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Posts Tagged ‘travel’

The Price of Air Travel

The cost of air travel is going up, and airlines are counting on us not to notice.

I’m not talking about airfares, which have actually declined in real terms over the past decade, despite inching up in the past few years. And I don’t mean the ancillary fees to check a bag, check in at the airport, speak to a live agent, or pick your seat, though these, too, are going up. Instead, I’m talking about the cost of delays and schedule disruptions that waste travelers’ time and force them to travel earlier to their destinations or risk missing important meetings and events. 

Air travel in the U.S. is becoming less reliable and less resilient to shocks like isolated storms that can ripple through the system and impact passengers thousands of miles away. If anti-trust authorities approve the merger between American and US Airways, we should expect things to get worse.

Your Singapore Suggestions, Please

I will be in Singapore soon — first visit — with only a little bit of spare time but I’d like to see and learn and do some worthwhile things. Suggestions? Many thanks in advance.

Terminal Illness: Readers' Best and Worst Airports

Thanks to those who participated in our call to sound off about your favorite and least favorite airports. The results: 

At the top of the list of best airports, by a long way, was Amsterdam’s Schiphol. I have not flown into Schiphol myself, but I’m not at all surprised by this ranking, as the Dutch are genius urban planners. Schiphol has a branch of the Rijksmuseum art museum, displaying actual old masters, and a shopping mall which is open to the public as well as travelers.

  • “Great options to suit everyone – awesome baby & kids facilities, casinos for dad and plenty of decent shopping as well as food options. It really made for an easy 6hr layover with baby.”—Cam

No, there are no “coffee shops,” in Schiphol, so don’t be attributing the glowing reviews to anything but the quality of the airport. (Perhaps the same cannot be said for Managua, Nicaragua, which reader ephman ranks as his favorite because “you can buy Oxycontin in the waiting area without a prescription to entertain yourself for the long flight to wherever you’re going.”)

Maximizing Profits: Contract Out or DIY?

We did a kayak/hike/swim tour with Kayak Wailua in Kauai, Hawaii, mainly because our guidebook said it was as good as other tours and less expensive. I think the book was correct, so I asked the guide: “How do you guys charge a lower price and still survive?” 

He answered that they are larger (because they have more permits for river trips), enabling the owner to do his own booking directly, thus saving expenses. Fine, but implicitly the opportunity cost of his time must be less than the cost of contracting out, or he is not profit-maximizing. If he is profit-maximizing, then implicitly he has taken advantage of economies of scale in this “industry,” while his competitors haven’t. If that is so, I would expect some consolidation among his competitors as they understand the shape of long-run average costs. (HT: KY)

TSA Chronicles, Cream Cheese Edition

Alan Pisarski, a transportation scholar featured in our podcast about the disappearance of hitchhiking, writes in to say:

My niece was back home in Milwaukee visiting family and stocked up on bagels, lox, and cream cheese to take home to Kentucky (forget for our purposes the madness of thinking that Milwaukee has a clue about bagels etc. – she is right – at least they have heard of them in contrast to KY). Anyways, the wonderful folk at TSA said she could take the bagels on board and the lox, but the cream cheese was out! But being proud civil servants – an oxymoron if ever there was one — they agreed that it would be okay, and she could bring it on board, if the cream cheese was spread on the bagels. Please write this down for future reference.

The Travel Time Budget

Is our need to travel innate? Last time, I wrote about the intriguing theory of the universal Travel Time Budget (TTB), which states that humans have a built-in travel clock. Perhaps a product of some primeval need to balance exploration and conquest with hanging around the cave and vegging, the universal TTB is said to drive us all to spend about 1.1 hours per day on the go, regardless of nationality, culture, economic system, or era.

Peak Travel?

Call me a skeptic about the “peak oil” story. Human ingenuity has always found ways to produce more of, find substitutes for, or discover ways to do without a scarce resource when price signals tell us to. But if peak oil is true, doesn’t one good peak deserve another? Why not meet peak oil head on with its dreaded natural enemy: peak travel?

Do We Travel to Get There or Get There to Travel?

It doesn’t take a Ph.D. in transportation to demonstrate that you go someplace because you want to get there. But it definitely helps to have a Ph.D. if you want to demonstrate that you get someplace because you want to go. This far less intuitive hypothesis has been explored by Patricia L. Mokhtarian of the University of California at Davis, one of my favorite transportation thinkers, and her collaborators.

Changing the Hotel Pricing Model

I spent three nights recently in the guest house at Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo. Very pleasant – and it was priced at $20/night (obviously heavily subsidized). In addition, however, there was a one-time $16 charge for cleaning at the end of my stay.

Memories of Madrid

A recent trip to Madrid included a lecture at the Universidad Europea de Madrid (which features, among other things, a dentistry school, at right). The best part was a short film that had been made before my arrival: a spoof in which an economics class at the university is taught freakonomics instead of economics (sorry, no translation available).

A Bleg: Ideas for Radio Hong Kong?

I have a brief visit to Hong Kong soon (my first!) and would like to bring back some material for our Freakonomics Radio podcast. Suggestions?

Sex and the SUV: Men, Women, and Travel Behavior

Indeed, the conclusion of the slogan “you’ve come a long way, baby” ironically demonstrates that women had not come quite as long a way as they might have hoped. Even now, important gender differences persist, and they show up quite clearly in the realm of transportation.

The Hidden Side of Rail Travel

| North Korea launched a threatening-looking rocket over the weekend. It crashed harmlessly into the sea. Wonder what North Korea actually looks like on the ground these days? Two Austrians recently entered the country by train, through a border crossing that has been closed to tourists since 1994, and took these rare and fascinating photos of life in the Hermit . . .

British Food, Good and Bad

I just spent a great week in London with the family (see here, and here) and yes, I did run across a few pasties, including these, in the breathtaking food halls at Harrods: I find it hard to believe that the food halls can be profitable; part of the spectacle is the volume and variety of every sort of food . . .

Travel Addicts

My wife announced yesterday that she is “traveled out.” I’m not surprised — I am too: Since mid-August we’ve taken trips (mostly long weekends) to Istanbul, Munich, French Switzerland, northeast Italy, Amsterdam, Dublin, London, Barcelona, and, starting tomorrow, Paris plus London again.

British Intelligence to Wi-Fi Hunters: Keep Nose Out

On family holiday in London, we were riding in a taxi out to the Imperial War Museum. As we passed the riverfront headquarters of MI6, a.k.a. the Secret Intelligence Service, my wife happened to be futzing with her iPhone. A list of Wi-Fi networks popped up. At the top: a network called KeepNoseOut. Coincidence? I’d like to think not. I . . .

From a London Bathroom Wall, A Lesson in Complementaries

Am on holiday with the family in London. Pure joy — although my 6-year-old daughter, who’d recently heard that black pepper can force a sneeze, took a handful and somehow mashed it into her eye instead; tears ensued; but it was nothing a trip to Hamleys couldn’t cure. At a very delicious Italian restaurant called Pappa Ciccia, there is a . . .

Guess Where I Was the Other Day

It is home to this fine monument: And here it is in wider view: Yes, that’s the Parthenon, but no, I was not in Athens, and no, Athens hasn’t rebuilt the thing. I was in “the Athens of the South,” a.k.a. Nashville, Tenn., to give a talk at Vanderbilt University. I have always liked Nashville and Vanderbilt in particular, and . . .

Why Would You Waive the A.T.M. Fee?

While traveling through Istanbul, I noticed numerous free-standing kiosks with several (as many as six) A.T.M.’s — each from a different bank. This struck me as being bizarre. A Turkish economist said that some of the banks even let you withdraw from your account using a competitor’s A.T.M. at no extra charge. Why would these joint locations exist? Why advertise . . .

Hotels Are So Twentieth Century

From Social networking websites have changed the way we view our reputations, the way we organize protests, and now the way we … couch surf? AirBed&Breakfast lets travelers meet locals in 20 countries and book a few nights in their guest rooms, as an alternative to sleeping in a hotel. They are hoping to fill the gap as hotels . . .

Eating Polar Bears Is Okay in Greenland

This is our third and final guest post from the very polymathic Nathan Myhrvold. The first two were Icelandic travelogues; this one takes us to Greenland. It includes some of the most stunning photographs we have ever seen. Iceland is a modern technological society which retains a frontier attitude. Greenland, on the other hand, really is a frontier — in . . .

FREAK Shots: How Many Bumper Stickers Make a Bad Driver?

Driving a car can be depersonalizing. That’s why drivers use bumper stickers, bobble-heads, fish brake lights, racing stripes, etc. to show others on the road their personalities, explains Tom Vanderbilt in his book, Traffic. A recent study by Colorado State University psychologist William Szlemko found a link between road rage and the number — but not content — of personalized . . .

Iceland Rocks: Or, How Is Eating Whale Like Voting for President? A Guest Post

It doesn’t seem fair that one person can be so good at so many things. Nathan Myhrvold is one such person. He is probably still best known as the former chief technology officer of Microsoft. These days, he runs an invention company and spends his free time digging up dinosaur bones, experimenting with old and new cooking methods, and taking . . .

Baseball’s Jet Lag Drag

Major League Baseball teams that travel through three time zones or more are at a significant disadvantage against their time-adjusted opponents, according to a new study by neurologist W. Christopher Winter of the Martha Jefferson Sleep Medicine Center. The performance impairment diminishes with each day a given team has to acclimate to the new time zone. But the circadian advantage, . . .

Mixed Messages on Auto Use

We wrote not long ago about the various negative externalities produced by driving — congestion, pollution, accident risk, etc. — and how pay-as-you-drive insurance might help impose the true cost of driving on each driver. Now a reader named Larry Holt, the director of research of the Birmingham (Alabama) Regional Chamber of Commerce, writes in with an interesting point about . . .