Travel Newsstand for Nov. 9-23, 2017
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Read all about it! The app you use to order food instead of calling room service? The restaurant may not be a "real" restaurant at all. Where you going? Barcelona. Um, no, not right now given the chaos in Catalonia. Surviving ultra-long-haul flights and underpaying housekeeping staff. Maybe Trump doesn't want to "Build the Wall!" after all. And more.

App-ropriate: Real Food Deliveries From 'Fake' Restaurants
The rapid realignment of room service at major American hotels, a topic we discussed several years ago, has generated an interesting sidebar. As more of us order from food-delivery apps such as Grubhub, it turns out we're not getting sustenance from traditional restaurants. The Wall Street Journal reports that many places offering delivery from the apps are virtual restaurants without a traditional street-side presence. That's especially worrisome--or, at least, a consideration--for business travelers who may not know which local "restaurants" are real and which are virtual presences that exist only to fill orders via our apps. Meanwhile, there's a reason why some restaurateurs may want to abandon retail locations. As The New York Times explains, the American dining landscape is wildly overbuilt, especially in the so-called "fast casual" category. Also ridiculously overcrowded: coffee bars. There are now 33,000 outlets in the United States, up 16 percent in just five years. To that end, a Luxembourg-based company that already owns a slew of well-known restaurant chains this week announced it was buying Au Bon Pain, the 300-outlet bakery and cafe group. JAB Holdings spent $7 billion earlier this year to buy Panera Bread. The family-owned company also controls Einstein's Bagels, Krispy Kreme doughnuts, Bruegger's Bagels, Mighty Leaf Tea Company, Stumptown Roasters, Peet's Coffee and Tea and Caribou Coffee.

Where You Going? Barcelona? Um, Probably Not Now.
I can't talk about the dangerous and potentially explosive situation in Barcelona without hearing the lyrics of Barcelona, one of the funniest and saddest songs in Stephen Sondheim's Company. (Watch Neil Patrick Harris spar with Barcelona-bound flight attendant Christina Hendricks in a 2011 concert performance.) Now that I've got that out of my system, serious stuff: The escalating battle between Catalans intent on independence and Spanish authorities determined to keep the country together is coming perilously close to all-out economic war. The latest? Separatists this week temporarily shut down Barcelona and severed transit links. What's it like living in Barcelona and Catalonia at this moment? A piece penned by an expat in the Irish Times suggests it's all extremely complicated. "We are living in a state of uncertainty, not quite Spain, and not yet the Republic of Catalonia." And if you're like me--humming Barcelona and wondering how we got here--consider this backgrounder from History.com. But beware: There's lots of talk of Aragon and the War of Spanish Succession and grievances that people have been nursing for half a millennium or more. And here's everything you need to know about Catalan flags, which is at least as confusing as the War of Spanish Succession.

Archives: Leaving on a Jet Plane for a Lo-o-o-o-ng Flight
Harriett Baskas, perhaps best-known for the Stuck at the Airport blog, has certainly made a career of snooping out every interesting bit of news at the nation's aerodromes. Witness her cool piece on finding a shoe shine at your "favorite" airport. But she does get out of the airport from time to time. And last month she flew the first United Airlines nonstop between Los Angeles and Singapore. She covered the 18-hour flight on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner at her own blog and in a separate piece at the Runway Girl Network. "The excitement part was a no-brainer," she wrote, but "trepidation kicked in when I thought about that 18-hour flight." I know all about flights this long. When Singapore introduced its Newark-Singapore nonstops in 2004, I was back in coach for the insanely long, 10,700-mile Airbus A340-500 flight from Changi. As I wrote then, "only masochists and frequent-flying maniacs would voluntarily do an 18-hour ride in coach." Meanwhile, The New York Times has decided we business travelers don't tip housekeepers enough. But, of course, that facile, superficial talk ignores a stark reality I discussed in 2014: Hotels don't pay their housekeeping staff enough. Just like airlines and airports scrimp on paying their less-skilled workers.

Tight Connections ...
      Build the wall! Or not ... President Trump's nominee to replace John Kelly as Secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, isn't all in on Trump's wall along the Mexican border. Despite the endless "Build the Wall!" chants from Trump supporters and constant claims from the President himself, a "sea to shining sea" wall may not be necessary, Nielsen said.
      Record no evil An Air New Zealand domestic flight from Hokitika to Christchurch suffered a cracked windshield and the carrier's response? It wanted passengers to delete footage of the incident.
      Tales from the Tower After a checkered career in real estate, Donald Trump most recently amassed his money by licensing his name to real builders. But his choice of partners has always been shaky. Consider the sad and bizarre tale of the hotel formerly known as Trump Tower in Toronto.
      Stick it One of the airports that terrorists would most want to hit, London's Heathrow, wants you to think it's a bastion of security. Yeah, not so much. A memory stick containing security information about the airport was found on a London street. -- 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.