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Ryanair Confirms: ‘We are serious about charging a toilet fee’

201004-b-bathroomjpgRyanair, the ultra-budget Irish airline known for its low fares and numerous surcharges, confirmed yesterday what had long been rumored: It is serious about charging passengers to use the toilet. If it goes forward, it would be just the latest in a long line of airline industry fees that have dogged travelers over the past several years. The news comes on the heels of yesterday’s announcement from Spirit Airlines that it would begin charging passengers a carry-on luggage fee of up to $45. When I wrote the Spirit blog item yesterday, I said the only fee that could be worse would be a toilet charge.

Well, that didn’t take long, did it?

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Spirit Airlines To Charge for Carry-Ons

201004-b-istockjpgSpirit Airlines has hit a new low. Four hours ago I received an email from the airline announcing that it would begin charging as much as $45 fee for carry-on bags, the first U.S. airline to add that surcharge. This is only the latest move in the industry’s “unbundling” trend, in which airlines tack on fees for services and amenities that traditionally were included in your airfare. But Spirit’s move today marks the trend’s nadir. Perhaps the only surcharge that could surpass it for egregious gouging would be if an airline charged passengers to use the toilet—a day that certainly can’t be too far off.

Spirit will begin charging the carry-on fee for flights starting on August 1. Exceptions to the carry-on fee include medicine, food for immediate consumption, and assistive devices, presumably because it wouldn’t look right to have passengers going into convulsions for lack of meds or to charge someone for bringing crutches on board. The carry-on rule applies only to baggage placed in overhead bins. Personal items that can be placed under your seat—such as your wallet, your change purse, your ATM card, and loose cash—are free.

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U.S. Changing Way Air Travelers are Screened

201003-b-security-istockjpgThe Washington Post |  The Obama administration is abandoning its policy of using nationality alone to determine which U.S.-bound international air travelers should be subject to additional screening and will instead select passengers based on possible matches to intelligence information, including physical descriptions or a particular travel pattern, senior officials said Thursday.

After the attempted bombing of an Amsterdam-to-Detroit flight on Christmas Day, U.S. officials decided that passengers from or traveling through 14 specified countries would be subjected to secondary searches. Critics have since called the measures discriminatory and overly burdensome, and the administration has faced pressure to refine its approach.

Under the new system, screeners will stop passengers for additional security if they match certain pieces of known intelligence.

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Photo courtesy of iStock

Love at First Lick: EOS Lip Balm

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Lip balm is not the most exciting thing in the world, but it's still a must for long plane rides—all the waiting and dry air makes me impatiently lick my lips a lot!

Now that I have found these cute little spheres of EOS ("Evolution of Smooth") lip balm—all 95 percent organic and 100 percent natural made with jojoba oil, shea butter and vitamin E, I may retire my Kiehl’s tube for good. They are so cute! Each ball twists to open to reveal the balm (with SPF 15, of course) and comes in four distinctive tasty flavors: honeysuckle, summer fruit, lemon, and sweet mint.

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Air Comet Cabin Crew Bares All

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Euro Weekly News |  A dozen stewardesses from bankrupt air line Air Comet have posed in the nude for a special calendar. The 1,200 copies of the saucy calendar is being sold over the internet for 15 euros. The calendar is the last resort of the 672 Air Comet stag which have been left unemployed after the air line went bust last December and many without pay for the past six months.

Air Comet had tried and failed to create a niche in the market by offering cheap flights to South America, but dropping demand due to the recession caused the airline to collapse leaving hundreds of passengers stranded at various airports. It is calculated that Air Comet’s owes it creditors an estimated 160 million euros, five of which are thought to be unpaid staff wages.

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Photo credit: Augusto Robert/Handout

American and JetBlue Join Forces

American Airlines and JetBlue announced a new partnership today that will improve the flying experience for passengers of both airlines traveling into or out of the New York and Boston areas. Let’s say you want to fly from Nantucket to JFK on JetBlue, and then connect to Paris or London on American. Now it will be as if you’re flying on one airline—a seemless connection.

One ticket purchased, one check in, one bag check. Like flying on one airline.

Clark Mitchell is an associate editor at Travel + Leisure.

BA to Launch Second Wave of Strikes

CNNBritish Airways cabin crews were set to start a second wave of strikes at midnight Friday over the airline's planned changes to pay and working conditions.

The strike, set to last for four days, follows a three-day strike last weekend.

BA said Friday it will be able to fly more than 75 percent of customers booked to fly during the upcoming strike because so many staff are willing to cross the picket lines. Another 18 percent of passengers are booked to fly on other carriers or have changed their travel dates to avoid the strike, the airline said.

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JetBlue 2-Day Sale with Fares from $29

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JetBlue fired up one of its short-term, big-savings sales this morning.  Book a flight anywhere they fly for prices that start at $29 each way.  You have to buy the tickets by midnight on Wednesday for travel between April 13 to June 16.  There are blackout dates for some destinations and sale fares to other destinations are available only on specific days of the week. 

Restrictions be damned.  Spontaneous getaways seem pretty viable when, for the price of two movie tickets and some popcorn, you can fly away.

Ann Shields is a senior online editor at Travel + Leisure.

Photo courtesy of JetBlue Airways

Airport Device Follows Fliers' Phones

USA Today |  Today's smartphones and PDAs could have a new use in the nation's airports: helping passengers avoid long lines at security checkpoints. The Transportation Security Administration is looking at installing devices in airports that home in and detect personal electronic equipment. The aim is to track how long people are stuck in security lines. Information about wait times could then be posted on websites and in airports across the country.

"This technology will produce valuable data that can be used in a variety of ways," TSA spokeswoman Lauren Gaches said, noting it could help prevent checkpoint snarls.

But civil-liberties experts worry that such a system enables the government to track people's whereabouts. "It's serious business when the government begins to get near people's personal-communication devices," said American Civil Liberties Union privacy expert Jay Stanley.

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British Airways Cabin Crew to Strike After Talks Fail

New York Times / Reuters |  A three-day strike by British Airways cabin crew will go ahead from Saturday after talks with management collapsed, Britain’s Unite union said Friday.

The strike, which is likely to disrupt travel plans for thousands, presents a major headache for the ruling Labor party weeks before a general election because Unite is its biggest single financial backer.

“The strike that is planned for midnight tonight will go ahead as will the other strike we have announced,” Tony Woodley, Unite union joint general secretary, told reporters.

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