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January 2010
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Another First Class Casualty | Aviation Week

Bs_First_Class_698446

More and more airlines are removing first class seats.  Just as many resort hotels have removed the world "resort" from their name.  It looks better on an expesess account.  "..hey boss I didn't fly in first, I flew business class." TB

Qantas is adding capacity in its Boeing 747 and Airbus A380 fleet, but is doing so by reducing its first class seats -- becoming the latest carrier to admit that its much harder to make first class pay off these days.

By replacing first class sections with business class seats in nine of its 747s and almost half its A380s, the carrier estimates it is adding the equivalent capacity of three 747s.

via www.aviationweek.com


10 Great Places to Strike a Swimsuit Pose | ABC News

U_bikini_1 

The swimsuit models may have left these locations but the destinations still look nice! TB

We can't all look like a swimsuit model, but that doesn't mean we can't travel like one. Diane Smith, editor of Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue (on newsstands now), shares with USA TODAY's Rebecca Heslin great locations from current and past issues to strut your stuff.

via abcnews.go.com


2010 North America Airport Satisfaction Study | J.D. Power

The survey shows that smaller airports are doing a better job than the larger ones.  They also say that happy travelers spend more money in airports than do unhappy.  BEST SMALL: Indianapolis International Airport (IND), BEST MEDIUM: Kansas City International (MCI), BEST LARGE: Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County (DTW). TB 

It’s no secret that, for many travelers, the most dreaded part of any trip involves the airport. Typically, these sprawling facilities are spread across large areas, enabling them to handle modern commercial aircraft operations. Each year, tens of millions of passengers travel through these busy hubs, forced into long lines for tickets, baggage services and security checks—only to wait several hours for a flight.

via www.jdpower.com


American Airlines Charges $50 for Standby

Below is info from the American Arlines website.  Everytime you turn around they have their hand out. TB 

Premium Customers Retain The Ability To Standby

For tickets purchased February 22, 2010, or later, the standby policy will change for American Airlines, American Eagle and AmericanConnection for travel within and between the U.S., Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Caribbean or Canada. Only premium customers will retain the ability to standby for earlier or later same-day flights. Any customers who want to secure a Confirmed Flight Change, regardless of their elite status, will have an option to pay $50 to guarantee a seat on an earlier or later same-day flight when available.

Here are some examples of travelers who have the option to standby at no charge:

  • AAdvantage Executive Platinum�, AAdvantage Platinum� and AAdvantage Gold�, as well as oneworld� Alliance Emerald, Sapphire or Ruby members
  • Those who purchase tickets in First and Business Class as well as those who purchase unrestricted Economy Class fares (Y, B, H class of service)
  • Active U.S. Military personnel traveling on orders or personal travel and active U.S. Military dependents traveling on orders
  • View a complete list of exceptions

via www.aa.com


Sunday Travel Sections

Below are most of the major newspapers that still publish a Sunday Travel Section and have original, not wire service feature travel stories.  I've selected one of the more interesting stories from each of these Sunday sections.  Did I miss one you think is worth following? Let me know.

New York Times: A Dutch Town That Nurtures Its Quirks

LA Times: Italy: Western Sicily, where centuries and cultures converge

LA Times: West Virginia: Peek into the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum if you dare

Miami Herald: Away from the beaches lies a different side of Florida -- and it's quite a hike

Sacramento Bee: Beyond the World Cup: Must-dos in Cape Town

Salt Lake Tribune: Idaho: Hotsprings turn winter upside down

San Francisco Chronicle: An offbeat look at Scottsdale, Ariz.

San Francisco Chronicle: Anne Frank House tour moving, even to a cynic

The Oregonian: Travel broadens love of good, regional quaff  (quaff = to drink deeply. TB)

San Jose Mercury News: Find real Alaska in small towns

San Jose Mercury News: Winter a cool time to visit wine country

USA Today: Will the World Cup boost South Africa tourism?

Baltimore Sun: Virginia: Tours tell story of Monticello through voices of its slaves

Chicago Sun-Times: Vegas' new 'Viva ELVIS' falls flat


Olympic Gold Medal Rush: Ride the Bobsled, Luge Track Yourself | ABC News

Bs_Vancouver_2010_6956502

You may have watched it on TV now you can do it for yourself... I'll just watch. TB

Over the years I have signed plenty of liability waivers before doing thrill-seeking adventures such as bungee jumping, dog sledding and rock climbing, but I have never had somebody explicitly tell me that I will get injured. Not just a chance of injury here, but a promise of at least some bumps and bruises.

via abcnews.go.com


Spending the Night in an Airport & No Luggage for 2 Days

Arriving on-time would normally be a pretty good result on a cross country airline flight, but to discover the airport you have arrived at, Atalanta, has just had 3 inches of snow can be a disappointment. 

At an airport like Atlanta, ATL, that much snow shuts the place down.  Almost every departing flight was canceled due to problems de-icing the planes before they would leave.  Add sub-freezing temperatures and the roads surrounding the airport quickly became impassable and accident ridden.  I had a hotel voucher given to me by Delta but the hotel shuttles couldn't make it to the airport for pickups.
 


 So here are some tips I picked up from this adventure.  If you have any suggestions let me know and I will add them. Contact Me.

Airport Sleep Over Tips:

  • Get a boarding pass for a flight departing the next day.  This will allow you to re-enter the secure boarding area if you should exit looking for a hotel, food, or information.  TSA won't let you in without it.  This gives you more options on where you can sleep.
  • If your hungry get some food before everything shuts down.
  • Claim sleep-able seats early.  If the airport has boarding gate seats that have armrests your screwed, but if you search you might find seats that will allow you to lay down almost flat.
  • Boarding gate areas can have cold floors.  These areas are often elevated and open to the environment underneath.  If your forced to sleep on the floor try and move away from the outer edges and toward the center, or move to an area you know has a heated space below you.  In Atlanta the gate area floors where freezing, the concourse areas were better.
  • If you airlines customer service line is long try a different terminal.  Your arriving flight may have overloaded that desk.  In Atlanta the line in terminal A was 80-100 people long, but as I ran over to terminal B trying to catch a delayed flight leaving for New Orleans that night, I noticed their customer service desk had about 12 people in line. That NO flight was canceled.
  • Try a departure gate.  Very often gate attendants can help you get a seat on the next flight or at least get you on the stand-bye list faster than waiting in the customer service line.
  • Ask for blankets or overnight kits.  Delta gave me an overnight kit, see photo below, and someone, I think it was the airport, passed out a few small blankets.
  • Seek out quite.  Avoid an area with CNN or TV audio, also try and locate an area where the automated TSA and "service" announcements are not as loud.  This was my biggest problem. At about 5am I moved to the gate of my 11am flight, for some reason you couldn't hear the airport wide looped announcements.
  • Pack your cell phone charger in your carry-on bag.
  • This isn't really about sleeping...  But I was number 14 on a wait list of 66 people trying to get to New Orleans.  Three previous flights had been canceled.  I discovered that I was given priority because I was a Delta frequent flier.  I ended up making it on that first flight out.  Sign-up for your airlines program.

Below you can see that at 11am my plane still had plenty of ice on it.  By this time the Atlanta airport crews had the deicing routine running smoothly.

Atlanta_ice_window Atlanta_deicing
 

As for my luggage, I don't think it was ever really "lost".  My flight into Atlanta had been preceded by several days of bad weather on the East Coast.  Several airports were forced to close and I suspect luggage was delayed everywhere.  When I finally made it to my destination, New Orleans, the plane was loaded with luggage.  At the carousel lots of bags came off but only a few were claimed.  I would estimate that 70% of the luggage was not claimed.  It must have been from passengers who had arrived on earlier flights.  But that left lots of arriving passengers without bags. 

After giving my info to the Delta staffer I headed off to my hotel.  I used both the phone and the Delta website to check on the status of my bag.  It looked like it arrived in New Orleans Sunday morning, but I do know that due to Mardi Gras parade street closures around the JW Marriott the delivery service couldn't easily get to my hotel.  Someone must have walked it in at least 5-6 blocks because it arrived Sunday evening.  So I spent all day Friday, Saturday, and Sunday without luggage.  Thank goodness my tux arrived before the Monday ball.  I had spent $42 to rent it.

Tips for Lost Bags:

  • Keep your luggage claim sticker.  Now days with on-line check-in and self-service kiosks airline personnel often don't give you a ticket folder with your ticket inside and your baggage claim stickers attached.  For me the sticker this time was on the back of my self printed boarding pass.  Having that sticker, and baggage tracking number, made the process of getting my bag much more efficient.
  • Get in line right away.  I had the gut feeling when I say dozens of unclaimed bags circling the carousel that something was wrong.  I immediately went over and got in Delta's luggage service line.  From that point I could still see if my bags came around on the belt.
  • I didn't' do this, but I should have.  Put a copy of your itinerary inside your bag.  Even if it is just a piece of paper with your cell phone number. 
  • Carry important things with you.  Especially your cell phone charger.  I took my smart phone off it's charger Friday morning and didn't get it recharged until Sunday evening.  And as I worked the phones due to my delays and lost luggage the battery dropped to near empty.  I was able to extend it's life by turning the phone off unless I was making an outbound call.
  • Hang your clothes in the bathroom.  Hotel bathrooms have exhaust vents helping your clothes air out or dry better.  If you have done some hand laundry don't forget about using a hair dryer to dry it.

Delta overnight kit for lost luggage


Here is a photo of the Delta Overnight Kit that I was given with my hotel voucher.  It contained: One Xtra Large T-shirt, hair brush, stick deodorant, q-tips, cotton balls, disposable shaver with cream, toothbrush, toothpaste, detergent.  And a card from Delta that said: "We regret that your baggage was not available on arrival. You may rest assured that we are doing everything possible to return it to you.  We apologize for this inconvenience and thank you for your understanding."  All photos copyright The Travel Blogger.


New Orleans - Mardi Gras Parades

mardi gras beads from new orleans

Mardi Gras parades take different routes through the city of New Orleans but most of the big parades travel a "uptown" route that takes them across the city and to the edge of the French Quarter, Canal Street.  Do an internet search for "mardi gras parade routes" make sure the map is for your year.

In the video below you see the Krewe Of Tucks parade moving down Canal Street.  Here the public is kept back from the parade with police barricades as the float riders toss "throws".  On other streets you can walk right up to the edge of the floats and beg for beads, cups, stuffed animals and doubloons.  The theme of this parade was TUCKS FACES REALITY, each float spoofed reality TV.  Here is the Jimmy Kimmel Live and the Biggest Loser floats.


 


Additional Parade Videos can be found on my Vimeo site.

Some of the best catches are of items imprinted with the name of the parades Krewe, or organizers.  Several krewes tossed 3-4 foot spears into the crowd.  Most were wooden, I guess liability isn't an issue. Orpheus tossed soft fabric spears.  I also caught a rubber ducky on a necklace. 

Parade_throws

This is one of my favorites, a Tucks Faces Reality 2010 medal showing a family sitting around their TV set.

Mardi_gras_tucks_medal

Beads, Beads, Beads!  "Toss Me Somethin' Mister" is the normal plea that parade watchers shout to get the attention of the bead tossers on the floats.  This year it was different, it was the Superbowl winning New Orleans Saints chant, "WHO DAT".

Mardi gras girl with beads


Parade Tips: 

  • Blocked Sidewalks. If your parade watching in Canal Street area, note that they will block the sidewalks with police barricades and you will not be able to easily cross Canal Street.  In my case crossing the street from the JW Marriott to the Bourbon Street / French Quarter could be a difficult task if a parade is going by.  I gave myself a 30 minute buffer Sunday evening to cross the street from the JW to the Palace Cafe for dinner.  And it took about that long to get to a restaurant located directly across Canal Street from the JW Marriott!
  • BEWARE of flying beads and other stuff.  It is amazing the force behind flying beads.  I saw people with eye protection goggles like you would see in a wood shop.  Float riders would sometimes throw bags of beads, or they would rip the plastic bag off the beads and toss them in mass at you.  A couple pounds being thrown from a big guy 16-18 feet above you on the top of a float can pack a big punch.  But in most cases the beads were tossed one strand at a time gently to the crowd, especially when directed at small children.
  • Watch your step.  With open containers and inexperienced drinkers near bye. You never know what will show up on the sidewalk.  I always made a point of checking my shoes before I entered my hotel room.  I didn't want to track some smelly combination of beer, piss and vomit into the room.  I did get beer spilled on my only jacket, as I wanted 2 days for the delayed luggage,  so I hung it overnight in the bathroom near the air exhaust vent after cleaning it the best I could.
  • Fire Walkers... I'm not sure what to call them...  These guys were in the after dark parades carrying large flaming propane lanterns.  In the old days they would carry torches to illuminate the floats.  It is considered good luck to give them a few bucks as the pass by.  So bring some bills with you, coins don't cut it when your carry around an open flame and a LP gas tank strapped to your back. 
  • Eat and drink. Plenty of food and drink vendors are set-up along the parade route.  Portable toilets are also available in limited numbers. Many party goers bring stocked ice chests not just for food and drink but to stand on.
  • Day and Night.  The crowds at the daytime parades seemed a little more sober than in the evening.  I didn't see any conflicts or problems at any of the parades I saw on Canal Street.  Police presence was high and they were very helpful, they were also very considerate of basic "errors" made by the party goers. 
  • Don't' throw things at the floats.  In the old days it wasn't unusual for spectators to toss items at the float riders.  Don't Do It!  It is an arrestable offense.
  • Have Fun.  If someone snatches a string of beads out of the air just before it hits your hands, don't dispare, more will be coming.  If it happens repeatedly, relocate to an area where your height isn't an issue.  Same thing if your spot along the route becomes over crowded.
  • Bead Bag. Bring a bag for beads.  They can get heavy around your neck.
  • Comfortable Shoes.  Goes without saying you may be standing for a while.  And due to the beer spillage factor you may want them to be old shoes.

Let me know if you have any suggestions for this tips list. Contact  All photos and video are Copyright The Travel Blogger.


2009 second safest for air travel: IATA | Reuters

airplane graphic 

GENEVA (Reuters) - Air travel recorded its second safest year in 2009, with one accident for every 1.4 million flights made in Western-built jets compared with one per 1.2 million in 2008, the industry association IATA said on Thursday.

Last year's global accident rate equated to 0.71 aircraft hulls lost per million flights, an improvement on the 0.81 in 2008, but short of the 2006 record of 0.65, the International Air Transport Association said in a report.

IATA said the 2009 rate was a 36 percent improvement on 2000 levels.

via www.reuters.com