The Newsstand: March 29-April 12, 2018
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Read all about it! Right wing activists and conservative media decide CNN must be ousted from the airport. Will Berlin Brandenburg Airport ever open? Well, um, er ... Qantas launches Australia-London nonstops and confuses the term with "direct" flights. Plane cushions, long train rides and the end of the 55-miles-per-hour speed limit.

One in 100,000: A Right Wing Media War on CNN at the Airport
Twenty-five years after it was created, the CNN Airport Network operates at the gates of 60 airports nationwide. Barring a big, breaking story--but never a plane crash, which CNN Airport doesn't cover--travelers pay little attention to the monitors. But right-wing activists and the conservative-entertainment complex have decided CNN Airport isn't sufficiently pro-Trump and thus want it banished.

The self-admitted performance artist Alex Jones and his conspiracy theorists at InfoWars started the ball rolling last July, claiming CNN was serving up "anti-Trump propaganda and #FakeNews." It quoted Tom Tancredo, a virulently right wing former Colorado Congressman and failed presidential candidate, and said he'd launched a petition to remove CNN Airport from Denver International. (If the petition ever existed, it's gone now.)

Several months later, Roger Simon, founder of the right wing PJ Media, decided CNN Airport must go because it offered a "peculiar version of the truth"--in other words, not in keeping with Simon's worldview. He didn't seem to realize (or preferred not to learn) that CNN pays for the privilege of running on gate monitors. And aren't right-wing activists supposed to support the very free enterprise that allows CNN to pay for the right to broadcast at airport gates?

A few days after Simon's mid-December rant, the right-leaning Real Clear Politics produced a more balanced look at the state of CNN Airport. Although it referenced the InfoWars piece and quoted reliably right wing sources such as the Media Research Center, AmericanThinker.com and Project Veritas, the story also included an undeniable fact: Travelers aren't bothered by CNN Airport. "Usually the only complaints are on Sunday when people want to see the Seahawks game," explained Sea-Tac Airport spokesman Perry Cooper.

That's when Fox News, a CNN competitor, got into a game. In February, primetime host Tucker Carlson explained CNN used free enterprise to gain its prominent position at airports, but nevertheless spun the story into an anti-Trump conspiracy. Fox returned to the topic again last week, claiming there were "growing questions about CNN's airport monopoly." It then rehashed the same complaints from the same right wing sources.

To buttress claims that travelers were fed up with CNN Airport, Fox pointed to another petition. Unfortunately for the Fox News narrative, the petition has garnered only about 9,500 signatures in the year after first posting at Change.org. Since a record 965,000,000 people flew in 2017, according to the federal Bureau of Transportation Statistics, that means that about one in 100,000 travelers want CNN Airport displaced. (Of course, CNN only claims 323 million viewers, which means one in about 34,000 viewers complained.)

Oh, one other thing. As a spokesman for Salt Lake City Airport patiently explained to the outraged Fox News, "CNN was the only news provider that responded to the Airport's request for proposal from news organizations. The airport cannot air another network if one did not respond."

Will Berlin Brandenburg Airport Ever Open? Well, Um, Er ...
Do you remember that Berlin was scheduled to open a new airport in October, 2011? It was delayed, but was just weeks from debuting on the world scene in 2012 when the plug was pulled. Last-minute testing disclosed a raft of construction mistakes and a nonfunctioning fire-safety system. Despite assurances that it was only a few months--then a few years--from opening, Berlin Brandenburg remains shuttered and costs have spiraled to almost $7 billion. The company's management now claims it will open in October, 2020, nine years late. But no one believes it. In fact, the chief executive of Eurowings, the Lufthansa budget subsidiary, says the airport should be torn down because it's already outdated and too small. The outdated part certainly seems true: The airport must spend 500,000 euros to replace 750 monitors that are past their design life. But there is something of a silver lining in the affair that has outraged and embarrassed the efficiency-minded Germans. Templehof, the Nazi era relic closed in 2008 in anticipation of Berlin Brandenburg, has come back to life as a free-form urban park. And Berlin authorities will turn the former terminal building into a $370 million event space.

Nonstops and Directs and Connections, Oh My!
As modern airframes have gotten more sophisticated and jet engines more powerful, we've gotten used to longer and longer ultra-long-haul nonstop flights. It's almost a given now that two points that seemed far too distant to reach by a single flight can now be connected by some airline flying some new aircraft or other. So it's no surprise that a new ultra-long-haul nonstop on the other side of the world, between Perth, Australia, and London, didn't receive all that much publicity here. Oh, the Reuters news agency ran a piece, lauding the "first link between Australia and Europe that has ever occurred non-stop." It even pushed out a follow-up story making the somewhat dubious claim that new long-hauls push down fares of competitive connecting flights. And the 17-hour Qantas flight, operated with a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, got the required coverage from the Associated Press and Australian news agencies.

But notice the semantic issue? Because Qantas' own publicity (above) positioned the flight as "direct," most news outlets parroted the airline's wonky wording. The Perth-London launch, however, was hardly the first direct Australia-Europe link. Airlines, especially Qantas and British Airways, have flown "direct" for decades, usually via a refueling and/or technical stop in Singapore or the Middle East. The Perth-London launch was the first nonstop, a significant difference that the airline industry seems intent on blurring. Why? By making believe nonstop and direct services are the same, airlines can use flight-numbering and other tricks to sell you a stopping flight, or even a connecting flight, as a nonstop. Remember: Only nonstop flights operate without stops between your origination point and your destination. A direct flight can have an intermediate stop, or even a change of aircraft. And a connection is, well, the hell on earth we live with most days ...

Tight Connections ...
      Planes ... Crappy airlines long ago forced many of us to travel with our own pillows. Now those hard "slim-line" seats are driving some of us to get seat cushions, too. Vive Health has a selection and rates and reviews the cushions, too.
      Trains ... Coast-to-coast on Amtrak, the nation's mostly busted railroad that plays second fiddle to freight lines on virtually all routes? The Chicago Tribune goes farther. Its correspondent traveled 6,889 miles on Amtrak over the course of 11 days.
      And automobiles ... States are slowly scrapping the 55-miles-per-hour speed limit on the roads. Originally imposed nationwide in the 1970s in response to the first oil crisis, states increasingly find reasons and create laws to raise the limit. The Wall Street Journal explains what and where speed limits are changing. -- Joe Brancatelli

This column is Copyright 2018 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright 2018 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.