Friday, July 3, 2009

Man Flies Naked From North Carolina to California

US Airways flight from Charlotte to Los Angeles was diverted to Albuquerque after a male passenger removed his clothing mid-flight.

Dan Jiron, a spokesman for the Albuquerque airport, says 50-year-old Keith Wright of New York disrobed while sitting in his seat in the back of the aircraft.

Jiron says Wright was unresponsive when a flight attendant asked him repeatedly to get dressed and refused to be covered with a blanket.

Jiron says law enforcement employees who were passengers on the plane helped subdue and handcuff Wright before the flight landed.

The FBI says Wright was taken into federal custody on a charge of interfering with flight crew members and attendants.

A US Airways spokeswoman says the plane continued on to Los Angeles after Wright's arrest.

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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Qantas Economy Seats Win Top Design Award

The Qantas A380 Economy Seat beat a pool of 154 entries to win the 2009 Australian International Design Award of the Year, announced in Melbourne tonight.

The seat was designed by Marc Newson, in partnership with Qantas Airways and Recaro Aircraft Seating.

Mr Newson, an industrial designer and Qantas Creative Director, said he was honoured to receive the award.

"An enormous amount of energy was put into the A380, but particularly the economy seat, which, of course, accommodates the bulk of passengers," Mr Newson said.

Judges described the seat as a "world class result" in a notoriously restrictive design category.

They praised the seat's "revolutionary" footrest, the entertainment unit and the selection of materials, which included lightweight carbon fibre to help reduce weight.

"There are so many thoroughly considered elements in one very simple and elegant package. This product cannot be faulted," a statement from the judges said.

The design award's program director Stephanie Watson said the winning product was not selected until the last day of judging after a week of intense scrutiny.

"The products were beyond exceptional and the competition was tough," she said.

Other finalists included Swiss-designed socks which keep your feet cool, a toilet cistern that can be hidden from view and a hearse which shows off the coffin.

Meanwhile, a collection of refrigerators designed by Electrolux which use 49 per cent less energy than other 10-year-old models took out the Excellence in Sustainable Design award.

Mr Newson is renowned for his furniture and product design, including a range of eclectic household goods for Italian design house Alessi.

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When The Going Gets Tuff, Southwest Turns To Fees For Your Pet and Your Kid

Southwest Airlines Co., which has bashed competitors for charging fees, said Friday it will add new fees for passengers who bring small pets onboard and for unaccompanied minors.

It will also raise the charge for checking a third piece of luggage or an overweight bag.

Other airlines have raised hundreds of millions of dollars since last year with new fees that include charges for checking one or two pieces of luggage and talking to reservations agents on the phone.

Southwest fired back by spending heavily on television commercials that blasted other airlines for charging "hidden fees." Southwest officials said they were winning customers turned off by the new bag fees.

On Friday, Southwest officials defended their own new fees, which Chief Executive Gary Kelly called "just the starting point" for more changes later this year.

"It is always our goal to be upfront with our customers and to set the right customer expectations," Kelly said. "Our changes today associate a charge for items that are truly an extra service."

Southwest has lost money the last three quarters, and it has joined all other airlines in searching for new revenue, a job made more difficult by a downturn in travel during the recession.

Southwest already charges for checking three or more pieces of luggage and for cocktails, and it is testing onboard Internet access for a fee. Kelly hinted last month that new fees were coming, while insisting they wouldn't be "hidden," by which he seemed to mean fees on first and second checked bags.

"It's disingenuous on our part to say that there are no, quote, fees," Kelly said last month. "We just try to be as honest and straightforward and have the right expectation with our customers on fees as we can."

Kelly said hidden fees are ones "that people don't think are right."

Starting with flights on June 17, Southwest will let small dogs and cats onboard - now only service animals are allowed - for $75 each way.

The Dallas-based discount airline will also begin charging $25 each way for unaccompanied children ages 5 through 11. That fee will apply to tickets bought after May 31 for travel June 17 or later.

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Monday, May 25, 2009

The Better The Seat The Better The Flight

Fares, fees and destinations aren't the only things that vary by airline.

The width of your seat, the amount of legroom and the entertainment options available can make the time, well, fly by — or make a long flight feel a lot longer.

Legroom is important to many fliers. Seat pitch — the space between a point on one seat and the same point on the seat in front of it — can mean more legroom, but that is also affected by the thickness of the seat back. Most coach seats on major airlines are 17 to 18 inches wide. Seat pitch ranges from 30 to 34 inches in most cases, depending on airline and aircraft.

Industry expert Terry Trippler says a lot of passengers tell him you can't beat Northwest Airlines' Airbus A330 coach section seating. "No one is more than one seat from an aisle," he said.

Here's a look at how seven major U.S. carriers stack up in some comfort features for coach passengers, and the options and policies some have if you need more room.


Currently, all of its coach seats are fabric, spokesman Christopher White said.


The airline has replaced seat cushions and covers on some aircraft with leather, and is doing the same on most other planes, spokeswoman Michelle Mohr said.


Expect fabric seats in coach. The airline offers free in-flight entertainment (pre-recorded video and audio selections and games), but earphones cost $1. Pillows and blankets are free in coach. Free meals or snacks are served in economy class on flights longer than two hours.

Customers in coach are required to buy an additional seat or upgrade if they can't properly attach, buckle and wear the seatbelt, with one extension.

Also, the airline says, customers must be able to remain seated with the armrests down for the entire flight, and can't encroach upon the adjacent seat.

The airline has begun installing live television programming on more than 200 aircraft. It has not implemented Wi-Fi, spokeswoman Kelly Cripe said.


All of the discount carrier's seats are leather.

The airline doesn't charge for seat selection or for specific seats onboard. Some seats in the front and back of its planes are slightly narrower because of the shape of the fuselage, spokeswoman Beth Harbin said.

The airline encourages passengers who can't fit in one seat to buy a second seat when they book their travel.

The airline will refund the money for the second seat if the flight doesn't sell out.

The carrier is testing Wi-Fi on some aircraft.


A majority of its aircraft have fabric seats in coach, though most also have leather headrests.

Spokesman Tim Smith said the seat backs on American's new planes are curved ergonomically and thinner to provide more room around the knees.

For larger passengers, the airline does not always or routinely charge for an extra seat unless there are no other options, Smith said.

American plans to have Wi-Fi service available on 300 planes within the next couple of years. Currently, it's on 15 aircraft.


The airline has leather seats on its pre-merger Delta aircraft and will be putting leather seats on all Northwest Airlines aircraft, spokeswoman Betsy Talton said.

The world's biggest airline operator has a wide array of aircraft types, and seat width and pitch vary.

The width of the coach seats on the A330 that Trippler mentioned is 17.5 inches.

Delta works to accommodate passengers who need extra room and seat them next to an empty seat if possible.

There may be situations where they are offered an additional seat at the lowest available fare when necessary, Talton said.

Delta expects to have Wi-Fi installed on 300 aircraft in the fall.


The airline has started to upgrade some seats in its coach cabins to leather, spokeswoman Robin Urbanski said.

If one of its customers doesn't fit in a seat with an extended seatbelt, can't put the armrests down or infringes on a neighboring seat, United will move the passenger to another seat that is next to an empty one at no charge. If there are no empty seats on the flight or subsequent flights, the passenger may be asked to buy a second seat to guarantee one is available.

United doesn't have Wi-Fi available on any aircraft.


When it comes to airline cabins, seats and amenities, Virgin American is the big winner. With leather seats offering pitch and width larger then most legacy carriers and some of the best amenities in the business. The downside is they fly to only limited destinations.

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Airlines Are Rushing To Add WiFi To Planes

Some airlines are rushing to offer Wi-Fi Internet connections in their domestic aircraft cabins, but none is talking about the space squeeze.

On an AirTran Airways Wi-Fi demonstration flight that went up and back down the Northeast seaboard from Baltimore-Washington International Airport last week, the Internet worked just fine. The problem was being able to use it efficiently. My laptop was wedged onto a tray table in the cramped space of a coach seat. I had to slide down in my seat just to read the screen.

"I have the same experience," said Jack W. Blumenstein, the chief executive of Aircell, the company that is providing nearly all of the Wi-Fi installations so far for domestic carriers. "The laptop's at an angle or it's propped up almost on my nose."

"Or I'm typing like this," Blumenstein said from his own coach seat on the flight. He slouched down, raised both hands and wriggled his fingers like someone scratching on a window.

Delta Air Lines also is speedily installing Wi-Fi. It previously announced that it was putting the service on its entire mainline domestic fleet of more than 300 aircraft, and said the day before the AirTran demonstration that it had the Aircell Wi-Fi system on half its airplanes and would have the other half converted by September.

The rush to go Wi-Fi makes for an interesting horse race in the North American airline industry, where American Airlines, United, Virgin America and Air Canada all are installing Aircell's Gogo system.

But there are handicaps, including the lack of electrical outlets in most coach cabins (so use is limited by battery life) and the question of how much demand there is for an Internet hookup at the prices being contemplated. AirTran, for example, charges $9.95 for flights under three hours and $12.95 for those over three hours.

Furthermore, Brancatelli argued, those who are inclined to use Wi-Fi on a flight, including business travelers drawn by the potential for increased productivity, are exactly the people who most resist being nickel-and-dimed for services such as Internet connections in a hotel -- or on an airplane.

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Airlines Hiking Baggage Fees

Airlines have lost so many passengers that to make up for the loss of revenue, they are planning to gouge the few people left who actually are getting on a plane.

Both United Airlines and US Airways say they are preparing to increase fees for customers who pay luggage fees at U.S. airports.

The Chicago Tribune said Friday United Airlines and US Airways will implement the increases June 10 and July 9, respectively, but both airlines will not charge those customers who are flying first-class or are frequent-flier program elite members. Customers who pay the airlines' baggage fees online will also avoid the price hike.

United currently charges passengers $15 for their first bag and $25 for the second. The price hike will raise those baggage costs to $20 and $25 respectively.

US Airways, which uses a $15/$25 baggage system, said its planned $5 additional charge per bag will apply to all U.S. flights, along with flights to Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Dayton (Ohio) Business Journal said.

The Tribune said baggage fees are becoming a major source of income for airlines amid the struggling economy. The Bureau of Transportation Statistics estimates $1.2 billion was earned by the 21 largest U.S. carriers in 2008 through baggage fees alone.

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Safety And Reliability A Big Problem For Regional Airlines

All of us who have traveled on regional airlines already know the customer service and reliability problems ASA, Mesa Air, AA Eagle and the other associated regional airlines have. After the crash of Continental Connection's flight in New York, all of the cost cutting, lack of experience and professionalism have come to the forefront.

Members of Congress said they were stunned by the salaries of the pilots of Continental Connection Flight 3407, employees of the smaller commuter airline Colgan Air Inc. The pilots may have tried to snatch sleep in an airport crew lounge, which is against company policy. The first officer lived with her parents near Seattle and commuting cross country to work in New Jersey.

Aviation industry experts said the conditions reflect the broad restructuring of the industry after Sept. 11, 2001, when air travel dropped sharply and major airlines began pairing with regional ones. It took the industry years to recover and led to major airline bankruptcies, mergers and management demands for dramatic wage and benefit concessions.

The role of regional airlines has grown. Once considered industry runts, they are now joined at the hip with the big airlines. People who buy a ticket on a major airline often find themselves on a regional carrier for some part of a domestic trip. Passengers often don't even realize they're traveling on two airlines.

Regional airlines account for half of all domestic departures and about one-quarter of the passengers. They are the only scheduled service to about 440 communities.

Witnesses at National Transportation Safety Board hearings this past week said it's possible that many passengers on Flight 3407 the night of Feb. 12 didn't know the plane and its flight crew belonged not to Continental, but Colgan Air of Manassas, Va.

The twin-engine turboprop experienced an aerodynamic stall as it neared Buffalo Niagara International Airport before plunging into a house. All 49 people aboard and a man in the house were killed. Testimony and documents indicate the captain, Marvin Renslow, and co-pilot Rebecca Shaw made a series of critical errors.

NTSB investigators calculated Shaw was paid just over $16,000. Colgan officials testified that captains such as Renslow earn about $55,000 a year. The company later said Shaw's salary was $23,900 and that captains earn about $67,000.

Pilot pay is usually based on the size of the aircraft and a pilot's experience. But the workload and flight schedules at regional airlines are often more demanding than at a major airline, where the planes are larger and make longer but less frequent trips, said Scott Johns, a former Northwest Airlines pilot and air crash investigator.

"I'm not sure how you fix this pay system discrepancy," he said.

Roger Cohen, president of the Regional Airline Association, said lower salaries are an industrywide problem. He predicted airlines generally will suffer a shortage of pilots once the economy improves. He denied, however, that safety has been affected.

"Compensation has nothing to do with safety," Cohen said. "We're going to defend the quality of our people."

William Swelbar of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's airline data project noted that until the Buffalo crash, major and regional U.S. air carriers hadn't had a fatal crash in more than two years.

The vice president of the Air Line Pilots Association, Paul Rice, said salaries vary between companies, but major airline captains typically earn about $120,000 to $125,000. He said senior captains who fly internationally can earn about $180,000.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly For March

U.S. airlines’ on-time performance and baggage handling improved in March compared with a year ago but was worse than in February, government data released Tuesday show. The rate of cancellations and number of complaints to the government were lower than a year ago but higher than in February.

Atlantic Southeast Airlines, a feeder carrier for Delta Air Lines, had the worst performance, for about the second century in a row with 61 percent of flights on time. Hawaiian Airlines’ 91.5 percent was best. The last time ASA got a flight off the ground on time was during the Hoover administration.

American Airlines was 11th, with 77.5 percent, up from 62 percent in March 2008 but down from 81.3 percent in February. Southwest Airlines was third, with 83.9 percent, up from 74.4 percent in March 2008 but down from 88.3 percent in February.

The Transportation Department’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics said the 19 carriers reporting on-time performance recorded an overall rate of 78.4 percent in March, compared with 71.6 percent in March 2008 and 82.6 percent in February.

The airlines overall had a mishandled baggage rate of 4.12 reports per 1,000 passengers in March, better than March 2008’s rate of 6.66 reports per 1,000 passengers but worse than the 3.56 reports per 1,000 passengers in February.

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

New Airline Is Just For The DOGS !!! and cats

OK, pet lovers. Time to, uh, paws for a second and consider what's flying into Chicago on July 14, just for you and your beloved cats and dogs: Pet Airways, a start-up airline devoted to flying pets in comfort. But only pet cats and dogs for now. No parrots or exotic snakes. No human passengers, either.

In the planning stages for more than a year, Pet Airways initially will fly between Chicago and four other markets -- New York, Los Angeles, Denver and Washington, D.C./Baltimore -- in a single 19-passenger commuter jet that has been re-outfitted to accommodate up to 50 "pawsengers" -- and one pet attendant -- in the main cabin, not the cargo hold, on each flight. The introductory one-way fare between any two cities is $149 each way.

Pet Airways has taken pains to ensure its pet passengers will be treated with all the tender loving care their owners would expect.

Among other things, pets booked on Pet Airways are dropped off and picked up at dedicated pet lounges at each airport served, which in Chicago will be the Palwaukee/Chicago Executive Airport northwest of the city.

Pets are given potty breaks immediately before and after each flight, and the pet attendant monitors them every 15 minutes during flights, which will be at night, when pets are more relaxed, said Pet Airways spokeswoman Alysa Binder.

Will the all-pet airline concept fly in a tough economy? The carrier's investors are starting cautiously, with only one eastbound flight and one westbound flight from each market every week.

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Get Ready To Pay Up For Bags On Alaska Air

Two airlines, US Airways and Alaska, say they're going to pile on some new charges for checked baggage.

"USA Today" reports US Airways customers will have to pony up five-dollars for every piece of luggage checked at the airport beginning with flights on July 9th.

That extra fin can be avoided if passengers check in with the carrier online within 24 hours of their scheduled departure.

US Air already charges $15 for a first checked bag and $25 for a second.

The new fee would be on top of that.

Meanwhile Alaska Air will begin charging $15 for a first checked bag beginning with tickets purchased May first for flights on or after July 7th.

US Airways announced yesterday it lost $103 million during the first three months of this year.

Alaska Air was hurting too with a $19 million loss.

The additional levy for baggage can generate millions of dollars in extra revenue.

Delta Airlines hopes to boost its bottom line by about $100 million each year by charging a $50 fee for a second checked bag on international flights.

That fare bump will begin on July 1st.

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Delta Airlines Puts An End To India Call Centers

Being a frequent flyer, I occasionally run into problems like lost luggage and you can always count on loosing your luggage at the absolute worst time. I am an international traveler and also spend a great amount of time overseas so I am open to all cultures and backgrounds, but I have to agree with Delta Airlines that call centers in India just don't cut it.

I can deal with these call centers if it's for something that isn't very important or if I am not in the middle of a crisis, but the last thing you want to have to deal with at 1 in the morning, after a 10 hour delay and you find out your luggage is missing is to have to try and communicate that to a call center halfway around the world, from call center reps who are barely understandable and more times then not, down right rude.

Apparently I am not alone. America's Delta Airlines, the world's largest airline, has announced to close down its Indian call centers, in a decision the carrier's officials say was driven by poor customer feedback.

Media reports said Richard Anderson, the airline's chief executive, told employees in a recorded message on Thursday night that Delta had stopped forwarding calls to India in the first quarter and would be bringing the function back in-house in the US.

"The customer acceptance of call centers in foreign countries is low and our customers were not shy about letting us have that feedback," Anderson said.

Delta was not the only airline to pull out of India, United Airlines pulled the plug on India's call center a couple of months ago citing poor customer service and moved the operation to the Philippines which has a much higher standard of quality.

Delta is moving 80% of the call center jobs back to the U.S., the other 20% also going to the Philippines.

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Find The Best Web Hosting Without Searching

While I enjoy blogging, with money being tight now I periodically look for ways to save money on my web hosting. Trying to find the best price on web hosting without sacrificing quality can be a daunting task. You really don't want to spend hours searching the net for the service which is right for you.

I found a web site that makes finding the best site for the best price really easy. At you can quickly find everything you need to know for just about every web hosting service that is out there. They provide a really easy web hosting rating system that lets you quickly see what web hosting site has the best rating and the best price for the type of services you need, all at one glance.

They also provide lots of good information about web hosting in their articles and tutorials, which has a wealth of great information for web page developers, businesses or personal sites like mine. I have learned allot of good tips and tricks in their articles which has helped me quite a bit.

It's nice having so much information in one place. You can search for the best web hosting provider based on the operating platform you are using, the space you need, the service you need at the price you want without having to spend hours searching on the net.

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

United Airlines Announces Supersize Seatmate Policy

Effective Wednesday, United Airlines has a new official policy that affects “seatmates of size” and those passengers seated near them.

The airline’s policy — posted on United's Web site — states that if a passenger cannot fit into a single seat, buckle their seatbelt with an additional seatbelt extension, or put the seat’s armrest down, the airline will ask that passenger to pay for an extra seat or stay behind.

Spokesperson Robin Urbanski, meanwhile, said the airline will first attempt to take measures to avoid the extra charge. “If there is another seat on the airplane that is next to an empty seat, we will re-accommodate our guest in that seat and there is no charge,” she wrote in an e-mail message.

Until the company's posted policy reflects Urbanski's message, passengers — large and small — should consider printing and carrying both the policy and the spokesperson's statements with them when they go to the airport.

The airline's policy applies to tickets purchased on or after March 4, 2009, for travel on or after today, April 15.

Citing “the comfort and well-being of all customers aboard United flights,” the policy states passengers meeting “one or more of these criteria” must either purchase a ticket for an additional seat or purchase an upgrade to a cabin with larger seats.

A customer who falls into any of these categories who decides not to upgrade or purchase a second seat may be denied boarding.

While Southwest and other airlines have had similar policies on their books for some time, not all airlines are as cut-and-dry about how they enforce those policies when a passenger needs some extra space.

American Airlines, for example, reserves the right to charge passengers for a second ticket, but does so only if it can find no other solution, such as re-seating the passenger next to an empty seat at no extra charge.

“If a flight is not full, our flight attendants may be able to change passenger seat assignments in order to more comfortably accommodate all passengers,” said American spokesperson Andrea Huguely.

Second seat, same fare?
According to United’s new policy, if it is determined that a passenger is required to purchase an additional seat, then “the fare for that seat will be the same as the fare paid for the original seat ... even if the additional ticket is purchased on the day of departure, when fares are normally higher.”

However, if there are no additional seats open or if an upgraded seat is not available, then the passenger will have to wait until the next flight or until a flight with adequate seating become available. If no seats are available or if a passenger decides not to fly, then United will refund the price of the ticket without penalties.

One upside of the new policy? Those purchasing a second seat will gain that extra baggage allowance. However, because carry-on baggage policies are determined by the Transportation Security Administration, not the airline, the per-passenger carry-on restrictions remain the same no matter how many seats a single passenger ends up occupying.

An excerpt of the policy from United's website:

For the comfort and well-being of all customers aboard United flights, we have aligned with other major airlines' seating policies relating to passengers who:
  • are unable to fit into a single seat in the ticketed cabin;
  • are unable to properly buckle the seatbelt using a single seatbelt extender; and/or
  • are unable to put the seat's armrests down when seated.
If unused seats are available on the ticketed United or United Express flight, then a customer meeting any of the above criteria will be reaccommodated next to an empty seat.

If no unused seats are available on the ticketed flight, then the customer must either purchase an upgrade to a cabin with available seats that address the above-listed scenarios, or change his or her ticket to the next available flight and purchase a second seat in addition to the one already purchased. If a customer meeting any of the above-listed criteria cannot be accommodated next to an empty seat and chooses not to upgrade or change flights and purchase a ticket for an additional seat, he or she will not be permitted to board the flight.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

What Is Making A Comeback At Hotels .... BEDBUGS !

Faced with rising numbers of complaints to city information lines and increasingly frustrated landlords, hotel chains and housing authorities, the Environmental Protection Agency is hosting its first-ever bed bug summit on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The tiny reddish-brown insects, last seen in great numbers prior to World War II, are on the rebound. They have infested college dormitories, hospital wings, homeless shelters and swanky hotels from New York City to Chicago to Washington.

They live in the crevices and folds of mattresses, sofas and sheets. Then, most often before dawn, they emerge to feed on human blood.

The venue — the Sheraton Crystal City Hotel in Arlington — has had no reported bed bug problems, according to a popular online registry, so at least conference participants will be sleeping tight.

"The problem seems to be increasing and it could definitely be worse in densely populated areas like cities, although it can be a problem for anyone," said Lois Rossi, director of the registration division in the EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs.

One of the problems, according to researchers and the pesticide industry, is that there are few chemicals on the market approved for use on mattresses that are effective at reducing bed bug numbers.

The EPA, out of concern for the environment and the effects on public health, has pulled many of the chemicals that were most effective in eradicating the bugs from the U.S. over the last 50 years — such as DDT — off of shelves.

Increasing international travel has also increased the chances for the bugs to hitchhike from developing countries which never eradicated them completely.

"This is a worldwide resurgence," said Dini Miller, an entomologist and bed bug expert at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, who until 2001 only saw bed bugs on microscope slides dating from the 1950s. Now she gets calls several times a day from people who are often at their wits end dealing with the problem.

"I can't tell you how many people have spent the night in their bath tubs because they are so freaked out by bed bugs," Miller said. "I get these people over the phone that have lost their marbles."

Bed bugs are not known to transmit any diseases. But people have had an allergic reaction to their bites. The insects release an anticoagulant to get blood flowing, and they also excrete a numbing agent so their bites don't often stir a victim's slumber.

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Friday, April 10, 2009

The New W Hotel In Atlanta Opens

The new W Hotel in downtown Atlanta opened this week.

W Atlanta-Downtown features 237 stylish guest rooms, including 16 Studio Suites, three WOW Suites and one Extreme WOW Suite, richly appointed in shades of mulberry, teal and deep indigo. Designed to seduce the senses, the rooms are enhanced by a fusion of custom carpeting, soft linens, Makassar wood furnishings and glossy acrylic accents.All guest rooms feature W Hotels' signature Munchie Box (W Hotels' re-interpretation of the traditional hotel Mini Bar), as well as a flat-screen LCD TV and MP3 player docking station and Tivoli radio as part of the hotel's in-room entertainment options.

The hotel's 16th floor boasts a suite of inspiring and indulgent experiences including a state-of-the-art SWEAT® fitness facility and Bliss, New York's hottest spa. Expected to emerge as the city's top choice for high-profile meetings and parties, W Atlanta-Downtown features more than 8,900 square-feet of ultra-modern meeting and event space, including eight multifunctional meeting rooms equipped with the latest wired and wireless technology. In addition to these exceptional amenities, W Atlanta-Downtown also features a WIRED Business Center so guests can stay connected on the go, as well as the W brand's signature Whatever/Whenever® service promise, offering guests and residents whatever they want -- from tickets to the hottest show at Philips Arena to private jet service from PDK -- whenever they want it, as long as it's legal.

W Atlanta-Downtown | Restaurant
W Hotels Worldwide, the hotel category buster and industry innovator, proudly unveils the new W Atlanta-Downtown and The Residences at W Atlanta-Downtown. (source: W Hotels Worldwide)

W Atlanta-Downtown | Rooftop Pool
W Hotels Worldwide, the hotel category buster and industry innovator, proudly unveils the new W Atlanta-Downtown and The Residences at W Atlanta-Downtown. (source: W Hotels Worldwide)

W Atlanta-Downtown | Atlanta views
W Hotels Worldwide, the hotel category buster and industry innovator, proudly unveils the new W Atlanta-Downtown and The Residences at W Atlanta-Downtown. (source: W Hotels Worldwide)

W Atlanta-Downtown | Guestroom
W Atlanta-Downtown features 237 stylish guest rooms, including 16 Studio Suites, three WOW Suites and one Extreme WOW Suite, richly appointed in shades of mulberry, teal and deep indigo. Designed to seduce the senses, the rooms are enhanced by a fusion of custom carpeting, soft linens, Makassar wood furnishings and glossy acrylic accents. (source: W Hotels Worldwide)

W Atlanta-Downtown | Guestroom
W Atlanta-Downtown features 237 stylish guest rooms, including 16 Studio Suites, three WOW Suites and one Extreme WOW Suite, richly appointed in shades of mulberry, teal and deep indigo. Designed to seduce the senses, the rooms are enhanced by a fusion of custom carpeting, soft linens, Makassar wood furnishings and glossy acrylic accents. (source: W Hotels Worldwide)

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Hyatt Regency Vancouver / A Fantastic Stay

This was my first trip to Vancouver for a conference. I stayed at the Hyatt for a week during the conference and the hotel is wonderful.

The rooms have been recently remodeled and are fantastic with very comfortable beds, plasma tv's and a great bathroom with rainfall shower. The shower really is awesome. The climate controls were wonderful and you can open the window for ventilation which is always nice.

There are very few hotels that you still feel comfortable in, even after five days but the Vancouver Hyatt was amazingly comfortable for such a large hotel. Even after four nights I could have stayed a couple of more days without getting road weary.

The hotel is located downtown within walking distance of everything you will need, restaurants, shops, starbucks...anything !

The staff is friendly and helpful. The lobby is very stylish and the restaurants are on par with hotel restaurants. Great desk area for working and wonderful fitness center with new equipment and TV's on each treadmill. You cant go wrong with this hotel when in Vancouver.

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Custom Invitations on a Tight Budget

Recently my wife and I were planning a birthday party for a close friend of ours. We had a pretty tight budget, which most of us have right now, so we were trying to be as economical as possible but we wanted everything to look as professional and fun as possible.

When it came time to order invitations, I went to a stationary store at the mall and was shocked at how much it was going to cost to print our invitations not to mention the lack of options they had. I really wanted to put my own special touch and the invitations at the shop were so generic not to mention that this was not what I wanted to spend our entire budget on.

I found a fantastic site for invitations at VistaPrint. One of my main concerns after ditching the mall stationer for an online option was that I didn't want to sacrifice quality for price. After finding the invitations that were available on VistaPrint it was a relief to not have to sacrifice either.

I had ordered from VistaPrint before and had been very happy with the quality and service, but I didn't realize that they also offered custom invitations. They have hundreds of design ideas for every occasion and one of the things I like best about VistaPrint is that you can design and preview your invitation before you place your order so you know exactly how they are going to turn out.

I found the perfect design for our birthday party invitations, used the online customization tools to create the a very funny invitation for our friend party, previewed the design and placed my order with no problems. The price beat the mall stationer by a mile which left us more money left over for the really important things for a friends party. You really cant beat VistaPrint for quality and price, I have always been happy ordering here.

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Stranded Passenger Lawsuit Dismissed

A court has thrown out a lawsuit brought against American Airlines by a woman who was stranded for 9-1/2 hours on the tarmac in Austin, Texas, in 2006.

In dismissing the case, US District Judge Robert Dawson, who apparently has never been on a plane in his life, said airlines are not legally bound to provide a "stress-free environment" when such a delay occurs.

But Catherine Ray, who brought the lawsuit that charged false imprisonment, isn't giving up the fight. She's filing a motion for the judge to reconsider the case, and if that fails, she plans to appeal.

In part because of the 2006 strandings, consumer groups have been pushing for federal legislation that outlines passengers' rights during lengthy tarmac delays. The dismissal of Ms. Ray's lawsuit makes it even more important for Congress to act, the consumer groups say.

"The bottom line is that if passengers can't get relief from the courts, we have to have Congress step in," says Kate Hanni, founder of She brought the lawsuit that is pending in California.

One of the bills pending in Congress would require airlines to let passengers off the plane after a three-hour tarmac delay. But the airlines and some airline analysts say such a requirement could cause even more passenger inconvenience by increasing the number of cancellations and creating even longer delays. That's because once a plane goes back to the gate, it loses its place in the line for takeoffs.

In dismissing Ray's case last week, Judge Dawson wrote, "the court is sympathetic to plaintiff ... and believes that defendant could and should have handled this situation differently." But, he concluded, "the facts do not support a claim of false imprisonment."

The judge noted that Ray and the other passengers were given the opportunity to get off the plane. But that happened only within the first two hours of the delay, Ray counters. The last seven hours, she says, passengers had no option to leave despite overflowing toilets and insufficient water and food.

But there's conflicting testimony about that. In a deposition, the pilot of the flight said buses came every two hours to offer passengers the opportunity to deplane.

Ray disputes this. She also contends that the judge dismissed the case while her attorney was still deposing other American Airlines employees.

"A lot of the evidence that proves our point was not considered in his decision," she says. "I'm very disappointed."

American Airlines is pleased by the decision, says a spokesman. "Essentially, the judge found that this was a customer-service issue and not something that should be litigated," says Tim Wagner.

After the 2006 incident, American Airlines instituted a new policy: After a plane has been on the tarmac for four hours with the door closed, passengers should be given the option of deplaning.

"It was one of those incidents that we learned from, and it was a very rare thing," says Mr. Wagner.

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Monday, April 6, 2009

Doubletree Guest Suites, Tampa Florida

I recently stayed at the Doubletree Suites Hotel in Tampa Florida for 1 night on business.

The hotel is nicely maintained although still undergoing some renovations in the gym area. The rooms are large and very comfortable, they look as if they had been recently renovated. There is a large living room and bedroom. The room I had was a patio room and it was nice to be right by the water. The bed is very comfortable and the climate control worked well.

Once the gym has been updated it will be very nice, they already have a nice pool, whirlpool and sauna.

I would definitely return to this hotel next time I am in Tampa.

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Save Money On Customized Checks

With the economy being as bad as it is and everyone trying to spend less, any opportunity to save money is a welcome offer. I know in my family I am constantly looking for ways to save money but I don't want to sacrifice quality or service. That is why when it came time to re-order checks I wanted to find an alternative to the overpriced plain checks offered by bank.

I found awesome checks at at a fantastic price. I had ordered business cards and stationary from VistaPrint and had always been happy with the price, quality and service from their company, so I was overjoyed that they also offered custom checks.

Just like all the products they offer, you can customize your checks in a hundred different ways, much better then those cookie cutter checks from the bank or the expensive custom checks from other printers. No matter what type of check you are looking for from business to personal checks, computer checks or three to a page type they carry them and you can customize them to fit your personality. It is very easy to order checks from VistaPrint and having used their service for other printing needs in the past I can tell you their service is first rate.

What I like the most about ordering from VistaPrint is the ability to use the tools on their website to design and preview your design and layout online so you can see exactly how they are going to look when you receive them.

Checks from my bank cost about $20 a box, in today's economy I can't afford to throw away money like that. When it comes to your checks you also don't want to sacrifice quality or security. You can have everything you are looking for in check for a fantastic price.

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Airline Service Improves Now That No One Is Flying

One byproduct of a bad economy and fewer people flying, airlines carried fewer people last year, but did a better job for those who did fly.

Airlines have discovered the secret to better service, run off all the passengers.

The rates of lost bags, late arrivals, passengers bumped from overbooked flights and consumer complaints all declined, private researchers say in their annual study of airline quality, based on government statistics.

While the industry had its best overall performance in the ratings in four years, the picture was not entirely rosy.

High fuel costs and a poor economy led many airlines to reduce schedules, raise ticket prices, jettison frills and put in place fees for everything from luggage to pillows.

Nevertheless, consumer complaints for the 17 airlines included in the study dipped to 1.15 per 100,000 passengers in 2008 from 1.42 per 100,000 passengers in 2007. Southwest Airlines had the best rate, 0.25 complaints per 100,000 passengers; US Airways had the worst rate, 2.25.

Half of all complaints involved baggage or flight problems such as cancellations, delays or other schedule deviations.

The average on-time performance last year was 3 percentage points better than the year before, yet nearly one-quarter of all flights were late. The study being released Monday said 12 airlines improved from the previous year, but only three airlines had better than an 80 percent on-time rate: Hawaiian Airlines, 90 percent; Southwest, 80.5 percent; and US Airways, 80.1 percent.

American Airlines, the nation's largest air carrier as measured by passengers flown the most miles, had the worst record, arriving on time only 69.8 percent of the time.

All the airlines did a better job handling passengers' baggage. The mishandled baggage rate fell from 7.01 bags per 1,000 passengers in 2007 to 5.19 bags in 2008.

AirTran Airways did the best job, with 2.87 mishandled bags per 1,000 passengers; American Eagle Airlines did the worst, at 9.89.

The study, compiled annually since 1991, is based on Transportation Department statistics for airlines that carried at least 1 percent of the passengers who flew domestically last year. The research is sponsored by the Aviation Institute at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and by Wichita State University in Kansas.

The improved performance was not surprising because 2007 was the worst year for airlines in the study, said co-author Dean Headley, an associate professor of marketing at Wichita State.

The aviation system suffered close to a meltdown in 2007 as domestic carriers reported 770 million passengers in the busiest year since the Sept. 11 attacks. Aviation experts said the air transport system had reached capacity.

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Fast Track Your Elite Status

New promotions from three airlines allow frequent fliers to earn double miles toward elite status. Benefits can add up, with free baggage allowance for you and your traveling companions, free space-available upgrades, and priority check-in and boarding. Plus, you can reserve choice seats in the front of coach, in the exit rows and on the aisles.

With these promotions, travelers can earn double the miles they actually fly toward elite status when they travel on paid flights this spring. You won't earn double frequent-flier miles; you'll only accrue miles toward elite status faster.

Fly through June 15 to earn double elite-qualifying miles. The offers are on American (American, American Eagle or AmericanConnection), United (United or United Express) and Continental (Continental, Continental Express, Continental Connection or Continental Micronesia). You must register for these promotions before traveling on, or

To qualify for the first tier of elite status, you need to earn 25,000 miles, so you'll only have to fly 12,500 miles during the promotional period.

One round-trip flight to Australia from anywhere in the continental U.S. would earn you enough for elite status. If you fly short-haul flights, elite travelers can earn a 500-mile minimum, instead of actual miles flown.

Once you earn elite status, you will have it for the remainder of 2009 and throughout 2010. On American and Continental, you probably will have it through February 2011, because their elite-program years typically run from March through February.

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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

First Naked Hotel Opens In Germany ... Dont Forget To Ask For Extra Towels

Clothes will be strictly forbidden on the premises of Germany's first hotel for nudists, which will open shortly in the southwestern Black Forest region.

Investors plan to set up a hotel catering exclusively to nudists in the picturesque Black Forest town of Freudenstadt, which incidentally translates as Town of Joys.

Guests will be required to remove their clothes at the entrance and must be naked at all times while on the premises, according to the strict house rules that have already been posted on the Internet.

"We hope to open as soon as possible," Silvia Probsthain, a member of staff at the planned Hotel Rosengarten, told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "It will be the first comprehensively nudist hotel in Germany." There are similar hotels catering for nudists in Scandinavia, Croatia and the south of France, said Probsthain.

The rules state that all guests must put towels on chairs and loungers before using them, that there be no sexual harassment and that all sexual activity in commonly accessible rooms is strictly forbidden. People who break the rules will have to put their clothes on and leave.

Freudenstadt's tourism director Michael Krause said the contracts for the hotel hadn't been finalized yet and that it was unclear when the project will go ahead. "I'm in two minds," Krause told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "It's always good if a new hotel is set up but I'd prefer a normal hotel concept."

Nude hiking is proving increasingly popular in Germany and two villages in the central Harz mountain range plan to mark special forest hiking routes for naked ramblers. The practice is frowned on in neighboring Switzerland, however, where authorities plan to fine such behavior.

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Passenger Sick Of Sitting On JFK Tarmac Opens Door Goes To Jail

This is something I have thought about doing a thousand times but never did.

An airline passenger sick of waiting out Sunday's weather delays on a Kennedy Airport tarmac tried to open the plane's emergency door -- and wound up taking a detour to Queens court.

Prosecutors yesterday charged fed-up flier Robert McDonald, 60, of Scotland, with reckless endangerment of fellow passengers and criminal tampering.

"Apparently, the defendant wanted to get off . . . the plane, so he opened the emergency exit door," Queens DA Richard Brown said. "Fortunately, members of the flight crew were able to stop him before he could fully open the door and deploy the emergency chute."

There was no indication that McDonald was drunk, authorities said. Rain had delayed the flight, from England to Las Vegas with a Kennedy layover. McDonald managed to crack the door open, but then a crew member stepped in to stop him.

McDonald was released yesterday on his own recognizance. He is due back in court May 18, and faces a year in jail if convicted on the misdemeanor charges.

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Iraqi Airways Starts Flying Again

National airline Iraqi Airways made its first flight to the European Union in 19 years when an aircraft flew from Baghdad to Stockholm via Athens, the transport ministry said on Saturday.

"Transport Minister Amr Abduljabbar Ismail was on board the plane, which made a stop-off in the Greek capital" where he held talks with Greek leaders on developing bilateral relations in transport, the ministry said in a statement.

Friday's flight then continued to Stockholm, it added.

Iraqi Airways planes were grounded by an international embargo imposed after Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990.

Following the US-led invasion in 2003, the company resumed air services to Arab countries, Iran and Turkey, among other destinations.

The transport ministry said Iraqi Airways plans to add scheduled flights to Bahrain, Germany, India and Qatar.

The ministry and Air France-KLM signed an outline agreement on December 30 for the operation of commercial flights to Europe and for the renovation of Baghdad airport.

Among the clauses, Air France-KLM undertook to help Iraqi Airways set up international flights, especially European services.

The agreement also foresees renovating Baghdad airport's third terminal to international standards and constructing new airports in Iraq with funding from French businesses.

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Tired of Service Charges For Frequent Flyer Tickets....Just Sue Them

Annoyed by new fees and rule changes to your airline's frequent-flier program? You're not alone. One man is going so far as to take Continental to court, suing the airline "for raising the number of miles needed to earn a free trip and then charging him $75 to book the flight," The Associated Press writes. The Cleveland Plain Dealer says passenger David Simon's class-action lawsuit alleges Continental "did not honor its frequent flier rewards program. … The suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages for those who were charged more miles or fees for using the frequent-flier program," according to the Plain Dealer.

Simon says his troubles began in January. That's when he tried to book a frequent-flier award ticket between Los Angeles and Cleveland for 25,000 miles, Continental's minimum level for a free domestic coach-class ticket. Simon says the airline told him some award seats were available, but only if he redeemed 50,000 miles. AP says "Simon eventually found a flight for 25,000 miles on Northwest Airlines, a partner of Houston-based Continental, but (then) was charged $75 because he booked the flight within three weeks of travel."

"There is no justification for the charge, and there is nothing in the fine print authorizing it," says Simon's lawyer, Joel Joseph. AP says the suit "charges Continental with levying an illegal penalty, breach of contract and unjust enrichment." Continental has not commented on the suit.

The suit may have an uphill battle. A quick trip to Continental's website shows that the airline's basic domestic "SaverPass" award is 25,000 miles, but the airline notes those awards have "limited availability" and are "subject to capacity controls." Continental also shows that its "EasyPass" award is available for domestic travel at a cost of 50,000 miles. Still, Continental says that award -– even with the higher mileage threshold -– still is "subject to capacity controls" and adds that "seats may not be available on certain flights where demand is high." Elsewhere on its website, Continental's site shows a $75 fee for frequent-flier tickets booked within 21 days.

For great information on round the world tickets, check out Nomadic Matt's article on rtw tickets

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Rapping Air Crewman Is A Big Hit on Southwest Airlines

David Holmes made the unusual preflight announcement to entertain customers on the flight and to relieve his own boredom with the familiar routine.

He was captured on video asking passengers to "stomp and clap" while he rapped the instructions over the public address system.

"Shortly after take-off, first things first/there's soft drinks and coffee to quench your first," he announced. "Carry-on items go under the seat/in front of you so none of you have things by your feet.

"Before we leave, our advice is/put away your electronic devices."

The lyrical announcement was made to passengers on a Southwest Airlines domestic flight to Oklahoma City in the United States, one of whom recorded it on camera and posted it on YouTube where it has been viewed more than 200,000 times.

"I've had five flights today and I can't do the regular boring announcement again otherwise I am going to put myself to sleep," said David in the video.

"If you have a seat on a row with an exit/we're gonna talk to you so you might as well expect it. You gotta help us out in case we need you/if you don't want to then we're gonna reseat you."

The rap finished to a roar of applause from passengers.

Speaking about his musical entertainment Mr Holmes said: "I didn't know how they were going to react, but I like to have fun at work. People started getting off the plane and said to me 'that's the first time I have listened to the emergency instructions'."

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Baggage Insurance You Probably Didn't Know About

Federal regulations require that if an airline loses or damages your luggage or its contents then they are required to pay up to $3300 in compensation when you fly domestically in the US. However, the airline will attempt to depreciate the value of your loss, and will require receipts to prove your claim. (Coverage may be considerably less for international travel from the US, or from the European Union). Airlines typically exclude coverage for "valuables" and "business effects" - this includes things such as electronics, jewelry, cash, art work, and business related documents and samples.

But for some people - those traveling with Louis Vuitton trunks, Vera Wang wedding gowns, or even just a couple of fancy dresses or designer suits - $3300 simply isn't enough coverage to replace what might be lost. That's where something called "excess valuation" (EV) can come in handy. Never heard of this? Well, the airline rep checking your bag at the airport isn't likely to tell you about it unless you ask. So let us explain.

Most US-based airlines will cover an additional $1700 of your luggage contents on top of the Federally-mandated $3300 (they don't call it "insurance" because they're not insurance companies, they're airlines) if you declare excess value when you check your bags and pay a small fee. According to its Web site, Delta will even cover "valuables" if you buy this extra coverage, the cost of which varies from one airline to another (see chart). Depending on airline policy, coverage may only cover you in the event of total loss, not merely damage, to the contents and not to the bag itself.

Another thing to consider is that if you buy coverage from, say, Continental and then transfer to Delta during your trip, Continental's coverage ends once the second airline takes charge of your bag. You need to claim your bag, in such a scenario, and re-check it with Delta, paying Delta's fees.

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Hotel Streaker Strikes In Atlanta

Atlanta police arrested a 53-year-old man on charges he streaked naked into the lobbies of two downtown hotels earlier this month.

Police say Donald Stafford ran outside his Walton Street apartment on March 1 without a stitch of clothing.

He first ran into the Glen Hotel on Marietta Street, according to a police report. When hotel staffers called police, Stafford ran down the street and into the lobby of the nearby Omni Hotel.

Security guards detained him, called police and covered Stafford with bed sheets until officers arrived, the report said.

Police arrested Stafford on a charge of public indecency. He also was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital for a mental evaluation, the report said.

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Ryanair Decides to Ditch Own Ideas to Abuse Passengers

Ryanair CEO, who told the media this week he was just joking about charging for airplane lavatory visits showed his twisted sense of humor shows no bounds by starting a contest.

Ryanair launched a light-hearted competition on Thursday to suggest new ways the budget carrier can save money, after criticism of penny-pinching ideas including charging passengers to use the toilet.

The Irish airline said it had already received suggestions including charging €1 for oxygen masks, €25 to use the emergency exits, and €50 for bikini-clad cabin crew.

Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary has been widely criticised for introducing more and more charges, starting with food on board and extra fees for non-online customers, but now including check-in charges.

Most recently he suggested that passengers could be asked to pay £1 (about R14) to go to the toilet on board, although spokesmen subsequently explained that he may not have been serious.

On Thursday Ryanair's Stephen McNamara said: "Ryanair is Europe's largest low fares airline and we plan to continue to reduce costs and fares by stimulating ancillary revenues.

"Since we confirmed that we are considering a toilet charge we have received a huge number of ancillary revenue suggestions from passengers and we want more," he added in a statement on the airline's website.

The airline is offering €1 000 to the most creative idea submitted by the end of March. Other suggestions so far include charging for toilet paper with O'Leary's face on it and charging €2.50 to read the safety cards.

"The winning idea will be chosen by Ryanair and our decision will be final," said the airline. - AFP

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Sunday, March 8, 2009

What's The Next Thing You Will Have To Pay Extra For On Your Flight, How About The Toilet

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, that the airlines couldn't possibly dream up anything extra to charge you for, here comes the grand finale. Airline passengers already have to dole out for bags, food, drinks and better treatment so what is next....yes, pay toilets.

Apparently the only thing more full of shit then an airline CEO is the airplane itself and the airlines apparently cant afford to suck it out anymore.

Ryanair Holdings PLC, Europe's biggest discount airline, may charge passengers to use toilets on its planes, adding to fees already imposed for beverages, stowed baggage, airport check-in and preferential boarding.

Ryanair generates about 20% of revenue from so-called ancillary income, the money it makes aside from ticket sales. The Dublin-based company this month introduced technology allowing passengers to use their own mobile phones on aircraft.

"One thing we've looked at in the past and are looking at again is the possibility of maybe putting in a coin slot on the toilet door so that people might actually have to spend a pound to spend a penny in the future," chief executive officer Michael O'Leary said in a televised interview with the British Broadcasting Corp. His comments were confirmed by the carrier.

And Ryanair isn't the only carrier, American Airline announced they were going to start charging for lavatory use on all of its flights.

So on your next flight make sure you have a check list of things to bring with you:

- Your own food...check
- Your own bottled water...check
- Extra change to lay a loaf on your eight hour LA to NY flight...groan...check

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Most Delayed Flight in the U.S. for 2008

It shouldn't be a great surprise, the most delayed flights for the end of 2008 was pretty much dominated by regional carriers. Completely staying away from regional airlines is probably your best option, but if you can't do that here are the most delayed flights in the U.S.

SkyWest 4393 ATL SAT
ExpressJet 2396 EWR DTW
American 933 JFK MIA
Comair 6563 EWR ATL
Comair 6475 MKE ATL
Hawaiian 48 HNL OAK
United 651 EWR ORD
Pinnacle 5857 CVG EWR
ExpressJet 2268 EWR BUF
Comair 6706 ALB JFK
Delta 898 ATL EWR
Comair 6940 IAD JFK

For great information on cheap flights check out Nomadic Matt's article

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Monday, March 2, 2009

Airlines Loosing Less Bags

Airlines lost 1.3 million fewer bags in 2008, as more passengers wheeled, dragged and toted their luggage aboard planes to avoid paying new fees to check bags, federal data show.

Passenger reports of lost or destroyed luggage on domestic flights operated by the 20 largest U.S. airlines plunged by one-third last year versus 2007, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, with improvements most noticeable during the fall, when fees for the first checked bag became commonplace.

The drastic improvement in baggage handling is one quirky result of a new push by U.S. carriers to charge a la carte for services such as seat upgrades and fresh pillows that used to be included in the price of a ticket.

While airlines make millions of dollars from new charges for checked bags, said aviation consultant Robert Mann, they also save money and boost results by outsourcing to travelers one of the most glitch-prone airport operations: transporting bags to flights and among carriers.

"The fewer bags you check, the fewer bags you lose," Mann said.

What's unclear is whether carriers will be able to continue with this strategy as demand for travel slows amid economic turmoil. US Airways last week said it would drop charges for in-flight sodas and coffee on March 1 rather than risk passenger backlash after other carriers refused to follow its lead.

However, Donnellon hasn't stopped flying United and American Airlines, even though he thinks their new baggage fees are "egregious." He no longer checks bags when he flies those carriers.

The greatest beneficiary has been American Airlines, the first major carrier to announce it would charge for a checked bag. The Ft. Worth-based carrier lost about 150,000 fewer bags in 2008, a 26 percent improvement over its 2007 results, federal data show.

American also garnered more revenue from baggage fees than any other U.S. carrier. During the third quarter, when the charges widely took effect, American collected $94.1 million, nearly three times what it took in a year earlier. Southwest, which doesn't charge for the first two checked bags, generated $6.8 million in baggage fees in the same quarter, the latest for which data is available.

American got a better handle on its baggage, said spokesman Tim Smith, in part because it carried fewer passengers as it trimmed domestic capacity and it increased the ground time between flights, which gives it more time to handle bags.

But American also is handling less luggage. The average number of checked bags slipped to less than one per passenger from 1.2 per passenger before the fees were introduced, Smith said.

About half of American's domestic passengers check bags, down slightly from the pre-fee era, and about a quarter of its passengers pay luggage fees, while the rest are exempt from the charges.

"If there is a big change, it's that we are seeing fewer second checked bags," Smith said. "What it simply means is people are saying, 'I can make do with one checked bag, or I can consolidate and take less.' "

For a great article on airline credit card's check out Nomadic Matt's article

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Monday, February 23, 2009

New Cleaning Challenge For Housekeeping, Meth Labs

Illegal methamphetamine "cooks" are traipsing undetected through an unknown number of motels and hotels with covert drug-making labs — leaving a toxic mess behind for unsuspecting customers and housekeeping crews.

They are places where drug-makers can go unnoticed, mixing the chemicals needed for the highly addictive stimulant in a matter of hours before slipping out the next morning. The dangerous contaminants can lurk on countertops, carpets and bathtubs, and the sickening smells produced can be masked by tobacco smoke and other scents.

Motels can be an attractive alternative for drug makers seeking to avoid a police bust in their own homes.

"They can seize the trailer or seize your house but they can't seize a motel room," said Dr. Sullivan Smith, director of emergency services at Cookeville Regional Medical Center in north-central Tennessee.

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration records obtained by The Associated Press show that states reported finding drug-making in 1,789 motel and hotel rooms in the past five years — and that's just what authorities found.

Some cleanup professionals hired to make the travelers' havens livable again say most of their work is done on properties where a meth lab was discovered long afterward.

The number of clandestine labs that are never found is difficult to pin down. There was a slight uptick in hotel and motel lab busts reported to the Drug Enforcement Administration in 2008 from the previous year, with 149 in 2006, 87 in 2007 and 127 in 2008. The tally was 461 in 2005 and 965 in 2004, before there were restrictions on purchasing over-the-counter decongestants often used as ingredients. The DEA count is based on states that reported labs.

The toxins can linger for days if meth lab hygienists wearing hazmat suits don't clean living areas.

The cleanups cost anywhere from $2,000 to $20,000. Even short-term exposure to vapors and residue where the drug is smoked or cooked can cause eye and skin irritation, vomiting, rashes, asthma problems and other respiratory issues.

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US Airways Starts Offering Up Free Sodas Again

After realizing that charging for soft drinks was a little too chintzy even for an airline, US Airways is changing its tune.

The soda’s on the house—when on the plane. US Airways is going back to giving free soft drinks and coffee to passengers. In a memo to employees, Chief Executive Doug Parker says the free drink service will resume in March. The airline is planning to announce the change today.

Last summer, US Airways started charging $2 for soda, juice, coffee and bottled water in coach cabins on domestic flights. Other airlines have instituted new fees for things like checked bags and pillows. But US Airways was the only carrier to charge for non-alcoholic beverages.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

FAA Tells Pilots To Get Off The Phone

The US Federal Aviation Authority has issued an alert to airlines reminding them that its not just passengers who should keep their phones switched off, but pilots too.

The alert follows an incident where an air-safety inspector was observing take-off, moments prior to which the crew heard a "warbling sound" which turned out to be the First Officer's phone ringing.

Worse still, the Airline's General Operations Manual - the bible of procedures - contained no prohibition on crew leaving their phones switched on, unlike passengers who can't even use an MP3 player during take off and landing.

Flight Global, who reported the story, points out that FAA guidelines state explicitly that mobile phones "will not be authorized for use while the aircraft is being taxied for departure after leaving the gate", making no distinction between crew and passengers.

The alert to airlines recommends the director of operations for each company review the General Operations Manual and ensure that crew are required to switch off their mobile phones, at least until proper in-flight connectivity is available to everyone.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Interesting Confessions Of A Housekeeper

The best guests sleep in

Three simple letters could inspire the "Hallelujah" chorus: DND, or do not disturb. One sign hanging on a doorknob, and the day's work was shortened by half an hour. Two signs? Pure heaven, but only if they remained there until my eight-hour shift ended—otherwise I'd have to circle back and clean the rooms. My daily list of 15 rooms (out of 325 in the hotel) consisted of DOs (due out) and Os (occupied), which in housekeeping lingo meant the guests were scheduled to check out or were staying another night. An occupied room was less labor-intensive (making the beds rather than changing the sheets saved me 20 minutes), but there was always the possibility the guest would stay in the room while you worked. One man watched me clean his entire room, from scrubbing the toilet to emptying the trash—and told me at the end that I was "building character." Condescension is not nearly as encouraging to a maid as a couple of dollars.

As long as it looked clean

I cut corners everywhere I could. Instead of vacuuming, I found that just picking up the larger crumbs from the carpet would do. Rather than scrub the tub with hot water, sometimes it was just a spray-and-wipe kind of day. After several weeks on the job, I discovered that the staff leader who inspected the rooms couldn't tell the difference between a clean sink and one that was simply dry, so I would often just run a rag over the wet spots. But I never skipped changing the sheets. I wouldn't sink that low, no matter how lazy I was feeling.

A bacterial wonderland

I was disgusted by the many guests I came in contact with through the things they left behind: the hairs on the pillow, the urine on the toilet seat, the half-eaten cookie, the stained sheets. One woman had soiled her sheets so thoroughly that we had to toss them in a biohazard bag—they could never be used again. Rooms where young kids stayed were the worst, with food ground into the carpet and piles of used diapers in the trash. That kind of demoralizing mess could take 45 minutes to clean up. Most maids wore rubber gloves when they worked, but mine were too big, so I discarded them. Unsurprisingly, I got the flu twice.

Not for love — or money

I didn't know maids received tips, so it took me weeks to realize that the coins left in rooms were an intentional gift. My tips were paltry: I almost never received more than $1, and at times guests left religious pamphlets. One day, however, I was shocked to find a crisp $100 bill lying on a table. Although the generous tip put a little spring in my step and compelled me to do a better job that day, it didn't change my work ethic for long. I apologize to you now if you ever stayed in one of my rooms. You deserved better. But if housekeepers were paid more than minimum wage—and the tips were a bit better—I might have cleaned your toilet rather than just flushed it.

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Trip Advisor Announces It's Best For 2009

Trip Advisor has published their yearly best picks for 2009.

Starting with the top 5 luxury hotels in the world, there were some changes this year:

1. Aria Hotel in Prague, Czech Republic

2. Layana Resort and Spa, Ko Lanta Thiland

3. Villa Marsili Hotel, Cortona Italy

4. Los Altos De Eros, Tamarindo, Costa Rica

5. The Caves, Negril Jamica (this one by far is my favorite !)

As far as hotel chains go, the best hotel chains in the world based on reviews of travelers on Trip Advisor are:

1. Ritz Carlton
2. 4 Seasons
3. Iberostar
4. Sofitel
5. Westin

In the U.S., the top luxury hotel award went to Dunton Hot Spring in Dolores Colorado. The runner up is a hotel that I have stayed at before, the Libaray in New York City.

Dunton Hot Springs is a unique, exclusive mountain resort deep in the San Juan range of the Colorado Rockies. At first glance it looks like something from a Western - a collection of picturesque wood cabins set against stunning scenery. However, it soon becomes clear that this is a resort that thrives on contradiction, and that fuses history, nature and luxury into one, unforgettable experience. You can choose from four cabins, each with its own personality, each fitted to the highest standards, and each offering wonderful views. From here you can take part in any number of outdoor pursuits: hiking, mountain biking, fly fishing, rafting, skiing... the list is almost endless. And after a day in the mountains, you can enjoy a superb meal in the converted saloon, indulge yourself with a treatment in the spa, or - best of all - have a long soak in one of the hot springs themselves, said to have therapeutic qualities.

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