The Confusing Aspects of the Laptop Ban

I get it and I don’t get it.

As you’ve read, electronic devices bigger than a smartphone will be bared coming into the United States and United Kingdom from certain country’s airports.

The airports are as follows:

  • Mohammed V International, Casablanca, Morocco
  • Ataturk Airport, Istanbul, Turkey
  • Cairo International Airport, Egypt
  • Queen Alia International, Amman, Jordan
  • King Abdulaziz International, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
  • King Khalid International, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
  • Kuwait International Airport
  • Hamad International, Doha, Qatar
  • Abu Dhabi International, United Arab Emirates
  • Dubai International, United Arab Emirates

My first confusion is about Morocco. There are other airports in Morocco, mainly the second busiest airport in the country in Marrakesh. There are EasyJet flights in and out that go to London. A quick Kayak search shows that. Presumably, that’s cool to travel with laptops. Then there’s Fez and Agadir.

My next confusion is that what if you’re coming home to the U.S. from Dubai with your laptop in your carry-on but you have a connection/layover in another European city like Frankfurt. Is that okay?

I bring this up because I’ve flown in and out of the Dubai, Ataturk and Mohammad V airport with my laptop on me but not directly from New York or London. Would I be singled out because I have a U.S. passport?

What I get is that laptops can conceal explosives, but in actuality, this is all more “security theater” nonsense.

The airlines are not please.

“After all, if these devices are viewed by the United States and the United Kingdom as potential instruments of threat, they can be loaded on any airplane anywhere. To suggest that Dubai doesn’t have the equal capabilities or better than the Europeans, the Americans and the Asians in terms of search, interdiction and surveillance, I find amazing,” said Emirates president Tim Clark to CNNMoney. “I know this airport.” The rich white guy has a point.

The end result, no blogging on laptops on long, direct flights from the Middle East for me. It will have to be done on my phone. COME ON!

Chase Sapphire Reserve — Ways to Maximize the Benefits

Here’s an update on my first three months using the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Cadillac of travel credit cards. As you remember, Chase introduced the card with a 100,000 bonus sign-up that became too popular, so they reduced it 50,000. I got in on the deal before the reduction.

To get the 100,000, I had to spend $4000 in the first three months. I got it at the two months mark. I used to pay my monthly bills like phone, cable, internet, car insurance, NY Times subscription and Netlix.

Then using Plastiq, I paid my rent. Depending on your amount, they charge you a small fee. Mine was about $44. When you think of the miles you get out of it, the fee is worth it. You can also use it to pay your mortgage or your taxes.

A few things you might not realize about the card. Yes, the $450 is pretty steep for a travel card. My Virgin Atlantic and Barclay Card are both $95 a year, but free for the first year. Not the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you get hit with the fee up front.

That is offset by the $300 travel refund. The good news is that public transportation, tolls and parking counts as travel. I changed my automatic top-up for New York/New Jersey transport and EZPass and got the credit on it.

Then there’s the shopping portal when you earn extra miles on online shopping if you click through their site. Basically, a cookie and tracking URL is embedded in your browser and when you check out, the retailer can see where you came from and credit you with the miles.

I used it to buy sneakers via Shoebuy for 6 miles per dollar. So $52.99 x 6 is 474 miles, with 52 miles on my card equals 526 added miles to my balance. My total miles balance after two months is 107,489.

Thus, the card is worth it, even with the now 50,000 redemption. I haven’t used it book travel yet or the other  perks like TSA pre-check (which I already have) and Global Pass (which I already have), or the lounge access.

Virgin America/Alaska Airlines Offering 10 New Flight Cities Out of San Francisco

Now that the merge with Alaska Airlines is complete, the new benefits include new flights out of Virgin America’s hub in San Francisco.

Here are the new daily flight cities:

  • Philadelphia
  • New Orleans
  • Nashville
  • Indianapolis
  • Raleigh-Durham
  • Baltimore
  • Washington D.C.
  • Kona, Hawaii
  • Albuquerque
  • Kansas City

The new routes take flight starting August 31 through December. It’s a great opportunity to rack up Elevate miles.

Also, take note that Virgin usually has amazing Cyber Monday deals, so plan accordingly.

As a side note, as far I can tell, Virgin will keep the in-flight entertainment, which some carriers are ditching in favor for free WiFi. Meh. I enjoy the back of the seat entertainment.

Dumb Asses Are Still Pointing Lasers at Airplanes

It’s time to check in on the dumbest thing bored people are doing to destroy air travel. It’s not taking their smelly shoes and socks off during the flight or random cock punches to flight stewards. It’s laser pointers.

London Heathrow saw a record 151 reported incidents in 2016 of somebody on the ground pointing a laser at a plane taking off. In 2015, there were 30. In the complete United Kingdom, 1,258 incidents were reported. That Brexit is a bitch ain’t it?

Now, here in the great U.S.A., we can’t let the brits outshine us. I reported two years ago that 3,894 incidents happened in 2014. Since then, in 2015, 7,703 incidents were reported, according to the FAA.

And the crappy year of 2016, it actually lowered 7,442. Ohhh, that’s 261 less. Also, if you look at the FAA report, 90% of those incidents were green laser pointers. 2.9% were blue. That’s great, detailed reporting.

This begs the question …

WHY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

According to one FBI investigation, perpetrator Jason Stouder wanted to see “how far it goes and what it hit. The helicopter flew by and I made the decision to see if it would reach the helicopter. Obviously it did. But, in viewing the video I had no idea it illuminated the whole cockpit and blinded everybody inside.”

Multiply that by 7,442 and you can see why we are a nation of idiots.

Here’s what it looks like from inside the cockpit via CNN:

The U.S. Travel Industry Feeling Effects of Travel Ban

It’s gone from bad to worst and will probably continue to slide. The botched travel ban that was overturned that’s going to be re-written because if you’ve failed once, might as well fail again is harming the trillion dollar travel industry.

The Global Business Travel Association estimates that $185 million worth of booking was lost due to the ban from the seven predominantly Muslim countries. It’s not just from refugees, green card holders, and students, it’s from business travelers.

“Business travel drives lasting business growth and is a leading indicator for jobs and the economy at large,” said Michael W. McCormick, GBTA’s executive director. “Upholding the travel ban will clearly cause a rippling effect through the travel industry, ultimately hurting the economy. It also unleashes travel disruption like we saw when the order was first implemented.”

The other major factor in this shit show is how foreign travelers travelers are rethinking visiting America. I alluded to this when the then candidate Trump called for a complete Muslim ban — will people not come to the U.S. out of protest or just lack of interest.

Now, we have some evidence that there is a drop off. The World Travel & Tourism Council says that there’s between a 6 to 17 percent decline in searches from travel booking sites to major U.S. destinations since the ban was first introduced.

“Every time a story comes out about challenges at customs and border patrol, a potential tourist to the US may get cold feet,” said Jason Clampet, editor of Skift.

I would counter that us coastal elites and major cities are welcoming of all nationalities and anything that this administration does is bad PR. They don’t represent America in my opinion, so if anyone is hesitant, they shouldn’t. Or just go to Canada, it’s like America but with funnier accents and more maple syrup.

United Pilot Has Meltdown Over Intercom; Might Not Have Happy Valentine’s Day

There seems to be a story everyday about a passenger doing something crazy. The “Cash Me Outside” chick used 5 of her 15 minutes for an in-flight rant. For this story, it’s the pilot going off the rails.

Many outlets are reporting about a United Airlines pilot showed up late for a Austin-San Francisco run late and in street clothes. The unnamed captain grabbed the intercom to rant about her divorce, the past election and her “cute little uniform.” Many passengers chronicled it on social media. After watching the video, it’s more disturbing than ha ha funny.

My reaction would be to find a flight attendant and ask, “Pardon me. I’m going to open the emergency doors and deploy the slide.”

About a dozen did get off, but the police arrived and escorted the pilot off the plane. She’s been suspended pending investigation.

While there are plenty of jokes to be made, this incident is not good for anyone. A Germanwings pilot had undisclosed mental problems and downed an entire plane in 2015. In 2012, a JetBlue pilot freaked out mid-flight yelling about a bomb on the plane, had to be locked out of the cockpit and restrained.

Pilots have one of the most stressful jobs out there with the pressure to be on-time, the hours of being away from home and the burden of having 180 souls trusting your skills. I hope this is a rare incident because they are the lifeblood of a whole industry.

Notice A Theme With Travel-Related Super Bowl Ads?

While the immigrant story of Adolphus Busch is grabbing headlines at juuuuuuust the right time during the Super Bowl,  there was  a theme to several travel-related Super Bowl ads.

There’s the AirBnb ad featuring people of many nationalities using the popular LL Brown/Circular font the company uses to showcase their desire for inclusion. Not included is when you find out your AirBnb host is creepy.

I enjoyed the Expedia advert of the red head traveling at every stage of her life — hitchhiking, making out with a guy in Japan, saving refugees, being a humanitarian and getting stopped by a soldier at a checkpoint. It’s pretty bold.

Last year, Turkish Airlines had Ben Affleck and Jesse Eisenberg from Batman v. Super: Dawn of Boredom. This year, they had the voice of God Morgan Freeman taking his first class seat to an open field.

The theme — travel is awesome because it gets you out of your bubble … and a little trolling of the new U.S. President doesn’t hurt.