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Trip Doctor: How to Prevent Altitude Sickness

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Most travelers can adjust to elevations below 8,000 feet with only minor headaches, treatable with over-the-counter medications. Even individuals in the best of shape, however, can suffer from worse symptoms, including fatigue, dizziness, and sleep disruption. Overexertion increases the odds of experiencing altitude sickness, so take things slowly, stay hydrated, and limit alcohol consumption. When ascending above 8,000 feet, where the air becomes markedly thinner, limit your climb to 1,000 feet per day. Prescription medications such as Diamox and dexamethasone can lessen the effects of altitude sickness. As always, consult your doctor before taking any medication.

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 credit: imagebroker / Alamy

Spotted: New Boarding System for United

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On a recent trip through Houston’s IAH, we noticed these unusual—but clever—markers, which United is now using to corral flyers waiting to get on their plane. Yes, we thought it was a bit odd as well—until we realized how much it organized the chaos of zone-by-zone boarding, eliminating the pre-emptive swarms that tend to crowd the gate.

Have you noticed any changes at the airport lately? Tell us at tripdoctor@aexp.com.

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 courtesy of Nilou Motamed

Introducing Frequent Flier Miles… For Your Pet

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Clearly we’re not the only ones obsessed with globetrotting pets. This week, Virgin Australia launched a new program for its furry fliers, making them the second airline to offer frequent flier miles to its four-legged jet set (JetBlue, with its JetPaws initiative, has been offering miles for a few years). Miles get added to the human handler’s account—Peaches sure isn’t carrying her own status card—and members can expect a minimum of 300 points per pet flight. Now if only the flight attendants could pass out some kibbles along with those pretzels…

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: istockphoto

United Airline’s New Frequent Flier Minimums

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Woe to frugal miles hoarders like me: United, the world’s largest airline, recently announced annual spending and mileage minimums in order to earn status on its frequent flier program. This seems to be the new reality among legacy carriers: United’s statement comes just a few months after Delta, the world’s second-largest airline, made a similar decree.

Come January 2014, United fliers will need to travel 25,000 miles within a year (or 30 qualifying flight segments) and shell out at least $2,500 total on fares—and buying tickets for other travelers don’t count—to qualify for Premier Silver, the program’s entry-level elite status. And for top-tier 1K Premier status, you need to spend a whopping $10,000. Check out the site for more details.

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No Snowden. No Turbulence. No Booze on Aeroflot Flight To Havana. Whah?!

Aeroflot has a drinking problem.

When reporters were duped on Monday into flying from Moscow to Havana on the Russian airline in hopes of interviewing National Security Agency whistle-blower Edward Snowden, the fugitive leaker was nowhere to be found. One passenger reported that the flight not only had no Snowden, it had "no turbulence and no booze." Seriously? No vodka?! On an Aeroflot flight?! It's true. The Moscow-Havana route is one of seven long-distance itineraries on which Aeroflot has banned alcohol in economy class. Why? Just watch the video above to get a sampling of the verbal assaults, fisticuffs, and other liquor-induced ill behavior seen on hundreds of Aeroflot flights every year. And now some legislators are considering even more stringent measures to stop the moonshine madness.

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How to Guarantee You'll Get In-Flight WiFi

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Despite travelers’ obsessions with being plugged in on the road, only 38% of domestic flights—and less than 1% of international flights—offer WiFi on board. Change is coming, with over 2,400 domestic and international flights rolling out Wi-Fi in the near future, but even then, in-flight web surfing will be far from ubiquitous, says data by flight engine RouteHappy. So here’s what the study suggests you do to make sure you stay connected in the skies:

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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

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