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OpenAirplane Service Lets You Play Pilot By Renting Airplanes

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While flying cars are still a figment of our travel dreams, renting airplanes is now a reality. OpenAirplane, a Zipcar-style rental service for small airplanes, launched last Monday at airports in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Jose, Kissimmee and Detroit. To reserve a plane, all you need is an internet browser or their mobile app…oh, and your pilot license.

While just the service’s name can give you vertigo (I prefer my airplanes closed), members are required to take a standardized flight exam once a year before taking off, twice as often as mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration. Pilots are also required to return the airplane to its home base.

With six aircraft rental companies and flight schools on board (and more in the works), it might just be time to swap your wheels for some wings.

Maria Pedone is a digital editorial intern at Travel + Leisure.

Photo courtesy of Tradewind Aviation

Trip Doctor: What Americans Really Think about Flying

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With summer vacation upon us, it seems students aren't the only ones getting their final grades. A slew of reports and studies recently came out—including ones from Harris Interactive, J.D. Power & Associates, Consumer Reports, and the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI)—surveying a total of over 67,000 Americans on their latest opinions North American air travel. Here are some of the highlights:

Satisfaction is…Up!

  • Even though Consumer Reports concludes "There isn't much good news for passengers," recent findings by J.D. Power & Associates suggest that the passengers themselves disagree. The marketing information firm surveyed nearly 12,000 individuals and measured customer satisfaction on a 1000 point scale based on airline performance in 7 categories: cost & fees; in-flight services; boarding/deplaning/baggage; flight crew; aircraft; check-in; and reservation.  The results?  Overall passenger satisfaction is up 14 points to 695, a score not seen since 2006, before the age of a-la-carte baggage fees.

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Tech Thursday: Low Fare Alerts and More from Trip Watcher

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With so many new tools promising to help us find the best (or cheapest) flights, it’s easier than ever to turn flight searching into an all-day obsession. Enter Trip Watcher, a new site by Hotwire.com, which does all the constant searching for you. Enter your desired destinations and dates (or range of dates), and the site will monitor the fares on your behalf, sending you alerts every time it finds a new low price. You choose the preferred method of contact—email, Facebook, or Twitter—so that you can jump on the deal before it disappears.

I’ve been putting Trip Watcher to the test with five sample itineraries—three domestic and two international, some with set dates and others more flexible. In just one day, the engine found lower fares for three of those routes, dropping the price by 20% to Chicago, 15% to Lima, and a whopping 38% to Charleston. The latter—a deeply discounted fare of $102—disappeared quickly, but it was entirely within my reach thanks to the instant update.

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Trip Doctor: Legislators Renew Push for Family Flying Policy Changes

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Back in February we reported that several senators had expressed opposition to recent airline fees that force families to pay extra if they wish to sit together. Now, five lawmakers from New York and California are sponsoring a bill that would require airlines to change their policies.

The legislative push is still in its "early stages," according to the offices of the resolution's main sponsor, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (NY), so no news on when (or even if) to expect a vote. Right now the sponsors are working on outreach both with other members in Congress and their constituents.

Nadler introduced a similar proposal last July with 10 co-sponsers, but the resolution was never enacted.

Have strong feelings about this? Contact your Congress representative and write to them about House Resolution 2191.

Peter Schlesinger is a research assistant at Travel + Leisure.

Photo credit: iStockphoto

Trip Doctor: TSA Caves on Knife Policy

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Cue a collective sigh of relief: after much hoopla several months ago, the TSA has finally retracted their effort to take small knives off their banned items list. Also still prohibited: novelty baseball bats, billiard cues, ski poles, hockey sticks, golf clubs, and lacrosse sticks—all of which fell under the same (now dropped) proposal that would have allowed the potentially dangerous items on planes. We asked a TSA spokesperson what pulled the final straw, and it seems there was plenty of consensus between the Aviation Security Advisory Committee, law enforcement officials, passenger advocates, and "other important stakeholders"—opening this can of worms simply wouldn’t be a good idea (told you so). Instead, the TSA says they’ll continue to focus on Risk-Based Security, which allows them to “keep passengers safe by focusing on those we know less about.”

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 credit: Anthony Dunn / Alamy

Tech Thursday: Two New Tools for Intelligent Flight Searching

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When Hipmunk released its airfare-focused "agony index" a few years back, it was the talk of the town here at T+L—frankly, we’re still pretty obsessed. But these days, a number of services are trying to one-up the flight search pioneer with what’s now being dubbed "intelligent searching," where users can pick and choose itineraries based on far more than just price and schedule.

Rising to the top of the pack is Momondo. The company recently launched a new Flight Insight tool, which makes the search process as transparent as it gets. By aggregating data that the company has collected since its inauguration in 2006, Flight Insight offers a tremendous amount of information on all the factors that can affect the price of your flight, from seasonality to airport combos. Plug in your desired itinerary, and the tool will help you find the best airlines, days of the week, or times of the day to search for if you’re hoping to snag a bargain. Interestingly, Momondo suggests that you’re almost always best off booking a flight 60 days ahead of your departure.

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United Opens First Class Lounge (for Dogs) at O’Hare

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Check in with your dog at the Beverly Hills Hotel, and your pooch will get first-class treatment: a personalized doggie biscuit (name emblazoned in icing), a custom bed and a can of pink hotel-logo tennis balls. But when it comes to flying, "first class" has not really existed for pets.

United is hoping to change that. The airline just announced the opening of a first-class style kennel at O’Hare for pets who are too big to fly in the cabin. Similar to facilities in the airline’s Newark and Houston hubs, O’Hare’s PetSafe kennel promises 28 clean, ventilated and temperature-controlled enclosures, comfy vans that will chauffeur critters to their flights, and staffers who will exercise your pet and, according to the release, “provide grooming and bathing on request” (presumably your request, not Sparky’s).

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Tech Thursday: A Playlist to Cure Your Fear of Flying

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Listen up, airlines—it’s time to start playing Adele’s Someone Like You on the PA as you’re boarding your flights. According to research launched today by music service Spotify, the song is the perfect tune to settle travelers’ jittery nerves, thanks to its ideal tempo (67 bpm) and harmonious tones. About one in four fliers suffer from some sort of travel-related fear, says the study by London-based anxiety psychologist Dr. Becky Spelman, who helped Spotify identify characteristics in songs that are most de-stressing (see the full recommended playlist here). But tuning in is just the first step: breathing in time to the rhythm, listening on headphones, and closing your eyes will all work together to theoretically lower your heart rate and blood pressure, stimulate both sides of your brain, and calm your mind. Fly on, frazzled road warriors, fly on.

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

 


New Grounds for Diverting a Plane: Unsolicited Karaoke

In many instances, airlines seem to assume that passengers have a pretty high threshold for discomfort and inconvenience. Yes, they seem to think, you can handle sitting on a tarmac for a few hours, perhaps with no A/C or working toilets. You’re tough, right?

But according to a recent CNN report, American Airlines has declared a limit to what humans should have to put up with while in transit, and the repeated singing of “I Will Always Love You” is clearly over the line.

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Beauty Bust: Turkish Airlines Lifts Lipstick Ban

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Calling all flight attendants: if you enjoy getting dolled-up for work, you are now allowed to board Turkish Airlines. 

As we mentioned earlier this month, the national carrier had placed a ban on red and dark pink lipstick and nail polish, in fear that it would impair the “visual integrity” of its staff, according to Skift. Chief Executive Temel Kotil claims this was a decision made by junior managers, and that there is in fact no ban on the beauty products—female staff can wear lipstick and nail polish of any color.

My only question—why were the junior managers so concerned with these classic lip colors? Blue lipstick was a huge fad in the 1990’s, and who can forget the coral-colored pouts of the ‘80’s? Let’s just hope the airline was aiming for retro, and hold tight to our shadow and mascara.

Maria Pedone is a digital editorial intern at Travel + Leisure.

Photo credit: iStockPhoto

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