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UPDATE: Lufthansa Strike Suspended

Frankfurt, Germany (CNN) |  Both sides in a pilots strike against Lufthansa have agreed to suspend the standoff —which has canceled hundreds of flights—at midnight (6 p.m. Monday ET).

The suspension is set to expire on March 8, barring the reaching of an agreement before then, both sides said in a Frankfurt labor court.

"The judge was very clear," airline spokesman Klaus Walther said. "He recommended the union to stop the strike action and to return to the negotiation table."

Walther predicted the two sides would reach a final agreement "pretty fast."

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Lufthansa Pilots Strike, Upend Air Travel

New York Times - Associated Press |  Thousands of travelers scrambled to find flights, trains, hotel rooms or rental cars on Monday after Lufthansa pilots began a four-day walkout over job security that grounded at least 800 flights and upended travel across the continent.

Deutsche Lufthansa AG quickly rushed to get a court injunction to halt the strike and send 4,000 pilots back into their cockpits before more harm was done to passengers and shareholders.

The court in Frankfurt said a decision could come as soon as Monday night. (...) The strike disrupted travel plans for some 10,000 passengers worldwide.

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TSA to Swab Airline Passengers' Hands

CNN (Washington) |   To the list of instructions you hear at airport checkpoints, add this: "Put your palms forward, please."

The Transportation Security Administration soon will begin randomly swabbing passengers' hands at checkpoints and airport gates to test them for traces of explosives.

Previously, screeners swabbed some carry-on luggage and other objects as they searched for the needle in the security haystack—components of terrorist bombs in an endless stream of luggage.

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Two Proposed Laws Fight Travel Fees

eTurbo News |  If you've ever been hit with a surprise fee when you rented a car or booked an airline ticket and found yourself saying, "There ought to be a law," I have some good news for you: There is. Or at least, there could be.

There could be two laws, actually. The Clear Airfares Act is a Senate bill that would require airlines and online travel agencies to disclose any additional fees before you buy a ticket. And the End Discriminatory State Taxes for Automobile Renters Act would prohibit states or localities from collecting a discriminatory tax on motor vehicle rentals.

Just one problem: Neither of these bills have been passed.

But these proposed rules could make your next trip better, and they deserve our attention.

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Fly Standby on American and Pay $50

Los Angeles Times (Associated Press)  |   Next time you think about flying standby on American Airlines, be prepared to give the gate agent your name and $50.

The days of hanging around the agent's desk, hoping for a free switch to an earlier flight are over at American for many passengers.

The nation's second-largest airline said Wednesday that starting with tickets bought on Feb. 22, only elite frequent fliers, travelers in first or business class, military personnel and people who bought pricey coach tickets will be allowed to fly standby for free.

Everyone else switching flights on their day of travel will have to pay $50 to get a confirmed seat.

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Find Flights for Less on Momondo.com

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Have you heard of Momondo.com yet? I’m always scouting for affordable flights, like every savvy traveler these days, and recently came across this Copenhagen-based aggregator (U.S. searches make up one-third of its market).

Whenever I encounter a site like this, I’m skeptical—how can this site really be better than the rest?—but it’s hard to argue with Momondo’s credentials. It claims to search more than 750 airfare sources (U.S. competitor Kayak covers roughly half that), including low-cost carriers, consolidators, aggregators, fledgling and major airlines. And when traveler advocate Arthur Frommer tested the top American agreegators—including Kayak, SideStep, and FareChase—only to find that the European Momondo consistently found fares that were 20 to 40 percent less.

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Airport Body Scanners Raise Radiation Exposure, Committee Says

Bloomberg News |   Air passengers should be made aware of the health risks of airport body screenings and governments must explain any decision to expose the public to higher levels of cancer-causing radiation, an inter-agency report said.

Pregnant women and children should not be subject to scanning, even though the radiation dose from body scanners is “extremely small,” said the Inter-Agency Committee on Radiation Safety report, which is restricted to the agencies concerned and not meant for public circulation. The group includes the European Commission, International Atomic Energy Agency, Nuclear Energy Agency and the World Health Organization.



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UK Barring Air Travelers Who Refuse Full Body Scans

Daily Mail |  Air passengers who refuse to submit to controversial full body scans will be barred from boarding their flights.
The technology—which has been strongly condemned by civil liberties campaigners—began operating at Heathrow and Manchester airports yesterday. Birmingham will follow suit later this month before the anti-terror devices are rolled out nationally....
Transport Secretary Lord Adonis said: 'In the immediate future, only a small proportion of airline passengers will be selected for scanning.

'If a passenger is selected for scanning and declines, they will not be permitted to fly.'


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Southwest’s No-Bag-Fee Strategy

201002-b-bryan-correirajpgTravel Weekly |  While airlines continue to rack up even more revenue by charging higher checked-baggage fees, Southwest remains resolved to let bags fly free, saying it has enabled the carrier to capture market share from its competitors.

And a recent report analyzing the baggage-fee bonanza suggests that while Southwest might be forgoing hundreds of millions of dollars in immediate cash, the low-cost carrier’s strategy promises to pay off in the long run as fed-up passengers make the switch to avoid paying the extra baggage charges. (Read more.)

In other Southwest Airlines news, the Chicago Tribute reports the carrier is adding WiFi to its fleet:

Southwest Airlines finally has decided to wire its Boeing 737 fleet for wireless Internet service after dabbling with the concept for two years.

The big question: Will the discounter offer its Wi-Fi service for peanuts?

Texas-based Southwest said Friday that it plans to begin outfitting its aircraft to handle Row 44 Inc.'s satellite-based broadband service by the second quarter.

Southwest initially will install equipment on about 15 aircraft per month and gradually increase that rate to 25 planes per month. It estimates that Wi-Fi will be available on the more than 540 planes in its fleet by early 2012.

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Photo courtesy of Southwest Airlines

 

States to Get High-Speed Rail Funds

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BloombergCalifornia will get $2.3 billion and Florida $1.3 billion to help build high-speed passenger-train service, the biggest winners among 31 states sharing $8 billion in rail grants from the U.S. economic stimulus package.

President Barack Obama will be in Tampa today at an event to announce the awards, most of which will go toward developing or laying the groundwork for 13 new high-speed rail corridors across the country, the administration said in a statement...

“There’s no reason Europe or China should have the fastest trains,” Obama said yesterday in his State of the Union speech, citing Florida’s rail development. “There are projects like that all across this country that will create jobs and help move our nation’s goods, services and information.”

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