Sunday News Roundup 3/8/20: Flight Tampering, eBay Bans, Centurion LAX, United Refunds, Airline Bunk Beds, Amazon Grocery Markets, Record Flight Times, 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

  • DDF Trip Report:

One of DDF member Something Fishy’s earlier trip reports, with a short report to Rocky Mountain National Park:

  • DD Trip Report:

We have traveled to Israel twice in the past 2 years with the family and made some truly amazing memories. Splitting our time between Herzliya and Tel Aviv, here’s a look at the Ritz Carlton Herzliya and surrounding areas:


Walmart+ Is Not A Prime Killer

Walmart+ will offer unlimited same day grocery delivery for $98.

The media decided that this would be a Prime killer. It’s not even a Prime competitor.

It seems obvious that it’s competing with Instacart and not Prime. Walmart is not offering free shipping with no minimum on everything from their site like Amazon does.

They tried that a few years ago and they killed it without ever trying to market it. With a $35 minimum purchase requirement, I’m far more likely to buy from Amazon than Walmart. And Walmart+ does absolutely nothing to stop that, so please stop calling it a Prime killer or Prime competitor.


Italy Goes On Lockdown

Northern Italy, including Milan and Venice, are now on lockdown through at least April 3rd. That includes 17 million people under quarantine.

Residents are being asked to take off of work, stay home and avoid travel.

Hospitals are maxed out as 7,375 Italians have tested positive for coronavirus and 366 have died.

However, unlike in China, there was nobody stopping people from taking trains and planes outside of the quarantine zones, rendering it rather ineffective. Without enforcement, people will just leave the quarantine zone, which will spread coronavirus even further.


Will Israel Be The First With A Coronavirus Vaccine?

Israeli scientists claim to be nearing a coronavirus vaccine.

A vaccine can’t come soon enough give that the virus is spreading like wildfire and has the potential to cripple hospitals and economies worldwide.

The only question is what will BDS supporters do?


AMEX Centurion Lounge In Los Angeles Opens Tomorrow

AMEX is opening a lounge in LAX tomorrow. It’s great to see them expand their lounge network, especially as airlines lock down their lounges to passengers flying on their flights that day.

It will be located in the TBIT terminal and it will be walkable airside from terminals 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 without needing to exit security. There’s also an airside shuttle from terminals 2 and 3 to TBIT without needing to exit security.

The massive 14K square foot lounge will feature everything from tranquility rooms to free spa services.

Cards that provide Centurion lounge access, aside from Centurion cards, include:

Currently, there are Centurion Lounges in:

  • Charlotte (Intersection of Concourses D & E, mezzanine level)
  • Dallas/DFW (Terminal D, near American)
  • Houston/IAH (Terminal D, near United)
  • Las Vegas (Concourse D, near United)
  • Miami (Concourse D, near American)
  • NYC/LGA (Central terminal B upstairs, before security)
  • Philadelphia (Terminal A West, near American)
  • Phoenix (Terminal 4)
  • Seattle (Concourse B)
  • San Francisco (Terminal 3, near United)

International locations include:

  • Buenos Aires/EZE
  • Delhi
  • Hong Kong (Terminal 1)
  • Melbourne
  • Mexico City
  • Mumbai
  • Monterrey, Mexico
  • Sao Paulo/GRU
  • Stockholm
  • Sydney
  • Toluca, Mexico

Future lounges include Denver, London, and a 2 level Centurion lounge in JFK terminal 4. Terminal 4 includes airlines like El Al, Asiana, Delta, Emirates, Etihad, KLM, Singapore, South African, Swiss, Virgin Atlantic, and more.


Amtrak Suspends Nonstop Acela Service Between NYC and DC

Amtrak is suspending nonstop Acela between NYC-DC from 3/10-5/26 due to low demand.

They’re also offering change fee waivers on bookings through 4/30.

Personally I’d just advise people to sanitize their seat, but it seems people plan on avoiding all travel for the near-future.


United Making It Harder To Get A Refund

Airlines are hemorrhaging cash due to coronavirus. While they are announcing free change policies on new bookings to generate revenue, they are trying to avoid doing so on existing bookings, though you may have luck if you specifically ask for a waiver.

United is reducing their schedule on many domestic and international routes and wants to avoid handing out refunds. Previously a 30 minute schedule change was enough for free changes and a 2 hour schedule change was enough for a free refund.

However, now United is looking to conserve cash by offering refunds only when the schedule changes by 25 or more hours!

 

25 hours is a ridiculously high threshold for a refund. I think that United is trying to get passengers to look at alternate flight options rather than hand out refunds, but will ultimately give a refund if other options don’t work.

Still, this seems rather petty of United at a time that they are losing passengers and cutting flights. It’s certainly not a policy change that will generate good will.


United COVID-19 Flight Cuts

United previously announced that they would reduce flights due to coronovirus. They didn’t specify the exact cuts, but those are now leaking out, including some cuts to Tel Aviv service.

International cuts:

Domestic cuts can be found here and an overview of domestic cuts by key airports can be found here.


Let The Elite Status Wars Begin: 50% Bonus Miles With Alaska

Many passengers with elite status are grounded and are at risk of losing their status due to coronavirus.

Alaska is now responding with a promotion to earn 50% bonus elite qualifying miles on flights from 3/7-4/11.

I’d expect to see more elite status promotions as time goes on, assuming that coronavirus remains a threat.


China Will Pay Airlines To Restore Flights

Airlines across the globe cut service to China indefinitely.

China is hoping to reverse that by offering subsidies to airlines flying to China through June 30th.

It would be rather ironic if China manages to contain coronavirus, only to have it boomerang back from passengers coming from countries that can’t lock down cities like they can.

I’m not sure which airlines will return in exchange for a small subsidy, the flights will return on their own if there is demand for them.


Flybe Goes Under, But Let’s Not Chalk This Up To Coronavirus

Many news reports are saying that Flybe is the first airline to be killed by coronavirus.

That conveniently ignores that the airline was going broke before coronavirus began. Its demise may have been expedited by a few months, but it didn’t stand a chance of making it through 2020 regardless.

There will be airlines that fall victim to coronavirus. But it’s hard to count Flybe in that list.


Math Should Not Be This Hard…

My 8 year old with a Yeshiva education laughed hysterically at this math discussion. How is this even possible?!?

 


Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani Is Sentenced To 3 Years For Tampering With An American Plane

American Airlines mechanic Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani pleaded guilty to tampering with an American plane and has been sentenced to 3 years in prison.

That light sentence was because the judge found that he was reckless in order to get a pay raise, rather than intentionally endangering the aircraft. That’s despite the FBI finding a disturbing ISIS video on his phone that he forwarded with the message that Allah should take revenge against non-Muslims. And that’s despite video footage showing Mr. Alani deliberately sabotaging the plane.

The American pilots noticed the problems with the plane before takeoff and cancelled the flight, avoiding potential tragedy.

Here’s hoping Mr. Alani isn’t trusted with public safety ever again.


Stay Twice At Choice Hotels And Get A Free Night

If you make 2 stays at Choice Hotels from 3/7-4/26 you can get enough points for a free night.

Register via the link above to take advantage of the free night promotion!


Jersey City’s Kosher Supermarket 

The Jersey City shooting in December was gut-wrenching. My heart went out to Moshe Ferencz, whose wife was killed managing the store while he went out to pray.

I’m thrilled to read that the supermarket has reopened. Its located a few blocks away from the original location, in a place where he and his wife were planning on moving the grocery store before the attack.

Its new name is Olive Branch and we can only hope that it will peacefully exist for many years to come.


Iran Doesn’t Learn From China’s Mistakes, Threatens Leakers With Flogging

34 year old Dr. Li Wenliang tried to warn the world on December 30th about a novel coronavirus. China punished him for doing so and the good Doctor wound up dying of the virus. China eventually apologized for demonizing him.

As coronavirus devastates Iran with thousands of infections and hundreds of deaths, the country is cracking down on those who talk about how big the problem is in that country as they downplay the numbers there.

Why learn lessons anyway?


As Disney Raises Prices, Jungle Cruise Ride Sinks

Disney can seemingly raise prices to no end without any drop in demand. I can think of better things to do with thousands of dollars than pay to wait in line with whiny kids for manufactured entertainment, but clearly I’m in the minority.

But even with confiscatory entry fees, you still may get that sinking feeling when your Jungle Cruise sinks. But at least you’ll still be at the happiest place on Earth!


Even A Shark Can Get Phished

Shark Tank star Barbara Corcoran nearly lost $380,000 when someone acting as her assistant spoofed an invoice to pay.

 

Luckily for her though, the bank froze the transfer before it reached the scammer in China and she got her money back.

But it’s a good reminder to always be wary of fake emails. And to be sure to pick up the phone and confirm things before firing off thousands of dollars…


Sometimes, Airlines Do The Right Thing

DDFB member Debby shares her experience on British Airways. Her flight lost hydraulic controls upon landing and needed to be towed to the gate, which took over an hour.

She missed her connecting flight, but was upgraded to first class for the trouble. The agent even noted that she may not have kosher food on the new flight and that she should head to the first class Concorde Lounge for kosher food before the flight.

Now that’s how to provide service recovery!


Are Bunk Beds The Future Of Economy Travel?

When I was at Airbus Headquarters last year I got to tour some neat bunk bed concepts for economy class passengers.

Those are moving one step closer to reality thanks to Air New Zealand.

Air New Zealand is an innovator in the economy cabin, with the ability to turn a row of seats into a SkyCouch.

They are now testing out the SkyNest, with a full size bunk bed for economy class passengers. Currently the plan is to have 6 of these per flight and to see what demand looks like for them.

You would have the SkyNest in addition to your regular seat.

Would you upgrade to have a bunk bed on a flight?


Air New Zealand sold a London Heathrow Slot For $27MM

Air New Zealand recently announced that they will fly nonstop from Newark to Auckland. At the same time they announced that they would discontinue their 5th freedom flight from Los Angeles to London.

They have now cashed in, selling their off-peak London slot for $27 million. That slot allows for one daily landing and takeoff at London Heathrow. Peak timed London slots have sold for as much as $75 million.

The purchasing airline is unknown. JetBlue is known to want London slots for flights starting next year, but it will likely settle for service to Gatwick instead of Heathrow.

Airlines are now flying to London Heathrow with nearly empty planes as they need to keep flying in order to maintain their slots. Ironically, London has some of the highest taxes on flights, ostensibly to go green, though I’m not sure what’s green about forcing airlines to fly empty flights.


Fired For Not Working On The Sabbath?

The Supreme Court has refused to hear a case about a Sabbath observing Seventh Day Adventist being fired from Walgreens for refusing to work on the Sabbath.

The lower courts ruled that Walgreens merely needs to reasonably accommodate employees religious beliefs, but they were allowed to fire Darrell Patterson for refusing to work on the Sabbath for an emergency training session.

I’m not aware of the specifics of the case, but it does seem worrisome that in 2020 companies can still fire employees over their religious practices. Was it really not possible to schedule the training session on another day?


When Smart Car Rentals Turn Into A Nightmare

New age car rental sound great on paper. But then you realize that your credit card won’t cover you for an accident if you rent from Turo.

Or in this article, the writer rented a car from Gig, only to find herself locked out when she lost cell phone coverage.

I think I’ll stick with Uber or a traditional car rental for now…


Did The Waldorf Beverly Hills Steal Secrets?

The WSJ has the scoop on a fascinating case of corporate espionage, with the Peninsula Beverly Hills suing the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills for stealing secrets on corporate rates, clients, and more.

The Peninsula alleges that it had a mole that gave the Waldorf the intel in exchange for a cushy job at the new hotel.

It found out about it after Middle Eastern royals, who spend millions of dollars on their stays, let the Peninsula know that they had a mole trying to poach them to stay at the Waldorf.

I stayed at the Waldorf last week using Hilton points. It was a decent stay, but not worthy of the paid rates they charge. But somehow I don’t think I’m the kind of customer that the Peninsula is suing over 😉


How Crazy Is It That A 5 Hour Flight Across The Pond Makes News Headlines?

The Boeing 747 was designed with its distinctive hump because Boeing figured that it would have a limited lifespan as a commercial airliner and would soon be converted to a cargo plane.

You see in the 1960s, airline manufacturers all assumed that the future was supersonic flying.

The Concorde launched in 1973 and it could fly from JFK to London in just under 3 hours.

And here we are, half a century later, reading news headlines of a 747 flying the route in just under 5 hours, setting a new subsonic time record.

I was just 18 when the Concorde was retired in October 2003, but I wish I had the chance to fly in it.

I understand that it was expensive and wasn’t particularly comfortable, but that’s true of most first generation products. It boggles my mind that the design was never tweaked and improved. Sure, the noise led to bans on overland flying, but surely newer technology could have mitigated that?

Instead we’re bragging about a 6 decade old airplane setting records that look pathetic compared to what used to exist. Is there any other technology on Earth that has gone so far backwards in 50 years?

And the new subsonic record was set in an airplane that soon enough will also no longer exist.

These are strange times indeed.


Amazon Go Is Thinking Big

Amazon has 25 Amazon Go stores that offer small scale convenience. You can walk into the cashier-less stores, pickup what you want, and just walk right out.

Amazon will now implement that concept into grocery stores 5 times the size of the current Amazon Go stores. That’s a big step into the grocery store wars.

All things being equal, I’d be more likely to shop for groceries at a store where I can skip the line.

The only question is will Amazon add the technology to its Whole Foods stores, or will it start a new chain from the ground up?


eBay Bans Masks And Hand Sanitizer Sales

With sellers gobbling up masks and hand sanitizer to resell online, eBay is striking back with a sitewide ban on those items.

On the one hand it seems silly to ban items that are useful for people, after all it’s a free market. But eBay is likely trying to avoid the bad PR and potential legal liability for price gouging during a crisis.

And maybe people will now leave some stock on the shelf for someone else to buy at retail.


This Is One Awesome Shot

Wow!


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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42 Comments On "Sunday News Roundup 3/8/20: Flight Tampering, eBay Bans, Centurion LAX, United Refunds, Airline Bunk Beds, Amazon Grocery Markets, Record Flight Times, And More"

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YM

Thanks Dan!

Sanity please

Hi Dan,
I’d booked a while ago rt tickets from TLV to EWR on Virgin Atlantic on Priceline with first leg fmend of next week.

I wanted to change my tickets to leave earlier, but Virgin Atlantic won’t allow without a fee.
The biggest pain is, Virgin won’t deal with me, they said everything has to be done through Priceline.
Priceline customer service is out of Manilla, and are not very knowledgeable or capable. In addition Priceline tacks on an additional $30 change fee.

I was thinking, when booking international travel for future travel more than a month or two in advance, it may pay to book through a real travel agent, who can really assist if issues come up, especially when there are layovers.

Do you agree, or am I mistaken?

Thanks.

Cook

Phew this week’s round up can potentially be my vote for round-up of the year!
And I tasted United ‘s reluctance to refund today… Had a flight scheduled with United that included one leg on Lufthansa, Lufthansa canceled that leg and rebooked 3 out of 4 of my party on a flight that sets us back 6:20 behind schedule. We opted for a refund but were told since it’s Lufthansa who canceled, United can’t guarantee a refund. (booked directly with United) They at first wouldn’t consider a change fee waiver. Go figure! (and my 1K Status didn’t seem to matter in the least )

E

I prefer Walmart when they have iselect tems which are cheaper than Amazon. $35 isn’t a high threshold when buying diapers, wipes, and toilet paper. Yes, I generally prefer Amazon, but I’ll choose the lowest priced item.

Jeff

Thanx for the great writeup again!
I’m on a status match challenge with United. Still need a few more flights to hit the match. Any chance I could get them to extend it past 90 days? Who should I email?

TB

I hope she can afford the taxes on that car – many game show winners end up not taking the prize because of the taxes involved

yelped

So sell the car, pay the taxes, and buy a slightly used car and put the rest in savings.

Cholentfresser

Really enjoy these write-ups, Dan!

Bunk beds on a flight would be great, as long as it doesn’t cost that much more….

Is price gauging actually illegal?

Elli

I booked a united & Elal flight partially with Chase points and the remainder by CC, will I get refunded on the points and get my money back too? If yes, do I get the points and money back, or just a credit to be used within the next year?
Thank you!

Elli

UR
If i booked with UR points. Who do i call to change/cancel, UR or the airline?

REPLYMarch 8, 2020 5:24 pm
Elli
Great question. I’m waiting for a response too! Let me know what happens.
Thanks!

Davidthebest

Thanks dan for the write up. A perfect place to vent out.

Abey

@dan The reason we are still stuck flying like the turtles is simply because supersonic flying is expensive, The amount of things that could go wrong at supersonic speed is way more then sub sonic, amongst many other reasons. It’s disappointing but the technology of making flying at that speed more AFFORDABLE is simply not here…

True caller

@Dan thanks for adding another great fleet to Dansdeals, this is an awesome short to the point article.
Your site is really becoming a one stop shop where myself and many other people who share most of your values can get, credit card & miles advice, great deals, awesome trip notes & advice, and some great news as well. Keep going

Just to add my 2 cents, if Walmart wants to compete with Amazon I would advice that they speedup & simplify their site, although, I do find that when looking for the cheapest of certain items I’ll be more successful on Walmart than Amazon, as on Amazon I’ll get thousands of unrelated items in the search.

EC

Totally agree about the Amazon search…for a company that leads the world in innovative thinking and product delivery, not to mention DD finds on so many discounted prices, they are less than zero on their search capabilities. Ebay, Craigslist, and department store websites do a much better job. I am very frustrated when trying to find a specific item, only to see a flood of junk appear on the screen, and no way to pare it down. And worse, sometimes the item shows up on a later page! Why not give the consumer a more distinct, smart search experience? They need to change this; do they really think they’re successfully getting us to “see” so much more and therefore buy more? I think not.

BK

The write up about you being the mayor of Lakewood (in the yated) should have been featured !

Texas Totty

Any way to see that online? No Yated where I live.

pointer

“The Waldorf last week using Hilton points. It was a decent stay, but not worthy of the paid rates they charge.”

Do you recommend a different points hotel in LA?

Texas Totty

They should move the Israeli company developing the vaccine to the West Bank. We’ll see what happens to the UN ban.

There’s actually a lot more money Bloomberg could give out being that 150nmillion of us were killed by guns on the streets.

LA Yid

Thank you Dan. Very enjoyable read!!!

Jak

Love this!

News worth reading

Thanks Dan
And have a Happy, happy Purim!

Zx

What happens if you need to cancel a flight that was booked with Amex travel? Waited on hold for over an hour. Will they refund due to Coronavirus?

Abraham

I’ll upgrade for bunk beds. Why not? Who needs a seat?!

yy

United is flying EWR-MXP? How does that work with the lockdown of northern Italy?

Elli

Breaking News: Israeli government announces anyone arriving in Israel from anywhere will need to enter a 14 day quarantine.

EC

The link for Choice Hotels doesn’t seem to work… maybe this one will: https://www.choicehotels.com/deals/free-night

wpDiscuz