It’s been a terrible week in aviation. This morning, reports confirm that at least 51 passengers are feared dead following an accident on regional Taiwanese TransAsia flight GE222, from Kaohsiung to Magong. The short, 35-minute flight was stymied by extreme weather on its course and crashed after a failed attempt to land; the wreckage has been found near the village of Xicun, where the plane is said to have gone up in flames. 54 passengers, including four children, were on board, along with four crew members—all of whom are currently thought to have suffered injuries or fatalities from the crash.
After news of a rocket attack near Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport, the FAA is prohibiting all U.S. airlines from flying into or out of the country's main international airport for 24 hours. The Earlier today, Delta diverted its once-daily flight between New York JFK and Tel Aviv to Paris instead. US Airways, meanwhile, canceled its Philadelphia to Ben Gurion service before the plane departed. United Airlines canceled both of its Newark-Tel Aviv flights for Tuesday. The U.S. Department of State has also issued a new Travel Warning for Israel, cautioning U.S. citizens to consider deferring non-essential travel to the country.
This comes less than a week after a missile shot down Malaysia Airways flight 17 over the Ukraine, killing all 290 passengers and crewmembers aboard. Questions remain as to whether the airspace where the plane was flying should have been subject to restrictions given the growing ground conflict below. American carriers are obviously now approaching the conflict in Israel with an abundance of caution. This will be appreciated by many passengers, but could be devastating for Israel’s air connectivity.
UPDATE 7/23, 12:50 PM: In a new release, the FAA is extending its ban over Tel Aviv-bound flights for at least another 24 hours. Some airlines, such as British Airways and El Al, are continuing their normal operations. In a similar move, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Oceana, sister cruise lines, are modifying itineraries to avoid stops in Haifa, Israel's northern port town.
Big news for business travelers: For the first time since being introduced in 1997, the APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC)—which provides pre-clearance and expedited immigration processing at airports and seaports in every APEC country—is accepting applications for U.S. citizens.
When I was told I was flying to an Indian literary festival via Kuwait Airways, I was ready to arrive in style. Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways—the region is known for its luxurious, pampered version of air travel. Perhaps Kuwait Airways would have a new Airbus A380 with an onboard lounge? High-thread-count bathrobes? Personal air butlers? In any case, I hoped the wine menu would have a nice dry Riesling to help me ease into a different climate, and, heck, some free spa products would be nice.
Breaking, horrifying news coming out of Europe today: a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 came down earlier today en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur while flying through Ukrainian airspace. U.S. intelligence officials, according to the Wall Street Journaland other news outlets, are saying that the plane was hit by a surface-to-air missile. Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was carrying 283 passengers and 15 crew members; three of the passengers were infants. There are no survivors.
Add Qatar Airways’ print-at-home luggage tags to the growing list of ways you can shorten your travel to-do list before even arriving at the airport, (flight check-in and security clearance included) and getting out of Doha is now as easy as finding your gate and browsing the duty-free emporium.
The official carrier for Qatar is now offering its unique service, called My Q-Tags, to passengers departing the new Hamad International Airport to 103 destinations. Unfortunately, there are no domestic stops on that list at this time due to TSA regulations.
At Travel + Leisure, we love hearing about services that bring a refreshing level of ease and flexibility to booking travel. Enter OptionsAway.com. Started by Rob and Heidi Brown, a team of financial experts-turned-travel addicts, the site was born from their frustration over missing great travel opportunities because of fluxuating airfares. They used their knowledge in options pricing and applied it to air travel—and it's working. We sat down with co-founder Brown to find out more.
Q: How is Options Away disrupting travel? A: Options Away is offering an opportunity that has never been available to consumers before—the ability to lock-in airfares while they finalize their travel plans, and do so across multiple airlines. It is disruptive in the sense that we have actually begun to transform the way people plan and book travel. Travelers can hold prospective flights by paying a small fee and eliminating the need for immediate booking. With such a low cost and no commitment to purchase plane tickets, Options Away travelers can hold several flights at once.
As if airfare wasn’t expensive enough already, the TSA has just announced an increase in the federal Sept. 11 security fee—its first since the administration was founded in 2002. Effective on tickets purchased on or after July 21, the new fees are more than double the current ones.
With airlines devaluing their loyalty programs left and right, the door is wide open for OTAs to benefit—and we’ve certainly seen them try. Orbitz has recently introduced a rewards system (enhanced by their credit card) that offers instant cash back on every purchase—as much as ten percent on certain purchases. Hotels.com offers a free night for every ten you book. And now Expediais jumping back into the game, with a refreshed loyalty program that aims to compete. But does it? Here are the basics you need to know.