I dreamt I was knee deep in white Polar Vortex excess. But then I woke up and realized, it will not be a White Christmas in Baja this year.
Fondly reflecting on a year's worth of travel (25 countries) and assorted adventures, I thought "What would Santa do?" Well, of course, Santa would make a Naughty/Nice List. So, here's my quick, down and dirty 2016 Travel Naughty/Nice List.
First, the Naughty List that would make Ebenezer Scrooge proud--lumps of coal for all:
● Carnival's Princess Cruises for deliberate ocean oil dump and cover-up--and record $40 million fine.
● United Airlines for saddling shareholders with flying David Samson, embattled Gov. Chris Christie's friend, on the money-losing Newark to Columbia, S.C. air hubs--and paying $2.4 million to SEC to settle.
● Bugaboo, who with a straight-face is attempting to hawk a luggage system for over $1,000--to haul dirty clothes!?
● Travel bloggers who don't tell you in sentence one that they are sponsored by or on the payroll of any travel-related entity they are touting in their writings (AKA influencers)--you know who you are!
● To the sick airline passengers involved in a few recent airline ground accidents (SFO, LAS, DXB)--who take vital seconds attempting to take their luggage with them instead of just getting off the burning plane. WTF?!
● DXB & AUH airports, once great airports, who now bus everyone on ground transportation after deplaning flights adding to delays--you are wrecking your ease of travel BIG time!
● Americans Airlines, for being the "most complained about company in America." Tsk tsk.
● GOP-led Congress, for diverting some of the $1.25 billion in security fees charged to fliers to the general fund--instead of making TSA screeners more efficient; and thus insuring that another government-run service does not work. Shame.
● Schlitterbahn Vacation Village in Kansas City for opening a 60-mph 168-foot water slide. What. Were. You. Thinking?
● Vanilla Pixel app makers for coming up with the "Am I going Down?" app that is designed to ease your fear of flying. I'll save you the $2.99 in a word: NO! Now go buy a lottery ticket.
● Airbnb for continuing to sue towns for enforcing local laws and taxes. What makes you so special?
● Dallas/Fort Worth International (DFW) airport for being America's worst in: cancellations, delays and dining options. We're #1!
● Actor Judge Reinhold for asking TSA agents the age-old question: Don't you know who I am?
● Uncivil American airline passengers; folks, over 10,800 incidents of unruly behavior last year! Shame on us.
● Emirates Air for cramming a record 615 passenger seats (130 extra in coach) on an A380 flight between DXB-COP. Moo, moo...
● American hotels for shifting the unreasonable and unpopular resort fees to so-called hospitality surcharges. Really!?
● Irresponsible airline pilots being caught in airport DUI check points. Please don't give us more stress.
● Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta (ATL) airport for giving us longest terminal walk 1.67 miles, curb to gate!
● SkyRest's oversized inflatable travel pillow. Huh? Right up there with Knee Defenders.
● American legacy air carriers for the constant devaluation of our hard-earned frequent flyer points. Grrr!
● American cruise ships for bringing the day-tripping multitudes to Havana--who have almost zero tourist infrastructure.
● GOP-controlled Senate, who passed provisions to enhance security around airport perimeters "addressing public fears" yet kill all amendments to force airlines to provide more legroom "addressing public desires."
● The travel industry in general, who deliberately hike prices during school holidays--the only time hard-working parents can travel.
● Crumpler for attempting to sell a see-through suitcase Vis-à-Vis with the slogan: "you have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide." No one wants to see it.
● Gun-toting Americans traveling through airports with their guns! The TSA confiscated 75 just last week--what's the deal folks?
● Uzbekistan for finally offering visa-free entry--but only for travelers over 55! WTF Uzbekistan?
● United Airlines, a double lump of coal winner, who began offering no choices, no options "Basic Economy" (AKA Last Class)--for the same price you are guaranteed a middle seat and no luggage allowed.
● Americans Airlines, for getting a $1.6 million fine for excessive and long tarmac delays.
And now the Nice List-side of the ledger--extra spiked egg nog for all:
● China Public Security Bureau for creating a "tourism blacklist" that names and shames untoward Chinese tourism behavior.
● Paul Salopek, for keeping us adventurers inspired with his walk from Eden (Ethiopia) to South America (21,000 miles)--he's 9,292,800 steps into it so far.
● Federal Judge Kollar-Kotelly for not dismissing the 23 antitrust lawsuits that contend that, starting in 2009, United, American, Southwest and Delta airlines, all conspired to limit the number of new seats they added to raise airfares.
● The Global Scavenger Hunt...for 13 years of successfully holding the annual world travel championship. (April 14 - May 6, 2017)
● Barcelona authorities who will fine vacation rental websites Airbnb and HomeAway $633,000 each for offering lodging that doesn't have the necessary permits.
● Southwest Airlines for remaining the last (US) airline not charging for a checked bag. Thank you.
● Christopher Elliott for tirelessly continuing to fight the good fight against travel-related rip offs. Thank you.
● TSA for finally introducing what several other countries already know works: so-called "innovation lanes" that speed security up to 30%.
● Sen. Al Franken for pushing back against United Airlines' scheme to charge passengers for overhead baggage space.
● Civil Aviation Organization for finally adopting voluntarily measures to offset airline emissions--that generate 2% of global emissions.
● To the bipartisan Washington legislators who finally got together to pass a consumer protection bill requiring airlines to: refund checked-bag fees when luggage is lost or arrives more than 12-hours late; require airlines to provide families with information about the availability of seats together at the time of booking; enforces a truth-in-advertising pricing code of ethics; and locks in frequent flyer reward programs. Just kidding, it's Christmas not April Fool's Day!
● National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) for opening.
● Pauline Frommer for her always refreshing takes on travel destinations and honesty
● Delta Airlines for offering all passengers, even those in the cheap seats, free seat back entertainment.
● President Obama for finally opening Cuba to the average American.
● London Mayor Sadiq Kahn for opening the Night Tube in London--no more 7AM walks of shame & late night cabbie rip offs.
● Sen. Ed Markey for introducing FAIR Fees Act. (AKA the Forbid Airlines from Imposing Ridiculous Fees Act). Nuff said.
● Boeing for adding new "Space Bins" on its 737s, increasing overhead bin space by 50%.
● Delta Airlines for adding Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chips, to paper baggage tags.
● Anonymous flying vigilantes who continued to use Facebook and Instagram to shame fellow travelers online for their crude, nasty and uncivil flying transgressions.
● Mexico for creating the 2.7 million acre Pacific Islands Biosphere Reserve.
● La Quinta Returns loyalty program for giving us $14 in value for every $100 spent. #1
● Cathay Pacific, Singapore and Thai Airlines, for knowing how to really treat all your customers.
● The many people of Tokyo, Mexico, India, Indonesia, Turkey, Malta, Israel, Palestine, Kenya, Oman, St. Petersburg, Iceland, Malaysia, Warsaw, Helsinki and Koln, who so sweetly took care of me this year traveling. Thank you all and may all your holiday wishes come true.
And yes, I checked it twice! Who is on your list?
(Note: If you are offended by the Santa Claus and Christmas mythology, please excuse me, and insert Delights = Nice, and Disappointments = Naughty.)