plus trim delivers 226 miles on a charge.

It was never the sleekest car on the block, but a 2017 refresh brought the Leaf’s styling up to date.

Polestar 2 – $59,900

2021 Polestar 2_KL_1
2021 Polestar 2.

Polestar may not be a household name just yet, but the luxury offshoot of Volvo and its Chinese parent, Geely, is making some of the best electrified cars on the market. Its debut EV, the Polestar 2, wasn’t just Insider’s favorite electric car of 2020, it was our favorite car, period.

The sleek $60,000 sedan has a range of 233 miles, according to the EPA. Plus, the car has lots going for it on the sustainability front aside from running on electrons rather than fossil fuels. Its seats, interior plastics, and carpets are made from recycled plastic bottles, discarded cork, and recycled fishing nets.

Porsche Taycan – $79,900

2021 Porsche Taycan._KL28
2021 Porsche Taycan.

Porsche dove into the EV market guns blazing in 2019 with its first-ever EV, the Taycan. The four-seat sedan currently comes in four versions, all of which offer outrageous specs.

The 402-horsepower base model – the only Taycan sedan with a single motor instead of a pair – costs around $80,000. Just under $104,000 gets you the Taycan 4s version with 227 miles of EPA-estimated driving range and 522 horsepower. Roughly $151,000 buys you the Turbo model with a 212-mile range and 670 horsepower. And the top of the line Turbo S version delivers 750 horsepower and a 0-60-mph time of 2.6 seconds – all for $185,000.

Tesla Model 3 – $38,490

Tesla Model 3.
Tesla Model 3.

The Model 3 may be Tesla’s entry-level sedan – costing less than half the price of some of its higher-end offerings – but that doesn’t mean it skimps on quality. Around $38,500 buys you the base model, which can travel 263 miles on a charge.

Buyers can shell out an extra $9,000 for a “Long-Range” model with an EPA-rated 353 miles of range. A $57,000 sport model blasts to 60 mph in 3.1 seconds, according to Tesla.

Read more: How much does a Tesla cost? Breaking down the Model S, 3, X, and Y

Tesla Model S – $79,990

Tesla Model S.
Tesla Model S.

Tesla’s second production vehicle and its longest-running model, the Model S has set the standard for EVs for nearly a decade. It proved that electric cars could be cool, and, arguably, kicked off the EV revolution that’s now in full swing.

A Model S will run you $80,000 to start, and two high-performance models are on offer for $120,000 and $150,000.

Tesla Model X – $89,990

Tesla Model X.
Tesla Model X.

The Model X is Tesla’s second-oldest offering behind the Model S. It comes with gull-wing doors, a dual-motor setup, and a 350-mile range, but it doesn’t come particularly cheap. A base Model X starts at around $90,000, and the high-performance “Plaid” version commands roughly $120,000.

Tesla Model Y – $50,490

Tesla Model Y.
Tesla Model Y.

The Model Y is Tesla’s newest model, going on sale in early 2020, and it’s already proved to be a hit. The crossover shares a lot with the Model 3, but it rides a bit higher and has some extra interior space. It starts at $50,490 for a “Long Range” model with 326 miles of range, but there’s also an off-menu “Standard Range” version that’s cheaper still.

Volkswagen ID.4 – $39,995

2021 Volkswagen ID.4.
2021 Volkswagen ID.4.

The Volkswagen Group is launching an all-out electric offensive in coming years, and the ID.4 crossover is its namesake brand’s debut EV for the US market. It pairs a friendly starting price of $39,995 with a respectable 250-mile range. Deliveries began in March.

Volvo XC-40 Recharge – $53,990

2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge.
2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge.

For its very first battery-powered vehicle, Volvo decided to electrify its popular compact crossover, the XC40. The XC40 Recharge gets an EPA-estimated range of 208 miles and a peppy 402-horsepower motor that can send it to 60 mph in under five seconds, Volvo says.

The Swedish brand plans to go fully electric by 2030.

Read the original article on Business Insider

I flew on Southwest and Alaska, the two airlines competing to be the best of the West Coast and the winner is abundantly clear

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

  • Alaska Airlines and Southwest Airlines are in competition to be the airline of the West Coast.
  • Both are similar but each has its strengths like Alaska has a greater West Coast route network.
  • Southwest is a great option for leisure travelers but Alaska has more perks for business flyers.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
The West Coast of the US stretches more than 1,000 miles with no shortage of major cities from San Diego to Seattle.

newport beach

All the major US airlines serve this important region of the country but two are battling for dominance, Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines.

Southwest Airlines vs Alaska Airlines
Comparing Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines.

Alaska is based in Seattle, although its name suggests otherwise, and is a mid-tier US airline with the bulk of its operations on the West Coast.

alaska airlines

Southwest, on the other hand, is the country’s largest low-cost carrier with a nationwide presence. And while the West Coast is an important region for the airline, it’s just one of many Southwest serves.

Southwest Airlines

Both carriers have sought to grow market share on the West Coast during the pandemic. Southwest added Santa Barbara and Fresno to its California route network while Alaska has added routes from existing cities.

Golden Gate Bridge

I flew on both airlines this year to see which one was truly the airline of the West Coast. Here’s what I found.

Flying on Southwest Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Southwest Airlines during the pandemic.

West Coast connectivity: Alaska serves 29 cities up and down the coast, including smaller cities like Everett, Washington; Santa Rosa, California; and Medford, Oregon.

Paine Field in Everett, Washington
Paine Field in Everett, Washington.

Read More: I flew on Alaska for the first time since it stopped blocking middle seats and it was the closest to normal I’ve seen during the pandemic

Southwest serves 15 West Coast cities and plans to serve two more this summer. Bellingham, Washington flights will also open sometime this year.

Southwest Airlines
A Southwest Airlines aircraft departing from Los Angeles.

Winner: Alaska Airlines. The airline’s connectivity between West Coast cities large and small cannot be beaten by Southwest’s existing network.

Southwest Airlines vs Alaska Airlines
Comparing Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines.

What comes with the ticket: Every Southwest ticket includes free seat selection anywhere on the plane after boarding, two checked bags, a carry-on bag, and all the onboard amenities.

Flying Southwest Airlines during pandemic
Flying Southwest Airlines during the pandemic.

Southwest has open seating so any open seat is available for passengers.

Flying on Southwest Airlines COVID-19

Alaska does allow free seat selection for economy but charges extra for seats close to the front and exit row seats.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

Alaska, like many full-service carriers, has also embraced restrictive basic economy fares that replaced its cheapest fares. The product is generous with and limited advanced seat assignments and a free carry-on bag but flyers will have to pay more for better seats and checked bags.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

Southwest doesn’t have change or cancel fees for any ticket.

Flying on Southwest Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Southwest Airlines during the pandemic.

Alaska has eliminated change fees but not for basic economy fares, known as “saver” fares.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

Winner: Southwest Airlines. The flexibility and free extras offered by Southwest put it well and above Alaska. It’s worth noting, however, that even Alaska’s basic economy fares are more generous than many of its competitors.

Southwest Airlines vs Alaska Airlines.
Comparing Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines.

Boarding: Alaska boards its aircraft in groups that are assigned based on seat location and fare class. First class boards first, followed by elite status holders, those sitting in “premium class.” Economy then boards back to front, for the most part, and basic economy flyers board dead last.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

On Southwest, however, passengers are given a boarding number and group that’s determined by how early they check-in for the flight. Once on the plane, they can select any open seat.

Flying on Southwest Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Southwest Airlines during the pandemic.

Winner: Southwest Airlines. Alaska’s boarding process relegates basic economy passengers to the very last section while even the passenger with the cheapest ticket on Southwest has the opportunity to board earlier if they check-in at exactly 24 hours prior to departure.

Southwest Airlines vs Alaska Airlines.
Comparing Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines.

Onboard amenities: Both airlines are in the process of modernizing their fleets but older aircraft remain. On Southwest, for example, I flew on the 737-700 fleet on my most recent trip and it was the furthest from modern.

Flying on Southwest Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Southwest Airlines during the pandemic.

But its updated aircraft have a great, modern look, as I found on flights from New York to Orlando in 2020.

Flying on Southwest Airlines COVID-19

Read More: I flew on Southwest Airlines during the pandemic and came away impressed by how well the largest low-cost US airline handled social distancing

Alaska has the same issue. Its newer Max aircraft is a show-stopper but older aircraft seem tired.

Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max Flight
Flying on an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft.

Both airlines also offer paid in-flight WiFi and streaming content.

LAX Day Trip Alaska Airlines
Water onboard an Alaska Airlines flight from New York to Los Angeles.

Alaska does surpass Southwest, however, by offering in-seat power to keep devices charged.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

Winner: Alaska Airlines. Both airlines offer similar products but Alaska just eeks ahead with in-seat power.

Southwest Airlines vs Alaska Airlines.
Comparing Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines.

In-flight service: Both airlines have restored portions of their in-flight service since the pandemic began. Alaska, for example, serves soft drinks and snacks.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

Southwest just brought back Coke, Diet Coke, and 7UP, as well as more snacks.

Flying on Southwest Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Southwest Airlines during the pandemic.

Read More: Southwest is reverting to its normal boarding policy and bringing back fan-favorite in-flight amenities

Before the pandemic, however, Alaska sold meals and snack boxes while Southwest just stuck to drinks and small snacks.

LAX Day Trip Alaska Airlines
The contents of one of Alaska Airlines’ picnic packs.

Winner: Alaska Airlines.

Southwest Airlines vs Alaska Airlines.
Comparing Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines.

West Coast feel: Alaska has its roots in the West Coast and that shows in its branding. The colors are vibrant, there is a focus on West Coast brands in the in-flight service, and the airline is based in Seattle.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

Southwest has a generic appeal as it connects the US through bases across the country with no specific ties to the West Coast. There’s no West Coast feel.

Flying on Southwest Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Southwest Airlines during the pandemic.

Winner: Alaska Airlines: There’s an undeniable feeling when flying on Alaska that it’s more in tune with the West Coast vibe than Southwest.

Southwest Airlines vs Alaska Airlines.
Comparing Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines.

National connectivity: Alaska is highly concentrated on the West Coast while Southwest has bases across the US.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

Southwest doesn’t have the sprawling West Coast network that Alaska does but it does offer connections between most of the region’s major cities and connections to the rest of the country through its mid-continent bases in places like Phoenix, Denver, Las Vegas, and Dallas.

Flying on Southwest Airlines during pandemic
Southwest Airlines aircraft at Denver International Airport.

Alaska only has hubs in the West Coast cities of Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco, and Portland, requiring a stop in one of those cities before heading east. The airline does partner with airlines like American to offer mixed-airline itineraries but that could be difficult if the airlines are in two different terminals.

LAX Day Trip Alaska Airlines
Alaska Airlines aircraft at Los Angeles International Airport.

Winner: Southwest Airlines. Having more mid-continent bases allows for more convenient journeys with lower travel times for customers.

Southwest Airlines vs Alaska Airlines.
Comparing Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines.

Business traveler amenities: Corporate travelers have different priorities than most leisure travelers and will often spend more for seats in premium cabins and access lounges.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

Alaska has premium lounges in six airports, and partners with American and Qantas on lounge access for members. Southwest does not have any lounges.

Alaska Lounge Seattle
The Alaska Lounge at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

Alaska’s jet aircraft also have first class cabins, the domain of the business traveling road warrior, while Southwest does not.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

A special section of economy is also available on Alaska. Called “premium class,” seats in the section offer additional legroom and come with complimentary alcoholic beverages.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

Alaska is also a member of the Oneworld airline alliance and Alaska’s elite status holders can use their benefits on other airlines like American and British Airways, and vice versa. Southwest is not a part of any airline alliance.

american airlines

Southwest does have a special fare for business travelers, called “Business Select,” that includes extras like priority boarding and free alcoholic drinks (suspended during the pandemic).

Flying on Southwest Airlines COVID-19

And Southwest does have better connectivity outside of the West Coast. A business traveler in St. Louis looking to fly to New York couldn’t even choose Alaska if they wanted to.

Flying on Southwest Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Southwest Airlines during the pandemic from Miami International Airport.

Winner: Alaska Airlines. Business travelers have more premium amenities at their disposal on Alaska, if the choice is between Alaska and Southwest.

Southwest Airlines vs Alaska Airlines.
Comparing Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines.

Airline of the West Coast: Alaska Airlines. Both airlines are incredibly similar but Alaska has more West Coast-oriented amenities to help it pull ahead of Southwest.

Southwest Airlines vs Alaska Airlines.
Comparing Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines.

Read the original article on Business Insider

I visited the newly renovated AmEx Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas airport and it was the best way to spend a layover in Sin City

LAS Centurion Lounge
  • American Express just completed renovations on its Las Vegas Centurion Lounge, adding more than 4,000 square feet.
  • The lounge is only accessible to select cardholders, including Platinums and Centurions.
  • Complimentary food and alcohol are just some of the perks that the Las Vegas-themed lounge offers.3
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Las Vegas is home to one of American Express’ 14 Centurion Lounges, widely considered to be the gold standard of airport lounges because of their high-end offerings including complimentary and meticulous crafted food items and alcoholic beverages.

McCarran Airport
McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas NV

The lounge is located in the airport’s D gate concourse, home to United Airlines, Frontier Airlines, and JetBlue Airways, among others.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Passenger on any airline can access the lounge, however, if they have the American Express Platinum or Centurion card. American Express Delta Skymiles Reserve cardholders can also use the lounge when flying Delta or a Delta-marketed flight.

Platinum Card from American Express

I had a six-hour layover in the airport so I headed straight to the lounge. Departing passengers are normally only allowed to enter within three hours of their flight but connecting passengers are exempt from that rule.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Here’s what it was like inside the Las Vegas Centurion Lounge.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

I checked into the lounge using digital check-in via the American Express mobile application and was given a QR code to show the agent. I only had to show my boarding pass and identification as the agent saw my check-in on her end.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Within seconds, I was inside one of the most exclusive clubs in Las Vegas. Greeting me was this portrait of a dog resting on an American Express trunk accompanying two black armchairs, a staple of the Centurion Lounge that can be found in every location.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

The lounge was moderately crowded and employees, as a result, were escorting guests to particular seats to help ensure distancing.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

I was asked if I wanted to sit in one of the main seating areas….

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Or the dining area. I chose the former to take advantage of the more comfortable seating.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

I was traveling alone so I was given one of these cushioned cubbies, complete with my own table.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Capacity in the lounge is limited due to the pandemic so certain seating areas are blocked.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Along the wall where I was sitting, for example, every other cubby was blocked.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

It created an extra degree of privacy and meant I had more room to store my bags, and another table to hold my laptop while I ate lunch.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Once I got settled, I headed over to the buffet to get something to eat. These lounges are known for having good eats with menus crafted from local chefs. Chef Kim Canteenwalla had designed this menu.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

The offering was quite extensive and better than what I’d seen in competing airline lounges even before the pandemic. Light options included a chopped bacon, lettuce, and tomato salad…

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Butternut squash soup…

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

And mango cranberry couscous.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Hot items included kale pesto pasta…

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Brussel sprouts…

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Meatloaf…

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

And chimichurri fingerling potatoes.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

And for desert, peach cobbler was on offer.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Healthier options included fruits like apples, pears, and bananas. Cookies and honey mustard pretzels were also on offer but not many snacks were available other than that.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

All in all, it was some of the best airport food I’ve ever had. Every item was bursting with flavor and made for a great meal.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

And of course, the full bar is another big selling feature of the lounge as drinks are complimentary.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

The main bar was closed but this makeshift bar still did the trick. Most common cocktails can be ordered at the bar but American Express’ in-house mixologist, Jim Meehan, also crafts specialty drinks for each location.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

One such drink was the “air mail,” a sparkling wine drink with rum, honey syrup, and lime juice.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Plexiglass partitions were also erected at the bar for social distancing.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

After having lunch, I walked around the more than 13,000 square foot space. American Express just recently renovated the lounge and it showed.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

The decor was very modern and very Las Vegas. It made me feel like I was in the heart of the Strip despite only being at the airport.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Large sections of the lounge were blocked off but other sections included a sprawling conference table and more private seating.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

These lounges often lend themselves well to social distancing with high-walled chairs since privacy is a huge draw for discerning travelers.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

There are even private phone rooms that are enclosed for maximum privacy.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

I also discovered somewhat of a hidden room in the back of the lounge.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

It didn’t have any windows but was well-lit and has its own television.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

The lounge’s family room was, however, off-limits due to the pandemic.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Roped-off areas were opened once the lounge was sufficiently crowded. It wasn’t uncommon before the pandemic to see these lounges filled to the brim.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Departure information screens could also be found throughout the lounge so passengers could stay up to date on the status of their next flight.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Aviation enthusiasts will enjoy one of the seating areas near the window as a variety of aircraft can be spotted.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Hot beverages were also available with multi-beverage coffee machines capable of making anything from a standard cup of coffee to espresso, cappuccino, hot chocolate, and anything in between.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

A selection of teas was also available with hot water.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Visiting this lounge made my six-hour layover go by in what felt like an instant.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

The only downside is that it closes at 3 p.m., at which point the only other lounge available to passengers in the terminal is The Club LAS.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

But for the few hours I got to spend in the lounge, I can say that it will become a staple on my future visits to Las Vegas.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

The renovations and superior offering make it a jewel in the Centurion Lounge network.

American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Airport
Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport

Read the original article on Business Insider

After taking 13 flights on Frontier Airlines, I’ve figured how to get the best experience for the cheapest price. Here’s what to know.

Flying Frontier Airlines during pandemic
Flying Frontier Airlines during the pandemic.

  • Frontier Airlines boasts cheap tickets but fares can quickly add up with extra fees.
  • Everything from advanced seat assignments to carry-on bags incurs a fee.
  • I’ve taken 13 flights on Frontier and know how to make the most of flying on the low-cost carrier.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Frontier Airlines is one of the country’s fastest-growing airlines with a sprawling network that always seems to be adding new routes.

The airline’s strategy is offering flyers cheap non-stop flights to leisure destinations, and that’s in demand now that Americans are raring to get back in the air following an extended pandemic. But while Frontier may fly the same type of aircraft as its full-service competitors like American Airlines and United Airlines, the onboard product couldn’t be any different.

Read More: Spirit Airlines’ low-cost model puts it in the perfect spot to be the big winner of the pandemic, a Deutsche Bank analyst says

As with any ultra-low-cost carrier, Frontier is built for savings and that’s reflected in every aspect of the flying experience. Seats, for example, are bare-bones with minimal padding, menial tray tables, and as little as 28 inches of legroom on some planes, according to SeatGuru. But that doesn’t mean flights can’t be enjoyable.

Frontier flies from my local airport on Long Island in New York and I’ve had many an opportunity to journey on the ultra-low-cost carrier by taking advantage of its rock-bottom pricing. In my years of flying the airline, I don’t think I’ve paid more than $30 for a round-trip flight when traversing the East Coast as far south as Miami and have had a good experience nearly every time.

Here’s what you need to know when flying Frontier in order to get the best experience.

Know what you’re paying for

Flying Frontier Airlines during pandemic
Flying Frontier Airlines during the pandemic.

Flyers should know that their $15 one-way ticket isn’t going to get them much more than a ticket to ride. Everything from an advanced seat assigned to the drinks onboard the aircraft is going to incur an extra fee.

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially if you know what to pay for and what not to pay for. Personal items like a backpack can fly free of charge and so I avoid the baggage fees by skipping the carry-on and using a backpack for my items if the trip allows.

The seats onboard Frontier are also unlike anything passengers would find on a full-service airline. They’re thin “slimline” seats with no headrests, in-seat power, or even full-size tray tables. Legroom is also significantly reduced, which can make for an uncomfortable ride for taller passengers.

Ultimately, they’re not the most comfortable but I also know my limits when flying an airline like Frontier. I tend to get squirmish when flying Frontier after around three hours, especially if in a crowded row, so I wouldn’t generally book a flight longer than that.

Flyers wanting the extras can pay for them and those wanting seats comparable to a full-service carrier can book “stretch” seats in the first few rows of the cabin. They include full tray tables, extra legroom, and full recline capabilities.

Travelers with too high of expectations will ultimately be disappointed by Frontier but I’ve found that managing those expectations will result in a better experience.

Why I never pay for a seat and how to get a better one for free

Flying Frontier Airlines during pandemic
Flying Frontier Airlines during the pandemic.

I’ve taken 13 flights on Frontier and I’ve only been assigned a middle seat a total of one time. The science isn’t exactly clear on how Frontier randomly assigns leftover seats but my trick is checking in exactly 24 hours in advance and I’m typically given an aisle or window seat.

I prefer a window seat and so I always check with the gate agent to see if any have opened up if I’m assigned an aisle or middle. The gate staff are usually more than willing to help out and will often assign the closest open seat to the front.

And now with the pandemic, I ask if any full rows are open. On my most recent flight from Las Vegas to Seattle, a near-three-hour journey, I asked if there were any full rows open for social distancing and managed to get a row closer to the front all to myself.

As I found when flying basic economy to Europe in January 2020, there’s very little you can’t get for free when asking politely, even when flying on the cheapest ticket.

Why I subscribe to Discount Den and how to get it for “free”

Flying Frontier Airlines during pandemic
Flying Frontier Airlines during the pandemic.

Discount Den is a paid membership product where customers get discounts on flights in exchange for a $59.99 annual fee. It’s separate from the MyFrontier loyalty program and perks can include discounts, free tickets for children, and buy one, get ones.

The savings are more pronounced on more expensive flights as the cheaper flights in Frontier’s network will only see a modest savings of only a few dollars. A $95 flight I booked from Islip, New York to Phoenix in June, however, was only $77 thanks to the program. The $18 savings was around a third of the annual fee so if I had two more flights with that amount of savings, I’d break even.

But I didn’t outright pay to join the program. I joined in January and discovered that I could use travel credit from a Frontier flight that I had canceled during the pandemic to pay for it, but only if I bought the membership while booking a flight.

Frontier sometimes offers signup bonuses when joining the program to make it an even better value. I signed up and was given a $50 voucher to fly on Frontier so the program basically paid for itself.

The only downside is that there are no perks when actually flying. I still have to pay for a seat, I don’t get to board any earlier, and I don’t receive any baggage allowance. But the discounts I get do help offset the cost of buying extras like a seat assignment or carry-on bag if I absolutely need them.

Frontier’s pandemic safety measures

Flying Frontier Airlines during pandemic
Flying Frontier Airlines during the pandemic.

Like most major US airlines, Frontier flyers must wear masks when flying and acknowledge a health declaration that basically says flyers haven’t contracted COVID-19 recently and haven’t been exposed to the virus. But that’s about where the similarities stop.

All travelers flying Frontier must submit to a temperature screening at boarding. If a flyer shows a fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or greater, they’ll be denied boarding.

On the plane, Frontier has not blocked middle seats and does not proactively notify of full flights. Customers are also on their own to social distance, either by asking the gate agent to move to an empty row or asking the flight attendant to be re-seated.

The in-flight service has also been suspended with no snacks or drinks, besides bottles of water, available for purchase. Bottles of water are available on request for $2.99 or flyers can bring their own drinks from the terminal.

Read the original article on Business Insider

I went to Dunkin’ and Starbucks to compare their drive-thrus, and I’m convinced they’re after totally different customers

dunkin donuts covid drive thru mask
A Dunkin’ worker hands a coffee out of a drive-thru window wearing gloves and a mask as the Coronavirus continues to spread on March 17, 2020 in Norwell, Massachusetts.

  • I went to Dunkin’ and Starbucks to compare their drive-thru experiences.
  • Dunkin’ has more drive-thrus in the US than Starbucks and is consistently one of the fastest.
  • Starbucks has longer wait times but is adding double lanes and new tech.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Drive-thrus have become increasingly important for fast food and quick-service restaurants over the last year.

Starbucks barista drive thru COVID
Starbucks drive-thru.

Drive-thrus have been up industry-wide because they are perceived as a “safe way to use the brand” Kalinowski Equity Research founder Mark Kalinowski told Insider. 

Fast-food chains have invested in drive-thru technology over the last few years, especially as customers showed that they prefer drive-thrus to other ways of ordering.

taco bell drive thru
A Taco Bell employee delivers an order to a customer at the drive-up window of the restaurant on March 31, 2020.

According to an Allegra Survey, 63% of respondents prefer to get their coffee through a drive-thru over going inside.

On-the-go orders, meaning drive-thru and pickup orders, made up 80% of Starbucks orders prior to the pandemic, Starbucks told Insider, and increased more than 10% over pre-pandemic levels in the first quarter of 2021.

I decided to visit both drive-thrus to better understand the chains’ strategies.

Starbucks drive-thru
Starbucks drive-thru.

I frequently buy drinks from both Starbucks and Dunkin’, although I don’t really directly compare them in my mind.

I went to a Dunkin drive-thru in a building that was once a car wash.

DD drive thru

Dunkin’ has more drive-thrus than any other coffee chain in the US, with nearly 6,400 according to Allegra World Coffee Portal. About two-thirds of all US locations include a drive-thru.

This location has a typical drive-thru setup, with a menu board and speaker where customers can order.

DD drive thru

I ordered ahead on the Dunkin’ app for convenience, and because I wanted to compare the experience between the two.

I visit this location frequently, and there usually a few cars in line at any given time.

DD drive thru

Most of the building area is devoted to the drive-thru, while the actually Dunkin’ itself is fairly small. It seems like most people go through the drive-thru, and fewer actually go inside.

After ordering and giving my name at the speaker, the line moves through the covered waiting area.

DD drive thru

Dunkin’ has some of the fastest drive-thru times in the industry, coming in second place in 2016 and 2018, and winning the category in 2019.

Despite winning the top spot, Dunkin’ wait times were up 20 seconds over the previous year. The chain says it is adding On-the-Go drive-thru lanes to let customers with mobile orders bypass the rest of the drive-thru line.

My coffee, sandwich, and donut were all ready quickly. Within only a few minutes I was leaving Dunkin.

DD drive thru

Dunkin’ doesn’t have the drink specification options that Starbucks does, and it pays off in wait time. Lines are consistently shorter and I spend much less time waiting at Dunkin’ compared to Starbucks.

Dunkin’s food is also more appealing and served faster.

dunkin beyond

Dunkin’ has the advantage in food variety over Starbucks, with a wider selection of sandwiches, pastries, and bagels. 

A Starbucks drive-thru is a very different experience compared to Dunkin’.

Starbucks drive-thru

Starbucks has 3,900 drive-thru locations in about half of total stores.

The line is almost always long, frequently extending into other store’s parking lots.

Starbucks drive-thru

Starbucks isn’t included in all of QSR’s surveys, but in 2018 Bloomberg found the average wait time for the drive-thru was 4.44 minutes, one of the slowest in the industry.

The chain is working on updates, though, including taking orders through digital drive-thru screens and handheld devices for baristas to input orders on.

Starbucks smart screen
Starbucks barista.

Kalinowski points to how these newer drive-thru technologies can minimize wait times in drive-thrus. “In a traditional drive-thru, there’s only one place an order can be taken,” he told Insider. “That creates huge bottlenecks,” compared to having mobile stations where customers can place orders.

Like Dunkin, this drive-thru only had one lane that every car had to go through, but that could change in the future.

Starbucks drive-thru

Starbucks says it is designing new drive-thru ideas, including double lanes, drive-thru-only stores, and drive-thru plus curbside pickup locations.

For fairness, I also ordered a latte, sandwich, and pastry at Starbucks, though the food selection was far more limited than at Dunkin’.

Starbucks drive-thru

Starbucks employees told Insider that some stores are experiencing shortages of key products and ingredients including cups, flavored syrups, and baked goods, in addition to the widely-reported oat milk shortage.

Starbucks sandwiches are always disappointing for the time and money.

Starbucks drive-thru

For comparison, Dunkin’ sandwiches are $3.69 at my location, while Starbucks sandwiches are over $5. Dunkin’ also sometimes does two for $5 promotions, making a Starbucks sandwich hard to justify even if I preferred it.

Starbucks is more expensive and the waits are longer, but all the customization options make up for the difference.

Starbucks drive-thru

While Starbucks is working to make drive-thrus more efficient, it isn’t trying to be the fastest drive-thru around, Kalinowski says. “Customization is much more meaningful for Starbucks,” he says.

Starbucks and Dunkin’ each succeed at their goals to reach target customers, but they’re doing very different things.

Starbucks drive-thru

It’s hard to compare one-to-one because these two chains serve coffee, but they’re ultimately after different experiences. 

Starbucks is a coffee destination, while Dunkin’ seems to prioritize food at least on par with coffee.

I’ll continue going to both, although Dunkin’ is for days when I need to grab an iced coffee quickly, and Starbucks is more of a treat on its own.

Do you have a story to share about a retail or restaurant chain? Email this reporter at mmeisenzahl@businessinsider.com.

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