NEWS BITES: Dennis Rodman, Terry Richardson, & Putin

Dennis Rodman Preps North Korea in Basketball

Dennis Rodman used to be the crazy man of American basketball. And now his new role is Kim Jong Un’s coaching buddy.

33-Year Old Man’s Quest to Look Like Justin Beiber

He’s spent over $100,000 in his quest.

Guilty Duo Claimed Holy War in Brutal Murder of UK Soldier

They considered themselves “soldiers of Allah” by nearly beheading a soldier on a London street.

Putin Applauds NSA Efforts

Of course, we’ve seen the movie, “The Lives of Others.

Delta Will Ban Cell Phone Calls Even If Approved

There’s one more thing Delta has going for it.

Terry Richardson and Audrey Gelman Break Up

The fashion photographer and “Girls” actress have parted ways.

Conservative Who Voted Against Medical Marijuana Are Now Investing in the Pot Business

Republican Steve Katz, who voted against a medical marijuana bill in 2012, will invest up to $10 million in pot business. Oh irony.

Bitching About Airlines Might Actually Be Productive

During last month’s world-wide snowpocalypse, I had a bit of a situation with Air France. The experience was awful, so bad that it inspired me to write about the way they handled customer service and lost luggage. I did get my luggage two weeks later, but several articles were missing, including chocolates and an Hermes fragrance. I was so over Air France by that point and so glad to have reunited with my luggage that I didn’t even report it. That, and the fact that I knew from experience that Air France wouldn’t do much about the theft. Anyway, I received several supportive emails from readers and friends who had similar stories to share. Everyone agreed travelers don’t really have a voice in the world of flying. Airlines can basically get away with anything. Now, thanks to TripAdvisor, that’s no longer the case.

TripAdvisor, the world’s largest travel forum, now allows readers to rank airlines on a scale from 1 to 5 in eight different categories, including in-flight service, seat comfort, and punctuality. The rankings show up when you search for a flight and mouse over the airline. Amazing.

As you know, TripAdvisor has a strong impact on hotel bookings, inspired by user-generated feedback and opinions, so this may be a way for airlines to actually deliver that promised customer service. Of course, the system is so new, ratings are currently hovering above average for most airlines. But let’s wait until everyone starts to weigh in after a few weeks and/or snow storms. While I have an idea of what Air France’s ranking will be, let’s hope Delta, recently voted worst airline ever, steps up their game. Their recent decision to allow customers to bid on compensation when flights are overbooked is a good start.

Department of Transportation Votes Delta as the Worst. Airline. Ever.

Domestic airlines are inarguably the worst in the world. We all have our horror stories, whether it’s lost baggage or customer service. American Airlines had to deal with lawsuits for not waiving a nominal fee while United lost a shitload of customers when their pilots arrived at Heathrow drunk. In any case, we can argue for days on end about which airline is the worst of all, but thankfully, we don’t have to. The Department of transportation has already mapped it out for us with its Air Travel Consumer Report. So, in the generally friendly skies, who are the biggest dicks?

Based on factors like on-time arrivals, mishandled baggage, passenger bumping, and overall customer satisfaction, the Air Travel Consumer Report tallied all the graphs and statistics to produce a detailed report. We love US News & World Report for putting this into a slideshow, with airlines ranked best to worst. Delta scored the lowest with the most delays and passenger complaints, followed by United, Alaska, and American. Oh man. If only Northwest had this report before they went ahead and did this.

Travel Dispatch: Delta’s BusinessElite to Europe Actually Trying to Compete

I didn’t have high expectations for my recent business-class flight on Delta’s BusinessElite from JFK to Frankfurt. Not only do most US-based airlines notoriously suck when flying internationally—some might say “in general”—no one’s exactly racing to book a ticket with Delta. In fact, before my flight, I referenced Delta’s Club Lounge on Facebook—the responses I received were “Delta sux” and “Delta be ghetto.”

In any case, the airline is in the process of revamping their entire 747 and 767 fleets. My B767-300ER sadly didn’t have the fully-flat, 180-degree seats that are allegedly slated to arrive by 2012, but all in all, it wasn’t a bad flight. Regular business-class passengers, however, will find much to gripe about.

Flying out from New York, Delta has major competition on the Frankfurt route—Continental and Lufthansa lead—so I wasn’t surprised that the business-class section was half full. I was able to get my own row, perhaps one of the better highlights. The personal TV screens were the kind that pop out from the arm-rest unit and were the same size as those in economy class (small); the movie selection was somewhat eclectic. As with most business-class sections, there were power outlets for each individual seat, but they were awkwardly located just below the arm-rest and had limited wiggle room for both my Blackberry charger and Apple’s signature, cumbersome plug. I had to bend the prongs and jam it in to make it fit (the Blackberry charger didn’t fit at all). Somewhat annoying.

As mentioned, the seats did not tip back into a fully flat bed. I like to think it went close enough. Luckily, I sat by the window, which offered a nice platform for my pillow. The Percocet I popped also helped. The meals: not notable but edible. The wine list: not bad, considering.

The most memorable part of the flight was the NY-based crew. They were incredibly on point, making up for any inconveniences. For example, when I told my flight attendant I wasn’t a fan of Dasani, which they serve in BusinessElite, he brought me a 1.5-liter bottle of the spring water they offer in the back. (Sidenote: it’s not a high-maintenance thing. Dasani contains salt, which just makes you thirstier and adds to water retention—not the best water choice when you travel often.)

I was impressed that Delta’s amenity kit offered Korres lip balm and moisturizer, along with socks that actually have those rubber traction sticky nodes on the bottom. Oh, and dental floss. I guess I’m saying it was nice to see Delta’s actually trying.

Flight Attendants Are the New Real Housewives

If last week’s half-naked pics and reality show promotions didn’t seal it, this does. A Delta Connection flight from Rochester, New York to Atlanta, Georgia was canceled when two female flight attendant reportedly got into a fistfight.

Passengers told reporters that they were told to get off the plane because the stewardesses got into a fistfight and the pilot decided to kick everyone off the plane. A company spokesman for Pinnacle Airlines, the operator of the flight, denied that there was any physical altercation but said that two flight attendants had had a disagreement. The spokesman also said that the fight started when the flight returned to its gate after a passenger became ill, but he did not know the reason for the fight. Guess we’ll just have to wait for the Andy Cohen special to figure that one out.

Ivana Trump Gets Kicked Off Delta Flight

Ivana Trump got herself kicked off of a Delta flight this weekend because of her surly attitude. Apparently, disturbed by unruly children running up and down the isles, she decided to shoot her mouth off, calling boisterous youngsters “little f*ckers.”

The official report:

The departing jet’s pilot called deputies about 2:30 p.m. because of a foul-mouthed and unruly passenger in seat 1C, in first class. When the lawmen arrived, they discovered the abusive passenger was the well-known socialite. They described her as ‘belligerent’ and ‘aggravating.’ According to PBSO, Trump first was unhappy about her seat. Flight attendants offered her another, and headphones, to calm her down. But then Trump became more frustrated when children started running up and down the aisle while screaming.

The scene escalated after the plane began to taxi. Ivanka started to direct her insults at other passengers around her. This led Delta to bring the plane back to the gate and escort the perturbed Ivana off the flight. The flight was delayed for two hours and Ivana went her on her merry way, uncharged. Perhaps Ivana should think about starting a “no kid” airline. She’s got the capital, and clearly, the interest.

Top 5 Tweets About the Delta Riots at JFK

Delta made the news yesterday when cops were called in to quiet the backed up and angry crowds that were filling up JFK. The security line was taking upwards of two hours to get through, causing many passengers to miss their flights. Reasons for this delay were many: the check in counters were not fully staffed, in fact some were closed entirely, and it seems that there was only one security belt for each line, making for a grand total of two. Though some planes were held to accommodate passengers, the airline was definitely lax in the communication department, only incensing the crowd more. The twitter hastag #deltafail is getting a lot of play right now. Read on for the top five tweets regarding the fail that is Delta right now.

1. @bpopken: “going to be some bad incident in jfk delta today. I can feel it. Backed up the yinyang. Low staff. No communication. People starting to snap”

2. @kevinpaffrath: “Oh sure, I’ll ‘consolidate’ my 4 carry-on items.” I’ll just put on a large jacket, put my bags under it, and wobble by you

3. @brucetifee: “What a clusterfuck! I’d rather crawl over broken glass with Danny DeVito on my back than fly in the USA.”

4. @nickpdi: “delta permanently lost my business in may; after waiting 2h(!) to check my bag at jfk they refused to help me.”

5. @EditorUtahCEO: “Impossible to reach @DeltaAirlines today. After this trip, I’ll do what it takes to never fly Delta again.”

Your Cash Is No Good At 20,000 Feet

Continental is the latest airline to convert completely to plastic-only, in-flight cabin services. Starting today, If you want to purchase alcohol, headsets or snacks on board, you have to hand over your credit card. The “cashless cabin” trend really gained traction this year, with nearly all the airlines going plastic: United in April, American Airlines in June, Delta in November and now Continental this December. JetBlue and Virgin America have been cashless for years now.

What’s up with this credit-only trend? People spend more when they pay with a card. When you don’t physically count out the dollars it’s much less painful to blow twenty bucks on booze and more booze. According to JetBlue spokesman Bryan Baldwin, sales nearly doubled in the first few weeks after the company went cashless in 2007.