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

An innovative new airline seat just won an industry award – take a look at the design that could be the future of air travel

Safran Interspace seat
Safran Interspace seat

  • Airline cabin manufacturer Safran won two Crystal Cabin Awards at the Aircraft Interior Expo 2021.
  • The company’s Interspace seat, which promotes privacy and comfort, was the Special Jury’s Choice.
  • Its hands-free, hygiene-focused Beacon Clean Lavatory won the Clean & Safe Air Travel category.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

An annual contest highlighting innovative aircraft cabin technologies has named a comfort-focused airline seat and a hands-free lavatory as this year’s winning designs.

At a virtual ceremony for the Aircraft Interiors Expo 2021, airline cabin manufacturer Safran was presented with two Crystal Cabin Awards, which are decided on by 28 expert judges, according to CCA. Safran’s unique airline seat Interspace took home the Judges Choice Award and its touchless Beacon Clean Lavatory won the Clean & Safe Air Travel category. In pre-pandemic times, the expo would judge designs in eight categories but reduced them to two in 2021 to reflect where the industry is in the wake of the pandemic.

Interspace was this year’s “Special Jury’s Choice” for impressing the international panel of judges with its padded wing. The wing is situated on the right side of the seat and can easily deploy as a body rest to improve lateral comfort and provide additional privacy, according to Safran. Interspace is adaptable and can be installed into economy and premium class cabins without carriers having to replace any seats.

The seat was designed in conjunction with Universal Movement, a studio aimed at enhancing the travel experience through innovative technology. CNN Travel tested out the prototype in 2019 and reporter Francesca Street said the wing was surprisingly comfortable when leaned against and that she barely noticed her seat neighbor.

Safran Interspace seats
Safran Interspace seats

Safran’s other expo product, the Beacon Clean Lavatory, is a hands-free bathroom that won the Clean & Safe Travel category, which is awarded to innovations that promote health and safety, according to CCA.

Beacon focuses on features that minimize contact and promote cleanliness, according to Safran. It includes a toilet made of anti-microbial materials, a 265nm UV light that quickly disinfects key surfaces of the toilet, a large sink to reduce splashing, and an exterior sink for washing hands.

Safran Beacon Clean Lavatory
Safran Beacon Clean Lavatory

“Safran wins the two new Crystal Cabin Awards, a mark of recognition highlighting all the creativity and agility our teams have shown in recent months. We have in fact been able to innovate and anticipate the needs of our airline customers, and the expectations of passenger comfort and safety,” said Safran Cabin Charman Norman Jordan and Safran Seats Chairman Vincent Mascré.

The wings of the Interspace seat are designed for privacy and comfort, but it is hard not to see the similarities to some designs that came out of the COVID era. Some seat manufacturers have already jumped on the opportunity to design pandemic-era seats that would provide barriers between passengers or promote social distancing.

Aviointerior’s “Glassafe” seat was revealed last spring and features a head-level barrier aimed at reducing the spread of germs between passengers. It comes as a kit that can be placed over existing seats.

Aviointeriors Glassafe seat
Aviointeriors Glassafe seat

Meanwhile, French engineer Floridan Barjot created the PlanBay cabin seat concept, which is intended to promote social distancing through dividers. It comes with three barriers that fit over the middle seat, creating two cacoons in the window and aisle seats.

PlanBay social distance seat
PlanBay social distance seat

Read the original article on Business Insider

I went aboard Virgin Voyages’ first cruise ship, and it made me want to book a cruise for the first time ever

The Scarlet Lady sailing
The Scarlet Lady.

  • I took a tour of Virgin Voyages’ first vessel, the Scarlet Lady, and it changed my perspective on cruising.
  • The ship has amenities like a Korean barbecue restaurant, a tattoo parlor, and on demand champagne.
  • Take a look inside the Scarlet Lady ahead of its first US sailing in October.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Richard Branson’s Virgin Group’s cruise line, Virgin Voyages, will begin a series of US sailings this October aboard its first vessel, the Scarlet Lady.

The Scarlet Lady sailing
The Scarlet Lady.

I took a tour around the adults-only Scarlet Lady when it was docked in New York City, and exploring the ship changed my perspective of what a cruise experience should be like.

communal seating options
The Scarlet Lady.

The ship was supposed to debut in New York in early March 2020.

a stairway spiraling down to seats
The Scarlet Lady.

“As we got to Liverpool [to unveil the ship], the headlines were ‘people stuck at sea on cruise ships,’ and it was just the worst week in history to launch a new [cruise ship],” Branson said. “Virgin Group definitely chose its sectors well for COVID.”

Thomas McAlpin and Richard Branson posing for a picture together
Thomas McAlpin and Richard Branson.

But now, 18 months later, the Scarlet Lady is ready to begin cruising from the US after completing a series of “staycation-at-sea” sailings around the UK.

a food counter with tables
The Social Club Diner.

Source: Virgin

According to Tom McAlpin, president and CEO of Virgin Voyages, these UK sailings “solidified the fact that [Virgin Voyages] got the right balance” of onboard amenities like restaurant and entertainment options.

a tattoo and piercing parlor
Squid Ink.

“The team has created a magical experience, the kind of cruise ship that myself and my family would have dreamt of going on,” Branson told Insider.

a coffee shop with pastries
The Grounds Club coffee shop.

“We’ve never been interested in going on cruise ships, so that’s why we set out to try to create something really special, unique, and very Virgin,” he continued.

a rainbow windowed doorway leading to the outdoor deck
The Scarlet Lady.

The Scarlet Lady even won over Branson’s cruise-skeptic daughter, who sailed with her friends and “didn’t want to get off,” according to her father.

a wall of art with swings in front
The Scarlet Lady.

She’s not alone. During the first sailing in the UK, 125 passengers booked additional cruises with Virgin Voyages, a testament to how much the customers enjoyed sailing on the Scarlet Lady, according to McAlpin.

seating by a window
The Scarlet Lady.

Let’s take a look around the cruise ship to see what’s attracting these repeat customers.

seating spaces next to windows
The Scarlet Lady.

To start, Virgin Voyages’ ships are all adults-only.

a spiraling staircase lit up at night
The roundabout.

And the cost of a sailing includes access to amenities like group fitness classes, WiFi, and all of the onboard dining options.

The Extra Virgin restaurant with tables by windows
The Extra Virgin restaurant.

Let’s start with the accommodations. The Scarlet Lady has 1,330 cabins and 78 “Rockstar Quarters” suites.

a cabin with a bed, side tables, chairs, tv, and mirror against a closed curtain
The Sea Terrace cabin.

Virgin Voyages says its cabins are “superyacht inspired,” and it’s easy to see why.

a cabin aboard the Scarlet Lady.
The Scarlet Lady.

Source: Virgin Voyages

 

While I was touring the ship, I got to see one of the two largest suites – aptly named “Massive Suite” – which has the typical living room, bedroom, and bathroom with a hot tub, along with …

a marble shower with rainbow reflective glass doors
The bathroom in the Massive Suite.

… a second bedroom that also serves as a music room with guitars and an amplifier…

a living room and back music room with guitars on the wall
The Massive Suite living room and music room.

… and a sprawling terrace with two hammocks, a hot tub, an outdoor shower, a conversation pit, and an outdoor dining table.

a jacuzzi on a terrace
The hot tub on the terrace of the Massive Suite.

In total, the 2,147-square-foot suite can sleep up to four people.

outdoor tables and chairs
The Dock House.

Now, moving on to the amenities that everyone sailing with the Scarlet Lady can access.

an entry hallway with lights
The Scarlet Lady.

The Scarlet Lady has a variety of restaurants I personally haven’t seen on a cruise ship.

a dining room with a chandelier and staircase
The Scarlet Lady.

This includes Gunbae, a Korean barbecue restaurant designed to have a laid-back, party-like atmosphere …

A neon sign that says "you float our boat"
The Scarlet Lady.

… and Test Kitchen, which also doubles as a cooking school.

dining room with tables and chairs
Test Kitchen.

Unlike most traditional restaurants, Test Kitchen’s menu only states ingredients.

dining room with tables and chairs
Test Kitchen.

There’s also Razzle Dazzle, a vegetarian-friendly restaurant with a drag brunch …

The Razzle Dazzle restaurant with bold white and black stripes on the wall and floor
The Razzle Dazzle restaurant.

… and the more classic cruise dining options, such as a steak and seafood, an Italian, and a Mexican restaurant.

a wall of hard liquor by a dining table
The Pink Agave restaurant.

Instead of a buffet, there’s a food hall with eight stalls, including sushi and taco stands.

a dining room with wooden detailing
The Loose Cannon.

And of course, as an adults-only cruise, the Scarlet Lady has plenty of bars and lounges, including a casino.

slot machines
The casino.

Let’s start with the Manor, a two-floor nightclub and entertainment venue with an Instagram-friendly entrance.

mirrored hallway with sparkling lights
The entrance into The Manor.

There’s also Draught Haus, a taproom with eight beers on tap and a lineup of bottled beers, cocktails, and shots.

tables in front of a stage
The Scarlet Lady.

Not interested in beer? How about champagne. Sip is a champagne-focused lounge with bubbles that range from $9 a glass to $1,000 a bottle.

a lounge full of tables next to windows
The Sip lounge.

Craving a drink but you’re nowhere near Sip? If you have the Virgin Voyages app, you can request on-demand champagne from anywhere aboard the Scarlet Lady.

a bucket of champagne
The Sip lounge.

Source: Virgin Voyages

 

The ship also has several features I’ve also never seen on a cruise ship, such as a record shop …

a wall of vinyls next to a DJ booth
Voyage Vinyl.

… and a tattoo and piercing shop.

a tattoo parlor with two seats
Squid Ink.

But the one feature that stood out to me the most was the spa, which has amenities like a mudroom, quartz bed, and salt room.

a massage table
The spa.

Unlike most spas that are pristine and white, Scarlet Lady’s Redemption Spa has darker colored decor, which made the space feel calm, serene, clean, and luxurious.

a spa with round windows
The spa.

However, the nail salon, barber shop, and hairstyling stores aren’t located in the spa. Instead, they’re next to the aforementioned tattoo and piercing shop.

stores around a hallway
The shopping area.

The Scarlet Lady also has several workout options, including a gym, spin room, boxing ring, track, and yoga and barre room.

yoga mat and blocks in a room of windows and mirrors
The yoga room.

And we can’t forget about the outdoor pools.

a pool on an outdoor deck surrounded by beds and chairs
A pool.

To reduce waste, the Scarlet Lady won’t have any single-use plastic items. This means no non-reusable water bottles or utensils.

a spiral staircase with decor in the foreground
The spiral staircase.

Overall, the Scarlet Lady looked more contemporary and sleek than the other cruise ships I remember being on as a child with my family.

sun deck with a trampoline
The sun deck.

And I definitely never remembered seeing a Korean barbecue restaurant or tattoo parlor aboard any cruise ship I was ever on.

two shuffleboard games
The Scarlet Lady.

And because the space is for adults only, none of the amenities or decor felt childish or tacky.

a pool surrounded by lounge chairs
The wellbeing pool.

I’ve always felt lukewarm about vacationing aboard a cruise ship, but the Scarlet Lady’s modern appearance and plush, hotel-like amenities made me rethink my hesitations.

an ice cream counter
The Lick Me Till… ice cream shop.

And imagine playing in the arcade or at the casino with no children running around. Luxury!

an arcade with games
The arcade.

If you’re also interested in sailing aboard the Scarlet Lady, you’ll have to wait until October when the ship will begin bringing over 2,770 passengers and 1,160 crew members on four to five-night cruises from Miami to the Caribbean.

an outdoor lounge area
The Scarlet Lady.

Passengers will also get a chance to spend time at Virgin’s Beach Club in Bimini, Bahamas.

chairs and small tables in front of a windowed wall
The Scene.

In terms of health protocols, the Scarlet Lady will be sailing fully vaccinated to create a “bubble” and the safest travel experience possible, McAlpin said.

Thomas McAlpin and Richard Branson at a DJ booth
Thomas McAlpin and Richard Branson.

“It’s time to get back out there and convince people that it is safe and have fun,” he said. “Take the masks off and be able to socialize again and have a good time.”

The Scarlet Lady ship and emblem
The Scarlet Lady.

Like other cruise lines, McAlpin noted that there’s “pent-up demand” for cruises.

life preserver ring that says Scarlet Lady
The Scarlet Lady.

As a result, Virgin is seeing a good mix of customers, including first-time cruisers.

a lifeboat attached to the side of the ship that says Scarlet Lady
The Scarlet Lady.

Looking ahead, Virgin Voyages already has plans to debut more ships, including the Resilient Lady and the Valiant Lady. The latter will debut in 2022.

The Scarlet Lady sailing
The Scarlet Lady.

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 popular RV maker has unveiled a more than $400,000 tiny home in a ‘box’ built on a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter – see inside the Asteroid of Happiness

The Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV in a factory
The Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV.

  • Advanced RV unveiled the Asteroid of Happiness, a camper van RV built on its “B Box” concept.
  • Advanced RV has seen an increasing number of sales.
  • See inside the tiny home on wheels, which can seat and sleep four people.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Popular camper van maker Advanced RV has turned a 170-inch Mercedes-Benz Sprinter cab into a tiny home inside of a box on wheels named “Asteroid of Happiness.”

The Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV in a factory
The Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV.

But unlike most of the Sprinter camper vans currently available on the market, the Asteroid of Happiness wasn’t built inside of a Sprinter body.

The Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV in a factory
The Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV.

Instead, it’s based on Advanced RV’s “B Box” platform, which was unveiled last year. This “box” fully replaces the Sprinter body.

close up of the kitchen and the sink
The kitchen inside the Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV.

“When we discovered a box that would allow us to meet our clients’ objectives on a cab chassis, we pursued building a prototype because we knew of the spatial, insulation, and off-grid advancements a box would provide,” Mike Neundorfer, the president of Advanced RV, told Insider at the time of its release.

The Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV in a factory
The Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV.

Source: Insider

Using an in-house constructed “box” instead of the typical curved walls of a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van creates more interior space, according to the team.

The kitchen Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV with a seat in front of the area
The kitchen inside the Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV.

Source: YouTube

Plus it’s well insulated, allowing the camper van to operate through all four seasons.

Inside the Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV with an open door
Inside the Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV.

Advanced RV didn’t provide the exact price of this build, but Neundorfer noted in an email interview with Insider that the last three B Box vans were between about $425,000 and $490,000.

the exterior of the Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV in a factory
The Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV.

And looking ahead, the company already has plans for 13 more custom B Box vans, a testament to the success of its in-house creation.

The Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV in a factory
The Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV.

At the same time, Advanced RV has been seeing an increase in sales.

a speaker attached to a ceiling near the front of the van
The Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV.

This growth in business and popularity has been common for RV and camper van makers throughout COVID-19.

The Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV in a factory
The Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV.

But Neundorfer believes Advanced RV’s success is potentially only “somewhat affected” by the rise of road travel throughout the COVID pandemic.

the top of the Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV.
The Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV.

“Most of our clients have been in touch with us for years, so we conclude that our growth is more a result of our abilities and reputation and not so much a reaction to market trends,” he said.

two windows open on the RV
The Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV.

Now let’s take a look inside the new Asteroid of Happiness.

a window inside Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV
Inside the Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV.

The van was made for a client named Willy, a designer and artist who travels with his family, according to a YouTube video tour of the van. He also helped design the van.

The Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV in a factory
The Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV.

Source: YouTube

 

Advanced RV started discussing the Asteroid of Happiness with this client over a year ago, and the van itself took over six months to build.

The Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV in a factory
The Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV.

“To generate these sorts of ideas, you’re pulling together lots of other influences … [like] your experience in an old RV and how it might be enhanced or improved,” Willy said in the YouTube video.

a connection cord coming out of the Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV.
The Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV.

Source: YouTube

Overall, the tiny home on wheels stands at 24.5-feet long with a standing height of about 6.7 feet.

An empty Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV
The Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV under construction.

This tiny space includes two bedrooms and bathrooms, a kitchen, and a dining and lounge area.

a bar light on The Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV
The Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV.

The Asteroid of Happiness seats and sleeps up to four people, which is a “challenge [to do both] … in a small, nimble vehicle,” according to Neundorfer.

kitchen, two seats, and dining table inside Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV
Inside the Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV.

The van can sleep two adults and two children using the permanent bed in the back of the van …

the bedroom besides the kitchen
The bedroom inside the Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV.

… and a pop-top roof with colorful LED lights that can hold two children’s sleeping bags.

the pop-top with lit purple lights
The pop-top inside the Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV.

This smaller sleeping space can be accessed using the ladder.

a peak into the blue light lit pop-top
The pop-top inside the Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV.

The permanent bed has a small curtain for privacy and under-bed drawers that can be used as a closet.

the bedroom with two windows and cabinets
The bedroom inside the Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV.

The “upstairs” bedroom also has a curtain that can divide the space in half, giving the children more privacy.

two children in the pop-top area with purple and blue lights
The pop-top inside the Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV.

Moving on, the bathroom is similarly divided into two spaces. One room has the shower …

the shower next to an open door
The shower inside the Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV.

… while the other has a medicine cabinet, toilet, and sink. Your typical bathroom features.

the sink in the bathroom
The bathroom inside the Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV.

Both spaces are also vented.

the medicine cabinet besides a window
The bathroom inside the Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV.

Moving along, the kitchen is located just across the two bathrooms.

the kitchen with a sink and two windows
The kitchen inside the Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV.

This cooking space has a single induction cooktop, cabinets, a microwave …

the kitchen with a countertop, sink, and microwave among two windows
The kitchen inside the Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV.

… a coffee maker, a refrigerator and freezer, and a drinking water faucet besides the typical sink setup.

an open bathroom door next to the washer and dryer
Inside the Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV.

There’s also a washer and dryer in the kitchen.

The washer and dryer inside the Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV
The washer and dryer inside the Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV.

The kitchen and its amenities are mounted and supported, creating a secured cooking area while the van is roughing it on the road.

the bed with drawers next to the hallway of bathrooms
Inside the Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV.

Unlike many camper vans that have removable and movable items – such as removable tables or bed panels – everything in the Asteroid of Happiness is secured into place for more safety and stability.

the driver and passenger seats
Inside the Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV.

Speaking of tables, the tiny home on wheel’s table is located in front of the two rear passenger seats.

the passenger seats with a table and the driver and passenger seats swiveled in
Inside the Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV.

It’s secured down but can be folded and extended for more table space.

the passenger seats next to the kitchen
Inside the Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV.

The front driver and passenger seats can then swivel to face the table, creating an on-the-go family dining room.

the two seats besides the kitchen inside the Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV.
Inside the Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV.

Now onto the exterior of the van, which has a garage that can fit four bicycles …

garage with lights on
The garage inside the Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV.

… and an awning with an attached light for leisurely outdoor afternoons under the shade.

The Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV in a factory
The Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV.

All of these amenities are powered by the alternator and an 830-amp-hour lithium battery setup.

the lights outside the Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV.
The Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV.

The bathroom and kitchen are also hooked up to the 50-gallon freshwater and two 27.5-gallon grey and black water tanks.

a toilet behind a door
The bathroom inside the Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV.

If you’ve enjoyed exploring the van’s design, you’re not alone.

the driver and passenger seats
Inside the Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV.

The company has received deposits from other clients who have been interested in some design aspects of the Asteroid, according to Neundorfer.

a light shining on cabinets inside the Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV.
The Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV.

But because the company “considers the design the property of the client,” it won’t build a duplicate of the tiny home on wheels, Neundorfer said.

The Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV in a factory
The Asteroid of Happiness B Box RV.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Southwest Airlines found success with free booze, arm wrestling, and go-go boots – take a look at the 50-year-old airline’s full history

Southwest Airlines flight attendants
Southwest Airlines first flight attendant uniforms

  • Southwest Airlines, the US’s largest domestic carrier, celebrated its 50th anniversary in June.
  • The airline found success using unconventional marketing strategies focused on humor, booze, arm wrestling, and go-go boots.
  • Southwest grew its network by beating the Wright Amendment, a law implemented to restrict operations out of its Dallas Love Field base.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Southwest Airlines is the US’s largest domestic carrier, serving over 100 destinations across the country. The carrier has been in operation since 1971 and just celebrated its 50th anniversary in June.

Southwest Airlines Palm Springs

Source: Southwest

Southwest started as a small carrier based in Texas and only operated intra-state routes between three cities, San Antonio, Houston, and Dallas. The airline, which was originally called Air Southwest, was dreamt up by Rollin King and Herb Kelleher on a cocktail napkin in 1966.

Herb Kelleher and Rolland King
Herb Kelleher (left) and Rollin King (right)

Source: Southwest

King mapped the network he envisioned, making a triangle between the three key cities. He explained to Kelleher that operating solely in Texas would make the company exempt from the Civil Aeronautics Board’s federal regulations, which controlled fares, routes, and schedules.

Napkin with Dallas, San Antonio, and Houston
Rolland King’s “Texas Triangle”

Source: Southwest

From 1938 to 1978, the airline industry was federally regulated under the CAB as means to ensure major carriers like United and Pan Am were profitable. Fares were sky-high and only business travelers and deep-pocket leisure customers could afford the luxury of flight. The downside was that a lot of the time, planes flew half empty.

Convair 880 club cabin
Convair 880 club cabin

Source: Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

Because Air Southwest was certified under the state’s aviation regulator, the Texas Aeronautics Commission, it was not bound to federal rules – a clever loophole King unapologetically copied from California carrier Pacific Southwest Airlines.

Rollin King in front of Southwest jet
Rollin King

Source: Southwest

The loophole allowed Air Southwest to fly freely in Texas and undercut competitors’ fares, offering more customers the option to fly instead of drive in the large state. The business model was game-changing and a threat to legacy airlines.

Herb Kelleher with model of Southwest aircraft
Herb Kelleher with model of Southwest aircraft

Source: Southwest

In 1967, three airlines operating under federal rules, Braniff, Trans-Texas Airways, and Continental Airlines, took legal action against Air Southwest, saying it does not have the right to fly in Texas.

Lady Bird Johnson, wife of President Lyndon Johnson, greets well wishers upon landing aboard a Braniff International Airways Lockheed Electra dubbed "The Lady Bird Special"
Lady Bird Johnson, wife of President Lyndon Johnson, steps off Braniff Airways jet

Source: Companies History

The lawsuit took three years to resolve, and in 1970, the Texas Supreme Court ruled Air Southwest could fly in the state. The three airlines then took the case to the US Supreme Court, which declined to review it.

Herb Kelleher (left) Lamar Muse (second from left) and Rollin King (center)
Herb Kelleher (left) Lamar Muse (second from left) and Rollin King (center)

Source: Companies History

Air Southwest’s right to fly in Texas was finalized in December of 1970. The carrier officially changed its name to Southwest Airlines in 1971 and commenced operations on June 18 of the same year. The carrier launched with two routes from Dallas Love Field to Houston and San Antonio using three new Boeing 737-200 aircraft. Flights between Houston and San Antonio commenced in November 1971.

Southwest flight attendant points to schedule
Southwest flight attendant points to schedule

Source: Companies History

Part of Southwest’s immense success was due to Kelleher’s focus on unconventional marketing and unique corporate culture.

Southwest Herb Kelleher on_Plane_Tail source
Herb Kelleher on Southwest tail

Source: Southwest

Kelleher used Pacific Southwest Airways’ idea of “Long Legs And Short Nights” for hostesses, as they were called at the time, keeping with the theme of hiring attractive women to work Southwest flights.

Southwest Airlines flight attendants
Southwest Airlines first flight attendant uniforms

Source: Companies History

The airline’s first flight attendants were described as long-legged dancers and were handpicked by a committee that included the same individual who picked the hostess on Hugh Hefner’s Playboy jet.

Southwest Airlines flight attendants
Southwest Airlines first flight attendant uniforms

Source: Companies History

Kelleher dressed the flight attendants in a bright orange top, orange hot pants, a white belt around the hips, and white side-laced go-go boots. He also pushed for a laid-back, casual inflight experience and only hired female hostesses who were fun, engaging, and had a sense of humor.

First Southwest Airlines hostess class
First Southwest Airlines hostess class

Source: Texas Monthly

Southwest also provided a winter version of the uniform, which included orange and white striped hot pants, a blazer, a white top, and an ascot.

Southwest winter version of hot pants uniform
Southwest winter version of hot pants uniform

Source: Texas Monthly

Kelleher continued the playboy theme by creating a “love” culture at Southwest. The carrier was called the “love airline,” automatic ticket dispensers were “love machines,” inflight snacks were “love bites,” and drinks were “love potions.”

Southwest "love" ad
Southwest “love” ad

Source: Texas Monthly

The airline also crafted its own special inflight cocktails, which were free for passengers. A few were appropriately named Kentucky Matchmaker, the Pucker Potion, and the Lucky Lindsay.

Southwest Airlines flight attendant preparing beverage orders in the galley
Southwest Airlines flight attendant preparing beverage orders in the galley

Source: Texas Monthly

He even went on to create ads centered around humor and attractive women. In the context of the 1970s, using attractive female flight attendants to gain customers was an industry norm.

A 1968 photo of three flight attendants for Southwest Airlines
A 1968 photo of three flight attendants for Southwest Airlines

Source: Texas Monthly

In 1972, Southwest made a game-changing, innovative marketing move. The company introduced the “two-tier” fare system, which established two separate price points aimed at different types of travelers.

A Southwest Airlines Customer Service Agent checks in a Customer at the gate
A Southwest Airlines Customer Service Agent checks in a Customer at the gate

Source: Southwest

The fares were the regularly priced “Executive Class Service” at $26 one-way and the “Pleasure Class” at $13 one-way or $25 roundtrip. “Pleasure Class” fares were available after 6:59 p.m. on weekdays and all day Saturday and Sunday.

Southwest airlines customer service agents with customers at the ticket counter
Southwest airlines customer service agents with customers at the ticket counter

Source: Southwest

The two-tier structure was a wild success, with Southwest increasing its average passenger load from 17 before the move to 75 after.

Southwest pilots
Southwest pilots

Source: Southwest

In 1973, the company launched a $13 one-way “half-fare” sale on all flights to San Antonio. Southwest’s rival, Braniff, responded with its own “get acquainted sale” with $13 fares between Dallas and Houston. This was the start of the $13 Fare War.

Southwest’s advertisement of a full-page declaration of war against Braniff’s fare cut
Southwest’s ad declaring war against Braniff’s fare cut

Source: Southwest

Southwest knew $13 fares on its only profitable route would run it straight into bankruptcy, so King quickly came up with a marketing campaign that would put Southwest on top. “Nobody’s going to shoot Southwest out of the sky for a lousy $13,” read the bold ad.

Southwest ad against Braniff's $13 fare war
Southwest ad against Braniff’s $13 fare war

Source: Southwest

Southwest matched Braniff’s fare between Dallas and Houston, which was met with praise and respect from customers. As part of the campaign, the airline also offered a free fifth of liquor for passengers who paid the full $26 fare.

Ticket agent poses with a bottle of Chivas Regal in front of ad
Ticket agent poses with a bottle of Chivas Regal in front of ad

Source: Southwest

Business travelers loved the promotion, and lucky for Southwest, three-fourths of its customers opted to pay full price and pocket the free booze. The airline soon became a fan favorite among many Texas business communities, and Braniff was fuming.

Southwest customer holding advertisement and receiving free liquor
Southwest customer holding advertisement and receiving free liquor

Source: Southwest

By the end of 1973, Southwest finally turned its first profit and would continue to profit for 47 years until the coronavirus pandemic ended the streak. Meanwhile, Braniff lost the battle and the war, ceasing operations in 1982.

Braniff Airways aircraft in Peru
Braniff Airways aircraft in Peru

Source: Southwest, Braniff International Airways Boutique

Southwest’s early challenges did not end with Braniff. In 1964, the Civil Aeronautics Board demanded the city of Dallas build an airport to serve the entire Dallas/Fort Worth area. In 1968, every air carrier operating out of Love Field agreed to move to DFW when it opened in 1974.

British Airways Concord at DFW in 1973 after the airport was finished
British Airways Concord at DFW in 1973 after the airport was finished

Source: Encyclopedia.com

However, Southwest was not a part of that agreement and filed suit that it would not move from Love Field when the new airport opened. The airline claimed there was no legal reason to end commercial traffic at Love Field and that the company made no written agreement to move its operations.

Concord and Boeing 747 at DFW after the airport's completion in 1973
Concord and Boeing 747 at DFW after the airport’s completion in 1973

Source: Encyclopedia.com

The city and the DFW Airport Board sued Southwest, saying the CAB rule applied to the airline even if it was made before Southwest was officially founded. However, Southwest argued that its intra-state flights fell outside the jurisdiction of the CAB, so it did not have to leave Love Field.

Opening day of new Love Field terminal in 2013
Opening day of new Love Field terminal in 2013

Source: Encyclopedia.com

A federal district court agreed with Southwest and ruled that it could operate out of the airport as long as it remained open. When DFW opened in 1974, every airline except Southwest left Love Field.

Southwest aircraft takes off from Love Field
Southwest aircraft takes off from Love Field

Source: Encyclopedia.com

Southwest continued to grow through the 70s, acquiring 10 aircraft and carrying its five-millionth customer by the end of 1977.

Southwest's 3 millionth passenger
Southwest’s 3 millionth passenger Bob Pianta in 1976 (middle)

Source: Southwest

By 1976, Southwest Airlines had been profitable for three years and proven that government regulation was not necessary for airlines to be successful. Deregulation was a top priority for Jimmy Carter’s administration, and it passed the Airline Deregulation Act in 1978, effectively abolishing the Civil Aeronautics Board.

President Carter signs the airline deregulation bill at the White House
President Carter signs the airline deregulation bill at the White House

Source: National Review

Finally, Southwest Airlines was free to operate interstate flights and the airline began to thrive. Meanwhile, major carriers like Eastern Airlines, Trans World Airlines, and Pan Am spread themselves too thin as they tried to rapidly expand.

Southwest Boeing 737-300
Southwest Boeing 737-300

Source: US Centennial of Flight Commission

Unlike major carriers, Southwest maintained a simple strategy for success after deregulation, like only operating one aircraft type, cleaning the aircraft before landing to allow for a quicker turn, and focusing on humor in marketing.

Southwest flight attendant cleans the aircraft
Southwest flight attendant cleans the aircraft

Source: USA Today

And its strategy worked. Southwest was prospering while other airlines like Pan Am and TWA collapsed. However, it was not long before the Wright Amendment put another wrench in the company’s plans.

Colleen Barrett with Wright is Wrong petitions
Colleen Barrett with Wright is Wrong petitions

After deregulation, Southwest wanted to commence interstate flights from Love Field to New Orleans in 1979, but officials at DFW airport feared the increased traffic would hurt the airport financially. So, US Congressman Jim Wright drafted, sponsored, and helped pass a bill restricting passenger traffic at Love Field.

Wright is Wrong sign on top of Southwest Airlines HQ
Wright is Wrong sign

Source: Southwest

The law, known as the Wright Amendment, was signed in early 1980 and amended the International Air Transportation Act of 1979. It restricted flying out of Love Field to cities in Texas and the surrounding states of Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and New Mexico. The law was meant to keep Southwest from expanding operations out of Dallas.

Wright Amendment protest
Wright Amendment protesters

Source: The Dallas Morning News

It only applied to carriers that operated aircraft with more than 56 seats, which Southwest did. So, the airline had to rely on short-haul flights in the five-state area to bolster Love Field operations.

Southwest employees protest the Wright Amendment
Southwest employees protest the Wright Amendment

Source: The Dallas Morning News

In 1997, Kansas, Alabama, and Mississippi were added to the list of reachable states. In 2005, Missouri was also added.

Southwest employees celebrate end of Wright Amendment
Southwest employees celebrate end of Wright Amendment

Source: The Dallas Morning News

However, in 2004, Southwest CEO Gary Kelly launched efforts to repeal the Wright Amendment, using the slogans “Set Love Free” and “Wright is Wrong” in the campaign.

Herb Kelleher with "Wright is Wrong" slogan
Herb Kelleher with “Wright is Wrong” slogan

Source: Southwest

In 2006, an agreement was made between Southwest, American Airlines, Dallas, and Forth Worth to phase out the law. They agreed that in eight years, the amendment would be gone, but until then, carriers could fly to any US destination out of Love Field as long as at least one stop was made in any of the nine states under the Wright Amendment.

Passengers sit in new Love Field terminal
Passengers sit in new Love Field terminal

Source: Southwest, The Dallas Morning News

On October 13, 2014, at exactly 12:01 a.m., a countdown clock at Southwest’s Headquarters in Dallas hit zero, officially ending the Wright Amendment. A few minutes after, the airline’s first scheduled flight outside of the nine Wright states took off from Love Field to Denver.

Wright Amendment sign at Southwest HQ
Wright Amendment ends

Source: Southwest

The deal also capped the number of gates at Love Field to 20, and the airport still only has 20 to this day.

Southwest aircraft at gate 2 at Love Field
Southwest aircraft at gate 2 at Love Field

Source: The Dallas Morning News

While the Wright Amendment restricted expansion out of Love Field, Southwest was still able to bolster its network out of other Texas cities in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s.

Customer service employee at Houston Hobby
Customer service employee at Houston Hobby

Throughout the 1980s, the airline expanded north into cities like Tulsa, Oklahoma City, and Kansas City, and west to Phoenix, Las Vegas, Albuquerque, and California. The airline moved east in the late 1980s with flights to Nashville and into the Midwest with flights to Chicago Midway and Detroit.

Southwest flight takes off from Vegas
Southwest flight takes off from Vegas

Source: Southwest

The airline also updated its livery in the 1980s. Southwest wanted to stand out in the skies and make its brand easily recognizable, so it wrapped its fuselage in desert gold and other warm colors. It received its first 737-300 jet in 1984, dubbed Spirit of Kitty Hawk.

Herb Kelleher with Spirit of Kitty Hawk aircraft
Herb Kelleher with Spirit of Kitty Hawk aircraft

Source: Southwest

Southwest’s flight attendant uniform was also updated by the 80s. Instead of hot pants and go-go boots, the airline allowed employees to wear real pants and skirts.

Southwest Airlines 90s flight attendant uniforms
Southwest Airlines 90s flight attendant uniforms

Source: Racked

In the 1990s, the network expanded further east to cities like Baltimore, Cleveland, Columbus, Tampa, Fort Lauderdale, Providence, Islip, and Raleigh-Durham. The airline also began its Pacific Northwest expansion with the acquisition of Morris Air in 1994.

Southwest aircraft dedicated to Rollin King
Southwest aircraft dedicated to Rollin King

Source: Southwest

In 1991, the “Friends Fly Free” campaign was launched to battle the recession. The promotion allowed anyone 18 or older to bring a friend of any age free on their flight. It was so popular that Southwest offered the promotion for the next five years.

Southwest's Friend Fly Free ad
Southwest’s Friend Fly Free ad

Source: Southwest

In 1992, Southwest’s most infamous marketing stunt occurred between Herb Kelleher and Kurt Herwald, chairman of Stevens Aviation.

Kelleher and Herwald at the Malice in Dallas
Kelleher and Herwald at the Malice in Dallas

Source: Southwest

Southwest had been using the slogan “Just Plane Smart” in its ads, but Stevens Aviation sent a letter to Kelleher noting its similarity to its “Plane Smart” slogan.

Kelleher wearing "Just Plane Smart" slogan
Kelleher wearing “Just Plane Smart” slogan

Source: Southwest

Instead of entering a legal battle over the phrase, a Steven Aviation executive suggested an arm-wrestling competition between Herwald and Kelleher. The victor would have full rights to the slogan.

Herb and Herwald arm wrestle at the Malice in Dallas
Herb and Herwald arm wrestle at the Malice in Dallas

Source: Southwest

Kelleher marketed the event, dubbed the “Malice in Dallas,” which received worldwide press coverage. “Smokin” Herb Kelleher and “Curtsy” Kurt Herwald put on a full show at the arena, which even earned a congratulatory note from President George Bush.

Malice in Dallas artwork in Southwest HQ
Malice in Dallas artwork in Southwest HQ

Source: Southwest

At the turn of the century, Southwest revealed the livery that most people know today. The Canyon Blue color scheme debuted in January 2001.

Debut of Southwest's Canyon Blue livery in 2001
Debut of Southwest’s Canyon Blue livery in 2001

Source: Southwest

While many airlines opted to introduce fees for things like checked bags and flight changes to recuperate funds, Southwest refused. Instead, the airline launched its “bags fly free” campaign which allows customers two complimentary checked bags. Southwest has not gone back on the offer to this day.

Ramp crew with Bags Fly Free on their chests
Southwest ramp crew promotes free bags

Source: Southwest

Throughout the 2000s, Southwest continued to focus on humor in its marketing. Its Wanna Get Away commercials proved successful, which promoted $49 one-way fares.

Southwest Boeing 737-800
Southwest Boeing 737-800

Source: Southwest

By 2010, Southwest added “Transfarency” to its brand. The airline would not have any hidden fees and would remain customer-focused with an emphasis on Hospitality and Heart. The recognizable tri-color heart was added to its airplanes and workplace.

Heart One
Heart One

Source: Southwest

In 2011, Southwest acquired AirTran Airways, which opened slots up out of Atlanta and gave it more network expansion opportunities in Mexico and the Caribbean. The two were fully integrated by 2014.

Southwest acquires AirTran
Southwest acquires AirTran

Source: Southwest

Also in 2014, the company’s livery got another new look, with a harder focus on the heart, a new logo, and a sleek new color scheme.

Southwest Airlines updated 2014 livery
Southwest Airlines’ updated 2014 livery

Source: Southwest

In July 2014, the airline officially became international with its first flight to Oranjestad, Aruba. In the same month, Southwest also started service to Nassau, Bahamas, and Jamaica.

First international Southwest flight lands in Montego Bay, Jamaica
First international Southwest flight lands in Montego Bay, Jamaica

Source: Southwest

The company’s flight attendant uniform got an update in 2017, marking the first time in 20 years the airline changed the look. Womenswear included two dresses, one black with blue and red stripes and the other gray with red and black stripes. Menswear included a black blazer, a gray shirt and pants, and a red tie.

2017 Southwest flight attendant uniforms
2017 Southwest flight attendant uniforms

Source: Travel + Leisure

In October 2017, Southwest became the launch customer for the Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet, with its first revenue flight occurring on October 1. However, the aircraft was grounded in 2019 after two fatal accidents involved the MAX. The airline did not fly the plane again until March 2021.

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8
Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8

Source: Southwest

In 2019, Southwest reached its goal of operating flights to Hawaii with its inaugural service from Oakland to Honolulu.

Passenger boards first Southwest flight to Hawaii
Passenger boards first Southwest flight to Hawaii

Source: Southwest

In 2020, Southwest ended its 47-year profit streak when the coronavirus pandemic hit. Since last March, the airline has remained focused on the health and safety of its customers and employees.

Southwest flight attendant greets passengers during the pandemic
Southwest flight attendant greets passengers during the pandemic

Source: CNN

While the pandemic was a major blow to Southwest’s operation, the carrier has continued to grow with 18 new cities announced in 2020.

Passengers board Southwest flight during covid-19
Passengers board Southwest flight during covid-19

Source: Southwest

Today, Southwest is the country’s largest domestic carrier and continues to bring low fares to its customers.

Southwest Heart One
Southwest Heart One

Source: Southwest

Read the original article on Business Insider

I traveled on the UK’s second-biggest Metro, which rivals London’s famous Tube. The best part was that the $7.50 all-day ticket also included unlimited travel on a ferry.

Metro North East England Newcastle Sunderland
The Tyne and Wear Metro.

  • I spent a day traveling round on the UK’s second-biggest Metro system in North East England.
  • My $7.50 ticket included unlimited travel between all 60 stations, plus access to a ferry, too.
  • Services weren’t as regular as the Tube, but it seemed cleaner and less crowded.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Everyone’s heard of the UK’s biggest metro system – London Underground, known by many as just the Tube.

London Underground Tube
The London Underground.

But not as many people know about the second biggest, the Tyne and Wear Metro, an overground and underground light rail system in the North East of England.

Metro North East England Newcastle Sunderland

Sources: The Railway Hub, Nexus

It transported its first passengers in 1980, and now has around 48 miles of track, making it just a fifth of the size of the Tube.

Metro North East England Newcastle Sunderland

Source: The Railway Hub, Nexus spokesperson

It connects the cities of Newcastle and Sunderland with other towns, the coast, and even an airport through a network of 60 stations.

Metro North East England Newcastle Sunderland
Navigating the system.

It’s really distinctive, too, with its vivid yellow and black color scheme that’s used for its trains, signs, and tickets.

Metro North East England Newcastle Sunderland

I decided to spend a day traveling round on the Metro to see how it stacks up to other urban public transport systems.

Metro North East England Newcastle Sunderland

I bought an Adult DaySaver. For just £5.40 ($7.50) this got me unlimited travel across the entire network – and access to a ferry.

Tyne
A DaySaver ticket allows keen travelers to cover a lot of ground

Unlike The Tube, both the track and the stations of the Tyne and Wear Metro are mainly overground.

Metro North East England Newcastle Sunderland

The underground parts are mainly parts right in the city centers.

Metro North East England Newcastle Sunderland

Like on other subway services, the underground stations have really long escalators to take you back to ground level.

Metro North East England Newcastle Sunderland

The Metro takes passengers over two rivers, the Wear and the Tyne. This is the Metro bridge that takes you over the Wear in Sunderland …

Metro North East England Newcastle Sunderland

… while the blue bridge in the foreground here takes you over the Tyne between Newcastle and Gateshead.

Newcastle bridges

I enjoyed looking through the window on my journey …

Metro North East England Newcastle Sunderland

… including views of the cities from angles you don’t usually get to see.

Metro North East England Newcastle Sunderland

I got to see some pretty interesting stations, too. There was a really broad mix of styles.

Metro North East England Newcastle Sunderland

Some of the stations weren’t very exciting …

Metro North East England Newcastle Sunderland

… but three of the stations were located really close to sports stadiums. The Stadium of Light Metro station was painted in the colors of Sunderland Football Club …

Metro North East England Newcastle Sunderland

… while the St James station was themed around Newcastle United Football Club.

Newcastle St James metro st

Sunderland University had its own Metro station, too.

Metro North East England Newcastle Sunderland

One of the stops I got off at was South Shields, which lies at the mouth of the River Tyne, to take the ferry to North Shields.

Metro North East England Newcastle Sunderland

The ferry terminal was about a five-minute walk from the Metro station.

Metro North East England Newcastle Sunderland

The ferries run every 30 minutes in each direction, but luckily I arrived just as one was about to leave.

Metro North East England Newcastle Sunderland

The journey only took seven minutes. In the car it’s about 20 minutes because you have to drive further inland to the nearest bridge to cross the Tyne.

Metro North East England Newcastle Sunderland

I enjoyed the journey, though it did make me a little seasick. There was loads of seating and most of it had great views thanks to the big windows on all sides.

Metro North East England Newcastle Sunderland

Travel on the ferry is included with both single and DaySaver all-zone Metro tickets. But you can also buy a single ticket just for the ferry for £1.90 ($2.60).

Metro North East England Newcastle Sunderland

Source: Nexus

Like in South Shields, there was a walk of around five minutes from the ferry terminal to North Shields Metro station for the next leg of the journey.

Metro North East England Newcastle Sunderland

The Metro carriages were surprisingly clean for public transport. Though there were no trash cans onboard, the only litter I really spotted was old newspapers people had left on the seats for other travelers.

Metro North East England Newcastle Sunderland

I took my trip during the morning and early afternoon of a Tuesday during the school vacation. There weren’t many other passengers …

Metro North East England Newcastle Sunderland

… though it picked up a bit at around lunchtime.

Metro North East England Newcastle Sunderland

Nexus, which operates the Tyne and Wear Metro, mandates that passengers wear face masks, though a lot of people didn’t wear them.

Metro North East England Newcastle Sunderland

Source: Nexus

In comparison to the Tube’s 11 lines taking passengers across London, the Tyne and Wear Metro has just two lines. This made it really easy to navigate.

Metro North East England Newcastle Sunderland

The services certainly weren’t as frequent as on the Tube.

Metro North East England Newcastle Sunderland

At the stop called Central, where Newcastle’s train station is located and which sits on the overlap between the two lines, around 30 Metros pass through per hour at peak times.

Metro North East England Newcastle Sunderland

Source: Nexus

Overall, the Metro isn’t as quick or as bustling as the Tube – but it’s a little cheaper, cleaner, and has flat rates that cover both on- and off-peak times.

And with its black and yellow color scheme, it’s become an iconic part of daily life for many across the Tyne and Wear region.

Metro North East England Newcastle Sunderland
Read the original article on Business Insider

More international airlines are banning cloth masks on flights in favor of medical and surgical masks

Frenchbee flight attendant wearing a surgical mask onboard
Frenchbee flight attendant wearing a surgical mask onboard

  • International airlines are starting to require passengers to wear surgical masks over medical masks onboard.
  • According to one study, surgical masks “offer substantially higher filtration efficiencies”.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

More international airlines are starting to require surgical masks over cloth masks.

In August, Finland national carrier Finnair became the latest airline to require passengers to wear surgical masks on board, joining Lufthansa, Frenchbee, Air France, LATAM, Swiss, and Croatia Airlines.

Finnair said on its website: “Please note that we do not accept masks made of fabric, face shields, masks with a valve or scarves used as a mask, as they allow air to escape and do not provide comparable protection.”

Acceptable masks are surgical, valveless FFP2 or FFP3, N95, or equivalent, according to the airline.

A study conducted by the University of Waterloo in Canada and published in the Physics of Fluids journal determined medical-grade N95 and equivalent masks better protect against COVID-19.

While some international carriers are mandating surgical masks, no US airline has implemented the policy, and the CDC has not banned cloth masks in its mask guidance. According to the agency, cloth masks are acceptable as long as they are double-layered, tightly woven without punctures or holes, and fit snugly around the face.

However, some carriers do ban certain types of face coverings, like scarves or masks with vents or valves. For example, Delta, Spirit, Hawaiian, Frontier, United, and American do not allow bandanas to be used in lieu of a double-layered face covering or surgical mask, according to each company’s policy.

Getting passengers to comply with face mask requirements has been a challenge for airlines since the start of the pandemic, which has led some carriers to ban customers who do not comply. Last week, two JetBlue passengers caused chaos on a flight when they refused to mask up, forcing the airline to ban them from flying the carrier again.

In the US, the choice between wearing a medical-grade, surgical, or cloth mask is ultimately up to the traveler, though research suggests transmission on aircraft is rare. Last Wednesday, a published peer-reviewed study conducted by Delta Air Lines revealed the risk of COVID-19 transmission on aircraft where all passengers test negative within 72 hours is less than 0.1%.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Private companies are exploiting international travelers with outrageous COVID-19 testing costs

Visitors at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu, Hawaii, enter the state after the new pre-travel testing program launched.
Visitors at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu, Hawaii, enter the state after the new pre-travel testing program launched.

  • Testing for my family of four to travel from the UK to Spain cost £550, or $762.
  • There is no reason that testing needs to cost this much, especially when there are free at-home tests available.
  • Private companies are jacking up prices, making overseas travel out of reach for many.
  • Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a freelance writer, journalist and editor based in the UK.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

PCR testing has emerged as a multi-billion dollar industry, and the UK is the world’s second most expensive place for COVID travel tests, behind only the US. With extortionate prices for PCR tests, overseas holidays were pushed off-limits for many UK families this year, making trips abroad a luxury of the better off.

Determined to visit our ramshackle old farmhouse in the Andalusian mountains in Spain where myself, my husband, and our two boys lived for the better part of a decade, we had no choice but to pay the exorbitant expense of COVID travel testing.

The compulsory testing equated to an additional £550 ($762) on top of the cost of the holiday, and the sum would have been significantly higher if myself and my husband had not been fully vaccinated. The Spanish government requires all arrivals to Spain from Britain to show a negative PCR test taken within 72 prior to arrival, or proof of full vaccination – our unvaccinated teenage sons had to have a PCR test before leaving the UK at the cost of £70 ($97) each.

The majority of the COVID testing budget was spent on re-entering Britain, where a compulsory day two test administered by Randox – hailed as the UK’s largest COVID-19 PCR testing provider – cost us £240 ($332).

This was on top of the 160 euros we had to pay just a couple of days earlier to acquire a negative COVID antigen test certificate in order to leave Spain. This nasal swab test, like the rapid ‘self tests’ that are provided for free for domestic use in Britain, doesn’t have to be sent off to a laboratory and provides results within 30 minutes. The tests were administered by a doctor in a private clinic in our local Spanish town.

At one level, some may argue that charging for COVID testing to travel is not unreasonable. If people choose to travel abroad during these precarious times, they should be charged accordingly, and should bear in mind the additional cost of PCR tests before booking their holidays – a “you’ve made your bed, now lie in it” attitude.

However, rather than merely being a matter of choice that comes with additional financial burden, excessive COVID travel costs symbolize escalating inequality in the wake of the pandemic. As many private firms enjoy a COVID windfall, making huge profits on testing, the less wealthy are forced to forgo holidays abroad as travel becomes something only the rich can afford.

The ‘cheaper’ tests are unavailable

Others who took the plunge and travelled overseas this summer cite similar grievances about the cost of testing. Paula Kowalska recently returned from travelling to an “amber” country – a nation sandwiched between the “safe” green countries that require no quarantine regardless of vaccination status and the “high-risk” red countries on the UK government’s travel traffic light system. Kowalska said she was shocked to find the tests she had bought less than a month ago for £35 were no longer available, replaced by ones that cost £60-£70.

“The government website advises the availability of £20 tests. However, these are so limited they are never available or are available by appointment only in certain locations, with 4 or 5 slots a day only,” she told me.

And yet, COVID testing for travel purposes in certain countries is significantly cheaper and, in some instances, free – indicating that there are bigger issues at play.

A friend of mine, who has dual Czech and British citizenship, recently travelled back to Britain from the Czech Republic. The COVID test she was required to take before leaving the Czech Republic and re-entering Britain was offered for free since she was a Czech citizen.

Some nations are even using COVID tests for travel as a political tool. France offered free COVID tests for tourists. However, as of July 7, 2021, the French government decided to make tourists pay for tests, stating it was about “reciprocity,” since French tourists are required to pay for tests abroad. When they want to, nations can and are providing free COVID testing for travellers, so what gives in the UK?

Blatant profiteering

To shed light on the contentious cost of COVID tests for travel, I spoke to Hussain Abdeh, director at Medicine Direct, a UK-based online pharmacy.

Abdeh explained how any medical product that is sold in the UK needs to meet certain regulatory standards.

“Simply put, all PCR tests that are available in the UK meet the same standards of accuracy regardless of the prices they are sold for,” Abdeh said.

He explained the possible origins of pricing differences, saying it could be due to different manufacturing costs or wholesale costs. But this is problematic given that, as Abdeh pointed out to me, usually we would see bigger brands like Boots and Lloyds offering the cheapest prices, due to their buying power and discounts. This, however, is not the case with PCR tests, as Boots seem to be one of the most expensive on the UK market, currently at £79.

“However, with that said, the UK is allowing travel from some countries that offer a free PCR testing service such as Germany and Italy. This tells me that the free PCR testing services being offered by those countries also meet the standards for PCR tests that have been implemented in the UK,” Abdeh told me.

The inconsistency in costs suggests an incentive of profiteering is at play.

The UK’s “test to travel” scheme has prompted concerns about Tory cronyism – whereby Conservative Party officials grant contracts to donors and connections so they can profit from the crisis.

Some of the private firms that are milking the PCR travel test market, like the Northern Ireland-based firm Randox, have links to members of the UK Conservative party. In April, Randox proudly asserted it was “supporting UK holidaymakers by reducing the cost of PCR tests to support travel to £60 per test” – again proving that the costs of tests don’t need to be as high as they are.

In November 2020, without any competition, the UK government awarded Randox, whose testing kits were recalled in the summer of 2020 because of concerns about contamination, a £347 million COVID testing contract.

Despite being awarded nearly half a billion pounds in taxpayer money, Randox continues to privately charge citizens from £86 for a travel test-at-home kit consisting of a pre-departure PCR test, a day two PCR test, and a travel certificate.

New rules confirm prices don’t need to be so high

When I reached out to the Department of Health and Social Care for commentary on the cost of COVID travel tests, they stated:

“Our top priority has always been protecting the public and the robust border and testing regime we have in place is helping minimise the risk of new variants coming into the UK.

We are reviewing all private providers to ensure they meet our robust standards and over 80 private travel testing companies have been issued a two-strike warning for inaccurate pricing and face removal from the gov.uk list if they do so again.”

On September 17, a major update on international travel rules in England was announced. New lighter testing requirements are being introduced as the government seeks to give the struggling travel sector a boost ahead of state support coming to an end this month. The overhaul means that as of October 4, people who have had two jabs will no longer need to take a COVID test before entering England. Later in October, the day two PCR tests will be able to be replaced with cheaper lateral flow tests.

For me, the scrapping of expensive test requirements and complicated travel arrangements, following months of outrage from the tourism sector and travelers, is yet more proof of the profiteering out of travel tests that has been going on for months.

It’s not like the changes are being made due to the virus shrinking. On the contrary, studies show that for some weeks now there has been a worrying waning of immunity as confirmed cases rise.

Choosing the scrap pricey tests after the summer holiday rush, as doctors warn that the country is heading to a “knife-edge” winter for the NHS, shows that the testing was fundamentally used as a means of profit from the start.

And, for families who had to forgo a holiday this year due to unfeasible additional costs, the costs are a stark exemplar at the new societal inequalities created by policy response to the pandemic.

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