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Africa: Plus ça Change, Plus C'est la Même Chose
April 20, 2017 -- The world in general may have been mesmerized (and disgusted) ten days ago by the video of Dr. David Dao being dragged off a United flight. But the video that has gone viral in Africa is of a pilot for FlySafair ejecting a white flyer who hurled insults at and threatened black passengers. You can view the video, shot last week before a domestic South African run between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, here. Unfortunately, aviation in South Africa continues to be weighed down by the parlous financial condition of South African Airways, the national flag carrier. Losses are skyrocketing at an alarming rate. And the more things change in African aviation, the more things stay the same. The new president of Ghana, for example, upbraids British Airways for lousy service. And that should surprise no one: BA puts its oldest and least-loved equipment on routes to its former colonies. And that run between the Ghanaian capital of Accra and London/Heathrow is key since Ghana has no international airlines of its own. (Air France generates similar complaints from its former African colonies.) Meanwhile, Arik Air, the latest in a long line of Nigerian flag carriers, is nearing financial collapse. It is down to five working aircraft from a fleet of 28 planes and it owes the equivalent of US$1.2 billion to creditors around the world. I would make a joke about all the Nigerian princes with millions to give to total strangers via E-mail, but the state of African aviation is no laughing matter.
It Came From the Archives: Africa as We've Seen It
The last time I wrote about African aviation, Arik Air was new and offering a rare U.S.-Africa nonstop and U.S. carriers were making believe they offered service to the continent. Seven years later, if anything, they operate even fewer flights. Back in 1999, however, Martin Deutsch sounded a somewhat hopeful note about South African travel despite Nelson Mandela stepping down as president. Several years later, after the 9/11 attacks collapsed U.S. travel around the world, he talked to a company hoping to encourage tourism to Africa. Just last month, Will Allen wrote about camping in Tanzania. And more than 50 years ago, Deutsch was touring the "new" Africa for Argosy magazine.
Pizza Makes the World Go Round ...
When I first started traveling internationally on business, hotel restaurants always seemed to be dreary, French-inspired joints with ugly red banquettes, awful wine lists and rather depressing faux-French cuisine. French food, often stylized as "continental cuisine," was the coin of the business travel realm. Now, however, it seems like Italian food makes the world go round. And nothing is more loved--or adaptable to local tastes--than pizza. I grew up in Brooklyn, where the New York style slice--thin and crispy yet foldable, a kind of localized Neapolitan--was everywhere. Brooklyn is where Frank Pinello begins The Pizza Show, a documentary series airing on the Viceland network. There are also episodes about famous U.S. pizza cities--notably Chicago and New Haven, Connecticut--but Pinello's most intriguing take is about the global business of pizza. During the episode, you see him consulting for Mr. Pizza, the largest chain in South Korea. Let's just say Korean tastes are different than they are in Italy--or Brooklyn. Speaking of which, another Brooklynite, our own Mister Meatball, has written extensively about eating and making pizza.
Fasten Your Seat Belts, It's Going to Be a Bumpy Night
New Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, one of the many former generals in the Trump cabinet, seems to be a Grade A bully. To Congressional critics of his actions and the indiscretions of DHS and TSA employees, Kelly retorts that they should "shut up and support the men and women on the front lines." Of course, that's always what bullies, ex-generals--and authoritarian bureaucrats who don't understand how the First Amendment works--are fond of saying. He also dismisses any claims that recent detentions and harassment of U.S. visitors by Customs officials has anything to do with race or religion. And how dare anyone suggest otherwise. But Kelly's transparent bluster masks a real travel threat, too. He seems intent on changing and possibly eliminating a visa-waiver protocol that allows travelers from other nations to easily visit the United States. Think that won't affect you? Think again. Visa and visitation rules between nations are firmly rooted in the concept of reciprocity. Or, in Biblical terms, "do unto others." If we make it tougher for business travelers from other countries to come to the United States, other countries will respond by making it harder for us to visit them. So fasten your seat belts, fellow travelers, it's going to be a bumpy night. And international visa rules may very soon be more onerous than ever.
Tight Connections ...
They say London has been populated for around 2,000 years, so it's no surprise that the city has train stations closed for 100 years. But it is a surprise that the 101-years-shuttered Camberwell station may reopen. The ticket office is now used by automobile mechanics and the train platforms are overgrown, but Transport for London, which oversees the city's public transit, seems confident. One disclaimer: There have been at least three failed attempts to extend the London Underground's Bakerloo line to Camberwell in the years after its closure in 1916. ... The New York Times says that American Express is losing a credit card battle to Chase. The latter's secret weapon? The new Chase Sapphire Reserve card, which mimics many of the features of the Amex Platinum card. ... We started with Africa, so we should end with Africa. Reuters has the story of $185 biometric passports issued by the Democratic Republic of Congo. Not surprisingly, the impoverished Congolese people are seeing almost none of the monies generated by the pricey, high-tech passports. -- Joe Brancatelli
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