Newsstand for Aug. 24-Sept. 7, 2017
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Read all about it: A tip on tipping: Go big in Idaho and West Virginia. Pittsburgh tops off its revival with a best-place-to-retire honor. It was 20 years ago today and I hammered Northwest Airlines for the start of its inevitable decline and fall. The last word (and stunning pictures) on this week's eclipse. And much more.
A Tip on Tipping: Go Big in Idaho and West Virginia
Publications around the nation jumped on a tipping survey released earlier this month by Square, the company perhaps best-known for those tiny credit-card-acceptance devices plugged into an iPhone. As Time magazine explained, Square examined millions of transactions in July and ranked all fifty states on their tipping habits. Tourist-driven Hawaii seems to be the most parsimonious (14.8 percent on average) and, even more surprisingly, the biggest tippers were in Idaho (17.4 percent). West Virginians (17.3 percent) also tipped well. The Boston Business Journal noted that Bostonians are bad tippers (15.5 percent) compared to the national average of 16.4 percent. Best tipping city? Pittsburgh, which clocked in at 17.6 percent, said the Steel City's local CBS-TV affiliate. (We talk more about Pittsburgh below.) Separately, a Texas delivery service called Favor says Houstonians are the state's most generous tippers. They tip 20 percent more than other Texans. And while we're on the topic of tipping, a revisionist view from the foodie site Grub Street. It says restaurants are abandoning the much-hyped no-tipping model, which boosted menu prices but nixed tipping. Apparently, people order less when meal prices are higher regardless of the fact that they're no longer expected to tip.
Come, Oh Come to Pittsburgh
The steel industry left Pittsburgh for dead. US Airways closed its hub, leaving much-admired Pittsburgh Airport a virtual ghost town. Forbes Field and its replacement, Three Rivers Stadium, are both history. But far from turning into a typical rust belt casualty, Pittsburgh has undergone quite a nice revival, thank you very much. (Center-city population continues to shrink, however.) One measure of Pittsburgh's turnaround is the pace of change in what The New York Times calls August Wilson's Pittsburgh. The much-honored playwright's 10-piece Century Cycle chronicles 100 years of life, death, decline and resilience of the city's African-America community. But maybe the bottom line on Pittsburgh now is its status as one of the nation's best places to retire. Warm-weather destinations rate higher, of course, but Pittsburgh comes in at number eleven in the nation, according to WalletHub survey of 150 communities. (By the way, if you're wondering about the headline, it's the title of a song in 1948's Inside U.S.A, a Broadway play based on the John Gunther book of the same name. A different song, Rhode Island Is Famous for You, is the best-remembered tune from the revue. In fact, I couldn't even find an online version of the hilarious Come, Oh Come to Pittsburgh for you to hear.)
My Back Pages: It Was 20 Years Ago Today
In the annuals of truly despicable carriers, Northwest Airlines rates high ... or low. In the late 1990s, Northwest operated absolutely dreadful service from what wags then called Snowtown, Motown and Notown (Minneapolis, Detroit and Memphis). And Northwest management literally did not care because it was convinced that its customers in flyover country weren't as sophisticated or discerning as travelers on the coasts. Things got so bad that I wrote a column on August 25, 1997, detailing Northwest's seemingly endless failings: decrepit jets, repeated service lapses and dreary on-time operations. A few weeks later, Northwest's apologists of the moment demanded equal time and I followed up with another column. I let them make their sad case, but I suggested Northwest flyers were being scammed. That also was the column where I crafted a line that has become one of my axioms: Airlines that want to be "as good as anyone" or "competitive" rarely turn out to be either. Northwest was as bad as I claimed. Management came and went, service continued to worsen and Northwest hit rock bottom in 1999 when it abandoned Detroit flyers in a snowstorm. By 2005, its constant battles with labor unions led to a crippling strike. Management, of course, lied about everything: its on-time performance during the strike, its ability to run flights without union mechanics and its poor financial condition. Several weeks after the strike began, Northwest filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. It disappeared in the 2008 merger with Delta Air Lines although several Northwest executives--notably former Delta chief executive Richard Anderson--did survive and prosper in the combination.
Tight Connections ...
Transatlantic transition Back in April, I wrote about the rise of discount carriers across the Atlantic. Now it looks like the blizzard of seats and routes launched by the discounters is crimping the revenue flow for the slow-to-react U.S. airlines. It will only get more perilous for the U.S. airlines. As you can read in this week's Tactical Traveler, both Icelandair and WOW Air have introduced additional routes to destinations such as Cleveland and St. Louis, cities the U.S. majors long ago cut from their transatlantic maps.
Triple Seven Nuances Gary Leff of the View From the Wing blog offers a useful primer on the various seats and configurations of American Airlines' fleet of approximately four dozen Boeing 777-200s. Plenty to chew on here.
Total eclipse of the flight You're probably eclipsed out, but, I promise, this is something you really need to see and read about. Alaska Airlines operated an eclipse chaser on Monday and the film shot on the flight is truly outstanding. The story on the flight itself is a worthy read, too. -- Joe Brancatelli
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