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Cities Selling Parking, Airports, Zoos

Wall Street Journal |  Cities and states across the nation are selling and leasing everything from airports to zoos—a fire sale that could help plug budget holes now but worsen their financial woes over the long run.

California is looking to shed state office buildings. Milwaukee has proposed selling its water supply; in Chicago and New Haven, Conn., it's parking meters. In Louisiana and Georgia, airports are up for grabs.

About 35 deals now are in the pipeline in the U.S., according to research by Royal Bank of Scotland's RBS Global Banking & Markets. Those assets have a market value of about $45 billion—more than ten times the $4 billion or so two years ago, estimates Dana Levenson, head of infrastructure banking at RBS. Hundreds more deals are being considered, analysts say.

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Airlines' a la Carte Services Offer Early Boarding, Legroom, More

USA Today |  You might be flying in coach, but increasingly, passengers in the back of the plane can grab a taste of premium comfort—from more legroom to better meals. But you'll pay a price.

Giving fliers in coach a taste of first class is the latest ripple in the à la carte pricing trend that has swept the airline industry. While many carriers started out charging passengers for essentials, such as checking bags, many now offer perks and privileges for a fee.

Don't want to be smashed into a middle seat in the back of the plane? Purchase a perch in the exit row. Afraid the overhead bins will be full before you board? Pay a few dollars and walk on the plane right behind those with elite status. A growing number of carriers offer in-flight Internet access. And many airlines are selling day passes to their lounges so passengers can relax in a space shut off from the more hectic boarding areas.

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Bumped From a Flight? You May Be Stuck

USA Today |  Lots of luck catching another flight if you've been bumped or miss a connection.

Commercial airlines in the USA have never been so full. Seven of them—Delta, American, United, Continental, US Airways, AirTran and Alaska—reported filling at least 87% of their seats in July. Even Southwest, always the industry's laggard in load factor, beat the industry's average over the previous six Julys of 84.6% by filling 84.9% of its seats.

That leaves precious few spots available if you've been bumped off a full flight or miss a connecting flight. And because airlines are scheduling fewer flights than five years ago, travelers could face long waits for a direct flight to their destinations or have to settle for circuitous reroutings to get there.

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French Tourist Centers Pass "Decency of Dress" Laws

eTurbo News |  Perpignan, near the Spanish border, has become the latest city to issue fines to people who refuse to cover up after being approached by the police. The move comes after Cavaillon in Provence brought in a similar law this year, the Independent reports.

The fines, which have been in place in Cannes and St. Tropez for many years, can reach up to £31 ($39 USD).

The laws were brought in by councils in inland cities after locals complained over the rising number of visitors parading around the streets in little more than shorts or skimpy swimwear.

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Delta Begins Flight-Booking via Facebook

Mashable.comDelta Air Lines has launched The Delta Ticket Window, a Facebook (Facebook) application that lets members find, book and share flights via the “Book a Trip” tab on the airline’s Facebook Page.

Delta aims to reach travelers with Facebook-happy trigger fingers when it comes to travel booking. The application was built to keep the user on Delta’s Facebook Page for the duration of the booking process, as well as give them the opportunity to share their booked flight with friends.

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Three Kids Fly Southwest Without Parental Permission, Without I.D., Paying Cash for One-Way Tickets

How did three children manage to buy tickets and board a Southwest airliner from Jacksonville to Nashville last Tuesday without identification or parental permission? That’s the question on many parents’ minds as the incident begins to get the sort of publicity you might expect.

The three—ages 15, 13, and 11—apparently had $700 in babysitting earnings, took a taxi to the airport, and managed to buy the tickets and get through security without showing I.D. Their goal was to visit Dollywood, but when they arrived in Nashville and discovered that the amusement park was several hundred miles further away, they became disenchanted by their escapade and phoned a relative, who paid for their return airfare.

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Grand Reopening: Taj Hotels' Mumbai Flagship

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The Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai (previously the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower) is reopening on August 15, in celebration of India’s Independence Day, after extensive restorations on the waterfront 1903 flagship property’s Palace Wing.

The 107-year-old heritage wing of the hotel was badly damaged when terrorists stormed the hotel, taking hostages, and burning rooms in the November 2008 attacks on Mumbai, which also affected the Oberoi hotel (the hotel reopened in April). Mumbai, it appears, is starting a new chapter.

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Enjoy "The Ride": $1.3 Million Tour Bus Debuts in NYC

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For many of us, the words, “tour bus” call to mind certain iconic images: sticky, screaming children, headache-inducing camera flashes, a colorfully dressed man on a unnecessary megaphone and, yes, even a fanny pack or two. Banish those images from memory—that was your grandmother’s tour bus.

Meet "The Ride" (above): a revolutionary, $1.3 million take on the classic tour bus, which was on display in Time Square, Manhattan this morning as a prelude to its maiden voyage in September.  Suped up with 49 stadium seats, an IMAX theater-worth of audio equipment and 40 video screens, The Ride certainly has the wattage to separate itself from the competition.  But it’s what’s going on off the bus that’s really grabbed our attention.

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Safety Board Says All Children on Flights Should Be in Seats

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New York Times
|  Airlines should no longer allow children under the age of 2 to fly in the laps of adults, according to a recommendation by the National Transportation Safety Board sent to the Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday. The group urged the F.A.A. to require that every occupant of an airplane, regardless of age, have a seat on all flights—commercial, charter and private planes. Photo credit: iStock.

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Orbitz Launches Refined Hotel Search

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Orbitz just announced the release of its revamped search engine, making the process of finding and comparing hotels that much simpler. What new features can you expect to see on the site?

Now when you search for hotels, you'll be able to compare property details on the results page; view an expandable interactive map (which not only plots the hotel, but shows its actual current rate); filter results by star/user ratings, price, and amenities offered; and my favorite: view the hotel via Google Street View (where available), so you know exactly what you're looking for when you show up. (Not to mention, take a look at the surrounding neighborhood.)

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