Joe's Travel Newsstand
The Hawaii Laptop Incident Never Happened
May 25, 2017 -- If a wider in-flight electronics ban is imposed by Homeland Security, chances are it will reference the bizarre events last weekend on American Airlines Flight 31. But the facts surrounding the Los Angeles-Honolulu flight aren't what they initially seemed--and at no time was a laptop left by a lavatory or the cockpit. A more complete view of the actual facts has run in The Washington Post. And you'll find a raft of good reporting at Hawaii News Now, the Web presence of a group of Hawaii radio and television stations. As you can read via an affidavit filed by an FBI special agent, the suspect, a Turkish national in the United States on a student visa, was basically an intoxicated jerk. Worse, though, is the litany of red flags missed or simply ignored before the flight. The 23-year-old passenger bought a ticket at the airport on the day of departure. He had no checked or carry-on luggage, only the laptop. He was caught trespassing in an off-limits area of LAX just hours before the flight, but then ticketed and released. And he was so drunk or drugged that he needed to board the plane in a wheelchair. Yet no one detained him until he tried to get to the front of the aircraft. He was kept out of the first class cabin by a flight attendant who blocked the aisle with a drinks cart. He offered little resistance and was docile during the rest of the flight. But, again, bottom line: He never left a laptop near a lavatory or the flight deck. And the laptop was nothing more than a laptop, not an explosive device. Keep it in mind if Homeland Security uses the incident for its own purposes.

Rudy Giuliani Don't Know Nothing About No Muslim Ban
Just hours after President Trump's first executive order (aka Travel Ban 1.0) was signed on January 27, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani jumped onto Fox News and claimed credit. He boasted Trump called him and asked for a "legal" version of a "Muslim ban" and Giuliani showed him how to do it. Giuliani's comments on Fox have been part of court deliberations over both of President Trump's attempts to impose a temporary halt on immigration and visitors from a range of mostly Muslim Middle East nations. Opponents of Trump's orders and several judges have cited Giuliani's claim to show that the president's actions, no matter what else they may be, constitute a de facto Muslim ban. Now, however, a furiously backpedaling Giuliani claims he made it all up. According to an affidavit filed in response to a judge's order, Giuliani totally disavowed his Fox News claims. He says he had nothing to do with any activity "relating to the so-called Muslim Ban Executive Orders." Moreover, he affirmed, "I have not participated in writing any of the Executive Orders on that subject issued by the Trump Administration." Giuliani's boasts have gotten him in trouble before. He was the mayor who ordered New York City's emergency response center placed in the World Trade Center complex even though the Twin Towers had already been bombed in 1993. The response center was located in a building destroyed in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack and that crippled the city's response for days. He later spent millions of dollars on a failed 2008 presidential bid that netted him exactly one Republican delegate. And his endless claims of terrorism expertise--many of them debunked--earned him the brutal description coined in 2007 by then-Senator Joe Biden: "a noun and a verb and 9/11."

A Pilot, a Passenger and a Genuinely Heartwarming Tale
A Southwest Airlines pilot with 21 years on the job somehow calculated who his one millionth passenger would be. And he decided to reward the flyer with a bottle of Champagne and an envelope of cash equivalent to the lucky passenger's airfare. The genuinely heartwarming tale of Captain John Richie, an Air Force veteran, was shared on Facebook by a Southwest Airlines flight attendant. There is video of the in-flight presentation to the passenger and the complete story here.

It's Now or Never If You Want One of Elvis' Jets
The world is divided into two kinds of people: Those who get Elvis and those who don't. But it doesn't matter which camp you find yourself inhabiting. Everyone will gawk at the King's private plane. Well, actually, the supposedly "lost" one in Elvis' original fleet of three. The other two are on display in Graceland, but this one, a 1962 vintage Lockheed jet, sat for about 30 years in an aircraft boneyard in New Mexico. But it'll be auctioned on Saturday as part of a collection of Elvis memorabilia going under the hammer. Conde Nast Traveler describes an interior "complete with plush, red velvet seats, marble bathroom sinks, gold details and even a red shag carpet." Meanwhile, Britain's Daily Mail has some photos of the craft, which has never been restored and is expected to draw bids as high as $3.5 million.

Tight Connections ...
Of course it was: The Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City was essentially run as a money-laundering operation. CNN has details of a 1998 IRS settlement involving 106 violations of money-laundering rules in the first 18 months of operation. The hotel opened in 1990 and closed last year. ... Air Canada engaged in a "long, useless financial detour" when it spun off the Aeroplan frequent flyer program in 2008. That's the conclusion of a Canadian economist writing in Toronto's Globe and Mail. ... New York Penn Station is operated by Amtrak but it also hosts trains operated by two Metropolitan area commuter railroads. It is the busiest rail station in the nation--and a mess in search of a solution. Could a private operator do better? Unknown, concludes, the Web site of the Newark Star-Ledger. ... We all use Skype. One of the biggest problems? It has no record function. But there are several third-party solutions, according to -- 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.