Sunday musings: SLC airport map, Pompeii fast food, FF points good or bad

This map was saved when the Salt Lake City Airport was renoveted. Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

An iconic world mosaic map from the Salt Lake City airport floor is saved. Pompeii fast food is discovered under volcanic ash. And, the world of frequent flier miles has created a loyalty-point empire. But, are frequent flier miles and credit-cards points good for consumers?

Iconic world map salvaged from floor of old Salt Lake City airport

Salt Lake City has been an international airport for decades. Though it had few if any international flights for years, it was the departure point for millions of Morman missionaries. Thay have traveled the world spreading the word about their religion for decades. The world map at the Salt Lake City airport represented that travel that has made the Morman religion the fastest growing on the planet.

“It’s really an iconic piece of art for the airport,” said Nancy Volmer, the communication director of Salt Lake City International Airport.

Volmer is talking about the world map that used to be on the floor of the old Terminal 1.

“Meet me at the world map” was a common phrase for loved ones to find each other at the airport.

Others would walk on it slowly while looking at the cities, imagining far-away destinations.

“People coming out with table linens and stemware, sitting on Paris and saying, ‘Hey, we had dinner in Paris,'” said Volmer. “Of course, that was before 9/11.”

Tighter security and barriers brought in after 9/11 made it more difficult to see or walk on the map.

However, it was still loved by many people traveling through the airport.

Archaeologists excavate ancient Roman takeout counter at Pompeii

Salt Lake City airportI lived in Naples, Italy, for almost 12 years. I can’t count the number of times that I visted the Pompeii excavations at the foot of Mount Vesuvius. The archeology slowed considerably back in the 1960s and 1970s. Back then, when walking through the ruins it was easy to see acres of land where buildings were still covered by ash. Finally, the Italian government has begun to uncover more of the buried city.

One of the most recent finds has been a fast food stall that was still in almost pristine condition. There were pots for food, paintings on the serving counters, and the appearance of take-out food.

The termopolium is a surprisingly modern setup — or maybe it’s more accurate to say that modern quick-serve restaurants are based on a surprisingly ancient model. Food was displayed in deep terracotta jars called dolia, set into holes in the top of the counter, just like plastic or metal tubs set into the counter hold ingredients at Subway or Chipotle today. Presumably, the jars could be removed and stored at the end of the day. Archaeologists also found ceramic cooking jars, flasks and amphorae for storing wine, and a bronze drinking bowl.

Grabbing a takeout meal at a food counter like this one, or sitting down to eat at a local taberna, would have been part of the daily routine for most people in a Roman city like Pompeii. Today, we think of eating out as a pricey convenience or a splurge, but for most people in Roman cities, cooking at home wasn’t a practical option. Most city-dwellers lived in apartment buildings called insulae, and although they usually had a hearth for warming and simple cooking, they didn’t have full kitchens.

Archaeologists have unearthed traces of at least 80 termopolia like this one in Pompeii, but this is the first one they’ve found intact and managed to completely excavate.

The story of The Points Guy and are frequent flier miles worth anything today?

Get refunds in cash when airlines cancel your flightHere is a travel bonanza that came about by timing. Airfares and loyalty programs have been growing. And, points for credit card purchases have super-charged these programs. But, with almost no international flights and low-fare domestic flights, are frequent flier miles worth anything? Brian Kelly, the founder of the website, says, “Yes.”

But, when individual travelers sign up for a program that has a currency that you don’t own and that can make up its own rules, it can mean trouble. So watch out. Plus, remember that the way that credit cards make money is the exchange fee between credit cards and cash. That makes all prices higher for everyone. That difference subsidizes the frequent flier trips. And, more frequent fliers who live by mileage fly for a fee based on corporate trips. If consumers were wise, this empire would eventually crumble.

Ultimately, it is the infrequent travelers who subsidize free trips for corporate travelers 

When all is said and done, poor infrequent travelers are subsidizing rich corporate travelers who are raking in points. But, it is a scam that has been accepted by the airlines and credit card world. Today it generates many millions of dollars.

frequent flier miles

The real money is made from transfer fees where credit card charges are traded for cash.

The seeds of cheap travel were planted in the 1970s as U.S. airline deregulation drove down the cost (and luxuriousness) of flying. The boom would not begin for another two decades, when self-book travel websites curtailed travel agents’ power, removing considerable friction from the market and allowing the consumer to take flight more casually. In 2018, according to the United Nations, global tourist arrivals reached a record annual high of 1.4 billion — a 56-fold increase since the end of World War II. This boom, like all booms, had its clear-cut losers (locals, the environment) and winners (home-sharing platforms, crowdsourced review sites, wanderlusting influencers).

Points are ersatz money that you earn by spending real money, a form of currency hidden inside of another. And “loyalty programs,” as the broader sector is known, are businesses inside businesses. On an ordinary, nonpandemic weekday, an American might encounter half a dozen opportunities to accrue loyalty points …

Don’t have a premium credit card yet? The Points Guy is happy to sign you up for one. This is, in fact, the site’s main source of revenue.

This site wants you to sign up for frequent flier miles — it may not be a good deal.

Remember, this website’s entire purpose is to get you to sign up for credit cards. The costs are significant with annual fees and dings on your credit report. So tread carefully. Remember, this website is a front for anti-consumer activity. No one ever really gets anything for free.

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salt lake city airport

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