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.
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.
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.
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
Can you imagine having a real live Mary Poppins on your next flight? Someone to entertain your kids (origami anyone?), serve them meals, and help you fill milk bottles—and all this done with a smile? Well Etihad Airlines has made this dream a reality. Known for over-the-top amenities and service, the Persian Gulf carrier just announced a Flying Nanny program for all its long-haul flights. More than 300 "nannies" trained in child psychology and sociology will be available to help frazzled parents survive their trip whether they're sitting in economy, business, or first. Yes, it sounds a tad extreme, but think of all the magazines you could read, movies you could watch, and naps you could take.
Clara O. Sedlak is a mother of two and Special Projects Editor at Travel + Leisure.
Photo Courtesy of Etihad Airways
You might not be fazed anymore by grouchy airline workers, or a surly passenger in the seat next to you. But when your in-flight system starts giving you attitude, that’s a whole new level of insult.
According to an article in the Times of India, Air India is investigating an incident on a flight from London to Mumbai in which a passenger was having some difficulties getting a movie started at her seat. According to her side of the story, she finally received a rather brazen error message: "This selection is not currently available. Please try again later," and, below that, "Lie low...Sit down you idiot!"
The actress, singer, and godmother of Quantum of the Seas—the new ship from Royal Caribbean International—reveals her in-flight must-haves.
Tiger Balm ($12): “Really good for neck pain—it’s basically Icy Hot times ten.”
Dental floss ($3): “It’s always nice to have clean teeth.”
Purell hand sanitizer ($2): “For when I can’t wash my hands.”
Nivea A Kiss of Shimmer Radiant Lip Care ($4): “My lips get so dry when I fly.”
Vitamin E oil ($10): “Put this on wrinkles and creases. People ask for my secret—this is it.”
Vicks VapoRub ($12): “I believe that a little bit under your nose keeps the germs out.”
Kleenex ($2): “I don’t want to sneeze and not be prepared.”
Tylenol ($4): “Stops a migraine before it starts. Wow, I sound like a walking ad!”
Photo by John Lawton
Somewhere above the Bering Sea on the long haul flight between Tokyo and New York, a Japan Airlines flight attendant kindly brought me a steaming bowl of rich broth and chewy udon noodles. Mine was the only seat lit at this late hour in the darkened cabin while glued to a subtitled crime drama marathon. (I'm a sucker for film noir in any language.) Recently, JAL launched its new business-class "Sky Suite" service on international routes to New York, London and Paris; service to Chicago and Los Angeles follows shortly. It's almost like having your own capsule hotel room, complete with a fully reclining seat, 23-inch LCD screen, and bed slippers. Definitely request a window seat for utmost privacy.
Q: How can I tell if an international carrier is safe? —Sarah Jones, Charlotte, N.C.
A: Even if we don’t like to admit it, the act of getting on a plane involves a great deal of trust: trust in the pilots and the flight crew, in the aircraft makers, in the airline, and—ultimately—in the authorities who approved the plane to fly. Domestically, this last responsibility lies with the Federal Aviation Administration, which is known for its exacting standards. But given that there’s no single organization with the authority to enforce safety around the world, things are more complicated abroad.
The easiest rule of thumb: book on foreign airlines that operate code-share flights with U.S. partners. (Global alliances—Star Alliance, Oneworld, SkyTeam—usually involve some form of code-sharing.) Before a U.S. airline can place its passengers on a foreign carrier, it must conduct a safety review of its partner and submit the results to the FAA for approval. As an added incentive, the U.S. airline may also be liable should anything happen to its passengers on a code-share flight.
You've done Notre Dame. You've walked the Hall of Mirrors. And, if you're like me, you've eaten every croissant in sight—hopefully one of the city's best. But don't check Paris and Versailles off your list quite yet. You haven't seen them by zeppelin...
Airship Paris is hoping to change that. This month, the company launched its inaugural flights around France's Ile-de-France region, and it predicts a bright future for the historic mode of transportation.