Spend Matters Friday Latte

When hedging doesn't work out.
Oil Prices Fall But Airlines Not Benefiting -- Falling oil prices are typically good news for airlines as fuel accounts for more than a third of their operating costs, but not all carriers are benefiting from the recent decline in prices just yet. Most airlines, ranging from Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. to Air New Zealand Ltd., manage their exposure to volatile fuel prices by locking in a proportion of their planned fuel consumption at certain prices through forward contracts, a process known as fuel hedging. Such arrangement is now preventing them from any immediate respite to their cost pressures from the recent decline in oil prices. Even as fuel prices are coming down, airlines aren't really rushing to cut down their hedging positions because of volatility, with some executives noting that the oil price declines appear unsustainable.

Cook County takes on supplier diversity.
Cook County to Help Minority Business Owners -- Minority business owners, including women, are going to start finding it easier to get a loan. Cook County will be giving about a quarter of the county's $800 million in planned capital projects to minority-owned and women-owned businesses in the next three to five years, County Board President Toni Preckwinkle announced Wednesday. "This initiative will eliminate many of the barriers that prevented small businesses in Cook County from having a seat at the table, and that means more opportunity, more jobs, and a stronger local economy," Preckwinkle explained.

Airport building boom.
Airports Focus on the Ground -- New York's three major airports, as well as the airports in Los Angeles, Dallas, Atlanta and Chicago, are spending billions of dollars. Many of the airports have aging terminals, some built in the 1960s and 1970s, that are ill suited to the bigger planes, bigger security lanes and bigger crowds of modern-day air travel. They are replacing or improving existing terminals, updating food concessions and parking garages, or adding runways to keep up with growing demand. These investments are concentrated at the largest international gateways, where the growth of foreign travel has been fastest. Unlike international hub airports overseas, like Changi Airport in Singapore, Hong Kong International Airport or Frankfurt Airport, which consistently fare well in traveler surveys, airports in the United States receive low marks for customer service with more delays, more congestion and older amenities. Skytrax, a British consulting firm, found recently that six of the 10 best airports this year were in Asia, three in Europe, and one in Canada.

Have a Jeep? Be careful!
Jeep Gas-Tank Probe Widens -- Federal regulators stepped up an investigation into gas-tank fires involving Chrysler Group LLC Jeeps, saying they will now conduct a detailed analysis that could affect as many as 5.1 million vehicles on the road. The probe has also been expanded beyond 1993-2004 model year Jeep Grand Cherokees and now includes 1993-2001 model year Jeep Cherokees and 2002-2007 model year Jeep Liberty vehicles, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration said on Thursday. The sport-utility vehicles all have fuel tanks installed behind the rear axle that could make them susceptible to leaking fuel and bursting into flames following a rear-end collision.

- Sheena Moore

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