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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