The 2017 Year-End Travel Newsstand
Read all about it! Lots of stuff has happened on the road while we've been blissfully ignorant hiding out at home during the holiday season. Here's a quick catch-up, stripped of drama, but chock full of the usual dose of snark. Update on blackouts, train derailments, iPhone batteries, diverted flights, racially tinged downgrades and much more.

What You Need to Know About the Hartsfield Blackout
The absurd 12-hour blackout that hit Atlanta/Hartsfield on Sunday, December 17, has become an embarrassment for the city and the airport. It's also further besmirched the tarnished reputation of Delta Air Lines, the endlessly grasping carrier that dominates Atlanta. In case you've forgotten, here's how the disaster unfolded. Security experts say airports are supposed to have triple redundancy, but it turns out Hartsfield may not have the basics. As USA Today explains, the airport's power comes in from separate lines, but they are routed through a single tunnel and are controlled by a single switch. Worse, the airport had no plan to cope with a complete power failure.

Delta cancelled about 1,500 flights because of the blackout and chief executive Edward Bastian claims the carrier may have lost $50 million in revenue. Naturally, Bastian believes Delta must be made whole. No matter that Delta doesn't care about making you whole when it cancels thousands of flights during a rainstorm or has an IT meltdown. Maybe Bastian should buy some travel insurance, eh? Meanwhile, another big Atlanta company came at the blackout another way. Despite a long-held policy of closing on Sunday due to the founder's religious beliefs, Chick-fil-A opened its doors and fed thousands of flyers abandoned by Delta and the airport. And Hartsfield's largest Southern Tier competitor, Dallas/Fort Worth, wants the world to know it has spent millions to avoid a blackout.

What You Need to Know About Amtrak 501
The horrific train derailment of Amtrak 501 in Washington State on Monday, December 18, seems like it was an incident waiting to happen. The train, on its inaugural run between Portland and Seattle, was traveling at 80 miles per hour in a 30-mile-per-hour zone. And even though the tracks were newly installed, the route did not have positive train control, which would have automatically slowed the train. As the Seattle Times reports, the route was hurriedly launched months before the so-called PTC was to be installed. The paper also says the route won't resume until the safety systems are in place. Lastly, a transit blogger happened to be a passenger on the inaugural run. Here's the eyewitness account.

Snow Job: Erie to Siberia With Stops in London and Amsterdam
It's December. It snows. But maybe this is a bit much. Erie, Pennsylvania, was buried by 65 inches this week. That is a record even for the city all too familiar with Lake Effect storms. Meanwhile, the Russian island of Sakhalin was buried under feet of snow that paralyzed public transportation and shut the airport, thus cutting the community off from the outside world. Gale-force winds even blew a woman off a balcony. But daredevils were diving off roofs into the snow. Makes you wonder how a centimeter of snow can paralyze London's Heathrow Airport or how a few inches threw Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam into chaos. I mean, the Netherlands is a nation that's been holding back the sea for centuries. But a little snow? Chaos time. In fact, post-Christmas snow caused widespread disruptions at London/Stansted Airport, too.

Apple Accused of Assaulting Its Batteries
Apple now admits what all iPhone users have long suspected: The arrogant tech giant arbitrarily slows down older devices. Apple says it does so to protect users from unexpected shutdowns as the batteries age and hold less of a charge. Phil Baker says Apple's claim has some merits. But many iPhone users are unhappy with Apple's secrecy and high-handed approach and launched a lawsuit. Apple then hurriedly issued an apology and promised a software fix to better alert iPhone users to the state of its battery's performance. Apple also said it will cut the price of a battery replacement in 2018 to $29 from its current $79 fee.

Tight Connections ...
      Model behavior United Airlines and its All Nippon Airways code-share and joint-venture partner both operate a flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo/Narita. Both flights--United 32 and ANA 175--are scheduled to depart at 10:45 a.m. A flyer booked on United boarded ANA 175 and Twitter went nuts. Not because the aircraft returned to LAX after four hours of flying, but because model Christy Teigen tweeted up a storm during the aborted flight. Meanwhile, though, the situation may be more complicated and could result in federal charges.
      Talking turkey After a months-long spat that strained U.S.-Turkey relations and suspended the issuance of visas, the countries have partially patched up their differences. That means travelers can get visas once again. That makes it easier to fly Turkish Airlines' extensive global network and transfer or stop over at its excellent Istanbul hub.
      Downgrade tirade A woman traveling on United frequent flyer miles claims she was downgraded from first class on part of her trip and her seat given to Texas Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. United says that the woman cancelled her flight and the politician was upgraded via standard MileagePlus rules, not any special treatment. It got uglier from there. And given that United was involved, totally confusing. -- 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.