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The Cuba Travel Boom Goes Bust
March 16, 2017 -- The warning lights about Cuba travel started flashing last month when American Airlines cut frequencies and JetBlue Airways switched to smaller aircraft. This week, to switch metaphors, the floodgates began to close. Two smaller carriers, Silver Airways and Frontier Airlines, announced they were dumping all Cuba flights. How did it all go wrong for Cuba, which was the hot topic of 2015 or 2016? A columnist for the Miami Herald thinks Americans don't like Cuba's politics and that's why we're staying away. But a more likely answer is what I suggested more than a year ago: Cuba has limited appeal beyond Havana, the tourist infrastructure remains backward and there's plenty of warm-weather competition in the Caribbean. Adding to the generally dreary outlook? Barbara Peterson explains why Cuba's national carrier, Cubana, sill cannot fly to the United States.

One Man, One Gun, Five Deaths--and Collateral Travel Damage
Remember Esteban Santiago? Me neither, to be honest. It shows you how quickly the world moves--and forgets. Santiago is the Iraq War vet who flew from Alaska to Fort Lauderdale in January and then opened fire in an FLL baggage claim area. A federal court ruled Tuesday (March 14) that he is mentally fit to stand trial despite obvious mental issues. The 26-year-old, accused of killing five people and injuring six others, has pleaded not guilty to 22 criminal charges. Ironically, just hours before U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom ruled on Santiago's mental competence, the Department of Transportation released its travel report for January. Why is that relevant? The DOT report flagged 30 reports of domestic flights being held on the tarmac longer than three hours and 12 international flights being held more than four hours. Twenty-two of those incidents occurred in Fort Lauderdale on January 6, the day Santiago shot up the airport. Delta Air Lines Flight 1198 from its Detroit hub spent nearly seven hours stuck at Fort Lauderdale without reaching a gate. An Air Canada flight from Toronto spent even more time in limbo (474 minutes) after it landed. The DOT has the authority to fine airlines $27,500 for each flyer held too long on a tarmac. Given the extenuating circumstances, it's hard to believe the DOT will fine the carriers, which also include Southwest, JetBlue, United and WestJet.

Love in the Afternoon at the Hotel
The concept of day-use hotels has largely sputtered in the United States despite the attempts of several Web sites to convince travelers to rent hotel rooms in morning and afternoon periods without an overnight stay. DayUse.com and HotelsByDay.com both have made public relations pushes in the United States without much impact. A third company, Between9and5.com is also in the market. But if day-use stays aren't familiar in the United States, they are making progress in France, according to the Financial Times. Stressing trysts, DayUse.com has signed up many top-notch French properties, including hotels aligned with Marriott and Accor. The reason? French hotels have suffered a cataclysmic decline in revenue in recent years due to fears of terrorism and the increased use of Airbnb by tourists. By the way, you don't necessarily need day-use hotel sites to book day rates at most properties. Many hotel chain sites will accept day-use bookings--try entering the same date for check-in and check-out--and Hilton and Starwood often promote day-use rates, especially at their airport hotels.

Frequent Flyer Sees Niche, Starts Global Business to Fill It
Every time someone decides to write about airport clubs, they recite the same, tired facts: American Airlines opened the first airport club, U.S. carriers converted to the current pay-to-play model after courts ruled their by-invitation-only policies discriminatory and European and Asian airlines still generally reserve lounges for status flyers and premium customers. But now that so-called common-use lounges such as The Club or Plaza Premium are spreading to airports around the country and around the world, a totally different dynamic is in play. Benet Wilson explains that Plaza Premium was started by a frequent flying banker who stopped traveling premium class and realized that there was no comfortable place at the airport for coach customers. He opened the first club in Hong Kong, where he once flew, expanded to Kuala Lumpur in honor of his Malaysian heritage and has been adding lounges around the world for the last 20 years.

Tight Connections ...
There'll always be an England, but sometimes it inadvertently bricks up its travel heritage. That's the takeaway from an Evening Standard story about a rediscovered Victorian waiting room at a London train station. ... Ever notice how many Irish pubs have suddenly sprung up in the heart of major cities around the world? It's hardly an accident. Eater.com explains that Irish firms have purpose-built and exported hundreds of pubs in the last 30 years. Meanwhile, there's also a local consultancy that specializes in creating Irish-themed menus for the pubs, which can be found from Azerbaijan to New Zealand. ... The Ukraine is beset with economic woes, lost Crimea to invading Russians and is waging a low-level civil war with Russian-backed "separatists." But The Wall Street Journal thinks you might find the Black Sea port of Odessa a great place for your next holiday. ... The American Society of Civil Engineers issues a quadrennial report card on the state of U.S. infrastructure. It won't shock you to learn the engineers gave our roads, airports and other infrastructure a grade of D+. -- Joe Brancatelli

This column is Copyright 2017 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright 2017 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved. All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property and responsibility of Joe Brancatelli. This material may not be reproduced in any form without his express written permission.