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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
Monday, the Department of Transportation announced that United Airlines is being fined $130,000 after the airline failed to inform passengers they could deplane during a five-hour delay. The DOT’s rules on passenger rights took effect in August 2011. Read more
For some, paradise isn’t a pristine tropical island: it’s a mountain dusted with fresh, untouched snow. Skiing is a popular winter getaway for outdoor junkies who would rather work up a sweat tearing up the trails instead of lying in the sun. While the Northeast is home to a number of ski havens, snow bunnies may find themselves itching to hit the powder along the mountaintops out West. Jackson Hole, Wyoming is a skier’s paradise, home to a number of beautiful, budget friendly resorts. But making the trek from the East Coast can be an ordeal. The journey required two, sometimes three transfers, an exhaustive trip which can leave any athlete breathless (and minus some vacation days). Good news for those looking to maximize their time on the mountains: United Airlines is doing its part to help skiers can get from their home to the slopes much, much quicker.
The airline announced it will offer nonstop, daily flights from Newark Liberty International Airport to Jackson Hole from December 19 to January 2. Flights will also take off every Saturday from February 9 to March 30. The change is part of a wider expansion of services to Jackson Hole across several carriers. United recently began flying non-stop out of San Francisco, and Delta will offer flights from Minneapolis this winter.
Travelers flying to and from the Sunshine State will see a price hike across a handful of major carriers. United has raised one-way ticket prices on all Florida markets $10, while Delta, Southwest, and American followed suit with increases on most of their Florida routes. US Airways endeavored to push through a $10 spike on a larger portion of its domestic network but balked, limiting the increase to just the Florida region.
This is the 15th attempt by airlines to bump up domestic fare prices in 2012, seven of which have gotten the green light; last year, nine of the 22 proposed increases were successful.
There are many wonderful things about Europe (e.g., the history, the architecture, the casual acceptance of Nutella as an all-purpose condiment), but one of its greatest attributes is the size of its countries. Unlike the Americas or Africa, Europe’s countries allow for quick and easy boundary crossings over the course of a relatively short trip. Rather than seeing one place on a vacation, you can enjoy a Guinness in Ireland, tapas in Madrid, and boiled foods in London (we kid because we love). Planning your country hopping trip doesn’t have to be full of headaches. First things first, of course, you need to get from place to place. Depending on your planning personality, you have two options when it comes to flying: scheduling a stopover or booking regional flights. There are benefits and downsides to both. 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
Another day, another delay, as a computer outage caused United Airlines to cancel nine flights and delay 580 others for two-and-a-half hours on Tuesday. But for passengers trapped in electronic limbo between the tarmac and takeoff, the Federal Aviation Administration is considering making air travel slightly more enjoyable after revealing plans to review the use of personal electronic devices during flight.
Announced on Monday, the agency intends to form a study group consisting of airlines, mobile and aviation technology manufacturers, pilot and aircrew groups, and passenger associations to determine whether devices like laptops, mobile phones, and tablets can be safely used while the aircraft is in operation, even during takeoff and landing. However, the FAA will not consider allowing passengers to make calls on their cell phones (which is OK with us because no one wants to hear you say sweet nothings to your significant other throughout the flight).
While the administration does not explicitly ban the use of such devices, it requires the airlines to prove the gadgets do not interfere with aircraft navigation and communication systems, testing that few carriers have done. Despite this, pilots have been cleared to use iPads in cockpits by the FAA since December 2011.
The group will present its findings in six months, but, for air travelers, the ruling cannot come soon enough. Under the current guidelines, passengers are not allowed to use their devices until the plane reaches 10,000 feet. Even being stranded at the gate means that you only have the in-flight magazine to keep you company. If the changes are enacted, passengers could potentially log on to Facebook or play Angry Birds from the moment they board the aircraft.
While that’s great and all, how about some free Wi-Fi onboard to actually do these sorts of things?
Today’s announcement of a new online media store for United MileagePlus members seemed like a good idea: use your extra frequent flyer miles to fill up your iPad or other device with music, movies, and TV shows for flights. But then I saw the price tags for said media, and I changed my mind.
Albums will run you about 900 to 1,300 miles, while individual tracks are mostly 150 miles. For movies, MileagePlus members have the option of renting the film for 24 hours or purchasing outright; a rental will set you back 460 miles and owning the movie costs 2,545 miles. TV episode pricing is not yet available (the TV section launches in the fall).
American Airlines has revealed details of the cabin interiors for some of the 460 new planes currently on order, and boy do they look snazzy. It seems AA is finally on track to catch up with the rest of the U.S. domestic carriers with seatback entertainment screens in every seat, in-flight Wi-Fi fleetwide, and power outlets and USB ports at every seat.
The new fleet will also feature more Main Cabin Extra seating – with extra legroom and priority boarding – which American began introducing earlier this year. In a first for domestic carriers, jets flying AA’s transcontinental routes will allow for three classes of seating and lie-flat seats in Business and First Classes. The new planes are set to roll out starting next summer.
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