Cornhole (yes, cornhole) finds international stage, keeps growing


Cornhole is a familiar game at tailgating events, like this one outside the Arizona Cardinals’ State Farm Stadium, but its popularity has grown so much that national networks are televising competition. (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)

PHOENIX – If any moment in this sport’s ascent turned heads, it was a weekend in August of 2017, when tournament competition on ESPN2 attracted better ratings than Major League Baseball on TBS and FS1, and the final stage of the Tour de France on NBCSN.

The sport? Cornhole.

While some may view it as a simple backyard activity – where competitors throw bags filled with corn or resin at a raised board with a hole in the far end – cornhole has grown and attempted to stake its claim as a legitimate sport over recent years.

“I think we’re just at the tip of the iceberg,” said Todd Kisicki, owner of KB Kornhole Games and a national director with the American Cornhole League (ACL).

It feels that way. Tournaments are now broadcast on ESPN, and a new audience came aboard in the summer of 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic forced major sports leagues to suspend their seasons.

Now the sport’s top organizers have a loftier goal in mind: the Olympics.

Sport on the rise

Todd Kisicki, owner of KB Kornhole Games and a national director with the American Cornhole League, has worked to expand the sport of cornhole locally, nationally and internationally. (Photo courtesy of KB Kornhole Games)

While teaching at Arizona State University, Kisicki decided to start KB Kornhole Games, renting out cornhole boards to people. After running a fundraiser event, Kisicki realized that he really liked the business side of the sport.

Business took off when he began running events in the Valley as more people became interested in playing both recreationally and competitively. Needing to balance time between both jobs, Kisicki was forced to choose which path he wanted to pursue.

“We started (KB Kornhole Games) in 2015, and I was kind of doing it on the side when I was at ASU,” said Kisicki, who in 2012 completed his Ph.D. in Educational Technology . “A year and a half in, it just got to a point where I couldn’t devote all my energy to one or the other. I had to make a decision to see which one I was more passionate about. After 15 years in education, I decided to kind of take a chance on myself and go with cornhole.”

Kisicki left his teaching position at the end of 2016 to focus on growing the sport of cornhole locally.

His role would eventually expand beyond Arizona.

With the ACL, Kisicki oversees hundreds of directors and organizes professional events for players around the country.

According to Kisicki, there are over 100,000 registered players in the ACL database, and there could be anywhere from 10,000 to 50,000 active players throughout the season.

The Phoenix and Arizona cornhole community is one of the largest in the country.

KB Kornhole Games held its state championships at Arizona360 Sports & Fitness Complex in Phoenix in 2018 and 2019 before moving to Harrah’s Ak-Chin Hotel & Casino in 2021 after the 2020 event was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Player turnout at the Arizona State Cornhole Championships has grown each summer, and more than 450 players competed in this year’s event, making it the biggest one in the country by far.

State champion Doug Zafft says the cornhole community is very friendly and welcoming to fresh faces, and always willing to offer advice to new players. (Photo courtesy of KB Kornhole Games)

“It’s been awesome,” ACL pro and 2021 state champion Doug Zafft said. “I’ve been playing for 11 years competitively. I think back 10 years ago to what a tournament was, and it would just be in someone’s yard. Once Todd got involved, we were hosting tournaments in (Ability360 Sports & Fitness Center) and filling this place up.

“It’s great to see and just continue to grow and grow and get more players at all levels. It’s been important to have the new base of players come in to get started, but there’s a pathway for them to go all the way up to advanced and get to the pro ranks.”

With increased participation and the challenge of finding venues big enough to hold events, Kisicki decided to work on opening up a cornhole-specific venue in the area, something he believes the sport will see more of as groups continue to grow.

Naturally, with a large sport comes an integral part of showcasing it to an audience: television.

ESPN began televising cornhole in 2017. Event coverage was watched by hundreds of thousands of people, earning a larger viewership than many other popular events.

Cornhole participation sees an uptick every time an event is broadcasted on national television, Kisicki said. It has reached a point where the inaugural events with a few dozen players, a “big deal” at the time, now seem miniscule compared to the hundreds – and sometimes even thousands – of people who show up to compete at some of the larger events across the nation.

Now, 256 professional players around the country are participating in a season with a whopping $1 million prize pool.

American Cornhole League pro Kevin Nellis relishes the opportunity to play the sport he loves. Over the years, Nellis says, he has become a part of something bigger than a simple backyard game. (Photo courtesy of KB Kornhole Games)

“It’s so exciting to be able to see this,” ACL pro Kevin Nellis said. “When I started, the game wasn’t even really doing that. I kept telling my friends that I’m getting to play at the advanced level, then, all of a sudden, it’s not just the advanced level anymore, it’s the chance to play on national TV for serious money and getting potentially paid to play a sport that we absolutely love playing. It’s just fun.”

In a strange turn of events, the pandemic turned out to be one of the best things for cornhole.

While many sports were forced to postpone their seasons, cornhole was able to work its way around it as a non-contact sport that is physically distanced.

As a result, the sport received a ton of airtime while other sports leagues were on hiatus, exposing audiences hungry for some sort of competitive action to the world of cornhole.

“I think it will continue to gain popularity,” Zafft said. “The more it’s on TV and seen consistently, I think more and more people will say, ‘Wow, I can go play these tournaments nearby, maybe win some money, have some fun and meet some new people.’ It’s just going to continue drawing more people to the sport, and hopefully driving more and more bigger tournaments.”

Now, Kisicki wants to pounce on the opportunity and maximize growth.

He recently hired a national director at ACL for high school development, focusing on getting cornhole into schools around the country. Additionally, USA Cornhole will be responsible for developing the sport at the youth level.

With continued growth, Kisicki and the rest of the cornhole community has one goal in mind: reaching the Olympics.

The 2020 Tokyo Games saw the debut of several sports, including skateboarding, surfing, karate and sport climbing.

Zafft was drawn in by the competitive aspect of cornhole because of his background as a former NCAA Division I swimmer at the University of Cincinnati and Olympic Trials qualifier. Now, he may one day find himself competing to qualify for the Olympics once again, this time in the sport of cornhole.

Hoping to have cornhole reach Olympic heights, Kisicki has worked in the international development of the sport, speaking with representatives from around 25-30 countries about the possibility of affiliating with the ACL and starting their own affiliate in their own countries.

“That’s where we’re striving,” Kisicki said. “The CEO of the ACL is very invested in seeing that it gets to the Olympics, and that’s part of my role with the international community: growing it and getting them to start their federations so that we can one day get it to the Olympic level.”

The cornhole community

Many in the cornhole community got involved in the same way: playing in the backyard or at a bar with some friends.

The sport has developed a strong community over the years.

“To be able to see people meet and grow and get comfortable with each other and make new friends is pretty amazing,” Kisicki said. “As human beings, we all want to feel part of a community. As you get older, once you get out of college, it’s sometimes harder to make friends. Having that area where you can go or that activity that you can do with other people that enjoy doing it as well, that community part of it is a big thrill for me.”

Nellis started playing the sport with some friends in the backyard at a Christmas party. One of his neighbors saw there was a local tournament being held, and they decided to compete in it.

Initially, Nellis showed up to events without his own set of bags, which was required to compete. As a result, he had to borrow bags from some of the locals before buying his own set once he “got more and more addicted” to the sport.

With a friend at his side, Nellis became entrenched in the world of cornhole.

“We just absolutely fell in love with it at that point,” he said. “The people are what drew us to it (along with) the competitive nature. We both have lots of sports backgrounds, but being able to compete and not be sore the next day was a nice thing. That’s when we started really getting serious about it.”

The cornhole community does not only come together when events roll around. They are there for each other whenever and wherever necessary.

“After the first month, I felt like I was part of something bigger,” Nellis said. “When it really hit home was when a few people had a tragedy happen in the family, and the cornhole community came together in days. Everybody from every side of town – from the east, west, down south in Tucson – they all came together as a community to help every individual person whether they knew them or not. Everybody is willing to pitch in on whatever level that they can, and that’s when you really know that you’re part of something a little bit bigger than just cornhole.”

While participation has continued to reach impressive levels, the community is still a bit niche and has formed a space for those involved to come together regardless of skill level.

Jillian Willis posing after winning the women’s singles event at the 2021 Arizona State Cornhole Championships. The 2021 female player of the year says the sport and its community is “like a big family.” (Photo courtesy of KB Kornhole Games)

“It’s like a big family,” said Jillian Willis, 2021 state champion and female player of the year. “Everybody knows everybody. I actually see cornhole people more than I see my actual family. It’s a great community. Everybody is very friendly and very welcoming to new players.”

One fascinating aspect of cornhole is its wide age range among players.

While players mainly fall in the 25-49 age range, there are pros as young as 11 and some all the way up to their 70s and 80s, Kisicki said.

The sport crosses generations, and people are encouraged to get involved as early as they would like.

“It’s a family thing,” Willis said. “A lot of people think that we’re always out at bars playing. A lot of times, we’re at golf clubs, clubhouses and stuff like that. Almost all the tournaments have junior levels, and the kids can come play against the adults. It is a very family-oriented sport. Anybody can play.”

New or younger players may feel a bit intimidated at these large events, but the community has always been supportive and welcoming of fresh faces no matter the issue.

“I try to offer any advice I can,” Zafft said. “I don’t try to keep any secrets of how I hold the bag or what I do to consistently get in the hole. I just try to be as friendly and helpful as I can to the cornhole community, and I think it is a great community if you talk to any player. The game itself is fun, but the community is an aspect that everybody enjoys. It’s very friendly, we all get to know each other and travel together, and it’s just a lot of fun.”

Although it remains to be seen just how far the sport can go, cornhole has developed a strong community both locally and nationally, and they hope to continue to drive participation in the future.

“The people are the limit,” Nellis said. “At the current rate we’re going, it’s going to be up there with anything else. People are hoping to get it to the Olympics. I don’t think it’s going to really get that far, but it’s going to be a sport that everybody plays growing up. Hopefully, it becomes another major game like everything else.”





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Growing number of moose in NY are fun to watch, but be careful


Family vacation time for many area residents is still upon us. Many of those lucky folks will be traveling to various points in New York’s Adirondacks, Canada and in other states along the U.S./Canadian border on their way to a few weeks of enjoyment and relaxation.

But those folks should keep one thing in mind anytime they are traveling the north country in their car: Watch out for moose!

The moose is the largest member of the true deer family. A bull will stand eight feet tall at the shoulder, and tip the scales at more than 1,800 pounds.

Cows are only slightly smaller, standing six and a half feet tall at the shoulder and weighing up to 1,200 pounds. Both sexes have very long legs. The bottom of the belly is often around four feet off the ground.

Moose are becoming more and more common throughout all areas of their range. And their range is expanding as surplus animals search for their own home territory after saturation numbers of their own kind were already reached where they were born.

The chances of seeing them anywhere in prime range habitat during the fall are quite good. And its during the autumn months that they are most active, always searching for mates as well as succulent plants to feed on and aquatic areas to help them escape from the hordes of biting insects attracted to their large bodies.

New York had virtually no moose in 1970. At the most there might have been a dozen or so wandering around in the Adirondack mountains. Today there is an estimated population of well over 200 moose in that area. The Department of Environmental Conservation isn’t sure of the exact number, but it is possible that up to 300 are currently residing inside this state.

The principle danger to humans is found in the anatomy of the moose. A whitetail deer usually stands three feet or so tall (to the top of the back). When it is hit by a car its body most often contacts the grill area of the vehicle directly, then bounces off.

But with a much taller moose, the vehicle almost always contacts the legs, driving them out from under the critter and causing the animal’s large body to crash onto the hood of the car and then into and through the windshield.

Suddenly, having half to three-quarters of a ton of live and very irritated moose coming through the front window of a car can be a deadly experience, as a lot of people have already found out. And since the moose is often still alive and trashing around after such an impact, the dangers to the human occupants that survived the initial impact are obviously multiplied.

Driving in moose country calls for a heavy infusion of common sense. Driving slower, especially at night and early in the morning, is very smart. That is when moose are most active and often traveling from one feeding area to another.

And remember to stay alert, always watching for these dark-colored animals’s movement along the sides of roads. Slow to a stop if a moose is spotted on or near the road. They are unpredictable, and often travel in small family groups. Sharp eyes and slow speeds are the best tools to use when avoiding a close encounter with a moose is the goal.

Hikers in moose country should also use precautions, especially if a cow moose with a calf is spotted. If she is within 100 yards, the situation should be considered dangerous. If she is within 50 yards, the danger is magnified many times.

Cows are extremely protective of their calves, and will defend them viciously. A cow moose can run more than 25 miles an hour for short distances, and her front hooves can become deadly weapons at close range. Always give cows with calves a wide berth.

Don’t look for severe reductions in moose numbers anytime soon. Many states are realizing that moose within their borders equates to more tourists and more money for area businesses. The more moose they have, the more visitors they can attract to watch them.

Hunters are often allowed to harvest some of the surplus animals, but the herd size is increasing rapidly in every state where moose are found.

Autumn treating anglers well

Area anglers are doing well so far this fall. Deep water trollers are reporting lots of nice lakers being taken in all of the traditional hot-spots.

A friend of mine went up this past week reported catching and releasing 27 small and medium lakers in the Mexico Bay area over a 50 to 80 foot bottom. And another boat captain says that his party boated 11 fish of mixed species, including three nice Chinooks.

Another hot-spot that is coming alive right now is the waters immediately off the mouth of the Oswego River and harbor area. It is teaming with three-year old Chinooks in the 12 to 20 pound range, and there is a goodly number of browns and steelhead mixed in with them.

You still have to fish the thermocline “tight” to reap this reward, but that is not a major concern for anglers with temperature sensors on their downriggers. Those without sensors can start at 25 feet and drop the rigs five feet every 15 minutes until they hit the fish.

Don’t forget our own Canandaigua Lake and live bait if you can find it. The “flats” off the pump house are still hot, according to one area angler who didn’t want to be identified. He says live sawbellies, fished in the traditional slip-sinker method from 70 to 110 feet down, are accounting for many fish being caught.

And general fish size this year seems to be a little bit bigger than in past years, with four to six pound lake trout being about average.

Len Lisenbee is the Daily Messenger’s Outdoor Columnist. Contact him at lisenbee@frontiernet.net



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This Private Jet Operator Is Growing With A Low-Cost, High-Quality Model


It’s a hot sunny day near the end of another hot, sticky summer in Lenoir County, North Carolina, a three-hour drive from where the Wright Brothers first took flight. Huge fans spin but can’t do much to keep a moderately-sized crowd cool as they sit and stand in a brand new 40,000-square-foot hangar at Kinston Regional Jetport.

The sound of a private jet taking off momentarily interrupts a series of speeches at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. The adjacent fields of corn, cotton and tobacco don’t offer a hint that this is home to the fifth-largest operator of for-hire private jets in the world’s largest private aviation market.

Several local TV crews are on hand as government officials in suits and ties take turns at the podium offering up figures about the economic benefits of what’s taking place in this rural community where the population today is the same as it was 60 years ago. Lenoir is one of the most economically distressed counties in North Carolina, according to one reporter.

However, the outlook is changing. Kinston is the beneficiary of having one of the longest runways east of the Mississippi River at 11,500 feet, a byproduct of the airport’s origins as Stallings Air Base, opened in 1944 and expanded in the 1950s during the Cold War.

It also benefits from its geographic location in a way that probably isn’t apparent to anyone outside of the aviation world. The airport is within two-and-half hours flying time of every major city east of the Mississippi, making it an ideal location for a provider of aviation services. Teterboro, the world’s busiest airport for private jets, is just a 57-minute flight north. Palm Beach International, which ranks third, is less than an hour-and-half to the south. Kinston is smack in the middle of the busy Northeast to Florida corridor.

It’s also the beneficiary of native son Jim Segrave, whose family has started multiple businesses in the area dating back to 1871 – from banks to a John Deere dealership, gas stations and daycare centers. Today, the community serves as center stage for the serial entrepreneur’s second act in the world of private aviation.

Estimates peg the value for the local community of FlyExclusive and Segrave’s related business aviation ventures at over $170. In the next 12 months, his aviation companies are adding over 100 mechanics and technicians here. It’s lifting the economy with jobs that pay 25% higher than the average.

It’s not surprising that executives say they are treated like celebrities when they wear company gear around town. Fathers and mothers cross the street and ask if they can bring their kids out to the airport for an up-close look at the jets. The answer is yes.

More interestingly, Segrave takes a different approach from competitors, a mix of aviation acumen, unapologetic common sense and Southern charm. Asked about what he is doing differently from Segrave Aviation, the company he sold to Delta Air Lines in 2010, the owner chuckles, “We’re trying not to make the same mistakes. New mistakes are okay, but we’re trying not to repeat the old ones.”

It’s not clear there are many mistakes, new or old. In fact, if legendary late 20th century airline CEOs Bob Crandall, Gordon Bethune, and Herb Kelleher could be merged into a singular being, they probably would create an airline along the lines of FlyExclusive.

As with the former chairman of American Airlines, there is a hawkish drive for innovation and cutting costs that don’t add value in ways not typical to private aviation. From Bethune, who took Continental Airlines from worst to first, there is the wisdom that often escapes data-driven C-suites: If your product is so cheap, customers don’t want to buy it, it’s hard to make a profit. Like the convivial atmosphere created by the late founder of Southwest Airlines, FlyExclusive is very much an extended family for Segrave. Many of the faces have been by his side for the better part of two decades.

Segrave wears a boyish smile and gives the appearance of a former athlete, relaxed and informal, sporting a white polo shirt, blue jeans, and sneakers, even for the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Soon to turn 50, he launched Segrave Aviation in 1994 with a single turboprop.

His come on in, we’re thrilled you came to see us demeanor feels a bit like you’ve walked onto the set of The Andy Griffith Show. But don’t confuse the folksy Mayberry demeanor with a lack of ambition or competitive drive. Segrave and FlyExclusive are already a force in the private aviation charter market – and have no intentions of letting up.

Founded in 2015, FlyExclusive has grown from three jets to 75. By early 2022, it will be over the century mark. Its fleet model is based on buying or leasing used jets, repainting them, and refurbishing them into a standardized configuration and interiors.

Through June, it clocked 21,822 flight hours, according to data from Argus Traqpak. Despite the fast growth, Berkshire Hathaway’s market leader NetJets, including its aircraft management arm Executive Jet Management, is still far ahead with 242,918 hours.

Without the deep pockets of a rich parent or private equity – Segrave is the 100% owner – doing things differently has always been a necessity. A 2009 article by Aviation International News credits Segrave as the first charter operator to implement a floating fleet model, keeping his airplanes on the move, flying point-to-point to meet the next customer, instead of returning to base after every trip.

From his office in the original building, with wide views that open onto the tarmac, the boss is unwilling to bask in any compliments. He offers, “Better to be lucky than good.” It’s typical of how executives here speak. Segrave, himself, doesn’t have a title on his card and his name isn’t on the website, although he serves as chairman.

The floating fleet concept, which was borrowed from a trucking business he also owned, was born from necessity. There weren’t enough customers in Eastern Carolina that wanted to charter jets at the time. “If we were in New York, it probably never would have happened,” he says.

Today, the floating fleets are considered the holy grail of efficiency in the charter market, with even smaller operators joining in. That said, about 30% of flights are still empty legs – repositioning planes that for the next revenue trip, something like others, Fly is working to reduce.

Mike Guina, the company’s CEO and longtime Segrave sidekick, who is also an active pilot and is often flying on the line, later tries to explain to me how they are working to reduce the empty flights. I try to follow along as he feverishly draws lines on a whiteboard in the conference room of the new office building, which could have been furnished online via Home Depot. That’s the way things are here—no need for expensive furniture.

Nobody wants to speak about the separation from Delta Private Jets back in 2013 or its closing of the Kinston facilities and elimination of about 50 positions, which set the stage for FlyExclusive’s birth. Being humble and not speaking ill of competitors are two of the company’s main tenets.

What is on the tip of everyone’s tongue is the phrase, “minutes matter.” That refers to making things as efficient as possible for the folks who fly in the back of its growing fleet – and how FlyExclusive operates.

While the offices may be furnished with a tight budget, it’s a different story when I tour the hangar where the company paints its own planes and will begin taking outside customers. Paint shop supervisor Sean Callahan, a 25-year trade veteran, marvels that everything is state-of-the-art. Costly machines and systems are designed to save not only minutes but days. It means the jets are back in service sooner, which means more revenue. Processes are designed, so the paint lasts longer. The more time between touch-ups, the less time they are on the ground.

In the type of move Crandall – who famously removed a single olive from salads to save money – would love, Fly bought its own silk screen printing machines. The screens are used instead of the typical decals for aircraft tail numbers. They cost 90% less than going to an outside printer and last longer.

Common sense is common at the Kinston headquarters. For the refurbished interiors of its jets, out are those shiny veneer finishes that are standard for private jets yet easily scratch. In are matted finishes designed to hold up to the wear and tear of 1,000 flight hours per year from its charter customers. Installations are designed so if something gets damaged, they can be repaired overnight instead of taking the aircraft out of service for several days.

To set up the painting and interiors facilities, management recruited a team with decades of experience and stops at venues such as Duncan, Bombardier, Dassault and Gulfstream. In the hangars and adjacent workshops, they strip out airplanes, sanding down the scratched veneers and apply the new durable finishes. Local hires begin as apprentices, working alongside the veterans.

Having seen how those nice interiors get banged up so quickly, Brad Toldbard, director of interiors and modifications, who, like Callahan worked at major OEMs and MROs, says the use of the more durable materials is something he advocated for decades.

There’s also a Bethune-like focus on what customers really want. The former chairman of Continental once summed it up as on-time arrivals with your luggage on the same flight.

To that end, you won’t find collaborations with celebrity chefs or Uber-like booking interfaces. Fly’s tech focus is to make travel more efficient and personalized. It plans to roll out an app that will ping pilots with passenger information and profiles about an hour before departure instead of in thick packets of information the night before.

The app will allow the pilots to track them as they approach the airport for customers who opt-in. If they arrive early, they can depart early. Instead of having to come into the FBO, go to the desk, and wait for a service rep to track down their crew, their pilot will greet them at the curb. In the meantime, the other pilot will be at the jet, getting it ready.

“If you get to my airplane and it takes an extra five minutes to get it off the ramp because we weren’t prepared, that’s no good,” Segrave says. He believes having pilots greet customers out front will remind them of flying with their friend who owns their jet, which brings a key point of differentiation. Members of its Club jet card fly on FlyExclusive’s aircraft 98.5% of the time.

Aside from NetJets, Flexjet, VistaJet and Nicholas Air, most guaranteed availability, fixed-rate memberships are brokers or provide a mix of their own fleets with third-party operators. In other words, you get a variety of aircraft, configurations and aesthetics.

The concession is Club customers book at least 96 hours before departure to get those rates. The key, says Segrave, is with four days’ notice instead of 10 or 24 hours, it’s possible to keep customers on his aircraft. With the new interiors – the fleet is slated to be fully refurbished by the end of next year – the idea is to provide a consistent experience.

While the standard call-out is longer than competitors, the company believes most customers have their trips planned weeks in advance. A recent revamp of the Club now allows members to book up to 24 hours before takeoff, although it carries a 75% premium.

The booking window for the jet owners, who are referred to as partners, is even longer – 120 hours. Much of Fly’s fleet are triple net leases. Owners get monthly guaranteed payments and have their aircraft refurbished, WiFi installed if needed, and then they get access to the entire fleet at lower rates, but need to book five days in advance.

In those final four days, after Club members and partners have booked, Fly fills up the schedule with bookings from brokers and other operators. While executives decline to discuss wholesale relationships, NetJets and Wheels Up, which are known for their rigorous vetting of third-party operators, both use Fly for off-fleet flying, according to customers of their programs I’ve spoken to.

Speaking of the fleet, a Segrave Aviation misstep the owner isn’t repeating this time is the mix of aircraft it flies. “We had over a dozen different types,” Segrave tells me. Fly’s light, midsize, and super-midsize jets are made up of just five models, all from Textron Cessna. Large cabin, long-range jets are via Gulfstream.

What’s the profile of aircraft being added? “To make money in charter, you can’t buy a brand-new airplanes, and you can’t buy ancient airplanes,” Segrave says. The target is between five and 15 years old with low flight time.

In a tight market, how do they find them? Fly has a dedicated sales team that cold calls owners of jets that fit the parameters. Brandon Greene, a senior vice president who was with Segrave at Delta Private Jets, is often the one doing the calling.

It’s typical of the roll-up the shirt sleeves approach here. “We want to be a team of humble professionals. Give me a great attitude over a book expert,” Segrave says, calling it the philosophical core of the family business for 150 years.

When I visit the state-of-the-art operations center, I ask Joshua Golden, who hails from the area and was at Segrave Aviation, what it was like when he heard his former boss was getting back into the game. He says of getting hired back, “It was a dream come true.” His first move? He immediately recruited several former colleagues.

I ask him what it’s like overseeing what is an unscheduled airline where schedules change on a dime, and all clients are VIPs. He says, “You go into battle together. We’re here to help each other. It’s a family.”

This year FlyExclusive will tally around $230 million in revenues. It has been profitable since its first year, and Segrave says he expects the top line to hit $300 million next year.

As I’m walking out of his office, I ask about selling Segrave Aviation. It’s the first time he doesn’t have a broad smile. There’s a sense of regret and resolve. “I didn’t realize I was losing my business family. The business family we have here today is what’s so powerful about what we are building,” he tells me.

While it’s not clear that Segrave gets dressed up in costumes for Halloween to create esprit de corps as Southwest’s Kelleher did, it’s clear that the Fly team has a bond that goes beyond standard company credos.



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New Report Shows Growing Frustration With COVID-19 Travel Restrictions


A new report from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) found that commercial airline passengers are becoming increasingly frustrated with the current COVID-19 travel restrictions.

The IATA study revealed that 67 percent of respondents felt most country borders should be open now, an increase of 12 percent from the June 2021 survey. Another 64 percent said border closures are unnecessary and have not been effective in containing coronavirus outbreaks.

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The report also found that 73 percent responded that their quality of life has suffered due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, up six percentage points from June 2021. On the other hand, 87 percent agreed that wearing a mask will prevent the spread of coronavirus.

“People are increasingly frustrated with the COVID-19 travel restrictions and even more have seen their quality of life suffer as a result,” IATA Director General Willie Walsh said. “They don’t see the necessity of travel restrictions to control the virus.”

“And they have missed too many family moments, personal development opportunities and business priorities,” Walsh continued. “In short, they miss the freedom of flying and want it restored. The message they are sending to governments is: COVID-19 is not going to disappear, so we must establish a way to manage its risks while living and traveling normally.”

One of the biggest issues for air travelers is quarantine measures, with 84 percent of respondents indicating they would not travel if there were quarantine requirements at their destination.

A growing proportion of travelers support the removal of quarantine limitations, with 71 percent saying restrictions should be lifted if a person has been vaccinated and 73 percent if a person has tested negative for COVID-19.

Other IATA findings include 77 percent seeing the inconvenience of testing as a barrier to travel, 86 percent feeling safe on planes due to the COVID-19 measures and 73 percent finding it challenging to understand what rules applied for a trip.





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Space travel insurance growing in interest


There are projections that the space tourism industry will grow to a $1 trillion value by 2024.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Car insurance? Check. Home insurance? Check check. Space Travel Insurance? Yes, you can now check that too.

“The travel insurance industry should be at the forefront of developing products,” says Sasha Gainullin, co-founder and CEO of battleface, Inc, which launched the first of its kind civilian space travel insurance plan. “For example, just to get to a space station, say the launch is in Kazakhstan, you still need insurance to get there.”

Gainullin says his company started battleface by insuring people traveling to unconventional and remote parts of the world that perhaps weren’t covered or serviced by traditional insurance policies.  

The mission of battleface is to design insurance plans based on the customer’s unique interests like cliff diving, COVID-19 protection, or in this case, space tourism.

“Essentially create travel insurance products that are relevant to today’s travelers,” says Gainullin who recently relocated his company to the Columbus-area after a multi-million-dollar investment from Drive Capital, LLC, a venture capital and private equity firm for the Midwest based in Columbus.

“Space tourism is just an extension [of today’s travelers] because many travelers are going based on experiences, not based on commodity travels,” Gainullin explains further.  “We see travelers going to India to learn how to cook or travel to Argentina to learn how to tango and space tourism is just an extension of that desire.”

There are projections that the space tourism industry will grow to a $1 trillion value by 2024. That is less than three years away, not light years. 

And with interest growing following the trips to space by billionaires Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos, the momentum is now.  

According to a company press release, a typical space travel insurance policy will cover accidental death and permanent disablement.  

It is valid for any of the space flights operated by Tesla Founder Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, and high-tech balloon manufacturers Space Perspective among others.

Gainullin says he is positioning his company to be at the forefront of the next frontier. He says battleface is not your traditional one-size-fits-all policy approach of the more traditional insurers who offer the same policy regardless of whether you are flying to the next state or another country.

“With technology and the way data science works, and our knowledge of how customers are, we should be in the business of custom-building products for you on the go, based on your needs as a traveler,” Gainullin said.

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Growing List of Nations Block Travel From India As Country Continues to Struggle With Devastating COVID-19 Surge



Growing List of Nations Block Travel From India As Country Continues to Struggle With Devastating COVID-19 Surge | Travel + Leisure























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Thailand Faces Growing Outbreak Ahead of New Year Travel | World News


By BUSABA SIVASOMBOON, Associated Press

BANGKOK (AP) — Thai authorities struggled to contain a growing coronavirus outbreak just days before the country’s traditional Songkran New Year’s holiday, when millions of people travel.

Health officials reported 559 new infections on Friday, following increases over the previous two days. The government response has so far centered on closures of nightlife venues in 41 provinces for two weeks. Governors of some provinces are placing restrictions on travelers arriving from elsewhere.

Such daily increases are rare for Thailand, which has weathered the pandemic far better than many nations through measures including strict border controls that have decimated the country’s lucrative tourism industry. Thailand has also experimented at times with curfews, alcohol bans and closures of schools, shopping malls and restaurants.

The outbreak — which has infected at least one Cabinet minister and forced a number of others into self-quarantine — is increasing criticism of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha’s government and its handling of the pandemic. While Thailand has only recorded 30,869 infections and 96 deaths, critics say the vaccination drive is too slow — less than 1% have gotten their jabs — and support for people whose livelihoods have been wiped out by the pandemic is lacking.

The director-general of the Department of Disease Control, Dr. Opas Karnkawinpong, said this week that according to Health Ministry projections, the number of new infections could rise as high as 10,000 per day if no adequate measures are taken.

Travelers and businesses alike had been hoping that this year’s Songkran holiday could go forward without a spike in infections. The official holiday was canceled last year during the country’s first major outbreak.

The government has so far declined to issue blanket travel restrictions though provincial authorities are allowed to set quarantine rules for people coming from high-risk zones such as Bangkok. Several provinces have done so, throwing many people’s travel plans into question.

Chief among them was Chiang Mai in the north, one of the country’s most popular destinations until the coronavirus pandemic crippled the tourism industry.

Chiang Mai provincial health officials are requiring visitors from Bangkok and four surrounding provinces to self-quarantine for the duration of their stay, up to 14 days, the state Thai News agency reported. A 280-bed field hospital has been set up to treat COVID-19 patients.

The state-owned Transport Company, a major inter-provincial bus operator, estimated that only half of the 100,000 people anticipated to leave Bangkok on Friday for other provinces had embarked on their journeys, the Bangkok Post reported.

It said at least two airline executives wanted travel restrictions tightened over the Songkran holiday. Tassapon Bijleveld of Asia Aviation, the largest shareholder in Thai AirAsia, and Nuntaporn Komonsittivate of Thai Lion Air both said a further spread of the virus could endanger the future large-scale return of foreign visitors.

The current outbreak is the largest since December, when it was centered around a fresh food market that employs a number of migrant workers from Myanmar. This time, the outbreak has been traced to a number of bars and nightlife venues in the heart of Bangkok, including many popular with the rich and powerful. Cases are now on the rise in at least 20 provinces, with authorities saying some of those infected have a more contagious variant of the virus first detected in Britain.

So far, Thailand has been using a relatively small supply of the Sinovac and AstraZeneca vaccines. While there have been some high-profile vaccination events — including most recently for workers at now-closed entertainment venues — there is still no clear timetable for the general public.

Authorities in Bangkok have set up mass testing sites in some neighborhoods, drawing large crowds of people who often had to wait hours in line. Efforts to trace infections have been complicated after a number of hospitals in Bangkok said they are suspending testing due to shortages of the chemicals needed to process tests.

The government has ordered preparations to set up field hospitals to accommodate any surge in patients and said vacant rooms in Bangkok hotels could also be converted to accommodate infected people if numbers keep rising.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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