No there isn’t one in Puglia but the death of Lauren Bacall last week , who I had the pleasure of having tea with in 1973 and indeed had a ciggy out of Bogie’s cigarette case, reminded me of the movie. It is my favourite movie and I was laughing last night about one of the famous lines in it when Bogie is asked why he came to Casablanca by the police chief.
“What in heaven’s name brought you to Casablanca?” “…My health, I came to Casablanca for the waters.” “The waters? There are no waters in Casablanca.” “...I was misinformed.”
The temperature last night fell to 12C which is cold for August and reflects the non summer we have had here. I therefore turned the quote to
“What in heaven’s name brought you to Puglia?” “…My health, I came to Puglia for the sunshine.” “The sunshine? There is no sunshine in Puglia? “...I was misinformed.”
Perhaps I should try France.
The lack of a summer has had one benefit. The figs are incredibly late this year. They are just beginning to become ripe enough to eat when normally they are over by the end of July. The blackberries on the other hand, relishing the cool rainy weather, are out in force. So my walk each day now means I can have breakfast on the hoof as it were, reaching over stone walls to pluck the figs . Then adding 5 or so blackberries to the mix. Paradise.
With our social life curtailed by the shingles and most of Italy on holiday the newspapers are resurrecting old story after old story and so I have spent time researching our annual pilgrimage out of Italy for 6+ months a year. I tend to quickly get diverted as something else on the web catches my attention and I can only take solace in Dr. Johnson’s quote “Curiosity is one of the permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous intelligence.”
One such thing was the launch of Surf Air in the USA. Now this is not just another airline launch that will end in tears as it is an entirely new concept for the airline industry.
The CEO used to work for National Security Administration ( he was a spy in other words) and during his time there he looked at the airport building programme undertaken by President Eisenhower in the 1950s. He built an amazing 27,000 airports outside most towns in the USA as part of a home security initiative to allow swift movement of troops in case of invasion. They are still there. Seventeen have become the huge hubs we know now but most are still hugely underused airports catering for private fliers. With this info to hand the CEO of Surf Air then gained access to the huge research that was undertaken during Obama’s first term into potential routes for high speed trains. This research highlights the numbers of people commuting on a daily basis from city to city.
Putting these pieces of info together he built a map of routes that would attract people to a new concept in airline travel. Subscription flying. As he explains no one buys a ticket each day to go to the gym. You pay a subscription and go when you want. Well why not when flying. So with Surf Air you buy a monthly subscription for US$1,599 and you can fly as often as you want .
He bought four 6 seater luxury turbo prop aircraft and started his first route between Hollywood ( Burbank Airport) Los Angeles and Silicon Valley ( San Carlos Airport) both Eisenhower built airports. He took the first 1,000 people on his waitlist following an initial P.R. launch and left 6,000 others still on the waitlist !
So popular is the airline that he quickly has raised funding to buy 60 more aircraft and is busy launching more routes . As he says we don’t have passengers we have members. There are no queues, bookings are done on your smart phone in 30 seconds. Baggage is free, all drinks are free, all snacks are free.
Could it work elsewhere ? You bet your sweet bippy it can. Just look at the fuss Etihad made about government plans for high speed rail links between Rome and Milan. Renzi pretty well had to admit it was a politician’s promise ( it will never happen) to get Etihad to stump up the cash for Alitalia. It is Alitalia’s only profitable route. Fly from underused Ciampino airport in almost the centre of Rome to underused Malpensa in Milan and you could take them to the cleaners.
This concept is so novel and different that maybe for once Richard Branson’s reply to the question how do you become a millionaire in the airline industry which was ” Start as a billionaire” is not true. We shall see.