The OTA wars rage on. Last week, CheapTickets.com launched a loyalty program so worthwhile, we had to do a double take. The proposition: sign up for free at checkout, and you’ll automatically get money back on each booking—the rewards are paid out in the form of credits that can be applied to your next transaction. What you get: $50 back on any flight you book on the website, $75 for any flight booked on mobile, $25 for any hotel booked online, and $50 for hotel bookings on mobile. Unlike almost every other OTA, CheapTickets puts the emphasis on unbundled bookings—the only non-eligible purchases are package deals. And there’s no minimum spend, either, so a $150 ticket from New York to Nantucket would remain eligible for a $75 kickback if booked on mobile. This makes CheapTickets the second OTA to incentivize in-app bookings—Orbitz similarly offers roughly twice the rewards points for bookings made by smartphone.
Hilton is taking a page out of the airline handbook. This week, the hotel giant announced a plan to open room selection for members of the brand’s HHonors loyalty program—for the first time ever, this would allow guests to review floor plans of open rooms and pick their favorite before check-in. Roll-out is expected for over 650,000 rooms at 4,000 hotels across the Hilton portfolio—including its Waldorf Astoria and Conrad brands—by the end of the year, with limited availability piloting by the end of the summer.
A few weeks back, we got word that Priceline.com was bringing high-end car rentals to the masses via a new program called FunRides, in partnership with a variety of big name rental companies (Avis, Budget, Hertz, and Sixt among them). With a summer trip to Florida already in the works, we took the program on a test drive.
If dating at ground level has proved difficult, perhaps it’s time to set your relationship sights a bit higher. About 30,000 feet higher.
Like your mother, airlines and social entrepreneurs have taken an interest in your love life. But thanks to social media, a handful of tech tools, and a high-security environment with few exits, they may actually be able to help you.
Charleston's chic, classic style is just one of the many reasons readers rank it so highly. Known for its food scene, historic architecture, and good old Southern Charm,the city has nabbed top spot in the US two years in a row. Last year, it ranked seventh in the world overall, jumping to second place this year—and beating international heavyweights such as Rome, Siem Reap, Istanbul, and Mexico City in the process. Only Kyoto scored higher with readers this year.
Sort of good news for Israel: the FAA has lifted its 36-hour ban on flights into Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport and the European Aviation Safety Agency, which had previously issued a recommendation for carriers to avoid the area, is now only cautioning national aviation authorities to “base their decisions [on whether to allow carriers to fly there]…on thorough risk assessments.”
All the major U.S. carriers have cancelled today's scheduled arrivals into Tel Aviv, though their arrivals for tomorrow are still set to depart. Lufthansa, however, is suspending flights through today and tomorrow—a prohibition that applies to Lufthansa, Germanwings, Austrian Airlines, Swiss, and Brussels Airlines. The carrier issued the following statement: “Lufthansa acknowledges the considerable efforts made by Israel to provide the best possible protection for Ben Gurion Airport with the ‘Iron Dome’ shield. As soon as this protection can be verifiably guaranteed, we will resume flight operations.”
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.
Dubai is making headlines again, announcing plans to construct an indoor city that will be 100 percent temperature-controlled.
An official statement from investment company Dubai Holding, Sheik Mohammed Bin Rashid's latest project will be called the Mall of the World. Yet with 20,000 hotel rooms in the pipeline, it's far from the average shopping complex.
Last month marked the debut voyage of Pearl Seas Cruises, a new small-ship luxury operator that’s offering itineraries through the Canadian Maritimes, the Great Lakes, and the St. Lawrence Seaway, with Caribbean journeys starting in 2015. A sister company to American Cruise Lines, it currently has one vessel: the 335-foot-long, 210-passenger Pearl Mist, complete with six decks and a balcony on each of the 108 cabins. (There are plans to add another ship in the future.)