USA Today | Airlines are rolling out the summer travel bargains as they battle for recession-weary passengers who are slowly returning to the air.
AirTran and Southwest set off the latest flurry with sales that began Monday and were soon matched by American, Delta, US Airways and Continental, says Rick Seaney, CEO of Farecompare.com. It's the fourth round of sales in a month.
But while the sales are coming fast, you may miss out if you wait for the last-minute bargains that travelers got in the depths of the recession.
Ryanair, the ultra-budget Irish airline known for its low fares and numerous surcharges, confirmed yesterday what had long been rumored: It is serious about charging passengers to use the toilet. If it goes forward, it would be just the latest in a long line of airline industry fees that have dogged travelers over the past several years. The news comes on the heels of yesterday’s announcement from Spirit Airlines that it would begin charging passengers a carry-on luggage fee of up to $45. When I wrote the Spirit blog item yesterday, I said the only fee that could be worse would be a toilet charge.
Well, that didn’t take long, did it?
I recently borrowed the new T-Mobile HTC HD2 smartphone and, after about two weeks of playing around with it, I have to say: I have a big fat crush. The screen—an astounding 4.3"—is insanely sharp. In fact, I happened to receive the phone the day before hopping on a bus for 4 1/2 hours. For 2 1/2 of those hours, I entertained myself by watching Transformers...on the phone. Not only did the crystal clear image blow me away, let me point this out: the phone's battery was still half full by the end of the movie. Crazy!
Aside from the on-the-go entertainment value with the phone—all of the movies are available for renting or purchase through the phone's Blockbuster app—the phone itself is sleek, easy-to-use, and the touch screen über responsive. (Once I turned off that annoying guess-what-word-I'm-trying-to-spell feature that is becoming a staple in many new phones, it rarely, if ever, missed a key stroke.)
Spirit Airlines has hit a new low. Four hours ago I received an email from the airline announcing that it would begin charging as much as $45 fee for carry-on bags, the first U.S. airline to add that surcharge. This is only the latest move in the industry’s “unbundling” trend, in which airlines tack on fees for services and amenities that traditionally were included in your airfare. But Spirit’s move today marks the trend’s nadir. Perhaps the only surcharge that could surpass it for egregious gouging would be if an airline charged passengers to use the toilet—a day that certainly can’t be too far off.
Spirit will begin charging the carry-on fee for flights starting on August 1. Exceptions to the carry-on fee include medicine, food for immediate consumption, and assistive devices, presumably because it wouldn’t look right to have passengers going into convulsions for lack of meds or to charge someone for bringing crutches on board. The carry-on rule applies only to baggage placed in overhead bins. Personal items that can be placed under your seat—such as your wallet, your change purse, your ATM card, and loose cash—are free.
Question that I get asked all the time: I have a digital point-and-shoot camera that I like, but I want to take my photography to the next level. Can you recommend an easy-to-use DSLR camera that will take great images for years to come?
My new answer: The Nikon D5000.
I am really excited about this camera. It has a lot of the aspects you’d expect from Nikon: wonderful colors and metering, excellent image quality, sharp lens, HD video, but it has a new feature that really gets me—the flip-and-twist LCD screen.
I gave up all hope of being a decent surfer long ago, but think I might regain some “Endless Summer”-cred on the paddleboard: apparently, if you can stand up, you can do it (even three-year-olds give it a go). But for professionals Jenny Kalmbach and Morgan Hoesterey, it’s not just fun and games—it's a mission.
Starting this month, Kalmbach and Hoesterey are boarding-their-way across Hawaii’s nine legendary open-ocean channels (some 250 miles) to raise funds for the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, a Long Beach–based nonprofit. They’ll be trailed by two boats as a safety measure, but the journey won’t be easy: Kalmbach and Hoesterey will pass through the Alalakeiki Channel (a.k.a. the “Screaming Child”) and even end their trip with a moonlit crossing of the 85-mile-wide Kaieiewaho Channel (a leg that could take up to 20 grueling hours to finish).
I’ve long had a small problem with the Jolly chain of hotels and resorts. Not the hotels themselves, some of which are very good. I love the 1920s-era Whaler Bar at the Jolly Madison Towers in New York City, for instance, although I have to suppress a giggle whenever I tell a friend to meet me there. No, it’s the name itself that bugs me. There’s an enforced gaiety to it, a glued-on marketing smile. At any rate, I was surprised to discover there are three Jolly time-share resorts neighboring one another in Antigua. At least, there were three until the Jolly Beach Vacations Resort changed its name in March to Tranquility Bay.
On the Orwoll 10-point Smart Meter, I rate that name-change a 10. Who could not love a resort with a name like Tranquility Bay? And it got me thinking about more hotels that have changed their names, and even other random corporate name changes—some of which, shall we say, do not earn high marks on the Smart Meter.
HOTEL NAME CHANGES
Cova Hotel (San Francisco). Former name: Air Travel Hotel. After an extensive renovation and a dose of marketing reality, the owners realized that Air Travel is a truly odd name for a hotel. So they changed it to something arcane instead of merely misleading. Not necessarily a huge improvement. Smart Meter: 4
The Washington Post | The Obama administration is abandoning its policy of using nationality alone to determine which U.S.-bound international air travelers should be subject to additional screening and will instead select passengers based on possible matches to intelligence information, including physical descriptions or a particular travel pattern, senior officials said Thursday.
After the attempted bombing of an Amsterdam-to-Detroit flight on Christmas Day, U.S. officials decided that passengers from or traveling through 14 specified countries would be subjected to secondary searches. Critics have since called the measures discriminatory and overly burdensome, and the administration has faced pressure to refine its approach.
Under the new system, screeners will stop passengers for additional security if they match certain pieces of known intelligence.
Photo courtesy of iStock
Lip balm is not the most exciting thing in the world, but it's still a must for long plane rides—all the waiting and dry air makes me impatiently lick my lips a lot!
Now that I have found these cute little spheres of EOS ("Evolution of Smooth") lip balm—all 95 percent organic and 100 percent natural made with jojoba oil, shea butter and vitamin E, I may retire my Kiehl’s tube for good. They are so cute! Each ball twists to open to reveal the balm (with SPF 15, of course) and comes in four distinctive tasty flavors: honeysuckle, summer fruit, lemon, and sweet mint.
When my boyfriend was invited to read a story of his at the launch of the newest issue of The Pinch literary magazine, based in Memphis, I convinced him we had to go. I love the South—for its friendly locals, music, and most importantly, for its food. Instead of spending upward of $300 on a flight, we decided to take a road trip. Surprisingly we only got lost once in 1,000 or so miles between New York and Memphis. And it was all because the ferocious beasts at Dinosaur Land distracted me from my navigatrix duties. Oops.