The Newsstand for October 11-25, 2018
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Read all about it! Boeing's 787 Dreamliner is a huge hit, but the Airbus A380 is dying (again). Around the world from Amsterdam to Vientiane. While Brits get apologies for bad trains, Russians get much-needed rail options. DOT Secretary Elaine Chao is very hard to find on Fridays. Your Uber driver probably earns peanuts and much more.
The Revenge of the Dreamliner, the Decline of the A380
United Airlines announced last week it would deploy Boeing 787-10 Dreamliners on transcontinental runs between its Newark hub and LAX and San Francisco. Dreamliner service begins on January 7 on three daily flights in the so-called Transcon Triangle. Not a lot, you say? Agreed. Between LAX and SFO, United flies from Newark more than two dozen times a day. Still, United's move puts a fine point on an otherwise amorphous issue: After a shaky start, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner is a smash hit and the Airbus flagship, the double-decked A380 (left), is a flop. I warned in 2007 that the gargantuan A380 was heading for financial distress despite its conspicuous customer assets. Then came the news that Airbus itself knew the plane was a costly mistake. "The days when we did some projects for valor or pride are gone," said the chief operating officer, Tom Williams, in 2016. The A380 "was probably on the cusp" of vanity, he added. Now comes devastating criticism from Qantas chief economist Tony Webber. "You can fly two Boeing 787s between Sydney and Los Angeles with the same fuel consumption as the A380," Webber explained. "That's why Qantas are now going for Dreamliners rather than A380s." The overall future of the A380 is in doubt, too. An order from Emirates Airline, which was supposed to save the endangered aircraft, is now stalled.
Around the World From Amsterdam to Vientiane
AMSTERDAM: Visitor numbers have increased by 60 percent over the last decade. But Amsterdam tourists behave like idiots, especially in the red-light district. The new mayor's solution: on-the-spot fines of 140 euros. Amsterdam has also restricted hotel development in an effort to slow tourism.
SACRAMENTO: A decrepit hotel building at one of the city's seediest intersections is getting a remake--as a hotel. An 11-story, 172-room Hyatt will open as part of a $68 million refurbishment. The property started life in 1911 as the Hotel Clayton and may be best-known in recent years as one of the homes of Unabomber Ted Kaczynski. Lately trading as the Marshall, the hotel closed in 2015.
STOCKTON-ON-TEES, ENGLAND: The world's first public passenger railway departed from Stockton. It was also where the Polish immigrant Michael Marks started his career as a peddler. Now Stockton's branch of Marks & Spencer, the British department store that grew from Marks' efforts, is closing. It's one of 100 that the chain plans to close by 2022 in an attempt to stay relevant in the era of Internet retailing. "It's the end of an era, really--it's ever so sad," said one Stockton resident.
TOKYO: One of the city's major tourist attractions, the 83-year old Tsukiji fish market, has closed. The vibrant wholesale market has moved to a controversial site over the objections of about 80 percent of the fishmongers who worked at Tsukiji. "We finally made Tsukiji a famous brand and now they're trying to destroy it," moaned the owner of one of Japan's largest sushi chains.
TURIN: The fourth-largest coffee company in the world, Lavazza, has opened an interactive coffee museum in Turin (above). Why Turin, the northern Italian city best-known as the hometown of Fiat cars? The city is also the home and headquarters of Lavazza. In fact, the company still owns and operates a coffee bar/restaurant/grocery store at Via San Tommaso 10 where Luigi Lavazza founded the company in 1895.
VIENTIANE, LAOS: Chinese investment in the once-somnambulant Laotian capital has transformed Vientiane into a city "brimming with cafes, restaurants and bars catering to the small but growing middle class." The communist government of the country calls the policy 'transforming assets into capital."
Running Railroads Means Always Having to Say You're Sorry
Want to run a railroad in the United Kingdom? Knowing how to say "Sorry for all the inconvenience we've caused" is a prerequisite. While British rail companies--they've been privatized, of course--beat anything Amtrak offers, Brits also have higher standards than U.S. train travelers. The result? A Web site that does nothing but track the apologies of Britain's train lines. The Great Western line, for instance, "issued 30,000 apologies since the start of the year, an average of 110 per day." The railroad's "customers pepper the Great Western Twitter feed about 1,000 times every 24 hours." Of course, it could be worse. In Russia--no, this isn't a Yakov Smirnoff joke--small communities at the edge of the grid rely on the erratic trains because electricity is spotty and there are no landlines, no mobile coverage and no Internet. Yet things are improving. The open-plan platzkart train cars, each with 54 communal bunks in close quarters, were once the standard. But Russia's new "transitional" railcars will be equipped with showers, vending machines and USB ports.
Tight Connections ...
Where's Waldo ... er, um, Elaine? In the first 14 months of her term, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao has had 290 hours of her schedule--the equivalent of seven weeks--labeled "private." The time isn't used for secret appointments, suggests Politico.com, since most of it appears on Fridays.
No Wonder Brett Kavanaugh Prefers Beer ... A bottle of 1926 Macallan Whisky sold last month in Edinburgh for 848,000 pounds. The whisky aged in a vat for 60 years before it was bottled, according to BBC News. A dozen bottles were known to exist. One was consumed. Another was destroyed in an earthquake in Japan.
Uber Is Evil, Part 999,999 The median hourly pay with tip for Uber drivers in the United States is $14.73. According to Recode.com, half of all Uber drivers bring in less than $10 an hour.-- Joe Brancatelli
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