Travel Scene: Nearly finished Panama Canal locks may already need upgrade
Although one of the world's largest construction projects at the Panama Canal is still a year away from completion, Panamanian officials now are considering an even larger project.
Currently, while a third set of locks at the canal is due to be completed in another year, at a cost of some $6 billion, Panamanian authorities are eyeing a fourth set of locks costing an estimated $17 billion. That project would allow the canal to handle a new generation of the largest ships in the world.
The current project is focused on "post Panamax" sized vessels — the largest now but not quite as large as new ships being currently constructed or contemplated — to make a transit from the Pacific to the Atlantic, or vice versa, via the canal.
The third set of locks now being constructed soar 22 stories high. They are being built by European contractors. The project is several years behind schedule — hampered by bankruptcies, labor strife and cost overruns — and now is said to be due for completion by April 2016.
If the project calling for a fourth set of locks is approved, officials in Panama told news services it will allow the canal to better compete worldwide, particularly with the Suez Canal. An enlargement of the canal's facilities is necessary since ships — particularly cargo-carrying container ships — are being built larger and larger.
Several successful cruises to the canal have been sponsored by the Post-Bulletin in the past, and will be scheduled again as soon as the current construction is over.
The Suez Canal in the Middle East is the Panama Canal's main competitor, since it already can handle post-Panamex sized vessels. While Panama officials have long considered a fourth set of locks, it probably will take some 16 years to complete, it was estimated.
Airlines invest in private clubs
Several airlines recently have announced record profits, and are investing some of those funds into renovating their private clubs.
Several new posh facilities have been proposed or completed at Los Angeles International Airport , as an example.
The bad news, reports the Associated Press, that these projects are off limits to most airline passengers since these clubs are only available to members who pay fees — some fairly hefty, at several hundred dollars a year.
Quantas , the Australian-based carrier, has unveiled a multimillion-dollar upgraded lounge at LAX that is triple its previous size and includes a second food buffet, 16 shower units and a make-your-own juice bar. The lounge is shared with Cathay Pacific and British Airways .
Virgin Atlantic spent more than $4 million to open its first lounge at LAX recently that boasts several amenities, notes the AP.
U.S. based airlines Delta, American and United also have announced similar upgrades at several of the lounges that they own.