Travel Newsstand for July 13-27, 2017
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Read all about it: In the battle between major U.S. airlines and the Gulf carriers, your choice is a liar (Delta boss Ed Bastian) or a louse (Qatar Airways boss Akbar al Baker). New apps that will help you run through airports faster. The frightening tale of Delta Flight 129. Some strange airport doings. A new study on our tipping habits. And more.
Choose a Loser: Liar (Delta Air Lines) or Louse (Qatar Airways)
The nasty, long-running dispute between three major U.S. carriers (American, Delta and United) and the three Gulf airlines (Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways) has taken another series of ugly turns. And we're not even counting the revelation that U.S. airlines are ghosting letters for Congressmen on the issue. Delta Air Lines, the carrier most vocal about the growth of the Gulf carriers, has produced a ludicrous propaganda video that is mostly a shameful series of fibs, lies and exaggerations. Delta chief executive Ed Bastian's claim that Emirates has reduced Qantas of Australia to a feeder carrier is an outrageous bit of sophistry. Qantas did little more than replace British Airways with Emirates on ultra-long-haul routes linking Europe and Australia. And Qantas continues to pioneer its own unique flights, including next year's launch of Perth-London nonstops. Bastian's laughable insistence that Delta would launch more flights to India and the Middle East if only Gulf airlines were reined in is probably a lie, too. After all, Delta has never bothered restoring flights to places like Budapest, where there has been no competition at all. It also refused to expand in North Asia, preferring instead to hector Korean Air until it agreed to a joint venture. And Delta has limited its China flying to Beijing and Shanghai, preferring instead to cut a deal with China Eastern Airlines, the most heavily state-subsidized of the China carriers.
But it's hard to root for the other side. Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar al Baker is one lousy human being. He once claimed that Qatar launched flights to its Doha hub from Atlanta as a way to spite Delta. He even booked Qatar's Atlanta launch event into the Fox Theatre, a nonprofit supported by Delta. (Delta, of course, promptly killed its Fox sponsorship in its own fit of pique.) Earlier this month, he even ranted about the state of U.S. airlines while celebrating the launch of Dublin-Doha flights. "The average age of my cabin crew is only 26 years," al Baker said at Dublin event. "So there is no need to travel on those crap American carriers ... You know you'll always be served by grandmothers on American carriers." The stupidity--and ageism--of al Baker's remarks promptly was called out by The Economist and many other critics. But al Baker's remarks also remind travelers how al Baker enforces abusive conditions on "his" cabin crews. The oppressive and sexist conditions al Baker imposes on flight attendants continue even after Qatar Airways promised to change its labor practices. (Qatar Airways has now issued a non-apology apology for Baker's statements.) And if you think life as an Emirates flight attendant is much better, think again.
Running Through Airports? These New Apps May Be for You
Want to make running through airports easier? Pay the proverbial $2. For example, Harriett Baskas discusses two new apps that offer gate-delivery services. The apps, At Your Gate and Airport Sherpa, are rolling out at San Diego and Baltimore-Washington respectively. Both promise to deliver food and other items from airport concessions to what Baskas calls "gate huggers" who don't have the time or interest to explore their options. But the price is high: Delivery fees are as much as $8 per order. Meanwhile, TechCrunch.com reports on an airport service called Solve. It promises "to find a concierge to meet you at your arrival gate and escort you through the airport, through customs and to your waiting car." Solve isn't creating its own infrastructure of concierges and escorts, however. It is networking the existing operations at airports around the world. Prices vary but expect the cost to be, um, sky high. None of this is exactly new, of course. Last year, for instance, I reported about how airport operators are trying to shave time from transactions with services such as Grab, a pre-order app.
A Freaky, Frightening Tale: Flight 129 From Seattle to Beijing
What happens if you try to open an exit door during a flight? If it was Delta Air Lines Flight 129 last week from Seattle to Beijing, what happened was a wild melee with flying fists, battling flight attendants and wine bottles used as weapons. The charges filed in federal court paint an incredible story, one that you'd hope never to be involved with in-flight. The Seattle Times was the first to report on the flight, which returned to Sea-Tac Airport rather than continue on to Beijing. CNN also covered the in-flight fisticuffs and did video interviews with several passengers. And The Washington Post did a deep dive on the extremely freaky flight.
Airports Are Where Crazy Lives
Strange things don't just happen in the skies, of course. Airports are where crazy lives. Take, for instance, this week's odd hazmat incident at an air traffic control facility just outside of Washington. That led to chaos at the three Washington-area airports on Monday evening (July 10). Later reports indicated that there were at least 87 cancelled arrivals and about 110 cancelled departures just at Washington/National Airport. Meanwhile, the city of Atlanta is suing tiny Paulding County airport. The city's claim? The county of Paulding's desire to develop its flyspeck general-aviation facility for commercial flights is an existential risk to Atlanta/Hartsfield, the nation's busiest airport. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has the bizarre details. And hardly a summer day goes by when there's not controversy at East Hampton Airport, the small Long Island aerodrome that services the uber-wealthy New Yorkers who swarm to the Hamptons on weekends. As usual, the small year-round community of Hamptons residents hates the airport because of the noise and the wealthy New Yorkers love it because they can fly their helicopters and private jets right to the beach and their multimillion-dollar beach homes. As The New York Times reports, the Supreme Court essentially sided with the weekenders and that has infuriated the locals.
Tight Connections ...
Are men and Republicans the best tippers? That's the takeaway from the CreditCards.com survey on tipping. Here is the Bloomberg News report and here is the complete study of the nation's tipping habits. ... Got questions about travel insurance? Who doesn't? Simon Calder, the respected travel writer for Britain's The Independent, does a deep dive and decides travel insurance may not be for everyone. ... When all is said and done, the city of Miami will have spent $2 billion to build a stadium for the flagging Miami Marlins baseball team. Although the facility is top-flight for a sports arena and hosted this week's baseball All-Star Game, the financial cost of the stadium is a dead weight on the city and the surrounding community. Besides, the Marlins are a badly run franchise and attendance is near the bottom of the league. "It's a nice stadium for people to enjoy, and we got an All-Star Game out of it," says Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez. But "it's the most horrible deal every other way." -- Joe Brancatelli
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