In what can only be described as one small step for space travelers, one giant leap for Virgin Galactic's publicity team, WhiteKnightTwo, a Sir Richard Branson-owned passenger aircraft, managed to reach an altitude of 46,000 feet over the Mojave Desert yesterday. The test flight lasted all of 16 seconds.
Branson called it "stunning" and "a critical day," according Reuter's Irene Klotz. The airline, mobile service, and music label magnate has been pushing for commercial space flights for almost a decade, even going so far as to accept deposits on the $200,000 tickets. Now that one of his craft's has achieved some small measure of escape velocity, Branson and his two grown children plan to fly in a second test of the WhiteKnightTwo scheduled tomorrow. Watch a YouTube video of the test flight above.
What does that mean for you? Well, as an air traveler it means fewer delays for your next trip. As a taxpayer? That all depends on what you think about the budget crisis that created those furloughs in the first place.
At last week’s Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, Airbus announced that it would soon offer airlines the option of extra-wide seats in coach on its A320 fleet. Good news? Debatable.
Yes, the aisle seats in the new configuration would be a spacious 20” wide (two inches wider than the current 18” seats). But to make room for the extra width, the middle and window seats would each shrink by an inch.
Airbus aircraft interiors marketing manager Stefanie Von Linstow explained at the Expo that airline feedback has shown preference for the aisle seat to be the widest. "Passengers in the window seat are already happy, and those in the centre seat might not be willing to pay as much for the extra width," Perry quotes her as saying.
Von Linstow admits that the new configuration is a response to what she politely labels a "growing population," and that it would be a "revenue-boosting solution that keeps a lot passengers happy."
No doubt, passengers paying a premium to be in an aisle seat would be content. As for the two-thirds of "growing" coach passengers sitting in the narrowing seats, it remains to be seen just how happy they'd be.
On Friday, the Federal Aviation Administration officially announced its approval of Boeing’s re-design for the 787 Dreamliner. Nearly four months after a series of alarming battery fires caused the FAA to the ground the aircraft, Boeing is eager to put its fuel-efficient fleet back in the air.
Modifications to the lithium-ion battery system include extra insulation around each of the battery’s eight cells to prevent short circuit fires from spreading, enhanced venting to move smoke from inside the battery to outside of the plane, and a strengthened box to further contain fires.
These changes, according to transportation secretary Ray LaHood, "will ensure the safety of the aircraft and its passengers."
While many airlines—including All Nippon Airways and Japan Airways—are also awaiting the 787’s release, any return to service will have to wait until the FAA accepts Boeing’s completed work.
Maria Pedone is a digital editorial intern at Travel + Leisure.
Remember when we used to be cordial? You’d show me a photo of your kid, I’d show you my dachshund, and we’d giggle while munching pretzels. I’m loath to admit it, but I don’t miss those days. Like a couple who’ve been together for decades, we’re way beyond chitchat. That’s why I brought my iPad.
Yet there are still a few simple rules of engagement that will keep us both happy. For starters, don’t order bottle after teensy bottle until you fall asleep on my shoulder. Don’t ask if your spouse/partner/mother-in-law can switch seats with me. I booked this spot for a reason (and won’t you see plenty of them on vacation?). If I offer you a mint, take it—please. And by all means, lay off the perfume! We’re sitting in an airtight container, after all.
Sorry to be so blunt. Even if this feels like public transportation, it really isn’t. But there’s no reason we can’t be civil. I’ll happily give you the armrest and lower the shade so you can watch your movie. We may never be Facebook friends, but you’re still my high-flying compadre, taking in the world with me from an awe-inspiring 36,000 feet, and if we hit some unexpected turbulence, you can bet I’ll be grabbing your arm.
Yours, The T+L Editors
Kathryn O'Shea-Evans is an associate editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter @ThePluckyOne.
Q: How can I get a good seat on my flight if I don’t have elite status? —Anne R., Bozeman, Mont.
A: As airlines reduce their schedules and pack more people onto planes, economy passengers are increasingly feeling the pinch. Adding insult to (squashed-knee) injury, carriers also reserve covetable window and aisle seats for high-ranking loyalty-program members. But you needn’t get stuck in the middle. Here, some ways to find a better seat.
Choose your flights by cabin layout.
Seatguru, our favorite online airline-seat-map compendium, has recently added a new flight-search function that lets you filter results by comfort as well as the usual factors (price, duration, etc.). Mining the site’s trove of cabin data to assess both seats and in-flight amenities, Seatguru offers you an overall “G-Factor” rating of “Love it,” “Like it,” or “Live with it” for each flight—and tells you how much it will cost to trade up for a plane with more legroom or a seat-back entertainment system.
News sources from The New York Times to Skift are reporting that American Airlines has grounded its entire fleet after a computer glitch caused its reservation system to go offline, making it impossible to check passengers in. The airline plans to resume service at 5 p.m. EST.
This is just the latest news in a jittery day for travelers. After the bombings in Boston yesterday, security in cities and at airports around the country has been on high alert. Earlier today, the central terminal building at New York’s LaGuardia Airport was evacuated for an hour due to a suspicious package. The airport was reopened after police determined the package posed no threat.
Peter Schlesinger is an editorial intern at Travel + Leisure.
T+L's International Editor Mark Orwoll appeared in on CNN this weekend to discuss the airline quality rankings released last week. Watch as he discusses the rise of customer complaints about surcharges, ticketing, and personnel and offers tips about getting the seat you want and not getting bumped.
In 2011, Delta made headlines by axing expiration dates on SkyMiles, the airline’s frequent flier mileage program. Last month, the carrier garnered some less friendly press with a slight addendum to its no-expiration policy: The miles don’t expire…until the mileage holder does.
Prior to the March 20 announcement, SkyMiles could transfer to next of kin, but as NBC reported, such transactions are no longer permitted by Delta. Frequent fliers are unsurprisingly displeased at the policy change, and have even started an online petition against it.
But not all the heat should fall on Delta. JetBlue, Southwest, and United all have similar restrictions. Meanwhile, a slew of other airlines, including Alaska, American Airlines, and US Airways allow miles earned to transfer after death.
Delta spokeswoman Chris Kelly Singley has countered any criticism by noting that SkyMiles reward those who have directly participated in the program and showed loyalty to the airline.
Frequent Flier's Tim Winship explained the main takeaway to NBC: “The lesson there is don’t allow yourself to be in a position where you’re sitting on a huge cache of frequent flier miles because tomorrow the program that you earned those miles in could make some kind of an enormous systemic change that pulls the rug out from under the value of those miles.” How comforting.
Peter Schlesinger is an editorial intern at Travel + Leisure.