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How to Tell if an International Airline Is Safe

airlines

Q: How can I tell if an international carrier is safe? —Sarah Jones, Charlotte, N.C.

A: Even if we don’t like to admit it, the act of getting on a plane involves a great deal of trust: trust in the pilots and the flight crew, in the aircraft makers, in the airline, and—ultimately—in the authorities who approved the plane to fly. Domestically, this last responsibility lies with the Federal Aviation Administration, which is known for its exacting standards. But given that there’s no single organization with the authority to enforce safety around the world, things are more complicated abroad.

The easiest rule of thumb: book on foreign airlines that operate code-share flights with U.S. partners. (Global alliances—Star Alliance, Oneworld, SkyTeam—usually involve some form of code-sharing.) Before a U.S. airline can place its passengers on a foreign carrier, it must conduct a safety review of its partner and submit the results to the FAA for approval. As an added incentive, the U.S. airline may also be liable should anything happen to its passengers on a code-share flight.

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The Doctor Recommends: Must-Reads for the Week Ending August 23, 2013

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Scoot Airlines, a low-cost spinoff of Singapore Air, has joined Malaysia's Air Asia X in offering child-free zones on its flights. The new ScootinSilence seats, which cost as little as $15 more, offer travelers a few more inches of legroom and the promise of no seatmates under the the age of 12. The jury's still out on whether U.S. domestic carriers would find a market for such seats. Marketwatch has the story. (Amy Farley)

The ever-helpful George Hobica of Airfare Watchdog has assembled a list of the airports providing Wi-Fi service, outlining both the network names and costs. We'll be sure to consult it before heading on our next flight. (Nikki Ekstein)

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Paris and Versailles from Above: New Zeppelin Takes Off

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You've done Notre Dame. You've walked the Hall of Mirrors. And, if you're like me, you've eaten every croissant in sight—hopefully one of the city's best. But don't check Paris and Versailles off your list quite yet. You haven't seen them by zeppelin...

Airship Paris is hoping to change that. This month, the company launched its inaugural flights around France's Ile-de-France region, and it predicts a bright future for the historic mode of transportation.

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Is My Nonrefundable Ticket Really Nonrefundable?

nonrefundable ticket

A: Unless you get a very sympathetic agent on the line, you’re not likely to get your money back. But if you booked with a domestic carrier you’ll usually be able to cancel and receive a credit with the airline. Of course, you’ll have to pay a change fee—now a whopping $200 for most U.S. flights—and use the credit to travel by a certain deadline, often a year from the date that your original ticket was issued. Beware: some international carriers are not so generous and offer credit only in emergencies. And if you bought your ticket through a third-party website, such as Priceline or Hotwire, it may be subject to further restrictions. So always read the fine print.

Amy FarleyHave a travel dilemma? Need some tips and remedies? Send your questions to news editor Amy Farley at tripdoctor@aexp.com. Follow @tltripdoctor on Twitter.


Photo by iStockphoto

Must-Reads for the Week Ending August 16, 2013

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Pandas are ALWAYS news. Here, Circa News reports on the birth of a rare giant panda in Vienna's Schönbrunn Zoo. (Adrien Glover)

Also from Circa News, scientists in western Nevada have discovered petroglyphs from as many as 14,800 years ago, making them the oldest rock out found in North America. (A.G.)

In tech travel news, Sky News reveals that New Zealand aviation authorities have given jetpack developers a flying permit, allowing the company to run test flights. (A.G)

The Boston Globe's Christopher Muther meets with the general manager of Forum, the restaurant at the epicenter of Boston's Marathon Bombings that is reopening today four months after the attacks. (Peter Schlesinger)

This week's Economist investigates how doping scandals are affecting travel trends at the Baseball Hall of Fame. (P.S)

Want to visit Sicily but can't foot the bill yet? Beverage company San Pelligrino let Facebook users this week control robots for three-minute virtual tours. But hurry, the experiences ends on Saturday!  (P.S.)

Scott Mayerwitz from the Associated Press shares his view on the American-US Airways merger, finding that Department of Justice's suit is too little too late for consumers. (Amy Farley)


Photo credit: iStockphoto

Cruise Lines Ban Smoking on Balconies

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Disney became the third cruise line this week to announce new smoking bans on private balconies, following similar moves from Cunard and P&O.

As Travel Weekly's Hollie-Rae Merrick reports, the policy changes are responding to guest feedback and safety concerns. Smokers will still be able to light up in designated areas on open decks according to the cruise lines.

This is the latest in a string of recent smoking bans, such as beach bans in Jamaica and Oahu. All are attempting to make commonly-trafficked tourist areas more appealing to—and healthier for—all visitors.

Peter Schlesinger is a Research Assistant at Travel + Leisure, and a member of the Trip Doctor news team. You can follow him on Twitter at @pschles08.

Photo by iStockphoto

Trip Doctor: How to Haggle

how to haggle

Do...

Determine what you’d like to pay. Ask trusted locals what they’d spend.
Enjoy yourself. A sense of humor and patience are equally important.

Don’t...

Be afraid of lowballing. Make your starting offer at one-third of the price.
Indicate how badly you want an item. Be willing to walk away, and you’ll almost always get a better deal.

Amy FarleyHave a travel dilemma? Need some tips and remedies? Send your questions to news editor Amy Farley at tripdoctor@aexp.com. Follow @tltripdoctor on Twitter.

 


iStockphoto

Trip Doctor: T+L’s Favorite Camera Bag

Camera Bag: ONA Brixton

Made with water-resistant canvas and full-grain leather, ONA’s stylish Brixton is designed to hold a camera, several lenses, and various accessories—all under an unassuming cover. When you’re not lugging photo gear, the adjustable foam panels can secure your laptop, while a padded shoulder strap makes it easy to carry heavy loads. $269.

Plus: See T+L’s Best Photography Tips

Amy FarleyHave a travel dilemma? Need some tips and remedies? Send your questions to news editor Amy Farley at tripdoctor@aexp.com. Follow @tltripdoctor on Twitter.


Photo by Tom Schierlitz

Department of Justice Fights to Block American-US Airways Merger

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The Department of Justice, joined by six states and Washington, D.C., filed an antitrust suit this morning in efforts to halt the proposed merger between American Airlines and US Airways.

The lawsuit comes as a shock to many in the industry, given that airline analysts had not foreseen major complications to the merger when it was announced in February. The T+L Trip Doctor team reported then that the formation of the world’s largest airline would inherently decrease competition and increase ticket prices, specifically to destinations such as Dallas, Miami and Philadelphia. Experts also predicted possible cuts in service to Phoenix, although aviation analysts did not foresee any major objections. This belief was cemented when the merger gained approval from European regulators just last week.

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Sinkhole Near Disney World Swallows Section of Resort

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It’s normal for visitors to Walt Disney World to worry about falling from the sky—the Tower of Terror, Splash Mountain, and other rides all feature nausea-inducing drops. But last night, the worry was of plummeting into the earth below.

Late Sunday, a 40-foot wide sinkhole opened at Summer Bay Resort, a condominium vacation complex located just minutes from Walt Disney World. Guests first became alarmed when their lights went off, but creaking noises and large cracks forming on the wall signified something grimmer than a mere power outage.

A security guard ran through the complex telling the roughly 35 guests in the affected buildings to evacuate. Within minutes, the hole had swallowed about a third of two buildings. Just fifteen feet deep, the shallow sinkhole totally destroyed 48 condo units, and no injuries were reported.

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