Travel Newsstand for June 21-31, 2018
HOME E-MAIL JOE PRINT 2018 COLUMNS ARCHIVES SEARCH LOG OUT
Read all about it! The airlines say do as we say (don't steal amenities), not as we do. Detroit's revival is coming to another of the city's iconic ruins: Michigan's Central Railroad Station. China's aeronautic identity crisis continues. Vancouver's fierce real estate boom stings everyone. Volcanic action will remake Hawaii's famous volcano park. And more.
Airlines: Do What We Say, Not What We Do
Airlines are all do what we say, not what we do. One example: On-board amenities. The carriers are all in a tizzy because premium class flyers are filching blankets or whatever from flights. Upgraded bedding and pillows are also disappearing. Airlines really, really, really hate this and warn you not to steal what belongs to them. When it comes to their own behavior, however, they swipe with the best of them--and on a much larger and more costly scale. Wells Fargo (not exactly a paragon of corporate behavior, of course) has resorted to suing American Airlines for cheating on aircraft leases. Wells Fargo says American habitually returns the planes late--months late, in fact--and doesn't pay. But it's not just big, pricy planes. United Airlines chief executive Oscar Munoz steals sand right off the beach. Florida officials claim Munoz and a few other hot-shot corporate executives have been "scraping sand" from public beaches to make their oceanfront mansions look better.
A Second Life for an Iconic Detroit Eyesore, er, Landmark
Even a decade ago, when I covered Detroit's uneven hotel revival, the city's urban landscape was still a dystopian disaster. But now things are looking up as the city and the private sector have worked to save downtown Detroit for the 21st century. The New York Times published a photo essay of Detroit's stunning cultural, visual and architectural turnaround. Even failure--Detroit is a loser in Amazon's search for a second headquarters--inspires some new ideas, like improved mass-transit options. And now one of the city's final frontiers--the huge, hulking, abandoned Michigan Central rail station in Corktown--has found a patron. Ford has purchased the ruined station and an adjacent 18-story office building and plans to turn them into a corporate campus and mixed-use cultural attraction. The official announcement came this week and Crain's Detroit Business offered a video tour of the facility, which was once slated to be demolished. Critics of Ford's multi-billion-dollar plans are "rooted in a past that does not preordain the future," suggests Detroit News columnist Daniel Howes. By the way, Michigan Central Station hosted its last passenger train in 1988. Amtrak currently uses the nondescript Baltimore Street Station. And it's open for fewer than eight hours a day.
China's Aeronautic Identity Crisis Continues
The battle over how airlines refer to destinations such as Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macao continues. As I explained last month, the Chinese Communist Party has been loudly demanding that all carriers refer to every place as part of the greater whole of Greater China. They insist carriers change Web sites, collateral material and anything else that might refer to Hong Kong or Taiwan as separate entities. The paranoia is rooted in China's unhappy experiences with imperial occupation and the current regime's insistence that culturally diverse places such as Tibet and predominantly Muslim Xinjiang are all integral parts of China, the mythically homogenous whole. But Taiwan, the island that has been independent of China since the end of the country's brutal civil war, is hardly remaining silent. As the Financial Times reports, Taiwan is telling its "citizens to boycott airlines that list the island as a Chinese territory on their Web sites." David Lee, secretary-general of Taiwan's National Security Council, complains that "those are the airlines that caved in to China." Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal notes the three U.S. airlines flying to China have not complied with the Communist Party's edict. And they seem to have the backing of the White House. It calls the Chinese demands "Orwellian nonsense."
Tight Connections ...
Crashing the Real Estate Party A city that everyone loves, Vancouver, is paying for all the love. The real estate market is so overheated that even homeowners are hoping for a crash. One of the targets in a new package of tax measures? Foreign buyers, especially Chinese citizens, who've been buying up huge swathes of the city and surrounding area.
A Rail Link Too Far? Railroad fans have been fighting for two decades to create a link between St. Paul, Minnesota, and Eau Claire, Wisconsin. They insist they can "restore long-dormant rail service to St. Paulís Union Depot" and finance it privately.
Volcanic Decorating The latest series of eruptions of Kilauea volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii is having another unintended consequence. When it fully reopens to visitors, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park will look drastically different. Gone will be the famous lava lake--it has receded underground--and the continuing earthquakes and eruptions are remaking the rest of the park's appearance and attractions.-- 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.