Joe's Travel Newsstand
The TSA Goes Reverse Coué
March 9, 2017 -- French psychologist Émile Coué was famous a hundred years ago for his trendy theories on auto-suggestion. One of his methods? Convince people they could improve their lot by repeating, "Every day, in every way, I'm getting better and better." There must be a big reverse-Coué crowd over at the TSA, which seems intent on chanting, "Every day, in every way, we're getting worse and worse." Example one: A decision to make pat-down procedures even more uncomfortable and creepy. The TSA's excuse? The agency is really awful at finding contraband. They surely aren't wrong since the TSA has a 95 percent failure rate when it comes to uncovering dummy weapons and fake explosives. Will nastier pat-downs improve TSA efficiency? Probably not, but Jason Bachman of Bloomberg says the TSA is proactively alerting local law enforcement to expect more complaints. While the TSA is eager to probe our junk, they are incredibly resistant to any suggestions that Congress can probe their activities. Joe Davidson of The Washington Post explains how both Republicans and Democrats dressed down TSA officials for their evasiveness at a recent Congressional hearing.

Hertz Continues to Scam Renters on Road Tolls
It was eight years ago when our friend and JoeSentMe contributor Will Allen wrote about the ugly collusion between Hertz and PlatePass. It took years for Hertz to admit its daily--and undisclosed--charge to use PlatePass services to pay for road tolls was essentially a scam. In 2014, it even settled for millions of dollars in a New Jersey court case about the matter. But Hertz, which has been in a downward spiral for years, never learns. In 2015, a San Francisco-area lawyer sued Hertz and PlatePass for a similar scam involving tolls on Golden Gate Bridge. I'm not sure what happened in that case--messages I left with the plaintiff this week went unanswered--but now the city of San Francisco is suing Hertz and PlatePass. Once again, the issue is how Hertz charges us to use PlatePass to pay tolls on the Golden Gate Bridge. The Hertz/PlatePass policy of piling steep daily "convenience" fees atop tolls "are not only unfair, they are illegal," claims San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera. Stay tuned. This will get nasty--and is guaranteed to show once again how badly Hertz has driven off the road of righteous corporate behavior.

Trump, Obama and Real and Imagined Travel Policies
Several travel commentators went on anti-Trump rants this week when it was disclosed that President Trump's Department of Transportation ended discussions on two Obama Administration-era DOT proposals on airfare transparency. That seems wildly unfair because the Obama DOT could never quite decide what it needed to do on fare displays, an existential crisis dating back to at least 2011. After all, if you don't act on a proposal, as the Obama DOT didn't, what harm is done by killing the bureaucratic limbo called the "comment period?" That said, however, two Democratic legislators have introduced a bill to codify the Obama rules his DOT never promulgated about baggage fees and accommodations for irregular operations. Chance of passage? Approximately zero. Meanwhile, President Trump sounded awfully Obama-like this week when it came to his promise to spend (or encourage private industry to spend) $1 trillion on the nation's wobbly infrastructure. The Wall Street Journal sat in on a meeting where Trump said he'd favor spending on shovel-ready projects. When was the last time we heard the term "shovel ready?" Back in 2009, when President Obama's stimulus plan invested in what he termed "shovel-ready" infrastructure projects. That stimulus was widely ridiculed by Republicans at the time.

All the News Fit to Print ... Years Ago
Like any large organization given to navel gazing, The New York Times tends to be slow and lumbering. Nowhere are its big-footed, slow-witted tendencies more evident than when it covers--or tries to cover--travel topics. Its entertaining and otherwise insightful restaurant critic, Pete Wells, stumbled into the Travel Twilight Zone this week when he was shocked--shocked!--to learn that big-name chefs open dining rooms inside hotels. That's only been happening for a decade or more, especially in New York, Wells' putative food beat. (By the way, JoeSentMe's Martin Deutsch did a hotel dine-around with restaurateur Danny Meyer last year.) Meanwhile, one of the many writers The Times plugs into the Tuesday space vacated when it cut loose Joe Sharkey's business travel column was shocked--shocked!--to learn that hotels and furniture retailers are, um, in bed with each other. For example, the story explains that West Elm is planning a small chain of boutique hotels. Yet the writer didn't seem to know that West Elm already creates furniture for Marriott's SpringHill Suites chain and that it peddles SpringHill-branded pieces online.

Tight Connections ...
The Daily Mail says these are the ten best positions for sleeping on an airplane. ... Architectural Digest says these are 11 great road trips you should do at least once. ... The most useful passports to carry belong to Sweden, Belgium, Italy, Spain and Ireland, according to a survey that Bloomberg examined. ... These are the least-visited nations in Africa, says ... The best sellers at airport shops? Almond toffee at Denver International, pig paraphernalia at San Francisco and Cincinnati airports and popcorn at Chicago/O'Hare. ... details (and illustrates) the best military packing tips. ... The absolute worst reason for an aircraft to divert? An argument between a passenger and flight attendant over the cost of an in-flight blanket. It happened yesterday (March 8) on Hawaiian Airlines Flight 7 from Las Vegas to Honolulu. -- Joe Brancatelli

This column is Copyright © 2017 by Joe Brancatelli. 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.