Want to Fix College? Admissions Aren’t the Biggest Problem

Want to Fix College? Admissions Aren’t the Biggest Problem

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The indictment last week of more than thirty clients of William Singer, the Max Bialystock of élite-college admissions, by the U.S. Attorney in Boston was, among other things, a form of de-facto federal-government support to journalism, because it gave so many people so much to write about. It wasn’t just that the details were so juicy—celebrities, rich helicopter parents and their spoiled kids, S.A.T. cheating, coaches taking bribes—but also that they seemed to confirm something that many people already feel, which is that the admissions system is deeply corrupt. Over the years, as the ratio of available slots in the very best colleges to the number of aspirants for them has become more and more insanely lopsided, and the way that the decisions are made has remained mysterious, it has become almost impossible to avoid concluding that somebody in this system is getting screwed. Maybe it’s kids from disadvantaged backgrounds, or kids who don’t fit into any of the categories that bring you special consideration, or, most likely, it’s you and people you know. Nobody seems to believe that the process is fair.

As often happens, a spectacular crime has drawn the public’s attention to a system where what’s legal and objectionable is actually much more pervasive than what’s illegal. It isn’t all that common for affluent families to cheat on admissions tests or to pay six-figure bribes, but it’s very common for them to provide their children with expensive and evidently effective coaching—for tests and other aspects of admissions—that ordinary families can’t afford, and to make over-the-table gifts to colleges from less than purely philanthropic impulses. Most coaches probably can’t be bought, but most coaches are given (in Singer’s phrase) a “side door” into the admissions office, which allows them to bypass the normal deliberative process for their favorite recruits. It may be that the Singer case will engender not just new precautions against outright criminality but also a fresh look at some of the standard practices that Singer found ways to corrupt. That would be a healthy outcome.

But it’s important not to expect too much from whatever reform this case might inspire. The idea that, hovering just over the horizon, there is some right way to do admissions, a way that all reasonable people can agree on, is an illusion. A recent Pew survey showed that the only admissions criterion that gets majority support from the public is grades, and there are far more students with perfect transcripts than there are places in the most selective colleges, so that won’t work. Athletic preferences, preferences for diversity and disadvantage, and preferences for alumni and donor children are all unpopular with people to whom they don’t apply. Like most political systems, élite admissions represents a set of compromises among interest groups, each of which is consequential enough to have got the admissions offices’ attention. There isn’t an easily achievable, politically possible fix for that.

Even if there were a way to make élite-college admissions perfectly fair, it wouldn’t do much to change the structure of opportunity in America. The institutions whose admissions processes Singer was able to corrupt—Stanford, Yale, and so on—produce more than their share of prominent adult Americans, so changes in whom they admit do make a difference. But there is no chance that any of the kids of Singer’s clients wouldn’t have been able to go to college without cheating; it’s just that they wouldn’t have been able to go to the college they cheated their way into. Taken together, all American colleges that accept fewer than a quarter of their applicants—and that’s a far less stringent standard than the Ivy League’s current seven-per-cent average rate—educate only five per cent of American undergraduates. Most American college students go to a school within fifty miles of their family’s home; three-quarters go to public colleges. The culture of obsession about getting into a selective college is wildly unrepresentative of the college experience of almost all Americans; people who live inside the culture don’t seem to realize that.

Going to college is worth it—not just in graduation-speech terms such as wisdom, values, and critical-thinking skills but financially. A college degree—any college degree—confers about a twenty-per-cent premium in lifetime earnings over a high-school diploma. A graduate degree confers another twenty per cent, and, of course, getting one requires a college degree. (I am a member of the faculty at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.) College graduates are also healthier, less likely to get divorced, and more involved in civic life. Non-college graduates who are white, and are experiencing the bad consequences of being undereducated in today’s America, are the group that Donald Trump’s promises of the restoration of lost status has seduced away from the Democratic Party. No change in whom the most selective colleges admit would have a fraction of the good effect on the country that increasing the proportion of college graduates would have.

What’s the barrier to this? It isn’t that we don’t have a big enough higher-education system. These days, about ninety per cent of young people have some interaction with college. The problem is that not enough of them graduate, and so they cannot reap the copious benefits that a degree provides. A commission of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, of which I was a member, reported that only about sixty per cent of students at four-year colleges graduate within six years. Only thirty per cent of community-college students, who are supposed to get their degrees in two years, graduate within six. There are a number of reasons for this, including students being underprepared, higher education’s long-running undervaluation of the intense personal attention that makes all the difference for students who are struggling, and years of funding cuts by state legislatures. That should not give rise to fatalism, though: a few places have shown that dedicated effort can raise graduation rates dramatically. In the majority-minority, majority-poor Georgia State University system, the graduation rate has increased by twenty percentage points in fifteen years, thanks to the advent of a new system of customized advising and tutoring.

Busting the admissions cheaters is the right thing to do, in addition to being emotionally satisfying. But it won’t change America much for the better. Anyone who wants to do that through higher education, and who focusses on élite schools, is looking in the wrong place. The right place to look is the great majority of colleges where getting in isn’t a problem. The right cause to take up is raising graduation rates. Who wins the glittering prizes gets our attention; how well the system works for most people matters a great deal more.

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March 20, 2019 at 10:56PM

Travel Advisors Are Selling Trips as a Kind of Therapy

Travel Advisors Are Selling Trips as a Kind of Therapy

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It’s not inconceivable that your travel agent could soon take the place of your doctor—particularly if the doctor you see most frequently happens to be a therapist.

A rising number of travel pros are now writing “prescriptions,” personalized vacations meant to address the questions and frustrations we feel in our daily lives. Whether that means strengthening family relationships, improving work-life balance, or curing an entrepreneurial dry spell, they’re solutions to issues that don’t individually constitute medical diagnoses but seem as ubiquitous today as the common cold.

“I’ve been traveling this way for myself for many years,” says Tom Marchant, co-founder of the luxury travel outfit Black Tomato. “The most valuable things that I’ve brought back from my travels are the lessons that I’ve been able to apply from other communities into my daily life.”

That philosophy is what has led him to create Bring it Back, a collection of mission-driven itineraries that travelers can custom-tailor based on personal goals and challenges. Among the needs that he’s hoping to help clients address: how to turn a passion into a career, how to spark creativity, or how to lead a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle.

“I constantly see people wrestling with frustrations that they need to unpack, and they just don’t feel like they have the time,” Marchant says. “There’s nothing wrong with using your travels to recharge on the beach, but they can also be a brilliant vehicle to find those answers to the fundamental questions that we all have.”

The Trips That’ll Solve Your Midlife Crises

Debuting on Wednesday, Bring it Back consists of seven trip ideas built around profound cultural experiences. Unlike with traditional vacations, guests will book them based on what they want to learn—not where they want to go.

To create a better separation between the personal and the professional, for instance, Marchant recommends Copenhagen, where travelers can meet with a variety of experts that have shaped Scandinavia’s reputation for work-life balance. To strengthen family relationships, he says Mongolia is best: There, travelers can spend time with multigenerational nomadic communities whose traditional lifestyles require youngsters to take care of their grandparents as much as the grandparents take care of the youngsters.

“It’s not about necessarily finding the right take—it’s about finding an alternative take,” says Marchant, recognizing that the same problems can be addressed differently by different cultures around the world. “We want to expose you to a different way of thinking so you can bring it into your daily life.”

Most itineraries use the client’s quest to inform each day’s activities. A six-day trip to Iceland designed to address “entrepreneurial inspiration,” for instance, includes daily lessons such as “preparing your body and mind for transformation” (through a dip in the geothermal hot springs at the Retreat at Blue Lagoon), “better utilizing your resources” (a hike with the founder of the burgeoning travel startup Into the Glacier), and “creating new opportunities from obstacles” (a day with an Icelander who almost lost everything in the Eyjafjallajökull volcano eruption—and then used the tragedy as a springboard for a now-thriving business).

The luxury trips start from $5,420 per person based on double occupancy and generally last a week, covering destinations that range from Cuba to Morocco and Ibiza. Don’t see your problem addressed on Black Tomato’s short list? The company can whip up a custom solution, though more trips will be formalized soon.

A Broader Movement

Marchant’s offering is the first formal product to promote travel-as-therapy, but others are on the same wavelength. Most notable is David Prior, who co-founded an eponymous travel membership club last fall on similar principles as Bring it Back.

“So many of our early clients came to us looking for a total reboot,” Prior says. “And our answer for that is to go way beyond the spa and the hiking vacation—to skip the five-day boot camp resorts and do something far more creative and meditative.” Learning a new skill in its place of origin, he says, is a particularly good strategy. “It’s the idea of using your hands to get out of your head.”

For one client in a creative rut, that meant traveling from Tasmania to Seville to the English countryside, learning different ways to harvest fruit and produce jam—a favorite foodstuff—in each destination. For a mother looking to connect with her teen son, it was a series of pottery and indigo-dying classes with Japanese masters.

And sometimes, it’s more of an internal journey that’s required, Prior says. For a major tech founder who needed a sabbatical, it was showing him the world through a nonbusiness lens—and shutting down Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia for the ultimate contemplative moment. And for a client who’d started to feel overwhelmingly jaded about the human condition in light of current-day politics, the prescription was a spiritual escape in Varanasi and Rajasthan, in India. Each of Prior’s trips is planned as a one-off—what he calls a personalized “travel prescription.”

“We want to send people where they’ll feel most like themselves, and identify what will be most freeing for them,” says Prior.

The Medicine You Don’t Know You Need

Marchant and Prior are ahead of a trend, albeit one in its infancy.

“Most of our clients’ travels are motivated by endangered experiences—wildlife or cultural conservation—and increasingly by a desire to contribute philanthropically to the places they visit,” says Jimmy Carroll, co-founder of Pelorus, a British-based expedition travel company. His company has a life coach on its payroll who can build programs for guests looking to spiritually reset or energize for life’s next challenges, but Carroll says demand is still nascent for this type of offering.

“We only do a handful of trips like this a year,” he says, “predominantly for younger travelers, people in their early 30s who are constantly connected. Bringing a life coach into your travels instead of your regular everyday life allows you the time to think and reflect, and that makes all the difference in terms of enacting meaningful change.”

“This is something we’re going to see as a growing motivator in travel in the next two to five years,” predicts Marchant, inspired by the increased awareness of mental health and holistic wellness.

Prior agrees. Already he works on at least a half-dozen travel prescriptions each month. “There’s a big industry around what we’re doing that hasn’t been fully tapped yet,” he says. “It’s incontrovertibly a growing market; people are increasingly wanting to use their leisure time to enrich their lives in a certain way.”

The key, Marchant says, is thinking not just like a travel agent but like a psychologist.

“Oftentimes you don’t even have the bandwidth to work out what you really need—so we’re going to help do it for you. We have to match destinations and experiences to what people are going through in their lives,” says Marchant. And this time, a pampering beach resort just won’t cut it.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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

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March 20, 2019 at 09:38PM

Deal Alert: Flights to Hawaii From $298 Round-Trip

Deal Alert: Flights to Hawaii From $298 Round-Trip

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Want to see the latest flight deals as soon as they’re published? Follow The Points Guy on Facebook and Twitter, and subscribe to text message alerts from our deals feed, @tpg_alerts.

Airfare deals are typically only available on limited dates. We recommend you use Google Flights to find dates to fly, then book through an online travel agency such as Orbitz or Expedia, which allows you to cancel flights without penalty by 11pm Eastern Time within one day of booking. However, if you’re using The Platinum Card® from American Express, you’ll need to book directly with the airline or through the Amex Travel portal to get 5x MR points. Remember: Fares may disappear quickly, so book right away and take advantage of Orbitz or Expedia’s courtesy cancellation if you’re unable to get the time away from work or family.

Tough to say if there’s a direct correlation between Southwest launching low-cost fares to Hawaii this week and widespread deals to the islands on pretty much every other North American carrier, but we’ll take it! Alaska, American, Air Canada, Delta, United and WestJet have all lowered fares to Honolulu (HNL), Maui (OGG), Kauai (LIH) and Kona (KOA), with a mind-boggling amount of cities across both the United States and Canada included on the deal.

Haleakala National Park Maui - crater hawaii view
Maui’s Haleakala National Park is calling (Photo by Darren Murph / The Points Guy)

To search, head to Google Flights and enter your origin and destination cities. Scroll through the calendar function to find dates and prices that work for you. Then, click through to book directly with the airline or through an online travel agency (OTA) like Priceline or Expedia.

Airline: Alaska, American, Air Canada, Delta, United and WestJet
Routes: Most cities in US/Canada to HNL/OGG/KOA/LIH
Cost: $298+ round-trip in basic economy
Dates: April through December 2019
Pay With: The Platinum Card® from American Express (5x on airfare booked directly with the airline), Citi Prestige Card (5x on airfare plus excellent trip delay insurance), Citi Premier Card (3x on airfare), Chase Sapphire Reserve (3x on airfare), American Express® Gold Card (3x on airfare) or Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (2x on travel)

Here are a few examples of what you can book:

San Jose (SJC) to Kauai (LIH) for $298 nonstop on Alaska via Priceline:

Houston (IAH) to Honolulu (HNL) for $465 on American via AA.com:

Santa Ana (SNA) to Honolulu (HNL) for $325 on United via United.com:

Pasco (PSC) to Kona (KOA) for $363 on Delta via Delta.com:

Baltimore (BWI) to Maui (OGG) for $429 on United via Priceline:

Once you’re booked, be sure to activate your Priority Pass membership if holding a credit card that grants it. Having lounge access throughout the journey will make life a lot more enjoyable. Also, be sure to check out our guides to defeating basic economy on American Airlines, Delta and United.

As you plan your trip to the Aloha State, dive into our guides and recommendations below.

For the latest travel news, deals and points and miles tips please subscribe to The Points Guy daily email newsletter.

Featured image by Darren Murph/The Points Guy

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March 20, 2019 at 09:34PM

Air France-KLM’s Route Expansion Is Great News For Delta Flyers

Air France-KLM’s Route Expansion Is Great News For Delta Flyers

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Air France-KLM group announced this week a staggering 58 new routes on Air France, KLM and Transavia, including long-haul jaunts between Paris (CDG) and Dallas (DFW) and Amsterdam-Schiphol (AMS) and Boston (BOS). As SkyTeam buddies, Air France, KLM and Delta are tight, so this route expansion is great news for those hoping to chase Delta status while flying to destinations that Delta itself does not serve. It’s also terrific for flyers who want to burn their SkyMiles on award seats offered by partner airlines.

Air France’s also announced a route of nearly 6,000 miles between Paris (CDG) and Quito (UIO), operated thrice weekly by an Airbus A340. KLM’s longest two additions are Amsterdam (AMS) to both Boston (BOS) and Las Vegas (LAS), which clock in at 3,457 miles and 5,355 miles, respectively. For the CDG-DFW route, Air France plans to use the same redesigned Airbus A330 that TPG Global News Editor Emily McNutt recently flew between Paris (CDG) and Houston (IAH). It will operate five times weekly through the summer season.

Air France Boeing 777 Business Class Seat LCD IFE Screen
Delta flyers can earn and redeem SkyMiles on Air France flights (Photo by Darren Murph / The Points Guy)

KLM’s service to Boston and Las Vegas will start from March 31 and June 6, respectively, while it also plans to increase its flight frequency to San Francisco (SFO) in July with an additional weekly flight (bringing it to six flights per week).

The Air France-KLM group is also boosting service to Tokyo with 2 additional flights to Tokyo-Haneda (HND) from Paris with Air France (14 weekly flights) and 3 additional flights to Tokyo-Narita (NRT) from Amsterdam with KLM (10 weekly flights). With these increased frequencies, the group is increasing capacity by 12% to Japan.


Air France’s redesigned A330 cabin is coming to more routes in 2019 (Photo by Emily McNutt / The Points Guy)

During the peak summer season, a slew of new routes will open new earning and redeeming opportunities to regions not served or severely underserved by SkyTeam until now. Destinations like Belgrade (BEG), Naples (APF), Crete (HER), Sardinia (OLB), Sicily (PMO) and Split (SPU) will gain service from Paris (CDG), while Transavia will add new Greek isles to its service from various points in Europe, including Kos (KGS), Santorini (JTR), Mykonos (JMK) and Zakynthos (ZTH).

Those considering Air France for flights to India will appreciate the redesigned A330 that will be assigned to Bangalore (BLR) and Delhi (DEL), offering 36 business class seats, 21 seats in premium economy and 167 seats in economy. And Air France will welcome its very first Airbus A350 on an undisclosed route this September, while the extended length Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner joins KLM in July.

Boosting Your SkyMiles Balance

If you’re looking to jump on one of these new routes using Delta SkyMiles, you’ll need to make sure you have a healthy balance to spend. There are a variety of ways to earn Delta miles, from Delta-operated flights to trips on SkyTeam airlines to various non-travel partners. However, one of the best ways to boost your SkyMiles balance to score a few free trips is by adding one of these cards to your arsenal:

For the latest travel news, deals and points and miles tips please subscribe to The Points Guy daily email newsletter.

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March 20, 2019 at 09:20PM

This Is Your Last Chance to See a Supermoon This Year

This Is Your Last Chance to See a Supermoon This Year

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Don’t forget to look up at the sky tonight, because the last supermoon of the year will rise this evening.

The third and final supermoon of 2019 — called the Super Worm Moon because it’s  the time of year when earthworms emerge after the long winter — follows last month’s Super Snow Moon and the Super Blood Wolf Moon in January. As far as supermoons go,  this one is even more special because it coincides with the spring equinox. This celestial timing hasn’t happened since the year 2000, according to Earthsky.org.

Supermoons occur when a full moon is at the point in its orbit when it’s closest to Earth, making it appear larger and brighter than normal. Technically, the moon actually reached its perigree (the point closest to Earth) yesterday, but it won’t be a completely full moon until tonight at 9:43pm ET, Earthsky reported. Still, the best time to see it is right at dusk.

Once it rises, you won’t need a telescope or any special equipment to admire the satellite. Just look up at the night sky and enjoy the celestial spectacle. And of course, if you happen to be on a plane tonight, be sure to snag a window seat (even if you’re more of an aisle person).

Aside from being pretty to look at, these supermoons have cultural and environmental significance, too. And you don’t have to be into astrology to believe in its effects.

“It has a bigger impact on the force of the tides than a lot of people might imagine,” Tristan Gooley, author of “The Nature Instinct” and editor of The Natural Navigator, told Forbes. “If you’re within 20 miles of the coast you’ll notice an impact on the behavior of birds and all animals.”

After this, there won’t be another supermoon until April 8, 2020. And the next time a supermoon coincides with the vernal equinox? Not until a decade later, in March 2030.

Featured photo by Nutkamol Komolvanich / Getty Images.

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March 20, 2019 at 09:15PM

You Can Buy the Seats From These Retired United 747

You Can Buy the Seats From These Retired United 747

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One of the best flights of my life was United’s final 747 journey from San Francisco to Honolulu. So I wonder what the airline’s 747-400s are up to over at their Tupelo, Mississippi retirement community.

Then, a few days ago, I saw them pop up in my Instagram feed, courtesy of aerial photographer Ryan Patterson. While I managed to photograph them from above in Victorville, California (VCV), Ryan got up close and personal on the ground.

Photo by Ryan Patterson.
Photo by Ryan Patterson.

 

Photo by Ryan Patterson.
Photo by Ryan Patterson.

Ryan went down to visit several of United’s former 747s ahead of a planned dismantling at Universal Asset Management’s Tupelo Regional Airport (TUP) facility, and was kind enough to share some of his incredible photos with TPG. (Viewer discretion is advised: AvGeeks may find the images below to be disturbing.)

Photo by Ryan Patterson.
Photo by Ryan Patterson.

The aircraft are now property of Universal Asset Management, which is working through the dismantling process. I reached out to UAM, and learned that the company is even selling seats directly to consumers — triple economy seats (like those pictured) below are available for $2,000 plus shipping (which tends to be expensive). You can email media@uaminc.com if you’re interested in buying some for yourself.

Photo by Ryan Patterson.
Photo by Ryan Patterson.

Business-class seats may be available as well, but UAM hasn’t released pricing, beyond noting that the purchase cost and shipping will probably be quite a bit more.

Photo by Ryan Patterson.
Photo by Ryan Patterson.

While some aircraft are parked with the intention of flying them again, clearly that’s not in the cards for United’s former jumbo-jet fleet. At least we’ll always have that Hawaii-bound farewell.

Photo by Ryan Patterson.
Photo by Ryan Patterson.

Featured photo by Ryan Patterson. Follow Ryan on Instagram for more of his phenomenal aerial photography.

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March 20, 2019 at 09:15PM

India’s Government May Want SpiceJet to Take Over Some of Jet Airways’ Assets

India’s Government May Want SpiceJet to Take Over Some of Jet Airways’ Assets

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India is mulling options to save jobs at Jet Airways India Ltd. including asking low-cost carrier SpiceJet Ltd. to consider taking over some of the debt-laden company’s aircraft, people with knowledge of the matter said.

The proposal involves SpiceJet, led by Chairman Ajay Singh, acquiring as many as 40 of Jet Airways’ grounded planes that are owned by lessors, one of the people said, asking not to be identified as discussions are preliminary. The government has also reached out to other carriers, the person said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is keen to avoid the collapse of an airline that employs about 23,000 people, weeks before elections. The need to save jobs at the beleaguered carrier became urgent this week after lenders led by State Bank of India failed to convince Etihad Airways PJSC, which owns 24 percent of Jet Airways, to infuse funds into the Indian carrier.

Jet Airways has amassed about $1.1 billion of debt and has fallen behind on paying loans and salaries. Once India’s second-biggest airline it has been forced to ground almost two-third of its fleet because its inability to pay lessors. Earlier today an Indian government official said they were trying to revive Jet Airways by changing its management but any decision on the carrier’s future will be a commercial decision by the lenders.

Both SpiceJet and Jet Airways operate Boeing Co.’s 737 planes making it feasible for the budget carrier to fly the aircraft. SpiceJet, which had cash of about $15 million as of Sept. 30, will initially operate a two-class configuration of business and economy under the SpiceJet brand, one of the people said. Lessors have been in discussion with SpiceJet to takeover the planes, the person said.

Operating 40 aircraft will help employ as many as 250 pilots as well as cabin crew, maintenance workers and engineers, the person said.

A representative for SpiceJet didn’t respond to an email, while a spokesman at Modi’s office declined to comment.

Singh, who is credited with turning around SpiceJet from the verge of closure in 2015, and rivals including IndiGo are potential beneficiaries of Jet grounding most of its fleet. SpiceJet surged 16.4 percent, its biggest gain in 10 months, in Mumbai on Wednesday, while InterGlobe Aviation Ltd., which runs IndiGo, jumped 7.3 percent.

Lenders to the carrier will make every effort to keep the ailing carrier in operation, State Bank of India Chairman Rajnish Kumar said in New Delhi on Wednesday after meeting Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.

“Our aim that corporate debtor which is Jet Airways should not be harmed, we are not concerned with who the promoter is,” he told reporters.

Lenders are seeking Jet Airways Chairman Naresh Goyal’s resignation and want him to reduce his stake to below 10 percent, a person familiar with the matter said. Banks will infuse 15 billion rupees as emergency fund to keep the airline afloat once Goyal resigns, the person said, asking not to be identified because the talks are not public.

Singh partnered with firms including a unit of JPMorgan Chase & Co. in 2015 to rescue SpiceJet, which he had co-founded.

–With assistance from P R Sanjai.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

This article was written by Saloni Shukla, Anto Antony and Anurag Kotoky from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Photo Credit: SpiceJet may fly as many as 40 jets that had been operated by Jet Airways. They are owned by lessors. Andrew W. Sieber

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March 20, 2019 at 09:01PM

Contestants on “The Bachelor” in an Apocalyptic Future

Contestants on “The Bachelor” in an Apocalyptic Future

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Rachel Bloom Pitches a Claymation Show About Her Boobs

The creator of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” on her television fantasy: “Because after you look at a boob talking for, like, five seconds, you’re like, click.”

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March 20, 2019 at 07:01PM

Here’s Why I Always Prebook Europe Trains

Here’s Why I Always Prebook Europe Trains

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While it can be difficult and time-consuming to travel around the continental United States, most of Europe offers high-speed trains that make travel both comfortable and efficient. You can hop a cheap Ryanair flight between European cities and reach your destination within a few hours if you want, but you can also book a train for around the same cost and avoid some of the hassle and stress of flying.

I actually love train travel — especially when we are vacationing in Europe with our kids. My two daughters are ages 7 and 9 right now, but they’ve already been on high-speed trains all around Italy, throughout Germany, and between Spain, Switzerland, and France. It’s nice to not have to deal with airport drama with the kids in tow, and trains are considerably more comfortable. My kids like to walk around a little bit, after all, and a lot of long-distance trains have a dining car where you get order coffee and snacks.

Some of my favorite travel memories with my children have actually taken place in dining cars. There’s something magical about ordering a coffee and a croissant or two and watching the beautiful European countryside go by for hours on end.

Why I Always Book Trains in Advance

A lot of people who have never traveled on trains before seem to be confused about how to book and when. There’s no right or wrong answer to fit every type of traveler. You can wait until you’re in your destination and book trains to almost anywhere you want to go to the local train station in your destination. A lot of people prefer that method since it doesn’t tie them down to departing at a specific time on a specific date. Without any trains booked ahead of time, travelers can move on to their next destination whenever they want.

Since I have kids and hate surprises, I prefer to book all my trains ahead of time. I like knowing when I’m going to depart and looking ahead to make sure my train will arrive in our new destination around check-in time for our next hotel or Airbnb.

In terms of how to book your train, the country you’re visiting will dictate which train company you ultimately book with. In Italy, for example, you can book through Trenitalia. Switzerland, on the other hand, has Swiss Federal Railways. If departing from Germany, you’ll book with Deutsche Bahn, and so on.

Why I Use Trainline.com

No matter where I’m traveling in Europe, I normally book as early as I can ahead of time with a website called Trainline. Trainline offers cheaper fares up to 51 percent off when you book far ahead of time. Better yet, they will let you book trains from multiple carriers on a single ticket.

For example, you could use the Trainline website to book train transportation from Rome, Italy to Grindelwald, Switzerland. This route would require five different trains across both Trenitalia and Swiss Federal Railways, but you can book it all through Trainline in a single transaction.

You don’t have to book your trains ahead of time, but Trainline offers a smart way to save money if you love having your travel plans laid out ahead of time.

Have you ever booked a train through Trainline? What is your favorite thing about train travel through Europe?

 

[Image Source: Wikimedia/ Jorge Láscar]

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March 20, 2019 at 06:48PM

Deal Alert: Delta Flights to Iceland From Mid-$200s

Deal Alert: Delta Flights to Iceland From Mid-$200s

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Airfare deals are typically only available on limited dates. We recommend you use Google Flights to find dates to fly, then book through an online travel agency such as Orbitz or Expedia, which allows you to cancel flights without penalty by 11pm Eastern Time within one day of booking. However, if you’re using The Platinum Card® from American Express, you’ll need to book directly with the airline or through the Amex Travel portal to get 5x MR points. Remember: Fares may disappear quickly, so book right away and take advantage of Orbitz or Expedia’s courtesy cancellation if you’re unable to get the time away from work or family.

If you’ve been waiting patiently for another deal to Iceland on a full-service carrier, now’s the time to act. Delta has lowered fares from a slew of US cities to Reykjavik (KEF), enabling you to fly to one of the world’s hottest tourist destinations while still earning elite qualifying credits toward Medallion status.

To search, head to Google Flights and enter your origin and destination cities. Scroll through the calendar function to find dates and prices that work for you. Then, click through to book directly with the airline or through an online travel agency (OTA) like Priceline or Expedia.

Airline: Delta
Routes: BWI/BOS/CLE/DTW/JFK/MCO/PIT/DCA/IAD and likely others to KEF
Cost: $270+ round-trip in basic economy
Dates: September 2019 through February 2020
Pay With: The Platinum Card® from American Express (5x on airfare booked directly with the airline), Citi Prestige Card (5x on airfare plus excellent trip delay insurance), Citi Premier Card (3x on airfare), Chase Sapphire Reserve (3x on airfare), American Express® Gold Card (3x on airfare) or Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (2x on travel)

Here are a few examples of what you can book:

Boston (BOS) to Reykjavik (KEF) for $270 round-trip on Delta via Priceline:

New York (JFK) to Reykjavik (KEF) for $285 round-trip nonstop on Delta via Priceline:

Detroit (DTW) to Reykjavik (KEF) for $278 round-trip on Delta via Priceline:

Orlando (MCO) to Reykjavik (KEF) for $338 round-trip on Delta via Priceline:

Once you’re booked, make sure you secure Delta Sky Club lounge access to make the journey there and back more comfortable. Be aware that the lowest prices are likely Basic Economy (“E”) fares, which do not allow advance seat selection. For tips on defeating Delta Basic Economy, check out our guide here.

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March 20, 2019 at 06:36PM