Sunday News Roundup 1/19/20: Pilotless Flights, El Al Diversion, Mobile Boarding Passes, MLB Cheating, Handy Credit Card, United Backdoor Link, And More!

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Some stories and deals don’t get their own post, but should get some coverage. Here are some quick takes on stories that caught my eye.

View previous roundups and commentary here.

Featured Trip Reports Of The Day


  • DD trip report:

In 2013 I shared our awesome summer trip to Banff National Park:

View of Bow River from our suite in the Fairmont Banff Springs
Lake Louise


Moraine Lake

Will The 737MAX Fiasco Accelerate A Pilotless Future?

Think the Boeing 737MAX’s problems stemmed from Boeing taking away control from the pilot via the MCAS system?

Well, the WSJ reports that Boeing feels the opposite is true and is now more motivated than ever to automate the cockpit.

Historically Boeing has always given aviators more control than Airbus, but in an era of diminishing pilot skills, things are changing.

It all seems a bit strange to me given that MCAS had software and hardware problems, but there’s also no doubt at least on the Ethiopian Air crash that the pilots didn’t help the situation by not following their checklist.

Having a plane automate a checklist process is the wave of the future. The only question is how far are we from planes that fly themselves?

Long lead times in airplane design means that won’t happen anytime soon. But like truck and taxi drivers, piloting a plane is going to go the way of the milkman. It’s a question of when, not if.

PSA: If You’re A Religious Jew, Please Stop Flying Too Close To Shabbos

Another week, another diverted Thursday night El Al flight. This time smoke in the cabin of El Al flight 26 from Newark to Tel Aviv that caused a diversion to Halifax. It’s a flight that normally departs Newark at 8pm and arrives into Tel Aviv at 1:20pm the next day.

El Al didn’t want to fly the group to a major city, so they spent Shabbos in Halifax and flew to Tel Aviv after Shabbos ended.

Of course Chabad of Halifax got the call to help prepare food for dozens of religious passengers onboard. One of my fellow #KosherAntarctica cruise passengers Sol Friedman is a pilot and tried flying in food from NYC, though in the end Hatzola didn’t loan out their Learjet for the mission as people from Montreal were able to bring food on a commercial flight.

This wasn’t as bad as the numerous diversions to other cities over the past couple of years that have landed just as Shabbos was about to begin.

Nevertheless, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Religious Jews need to stop taking flights that are too close to Shabbos.

As I said then,

I hope that Shabbos observing Jews can take these stories to heart and try to avoid taking flights that are scheduled to land within 6 or 7 hours of candle lighting time, unless there is a true emergency. That allows enough time for a 4 hour delay and time to get from the airport to your destination or it gives you the ability to wait 4 hours on the runway and then deboard at your origin airport without needing to cause a scene.

Given how El Al has lied to religious passengers in cases like the Athens diversion after promising to return to the gate, I strongly recommend that Religious Jews, except in the case of an emergency, should not fly from North America on a flight that is scheduled to land in Israel on Friday, period.

Travel agents need to steer their religious passengers away from these flights. It costs tens of thousands of dollars annually for a family to practice religious Judaism in the US. Think about that the next time you select a Thursday flight departure to Israel in order to save a day of work or to save a couple hundred dollars on a flight.

El Al does not care about your religious observances, their bottom line will come first and that’s their prerogative. If you want to ensure that you don’t enter a situation where you have to violate Shabbos, then it’s up to you to know the risks and choose your flight responsibly.

There will be more Thursday flight diversions. Don’t be a burden on others and find yourself in an uncomfortable situation, make the right decision when shopping for a flight.

PSA: Print Your Boarding Passes

Mobile boarding passes are certainly a tempting convenience. But they can be a trap.

dval44 writes how during a tight international connection on United they added a backup flight to his itinerary in case he missed his flight. Unfortunately that process kills your mobile boarding pass, so he was unable to get through TSA and had to get a new boarding pass.

By that time he missed his connection. Having a paper boarding pass would have solved that problem.

It’s not the only scenario where having a paper boarding pass can be the difference between making or missing your flight.

  • The mobile app might not work when you need it to, though taking a screenshot can help with this.
  • Your phone battery can die.
  • Your phone won’t break if the TSA agent drops your paper boarding pass.
  • Airlines IT systems have gone down in the past and only people with paper boarding passes have been able to checkin and/or board.
  • Paper boarding passes prove you took a flight and can be used for mileage credit in case it doesn’t post automatically.

So even if you like using a mobile boarding pass, be a belt and suspenders type of traveler and have a paper boarding pass as a backup.

Has having a paper boarding pass ever saved one of your flights?

United Is Removing Bag Sizers At The Gate, That’s Not A Good Thing


United will still size carry-on bags at checkin, but at the gate it will be completely up to the agent.

Personally I think it’s a dumb idea. I’ve encountered gate agents on a power trip that insist a carry-on bag is too big. Showing that it fits in the sizer usually diffuses the situation. Without the sizer though, it will be completely up to the gate agent’s discretion.

Why is this a good idea United?

This Screenshot Shows Why Loyalty Is A Fool’s Errand

That’s 183 passengers standing by for a free upgrade from Newark to Vegas.

Granted that was during CES, but airlines are doling out fewer upgrades than ever to elite members.

Mileage programs keep on getting devalued, loyalty benefits keep getting worse, but the requirement to earn status keep on getting more and more onerous.

Chasing status has never been less beneficial. Free agency is more appealing than ever.

The Future Is…Using Your Hand As A Credit Card

The WSJ is reporting that companies like Amazon and Chase are working on using your biometrics as a method of payment.

That would fulfill the promise offered in Back to the Future about how people would pay for things in the future.

Personally that sounds a lot better than using my phone as a payment. But if you struggle to remember which card to use in which store now, can you imagine if you have to remember which card you assigned to which fingerprint?

Total Your Leased Car? Prepare For A Big Credit Score Hit

DDF member Euclid was in an accident and his leased car was totaled. No big deal, it’s insured, right?


It showed up on his insurance report as “Early Termination/Insurance loss” and his FICO 8 score plummeted by 100 points.

He tried having that removed and one credit bureau did, but another refused. His score by the bureau which removed the comment jumped back up, but the score by the other languishes.

Others report the same story. apparently credit reporting agencies have decided that borrowers getting into accidents that lead to a totaled car are people that might not pay back a loan on time.


Bose Is Closing Their Retail Stores

There’s nothing quite like a Bose store to try out for yourself how amazing their noise canceling headphones are.

But retail is dying and Bose is closing all of their stores in North America, Europe, Japan, and Australia.

The online revolution has made shopping cheaper and easier. But retail stores are suffering and malls are dying. Gap is in the process of closing up to half of their stores, including their store at my local mall. A mainstream mall without the Gap?

The end of retail is drawing near. The question is, how long will it take to redevelop those spaces into housing or other more useful spaces?

Ken Jennings Is A Legend Of Our Time

Watching the Jeopardy GOAT challenge was as great as watching a playoff sporting event. It was so much fun watching the greatest trivia minds of our generation.

I felt bad for Brad Rutter, who sure seemed past his prime. But man was is fun to watch James and Ken battle it out on the show and on Twitter.

The Washington Post talked to Ken about the victory and what it meant for him.

Ken won by expertly copying James playing style, in which you hunt down Daily Doubles and go all in when you find them.

I’m only sad that he says he won’t play any more Jeopardy. That’s like hearing Bill Watterson saying he won’t write any more Calvin & Hobbes strips. We just want more 😀

The War That Twitter Avoided

Say what you want about Twitter or Trump, but Wired makes the case that direct diplomacy between President Trump and Iran meant that both sides were able to take a step back, claim “victory,” and avoid a drawn out war.

I’d say that’s pretty great!

United’s Reneging On Lifetime Club Membership Gets News Coverage 

The Houston Chronicle takes a look at United’s decision to not honor lifetime club members ability to access their lounges when not flying United.

While American and Delta honored their commitment to their lifetime members, United took the low road and did not.

United has reneged on written lifetime commitments to Silver Wings members, Million Milers, and Lifetime club members.

Clearly their promises aren’t worth much of anything. Stay classy there United.

MLB Had Its Worst Week In 26 Years

What a sad week for Major League Baseball. I can’t remember such a bad week since the 1994 strike that wiped out that year’s postseason.

They released a report showing that the Houston Astros systematically cheated by using cameras to steal signs.

That is so much worse for the integrity of the game than players on drugs.

3 managers and a general manager lost their jobs due to the scandal, but is it even over yet?

Trevor Bauer alleges that the Astros used buzzers under their uniforms to cheat.

Videos like this sure make it seem like MLB is covering up a deeper scandal:


Somehow I don’t think this is the last that we’ll hear about digital cheating in baseball.

DDFers Have Been Targeted For Free AA Elite Status, Are You Targeted?

DDF member myi was targeted via email for free status on American.

Check all of your email folders and let us know if you got targeted as well!

2 DDF Members Left One Of The Most Prestigious Big Law Firms, Boies Schiller, To Open Their Own Boutique Law Firm.

Bloomberg has an article about 2 DDF Members (Velvel Freedman & Jason Cyrulnik) that left Boies Schiller to open their own boutique law firm.

They took a dozen attorneys from Boies Schiller with them as well as Paul Weiss and other prestigious firms.

Roche Cyrulnik Freedman LLP are setting out to change how big law works, focusing on client needs and a revolutionary compensation model for attorneys.

Freedman explains “To make a really great firm, you need great clients and cases and you need great lawyers. We’ve developed a model that attracts both of those things” They put an emphasis on transparency and rewarding business generation. To do this they created a formula without a discretionary element, and rewards attorneys based on factors like and business generation, litigation talent, and efficiency.

Wishing them the best of luck!

Helpful Link: United Old Reservations Interface

I don’t care for the new United reservations interface. Why make links that can’t be opened in a new tab anyway?

Luckily this old link that I saved still works just fine to get the classic view 🙂

Share your thoughts on these stories or post a comment about what other stories that I missed!

Previous roundups

Catch up on what you missed!

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32 Comments On "Sunday News Roundup 1/19/20: Pilotless Flights, El Al Diversion, Mobile Boarding Passes, MLB Cheating, Handy Credit Card, United Backdoor Link, And More!"

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Thank you sir

These are great ! Really appreciate you doing them


Did you know that if you downgrade the United Explorer Card, the claw back the last 2 club passes? Does that make sense?


Thanks vary nice


United removing Bag Sizers is bad. I’ve had multiple agents refuse my bag at the gate, claiming that it’s too large and needs to be checked, and was saved by the Bag Sizer every time…


Bring along a tape measure!


Using CES week to show futility of elite status is like checking out hotel prices for Super Bowl weekend in the host city and saying this city is pricey!


“I’m only sad that he says he won’t play any more Jeopardy. That’s like hearing Bill Watterson saying he won’t write any more Calvin & Hobbes strips. We just want more”

Oh, man. I love Calvin and Hobbes <3. Bill Watterson is an interesting and eccentric man.


Oh goodness, there I was, wondering what the Astros did with a whole pile of placards, how no one noticed for so long that they were stealing so much, and what they needed all those signs for in the first place .
Thank you Professor Google for the enlightenment. Clearly my father’s passion for the big leagues did not pass to me. Perhaps it is time to pick up one of those DNA test kits next time Dan posts about a sale


Love these roundups, keep them coming! Thank you.


So in the same roundup that you anticipate pilotless planes, you warn against paperless tickets. The irony.


Why print pass if they give you one when you check in your bags?


James threw that last final jeopardy question so he could go spend more time with his family


“The end of retail is drawing near”
That’s an exaggeration, and nonsense.


whats there ddf handles

Binyomin Moscowitz

Proud to hear that my cousin Jason is going boutique, and that he is a DDF’er! Putting miles and points mentality towards a law firm business model sounds brilliant!



Friends with a frum pilot for United. He said almost the entire flight is automated. He learns daf yomi on the plane, but he cannot listen to shiurim because he needs to be tuned in to the radios. He said most of the work of a pilot nowadays is collecting data on weather and air conditions (for other planes to know about turbulence etc). I asked why do they need a pilot at all, and he said he’s there for when things go wrong…


Re: chasing status is pointless: Most of the routes I fly now have several airlines flying it, which means prices are generally competitive. It doesn’t cost me any more (well, in one instance, $5 more) to stick to a particular carrier. I am giving Alaska a shot this year as I may hit MVP with them. I never expect to get upgraded, so the bonus miles and free checked luggage will make up for the extra $5 I spent. Even if I don’t hit MVP, I’ll eventually earn enough points to get a free round trip and then I’ll be done with it.


what about Ukraine air?




I wear belt and suspenders, and still use Mobile boarding passes….
Am I doing something wrong??


Almost never leave without hard boarding passes in hand. During the Delta glitch back in January of 2014 ( $58.58 First class NY to LA-) I booked two family members who experimented with airport parking for the first time and didn’t factor in the additional time needed. They arrived to the counter less than 22 minutes to the flight (JFK), agent told them it’s far past check-in cut off time and bp’s wont print. They suddenly remembered I stuck in paper bp’s, they retreived and brandished their boarding passes (may I add a tad triumphantly?)- agent laughed at them saying something to the effect of ‘not a snowball’s chance in July’ they’d reach the gate in time… several minutes later, two chest clutching passengers crossed the finish line at the gate 🙂 (one of them is close to 300lbs and couldn’t have been farther from fit… he nearly paid for it with his lungs…)
Fortunately, passengers in first are served a drink before take-off…


And in many cases, a flight gets delayed close to departure, after check in has already closed. Often, check in will remain closed but if you have a boarding pass in hand you could still make it if you arrive late (obviously only possible if not checking luggage)


“Others report the same story. apparently credit reporting agencies have decided that borrowers getting into accidents that lead to a totaled car are people that might not pay back a loan on time.”

I sort of hear the svara actually…