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Betty White Talks In-Flight Safety in Air New Zealand's Latest Video

Air New Zealand, known for their offbeat in-flight safety videos, has released a new four-minute reel, featuring actress Betty White. The latest video depicts the former star of The Golden Girls at the fictional Second Wind Retirement Resort, where she instructs a lot chess-playing residents to “listen up” as her “cousin’s grandson” (a.k.a. an Air New Zealand flight attendant) reminds seniors of the usual on-board precautions (fastening seatbelts; pulling down oxygen masks).

“We had a lot of fun on set and I think we’ve shown that it doesn’t matter what age you are, it’s important to live life to the full,” says White.

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Delta Pays for Automated Passport Machines at JFK

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Delta Air Lines, fed up with long lines its passengers face when arriving at Customs in New York City's JFK airport, is footing the bill to install automated passport machines.

Lines at the airport are the worst in the country, averaging over 90 minutes during peak hours, and nearing five hours on some occasions. Automated machines can shed 40 percent off of waiting times to clear customs, and at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport—the only U.S. airport to already have such machines—interview times with Customs officers have been halved to 30 seconds.

Delta views the new automated machines as a step in the right direction, says spokesperson Leslie Scott. She hopes the airline's contribution—whose price is undisclosed—will spur increased staffing, especially at peak times for international arrivals.

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The Future of Business Class: JetBlue’s New Mint Experience

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The airline that gained popularity with egalitarianism and blue chips just announced its first premium cabins, debuting on transcontinental flights starting on June 15. But don’t call this Business Class. In JetBlue parlance, these seats are known as Mint.
 
Travelers will be able to experience Mint on JetBlue’s new Airbus 321s flying from New York’s JFK to LAX next summer, and later, to SFO. Each aircraft features 16 lie-flat seats, including a handful of private suites that have sliding doors for total seclusion.
 
“Think about it as elegance with a small e,” JetBlue CEO David Barger said as he revealed the new cabins, along with their signature His and Hers amenity kits curated by Birchbox, seasonal tapas menu from New York City’s hip restaurant Saxon + Parole, and unpremium pricing.

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Emirates Debuts First Transatlantic Flight

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Beginning today, Oct. 1, Emirates Airlines launches a new route: JFK-Milan. Why is this big news? Because the expanding UAE-based airline will offer the only first-class service between the two popular cities. And, it's the first flight of the airline’s that does not touch down in Dubai before flying on to other gateways.

We expect Emirates’ first transatlantic service to be a big boon for business and leisure travelers, and are already imagining the crush of Louis Vuitton suitcases during Milan and NYC’s Fashion Weeks.

Departure and arrival schedules are timed to sync with flights going to and from feeder markets, especially those on JetBlue (US) and easyJet (Europe).

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Souvenir Blacklist—What Not to Bring Back

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Q: Are there any souvenirs that I can’t bring home with me? —Sarah Neff, Austin, Tex.

A: Everyone loves a good souvenir, but be mindful when shopping overseas—there are certain items that you simply cannot bring back with you because of U.S. import restrictions, or that you should avoid buying due to environmental and safety concerns. Here, a look at the souvenir-shopper’s blacklist.

Cultural Artifacts

The United States has import restrictions that protect the cultural property of countries whose art and antiquities have traditionally been vulnerable to theft and illegal trafficking. The Department of State has agreements with 16 nations, including Cambodia (covering Khmer archaeological materials: ceramics, stone, and metal articles) and Peru (restricting certain textiles, sculptures, wood, and metal articles from both the pre-Columbian and colonial periods). The U.S. has similar agreements to prohibit the trade of culturally significant items from China, Greece, Guatemala, Italy, and Mali, among other countries. (See eca.state.gov for more details.) Be aware that countries without U.S. import agreements may have their own export protections in place. Look into local permissions and permits for any relic or antiquity you plan to carry back to the States.

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Committee Urges the FAA Reconsider Electronic Device Prohibitions

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An advisory committee is recommending that the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) ease its restrictions on electronic devices below 10,000 feet, finding current rules pointlessly prohibitive. The council's 28 members hail from the aviation industry and within the FAA.

Flyers today must shut down their phones, tablets, e-readers, and other gadgets to prevent interference with the plane's equipment during takeoffs and landings. Anyone who refuses to do so may be kicked off the plane, a la Alec Baldwin.

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Q+A: James Cluer, Mountaineer and Master of Wine for Qatar Airways

When Napa-based wine master James Cluer told his client, Qatar Airways, that he would be out of contact for a month and a half, the airline asked questions. Where was he going? And why for so long? Cluer disclosed he was planning to fulfill a lifelong dream and climb Mt. Everest (29,000 feet above sea level)—a trip that had been years in the making. Qatar Airways suggested he might want to conduct a wine tasting to learn how altitude affects the palette outside of a plane cabin. Cluer agreed. Enter a few seasoned sherpas.

The story is a funny one—either the ultimate marketing gimmick, or an extreme experiment in satisfying one’s curiosity. Turns out, it was the latter. Cluer and Qatar Airways both take wine seriously. The Doha-based airline has won numerous awards, including Best Airline Wine List, and all of its flight attendants are WSET certified and able to provide sommelier services. And Cluer has dedicated his life to the grape. In addition to consulting, buying, and selecting what wines to serve onboard Qatar Airways flights, he also runs 16 wine schools in the U.S. and Canada and operates a luxury wine tour business called Fine Vintage Ltd.

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Two New Ways to Speed Through the Airport

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Waiting in line—perhaps the most dreaded aspect—of the air travel experience—is improving by leaps and bounds this year at U.S. airports. For one, the TSA PreCheck expedited screening program, which is now available for international flights, is growing rapidly: the TSA has installed PreCheck lanes in 40 airports, with planned expansions into 60 more domestic airports by the end of 2013. Meanwhile, in-airport PreCheck enrollment centers will also soon start rolling out—opening up the program to all U.S. travelers willing to pay the $85 fee—no passport or frequent-flier membership required. The first will be in Indianapolis and Washington Dulles this fall, followed by some 300 locations across the country.

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Former TWA Terminal at JFK to Become Hotel

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After much back and forth, the New York Port Authority has chosen famed hotelier André Balazs to transform the former TWA terminal at JFK Airport into a hotel.

Completed in 1962, the Eero Saarinen-designed building is on the National Register of Historic Places and serves as a ceremonial entrance of sorts to JetBlue's Terminal 5. It's been largely unoccupied since 2001.

Balazs—known for his Standard hotels in Miami, Los Angeles, and NYC—had long been listed as a contender for the project, although the New York Post reported in August that his style had clashed with the Port Authority's hopes for the terminal. Now, according to the same newspaper, Balazs is the only designer in the running.

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Book Gives Nostalgic Nod to Airline Travel

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White-gloved stewardesses, lobster dinners served on bone china, on-board cocktail lounges—there’s a lot to miss about the golden days of air travel. (In-flight smoking, not so much.) Re-live the era through Airline: Style at 30,000 Feet, which hits shelves Sept. 10. The soft-cover book—originally released as a hardback in 2000 in the U.K.—presents a highly researched history of uniforms, food, and interior design. Sure, it’s interesting to read, but the images (and detailed captions) really tell the story. The final chapter takes a look at airline corporate identity, with a focus on logos and branding. Bet you didn’t know that now-defunct British European Airways had their own Benson & Hedges cigarettes and gave out complementary ashtrays adorned with “Fly BEA.” Today, that would never, er, fly.

Brooke Porter is an Associate Editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter at @brookeporter1.

Image from the book AIRLINE: STYLE AT 30,000 FEET by Keith Lovegrove. Courtesy of Laurence King Publishing

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