Travel Tales Told
By Other People
SUNDAY, MAY 12, 2024 -- Life on the road since 9/11 has been, um, intriguing, but there is at least one bright and shiny benefit: hordes of bloggers writing about the business of travel and an increased emphasis on travel reporting from the mainstream media.

So allow me to step back this week and present travel tales told by other people. It's all stuff I would have covered myself, but they've already done the spade work. No need to recreate the metaphoric wheel.

Airlines barely compete anymore, yet they often vie for supremacy in amenity bags. And, weirdly, the stuff they give away in the premium classes says a lot about how carriers think of themselves--and their most profitable customers. Gary Leff examines the newest American Airlines bags and, within reason, likes the premium economy offering best. The Points Guy site reviews the latest JetBlue amenity kit for Mint class. And One Mile at a Time considers (okay, fawns shamelessly over) the latest Bulgari-stuffed bags from Emirates Airline.

The information technology at Hertz is so awful that it routinely reports customers to police for non-existent car thefts. Worse, Hertz C-suite bosses not only endorse the practice, they also insist it should continue. That's evil. But what The Drive, a car site, reports is just dumb: Hertz charged a customer $277 for a gas-tank refill--except that the car was a Tesla electric vehicle. After stonewalling the renter and insisting that it couldn't possibly remove the bogus gas charge, Hertz backed down when The Drive outed the rental firm's utter stupidity.

Mount Fuji is synonymous with Japan's national identity and reverence for nature. But The Japan Times reports that a town in Yamanashi Prefecture is building a visual barrier to block sightlines of the snow-capped volcano. The reason? The town doesn't like how tourists were "breaking the rules" by ignoring traffic regulations and creating litter. The huge black barrier--about eight feet high and 65 feet wide--is delayed, however.

Ella Fitzgerald and many others recorded the wonderful Let's Take a Walk Around the Block. The Los Angeles Times has a different idea: Take a walk around LAX. The two-mile-long airside loop meanders through nine terminals and offers access to about 90 dining spots, 85 retailers and "dozens of artworks and architectural features." The paper's map is easy to follow and sure to help you burn time (and some calories) during your next long LAX layover.

Malaysia, an overwhelmingly Muslim country, is boycotting iconic American products due to our support of Israel's actions in Gaza. That's led the operator of Malaysia's KFC franchises to temporarily shut more than 100 restaurants. Back here at home, the beloved Chik-Fil-A chain is taking some heat for backing off its no-antibiotics-ever pledge. Meanwhile, those of us who don't live in Cincinnati are still trying to figure out why Queen City residents revere Skyline Chili and its bizarre spaghetti dishes. Also, let us not forget where fast food started: McDonald's. As the chain constantly remakes itself to stay relevant, it has 86ed many menu items. Do you remember the McLobster? The Arch Deluxe?

For all its other faults, Amtrak has been working to improve and redevelop key passenger terminals in the Northeast Corridor. The government-owned railroad already pulled off a remarkable relocation of New York's Penn Station, the busiest in the system. It has similar plans for Philadelphia's 91-year-old 30th Street Station and has already broken ground on the project. It's been harder in Washington, however. Because of an impossibly convoluted management structure, Union Station was embroiled in a series of thorny lawsuits. But a federal judge has ruled Amtrak was within its rights when it clawed back control of the government-owned station complex. That should lead to a massive redevelopment, estimated to cost $8.8 billion and take more than a decade.

Uber and Lyft grew ride-sharing by circumventing and sometimes breaking existing transportation laws and local regulations. Other countries (notably Italy and Japan) have been more restrictive, but ride-share operators had comparatively free rein in the United States. Now the free ride may be coming to an end. One example: Minnesota and Minneapolis. A new minimum-wage law has infuriated Uber and Lyft and they're threatening to pull out of the city and perhaps the entire state. As the Star-Tribune points out, the state and city have made a few concessions, but a collision appears inevitable. And Twin Cities Business editor Adam Platt, who recently wrote about Australia flights for JoeSentMe, delves into the background of transport in Minneapolis, a city he dubs a "notoriously bad cab town."