Getting Catering to the Plane and 6 Other Aviation Trends This Week

American Airlines

An American Airlines free coach meal. Getting food onto each plane is still a complicated endeavor for many airlines. American Airlines

Skift Take: This week in aviation, we looked at some old problems and some new ones — for example how to get food onto an airplane and how blockchain can work with reservations systems.

— Sarah Enelow

Throughout the week we post dozens of original stories, connecting the dots across the travel industry, and every weekend we sum it all up. This weekend roundup examines aviation.

For all of our weekend roundups, go here.

>>This is a simple business. If you’re an airline, you should send your planes to places where they make money. Delta is doing it right: Delta Puts a Better Business Class on Routes Where Travelers Will Buy It

>>The best CEOs know when it’s the right time to quit. Things may look rosy now, but EasyJet could be in for a tough time if the UK’s Brexit negotiations go badly: EasyJet CEO Carolyn McCall Will Be a Hard Act to Follow

>>With competition from online retailers rising, airport duty-free shops selling luxury goods need to up the ante. Some methods they are using seem to be successful, while others may start annoying potential customers: The Shifting Strategies of Luxury Duty-Free Retailers

>>Gone are the days when duty-free retailers could lazily rely on consumers to freely spend their cash in airports. The rise of online shopping has forced them to become much more creative when it comes to generating sales: Duty-Free Retailers Get Smart — New Luxury

>>Airline food isn’t always tasty, but passengers probably shouldn’t compare it to what they find in a restaurant. Delivering food to an aircraft is a logistical challenge, and it’s amazing the system works as well as it does: Airline Food Conundrum – Paid Meals Winning Out Over Freebies

>>Anyone remember Google Wave? Air New Zealand, Lufthansa, TUI, and a whole bunch of investors and techies are betting that blockchain fulfills a lot of promise and exhibits a ton more staying power than previously-hyped technologies that didn’t hang around very long: Air New Zealand Plans to Test Blockchain Integration With Its Reservation System

>>Are you upset some airlines charge $3 for a soda? There’s a reason prices are higher than at a convenience store. It’s not easy or cheap to get provisions onto an aircraft: Complications of Getting Catering to the Plane — Airline Innovation Report

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Bali Flights Resume After Volcano Erupts

Firdia Lisnawati  / Associated Press

A view of the Mount Agung volcano erupting at sunrise in Karangasem, Bali island, Indonesia, November 26, 2017. A volcano on the Indonesian tourist island of Bali erupted for the second time in a week on Saturday, disrupting international flights even as authorities said the island remains safe. Firdia Lisnawati / Associated Press

Skift Take: The situation in Bali is fluid as the trajectory of the ash cloud can shift at any minute. Tourism authorities say the island is safe. The eruptions could have been — or still may turn out to be — much worse.

— Dennis Schaal

A volcano on the Indonesian island of Bali has rumbled to life with eruptions that dusted nearby resorts and villages with ash and forced the closure of the small international airport on neighboring Lombok island as towering gray plumes drifted east.

Mount Agung erupted on Saturday evening and three times early Sunday, lighting its cone with an orange glow and sending ash 4,000 meters (13,000 feet) into the atmosphere. It is still gushing and the ash clouds have forced the closure of Lombok island’s airport until at least 6 a.m. Monday, an official at the airport said.

Most scheduled domestic and international flights were continuing Sunday at Bali’s busy airport after a rash of cancellations on Saturday evening.

Disaster officials said ash up to half a centimeter (less than half an inch) thick settled on villages around the volcano and soldiers and police had distributed masks.

Authorities warned anyone still in the exclusion zone around the volcano, which extends 7.5 kilometers (4.5 miles) from the crater in places, to leave.

Made Sugiri, an employee at Mahagiri Panoramic Resort, located around 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the crater, said a thin layer of volcanic ash reached the area.

“We are out of the danger zone, but like other resorts in the region, of course the eruptions cause a decrease in the number of visitors,” he said.

“I think these latest eruptions are more dangerous, given the thick clouds it’s releasing,” he said. “Certainly we worry, but we have to wait and see. Hopefully there is no significant eruption.”

Government volcanologist Gede Suantika said a red-yellow light visible in ash above the mountain was the reflection of lava in the crater. Suantika said Agung could spew ash for at least a month but did not expect a major eruption.

Bali is Indonesia’s top tourist destination, with its gentle Hindu culture, surf beaches and lush green interior attracting about 5 million visitors a year. Nearby Lombok is relatively undeveloped as a tourist destination, receiving fewer than 100,000 international visitors a year.

Australian airline Jetstar, which canceled nine flights to and from Bali on Saturday evening, said most of its flights would operate normally Sunday after its senior pilots assessed it was safe to fly. However, it warned that the movement of ash cloud is highly unpredictable and that flights could still be canceled at short notice. Virgin, KLM and AirAsia Malaysia also canceled several flights on Saturday and AirAsia canceled more than 30 flights on Sunday.

Several thousand people were affected by Saturday’s flight cancellations.

“We weren’t notified by Jetstar in advance of us getting here (to Bali’s airport),” said Australian tourist George Bennick. “So we are very disappointed about that.”

Agung also had a minor eruption on Tuesday, but authorities have not raised its alert status from the second-highest level, which would widen the exclusion area and prompt a large evacuation of people.

About 25,000 people have been unable to return to their homes since September, when Agung showed signs of activity for the first time in more than half a century.

The volcano’s last major eruption, in 1963, killed about 1,100 people.

Indonesia sits on the “Pacific Ring of Fire” and has more than 120 active volcanoes.

Mount Agung’s alert status was raised to the highest level in September following a dramatic increase in tremors from the volcano, which doubled the exclusion zone around the crater and prompted more than 140,000 people to leave the area. The alert was lowered on Oct. 29 after a decrease in activity.

___

Associated Press writers Ali Kotarumalos and Stephen Wright in Jakarta, Indonesia, contributed to this report.

This article was written by Firdia Lisnawati from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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Airbnb Touts Growth of Trips and 4 Other Hospitality Trends This Week

Airbnb

An Airbnb user looking at Airbnb Trips. The company says this product is a success thus far. Airbnb

Skift Take: Much of this week’s hospitality news was about the homesharing frontrunner. Airbnb says its Trips product is a success, and its business grew in Southern Africa, but that hasn’t happened without some local resistance.

— Sarah Enelow

Throughout the week we post dozens of original stories, connecting the dots across the travel industry, and every weekend we sum it all up. This weekend roundup examines hospitality.

For all of our weekend roundups, go here.

>>Airbnb is booming in Africa, but the first cracks in the success story are beginning to show – in hotels griping about the lack of regulations, and locals priced out of prime property. Can African cities avoid the side effects of the sharing economy that already blight more-developed markets? Airbnb Growth in Southern Africa Raises Familiar Issues

>>Combining NH Hotels with another company makes plenty of sense. It would give it added scale and might also help put an end to its shareholder infighting. Of course this is only the opening move in what is likely to be a time-consuming process and given NH’s recent history we’re sure that it will be anything but straightforward: Barceló Looks to Create Spanish Hotel Giant With Bid for Rival NH

>>Let’s do some math, first: How do you calculate 20x growth when you’re not given a baseline for comparison? Our guess is whatever that adds up to, it may not be very much: Airbnb Touts Growth of Trips for Foodies, Millennials and Solo Travelers

>>That AccorHotels is using the Internet of Things and other innovative tech to create more personalized and accessible guest rooms is an idea we can definitely get behind. But we wonder what the company’s plans might be to incorporate loyalty into the initiative. It would be crucial in adding value for Accorhotels, property owners, and guests: AccorHotels Is Working on a Smart Room That’s Accessible and Personalized

>>While Blecharczyk wouldn’t say anything about Airbnb’s impending IPO, he did reveal some interesting perspectives on how and where he sees the $31 billion company continuing to grow: Video: Airbnb Co-Founder on Evolving to Be More Than Just a Travel Business

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Trump Uses Egypt Attack to Renew Call for Travel Ban

Alex Brandon  / Associated Press

U.S. President Donald Trump is spending the Thanksgiving holiday in Florida. He tied a terrorist attack in Egypt with renewed calls for his travel ban and border wall along the southern U.S. border with Mexico. Alex Brandon / Associated Press

Skift Take: It’s becoming tempting to ignore Trump’s tweets and rhetorical flourishes. And then one remembers that he is U.S. President.

— Dennis Schaal

President Donald Trump cited the deadly terrorist attack in Egypt to renew his calls for construction of a wall along the southern U.S. border and a travel ban aimed at blocking citizens of several Muslim-majority nations.

“Will be calling the President of Egypt in a short while to discuss the tragic terrorist attack, with so much loss of life,’’ Trump said Friday on Twitter. “We have to get TOUGHER AND SMARTER than ever before, and we will. Need the WALL, need the BAN! God bless the people of Egypt.’’

Trump spoke with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi by phone to express his condolences for the terrorist attack at a mosque in Egypt’s restive northern Sinai, according to the White House.

“Trump condemned the attack and reiterated that the United States will continue to stand with Egypt in the face of terrorism,” the White House said in a readout of the call. Trump said the international community must increase efforts to combat terrorist ideology, the White House said.

Trump’s travel ban –– which covers people from Chad, Iran, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Venezuela, North Korea and Yemen — has been partially blocked by the courts, and his campaign promise of a border wall hasn’t advanced in Congress. Funding for the wall could emerge as a major sticking point in efforts to pass a spending bill before Dec. 8 in time to avert a government shutdown.

Democrats in Congress have objected to the idea of constructing a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, and some Republicans also have said that a wall isn’t the best way to combat illegal immigration.

At least 235 people were killed when militants armed with guns and explosives stormed a crowded mosque in Egypt on Friday. The attack was the deadliest in the country in recent memory.

 

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

This article was written by Toluse Olorunnipa from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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Utah Ski Resorts Worry Drunk Driver Laws Will Turn Off Visitors

Laura Seitz  / Associated Press

Skiers and snowboarders ride the lift at Brighton Resort, in Brighton, Utah. Utah ski officials kick off the new ski season this year, hopeful that they may get to host another Olympic Games and happy about two straight seasons of record visitation.
Laura Seitz / Associated Press

Skift Take: Yes, tourism and powering local economies through food and beverage are important, but shouldn’t public safety be just as important, if not more so? Perhaps having the strictest DUI laws in the country isn’t such a terrible thing, especially when you consider that ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft can transport intoxicated drivers.

— Deanna Ting

Utah ski officials kick off the new season energized by the growing possibility of another Winter Olympics bid and buoyed by two straight seasons of record visitation. But there’s also some concern that publicity surrounding the state’s strict new DUI law that goes into effect next year may keep skiers and snowboarders away by adding to the long-held stigma that visitors can’t have fun in Utah.

DUI LAW CONTROVERSY

State lawmakers voted to lower Utah’s blood alcohol limit for most drivers to 0.05 percent from 0.08 percent in a move they think will save lives. The change gave the predominantly Mormon state the strictest drunken driving threshold in the country and triggered backlash from tourism groups. The law is set to take effect on Dec. 30, 2018.

Nathan Rafferty, CEO of Ski Utah, said the ski industry wants to make the roads safe but said penalizing someone for driving after having one or two glasses of wine misses the mark. Rafferty said he’s going to lobby state legislators this year to tweak the law so that that it doesn’t penalize lower-level DUIs the same as higher levels.

The negative press that came after the Utah law was signed doesn’t help Utah as it tries to compete with Colorado, California and Canada for winter vacationers.

The American Beverage Institute ran full-page ads in Salt Lake City’s two daily newspapers and USA Today, featuring a fake mug shot under a large headline reading, “Utah: Come for vacation, leave on probation.”

“It just underscores that element that we’re working hard to dispense with, which is that Utah is a tough place to have fun,” Rafferty said. “It’s one step forward and two steps back.”

Spokeswomen for Deer Valley and Park City Mountain said they will focus on reminding visitors they can do a car-free trip to their resorts in Park City thanks to town shuttles, car services from the hotel and the relatively close proximity to the Salt Lake City International Airport, which is about 30 miles away.

“We’re always kind of dealing with those quirks of Utah and the perception,” said Emily Summers of Deer Valley Resort. “But then again we really thrive on family vacations and spring breaks where they have kids elementary-school aged.”

Rafferty isn’t worried about Utah’s reluctance to join Colorado, California and Nevada in legalizing marijuana. He said Utah ski resorts embrace being known as family friendly destinations.

“We’re happy not playing in that realm,” Rafferty said. “Utah is never going to be Las Vegas. We’re not going to sell ourselves as party central and we’re totally comfortable with that.”

MORE RECORD VISITS?

The first of Utah’s 14 ski resorts planned to open the day before Thanksgiving as the industry aims to set a visitation record for the third consecutive season.

Fueled by above average snowfall, the state registered nearly 4.6 million skier days last winter, surpassing nearly 4.5 million the year before, according to Ski Utah figures.

WHO OWNS WHAT

The biggest offseason news was Deer Valley Resort being purchased by a new company that has brought 13 ski areas from Quebec to Colorado under one umbrella. It marked the latest deal in an industry that is becoming more consolidated.

Deer Valley became the group’s first ski area in Utah and joined a collection of resorts that also includes Mammoth and Squaw Valley in California, Steamboat and Winter Park in Colorado and Mont Tremblant in Quebec.

Summers said skiers won’t notice any changes this season. That means Deer Valley’s longtime ban on snowboarding remains, Summers said.

The company still doesn’t have a name (it’s run by affiliates of the KSL Capital Partners and Henry Crown and Company investment firms) and it hasn’t yet finalized a pass that would allow people to ski at all the company’s resorts, Summers said. That pass would help the company compete with Vail Resorts’ popular Epic Pass, which allows skiers to buy one pass to ski multiple times at its different resorts.

Deer Valley’s sale means all three ski areas in the mountain town of Park City, Utah, are owned by mega ski companies. Vail Resorts bought Park City Mountain Resort in 2014 and connected it to neighboring Canyons Resort to create one of the largest ski areas in the U.S.

Utah’s Solitude resort, which Deer Valley bought in 2015, was not included in the sale announced in August. Solitude will still be owned by Deer Valley partners, the resort said.

OLYMPICS DREAMING

Utah resorts are giddy about the possibility of Salt Lake City hosting another Winter Olympics, which would bring priceless exposure and likely lead to infrastructure improvements by resorts and government.

“It’s a 17-day infomercial showcasing the very best of the best,” Rafferty said.

An exploratory committee is working to see if it’s feasible for Salt Lake City to make a bid for the 2026 or 2030 Winter Games. It plans to issue its recommendation to state leaders in February.

The state’s pitch would center on the fact that Salt Lake City can put on world-class Olympics for less money than cities that have to start from ground zero since most of the venues remain in use from the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Deer Valley regularly hosts World Cup ski events, one example of how the state would be able to easily get ready for another Olympics, Summers said.

“We’re all behind it and we could pull it off really well,” she said.

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European Union Gives UK a Brexit Rebuff in Capital of Culture Bid

Peter McConnochie  / Flickr

A resident in the tourist area of Nottingham, England. Nottingham was part of a bid to be part of the EU’s Capital of Culture program. Peter McConnochie / Flickr

Skift Take: As Brexit tensions continue to mount, it’s no surprise the EU doesn’t want to reward the UK with a tourism-boosting designation as the country prepares to walk away from its commitments.

— Andrew Sheivachman

UK politicians expressed dismay Thursday after the European Union booted Britain out of the contest to become European Capital of Culture because of Brexit.

Britain was due to hold the title in 2023, and five British cities and regions were competing to be chosen.

But the European Commission said that since Britain is due to leave the bloc in 2019, its participation “will not be possible.” It said the decision was “one of the many concrete consequences” of Brexit.

Britain had previously advised UK candidate cities that their eligibility would depend on the outcome of exit negotiations with the EU, which are still underway. While the capital of culture designation is an EU project, cities in non-member states Norway, Iceland and Turkey have held the title, and Novi Sad in aspirant member Serbia has been awarded the accolade for 2021.

Designation as a capital of culture typically brings attention, investment and a tourism boost to the host cities.

Britain’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said it was “deeply disappointed” by the EU decision and was holding “urgent discussions with the commission on the matter.”

UK contenders for the title were Nottingham, Leeds, and Milton Keynes in England, Dundee in Scotland and — in a joint bid — Belfast, Londonderry, and Strabane in Northern Ireland.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she was “absolutely dismayed by the news” and blamed Britain’s Conservative government. The UK as a whole voted to leave the EU in a referendum last year, but Scotland voted by a wide margin to remain.

“Dundee’s European Capital of Culture bid looks as if it is going to be the latest victim of the Tories’ obsession with taking this country out of the European Union against our will, and they should hang their heads in shame,” Sturgeon said.

This article was written by Jill Lawless from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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Priceline Group’s Diss of Trivago and 8 Other Digital Trends This Week

Trivago

Priceline recently pulled back on its Trivago spending. Trivago

Skift Take: This week in digital news, we dug into why Priceline is pulling back on its Trivago spending. Then we looked back at Skift Global Forum for some perspective on online travel agency growth.

— Sarah Enelow

Throughout the week we post dozens of original stories, connecting the dots across the travel industry, and every weekend we sum it all up. This weekend roundup examines digital trends.

For all of our weekend roundups, go here.

>>We had speculated before that Ctrip might use its newly acquired Trip.com domain for its own agency listings, displacing the travel recommendation service it recently bought. By de-emphasizing its Chinese origin, it may hope to ingratiate itself with more Western travelers: Ctrip Relaunches Trip.com as Its English Language Travel Agency Brand

>>What do a debate over landing pages, the acquisition of Momondo, a shift into hotel software services, and regulators forcing changes in online travel agency contracts have in common? Each of those seemingly unrelated things may have pushed Priceline to toggle back its spending on Trivago: Inside Priceline Group’s Diss of Trivago — The Backstory

>>Tickets for our inaugural tech Forum are now on sale at our Super Early Bird rate. Register early to secure our lowest price! Super Early Bird Tickets for Skift Tech Forum Are on Sale

>>New perks coming for Chase cardholders should make it more attractive to many travelers. How will American Express respond? Chase Introduces New Travel Perks for Credit Card Holders — Business of Loyalty

>>Is this only the beginning of the beginning of online travel? With a recent downbeat set of results from online travel agencies, it’s a question that’s hotly debated these days: Video: Travel Investors on Why Booking Sites Still Have Plenty of Room for Growth

>>Cyber security is not a priority for most meeting planners, but experts warn that it’s just a matter of time before the industry is hit with a major breach. Both attendees and event professionals can take steps to protect themselves: The Meetings Industry Is Not Worried Enough About Cybersecurity

>>IATA’s New Distribution Capability appears to finally be gaining traction in corporate travel. Airlines want it to succeed as much as travel management companies, which will have access to a greater amount of content like seat upgrades and other ancillary products: Hogg Robinson Thinks It Has a Technology Edge on Its Corporate Travel Competitors

>>This Black Friday we’re giving you a sneak peek into what lies ahead for Skift Research. Act fast to save! Sneak Peek: Black Friday Savings You Need to Know About

>>Cybersecurity comes in many forms. Event planners and venues need to do more protect their systems, but attendees can also shield their personal and business information with a little effort: Digital Security Comes Into Focus — Meetings Innovation Report

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Uber Focuses on Scale Rather Than Technology Upgrades in India

Saritha Rai  / Bloomberg

Uber is trying to address the difficulties with using its platform in India after company executives toured the country to hear from riders and drivers. Saritha Rai / Bloomberg

Skift Take: There are plenty of examples where consumer technology behavior is way ahead of a major company that’s slow to respond to marketplace demand. But with Uber in India, it’s the other way around, and the company is taking a step back to focus on basics before it takes a test drive with features available in other markets.

— Dan Peltier

Hailing an Uber in India is a whole different game. Addresses are non-existent or rarely useful, while most people are using older smartphones in a place with limited mobile-data speeds.

To tackle such challenges, Uber Technologies Inc. is rolling out new features in the world’s second-most populous nation. Customers can book rides on a new, lighter web-based version of the app. In the coming weeks, the San Francisco-based company will introduce a “Request for Guest” feature that lets users book trips on behalf of someone else, even those without a mobile phone. “Call to Ride,” a feature being piloted in Pune, lets people make a voice call to book a trip from popular locations by providing an alphanumeric code displayed on signage at a booking point.

“We are not here to build the ‘cool new thing’, we want to work on making the most impact on the widest possible base,” said Daniel Graf, Uber’s head of product, who was on a three-city tour in India to learn what it’s like to move around.

Although Uber launched four years ago and now has 450,000 drivers in 29 cities, it’s locked in competition with ANI Technologies Pvt’s Ola service. The two companies have been neck-and-neck in terms of app downloads and rides per day this year, according to several published reports. Ola, which debuted two years before Uber and is seeking to raise $2 billion in a funding round, already partly raised from SoftBank Group Corp., has 800,000 vehicles and operates in 110 cities.

Ride-hailing providers not only have to find ways to deal with slow-moving traffic and mobile web connectivity, they also are working to make their services more affordable. Uber is already advertising “paisa vasool” (colloquial for “value for money”) pool fares starting as low as 29 rupees (45 cents) in cities such as Bangalore, putting rides within reach of those who usually commute by buses and three-wheeler autorickshaws.

“This trip is about immersing yourself in the experience,” said Manik Gupta, head of maps, who joined Graf on the tour. The third Uber executive on the fact-finding mission to New Delhi, Bangalore and Hyderabad was Peter Deng, head of rider experience. The trio were seeking to gain a deeper understanding of users and local customs, and also witness gridlocked traffic firsthand, they said. In Hyderabad, Graf said the UberMOTO motorcycle ride he took “was smooth.” “We are signaling our strong commitment to investing in products like motorbike rides and ridepooling,” he said.

During the trip, the three said they lost connectivity several times while trying to summon cabs through the app, got shunted from 4G to 3G networks with far lower speeds, struggled to pay for rides in cash, visited riders’ homes to listen to woes about location accuracy and arrival time reliability and sat down with drivers to talk about earnings predictability and fare transparency.

“We want to go as broad and make the Uber experience as seamless as possible,” Graf said.

This article was written by Saritha Rai from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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Need a Boeing 747? Alibaba’s Taobao Just Auctioned Off Two of Them

Luke Sharrett  / Bloomberg

China uses auction platforms to sell the assets of bankrupt firms. In this case, Taobao sold two Boeing 747s. Luke Sharrett / Bloomberg

Skift Take: On Taobao, if you auction it, they will come. Or so it seems — even with Boeing 747s.

— Dennis Schaal

You can buy almost anything on Taobao, China’s biggest e-commerce platform, even a jumbo jet.

While most Chinese consumers traffic the Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. app for groceries, clothes, or the odd knickknack, SF Airlines Co. took Taobao shopping to a whole other level on Tuesday.

The Chinese carrier bid more than 320 million yuan ($48 million) for two Boeing 747 freighter planes, according to the Xinhua News Agency, which cited the seller: the Intermediate People’s Court of Shenzhen City. A third plane failed to sell.

“Online auctions are a good way to handle the property of bankrupt firms,” Long Guangwei, the court’s vice-president, said to Xinhua. The jets originated from Jade Cargo International, the Taobao listings show.

Taobao’s court auction platform is a trove of assets from cities across China, with real estate, industrial equipment and vehicles — in various states of repair — up for bids. Taobao, which translates roughly as “digging for treasure,” also auctions off bad loans from Chinese companies.

Alibaba dominates e-commerce in China, with Taobao and the company’s other shopping platforms accounting for more than 75 percent of online retail sales in 2015.

 

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

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Taxi Drones Could Take Flight in Dubai in 2018

Qilai Shen  / Bloomberg

E-Hang’s CEO Hu Huazhi with the E-184 drone. Qilai Shen / Bloomberg

Skift Take: Next great startup idea? Drone phobia classes for reluctant flying car passengers in Dubai, Saudi Arabia and Singapore, EHang’s hoped-for initial markets. There have definitely been worse startup ideas.

— Dennis Schaal

A Chinese startup has developed a flying car that it plans to roll out as soon as next year.

EHang Inc.’s E-184 drone can carry one passenger in its small cockpit, but the firm says it’s working on a model that can carry two. EHang’s Chief Executive Officer Hu Huazhi says they’ll be in operation as “taxi drones” in Dubai in 2018 — as long as they get approval from regulators there.

Four battery-powered propellers lift the drone off the ground, and it’s equipped with fully-automated navigation, according to CEO Hu. Passengers select a pre-programmed flight path and then strap in for the ride. The E-184 has a cruising speed of up to 100 kilometers (62 miles) an hour and can stay in the air for 25 minutes, the company says.

It’s currently being tested at EHang’s headquarters: a disused theme-park on the outskirts of Guangzhou, southern China, a city that’s at the vanguard of the country’s push to move away from cheap, low-end manufacturing and toward cutting-edge technology.

“We will start mass production of our passenger drones at the beginning of next year,” Hu told Bloomberg TV. “We also plan to install fully automated production lines to enlarge manufacturing capacity in 2018.”

EHang has big ambitions — it wants to develop a network of taxi drones around the world. The company plans to sign deals in Saudi Arabia, Singapore and “several European cites” next year, the CEO said.

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

This article was written by Tom Mackenzie from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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