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!

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Featured trip reports of the day:

  • Denverite’s Panama Trip Report single-handedly put Panama on the map for kosher travelers across the globe. I’ve avoided Central America travel for the past few years due to ZIKA concerns, but Panama has been on my bucket list since reading this trip report and it should be on yours too!

 

  • DD trip report:

Seeing a total eclipse in 2017 was something I was totally unprepared for. It’s truly a magnificent sight and is something that everyone should endeavor to see in their lifetime! And boy did we get lucky choosing our location as other nearby locations got clouded out.

On 4/8/24, weather permitting, you’ll be able to see one from Austin, Dallas, Indianapolis, Cleveland, Buffalo, and Montreal.

“Diamond ring” as the moon covers the sun in Boonville, MO, August 2017

 

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.


The OK Spirit Magazine Takes A Look Back At The Kosher Antarctica Cruise

The OK Spirit Magazine (PDF, pages 12-15), takes a look at the some of the craziness that went into operating the first kosher cruise to Antarctica in the 21st century (and first after new strict rules on large cruise ships went into effect in 2009) compared to a 20th century cruise that was supervised by the author’s father.

I have such great memories of the trip and it’s just amazing that everything fell perfectly into place for us. The article is a fun walk back into some of the hairier moments of the kosher logistics.

But, boy do I look like a midget standing next to 6’8″ Moishie Hersko (aka Something Fishy)!

The editor’s note at the end is a bit ironic though. “It is extremely difficult to certify a cruise ship that is not completely dedicated to kosher.”

Of course we wanted to have the cruise be completely kosher, however the catch-22 is that according to Halacha (Jewish law), you can’t go on a cruise over Shabbos if a majority of the passengers are Jewish. As all cruises to Antarctica require you to travel over Shabbos, you have to join a non-kosher cruise for it to be feasible.

That limitation is why we had to close registration with 51 kosher passengers, who all purchased travel within just 1 month of the trip going on sale. Will there be a sequel? I never say never, you can signup for updates here on Something Fishy’s site

We insisted on finding a cruise that departed on a Monday, due to obscure Shabbos restrictions that may or may not still apply today depending on which Rabbi you ask. That perhaps overzealous guarding of the Shabbos wound up expediting our cruise to happen last year on very short notice, but it also wound up saving the entire trip from a disaster of epic proportions. However that’s a story for another time!

I believe that my solution was the ideal compromise for such a trip. We located and used an MK certified caterer to craft a luxury menu and precook the food. He double wrapped, sealed it, and shipped it frozen to Halifax. It was loaded along with a pallet of kosher wine onto the ship during its stop in Canada on its way from the Arctic to the Antarctic. We also brought the caterer, his assistant, and a mashgiach on the trip to make the food presentable for a luxury cruise and make sure that everything remained kosher.


The LA Times Has It Wrong: You Don’t Need To Be Rich To Win At Rewards

An LA Times op-ed claims that credit card companies reward the rich and punish everyone else.

Sure, claiming that the 1% have rigged the system against the 99% is a catchy headline. But it’s a false narrative.

The truth is that education is the most important factor in whether you’ll win at rewards. Through using the strategies that I discuss in my beginner’s guide to credit, you can build your credit even if you’re not rich. The key is knowing how to build your credit and knowing which cards to apply for. After that the rewards will fall into place.

Now you can argue that rich people are more likely to have a better education. But it costs nothing to read this blog, so share it with your friends, rich or poor! 😀


Casey Neistat Flies The Residence

I’ve flown in a lot of cool planes, Singapore’s double suite, Emirates and Etihad shower class, TAM’s entire living room first class, a GV and Global 6000 across the pond, and countless others.

But the residence?

I burned a million miles to be called up to throw the first pitch before game 7 of the World Series, but I’m not burning 3 million miles on a 12 hour flight no matter how cool it looks:

 

Besides, I found Emirates shower suite and service to be far superior to Etihad.

But it was still fun to watch Casey in the Residence, which he got comped because well, he’s Casey:

 

My guess is that the Residence’s days are numbered based on how often it’s available for sale. Hey Etihad, if you’re looking for more people to comp, give me a ring. 😉


AAmerican’s AAdvantage AAudit TeAAms AAre On AA RAAmpage

Bloomberg carries the story of the AA shutting down mileage accounts for alleged abuse.

Historically, American has had the most vicious mileage auditors. If you sell your miles or upgrades, especially via a broker, there’s a good chance that AA will catch up with you and ban you from AAdvantage for life.

Infamous auditors even got nicknames, like Barto, for the being the Darth Vader of frequent flyer miles.

Since then they expanded their scope of who they ban. Several years ago they went after members who signed up for Citi AA credit cards, spent the signup bonus requirement, and then refunded the purchases from that signup bonus requirement.

And now they are going after people who have been using workarounds to signup for too many Citi AA cards. Some people made fake AA accounts to generate mailers that bypass the typical signup bonus waiting period, others bought those mailers, while some people simply signed up for legitimate mailers that they got.

When AA cancels your mileage account, they also cancel award tickets booked from that account. But sometimes they wait to cancel tickets until you’re at the airport or in middle of a trip, just to teach you a lesson. They even did that to people who abuse lifetime AAirpasses that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see a class action lawsuit come out of this, but suing an airline isn’t easy. And AA gives themselves all of the leeway to do whatever they want when they feel like shutting you down.

AA has also shut down people for booking multiple awards for travel at the same time or for using expired credit cards to generate longer holds on tickets.

Why does AA care about miles that Citi is paying them for? I’m told that AA does contribute something when people signup for their credit cards. Plus this is an easy way for them to wipe liabilities off their books while getting rid of customers that aren’t likely to be profitable.

But it’s a scary development. In the past you just had to avoid selling your miles and upgrades if you didn’t want to have them confiscated and your account closed. With airlines and credit card banks developing closer relationships than ever, new worlds are colliding. Will a credit card shutdown in the future mean that your mileage account can also be terminated?

Hopefully not. But in the meantime, brush up on what not to do if you don’t want your credit cards to be shut down.


A Video Tour Of The TWA Hotel

I stayed at the TWA Hotel on opening night, so my poor experience there isn’t really fair.

Truthfully though, you don’t have to stay at the hotel to experience how cool it is. Just stop in and you’ll be transported back to the golden age of commercial air travel. It’s an amazing place to walk around and get lost in. I found all kinds of neat stuff in random places.

Can’t make it there? Watching this video will be the next best thing:

 


Amazon Is Breaking The Israeli Post Office

Haaretz writes how Amazon is overwhelming Israel Post.

Amazon’s contract is worth so much that their packages are getting prioritized over other mail. And that’s just from Amazon sellers in Israel.

Other companies have contracts to fulfill free shipping from Amazon.com to Israelis making orders over $49.

Israelis love Amazon and its one of very few countries with a free shipping deal from Amazon. With free shipping right to your door within the week and prices and service that can’t be found in Israel, it’s no surprise that shipping companies are overwhelmed.

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that Israel’s $75 and under exemption from import taxes will be the casualty of this. Local businesses are surely lobbying for that to be changed, just as US businesses lobbied for sales tax to be applied on Amazon purchases. Then again that didn’t slow down Amazon’s growth in the US and probably won’t in Israel either. Fast free shipping and good customer service is a powerful motivator.


Have We Given Up Too Much Privacy With Our Phones?

The NY Times does a deep dive into cell phone privacy in this first article in a series of just how much of our information is up for sale to anyone who wants it.

As you would expect, there is no privacy. But as we install app after app, we give up more and more privacy. Everywhere you go is now trackable.

Can you imagine what a rogue government can do with this level of information?

But the genie is out of the box. I suppose it’s only a matter of time before Black Mirror’s Nosedive episode turns into real life. And now that I’ve mentioned Nosedive, here’s how Uber is already doing that.


United Will Return To Cape Town, But Flights Won’t Make The Year-Round Cut

When United announced they would launch seasonal service between Newark and Cape Town, they said that they would consider making it year-round if it performed well.

Apparently so far it has not, as the flight will go on hiatus after 3/27/20.

However it will return on 10/25/20 for the local summer season, which is nearly 2 months earlier than the 2019 summer season flight launch. I’d say that’s a good sign and hopefully the season will keep expanding or will run year-round in 2021!


Boeing Will Suspend 737MAX Production

Boeing just has too many 737MAX aircraft awaiting delivery and they will suspend production of the plane next month.

It’s just the latest in a series of bad news coming from Boeing. What’s clear is that Boeing cut far too many corners as they rushed out a low-cost answer to the Airbus A320neo.

The effects have spread to other US suppliers, who also have slowed down or suspended production of 737MAX parts.

The effects are even felt in China, where airlines that were offering $300,000/year for foreign Boeing 737 pilots are now only offering jobs to Airbus pilots.

I’d be shocked if Boeing isn’t able resolve their 737MAX issues in 2020, but I wonder what this sordid saga has done to their long-term prospects.

The Airbus A350 is selling like hotcakes and they can’t make enough A320neos. Rather than wait for a Boeing 797, airlines are buying planes like the Airbus A321XLR. Rather than gambling on the 777-8X, Qantas will use the A350-1000 to fly ultra long-haul routes like Sydney to JFK and London. Boeing may never even build that plane variant now.

Boeing is certainly wounded. Whether they can recover and start innovating once again is the real question, as Airbus is running away with the show.


NYC Small Claims Court Can Now Resolve Disputes Up To $10,000

Lawsuits in civil court are expensive, which makes small claims court an ideal venue for smaller disputes. Previously NYC capped small claims cases at $5,000 but thanks to a new law, you can use small claims court for disputes up to $10,000.

I know of readers who have successfully won $5,000 judgements against airlines and banks in NYC small claims court. Now you can try for twice that.


Helpful Links: Chat With Marriott

Don’t want to call Marriott? Here is a backdoor link to chat with an agent.

Run into a brick wall with Marriott Bonvoy via phone or chat support? Send a direct message to @MBonvoyAssist on Twitter. I’ve found those Marriott reps to be far more competent than any others, but they can take a while to answer.


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

Previous roundups:

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47 Comments On "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!"

All opinions expressed below are user generated and the opinions aren’t provided, reviewed or endorsed by any advertiser or DansDeals.

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Pointer

Thanks for that Marriott chat link!

Juryduty

Typo: “Why does AA card about miles” should be “care”

Shaul Yaakov Morrison

OMAAT pretty much summed up thst the people who are being shut down engaged in fraudulent activity. If you do that, be prepared for a ban.

Debit

The same OMAAT that bragged in Rolling Stones about getting banned from United for fraud and about getting X rated favors from flight attendants in first class?
That’s rich.

Bobby

I think the actual details are more complicated. There are varying levels of people who are getting shutdown:
1. Those who were selling miles who created fake accounts
2. Those who created accounts with fake names to get mailers with codes
3. Those who obtained mailers addressed to real people but used by someone else (sometimes the codes were purchased). However, the person applying used their real credentials, got approved by Citi, and got a bonus. There was no language in the mailers saying the offer was non-transferable. I think this one could be argued that these people shouldn’t be getting shutdown.

Andrew Lock

The TWA Hotel skating rink was a lot of fun.

Confu

Amazon Packages from us can also ship via israel post

as

can i go to small claims court if my american airlines account gets shut down for signing and resgingneg for barclays and citi cards?

Emes

Small claims court in NY will only get you a judgement. Good luck collecting.

cam

Why do you think it would be difficult to get a collection here? Typically it’s hard to get a collection from an indigent person (can’t get blood from a stone) but for a company with an office in the city, like AA, it’d be pretty trivial.

Yandmk

As someone who lives in IL and ordered multiple orders from Amazon US sellers, the Amazon part is a bit inaccurate. Unfortunately, 3 of my 4 packages recently ordered from the US, were shipped through the terribly incompetent Israel Post. The one thing that was shipped with I-parcel, came to my door within about a week. The things shipped with Israel Post took 2-3 weeks to arrive but before the latest date Amazon promised. The only issue – wasn’t to my door!
Other DDF members suggested I switch the phone number in my Amazon profile to my IL number as Israel Post won’t call a foreign number, and don’t deliver without first confirming you’re home.
In every chat with Amazon, I keep begging them to prefer other delivery companies. The upgrades Israel Post has done in the past decade pales in comparison to the volume increase of online orders. It’s disgraceful that I need to go to a post office a half hour walk from my house (obviously I take a bus, but that’s not the point), to wait on a line to pick up the things we ordered at great deals from right here at Dansdeals 🙂

yeshivabucher

@DAN can you list things that will get your mileage account shutdown for each airline?

Qwerty

So u wouldn’t spend 3 mil miles for 12 hour flight…how about 665k points for 24 hours at the muraka @conrad mle ?

Jake

If your a mensch and not a scammer or grifter then you will have no need to fear the AA points police.

FrustrAAted Customer

I had a AAcount shut down temporarily till they could reopen it. In the meantime the flight I needed took off and had to buy the flight last minute with another airline. So even if you don’t scam, it doesn’t take much for AA to audit, and the audit Dept is not open 24 hours, and you cannot call them

HoKo

Was the shutdown part of this recent wave over the past 3 weeks or are you saying this was something that took place a while ago?

Also, what was their rationale for locking it in the first place and what did you need to do to get it unlocked?

Anonn

Thanks for this new weekly roundup series, like it a lot.

DD fan

Dan, We’re you target for 2 months free trial for XO (former jetsmarter) rise membership?

Yisroel

Dan,

regarding your point about the cancellation of the $75 VAT exemption, I’d like to make a few points.

First its a VAT exemption 17% which considering the high import tax, local certification of electronics (Israel’s UL listed) and monopolistic distributors, affects the price not-so-significantly. The import tax exemption is $500.

Second, unlike most global shipping retailers, I am told that Amazon will collect the required taxes owed at checkout. This is much more convenient than getting a call from customs at the port explaining that your package is being held until you pat the required taxes and fees.

Thus even if the $75 exemption is reduced, People will still continue with amazon and pay the VAT for economic reasons.

(cases in point: compare Artscroll book prices Israel and USA – its much more than 17% difference. Electric products with limited markets i.e. sewing machines can be 100-400% more expensive).

Shulammis Saxon

I really enjoyed the TWA hotel “tour” although I wasn’t even born until 1969!

ag

Love the 14ft leg room in Caseys video he really crack me up

M

Lifemiles Avianca site has been down…

jack

as someone living in Israel and made 2 orders from amazon they both came by Israel post earlier then the delivery date and deliverd to the door(with delivery knocking at the door for 15 before i got out of bed to answer) but still took 2 weeks to get here

Jack

At 7am

Jewoogler

Funny how all these articles appeared on hackernews also. Dan, do you read HN?

chaz

keep these roundups coming!
they are informative and entertaining!
thank you GURU.

NC

I have been trying the marriott chat link but it keeps saying: “Your chat request has been canceled because no agents are available.”

Do they have hours/days they are on chat?

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