The last few updates have focused on COVID-19, so I figured it’s time for other stories that didn’t get their own post, but should get some coverage. Here are some quick takes on stories that caught my eye.
Table of Contents
Featured Trip Reports Of The Day
- DDF Trip Report:
DDF member PBaruch’s natural habitat is on the Big Island of Hawaii, but in this trip report he took on Oahu and Maui.
Red sand beach in Hana, Maui:
But even with a Maui trip, he couldn’t help sneaking the Big Island in there.
Here’s the lush Waipio valley, where Mimi and I went on a memorable horseback ride on our honeymoon
And what’s the Big Island without some lava:
- DD Trip Report:
Rafi reminded me last Sunday of the amazing Father’s Day trip we took a few years ago in a free private jet to watch the Indians in Minneapolis.
That’s what we need during these crazy times, the return of free private jet travel, c’mon JetSmarter! 😀
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I'm not sure how I could have scripted this 6th birthday and Father's day trip any better. Rafi, wearing a @JasonKipnis22 jersey, was tossed a Father's day baseball by Kipnis during the @Indians game and he came over to sign it and take a picture with him after the game! Plus the Tribe completed the 4 game sweep! #RollTribe
The New LaGuardia Will Only Be Recognizable By Its Delays
$4 billion has been spent and the pictures are stunning. It’s clearly no 3rd world country anymore and there’s no doubt that it will be a much better place to wait out a flight delay, whether it’s in the terminal or in a post-security lounge.
Here’s a neat video into the making of the new LaGuardia:
Alas LaGuardia’s infamous flight delays are inevitable as they didn’t add a runway in the project, they merely added lipstick onto a pig. But hey, at least those delays will be more comfortable!
The only question now is, how long will it be until the new terminal is obsolete?
Should El Al Be Saved?
Labor relations at the airline are so poor that it doesn’t seem possible for the airline to shrink as the government wants in exchange for a bailout.
El Al has refused multiple government bailout offers as they want a bailout with fewer strings attached.
Today, passengers are booking away from El Al as they won’t get a timely refund if their flight is cancelled as they would on US carriers. They’re even paying a big premium to avoid El Al.
The answer to the mess that is El Al seems obvious. Close down the shop, get rid of the impossible labor agreements, and start again from scratch with a new customer friendly attitude and a mileage program that is both rewarding, easy to use, and profitable. It can be done, but it will require a visionary and aviation veteran to pull it off. May I suggest Gordon Bethune? 🙂
Instead, what will happen is that the airline will continue to be poorly managed, will lose money, and will keep going back to the government for handouts.
Is This The Beginning Of The End For Hong Kong?
Despite having been granted Hong Kong and Kowloon in perpetuity, the UK handed them back to China in 1997 in exchange for a guarantee from China that freedoms would remain in place for 50 years.
With the world’s eyes on the pandemic, Beijing is ironing out the details on a law that will override Hong Kong’s autonomy. China will be allowed to extradite Hong Kongers as it sees fit.
While in 1997 Hong Kong made up 18% of China’s GDP, that number has fallen to just 2-3%. That means US threats to terminate Hong Kong’s special trading status may not have a material effect on China’s economy.
Hong Kong citizens are preparing to flee before it’s too late. Places like Taiwan are happy to welcome them.
Wirecard’s Shocking Collapse
Wirecard was Germany’s big tech success story. It processed payments and promised a utopian mobile future while raking in big profits.
But like Enron and Theranos, it appears to be all a big scam and the firm is likely to go under. Billions of dollars in cash balances that the firm said they had don’t actually exist.
The Financial Times has been questioning the legitimacy of the business for years and the video on the bottom of this timeline is shocking.
German regulators banned short selling and investigated reporters rather than investigating allegations against the firm.
Ernst & Young audited Wirecard’s finances for over a decade and somehow they missed the most basic auditing step, confirming cash balances are legitimate. Will this be their Arthur Anderson moment, which went under after Enron’s collapse?
It’s scary how auditors could have missed an alleged scam this big and it’s a wake up call for anyone invested in equities that what’s here today can be gone tomorrow, even if the future looks bright on paper.
Here’s Why It’s Tougher To Get Approved For A Credit Card These Days
Many people have noticed that banks are getting much tougher to approve new credit card accounts these days. Some cards, like Chase business cards, have gotten extremely tough. Banks are also closing down inactive credit cards that haven’t been used in the past year.
AMEX is concerned that there will be a big jump in unemployment when CARES Act funding runs out. More unemployment will mean more defaults. While credit card banks love it when people make minimum payments with interest, defaults are no good.
Until that picture starts to look rosier, they have pulled back on card approvals. Other banks have done the same.
Cathay Pacific Will Live To See Another Day
Cathay has been in trouble since protests erupted last year and COVID-19 threatened to kill the premium airline.
The bailout will save the airline for now, but can a premium carrier like Cathay Pacific survive in a Hong Kong that may never fully recover?
Using Alaska miles to fly in Cathay First Class is one of the my favorite redemptions with a ultra-comfortable seat and bed that has no rival in the sky, but somehow I doubt Cathay First will be able to survive, even if the airline does.
Will Loyalty Programs Party Like It’s 2010?
Airlines and hotels successfully climbed out of the great recession on the back of their strong loyalty programs.
They spent the past decade of plenty devaluing those programs time and time again.
Clever and addictive loyalty programs became frequent shopper clubs when airlines stopped awarding miles based on miles flown.
Now there is little reason for most travelers to remain loyal.
Ravindra Bhagwanani, managing director of Global Flight, writes that now is the time to rewind the clock. The travel industry is facing years of pain to get back to where they were. If some airlines are willing to roll back devaluations, customers will flock their way.
We can only hope that some airlines are willing to try.
Spirit Is Fined $350K For Bumping Scheme
If an airline can’t find volunteers to get bumped when a flight is oversold, they need to pay up in cold hard cash.
But not all passengers know of their rights and the DOT has fined Spirit $350K for taking advantage of bumped passengers. Spirit had the passengers sign papers that they were voluntarily bumped and gave them vouchers rather than cash for being involuntarily bumped.
Friends don’t let friends fly Spirit.
LATAM Argentina Is Kaput
Argentina is a tough aviation market. The country has struggled economically for the entire 21st century. Regulations on currency and fares make it hard to compete with state owned Aerolineas Argentinas. And aviation is shutdown due to COVID-19.
Our experience with Aerolineas was quite poor and I was quite sure that I was going to be arrested while flying them. But LATAM Argentina was even worse, bumping off members of our group unceremoniously without any compensation.
Norwegian tried opening an Argentine airline, but they exited that business as well.
When it comes to getting around Argentina, your options are now Aerolineas or the highway.
You’ll Need Gloves And A Mask To Fly Aeroflot
While most airlines are requiring a mask, Aeroflot requires passengers to wear gloves and a mask for the duration of the flight.
Additionally, they are requiring passengers to replace their mask every 3 hours. Passengers won’t be allowed to leave their seats except to go to the bathroom and you can only bring food onboard that is in a sealed package.
Am I the only one that thinks those gloves will be even grosser than people’s hands? I think that I’d rather stay home.
Will Airbus Start Suing Their Customers?
Airlines are in trouble as it is with parked planes and low ticket sales.
But taking on new planes that were ordered in previous years is a tough pill to swallow, especially as many will go right into the parking lot.
But Airbus warned airlines that it’s not their problem and they will sue airlines if they refuse delivery of previously ordered planes.
It’s not everyday that you see companies threatening to sue their customers in public, but these are hardly normal times.
Qantas Will Retire Their 747 Fleet, Will They Do The Same For Their A380s?
Qantas released their recovery plan and sadly, all of their 747s will be retired.
Mimi and I spent a month flying around the world in 2010 and had an amazing time flying in Qantas and Cathay Pacific first class on their 747s. Sadly, those are both gone for good.
Qantas is also unsure if or when they will bring back their A380s. Jumbo jets and COVID-19 are just not a very good combination. If the A380s are also retired it will mean the end of first class and indeed the end of an era for Qantas.
Italy Is Banning Large Carry-On Bags
Italy is banning large carry-ons as they will ban the use of overhead compartments on domestic and international flights for “health reasons.”
You can still have a personal item under the seat in front of you, but larger items will have to be checked under the plane.
Remind me not to pick a bulkhead seat when I fly from Italy!
AMEX Is Expanding Some Centurion Lounges
Centurion lounges are all closed due to COVID-19, but some will be expanding.
The Las Vegas lounge was the original Centurion lounge in 2013 and it was intended to be free only for Centurion Black cardholders. That strategy changed after AMEX lost access to American, Continental, and USAirways lounges. The lounges did downscale when they started offering free access to Platinum cardholders and stopped offering free kosher meals and top-flight booze, but they remained better than most airline lounges.
A new Centurion lounge will also open in LaGuardia, blissfully post-security this time.
AMEX is also delaying the opening of new Centurion lounges in Denver, JFK, and London from this summer to sometime later this year.
Points Hotels Shakeup In French Polynesia
French Polynesia is high on my bucket list and Moorea is considered one of the prettiest islands in the world.
A good points hotel option there has been the InterContinental Moorea Resort & Spa. Alas that hotel has closed for good due to COVID-19.
Meanwhile, Marriott’s Le Meridien Bora Bora has decided to take the travel shutdown to renovate. They will be closed until 2022 as the hotel spruces things up.
A $1MM+ Treasure Chest Has Been Found
Over the years I’ve read several stories of people trying to find the Fenn treasure chest buried in the Rocky Mountains.
Some doubted it was real, but after more than a decade of thousands of treasure hunters looking for it, the treasure was finally found.
Like a smart lotto winner, the finder hasn’t come forward, but hopefully he can anonymously share more information on the thrill of the hunt and how he found it. Or maybe the finder will be selling the movie rights instead for a 2nd windfall?
Is The Office Dead And What Will That Mean For Cities?
There has been talk of that for years, but coronavirus sure seems to have accelerated that discussion.
Major cities command a huge premium on housing due to emplyees needing to live close to major companies, but if you’re free to work anywhere, will that encourage more people to decamp to places with a lower cost of living?
Remind Me Not To Speak Poorly About eBay
6 former eBay employees were indicted for harassing a couple that ran a news site which was critical of eBay.
“The former employees are accused of sending threatening messages to the couple, as well as unsolicited packages including a mask meant to look like a bloody pig, fly larvae, live spiders and a box of cockroaches. According to court documents, they also posted the couple’s address to Craigslist and invited singles, couples and swingers to knock on their door “any time of day or night.” Prosecutors also accused several of the former employees of flying from California to the couple’s home in Massachusetts to “surveil” them, and even of attempting to break into their garage to install a GPS tracker on their vehicle.”
eBay’s former communications chief said in a text message, “We are going to crush this lady.”
I guess I’ll know if someone high up at eBay is reading these roundups if I get cockroaches in the mail?
A 20 Year Old Took His Own Life After Seeing A $730K Robinhood Loss
In a very sad story, a 20 year old took his life after getting into $730K of debt using the Robinhood stock trading platform.
It’s a cautionary tale of what can go wrong when someone with no income is given the ability to lose that kind of money on an app that gamifies stock trading. It’s possible that the number represented only a temporary balance, but it was enough to scare the young man.
Like I said when our friend Jonelle passed away last year, “It says in Koheles that he who lives should take it to heart. I hope that if anyone reading this is going through turmoil in their own life that they speak to a professional as quickly as possible before making a decision that can’t be undone.”
It Sure Sounds Like Carlos Ghosn Was Set Up
We may never know what really happened with Carlos Ghosn and if he committed fraud at Nissan.
But email correspondence sure seems to indicate that he was set up as Nissan did not want to be beholden to Renault.
Mr. Ghosn pulled off the escape of the century as he felt he wouldn’t get a fair trial in Japan. That’s probably true, but it also means he’ll probably be stuck in Lebanon for the rest of his life.
Meanwhile, Greg Kelly was also tricked into returning to Japan and he remains stuck there awaiting trial on a case that won’t have its primary suspect. Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place.
The Last Person To Receive A Civil War Pension Dies
This story really surprised me, a child of a Civil War veteran dying in 2020?!?
But sure enough, Irene Triplett’s father served in the Civil War, fighting for the Confederacy before defecting and fighting for the Union.
It was made possible as her father was 83 years old when she was born in 1930, married to someone 50 years his junior thanks to his Civil War pension.
Irene’s monthly pension? A whopping $73.13. And with her death, Civil War pensions have come to an end.
Goodbye To The Segway
The original Segway never did live up to its hopes and dreams. And after 20 years, production is being shut down.
Its only real success came from tourists and police, and the pandemic was likely the nail in the coffin.
I remember seeing it marketed on Amazon as the next big thing, but that never materialized.
Still, I have fond memories of Segway rides around the world and it’s one of my favorite ways to explore a city. I dated my wife Mimi on a Segway in Kansas City. I’ve explored Paris and Amsterdam on thrilling Segway tours.
I for one, will sure miss them when they’re gone.
Goofing around with AJK on Segways in Amsterdam.
A 2013 DDF DO in Chicago:
Goodbye To Olympus Cameras
After 84 years, Olympus is exiting the camera business. It’s tough to compete in a world where people all have smartphones.
My first digital camera was from Olympus and it was great, though they used a proprietary XD memory card that wound up haunting them for years in the nascent digital camera market.
The Ultimate Copy/Paste Fail?
Always a good idea to have a local double-check your translation and copy/pasting skills before selling a mask that’s supposed to say NYC Strong in Yiddish, but gets flipped from left to right in the process to say something completely different…
Travel Withdrawal? Take A 3D Tour Of United Planes
Click on 3D view via the links above to take a tour!
A Qantas Parody Video On Social Distancing
Via Gary, here’s what most airlines really mean when they talk about social distancing on a plane.
Get Your Kids To Learn The Science Of Aviation With JetBlue Jr:
Share your thoughts on these stories or post a comment about other stories that I missed!
Catch up on what you missed!
- COVID-19 News Roundup 5/25/20: Super-Spreaders, Second Wave, Immunity Passports, El Al In Turkey, Worldwide Restrictions Roundup, Amare Stoudemire, And More
- COVID-19 News Roundup 5/12/20: Distancing On A Plane, De Blasio, OU Kosher PSA, True Number Of Deaths, Murder Hornets, Free Eilat Flights, Goodbye $10,000 Bumps, And More
- COVID-19 News Roundup 4/5/20: Shifting Origin Story, Billionaires Doing Good, Plague Of Wild Animals, Trapped Away From Home, Chicken Soup For The Soul+More
- COVID-19 News Roundup 3/14/20: New Travel Bans, Airline Suspensions, Israel Shutdowns, An Alternate COVID Approach, JetBlue Ban, TSA Changes, Poll, And More
- 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
- Sunday News Roundup 2/23/20: Flight Denied Entry To Israel, E-PASS Transponder, Venice #Bonvoyed, MLB, Points Scam, Drone Dome, $10K Bump, Cuba Trip, And More!
- Sunday News Roundup 2/16/20: New US Airlines, Cruise Quarantines, #Reclinegate, Yiddish Harry Potter, Aeroplan Infant Awards, And More!
- Sunday News Roundup 2/2/20: Coronavirus, RIP Kobe, Something Smells At American, Super Bowl Saturday, Stuck In Iran, 15K Lie-Flat Transcon, And More!
- Sunday News Roundup 1/19/20: Pilotless Flights, El Al Diversion, Mobile Boarding Passes, MLB Cheating, Handy Credit Card, United Backdoor Link, And More!
- Sunday News Roundup 1/5/20: Kosher Thailand Hotel, Mexican Jail Mileage Run, Jeopardy GOAT, Fugitive Ex-Nissan CEO Escape, EgyptAir Coverup, And More!
- Sunday News Roundup 12/22/19: #KosherAntarctica Cruise, The Residence, AA Shutdowns, TWA, Amazon Israel, NY Small Claims Change, United Cape Town, Backdoor Marriott Links+More!
- Sunday News Roundup 12/15/19: Jersey City Terror, TLV Hotel, Bonvoyed, Protect Your Ring, Check Your Passwords, And More!
- Sunday News Roundup 12/8/19: 8 Quick Takes On Travel; DansDeals Interview, Falklands Tanya, Aegean Devaluation, Travel “Nightmare,” Airline Meals, Near NFL Forfeit, And More!
- Sunday News Roundup 11/24/19: 10 Quick Takes On Travel; Phone Charging Scam, AMEX Loves Sapphire, Making Amtrak Great Again, Hyatt Private Island, And More
- Sunday News Roundup 11/17/19: 12 Quick Takes On Aviation And Travel; Dubious Marriott Claims, TWA Ice Rink, A380 Failure, Mileage Ban, And More
- Sunday News Roundup 11/3/19: 9 Quick Takes On What’s Going On In Aviation And Travel; Airbnb Scam, Cathay’s Tel Aviv Plans, United Plays Dirty, 747 Farewell, LAX Uber Disaster, And More
- Sunday News Roundup 10/27/19: 11 Quick Takes On What’s Going On In Aviation, Credit, And Deals That You Should Know About