In case we had any doubt after watching Anderson Cooper on “60 Minutes,” mindfulness is the new yoga – and we are in the midst of a mindfulness revolution. It’s been embraced by celebrities, business leaders, politicians and athletes; and recommended by doctors, clergy, psychotherapists and prison wardens. Apps and bestselling books touting the benefits of meditation proliferate. Google “mindfulness” and you’ll get over 24 million hits.
It’s not surprising that with unbridled enthusiasm about mindfulness come exaggerated claims and problems that are eclipsed. Jon Kabat-Zinn, one of the architects of the mindfulness revolution, claims mindfulness “has the potential to ignite a universal or global renaissance that . . . would put even the European and Italian Renaissance into the shade . . . [and] that may actually be the only promise the species and the planet have for making it through the next couple hundred years.”
Backlash was inevitable. Critics are beginning to highlight the shaky foundations of the scientific claims of meditation’s seemingly miraculous efficacy. After reviewing 18,000 scientific articles on meditation, the Association for Health and Research Quality at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a governmental organization that manages standards of research, declared in 2007 that future studies must be “more rigorous.” In other words, the scientific evidence for the efficacy of meditation has been overstated and does not support the claims from evangelists of mindfulness about its benefits.
Booking a flight has never been easier, thanks to the internet. But understanding why tickets cost what they do remains something of a mystery to most travelers. That disparity has come into sharp focus lately thanks to the case of Skipla gged, a tiny airfare listings website that was sued late last year by giants United and Orbitz for showing the situations where it’s actually cheaper to book longer flights than necessary, flights that go through your destination and beyond it to a final stop. This counterintuitive method of saving money, known as “hidden cities,” requires that you hop off the plane at a layover (which is where you actually want to go), even though your ticket is for the final stop.
In their la wsuit, United and Orbitz accuse Skiplagged’s creator, 22-year-old programmer Aktarer Zaman, of “intentionally and maliciously” interfering with their businesses by showing these results, which are scraped from airline reservation systems, but which airlines don’t present to travelers as viable routes. The companies are seeking over $225,000 in damages and to have the results removed from Skiplagged. Zaman is cro wdfunding his own legal defense and raised nearly $60,000 so far. He’s said on Re ddit and elsewhere that “what Skiplagged does is definitely not illegal.”
On that point, he wins agreement from some critics. “Although the issuance and usage of hidden city tickets is not illegal in the sense that one could be fined or sent to jail by the government, it is unethical and a breach of a passenger’s contract,” writes American Airlines (which isn’t taking action against Skiplagged directly — yet).
Still, most airlines believe it shouldn’t be allowed because it creates safety and logistical problems, as they may hold back planes while trying to find a passenger who never intended to fly, and need to search checked luggage left by a non-continuing passenger. For travelers, the method requires that you don’t check any luggage, otherwise it would end up at the extraneous final destination.
Call it an airplane pricing hack or loophole, whatever it is, the “hidden cities” method—also known as “point beyond ticketing”—has actually been around for years, although it took Skiplagged to make it more apparent. “Finding these has always been difficult before Skiplagged because you’d have to guess the final destination when searching on any other site,” Zaman writes on Red dit.
Airlines moved from simple distance-based pricing to prices based on a bewildering set of variables
The airlines themselves left the door open for this loophole in a way. Following th e Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 in the United States, they began moving from simple distance-based pricing, toward prices that are calculated on a bewildering array of variables. While there is some disp ute over whether deregulation has been good for flyers overall, it’s clear that average airfare across the country (on a per-mile basis) has fallen considerably since then, as much as 50 percent, adjusted for inflation.
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