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MGM Sells Bellagio, Circus Circus

Bellagio

Big news from Las Vegas: MGM Resorts is selling two of its properties, the Bellagio to Blackstone Real Estate Income Trust and the Circus Circus to Phil Ruffin, who also owns Treasure Island. Both sales are expected to close in the fourth quarter our partner publication, Hotel Management, reports. 

The Bellagio sale will see MGM and Blackstone form a joint venture, which will own the property. MGM will continue to lease the Bellagio from the joint venture, as well as continue to manage and operate the property. The Bellagio has 3,933 guestrooms, more than 100,000 square feet of gaming space and more than 200,000 square feet of meeting and event space, as well as retailers, botanical gardens and a variety of food and beverage venues. 

The Circus Circus will go to an affiliate of Treasure Island owner Phil Ruffin. MGM had originally acquired that property when it acquired the Mandalay Resort Group in 2005. The Circus Circus has 3,767 guestrooms, an indoor amusement park, an RV park and a 37-acre festival grounds. 

MGM said that the two sales are the first steps in an “asset-light” strategy, in which it enters into contracts with property owners instead of owning property outright. Other properties currently owned by MGM include the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, the MGM Springfield in Massachusetts, a 50 percent stake in CityCenter in Las Vegas and 68 percent of MGM Growth Properties

Recovery Continues After Hard Rock New Orleans Collapse

Hard Rock Hotel New Orleans rendering

Rescue operations and road closures are continuing in downtown New Orleans following the weekend collapse of a Hard Rock hotel that had been under construction. 

According to the latest statement from the office of New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell, the response remains in “rescue and recovery mode” as first responders continue to work to recover one deceased person and locate a missing person whose status is unknown. 

The city expanded the evacuation area around the collapsed hotel Tuesday after officials determined that two cranes at the construction site were unstable. The evacuation zone expanded to buildings facing the uptown side of Canal Street between Burgundy Street and Elk Place. It had already included the area surrounded by Conti, Bienville and Burgundy Streets

Mayor Cantrell further reported that the city is working with engineering experts from around the world, including those who worked on the response to 9/11 and the Oklahoma City bombing, to determine the best options for stabilizing the two cranes. 

The Regional Transit Authority’s central hub remains relocated to its headquarters at 2817 Canal Street. A list of public transportation changes is available here

The Hard Rock Hotel New Orleans collapsed Saturday while under construction, killing at least two people and hospitalizing 30 others. The new hotel, which at one point had been scheduled to open this spring, was to be housed in a new, 18-story building blocks from the city’s Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, which is the sixth largest in the country. Plans called for the hotel to have 350 rooms, along with four meeting spaces and two ballrooms, for a total of approximately 12,000 square feet of event space.

Citadel Builders LLC was contracted by Kailas Companies, owner of the project, to build the Hard Rock Hotel New Orleans based on a brand licensing agreement with Hard Rock International, the future manager of the hotel,” Hard Rock International said in a statement on the collapse. “Hard Rock has had no involvement in the construction of the project. We want to extend our deepest sympathies to victims of this tragic accident and to their loved ones and friends.”

There is still no word on what caused the collapse, but previously Mayor Cantrell had promised a “relentless” investigation into the incident. 

You’ll Never Guess What U.S. City Has the Most Expensive Hotels by Meg Butler |10/1/19

On average, you’ll spend more on your hotel room in…

When you travel around the United States, how much can you expect to pay for a hotel? As it turns out, it depends heavily on the city—and not the cities you might think. While metropolises like New York and Los Angeles might be your first guess at the most expensive cities for hotels, you’d be wrong. A new survey by Cheaphotels.org has found that the priciest hotels aren’t where you’d think.

The US Cities With the Most Expensive Hotels

  • Nashville $223
  • Boston $221
  • San Jose $214
  • San Francisco $209
  • Albuquerque $198

Surprised? Nashville, Tennessee is the city that boasts the highest hotel rates among the 50 cities surveyed by Cheaphotels.org for the period spanning 1 October through 31 October 2019. The prices above reflect the average rate for the city’s cheapest-available double rooms at hotels with at least three stars. 

While those prices are eyebrow-raising, they didn’t come completely out of the blue. The Thompson Nashville made our list of The 100 Most Incredible Hotels in the World this year for being our favorite unapologetically trendy hotel in the United States with rooms so cool and comfortable that you’ll want to live in them (or at least add the deep cuts on the vinyl record collection curated by Jack White’s record label to your Spotify list). And, at around $500 per night, you get what you pay for. This hotel is more than worth the price, it’s one of the best hotel stays in the world.

The US Cities With the Least Expensive Hotels

There is a time to drop several hundred dollars on a stay in one of the world’s greatest hotel rooms, and there is a time to look for more reasonably priced hotel experiences. If you’re looking for a vacation at a price point slightly less than the absolute most, these are the cities with the least expensive hotels in the nation:

  • Tucson $99
  • Baltimore $97
  • Fresno $85
  • San Antonio $84
  • Las Vegas $69

Surprised again? Who would’ve thought that the neon, gambling fever dream metropolis Las Vegas would have the cheapest hotel rooms in America? Well, we’ve been around, and all our most intrepid travelers attest to this truth: if you book last-minute, even swanky hotel rooms can be had at a deep discount. The more likely you are to nab a cheap stay during a hot streak, the more likely you are to spend more money at the casino downstairs.

So, there you have it: the five most expensive and the five least expensive hotels in the United States’ biggest cities. For the full list, check here: you’ll find 40 other cities ranked by the average price of their hotels. But, while price is a great first step for choosing a hotel, we wouldn’t recommend going in blind. Always check out hotel reviews that you can trust before booking a property.

Not to toot our own horn, but we’ve been in the travel industry for 80 years, and we know a thing or two about hotels. We only accept hotel reviews from our list of trusted travelers who know what to look for when making a recommendation.

And we’re not afraid to tell you if a property isn’t great or what beaches you should avoid. But don’t just take our word for it. Check out our Hotel Reviews for yourself or talk with your knowledgable Travel Advisor.

Meg Butler  Meg Butler, Staff Writer for Fodor's Travel. Meg is a travel writer   with a passion for great stories, great food and even better drinks.

 

 

A World Of Knowledge: Reasons Why Smart Travelers Need Smart Travel Agents

 

Delta Air Lines Boeing 767-300Travel agents have a world of knowledge of airlines, cruises, hotels and much more right at their fingertips. (Photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images) ​NurPhoto via Getty Images

 

 

Bookings Open for Virgin Hotels: Dallas

by Kailey Cotter
Bookings Open for Virgin Hotels: Dallas

The Dallas hotel will join Virgin Hotels locations in Chicago (pictured) and San Francisco. Photo: Daniel J. Macy / Shutterstock.com. 


Virgin Hotels announced this week that reservations are live for the brand's next hotel: Virgin Hotels Dallas. Reservations are currently being accepted for stays starting December 15, 2019,

Located in the Dallas Design District, the new-build property will feature 268 rooms, including two Penthouse Suites, multiple dining and drinking options, and a rooftop terrace with a pool.

All rooms or “Chambers” are designed to consist of two distinct spaces separated by a sliding door, complete ideal for working, recharging, wellness and playing.

The first space, "The Dressing Room", combines the hallway and a dressing area which includes a full vanity, makeup desk, an extra-large shower with a bench, and a closet for two. Slide open the privacy door and guests will enter "The Lounge" with the brand's lounge bed, a red plush sofa and much more. All Chambers feature custom lighting on sensors that react to movement. Additional amenities for pets will be available.

Commons Club will be situated at the main entrance of the hotel. Designed to be an entertainment and music hub that both travelers and locals can enjoy. The “Pool Club” will be located on the 4th floor of the hotel where light bites and cocktails will be served. In addition, Virgin Hotels Dallas will have a Funny Library Coffee Shop, which will be located on the first level of the hotel. The coffee shop is a communal work space that will house an assortment of whimsical and funny books and games.

The hotel will also feature a state-of-the-art fitness center, which will be open 24 hours a day, and over 7,000-square feet of flexible meeting and event space.

The Dallas location will join the Virgin Hotels franchise already developed in Chicago and San Francisco. Hotel plans are already being made for other major American cities releasing through 2024.

United Airlines MileagePlus Reward Miles Will Never Expire

by Daine Taylor
United Airlines MileagePlus Reward Miles Will Never Expire

Photo: United Airlines 


United Airlines announced last week that, effective immediately, its MileagePlus award miles will never expire — giving members a lifetime to apply their miles to flights, experiences, hotels, and more.

"We want to demonstrate to our members that we are committed to them for the long haul, and giving customers a lifetime to use miles is an exceptionally meaningful benefit," said Luc Bondar, vice president of loyalty and president of MileagePlus at United. "Our MileagePlus program provides customers more ways to earn and use miles than any other U.S. airline. More customers used miles to book awards trips in 2018 than in any year before, and we expect with today's announcement, that even more will use miles to travel the world in the years to come."

United continues to enhance its award-winning MileagePlus program, making it more appealing to customers. Some of the benefits include the recently announced partnership with CLEAR that includes free or discounted CLEAR membership pricing for U.S.-based MileagePlus members, and everyday opportunities to use miles starting as low as 1,000 miles for eGift cards when purchasing through MileagePlus.

The program will also award travel to more destinations than any other U.S. airline, with service to more than 1,300 destinations through United and Star Alliance partners, and the ability to book award travel on United and all Star Alliance partners through the United mobile.

Alaska Airlines Expands West Coast Service

by Daine Taylor
Alaska Airlines Expands West Coast Service

Photo: Alaska Airlines 


Alaska Airlines announced its commitment to expanding service on the West Coast by offering new, nonstop flight service from the Pacific Northwest and Alaska; and from San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego.

Starting in early January, the new scheduled service will link the following destinations: Spokane to Los Angeles (two daily departures); Spokane to San Francisco (two daily departures); Redmond/Bend, Oregon, to Los Angeles; Redmond/Bend, Oregon, to San Diego; Redmond/Bend, Oregon, to San Francisco; Boise to Los Angeles (two daily departures); Missoula, Montana, to Los Angeles; and Anchorage to San Francisco.

"We're excited to offer even more nonstops between vibrant Pacific Northwest communities and our growing hubs in California," said Brett Catlin, Alaska Airlines’ managing director of capacity planning and alliances. "Whether it's travel for a weekend getaway to Missoula or a day trip to San Francisco, we're proud to offer nearly 600 daily flights between West Coast cities." 

Adding to its expanded services, Alaska is also increasing the frequency of flights between certain markets.

Beginning Jan. 7, there will be an additional flight between San Francisco and Orange County, California, for a total of seven daily nonstops. Also starting Jan. 7, the flight between San Diego and Orlando, which is currently flown five times a week, becomes daily nonstop service.

Starting Mar. 19, Alaska Air will offer second daily flights between San Diego and Boise; and San Diego and Santa Rosa, California. There will be the addition of a second daily flight between San Francisco and Chicago O'Hare.

Also on Mar. 19, nonstop service between San Diego and San Jose, California, increases from four to six flights daily. And on May 21, a second daily flight between San Diego and Boston will go into service.

Frontier Airlines Modifies its Change Fee Policy for Travelers

by Daine Taylor
Frontier Airlines Modifies its Change Fee Policy for Travelers

Frontier Airlines is changing is fees charged for ticket changes. Photo: robert cicchetti/Shutterstock.com


Frontier, the Denver-based budget airline, is adjusting its ticket change fee policy for travelers, eliminating the charge for some passengers, while increasing it for others.

The airline announced its new zero-change fee policy on a Twitter post on Monday. The policy would waive change fees for travelers who make changes at least 60 days prior to their flight.

Previously, fees for passengers who made changes between 60 and 90 days before their flight was $49. The airline has already eliminated the fee for changes made at least 90 days in advance.

While this will be a welcome change for many passengers, there’s a catch. The change fee for passengers who make alterations to their flight plans between 14 and 60 days will face a fee increase to $79 from $49. This only affects travelers who bought tickets after Sept. 13; for those who purchased tickets prior, the fee will remain at $49.

Frontier's fee for last-minute ticket changes made less than two weeks before departure will remain at $119.  

Frontier spokesman Zach Kramer said, during an interview with USA Today, that the airline's change fee policy is among the best – if not the best – in the industry, even despite the modest increase.

"We're still ahead of the other guys,'' said Kramer.

American Airlines Bolsters Its Offerings with New and Increased Services

by Daine Taylor
American Airlines Bolsters Its Offerings with New and Increased Services

Photo: American Airlines 


American announced today plans to grow its international network by increasing service from Miami (MIA) to several Latin American destinations, as well introducing a new daily service from Boston (BOS) to London Heathrow (LHR) beginning March 29.

This year marks American’s 30th anniversary serving Miami (MIA), and now with additional service to Lima, Peru (LIM), Santiago, Chile (SCL) and São Paulo (GRU) set to begin next year, the carrier has even more to celebrate.

Currently, American operates two daily flights to LIM from MIA, and beginning April 7, the airline will increase operations year-round to three times a day. This service will utilize Boeing 757s, providing more service than any other carrier to one of South America's largest cities.

Next winter, American will also introduce an additional flight to Chile's capital, Santiago, and a third flight to Brazil's largest city, São Paulo. Both services will be operated on a 777-200.

"American's leading position in Miami is something we're incredibly proud of and committed to maintaining," said Vasu Raja, American's Vice President of Network and Schedule Planning.

"We have so many possibilities from our Latin American gateway and are excited for the opportunity to use our domestic strength to enhance our international network. We'll continue to grow, compete and thrive in a region of the world where we have a long history and a bright future."

American plans to launch a new nonstop service from BOS to LHR next year, which will offer customers access to five daily flights between American Airlines and its joint business partner, British Airways.

"Boston customers have been asking for more service and we're delivering with this new flight, and our recently announced seasonal service to Nassau and Grand Cayman."

This service will be flown on a state-of-the-art 777-200, featuring 37 Flagship Business seats and 24 Premium Economy seats. Together, American and British Airways provide up to 71 flights every day between the U.S. and London.

The airline will also extend service to several key European routes including service between New York (JFK) and Rome (FCO); Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) and Dublin (DUB); and Chicago (ORD) and Barcelona (BCN). These routes will now operate a month longer than their current schedule.

Flights will be available for purchase Oct. 7, with the exception of GRU and SCL, which will be available for purchase in December.

United Will Offer Premium Plus Seating for Select Domestic Flights

by Daine Taylor
United Will Offer Premium Plus Seating for Select Domestic Flights

Photo: United Airlines 


United Airlines recently announced it would be extending its new premium economy cabin range, Premium Plus, to select domestic flights, as of Oct. 2.

Previously, the Premium Plus class was only available for long-haul international flights when it was launched earlier last year, but it will now be available on selected domestic flights, as well as for transcontinental flights, using the Boeing 787-10 aircraft.

The Premium Plus seats offer passengers additional leg and elbow room, free upgraded meals on real plates, an upgraded amenities kit including Saks Fifth Avenue blankets, extra storage, and a larger screen for in-flight entertainment with noise-reducing headphones and extra power outlets.

Currently, Premium Plus seating is only available domestically on the two daily flights between Newark and Los Angeles and one daily flight between Newark and San Francisco, and costs just over $400.

United is also making it easier to upgrade with the introduction of PlusPoints, a new upgrade benefit for Premier Platinum and 1K members that creates more opportunities for members to be upgraded on flights.

Top-tier members will receive a bank of points that they can use to upgrade all flights across United's global network, where they previously would have used Regional Premier Upgrades (RPU) or Global Premier Upgrades (GPU).

"We're making it even easier for our Premier members to use upgrades when and how they want," said Luc Bondar, United Airline’s vice president of loyalty and president of MileagePlus. "The new PlusPoints program increases the overall number of upgrade opportunities for top-tier Premier members, expands the fare classes where they can be used, and lets members request upgrades on multiple flights all at once.”

On Dec. 4, United will replace Regional Premier Upgrades and Global Premier Upgrades with PlusPoints. Each RPU will be worth 20 PlusPoints and each GPU will be worth 40 PlusPoints.

PlusPoints will make upgrading to and from Premium Economy more flexible. Upgrading from Economy to United Premium Plus and from United Premium Plus to United Polaris business class will be possible for less than the value of one GPU.

“We already make it easy for members to manage all of their upgrades online, and the move to PlusPoints is yet another way we are making MileagePlus the best loyalty program in the industry," said Bondar.

Disney Cruise Line Releases 2021 Schedule

by Jessica Montevago
Disney Cruise Line Releases 2021 Schedule

Bookings open Oct. 3 for sailings to tropical destinations from Louisiana, Texas, California, and Florida. Photo: Disney


In early 2021, Disney Cruise Line will return to New Orleans for a limited-time with sailings to the Bahamas and Caribbean, along with cruises to tropical destinations from Texas, California, and Florida.

Back by popular demand, the Disney Wonder will return to the bayou from late January through February 2021.

A pair of four- and five-night cruises to the Western Caribbean kick off the season from New Orleans. The five-night voyage includes a visit to Progreso, Mexico, a new port of call for Disney Cruise Line on the Yucatan Peninsula, with ancient Mayan ruins and hidden swimming holes filled with crystal-clear water.

Three seven-night sailings to the Bahamas with a stop at Castaway Cay, plus a 14-night Panama Canal cruise, round out the departures from the Crescent City in early 2021.

Guests sailing from New Orleans will experience the flavors and flair of the Big Easy both onboard the Disney Wonder at Tiana's Place restaurant, where families are transported to an era of southern charm, spirited jazz and street party celebrations with live music and other surprises inspired by the Disney animated film, "The Princess and the Frog."

The Disney Wonder will also return to the popular home ports of Galveston and San Diego in early 2021. Guests sailing from Texas can enjoy the white-sand beaches of the Western Caribbean on a series of four- and six-night cruises to Grand Cayman and Cozumel. One seven-night departure will feature stops at Key West, Nassau, and Castaway Cay.

Following the season in New Orleans, the Disney Wonder heads to the West Coast for a variety of sailings to Baja and the Mexican Riviera departing from San Diego, where families can hunt for gold aboard a pirate ship in Cabo San Lucas or embark on an off-road adventure in Ensenada on cruises ranging from three to seven nights.

Disney Cruise Line will have three ships sailing to the Bahamas and Caribbean from Florida in early 2021, and every cruise includes a day at Disney's private island paradise, Castaway Cay.

From Miami, the Disney Magic will sail three-, four- and five-night Bahamian and Western Caribbean cruises.

From Port Canaveral, the Disney Fantasy will sail seven-night Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries, and the Disney Dream will sail three- and four-night Bahamian cruises. 

Bookings open to the public on Oct. 3, 2019.

 

FAA Announces Plans to Investigate Airline Seat Safety

by Daine Taylor
FAA Announces Plans to Investigate Airline Seat Safety

The FAA announced last week that it is going to investigate whether airline seats are too small to ensure a safe and timely exit for passengers in the event of an emergency. Photo: Ksenia She / Shutterstock.com. 


Over the years, the airline industry has had to make concessions on comfort in order to accommodate as many passengers as possible, and nowhere is this most apparent than in the size of typical airplane seats. In fact, since 1985, passenger seating on many major U.S. airlines shrank as much as 2-4 inches. Airplane seats have been reduced so much, that it’s no longer just a matter of comfort, but of passenger safety.

The FAA announced last week that it is going to investigate whether airline seats are too small to ensure a safe and timely exit for passengers in the event of an emergency. The agency said Thursday that it plans on conducting evacuation testing in November to determine if airline seats allow travelers to exit the plane within 90 seconds, which is the standard safety requirement for all certified commercial aircraft.

During a recent hearing with the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation, U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn, expressed concerns about aircraft seats being too small, as the size of the average American is steadily increasing.

Cohen even referenced the Boeing crashes that took place earlier this year, saying “People couldn’t get out of the plane in 90 seconds. Why did you not comply with the seat act?” He stated that factors like passenger height, weight, and physical disabilities should all be taken into account when it comes to redesigning aircraft to make them safer.

"Americans are getting bigger, so seat size is important, but it's got to be looked at in the context of safety," said FAA Deputy Administrator Dan Elwell. “Survivability today is much, much better … but you’re right, we need to do testing on evacuations. We’re going to do live testing.”

Elwell said the FAA plans to test aircraft safety in November with what he says is a "good demographic sampling" of 720 volunteers, including small children and animals.

The testing will take place at the Federal Aviation Administration’s Civil Aerospace Medical Institute, in Oklahoma City, and authorities will use the results to collect 3,000 data points. That information, as mandated by last year’s FAA reauthorization, will help to determine how small airplane seats can safely get, and how close rows of seats can be to one another.

In a statement, the FAA said it was required to “issue regulations to establish minimum dimensions for airplane seat width, length, and pitch that are necessary for the safety of passengers.” The agency plans to complete evacuation testing by the end of the year in order to “determine what, if any, regulatory changes are necessary to implement the requirement.”

Gone in 90 seconds
The 90-second rule may sound like an arbitrary number, but it is actually a standard set as part of the certification process for all aircraft manufacturers. They are required to demonstrate that an aircraft, at maximum capacity, can be completely evacuated within 90 seconds using half of the total number of emergency exits.

Use of only half of the exits simulates the potential for failed evacuation devices or exits blocked due to fire or structural damage. "They try to simulate the worst-case scenario," said the FAA’s acting Deputy Associate Administrator Lirio Liu. She added that the simulations will take place in a dark environment, with half of the plane's exits blocked. Flight attendants will not know which exits are available, all in order to mimic the uncertainty of a real-world situation.

Ninety seconds was established as the maximum evacuation time because tests have shown that, in a post-crash fire, conditions conducive to flashover are unlikely to occur within that time span. However, the experience of actual evacuations, especially unexpected ones from full aircraft where the abnormal situation occurs suddenly at or soon after landing, indicates that evacuation times usually exceed durations demonstrated for certification purposes.

It’s for this reason that regular testing is vital for the airline industry, because failure to evacuate the aircraft in a timely manner may lead to the death or injury of crew and passengers.

Norwegian Cruise Line Eliminating All Single-Use Plastic Bottles

by Daniel McCarthy 
Norwegian Cruise Line Eliminating All Single-Use Plastic Bottles

NCL is partnering with JUST Water to eliminate all single-use plastic water bottles on its fleet. Photo: NCL


Starting Jan, 1, 2020, Norwegian Cruise Line will begin eliminating all single-use plastic bottles on its ships, replacing six million single-use plastic bottles its guests use annually with JUST Water, which is offered in a paper-based carton that’s 100% recyclable..

The new bottles come through Norwegian’s new partnership with JUST, a company founded by American actor and artist Jaden Smith, the son of Will Smith. While the line’s whole fleet will get the bottles, Norwegian will first debut them on its newest ship, Norwegian Encore, which is launching this fall.

“It is imperative that we take meaningful steps to preserve our oceans and the destinations we visit,” NCL’s Andy Stuart said in a statement announcing the news. “This latest effort – the elimination of single-use plastic bottles across our fleet – is just the latest environmentally responsible action we are taking to reduce our footprint and encourage others to protect our natural resources.”

The move is also part of NCL’s Sail & Sustain Environmental Program, which the line says will see it minimize its waste to landfills, reduce its CO2 emissions rate, and invest in new, emerging technologies that will help cut down on its environmental footprint.

Here are the Best Times to Start Booking Holiday Flights

by Daine Taylor 
Here are the Best Times to Start Booking Holiday Flights

Most travelers book their flights for Thanksgiving between Sept. 25 and Oct. 27. Photo: Alexander Image / Shutterstock.com. 


As the summer winds down, now is the perfect time for travelers to start planning for their next vacation. The much-anticipated Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays may still be months away, but the best time to book flights for these busy travel weeks is quickly approaching.

AAA released a report this week analyzing flight booking data from the last three years reveals that Sept. 25 marks the start of the best booking window for air travel around both the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

“Holiday travelers should make their plans now and begin booking their flights for Thanksgiving and Christmas as early as Wednesday, Sept. 25, for the best deals and availability,” said Paula Twidale, vice president, AAA Travel.

“Procrastinating travelers may be able to find last-minute deals on flights close to the holidays, as airlines look to fill their last few remaining seats, but flight availability for these peak travel weeks will be very limited by that time.” 

Thanksgiving travel
Most travelers book their flights for Thanksgiving between Sept. 25 and Oct. 27, which is 28 to 60 days prior to the holiday and offers relatively good prices ($491 on average). Surprisingly, AAA’s analysis found that travelers can find some of the best pricing ($482 on average) seven to 13 days before the holiday, Nov. 11-17 this year. However, limited availability will make seats hard to come by at these discounted rates.

According to AAA, flying Monday of Thanksgiving week is the best option for travelers to arrive at their destinations before the holiday. It has the lowest average ticket price ($486) prior to the holiday and is a lighter travel day than later in the week.

For travelers who are more concerned about crowds than cost, the Sunday before the holiday has the highest average price per ticket ($564) and it is consistently the lightest travel day. Travelers can save by traveling on Thanksgiving Day, which has the lowest average price per ticket ($454). 

Christmas travel
AAA found that the ideal time to book flights for the Christmas holiday is 61 to 90 days prior to the holiday (between Sept. 26 and Oct. 25), with prices lower on average ($551) than more advanced bookings. However, most travelers book between 28 and 60 days before Christmas — between Oct. 26 and Nov. 27 — and still get a relatively good price ($561 on average). Like Thanksgiving, last-minute Christmas travelers can find the overall best pricing ($488 on average) seven to 13 days before the holiday week, but flight availability is likely to be very limited by that time.

Regardless what day of the week Christmas falls on (a Wednesday this year), most travelers depart two to four days prior to the holiday. These travelers, on average, pay ticket prices of $593 on Dec. 21, $639 on Dec. 22 (the busiest air travel day of Christmas week), and $603 on Dec. 23. However, AAA found that Christmas Eve is the best day to travel. It consistently has the lowest average price per ticket ($527) and is the lightest travel day of the week. Many travelers opt to travel after the Christmas holiday leading up to New Year’s, and they pay a premium to do so. Dec. 26 has the highest average ticket price of the week at $692.

When it comes to getting the best value for your travel this holiday season, AAA recommends travelers start researching holiday travel options now and book flights by Oct. 27.  

“Last year, AAA projected that 54.3 million Americans would travel over the Thanksgiving holiday and a record-breaking 112.5 million during the longer year-end holiday season,” said Twidale. “If those trends hold again this year, travelers are in for crowded airports and, possibly, longer wait times. Pack your patience and plan ahead, giving yourself plenty of time at the airport to maintain that holiday cheer.”

Here’s What You Need to Know About the Upcoming REAL ID Deadline

 

by Daniel McCarthy
Here’s What You Need to Know About the Upcoming REAL ID Deadline

Starting in October 2020, to travel domestically, every traveler will need a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or an approved ID card or passport. Photo: DHS


With the final deadline for the REAL ID Act coming up, travelers everywhere will soon be impacted by new rules for flying domestically at every airport in the U.S., as the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will soon stop accepting standard driver’s license or ID cards at airport security checkpoints.

Here’s what travelers and advisors need to know about what the REAL ID Act will do and how they can get compliant before the final Oct. 21, 2020, deadline.

What is the REAL ID Act?
Among other things, the REAL ID Act, which was passed in May of 2005 after a recommendation from the 9/11 Commission, set requirements and standards for state driver’s licenses and ID cards to be accepted at federal facilities and at airport security checkpoints.

According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Act was aimed at improving the security of driver’s licenses in all 50 states. While previously it had been up to individual states to determine what the rules and criteria would be for issuing a driver’s license or an ID, the REAL ID Act would nationalize the rules and set a federal standard that states would be forced to meet.

After some delays, the DHS announced it would begin implementing the Act in four phases at the end of 2013, with the first three phases aimed at increasing security at facilities like DHS headquarters, nuclear power plants, and other federal facilities. The fourth phase of implementing the Act kicked off in 2016 and was aimed at air travel. 

When will I be impacted?
The DHS originally planned on Jan. 22, 2018, as the deadline. The official rollout was then pushed back to Oct. 1, 2020, after some delays. Starting then, the DHS and TSA will only accept REAL ID-compliant IDs and licenses; otherwise, travelers will be required to have a passport when flying domestically. 

REAL ID Airport What to Know
An example of a REAL ID-compliant license in West Virginia. Photo: TSA

How do I know if my state is compliant?
Right now, in total, there are seven states left to meet the requirements to be compliant with the REAL ID Act: Oregon, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maine, and Rhode Island. California is currently under review and is expected to be compliant by the end of May 2019.

Those non-compliant states are all currently operating with extensions, meaning that the current driver’s licenses and ID cards are still accepted at security checkpoints despite not being compliant with the Real ID Act. Pennsylvania and Kentucky have extensions until Aug. 1; while Maine, New Jersey, Oregon, Oklahoma, and Rhode Island have extensions until Oct. 10. 

The rest of the U.S. states are all currently compliant and are issuing REAL IDs. As long as a traveler has a license issued with the REAL ID requirements (usually designated by a star in the upper portion of the ID), he or she is able to travel domestically without a passport or another form of ID.

How do I get compliant?
Each state will have to follow the new federal requirements for issuing IDs. Travelers can check with their state’s DMV to understand exactly what they’ll need before heading to the DMV to get an updated license. 

New York, for instance, began issuing REAL IDs in October 2017. The state now requires all travelers to get a REAL ID by going to the DMV with proof of ID, proof of social security number, date of birth, and U.S. citizenship, along with two different proofs of New York State residence.

What is the TSA doing?
The TSA most recently launched an awareness campaign to make sure everyone knows about the upcoming REAL ID deadline. Travelers will begin seeing new signs at airports nationwide in the coming weeks to remind them that REAL ID-compliant licenses or other acceptable forms of ID — such as a valid passport, federal government PIV card, or U.S. military ID — will be mandatory for air travel as of Oct. 1, 2020.

 

Most Americans Are Unprepared for REAL ID Deadline, U.S. Travel Says

by Daine Taylor 
Most Americans Are Unprepared for REAL ID Deadline, U.S. Travel Says

Millions of Americans are unprepared for the launch of the REAL ID program, which could prevent them from flying, according to the U.S. Travel Association. Photo: Shutterstock


A study conducted by the U.S. Travel Association revealed that nearly three out of four Americans are unprepared for the upcoming REAL ID deadline of Oct. 1, 2020.

The program, implemented by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, is the last phase of enforcement of the REAL ID Act, the law originally passed in 2005 that will require travelers to present a REAL ID-compliant driver's license or other approved form of identification in order to board a flight.

As it stands, according to the study, millions of people could be prevented from boarding a plane because they do not have the required identification. According to the survey conducted for U.S. Travel by Longwoods International, a market research consultancy, 72% of Americans either do not have a REAL ID-compliant driver's license or are unsure if they do. 

"Our survey gave us the answer we didn't want to hear, that there is alarming lack of awareness and preparedness a short year out from REAL ID going into full effect," said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow. "This is significant not only because it will inconvenience travelers and create confusion at U.S. airports — it could do significant damage to our nation's economy.”

The study revealed a significant lack of awareness of the REAL ID program, with more than half of Americans (57%) saying they did not know about the upcoming deadline. Many Americans also lack the alternatives to REAL ID-compliant, state-issued driver's licenses — such as a U.S. passport. In fact, 39% of Americans say they do not have any form of identification that will be accepted starting Oct. 1, 2020. This equates to an estimated 99 million Americans that may not currently hold the proper identification to board an airplane starting next year.

"That's why the U.S. Travel Association has launched a broad education effort alongside the full spectrum of public- and private-sector travel stakeholders: airports, federal government agencies, tourism offices, and the huge community of large and small businesses that depend on American travelers — we need all hands on deck to avert a big problem next October," said Dow.

Based on this data, U.S. Travel economists estimated the potential economic impact of REAL ID implementation: If REAL ID standards were to be fully enforced immediately, at least 78,500 air travelers could be turned away at TSA checkpoints on the first day, costing the U.S. economy $40.3 million in lost travel-related spending. If that trend was sustained for a full week, the figures could grow to more than half a million (549,500) air travelers prevented from boarding planes and $282 million in lost travel spending.

Individual states are initiating their own awareness campaigns to help get citizens ready for the change, but according to Dow, a concerted effort is needed to help make people aware and ready for the implementation of the REAL ID standards.

The U.S. Travel Association is spearheading an initiative by private-sector travel stakeholders to better prepare the country for the Oct. 1, 2020, REAL ID deadline. To that end, the association has developed a toolkit filled with resources for its membership and other allies to help educate Americans on what a REAL ID is and how to prepare for it. The toolkit features facts, figures, and even talking points to get people fully informed. The organization is also coordinating engagement with policymakers and government agencies to proactively address the lack of pre-deadline awareness.

British Airways Cancels Thousands of Flights Due to Pilot Strike

British airways, plane, terminalBritish Airways airline terminal at JFK airport. (photo via Heather Shimmin / iStock Editorial / Getty Images Plus) 

Update: September 10, 2019 at 9:50 a.m. ET

British Airways has announced the cancellation of almost 100 percent of Tuesday’s scheduled flights as the strike orchestrated by its pilots’ union stretched into a second day.

According to a statement from the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA), the airline was forced to cancel nearly 850 flights Tuesday, which impacted more than 100,000 passengers.

The strike will end late Tuesday night and another day of strikes are planned for September 27.

“Pilots are standing firm and have shown just how resolute they are today,” a BALPA statement read. “British Airways needs to start listening to its pilots and actually come up with ways of resolving this dispute.” 

Pilots working for British Airways began a strike Monday that grounded nearly all of the airline’s flights and impacted thousands of passengers around the world. 

According to Reuters.com, British Airways canceled 1,700 flights to and from London’s Heathrow and Gatwick airports Monday and Tuesday as a result of the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) members taking action due to a dispute over pay.

Officials from British Airways said it had offered its pilots an 11.5 percent pay raise over three years, but the BALPA is fighting to include profit-sharing in the next contract. BALPA General Secretary Brian Strutton said the union was willing to compromise, but the carrier would not budge.

“I am really sorry that the cynical actions of the pilots’ union have put us in his position,” British Airways CEO Alex Cruz told BBC. “It is by all accounts an own goal; it’s going to punish customers, it’s going to punish our brand, it’s going to punish the rest of the colleagues.”

The BALPA made a last-second offer to British Airways before Monday’s strike began, but the airline said it was an “eleventh hour inflated proposal.” Union representatives said they would have called off the strike if the carrier “had engaged with the offer.”

BALPA officials said another day of industrial action is scheduled for September 27 unless a deal can be worked out.

The United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is reminding impacted passengers they are eligible for reimbursement for canceled flights, alternate travel arrangements under comparable conditions or a new flight at a later date.

Airlines Reportedly Consider Weighing Passengers to Conserve Fuel

A new report claims airlines could be considering the idea of weighing passengers before they board flights to better estimate how much fuel is needed for each specific journey.

According to The Sun, European airlines are considering the cost-cutting measure to help save money and lower carbon emissions, as the current method of estimating fuel usage is based on the gender-weight ratio of passengers onboard. 

The current process is an inexact science that bases weight estimates on gender, with males counted as 189 pounds, females as 154 pounds and children as 77 pounds. Research shows this method results in more wasted fuel.

The company proposing the weighing system, Fuel Matrix, said airlines burn between 0.3 and 0.5 percent more fuel due to the extra weight of carrying the unnecessary fuel. By reducing the cost, carriers could save as much as $1.35 billion worldwide.

Fuel Matrix officials said the company is in negotiations with “several long-haul airlines” in the United Kingdom about the possible implementation of the weighing system. The measurements would be taken via discreet pressure pads and would remain confidential.

“Our patented technologies are relevant to both airports and airlines in reducing fuel burn, CO2 emissions and carbon footprints,” Fuel Matrix COO Nick Brasier told The Sun. “Our discussions in the sector continue to progress well, and we’ll be pleased to provide a more detailed update in the coming months.”

Bobby Brown Removed From JetBlue Flight for Suspected Intoxication

Sep 10, 2019 09:01 AM ET

Bobby Brown (former husband of the late Whitney Houston) was kicked off of a JetBlue flight from Los Angeles to Boston Monday morning.

A spokesperson for the airline told TMZ that the celebrity was "removed from the aircraft prior to departure after crewmembers observed indications of intoxication." 

The incident led the airline to order everyone off of the plane and police met Brown at the gate.

Witnesses said Brown admitted to drinking prior to boarding but was not being disruptive or interfering with the flight crew. He was later heard telling officers that he had to get to a funeral.

"The decision to remove a customer from a flight is not taken lightly. In this instance, the customer was offered a seat on a later flight. The customer declined and was issued a refund," JetBlue added.

The flight eventually departed without Brown about an hour behind schedule.

 

Delta Air Lines Announces Additional Relief Flights to Bahamas

Delta Air Lines continues to lend a helping hand to those impacted by Hurricane Dorian by announcing two additional supply flights to the Bahamas.

The carrier will operate two relief flights Monday at 11:30 a.m. and 3:20 p.m. local time from Atlanta to Nassau and Fort Lauderdale to Marsh Harbour. The planes will be loaded with critical supplies such as cots, feminine products and water. 

Delta launched its first scheduled relief flight Sunday morning from Fort Lauderdale to Marsh Harbour Airport loaded with 4,700 pounds of critical supplies, including food, water, diapers, formula, underwear and socks.

The MD-88 plane then traveled to Nassau with 72 evacuees.

Delta was one of the first carriers to send reconnaissance flights to the region, which surveyed conditions at the Marsh Harbour Airport, which remains closed due to infrastructure damage. The airline worked with local authorities to organize relief flights to and from the island.

For travelers who want to lend a helping hand, they can donate directly to Red Cross disaster relief through the Delta microsite or by donating miles through Skywish.

Disney World Giving Back to Boy Who Used Savings to Help Hurricane Dorian Evacuees

 

6-year-old Jermaine Bell had been saving up to go to Disney World for his birthday.

Instead, he decided to use his money to help Hurricane Dorian evacuees in South Carolina, handing out hot dogs, water and other snacks along the highway.

 

disney, world, theme parkPHOTO: Six-year-old Jermaine Bell of Jacksonville. (photo via Walt Disney World Resort) 

One little hero is getting a big surprise thanks to Walt Disney World Resort.

After spending more than a year saving money for his birthday trip to Florida’s Disney World, six-year-old Jermaine Bell of Jacksonville was ready for his dream vacation until Hurricane Dorian hit The Bahamas and the United States.

As Dorian made its way to the coast of South Carolina, Bell used the money he had saved to purchase hundreds of hot dogs, bags of chips and bottled water to serve free of charge to hurricane evacuees near his grandmother’s home. 

Thousands of people shared Bell's story of selflessness and kindness in the subsequent days. One of the companies to learn about the young boy’s graciousness was Disney, which decided to reward Bell for his actions.

During Bell’s seventh birthday party on September 8, Mickey Mouse and a group of Disney World cast members made a surprise visit and informed the family they would be going to Walt Disney World after all.

Disney announced the family would be treated to a VIP getaway at the vacation kingdom in late September.

 

 

 

 

Spirit Airlines Aims to Maximize Comfort and Legroom with Brand New Seats

 

Spirit Airlines Airbus A319PHOTO: Spirit Airlines Airbus A319. (photo courtesy of Spirit Airlines) 

Spirit Airlines has just announced the latest facet of its “Invest in the Guest” brand commitment by unveiling plans for new, more comfortable jet cabin seating that will maximize useable legroom.

The announcement was made onstage at the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) EXPO. Spirit Airlines officials indicated that the carrier will share its plans for overall cabin redesign in November, which is to incorporate both updating branding and modernize the look and feel of the space.

New Spirit Airlines seat design, planned for November 2019.
PHOTO: New Spirit Airlines seat design, planned for incorporation in new deliveries beginning in November 2019. (Photo courtesy of Spirit Airlines)

To inform its new designs, Spirit Airlines partnered with the Charted Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors (CIHEF) to conduct an in-depth analysis of all factors affecting passenger comfort, as well as an investigation into optimal ergonomics in aircraft seating. Factoring in guest feedback, Spirit also conducted a research study, which suggested that people’s perceptions of in-flight comfort derive largely from the amount of useable legroom available.

While “seat pitch”—defined as the space between one point on a seat and the same point on the seat in front of it—has long been the preferred measurement of comfort in cabin seating, CIHEF has pioneered a new metric, which incorporates the several elements that actually contribute to overall seat comfort.

“Pitch is an outdated industry term for measuring seat comfort, as it does not consider a range of important key factors like seatback curvature, seat width, cushion thickness, and usable space,” said Steve Barraclough, Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Ergonomics & Human Factors. “The ‘Usable Legroom’ metric is the distance from the center of the back of the seat cushion to the outer edges of the seat in front. We believe this metric provides a potential basis that all airlines could calculate and could offer the passenger new, evidence-based information about the potential comfort of the seat.” 

Spirit’s new seats, created by U.K.-based Acro Aircraft Seating and manufactured by HAECO Cabin Solutions—will incorporate several innovative enhancements, including softer, thicker padding, additional pre-recline and ergonomically-designed lumbar support—which ergonomic experts say will allow for a wider range of healthy postures and movements while seated.

The state-of-the-art design also provides passengers with an additional two inches of usable legroom, as compared to flatback seats of the same pitch that are currently the industry standard.

Upgraded, softer seats are designed in stylish matte-black with border-stitching in Spirit’s signature yellow, and include a full-size tray table and elevated literature pocket.

In a three-seat configuration, middle seats will gain an extra inch of width, and every seat will gain nearly an inch of pre-recline as compared to Spirit’s current seating, with exit rows gaining even more.

New seats will be made of a composite skeleton and padded with ultra-lightweight memory foam, enhancing comfort without increasing weight, and preserving the high fuel-efficiency of Spirit’s Fit Fleet.

Spirit’s improved Big Front Seats will also feature additional memory foam to provide a softer seat cushion and thigh support; and plush, ergonomic memory-foam headrest, also crafted in a sleek, Spirit-branded aesthetic.

Installation of the new seating is slated to begin in November 2019 and continue through 2020 on all new Spirit aircraft deliveries.

For more information visit Spirit.com

 

 

 

Norwegian Cruise Line Enhances Award-Winning Entertainment Program With SIX: The Musical

SIX with Norwegian Cruise Line

See the British pop musical SIX on the Norwegian Bliss, Norwegian Breakaway or Norwegian Getaway. (photo via Norwegian Cruise Line)

Fine Dining in Playa del Carmen

Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen

PHOTO: Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen's La Cocina Restaurant & Terrace. (photo via Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

The Best Hotels for Family Vacations

The Mirage Dolphin Habitat
PHOTO: The Mirage Dolphin Habitat. (photo courtesy of MGM Resorts International)

 

 

 

Unrivalled Hospitality in Los Cabos at at Grand Fiesta Americana Los Cabos All Inclusive Golf & Spa

La Coleccion

PHOTO: Grand Fiesta Americana Los Cabos All Inclusive Golf & Spa has excellent snorkeling. (photo via La Coleccion Resorts by Fiesta Americana)

Canada Issues Travel Warning After Earthquakes Hit California

 

Canada Issues Travel Warning After Earthquakes Hit California

Photo: Shutterstock.com


Last week, the Canadian government issued a travel warning for the U.S. following a series of earthquakes that struck the Searles Valley in California. Classified under “natural disasters and climate,” the advisory was originally issued on July 6, and is still in place.

Mere days after a 5.1 magnitude earthquake shook Southern California last week, another, more powerful earthquake measuring a magnitude of 7.1 struck on July 5, and could be felt as far as Sacramento to Las Vegas and Mexico. The most recent quake was the largest felt in the area in at least 20 years, and was strong enough to cause damage to buildings, start fires, and impact the roads.

The U.S. Geological Survey reported that the earthquake, “occurred as the result of shallow strike slip faulting in the crust of the North America plate.” The agency also states that the earthquake took place roughly 34 hours after a 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck the same region in eastern California.

Seismologists now warn that large aftershocks could be expected to continue for days, if not weeks. And while the risk level for the U.S. has not changed, in response to the tremors, the Canadian government has updated its travel advisory for the area.

The advisory now states that people who are in the affected area should monitor local media and follow the instructions of local authorities. In addition, it notes that, “Earthquakes pose a risk in Alaska, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Washington state.”

By Daine Taylor

How Facial Recognition Technology is Being Used at Airports

 

How Facial Recognition Technology is Being Used at Airports

Photo: Shutterstock.com


The use of facial recognition technology within American airports is raising some serious concerns about privacy and security for the traveling public.

Airlines and U.S. authorities are increasingly using facial recognition technology, including at check-in, baggage drop, security and during boarding. As of 2019, facial recognition is mostly being used to verify passenger identity for Customs and Border Protection on international flights, but the Transportation Security Administration and airlines have plans to expand it to domestic travel as well.

According to an executive order issued by President Trump in 2017, facial recognition is expected to be deployed at the top 20 U.S. airports by 2021 for “100% of all international passengers," including American citizens. The move is part of a plan to “protect the nation from terrorist activities by foreign nationals admitted to the United States.”

The TSA said that it has, so far, processed more than 19 million travelers using facial recognition technology in airports and at borders, but has only identified a little more than 100 “imposters” whose identities do not match their ID documents — one of the top stated purposes of the program. The agency has successfully intercepted six “imposters” at airports.

The program has already been rolled out at 17 airports in the U.S., and the agency plans to continue to expand. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) earlier this year said it plans to use facial recognition technology on nearly all departing air passengers within the next four years.  

Security systems based on facial recognition technology promise to improve the airport experience — but the aviation industry needs to carefully consider public opinion amid vocal criticism of these systems by privacy and data-security advocates, wrote LeClairRyan aviation attorney Mark A. Dombroff for Airport Business magazine/AviationPros.com.

"As our society adjusts to what can seem, at least to some, like an invasive change, the aviation industry will need to handle the onboarding of this technology with care and sensitivity," writes Dombroff.

Meanwhile, more airports and airlines are sending digital images of passengers' faces for crosschecking against biometric profiles in a database maintained by the DHS. In a best-case scenario, the attorney contends, the travel experience could dramatically improve as slow-moving security lines give way to fast-and-easy boarding. "An optimist might even wonder whether a trip to the airport in 2029 will feel a bit like a throwback to 1999," he writes.

Currently, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CPB) only retains U.S. citizens’ photos for 12 hours after capturing them at the airport. Those photos are compared to an extensive CBP database that includes visa, passport and other government photos, in order to verify the traveler’s identity.  

So far, airports aren’t using our faces for mass surveillance — and U.S. citizens have the right to opt out.

According to the TSA website, “participation in the testing of biometric technology is voluntary. Passengers may notify a TSA officer if they do not wish to participate and will go through the standard ID verification process.”

By Daine Taylor

United Airlines to Resume Service Between New York and India

 

United Airlines to Resume Service Between New York and India

 Photo: United Airlines 


United Airlines announced last week that it would be resuming its daily nonstop flight service between New York/Newark and Delhi and Mumbai starting on September 6.

The service was originally halted in response to airspace restrictions and traveler safety concerns, but with the restrictions lifted, United is set to become the only U.S. carrier to offer nonstop service connecting the U.S. East Coast with India.

"We are excited to get back to connecting our customers and our employees to India as our teams prepare to restart our daily service to both Delhi and Mumbai," said United's Chief Commercial Officer Andrew Nocella. "We're looking forward to beginning our third daily nonstop flight to India this December."

United has operated service between the United States and India since 2005, and in December the Airline will include flight service connecting San Francisco and Delhi, making it the only U.S. airline to offer nonstop service between the India and U.S. West Coast.

The new offerings will connect customers from more than 80 U.S. cities to India with just one stop in San Francisco. Seasonal service between San Francisco and Delhi begins Dec. 5, 2019, with Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft.

ByDaine Taylor

Mexico and the Caribbean’s Seaweed Problem Isn’t Going Away

 

Mexico and the Caribbean’s Seaweed Problem Isn’t Going Away

Mexico has spent $17 million to remove over half a million tons of sargassum seaweed from its Caribbean beaches. Photo: Joe Tabacca/Shutterstock.com


Mexico has spent $17 million to remove over half a million tons of sargassum seaweed from its Caribbean beaches, from Tulum to Playa del Carmen to Cancun. The problem – now affecting tourism and the environment (the plant is poisonous for some coral reefs, local fauna and fish) – isn’t going away, experts said at an international conference last week.

Officials from Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Haiti, Cuba, Panama, Guadeloupe, Belize, Guyana and Guatemala gathered in Cancun to discuss regional strategies to combat sargassum.

Floating rafts of the stinky seaweed, sometimes miles long, have plagued Mexico and Caribbean islands, accumulating in huge mounds on once-pristine beaches. The phenomenon has only gotten worse since the first mass was spotted in 2011. Contributing factors are believed to be nutrient inputs from the Amazon River, which discharges into the ocean around where blooms were first spotted; changes in ocean currents; and increased iron deposits from airborne dust.

"We are seeing a major impact on our countries, economically, socially," said Dr. June Soomer, secretary general of the Association of Caribbean States, the Associated Press reported.

Among the proposals presented, representatives called for extra support for research and the development of a warning system for the seaweed.

Dr. Soomer called for a revision of the Convention for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment in the Wider Caribbean Region, a 1983 agreement commonly known as the Cartagena Convention. She also said that countries affected by sargassum need to look at different ways to obtain external funding, given that many of the smaller islands operate on small budgets.

Mexico’s Quintana Roo Governor Carlos Joaquín González said long-term solutions to the problem are needed to stop the negative effects of the seasonal phenomenon on tourism, which is the economic backbone of most Caribbean countries.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador recently visited the coast after announcing he would not contract out the work of cleaning up sargassum, and instead will put the Mexican Navy in charge of building collector boats and cleaning the sea.

A floating barrier has been installed to prevent sargassum from reaching the shores of Playa del Carmen in Quintana Roo. The Navy said it will implement more of these barriers, as well as build four boats specifically designed to remove the seaweed.

Ricardo del Valle, a business owner in the seaside resort of Playa del Carmen, told the AP: "We offer sun and sand, nothing else. That is what we're selling. And right now, we're fooling our tourists."

In 2018, more than 1,000 square miles of seaweed were detected in satellite photos of the Caribbean, three times larger than the 2015 record, according to scientists at the University of South Florida’s Optical Oceanography Laboratory. In fact, Barbados was forced to declare a national emergency

By Jessica Montevago

U.S. Elevates Travel Advisory Level for Egypt

U.S. Elevates Travel Advisory Level for Egypt

The U.S. State Department is cautioning travelers about the possibility of terrorist attacks throughout areas in Egypt. Photo: Shutterstock.com. 


The U.S. Department of State, along with Canada and the UK, have issued travel advisories for visitors to Egypt. 

The Level 2 advisory, issued on July 2, instructed visitors to “practice enhanced caution” when traveling to Egypt due to reports of civil unrest in the area.

The U.S. State Department cautions travelers about the possibility of terrorist attacks throughout areas in Egypt.

According to the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), potential attacks can occur with little or no warning, with terrorists targeting diplomatic facilities, tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, western businesses, restaurants, resorts, and local government facilities.

The Sinai Peninsula remains a particularly dangerous area, with frequent attacks on security forces and civilians. The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens anywhere in the Sinai Peninsula, as U.S. government employees are not authorized to travel to these areas (with the exception of the beach resort of Sharm El-Sheikh, and travel to that resort is only permitted by air). 

More than 8 million travelers visited Egypt in 2018, and with summer in full swing, the travel warning could severely impact tourism in the region. 

For anyone who decides to visit Egypt this summer, the U.S. Department of State suggests enrolling in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program to receive alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency. 

by Daine Taylor 

British Airways Pilots Planning to Strike

British Airways Pilots Planning to Strike

British Airways carries up to 145,000 passengers per day, and the proposed strike could disrupt travel plans during one of the biggest vacation travel seasons. Photo: 1000 Words / Shutterstock.com. 


An overwhelming majority of pilots for British Airways have voted to strike amid ongoing disputes over pay, potentially impacting London flights sometime this summer. 

The British Airline Pilots Association union (BALPA) has not released information on the dates of the potential strike, but the union is required to give British Airways two weeks-notice before taking action.  The strike is likely to affect pilots working at Heathrow and Gatwick airports, but because a date for the strikes is yet to be confirmed it’s still uncertain as to which flights will be affected.

British Airways predict the pilots’ planned strike may cost as much as $50 million a day, the airline said in a lawsuit as it seeks to halt the walkout. British Airways carries up to 145,000 passengers per day, and the proposed strike could disrupt travel plans during one of the biggest vacation travel seasons.

If a flight is cancelled because of strike action, EU regulations dictate that travelers are entitled to either: a full refund, paid within 7 days, or an alternative flight to their destination from a nearby airport, for which the airline will be responsible for additional travel costs.

“We’re pursuing every avenue to find a solution to protect your travel plans and we urge BALPA to return to talks as soon as possible,” said British Airways in a statement. “We’re very sorry for the disruption this potential strike action will cause.”

“Cynically, we might look at this situation as another union making another threat of strike in the peak summer period; which seems to be a well-trodden path of the threat to disrupt summer holidays. The summer for any transport related business is always crucial and so the threat of Industrial Action at this time will put more pressure on management to give in,” said Cook.

While it’s impossible to accurately assess the costs, it’ll be “very substantial indeed,” running to between 30 million pounds ($37.4 million) and 40 million pounds a day, the airline said in its filings for a hearing at London’s High Court. BA is seeking an injunction to halt the strike, which it expects to start on or soon after Aug. 7.

“We do not wish to inconvenience our customers which is why we have tried to resolve this matter through negotiation starting last November – it is BA who has regrettably chosen to drag this out into the summer months,” said Brian Strutton, General Secretary for BALPA.

The Union believes the cost to BA to settle dispute in full is significantly less than the cost would be of even a single day’s strike action.

“We remain hopeful that this dispute can be resolved before strike action, but we remain committed to action if necessary,” said BALPA in a statement,

Travelers worried about their trip should visit BritishAirways.com for up-to-date information about flight delays and disruptions.by By Daine Taylor

The TSA Is Testing Ways to Eventually Keep Laptops in Bags for Everybody

 

 

The Transportation Security Administration is testing a screening method that may eventually result in passengers, even those who do not have TSA PreCheck, keeping laptops in their bags. The TSA is trying out the new screening in Las Vegas and may one day expand it nationwide.

a group of people sitting at a table

© Provided by Bankrate, LLC

On Tuesday the TSA announced that it had opened a new facility on the lower level of Terminal 3 at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport, part of what the agency has dubbed the Advancing the Checkpoint Environment program or ACE.

“This is a space that will allow us to assess new technology and processes,” said Jose Bonilla, the director of TSA’s Innovation Task Force, on a conference call. “It will allow us to demonstrate a unique network of capabilities without impacting their current operation.”

The regular Terminal 3 TSA checkpoints are on the building’s upper level, but the ACE facility is located downstairs. For now, only domestic passengers flying United Airlines will be able to use ACE lanes, though an airport representative said that could expand to other domestic and international airlines in the future. The checkpoint is also only open for approximately four hours a day Sunday through Thursday.

For passengers, going through ACE can mean they get to leave their laptops in their bags even if they don’t have Precheck, and also may mean a faster security screening overall, since fewer passengers will be processed through the experimental lanes than the traditional ones. Passengers who get sent to the ACE lanes — at the TSA’s discretion — will bypass the traditional checkpoints in Terminal 3.

For now, the main trials at LAS involve advanced imaging machines that use CT technology to look into your carry-on bags. The resulting images are more detailed than traditional X-ray scans, and that is why passengers may leave items in their bags. Similar machines are being tested at other airports, too, including at JFK’s Terminal 8. As ACE gets up to speed, other new technologies and procedures will likely be introduced. One of the primary purposes of the ACE facility is to allow multiple different kinds of technology and procedures to be tested in conjunction with each other.

Even in the ACE lanes, though, Bonilla said passengers currently still have to remove their liquids and take off their shoes. But, he added, that may not be the case forever: “The procedures will change as the technology evolves.”

Bonilla said that feedback from passengers who pass through the ACE lanes and the agents who manage them will be important in evaluating the new technologies being tested there, and can help the TSA decide if and how to roll new machines and procedures out more broadly.

So far, according to Bonilla, passengers seem to like the innovations that have been introduced. The ACE lanes had a “soft launch” on June 19.

“When we kicked it off, the very first two passengers that came by were a couple,” he said. “Their first question was ‘Oh my God, are you going to do this everywhere?’” Although the tests at ACE are not necessarily a precursor to new screening procedures nationwide, Bonilla said they may eventually appear at other airports.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

 

By Zach Wichter

What Could Happen If You Don’t Put Your Phone on Airplane Mode During Flights

Unlike these 13 things airlines won't tell you (but every flier should know), your flight attendants will let you know loud and clear when you can and can't use your phone. Every airline's rules are different and constantly changing, but it's likely that at some point, someone on your flight will ask you to put your phone on airplane mode.

What is airplane mode?

Airplane mode (sometimes called "flight mode") temporarily suspends signals and WiFi, even as the rest of the device remains fully functional. So you won't be able to send or receive text messages or calls, but you can view messages that are already downloaded and access other stored information, such as your contacts, notes, games, music, and your downloaded list on your Netflix app. 

An added bonus? Switching to airplane mode will save battery power on your device. One of the biggest drains on your cell phone is the process of receiving and sending wireless signals. So switching to your phone's airplane mode the next time you're getting ready for takeoff is a very wise move. After all, if you're on a long flight, having a few extra minutes to spend reading or playing games on your phone could be a welcome advantage. 

Why is it important to turn it on before takeoff?

One of the most commonly cited reasons by airlines for the strict rule is to keep plane communications uninhibited. Our cell phones are constantly sending and receiving signals in the form of radio waves. Even when you aren't actively connecting to the Internet, or placing a phone call, your cell is looking for the nearest towers and trying to find the strongest WiFi connection. All that radio activity can minorly affect the plane's navigational and communication systems. While your phones aren't going to make the plane spontaneously stop working, or cause a crash landing, it can make the pilots' jobs a lot harder. Particularly during takeoff and landing—exactly when your pilots need to concentrate most—congestion of communication across radio waves can make it hard or even impossible for your pilots to communicate with the towers on the ground—and that's pretty important for a safe flight!

Despite airlines still citing this reason for their electronics policies, the Federal Aviation Administration made a press release stating that they would approve airlines allowing full use of cell phones during any and all phases of flight. So if it isn't for safety reasons, why do some airlines still have the policy?

David Young, Aviation Customer Service Consultant at Ideagen, has an idea of why flight attendants are really asking you to power down during takeoff. "Mobile phones are distracting," Young says. "They draw people away from paying attention to safety procedures during briefings, and the perception that you are using your phone can cause unnecessary alarm or create tensions between fellow travelers—I've witnessed it."

This reason seems particularly likely given that more and more airlines are moving toward allowing the use of mobile phones during flights. Most airlines already accept limited use of mobile phones during ground phases, and others have WiFi access during the entirety of the flight. Regardless of why the airline is asking you to make the switch to airplane mode, the smart thing to do is to follow each airline's guidelines in regards to using airplane mode or leaving your phone on as usual. And, while you're at it, avoid these other things you really shouldn't be doing on a plane

By Steph Simpson

The Potentially Scary Reason Why Airplanes Dim the Lights Before Takeoff

 

No, it doesn’t mean naptime.

If you thought pilots dimmed the cabin lights before takeoff to give you some shuteye, think again. Believe it or not, the dim lighting could actually help save your life in case of a plane emergency.

The dimmed lights before taking off the runway and landing are a flight precaution used to help passengers’ eyes adjust quicker during an emergency evacuation. “Going from a brightly lit cabin environment to one that’s pitch black would require some time for our eyes to focus and see the evacuation slide,” Alice Theriault, service director for Air Canada wrote in a press statement. “Since we need to have all the seconds on our side in the event of an emergency, dimming the lights is one of many steps we take to ensure the safety of our customers.” 

Those weird speckles your eyes see as your sight adjusts to a dark place after being in a light place is called dark adaptation. If you see drifting gray spots in a lighted room, that’s something different called floaters, and here’s what you can do about them. Dark adaptation usually takes our eyes about 20 to 30 minutes to see optimally in a dark room. The brighter the lights, the longer it takes for our eyes to adjust, which is why dimming the plane lights could shorten your “dark adaptation” time since you haven’t been sitting under fluorescent bulbs all flight.

Not only do dimmer lights add valuable time to the evacuation process, it eases the strain on your eyes if you need to look outside, locate signs, or see the emergency lighting along the aisle. “It helps you remain oriented,” Patrick Smith, an airline pilot and author of Cockpit Confidential told The Telegraph. “It also makes it easier for flight attendants to assess any exterior hazards, such as fire or debris, that might interfere with an evacuation.” So next time a pilot dims the lights, just know it’s for your safety, even though it creates a soothing ambience for your takeoff into the sky.

By Ashley Lewis

 

 

 

 

 

 

International Expeditions: Save 1000 on October Cruise to Galapagos

Travelers can explore the Galapagos and save $1,000 per person on the October 11, 2019 departure of International Expeditions’ small-ship cruise aboard the Evolution.

In October, a strong Humboldt Current makes nutrients in the water more abundant. During twice-daily swimming and snorkeling excursions, guests are likely to be joined in the water by sea lion pups and some of the archipelago’s 86 endemic marine species. Opportunities for whale watching also increase, especially as guests travel between Fernandina and Isabela Islands on two days of the itinerary.

In addition to daily snorkeling and hiking through deserts, rainforests and volcanic terrain, other highlights include snorkeling and kayaking off uninhabited Rabida Island and calling on a family-run sugar cane farm, which also produces small-batch moonshine. IE travelers also stop at the Charles Darwin Research Center, famous for its tortoise breeding programs, and explore both the youngest and oldest islands in the archipelago — Fernandina and Española respectively.

On International Expeditions’ 10-day Galapagos cruises, guests travel aboard the 32-guest yacht Evolution, and go on excursions hosted by three naturalist guides. These guides share their knowledge during nightly lectures and in the field while bringing guests within inches of giant tortoises, blue-footed boobies, penguins and other animals. The Evolution offers public areas, including a lounge/library, sun deck, al fresco dining area and bar, where guests are greeted with a towel and glasses of fresh juices after excursions.

Discounted pricing for the October 11, 2019 Galapagos cruise starts at $6,498, and includes accommodations, all excursions, snorkeling gear, all meals, transfers and tips to porters and waiters for included meals.

For additional information on International Expeditions’ small-ship cruises, visit IEtravel.com 

Photo: Evolution // Courtesy of International Expeditions

Barbados Hotels Offer Diving Experiences

Barbados

Barbados 

 

A selection of dive experiences, fusing both scuba diving and snorkeling, will take guests across wrecks and reefs in Carlisle Bay Marine Park suited for divers of all levels. The Park is a protected area saturated with sea life like seahorses, frogfish, turtles and more.

The new experiences available for booking include an individual dive experience, a kid-friendly scuba experience (eight-and-up) and the Stay & Dive Package.

Stay & Dive Package

The Stay and Dive package includes a special four-night stay starting at $958 at Saint Peter’s Bay and $1,362 at Port Ferdinand per night with triple occupancy complete with daily breakfast, two days of dives, boat trips and gear with a minimum of four nights.

Miller has more than 25 years of diving and marine experiences. He teaches residents of all ages how to swim, mega fauna (shark and ray) marine education, permanent mooring, lionfish outreach and more. His team at Barbados Blue is also handling the Coral First Aid nursery specialty course and aiding the Barbados sea turtle project with turtle tagging and rescue.

For more information, please visit www.portferdinand.com and www.stpetersbaybarbados.com.

 

Vail to Add 17 New U.S. Ski Resorts to Portfolio

Photo by yanik88/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

 

Vail Resorts has signed an agreement to acquire 100 percent of the outstanding stock of Peak Resorts, Inc. The move would add 17 U.S. ski areas to the company’s portfolio. 

The acquisition is still subject to certain conditions, including regulatory review and Peak Resorts’ shareholder approval, Vail said. 

The 17 new ski areas are near a number of major metropolitan areas, including New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Columbus, St. Louis, Kansas City and Louisville. The newly added resorts include: 

  • Mount Snow in Vermont
  • Hunter Mountain in New York
  • Attitash Mountain Resort, Wildcat Mountain and Crotched Mountain in New Hampshire
  • Liberty Mountain Resort, Roundtop Mountain Resort, Whitetail Resort, Jack Frost and Big Boulder in Pennsylvania
  • Alpine Valley, Boston Mills, Brandywine and Mad River Mountain in Ohio
  • Hidden Valley and Snow Creek in Missouri
  • Paoli Peaks in Indiana

 

In a written statement Rob Katz, chairman and chief executive officer of Vail Resorts, said that the newly added ski areas in the Northeast will complement the company’s existing resorts and provide a “compelling offering” to New York- and Boston-area guests. The acquisition will also strengthen the company’s presence in the mid-Atlantic and Midwest, building on its earlier acquisitions near Chicago, Minneapolis and Detroit, he said. 

When the transaction closes, the 2019-20 Epic Pass, Epic Local Pass and Military Epic Pass will include unlimited and unrestricted access to the 17 Peak Resorts ski areas. Guests with an Epic Day Pass will also be able to access the new ski areas as a part of the total number of days purchased. For the 2019-20 season, Vail Resorts will honor and continue to sell all Peak Resorts pass products, and Peak Resorts’ pass holders will have the option to upgrade to an Epic Pass or Epic Local Pass, following closing of the transaction.

British Airways Suspends Flights to Cairo

British Airways

 

British Airways has suspended flights to Cairo for seven days, although the airline says that this is not due to security concerns at the city’s airport. 

“We constantly review our security arrangements at all our airports around the world, and have suspended flights to Cairo for seven days as a precaution to allow for further assessment,” the airline said in a statement posted to its website

At the same time, Sherif Barsoum, British Airways' regional director, said to ABC News that the decision to suspend flights to Cairo was not related to security concerns at the airport. 

“We have no concerns over security at Cairo Airport,” Barsoum told ABC News. “The British team that inspected the airport last week found nothing alarming; it was a positive visit.”

According to the BBC, Lufthansa had also suspended flights between Cairo and Frankfurt and Munich on Saturday. Those flights, however, resumed Sunday. 

On Saturday, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) released updated travel advice for Egypt warning of “a heightened risk of terrorism against aviation.”

“Additional security measures are in place for flights departing from Egypt to the UK,” the FCO said. 

The FCO does not advise against traveling to Cairo, however; in the organization’s travel advice, it simply noted to “see our travel advice before traveling.” The FCO does advise against traveling to the North Sinai. That advice is similar to the U.S. State Department’s travel advisory, which lists Egypt at Level 2 on a four-point rating scale, but warns against travel to the Sinai Peninsula (except Sharm El-Sheikh by air), the Western Desert and border areas. 

British Airways customers can check the status of their flight here. Those whose flight has been cancelled can be rebooked onto another British Airways flight at no extra charge (subject to availability). If they no longer wish to travel, customers can cancel their booking and get a refund, including taxes, to the original form of payment. 

American Airlines Launches New Flight to Argentina

Cordoba Argentina

Photo by saiko3p/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

 

American Airlines has launched a new nonstop flight form Miami to the city of Córdoba in Argentina. The new service, which officially kicked off June 7, runs four times weekly on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. 

American Airlines Córdoba flight AA223 (Miami-Cordoba) departs Miami International Airport at 10:45 p.m., arriving Pajas Blancas Airport in Cordoba at 8:22 a.m. the next day. The return flight, AA224, operates on Wednesdays, Fridays, Sundays and Mondays departing Córdoba at 9:52 a.m. and arrives in Miami at 5:55 p.m.

American operates the new flight on a Boeing 767-300 aircraft with a capacity for 204 passengers, which translates into a total of 42,432 seats per year. 

In a written statement Argentine Secretary of Tourism Gustavo Santos said that there has been a strong commitment from the country’s government to develop its tourism sector. 

American Airlines began flying to Argentina in 1990, but the new flight marks the first time the airline is operating in an Argentine airport other than the Ezeiza airport in Buenos Aires. The airline also added a new Los Angeles – Buenos Aires route last December. 

Córdoba is the capital of the Argentine province of the same name, which lies in the center of the country. The province is notable for its scenic mountain landscape, Jesuit legacy and culinary offerings, which include cabrito (roast goat), cheeses and sausages from Colonia Caroya, as well as alfajores – sweet snacks covered in chocolate and filled with dulce de leche or fruit jam. It is also home to the Calamuchita Valley, home to the Villa General Begrano, which has a thriving craft beer scene and which hosts the “Argentine Oktoberfest.”

American Airlines to Launch New Flights to Jamaica, Costa Rica

Delta, JetBlue Offer Waivers on Dominican Republic Travel

Dominican Republic Says Island Is Strengthening Safety Measures

Photo by valio84sl/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

 

In the wake of recent tourist deaths at various resortsDominican Republic Minister of Tourism Francisco Javier García says the island is updating its safety programs and increasing measures implemented throughout the country to strengthen the confidence of the traveling public.

The proactive and enhanced measures, according to the Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism, include:

Emergency Tourist Center

In cooperation with the attorney general, García says that a multi-lingual emergency center is being established in Bávaro, a primary tourist destination in Punta Cana. The center will be staffed by a team of multi-lingual specialists who will serve as a direct liaison between tourists, their families and the necessary government entity.

Stringent Inspection and Compliance Standards

Under the purview of the Ministry, the Department of Tourism Services and Companies is doubling inspection capacities and significantly increasing compliance standards in tourist destinations, García says. Specifically, hotels will be required to provide inspectors with detailed food handling protocols, as well as comprehensive information on all food and beverage suppliers. Further, the department will continue to closely monitor the medical offices within the hotel facilities and scrutinize the professional qualifications of its doctors, resident doctors, nurses and assistants. Heightened inspections and oversight will also extend to all aquatic facilities and their required certified lifeguard services.

Immediate Access to Emergency Information

Reinforced mandates require that emergency information and the availability of 911 is clearly posted in every guestroom, García says. Additionally, hotel staff will be required to review the information with each guest at the time of check-in to further emphasize access to emergency services and support.  

García says that the intensive measures outlined by the Ministry deepen the continued focus on the country’s emergency response and security infrastructure. Previously implemented under a federal initiative, a 911 system was enabled throughout the Dominican Republic, with specific availability in the popular resort areas. In 2018, the Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism reports proactive programs resulted in a 27 percent decrease in the number of criminal acts reported against foreign tourists over the previous year and contributed to the country’s recognition among the safest in the region.

To learn more, visit www.godominicanrepublic.com

More San Juan Cruise Cancellations as Protest Set to Draw 1 Million

Demonstrators protest against Gov. Ricardo Rossello in San Juan, Puerto Rico. // Photo by AP Photo/Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo via Newscred

 

Two additional cruise ships have cancelled calls in San Juan, Puerto Rico, for Monday, as a massive protest is planned that could involve up to a million people. 

 

A spokesperson for Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., the parent company of Celebrity Cruises, tells Travel Agent that the cruise line has cancelled Monday’s planned call by the Celebrity Equinox in San Juan, which had been part of a charter cruise. 

Equinox will now sail to St. Thomas, her next scheduled port of call,” the company said. “Concern for the safety and wellbeing of our guests and crew members is our top priority.”

Sunday's turnaround for Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas went ahead as scheduled. 

A spokesperson for MSC Cruises tells Travel Agent that the line has cancelled the MSC Seaside’s San Juan call that had been planned for Monday. Instead, the ship will operate an extended stay in St. Maarten.

A Carnival Cruise Line spokesperson tells Travel Agent that the Carnival Fascination was able to call in San Juan Monday as scheduled. 

According to CBS News, up to a million protesters are expected to turn out Monday to protest Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, who has refused to step down following the release of 900 pages of private chats containing profanity-laced, misogynistic and homophobic comments, as well as jokes from other top officials about dead bodies that piled up before and after Hurricane Maria. 

In a video published Sunday evening by Time, Gov. Rosselló reiterated that he has no plans to step down, but that he will not run for reelection or continue as the head of his political party. 

Get your passport in 24 hours...but there is a hefty price

 

© White Packert/Getty Images

You’re just about to leave for that trip you’ve been planning for ages. Everything is ready. The hotels are booked, the flights are confirmed and your itinerary is planned. But there’s this nagging feeling that you’ve forgotten something. How’s your passport doing?

 

For those to whom the horror of horrors occurs (“What? It expired last month!?”), FedEx now offers a service that will get you a new passport in just 24 hours.

In partnership with the service RushMyPassport, FedEx is now offering the speediest solution to the most anxiety-provoking of international travel situations.

Those who need a new passport, like yesterday, can stop into one of 2,000 FedEx locations across the country or visit FedEx’s website to register for a new document. The service includes updated passport photos, rushed new passports or renewals, children's’ passports and replacing lost, stolen or damaged passports.

“Routine passport processing can take weeks, which can mean the difference between enjoying that dream vacation you’ve spent months planning or canceling it,” Mosie Miller, CEO of RushMyPassport, said in a statement. “You also have to factor in the possibility of issues with documents you finally receive in the mail, causing further delays and even more headaches. The combined service offering of RushMyPassport and FedEx Office helps travelers overcome these issues, giving a smooth and secure way to handle passport needs.”

The service includes the ability to track the passport throughout the process, government-compliant photos and 24/7 help from passport specialists.

Although, be warned: the service does not come cheap. To process a new passport application within 24 hours, FedEx charges $449. Rushed shipping could cost $90 for inbound and outbound, according to the FedEx website. And that does not include the $170 fee from the federal government. So to get your new passport within 24 hours, you’ll likely pay about $700 for it.

Last month, the U.S. State Department increased its standard passport processing time from four to six weeks to six to eight weeks.

From Gino's Travel Agency: Check your passport now whether you are planning a trip in the next few weeks or months to see if it is still valid. Don't wait until the last minute and pay more and have a longer wait time.  

What Happens When a Law Is Broken on a Plane - By Louis Cheslaw

a plane flying in the sky© Getty

We’ve all seen the stories of air rage, racist behavior, and sexual harassment affecting passengers on flights around the world. But when the law is broken mid-flight—some 30,000 feet above any criminal court—whose job is it to respond? It is, of course, complicated.

The first thing to know is that every airline's number one goal, as they'll tell you multiple times in the pre-flight video, is safety. That means that ideally, airline staff will be able to prevent a difficult situation before it even takes place. Even at the gate, airline employees are keeping their eyes out for intoxicated or aggressive passengers who could affect the safety or operation of the flight, says Juliea Braithwaite, who oversees safety for the Bahamas Civil Aviation Authority. "If a problem starts with unruly passengers before boarding, the airline will do what they can to calm them before the flight begins," Braithwaite says. "If that fails, they can take the decision to work with airport police to get them arrested."

Once wheels are up, responsibility falls to the flight attendants to monitor for any trouble. In most cases, flight attendants are trained to diffuse situations whenever they occur. If the cabin crew has difficulty restoring order, flights often have air marshals and non-working crew members flying to their next post on board who will intervene to help. According to Article 10 of the Tokyo Convention, which still governs much of aviation crime today, in a situation where anyone, including a passenger, believes someone near them poses a threat to either the plane or another passenger, they have the right to take "reasonable preventive measures" without asking permission.

If a situation can’t be controlled by the flight attendant, passengers, or an on-board air marshal, the pilot will be quickly notified. Those pre-flight speeches pilots give about how they're the ones in charge of your safety? That isn’t just about the flight path. Once wheels are up, the pilot also becomes commander-in-chief. Pilots are the only ones on board that can order a passenger be restrained during the flight and the ones who decide whether the plane needs to land somewhere sooner for the situation to be dealt with, according to the Tokyo Convention.

Pilots are also the ones in charge of reporting any incidents to air traffic control below, who will then notify the in-airport police that an incoming flight has an unruly passenger on board. That's what leads to a police presence at the gate once the plane lands. In these cases, the other passengers are to stay in their seats until the police have come on board and escorted the offender out. Case in point: This April, on a flight from Dublin to Malta, intoxicated passengers started to fight with each other and verbally abuse the crew—they were met by police upon landing and taken to court.

The pilot also has the right to let things go, and can choose to excuse bad behavior as long as it hasn't caused harm to the aircraft or lasting harm to any passengers. According to Braithwaite: "If there's a scenario, but the altercation is resolved and nothing damaged the aircraft, the pilot might decide that there's a human factor, [like they're] on their fourth flight of the day."

If a case is so severe that it comes before a court—as it did with the Dublin-to-Malta incident—it's up to the discretion of a judge whether the accused face a fine or jail time. While the Tokyo Convention gives explicit jurisdiction rights to the airline's country of registration, it also leaves the door open for for several other nations to seek to extradite the offender in order to exercise their criminal jurisdiction, including the country of the offender, of the victim (if there is one) and more. It may seem like a chaotic resolution, but the idea is to prevent a case like 1949's United States vs. Cordova, where a judge dismissed charges against a man who bit the pilot's ear and struck a flight attendant during a flight to New York because American laws at the time didn't apply to crimes committed while flying over an ocean.

Still, issues persist with the 56-year-old Tokyo Convention. According to Braithwaite, smaller countries have consistently complained to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) that their national laws—which the convention defers to—aren't always up to date with the constantly shifting intricacies of global aviation. To help, ICAO delegates have been traveling to such territories to help update legislation, and in 2014, the organization put forward the Montreal Protocol, which extends automatic jurisdiction over a criminal offense to the flight's destination, as well as the aircraft's country of registration, closing a key loophole that was helping offenders walk free when their flight landed in a different place to where the aircraft was registered. However, only 20 governments so far have ratified the agreement, and the protocol needs 22 to come into force. Until then, as ever, it's on airlines to do all they can to monitor the conditions that lead to air rage—and on all of us to attempt to find our in-flight happy place, regardless of loud neighbors or delayed take-offs.

Is it time to think about holiday vacations...indeed!

2019 Thanksgiving Parade Vacations
Now is the time to book your clients on our fantastic vacations to view the Thanksgiving Parade in New York City! The City is decked out for the holidays and everyone, locals and visitors alike, is in a festive mood.
Our famous Thanksgiving Parade viewing parties are the BEST way to see the world's most famous parade! Choose indoor events with wide, expansive window views, or outdoor sidewalk view - either way, I want to fulfill your "bucket list" dreams as you watch the floats, balloons, bands and celebrities pass right in front of you!

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting Party
My clients can be special guests inside Rockefeller Center at an exclusive cocktail party as the famed Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is lit! Brasserie Ruhlmann is the location for this unique NYCVP event, just steps from the tree. You can mingle along with locals and visitors from around the world as hors d'oeuvres are passed throughout the elegant Brasserie located in the center of Rockefeller Plaza. Step outside to the private patio reserved just for this event - for a view of the Christmas Tree in all its holiday splendor.

New Year's Eve Times Square Ball Drop Vacation
Sure to be the party of a lifetime! As New Year's Eve Times Square revelers stand in the cold, shoulder to shoulder from 42nd Street all the way up to Central Park, but my clients will be overlooking them at an exclusive party right in the middle of it all–high above with a view of the city lights, the celebration and of course, the Times Square Ball Drop!
Towering 23 stories above the million or so partiers on 7th Avenue and Broadway below, you'll enjoy an open bar, hors d'oeuvres, buffet stations and desserts, DJ dance music and the view to end all views At midnight, the ball drop, fireworks and confetti will create the perfect backdrop scenery for welcoming in the New Year in Times Square. 

 

Are you ready for a New York kind of holiday?  It's not too late to make your reservations today. Contact Gino's Travel Agency via email: ginotravelagecy@att.net or phone: 214-274-1369.

"Lif is short, and the world is wide" 

 

Summer travelers beware: Washington Dulles International Airport is the most expensive airport to fly from.

According to a new study from FinanceBuzz, which involved analyzing U.S. Department of Transportation data from the 45 busiest airports, the average ticket from Dulles, otherwise known as IAD, is $427.37. 

Rounding out the top five most expensive airports in the country are Charlotte/Douglas International Airport (CLT) $425.77; Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) $413.66; Newark Liberty International Airport (IAH) 413.66 and John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) $390.20.

Pricy airports like Dulles and the others identified by the report are hubs for traditional airlines like United and American, FinanceBuzz’s Tracy Odell, vice president of content and author of the study, told TravelPulse.

“An airport like Dulles is operating a lot of higher airfare flights, but travelers will also get a bit more for their money, things like free carry-ons and seat selection," said Odell.

Together, the 45 airports studied by FinanceBuzz serve as the departure point for more than 500 million passengers annually.

The study found that McCarran Airport in Las Vegas topped the list for cheapest fares, followed by two Florida airports, Fort Lauderdale Hollywood Airport, and Orlando Airport. The average airfare from these three airports comes in under $250.

The nation's two busiest airports, meanwhile, Los Angeles (LAX) and Chicago O'Hare, fall in the middle of the pack. LAX comes in at number 29 with an average fare of $352.79 and O'Hare is number 19 on the list with a ticket price of $338.55.

The report also compares the airfare in several metro areas where travelers have a choice of three or more airports within a 70-mile radius. The results showed that costs vary widely.

Flyers who live in areas where there are multiple options and who are willing to shop around and travel a bit further to an airport from home could see substantial savings.

Even in Boston, where the report found the least discrepancy between metro airports, average fares varied by 17 percent. In Los Angeles, where there was the largest discrepancy in prices, there's a massive 73% variance between the four regional airports.

"We see that especially in metro areas where you have multiple airports to choose from, it's well worth your time to look into flights from all airports. We see a huge variance between fares even when comparing airports within an hour drive of one another,” Odell told TravelPulse.

Odell also noted that the airfares identified by the study are actually the average airfares for the airports in question all year long, not just during the summer.

In other words, when it comes to booking your flight, you'll want to do your due diligence to get the best price, Odell said. 

Finally, if you're thinking that overall none of these airfares look too bad, you're right. Average domestic air fares in 2018 were the lowest (with inflation adjustments) since the Bureau of Transportation Statistics began collecting these records in 1995.

By Mia Taylor

 

What Recent Travelers to the Dominican Republic Are Saying About Safety

A few days before 45-year-old South Carolinian, Kimberly Terre, her best friend and her two elderly parents were set to take off to the Majestic Mirage Punta Cana hotel in the Dominican Republic, news outlets across the country were reporting mysterious deaths in the destination.

When Terre’s 82-year-old mother and father wanted to cancel, she called her travel agent, Vicki Briggs, owner and adviser of Briggs World Travel in Virginia, to see how she should handle the dilemma.

“She just said that she knows everything is good, but her parents are getting concerned and what do I think, and what I should say to them,” said Briggs. “I told her I just left the resort they are staying at and it's safe. It’s been safe in the past and it was safe two weeks ago when I was there.”

And that was all it took.

Once Terre relayed the message and convinced her parents the destination and the resort were safe, they continued on with their planned vacation to Punta Cana.

But not everyone is convinced the destination is safe, as a new report said ticket sales have dropped to the Dominican Republic while refunds have increased.

And that’s the difference between people who are getting their information from sensationalized news outlets and those who are getting their information from travel professionals, especially the ones who just returned from the destination like Briggs and Terre.

“We never felt unsafe at the resort,” said Terre. “We ate at all of the restaurants and never got sick. My parents even have some food issues and they were fine.”

The Majestic Mirage Punta Cana
Juanita Terre (left) and her daughter, Kimberly Terre, enjoy their recent vacation at the Majestic Mirage Punta Cana. (Photo courtesy of Kimberly Terre)

And Terre said she is happy she trusted her travel Juanita Terre (left) and her daughter, Kimberly Terre, enjoy their recent vacation at the Majestic Mirage Punta Cana. (Photo courtesy of Kimberly Terre)

And Terre said she is happy she trusted her travel advisor over the news her and her friend were hearing in the days leading up to their trip.

“We would read the news and it just seemed sensationalized,” said Terre. “It just seemed like they were talking about a couple of different, unrelated issues and turning it into one, really big thing. And then it just seemed like people were coming out of the woodwork and saying they were there a year ago and got sick.”

But Briggs told TravelPulse she completely understood Terre’s parents’ concerns and also noted that all travelers should be concerned when they hear alarming news about a destination they are heading to, but they should get the facts from a travel consultant before panicking and canceling.

“I completely understood though,” said Briggs. “When you are 80 years old, you don’t want to put yourself in danger. But I explained that I wasn’t just at the resort before, I was there only a couple of weeks before their vacation. Saying it’s safe is one thing, but if you were just there, that’s another.”

And that’s why travel advisor Susan Collins-Peavy, owner of Susan Peavey Travel in Massachusetts, shouldn’t have a problem selling the destination since she was just there two weeks ago.

Collins-Peavy, who stayed at Casa de Campo, said it was important for her to visit the destination in order to get ahead of the panic.

“I talked to guests at the hotel and everyone was having an amazing time,” she told TravelPulse. “I ate and drank from the mini-bar and had no issues. The people in the D.R. were so welcoming. I really hope the media stops. They are really hurting the economy of this beautiful country.”

But the news is only damaging if there isn’t an agent there to separate truth from exaggeration.

Tom Varghese, owner of Travel Tom, told TravelPulse he recently had a destination wedding of 100 people at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana. He said it was booked over a year ago, but negative Dominican Republic press started to surface just before the June 1 trip. Although no one in the party ever expressed concerns, he said other clients recently have.

And when someone expresses concern, he said he shows them statistics that show the millions of visitors who travel to the Dominican Republic every year compared to the low number of incidences.

"It is not my job to tell someone where to go, it is my job to show them the facts," Varghese said. "I'm not going to put my neck and reputation on the line by sending someone to somewhere unsafe."

Joshua Rodriguez, 37, of New York City, also did a little celebration travel in Punta Cana, recently celebrating his 37th birthday at the Grand Bahia Principe Punta Cana with his girlfriend. He said he was never concerned before, during or after his trip.

And it’s not a coincidence he too used a travel advisor.

“Our experience was great. It’s a beautiful island,” he told TravelPulse. “Just err on the side of caution. Just don’t do anything you don’t want to do, anything that doesn’t feel safe. Always have a cautious mind. I would certainly go back to Punta Cana and I would stay at the same resort again.”

And since pesticide poisoning is one theory being thrown out there by the media for the cause of death of a couple staying at the Bahia Principe resort around late May, we asked Rodriguez if he saw any unusual spraying at the hotel. After all, although Rodriguez wasn’t staying at the same exact hotel, he was staying at the same brand, Bahia Principe.

“I didn’t see tons of spraying or anything,” he said. “We definitely saw the grounds crew maintaining everything, and spraying bushes and flowers, but not on an everyday basis. I’ve been telling people I’m sure things do happen and I’m not sure what the reason is, but we recently went there and neither of us got sick.”

And travelers like Rodriguez and Terre, who continue to spread the word of Punta Cana’s safety, are the ones that will eventually help defuse a lot of the unwarranted panic, said Briggs.

“It makes my job easier having clients like [Terre]. Clients like that value an agent’s opinion," she said. "At first, maybe some clients are scared off, but then they talk to a travel agent and realize a lot of it is hysteria."

By Joe Pike

A note from Gino's Travel Agency - Trust your Travel Advsior.

 

What the Agent Community is Saying About the Dominican Republic and Caribbean

Travel advisors contacted this week by TravelPulse confirmed a segment of their clients are opting for other Caribbean vacation destinations in lieu of visiting the Dominican Republic. The reports follow news that bookings for Bahamas, Jamaica and Aruba increased significantly between June 1 and 19, as coverage of recent visitor deaths spiked.

During the June period, Dominican Republic flight cancellations were up 45 percent year-over-year while Dominican Republic bookings declined by 74.3 percent, according to travel research firm Forward Keys.

“I do have a client who was initially looking at anything in the Caribbean and opted to go to Jamaica instead of the Dominican Republic,” said Silver Spring, MD-based travel agent Katherine Brooks. “Some say [Dominican Republic travel] doesn't bother them, [while] others say they're avoiding that country like a plague,” she added.

“I have clients that are scared by all of the hype,” said Bella Vista, AR-based travel agent Steve Rosenthal. “One, in particular, decided to change to Costa Rica.” "[Clients are concerned, said Diane McClelland, a Hamilotn, Canada-based agent. "I had ne family of five wanting to cancel thier all-inclusive [resort stay] for end of July but could not afford the supplier cancellation penalty at this point. They decided to go but said they "hope we come back safe."  

“I have a group of 10 going in November and they just requested to change their destination,” said Agusta, Ga.-based agent Edkesha Anderson. “Nothing I've told has made them feel comfortable about continuing their trip even though their resort has no connection to any of the events.”

Online travel retailers have also reported shifts from the Dominican Republic to other destinations. “For our travelers that have decided to change their vacation plans, we are seeing an uptick into Jamaica, Aruba, Turks and Caicos, and other smaller Caribbean islands,” said Bud Finlaw, CEO of BookIt.com, in a CNBC report. 

Still, Rosenthal said vacationers his firm recently booked on Dominican vacations have reported no problems. “I saw a post by one of our other owners that her clients returned from the DR last week. They had a great time and loved it!”

Other recent Dominican Republic travelers reported similar experiences. Theresa Hardin of Edison, N.J., who returned last week from the CHIC Punta Cana resort, said “I felt more safe at that resort than I've been feeling lately at home. There were absolutely zero instances or circumstances that I felt were dangerous or threatening.”

However, Hardin said the media reports’ impact on some guests were clear. “I never feared drinking the alcohol or water [but] you can tell some people were nervous,” she said. “Several of the people in our group purchased their own alcohol and refused to drink any liquor from the resort. No one drank liquor from mini-bar in [the] room. I didn’t but not because I didn’t feel safe. I (just) didn’t like what they offered.” 

“This was the first time my husband and I have been to the Dominican Republic,” said Donna Balkovic of Manasquan, N.J., who stayed at the Sanctuary in Cap Cana resort from June 8 to June 15. “Despite the bad press of recent events, we had a fabulous time.”

Ironically as Rosenthal points out, “It seems that every year there is a scare about a different destination in the area. Last year it was Mexico is dangerous, before that, it was Jamaica.”

Yet with results from an FBI-assisted Dominican government investigation of the deaths not yet available, the country may continue to experience the impact of negative consumer perceptions beyond the summer travel season.

“We have high certainty [the deaths] will negatively impact visitation to the DR,” said Patrick Scholes, managing director, lodging and leisure equity research at financial firm SunTrust Robinson Humphrey.

By Brian Major

Note from Gino's Travel Agency - We have booked the DR  in recent months and do not recommend anyone cancel their vacation trip there. This is your vacation and if you don't feel comfortable traveling to the DR at this time, remember, there is a whole lotta world out there. Terry L. Branch, Travel Advisor

 

Dominican Republic Bookings Start To Bounce Back

 

Aerial view of the beach in Punta Cana, Dominican RepublicPHOTO: Aerial view of the beach in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. (photo via aero-pictures.de/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

After watching bookings to the island drop by more than 80 percent, the Dominican Republic is finally starting to see a modest bounce-back.

The Caribbean nation has been plagued for more than a month by the mysterious deaths of numerous tourists, many of them Americans who comprise the bulk of travelers to the island.

A report by ForwardKeys, a Valencia, Spain-based company which analyzes more than 17 million flight bookings a day, shows that cancellations to the D.R. are slowing.

From April 1 of this year to May 31, just before the crisis hit, bookings to the Dominican Republic were up 2.8 percent compared to the same time period last year. By June 16, which ForwardKeys determined was the start of extensive media coverage of the unexplained deaths, bookings were down 56.8 percent. By June 25, the date of the last reported death, bookings were down 143 percent compared to last year.

“The deaths of US citizens which occurred around the end of May and early June triggered an avalanche of media interest and speculation,” Olivier Ponti, VP Insights, ForwardKeys, said in a statement. “That kind of attention was bound to put some holidaymakers off and indeed that is what we saw.”

While trips to the D.R were down, bookings to other Caribbean island nations were up. There was an increase in trips to Jamaica by 54.3 percent between June 17 and June 25, 45.3 percent to the Bahamas and 49.9 percent to Aruba.

But from June 26 to July 2, bookings were still down to the Dominican Republic but dropped dramatically from that 143 percent figure to 72.5 percent, suggesting that bookings are slowly starting to come back.

“I am greatly relieved for the Dominican Republic that the crisis in confidence appears to be abating and I am hopeful that it will be relatively short-lived,” Ponti said, “particularly if there are no more deaths and if the current FBI investigation establishes a clear cause of death in each case and none of the causes was sinister.”

By Rich Thomasilli

 

 

Caribbean and Central American Countries Look at Long-Term Solutions to Solve Sargassum Issue

Travelers are beginning to grow concerned about the quality of their beach vacations. More and more frequently, reports of seaweed-covered beaches are worrying vacationers headed to Caribbean and Central American countries.

Ana Mari Irabien, public relations director for AHRM, explained that the problem is regional and ongoing and one of the reasons for its continuation is climate change but that resorts are taking many measures to combat the buildup of seaweed.