RETURN OF THE CLAMPETT SUMMER
Global media is abuzz with a series of reports on incidents in China where passengers did unthinkable things on board commercial airliners. The bad behavior ranges from throwing hot noodles at a flight attendant on a Nanjing-bound Thai Air Asia flight over a seating dispute to passengers opening emergency exits on different airlines at various stages of flight—including (and thankfully unsuccessfully) in midflight—to lighting up the now taboo cigarette. The reasons for the transgressions varied: to protest an extended delay, to “get fresh air,” to “get off quicker,” or good, old-fashioned inebriation.
Most of these passengers ended up in jail, and in response to the malfeasance, the Chinese government introduced a “National Uncivilized Travel Record”: a no-fly list where errant passenger’s names were recorded. Why? As living standards in China have risen, more passengers have taken to the air for the first time, whereas in the past, the train was the most common mode of inter-city transportation. While China has an enviable high speed rail system, train tickets can now sometimes cost the same as an air ticket.
This madness brings back memories of American Airlines’ introduction of “Value Pricing” in 1992, which resulted in a fare war that made flying too cheap to pass up for people who hadn’t previously flown. Those passengers new to air travel were referred to as “FIRID” in airline lingo, an abbreviation for “first time flier”. However, they became better known as “The Clampetts,” and that summer of full flights was labeled “The Clampett Summer.” The Clampetts were a fictional family on a U.S. sitcom called The Beverly Hillbillies that ran throughout the 1960s. The laughs were derived from the fact that the Clampetts had struck it rich, but were unfamiliar with creature comforts of living in a mansion, raising the eyebrows and ire of their neighbors.
Stories that summer about novice passengers opening windows, smoking, not knowing what to do with a seat belt, and much more emerged up and down the employee ranks. These kinds of incidents now happen elsewhere due to the unfamiliarity of an airplane in emerging nations. These incidents, however, are far from comical; they can result in expenses, inconvenience to others, and a threat to passenger and employee safety. In the meantime, when flying in China, keep an eye on your fellow passenger, as this phenomenon is sure to pass once again as air travel becomes more routine.
SPEAKING OF SMOKING
Can you believe it’s been 25 years since flights (of six hours of less) became no smoking in the U.S.? Not long after that, all flights were smoke free. The rest of the world soon followed. The American Heart Association and other health organizations celebrated that anniversary on February 23 of this year. This makes the presence of those iconic “no smoking” signs and armrest ashtrays both a novelty and a curiosity.
Indeed, some of us remember being asked upon check-in whether we preferred “smoking or no smoking.” Most airlines relegated smoking to the rear of the cabin, which meant the back of the economy class section and the last row or two of first class. Essentially, after takeoff, before there was the now familiar announcement about electronic devices, there was the, “smoking is now permitted” PA. Some passengers in the non-smoking section would congregate near the rear galleys to grab a smoke. On some airlines, such as Lufthansa, as I experienced, smoking was permitted on one entire side of the aircraft “to be equitable.”
Once upon a time, and not long ago, celebrities, financial hotshots and regular folks put their trust into American Express’ credit cards and products in marketing and in real life. For years, their effective branding as the one thing you could never leave home with out is now being kicked to the curb by retailers, investors and the high rollers who once swore by the miraculous piece of blue plastic.
According to Paul R. La Monica of CNNMoney, AmEx is the worst performing stock in the Dow this year, and the once mighty giant credit card giant reported its first quarter downfall in 2015, tanking 17 percent. Representatives from AmEx reason that the strong dollar was having a “significant impact” on its international business, but this deflects slightly from the impending loss of credit card partner Costco in 2016.
Earlier this year, Slate.com reported the once venerable credit-card company lost an antitrust lawsuit over whether it could stop merchants from asking customers to use other credit cards. Other credit-card companies, including Visa and Mastercard, typically charge merchants that accept their credit cards lower fees than AmEx does. The higher fees that AmEx charges merchants allow AmEx to offer better rewards to the customers who use its cards. Slate warned the T ruling would mean cardholders’ rewards would likely to worsen over time.
It doesn’t stop there. AmEx has bigger issues than currency fluctuations. Company spokespeople said the firm would be investing heavily this year to try and replace business they are set to lose in 2016 after Costco rides into the sunset. JetBlue is also closing the door on AmEx, and opening a new window through a new deal with Barclays and MasterCard.
Prospects for 2016 are not looking too bright for the once mighty blue chip company. Even with Warren Buffett standing by AmEx as one of Berkshire Hathaway’s “Big Four” stocks, and praised its managers for being “both talented and shareholder-oriented,” cautious investors are looking elsewhere to give credit where it is due.
NOAH’S ARK NYC
An impressive “Ark” is about to set sail at New York’s JFK International Airport. It may not be Noah’s, but it’s designed for the transport of domestic and wild animals. The new $48 million,178,000-square-foot transport and quarantine “terminal” will handle 70,000 animals annually when it opens next year. The Ark is designed with its customers in mind to reduce the stress of travel, with an animal arrival and departure lounge, gourmet food, showers, an overnight pet resort called “Paradise 4 Paws,” and veterinary services.
That said, animal transport has been business as usual at KLM since 1924. Its status as the first airline to transport live animals was sealed when a bull named Nico was flown from Rotterdam to Paris that year. The reputation has grown since, and KLM still recognized as one of the best and largest animal transporters in the world. Zoo animals, livestock, horses, ornamental fish, dogs and cats, and many exotic creatures have flown onboard. JFK’s “Ark” team should take note that KLM also boasts a special hotel for all the animals.
LULLED BY CROATIA’S LOŠINJ
Croatia is recognized as one of the most beautiful destinations, appreciated for its diversity, unique coast, and unspoiled nature. In the northern Adriatic Sea, in the Kvarner bay, lies an island of vitality—Lošinj. For centuries, Lošinj has been known as a place of fragrant, healing nature—a point of pride that carries on to this day.
In the idyllic surroundings of the Park Forest Čikat, next to the sea, surrounded by tall pines, agaves, and palm trees and sheltered from the wind, lies one of the most luxurious hotels in Lošinj—the boutique hotel Alhambra. Its private beach is perfect for moments of contemplation by the sea under the pleasant sunshine, from early spring until late fall. This exclusive natural environment complements the priceless architectural value of this beautiful hotel, built in 1912 and designed by respected Austrian architect, Alfred Keller, to provide the utmost comfort without spoiling the natural beauty. Newly renovated, the boutique hotel Alhambra maintained the same charm and goal, offering impeccable accommodation in 36 romantic double rooms and 15 spacious, elegant suites.
In communication with the beautiful villa Augusta, which can be completely separated if rented in its entirety, the boutique hotel Alhambra provides a full range of services.
For guests with exquisite taste who are accustomed to superior, personalized service and elegant comfort, the boutique hotel Alhambra is an idyllic destination. The additional amenities, such as offers of in-room wellness, motor and sailing boat rentals, or panoramic tours by plane, make Alhambra a unique hotel with made-to-measure offers.
Boutique Hotel Alhambra is part of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World.