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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

The Doctor Recommends: Must Reads for the Week Ending March 8, 2013

Here are a few recent travel stories that piqued the interest of T+L's news team.

Clearly, we're not alone in our obsession with Hotel Tonight. Here, the folks at Hotel Chatter put together a few nifty tips for maximizing your deal on the last-minute booking app. (Nikki Ekstein)

What happens when American Airlines opens up its software to a SXSW-hosted hackathon? Hopefully, something cool, according to Skift. (N.E.)

Is free wifi the key to turning hotels into social hubs? Maybe, says Barbara De Lollis in USA Today, but we're still pining for free wifi in our rooms, thank-you-very-much. (N.E.)

Need another reason to heed the TSA's warnings against checking luggage you didn't pack yourself? You might wind up in an Argentine prison like Paul Frampton, a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill physics professor who was just trying to help a friendly Czech bikini model he thought he'd met on the internet retrieve a bag with "sentimental value" in Bolivia. Maxine Swann's New York Times Magazine story must be read to be believed. (Matt Haber)

Also, check out this map of United States Passport Ownership that comes via one of the internet's best curators, Maria Popova. Now, go make sure your passport is up to date. (M.H.)

See a story you'd recommend to us? Send it via Facebook or Twitter.

American Airline's OneWorld Alliance Scores Big in Latin America

American Airlines loyalists and US Airways frequent fliers who were disappointed to hear that the merged carrier would stick to AA's OneWorld alliance rather than join up with the larger Star Alliance, have reason to celebrate today. In a big coup for OneWorld, South America's airline conglomerate LANTAM Airlines Group (a combination of Brazil's TAM Airlines and Chile's excellent LAN Airlines) announced that it will become a fully committed member of the alliance during second quarter of 2014.

What might that mean? For one thing, getting to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio will be easier than ever for American Airlines fliers.

Trip Doctor: About Those New TSA Rules...

airplane packing

Dear TSA,

We are so happy to hear that you'll be easing packing restrictions for travelers. Really, we are. But golf clubs, baseball bats, and pocket knives? What an odd place to start. Did you think these were less risky to travel with than, say, the three ounces of blueberry jam you stole—I mean, confiscated—from me on my way home from Maine last summer? Or the life-threatening snow globe souvenir my colleague bought for her daughter in Colorado? How about that full-sized tube of toothpaste—or better yet, the water bottle I brought from home for my six-hour flight? Couldn't you see your way to un-banning those before knives, bats, and clubs?

And as tons of news outlets are making clear, flight attendants are with us—they're not terribly thrilled at the prospect of knives on board, and we certainly can't fault them.

We'd love to know what you were thinking, even if our golfer friends are excited by the prospect of carrying their gear aboard. We'd also like that blueberry jam back.

Signed,

The Trip Doctor Team

See also: Snakes (Almost) on a Plane and Pack This: TSA-Friendly Toiletries.

Photo by iStockphoto

New Website Saves on Airfare By Choosing Your Destination For You

Getgoing.com

Getgoing.com, a new website that officially launches on March 6, promises to save leisure travelers up to 40 percent on airfare. How do they know you're really a leisure traveler? Simple. You choose two different destinations in the same region of the world (for example, Vienna and Geneva, or Costa Rica and Panama) and enter your travel dates. Then provide your billing information to complete your reservation. The Get Going team randomly chooses one of your two options. The "surprise" is supposed to be part of the website's charm. The savings is the other part.

The website covers hundreds of cities in more than 50 countries. Here are some airfares from New York I found on getgoing.com and the lowest comparable fares on Kayak: Milan, $568 ($635 on Kayak); Istanbul, $577 ($705 on Kayak); Las Vegas, $247 ($338 on Kayak); Beijing, $815 ($1,020 on Kayak). I didn't find any 40% discounts, and the flights on getgoing.com may be different from those on Kayak, but in every example I tried, getgoing.com had the lowest fare.

And now for the drawbacks: Getgoing.com is the wrong choice if you are a business traveler who needs to be in Los Angeles on Monday morning or you're traveling to a family reunion in Glasgow, because you may not get your preferred destination. You won't know which airline you'll be flying or the location of your stop-over airports (if any) until you complete your purchase. Even more important: your tickets are completely nonrefundable and changes are not allowed, even if you're willing to pay a penalty fee. You can, however, buy cancel-for-any-reason trip insurance at a cost roughly equal to 10% of the airfare.

For free-and-easy travelers who choose their destinations using a blindfold, a dart, and a map taped to the wall, getgoing.com could be a useful booking tool. But for the rest of us, maybe not.

2012-hs-mark-orwolljpgMark Orwoll is the International Editor of Travel + Leisure. Follow him on Twitter.


Image courtesy of Getgoing.com

The Doctor Recommends: Stories and Articles From All Over

Here are a few recent travel stories that piqued the interest of T+L's news team.

Be careful where you shake, folks. USA Today reports that the FAA is looking into possible safety violations after a group Colorado College students lead a Harlem Shake on a recent Frontier Airlines flight. (Amy Farley)

United has launched an official investigation of the crew that threw Live and Let's Fly blogger Matthew Klint off the plane for snapping photos of his business class cabin. Klint's takeaway? The seven words you shouldn't use on an airplane. (Nikki Ekstein)

Farecompare founder Rick Seaney has great advice for people traveling in a group (including families): save money by searching for airfare one person at a time. We’d explain here, but best to just go straight to his brilliant USA Today column. (AF)

Oh, the people you'll meet. Novelist Nathaniel Rich finds himself sharing intimacies, aspirations, and a little bit of heartbreak with his fellow passengers on a two-day journey from New Orleans to Los Angeles on the Sunset Limited train in this weekend's New York Times Magazine. (AF)

What's more lonely than being in a strange hotel in a strange city all by yourself? Being without your beloved $8 M&Ms. In an essay in The Atlantic, journalist David Samuels laments the demise of the hotel mini bar. (AF)

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