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Friday, February 14, 2003

Movin' on up...

This website is moving to http://www.webflyer.com/blog and it has a new title: View from the Wing.

Come on over!

Outlining the worst-case scenario for United as it struggles with bankruptcy. That is, other than a war with Iraq...

Thursday, February 13, 2003

The New York Times runs a correction today that really is a big oops for them.
    Because of an editing error, a front-page article yesterday about diplomatic developments in the Iraq crisis misidentified the Bush administration official who said about the weapons inspectors in Iraq, "At some point it will become obvious that it's time for them to go." It was an administration official speaking on condition of anonymity, not Condoleezza Rice, President Bush's national security adviser.
Sorry, but the cat is out of the bag...(Thanks to Slate's Today's Papers for the pointer.)
Double or Triple Dip with your Online Shopping. I've written before about how you can and should earn miles for your online shopping. All it takes is logging into your favorite store through a mileage-earning site (such as the Northwest Worldperks Mall, the United Mileage Plus Mall, Goldpoints, AirMilesMart, etc. etc.). You can check whether your store gives points, and with which program, at Rewards Lookup.com.

Here's a tip that's been a bit of the buzz over at Flyertalk -- The Northwest Worldperks Mall gives points for purchasing gift certificates at GiftCertificates.com. You earn 3 Northwest miles per dollar there.

So simply buy a gift certificate for the store you're about to buy from. The gift cert is e-mailed to you instantly. You'll get miles for the gift certificate, and then when you shop at the merchant through the WorldPerks Mall (paying with the gift certificate), you'll earn miles for the purchase too.

Of course, when you pay with your mileage-earning credit card for the gift certificate, you'll get those miles, too.
Two for one awards with SAS. SAS Eurobonus members in North America can book special two for one awards from the U.S. to Scandinavia for travel by March 15th. 50,000 points are two coach tickets and 70,000 points are two business class tickets with this promotion. Simply call SAS to book this. (Thanks to MilesLink for the pointer.)
You can now earn 50 America West miles for each Super Shuttle trip you make to or from the airport. I don't actually see mention of the offer on the website, but you should be able to give your Flight Fund number when making a reservation. Hey, 50 miles is better than nothin'.
The Delta Skymiles American Express is also offering double miles for paying your taxes, and so is the United Visa.

Wednesday, February 12, 2003
Alaska Airlines is making some common sense improvements to its website. Others should follow -- especially in making it easy to view all of the rules associated with a fare before purchasing.
Heading to Iraq? At least you can still fly first class when you get back. According to the Detroit News,
    Northwest Airlines said Tuesday that if WorldPerk Elite members are called to active military duty, the airline will extend their 2003 Elite status through the 2004 year. The extension also will apply to current active duty military members who receive deployment orders. To qualify for the extension, qualifying WorldPerk Elite members should fax their activation or deployment orders along with their WorldPerk number to 218-254-7566.
Pay your taxes with the Starwood American Express and earn double miles. The following language is apparently included in this month's statement (Mine won't come for a couple of days, so I haven't seen it myself yet):
    You can earn double Starpoints on your first $4,000 in taxes when you use your card to pay your 2002 individual federal income taxes from 3/15/2003 - 4/15/2003. File your 1040 on time, via paper or electronically, then use your Starwood Amex card to charge your taxes onlione or over the phone by calling Offical Payments Corporation at 1-800-2PAY-TAX or visiting www.officialpayments.com.
Southwest Airlines has a campy feel to it. It's part of how they make their low-end product more enjoyable. On a flight two years ago, a flight attendant tried to get passengers to sit down in order to expedite departure with the following announcement:
    "Eenie, meenie, minie, moe; pick a seat, we gotta go."

A judge has now set a trial date in the discrimination lawsuit that followed where two passengers claimed emotional injuries because the rhyme has a racist history.
Follow the leader... off the cliff? American Airlines acknowledges that noone has figured out how to make a low cost carrier within a carrier work, but they're considering it anyway because Delta and United are talking about it.
Joe Brancatelli has some basic lessons for business travelers traveling for leisure. Hint: approach leisure travel differently.
The Chicago Sun-Times has a piece today on the new low-cost "airlines-within-airlines" being started at United and Delta including a summary of failed past attempts by the major airlines to create low cost subsidiaries as a way of competing with Southwest and others.

It's never worked before (e.g. Continental Lite, United Shuttle). The majors simply retain too high a cost structure and dilute their premium brands by trying to mimic Southwest or JetBlue. Smaller airlines pick and choose niche markets and clean the majors' clocks.

United's early concept was simply to re-introduce a low cost carrier with their older planes like they had with the United Shuttle on the West Coast (which they set up to compete with Southwest, but they shut down because it lost money). However, low cost carrier JetBlue offers leather seats and satellite television, and the new Delta carrier looks to offer a similar product. Unless United re-tools its plan, it will have higher costs and a poorer product than its competitors. And that's not a recipe for success.
USA Today reports on the trend towards airlines rewarding high revenue flyers instead of high mileage flyers. For instance:
  • Delta has moved towards a revenue model for elite qualification.
  • United has formalized its VIP program.
  • American and Northwest offer revenue tracks (parallel to mileage tracks) towards elite status.
The article doesn't point out that in most cases the perks for high revenue flyers aren't new perks. In several cases they are even less generous than the old perks for high revenue flyers. The airlines are simultaneously cutting back and transitioning perks to a revenue-based approach.

I think this is ill-advised. They run the risk of losing the loyalty of the high volume flyer who while not necessarily as lucrative are certainly built into their current businesss model.

If the planes were completely packed solid, there might be a reason to ration out scarce perks (or to expand operations). In the current climate, it makes no sense to alienate existing customers. Instead, the American and Northwest approaches of augmenting benefits for high revenue flyers rather than cutting benefits for high mileage flyers seems to make more sense.

The question, though, and this remains to be seen -- are the days of perks for all but the highest yield travelers coming to an end? That seems to be the current mindset of the industry, and there will be plenty of moves in that direction, but I don't expect it to entirely succeed.

But we might all have to start flying Northwest and America West.
Homeland security takes a bite out of economic productivity. The two biggest issues on the domestic agenda right now are terrorism (and all that goes along with it, including Iraq) and the sagging economy. Either one has the potential to undo this administration. But the silliest of policies aimed at the former have the potential to do real damage to the latter.

Real productivity growth was the engine of expansion in the 90s, through the widespread adoption of such inovations as electronic communications and just-in-time delivery. But new U.S. Customs rules may require giving the government as much as 3 days notice before shipping anything into the country.

That means making decisions about what materials are needed in production earlier (possibly with less information, leading to bad decisions and waste). That means stockpiling inventories to hedge against need, meaning inefficiently allocated resources.

Perhaps supply chains need greater security. I'm willing to bet, though, that overloading the Customs service with information on all shipments into the country won't do much good. They'll have to process and analyze all of that information, and there's no reason to suspect they'll be adept at that.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003
Clothing for dignity? The Tri-Cities Regional Airport in Blountville, Tennessee, is giving away free socks to passengers whose shoes are inspected by airport security.

Sunday, February 09, 2003
The Transportation Security Administration's Inspector General criticizes the agency's wasteful and profligate spending, for instance
    [T]he TSA estimated that it would cost $107 million to hire tens of thousands of federal airport screeners. The contract ended up costing more than $700 million.
Politics and affinity programs. The Republic Party now has GOPoints which lets members earn rewards for political activism. The rewards are unimpressive, but the idea is a good one.
Novel concept. Air Canada boosts service to earn more revenue. Funny thing is that this is a novel concept in the airline industry. With so many airlines cutting back on their amenities, customers might just choose to fly one that isn't.

In contrast, United in recent years has eroded its premium cabins by:
ending hot towel service domestically
ending champagne service domestically
cutting Godiva chocolates and hot chocolate chip cookies
cutting the personal video library in 3-class First

There are fewer passengers paying premium fares in the current environment. But those that are have no reason to choose United over a competitor flying a similar route. As other airlines introduce flat beds in business class, even United's advantage of the best seat in the sky is gone.

Delta and United are both following a low-cost model in its return to profitability. I wish them the best of luck. I'm just not interested in flying that airline, and I suspect others (who value premium service) agree with me.
Punditwatch is up.

Friday, February 07, 2003
The offer for 5% off at USAirways.com has been moved to a different link. Betcha they thought we couldn't find it, huh?
New Lufthansa Visa offers 6000 signup points, no annual fee, and one mile per dollar spent. Pretty good for a no annual fee card! Lufthansa's award chart isn't the best for North American residents, though.

Thursday, February 06, 2003
Test drive a new 2003 Jaguar X-TYPE through February 25, 2003 for 10,000 British Airways miles. Buy the car by March 12, 2003, and you'll get an additional 80,000 British Airways miles.

Wednesday, February 05, 2003
Up to 10,000 bonus Alaska miles for travel on Northwest to Europe or Asia.
Speak Swedish? There's a survey good for 500 SAS miles.
Fly Alaska and Northwest for up to 20,000 bonus miles.
Holy Smokes. USAirways goes berserk with double miles promos and fast tracks to elite status. These all appear like they were probably intended for specific targeted Dividend Miles members, but it looks like anyone can sign up. And while they may say "Cannot be combined with other bonus mile offers," that often proves false. (Thanks, Beckles.)
Fly full fare (Y, B, M) coach from Europe, Latin America, India, Japan, Turkey, or Russia to the US and back and earn up to 25,000 bonus Delta miles.
Gregg Easterbrook, who predicted the Challenger disaster in a 1980 article, has a new piece on the Space Shuttle and NASA's problems. Well worth a read.

Tuesday, February 04, 2003
AT&T Wireless customers, pay your monthly bill by automatic electronic funds transfer and earn 1500 American Airlines miles.
All of United's workers may soon be out of a job unless the business turns around. But Joanne Plurad is suing United because it paid her for not working, instead of giving her work to do.

When she could no longer perform her job due to M.S., she was given other work. After five years, she was told the airline didn't have any more work for her -- but kept paying her. She's suing because she said United should have found her a job.

Monday, February 03, 2003
Thou artless clay-brained codpiece! The Shakespeare Insult Kit.
The Economist profiles Hernando de Soto -- a conservative economist who talks with Bono and who was touted by Bill Clinton at Davos.
The biggest case of financial mismanagement in American history. And it isn't what you think. A 100 year-long accounting scandal involving possibly $100 billion dollars. And a cabinet secretary held in contempt of court. I usually write mostly about travel, but this story was just interesting and I had heard only a scant little about it before.

Sunday, February 02, 2003
Just another reason why Alaska Air has an outstanding frequent flyer program. When you redeem a free ticket to Australia, they'll given you another free ticket good anywhere in the U.S. (including Alaska).

So what are the other reasons that I like Alaska?

First of all, their elite-level is pretty outstanding. Free upgrades from any fare -- 2 days out for MVPs and at the time of booking (subject to availability) for MVP Golds. Note also that they have the lowest threshold of any US airline for qualifying as an elite -- only 15,000 miles. They even give MVP Golds upgrade coupons to pass out to their friends.

Second of all, their partnerships are excellent -- American and Northwest, to name a few.

Third, they are a good airline, even in coach.

They have one of the best mile earning credit cards -- it even throws in a free pass to the airline's club and gives you bonus miles each year just for keeping the card.

Sign up for their program, and they'll give you 500 bonus miles. Then you can earn another 1500 miles free for signing up for their e-mails



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Some of My Writings:

Thoughts on Academic Debate
-May '99 Rostrum

Thoughts on the War on Terror
-Winter 2002 Doublethink

Want to Know More About Liberty?

The Ego and His Own by Max Stirner
The Man Versus the State by Herbert Spencer
Our Enemy the State by Albert Jay Nock
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft
Why I Would Not Vote Against Hitler by Wendy McElroy (a plumb-line case against democracy and voting -- Ms. McElroy argues it is morally preferable to assasinate Hitler than to vote against him, because voting reifies the very system that allows a Hitler to come to power in the first place.)
Anarchist Theory FAQ by Bryan Caplan

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ITA Software: The backend of Orbitz
TheTrip.com FlightTracker
Great Circle Mapper: Distances Between Airports
MileageAddict's Mileage Workshop: More Tips on Accumulating Miles and Points
MileTracker: Free tool for managing all of your frequent flyer point accounts

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