Weekend what we’re reading: Best US small towns, EU adds passenger rights, golden parachute questioned

Best Small Towns Smithsonian Magazine
This weekend we take a look at 20 great U.S. small towns to visit complied by Smithsonian Magazine; towns filled with culture, history and art. The European Union adds to their consumer-friendly rules when it comes to airline delays and cancellations. And the Department of Justice questions the permissibility of paying the outgoing AA CEO almost $20 million.

Smithsonian Magazine releases the 20 best small towns to visit in 2013

For me, traveling only to see only “things” is almost a waste of time. Travel needs to encompass history, art, lore, culture and cuisine to create a full vacation. Smithsonian Magazine takes many of my most important factors into account with their list for 2013 of great small towns.

This list is well researched, well written and detailed, with maps and insights normally not found in these “list” kind of columns. Enjoy.

What makes a small town big on culture? For the second year running, we sought a statistical answer to this question by asking the geographic information company Esri to search its databases for small towns and cities — this time, with populations of less than 15,000 — that have exceptional concentrations of museums, art galleries, orchestras, theaters, historic sites and other cultural blessings.

Happily, the top towns also boast heartwarming settings where the air is a little fresher, the grass greener, the pace gentler than in metropolitan America. Generally, they’re devoted to preserving their historic centers, encouraging talent and supporting careful economic growth. There’s usually an institution of higher learning, too.

Most important are the people, unpretentious people with small-town values and high cultural expectations — not a bad recipe for society at large. As a sign on a chalkboard in Cleveland, Mississippi, (our No. 2) puts it, “Be nice. The world is a small town.”

Top 10 Best Small Towns to Visit:

Gettysburg, PA
Cleveland, MS
St. Augustine, FL
Baraboo, WI
Astoria, OR
Petoskey, MI
Fairfield, IA
Los Alamos, NM
Sitka, AK
Provincetown, MA

EU seeks reforms to airline-passengers rights

The European Union proposed to strengthen already significant passenger rights when flights are delayed, canceled or rerouted. The move clarifies consumer rights and proscribes new airline actions and compensation necessary in case of delays. Already, case after case under the present rules have provided stranded airline passengers room and board in case of delays and cancellations — even those caused by forces out of the control of airlines.

Among the package of reforms, [the EU’s transport chief,] Mr. Kallas said airlines would be obliged to reroute customers within a 12-hour time frame or find alternative solutions to get them to their destination. On the flip side, airlines will now be given more time — five hours instead of three for flights within the EU — to find alternative planes to get passengers home.

Airlines will be required to provide passengers with information about why their flight was canceled within 30 minutes of its scheduled departure, and they will have to acknowledge complaints within a week and respond within two months. In case of delays, passengers will now have the right to food and drink after two hours instead of four. Those same rights would apply in cases of tarmac delays, but airlines would also have to provide water and air conditioning if the wait exceeds an hour.

Department of Justice objects to executive golden parachute for AA CEO wrapped into AA.US merger agreement

One of the most surprising developments of the American Airlines/US Airways merger was the AA airline unions’ silence about the whopping $19.9 million golden parachute provided AA top dog. This is clearly a case of the unions wanting to get rid of hated management, no matter what the cost. Fortunately, the Department of Justice (DOJ) is not letting this bonus, unheard of in bankruptcies, move forward without discussion. The U.S. Trustee questions whether the payment is permissible.

On Feb. 22, eight days after the merger was announced as the vehicle for AMR to exit from bankruptcy protection, the two airlines filed a motion outlining some salary and benefit increases for AMR’s nonunion customer-service, reservations and support employees, as well as for front-line management and senior executives. For the executives, the arrangements include incentive plans, awards related to the merger integration, severance benefits and a retention program.

The U.S. Trustee said in Friday’s filing that the parties failed to “identify the actually beneficiaries of these programs, what dollar values are involved, and other relevant information.” The document also questioned whether the nearly $20 million payment to Mr. Horton is permissible under bankruptcy law, and pointed out that it is more than 10 times the amount of the mean severance pay to be given to nonmanagement employees.

Illustrated maps by John S. Dykes from Smithsonian Magazine

  • TonyA_says

    The best towns to visit usually do not have Walmarts, big box stores, and restaurant chains. A long time ago, each US town and city was pretty unique. Now they mostly look alike.

  • bodega3

    Fodor’s has a different, best small town list that just came out. A town in our area is on that one. I prefer small towns to big cities and back roads to freeways or thruways.

  • gloriatz

    If at all possible and there is another airline flying to my destination, I will never use AA even if the other airline’s schedule and price is not to my liking. Three of my last four AA flights were either cancelled or quite late. Also, AA has very unprofessional and rude staff. AA has enough of its own problems without gobbling up another airline … clean up your house first!