Airlines played the slots — and lost


March 9, 2020

It ain’t just a supermoon, it’s the Super Worm Moon. Today’s supermoon will hit its peak at 1:48pm Eastern. It’s known as the “worm moon” because it’s the last full moon of winter, the ground is thawing, and earthworms are starting to do their earthworm thing. Baseball’s opening day is just 17 days away. Today:

  • Ghost flights are trekking across the sky
  • A Kickstarter chess board goes awry
  • The dark web’s “hitmen” will leave you dry
Playing the (flight) slots

The skies are filled with ‘ghost planes’ thanks to the strange market for flight slots

Across Europe, empty planes are flying back and forth from airport to airport thanks to a bizarre rule that requires airlines to use at least 80% of their scheduled “flight slots” or risk losing them.

There’s a huge secondary economy for flight slots

Since airports can only support so many flights in a given day, they issue a finite number of the slots. Some airports even employ 3rd-party coordinators to manage their slots because competition is so fierce.

To keep the market competitive, a “use it or lose it” policy requires airlines to use 80% of their slots.

The slot system sounds good in theory…

But it has caused airlines to adopt some problematic practices. Some examples:

  • Slot resale: Airlines buy and sell slots between themselves as if they were a currency. In February 2016, Oman Air paid Air France-KLM $75m for a pair of prime early morning slots. 
  • Slot sitting: When airlines can’t find buyers for their slots, they sometimes give them away for free to partner airlines so they can hold on to them in the long term. In this case, airlines don’t make any money… but they don’t lose any money, either.
  • Ghost flights: In worst-case scenarios, airlines send empty planes to fill their slots. Airlines lose money on these empty flights… but not as much as they would if they lost their slots.

But now coronavirus has exposed a problem

Drastically decreased demand caused by coronavirus concerns has forced several airlines to fly ghost flights to avoid losing slots. 

In some cases, the ghost flights weren’t enough: UK airline Flybe declared bankruptcy last week due to the strain. The airline industry as a whole could lose as much as $113B due to decreased demand.

Critics say that UK authorities and slot coordinators should relax rules to prevent airlines from losing money — and wasting jet fuel that damages the environment. 

It wouldn’t be the first time: The industry suspended the “use it or lose it” rule after both 9/11 and the financial crisis. 

Share on Facebook Share on LinkedIn Share on Twitter Send as email to a friend
P(a)wn’d

Sleuths called shenanigans on a robotic chess board. Kickstarter called checkmate.

Last week, Kickstarter suspended a controversial campaign that had boards flippin’ and pieces flyin’ in the world of online chess.

Here’s what went down, courtesy of Vice: A company called REGIUM launched a campaign for a flashy internet-connected board that let people throw pawns with their online rivals — using real pieces moved by electromagnets. 

A promo video showed Team Black’s bishops makin’ moves all on their own.

But chess-perts said they saw something else…

…signs that the pieces in the video were moved by stop motion, not magnets.

The team behind Lichess, a chess platform and community, posted a Zapruder-level film analysis that laid out the case for stop-motion subterfuge. They also poked holes in claims on REGIUM’s site and in its marketing.

The strife didn’t stop at stop motion

Chess24.com said “an army of online investigators” raised “multiple red flags” about Regium. Among the most bizarre accusations — that the engineers listed on the company’s website were actually just headshots from thispersondoesnotexist.com.

In response to Vice’s questions, REGIUM denied the claims about its engineers and said the sleuths were making “delirious” accusations.

Share on Facebook Share on LinkedIn Share on Twitter Send as email to a friend
Sponsored

Shamrock Shake-down: Here’s a peek at what’s in McDonald’s green cuisine

Spring is here, and that means one thing: Shamrock Shakes are back! 

Everybody’s favorite emerald edible may look pretty damn good, but a quick peek at the stat sheet tells a different story. See for yourself:

Shamrock Shake (Large) – Nutrition Facts

  • Calories: 790
  • Sugar: 112g
  • Carbs: 130g (47% Daily Value)
  • Saturated Fat: 14g (70% Daily Value)

In summary? Plenty tasty, but kind of waste-y when it comes to nutrition — and if you’re looking to lose weight this spring, maybe not the wisest choice. 

Dropping lb’s is hard, but Noom is here to help

Before you succumb to the temptation of Shamrock Shakes, endless March Madness wings, and a zillion St. Paddy’s Day beers, give your body the gift of Noom

This new wellness app was designed by a team of behavioral psychologists. What’s that mean? It means that instead of telling you to only eat broccoli, they actually work on changing your behavior

And that, friends, is the recipe for sustainable weight loss.

Want in? Take this 30-second evaluation today and get a head start on your summer.

Shake it off →
Shooting Blanks

‘Hitmen’ for hire invade the dark web — but researchers say they’re frauds

Hitman-for-hire services are flourishing on the dark web, and they’re advertising at disturbingly low prices. The website Azerbaijani Eagles promises to commit a murder for just $5,000.

There’s just 1 problem: Researchers at Michigan State University have concluded that these hitmen services are scams

Hired hits do occasionally happen in the real world. But none of the 24 sites covered in the research have ever been linked to a real-life murder. 

Calling yourself a killer has never been so trendy

At least 1 group adamantly opposes the scam theory: the hitmen themselves.

The 18th Street Mafia promises that it “can provide video proof of our services, with time stamps,” adding that “such proof is not possible for fake services.”

The proof is apparently hard to come by: When the The New York Times reached out, the Mafia didn’t reply. 

Left on read by your dark-web assassin

To be clear: We here at The Hustle are not eager to cast too much shade on hitman services. But there’s a good reason to be skeptical.

Say you actually try to hire one of these sites. You fork over $18,000 — apparently the going rate for a hit in England. Nothing happens. What are you gonna do, call the cops?

One Illinois nurse was sentenced to 12 years for trying to hire a member of the Sicilian Hitmen International Network. Her case shows law enforcement probably won’t have much sympathy if your hired gun ghosts you.

Share on Facebook Share on LinkedIn Share on Twitter Send as email to a friend
The Hustle Says

Need a little help raisin’ that Series A funding? We got you. Check out Y Combinator’s handy guide to gettin’ that bread. 

Obsessed with our National Parks? Wrap yourself in one of Pendelton’s iconic blankets inspired by America’s natural treasures.

If you’ve been dilly-dallying about getting life insurance, stop dawdling and get it done with Ladder. Their simple online process and flexible coverage give you an instant decision and big-time peace of mind.*

*This is a sponsored post.

Small Business of the Week

How an after-school DJ program beats the odds

Convincing a city to drop money on DJing classes for its underserved schools isn’t easy. So when Phi Pham strides into meetings with city officials, the founder of Building Beats comes with proof that DJing teaches life skills. 

Students uploading their music to SoundCloud? Teaches an entrepreneurial spirit. Performing at assemblies? That’s public speaking. Giving and receiving feedback with peers? A master class in conflict resolution.

As a nonprofit, Building Beats has a lean staff of only 3 full-timers. But by making clever use of free beat-making programs like Soundtrap, it’s squaring off against robotics, chess, and dance programs to land contracts in a niche after-school market.

Pham farms out projects to a group of 19 instructors who double as DJs or musicians in their daily lives. Contracts with schools make up 80% of his revenue, and almost all expenses are salaries. 

Building Beats has its sights set on delivering cost-effective programs to schools across New York City — and, soon, Los Angeles and D.C. So far, it’s striking a chord: In many high-poverty schools where Pham has landed, Building Beats is the only music class offered.

  • Founders: Phi Pham 
  • Employees: 3
  • Years in business: 7
  • Cost to launch: $5,000 
  • Funding methods: Crowdfunding, friends/family contributions
  • 1st-year revenue: $25k
  • Current annual revenue: $400k

Want your story featured? Fill out our Small Business survey. See financials of 700+ companies by subscribing to Trends.

Share on Facebook Share on LinkedIn Share on Twitter Send as email to a friend
Snippets

🤫 What’s it like for an American kid to grow up without Wi-Fi or cell signals? Head to “the quiet zone” to find out.

😴 Some TikTok and Twitch users are literally making money in their sleep.

❤️ How coronavirus is shaking up dating.

🍁 Warming winter temps mean trouble for maple.

🎮 Sold! The extremely rare Nintendo PlayStation, to the founder of Pets.com, for $360k.

🔥 ”He’s on fire!” How the creative mind behind NBA Jam turned the hot hand into a cultural sensation.

Want snippets like these in your browser? Download our Chrome extension here.

How did you like today’s email?

hate it

meh

love it
[%Count%] REFERRALS
Share The Hustle

Nick “Coach Class” DeSantis

STAFF WRITER/EDITOR

O. Howard Hertz

Staff Acupuncturist

SUBSCRIBE JOBS ADVERTISE SHOP
Facebook Instagram Trends
You opted in by signing up, attending an event, or through divine intervention.
251 KEARNY ST. STE 300, SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94108, UNITED STATES • 415.506.7210
Never want to hear from us again? Break our hearts and unsubscribe
The Hustle

Daily briefings, straight to your inbox

Business and tech news in 5 minutes or less

Join over 1 million people who read The Hustle

Psst

How'd Bezos build a billion dollar empire?

In 1994, Jeff Bezos discovered a shocking stat: Internet usage grew 2,300% per year.

Data shows where markets are headed.

And that’s why we built Trends — to show you up-and-coming market opportunities about to explode. Interested?

Join us, it's free.

Look, you came to this site because you saw something cool. But here’s the deal. This site is actually a daily email that covers the important news in business, tech, and culture.

So, if you like what you’re reading, give the email a try.