Ring in 2018 Twice in One Night With a Private Jet Flight From Sydney to Honolulu

Ring in 2018 Twice in One Night With a Private Jet Flight From Sydney to Honolulu

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Here’s your chance to ring in 2018 twice in one night — all courtesy of a private jet. Charter company PrivateFly is offering the chance to book a one-way flight from Sydney (SYD) to Honolulu (HNL) on board a Gulfstream G650ER long range private jet. But in order to celebrate New Year’s Eve twice — once in Sydney and again in Honolulu — be prepared to pay a small fortune for the trip.

Because Honolulu is 21 hours behind Sydney, PrivateFly has scheduled the flight to depart just in time to be able to fully celebrate the new year in both destinations. You’ll depart from Sydney at 2:00am local time on January 1, and arrive in Honolulu on December 31 at 3:40pm. You can charter the entire 13-seat plane for $290,000 for the nearly 10-hour flight, or make your friends pay their own way for a price tag of $22,300 per person.


Image by Gulfstream.

Once on board, you can expect to find all the necessities for a proper New Year’s Eve bash, including fine wines, an entertainment system, catering, Champagne and service from a private flight attendant. Or, if you feel the need to get a little rest after the excitement of New Year’s Eve Sydney, and then freshen up before the thrill of New Year’s Eve Honolulu, the G650ER is equipped with a double bed and digital shower.

The company offered a similar flight to ring in 2017 — however, its final destination was Los Angeles instead of Honolulu. With this year’s itinerary, you’ll get more time in Hawaii before the clock strikes midnight since you arrive at 3:40pm. So if you’ve got a few extra hundred thousand dollars burning a hole in your pocket and you’re interested in testing out what this once-in-a-lifetime celebration is like, call PrivateFly at +44 (0)20 7100 6960.

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December 29, 2017 at 03:15PM

Consider Paying Cash Rather Than Booking an Economy Award on Some Flights

Consider Paying Cash Rather Than Booking an Economy Award on Some Flights

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Points and miles can offer incredible value if used correctly, enabling everyday flyers the chance to cheaply enjoy perks normally reserved for business executives and the ultra-rich. However, if you’re not careful to value your points and miles, you could effectively be throwing your rewards away.

When it comes to the actual value of points and miles, no two award redemptions are alike. Even short-haul economy awards can deliver attractive value, particularly when booked at the last minute when fares are high.

Conversely, there are circumstances in which long-haul economy awards can be practically worthless. Even saver-level business-class redemptions can offer sub-par value in some situations. Here are some examples of potential award redemptions that could render your points almost worthless.

British Airways Economy (World Traveller) Awards

British Airways has among the highest fuel surcharges out there on award tickets. Flyers can easily pay over $1,000 in surcharges alone on some business-class and first-class redemptions.

In the back of the plane, things aren’t much better. An off-peak saver level World Traveller award using Avios is priced at 26,000 miles plus $524.66, round-trip:

Cash fares for nonstop economy flights on the same dates are as follows:

Not only would one be throwing away 26,000 points on this redemption, but you’d actually be throwing away over $150 in cash compared to the lowest economy airfare. Even fares on Virgin Atlantic and Delta, which offer what many would argue is a superior economy class experience, are in the same ballpark as British Airways economy award surcharges.

Air France Angle-Flat Business Class, New York to Paris

Air France generally offers fantastic business-class service on international flights, highlighted by the excellent reverse-herringbone seats available on the airline’s Boeing 777-300ER aircraft. There’s one exception, however, that makes for a paltry a business-class award redemption. The airline’s A380s are still (somehow) equipped with angle-flat seats.

The business class cabin aboard Air France
The business-class cabin aboard Air France’s A380 feature an outdated side-by-side angle flat seat.

Air France charges on average of about $550 in fees and surcharges on a round-trip business-class award redemption. While Air France offers what many consider to be a better overall business-class experience than boutique all-business class competitor La Compagnie, the seats on the Air France A380 are hardly a big step up from La Compagnie’s angle-flat 2-2 seating.


La Compagnie’s product isn’t that much different than the seats still installed on Air France’s Airbus A380 super jumbos.

Moreover, La Compagnie offers round-trip fare sales for as low as $1,250. More realistically, fares this spring are available starting at around $1,500, or about 125,000 Amex Membership Rewards points or Chase Ultimate Rewards points spent through a credit card travel portal (100,000 points for Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders). That means that you save absolutely nothing by booking a 125,000 round-trip award

Considering that international business class is all about the bed, it’s difficult to justify blowing $550 in this case. Note: For flyers traveling one-way, Air France fees on flights from the US to Europe are significantly lower than on the return.

Flying Blue (Air France/KLM) Economy Awards to European Hubs

While FlyingBlue doesn’t have surcharges as high as rival British Airways’, they’re enough to make redemptions a challenging proposition, even at the lowest level.

Consider a mid-January redemption on Air France, round-trip from New York (JFK) to Paris (CDG). The airline wants a total of 50,000 Flying Blue miles in economy, plus nearly $250 in fees, including taxes.

This is what it costs to spend 50,000 of your precious miles to fly to Paris in economy.
This is what it costs to spend 50,000 of your precious miles to fly to Paris in economy.

Unless you’re dying to fly Air France in economy, it’s probably not worth it — the out-of-pocket price of this award is about two Ben Franklins shy of a cash fare on a similar nonstop itinerary.

Let’s clarify the math we’re looking at here. The cash fare for this route, nonstop on a Norwegian 787 Dreamliner, is $440, given present exchange rates.

That means that 50,000 points or miles, via Flying Blue, nets $200. That calculates out to $0.004 per point. Not exactly worthless, but close enough to consider this a no-go.

European Economy Redemptions on Aeroplan

The situation with Lufthansa tickets to German cities is similar when booking via Aeroplan.

In this case, between Chicago O’Hare (ORD) and Frankfurt (FRA), 60,000 Aeroplan miles nets about a $200 USD savings (when converted presently) over a cash fare, an even worse value than Flying Blue’s offer.

Bottom Line

As fares tend to increase sharply in the days before a scheduled departure, the redemptions discussed in this article may prove more valuable in cases where last-minute decisions are being made. While European carriers aren’t the only airlines to add surcharges to award tickets, the low cash price of nonstop flights to Europe can easily render economy awards a lackluster or even negative value proposition.

It’s important, whenever booking, to consider the cash fare alternative and decide accordingly whether you’re getting reasonable value for your miles. If you need to use points, consider using a pay-with-points portal to purchase tickets at a fixed rate. In each of the above cases, paying with points would have offered far better value than overpriced, overtaxed economy awards.

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December 29, 2017 at 02:15PM

Democracy and Facts in the Age of Trump

Democracy and Facts in the Age of Trump

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As we approach the end of the first year of the Trump Presidency, how is
American democracy faring? Might political scientists offer a prognosis?
Dartmouth College’s John Carey and Brendan Nyhan, with Gretchen Helmke,
from the University of Rochester, and Susan C. Stokes, from Yale, have
been working toward one with “Bright Line Watch”—named to suggest, Carey says, that
the profession as a whole should be “monitoring boundaries that dare not
be crossed.” Since last February, they’ve been polling their colleagues
at virtually every university and college campus across the
country—there are some ten thousand political-science professors in the
United States—asking them to rank the essential attributes of democracy
and to rate America’s performance along those lines. So, what do the
professors think?

The team sent out three waves of questionnaires. The most recent one,
whose data was collected in September, constitutes the basis of the most
ambitious report, released last month. The rate of response was eleven
to sixteen per cent across the three waves—about twelve hundred scholars
on average—a significant sample, as statisticians would say, and the
responses seem reliably random. “If there was self-selection bias,” Carey
said, “it was not, as might have been suspected, university people eager
to bash the Trump piñata. The data prove more intriguing than that.”
(Carey and Nyhan are my colleagues in Dartmouth’s government
department.)

The team asked their colleagues to rank as “important to democracy”
twenty-seven statements, or “principles,” grouped in inevitably
overlapping categories, such as elections (“elections are conducted,
ballots counted, and winners determined without pervasive fraud or
manipulation”); protections (“government agencies are not used to
monitor, attack, or punish political opponents”); accountability
(“government officials do not use public office for private gain”);
institutions (“the judiciary is able to effectively limit executive
power”); and discourse, the most amorphous category, aimed at
establishing norms (“elected officials seek compromise with political
opponents”). With the third wave, the team went further, looking into
how expert opinion compared with that of ordinary citizens. They hired a
polling firm, YouGov, to give the same survey to a random group of
Americans, dividing respondents into self-identified pro- and anti-Trump
voters.

Some results are hardly surprising. Principles most easily identified
with civil liberty and electoral fair play—free speech, fraud-free
elections, equality of rights, and so forth—stand out as most important
for all groups, though experts rate them most highly, and anti-Trump
voters rank them more highly than pro-Trump supporters. It is also no surprise—and
no cause for cheer—that the experts believe that America is performing
much worse in some crucial dimensions than the Trumpists do—the most
important being “equal voting rights,” where about eighty-five per cent
of Trumpists think that America is doing just fine, and less than half
the experts do. There is a similar, vexing gap between experts and Trump
voters on “no foreign interference.”

Some results, however, were quite unexpected, especially regarding
performance. “Far from being complacent, the American public is in many
ways more alarmed than political scientists are about the health of U.S.
democracy,” the report says. “On a one-to-a-hundred scale, where one is
‘dictatorship,’ and a hundred is a ‘perfect democracy,’ the experts give
America a median result of seventy-two and the public sixty,” Carey
says. He supposes that the experts’ comparative optimism derives from
their study of the institutions that guarantee such principles: “They
can see how the judiciary checks the executive, or how press freedoms
are protected, and can see how these work well enough in America and not
at all in other countries.” The public will tend to form an opinion of
performance from an immediate and overarching sense of restiveness—of
America being, as less exacting surveys put it, “on the wrong track.”
Also telling is the fact that about two-thirds of experts are pretty
sure that government agencies “do not monitor, attack, or punish
political opponents,” while less than forty per cent of Trump voters
think so. “It all conforms with the Bannonite narrative of the ‘Deep
State’ that helped propel Trump’s campaign,” Carey says.

Courtesy Bright Line Watch

One disparity, however, is a little baffling. Ninety-five per cent of
the scholars considered various protections for the freedom of speech as
essential, yet just sixty-seven per cent thought that, in principle, it
was necessary for political leaders across the parties “to generally
share a common understanding of relevant facts.” This response is
several percentage points lower than that of Trump supporters. It is
considerably lower than that of Trump opponents, more than eighty per
cent of whom affirmed the principle. A little arithmetic, and one is
left wondering: if a third of the experts don’t think that a general
agreement on the facts is crucial to liberal democracy, what do they
suppose that freedom of speech is for?

Strictly speaking, free speech doesn’t always require a general
agreement on facts—as in, say, the freedom of religious practice. (And
non-democratic societies have protected religious license to a
considerable extent without enforcing freedom of speech.) But the
principle is meant to enable citizens to decide, through reasoned
debate, on both the kind of society they want and on how to fix its
shortcomings and failures. (In Bright Line’s first wave of
questionnaires, the principle was stated as “government leaders
recognize the validity of bureaucratic or scientific consensus about
matters of public policy.”) Leaders may interpret differently the
reasons that the top one per cent of Americans now control about
two-fifths of the nation’s wealth, while the bottom ninety per cent
control about a fifth—down a third from 1989; they may disagree about
how, or whether it is wise, to mitigate the trend toward inequality. But
democracies in which leaders would simply deny the trend are mocking
what freedom of speech was intended to achieve. So why do so many
experts seem relatively unconcerned?

That’s not an academic question, though one can imagine any number of
reasons that political scientists, especially, might overthink the
principle: doubt about the worth of a majority’s opinion, respect for
clashing frames of reference or “paradigms,” resistance to fatuous calls
for “bipartisanship,” lament over politicians and the media debasing
public rhetoric. According to Siva Vaidhyanathan, of the University of
Virginia, who is the author of the upcoming book “Anti-Social Media,”
Facebook is coming to dominate the dissemination of news and keep people
stewing in information filtered for self-reinforcing prejudices. There
are also academic schools of thought that may produce qualifications
that the study couldn’t detect: a postmodern insistence (or a
dogmatic simplification of it) that truth might be taken ironically,
skeptically, or as an act of interpretation; or residual ideas from
behaviorist psychology, which held that people reflected the facts of
their lives but could not much reflect on the facts of their lives.

More troubling, though, is the thought that the lack of concern derives
from a growing complacency regarding democracy’s origins—and its staying
power. The implicit social contract that underpins democracy didn’t come
about spontaneously. It grew steadily, first in England, as a
counterpart to the advances made by the scientists and the entrepreneurs
of the Enlightenment, which, in turn, coaxed citizens to reject both the
dogma of priests and the authority of princes. It was defended by such
practical innovators as the tableware manufacturer Josiah Wedgwood, who
was not only a champion of abolitionism but Charles Darwin’s
grandfather; and, in the American colonies, by such people as the
inventor and small businessman Benjamin Franklin. Citizens didn’t always
agree—the principle of tolerance was a tribute to inevitable differences
in perspective—but that didn’t discredit the ideal of democracy’s
reliance on facts. Indeed, self-government was only possible because
citizens could argue themselves into founding the institutions that
facilitated the changes that the facts warranted: an executive branch
limited by a legislature and an independent judiciary, justified by a study of historical abuses by monarchs, for example.
Principles of action derived from facts were, in short, what the
commonwealth had, well, in common. This process couldn’t have worked if
facts were treated as things that people just cherry-picked to justify
their prejudices. (That’s why Kellyanne Conway’s phrase “alternative facts” seems so cautionary.)

The foundational view of democracy was, and is, an idealization. Yet it
was an idealization of democracy that the Bright Line respondents were
asked to rate, and it’s worrisome to think that some of them—political
scientists whose students may become journalists, officials, and
political staff—don’t consider it a democratic ideal that facts are
viewed as something more than “the perception out there.” Just before
the study’s release, Brendan Nyhan lamented in Politico how
fragile
democratic norms are becoming under this Administration. He was
referring to time-honored injunctions against efforts to exert political
influence in the Justice Department, profiteering in office, and attacks
on the press. “These were red lines so strong that they seemed to have
the force of law, but no longer,” Nyhan wrote. He might add to the list
the respect for “relevant facts.”

The cup is still two-thirds full, of course, but this feels less
reassuring than it might have before Trump won the election. The
President just denies any fact that does not suit him. His lies seem
increasingly brazen and transparently designed to create a suspicion of
élites. (He is also marginalizing experts in government agencies from
the Environmental Protection Agency to the Department of Agriculture.)
He is waging what one observer calls “ontological warfare.” It would be
good to know that, when war is ontological, political scientists are
especially equipped to fight it. The team’s research aims to show how
the organs of our body politic might come under assault. It has also
shown what a compromised immune system looks like.

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December 29, 2017 at 02:11PM

Uber-SoftBank Deal Means Valuation Plummets to $48 Billion

Uber-SoftBank Deal Means Valuation Plummets to $48 Billion

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Paul Sakuma  / Associated Press

Dara Khosrowshahi, the CEO of Uber, attended the Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference in Sun Valley, Idaho in 2017. He’s shoring up his control of the Uber board with the SoftBank deal. Paul Sakuma / Associated Press

Skift Take: The deal with SoftBank brings Uber’s valuation down to earth although it could soar again pending a 2019 IPO. Meanwhile, the deal enables Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi to consolidate board control and it blocks the return of former boss Travis Kalanick.

— Dennis Schaal

Technology billionaire Masayoshi Son just hitched a ride with Uber. But it’s the ride-hailing company that’s starting what it hopes is a new, less-bumpy journey.

Uber Technologies Inc. shareholders agreed to sell a sizable stake in the startup to a group led by SoftBank Group Corp., adding to the already huge investments Son’s company has made in the global ride-hailing business.

The deal announced Thursday will bring new cash to Uber, prevent arch U.S. rival Lyft Inc. from dealing with SoftBank, appease some early, antsy backers and pacify a previously warring management team and board, while solidifying the leadership of Chief Executive Officer Dara Khosrowshahi.

All of that comes at a price: SoftBank and investors including Dragoneer Investment Group, Tencent Holdings Ltd. and Sequoia Capital, are buying existing Uber stock at a valuation of about $48 billion — well below the last financing round at $69 billion. SoftBank is also purchasing $1.25 billion in new preferred stock at the higher valuation. The transaction is expected to close in January, SoftBank said.

“As an investor we are pretty supportive of the deal,” said Jay Kahn, a partner at Light Street Capital Management LLC, which owns Uber shares and didn’t tender any of its stake. “It really makes SoftBank financially and strategically motivated to support Uber in every capacity. If the transaction didn’t go through, they could have allocated a significant amount of capital to Lyft.”

A series of missteps and management turmoil distracted Uber this year while helping Lyft gain market share in the U.S., boost sales and get closer to profitability. In November, Son said SoftBank might walk away if he didn’t get a good deal and shift the investment to Lyft.

With SoftBank soon to own billions of dollars of Uber shares, Son is unlikely to invest in the company’s main rival. Son has backed competing ride-hailing companies in other parts of the world, but the race is so intense in the U.S. that a similar strategy would likely backfire, Kahn said. “The key here is to create incentives not to embolden a competitor,” he added.

The transaction also gives early Uber investors a chance to cash out. Venture capital firms typically don’t like to hold investments for more than a decade because that’s when they have to return money to their own backers. Uber has been around since early 2009, and isn’t expected to go public until at least 2019, so the time is right. Benchmark, one of Uber’s largest early backers, also clashed with former CEO Travis Kalanick over how the company was run, and was a prime proponent of the governance reforms attached to the deal.

Meanwhile, SoftBank will get two seats on the board and supports the new CEO, making it clearer who’s in charge. Rajeev Misra, head of SoftBank’s $93 billion tech investment fund and a likely new board member, expressed “tremendous confidence in Uber’s leadership” in a statement on Thursday.

“A realignment of goals and objectives with new shareholders who become the dominant voice will allow a clearer path to an ultimate IPO and greater harmony on decision making at the board level,” said Ken Sawyer, who invests in late-stage startups at Saints Capital. “This was as much about governance and a re-sorting of ownership and control — in some ways even more so than an IPO would have been.”

For Son, the deal makes him the leading investor in ride-hailing businesses across the globe, with stakes in the market leaders in China, India, Southeast Asia, Brazil and the U.S. That position may help Uber be an acquirer, rather than a target, in the consolidation that’s expected.

“By holding a key stake in the largest player he can consolidate more efficiently,” Kahn said.

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

This article was written by Eric Newcomer and Alistair Barr from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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December 29, 2017 at 02:03PM

Zimbabwean Family Lingers in Limbo at Thai Airport for 2 Months

Zimbabwean Family Lingers in Limbo at Thai Airport for 2 Months

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Police Col. Cherngron Rimpadee, a spokesman for Thailand’s Immigration Bureau, said the family first tried to leave Thailand on Oct. 23.

But they did not have a valid visa for Spain, their destination, so were not allowed to board their flight. And because they had overstayed their Thai visas by five months, they were fined and banned from re-entering the country for a year, meaning they could not leave Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport.

In November, they succeeded in getting on a flight to Kiev, Ukraine, in the hope of continuing on to a third country. But on arrival in Kiev, they were denied permission to travel on. After they refused to fly to Zimbabwe, they were sent back to Bangkok.

Now, unable to enter Thailand, or to board a flight bound for a country of their own choosing, they spend their time near the G departure gates, waiting for permission to leave.

“We are stuck here,” said one of the Zimbabwean men, who did not want to be identified and would not comment further or offer details about their situation, seemingly ill-at-ease with the growing attention.

Their situation is somewhat reminiscent of the 2004 film, “The Terminal,” in which a traveler is left in limbo at Kennedy International Airport when his fictitious country’s government collapses and he is left without valid papers.

Their situation came to light on Tuesday when an airport worker posted a photo of himself with one of the children on Facebook and mentioned that the family was living at the airport.

Colonel Cherngron said it was not unusual for passengers to get stuck at an airport for a period of time. “This happens at every airport in the world, not only in Thailand,” he said.

Vivian Tan, a spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said she was aware of the case but could not provide details because of confidentiality requirements.

“We are currently exploring potential solutions,” she said.

Colonel Cherngron said that sending the family to a detention center was still an option.

“If we feel that the U.N. process is taking too long, we might consider moving them to our center, where we have a complete child-care center,” he said. “We don’t have any deadline because we know this is a complicated issue that involves different countries who also have laws and procedures.”

Continue reading the main story

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December 29, 2017 at 01:24PM

Looking Forward

Looking Forward

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RevAs is our custom, we search for a Year-End song that inspires us to be a better version of ourselves in the months ahead.

While there’s no video, John Cowan’s sublime version of “Gimme a Stone” is certainly a contender.

But, as we are a video-fueled society…on our final Music Friday of the year, I must go with Nickleback and “Edge of a Revolution.”

Somebody gimme a stone.

And, we’ll catch you again in the new year.

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December 29, 2017 at 01:03PM

Do I Need to Reapply for Global Entry If My Passport Is Lost or Stolen?

Do I Need to Reapply for Global Entry If My Passport Is Lost or Stolen?

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“Reader Questions” are answered twice a week — Mondays and Fridays — by TPG Senior Writer Julian Mark Kheel.

Global Entry is a great program that gives regular international travelers access to a fast-lane through customs and immigration when returning to the US from a trip abroad. But TPG reader Neurosci wants to know whether you have to apply for Global Entry again if you lose your passport or it’s stolen…

Do you know if I need to re-apply for Global Entry if my passport was stolen and I was issued a new passport with a different passport number?

TPG Reader Neurosci

When you’re arriving back in the United States via air, your Global Entry membership is tied to your passport. You don’t need to carry your Global Entry card — instead, you access it by scanning your passport at one of the Global Entry kiosks. So if your passport goes missing and you have to get a new one, you won’t have Global Entry attached to your replacement passport.

But there’s good news — you don’t have to apply for the program again. Instead, you can simply assign your existing membership to your new passport using the Global Entry website from the comfort of your home, just as if you had renewed an expiring passport.

The only difference is that the Global Entry website changed in October, so if you haven’t re-registered for the new version yet, you’ll need to do that first. It’s a little complicated, but you can follow the instructions in our post to make your life a bit easier. Then once you’re registered, you’ll want to navigate to your Dashboard and look for the link on the right marked “Update Documents.”

The first box on the “Update Documents” page lists your current passport information. Simply click the blue “Edit” link at the upper right corner of that box, and you’ll be able to change the info to reflect your new passport’s number and dates.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that if your passport is lost or stolen, don’t wait to report it. Stolen passports are often a source of identity theft and can be used for nefarious means, so it’s best to let the State Department and even the local police know about it as soon as possible, or at least once you’re certain it’s not going to turn up in the laundry. Do keep in mind that once you report a passport as missing, it will be immediately canceled and can’t be used again if you find it later, so make sure it’s really gone before reporting it.

So, Neurosci, while there are a few steps you’ll need to follow to get your existing Global Entry membership attached to your replacement passport, you should be able to get it done without any new applications or interviews. Thanks for the question, and if you’re a TPG reader who’d like us to answer a question of your own, tweet us at @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or email us at info@thepointsguy.com.

Featured image by Greg Blomberg/EyeEm/Getty Images.

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December 29, 2017 at 01:00PM

TPG Shares Travel Tips and Hacks on Friday’s Today Show

TPG Shares Travel Tips and Hacks on Friday’s Today Show

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2018 is right around the corner which means it’s time to start planning next year’s adventures. Are you eyeing a trip to the Maldives in an overwater villa, or heading to Norway to check out the Northern Lights? No matter where you end up, there are a few things to keep in mind — especially when it comes to your budget.

Lucky for you, our very own TPG will be appearing on NBC’s The Today Show Friday morning (December 29) at 9:00am ET to share his best tips, tricks and hacks for saving money while traveling in the new year. While we all know that points and miles are a great way to fly for free and score free nights at hotels, there are plenty of other ways to save big. Make sure to tune in and find out what you need to know before booking your next vacation:

  • How to best use Google Flights to find cheap airfare
  • How to redeem your miles for the most value, including redemptions worth more than 6 cents per point
  • Tricks for accessing the cheapest fares on an airline’s website
  • How to find award availability — even when it doesn’t seem to be there

In the meantime, check out the great tips TPG dropped on The Today Show last year.

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December 29, 2017 at 12:16PM