N.Y.C. Summer Scavenger Hunt
Cartoons by Miss Lasko-Gross show a humorous series of scavenger-hunt objectives in New York City during the summer.
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August 23, 2017 at 09:45PM
America’s Most Popular Statues
America’s Most Popular Statues
Statues honoring the Confederacy have gotten a lot of attention lately. But the statues that draw millions are largely monuments to freedom.
Three Confederate statues that the University of Texas at Austin removed this week are the latest in a string of Confederate statues being taken down around the country in the wake of the Charlottesville, Va., rally.
About 400 to 500 of these Confederate statues remain in the United States, according to Kevin R. C. Gutzman, a professor of history at Western Connecticut State University. And while they have received plenty attention recently, they are not the ones that draw the most visitors. In fact, quite a few popular statues are towering monuments to presidents and freedom.
We created a ranking of the five most popular statues in the United States based on data from three sources: Travelport, a United Kingdom-based travel technology and research firm, the National Park Service and TripAdvisor. None honor those who served in the Confederate effort to undo the United States. They’re simply an iconic part of America’s history.
1. The Lincoln Memorial
CreditZach Gibson/The New York Times
One of most famous statues in the country is linked to the Confederacy: the 19-foot-tall, 175-ton statue of President Lincoln, who tried to unite the United States during the Civil War and was assassinated by a Confederate sympathizer, sits in his memorial at the western end of the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The site drew 4.74 million visitors this July, according to the National Park Service and opened to the public in 1922. The acclaimed American sculptor Daniel Chester French designed Lincoln’s statue, which shows the 16th president of the United States overlooking the National Mall.
2. Mount Rushmore
CreditGiles Price/Institute, for The New York Times
This memorial, in Keystone, S.D., has four, 60-foot-tall statues depicting the faces of the United States presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. Construction of their faces started in 1927, and the memorial opened to the public in 1941. A South Dakota historian, Doane Robinson, came up with the idea of carving the faces of famous people into the Black Hills to draw tourists to the area, and his plan seems to have worked: 1.46 million people visited Rushmore this July, according to the National Park Service. Visitors can walk the .6 mile long, 422-step Presidential Trail to get a close view of the four presidents.
3. The Statue of Liberty
CreditVincent Tullo for The New York Times
A gift from the people of France to the United States, this 151-foot-tall copper statue (305 feet tall with the pedestal and foundation), was dedicated in October 1886 and is meant to be a symbol of freedom. The statue is on Liberty Island in the New York Harbor and can only be reached by boat; ferries to the island are available from Lower Manhattan and Liberty State Park in Jersey City, N.J. Visitors up for climbing the equivalent of 20 flights of stairs can go to the statue’s crown to see the Liberty Island Museum and views of the city. Data from the National Park Service shows that 2.6 million people visited the statue in July, and Travelport and TripAdvisor rank it as among the most popular tourist sites in the United States.
4. Christ of the Ozarks
CreditAndrea Morales for The New York Times
A nonprofit, the Elna M. Smith Foundation, commissioned the American sculptor Adrian Forrette to design this 67-foot-tall sculpture of Jesus Christ, which is inspired by the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro. Constructed of white mortar, mounted on a steel frame and welded into the side of Magnetic Mountain in Arkansas, the statue weighs two million pounds and officially opened to the public in June 1966. Because visiting the statue is free and doesn’t require a ticket, it’s hard to estimate how many annual visitors it attracts, but Carroll County, where the statue is, drew one million people in 2016, according to the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism.
CreditEmon Hassan for The New York Times
The 45-foot-tall bronze statue of the half-man, half-god Greek mythology figure Atlas is the largest sculpture at Rockefeller Center and depicts him holding a sphere above his shoulders. Two artists, Lee Lawrie and Rene Chambellan, conceived the idea for and designed the statue; the Art Deco style piece was unveiled in 1937 and weighs seven tons. Both TripAdvisor and Travelport rank Rockefeller Center as among the 10 most visited attractions in the United States.
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August 23, 2017 at 09:42PM
It’s Hard to Get Rid of a Confederate Memorial in New York City
At least one Confederate memorial in New York City has come down this
summer: a plaque memorializing a tree that Robert E. Lee planted in
Brooklyn. But several more monuments remain, and that is what inspired a
protest yesterday at Fort Hamilton, a U.S. Army base located in Bay
Ridge, Brooklyn, which has a street called General Lee Avenue and a
Stonewall Jackson Way. The protest, sponsored by Representative Yvette
Clarke, happened because it’s harder to get rid of memorials to the
Confederacy in New York than one might imagine.
“When you think about the insult, when you think about the hypocrisy,
where you have our Joint Chiefs of Staff coming out with statements in
the wake of Charlottesville to say that they don’t tolerate racial bigotry,” Clarke said, at the midday event, “for them to have their
bases named after Confederates, streets and their roadways named after
Confederates, it sends an awfully mixed signal.”
In the case of street names that memorialize Confederates in New York,
jurisdiction is an issue, especially on an Army base. The plaque that
marked the Brooklyn tree planted by Lee was on private property: the
lawn of a boarded-up Episcopal church. Its takedown was fairly
straightforward; the local Episcopal bishop had the authority to remove
it, and did so a few weeks after I called his office to ask about its
status. A tree is still there, but it is not the same tree that Lee
planted. It is a replacement tree, planted by the United Daughters of
the Confederacy, or U.D.C., the original installers of the plaque, which
commemorated Lee’s attendance at the church. The U.D.C has deep roots in
New York City, and has spent a century working to make the Confederate
generals seem less like they were part of an armed white-secessionist
movement and more like patriotic heroes of a civil, if not genteel, war.
As the rally took place yesterday, in a park adjacent to Fort Hamilton,
city police guarded the base’s gate on the city side, blocking it with
patrol cars, while the gate was guarded on the inside by Army personnel,
standing, it appeared to me, very near another U.D.C. memorial to Robert
E. Lee: a plaque on a boulder. That plaque offers details on Lee. “Then
Captain, Corps of Engineers, U.S.A. resided on this site 1841-1846,” it
says, adding, “Presented by New York Division United Daughters of the
Confederacy.” Lee, a West Point-trained engineer, was assigned to the
base in 1841, charged with improving its defenses. (He also designed the
defenses for Fort Tompkins, across the Narrows, in Staten Island.)
Stonewall Jackson arrived in 1848, just after Lee left to fight Mexico,
At the beginning of the summer, Clarke wrote to the Secretary of the
Army to ask that names of the streets be changed. The office of the
Assistant Secretary of the Army wrote back to deny the request. “The
great generals of the Civil War, Union and Confederate, are an
inextricable part of our military history,” the office wrote. “The men
in question were honored on Fort Hamilton as individuals, not as
representatives of any particular cause or ideology. After over a
century, any effort to rename memorializations on Fort Hamilton would be
controversial and divisive. This is contrary to the Nation’s original
intent in naming these streets, which was the spirit of reconciliation.”
Of course, the Army wrote that letter before the events in
Charlottesville, Virginia, this month, when the issue of
de-memorialization was not quite so front and center. But the Army’s
statement is complicated for other reasons, too. First of all, General
Lee Avenue most likely has not been there for a full hundred years. It’s
difficult to say when, precisely, the streets were named, but the base
was remodelled after the Second World War, and again in the early
nineteen-sixties, when Robert Moses built the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.
Around the time of the bridge’s construction, General Lee Avenue was
extended. As for what the Army calls “the spirit of reconciliation” that
it claims was “the Nation’s original intent,” note that the notion of
“the spirit of reconciliation” is precisely the project of the U.D.C.
and other neo-Confederate groups like it. The U.D.C., in particular,
works quietly, billing itself as apolitical, according to its 1894
constitution: “The objects and purposes of the federation shall be
social, literary, historical, monumental, benevolent and honorable in
every degree, without any political signification whatever.”
The U.D.C. began in the eighteen-nineties. It was a consolidation of
several women’s groups in the South, which began what they described as
the motherly task of remembering and commemorating the men who had
fought in the Civil War. They worked in a kind of feminine gray zone,
pushing themselves as apolitical sisters and daughters. They began by
memorializing Confederate soldiers, first in the South and then in the
North, finding and restoring Confederate flags and gravesites, and
slowly adding monuments, memorials, and hundreds of historical plaques
like the one that, until this month, marked Robert E. Lee’s tree in
Brooklyn and the one down the block that still stands at Fort Hamilton’s
gate. Over the course of decades, the U.D.C. managed to construct a
presence for its reimagined Confederacy in the American public space,
celebrating it as a legitimate cause for “freedom” and states’ rights.
U.D.C. memorialization began in Southern cities—U.D.C.’s headquarters
today is in Richmond, Virginia, which was once the capital of the
Confederacy—but pressed north: I’ve seen the group’s work as far north
as Boston, in the East, and Wisconsin, in the Midwest, and as far west
as Monterey, California. At one point, the U.D.C. was close to
memorializing its version of the Confederacy on the National Mall with
the infamous “mammy monument,” a memorial to what the group described as
“the faithful slave mammies of the South.” (A bill to build the memorial
was passed by the Senate in 1923, the same year that an anti-lynching
bill failed.) When that bill was defeated, the U.D.C. redoubled its
efforts. “After the mammy monument failed, the U.D.C. went to a fairly
aggressive campaign to memorialize the Confederacy around the country,”
the historian Craig Wilder, the author of the excellent “A Covenant with Color: Race and Social Power in Brooklyn 1636-1990,” told me. “And part of the effort was to nationalize the story of the Confederacy and to attach that narrative to the twentieth-century South, deeply rooted in a two-tier racial system and a hyper-exploitation of black labor.”
To argue that these U.D.C. memorials and monuments—and, indeed, the
project of “reconciliation”—are apolitical and not racist, or even
not controversial, is disingenuous, to put it mildly. On the other hand,
to sell that argument successfully is stark proof of the success of the
U.D.C.’s century of work: fifty-four per cent of Americans recently
polled by Reuters were for keeping the Confederate monuments in place.
Also disingenuous is the argument that New York City was an outlier for
the Confederate cause. New York was known at the outbreak of the Civil
War as the most Southern city outside of the South; in 1860, J. D. B. De
Bow, a prominent Southern slavery apologist, described New York as
“almost as dependent on Southern slavery as Charleston itself.” Among
other things, it was the financial center of the slave trade in the U.S.
After the war, the U.D.C. was known for throwing regular galas at places
like the Waldorf-Astoria to honor, for example, Jefferson Davis’s widow.
It was precisely when the North withdrew its troops from the South, in
1877, abandoning freed slaves to the race-fuelled guerrilla war of the
barely extinguished Confederacy, that Northern politicians worked hand
in hand with Southern politicians toward the “spirit of reconciliation”
to which the Army’s letter to Representative Clarke refers. The Virginia
chapter of the U.D.C. has a collection of conciliatory and even
pro-Confederacy remarks made by President Theodore
Roosevelt, a New Yorker, on a Web page that was updated just a few weeks
ago. And these sorts of pro-Confederacy remarks can also be found in the
archives of the Times, which was purchased in 1896 by Adolph Ochs, whose mother,
a U.D.C. member, was reportedly buried with a Confederate flag.
Most likely, at the time that the Robert E. Lee memorial was placed at
the gate of Fort Hamilton, the U.D.C. chapter in New York was thriving.
In 1921, Mrs. Livingston Rowe Schuyler, a New Yorker, was the first
woman born north of the Mason-Dixon Line to be named the head of the
national organization. By 1956, Desiree Williams, a past vice-president
of the U.D.C., organized the first memorial service for both sides of
the Civil War in New York, at the Cypress Hills Cemetery, a national
cemetery in Queens, where she oversaw the decoration of Confederate
graves with Confederate flags and children sang Confederate and Union
songs. “By 1957,” the Times reported, “Miss Franklin thinks, there
will be confederate flags, for all the southern dead in Cypress Hills.”
The last time I saw the Times mention a local U.D.C. was after
Hurricane Katrina, when New York-area “daughters” were collecting
emergency supplies for New Orleans residents and planning on raising
money to rebuild Jefferson Davis’s Mississippi home, which was damaged
in the storm. “In quieter times, the Daughters work to keep history
alive,” the Times wrote.
After the rally was over, I asked Clarke if her bill would address not just the names of the streets on the base but the
U.D.C. memorial to Robert E. Lee inside the Army base’s gates as well.
She told me that she thinks all the memorials to Confederates need to go
away. A man was shouting at the rally, calling everyone there “haters,”
and a policeman was about to tell me that government officials should be
worried about infrastructure, not memorials. Clarke was unfazed.
“People should not be forced to have to deal with the bigotry that
emanates from these monuments,” she said.
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August 23, 2017 at 09:24PM
U.S. Widens Mexico Travel Advisory to Cancun and Playa Del Carmen
The U.S. State Department warned its citizens about traveling to parts of Mexico, including Cancun and Playa del Carmen, as homicides rise at resorts popular with American tourists. Associated Press
— Sean O’Neill
The advisory issued on Tuesday upgraded the warnings for two states, Quintana Roo and Baja California Sur, saying turf wars between crime gangs have led to a surge in violence. The only warning for Quintana Roo in a December statement was about lack of cellular and Internet service in some areas.
The expanded travel advisory hits at the heart of a tourism industry that brings in $20 billion a year for Mexico. The state of Quintana Roo, where the resorts of Tulum and Cozumel are also located, gets 10 million tourists a year, a third of the national total. The warnings come as homicides in Mexico are set to rise to their highest since at least the turn of the century. Quintana Roo alone has seen 169 murders this year.
“Shooting incidents, in which innocent bystanders have been injured or killed, have occurred” in both states, the U.S. warned. “While most of these homicides appeared to be targeted criminal organization assassinations, turf battles between criminal groups have resulted in violent crime in areas frequented by U.S. citizens.”
While Quintana Roo’s advisory is now stricter, it isn’t included among the most dangerous spots in Mexico, where U.S. government personnel are told to defer non-essential travel. That restriction is reserved for parts of Chihuahua, Coahuila and Colima states, among others. U.S. travel warnings of differing levels exist for most Mexican states.
Business group Coparmex, which represents more than 200 hotels, restaurants and other companies in Cancun, said the advisory will likely affect bookings this winter, when Americans head to the beaches. Adrian Lopez Sanchez, who heads Coparmex in Cancun, says security is beginning to improve after deteriorating earlier this year and last year.
Quintana Roo’s Tourism Ministry was quick to respond to the advisory, issuing a statement to say travelers to the state are “safe and protected” and the government will keep collaborating with federal and U.S. officials on security.
Hotel occupancy in Cancun, Playa del Carmen and surrounding resorts rose to 78.6 percent in the year through July from 75.1 percent in the year-earlier period, according to STR, a provider of data and analytics on the lodging industry.
In January, Asur, the airport operator that services Cancun, saw its stock slump after five people were gunned down at the Blue Parrot nightclub during an electronic music festival in nearby Playa del Carmen. The airport’s stock rose slightly to 361.20 pesos per share at close of market Tuesday. More recently, in early July, one person died after a shootout at a club right across the street from the Blue Parrot.
“Tourism is very sensitive,” Coparmex’s Lopez Sanchez said. “Warnings directed toward the U.S. market are significant.”
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August 23, 2017 at 08:03PM
Three ways to use Plastiq to Meet Minimum Credit Card Spending Requirements
We all enjoy the generous sign up bonuses we receive when opening a rewards-earning credit card. There may also be bonus incentives to earn additional points or miles for certain levels of spending on the card. Some Airlines even waive revenue requirements normally required for earning their elite status if you spend a certain amount on their co-branded credit card. The rewards we receive are great and serve to fund travel and other tangible perks. However, reaching the required thresholds if you don’t have sufficient every day spending or business expenses may be challenging.
Another obstacle you might encounter is that some of your major bills need to be paid to businesses or government entities that do not accept credit cards. I have experienced this situation attempting to pay my quarterly estimated state income taxes, property taxes, and certain professional fees.
When the rewards are great, such as generous sign up bonuses or for other lucrative incentives, I use Plastiq.com to pay vendors who otherwise do not take credit cards. This allows me to meet the minimum spending requirements needed to earn a large amount of miles or points or waive revenue requirements for airline elite status. Plastiq.com is a third party vendor that accepts credit cards and then pays the vendor. Of course they do charge a fee for their services.
Paying my Quarterly Estimated State Income Taxes
My state of residence does not accept credit cards for payment of my quarterly income taxes. Fortunately, Plastiq.com worked find for making these payments. It took a few days but I received an email from Plastiq.com stating that a check had been sent to the State of Michigan. About a week later, I received another email stating the check had been deposited. I have used the service a total of four times and each was successful. I’ve previously written about how to pay your Federal income taxes with a credit card using the approved IRS vendors.
Paying Property Taxes
Many cities and states accept credit cards to pay property taxes but mine does not. I have to utilize a third party service in order to pay property taxes with a credit card. Plastiq.com is the perfect vehicle to pay property taxes and I plan to use it when my next property tax bill is due. I utilized a different third-party vendor for my last property tax payment but with the positive results I’ve had with Plastiq.com, I will use them in the future.
Paying Professional Fees
In March when my 2016 taxes were completed, I received a bill from my CPA for services rendered. I called to try to pay the bill with one of my credit cards that needed more spending. Unfortunately my CPA does not take credit cards but Plastiq.com came to the rescue. I let my CPA’s office know they would be receiving a check in the mail from my bill-paying service. Once again I received an email from Plastiq.com when they sent out the payment and another when the check was deposited.
There are plenty of service professionals who do not take credit cards. Since it does take at least a week to pay via Plastiq.com, let the vendor know you’ll be sending a check via your bill-paying service. While I’m focusing particularly on large volume bills I can pay with my credit card via Plastiq.com, you can also use the service to pay contractors, for car payments/leases, HOA fees, insurance, or just about any vendor.
Keep in mind that Plastiq.com charges a 2.5% fee for processing credit card payments so it only makes sense to utilize the service if you’re earning rewards that represent greater value. For instance, if you are receiving 50,000 miles for meeting a $5000 spending requirement in the first three months after opening your credit card, the $125 fees you incur using Plastiq.com would be worth it. You’ll also want to pay off your credit card statement each month as interest charges negate the value of any rewards received.
You can reduce or eliminate the processing fee with Plastiq.com by referring others. You’ll receive $1000 payment fee-free and your referral receives $500 fee-free.
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August 23, 2017 at 07:08PM
Inside The Proud Bird, the Historic Aviation-Themed Restaurant Across from LAX
One of the frustrations of living in Los Angeles and traveling through LAX is the lack of good food options near the airport — the other is the maddening absence of an airport train. While LAX has made great efforts to improve the culinary offerings in its terminals, the surrounding neighborhood doesn’t inspire greatness in terms of nice places to eat with airport views, except, of course, for the In-N-Out burger on Sepulveda Blvd, a mecca for anyone who loves plane spotting.
Enter The Proud Bird, the historic restaurant located directly across the street from LAX. First opened in 1967, it closed in 2016 for extensive renovations and reopened in June 2017 just in time for its 50th anniversary. While sporting a new look and reimagined food bazaar, the restaurant deepens its relationship to aviation and its history — let’s just say the connection doesn’t end with its address on Aviation Boulevard. Here’s a look at the recently renovated restaurant that should be on every AvGeek’s bucket list.
The Aviation-Themed Food Hall
With about 16 aircraft on the property — some real, some replicas — and close-up views of jets landing at LAX, this is not just a place near the airport that puts up photos of airplanes and cleverly names cocktails, although both of those things happen here. When the hostess greets you and says “Welcome Aboard,” you know you’re in for a high-spirited aviation-themed experience. Diners are even given a “boarding pass” to order from six different food counter menus.
It’s hard to miss the P-40 Flying Tiger replica hanging from the ceiling and the terrific display about the Tuskegee Airmen. It takes some more looking to find gems like the timeline of military aircraft that’s upstairs, the tribute to Elon Musk that’s across from the bar and some vintage advertising posters in the hallway near the restrooms.
Other nice touches include FlightAware TV displayed on monitors behind the bar and airplane-themed carpeting in the meeting rooms. Even the name of the place is a nod to Continental Airlines.
The real treasure of course is the outdoor air park behind the restaurant, which features authentic parked aircraft including a MiG-15, an A4 Skyhawk and a DC-3. Kids can spin the propellers of other replica aircraft as enormous planes from around the world land nearby at runway 25L. The Proud Bird offers guided aviation tours on Wednesdays and Saturdays. In addition to the food hall and bar, the property houses six event spaces and has hosted conferences, weddings and proms.
Food and Beverage
You could take away all the aviation accouterments and I would still come here for the food. Partnering with Bludso’s BBQ is an inspired choice; it’s an authentic LA institution that recently had to close its original location. Easily one of the top barbecue joints on the West Coast, Bludso’s brings a condensed menu to The Proud Bird that still features its ribs, brisket and pulled pork — it’s easily the best food I’ve had within miles of LAX.
Other offerings highlight Asian, Italian and American cuisines, some more innovative than others. The fried chicken came with a waffle and had about an inch of skin and breading before the meat appeared — I’m not complaining; it was excellent — while the pizza was hot and fresh with chewy dough and great texture.
The full bar, cheekily dubbed “The Mile High Club,” features wine, 13 beers on tap and a selection of specialty cocktails — four of which I happily sampled.
The best of the bunch was a Co-Pilot Strawberry Mule, made with vodka, ginger beer, muddled strawberries and lime juice. It was hard to put down.
For appetizers, the fried pickles were perfect, sour and crispy in all the right places. The loaded tater tots were a miss, held down with too much blue cheese and cured bacon. Note that there are also healthier options available, but I tend to find travel days to be the time when I really could use some comfort food.
The happy hour menu is available all day to travelers who present a same-day LAX boarding pass. Also for weary travelers: a free shot with proof of a delayed or missed flight.
This isn’t some restaurant with a couple planes thrown on it. The whole place drives home a real respect, admiration and reverence for aviation history. At the same time, if you don’t care about any of that, it serves amazing ribs.
The only real downsides for travelers are its limited hours — it’s only open until 9:00pm on weeknights — and the difficulty in arriving without a car. Though a short Uber/Lyft/taxi away from LAX, there’s no easy bus or shuttle option for passengers hoping to stop by on a quick layover. Meanwhile, if you’re just visiting the LA area and wan to stop by, there’s plenty of free parking.
For an Angeleno like me, I’ll definitely be stopping by more on the way to the airport — give me great ribs, cocktails and views of airplanes and I’m a happy traveler. For fans of aviation, The Proud Bird soars.
Have you ever been to The Proud Bird? Tell us about your experience, below.
All photos by the author.
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August 23, 2017 at 06:35PM
Ryanair Is Trying to Be Friendlier But It’s Still Hard to Love
Ryanair aircraft. The company is interested in bidding for Air Berlin. Thomas Gualtieri and Benjamin Katz / Bloomberg
— Patrick Whyte
Being nice to customers — or at least not irritating them needlessly with huge fees for overweight bags — is paying off for Ryanair Holdings Plc. Over the past three years, revenue has jumped more than 30 percent and the stock has more than doubled.
But recent events in Germany, where insolvency administrators are beginning the task of carving up the now defunct Air Berlin Plc, suggest the Irish budget airline’s image makeover is only half complete. Within minutes of Air Berlin’s insolvency filing, Ryanair declared it a stitch-up, accusing the German government of conspiring to ensure national flag carrier Lufthansa AG would win most of Air Berlin’s valuable take-off slots.
To be fair to Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary, someone who isn’t slow to anger or provocation, he’s probably right. It does seem likely Lufthansa will pick up a big chunk of Air Berlin’s routes, thus cementing its dominant position in the German market.
Indeed, ministers have made little secret of the fact they’d like a stronger national “aviation champion” to emerge from the wreckage, regardless of the fact that diminished competition will make it easier for Lufthansa to extract higher fares from passengers. O’Leary’s last ditch declaration on Tuesday night that he’d be interested in bidding for all of Air Berlin probably doesn’t stand a chance.
And why not? Ryanair presents itself as the champion of consumers — its fares are generally much lower than rivals. However, the counterpoint to that is Ryanair’s wages are pretty low too, which is one reason why it generates some of the highest profit margins in the aviation business.
Ryanair insists it has good employee relations. Still, it’s hard not to feel uncomfortable with some of its labor practices which include making pilots quasi-self-employed and obliging cabin crew to pay at least 3,600 euros ($4,200) for training.
Most of Ryanair’s staff have Irish employment contracts, something that has triggered accusations in Denmark, France and elsewhere that the airline is trying to circumvent local labor standards. Ryanair is also pretty sniffy about trade unions, all of which makes it an easy political target. Martin Schulz, the social democrat candidate for German chancellor, complained last week that “in Europe, no one is more of an unbridled capitalist.”
It’s not just the politicians. Several European pension plans pulled investments in Ryanair in May due to worries about its labor practices. O’Leary called the pension funds “idiots.”
Ryanair’s image as a labor-scourge is unhelpful because it finally seems like Europe’s fragmented airline market is poised for consolidation: Air Berlin and Alitalia SpA may not be the last airlines in need of restructuring. But when jobs are at risk, Ryanair’s argument that it should be allowed to expand further is likely to fall on deaf ears.
True, the company’s low-cost business model means it is never going to be the cuddliest employer: investors and customers implicitly accept this when they buy Ryanair stock or plane tickets. Still, being a bit nicer to staff, not just customers, might help persuade European governments that Ryanair shouldn’t always be kept at bay at all costs. With politicians off its back, the company’s top-line might then take off even faster.
©2017 Bloomberg L.P.
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August 23, 2017 at 06:02PM
OpenJaw and Routehappy to offer double dose of merchandising tools
The project will require limited integration work by airline and distribution partners; OpenJaw and Routehappy are doing the heavy lifting.
OpenJaw’s t-Retail platform delivers e-commerce technology to enable travel companies to create and price airline merchandising and product offers.
It has achieved IATA’s Level 3 NDC certification.
Routehappy Hub is used to create, manage and deliver highly targeted rich content.
It has created industry-standard Universal Product Attributes that include descriptive text, icons, photos, 360-degree virtual tours, videos and links to more information.
Kieron Branagan, chief executive officer of OpenJaw, said:
“Providing rich image-led product content at all points of sale, both direct and indirect, aids conversion by ensuring that the traveler will be able to make a more informed purchasing decision, wherever they shop. The partnership with Routehappy will enhance OpenJaw Technologies’ ability to deliver rich content to airline customers via IATA NDC enabled channel partners.”
Robert Albert, CEO of Routehappy, said:
“Visually engaging, targeted, and personalized merchandising benefits the entire industry. Airlines can increase upsell and conversion, while having more control over their brand; and flyers and agents receive detailed, compelling content that makes the flight shopping experience easier and more relevant.”
The companies said the platform integration was undertaken at the request of mutual airline customers.
It is expected to be completed later this year.
Consumers and travel agents are also expected to benefit by seeing more targeted and transparent offers with rich content.
Routehappy, founded in 2011, offers airlines and distributors two products on a subscription basis: Scores & Amenities and Routehappy Hub, an NDC-compatible platform for airline rich content.
Routehappy is channel, platform, and delivery agnostic, providing the air travel industry with content and infrastructure it needs to integrate merchandising content into all consumer touch points across all distribution points.
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August 23, 2017 at 05:40PM
Alternative Iceland, far from the maddening crowds
In her first story for Adventure.com, our featured contributor Paula Froelich investigated overtourism on these zany Bjork-loving shores. Now, she’s returned to the country she labels the ’prom queen of Europe’ to find out exactly where the magic can still be found—even after word’s got out.
Iceland is all the rage these days. Thanks to a great marketing campaign, Icelandair’s free stopover program, and cult-favorite TV shows like Game of Thrones filmed there, the tiny Scandinavian island is on everyone’s travel list—as it should be. Its alien-like landscapes are seen nowhere else on earth, the people are fascinating—many believe in elves, or ‘hidden folk’ as they call them—and the food is as pure as its glacier-fed waters. Even better, at least for US East Coasters, it’s closer than Los Angeles.
But sometimes too much of a good thing is not great—especially on an island where the population (around 350,000) is dwarfed by the amount of tourists (over 1.7 million last year). This problem is exacerbated when the epicenter of the country’s tourism is disproportionately located in one area—the Golden Circle. Home to black beaches, glaciers and the traditional turf houses which are scattered all over Iceland’s mesmerizing countryside, this famed southern region is indeed beautiful—but it’s packed.
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August 23, 2017 at 05:28PM
How Ineffective Hotel Audits Are Causing Companies to Overspend
— Dawn Rzeznikiewicz
Companies invest a lot of time, money, and resources into their preferred hotel program, so it’s important to get it right. While successful negotiations are an important part of the process, having an effective audit in place to ensure rates are available also plays a major role in maximizing a company’s hotel spend. However, the value of rate audits for hotel programs is often overlooked.
There are a number of reasons why a company should embrace rate auditing to ensure full transparency of their hotel program. First, preferred rates aren’t always properly loaded into the distribution system. According to corporate travel management provider BCD Travel, 15 percent to 30 percent of corporate rates aren’t loaded during the first round of audits typically executed shortly after program implementation. It’s also common for hotel properties to limit the number of rooms eligible for discounts––meaning that companies aren’t getting the deals they should be getting at all times. Additionally, hotel booking costs often vary from source to source. A single hotel room may be listed under different prices depending on where the traveler is looking. Finally, new technologies have led hotels to refine their pricing systems, causing room rates to regularly fluctuate.
The stakes are high. BCD Travel found that mid- to large-sized companies that don’t perform standard rate audits are likely to pay more than they should for hotels. For every $5 million a company without an audit spends on hotels, it overspends by $122,500.
Despite the risk of losing out on savings, companies don’t seem to be emphasizing the importance of performing audits as often as they should be. “Most travel managers audit rate loading, but not many audit rate availability. One reason for this is cost. They don’t think they need to spend money on a third-party to audit the availability of rates. Another reason is a gap in understanding the extent of the issue with availability,” says Marwan Batrouni, vice president, global hotel strategy, at BCD Travel. “Ultimately, if they don’t audit, they won’t have visibility into how their preferred suppliers are performing. Are hoteliers holding their end of the bargain? If their preferred hotels are not available 30 percent, 40 percent, 50 percent of the time or more, there’s a red flag.” Auditing and looking for trends is the only way to gain that visibility.
With so much effort going into managing a preferred hotel program, reaping the full benefits is key to having a successful corporate travel strategy. Embracing regular rate auditing is one action a company can take to help make sure they’re getting the most out of their travel spend.
This article was created collaboratively by SkiftX, corporate travel consultancy Advito, and BCD Travel, a global leader in comprehensive hotel program management, from sourcing and booking to compliance and traveler satisfaction. To learn more, please visit BCD Travel.
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August 23, 2017 at 04:37PM