A Mega Plane with the possibility of luxury lounges and sleeping quarters is nothing new ("Mega Plane," Cover Story, Nov. 10). We did it almost 60 years ago. The plane was (under its World War II military designation, the XC-99) designed to fly with a passenger load of more than 400 troops in a double-deck format. Pan American had contracted for at least 15 to start postwar service and had planned to have luxury sleeping quarters, lounges, spiral staircases, and more.
The one aircraft that was built before Pan Am decided the plan wasn't worth pursuing was used by the military for cargo flights until its retirement in 1957. It still exists and is awaiting restoration. The concept worked but wasn't commercially feasible. If not for the enormous sales discounts to initial buyers from Airbus, would the A380 be worth it either?
Two factors, airplane payload/range and market size, drive the route structure. In the 1980s, the transatlantic market started to see more nonstop routes. This "fracturing" of the market was driven by the introduction of smaller twin-jet airplanes such as the 767 with sufficient range and market growth sufficient to make routes such as Atlanta-Milan viable.
The Pacific market did not fracture in the 1980s because ranges were still too long, and the market was still too small. But starting in the 1990s, smaller airplanes such as the 777 and A340 became available to fly these routes. Airbus expects that the Asian route structure will remain hub-and-spoke, and the only way to pump increased traffic through already saturated hubs is to fly the same number of flight operations with larger airplanes and low fares. Boeing Co. expects that the Asian market will fracture as the Atlantic market did and that the best way to relieve congestion at the hubs is to avoid them. Boeing believes that many passengers, especially business travelers, will pay a premium for direct flights.
Two technically excellent companies have looked at the future of air travel and reached different conclusions on how growth will be accommodated. There is only one vote that counts: the operators who buy new airplanes.
Alan W. Withers
Editor's note: The writer works in service engineering for Boeing.
I am a frequent flier on long-haul routes, and I don't want to clear boarding security with 500 people on one flight. I don't want to have to travel via hubs, wait for transfers, and have luggage lost; and I don't want to get off a plane at 5:30 a.m. somewhere with 500-plus other tired people who all have to get luggage off the same racks and pass through ever longer and more stringent passport control and customs inspections. The Boeing vision of more direct flights to more and smaller airports is the right answer for the traveler. Given the choice, I will always make a pocketbook vote for the Boeing vision.
Lindon, Utah I believe Vladimir V. Putin wants to continue a good relationship with the West, but he has realized that attempting to retrofit a democracy on top of a deeply corrupt underbelly is never going to work ("A big chill for business?" European Business, Nov. 10). He has no choice but to reestablish a form of the old system of central control.
I applaud guys like [Yukos CEO Mikhail B.] Khodorkovsky who are working with Western standards of accountability. But to abuse his power in an attempt to undermine the present government [is wrong], and if he is indeed guilty of tax evasion and fraud, then he deserves to go to jail.
I like the use of the term "corporate accountability," yet I still see Bernard J. Ebbers of WorldCom Inc. unshackled and roaming free. Kenneth L. Lay of Enron Corp., the same. Put these people in jail as Putin has done with Khodorkovsky, and let them fester there until their fate and punishment is decided upon. There must be accountability and examples set.
Luxembourg The management of Dell Inc. has made it one of the best info-tech companies in world ("What you don't know about Dell," Cover Story, Nov. 3). With its global sales market, it has almost the ultimate business model. Even in Hong Kong, where more clones are getting cheaper than branded PCs such as Dell, the warranty, technical, and worldwide customer support provide incentives to buy the branded model. Good luck, Dell!
Elarde T. Perez
I own two Dell computers. You could not pay me to take another. Bad computers? Not at all. But the service? "Stinks" is a polite word. The first time I sought help, Dell (Puerto Rico) sent the parts to the Bahamas. On another occasion, after a three-month wait, I was told they could not replace the part. After many phone calls, I was asked to reorder the part.
J.A. Mark Emmerson