Wednesday, July 16, 2008

'B' Words: Billions, Boarding Pass, Boring & Bonsai, or is it Bonzai?

Billions I don't have a really good handle on what a billion dollars is. So when I read in today's New York Times that both Delta and American Airlines reported losses in the second quarter of 2008 of over a billion dollars I know it is A LOT. But exactly how much is A LOT, anyway?
Turning to the trusty (?) internet I find the following, attributed to an un-named advertising agency:
  • A billion is one thousand million: $ 1,000,000,000.
  • To count out one billion non-stop without sleeping or eating would take Thirty-Nine (39) years.
  • A billion (1,000,000,000) seconds ago it was 1959.
  • A billion (1,000,000,000) minutes ago Jesus was alive.
  • A billion (1,000,000,000) hours ago our ancestors were living in the Stone Age.
  • A billion dollars ago was only 8 hours and 20 minutes at the rate our government is spending it.

Boarding Pass Northwest Airlines and five other carriers have struck a deal with Sojern Inc., a new company that will sell ads on online boarding passes synced to travelers' itineraries. Delta launches the product this week. Online boarding passes for Las Vegas flights, for example, will include ads for shows, restaurants and golf courses in Las Vegas. Northwest will begin the ads in four to five months. Did you know there is a vice president of distribution and e-commerce at Northwest Airlines these days? Al Lenza, who holds this post, doesn't think the ads will be intrusive. Customers who don't want the ads can skip the offers, but those who do will be able to buy theater tickets or make restaurant reservations by clicking links before they print their passes. I thought I had covered everything new in airline advertising revenue in my post, It All 'Ads' Up, July 11, 2008. Who knew?

Boring US Airways announced last week it will start removing in-flight entertainment systems on domestic flights in November to save about $10 million a year in fuel and other costs. But you can still watch a flick on US Airways international flights and trips to Hawaii. Wait! Didn't they know you can generate revenue by selling ads on those screens? JetBlue does just that in partnership with The New York Times!

Bonsai or Bonzai? These 'B' words have nothing to do with current airline news, but they are on my mind because of a recent conversation with Felix Perry, retired Chief Airframe Engineer at NWA. And they do start with B after all. Always looking for stories about the Stratocruiser and the golden age of passenger flight in the 1950's, I put out a request at the NWA History Centre . Felix responded with a tale of how his airframe engineering group was asked to install two bonsai trees in Boeing B-377 Stratocruiser Fujiyama Room cocktail lounges. The bonsai trees were furnished by Bachman's Garden Stores, Minneapolis, and it appears they were generously donated because Felix says 'placarded credit' was part of the installation. (Precourser of todays ads on tray tables and boarding passes?) At the time, early 1950's, NWA was aggressively marketing their newly granted routes to the Orient. The lower level cocktail lounge on the Stratocruiser became The Fujiyama Room with appropriate decor, including the bonsai trees. Unfortunately no one still active at Bachman's remembers this first-hand and a search of their archives came up empty. Their corporate communications department obligingly contacted Stan Bachman (retired) who has a vague memory of the bonsai trees but no details. I have a vague memory of them too, Stan. No details. I verified the spelling of these ancient dwarf trees whose origins date back 4000 years to the Han dynesty and then I went to Bill Bryson's Dictionary for Editors and Writers, knowing he would have a concise entry and I quote: Bonsai is the Japanese art of growing dwarf shrubs; bonzai is a Japanese salute, literally "May you live 10,000 years." Bonzai!


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