National News

An apartment in the sky, for just $20,000 one-way

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-11-13 02:00

Have you ever day-dreamed about flying first class and getting those precious extra inches of space? Well, how about 125 square feet of space? 

Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways is offering what it calls the first-ever apartment cabin on an airplane, called “The Residence.” It has three rooms—a living room, bedroom and bathroom—and comes with a butler and personalized cuisine provided by an on-board chef. 

Among the other amenities are a two-seat reclining leather sofa, a chilled mini-bar, two LCD TVs and a shower in the bathroom. The bedroom boasts a double bed with Egyptian cotton sheets. 

The service is aimed at the ultra rich of the Persian Gulf. The airline says the experience is comparable to staying at a fine hotel, traveling by yacht, or having a private jet. 

It also costs $20,000 for a one-way ticket. 

“These are societies where there are some of the highest proportion of millionaires and billionaires per capita anywhere in the world,” says David Andrew Weinberg, a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, who specializes in the Persian Gulf region. 

The three big airlines in the region all have ties to the area’s monarchies, says Weinberg.

“All of these are prestige projects for principalities in the Gulf," he says. "It’s an outbidding contest of who can build the most luxurious new feature.”

But the airlines are also an important part of the region’s future economic plans. Those billionaires and millionaires were created through oil wealth. The oil will run out eventually, and Weinberg says the area’s governments are trying to build up industries, including airlines, that can take over.  

The 10-year-old Etihad Airways became profitable only a couple of years ago. In 2008, it spent $43 billion to purchase new airplanes. It has 220 aircrafts on order, including 10 Airbus A380s and 71 Boeing 787 Dreamliners. 

It is building one residence apartment in each of the new Airbus A380s that come into service, the first of which will be active in December. The apartment is first being offered on a London/Abu Dhabi route, but the airline plans to expand the service to New York, Paris, and other cities. 

“International airlines are leading the way in super-premium services,” says Andrew Schmahl, an airline industry consultant with the firm Strategy&.

Etihad Airways is competing with a host of international carriers, which are all trying to out-luxury each other. Etihad’s competitor Emirates Airlines announced it also plans to offer apartments on some of its planes.

The first-class amenities on international airlines are starting to trickle down to U.S. carriers, as well. Amenities such as lie-flat beds, higher end cuisine that can be custom ordered, and even luxury cars that ferry first-class passengers between connecting flights. 

Schmahl says airlines are willing to offer high-end luxury service to their first-class passengers, because while competitive pressures keep prices down for the vast majority of travelers, first-class passengers are willing to pay more for better service—and that means higher profit margins for airlines. 

Russia And The West: Close Encounters Of The Cold War Kind

NPR News - Wed, 2014-11-12 23:47

Russia and Western countries have had several close encounters in the air and at sea recently. Russia says these are just routine military exercises, but NATO and its Nordic partners are alarmed.

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Common Core Reading: The High Achievers

NPR News - Wed, 2014-11-12 23:46

The Common Core State Standards are changing reading instruction in many schools. And that means new challenges for lots of students, even traditional high achievers.

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How Kodak's Shirley Cards Set Photography's Skin-Tone Standard

NPR News - Wed, 2014-11-12 23:45

Named for the original model — an employee of Kodak — the portraits were used by photo labs to calibrate printers. But until the 1970s, that model was always white.

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House, Senate To Vote On Keystone After Landrieu Calls For Vote

NPR News - Wed, 2014-11-12 22:48

Legislation to build the Keystone XL pipeline got new life after Senate Democrats abandoned efforts to block the measure in hopes of helping endangered Sen. Mary Landrieu keep her seat in Louisiana.

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Photos From Around The Snow-Covered Country This Week

NPR News - Wed, 2014-11-12 21:49

The West and Midwest are digging out of heavy snowfall this week, reaching highs of 18 inches in some parts.

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After Solyndra Loss, U.S. Energy Loan Program Turning A Profit

NPR News - Wed, 2014-11-12 20:03

The federal government lost hundreds of millions of dollars when solar panel maker Solyndra and car company Fisker went bankrupt. Now the loan program has made up for early losses and is in the black.

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Mexican Government Claims US Auction House Sold Stolen, Fake Artifacts

NPR News - Wed, 2014-11-12 18:40

Bonhams Auction House sold several pre-Hispanic artifacts in New York on Tuesday. The Mexican government says half of them are fake, and the other half were stolen from Mexico.

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Baseball's Cy Young Awards Go To A Newcomer And A Repeat Winner

NPR News - Wed, 2014-11-12 15:35

The Los Angeles Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw swept the voting for his third Cy Young, while Corey Kluber of the Cleveland Indians narrowly won his first.

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40 Percent Of The World's Cropland Is In Or Near Cities

NPR News - Wed, 2014-11-12 14:49

Just how much of the world's cropland can we really call urban? That's been a big mystery until now.

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