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Airports: Can’t live with ‘em, can’t fly to dazzling locations across the globe without ‘em. But recently, they’ve made headlines an awful lot. We’ve collected a few choice stories from the skies this week, from good samaritans to free Wi-Fi on flights.
United Airlines announced today that they are expanding their baggage delivery service by BagsVIP. The service (launched just a month ago) allows you to skip the hassle of baggage claim and instead have your bags delivered to your home, hotel, or final destination.
The service is only available to customers departing from domestic airports and arriving in one of 36 cities. Among them are Los Angeles, Miami, Seattle, and Boston. Read more
Even with all the precautionary measures taken, dutifully taking the TSA’s advice, and charging up all your WiFi-accessible tech doodads for use on your trip, future flights may soon bring further frustrations to travelers. This time, however, it’s not about flight delays, the lack of legroom, or crying babies. It’s just business. Delta Airlines has announced plans to acquire a 49 percent stake in Virgin Atlantic, an international flier and separate company from Virgin America.
Delta aims to snatch up Singapore Airlines’ share (the company’s remaining 51 percent belong to owner Richard Branson). Delta’s motivation for the buy is not only a means of consolidation. Holding a major stake in a Britain-based international airline offers Delta the chance to procure more landing slots at London’s Heathrow Airport, one of the world’s largest hubs.
With the holiday travel season underway, expect airports to be flush with harried families and short-fused fliers. In these merry and maddening days, members of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) are often seen as the nemesis of stress-free travel. But the TSA understands your pain and has even released a helpful guide of how they plan to accommodate the high-volume of customers, and what customers can do to make their experience manageable. Some of the agency’s tips include:
Take Advantage of Streamlined Security Screenings
Waiting is the hardest part. Ask a flier to list their travel annoyances, and security screenings will often appear near the top of the list. Frequent passengers can benefit from a more efficient security process, which may cause even the most veteran travelers to fantasize about hopping the line and making a break for their terminal. The TSA PreCheck program allows eligible passengers to enjoy a streamlined experience, by-passing some of the more vexing aspects of the screening process. Such perks may include keeping shoes, jackets, and belts on, as well as being able to hold standard-compliant liquids and gels in a carry-on bag. Read more
As temperatures drop and skies darken earlier each night, it’s easy to fantasize of warm nights on a secluded beach with a Technicolor sunset on the horizon, a fruity drink beading condensation close by. But an aspect that doesn’t typically make it into the reverie is the joy of flying to your destination in one shot, without layovers or transfers. For fliers of Southwest Airlines, the trip from fantasy to reality has become a bit more streamlined.
The airline has begun offering nonstop flights to Key West, Fla., the southernmost stop on the continental U.S. route. The news is welcome for passengers who prefer spending the entirety of their expedition in one seat. Fliers to the Keys typically touch down in South Florida to switch to a smaller plane for the journey’s final push. These “puddle jumper” flights are provided by most major airlines, with only a handful giving direct flights.
You’ve finished your book. You’ve beaten your Angry Birds high score four times. You’ve properly acquainted yourself with the plane’s emergency protocol, and made a mental note to commission a portrait of your cat, Miss Precious Perfect, in elegant 17th century garb. You’ve exhausted your entertainment options, and you’re ready for your flight’s conclusion. Problem is, you’re nowhere near the tarmac. You’re still sandwiched between a wailing baby and a portly armrest-hogger, 30,000 feet in the air, hours away from your destination.
Nothing is worse than boredom setting in on a long flight. Fortunately, a new initiative by JetBlue will help alleviate mid-flight monotony. The airline recently announced they would offer onboard Wi-Fi, beginning in the first quarter of 2013. The airline is not exactly breaking new ground with the Wi-Fi offer: Their passengers have been twiddling their thumbs as competitors Virgin America, Delta, and American Airlines, among others, have provided the service for years. JetBlue has previously offered limited Wi-Fi, allowing flyers to check their email, instant message, and visit certain shopping sites. Read more
Unlike Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa, and, well, pretty much most of the world, really, the United States lacks for small airlines that include medium-haul international routes. For decades, medium- and long-haul international flights were solely the domain of legacy carriers such as Delta, American, and United. Now, however, more and more smaller airlines are helping Americans go beyond our borders for work, pleasure, and simple winter escapes. A piece in the New York Times illustrates just how prevalent this trend has become, and customers are the obvious beneficiaries. In an industry quick to create new fees, alienate customers, and downsize, this is a rare piece of good news for travelers. Read more
We here at ShermansTravel hope you’re spending the long Labor Day weekend somewhere fabulous. But if you want to score the best deals and rewards perks for busy travel times in 2013, here’s a heads-up: Factor in some time over this holiday to start planning your next trip, especially if it falls during peak travel times like Spring Break and Thanksgiving.
If planning (or booking) so far ahead seems a little extreme, consider that scoring affordable airline seats – whether through rewards programs or good deals themselves – will require even more energy, savvy, and patience than ever before. Recent airline mergers have cut capacity and reduced routes; adding to the problem is the explosion of credit-card rewards programs. The bottom line is that there are more travelers scrambling for fewer seats these days.
Fortunately, there are some ways to help travelers score the seats and travel times they want. Here, a few tips that will have you headed for takeoff in 2013, without losing your sanity (or a chunk of your life savings) in the process. Read more
Desperate for profits, the airline industry is known for charging customers for services that used to come standard. Remember free meals, checked baggage, and headphones? Over time, the industry has gradually reduced the legroom offered to customers. Originally at 32 inches a decade ago, The Boston Globe observed that averages have since dropped to 31 inches. Southwest Airlines is now packing six more rows of seats into their Boeing 737-700 fleet, thereby reducing legroom space by an inch for economy customers. If you want that inch back, the airline created premium rows at an added cost.
The days of complimentary meals on flights have gone the way of the dodo. While you will still get fed on international flights and offered food for purchase on domestic jaunts, it has become significantly more daunting to ensure that you don’t arrive at your destination feeling famished. Not all airplane snacks are created equal. What you eat on the plane says a lot about who you are and what you think of the people around you.
In order to help you select your travel snacks, we’ve created this handy guide. Keep it in mind the next time you’re preparing for a flight.
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