You Want Travel News? Here
It Is, But You May Not Like It
THURSDAY, MAY 12, 2022 -- You want travel news? I got travel news.

Will you like the travel news I got? Well, uh, when do you ever like the travel news?

We talked last week about Delta Air Lines' cuts to Sky Club membership. In short, Delta sold a service--the right to enter airport clubs--it could not provide and then took away perks after you paid. It stinks. It's nasty. It's what airlines do. Every once in a while, however, the peons rise up and revolt. And that's what happened this week. Delta today announced a tiny walk back of the new changes. Now Sky Club members will continue to have access to lounges on arrival, not just before departure. Other previously announced cutbacks stay. There are two ways to look at this situation: Revolt in large enough numbers and airlines do listen. Or, more realistically, Delta decided to throw the peasants a bone with its minor concession. I lean to the latter analysis for a simple reason: When the remaining Sky Club changes kick in on June 1, you'll still be worse off than you are now.

This may be small succor when the average price of regular gas in the United States is nearing $5 and Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA) has noticed the price of bacon. (I flagged the breakfast-meat phenomenon a month ago.) While your dollar may not buy much at home, the greenback is Almighty again overseas. The value of the euro has sunk to $1.04 and the British pound commands just $1.22. If only we could afford to fly across the pond just now ...

With a lot less fanfare and violence than the last time Donald Trump departed Washington, the Trump Hotel across from the White House closed its doors yesterday. Signs have come down, too. The Trump Organization sold the lease on the property, located in the Old Post Office Building, for $375 million. The buyers are a group of investors who will renovate the property and reflag it as a Waldorf Astoria. Trump lost about $70 million on operations since the hotel opened just weeks before the 2016 election and he claims he spent $200 million turning the building into his gilded idea of a luxury hotel. He once thought he could sell the lease--the federal government still owns the building--for $500 million. But do not cry for Trump. This one--as opposed to his other woebegone travel ventures--worked out. The $375 million payout will allow him to settle loans with Deutsche Bank and cover the operational losses with plenty of dough left over to spend on lawyers.

EasyJet, one of those gigantic European discount carriers that specialize is charging you for everything in the most disingenuous way possible, is making a real improvement. It is stripping six seats from its Airbus A319s and that should result in a skosh more legroom for each passenger. But nothing is what it seems in the airline business. EasyJet is going to 150 seats from 156 chairs because it can reduce the number of on-board flight attendants to three from the current four. That's because, like United States regulators, European authorities require one flight attendant for every 50 seats.

Anti-semitism is eternal, especially in Germany. Even before Adolph Hitler, the Nazis and the death camps, there was Dolchstoßlegende. It was a bizarre myth that spread after 1918 insisting the German Army never lost on the battlefields of World War I, but was "stabbed in the back" by disloyal Jews back home. I couldn't help thinking about Dolchstoßlegende this week as mostly state-owned Lufthansa tried to steady itself after an ugly May 4 incident involving a group of Jewish passengers booked to fly New York/Kennedy-Frankfurt-Budapest. Some of the group--as well as some non-Jewish flyers--refused to wear their masks on the JFK-Frankfurt segment. Lufthansa responded by barring all the Jews it could identify--if you looked or dressed Hasidic or had a Jewish-sounding name, that was enough--from flying onward to Budapest. "Everyone has to pay for a couple," a Lufthansa gate agent told a Jewish passenger who had worn his mask. "It was the Jewish people who were the mess, who made the problems." Who was "everyone?" the passenger asked. "The Jewish coming from JFK," he was told. (The video is here.) Lufthansa's initial response to the incident scapegoated the flyers. On Tuesday, Lufthansa said "we regret" that all Jews were barred instead of only "non-compliant guests." Lufthansa today released a cringeworthy video of chief executive Carsten Spohr apologizing to Yehuda Teichtal, the Rabbi of Berlin's Jewish community.

The actions of Vladimir Putin and his invading army in Ukraine very much mirror what the Nazis tried to do during the Battle of Stalingrad. Whether the West's response--sanctions and military aid--will turn the tide in Ukraine is anyone's guess. But sanctions have had notable travel effects. At least a half-dozen Russian airports have closed and many others have fired staff. Ticket sales are off by around a third at, a Russian booking engine. International travel from Russia has collapsed. It was about 42% of pre-Covid levels before Russia's February invasion. Since then, it is hovering at about 15%. Aeroflot and S7 have been (at least temporarily) booted from their airline alliances. And while the major global hotel chains have alibied their continued presence in Russia, Hyatt has at least severed its relationship with the former Hyatt Regency in Moscow. And its property in the Black Sea resort of Sochi has closed.