Travel Newsstand for May 3-17, 2018
HOME    E-MAIL JOE    PRINT    2018 COLUMNS     ARCHIVES     SEARCH    LOG OUT
Read all about it! JetBlue Airways claims cutting legroom makes flying more humane. Meanwhile, some airline companies think we don't need seats at all and would be fine on a flying saddle. The battle over hotel toiletries and how they're dispensed. McDonald's opens a branch at its Chicago headquarters featuring its global dishes. And much more.

JetBlue Says Cutting Legroom 'Brings Humanity Back' to Flying
The airline industry's knee-jerk desire to lie about virtually everything it does was on full display this week as JetBlue Airways jerked around with knee room and called it "bring[ing] humanity back to air travel." While touting a "fully connected in-seat experience," JetBlue actually shoehorned more seats into coach in a desperate attempt to keep whiny security analysts happy. That it has taken more than three years to roll out the first "restyled" jet says a lot about its stated strategy of being a little less crappy than the other guys. It didn't help that the plan to stuff 165 slim-line seats into space JetBlue once configured for 150 did not work. After the missteps, JetBlue settled for 162 seats, leaving enough seat pitch (32 inches) to support JetBlue's claim of sucking less.

Seats? We're Airlines! We Don't Need No Stinkin' Airline Seats!
Still, the bigger news this week comes from Italy, where an aerospace-interiors firm called Aviointeriors rolled out Skyrider 2.0, the in-flight equivalent of a horse saddle for airline passengers. The "seat"--and we use the term loosely--would be squeezed into just 23 inches, allowing the airlines to push 20 percent more passengers into coach. An earlier version of the concept chair failed to win U.S. regulatory approval. Yet the idea of what would essentially be standing-room-only "seating" is hardly new. Airbus and Boeing separately patented standing-style seats early in the century. The New York Times posted a story about standing seats in 2006. Ryanair, which gleefully speculates about how awful it could make airline travel, touted seatless seats in 2010. Spring Airlines of China flirted with the idea in 2015 and last year the founder of VivaColombia talked about eliminating seats altogether. A word to the wise here: Neither U.S. carriers nor European airlines are ever likely to be the leading-edge adopters of the you-might-as-well-stand flying. U.S. and European regulators would be too skittish to approve such a concept. But China? Not so much. As I've written several times, the China travel market is growing rapidly and Chinese business travelers now probably outnumber U.S. business flyers. And as The Economist noted last month, China's airlines are the global disrupters. If one or more carriers wanted standing-room planes with saddle seats, China's local travel market is large enough to allow planemakers to profit from aircraft that could only pass Chinese regulatory muster.

99 Bottles of Shampoo on the Wall
Many years ago, my wife and I were among the first paying customers of a 17th-century building that was converted into a small Roman hotel. The stylish and fastidious owner asked what we thought of his project. We were impressed--but noted that he offered no soaps or other bath amenities in the apartments. It's not smart to ask guests who've just gotten off a long flight to run out to buy soap to take a shower, I remember telling him. My wife suggested he deploy toiletries dispensers as a way to offer that small welcome amenity to guests. A few months later we returned--and found exquisite, expensive and stylishly modern soap dispensers in the bathrooms and kitchens. But they were empty. Why? The owner didn't quite grasp the concept of providing in-room toiletries.

I couldn't help but remember the tale of the empty soap dispensers as hotels, journalists and bloggers battle over how the lodging chains would henceforth dispense soaps and shampoos. Traditionally, of course, hotels offered small bottles of products emblazoned with their brand or the logo of a fancy toiletry maker. Everyone has their favorite hotel bath product, something our own Michael Matthews discussed more than a decade ago. But individual plastic bottles are expensive for hotels and not particularly kind to the environment. As I mentioned in this space last month, Marriott used cost, financial and environmental, to justify a switch to wall-mounted dispensers. But as Marriott and other chains move away from mini-bottles, some travelers are pushing back. Gary Leff, the travel blogger and self-confessed germaphobe, has written about his antipathy toward wall-mounted dispensers several times in the last few months. And Scott McCartney, who usually covers airline issues, even covered the bottle-versus-dispenser battle. Your mileage--and your kit bag--may vary, but when hotels are told wall-mounted dispensers can cost just pennies a day, expect to see more communal dispensers and fewer bottles.

Meanwhile, you do know that hotel amenities are racist, right? Or so says Halsey, the pop star who decries "watered down white people shampoo." That comment naturally sent right-leaning media outlets like FoxNews.com and RedState.com into a snowflaky meltdown.

Tight Connections ...
      Big Mac, Small World McDonald's may be synonymous with burgers and fries, but it didn't get to be a global fast-food powerhouse solely by slinging American fare. The 6,000-square-foot McDonald's branch in the company's headquarters in Chicago's trendy West Loop neighborhood has a one-of-a-kind menu: Mickey D food items from around the world. A writer bravely consumed every item on the menu.
      Lobbying for Love What do the beautiful people and the rich and famous love about hotels? Several dozen celebrities spilled about lodging to The Wall Street Journal. They commented on the places they prefer long-term, the lodging they liked as kids--and perfect places for a fling.
      The Way We Were Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid control about two-thirds of America's drugstore market and the three chains have fundamentally changed the streetscapes in cities and towns. Once upon a time, though, drugstores were more individual and stylized. Here are two dozen photographs of how drugstores used to look before standardization and market concentration changed the game. -- 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.