Tag Archives: Want

Want to Turn Planes Around Faster? Delta, United, and Southwest Have Some Creative Ideas
August 5, 2018 12:00 am|Comments (0)

We saw separately how Delta Air Lines customer service agents came up with an idea that shaves a couple of minutes off turnaround time for the airline’s jets at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. 

I was curious whether other lines did the same or similar thing, so I reached out to all of the Big Four. Southwest and United replied, while Delta also responded with a couple of other ideas worthy of attention.

Turnaround time is a big deal. The FAA reported in 2010 that flight delays cost the U.S. economy roughly $ 32.9 billion a year. Andit’s one of the key metrics on which airlines  judge themeselves.

Here are some of the other things big airlines are doing to turn airplanes around more quickly.

45 degree pushback

This is the original idea that Delta customer service agents came up with. We’ll summarize it here: Instead of pushing an airplane straight back from the gate, then turning it 90 degrees and pushing it again, the idea is to push straight back at a 45 degree angle.

This simple change shaves about a minute or more off turnaround time, which really adds up over 1,000 or more flights a day. Delta does it at Atlanta and Detroit. And, United tells me they do a 45-degree pushback at some airports as well, “depending on a variety of factors including aircraft type and setup of gate.”

The Quick Turn Playbook

This one is all United. The airline has what it calls a “Quick Turn Playbook,” which is a proprietary document that it says outlines “how all departments work together to help reduce the amount of time it takes to service and turn an aircraft.”

“The playbook was developed with the help and input of United frontline employees,” a United spokesperson told me. “We continue to go back to employees to solicit feedback on how it can be continuously improved.”

Maybe it’s working: United ranked #1 among competitors during the Q2 of 2018 for on-time departures.

Open seating

Yes, this one is limited to only one big airline–Southwest–and they were quick to point it out when I asked about turnaround tactics. Letting passengers take any open seat “saves us valuable time and keeps our aircraft moving efficiently,” as a spokesperson put it.

It’s hard to understand why other airlines don’t copy this–perhaps not on entire plans, but maybe by letting economy passengers board in order of how expensive their fares are?

Self-parking guidance systems

Both Delta and United told me they use laser-guided parking systems at some airports and gates. 

Instead of an employee standing on the ground and guiding the plane in with a couple of orange flags or lights, the laser system lets the pilot know how to inch the plane up to the gate, and when to stop. That means the employees can get ready to hook airplanes up to ground power and do other tasks more quickly.

Not charging for checked bags

Again, this is just Southwest, which doesn’t charge bag fees for any passengers. That’s in contrast to economy class passengers on United, American and Delta.

As a result, on any given Southwest flight there are likely fewer people carrying bags onto the plane and trying to put them in an overhead compartment to avoid a bag fee. That means less blocking of the aisles, and a faster process. 

The one they’re not doing

I found a few other interesting tactics. Ryanair, the low cost European carrier, says it cut turnaround time “dramatically” by removing seat back pockets, which means there’s no place for passengers to stick trash that has to be cleaned out. 

But the interesting one is a more complicated boarding dance called the Steffen Method, after the astrophysicist who came up with it in 2014. In summary, passengers would board from the outside in: window, then middle, and then aisle. And they’d board from the back, skipping every other row.

One drawback: Travelers flying together couldn’t board together if they were really strict about the process. Maybe that’s why it hasn’t really caught on.

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Want More Luck? Science Says Do These 3 Things Every Day
April 30, 2018 6:01 pm|Comments (0)

What is it that enables entrepreneurs like Elon Musk, Sergey Brin and Arianna Huffington to make their own luck?

Entrepreneurs who feel lucky report higher levels of motivation and wellbeing, both essential for sustaining performance during tough times.  So how do you cultivate your own daily luck? Here are three things to do every day,

1. Choose A Lucky Attitude.

Luck is about flexibility of mind and a willingness to experiment and trust your gut. Take advantage of chance occurrences, break the weekly routine, and once in a while have the courage to let go. The world is full of opportunity if you’re prepared to embrace it. Steve Jobs emphasized the importance of trusting your gut when he delivered his now infamous commencement address at Stanford University: “If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later. Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something–your gut, destiny, life, and karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

2. Be Ready.

Luck is as much about what you expect as what you do. Do you wait for success to happen, or do you get out there and make it happen? In his book The Luck Factor, Professor Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire, England, describes why lucky people tend to share traits that make them luckier than others. This includes the impact of chance opportunities, lucky breaks, and being in the right place at the right time. He says: “My research revealed that lucky people generate good fortune via four basic principles. They are skilled at creating and noticing chance opportunities, make lucky decisions by listening to their intuition, create self-fulfilling prophesies via positive expectations, and adopt a resilient attitude that transforms bad luck into good.” On the flipside he says: “Those who think they’re unlucky should change their outlook and discover how to generate good fortune.”

3. Own Your Success.

At times, you might privately think you can’t go on. You must persist. Arianna Huffington, co-founder of the Huffington Post, says it best: “I failed, many times in my life. One failure that I always remember was when 36 publishers rejected my second book. Many years later, I watched Huff Post come alive to mixed reviews, including some very negative ones, like the reviewer who called the site ‘the equivalent of Gigli, Ishtar, and Heaven’s Gate rolled into one. But my mother used to tell me, failure is not the opposite of success, it’s a stepping stone to success.”

Dear Future, I’m Ready.

Luck isn’t just chance but an alchemy of courage, focus and a willingness to experiment. It’s about declaring to the world ‘dear future, I’m ready’.

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Facebook critics want regulation, investigation after data misuse
March 18, 2018 6:00 am|Comments (0)

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Facebook Inc faced new calls for regulation from within U.S. Congress and was hit with questions about personal data safeguards on Saturday after reports a political consultant gained inappropriate access to 50 million users’ data starting in 2014.

FILE PHOTO: Facebook logo is seen at a start-up companies gathering at Paris’ Station F in Paris, France on January 17, 2017. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer/File Photo

Facebook disclosed the issue in a blog post on Friday, hours before media reports that conservative-leaning Cambridge Analytica, a data company known for its work on Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, was given access to the data and may not have deleted it.

The scrutiny presented a new threat to Facebook’s reputation, which was already under attack over Russians’ alleged use of Facebook tools to sway American voters before and after the 2016 U.S. elections.

“It’s clear these platforms can’t police themselves,” Democratic U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar tweeted.

“They say ‘trust us.’ Mark Zuckerberg needs to testify before Senate Judiciary,” she added, referring to Facebook’s CEO and a committee she sits on.

Facebook said the root of the problem was that researchers and Cambridge Analytica lied to it and abused its policies, but critics on Saturday threw blame at Facebook as well, demanding answers on behalf of users and calling for new regulation.

Facebook insisted the data was misused but not stolen, because users gave permission, sparking a debate about what constitutes a hack that must be disclosed to customers.

“The lid is being opened on the black box of Facebook’s data practices, and the picture is not pretty,” said Frank Pasquale, a University of Maryland law professor who has written about Silicon Valley’s use of data.

Pasquale said Facebook’s response that data had not technically been stolen seemed to obfuscate the central issue that data was apparently used in a way contrary to the expectations of users.

“It amazes me that they are trying to make this about nomenclature. I guess that’s all they have left,” he said.

Democratic U.S. Senator Mark Warner said the episode bolstered the need for new regulations about internet advertising, describing the industry as the “Wild West.”

“Whether it’s allowing Russians to purchase political ads, or extensive micro-targeting based on ill-gotten user data, it’s clear that, left unregulated, this market will continue to be prone to deception and lacking in transparency,” he said.

With Republicans controlling the Senate’s majority, though, it was not clear if Klobuchar and Warner would prevail.

The New York Times and London’s Observer reported on Saturday that private information from more than 50 million Facebook users improperly ended up in the hands of Cambridge Analytica, and the information has not been deleted despite Facebook’s demands beginning in 2015.

Some 270,000 people allowed use of their data by a researcher, who scraped the data of all their friends as well, a move allowed by Facebook until 2015. The researcher sold the data to Cambridge, which was against Facebook rules, the newspapers said.

Cambridge Analytica worked on Trump’s 2016 campaign. A Trump campaign official said, though, that it used Republican data sources, not Cambridge Analytica, for its voter information.

Facebook, in a series of written statements beginning late on Friday, said its policies had been broken by Cambridge Analytica and researchers and that it was exploring legal action.

Cambridge Analytica in turn said it had deleted all the data and that the company supplying it had been responsible for obtaining it.

Andrew Bosworth, a Facebook vice president, hinted the company could make more changes to demonstrate it values privacy. “We must do better and will,” he wrote on Twitter, adding that “our business depends on it at every level.”

Facebook said it asked for the data to be deleted in 2015 and then relied on written certifications by those involved that they had complied.

Nuala O’Connor, president of the Center for Democracy & Technology, an advocacy group in Washington, D.C., said Facebook was relying on the good will of decent people rather than preparing for intentional misuse.

Moreover, she found it puzzling that Facebook knew about the abuse in 2015 but did not disclose it until Friday. “That’s a long time,” she said.

Britain’s data protection authority and the Massachusetts attorney general on Saturday said they were launching investigations into the use of Facebook data.

“It is important that the public are fully aware of how information is used and shared in modern political campaigns and the potential impact on their privacy,” UK Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said in a statement.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey’s office said she wants to understand how the data was used, what policies if any were violated and what the legal implications are.

Reporting by David Ingram; Editing by Peter Henderson and Chris Reese

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You May Not Want To Follow Buffett Out Of Phillips 66
February 19, 2018 6:00 am|Comments (0)

Over the past couple of days, Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) (BRK.B) surprised investors with a number of developments. Between increasing its stake in Apple (AAPL) by 23.3%, dumping nearly all of its shares in International Business Machines (IBM), and buying $ 358 million worth of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries (TEVA), there’s a lot to discuss, but as an investor heavily involved in the energy space, what drew me most was Warren Buffett’s decision to part ways with a sizable stake in Phillips 66 (PSX). With shares having risen and Buffett reducing his company’s ownership in the refinery and energy wholesaler by nearly half, investors might think that now is the time to bail on Phillips, but the picture isn’t quite that simple. Despite Buffett’s move away from the firm, there could still be attractive upside for investors over the long haul.

A look at the deal

Berkshire first reported a large stake in Phillips, from what I could trace back, to September of 2014 when the firm stated in a Form SC 13G that it owned 57.98 million shares, or roughly 10.8% of the business’ outstanding stock. In February of 2016, Berkshire increased its stake in the firm by 3.51 million shares, representing 11.5% of Phillips’ outstanding units, and in February of 2017 it announced the addition of a further 19.20 million shares. This brought Berkshire’s total ownership in Phillips to 80.69 million shares, or about 15.5% of the shares outstanding at the time. Due to corporate decisions within Phillips that led to a reduction in share count, Berkshire’s stake eventually rose to 16.1%.

*Taken from Phillips 66

Over the past several years, the management team at Phillips has done well to allocate its capital toward growth endeavors. As you can see in the image above, the firm, between 2013 and 2017, spent approximately $ 16 billion toward capital expenditures. It should be noted that some of this was not from Phillips itself, but instead from Phillips 66 Partners (PSXP). In 2018, the company expects consolidated capex to be around $ 2.3 billion, up from last year’s $ 1.8 billion. Now, in the image below, you can see how cumulative distributions have changed over time.

*Taken from Phillips 66

During the same few years ending in 2017, management spent $ 16.4 billion toward distributions to shareholders (which includes buybacks mostly, but also dividends). This means that just over half of spending was put toward its distributions. In the three years ending in 2017, though, we saw a bit of a change. While the longer timeframe looked at involved a similar reinvestment into the business as what was paid out in the form of distributions, the past three years have seen a 60/40 split in favor of reinvestment.

The end result has been positive for shareholders. As Phillips saw its distribution grow from $ 1.33 per share to $ 2.73 per share during this timeframe, shares have soared. Since Berkshire reported its 10.8% stake in the firm in 2015, shares of the business have skyrocketed 30.2%. Most of this growth, accounting for appreciation for units of 21.1%, has come in just over the past 12 months as energy markets have rebounded and as the stock market has jumped.

Likely to realize some of this value, Berkshire was able to strike a deal with Phillips wherein Phillips could make a single, large transaction in order to reduce share count. The end result was the agreement that, in exchange for 35 million shares, priced at a modest premium from February 15th’s closing price, Berkshire would receive a cash payment of $ 3.3 billion. This translates into a per-share purchase price on the stock of $ 93.725.

Following this move, Berkshire will still own an impressive 45.7 million shares, valued at approximately $ 4.24 billion. Given the number of Phillips shares currently outstanding, 501.5 million, and the retirement of the 35 million units the firm is acquiring, Berkshire’s ownership in the business will shrink to 9.8%.

This is not a sign to sell

It’s legitimate to believe that Buffett has partially cashed out to benefit from the upside experienced in Phillips’ shares over the past few years. However, this doesn’t mean that owning a stake in the business is now a bad idea. If anything, now might be an attractive time to consider buying into the business. To illustrate why, all I need to do is point you to the chart below.

*Created by Author. Note: $ are in Millions

As you can see, net income and operating cash flow generated by Phillips has done well in recent years. Yes, due to fluctuations in various parts of its business, such as margins tied to the 3:2:1 crack spread, the business’ profits and cash flows have been volatile. However, in the five years starting with 2013 and ending in 2017, cumulative net income for the firm totaled $ 19.38 billion, and operating cash flow totaled $ 21.88 billion. Due in part to increased borrowings in order to fuel growth, the firm’s book value of equity (including Phillips 66 Partners) has expanded 22.5% from $ 22.39 billion to $ 27.43 billion as well.

Using 2017’s figures, shares in Phillips look quite attractive compared to the broader market. Assuming that shares remain unchanged in price following the completion of the stock purchase from Berkshire, 2017’s operating cash flow of $ 3.65 billion places a price/operating cash flow multiple on the business of 11.9 on it. Using the five-year average operating cash flow, the multiple stands slightly lower at 11.2. If, instead, we use 2017’s net income of $ 5.11 billion, the multiple on the business is 8.5, or 9.9 using the five-year average earnings. At these levels, I wouldn’t call Phillips a deep value play by any measure, but it’s certainly low enough to draw my attention.

Buffett seems to understand the business’ potential, probably better than anybody on this planet. In a statement regarding the transaction, he said the following: “Phillips 66 is a great company with a diversified downstream portfolio and a strong management team. This transaction was solely motivated by our desire to eliminate the regulatory requirements that come with ownership levels above 10 percent. We remain one of Phillips 66’s largest shareholders and plan to continue to hold the stock for the long term.”

This doesn’t mean, though, that owning shares in Phillips will be smooth sailing. As you can see in the image below, there are a lot of moving parts that can affect the profitability of the business in any given year. In particular, even a $ 1 change per barrel in gasoline margins would affect income by $ 260 million for 2018, while an identical change in distillate margins would impact results by $ 230 million. Seeing the volatility experienced in energy markets since 2014, it’s impossible to know what kind of profits and cash flow will be generated by the firm this year, let alone over the long run. However, with a strong, solid asset base, and a history of attractive performance, results should even out over any long period of time.

*Taken from Phillips 66

Takeaway

Warren Buffett’s decision to divest of nearly half of Berkshire’s stake in Phillips is not unreasonable. Given the huge run-up in share price, combined with the reduced regulatory burden Berkshire will have to deal with, it’s okay to take some cash off the table. What matters is that Berkshire continues to own a sizable chunk of Phillips and, absent a deterioration in the business, intends to keep it that way. With how affordable shares are, this could also be an attractive time for investors who don’t currently own any of the business to consider a stake as well.

Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

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GitHub Overhauled Its Pricing Plans Because Customers Now Want The Cloud
March 12, 2017 7:10 am|Comments (0)

GitHub has revamped its pricing plans to reflect rising interest from big businesses in storing their core code on the cloud, a shift that CEO Chris Wanstrath says was impossible five years ago.


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Why the Hell Would Salesforce Want to Buy Twitter?
December 1, 2016 10:15 pm|Comments (0)

Rumors surfaced today that Salesforce was interested in buying Twitter — boosting Twitter stock at least temporarily to highs it hasn’t experienced since early January. Of course, Salesforce isn’t the only rumored suitor.

Continue reading…
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We Want to Hear from You: Talkin' Cloud Tests Bloomberg Content
May 20, 2016 4:45 pm|Comments (0)

We want to provide the most comprehensive coverage of the cloud computing industry and we think that with Bloomberg’s help we can achieve this.


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Want an iPhone 6S for $1? Get ready to switch to Sprint
December 3, 2015 10:35 pm|Comments (0)

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On Friday the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus arrive in stores, and while thousands may line up for a chance to get their hands on a pink (rose gold) iPhone, others will be looking for the best upgrade deals.

In this U.S., Sprint may have just topped them all.

The wireless service provider announced on Thursday a gonzo limited-time trade-in deal to current iPhone 6 customers: $ 1 a month for an iPhone 6S and $ 5 a month for an iPhone 6s Plus.

The payment plan is actually part of Sprint’s “iPhone for Life” plan, which means customers are actually leasing the phone for, in this case, 12 months. After that, they turn in the phone for a new one and continue paying against the monthly lease agreement. While typical Sprint lease plans might charge $ 20 a month for a 16GB iPhone 6s, this one will charge you just a $ 1, meaning that, after 12 months, you end up paying $ 12 for the iPhone 6s. In the case of the larger iPhone 6s Plus, you pay $ 60. Read more…

More about Sprint, Tech, Mobile, Iphone 6s, and Iphone 6s Plus


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