National Briefing

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


United to Charge for Meals On Some Overseas Flights

United Airlines will become the first U.S. carrier to stop serving free meals and snacks in the coach cabin of some overseas flights as it tries to stem losses from record fuel prices.

The airline will replace free meals with food that can be purchased aboard trips to Europe from Washington's Dulles International Airport starting Oct. 1, spokeswoman Robin Urbanski said.

United will charge $6 for snack boxes that include cheese, crackers, fruit, yogurt and a pastry, and $9 for salads and sandwiches. Salads with turkey and chicken, which come with fruit, will be available, along with chicken and turkey wraps and a beef, ham and salami sandwich.

The change expands the list of services airlines are charging for as they respond to soaring jet fuel prices. United parent UAL Corp., with losses of almost $3.32 billion in the past three quarters, is eliminating 7,000 jobs and idling 100 aircraft to cut operating costs.


GM Expands Employee Discounts

General Motors said it is offering employee pricing to everyone on nearly all 2008 and some 2009 vehicles from tomorrow to Sept. 2 as it seeks to clear its remaining inventory of 2008 vehicles.

The company has offered limited employee pricing in the past, but the announcement marks the first time since 2005 that GM has extended the incentive to all buyers. The discounts generally cut 10 percent from the invoice price.

GM said only medium-duty trucks are ineligible from the 2008 lineup. Of the 2009 models, the Chevrolet Cobalt and HHR; the Pontiac Vibe and G5; and the Cadillac CTS are eligible.


Google Places Bets on Geothermal

Google announced $10 million in investments and grants in geothermal technology that it said could provide economic and reliable electricity in much of the United States. Projects using "enhanced geothermal technology" would drill deep enough to hit hot rock, fracture it and pump water into a heat exchange system to generate electricity.

Google invested $6.25 million in AltaRock Energy and $4 million investment in Potter Drilling. It gave Southern Methodist University Geothermal Laboratory a $489,521 grant to improve maps of geothermal energy resources of North America.


U.S. Cellphone Sales Fall

Sales of cellphones in the United States fell 13 percent, to 28 million phones, in the second quarter, according to research firm the NPD Group. That's the lowest number of phones sold in a quarter since NPD began tracking the category in 2005, said Ross Rubin, the firm's director of industry analysis.

However, the phones that were sold tended to be more expensive, and the total value of the market was down only 2 percent from a year ago, to $2.4 billion, according to NPD.

Motorola's phones were the most popular, but its share of the units sold dropped to 21 percent, down from 32 percent last year.

Apple Issues iPhone Software Fix

Apple has released an iPhone software update it says improves communication between the smartphone and wireless networks.

The iPhone 3G, which went on sale July 11, connects to cellular providers' speedier third-generation networks and was meant to deliver snappier Web surfing and online video viewing than the year-old original model. But some customers who have complained about dropped calls and spotty wireless broadband connectivity.

An Apple spokeswoman declined to describe what problems the update was designed to fix.


Hewlett-Packard said its fiscal third-quarter profit jumped 14 percent, to $2.03 billion from $1.78 billion in the comparable period last year, as strong laptop sales and a robust international presence continued to lift the technology bellwether. Sales rose 10 percent, $28.03 billion. The results surpassed Wall Street's expectations, and signaled that HP continues to hold its ground as the world's No. 1 seller of personal computers even with stronger competition from Apple.

Cargill said its fiscal fourth-quarter profit rose 67 percent, to $1.05 billion from $628 million in the comparable period last year, driven by rising demand for grains and the sale of a power plant in Britain. Full-year earnings rose 69 percent to $3.95 billion. Cargill, one of the world's largest privately held companies, releases limited financial information.

Compiled from reports by Washington Post staff writers, the Associated Press and Bloomberg News.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company