Sunday News Roundup 6/28/20: New LGA, El Al Bailout, Hong Kong, Credit Card Approvals, Goodbye Qantas 747s, Buried Treasure, And More

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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.

View previous roundups and commentary here.

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.

Hawaii reopens to tourists in August.

Red sand beach in Hana, Maui:

 

Whale watching:

 

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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#FathersDay #FatherSonGetaway #FreeTrip on the #JetSmarter #PJ

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#LetsCatchTwo #FatherSonGetaway #RollTribe

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The New LaGuardia Will Only Be Recognizable By Its Delays

The new LaGuardia has opened and boy what a difference there is from the old LaGuardia central terminal.

$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!

Credit: governorandrewcuomo, via flickr

 

The only question now is, how long will it be until the new terminal is obsolete?

Should El Al Be Saved?

A Jerusalem Post op-ed asks the obvious question, 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.

Haaretz examines how the airline was doomed even before coronavirus.

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.

Leader Carrie Lam has done the city no favors.

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.

The UK has stated that they will offer Hong Kong citizens a path to UK citizenship if China passes the new law.

Hong Kong citizens are preparing to flee before it’s too late. Places like Taiwan are happy to welcome them.

With a financial economy that has bled talent to cities like Singapore and Tokyo and with China breathing down Hong Kong’s neck, it sure seems like the city’s glory days may be behind it.

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

Hong Kong bailed out hometown airline Cathay Pacific to the tune of $5 billion.

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.

With LATAM in bankruptcy, it’s no wonder that they are pulling the plug on LATAM Argentina.

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.

The Vegas lounge will be expanded with completion estimated next year.

AMEX also plans on opening a much larger lounge in Seattle.

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?

Major tech companies are talking about moving a large percentage of their workforce to full time work from home.

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

What a strange story this is!

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 even investigated what their CEO knew about the operation.

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

United now has 3D views of their 787-10, 777-300ER, 737-900, and CRJ-550.

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!

Previous roundups

Catch up on what you missed!

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25 Comments On "Sunday News Roundup 6/28/20: New LGA, El Al Bailout, Hong Kong, Credit Card Approvals, Goodbye Qantas 747s, Buried Treasure, And More"

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t g

I GUESS NYC IS THE OPPOSITE OF STRONG. SAD

Abraham

+10

Ed

Is there a continuation for Antarctica notes? I read through part 4 but there’s no link to continue from there.
Makes a very enjoyable read!!

Z

Thank you Dan love these roundups, want to make sure I am understanding correctly Cathay 1st is gone for good?

TravelBloggerBuzz

My sources say that Ghosn was set up, no doubt!

Thank you sir

Good stuff as always. Thanks for doing these!

Yankel

Thanks dan! Really great keep them comings

Mendy

+tons

Gemarakop

One day el al will learn that just because a guy can fly planes in the air force it doesn’t mean he can run an aviation company

Shmoogrr

Thanks dan, beautifully done

Dan Fan

Thank you Dan, great read, as always!

Glushtygiz

Class act by Kipnis.
How does ernst and young let that happen.
And why Lebanon

Mogr

Amazing how even airlines still continue explaining lift (how planes fly) mostly wrongly. It’s a complicated subject, but the methods explained in the Jet blue video only accounts for a very small percentage of lift and isn’t the main factor.

Heshy

Thank you for describing the world outside my bubble!

Dave

Valid point about LGA. I don’t typically travel LGA, but I completely didn’t think about how their infamous delays will likely still continue, regardless of how much they spend “pretty’ing up” the terminals, toilets, and bar stools. I use EWR, and they are building a brand new terminal A. I’m sure if someone sneezes or blinks the wrong way, they will still have those 3-4 hour afternoon delays.

chaim
Abraham

In Fact the word Covid-19 is only mentioned 5 times in the article. Great!

Sz

Great post!
The NYC mask is the funniest!! Lol

jojo

Thanks Dan. Loved the Quantas video

Mendy

# metoo

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