When April Fool's
Seems Like Real Life
THURSDAY, APRIL 1, 2021 -- It was a year ago that Italy's health ministry released a touching video salute to front-line workers--and average Italians--for persevering as the Coronavirus ripped through the country. The message was simple: Together, Italy would be reborn for Easter.

Like France and Germany and much of Europe and the world, Italy is locked down again for this Easter and Passover. The vaccines are coming too slowly, even in America, the virus is mutating and it is still killing thousands every day.

This year, however, we can see the rebirth. It won't be easy or painless or cheap. There will be far too much politics, cowardly behavior and lies along the way.

But this weekend I suggest you ignore it all. Well, read what's below and then check out for the holiday weekend. Enjoy. Relax. Recharge. It'll all be here waiting for when the holidays are over.

Back in February, we considered Covid vaccine passports and their digital equivalents. The discussion was about how they could help get us traveling again--and about how to deal with the confusion caused by the competing systems.

But February was long before a certain segment of the nation's political class--the putz class--decided they'd found another wedge issue. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis insists there will be no passports in his state. South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, whose handling of Coronavirus briefly made her state the worst place in the world for the virus, called passports "one of the most un-American ideas in our history." Justin Amash, the libertarian former Congressman from Michigan, called passports dystopian. Lauren Boebert, the gun-toting barkeep turned Colorado Congresswoman, insisted that passports are unconstitutional. And Marjorie Taylor Greene, the bat-crap crazy Congresswoman from Georgia, had the most bat-crap crazy reaction of all. Vaccine passports are "Biden's mark of the beast," she said.

They're wrong, of course. Many nations, including the United States, have demanded proof that visitors were free of polio or smallpox, yellow fever and more. At the moment, you can't even visit the United States without a negative Coronavirus test--and proof of same. None of the arguments against vaccine passports--and whatever Greene is babbling about--make historical, medical or Constitutional sense.

The wisest course is simply to ignore the carping politicians. They are playing politics--or 2021's very warped version of what passes as politics--not seriously discussing or considering the future of travel or even everyday business. They are posturing, preening losers.

There will be passports of some kind in our near future. And if you doubt me, grab historian Michael Willrich's 2011 book, Pox: An American History, or read this contemporaneous excerpt and interview.

Even with the recent upsurge in travel, most experts think now is an awful time to launch a new airline. But the rules don't apply to David Neeleman, who created JetBlue Airways and Azul of Brazil and led the consortium that revived TAP Air Portugal. His latest venture, Breeze Airways, may launch before the end of next month. The carrier started proving flights yesterday (March 31), one of the final steps before legal clearance to fly. Although his ultimate goal is to operate a fleet of as many as 60 fresh-off-the-line Airbus A220s, Neeleman will launch Breeze with a fleet of four EMB-190s and EMB-195s. Both aircraft will offer a coach and extra-legroom service and be configured with 108 seats (the 190s) or 118 chairs (the 195s). Although routes, fares and service offerings haven't been disclosed, expect point-to-point flying that eschews hubs and avoids major cities dominated by existing carriers. Ticket sales may begin in the next two weeks and, barring last-minute glitches, flights to four cities probably will launch before Memorial Day.

Regardless of what you believe about Georgia's controversial new voting law, it has zero, zilch, nada to do with travel. But leave it to Delta Air Lines to make it a travel topic and further blur the line between travel and politics.

In case you missed this tempest in a voting booth, Delta has turned its corporate reaction to the law--and the airline's place in Georgia politics--into a textbook case of how not to do public policy or public relations. Delta was for the law before it was against it. It was instrumental in making changes to the law before it was disgusted by them. It was none of Delta's business until it was Delta's business. And Delta chief executive Ed Bastian has been churning out a statement a day in a frantic attempt to stay ahead of the politics, a potential customer boycott and a spiteful tax hike that Georgia's pols roll out whenever Delta annoys them.

Along the way, Bastian and Delta have offended Georgia's Republicans, Georgia's Democrats and the bat-crap crazy Marjorie Taylor Greene brigade. He and the airline have been attacked by voting-rights activists, voter-suppression advocates and voter-integrity fans. He and Delta have been criticized by Brian Kemp (the state's conservative Republican governor), Stacey Adams (the Democrat Kemp beat two years ago), both of the state's Democratic senators and many local Republican legislators.

If this isn't crazy enough, voting legislation introduced in Texas this week is shaping up as an equally chaotic situation for American and Southwest, two carriers based in the Lone Star State. American has already issued a statement trying to get ahead of the politics and the posturing. Because that worked so well for Delta this week.

Back in 2003, I scribbled a ridiculous column that was the emotional equivalent of an April Fool's joke. It suggested someone would launch a chain of porn properties called X Hotels. Silly quotes attributed to then-Continental boss Gordon Bethune caused a small controversy in Canada because a Canadian news outlet missed the joke. Finally, I wrote the most absurd thing I could think of: Northwest Airlines would begin a code-share operation with Greyhound and replace many flights with buses. "Customers," I jibed, "will find Greyhound offers a level of service consistent with what they have come to expect on Northwest."

Skip ahead to now and we have the spectacle of United Airlines and niche carrier Sun Country Airlines launching code shares with a bus line. And the firm, known as Landline, sees the April Fool's of it all.

"Welcome to the future of air travel," Landline's home page blares.

Odd, I thought I said that almost 20 years ago ...