Internet Travel With Context
March 7 to March 21, 2019
Read all about it! Fifty years after its first flight, av geeks moon over the supersonic Concorde again. Back in the U.S.S.R., a reminder that the Concordski was a truly terrible aircraft. Something (not) fishy on an Air Canada flight. The sky (well, a ceiling) is falling at the Savoy in London. Hoping to merge, T-Mobile spends big at Washington's Trump Hotel.

Fifty Years: Misty Watercolor Concorde Memories

Concorde made its maiden flight 50 years ago this month from Toulouse in France. The 27-minute flight on March 2, 1969, got aviation geeks and clickbait-obsessed media gushing about supersonic travel all over again. The British media and French outlets (see inset) were especially jazzed about the milestone since an Anglo-French consortium built the aircraft and that became the basis of Airbus. But Concorde also has a permanent cheering section and a conspiracy theorist convinced the aircraft would still be flying if only the deep state didn't hate the aircraft.

No one doubts that Concorde was a speedster, stylish and the epitome of aviation cool in its time. (In fact, Martin Deutsch made that point in 1989 and again in 1997.) But when Concorde was retired in 2003, its time had passed. The aircraft was a nasty gas-guzzler, it wasn't particularly comfortable or luxurious anymore and the small fleet operated by British Airways and Air France was literally falling apart. And the sole reason there has never been a successor: high cost. Aircraft makers know flyers won't pay the insane fares needed to justify designing, building and operating a second-generation supersonic aircraft.

Meanwhile, Back in the U.S.S.R. ...

The 50th anniversary of Concorde's first flight has had one interesting side effect: It reminded aviation geeks of "Concordski," the incredibly ill-fated Soviet version of a supersonic transport. The Tupolev TU-144 was a bizarre, Concorde-on-the-cheap idea that the leaders of the Soviet Union demanded Russian aeronautic experts develop to showcase the East's vast technical prowess. But the plane and the program were an engineering and operational nightmare. Its fate was sealed by a crash at the 1973 air show in France (see inset) and no airline would buy it. In fact, the TU-144 only made 55 passenger flights on a single route between Moscow and what is now known as Almaty, Kazakhstan. Besides operational and mechanical issues, Concordski had another problem: The same Soviet leaders who demanded the plane be built eventually were afraid to let it fly lest it crash again and besmirch the image of Russian technology.

World Whip: City of Dogs, Cities Gone to the Dogs

      ASHEVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA: Does Asheville live up to its claim to be "Dog City, U.S.A.? Well, it does have a welcome center for four-legged visitors.
      CHARLESTOWN, WEST VIRGINIA: Even though life in coal country has improved, unemployment is still higher than elsewhere in the nation. "We desperately, desperately need diversification," says John Deskins, an economics professor at West Virginia University.
      FAROE ISLANDS, DENMARK: The islands between Norway and Iceland are closed to tourists for a weekend next month--unless you're willing to volunteer to help spruce up the community.
      KAMALKOTE, KASHMIR: India and Pakistan have avoided another war over the disputed region of Kashmir, but local citizens continue to struggle. "Our lives depend on the mood of the soldiers," one resident explains. "We will always live in fear."
      LONDON: It may be one of the best-known hotels in London, but the Savoy is crumbling. A ballroom ceiling collapsed this week during a black-tie event. It happened in the famed Lancaster Room where Hugh Grant's character told Julia Roberts' character that he loved her in the movie Notting Hill.
      PARIS: The Champs-Élysées, the City of Light's most famous street, is a mess. Besides too many cars and a sea of abandoned scooters, the entire 1.2-mile-long street is being renovated before the 2024 Olympics.

Flight File: Clipped Wings and Fishy Behavior

      AIR CANADA: A Toronto-to-Halifax flight was diverted by bad weather to Fredericton, New Brunswick. The captain of the Airbus A320 ordered 23 pizzas delivered directly to the aircraft so passengers could be fed. Which, of course, would not have helped in the situation below.
      AIR CANADA: A flight to Toronto returned to the gate before departure in Vancouver because a passenger became disruptive after being informed there was no fish for him. The flight was eventually delayed more than five hours because the cabin crew timed out when the Boeing 787 returned to the gate to remove the flyer.
      AIR INDIA: A Boeing 787 turned back to Delhi after the aircraft suffered decompression at 22,000 feet. It descended rapidly to 9,000 feet and oxygen masks were deployed.
      SOUTHWEST AIRLINES: A Southwest Boeing 737 clipped wings with a parked Southwest jet during bad weather at Newark Airport. There were no injuries, but both planes were taken out of service and passengers placed on other flights.
      UNITED EXPRESS: A pilot and four passengers were injured when a 50-seat EMB-145 slid off a snowy runway at Presque Isle, Maine.

Tight Connections ... Quick Hits on the News

      Here come the chains Hotels in East Africa are getting better. The reason? Lodging stock from the 1970s is being replaced with new properties branded by major global chains.
      Probably just a coincidence As soon as mobile-phone operators T-Mobile and Sprint announced a merger--a proposal that requires the Trump Administration's approval--T-Mobile began spending hundreds of thousands of dollars at the Trump International Hotel near the White House. Neither firm used the hotel before the merger deal.
      Ride-shares and airport funding Experts have predicted airports would be deprived of important revenue streams as travelers switched to ride-sharing services and stopped parking at airports or renting cars there. That doesn't seem to be the case at Southern California airports, however. Fees paid by ride-sharing firms such as Uber and Lyft are mostly offsetting the decline in rental car and parking revenue.