General

Category Archives for General.

Duty Free at Baghdad International Airport

Via Brad DeLong, Iraq’s transportation minister has ordered a ban on alcohol sales at Baghdad International Airport. The airport’s duty-free shop is not complying, in spite of threats to have their $800,000 inventory destroyed. Alcohol makes up 85% of duty free sales at the airport. Oddly enough, the decision to ban alcohol is influenced by how it would look to the outside world. Jabiri expressed concern about Iraq’s image if alcohol continues to be sold. “And this could corrupt the employees also,” he said. “Foreign travelers might not even realize this is an Islamic country when they see alcohol in the airport.” Oh, yeah, if we didn’t go to war in Iraq because of weapons of mass destruction that didn’t exist, it must have been to create a secular, democratic state in the Middle East…

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Frequent Flyer Miles as Debt in Need of Devaluation

Tim Harford asks what would be the best way for frequent flyer program to devalue their currency? Last year I explained why a devaluation is inevitable, and why that doesn’t mean you should stop collecting miles. The simplistic version of the problem is too many miles chasing too few seats. Problems have been exascerbated the last couple of years as airlines pulled down capacity. Now, with flights running especially full, getting a nominally free seat can be tough. Award redemption (at least at the usual mileage pricing) is predicated on giving away only those seats that are likely to go unsold. That pot of inventory isn’t growing, but mileages balances are. Given the need for devaluation, how should airlines do it? The first option Harford gives is rejected, but not strongly enough: Airlines could simply…

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To boldy go…

Boldly going where another travel site has gone before, SideStep has brought on Patrick Stewart as its spokesman. In the online travel world, one of the biggest battles for new customers has come down to this: Captain Kirk vs. Captain Picard. Patrick Stewart, who played Captain Picard on “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” is the new company spokesman for travel search engine SideStep. That’s a direct challenge to rival Priceline.com, whose ads have long featured William Shatner, Captain Kirk on the original “Star Trek.” (Via Tripso Daily.)

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Junk fees

We all have certain fees that travel providers charge which drive us up the wall, usually because they offer an explanation that’s especially absurd. I’m usually bothered by award ‘expedite fees’, a charge that some airlines impose for issuing an electornic award ticket within a certain number of days of travel. I’m similarly bothered by hotel resort fees (just include it in your room rate!) and charges for ticketing at the airport when that’s the only option available, such as issuing an open-jaw award on United for someone with a different last name (since it can’t be done online and if it isn’t, it must be signed for in person). Perhaps the most offensive, albeit small, fee I’ve heard of was recently reported at Flyertalk.com. Apparently American Airlines is now charging $3 to e-mail a…

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A pillow to rest on

Probably the best marketing bang for the buck in hotel history was Westin’s introduction of the Heavenly Bed. Travelers came to trust the brand to provide them with a good night’s sleep. A more recent trend in hotels is paying attention not just to the best but to the pillow in particular. The trend started at the Benjamin hotel in New York and has spread, there’s now a recognition that people sleep differently and different types of pillows can enhance or detract from a night’s sleep. The New York Times piece on the subject could have been made really useful with an added discussion on what pillows best match which sleep habits, a subject about which I know little. I understand the entire bed effect, and while I like the Westin Heavenly Bed I find…

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A new wrinkle in the debate over daylight savings

Airlines oppose the move to extend daylight savings time to March and November because if the rest of the world doesn’t go along the timing of their flights will be out of sync with limited landing slots in foreign airports. One estimate I’ve seen is that this will cost US airlines more than $170 million per year, though I presume the figure is somewhat self-serving and likely lower in reality. Perhaps the cost argument isn’t the only place to focus. Tyler Cowen asks whether daylight savings time is dangerous, because the moving the clock forward is equivalent to imposing a mild case of jetlag on the whole country. Some data suggests that automobile accidents go up after the change to clocks, although the data is far from conclusive (Tyler observes a lack of data on…

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Multilevel Marketing for Credit Card Rewards

Colloquy reports on a new program in the United Arab Emirates where cutomers receive a 1% rebate on their spending and a 1% rebate on the spending of everyone they refer for the credit card. I haven’t seen anything like this in the U.S. (though there are certainly one-time referral bonuses for getting someone to sign up for a card) but I certainly expect to.

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Be careful whom you trust

USA Today reports on bloggers on the payroll of government tourist bureaus. Blogs tend to criticize other blogs, and many blogs permit comments (my current technical difficulties notwithstanding) so the blog’s culture of critique should limit the harm from this. Blog content should stand on its own, regardless of funding. But be aware of potential shading, influenced by financing of blogs. This isn’t new, surprising, or all that different from traditional travel writers whose perspectives may be colored by the advertisers at their publications or the free trips and upgrades handed out by travel providers. It’s always worthwhile using a skeptical eye towards travel writers. I want to know, though, how to get my hands on some of this money — then you could hermaneut my own writing all you want!

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Travel and weirdos

Tyler Cowen wonders whether airplanes make weird people seem less weird. More broadly, travel brings different types of people together and that kind of mixing tears down frames of reference that allow people to judge others weird. If his hypothesis is correct, he then wonders Does this mean that weird men are more likely to have foreign wives?

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Wedding Crashers

Last night I saw Wedding Crashers. I don’t usually comment on movies here, but the opening scene features Dwight Yoakam and Rebecca DeMornay fighting over Yoakam’s frequent flyer miles in their divorce settlement conference. This was a raunchy, funny movie. Senator John McCain with a very brief appearance in the film has been all over the media, getting asked why he’s in this kind of movie when he spends his time railing against Hollywood for producing just this kind of product? The answer, which he won’t give, is that he’s a cynical politician who exploits anti-Hollywood sentiment but frankly enjoys these movies. Maybe McCain is a Straussian after all. While funny and creative, the opening of the film was absolutely brilliant taking the main characters through a series of different ethnic weddings each one funnier…

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