This is The True Story of the Federal Government When it Stops Being Polite…and Starts Getting Real
The federal government delayed implementing its requirement for travelers to obtain a REAL ID another two years – pushing the start of the requirement to at least May 2025. This at least the fifth delay after Congress passed the REAL ID Act in 2005, with implementation at one point expected to begin as far back as 2008.
More recently, it was slated to begin in October 2020, before COVID-19 delays pushed it back to October 2021, then May 2023, and now May 2025. The Department of Homeland Security cited “lingering impacts of the pandemic” as a reason for the continued delay, with government officials meeting to determine just how long they can use the pandemic as a reason for delaying REAL ID. Some in DHS are reportedly planning to use it as an excuse for ineptitude for at least the rest of the decade.
DHS Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas said the extension would give states more time to ensure their residents can comply with the law, while also giving the federal government more time to think of new and creative reasons to delay the process while simultaneous pissing off everyone who stood in line at the DMV because they thought they needed this stupid thing.
The DHS updated the countdown to REAL ID implementation on its website, with the idea that if it’s delayed one more time, the government will create a full-time position dedicated exclusively to updating the countdown on the site.
JetBlue Updates Mosaic Tiers
JetBlue Airways announced dramatic changes to its TrueBlue loyalty program on Wednesday designed to create maximum confusion amongst customers and create dissension amongst its elite ranks.
For starters, the carrier will now base status on tiles, giving an obvious leg up to any members of the program who play Scrabble, mahjong, or any other tile-based games. Previously the TrueBlue program offered points, and don’t worry, those aren’t going away. Instead, JetBlue will just add tiles to the mix in order to confuse you more. Tiles can be earned by spend – one tile for every $100 spend on JetBlue (including airfare, fees, and vacation packages), and one tile per $1,000 spent with JetBlue-branded credit cards.
At 50 tiles, a member would achieve the lowest elite tier cleverly named “Level 1.” Level 2 will be 100 tiles, Level 3 at 150 tiles, and the rarified air of Level 4 begins at 250 tiles. Level 1 members get priority boarding, complimentary checked bags, and extra legroom seats at check-in. Level 2 gets the Level 1 benefits plus extra legroom seats at booking, and Level 3 adds four minty-fresh upgrade certificates valid at booking.
Level 4 members include all previous benefits, two more upgrade certificates for Mint, a credit for four Blade helicopter transfers from Manhattan to JFK or Newark, and a JetBlue non-elite customer will come place an actual mint on your pillow at home every night before bed. As an unpublished benefit, it is believed those members will also receive a one year supply of Tilex mold and mildew remover to spray on lesser customers who dare sit next to any Level 4.
Non-elite members will also be able to earn perks, with a choice coming every ten tiles. Options include Group B boarding, priority security, one free booze option per flight, or the opportunity to place a mint on pillows in the homes of Level 4 elite members.
JetBlue, American Become Further Aligned in the Northeast
Northeast Alliance besties American Airlines and JetBlue Airways announced 10 new routes between the two out of New York/LGA and one more from of Boston as the pair become more entrenched in their alliance.
JetBlue is adding four new destinations from LGA:
- Atlanta (4x daily)
- Bermuda (1x daily, summer only)
- Hyannis (1x daily, summer only)
- Nassau (1x daily)
Most notably, JetBlue’s 4x daily service to Atlanta will completely replace AA’s presence on the route, with American ending its 4x daily E-175 service in favor of JetBlue. JetBlue’s 5th addition is seasonal service between Boston and Vancouver to begin sometime next year just as soon as JetBlue can locate a 2023 calendar and figure out just exactly where Vancouver is.
American is adding six new cities from LGA, all of which will operate year-round:
- Birmingham (1x daily)
- Buffalo (3x daily)
- Columbia (1x daily)
- Grand Rapids (1x daily)
- Greenville-Spartanburg (2x daily)
- Knoxville (1x daily)
American will go head-to-head with Delta on each of the six routes as the Atlanta-based carrier is currently the only airline operating to all six locations from LGA. Along with these additions, American is also expanding seasonal service from LGA to Asheville, NC to operate year-round and adding an additional daily frequency between Boston and Louisville.
UK Border Force Offers Coal in Travelers’ Stockings
The UK’s Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) voted on Wednesday to strike for eight days this month between the 23rd and 31st of December. The walkout includes Border Force staff who check passports at immigration checkpoints at six of the largest airports in the country, including both London/Heathrow and London/Gatwick, plus Birmingham, Cardiff, Manchester, and Glasgow.
Approximately 2,000-3,000 staff members will be involved in the labor action with a goal of causing backups at border checkpoints over the Christmas holiday. UK Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick said his ministry is working with the airports to have plans in place to minimize delays if the strike occurs, but stressed that passengers should still expect delays and travel disruptions.
Traveling by rail won’t be an easy alternative for those looking to avoid the disruption at the airport, with more than 40,000 railway workers expected to walk out of their jobs over the next several weeks as well. LGW officials said the airport expects to operate as normal on those days and that it would make extra airport staff available as needed with minimal disruption since “most travelers prefer Heathrow anyway, so those who travel with us are already miserable.”
EU Approves Limited French Domestic Flight Ban
The European Commission approved a partial version of a French law banning domestic air service on flights with feasible rail alternatives, impacting… three domestic routes in the country.
The French parliament voted the bill into law in the summer of 2021, with a goal of ending air service on all routes where a train ride would take less than 2 ½ hours. The idea was to reduce carbon emissions and other environmental strains on routes which operated several times per day in the air but were just as accessible – if not moreso – via train. Anti-competition watchdogs railed against the bill, concerned that it would limit options for consumers and lead to rising prices, possibly pricing some operators out of business. The EU eventually agreed that the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions outweighed the competitive losses on three routes from Paris/Orly, while keeping other options on the table for the future.
The limited version of the law approved by the EU sees three routes from Orly going away – to Bordeaux, Nantes, and Lyon. Nothing from Paris/CDG was touched – yet – with CDG to Rennes and Lyon plus Lyon to Marseilles potentially on the chopping block if rail service on those routes is improved.
- Aeroflot passengers will need to bring a book if they want something to do on their next narrowbody flight.
- Air Canada will return to New York/JFK in March with double-daily service to Toronto and 1x daily flights to Montreal, making it the only Canadian carrier to serve all three NYC airports.
- Air Greenland took delivery of an A330-800neo, the second widebody in its fleet.
- ANA is upping its service from Tokyo/Narita to Honolulu to include 5x weekly flights on its fleet of A380 aircraft.
- British Airways is reducing cash surcharges on some Avios award bookings to only require customers to offer up their first-born child and not their first two children.
- Cathay Pacific reopened its lounged at Tokyo/Haneda.
- Cinnamon Air is resuming scheduled seaplane service December 15 while officials are also denying rampant rumors of a planned merger with Indian carrier SpiceJet.
- easyJet avoided a cabin crew strike by its France-based staff after making the easy decision to offer them a raise.
- French Bee plans to expand to a new, secret, unnamed U.S. destination in 2023 which it will announce just as soon as it decides what it is,
- flydubai announced new daily service to St. Petersburg beginning January 20. The flight will be starting just in-time for those wanting to leave the warmth and economic prosperity of Dubai for Russia in January.
- Gulf Air wants to resume flying to the United States by 2025.
- Hong Kong Airlines will be restructuring.
- Icelandair scooped up its first converted B767-300 freighter.
- ITA moved one step closer to acknowledging customers are better off taking a bus than flying the airline, announcing a codeshare with Itabus to Rome/FCO on 2x daily bus service from both Pescara and Perugia.
- Jetstar finally agreed to move from Terminal 1 to Terminal 4 in Singapore, effective March 22.
- Porter is launching a new product named PorterReserve which provides access to the first four rows of the economy cabin, premium snacks on flights longer than 2.5 hours, and an opportunity to fly the plane for 30 minutes. Its legacy product will now be called PorterClassic, which offers the chance to buy the food offered for free in PorterReserve, sit in the fifth row or further back, and complimentary phone access to the clergy of your choice while the PorterReserve customers fly the airplane.
- Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary received a contract extension through 2028, O’Leary’s extended deal includes an increase in base salary and bonuses tied to how many ridiculous fees the carrier thinks up and implements in the next four years.
- Southwest might offer faster WiFi as soon as next year, but it needs to unplug the router on each of its aircraft and plug it back in first. The carrier also is reinstating quarterly dividends, offering up $0.18 cents per share after market close on January 31.
- WestJet announced its first nonstop service to Asia from Calgary when it begins 3x weekly seasonal service to Tokyo/Narita on April 30.
I had two fingers cut off my right hand after an accident at work. I asked my doctor if I would still be able to write with the hand despite the injury and she said: “maybe, but I wouldn’t count on it.”