Joe's Travel Newsstand
Delta Graduates From Despicable to Deplorable
June 15, 2017 -- For all the obvious and repeated shortcomings of American and United airlines, it is worth remembering that Delta Air Lines is the meanest, nastiest player in the skies. Delta proudly stood before the U.S. Supreme Court and insisted that it has no "duty of good faith and fair dealing" when interacting with customers. It lies with relish and abandon when its operations collapse. It hides its SkyMiles award chart from customers, thinks you should pay it more and expect less loyalty in return. It unashamedly tries to bend U.S. foreign policy to its business whims and, of course, is the cowardly messenger boy for anti-Semitic states such as Saudi Arabia.

But that's just Delta being despicable. Now it wants you to know it's a full-on deplorable and will try to crush you should you criticize President Trump, a personal favorite of Delta's current leadership.

Latest example: Delta pulled its sponsorship of the New York Public Theater over the weekend because of the institution's current production of William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. The warmly reviewed show casts Trump as Caesar, not exactly shocking given that Julius Caesar has for centuries been mounted with then-current political leaders. In fact, the very highly regarded Guthrie Theater did a production of Julius Caesar in 2012 with an Obama-like character in the lead role. Delta is also a financial underwriter of the Minneapolis-based Guthrie and had no problems with that production, a big favorite of Obama's conservative critics. Worst of all, though, apparently no one at Delta actually saw the Public's production before pulling its financial support. The airline reflexively reacted to complaints from Fox News and other right-wing activists. (To his credit, President Trump has not complained about the show and has, in the past, been a financial supporter of the Public Theater.)

Of course, it is possible that Delta was just being its crappy self by trying to silence the New York Public Theater. After all, last year it ended its decades-long support of the Fox Theater in its hometown of Atlanta when the nonprofit Fox rented its hall to Qatar Airways for a one-off event.

A Fat Ham Gets Skewered in Philadelphia
Kevin Sbraga was a culinary unknown when he won Top Chef in 2010. Scoring the victory in the seventh season of the Bravo Network reality show rocketed the New Jersey-born Sbraga to stardom--and now to financial ruin. As Eater Philadelphia reported earlier this year, Sbraga abruptly closed his two City Center dining rooms, the eponymous Sbraga and The Fat Ham. Those closures came after the demise of a Florida branch and a doomed concept called Juniper Commons. Earlier this week, Sbraga's last remaining establishment, The Fat Ham in the sprawling King of Prussia mall in suburban Philadelphia, called it a day, too. As the Philadelphia Inquirer notes in its obit on Sbraga's mini-empire, Sbraga himself took a bus back to Philadelphia from King of Prussia. Why the long ride home on a bus? Sbraga's Chevy Tahoe has been repossessed. Assessing his meteoric rise and fall, Sbraga was philosophical, but realistic. "Oh-for-five isn't good," he mused.

From the Archives: It Was 20 Years Ago Today ...
No one ever accused me of being a member of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, but I wondered what I was writing about 20 years ago today. Turns out I was opining about my old man, who morphed into Mr. Travel when his days as a retailer ended. And, of course, he was a prisoner of the "summer-travel syndrome." That's the goofy logic that insists you travel at the height of the summer even if it's the wrong time to visit a place. Meanwhile, 30 years ago "today" (musically and metaphorically speaking), I was writing about Hawaii. Specifically, the predilection of business travelers to use their frequent flyer miles to go to Hawaii. Back in the day, in fact, one in three award tickets were used for a Hawaii flight. The story also includes charts detailing the cost of award tickets to the 50th State and the price of buying tickets in cash.

Travel Ban 2.0 Gets Banned by Another Federal Court
Travel Ban 2.0 took another hit this week when the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, as expected, refused to allow President Trump's second executive order to go into effect. As with every other court before it, the Ninth Circuit's unanimous ruling (read it here) once again skewered the travel ban in part because of the Trump campaign's heated rhetoric demanding a halt to Muslim immigration. The Ninth Circuit's ruling also referenced several current tweets by President Trump, however, and questioned whether any President has the unilateral right to make immigration moves without clear supporting data. Next stop for the ban: the Supreme Court. It's unclear whether the Supremes will take the case, however, especially since every lower court that considered the ban is in agreement. Another possible impediment: Trump's first executive order, signed January 27, called for 90- and 120-day bans, time periods that have now expired. The Supremes might consider any possible ban moot and simply pass on the case. To that end, however, the Trump Administration hastily amended the starting date of the ban in an attempt to keep the case alive. But paperwork surrounding that change may push the case out of the Supreme Court's current session, which ends this month. That would require the Trump Administration to wait until October for its appeal to be heard. Which, of course, is very peculiar since the Trump Administration continues to insist a travel ban is time-sensitive.

Tight Connections ...
A plan to privatize the nation's air traffic control system is so corrupt that even supporters of free market privatization are appalled by the specifics. The problem: It turns huge chunks of a privatized system over to the airline industry's lobbying group. And the guy who wrote the bill, Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA), is sleeping with a lobbyist for the airline-industry group that would benefit the most. ... The bosses of American Airlines have backed off a plan to cut coach seat pitch to as little as 29 inches. The carrier said this week that it will be generous and only cut legroom to 30 inches. ... The Trump Administration plans to limit travel to Cuba by rolling back the Obama Administration's initiatives. Since almost no one is going to Cuba anyway, it's hard to see how further limits will matter much. ... The rapid adoption of premium credit cards such as the new Chase Sapphire Reserve and the American Express Platinum Card is being driven by the cards' robust travel benefits and perks, says -- 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.