Mueller, Rosenstein, and Trump’s Legal Liabilities
Jeffrey Toobin joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss the latest developments in the Mueller investigation and President Trump’s changing legal strategy.
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May 3, 2018 at 09:14PM
The EU Is Giving Away Free Train Tickets to European Teens
“It’s not getting from A to B,” American novelist David Balducci once said. “It’s not the beginning or the destination that counts. It’s the ride in between… This train is alive with things that should be seen and heard. It’s a living, breathing something – you just have to want to learn its rhythm.”
Traveling across Europe is a coming-of-age fantasy for people across the globe – and the Interrail is the ticket to why so many European youth get to take such a trip.
Created in 1972 as a unique train travel pass designed specifically for youth, the Interrail Pass puts borderless train travel in the reach of a quarter-million European youth each year, allowing them to visit up to 30 European countries with just a single ticket. The Interrail program is the result of partnerships between more than 35 European railway and ferry companies, and costs just more than $600 – until today, that is.
The DiscoverEU project, launched Thursday by the European People’s Party, announced that it will give away 15,000 free Interrail passes this summer with the aim of giving EU teens a stronger understanding of what it means to be European.
The program offers a free Interrail pass for winning nationals of the 28 EU member states over the age of 18, either via individual application, or in groups of up to five travelers. Among other submission requirements, applicants will have to complete a quiz on EU heritage, culture and current affairs as part of the screening process. Online applications will be accepted between June 12-26, 2018, with winners notified in early July. Winning applicants will receive an Interrail ticket valid for between 1 to 30 days, which will depart from one of the 28 EU member states between July and September 2018, passing through at least one and up to four cross-border destinations. Travelers must visit at least one European Cultural Heritage site, and serve as an ambassador for DiscoverEU by reporting on their travel experiences via social media. They must also make their pictures available for the DiscoverEU anniversary photo exhibition at the European Parliament.
“There is more to this proposal than free train tickets,” said Manfred Weber, chairman of the European People’s Party Group. “It is an investment in young people and in Europe’s future. It reinforces the main aim of the European Union: to bring people together. We want young Europeans to discover the EU is also about emotions, not just politics. We want to give them a taste of what it feels like, not only to be Slovak, German or Greek, but also European. And what better way than by taking the train?”
The project is the brainchild of two German men: Martin Speer, 31, and Vincent-Immanuel Herr, 29. Speer and Herr came up with the idea four years ago, convinced that “the European idea depends on the continent’s citizens interacting with each other.” Their idea resulted in a change.org petition that has garnered nearly 40,000 signatures as of the time of this post and was met with majority support in the European Parliament in 2016.
Weber’s vision for European youth goes beyond just the initial 15,000 Interrail tickets currently available in the initial phase of the DiscoverEU project. In a heartfelt statement on the project website, Weber shared his own experience of discovering his greater continental ties:
“I want one [train ticket] for every European turning 18. When I was a young student, I just couldn’t wait to visit the European places I had read so much about but never seen. On my travels, I came across people who were not so different to me. I also learned to appreciate the little quirks that made them British, Italian, Spanish… I felt my mind broaden in ways I could not have imagined. I felt European. And I still need your help if I’m going to persuade the EU to offer every single European the chance to experience this too, to make new friends from all over Europe and feel a common European identity.”
Weber’s appeal for help no doubt has to do with finances: The European Union allocated $14 million in taxpayer funds toward DiscoverEU on March 1, with a goal of sending up to 30,000 18-year-olds across the continent for free. If the first phase goes well this year, and the next seven-year EU budget plans are approved, the DiscoverEU budget could dedicate a total of $120 million per year for up to 200,000 teenagers the ability to explore Europe cost-free.
“It starts this year and this is just the beginning,” Weber said. “It will show the European people that the European Union is much more than a law-making machine.”
Featured photo by PYMCA/UIG via Getty Images.
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May 3, 2018 at 09:01PM
Southwest Will Fly Routes Between Hawaii Islands in Major Challenge to Hawaiian Airlines
Southwest Airlines has rarely followed the U.S. airline pack, and its new flights to Hawaii will be no exception.
America’s largest low-cost-carrier confirmed Thursday it intends to fly routes within the Hawaiian islands at some point after regulators approve its plans to fly from four California airports to Honolulu, Maui, Kona, and Lihue. Southwest would challenge the near-monopoly Hawaiian Airlines has on short-haul flights between islands. But it’s early yet, and since Southwest hasn’t said which routes it will fly, it’s not clear how much of an effect the move will have on Hawaiian Airlines.
Southwest also said Thursday for the first time that its initial transpacific flights will come from Oakland, San Diego, San Jose, and Sacramento, though it did not share which airports would get what routes. It said tickets for the longer flights should go on sale later this year, but Southwest still needs clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration before it can launch the long over-water routes.
Within the Continental United States, the five-or-six hours flights across the Pacific will attract most of the attention among travelers. Southwest’s new flights could result in a fare war, with established carriers discounting to protect their market share.
But as a business move, Southwest’s decision to add flights within Hawaii is more interesting. For the past decade, since Aloha Airlines went out of business in 2008, Hawaiian Airlines has had a near-monopoly on interisland flights. Often, those flights are filled with commuters and other Hawaii residents who need to fly from one island to another for business or personal reasons. United Airlines, American Airlines and Delta Air Lines often also put their passengers on those flights, allowing their customers to reach smaller airports they do not serve.
Southwest had hinted it wanted to add the interisland flights but its decision still comes as as a slight surprise. Other airlines have tried to challenge Hawaiian on short routes in the past, only to pull out when they could not compete profitably. Southwest has better name recognition than previous entrants — an Arizona-based regional airline called Mesa Air Group created an airline called called Go! that operated in Hawaii from 2006-14 — but even for Southwest, there’s no guarantee this will work. Hawaiian has considerable brand recognition and decades of history.
Hawaiian Airlines did not immediately have a comment about Southwest’s move. In a report, Stifel analyst Joseph DeNardi called Southwest’s announcement “an incremental negative” for Hawaiian, but noted Southwest hasn’t said anything yet about what routes it will fly or how often it will fly them. If Southwest offers a limited schedule, he said, the effect on Hawaiian could be minimal.
“We continue to see Hawaiian as having a competitive advantage over peers in serving the market of Hawaii but [it is] likely to see increasing competition over the next 12-24 months,” DeNardi said.
Southwest President Tom Nealon told the Pacific Business News the airline would first focus on longer routes before adding short-haul service. “We will start interisland service once we build up our network and have enough frequency to make it meaningful,” he said. That might happen as soon as the end of 2019, he added.
Photo Credit: Southwest Airlines will fly routes within the Hawaiian Islands. Pictured is a Boeing 737 Max, an aircraft the airline plans to use to Hawaii long-term. Southwest Airlines
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May 3, 2018 at 08:38PM
Could These Restraints Help Curb the Rising Number of Violent Incidents on Planes?
In 2017, airlines reported that there were fewer unruly passengers on flights than in previous years. There’s a caveat, however. Those who acted unruly on board were more violent than in the past, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
Total Resolve, a conflict consulting agency in Britain founded by former police officers, developed a passenger restraint system that makes it easier for airline crew members to restrain unruly passengers and reduce the risk of injury. The company developed the restraint system after receiving input from British Airways that the restraints they had on their aircraft were too complex.
Airlines take different approaches for managing unruly customers — from “hands off” policies to physical restraints. British Airways has plans to launch the restraint system on long-haul flights when diverting the plane is not possible and restraining an out-of-control passenger is the only option.
Total Resolve is working to minimize the risks of managing violent passenger behavior. These behaviors can be amplified on aircraft due to anything from excessive alcohol or drug consumption to mental health issues, air rage and the airlines’ desire to fill every seat, according to the founders of Total Resolve.
“I don’t think anyone has come up with a really good solution,” Tony Morgan, one of the founders, said to Runway Girl Network. “There is a will to deal with this, but there is also pressure.”
Total Resolve has developed several soft restraints that were built to reduce potential injuries. The Quik-Tie Soft Wrist Restraint was made so that crew and other staff can physically control and restrain aggressive passengers — it’s a less obtrusive option than traditional metal mechanical restraints. It’s made using “soft webbing straps that encircle the wrists to significantly reduce the potential risk of injury,” according to the Total Resolve website. What sets these restraints apart from other soft restraints is that this contains a three-point release buckle and will not injure the wrist or cut off blood flow.
The Quick-Belt Restraint Device is designed to reduce potential injuries. “Our device doesn’t go around the chest,” Morgan explains. “It only goes around the arm. It doesn’t form a tourniquet.” This restraint consists of one device that goes around an individual’s arms and two leg restraint Quik-Straps. Using all the straps together enables total control of an individual.
“Our focus is on providing training that enables people to deal with those kinds of high-risk situations and diffuse them; prevent them getting to that high risk. We would like to see the type of training we provide being mandatory, along with evacuation drills and first aid drills,” Morgan told Runway Girl Network.
So far, British Airways is the first and only airline to place an order for the restraints.
H/T: Runway Girl Network
Images courtesy of Total Resolve via Facebook
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May 3, 2018 at 08:37PM
Hyatt CEO: Funds for Future Growth Will Come From Real Estate Sales
When it comes to growing Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, the Chicago-based hospitality company is more or less following the lead of its hotel peers.
During the company’s first quarter 2018 earnings call Thursday, CEO Mark Hoplamazian detailed Hyatt’s plans for future growth, noting the continuation of the Hyatt’s “asset-lighter” strategy to sell off a total of $1.5 billion in real estate by 2019, as well as invest even more in the Chinese travel market.
And while other global hotel companies are also pursuing similar strategies, it’s clear that Hyatt is doing so with a distinct understanding of its unique position among its fellow publicly-traded peers.
Compared to competitors such as Marriott or Hilton, Hyatt has a relatively smaller portfolio of properties and global reach. But it’s clear that the company isn’t allowing its smaller footprint be a hindrance to growth.
Asset Lighter, But Not Completely Asset Light
When Hoplamazian first announced last fall that the company would attempt to sell $1.5 billion worth of real estate by 2019, many industry analysts read it as a sign that Hyatt would finally become the more “asset-light” company that its hotel peers have transformed into.
In the past two decades, more global hotel companies have pursued asset-light business models where they own little to no real estate. Recent examples of this include Hilton Hotels, which completed a spinoff of its real estate business in 2017, and AccorHotels, which is currently in the process of a spinoff. Even relatively smaller companies such as Red Lion Hotels Corporation are also attempting to be more asset light to compete and to grow.
For many years, however, Hyatt remained an outlier as a self-proclaimed “asset recycler,” and it appears it will remain that way going forward, according to Hoplamazian’s most recent comments.
“We did not plan to abandon the idea of recycling assets, so we do plan to sell existing assets and utilize proceeds to buy other assets,” Hoplamazian said. “Those acquisitions historically have allowed us to expand in some key markets and to acquire some really important hotels over time.”
Growth Via Acquisitions?
Like many of his fellow hotel CEOs, Wyndham Hotels CEO Geoff Ballotti included, Hoplamazian also said the company is always looking at opportunities to buy and to sell. “… We’re always in the market on the buy side and the sell side because it is the best way to stay current and be able to be responsive,” he noted.
When asked what assets Hyatt may be eyeing for possible acquisitions, Hoplamazian said the company has primarily been reviewing other hotel brands but that it’s “too early to say” anything definitive.
He did not say whether the company was continuing to look at “adjacent spaces” such as wellness or alternative accommodations, both of which Hyatt invested in heavily last year with its acquisitions of Miraval and Exhale and its stake in Oasis.
Hoplamazian also noted, however, that the company’s decision to generate $1.5 billion in real estate sales will not result in an expansion of its owned real estate portfolio, either.
If the company does pursue a growth strategy that involves buying other brands or platforms, Hyatt would — like Marriott did when it spent $13.3 billion to buy Starwood Hotels & Resorts — try to sell off any included real estate.
“Oftentimes, in order to achieve an acquisition of a brand or a platform, you have to acquire real estate with it,” Hoplamazian said. “But our commitment would be to sell down real estate as quickly as we could.”
Focusing on China
A big part of that international growth, Hoplamazian noted, will come from the Greater China region where Hyatt currently has 58 hotels which represent 10 percent of Hyatt’s global rooms. Over the next four years, Hyatt anticipates doubling its presence in China and the amount of fees it will collect from its business in the region. Today, Hyatt’s greater China hotels make up 11 percent, or $54 million, of the company’s global fee revenue.
The Chinese travel market is a particularly important one for global travel brands, not only for its domestic growth but also with regard to outbound travel thanks to a population of 1.4 million people. During the World Travel & Tourism Council conference last month, Hoplamazian spoke to Skift about the importance of the global middle class, especially in China.
“Travel and tourism revenue is growing at more than twice the rate of GDP growth in China and now comprises more than 2 percent of China’s annual GDP,” he said. “The number of domestic Chinese travelers in 2017 grew almost 13 percent from the prior year, whereas outbound travelers in 2017, of which there were over 130 million, grew 7 percent from 2016. Remarkably, this number is expected to nearly double to 250 million by 2025.”
As part of its focus on growing its business in China, Hyatt recently appointed former Starwood Hotels executive Stephen Ho to lead its business in the region.
It also signed a development franchise deal with China-based Minyoun to grow its Hyatt Place and Hyatt House select-service brands with 50 new hotels over the next five years. Similarly, companies such as Hilton and AccorHotels have also formed strategic partnerships with local Chinese hotel developers in recent years.
Hoplamazian also noted, “We are stepping up our efforts in the digital space, which is of particular importance to engaging effectively with Chinese travelers. We will be enhancing existing technology platforms and pursuing strategic partnerships in this arena while also enhancing payment options and mobile offerings and strengthening our representation within key Chinese e-commerce channels.”
Elevating digital reach in China has been a focus for a number of U.S.-based hospitality companies, many of which have had to acknowledge the widespread use of mobile payment and mobile messaging through platforms such as Tencent, Baidu, and WeChat in the region.
Marriott International, for example, recently deepened its partnership with Alibaba, which is often known as the “Amazon of China,” to launch an exclusive booking portal and enable Alipay mobile payments.
Although Hyatt sees a lot of room to grow its select-service brands in China, especially thanks to its partnership with Minyoun, Hoplamazian said the company will rely on the fact that “a lot of what we do in China is in segments that are not proliferated by local Chinese brands,” referring to the midscale and economy segment.
He added, “We believe that we have a real sweet spot in our select-service portfolio because the reputation and cachet that the Hyatt brand is associated with gives us some pricing power” in hotel average daily rate pricing.
First Quarter Earnings by the Numbers
Hoplamazian characterized the first quarter as a “very strong” one with, net income of $411 million, compared to last year’s $55 million.
Adjusted net income, however, was $40 million, which beat Wall Street estimates, but represented a drop from last year’s adjusted net income of $89 million.
System-wide revenue per available room (RevPAR) grew 4.3 percent, driven by growth in occupancy and average daily rates.
While Hoplamazian said he is “cautiously optimistic” about the remainder of the year for Hyatt’s business, R.W. Baird senior research analyst Michael Bellisario expressed optimism for the company, which he noted as a “top hotel brand pick” for its stock.
“We believe Hyatt is well positioned to outperform peers for the remainder of the year given its greater group and international exposures,” Bellisario wrote in a note to investors.
Photo Credit: The Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort is one of three properties Hyatt recently sold to Host Hotels for $1 billion. Hyatt Hotels & Resorts
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May 3, 2018 at 08:17PM
JetBlue Mosaics Can Now Make Same-Day Flight Changes Online
JetBlue offers just one elite status to its TrueBlue members, Mosaic. Mosaic status gives members perks like extra bonus points on flights, two free checked bags and complimentary alcoholic beverages.
The carrier just sent out an email notifying Mosaic members of an easier way to use its 24-hour change policy that allows flyers to switch their flights within 24 hours of departure for free.
Instead of having to call into customer service, Mosaics can now make those flight changes online or in the JetBlue app. That will save travelers a whole of time when modifying their itineraries.
The same rules still apply to changes including that the cities must stay the same and the new flight has to be on the same day as the old flight. JetBlue also waives change and cancellation fees for Mosaic members. JetBlue flyers who aren’t Mosaics can make same-day changes for $50.
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May 3, 2018 at 08:15PM
Qatar Airways Considers Loaning British Airways Widebody Jets
Qatar Airways is considering loaning planes including wide-body models to British Airways in a move that would soak up excess capacity at the Gulf carrier while easing fleet pressures at the U.K. operator as some of its own Boeing Co. 787 jets get emergency overhauls.
Qatar Air is evaluating the situation and could trim frequencies on some routes to free up aircraft for BA, whose parent IAG SA is 20 percent owned by the Mideast group, Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker said in an interview.
While Qatar Air previously loaned Airbus SE A320 jets to British Airways after a Saudi-led blockade forced it to close some Gulf routes, the transfer currently under scrutiny would be the first involving long-haul planes. Al Baker has said his company suffered a significant loss in the year through March, partly as a result of westbound flights being diverted to avoid closed airspace.
“If we have to help them due to their current predicament we will do our best, even if it means reducing some frequencies from our current network,” Al Baker said in Cardiff Wednesday after Qatar Airways began flights to the Welsh city. The company doesn’t have spare aircraft as such but there are destinations where the timetable may be “excessive,” he added.
British Airways has taken delivery of 26 787s out of an order for 42, all powered by Rolls-Royce engines stricken by design flaws that are causing parts to deteriorate quicker than planned. Regulators have ordered extra shop visits for the model and put limits on its operating envelope.
Al Baker said Boeing’s new 777X aircraft, of which Qatar will be one of the first recipients, is currently running about two months behind schedule, while suggesting the model should still meet targets for its first flight and delivery.
“There’s a small slippage but I’m sure that it’s so small that they will catch up,” he said, adding that General Electric Co. has provided assurances that development of the plane’s engines is proceeding as planned.
Qatar Airways will back IAG if chief Willie Walsh decides to go ahead with a bid for Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA, Al Baker said, adding that he’s confident that will happen only after the London-based group has conducted very extensive due diligence. Qatar has no seat on IAG’s board and “doesn’t interfere” in its affairs, the CEO said. His airline won’t itself be investing in Norwegian, he said.
The executive said that while his company is not currently looking at increasing its stake in IAG, it doesn’t rule out doing so in the future. “If there is an opportunity, that there is still a place for foreign ownership, Qatar Airways has such high confidence in IAG that we wouldn’t mind going higher,” he said.
A 9.99 percent holding in Cathay Pacific won’t now be increased, he added.
Among other investments, Meridiana SpA, renamed Air Italy, will have five Airbus A330s and eight Boeing Co. 737 Max aircraft by the year’s end, the CEO said. Qatar Air has a 49 percent stake in the carrier which it’s seeking to set up as a rival to Alitalia SpA, whose restructuring has been delayed.
Plans to establish a carrier in India, the fastest-growing aviation market, remain “on the radar,” but the airline has encountered “mixed signals” from authorities, having earlier got the green light to move forward, Al Baker said.
Qatar Air is also carrying out due diligence for the acquisition of a 25 percent stake in Moscow’s Vnukovo airport. The move would mark the carrier’s first investment beyond Doha’s Hamad airport and is attractive because the Russian capital’s biggest hubs, Sheremetyevo and Domodedovo, are both full, he said.
The group’s latest investment last month in U.S. charter carrier JetSuiteX, in partnership with JetBlue Airways Corp., presents a “very, very good success cocktail,” Al Baker said. The deal comes eight months after American Airlines rejected Qatar Air’s plan to take a stake, and following assurances in January that the Mideast airline won’t seek to serve the U.S. via third countries.
Al Baker said he’ll follow the route to Cardiff and the launch of flights to London Gatwick later this month with services to Belfast in Northern Ireland, giving Qatar Air seven U.K. gateways.
©2018 Bloomberg L.P.
Photo Credit: Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker is looking for creative ways to use his airline’s jets. Qatar has been hit with a blockade by other Gulf countries, and the airline’s business has suffered. Bloomberg
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May 3, 2018 at 08:03PM
An Airport Employee Fatally Stabbed a Co-Worker at Philadelphia International Airport
An airport employee fatally stabbed a coworker at Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) on Thursday morning.
The Philadelphia Police Department says the incident occurred in the airport’s Terminal E.
“Preliminary reports are stating that there was a stabbing at Gate E6 in the secure area between two employees,” Philadelphia Police told TPG. “One victim was transported to Penn Presbyterian Medical Center and pronounced dead. One male is in police custody. No passengers were involved.”
Early media reports identified the suspect as a Frontier Airlines employee. Frontier, however, says the incident was between two workers employed by Worldwide Flight Services, an aviation services contractor that serves more than 145 airports around the world.
“The Frontier Airlines family is saddened to learn about this event and our hearts go out to those touched by the tragedy,” a spokesperson for the airline told TPG. “We have reached out to WFS to assist them in any way possible as they deal with this incident.”
Frontier referred TPG to WFS for questions regarding the fatal stabbing, but a WFS representative could not be immediately reached for comment.
A Philadelphia International Airport representative referred all questions to the Philadelphia Police Department, which said the investigation is ongoing.
Featured image by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images.
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May 3, 2018 at 07:54PM
Southwest Confirms Hawaiian Interisland Flights, California Gateway Cities and Low Fares
Details of the long-awaited launch of Southwest Airlines flights to Hawaii continue to trickle out. We’ve already known that the market-disrupting, low-cost carrier would launch service to four Hawaiian airports from the mainland US — Honolulu International Airport (HNL), Lihue Airport (LIH), Kona International Airport (KOA) and Kahului Airport (OGG). Now, we know that the airline will also launch flights between the Hawaiian islands.
Southwest Airlines confirmed to Pacific Business News that it plans to launch interisland service once its Hawaiian operations are underway. The carrier confirmed that its first focus will be launching routes between California and its Hawaiian destinations. However, it will eventually begin interisland service, offering travelers a way to get between the Hawaiian islands.
On Thursday, the carrier also told Skift’s Brian Sumers that it will start flying to Hawaii from the following Californian cities: Oakland (OAK), San Diego (SAN), San Jose (SJC) and Sacramento (SMF). The exact routing has yet to be announced.
While it seems Southwest certainly has plans in place, it still must get the necessary regulatory approval in order to launch the routes. Specifically, it still needs to get Extended-range Twin-engine Operational Performance Standards (ETOPs) certification, which could take a year or longer. The carrier still is not saying how many routes it will operate and what fares will look like, though Southwest President Tom Nealon said fares will be lower than those offered by competitors, alluding to the “Southwest Effect.”
“I can’t suggest what other airline’s pricing departments will do but our fares will be lower, and what we have seen is that does tend to bring the prices down within the market,” Nealon said. “Our intent is not to foster a fare war, but we will come in and operate like Southwest has historically and successfully operated.”
The carrier still plans to sell Hawaii tickets sometime in 2018, with service to officially launch sometime later in the year or early 2019. But, don’t expect interisland Hawaii service to start right away.
“We will start interisland service once we build up our network and have enough frequency to make it meaningful,” Nealon said. He continued by saying that if the carrier is able to launch interisland service by the end of next year, it would be “an awesome accomplishment.”
Southwest’s Hawaii service will launch with its 737-800s before switching to its newest 737 MAX. While we wait for more details on Southwest’s Hawaii operations, get caught up on the aircraft that it will soon be flying to Hawaii by reading this review of the 737 MAX 8.
Featured image by Marko Stavric Photography / Getty Images.
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May 3, 2018 at 07:31PM
Grad Nites at Disneyland
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May 3, 2018 at 07:30PM