Category Archives for "Trajan’s Column"

Dark clouds for the Black Cab: Projection for London’s iconic Taxis

Future of London Black Cab?

Future of London Black Cab?

Business education classes teach a technique called “PEST analysis” to assess the market attractiveness or a health of a company. It looks at  the external factors beyond your control, that are either opportunities or threats to your business.

In this context P.E.S.T is an acronym that refers to POLITICAL, ECONOMIC,  SOCIAL or  TECHNOLOGICAL trends coming in the near future.

Eco City Vehicles (ECV) is the company that makes black cabs and they are getting hammered by a perfect storm of PESTs. These are all threats with hardly any opportunities. A market report by “This is Money” discusses the bleak outlook for ECV. Continue reading..

Swissport, Swisswhine: Baggage fiasco in Gatwick airport tied to low wage contractor

Following on from Heathrow T5 fiasco where BA fliers had problems of no luggage for a few days, we now hear about luggage problems with passengers going through Gatwick. In the Heathrow example,the issue was equipment related. In Gatwick’s case, the problem is staffing. It seems that the contractor, Swissport, cannot get staff to want to work.

From the Telegraph:-

Travellers flying from Gatwick this weekend can expect chaotic scenes because Swissport, the baggage handling firm, does not have enough workers to load and unload planes. Two airlines warned that difficulties at the airport could worsen over the next four months because airlines are locked in to contracts with Swissport.

The problem is most acute at weekends because the firm is using staff on zero-hours contracts who do not wish to work anti-social hours, it is claimed.

Airlines using Swissport at Gatwick for baggage handling services include British Airways, Virgin, Monarch, Thomas Cook and Thomson.

The firm is having its contract terminated by at least one airline after it was blamed for failing to load passengers’ bags on to outgoing planes and not returning luggage to those arriving at Gatwick.

It get’s worse. Continue reading..

What the FAA..? Southwest fined $12m by FAA but good luck in understanding why

A Federal watchdog being exposed

A Federal watchdog on the job

Roads-2-Roam previously criticized the limitations of a ‘ rent an AP news story‘ model where a News outlet reports a base story such as “FAA seeks $12 million fine against Southwest“, but the details are provided by a centralized ‘news-lite’  AP release. The so called News outlet make tweak the AP release to make it appear as if it is theirs, but it many cases leave it as is.

In the 7/28 topical case about “FAA wanting to fine Southwest”, Roads-2-Roam saw the headline and wanted to learn more. We wanted to know why it was going to be fined.

Unfortunately,the top articles on new searches were the same AP base story despite it being different new sources. The more we read on different news sites despite minor changes, the more we recognized the same AP article.

Eventually we found a non-AP different article that picked apart the story under ‘aviationblog’ under Dallas Morning news, written by Terry Maxon. From the aviationblog article:

Here’s how we understand the allegations. It wasn’t that the modifications turned out to be unsafe. It was that Southwest’s contractor with Southwest oversight used a method that wasn’t approved at that time by the FAA, and that Southwest operated the modified aircraft knowing that the modifications hadn’t received FAA approval. From the FAA announcement:

“The FAA alleges that beginning in 2006, Southwest conducted so-called ‘extreme makeover’ alterations to eliminate potential cracking of the aluminum skin on 44 jetliners. The FAA conducted an investigation that included both the airline and its contractor, Aviation Technical Services, Inc., (ATS) of Everett, Wash. Investigators determined that ATS failed to follow proper procedures for replacing the fuselage skins on these aircraft. FAA investigators also determined that ATS failed to follow required procedures for placing the airplanes on jacks and stabilizing them. All of the work was done under the supervision of Southwest Airlines, which was responsible for ensuring that procedures were properly followed.

“Southwest returned the jetliners to service and operated them when they were not in compliance with Federal Aviation Regulations, the FAA alleges. The regulatory violations charged involve numerous flights that occurred in 2009 after the FAA put the airline on notice that these aircraft were not in compliance with either FAA Airworthiness Directives or alternate, FAA-approved methods of complying with the directives. The FAA later approved the repairs after the airline provided proper documentation that the repairs met safety standards.”

The FAA said Southwest operated the airplanes in question for more than 30,000 flights after the FAA became aware of the unapproved methods of work and before the FAA gave its okay to the repairs performed on the airplanes. We presume many more flights were operated before the FAA realized what had happened.

Continue reading..

Justice is not served : State Farms’s tortuous logic to deny paying out stinks

justice stinksJust when we thought we couldn’t be shocked any more by the shenanigans of big corporations, we read about State Farm Insurance denying a claim to a disabled man in a Motorized wheelchair who was hit by an SUV while crossing the road. The tortured argument that State Farm is using is that the wheelchair is a vehicle and as such needed, auto insurance. Because he had no auto insurance, he was illegally on the road and therefore, cannot make a claim.

From Bloomberg:

Two insurance companies have made an unusual argument in a Michigan case: They’re insisting that the drivers of motorized mobility scooters should be required to get the same insurance as car and truck owners.

The case involves the claims of a paralyzed man who was hit by an SUV while crossing the street on his way to a doughnut shop. The insurance companies’ position? Because the man didn’t have auto insurance on his scooter, they shouldn’t have to pay for any damage caused to him by the SUV.

The arguments by lawyers for State Farm Mutual Auto Insurance and Farm Bureau Insurance of Michigan have produced a mix of outrage and snide commentary in Michigan legal circles. Some lawyers warn the case could impact many of the estimated 300,000 elderly and disabled people nationally who depend on motorized scooters and powered wheelchairs to get around.

Nevermind the fact that he was crossing the road and not driving on it.

Nevermind the fact under Michigan law 257.33 “Motor Vehicle” Defined, “Motor vehicle does not include an electric personal assistive mobility device.”)

Nevermind the fact that the police officer found the Jeep’s driver at fault and that the victim, Mr. Veness was listed as a pedestrian in the officers report.

This is a new low to the 3D approach of “Deny, Delay, Defend” as a way of not paying out. You Scumbags.


Viator : TripAdvisor’s mini-me

Per Ablemediao “Viator” is Latin for traveler where the word is linked to the Latin word “via”, which means road.

Viator is also the name of a company just acquired by TripAdvisor for $200m. From a piece by Forbes that reads like a cut and paste from a TripAdvisor Press release:

Viator is a website operated by travel insiders that curate the best local tours and activities, which have been visited by over 3 million people. Viator has more than 20,000 bookable tours and 600,000 reviews submitted by travelers, spanning over 1,500 destinations.

“Travelers want to explore local attractions while on their trip, and Viator’s depth and breadth in global attractions combined with their seamless booking experience will provide immediate benefit to our community, whether in the planning phase or on the trip,” said TripAdvisor president and CEO Stephen Kaufer in a statement.

A bit later, the cut and paster reporter Amit Chaudry says

People take reviews on TripAdvisor very seriously. Millions of travelers look at TripAdvisor reviews before deciding where to visit. Accommodation brands know this, which is why some have paid people to write good TripAdvisor reviews about them. More than a couple dozen hotels were blacklisted by TripAdvisor as a result. TripAdvisor now has a verification process that considers the IP address and e-mail address of the authors.

Really? This is Forbes standard of writing ? We have criticised TripAdvisor before for their false reviews under The good, the bad and the ugly, but let’s take a look at Viator. Continue reading..

Bag of Blues : JetBlue to charge for check in baggage

Bloomberg Businessweek reports about JetBlue looking at charging for first check in bag. Today they charge for the second bag.

Turns out that while they hold a price premium on many routes, in others they are not. Thus, they are looking at finding a way of to hide the charge in a confusing new ticket naming tactic.

The talk is that it will introduced it in 2015 so that the only US airline with free checking bags will be Southwest. However, we’ve noticed Southwest fares have slowly increased over the years so we think Southwest silently absorbed this. They are certainly no longer the cheap airline.

Our prognosis:  This will have little impact to JetBlue itself. It will get accepted since their competitors have set precedence where this is accepted practice.

Licensed to Kill : NY Taxi and Limousine commission with a concession from Lyft.

From Bloomberg Businessweek

After a few weeks of setbacks and standoffs, Lyft has found a way to bring its car service to New York City: just abandon the core of its business model. The ride-sharing startup, which lets ordinary people with privately-owned cars  use its service to sell rides to one another, will launch Friday as more of a conventional, Uber-like service that deploys only licensed livery drivers.

Lyft has wanted to come to New York for quite some time, and over the last two weeks Lyft’s dispute with state and city officials has become the conflict du jour between a sharing economy startup and local government. The fate of similar startups in the big city has set an ominous backdrop to Lyft’s ordeal. After Sidecar, another ride-sharing company, staged a local launch last year, it only stuck around for a few weeks.

And so it goes. This round goes to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and the NY’s Taxi and Limousine Commission. 


Your Judge keeps Lyfting me higher : Ruling goes against the Uber and Lyft operating in NYC

Lyft me up, Lyft me down.

Lyft me up, Lyft me down.

So the legal situation of Lyft, Uber et al, evolves.  The New York Post reports that Lyft has agreed to submit to TLC regulations.

The ride-sharing app Lyft caved to demands by the city to submit to TLC regulations after a Manhattan judge threatened to bar the company from launching in the outer boroughs.

“Lyft agreed they would not launch until they have come into compliance with the law, the TLC requirements,” said Justice Kathryn Freed Friday.

Specifically the start-up, which already operates in 65 other cities including San Francisco and Chicago, has to register with base stations and submit its mobile phone app technology to the TLC for approval.

“If these things aren’t done I’m prepared to issue a temporary restraining order” preventing Lyft vehicles from driving in the city until the conclusion of a lawsuit brought by the attorney general challenging the business model, Freed said.

This is pretty big news in that these start up companies have claimed such regulation don’t apply so this could be setting legal precedence. If they do have to comply with such Taxi regulations as laid down by local authorities, their new internet business model gets broken pretty quick.  Just look at Aereo to see what happens when it goes in front of a judge:Virtual reality meets real reality. Continue reading..

A name in a crowd. Faces in the tragedy.

Cor pan's post to facebook about Malaysian airline.

Cor pan’s post to facebook about Malaysian airline.

17th July 2014: By now you all should know about the awful story of Malaysian Airline MH17 being shot down over the Ukraine. It is day=0 and there is much speculative information about the events.

We are sure more details will emerge in the next few days. We worry about the repercussions.

The people impacted appear to come from many nationalities and if count stands true, 80 of the fatalities will be children.

However, there is one person on MH17 we warmed to when we read the various articles. We refer to Cor Pan from Netherlands, who posted on Facebook a picture of the Malaysian Airline plane before he boarded with a translated comment of “Should it disappear, this is what it looks like.”

After we read this, we at Roads-2-Roam had a wry smile: This is a person with a dry sense of humor similar to ours.

The second picture we include shows Cor Pan with his girlfriend, Neeltje who were flying to their holiday.

Requiescat in pace.

People of MH17: Cor Pan and Neeltje Tol.

Two of the real people of MH17: Cor Pan and Neeltje Tol.

Thunderbolt and Lightning, Very Very frightening me : Lightening strikes and outdoor travel

1975 picture of Michael McQuilken (right) and his little brother Sean moments before lightening struck them

1975 picture of Michael McQuilken (right) and his little brother Sean moments before lightening struck them

Sunday 13th July:  Roads-2-Roam read about a second death in only 2 days from lightning strike in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. Both had occurred on Trail Ridge road near or at Ute Crossing Trail. The one on Saturday impacted 13 people whereas 7 people were injured on Friday.

Per the usatoday article:

Park officials are reminding visitors of the dangers associated with being above tree line — or more than 10,000 feet. That area is very exposed and there are few places to take cover.

Park rangers say visitors should head to lower ground by 12 p.m. to avoid being caught in a dangerous storm.

Prior to this, the last fatality due to lightening in Rocky Mountain National Park happened in 2000 so this seems like a statistical anomaly.

Reading around for information on this we found a stupid CBS article claiming this happened during “heavy monsoon rains”. Oh for crying out loud: The US does not have monsoons. What the US does have is instead is morons,usually lazy reporters.

Now back to the topic of lightning. Years ago, Augustus remembers one of an Irish friend tell us about a time hiking in the Rockies when a storm hit. He said “It started as fun but the scary thing was there was nowhere to shelter. There was blinding white flashes and I ducked as low as possible and was glad to make it out alive”. Continue reading..