Monthly Archives: June 2015

Am I Addicted to Jack Reacher?

When I was growing up, I could be called the queen of Mills & Boon. For those of you on this side of the pond, that translates to Harlequin romances. When I first came to the US aeons ago, to my dismay, I did not spot a single Mills & Boon book in book stores or libraries here. That’s when I discovered that the publisher here was Harlequin, and that there were thousands of those to be found. Whew!

My good friends in India can attest to my silly obsession. Remember when I would stow a book in my purse just so I could read it during the 10 minute movie interval? Talk about silly!

I was a voracious reader. This is a good quality to have. But I was also voraciously reading a lot of junk. This is not a good quality.

Thankfully, I have been evolving steadily and for some time now, my reading quality has gone up several notches. I couldn’t be more pleased with my selection of fiction and non-fiction books these days, nor with my wonderful companion and partner in crime, my kindle. It is more precious to me than my laptop and my iPhone. And that’s saying something!

Some months back, I discovered that my local library had a nice choice of kindle books that I could borrow. I decided to try a few new authors of fiction from their collection. One of them was this guy called, Lee Child. Honestly, I had never heard of him but the book was interestingly called The Affair, and it was available for borrowing.

And, lo and behold, a new addiction was born. 

First, it was a book here, a book there. Then, I started searching for all the ones that I had not read. I quickly exhausted the kindle supply at my local library. Now, I have the entire collection on my kindle.

In case you did not know, Lee Child invented an unlikely hero by the name of Jack Reacher. And he has spun tale after wonderful, gory tale with this hero.

reacher-full-set-books-853x1024

Jack Reacher is an Army brat and ex-Military Police, voluntarily retiring from the U.S. Army at the age of 36 and then wandering around the country – a drifter in the true sense of the word – running into and solving crime after gory crime. There are more than 20 books and surely more to come. Surely!

Many of you may have never read a Jack Reacher book, but you might have seen Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher in the movie that he produced and starred in last year. It’s a very good movie but doesn’t hold a candle to the books. In my humble opinion.

Cruise did great in the movie – I was even able to think of him as Jack Reacher and not at all about Scientology while I watched. Kind of ironic though. Jack Reacher of the book fame is 6 foot 5 inches tall and nowhere near as handsome as Cruise. But it kinda worked.

tom cruise as jack reacher

Tom Cruise appears to have bought the movie rights to all the books and I hear that there’s another movie in the making. In any case, I’m not a fan of the movie as much as I’m a fan of the character and his stories. 

But I do hope I’m not getting addicted to these books. I regard the Mills & Boon days of my past with some horror and don’t want to get stuck in another such rut again. Not that these are anything like those sappy romances…

I’m trying to deliberately intersperse my Jack Reacher book readings with something else. My self-prescribed rule is to never follow one Jack Reacher novel with another (but I’ve cheated a couple of times).

And all the while I keep hoping that I don’t run out of Jack Reacher books to read. In my lifetime.

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Traveling to India? Change is in the Air

world airline routesThe Dream of Faster, Easier, Cheaper Air Travel

There was a time, years ago, when I thought that like just about anything else in the world, travel to India from the US and back, would get faster, easier, cheaper some time during my lifetime.  

Hope for the ‘faster’ bit died with the Concorde. Supersonic jets are apparently not economical enough to be a business. Any dreams of traveling to India in 8 hours vanished. 😦

With increased demand for travel creating more competition and (perhaps) more innovations in air travel, I thought travel would at least become more cost-effective for travelers. But that did not really happen [although that is likely to change now].

That brings us to ‘easier’, as in easier access, more routes, better service. Perhaps, there’s still some hope in this arena, based on what I’ve been reading.

The Going-Out-of-Business Airlines

As of a couple of months ago, Delta and American Airlines both ceased their flight operations to India (Mumbai and Delhi respectively) because they were not profitable. The last U.S. one standing is United Airlines, but that appears to just be a matter of time. I will tell you why, in a moment.  That’s really too bad since it’s the only non-stop flight to India (Newark to Mumbai) giving passengers the shortest door-to-door flying experience from the US and back.

Meanwhile, at least three European carriers – British Airways, Air France, Lufthansa – labor on in their ancient aircraft, moving passengers from US to India and back through their European hubs with less than stellar service. These routes continue despite their losses. A bit like Europe itself. If they could react quickly to economics, these routes wouldn’t be around now either.

Finally, there’s Air India. Now, here’s a carrier who chooses not to understand economics.  Enough said.

Disappearing Profits

This raises an important question – why are there no profits on these routes?

On the one hand, you have a country of more than a billion people. On the other hand, you have the richest country in the world with a wealthy, traveling Indian diaspora combined with increasing trade and business ties between the two countries that also requires increasing amounts of shuttling between the two locations.

Given this basis, how come these airlines can’t turn a profit on these well-traveled routes and are either resorting to shutting down or continuing with their struggling finances?

I tried to find out more. I have a selfish interest in this topic since I’m on these routes virtually every three months.

Super-Connecting The World

Turns out that the answer is not that complicated. It’s actually very simple in this global capitalistic market: Competition.

The air travel of the world is being taken over by four “super-connector” airlines, all of them using the location of their hub as a key competitive advantage. Three of these four airlines are from the Gulf.

Their mission:  World Travel Dominance.

These four airlines: Emirates, Etihad, Qatar and Turkish want to become your only choice in travel – wherever in the world you plan to go.  Their strategy is not merely to serve their home countries but to utilize their prime central locations in order to serve the world.

Emirates_-_B777-31H(ER)_-_Raihan_Bakhsh

These four airlines have all grown at an increasingly health pace as they siphon off business from virtually all regions of the world – North America, Europe, Asia, Middle-East and Africa (so far). After a start as a small state owned firm, Emirates is by far the largest airline in the region today and the others are on a more than just healthy growth trajectory.

What’s working in their favor?

  • The ideal location of their hubs (Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Istanbul) allowing them to serve the world so well
  • And therefore their “super-connectivity”
  • Combined with a strategy and appetite for growth and world domination

Whereas in 2008, these four airlines combined had flown 50 million passengers, last year they flew 115 million passengers in their combined fleet of 700 aircraft. [They have 900 more on order!].

More U.S. Routes

After conquering routes across Asia, Europe and Africa, why wouldn’t they want to go for that bastion called North America? They have already been serving the major North American metros  – New York, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Houston and Dallas.

Watch out now as they add more locations, and more flight options from cities such as Orlando, Miami, Boston and my favorite, Atlanta.

  • Qatar Airways announced the next phase of its USA route development with the introduction of three new passenger routes to Los Angeles (Jan 2016), Boston (March 2016) and Atlanta (July 2016). With these new destinations, Qatar Airways will offer daily nonstop services to all 10 of the largest metropolitan areas of the United States.
  • Emirates meanwhile is pressing ahead with a global expansion that could include more U.S. routes. The Emirates’ chairman and CEO, said in an interview earlier this year that several American cities have asked Emirates to launch routes connecting them with its ever-expanding hub in Dubai. They recently announced plans for daily flights to Orlando, its 10th U.S. passenger destination beginning in September but have not named the potential destinations, citing competitive reasons and confidentiality agreements.  

No wonder, it’s so hard for American airlines – and all the others – to compete.

Guess what these trounced airlines are doing about it?  You would think they would come up with a better strategy to compete. But, nooooooo. They’re strategy is to complain.  They are busy lobbying the U.S. government to retract/restrict the “open skies” agreement claiming that these Gulf airlines have an unfair advantage due to state subsidies. Not sure that will get them much. 

Travelers’ Advantage

As for those of us who travel so much, we need to get used to traveling these four airlines in the future.

I’m not complaining. Why would I?

  • The aircraft are modern and the fleet is expanding
  • Their service levels are phenomenal versus sucky (hello United)
  • Their destinations, including US ones, are growing
  • Their strategy for growth says that they will be competitive on price
  • And I’m sure there’s something else I’ve missed…

So, brace yourselves. This is actually not a bad news story. What’s bad for American and European airlines is actually good for American and European travelers. Better services, better routes, better planes, and due to the increased competition just among these Gulf carriers, lower prices.

Getting from Point A to Point B – especially when one point is in the US and the other in India – just might be getting better after all.

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If you would like more information on this topic, you should read some of my information sources:

Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Make Their Move on the U.S. – The Wall Street Journal

and these articles from The Economist

Super-connecting the world

Flying in the face of convention

The Long Haul (infographic)

 

Photo Credits:

Dubai Airport: “Emirates – B777-31H(ER) – Raihan Bakhsh” by Raihan S.R. Bakhsh from Kuwait – Emirates – B777-31H(ER) – A6-EBM. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Emirates_-_B777-31H(ER)_-_Raihan_Bakhsh.jpg#/media/File:Emirates_-_B777-31H(ER)_-_Raihan_Bakhsh.jpg

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