Tag Archives: air travel

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Flying to Europe Might Get a Whole Lot Cheaper… in 2017

The airline Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA just announced its plan to sell $69 one-way tickets to Europe from select U.S. airports. The initiative is slated to roll out by as soon as 2017 (although for would-be international travelers, “soon” might be a relative term).

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Flying to Europe On a Budget: Here’s the Scoop

While the lure of cheap international tickets may have travel-lovers drooling, travelers looking to take advantage of the deals will be limited to only a few destinations—namely, Edinburgh, Scotland, and Bergen, Norway.

The airline believes it can reduce fares by flying out of U.S. airports that currently offer limited international service (or none at all), reports NBC News. That’s because those airports will charge airlines lower operating fees, meaning both airlines and travelers won’t incur the same costs that they would at more heavily trafficked international airports. Currently, Norwegian Air has its eye on New York’s Westchester County Airport and Connecticut’s Bradley International Airport.

Thanks to this low-cost strategy, Europe’s third-largest budget airline anticipates charging an average of $300 round trip for the nonstop routes named above—that’s several hundred dollars cheaper than the average cost of flights leaving from the United States’ busier international airports.

Still, travelers looking to take advantage of these deals will want to remember that the flights will come with added fees for everything from checking luggage to booking a seat assignment or ordering an in-flight meal (even for overnight trips), reports Condé Nast Traveler. Savvy travelers can subvert some of these budget-friendly airline tactics by packing everything in their carry-on and bringing along their own snacks for the flight.

In charging lower fares, Norwegian Air hopes to draw customers away from more well-known international carriers. The airline has already ordered 100 new Boeing jets and plans to receive the first five in 2017, at which point it expects to begin rolling out the cheaper flights. Of course, the airline’s ability to do so will hinge on the smaller U.S. airports’ willingness to set up customs stations that are equipped to process international travelers.

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The Beginning of a Trend?

Norwegian Air isn’t the only airline to start toying with lower cross-Atlantic fares. Iceland’s Wow Air reportedly has started offering $99 one-way fares from Boston to Paris, while Eurowings (a subsidiary of Lufthansa) has also begun offering some cheaper international flights. And while Norwegian Air awaits its arsenal of low-cost jets, the airline is offering $300 nonstop, round-trip tickets from New York to Oslo, Norway from December 2015 through February 2016.  

In the meantime, travelers looking for other ways to save money on holiday travel should consider purchasing flights in October and booking hotels in December, according to our evaluation of historical travel data. Those looking to book cheap flights to places other than Edinburgh or Bergen can save money every day by utilizing Hipmunk’s mobile app and online travel booking options. And remember that the best time to book a flight varies by destination, so your best bet is to consult destination guides that provide insight into the most strategic times to buy flights to specific locales.

As for whether recent initiatives in low-cost cross-Atlantic travel will inspire other airlines to follow suit? We’re keeping our fingers (and toes) crossed.

 

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How to Get on Your Flight Attendant’s Good Side

Flight attendant Taylor Tippett recently made headlines for making her passengers’ travels a little brighter. Her method of cheering people up? She leaves uplifting notes on airplane windows and in safety cards, and encourages others to do the same. To date, the practice has earned her more than 120,000 followers on Instagram and cheered up countless passengers.

These small acts of kindness are particularly remarkable when you consider everything that flight attendants juggle on a daily basis — from helping people board, to working tough hours, dealing with jet lag, practicing for emergency scenarios, and handling the needs of hundreds of passengers.

So it should come as no surprise that when it comes to ensuring a smoother, kinder flight, one of the best things you can do is get on your flight attendant’s good side. Regardless of whether you have the friendliest flight attendant in the world (or not), here’s how to ensure peaceful coexistence.

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Say hello

How would you like it if you said “hello” to 40 people in a row and not one of them responded back? Simply acknowledging the presence of flight attendants in a friendly and respectful way can help set the tone for a pleasant interaction and maybe even brighten their day.

Be mindful of luggage

If you can’t lift your carry-on bag over your head in order to stow it, then it’s best to check it. Don’t expect a flight attendant to hoist the bag for you, thereby putting their own body at risk of injury. In fact, many airlines train their flight attendants not to lift bags in order to prevent injuries on the job. So either learn how to pack light enough that you can go it alone, or pay the checked baggage fee. And if you do stow luggage in the overhead bin, be sure to pack it wheels-in.

Board prepared

It’s unreasonable to expect a flight attendant to anticipate and accommodate every single one of your individual needs, so come prepared. If you know that you’ll need to take a pill immediately after boarding, for example, then it’s probably a good idea to bring your own bottle of water, since flight attendants are especially busy prior to take-off. If you’ll need a meal that accommodates your fish allergy, be sure to order it ahead of time and notify the flight attendant as you board. And if you know you’ll want your book during the flight, don’t pack it in your main carry-on; instead, keep it on your person so you don’t have to fumble through the overhead luggage bin during the flight.

Listen to announcements

Yes, this even includes the safety demo. If you fly often, it can be especially tempting to tune out. But announcements happen for a reason — they’re designed to keep everyone informed and safe, and telling the whole cabin all at once spares the flight attendant from having to repeat themselves over and over. So even if you think you’ve heard it all before, it’s helpful to sit up and take notice. 

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Make specific requests

When asking for a beverage, clarify your order from the get-go, e.g. “Club soda without ice and with a slice of lime, please.” Being as clear-cut as possible will spare the flight attendant from needing to re-make your order. And for goodness’ sake, take out your headphones while conversing with the attendant.

Don’t expect a babysitter

If you’re traveling with children, it’s critical to come prepared. Don’t expect flight attendants to supply toys, diapers, or changing wipes, and never ask a flight attendant to collect a dirty diaper without bagging it first. You’re just as responsible for your children on the plane as you are off of it.

Sing their praises

If a flight attendant wows you with their service and professionalism, demonstrate appreciation by 
telling their employers what a great job they did. Most airlines have a protocol for acknowledging flight attendants; simply ask the attendant for their employee number and the flight number and call the airline after touching down.

What’s it all boil down to? Simply remember that flight attendants are human, too, and treat them as you’d like to be treated.

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How to Stay Comfortable on the World’s Longest Flights

Emirates Airline recently announced the creation of the world’s longest direct flight, a daunting 17.5 hour trip that will fly from Dubai to Panama City starting February 1st. That long flight time might sound daunting, especially when seated in economy. But a little effort and attention can go a long way in taking a flight from unbearable to relaxing, whether travelers are braving the new route from Dubai to Panama City, or just looking to make a transatlantic or transpacific flight more comfortable. Here’s a step by step guide for making the most of a long plane trip.

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Step 1: Choosing a Seat

First of all, try to avoid economy if at all possible. The seats, the food, and the amenities will all improve, as will the enjoyment factor of the trip. If booking a ticket in first class or business class just isn’t budget-friendly, consider using miles to upgrade. To make the next trip easier and start earning miles for the future, enroll in the airline’s frequent flier program or search out credit cards with airline-redeemable points.

If economy is unavoidable, however, the seat can make all the difference. There are a wide variety of websites where travelers can view seating plans based on flights and carriers, such as SeatGuru, SeatExpert, SeatMaestro, and SeatPlans. Think carefully about what type of seat you want. No one likes the middle seat of course, but also there are other things to keep in mind as well.. Certain travelers may prefer the aisle seat if they like to get up and stretch or use the bathroom frequently, whereas the window seat may be preferable for those trying to sleep on night time flights. To avoid engine noise, try to stay close to the front of the plane.

There may even be some possible seating improvements at the airport itself. Check with the desk attendant at the gate to see if there’s an empty row or set of seats on the plane that could provide more stretching room. Be sure to scope out the seats on the plane itself as well in case someone has missed their flight and there’s a better seat open.

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Step 2: Packing the Carry-on

Think of a carry-on bag as the toolbox for hacking a long flight. Packing smart can elevate a trip from boring and uncomfortable to productive and relaxing. Here’s a checklist for the essentials.

  • Before leaving, make sure all devices are charged and loaded with movies, books, and music. It’s best not to rely on a functioning entertainment system on board the plane.
  • Pack things that will help with sleep, such as an eye mask, ear plugs, or sleeping pills. Think twice about cumbersome items like neck pillows unless they’re inflatable.
  • For snacks, bring foods that are high in protein and fiber, since those are often lacking in airline meals. It’s also helpful to treat yourself to something nice on a long flight, so
  • A blanket and a good pair of socks to wear instead of shoes on the plane will make the trip much more comfortable.
  • For the all-important TSA liquid allowance, bring the essentials to stay moisturized and hydrated, such as a facial spritz, moisturizer, lip balm, and nasal spray.
  • Hand sanitizer is also a must on flights to kill bacteria and prevent colds that might be picked up from seatmates.
  • Deodorant, toothpaste, and a toothbrush can also refresh and revitalize travelers on a long journey.

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Step 3: Settling In

First things first: do some seat-side carry-on rearranging. Take out the essentials (headphones, liquids, reading material or devices, socks) and put them in a smaller tote bag or nylon bag to put under the seat. Leave the rest in the carry-on and stow it away. This will allow for much more legroom and better sleep, and the rest of the supplies will still be accessible once the flight begins.

Airplanes can be very cold, so take off your shoes and replace them with a comfy pair of socks. This will also help simulate bed conditions for a restful sleep. Remember to put shoes back on for trips to the bathroom though!

If the flight will cross time zones, the wait for take-off is a great time to set all watches and devices to the destination’s time to help combat jet lag on arrival.

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Step 4: Passing the Time

Now for the flight itself. If it’s an overnight trip, try to get to sleep at what would be a normal hour in the arrival timezone to avoid being groggy on landing. For a daytime flight, many travelers find it helpful to break up a long trip into smaller, more manageable chunks.  Set a phone or watch alarm to go off at hour or two hour intervals and use those benchmarks to divide the trip. This can make a trip both more productive and keep travelers healthy. When the alarm goes off, take the opportunity to get up and do some stretching, which can prevent stiffness and more serious conditions brought on by long flights. Try twisting, folding over, and rolling the head and neck to stay limber. If there’s work to be done, schedule it for the beginning of the flight, and make time for movies, naps, games, or reading later on.

Not to spoil the party, but it’s best to lay off the alcohol and caffeine on long flights. They’re both dehydrating, and the plane is doing enough of that on its own. Stick to water or drinks with electrolytes, such as Gatorade or coconut water. Remember that hand sanitizer as well — those tray tables probably aren’t cleaned with regularity. Armed with the right resources and tools, even 17.5 hours can become bearable. Sit back, relax, and find a little enjoyment between takeoff and landing.

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Class Isn’t Everything. Today, Enjoy Amazing Flights in First, Business, and Coach

Last week, AirlineRatings.com released its third annual “Best of the Best” ratings—a ranking of airlines by their first class, business class, premium economy class, and long haul economy class offerings.  

The editors at AirlineRatings.com examined (and, in many cases, personally experienced) the in-flight service and amenities of over 450 airlines in order to determine the top airlines in each category, reports Travel Pulse.

The rankings speak not only to the relative quality of the different airlines but also to the ways in which airlines have expanded their offerings over the decades in order to accommodate the shifting needs of travelers. Where once there were only two options for passengers—first class or coach—airlines today offer as many as four classes of travel on the same plane. Read on to learn more about these classes and the airlines that are taking each type of cabin to a whole new level.

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First Class

Where first class used to mean something akin to “free alcohol and bigger seats,” the category of flight has since launched into a whole new world of luxury. First class amenities now range from lie-flat massage chairs with sheepskin mattresses to $40,000 on-flight suites (yes, you read that right) complete with a private bedroom, living room, and en suite shower.

It’s a brave new luxurious world up there in the sky, and according to AirlineRatings.com these 10 airlines (in alphabetical order) have the best first-class cabins on offer:

  • All Nippon Airways
  • Emirates
  • Etihad Airways
  • Japan Airlines
  • Korean Air
  • Lufthansa
  • Qantas
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Swiss International Airlines
  • Thai Airways

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Business Class

As with first class travel, “business class” can refer to a whole gamut of amenities. In general, business-class travelers can expect ample legroom, fully reclinable seats, airport lounge access, priority boarding, and in-flight services such as multi-course meals, hot towels, and champagne. Here are AirlineRatings.com’s top 10 business class cabins (in alphabetical order):

  • Air France
  • Air New Zealand
  • All Nippon Airways
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Etihad Airways
  • Japan Airlines
  • Qatar Airways
  • Qantas
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Virgin Australia / Atlantic

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Premium Economy Class

Situated between the economy and business class cabins, premium economy seating is most commonly found on international flights. The range of amenities included in the premium economy class includes extra legroom, wider seats, extra-reclinable seats, adjustable headrests and leg rests, and premium food service. Below are the top 10 airlines (in alphabetical order) that are doing premium economy class right.

  • Air France
  • Air New Zealand
  • All Nippon Airways
  • British Airways
  • Cathay Pacific
  • EVA Air
  • Japan Airlines
  • Qantas
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Virgin Atlantic / Virgin Australia

Long Haul Economy Class

While “flying coach” may be jokingly equated to “abject misery for the duration of the flight”—just look at headlines denouncing shrinking seat sizes and scaled-back amenities—many airlines have made great strides to comfortably accommodate economy passengers. In fact, some airlines have started to build in more legroom, more reclinable seating, and improvements to in-flight entertainment and even cabin air quality for their economy customers.

At a minimum, economy class flyers can expect a small seat recline, complimentary beverages (and meals on longer flights), in-flight entertainment options, and blankets and pillows. AirlineRatings.com ranks the best long haul economy class cabins as follows:

  • Air New Zealand
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Etihad Airways
  • EVA Air
  • Japan Airlines
  • Korean Air
  • Qantas
  • Qatar Airways
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Thai Airways

So there you have it: Whether you’re flying to Vienna or braving the long flight to Tokyo, the class and airline you choose can make a very big difference in the overall quality of the flight. But at the end of the day? Sometimes it’s best to just grin, bear it, and remember that flights are temporary, but travel memories last forever.

 

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What Reviving the Concorde Could Mean for Travelers

Although the Concorde flew for over 25 years, today the idea of a commercial supersonic jet seems like the stuff of legend. One group says they can revive the jet, however, and bring back a faster and more luxurious era of travel. Jointly developed by French and British and released commercially in 1976, the Concorde traveled at twice the speed of sound. Today, a normal passenger route from New York to Paris takes eight hours, but the Concorde could do it in three and a half. It once even managed London to Sydney in 17 hours, including stops for refueling.

Only 20 planes were ever produced, but the Concorde looms large in the public imagination due to a tragic circumstance. On July 25, 2000, Air France Flight 4590 Concorde from Charles de Gaulle in Paris to New York crashed into a hotel in Gonesse, France, killing 113 people, including all passengers and crew and four people on the ground. The plane itself wasn’t found to be at fault: A piece of debris on the take-off runway set off a chain reaction that led to the crash. Public confidence in the plane was never quite restored. In 2003, Air France and British Airways jointly announced they would be retiring the Concorde from service, citing a now out of date analogue operating system and a drop in air travel following the September 11th terrorist attacks.

That may not be the end of the story for the Concorde, though. A group called Club Concorde is trying to get at least one plane back into service, and has recently announced that it has the funds to do so. The group, made up of former Concorde captains and frequent passengers, proposes putting one decommissioned Concorde on the Thames in London to allow residents and visitors to walk around the plane and even eat a meal on board.

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The more ambitious element of the plan involves getting another Concorde sky-ready for charter flights. Securing approval would require coordinating the interests of the manufacturers, the airlines, international governments, and the airports themselves, and many are doubtful that it can be done. The Concorde’s technology is also outdated, and it has very poor gas mileage: The plane gets only 17 miles to the gallon per passenger.

Even if Club Concorde’s efforts don’t succeed in resurrecting the new plane, there’s hope for supersonic travel on the horizon. Airbus recently applied for a patent for a jet called Concorde Mark 2, which would fly at four times the speed of sound, twice as fast as the old Concorde. The proposed design would incorporate three different types of engines, including one powered by hydrogen and oxygen. The current model would only allow for 20 passengers, who would have to sit through an almost vertical takeoff. At least the potential discomfort wouldn’t last for long — the jet could make the trip from New York to London in just one hour.

It may not be long before jets like the Concorde Mark 2 become commercially feasible, and the consequences will be huge. Today, it would take a trip of at least a week or two to justify the flight time of a trip to Asia, for example. But if travellers aren’t forced to hoard vacation days, trips will become shorter and more spontaneous. Imagine being able to fly to Paris for a night, or head to Bangkok for a long weekend. Especially if flights are made available at a reasonable price point, the future of travel could be more fluid, more accessible, and more liberating.

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Could the Side-Slip Airplane Seat Change the Boarding Process Game Forever?

One of the most frustrating parts of a flight comes at the very beginning: The slow-moving and cramped boarding process is a constant hassle. Dozens of people, loaded down with heavy bags (and kids and strollers), attempt to navigate their way to their seats by squeezing past one another in an impossibly thin aisle. Even when boarding is staggered by section, the process can still be uncomfortable and irritating.

Perhaps not for long, thanks to the work being done at the Denver-based Molon Labe Designs LLC. The minds behind Molon Labe Designs are busy at work crafting a slideable aisle seat that retracts inward during boarding. The design makes for a 41” aisle, which is practically palatial when compared to the traditional 19” one. As this video demonstrates, once the seat is retracted passengers can move about freely, gliding past one another in a breezy travel-induced haze.

As travelers, we love the potential in these seats, but it does have us wondering about the wacky and uncomfortable scenarios that are bound to occur with full on Slip-n-Slide styled airplane seating:

  • A sudden sharp dive to the left could potentially send aisle-seaters sliding into their seat mates, which could make for some great flirting if the person in 5B turns out to be a cutie…
  • …or a complete disaster if 5B turns out to be sick and the unfortunate aisle-seater slides right into a sneeze….
  • …or an even bigger disaster if 5B was just served a piping hot coffee.
  • Getting in and out to use the restroom would be much easier with a retractable seat…
  • …unless of course 5A turns out to be a clutz and they plop right onto 5C’s lap mid seat-slide when returning from the bathroom.
  • (Though traditionally not a problem if 5A’s a cutie, see #1.)
  • But as long as all the aisle-seaters stay in control of their seat, none of these disasters are going to occur, right?
  • That is of course until a young child ends up in an aisle seat and all chaos breaks loose. What’s more fun, a coloring book or a slide-able seat?

Jokey scenarios aside, we’re excited by the prospect of some new seat technology and will be the first ones to sign up for a demo flight. Someone has to test out these slidey gizmos before they hit the public!

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The Best Airlines For In-Flight Entertainment

Long flights can be a drag, but there’s nothing better to make the time fly and take your mind off cramped economy quarters than a good inflight entertainment system. These airlines have taken pains to make sure that your journey is about more than getting you from Point A to Point B, and have stocked their systems with so many distractions that you’ll forget you’re in the air.

1. Virgin

Virgin Atlantic flights come equipped with seatback monitors chock full of recent releases, popular TV shows (including current Netflix and HBO faves), kids’ content, games, music, and even audiobooks. With a special platform dubbed Vera, you won’t be bored and can play whatever your heart desires even before and after take off. Meanwhile, sister airline Virgin America sports a similar seat-back system called Red, equipped with a very special extra feature: seat-to-seat chat, which allows you to make new friends or even anonymously send a glass of champagne to the cutie in 16C.

2. IcelandAir

IcelandAir takes its contribution to the island nation’s growing tourism industry seriously. A great selection of Iceland-centric content introduces visitors to the country’s unique culture through a seatback personal entertainment system. Learn about volcanic eruptions and culinary legacies through short episodic content, listen to music by various local artists (turns out there are many besides Björk), or watch movies directed by Icelanders or shot in the country’s rugged landscapes alongside Hollywood blockbusters and American television shows.

3. JetBlue

You’ll never have to curse your ill-timed flight again for causing you to miss a game—JetBlue streams DirecTV to every seat for free, allowing for appointment viewing and live channel surfing. With 36 channels on most planes and over 100 channels on A321s, it’s as good as a session on your couch. Actually, it’s even better, since you don’t even have to stand up to get your hands on some free chips and soft drinks. Add in free SiriusXM, $5 on-demand movies, and free Wi-Fi that supports on- and off-line access to media from such sources as Vice and the Wall Street Journal on your devices, and you’ve got yourself a winner.

4. Qantas

Consistently voted among the top ten airlines for inflight entertainment, Qantas makes the cut for the sheer scale of its offerings. International flights have between 300-1500 entertainment options for passengers to choose from depending on plane type. Movies, shows, music, games, radio, and a dedicated Kids Zone keep folks occupied, and a quick download of the PressReader app on your devices before you board gives you a twelve hour window of complimentary access to thousands of newspapers and magazines.

5. Qatar Airways

Qatar’s Oryx One system offers a whopping 2000 ways to distract yourself and boasts featured collections including the “Al Pacino Collection” and the complete set of films from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Content comes in a range of languages and also includes plenty that will introduce visitors to Qatari and Middle Eastern culture. Listen to a live concert recording of a Yemeni singer, then switch to a movie for a dose of Hulk smash… talk about eclectic.

6. Emirates

Emirates can boast that it’s won Best Inflight Entertainment from the Skytrax World Airline Awards for eleven years running, and basically combines everything that the aforementioned airlines offer into one crazy comprehensive package. The airline’s Ice system boasts digital widescreens in every seatback plus game controllers with their own miniature screens, 2000 channels organized by genre from which passengers can create custom playlists, email and texting capabilities, seat-to-seat chatting, and a feature that lets you see the view from cameras mounted on the plane’s exterior. Certain flights also offer live satellite TV. What more could any 21st century traveler possibly ask for?