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A Travel Blog from the Editors of T+L

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Look, Up in the Sky! It's a Bird... It's a Plane... Yes, It's a Plane...

My editor calls it "plane porn"; the GE Show calls it "Paths of Flight." I just call it beautiful.

In support of GE Aviation's efforts to help develop the next generation of U.S. airspace in association with the FAA, a video production team filmed 24 hours' worth of footage showing planes landing and taking off. The resulting one-minute 49-second video, which uses multiple images of individual planes to present a new perspective on flight paths, is nothing short of amazing. Astonishingly, there's no CG animation.

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FAA Plans to Ease Thanksgiving Air Travel Delays

Air traffic may be a little less congested this Thanksgiving holiday period as the FAA, in cooperation with the Defense Department, said it will allow commercial flights in otherwise restricted military airspace beginning at 6 a.m. Tuesday, November 23, a day earlier than last year.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced this morning that the Defense Department will open airspace over such highly congested areas as the East Coast, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Southwest. Normal inland routes can continue to be used, according to the FAA.

The busiest Thanksgiving travel days are expected to be Tuesday, Wednesday, and Sunday. Normal airspace restrictions will go back into effect at 6 a.m. Monday, November 29.

The announcement comes on the heels of new security procedures at the nation's airports. Passengers are routinely being required to pass through a controversial backscatter full body scanner or to undergo a thorough, some say invasive, pat down by a TSA agent. Whether the FAA's plan to ease air congestion this holiday period is enough to ease any passenger anxiety over the enhanced security methods is still up in the air.

Smart Traveler Mark Orwoll is the International Editor of Travel + Leisure.

UNESCO's Dubious Intangible Culture Awards

It's even better than reading The Onion. The UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage has just released its latest list of cultural practices worth preserving. While some of them are obvious choices (French gastronomy, flamenco), others are certain to leave you baffled—and perhaps even asking, "Do we really want to preserve some of these things?!" Once you read the list, you'll be left wondering why they forgot to add goldfish swallowing, 1K charity walks, and the Macarena.

Here are some doozies from the 2010 list, along with our 10-point Intangible Rating Scale (IRS) score and commentary:

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TSA to Passengers: Radiation or Groping?

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How would you like a tough-love security pat-down so thorough it would shame the most inveterate serial groper in the Tokyo subway system? No? Then how about a full-body backscatter X-ray that amounts to a virtual strip search (or as Stephen Colbert said, "that X-rays your X-rated parts")? If you're troubled by either option, voice your opinion in the new Your Travel Voice survey, sponsored by the U.S. Travel Association.

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Airfare Site Adds Icon for Baggage Fees

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We like the new baggage icon at Fly.com, an aggregator website that compares airfares and itineraries from hundreds of airline and travel websites around the world. Click on the little suitcase next to the airfare for your itinerary and you'll get a window showing the checked baggage fees charged by that airline, giving you a better idea of the full price.

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San Francisco's Famous Tonga Room Tiki Bar May Close in 2011

Tonga Room at Fairmont Hotel

The Tonga Room and Hurricane Bar—the famous and famously over-the-top tiki lounge at San Francisco's Fairmont Hotel—may soon be sold, dismantled, and moved, or even closed altogether, as the hotel prepares a major renovation.

This is San Francisco, though, where the unexpected is an everyday occurrence, so it's not surprising that the city planning commission is withholding its approval of the hotel's plans while considering the room's "historic importance." A Tiki bar? Historically important? As I said—this is San Francisco, after all. Check out this amateur video for a sense of the bar's charming weirdness.

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What Part of 'Fasten Your Seat Belts' Don't You Understand?

Eighteen passengers on a Vietnam Airline flight from Hanoi to Paris were injured this morning when their plane encountered severe air turbulence, according to Agence France-Presse. The plane later landed safely at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, and none of the injuries were thought to be serious.

But here's the interesting part: according to the story, these passengers—excuse me while I crank up the old caps lock and put the italics in gear—WEREN'T WEARING SEAT BELTS.

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New High-Speed Train to Challenge Eurostar from London to the Continent

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A bullet train capable of traveling 200 mph arrived from Germany today in London's St. Pancras Station, heralding a broad expansion of high-speed Continental rail service from the British capital. It also marks the first challenge to Eurostar's virtual monopoly on passenger service through the Channel Tunnel. If all goes according to plan, starting in 2013 passengers will be able to travel by rail from London to Frankfurt, without changing trains, in only five hours.

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Airline Surcharges to Soar, Leaving Passengers Sore

Mark Reynold Airport

Just in time to ruin your day comes a report that airlines stand to earn $22.6 billion in surcharges in 2011. That's up from $10 billion just two years ago.

The prediction comes from Ideaworks, an airline consultancy, and Amadeus, a tech firm that processes travel transactions. Both companies have a vested interest in airlines making more money through surcharges, so let's hope they're just being optimistic. (Or, I guess, pessimistic, depending on your point of view.)

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Hyatt Cleans Up Its Act with New Hypoallergenic Rooms

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When you check into a hotel, you naturally want a clean room. But if you want a science-fiction-scary clean room, look to Hyatt. The hotel chain recently introduced its Respire rooms, which are sterilized, sanitized, antisepticized, and deodorized to the extreme. They're so clean you're unlikely to find so much as dust mite feces under the decorative pillow shams.

"We basically kill all living organisms in the room," said Brian Brault, chief executive officer of Pure Solutions, the company behind the purified rooms. Presumably he was referring to mold, fungi, bacteria, and viruses -- not hotel guests.

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