Joe's Travel Newsstand
United Gets Caught Being United. Again.
June 29, 2017 -- You may already have heard the tale of the 71-year-old Houston man pushed to the ground by a United Airlines employee. You may have been skeptical because the ugly incident happened two years ago. You might not even have been convinced when the complete video of the incident emerged. Why, you kept wondering, didn't the passenger act earlier? Why didn't he contact and negotiate with United at the time? Well, it turns out that he did. When he and his attorney tried to work with United contemporaneously, United threatened to confiscate his MileagePlus miles and ban him from the airline. United Airlines' response this week to the latest hit to its frequently battered reputation? It announced a devaluation of MileagePlus. At this point, I suppose I should remind you that I dubbed United Airlines Worst. Airline. Ever. back in 2008. I restated the judgment in 2012.

Meanwhile, Back at Air India, Another Awful Airline ...
One of the serious challengers of United Airlines for the title Worst. Airline. Ever. is Air India, the textbook example of a bloated, government-run boondoggle that has failed for decades and continues to fail virtually every day and every hour of the week. For those unfamiliar with Air India, it was founded in the early 1930s by the legendary Tata Family, the conglomerate so large that its size is expressed as a percentage of India's GDP. It was forcibly nationalized in the early 1950s. Subsequent decades have seen big bailouts and a merger with Indian Airlines, the government-run domestic airline. An attempt to privatize Air India at the turn of this century went nowhere. As the Hindustan Times explains, Air India is much more than an airline. It also has extensive real estate holdings in India and major cities in Europe and Asia. But it is burdened by massive overstaffing, dicey aircraft and questionable safety procedures and has a staggering $8 billion in debt. It got a nearly $6 billion bailout just five years ago, but still relies on taxpayer subsidies. And while it remains India's largest carrier, its domestic and international market share continues to shrink as it competes against more nimble independent Indian- and foreign-owned firms. Now the Indian government has taken the first tentative steps towards privatization. Many observers think the privatization push is also doomed to failure, however. And at least one local wag is urging the carrier's founding Tata empire, the so-called "salt to software" colossus, to avoid any temptation to re-acquire its prodigal subsidiary.

Trump Travel Ban 2.0 Wins Partial Victory From The Supremes
After a string of defeats in lower federal courts over his attempt to slow or halt immigration, the Trump Administration this week won a partial victory in the Supreme Court. As you can read in the unanimous, unsigned order, parts of the Trump Travel Ban 2.0 can go into effect immediately. But as both and Reuters explain, the ruling is technical, not substantive. The actual legal specifics of the ban--and the President's right to unilaterally impose immigration rules--won't be heard by the Court until the next session, which doesn't even begin until October. A substantive ruling probably won't come until Christmas or even later. In the meantime, the Trump Administration rushed this week to promulgate specifics of what candidate Trump called "extreme vetting" during the campaign. For visitors (and immigrants) from the six affected mostly Muslim nations in the Middle East, the rules of entry are bizarre and seem random. Meanwhile, the NBC television affiliate in Miami published a story claiming there is no evidence undocumented immigrants commit more crime, a constant refrain of candidate and President Trump. But the story is misleading. It only shows that the number of illegal immigrants tripled between the 1990s and 2013, a period when violent crime declined 48 percent and property crime fell 41 percent.

Fly the Secular Skies of El Al--And Sit Wherever You Like
An Israeli court has issued a resounding verdict for secular, non-discriminatory skies. As The Guardian explains, El Al cannot make women move to accommodate the beliefs of ultra-orthodox flyers. The plaintiff, an 82-year-old Holocaust survivor and former lawyer, was sitting in her business class seat on a 2015 El Al flight from Newark to Tel Aviv. But an ultra-orthodox man objected--some Jewish sects believe in strict separation of the sexes--and a flight attendant demanded that she move to accommodate the man's religious beliefs. This happens frequently on flights to or from Israel and Renee Rabinowitz decided it was wrong. A Jerusalem judge agreed, calling the practice a "direct transgression" of the country's anti-discrimination laws. El Al has agreed to follow the court ruling and train its staff properly. Also applauding the ruling? An editorial in The Jerusalem Post. "It is legitimate and even important to respect a person's religious beliefs and practices," the paper said, "but that can only be the case when it does not affect the rights of other[s]."

Tight Connections ...
U.S. airlines are addicted to criticizing Gulf carriers Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways for all the subsidies they receive. But U.S. carriers never talk about all of the subsidies they receive from airports and local communities to fly certain routes. And if you're interested in how some of that works, read the Indianapolis Business Journal report on Indianapolis Airport's attempt to buy into a transatlantic route. ... Want to get Italians riled up and don't know anything about calcio (soccer)? Talk about the price of coffee, which has been rising at bars across the nation. Now the nation's consumer federation has compared the cost of coffee around Italy. Cheapest (about 75 euro cents an espresso) is at bars in Bari, the capital of the southern province of Puglia. Most expensive? Bars in Bologna, Florence and Venice, where a normale costs north of one euro. ... Been a while since anyone wrote about Air Koryo, the goofy flag carrier of North Korea. So here's Wired magazine marveling about Air Koryo's Soviet-built, Cold War-era fleet. ... Business travelers know the pain of (and problems caused by) too little sleep. The BBC reports on a new study to examine the effects of lack of sleep on the brain. -- 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.