The $6,500 Hotel Bed

Hotels should have a bed rating system.

Beds overflowing with soft pillows and a soft mattress. 1*.

Firm pillows and a firm mattress. 5*.

Many hotels beds are far superior to any store bought alternatives.

I remember one of my first ever stays at a high-end hotel for business when flipping through the information book I found the bed was for sale.

For a recent graduate, it wasn’t cheap.

Which explains why an astonishing 49 five-star hotels reported that mattresses had been stolen from their premises since January 2018.

Then I started looking at the prices of hotel beds and quickly realised the bed I saw for sale was, in fact, relatively cheap.

Methodology

I used mattresses from Casper, a popular mattress delivery company, as a baseline. I chose Casper as the company offers three types of mattresses that can be broadly classed into price points; basic to premium.

For hotel mattress prices, I went directly to the hotel for prices. If the hotel was not able to directly provide a price on their website, I did not include the mattress in this analysis. In total I selected 22 mattresses from 6 hotel chains.

All prices used are for full priced California King mattresses (I want total luxury after all!).

Results

Cost of Casper Californian King Mattresses

Cost of Casper Californian King Mattresses (December 2019)

Download chart.

Model Cal King Price (USD)
The Essential $795
The Casper $1,195
The Wave $2,695

Full table (inc. links to buy).

Cost of Californian King Mattresses by Hotel (December 2019)

Cost of Californian King Mattresses by Hotel (December 2019)

Download chart.

Bed name Hotel Chain Mattress Price USD
Omni Suite Pillow Top Bed Omni Hotels and Resorts 1,114.00
Cape Breton Plush Mattress Wyndham 1,323.50
Cape Breton Pillow Top Mattress Wyndham 1,523.81
Hilton Bed Hilton Worldwide 1,795.00
The Sweet Dreams Bed Hilton Worldwide 1,795.00
Hampton Bed Hilton Worldwide 1,795.00
Sheraton Bed Marriott International 1,795.00
The Heavenly Bed Marriott International 1,895.00
Pillow Top Mattress Marriott International 1,989.00
Euro Top Mattress Marriott International 1,989.00
Home2 Mattress Hilton Worldwide 1,995.00
Sofitel Bed Accor Hotels 1,999.00
The Marriott Bed Marriott International 2,150.00
Courtyard Bed Marriott International 2,150.00
The JW Bed Marriott International 2,150.00
Waldorf Astoria Bed Hilton Worldwide 2,195.00
The Ritz-Carlton Bed Marriott International 2,995.00
The St. Regis Mattress Marriott International 3,495.00
The Luxury Collection Bed Marriott International 3,495.00
Signature Mattress Four Seasons 3,999.00
Signature Plush Mattress Four Seasons 3,999.00
Signature Firm Mattress Four Seasons 3,999.00

Full table (inc. links to buy).

Of the 22 hotel mattresses considered, all are more expensive than the Essential Casper mattress ($795).

Only 1 is hotel mattress is cheaper than The Casper mattress ($1,195), the Omni Hotels, Omni Suite Pillow Top Bed.

Perhaps surprisingly though, 6 are more expensive than The Wave Casper Mattress ($2695). The Wave is competing with some high end 5* hotel beds including those offered by the Ritz-Carlton, St. Regis and Four Seasons chains.

The Ultimate Luxury

Item Hotel Chain Mattress Price USD Quantity Total
Signature Firm Mattress Four Seasons 3,999.00 1 3999
Sheet Set Four Seasons 599.00 1 599
Down & Feather Pillow Four Seasons 199.00 4 796
Duvet Cover Set Four Seasons 649.00 1 649
All Seasons Duvet Four Seasons 499.00 1 499

Full table (inc. links to buy).

Now that you’re convinced you need the ultimate in luxury, here’s what it will cost to buy…

$6,542

… and that figure doesn’t include the bed frame.

Cost to kit out a hotel

According to this article (2011), the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, is the largest Four Seasons resort in the world.

The property boasts 444 rooms, 40 Four Seasons Residence Club units, and 90 Four Seasons Private Residence — about 574 beds in total.

Excluding bed frames, that’s $3,755,108 ($6,542*574) worth of bedding at retail price.

Improvements

Price does not equal quality. It would be really interesting, should the data exist, to compare the reviews and prices of hotel mattresses to other retail manufacturers.

tl;dr

A Four Seasons mattress and bedding (excluding bed frame) will cost you $6,542 to bring home.

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

The $234,650,000,000 (two hundred thirty-four billion six hundred fifty million) subway

In 2018, I declared the New York City subway system “the best”, based on the factors considered.

Cities like London or Moscow have had their subway networks in place for over 100 years. Although both have grown in the intervening time.

Modern day cities like Shanghai have built comparatively new and large systems at an astonishing rate.

New York is planning to have spent around $35 billion between 2005 and 2030 on subway and commuter rail expansion. But it’s only getting 15 km of new tunnel!

Paris is spending a similar amount over the same period: €40 billion, for a total of 228 km, 187 km underground.

Madrid, a much smaller city, spent €10 billion in 1995-2015 on 234 km, around 180 km underground.

Let’s take a deeper look…

Methodology

Pedestrian Observations (Alon Levy) has compiled a comprehensive presentation titled; “What is the Cost of Building a Subway?“.

The figures used for my analysis are taken from that presentation, which uses data from an unreferenced dataset of different urban rail lines and their costs.

According to the presentation, “Costs cover engineering, contracts, and political factors.”

Results

Approximate construction costs by region per km, in millions (USD)

Download chart.

Country / Region USD million/km
East Asia 100
Turkey 100
Mediterranean / Nordic / Switzerland 120
Chile 150
Iran 200
Western Europe 250
China 250
Mexico / Brazil 330
Thailand 475
US / Canada / Australia / Singapore / UK 500
Philippines 1000

Download table.

Think infrastructure project in the Europe / US are expensive?

In Manilla, Philippines, they’ve spent and estimated $1 billion USD per/km. Twice as expensive as the US / Canada / Australia / Singapore / UK ($500 million USD per/km).

Halve that by building in Western Europe. $250 million USD per/km.

Head to Mediterranean / Nordic countries, or Switzerland, and costs plummet even further. $120 million USD per/km.

Approximate construction costs by era per km, in millions (2019 USD dollars)

Approximate construction costs per subway km, in millions (2019 dollars)

Download chart.

Era New York (mm USD 2019) London (mm USD 2019) Paris (mm USD 2019)
1900s 40 30 30
1910s 55
1930s 140 35 30
1960s-70s 700 150
1990s 1500 500 250

Full table.

Who said things got cheaper over time?

Costs to build subways have spiralled.

$40 million USD per km in New York in the 1990s. $1.5 billion USD per km in the 90’s.

While many of you, like me, might assume this is because of political factors or city density, you’re probably wrong.

The author of the presentation notes:

The cost difference seems to be mostly in stations.

To save money, he has uncovered the following cost items that best reduce construction costs:

  • Shallow cut-and-cover construction, disrupting the street for about 18 months. No mining except at undercrossings.
  • No mezzanines. All circulation, including fare barriers, should be on the platform level or at street level.
  • An island platform, ideally accessed from a street median, to avoid duplicating elevators, stairs, etc.
  • No signature architecture. Station designs should be reused systemwide. If art is desired, put on exhibits.

Rebuilding the London Underground in 2020

Est. Build Cost of London Underground Lines using 1990s costs (USD 2019)

Download chart.

Name Length (km) Cost at 1990s cost (mm USD 2019) Cost at 1990s cost (USD 2019)
Waterloo & City line 2.5 1250 $1,250,000,000
Victoria line 21 10500 $10,500,000,000
Bakerloo line 23.2 11600 $11,600,000,000
Hammersmith & City line 25.5 12750 $12,750,000,000
Circle line 27.2 13600 $13,600,000,000
Jubilee line 36.2 18100 $18,100,000,000
Northern line 58 29000 $29,000,000,000
District line 64 32000 $32,000,000,000
Metropolitan line 66.7 33350 $33,350,000,000
Piccadilly line 71 35500 $35,500,000,000
Central line 74 37000 $37,000,000,000
Total 469.3 234650 $234,650,000,000

Full table.

Assuming 1990’s London costs per/km of subway ($500mm p/km), even the 2.5 km Waterloo & City line would cost an estimated $1.25 billion to rebuild — maybe at that cost it would open on Sundays?

In total, it would cost an estimated $235 billion to build the London Underground today.

The London Underground carries about 1.4 billion passengers a year. If every journey cost a passenger $168 (about 12 times the cost of a travel card, which is already expensive!) the costs to build would pay for themselves in a year.

Built at Swiss prices ($120 million /km), it would be 75% cheaper at about $56 billion — a bargain… when compared to New York costs (@$1.5 billion per/km = $705 billion total).

Comparing to HS2 (UK)

HS2 vs London Underground construction costs per km

Download chart.

For those outside the UK, HS2 stands for high-speed 2, a planned high-speed rail network between London, the West Midlands, Manchester and Leeds.

It’s controversial, like many major infrastructure project, though the £307 million / $398 million USD per mile (£190.8 / $247.3 million /  per km) it is expected to cost (today) has been widely reported by the press.

Comparing this to the per kilometre cost of rebuilding the London Tube at 1990s prices ($500 million / km), HS2 doesn’t sound as expensive, though you don’t get as many tunnels for your $247.3 million!

Improvements

I’ve taken aggregated prices from the presentation that have already been manipulated by the author. To get a better insight into build costs and where they were sources from would dramatically improve the quality of my reporting.

tl;dr

In total, it would cost an estimated $235 billion to build the London Underground today. 

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

Patient 0 to the World: How Air Travel Makes it Impossible to Contain COVID-19

Corona.

What was once a summer beer is now synonymous with something far less appealing.

COVID-19, or the Corona virus, has sadly led to over 2,500 deaths and almost 100,000 infections as I write this.

Recently I was reading about the World War 1 flu pandemic that claimed an estimated 16 million lives. It is estimated one fifth of the world’s population was attacked by this deadly virus.

Most researchers attribute the movement of people around the world to the fact the flu virus was able to infect so many.

And this was before the days of commercial aviation.

In 2018 there were 4.8 billion air passengers, total. Add in rail, road and sea journeys, and it’s clear the world is incredibly interconnected. There wasn’t even 4.8 billion people on the planet in 1914 (most estimates put it at between 1.5 and 1.7 billion).

From its origin in Wuhan, here’s a simple analysis for how easily it could have been spread around the world.

Methodology

I used a variety of sources to obtain data on air travel in China to estimate and analyse passenger traffic and aircraft movements.

Results

Air Pax Volume China (2019)

China air passenger volume 2019

Download chart.

In total, there were about 660 million passengers flying from a Chinese airport in 2019.

Almost 90% were flying domestically (586 million pax), with 72 million flying out of the country — the equivalent of around 49 million domestic and 6 million international pax each month.

Where do people fly to / from in China?

Download chart.

Rank Airport Passengers
1 Beijing Capital International Airport 100,983,290
2 Shanghai Pudong International Airport 74,006,331
3 Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport 69,720,403
4 Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport 52,950,529
5 Shenzhen Bao’an International Airport 49,348,950
6 Kunming Changshui International Airport 47,088,140
7 Xi’an Xianyang International Airport 44,653,311
8 Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport 43,628,004
9 Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport 41,595,887
10 Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport 38,241,630

Full chart.

Over 100 million passengers flew in or out of Bejing in 2018, or a mean average of 8.3 million per month.

Even the smallest airport in the top 100 by passenger volume, Nanyang Jiangying Airport, saw over 907,000 passengers through its doors in 2018.

Wuhan Tianhe International Airport had 24.5 million in 2019, or about 2 million per month — about the same amount of time before travel restrictions came into place and the virus was widely reported.

How many flights depart from Wuhan each month?

I could not find specific flight data for Wuhan, so let’s get creative.

Given most travellers are domestic, let’s use one of the most popular short/medium range aircraft, the Boeing 737 (ignoring the ongoing MAX 8 problems).

The 737 MAX 8 typically holds around 178 in a 2 class seat configuration.

Assuming only the 737 Max flew from Wuhan, that would mean over 11,235 flights landed / departed. Given there will be larger planes in operation, let’s assume 10,000 plane movements per month.

Divide that by two, to only consider departures, gives 5,000 plane departures per month.

And this is one city alone.

Summary

According to this same calculation using the amount of 737 seats to estimate number of flights would result in the 4.8 billion passengers who flew in 2018 to have done it on about 60 million flights or 5 million each month!

And that’s just air travel.

Without a total ban on travel, I cannot see how COVID-19 will be contained.

To finish, it is important I note this is not meant to be a post designed to scare.  Remember, even if you contract the virus, it is very likely you will survive.

Improvements

These stats are clearly not accurate model of the spread of COVID-19. The post is designed to highlight how interconnected the modern world is.

I’m very interested to see the models that researchers develop as our understanding of this virus increases. I am no where near skilled enough to do this.

tl;dr

With an estimated 5 million flights taking off around the world each month, stopping viruses penetrating borders is an impossible task.

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

$5.5 billion down in Vegas

Vegas.

You can easily get lost in the maze of hotels and casinos on the Las Vegas Strip for a week. And there’s no shortage of hotel rooms.

For gamblers, getting lost is not a problem. It’s not hard to find a blackjack table or slot machine to place a bet.

The movies introduced me to $10k+ poker table buy-ins. Though it astounds me that even some of the machines in the casinos accept $10, $20 or even $100 minimum bets!

I’ll gamble when I visit. A grand total of $1 each time. I’m about $10 down at this point… but, as a travelstatsman, the fact I’ve lost money does not surprise me — the odds are the odds.

I’m not the only one who has stood looking over a sea of tables and machines and asked the question; how much is the casino making?

Methodology

All casinos in Nevada are required to report to the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

Each month the Board published figures that include revenues and win rates for the 445 licensed gambling establishments in the State.

I used the most recent report at the time of writing (April 2019) using figures over a year between April 2018 and April 2019.

Results

Number of Slot Machines

Number of Slot Machines Vegas Strip (Apr 2018 - Apr 2019)

Download chart.

Did you know? There are around 65,620 slot machines on the Vegas strip.

Number of Card Tables

Number of Card Tables Vegas Strip (Apr 2018 - Apr 2019)

Download chart.

Did you know? There are over 30 times more Blackjack (Twenty One) tables on the Vegas strip than any other card game!

Las Vegas Strip Revenue

Total Gaming Revenue Strip vs. State (Apr 2018 - Apr 2019)

Download chart.

Did you know? The Vegas Strip earns over $6.5 billion a year in gambling revenues (making up almost 60% of the entire gambling revenue generated in the State).

Revenue per game

Revenue per game Vegas Strip (Apr 2018 - Apr 2019)

Download chart.

Over $1 billion was generated by multi-denomination and $1 slot machines.

Baccarat tables were the only other game to generate $1 billion over the year. This is unsurprising as players have the potential to win serious money because of a small house edge.

Revenue per Unit

Revenue per unit Vegas Strip (Apr 2018 - Apr 2019)

Download chart.

A Sports Pool unit is on average the highest earner for a casino (almost $4 million per unit). Though this is slightly misleading, as gamblers can place bets quickly from a small number of units (just 36).

As there are relatively few Baccarat tables, when compared to slot machines, each table brought in a respectable $3.2 million over the year.

Odds of winning by game

Win % by Game on Vegas Strip (Apr 2018 - Apr 2019)

Download chart.

The lowest odds are generally on the slot machines (where the odds are fixed) and sports pools (where casinos are cautious with odds due to uncertainty) with classic card games offering gamblers the best odds of winning (3-card poker offers a 1 in 3 chance of winning).

Win / loss total value

Winnings / Losses Vegas Strip vs State (Apr 2018 - Apr 2019)

Download chart.

Of all $6.5 billion bet over the year period on the Vegas Strip, just $0.96 billion went back to gamblers — the overall odds of winning we’re 14.79% across all games.

$10.1 billion was bet in total in Nevada during the same period. Overall odds of winning for the whole State were slightly lower than the Strip at 14.01%.

 

Winnings / Losses Vegas Strip by game (Apr 2018 - Apr 2019)

Download chart.

You can see just how much higher the losses were for slot games (e.g. 1 cent and multi-denomination) compared to table games (e.g. Blackjack and Baccarat). These four games were by far the biggest earners for the casinos between April 2018 and April 2019.

Did you know? $1.3 billion was bet on 1 cent machines (I guess it’s easy to lose track of how much you’re spending). That’s 130 billion 1 cent coins. At a weight of 2.5 grams, that’s around 333,000 tonnes of coins! That said, most of it will have been gambled electronically.

Improvements

Many casinos are traded as public companies and have to disclose detailed information publicly, in addition to the aggregate figures published by the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

For example, Wynn Q1 2019 10-Q, 2018 10-K, and press releases all contain detailed information including VIP spend, room revenue, and many other interesting data points.

tl;dr

Gamblers lost over $5.5 billion on the Vegas Strip between April 2018 and April 2019. With an average win rate of 14.79% over all games, gamblers took home $0.96 billion.

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

The airport car park that earns £141 million each year

People often cite the deterioration of on-board offerings. Smaller seats, less pitch, more cramped, no free food. The list goes on.

Same with airports. Security, expensive restaurants, lack of outside space.

And, yes, people complaining about these things would be correct. Myself included.

Though one thing that’s often overlooked is not the airport terminals themselves, but the car parks that serve them.

I’m not talking about long-stay offerings, including the increasingly popular off-airport car parks.

I’m talking about the short stay car parks. The car parks family and friends picking up their loved ones must use as more airports remove their pickup points.

Why? The cost. Me and my family easily spent over £300 last year, and that’s during a year when I didn’t travel as much as usual.

I’ve decided to name and shame the UK airports minting their own money from their short car parks.

Methodology

Almost all UK airports publish their own parking charges publicly online. For this exercise I used their short stay offerings — the car park someone would typically use to wait for an arriving passenger.

I selected 9 of the UK’s largest airports, including the 5 major London airports; Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton, Stansted and City.

It is clear airports are targeting pick-ups with short stays. Just look at the range of pricing models (note, not all airports offer these pricing tiers):

  • 0-10 minutes
  • 10-20 minutes
  • Up to 30 minutes
  • 30 to 45 minutes
  • Up to 60 minutes
  • Up to 2 hours
  • Up to 3 hours
  • Up to 4 hours

Results

Cheapest UK airport short stay parking option 0-10 mins

Cheapest UK airport short stay parking option 0-10 min (2019)

Download chart.

Edinburgh, you win. The only airport to offer a free parking. Albeit for 10 minutes.

I want to hear from anyone who has parked up, collected a passenger, paid for their ticket and left the car park in 10 minutes. I have a lot to learn.

Cheapest UK airport short stay parking option 0-30 mins

Cheapest UK airport short stay parking option up to 30 mins (2019)

Download chart.

30 minutes is more realistic for a pickup.

The budget airports fare worst here. Luton charges £9 for 30 mins and Stansted £8. Some low-cost flights can be purchased for less than this!

Cheapest UK airport short stay parking option 1 hour

Cheapest UK airport short stay parking option up to 60 mins

Download chart.

Stying over 30 minutes will cost you an extra £15.50 to park at London City Airport. Though the £23 cost does buy you up to 4 hours of parking.

You can see there is a large spread of parking charges when we look at one hour stays. Luton and Stansted again come out as second and third most expensive for one hours stay at £16 and £14 respectively.

Cheapest UK airport short stay parking option 3 hours

Cheapest UK airport short stay parking option up to 3 hours (2019)

Download chart.

Let’s assume your flight gets delayed, and the person waiting for you has to hang around the terminal waiting. Thanks to all the taxi drivers that have done this for me.

Luton and Stansted cash in. 3 hours of parking will cost £27 at both these airports.

In comparison, the major airports are significantly cheaper. Surprisingly the two major London airports Heathrow (£14.90) and Gatwick (£15) are both almost half the price of their smaller counterparts. They are also cheaper than Manchester (£18) and Birmingham (£16.50). Who said things were more expensive in the south?

Car Park Revenue

Heathrow currently has capacity for 51,500 cars in their car parks.

Let’s assume an underestimate; each one of those spaces brings in an hour of parking each day (£7.50).

If this was accurate, Heathrow would earn £386,250 a day or £140,981,250 a year in car park revenue!

Improvements

I’d like to see how these parking costs compare with other European and American airports.

tl;dr

3 hours of parking will cost £27 at both London Luton and London Stansted airports.

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

Christmas Trees for Sale: From €80 per Metre

Merry Christmas, everyone.

This year I decided to write a post for the masses, rather than for the 1% (if you are in the 1% see: Private Jet Buyers Guide).

So what does everyone want for Christmas? A Christmas tree of course.

Nothing beat that real tree smell. Or the time spent cleaning the shed needles. Or the hours spent figuring out how to dispose of it. Bah. Humbug.

But real trees aren’t cheap when compared to fake ones. My parents have owned there’s for over 35 years! At £50 new, that works out to about £1.43 per year.

Assuming you could go shopping anywhere in the world for a Christmas Tree; where would you get the best deal?

Methodology

Bloom and Wild researched Christmas Tree prices in 11 cities around the world.

They researched prices for an “average” real six foot (1.83 metre) tree in these cities.

Results

The most expensive city to buy a Christmas Tree

Christmas tree cost (6ft / 1.83 mtr) by city (2018)

Download chart.

City Ave. Christmas tree cost (6ft / 1.83 mtr) (EUR) Cost per metre (EUR) Cost per year (10 yr)
Prague €11.00 €6.01 €1.10
Salzburg €37.62 €20.57 €3.76
Copenhagen €42.40 €23.18 €4.24
Berlin €49.64 €27.14 €4.96
Aspen €56.35 €30.81 €5.64
Quebec city €64.11 €35.06 €6.41
Strasbourg €64.58 €35.31 €6.46
London €67.85 €37.10 €6.79
Belgium €74.52 €40.75 €7.45
New York €137.89 €75.40 €13.79
Dublin €145.92 €79.79 €14.59

Full table.

Prague is by-far-and-away the cheapest city for a tree. A 1.83 metre tree costs on average about €11, or €6.01 per metre.

Compare that to Dublin, where the same sized tree will cost you €146 or almost €80 per metre! You could buy 13 trees in Prague for the same price.

Assuming you could ship the tree from Prague to Dublin for less than €135 — a figure that sounds plausible — the tree would still be cheaper than buying locally.

The British Christmas Tree Growers state that:

A typical 6 to 7 feet high Christmas tree is between 10 and 12 years old

Assuming a 6 foot (1.83m) tree takes 10 years to grow, that’s is the equivalent of €1.10 per year at Prague prices. Even €14.59 a year at Dublin prices sounds fair to me.

Christmas tree sales (London)

The British Christmas Tree Growers association estimated 7 million trees are bought in the UK each year.

London has around 13% of the UK population, which as a rough estimate (13% of 7 million) could see 910,000 trees sold in London each Christmas (that’s 1,665,300 metres total @ 1.83 metres per tree).

Total value of Christmas tree sales in London: €61,782,630.

Update December 5th: the 80 foot / 24.39 metre tree erected in Trafalgar Square (although donated) would cost €1654.45 at London tree prices. Some would argue it’s not worth that much

If UK Political Parties Sold Christmas Trees…

UK Political Party Potential Christmas Tree Business Revenues

Download chart.

Party Number trees planted /yr Christmas Tree Value @ €67.85
Conservatives 30,000,000 €2,035,500,000
Lib Dems 60,000,000 €4,071,000,000
SNP 60,000,000 €4,071,000,000
Greens 70,000,000 €4,749,500,000
Labour 100,000,000 €6,785,000,000

Full table.

If you’re in the UK, you’ve probably seen the (important) tree planting policies by each party in advance of the upcoming General Election.

Let’s imagine for a moment each of the trees was a 1.83 metre Christmas Tree (Spruce, Pine, etc.) sold at London prices (€67.85)… and that millions more people needed trees (ignoring almost all proposed immigration policies).

Labour could generate tree sales of €6.79 billion every year (or £5.8 billion [December 1st 2019] for the “leavers”).

Improvements

The Bloom and Wild report does not cover any real detail as to how the figures were collected, nor does it cover a large number of cities. Increasing transparency and amount of data collected would make for a more interesting analysis.

I’d also like to compare the value of real trees to their artificial alternatives.

tl;dr

Christmas trees purchased in Dublin are 13 times more expensive (€146) than those in Prague (€11).

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

Ski Resort Budgeting: The £8 Coffee

Ski season is almost here. Get saving…

After buying your flights, accommodation and lift pass, don’t forget you’ll be eating and drinking a lot.

How much will all those calories cost you?

I’m glad you asked…

Methodology

Every year the Post Office (UK) compiles their Ski Resort Report. For this post I used the latest 2018 edition.

Lunch prices are based on two courses (main course and dessert) for a family of four, excluding drinks.

Individual drink items are calculated on a per person basis.

Results

The morning coffee

Coffee per person by ski resort (2018)

Download chart.

La Thuile in Italy offers the cheapest daily coffee at just £0.90 — that’s over two thirds cheaper than the price of a coffee from a generic London coffee shop.

Overall the mean price for a large coffee on the slope is £2.91.

Though you’ve probably already gasped at the far right of the chart. Yes, I double checked. A large coffee in the Norwegian resort of Trysil does cost an astounding £8.86 (thanks, unfriendly exchange rates!). Over a 6 day holiday that equals a spend of £53.04 on a daily coffee.

An alternative caffeine hit

Coke per person by ski resort (2018)

Download chart.

Want something sweeter. A Coke could be the slightly cheaper option. The mean price of a small Coke across all resorts is £2.88.

The cheapest small Coke can be found in the Bulgarian resort of Bansko (£0.77), and the most expensive… Yes, it’s Trysil again, where a a Coke costs the same as a coffee (£8.86),

Lunchtime

Lunch per person by ski resort (2018)

Download chart.

Lunch in a Trysil restaurant is expensive, as expected, at £32.40 per person (almost £130 for a family of 4). Interestingly though, Trysil is not significantly more expensive than other resorts for lunch, as it is with drinks.

In most major European resorts lunch will set you back around £27 per person.

The average restaurant lunch (two courses) across all resorts costs £20.11.

Wine or beer?

Drink price by ski resort (2018)

Download chart.

No surprises here, Bansko comes out cheapest where a 25cl beer will cost you £1.35.

A glass of wine (50cl) on the other hand ranges from £1.88 (Bansko) to almost £18 (Trysil).

In almost all European resorts, beer is cheaper than wine. In North American resorts its the opposite.

On average, an alcoholic drink will cost you £4.80, with the major European resorts being the most expensive. Here you’re looking at spending between £3.50 and £4.00 on a beer, and £6 to £9 for a glass of wine.

Improvements

The Post Office report provides general guidance of prices, but it is clear the data collection (or at least transparency as to how it was collected) could be improved to provide a more in depth analysis.

tl;dr

Take a pack lunch. The average cost of lunch at European and American ski resorts is £20.11.

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

The £520 Million ATOL Refund Bill. Can the UK CAA Cover It?

In the UK, travel agents must pay £2.50 into the ATOL scheme for each person they book on a package holiday.

If a travel business with an ATOL ceases trading, the ATOL scheme protects consumers who had booked holidays with the firm. It will support consumers currently abroad and provide financial reimbursement for the cost of replacing parts of an ATOL protected package.

ATOL Website

If you’re in the UK, you will be well aware of the ATOL scheme (operated by the UK CAA) by now after the collapse of Thomas Cook.

The mammoth repatriation effort, dubbed Operation Matterhorn (aka the largest in peacetime history), is to bring an estimated 150,000 people back to the UK.

Government figures show that the cost of reimbursing holidaymakers who lost future bookings stands at £420 million.

This is in addition to an expected £100 million bill to return Thomas Cook passengers to Britain and tens of millions owed to hotels overseas.

Thomas Cook Group Website

Though after years as one of the leading travel agents in Europe, as the Thomas Cook Group sites still boasts (parent company of Thomas Cook UK), surely the passenger ATOL contributions must cover the mounting bills?

Methodology

Using direct and indirect data sources, I was able to obtain numbers to make some “informed estimations”.

I am using figures from Thomas Cook Airlines, as I was unable to find exact package holiday passenger numbers. This is an important distinction, as Thomas Cook Airlines also carry passengers not covered under ATOL protection (e.g. those who booked flights only). As a result, many of the figures quoted will be overestimates.

Similarly, I also use figures from the Office of National Statistics that report total UK holidays by year to work out potential ATOL contributions.

ATOL contributions in this post are assumed to be fixed at £2.50 per passenger.

Results

Thomas Cook ATOL Contributions by Year

Thomas Cook Airlines Passenger Volume and Estimated ATOL contributions (2009 - 2018)

Download chart.

Year Pax (TC airlines) ATOL contribution GBP
2009 8,202,534 20,506,335
2010 8,120,815 20,302,038
2011 7,969,569 19,923,923
2012 6,783,661 16,959,153
2013 6,043,480 15,108,700
2014 6,043,480 15,108,700
2015 6,395,623 15,989,058
2016 6,623,546 16,558,865
2017 7,319,546 18,298,865
2018 8,090,208 20,225,520

Full table.

Since 2013 Thomas Cook Airlines has been carrying an increasing number of passengers. Over 2 million more in 2018 than in 2013 (25% increase).

Assuming all these passengers were covered under ATOL protection (see methodology), Thomas Cook paid over £20.2 million to the scheme in 2018. Using the same logic, over the period between 2009 and 2018 Thomas Cook airlines paid £179 million into the scheme.

Let’s assume now that only 50% of Thomas Cook airline passengers paid in to the scheme. In 2018 they would have contributed just over £10 million, and since 2009, about £90 million.

This number is still way short of the estimated £520 million final bill, as quoted above.

Potential Total Travel Agents ATOL Contributions by Year

UK Holiday Passengers and Potential ATOL contributions GBP (1998 - 2018)

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Year UK Holiday Passengers ATOL Potential ATOL contributions GBP @100% paid UK Holiday Passengers ATOL GBP @50% paid
1998 32,306,000 80,765,000 40,382,500
1999 35,023,000 87,557,500 43,778,750
2000 36,685,000 91,712,500 45,856,250
2001 38,670,000 96,675,000 48,337,500
2002 39,902,000 99,755,000 49,877,500
2003 41,197,000 102,992,500 51,496,250
2004 42,912,000 107,280,000 53,640,000
2005 44,175,000 110,437,500 55,218,750
2006 45,287,000 113,217,500 56,608,750
2007 45,437,000 113,592,500 56,796,250
2008 45,531,000 113,827,500 56,913,750
2009 38,492,000 96,230,000 48,115,000
2010 36,422,000 91,055,000 45,527,500
2011 36,819,000 92,047,500 46,023,750
2012 36,173,000 90,432,500 45,216,250
2013 37,149,000 92,872,500 46,436,250
2014 38,519,000 96,297,500 48,148,750
2015 42,150,000 105,375,000 52,687,500
2016 45,020,000 112,550,000 56,275,000
2017 46,636,000 116,590,000 58,295,000
2018 47,042,000 117,605,000 58,802,500

Full table.

Assuming all UK holiday makers contributed towards ATOL, the scheme would have raised £117.6 million in 2018 (47 million pax). If so, since 1998 the scheme has raised £2.13 billion (from 851.5 million passengers). ATOL stated in 1973.

Let’s assume only 50% of holiday makers were required to pay into the scheme, it would still have generated a pot of over £1 billion (ignoring other times passengers have been compensated by ATOL, see below).

We have enough to cover the £520 million now…

Repaying Thomas Cook Passengers

Thomas Cook Impact on ATOL Contributions Pot 1998-2018

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Assuming the 50% of holiday makers since 1998 were required to pay into the scheme (£1 billion), the £520 million Thomas Cook bill would require 48.9% of the schemes contributions to refund passengers.

Thomas Cook UK are the largest agency or airline to go into liquidation, by quite some margin.

Though a number of other airlines — FlyBMI, Cobalt, Monarch, etc — are likely to have impacted passengers under ATOL protection. ATOL refunds for the collapse of Monarch added up to £21 million.

Of course, many smaller agencies will have ceased trading, requiring ATOL refunds for passengers too.

The question is, has ATOL paid out more than £520 million since 1998. I’m not so sure…

Improvements

As indicated in the methodology section (and lack of a definitive answer to the question), there are lots of estimations in this post.

To improve the accuracy of the figures estimated, I would need ATOL contribution figures by agency and all payouts over the period the organisation has been operating.

tl;dr

It is very likely that the final Thomas Cook will significantly impact the balance sheet of the ATOL protection scheme. It could easily exceed over 50% of all ATOL contributions for the last 20 years.

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

$1.25 billion worth of baggage was potentially lost or stolen in 2018

Recently I disembarked a long flight to find my luggage already waiting on the carousel for me. In fact, it was as if the bags delivery had been perfectly timed as it allowed me to stroll up to the carousel and collect it.

This was as an odd experience. Why? Because I’m usually waiting until the end to collect my bag.

Many people theorise as to the order bags are delivered. It’s clear priority baggage will be first. But then what? The bags that went on the plane last, and thus offloaded first? Or the other way around?

In many cases I only have myself to blame as I often travel with my bike, which usually comes out last as oversized baggage.

Waiting gives me time to people watch in the baggage haul. Fortunately, at the time of writing, an airline has never lost my bag, but I’ve seen plenty of others told their bag has gone missing.

When will my luck run out?

Methodology

For the last 5 years Sita, an airline consultancy, have produced analysis titled, The Baggage Report, that reports on airline baggage trends.

View all the reports here.

Using these 5 reports I compiled the key stats regarding mishandled bags for analysis. Mishandled bags includes those lost or stolen, those that have been damaged or had items stolen, or those that have been delayed on arrival.

Data exists for years 2003, 2007, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 and covers major global airlines.

Results

Reasons for mishandled baggage (2018)

Reason for lost baggage chart (2018)

Download chart.

77% of mishandled bags are delayed, 18% damaged or pilfered, with 5% completely lost or stolen.

Total passengers vs. mishandled bags

Total passengers vs. Mishandled bags per 1k pax

Download chart.

Passenger numbers continue to increase year-on-year. In 2018 4.36 billion passengers were carried, compared to 1.89 billion in 2003.

Though airlines and airports are handling the increase well. There is an inverse correlation between passenger and mishandled bags; as passengers have increased, mishandled bags have generally decreased.

2018 saw a slight increase in mishandled bags (5.69 per 1000 pax), up from 2017 (5.57 per 1000 pax). Though this is a massive improvement on 2003 (13.2 per 1000 pax) and 2007 (18.8 per 1000 pax!), despite the increased passenger traffic in the last few years.

Total mishandled bags each year

Total Bags Mishandled each year

Download chart.

Almost 25 million bags were mishandled in 2018. We know of this 25 million, 5% were lost or stolen — that’s 1.25 million bags that passengers will never see again.

Assuming each bag has $500 worth of items in, which I would argue is an underestimate including the bag, that’s $625 million worth of lost baggage insurance companies might have to cover in the worst case.

Expanding this further, if each bag and its contents averages $1000 in value (what many basic travel insurance policies will cover) that adds up to $1.25 billion worth of lost and stolen baggage in 2018 globally!

77% or 19.25 million bags were delayed in 2018 meaning the airlines then have to deliver them back to passengers. Assuming it costs $10 to deliver each bag back to a traveller on average (this is a complete guess), that’s another $192.5 million airlines have to budget for (in their razor thin margins).

Chances you’ll lose a bag

Download chart.

Overall, you had a 0.57% chance of your bag being mishandled in 2018 — that’s 1 bag mishandled for every 175 passengers. Following current trends, this risk is likely to be slightly reduced in 2019.

You had a very low chance of your bag being completely lost or stolen (0.03% or 1 in 3333 passengers). It’s much more likely your bag was delayed (0.44% or 1 in 227 passengers).

tl;dr

You had a 0.57% chance of your bag being mishandled in 2018 — that’s 1 bag mishandled for every 175 passengers.

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

Airline meals in the US are getting more fattening

Some adore them. Others turn their nose up.

Meals, or should I say, meals served in economy on board a flight often receive bad press. Some of those served in first, rival some of the best restaurants I’ve visited.

Personally I like the fairly new trend of buying meals in the terminal and taking them on-board. Many airlines are starting to charge passengers for food on long-haul routes anyway.

My reason being is that I get more choice, and can often select something slightly healthier if I want to.

Which got me thinking? How nutritious are meals on-board a flight?

Methodology

In 2018 Diet Detective wrote to various US airlines offering transcontinental routes to provide nutritional information on inflight meals and snacks.

I used a mean average of these numbers to come up with the analysis used in this post.

Results

Meal options

Average Meal kCal Airline

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The average meal onboard these airlines has 492 calories. For 2 meals on a long-haul flight, that’s just under 1000 calories. Well below the 2000 calories recommended for an “average” person.

Air Canada meals offer the lowest calorie content at 377 per meal, compared to Delta where onboard meals average 559 calories.

Snack options

Average Snack kCal airline

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Snacks have a much larger variance. JetBlue snacks average 142 calories. On Hawiian, snacks average 460 calories — more than the average meal on Air Canada flights.

Yearly change

Average kCal per airline menu choice

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Looking at an average across all menu choices, the average number of calories was 360 in 2012; in 2013 it was 388; in 2014 it was 397; in 2015 it was 400; in 2016 it was 392, in 2017 it was 405 calories, a 13 calorie increase over 2016.

In all but one year, 2016, calorie content for airline food has slowly increased.

Improvements

The Diet Detective report did not cover all US airlines, nor did it cover any international airlines. It would be interesting to compare US versus international airlines for meal offerings given some international airlines offer a wide variety of meal choices to travellers (namely those in the Middle East).

tl;dr

The average airline menu item has increased in calorie content from 360 in 2012 to 405 in 2018 — an increase of 45 calories.

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.