Travel Tips

Overbuilding in Beijing and $7 Blankets

Locations in this article:  Athens, Greece Atlanta, GA Beijing, China Las Vegas, NV Sydney, Australia

Maasai woman and childLast week, I jumped on a plane and went over to Nairobi in Kenya to work on a story to update what’s been going on in that beautiful East African country since the upheaval in January and February over the disputed elections.

Not to mention the fact that this week was the 10th anniversary of the terrible bombing of the American Embassy back in 1998, when so many people lost their lives.

It’s an appropriate time to go over and sort of take measure of what’s going on.


First, there are some other items in the news this week, most of it ridiculous and absurd as always. JetBlue is now charging $7 for pillows and blankets … hello? Actually, up until now I didn’t even know they had blankets on JetBlue so this is a news item for me.

Do you remember that woman on Southwest Airlines who was wearing the very short dress and was asked to leave the plane and they made her cover herself with a blanket? It was a big issue of whether she was wearing too skimpy an outfit.

Let me tell you something—the story that was missed by the media on all of that was not that she was wearing perhaps a too-revealing outfit, nor that she was not behaving appropriately, but that they had blankets on Southwest! Who knew? Wow! There’s a story.

And then of course in the nickel-and-diming department, a number of airlines are now adding additional surcharges just to let you redeem your hard-earned frequent-flier points. One airline in particular, American Airlines, came up with a new slogan for it. The new slogan is that if you want to redeem your points or your miles you are asked to actually give a “co-payment.”

I don’t know about you, but when I hear the words co-payment I think I’m in a bad HMO. And I think that’s exactly what the frequent-flier programs have become. You’re now in a bad HMO and they’re about to pull the plug. So that’s really bad news: airlines generating revenue everywhere they can.


But speaking of frequent-flier points … on the other side of that coin (this is really weird), out there in Las Vegas at the World Poker Tournament they’re actually doing a promotion where the winner of the event will get a grand prize of 21 million frequent-flier miles from the Continental One Pass program. In fact it’s called the Continental One Pass Poker Tournament, announced to celebrate the 21st anniversary of the program itself.

But what does 21 million miles get you? So let’s figure it out … ready?

A 35,000 year subscription to a magazine (that’s interesting), 840 domestic coach-class tickets, 280 first-class tickets to Hawaii, and 95 around-the-world first-class tickets. Wow.

Now there’s one other prize you might get. If you actually used 11,825,000 miles of that 21-million mile award (which means you can probably do this twice) you get an entire 777 Continental airplane to fly your friends and family to Hawaii and back, 48 of them in business and first, and 235 more of them in coach. Now, this sounds good because you run the numbers based on what miles will get you … with an asterisk. And the asterisk is “if you can ever redeem them.” Here are guys playing poker in Vegas, they’re already gamblers. If somebody offered you 21 million frequent-flier miles or money, take the money and run.


Senior Peace China VisitAnyway, of course the Olympics started this week on 8/8/08. Don’t miss our Comprehensive Guide to Beijing and the Olympics.

Thousands of couples raced to the altar in Las Vegas and New York and other city halls around the country because it’s considered a very lucky day.

For one particular group it was very lucky. The dogs of China are the luckiest animals alive this week—especially if they happen to live in Beijing—because on the eve of the Olympics the government of China sent out memos to all 112 designated Olympic restaurants in Beijing asking them to take dog off the menu. Isn’t that special?

So if you’re a dog in Beijing, at least for the next two weeks, you won the gold medal, you get to live. What happens on August 23 is another problem.

They’ve also told the people in China to stop spitting and to not jump ahead of anybody in line. So this will last about 10 days, and they’re going to start spitting and jumping in line and ordering canine cuisine. Anyway, I just thought I’d share that with you. It’s my way of saying that certain things in China will remain the same when this is over. How about this: a memo to 112 restaurants in Beijing saying “take the dog off the menu.” Yikes. Next stop, Korea.


Did you watch the opening ceremonies? You’ve got to hand it to the Chinese—even with the smog it was great. Why? Because the ceremonies were at night. You also saw the photograph of all of them watching on the Great Wall through the haze.

I’m very happy not to be in Beijing this week, even though I’m a big Olympics nut. You’re not going to find me there. I’ll be sitting back watching it at home, most of it, of course, on NBC. They’ve done a great job, Matt Lauer and Bob Costas.

But the opening ceremonies at night, you have to hand it to them—boy, it was like Cirque du Soleil on steroids. Unbelievable. Something to watch and I’m sure you’ll be seeing it repeated for a couple of days to come. But if you’re thinking of going to the Olympics, it’s still not too late.

You know why? They have about 14,000 empty hotel rooms. They overbuilt, they always do.

They’re still trying to fill rooms in Sydney from the year 2000, in Athens from 2004, and believe it or not, they are still trying to fill rooms in Atlanta from 1996.

And if you’re going to the Olympics, or if you’re planning on going to Beijing or the rest of China after the Olympics, it will be even better, because the prices are going to go way down, as supply and demand have a little problem there.

From Peter Greenberg Worldwide Radio- listen here.

Read more from Peter’s Travel Detective Blog.