By SCOTT MAYEROWITZ (AP)
On flights from San Francisco to Hong Kong, first-class passengers can enjoy a Mesclun salad with king crab or a grilled USDA prime beef tenderloin, stretch out in a 3-foot-wide seat that converts to a bed and wash it all down with a pre-slumber Krug "Grande Cuvee" Brut Champagne.
Yet some of the most cherished new international first-class perks have nothing to do with meals, drinks or seats. Global airlines are increasingly rewarding wealthy fliers with something more intangible: physical distance between them and everyone else.
The idea is to provide an exclusive experience - inaccessible, even invisible, to the masses in coach. It's one way that a gap between the world's wealthiest 1 percent and everyone else has widened.
Many top-paying international passengers, having put down roughly $15,000 for a ticket, now check-in at secluded facilities and are driven in luxury cars directly to planes. Others can savor the same premier privileges by redeeming 125,000 or more frequent flier miles for a trip of a lifetime.
When Emirates Airline opened a new concourse at its home airport in Dubai last year, it made sure to keep coach passengers separate from those in business and first class. The top floor of the building is a lounge for premium passengers with direct boarding to the upstairs of Emirates' fleet of double-decker Airbus A380s. Those in coach wait one story below and board to the lower level of the plane.
London's Heathrow Airport took a private suite area designed for the royal family and heads of state and in July opened it to any passenger flying business or first class who's willing to pay an extra $2,500.
"First class has become a way for a traveler to have an almost private jet-like experience," says Henry Harteveldt, an airline analyst with Hudson Crossing. Airlines "will do everything but sing a lullaby."
The front of the plane has always been plusher than the back. But in recent years airlines have put a greater focus on catering to the most affluent fliers' desire for new levels of privacy.
There's a lot of money on the line. At big carriers like American Airlines, about 70 percent of revenue comes from the top 20 percent of its customers.
The special treatment now starts at check-in. American and United Airlines have both developed private rooms, located in discrete corners of their terminals in New York, Chicago and elsewhere, that allow for a speedy check-in. Boarding passes in hand, travelers exit through hidden doors leading to the front of security lines.
Some foreign airlines have gone further.Lufthansa offers first-class passengers a separate terminal in Frankfurt.
There's a restaurant, cigar lounge and dedicated immigration officers. For those who choose to shower or take a bath, the private restrooms come with their own rubber ducky - an exclusive plastic souvenir for the international jet set. When it's time to board, passengers are driven across the tarmac to their plane in a Mercedes-Benz S-Class or Porsche Cayenne.
"That sort of exclusivity plays to the ego of people who are in a position to spend that much money on airline flight," says Tim Winship, publisher of travel advice site FrequentFlier.com.
At Heathrow's private suites, designed for up to six people, fliers pass swiftly and privately through their own immigration and security screening.
While they're waiting, hors d'oeuvres and Champagne are provided. Steak, sushi or other meals can be delivered from airport restaurants. When it comes time to actually fly, passengers are driven to their plane in a BMW 7 Series sedan and escorted to their seat.U.S. airlines have copied a bit of that touch.
United started in July and Delta Air Lines in 2011 driving their top customers who have tight connections at major airports from one gate to another in luxury cars. No need to enter the terminal, let alone fight the crowd on the moving walkway.
Want to board first? No problem. Want to be the last one seated, moments before the door closes? Sure. Airlines will even save room for your bags in the overhead bin.
International first class has long been distinguished by gourmet meals, wide seats and giant TVs preloaded with hundreds of movies and TV shows. But in recent years, airlines also upgraded their international business class sections, ripping apart cabins to install chairs that convert into lay-flat beds.
That left very little to differentiate first class from business class.
So some airlines scrapped the ultra-premium cabin. Others have cut the number of first-class seats in half, thereby creating a more intimate experience that commands the higher price. For instance, a roundtrip flight in July between New York and Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific costs $1,600 in coach, $7,600 in business class and $19,000 in first class. Other airlines charge similar price differences among their passenger classes.
Besides privacy, that extra cash provides an outsize seat, attentive service and superior wines and liquors. Austrian Airlines, Etihad Airways and Gulf Air are among the carriers to staff planes with their own first-class chefs. Instead of having flight attendants reheating meals cooked on the ground, these chefs prepare the meals at 35,000 feet.
Sometimes, that smell wafts back to the rest of the plane.
"You know they've got something good up in front of the curtain, and you know you don't have anything close to it," Harteveldt says. "When you fly coach, you are reminded of the fact that you are unimportant as a traveler."
In the ultimate show of indulgence, Emirates has offered an onboard shower for first class passengers on its A380s since the plane joined the fleet in 2008.
Once back on the ground, that luxury treatment continues. At airports in Paris, London, Istanbul, Bangkok, Sydney and elsewhere, airlines offer their top passengers fast-track cards allowing them to speed past immigration lines.
And then, while other passengers wait in lines for buses, taxis or shuttles, chauffeurs in suits meet these fliers ready to - once again - whisk them out of the chaos.
Thursday, February 27, 2014
By SCOTT MAYEROWITZ (AP)
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Αφιέρωμα στην Ουκρανία:
-Ιραν-Δύση: Οι συμβιβασμοί
-Συρία: Oι ελάχιστες ( ; ) επιλογές της Δύσης
-Βενεζουέλα: η ατέρμονη προσπάθεια αποδόμησης εκλεγμένων κυβερνήσεων
- ΗΠΑ: Τα συν και τα πλην της αύξησης του ελάχιστου μισθού
Ακούστε Τα Υπ΄ Όψιν με την Έλενα Σπηλιώτη και τον Γιώργο Ζορμπά για ενημέρωση, συνεντεύξεις και αναλύσεις στα θέματα της επικαιρότητας αυτή την εβδομάδα στο
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
By M.L. JOHNSON (AP)
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced on February 25 that it will spend millions of dollars to help farmers and ranchers improve pastures in five Midwestern states to provide food for the nation's struggling honeybees.
Commercial honeybees pollinate an estimated $15 billion worth of produce each year. Many beekeepers bring hives to the Upper Midwest in the summer for bees to gather nectar and pollen for food, then truck them in the spring to California and other states to pollinate everything from almonds to apples to avocadoes.
But agricultural production has been threatened by a more than decade-long decline in commercial honeybees and their wild cousins due to habitat loss and pesticide use. Colony collapse disorder, in which honeybees suddenly disappear or die, has made the problem worse, boosting losses over the winter to as much as 30 percent per year.
The USDA hopes to stem those losses by providing more areas for bees to build up food stores and strength for winter. The new program will be "a real shot in the arm" for improving bees' habitat and food supply, said Jason Weller, chief of USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Dairy farmers and ranchers in Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Dakotas can qualify for about $3 million to reseed pastures with alfalfa, clover and other plants appealing to both bees and livestock. Farmers also can get help building fences, installing water tanks and making other changes that better enable them to move their animals from pasture to pasture so the vegetation doesn't become worn down.
The goal is to provide higher quality food for insects and animals.
"It's a win for the livestock guys, and it's a win for the managed honeybee population," Weller said. "And it's a win then for orchardists and other specialty crop producers across the nation because then you're going to have a healthier, more robust bee population that then goes out and helps pollinate important crops."
The USDA is focusing on those five states because 65 percent of the nation's estimated 30,000 commercial beekeepers bring hives there for at least part of the year. With limited funds, Weller said, the goal is to get the biggest payoff for the investment.
Corn, soybean and other farmers can qualify for money to plant cover crops, which typically go in after the regular harvest and help improve soil health, or to grow bee-friendly forage in borders and on the edges of fields.
The program is just the latest in a series of USDA efforts to reduce honeybee deaths. The agency has partnered with universities to study bee diseases, nutrition and other factors threatening colonies. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack also recently created a working group on bees to coordinate efforts across the department.
The work is already paying off with changes to once-common beekeeping practices, such as supplementing bees' diet with high-fructose corn syrup, said David Epstein, a senior entomologist with the USDA. He noted that the quality of bees' food is as important as the quantity.
"You can think of it in terms of yourself," Epstein said. "If you are studying for exams in college, and you're not eating properly and you're existing on coffee, then you make yourself more susceptible to disease and you get sick".
Tim Tucker, who has between 400 and 500 hives at sites in Kansas and Texas, said he may take some of his bees to South Dakota this year because the fields around his farm near Niotaze, Kan., no longer provide much food for them.
"There used to be a lot of small farms in our area that had clover and a variety of crops, whereas in the last 20 years it's really been corn, soybean and cotton and a little bit of canola," Tucker said. "But those crops don't provide a lot of good nectar and pollen for bees."
Tucker, who is president of the American Beekeeping Federation, said the last "really good" year he had was 1999, when he got more than 100 pounds of honey per hive. Last year, he averaged about 42 pounds per hive.
He hopes dairy farmers, beef cattle ranchers and others will sign up for the new USDA program by the March 21 deadline.It's not a "cure all," Tucker said, but "anything we do to help provide habitat for honeybees and for native bees and pollinators is a step."
Monday, February 24, 2014
Είναι απολύτως απαραίτητο ο ΣΥΡΙΖΑ να εξηγήσει ακόμη περισσότερο, ξανά και ξανά, πως τα πρότυπα με τα οποία ζούσαμε έως την κρίση έχουν εξαντλήσει μέχρις εσχάτων τη δυναμική τους. Ετσι, με την αλήθεια θα κρατήσει τις δυνάμεις του ώστε στις δύσκολες συνθήκες της διακυβέρνησης που θα έρθουν να μην αντιστραφεί η κοινωνική δυναμική που τον ώθησε στη θέση της αξιωματικής αντιπολίτευσης και πιθανότατα στην κυβέρνηση –αυτό θα ήταν καταστροφή για το κόμμα αλλά κυρίως για τη χώρα. Αλλωστε, πρέπει να θεωρούμε δεδομένο πως οι νεοφιλελεύθερες ευρωπαϊκές πολιτικές δυνάμεις θα προσπαθήσουν να οδηγήσουν σε αδιέξοδο τη διακυβέρνηση από τον ΣΥΡΙΖΑ ώστε να τον απονομιμοποιήσουν κοινωνικά στο εσωτερικό της χώρας –τουλάχιστον. Το έχουν ξανακάνει και θα το επιχειρήσουν ξανά με πιο άγριο τρόπο.
Monday, February 17, 2014
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Advertise with Ta Yp Opsin, the news roundup with Chicago journalists Elena Spilioti and George Zorbas
Monday, February 10, 2014