How Airplanes Get to Farnborough, the Biggest Aviation Show

How Airplanes Get to Farnborough, the Biggest Aviation Show

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There a lot of big jets at the Farnborough International Airshow, the largest trade show of its kind. So many that even a marquee airplane like the Airbus A350-1000 has to be stationed on a ramp away from the main flight display. Enormous freighters are even further down, and aircraft are wedged in all along.

In the middle of it all, aircraft manufacturers like Textron, Mitsubishi and Pilatus sharpen their elbows and carve out their own space for jets and single-engine aircraft that aren’t quite as imposing. But they’re still fast and cool to see. If you like airplanes, this is heaven — and the aircraft are really jumbled up close to one another.

A Mitsubishi MRJ regional jet parked close to a Boeing 737 MAX 7 at the Farnborough Air Show (Photo by Zach Honig / The Points Guy)
A Mitsubishi MRJ regional jet parked close to a Boeing 737 MAX 7 at the Farnborough Air Show (Photo by Zach Honig / The Points Guy)

This is where the aviation world converges every two years. Everybody is here: Airlines, planemakers both commercial and military, companies that make all manner of things that go on airplanes, analysts, the media, and the British Prime Minister.

FARNBOROUGH, ENGLAND - JULY 16: British Prime Minister Theresa May talks with Airbus CEO Tom Enders (L) as she opens the Farnborough Airshow on July 16, 2018 in Farnborough, England. Theresa May opened the Farnborough Airshow today with a speech pledging £300 million for a variety of research projects for the aerospace industry. Recently Bristol-based firm Airbus said it may have to move premises out of the UK after Brexit. (Photo by Matt Cardy - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Prime Minister Theresa May talks with Airbus CEO Tom Enders (L) as she opens the Farnborough Airshow on July 16. Behind them is an Airbus A400M military transport. Photo by Matt Cardy – WPA Pool/Getty Images

With airplanes coming in from all over the world, half the battle seems to be getting all manner of aircraft to Farnborough in the first place. This is also a working airport, so it gets a three-letter code, although there are no scheduled commercial flights into it. To aviation people, Farnborough is known by that code: FAB.

Three FABulous Stops to Cross the Atlantic 

Bombardier chief safety pilot Donald McNicoll had a mission: Get the Delta-branded CRJ900 (with a new cabin) to the show. The Canadian planemaker wanted to exhibit a new, roomy interior meant to make small regional jets less of a pain to fly on. Problem: regional jets don’t fly very far. The CRJ900 has a maximum range of around 2,000 miles, and from Bombardier’s plant outside of Montreal to FAB, it’s  3,250 miles, mostly of open ocean. Solution: stop in Greenland and Iceland, like airliners did in the 1950s before the jet era.

So he left Mirabel (YMX) destined for sunny Iqaluit in Nunavut, Canada, a straight shot north of Montreal. That’s not the obvious route. This is due to Transport Canada restrictions on the test aircraft, requiring it to stay within 60 minutes of the nearest airfield. That doesn’t quite work on the standard route which would take it over Goose Bay in Newfoundland and then to Keflavik, Iceland (KEF). Instead, he flew Montreal – Iqaluit – Narsarsuaq, Greenland – Keflavik – Farnborough. That is a lot of legs.

It’s Even Tougher in Small Planes

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A Textron T6J at the Farnborough Airshow. Image by author.

If three stops to cross the pond seems like a lot, consider the turboprop from Textron Aviation that had to make four.  The US planemaker owns a variety of famous brands and has a variety of aircraft at the show, including helicopters from Bell and Cessna Caravans (the floatplane that New Yorkers can fly to Montauk on Blade.) One pilot flew a particularly long route to get his Beechcraft T6 —a military trainer—to the show. This single-engine turboprop aircraft is certainly fun to fly, but it wouldn’t be particularly comfortable for long periods of travel. As you can see in the image above, it had to be fitted with external fuel tanks to make the ocean crossing.

“I left Des Moines and flew a leg to Ottawa. I stayed the night, then continued to Goose Bay, popped over to Narsarsuaq in Greenland, then KEF and onwards to [a Scandinavian country for a demonstration],” said the pilot.

From Des Moines to Iqualuit: all in the name of the Air Show. Image by author.
Image by author.

All the Way From Ethiopia via Rome

Yacov Aynom is a captain with Ethiopian, the largest airline by fleet size in Africa. He’s flown in the right seat as first officer on the Boeing 737, 777 and 787, and has two years under his belt as a captain on the Bombardier Q400. In Ethiopia, the twin-engine regional turboprops fly a lot from “hot and high” airports, which are hard on airplanes. (Higher temperatures and thinner air degrade takeoff performance.) Just consider the airline’s home base, Addis Ababa, at 7,600 feet above sea level. Ethiopian brought the Q400 on a marathon journey from Addis to Cairo for the night, then to Rome and onward to FAB. Each leg was about four hours of flight time, with the legs out of Africa flown at night for performance reasons — it’s hot during the day.

The Japanese Came From Washington State

A Mitsubishi MRJ900 being spot cleaned at Farnborough. Image by author.
The Mitsubishi MRJ900 being spot cleaned at Farnborough. Image by author.

Steve Long is the chief test pilot for Mitsubishi, which is debuting in the commercial jet market with the MRJ90 aircraft. How did they get the plane from Japan to FAB?

They didn’t.

Flight testing for the Japanese-designed regional jet is being performed in Moses Lake, Washington, because of the test-aviation friendly airspace in the US as well as long runways and good weather at the airfield, which has plenty of very empty airspace around it. Long flew the plane from Moses Lake to Bangor, Maine, and then popped over the pond. Why Bangor?

“To eat lobster,” he joked.

The Big Boys

In addition to the smaller manufacturers, Airbus and Boeing pack the ramp with wide-bodies, sometimes courtesy of the airlines that just bought them. At Farnborough, Biman Bangladesh Airlines has a Boeing 787 on display and Qatar has both a Boeing 777 and an Airbus A350. Airbus showcased a TAP Portugal A330-900 awaiting certification. For the big boys, getting there is easy. An A350 can go 8,000 miles easily, even more with no passengers on board, and getting to FAB is an absolute piece of cake from pretty much anywhere.


Up close with the brand new 787 for Biman Bangladesh. Image by author.

This brand-new 787 rolled off the line in Everett last week, complete with new car smell. It has not entered service and will return to Everett for a delivery ceremony after the show. The Dreamliner jumped over to Farnborough in a quick eight-hour jaunt from Everett.

The Boeing team also brought over the 737 MAX 7 aircraft, which spent the night in KEF before continuing to FAB. The new 737 MAX series is noted for its long range, but from Seattle to England is a long way and a fuel stop in Iceland was needed.

The Boeing 737 MAX after making a pit stop in KEF for crew rest. Image by author.
The Boeing 737 MAX in Farnboroughafter making a pit stop in KEF. Image by author.

“It’s a complicated dance,” said a Boeing representative. “Some of the airlines like having a big presence at the show with their aircraft, and so that Venn diagram between us needing to showcase aircraft and the airlines wanting to participate intersects,” he said.

One element in common for all of these aircraft? Not a single pilot complained. From the smallest Cessna to the big jets, each was quite pleased to be paid to fly.

Featured image of a Qatar Airways Airbus A350 in Farnborough by the author.

 

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July 18, 2018 at 09:31PM

United Delays Polaris Lounges Again, Gets New (Old) 767s

United Delays Polaris Lounges Again, Gets New (Old) 767s

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United Airlines wowed investors Tuesday night with better-than-expected financial results sending the stock surging. Wednesday morning, United management held an earning call with investors and media. Here’s what we learned from the call:

Further Delays in Polaris Lounge Openings

At the opening of United’s first Polaris Lounge in Chicago, United expected to open all domestic Polaris Lounges (Houston, Newark, San Francisco, Dulles and Los Angeles) by the end of 2017. The airline wouldn’t end up opening its second Polaris Lounge until San Francisco in April 2018. Both Newark (June 2018) and Houston (June 2018) were opened shortly after that.

But delays continue to plague the Polaris Lounge program. In January, United’s sales team was sharing the following timeline for the remaining lounges:

Then we were assured in February and April that the Los Angeles (LAX) lounge would open in “fall 2018.” But today, United management would only commit to the lounge opening by the end of the 2018. Washington DC (IAD) is even further behind. Instead of the “Q4 2018” opening date, it’s now expected to open “later in 2019.”

We reached out to United to see if any further details could be shared about these opening dates. A United spokesperson referred to the earnings call as the latest information that’s available at this time.

Used 767s From Hawaiian

Earlier this year, United purchase three used Boeing 767s from Hawaiian. On the earnings call, United unveiled the first of the three was delivered to the airline on Tuesday.

Hawaiian Airlines’ 767s aren’t winning any awards in first class with a 2-2-2 arrangement and recliner seats. The economy cabin’s 32-inch pitch would actually be better for United economy passengers than United’s own 767s , but the used planes have only a few extra-legroom “Economy Plus” seats for elites.

Meanwhile, United’s current 767 fleet has all lie-flat business class seating and is in the process of being retrofit with Polaris seats. So, we wanted to check how United would handle its three new 767s: would they be retrofit or be used on domestic routes with the current Hawaiian configuration?

United flyers, rejoice: An airline spokesperson confirmed that the three aircraft will be retrofit and integrated into the 767 fleet. We can assume that this means that they’ll show up in the fleet retrofit with Polaris seating, indistinguishable from their United fleetmates.

I did a bit of sleuthing and it looks like N588HA, a Boeing 767-300ER, is the first of the three aircraft to be sold to United. The 16 -year old aircraft was ferried from Kahului (OGG) to Honolulu (HNL) to Oakland (OAK) to Kansas City (MCI) and “stored” on June 14. After paperwork was complete, it was likely officially delivered to United on Tuesday.

More People Are Signing up for United Credit Cards

United re-launched its United MileagePlus Explorer Card as the United Explorer Credit Card on June 1, with new category bonuses and in-flight discounts. It seems that’s already had an impact, with United reporting “new acquisitions grew 10% year-over-year in 2Q.”


Image courtesy of United Airlines, from the 2018 Q2 earnings call.

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July 18, 2018 at 09:00PM

What’s Changed Between the G.O.P. and Trump After Helsinki: Nothing

What’s Changed Between the G.O.P. and Trump After Helsinki: Nothing

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Donald Trump’s rise within the Republican Party is often described as a hostile takeover, and there’s obviously some truth in that description. But after Trump won the G.O.P. Presidential nomination, in 2016, most of the Party’s leaders in Washington made their peace with him, on the basis of an arrangement that is still in effect today.

Unlike Napoleon’s 1801 concordat with the Roman Catholic Church, the Trump-G.O.P. deal was an informal one—but in some ways the two agreements are similar. In nineteenth-century France, Pope Pius VII recognized the new ruler’s authority, and, in return, the church received recompense for the rough treatment it had suffered during the revolution. Republican leaders got something similar from Trump.

In Napoleon’s case, he paid the Vatican for some of its lands that had been seized, recognized Roman Catholicism as France’s principal religion, and provided it with financial support. Trump agreed to campaign for other Republican candidates. He also agreed to abide by many of the central tenets of the G.O.P. faith, including its devotion to tax cuts, deregulation, and the dismantling of the liberal welfare and administrative state.

Trump has, however, insisted on adding some twists to the Republican platform, some of which—such as protectionism and suspicion of international alliances—contradict the old dogma. But internal consistency is a goal that democratic mass movements never fully achieve, and the Trump-G.O.P. concordat has proved more durable than many observers expected, surviving eighteen months of chaos, controversies, and occasional big setbacks, such as the failure to repeal Obamacare. Trump’s recent criticism of NATO allies, and his denial of Russian election hacking at a press conference with Vladimir Putin, in Helsinki, have provoked an enormous political reaction, but nothing that has transpired in the past few days suggests that the Trump-G.O.P. deal is about to break apart.

To the contrary, both the President and his party are determined to get the Helsinki fiasco behind them and return to business as usual. “I take him at his word if he says he misspoke, absolutely,” the Ohio senator Rob Portman told Fox News, on Tuesday, shortly after Trump’s pitiful effort to walk back his comments at the press conference. Senator Marco Rubio, of Florida, commented: “I can’t read his intentions or what he meant to say at the time. Suffice it to say that for me as a policymaker, what really matters is what we do moving forward.”

Along with Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the House, and Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, Rubio has talked about the possibility of imposing more sanctions on Russia as a punishment for its actions in 2016. What the situation really demands, of course, is the placing of some sanctions, or restraints, on Trump himself. During the past forty-eight hours, Democrats have called for various measures, including the passage of a bill to prevent the President from firing the special counsel, Robert Mueller; the subpoenaing of his tax returns to see if they reveal any ties to Russian interests; and the convening of hearings at which the U.S. translator who sat through Trump’s meeting with Putin, which lasted for more than ninety minutes, would be called to testify. These suggestions have attracted virtually no G.O.P. sponsors.

That isn’t because Republican politicians necessarily believe Trump when he says that he isn’t beholden to Russia. We know, for example, that, in 2016, Kevin McCarthy, the House Majority Leader, told some colleagues that he believed, “swear to God,” that Putin was paying Trump. (McCarthy later dismissed the comment as a joke.) But, having made their bargain with Trump long ago, most Republicans are now largely inured to his outrageous statements, which they tend to interpret purely in political terms. Newt Gingrich, who was one of the first Republicans to call on Trump to correct some of the statements he made in Helsinki, gave the game away when he referred to them as a “serious mistake.” Not an “outrage,” or a “capitulation,” or a “betrayal.”

A few Republicans did call Trump’s comments disgraceful, but fear and short-term self-interest still have most of them cowed. At the grass roots of the Party, there is no sign of Trump’s supporters deserting him, which makes it very dangerous to cross him. The story of the Alabama congresswoman Martha Roby demonstrates how Trump’s overarching presence intimidates individual Republicans. In October, 2016, after the “Access Hollywood” tape was released, Roby bravely said that she wouldn’t vote for Trump. But, after he was elected, she faithfully embraced his policy agenda and was rewarded with a Presidential endorsement in her reëlection bid. On Tuesday, she won her primary, and on Wednesday Trump gloated on Twitter that, when his endorsement came, “the ‘flood gates’ opened” for her.

But fear of Trump and his cult of personality isn’t the entire story. In their state of subjection, many Republicans console themselves with the thought that, in policy terms, the concordat is still holding, as evidenced, for example, by Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, a conservative scion of the Republican establishment, to the Supreme Court.

Take Bob Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which is supposedly one of the most powerful positions on Capitol Hill. Corker isn’t running for reëlection, so he doesn’t need to curtsy to Trump, you might think. And in fact he has issued some memorable criticisms, including one in which he described the White House as an adult day-care center. On Monday, Corker said that Trump’s performance in Helsinki had made the United States look “like a pushover.”

Hours later, Corker received a call from “a prominent politician” who is considering running for President in 2020, Politico reported. The caller urged Corker to use the Senate’s procedural rules to punish Trump by holding up Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Corker refused. “Why would I cut off my nose to spite my face?” he told a Politico reporter. “I like the Supreme Court nominee. So what the heck?”

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July 18, 2018 at 08:40PM

You Are Most Likely to Be Hacked in These US Airports

You Are Most Likely to Be Hacked in These US Airports

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The airport amenity people value most isn’t fancy restaurants or uber-exclusive lounges. It’s fast, free Wi-Fi. After all, cellular service in airports doesn’t have the best rep. However, you might want to think twice before connecting to the Wi-Fi the next time you’re in an airport.

According to a recent study by Coronet, a cybersecurity company, these public networks are often unencrypted, insecure or improperly configured. As a result, it becomes much easier for hackers to access devices connected to the networks and potentially steal personal data. “Any one of these network vulnerabilities can empower an attacker to obtain access credentials to Microsoft Office 365, G-Suite, Dropbox and other popular cloud apps; deliver malware to the device and the cloud, and snoop and sniff device communications,” the study says. While it’s easy to replace credit cards and void unauthorized transactions, once passwords and companies’ digital infrastructures are exploited, it’s difficult to regain complete access over them.

Fortunately, the folks at Coronet identified which airports have the most vulnerable networks. To rank airports by their threat level, Coronet collected data from more than 250,000 consumer and corporate endpoints that traveled through the 45 busiest US airports over the course of five months. Then, it analyzed the vulnerability of devices and risk of networks used and assigned each airport a threat index score.

The data revealed San Diego (SAN) was the worst airport for passengers’ cybersecurity. Hackers set up an “Evil Twin” hotspot with the name “#SANfreewifi” at the airport to trick users into connecting to it, ultimately gaining access to all of the files that the victims downloaded or uploaded while they are connected. There was a similar event at Houston’s William P. Hobby Airport (HOU), one of Southwest’s major focus cities, where attackers created a network named “SouthwestWiFi.” That airport came in third place. Coming in at fifth is United’s biggest hub, Newark (EWR), followed by American Airlines hub Phoenix (PHX) in seventh and Delta hub Detroit (DTW) in ninth.


Source: Coronet

If you travel through these airports frequently, fear not. There are many ways to protect and secure your mobile devices while traveling, such as to use virtual private network (VPN) software and safer web browsers. If you really want to play it safe, you may also want to consider using a separate set of electronics just for travel, which you don’t store any of your sensitive personal information on.

The least vulnerable airports include Chicago’s Midway Airport (MDW), Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) and Miami International Airport (MIA). However you’ll still want to use caution when connecting your devices.

Featured image by Photographer is my life / Getty Images.

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July 18, 2018 at 08:31PM

China Revokes Licenses of Smoking Pilots Who Caused In-Flight Emergency

China Revokes Licenses of Smoking Pilots Who Caused In-Flight Emergency

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Aviation officials in China have revoked the licenses of the pilots of an Air China 737 that had an emergency mid-flight due to the cockpit crew’s e-cigarette smoke.

The 737 made a rapid emergency descent, which caused a depressurization in the cabin and made the overhead oxygen masks fall, after one of the pilots accidentally turned off the aircraft air conditioner systems in an effort to contain the smoke from his e-cigarette. The aircraft is reported to have suddenly plunged 25,000 feet. Fortunately, none of the flight’s 153 passengers or nine crew where injured.

The lack of air conditioning triggered an alarm system that monitors oxygen on board and alerts the pilots to descend because they might have flown too high too quickly. Smoking on board commercial aircraft is illegal in China. Air China fired both of the pilots responsible.

In addition to revoking the pilots’ licenses, the Civil Aviation Administration of China has slashed Air China’s 737 flights by 10%, levied a fine of 50,000 yuan (about $7,376 USD) and has mandated the national flag carrier perform a three-month overhaul of its safety procedures.

The incident occurred on July 10 aboard flight CA106 from Hong Kong (HKG) to Dalian, China (DLC).

H/T: Today Online

Featured image by C. v. Grinsven/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images.

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July 18, 2018 at 08:00PM

How NOT to Feel Overwhelmed

How NOT to Feel Overwhelmed

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feeling overwhelmed by planning
Updated: 07/17/18 | July 17th, 2018

Planning a trip can be stressful.

Where do you start? What should you do first? What’s step two? Will everything work out? Is there a best route to take? There’s a lot to think about!

Taking time off and traveling around the world is a big life change, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Multi-month trips just don’t happen. There’s a lot to do to make your dream a reality.

And your list of things to do can seem endless.

So how do you manage to stop feeling overwhelmed? How do you get over the anxiety of not knowing where to begin?

It’s easy — and I’ve developed a unique four-step process to doing so (patent pending):

First, buy your plane ticket to where you want to go first. (Not sure where you want to start? Simple. Start where the airfare is the cheapest.)

Second, turn off the computer and stop visiting 93,754,302,948,320 websites about travel (except for mine — you should always read mine!). You’ll suffer from information overload if you don’t.

Third, go out with your friends and celebrate the start date of your trip.

Fourth, smile.

There – that’s it. You bought your plane ticket. You’re going. There’s no turning back. There’s no need to worry anymore. All other planning is secondary.

I once heard at an industry event that people will look at up to 20 websites over the course of 40 hours while researching their trip.

TWENTY WEBSITE AND FORTY HOURS!

That’s before they even book anything!!!

No wonder I get so many emails from people saying “Matt, I feel like I’m in over my head.”

Information is power, but in our information-overload society, too many resources leave us conflicted and powerless.

I understand you might be feeling a lot of anxiety planning your trip since you want to make sure everything goes right. I remember what it was like when I was planning my first trip. I had every guidebook under the sun in my room. I created spreadsheets. I researched everything. I had multiple itineraries drawn up. I had lists upon lists. I was constantly worried about having “the perfect trip.”

I’ve been there and I understand, but I can tell you from years of experience that the more you plan your trip, the more anxiety you will face. You’re going to overwhelm yourself with so much information that you’re going to do nothing but stress over it.

Planning gives you a sense of ownership over your trip. There’s joy in it. It’s one of the best parts about travel.

But overplanning will lead to stress, and I can tell you from past experience that your plans will change anyway.

Someone will tell you about a new destination and you’ll race off there instead of going to Amsterdam.

You’ll wander the streets and into unexpected restaurants.

You’ll meet a group of people who will convince you to stay on that tropical island with them just a little longer.

In short, plans change, so don’t go overboard. Have a general idea of what direction you want to go, plan your first few stops, and then just let the wind take you.

Don’t make yourself a lengthy plan. You won’t follow it anyway.

In 2006, my first itinerary through Europe was supposed to look like this:

Oslo –> Prague –> Milan –> Florence –> Rome –> Naples –> Corfu –> Metorea –> Athens –> Greek Islands –> Athens

But it ended up like this:

Oslo –> Prague –> Milan –> Florence –> Rome –> Venice –> Vienna –> Amsterdam –> Costa del Sol -> Barcelona -> Amsterdam –> Athens

Almost nothing worked out as I had planned. It worked out better. Cooler, more interesting things and people pulled me in a different direction. My recent trip to Southeast Asia was completely changed when a friend said “Want to come meet me in Chiang Mai?” Instead of flying to Bangkok, I ended up in Chiang Mai and then onward to Laos!

I have rarely ever kept my original plans. I don’t know many travelers who have.

After you’ve booked your flight, come up with a list of everything you need to do before you go (it won’t be as long as you think) – buying your backpack, purchasing travel insurance, get your visas if needed, getting new bank cards, booking a hostel, canceling cable, etc., etc. Most of this stuff can be done a few months before you go.

Go down your list.

Check.

Check.

Check.

Buy a book or two to pick up some general knowledge on how to travel and prepare for your trip. Read a guidebook and get a good idea about where you’re going. Develop a general plan and then fill in the details along the way.

You can’t really know what you are going to do in a destination before you get there. Read up the guidebook on your flight because that’s when it matters.

You can’t do or change anything until you start your trip and the pre-trip stuff takes far less time than you think.

Breathe.

Relax.

Everything will work itself out.

And, when it does, you’ll wonder why you stressed so much in the beginning.

Related articles:

  • Too Many Places: Overcoming the Paradox of Choice
  • Why It’s Great to Travel Without a Plan
  • 12 Things I’d Tell Any New Traveler
  •  

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    July 18, 2018 at 07:53PM

    United Airlines Is Winning Over Some of the Doubters

    United Airlines Is Winning Over Some of the Doubters

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    Last October, during one of the more tense U.S. airline earnings calls in recent years, United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz begged investment analysts for patience, saying he need more time to fix some of the more unsound decisions of the previous regime.

    This week, perhaps earlier than some analysts expected —  after all, a couple wondered whether Munoz could lose his job because the October 2017 call went so poorly — United seems have returned to Wall Street’s good graces.

    The airline Wednesday reported second quarter net income of $684 million on total operating revenues of $10.8 billion, and its pre-tax margin was 8 percent. Perhaps more importantly, its passenger revenue per available seat mile, a metric that gauges how much an airline makes for each seat it flies one mile, increased 3 percent, year over year. United showed unit revenue improvement in all geographic regions except Latin America, where it is relatively small.

    Things are far from perfect at the Chicago-based carrier. Profit is down, year-over-year, mostly because United paid 43 percent more for fuel this second quarter than last. And like all airlines, United faces not only the short-term pressure of more expensive fuel, but also long-term threats, such as a possible trade war or global recession.

    But for now, things are looking up, and investment analysts seem to be buying in.

    “For the first time in a long time, we’re struggling to find things to complain about, despite our preference for the curmudgeonly,” Jamie Baker, a respected analysts with J.P. Morgan Chase, wrote in a research report. “With many investors (as well as ourselves) having questioned whether [United’s] relative equity outperformance was likely to lose momentum in the short run, we believe these results suggest the contrary.”

    In the three hours after United’s earnings call Wednesday, the stock rose by more than 8 percent.

    Analysts Were Skeptical

    United’s customer service failures — notably the April 2017 incident when airport security officers in Chicago beat up a United passenger – caught most of the headlines in the past two years.

    But for the most part, analysts didn’t worry about customer experience or product. Instead, they fretted about management’s increasingly aggressive posturing toward its competitors, and they wondered if United would ever match the margins produced by its peers, as management promised.

    Last summer, many analysts complained when United President Scott Kirby insisted the airline match fares set by discounters Frontier Airlines and Spirit Airlines, arguing United couldn’t lose cost-conscious customers. United might lose out on revenue on the short-term, Kirby reasoned, but if it didn’t act, the discounters would grow and become more irritating competitors.

    Analysts complained further in January, when Kirby unveiled an ambitious plan to increase capacity by 4 percent to 6 percent in three consecutive years, mainly by adding flights in Chicago, Denver and Houston. United’s key competitors each have a handful of massive hubs, Kirby said, and United needed to build similar scale in key markets. United’s previous management had tried to shrink the airline to better profits.

    In the two days after it announced the growth plan, United’s stock plunged from $77.97 per share to $66.08.

    United has calmed investors slightly by sticking to the lower end of the range this year, saying this week capacity should increase between 4.5 percent and 5 percent. But that’s still more than investors generally like, because more capacity generally pushes airfares down unless demand rises. So far, though, United is filling the extra seats, reporting a load factor of 84.8 percent, up 1.3 points, year-over year.

    Baker said he supported the strategy from the start, noting United needed to grow to match American and Delta. But he said other analysts are coming around, too.

    “United’s results appear to add credibility to its mid-continent hub strategy,” Baker said. “Recall this plan was maligned by investors as well as certain managements when first unveiled in January as being an early harbinger for reckless capacity growth and management’s supposed indifference to pricing trends.”

    Future Concerns

    The demand picture could change at any point, of course, for reasons outside United’s control.

    Thus far, Kirby said he has seen no indication that a possible trade war has hurt United’s bookings. But a recession or a trade war are possible. And United is likely going to have to deal with higher fuel prices for the foreseeable future.

    Generally, airlines need time to recoup higher costs when fuel spikes. But on their earnings call Wednesday, United executives said they recovered about 75 percent of fuel price increases during the second quarter.

    To further manage higher fuel prices, Kirby said United expects to trim some weaker flights to better align demand with capacity, as other airlines are doing.  “Our scheduling team simply turns back some flights at the margin,” he said.

    But if a bigger shock occurs, like a global recession, Kirby told investors United is prepared to retire or temporarily ground aircraft, though he said the airline would prefer not to defer deliveries or reduce aircraft utilization.

    “We have the flexibility to reduce the fleet by up to double-digit percentages per year if that was required,” he said. “We built a fleet plan that allows us to capitalize on the opportunity inherent in the growth plan but while still maintaining the flexibility to quickly respond to adverse conditions. That, however, is not what we expect to have to do because everything we see today says the demand is strong.”

    Despite the worst-case scenario planning, Kirby said he’s confident United can hit its financial targets, both for the remainder of this year and for 2020. By then, United has told analysts it can hit $11-$13 in earnings per share. Its guidance for this year is $7.25 to $8.75.

    “We’re going to do everything in our power to hit those numbers, including making changes and making hard decisions when we have to because we view those as commitments that we’ve got to hit,” Kirby said.

    But Kirby, who has worked for three airlines and is more honest than the typical senior executive, warned analysts that they can’t live and die by quarterly guidance.

    “The biggest risks are in the kinds of things that have always been the biggest risk especially in the short term — fuel price, macroeconomic environment, geopolitical events,” he said. “Those things are sometimes going to happen, and there will be points in time that we will miss quarterly guides.”

    Photo Credit: United Airlines had a strong second quarter, producing net income of $684 million. Pictured is one of the airline’s new Boeing 777-300ERs. United Airlines

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    July 18, 2018 at 07:43PM

    No Amount of Money Will Get You a Seat on These Cathay Pacific Flights

    No Amount of Money Will Get You a Seat on These Cathay Pacific Flights

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    Tired of being unable to find a flight where you can redeem your miles at a reasonable rate? Cathay Pacific is bucking the trend by offering flights that money can’t buy.

    The carrier has introduced a handful of all-frequent flyer flights which appear to be the first of their kind. Since the airline won’t accept cash for these flights, you’re going to have to redeem Cathay Pacific’s Asia Miles to grab a seat. Originally announced as two flights, Cathay Pacific now lists four Asia Miles-chartered flights between Hong Kong and Osaka:

    • August 30: CX8538 Hong Kong (HKG) 9:35am departure → Osaka (KIX) 2:25pm arrival
    • August 30: CX8541 Osaka (KIX) 5:00pm departure → Hong Kong (HKG) 8:00pm arrival
    • September 3: CX8540 Hong Kong (HKG) 9:20am departure → Osaka (KIX) 2:10pm arrival
    • September 3: CX8541 Osaka (KIX) 5:00pm departure → Hong Kong (HKG) 8:00pm arrival

    Award flights will cost 10,000 miles each way in economy and 25,000 miles one-way in business class. All four flights are being operated by one of Cathay Pacific’s Airbus A330s with lie-flat business class seats. Business class (reviewed here) is arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration while economy (reviewed here) is 2-4-2.

    Cathay Pacific A330 economy seats
    Cathay Pacific A330 economy seats.

    If you’re interested, you’ll want to book soon — the first two announced flights are filling up quickly. There are only four business class seats available on the first HKG-KIX flight on August 30 and five business class seats left on the KIX-HKG flight on September 3. However, the newly-released flights are still wide-open:

    Unfortunately for US-based travelers, there are no all-award flights to the States, but we can be hopeful for the idea to expand to include flights over the Pacific. It’s particularly encouraging that the promotion page for these charter flights lists the Hong Kong-Osaka flights as “examples” in a chart:

    If you need Asia Miles to book these flights, you’re in luck. Cathay Pacific is a transfer partner of three of the major points programs: American Express Membership Rewards (1:1 with 2 day transfer time), Citi ThankYou Points (1:1 with under 24 hour transfer time) and Starwood Preferred Guest (1:1 with 5,000 bonus for transferring 20,000 points; 3 day transfer time).

    You can also generate Asia Miles through the Cathay Pacific Visa Signature Card from Synchrony Bank. The card offered a 60,000 mile sign-up bonus for a total of $10,000 in spending earlier this year, but currently offers a smaller 35,000 mile sign-up bonus for spending just $1,500 in the first three months after opening.

    H/T: Will Horton via Twitter

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    July 18, 2018 at 07:32PM

    Cheap Summer Travel for Students

    Cheap Summer Travel for Students

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    One of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t travel as a college student. Looking back, I always wished I had done a semester abroad or a trip to Europe after graduation. That’s tough when you graduate during one of the worst recessions in history, but I can’t imagine it’s any easier nowadays. Students carry tons of debt and travel seems out of reach. The good news is that it’s not – there are more cheap international fares and summer travel for students is more attainable than ever. Here are five ways students can score cheap summer travel:

     

    1 – Low-Cost Carriers

    Low-cost carriers like Wow Air, Norwegian, Air Asia X, and Level Air offer international fares as low as $500 or less. For students who just want to get from point A to point B, these fares are a total bargain. Take Level Air, for example. The Spanish carrier offers flights between Oakland and Barcelona for as low as $300 roundtrip. As with most low-cost carriers, checked bags, seat selection and even meals cost extra. But if anyone can get by on the bare minimum, it’s a broke college student. 😉

     

    2 – Fare Sales

    If the idea of getting nickel-and-dimed by a low cost carrier sounds unappealing, then you’ll want to keep an eye out for fare sales. Major carriers frequently run sales on summer airfares. How do you find these deals? Follow accounts like @FlyerTalk, @airfarewatchdog, and @TheFlightDeal frequently share travel deals, including fare sales and mistake fares. Which brings me to my next point…

     

    3 – Mistake Fares

    Nothing (and I mean NOTHING) is more exciting in this hobby than a good mistake fare. Whether it’s $180 roundtrip fares to Abu Dhabi or sub $1,000 premium international fares, nothing beats a mistake fare. Assuming it’s honored. That’s why it’s important to pick the earliest travel dates possible, as airlines will sometimes make exceptions to fares booked 1-2 weeks out. Mistake fares are ideal for students who want to travel cheap, especially in the summer when fares tend to be highest. To get in on the best mistake fares, be sure to follow the accounts I listed in #2. And while you’re at it, follow @pointchaser – I follow all the key travel hackers and retweet the best deals.

     

    4 – Buy Miles

    Sometimes airlines run sales on miles, which can work out cheaper than buying a ticket outright. Especially during summer travel season. Most of the time, airline mile sales work out best for folks who are trying to score cheap business and first class tickets. However, sometimes these deals work out great for cheap economy class tickets. For example, a couple of weeks ago Iberia was offering 9,000 bonus points for any flights booked on their website. Amazingly, there were no requirements about actually flying – points were credited 10 days after the fares were booked.

    The deal applied to even the cheapest one-way fares. Translation? For as low as $183, you could score enough miles for a roundtrip economy class flight between Los Angeles and Barcelona! Deals like this are few and far in between, but they can be an incredible opportunity for students looking for cheap travel deals.

     

    5 – Credit Cards

    Whether it’s cash back cards or airline miles, rewards credit cards can make summer travel incredibly affordable for students. Some of my favorites include the Barclay Arrival Premier World Elite MasterCard, as well as the Chase Sapphire Reserve. For students, the best cards are probably flexible rewards cards with annual fees under $100. As much as I dislike Capital One for pulling credit from all three bureaus, the Venture Rewards Credit Card is actually a good option for students thanks to a 50,000 mile sign-up bonus and $0 annual fee the first year. That sign-up bonus can be used towards $500 worth of travel.

    It also helps that the card earns 2 miles per $1 on everything, 10 miles at hotels.com, and comes with a $100 Global Entry/TSA PreCheck fee credit. Students are great are working with shoestring budgets. I know people who’ve spend a month traveling around Europe for less than $1500. The sign-up bonus from a card like the Capital One Venture really takes a huge chunk out of that expense. For tips on how to meet the $3,000 spending requirement, be sure to check out this post.

    Thanks to cheap fare, low-cost carriers, and credit card rewards summer travel is more attainable for students than ever. If you have any tips to share for young, broke college students trying to see the world on a shoestring budget, please share in the comment section.

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    July 18, 2018 at 07:28PM

    Rebranding Ideas For Neapolitan Ice Cream

    Rebranding Ideas For Neapolitan Ice Cream

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    How to Write a New Yorker Cartoon Caption: Nick Offerman Edition

    The actor Nick Offerman, who stars in the upcoming film “Hearts Beat Loud,” takes a shot at The New Yorker’s cartoon-caption contest.

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    July 18, 2018 at 07:21PM