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!

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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:

DDF member Something Fishy’s trip reports are legendary and this 2016 trip report to Cuba with 2 other DDF members is no exception.

Photo: whYME
Photo: Moishie Hersko
Photo: Moishie Hersko
Photo: Moishie Hersko


  • DD Trip Report:

The most fun I’ve ever had on a plane was flying United’s 747 retirement flight from San Francisco to Honolulu. If only all flights were like this one!


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#GoldenGateBridge #Flyby #UA747Farewell

A post shared by DansDeals (@dansdeals) on



Seoul-Tel Aviv Route Suspended After Israel Rejects Korean Air Flight After Landing

Korean Air flight 957 departed Seoul on Saturday at 2:28pm local time and arrived in Ben Gurion Airport at 7:44pm yesterday.

It didn’t stay long. Israel decided to refuse entry to all 200 foreign nationals on the flight and kept them on the plane due to Coronavirus fears. The 12 Israelis onboard were allowed into Israel and sent home in ambulances for a 2 week self-quarantine. The flight left Israel less than 2 hours after it landed.

Korean Air has cancelled flights to Israel until at least the end of March.

Israel confirmed that 9 South Koreans who tested positive for Coronavirus toured Israel earlier this month. Some 180 Israeli students are being quarantined due to exposure to the group.

This comes after Cathay Pacific and El Al suspended flights between Israel and Beijing and Hong Kong.

Non-Israelis who have visited China, Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, or Thailand in the past 2 weeks are not welcome into the country.

El Al was slated to start flying nonstop to Tokyo starting on March 11, but that seems extremely unlikely to happen with Coronavirus spreading throughout Japan and with the ban on foreign nationals who have been to Japan recently. El Al will also likely suspend flights to Bangkok.

Israel is risking diplomatic ties with Asian countries over the foreign national bans, but it stresses that it cares more about keeping its citizens safe.

Surely it also wants to keep its lucrative tourism sector safe for visitors from North America and Europe.

But the real question is can the world really avoid community spread of Coronavirus at this point?

Trade In Your E-ZPASS For An E-PASS Xtra To Pay Tolls From New York To Florida

A major pain point of toll transponders is that they don’t work across the country. They were supposed to years ago…

Flying into Miami and renting a car is always a pain as you’ll get slammed with massive fees for using a rental car’s toll transponder for the airport road toll.

A reader sent me a link to E-PASS Xtra and it looks great! It works throughout the Northeast, Midwest, and down to Florida as well. “E-PASS Xtra is fully compatible with E-PASS, SunPass, LeeWay, PeachPass, NC QuickPass, E-ZPass, RiverLink, I-PASS and FastPass toll systems.”

Having one toll account for all of that sounds awesome!

Of course some states provide discounts for their residents on local tolls, so you’ll still be stuck with 2 transponders. But at least this one is easy to get and free to maintain.

Do you have an E-PASS Xtra?

Goodbye To An Excellent Marriott Points Hotel Option In Venice

Mimi and I spent a Shabbos in Venice a decade ago and it was truly magical. Venice should definitely be a bucket list item for everyone.

Marriott’s category 6 Grand Hotel Del Dogi is located less than 1/3rd of a mile from Chabad of Venice, which hosts excellent Shabbos meals. That’s an incredible location for a points hotel.

Alas, they are leaving Marriott on May 1st along with Rome’s Palazzo Naiadi, Budapest’s New York Palace, and Prague’s Carlo IV.

DD reader Harry writes that they are honoring his points bookings made for after May 1st, but they won’t honor any elite benefits.

AMEX Centurion Lounge In Charlotte Opens Tomorrow

AMEX is opening a lounge in Charlotte 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.

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

Currently, there are Centurion Lounges in:

  • 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 Charlotte, Denver, London, Los Angeles, and 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.

Capital One Will Open Their First Airport Lounge

Capital One is just full of surprises ever since they started allowing points to be transferred into airline miles.

Capital One will open their own branded airport lounge in Washington DC/IAD in 2021. We’ll have to see which cards will give access to it.

It’s great to see more banks get into the lounge space. Your move, Chase and Citi. 😀

United and Chase Extend Their Exclusivity 

United and Chase already had an exclusivity agreement for the United co-branded credit cards through 2025, but United was unhappy with the terms of that deal. United complained that the Chase Ultimate Rewards cards are so good that people weren’t using their own cards.

They have reached a new agreement that will pay United more starting immediately, and will include exclusivity through 2029.

I’d guess that we’ll see annual fees on premium cards like the United Club cards climb.

The real question will be if Chase and United can find a way to make their co-brand cards more competitive for spending. They offer great benefits for having them, but there aren’t many good places to actually use the cards.

Baseball Is Having A Really Bad Off-season

What an off-season for the national pastime…

First MLB confirmed what everyone knew, the Astros cheated to win the 2017 World Series trophy.

Next came rumors that Astros hitters actually used wearable buzzers to cheat.

Somehow the franchise and players escaped any major punishment, though I think they should at least be forced to revert to the original name of their ballpark, Enron Field.

Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred, already facing heat for failing to discipline players, then called his game’s highest honor, the World Series Trophy, “a piece of metal.”

Players across baseball are livid that the Astros will keep their trophy and even LeBron James got involved in calling out Mr. Manfred.

Instead of fixing that problem, Mr. Manfred announced new rules requiring relief pitchers to face a minimum of 3 batters and a silly new format for baseball playoffs including a reality style TV show where teams pick their opponents.

You know things are bad when Trevor Bauer, the pitcher who arguably cost the Indians the 2016 trophy by goofing around with a drone and who found a one-way ticket out of Cleveland by throwing a ball over the center field fence during a temper tantrum, makes more sense than the commissioner of baseball:


Baseball turned into gimmicks and jokes this off-season. Never thought I’d say this, but can we have Bud Selig back?

Japanese Mother And Son Rack Up The Points, Learn The Hard Way That Pigs Get Fat and Hogs Get Slaughtered.

When someone on DDF posts about a loophole, I often remind them that PGFHGS, or pigs get fat and hogs get slaughtered.

A Japanese mother and son figured out that they could rack up millions of points by booking hotels and cancelling them as some hotels rewarded points despite the cancellation.

Sure, you could discover that by accident and do it a few times without anyone being the wiser. But do that for 3,200 stays while racking up millions of points and you’re bound to get caught. They now face charges in a country with a 99.9% conviction rate.

American Just Keeps On Proving That They Are The Worst

It seems like every time I fly American I’m reminded why I hate flying American.

The WSJ agrees that AA is the worst:

But this story just makes me angry. Their agents seem to take pride in causing problems where problems shouldn’t exist:


And then comes the form letter responses:


And when a real live human actually responds, the compensation is a measly 10,000 miles. Not nearly enough for a replacement first class seat. How pathetic.

United Is Doubling Down On The Awesome CRJ-550

United’s solution to their long-time problems of flying awful 50 passenger planes due to being capped out of additional 70/76 passenger planes was the brilliant CRJ-550. They ripped 20 seats out of the plane to make for a truly spacious flying experience with closets onboard for baggage.

The pilot union thought that United was bluffing and would never move forward with the CRJ-550, but it has been wildly popular with passengers and United has announced that they will add 20 more to their fleet. In turn, they will be able to add 20 more of the comfortable 70/76 seat ERJ-170/175s to their fleet as well.

I haven’t yet flown the CRJ-550, but hope to soon. Hopefully United will eventually be able to phase out the miserable CRJ-200 and ERJ-145s from their fleet entirely!

The Latest Boeing 737MAX Fiasco: Debris In Fuel Tanks

Will Boeing’s 737MAX problems ever end?

Boeing has found debris in 737MAX fuel tanks. That will push back the timeline for the plane’s return to service even further.

Not that I’m looking forward to the return. I’m sure the 737MAX will be the safest airplane ever once it’s re-certified, but I’ll try to avoid it as it will remain an uncomfortable plane due to airlines packing in more seats than ever with miserably tiny bathrooms.

Etihad’s Terrifying A380 Landing In London

Etihad’s pilots managed to bring this A380 safely down during London’s Storm Dennis, caught in this crazy video:


But while some have praised the landing, many pilots and Etihad themselves have criticized the pilots for not going around,

“This official view from the Training Department is a simple one – THIS IS NOT WHAT WE WANT TO SEE. There is a time to give an approach away in the interest of safety.”

Israel’s Drone Dome Is INSANE!

Move over Iron Dome.

This is straight out of Star Wars. Drones can be used to attack Israel, so Israel has figured out how to shoot them out of the sky with a laser. Amazing!


No word on whether you can buy one of these to shoot your nosy neighbor’s drone out of the sky 😉

Another Way To Get From Manhattan To Boston

Forget the train or the airport. You will soon be able to take a one hour seaplane from E. 23rd St in Manhattan to Boston operated by Cape Air. The maximum capacity will be 9 passengers and TSA screening won’t be required.

Flights should start next month and will cost about $400. But, will we be able to use miles to fly?

Airport Security Manager Falls For Gift Card Scam, Loses Job

I’ve never understood how people can fall for scams asking for gift card codes over the phone or email.

OK, I guess if you’re 92 years old, you get a pass.

But if you’re the an airport security manager and fall for it, I’m sorry, but you deserve to get fired!

Nostalgia: “Tell Me” Is Still Around

Back in the days before we carried around the internet in our pockets there was “Tell Me.” You could call the 800 number for sports scores, the weather, and so much more.

A day didn’t go by in high school when I didn’t call it.

The number stopped working years ago, but DDF member thebudgetdeals points out that you can still access it by calling 866-895-3124. I can’t say it’s useful for me anymore, but it was fun dialing in and traveling 20 years back in time.

PSA: Hyatt Won’t Extend Or Convert Chase Free Nights

I’ve had success getting Hyatt to convert free category 1-4 nights into 10K points or free category 1-7 nights into 20K points. You need to wait until after the nights have expired in order to request points.

Alas I learned the hard way that Hyatt is no longer doing that for anniversary nights issued by Chase. Bummer.

$10,000 To Downgrade From Business To Economy Plus To Hawaii? Where Do I Sign Up?

Ever since the Dr. Dao incident, United ramped up the compensation they offer to get bumped before a flight.

Yesterday, United swapped a 767-400 for a 767-300 from Newark to Honolulu, resulting in a loss of 9 business class seats. The old United would have just shifted those 9 passengers to coach, but the new United offered a whopping $10,000 each in United vouchers to voluntarily downgrade to Economy Plus.

I’d take that windfall in a heartbeat, especially on a non red-eye, even if the 30 remaining passengers do get real Polaris seating on the route.

It looks like United is swapping out tomorrow’s Newark to Honolulu flight again from a 767-400 to a 767-300 and first class is showing full. If you’re flying to Hawaii tomorrow, get ready to jump at a sweet offer!



United’s New Travel Campaign Pictures Are Kind Of Awesome

These photoshopped images are designed to inspire wanderlust. I was born with a few extra helpings of that, but these images sure work on me!

Click here for the full set of images.

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

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36 Comments On "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!"

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Keep surprising us 😉


Interesting about the seaplane is that originally it was thought that airtravel was going to be all by seaplanes due to the waterways being the most logical airports as they were already hubs for ship travel


Love these Roundup posts! That ezpass xtra looks really neat!


Thanks for the tip about the E-Pass, although since you have to keep 2 passes anyway to get the discount in the respective states, it’s no better than SunPass. BTW, be sure your other pass is left at home or in an RF-protective pouch.


NICE!! Thanks Dan !!!

The Mel

Ouch! I’m on the flight ewr-hnl tomorrow but didn’t take the upgrade on this leg- I was saving for the red eye flight back which needs the lay flat! Guess that was an error. The United app still shows the -400 but I’ll find out soon enough.

FYI- Chabad of Hawaii is not serving meals this shabbos and it looks like they will be moving soon. A shame as I always stay in the ala Moana- convenience and location over points for business travel for me.


What line of work are you in that you have to fly to Hawaii so often? Sign Me Up


Dan, I have flown the CRJ-550 from ORD – GRR and it is an awesome plane!! There’s tons of room and plenty of room for carry on luggage. It was a really short flight (45 minutes) and I didn’t want it to be over. It also helped that I got upgraded to first… I dread the flights I have to take on the 145 and the 200 they are terribly cramped and uncomfortable.


when you mean hyatt nights given by chase you mean the hyatt chase credit card?


NC QUICKPASS(north Carolina) may be a better choice as the cost for the transponder is lower.


Dan, as always thanks for these post really enjoyable read!

real sad that an airline like allegiant can have better performance the JetBlue united,

united also dropped quite significantly, but i guess u have more beef with american…


How’s Spirit so high up there?? Better then JetBlue? United?


To each their own, but I’d think one would have their head in the sand if they didn’t realize that Jetblue has been declining in the past few years with on-time performance, slough of all these fees, and usually higher prices fares. I really dislike Spirit and am alright with United (from EWR), but for the life of me can’t understand why booking Spirit’s Big Front Seat is still often cheaper than a Basic economy (assigned seat) on JB. Certainly on-time arrivals JB is equal or worse than many of the Spirit and United flights I’ve taken. ~~ I feel like Spirit originally starting the lousy “business” of charging for carry-ons, but Jetblue has gave birth to the idea of the $25 to $30 to $35 checked bag fees, and other domestic airlines followed suit.


When will Israel ban flights from Italy?


Here’s my 2 cents on the integrity of professional sports. 2 years ago when the Raptors played the Cavs in the 3rd round, Kyle Lowry (not a well known name at the time), who is great at taking charges, got completely run over by Mr James. If it was anyone else in the game, it should have been called a charge. But because the league has separate rules for their superstars, it was called a foul on Lowry. Happened twice early in the game. Instead of being 2 fouls on James, which would have stopped him from attacking in a way that was illegal according to the rules, they gave 2 fouls to Lowry. That changed the entire series. Lowry would never put himself in position to take a charge because he knew the calls would unfairly go against him. I’m not sorelosing about the Raptors loss (hey, they got it last year), but the league definitely does not have uniform rules. They change rules in favor of their superstars. Plenty of big stars travel on most of their possessions and would never get called for it. Why is everyone crying that baseball doesn’t have integrity? NBA from the top down doesn’t have uniform rules….


Thank you very much for the info about Tell me. My phone is tagged, without any browser.




Love these posts. Really look forward to em… please keep em coming


That Etihad Landing was insane! I agree should’ve gone around to try again, but the fact that the stuck it on the runway was impressive. Glad to be able to talk about it after that way! Thanks for the great share.


Really love and look forward to these weekly posts.

I worked out a solution ever since discovering a few years back that a sunpass is required more or less right outside the airport in Miami. I purchased a 1 time use sunpass sticker transponder online, and created a sun pass account.

Now every time time I go to Miami I add my rental car (and other family members cars) to the account and it just bills it based on the plate.


Otherwise, if you drive from NYC to Miami Beach, there aren’t any tolls south of Baltimore (assuming you stay on 95 and not take 95 Express or go on the FL Turnpike).


spoke to Epass you need to give them the vehicle license plates number so if renting car from airport you will need to call them with that information it cant be transfer to any car.



“Note: E-ZPass® rates apply only to tags issued by New York E-ZPass Customer Service Center (this includes: MTA Bridges and Tunnels, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, New York State Thruway Authority and New York State Bridge Authority and have tag numbers beginning with 004, 005, 008, 013 or 018). Other E-ZPass customers will pay the Tolls by Mail rate to cross MTA B&T facilities. Anyone, regardless of residency, can open a New York Customer Service Center-issued E-ZPass account.”

The Port Authority bridges and tunnels also only give the “E-ZPass rate” to tags issues in New York or New Jersey.

I know Dan mentioned that some sates offer local discounts but I just want to clarify that he is not only referring to local commuter or carpool discounts discounts but that you would in fact have to pay the full cash/”pay by plate” rate, and those differences are huge!

I would even recommend Floridian Epass Xtra holders to still get a New York issued E-ZPass if they occasionally visit NY (MTA’s tags only require a deposit and preload and have no maintenance fees).

So for NY/NJ drivers this option doesn’t really change anything.


New Jersey EZ Pass devices don’t get any discount on MTA Bridges and Tunnels, they pay full cash price. Likewise, New York EZ Pass devices won’t see any discounts on the NJ Turnpike for off-peak pricing, they will pay peak pricing.


Correct. So between the NJ Turnpike & Port Authority bridges and tunnels discounts New Jersey EZ pass holders also shouldn’t swap it for an Epass Xtra.

So if someone wants a second tag for Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina is there any reason to not just get the old regular Epass (which is cheaper)?


I am a NY resident and besides for the EZ pass tag that I always use, I got myself a sunpass to use in Florida so that I shouldn’t get slapped with the car rentals’ fees