5 Special Ways to Fly

No self-respecting canine travels to a luxurious spa in the cargo bay of a 757, so it was only a matter of time before an airline that caters exclusively to pets arrived. Here's the story of recently launched Pet Airways and four other companies that provide specialty air travel.

1. Pet Airways

Pet Airways began service to five U.S. cities last week, offering first class pet travel for as low as $149 on Beech 1900 planes that have been stripped of their human furnishings. Dogs and cats travel in carriers in the main cabin; humans, save for the pilot and pet attendants, must travel separately. Alysa Binder and her husband, Dan Wiesel, began planning the launch of Pet Airways in 2005 after they had an unpleasant experience traveling with their Jack Russell Terrier on a cross-country flight. Pet Airways passengers "“ pawsengers and catengers is the company lingo "“ must check in at least 2 hours prior to departure and are generally not fed during flights. The company provides service to and from the New York, Baltimore, Chicago, Denver, and Los Angeles areas and appears poised to prosper with flights already booked solid for the next 2 months.

2. MedJet Assist

medjetsMedJet Assist is a program that provides medical evacuation assistance to members who are injured or become ill while traveling. An annual individual MedJet Assist membership costs $250, while a family membership costs $385. Short-term packages from 1 to 4 weeks are also available. Members who are hospitalized more than 150 miles away from home can fly to a hospital of their choice on one of MedJet's specially equipped planes, regardless of the reason for their hospitalization. Though membership isn't cheap, it beats the alternative should you need medical evacuation assistance while abroad. A single transatlantic evacuation may cost more than $100,000.

3. OpenSkies

open-skiesIt's all business, all the time on OpenSkies Airlines, which was founded in 2008 as a subsidiary of British Airways. The OpenSkies fleet consists of four Boeing 757s, each with two business class options: Business Bed or Business Seat. OpenSkies currently offers daily flights between New York and Paris and Amsterdam. News broke last week that British Airways is seeking a buyer for the subsidiary, which has struggled financially since its launch. If OpenSkies goes under, it would join EOS, MAXJet, and Silverjet among the list of business-class airlines that have failed since 2007. Silverjet claimed to be the world's first carbon neutral airline, with mandatory carbon offset contributions included in the price of every ticket.

4. Air New Zealand

air-nzAir New Zealand makes this list because it specializes in innovation, one of the keys to keeping loyal customers and luring new ones during tough economic times. The airline recently filmed an in-flight safety demonstration video featuring employees wearing nothing but body paint that was carefully applied to resemble their regular uniforms. Beginning in October, Air New Zealand will offer a Matchmaking Flight from Los Angeles to Auckland to facilitate the love connection between Americans and Kiwis. Former Bachelor star Jason Mesnick and his girlfriend, Molly Malaney, will be guests on the inaugural flight. Matchmaking Flight packages, which include tickets to a matchmaking ball to be held in Auckland's SkyTower, start at $780 round trip.

5. FlyMeNow

fly-me-nowBased in England, FlyMeNow arranges private travel on charter flights for the person who needs to get somewhere fast and/or in style. The company, which was founded in 2007 and earns a mention here for its punchy name and impressive network of aircraft, has access to thousands of helicopters, turboprops, and private jets. It offers charters to virtually anywhere, including otherwise inaccessible locations for extreme sports enthusiasts and remote islands in the Caribbean. Among the company's many happy customers are the Red Hot Chilli Pipers "“ and no, that's not a typo. The bagpipe-playing rock band won the BBC One show When Will I Be Famous in 2008 and turned to FlyMeNow after booking multiple gigs on the same day during its ensuing tour. FlyMeNow also arranged travel for Bon Jovi during the band's recent South America tour.

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Why a Readily Available Used Paperback Is Selling for Thousands of Dollars on Amazon
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At first glance, getting ahold of a copy of One Snowy Knight, a historical romance novel by Deborah MacGillivray, isn't hard at all. You can get the book, which originally came out in 2009, for a few bucks on Amazon. And yet according to one seller, a used copy of the book is worth more than $2600. Why? As The New York Times reports, this price disparity has more to do with the marketing techniques of Amazon's third-party sellers than it does the market value of the book.

As of June 5, a copy of One Snowy Knight was listed by a third-party seller on Amazon for $2630.52. By the time the Times wrote about it on July 15, the price had jumped to $2800. That listing has since disappeared, but a seller called Supersonic Truck still has a used copy available for $1558.33 (plus shipping!). And it's not even a rare book—it was reprinted in July.

The Times found similar listings for secondhand books that cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars more than their market price. Those retailers might not even have the book on hand—but if someone is crazy enough to pay $1500 for a mass-market paperback that sells for only a few dollars elsewhere, that retailer can make a killing by simply snapping it up from somewhere else and passing it on to the chump who placed an order with them.

Not all the prices for used books on Amazon are so exorbitant, but many still defy conventional economic wisdom, offering used copies of books that are cheaper to buy new. You can get a new copy of the latest edition of One Snowy Knight for $16.99 from Amazon with Prime shipping, but there are third-party sellers asking $24 to $28 for used copies. If you're not careful, how much you pay can just depend on which listing you click first, thinking that there's not much difference in the price of used books. In the case of One Snowy Knight, there are different listings for different editions of the book, so you might not realize that there's a cheaper version available elsewhere on the site.

An Amazon product listing offers a mass-market paperback book for $1558.33.
Screenshot, Amazon

Even looking at reviews might not help you find the best listing for your money. People tend to buy products with the most reviews, rather than the best reviews, according to recent research, but the site is notorious for retailers gaming the system with fraudulent reviews to attract more buyers and make their way up the Amazon rankings. (There are now several services that will help you suss out whether the reviews on a product you're looking at are legitimate.)

For more on how Amazon's marketplace works—and why its listings can sometimes be misleading—we recommend listening to this episode of the podcast Reply All, which has a fascinating dive into the site's third-party seller system.

[h/t The New York Times]

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Elsie Hui, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Sam's Club Brings $.99 Polish Hot Dogs to All Stores After They're Cut From Costco's Food Courts
Elsie Hui, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Elsie Hui, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

In early July, Costco angered many customers with the announcement that its beloved Polish hot dog was being removed from the food court menu. If you're someone who believes cheap meat tastes best when eaten in a bulk retail warehouse, Sam's Club has good news: The competing big box chain has responded to Costco's news by promising to roll out Polish hot dogs in all its stores later this month, Business Insider reports.

The Polish hot dog has long been a staple at Costco. Like Costco's classic hot dog, the Polish dog was part of the food court's famously affordable $1.50 hot dog and a soda package. The company says the item is being cut in favor of healthier offerings, like açai bowls, organic burgers, and plant-based protein salads.

The standard hot dog and the special deal will continue to be available in stores, but customers who prefer the meatier Polish dog aren't satisfied. Fans immediately took their gripes to the internet—there's even a petition on Change.org to "Bring Back the Polish Dog!" with more than 6500 signatures.

Now Sam's Clubs are looking to draw in some of those spurned customers. Its version of the Polish dog will be sold for just $.99 at all stores starting Monday, July 23. Until now, the chain's Polish hot dogs had only been available in about 200 Sam's Club cafés.

It's hard to imagine the Costco food court will lose too many of its loyal followers from the menu change. Polish hot dogs may be getting axed, but the popular rotisserie chicken and robot-prepared pizza will remain.

[h/t Business Insider]

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