Friday, October 29, 2010

Interplanetary travel cost studied

Two leading U.S. research organizations are launching a year-long to study to examine the financing of interplanetary travel.

The 100-Year Starship study, undertaken by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the NASA Ames Research Center, is looking at the business model needed to pay for the technology which could make long-distance manned space flight possible a century from now, DARPA said.

The project has attracted widespread attention after the director of NASA's Ames Research Center, Simon (Pete) Worden, revealed it at an event in San Francisco on Oct. 16, media reports said.

"The human space program is now really aimed at settling other worlds," Worden reportedly said.

Worden's comments prompted speculation that trips to Mars could be only 20 years away. Commentators talked about the difficulties of such a trip because of the cost, estimated at $10 billion US one-way, and the likelihood that the explorers would not be able to ever return to Earth.

However, the actual study has very little money, funded with $1 million from DARPA and $100,000 from NASA, Worden said. NASA's budget this year was over $18 billion, and a $100-million project is small in its books.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Time to make holiday travel plans

It might be hard to imagine, but now is the time to start making your holiday travel plans.

The holiday season is right around the corner, which means now is the time to be making your travel plans. News 4 has some money-saving tips for trimming those travel costs.

Hoping to head out of town this holiday season? You're not alone. Demand for flights has risen over six percent this year. Unfortunately, airlines have increased their capacity by less than two percent. That's bad news for travelers because it increases fare prices. The good news? You can make travel more affordable.

For starters, if you have to fly over Thanksgiving don't book a flight for Wednesday, the day before the holiday, which is traditionally the busiest travel day of the year. Instead fly out on the first flight on Thanksgiving morning. Not only will you avoid battling crowds, you won't be charged what airlines call "peak travel day fees," a surcharge that can add $20 to $60 to your ticket price.

If your holiday destination is less than 400 miles away, consider taking the bus. You'll pay as little as one dollar to thirty each way. And thanks to the recent boom in bus services, they're much more comfy now, with leather seats and wi-fi.

Finally, it may be hard to cash in your frequent flyer miles for airfare, so try using miles to defray your hotel costs. Hotels are anxious to fill their rooms, and are making it easier to redeem your miles at their properties.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

French strike to cause further travel disruption

French workers have already carried out six common strikes since the beginning of September over proposed pension reforms that would increase the minimum retirement age to 62.

Half of flights to Paris Orly airport, and around a third of services to other French airports, face cancellation, according to the country’s aviation right.

Short-haul flights will be hit hardest, with the vast majority of long-haul flights expected to operate as normal.

British Airways, EasyJet and Air France said the strikes are certain to cause delays and some cancellations. All three airlines urged passengers to check the status of their flights before travelling to the airport. Ryanair has already published on its site a list of more than 200 cancelled flights to destinations across Europe.

Train services are also likely to be affected. During previous walkouts, around two thirds of France's high-speed TGV and usual regional services were cancelled, and Paris metro services were also affected.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Google Faces Opposition to Purchase of Flight Search Technology, ITA

In mid-September news broke that Google was in talks to purchase ITA Software Inc, which is the leader in flight records information, for $700 million and it has made a lot of people very unhappy. A set of very popular online travel companies have formed a coalition called and planning on taking their cause to Capitol Hill and the members of Congress to demonstrate how unfair they feel this agreement will be to them and their businesses. Companies like, Expedia Inc., Farelogix Inc. and Sabre Holdings (which runs Travelocity) feel that if this deal is to go through it could greatly limit their access to the travel software and thus diminish their stakes in online travel arena.

Those against the deal know how important Google’s “opinion” can be on searchers and with control of about 30% of the travel search share already, they are worried that the search giant will use its influence to direct traffic where they want it to go. Thomas Barnett of Expedia said, “Google has tremendous power in the search market, and it gives Google the capability to steer users in directions that are best for Google”. This sentiment seems to the general consensus among those opposed to the deal. Google on the other hand doesn’t’ see their purchase of ITA as a threat to other online travel sites. They simple want to provide Googlers with extra useful information when it comes to flight information. They also say they don’t plan on selling tickets and that they will continue to honor ITA’s existing contacts; though its rivals say they haven’t committed to renewing any contacts as of yet.

Do you think Google is just trying to give users a better travel search knowledge or do you think this could be the way the foray into the world of online travel for themselves?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Travel by Calif bullet train officials questioned

Ethics issues are being raised about abroad trips taken by California bullet train officials who are reportedly unable to detail costs and sponsors of the travel.

The Los Angeles Times says the travel was paid by governments of nations whose companies want contracts to build the proposed $43 billion Soutchernb California-to-San Francisco high-speed rail assignment.

Details of journey gifts to agencies are required by California ethics regulations.

Interviews and records examined by the newspaper show California High-Speed Rail Authority board members and the former executive director took tours of train systems in Spain, France or Germany previous year.

The authority must publicly disclose donated travel information. But high-speed rail officials haven't provided an accounting and information about the trips haven't been posted on the authority's website.

Friday, October 22, 2010

British Airways to restore travel perk to striking cabin crew

In a main concession to its cabin crew, British Airways (BA) has announced that it will restore basic travel concessions to those who went on strike earlier this year.

From Tuesday (26 October) staff will regain the generous perk - as much as 90 per cent off certain fares.

However, confusion remains over who will receive the perk. According to a report on the BBC website, striking cabin crew went "to the back of the queue for travel perks". The restoration of seniority will be conditional upon a worker's "excellent behaviour for the next three years".

Travel concessions have been at the heart of the long-running dispute between the unions and administration. Willie Walsh, BA's Chief Executive, had said previously that he would not reinstate the perk. This move is being greeted by the unions as a softening of management resolve.

This dispute started in November 2009 over staffing levels and working situation. Since March there have been 22 days of strike action, which cost the airline £150m and widespread disruption to passengers' travel plans.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Delta Benefits From Higher Fares, Travel Rebound

Atlanta-based Delta Airlines Inc. swung to a profit in the third quarter as fares for tickets increased and customer demand for travel rebounded after three years of declines.

The world’s second biggest airline said third-quarter earnings were $363 million, or 43 cents per share. Last year it lost $161 million during the same period.

“Delta’s revenue performance exceeded our expectations for the quarter, with particularly strong performance from our international markets,” said President Ed Bastian in a statement.

The company is forecasting strong holiday travel demand this winter. Delta is the initial of major airlines to release quarterly earnings.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wanderfly, a "Travel Inspiration Site," Opens to the Public this Week

Travel is a beautiful thing but picking the correct destination can be stressful, particularly when vacation days and cost are an issue. is the digital version of spinning a globe and throwing out your finger to pick your next goal. The site acts like a Pandora of a travel, analyzing a destination's DNA and mapping it to what user's want.

In late August, we offered our readers personal beta invites to check out Wanderfly first hand. This week, the "travel inspiration site" has launched in public beta and has announced partnerships with 22 brands including Expedia, Foursquare, Yelp, NileGuide, Not for Tourists, Rough Guides, Find.Eat.Drink. and Lonely Planet.

Wanderfly lets users be adventurous. Just leave the "I Want To Explore" box as "Anywhere" or limit your search to a region such as "Asia" or "South America." It's similar to Kayak's Explore feature, but with more useful information like recommended activities (powered by services like Eventful), fast verify out and a simple, beautiful layout. With Wanderfly, users pick a price range, estimated dates and themes such as beach, party, luxury, culture, food, shopping, etc. Wanderfly then searches over 20 trusted sites, including Expedia, Foursquare, Yelp and Lonely Planet, to recommend a trip complete with destination, flight, hotel and activities.

After 7,000 private beta testers over the past few months, Wanderfly has updated their user interface, which includes multiple recommendations, allowing users to flip through trips with the arrows or click on the grid icon on the upper blue bar to view trip ideas from all over the globe at once. According to Wanderfly, their simple flight selector has been a huge hit in beta. The engine suggests just one flight, and allows users to click "more" to check out additional flights in a simple interface.

Additionally, the site offers a Facebook connect so users can see if their friends live in any of the destinations that Wanderfly recommends. The site also gives users the ability to share a trip on Facebook with the talk bubble icon on the upper blue bar.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Intel plans 1,000 high-tech jobs in 2 states

Intel announced Tuesday that is investing up to $8 billion in microchip manufacturing plants that could create up to 1,000 permanent high-tech jobs in Arizona and Oregon.

Intel said it will spend between $6 billion and $8 billion to fund a new development fabrication plants in Oregon and to upgrade four existing plants in Oregon and Arizona. The plants will manufacture "next-generation" 22-nanometer microprocessors, or chips, the company said.

The company said this will support the creation of 800 to 1,000 permanent high-tech jobs as well as 6,000 to 8,000 construction jobs.

Intel also said the investment will allow it "to maintain its current manufacturing employment at these U.S. sites."

Intel spokeswoman Lisa Malloy said the new plant will be built in Hillsboro, Ore., near Portland, where the company already has a significant presence. Of the four plants slated for upgrade, two are in Hillsboro and two are in the greater Phoenix area.

Intel, based in Santa Clara, Calif., said it generates three quarters of its revenue from overseas markets, but employs three quarters of its chip-making employees in the United States.

"It does cost a bit more to build one of these factories from scratch in the U.S.," Intel chief executive Paul Otellini told CNN's Ali Velshi in a live interview.

But he said labor costs are not the main problem -- grants from foreign countries are the biggest incentives for U.S. companies to build factories overseas. He said the U.S. government should offer more incentives to build plants in America.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Rail strike shuts down Belgium, disrupts international travel

A 24-hour strike by one of Belgium's main rail unions has forced the cancellation of nearly every high-speed rail service in and out of the country and severely disrupted the national network.

The strike, which began affecting the worldwide trains linking Belgium to France, Germany the United Kingdom and the Netherlands on Sunday evening, has shut down the country and led to massive traffic jams.

"Not one train is rolling in [the Southern province of] Wallonia or in Brussels. In [the Northern province of] Flanders, only a handful of trains are moving," a spokesman for Belgian rail network operator Infrabel told the Belga news group.

Eurostar, Thalys cancel service

Eurostar canceled trains between the northern French city of Lille and Brussels until 10 p.m. local time Monday, though said the Paris-London line would not be affected.

But trains coming from London to Brussels will end at Lille, with buses taking passengers the rest of the way to the Belgian and European Union capital. All Thalys service to and from neighboring countries has been stopped.

The CGSP union, the largest in Belgium's rail company SNCB, called the strike to protest a deadlock in negotiations over working conditions and job losses.

Coinciding with ongoing protests in France, the walkout has led to blocked rail transport across much of northwestern Europe.

Normal service in Belgium was set to resume late Monday, but service disruptions were expected to last until Tuesday morning.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Google nears $600

Shares of Google opened up 10% Friday morning, and came within striking distance of $600 for the first time in more than nine months, after the company posted solid quarterly earnings that impressed investors.

Google's (GOOG, Fortune 500) stock rose as much as $58.42 to $599.35 a share in early morning trading, before sliding back a bit. It was the stock's highest level since January.

Late Thursday, Google reported a third-quarter profit that rose 32% on the back of stronger search ad fees from advertisers. But the company's results were also buoyed by its non-core businesses, like YouTube, display advertising and mobile.

Google defied skeptical investors and analysts who feared that the search giant would never find a a significant new revenue stream besides search advertisements. In the past, the company has been tight-lipped about the financial details of its non-search businesses, leading some analysts to speculate that those product lines were insignificant to the company's overall revenue.

For instance, Google has made tremendous headway in mobile. Its Android operating system will command 17.7% of the global mobile device market by year's end, according to a Gartner forecast, making it the second best-selling smartphone operating system, behind Nokia's (NOK) Symbian OS and ahead of Apple's (AAPL, Fortune 500) iOS. That's stunning, considering it entered the market just two years ago.

Google said its mobile advertising business was doing sales of $1 billion on an annualized basis. Display advertising, which includes images rather than textual ads, is on pace to be a $2.5 billion business annually. The company said its display business is likely the third largest in the world, behind AOL (AOL) and Yahoo (YHOO, Fortune 500).

Investors had slammed Google's stock this year, sending it down by as much as 30%. Shares started to rebound in September, but were still down 13% before Friday's market open. But Google's impressive quarterly numbers sent shares soaring, and the stock is now down just 4% for the year.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Vancouver top city in travel poll

Vancouver is tops once again with the subscribers of a trendy U.S. travel magazine.

Readers of Conde Nast Traveler have voted Vancouver the top city in the Americas, outside the U.S., for the fifth time since 2004.

The poll asked readers to rate cities in Canada and Central and South America on criteria ranging from hotels and restaurants to shopping and friendliness.

The award is a tribute to the people who work on the front lines of the city's tourism and hospitality sector, said James Terry of Tourism Vancouver.

The Readers' Choice Awards will appear in the November 2010 issue of Conde Nast Traveler and detail the top cities, islands, hotels, resorts, airlines, car rental agencies and cruise lines around the world.

Last year, Vancouver was named the world's most livable city by a business research division of The Economist magazine.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

President Obama hails New York teens' life-saving business ideas

President Obama honored two New York teens on Tuesday who are using their business skills to save lives.

Steven Gordon, 18, of Brooklyn, and Nia Froome, 17, of Valley Stream, L.I., are among the winners of the 2010 Oppenheimer Funds/Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge, which encourages kids from poorer communities to pursue careers in business.

Gordon founded TattooID when he learned that 1.3 million children are reported missing each year.

After taking a two-week business seminar at Columbia University, Gordon came up with the idea for the "TattooID," a temporary tattoo stamped on the hand or arm of children with their initials and contact information.

"I got the idea for the tattoos one day thinking about my little brother and wondering what would we do if we ever lost him," Gordon said.

"It's an unbelievable honor to meet the President - not something I ever expected. I mean, I'm from Brooklyn, ya know," chirped the Hunter College freshman, who has made about $200 so far from the idea.

Froome, who attends Poly Prep Country Day School in Brooklyn, learned how to cook vegan dishes about 10 years ago when her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.

She was told a vegan diet could slow the growth of cancer cells. Froome took a decade of her experience in the kitchen and turned it into Mamma Nia's Vegan Bakery.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Wal-Mart to start selling Apple's iPad

Wal-Mart said the iPad will be available in hundreds of its stores in the United States to start, expanding to more than 2,300 outlets by mid-November.

Wal-Mart rivals Best Buy and Target are already selling the iPad, which Apple launched in April.

Demand for the 10-inch touchscreen tablet has so far been robust, and Apple initially had a difficult time producing enough.

The company sold more than 3 million iPads in the June quarter, and Wall Street expects the company to surpass that mark with ease in the September quarter.

Apple is set to report quarterly results next Monday.

Wal-Mart will sell the iPad for the same price as other retailers, starting at $499 for the more inexpensive model. The world's largest retailer already sells Apple's iPod and iPhone.

Shares of Cupertino, California-based Apple were up $1.75 at $297.11 in midday trading on the Nasdaq.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Start Buying Holiday Tickets, Right Now

Where does the time go? We’re barely into Autumn and the smart money is already telling us to buy our Christmas and Thanksgiving travel tickets RIGHT NOW?

It makes sense. Prices are going up, as they usually do. The crush of holiday travelers and returning college students will peak in a way as to swamp those of us who delay getting arrangements done.

More, has some good tips:

* Begin benchmarking fares as early as possible so you’ll know a good price when you see it. If you haven’t already started, don’t delay.
* Steer clear of peak travel days such as the day before Thanksgiving and the last day of the holiday’s weekend.
* Be in the know when sales come out: The sale match generally gets lit by one of the low-cost carriers on Tuesday, and by the following morning, competitors have jumped into the fray and created what we call a full-out fare war.
* Be flexible and check fares from nearby airports as well.
* Check out our previous installment on holiday airfare searches

Weather.Com (which offers a lot more than the weather) has its own list of tips, headed by:

* It is easier to get travel and accommodation reservations if you book early. With some airlines and hotels, early booking may even qualify you for a discount.
* Plan to arrive at the airport or station at least two hours early. The holiday season means everyone is traveling, which means traffic jams and long lines; giving yourself this margin will pay off in reduced stress, and may mean the difference between a missed flight and one caught in plenty of time.
* Travel light. Taking public transportation or trying to hail a cab is very difficult at the best of times when lugging around heavy suitcases; holiday crowds increase the difficulty.Go to the link for more.

Most of these ideas are simply common sense — in uncommonly short supply when the press of the holiday madness lands on us like a meteor. Get ready now, is the key thing.

Friday, October 8, 2010

American Airlines to begin daily flights from Los Angeles to Shanghai in April

American Airlines plans to begin daily service from Los Angeles to Shanghai starting April 5.

The carrier announced Thursday that it had received approval from the U.S. Department of Transportation. It willl fly 247-seat Boeing 777 aircraft on the new route.

American spokesman Tim Smith said the flights will depart and arrive at Terminal 4 at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and that details were still being worked out with federal officials.

The airline also received tentative approval for antitrust immunity that allows American and Japan Airlines to cooperate on flights between Asia and North America under the Open Skies agreement between the two countries. The airlines await a final OK for American to start daily flights from New York to Tokyo on Jan. 20, and Japan Airlines to start flights between San Francisco and Tokyo on Oct. 31.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Renault's Improving Grip on Road

Renault is one of the cheapest but riskiest bets on the global auto sector. The stock has gotten a lot less risky now that the French auto maker has drastically reduced its debt by selling part of its stake in truck-maker Volvo AB. No wonder investors are excited. Renault's stock was up 7% Thursday. The cost of insuring Renault's debt against default also fell sharply. But investors still need to keep their enthusiasm in check.

Renault has done well to raise €3 billion ($4.18 billion) by selling all its 303 million B shares in Volvo for 93 Swedish kronor ($13.88) each, a slight discount to Wednesday's closing price but 60% above the stock's 2010 low. Better-than-expected U.S. September truck orders ensured strong institutional investor demand for Volvo stock. The French auto maker is retaining its A shares in Volvo, which gives it a 6.8% equity stake and 17.5% of the votes.

The move dramatically reduces leverage in Renault's automotive business. It had net debt of €4.7 billion as of June 30, equivalent to 1.3 times forecast 2010 earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. Renault's extra financial security isn't to be sniffed at considering it was bailed out by the French government last year.

But Renault still faces considerable challenges. It is heavily reliant on selling low-margin small cars in Europe, a market likely to contract as subsidies end next year. The yen's strength against the dollar is a headache for Nissan Motor Co., which is responsible for most of Renault's earnings. Investments in Russia, a small-car partnership with Daimler, and a €4 billion electric-car program are years from contributing to earnings.

Investors currently attribute negative value to Renault itself. Using market valuations for its 44% stake in Nissan and other strategic investments, Renault is worth minus €14 a share, based on Tuesday's closing stock price, according to Credit Suisse. That suggests some potential upside for the shares. But while a deleveraged Renault is less likely to lose its grip of the road, the way ahead still looks bumpy.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Verdantix Forecasts US Sustainable Business Spending Will Double To $60 Billion By 2014

The US sustainable business market will double to $60bn in 2014 from $28bn in 2010, according to a new report from independent analyst firm Verdantix. Based on an analysis of 1,833 firms with US revenues of at least $1bn, sustainability spend will increase by 11% in 2010 compared to 2009. This positive trend will continue with a year-on-year increase of 16% in 2011 accelerating to growth of 24% in 2012. Over the 2009 to 2014 period the compound annual growth rate will be 19% across all 20 industries covered by the market forecast.

“Executive awareness of the business benefits of sustainability is on the rise” commented Verdantix Director, David Metcalfe. “The elevation of sustainable business decisions to the C-Suite drives increased expenditure across all sustainability issues. But the US sustainable business market is still 2 years away from rapid growth due to the sluggish global economy, delayed federal regulations and a lack of mature programs in firms with revenues of less than $10bn.”

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Nvidia enters the graphics card business

Enthusiast site HardOCP reported last night about its purchase of two Nvidia-branded graphics cards from a local Best Buy. This is news.

Previously, Nvidia has been a maker only of graphics chips, leaving its partners like EVGA, ASUS, PNY, and others to handle the business of building the chips into graphics cards, and packaging and selling them at retail. It seems Nvidia has decided to change that relationship.

Nvidia's technical marketing director, Nick Stam, confirmed for us this morning that what HardOCP found is indeed part of a new strategy. In an exclusive partnership with Best Buy, Nvidia is now selling boxed graphics cards "built and supported by Nvidia" at retail. The card selection is limited for now to the midrange GeForce GTX 460 and the GeForce GTS 450, although those cards represent the most profitable $125 to $250 sweet spot of the retail graphics card business.