Internet Travel With Context
June 6 to June 20, 2019
Read all about it! Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao is a swamp thing of epic proportions. British Airways opens its photo and film archives for its 100th anniversary. Providence, Rhode Island, is cool in "wonderfully weird" ways. Is Malaysia Airlines worth saving? Italy's war on non-Italian Italian cheese. A televangelist thinks Jesus would have a private plane, too.

Transportation Secretary Chao, Swamp Thing

When he ran for president in 2016, Donald Trump whipped up his base with a triple threat of go-to promises: Lock her up! Build the wall! Drain the swamp! Nearly three years into his administration, however, Hillary Clinton is not locked up, Mexico doesn't want to pay for the wall (and neither do most of us) and, um, "drain the swamp" is a sad, tragic joke. Case in point: Elaine Chao, Transportation Secretary, wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and notorious Washington Swamp Thing.

Chao's um, swampiness, was well-documented even before Trump nominated her. But her swamptastic behavior while running the DOT has been epic even by the, er, relaxed ethical standards of the Trump cabinet. Last year noted she never seems to work on Fridays. Earlier this year, it called out Chao's, um, generosity to friends of Mitch from back home in Kentucky. Last month it was revealed that Chao never bothered divesting her shares in a major highway-construction firm as she promised in a pre-confirmation ethics agreement with the Transportation Department. And this week a pair of stories in The New York Times excoriated Chao for exactly the kind of deep-state shenanigans Trump claims to oppose. She uses her government position and stature to bolster the financial position of the gigantic shipping business owned by her family. And her position helps her burnish the reputation of the firm, an indispensable player in the U.S.-China shipping market.

And Now for Something Completely Different ...

... As a tuxedoed John Cleese might say on Monty Python if he were abruptly switching from the sublime swampy to the ridiculously nostalgic. To celebrate its centennial year, British Airways has opened its archives to the public. (BA isn't a hundred years old, of course, but lies about its age by tracing its lineage to Aircraft Transport and Travel Ltd., which launched in August, 1919.) Of course, you can't go to a place to view the deep and fascinating archives. It's a totally digital play with an unknown BA webmaster making the choices. Still, it's an intriguing hunk of aviation nostalgia, complete with nods to all of BA's predecessor carriers, former aircraft and more once-stylish cabin-crew uniforms than you could shake a very proper English walking stick at. There's nifty video, too, including a 1959 promo film for round-the-world service using Britannia 312 aircraft. There's even a grainy, jerky snippet of AT&T's first flight in 1919. (Check out the outrageous mustaches on the pilot and a functionary doing paperwork.) There are also plenty of waving royals, old advertisements and a wonderfully smarmy 7-minute, 30-second trade video about the 1972 creation of British Airways from the big-bang merger of British Overseas Airways Corporation, British European Airways and its regional operations. As the video explains to travel agents, "even the most complicated itinerary can be booked ... in a single telex message." You know, the real cool futuristic stuff.

Worldwhip: Flight to Nowhere, Flyers Go Nowhere

      EL PASO, TEXAS American Airlines Flight 3880 from El Paso to Chicago/O'Hare on Monday (June 3) returned to the airport twice. Because commuter flights aren't difficult enough to stomach ...
      MALAYSIA: Can Malaysia Airlines be saved? Perhaps the more interesting questions: Should it be saved? Can it even be closed?
      PALERMO, ITALY The capital of Sicily, Palermo has always been a town of immigrants. Now the city is being shaped by Bangladeshi and Nigerian migrants, much to the annoyance of Matteo Salvini, the interior minister of Italy and leader of the anti-immigrant League party.
      PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND It's small, but the capital of Rhode Island is a "smart and urbane college town" that is "wonderfully weird in a variety of ways."
      VANCOUVER, CANADA The growing problem of physically challenged travelers is back in focus because an elderly couple were abandoned for 12 hours at Vancouver Airport. The wheelchair-bound pair had flown from Nepal on Cathay Pacific and were scheduled to connect to Edmonton on Westjet. The incident occurred in February.

Tight Connections ... Quick Hits on the News

      'Airline' food is grounded The new TWA Hotel at New York/JFK has been all the rage among av geeks, but it's off to a rocky start. The food court was closed by inspectors because the vendors had committed a series of operational and bureaucratic mistakes. The food court has reopened.
      Blessed are the rich ... Famed televangelist Kenneth Copeland has a penchant for luxury, including a fleet of luxury planes. His explanation? Commercial flying is icky--and Jesus would have his own plane, too.
      If you diss them, they won't come Brexit campaigners in Britain promised voters that leaving the European Union would be a financial boom. Almost all of the claims turned out to be lies, however. And even the smallest one--that Brexit would mean a tourism boom from Europe--hasn't panned out. Since the country officially declared its intention to leave, tourism has fallen substantially.
      Cheese wars Italians have justifiable pride in their comestibles. But a war on "Italian" cheese made in Ukraine--or Wisconsin? Yup. A special crew of Italian investigators are on the front line of the cheese wars.