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The Dao of United Airlines
April 13, 2017 -- The bizarre case of Dr. David Dao continues to get weirder. And anybody who's anybody--and anybody who's nobody--seems to have had his or her say. Best line I've heard? United will install a "Fight Club" class on all aircraft. The best fake United commercial came from Jimmy Kimmel's late-night show early in the week. The worst video, besides the actual, gruesome footage of Dao being dragged off the plane by "Chicago Aviation Security Officers" doing the bidding of United gate agents? After first calling Dao "disruptive and belligerent," United chief executive Oscar Munoz went on ABC News and lied, pontificated and faked sorrow and horror about the incident. The reality? United is legendary for abusive treatment of customers. Los Angeles Times columnist David Lazarus turned up details of United threatening to handcuff a full-fare, first class passenger if he didn't disembark. Lazarus also got the story of United jerking around paying passengers to accommodate Munoz and his family. But United's biggest problem may be in Asia, where it has a huge flight network. Social media in China is pummeling the airline, a big financial deal because United flies to more cities in China than any U.S. carrier. The least credible complaint during the crisis? New Jersey Governor Chris Christie says everybody knows United is awful. That's not what he was saying several years ago when he was desperate to get United to launch flights to Atlantic City.

It Came From the Archives: Told Ya ...
I really hate saying "I told you so" But I so told you so. Lost in the flap over United Airlines' handling of the Dr. Dao situation is the fact that it's another gigantic fail on the watch of chief executive Oscar Munoz. The former freight railroad executive also decided to launch United's new Polaris business class last year before the Polaris seatbeds were ready for installation. The result? At least three new Boeing 777s are sitting in mothballs because United's seat maker has had production problems. He was also in charge a few weeks ago when the "leggings" incident rained down negative PR on United. Not to mention the regular computer meltdowns and the continuously awful service. I strongly--I mean really strongly--suggested when he got the job in 2015 that Munoz wasn't the right guy for the gig. And I've lost track of how often I warned that contracts of carriage allow airlines to do pretty much what they wish regardless of our tickets. The most recent warning was in 2012. But I also rang the warning bell in 2007.

Cathay Has a Major Problem With Fragile Rimowa Bags
I'm not a big fan of A Christmas Story, the Darrin McGavin movie that is marathoned on TBS every holiday season. But even I've seen the "fra-geel-A" scene where McGavin misinterprets and mispronounces the big, black FRAGILE warning on a side of a crate. I mention this Christmas movie memory in April because Cathay Pacific Airways finds itself in a bind over the use of special fragile tags on pricey Rimowa luggage. As the South China Morning Post reports, the high cost of repairing or replacing Rimowa bags that passengers checked through as luggage led Cathay to tag the expensive pieces with a special warning. That led to a pushback from Rimowa and Cathay has now apparently backed off. And notice I didn't say anything like Rimowa (or Cathay) has got its groove back ...

Meanwhile, Back at the Trump Travel Ban ...
When last we left our "heroes" in the Trump Administration, it was slow-walking the appeal of the restraining orders on Trump Travel Ban 2.0 before both the Fourth and Ninth Circuit federal courts. But now the Fourth Circuit has decided to hear the Administration's appeal of the stay en banc, the legal term of art for having all 15 judges on the circuit rule on the case. As the CBS News affiliate in Richmond, Virginia, explains, an en banc hearing slightly speeds up the appeals process. Still, the Richmond court won't even hear the case until May 8, more than two months after President Trump unveiled his second attempt at a travel ban on March 6. (He signed his first executive order that has popularly become known as a "travel ban" on January 27. It was withdrawn after many federal courts ruled against it.) Meanwhile, the state of Hawaii, plaintiff in the Ninth Circuit case that led to the temporary stay of Trump Travel Ban 2.0 hours before it was due to go into effect on March 15, is asking for the en banc treatment, too. The ABA Journal has the details. For what it's worth, Jonathan Turley, the oft-quoted TV talking legal head, thinks the circuits will split, leading to a Supreme Court review. That seems an odd conclusion, however, since no court or judge that has actually had the issue of Trump's travel ban before them has yet ruled in favor of the government. But, hey, I'm not a TV talking legal head, so what do I know?

Tight Connections ...
The blogger Gary Leff has updated his chart covering the program-by-program value of points and miles. It's a worthy and valiant effort, but essentially meaningless for two reasons: His breakdown shows that virtually all programs differ only by a few basis points per unit of currency. And, Gary's hard work notwithstanding, the value of miles and points is totally personal, based on your perceptions, the relative fatness of your wallet and your travel goals. ... The U.S. Customs and Border Protection is under fire for demanding to see travelers' mobile devices and insisting on passwords to unlock them. Its response? A torrent of statistics that CBP claims proves agents aren't any more snoopy or invasive than usual. That's comforting how? ... The Wall Street Journal is convinced Brian Alexander's book on Lancaster, Ohio, the home of Anchor Glass, explains Donald Trump's victory in the election. Lancaster was the subject of a huge Forbes article just after World War II, dubbing it the all-American town. In the past 70 years, however, Lancaster has been pillaged by corporate raiders. Raiders like Carl Icahn, the former owner of TWA, and now a "special adviser" to President Trump. Go figure. -- Joe Brancatelli


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