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Watch: What Does the New Airline Performance Report Mean?

Travel + Leisure's Mark Orwoll appeared on NBC's TODAY Show this morning to discuss the airline performance report released this week. How will it impact you? Watch the clip (above) and find out.

SFO Moves to Block Car Sharing Services

Here today, gone tomorrow: FlightCar, that quirky car-sharing company we recently told you about, has been shut down by SFO.

And it's not alone: Also on the airport's cease-and-desist list are five other ride sharing companies, from UberX to InstantCab, according to The Huffington Post's Aaron Sankin. Why the sudden crackdown on automotive sharing startups? Apparently the tech-forward companies have been getting an easy break thanks to legal loopholes that don't require them to hold licenses from the California Public Utilities Commission, and taxi drivers—who not only need the licenses but pay fees for each airport ride—aren't too happy about it. But that doesn't mean it's game over for the six companies at stake, as a hearing is scheduled to determine their future later this month.

Our prediction? FlightCar will live on, sans curbside pickup service. As for the companies whose core premise includes a driver? They may not be so lucky.

Nikki Ekstein is an Editorial Assistant at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her at on Twitter at @nikkiekstein.

No Joke: Tiny Samoan Airline Will Charge Passengers By Weight

         201304-b-samoa-air-passenger-weightjpg

We wouldn't blame your assuming that Samoa Air's recent announcement that it will be weighing customers and charging them based on their weight is a belated April Fools' Day stunt, but apparently, it's real.

Reports have been popping up everywhere since the announcement, and the tiny airline's official website confirms the new policy with a statement that reads: "We at Samoa Air are keeping airfares fair, by charging our passengers only for what they weigh. You are the master of your Air'fair', you decide how much (or little) your ticket will cost. No more exorbitant excess baggage fees, or being charged for baggage you may not carry. Your weight plus your baggage items, is what you pay for. Simple."

Is it so simple? Not everyone is pleased with this idea. The Guardian's Ally Fogg wrote that the new policy "panders to a particularly unpleasant trend in modern culture that legitimises and even celebrates fat-shaming and body fascism. At its most crude this is manifest in straightforward cruelty and discrimination."

Chris Langton, head of Samoa Air, defended the idea—and suggested it may be the start of an industry-wide trend—in an Australian radio interview quoted by the BBC: "People generally are bigger, wider and taller than they were 50 years ago… The industry will start looking at this."

Photo by iStockphoto

Trip Doctor: British Airways Extends "Hand Baggage Only" Fares from London Gatwick

handbag

Good news for those of you who travel light: British Airways is extending its "hand baggage only fares" to 32 routes (up from an initial five) out of London’s Gatwick Airport.
 
What does that mean? Travelers flying the carrier from Gatwick to any of the airline’s short haul destinations, including Barcelona, Marrakesh, and Venice, now automatically pay between $14 and $23 less per ticket if they choose to fly with carry-on luggage only.
 
And if you’ve never been one to fly without a massive rolling suitcase, fear not. As Peter Simpson, director of Gatwick for British Airways explains, "those who still want to check in a bag will simply pay the same price they do now."

Peter Schlesinger is an editorial intern at Travel + Leisure.

Photo by iStockphoto

Surprising Number of Travel Innovations Announced Today

glass plane

Strange things are afoot in the travel world today. It seems like our inboxes have been flooded by announcements of weird and wonderful innovations. Here's a selection of the most interesting news of the day (that would be April 1, by the way).

Ever the publicity hound, Richard Branson announced that his engineering team has secretly developed the world's first glass-bottom airplane. (Picture above) The plane's underbelly will be completely see-through, allowing travelers the "opportunity to look down on the beautiful scenery of Great Britain as they fly." But rest assured: Cabin crew will be trained to calm the nerves of vertigo-prone fliers. (Amy Farley)

Read More

Trip Doctor: How the U.S. is Losing Tourists at the Airport

airport waiting area

Do you sometimes need a reminder of how great it can be to travel in the U.S.? Apparently overseas travelers do too. According to a new survey conducted by the U.S. Travel Association, 43% of foreign travelers will tell their friends to avoid coming to the States. But it’s not cultural, culinary, or political differences that are turning off the international crowds—it’s our customs entry process, which 84% of visitors complain about and believe could be vastly improved. The survey polled 1,200 non-U.S. Resident overseas travelers—of whom 1 in 7 missed a connection because of long customs lines. First impressions really do speak the loudest, it seems.

Nikki Ekstein is an Editorial Assistant at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her at on Twitter at @nikkiekstein.

Photo by Jeff Greenberg / Alamy

F.A.A. May Be Considering New 'Airplane Mode' Rules

Good news for flyers who hate putting away their e-readers or tablets while on the runway: The F.A.A. may be considering changing its rules about the use of electronics during takeoff. According to The New York Times' Nick Bilton, flyers may be allowed to put their devices into "airplane mode" and continue reading, watching videos, or playing games during takeoff as soon as next year.

As Bilton writes: "According to people who work with an industry working group that the Federal Aviation Administration set up last year to study the use of portable electronics on planes, the agency hopes to announce by the end of this year that it will relax the rules for reading devices during takeoff and landing. The change would not include cellphones."

This comes as welcome to news to some flyers, but probably none more so than Bilton, who has made "airplane mode" something of a crusade over the years. As the future-looking reporter notes, "The issue is only increasing in importance as more Americans board flights with wearable computers." Yes, it would be a shame if your seat-mate were forced to remove his or her Google Glass during takeoff.


See: The Final Say: Using Electronics on Planes

The Doctor Recommends: Must Reads for the Week Ending March 22, 2013

It's been a lonely six months for Lady Liberty, who's been all alone in the New York Harbor without any visitors since Hurricane Sandy forced away the crowds. But the National Parks Service has just announced that the Statue of Liberty will reopen on--guess what day?--July 4. (Nikki Ekstein)

In January, T+L included ride-sharing (bike, car, private plane) as one of 2013's most important travel trends. Now, Forbes' Micheline Maynard has a few thoughts on Jump Seat, the new Airbnb for, well, the air. (Maria Pedone)

Another entry for the What Took them So Long? files: American Airlines began quietly testing a new boarding process that allows fliers without carry-on bags to board before their wheelie-toting counterparts. Blogger Johnny Jet broke the story. (Amy Farley)

Photographer Jeffrey Milstein's hypnotic images of airports from above reveal the strange patterns and intricate geometries of these much-maligned hubs. John Metcalfe takes a look for the Atlantic Cities. (A.F)

Fans of Indiana Jones movies will not want to miss the real life swashbuckling tale of one man's journey in the jungles of the South Pacific to find a lost temple of Israel. Matthew Fishbane's 'Solomon's Island' is a collaboration between Tablet Magazine and The Atavist. For $2.99 you can read the entire 20,000-word story with maps and timelines. (Matt Haber)

The Rumpus presents a short comic from Liam Golden called In San Francisco, There Is A Street (M.H.)

Sick of hearing what the pundits and analysts are saying about the economic crisis in Cyprus? Why not read New York's brief interview with Antreas Achilleos, whom they describe as "a random guy from Cyprus." Sample question: "What should Cyprus be famous for, other than Russian money-laundering and economic turmoil?" The answer: really good cheese. (M.H.)

Coming soon to New York's subway system: Interactive touchscreen kiosks. Fast Company Co.Design's Mark Wilson has the download. (M.H.)

Slate presents a slideshow of hunters and their prey by photographer David Chancellor. Some of these images might be familiar to readers of The New York Times Magazine, which featured several last year, but they're still as surprising and engrossing the second tome around. (M.H.)

JetBlue Going Upscale?

JetBlue, arguably to most egalitarian of domestic carriers, announced this week that it will be introducing premium seating on transcontinental flights from New York to San Francisco next year in an effort to remain competitive on these routes. There's no word yet on what form these seats will take: first, business, lie-flat, behind a curtain, etc.

The airline also laid out plans to enhance its fleet with a new—and fast—in-flight wi-fi service called Fly-Fi, which should launch on the first JetBlue plane later this year. Giving the masses have something to celebrate, the airline also confirmed that basic wi-fi connections will be free—at least initially.

 Amy FarleyHave a travel dilemma? Need some tips and remedies? Send your questions to news editor Amy Farley at tripdoctor@aexp.com. Follow @tltripdoctor on Twitter.

Trip Doctor: Boeing Has a Plan to Get Dreamliner Off the Ground

Dreamliner airplane

The Federal Aviation Authority approved yesterday Boeing’s plan to redesign the lithium-ion battery system aboard its troubled Dreamliner aircraft.

The announcement comes after a series of disturbing battery fires forced the FAA to ground the long-awaited new plane in January. Boeing has been under intense pressure to come up with a solution to the battery problem—preferably one that doesn’t scrap the entire lithium-ion system altogether. The proposed modifications involve better insulation for the batteries, along with changes that make them less prone to short circuiting. Transportation secretary Ray LaHood said that the aircraft would still be subject to a series of tests to ensure the batteries work: “We won't allow the plane to return to service unless we're satisfied that the new design ensures the safety of the aircraft and its passengers.”

Which raises the question: After all the talk about inherent trouble with lithium-ion batteries, will passengers be eager to jump on a Dreamliner when it returns to service?

Amy FarleyHave a travel dilemma? Need some tips and remedies? Send your questions to news editor Amy Farley at tripdoctor@aexp.com. Follow @tltripdoctor on Twitter.


Photo by Robert Clayton / Alamy

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