A diabetic 16-year-old Colorado girl was emotionally traumatized and her health put at risk by a TSA security check after a full body scanner at Salt Lake City Airport apparently incapacitated her insulin pump, according to a report by a local television station. It's only the latest concern about the scanners, which many consumer advocates consider an intrusive, ineffective, and possibly dangerous form of airport security.
There are now some 700 such machines in use at 180 U.S. airports, according to the TSA. A 2011 report by ProPublica and the PBS NewsHour raised questions about a possible link to cancer. Some scanner models, according to testing by the German government, have mistaken perspiration for dangerous chemicals, casting doubt on their reliability. And many travelers have complained that the scanners invade passengers' privacy by taking "nude" photos of them, although the TSA has since implemented softwarethat eliminates anatomical details from the images. Now the Salt Lake City incident raises the newest fear: Can these "advanced imaging technology" scanners, specifically millimeter wave scanners, be harmful to diabetics wearing insulin pumps?
Tingo, a new travel site that launched this morning, expects to be a game changer in the way customers book hotels. Parent company Smarter Travel Media says Tingo is the first site to automatically rebook a hotel reservation if the price drops, then refund the difference between the original prepaid rate and the final rate at check-out.
Tingo (the name derives from travel and bingo) is not the first site to offer a refund if the rate drops. Orbitz, for example, has a Price Assurance policy, but it requires that another Orbitz customer book the same room type at the same hotel on the same travel dates at a lesser rate. Not so with Tingo. According to the company, if the rate for your reservation drops, you qualify for a refund, credited to your charge card after you have checked out of the hotel, regardless of whether another traveler has also booked the lower rate.
The new Disney Cruise LineFantasy, which was christened last night in New York City, is swoon-worthy, no doubt, but it is also something you might not expect: Subtle. Unlike many modern cruise ships, the 4,000-passenger Fantasy eschews loud color schemes, smoked glass, and an abundance of brass in favor of sophisticated Art Nouveau details, 1930's ocean-liner styling (witness the round portholes), and well-curated handcrafted design elements from around the world. It is, in a word, sophisticated.
You've heard the air-travel advice before: Don't wrap your holiday gifts before you leave for the airport because the TSA may very well require you to unwrap them during a security check. But there may be a way to arrive at your destination with wrapped presents anyway. This holiday season Virgin Atlantic is adding a few Christmas elves to the employee roster who will wrap presents for departing passengers on the air side of the Terminal 4 security checkpoint at New York's JFK International. The service costs $2 per package (100 percent of which goes to the Virgin Unite charity) and is available December 21-23, 2011.
Know any other airlines or airports that are offering a similar service? Tell us!
Smart Traveler Mark Orwoll is the International Editor of Travel + Leisure. Follow him on Twitter.
Celebrity chef David Rocco has a full plate these days. The host of The Cooking Channel's travel-food show David Rocco's Dolce Vita has just wrapped shooting on his next series for that network, David Rocco's Amalfi Getaway, which will air in March. He'll be joining Bobby Flay and other culinary grandees at the Chef's Challenge charity event November 26-27 in Toronto to support women's cancer research. He's a passionate spokesman for Ruffino wines, and tours the country on their behalf. He and his wife had their third child in October (a baby boy named Dante). And simply to fill all the empty hours in his day, he's written his second cookbook,Made in Italy, just out from Clarkson Potter. I sat down with Rocco over lunch in Midtown Manhattan last week and asked him about his new book.
I just got an email from Virgin Atlantic's P.R. rep announcing a three-day fare sale starting this morning and going through Thursday on airfare between Los Angeles and London. Travel dates are January 10 - March 26. The email said the fares were as low as $296 each way based on a round-trip purchase plus up to $250 in government taxes and fees. That would be a total of $842. But on the Virgin Atlantic website I found a total round-trip airfare of $711 for a departure on February 20 and a return on February 27. That same fare was also available on other travel dates. That's a very good airfare from L.A. The best competitive price on those same travel dates I found using Kayak was $827 on Delta, which is a decent fare in itself.
Recent headlines about Mexico are more likely to involve drug cartels and killings than adventure travel and Mayan pyramids. That's why the opening interview with President Felipe Calderon in a new TV travel special is surprising: Calderon confronts the image problem head on instead of trying to divert attention with pretty images. He even lays some of the blame on Mexico's neighbor to the north. But make no mistake. "Mexico: The Royal Tour," which premieres tonight and tomorrow on PBS stations nationwide, is a love letter to Mexico, a celebration of its history and the travel adventures that await visitors.
Oktoberfest in Munich starts on Saturday, and that means drinking too much beer, stuffing your face with grilled chicken, and tying the bow of your dirndl skirt on the left side (or is it the right?) to indicate you're in the mood for love. We have it on good authority (a press release) that more than half of all attendees at Munich's annual Oktoberfest are females, and so, courtesy of that city's Charles Hotel, we offer you some inside tips for women attending the festivities.
No sooner did Google unveil Flights, its new airfare search tool, on Tuesday than the criticism began to fly—not least from key competitor Kayak. But let's let's let Robert Birge, Kayak's chief marketing officer, speak for himself.
"We recognize Google is a formidable competitor, but they haven't been successful in every vertical they've entered," Birge said in a statement that went on to laud Kayak's own attributes.
I got the statement in an unusual email today from the Kayak's P.R. rep, who suggested that Google Flights doesn't work for international destinations; has no regional airports; and has questionable accuracy when it comes to actual airfares. I noted some of those things myself when I spent some time on the site this morning and Tweeted about it.