How to Merge an Airline and Other Business News

Just making the coffee at the world’s largest carrier takes a whole beverage committee; Mayor Emanuel on the long-delayed O’Hare express; the ethics of shoppping; and more.

* Bloomberg’s excellent magazine, Businessweek, has a fascinating story about the United/Continental merger and the difficulties of completing a merger in such a tightly regulated industry. Sometimes just making the coffee is hard.

The beverage committee launched an inquiry. The coffee itself, they discovered, was only part of the problem. Airplane coffee is made from small, premeasured “pillow packs” that sit in a brew basket drawer at the top of the galley coffee machine. When the drawer is closed, boiling water flows through the pillow into the pot below. The old United brew baskets, the committee discovered, sit a quarter of an inch lower than Continental’s, leaving a space for water to leak around the pillow pack. That fugitive water was diluting the coffee—in fact, the old United had installed the deeper brew baskets for that very purpose, after passengers complained that their Starbucks was too strong. And so, by the end of the year, the beverage committee found itself back where it had started, trying out new pillow packs.

* The Atlantic Wire follows up with an interview with Businessweek’s attention-getting designers, who came up with a sexytime take on the United-Continental, um, merger. Think Dr. Strangelove but more explicit.

* We’ve got a nice roundup of Chicago-made video games this month. A TechNet study claims that the “app economy” has created directly created 155,000 jobs, and growing.

* The Donald is going to turn Washington, D.C.’s old post office into a luxury hotel. I wish he’d started here, with our immense, lovely, dilapidated old post office, which is back in the news again for its many problems. Despite his reputation as a high-luxe high-camp developer, I’ve grown to appreciate Chicago’s Trump Tower, though it’s a shame about the plaza, as Blair Kamin explained last year.

* Mayor Emanuel addresses his predecessor’s dream of an express train to O’Hare, a long-term boondoggle.

* Phil Rosenthal takes on the ethics of shopping:

As for China and other countries, some argue that sweatshop conditions in developing economies are a painful part of the birthing process of a more modern nation. That doesn’t mean there is no alternative. What discourages the hard-fought working conditions enjoyed in this country from being exported along with the manufacturing jobs is the higher cost that would surely be passed along to consumers.

* Lynn Becker on the “architecture that remains after a great company dies.”

* Caterpillar has announced it’ll be inshoring 1,400 jobs elsewhere.

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