I dreamt I was snowbound last night. But due to El Nino, it will not be a white Christmas.
A tad deflated, I set out reflecting on a year's worth of assorted travel adventures. There was a lot to cheer and jeer in 2015, with so many high peaks and low valleys, good encounters and stinkers too; I wondered, "What would Santa do?"
Well, of course, Santa would make one of his infamous Naughty/Nice Lists. (And yes, he would checked it twice!)
First the Nice List side of the ledger:
● Paul Salopek, for keeping us adventurers inspired with his walk from Eden (Ethiopia) to South America (21,000 miles)...he's still got five years to go. Keep going Paul.
● FAA, for finally implementing drone registration rules in time for the holidays. Now, about those guns!
● The Global Scavenger Hunt... for 12 years of successfully holding the annual world travel championship. (April 15 - May 7, 2016)
● Peru, for doing a great job in designating over 67 million acres for the new Andes-Amazon Conservation parkland. Mother Earth thanks you too!
● Southwest Airlines, for remaining the last (US) airline not charging for a checked bag...and for making over 10% of your seats on planes available for awards travel.
● Christopher Elliott, for tirelessly continuing to fight the good fight against travel-related rip offs. Thank you.
● Marriott, for finally realizing that Wi-Fi ought to be free.
● Anonymous flying vigilantes who continued to use Facebook and Instagram to shame fellow travelers online for their crude, nasty and uncivil flying transgressions.
● Facebook for activating the "I'm Safe" button during the Paris attacks. Better late than never.
● The many people of Fiji, Melbourne, Bali, Abu Dhabi, Milan, Barcelona, Cartagena, Miami, Bruges, Cologne, London and Paris, who so sweetly took care of me this year traveling. Thank you all.
● Four Points LAX and Radisson Blu Waterfront Hotel, Stockholm, for joining the growing ranks of 24-hour check-in/check-out policy hotels.
● Jason Steffan, an astrophysicist, for figuring out the most efficient airline boarding process. (FYI: Skipping rows.)
● Google Maps, for helping us not get lost with off-line map viewing.
● ViaSat, a satellite-based Wi-Fi provider, for finally challenging Gogo's bad inflight service--and costs!
● Cathay Pacific, Singapore, Thai and Emirates Airlines, for knowing how to really treat all your customers.
Now to the Naughty List that would make Ebenezer Scrooge proud--lumps of coal for all:
● JetBlue for joining the dark side of crappy nickel and dime domestic airlines. Et tu, Blue?
● United, American & Delta, who through mergers and so-called "capacity discipline" (restricting flights and squeezing in more passengers) have boosted profits to record levels--despite a 35% drop in fuel costs.
● The big three legacy carrier cartel, yes, those three above again...for their hypocrisy wanting to change so-called open skies agreements with Emirates, Qatar and Etihad airlines, despite benefiting from $100 billion in government support since 2002. (When you can't compete, litigate!)
● Virgin America whose plans are to push 24% more passengers into each cabin.
● American Airlines who is changing their frequent flier program to a fare-based model. Boo. Hiss.
● Airbnb for posting controversial ads across San Francisco during the Prop F political campaign.
● Senator Diane Feinstein for leading the charge to make it tougher for Americans to travel abroad by pushing her tit-for-tat visa wavier changes which makes terrorists self-report themselves. Really!?
● State Department, for excluding the two most notorious terrorists recruiting countries in the world--Saudi Arabia and Pakistan--from the visa wavier changes.
● Getty Images for bullying and extorting travelers who blog or Facebook photos from Google Images that they claim they represent.
● Allegiant Air, for being excessively fee crazy.
● House Republicans for continually trying to divest in America's mass transit modernization, Amtrak specifically, by starving it. RIP fourteen passengers in Philadelphia and New York who died in needless crashes.
● United Airlines, whose corrupt chairman and CEO stepped down in connection with an investigation into the airline's cozy dealings with New York-area airports.
● Frontier Airlines, for replacing its toll-free customer service phone number with a toll-charge line.
● 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. You know who you are!
● Vladimir Putin for imposing a Turkish holiday ban on over 3 million Russians who visit Turkey annually...really Vlad!?
● American Airlines for halting your Philadelphia-Tel Aviv route service, not because of profitability, but because of OneWorld Alliance considerations with Qatar Airways, Royal Jordanian and Malaysian Airlines.
● TSA for halting the line-shortening "managed inclusion" part of its Pre-Check program that worked well for all.
● Expedia.com, who bought Travelocity, Orbitz and HomeAway in 2015, to add to their online sites Hotels.com, Hotwire.com and Trivago.com. Doesn't less competition lead to price fixing?
● Thai Airways for falling in safety standards according to the FAA.
● Yahoo! Travel for failing miserably with providing uninteresting travel content that is hard to figure out when the ads end and the content begin.
● Iran, Brazil, Russia and Bhutan, for not making it easier for travelers to visit by offering tourist visas upon arrival. Come on folks, this is the 21st century.
● Daesh (formerly known as ISIS or ISIL) for shamelessly destroying the ancient Baal Shamin temple in Palmyra, among other atrocities in 2015.
● Gun-toting Americans traveling through airports with their guns! The TSA confiscates six a day--what's the deal folks?
● Travel apps that taketh more than they giveth: Delta, United, Southwest, JetBlue, American Airlines, Travelocity, Hertz, IHG...be more respectful and responsive folks!
● Airlines who continually inflate (aka pad) their flight times so as to game their on-time statistics--a 60 minute flight between LAX and SFO is not 90 minutes, you're just late!
● Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA), for not doing enough to publicize the fact that the islands have a dengue fever issue.
● Exhibitionist travelers for taking naked selfies in modest nations...shame on you!
● Airline passengers that exceed their carry-on limits...a tad selfish don't you think!
● All travel-related selfie contests. Stop encouraging this, now please!
● Travel PR flacks who continue to makeup ridiculous hype-inducing buzzwords, like: jetiquette, hipster holidays, nakation, fakeaction, briancation, 7-star hotel, spasafaria, brokepacking, integrated resorts and Seekenders. Please, stop it!
● FTC for not calling it as it is by making hotels include their mandatory resort fees in the upfront advertised room rate price.
● TSA who fails miserably in their lone job and allowing "Red Teams" to smuggle mock explosives and weapons through airport security checkpoints in 67 out of 70 tests last June.
That's my Travel Naughty/Nice list, who's on your 2015 list?
Speaking of nice, I want to thank Pauline Frommer, Randy Petersen and Johnny Jet for their input in helping me compile this year's Naughty/Nice list. Thank you all and Merry Christmas.