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Trip Doctor: Delta + Virgin—What It Means for You

Virgin Atlantic

Delta made a power move to increase its transatlantic presence earlier this week, announcing that it will acquire an equity stake in Virgin Atlantic. Though Virgin Atlantic president Richard Branson made it abundantly clear that his airline's brand and all of its hip trappings are not going anywhere (he even bet British Airways head Willie Walsh £1 million to that effect), the partnership does signal a significant shift in transatlantic alliances—one that has implications for Delta fliers.

More options into Europe. By gaining a strong foothold in London's notoriously tough-to-get-into Heathrow, Delta can now offer customers nine daily round-trip flights from the New York area to Heathrow, and 31 flights a day between North America and the United Kingdom. For the first time, Delta fliers can look to London (rather than, say, Amsterdam or Paris) as a viable European gateway. And they can get there in style via Virgin Atlantic's much-vaunted new Upper Class cabin.

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Jackson Hole Gets Big Snow (and Direct Flights)

Jackson Hole

The mountain is open at Jackson Hole and eager skiers who’ve been watching the Wyoming weather (to summarize: snow and snow and more powdery snow) will be happy to hear that getting to the Tetons is easier this winter. United is flying directly from Newark and San Francisco and Delta has added direct flights from Minneapolis, bringing the number of cities with direct service to the valley up to nine.

Intermediate skiers (me!) get a little love from the notoriously Black Diamond-heavy resort, too. A recently completed detachable quad lift opened last week to sweep Blue Trail skiers (me!) up to mid-mountain in just three and a half minutes. The Casper trail network has been expanded and buffed and more than half the blue trails are open, even this early in the season, because of the benevolent snow gods have dumped over 130” so far—more than at any other Rockies resort.

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Trip Doctor: New Data Shows Some—Not All—Holiday Fares Rising

Holiday Travel: Hong Kong airport

If you felt that booking holiday airfare was especially taxing to your wallet this year, it’s possible you weren’t imagining it. According to new data by Travelocity, fares were indeed higher this year than last—by a full 9% for domestic flights and 6% for international tickets on average. But there’s a silver lining: the most popular routes are becoming more affordable, as flights connecting major airports—like New York’s JFK and Chicago’s O’Hare—are proving to be cheaper than last year’s average, even during the holiday rush.

And if you’re still undecided about where to spend Christmas, consider this: the greatest savings come by booking a flight that leaves on the 23rd or 24th and returns later in the same week.

Nikki Ekstein is an Editorial Assistant at Travel + Leisure and a member of the Trip Doctor News Team.

Photo by istockphoto

Good News! UFOs (Probably) Won't Doom Your Flight

UFO

If you're a nervous flier, you already have plenty to worry about: turbulence, the seemingly "fuzzy math" of aerodynamics, and flight attendants who may, at any moment, go rogue. But here's a new issue to obsess over: UFOs.

A recent US News and World Report story explored the unnerving possibility that UFOs are zipping around the skies and distracting your airline pilot when he or she should be totally focused on A) flying safely to your destination and B) turning on the intercom to point out the Hoover Dam or Dollywood outside your window.

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How Much Will You Pay for a Good Nap?

airport nap

No more fighting over that coveted stretch of chairs at the airline gate—you know, the ones without the spine-bisecting armrests.

Two major U.S airports are making the tacit admission that there's a good chance that you'll get delayed while under their roofs, but they are at least offering you a spot to stretch out in peace. "Minute Suites" are now available in Concourse B at Atlanta-Hartsfield International Airport, as well as at the Terminal A-B Link at Philadelphia International Airport.

The suites are outfitted with a day bed, pillows and blankets, a TV and the all-important Internet access. SFO plans to introduce its own version of the napping suites next year, upping the ante with groovy curved walls to make you feel like you have more space (or, to give you the surreal jet-lag-exacerbated sensation of sleeping inside an egg).

"Minute" may be a misnomer with the Minute Suites: they start at $30 an hour—but that still beats sleeping face-down in the airport CinnaBon.

Photo by iStockphoto

Donate Your Points and Miles for Hurricane Sandy Relief

201211-b-red-cross-first-aidjpg

Few would've imagined that this week’s storm with the friendly-sounding name could wreak such havoc and devastation along the East Coast. In the wake of 20,055 flights cancellations due to Hurricane Sandy and with infrastructure is slowly coming back online, there are still an estimated 7.8 million people without power, billions of dollars in damage, and many whose lives will never be the same. They need help. Here are some easy ways for you to help out:

Based on contributions to the Red Cross Disaster Relief, American Airlines is giving AAdvantage members one-time bonus reward miles, starting with 250 miles for a minimum donation of $50. Go here for donation details.
 
Other airlines with charitable initiatives:
Continental Airlines
Delta Air Lines
United Airlines
US Airways

And hotels:
Choice Hotels International, Inc.
Drury Hotels
Hilton Worldwide
Marriott International
Starwood Hotels & Resorts

Please consider making a difference to those who desperately need it and give today.

Photo credit: iStock

Pack This: TSA-Friendly Toiletries

TSA-Friendly Toiletries

As president of Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, Jennifer Fox takes more than 30 business trips a year. These TSA-friendly toiletries keep her looking fresh.

Kerstin Florian Rehydrating Neroli Water ($35). “I spritz this on my face to hydrate during flights. Refreshing!”

Sisley’s Black Rose Cream Mask ($158). “It really makes you glow.”

Clarins Beauty Flash Balm ($45). “My secret weapon gives the appearance of a good night’s rest instantly.”

Le Labo Rose 31 Body Lotion (free). “Part of our in-room amenity program—it’s paraben-free and smells delicious.”

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Welcome to the Wrong Airport!

Sriwijaya Air

Hats off to Sriwijaya Air for keeping the mystery and spontaneity alive in travel.

On October 13, a flight on the Indonesian airline left from Medan in North Sumatra and was headed to Minangkabau. Except—oops—the plane landed at Padang’s Tabing airport instead.

An exciting turn of events for travelers, right? What new adventure might await beyond the runway?

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$100 for a Carry-On Item?! Ship Your Luggage Instead

empty airport corridor

Spirit Airlines announced last week that beginning November 6, passengers arriving at their departure gate with a carry-on bag would be charged $100. If the passenger paid for the carry-on when they booked the ticket, the fee would drop to a who-could-possibly-object $30. For a carry-on bag!

New fees like these continue to be tacked on to airfares—and not just by cut-rate airlines like Spirit—plus travelers who actually pay for and check suitcases have to suffer through the vile rugby scrum at the baggage carousel. Options, like the ScotteVest, the jacket that conceals a Radio-Shack’s worth of gadgets, exist, but, um, our international editor Mark Orwoll looks better in it than I would.

LuggageForward.com, a baggage expeditor that uses UPS, FedEx, and DHL, offers prices that are (still) attractively competitive. Pay them $99 to pick up a 50-lb. suitcase a few days before your flight and it’ll be waiting at your domestic destination when you arrive. If Luggage Forward doesn’t get it there on time, they pay you up to $200.00 per day per item, up to $500. (The company also serves international destinations. And can transport awkward items like skis, bikes, surfboards, and golf bags.)  

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TSA Claims Mistaken Identity in Camera Theft

Would everybody please stop picking on the TSA for a cotton-pickin' minute?! Hey, no question the airport-security agency has taken a pummeling from critics lately, especially over accusations of theft. A report by ABC's Nightlinelast week was particularly damning when an iPad stolen from an airport security checkpoint was tracked down to the home of the TSA agent on-duty at the time.  And now comes another dust-up. But this time the TSA claims it had nothing to do with it.

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